Chapter 1. An Accidental Encounter
The duchess looked at Nelia with doe eyes.
“It must have been because of guilt.”
Nelia listened to the duchess and immediately realized why the duke had behaved that way.
She could know it because she experienced the Duke whom she stayed with for a while.
The duke was a greatly considerate and selfless man. He was always kind to others, and needless to say to those who were close to him.
In particular, he was generous and compassionate to those he cared about.
He seemed to be always arguing with Marquis Clint, but the Marquis still looked for some medicinal herbs for him who suffered from the curse.
It was the same for Ton, the butler, who prepared and delivered it to him.
Even on his ghostly expressionless face , he recognized the butler’s exhaustion and gave him a vacation.
‘Well…… not to mention me.’
Of course, the people who poured affection on would also include his mother. There was only one family left after his father’s death, and of course he would be fond of them and treated them preciously.
Therefore, regardless of the fact that he was in the monster form and lost his mind, the young Duke Hart must have been upset because he attacked his mother.
“If Shilian avoided me because of his guilt…… I’m not quite sure either.”
When Nelia gave an unexpected answer, the duchess seemed to not believe it easily.
“If you don’t believe what I’m saying, you can talk to His Grace about that day. His Grace will probably apologize first.”
Then, the door of the drawing room opened. The duke, who said he was coming out to get some fresh air, was back.
“I’m sorry, I suddenly went out…… Mother?”
The duke, who came in apologizing, seemed a bit surprised to see the red-eyed duchess.
The duchess quickly covered her eyes with her sleeves.
Duke Hart looked curiously at the duchess, who was hiding what happened earlier, but didn’t ask any further.
Nelia spoke on the behalf of the embarrassed duchess to Duke Hart first.
“Are you done cooling your head off?”
The duke’s gaze, which had been stiff earlier, seemed a little relaxed.
“Yes, I feel much better.”
Then, Zenuit tugged on Nelia’s clothes. Nelia looked at Zenuit.
Rumble. The sound of Zenuit’s stomach resounded through the quiet space.
The duchess rose from her seat with a smile.
“It’s almost dinner time. I’ll tell people to prepare dinner.”
While dinner was being prepared, Nelia, the Duke, and Zenuit were shown the room they would be staying in through their time in the duchy’s castle.
Nelia showed Zenuit into the room and then came over to the duke’s room.
When Duke Hart saw Nelia, who opened the door without knocking, he stopped his movement, which was taking off his coat.
“I wanted to talk to Your Grace for a moment. Is it okay if we talk right now?”
The duke took off his cloak and walked over to Nelia. He looked nervously at Nelia, who came all of a sudden.
“Did you feel uncomfortable here?”
“No, not at all. Rather, His Grace seems to be the one who looks uncomfortable.”
The duke hesitated, and soon uttered.
“It was just…… I was confused earlier.”
“It was just confusing for me. All of a sudden, it’s about dragon.”
“It’s not clear that the creature depicted in the painting is really a dragon. It’s still unclear whether I can trust the book or not.”
That’s true, but……
Nelia thought the place must be worth something as it was even hidden by the magic balls for hundreds of years.
However, she didn’t want to increase the duke’s confusion by saying this now.
“If your ancestors were dragons, what would they be like? Something happened which made them become a snake.”
In fact, Nelia saw the dragon in the book and thought that Duke Hart was better suited as a dragon than a snake.
Beautiful appearance, brilliant hair, and unique power.
All of this would make sense if his identity was a dragon, because it was all possible.
Wouldn’t the identity of a dragon feel more suited to him rather than a snake?
Then the duke whispered in a small voice.
“I don’t want to be a dragon or snake…… if it isn’t a human in the end. Doesn’t that mean my true self is forbidden?”
Do dragons considered as beasts……?
She didn’t think Zenuit would like it very much if he heard.
“It’s not a curse. I’m turning into a snake. Turning into a snake means I’m just returning to my original form. So, what have I been after all this time……?”
The duke carefully seized Nelia’s hand. His gaze rested somewhere on the back of Nelia’s hand.
“More than anything…… I’m scared.”
“If I’m not a human, how will Nelia accept me?”
The eyes which were visible through the eyelashes as he pitifully lowered his head were gloomy.
Nelia wanted to console him, who was anxious.
“Well, it may come as a bit of a surprise to you…… I think the important part is your feelings.”
“Yes. if you have a feeling toward someone, and can communicate…… Your identity may not really matter.”
Honestly speaking, it would be a lie if she didn’t care about who he is at all, but she thought it wouldn’t matter that much if the person was the duke.
That was Nelia’s sincere feelings.
“I’m a bit relieved to hear Nelia said so.”
The duke finally let out a faint smile.
Nelia knew her answer was right upon that sight. She grabbed the duke’s hand with her strength and a lighter heart.
“Your Grace, I want to say something.”
“Actually, when the duke was away for a while, I heard that when Your Grace turned into a monster when you were young, tried to attack Her Grace the Duchess.”
“That must be said by my mother…….”
Duke Hart had a similar expression to the duchess a while ago. Bitter and regretful.
Nelia saw the duke’s reaction and came to a clear realization of one thing.
“Your Grace has felt guilty to the duchess ever since that incident, right?”
The duke lowered his head. Perhaps because of his grim atmosphere, his silver hair seemed to droop down as well.
“You’re right, Nelia. Although I lost my mind, I couldn’t forgive myself for attacking my mother.”
“It’s still the same now. Whenever I see my mother, I often think of that day, so I feel uncomfortable with her.”
Nelia patted the duke on the back.
“It’s proven that you’re a family, afterall Her Grace was also blaming herself just like Your Grace.”
“Yes, for being afraid of His Grace who turned into a monster.”
As expected, the duke seemed to have not known about it. Nelia said with a sigh.
“I think it would be better to talk to Mother after dinner today.”
The duke looked down without saying anything more.
His subdued eyes seemed to hold a lot of thoughts.
The duke eventually had time to talk personally with the duchess after dinner.
In the meantime, Nelia tried to ask Zenuit about the dragon they saw in the book, but he transformed into a small dragon and disappeared after saying he wanted to look around the castle.
When left alone, Nelia calmly waited for the duke to return in her room.
‘I wish they could talk well.’
The duchess was the only remaining family of the duke, so she wished they could be as close as they were before the incident.
This made her realize why the Duke didn’t talk much about the duchess. She didn’t expect such a thing to have happened in the past.
She dare not imagine how it felt to have to live with guilt toward her only remaining family. Would it feel like walking alone in the dark and cold road?
Nelia, who was thinking about the duke, also realized something else.
It was related to what the duke said to the duchess today.
‘But I can’t live like this forever. Not being able to part is more inconvenient than I thought.’
She felt a little sad about that, but now she finally understood what the duke meant.
“Does he feel sorry for me……?”
Although he had never made it obvious until now, the duke seemed to have been worried that she would be uncomfortable.
She almost misunderstood his words. He suddenly felt uncomfortable even when he said that he always liked being with her.
This was why the subject should have been clarified first.
If he had said, ‘Nelia would be uncomfortable not being able to be apart from me any longer,’ she wouldn’t have been unnecessarily hurt.
Nelia, who blamed the duke vainly, suddenly realized that her feelings were strange.
‘What’s the point of being upset about such a thing?’
These days, she was unfamiliar with herself responding to every word from the duke. Perhaps, it was because she was with the duke, but she thought she was affected by him a lot.
When he seemed to be gloomy, she felt gloomy as well, and he seemed to be in a good mood, she also felt well.
Nelia, who was frowning and replied to the knock on the other side of the door.
“It’s Duke Hart.”
Nelia got out of bed and opened the door. She was greeted with the sight of Duke Hart who had a light smile on her face.
‘The conversation must have gone well.’
The duke hugged Nelia tightly as if he was extremely relieved.
Nelia wasn’t surprised, and she hugged him back. Now his sudden embrace wasn’t a new thing anymore.
She just thought his conversation with the duchess went well, so she was also content about it.
“I had no idea my mother would be thinking that way, too.”
“If you two don’t talk with each other, no matter how close you are, you don’t know what is in each other’s thoughts. I’m glad that the misunderstanding seems to be resolved now.”
Nelia murmured in his arms. She didn’t know her mumble from his chest reached his ears.
“It’s all possible because of you, Nelia.”
He said in a small voice, but she thought she heard it. Nelia replied with a smile.
“Thanks to Her Grace the Duchess who told me the past truthfully.”
The duke released his hug and stared at Nelia.
“Even my mother is very grateful to you, Nelia.”
The duke raised the corners of his mouth.
“She even asked me when I will marry you, Nelia.”
Nelia let out an unnecessary cough.
Why on earth are they talking about marriage here?
“My mother seemed to want Nelia sincerely from the bottom of her heart.”
She wanted her……. It sounded very strange.
“As a part of the family. If you marry me, you become a part of our family. Even when Nelia became a family to us, she said she doesn’t even need me anymore.”
“It can’t be……”
Nelia replied while feeling embarrassed, looking somewhere else for no reason.
“If I don’t marry you, she said I will be treated as a useless person in heaven.”
“What, a useless person in heaven……?”
Duke Hart grabbed Nelia’s hand, pulled her closer, and kissed the back of her hand.
“I have to marry Nelia because I don’t want to be a useless man in heaven.”
Nelia opened her eyes wide.
‘Is this a proposal?……?’
“Of course, I’m not proposing to you now. I can’t propose to you this way, Nelia.”
She was shocked…… Nelia thought her highest heart rate was recorded at that moment.
The duke smiled and continued.
“I still have to finish something.”
Nelia knew what he was talking about almost immediately.
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