Chapter 8. Waiting To Get Off Work

 

 

 

 

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***

 

‘If it’s proven there is something in this dessert, I’m not going to eat it.’

 

“…… Thank you.”

 

He casually took the tart and ate it without showing any doubt.

 

‘I think his ears turned a little red.’

 

Could it be that she acted a bit too rude just now? However, she was too late to regret what she did.

 

Since he didn’t say anything, she was going to enjoy the tart comfortably now.

 

Nelia began to eat the tart.

 

Chew, chew.

 

It was always delicious whenever she ate it.

 

Then, he looked at Duke Hart, who was sitting in front of her.

 

“We have a lot of time, so you can take your time to enjoy it properly.”

 

“It’s not like that……. Don’t you eat too, Your Grace?”

 

She belatedly realized that she ate alone. After taking the first bite, she ate more than half of the tart by herself.

 

“Yes, I’m fine.”

 

“……..Then I’ll eat it all.”

 

He nodded with a light smile spread across his lips.

 

Soon, the tart disappeared.

 

Nelia drank up the jasmine tea which she had refilled earlier and lifted her face.

 

She realized that Duke Hart was watching her eat like a viewer who was watching an eating show.

 

Feeling embarrassed for no apparent reason, she hurriedly put down her fork.

 

“I’m done.”

 

When Nelia announced that she had finished, Duke Hart stood up from his seat while showing a pretty smile that she couldn’t get used to seeing.

 

“I think I will have to work in the mansion today, can you help me?”

 

Duke Hart reached out his hand to her as he finished talking.

 

‘What……? Does he want me to return his money for his tart after I ate it all?’

 

Duke Hart added when Nelia was still staring at his hand.

 

“I meant to ask you to hold my hand.”

 

Nelia widened her eyes in surprise for a moment.

 

“P-Pardon me?!”

 

“It’s uncomfortable for me to walk around.”

 

She almost nodded in a moment toward Duke Hart, who spoke calmly, but she quickly noticed there were some contradictions in his words.

 

“You said you were uncomfortable walking around, but how did you manage to get here on your own?”

 

Nelia cowered like a herbivore and demanded an explanation.

 

“I walked uncomfortably on my own.”

 

So it was like that……..

 

It was a clear and logical answer.

 

“I almost fell down twice while I was walking here from the carriage.”

 

Duke Hart smiled softly and reached out for her hand again.

 

“Or perhaps, do you need another reason?”

 

“No……..”

 

Nelia’s small hand was placed on top of Duke Hart’s hand. The slender fingers of the duke wrapped around her palm.

 

Nelia opened her eyes wide and looked up at Duke Hart without realizing it.

 

The duke stared at Nelia, as if he knew she was asking the reason and explained.

 

“My hands are a little cold.”

 

Nelia looked at the big hand that enveloped her hand.

 

“Is he suffering from cold hands and feet…….”

 

She didn’t expect the villain to suffer from this kind of disease. It turned out he has a realistic side, too.

 

Duke Hart then spoke while pulling Nelia’s hand.

 

“Shall we go now?”

 

The duke squeezed Nelia’s hand gently.

 

Like a trap that caught its target, as if it would never let go anymore.

 

***

 

Nelia helped Duke Hart walk as he led her. Actually, she didn’t feel like she was really helping him.

 

‘It’s just……. More like walking hand in hand.’

 

As they climbed the stairs, he leaned a little more to her, although she thought that Duke Hart was able to walk properly on his own.

 

Nelia glanced up doubtfully at the duke. She did that whenever he leaned on her like a ghost.

 

“I’m really glad Nelia became my handmaiden.”

 

And he kept saying the same thing.

 

Anyway, Duke Hart and Nelia arrived safely in his study.

 

“Thank you, Nelia.”

 

She only took Duke Hart’s hand and assisted him to his study, but she thought it was a little weird for Duke Hart to give her a look as if saying she had done something huge for him.

 

‘That’s enough. You have done a good job.’

 

Now that Duke Hart is about to start working, she just has to go somewhere and rest.

 

Because a handmaiden didn’t do housework like an ordinary maid. 

 

Nelia, who had finished her first mission safely, was watching for the timing to leave, and the duke suddenly spoke again.

 

“This is where I work in the mansion.”

 

The duke pointed to a desk with a wide window behind it. It was a good position for the sunlight.

 

And there was another small desk beside it.

 

‘Whose seat is that?’

 

Since Duke Hart is a prime minister, she wondered if he has an aide at home.

 

When she was busy wondering, she heard Duke Hart’s voice.

 

“That is Nelia’s seat.”

 

Before she knew it, Duke Hart walked toward a small desk and tapped on it.

 

“My seat?”

 

“I need a bit of your help on a few things.”

 

…… That’s expected.

 

She thought the job of a handmaiden would be delicate and sweet, but turned out it wasn’t.

 

Her position was to replace the head attendant, so it couldn’t have been only about assisting him.

 

“What can I do to help?”

 

Nelia quickly surrendered and took a seat behind the desk beside Duke Hart.

 

“After I pass the papers to you, you can put them according to their type. And then…….”

 

The duke explained what she had to do after that. His placid explanation got through her ears and she embedded it in her mind.

 

“You can do it, can’t you? Don’t hesitate to call me if there’s anything you don’t know.”

 

After telling such a remark in a friendly manner to Nelia, he sat down on his desk and started working.

 

She didn’t expect that the handmaiden would manage this kind of work, but like the duke said, it wasn’t difficult.

 

Nelia quickly adjusted to her work as she was doing it repeatedly.

 

No matter how much she wanted to be a grasshopper, she just couldn’t help it because she was born as an ant in the first place.

 

Time unexpectedly went by ordinarily and hours passed by quickly.

 

Nelia put the last piece on the piled papers and threw a glance at Duke Hart.

 

He really worked tirelessly.

 

He never got up from his seat and would look at the papers for hours.

 

She wondered if this was all he did.

 

He had to devise a scheme behind the emperor’s back, fell in love with the female lead, and fought the male lead.

 

Come to think of it, she wondered why he would be willing to waste his time holding a grudge against a supporting character like her just because she stepped on his foot.

 

“Shall we take a break?”

 

Then, Duke Hart’s voice came into her ears.

 

He must have noticed like a ghost that she had some time to spare for dozing off.

 

“Yes……!”

 

Nelia closed her eyes for a moment as she slurred at the end of her answer.

 

The wind blew through the window as she sat still in her seat.

 

As soon as she thought the wind was blowing through her hair, Duke Hart asked.

 

“Do you have any difficulties while working here?”

 

“Not yet.”

 

Nelia replied while recalling the job she had done so far. Then, she suddenly remembered something.

 

“Oh, there’s one thing I’m confused about.”

 

“What is it?”

 

“Was this how you drew the prime minister’s signature?”

 

Nelia drew a crooked signature on a piece of empty paper.

 

The first job she got was to put the signed papers that Duke Hart had reviewed. It was simple, so she quickly got them piled up in no time.

 

She only remembered to ask when she was resting.

 

“That’s correct, but you have to draw the bottom part a little more angular.”

 

Nelia drew it again with the pen while following the duke’s explanation.

 

And she held up the paper toward him.

 

“Like this?”

 

“No, it should be more pliable than that.”

 

Hm…… It’s hard.

 

Nelia moved the pen zealously again.

 

“I did it like what you’ve explained, right?”

 

However, the crooked signature didn’t seem to be much different than before. Duke Hard then got up from his seat.

 

He came behind her as if attempting to hug her and took her right hand.

 

“Relax.”

 

At the tender command, Nelia gradually decreased the strength on her hand without realizing it.

 

Duke Hart slowly guided Nelia’s hand.

 

“Like this.”

 

A beautiful signature was drawn on the paper as a result of Duke Hart’s supple movement.

 

But whatever the cause was, Nelia’s mind was somewhere else.

 

‘…… He’s too close.’

 

Contrary to her relaxed hand, Nelia’s body became stiff with every passing second. The duke was too close.

 

“Let’s try it once again.”

 

He tried to guide Nelia’s hand once again knowing that her hand would have probably slipped again.

 

His cold body and low voice reminded her of the duke’s line in the original book.

 

‘You’ll be better off without a tongue.’

 

At the same time, she vividly depicted Duke Hart cutting off one of the gang member’s tongue.

 

Nelia reflexively pushed his hand away.

 

“No, it’s okay!”

 

Nelia jumped out of her seat and hurriedly created a distance between them.

 

“……I think I can draw it by myself.”

 

The duke didn’t show any expression for a moment at her reaction, but soon he showed his usual smile again.

 

“I understand.”

 

When he returned to his seat, he was reviewing the papers as if nothing happened.

 

Nelia looked down at her hand with a puzzled look. Nelia looked down at her hand with a bewildered look.

 

‘I was too over-sensitive.’

 

However, her reaction was purely instinctive. A danger signal that warned her not to forget the duke’s true nature.

 

Nelia tried to soothe herself and sat on her seat again.

 

She hoped today would end soon.

 

***

 

“Nelia.”

 

It was when the sun set, Nelia looked up at the voice that was calling for her.

 

The silence-breaking call of Nelia’s name also stirred the nervousness that she had forgotten.

 

“Yes……?”

 

“It’s time to get off work.”

 

Ah… It’s time to get off work. Looking at the time, the clock was pointing exactly at six o’clock.

 

Unlike the maid, the handmaiden was able to commute to and from work.

 

Of course, the former head attendant of Duke Hart was said to stay in the mansion, but she believed there was no need to do that since her house wasn’t far away.

 

She could stay if she wanted.

 

On the day he visited her house, he offered with a smile, but Nelia, who was taken aback, refused.

 

She absolutely refused to stay in the villain’s residence until evening, even if his house looked like a palace.

 

“Nelia, you should leave before the sun sets completely.”

 

“Yes, then… I’ll be going now.”

 

Nelia slowly got up.

 

‘He’s really telling me to go, right……?’

 

The pile of papers was still high on the duke’s desk.

 

She looked at the villain’s face, but it wasn’t the face of the master who was testing his subordinate.

 

Nelia strode to the door and grabbed the doorknob. One more step and today would be over.

 

‘Huft.’

 

She was worried for nothing when she stepped on his foot because unbeknownst to anyone, she had a terrible imagination about what was going to happen.

 

But fortunately, he wasn’t as scary as she originally thought…….

 

“Wait a minute.”

 

Right after she was about to assume he wasn’t scary, she heard Duke Hart’s voice from behind.

 

When she looked back, he unknowingly walked up and stood in front of her.

 

And, he slowly reached out…….

 

close to her face……

 

Ukh.

 

Nelia, who was frightened, closed her eyes tightly at that moment.

 

‘He’s finally showing his true nature……!’

 

However, in spite of her concern, his hand eventually passed over her face and touched her hair.

 

“There’s dust here.”

 

At his gentle voice, her momentarily tense body immediately relaxed.

 

“Oh……..”

 

Nellia flickered her eyes slowly.

 

“……… Goodbye!”

 

Then, she turned around and ran out the door. Nelia disappeared in an instant along with her fluttering light brown hair.

 

Duke Hart was the only person remaining in his study.

 

Duke Hart murmured, looking down at the empty place where Nelia had disappeared to.

 

“Actually, I…….”

 

Duke Hart’s eyes, which were seen through his lowly opened eyes, looked somewhat lonely.