Wild Apricot Vs.
Empty Vessels (2)
“Huh? Why would I make fun of the Marchioness’ words? I’m just genuinely concerned.”
Herace frowned and acted as if he was disappointed because the Marchioness failed to recognize his true intentions.
Chloe was speechless.
She forgot that it was impossible to beat this man with mere words.
In the book inside her dream, Frederick Anata often raised a white flag when having quarrels with this man, who alternated between being insolent and sly.
“How about we walk to the hill over there? Even if it looks low, the view is pretty good from the top.”
Herace said while pointing at the low hill behind the tent.
She thought it was a suitable place to be on her own.
“Thank you for informing me, Sir.
I’ll go there by myself, so please return.”
“No, I recommended that place, but am I not supposed to make sure it’s safe for you, My Lady? If anything happens to the Lady I’ll be killed by the Knight Commander of Blanchett.”
Chloe sighed softly, giving up.
No matter how much she talked, he wouldn’t give up.
Of course, she could just send him off by ordering him to go back angrily, but she was too exhausted.
The hill, which seemed quite low, turned out to be a bit difficult to climb.
Light snow was piled up on the ground due to the harsh northern weather, causing her feet to sink.
Chloe was running out of breath as Herace, who was walking by her side, asked a lot of questions.
“Do you exercise?”
“I do, huff, walk.”
“My Lady, you have to do more exercise.
You’re so weak…”
Chloe focused on climbing the hill and ignored Herace, who was rambling beside her.
Her tears had dried up without even realizing it.
Nonetheless, the hill was small, so they arrived at the top in no time.
When she looked down and took a big breath, she felt cold yet refreshing air filling her lungs.
The view of the frozen lake was quite nice at a glance.
Looking down at the dense coniferous forest, she felt relieved.
She could feel her mind calming down.
Come to think of it, she said everything she wanted to say to Leila.
That made her feel at peace.
She could also see Abel skating in the distance.
She was happy to see him enjoying himself, as he had gotten used to it by now.
Chloe waved to Abel because it seemed as if the child was somehow looking at her.
However, it seemed to be her imagination because Abel didn’t wave back.
“Sir, if you’ve finished your duties here, you can go down.”
Chloe glanced at the figure beside her while speaking coldly.
“Are you letting me go because you don’t need me, my Lady? Though I didn’t show it, I struggled hard to climb up.
You are so mean!”
Herace tried to deceive her using his face which didn’t show a hint of fatigue.
If she let her guard down because of his face, she would be entangled in his momentum and climb another hill with him, just like now.
“Sir, I’m grateful for your concern.
However, I have a family now.
Honestly speaking, I don’t feel comfortable being alone with you.”
She preferred to speak directly when it came to this kind of person.
Chloe said thanks but pushed him away once again.
“Even if you didn’t have a family… You wouldn’t want to get entangled with me, would you?”
Herace unknowingly said what was on his mind.
The Marchioness’ face was filled with confusion.
He thought that he should stop talking, but he couldn’t control his mouth.
“I don’t know why I’m doing this.
It’s just, when I look at the Lady… I feel like I’ve lost something.”
Herace talked about his feelings in a voice that wasn’t filled with any hint of joking.
Perhaps his subconscious recognized that his destined soulmate, Chloe, had been taken away without realizing it.
“What do you mean by lost something? Did you mean there was something between us? You’d better refrain from saying things that could make people misunderstand.”
Herace’s words aroused Chloe’s guilt.
Did her choice make him unhappy? Ironically, that guilt led Chloe to spit out more cold-hearted remarks.
“About that… Do you have to remain the same as back then? Why did you have to be so cold-hearted to me since long ago?”
“Because I didn’t have feelings for you.”
Chloe answered Herace impulsively.
She would never have said so on a normal basis, but Chloe, who was exhausted, couldn’t make a rational decision.
It seemed that she had no choice but to defend herself.
“I didn’t like how you said you loved me, Sir.
When in actuality… you just pitied me, didn’t you?”
Herace’s eyes widened in surprise.
He felt as if she was looking right through him.
He was even more surprised because that was the excuse he came up with earlier.
“I didn’t like the way you stared at me with pity.
It’s like I become a pitiful person when standing in front of you.”
Chloe said while staring directly into Herace’s trembling eyes.
“If I married you, I thought I would truly be a poor person who had to rely on that sympathy for the rest of my life.
So I didn’t take your proposal, and your heart.”
Through her dream book, Chloe knew why Herace reached out to her.
The reason was neither romantic nor touching.
It was because of sympathy, the slightest sense of superiority, and heroism.
That was all.
If she hadn’t read the book in her dream, she might have held the hand of the man who acted affectionately as if he were in love with her.
Just like how Gerard was still enamored by his first love.
“Of course you can sympathize with me.
At home, I was overshadowed by a genius painter and the future Crown Princess, and otherwise I was compared to Leila.
The ordinary third daughter of the Roem Family, doesn’t that refer to me?”
“My Lady, I…”
Chloe recited her past in a composed manner.
On the other hand, Herace, who was always so sly, was embarrassed and couldn’t say anything.
“Besides, I had a crush on a man who was in love with my friend.
Now that I think about it, I’m worth sympathizing with…”
Herace wanted to deny it as she spoke with a self-mocking smile.
It might have been like that back then, but now…!
He was startled by what she said.
Rather, it had to be sympathy now.
His feelings shouldn’t have been different.
His love was true, even if the timing was wrong.
“Back then, I hated getting sympathy disguised as love.”
“…I think sympathy and sadness are considered love.”
Herace shot back while covering his mouth with his hand.
He didn’t necessarily want to say that, but he felt the need to defend his actions.
“Yes, that’s a kind of love, too.
But that wasn’t what I wanted, Sir.”
Sympathy was generally a feeling of superiority.
Even if it wasn’t from Herace, there were many people who sympathized with her, and she was tired of receiving random sympathy from others.
So she wanted to receive a different feeling from her spouse.
She wanted to be a precious person, just like how Gerard loved Leila.
That must be why she was so greedy for Gerard.
“My Lady, you wanted… love?”
“I think that’s where love begins; when you think of the other person as equal to you.
To acknowledge that the other person has the freedom to think, to choose, and has an abundance of emotions inside them.”
“It’s not about the possessive desire to do as you please to other person nor the self-satisfaction you feel through them.”
Actually, if someone has an intense desire toward another person, they want to own the other person, and if they can’t get a hold of their desire, they will try to do what they think is right.
There are also people who are enamored by another person’s appearance and believe they are passionately in love with the other person.
They feel a sort of superiority and sense of duty which leads to an egotistical love.
Such things were far from Chloe’s definition of love.
“Does Marquis Blanchett give you that kind of love?”
Herace asked her a quite specific question.
It was a challenging question for Chloe.
“…I’m not sure about it either, but he treats me as his equal.
He always respects my opinions and decisions.”
Chloe, who was on the verge of collapsing, answered resolutely.
“And, above anything….
I love him.”
Unfortunately, Gerard and Herace had different starting points in Chloe’s mind.
The person she loved and the person who loved her were completely different.
His mouth felt bitter.
He shouldn’t have listened to her.
He should’ve gone down when she told him to.
“Sir, I can guess what you see in me.
But I’m not like them.
I’m not someone who can live relying on sympathy from you.”
Herace’s father, Baron Moore, had two wives.
The first wife was his mother and the second wife, her younger sister.
It was common in the North for less of the population to be men than women because of the harsh environment and invasion of immigrants.
The bad thing was that Baron Moore’s love was more dedicated to her younger sister, his second wife.
In Herace’s memory, his mother would always watch his father’s back and collapse whenever his father turned away.
Such a poor woman.
He had been compared to his perfect-looking half-brother for all his life, and she had lost her husband’s affection.
He loved his mother wholeheartedly.
He saw such a figure in Chloe.
Please stop, I’m going to cry at this rate.”
Herace said with neither a smile or tears.
His eyes were gloomy upon recalling painful memories, but his mouth forcibly curved up, making him look happy and sad at the same time.
“That’s why you shouldn’t stay close to me.”
As if drawing a line in the sand, Chloe once again refrained from speaking any further upon his sorrowful expression.
She didn’t give Herace any space.
Chloe seemed very firm when conveying her thoughts.
Herace was even more confused if she was really once the young Lady Roem, whom he pitied back then.
He felt as if he had been abandoned.
To be precise, he was abandoned by her.
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