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[“Shall we have a meal together sometime next week? My nephew said he’d come over this weekend.”
Chloe frowned slightly. It wasn’t easy for her to say yes.
Of course, it was not because she didn’t like having a meal with Theodore. It was because the situation she was in made it uncomfortable to meet other people.
“This old man isn’t comfortable because I’m always on the receiving side.”
Theodore coaxed her using a weak voice, which wasn’t like him at all.
“I’m going to take this opportunity to catch a turkey and bake a pie… Abel will like it, won’t he?”
Theodore looked quite excited. Chloe couldn’t bring herself to turn down his offer.
“Alright. I’ll look forward to that day.”
In the end, Chloe answered, tugging slightly at the ends of the blonde wig she had been wearing for years.
She never met anyone from the Monnet Family until now, so she wondered if his nephew would recognize her.
‘Yes. I’m going to appear in eastern society, and it’s only one dinner.’
It was her mistake to be complacent for five years.
The next week, Chloe visited Theodore’s house with Abel.
“Welcome, Claudia. This is my maternal nephew.”
As Chloe looked at the man standing in front of her, she had no choice but to hold her breath.
Slicked-back red hair. Neat features.
“Why are you standing like that? Say your greeting, Ace.”
“…May you rest in the peaceful arms of the Empire. I am Herace Moore.”
It was Herace.
“I shared the most similarities with him among all of my nieces and nephews, so I suppose I can cut him some slack.”
Chloe managed a stiff smile when Theodore turned to her.
“May you rest in the peaceful arms of the Empire. I am Claudia Diaz.”
Chloe naturally greeted him, but she felt like biting her tongue.
She didn’t expect his nephew to be from his maternal family. Moreover, who expected the color of Theodore’s gray hair during his youth to be revealed? Now that she thought about it, Theodore’s name also sounded northern.
She felt helpless again after reuniting with Herace.
Fate didn’t change easily.
Fate brought Herace Moore in front of her again. As if urging her to make the right choice this time.]
Gerard read through the scene envisioned in front of him with swollen eyes. Once again, he felt a surge of emotion, but not because he was jealous of Herace. Having learned everything, his feelings were not one-sided. They were deeper and darker than the surging flood.
He didn’t know that much. Until now, he wasn’t sure.
Though he knew Chloe liked him, it was obvious that he was insecure.
Actually, it was Gerard who wanted confirmation that she loved him, not Chloe. He wanted to ask and confirm it every second, but he refrained because he knew how strange it would be.
He was unsure of it, so he didn’t express his feelings.
However, he knew for sure now. Through the book in his dream, he clearly understood what Chloe’s love was like.
Chloe had to live in someone’s shadow all her life.
The younger sister of the genius painter, the younger sister of the eventual Crown Princess, and Leila’s friend. Most people remembered her that way and used to call her that.
She had enough to the point that she wanted to get away from everything, but ironically she chose to stay by Gerard’s side, where she was followed by the stigma of being Leila’s substitute.
She wanted to be by his side.
She just wanted to be with him.
She chose Gerard Blanchett, who was lacking and incompetent, instead of her fated love, Herace Moore.
‘So I received that kind of love from her.’
Chloe was so courageous to decide to stay with him. He had realized too late how much courage Chloe had to muster in deciding to be with him.
Gerard’s sunken eyes filled with tears again.
‘Why? How could it be?’
From Chloe’s perspective, he must have been worse than he thought. How could she love him even though she had seen all of his despicable sides? He couldn’t even love himself after being such an unacceptable and terrible person.
A willing and blind love.
It felt as if he was going to flip when he finally understood it. Ironically, his stomach twisted at the overwhelming feelings.
[Theodore, who noticed that Chloe and Herace knew, seemed rather excited. It was obvious that he intended to set them up from the beginning.
After the meal, Theodore went out for a walk with Abel and insisted they talk.
“…I didn’t expect to see you here, my Lady.”
Herace said while staring at Chloe’s awkward-looking blonde hair. He never dreamed that his first love, who had been missing for five years, would appear in front of him like this.
Chloe replied with her eyes directed to the ground. She was figuring out a way to tell him to pretend that he never saw her here.
“What are you thinking about? Are you trying to talk me out of this?”
Herace asked blatantly.
He had a rough idea about how things had turned out. She seemed to be running away from Gerard Blanchett on her own accord. Though he couldn’t quite figure out the reason.
“…Can you pretend you didn’t see me here?”
Herace intentionally pretended to consider Chloe’s request.
Why was the corner of his mouth raised so cheekily like that? However, she still nervously waited for him to speak.
“No matter how much I think about it, there’s no benefit I’d get knowing you’re here, my Lady.”
Chloe internally sighed at Herace’s answer. For now, he didn’t seem to intend to let anyone know about her location.
‘I’ll have to get in touch with the leader of the guild as soon as possible.’
It was necessary to prepare an escape plan.
“When I think about it again…”
“There’s no benefit for me to keep your secret either, my Lady.”
She knew this would happen.
“…So is there any benefit you want to gain, Sir?”
Chloe asked while putting on a gentle expression.
“Please speak freely. I’ll try to fulfill it if I can.”
Herace smiled brightly at Chloe.
“I can’t think of one right now. I’ll ask for some time to think about it, my Lady.”
“You need time to think about it?”
“Yes. Can I?”
Chloe heard the words he didn’t say.
‘No way. No, it can’t be.’
“Of course, you can. Please take your time and inform me.”
Chloe said and closed her eyes. She didn’t know what he was going to ask from her, but she wanted to end this conversation due to a headache appearing out of nowhere.
“Don’t worry about it, anyway. Despite my light mouth, I have quite a conscience.”
Then, Herace changed the subject.
“I didn’t know you paint, my Lady.”
He recalled what Theodore said during their meal.
“I don’t paint anymore. Sir Monnet was talking about when I painted in my younger days.”
“Why don’t you paint again? It seems that my uncle also recommends you to start again, my Lady.”
“It’s just… I have no reason to paint.”
“Well, is that so?”
Theodore and Abel walked in again.
“Mother! Look at this. Grandfather bought this for me.”
Abel said while holding up a bag filled with street food. Herace, who was watching the scene, continued in a low voice.
“Shouldn’t you find a reason to paint something? Such as capturing the growth of your child.”
Chloe couldn’t answer Herace’s remarks, which caught her off guard.
She wiped the awkward look off her face when Abel’s voice calling her name grew closer.
“…Really? Have you said thank you to him?”
Abel put on a cute smile, which showed off his chubby cheeks well.
-Such as capturing the growth of your child.
When she thought about it, she used to call in painters to paint family portraits when she was a Marchioness in the past. However, she had been busy with life for the last five years, so she didn’t even think about doing it this time.
‘Yes, every second is a precious moment with Abel, after all.’
Having raised her son for so long, Chloe knew. How fast children grew. When she thought about it, it was a very rare chance to look at Abel’s childhood moments again after this.
‘I’ll have to make a portrait of Abel.’
For a moment, Chloe felt her hand twitch. It had been a long time since she felt the sensation.]
[That’s how a year passed. In the meantime, Chloe contacted Catherine, and she finished her preparations to move to the East when she needed to.
However, Chloe was still staying in Etra. She didn’t know why, but she didn’t think she would ever return once she left this place.
She hesitated for a year with lingering attachment.
Herace had consistently visited the pair for the past year. Chloe and Abel got used to his visits every weekend.
“Uncle, why are you so late today?”
Abel had gotten better at following Herace than she expected. At some point, the child began to expect his visit every day.
“I’m sorry, Abel. I brought you a present, please take it.”
Herace handed Abel the slingshot he had been hiding behind his back.
Chloe stared at the child’s lovely dimple that appeared along with his smile.
“And this is… a present for you.”
Herace handed Chloe a fine brush he was holding in his other hand. He knew Chloe had started to paint recently.
“Thank you, Sir.”
She had to admit.
Chloe, who used to be wary of Herace, was beginning to warm up to him. Just like Abel.]
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