Hessen spat out curse words one after another.
He tried to get me on a horse, but instead let me stay on the ground and untied the rope on my wrist.

However, Theodore arrived just around the corner before Hessen could untie it completely.
After jumping off his horse, Theodore ran straight over here, and the moment he saw my tied wrists, his expression became distorted.

“What’s going on here?”


Hessen ruffled his hair with annoyance painting his features.
On the other hand, I was stiff as Theodore drew me into his arms.

He embraced me tightly and stroked my back with one hand, perhaps because he misunderstood my frozen frame as something like fear.

I was taken aback, and so I trembled all over.
Then Theodore caressed my head and whispered into my ear with a gentle voice.

“Lily, it’s fine now.
Don’t worry.”


No, the problem is that you’re doing this.
…But this wasn’t the right time to bring this up.
Hessen was still here.

Slowly taking in a deep breath, I looked back at Hessen.
He was staring at us in this direction, frowning as though he couldn’t understand what he was seeing.

Theodore asked him again.

“Hessen Everett, what were you trying to do here? Speak only the truth.”


Hessen stared at Theodore, who enveloped me in his arms with a protective stance.
Soon after, displeasure came over his expression.
He barked out a sarcastic laugh.

“Duke Valentino.
When did you start taking care of that wench?”

“What do you mean, wench…”

While Theodore was at a loss for words, he gripped my shoulder tighter.
Hessen laughed like a madman, then he raised his hand to tap his head.

“Are you crazy? What happened to your head? Your Grace the Duke, that woman is Lily Everett, the one you despise so much.
But what kind of farce is this.
You’re acting, right?”


Theodore seemed to be choosing his words for a while.
He couldn’t answer easily, right away.
And there was nothing good about revealing that his memories were gone—even if those memories were only ones related to me.

‘My father and Owen are such wily men who wouldn’t miss a chance to use anything as a weakness against him, even if it’s trivial.’

As he was thinking, I removed what was tying my wrists on my own, then I turned towards Hessen.

“Hessen, regardless of whether you’re my younger brother, don’t play any jokes like this from now on.
It’s not fun at all.”

He seemed to be surprised to see that I untied my wrists on my own.
This wasn’t even anything big.
Actually, I could solve something like this easily as long as I know the trick to it.

Then, I turned to Theodore.

“Duke, Hessen merely pulled a prank.
He’s a mischievous child by nature.
It’s not a big deal, so please don’t worry.”

As he listened to my words, Theodore looked at me with an incredulous expression.
But I calmly looked back at him without changing my expression at all.

There would be nothing good about making a fuss and causing this incident to grow out of proportion.
Anyway, I didn’t even feel that Hessen’s actions were threatening.
And Hessen was a man who only had a trigger-like impulse while rarely ever planning anything.

Even if he had dragged me away like that, he wouldn’t be able to keep me for long.
This was all nothing but a simple incident, so I wanted this to end just at this point.


Theodore’s mouth opened.
As he held my shoulder, his grasp started to sting painfully.

“How… is this not a big deal.”


I just witnessed Hessen Everett tying you up and dragging you away, so how can I not care? A prank? How can a prank go as far as this?”

Theodore spoke swiftly like an undeterred gun.
His blue eyes were wide, and I could only stare back at him blankly with my mouth agape.
He looked… really strange.
It wasn’t ‘him’ that I knew.

Would Theodore, the one who hadn’t lost his memories, have also gotten angry like this? Would he have just let Hessen drag me away or not?

He wouldn’t even come after me in the first place.

…I think he’s become a different person ever since he lost his memories.
I swallowed down a sigh.
Then, I glanced towards Hessen.

…At this point, he was just staring at Theodore as though he was looking at something truly bizarre.

‘At this point… there’s no other way.’

I should at least faint.

The first priority here was to get away from Hessen.
It would be fine to talk to Theodore later.
It was imperative that Hessen wouldn’t notice that the duke’s condition was strange.

I hurriedly closed my eyes and held my breath.
And, I imagined that I was drowning—in very deep, endlessly dark waters.
When I was young, I almost drowned in a lake.
We were out boating, but Hessen caught me and threw me into the lake.

I didn’t develop a phobia of water because of that, but I could vividly remember the sense of being trapped in that dark, suffocating abyss.

Since then, I learned that holding my breath for a long time would revive my fear of that time.
And if I used my imagination to the extreme, I’d lose consciousness just as I did when I almost died in those waters.

The Everett household’s doctor said that it was a psychological trauma that must be resolved, but I thought differently.
It was useful.
When Hessen or someone else would harass me, or when my father would rebuke me, or when Owen would say something that sounded like a nightmare—so that I could escape, all I had to do was faint.

I often used this method back then.
But since I came to the Valentino Castle, I haven’t used it at all, so I had no idea whether it would still work or not.
Even so, it was worth a try.


I was ‘holding my breath’, but at some point, I felt ‘breathless’.
As this happened, I couldn’t control my breathing any longer.

My throat clenched up.
It felt like something was blocking my airways.
As the fear of death rushed in, I soon lost consciousness.


* * *



“M-Madam! Are you alright? Breathe slowly, Madam, slowly…!”

I had safely fainted.
As I opened my eyes, I was already in my room at the Valentino Castle.
I knew this would happen, but my head was spinning and there were tears in my eyes.
And it was still hard to breathe.
Just as if I was submerged deep underwater, I felt so terribly suffocated.

‘I succeeded… I’m glad I got rid of Hessen.’

Since I fainted like that, Theodore would have returned to the estate in a hurry, without even confronting Hessen anymore.



My heart was pounding like crazy because of the terrible sense of death.
After waking up, I had more than ten fits of seizures before I finally managed to calm down.

I didn’t know it because I hadn’t come back to my senses until then, but Theodore had been standing near my bed with his face as white as a sheet.
It looked like he had seen a ghost.

Glancing at him, it felt as though I was going to have one more seizure, but in another sense.
I still couldn’t fully understand this man’s current state.

It’s absurd that he lost his memories of me… Even if he couldn’t remember me, he’d be able to remember what the Everett family had done.
But just what on earth had been erased from his mind that he completely changed like this?

This Theodore who was kind to me… Although I once hoped and deluded myself into thinking that this was a possibility, right now, I just felt overwhelmed and uncomfortable.

I desperately wished that the hope I had already stepped on and killed would not come back up once more.
So, I repeated it over and over again like a mantra— He’s only doing this because he lost his memories.
When his memories return, he will be the same as before.



Theodore carefully came closer to me as I drank water slowly.
I stared at him without a word, setting down the glass and glancing at Charlotte.
It was a signal that she shouldn’t leave me alone in this room.
I did not want to be left alone with Theodore.

As soon as Charlotte nodded, Theodore opened his lips to speak again.

“How are you feeling?”

He approached closer and sat on the edge of the bed, his eyes expressing caution.
Avoiding his gaze, I answered.

“I’m fine…”

The voice that spilled through my lips was so thin and faint that it sounded like a whisper of a person on their deathbed.
Theodore’s expression hardened for a moment, but soon softened once more.

That face.
I can’t get used to it.

The thought even came to mind that it would be better if he could scowl as ruthlessly as he would before whenever he looked at me.
…Then I wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable.

“Lily, when you suddenly weren’t breathing, it surprised me so much.
But all of a sudden, why…”

Theodore opened and closed his mouth as though he was wrestling with what to ask me, however, he eventually swallowed those words and softly said.

“Fainting like that… I don’t want that to happen ever again.
I’ll ask the doctor to keep a close eye on your condition, so please don’t skip the medical treatment.”

“…I understand.”

It was so uncomfortable being at the end of that conflicted look.
I wasn’t used to someone worrying about me.
Thanks to Charlotte, I got accustomed to it to some extent, but it was still uncomfortable.

However, more than anyone else, it was so awkward being the target of Theodore Valentino’s gaze full of worry.
It’s driving me crazy.

And more than that, this made me so frightened.
As he continued to look at me with such thoughtful eyes… I don’t know when he’ll change again.

He lost his memories.
This wasn’t his original self.

This was the conclusion that I made.

“…Did Hessen go back?”

I quietly asked about what I’d been curious about since earlier, and at this, Theodore nodded.
Then, he replied.

“He should have returned to his private residence in Solzveri.
We’ve confirmed that he’s not in Veronis anymore.”

Solzveri was one of Everett’s territories.
Located in the southwest region of the kingdom, it wasn’t very far from this place, and it was easy to travel here just by going down by boat through the western river.

As I heard Theodore’s answer, I was momentarily lost in thought.

‘Hessen personally built a residence there? That’s a bit odd.’

Hessen always pretended to be indifferent, but inside, he was quite prideful of the fact that he was an Everett.
He used to show his loyalty through his actions—everything Hessen had belonged to Everett.
That’s why he didn’t make any of his own wealth, and there were just a few knights who followed him.

Why did Hessen build a private property for himself? …Perhaps, did those Everett demons start being hostile to each other without my knowledge?

‘If that’s really the case…’

I spaced out for a moment.
My heart was pounding with these strange expectations that slowly bloomed within me.
If those three bastards could completely be split up… Oh, how nice would it be if all three of them would fight and kill each other.



Hearing Theodore’s voice calling my name, I suddenly came to my senses.
…He was staring at me with an ineffable gaze.


What expression had I been making? …I don’t know.
First, I covered my mouth and coughed.

“Please don’t mind what happened with Hessen.
He’s just normally like that.
He’s a bit rough around the edges, so his jokes tend to be severe.”


Theodore’s lips were drawn in a straight line as though he wanted to say something, but he soon sighed quietly and nodded.

“…I understand.
Then it would be better for you to rest now.
Is it alright if I stay by your side…?”

My eyes widened as I looked at him.
I just know that the expression on my face right now was full of astonishment.
My mouth seemed to have a mind of its own, and words that I hadn’t even thought of leaked out.

“I-I don’t want you to.”

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