“By the way, I have not been seeing much of Chloe, would you know the reason?”

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“Well.”

The Duchess sank into thought after a short answer.
She seemed to have some idea.

Eric encouraged her on.

“Chloe is sick now and then.
No, I should say that she is sick every day.
I thought she was not coming out because she was sick, but I heard that was not the case.
So I was wondering why.
As her husband, I naturally ought to console her, but I cannot figure it out.”

“Yes, I understand.
Because Chloe is a child who always hides her feelings from others.”

The Duchess began by asking if he was truly worried for Chloe.

Eric started to have some faith at the thought that he might be able to find out the reason Chloe was not leaving her room, and if his assumption — that Chloe and the Duchess had an argument — was correct, he could then also mediate the situation.

Oh, could there be a better husband? He was really trying his very best for her!

“You seem to be sparing your words, though please do be comfortable with me, Madam.
For I would do anything if it concerns my wife.”

“Yes.
That is true as well.”

The Duchess nodded her head at his words.
She maintained her silence for a moment, and eventually slowly opened her mouth.

“It may sound like I am crying stinking fish to say this, but I will tell you since I think it is necessary.
Because it is something you should definitely keep in mind.
Chloe is a very cunning child.”

Without pausing for breath, the Duchess continued spitting out sharp words, “Do not believe in everything Chloe says.
She has been habitually telling lies, and even lies to herself most of the time.
There is not a single truth in whatever she says.
Everything is falsehood!”

Eric was taken aback.
There was no other appropriate reaction he could take.

For he could not believe that a person calling herself mother — one who should be in a position to love their daughter more than anything in the world — was criticising her own daughter to this extent!

He calmly assumed that Chloe and the Duchess’ relationship was probably much worse than he had expected.

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The Duchess opened her mouth again.
She started to drone on as if a flood had burst out.

“She was always full of lies.
Never once had she revealed her true feelings.
And, she only says stuff like ‘I’m fine, I’m all right,’ to literally anything.
When in reality, she was never so! No one knows what thoughts she may have been really having on the inside.
She is very wicked.
Cunning, too.
Oh! To think that I had given birth to that sort of child…! I cannot believe it.
Truly, I cannot!”

The Duchess expressed her sorrow as if confessing one’s sins and buried her face in both hands.

Even though Eric was confused beyond measure, he sincerely consoled the Duchess while trying not to reveal it.

At the same time, he started thinking.
It was of the presumption that Chloe might not have been pampered with love and over-sheltered as he had thought and in fact, may not have been treated well within the family.

From her aloofness and lofty self-pride, it could not at all be seen that she was not brought up with love within the family, which meant that she truly was something if this was her natural disposition.

Still, nothing could be said for sure at the present moment.

With that thought, he made himself keep his silence, for he did not know which side it was — if Chloe was born that way or if it was because she had received attention from a loving father.

“Which was why I opposed the marriage with you in the first place! Because I knew you were going to overcome such hardship! And, what’s the result? My prediction is right on…! You have gotten hurt and troubled because of Chloe’s immature talks of divorce, have you not?”

The Duchess spoke resolutely as though she had utter confidence in whatever she was saying.

In reality, even Eric knew her reason for opposing the marriage was due to their difference in status, but he did not wish to incur her displeasure by disagreeing.
She was Chloe’s mother in any case, and he was Chloe’s family.

He eventually answered her with a yes, and the Duchess immediately started to get worked up and yelled out.

“Wicked girl! Her not leaving the room also originates from her wicked mentality of ignoring me! As if I would be affected? No! I will never bend down!”

The Duchess spoke, having forgotten — no, acting as if she had forgotten — the fact that she had slapped Chloe.

As for Eric, he had no idea of the occurrence and could only trust her words, which were that there was an argument between Chloe and the Duchess, and that Chloe was not coming out of her room out of defiance towards her mother.

If this was true then Chloe was in the wrong.

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Eric decided that he had to get Chloe out of the room.
He felt that it was right to reconcile both persons to each other as gently as possible.

“I will try to speak to Chloe.”

“Yes! But you won’t get much out of it! Chloe was always like that as a child!”

Eventually, Eric left the room after saying again that he would try his best to talk to her.
Seeing the Duchess was still huffing in anger, he decided that she was much more short-tempered than he initially thought.

Therefore, he did not believe in everything that she had said.

Chloe was a liar? Ridiculous!

Inwardly, there was some sort of defiance against the Duchess as well.
However, because he was human, something called distrust sprouted up in his heart from whatever he had heard, and it was not something that could be easily rooted out.

 

 

* * *

 

 

Eric knocked on Chloe’s door.

“Can I enter?”

Not long after, he received the answer that he could.
Eric slowly opened the door.

Chloe was standing near the window with her back to the door, and it appeared that she was looking out the window while sipping tea.
As he sat down opposite the seat that he assumed she had taken, she did not turn her head even then.

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So, he began speaking while staring at her back.

“I met the Duchess just now.”

Chloe’s shoulders jerked a little.

From her response, it seemed that they did indeed have a quarrel.
Nevertheless, how could she leave her mother alone for days because of something as trifle as a quarrel!

At that moment he thought that Chloe was not quite a tolerant nor a very understanding person.
If it was Eric, — who did not even know either of his mother or father — that is, if his parents were to be there, he would never have acted like such.

He himself did not realise that his inferiority complex regarding his birth was being expressed as anger towards Chloe.

…Which was why he could speak to Chloe like so—

“She is your mother, who had given birth to you.”

Eric put more force into his words as he spoke.

“I think that she should not be walked all over.”

“…Walked all over?”

Only then did Chloe turn her head halfway.
Her slightly swollen face came into view, and Eric presumed that it was due to fatigue.

He nodded his head.

“I heard things about you that were not so great.
It seems as if the Duchess was that angry because she is not one to usually say things like that to me…”

“Mother said bad things about me?”

She became utterly speechless.
To speak ill in front of her was not enough, she had to go and spit out slander to her husband as well!

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Chloe bit her lips and thought that her mother really was not in her right mind.
She could guess to a certain extent what her mother might have said.
Since whatever her mother would say to herself never changed and was of similar context.

“She must have said that I was a liar, and that I am a hypocrite.
That is how my mother views me all the time.”

Eric confirmed her words by staying silent.
Chloe pressed her hands to her forehead and wrapped her still throbbing cheek.

He opened his mouth again.

“Have you not done so at least once?”

Chloe furrowed her brows.

“What does that mean…?”

“I mean, if you have never lied to the Duchess at least once.
I don’t see how the Duchess can get so furious to this extent otherwise.”

“Are you saying that you believe in what my mother said to you?”

She shouted as she cut him off.

“If that is the case, then I am very disappointed in you! How could you denounce me by merely trusting whatever she said? I have never once lied to you, and never practiced hypocrisy as well! This remark is disregarding all the truths that I have shown you all along!”

Eric was taken aback as he did not expect Chloe to lose her temper this much.

At the same time, he, too, became angry.
It was because of the aforementioned absence of his parents, with the conviction that he would never have acted as such towards his own parents if he were in that position—the jealousy towards Chloe for having parents and still rebelling against them.

Consequently, he could not understand Chloe at all.

“I do not know what sort of argument you had with the Duchess.
But for her to say that to me, and seeing your reaction, I think that you do have some responsibility in this.
Is it not because you treated the Duchess in this manner that she acted roughly towards you as well?”

“How, how can you say that? When you know nothing!

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