The grasslands of House Blacke were endless.
She didn’t know that there was such a wide and vast plain just a few minutes away from the capital. It turned out that almost the entirety of the land to the west of the capital was privately owned by the Blacke family.
Grace and the horse ran and ran across the vast plain until they reached Umpteen Lake, which stretched magnificently beneath a low cliff.
“Haa, haa! Hu-ah!”
In the manner of collapsing right then, Grace fell on the horse’s back as she was unable to catch her breath.
Feeling the tremor beneath her chest, the horse must’ve been surprised by her sudden movement.
Grace then gently caressed the horse’s mane and whispered soothingly.
“Sorry. I, huu, I’m so out of breath… But it’s strange, you’re the one who ran, but why am I so tired?”
When she gently stroked the horse’s neck with a smile, the horse softly stomped one front hoof as if he understood her words. It was like he’s saying that it’s okay, and so Grace smiled appreciatively.
It was so exhilaratingly amazing.
She couldn’t believe what a great thing it was to feel the wind. Her whole body trembled with such joy that she had never felt before.
“It’s like being in a state where I’m not myself. Instincts, not my mind, dominate my body, and at some point along the way, the exhaustion I’m feeling in my limbs would disappear. By that time… It feels like I’m doing something beyond the limits of my body. It’s such a pleasant feeling.”
Was this the thrilling feeling that Dame Cassia, her escort knight, had told her about?
“…And we also call it the ‘second wind’.”
That state, Cassia said, had this name.
The second wind.
Grace liked the sound of it very much.
‘Second’ was good, and ‘wind’ was good, too.
Sighing pleasantly, Grace fiddled with the horse’s mane.
She very much liked the feeling of the soft main between her fingers.
She felt the horse flinch a little, but as he behaved right away, it didn’t seem like he hated it.
“You really are fast, aren’t you? How is it that you can run all the way here without a single break? You’re amazing.”
The black steed shook his head as if it was in a good mood.
Then, he spun around in place energetically, showing how he could still run more.
Seeing the exaggerated gait, Grace burst into laughter and soon calmed down the horse.
“No, no. I can’t run anymore right now! Let’s take a break before going back, okay?”
Seemingly answering with ‘Okay,’ the horse let out a huff of breath and stomped one front leg.
He’s a brilliant and marvelous horse, truly.
It didn’t seem to have been tamed, so it shouldn’t be able to understand humans.
‘Where in the world did this horse come from? It’s very special, perhaps just as His Excellency said.’
At that moment, she heard Lucas’s voice.
“Oh, yes, Your Excellency.”
—How was it? Did you like the run?
He asked, sounding like he’s in high spirits.
Grace answered with a nod even though Lucas wasn’t around.
“Yes, it was a much greater experience than I thought. This horse… By the way, what is the horse’s name?”
Momentarily taken aback, Lucas was speechless.
—Um, well, the horse’s name is Lu…
“Lu? Is that all?”
—Uh, um… You can call him Luki, or just Lu.
“Aha, I see. Luki, you did such a great job. Thank you for galloping safely.”
She embraced the horse’s neck as she praised him.
Her compliment made the horse move in a pleasant manner.
She felt how the horse moved its tail gently as it huffed a little.
He’s such a big horse, but also such a cutie. He’s even so mild-mannered.
“As you said, Your Excellency, Lu truly seems to be the most excellent steed. He’s fast, strong, and even gentle.
Why was he saying thank you? Oh, was it because this was his horse?
Roughly rationalizing it in that way, Grace looked around the lake, which glistened softly as if it had been sprinkled with glass beads.
She heard that this lake was also privately owned by House Blacke. And even all the land beyond this lake.
Just how much money did the Blacke family have?
She knew that they were rich, but she didn’t know how rich they were.
Suddenly, she felt curious.
“Your Excellency, by any chance, do you have an island?”
—Would you like to go to an island? I have about five or six.
‘Whoa… He owns islands. He really owns islands.’
Grace admired him silently while at the same time shaking her head with a listless smile.
“No, I was just asking.”
—Tell me whenever you feel like going. If you have a particular island in mind, let me know as well.
“Why another island?”
—I’ll buy that, too.
Unable to say anything back, Grace’s pupils shook.
Somehow, if she asked if he’s serious, she had a strong feeling that the answer was ‘yes’.
Lucas seemed to be the kind of man who made jokes with a serious face and a deadpan voice.
So, even if he was laughing now as if he really did just crack a joke, he still sounded sincere.
It was still difficult for Grace to gauge him, but she could tell that though he was joking, he’s really going to make it into reality.
‘But is he really thinking about buying a whole island if I said I want to go?’
It was something worth marveling.
Her father, Marquis O’Ellin, was a finicky and timid man.
Especially when it came to money.
When Grace made her debut in high society, she was given only two inexpensive dresses. Of course, she had no accessories.
When other people saw her like that, they said that Grace was the picture of frugality and elegance, but…
‘I wasn’t elegant because I wanted to be.’
With a crooked smile, Grace fiddled with the thin gold ring on her finger.
It was the only accessory that her mother was able to leave behind for her.
“Ah, yes. Um, I just thought of something for a second. What was your question again?”
—I asked if you’ve ever traveled across the border.
“Unfortunately, I’ve never crossed the border. I’ve had a weak constitution ever since I was young, so I couldn’t travel a lot…”
Grace leaned on the horse as her conversation with Lucas went on.
It was a comfortable conversation that would have never been possible had she been holding eye contact with him.
With his voice ringing close to her ear, they talked and laughed, and she was surprised that it went on for quite a while.
When they saw that the sun had set over the lake, they returned to the mansion.
Just as it was when they got here, Luki—no, Lu took her to the mansion as fast as he could, putting his soul into it.
* * *
“Oh! I didn’t know Lady O’Ellin went out on horseback.”
As he came out of the kitchen to fetch some ingredients, Cote shouted ‘Bravo!’ at the spectacular scene through the open window.
Grace could be seen crossing the spacious garden.
Steadily mounted on a black horse.
Likewise, Jaime was outside to fetch something from the food storagehouse too, and he was mesmerized by the sight.
The fruit pouch he was holding fell to the ground.
“Oh my god, this crazy—”
Jaime covered his mouth with two trembling hands, unwittingly taking a step back because of the incredible sight.
Indeed, Grace was riding a horse.
Not just any horse. It was a black horse.
And that black horse was Lucas Blacke!
“Wow, seriously this— really…”
It’s something that shouldn’t have been possible.
The men of House Blacke all loved their wives.
To be more precise, the men who inherited the family’s generational curse cared even more for their families.
However, they did not carelessly let anyone ride on their backs.
Even if they were family members, with animal instincts, it’s not so easy to surrender one’s vulnerable back.
Down the line in history, there’s very little record that they had allowed anyone to ride on their backs.
Ah! Except for the recent occurrence of when the previous Duke Blacke had saved the Elder Madam. She had been kidnapped by barbarians who launched an ambush.
It was a story that Jaime only heard from his mother, Laura, who was attending to the Elder Madam these days.
“I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sight of Madam Selena riding a huge, beautiful red horse. She was covered in ashes and debris, and also quite haggard, but she had a smile of pure joy as she returned home on her beloved steed’s back.”
This was an anecdote of the previous ducal couple who were exceptionally close.
It was such a rare thing, yet here Lucas was, doing it so casually!
‘T-T-That man whose pride is as high as the sky…!’
Jaime was gobsmacked as he watched Grace approach elegantly on the black horse.
However, Cote thought differently.
With admiration in his eyes, Cote-amont watched Grace and the black horse, with the twilight sky as their background.
Corriano, Cote’s home country, was full of truly broad-minded people.
Since a very long time ago, both the men and women of the country rode horses skillfully, and there was a custom of both genders enjoying the activity of hunting together.
Thanks to this, his ancestors were excellent horseback riders.
The more skilled women were at equestrianism, the more attractive they were to Corriano’s men.
Noble ladies were typically excited to show off their skills, and this made the hearts of Corriano’s young men jump.
“Really, this reminds me of my home country, which I left a long time ago.”
Cote’s eyes followed Grace as he murmured in a nostalgic tone.
Jaime, who was still slightly dazed until now, answered roughly.
“What…? You’re suddenly thinking about your hometown?”
“In my country, we have a nickname for beautiful noble ladies who ride horses. Horses are very precious animals, so they’re not used for food. They’re considered friends.”
“Ah, yes, okay…”
“Luvdoma de Bruin!”
It sounded like a regional dialect, but it was actually Cote’s native language.
As ever, the pronunciation of his language sounded sensual.
“Um, what does that mean?”
“Ah, well. In the Zeronium Kingdom’s language… Um. Right, I should say it like this!”
Inwardly wrestling with which words would fit it best, Cote raised his fist and spoke cheerfully.
t/n: another innuendo lost in translation XD what Cote meant here was roughly ‘Madam Favorite (to ride)’, and the Korean term here (애마 부인) was also used as a title for a series of 80s erotic films. so, uh, use a bit of your imagination to understand why that’s the nickname lol
additionally, Luki is pronounced kind of like ‘lookie’.
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