Skylar, equally stubborn and resolute, resisted. He, who had shown little reaction throughout, was noticeably agitated this time. The look in his eyes as he gazed at her seemed to fill with amusement, yet strangely, he couldn’t take his eyes off her either.
She replied honestly to his puzzled question.
“I think it’s something important to Your Highness.”
“Just for that… you jumped into the water?”
From his words, she felt not a condemnation with any ulterior motives or gains in mind but rather a reprimand that questioned why she would do such a thing for that reason alone. If she listened carefully, it almost sounded like scolding directed at her. The words carried concern as if he was worried.
The corners of her mouth strangely curled up in a smile.
“Yes. It was reason enough for me.”
Ariel’s quiet face, which had been looking at him, broke into a wide smile. Her beautiful eyes crinkled, and her pink lips curved gracefully. Neat teeth peeked out as her lips formed an innocent smile.
Skylar momentarily held his breath.
When he met her smiling face, his mind was shockingly emptied of all thoughts. Being so used to her expressionless face since they met, he never expected her smile to be so radiant.
In contrast to Ariel’s sunny smile, his face stiffened.
He felt strangely out of sorts, and his expression showed it. His hands were trembling, and his heart was pounding as if it had been hammered. A feeling of unease accompanied by a rising sense of anger. Then, from the throat to the head, there was a burning sensation.
His brain was overwhelmed by unknown emotions and unfamiliar sensations, and he couldn’t think normally.
He was just as agitated as when he was angry, but somehow, it was different.
Skylar, as if unintentionally reaching out to hug Ariel, hastily pulled back his outstretched arm upon realizing it. At the same time, an inexplicable desire to do something to the woman in front of him was bubbling up and disrupting his rationality, and it felt like the dignity of a noble was about to crumble down the drain.
He was filled with a desire to throw away such dignity.
‘…Am I crazy?’
He was confused. Something uncontrollable was running wild inside him. Consequently, he wanted to get that pretty smiling face out of his sight as soon as possible.
The cell phone in the pocket of Ariel’s dress vibrated. Thankfully, she was the only one who noticed it, and she briefly shifted her gaze.
When she withdrew her smile and averted her gaze, he finally had the chance to speak.
“Just leave it there.”
Her gaze, which had turned away, returned to him at the cold command as Skylar quickly turned his head away. It seemed that if their eyes met again, he would become speechless like earlier.
…He couldn’t bear to look into those dark pupils for even a moment.
Then, he swiftly took the bracelet from her hand as if snatching it away.
“I won’t throw it away, alright? Get out.”
Ariel, who had been silently looking at his profile, wore a faint smile.
“Thank you, Your Highness.”
Standing up from her seat, she politely bowed and left. Her silent steps as she retreated were enough to not be intrusive so as not to disturb him, and the sound of the door opening and closing was barely audible.
Once she was gone, Skylar’s eyes resentfully scanned the empty space she had vacated—from the seat next to the sofa to the closed door. When she was right in front of him, he wanted her to leave quickly, but now that she was actually gone, he felt strangely bitter.
He was fed up with the conflict within himself.
He lowered his eyes, trying to calm himself. However, when he caught sight of the bracelet in his hand, he became agitated again.
The more he thought about it, the more ambiguous the words sounded. It was as if it wasn’t just about the bracelet… as if she were telling him to keep her.
Even though he knew she didn’t mean that at all, he was still mistaken.