I Will Disappear, Grand Duke - Prologue
The Duchess has escaped. It happened while the Grand Duke was on an expedition.
“Your Highness, the servants say that the only thing that disappeared from her residence was her clothes.”
“Precious items or accessories.”
“They seemed to remain untouched.”
At the aide’s words, The large man’s brow wrinkled, one side of his mouth lifted.
She took only a few clothes with her on her escape.
His wife ran away, leaving everything he had given her. He knew intuitively what this meant.
She was trying to erase the time she lived here as his wife. She dared to hope that he would forget her forever.
The Grand Duke opened his mouth in a cool, quiet voice.
“Have you heard anything from the knights yet?”
“We received a message that they are continuing to track Her Highness’ carriage. It looks like they will be able to successfully siege it soon.”
“If she resists, tell them to bring her in, even if it’s by force.”
The Grand Duke’s stern gaze reached the wedding ring on his ring finger.
His wife had been on the run for five days, completely outrunning the castle servants, but the Grand Duke had managed to locate her within half a day of his return to the castle.
She would soon be back in her original position. There was no reason to be nervous.
But the impatience coming up from his chest kept bothering him.
She should never have run away like this. Now that she was his wife, she had to feel the pain beside him even if she was sick. Even if it was painful, she had to suffer in his eyes.
Julia Caesar, if ever died, had to die in his territory.
He closed his bloodshot eyes loosely. The Grand Duke did his best to suppress his raging emotions.
At that moment, one of the knights stomped in the office. The knight, who was out of breath, continued sluggishly.
“Ah, Your Highness…She’s gone!”
“What do you mean?”
The Grand Duke asked in a sharp tone.
“… We clearly confirmed that she was in the carriage many times, but after we surrounded the carriage, the Duchess was not there.
We have no idea what was going on…Ah!”
In the blink of an eye, the Grand Duke approached and drew his sword from his waist. A sharp gaze fell on the knight, as if he was about to cut off his head.
“Don’t talk nonsense. Tell me where did she disappear to?”
“Ah, we’ve been searching the neighborhood with the garrison, but there’s no witness, no trace….”
Throwing the sword on the floor, the Grand Duke roughly swept his black hair.
“I’ll go myself. Prepare the horses.”
The Grand Duke gritted his teeth. He shouldn’t have left the job to those incompetent people. He didn’t think it would be easy for them to get Julia back immediately, if he didn’t act directly.
“Your Highness, I believe that Her Highness has a helper. How could she have disappeared by herself with that many knights chasing her?”
The aide who was following the Grand Duke opened his mouth cautiously. Then, at that moment, it suddenly came to the Grand Duke’s mind.
There was a priest who had come a few months ago to bless the Grand Duke’s castle. His wife seemed to be quite close to him.
“Lloyd, you go to the temple of Ilion and find the priest who blessed the castle. She may be hiding there. Search every corner.”
If that priest was helping Julia escape, he must have used his holy power.
If he was using his holy power, it would not be difficult for him to hide her presence or distract the Grand Duke’s attention for a while.
The blue veins appeared on the back of the Grand Duke’s hand as he held the reins. The mere thought that Julia might be with another man filled him with unspeakable rage.
But underneath it all, he felt disgusted with himself for being so heartless towards her all these years.
He knew. He knew that Julia’s departure was ultimately his own fault.
“Search everywhere, don’t miss a single thing.”
The Grand Duke searched every building in the city.
Some knights were deployed to search even the small private houses.
The Grand Duke escaped the city walls with the other knights. As they entered the vicinity of the carriage station, there was a rush of people heading for other areas.
When the road was blocked, the Grand Duke’s procession came to a halt.
“Your Highness, please come around…”
His gaze stopped near the crowded ticket booth, or more precisely on one of the women in the crowd.
For a brief moment, he could see Julia’s face. Sure enough, it was her.
The Grand Duke, dismounting from his horse, rushed into the crowd. He hurried to his feet, glaring at the back of the woman in a hooded robe.
Perhaps unaware of his shout, the woman did not turn around and continued walking. He caught up with her at once, grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her around.
As he flipped her hood back, the woman revealed a panicked face, widened her eyes. It was not Julia.
The hesitant woman slowly backed away as he said the abusive language with an angry face.
Then, just as the woman was about to turn away completely, the pendant that was on her neck caught his eye unexpectedly.
Before he had time to remember what it was, his body moved first. The Grand Duke grabbed the woman’s arm and cut off the string of the pendant that was on her neck at once.
The string of the metallic pendant broke into pieces. The woman shook off the Grand Duke’s hand with startled eyes.
At the same time, a strong light shone around her.
Soon the unfamiliar face gradually changed into the face of the woman he knew so well.
Pale face. Light brown hair. Frightened blue eyes.
This woman looking at him with a stiff face was his wife Julia.
He smiled faintly with a complicated expression. The panicked look on his wife’s face made him feel miserable instead of angry.
With what kind of eyes should he face his wife who even dared to disguise to escape from him?
“Oh, how did you know?”
Julia muttered with a disappointed look on her face. She didn’t have the slightest idea that she would be caught so vainly either.
He gripped the pendant in his hand tightly as if he was crushing it, and said,
“This pendant, I could feel its faint power.”
Julia bit her lower lip in dismay. The Grand Duke pulled her by the hand.
“Now go back. That’s enough trouble for me.”
Before Julia knew it, the approaching knights had surrounded the two of them tightly. There was nowhere to run.
With her eyes squeezed shut, Julia was gently dragged away by him. There was nothing more she could do when the pendant was taken away.
Moving to where he had tied the horse, he picked her up in one fluid motion over the saddle. Naturally, he climbed in behind her and pulled her close into his arms.
The Grand Duke watched her for a moment without getting a reply, then quickly tugged on the reins.
Her light brown hair fluttered and tickled his neck. They ran for a while without a word of conversation.
Julia was already in his arms. There was no need to be anxious anymore. But his anxiety was not going to disappear any time soon.
It seemed as if she would dissipate like smoke at any moment.
Having escaped safely from the city, they entered the forest path. A procession of knights moved forward, protecting the Grand Duke and his wife.
The Grand Duke stared at Julia’s small back. He wanted to know what expression she had on her face. Whatever it was, he wanted to hear her voice confirm her presence.
At that moment she called him in a quiet voice. The end of her voice was cracked.
The Grand Duke slowed his hurried pace and listened to her. Julia turned and looked at him.
“….. I don’t feel good. Let’s take a break.”
He could see a hint of tiredness on her face. He was troubled for a while, but soon stopped running. The knights who were riding nearby also stopped.
They had to run more for a few more hours in order to reach the castle. It would definitely be too much for her physical strength.
The Grand Duke said something to the approaching knight. With a silent bow, the knight disappeared immediately to the other side.
“I told him to bring the wagon. It won’t take long.”
Julia dismounted from the horse and passed him numbly, then sat down on the grass far away from him.
The Grand Duke shooed away the knights who were following him and approached her.
Julia crouched down and patted the hem of her robe meaninglessly. He looked at her delicate hands with prominent joints and murmured.
“You seem to be thinner.”
“Where have you been staying the whole time?”
Julia made no reply, but lowered her head deeper. The Grand Duke did not give in and continued to throw questions.
“Did you see the priest of Ilion?”
“…And the pendant, I’m sure he gave it to you.”
Julia’s hand flinched at the muttering words. The Grand Duke, who did not miss the sight, continued in a cool tone.
“If you don’t want to answer, then do so. I can just catch him and ask.”
“Please don’t hurt an innocent person. That man has nothing to do with me.”
When Julia, who had been silent, unexpectedly replied, the Grand Duke wrinkled his brow. She faced her husband squarely with a downward glance.
“Why are you looking for me?”
She had this look on her face that said she couldn’t understand the situation. She even looked a little angry. The Grand Duke spoke in a cold tone with a sultry feeling in his heart.
“Are there any men who could sit still while their wives are gone?”
“…Was I a wife to Your Highness?”
Julia lifted her lips weakly. The Grand Duke’s lips moved in a complicated expression, but he quickly gulped it down. His heart throbbed as if it was stabbed with something.
Julia, who was staring at him, raised herself up. Then she walked along the woodland path.
He understood that Julia meant that she wanted to be alone. But he couldn’t let her be. The Grand Duke followed her at some distance.
Julia, who had been walking for a long time without saying a word, stopped. The Grand Duke stopped with her, and his brow furrowed at the open sight.
Beneath a sheer cliff, a strong river was flowing. She didn’t know there was such a place in this forest.
“Julia, come here.”
Just as the Grand Duke called out to her with an ominous premonition, she turned around and pulled something out of her pocket.
The Grand Duke stared at her with a slightly perplexed look in his eyes. Julia pointed a knife at him.
Her hands trembled finely as she grasped the hilt of the knife. The Grand Duke, who paused for a moment as if in shock, immediately killed his expression and approached her. Julia stepped back.
“Don’t come any closer. If you get any closer, I’m really going to stab you…”
“Do as you please.”
She would never stab him. Good-natured Julia Caesar could never do anything to hurt others.
That was his wife, as he had seen her so far.
The Grand Duke took a few large steps forward, and Julia moved back with a jittery movement.
If he got stabbed by that knife here, she would be sorry and come back to his side. Then she could hit him as many times as she wanted, with a sword or a gun.
His nonchalant face cracked at the moment the blade turned in an aborted direction.
The knife that had been aimed at him was now pointed at herself.
“Damn it, put that knife down!”
Julia plunged the knife further into her neck when her husband approached closer.
Red fresh blood flowed down from her white neck. In that state, she slowly backed away. The Grand Duke was shaking frantically as he came to a stop. He knew that if he came any closer, Julia was really going to cut her throat.
“Darn it… don’t move anymore! It was my fault, I’m sorry…”
The more she retreated, the more the Grand Duke looked as if he was dying and prayed fervently.
The longer he lingered, unable to approach, the closer Julia got to the edge of the cliff.
“Please, don’t. It’s all my fault. I will do as you wish. Julia….”
The Grand Duke shuddered, unable to hide his reddened eyes. It was hard to believe that he was such a cold and heartless husband.
Julia smiled bitterly. That look in his eyes, his words….at one time he was all she had. Days when she was deflected dozens of times and crumbled in a single glance.
These are the times she loved him while she was in loneliness.
Standing on the edge of the cliff, Julia slowly carving the face of the husband who had once been her world into her eyes.
“…… It’s too late.”
If not now, she would never be able to leave him forever. She would come to love him again.
“The unhappiness I have experienced is enough for me.”
She wanted to be happy now.
Staring at her desperate husband, Julia threw herself down the cliff.