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Translated by Neijude
Even Kain, who had not visited the capital recently, knew her name.
A dignified lady who had been managing the Count’s mansion on behalf of her ailing mother from a young age.
Her name had been mentioned by people around him because she was of marriageable age.
The atmosphere at the social events Kain attended and the ones where the demure Rackley Winner participated were worlds apart. Moreover, she rarely attended such events, with most of the external social activities being handled by the count.
As a result, Kain had never met her at a social event.
At least, not at a social event.
“The daughter of the count, you say?”
Kain swallowed hard. He wanted to swear.
His principle of not spending the night with an unmarried noble lady had been broken.
In this awkward situation, the image that came to mind was of Rackley’s face, blushing as if embarrassed, with her nipples standing rigidly at attention.
‘I want to protect our wedding night… for my husband.’
Kain clicked his tongue. His body was honest. Regardless of his owner’s embarrassment, his manhood had grown erect.
Kain rubbed his chin roughly.
He would not have been so flustered if his partner had been a lady notorious for her promiscuous behaviour. But he had spent a night with a lady who was famous for her modesty, with not a single bad rumour about her in high society.
Moreover, both were of marriageable age.
If word of this incident were to spread, they would have to marry and take responsibility, whether they wanted to or not.
‘No, she didn’t seem to know who I am. If she had known I was a duke, she wouldn’t have told me not to. She wants to preserve her virginity for her husband, so she might want to keep this a secret.’
They had never encountered each other at a social event, and judging by her reaction yesterday, she didn’t know who he was either. They both wanted to keep it a secret, so it should be easy to resolve.
His mind lightened.
Having quickly sorted out his thoughts, Kain rinsed his dry mouth with wine and stood up.
“I shall speak with the young lady myself.”
How could he handle this matter smoothly, without making a fuss, as if it had never happened and move on quietly?
No matter how much she might not be his type – it would be difficult to find a woman who disliked him in the first place – it would be a big problem if rumours spread after finding out about his lineage and wanting to marry.
‘Marriage is out of the question.’
He had no intention of marrying.
He had even endured rumours of being a eunuch to avoid marriage, and he could not be caught here.
If she did not know his true identity, he could attribute it to a one-night mistake and stay in his territory until he heard news of her marriage.
As she was of marriageable age, she would marry within a year or two if he kept quiet.
Although the conclusion was reached, he could not feel relieved. Kain knew the cause of his unease but ignored it.
Kain entered the bedroom. His eyes met with Rackley’s, who was sitting on the bed.
Her eyes, which were covered by the sheet, grew even bigger. She was also flustered, her pupils trembling. She looked fragile, like a deer caught in the jaws of a predator.
Her red hair flowed down, making her fair shoulders stand out even more. There were red marks on her neck and shoulders from the previous night, left by him.
His eyes traced the marks he had left, and as his throat grew dry, Kain averted his gaze.
Rackley Winner, the adult daughter of the count.
In fact, Kain had met her when she was young.
The musty smell of smoke from the torches, the stinging odour, the distant sound of bells from the mass, devout prayers, and the unique scent of the temple.
Young Kain was there.
Before the funeral, Kain spent a night next to his mother’s coffin, which was placed in the cold temple.
He cursed his hypocritical father, who pretended to mourn his wife’s death, and the family members who comforted him. He fulfilled his last duty as a child by guarding the room where the coffin was placed.
In the early dawn, before the sun had risen, he left the room with his mother’s coffin as soon as the sky began to turn from darkness to a deep blue.
He had no intention of attending the funeral.
After his mother, who had suffered for a long time, passed away, Kain knew what he had to do.
As he crossed the central garden of the temple, the sun rose from one side of the sky, and the sunlight that was not blocked by the clouds illuminated the garden. The light and darkness were divided as if bisecting the garden, centred on the statue in the middle.
Kain stood in the darkness, and in the light, there was a young girl wearing a dress that reached down to her knees.
It was early for adults, yet the red-haired child stood upright, looking at the statue below.
There was a noblewoman praying there.
The woman, wearing an old but fine-quality fabric, seemed to be the child’s mother. She appeared to have forgotten the child’s presence, praying so fervently.
The child neither scolded nor cried, watching her mother. Clutching a handkerchief tightly in her hand.
Then the child looked up and saw Kain.
When their eyes met, Kain was startled. Feeling as if he had been caught doing something wrong, he stood hesitating, unable to avoid her gaze, when the child approached him first.
As she walked towards him, she plucked a small flower from the flowerbed and offered it to him.
“You dropped this earlier.”
It was a ridiculous statement. He had been in the room with the coffin all night, and he had only met the child after leaving it. He had just seen her pluck the flower; what kind of joke was this?
His subdued mood began to churn and boil, but the praying woman stood up.
At the woman’s call, the child placed the flower in Kain’s hand and left, leaving a tingling sensation in his hand.
“Do you know her?”
“She picked up something I dropped.”
“Well done. Let’s go.”
Thus, the woman and child entered the temple.
Kain looked down at his hand. Along with the flower, there was something wrapped in a white paper, about the size of a coin. When he unfolded it, he found two cookies.
A hollow laugh escaped him.
She must have brought the snack while following her praying mother early in the morning and given it to him. Lacking an excuse to give him just that, she had handed it over, saying it was a small flower that had fallen.
It was an awkward yet elegant gesture.
She offered comfort without intruding, even though she likely knew nothing of his situation.
She was a young yet dignified Lady.
“Did I look hungry?”
His eyes grew warm. Young Kain stood there for a moment, pressing his fingers against his inner eyelids.
When he lowered his hand, there were no tears in his eyes.
That day, Kain left the temple and joined the Order of the Knights.
It was a brief encounter, but it was one of Kain’s fond memories.
However, the young child from that time had now grown up, covering her naked body with a sheet, and looking at him.
After spending a passionate night with him.
“Would you like some water?”
She did not answer, but when Kain offered the cup of water, Rackley cautiously took it. She drained the cup in one go. As she tilted her head to drink, her slender neck, marked with love bites, was exposed.
Kain swallowed a moan, observing Rackley.
‘Is this woman Lady Winner from the Winner county? Does that mean her plea for virginity and her husband was not an act at all?’
Why had the woman, known for her modesty, lost her senses that night?
‘Or was the rumour about her modesty false?’
Though they had enjoyed themselves together by mutual consent, he was angry.
There had been many ladies who had thrown themselves at him to marry, but Kain had avoided all of their temptations. However, he had not been able to avoid this one. It felt filthy, as if he had been caught in a trap.
‘Indeed, this woman is no different.’
She protected her virginity for her wedding night but enjoyed messy times with a man. She was worse than a woman who indulged in debauchery.
His lips twisted into a grimace.
What words should he use to insult her?
As Kain tried to suppress his fierce emotions and opened his mouth, Rackley was a step ahead.
“Last night was a mistake.”
Startled by her own hoarse voice, Rackley cleared her throat with a small hum, and with a flushed face, lowered her gaze and spoke calmly again.
“I will not take the lessons.”
Having regained her senses, her face reddened with shame, but she did not hesitate to express her opinion.
When she opened her eyes, she was lying naked on the bed. The inside of her thighs was so chafed that the skin was discoloured. She felt dismay even before recalling the pleasure of the previous night.
Last night, his actions and choices seemed unbelievable.
Why did such a thing happen?
Before examining the cause, self-blame arrived, and reason returned.
“I did not hear about the class, nor did I know about the gigolo coming. Such a thing happened yesterday, but… I am sorry. I appreciate Irina’s concern, but I will not attend the class anymore.”
At the questioning voice, Rackley hastily explained.
“Tell them that you taught me properly and take all the money. I will tell Irina that I have attended the Lady Class well.”
Kain then understood the situation.
The Lady Class.
An excuse for young ladies to indulge messily before marriage. They would call gigolos or lovers while learning about the bedroom and continue secret meetings even after marriage.
Husbands, too, see other women, so Kain did not disapprove, but he felt odd being mistaken for a gigolo.
‘Does this woman truly not know who I am?’
As Kain remained silent, covering his mouth, Rackley thought it was for a different reason. Thus, she anxiously made the next suggestion.
“If Irina has not given you the money yet, I will give it to you. The butler said he would bring my luggage, so I can give it to you when the luggage arrives. All you have to do is take the money and leave this place today.”
‘She refuses me after spending a night together?’
That thought came first to Kain’s mind.
Thinking calmly, Rackley’s words were a welcome proposal to him. It was what he had wanted, yet he suddenly felt rebellious.
She enjoyed the night passionately, and the next day her expression changed completely, refusing him.
Had there ever been such a woman before?
He had never experienced this situation before, so his thoughts stalled for a moment.
A famous dancer he met at Courtiel fell for him. The once haughty woman could not forget their night together and clung to him, sending letters constantly. A noble lady he met on a trip, who had given up everything, shed tears and clung to him, willing to follow him.
Even those who did not know his identity melted in his presence and after a single night.
And yet, Rackley refused him after spending the night together.
One side of Kain’s lips curled up in displeasure.
‘She enjoyed herself so wickedly, and now she wants to refuse me?’
The shameless image of her overlapped with the memory of the innocent child who had gracefully given him cookies in his youth.
It was then that Kain understood why he felt so bad every time he dealt with Rackley.
The innocent child from his memories had changed.
A sense of betrayal boiled within him.
One of his few cherished memories felt tainted.
‘You are no different from the other women.’
The cruel personality that those who knew him well spoke of raised its head.
‘If you want to hide it so much, I will expose your true nature even more.’
“Were you not enjoying it quite a bit? You had fun, did you not?”
Her faltering expression at his blunt words was quite satisfying to see.
“So, you enjoyed it so much and now you just want me to leave? Even though you were so wet you soaked my fingers?”
“…That was a mistake. I will not take the class, so please leave today.”
“Oh, so you want to discard me now that you’ve gotten what you want?”
Rackley was flustered. He spewed vulgar words and acted shamelessly. He seemed to know no shame. Biting her lip, troubled Rackley sorted out the situation.
“…Don’t twist my words. That was… an accident.”
“You had such a heated night with a man you saw for the first time by accident?”
Kain enjoyed her awkward expression and approached the bed. She tensed up and guarded herself against him. Her hunched shoulders rather drew his gaze.
As he placed one knee on the bed, Rackley, who covered her chest with a sheet, shrank back, cowering.
A beast’s instincts become more alive when its prey tries to flee.
Kain, who drew close to her, pushed his fingers into her thick, red hair. Her tender scent, which he had smelled upon waking, seeped deep into his lungs.
Watching Rackley’s eyes moisten and her trembling lips quiver as they neared, Kain cruelly smiled.
“I think we should continue the lessons. My lady, you must take the Lady Class.”