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✍️✍️✍️✍️ Lucia Chapter 3 - 4 Full Free Reading ✍️✍️✍️✍️

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Chapter 3 Shall We Marry? (1)


translated:iseuli


edited: anonymous(main) + lili


She didn’t intend on eavesdropping, at first. She had busily followed after him in the same direction until he stopped.


‘How in the world do I start this conversation?’


Her mind felt like it was stuck in a black hole as she imagined a dark future. She had neglected to prepare for this moment because she had been so fervently trying to simply meet him in person. However, her feet were already moving in his direction. When she discovered him, Lucia paused her steps and hesitated. Just then, she had lost her chance to another woman.


She was already much too close to leave. She was afraid of being discovered, so she crouched down behind a tall clump of grass. She didn’t want to listen to their conversation, but she couldn’t help hearing them due to such a close proximity.


‘Lady Lawrence…? Is she… Sofia Lawrence…?’


Sofia was famous inside of Lucia’s dream. Lucia didn’t have any friendly ties with her, but Lucia had seen her a handful of times. There were many beauties in high society, but Sofia had reached the pinnacle among them all. If one were to use a comparison to nature’s food chain, she would be among the top predators.


‘Sofia Lawrence… was his ex-lover?’


Lucia was already aware he had numerous lovers. To make it worse, he switched partners frequently without hesitation. Every partner of his had breasts as big as watermelons, waists as thin as ants, wrapped up with a glamorous face. If one had to pick out a common trait among them all, it had to be that they were all beautiful morons. All the females had been nearly identical to one another, so Lucia had assumed this was his own preference when it came to women.


But Sofia Lawrence was different. Sofia was like a bouquet of white lilies. She had a grand beauty that stood out, even when she was among many other beauties. Her father, a baron, took importance in educating his children, so she was known to be a refined and modest young miss.


‘She’s not modest at all. She’s a wolf in disguise.’



A marquis had fallen in love with her beauty and Sofia had already been married by the time Lucia was actively going around attending parties of high society. The marquis was a widower, but as a daughter of a baron, it would be a suitable marriage. In the distant future, Sofia would die giving birth to a stillborn. Lucia felt odd for some reason.


‘She’s clinging to him so desperately.’


Sofia, a glamorous young miss, had thrown away all her pride and begged. Listening to her words, Lucia felt such pity.


He’s not the only man in this world, you know? Lucia wanted to tell her. But if Sofia insisted that there was only one ‘Hugo Taran’ in this world, Lucia would be helpless and could only keep quiet.


Lucia would never have guessed that she would be able to witness his dating style in such plain view. To top it off, at the worst moment possible.


‘Haa… but still. To think he would be a man who would threaten death to an ex-lover…’


If Lucia was in Sofia’s shoes, she would faint on the spot.


‘This really… far surpasses what I imagined…’


Lucia knew many things about this man, but they were all rumors she had picked up here and there. She didn’t personally know Hugo Taran at all. Inside her dream, she had only greeted him a single time. She had always viewed him from afar. She had drawn an image of him while watching many people surround him during the ball, but all that had shattered into many small pieces. He was far crueler than what she predicted, and most of all, he had no sympathy whatsoever.



 
‘Contracted marriage…? What if he gets mad at me for proposing such a preposterous thing?’


If she made him mad, would he kill her as well?


‘What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?’


When Lucia was worrying herself to death, he graciously put a stop to her actions.


“Come out. It’s time to stop eavesdropping like a thieving cat.”


Lucia was scared witless. She held her breath for a short moment, but he was calling her out for sure. She decided it was too late to back out now and stood up from her crouched position. As expected, he was looking into Lucia’s very direction.


“I’m… sorry, Your Grace. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop…”


“Aren’t you a little far for a discussion?”


Lucia hesitantly walked through the tall grass and stopped a couple steps away from him.


“Again… I’m so sorry. I really didn’t mean to eavesdrop on your conversation. It wasn’t my intention to listen and I won’t say a word about this to others. I promise.”


“It’s fine. What is it that you have to say?”


“…Huh?”


“You’ve been following me around for the past few days because you have something you want to say to me.”


He wanted to figure out this woman’s goal and hurry home. His earlier entertained mood was no more.


‘Oh my god.’


You knew all along? You knew I was stalking you all this time? Lucia was shocked, no, embarrassed. She didn’t know what she was feeling between the two as she felt her eyes roll to the back of her head. She felt cold sweat drip down her back.


Hugo felt his mood brighten as he watched her freeze like a wax figure. She gave off a different feel up close compared to far away. Her calm voice had a soothing tone and her expressions were very animated. It seemed that her earlier limpy figure was due to the fatigue she had built up all this time. She wasn’t a beauty, but how should one put it?


‘Cute.’


She seemed like a tiny herbivore. Something like a squirrel or a bunny? He had never looked at a squirrel or a bunny and thought it was cute. They didn’t even have the worth of hunting down. However, he was a man that generously welcomed any contradictions of himself.


“Your purpose. Don’t make me repeat myself many times over.”


“So… it’s like this. Contract… I wanted to propose a contract.”


“Contract?”


Hugo was a little disappointed. It was something more boring than he had expected.


“Yes. A contract. A contract to change a life.”


My life. Lucia added inside her own thoughts.


“A contract to change a life, you say?”


That sounded interesting. He murmured ‘hmmm’ to himself.


“Aren’t you lagging behind on your self-introduction?”


“Ah, yes. You’re perfectly right. But as I’ve already told you, this is a very important contract…”


Lucia contemplated with all her strength for the correct method to relay this message. I want to escape from my current situation. As for future problems, I’ll deal with them as they come.


“This is an unsuitable place to bring up such a topic. Who I am, the contents of the contract, everything.”


She seemed suspicious, but he decided to acknowledge her request. According to his senses, there was nobody wandering around this place. However, if the information she needed to relay was sensitive information, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to be extra safe.


As long as it was a contract that brought him benefits, he was always open to it.


“Where did you want us to go?”


“Will it be alright to talk at your mansion?”


He paused to ponder for a moment.


“That’s fine. When?”


“I will contact you in the future.”


Up until now, he had always been the boss of the contract. Until now, he had always been the one with the upper hand, and it would remain that way in the future as well. He did not bother with contracts that would tie him down. She was the one requesting a contract, so he would have the upper hand in this as well. But she had behaved as if it was the other way around. It was one of the two. Either she didn’t know any better and knew no fear, or she was trying to con him.

“Are you telling me to wait for your message that will be sent at an unknown date?”


A river of cold sweat began dripping down Lucia’s back. However, she put a dignified and brave front.


“You should be able to endure that much. It’s a life-changing contract, after all.”


He fixed his eyes on Lucia amusedly. Since he was born, nobody had behaved so senselessly. It was impossible to judge her character from her appearance but she didn’t look shameless enough to try and con him. However, the way she glared back with wide eyes, trying to feign ignorance to her own fear, had perked his interest.


“I hope your words are as you said. I’m not such a hospitable person.”


Lucia corrected in her thoughts that he probably never had a ‘moment’ when he had been hospitable to anyone. He was a man whose motto in life was to threaten other people. It could be that she had been completely off the mark judging the Duke of Taran as a whole. But she understood one thing. This man was no gentleman.


“…Yes. I will bear that fact in mind.”


***


Lucia needed someone who could advise her. She wanted to think this out thoroughly with another person. The only person that she could properly trust to advise her was Norman. Norman was older than Lucia; although Lucia had more years of life if one accounted for her dream. Norman had written many novels using the many hardships and experiences of her life. She would be able to help her.


She could not confess every single detail to Norman. Norman thought Lucia was a palace maid.


‘I’m actually a princess. I’m thinking of going through a contract marriage with the Duke of Taran. Do you think I will be able to succeed?’ There was no way she could say such things.


“Norman, I need to make an important choice in my life.” Lucia wanted to phrase it in an abstract way.


“There are two paths in front of me. If I don’t do anything, I will end up going towards the left path. I know what will happen to me on that road. I will end up suffering a lot and I will live a hard life. However, I can try and attempt going towards the right path. I have no idea whether this attempt will succeed or not. Even if I succeed, I have no idea what kind of road it is. The road to the right can lead to a better life, but at the same time, there is a chance I can end up living in a place worse than hell. Norman, which road would you take?”


“If it were me, I would take my chances with the path to the right.”


“…You didn’t even need to think about it.”


“Didn’t you say that you know what will happen to you if you go toward the left? To make it worse, it will be a life of misery. In such a case, you’ve got to take your chances. Even if the right road leads to a worse case, it will be something I decided for myself and I won’t feel any regrets.”


“Regrets…”


“And if you knew everything about your future, wouldn’t that be boring? Life is only fun when you don’t know what will happen. Even if one feels lonely today, what about tomorrow? People can only live on with this hope in their hearts.”


“Wow, Norman. You seem like a sage.”


“Puhaha. ‘Sage’, get out of town! I’m someone who lives on without even knowing what the word ‘tomorrow’ means. Life is a gamble. You only have one shot. There is no way you’ll gain anything without risking some dangers.”


As Norman put it, this was a gamble. A gamble with her life on the line. If she were to succeed with this gamble and become the Duke’s wife, her life would change completely. Even if she got married only to end up divorced, she would be guaranteed basic compensation to live on. Her dream to live in a tiny two-storey house was not such a faraway dream any longer. The life she had lived in her dreams had been terrible. She wanted to live a carefree and peaceful life.


‘Yes. Let’s just go for it. There’s only one shot in life.’


Before Lucia’s courage could dissipate, she left Norman’s home and went toward the Duke of Taran’s mansion. She could stop anyone on the street for directions to the Duke’s mansion and they would be able to point out the way. Everything was sailing smoothly up until this point. When she faced against the towering steel gates of the mansion, she couldn’t breathe. All the courage she had worked up shriveled up into a tiny pea.


‘Why isn’t anyone here?’


There wasn’t a single soldier guarding the Duke’s mansion.


‘Were my efforts all for naught?’


If a royal guard had interrogated her ‘who are you?’, she would have had to run away, yet she felt a strange emptiness seeing nobody there. She pushed on the gate to vent her frustration, but the gate swung open quite easily.


‘Oh my god… it opened.’


She peeked inside the gate many times and hesitated before carefully stepping into the estate. She assumed that since it was the Duke’s mansion, someone would spot her as soon as she welcomed herself in. Unfortunately, no matter how long she walked around, she couldn’t spot even a shadow of another person.


‘Why is this place so poorly guarded? Did I arrive correctly at the Duke’s mansion?’


“Who’re you?”


A man suddenly appeared in front of Lucia who had been loitering around the mansion. Lucia gasped in shock, while pressing her hands to her chest to calm herself down. The man didn’t look apologetic for shocking the girl senseless. Instead, he pressed closer and began inspecting the girl up close.


“You don’t look like an employee of this place, what are you doing here?”


He swaggered around with a rude tone. The rude red-haired man was wearing an imposing armour that was engraved with a black lion. Lucia remained standing tall.


“Are you one of the Duke’s knights?”


The man was amused, ‘what is this?’ He mumbled to himself while scanning Lucia up and down.


“I am, so?”


“Is His Grace presently inside his home?”


“I wonder. Why are you looking for His Grace?”


“I apologize for barging in, but would it be alright if you relayed to His Grace that I have a message for him? I request for an audience with the Duke of Taran.”


“So then, who are you?”


“I… I have an important message for His Grace. He will be willing to meet me if you tell him that I’m the person who had proposed a contract at the Victory Ball.”


“I don’t care about that. I’m asking who you are. I can’t invite you into our Lord’s mansion when I don’t even know your name. You don’t seem like a noble. Are you a merchant?”


Lucia felt her ears burn hot. In her current state, it would be difficult to insist that she was a noble, let alone a princess. Even if he responded violently, she wouldn’t have anything to say to him. She regretted that she didn’t pretend to be an errand girl to relay a message. But it was much too late for regrets now.


“Although I am dressed this way and seem insignificant, I am a noble.”


The man froze as he stared at Lucia for a while. Suddenly, he turned around.


“Follow me.”


***


BANG BANG, he smacked his fist against the door. Not waiting for a response, he opened the door, ‘I’m coming in.’ The red haired man popped his head into the inner office, where a man with gloomy black hair was sitting behind a wide desk. The Duke glanced over at the man swaggering into the room. The next moment, he was reading over documents while signing his signature.


“Where is Jerome?”


If his righteous butler had witnessed this guy’s brutal mannerism, he wouldn’t have watched on in silence.


“He had to leave to take care of some quick business. He told me the reason, but I’ve forgotten what it was about.”


It must have been quite an urgent task. Otherwise, Jerome wouldn’t have left, leaving just this guy in charge.


He probably didn’t need to leave for a long time, so he had decided not to bother the Duke of this matter.


“I don’t have time to play with you. Play alone.”


“…Sheesh. You always treat me like an immature brat.”


You’re not even that much older than me, the red haired man muttered under his breath.


“If you were an immature brat, I would have taught you a lesson long ago.”


“Wow, after beating me so much during our sparring sessions, how can you be so shameless with those words?”


“I did that because I thought you were cute.”


“Ah, shit…!”


He puffed in resentment. Hugo was amused;, smiling slightly, he then returned to his usual cold expression. The only person Hugo would show emotions to was this brat.


“You have a guest.”


“I have no such things scheduled for today.”


There was an endless amount of people standing in line to meet him. If Hugo were to agree to meet everyone, he wouldn’t ever be able to go to sleep.


A majority would be respectful and send in letters formally requesting an audience. However, there were a handful of people who barged in to meet him as well. They would ignore the guard’s warning and force their way in. They would shamelessly make themselves comfortable in the living room and claim that they had already gotten permission since they were already in his home.


In the end, it was too much trouble and Hugo got rid of the guards altogether. If they crossed over the gate, he would report them for trespassing and breaking into someone’s house. For those nobles, he would aim swords at their throats. When the sword sliced into the skin, a bit of a massive amount of blood would fall. Following such a show, nobody dared to barge into his mansion ever again. But at the same time, he became infamous as an evil Duke.


“She’s a very amusing guest. Why don’t you have a look?”


“Do I know her?”


“No. Although she seems like a shabby commoner she claims she is a noble.” The red haired man snickered.


“Rather than that, her clothes are crap and she has no servants. Even so, she has this super confident air about her. Isn’t she amusing? I’m dying to know why she has to meet the Duke.”


Roy’s, the red haired man’s eyes shined while Hugo clicked his tongue. A shameless guy who had interrupted his work just to fulfill his own curiosity. If his butler, Jerome, was here, he would be jumping with anger. Roy knew Jerome would lecture and criticise him for at least two hours; even so, his immediate amusement was more important.


Roy had been going on nonstop about how bored he was. If he refused, Roy would annoy him to no end. Just at that moment, Hugo had felt fatigued over the neverending documents that needed to be looked over. It would be a good idea to take a short break.


“Were there any other messages?”


“What…else did she say? First of all, she’s a girl.”


Hugo had thought it would be a man all this time and furrowed his eyebrows in anger. Roy jerked back like he had suffered a burn, and ran away to the furthest corner of the office.


“She blabbered something about a contract at the Victory Ball. She said Your Grace would meet her no matter what.”


Hugo’s eyes shook. After 10 days of no messages, he had suspected the female’s intentions.


“Where is the guest now?”


“In the living room. Oh, I didn’t leave her in the room alone. I ordered a maid to serve her tea. I’m aware of basic manners.” Roy’s boasting figure looked painfully pitiful.


Two men sat directly across from Lucia. Lucia sipped her tea while glancing at the Duke every now and then. She couldn’t believe she was sitting in the same room with the Duke like this. Although it wasn’t the first time she had seen him, it was still very interesting to see the Duke in person.


‘He’s really… the Duke of Taran…’


The contrast of his raven black hair and blood red scarlet eyes would frighten anyone who met his eyes. His presence was so strong that it left an unforgettable impression. This was their first meeting since the Victory Ball, and they were sitting across from each other in a brightly lit room.


“Did you visit knowing I was in the mansion?”


“N-no. If you weren’t home, I would have left a message.”


His voice reflected his physical appearance very much. His voice was a heavy low tone, but had a piercing commanding aura. ‘Even his voice is amazing,’ she had thought to herself while squatting by the tall grassy bush.


‘I… had no idea I would be so easily affected by a person’s appearance and voice.’


Inside her dream, she had been scammed numerous times but could never learn her lesson. She had lost all her life savings to a handsome man she had fallen head over heels for. No matter how bitterly one suffered in life, it was hard for such human feelings to change just because one wished them to.


‘It’s probably because of Count Matin.’


Lucia had never known or seen a man while she lived trapped inside the Royal Palace. The first man Lucia had met had been old, obese, short, ugly and violent. Following such an experience, she couldn’t help but have her heart stolen by a handsome man.


‘Although being handsome does not make him a good man…’


The man in front of her was the proof. This man was a bad guy. He had no problems stepping on a woman’s heart like a plaything. Although Lucia was aware of all this, she had no confidence that she would not turn into someone like Sofia in the future. If he whispered sweet nothings in her ears with that face and voice, she would lose herself.


‘Get a hold of yourself. You must get a hold of yourself.’ Lucia calmed her shaking heart.


“I’ve been rude, requesting an audience without prior notice. Please excuse me for my late introduction. I am the Emperor’s 16th princess, Vivian Hesse. It’s an honor to be able to talk to Your Grace.”


“Pfft.”


When Lucia introduced herself as the ‘16th princess’, he burst into laughter. He was the red-haired man who had guided Lucia into the mansion. She didn’t think much of his jeering laughter, only mindlessly observing how inconsiderate he was. Just then, she remembered who this man was.


‘Roy… Krotin’


The Duke of Taran’s loyal subordinate. He was known as the red-haired youth, Crazy Dog Kortin. Most of the stories that followed Krotin were exaggerated, but accounting for just half of the tales was enough to be qualified for the title of ‘Crazy Dog’.


“In order to not waste any of Your Grace’s time, I will get straight to the point. I’ve come… to ask for Your Grace’s hand in marriage.”


As soon as Lucia finished her sentence, she held her breath. It felt like her heart would explode from the stillness. After crossing the point of no return, she felt better having said it. Lucia continued to observe his expression. His brows had momentarily twitched, but surprisingly, he maintained his indifferent expression. The heated reaction burst from their side.


“PWAHAHAHA!!”


Roy laughed like he was dying. The Duke of Taran glared coldly, wondering if he had gone crazy. Even so, Roy’s laughter did not stop. In the end, the Duke threw a punch to the back of his head and was able to make his laughter stop, and instead, Roy was yelping in pain.


“Uggh. Are you trying to kill me?” Roy held the back of his head and yelled in rage, while a lone tear hung at the corner of his eye. Lucia, who was observing the two, received a fright. ‘Is that why he was known as Crazy Dog?’


“You’re noisy. You, get out.”


“Eh? Why? I’ll keep my mouth shut and be quiet. Really~.”


Roy clamped his mouth shut, while Hugo clicked his tongue and returned his attention to the young lady sitting across from him.


‘A princess?’


Hugo observed the young miss who claimed herself to be a princess. In the past Victory Ball, she seemed like a noble lady. Now, at the moment, she didn’t seem any different than any commoner woman you could find on the street. ‘And she claims to be a princess?’


He had no interest in the royal family. The king himself probably had no idea what all his children looked like. It wasn’t just one or two. He, therefore, assumed she really was a princess. The rank of her status was too low for her to go out of her way to pretend and lie about it, in addition, she was strangely detailed about it.


He loved women, but he had his own rules. He didn’t go near anyone who would give him more trouble than necessary. He only needed a girl to sleep with, someone who he could toss aside while claiming he was just drunk. A princess ranked first among his no-go zone list. In the first place, he gave no room to keep in contact. If he had known she was a princess, he would not have agreed to this meeting.


“Who was it?”


“…What?”


“Princess, who was the person who sent you here? The discussion cannot continue further until the mastermind is present.”


“Do you believe that I am a princess?”


Lucia had thought he would get mad for trying to deceive him. She had decided to receive any insulting and offensive words without complaint. But his reaction was too peaceful.


“Were you lying?”


“No. I am not lying. I… thought you would get mad.”


“I would have gotten mad if you were lying.”


She remembered his words from the past victory ball. A cold chill ran down her spine. There was nobody who could give more terror to another than this person whose weight of the word ‘mad’ held a different meaning.


“I’m not lying. Although there are things I cannot tell you… I am not someone who lies. There is nobody else trying to pull the strings. I am the person who decides everything.”


“Princess, is there anyone who knows you’re here?”


“Nobody knows. Nobody is aware that Princess Vivian has left the royal palace.”


This was not a lie. She had left the royal palace as a maid who served under Princess Vivian. Currently, it had been recorded that Princess Vivian was quietly minding her own business inside her own detached palace.


“I will figure out how that is possible at a later date. Didn’t you request a contract last time? This is different than what you told me before.”


“This is not anything different. I am proposing a contract to you. A life-changing contract with marriage on the line.”


He was stunned with amazement that he lost the timing to get mad. A boiling heat was starting to rise from his stomach. A waste of time and total nonsense. She was doing everything he hated. He coldly jeered at her.


“Are you playing around with your nonsense words?”


“I know I am saying baseless words to you. I understand that you feel repulsed because of my abrupt words. I am here to present to you all the things that you will be able to obtain by wedding with me. After you listen, it will be fine to reject this offer. I will not take too much of your time. I will not bother you ever again.”


This woman who seemed like a frail rabbit looked nervous to her bones but she had been eloquent with her words. Her honest eyes looked straight ahead at him. These were the desperate eyes he had observed from the Victory ball. Her eyes seemed very desperate, but at the same time, they didn’t have any hint of greed. As a result, he had been interested in her the whole time.


The reason he was listening to these nonsense words up until now was purely because of those eyes. He decided to waste his time a little more.


“Fine. Speak.”


“Um… before that. Will it be okay if the person beside you leaves the room?”


“No! Why?”


Roy, who had been watching with sparkling eyes, suddenly raged. He protested against missing out on such an interesting show.


“Princess, you’re able to be here and discuss this only because of me. How can you stab me in the back after all this time?”


“Um, thank you. And I’m sorry. However, the words I will relay are very personal matters. This is information that can fatally harm me in the future. It’s not that I don’t believe you, but I believe you can give me this much understanding.”


“I’m not anyone to blab around town but… by chance, do you know me?”


“Ah? Ah.. um… aren’t you a fa-famous person?”


“I am? Was I ever that famous…?”


Roy rubbed his chin and tilted his head while Lucia watched him, dripping with cold sweat. It was the truth that he would be famous in the far future, but that might not be true at the moment.


‘She controls him well.’


Roy, who had been jumping around with rage, had turned quiet and still, and Hugo laughed under his breath. Roy did not feel very comfortable trying to go against such a noble woman either. He was violent-tempered with a large build, he had no filters for his words and spoke his thoughts plainly -often coming out crude and impolite- and, to top it off, his loud voice seemed to oppress and bully everyone around him. But, if you got to know him, there wasn’t anyone more simple-minded than him. You could see him as a very large, stubborn dog.


One couldn’t put their finger on this young woman, but she was interesting.


“Leave the room.”


“…che.”


Roy quietly grumbled but he left without much of a fight. Now that they were alone, Lucia felt her nerves tense up once more. She retraced the last scenario in her mind once more. This was a gamble. She threw the dice.


“I… am aware that Your Grace has a son that will succeed you.”
________________
Chapter 4 (Shall We Marry? II)


translated by iseuli


edited by: lili


Please do not take out the translations. I choose not to accept donations or profit for a reason. Thank you for your understanding.


The single reason he required a wife-in-name was because he had a love child (child born out of wedlock). It was common to find illegitimate children among nobles, but the Duke wanted this love child to succeed him.


Xenon was a lenient country toward illegitimate children. As long as the love child was registered into the family registry, no unfair rules could be counted against them. However, in order to register the child, both parents had to agree. According to Lucia’s memory, the Duke would not have another child with the wife-in-name. It had been unknown whether they could not make children or they had agreed not to have children, but it was most probably the latter.


“I have not planted any spies within Your Grace’s faction of people.”


To the Duke, her words were laughable. A spy? A mere 16th princess? If such a thing was true, the people in charge of security would need to pay with their lives first thing in the morning.


“Even if you had planted a spy, it doesn’t matter. You may continue.”


She was feeling uneasy because she believed he would press her for an explanation for all the wealth of information she had on him. However, his answers were surprisingly calm. Actually, he seemed amused at the moment. She looked at him with strange eyes; he was acting so differently than the last time she had seen him. He was surprisingly very patient and mild tempered. It was true that one could never judge a person’s character by meeting them only once. A small hope had sparked in her; maybe she would be able to get her message across to him.


“Ah… yes. Like I was saying… If you wish to let your child succeed you, Your Grace will have to marry.”


“Thus. Princess, are you implying I should marry you?”


“…Yes.”


He laughed under his breath.


“It’s not a secret I have a love child. It’s an easily accessible information that could be found with little effort. Unless you’re trying to keep that fact a secret?”


“No! I’m not trying to threaten Your Grace. I don’t dare to have such thoughts. As I have told you, I’m here to propose a contract. I want to show you the benefits you can obtain by marrying me.”


He blankly gazed at Lucia and opened his lips.


“What is it? The benefits will I gain by marrying you, Princess?”


His tone was dry and business-like.


“I have no relatives. There will be no need for Your Grace to concern yourself with these things. My status in the royal family is very low as the 16th princess, so you will not have to burden yourself with an expensive dowry. But since I am a princess, I think it will be more outwardly appealing than a no-name noble from somewhere. Although I assume Your Grace does not care about such small matters. I will never interfere with your private life. You can play to your heart’s content, no, you may live your life the same way you have been living all this time. If you wish, we may even set up a time for a divorce somewhere in the future.”


He was listening quietly, but his expression was strange.


“Oh, lastly. I will not become a hindrance to Your Grace’s child. You see, I am unable to get pregnant.”


He let out a long sigh. He had to keep his mouth shut tight because he was feeling very uncomfortable at the moment. At present, this expression was the most she had witnessed the Duke display.


“What in the world?”



 
His expression turned frosty once more.


“Princess, I wish I could go into that brain of yours to see what’s inside. Really… no, just get lost. Do you really believe these are benefits to me?”


“…Huh?”


“Let’s discuss this one by one. Princess, you will become the Duke of Taran’s wife. My power isn’t so weak to be easily suppressed by some mere nobles. There is a branch in the government that deals with direct families versus relatives related by marriage, so there is no need for me to stress myself over such things. It would be a different story if they decided to commit treason. Even if that was the case, it’s no hard matter settling such an event. As for dowry… I’ve told you already, but the Taran Dukedom is not poor. There’s no reason for us to cut corners for some dowry. Things like appealing to other nobles, I have no need to stress myself over it. In the Taran family tradition, we don’t believe in such things as divorce. If you wish to separate yourself from the Taran family, you will only be able to do it after death. No, you probably won’t be able to even after your death. Anyway, that is the case. As for my private matters…”


He furrowed his eyebrows like he was suffering a headache.


“I can generally guess with what meaning you’ve proposed such a thing. However, are you telling me after I marry I should continue to play around with this woman and that woman, stamping my reputation to the dirt?”


“…Huh?”


Lucia’s mind blanked out into pure white.


“B…but from what I heard last time…”


“I’m not married at the moment. Nobody cares what an unmarried man does with however many women.” His words were considerably reasonable.


“It was immature to think you’ve got a grasp on someone for such simple reasons.” Although he wasn’t trying to be sarcastic, his words sparked a chord of anger at Lucia’s heart.


“Then, Your Grace, have you made a resolution that you will be faithful to only one woman after your marriage for the rest of your life?”


He could not answer for a moment. Of course that would not be the case. He would not make such a preposterous resolution. Wouldn’t it be fine to play around every now and then? However, he could not understand why he was trying to justify himself at the moment.


“That is not something you should concern yourself with, Princess.”


“Yes, of course not. But still, you don’t deny my words.”


“It doesn’t matter whether it’s the case or not. That’s not something a princess should concern herself with.”


“Of course it’s not. Did I ever complain about it?”


A silence suddenly fell upon the quarreling duo. Lucia took hold of her senses that had flown off very far away, and shut her mouth politely. She had said some pointless things. Lucia, who had been worked up just a while ago, turned sullen. If there was nothing he could gain from this marriage, then there would be no reason to settle this contract.


“Then… How about the problem concerning your child succeeding you? Is there no benefit that I’m unable to get pregnant?” Wasn’t it a grave problem that a woman couldn’t bear children? He fell into confusion at her tone; it seemed like she was asking which dress color looked better at a dress shop.


“It’s true that I wish this child to succeed me. It will become a slight pain if my wife were to bear a son, but…. I don’t owe you any explanations regarding this point. Anyway, there is nothing to be gained regarding this problem. Also, is there a way you can prove that you cannot bear a child?”


“…No.”


Even if she were to get a diagnosis from a doctor, they would not be able to give a 100 percent confirmation. If she were to get pregnant, that doctor would have given a false diagnosis and he would need to pay for it with his life.


“If you cannot prove it, then you cannot list it as one of the benefits.”


“Hhaa…”


Lucia let out a heavy sigh. Everything she had prepared had been used up. Then in her dream, for what reason had he married that woman? There must have been a certain condition that they had agreed on. Could it be possible that the rumors of a contract marriage had all been a sham and they had both been madly in love with each other? Lucia, who had fallen into despair, suddenly thought of one thing and lifted her head.



 
“Then. How about this? I will not fall in love with Your Grace.”


“…What?”


“I will make sure to never love you. I keep my heart to myself.”


He suddenly burst out in roaring laughter. Lucia looked toward him with an empty gaze. It was the first time she had seen him laughing out loud. So he was a human being who could laugh like this as well. She thought how foolish she was to think that he would have never laughed before.


“From all the benefits, I like this one the most.”


How amusing. This woman was truly amusing.


“Fine. Let us consider that your merit. Then, Princess, you’re fine with me playing around with women, and it’s also alright to settle this marriage with a divorce. But Princess, what do you get out of this?”


“I’m fine… with just obtaining the title of the Duke’s wife.”


“I will not allow a life of luxury just because of that. Also, I will not allow you to use the Dukedom’s name in order to settle your petty personal power struggles.”


“I don’t wish for any such things. It’s just… I have already told you I am the 16th princess. His Majesty does not even know of my existence as he lives his life.”


He did not try to comfort her with words like ‘that’s not true’. Instead, a smile spread upon his lips.


“A princess must be prepared to be sold at a moment’s notice for the Kingdom’s sake. When a suitable dowry is offered, the kingdom will not bat an eye to sell me off to any place under the Heavens. It won’t matter how old he is or how many times he had married; it won’t matter how bad his reputation is. Your Grace, at least you are young and unmarried. Before the Kingdom sells me off… I wanted to sell myself. Then at least I would have chosen the position for myself. No matter what happens to me, I won’t feel victimized.”


Her eyes seemed like they were crying so sadly. He was not someone to easily empathize with others. He wouldn’t concern himself over others regardless of their situation. Her proposal didn’t have a plan or foundation of any sort; he didn’t have an ounce of trust in it. Even so, this was the first time since he was born that he had felt so amused.


“Then it’s time I have to leave. I’ve been under your care, I apologize for all my rudeness. Please forgive me.”


Lucia stood up and bowed her head. Once she lifted her head, her expression looked refreshed. She had done her best to fight against her own fate. Whether everything sailed smoothly was up to the heavens now. She had done all she could.


“I will think about it.”


Lucia’s eyes opened wide.


“I cannot give you my definite answer yet. As you’ve put it, Princess, this is a contract that can change a life.”


“Ah…”


It was hard to believe. It felt like a dream.


“I only agreed to think about it. I haven’t agreed to do it yet.”


“Ah… I understand.”


“Your expression looked like you were proud to accomplish something great, so I was just confirming your understanding.”


Lucia frowned slightly and pouted her lips. Was he teasing her? Anger started rising inside her chest out of nowhere. Other than his outer appearance, there wasn’t a single thing about him that she liked.


“Then, first…”


When he stood up and reached his hands toward her, Lucia stood dazed without any reaction. He grasped her chin with his big hand and mashed his lips against hers. Up until that point, Lucia had no idea what was going on. A hot piece of flesh invaded her lips and touched the deeper parts of her mouth. She tightly closed her eyes. Her hands were gripped into a tight fist to the point that they were shaking.

The sudden deep kiss didn’t last long. His tongue lightly grazed inside her mouth before he parted from her trembling lips. Upon seeing her flushed red face, he laughed.


“I was just confirming.”


“What…for…?”


“At least we should not feel any rejection toward physical contact as a married couple. Thankfully, that’s not the case for us.”


“Oh… I see…”


“Please wait a moment. I shall prepare a carriage to escort you back to the royal palace gates.”


He turned around and left, while Lucia plopped down onto the sofa. She massaged her burning cheeks with her hands. As a married couple, of course there would be times when such moments would be required. The physical contact from a moment ago was something so matter-of-factly. However, Lucia held both her hands into fists and began hitting herself.


“You idiot. You’re really a hopeless idiot.”


It really was unbelievable, but Lucia had thought nothing further than the word ‘marriage’. She really had no further thoughts on the status of a husband and wife. ‘Even married, he will have a lover of his own,’ she had assumed. She couldn’t see it any other way. She didn’t think that she would have to sleep on the same bed as him at all.


“… I won’t be able to get advice on this from anyone.”


She fumbled around thinking of her humiliating immature senselessness.


***


For a change, a problem had arisen that required some thinking for him.


“Marriage…”


He was currently 23. He was already at his optimal age for marriage. Even so, he didn’t have any thoughts of getting married. Aside from marriage, he already had more than enough problems to settle. He didn’t want to waste his time on such an annoying thing like a wife. In the first place, he didn’t want to deal with a wedding. He was never in short supply of women.


But if he wanted to let his son succeed him, he had to get married. The only people who could inherit his position were those, who were in his family registry. It didn’t matter whether the Duke would be separated by death or divorced, he had to get married to officially adopt his son into the family registry. According to Xenon’s law, single men were not allowed to adopt children or officially admit them into the family registry.


The brat was still young. Such a thing like a wedding was not urgent. But someday, he would need to go through it. He would need to find an understanding woman who would agree to let the brat register into the family. With that point in mind, the princess that had come searching for him was quite appealing.


“Freedom in my own private life, you say? That is a nice addition.”


He burst out laughing. He had shown the princess a cold reaction, but these factors were all very appealing. He had teased her with a kiss and he laughed once more thinking of her flushed face. She was indeed cute. It was a refreshing change of pace.


However, there were too many doubtful aspects. He had to confirm whether she was truly a princess. He had to figure out who the real mastermind was. What was her goal with this proposal? He had assumed everything she had said today was a lie.


He assumed the worst of situations when he felt any ounce of suspicion. It was his motto in life.


“Your Grace, this is Jerome.”


As soon as he replied, ‘come in,’ his faithful butler walked in.


“I’m at a loss for words, Your Grace. I will make sure an event like today’s will never happen again in the future.”


“It’s not your fault. Even so, you can’t hawk over Roy every second of your life.”


“I will do so from now on.”


Jerome never expected he would cause such a huge accident in the short amount of time he was gone. How could he leave His Grace alone with another person of mysterious background?! Jerome was cautious not to cause any trouble for His Grace, while carefully treading on thin ice in the capital. At the moment, it felt like someone had whacked him in the back of his head very hard; an uncontrollable amount of anger was rising inside his chest. Jerome gritted his teeth while flaring all his anger toward Roy.


“Order Fabian to report to me as soon as he arrives.”


“Yes, Your Grace.”


Hugo decided he would dig up everything he could about this princess.


***


Late into the night, Jerome greeted Fabian, who arrived in the Duke’s mansion. Fabian was the Duke of Taran’s personal aide. Fabian tried his best to avoid work outside his regular hours no matter how busy things got. If it wasn’t such an urgent business, he would not have made the trip there this late into the night.


“What happened?”


Fabian patted his brother’s, Jerome’s shoulder, whose face looked as stiff as a rock. They were twins born from the same mother on the same day, but they looked nothing alike, other than their midnight blue eyes. Those who find out were all shocked by the fact.


“It’s not such a serious case, so relax a bit. It’s just that His Grace has been greatly curious on this topic for a while now. Tomorrow is my day off, so I decided to drop by tonight. Is he still awake?”


“He’s not in.”


“What’s this? Did he leave for a night trip? Now that I’m here, everyone’s already gone. Of course that would be the case for me. There’s no helping it. Ah, please don’t tell His Grace that I’ve dropped by. Tomorrow is my day off, so I don’t want him to call me over.”


Fabian was an earnest subordinate, but he was always half a step short due to his laziness. Jerome clicked his tongue, but he didn’t rebut him as he had trust in Fabian. If his job was urgent, he would’ve made sure to finish it as soon as possible. Fabian turned around to leave but suddenly stopped.


“Where did he go?”


Jerome hesitated for a moment.


“Countess Falcon place.”


“Falcon… Falcon… Who was…what? He still goes to visit her?”


“Lower your voice. Everyone is sleeping.”


“That’s not the problem! What are you doing?”


“…What should I be doing? I don’t have any qualifications to care who he sleeps with.”


“Why shouldn’t you care? Three of her husbands died! She’s most definitely a cursed woman!”


“…Are you a kid? A curse? Is there such a thing?”


“How are things going with Baron Lawrence’s daughter?”


“I’ve already sent her the roses according to His Grace’s wishes.”


“Why didn’t you tell me anything? If I knew ahead of time…”


“What could you have done? Were you planning to let women into his bedroom? Don’t overstep your boundaries, you’ll lose your life. Do you know how many necks you have on you?”


“Ah, seriously.”


Fabian’s whole body shook with frustration as he furiously scratched his head.


“Why do you get so sensitive whenever you hear that woman’s name?”


“I already told you. That woman is a witch. There shouldn’t be such an unlucky woman sticking so close to His Grace. He has maintained a relationship with that woman for over a year already. He has never acted this way with any of his other women. There’s no mistake about it. His Grace has already fallen for her!”


“…I guarantee if you say such words in front of His Grace, you will lose your life.”


“I know! That’s why I’ve been quiet all this time!”


The direction of this guy’s loyalty had strayed off to a sour direction, Jerome thought. Although Jerome didn’t loathe the situation as much as Fabian, he didn’t feel very comfortable about that relationship, either. All of her husbands had died a year following their marriage due to unknown causes. They were perfectly healthy yet suddenly an accident would fall upon them. Thus, everyone in high society believed that she was cursed.


Also, the relationship between Countess Falcon and The Duke was different from the others. He would maintain sexual relations with Countess Falcon even while dating other women. He didn’t send her expensive gifts like he usually did. Even so, their ties remained strong. Now, it had been over a year.


Three months ago, he had broken up with Baron Lawrence’s daughter. So now, Countess Falcon was his sole bedside partner. If Fabian knew of this fact, he would be jumping around even more enraged than now, so Jerome kept it to himself.


“I’m going.”


“What are you going to do?”


Jerome took hold of Fabian. He had a bad feeling Fabian wouldn’t be quietly going home.


“I’m going to report my findings to the Duke.”


He wanted to force himself between the two no matter what. He received orders to do a background search on a princess a month ago. He didn’t understand why the Duke required such extensive research on this princess, but in any case, she was a girl. He planned to use his report to resist the witch.


The Duke hadn’t relayed any particular words to him while giving out the job, but he had asked about the progress two times already. It meant he was very interested in the report.


“You stay here. I’ll be back.”


“…You will go?”


“I will go and tell him that you have something important to report to him. If he is willing to return home, I will bring him here. If he wants to listen to it later, you go home quietly. How does that sound?”


“…Fine. Tell him it’s the report that he has pressed me about many times already.”


“I got it.”


Nine cases out of ten, he would decide to return home. If the Duke decided to listen to the report later, he would put some serious thought into the current situation. But those odds were slim. As Fabian stated, they had maintained a relationship for a long time. Before the Countess, there were no other cases like hers. But just for this small reason, he didn’t believe the Duke loved her in any way.


The Duke was a cold and heartless person. There had to be a reason why the Duke went to find the Countess, but that reason would not be an emotional one. That was why Jerome didn’t worry for the Duke like Fabian did.


***


On top of a wide bed, a man was slightly sitting up with a big cushion to his back, while he was reading some documents. On top of the man, a nude woman held his wide chest while she moved her hips.


“Ha…eung…ah… How is it?”


She seductively moaned while moving her hips and taking in his hard penis, but the man’s face, who was looking over some documents, remained unchanged.


“Useful.”


“Un…yes. You’re…too much. It took me…two months…to make it…”


Anita scowled at the man’s calm assessment, but he had not said it was ‘trash’, so it could be considered a compliment. Anita’s head jerked back as she continued to move her hips up and down. Whenever his hard length dug into her deepest parts, she let out a sharp yelp.


“How…is it?”


“It’s useful.”


“I’m…talking about that.”


He threw the documents to the floor and laughed. He squeezed her buttocks with his huge hands making her insides squeeze his length.


“This is useful too.”


“Yes…ah…. You’re…too stingy with your scores. Don’t…think that I never judge you either…”


“How is my score?”


“You’re…useful. Too.”


“Hmm.”


He smirked and took hold of her hips as he got up. The woman laid on the bed while he rode on top of her. He began thrusting his hips into her with great strength. As their flesh smashed together, loud slapping sounds filled the room while the woman screamed.


“Huuk! Aah! Aak!!”


The smooth female body clung onto him. He didn’t let the screaming female rest as he continued to thrust nonstop. He didn’t stop until the woman said she felt like dying. It was always the female who would raise the white flag to concede her loss.


The smouldering air remained hot around the whole bedroom. Anita giggled, snuggling into his wide chest with a satisfied smile.


She could feel the battle scars under those firm muscles of his. His appearance was hypnotizing; his experienced kisses and fondling technique made her burn with heat. He could easily last the whole night with his insanely strong endurance. There wasn’t a single flaw about him. She had met many men, but he stood out from the rest.


At first, she had been charmed by his background. He was the ruler of the North, the Duke of Taran. When would she ever get the chance to sleep with such a man? She had thought that way at first, but his identity was no longer important now. She was rather very frustrated by his high status in society.


Anita already knew he had ended his relationship with Sofia. When she bumped into Sofia at the Victory Ball, Sofia had glared at her like she was her mortal enemy, and she guessed the situation. Anita felt no enmity toward Sofia. Ironically, she felt pity that Sofia had turned into one of his past females. Anita anticipated that maybe Sofia would be able to gain his heart. Anita’s mind was split in two – she wished that he would fall in love with another female, but at the same time, she didn’t want it to happen.


The Duke of Taran wasn’t a famous playboy among high society. Unexpectedly, people did not know of his harem of females. He almost never maintained a relationship with those holding power. Sofia had been a rare case, where they had met through friends.


Sofia was a well-known woman, but she did not hold much power. The Baron of Lawrence did not have a strong family background, either. In other words, she was someone he could play around with and throw away whenever he wanted. Anita understood he always calculated to this extent.


Those, who had shared a sexual relationship with the Duke, never ended up in a happy marriage. Anita could understand the reason now. He was very good at sex. He could send a woman to heaven many times over on the same night. After having a taste of it once, no other man would be able to satisfy them.


Most would approach him being charmed by his power and high status, but as time passed, they would all fall for the man as a whole. Thus, women would continue to cling and obsess over him. In the end though, they would all be trashed.


He was like an icy cold fire. He may give a woman his body, but he would not give her even a little shard of his heart. When had it started? In the beginning, Anita had intended to enjoy the bodily pleasures, by the time she realized, she had already given him her heart. But as soon as she revealed her heart, he would throw her away like all the other women before her.


Therefore, Anita never revealed her own heart. She behaved like she needed him for material needs; it would remain as a give and take relationship. She never asked when she could see him again. She never contacted him first. That was how she could last over a year.


“You’ll sign a contract with me, right?”


Anita ran a merchant group. From time to time, he would tip her off and she would have fun investing here and there. Now, her merchant group had grown to a bigger scale and she had drawn up a contract, so he could become one of the investors. She behaved as if she needed him for her merchant group. In reality, she did have thoughts of profiting through him.


“I will review it.”


“What is this? I revealed all the core secrets of my merchant group! Must I offer more good will than this?” Anita slid her hands down his chest and rubbed his hips. She smoothly moved her hands toward his center and took hold of it.


“Aren’t I the one showing good will?”


“Oh my. How could you be so confident?”


Due to Anita stimulating him, his manhood began to stiffen once more. She brought herself to his chest and sucked his nipples. She licked around the nipples as she massaged his hard length.


“Can you insert it back there?”


When he raised his body, Anita hurriedly raised her butt. His hand pressed against her back as he drove deeply into her.


“Haa…. Ung…”


He entered and pulled out vigorously, while she licked her own lips imagining what was to come. Right then, someone knocked on the bedroom door.


“Madam, I have an urgent message for you.”


The voice from behind the door trembled. Anita gritted her teeth. Who dared to interrupt her precious time together with him? She had to whip her and chase her out first thing in the morning.


“I’ve informed you not to interrupt our time! Be gone!”


“The guest is looking for His Grace. He has requested an audience for some urgent business.”


A guest of the Duke? Anita looked at him with shocked eyes. She hoped he would reject this person, but after a brief moment of thought, he slid out of her. Anita yelped shortly from the momentary stimulation.


“Enter.”


Anita hid her disappointment and looked outside.


“Show him in.”


A moment later, a man opened the door and entered. The woman was dressed in a see-through gown, her chest in plain view as she lay in bed. Behind her, the Duke sat with his chest exposed. Jerome observed all this with a bored expression without blinking an eye, then bowed his head.


“Your Grace, I apologize for interrupting your time off.”


“What is it?”


“Fabian is waiting for you in the mansion with the report that Your Grace has requested. I am here to ask Your Grace’s opinion on the job you have inquired after many times before.”


“I understand. I’ll leave, so wait for me.”


Jerome left and Hugo got up from bed, while Anita’s face paled.


“You’re…leaving?”


“Where are my clothes?”


Her heart felt like it was being torn. She wanted to hold him back. She wanted to ask him to stay. Would the sky fall if he listened to the report tomorrow? He did not hesitate to return to work one bit. But she could not hold him back. If she clung onto him, he would push her away. Then, he would never come here again. He had frequented her home many times and her heart had unknowingly grown confident.


She wanted this man. She wanted this man so bad. Although it was her own wishful thinking, it felt like all her blood was drying up inside her.


“Are you still leaving when our bodies are aroused to this state?”


She smothered her large breasts onto him. His eyes did not shake upon her coquettishly seductive technique. He wore a light smile and lightly kissed her lips.


“Order them to bring me my clothes.”


Anita pouted her red lips. Still, she ordered her maids to bring his clothes, that had been neatly stored away. Anita personally assisted him while he dressed. She purposely touched him in certain places while fondling others.


“That’s enough.”


Upon his words, Anita recoiled in fright. He was looking down at her with such icy cold eyes. Usually, when Anita seduced other men that way, they would hastily undress and throw themselves on her. How could he cool down his body so fast? It seemed like his passion from before was a lie. Anita bit her lips with a bitter heart. She didn’t want the man to leave her life forever.


“You’re all done.”


Anita took two steps back and appreciated his appearance with a happy heart. His tall stature and proportionate body were accentuated by his clothes. Anita loved his body equally to his face. Just watching him made her feel delighted.


“I won’t be home for the next 10 days.”


Anita said with a conceited tone. If one were to try and tie such a man down, he would escape faster. Sometimes, one had to put some distance like this. Her response was a petty revenge for the man who left her with a cold shoulder. But she quickly regretted her petty behavior. He laughed quietly like he could see right through her.


Anita followed him out to her bedroom door. She never followed him out of her estate. When he came to visit her, she never met him by the door. It might have just been an action to protect her own pride.


After a while of standing in the darkness, Anita slowly made her way out to her balcony. His carriage was already a distance away. Even after the carriage had long disappeared, she stood motionlessly gazing in the distance.


(end).....
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