The doctor hurriedly examined Chloe.
He took her temperature, checked her breathing, then used a stethoscope over her chest and stomach.

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After examining her for a long time, the doctor raised his head with a wrinkled forehead.

“May I know.”

The doctor looked straight into Eric’s eyes.

“Is there another clinic where the Madam was examined before?”

“Why do you ask?”

“I couldn’t be sure because I don’t know enough, but…”

The doctor trailed off.

He spoke cautiously, not hiding his nervousness.

“I do not think that the Madam is doing well.”

’Darling, I’m sick.’

Why?

Why were Chloe’s words coming to his mind at this moment?

He couldn’t understand.

 

* * *

 

Chloe could barely open her bleary eyes.

She couldn’t breathe because of her fever.
There was something ringing behind her ears.
Thanks to this, she couldn’t keep her balance.

Everything was shaking, and in the past, it felt that she herself was the one shaking.

Nevertheless, Chloe sat up.
She could endure this much pain because she had already gotten used to it.
Even when she’s writhing in pain, she needed to know what happened.

Chloe looked at the calendar on the desk.

The 43rd day.
The day of her collapse was the 41st day, so that meant she’d been lying in bed for three days.
She realized that her body had really gotten weak, and this was all that she thought.

She wanted to rise from bed.
However, her body wouldn’t cooperate.

It took her so much effort even to just reach for the glass of water on the bedside table and to drink it.
As she exhaled, she touched her forehead.
She still had a fever.

Then at that moment.

The door opened, and Eric came in.
His eyes widened for a moment, surprised that Chloe had woken up.
But soon, his expression returned to how it usually was.

Chloe didn’t feel any disappointment when she saw him.
In other words, she felt no sadness or resentment for leaving her at that place and breaking his promise.

At the back of her mind, she had already acknowledged that Eric would not come.

She knew this, and yet hope was sprouting within her once more.
Like a fool.

How long was it going to be like this?

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Why wouldn’t her heart listen to her mind?

Chloe reflected on herself as Eric entered the room.

“What is it.”

Eric said, one eye squinting into a grimace.

“What’s wrong with you?”

Thud.

Chloe felt her heart fall to the ground.

Did he call a doctor?

He must have.

Then did he know what disease she had?

No.
If he did, he wouldn’t have asked.

Then, she would have to pretend that she didn’t know.

Eric didn’t like it when she was sick, and at the same time, she didn’t want to say that she was sick either.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You do.”

Eric drew a hand to his hair, leaving it disheveled.

“What I’m talking about right now—I know that you’re aware of it.”

Their eyes met, and for just a moment, Eric’s eyes trembled.

“So tell me, what illness is it? What’s wrong?”

It sounded like a pleading tone.

Chloe could only wonder.
Why?

“…Why?”

And so she asked.

“If you know, will anything change?”

“Chloe.”

“What would be the difference?”

Chloe gripped the blanket.

“You don’t love me anyway.”

“That dastardly love!”

Eric shouted, not being able to stand it in the end.
He gritted his teeth and stomped one foot on the ground.

“I don’t know what something like love is.
My entire life, I never knew what love is! But I know this at least—I can’t let my wife stay sick! Now tell me this instant, what’s your illness?!”

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“I’ve told you!”

Chloe didn’t back down either.
With her eyes closed, she shouted in a broken voice.

“I’ve told you dozens of times that I was sick.
But what did you say each time? That you’d send a doctor.
Then you’d forget about it.
No one had ever visited me in the north! I was always alone!”

The hands gripping the blanket were trembling.
Those same hands were so pale that it seemed like they had no blood in them.

“I was sick alone, I suffered alone, and I…”

…loved you, alone.

Chloe held back those last words and shut her lips.
She breathed in deeply.

“But now you ask?”

Eric looked at Chloe again.
Still—for some unknown reason—his eyes were shaking.

“Darling.”

Chloe gave him a despondent smile.

“It’s too late.”

She placed a hand over her broken heart.

“It’s already the end.”

 

* * *

 

“God damn it.”

Eric came out of Chloe’s room, cursing as he messed up his hair.

He wanted to talk to Chloe more, but she cut him off while saying that she wanted to rest.

She had never done this before.
It was the first time that Chloe had blatantly dismissed him.

His chest felt suffocated.
The more he thought about Chloe, the more annoyed he felt.

He was annoyed by her foolishness, her hardheadedness, and if that wasn’t enough, even everything about her illness annoyed him.
However, on the other hand, the thing that frustrated him the most was the fact that she had brought up divorce again.

Fine.
He was angry.
He was going crazy in anger!

Was their marriage something so cheap that it could just be ended like that? What divorce? How could she say it so easily that she wants to end their relationship?

Eric couldn’t tell why he was angry.
It could be because of Chloe’s condition, or because she’s hiding her illness, or because she’d been preparing to leave him.
Or it could be all these reasons.

Why does she want to leave me?

What kind of illness does she have?

These two questions were swirling in Eric’s confused mind.
Having been surrounded by only machines all his life and even becoming wrought with a machine-like mind, it was like a cog within him had gotten clogged by an obstacle called Chloe.

So he had to figure it out right away.

The reason why she wants a divorce.

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The reason why she’s sick.

“Daniel!”

Daniel appeared even before Eric’s shout could echo throughout the place.
Eric beckoned him closer.

“Yes? Why did you call, sir?”

“Find the doctor in charge of Chloe in the north.”

Eric took out a cigar as he said this.

“I need to know what’s going on.”

This was his right as a husband.

Of course, it could be that he was acting this way because of the guilt from being a cold-hearted husband who had neglected his wife.
But it didn’t matter.
Whatever it was that he was feeling, Eric was bent on finding out the secrets Chloe was trying to hide.

“And—”

He also needed to know why she wants a divorce.

But would Daniel be able to dig up the reason for this?

He already knew it was impossible.

“No.
Never mind.
I’ll take care of it.”

Eric’s eyebrows furrowed as he drew in deeply on his cigar.

’It’s too late.’

What do you mean, late?

’It’s already the end.’

Nothing has ended.

Eric clenched his fist and walked briskly.

 

* * *

 

Chloe blinked slowly.

After she had slept while not knowing how much time had passed, her fever had subsided a lot.
Fortunately, she could move alone now.

So right now, Chloe was thinking about it.
If Eric really came to meet her.

She wanted to believe that it wasn’t just a dream.
At that time, she was so delirious because of her fever—the conversation she had with him was a blur in her mind.

However, it might not be a dream.
It didn’t seem like a dream when she could still feel so vividly the heartache, the sadness, the sorrow she felt while she was talking to him.

That’s right.
It wasn’t a dream.
In fact, she had yelled at Eric.

Recalling this fact, her cheeks became even more flushed despite her fever.

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Why did she do that? Just why did she do that?

It might be because she was too feverish.
That’s why she was out of her mind.
This was how Chloe rationalized it.

But she soon shook her head and pulled the rope.

“Madam!”

Shortly after, Andrea knocked on the door.
Chloe could barely muster a loud enough voice to let her come in.
Then, the door suddenly opened.

“You finally woke up, Madam! Are you alright? Goodness, this isn’t the time.
I’ll call the doctor!”

Andrea spoke in a noticeably frantic voice.
She was usually calm and composed.
This was how affected she must be about what happened to Chloe.

“Andrea.”

Chloe called her name carefully.

“How long have I been unconscious?”

“Let me see.
It’s been…”

Andrea looked towards the ceiling for a moment, then she answered.

“It’s been four days since the Madam woke up for a short while.
So in total, it’s been a week.”

Chloe bit her lower lip.
It’s been that long? Her husband already had suspicions about her illness.
It was clear that she wouldn’t be able to clear those suspicions by now.

“Where is my husband?”

“Milord went out for a while.”

“Really?”

Chloe cleared her sore throat for a moment, then she continued.

“Do you know when he’ll be back?”

“His Excellency mentioned that he would come back this evening, but it’s not certain.
He’s a person who’s not very conscious of time.”

“Alright.”

Chloe was thinking that it was fortunate that Eric wasn’t home right now.
She knew that they would only fight again if they saw each other.

Why had they become like this?

She tried to think of the reason, and the answer came to her quickly.

Because he didn’t love her.

Because she loved him very much.

Love was a terrible emotion.
Even if she wanted to throw it away, it wouldn’t get thrown away.

And it was the same with the hope that would come alive just because of that love.
No matter how hard she tried to let go of him, she couldn’t let go entirely.

Chloe spent several years like this.
Alone, she loved, she hoped—to no avail.

Perhaps her life would only be complete with love.
That’s why all her life, she had only wanted love and looked for nothing else that she could want—she looked only at her husband.

With an indistinct smile on her lips, Chloe blamed herself for being so pathetic.

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