Chapter Thirteen: His Highness, Me, and our Trifling Quarrel
Just what kind of secret did the barn hold?
I wanted to find out, but Nolan’s actions scared me so much that I gave up on trying to.
But what if something terrible was hiding in the basement? Ever since, I could never stop my overflowing curiosity once it began to flow. With the several novels I have read, my thoughts were getting wilder and wilder the more I began to speculate. The most terrifying was that among the novels I have read, there was also some cases where a husband brutally murdered his wife, cutting her into pieces, and burying the corpse in a similar place… I… I shouldn’t be next on his list… Right? Though I’m supposed to be his first wife.
His marriage proposal to me was already kind of suspicious, to begin with. Could it be… This marriage charade and that something in the basement was related? The thought terrified me so much that I unconsciously hugged my body tightly.
…Maybe Nolan’s secret lover was living there? Wasn’t it also possible that he’s raising a terrifying monster he can’t let out in the world there? Or could it be a bizarre hobby he couldn’t let the public get the sniff of by any means? By chance, was it pirate treasure, just like Peter had said? And, in fact, Nolan was actually the boss of pirates and was hiding their weapons there?
I really didn’t want to think there might be such a thing in the basement of the barn.
But… But then what in the world was Nolan so desperate to hide?
—I can’t. I just can’t stop myself from having terrifying thoughts. It’s as if it was a sickness.
Scared, I hugged my head with both of my arms.
If something outrageous was hidden under the basement door, the only place I have to return to was the Teddy Viscounty. I don’t want to return there.
But if the situation continued to be like this…
That night, I didn’t get a wink of sleep. I looked up at the ceiling of the dark room, wide awake as my mind was engulfed in the maelstrom of worries.
I quietly looked at Nolan lying next to me. He wasn’t showing any signs of moving. Maybe he was already asleep.
—I just can’t take the basement ordeal out of my mind.
He even bluntly lied to me that there was danger of it collapsing, even though the stairs were perfectly fine, and there was even a sign of someone using those stairs recently… Did I just misunderstand the situation at that time?
For a tiny bit, I want to check it once again so that I can attain a piece of mind.
Yes, I will just check the condition of the stairs from above because the stairs must be in a pretty bad state if what Nolan said to me wasn’t an excuse to keep me away.
I wondered how long it had been since I’ve continuously stared at the ceiling. I silently raised my upper body from the bed, slid to the floor, and sneaked away from the bedroom. I tiptoed through the corridor and quietly opened the door to the entrance. The mansion was shrouded in pitch-black darkness, with no sound nor person in sight. After a slight inner struggle, I firmly held the lamp and broke into a run toward the barn.
Fortunately, the structure’s exterior wasn’t as dark due to the moonlight slightly keeping the darkness at bay.
I opened the door to the barn as my shoulders heaved from the rough breathing. Just like the mansion, the barn was also completely dyed in black.
—If I’m not wrong, the door to the basement should be around here.
I aimed at the spot Peter and I had dug up on the hay and pushed them away with both hands. As the door to the basement showed itself after using my whole body strength to remove hay, I took a deep breath to calm myself down for what might be waiting for me below.
And as I brought my face closer to look carefully at the age in the darkness, I was stumped.
Contrary to the daytime, the gate now had a padlock now locking it.
There wasn’t anything like that around the time Peter and I found it. This must be Nolan’s work after he came to ask me about what happened.
No way can I accept no result after coming so far…!
As a desperate measure, I even tried to open it forcefully, giving my all, but alas, my wishful fantasy didn’t come to fruition. This action sapped away all my strength, and I feebly sat down in front of the locked door.
—Of course, he would lock it… Since he doesn’t want me anywhere near it.
Sigh. If that’s how it was going to play out, maybe he should have done that in the first place. Otherwise, the situation wouldn’t have amounted to this.
I wanted to believe Nolan. However, I don’t have anything definitive with me to trust him.
I gazed at the small window of the barn while sitting down. Some parts of the mansion could be seen from here.
—It was far away from my reach.
The distance wasn’t only about the physical distance but also represented our distant hearts. I let out a long, heavy sigh, and after returning hay to its original position, I dejectedly left the barn behind. I returned to the mansion feeling blue. Once again, I made my way quietly, trying not to disturb the others’ sleep, silently turning the knob the the bedroom. I finally let down my hanging heart and immersed myself in the glory of achieving all this soundlessly.
However, as soon as I stepped inside the bedroom, I shrieked.
The bed was empty, and Nolan… He was standing by the window and looking at me with his arms crossed.
“…Did you go to the barn?”
So he was watching from the window. To be precise, since when was he awake!?
It would be no use lying if he were watching over me right from the beginning. I just have to bite the bullet.
“…Yes. I did.”
“Your oath surely doesn’t hold any worth in your eyes, huh?”
“I… I will not go anymore. Either way, it’s already locked.”
“You even learned to fight back.”
I ignored the shocked look Nolan was giving me and asked, “…Just what’s in the basement that you’re vehemently hiding?”
“Haven’t I already told you the danger of the basement caving in?”
“Peter guessed that there might be a treasure.”
Nolan laughed scornfully.
“There’s not anything sort of fantastical down there. Relax.”
But it’s impossible for me to relax.
I didn’t step further into the room and stood frozen at the bedroom entrance. On the other hand, Nolan continued to stare at me in silence. Neither of us moved for a while, and a strange, tense atmosphere filled the surrounding area. Just when I unconsciously exhaled, Nolan briskly walked toward me. His actions startled me as I took a step backward, but he swiftly grasped my upper arm before I could retreat.
“Midnight isn’t the time that you could alone outside—even more so to sneak around silently.”
Nolan’s beautiful aquamarine-colored eyes were nowhere in sight, as they now looked much darker due to the pitch-black darkness, which further enhanced the fear inside me.
Nolan held my upper arm even more tightly after not receiving any reply from me. Then he suddenly jerked my arm and pulled me into the bedroom.
Bang! Only with the loud doors slamming, echoing in the pin-drop silence behind me, did I realize that Nolan had closed doors. He kept his grip on my arm, while he put his other hand on my shoulder.
“How long are you planning to stand there?”
He forced me to the bed and said in a stiff voice from behind me, “I had not expected the wife I married to not be a docile cat but a fierce tiger.”
I could not make heads or tails if it was due to anger or shame, but I felt my body flaring up. I shook off Nolan’s hand that forcefully pushed me to the bed and rebutted, “We are both to blame on this! If anything!”
When I said this, Nolan’s shapely brows furrowed. “What do you mean?”
“Nolan-sama, too, is putting me into tough spots!”
“Sorry to inform you, but an obedient wife would never defy her husband.”
“I never did such a thing.”
“When have you ever listened to me?”
“I… I admit not completely, but I mostly do what you say.”
Nolan muttered “What mostly?” in a terrifyingly low baritone voice. He was staring down at me from up close; the space between us was shorter than a single step.
In response to him, I also braced my legs and stared back at him without flinching nor stepping back. I don’t know why; I just felt I must not back down.
The first one to break the silence in our stare-down was Nolan.
“Seriously—you don’t look like a young proper lady from any angle.”
You could have just made a pass on other women if you just wanted a wife who would always act like a proper lady.
I averted my face and sat down on the bed in a huff.
“Seems like His Highness hasn’t properly researched me. I’m not said the freeloader or the clown of the Teddy Viscounty for nothing.”
An awkward silence ensued between us.
“…Sorry. I shouldn’t have that.”
I was so surprised that I gazed at Nolan with furiously blinking eyes. Nolan’s apology came out of nowhere. He undid his crossed arms, turned around, and sat beside me.
The bed creaked.
“It was a slip of the tongue. I apologize for hurting you.”
Saying so, Nolan put his hand over mine, which I had casually put over my thighs. I felt the warmth spreading on the back of my hand. My gaze landed on our overlapped hands—suddenly making me recall the wedding ceremony we held at the Central Church.
At that time, Nolan gently squeezed my hand, entangling them together. I tried to ask him for more, but my heart pounded too loudly due to nervousness.
“Nolan-sama. Can… Can you… Hold it tightly like this?”
I wanted to savor the feeling of him holding my hands gently once again because it reminds me of my feelings of the time I first tried and believed in Nolan and his determination.
But contrary to what I asked, he removed his hand from the top of mine and threw some unexpected words at me, who was feeling shaken. “What should I do with a temptress like you?”
Just as I looked up at him with a hurtful gaze wondering what he meant by that, he closed the distance between us with his arms unfolded, and the next thing I knew, he held me in a warm embrace.
…Ahhh. Did he mistake my words for a hug? Uwaaah. But I didn’t mean it like that…
I felt as if my cheeks were on fire due to the misunderstanding as Nolan held me tightly in his arms and buried my furiously blushing face in his shoulder. I felt my heart racing loudly… However, this time, it no longer felt painful.
…Ugh. What should I do…? I’m so happy.
After a slightly longer than usual hug, I quickly distanced myself from Nolan in a panic. I crawled on the bed to my pillow without looking back at him, slipped into the blanket, and curled myself inside, all the while turning my back to Nolan.
I pulled the blanket up as much as I could and hid my face beneath it.