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    But distracting thoughts were endless. Each time, the phrase “There is no salvation” would involuntarily come to mind. One reason why the novel was so popular, despite its bleak and brutal content, was the intense scenes that appeared in the latter half. The early parts were typical male protagonist fantasy, but the process of Zachary, who had fallen into the abyss, being moved by the female protagonist’s innocence and overcoming his madness…

    “Excuse me.”

    …Ah, why does just thinking about it make my ears burn?

    It’s all because of the distance with him.

    “It seems too close.”

    I said, gently pushing Zachary away.

    Don’t think about it. That happens only after Zachary grows up, awakens, and becomes stronger. Clearing my throat with a cough, I subtly pushed him away, and Zachary slightly stepped back.

    ‘That scent again.’

    As he moved, his unique heavy fragrance wafted over. Other servants didn’t have any scent, but Zachary was different. It wasn’t even perfume, but how could he smell so good? Perhaps it’s because he’s the male protagonist.

    Anyway, this distance felt just right. It was still a bit close, but far enough not to touch, which was reassuring.

    Cooling my flushed face, the tasks I had to do came into view. First, the curse pattern on Zachary’s neck caught my eye. I’ve seen it so much I’ve memorized it, but still, I need to examine it carefully every time. Now I know that a curse pattern isn’t just a simple symbol, but something akin to a living being.

    ‘The color has faded a lot.’

    It’s been two years since I realized the identity of the bandage and started giving chicken blood. As the curse pattern on the wrist that suppresses his spiritual power is exhausted, the overall effect of the curse pattern has started to fade quickly. I thought that over time, the curse would naturally be resolved. The color had indeed become very dark, but there was a reason my expression was gloomy.

    ‘I have no idea what that is.’

    The curse pattern engraved on the back of his neck has remained unchanged, showing no difference from the first time I saw it.

    While the others were fading, this curse pattern was not. Comparing it to when I first saw it, there was no significant difference.

    Despite my efforts to find out what kind of curse pattern it was, I couldn’t identify it. I had spent so much time trying to discover just this one curse pattern.

    “Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy.”

    The Duke had devoted his life to curses. He was no fool. He had engraved a unique curse pattern on the back of Zachary’s neck, one that was not recorded anywhere. It was likely a secret curse pattern either created by him or passed down through his family.

    No matter how much chicken blood was fed to the bandages, the curse pattern did not disappear, always vividly burning red.

    It was certain that it controlled Zachary. I glared at the back of his neck as if it was my enemy, then scanned the curse patterns on his wrists, ankles, and the front of his neck before standing up.

    I’m quite good at objectivity.

    I realized long ago that with my level of self-taught knowledge, I could never break the curse pattern in my lifetime. After much deliberation, I decided to accelerate Zachary’s awakening, so he could use his spiritual power sooner.

    “It’s said that awakening occurs when one can manipulate spiritual power.”

    I didn’t just delve into curses during that long time. I also studied a lot about the awakening of spiritual power. After reading dozens of books, I learned that the awakening usually happens when one can clearly feel the spiritual power flowing in their own body.

    In other words, the better one can feel the spiritual power, the better they awaken. My goal was to help Zachary sense his spiritual power as soon as possible.

    Of course, I wasn’t planning to help his awakening without any preparation. I intended to counteract the curse suppressing his spiritual power with a curse pattern drawn by me. I was talking about the curse patterns on Zachary’s wrists, ankles, and neck.

    “Easy to say.”

    It was anything but easy.

    The biggest problem was that my thoughts always went too far. The idea of engraving a curse pattern, essentially a tattoo, on someone’s body was unnerving. Yet, I chose to believe in the person before me, the protagonist.

    I pressed firmly on his wrist where the curse pattern suppressing the spiritual power was drawn. The curse pattern distorted under the pressure of my fingertips. How great it would be if it just crumpled and disappeared under my touch. I entertained this ridiculous thought as I slowly wrapped his wrist.

    Thump, thump, I could feel his pulse. Contrary to his large build, the small throbbing under my fingertips was oddly ticklish.

    ‘I’m sleepy.’

    Listening to that gentle sound, the drowsiness I had been suppressing began to resurface. Unable to resist the sleepiness, I almost planted my forehead onto the bed while crouching down. But Zachary was quicker. He had approached and slipped his wrist between my forehead and the bed. In the end, I ended up aggressively bumping into Zachary’s wrist instead of the bed.

    “Sorry.”

    I apologized out loud, but I didn’t have the strength to lift my head.

    His cool body scent was strong. Zachary’s body temperature was always inconsistent. Sometimes hotter than me, sometimes colder. And today, he was colder than me.

    His cool aura lowered my increased body temperature due to fatigue. Feeling somewhat relieved, I unknowingly drooped my eyes and rubbed my forehead and cheek against his wrist, sighing as I spoke.

    “…I wish it would be released soon.”

    Since I had removed the bandages, the curse pattern on his wrist had turned considerably darker. It had been a year since it changed like this, but I still hadn’t been able to break the curse pattern on his neck, which was frustrating.

    In the original story, it took Zachary quite some time to break his curse. Even with my help, it was unrealistic to expect Zachary, who was just eighteen, to suddenly break the curse.

    ‘But still, how great it would be if, with all my hard work, it got released earlier than in the original.’

    I turned my head aside, comforting myself with this wishful thought, only to find Zachary, who had still offered his wrist to my forehead, staring at me intently.

    “Do you think so?”

    I wondered if Zachary understood my words.

    I couldn’t tell. There was no way to infer anything from him, just blankly staring at me with the cloth covering his face.

    Even though his face was covered, the sharpness of his features was too distinct, making the curved shadow under his prominent nose look particularly comical. I was curious about his face after all this time…

    ‘But what’s the point of looking?’

    Suppressing the rising impulse, I slowly got up.

    Since the incident four years ago, where he bled profusely, I hadn’t touched the cloth Zachary wore even once. Of course, there were times when I felt the urge to open the cloth, hoping to read his mind, especially when he seemed to have his own consciousness.

    Despite being under a curse, I thought I could understand his thoughts by looking into his eyes.

    “Do you need a meal?”

    But at the same time, I didn’t want to be disappointed. After all, only such stiff inquiries and mechanical voices came from his mouth.

    I had long given up on having conversations with Zachary. After he started speaking, I asked all sorts of questions, hoping to hear words filled with his thoughts, but the answers were always formal.

    “It’s time for you to have your meal.”

    …It’s been four years. Does he really still have consciousness? These doubts naturally arose seeing Zachary speaking like a robot, bringing a bitter smile to my face, but I didn’t show it and instead pulled my lips into a wider smile.

    “Yeah, right. Thanks for telling me. Let’s wrap this up quickly and go.”

    I slowly rose from my seat and picked up the bandages. The bandages, which had absorbed a lot of blood, were now clean. I wrapped the dry bandages around his neck. The mouths attached to the bandages were firmly shut, burping contentedly as if they were full.

    As I leaned in close to wrap the bandages, the fluttering cloth fell over my head, and I could feel Zachary’s breath. His languid breath tickled my hair.

    It’s a bit of a pointless thing to say, but I quite like these moments. I don’t know about Zachary, but I enjoy wrapping these bandages around him and listening to his breathing. However, I don’t prolong these moments.

    ‘He must really hate it.’

    They say the heart can’t lie, even if lips and actions can.

    When I wrapped the bandages this close, Zachary’s heart beat particularly loud.

    “Do you really hate it that much?”

    I don’t know if he can see my face from this close, but with a guilty feeling, I frowned and asked. Then, his heart started beating even faster. I sighed and lightly tapped Zachary’s shoulder.

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