Chapter 21: The Relationship Between Us Right Now
Theodore’s frown deepened.
He tightly clenched his fist, as if he was about to punch Adeus right now.
No, as if he was about to kill him.
I quickly intervened before Theodore committed murder.
“It’s our first time meeting today!”
At my shout, both Theodore and Adeus’ gazes turned to me.
One person was burning with rage, enough so that he would be able to burn this place down right now, and the other was relaxed and at ease, despite being the one to have created this situation.
‘Should I have run him over with the carriage earlier?’
I clucked my tongue before telling him what had happened.
“I was in the carriage when I coincidentally came across him, collapsed on the road.”
“To put it precisely, Her Highness saved me.”
“To put it even more precisely, I moved him to the side, since we couldn’t just run him over.
And it wasn’t me, but the horseman who did that… Although I’m in the midst of regretting that right now.
Perhaps I should have just run him over with the carriage.”
“But thanks to you, I was not hit by a carriage.”
“And apparently he’s Rebecca’s childhood friend.”
“We have known each other since we were young, and we’re very close.
Rebecca can prove to you that I’m not a weird person.”
As soon as Adeus finished speaking, Rebecca rapidly nodded.
“I think he came in here by mistake when the guards were changing shifts.
I was worried he’d get in trouble with the guards when he went out, and Rebecca said that she wanted to talk with him more, so I was about to give him a ride in the carriage.”
“I’m a person who is ready to give my life to Her Highness the Grand Duchess, who saved me.”
As soon as I finished each sentence, Adeus would add to it like an author’s comment.
After listening to our disconnected conversation, Theodore knitted his eyebrows in a displeased manner.
“What did you mean by ‘that kind of relationship?’”
Unlike just earlier, Adeus spoke insincerely and with a dry expression.
“It just meant that as Her Highness saved me, I have to repay that favor, and that I can obviously lay down my life for her.”
What kind of meaning was that? Why was he deciding that on his own? As if lost in thoughts, Theodore tilted his head.
Then, as if something came to mind, he spoke in a low and menacing voice.
“Ah, you said you’re the son of Viscount Fotchen? Yes, I’ve heard of you.”
His voice had ridicule mixed in it.
“A son that Viscount Fotchen brought in from the outside, right? I heard that he secretly sent you to another country because you’re a hedonist who can’t live without alcohol or women.”
As I’d thought, the reason he hadn’t been known publicly was that he was Viscount Fotchen’s illegitimate son.
He hadn’t gone abroad to study, but rather because he couldn’t be handled.
‘Even if he had seemed suspicious, he didn’t look like a libertine.’
Rather than a libertine, he seemed like a scammer.
“It seems you know about me well, Your Excellency Grand Duke Lapileon.”
“I do know you.
How could I, someone who also lives while avoiding high society, not know of you? I heard you’re famous abroad too.
There’s even a rumor that someone proposed a bill prohibiting you from approaching a lady within a 300-meter radius.”
At Theodore’s sarcastic remarks, I opened my eyes wide in surprise.
I had thought that he looked quite pretty, but to think he was such a philanderer that a law would be proposed about him! Instead of refuting this, Adeus stared deeply at Theodore with cold blue eyes.
“You said you were afraid of getting punished for accidentally coming in here? I’m the one who decides that punishment, so I’ll let it go.
As if to show him, Theodore wrapped an arm around my waist, and away from Adeus’ vicinity.
“Don’t come within a 500m radius of my wife.”
W-W-Was he crazy?! I was wondering what he was going to say! Completely surprised, my face started heating up.
My waist, which Theodore’s big hand was touching, froze stiffly like a wooden doll.
Theodore, who noticed that, turned his body to stare at me face to face.
“We’ve come all the way here, so we should do what we have to do.”
As soon as the word came out of my mouth, Theodore grabbed my waist with his two hands.
‘What was he about to do?’
Theodore flexed his arms, before lightly lifting me up.
Surprised at suddenly getting lifted into the air, I let out a small gasp.
Theodore spoke calmly, before sitting me onto his own black horse with care.
Surprised at suddenly being placed on top of a horse, I froze.
The feeling of the horse’s temperature and thick skin underneath my palm made the inside of my mouth dry up.
“Have you ridden a horse before?”
Shake shake. I had never ridden a horse, even before I’d regressed.
Although I was an expert at riding carriages.
As soon as I shook my head, Theodore nimbly got on behind me.
Then, as if hugging me in his arms, he reached around me to grab the horse’s reins.
The man’s sturdy arms and firm muscles that I could feel behind me made me gulp back my dried spit.
‘How can a person’s body be this solid?’
You could mistake it for a rock.
“I’ve got you, so don’t worry.”
Did he hear the sound of me gulping? He must’ve thought I’d frozen in fear, for Theodore softly comforted me.
Of course, it was a little scary since I was sitting side-saddle due to my dress.
‘If I fall, I’ll probably get really hurt.’
The top of the horse was higher than I expected.
It was high enough that I would definitely not be able to get down by myself.
After glancing below my feet, I grabbed Theodore’s arm with two hands tightly.
His arm didn’t shake whatsoever.
Theodore, who had been watching me in silence, spoke icily to Adeus.
“Esteemed son of Fotchen, you said you wanted to talk with your friend, right? Talk as much as you’d like, we won’t bother you.”
“It would be even better if you did it outside of the parade path.
I’ll say this again, but outsiders are forbidden here.”
At Theodore’s menacing gaze, Rebecca repeatedly nodded with surprised eyes.
Then, she hurriedly pulled Adeus’ arm.
“O-Of course! We’ll talk outside! W-We definitely won’t bother the two of you!”
However, unlike Rebecca, Adeus kept staring at us with a stiff expression.
No, to be exact, he was glaring at Theodore, and not me.
‘Is he pissed because Theodore called him a hedonist earlier?’
But still, glaring at a Grand Duke’s face like that was a bit…
“The son of Fotchen’s face will get holes in it.”
When I turned my head at Theodore’s sulky words, I stared straight into his red eyes.
He must not have liked something, for his face was frozen like a stone statue.
He had definitely mumbled something earlier, but I’d been so lost in thoughts that I hadn’t heard it properly.
“Pardon? What did you say just now?”
The two eyes in front of me blinked.
Instead of responding, Theodore lifted the reins, and the horse started to move slowly.
At the horse’s sudden movement, my body locked up and I stared in the direction the horse was walking.
“W-Where are we going? Why is the horse moving?”
My unbalanced upper body wobbled.
At that, Theodore moved his hand and quickly wrapped it around my waist.
He pulled me close so that I was tucked in his arms.
“Didn’t you come to see the parade path? Since you’ll be with me on that day anyway, it wouldn’t be bad to practice like this.”
Since the fact that I’d come here to examine the procession route beforehand had been revealed, I felt kind of embarrassed.
“…It wasn’t me, but Rebecca who said we should come see it.”
“Sure, let’s say that is so.”
“I heard you bought a dress, shoes, hat, and accessories for the parade, though?”
“That was also Rebecca…!”
“Then sure, let’s say that is so as well.”
If someone saw us, they’d think I was really excited about the parade.
Unlike earlier, Theodore seemed to be in a good mood.
Although I couldn’t see his face, his voice was much more excited than only minutes ago.
‘Is he pleased from teasing me?’
A part of me wanted to tell him to get rid of the hand on my waist… But if I did, it felt like I’d fall off of the horse, so I couldn’t.
After complaining in my head, I heard a shout from Adeus from behind us.
“Your Highness, I’m excited about our next meeting.
I’ll wait for the day you call for me.”
No, don’t be excited and don’t wait! I won’t call you! I won’t meet you! Although I wanted to turn my back and tell him this, the horse I was on kept going forward.
I was scared that if I turned my head, I’d lose my balance, so I just pretended I didn’t hear him.
“It’s quite noisy.”
Adeus’ shouts faded slowly as Theodore increased the horse’s speed.
“You said there’s nothing between you two, but he said he’s excited and waiting.”
“Being excited and waiting is a one-sided thing that is not reciprocated, so there is nothing between him and me.”
Theodore, who had been wanting to say something, firmly closed his lips.
What? Why are you stopping what you were saying and making me more curious? As if leaning back into Theodore’s embrace, I tilted my head and stared at him.
“Why are you trailing off in the middle of your sentence, leaving me wondering?”
“I’m just asking this in case.”
“Is he your new lover?”
Suddenly, my body swayed.
I was so lost for words that I almost fell off of the horse.
If Theodore hadn’t instantly grabbed my waist, I definitely would have broken a leg or arm.
“There’s no need for you to hide it from me.
There were a lot of people there earlier, which is why you might have been unable to say anything, but it’s just the two of us now, so you can speak honestly.”
I could feel Theodore’s arm around me tighten.
“Since there was the incident where you were poisoned last time, I stepped forward because I thought it was best to be careful before the perpetrator is caught.
If my actions somehow harmed the relationship between the two of you…”
Theodore, who had been rambling on his own, shut his mouth as if displeased.
“…But there’s still a lot of time left in your contract with me.
“I don’t mean to come between the two of you, but as I said earlier, the Fotchen son is of bad quality.
If you’re not in a deep relationship yet, I recommend thinking about it a bit more.”
“Listen to me.”
“But when did you start meeting? I know that he went abroad when he was quite young, and didn’t come back to the Empire for quite a bit… Ah, of course, I’m only asking because I’m curious.”
“That… Um… Ah, I feel like I should know to some extent so that I can prepare for the future.
That’s the only reason I’m asking.”
It was definite that this bastard, Sercia, and Selphius were all of the same bloodline.
How were they all the same in that they didn’t listen to what others said and only spoke their own mind? With an indifferent face, I waited for Theodore to finish airing his thoughts.
Theodore spoke for quite a long time about Adeus’ past, how many ladies he’d dated at the same time, and about his life.
He repeated the same words over and over, until he finally quieted down.
“Did you finally finish what you wanted to say?”
Before I knew it, we’d completed the circle and had come to the end of the parade path.
Theodore nodded with an embarrassed expression.
“I told you earlier, right? There’s nothing between us.
He’s not someone I’m planning on making my lover, nor do we love each other.
I really met him for the first time today.”
“And right now I don’t plan on meeting anyone, during the period of this contract or even after it.”
After going through that with Siph, there was no way I’d want to date someone.
And even if I did meet someone, I would definitely suspect them and have a hard time because of the scars I had received.
After nodding shortly, Theodore stopped speaking and dismounted.
As soon as the arms and embrace that had been supporting me disappeared, my body tensed up once more.
“It’s okay, I’m here so don’t be nervous.”
Theodore, who seemed to be in a good mood, grabbed my hands and guided them to hug his shoulders.
When my body weight was naturally shifted downwards, Theodore lifted me in his arms and gently placed me down on the ground.
Only when I stepped on the ground did I realize that we were too close together.
As our warm breaths mixed together, I hurriedly escaped his embrace.
“Y-You don’t like touching other people.”
He’d definitely glared at me as if he’d kill me when I’d grabbed his wrist the first time we’d met.
Theodore took a step closer to me, before speaking calmly.
“At the very least, you won’t die because of my curse.
Then it’s fine.”
It was a bittersweet voice.
Whenever I was on the verge of forgetting it, that curse broke in between us.
Now that I thought about it, since it was a curse, there must have been someone who cast the curse for the first time… If I could, I wanted to go find that person and take it up with them.
Just why, for what reason, and with what right did they make these people have to live with this pain? Theodore returned to me after leaving the path to return the horse he’d borrowed to the guards.
Where to, so suddenly? At the tilt of my head, Theodore spoke with a placid voice.
“It’s the first day of the festival.
Since we’ve come all this way, it’d be a shame to just go back.
Let’s enjoy the festival and then go.”
Enjoy the festival? And not with just anyone, but Theodore?
“Didn’t you say these kinds of things were annoying? You said you hated it.”
“It’s annoying, and I hate it, but since it’s already started, there’s no other choice.
Not to mention, I’ve never gone to a festival in my entire life.
I don’t think it’d be bad to try and enjoy it at this opportunity.”
He’d never enjoyed a festival during his life?
“You’ve never come to a festival?”
“Not even when you were younger?”
How could that be? Especially in the Capital, where festivals occurred for even the littlest things!
“I couldn’t go out when I was younger.
When I got older, I avoided heavily populated places because of the curse, and because of that I’ve never gone until now.”
“Why wouldn’t you be able to go out when you were younger? Were you locked up or… Ah.”
I suddenly recalled when Sercia told me about how when they were younger, they had been abused and locked up.
‘I keep forgetting.’
These people, who had clearly sacrificed things that they should have enjoyed.
I reached out and tightly gripped Theodore’s hand, laughing brightly.
“Alright, then we’ll enjoy all of that today.
Let’s go! I’ll make it so you have proper fun today!”
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