While you’re asleep
In order to meet Lionel, Atalante left her room and not long after, became lost.
Deeply realising the purpose of a servant that’s in charge of guiding guests, she could only dither around the mansion without a destination.
If the capital townhouse is this big, just how large was the Blanc Castle?
When she visited the Grand Duchy with Pietro, she stayed in her room and didn’t think about the size of the castle.
Just as she let out a deep sigh, Atalante discovered a familiar silhouette at the end of the corridor.
“What is it?”
Paul looked downwards at Atalante with an arrogant expression, perhaps determined to discard his mask of amiability completely.
Atalante’s confident answer didn’t lose to him, as she looked upwards at Paul with a frown.
“I thought you’re bad at walking because you didn’t come out of your room, but unexpectedly, you seem to enjoy going on a stroll.”
“…Can’t you just speak like how you did previously? The usage of honorifics is even more annoying.”
“I don’t want to change if it’s more annoying.”
He was obviously smiling, but a cold shadow was present on Paul’s face.
Staring at the approaching orange-yellow coloured lantern, Atalante gave up on quarrelling with him and mentioned what she wanted.
“Forget it, where’s the Grand Duke of Blanc’s room?”
“As expected, you’re a woman that also couldn’t resist it. While it’s belated, you seem to have fallen for His Highness’ charms, but you’ll never become the Grand Duchess…….”
“What nonsense are you talking about? I have no interest in your master. Grand Duchess? Just give that to the dog.”
Atalante lightly clicked her tongue at Paul, a fool for his master, before continuing.
“It’s because I wanted to ask about the future course of action.”
“At such a late hour?”
“Should we talk about this in broad daylight then?”
Atalante crossed her arms and spoke in a high-handed manner.
Where in the world does this woman’s overflowing confidence come from?
Not only was her status not guaranteed, she didn’t possess citizenship, and her reputation was at its worst as a wanted criminal.
“After the debutante and when the emperor’s pursuit has ended, I plan to return back to where I belong. When that time comes, you should assist me earnestly.”
For the sake of your master, the apple of your eye, added Atalante, as if to get him to nod his chin quickly.
‘Even if to me, he isn’t the apple of my eye.’
Paul inadvertently thought of something unamusing, causing his brows to furrow.
“…There’s no need for later.”
“I’m not an aristocrat, so I wouldn’t sing two different tunes with the same mouth.”
Atalante walked alongside Paul, contradicting his role as a guide.
It was because she was always in a leader’s position, so it was awkward to chase behind another’s back.
“I’ve noticed this before, but you seem to bear much dislike towards aristocrats. I heard that your underground organisation doesn’t accept commissions from nobles?”
“Yes, from petty crimes, like looting and money laundering, to murder… I’ve committed all kinds of evil deeds, but I’ve never accepted a single commission from a noble.”
Other than the order to kill your master.
Holding back the words that almost followed, Atalante kept her gaze fixed straight ahead of her.
“Why do you dislike nobles so much?”
“It’s not at the level of dislike, but loathing. If you were also born as a poor commoner, you’d have no choice but to hate the nobility.”
He, as an aristocrat, would never be able to understand her position, so she spoke words that drew a clear line.
Paul obviously didn’t understand the wanted criminal. Nevertheless, when he met her empty purple eyes, his abdomen felt bitterly numb for some reason.
Well, it was just a little bit.
Paul knocked on the door several times, but Lionel didn’t respond.
With a soft sigh, he opened the large door carefully.
“He’s the so-called grand duke, can you enter the room without his permission?”
“Although it’s frustrating, His Highness seems to be quite generous to you. And I’m not going to say that I’m the one that opened it. I’ll just say that you entered on your own.”
He seemed to be trying to provoke Atalante, but on the contrary, Paul’s words made her feel better.
This was because she would be able to test the limits of the drug without putting in effort.
“Thank you very much.”
Paul frowned at her unprovoked thanks, but Atalante didn’t pay it any mind and entered the grand duke’s room.
“What, you’re not coming in?”
“…If it was in the past, I wouldn’t want to watch His Highness with a woman only, but you’re a slight exception.”
“I don’t think that’s a compliment.”
In fact, it didn’t matter whether Paul was there or not.
Atalante shrugged her shoulders and entered the darkened room.
‘She might only be acting like that in front of me. I’ll keep an eye on her so that she won’t run amok.’
Determined to wait quietly at the door, Paul was alert.
“Lord chamberlain! I have something to ask you about!”
“It’s this letter, lord chamberlain!”
However, the servants of the townhouse, who had greeted their owners after a long while, didn’t leave Paul alone.
They were never clumsy at work, but they were worried that their necks would fall due to small mistakes, so they asked for Paul’s advice in every matter.
As such, unlike his resolution to keep watch at the door, Paul was immediately led by the nose away by the servants that required his assistance.
Despite Paul’s shouts to the nearby knight to keep watch at the door, the knight couldn’t even comprehend his pronunciation.
Her field of vision darkened as soon as the door closed.
Even Atalante, who had good night vision, was slightly alarmed as there was barely any moonlight in Lionel’s room.
‘Did you spend so much money on useless things, but didn’t open the windows of your own room?’
As she criticised him internally, Atalante concentrated fully on detecting any unseen obstacles while stepping forward.
She called for him carefully, but there wasn’t any response, as if it was a natural result.
She could detect faint breathing from somewhere in the room, but she wasn’t able to confirm where it originated from.
She wanted to search for him by using Lionel Blanc’s unique scent, but it was hard to do so when his scent was spread throughout the room.
“Your Highness, Grand Duke…Ah!”
Despite her best efforts, Atalante tripped over something firm and lost her balance.
Though she used her natural reflexes to try and regain her balance, a sharp pain suddenly appeared from the stitches located at her inner thigh.
Before she could curse, Atalante fell forward.
To make matters worse, the floor was closer than she thought, and she instantly hit her nose, almost causing tears to leak out.
A dissonant feeling appeared the instant a pained groan resounded.
From the extremely hard surface, it’s clear that what her nose had collided into was the floor…
‘Why is the floor so warm?’
Atalante shook her head, reached a hand out to feel the floor that she had bumped into.
The floor that came into contact with her small palm was not only warm but also soft.
The thought that something was covering the hard floor came to mind.
‘How can I tell when I can’t see what’s in front of me?’
Clicking her tongue lightly, Atalante braced against the floor and slowly raised her upper body.
She guessed it’s better if I find him at dawn tomorrow.
‘I must be out of my mind. There’s no reason that I must come over here at this time of night.’
She couldn’t understand why was she so impulsive.
She merely attributed it to her inclination to not hold in her curiosity.
As soon as daybreak arrived, Atalante vowed to inquire about the grand duke’s future plans and to properly investigate his strange behaviour in front of the designer.
But just before she could get up from the floor completely, something firm wrapped around her waist tightly.
At the same time, a subdued voice came from below her. While it sounded lower than usual, it was very… It was a familiar voice.
‘Don’t tell me’, while she thought that, Atalante’s body was pulled back to the floor again.
To be exact, onto the bed where the grand duke was laying in.
Afterwards, Atalante could only blame herself for moving towards Lionel’s bed within the spacious room, but it was already too late.
Under circumstances where she wasn’t mentally prepared, Atalante, who was trapped in the arms of an unknown man, stiffened.
A bewitching scent kept piercing her nose, to the point where she wanted to cover her nose.
‘What is this that I’m feeling…!’
Quickly shaking her head, Atalante managed to remove the cheek that was plastered to his chest with great effort.
However, Lionel’s arms were still solidly wrapped around her back, so she couldn’t move her body.
She struggled for a long time and even tried tapping on his shoulder with her unconstrained head, but the grand duke didn’t budge.
‘In that case, the only method that’s left is…’
Atalante’s gaze went downwards.
She recalled the method that her sister had taught her when she was still alive, her sister that took care of her when she was young.
“If a man covets you when you’re unwilling, kick him between his legs!”
“Sister, what’s ‘covet’?”
She eventually lost her life without telling Atalante the meaning of ‘covet’, but she unwillingly understood her sister’s words as she lived in a cruel world.
‘Count Sera was also in agony.’
Atalante’s eyes immediately became bright and piercing.
If she escaped from Lionel’s arms while he’s unwell, a perfect crime would be possible.
‘Come to think of it, offsprings are precious in the Blanc Grand Ducal family.’
Thinking that she should control her strength to not ruin him completely, Atalante dealt a heavy blow with a leg.
Along with a short groan, Lionel’s arms wrapped around Atalante even more firmly.
“Ugh, let go…!”
At the same time, an anxious voice entered her ear.
His breath was particularly hot, as if he was afflicted with a fever.
But somehow, there wasn’t any unpleasant stickiness.
Just that one phrase, don’t go, was extremely heartrending enough to make her cry without a reason.
Embarrassed, Atalante called him, but Lionel didn’t respond, perhaps because he was talking in his sleep.
When his name was called, he embraced Atalante even deeper. The lips that touched the back of her neck were pitiable instead of strange.
“Please, don’t go.”
“I’m sorry, but I want to go? Let go of me…”
Starting from his parents, it was followed by other names in a low voice.
There’s no way to know whether the many names he called were the names of actual people or ones made up while he was asleep.
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