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“Are you dating Sir Blanchett?”
“What? What do you mean, sister?”
Chloe denied it with a shake of her head.
“Of course. Even the candlestick in the hallway of the Imperial castle knows that Gerard Blanchett only has Leila Stein in his heart.”
“However, why did my dear sister return after drinking with Sir Blanchett alone last night, huh?”
“You have to know, sister. What happened last night was…”
“I told you not to get between those two, didn’t I?”
Karina cut off Chloe’s words fiercely.
“Do you want to get caught and be the main character of a scandalous rumor?”
“No, I don’t…”
“Young Lady of Roem left the Blanchett Residence late at night. Do you know how many rumors that sole fact can make?”
“It’s not common for Gerard Blanchett and Chloe Roem to be mentioned together…”
“Fine! Stop it!”
Chloe, who could no longer bear to hear it, interrupted Karina. At some point, she was confused whether to interpret her sister’s words as concern or an insult for her behavior.
“You… Why are you raising your voice right now?”
“All right. I’ll be careful.”
“I was simply invited to the Blanchett mansion for dinner yesterday. We drank some wine because he said he wanted to treat me. I’m sorry for not being able to control the amount I drank. However, we didn’t really do anything more than that.”
Chloe blurted out everything she wanted to say.
“Look, now that I’ve come home safely, it’s settled, right?”
At the end of her sentence, Chloe lay down and pulled the blanket over her head. She showed Karina her back and muttered.
“Please leave now. I want to be alone. My head is ringing.”
She could feel Karina getting up from the bed.
Karina seemed to hesitate for a moment and sighed, but eventually left the room.
Chloe closed her eyes in frustration. It always ended like this every time she talked to Karina.
As the center of society, Karina was very sensitive to rumors. Knowing the filthiness of gossip in society, she regulated her sisters to not get caught up in it.
At first, Chloe attempted to understand Karina’s intentions. However, Karina’s coercive and inconsiderate control of Chloe made her gradually close that gate of understanding.
The emotional gap between them deepened. She was frustrated because she couldn’t figure out how to close it.
Leila turned to look at Gerard when she heard the sound of escaping air.
“No, it’s nothing.”
Gerard waved his hand, his gaze lingering on Chloe for a moment.
Feeling his gaze, Chloe almost spat out her tea. Gerard Blanchett often laughed at her since they drank together.
Chloe swallowed in frustration. She couldn’t clearly recall everything. Though she remembered the atmosphere and scene at that time, she couldn’t remember what she said.
Gerard stared at Chloe as she rolled her eyes. Judging from her actions lately, young Lady Roem clearly couldn’t recall that day properly.
-I hated your eyes.
-My eyes? What’s wrong with my eyes?
Gerard asked Chloe a few days ago. Those questions inadvertently came to mind when he was reminded of her, who had been bothering him for a long time. However, Chloe Roem didn’t understand him at all.
It was something she couldn’t recall. He didn’t know if he should be relieved or disappointed.
–Do you want to be friends with me?
-Why? My eyes are pretty.
-I’ll give you my eyes! Why aren’t they coming out? I have to give them to you!
Gerard had to bite the inside of his cheek to hold back the laughter that nearly erupted upon recalling memories of that night. No, but who would have expected her to say such things with a graceful face?
When she asked if he wanted to be friends with her, that her eyes were pretty, and she would give him her eyes was the funniest thing he had heard recently, so that’s why he kept laughing.
Although he tried to hold it in, he couldn’t stop the muffled laugh that erupted through his lips.
“Hey, Gerard. What’s wrong with you? Why do you keep laughing to yourself?”
Leila asked Gerard after she couldn’t stand it.
“Oh, did I?”
“What… What’s so amusing? What’s going on?”
“Ahem. Just because.”
“I decided to be friends with someone I wanted to be close to.”
“What? Someone you wanted to be close to? You have someone like that?”
Leila gained interest in Gerard’s unexpected response.
“Who is it? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It’s a secret.”
At that exact moment. Gerard exchanged glances with Chloe. Gerard smiled suggestively, his eyes half-folded.
“What?! How can there be such a thing between us?”
Leila was genuinely upset.
“You keep secrets from me, too.”
Gerard didn’t directly mention Frederick, though everyone knew who he was talking about.
“If you tell me, I’ll also tell you.”
Bitterness spread inside Chloe’s mouth as she lifted her cup to her lips. Gerard Blanchett was certainly using her. However…
She had no idea why her heart trembled so much.
Upon returning from tea time, Chloe quickly headed somewhere. Her face was full of indisputable joy and excitement. She had just heard some news from the servants.
Catherine started working not long ago. Every time she started to work, she went into her private studio and didn’t come out until she finished her work. However, Catherine’s studio was open today.
‘What did sister work on this time?’
Chloe thought being born as Catherine’s sister was a good thing for her. She could look at the works of an artist who gained respect earlier than anyone.
Chloe opened the door of Catherine’s studio after knocking on it.
“Yes… oh, you’re here?”
Catherine greeted her sister weakly.
“I heard you’ve finished your work.”
“Yes, I’ve finished it.”
However, Chloe didn’t notice Catherine’s appearance, which was different from usual. She just thought it was fatigue from working.
“I missed you! Can I see it?”
“Yes, take a look.”
Catherine answered, closing her eyes and rubbing her temples. Chloe rolled down the cloth covering the canvas, her eyes sparkling brightly.
“Wait! Not that one…!”
Catherine’s self-portrait was drawn on the canvas. With blood smeared all over it, it was grotesque but artistic.
It was the first time Catherine had painted such a portrait.
However, that was not the reason Chloe stiffened. She felt that Catherine’s self-portrait was strikingly similar to hers.
“Sister, this painting…”
Chloe hesitated because she wasn’t sure what to say.
Did she have to ask the reason their self-portrait paintings looked similar? However, it couldn’t be. She thought it was impossible for someone like Catherine to have copied her piece. And… she even said it had no artistic value.
Chloe felt betrayed by her sister, whom she respected a lot.
“No, Chloe, it’s not what you think.”
Catherine quickly covered the painting again.
“What? What do you mean it’s not?”
“I didn’t copy your painting.”
Chloe stared at Catherine with a bewildered gaze. Catherine’s denial only further fed into her suspicion.
“It’s just… I painted it to cool my head while working. I don’t have any intention to publish it.”
“…But you said my painting had no artistic value!”
“I was inspired by your painting… but I didn’t copy it. You intentionally only used red, meanwhile I covered the painting in blood, not just red.”
As Catherine went on, tears welled up in Chloe’s eyes. It was an excuse. A conclusion had already been reached from the moment Catherine didn’t want Chloe to see this painting.
The silence sank deeply on them. There was nothing more to say. Chlue turned and left Catherine’s studio.
Catherine sank to her feet.
Why did things turn out like this? Catherine felt something was going to blow up at her.
The growing expectations from people, the obsession with herself to do better. And the idea that came at the right time.
There was never a day when she could sleep comfortably. She was tormented by the pressure that felt as if someone was strangling her. Everyone called her a genius, but she knew very well that they wanted her to fail.
She had to draw something new, better than her previous work. She had to draw something more perfect. She had to paint a portrait that would be remembered forever.
Perhaps, was it because of that thought? This work was particularly hard and difficult. She couldn’t think of any new ideas, but time went by so quickly day by day.
Under that kind of pressure, there was a faint image before her. The painting her sister showed her a few days ago. The painting that inspired her, despite having been criticized by none other than herself. Normally, she wouldn’t say anything that would hurt her sister in that way. However, she had been affected by the contents of the newspaper she saw that morning.
[The reviewer Jean Machel said that Catherine’s paintings are cliche.]
[He runs the very successful The Salon that showcases paintings of 5 rookie artists.]
It came from a reviewer who denigrated all rookie artists whom he thought were threatening his position.
–The perspective, contrast and shade are all messed up. What the hell did you draw? If you want to paint, do it properly. Don’t draw something that doesn’t have any artistic value.
She had a hard time looking at Chloe’s gleaming passion and talent that day. However, she shouldn’t have hurt her sister like that. She should’ve apologized right away.
However, she lied to her sister until the end.
Catherine covered her mouth with her hand. She could no longer bear the nauseous feeling.
A few days later, Catherine’s new painting was revealed at The Salon. The hall where the exhibition was held had been filled with people who gathered to see Catherine’s newest work.
However, dark shadows loomed over Catherine and Chloe’s faces as they greeted the guests. Chloe decided to leave because she couldn’t force herself to smile at others anymore.
Then, a long shadow loomed over Chloe. Gerard Blanchett was standing in front of her.
“Where are you heading to, young Lady?”
“Oh, Sir… you’ve come.”
Chloe looked up at Gerard.
Gerard instantly pondered upon seeing her seemingly helpless expression today. He thought she would be excited because she usually was with Catherine, but why did she look so down today?
“Are you not feeling well?”
“No, I’m not…”
“But why do you look so down?”
Gerard asked whilst leaning toward her. Chloe was embarrassed and shrunk back.
He had been acting weird lately. Since the day they drank together, he had been acting very friendly toward her. She felt as though the distance between them was shrinking rapidly.
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