Chapter 31: Anguish
――― If it’s for Orpheus, for the person I love, then I can do anything.
I don’t care if people make fun of me.
I didn’t care if I’m rejected.
I didn’t ask anyone to understand me.
Because I knew it was comical and foolish.
“I love you. I don’t hate you. I love you.”
It was pointless even if I shut my eyes tightly.
The burning heat overflowed from my eyes and fell between the gaps.
Lukewarm water slid down my cheeks.
Even though I decided that I wouldn’t cry, I couldn’t stop it.
I crouched down and hid my face with both my hands.
I hid myself so that Orpheus wouldn’t see.
I knew that Orpheus had sat down next to me.
I brushed away the hand that he had extended to comfort me and moved away.
“Don’t touch me. Don’t comfort me. Don’t forgive me. I’m not qualified to receive your kindness. I hurt you with my selfish desire after getting the wrong idea. I tormented you.”
I’m sorry. ――― He grabbed my shoulders while I repeated my meaningless apologies, and my body was pulled up.
He removed my hands which were covering my face, and my wet cheeks became cold.
“Yeah, it was painful. It was so painful that I thought dying would have been better.”
Violent emotions swayed in his blue eyes and the instant I saw it; it took my breath away.
Has Orpheus ever exposed his feelings to me like this before?
He was always indifferent and expressionless so I couldn’t tell what he was thinking.
He has never shown me such intense feelings like this even though he has raised his voice before.
“I thought you regretted marrying me. I thought you wanted your freedom because you didn’t want to marry a boring man with no noble blood and had no worth other than his face.”
I could only stay silent and listen to him because he had pressed his index finger on my lips when I tried to object.
“You go out of the mansion, get to know this wide world and meet a lot of different people, so you should have realised that I only have superficial charm. Everyone throws themselves at me because they’re attracted by my figure, status and assets, but few people wanted to know the real me. They project their ideals onto me and convince themselves that I’m great at everything.”
Orpheus’s fleeting smile tore at my heart. I couldn’t breathe.
“But the real me is an empty and flawed person. I’m a boring man who no one pays attention to if I didn’t have this appearance, the status of Earl Rosenstein or my vast fortune. No one except for my father, Diana, Juris and Elze.”
I grabbed the finger that was pressed against my lips, and snarled, “I love all of you! It doesn’t matter what you look like, or what your identity is, or how vast your assets are. I’ll still love you even if you lose everything!”
“… Ophelia, I…”
Orpheus said regretfully, “You misunderstood.”
“You weren’t charmed by my face when we first met either. You weren’t obsessed with status or fortune, and you weren’t painted in greed like others. You looked at me quietly with eyes that were easy to see through.”
“I love those eyes,” Orpheus continued. “I feel at ease when I see those eyes.”
“People have always refused to talk to me, and I felt trapped being watched by despairingly cold eyes, so I’ve developed a skewed world view. I even conveniently misunderstood that you’re a kind person and that you felt sorry for me, and that you were trying to lessen my mental burdens by taking the blame. I wanted to believe that I wasn’t completely hated and that there was a reason for your actions.”
“I’m not that good-natured. I’m more selfish.”
I’m not a saint who can sacrifice myself for someone who I don’t love.
“You’re capable of it. You’re like that.” Orpheus reached out, traced my head, cheeks and under my eyes.
He wiped my tears.
“I shouldn’t have listened to Diana’s wish. That was my biggest mistake. I shouldn’t have sympathised with her and only thought about you. I should have told you I loved you sooner. But I couldn’t even approach you because I was afraid that you would become disillusioned and hate me even more. Just having you by my side was enough, and I told myself I didn’t want anything else. I was a coward, clumsy and hopeless idiot.”
“No, you’re not an idiot. If I had just… if I had ―――”
“Ophelia,” he called my name in a sad voice which sounded as if he was praying or pleading for forgiveness.
“I want you to say it again. I want you to tell me. You―――”
I said without letting him finish his sentence, and he hugged me so tight that I couldn’t breathe.
He pressed his lips against my cheeks and kissed the tears that flowed down my cheeks.
“Let’s go home, Ophelia,” Orpheus’s voice was so calm that I wanted to leave everything to him and immerse myself in his hug.
“Let’s go home together and start over from the beginning. We’ve solved our misunderstandings. I’m sure it’ll go well this time.”
If I nod now then we’ll probably be able to return to the starting point.
We can hold hands and live happily ever after.
――― But is that fine?
I twisted my body and tried to get out of his hug, but he held on tighter and pressed a hand against my back and head.
I pushed his arm away and tried to get away, but his thin body didn’t yield.
“I’ve… hurt you. I was a nuisance to a lot of people and sullied the Rosenstein House’s honour. You know this, don’t you? What people say about me in high society.”
“Then just don’t go out in public. You just have to stay in the mansion. I’ll give you whatever you want, and if you’re bored, then I’ll get people to talk to you. You can continue your friendship with His Highness Claudias. I’ll protect you.”
“That’s not the problem. That way is useless. No one will agree.”
I can’t act innocent and be protected by Orpheus.
I’m not allowed to do that.
“Only you and I need to agree.”
“That’s no good. I have to make amends…”
I thought that he was going to let go of my body, but his beautiful face drew closer until the tips of our noses were touching.
“You don’t need to make amends. Who cares about that?”
His blue eyes pierced me, and I couldn’t breathe.
I was so charmed by him that shivers ran down my spine.
“I love you too. I love you more than anyone else. I will never make you feel sad again. I’ll do anything for you. So please, come home. Please start over with me.”
――― Ah, don’t make that expression. Don’t talk to me in that voice.
I shook my head.
“Please… give me some time to think.”
“I’ve given you enough time.”
“It’s not enough. It’s not enough for me to get an answer.”
Don’t be moved by kindness.
Don’t turn your eyes away from your sins.
I gently brushed Orpheus’s hands away and closed my eyes.
If you continue to look at me with an expression full of grief, then my heart will be torn apart.
I’ll be taken back to that mansion like you want.
“I’ll stay here for a while. I want to think away from you.”
“I’m sorry,” I muttered and felt like a terrible person. I held my trembling lips with my hand.
“Why? Why would you go that far…?” Orpheus said that much, then shut his mouth and didn’t utter any more words.
Clothes rustled, and the warmth went away, and a cold distance was created between us.
When a part of our bodies was touching, I felt closer to him than anyone else, but now I feel like we’re far apart.
I am extremely selfish and a helpless fool who is beyond saving.
Even if I know this, I can’t surrender myself to Orpheus.
Even if he forgave me.
I got a lot of people involved in my antics, caused trouble, and smeared the Rosenstein name.
I can’t live carefreely by the side of my loved one without atoning or reflecting on my actions.
I didn’t receive a reply to my endless apologies.
The room was filled with tense silence, and only time flowed meaninglessly.
The only thing I could hear was the sound of my breath coming out from my mouth, and when I closed my eyes, it felt like I was squatting down alone in a dark room.
“Alright.” Orpheus said heavily and broke the silence.
“I will respect your decision. I want to take you home right now, but I made a promise with His Highness. I will respect your wishes and wait until you can give me your answer.”
I finally opened my eyes and released the hands which were blocking my lips.
“I honestly don’t know if I can accept the answer you come up with.”
Orpheus looked down.
He stared blankly at the table with his hands on his knees.
He looked so tired that it seemed like he would faint at any moment, so I reached out my hand to him.
“I hope you won’t take too long.”
I stopped moving my hand at that instant, hesitated a little, then ended up putting it down.
I almost touched his back, but I felt like I couldn’t even do that right now.
“It’s like torture being away from you even though it’s so unbelievable that ――― our feelings are the same,” he said and sat up.
I quickly averted my gaze.
I didn’t have the confidence to look him straight in the eye.
I looked out the window at the gradually darkening sky and took a deep breath.
“Do you need anything?”
“Things… I need…”
Nothing, I nearly answered, but then remembered.
Even if I were to let go of everything, I want to keep that ring with me…
“The diamond ring. Please tell Claire to get me my most treasured ring.”
“… Anything else?”
“I don’t need anything else, but please…”
I knew that Juris wouldn’t forgive me for this selfish act, but I told Orpheus about Juris’s feelings.
I told him that Juris loves Diana and that he wanted her to be happy more than anyone else.
They were both in love with each other, but their paths kept crossing like a skipped button on a shirt.
However, Juris refuses to confess to Diana because he felt guilty for using me and had persuaded her to leave the mansion.
As a result, Diana, who felt just as guilty as Juris, was heartbroken and decided to leave the mansion and move to the residence in the fief. She won’t see Juris again and won’t return to the Rosenstein mansion on the outskirts of Nabel.
“Juris loves Diana? He has never shown this in front of me or Diana and won’t answer me whenever I ask him what he thought of her.”
Orpheus frowned when he listened to all I had to say and sighed deeply.
“He also misunderstood. He thought that Diana loves you and that she would be happy by your side.”
“We all misunderstood each other and hurt each other? It’s so pathetic, it isn’t even funny.”
Orpheus smiled wryly and brushed back the bangs on his white forehead.
That’s right, I thought and looked down at the hands which were on my knees.
“I’m aware that no one should interfere with their relationship, but I can’t stand it when I think it’s my fault. Could you please persuade them somehow?”
“But Diana is a noble and Juris is a servant. There is a wall of status between them. That’s the main reason why Diana didn’t frankly speak about her feelings.”
Diana probably didn’t care about status.
It’s hard to believe that she does since she said she’s happy just to be around him.
However, Orpheus looked complicated and said, “Even if Diana is fine with it, Juris isn’t.”
“That’s why I want you to convince them. And help if needed. They’re both your precious childhood friends, aren’t they?” I said clearly, and for some reason, he burst out into laughter.
“Wh-what is it?”
“No, I missed this. Your tone and expression right now are just the same as the you from that time. And that part of you that tries your best for others is the same as well. ――― Alright. I’ll try if that is what you wish. I also want those two to be happy.”
I had averted my gaze awkwardly since I had probably said something without knowing my status and was relieved when I heard him say that. I lowered my head and said, “Thank you.”
“Hmm, about Renee, she’s…”
“I heard from His Highness.”
Orpheus, who got up and was walking towards the door, stopped, turned around and said, “I don’t really care. Rather, I’m grateful that she found you.”
I, who had followed behind him to see him off, also stopped, and said, “Really?”
Apparently, Renee wasn’t rebuked for faking her identity to sneak into the Rosenstein mansion.
If Orpheus had been angry, then I would have begged, “Please don’t blame her,” but I didn’t have to worry about that.
I looked up to say thank you.
Then, I was startled by the beautiful face that was right next to me. Something soft grazed against my lips.
“I’ll come again.”
The door closed and I was left alone in the parlour.
My heart was pounding, and it was starting to hurt.
――― Ah, why?
My body went limp when I noticed what had touched my lips, and I fell to the ground as if I was crumbling down.