A Slight Disconnection (5)
“…What do you mean exterminated?”
“It’s just as it implies.
All the villagers were killed.
Also, apparently the monsters are slowly heading south, in the direction of the Ducal castle.”
At the head maid’s words, Dooha’s eyes widened like pine cones.
If they suffered a monster attack when the carnival is soon upon them, it’s obvious that he would lose public sentiment.
“It seems like a rare high-ranking monster has appeared.
Even all the knights that had been sent to warn the castle were attacked on their way here, so the Duke will be personally leading the order of knights for the monster subjugation.”
What do you mean, a high-ranking monster?
Dooha recalled the monster that she’d encountered in the lake.
She couldn’t even deal with what was said to be one of the lowest ranking monsters.
So how strong was the Duke to be able to fight against a high-ranking monster?
“Don’t be too worried, Madam.
The Duke is a strong man, so he’ll definitely return safely.
Not only that, Sir Baron and all the elite knights will be leaving with him……”
Despite the head maid’s consolation, colour disappeared from Dooha’s face.
The duke might lose his life, too.
When her thoughts reached that point, her body jumped up reflexively.
“Where is the Duke?”
“Oh, the Duke just hurriedly led the knights out a while ago…”
Even before the head maid could finish speaking.
Dooha dropped the silk cloth in her hands and dashed out of the room.
She could hear the sound of the head maid and Layla calling her anxiously from behind, but she ignored them.
She ran down the stairs as fast as a gust of wind and ran out.
When she kicked off her shoes and lifted the hem of her cumbersome skirt to run, she saw the order of knights leaving through the castle gate.
As if they were prepared to leave for the subjugation, they were fully armed and meandering forward slowly.
A blue flag with an eagle, the symbol of the Esbaden family, was hoisted high in the air.
At the very head of the knights that were exiting from the main gate with a relentless air like a wave of silver.
When she spotted a familiar silhouette riding on a horse, Dooha gritted her teeth.
At the sight of brilliant golden hair fluttering in the wind, she couldn’t help but cry out.
The Duke’s name, which she’d shouted with all her might, seemed to be buried underneath the clopping sound from the hooves of the knights’ horses.
But Dooha clearly saw it.
At her call, the duke’s side profile was revealed for a very short moment.
Those dark blue eyes that were like an overcast sky were tinged with surprise.
Leonhart stared at Dooha’s appearance like he was engraving her image in his mind, before turning his head unhesitatingly.
He urged his horse forward like he didn’t have any regrets.
Along with the trembling sound of the horses’ hooves, Leonhart disappeared amongst the order of knights.
She could only stare blankly at the disappearing silhouette of the person that left without notifying her or leaving behind any requests.
* * *
When she returned back to the room, the unexpected person paying her a visit caused Dooha to frown.
Dooha blinked at Claude, who was on a knee before her.
The man before her was one of the Duke of Esbaden’s two loyal lieutenants and Dooha was quite familiar with his face.
“While the Lord is away, I’m tasked with the castle’s defence and the Duchess’ escort.
Please feel free to let me know if there’s anything you require of me.”
The duke, who’d set out urgently without any notification or send off, seemed to be well prepared for any kind of emergency.
He, who left without saying a word, was truly a difficult man to understand.
He was unwilling to hold a conversation with her, but as the duke, he has to take care of the duchess?
Although she was furious at the attitude Leonhart displayed, she was uneasy at the thought of him heading to a dangerous place.
If there were numerous high-ranking monsters at the scene, leaving behind a skilled knight would be a waste, but he actually left behind his lieutenant.
“I’ll do my best.”
On the other hand, even though he tried not to display it, Claude’s sharp gaze was filled with dissatisfaction.
No matter what, he seemed to find it regrettable that he couldn’t follow the duke and participate in the subjugation.
Dooha stared at Claude, who was kneeling before her for a long while, before opening her mouth.
“I’m afraid that I don’t need an escort, Sir Claude.”
At the duchess’ unexpected response, Claude raised his head reflexively.
“I’ve never had a separate escort even when I was in Bashal, and I’ve never had an escort from when I’d arrived here up till now.
Is there really a need for an escort now?”
Claude furrowed his brows.
As far as he knows, the duchess is definitely a princess of Bashal.
What do you mean, a princess of a country without an escort? He couldn’t believe it.
“There’s no need to escort me, Sir Claude, so please focus only on the ducal castle’s security.
Since there’s no telling if someone would attack while the Duke is away.”
“I can’t do that, Duchess.”
Claude protested with a serious tone.
“Now that the Lord is away, the most dangerous location isn’t outside the castle, but within.”
The castle of Esbaden was not just the Duke’s.
It was more like the base of the numerous vassals and the nobles that followed the duke, and unfortunately, it was a place where its owner could change at any time.
As such, there were countless people coveting the position of the Duke of Esbaden.
For example, the youthful Duke’s only uncle.
“Now that the Lord is away, the highest-ranking person present here is the Madam.
However, if something happens to the Madam, what would happen to this castle?”
Claude bowed his head once again.
“The reason that the Duchess doesn’t have an escort up till now was because the Duke had paid that much attention.
As a part of the territory was devastated by the attack of a high-ranking monster, the severity of the situation there wasn’t fully grasped yet.
Therefore, they couldn’t even estimate how long the subjugation would take this time round.
“Perhaps they wouldn’t be able to return within the period of the carnival.”
The carnival will begin in about half a month’s time.
There’s no guarantee what would happen if the owner of the castle was away for more than15 days.
Thus, the safety of the duchess, who wielded the greatest authority following the duke, was simply a top priority.
“This is also the Lord, the Duke’s order.
As such, please do not refuse my escort, Duchess.”
After agonising over it for a long time, Dooha had no choice but to accept Claude’s request.
Although she was slightly bewildered at having an escort for the first time in her life, what could she do?
In any case, she intended to remain in her room due to the carnival preparations, so nothing bothersome to him would occur.
That was definitely what she had thought.
“It’s just a simple stroll.”
“Even so, I can’t let the Duchess roam around the castle alone.”
Dooha was sick of looking at the escort knight that was blocking her path with a solemn expression.
It has only been two days since he began guarding her.
Claude stood guard by Dooha’s side, whether she was in the study, heading to the bathroom, going in and out of the kitchen or the bedroom.
She had definitely heard that he was in charge of the castle’s security, but he didn’t leave Dooha’s side to the point where she wondered when in the world would he attend to that.
If Dooha had been an ordinary imperial noblewoman, she might have been relieved by his stalwart escort.
But before she became a duchess, she was a princess of Bashal and a warrior that learned to protect herself.
For Dooha, overprotection was nothing more than a form of restraint.
In the first place, having to don on the Empire’s restrictive dresses and speak and act in accordance to Imperial etiquette was suffocating enough to drive her mad, but now she had to be careful of Claude’s gaze all day long.
“Are you lying on the bare floor right now, Duchess?”
Dooha recalled Claude, who was stunned upon seeing her lying on the bare floor after being exhausted from embroidering.
‘I’d originally planned to rest comfortably with Layla when we were alone.’
Since he was always accompanying her as her guard, she couldn’t be alone with Layla.
On top of that, Layla didn’t have that good of a relationship with Claude.
The two of them were busy arguing whenever they met.
“Are you giving orders to the Duchess right now? Who are you to meddle with whether Madam lies on the floor or not?”
“As the Duchess, it’s obvious that she should maintain her dignity in front of others.
Come to think about it, how in the world are you attending to the Madam as her handmaiden? True, I’ve recognised this about you when you deceived me at the annex, you swindling woman.”
“What do you mean, swindler? In that case, are you worthy of being the Duke’s lieutenant when you’re fooled by such shoddy acting? What a relief it is that I won’t lose money wherever I go!”
“What? I’m not done talking…”
In the end, their quarrelling, which led to personal attacks against each other, always had to be mediated by Dooha.
A few days passed in an instant like that, and she could gradually forget about the duke, whom there wasn’t any news of since his departure from the ducal castle.
Whether they were worried or not, those that remained behind were extremely busy.
Otherwise, they weren’t really worried.
‘Wasn’t there an Eastern proverb, about how no news is good news.’
Dooha embroidered without saying a word.
Almost half of the tapestry for the carnival was already completed.
Now, the item will be completed if the images of the previous ducal couple and the current ducal couple, Leonhart and Dooha, were embroidered.
When she reluctantly took bridal classes in Bashal, she’d never done so much embroidery before.
What’s with this marriage, making her put in effort for things that were uncharacteristic of her?
She would occasionally doubt herself, but it only lasted for a moment.
She was the one that chose to go to the Empire for an alliance marriage, so she had to take responsibility for her choices.
Even if she was denounced as a savage, even if her capacity to be the duchess was called into question due to trifling matters, even if she was discontented with her husband’s unpredictable attitude.
Dooha looked at the huge bed that didn’t even possess any lingering warmth with a bitter smile.
From the very beginning, this started as a ‘deal’ without any emotions.
When she repeated this fact internally, the feelings of misery that appeared for some reason would abate slightly.
Yes, all she had to do was be faithful to her duties as a married couple.
Dooha also decided to be satisfied with just that.
She continued on with what she had to do while stepping on the slight emotion towards the duke that cautiously emerged in her heart.
Just like that, a week has unknowingly passed since the duke left the castle without any mishaps.
And finally, a letter arrived from the Duke of Esbaden.
It was a very short and concise letter asking for reinforcements.
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