Hart could feel a presence around.
A light presence creeping up on his body and hands hovering around vital points.
Consciousness snapped sharply through the pain.
Hart reached out and grabbed the assassin by the throat.
The assassin made a strange noise.
It sounded like a puppy caught by the scruff of the neck.
The assassin was also whimpering.
‘What is happening?’
Dumbfounded, Hart’s vision caught sight of the tiny assassin on top of his stomach.
Blond hair that stood out in the dark.
Full, pouting lips.
And a pair of rapturous pink eyes he’d never forgotten.
Hart’s grip lightened.
“You’re so bad!”
Hanelope ducked under the covers.
Or rather, on Hart’s stomach.
“What are you doing?”
“……I’m not going to tell you.”
Hanelope squirmed hesitantly under the covers.
After a moment, she poked her face above the covers.
Her large eyes were wistfully wet.
“What were you doing here?”
“I came to see you, Your Highness….”
Hanelope groaned out of sadness.
Come to think of it, when I came home late at night, she slept in my office.
The butler said that she had been waiting for me.
‘Why? Is it because I saved your life?’
In fact, he regretted that he hadn’t followed the child who was leaving.
He regretted that he didn’t go after her and bring her back.
‘I wonder why, maybe because she’s too precious to let go, like what I felt when I first met Laura.’
When Maxim informed me that the child was being abused, I shook off my hesitation.
I didn’t have to go, but it turned out to be the right thing to do so.
‘If I hadn’t brought her in, I wouldn’t have known she’s my daughter.’
That thought was horrifying.
Especially when I saw her sleeping soundly in my office.
I stared at her for long because it was so interesting to see her curled up tight while sleeping.
And then, one by one, I would see my resemblance.
‘Is this blond hair similar to mine? If she didn’t inherit it from me, she wouldn’t have a sharp nose like this. The eyes look like Laura, though.’
These were the things I started noticing when I found out she’s my daughter.
I was mesmerized and looked at her for a long time.
When the impatient butler urged me, I finally hugged her and brought her to the room.
She was truly a strange child.
Of course, I had never seen her do anything as unusual as this.
“If you came to see me, couldn’t you just look? Why did you climb onto my bed?”
“Your Highness, it’s because you are unwell. You are sick, so you need a wet towel… but Hanelope’s arms are too short… I can’t reach you from down here.”
He was suddenly aware of the cold handkerchief on his forehead.
And the icy little hand resting on his chest.
“Your hands are cold!”
He exclaimed, and Hanelope flinched in surprise.
Hart raised his upper body and grabbed both of her hands.
The smaller hand trembled beneath his larger one.
“It’s okay, I always did this when my mum was sick.”
‘You mean this child took care of a dying Laura all by herself?’
My heart sank.
Without realizing it, Hart wrapped his own body heat around Hanelope’s cold hands tightly.
A pair of soft small hands.
The image of how she must have struggled alone with them flashed through his mind.
‘I should have been there.’
Why didn’t Laura come back, even though she gave birth to our child?
It was a question he tried to forget as he frantically followed Asta around.
But it came back to haunt him.
When Hart was silent for a while, the child, who had been watching him with wide eyes, suddenly bit her lower lip.
“Your Highness is bad.”
“Hanelope always goes to look for Your Highness, but you’re never there. Today, you were but feeling unwell, and you got angry even though I took care of you.”
The more she thought about it, the more the child’s lips quivered.
Hart felt both bewildered and amused, so he pressed his index finger onto Hanelope’s lips, which were sticking out in a pout.
Hanelope looked up at him as if she felt wronged.
“I’m not mad at you.”
“I’m just surprised that a child would do something like this.”
Hanelope nodded and rubbed the corners of her eyes with her fisted hands.
‘Did she understand what I said?’
It was amazing that this little thing understood and was convinced.
It was obvious that her intelligence took after Laura.
“If you’re not mad, can I sleep here tonight?”
Hart picked up Hanelope and rose from his seat.
His body felt light, as if he wasn’t undergoing pain before.
He carried her to her room.
As he laid her down on the bed and started to walk away, she put the back of her tiny hand to his forehead.
Then her eyes opened wide with delight.
“It’s not hot anymore!”
“So don’t worry and go to sleep.”
“Yes, Your Highness!”
On the way back to his own room, Hart felt a mixture of excitement and emptiness.
‘Maybe I should have just let her sleep in my room.’
But then he shook his head.
‘It would make her uncomfortable. The fact that she hasn’t called me ‘dad’ once suggests that she’s still feeling distant.’
The thought made me feel a little bitter.
‘Yeah, she never called me that. Not once….’
The next morning. Hart sat at the breakfast table, looking as if he’d never been sick.
My eyes glazed over.
‘Hart, you’re having breakfast with me today!’
And he doesn’t even look sick anymore!
I wondered if my all-night care had worked.
‘I knew you couldn’t live without me.’
Feeling better, she swung her legs around on the chair, which was high enough for her feet not to touch the ground.
“Good morning, Your Highness!”
Hart glanced at me as I waved, then turned away.
‘What is this? Is he telling me to keep quiet and eat.’
In life, you have to ignore trivial things like this.
I pretended to concentrate on my meal.
Sweet vegetables and savory meat, soft and fluffy bread, and sweet apple jam.
Even as I ate, I couldn’t take my eyes off Hart.
‘Yesterday’s illness was probably due to Asta. And Hart must have hurt himself trying to ‘clean up’ again.’
In the original, it was just a line, but seeing it in person made me feel sick.
‘I didn’t realize he would be in so much pain.’
The problem was that Hart was about to get into something more dangerous.
‘How do I stop him, and if I can’t, how do I save him?’
How can I be there for him when it happens in the first place?
Hart doesn’t tell anyone, not even his butler, exactly where he’s going.
‘Somehow I have to make room in his heart for me.’
I stabbed a strawberry with my fork and held it out to him.
“Your Highness, these strawberries are delicious. Dip them in honey and try them.”
“The meat is so tender. The carrots are sweet!”
“Wow, ice cream! You should try it, too. Is the yellow one the best?”
I clenched my spoon and glared at Hart.
‘I wouldn’t be so indifferent even to a passing dog!’
I gulped down the cold ice cream to cool my rising anger.
‘How can he be so chilly, as if he just licked the ground. Even the cold ice-cream has such a sweet taste?’
I wonder how much he would laugh at me if I dared to call him dad.
‘I’m not going to call him dad because it would be awkward!’
I clamped my mouth shut and thought of another plan.
Now that I was quiet, Hart would be comfortable.
“Why are you suddenly silent?”
I was startled and lifted my head, which was stuck in the ice cream.
Hart was staring at me with his chin resting on his hand.
“Did something offend you?”
‘What is wrong with this man?’
You didn’t even pretend to listen to me, no matter how much I babbled.
But if I told him the truth, he might say, “Then get out of this house”.
The non-nurturing worldview is always harsh on children.
I forced a bashful smile and said,
“Something made you upset…”
Hart muttered to himself, ignoring me.
‘If you know, don’t ask.’
I grumbled inwardly and dug into my ice cream.
‘It’s so good. Shall I ask for more? No. He might not like that there’s a pig in the house.’
“I’ll buy you a dress.”
Out of nowhere, Hart suddenly spoke up with a serious expression.
‘Why a dress all of a sudden?’
The maids had brought me plenty of suitable clothes shortly after I arrived at the manor.
Even what I’m wearing today is so pretty and cute…
“It’s annoying that you’re wearing nothing but shabby clothes every day.”
But that’s not what Hart sees.
As I stared at my pretty, cute, ‘shabby’ clothes he asked again.
“You don’t like it?”
It was too abrupt.
‘No. Maybe if we go shopping together, we can get to know each other.’
I was going to get close to him anyways.
‘And if you go out with me, Asta won’t be able to summon Hart!’
I nodded, determined.
“Miss, it is an honour to meet you. I am designer De Bichon and these are my assistants.”
I stared at the flamboyantly dressed man with a puzzled expression on my face.
What a way to get acquainted…
Hart invited the costume designer into the mansion.
“His Highness doesn’t pay much attention to boutiques.”
I sighed heavily and clutched the hem of my maid’s skirt.
“Oh, My Lady! Are you shy?”
Sherry, my dedicated maid, asked, smiling sweetly.
My new nanny hadn’t arrived yet, so for now she and the other maids were looking after me.
“Uh-huh. It’s the first time Hanelope has ever bought anything like this.”
“Really? You’ve never even been to a private outfitter or boutique?”
I shook my head.
My mum always made me clothes from fabric she got.
It was so much better than the overpriced clothes at the store.
I suddenly missed my mum.