Chapter 15

Now, they were alone in the room, with its round glass ceiling and several large paintings. Ana felt a bit endangered. While she knew Siasen wouldn’t harm her, a noblewoman’s honor could be tarnished by mere appearances, gestures, and a few words of gossip. Amidst this, she was frustrated with herself for being swayed by his intense whispers.

 

Ana looked up steadily and spoke firmly to the man who looked like he was going to die. “First, let go of my hand.” She made it clear that she would not speak further and would leave immediately if he did not.

 

Siguin replied in a low voice, a mix of resignation and ridicule in his tone. “You’re afraid I’ll tarnish your honor? You’re scared of me?”

 

No. It’s not you I’m scared of; it’s myself.

 

“Someone might see us.”

 

“There’s no one here.”

 

“How can you be sure?”

 

“Because I own this building.”

 

What? Ana’s astonishment was evident.

 

Siguin smiled. “So, I wish you’d focus only on me. Forget about those irrelevant others.”

 

“How did this happen? You were supposed to be sponsored by me…”

 

Originally, he had refused. Ana looked bewildered, observing the man gazing at her calmly and persistently.

 

Owning such a massive gallery was only possible for the highest nobles or royalty. Not only would it require enormous financial resources but also influential connections that a newly debuted artist like Siasen couldn’t have.

 

Siguin’s fingers gently caressed Ana’s cheek. When had he come so close? His masculine scent was refreshing. He called her. Ana. The voice that always relentlessly pulled her in.

 

“I missed you.”

 

Her maple-colored eyes wavered. Ana looked down, avoiding his gaze, but Siguin seemed not to care and clearly revealed his true feelings.

 

“I never forgot you for a single day. How about you?”

 

“…”

 

“When you left me, I was in so much pain that I wished I could die. I even prayed to God to erase my memory and I lived recklessly, but nothing worked. After years of madness, your face never faded. I wondered how I could live like this forever, fearing yet relieved because it meant I’d never forget you.”

 

“Siasen…” It was heartbreaking. Ana felt her chest ache. Tears welled up in her eyes as Siguin brushed them away with his thumb. His face contorted in agony like a child.

 

Ana had never seen anyone so emotionally raw and expressive, a stark contrast to the rigid nobility. That’s why she loved him. His intense aura and colors made her feel special and bright. Yet, the same man who once shone brightly still suffered because of her. What should she do for him?

 

“When I heard you were married,”

 

“…”

 

“I thought of everything. To overturn everything and take you back, even kill your husband with my own hands. If I did that…”

 

Ana turned pale with shock and couldn’t find her words. Siguin remained expressionless, but a tear fell from his burning eyes.

 

She thought she knew everything about him, but there was still something unknown. Ana saw his tears for the first time. Siasen had never cried, not when his dreams were shattered by her father, not when his stepfather hit him or treated him like a mongrel, not even when Ana finally left him.

 

Siasen was strong. But there was one thing he couldn’t overcome. Ana, resolved to be strong, crumbled before the pained expression shown only to her.

 

“Would you have come back to me?”

 

“Siasen.”

 

Ana shook her head, reaching up to soothe the man who wept without a trace of expression. He leaned into her small hand like a dog that had found its long-lost owner. Despite being a large man, he appeared powerless.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

It was sad that this was all she could say. Ana whispered continuously, saying she was sorry.  

 

“I’m sorry for hurting you.”

 

“Ana.”

 

“I hate myself. I’m sorry.”

 

She felt like a young girl again. They shared their pain, regret, and sorrow, forehead to forehead. Ana knew it well; she had experienced the same seven years ago. Fortunately, her pain wasn’t as deep or long-lasting, leaving only occasional, unforgettable scars.

 

Time had eventually healed and covered everything. She had obligations and realities met and engaged with Garcia as her family wished. Memories of Siasen lingered, but she hoped for his happiness, a new love, a life true to him. She had hoped he would remember her occasionally amid his busy life. But she never wanted him to suffer this much. She swore.  

 

“You said you hope I’m not in pain.” His whisper, filled with sorrow, grazed her ears. Siguin lifted her hand to his lips, burning hotly against her skin. He looked up, his voice hoarse.

 

“Then come to me. Stay by my side.” A sweet and provocative temptation.

 

“Siasen. I am…”

 

“I know. I see that damned name of another man attached to yours. But it doesn’t matter. I’m no longer the powerless and insignificant boy of the past. I’m confident I can give you everything and make you happy. Just leave the rest to me.”

 

“You just need to be by my side.”

 

His eyes were still fervent, even more intense than before. Ana realized that he had never cooled his love for her, fueling it constantly with her as the source. If she got entangled, there was no turning back. It was a blissful, burning fire, making it more dangerous.

 

“You’ll be amazed at what I can do for you.”

 

Perhaps Ana underestimated their love or Siasen’s feelings.

 

“For the first few years, I was out of my mind. Then, hearing about your engagement, I realized there’s nothing I can’t do to get you back.”

 

His eyes were heavy and fierce, as if not a single ray of light could pass through. His passion was boiling as if it would swallow her entirely.

 

Ana was stunned. It had been a long time. The boy Siasen had never shown such eyes. Though he was passionate, this level of desire and obsession was different. If the seven years had gently cooled Ana’s love into a poignant memory, for Siasen, it had transformed into obsession and possessiveness. The past Ana might have been happy to see such a version of him, intoxicated by his ardent love. But not the current Ana. She felt sorry, and her slightly trembling heart felt threatened. The emotions were overwhelming.

 

“I love you.”

 

Startled, Ana released his hand and stepped back. Before he could approach, she firmly shook her head.

 

“No.” She shook her head again, gripping her blue dress. Desperately, she recalled her family, her duties, the honor she had built since birth, her father and brothers, and especially her husband Garcia, who always respected her.

 

Garcia. The affectionate Garcia. Her husband whom she respects and relies on. If she were to betray the trust and honor of such a righteous and upright person who cherishes her, then she wouldn’t be human.

 

He would stay up all night beside the bed to care for his sick wife, stand by her side even when called by the emperor after their wedding night, and was always the one with golden eyes that listened to her words and intentions more attentively than anyone else, sharing warmth and gazes softly in bed, with his large hands massaging her tired shoulders, remembering the warmth of his goodnight kiss. A busy man with many responsibilities, carrying the weight of many, yet never showing his struggles, a strong person.

 

Thinking of him, her blurry vision cleared. Garcia.

 

“Siasen. A lot of time has passed. I’m no longer the seventeen-year-old girl. Not like you think.”

 

“What do you want to say?”

 

“It’s too late.”

***

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