She had expected it, but when she heard it for real, her mind went blank.
“I didn’t know I would feel this way either.”
He said with a self-deprecating smile.
“I understand that you might not believe this sudden confession. But it’s getting harder and harder for me to suppress my feelings.”
His gaze turned straight towards her.
Only then did she realize.
That he was having a hard time dealing with his own emotions right now.
“Why… no, can I ask why your heart has changed?”
“The reason… I want to know too. But all I can say is that at some point, looking at you became enjoyable. I kept thinking about you, and before I knew it, I was following your every move wherever you went.”
Edward frowned slightly. He bit his lower lip and organized his thoughts for a moment before speaking.
“Do you need a reason to fall in love? But this is certain. This feeling will not waver.”
It wasn’t a direct confession of love, but his gaze was passionate. Almost to the point of burning out.
“I am grateful for the Count’s feelings.”
Laura took a deep breath.
Honestly, her heart was shaking.
It was the first time she had received a love confession from a man, so it was only natural.
But unfortunately, her feelings were nothing more or less than gratitude.
“But just as your feelings have changed over the past few months, mine have changed too.”
Laura politely rejected his feelings.
Edward’s eyes clouded over as if he had been hurt for a moment.
The lukewarm wind blew between the two of them facing each other. The wind scattered his hair and left.
He closed his eyes as if suppressing his intense emotions and then opened them again.
“I understand. If the past me were in front of me right now, I would want to punch myself in the face.”
He bit his lips for a moment before speaking.
“Even so, I will wait until the madam’s heart turns back to me.”
“I will try harder. So please stay as you are.”
“I am already married.”
“I cannot accept your feelings. No matter how long you wait, my heart will not change.”
“No. My hand will always be extended towards you.”
Laura looked puzzled and tilted her head, and he smiled wryly.
“You asked me to run away with you.”
Laura unconsciously raised her voice in shock.
“Don’t you remember?”
“Tha-that, so I don’t remember exactly what I said… It’s an old memory, so I don’t remember it well.”
“You said you wanted to divorce the Archduke and live a new life with me somewhere else.”
How could he forget that? He looked at her with a questioning gaze.
Laura opened her mouth in surprise.
She was so stunned that she couldn’t say anything.
Now was the moment when the truth of the letter was revealed.
‘Isabella’ had planned to divorce Killian if Edward accepted her love.
And she planned to run away with Edward to live a new life.
Meanwhile, Edward politely rejected ‘Isabella’s’ love by returning the letter.
‘Isabella’ burned the letter she received.
But then again, Isabella was a person who didn’t hesitate to do anything for love.
“No, I will not take the Count’s hand.”
Laura said firmly.
At her resolute expression, Edward’s smile disappeared from his lips for a moment.
“I hope there will be no more mention of the letter in the future. Goodbye.”
Laura turned and walked towards the mansion.
Edward couldn’t stay still in one place, perhaps shocked by her firm rejection.
However, by the time she had just left the narrow path…
“My heart will not change.”
His voice was carried by the wind.
Laura hesitated for a moment but didn’t stop walking.
Finally, when she stood in the garden, she sighed deeply and leaned against a tree.
“Ah, I was surprised. I thought my heart would fall out.”
Laura brought her hand to her still-thumping chest.
She had tried to control her expression earlier, but Edward’s blunt confession had left her flustered.
“Isabella, what have you done?”
She thought Isabella was a timid and fearful person, but she was shocked by what she had done.
To think of divorcing Killian and running away with a young man.
Well, it wasn’t something she couldn’t understand.
She was more attracted to a gentle and sophisticated man than her husband, who was blunt and only interested in war.
Edward was a gentle and kind man to everyone.
It’s just that Isabella mistook his affection for being directed solely at her.
“Ah, but I don’t think Edward will easily change his mind. What should I do?”
I don’t know why he changed his mind all of a sudden, but thinking about what’s to come gave me a headache.
It was when I was struggling with my thoughts while pressing my throbbing forehead.
Tap, tap. I heard light footsteps.
“Are you okay, Your Grace?”
I turned my head with my hand on my chest and saw the approaching person, my eyes widening.
“I met you a little while ago. I’m Laila.”
“I remember. Warren’s apprentice.”
Laila was taken aback when I called out Warren’s name.
“No, I mean Lord Warren. I must be confused.”
“So that’s why your face is pale. Is everything else okay?”
Laila asked with a worried expression.
She kindly came to help Laura, who was leaning weakly against the tree lost in thought.
“I’m fine. I just have something to think about.”
Laura stared at Laila, who was relieved by her words.
She was an apprentice who served by Warren’s side in the Phaede Kingdom…
Laura had never seen her face before.
The child Warren had lied to her about.
Laura was curious about Laila.
How did she meet Warren? What magic is she learning? What is she doing now…?
But it wasn’t the right time to ask such things.
After all, she had just heard the surprising story of Edward and Isabella, and she had been standing in the sun for a long time, making her body feel limp.
“I should go now. Thank you for helping me…”
Laura took her hand off the tree and started walking.
But then, her foot hit a rock and she stumbled.
“Your Grace, be careful!”
Laila quickly supported Laura, who was about to stumble forward.
“Are you okay?”
As Laila held onto Laura’s arm, she sent a worried gaze.
“Thank you… huhp!”
A chilling energy spread over their skin from the point where they made contact.
At the same time, the mana that had been within Laura’s body rapidly drained away.
It felt as if all the blood in her veins was being sucked out.
“Your… Your Grace?”
Laila’s eyes, which were fixed on Laura, suddenly widened and she started to sway violently.
Despite trembling from the shock of her mana being completely depleted, Laura grabbed onto Laila’s wrist.
Laila also realized that she was stealing Laura’s mana.
“I… I never intended to…”
Laila, in a state of panic, shook her head as if denying what she had just done.
Then, she suddenly pushed Laura away and ran off.
“Wait, just a moment…”
Who is that child?
Stealing someone’s mana like that.
Even though mages gather mana, they never do such a thing to another person.
Everything turned pitch black. Laura’s body was hit by the sudden depletion of mana.
If things continued like this, she would collapse.
“If I should faint… I’ll do it in my room.”
Even in this situation, Laura was captivated by a strange thought.
Staggering, she made her way towards the carriage waiting at the entrance of the mansion.
When she finally arrived, there were two carriages.
One of the carriages was the one she had ridden in.
The other one was…
At that moment, the door of the carriage opened and their eyes met.
With his chin resting on the back of his hand, which wrapped around his cane, Killian stared at her with eyes as cold as ice.
She could feel that his mood had turned frighteningly dark.
But Laura was happy nonetheless.
He looked like a knight who had come to rescue her.
She wanted to run to him and embrace him.
Then she could rest easy.
Laura moved her body to run towards him.
However, her exhausted body could no longer withstand it and collapsed.
Seeing this, Killian’s eyes widened. He immediately leapt out of the carriage like lightning.
Someone caught her as she was about to fall.
Who was it?
Laura raised her blurry eyes and confirmed the person who was hugging her.
“Oh, oh my goodness, Archduchess…”
Edward called her anxiously with a distorted face.
“Why are you…”
Laura turned her head without finishing her sentence.
Even in this situation, she was concerned that Killian might misunderstand when he saw her being hugged by Edward.
As expected, Killian, who had been running towards them, stopped a few steps away and stared at them with his flickering cobalt blue eyes.
And then everything turned black.
Her mind was hazy and her ears were muffled as if she were submerged in deep water.
As she repeatedly lost and regained consciousness, a chilling voice cut through the roaring noise.
Killian glanced indifferently at Edward.
His eyes, as cold as ice, were ready to kill anyone who stood in his way.
“I’ll take my wife with me.”
He demanded that Edward give Laura to him.
Edward subtly tightened his arms around her, as if he didn’t want to give her up.
Then Killian’s eyes narrowed fiercely.
“What do you mean?”
His voice sank even lower.
The two men’s gazes collided fiercely in midair.
Like a fierce predator crushing its prey, Killian squeezed Edward’s throat with his teeth bared.
Finally, Edward, who had been unwilling to back down, averted his gaze. He bit his lips with a pained expression.
“Are you going to the archducal residence?”
“Of course. But why do you ask?”
“It’s not good for the Archduchess to travel by carriage. So first, we should treat her here…”
“Thank you for your suggestion.”
Killian firmly cut off Edward’s words. Then he strode forward and hugged Laura as if he was about to take her away.
Edward was shocked by what had happened without any warning.
“Why? Did I do something wrong?”
Killian retorted coldly. His eyes contained a warning that was enough to cut down even the stubborn Edward.
“I said I’m taking my wife with me. Is there a problem with that?”
Edward replied reluctantly. His handsome face contorted and looked down.
Killian looked at him coldly.
“Can we go now?”
His tone was sarcastic, and Edward lifted his bowed head.
The large-framed Killian held Laura securely in his arms and quickly scanned his surroundings, as if guarding her from being stolen by someone.
A bitter feeling sank into Edward’s heart. A dark desire to take the Archduchess away to an unknown place where no one could find her surged up within him.
“…Please take a look.”
But Edward suppressed his boiling emotions.
Killian turned around and walked briskly to the carriage. He carefully put Laura in the carriage as if handling fragile glass.
Then, the carriage with the crest of the Lucendorf Archducal House left the mansion.
He watched without moving a muscle until the carriage disappeared with a dark, locked gaze.
* * *