The texture of the cold and rough bricks was felt in every corner of her hand.
Duke Melford gently swept the place and stilled her hand.
She pushed the bricks, and the surrounding bricks moved in, revealing a hidden space inside.
There was a myriad of scented candles on display.
She habitually counted the number of scented candles.
The number ’57’ was exactly right.
But why did something feel off?
‘I stole because there is someone I wanted to brainwash.’
Her own daughter knew her limits.
She was a wise child who knew the boundaries well and knew how to take care of herself.
Then why would she touch her scented candles? She wasn’t so rash and reckless.
Well, it didn’t matter now.
She wiped the dust accumulated on the candles.
Black dust got on her fingers, and she frowned.
She hasn’t done anything yet, but the remaining time is tight.
As she lifted her hand from the space and stepped back, the bricks moved back into place.
“Duke, a letter has arrived.”
When she saw the letter in the hand of her maid, Marina, the Duke’s eyebrow furrowed into a frown.
It was because of that damn seal stamped on the letter.
That pattern with arrows in the eagle’s heart.
She’s already sick of it.
She had snatched the letter.
[How long do I have to wait?
I’ve been waiting as long as I can. I’m losing my patience.
If you keep doing this, this side won’t be able to stand still.
It’s breaking down from the inside. I’m doubtful if I should trust and wait for you.]
Courtesy was hard to find after soaking her eyes in the letter.
The paper was crushed in the Duke’s hand.
She threw it away randomly.
Marina picked it up carefully.
Duke Melford clicked her tongue in annoyance.
She left the room in a huff with angry steps.
There was the sound of Marina carefully closing the door from behind.
Her heels hit the floor sharply as if they represented her feelings.
“Hey, but where are we going?”
“I don’t know. Somehow it will work.”
It was a little louder than a whisper.
It was the sound she heard when she tried to go up the stairs.
Duke Melford turned her head in the direction of the words.
Her twin sons were wandering in the hallway.
The two children were carrying two thick bags as if they were going to leave.
“Are you sure we’ll be alright?”
They noticed that the Duke was nowhere to be found.
The Duke smiled quietly at her sons.
It was time to take advantage of those children.
* * *
As soon as I got up, I went to visit Alastair.
There was no particular reason.
I was worried if our outfits would match for the upcoming banquet.
No, honestly, I missed him and wanted to see him.
After opening the door wide, I realized I had forgotten to knock
You can’t keep one simple etiquette out of excitement, I thought to myself disparagingly.
My excitement quickly turned into disappointment.
He wasn’t in the room.
The red-carpeted room was messy.
There was only old, luxurious furniture, but no Alastair.
I was looking around the room with regret when the sound of water entered my ear.
It came from the bathroom.
‘You must be washing up.’
I felt a little embarrassed, but I decided to be brazen.
I plopped into his bed and sat down.
I had a splitting headache again.
I struggled to ignore the shallow pain; now I wanted to be happy rather than sick.
My eyes studied the room to examine his taste.
An unexpected place caught my eye.
A bandage was sticking out of a trash can.
I got up from my seat to check it out, and I lowered myself to scrutinize it.
It was a bloody bandage.
The shock short-circuited my brain.
There was a sound of a doorknob spinning.
I shifted my gaze from the bandage to him.
After washing, his skin was damp.
Water dripped from his wet hair flowed through his cheeks.
He came out with a rough bathrobe on but was embarrassed because I was in the room.
“What is this?”
I glanced at the bandage in the trash can.
“Ah. I was injured a few days ago in a fight.”
Alastair said as if it wasn’t a big deal, but it didn’t seem that way to me.
It was strangely annoying.
Is there anybody who could hurt Alastair in the first place?
I am not overestimating him.
As far as I know, only the male protagonist was a match for Alastair.
But it was too early for them to confront each other.
Then there is only one person left.
“Are you worried about me?”
He combed back his wet hair with a smile.
He opened the bottom of his robe, slightly showing off his white abdomen, and muscular flanks, and minor wounds that were healing.
I reached out and gently stroked the area.
“Does it hurt a lot?”
“….. It’s okay now.”
He covered his face with his hands. His ears were all red.
Only then did I become aware of my actions. It was an unconscious act.
“I’ll change my clothes.”
“Oh, yes. I’ll come back later.”
I left the room, trying as hard as I could to avoid looking at him.
The thought constantly floated in my head while I walked down the hall.
The ‘blood’ I saw on the weapon that I saw the last time I went to the mansion came to mind.
What if it was Alastair’s blood?
Perhaps the timing is just a coincidence, but the timeframe fit just right with the browning of blood.
From observing the color, I could guess the date and time….
It was when Alastair strangled me.
Was it a coincidence?
This speculation was reasonable because the only person locked up in the Hall of Hallucinations was Alastair.
Prisoners were locked up in different areas.
The Hall of Hallucinations was designed and built strictly for Alastair.
My thoughts flowed…
What if Alastair actually went to the Duke of Melford’s estate for ‘something’—was this while he was out of his mind?
It’s a sufficiently convincing hypothesis.
Then what is that ‘something’?
There is one more question.
Alastair said he got ‘injured in a fight.’
If my hypothesis is correct, he lied to me.
So why is he lying?
Are you being threatened?
‘I need more clues.’
I can hardly get a hint.
While immersed in my thoughts, I reached the front of my room.
I sat down with the chair behind the table.
I’m not sure whether Alastair was hiding something from me, so I couldn’t argue with him.
I don’t know anything.
Tap tap tap tap.
Full of turmoil, my fingers struck the table.