Elysia was about to run up to Edward in delight, but she hesitated. It was certainly the Edward she knew, yet something felt strangely unfamiliar. What could it be? She couldn’t quite put her finger on what was different, but the feeling was enough to make her step back.
“You said you missed me. Was that a lie?”
Seeing his bright smile, she finally felt like she was seeing the Edward she knew. However, she couldn’t ignore the worry feeling at the back of her mind.
“You were in the garden.”
“Yes, I was just checking the condition of the garden…”
Elysia was puzzled by his unusually friendly behavior. It seemed odd for him to come up to her and take her hand as if he wanted to display something intentionally.
“I thought you might want to see him, so I brought him here.”
Although she had seemingly instructed Damon to bring Edward as soon as the issue was resolved… well, Damon wasn’t one to listen to her words.
At times like this, it was best to just express gratitude and soothe the situation. She didn’t know what he wanted by doing this, though it was best not to resist his intentions.
“I hope Brother will stay at the Grand Duchy for a while.”
“Thank you, but I have somewhere to be.”
“You’ve just arrived in the Capital.”
Elysia couldn’t understand why they were both glaring at each other with her in the middle. What was even more surprising was that Edward didn’t falter at all as he faced him. The Edward she knew was an inherently gentle person. It was only natural that he couldn’t stand up to Damon.
…But what did this current situation mean?
“There’s no way I would come to the Capital without any preparation. Thank you for your concern, Your Grace.”
“You can speak comfortably. After all, we are family now, aren’t we?”
She was surprised by Damon’s words. She had never expected him to be so friendly toward Edward. She thought he would only act that way in front of her. She didn’t expect him to behave kindly, even in front of Edward.
“Family, you say?”
“Yes, Brother. We are in-laws, are we not?”
She knew that Edward disliked Damon. From his perspective, being kind to a dangerous man who might kill her was odd in itself. The same could be said for Damon. He didn’t need to be friendly to Edward.
In fact, the most incomprehensible thing at the moment was Damon’s attitude.
“How dare I hear such things to Grand Duke Raphael?”
Damon’s slightly trembling fingertips indicated that he wasn’t pleased with Edward’s response. No one would dare to disrespect him. Edward knew how intimidating Damon was, yet he continued to provoke Damon.
As a result, Elysia was the one constantly sweating between the two of them.
“Oh, you must have arrived today.”
“Yes, I did. I heard you wanted to see me, so I came running.”
She felt slightly relieved at the sight of Edward’s smiling face. Indeed, he hadn’t changed. He remained as kind and gentle as ever, especially towards her.
“Why did you return from the Logan Empire?”
“I no longer need to stay there.”
“Then, come inside the castle.”
The garden wasn’t the best place for conversation. Although Sebastian and Julia had disappeared midway, the area was too open.
“I will come back tomorrow.”
They were about to come inside the castle, but Edward wanted to leave so Elysia couldn’t help but feel anxious. They had just reunited, and she couldn’t let him go like this. It seemed like he had come to see her well-being for himself.
“Just a moment! Wait… I have something to discuss separately.”
Even though she blurted it out to mask the situation, she had so much she wanted to ask Edward after not seeing him for so long.
“The wife is holding on so tightly… If you’re not too busy, how about staying for dinner, Brother?”
It would have been difficult to refuse if Damon was going to this extent.
The unfamiliarity she felt when she first saw Edward wasn’t just a figment of her imagination.
Edward had truly changed.
The most significant change was that his complexion was no longer bad. Previously, Edward always looked unwell. It was undeniable that he seemed so unhealthy that anyone could suspect he would collapse soon.
Though what about now?
“How has your health been lately?”
“I’m much better, so the Grand Duchess doesn’t need to worry.”
His gentle touch on her head felt the same, yet it gave her the feeling that he was someone else. Just a while ago, he was speaking so comfortably, but now he suddenly referred to her as ‘Grand Duchess.’
“Brother? Why… are you suddenly calling me that?”
“I believe I was momentarily impolite. I shouldn’t have forgotten that you became the Grand Duchess.”
There was definitely something Damon said on the way here. Otherwise, there was no way Edward would suddenly act like this.
“These were the things from when you went to the founding party.”
“How did you know I went to the founding party?”
“I had heard the news of the Grand Duchess even in the Logan Empire.”
It was surprising that news of her had spread all the way to the Logan Empire.
“I’m relieved that you seem to be adjusting better than I expected.”
His manner of speaking, as if addressing a stranger, felt unfamiliar. The Edward in front of her now seemed nothing like the person Elysia had known. Had he always been this distant? She wasn’t quite sure.
Until now, Edward had only shown her a gentle side.
“Now that I think about it, dinner might be difficult. As much as I want to stay until evening, I’ve just remembered some matters that need my attention.”
“I’ll come visit within the next few days. So, Grand Duchess, please continue your usual activities.”
She couldn’t bear to hold him back a second time. Or, to be precise, she hadn’t been able to hold him back. The current Edward seemed like he wouldn’t listen to anything she said. She had never felt this way before, so she was taken aback.
“If Brother is leaving, then we should go inside as well.”
There was no chance to stop Edward from leaving. Damon had pulled her shoulder and guided her inside.
“He’ll be back soon. We have preparations to make.”
* * *
Continuing to soothe her attempts to go after Edward, he finally managed to put her to sleep. Lately, Elysia had been falling asleep faster and faster. It was a sign that she was feeling more at ease.
Damon’s lips formed a smile as he watched her fall into a deep sleep.
Now, holding hands with him and falling asleep had become familiar. Without needing to say anything, her hand would reach out first.
He took her hand in both of his as if in prayer, and let out a deep sigh.
Would she ever know… the feeling of being saved every time he held her hand? Perhaps she would never know in her lifetime. No, she had to remain unaware. This was something that should never be revealed in a lifetime.
Just holding hands would calm his boiling blood. It felt peaceful. He had always thought that the word ‘peace’ was something distant from her life with him.
At even the slightest stir, Damon tensed and watched Elysia. He let out a deep breath as he looked at her sleeping figure, sweeping away the feeling he would never have imagined before.
“… You’ve changed me.”
Originally, he didn’t sleep. He could live without sleeping, staying awake through the night with eyes wide open. Occasionally, when his body couldn’t bear it anymore, he would close his eyes for a short while.
In addition, meals were the same. This cursed body was excessively strong, beyond the realm of human limits.
Even when he wanted to sleep, he couldn’t. Every time, he struggled with the boiling heat and pain. So, to survive, he had to kill someone, or otherwise, he felt he would die. In the end, he had to inflict wounds on himself.
He had to push himself to the brink of death to stay alive.
There was no response from the deeply sleeping figure. Fortunately, she was a deep sleeper.
“I will never let you go, so it’s better for you to give up.”
When he had given up everything and was dying, finding her was his salvation. He couldn’t afford to lose her like a fool. He hadn’t done anything wrong. Rather, it was wrong for her to come to him without knowing anything.
“Look into Edward Caitlin.”
When he came out of the room, Sebastian and Ethan were waiting for him. The reason his nightly drink had never been discovered by anyone was because of these two.
“Oh, and one more thing.”
He had ignored him so far, even though he didn’t like him. He had even thought of indulging in the childish family game just because Elysia liked him. However, if anyone, no matter who they were, tried to take her away from him, he couldn’t forgive them.
“Find out about the Emperor’s funding source.”
“…The Emperor’s funding source?”
“Yes, not just the funding source, though also who he’s been in contact with lately.”
Whether it was the Emperor or her own family, no one could take her away from him.
“What should we do with the medicine from the Palace this month?”
Damon looked at Sebastian, who was still standing there with the box, with a cold gaze.
“You’ve been avoiding the medicine for three years already. It might strain your body.”
There was a time when he had relied on it. However, he realized it was a useless effort and hadn’t bothered with it since.