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    His thick, dark hair became disheveled between his fingers. After running his hand through his hair with an irritated gesture, he quietly looked down at the floor.

    “It’s not uncomfortable even if you’re here, young master.”

    Zachary, who had started speaking again, raised his head as if nothing had happened. My thinking that he was angry was a misunderstanding. Zachary, who had raised his head, had returned with a calm face. He looked serene without any emotions.

    “…Really?”

    “Yes.”

    Seeing him answer quickly and decisively, I suddenly felt relieved that he hadn’t escaped while I was asleep.

    It would have been truly terrible if I had woken up to find an enraged Zachary burning down the family and turning the kingdom into ruins.

    ‘But why on earth is he….’

    Looking at the current Zachary, no one would think he was someone who would destroy the kingdom. Without having read the original story, Zachary in front of my eyes looked so gentle that I couldn’t even imagine such a future.

    I didn’t want to see Zachary staining his hands with blood and suffering from madness like in the original story. To prevent that, I had to safely send Zachary back to the empire.

    ‘First, let’s find a way to send him to the Holy Empire.’

    Although his awakening might not have happened yet, since he had been freed from the magical formation, I should find a way to send Zachary back to the empire somehow. Since Zachary couldn’t show his face publicly, it would be my job to secretly attempt to contact the Holy Empire.

    But how? The Holy Empire was practically our kingdom’s arch-enemy… Especially the Serpentine family that used magical formations wouldn’t be viewed favorably.

    ‘I’ll have to secretly find out about families that have exchanges with the Holy Empire.’

    Now that I had started engaging in social circles, there were more ways to gather information compared to when I was confined to the mansion.

    Or there could be other ways.

    ‘If he were in a perfect awakened state, he could immediately escape to the empire.’

    I wanted to ask about his awakening right away and discuss future plans together, but I was worried that Zachary, who had just been freed from the magical formation, might be confused. For now, the most important thing was for Zachary to find stability. Since time wasn’t pressing, I decided to observe him slowly, confirm whether the magical formation had been completely undone, and discuss his awakening state and how to escape from here.

    “Right.”

    My eyes met Zachary’s, who was silently staring at me as if waiting for my next words. I smiled at him.

    “Do you want to have dinner together?”

    It was a question I impulsively asked based on a thought that suddenly occurred to me.

    Although we had spent quite a long time together, Zachary and I had never eaten together. The servants had to eat in a designated place, so Zachary would go and eat on his own when it was time.

    But now it was different. And I had always wanted to have a meal with Zachary at least once.

    “I can eat here. I’ll say I’m hungry and receive a bit more food.”

    It wasn’t a difficult thing to do.

    There was still no answer from Zachary. After staring at my face for a moment, Zachary turned his head and replied.

    “I’ll do that.”

    “Then, is there any food you particularly like?”

    “It doesn’t matter.”

    “Still, something you like a bit more….”

    “It’s fine.”

    It was such a decisive answer that it made the person who asked feel awkward.

    “…I see.”

    I thought the conversation would continue, but it didn’t at all.

    When I asked, he did answer, but a brief moment of hesitation flashed by. It felt like he was answering reluctantly.

    Moreover, he kept avoiding eye contact since earlier, and the way he turned his gaze as if feeling uneasy….

    ‘I guess I make him uncomfortable after all.’

    Although I knew it was understandable, a bitter smile escaped me. Feeling awkward, I touched my neck and habitually glanced at the mirror near the bed.

    And the moment I saw myself in the mirror, I gaped in shock.

    “What is this?”

    Startled, Zachary immediately looked at me. But I had no time to pay attention to Zachary’s gaze.

    When I pulled back my clothes, my neck was completely red all the way down to under the clothes. The bite marks imprinted like footprints on my pale skin that never saw the sunlight were vividly visible.

    Crazy. It was so severe that it seemed like I had some disease. Fortunately, most of my clothes had designs that covered up to the neck, but it looked serious enough to doubt if it would be properly concealed.

    ‘I think this happened because Zachary bit me yesterday.’

    …Can this happen from a human bite?

    I fiddled with my mottled neck while holding back my clothes. Come to think of it, I became curious. Why was Zachary so obsessed with my neck?

    “But why did you do this yesterday?”

    With my neck exposed, I turned to Zachary and he flinched. But that was it. Judging by his nonchalant face, he didn’t look at all like the person who had bitten my neck like a beast yesterday.

    “Do you not remember? Yesterday, as soon as you woke up, my neck….”

    “Did I do that?”

    It was the same even when I pressed him. Zachary continued speaking in a monotonous voice without even a change in pitch. I involuntarily looked at Zachary with a dumbfounded face.

    “What? If not you, then who else?”

    Zachary turned his gaze to the side and said.

    “…I don’t remember at all.”

    I was astonished.

    His answer was incredibly quick, but was it true that he didn’t remember? Among all the reactions he had shown so far, this was the fastest. I couldn’t shake off the suspicion, but I couldn’t keep asking someone who said they didn’t remember.

    “Even so….”

    “Although I don’t remember.”

    I was surprised by Zachary’s new behavior. Zachary firmly interrupted my words. It wasn’t a bad thing, but it felt completely unfamiliar.

    He stared at me with my eyes widened in surprise. To be precise, he quietly looked at my neck that he had chewed and shredded last night, and then opened his mouth.

    “I’m sorry.”

    Even though he was apologizing, his gaze made my body shrink for some reason. It was similar to the eyes I had met in the fleeting moments when light entered the snake’s passageway yesterday. Damp and musty, yet obsessive… A gaze I had never seen before, difficult to describe with any words.

    “Oh, well… It can happen.”

    …Actually, it can’t. Anyone could see that those weren’t the eyes of someone who couldn’t remember. But even if I pressed him here, would I get an answer?

    With such an innocent face, saying he didn’t know and sitting there, it was ridiculous for me to say anything more.

    ‘Not only biting my neck with his teeth but also smearing his blood on me.’

    What was really wrong?

    There were still many magical formations in the world that I didn’t know about, and I had read in books that the reactions of people freed from magical formations varied. But this was definitely strange.

    I looked in the mirror again while fiddling with my neck and slightly turned my shoulder.

    ‘Wow, it’s a mess back here too.’

    There were also numerous bite marks on the back of my neck. As I fumbled and touched it, the sensations and situations from yesterday suddenly came to mind.

    Since it was pitch-black darkness where I couldn’t see anything, the sensation of being bitten on the neck felt even more vivid. It tickled enough to constantly give me goosebumps, and at the same time, a tingling pain blossomed. I remembered clinging to Zachary as if squeezing him.

    Thinking about it now, it was ridiculous. The fact that I clung to Zachary, who was biting my neck, as if begging for my life….

    “Ugh.”

    As I touched my neck, the groan I had let out came to mind along with a strange sensation that made my toes curl. Why did I make such a sound yesterday? The feeling of my whole body heating up and tickling was very awkward.

    As I tried hard to forget that feeling, there was a knocking sound on the door.

    “Oscar, are you awake?”

    Upon hearing the voice coming from beyond the door following the neat knocking, I immediately looked at the clock. Time had already passed, and there were only 20 minutes left until the time I had told Erhan yesterday.

    ‘I’m doomed….’

    Didn’t Erhan ask about my mealtime yesterday and say he would come to get me today, so I should wait? How could I forget my promise with Erhan if I was going to forget something?

    Zachary was caught in my sight that had turned pale. He was just staring at me even though he could hear the knocking sound from outside.

    “Quickly put this back on.”

    I picked up the cloth with the ghost eyes drawn on it, which was sprawled on the bed, and placed it in Zachary’s hand. Fortunately, by a stroke of luck, the cloth was within reach. Thanks to that, I didn’t have to move my injured leg.

    Is there anywhere to run here? A place to hide…

    “Hide in the snake’s passageway. There’s a luminous stone in the drawer, so hold onto that. Six knocks, got it?”

    If it weren’t for that passageway, what would have happened? It would have been a huge problem.

    As I said that, the knocking sound grew louder. Erhan spoke loudly from beyond the door.

    “Is it a situation where you can’t get up right now? Well, your ankle… Should I open it?”

    “Just a moment! I’ll change my clothes and open it for you soon!”

    I can’t open it. Absolutely not.

    But I can’t go out right away because I’m worried about the state of my neck. I can’t go out with my neck fully exposed, all mottled and messy. I hurriedly got off the bed.

    “…Ugh!”

    My ankle hurt as if it would break, but I couldn’t react to each pain one by one because the situation was urgent.

    It was fine even if I limped, so I was about to quickly go to the wardrobe. At that moment, I felt a strong force pulling my shoulder. I tried to resist by putting strength into my body, but I couldn’t because of the pain in my ankle. I ended up sitting on the bed, half-lying down, with my strength drained.

    Startled, I turned my head to the side and saw Zachary, who had suddenly stuck close to me.

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