Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
‘It’s over there!’
Nelia found the item which she presumed to be Charlotte’s necklace on the corner of the desk.
When she walked up to it and looked closely, she realized it was, indeed, Charlotte’s necklace.
Even though she knew it wasn’t over yet, Nelia slowly felt her anxiety diminished.
She was worried at the thought of whether she could find Charlotte’s necklace or not.
Nelia saw people moving quickly outside the window. She realized there was no time to be relieved now and hurried out of the cabin.
The weather was quite strange. There wasn’t any wind earlier, but the wind was blowing quite hard in the meantime, as if the weather was capricious. Thanks to that, the fire in the forest was swaying as if it was dancing.
‘Is that a good thing………’
She didn’t know what happened, but due to the raging wind, it seemed that it would take time to put out the fire.
Nelia went to the cage where Ton was locked up. Ton widened his eyes when he saw Nelia, who returned safely.
“Young Lady Nelia!”
“I told you I wouldn’t be caught in trouble.”
Nelia hurriedly thrusted the key into the lock on the cage door.
The iron door opened with a click.
“That’s amazing. How did you find the key on your own?”
Nelia stopped Ton when he was about to come out.
“Wait a minute. The shackles are still in place.”
“Don’t tell me you brought the key for the shackles as well?”
Ton had a dazed expression, which rarely appeared on his face.
Nelia was flattered for a moment, but she remembered that there were about 10 keys in the bundle of keys she had brought along.
“I brought it, but it’s a bit too much……..”
Starting from the key in the front of the bundle, Nelia inserted them into the keyhole of the shackles one by one. But the shackles were barely unlocked.
Then came the voice of the bunch of hooligans.
“D*mn wind! How big was the fire?”
“It’s been delayed by the wind, but I think we can put it out in 10 minutes!”
Damn. Ten minutes?
They have to climb down the mountain in a hurry. If they found out that Ton was gone from the cage, they would start chasing him.
“Calm down, Young Lady Nelia. 10 minutes is plenty of time.”
Ton’s calm remark relieved Nelia’s trembling hands as she kept inserting the keys.
The wind blew even harder than before. Her frantically flapping robe blocked her sight, and the keys even deviated several times.
When she inserted the fifth key, the shackles made a clicking sound and the tight lock was finally opened.
“Okay…….! Hurry up, Ton!”
“I’m grateful for your hard work.”
Nelia and Ton came out of the cage. As the hooligans said, the red flame seen over the hut was almost gone.
The fire was almost completely out.
“Nelia, I think we should climb down through here. If you take the path you used to climb up earlier, we might be caught in no time.”
The path that Ton suggested was a rugged mountain path that couldn’t even be called a path. The slope was steep, so rolling her body down through it was probably the perfect way to get through it.
However, as he said, there were many people on that path. There would be two people on sentry duty at the foot of the road when she climbed up here.
She had no choice this time.
“Come down through it, Ton.”
When Nelia approved, Ton led the way.
Ton walked silently through the branches that blocked the path. In the meantime, he also didn’t forget to tell Nelia to be careful.
Nelia walked and followed Ton while clutching her flapping robe.
“Why has the wind become so strong all of a sudden?”
“I don’t know. The atmosphere is not strange if there will be a thunderbolt soon.”
Nelia agreed with Ton.
The weather was so dreary that she wouldn’t find it strange at all if the lightning were to strike suddenly.
As if God was angry.
Then, there were the voices of the hooligans from above them.
“D*mn! The man we’ve been holding hostage is gone!”
“How the h*ll did he escape?”
“He couldn’t have gone too far. Everyone, split up and find him!”
Nelia’s heart was pounding.
There were about ten hooligans, so it wouldn’t be difficult to find them if they scattered around.
“I think we need to speed up.”
Luckily, Ton didn’t seem anxious or agitated like her. He only increased the speed of his pace. Nelia struggled so much to catch up with Ton.
But, there was a voice from above at that moment.
“There he is!”
Nelia looked up.
The hooligan who held a torch shouted loudly as he looked at Nelia and Ton.
The voice of the hooligans quickly gathered the attention of other hooligans nearby.
They moved quickly, because the mountain was their home. Three men were hot on Nelia and Ton’s tails in no time.
At this rate, she thought the hooligans would be able to catch up with them in no time.
“I don’t think it’s possible.”
Ton suddenly stopped in his spot. Nelia slowly halted upon seeing it.
“What are you going to do, Ton?”
“There are just three of them, so I think it’d be better to take care of them.”
Ton said while holding the thick branch that had fallen around him with his hand.
“Only three of them? It’s going to be hard to take care of three people in this kind of situation.”
The enemy knew this mountain well and even carried weapons with them. On the other hand, Ton had no weapon in hand, and he was unfamiliar with the steep terrain, which made it difficult to fight against them.
“It’s all right. Young Lady Nelia, please hide behind the tree over there.”
She heard from the duke that Ton’s fighting skill was outstanding, but even so, he had to fight three people in such a dark mountain, is there any possibility of winning against them…….
However, it was too late to run away now. The fast-running hooligans appeared in front of Ton.
Nelia hid behind the tree, as per Ton’s instruction.
The hooligans sneered at Ton who only had one branch in his hand.
“Are you going to fight us with just one branch?”
“A cornered mouse bites the cat, and that is exactly what I’m going to do. It would be better for you to keep running.”
Ton swung the branch quietly and hit the hooligan.
He fell down with a thud.
“What, what is that?”
As they became disordered by the fast movement of Ton, the hooligans belatedly took out the sword hung on their waists.
And they tried to attack Ton without hesitation, but again, Ton acted faster this time.
Thud. When the hooligan got a hard hit in his leg, he lost his balance and rolled on the ground.
There was only one left out of three hooligans in a blink of an eye.
Nelia clenched her fist and prayed for Ton to take care of the last one and made it out safely.
Ton raised the branch to the only hooligan left.
But then, the bully, who had been hit on the head by Ton, wriggled up. But at that moment, the hooligan collapsed after being hit on the head by Ton, scrambling to get up.
Instead of picking up the sword that slipped away from his grip again, he touched his waist and pulled out a hidden dagger. He seemed to be after Ton with his fierce eyes wide open. And he rose up and tried to attack Ton on the back in an instant.
Nelia, who couldn’t just stand and watch, ran away from behind the tree and pushed Ton.
Luckily, the aim of the dagger that came from the hooligan missed Ton’s neck.
The hooligan who spotted Nelia opened his eyes widely.
“There, there was someone else!”
Ton grasped the situation and quickly shouted at Nelia.
“Young Lady Nelia, please run!”
The hooligan, who failed to stab Ton, got up and looked at Nelia.
“I will take care of the rest and follow Young Lady after that, so please run away for now!”
Nelia knew running away in this situation would help Ton.
Staying here would only be a hindrance for Ton because he has to defend himself and fight against them as well.
Nelia turned around and began to climb down the mountain. A hooligan who tried to lunge at Ton using a dagger was hot on her tail. He seemed upset because he failed to stab Ton because of Nelia earlier.
“I will catch you! You’re going to be sold to the slave market along with that man!”
Nelia ran away from the hooligan with all her might, but the mud road was too steep and slippery.
The sky flashed and lightning struck.
The lightning really struck the clear sky.
“The sky is throwing a fit!”
The hooligan complained while chasing Nelia. The distance between them had narrowed before she realized it.
“Gotcha, you rat……..!”
The man grabbed the hood of the robe that Nelia was wearing. Nelia fell backward due to the pull.
She eventually lost her balance on the steep path and rolled down. Her sight was spinning too quickly.
Bang. After hitting the wooden strut, Nelia managed to return to her senses again.
She could barely open her eyes and looked around, she saw the hooligan was walking toward her as she had fallen to the ground.
Nelia knew she had to get up quickly and run away, but her body was slammed quite hard on the wooden strut and her legs had given up completely.
The hooligan already stood in front of Nelia before she realized it.
“It must have happened because of you.”
The hooligan gritted his teeth and crouched in front of her while grabbing Nelia’s hair.
Nelia’s sight was distorted.
The hooligan grabbed Nelia’s hair tighter and looked closely at her face.
“I’d like to hit you a few times following my own will……. But I think I can get a lot of money if I sell you as a slave.”
Nellia glared at the bully, and he gave a fishy laugh. Nelia glared at the hooligan and he released a somewhat suspicious laugh.
“Let’s stop playing hide-and-seek in this dreary weather.”
Then, the hooligan suddenly stiffened and sniffed their surroundings.
“But……. Haven’t they put out the fire yet? Where does this burning smell come from?”
Come to think of it, there was really a burning smell nearby.
She wasn’t aware of it when she ran, but now she realized there was a strong burning smell somewhere in the forest.
‘I’m sure the fire had already been put out earlier………’
She felt strange at that moment,
The dark sky became dark and lightning struck over it.
“S*it, it surprised me! Where did this lightning strike so suddenly?”
The hooligan looked around in confusion at the sound which was coming from somewhere around. The burning smell was spreading from all directions along with thunder heard nearby.
“Ugh, it’s so ominous. I have to return to the headquarters immediately.”
The hooligan raised himself while still gripping Nelia’s hair. Nelia was forced to get up despite the pain.
The lightning struck again. The thunder that followed this time almost sounded like a roar.
After the after-effect of the roaring thunder faded away slowly, there was a rustling noise nearby.
The hooligan turned his head quickly when he heard the noise.
“Who, who are you!”
Nelia also woke up from her delirious state, and looked around to see if Ton had managed to catch up with her.
The shadow of the tall figure was visible through the dim moonlight.
At the end of her sight, she spotted a dazzling silver hair, and Nelia came to a realization almost immediately.
The cause of the burning smell which had been lingering since earlier.
When the clouds covering the moon were cleared, the familiar face was vaguely visible.
There stood Duke Hart.
The duke, who suddenly appeared in the depth of the mountain, didn’t feel real to the point that she thought this was a dream. However, she could tell it was the real duke due to the thick burning smell stimulating her nose.
However……… The duke had an unfamiliar expression on his face that he wondered if it was the duke she used to know.
She had a doubt that it was the face usually filled with enchanting eyes, but the silver eyes seemed cold enough to resemble those owned by the devil who would kill people mercilessly.
The duke had a lofty atmosphere as he appeared while walking through the darkness which didn’t fit the surrounding hill.
The duke stopped in front of Nelia.
The hooligan was staring at the duke in a daze, unlike when he was frightened and shouted to the duke a moment ago. He also looked as if losing his s**t.
Duke Hart extended his hand slowly. Even Nelia was stunned for a moment and simply watched what the duke was about to do with an absentminded gaze.
And in an instant.
The duke broke the finger of the hooligan who was grabbing Nelia’s hair.
The hooligan let out a painful scream. Even so, the hooligan still remained motionless like prey caught in a spider’s web. No, he seemed unable to move.
The duke grabbed the hooligan by the neck and threw him on the ground.
There was a loud noise when the hooligan’s body slammed against the rock.
The voice that came out between the crevice of the duke’s gritted teeth was harsh.
“How dare you.”
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