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“So, why did you go up to the North?”
Karina immediately asked what she was most curious about.
Chloe bought herself some time by lifting her teacup. She avoided meeting Karina because she knew this would come up in their conversation.
“It just happened.”
“Was there any problem between… you and your husband?”
Chloe shrugged it off, but Karina, being quick-witted, asked again. Chloe was unsettled by her sister’s questions.
‘Should I explain the problem? Or should I not say anything?’
On the surface, they had no problem as husband and wife. However, unresolved problems were lying beneath the surface.
Chloe was agitated by the problems that weren’t disclosed. However, if she said anything, she was afraid that this peace would be ruined.
“Did you two have a fight? About what?”
When Chloe’s silence went on for a while, Karina roughly guessed the situation.
She thought about the reason her sister went up to the North. Chloe, who only knew her husband properly, probably didn’t go to see her former fiancée, as the rumors said. Then, what remained was…
“Is it because of Leila de Anata?”
Karina immediately identified the cause of his sister’s visit to the North. Her eyes became sharp when Chloe was quiet for a moment.
“What? What happened?”
“It’s nothing. I just needed to check things from the past…”
Chloe made up an excuse. She couldn’t bring up the letter since her sister wasn’t fond of Gerard.
“A long time ago? 9 years ago?”
Chloe didn’t reply. However, Karina roughly understood the answer in the silence.
“Ha! I knew it.”
Her brother-in-law’s past was a stumbling block. Karina knew this problem would arise one day.
“What did I say to you before you got married? I said there would be trouble, didn’t I?”
Karina raised one of her hands to her temple in frustration. She began to speak in an increasingly louder voice.
“You’ve seen, heard, and even interfered with someone whom your husband liked, did you really think that wouldn’t be a problem?”
“The past… is not important.”
Chloe, who had been listening quietly, argued.
“He said he loves me now.”
“Isn’t the past important, too? Why did you say the past doesn’t matter?”
“He willingly got stabbed for the Grand Duchess of Anata. Does that sound okay to you?”
Karina’s words were not wrong at all. It pierced Chloe’s heart.
“Would it be any different from the way he felt in the past?”
Right. At first, she thought it would be fine if she heard him saying that he loved Chloe, too. However, her heart must have been insensitive.
“Is his heart more sincere than then? Can you say that with certainty?”
It was just as Karina said. Chloe was happy but deeply anxious whenever her husband whispered affectionate remarks, as her mind kept comparing her husband’s current and past behavior.
Karina exclaimed when she spotted tears welling up in Chloe’s eyes.
Karina seemed to be unable to overcome her anger. She couldn’t help but push her sister to regret and anger.
“That’s why I told you to marry Sir Moore! Why do you have to choose a terrible man-”
Chloe cut off Karina in a subdued voice.
“It seems that you think it’s more important for you to be right than to listen to my situation.”
“Yes, it’s as you said. I feel like I’m regretting something for the first time in my life, and anxious as if I’ve lost eight years of my life.”
“So, are you relieved now? Do you like it when I don’t listen to you and end up this way?”
They weren’t Empress and Marchioness anymore, just the second and third daughters of the Roem Family.
“Why are you saying such things? I’ve done it for your sake…!”
“Really? Are you really saying all this for my sake?”
Karina couldn’t respond to Chloe’s question. This was because she subtly recognized her own desire to prove that she was right.
Silence hung heavily between them. Both of them felt a bitter taste in their mouth; perhaps they had drunk too much tea.
“Let’s stop talking about this.”
After Catherine disappeared, they had become more affectionate, but they often fought during serious conversations. Catherine, who usually mediated between them, had disappeared.
At times like this, they missed their older sister.
Chloe returned from the palace in the evening. The Blanchett family gathered and talked after having dinner.
“I want to go to the hunting festival, too!”
Abel begged Gerard to go to the hunting festival, which was just around the corner.
“Not yet, Abel, it’s dangerous. We can go after you grow up a bit more.”
Chloe comforted her son. She was smiling at Abel despite feeling powerless.
“A bit more? How much more? Grandma said I’ve grown up.”
Abel asked while estimating his height with one of his hands.
“Um, around this much?”
Gerard, who had been listening quietly, extended one of his hands and put it on his chest.
“What? That much?”
Abel looked at his father’s chest and instantly puffed up his cheeks. He was just wondering how many more nights he had to sleep to grow that much.
“All right. Shouldn’t you hurry up and go to bed now so that you can grow faster?”
It was when Gerard was soothing the pouty Abel.
The old butler knocked hastily. His knock was uncharacteristically urgent.
The old butler hurriedly walked toward Gerard and Chloe after stepping into the parlor. He dropped his head while explaining the situation.
“The Grand Duchess of Anata has come.”
Chloe’s face stiffened while looking at Leila, who was taking a seat in front of her. She didn’t understand what the situation was about.
Why was Leila, who should be in the North, now in front of her? If she was alone, where were her husband and children?
However, the words that followed her unspoken question were even more appalling.
“I ran away.”
One word slipped out of Chloe’s mouth.
“No matter how much I say I want to visit you, they won’t let me. So, I just wrote a letter and left.”
Leila was just too innocent. Her childish attitude, which didn’t fit the seriousness of the situation, felt unusual.
“However, did you know I came here in eight days rather than ten? That means my skills haven’t died, right?”
“What the h*ll… What were you thinking?”
Chloe asked while covering her mouth with her hands in bewilderment. She had no idea what Leila was thinking. Even though she was reckless, her recklessness should not have gone this far.
“…Honestly, I’m having a hard time lately, because Derrick won’t let me do anything, and my body has become different from the way it used to be after having my third child.”
Leila felt as if the world was messing with her lately. Everything that she loved had begun to torment her. It was painful and depressing.
She couldn’t even breathe properly sometimes.
‘And you’re getting further and further away from me.’
Leila held back one of her reasons for coming here.
After the Blanchett family returned to the Capital, Leila sent several letters. However, there was no response. If she stayed like this, she thought their relationship would completely fall apart.
That was the biggest reason she came to the Capital.
Chloe firmly cut off Leila, who was whining. It was obvious that if Leila was accepted here, her effort to keep their distance would be in vain.
“You should’ve gone to Anata or Stein’s mansion. Why are you here instead?”
“Anata’s mansion is so suffocating, and Stein’s mansion is…”
Leila dropped her gaze at Chloe’s cold remark. She was unused to this cold and firm side of her friend.
At that moment, Gerard’s voice intervened in between their uncomfortable conversation.
“Have you eaten, your Grace?”
“No, not yet.”
Leila tilted her head after answering Gerard’s question.
“Why are you suddenly speaking formally to me?”
However, Gerard didn’t answer Leila’s question and raised one of his hands. The butler, who was waiting for his signal, approached.
“Lead the Grand Duchess Anata and her escort to their respective rooms and take care of their meals.”
Chloe frowned while staring at her husband.
“I will explain, my Lady.”
At Gerard’s words, the quick-witted butler hurriedly walked up to Leila. Their masters seemed to need time to talk privately about something.
“I’ll show you around, your Grace. Please follow me.”
“Oh? Oh, all right.”
Leila got up from her seat. Feeling exhausted, she opted to follow the old butler.
They left the couple in the parlor.
“What did you mean… by that?”
Chloe asked, relieving her dizziness.
“A few days ago, I was reached out to by Archduke Anata. He said if the Grand Duchess came to Blanchett’s mansion, I should take care of her.”
“So, you knew Leila was coming all along? But why are you only saying this now?”
“I didn’t want you to be bothered about something that hadn’t happened yet.”
Chloe sighed after listening to her husband’s explanation.
“But, how can you decide on something without asking for my opinion?”
“I’m sorry, Chloe. I thought you would accept it sooner or later.”
As her husband said, Chloe didn’t intend to kick Leila out tonight. She just wanted to draw a clear line between them.
“Didn’t you see? Her Grace’s legs were even shaking just now.”
Gerard noticed Leila’s legs were shaking while they were talking. It was obvious that she had ridden a horse for the first time in a while.
“Moreover, I can’t kick her out forcefully tonight. About Anata and Stein’s mansion… Don’t you know about the current Court Stein?”
Gerard asked while recalling the current Viscount Stein. The current viscount of the Stein Family was Leila’s cousin, who had tormented Leila since she was young. Then, he even flirted with Leila when she grew up.
“I settled it quickly because I thought my Lady would think the same way as me. You seemed tired after coming back from the Imperial Palace.”
Gerard said while examining Chloe’s face.
“You should go to bed, Chloe.”
He has been concerned by his seemingly unwell wife ever since she came back from the Imperial Palace. However, when she faced Leila and he noticed her complexion deteriorated, and he felt the need to settle the situation first.
Chloe sighed in frustration. She understood what her husband meant.
However, she didn’t like the current situation nonetheless, even though her husband explained everything regarding the reason he acted that way.
‘I didn’t even know Leila’s legs were shaking. Moreover, he also pointed out about the current situation in the Stein Family that never crossed my mind.’
Considering the time Gerard and Leila spent together, it all made sense. However, she was irritated. The subtle thing that was too cheesy to be spoken about, but she was irritated having been unable to say that.
“…You can do whatever you want.”
Chloe got up from her seat. She felt something was off, but she couldn’t figure out how to fix it.
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