Chapter 26: The End of the Maze
He pulled my hands as we walked up the stone steps.
We passed the entrance and went up the spiral staircase in the hall.
Orpheus continued to hold my hand and didn’t seem like he would let go.
He continued to walk while looking calm, even though he hated it when I touched him until yesterday.
What would happen if I shook off his hand and ran away?
Will he pretend nothing happened like before?
Interacting with Diana, pushing her, the words that came out from Orpheus’s mouth, can we pretend that none of that had happened?
Runaway, hide somewhere and wait for time to pass.
But I don’t have the energy to do that.
I had decided that I would play the clown until the end, but I was swept away by those words.
『It’s painful to see you behave unlike yourself to get me to hate you.』
Orpheus’s words sounded like he knew that I was acting like a foolish woman.
“Let’s talk in your room.”
When I came back to my senses, we were in front of my room, and Orpheus was about to open the door.
He opened his mouth as if he wanted to say something, but he forced me into the room before he spoke.
The door closed with a loud bang, and I lost the chance to escape. All I could do was be puzzled.
――― How did this happen? What went wrong?
I repeated these pointless questions in my mind, but couldn’t come up with an answer, so I sighed quietly and took off my flower hat.
I placed it on a nearby chair, wiped off my sweat, and looked around at the familiar bedroom.
“Did you listen to what Diana had to say?”
I turned around, and Orpheus picked up a jug, then poured water into a small glass.
He looked as if he knew something, and he did.
I did my best to think even though I couldn’t, and answered briefly, “Yes.”
I know it would be fatal if I were to say unnecessary things right now, but I couldn’t help but ask, “Did you really tell her to get out of the mansion?”
Orpheus tilted his head, questioningly, as he held out the glass that was filled to the brim.
I hesitated and finally received the cup before asking timidly.
I felt relieved when I sipped the lukewarm water and finally regained my composure.
“I heard it from Diana. She said that you told her to get out. You’re a horrible person too. That blind woman is finally being chased out. It serves her right. She makes me furious, that woman. I pitied her until now, but I regret letting her stay in this mansion,” I said before gulping down the remaining water. A white hand took the empty glass from my hand.
“I don’t know what you’re angry about, but I didn’t drive her away. I have suggested this a few times in the past, but Diana decided this on her own this time.”
“Eh. So, either you or Diana are lying. You wouldn’t lie since you’re idiotically honest, so it must be Diana?”
“It’s probably Juris who told her that.”
“What did you say?”
――― No way, I can’t believe it.
Juris wouldn’t say something like that.
He loves Diana and wishes for her happiness more than anyone else.
I can’t believe that he would tell Diana to leave.
And, if he had said that…
『Actually, I’ve been told. By the person I like. He told me I should leave this mansion.』
I recalled Diana’s ironic laugh, and my stomach sunk.
The hunch and anxiety that was building up inside me made my body cold.
“Apparently, that was why she wanted to leave. I asked her if it was really alright, but she’s stubborn and said that she wouldn’t return to this mansion. I didn’t think I would be able to stop her either. If she wants to leave, then it’s fine for her to leave.”
“Because she was the one who wanted to stay in this mansion, not you?”
Orpheus squinted his eyes as if he recalled something while putting the jug and glass back into its place.
“Diana told you everything.”
At that moment, I felt a strong force push my shoulder.
It was a surprise attack like the one I had sprung on Diana, and I couldn’t resist.
I fell into a bottomless―――.
“That’s right. That was what she wanted. I lied to get your sympathy. Diana said she didn’t want to know love between people of different social positions, so I used another method of persuasion.”
It’s already hopeless, I thought.
My hunch is becoming a reality.
It’s like a nightmare.
I had no choice but to fall.
This is probably my punishment for pushing Diana.
I continued to fall without any means to do anything about the bottomless despair.
“I wanted to grant Diana’s wish. I feel bad that she lost her family and sight, so at least, I wanted her to be with the man she loves, ――― with Juris; even if it’s just for a brief moment.”
“I’m sorry for lying to you,” Orpheus continued, “I made you misunderstand the situation because I didn’t tell the truth.”
“Actually, Elze repeatedly told me to move Diana to another place and that you became like this because I listened to Diana’s selfishness.”
“Why did Elze say that?”
Elze is on Diana’s side and hates me.
So, why did she tell her to move into another place?
She even went as far as to go against her master.
“Did Elze know who Diana loves as well?”
“No, she shouldn’t. It’s just that she thinks about you in her own way. She was probably worried because she was harsh on you. She’s a perfectionist, so she didn’t have any mercy on you as well, right? She tried to hold back every time she thought she was overdoing it. This is just a guess, but she might think that she’s the cause for your sudden attitude change, so she’s worried about you because she feels guilty.”
“She’s strict, but she’s not a bad person,” ――― Orpheus said as he raised the corners of his lips a little.
I couldn’t stand to see his smile and turned to the side.
Then, I saw colourful roses in the corner of the room.
Come to think of it, there are always roses in that vase ever since spring came.
Red, white, yellow, light red, and orange.
The vase is full of vivid roses.
A strange urge welled up from within me, and a sob escaped from my lips.
――― I don’t want to accept it.
I don’t want to accept that Juris and Diana both love each other. I can’t accept it.
What will happen to Orpheus?
How can he be happy when he loves Diana?
What will happen to all the evil deeds that I have piled up?
『Orpheus loves you.』Juris’s words repeated in my mind.
I heard them over and over again.
I felt an impact on my chest as if I had just been hit, and I couldn’t breathe.
It’s tough and painful.
This is a nightmare.
This reality can only be a nightmare.
I can’t accept this at all.
“Say it’s a lie.”
My brain knew it, but my heart couldn’t keep up.
I wish this was all a dream.
I wish this was all fake.
“Tell me it’s a lie, Orpheus. I can’t accept this. I will never accept this. I don’t want to accept this.”
I approached the man who was close enough to be within my reach and grabbed his collar. I was trying to stop myself from collapsing.
“Diana loves you, doesn’t she? You both love each other, don’t you? But you want to follow your foster father’s last request. You want to follow it, so you needed to stay married to me, so that’s why you tried to chase Diana away. You’re even lying to me and telling me nonsense to keep our marriage. ――― Right?”
That’s right. I’m certain.
And, I haven’t heard this directly from Diana.
I haven’t heard who she loves and who she wants to stay by.
“No. Absolutely not. Diana can’t leave, because she wants to be by your side. You both love each other. Don’t follow his last request and choose Diana.”
“Diana loves Juris. She doesn’t love me. We feel no love for each other. From the beginning.”
“It’s a lie! You’re lying!”
I can’t believe this.
Orpheus was calm even at a time like this.
When I actually looked at him, he did look a little lonely, and he was looking down on the woman who was grabbing his collar.
“Why do you have to go that far to protect his last request?! Is the will of a deceased person that important?! Is it more important than Diana!?”
“Ophelia, calm down.”
“Why won’t you divorce me!? You should divorce me and get married again to Diana! You should make her happy!” He didn’t get angry no matter what I said, so I shouted in a loud voice.
My bravado was gone, and I went back to my usual self, but that doesn’t even matter now.
I don’t care how I look.
“I won’t divorce you,” he muttered, and the blood drained from my face.
My mind felt as if it had been splashed with cold water, and I stopped breathing.
“I’m not going to divorce you no matter what you say. I won’t.”
“Screw you! Who cares about his last request―――….”
“This has nothing to do with his last request. This is what I want. I’ll never break up with you, no matter how much you ignore me or hate me.”
He grabbed my wrist and raged as if he had gone mad.
“Let me go!” I shrieked.
I resisted him even though it was pointless and desperately tried not to collapse.
“You’re lying. It’s a lie. Lie. Lie. It’s all a lie!”
He restrained my body, probably because this was getting nowhere.
He hugged me so tightly that I couldn’t breathe. “Ophelia,” he called my name many times.
“Stop, stop it, Orpheus! Let me go!”
“I love you.”
“You love Diana, don’t you?!”
“It’s a different kind of love. The love I feel for Diana is familial love, the love I feel for you is the love between husband and wife. To be clear, how I feel towards Diana can’t be compared to how I feel towards you.”
It’s wrong, someone whispered in my mind.
It’s wrong to deny the warmth that is surrounding your body, the power, and the clingy voice.
I actually know.
I’m just afraid.
I believe him, but I’m afraid that the things I have accumulated will crumble.
I’m afraid that I had actually been a clown instead of acting like one.
“I love you, Ophelia. I know you’re avoiding me. I also noticed that you want us to divorce. I know you feel sorry for me, and that you’ve been trying to make me hate you so that you wouldn’t hurt me to reduce my mental burdens.”
“But I still love you,” Orpheus said.
I love you.
I love you.
He repeated over and over, and those words sunk into my mind.
He rubbed my back and took away my power to resist and my thoughts.
“You’ll probably only feel uncomfortable now that I’ve told you. You will probably never accept this. But I still love you. I was captivated by you the moment I saw you. This feeling will never change even if you despise my past, the blood that flows through my body, humanity or ignore me.”
I felt as if my heart was being seized.
Seized and gripped tightly.
My blood stopped flowing.
The cold is just my imagination.
I have no feeling in my hands and feet.
“You just have to stay by my side. I don’t want anything else. You don’t even have to talk to me. If it’s painful even to touch each other, then you don’t have to accompany me at night, and I’ll have another woman give me an heir. Claude ―――, you can continue your relationship with your lover, and you can buy all the dresses and jewellery that you want. I won’t stop you from going out. I promise I won’t lecture you at all about it from now on. So please…” Orpheus’s voice trembled.
It felt as if he was afraid and in pain.
“I don’t care if you hate me. You can hate me. Just stay by my side.”
――― Just a single word is fine.
Muster up my courage and just say one word, “No,” then it’ll all be over.
I can’t stay by your side, that’s all I have to say.
I thought but couldn’t speak.
It’s because of the roses.
It’s because the roses are in that place.
Those roses reminded me of the moments that will never happen again; the happiest moment in my life when we had hopes.
『When the roses bloom, I’ll deliver them to your room every day.』
It was your happiness that I wished for.
I wanted you to laugh.
I thought I could do anything if you could laugh.
I didn’t mind if I was unhappy.
And yet, why did it end up like this?
I just wanted to make you happy.
“What makes you happy? What can I do to make you happy?”
“Stay by my side,” he replied without hesitation, and I was knocked down once more.
I was knocked down to the bottomless pit of despair.
“I don’t need anything else if you’re by my side. I don’t need noble status, assets, or anything. If you tell me you love me, then I could just die right here and now.”
Orpheus left my room after his long persuasion, and I hung my head down because I felt like I was at my wits’ end.
I fell down to the ground like that and stared absentmindedly at the geometric patterns on the carpet.
The shock had been too great, and I went over all the crimes I had committed in my mind while resisting the urge to scream.
A sob escaped from my lips.
I’ve hurt a lot of people.
I tormented a lot of people.
The more I thought about it, the more I felt like I was going to go mad.
I was about to be crushed by the weight of my sins.
――― I just wanted you to be happy. I just wanted you to laugh.
I didn’t just hurt those involved.
I also hurt Orpheus, who I wanted to make happy.
I made him sad.
I’m not sure whether Orpheus actually loves me or not, but I’m sure that I hurt him and made him suffer while I was acting as a bad wife.
It’s an unforgivable crime.
――― Even though I loved you. Even though I loved you more than anyone else.
I wished for your happiness, but I’ve hurt you.
I made you suffer. I made you have bitter experiences for a long time.
I should have cleared the misunderstanding at once, but I couldn’t say anything.
“Why did I…?”
Probably because I’m a foolish and hopeless person.
I was a clown.
I was a real clown.
I didn’t degrade into a foolish woman on purpose.
I was stupid from the start.
I was an absolute moron for not listening to what others had to say and acted only on my beliefs.
What to do?
What should I do?
What am I supposed to do now?
I don’t want to make another mistake.
I don’t want to act like an idiot.
What the heck should I do?
――― What should I do?
I stood up like a ghost and staggered out of my room.
I went down the stairs and looked for Claire in every room.
Sometimes, I asked the servants, who I passed, where she was, but they replied coolly, “I don’t know,” so I continued to loiter around until it got dark outside.
“Madam, what’s wrong?” A voice called out to me when I got to the laundry room, and when I turned back, I saw Juris looking at me questioningly.
He was wondering what I was doing in a place that only servants entered.
“I’m looking for Claire. Do you know where she is?”
“Claire? She’s out at the moment.”
I recalled that I had requested her to take care of some business for me.
I had told her to sell the dresses and jewellery in my closet so I could clear it out.
I’m really an idiot for forgetting my own orders.
“Thank you for telling me, Juris.”
“It’s alright. More importantly, you look horrible, Madam… Are you not feeling well?”
“Yeah. It might be because I walked outside for a bit. But I’m fine.”
“You look like you’re going to faint right now… Would you like me to take you to your room?”
I shook my head and refused, “There’s no need.”
It’s painful for Juris to be kind to me right now.
“I heard from Diana that she would be leaving because you asked her to.”
When I saw his handsome face stiffened, I was worried that I might have said something insensitive, and apologised for many reasons, “I’m sorry.”
“No, it’s not something you should apologise for, Madam. I should be the one to apologise. I did something that betrayed your thoughtfulness. I am so truly sorry.”
“Apparently, Diana loves you.”
Juris averted his gaze and muttered in a low voice, “It seems that way. Our positions are too different, and nothing will happen even if our feelings are the same.”
“Is that so?”
Diana probably didn’t confine her feelings to anyone other than Orpheus because she knew this.
“Yes. Above all, things were difficult on you because of us. We’ve made you suffer. We should be punished a little. Me, Diana, and of course, Orpheus.”
“Diana also said something similar. She said she had to make amends and won’t be returning to this mansion again. But, if you all are going to be punished, then I should be punished more heavily.”
I smiled feebly and said, “I spoke to Orpheus.”
I couldn’t fake a smile on my face like before.
“It must have been funny to see me run around in circles.”
“We’re the same. You weren’t the only one. We were all like that.”
We were all looking in different directions.
We could have worked together if we knew how each other felt, but we were clumsy and timid, so we acted based on speculation, and hurt each other. We ran around in circles.
“Things don’t go as you wish. Humans don’t get what they want.”
――― It would have been easier to break through.
Like beasts, we cannot live just for our desires.
We can’t be selfish.
We can’t be good or bad.
Therefore, we lose our way and suffer.
“What are you going to do now?”
“… What is the right thing to do?”
I stared straight at him, and his grey eyes stared back at me.
“Please stay with Orpheus. That’s all he wants.”
Really? I questioned.
Is staying by his side like nothing had happened even though I had hurt him and made a mess of everything the right thing to do?
“Are you going to stay with Diana?”
Juris didn’t answer.
He just smiled while enduring pain as if he couldn’t go back to the nostalgic past.
I returned to my room and pondered while looking at the roses in the vase.
I want to talk to someone about this.
But Claire isn’t here.
Orpheus will come soon to ask for an answer.
I want to talk to someone before he comes.
I want someone to give me their impartial opinion.
I recalled the young man who smiled mischievously.
Phelia, he who calls me in such a friendly way.
――― Let’s go see him.
I don’t know how long it would take, but let’s go visit him.
I’ll go out and get away from Orpheus for a while.
Let’s calm down.
I opened the closet, took out a deep blue overcoat, and put on easy to walk in boots.
I won’t use the carriage.
I feel like I’ve lost my qualifications to use it.
I may lose the title of Countess Rosenstein in the not too distant future.
So, I’m not qualified.
It may take a long time, but let’s walk.
I don’t care if it’s dangerous.
It’ll be better if I get attacked and die.
It’ll be much easier that way.
『Staying by his side was everything to me. I don’t care what happens now that I’ve lost it.』
I feel like I understand Diana’s feelings well now.
I’ve lost what I believe in and what I’ve accomplished.
All that remained is sin.
So, I don’t care what happens.
I probably wanted to be punished.
I wanted to be punished by a force that was beyond human wisdom.