Heart On A Precipice (3)
“Head maid, head maid!”
“Layla? What’s with your appearance? And it’s against the rules to be walking around at this hour…”
Sylvia, the head maid, frowned at Layla, who ran over with a completely drenched appearance.
She placed the tray that she was holding onto the windowsill in the hallway and handed her shawl to Layla.
“Dry yourself quickly.
What if you catch a cold and spread it to the Duchess…”
“That’s not the problem.
Something terrible, something terrible has happened!”
“The Duchess went out!”
The head maid frowned like she was wondering what she was talking about after briefly glancing out of the window.
“What are you saying? The Duchess went out at such a late hour in the midst of a rainstorm? What nonsense are you…”
“It’s the truth! She had just left on the back of a horse!”
“…What did you say?”
Upon hearing Layla’s words, the head maid’s mouth parted, unable to hide her bewilderment.
“Why on earth did she…”
“She went out to get the medicinal herbs for the duke’s grandmother! Claudene!”
“No, how do you know about that…”
The head maid’s gaping mouth widened as the topic of Margaret appeared from Layla’s lips.
It was to the extent that it became worrying if her lower jaw might fall to the ground.
What should I do? What if something bad happens to our Madam? Trying to scale a cliff in this weather is nothing sort of ridiculous—!”
“Wait, calm, calm down, Layla.
First of all, let’s report this to the Duke…”
Just as the head maid was trying her best to calm down Layla, who was sobbing while hanging onto the hem of her clothes.
“What did you just say?”
A familiar voice resounded lowly by their ears.
The Duke of Esbaden, Leonhart, stood at the end of the corridor with a frozen face.
* * *
Her white horse, Ark, was one of the best steeds in Bashal.
One of Dooha’s things which her greedy eldest brother coveted was this white horse.
It’s a fella that would gallop in the direction that Dooha wanted, even without holding its reins or wielding a whip.
Dooha had only arrived at the cliff when the pouring rain soaked the clothes she was wearing inside, and jumped down from the saddle.
The cliff’s location wasn’t as far from the ducal castle as she had thought.
She raised her head and looked up at the cliff that loomed over her head.
Due to the fog and rain, she couldn’t even tell where the apex of the cliff was at.
However, she wouldn’t have braved through the rain in the first place, if she intended to back down after coming all the way here.
Dooha tossed the hood that had absorbed water and became heavier without a word.
She was dressed in Bashal clothing, the clothing that she was dressed in when she first came here.
Bashal’s clothes, which placed emphasis on mobility, were much more convenient than the Empire’s dresses, so she had to choose them.
She tied a leather bag around her waist and slung the bow and quiver of arrows that was hanging on the saddle over her back.
“Ark, wait for me here.”
Dooha didn’t bother tying her horse to a tree.
It’s because she knew that the fella wouldn’t run away in the face of tolerable danger.
“…I’ll be right back.”
Dooha bade farewell to her beloved steed as if she was making a vow to herself, and headed towards the cliff.
The rough cliff surface, with rainwater flowing downwards, seemed very slippery.
But she reached her hand out to grasp the stone without hesitating.
Ever since she could remember, Dooha had been roaming around mountains, fields, and cliffs, so she was quite experienced in scaling cliffs.
It was because she always had to scale cliffs in order to chase after runaway goats or to catch an eyas for falconry.
The problem was the downpour that was pouring with the momentum of sweeping away everything that existed on the ground.
Due to the heavy rain, Dooha couldn’t even look up to check which direction she should be reaching out with her hand.
It was because the moment she turned her head upwards, the rain poked her eyes as if it was an awl.
All she could rely on in this very moment were her wild instincts.
It was what’s often referred to as ‘the sixth sense’.
As Dooha relied on her sixth sense, her movements were fearless.
She was like a leopard climbing a tree, elegant and nimble.
If it was the situation of being drenched with rain could be excluded.
At that moment, a pile of stones fell from above with a boom.
With a shriek, Dooha turned her body while clutching a crevice within the rocks with a single hand.
As her entire body supported with only one hand, her small body dangled in the air precariously.
She glanced down at the pile of stones that disappeared beneath her feet, before inserting her other hand back into the crevice within the rocks.
After several moments of being unable to properly open her eyes due to the rain and nearly missing her step due to the slippery handholds and footholds.
Dooha had finally managed to reach the top of the cliff.
There was a forest with densely packed trees at the top of the cliff.
She wiped the rainwater from her face and looked around hurriedly.
‘If there are so many trees, there might be some land that hasn’t been dampened yet.’
The medicinal herb that’s required to treat Margaret, Claudene, would only grow in the most arid portion of the highest cliff.
In other words, Claudene would easily die on land that isn’t arid.
If the patient wasn’t the previous Duchess, perhaps the physician would give up on treatment without mentioning Claudene.
Seeing a living Claudene on a day like this was akin to asking for the moon.
Unless it was living in a place with a roof.
“Wait a minute, a roof?”
Dooha raised her head quickly like she had just realised something.
It was something that she had spotted from afar since a while ago.
That was definitely a cave.
Hope bloomed within Dooha’s golden eyes at the discovery of the cave, which was formed due to wind erosion of the rock walls.
Perhaps she could find a Claudene that was still alive.
It was a law that people would be faster than anyone else when hope was right in front of their eyes.
Dooha rushed into the cave as swiftly as an arrow.
How much time has passed?
Dooha sank to the floor unwittingly after losing strength in her legs.
She was clutching a glass bottle like it was a treasure.
Within the glass bottle were several clusters of pellucid flowers, along with its roots, that emitted a subtle blue colour.
It was the small miracle, Claudene.
It was truly miraculous that the Claudene colony was alive in the cave that Dooha discovered.
Of course, the ones that were closer to the floor have already withered and died, due to the moisture that permeated through crevices in the rocks.
“…Let’s return now.”
Dooha managed to get her logged and sluggish body to her feet.
She placed the glass bottle in her bag, fastened it tightly, and tied it around her waist again.
It was time for her to return back the way she came.
* * *
“Duke, you mustn’t!”
“Even if it’s the Duke, it’s dangerous to ride a horse in this weather!”
There was a disturbance amongst the knights that were following him, as well as the duke’s servants.
This was because their master, Leonhart, tried to leave the ducal castle through the heavy rain.
Unheeding of their attempts at dissuasion, the duke continued to move forward.
“My Lord, I’ve already sent someone! The Duchess would also be safe!”
Claude froze momentarily when his lord’s ferocious gaze turned towards him.
He soon lowered his voice with a serious look on his face.
“Lord Nate wouldn’t remain indifferent if the Lord were to vacate the castle now.
The news of the previous Duchess being stricken with an illness would definitely have entered his ears by now.”
Leonhart didn’t respond, but the worried furrow of his brows deepened.
“If you leave when the previous Duchess is ill, he might speak ill of the Lord with words like ‘how could the head of the family be so irresponsible’.”
Additionally, he was trying to leave because of the Duchess, who had suddenly left the castle without a reason.
Isn’t there a better victim to slander him with than this?
“That’s why, my Lord…”
However, it was unfortunate that Claude’s lengthy persuasion didn’t work.
With an expressionless face, the duke moved him aside like he was a bundle.
Leonhart ignored their voices and opened the door to the annex.
Loud noise poured in the moment he opened the door, like they were surrounded by a flowing waterfall.
Was she in her right mind, riding a horse while rain was pouring down heavily?
Well, she didn’t seem to be a sane person from their first meeting.
Appearing before the servants in her underwear so shamelessly, skinning the hide of a beast, and dishing retaliation to the duke’s uncle with a smiling face.
However, even if she did as she pleased, Dooha was always considerate of others.
Such was the case when she offered the hem of her dress for the stable keeper she met for the first time, as well as complying with the fourth prince in spite of her fiery temperament out of fear of bringing harm to the ducal family, and the same holds true even now.
Perhaps that’s why.
Even when those that followed him tried to dissuade him, he’d look outside anxiously, wondering when she would return.
Leonhart looked out at the white fog and stopped in that position.
The truth is, he didn’t understand the feelings that he had for his wife.
It was an emotion that he had never felt before towards the women that said they loved him and threw themselves at him.
His turbulent mind; not hating her despite the fact that she bothered him, becoming displeased when others touched her yet wanting to touch her until she gave him an actual reaction.
His complacency; being at ease around her enough to drink out of the teacup that she handed him without checking for poison, despite the fact that he didn’t trust her.
His recklessness; lying down next to her unabashedly after saying that he wouldn’t share a bedroom with her, when he was someone that would never take back the words he had spoken.
He, who had thought of himself as far from being capricious, was strangely going through days of confusion.
Dooha, this was what happened after she came to him.
Leonhart wanted to understand these mysterious and contradictory feelings.
But he instinctively knew that ‘that’ wouldn’t have a positive influence on ‘the Duke of Esbaden’, who had to maintain his rationality at all times.
It’s because most things that were unidentified were dangerous.
As such, he gave a warning to Dooha before he could name that feeling.
It’s to prevent her from breaching his boundaries by herself.
“Take this, I’ve brought it—”
Leonhart stared blankly at the woman that was shoving a glass bottle to him.
“It’s Claudene, I’ve brought it back.”
With hair unattractively clinging to her skin due to the rain, cheeks reddened from the chill, and hands that were covered with blood.
However, the eyes that seemed to shine eternally like the moon in the dark were filled with joy and hope.
Leonhart finally had a hunch.
From the beginning, his warning was nothing short of useless.
“What are you standing there blankly for? We need to cure Margaret immediately!”
The woman, Dooha, had already entered his boundaries.
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