Chloe curtsied and held one hand over her chest.
“It’s been a while, Your Highness.”
Elizabeth and Chloe finally met after such a long time.
However, Elizabeth ignored Chloe’s greeting and passed right by her.
She approached Eric.
With a smile that’s in full bloom as though she was really happy, she held Eric’s arm.
“Marquis, you’re as dashing as always.
How have you been? You never replied to my letters even once.”
Harris didn’t know that his sister had sent letters to the marquis.
And, he had no idea that the marquis was ignoring those letters.
Shame washed over him as his sister continued to cling onto the marquis so brazenly.
Besides the shame he was feeling, what he felt more vividly was anger towards Eric for ignoring his sister.
In fact, Harris knew logically in his mind that it was right for Eric, who was married, to have ignored his sister’s letters, but as he was driven by his emotions at this moment, he couldn’t accept this.
Harris shot Eric a scathing glare.
“Did that happen?”
Eric briefly clicked his tongue, then he nodded.
“I couldn’t check any of them because I was busy.”
That’s possible,” Elizabeth chirped.
“However, you’ll have to reply to her letter next time.
There’s something written there that I’m sure you’ll like very much, Marquis.”
Not knowing how Eric was feeling, Elizabeth burst into a peal of laughter as she said this.
Harris’ brows furrowed even more.
Still, it would be a good thing for his younger sister and Eric to stay close.
Eric’s rejection was a blow to his pride, but this way, it would be beneficial for Elizabeth and Eric’s relationship to grow more.
“So, did you come here to see the opera?” Harris asked.
Eric glanced down at Chloe and nodded.
“Then why don’t we sit together? Even so, I was thinking about whether to watch the opera or not.
Isn’t that right, William?”
William tipped his hat as a greeting towards Edward and Chloe.
Chloe’s cheeks reddened slightly as she recalled that the last thing she spoke to William about was her divorce, yet here she was, linking arms and acting like a couple with Eric.
Eric saw Chloe like that.
“Sure,” he replied.
“It’s awkward for us to go in alone.
It would be better to watch it together.”
“Oh my! Really?” Elizabeth clapped her hands once.
“Then, Marquis, please sit next to me.
I can chat with you so that it wouldn’t be awkward.”
Eric didn’t answer, but he didn’t reject her.
Elizabeth seemed to take this as his consent.
She showed Eric a lovely smile, her chest puffing up.
Chloe stared blankly at them.
She didn’t want to admit it, but Eric and Elizabeth looked so good together.
Being as lively and adorable as she was, Elizabeth looked the opposite of a dying person.
If Chloe were to compare herself with the other woman, what would she look like?
Chloe criticized herself for even thinking that she herself and Eric looked good together earlier.
Shame poured into her, heat flooding her face.
“Chloe,” William said, reaching out to her.
Hesitating, Chloe saw that Eric had turned his back on her, and so she stepped towards William as though she couldn’t help it.
It felt like a rift was growing between them once more.
This was only right, perhaps.
* * *
The opera was marvelous.
It depicted the life story of Queen Antoire, who had been beheaded during the revolution, so the plot points of the opera were very good.
Twinkling gold and blindingly colorful jewels! Chloe was not interested in any luxury, however perhaps because it’s been a while since she’s been to the theater, her eyes gravitated towards them one or two times.
Next to her, Harris sarcastically noted, “You’re inevitably a woman, too, aren’t you.”
Chloe didn’t respond.
She was more concerned about what Eric thought.
Did he notice as well?
However, Eric seemed to be entirely focused on the opera.
No matter what Elizabeth said next to him, he only answered with a yes or no and nothing else.
This gave Chloe some sense of relief.
At the same time, she felt pathetic for even being relieved by this.
Happy one moment, despairing the next.
She felt useless.
This made her feel depressed.
“Chloe,” William called her with a low voice.
He was sitting next to her.
“Do you still want the divorce?”
Chloe hesitated for a moment, but she eventually answered yes.
The divorce was akin to her life’s purpose.
William exhaled a sigh of relief.
I was worried that you might have changed your mind.
I’ve sold the land and converted it to money.”
“Thank you very much.
I’m going to sell the mine as well.
It’s not much money, but I’ll try to pay you back first.”
“You can take your time in paying me back.”
William leaned towards Chloe and said in a hushed voice.
“Is the divorce still only possible when Elizabeth has gotten married?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“It’s a long way to go.”
He glanced towards Elizabeth, who was practically glued to Eric’s side.
She hadn’t even paid any attention to the man who came earlier and greeted her.
Seeing her like this, it seemed like a speedy marriage wouldn’t be possible unless Eric was the groom.
Before that, he should try to introduce someone else to Elizabeth.
Sighing long and hard, William was thinking the opposite thoughts as Harris.
“I’ll transfer the amount to you first.
Just in case.”
“Thank you again.”
Chloe smiled quietly, thanking William for his generosity.
He returned her gentle smile.
“What do you think about the opera?”
Chloe looked over at the stage as she trailed off.
On the stage, sword-wielding actors were running towards the actress playing Antoire.
“I think Antoire wasn’t at fault.
It’s just… Perhaps her fault was not knowing about things other than herself.
As a queen herself, she should have had more academic enthusiasm or at least any exploratory curiosity about her land, but there was no such thing.
I can’t say for sure, though, and I might be wrong.
However, if ignorance is a sin, don’t you think that all those who had not learned are sinners? It couldn’t exactly be said that not being educated is a crime.”
The Antoire actress was now being dragged towards the center of the stage.
The song titled, ‘Spring, Come’, was sung in such desperation that it touched Chloe’s heart.
“But isn’t it also wrong of her to have been so extravagant?”
William recalled the excessive luxury that Antoire had basked in.
“It could have been an act of rebellion.”
Chloe smiled quietly.
“Perhaps it was a mixture of revenge towards her husband who abandoned her.
After hearing news after news of pregnancies and childbirths of her husband’s children when he had never spent the night with her before… She must have been drowning in such a flood of shame.
Perhaps her being extravagant was one way to cope.
At least, that’s how I interpret it.”
She clasped her hands together tightly over her lap.
“I understand her.”
If she had been a little more brazen, if this wasn’t a marriage that had started with debt and her being sold to her husband in the first place, she might have acted like Antoire.
To get her husband’s attention… To receive even just one glance from him…
That’s why Chloe understood Antoire’s side.
She stared at Antoire on the stage, whose neck was now being cut off in a guillotine.
Seeing Antoire die, it felt like Chloe herself was dying.
Just as Antoire’s beheading was a punishment for her sins, was her illness a punishment for her own sins?
If asked what her crime was, she would say that she dared to love her husband.
That she pretended to be so dignified and noble despite who she was.
No, perhaps her very crime was her existence itself…
At Eric’s call, Chloe was startled.
She straightened her back and hurriedly turned around to face Eric.
You can get up now.”
While she was lost in thought, the opera had come to its end.
The theater was now lit up brightly.
A flying box of metal was broadcasting to people to exit through the back now.
Chloe finally rose to her feet slowly.
“I must have zoned out for a moment.
I enjoyed watching it very much.
It’s all thanks to you, Darling.”
Instead of answering, Eric shrugged his shoulders.
It might have been difficult for him to answer because they were in public, but Chloe saw a small hint of abashment spreading over his features.
In any case, the opera was over and everyone would return to their respective homes.
Chloe would come back home with Eric, and Harris and his siblings would go back to the palace.
If they were to part ways like that, the current awkward atmosphere would disappear.
Chloe struggled to suppress the heaviness she was feeling at the thought of having to endure this a little longer.
“Why don’t we have dinner together?”
Harris turned to her.
Chloe momentarily held Eric’s arm.
Eric glanced down at the arm she was holding.
Then, he looked into Chloe’s eyes.
He noticed how flustered she was.
Reading the room, Eric shook his head.
“I have some urgent business to attend to this evening, so it would be difficult to have dinner together.
Unfortunately, I’ll have to take a rain check on that.”
“Is that so?”
Harris raised one eyebrow.
“What about you, Chloe?”
Chloe was taken aback.
She didn’t know he would ask her personally like this.
“You wouldn’t be able to help the Marquis with his work anyway.
It would be nice if you could have dinner with us.”
Let’s have dinner together.”
William agreed with his brother.
Chloe hesitated, then glanced up at Eric.
He was still looking at Chloe right now, expressionless.
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