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    “It’s different from the rumors. They said he was colorless and had a limited time.”

    “Tsk. It must be words born from someone’s speculation. He’s Cedric’s child, how could he be colorless?”

    The banquet hall became noisier after Oscar left.

    Currently, all artistic aesthetic standards were set according to Cedric O’Hamua. Hundreds of paintings praised his appearance and were being created, and even at this moment, sculptures were being carved. All the beautiful characters in illustrations were modeled after Cedric O’Hamua. It would be stranger if his child weren’t good-looking.

    “But isn’t Erhan Serpentine his half-brother? Their aura is…”

    “Ah, that guy.”

    They suddenly recalled one individual who, although from the same family, was very different.

    “There were fewer young ladies attending today, so he said he wouldn’t come.”

    Oscar’s half-brother, Erhan Serpentine.

    A large and intimidating man.

    “Hmph. It’s for the better. It’s so amusing every time I see him.”

    “If it’s a woman, she’d be utterly enchanted, always having several around him. Though his face is handsome, he’s too frivolous. A man who can’t do his duty…”

    “Oh my.”

    A passing lady seemed to have heard the conversation, as she coyly smiled while opening her fan.

    “You speak of things you wouldn’t dare say to his face.”


    The previously chatty person clamped his mouth shut, turning his head with a slightly pale face. The lady, watching him intently, left with a smile.

    Erhan, a big guy with only a handsome face, always surrounded by women, and rumored to have spent countless nights with numerous women. Men envied Erhan yet also wished to trample him underfoot.

    On the other hand, Oscar was…

    “They are quite different, aren’t they?”

    “Oscar Serpentine, Erhan Serpentine?”


    One noble, who had seen Erhan at various gatherings, fell deep into thought, comparing the two.

    “But their aura seems somewhat similar.”

    Well, even if they are stepbrothers, there’s something about their family.

    The ones who had been eagerly chatting glanced around as if wary.

    “…Shall we stop talking about this?”


    “Let’s do that.”

    The Serpentine family. A family that held the reins of many nobles in its grasp.

    Only then did the nobles, who had been gossiping about Oscar, close their mouths. They soon acted as if nothing had happened and shifted to another topic, starting a new conversation.

    Oscar’s name occasionally surfaced among the nobles, but only briefly.

    Thus, Oscar Serpentine’s first social debut came to an end. It was more than some had hoped for, yet less than others had expected.

    Of course, that year, Oscar would receive an overwhelming number of invitations and marriage proposals, but that was a story for later.


    “I’m sorry, Mother.”

    I suddenly felt feverish.

    I was fine when the banquet started, moving around well. However, as soon as I greeted the members of the Fortis family, my condition rapidly deteriorated. It was as if my body had reached its limit, and only my willpower was keeping me upright, bringing on a headache that felt like my brain was splitting.

    “Cough, cough.”

    When I mentioned that I should probably leave, Mother immediately explained the situation to the Duke. She was worried about my pallor as we left together.

    ‘I feel nauseous. I feel like I’m going to die.’

    I wanted to vomit… But there was no act more disgraceful than vomiting in a moving carriage, so I endured it. I felt like I was going to die from motion sickness. My stomach churned, and my headache felt like my eyeballs were being stabbed.

    “Let’s hurry.”

    Mother, even while sharing the carriage with me, remained concerned about my well-being.

    “Oscar. Are you feeling alright?”

    “…Yes. I feel a bit better now that we’re away.”

    “That’s a relief.”

    Mother was relieved to see that my face had improved significantly from before. She tenderly stroked my hair.

    “I’ll have to drop you off halfway and then go back.”

    It wasn’t right to leave the event, even if we were acquainted with the host. At the very least, we should have stayed until the conclusion of the banquet, but here we were, leaving abruptly. I was worried that my sudden illness might tarnish Mother’s reputation.

    “I’m really sorry…”

    “For what?”

    “For causing you trouble. And for not meeting your expectations.”

    I knew how much Mother had been looking forward to attending the banquet with me. I tried to endure as long as possible, but I didn’t expect my condition to worsen so suddenly.

    “Your words hurt me more.”


    As I tried to steady my queasy stomach and speak, Mother gently patted me, signaling me to rest. I felt her caring heart without the need for words, so I didn’t say anything more.

    “Then, take care on your way in.”

    “Yes. I’ll see you later.”

    I got off the carriage halfway to transfer to another one. Before leaving, Mother kissed me on the cheek. Then, she quickly turned the carriage around and disappeared.

    Despite her own likely exhaustion, Mother showed no sign of it to me. It seemed she too was enduring on sheer willpower.

    “You can get in here.”

    “Thank you.”

    It seems my mother had made arrangements, as the coachman who had arrived earlier was waiting to take me. Not long after boarding the carriage, the scenery outside the window became familiar.

    The increasing presence of trees unique to the Serpentine estate signaled that we were nearing the mansion. Curiously, the dreadful condition I had been in started to improve.

    Upon arrival, the mansion’s servants greeted me with a carpet laid out.

    ‘I’m tired.’

    Eager to get to my room and rest, I hurried uncharacteristically. In my haste, I tried to squeeze through the mansion’s doors before they were fully open and accidentally tripped over someone’s foot.


    I hadn’t anticipated someone standing so close to the door, causing me to startle belatedly.

    In my confusion, I awkwardly lowered my foot back down, withdrew my hand from the door, and looked up with a surprised expression.

    The first thing I saw was the attire of a servant.

    Wondering if our paths had just crossed by mistake, I was about to ask when a familiar scent wafted by. Without even seeing the face, I knew.


    Just then, the door behind me closed with a thud.

    Indeed, it was Zachary standing right in front of the door.


    Even in servant’s clothes, his towering stature couldn’t be concealed. His small face, hidden behind a cloth with a large ghostly eye painted on it, was clearly visible even in the dim light. However, his aura felt colder than usual.

    “What are you doing here?”

    I looked around. The flickering candles softly illuminated the dark mansion. Beneath the dim light, the servants stood in perfect alignment, without a single one out of place.

    As if trained, they would not approach me when Zachary was near. And today was no exception. They all stood at a distance, their heads bowed at an awkward angle.

    ‘I’m not used to this.’

    Their uniformly plump feet and motionless stances were still unnerving, even after several years.

    Mother would be late, and the Duke himself would not arrive home today.

    “Have you been well?”

    Perhaps it would be okay to strike up a small conversation. I moved slightly closer to Zachary to speak more, but flinched when he leaned in close to me.

    Too close.

    I felt like I would fall into his arms with just a slight stumble. His sturdy jawline was visible beneath the drooping cloth. He looked no different than usual, yet…

    ‘Why does it seem like he’s angry?’

    A chill ran down my spine, making my hair stand on end.

    I wondered if the coldness of the night had crept into the mansion, but it was early summer, not particularly cold. Moreover, because of the party, I was dressed more warmly than usual, and beads of sweat were forming on my forehead. So, it definitely wasn’t the cold.

    ‘It’s cold…’

    Facing Zachary now, I felt a shiver run through me, an eerie sense of coldness.

    Strangely, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Zachary was angry, even though I had never experienced such a sensation from him before…

    I know how foolish my thoughts are. Zachary, under a curse, is unable to express his own emotions. Therefore, even if he were angry, it would be natural for me not to notice.

    “Let’s go.”

    Besides Zachary, there were many eyes watching us here. There was no need to show the other servants our prolonged mutual awareness.

    I sidestepped, moving away from Zachary as if to pass by him without further interaction. Just as I was about to walk past, he grabbed my wrist. Zachary didn’t stop there.


    Zachary pulled me towards him sharply.

    His grip was gentle yet firm. With my shoulders tensely hunched, I was taken aback and let Zachary lead me.

    It tickled. Zachary tilted his head and buried his face in my shoulder, staying like that for a while. The sensation of his hair touching the nape of my neck tickled.

    ‘What’s this all about?’

    My momentary panic turned into an attempt to shrug him off and escape, but I couldn’t.

    “What, what are you doing!”

    He then lifted me up effortlessly, as if I were a child, with both arms.

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