Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
The duke flicked his finger, and the hooligan’s body floated in the air.
Nelia blinked as if she had seen nothing.
‘He attacked the hooligan without laying a hand on him………’
The body of the bully in the air hit the floor again with a thump. The dust spread thickly and scattered in all directions.
If he was slammed against it so hard, he would have cracks at least somewhere in the bone or in severe cases, he might have fractures.
As he watched the scene with an absentminded face, the duke lowered himself and whispered to Nelia.
“Did this guy lay his hands on Nelia’s body?”
Nelia realized that the man’s life was at stake depending on her answer when he asked in a subdued voice.
A restrained voice came from Nelia’s mouth.
The duke’s eyebrows were raised slightly, despite the answer was the one he wanted to hear.
After that, the atmosphere surrounding the duke seemed to change rapidly even with just a small change in his expression.
The duke rose from his position with a deep breath. The hooligan, who had been lying down, trembled as he saw the duke walk up to him.
Seeing his frightened face, he seemed to not even think about running away.
The duke knelt down in front of the trembling hooligan.
“Tell me what you were going to do to Nelia.”
“……. I, I………”
The duke grabbed the hooligan by the collar when he was trembling that he had a hard time answering the duke’s question.
“You’d better answer clearly.”
The cold gaze became a sharp piece of ice and pierced through him.
“Before I cut off your useless tongue.”
The cold voice felt colder than the frost in the middle of winter.
Even Nelia who was watching the scene held her breath.
“Uh, she will be sold as a slave for her pretty look……… Ukh.”
The duke strangled the hooligan as soon as he spat out the truth.
The duke murmured quietly as if he was reciting.
“You should be careful when I only look at you.”
The hooligan’s face turned ashen as he was strangled. But there was not a slightest change in the duke’s expression.
As if he was doing this almost naturally.
Nelia eventually gathered her strength and rose from her seat to hold onto the duke’s arm.
Even though the man deserved to die, she didn’t want the duke to kill.
It wasn’t because she was tender-hearted in this kind of situation. She just didn’t want the duke to get blood on his hands.
To be more precise, she was worried that the duke wouldn’t be able to lift the curse if his hands were tainted by blood.
Just like the duke’s mother, Lady Adam, the duke should have a good life. Nelia wished the duke could be proud when he looked back on his past when he was already in the future someday.
So that he could say that he was proud enough to be able to lift the curse.
Nelia’s voice gradually shrank as she faced those cold eyes. She knew the person in front of her was the duke, but there was an instinctive fear rising inside.
“That’s enough, please stop……..”
She wasn’t used to the expressionless face of the duke as well.
However, Nelia’s sincerity might have reached the duke because he slowly released the strength he applied to his hands.
The hooligan choked out and coughed several times.
Nelia looked at the hooligan with a startled look on her face as if thinking he was about to die.
Nelia turned her head at the voice calling out her name.
The duke extended his hand slowly.
The clean and slender finger passed in front of Nelia’s eyes and brushed her left cheek, as if nothing had happened.
“Did you not get hurt?”
It definitely felt different from when he talked to the hooligan, but there was no kind and relaxed feeling which she usually felt. Nelia had to attempt to shake off this strange feeling.
“Yes……. I wasn’t injured.”
Her back was aching because she crashed against the wooden strut, but she thought it was only right to say she was fine at this moment.
The duke gently brushed his finger on Nelia’s cheek and extended his hand as if asking her to hold it.
“Then shall we return now?”
Nelia was relieved by the duke’s words and brought herself into his arms.
Luckily, contrary to the duke’s strange expression, his familiar body heat felt absolutely comfortable.
The duke lifted up Nelia’s body and descended the mountain.
Nelia slowly closed her eyes and welcomed the rush of relief.
Nelia was in the carriage that headed back to the duke’s residence when she returned from unconsciousness.
She didn’t know if she fainted or fell asleep while descending the mountain.
She didn’t remember anything. Except for the duke’s warm and comfortable arm when she closed her eyes.
‘But……. Why is it so chilly here?’
As if she was still in the duke’s arms.
Nelia looked up once she was completely awake. The duke’s sharp jaw came into her sight.
The duke spoke to her, as if he had noticed Nelia’s movements.
“You’re awake, Nelia?”
But why is she sitting on the duke’s lap……..?
Normally, she would have asked the duke immediately, but she kept her words because she just saw the merciless side of the duke before she closed her eyes.
Therefore, she quietly tried to escape from the duke’s arms, but he held her tighter against his arms.
She’d like to stay still, but the problem is……..
‘Ton is here with us……..!’
Nelia was ashamed, heating up like dried wood.
On the other hand, Ton was showing off his mighty presence. He seemed to try hard to not look this way, but he had probably already seen them earlier.
Ton suffered in many ways including being humiliated today.
Nelia struggled to get out of the duke’s arms, but the duke spoke in a stern voice.
“It’s a punishment.”
What kind of punishment is this……!
Nelia cried out while removing the duke’s arms wrapped around her.
“I’ve never done anything that is worth punishment…….!”
She has been struggling so hard to save Ton.
Instead, she should have received thanks from the duke for saving Ton.
“You committed dangerous acts.”
“It’s all for the sake of Ton………”
“That is where you’re wrong. You shouldn’t think about others first in such dangerous situations.”
Nelia thought the duke was quite harsh to say that so casually in front of Ton.
“It was dangerous, but if I hadn’t gone to rescue him……. Ton might have been sold as a slave.”
“It’s the issue that comes later.”
Nelia chose to just close her mouth at the cold-hearted answer.
If this conversation lasted any longer, it would only offend Ton even further.
‘No…… But did he already get offended?’
Ton’s eyes seemed sparkling…….
When Nelia thought she had said something useless and when the duke intended to hug her, she felt a slight pain as her wrist brushed against the duke’s cloth
A low scream came out of Nelia’s mouth.
When Nelia looked down at her wrist, the wound caught her attention. It seemed that her wrist was scraped when she rolled in the mountain.
The duke grabbed Nelia’s wrist almost immediately.
“Where did you get hurt?”
“……I rolled down the mountain, and I guess that’s when I got hurt.”
Nelia said while looking closely at the duke’s face.
It was her who got injured, but she didn’t know why she had to be wary of the duke like this.
However, judging from the appearance of the duke earlier, there was a good chance that he would ask the carriage to turn around and head back to the place where they set off earlier if she said she was injured.
At that time, she thought she wouldn’t be able to avoid the bloodbath.
Nelia waited nervously for the duke’s reaction. Luckily, he only let out a deep sigh and didn’t tell them to turn around the direction of the carriage.
Instead, he lowered his head and kissed Nelia’s wrist.
His lips were soft and careful as it touched her skin, but the wounds tingled and tickled with every touch from his lips, making her feel a strange sensation.
The duke’s kiss went up to her arm after sliding up from her wrist.
As if she was intending to kiss the skin that wasn’t covered with clothes without missing a single spot untouched.
And when his lips touched her nape, Nelia had to hold her breath.
“Ha…… Please don’t do this.”
“I don’t want to.”
The duke muttered shortly like a grumbling child and continued to kiss her again.
Realizing that Ton were in the same space with them, Nelia felt her face was so flushed that she might suffer from a fever.
She couldn’t believe that they were doing this kind of thing in the presence of someone else.
She wondered what Ton was thinking at that moment? Nelia couldn’t bear to even glance at Ton.
If she glanced at Ton to check his reaction, she might faint again from embarrassment.
The kisses grew persistent as time went by. The duke called Nelia softly as he kissed her eyelids.
“I hate it so much when someone lays a hand on Nelia.”
The duke closed his eyes tightly. Nelia felt guilty at the duke’s appearance as if he was trying to hold back his burning anger.
“It’s hurting a lot more.”
Despite the fact that she was barely touched by the hooligan, the duke was so worried that he peppered such pertinacious kisses all over her skin.
Nelia stroked the duke’s hair. The silver hair fluttered gently under her touch.
“Your Grace……. I’m sorry for making you worried. It won’t happen anymore.”
The duke opened his eyes. His silver eyes were shaking all over.
“If Nelia got into trouble, I might turn this city into chaos…… So please……. Just stay with me.”
She didn’t know how he would turn this city into chaos, but when she thought of the strange power she witnessed earlier, she thought it might be possible.
Nelia muttered in a calm voice to reassure the duke.
“Yes, I will stay with Your Grace.”
The dark aura on the duke’s face drastically dissipated.
As soon as they arrived at the duke’s residence, Charlotte, who was pacing around in the main gate, immediately hugged Nelia. She burst into tears at the sight of Nelia and Ton.
On the other hand, the duke gave Charlotte an unfriendly look. He seemed to assume that she was in danger because of Charlotte.
But it was already too late when Nelia and Ton got back, so Charlotte decided to spend the night in the duke’s mansion only for today.
Nelia led Charlotte to the room provided for her and stood at the door. After crying for who-knows-how-long, Charlotte’s eyes were as red as a rabbit.
Nelia suddenly remembered what just happened while looking at Charlotte’s reddened eyes.
“Charlotte, I’m sure you’re offended by His Grace’s attitude, but I kindly ask for your understanding. He must have worried so much today.”
Charlotte only bowed her head like a sinner.
“It’s natural for His Grace to be angry. I almost lost my necklace and put everyone in danger……..”
Charlotte bit her soft lip slightly. Her pale face looked like she was about to collapse at any moment.
“So I understand the anger of His Grace…….”
Nelia felt sorry for Charlotte who was so anxious and acted as if she had committed an immortal sin.
“Charlotte, it’s all right. Everything turned out fine.”
Charlotte grabbed Nelia’s hand with tears welling up in her eyes at Nelia’s comforting remark. The edge of Charlotte’s red eyes were tarnished with tears.
“Nelia, thank you…….”
Charlotte eventually shed another wave of tears again. Her eyelashes were wet with tears as it turned downward.
“If it weren’t for Nelia, the butler might have been in trouble……. And I wouldn’t be able to……. Free myself from the guilt that will haunt me for the rest of my life.”
Nelia grabbed Charlotte and hugged her, patted her on the back.
It seemed a little weird because Charlotte was tall, but it gradually subsided, probably because of the comfort she gave to them.
Charlotte raised her head.
There were still tears in her eyes.
“I’m sorry there’s nothing I can do for Nelia…….”
Nelia didn’t think that way.
Instead, she felt guilty due to the fear that the original plot had been twisted because of her, and that it automatically took away Charlotte’s happiness, and it felt as if this had put a burden on her chest.
“Don’t think that way, go inside and take a rest, Charlotte.”
Nelia stared at Charlotte and realized there was something that had been left out of her mind.
“Oh, before that………”
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