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1550-chapter-149

Blinded by his insatiable desires, Leon knew that every calculation and assumption he made to find her was probably wrong. Yet, even with that knowledge, he couldn’t stop his futile attempts until the day she returned, though he sensed that day would never come.

“Ha…”

He suddenly let out a bitter laugh.

The day she returns? Returns, as if she ever would. What a madman.

He had to accept the truth.

She wasn’t coming back. She had left him.

She didn’t just disappear, she abandoned him. It was as if he had been forced to drink a deadly poison. Despite the repeated urges to accept the truth, Leon stubbornly refused.

In his mind, Blanchard laughed at him.

“I no longer love Grace, and I regret ever having loved her.”

Loving her, stopping his love for her, regretting having loved her, and even calling out her name—Leon could do none of these things easily. Yet Blanchard did them all without hesitation as if he had the right to boast about it in front of Leon.

Arrogant bastard, who do you think you are?

But even then, Leon knew. Both Blanchard and he were in the same abandoned state, yet he could never utter the words that he regretted loving Grace for the rest of his life.

In the end, he was the one who was nothing.

He had shown her nothing but the truth. He was the one who had ultimately broken her conditioning. Yet, she treated him worse than a traitor. Even after he promised to entrust everything he had to her, after he had vowed their future together, she left.

No, he was abandoned.

After completing all the tasks on his shoulders, trying to leave behind the cruel mockery, manipulation, and betrayal she had inflicted on him over the years, she still left him.

Yes, you still do things that way.

She still left him easily. He couldn’t even discard a broken mirror. Was it his heart that the shards had ripped apart, not his hand?

Leon lifted his head and stared at the shattered mirror, feeling a wave of regret. It wasn’t even her mirror, nor something she cherished. It was just an object that occasionally reflected her image. Yet, he now loathed himself for breaking it over such an insignificant reason.

It was in that fleeting moment of smashing the mirror that he realized his foolish desire to leave everything exactly as it was when she was here.

The thought seemed utterly stupid to him now.

Everything she had touched had become relics he felt compelled to preserve, to the point of even bringing back things she had discarded.

No matter what he did, it all felt like the actions of a fool.

His fractured reflection in the mirror gave a self-mocking smile. The intermittent laughter eventually faded away completely. He was no different. Leon Winston was just another piece of the past Grace Riddle had thrown away.

The hand, stained with blood, grasped his distorted face. Red tears rolled down his cheeks.

The feeling of this place being a mausoleum was not just a passing sensation. This annex was the grave of Grace Riddle’s discarded past.

Leon Winston would decay here, buried with the past that Grace Riddle had abandoned.

 

º º º

 

On a weekday afternoon, the cafe was quite empty, with tea time still an hour away.

So, last night…

The waiters gathered around the counter and chatted while the radio played. They turned their heads in unison as the door swung open.

Welcome.

They exchanged puzzled glances as one of them stepped forward to greet the customer.

It was unusual to see someone of this type frequent the café at this hour. At first glance, the middle-aged man appeared to be of the working class. Instead of sitting at the bar, he chose a table, which was also unusual for a lone male patron.

Coffee.

Yes, one coffee. I’ll bring it right over.

As soon as the waiter returned to the counter with the order, the door opened again.

Welcome.

This time, the customer who walked in was the type common for this time of day on a weekday.

A young woman wearing a cloche hat decorated with a black ribbon and a black cape trimmed with fur at the hem stood at the entrance, glancing around. She exuded an air of wealth. Given that the boutique district wasn’t far, it was typical for ladies to visit this cafe around this hour to enjoy a leisurely cup of tea or chat with friends after shopping.

Are you expecting someone?

The waiter asked as he approached.

The woman shook her head and removed her gloves, which matched the color of her hat. When a thin gold ring on her left ring finger caught the light, the waiter added a respectful address, gesturing inside the café.

Madam, please sit wherever you feel comfortable.

Out of all the available seats, the woman chose the one directly behind the man who had entered earlier. It wasn’t until she sat down that the waiter realized the bulge in her cape was no illusion.

Are you comfortable?

Yes, I’m fine.

Despite the evident discomfort of being pregnant, she sat with her back to the stranger, only a hand’s breadth away.

She kept her sunglasses on and scanned the menu on the table. Although her eyes were hidden by the sunglasses, her bright red lipstick looked striking rather than garish, suggesting she was quite beautiful.

Hmm…

She pushed her black hair, which fell to the nape of her neck, behind her ear as if thinking for a moment and then placed her order.

I’ll have the cream tea, please.

One cream tea. I’ll bring it right away.

The waiter responded and walked away.

Grace sighed, rubbing her belly.

Yes, I’m hungry too. Just a little longer.

She spoke to the baby that had been kicking her the whole way from the tram station. Since the six-month mark, the baby’s movements had become much more noticeable and active. It seemed to express its desires through constant kicking, waking her up several times a night.

With so much energy, was it a boy?

In truth, she didn’t care about the gender. She just wanted to be rid of the heavy, cumbersome burden as soon as possible.

[ “Will the royal family’s new member be a prince or a princess?” ]

How envious.

Grace sighed deeply as she listened to the radio news about the Queen’s third child being due in about six weeks. She still had to endure this state, at least until May.

She was already bored waiting for her tea and scones to arrive.

Opening her handbag, she took out one of the neatly folded newspapers and spread it out on the table. As soon as she turned the first page, she frowned.

Her eyes met those of the man.

Again?

She was annoyed. She had barely escaped, only to see his face every day.

She had expected a flood of articles right after the raid, but she thought it would quiet down by the end of the year. Yet there was a surprise announcement of his ennoblement, a promotion, and just a few days ago, the ennoblement ceremony.

For an entire month, he had dominated the airwaves and newspapers, causing endless buzz.

Front page, political section, economic section, society section, columns, analytical articles, four-panel comics, even the entertainment section – he was everywhere.

A big star, indeed.

She thought the articles would finally decrease after his picture graced the front page the day after the ennoblement ceremony. But now, here was another article with the headline Hero’s Return beneath a photo of Leon Winston arriving back in Winsford, splashed across page three.

‘You did it. A title, a promotion, and revenge. Your father would be proud.’

Grace smiled at the man in the photo, a serene smile that made the corners of her mouth twitch.

The Leon Winston in the photograph was still as elegant as a swan, as perfect as a god. She had expected him to be utterly devastated the moment she disappeared, though why did he still look so composed?

No, if he was still looking for her, then behind that mask must be a different story.

She forced her smile wider, this time letting it reach her eyes.

‘Hello, darling. Are you doing well without me?’

Should she call and tease him like that?

Grace let out a small sigh, feeling like she was being childish. She grabbed a few pages of the newspaper and flipped them all at once. When the classifieds section appeared, she began to read the job advertisements one by one.

There was only one word Grace was looking for among the many ads.

Butcher.

It was a term the Blanchard revolutionaries secretly used to refer to themselves. They likened themselves to butchers as they were dealing with the royal pigs.

After the raid on Blackburn, there had been an increase in ads where ‘butchers’ were either looking for work or seeking others. These ads often had a sequence of meaningless numbers disguised as a phone number or mentioned a rough city location where no slaughterhouse would typically be found. This was code used by the remaining revolutionaries.

These were the remnants who had narrowly escaped the raids on their main hideouts and safe houses throughout the kingdom. They would gather and establish new hideouts, posting ads to inform and recruit others.

They hadn’t yet put in a phone line, and they didn’t know when to move the new hideout to do so. If there was an advertisement in the newspaper that a butcher was looking for a slaughterhouse, those who had already found a hideout nearby would post a job advertisement stating the date and location of the meeting.

And the advertisement she saw last week had this code on it.

 

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