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It was true that I had my concerns, but they were not caused by the Duke.
I wondered why Annie suddenly brought up the story of the Duke who was not here, so I looked at her and soon came up with a fact.
‘Come to think of it, the date of the Duke’s return is not too far away.’
Seeing that the Emperor had said in front of the people that I could tell him anything I wanted, it was clear that the Duke had once again made a merit.
I thought it was great, but I didn’t take great interest in it.
I shook my head, then sat still and looked at the teacup in front of me.
I could see the hot steam rising from the pale reddish tea water. I watched the scene closely and tapped the table top with a restless face.
It had already been a few days since I attended the imperial banquet with the Crown Prince. Lately, my daily life has been excessively peaceful.
The longer this peace has lasted, the more anxious I have become, lurking in the corners of my mind. It was strange.
‘If it’s Claire that I know, she won’t let things go against her.’
She wouldn’t just watch and wait. The Claire I knew would have stepped forward to provoke me and prevent me from getting close to the Crown Prince, and she should have done so a few dozen more times.
Did I misjudge Claire?
I thought for a moment, then quickly concluded that I did not.
‘It can’t be.’
Claire was quite persistent and wouldn’t give up easily on what she had gained.
The Crown Prince was also not a great man who could deal with Claire easily. So there had to be some other reason for her not showing up now.
‘What on earth is she up to?’
While I was contemplating, Annie opened her mouth.
“Lady, I got a call to pick up the pendant I left for repair. I’ll go there tomorrow. If there’s anything else you want to order, please tell me know. I’ll get it on my way back.”
The last time Annie was at a banquet with me, she picked up an unknown pendant, which was actually not very important to me. I had forgotten about it for a while because of other things, but now that Annie had mentioned it, I finally remembered.
“It took longer than I thought.”
“Yes, it did. When I visited, the craftsman complained that it was more difficult to repair because it was more elaborate than he thought, but he never said it would take this long. I really need to ask him about it when I see him tomorrow.”
“It’s fine. It’s not urgent anyway.”
I thought of what I could do to defend Claire, but time went by without finding a clear answer.
In the meantime, before I knew it, the meeting with Hermes’ Master arrived.
The shopping district, where the festival had ended, was relatively quiet compared to that time.
I got on the large carriage and looked up at the building in front of me in my daily clothes.
The last time I saw a messenger from Hermes come majestically over the gate of the ducal mansion, I realized that I could be interacting with Hermes’ master.
Externally, it looked like I was trading goods with Hermes, so I didn’t need to hide it.
Once inside, the servant led me to the back, as if he had been told about my visit beforehand.
The annex was located some distance away from the main building. Unlike the vague main building, the white stone architecture of the annex was elegant and beautiful, as if it was the mansion of a great nobleman that had been scaled down and moved.
It was really a gorgeous place, as I felt the last time I saw it. When I went inside, I found the interior to be even more amazing. It was even more gorgeous than the main building I went to before.
‘I know the Hermes is rich and noble, but I didn’t expect this level…’
Inwardly, I thought that the master of this place, the Lord of Hermes, must be a very luxurious person. I walked down the red-carpeted corridor and stopped at the top of an elaborately decorated hall.
“Your companion cannot go with you from here.”
Again, the knights had to wait outside the door.
There was no reason for them to dare inform Stephen or the Duke that I was looking for an unknown man, so this time I nodded, not really caring.
“I can’t let the young lady go to such a suspicious place alone.”
“When you come to Rome, you have to obey Roman law. Please don’t follow me. That’s an order.”
I ordered the rebellious knights and then followed the servant. Whatever Stephen had instructed them to do, or perhaps they had been influenced by the removal of Laura and the nanny, the knights I brought with me this time were quite obedient and I was able to separate them more easily than before. The servant took me to a certain room on the third floor.
“The Lord is in here.”
The servant took me to the front of the door, then turned away coldly, as if to say that his business was done. My palms began to sweat as I realized that behind this very door was the infamous Lord of Hermes.
Roxana was second to none in terms of notoriety, but Roxana’s notoriety was more of a bubble.
I hesitated for a moment, then grabbed the doorknob.
Turning an elaborate golden handle engraved with little birds, I saw the inside of the room.
There was a crystal chandelier with dangling jewels on the ceiling, an elaborately embroidered carpet with shimmering gold threads on the floor, and an expensive looking masterpiece on the wall.
The room was also full of other elaborate yet extremely ornate objects such as vases, sculpted statues, clocks, and treasured swords.
I went inside to look around the room some more and eventually found another space that was hidden there.
“What is this place?”
There was another room inside the room.
Seeing that there were no couches or tables to just sit in this large room, it seemed that the parlor was in the back of this room.
The first was difficult, but the second was easy.
Without hesitation, I pulled the handle of the door.
As I expected, the room inside seemed to be the guest room.
There was a sofa and table in the middle of the room where people could sit and talk.
There was also a large desk and a bookshelf.
Looking at it, it looked like an office. And there was already someone inside before me.
‘He must be Hermes’ owner.’
I stopped as soon as I spotted someone standing by the large window. It was a beautiful young man, the true identity of the rumored lord of Hermes.
He was wearing a light shirt and black pants with a white mask covering his face.
There was an unapproachable atmosphere coming from him even without any particular decoration. Through the slightly open shirt, I could see his white skin and his well-balanced, solid body.
Broad shoulders, long legs, a dazzling appearance.
He slowly turned his head toward me, probably in response to the sound of the door opening. Just then his hair swayed in the light breeze.
Standing there with the sunlight pouring in through the open window, he looked like a person from another world.
I looked at him as if I were possessed. Then our eyes met and he was the first to break the silence.
“Please have a seat.”
It was only then that I came to my senses with the quiet voice that followed. I closed my open mouth and nodded.
Then I went to the sofa and sat down. Then he sat on the other opposite side of me.
I was confused.
I clenched my fists to hide my confusion at the unexpected situation. He was wearing a mask that half-hid his face, but even the mask couldn’t hide his outstanding beauty.
His lips were beautifully shaped with a reddish tint, his jawline was sharp, his black hair contrasted with his white skin, and the eyes behind the mask were deep and sharp.
In the empire, people with black hair and white skin were not an uncommon sight.
I, however, recognized him at a glance.
He was the very man who had reached out to help me the first day I fell into this world.
My face was a little on the thicker side than most, but I was still a little embarrassed about this situation.
I glanced discreetly at the man with a deliberately nonchalant face. If he was Hermes’ owner, he would of course know about my request.
I looked for him to find out why he’d tried to help me, but I never expected I’d meet him in person like this.
I wondered how foolish he thought I was in his mind and what expression he had on his face now under that white mask.
If I’d known I’d be in this situation, I’d have swallowed it no matter how much it bothered me.
The regret of being a step too late washed over me, but there must be a reason why he suggested that we meet, too.
“Did you have any difficulties or inconveniences on the way here?”
He made a formal greeting before talking about the main subject. Seeing that we met in the banquet hall, the man in front of me still seems to be a nobleman, but isn’t it strange that a Lord wouldn’t use honorifics for a Princess?
In any case, seeing that he dared to appear in a mask instead of showing his face, it seemed that he wanted to hide his identity, if so, I should also follow the beat.
“Thanks to your consideration, I came safely.”
I replied in a calm voice, barely keeping my composure, pretending that I was meeting him for the first time, and brought the teacup that had been placed for me on the table to my mouth.
The tea tasted a little bitter, but the sweeter it got towards the end, the better it tasted. The taste was similar to what I had drank at the mansion, but the aroma was a little deeper and longer lasting, making it seem like a superior product.
“I wasn’t sure what you would like, so I prepared black tea. Does it suit your taste?”
The man asked, took a few sips of tea himself, and placed the cup on the table. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with the tea, but I couldn’t help but be surprised at my own behavior.
I couldn’t believe I drank the tea given to me by a stranger in a room where all the escorts were not by my side….It wasn’t like this the time I visited. Was this some kind of trick?
“It’s delicious. Where do they get it?”
I placed the teacup on the table with a nonchalant look on my face.
“I’m glad you’re satisfied. I imported it from the East, but if you like it, I can tell my servant to prepare some more.”
A few short conversations were exchanged and an awkward silence fell.
After a few minutes of brief silence, it was the man who spoke up first.
“Noah told me the general story… but is there something you’re wondering?”
I nodded reluctantly, a question that was difficult to answer.
“Why did you ask to meet me?”
The mask hid his face, so I couldn’t see what expression he was making. However, the eyes inside the mask were shining with interest.
“I heard that the princess was looking for someone. I think I know him. Can I know why you want to find him?”