I reached for the cup in front of me, taking a sip of the lukewarm tea.
This was exactly the temperature of tea that I liked, but— No.
I don’t even know what I want anymore.

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I just felt so battered and exhausted.

“It’s just a hobby of mine.”

“…A hobby?”

“Sometimes when I’m bored, I go down to the village and give them some things they might need.
That’s all.”

I didn’t want something like a grand fanfare around the duchess doing good deeds secretly.
If Theodore Valentino were to compliment me here with kind words, it would just feel terrible.

I don’t want his approval.
I don’t need it anymore.

“…First of all, I understand.”

“……”

I continued sipping tea to soothe the turmoil I felt inside me.
Theodore opened and closed his lips as if there was something more that he wanted to say, but in the end, he didn’t put them into words.

After a brief moment of silence, he brought up a different topic.

“…I have something else I’d like to ask.”

“Yes, please go ahead.”

In fact, I wanted him to just leave, but I instead nodded calmly.
There’s still some patience left in me.

“It’s just…”

Theodore paused for a moment and took a pill bottle out of his coat pocket, and I immediately recognized it.

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So, the time has come.

I knew that Theodore took the bottle because Charlotte told me.

“I took these to a pharmacist and had them checked.
He said these are sleeping pills.”

“……”

“But I also heard that it’s made from highly toxic herbs, so it would be bad for your health if taken regularly every day.”

This time, I averted my gaze once again.
That carefully searching look in his eyes was uncomfortable.

Hadn’t he heard anything from Missus Seymour or from any of his vassals? The circumstances of our marriage and how our relationship has been since then…

He should have heard everything by now.

“Have you really… been taking these pills every day? Every single day?”

Though it was faint, there was a slight tremor in his voice as he asked.
This uncharacteristic demeanor dumbfounded me.
He was the kind of person who wouldn’t even be interested in whatever kind of medicine I took…

This felt too strange.

What he’s saying now… It sounded like a mix between genuine interest and concern.

At one point of my life, I would have wanted to receive this kind of attention from him, to try and talk to him—to see that he’d take action for my sake.

But he had never listened to any of my words.

Here and now, I finally received a fraction of his interest and concern, but it did not make me happy at all.

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If I was still the same person as before, I would have been elated.

I would have started to hope again.

The person who I was before… she seemed to have already withered and died.
It’s said that there were some species of plants in the world that bloomed only once in a lifetime, then would soon wither and die after that.
Perhaps, I was like that as well.

“Because I can’t sleep.”

“……”

“That’s why I keep drinking it, that medicine.”

“…Every day, these pills.”

“Yes, every day.
Without skipping even one day.”

I had nothing to hide.

I nodded calmly, and Theodore just looked back at me blankly.

The grip he had on the pill bottle seemed to be getting more and more tense, and I suddenly felt the energy of an elemental spirit permeating the air.

“……?”

I widened my eyes slightly as I looked at him.
I didn’t know he’d awaken his spirit all of a sudden.

Theodore’s expression hardened at once, and his hand was then engulfed in a blue flame.
I flinched in surprise.

After a short while, there was nothing left in his hand.

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That blue flame burned the bottle and the medicine inside all at once.

“……”

As he raised his head to look at me, Theodore sighed.
All I could do was look at him in shock.
…He looked angry.
What’s the point of him being angry? I blinked in a daze because I couldn’t understand.

“This medicine that I burned just now.
Don’t drink it ever again.”

“…I took two pills last night, too.”

“You’re taking two pills at a time?”

“I started getting resistant to its effects and it just wasn’t working well once a day, so I increased the dosage.”

As if he was utterly amazed, Theodore burst out laughing.
Then, he sprang up from his seat.
While he approached the bedside table, he asked.

“Where is it, in the bottom drawer of this table?”

“What are you going to do.”

“Burn it all up.”

He opened the drawer without my permission and took the bottles out.
Every bottle he touched went in flames.

In a suppressed tone, he spoke once more.

“If there’s anything left, take them all out.
I’ll burn them all.”

“……”

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Nervous now, I replied.

“No.
That’s all.”

“Are you certain? You’re not lying, are you?”

“…Why on earth are you being like this?”

I rose from my seat and approached the wardrobe, only staring at him.
My patience seemed to be running out now.

Theodore met my gaze directly and strode this way.

“Why am I being like this? Do you really not know that you need to ask like this?”

“It’s just a sleeping pill.”

“It’s poison! Drinking it over a long period of time will eat away at your lifespan!”

“That’s one of its benefits, yes.”

“…What?”

Theodore became still in front of me.

His eyes seemed to burn with those blue flames.

Facing him, I answered calmly.

“There are some people in this world who would like to sleep forever, you see.”

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