Chapter 8

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“Do you want to meet her?”

Nigel nodded eagerly.
Then, he fell to his knees and knelt on the floor.

Even though he didn’t know my intentions, he still willingly submitted to me, and so I wondered if I could put my hopes on him.
He must have decided to take a gamble because he was either quick-witted or blinded by love.

“I want to see her again, even if it’s for the last time.
At least once more.
Please help me.
Please…”

I lowered myself and leaned closer to level my eyes with his.

I wanted to believe in his earnestness.
I still wished to know if it was just a fleeting love, or if it was truly a kind of love that was strong enough that he’d sacrifice everything just to be with Renée.

“If I help you, do you think you can run away with her?”

“Will you really help, Milady?”

His eyes twinkled with hope.
It was the positive response I had envisioned.
Ah, maybe I could trust this person with Renée.
Obviously, I had no choice but to think this.

However, the words that came out of my mouth were so cynical that even I was surprised with myself.

“If you had such a passion in you, I don’t understand why you’ve been waiting for a helping hand all this time.”

“That’s…”

At that, I suddenly realized why I was underestimating his devotion.
It was because he was just like an actor shouting passionate love on stage.

The heat of love that was so fiery that it melts the hearts of many audiences, it literally turns into smoke and disperses as soon as the performer leaves the stage when the curtain falls.

This kind of love was just ridiculous.

My real father, who often used violence against my mother, must have whispered his love to her like this when they were young.

I didn’t think it was a lie.
It would be too pitiful on my mother’s part if she was deceived by that shallow lie.

I simply believed that all true love in the world was, itself, a profound lie.

But, in my opinion, Nigel wasn’t particularly to blame, so I stopped judging his pathetically drooped shoulders.

If Renée needed him and the two of them confirmed their love for each other, I had no right to ridicule and doubt their relationship.
I had no choice but to accept it, so I’d just be riding on the same boat as them for a very short time.

My role was to become the bridge that would bring them back together.
With that, the responsibility for switching places with Renée was over.
If I got involved with the two of them more than this, it would be too much, even for me.

“The Duke of Blois will be here soon.
I’ll take you with me, so hide yourself inside the compartment of my carriage before I leave.
Renée is waiting for you at the Duke’s estate.
Then, run away with her.”

His face brightened in an instant.

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“Thank you, Milady! Thank you!”

“Once you’ve escaped with Renée, go to a distant country and live in hiding.”

After saying what I needed to say, I left the training hall.

 

* * * 

When I returned to my room, the maid was looking for me, fidgeting on her feet.

“Lady Rowaine!”

The personal maids who knew Rowaine’s harsh personality had never been so fussy like this before.
I laughed to myself, knowing why she was looking for me.

“What’s going on?”

“H-His Grace, the Duke of Blois is here!”

Called it.

He wouldn’t let me go so easily because I knew the secret of his curse, but still, this was pretty quick of him.

‘How impatient.’

He must have left his estate as early as dawn.

I took a leisurely step towards the parlor where Duke Blois was talking to Count Larscel.
The employees, who had been snooping through a small gap in front of the parlor door, were surprised to see me and scattered away.

They were listening to the conversation inside through the slightly opened door.
So, as I stood in front of the door, I could hear voices inside.
I stood still for a moment and overheard the conversation inside as well.

“I thought Your Grace had agreed to let go of Rowaine.”

It was Count Larscel’s frantic voice.

“I came here to talk to her.”

And Duke Blois’ elegant tone.

Indeed, inside the parlor, the Duke was sitting arrogantly.

Even though the plump Count Larscel wasn’t that small in his size, as I saw him in front of the tall, sturdy Duke, he looked like a dwarf in comparison.

Duke Blois, who sat loftily like a beautiful statue, spoke indifferently.

“And I’m here for an apology.”

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Count Larscel sighed.

“For that reason, I didn’t know how to face you again… Of course, I apologize deeply for the absurdity of the bride’s change.
My daughters played a terrible prank.”

“No.
I don’t think that’s enough.”

“….?”

Count Larscel glanced at the Duke curiously.
His eyes were asking, ‘what kind of apology do you want?’

Duke Blois just smiled and met eyes with me.

‘….!’

I recoiled away from the door, startled by the gaze staring right at me through the gap in the door.

‘Did he know I was there? How long did he know?’

All of a sudden, there was the sound of clothes brushing from inside, like someone got up and moved.
As I tried to peer inside the door again, I heard the Duke’s voice above my head.
Suddenly, he was standing in front of me with the door in between us.

“I want to meet Miss Rowaine in person.”

“She isn’t feeling well because she used the magic circle twice to teleport in a short period of time.”

Even as Count Larscel lied brazenly, the Duke opened the parlor door as if he had nothing to wait for.

“There you are.”

“Rowaine!”

The Count looked at me with widened eyes, as if he couldn’t believe that I was out of my room right now.

I shrugged and approached Duke Blois.

“Here so soon?”

When I spoke with a smile to provoke the Duke, Count Rowaine’s expression distorted as badly as a crumpled piece of paper.

“What the hell are you doing?”

Not even pretending to listen to his words, Count Larscel ran up to me, looking despicable, and tried to grab me.

“Why are you so being so rude…!”

It was then.

“Excuse me, Miss Rowaine.”

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The Duke grabbed me by the waist and pulled me closer to him.
Count Larscel’s hand, which had been trying to nab me, clutched at the air instead.

“That looks dangerous.”

In a split second, the Duke had me in his arms, then he laid me down on the sofa where he had been sitting.
He stared down at Count Larscel, who was much shorter than him.
The Duke’s shadow covered Count Larscel’s face completely.

“I wish for you to move away a little bit, Count.
I hate touching other people.”

…Didn’t you just touch me?

Count Larscel took a step back without knowing the Duke’s intentions.

“I just needed to talk, but that’s too much of an excessive response, isn’t it?”

The Count’s eyes twitched.

“Keep it short, Duke.”

Duke Blois then turned towards me.
Though the look on his face as he stared at me was strange.

Then, he suddenly reached out and held my chin as he observed my face from side to side.

“Why is your face like this?”

“Oh, this…”

While I was wondering how I should explain it, I could see his pupils dilating a little.

‘Why is he angry?’

The cat’s pupils would dilate when they focus on their prey in front of them, and when they’re scared or angry.
If he wasn’t treating me like a game, it would be correct to assume that he was angry.
He couldn’t have possibly been frightened here.

Still, I had a hard time getting a read on his sudden mood swing.

Seeming like he wasn’t angry with me, his eyes flitted to Count Larscel with malice in his gaze.

“You raised your hand against her?”

“It has nothing to do with the Duke.”

Count Larscel drew a line, meaning for him not to meddle in other people’s family affairs.
However, Duke Blois didn’t seem to mind it at all.

“I didn’t know that such parents treat their child this badly.
I can see why she wanted to run away.”

He slowly circled around Count Larscel.
Very slowly.
His gaze stayed fixed on the middle-aged man.

Because of that, Count Larscel felt a sense of tension in the air and swallowed dryly.
I, too, felt as though the air had sharpened.

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It felt like something was about to happen at any moment.

Far from being an obedient son-in-law, the Duke’s low voice was enough of a threat.

“I wish to get my wife back.”

“What…?”

Believing that he heard it wrong, the Count tilted his head.

Duke Blois stared down at him and smiled arrogantly.
I watched him take a piece of paper out of his inner pocket and handed it to me.

Seeing this, Count Larscel widened his eyes.

“A marriage certificate…?”

“I happened to have it in my pocket, Miss Rowaine.”

It didn’t seem like a coincidence that the oath had already been signed by the Duke.

Anyway, I realized his intentions and hurriedly picked up the pen on the table.

“No!”

Count Larscel, with a sense of foreboding, threw himself to stop me, but the Duke blocked him.

I quickly took off the pen cap with my mouth and wrote Rowaine’s name next to the Duke’s signature.

At that moment, to my surprise, our signatures flew out of the paper and floated in the air, forming a black ring before sinking onto the ring finger of both the Duke’s and my left hand.

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“Wow…”

The wonderful handwriting of the Duke of Blois became a ring and was engraved on my finger.
While my signature was engraved on the Duke’s.

“W-what the hell—! Noooo!”

As I heard Count Larscel’s screams, I had only one thought.

‘If I knew there’s a contract feature like this, I would have made my handwriting slightly prettier…’

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