“…what you just said sounds very strange, Raymond?”
“Well, of course, I’m not saying you’re ugly, but…… Still, there’s something about people’s tastes, aren’t you too confident?”
Raymond scoffed at Daria, who asked back in a low tone.
“My late Mother always said, ‘There is no man in the Empire more handsome than me, except for His Majesty.’”
“Everyone agreed with that. Of course, since the weight of the emperor’s position is too heavy to be proud of such a thing, I have never been particularly proud of it.”
Raymond’s expression as he said that seemed a little bubbly. Daria frowned with an astonished face.
“Well… isn’t that obvious? Who dares to tell the late Empress Dowager and Your Majesty that the words are false?”
“You’re saying something unpleasant, Daria. Even after ten years have passed, everyone is still praising my appearance… … .”
Raymond, who had responded calmly, abruptly stopped talking.
Decades ago, when he was a crown prince, no one could refute that statement, but now that he is emperor, who dares to say that his appearance is ugly.
Especially to the Emperor who is called ‘Asta’s war maniac’.
Raymond belatedly realized the contradiction in his words and hardened his face.
He glanced at the side where Chloe had just left with the Grand Duke’s knight, but she had already long vanished from his view.
A low, solemn voice called out to Daria, who was biting her tongue.
“Really… Is that guy more handsome than me?”
“Well, it’s a matter of taste. Don’t be so depressed, Ray. You’re handsome too.”
Daria tried to appease him, but Raymond’s expression darkened sharply because of the mistrust she had already entrenched in his mind.
“Do you think….. Chloe would think so too?”
“Ummm…. I don’t know, as I’ve never really discussed the appearance of the opposite sex with Chloe.”
“It’s driving me crazy.”
Raymond was thirsty from the belated impatience. He gulped the cold water, waiting for her to return.
Raymond was staring at the door leading to the terrace. The people who were enjoying the ball, flinched when they looked at him because of his murderous aura.
When Daria tried to stop him from ruining the ball, Chloe came back into the ballroom. Raymond’s expression softened a little as Chloe came in alone.
“Do you know you’re so funny, Ray? You have no intention of confessing your feelings to Chloe, but you are afraid that she will like another man?”
“…No matter who she likes, I have no right to interfere. But it’s pretty disgusting for me to remember that he’s a better man than me.”
Daria burst into a laugh and turned away. It was quite exhausting to argue with a man in love.
Daria looked around her slowly, contemplating her future. There Chloe was talking to Vestie.
Then she saw Lady Caroline approaching her. Daria’s expression suddenly died down at the sight of her terrible cousins.
She turned her head to look away, and she felt a small flinch next to her.
Raymond looked quite gravely at Chloe. After staring at her for a long time, Chloe slipped out of the ballroom.
He couldn’t feel any discomfort from the way she disappeared so naturally, but Raymond couldn’t stand it and got up.
“Where are you going with such a scary face?”
Daria asked, but Raymond went out without answering. Chloe’s expression from a distance was unusual.
She smiled softly and talked among the crowd, but Raymond knew it was her fake smile. It was a smile that resembled what she had built all the time before she came back in time.
‘Where did she go?’
He followed her out quickly, but he couldn’t see her. The wind was just cold.
Raymond paused and focused all his attention on finding her presence in the blowing wind. He felt a glimpse of her presence in the silent night air.
There was no one chasing him, but Raymond walked breathlessly. Then a faint cry caught his eye.
It was a suppressed cry as if swallowing the sound. It was the cry of Chloe Garnet that he was familiar with.
He whispered her name in a low voice, but the cries continued.
As Raymond walked further into the dry tree-lined bushes towards the source of the sound, he found Chloe weeping with her face buried in her hands.
By the time Raymond approached right in front of her, she still cried, unaware of his presence.
“This is why I can’t leave you alone.”
Only then she removed her face from her hands and lifted her head.
“Chloe, why do you always…… It’s bleeding!”
When Raymond saw her face, he screamed.
Seeing her up close, she looked terrible. Her hair that was blown away by the wind, her dirty dress and her white hands covered in scars… The wound on her hand, which had been clumped with dirt and blood, looked quite terrible, so Raymond’s chest was also sore.
“Why are you….! Until you get to this state…..…!”
Raymond, who even found the bark in her palm, could no longer speak and took a deep breath.
What the hell happened to her that she was crying again? With such a wounded body, her body and mind were tattered.
“Don’t do that.”
“You can’t be nice to me. You don’t have to take responsibility for me anymore. It’s too much of a responsibility for a woman who you spent only one night with.”
The earnest voice clearly revealed that she was burdened with his kindness, that’s understandable. Raymond was giving her love, not kindness.
“You’re not the judge of that.”
“I don’t want it!”
Chloe raised her voice for the first time and got angry. Strangely enough, Raymond was heartbroken by the sight.
“I told you, I’m a woman who’s not worth it.…!”
That’s not true, Chloe. You are a woman of sufficient value. At least you are the most valuable woman in my world.
“Your Majesty says so, because he knows nothing. Your Majesty doesn’t know what I’ve done to you. You don’t know anything.”
I don’t know. What had happened between us*. And how you had been sacrificed by me and my brother.
(* Here he intends to say that he really doesn’t know what happened when she was in relationship with Raymond in previous life what was the story behind her behaviors, her actions and all)
“Your Majesty, don’t open your heart to me. You have to hate me more than anyone else in the world. I deserve to be hated. Don’t indulge me.”
Immediately after returning back in time, Raymond pondered for two full days, neither sleeping nor eating properly.
Whether he should forgive the woman who killed him was the deepest question in Raymond Del Astaroth’s life. The answer was surprisingly simple.
It’s been a long time since I’ve forgiven you.
‘Because my brother won’t kill you alone.’
Just before his death, when he confirmed that she was safe for a short time. The anger at her betrayal soon subsided.
If she’s safe. Yes, that’s enough.
Does she deserve to be hated? No, she doesn’t. Chloe, Chloe Garnet…….
“I can’t forgive myself, but why on earth would you forgive me? I, I, I…….”
As he watched the sad tears streaming down her face, Raymond’s heart wept sadly. He felt bad for her, who called herself a woman who deserved to be hated, his heart ached so much.
Her teeth gritted and vented her anger, but she was staggering because she had no energy left to take out anger, it was breathtaking and dangerous.
“Your Majesty doesn’t know. What kind of woman I am, what a terrible thing I have done, I will make you…….”
“Calm down, Chloe.”
“I killed, I killed. I killed you!”
The eyes hidden behind the tears were not even aware of what they were saying. She was not able to calm down easily, and Raymond hugged her and shouted,
“Calm down, Chloe! Please! Please!”
A baby bird-like little body trembled in his broad arms. Waiting for the whimpering to stop, Raymond buried his face over her shoulder.
“Please, Chloe…… Don’t break your heart.”
If he could shake off her old guilt by saying this, then Raymond would not have hesitated.
“Everything’s fine, I’m fine. I told you that it’s okay to have you crying for me.”
Chloe Garnet’s feelings for him were “guilt.”
Just before her death, she only shed tears for him, and the confession she stood in front of his door late at night and whispered, pointed to that fact.
“Raymond… I’m sorry, really……I’m sorry.”
The words scattered in the air were so desperate, so anxious, and so sad.
So Raymond wished even more that he wouldn’t have anything to do with her. The idea was to separate her from his half-brother, to protect her, and return her to the peaceful life she was supposed to have at the end.
For her sake, Raymond did not reveal that he returned back in time to her. Despite his death, Raymond tried to bury his past with himself, who loved her.
He might have succeeded in burying it forever if he had not seen her despising and hating herself.
‘It wasn’t a wound that could be buried because I wanted to bury it.’
He expected a scab to cover the old wound and new flesh to sprout. However, the wounds that were not treated in time were rotting from the inside.
“Then you must be happy. I’ll help you be as happy as you can be.”
Eventually, Raymond took out the wound and chose to open it.