I woke up late, ate a quick meal, and sat down at the garden table to stare at the rose. Although it wasn’t that damn rose, every time I saw it, flames surged from within me and I found myself glaring at it without realizing it.
“It seems like you don’t like roses.”
I turned my head at the sudden voice and met Duke Feischer’s gaze, who was putting down his teacup.
“Your mother also preferred simple violets over showy roses.”
Duke Feischer’s cheeks relaxed.
Since they coincidentally met in the garden, they had tea time together every day. As the time they spent together increased, he learned some things about the duke.
When he talked about his wife, whom he loved so much, his always stiff face softened. So, she could understand a little why he had turned away from his daughter after she lost her mother to postpartum fever. She wasn’t condoning neglect, but she could tell that he didn’t ignore and dislike Roeni because he really hated her.
It was ironic that I could read tenderness in the Duke’s cold and seemingly indifferent gaze, having experienced a family who hated me in my previous life.
He often checked in with me to see how I was feeling, and sometimes he seemed secretly pleased when we chatted.
“The violets bloom in the rear garden of the Violet House……”
“You can also see violets here.”
The uninvited guest’s words made Duke Feischer turn his cold gaze. Diart glared back, undeterred.
‘Here we go again, again.’
“Hmm, the tea is sweet today.”
Duke Wheaton, who was leisurely savoring his tea while the people next to him were arguing, smiled. Even if they hinted that they should stop, he just shrugged his shoulders.
I groaned inwardly at the situation that continued with the same pattern for a few days.
Diart, who had once claimed to have no feelings for the Feischers, had developed a murderous glare, and Duke Feischer was just as cold. If it continued like this, it wouldn’t be strange for a conflict to arise between the two as in the original work.
I knew what the cause was. Diart followed me closely every time I came out to the garden, even though I wanted to avoid him.
“By the way, I heard that this year’s hunting competition will be conducted in a unique way.”
Duke Wheaton suddenly remembered something and changed the topic while putting down his teacup. Despite this, Diart and Duke Feischer, who continued to glare at each other, turned their heads at the words that followed.
“Nobles who are married must participate with their spouses.”
The annual hunting competition held regularly by the imperial family once a year was an event that nobles with a rank of baron or higher had to attend. Only the heads of the founding families, the Feischers and the Wheatons, were recognized for their achievements and were excused from attendance, and thus Diart had unfailingly participated in the event each year.
As I puzzled over the sudden change from a predominantly male hunting competition to a couples’ event, Duke Wheaton’s comment gave me a rough idea.
“I heard it was Crown Prince Jarvis’ suggestion, but I don’t know what he’s thinking.”
No matter how much of a rogue he is, he wouldn’t try to meet a woman on the hunting grounds. And if he did, there would be no need to make it a couple’s event. It was clearly a means to meet me since sending letters and trying to contact me was useless.
Diart’s expression hardened, seemingly thinking the same thing as me.
“I heard that women’s game will also be included in the score. Can you shoot a bow?”
I tried to answer Duke Wheaton’s question, but Diart was one step ahead.
“We’re not going.”
“It’s an event where all nobles attend. Even if it’s you, you’ll be criticized if you don’t attend.”
He looked like he didn’t care. He was the kind of man who wouldn’t care if someone cussed him out, as long as they didn’t touch him directly. And in fact, he had already received a lot of curses, so he wouldn’t feel much impact.
But I wanted to participate in this year’s hunting competition. It was an opportunity to resolve the heavy burden on my mind that was caused by Diart, who did not allow me to go beyond his sight.
Leaving aside my divorce from Diart, I had no intention of accepting Crown Prince Jarvis’ heart. He’s a nice guy, if a little overwhelming, but I’ve never seen him that way. It was good for both of us to resolve this matter as soon as possible.
‘I also need to apologize for the thousand-gold perfume.’
It wasn’t my will, but since I ended up ignoring someone else’s sincerity, it was the right thing to do to apologize. The person who actually did this is so proud. I shot Diart a look full of resentment.
“I want to attend.”
Diart, who hadn’t even blinked at my resentful gaze, frowned.
“You can’t. You’re… “
“I’ve never hunted before and I’m curious.”
“I’ll teach you how to shoot a bow.”
Duke Feischer spoke, and Duke Wheaton echoed him.
“I know your father’s archery skills. I’ve never been able to beat him either. You’ll definitely become a good student.”
Compared to Duke Wheaton’s sturdy physique, which is expected of Diart’s father, Duke Feischer had a slim build that would be more suitable for books or musical instruments. It was unexpected that he would be better with weapons like bows.
“Since we’re talking about it, how about learning right away?”
Duke Wheaton suggested. Duke Feischer waited for an answer. Only Diart seemed dissatisfied with my decision to participate in the hunting competition against his will.
After tea, I suddenly headed to the training ground to learn archery. The knights who were training saw me and ran over, quickly forming a line beside me. The knights’ expressions were tense as they saluted.
“You have quite a good stance.”
Duke Feischer, who was observing from the side while teaching the basic posture of archery, unexpectedly remarked.
“It seemed like you’re a natural.”
Duke Feischer’s lips curled slightly. The only person in this place who seemed unhappy was Diart, who stood with his arms crossed and watched me with a sullen expression. Ignoring Diart’s glare, I pulled back the bowstring. Ping! The arrow flew and landed right below the target.
“For a first-timer, you’re excellent.”
Duke Wheaton applauded and Duke Feischer nodded with a satisfied expression. Then, applause erupted from behind. When I turned around, the knights were either giving thumbs up or clapping, as if they were impressed.
“Well done, madam!”
“Just a few more tries and you’ll hit the bullseye.”
I couldn’t understand why they were so amazed by such a mediocre display of archery skills, but it didn’t bother me much. Even though I had been told that I could take a break, it was a bit burdensome to be watched from behind.
“It seems like you get along well with the knights.”
Duke Wheaton found the knights’ reactions amusing. They pretend to follow me like that, but in reality, they are tiger cubs. I couldn’t say much about the story, so I just nodded. Suddenly, the area next to me darkened. Diart had approached me with a bow in his hand.
“It’s not good to overexert yourself at the start.”
Just because I pulled the bowstring once doesn’t mean I’m overexerting myself. Diart thought I was terminally ill, but I wasn’t sure how Duke Feischer and Duke Wheaton would react, considering they didn’t know that fact.
Duke Feischer narrowed his eyes, and Duke Wheaton, whose eyes widened, burst into laughter. Feeling embarrassed for no reason, I pulled the bowstring with more strength.
Diart sighed as he looked at me stubbornly, and then leaned close behind me. Before I could even pay attention to Duke Feischer, who was quickly pushed aside by him, he grabbed my hand and corrected my posture.
“Spread your legs a bit wider.”
Diart whispered softly in my ear. Not only could I feel his breath on my ear, but also his hand holding mine and his body heat against my back, making it difficult to hear his words clearly. He held my waist and pulled me closer.
“Tighten your stomach. Hold your breath.”
Can’t you breathe properly from the beginning?!
Unlike Duke Feischer, Diart was sticking too close to me, making it impossible for me to concentrate with him pressed against my back. It was clear that he was doing this on purpose.
As soon as Diart spoke, the arrow released from my fingers hit the center of the target with a sound.