“Oh my goodness!”
As Sig turned his head quickly, his eyes shone fiercely through the rose bushes, and a small scream erupted from beyond them.
“Come with me!”
The man and woman scrambled away with rustling sounds.
Britia watched them blankly from behind, belatedly realizing what they had just said and swallowing hard.
‘What did they say about me and Duke Turas?’
Britia shouted belatedly, but they were already out of sight.
Even if she tried to explain herself to them, she couldn’t see their faces.
Many were already wondering why Duke Turas had appeared at the Lockhart party.
“We have no relationship whatsoever.
Duke-nim just happened to accept our invitation to the party,” she replied consistently.
She knew that she was suspected of having something more to say, but she had nothing else to offer.
But now an enormous rumor is spreading.
“What should we do, oh my!”
But even that wasn’t the most important issue at the moment.
Britia’s spine tingled with the hot gaze upon her.
When she turned her head slightly, Sig was staring at her with intensity over his shoulder, as if he could pierce through her face.
She couldn’t understand him looking at her with such shock and betrayal in his wounded eyes.
Britia was overwhelmed by an inexplicable sense of guilt.
She called him cautiously, but he just bit his lips instead of answering.
If someone saw the resentful glare in his eyes, they might have thought that Britia had played with him and cruelly discarded him.
His eyes seemed to be really so moist.
Britia felt a prick of conscience as if she had committed some terrible wrong against the world, even if it meant doing something unethical.
Especially that big, black tail that seemed to have no strength, it was so painful just to look at it.
Britia closed her eyes tightly and fell into deep thought.
When she finally made up her mind, she clenched her fists and opened her eyes.
“I mean I want to pay for it properly.”
Cracks appeared in his fortress-like gaze.
Britia cautiously approached him at that moment.
“I can’t get such a beautiful item for free by deceiving Duke-nim.
That’s what I meant.”
Slowly, so as not to provoke him.
Fortunately, he did not run away or get angry.
Instead, he continued to look at her with suspicious eyes, finding it hard to believe her words.
“Wasn’t it unnecessary?”
“It’s something I wanted even if I had to lie to Duke-nim.
There’s no way I could think it’s unnecessary.”
His heart began to open a little to Britia’s persuasion.
“Really, I want it so much.”
As Britia raised the corners of her mouth slightly, his eyebrows twitched.
“Do you like it enough to retract what you said?”
Britia nodded her head repeatedly, holding the box containing the handkerchief.
“If I don’t pay for such an item properly, I’ll be punished by the goddess.”
Sig watched Britia approach him stealthily.
It was a distance where his tail could be caught if she reached out her hand.
Turning his back was too vulnerable to defend.
He spun around and stood face to face with her.
“How much should I give to that child?”
Britia waited anxiously for his firm lips to move.
“Who is that child?”
Although she had expected to accept any amount he would call for humbly, she was caught off guard by the unexpected question and her lips twitched.
“The child who made the handkerchief.”
“The child who made the handkerchief?”
But he evaded the question as if it were trivial.
“The one who is 13 years old, right?”
Sig’s eyes narrowed.
Britia also opened her eyes wide along with him.
The two of them tilted their heads in the same direction, unable to understand why the other was saying such things.
“Duke-nim had previously mentioned that the handkerchief was made by a thirteen-year-old at the time.”
He replied affirmatively, causing Britia to become even more confused.
“I don’t know how old that child is now, but is it possible that they are no longer a child?”
Since he had mentioned it was an old handkerchief, there was a possibility that the maker was no longer a child.
Maybe that’s why he had received such a strange question.
Britia was taken aback and asked, and he hesitated repeatedly, as if trying to say something while feeling around his neck.
Finally, he made eye contact with her and spoke.
“I will be 24 years old after my birthday.”
She wondered why did he suddenly mention his age and what does it have to do with anything right now.
Britia’s eyelids fluttered rapidly as if trembling.
“So you’re 23 now?”
The end of her voice cracked.
“Duke-nim, you’re… younger than me!”
Britia, who would turn 25 in the fall, covered her open mouth with her hand.
He was younger than her!
It was an unimaginable fact.
“That handkerchief was made by me when I was 13.”
He conveyed an even more surprising fact to Britia, who was already in shock.
“Did you make it, Duke-nim?”
She asked again, unable to believe his words.
She must have misheard.
Sig nodded firmly at her disbelief.
“Then what about this?”
Britia picked up the handkerchief in the white box.
“I made this when I was still 23.”
She almost dropped the handkerchief between her fingers.
Her mouth opened so wide it could tear.
She alternated between looking at the handkerchief and his large hands as if possessed.
“I feel weird now that you know it was me who made it…”
Sig was about to ask if she felt upset, but Britia grabbed his hand tightly.
“Your hands are so big too.”
As she clung to his hand, she let out a sigh of admiration.
“I guess hand size doesn’t really matter when it comes to skill.”
“My hands are small and I can’t do it,” muttered Britia.
“Is that so?”
Sig responded, but somehow it didn’t feel like the words were coming from his mouth.
Just moments ago, he had felt so resentful towards her, but now that resentment had melted away as quickly as snow.
All his attention was focused on the hand she had in her grasp.
Sig wondered whether the June nighttime temperature was constant.
Perhaps it was due to the lack of a breeze.
“All right, then I’ll give Duke-nim the amount of the handkerchief.”
Her eyes seemed to sparkle under the moonlight.
Her lips moved slowly.
Britia called out to the dazed Sig.
When she shook the hand she was holding, he blinked quickly and looked down.
Britia also followed his gaze and was surprised when she realized she had been holding his hand tightly and quickly let go.
“You called me?”
He seemed to have not heard a word of what she had said, his mind elsewhere.
“I asked how much I should give you.”
Sig pondered for a moment and shook his head.
He hadn’t made the item to receive payment.
“I can’t just take it for free.”
Britia expressed her desire to pay the price, but he couldn’t decide how much would be appropriate.
“If it’s difficult for you to decide right now, take your time and let me know later,” Britia said, smiling.
He couldn’t possibly demand an exorbitant amount that would be difficult to bet on.
Britia couldn’t help but worry later and couldn’t even smile.
How much could he decide by thinking? Sig was more concerned about her little hand leaving his than such matters.
Sig, who touched the tip of his finger, noticed that his body temperature was higher than usual.
As expected, June in the capital of the Kingdom was hot.
When Britia returned to the party venue, she felt that Sig had been following her from behind since earlier.
At first, she thought it was natural to walk the same path from the rose garden to here.
However, as she wandered around the hall, she was convinced that he was definitely following her.
It was a very strange feeling.
It was like being chased by a very, very large dog wagging its tail.
He took a step back when she called, and then he came closer to her.
His tail flicked, lightly brushing Britia’s wrist.
Then, he stopped abruptly when he saw someone approaching them.
The person who was coming towards them quickly passed by them after meeting Sig’s gaze.
“You’ve been following me since earlier, and it’s been bothering me.”
His rigid tail drooped downwards.
“I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”
As he was about to move his foot, Britia grabbed his arm.
“I said you could stay comfortably next to me instead of following behind.”
He immediately straightened his body at her words.
As she watched the tail of the newly revived Britia swish back and forth, she smiled softly.
“Duke-nim looks calm, but sometimes he can be quick-tempered.
He acts before he speaks.”
Rather than answering, Sig chewed on his lip, appearing restless.
“Does Duke-nim feel nervous about the party?”
“Well, you could say that.”
Perhaps because there were many unfamiliar faces around, Britia guessed and lightly held onto Sig’s arm, letting go soon after.
It wasn’t that his hard, stiff face was angry, but rather tense due to his shyness.
Now that she knew the truth, it was as if he wasn’t scary at all.
“You don’t have to be on guard like that.
I won’t eat Duke-nim today.”
Talking to him had become much more comfortable all of a sudden.
He joked about loosening up, and there wasn’t a hint of stiffness in his expression.
“Will you eat me someday?”
‘Was that a Northern joke?’
But his expression was too serious, and his tail fur stood on end.
“Thank you for letting me know that Southern jokes don’t work here.”
Britia joked and clapped her hands, easing his guard.
But only partially.
“It would have been nice if Crave came today.
He would have been annoying by your side, wouldn’t he?”
“I wouldn’t know what to say, and he would get bored.”
“Well, maybe he would enjoy it since he loves to talk so much.”
Maybe that’s why Crave wanted to befriend him.
He could talk more while he stayed silent.
“Duke-nim, excuse me for a moment.”
His calm face changed as if he had heard a thunderbolt.
As if he had heard that she was going to leave him here.
“I can’t go with you like a male Duke.”
It was then that Sig’s pupils shook as he realized where she was going.
He understood that he couldn’t follow, but his eyes looked uneasy when he was left alone.
Britia’s footsteps quickened as she rushed back from the bathroom, her nerves on edge.
She felt relieved to have left the crowded party area, but she knew she needed to introduce herself to someone soon.
As she walked around, surveying the partygoers, she heard someone call out her name.
It was Lady Robley, the Duchess.
“We’ve been looking for you everywhere.
Where have you been?”
Her eyebrows furrowed, a telltale sign that something was bothering her.
“I’m sorry, Lady Duchess.
Is something the matter?”
“I told you I needed to introduce you to someone.”
Her voice was tinged with irritation, and Britia couldn’t help but feel uneasy.
“This is my nephew, Marcus Beaumex.
He’s the third son of my older brother, Earl Beaumex.”
Britia extended a polite greeting, but Marcus merely glanced at her before sneering and turning away.
“So, this is the woman my aunt has been raving about? She’s not exactly a beauty, is she?”
Lady Robley chastised him in a low voice, but Marcus continued to scrutinize Britia with a disdainful gaze.
“Well, she’s not ugly, but she’s certainly no beauty.
And she’s not exactly young, either.”
He clicked his tongue and shook his head.
“I think you’ve said enough.”
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