Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
Not only what he was doing now, but his attitude and face to her and Charlotte were completely different.
Dejected voice came out of Charlotte’s lips.
“I’m sorry…… I failed to take Nelia’s taste into consideration.”
The duke nodded.
“Yes, Charlotte got it wrong. Because Delia is a human being.”
A faint line on Nelia’s forehead was apparent for a moment.
Why did the duke continuously say that she’s a human being?
Charlotte gradually dropped her head. Nelia spoke clearly once again after seeing her grim expression as if she was about to shed tears.
“No, Charlotte. I like all kinds of cake!”
Only at that moment did the shadow gradually disappear from Charlotte’s face.
Nelia looked at the nutty-smelling cake and thought to herself.
‘I actually don’t really like nuts, but…….’
It’s not like she couldn’t eat them at all.
She would have to keep this a secret from Charlotte for the rest of her life.
“Then shall we enjoy some tea now?”
When Nelia asked, Charlotte nodded right away.
She thought she (Charlotte) seemed less absentminded or passive than she was before.
The maid served teacups and tea leaves not long after.
Nelia attempted to brew the tea, but the duke stopped her.
“I’ll do it.”
Nelia handed the teapot over without hesitation. It would be better for everyone to enjoy the tea made by the duke anyway.
Last time when she brewed the tea herself, it was too bitter because she put in a lot of tea leaves.
Nelia had no choice but to throw away all the tea she brewed because it tasted like poison.
She thought she only had to add an adequate amount of tea leaves and pour hot water into it, but it turned out to be a much more delicate task.
found out later on that the tea was decided either by the appropriate temperature, time, or the amount of tea leaves.
The teapot moved following the duke’s graceful gesture. The liquid in the teacup rippled at the quiet movement.
“Here it is.”
The duke held out the teacups one after another to Nelia and Charlotte.
Nelia enjoyed the fragrant tea.
‘Hm…… As expected of His Grace’s tea.”
Charlotte was also calmly sniffing the tea while placing it under her nose.
However, she didn’t immediately take a sip, but was looking alternately at the duke and Nelia.
As if she was wondering about something.
“Is something the matter, Charlotte?”
Charlotte contemplated as if she had something to say as well before talking.
“May I ask what’s going on between you two?”
Faced with an unexpected question, Nelia put down the teacup she was about to drink. Or else, her hands might lose their strength and drop the teacup.
There was no one else other than Charlotte who ever asked about this. Contrary to her dense personality, she seemed to be pretty quick-witted.
“His Grace and I…….?”
“…….No matter how I look at it, I don’t think it’s just a relationship between the master and its servant…….”
Nelia looked at the duke with an awkward expression.
The duke looked at her with a smile, as if he was enjoying the whole situation.
Meanwhile, Charlotte continued her words.
“I don’t have much knowledge about the culture of nobility, but I don’t think it’s common for the master to pour tea most of the time……. And other than that……”
Charlotte glanced at the duke.
“His Grace’s eyes to Nelia seem a little special……”
Nelia was caught off guard again by Charlotte’s acute remark.
In fact, the duke tended to be careful of physical contact or the words he said to her when there were people around. If an unmarried young lady were seen to have a special relationship with the duke, people would definitely talk about it.
Therefore, there had never been anyone who pointed out the relationship between her and the duke, except Carlos.
Nelia was thinking about how to explain the difficult part when the duke spoke up ahead of her.
“Actually, Nelia and I are in a relationship with promises for the future. Our marriage is currently delayed for some reason.”
The duke told a lie with a calm look.
How sly he was, Nelia almost misunderstood herself for having made such a promise with the duke.
“……. Is that true, Nelia?”
Charlotte’s voice was very serious when she asked that.
The duke and Charlotte stared at Nelia at the same time.
If she stated the contrary here, Charlotte would think it was weird. The duke who lied would appear strange to her.
Nelia eventually nodded when she reached the turning point.
The duke smiled in satisfaction and kissed Nelia’s hair.
Then his eyes fluttered beautifully while looking at Charlotte.
“But it’s a secret, Charlotte, no one has yet to know what happened between us.”
Charlotte blinked and nodded.
Nelia wondered why she looked as if lacking of energy.
The conversation lasted for a while, but Charlotte looked so downcast like a wilted spinach.
Then, Charlotte slowly got up from her seat.
“I should get going.”
She went home earlier than she (Nelia) thought today.
This time, she didn’t make a sudden visit, but she thought the girl would return a little later than last time.
“Yes……. I’m going to look around the capital in the afternoon.”
If she (Nelia) let her go like that, she didn’t know if she (Charlotte) would be hit by the carriage again. Nelia was very worried for Charlotte to walk around the capital on her own.
Nelia, who was contemplating, finally offered a sudden suggestion.
“Do you want to look around the capital with me?”
Charlotte opened her eyes wide for a moment, and soon dropped them in helpless manner again.
“Isn’t Nelia busy…….? You have to do your work as a handmaiden…….”
Right. Without her, the duke would turn into a snake.
However, she wanted to go out because she has been staying indoors recently. She was also worried about Charlotte, who seemed lost.
Nelia looked at the duke as if asking for permission.
The duke’s slightly raised eyebrows indicated his mood. However, Nelia knew the duke’s answer.
“All right. You may go, Nelia.”
As expected, the approval came from him along with a sigh.
“I’m so grateful for you, Your Grace!”
Nelia smiled broadly while staring at the duke.
“It’s so deceiving to have that kind of smile on your face. I’d rather not let you go if it’s like th……”
When the duke looked as if trying to say something inappropriate in front of Charlotte, Nelia closed his mouth hastily.
When she removed her hand slowly, the duke spoke in a deeply-upset voice.
“But you can’t go alone. You have to go with Ton.”
There were conditions that went with it, but she had to be satisfied with this much. As the duke was too worried for her.
The duke ordered, and Ton immediately prepared the carriage. He said he would drive and take Nelia and Charlotte.
“I’ll be back, Your Grace!”
“Be careful on your trip.”
Nelia bid the duke goodbye briefly and closed the carriage door.
The carriage set off for the town.
Nelia’s light brown eyes were twinkling with sunlight.
Although it was a sudden trip, Nelia was pretty much excited.
Going out with Charlotte felt completely different from going out with the duke.
She never wandered around the city with her friends in her previous life. She was always busy working as a part-timer.
Nelia’s heart was pounding for the first time in her life.
In the rattling carriage which was driven by Ton, Nelia and Charlotte were the only people who remained inside.
Charlotte’s eyes widened slightly when she looked around the carriage.
Nelia knew why Charlotte was acting like this.
When she got into the duke’s carriage for the first time, the luxurious interior was very fascinating.
Even she found herself gaping despite the fact that she was the noble young lady, and Charlotte would be surprised too.
Charlotte looked around for a while and slowly talked again.
“Nelia is getting married to a rich man.”
Nelia choked at Charlotte’s frank admiration. Charlotte touched the soft velvet sheet.
“But I feel sorry for Nelia…….”
Her tone was full of sincerity. Nelia stared blankly at Charlotte.
‘Why does Charlotte like me so much…….?’
At first, she just felt attached to the first person who was willing to help her in the unfamiliar capital. She felt that way first, but now it seemed more than that.
It seemed that the words she said weren’t pretentious.
If she attempted to quiver pretentiously, she should have targeted Duke Hart instead of her.
He would have a lot more money and a lot more to be gain from.
However, Charlotte didn’t seem particularly interested in the duke. No, according to her attitude, it looked more like she didn’t like him.
“Do you hate His Grace, Charlotte?”
It was a quite straightforward question, but she knew Charlotte would take a while to comprehend.
“No……. It’s not that I don’t like it…….”
Charlotte shook her head.
“I’m just……. Like I said last time, he’s somewhat a dangerous person, so I’m worried he would put Nelia in a hard time.”
Charlotte had a keen sight.
No one ever said that to the duke who always appeared gentle and laid-back.
Was it a sort of tuition possessed by a female lead?
“So I was concerned when I heard about the wedding…….”
That must have been the reason she looked so down earlier.
At first, Charlotte’s incomprehensible inner closeness was burdensome to her, but now she was grateful for it.
She could hardly believe that the girl was worried about someone she had never met before in the past.
Nelia admired Charlotte’s good heart, and uttered in a calm voice.
“Thank you for your concern, Charlotte. Nonetheless, you’re a good man.”
Charlotte stared at Nelia with a straight face and eventually nodded.
“Yes……. His Grace is handsome and rich. I don’t mind as long as Nelia is happy……..”
She uttered a frank appreciation in return. At times like this, she was strangely realistic.
Charlotte blinked absentmindedly again.
“I’m just curious……. Why does His Grace hate me?”
Nelia smiled awkwardly.
“Haha, His Grace hates Charlotte? You must have misunderstood, Charlotte.”
Even though she denied it, the duke clearly didn’t like Charlotte that much.
He didn’t like having anyone close to him even if it was talking for a second apart from her.
‘To think that I once misunderstood such a person to fall in love with Charlotte…….’
Nelia reflected on her past self again.
“Sometimes, he would give me an icy stare…….”
Charlotte certainly had a great animalistic instinct.
Not only did she say he hated her now, but also mentioned the fact that she asked if she (Nelia) had a special relationship with the duke earlier.
But here Charlotte would be hurt if she admitted that the duke hated her, so Nelia tried to come up with a reasonable excuse.
“It’s probably because he’s been tired lately.”
“But when he looks at Nelia, there’s overflowing honey in his eyes……..”
“Charlotte, I want to hear about the friend you told me last time!”
Charlotte would probably not agree with her, so Nelia eventually decided to change the subject.
Luckily, Charlotte’s eyes lit up in a flash as if she liked the new topic.
“If it’s the friend I told you about last time……..”
“I think you said something like Popo…….?”
Nelia remembered the uncommon name she mentioned on the first day they met, when Charlotte was saying Nelia looked like a friend of hers.
“Popo has a lot of resemblance with Nelia.”
“In which parts?”
Brown hair and brown eyes are common, did she mean those kinds of resemblances?
Nelia looked at Charlotte in anticipation. Charlotte stared at Nelia before talking slowly.
“…….All of it.”
Everything? This isn’t some kind of doppelganger, is it…….
A quite shocking answer left Nelia baffled.
“When I saw Nelia for the first time, I thought you were the reincarnation of Popo……..”
“Wait. Reincarnation? That means…….”
Charlotte nodded lightly.
“Yes……. He died this year.”