Chapter 6

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“… Duke Pierre said he’d think about it?  Is that really all?” (Margaret)

 

 “Yes. That’s what he said.” (Riv)

 

 “…  ”

 

 “What’s the matter?”(Riv)

 

 “No, nothing.” (Margaret)

 

 Margaret shook her head hurriedly, and soon smiled awkwardly.

 

“He’s decided to contact you, so you’ll get an answer soon.” (Riv)

 

 “…  ”

 

 “Don’t worry. Even if he doesn’t accept it, the fact that I’ll help you won’t change.” (Riv)

 

 “…  Sorry.” (Margaret)

 

 “What?” (Riv)

 

 “You could be resentful, but you’re helping me like this…..” (Margaret)

 

 There was water in her dazzling eyes.

 

 Rivianna was choosing her words for a while, then interlaced her hands.

 

 On the back of her hands, which were hidden under the table, blood vessels sprang up.

 

‘To be honest, I didn’t know who to blame.’

 

 Is it a past lover who has been strategized as an enemy, a friend who knows everything but embraces him, or a little life that is growing in the belly of the friend?

 

 Rivianna tried not to think deeply.

 

 “Mother!” (Mariel)

 

 The bouquet of flowers that suddenly appeared was too pretty to hold onto the emotions of her old past.

 

 “Look at this! Isn’t it pretty?” (Mariel)

 

 “Yes. Very pretty.” (Riv)

 

 “That’s right! It’s pretty! That’s why I cut a lot of them to give to mother!” (Mariel)

 

 The bent stems, unable to withstand the weight of the coveted flower, swayed easily even with the gesture of a child. Rivianna picked the prettiest flower from Mariel’s bouquet and put it on the child’s hair.

 

 Mariel giggled as if the petals touching her skin were tickling, but she gently placed her face in her mother’s hands.

 

 “Who does my daughter look like, she’s so pretty?”

 

 “Mother! I look just like you!”

 

 The child was growing up day by day, but her small hands, which were clamoring to hold her in her arms, were still a bunch.

 

 Rivianna put Mariel on her lap and looked at her affectionately.

 

 The bloodline could not be deceived, and the child had exceptionally straight eyes, just like her maternal grandfather.

 

 She could not help but smile at the young daughter who came to her, kissing her on the cheek, looking curiously at the tiny face that was left in her hand and the cute features.

 

 Rivianna didn’t want more than this.

 

 If she could keep this little warmth in her arms, she could do anything.

 

 ***

 

 “He’s waiting for you inside.”

 

 “Thank you for making room.”

 

 “No. It’s my sister’s request, of course I have to do it. But, it’s just…”

 

 Cheshire couldn’t speak any more and twisted his face. Rivianna patted his shoulder, pretending she didn’t know what he was trying to say.

 

 “It’ll be over soon, so please stay here for a moment.”

 

 “… .”

 

 “Please.”

 

 “All right.”

 

Leaving Cheshire, who nodded helplessly behind, Rivianna turned and walked inward.

 

 The room was set up inside to suit the secret meeting.

 

 “Are you here?”

 

 As soon as Rivianna entered the room, she saw a familiar face.

 

 It was Duke Pierre.

 

 Rivianna calmed her mind and slowly nodded.

 

 Perhaps it was a long wait, the teacup in front of Duke Pierre did not steam.

 

 “You came early.” (Riv)

 

 “I think it would be better to deal with troublesome things quickly.” (Duke)

 

 “Then, our story will be over soon.” (Duke)

 

 It was not like they were close enough to talk face to face for a long time anyway.

 

 Rivianna bit her lips and stared at the cold tea.

 

 While the tea was cooling down, Duke Pierre did not touch the cup.

 

 It seemed that he was vigilant enough not to drink tea handed to him in an unfamiliar place by a stranger.

 

“I don’t think you’ll drink even if I bring out a new tea, so let’s get to the point right away.” (Riv)

 

“I think you’re very curious about my decision.” (Duke)

 

 “I don’t want to say sorry, but it’s inevitable, so what kind of answer would you give me?” (Riv)

 

 Rivianna asked a question, but she didn’t get an answer right away.

 

 It was just that his sharp eyes stared at her tenaciously.

 

 Rivianna frowned.

 

 “If you need time to think.” (Riv)

 

 “Rivianna.”

 

 “… .”

 

 She seemed to stop breathing for a moment at the voice calling her name.

 

 Rivianna bit her lower lip gently.

 

 Her lips didn’t move, even though she knew she had to point out his rudeness.

 

 The exceptionally black eyes resembled a mirror, reflecting her bewildered face.

 

 “Marchioness Clayton.”

 

 Rivianna frowned at the title that was added late, but Duke Pierre didn’t care at all and just finished what he was saying.

 

 “What would you do if I refused?” (Duke)

 

 “I’ll find another alternative.” (Riv)

 

 She clenched her fists under the table and struggled to regain her composure.

 

 Being emotional wouldn’t help.

 

 “Alternatives?” (Duke)

 

 “Crayton has plenty of money.”  (Riv)

 

 “Are you going to buy a man with your money?” (Duke)

 

 “Money always does a lot, so it shouldn’t be difficult.” (Riv)

 

 “…  Does she* have to remarry while doing that?” (Duke) 

 

(*Margaret. I think they’re talking about Margaret and her child)

 

 “A child needs a father.”

 

 “Is that all? Are you saying that to me just because the child needs a father?”

 

 Duke Pierre raised his eyebrows as if it was ridiculous.

 

 Rivianna straightened her back and stared at his cold gaze.

 

 She thought she was quite used to the stares of the people in the society, but when she looked at his eyes, her spine trembled unknowingly, making it more difficult to maintain her composure than ever before.

 

 The man’s eyes were different from those of the socialites she was familiar with.  He was more like a beast than a man, and above all, he was terribly tenacious, and that was why she was embarrassed.  But even so, she pretended to be calm and acted well.

 

 “Only for you, but not for me.” (Riv)

 

 “…”

 

 “But don’t get me wrong. The first thing I said to you is that, after all, you are the best choice, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a better way.” (Riv)

 

 “Ha…” (Duke)

 

 Duke Pierre clicked his tongue openly, but Rivianna pretended not to know and raised her chin.

 

 She didn’t mean to go down in a low-key position.

 

 All animals would eat the weakest individual first.  There was nothing good about being shallow.

 

 “Ha, you were the one who always came up with a way at any moment, so it must be possible.” (Duke)

 

 “Are you being sarcastic?” (Riv)

 

 “It’s admirable.” (Duke)

 

 “…  ”

 

 “You haven’t changed at all.” (Duke)

 

 Contrary to what he said was not sarcastic, Duke Pierre’s lips were twisted.

 

 But there was no room for her to think deeper.

 

 She pretended not to notice the man’s dissatisfied eyes, and placed her hands neatly on her thighs.

 

  “So what are you going to do?” (Riv)

 

 “…  .”

 

 “Are you going to decline?” (Riv)

 

 “I….”

 

 Duke Pierre ruffled his hair roughly.

 

 Then he took a long, deep breath and then slowly continued.

 

 “I will. As you wish.” (Duke)

 

 It was a positive answer.

 

 However, the voice coming out of his tightly closed teeth was harsh, no.  It was more than that.

 

 Like a dried leaf being crushed, every time each word was chewed and crushed. 

 

 Rivianna clenched her fists.

 

  “You’re satisfied with the answers you want, so I’ll get up first.” (Duke)

 

  “But still….”

 

 “You don’t even have time to have a conversation anyway. I’ll send someone later, so we’ll talk again then.” (Duke)

 

Duke Pierre rose from his seat. Rivianna didn’t stop him. In fact, she had no strength to stop him. It was only when his gaze touched her that she realized that her body was trembling slightly.

 

 “Okay. Then I will wait.” (Riv)

 

“….”

 

 The steps of Duke Pierre, who was striding without hesitation without looking back, abruptly stopped.

 

 Rivianna breathed in slowly.

 

 At the moment when the heartbeat was particularly loud in the silence that had fallen, Duke Pierre was the first to break the silence.

 

 “About 8 years ago, I secretly returned to the capital.” (Duke)

 

 “… ”

 

 “That should be enough for you to prepare while waiting for my call.” (Duke)

 

 Rivianna wanted to ask more, but she couldn’t because Duke Pierre left immediately after saying those words.

 

 All she could do was meditate on his words and find his intentions.

 

 ***

 

 What does this have to do with Duke Pierre’s secret return to the capital eight years ago?

 

 Rivianna paused as she pondered Duke Pierre’s words.

 

 A rumor that she thought was not even worth listening to came to mind.

 

 “…  What am I thinking right now?”

 

 She touched her forehead and shook her head lightly to clear her thoughts.

 

 There was no room for misunderstanding.

 

 It wasn’t anyone else, he was the child’s father.

 

 It could not have been mistaken, and what had happened that day would be better known to the parties involved.

 

 Even if some excuse was given, such as a one-night mistake, the fact that the two of them* had spent the night together did not change.

 

(*two of them= Margaret and Duke Pierre)

 

 In a situation where they had a child now, even more so.

 

Rivianna lowered her head helplessly.

 

 At the end of her gaze was her flat stomach.

 

 “Decide, Lady Clayton. Many things will change with your decision.”

 

 She wrapped her hands around her stomach as the forgotten memories suddenly came to her mind.

 

She could no longer conceive, nor could she ever do so again, but she could still remember the movement of the fetus.

 

 Her pretty daughter, Mariel, and the children she lost without even giving them a name.

 

 She got out of the carriage, holding back the emotions she couldn’t even tell anyone.

 

 Contemplation was only for a moment, and from the moment she returned to the mansion she had to be the perfect Marchioness Clayton.

 

 “Madam, you came back earlier than expected!”

 

“I finished my work earlier than I thought. What about Margaret?”

 

 “She didn’t go out today, so she’d be in the annex.”

 

 “Yeah? Good.”

 

 It was better to deliver the news quickly.

 

 Rivianna nodded her head lightly and tried to turn towards the annex, but a maid hurriedly blocked her.

 

 “What’s wrong?”

 

 If it was in the past, it wouldn’t make much sense to ask, but now it was different.

 

 When she hired new employees, *Cheshire’s people were mixed in, so her eyes and ears were everywhere in the mansion.

 

(*Cheshire is Riv’s brother. He put his people in Riv’s mansion to be her spies.)

 

 The maid quickly looked around and whispered.

 

 “The Marquis is also in the annex.”

 

 “Bake?”

 

 Unknowingly, Rivianna frowned.

 

 As far as she knew, Bake still had an agenda.

 

 “When did he come?”

 

 “It wasn’t that long ago, maybe 10 or 20 minutes.”

 

 It was strange.

 

 The annex was often used as a guest room, but now only Margaret was staying.

 

 There was no reason to visit there unless he wanted to meet Margaret.

 

 Especially since Bake and Margaret had no contact with each other except for her*. (*Riv)

 

 She had never seen them together or talked affectionately.

 

Perhaps it was something she hadn’t seen.

 

 At the sudden thought, Rivianna reflexively shook her head.

 

 It couldn’t be.

 

 It was absurd.

 

 It couldn’t happen, and it shouldn’t have happened.

 

 It was a huge mistake in itself to think like this.

 

 However, there have been too many such incidents around me lately to dispel any doubts.

 

 She slowly turned her head.

 

 Her feet were already moving as if possessed by something.

 

One step, two steps.  At that moment, as her mouth was drying out at a faster pace, there was a rustling sound.

 

 She reflexively turned towards the sound and narrowed her brows at the round eyes she met.

 

 Mariel, hiding in the bush, was looking up at her.

 

 “Mariel. What are you doing?”

 

 “I was playing hide and seek. Oh, my! I hope I don’t get caught. Shh! Shh!”

 

 Mariel hurriedly put her index finger to her lips and whispered.

 

 She looked at the child’s messy hair which she tied it neatly this morning, then gave up and crouched down.

 

 “Who are you playing hide-and-seek with?”

 

 “That, that…”

 

 Mariel panicked and covered her mouth with both her hands.  But she couldn’t put back the words she had already said.

 

 “Ugh, I promised father, what should I do……”

 

 “Promise, what do you mean?”

 

 “Mother doesn’t like Mariel playing hide and seek.”

 

 “….”

 

 “Are you going to scold me?”

 

 Mariel carefully grabbed the hem of Rivianna’s skirt.

 

 Rivianna immediately shook her head, looking at Mariel’s big, frightened eyes.

 

 “I won’t scold you if you don’t lie and tell the truth.”

 

 “Really?”

 

 “Yes, so be honest. What did you promise your father?”

 

 “Mariel is father’s secret friend.”

 

 “Secret friend?”

 

 “He’s a friend who plays hide-and-seek without mother. Father, me, and my aunt! It’s the three of us!”

 

 Mariel smiled brightly, showing her three fingers.

 

 Rivianna kept her mouth shut and tried to smile.

 

 “…  Mariel, mother bought you a strawberry whipped cream cake, so why don’t you go to the kitchen and take a look?”

 

 “Really?”

 

“I’m proud of you for telling me honestly, so I’m giving you a gift.”

 

“Then let’s go together! I want to eat it with mother!”

 

 “Mom is going to find aunt and father together. It’s difficult to find Mariel without knowing that she’s gone.”

 

 “Are you coming soon?”

 

 “Of course.”

 

 The moment Mariel turned her back, Rivianna removed the smile from her lips.

 

 And she walked briskly.

 

 It was amazing how human instinct was.

 

 The moment she realized the lie that Bake used the child who knew nothing, she realized it right away.

 

 That the situation that she thought was the worst enough even now could get worse.

 

 She snapped open Margaret’s door with her clenched teeth.

 

 Fortunately or unfortunately, the door was not locked, no. It was a blessing.

 

The real misfortune was that she had witnessed with her own eyes the filth of the man and the woman lying in bed together naked, and the fact that they were her acquaintances. Rivianna covered her mouth with her hands, trying to suppress the queasiness in her stomach.

 

She couldn’t stand the disgusting sight of them devouring each other without even realizing that she had walked in.

 

It was the four eyes that she unexpectedly stumbled upon in their tangled naked bodies.

 

 There was no need to look far.  

 

‘My husband’s mistress is my friend.’

Notes

N/A

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