Chapter 18: A Painful Conversation
Orpheus led me to my room on the second floor.
Claire was making my bed in the room, and she tilted her head when she saw that I was with Orpheus and immediately shrieked when she saw my swollen cheeks, “Madam!”
She abandoned the blanket cover that she was replacing and ran to me. She examined my cheeks which had swelled more with time, and cried, “You’re horrible. So horrible, Master! How can you beat your wife?!”
Tears ran down her large eyes.
I knew that Claire had falsely accused Orpheus, and quickly tried to clear up the misunderstanding. “Yo-you’re wrong, Claire! He didn’t do it! Someone else did!”
“What…?! Who, who did that?! I won’t forgive them. I’ll hit them back!”
“Calm down, Claire. I’ve already cut ties with that man. He won’t get involved with Ophelia anymore.”
“Juris already paid him back. He shut up when I told him I would give him money, but he’ll complain if something else happens to him. By the way…”
Orpheus, who looked between the agitated Claire and I, who was trying to calm her down, said, “You two are pretty close.”
Cold sweat dripped down my back.
We’ve done it.
I’m supposed to treat the servants harshly. They’re supposed to hate me, and I’m not supposed to have any allies in this mansion… but, that picture is going to collapse at this rate.
It’s unnatural for a serious and pure young maid to adore the selfish and arrogant Countess Rosenstein.
I had to deceive him somehow, even if just for this instant.
Claire and I looked at each other and exchanged looks.
“Pretty close? Me and a servant? This isn’t a joke.”
I looked up arrogantly and folded my arms pompously.
“This is the result of training. I strictly instructed her to devote her all to me. This is the result. I don’t treat the servants generously like you do. I train them to do everything for me… Right, Claire? You don’t want to experience something painful for not complying with my wishes, right?”
Claire matched me.
Her shoulders shivered, and she hung her head down like a scared puppy.
She put her thin hands on her chest as if she was begging for forgiveness.
“Oh my, that’s cute. She’s all scared. But well, that’s how she is. Claire, you’re in the way. Get out.”
Orpheus detained Claire, who tried to leave the room with her head drooped down.
“Bring me a clean cloth and a bucket of water. I want to cool her cheeks down.”
“I don’t need those things.”
“Look in the mirror to see how your cheeks are… I’ll leave it to you, Claire.”
Claire’s red-faced head shook, and she bowed, “Understood.” She quietly closed the door.
“Won’t you still make it right now?” I said some time after she left.
I was keenly aware that Orpheus was staring at me and glared at the roses at the corner of the room as if I was killing my parents.
“Why don’t you go to that man and tell him to pretend that that conversation never happened?”
“I’m not going to do that.”
“Orpheus, are you really planning on throwing 60 million marcas down the ditch?”
I looked up at Orpheus, who was standing next to me. Then, his blue eyes stared at me in the same way, and as soon as our eyes met, his big eyes narrowed like a cat.
“I’m not planning on throwing it down the ditch, and I didn’t think that I could get the money back when I lent it to him. Lord Lagerfeld has no business talents. His investments will fail.”
“That’s why you should get it back,” I hesitated to say this when I remembered my half-sister.
What will happen to that child if his investments fail?
“… It’s not like they’ll all fail, right? And the amount of tax you have to pay on that sum of money is ridiculous. No matter how wealthy the Rosenstein House is if you do something like this then…”
“This is surprising.”
Orpheus smiled wryly.
The cold light in his eyes softened a little.
“I didn’t think the current you would say something like that. I really can’t tell what your real intentions are.”
Is he telling me not to talk about money when I waste so much of it?
“I don’t have any real intentions. I’m angry because you threw away a large sum of money for a stupid reason. What consolation money? You hate me, right? Then, you should give me back to that man right away. You should get back all the money you lent him and divorce me.”
――― This isn’t like Countess Rosenstein.
I suddenly thought that.
I’m not acting how I usually do.
If I were, I would probably shout for joy at not having to go back to my disgusting parent’s house and could continue to live my lavish life.
With so much joy, I might be able to butter up to Orpheus who was hiding the scorn in his heart. “It’s thanks to you,” I should have said.
Even though I knew this, I felt compelled to say, “Why did you act like that? Why did you protect me?”
Unable to look Orpheus in the eyes, I diverted my gaze.
“Did you think that I would act obediently if you gained my gratitude? How about if you threatened me like that man by saying 『Who should you be grateful to for your extravagant life』, so that I would act obediently?”
“Too bad, it doesn’t work like that. I’m not going to change how I behave, no matter what you do or say. Well, if it’s just a little then I don’t mind being a good girl, but that probably won’t last long. Because I love indulging myself. I’m different from your cute Diana.”
Then, I smiled. I planned on smiling fearlessly, but I ended up sneering at myself.
“Hey, Orpheus. We’re already…”
“Sit down,” Orpheus finally uttered, but that wasn’t the answer I wanted.
“Do you listen to what people say?”
“Of course, I do. This seems like it’ll take a while, so it’s better to sit down and talk. And, for personal reasons, it’s hard to stand up after staying up all night.”
I remembered that Orpheus had just come back from the royal palace. I pretended to think for a bit, and then said, “Fine.”
I sat on the couch, and Orpheus sat on the one-seated across from the low table.
Claire hadn’t returned.
Neither Orpheus nor I spoke, and the room was covered in an eerie silent; even my own breathing felt noisy.
“I have to apologise to you first,” Orpheus began after a long silence.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t protect you. This is my fault. I didn’t think he would visit without contacting me first. Lord Lagerfeld and I both use messengers or meet outside… Anyway, I’m sorry. I should have ordered Juris not to let him contact you. It’s all my fault. I’m really sorry.”
――― Ah, why is this person…
I wanted to cry.
Why is this person sometimes so gentle and so sincere that it feels stifling?
He usually looks down on me with cold eyes, but why is he looking at me with eyes full of regret and begging for forgiveness?
Even though it’s all my fault.
Even though I’m sorry for being born as that man’s child, for betraying Orpheus and for becoming a foolish woman.
“You don’t have to apologise. I don’t think it’s your fault. That man is the crazy one, so he would’ve come to my room if Juris stopped him. He’s the one to blame, not you. That’s not what I’m asking you. I’m asking you why you gave him 60 million marcas,” I looked down and asked in a muffled voice.
I don’t know what expression Orpheus was making because I was looking down, but his voice sounded a little different than usual, “To protect you.”
I raised my face.
Both Juris and Orpheus say things that make me doubt my ears today.
I keep thinking I’m mishearing things because of them and have to ask them to repeat themselves.
“I thought I could protect you if I kept you by my side after we married, but I was naïve. I thought I had no choice but to break up your relationship with Lord Lagerfeld. I don’t intend… on making you feel gratitude towards me or making you obedient.”
I was stunned to find out that I hadn’t misheard him.
“… Why do you go so far to protect me? You didn’t have to do that much. It doesn’t matter what happens to me after we marry…”
“Is it strange for a husband to protect his wife?”
I was speechless because of this.
It certainly wasn’t strange for a husband to protect his wife.
However, it was odd for Orpheus to defend me.
I’m a bad wife who people frown at just by hearing my name.
Isn’t it natural for him to send me back to my parent’s house then and there and divorce me?
――― And yet, why did this person do that…?
My eyes wandered around because I was upset, and the smile I tried to put on my face twitched.
Still, I somehow managed to reply with sarcasm, “You’re as kind as ever. You’re a wonderful husband who tries to protect such a ‘wife’. Fufu, you’re like a fool.”
――― Don’t call me with that voice.
I wanted to block my ears the moment he called my name.
I remembered those days, my feelings for Orpheus were pouring out, and I felt like I was going to go crazy.
“It’s probably my fault that you’ve become like this. How do I fix it…? I’ve asked this many times, and you probably won’t answer me even if I ask you again right now.”
I turned away.
I don’t want to talk about this anymore.
If we do, then he will start saying that he will send Diana away, and finally, he would say, “I won’t see her again.” It took a lot of effort to stop him from thinking this.
It’s better to refuse this discussion.
“I know. It’s already too late, right? Like you said, I’m a fool. I’m probably beyond saving.”
I shifted my eyes and froze when I looked at Orpheus, who was sitting right across from me.
He looked really exhausted.
The grief on his face deepened, and he looked so frail that it seemed like he was going to collapse at any moment.
It was my first time seeing Orpheus like this, and I was shocked that it felt as if my heart was being stabbed.
――― I want to rush over to him and hug him.
I want to hug him, pat his head, and comfort him.
Please don’t look like that.
You’re not a fool.
Those words aren’t true.
I was driven by a strong urge, but it wasn’t something I was allowed to do now.
I could only hold onto my skirt and bear with it.
“I actually know.” Orpheus smiled faintly, hung his head down and put his hand on his forehead.
His figure and voice were filled with regret.
“I know what I should do and what I can do, but I can’t let you go. I’m selfish and a coward. I’m really a hopeless moron.”
I know your feelings.
I know that you love Diana with all your heart and that you regret choosing your foster father’s last request instead of the woman you love.
Because I’m always looking at you.
――― It’s okay.
I’ll make your wishes come true.
I’ll make you happy this time.
If you can’t let me go because of his last request, then I’ll create a situation where you will have to let me go.
I will hurt over and over in place of the cowardly you.
――― I love you. I’ll do anything for you.
We can’t start over anymore.
But, I’m sure you and Diana can.
I’ll make it happen.
――― So, please…
“Orpheus, look up.”
His handsome face, which he slowly lifted up was distorted like a broken ceramic doll.
I wanted to hug him and help him with his pain and anguish, but there’s nothing I can do now.
Would he laugh like that day if I bring Diana here…?
I suddenly came up with this idea.
This is my room, but I don’t mind lending it to them if they don’t take too long if Orpheus smiles and cheers up a little.
“No matter what you become or what you do…” Orpheus stopped there and covered his face.
When he lowered his white hand, his dazzling face went back to being expressionless, and his blue eyes which were like the sea were a few times colder than usual.
That coldness made me choke, and goosebumps ran down my spine.
“You’re my wife. That won’t change in the future. My feelings of wanting to protect you will never change. Even if you hate me or love another man.”
――― Do you want to protect your foster father’s last request that much?
It was like being strangled by flexible fingers.
Why does this person sometimes corner me in such a cruel way?
The more stubborn Orpheus is, the more mistakes I have to make.
I have to make you hate me more.
“Ophelia, please forgive me,” Orpheus said when I was about to shut my eyes off to everything I can see.
“I will definitely not…” His thin lips moved slightly, but I couldn’t hear him.
I couldn’t hear him because he was too quiet, and I didn’t ask what he had said.
When Claire returned, Orpheus made sure that the doctor checked me before leaving.
He said that he would be resting in his room because he had a headache and felt dizzy from lack of sleep.
When Claire and I were alone, I clung to her and cried.
“Why is that person so kind to me!?” I shouted.
Tears fell down my eyes and soaked the gauze on my cheek.
The tears didn’t seem like they would stop no matter how much I wiped it.
That’s why I let my emotions out.
“Why does he have a lover?! Why isn’t it me?! Even though I love him. I love him more than anyone else!”
These were the ugly desires that built up deep in my heart.
――― Why doesn’t he love me?
Even though I love him so much.
Even though I love him more than anyone else.
――― Why doesn’t he look at me? Why won’t he choose me? Even though I would do anything for him.
Claire hugged me and patted my back.
She cried with me.
Just like the day when I confessed my determination to betray Orpheus and throw everything away for his happiness.
“I know. I know, Claire. I know I can’t turn back. I’m not qualified to tell him that I love him.”
I’m a fool.
My feelings overflow when Orpheus is kind to me.
I’m going to break down.
――― Why? Why? Why?
Even though we’re married.
Even though we’re supposed to kiss and make love, why?
I’m a fool.
Orpheus loves Diana.
His love belongs to Diana.
It’s something I can never get.
And I’ve already accepted this.
I understand this.
Orpheus saved me, and I thought that was enough.
I want nothing from him, and I will spend my entire life returning this favour.
And yet, I fell in love with him.
I love him.
I broke the thin ice beneath my feet and fell into the cold water.
I’m a fool.
I was getting my just desserts, and I was the one who was wrong, not anyone else, but I was still filled with regret.
If Diana didn’t exist, if she wasn’t here, then Orpheus might love me.
He might turn the smile he shows Diana towards me.
If Diana, if she wasn’t here.
――― Ah, aren’t I the hopeless fool?
“But please. Please forgive me only for now.” I asked for forgiveness from no one.
――― Forgive me. Forgive the foolish me.
Forgive me for being shaken by those words and for being weak.
Forgive me for dreaming of a future where I could walk next to Orpheus.
“I’ll definitely make that person, Orpheus, happy.”
I continued to weep.
It was dim outside because dusk was approaching, and it began to rain before I knew it.