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[Chloe, who used to be wary of Herace, was beginning to warm up to him. Just like Abel.
She also had no reason to push Herace away anymore. Rather, the whole situation seemed to urge her to take his hand.
“Mother, when is Uncle Ace coming?”
“Mother, tell him to come here quickly please!”
“Abel, he’s busy.”
“Oh, Uncle Ace! Uncle Ace!”
Abel made such a fuss when he came late. His name was still lingering in her ears.
‘Wouldn’t it be nice?’
Chloe looked at Abel, sitting across from her. The child’s lips were stretched from ear to ear as if he was truly enjoying his meal in Herace’s presence.
“Abel, shall we play a guessing game?”
“I’d love to!”
Herace suggested a game when Abel kept picking his carrots out on his plate.
“You have to close your eyes. I’m going to put something delicious in your mouth.”
Herace put Abel’s favorite white bread into his mouth.
“Oh, correct. Can you guess if I put two in at once?”
“Yes, I can!”
Abel closed his eyes with a confident expression.
“Wait a minute.”
Herace put meat and finely a chopped carrot in the child’s mouth.
Abel exclaimed after swallowing the food in his mouth.
Abel tilted his head as if he didn’t know the answer to the other one.
“You know, it’s actually a carrot! Abel, you’re so good at eating carrots, aren’t you? I couldn’t eat them very well when I was young, so you’re great to have eaten it.”
Abel, whose expression grew stiff at the word ‘carrot’, was soothed at Herace’s praise.
“But you know carrots are delicious, right?”
“Yes! Carrots are delicious! I’m great after eating these carrots, right, uncle?”
Chloe chuckled lightly at Abel’s cute bravado.
Sir Moore was very friendly to Abel and her. She was grateful to him from the bottom of her heart.
‘Sir Moore is really different from… him.’
He never would have played with his son like that at the table because of his noble demeanor.
‘Oh, stop thinking about it.’
Chloe shook her head to clear her mind.
She actually wasn’t really sure if she had gotten over Gerard Blanchett completely. Perhaps, she was filling the void with Herace.
It really bothered her.
“Why are you not eating, my Lady? Do you wish to join us in this game, too?”
Herace looked at Chloe and asked when he saw her stop eating. He held his spoon mischievously in front of her as if he was going to feed her.
“No, I’m eating.”
Chloe shook her head and put a spoonful of food in her mouth. She rolled her eyes towards him.
‘I hope he’s not hurt.’
She didn’t want Sir Moore to be hurt. To be precise, she didn’t want to give him the pain she had suffered. She knew how painful it was and how it stuck to her.
If they stayed together, she hoped it was because she liked him, not because she wanted him to fill someone else’s shoes.
After dinner, they had tea.
“So, did you finish the painting?”
It was when Chloe tried to answer Herace’s question.
“Uncle Ace, Mother drew me!”
Abel said with a proud look on his face as he sat beside the man. Herace looked at Chloe sorrowfully.
“You weren’t intending to show me?”
“It’s not like that, I was going to show it to you eventually.”
Chloe hurriedly made up an excuse upon Herace’s sorrowful look. She got up from her seat right away and headed to the studio where the painting was.
“Wait a minute. I’ll clean up my studio and call you in.”
She asked the maids, who managed the house, not to clean up the studio, so she decided to clean it up before he came in.
“Yes, please take your time.”
Herace put on a smile at the sight of Chloe’s blushing face. Such a girly expression that came out every once in a while was an adorable sight.
Chloe, who came to the studio, turned around the canvas with embarrassing doodles. She set aside the art tools and opened the window to let in some fresh air.
Taking one last look around the studio, Chloe called Herace.
Hfft, she sucked in a breath upon realizing that she had called him by his nickname. She kept hearing Theodore and Abel call him Ace.
Herace didn’t miss the opportunity. He called her name softly.
“No, I’ve been wanting to show this to you…”
Chloe replied while avoiding eye contact out of embarrassment.
Herace seemed to be chuckling, but she tried to ignore him. Pushing her further than this would only backfire on him.
He admired Chloe’s painting.
The canvas depicted Abel smiling brightly while holding flowers in his hand. The sunlight shining behind him seemed to embody blessings.
“Was this when you went on a picnic last time?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
The strokes of the brush were alive, probably influenced by Theodore. It wasn’t a regular painting, but one that contained love for her son.
“I don’t know much about paintings, but… I’m amazed every time I look at it. I get to see the world through the artist’s eyes.”
“So this is how the world feels in your eyes, my Lady.”
Herace calmly recited his amazement.
“Please paint a lot from now on, Claudia.”
Herace grinned as he picked up Abel.
“It’s hard at first, but it’ll get easier eventually. The picture and my name are like that.”
Herace skillfully teased Chloe.
When she asked back, he talked to Abel and pretended to be distracted.
“You want your mother to paint more, don’t you?”
“Yes! Your drawing is pretty, Mother!”
Chloe shook her head. However, the corners of her mouth turned upwards before she realized it.
She started painting simply because she wanted to document Abel’s growth, but she didn’t think she could let go of a brush again after this.
Abel, Herace, Theodore. It was because of the people who liked her paintings.
In fact, she found out that it was him who liked her paintings more than anyone else.
She realized that she was fond of the ugly painting more now because she used to be thirsty for recognition from the world and pressured by the urge to do everything well.
There were so many things she wanted to draw in the future. She felt excitement and expectation, which she hadn’t felt in a long time.
A few months later, in the Marquis of Blanchett’s office.
“Winter training will proceed according to the report.”
Gerard, who was receiving a report from Aiden, was more sensitive and cranky than ever. The Marquis, smiling through his youth, couldn’t be found anywhere in him.
Her bitter betrayal twisted Gerard. He always wore a frown now.
Gerard looked up at Aiden, who didn’t leave the room even after he was done reporting.
“I received something from Raymond.”
Gerard asked with narrowed eyes.
Raymond was a knight whom he commanded to look for his wife after her disappearance six years ago. It was surprising that he got a letter from Raymond because it had been a long time since the investigation for Chloe’s whereabouts became a formal mission.
Of course, it hadn’t been that way in the beginning.
Six years ago, Gerard released a number of men following Chloe’s disappearance. He even asked for a favor from the Emperor for the first and last time in his life. To find his wife.
However, he ended up not even grasping Chloe’s shadow. She must have been thorough in planning her escape, from giving him sleeping pills to changing coachmen frequently.
Just when he thought he had a clue, she disappeared, as if taunting him.
The man was abandoned by his wife.
Gerard suffered after Chloe disappeared. He couldn’t eat or sleep for a while, contrary to her wishes. Instead of crying, however, he gritted his teeth.
After about three years, he suddenly wondered.
‘Why am I looking for her? What’s the use of finding someone who despised me so much she ran away?’
Therefore, he minimized the search for his wife. Yes, he wanted to give up.
However, Chloe still appeared in his dreams, taunting him. After having those dreams, he hated her for making him so miserable.
And… he missed her. Even now, six years later.
That was the reason Blanchett’s most elite troops were still looking for Chloe. Because of his stupid lingering attachment.
“Yes. He said he had noticed the painting of a widow because it has several resemblances to the house of Roem. However, it’s difficult to identify the Baroness properly.”
“In what way?”
“It seems that Raymond must have stayed in the southeast before heading north. However, the head of the family staying in the southeast doesn’t wear the family’s crest anymore, and the widow who’s staying in the northeast proudly wears it.”
Through Aiden’s explanation, Gerard could get a grip on the situation. They probably bought the family’s title. It was often the case among low-ranking nobles.
“Which family is it?”
People who bought titles were usually wealthy merchants.
“The Barony of Diaz.”
Or they wanted to hide their identity.
Gerard tapped his fingers on the desk for a moment, then ordered him.
“…Tell Raymond to buy the painting. I need to see it.”
People around Gerard persistently urged him to remarry. Not that he couldn’t, he could’ve annulled their marriage if he wanted to.
However, he didn’t. No, he wouldn’t.
His heart was already dedicated as a whole to Chloe, same with the hate he had towards her, and ironically he couldn’t let her go.
He had to find her.
Perhaps, he wanted to start over. Or to end this properly. He didn’t know where this relationship would lead them, but he sensed finding her would provide freedom from all these pains.]
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