I made a slip of the tongue, but it was already too late to stop myself.
Theodore’s face became flushed with embarrassment.
I hurriedly smiled and added in a hurry.

“It’s just, I mean… I wish to rest alone.
It’s uncomfortable for me when there’s someone next to me, so…”

“……”

Theodore stared at me with complicated eyes, but he soon smiled bitterly and replied.

“I should have noticed.
I’m sorry.”

“……”

I bowed my head deeply without answering back.
In fact, it was hard for me to just keep talking to him.

“…Then, I’ll get going now.
Rest well.”

“Yes, you should rest, too.”

He paused for a moment as he listened to my response.
A strange expression passed through his face.
I glanced at him, just hoping that he would leave already.

Theodore stood there, looking at me with a tender expression without moving.
Then, he spoke cautiously.

“From now on…”

“……”

“I would like it if you call me by my name.
Or a nickname.”

With a faint smile on his face, he slowly walked towards the door.

After he closed it behind him, for a while, only heavy silence filled the room.

 

* * *

 

“I was surprised to hear that you suddenly fainted, Madam.
Really… I thought my heart was about to stop.
You’re really okay now, right, Madam?”

Charlotte asked me as she moved busily.
She also placed a hand on my forehead to see if I had a fever, but she soon sighed with a little relief.

Seeing Charlotte bring in a trolley that she had left in the doorway, I replied to her with a smile on my lips.

“Actually, I wanted that to happen.”

“Pardon…?”

Charlotte’s hands froze as she was about to lift a tray.
I sat up from the bed and calmly continued to talk.

“I fainted on purpose.
I have a way to do that.”

“A way to do that…?”

I explained to Charlotte how it was possible for me to faint.
But… after listening to my explanation, doesn’t her face look a little blue?

“Charlotte?”

As I called her name with my head slightly tilted to the side, Charlotte looked as though she was about to cry.
For some reason, she bit her lips as tears welled up in her eyes, then she suddenly came close to hold my hand.

“Madam, that’s… Please don’t do that again.”

“……?”

The reason Charlotte was being like this… Was it because my method of fainting was a bit too extreme?

It didn’t feel that way to me, but perhaps it’s too shocking for others to accept that easily.
Well, no one would normally faint like that after all.
As I looked at Charlotte, I nodded softly.

“Okay.
I won’t do it again.”

“Really? Promise me, please.”

“Okay.”

Charlotte’s expression grew relieved as she let out a sigh.
Lifting the tray again, Charlotte said.

“It’s warm soup.
It should be cool enough for you to eat now.
Please eat, even if it’s a little.”

“Alright.
Give it here.”

I don’t have any appetite and I don’t think my stomach’s going to agree with it, but Charlotte’s sincerity convinced me to eat even a spoonful or two.
I accepted the tray with a smile.

Steam rose as I opened the lid of the bow on the tray, and along with the steam, a savory scent came up.

I picked up a spoon with my hand that was still trembling.
The tip of the spoon quivered terribly.
However, I somehow took a spoonful slowly, and the soup was lightly seasoned.

“…Do you like it, Madam?”

“Mm, it’s alright.”

In the end, I couldn’t eat half of it, so there were leftovers.
Still, she successfully ate some.

With Charlotte’s help, I took a short bath, put on some new clothes, and then lay back down in bed.
As I closed my eyes, I suddenly remembered what Theodore had said as he left earlier.

‘I would like it if you call me by my name.
Or a nickname.’

He didn’t even know how ridiculous those words sounded—just how unreasonable his actions were.

But… It doesn’t matter.
He’ll realize it soon anyway.

How he had treated me, his wife.

So, it was safe to say that this kindness was only a whim on his part.
It’s merely a brief illusion caused by the accident that wiped his memories, like the sunlight that would shine for a while, yet disappear the moment the rain would come with a downpour.

 

* * *

 

It wasn’t difficult to notice when others were feeling awkward with you.
Theodore easily realized how uncomfortable Lily was with him.

“……”

It wasn’t a good feeling.
He flipped a coin with his hand, then knocked it over on the table.
The tail of the coin came up.
Looking at the coin’s engraving, he recalled the moment Lily fainted.

With a body that collapsed helplessly, it seemed as though her heart had stopped.
Her eyes were closed, her face was so ashen, and her breaths could barely be felt.

Theodore still found it so difficult to put into words how he felt at that moment.
He couldn’t remember exactly what he was thinking.
He just embraced her in his trembling arms, calling her name again and again with such urgency.

‘Lily? Lily!’

He eventually felt her heartbeat again as her breaths grew stronger, but it took a while.
Even so, she wasn’t waking up.
Theodore quickly carried her and mounted his horse.
At that time, Hessen Everett muttered with an incredulous sneer on his face.

‘Wow, this crazy girl, with this again…’

This moment made him pause for a second and look back at the other man, but coincidentally, their eyes met.
Hessen Everett seemed to be shocked and speechless.
Sweeping his blue-silver hair roughly, he spoke fast like a madman.

‘Duke Valentino, you be careful, too.
Remember this sight.
She fainted on purpose!’

‘…What do you mean on purpose?’

Theodore didn’t miss catching sight of Hessen Everett’s quivering hand.
…Looking at it, he seemed to be more agitated than expected.

‘Back then… Ah, fu… Never mind.
Just remember this.
This girl’s specialty is to hold and sway people’s feelings in such a way.
…Well, does that even matter to you now? You’re going to be divorced soon.’

‘…What?’

‘Why are you even pretending to be surprised? Are you seriously going to live happily ever after with an Everett woman? Aren’t you waiting for the right time to divorce her anyway?’

‘……’

At a loss for words, Theodore had closed his lips.
…It was a question that he had no answer for at this moment—he still had yet to figure out everything about his marriage and what happened to him and Lily Everett in the past.
Perhaps, there was even an unknown truth buried beneath that he didn’t know.

Therefore, a divorce with her was something that also couldn’t be decided upon lightly.

Theodore turned his back to Hessen Everett and mounted his horse, holding Lily in his arms.

He turned his gaze towards the ducal estate, and Hessen Everett said farewell in an indifferent tone.

‘See you again, Your Grace, the Duke of Valentino.’

‘……’

He said so with a light, casual tone, but the look in his eyes was sharp.
As though he was trying to dig into him.
After staring back coldly into Hessen Everett’s eyes, Theodore turned away.

Right after, he heard the sound of barking laughter behind him.
He was going to ignore it and urge the horse forward, however, Hessen Everett persisted to have the last word.

‘The moment you divorce that woman, she’ll remarry Lennon Chester.
Yes, that trash of House Chester.

Unknowingly, Theodore hesitated.
Hessen Everett continued spewing words that would have undoubtedly made Lily feel insulted had she been awake.

‘That wench’s life is really so hapless.
As if it’s not enough that she married you of all people, but her second husband will be Lennon Chester.
Even if that scoundrel wouldn’t have that woman’s first time like you did, you do know that he’s going to be playing with her quite well, right?’

At that instant, Theodore almost pulled out his sword and slashed down Hessen Everett right then and there.
However, as he managed to push down this urge to kill, Theodore briefly looked down at Lily and instead hurried to return to the estate.
Whatever this bastard had to say, it was more urgent to bring Lily to a doctor as soon as possible.

When they arrived at the Valentino Castle, every minute—every second—felt excruciating.
As he saw her, motionless in bed with such a pale complexion, his heart pounded anxiously.
He felt so suffocated that it felt like there was poison fog mixed in with his every breath.
This kind of feeling… It was the first time he’s felt this way ever since he lost his brother.

“……”

Theodore glanced at the medicine bottle on the table.
It was unbelievable just how long she’s been taking this.
This, too, made him feel such despair.
It’s like he’s suffocating once more.
This bottle was testament enough that Theodore hadn’t been taking care of Lily, to the extent that she took this poison every single day.

“What…”

He spoke without realizing it, and it was the first word he’s spoken for a while now.
The rest of the words continued inside his mind. ‘What have I done, all this time.’

The person he was before he lost his memories felt like a distant stranger.
What in the world had he done that there was such a huge gap between him and his wife in all these two years? He couldn’t have possibly stayed away from her simply because she was the daughter of Duke Everett.
There must have been another reason.

His thoughts wandered, trying to find the right answer.
But then…

‘The moment you divorce that woman, she’ll remarry Lennon Chester.
Yes, that trash of House Chester.

“……”

The hand that held the coin again gripped it with such force.
Wordlessly, he looked down at his clenched fist.
He threw the coin again.
This time, it was the front.

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