A Tale Of One Lady And Two Men - Chapter 3
Translator and Editor: Yonnee and Nabi
Similar encounters continued several times.
First, it was only through serendipity that they met—and they met again after that when Nadia returned the borrowed money.
Nadia wracked her brain to create more excuses every time their meeting would end so that she could see the man again. She would say that she wanted to thank him, or she would even go as far as pacing along the streets for another “chance” encounter.
Whether it was by coincidence or whether he wanted to meet her as well, she would come out to meet him without a plan. If she hung around an alley and met him there, she would ask him to escort her just in case another suspicious man would appear once more when she’s alone.
Whatever happened, her heart pounded loudly in her ears as she moved forward without any countermeasures.
Asheel treated her in a very polite and thoughtful manner that it baffled her now that she had once been afraid of him. Nadia suddenly realized that she was now thoroughly doused and softened by the sheer kindness of a man who didn’t even know her true identity.
It wasn’t long before these warm feelings, which quietly and gradually sowed themselves within the two, that the beginning of their relationship sprouted.
As they kept meeting several times, there was no way that Asheel wouldn’t notice her being shy and defenseless every time his gaze met with hers.
Nadia was going through the same thing she read in the novel. Whenever she faced him, her heart would beat fast as if it was going to explode, and she was out of breath. It was difficult to make eye contact, and it felt like her heart was stuck in her throat whenever she saw his smiling face.
She blushed all the time, and she stayed up all night thinking about what else she could talk about with him to make him smile more.
As the number of times those two met increased, Nadia’s feelings gradually wore down his defenses, and slowly, Asheel stopped trying to keep his distance from her. The kind eyes that looked at her only as a younger sibling soon changed into the same gaze that she had for him.
She was convinced that love was the warmth that she saw in Asheel’s eyes, even though it was her first time experiencing it. It was like rain pouring over the dry, cracked ground.
“I like you.”
Asheel’s hushed confession was a delight for Nadia. The ecstasy of knowing that he felt the same way was like nothing she had ever felt before. She was drunk on those emotions, almost like a person who had never drunk a drop of water all her life.
As she woke up from her daze, she was wrapped in this soft, budding love. And so, after they confirmed their feelings for each other, it was only natural that they became lovers.
It happened on a day they had agreed to meet. It was a more special meeting because they hadn’t met for the past few days. When she saw the man from far away, waiting for her to come, Nadia couldn’t hide her excitement and ran to him like a child.
“Did you wait long?”
Asheel’s lips curled up in a gentle smile. Nadia rushed into his arms, out of breath, and without realizing, a peal of laughter left her lips.
Folded in Asheel’s arms, which rushed to embrace her, held her lightly, then let go.
They were at a deserted alley, and while she always tried to be careful to keep away from prying eyes, she often couldn’t hide her excitement. But, at times like those, Asheel was always the one who let go first.
It was so natural for her to fall in love with him.
She thought it was fate. As though it were a scene in one of the romance novels she enjoyed reading, he was her knight that appeared during a crisis and saved her. He may not actually be a knight, but it was fine. Nadia herself knew that having such fantasies was immature.
She was the young lady of Ingram, one of the seven notable families that supported the Empire. Her father, the Duke of Ingram, had yet to betroth her with a fiancé, but he would surely force her to marry soon, perhaps in a year or two, as if she would be sold to a powerful family.
…This was a future that she would not be able to change.
She could immediately imagine what kinds of disgraceful rumors would abound if she were to be found out rendezvousing with an unidentified man, and her value as a marriage partner would instantly sink.
Even if she wasn’t comfortable bearing the weight of her family name, it was something that she felt she should protect. She knew that the honor and glory that came with the name could disappear any moment, like dying embers after a fire, nevertheless… she couldn’t stop having her fiery encounters.
Asheel. A man with hair as red as fire and green eyes that matched his surprisingly excellent features. He was tall enough that Nadia had to look up just to match his gaze, and he had a long scar that ran down from his cheek to his chin.
When she first met him, she was busy shaking from fright because of the sword he held and the scar engraved on his face. However, now she knew—how boyish this man was, who pretended to be indifferent but was actually sensitive, who smiled often, whose warm hands were covered with calluses and scars.
The two held hands and walked together through places with no people, sometimes sitting by a lake deep within the forest, glancing at the swans that swam on the water’s glistening surface, and they would talk for hours on end.
“I don’t want to go home.”
Asheel smiled silently at the admission that came out of the blue, then smoothed her hair. She gazed up from where she was, lying down on his lap, and was blinded by the sunlight that streamed through the leaves.
He raised a hand over her to give her some shade, and at that moment, she saw the troubled expression he had as though he didn’t know what to say.
“I wish we could continue staying together.”
The man’s low voice felt as sweet as melted honey.
The time they spent together wasn’t long. It was only a few times a week and only a few hours at a time. The only things they knew about each other was that she was Nadia and he was Asheel, but they could guess a few things about the other while they spent more time together.
Nadia could easily tell that he was a commoner, and because he was wearing a sword, it led her to the speculation that maybe he was a mercenary.
On the other hand, it was also easy for Asheel to tell that she was a noblewoman. Even if she wore simple clothes and accessories, she wouldn’t be able to hide it.
They were attracted to each other from the start, though it wasn’t like they didn’t resist the temptation of developing a relationship at first.
At least, they knew that it was dangerous for a noblewoman like her to meet someone like him.
“I told you, you have to be careful.”
“It’s because I don’t know when I’ll be able to see you again.”
The man, with a troubled expression filled with worry, tilted her hat a little more to cover her face. It became difficult for her to see Asheel’s face, but Nadia accepted his touch calmly because she understood what he was worried about.
Asheel had repeatedly tried to break up with her. It wasn’t that his emotions had gone cold. As a matter of fact, as he would say this, it was clear that his heart sank with a sad face. It wasn’t until she saw his forlorn expression that she would be able to regain her footing.
She was still worried—worried that she was the only one who wanted to cling onto this relationship. Nadia didn’t know where her courage from holding onto him went.
Before meeting him, she never thought that she’d ever associate herself with a person that had a job that did not have any honor—or at least, this was what she thought before because there was no such thing as “never” in this world.
He was a commoner, but he wasn’t servile, nor was he vulgar. And, above all, he did not judge her like all the others. She felt this very clearly. When she was with him, she could be in love just as Nadia, and not Nadia Ingram.
It was the first time she ever felt that way. Before, the world was so devoid of color, but now, she was looking forward to every tomorrow. When she was wrapped in his wide arms, she almost cried because it felt like he was saying, ‘This is how much you are loved’ and ‘You have lived without knowing such warm and happy feelings until now.’
Nadia realized how much she did not have by loving him.
But… when she thought of a future with him, she couldn’t see anything.
The future will flow towards an ending where their love wouldn’t be able to last. Nadia was the only daughter of a ducal family, which meant that she was an indispensable tool for marriage to expand the family’s influence.
She knew that her parents weren’t such people who would indulge her, just the same as she knew how they wouldn’t pay her any mind when she was a child, even if she cried and rolled around on the floor in a tantrum…
There was no way they’d allow her to marry a man of different social status. They would probably look at Nadia with a perplexed expression and say, ‘Just break up with your lover.’
Maybe they should just run away together. As she was absorbed in her thoughts, Nadia took out a veil that could cover her face.
Perhaps they could leave and settle in another country, or another continent where no one would be able to recognize them. She could get quite a lot of money from selling all the jewelry she had, so they wouldn’t have to struggle.
Even if that didn’t work out, Asheel could hunt, and Nadia was good at embroidery, so they’d be able to make ends meet. This ongoing fantasy went on in her mind for a moment.
“I’ll go alone. Don’t follow me.”
This was what she said to the maids as she rode a servant’s carriage instead of the official carriage with the family crest on it.
Although it was common to have lovers amongst nobles of high society, and it wasn’t so much as a ‘flaw,’ it wasn’t something widely accepted either.
It was only done by people in the capital, and not by unmarried people in the least.
It was even harsher for women, so even if the act of cheating was the same on both ends, the punishment for women who committed infidelity was much heavier.
As much as possible, this kind of relationship must never see the light of day because it was common to be persecuted if someone else found out.
No one would notice a modestly dressed woman walking down the street, but it was good to be careful in advance. Nadia knew that this relationship was already dangerous in itself, so she didn’t intend to add more danger to it.
She turned the corner nonchalantly and entered a series of alleys where she would make several turns, even though no one was following her. The closer she got to their promised meeting place, the more discreet she became.
Nadia stopped suddenly when she reached the point where she needed to round one last corner at the back alley of the general store, but she suddenly heard voices.
Sticking close to the wall like a frightened rabbit, she carefully peeked her head out and looked past the corner.
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