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    “Why…?”

    I was busy changing clothes and fixing my messy hair, so I was baffled by Zachary’s sudden behavior.

    As I looked up at him, blinking, for some reason Zachary’s gaze wasn’t directed at me. He was staring at the door with a chilling look in his eyes. As if he could see Erhan on the other side. My heart was pounding anxiously, and at that moment, Zachary finally turned his gaze to look at me.

    “Young master.”

    He didn’t say anything out of the ordinary. But I had never heard the words “young master” sound so ominous before. It was a term I had heard countless times while being close to Zachary for several years, but it had never been as frightening as it was now. I froze on the spot.

    ‘Too close.’

    Due to Zachary abruptly taking a large step closer, the distance between us was now less than half a span.

    I slowly inched my body backwards, feeling burdened, but Zachary took a big step forward, closing the distance again by as much as I retreated.

    “……”

    And yet, he said nothing.

    It was so uncomfortable. I hadn’t often felt that silence with Zachary was uncomfortable. After all, he only answered my questions or spoke obligatory words. But now it was different.

    Even though the silence between us wasn’t very long, it was so uncomfortable that I felt a sense of obligation to somehow fill the stillness.

    “I need to get ready and go out quickly.”

    I managed to break the silence, rolling my eyes. Still, Zachary remained silent.

    What on earth was going on? Why was he acting like this?

    Even though there was no need to gauge his reaction, I strangely kept doing so.

    “No.”

    At the end of the silence, Zachary shook his head slightly. The chilliness I had felt earlier had completely vanished from his voice, but his gaze was the problem.

    He wasn’t looking at my face. To be precise, he was staring intently not at my face, but at my neck. It was a damp… feeling, so to speak.

    I’m not sure if that’s the right way to put it. Then, his lowered eyes seemed to scrutinize every inch of my neck. When I unknowingly raised my hand to cover it, Zachary slowly lifted his gaze to my face.

    “……”

    The moment our eyes met, Zachary suddenly smiled. The rigid lines of his face that seemed like they would never soften curved, and the corners of his mouth lifted into a supple arc. The uncanny face that stood on the boundary between boy and man smiled.

    “I will hide well.”

    His voice was low but gentle. It was a submissive attitude, as if serving his master.

    But there was something strangely unsettling about it. Perhaps it was because I already knew the tragedy Zachary would bring about after awakening in the original story.

    ‘Why does it feel creepy?’

    There was no color in Zachary’s eyes. His eyes must have been a deep blue, but for some reason, they seemed pitch-black, as if no color could be discerned other than black.

    Zachary politely bowed his head as if to conceal his chilling eyes. Seeing him in the same pose as when he was my servant, I was momentarily at a loss for words.

    “Uh…”

    Okay. The words that followed were so quiet, they were almost crawling out.

    Although I felt uneasy, I couldn’t say anything more, so reluctantly squeezing out that hazy answer was the best I could do.

    Zachary raised his head along with my reply. It was the respectful movement and expressionless face he had shown while serving as my servant. As if his earlier appearance had been an illusion, it was the emotionless face I was accustomed to seeing from Zachary.

    “Oscar.”

    But this wasn’t the time to be thinking such thoughts.

    I came to my senses with a start and turned around. Erhan’s presence, knocking on the door for a while now, was actually the biggest hidden problem.

    “If you don’t open up, I’ll break it down.”

    “…Sigh.”

    That crazy bastard would definitely break down the door without a second thought.

    I hastily moved my legs.

    ‘It hurts.’

    A groan almost slipped out from between my teeth. As soon as the situation was settled, I’d have to find a splint or something to put on. Seeing the pain intensify, it seemed like it would take quite some time for it to fully heal. I hurriedly walked to the wardrobe to change my clothes, and…

    I turned around, feeling an inexplicable chill as I was about to undress. Zachary was still staring at me. Without even draping a cloth over his head, just standing there motionless.

    In the past, he always had a cloth covering his head, so I would casually undress in front of him without much thought, but now it felt a little different. It was a bit embarrassing.

    “Why aren’t you going in? Hurry up and hide for now.”

    I slightly turned my back to him and finished undressing.

    “Let’s continue our talk later.”

    And I found a black shirt that covered my neck and put it on. Strangely, I could feel Zachary’s gaze on me the entire time I was getting dressed.

    It felt as if a damp and dismal gaze, like that of a snake, was constantly poking at my back.

    “…Yes, young master.”

    After a brief pause, Zachary spoke neatly. For some reason, his voice seemed to have gotten even lower than before.

    There were a lot of tops with designs that covered the neck in Serpentine. Looking over my outfit, it seemed unlikely that anyone would see inside unless they forcefully tugged at the clothing.

    “One, two…”

    Now it seemed Erhan’s patience had reached its limit too. I limped over to the door and barely grasped the doorknob, then turned around. In the distance, Zachary stood with a cloth draped over his head, staring blankly in this direction.

    ‘He said he understood, so he’ll hide well on his own.’

    I wanted to confirm that he went in, but it didn’t seem like Erhan would wait any longer. Before Erhan’s patience ran out and the door was destroyed, I grabbed the doorknob and pushed. Erhan must have been pulling from the other side, because with just a slight push, the door swung open.

    As soon as the door opened, I saw Erhan’s slightly angered face.

    “Why did you lock the door? This won’t do. From now on, keep it unlocked no matter what.”

    “I don’t remember locking the door… I guess it locked on its own because it’s old.”

    I quickly made an excuse.

    Erhan let out a sigh as he looked down at me intently.

    “Move aside. Let me take a look.”

    Erhan abruptly tried to enter the room. I frantically stopped him.

    “My room is a mess, so I’m embarrassed to show you. I’ll call a servant later to fix the door. Let’s go out to the hallway for now.”

    Erhan opened his mouth as if to say something, but I gently pushed him out into the hallway. As a result, our bodies were close enough to be pressed together, but for me, who couldn’t confirm if Zachary had safely hidden in the snake’s passageway, this was the best I could do.

    Erhan was pushed by me into the hallway. As always, there was an artificial sweet scent coming from Erhan, and his clothes were impeccable.

    He could dress comfortably inside the mansion. But even today, Erhan looked neat and stylish, as if he were going to a banquet.

    “Sorry.”

    For touching him, and for being late. I cautiously removed my hand that had been awkwardly pushing against Erhan’s chest and glanced at him. Fortunately, Erhan was just looking down at me without saying anything.

    “…Your foot.”

    “It’s fine.”

    I answered quickly, but it wasn’t really fine. I had only walked a little, but it hurt a lot. The pain that I hadn’t felt due to my urgency belatedly surged through me.

    “It doesn’t seem like it.”

    There was no way Erhan wouldn’t notice.

    Ever since coming out into the hallway, Erhan clicked his tongue as he watched me standing awkwardly, unable to put weight on my injured ankle.

    “With that foot, how did you… What, did you crawl here?”

    “I walked hard to get here.”

    “Who asked you that? Hold on.”

    Erhan let out an exasperated laugh and stretched out his hand. I stared blankly at the arm he offered, as if to support me.

    Then, instead of taking Erhan’s arm, I glanced down at my foot. The state of my ankle visible above the slippers I had hastily put on without having time to find proper shoes was serious, even to my eyes. Of course, if it were me, I would also be the first to reach out to someone who was injured like this.

    It was true that it was difficult to move around. I wanted to gladly accept the support. But I couldn’t. Because the other person was…

    “You don’t want to?”

    Erhan.

    Yesterday, Erhan had told me that it was okay for him to touch me, but I couldn’t fully trust that. Especially considering everything I had seen and experienced so far.

    “Hurry up and take my arm. Aren’t we close enough for me to support you?”

    “……”

    “Let’s go quickly. They’ll be waiting in the dining room.”

    Even though he said it was alright like that, I didn’t feel at ease.

    But it wasn’t like I had many other options. Because I had dawdled in the room and came out late, there was a high chance that the duke and duchess were already waiting in the dining room.

    “Okay.”

    Besides, it would be ridiculous to refuse any further. It would seem like I was making a fuss over just being supported.

    Still, knowing that Erhan was averse to physical contact with people, I couldn’t completely shake off the awkwardness. I carefully reached out my hand towards Erhan.

    “Ugh.”

    As my body swayed, a stinging pain shot up from my ankle. When I let out a groan of pain, Erhan clicked his tongue and supported me.

    But he must have felt that supporting me with just one arm was too much, because his large hand went under my armpit. Even through the thin shirt, I could feel the huge, hot temperature of his hand, and my body instinctively shrank back.

    “…Ah.”

    It’s a bit too close.

    As I flinched from our bodies being pressed together, Erhan raised one eyebrow high. There was no need to support me to this extent. While feeling burdened and apologetic, I lifted my head, and at that very moment, there was a sudden sound of the door opening right behind me.

    Creak. My and Erhan’s gazes immediately turned towards the door.

    ‘Why is that opening?’

    I was startled by the unexpected situation. But what followed was even more surprising. The moment I confirmed the identity of the one who opened the door, all my thoughts came to a halt.

    ‘Why are you coming out?’

    The person who appeared through the open door was Zachary.

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