Heart On A Precipice (2)
The sound of the flame in the fireplace filled the Duchess’ bedroom.
The owner of the room, Dooha, was seated beside the fire in her nightclothes and was trimming a tree branch.
The long and flexible-looking branch was surprisingly in the shape of a bow.
The item she was working hard to trim late at night was the toy bow that she promised to give Margaret.
Although it will take a very long time for a proper bow to be made, one night was enough for her to make a toy.
However, it was definitely a bow, even if it’s a toy.
Dooha checked the standard of the bow with a serious expression.
She had to finish this before dawn as tomorrow was the promised day with Margaret.
The door opened with a loud noise, and Leonhart strode into the room.
Surprised, Dooha shoved the branch that she was trimming underneath the hem of her skirt and turned her head.
She had originally intended to greet him nonchalantly, but she couldn’t say anything.
It was because the eyes of the duke, Leonhart, were filled with anger.
He hadn’t seemed that angry when he saw Nate or the fourth prince, though?
As Dooha’s lips trembled slightly out of surprise, Leonhart opened his mouth first.
“I had definitely said it before.”
His voice, which might be frigid but was always calm, was extremely infuriated.
“To never enter the annex.”
To think that it was about the annex.
Dooha’s mouth opened unconsciously.
She thought that she had sneaked in and out for the past half a month without being noticed by anyone, so how in the world did he manage to find out?
“…What do you mean?”
“Stop pretending that you don’t know what I’m talking about.”
Tendons became visible on Leonhart’s tightly clenched fists.
It was obvious that the man in front of her was extremely angry with Dooha.
Dooha tried her best to put on an air of composure, and opened her mouth after bracing herself.
I apologise for going to the annex without your permission.
“My one and only family is about to die because of you.
How are you going to take responsibility?”
At the Duke’s words, Dooha forgot what she was about to say and stared at him blankly.
Margaret was the only member of the ducal family that lived in the annex.
To say that a death was about to occur, it can’t be…
“Don’t tell me, Margaret isn’t doing…”
“Who are you to call the previous Duchess by her name as you please?”
Leonhart flung the item that he was holding onto the floor.
“Truly, you keep choosing to do useless things.”
The item he threw was the pair of rag dolls that Dooha had given Margaret.
Dooha looked at the dolls that were at her feet silently.
“Do you know what happened because of your unnecessary stimulation?”
The Duke’s grandmother, Margaret, was in a seriously critical condition.
She was boiling up with a fever, her coughing wouldn’t stop, and rashes formed all over her body.
As her symptoms wouldn’t improve no matter which medicine was used, the physicians said that this morning would be critical.
“According to the physician, it’s due to the excessive exposure to cold air as well as emotional stimulation to levels that burdened her body.”
She recalled that Margaret would have reddened cheeks and shining eyes whenever she saw Dooha.
She stood there blankly, hands clutching at the hem of her skirt.
“True, it has nothing to do with you.”
As Leonhart watched this scene, the corner of his mouth twisted.
“Because all you have to do is prove your superiority and good nature.”
“…It’s not like that.”
“Well, the you that I know has always been like that.
Weren’t you the same that night?”
At the duke’s words, Dooha recalled the day when Nate invited the two of them for dinner.
The appearance of him refusing her suggestion to get along with his uncle, even when he became completely drunk, came to mind.
Eventually, she could only bite her lips instead of responding.
Leonhart’s brows narrowed at the sight of his wife’s eyes, which looked like she was on the verge of tears.
Actually, he knew that Dooha wasn’t the only one to blame.
If he wanted to assign blame, there were also the knights that didn’t prevent her entry and the maids that failed to take good care of Margaret.
“I’m sorry, Lord.
Actually, other than Daniel, the Duchess’s attendant had also approached the annex on that day, but I didn’t think that it was something to be cautious of…”
When he heard Claude’s belated report and Margaret, who was lying sick in bed, inadvertently mumbled the name ‘Dooha’, it was too late.
Dooha must have felt sorry for the Duchess, who seemed like she was locked up in a room all day.
So she must have tried her best to make her happier.
Though Leonhart’s mind clearly knew this fact, it was hard for him to calm down.
This was because Margaret was that precious to Leonhart.
He turned around and left the bedroom, the recipient of the curse was unknown.
Dooha picked up one of the dolls that was limply stretched out at her feet quietly.
She looked at it with saddened eyes, before slowly raising her head.
There was a resolute gleam contained within her golden eyes.
“How is Grandmother?”
“While her cough has barely managed to stop, her fever isn’t going away.”
“Healing magic isn’t working, so the only method is to continue cooling her skin.”
“It’s fortunate that her energy hasn’t fallen, so she’s holding up well.”
Ever since the duke entered the annex, he continued to stay by Margaret’s side.
The physicians and the healing wizard’s report caused his beautiful face to darken.
“Are you still unable to determine the cause?”
At the duke’s chilly voice, the physician bowed his head and tried his best to make excuses flusteredly.
“T—that’s because the previous Duchess is afflicted with a mental illness, so her body would also be affected by her mental state.
That’s why I had mentioned that she required complete rest, but how did it become like this…”
“So you’re saying that there’s nothing we can do about it?”
“No! She can recover immediately with Claudene.”
Claudene was a precious herb known as ‘small miracle’ that could cure most illnesses, other than external injuries, and grew only on the highest of cliffs.
“If such a herb exists, why are you wasting your time here instead of looking for it immediately?”
Just as the physician was about to speak, a menacing bolt of lightning flashed past outside the window.
The rain which had started drizzling down since early evening, had unknowingly turned into a raging thunderstorm.
The weather was so bad that visibility couldn’t be secured just by casually glancing out of the window.
“Even if it’s an outstanding herbalist or mountaineer, it’s likely that they would die if they tried to scale a cliff on a day like this.
Someone will be sent to locate the medicinal herb as soon as the sky clears up.”
“No, you mustn’t!”
Leonhart was about to leave unhesitatingly, but he was stopped by his lieutenants.
It was Claude and Baron.
“Absolutely not, my Lord.
I would much rather the journey be made amongst ourselves.”
Claude obstructed the duke’s path and spoke in a resolute voice.
“The Lord is the head of the Esbaden family.
You can’t risk your life for something as trivial as this.”
“Did you think of the things I do for my grandmother as something as trivial as this, you?”
The duke’s frigid voice, which seemed to freeze his surroundings, caused Claude to swallow hard.
However, Claude wasn’t fazed and knelt down on a knee.
“Is the Lord aware that the bedriddened previous Duchess isn’t the only life that he’s shouldering?”
The members of the Esbaden family, the numerous vassals that followed the Esbaden family, and the citizens of the Empire that lived in the Esbaden family’s territory.
They all lived while relying on a single man, the Duke of Esbaden.
“Please do not forget the oath that the Lord swore when you inherited the position of Duke.”
Leonhart fell silent at his lieutenant’s words.
It’s because he was well aware that his lieutenant’s words were right.
When his parents passed away, didn’t he swear an oath, when he succeeded the position of duke after several near-death experiences?
He would become a person that would fit the position of the Duke of Esbaden more than anyone.
“My Lord, Claude and I will gather some men and head towards the location where the medicinal herbs would grow.
As long as visibility can be secured through the rainstorm, we will scale up the cliff even if it decreases.”
Then, Baron, who had remained silent, opened his mouth and said solemnly.
“We will make a trip in your stead, so please leave it to us.”
The duke looked at him for a moment and turned his head.
At the short yet certain response, the two saluted with discipline and rushed out hastily.
They wouldn’t have any time to spare, as they had to gather physicians that could distinguish herbs and attendants that could serve as guides.
“Then, I’ll bring some more medicine that can reduce temperatures.”
After the wizard and the physician left, the only people that remained in the room were Leonhart and two maids that couldn’t speak.
Leonhart tried to hold his grandmother’s withered hands, which were limp on the bed, but soon withdrew his hand.
He looked at his roughened hands somberly.
He thought that he could have anything and protect anything if he became the Duke of Esbaden.
But he couldn’t even do that.
If he knew that the position of duke would restrict him from doing a single thing for the person that raised him like he was her own child, he wouldn’t have tried so hard.
As the lightning struck the ground with a flash of light, the reflection of Duke Esbaden’s pale face appeared and disappeared repeatedly on the window.
“Madam, you mustn’t! Even if it’s Madam, it will be dangerous!”
Layla shouted through the rainstorm while wearing a hood.
“Madam, absolutely not! How can you climb a cliff in such weather!”
“Let go of this, Layla.”
“The Duke will send the knights, even if the Madam doesn’t go! Why on earth are you doing this?”
Her one and only master, Dooha, climbed onto a horse while wearing a hood like her.
“It would be too late when those people have departed.
I have to go right now.”
“What do you mean head out when you don’t even know the way!”
“I know the way.
There’s only a single place nearby with a cliff that Claudene can grow at.”
“Hiik, I’m not letting go! I’m definitely not letting go!”
“Let go, Layla!”
“Ack, did you think that I went to the annex at the risk of my life just to see something like this?”
Layla infiltrated the annex to find out Margaret’s condition and the medicine needed for treatment at Dooha’s request.
Claudene, a medicinal herb that only grows atop cliffs, was a panacea for all illnesses.
Dooha was also familiar with the medicinal herb that was also valued in Bashal.
“There’s no guarantee that you’ll find it even if you set out now! In any case, Claudene is…!”
“I can find it!”
“Stop being so stubborn—!”
The instant Layla’s grip faltered as she was surprised by the sound of thunder.
Dooha kicked the stirrups with her feet and controlled the reins without hesitation.
“Princess, please don’t go! Princess—!”
Dooha raced at full speed into the rain, leaving behind the anxious cries of her handmaiden.
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