Huge thanks to Yanie for the kofi! (1/4)
That night, the Fourth Prince seemed to had been expelled from the Duchy of Esbaden.
Leonhart was frowning, wiping his hair with the towel that was draped over his shoulder.
Some uninvited guest had entered his study, after all.
There stood the Duchess, wrapped in a shawl over a semi-transparent gown.
“…What are you doing here?”
“What were you doing? I was waiting for you.”
She sat on the sofa where the Duke always slept.
Leonhart stared intently at her before turning his head and walking towards his desk.
“Do you have any reason as to why you’re looking for me at this hour?”
“I have something to tell you.”
“Anything you want to say?”
Leonhart, who threw the towel towards the side and rummaged through the papers, raised an eyebrow.
“What do you want to say?”
“About what happened today…”
“If it’s about the Fourth Prince, you don’t have to worry about it. There will be no harm done to you.”
He cut off Dooha’s words firmly.
As though he had nothing else to say about what happened today.
“But it will harm you.”
“Harm me? Never.”
Leonhart smiled at his answer and raised his head.
“So, when the prince said those obscene things earlier, should I have stood still?”
It seemed that he didn’t want her to compliment him for taking care of the unsavory situation, but she didn’t expect him to not want her to stay still.
Dooha looked at him with bewildered eyes.
The Duke, Leonhart, had a somewhat angry face.
“So I should have kicked His Highness, the Fourth Prince?”
“That would have been fun.”
Dooha tilted her head to the side. She found his answer ridiculous.
“You were the one who told me to keep my dignity and face as the Duchess.”
“But why are you saying that?”
Leonhart did not answer her question.
No, as if he couldn’t find the words to answer, he simply stared at her before turning his gaze back to the papers.
‘What are you going to do?’
Dooha was a little annoyed at his incomprehensible attitude, but she wasn’t there to fight, so she decided to put up with it.
At that moment, Leonhart, who was scribbling on papers with a fountain pen, spoke again.
“You are the Duchess of Esbaden. That means that you have the right to demand punishment when treated unfairly.”
He added more to his words, all while still looking at the paperwork.
“That will not change, even if the opponent is the prince.”
“In the future, our children are going to have such rights as well, so teach them the kick you’re good at.”
At that moment, his bright blue eyes, looking as though they’d been sharpened, turned to her.
‘That’s what it is like to be a person from the Esbaden family.’
A man from Esbaden.
Dooha stared at the Duke and burst out laughing.
“…Why are you laughing?”
He didn’t seem like a bad person, albeit he was a bit strange. If he changed his tone a little, she thought that he would look cute.
Dooha brushed away the words in her head and asked him in response.
“So, are you saying that you have now recognized me as a member of this family?”
Leonhart frowned as though she had just asked the most stupid question in the world.
“What do you mean? The Duchess is not a member of the Duke’s family?”
He lowered his head again, having had said everything he had to say.
“There is still a lot of work left. If you don’t have anything else to say, just go back…”
“Thank you for today.”
He raised his head with a speechless face again at the sudden thank you.
“Thank you for today. No matter what, it must have been hard for you to act against the prince.”
Dooha finally brought up the reason why she was visiting the Duke.
“It was very refreshing. Actually, I was at my limit.”
Perhaps if Leonhart had appeared even just a moment later, she, too, would have been unable to control her emotions and have punched the prince.
“If I had grabbed the prince by the neck instead of you, the entire empire would have been in turmoil.”
The princess from Bashal attacked the prince of the empire. Again, they’d say she had not learned anything and was violent due to her barbarian origins.
It was a fact that the empire underestimated those from Bashal.
It was thought that it was not even worth allying with such a barbarian state, and it was far more profitable to punish the princess and break the alliance, etc.
In addition, it was apparent that numerous rumors related to Dooha would be falsified and spread.
“Those working in the stables would have become noisy if you hadn’t come forward.”
“So, thank you.”
Dooha finally turned her gaze to her husband.
Leonhart was looking at her with an expression as though he was seeing her for the first time.
‘What kind of expression is that?’
‘Is that the expression of a person who was hit on the head by an apple that had fallen from the tree while walking on the road?’
Dooha tried to interpret his expression by coming up with scenarios, but Leonhart slowly opened his mouth.
‘What the hell are you trying to say?’
Dooha focused all her attention on his lips without realizing it.
‘He is the strangest person in the world.’
Instead of answering, Dooha chose to stare quietly.
“Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t really do it for you.”
All of a sudden, Leonhart had put on his usual cold face.
“So there is no need for you to thank me.”
“Even so, I am thanking you because I am thankful.”
It was a very unsatisfying response, but Dooha had no intention of taking back her thanks.
Anyways, being thankful was a thing to be thankful for.
“Then, I will go.”
Dooha glanced at her husband, who hadn’t even looked at her, and then stepped forward with dignified steps.
The moment she turned around, she didn’t notice the pair of eyes looking at her intently.
Leonhart rubbed the corners of his eyes as the dusk settled into dawn without him realizing it.
‘Thank you for today.’
‘You came here just to say that?
…I just did what I had to do as the duke.’
As she said, the Duchess, the symbol of the alliance, could have faced more serious consequences if she had gotten caught up in the hustle and bustle of the situation.
He’d rather take the consequences himself, even if he were to get criticized.
Of course, being criticized was not a pleasure for him either.
At a young age, he overcame the opposition of many vassals and ascended to the duke’s position.
There was no good reason for him to become involved in drama.
However, for whatever reason, he had the confidence to start, regardless of his own will, in matters involving her.
Whether in the stables or in front of the prince, he always found himself in front of her.
He was very annoyed because he couldn’t figure out why.
Thanks to this, his insomnia, which he had suffered from early on, had gotten worse recently.
Leonhart sighed and walked over to the sofa.
He tucked his large body in half and laid on his side.
At that time, an unfamiliar scent tickled the tip of his nose.
It was similar to the scent of the midwinter wind that one could smell when riding a horse.
[Dooha. You can call me Dooha.]
He suddenly remembered the memories of the day he first met her.
These days, the thought of Dooha, which appeared in his mind at random and unexpected times, had made his mind even dizzier.
He raised his arms and pressed his eyes gently.
Was it because of the unfamiliar, but soothing, scent?
The duke fell asleep without much difficulty, his face without any trace of discomfort or signs that he had suffered from insomnia.
“You guys, did you hear that? Sir Daniel is back!”
“Oh my God, it’s been three years already!”
“Ah, now I’m getting motivated to work again. Without Sir Daniel, the duke’s castle was so bleak.”
“Yes. There’s the Duke here as well, but he is very scary.”
After the Fourth Prince left, the castle had been quiet again for a fortnight. However, things were about to change.
It was because of the news that had begun to circulate recently; the news of someone’s return.
Dooha, who said she was lonely, unintentionally overheard the conversations of the maids cleaning the garden. She turned to Layla at the mention of the unfamiliar name.
“Layla, who is Daniel?”
“Oh, Daniel is-”
“Wait, did you really know?”
As her owner looked at her with amazement, Layla shrugged her shoulders with a confident look.
“Of course. Who do you think I am? Am I not Layla, the one who was also known as an informant in Bashal? During the last few days, I have gathered a lot of information!”
Layla cleared her voice and began telling the story.
“A few months ago, there was a lot of uproar among the maids about that person.”
“He’s the duke’s only cousin. He’s returning to the Duke’s Castle after three years.”
His name was Daniel von Esdaben and he was the Duke’s only cousin. Three years ago, he had made a big mistake and was exiled with the guise of studying in the Eastern Empire.
Dooha nodded her head at the explanation and frowned, realizing something.
“But I remembered that the duke had only one relative?”
Layla shrugged her shoulders, signifying that she was right.
“He’s the only son of Sir Nate, who doesn’t get along with the duke.”
Dooha had yet to meet a person named ‘Sir Nate’.
He didn’t seem to get along very well with the Duke, not to mention that he didn’t even attend their wedding.
If he was such a person, it might be better for her if they were to not see each other all the time.
‘Since they are the relatives of the Duke, we will eventually meet someday.’
She had a sudden feeling that she wouldn’t be very impressed if they were to ever meet.
‘I’ve never had a wrong premonition.’
Dooha let out a brief sigh and resumed her steps.
“It’s better to fight with strangers. I don’t want to fight with my in-laws.”
She was hoping that her premonition would be wrong this time.
“Sir Nate has invited the Duke and Duchess to dinner the following Friday.”
That afternoon, her maid had informed her of the ominous invitation sent to her.