Huge thanks to Yanie for the kofi! (4/4)
“Madam, did you not sleep?”
Layla looked at her master’s face with worried eyes.
Dooha’s face, which was normally always full of vitality, was gloomy today, like a sky full of rain clouds.
“Your complexion looks bad.”
“No, I’m okay.”
Actually, she wasn’t okay.
Dooha placed her hand on her forehead thinking about what happened last night.
“So if it’s just a favor, you’d better not give it carelessly.”
The meaningful blue eyes that looked at her.
“Unless you want to get the attention of a man you don’t want.”
She could feel the nerves in her hair, and the warm, lukewarm breath that she felt was still vivid in her memories.
As always, Dooha was not a tactless person.
She knew the meaning behind what the duke said.
Leonhart told her not to do any favors if she didn’t want attention, but he was already showing great interest in Dooha.
And Dooha also knew what the interest meant.
‘But why? What did I do?’
After hearing about his insomnia, all she did was made a medicinal tea and a pillow.
No matter how bad the relationship was, wasn’t it normal for people to care when someone was sick?
But she didn’t do it as a favor.
‘I only looked at my husband as if I was taking care of him. What the hell is this?’
Dooha frowned and bit her lips.
Unfortunately, in her eyes, the duke was still only an unlucky, feisty, and proud imperial nobleman.
So it was very unexpected.
But, it was not as if he was the only one who developed such intimate feelings, albeit how sloppy it may have been shown.
‘Am I surprisingly weak in that way?’
“What would you do if you did a man a favor that didn’t have much meaning, but he liked it? ”
“Well, I don’t know.”
Layla shrugged after she listened to her master.
“I don’t think that will happen to me.”
When Dooha hurriedly tried to add, Layla cut off her words.
“I’m saying this just in case, Madam. I wouldn’t do meaningless favors for a man in the first place. I wouldn’t want to be misunderstood.”
“Yes. Even if a woman who is not interested in a man does a favor for him, he quickly falls into the illusion that she did so because she likes him.”
‘Oh, is that why the Duke said that?’
‘He thought I was interested in him?’
Dooha paused in surprise at the sudden realization and continued to talk.
“But what if there’s a reason why you would have to care about him…”
“Why would you care about a man you’re not interested in? He’s just like any other person in your life.”
Layla frowned, not understanding what she said.
“Well, I don’t know whether that man is a beggar starving to death on the street or not. There is no room for useless favors for a man who is fine.”
“Then, if you have a soft spot for the man…”
“Um, if he’s a man that I’m acquainted with, I would advise him to visit the clinic.”
“Even if it’s something that you can solve on your own?”
“Well, I don’t think I’d come forward and help him unless he asked me directly.”
“…You are a more cold-hearted kid than I thought, Layla.”
“No! I’m not cold-hearted. This is normal.”
Layla shook her head, showing that she didn’t want to be misunderstood.
“Well, if it were for a man that I have some kind of liking to, I would have stepped up and helped.”
“…You don’t have to have such good feelings to help someone.”
“It definitely depends on the person. But when I do favors for a man, I don’t do it for no reason.”
Layla looked at her master and asked back, wondering.
“In the first place, goodwill means giving something to someone you like, right? How can anyone do a favor for someone they don’t like?”
“Madam? What’s wrong with you?”
“No, it’s not like that.”
Dooha shook her head, denying Layla’s words.
‘If it’s like that, just as I have feelings for the Duke…’
“It’s fun. When I’m listening to what you’re saying.”
At that moment, Leonhart’s playful smile that she saw last night crossed her mind.
“So talk a little more, wife.”
A low voice mixed with laughter.
Dooha clenched her fist, feeling something small in the corner of her chest.
She took care of the duke simply to repay him.
A completely different meaning…
Her eyes, dark golden like ripe barley, trembled as if they were at a loss.
After standing blank for a long time, Dooha came to her senses at Layla’s voice calling her.
“Are you listening to me?”
“Oh, what did you say?”
“You have to choose a dress to wear to the dinner you’re attending tonight. The maid brought a few dresses to the dressing room.”
“Oh, that’s right.”
Only then did Dooha remember what the most important thing that was going to happen today was.
Dinner with Sir Nate, the Duke’s uncle.
Nate. He was said to be the head of the conservative aristocratic faction within the Empire.
She had to prepare herself and properly dress up.
“Okay, let’s go.”
Dooha cleared her confused mind for a while and left the room with a confident stride.
She couldn’t afford to think about anything else now.
Even the sun knew that today was a special day, having set earlier than usual.
When the promised time came, Dooha went out while being served by her maids.
The dark navy purple satin dress complimented her chest and faded towards the hem of the skirt, the color almost a grey at the ends.
She also had a mysterious aura to her look, having added small jewels that made the ends resemble the Milky Way, otherwise, it would have looked dull.
With her rich silver hair raised high, the bottom of her dress made her look like a mystical lakeside fairy.
It was only for dinner, but she dressed up perfectly just in case she was caught up in trouble with anyone because she came from Bashal.
Meanwhile, Dooha found Leonhart waiting for her in front of the door and stopped breathing for a while.
‘I knew right away that you had a handsome face, but…’
She looked at her husband’s figure without realizing it.
She always saw him in clothes or his armor, but it felt strange to see him dressed in such an outfit.
She thought it wouldn’t look good on him because he was tall and muscular, but that was a big miscalculation.
The dark blue outfit that had been embroidered with gold thread fit his whole body snugly, highlighting his excellent body, and the bright blonde hair, which was half styled up, was shining softly under the moonlight.
Indeed, he had a satisfactory appearance that one could tell just by looking at it.
Leonhart, who was having a conversation with the servant, felt the presence of Dooha and turned his head.
As soon as he saw Dooha, he opened his mouth slightly, surprised with the same reason that she had. Having lost his words for a while, he slowly moved his lips.
“…I almost didn’t recognize you.”
“You have a knack for making compliments sound very rude.”
“As long as the listener understood it as a compliment.”
Leonhart twisted up one corner of his mouth.
“Do you have anything else to say to me?”
“Do you have something to say?”
“If there was something to give, then there should also be something to receive.”
At what he said, Dooha paused for a moment and spoke with an indifferent face.
“There weren’t any lies in the saying ‘the clothes are wings’.”
“I don’t think my wife is very good at compliments either.”
“It wasn’t a compliment, it was objective appreciation.”
“You’re not being honest.”
Leonhart smiled and held out one arm to her.
“Let’s go now.”
On the day of the promised banquet, the Duke and the Duchess headed to Lord Nate’s private residence located in the outer castle.
Unlike the inner fortress where the Duke’s residence was located, the outer castle of Esbaden had an impressive structure with red bricks and a domed roof.
It seemed to strongly insist from the outside that this place was out of the realm of the Duke.
Dooha carefully looked around with her hand on the Duke’s arm.
She recalled the mayor’s explanation of the power structure of the duchy she had heard before departure.
“There are three groups, called the ‘Pillars’, in the Duchy of Esbaden.
The first pillar is the group of knights directly under the rule of the ducal family and led by the duke. The second pillar, the ‘Kreuz’, is a senior council of experienced vassals.
The third pillar, the ‘White Pagoda’, is a group of wizards that operates under the command of the tower owner, not the Duke.”
People called these three groups ‘The Three Pillars’ for the way they supported the Duke of Esbaden.
“And Sir Nate, the Duke’s uncle, is the head of Kreuz.”
Contrary to the initial purpose of the establishment, which was to help the Duke revive the territory, the Kreuz had long been a force of the retainers who kept the Duke in check.
And at the center of it was ‘Nate von Esbaden’, the Duke’s uncle.
“If you are not welcomed by him, don’t mind it.”
“He hates the Duke, but not only that, he also hates the Kingdom of Bashal very much.”
Upon entering the lobby, Dooha slowly raised her head.
A well-dressed old gentleman looked down at them over the stairs on the second floor.
His gray hair, which had grown to his shoulders, was neatly swept back, perhaps even oiled, and his faded green eyes glistened like those of a snake.
As soon as he saw the Duchess, he slowly came down the stairs.
“Welcome, Leon. It’s been a while since I saw your face. I’m sorry that I couldn’t attend the wedding.”
He called the Duke a friendly nickname and turned to Dooha.
“Oh no, I didn’t introduce myself to my niece-in-law.”
Cold green eyes, which did not contain any favoritism, stretched long.
“My name is Nate Van Esbaden. Call me Sir Nate.”
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