Mass release (5/5)
* * *
Dooha continued, ignoring the tears that were falling without pause.
“Daniel asked me on our way here. Why am I doing so much for you?”
Although she was ambiguous in front of Daniel, Dooha already knew the answer.
From the moment she decided to come to Tochern Castle, her heart was already certain.
“Let me ask you this time round.”
Dooha questioned the duke, who was staring blankly at her.
“Do you know what kind of emotions I was nursing while on the journey here?”
If he knew about her feelings, he wouldn’t have said that.
Nonsensical things like he regretted marrying.
“Tell me. How do you think I felt while grabbing your arm from the cliff’s edge?”
This time she spoke in an overly calm voice.
Dooha stared at Leonhart silently.
He, too, was staring at her silently.
Then, raindrops began to fall from the sky.
Leonhart was unable to speak with ease.
It went on until the entire forest was drenched with rain.
In the end, his long hesitation only inspired a sense of distrust in her.
Dooha quickly shook off the duke’s arm and ran off in the other direction.
“Wait, stop right there!”
“If you’re going back, go back by yourself!”
Dooha ran as the rain gradually turned into a downpour.
“No! Don’t go!”
She heard someone pursuing her and calling desperately, but she didn’t give a backwards glance.
At this very moment, she just wanted to vanish to a place where no one was present.
It wasn’t enough that she’d shown the duke her psyche, even her feelings were revealed.
Besides, to think that those feelings of hers wouldn’t be accepted.
Was it because she ran as hard as she could despite her blurred vision?
Dooha slipped on a tree root that she didn’t manage to spot.
She felt her body tilt backwards and fall downwards instantaneously.
She gulped at the sight of the cliff below her feet.
“I told you to stop! Why do you always disregard my words!”
Meanwhile, Leonhart, who narrowly managed to grab Dooha’s wrist, shouted.
She’d never seen such a badly distorted expression on his face before.
“You’re always like that—!”
Leonhart, who was about to say something, gritted his teeth at the sight of tears pouring down Dooha’s face.
He pulled Dooha up in one go.
The two breathed heavily as they sat facing each other amidst the downpour.
Once again, silence fell between them.
How long has passed?
Dooha quietly opened her mouth from her kneeling position on the floor.
“…Why didn’t you just let me go?”
“Why didn’t you just let me go, why did you save me?”
Leonhart became furious at Dooha’s words.
“D*mn it, can’t you say something that makes sense!”
“You’re the one that confuses me!”
Dooha glared at him with teary eyes.
A small, scarred hand clutched her trousers tightly.
“If you didn’t like me, so much that you regret getting married, you shouldn’t have been nice to me!”
Aggrieved, she raised her voice.
“You shouldn’t have acted like you had feelings for me! Speak meanly, like you don’t have feelings for me, like you won’t give me everything—!”
In the end, Dooha couldn’t finish speaking.
It was because Leonhart used his lips to cut her off.
Surprised, Dooha struggled by pushing his chest and trying to get away, but it was useless.
It was because Leonhart’s muscular arms were like a rope that fettered her whole body.
Before the question of why came to mind.
Dooha gave up on resisting and closed her eyes at the warmth that enveloped her and refused to let her go.
It wasn’t because she forgave the Duke.
She just, wanted to do so.
When Dooha’s body became weak, Leonhart burrowed in more persistently.
Muddy desire, mixed with a little anger and sadness, lingered in between the two lips.
Even amidst the downpour, the parts that were connected were fiery, like it was on fire.
Their first kiss seemed never to end.
If someone wanted to retreat, the other wouldn’t let go, and if the other wanted to calm down, the first person lit the fire.
A fire that couldn’t be doused by the downpour rose within their bodies.
“…My answer remains the same.”
Leonhart, who’d finally removed his lips, mumbled while cupping Dooha’s face with both of his hands.
“If I turned back time, I wouldn’t have married you.”
This time, he added before Dooha became disappointed.
“That is, if I knew how miserable I’d be after finding out that you almost died again and again because of me.”
Leonhart still couldn’t forget the shock he felt when he faced her on the edge of the cliff.
Daniel’s escort was his wife, of all people.
He couldn’t believe that the only woman in this world that he had to protect had actually risked her life over and over again for his sake.
He couldn’t believe that he’d almost lost her multiple times while being in the dark.
He felt dizzy and his breathing became rapid.
“If I knew that I’d disregard everything just because of a ‘mere’ woman, something like marriage…”
It was a terribly clumsy and blunt confession of love.
He brushed against Dooha’s red lips with his thumb.
She trembled at the gesture, which was filled with thick, unresolved desire.
“…Wife, I’m someone that has to be wary of change.”
As the Duke of Esbaden, it was imperative of him to maintain the stability between the castle and the territories.
He had to show the cold and rational side of the duke before Nate and the other vassals, who were eyeing the position of duke covetously.
His composure was a weapon that Leonhart had to protect.
Only then was he able to survive.
“However, ever since I met you, I seem to be changing everyday.”
Usually, nothing in his boring daily life could make his heart waver.
However, ever since he met Dooha, his heart began to waver dozens of times per day.
As long as it was related to her, he’d easily get agitated, angry, and impulsive, which was unlike him.
That was what happened during the incident with Daniel.
When he saw Dooha with that punk, he lost his composure, and even said something he shouldn’t have.
That fact hurt his pride, so he just wasted his time, unable to apologise to Dooha first.
‘I’d never thought that a day would come where jealousy dominated my entire being.’
Therefore, from the very beginning, Leonhart had to deny his feelings for Dooha.
However, he’d already had an inkling on that rainy day, when Dooha pushed the medicinal herb she’d found before him.
In the end, he couldn’t help but fall for this woman.
“…I’m in real trouble.”
In his eyes, love was a feeling that always turned people into a fool.
How much of a fool would this love turn him into?
Although he was worried, now, he wanted to stay with the woman in front of him until the end.
“That’s why, don’t ever speak of nonsensical things like I hate you.”
Leonhart ignored his wife, who was looking at him with surprised rabbit eyes, and rose from his position.
As expected, speaking embarrassing words was ill befitting of his nature.
“I’m glad that it stopped raining.”
Leonhart feigned indifference and changed the topic, acting indifferent towards the burning gaze on him from his side.
“I don’t think it’ll be possible to reach the campsite today, so let’s find a place to sleep first.”
He extended a hand out to his wife, who was still staring at him dazedly.
“What are you doing, aren’t you going to take it?”
Dooha just stared at the hand that was extended towards her dazedly.
‘Can I really hold this hand?’
At her hesitation, Leonhart tilted his head.
“Why, was that insufficient?”
A corner of Leonhart’s lip curled upwards.
“Be patient even if it isn’t enough. I’ll satisfy you after we return back to the castle.”
At that, after understanding what he meant, Dooha’s face reddened instantly.
Leonhart gave her a mischievous smile, grasped her hand and helped her to her feet.
The tear tracks that hung around Dooha’s eyes dried up and vanished unbeknownst to her.
* * *
Hoot , Hoot, Hoot.
As night fell in the forest, only the chirping of unnamed birds remained.
Dooha’s ears pricked up, trying to detect any signs of suspicious movements outside.
“There aren’t any monsters in the vicinity, so come over here quickly and sit down.”
Leonhart called for her in front of a campfire within a cave.
A few skewers of fish that were caught from the stream a while ago were appetisingly cooking over the campfire.
“It’s such a relief that we managed to find a cave.”
Dooha sat across from Leonhart and warmed her hands and feet in front of the fire.
She was like a drenched rat all day long, and was desperate for some warmth.
“Why don’t you take them off, too?”
“…I refuse. My clothes can dry while I’m wearing them.”
Dooha tried hard not to pay attention to the duke, who was only wearing a thin pair of pants.
She found it embarrassing to look at him because she remembered the kiss in the forest with him.
She couldn’t even raise her head at the sight of his bare body.
Why does that man have a needlessly good figure, which made others embarrassed.
“The fish seems to be cooked. Hurry up and eat.”
Dooha pretended to be composed and held out a fish skewer to him.
Although it was small in size, the fat freshwater fish had an appetising exterior.
Leonhart was about to place the fish into his mouth, but he slowly lowered it.
“I want to ask you something.”
“What is it?”
“How the hell did you get out of the castle? Didn’t anyone hold you back? Didn’t the head maid say anything?”
Three questions left his mouth in one breath.
Dooha seemed rather awkward, and frowned for a moment before answering slowly.
“First of all, I left without telling Sylvia. Layla will be dressed up like me, and she won’t take a single step out of the bedroom.”
She decided to make the excuse that she didn’t want to meet anyone as she was feeling depressed while preparing for the carnival.
“And I hid in a box loaded with supplies in order to leave the castle.”
Leonhart frowned, like he was rather dumbfounded by her answer.
“…Don’t tell me, that box?”
“You’re probably right.”
Dooha recalled how she was almost caught on the day she first arrived at Tochern Castle.
She was hiding in the box and was waiting for an opportunity to leave, but she was quite surprised when the duke suddenly strode towards the box she was hiding in.
Leonhart’s face crumpled, like just the thought of it was horrible.
“How did you come up with the idea of hiding in that narrow box? What if it tumbles out of the wagon or it’s attacked?
“That couldn’t have happened. Daniel was there…”
Dooha stopped talking and covered her mouth.
She thought that it’s better if she didn’t mention Daniel’s name.
Sure enough, Leonhart’s eyes narrowed.
* * *
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