“Did something bad happen?”
Melvin cautiously broke the silence.
“I have no idea. Seriously, no clue at all.”
“What’s going on in that woman’s head?”
“Weren’t you two getting along? You had dinner together and went for a walk, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, we were. But keep pretending for so long, and you start to actually lose it.”
His voice was oddly calm, contrasting with its content.
“I didn’t believe her, okay? I didn’t buy into that nonsense about losing her memory! Ugh… I shouldn’t have extended unnecessary kindness.”
Bam! He slammed the desk after a moment of silence. At the same time, Melvin’s eyes twitched rapidly.
“Kindness? Are you saying the duchess rejected your kindness?”
“Listen, she suggested we go for a walk, and took me to a flower garden. But get this—it was a dying flower garden.”
“And then she gave me this.”
The flower, crumpled in the Duke’s hand, fell with a thud onto the desk. A grunt and a groan escaped Melvin’s lips.
“What was she thinking?”
“She’s probably telling me to go to hell.”
“Damn it,” he muttered, downing the glass of ice he’d been holding.
Crunch, crunch—the ice shattered, producing a satisfying crackle.
“What will you do now?”
Melvin cautiously asked, wetting his dry lips.
“Are you planning… to just let her be?”
“Playing along with her once might not be such a bad idea.”
“At this point, we can’t trust her claims anymore. The same goes for Dr. Mars.”
His deep red eyes moved silently. His gaze lingered for a moment, his closed lips parting.
“It’s not time yet. I need her strength.”
“But, sir! This could jeopardize our plans. There’s no guarantee she won’t leave the mansion again.”
Melvin’s outburst drew the icy gaze of the Duke. The aura that swirled around his broad back felt menacing.
Heeding the silent warning, Melvin’s lips sealed shut.
“What about the tasks I previously ordered?”
“We need a bit more time to wrap things up perfectly.”
“Always with the excuses.”
“I apologize. I’ll speed things up!”
Edmund rose from his seat, his steps heading toward the back of the room. Slowly, the fingertips choosing a sword moved.
He murmured his wife’s name, “Chloen, Chloen,” over and over.
* * *
Meanwhile, in Chloen’s bedroom.
The door opened, and an annoyed voice filled the room.
“Ugh, Sasha! Could you get me a glass of water?”
“Oh? You’re back already from your walk with the duke?”
As she felt frustrated, Sasha quickly handed her a glass of water. Chloen gulped it down and sighed angrily.
“No! Why do people act like that, seriously? Is it all because he’s good-looking? Being handsome isn’t everything! I’m just…I can’t even!”
“What happened with the duke? You seemed happy when you left…”
“What did I do wrong? We had a meal, and tea, walked together, and I even gave him a flower. What’s wrong with any of that?”
Upon hearing the recounting, a look of confusion crossed Sasha’s face.
“Do you think I’m the problem? Tell me, what did I do wrong?”
During Chloen’s one-sided rant, Sasha tried to maintain her composure.
Sasha sighed and set down the teacup she was holding.
“Unless you tell me what happened, how can I know? Calm down and explain it to me clearly. Then I can help.”
“Listen, we went to the garden. And there was lavender.”
“Yes, lavender! I thought it smelled nice and looked pretty, so I picked one for Edmund. And then, he loses it out of nowhere!”
“Hmm, the duke is known to be aloof, but getting mad over a flower?”
She gave a brief answer and took a moment to think back to when she gave Edmund the lavender.
“I didn’t expect you’d insult me like this, going to all the trouble to come here.”
Stopping with an elegant pose, he spoke in a cold tone. Though his eyes looked at the bouquet he held, there was a lot of tension in his clenched jaw.
“Was that your favorite flower? Sorry, I picked it without asking.”
“Yeah, I was a fool to trust you.”
Snap. The lavender stalk he held broke in half.
“What are you doing? Why would you do that to a perfectly good flower? Just say it! If you don’t like it, say so!”
“With words? Are you being honest, Chloen Randolph? Have you enjoyed deceiving me with absurd lies? Was your goal to make me utter the word ‘divorce’?”
Edmund clenched his fists and raised his voice. Duke Randolf’s eyes wavered with humiliation and shame.
Something was wrong. It felt like the handsome man before her was greatly misunderstanding something, but she didn’t know what the problem was, which was equally frustrating.
“Ugh, this is so frustrating. Why are you acting like this?”
He hit his chest out of irritation and asked again.
“By now, you should’ve accepted reality, don’t you think? How long are you going to live as the precious only daughter of the Elythern family?”
Edmund slammed his fist into the unfortunate wall, causing it to shudder.
Facing his chillingly cold red eyes, no words could come out of her mouth somehow. All she could do was tightly press her lips together and let the heavy silence linger for a while.
What could be the problem? She simply gave him a nice flower. Her mind looped through the unsolved issue.
“I thought you’d changed even a little, but you clearly haven’t.”
Edmund’s words shook her awake. If this continues, they might actually get divorced.
‘No, that can’t happen!’
“Why are you doing this? At least tell me the reason before you go, Edmund! Hey!”
Her angry voice echoed in the empty garden, but there was no one to hear.
Sasha looked puzzled when she heard the story.
“What kind of flower did you give the Duke?”
“We don’t have lavender in the Randolph estate, ma’am. Are you sure you didn’t confuse it with something else?”
“What are you talking about? It’s right here.”
She handed the picked lavender to Sasha with a snort.
“My God! That’s the Hades flower!”
Sasha was shocked and stepped back.
‘Did she not lose her memory but actually her entire mind?’ she thought to herself.
She should’ve realized it when the lady, who would rather die than make small talk with the Duke, said that she would join him for a meal.
“It’s a Hades flower?”
Shivering at the sight of her master blinking innocently as if knowing nothing, Sasha asked.
“D-do you mean you gave this unclean thing to the Duke?”
“Unclean? Even though it looks like this, lavender smells so good.”
“Whew, are you really planning on breaking up with the Duke?”
Her energy drained at the ridiculous question. Why were they so fixated on divorce lately? It was starting to get on her nerves.
“No! I have absolutely no intention of breaking up with him! Why on earth are you talking about? Is lavender such a problem?”
“Madam! This isn’t lavender, it’s a Hades flower! An unclean flower only used at the funeral of the dead! Phew, please be honest. What you did today, you did it on purpose to make the Duke angry, right? And that you lost your memory… is a lie. Please tell me your honest feelings without hiding them. I want to help you.”
Unlike Sasha, who repeated what she wanted to say, Chloen was speechless. She quickly looked at the lavender flower in her hand.
Hades, Hades… In other words, I’d just thrown crap at my husband, whom I should be cozying up to right now.
‘I’m screwed… totally screwed.’
Her mind went blank.
What do I do now?
At that moment, Sasha, who was trying to coax a confession out of her, came into view.
“Madam, there must be a reason you’re doing this. Is it because of your father back home? But even he wouldn’t want this. What could Duke Randolph have been thinking when he received this flower…? At this point, I’m afraid of what might happen if he takes any action, madam. I don’t even know if I’ll survive this…!”
Suddenly, Chloen felt like her ears were bleeding. Would she die from blood loss? Frightening thoughts filled her mind, but she tried hard to keep her emotions in check.
‘I should cry. Let’s cry, let’s cry.’
When reason fails you, turn to your emotions. As if to reward her efforts, clear droplets of water trickled from under her eyes.
“Ugh! It’s all my fault. I hurt him. I-I deserve to die!”
In contrast to the pouring tears, her mind was filled with other thoughts.
Why didn’t I see this damned flower in the original?