Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
Nelia changed the stirring topic as she was embarrassed of it for no reason.
“By the way, yesterday was really terrifying. If you hadn’t come, Ton and I might have been sold somewhere else by now.”
“If Nelia had been sold somewhere as a slave, I would have found you.”
The duke kissed Nelia’s hair and opened his eyes slightly. A hint of dangerous energy flashed before his eyes in a split second.
“Even if I have to search the whole world.”
The duke’s voice seemed to be filled with coldness as it changed almost immediately.
‘……I didn’t wish to get this kind of reaction.’
Looks like the duke was already filled with rage just by imagining it.
“And I shall give the man who bought Nelia a taste of hell. Firstly, one by one of his fingers…….”
“Your Grace! Come to think about it, you said that Ton was alright, didn’t you?”
Nelia changed the subject again, hoping that the duke’s anger would cease.
Luckily, the duke’s sinister eyes gradually returned to their original gleam.
“Ton is alright. You shouldn’t make much ado about something like that.”
“What do you mean by saying that? He was almost sold as a slave…….”
“Rather, I deserve to be punished for failing to protect Nelia properly, but I will let it slide since it was done safely.”
The duke’s attitude was quite cold.
His subdued eyes exuded coldness as if serving as a reminder of yesterday.
The carriage came to a halt in no time.
Nelia decided it would be better not to mention Ton any further.
After getting out of the carriage, Nelia walked toward the main palace, which was the place for the duke and the office.
But she wondered why the inside of the palace seemed a bit hectic.
People were gathering in twos, threes, or fives as they talked while walking down the street.
“Did you hear what happened yesterday? There was a fire in the mountain in the back of the park.”
The conversation reached Nelia’s ears.
‘The mountain in the back of the park…….?’
That was where she had been yesterday.
“There must have been a power struggle among criminal guilds. After all, the mountain in the back of the park is the hideout of the biggest criminal guilds around here.”
“That must be it. It’s impossible to think there would be a fire out of nowhere.”
“That must be it. It’s a notorious place for kidnapping people and selling them off as slaves, but it also serve constant trouble for His Majesty.”
Nelia realized that the people were referring to the hooligans who belonged to the crime guild, the same people who kidnapped Ton yesterday.
‘The scale must have been bigger than I thought.’
‘Did the fire really start because of the power struggle?’
Nelia narrowed her eyebrows as she listened to their conversation.
The fire was set by her. However, the fire she made wasn’t a big one, and the hooligans were able to extinguish it quickly.
“I’m sure it must be that. I heard it was just the crime guild’s hideout that caught fire and then put out quickly. Moreover, the fire also broke out at the other side of the hideout and blew to shreds.”
“If so, it was most likely the power struggle among them.”
A power struggle, it couldn’t have been that. She knew for sure because she was with the hooligans yesterday.
‘Don’t tell me it’s……..’
Nelia’s gaze suddenly flew toward the duke. The duke, who felt her gaze, looked down at Nelia with an innocent expression.
“What is it, Nelia?”
“Did you go anywhere last night?”
The duke replied calmly.
However, Nelia didn’t believe it. After all, the duke was someone who could lie so casually while smiling.
Let’s not be interested.
Nelia was intrigued while thinking about the person who set the hooligan’s hideout on fire yesterday.
It didn’t make any difference upon finding out that the duke did it.
Instead, she had other questions in mind.
“Your Grace, how did you know I was there yesterday?”
“Actually, I put a spell on Nelia’s body. I will always know where you are.”
His voice was filled with laughter.
‘That’s a lie, too.’
Nelia gave up asking the duke about yesterday. She didn’t think there would be anything to gain anyway.
‘He doesn’t waste his breath in such a weird place.’
He always says those kinds of embarrassing things.
She thought it was just one of the duke’s mysterious abilities.
On the contrary, Nelia listened again, thinking if there was anything more to gain from the people whom she eavesdropped on.
“But, was it true that the harbor had been struck by a crazy bolt of lightning yesterday?”
“Yes. I saw it directly because my house was nearby, and it was like……. Hell. Lightning struck nonstop, there was fire, and the wind blew so wildly.”
The weather was really weird yesterday.
Nelia also experienced the weather, so she could deeply identify herself in the conversation.
The woman involved in the conversation rubbed her cheek and sighed.
“Phew, God must have been really mad.”
God was angry, she also thought the same thing yesterday. The perfect weather to describe the infuriating god.
Nelia glanced at the duke.
‘The fact that he really brought impact to the weather is…….’
But soon, she shook her head thinking it was too much.
Unlike yesterday, time seemed to pass quietly when the palace was noisy.
But Nelia unfortunately didn’t get to enjoy the peaceful moment properly.
‘……How to get close to Elena’s Tears again?’
When she came to the palace, Elena’s Tears and thoughts about Zenuit naturally seeped into Nelia’s mind.
No matter how much she thought about it, there was no answer.
She still didn’t know exactly what the holy dew Zenuit mentioned looked like, nor the place it was located at.
She thought she should ask Zenuit for more detail, but Elena’s Tears were completely beyond her grasp.
‘Because Elena’s Tears is in Carlos’ hands……’
More than that, Carlos was said to put off the Crown Prince’s duties and didn’t show himself among the public.
Deep in the mountain.
Nellia glanced at the duke.
The duke might know why Carlos lived in such a secluded place.
But it was difficult to speak knowing that he was very sensitive when it came to Carlos.
On the other hand, she felt sorry for Carlos.
With his stiff arm, his high pride wouldn’t be the only being crushed, but people would doubt his qualities as the Crown Prince again.
Nelia was engulfed in a sense of guilt each time it came to her mind.
Sigrid has only one heart, and it was important for Duke Hart.
But Carlos also desperately needed it.
It would be nice if Carlos had medicine to alleviate it, like the duke’s curse. But, no such medicine existed.
‘Why do the main characters have such sad stories……..’
Nelia let out a deep sigh.
It was then.
The voice of the aide was heard from outside along with the knocking sound.
“Your Grace the Duke, His Majesty is calling for you.”
Nelia’s gaze followed. The duke, who was going through the paper at his desk, rose from his seat.
“Shall we go together, Your Grace?”
“No, you don’t have to go with me. I will see His Majesty not far from here.”
“Alright, you should go.”
The duke squinted his eyes and drew a beautiful smile on his face. Then, he erased his smile as if he was reminded of something.
“Oh, and Marquis Clint may come over when I’m away.”
It’s been a while since she heard that name.
Marquis Clint also worked in the palace like Duke Hart, but she rarely ran into him.
It was his duty to deliver the transformation medicine every time, but when the duke didn’t turn into a snake as often anymore, he didn’t come as frequently as he used to.
The duke might have read Nelia’s curious expression when he spoke about Marquis Clint.
“The Marquis is a diplomat. He was away because of having to visit the Eastern Continent for a few months as an envoy. He probably returned home just a week ago.”
‘So, he was a diplomat…….’
Since he had a playful personality, she couldn’t think of him working as someone with such a dignified image at all.
The duke frowned while stroking his chin.
“However, I heard that he’s recovering from a strange fever in the Eastern Continent……. I don’t know if he can come today.”
Fever? He must have suffered a lot.
Nevertheless, Nelia was sorry to hear that he had a fever, it might be because of her good impression of Marquis Clint.
But the duke didn’t seem to think the same way.
“If he comes, make sure to never get close to him. I will leave all the windows open.”
If he had a fever, he must have stayed in the mansion, why would he come? The duke muttered in irritation.
The duke was treating Marquis Clint like some sort of virus.
“Understood, Nelia? If the Marquis comes, you must not and never go near him. You could get a fever as well.”
The duke left with a relieved mind only after Nelia answered him.
Nelia sighed and looked out after being left alone in the room.
‘Come to think of it, I have to go home once, too.’
She had to show her face to her parents on a regular basis, and she was also worried that Leighton might mess around again.
Leighton was interested in Sigrid’s heart when she saw him last time.
‘He was working very hard to collect information.’
The information was quite accurate, too.
Nellia praised Leighton’s devotion.
Even a larva has its own talent of roll, that must be why Leighton was able to collect a pretty surprising piece of information when he poured his devotion into it.
‘I’m glad the devotion turned from the duke to Sigrid’s heart.’
Or Leighton might have really dug the duke’s secrets.
When Leighton learned about the duke’s curse, the rumor would spread in no time.
Just the mere thought of it was enough to make her dizzy.
Nelia concluded that she should visit her parents at home as soon as possible to greet them and have a conversation with Leighton to see if he had taken interest in the duke again.
There was a knock at such a nice timing. The aide from the other side of the door announced.
“Marquis Clint has come to visit.”
The visit was earlier than she expected. Nelia rose from her seat in surprise.
“Yes…….! Please tell him to enter.”
Soon, Marquis Clint came in. His new colored skin, which used to be as white as a speck of snow in the snowy fields, had visibly darkened.
‘He’s been to the Eastern Continent…….’
The Eastern Continent was a place where there were wide deserts and strong sunlight.
That might have been the reason why Marquis Clint seemed quite tan in the sun. Perhaps because he’s naturally good-looking, the dark skin looked very good on him.
He looked really wild.
‘Would it feel that way if the duke took it…….?’
Nelia thought it would be downright sensual, and quickly returned to her senses when she realized that it was just a useless imagination.
“Long time no see, Nelia.”
It was said that the Marquis suffered from a fever, but has he been cured? He looked fine on the outside.
Nelia led the Marquis to the guest table in the office.
“Please take a seat.”
The marquis walked leisurely as usual.
However, as soon as he tried to sit down, his legs wobbeld as if they lost strength. Luckily, he didn’t fall down because he quickly grabbed the back of the chair.
Nelia exclaimed in surprise.
“My Lord, are you all right?”
The marquis laughed awkwardly.
“Yes, I’m fine. I just suddenly feel dizzy.”
Nelia’s eyebrows twitched when she saw it.
‘He’s……. I think he’s still sick.’
Looking at him closely, she thought there was a hint of pink in his darkened cheek.
Nelia thought about opening the window and wondered whether she should stay away from Marquis Clint or not, like what the duke told before he left.
But……. Wouldn’t it be rude to act like she has nothing to say?
Nelia, who had contemplated, opted to ask directly.
“Excuse me…… Your Lord. I heard you’re not feeling well, have you gotten any better now?”
Nelia was careful in her speaking tone.
It has to sound like a greeting, not a suspicious question.
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