“I wish you a long and healthy life.”


 

“Oh, ma’am.
Aren’t you being too insincere? After all, he’s the Duke’s son.….”

 

Charlotte’s voice was heard by those in the hall.
But Herace nodded to the attendant without answering.
The attendant approached carefully with a red box.

 

When the box opened, admiration flowed from everywhere around the hall.
The jewels in the box were enough to make everyone’s eyes wide, overshadowing the short congratulatory words.
Even Charlotte, who was staring at Herace with an angry face saying she was ignored, closed her mouth with greedy eyes.

 

What Herace presented as a gift was a necklace.
It was a precious treasure for everyone to see, with diamonds lined up from the pattern, symbolising the Duke of Serpence.

 

Feeling heavy, Herace held out the box to Charlotte.
Charlotte reached out quickly, her eyes twinkling with greed.

 

“Thank you, ma’am.
Now that I see it, you are really wishing well for Miguel.”

 

Herace turned around to get back to her seat.
Charlotte didn’t care about her unlike before, busy looking at the necklace.

 

“………what are you doing?”

 

As she returned to her seat, Ezekiel sitting next to her asked in a quiet voice.
Herace stared at him for a moment at the word, which clearly contained displeasure.
She averted her eyes and stared in front of her.
Ezekiel asked again at the sight as if urging her.

 

“Why did you give her that necklace as a gift? That’s what I gave you…….”

 

“That’s why I gave it to her.

 

“What?”

 

Ezekiel crumpled his face as if he were talking about something in response to Herace’s answer.
The necklace was not as much as the stolen gold ring, but it was also enough to be called the Duke’s heirloom.
Hundreds of diamonds on the string of necklaces were also quite valuable, but most of all, the diamonds decorating the wolf’s eyes in the middle were blue diamonds that were rare in the Empire.

 

Ezekiel married Herace and asked the jewellers to make them a necklace that had never been seen before in the world.
The representative wedding gift he presented was a necklace in Charlotte’s hand.

 

 Ezekiel must be unhappy, but Herace answered calmly, as if nothing had happened.

 

“It’s perfect for a gift to the first child of the Duke.”

 

“Herace, you…….”


 

Ezekiel frowned, forgetting that he was in front of people.
Only then did he realise what was scratching his nerves.
His wife was strangely too expressionless.
He tried to understand the motive of his wife with his eyes narrowed.
What is wrong with her?

 

But then, someone called Herace in a whispery voice under the platform.

 

“Well… that lady.
The song you did with me…….”

 

The young man was intoxicated.
He blinked at Herace with a hazy face.
The clean-looking face and innocent-looking impression were likely to appeal to the woman.
But before the embarrassed Herace could answer anything, Ezekiel’s rough shoes trampled on the young man’s hand.

 

“Argh!”

 

The young man’s scream drew attention from those around him, to the podium.
Edgar rushed over and pulled the young man out.

 

In fact, the behaviour of the young man was not usually rude.
But Ezekiel was angry, how dare you reach out to the Duchess, who is much higher than you, and ask her to dance? Unless Herace came down from the podium and danced with Ezekiel, the young man should not look at Herace carelessly.

 

“……Let’s go.”

 

A cold-faced Ezekiel pulled Herace to her feet and dragged her to the prepared lounge behind the podium.
When the door closed and the sound in the hall disappeared, he pushed his wife toward the wall and pressed in a dreary voice.

 

“Can’t you behave properly?”

 

“…….”

 

“Why did you show your face to any guy?”

 

“………I’ve never done that.
He just approached me first.”

 

“Would he have done that if you had acted properly? If you didn’t glance and smile at him, he wouldn’t have approached you.
Don’t you think so?”

 

He couldn’t have known that this was unreasonable.
Herace looked at Ezekiel without answering and quietly called out his name.

 

“Ezekiel.”

 

Although it was a small voice, Ezekiel flinched as if he heard a shout.
He relaxed his grip.
Herace, freed from his strong grip, swept the arm that was held.
It was throbbing, there it must be bruised too.

 

“………why are you so dissatisfied with me?”

 

“What?”

 

“You know that I didn’t do anything.
But why are you bothering me so much?”

 

“……because you have a record of seducing people.”

 

What more can she say? It was something that she would never hear again after today anyway.

 

When she didn’t burst into tears or get angry, Ezekiel grabbed her arm again and shook it.
An unprovoked sense of unease crept over him.

 

“Now you aren’t even denying it.”

 

“…….”

 

“All right, that’s enough for now.
The banquet is over for you.”

 

It was Ezekiel who eventually stepped down first after a long confrontation.
He knew it, too.
How far-fetched his attitude toward his wife is.

 

He commanded his wife in a calm voice, but still forcefully.

 

“Your face should have been seen here.
Go back to your room now.”

 

In fact, what scratched his nerves more than his wife’s attitude was the gaze of men in the hall looking at his wife.
Ezekiel found it disturbing.
To the point where he regretted asking her to attend the banquet.
He spoke to his wife, who looked at him suspiciously.

 

“Your thoughts are narrow.
There is no way you’re going to bless Miguel.
Do not ruin the atmosphere and leave the banquet first.
I’ll be there around midnight, so wait.”

 

Even though he was aware of his mistake, he did not apologise until the end.
He tried to hide his shame with cold eyes and harsh words.

 

It may be sad, but Herace’s blue eyes were filled with affection instead of sadness.
She held her hand to Ezekiel’s cheek.
The white hand swept slowly across his face.

 

“……I’m tired.
I want to sleep.”

 

When his wife reached out her hand first, the surge of emotions slowly subsided.
Ezekiel tried to cover up his embarrassment and pulled his wife’s hand roughly.
Herace swept the back of his hand and held their hands together.

 

When his hands fell, he was thirsty with regret.
Ezekiel sighed, cursing himself inside, but said in a softer voice.

 

“…okay, go to bed first.”

***

Herace went to sleep after lying on the bed.
At an early hour, the maid withdrew.
Herace waited for the maid’s footsteps to disappear, and then crept up.
It was quite a distance from the room to the hall where the banquet was held, but the noise was quite loud beyond the window.

 

Knock, knock.

 

Herace tapped on the front wall of the dressing table.
But there was no reply.
She took a deep breath with a nervous face and placed her ears on the wall for a moment.

 

Knock, knock.

 

A louder noise rang in the room.
Soon after, three knocks were heard in the room from across the hall.

 

Hearing the answer, Herace carefully opened the door.
Perhaps because of the banquet, the hallway was quiet without a trace of people.
She looked around and headed for the next room.

 

“Miss!”

 

“Shh!”

 

As soon as the door opened, Herace entered the room.
She went straight to the cradle and picked up Erzen and asked Anna.

 

“What about the nanny?”

 

“She fell asleep.”

 

Anna shook the empty bottle.
It was only then Herace saw a middle-aged woman lying on the bed beyond the cradle.
Herace looked anxiously at her son in her arms.

 

“Don’t worry.
I said it’s a medicine that I sometimes use for the Crown Princess.
She ate only a little, so it won’t be a problem.”

 

“But Erzen’s body…….”

 

“You have to change your clothes sooner than that.
You came up earlier than I thought, but the more time you have, the better.”

 

Herace nodded her head, shaking her sleeping son gently.
Anna stretched her arm under the bed and took out a bundle and untied it.
A couple of clothes and a pocket fell on the ground.
Herace picked up a modest brown dress, carefully putting her sleeping Erzen down in his cradle.

 

“…okay, go to bed first.”

 

Herace remembered her husband’s last words.
She was sure that after the banquet, he would come to find her in the bedroom.
She made up her mind quite a long time ago, but she still couldn’t help it, she burst into tears….

 

Herace rubbed her eyes with her sleeve.
After changing her dress and holding her son up again, she looked at Lake Aunue through the window.

 

It was really time to get out of this castle.

 

***

 

Herace’s heart was pounding when she passed just under the noisy banquet hall, but fortunately, the fairly grown shrubs were enough to cover the three.
Even the knights on guard were kept near the hall, but there were few in the garden.
Herace’s group, who passed through the garden easier than expected, entered the stable, exhaling the breath they breathed in tension.

 

“Did you see something?”

 

Anna asked Herace, who naturally passed between the horses.
Unlike Herace, who looked at the horse without hesitation, she looked uneasy as if she were not used to the horse.
Whenever the horses scratched the floor with their front paws and snorted roughly, Anna shrank in fear.

 

“Lady, I’d rather walk…… At this rate, if these guys make any noise, Tom, the stable owner, will appear.”

 

“It’s dangerous, but if we don’t ride a horse, we’ll be caught quickly.
I don’t have a choice.”

 

Herace had a rather unique specialty as a woman called horseback riding.
Everyone was surprised when she rode a horse, who looked fragile.
Except for those who had seen her since childhood, everyone didn’t know that Herace could ride a horse.

 

Horseback riding was a familiar thing for Herace.
She learned horseback riding with Charles under the direction of Ulys since she was quite young.
At one time, she rode on horses all the time, so it was natural in some ways that she was not afraid of them.

 

“I don’t know if it’ll be okay because it’s been a while.”

 

Finally, in the corner of the stable, in front of a horse, she walked to it prepared by Herace and stroked his soft mane.
The light grey horse seemed mild and accepted Herace’s touch without making a sound.
However, in Anna’s eyes, Herace’s choice of horse was quite unsatisfactory.

 

“Lady, let’s ride on a stronger horse.
It looks like…….”

 

The horse looked old at first glance.
Like other horses, the hair was not glossy and the muscles were not strong.
Although there was a little bit of beauty left in the past, she could understand why it was roughly tied to the corner.
It was a horse that won’t be stolen at the end even if the horse thief runs into it.
The horse that Herace chose was an old mare.

 

“No.
It has to be this horse.”

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