< — Realization — > (3)
After the music ended, Lucia and the man she was dancing with bowed to each other. Lucia was hypersensitive about her smarting heel so whatever the man was saying was flowing out through one ear.
‘I have to ask the maid to bring me another pair of shoes.’
In the case of an emergency, items such as gloves that dirtied easily and heeled shoes that could break were kept in the carriage for basically, emergency use. When her feet hurt a little earlier, she should have gone to change it.
Lucia’s eyes widened when she saw the man(a different one) who was quickly approaching her.
“When did you arrive?” (Lucia)
Her dance partner, Count Yungran, was frightened out of his wits when he saw the Duke of Taran heading towards him with a vicious look and he immediately fled.
To Lucia, her dance partner, who was just here a minute ago, suddenly disappeared. She was happy to see her husband again after a few hours. Happy enough that she would have hugged him if people weren’t around.
“Just now. Did you get hurt?” (Hugo)
“You aren’t walking properly.”
Lucia wondered how he knew.
“My shoe is a little…I don’t think it fits me right. I have to change out of it.”
“Can you walk?”
“Of course. It’s not that bad.”
She took his outstretched hand and as soon as she took a confident step forward, her foot wavered from the throbbing pain and he helped her to stay firm. If she was alone, she would have likely walked as if there was nothing wrong. But because there was someone to lean on her beside her, her heart grew weak. Lucia felt like she was making too much of a fuss so she looked at him with an embarrassed smile.
“It’s just smarting a little. I’m fine.”
Hugo looked at her quietly then he embraced her. Lucia felt several gazes gather on her.
“I…I said I’m fine.”
When he began to walk as if he didn’t hear her, Lucia couldn’t face the crowd at all so she buried her head in his chest.
With her in his embrace, Hugo took her to the King and asked to be excused, “My wife is hurt. I’ll be away for a while.”
“…Go ahead.” (Kwiz)
People’s expressions varied as they watched the ducal couple leave the party venue. It was either astonishment or envy.
Kwiz had a feeling that such unseemly acts would happen more and more often with the Duke of Taran. He wasn’t that happy about unpredictable variables happening but;
‘Still, these days, the Duke seems a little human.’
* * *
Hugo came out of the bustling party venue with Lucia in his arms.
“This way, please.”
A handmaid guided the two. Following the handmaid, they arrived at the princess’ break room where Lucia and Katherine were at earlier. Lucia realized that the person who sent the handmaid was Katherine causing her to remember the embarrassing scene from earlier again and her face grew hot.
As soon as they entered the break room, Hugo sat her down on the biggest sofa in the middle of the room and squatted at her feet. Before Lucia could say don’t do that, he had already taken her right foot, peeled off the shoe and was looking at her heel. There was blood showing on her peeled skin.
Tsk, he clicked his tongue and lifted his hand in a gesture calling the handmaid then he gave a brief order.
The handmaid gave a quick bow and promptly disappeared.
“Why is the shoe like this?”
Hugo got another justification to terminate the contract with Antoine. In his mind, the contract he signed with Antoine was already ripped to pieces.
“It happens sometimes. You can’t tell if a shoe fits you well until you walk to some extent.”
“Isn’t that why an expensive designer is hired to get rid of such things?”
Noticing his intent to criticize Antoine, Lucia held her tongue. Just as she expected, it was clear that he didn’t like the dress. No matter how one looked at it, he was being nitpicky. Lucia felt weird when he overreacted to her exposure. She had never thought he was a conservative man. All his women that she saw in her dream wore clothes that revealed their chest as if they were trying to attract attention to it. Compared to them, Lucia’s dress was very virtuous.
When the handmaid came in with medicine and bandages, followed by her maid, Lucia couldn’t afford to keep thinking quietly. She ordered her maid to go to the carriage and bring her spare shoes.
“Will you be okay? Do you want to go back?”
Hugo carefully applied medicine to her wound then he asked her when he was putting the bandage on her foot.
“It’s not to the extent where I can’t walk. Plus you just arrived. I haven’t even greeted His Majesty.”
What’s new about greeting the king? They did it every time they saw him. Hugo just wanted to take her home. But it wasn’t a problem that could be solved in such a way. In the future, there would be many events where she had to appear in front of people and he could not accompany her for all of it. He felt anxious like he was being chased. He wanted to lock her up in the top of a high tower where no one could see her. It didn’t matter if she didn’t know what was going on in the world. He wanted to be the only one to see her clear smile.
“Is everything done? Get up, quickly.” (Lucia)
Seeing the closed door, she was restless and worried that someone would come in. Hugo was unhappy that she kept being conscious of other people. Was it because she didn’t want to show their intimacy? He was secretly feeling bad so he wanted to tease her a little. He took her bandaged foot and lifted it up.
When her center of gravity suddenly moved backwards, Lucia supported her body so she wouldn’t fall on her back. She was startled out of her wits and looked at him with wide eyes.
Hugo looked into her eyes and kissed the top of her foot. She looked cute with her eyes and mouth wide open with astonishment. Her face was completely red.
He didn’t seem to care, rather he laughed mischievously and raised the train of her dress to her lap then he kissed her calf and bit it.
Lucia screamed in frustration.
“Who is he?”
“The man earlier. Minuet.”
“What? Ah…I don’t really know. They said he was Count Yungran or something.”
“You’re saying you danced with a man you don’t know?”
“People dancing with people they don’t know happens a lot. It’s not like you don’t know that.”
Lucia struggled to remove her foot from his grasp.
“Refuse them in the future.”
“Alright. I got it so let me go.”
He let go of her ankle but she only got a moment of relief before he sat right next to her and wrapped his arms around her waist. Then he brought his lips to her ear and whispered to her.
“Is your foot really okay? Should I carry you?”
“You seriously–. I told you to look at the time and place!”
Even if she replied with, ‘Will you?’ as a joke, if it was this man in front of her, he would really do it. Lucia was alarmed and pushed away from his chest. The more she pushed, the firmer he held her waist. His flirting increasingly disregarded time and place. It had been a long time since it deviated from the bedroom.
Hugo hugged her tighter as she kept twisting to try and escape then he grabbed her chin and kissed her lips. He looked into her eyes that were filled with surprise and smiled. He promptly invaded her small mouth with his tongue and swept through to the deep ends of her mouth. When he removed his lips, she was blushing to her neck and looking at him in a daze. She looked so cute that he descended for her tender lips again, sucking her upper and lower lip interchangeably.
Lucia was caught in his grasp and had given up halfway but when she found the door moving, she was startled and pushed him as hard as she could.
“Someone is here.” (Lucia)
Hugo was annoyed and stared at the slightly open door.
“What is it?”
When Hugo raised his voice, the door opened cautiously and a servant hesitantly entered. The servant had asked for permission from outside several times but because there was no answer, he opened the door, poked his head inside and jumped back in surprise. If he was a servant of the Duke, he would have given up when there was no answer and gone away.
“His Majesty was concerned about the Duchess and sent an Imperial doctor.” (1)
What a useless interruption. Hugo was annoyed at King’s excessive thoughtfulness.
“It’s fine. There is no need for an Imperial doctor. Tell His Majesty that I will be there soon.” (Hugo)
The servant affirmed and withdrew while Lucia’s maid came in with a pair of shoes. Hugo watched Lucia change her shoes with an objecting expression. He really wanted to go home. Was there any trick he could use to get out of here quickly? He thought really hard about it.
“Milady. Some elderly nobleman entrusted me with an item to give Milady.”
The maid carefully watched Hugo’s expression as she informed her Madam. Hugo knit his brows.
“Are you saying you’re delivering something with an unknown identity? Do you do things like normally?” (Hugo)
The maid who was being criticized hunched her shoulders. She did consider that she might get scolded. However, the eyes of the elderly nobleman hanging onto a mere maid was so earnest that she couldn’t disregard it.
“She isn’t a careless child, I want to hear what happened.” (Lucia)
Hugo asked the maid to bring the item she had to the table. The item that the maid took out from her inner pocket was a handkerchief. Hugo’s expression was getting worse as he looked at the suspicious object which was a man’s handkerchief.
“I was told to ask if Milady knew this by any chance.”
The maid spread out the handkerchief and showed one side of it. Hugo picked up the handkerchief to check it. The seal of a noble family was stamped on the handkerchief. The head of an eagle.
Hugo couldn’t remember any family with such seal. He made sure there was nothing suspicious with the handkerchief then he handed it to Lucia.
Seeing the seal, Lucia’s eyes shook tremendously.
“This…a nobleman asked you to deliver it? Did he say anything else?”
“He said he is the Count of Baden.” (2)