Huge thanks to Eilidh for the support! (2/2)
Gerard peeked into every terrace and lounge despite knowing it was impolite. What in the world was he trying to do? He wondered what he would do if he found out that Frederick and Leila were alone.
He didn’t know. However, he had to find them. Pathetic self hatred engulfed his whole body, but he couldn’t stop.
Gerard headed outdoors. Entering the garden to the side of the banquet hall, he spotted two people standing in the distance.
It was dark, but he could recognize them. It was Leila and Frederick.
Leila was the only woman wearing such an extraordinary dress. And Gerard could bet his entire fortune that the tall man beside her was Frederick.
Frederick’s thick arms hugged Leila’s slender waist. Leila had her face buried in Frederick’s broad chest. The two people seemed to be engaged in a pleasant conversation, but he couldn’t hear them at such a distance.
“Oh my, really…”
However, the warm wind carried snippets of their conversation his way.
Although he had expected it, it was different to confirm it with his own eyes and ears. It came as a shock to him. Gerard’s composure was hit by a strong storm.
At that moment, Leila and Frederick kissed.
Gerard turned around right away. He didn’t want to taint another person’s beautiful moment. Gerard left the scene as if he were running away.
He felt like he was going crazy at the thought of his person being taken away. He had to get her back somehow. He didn’t know if it was possessiveness, obsession, jealousy, love, or a mix of them all.
Returning to the ballroom, Gerard notified his partner that he would return.
“I’m not feeling well, so I think I should go home now. I’m sorry, young Lady.”
“…Don’t mind me. Go ahead and return.”
Chloe’s face was covered by a faint shadow as she said so, but Gerard didn’t notice it.
After leaving the ballroom, Gerard didn’t head home. He headed straight to Viscount Stein’s residence.
He occupied the drawing room of Stein mansion and waited for Leila to return. Normally, he wouldn’t have visited the mansion of another family so late at night, but today was an exception.
“Huh? Gerard. You didn’t go home? What are you doing here…”
He made a proposal to Leila without hesitation upon her arrival. It was strange, but Gerard thought that it was for the best at that time.
“Let’s get married. I’ll send a proposal to Viscount Stein tomorrow morning-”
“Stop it. You must be drunk. Let’s talk later.”
Leila dismissed Gerard’s words as nothing but a mere jest.
“No, I’m not drunk. I’m losing my mind, so please listen to me, Leila. Marry me.”
“Gerard, stop it.”
A gritting sound slipped out through Gerard’s teeth.
“Why? Because of that Anata guy?”
He asked in a growling voice.
“It’s not just because of Derick…”
“Don’t call him Derick!”
“Don’t yell at me!”
Leila responded loudly in retaliation to Gerard’s loud voice. It was the first time since childhood that they fought so loudly.
“…You have to marry me.”
“You… You haven’t changed at all since we were young, have you? Why do you always want to do things your way?”
“Ha! Did you forget that I’m this kind of man? It’s a pity then that you’re going to live with a man like me for the rest of your life.”
“I’m not going to marry you!”
“No, you have to.”
Leila exclaimed sharply.
“…There’s nothing I can do even if you don’t want it.”
“You promised me, Leila. To stay with me.”
“You’ll be with me forever! You won’t abandon me! That’s what you said.”
Was it a desperate desire not to be abandoned or because of the betrayal for not keeping her promise? His voice trembled.
SIlence filled the air. He was in dismay over the promise from their childhood that couldn’t be kept. The promise, which was genuine at that time, decayed with time.
“You know you’re the only one I have. The only thing we have is each other.”
“It’s… not like that, Gerard.”
“Since you spoke honestly, I’ll speak honestly, too. I feel burdened by you.”
“You said I’m the only one you have, right? As you said, you were the only one I used to have, Gerard.”
It hadn’t been easy for Leila to make friends since she was young. A girl who held a sword had always been viewed as foreign.
She couldn’t blend in amongst boys or girls.
However, she didn’t regret holding a sword. She only felt like herself whenever she held a sword. However, she was lonely.
“I’m still very grateful that I was able to be your friend.”
Gerard was her only childhood friend.
“But you know what? I was actually a bit lonely. It was frustrating because I was your only friend.”
Being close to Gerard didn’t quench Leila’s thirst to have friends. Leila wanted to chat and play house like other girls. She wanted to blend in with ordinary children.
However, Gerard was vigilant and pushed away anyone who tried to get between them. Gerard, who wished to have a deep relationship with one person, and Leila, who wanted to have wider relationships with a lot of people. They were really different, even in tendencies.
Therefore, Leila felt very suffocated in the situation where they only had each other. Furthermore, the fact that she was close to Gerard made her feel even more foreign.
“I couldn’t blend in among the children. All the children approaching me actually wanted to get to know you.”
“The rumors that were not true only grew, and I felt so burdened by it. I tried to think it was not a big deal like you did, but it wasn’t like that for me.”
“…I didn’t know you were struggling like that.”
“It’s not your fault. Well… I’m happy to have met Chloe and Derick these days.”
Leila admitted calmly. Frederick, who recognized her for who she was despite being an Archduke, and Chloe, who viewed her without a hint of prejudice despite being a noble. She couldn’t give them up now.
Leila’s words choked Gerard. Her words sounded as if she had suffered during the time they spent together.
“Gerard, even though I got close to Chloe, we haven’t drifted away, have we? The same goes for Frederick. Just because I get close to him, it doesn’t mean our relationship will change.”
“Why do you keep lying to me, Leila? If you get close to Archduke Anata, we’re bound to drift away. Look, I’ve already lost the position of being your banquet partner.”
“Let’s return to our original selves. I won’t make you lonely now. I’ll take care of the rumors, so will you?”
Leila shook her head despite Gerard’s desperate plea. He intuitively realized that whatever he said would be useless.
“What the h*ll do you mean? Am I worse than Archduke Anata? I know you better than him, and I’ve definitely stayed by your side longer than him!”
Despite having expressed the unfairness he felt, it was deemed ineffective. Just because he liked her first didn’t mean that he could win her heart. Love was difficult to understand, which made the situation more painful.
“We know each other too well. Everything from your casual thoughts, subtle facial expressions, old habits, even family history.”
“Yes, so we can…”
“That’s why I’m not thrilled with you.”
“I… I think I love him, Gerard.”
At the end, Leila turned and left the drawing room. Gerard couldn’t hold her back anymore.
After that day, Leila tried to avoid Gerard. She didn’t show up at the tea time they used to have every week, and she even missed the sparring they used to do together at his swordsmanship lessons under the pretext of being sick. Gerard visited Stein residence every day to see Leila, but to no avail.
He wondered how many days he spent in the Stein’s family drawing room? Marcus Stein comforted him and sent him back.
Gerard became more and more alarmed. At this rate, he was likely to lose Leila forever. Therefore, he decided to swallow up the feelings he had admitted.
“I’ve been thinking a lot… I was wrong. Love and friendship are different things.”
He met Leila after she asked him to give Chloe a chance. He recited the lie he had prepared in front of her.
“I guess I was impatient because you seemed to be drifting away from me.”
“I made a mistake. I’m sorry, Leila. Please don’t avoid me.”
“Oh, for real…!”
“I’d thought I was going to lose you…”
Tears poured from her eyes. She felt guilty for avoiding Gerard all this time. Did she really believe him? Or was she just pretending?
Gerard bit his cheek. He was just waiting for another chance. After all, friendship lasts longer than love.
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