As soon as Nelly left, the sound of knocking on the door was heard again.
Frer burned the letter Nelly had given and stood up from his seat. When he opened the door, a red gleam appeared.
Leonel entered and took off his hood.
“You have a good sense.”
“I can’t help but overhear when you eavesdrop right next to the door.”
Leonel looked around. As his gaze reached the weapons displayed on one side of the room, Frer involuntarily swallowed dry saliva.
When his red pupils touched him and then the paper on the table, which was once Nelly’s letter, Frer unknowingly swallowed again.
It had been a letter from Nelly at one point. Now, only the circularly burned part remained, making it impossible to read the content.
Leonel stared at the burned part intently. It wasn’t a long letter, judging by the fact that the burned part wasn’t large enough to hide the text.
“What was written?”
“She was worried. Asked what happened when you were sick.”
“Was that all?”
“She seemed to ask me to stay at the estate.”
Frer shook his head. It was a concise statement, just about the burned part.
Leonel threw the letter Frer had written into the fireplace.
“Send only the back part without the front part.”
“We’re talking about the Duke. It’s not polite to write when he doesn’t like it.”
As if confirming Frer’s words, Leonel stared at him intently. Then he nodded and left the cabin.
Frer waited for the sound of hoofbeats to fade before sitting back in his chair.
‘Now I understand why Nelly is worried.’
Even when he didn’t trust Nelly, he hadn’t been this vigilant.
He pondered for a moment and then picked up a pen. He couldn’t leave it like this. Constant vigilance would exhaust the watcher mentally, and being watched would make the watched person uneasy.
If Nelly didn’t know she was being watched, it would be fine, but she was observant, so she might already know.
‘The Duke is scary, but friends come first.’
With the thought of returning to Adelhardt if necessary, Frer put in the front part and took out the back part.
It was the moment when a letter opposite to Leonel’s request was completed.
* * *
While waiting for a response, the guests and relatives had all arrived.
The several hundred rooms of the castle were now so full that there was hardly any space left, even in the annex and tower.
Leonel told the butler to prepare for the ball and summoned us.
Myself, Lizzy, and Mary, along with longstanding and trustworthy maids and servants, gathered in the study. About 20 people, including the butler, Arette, Levance, and a few knights, gathered in the office.
Seeing the knights and servants aligning in rows and columns, I roughly followed suit as Leonel stood at the front and opened his mouth.
“You all must know that the personnel to operate the estate are severely lacking.”
“Yes! We are aware!”
A resounding reply came from the knights. Lizzy and I nodded vigorously.
“Among those gathered in the castle right now, there are those who served under Devondus. However, some were unaware due to a lack of interest or involvement in the dispute.”
While Leonel was speaking seriously, he glanced at me and subtly smiled. When I returned the smile, he continued with a slightly more relaxed expression.
“You will observe them and report to me with a list of usable individuals. It doesn’t matter if they were from a family involved with Devondus.”
I raised my hand discreetly. Leonel gestured for me to speak.
“What if there’s no one suspicious?”
In truth, I didn’t like any of them. If they were unaware due to the darkness of rumors, it couldn’t be helped, but if they knew and turned a blind eye to Devondus’ atrocities, wasn’t that complicity?
My voice unintentionally became uneven, but Leonel’s gaze was full of affection.
“If you don’t see anyone, hand me a blank sheet of paper. However, proceed with caution. Any other questions?”
“Arette and I might be biased because we have family connections here.”
“Your families were not called.”
I glanced at the two with a slight hint of disappointment on their faces. Before I could fully investigate, Leonel added an explanation.
“That way, it will appear as if we called them for investigation.”
After Devondus’ death, those who had been associated with him might have lived in fear, unsure when a dagger might be at their throats.
In the midst of this, Leonel summoned all the family members, except those from the houses of Arette and Levance who had been favorable to him.
Even when Devondus was alive, these were individuals who were too afraid to confront Leonel directly. Now that he was dead, they probably didn’t want to face Leonel at all.
‘If that’s the case, the people who have come now either don’t care if they die or have been marginalized within their own families.’
Leonel could potentially find useful individuals even in the houses of his enemies or the relatives who opposed him, as he had intended. Since there were no members from Levance and Arette’s families, their insights could also be utilized.
As I nodded in understanding, Leonel asked again.
This time, no one spoke. After waiting for a moment, Leonel ordered.
“You may disperse.”
As soon as he finished speaking, people rushed out. Those working in the office returned to their desks.
I did the same. With the increasing number of immigrants, there was no shortage of things to approve.
As I reviewed the individuals, for some reason, my right cheek felt warm. When I turned my head, I found Leonel staring at me piercingly.
I asked with my expression, but he didn’t respond. Instead, after scanning Lizzy and Levance, he twitched his left eyebrow.
What’s this? Why does he suddenly seem displeased with these two?
Leonel nodded his head and gestured for me to come closer. As I approached, he tapped the neatly arranged documents on his desk.
“I need to hear this part explained.”
I walked around the desk and stood next to Leonel. I leaned down and looked at the paper he pointed to.
“Oh? This is just a request from the Lord of Laeblun, asking for permission to build a wine cellar in the Altwood estate.”
Was there anything to explain? It seemed straightforward even after inspecting it closely.
“Laeblun wants to build a wine cellar.”
“As detailed as possible.”
This is already quite detailed!
As I tilted my head, I felt the sensation of Leonel playfully tousling my hair. He was messing around with my wavy brown hair.
Since I taught him to soothe himself by thinking of cute animals, it felt like he was treating me like a pet.
‘At this rate, I might end up as a pet rather than a lover.’
I quickly pushed aside such thoughts and, offering my forehead to Leonel, tried to gauge when Adelhardt’s letter might arrive.
Almost a week had passed, so it should be arriving soon…
“Your Grace, Prince Adelhardt has arrived.”
I expected a response, but he came in person.
If he’s coming so openly, how will he handle discussions about Leonel? Surely he doesn’t plan to avoid talking about it?
Adelhardt is Leonel’s friend, so maybe that’s possible.
I was looking at the door with uncertain eyes when Adelhardt entered.
“Leonel. Are you busy?”
“Not really. What’s the matter about the territory?”
“It’s about Elling.”
“Let’s change locations.”
Leonel headed towards the door but turned back, gesturing for me to follow him.
I was about to go after him when Adelhardt put his arm on Leonel’s shoulder.
“Nelly, you should work.”
While saying that, he gave me a wink. I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant, but it seemed like he was telling me not to follow.
As I nodded, Leonel removed Adelhardt’s arm from his shoulder.
“Understanding the affairs of the territory from my side is also a job.”
Without yielding, Adelhardt put his arm back on Leonel’s shoulder and whispered something to him.
Leonel frowned. After a moment of contemplation, he looked at me.
“I’ll be back soon, so keep working.”
“Or come back with a pretty face, at least.”
Adelhardt added, laughing. Did he entrust something to that pretty face?
I nodded confidently, and he turned away with a big laugh. Leonel, with an annoyed expression, followed Adelhardt.
As soon as their footsteps faded, I moved.
“Levance, I’ll go to that ‘pretty face.’ Lizzy, I’ll be right back.”
Without waiting for a reply, I hurriedly walked towards the stables.
Guadang was roaming nearby. I quickly approached, checking if there was anything hidden.
‘Why did Adelhardt say such confusing things?’
I had my fists clenched and was aimlessly staring at the unnecessary stable when someone grabbed one of my shoulders from behind.
“Nelly. What are you doing?”
“Frer! Adelhardt was telling an intriguing story, so I was looking for something.”
“Oh, I see.”
He muttered in admiration, rummaged through his pocket, and pulled out a piece of paper.
“Could this be it? He told me to pass it on.”
I smiled widely as I gracefully accepted the neatly folded paper.
It detailed Leonel’s reactions while I was unconscious.
‘So, that’s how it was.’
He was shocked that I had passed out and he hadn’t answered any questions about me. When I was still staring down at the letter, Frer asked cautiously.
“Are you okay?”
“The Duke’s obsession, it might be worse than it appears.”
I understood. The Leonel before I died probably even counted how many times I sighed!
As I was about to nod, I tilted my head. Why would he say something like that all of a sudden?
“Did you happen to read the letter?”
“No. It’s not that….”
Frer tapped the back of my head.
“Anyway, if you’re having a hard time or something happens, ask for help.”
He’s already an anxious person, and I can’t let him go through that.
Really. Before regressing, I experienced Leonel’s overwhelming paranoia when he became extremely sensitive. And back then, he wasn’t even a lover, just a workplace superior.
But now? He’s not watching me because he’s afraid I’ll betray him, but because he’s afraid of losing me. That’s just cute!
I should stick close to him so he doesn’t even feel anxious.
I let out a refreshing, sly smile after a long time.
Frer shook his head excitedly and left without a word.
I stroked Guadang’s mane a few times, put the letter in my pocket, and returned to the office.
Leonel came in a little later than me.
I waited until Lizzy and Levance finished work and then asked Leonel.
“What happened to Frer?”
“He has decided to stay.”
“Really? That’s great! How long will he be here?”
“Until Adelhardt becomes king. As a condition for supporting him with my strength.”
Is that okay? It won’t become more dangerous, will it?
As I looked at him with worried eyes, he pulled me closer, kissed my hair, and spoke.
“I won’t do anything dangerous. I’ve learned that if I’m in danger, you’re in danger too.”
Really, he casually says subtly embarrassing things!
I stayed still with my forehead against his chest. Leonel embraced me, slowly sweeping his fingers down my back.
“And now, there’s no one left to harm us, so you can relax.”
That sounded just like Leonel, talking to himself.