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    ‘Could it be that Erhan wrote this?’

    Suddenly, that suspicion arose. Could it be that he was embarrassed because he was the author and heard my words?

    ‘There’s no way.’

    However, I quickly dismissed the thought. He was already busy preparing to be the heir. Where would he find the time to write a book? Above all, there was no reason for the heir of the Serpentine family, who had close ties with the royal family, to write such a book.

    It must be because he was hot. Although it was cool at night, someone who was sensitive to heat could still feel warm. Moreover, the candlestick was closer to Erhan than to me.

    I should pull the candlestick a little towards my side. I slowly got up from my seat and grabbed the candlestick. As I gently brought the candlestick towards me, some candle wax that had overflowed due to the shaking dripped onto the back of my hand.


    I was startled. The gasp escaped my lips more from surprise than from the heat.

    The candlestick swayed precariously. It was because I had accidentally hit it hard with the back of my hand. If it tipped over, it would be a disaster. As I tried to grasp the swaying candlestick, a hand faster than mine moved.

    Beneath my hand clumsily holding the candlestick, my eyes met Erhan’s as he firmly gripped it. His neck and ears were still slightly flushed, as if he were still feeling warm. But his gaze fixed on me was as sharp as ever, as it always was.

    He occasionally chose his words carefully, and now, too, he spoke with a slight pause, a beat behind.

    “…Be careful.”

    His voice was low. Strangely, it felt suffocating.

    Was it because Erhan’s face was right in front of me? Or was it because of the atmosphere?

    “Sor- sorry.”

    Erhan’s gaze pierced my parched lips. The reason his gaze felt so persistent must be because I was too tense.

    Even though I understood the reason in my head, I felt intimidated, and my neck involuntarily shrank. Amidst all this, the absurd thing was that I couldn’t take my eyes off Erhan.

    I moved my lips, then closed them. If I kept looking at him, it seemed like some nonsensical words would spill out to fill the silence, so I averted my gaze first. As I slightly backed away, Erhan spoke.

    “Your hand.”

    “It’s nothing.”

    The dried candle wax stuck to the back of my hand was visible. I scratched off the hardened wax with my fingernail, and it stung quite a bit. As I brushed off the wax and frowned, he grasped my wrist. His touch was gentle. His fingers wrapped around my wrist with almost no force.

    Erhan’s touch as he slowly examined the back of my hand felt strangely ticklish.

    “It’s red.”

    “It’s fine. This much is nothing.”

    Was it because Erhan’s palm was particularly rough? Or was it because this was the first time our bare skin had properly touched? Feeling awkward, I averted my eyes, and Erhan simply examined the injury without saying a word.

    I wasn’t used to the sensation of him touching me. He was also someone who originally disliked being touched by others.

    ‘Did the sorcery have an effect?’

    It could be that he had no hesitation in touching me thanks to the sorcery, but I wanted to avoid contact with him as much as possible.

    I didn’t want to give Erhan any reason to find fault with me. So, as if it didn’t hurt at all, I tried to pull my hand away from Erhan with a nonchalant expression, but…

    ‘It hurts?’

    A stinging pain rushed in. The spot where the candle wax had fallen hurt more sharply than I had thought.

    Of course, it was because I had been burned by the candle wax that had been heated by the candle flame. I thought it would be fine because it had cooled down quickly, but I guess not. Even if it wasn’t a burn that would leave a scar, it seemed best to apply some ointment.

    As I looked at the back of my hand with a troubled expression, Erhan persistently stared at the back of my hand that had slipped out of his grasp. As if he had noticed that I was in pain.

    “…Wait a moment. I’ll go apply some ointment and come back.”

    In the end, I had no choice but to sigh and get up from my seat. Even as I got up, he kept his gaze fixed on the back of my hand.

    What was this about? Embarrassed, I hid my arm behind my back, and only then did Erhan’s gaze shift to my face.

    “Keep reading the book.”

    He blinked slowly as he looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. There was no response, but seeing him pick up the book with his hand, it seemed he intended to keep reading as I had said.

    ‘There probably won’t be any burn ointment.’

    I had never been burned in my room, and I never would be. However, even if it wasn’t burn ointment, there should at least be some kind of ointment for wounds. As I walked towards the drawer to take out the ointment, something caught on my foot.

    It felt like a long piece of cloth was wrapping around my foot. Could it be some clothing that I hadn’t properly put away?

    Come to think of it, I hadn’t let anyone into my room recently, claiming to be studying. That included the servants who did the cleaning. I must have failed to tidy up some clothes properly. With that thought, I absentmindedly lowered my head, only to freeze upon seeing something unbelievable.

    ‘Why is this here?’

    I was doomed. What I had kicked with my foot was the mouth-bearing bandage, Zachary’s sorcery tool.

    I couldn’t understand it. I had fed it until it was full, put it in a box, and closed the lid tightly. As I examined what had happened, I noticed the bowl in which I had stored the blood was here because I had hastily tidied up.

    There were only a few drops of blood left, but it seemed the hungry mouths had been lured by the scent and escaped from the box.

    I had been feeding it blood on time and had never missed a feeding. Why did this have to happen now of all times?

    ‘I can’t let him find out.’

    Erhan, the heir to the Serpentine family, couldn’t possibly be unaware of the true nature of this bandage.

    I turned to look at Erhan with a pale face, but fortunately, he wasn’t looking at me. I had to resolve this while I had the chance, but if I made any big movements, it might make a loud noise and cause Erhan to turn around.

    This was driving me crazy. How was I going to dispose of the sorcery tool?

    Originally, I had rolled it up neatly and put it in a box under the bed. I couldn’t take out that box and put it back in either.

    ‘Let’s grab it with my hand first.’

    Pushing it in with my foot seemed even more difficult. I lowered my body and picked up the sorcery tool, trying my best to keep it out of Erhan’s sight. However, my ordeal didn’t end there.


    As if it couldn’t get any worse, one of the mouths attached to the bandage opened wide and bit my finger before I could do anything.

    The bitten flesh hurt terribly. As expected. The pain that hit me in an instant made me furrow my brow without realizing it. Hearing my groan, Erhan sharply turned around.

    “What are you doing over there?”

    …Even a horror movie would be less scary than this.

    I barely managed to swallow the curse that threatened to escape through my gritted teeth. Finger or whatever, the moment Erhan’s gaze landed on me, all the pain was forgotten. Only the sensation of every hair on my body standing on end remained.

    He had to turn around and look directly at where I was, and as a result, I froze in my crouched position.

    ‘How do I make an excuse for this?’

    I wasn’t particularly good at lying smoothly. Especially when I was caught red-handed like this.

    I struggled to lift the corners of my mouth into a smile as Erhan stared at me intently. Then, I clumsily moved my body as if flailing about and pushed the sorcery tool I was holding under the bed.

    “I guess studying after a long time made my legs go numb… So I… sat down for a bit.”


    Even I thought the choice of location was utterly strange.

    “That’s why I was about to get up now.”

    It sounded like too obvious of an excuse. My eyes squeezed shut in embarrassment.

    I really made a fool of myself. Embarrassing things seemed to happen a lot in front of Erhan.

    Inwardly shedding tears of blood, I maintained the uncomfortable posture and pretended to massage my numb legs.

    Of course, it was an extremely clumsy sight, and Erhan looking at me as if he couldn’t believe it was just the icing on the cake.

    ‘Just a little more.’

    While pretending to massage my legs, I pushed even the slightly protruding parts of the sorcery tool under the bed. No matter how embarrassing it was, hiding the sorcery tool took priority.

    Fortunately, the distance between Erhan and me was far. Unless he came closer, the bandage wouldn’t be visible.

    The only problem was one of the mouths attached to the bandage.

    That damn thing kept trying to slither out from inside, as if reacting to the small amount of blood I had spilled.

    As I struggled to push it back in, Erhan got up from his seat as if he had noticed something.

    “Are you sure you’re okay?”

    Erhan couldn’t come this way right now.

    Although I had hidden it well, if anyone looked under the bed, they would discover the sorcery tool. It was a situation where a scream was about to escape my lips. But if I screamed here, I would be an idiot. All I could do was force a smile.

    “D- don’t worry. Just stay seated. I’ll be done soon.”

    Please, just sit down.

    I pulled up the corners of my mouth and pressed hard to push the sorcery tool back in. But the bandage, revealing its yearning for blood, popped back out even when pushed in. It didn’t want to go under the bed as easily as I wanted. It was frustrating. In the precarious situation where Erhan might discover it, sweat kept pouring down like rain.

    “You say you’re fine, but your expression is serious.”

    “I’m really fine. It’s just… I got a cramp or something.”

    “Then you shouldn’t stay like that any longer. Let me take a look.”

    The flimsy excuse had no effect. Contrary to my wish for him to leave me alone, Erhan got up from his seat with a frown. To make matters worse, he was now striding towards me.

    I stretched out both hands and waved them vigorously, as if to say I was really fine, but to no avail.

    “Your face has turned pale white.”

    “No. I’m really oka-…”

    As I tried to get up from my seat, I saw the sorcery tool again at the end of my line of sight.

    I was sure I had shoved it all in, so why was it crawling out again?

    Looking closely, one of the mouths attached to the bandage I had barely pushed in was sticking its tongue out. It was crawling towards me, inching along like a clam. What the mouth on the bandage wanted was probably the drop of blood that had dried up in the bowl.

    ‘Fuck, why is it doing this again?’

    It was a total disaster.

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