t pounding inside her chest.

It was beating so erratically that it felt like it would burst through its cage and jump out of her throat.

It was the first time she said anything firmly to another person, and the anxiety of seeing her husband’s lover was endlessly nerve-wracking.

She took out a handkerchief with a gloved hand and wiped off her sweat.

The lab was in the annex, which was connected to the main building by way of a short hallway.

They arrived before long, without having to walk far.

Daniel had sneaked glances at her on the way, still confused by her behavior, but now he turned to her fully.
He held the knob of the door leading to the annex tightly.

“It’s going to be a little hot.”

Then, he opened the door before she could say anything.
At the same time, a strong heat fanned into her face.

Cough. Chloe coughed slightly.
Her cheeks were burning.

“The heat of the coal is quite strong.
Milord is developing something like a portable stove.
Goodness, His Excellency is just… It’s a mess here again.”

Daniel continued walking forward once more, saying things that Chloe couldn’t understand, and she faltered behind him.

The mansion she saw outside was simple and it seemed as though there was nothing special about it.
But it was different inside.

This place was really strange.

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The walls were blackened and the floor was covered with spots of mold and moss.

Chloe’s chin trembled as she recalled her husband’s usually neat exterior.

Then, at that moment—

She heard a thump from the other side.

Chloe was convinced that this sound couldn’t have possibly come from her husband.
Her husband always walked slowly and carefully.

But…

“Daniel, you f*cking bastard! Why are you so late?!”

It was Eric, her husband who appeared out of nowhere.

And yet Chloe couldn’t recognize him right away.

Because he looked nothing like how he usually appeared.

Eric was always neat, with his hair combed back.
But now, his hair was all over the place, tangled and shooting out in all directions.

He usually wore clean shirts and coats.
But right now, he was wearing an old shirt that had some buttons missing.
His shoes were so worn out that there were large holes in front that revealed his socks.

Chloe stared blankly at Eric, not understanding the sight presented to her.

“How many times do I have to call you for you to… Wife?”

Only then did Eric’s eyes turn to her.

“…Why are you here?”

His eyes behind those glasses were full of perplexity, mirroring exactly what Chloe was feeling as well.

“What are you doing here, Wife?”

Eric’s tone from when he was shouting disappeared in an instant, and what returned was the usual cold front that he would show Chloe all the time.

The glasses over his eyes did not hinder the intensity behind his glare.
After being so speechless for a moment, Chloe quickly regained her senses.

“…I’m here to tell you something.”

Chloe’s gaze dropped to the ground.
She wasn’t confident enough to see Eric’s heartless expression.

She had already expected him to look at her like that.
She had come here alone for the first time in their five years of marriage, so she was hoping that he would allow her at least this.

Apart from that, she didn’t want to succumb to futile hope once more.
She had already decided to divorce him, but sometimes, it would spring back up, seeming as though she had yet to fully let go of the string that tied her to hope.

And so, she had drowned in sorrow.
Yes, just as she did now.

“Surely it’s a trivial matter.”

His cold murmur chilled her to her core.

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Why was she still clinging onto hope.

She already knew that he would answer like this.

Eric had always been heartless.
And she was always left in misery like this.

Taking off her gloves, she let out a low breath and clasped her hands together.

“You won’t know if it’s trivial… until you hear it.
I’ll be waiting.
I need to talk to you.”

Eric raised an eyebrow.

He took off his glasses roughly and pushed back his hair with one hand.
Then, he looked down at her with a questioning look.

Chloe hesitantly lifted her gaze and made eye contact with him.

He was in a different outfit than usual.

Even so, he remained the same.

Chloe grew calm again.

“There’s soot on your face.”

She reached out to Eric unconsciously.
Her handkerchief had been dirtied on the way here, so she used a glove instead.

“…Ah.”

But Eric stepped back.
Chloe’s hand was left hanging in the air.

“Your glove will get dirty.”

“It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not.”

He furrowed his brows, ignoring Chloe’s falling hand.

Chloe pursed her lips and bowed her head.

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He didn’t even want her to touch him in any way.
Or was it that he loathed to have these expensive gloves smeared?

She thought it would be better if it was the latter.
It was awful to think that her kindness was cheaper than gloves.

——

tl/n:
fun fact— cars weren’t really commonplace back in the victorian era yet, but what chloe rode on the way to eric’s place was a carriage/locomotive hybrid that’s being pulled by horses and being powered by a machine at the same time.
i’ll be using ‘locomotive’ and ‘carriage’ interchangeably throughout the series, so i hope it won’t be confusing for you guys.

(another fun fact — towards eric, chloe speaks formally with the -요 ending, but eric uses the -습니다 ending with her, which is a loooot more formal than how chloe speaks.
Well, anyway, he’s still… a piece of trash~ )

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