‘What kind of expression is that?’

 

‘Is that the expression of a person who was hit on the head by an apple that had fallen from the tree while walking on the road?’ 

 

Dooha tried to interpret his expression by coming up with scenarios, but Leonhart slowly opened his mouth.

 

“…You really.”

 

‘What the hell are you trying to say?’

 

Dooha focused all her attention on his lips without realizing it.

 

“You’re funny.”

 

‘He is the strangest person in the world.’

 

Instead of answering, Dooha chose to stare quietly.

 

“Don’t get me wrong.
I didn’t really do it for you.”

 

All of a sudden, Leonhart had put on his usual cold face. 

 

“So there is no need for you to thank me.”

 

“Even so, I am thanking you because I am thankful.”

 

It was a very unsatisfying response, but Dooha had no intention of taking back her thanks.

 

Anyways, being thankful was a thing to be thankful for. 

 

“Then, I will go.”

 

Dooha glanced at her husband, who hadn’t even looked at her, and then stepped forward with dignified steps.

 

The moment she turned around, she didn’t notice the pair of eyes looking at her intently.

 

***

 

Leonhart rubbed the corners of his eyes as the dusk settled into dawn without him realizing it. 

 

‘Thank you for today.’

 

‘You came here just to say that?

 

…I just did what I had to do as the duke.’

 

As she said, the Duchess, the symbol of the alliance, could have faced more serious consequences if she had gotten caught up in the hustle and bustle of the situation.

 

He’d rather take the consequences himself, even if he were to get criticized. 

 

Of course, being criticized was not a pleasure for him either.

 

At a young age, he overcame the opposition of many vassals and ascended to the duke’s position.

 

There was no good reason for him to become involved in drama.

 

However, for whatever reason, he had the confidence to start, regardless of his own will, in matters involving her.

 

Whether in the stables or in front of the prince, he always found himself in front of her.

 

He was very annoyed because he couldn’t figure out why.

 

‘I’m tired.’

 

Thanks to this, his insomnia, which he had suffered from early on, had gotten worse recently.

 

Leonhart sighed and walked over to the sofa.

 

He tucked his large body in half and laid on his side.

 

At that time, an unfamiliar scent tickled the tip of his nose.

 

It was similar to the scent of the midwinter wind that one could smell when riding a horse. 

 

[Dooha.
You can call me Dooha.]

 

He suddenly remembered the memories of the day he first met her.

 

These days, the thought of Dooha, which appeared in his mind at random and unexpected times, had made his mind even dizzier.

 

‘I’m annoyed.’

 

He raised his arms and pressed his eyes gently.

 

Was it because of the unfamiliar, but soothing, scent?

 

The duke fell asleep without much difficulty, his face without any trace of discomfort or signs that he had suffered from insomnia. 

 

***

 

“You guys, did you hear that? Sir Daniel is back!”

 

“Oh my God, it’s been three years already!”

 

“Ah, now I’m getting motivated to work again.
Without Sir Daniel, the duke’s castle was so bleak.” 

 

“Yes.
There’s the Duke here as well, but he is very scary.” 

 

After the Fourth Prince left, the castle had been quiet again for a fortnight.
However, things were about to change. 

 

It was because of the news that had begun to circulate recently; the news of someone’s return.

 

Dooha, who said she was lonely, unintentionally overheard the conversations of the maids cleaning the garden.
She turned to Layla at the mention of the unfamiliar name.

 

“Layla, who is Daniel?” 

 

“Oh, Daniel is-”

 

“Wait, did you really know?”

 

As her owner looked at her with amazement, Layla shrugged her shoulders with a confident look.

 

“Of course.
Who do you think I am? Am I not Layla, the one who was also known as an informant in Bashal? During the last few days, I have gathered a lot of information!”

 

Layla cleared her voice and began telling the story.

 

“A few months ago, there was a lot of uproar among the maids about that person.”

 

“Really? Why?”

 

“He’s the duke’s only cousin.
He’s returning to the Duke’s Castle after three years.”

 

His name was Daniel von Esdaben and he was the Duke’s only cousin.
Three years ago, he had made a big mistake and was exiled with the guise of studying in the Eastern Empire.

 

Dooha nodded her head at the explanation and frowned, realizing something.

 

“But I remembered that the duke had only one relative?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Layla shrugged her shoulders, signifying that she was right.

 

“He’s the only son of Sir Nate, who doesn’t get along with the duke.”

 

“…I see.”

 

Dooha had yet to meet a person named ‘Sir Nate’.

 

He didn’t seem to get along very well with the Duke, not to mention that he didn’t even attend their wedding. 

 

If he was such a person, it might be better for her if they were to not see each other all the time.

 

‘Since they are the relatives of the Duke, we will eventually meet someday.’

 

She had a sudden feeling that she wouldn’t be very impressed if they were to ever meet.

 

‘I’ve never had a wrong premonition.’ 

 

Dooha let out a brief sigh and resumed her steps.

 

“It’s better to fight with strangers.
I don’t want to fight with my in-laws.”

 

She was hoping that her premonition would be wrong this time.

 

“Sir Nate has invited the Duke and Duchess to dinner the following Friday.”

 

That afternoon, her maid had informed her of the ominous invitation sent to her.

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