After that, I stuck to Leonel like glue.
I was always by his side, except for when I went to the bathroom. The distinction between our rooms became meaningless. Since Leonel’s bed was more spacious and comfortable, I practically lived in his room. Whenever we had free time, we spent it together.
Perhaps because he no longer needed to vigilantly watch over me, he quickly found peace. It seemed like he no longer had the nightmares that haunted him almost every night.
Looking at his peacefully sleeping face, it felt like I could fall asleep comfortably soon.
‘Then I’ll go hang out with Mary, Sophie, and Lizzy again. It was fun last time, so it’ll be fun again.’
As I prepared for work, humming a tune, Leonel’s hand suddenly emerged between his ribs and elbow.
“You look cheerful. What were you thinking about?”
I lowered the ribbon that had been pushed down by the delight of visiting Dames and rearranged it.
Unconsciously, I lifted my head, and our eyes met in the mirror.
His red eyes were shining, though not vividly. It was a dim light, as if something was being hidden, seeping through a partially closed door.
‘…Is it getting better?’
Seeing the arm that wrapped around me like a noose, a moment of concern crossed my mind.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that it wasn’t just a casual gesture.
* * *
I thought it was heaven’s favor that my vengeance had been stalled. A favor from the heavens to prevent the stern Leonel from retaliating against me. It was all my delusion.
‘In reality, could ‘hehehe’ be a magical incantation?’
A magical spell to foil all my plans. Otherwise, there was no way Leonel’s complexion could be this bad. How much effort did I put into this?
‘Even though he goes to bed earlier and wakes up later than me, why does he look like he hasn’t slept for three days?’
Leonel’s face looked delicate and dangerous, like a precarious and perilous beauty. If he were someone else, it would be a believable joke even if he claimed to have been dead for two days.
‘At this rate, I might end up cleaning up a corpse!’
I waited for the night to uncover the reason.
As expected, Leonel fell asleep first. Curious if he had fallen asleep, I shook my hand in front of my eyes and even nibbled on his high and well-shaped nose.
He didn’t wake up.
I continued to endure for a while, then closed my eyes and pretended to sleep. Eventually, I dozed off. Fortunately, when I opened my eyes again, the surroundings were dark. It was still the time when Leonel was sleeping.
‘I hope Leonel is sleeping well.’
Blinking my stiff eyes, I raised my head, and in the darkness, a faint red light gleamed.
It was Leonel’s eyes.
Without even blinking, he was staring down at me.
“Ahh! You scared me.”
As if I was about to spring up from the lying position, Leonel chuckled softly and pulled me into his arms.
I took a long breath.
“Why were you doing that?”
“Just. Admiring the view.”
I also sometimes admire Leonel’s face when he’s asleep, but I should probably refrain from doing that in the future.
I swept my chest and crawled into Leonel’s embrace.
“We haven’t been doing this all the time, have we?”
We had been doing this all the time. It’s a problem, a big problem.
I tried to sigh, but a yawn came out first. Leonel patted my back.
“But if Leonel sleeps, I…”
It didn’t seem like he would fall asleep easily. If I left him like this, he might collapse.
“…Should we sleep separately from today?”
The faintly blooming smile disappeared in an instant. I quickly changed the topic.
“Haha. Just kidding.”
While still holding me, he turned his body. I lay down using Leonel as a mattress and then looked up.
Before I could see his face properly, he hugged my head to his chest.
“You’re not planning to leave me, right?”
“Of course not. I have nowhere else to go if not here.”
“But you have a house given by the queen.”
Considering a place I’ve never seen!
Unable to say anything, Leonel’s fingertips dug into my hair.
The fingers that were slowly brushing through my scalp slid down to my neck without exerting any force. He gently massaged my neck as if giving me a massage.
“What do you think about selling that house?”
His voice was so seductive that I almost nodded as if bewitched.
I quickly shook my head.
‘It’s the dream house I’ve always wanted even before I died! I’ve even decided to call it Utopia!’
I shook my head, and Leonel’s touch gradually descended lower.
I flinched and hastily pulled away from the hand skimming my spine, then rolled to my side and slid off his top.
Leonel’s arm followed me. I embraced his arm like holding a doll.
He made a strange noise and shook his head.
Since the house given by the queen was near the capital, it would take quite some time to visit. It seemed he judged it better not to allow me to go there than to sell the house.
Both of us fell into a serene silence when we closed our mouths. Holding his warm arm, sleep poured over me again. I looked at Leonel with drowsy eyes.
As our eyes met, I reached out and covered his eyes, hiding his assertive gaze even in the darkness.
“Sleep quickly. There’s a party today, and it’ll be tough if you don’t rest.”
Leonel nodded and closed his eyes. I felt the strength leaving his body, and his breathing slowly changed. I drifted into a brief slumber, and when I unknowingly opened my eyes again, Leonel was once again looking at me.
I repeated the cycle of pretending to sleep until morning, putting Leonel to sleep. Still, Leonel seemed much less tired than usual.
‘My efforts are shining on Leonel’s face.’
I nodded proudly while looking at the sparkling face.
The problem was…
“Miss Nelly, are you okay? What happened at night?”
Everyone I met had that reaction. Due to constantly waking up to confirm that Leonel was asleep, I was even more tired.
I smiled to reassure them, but Lizzy’s expression seemed almost like she was about to cry.
She covered her mouth with both hands and I comforted the stammering Lizzy. Whether she was convinced that Leonel was the culprit behind my fatigue or not, she shot him an impolite look.
Who taught her to glare at her superior like that?
‘Ah, I see!’
Of course, with her mouth covered and squinted eyes, it wasn’t threatening; it was rather cute. But considering that Leonel hasn’t been sleeping well lately, she should be careful.
I turned Lizzy around playfully, grabbed her shoulders, and moved forward.
“Lizzy, you should go to Mary and ask her to choose an outfit since you’re also attending the party.”
Pushing away from me, Lizzy whispered a suggestion.
“I’ll call Mary. How about getting ready for the party together? It’ll be fun.”
“Is it okay if Leonel follows us?”
Lizzy hesitated for a moment. Then, as if she noticed Leonel behind her, and straightened her head.
I escorted her to the maid’s room on the first floor and stepped back a few paces.
“Then, Lizzy, see you at the party.”
Lizzy glanced at me, wanting to come with me, but then she saw Leonel standing behind me and nodded grimly.
As soon as Lizzy entered the corridor, Leonel, as if waiting, wrapped his arms around my shoulders.
We went up to the room and prepared for the party.
Leonel changed his clothes behind the partition, receiving comments and jokes from the butlers and servants. Even during that, he continued to talk to me incessantly.
On the contrary, when I went behind the partition to change my clothes, he silently did his job without saying anything.
I didn’t think much of it, but when I thought about it, I realized that he was trying to make sure I was still there.
With a complex feeling, I finished changing and came out from behind the partition.
“How is it?”
As Leonel approached after turning around once, he lightly kissed me.
“It suits you well.”
The color on my lips was also on his. My face heated up, and I quickly wiped his lips.
As I tried to move away, Leonel grabbed my hand, bringing his lips close to mine.
With his lips pressed against my hand, he whispered,
“It’s quite chilly today.”
As my hand tingled and I hunched my shoulders, Leonel draped his cloak around me.
While stroking the soft cloak, Leonel signaled to a servant. The servant approached and opened a jewelry box.
The lid slid open like an eyelid, revealing a round, light-green gemstone.
Around the pendant were tiny diamonds and emeralds in a tight circle, creating a wavy pattern.
It looked more like a bouquet of jewels than a necklace.
“Could this also be a green diamond?”
“It’s a Demantoid Garnet.”
What’s that again? Just hearing the name made me feel like it would be incredibly expensive, so I hesitated and stepped back.
“How many houses does this necklace represent?”
Leonel chuckled softly and approached me from behind, draping the necklace around me. The array of jewels hanging between the links of the chain sparkled excessively.
“You should get used to it. As a Duchess, you’ll wear it frequently.”
“What? What Duchess?”
Is he proposing? Is this how proposals are usually done? Do I have to answer now?
Surprised, I turned around, and he wrapped his arms around my waist.
“Were you thinking of getting married to someone else?”
It’s not like I’ve thought about marriage at all.
“If you’re not going to marry at all, I won’t force you. But I won’t tolerate you going to someone else.”
I nodded, and he smiled satisfactorily.
‘Leonel was thinking about marriage.’
It’s a bit perplexing. But why do I keep laughing?
Just for the sake of it, I punched Leonel in the arm.
We walked into the hall.
As we started descending the stairs, everyone inside simultaneously took a step back, slightly bending their knees and bowing their heads.