< — I love you — > (5)
In the carriage on the way home, Hugo was deep in thought.
‘It’s not something we can just cover up.’
The relationship between the two of them was currently very peaceful. But it was an uneasy sort of peace. Hugo tried to ignore the fact that they were now walking on the thin ice of a deep lake. He wished they could remain like this forever, but he didn’t know when and where a stone would come flying in. He needed to prepare a safety device before they walked into deeper areas.
The damned marriage contract. How could he have known this at the time?
Who would have known that in the distant future, he would want to beat up his past self, who was satisfied with getting a favorable contract?
Their marriage started out on the wrong foot. And not tackling the issue would result in it spiraling out of control as time went on.
There was a significant amount of worst-case scenarios. She could hold another man in her heart, she could hate him and ignore him, or she could even stop smiling at him like she did now. He had no confidence in being able to persevere and embrace her if she changed. He might torment her and make it difficult for her. And if that happened, their relationship would be driven to the bottom.
Hugo wanted to go back to the time when they were discussing the marriage contract, talk to her again and bare his heart to her. The time had come to resolve the uncomfortable subject of the contract.
Seeing his wife who came out to greet him, Hugo’s heart squeezed bitingly.
‘I can’t live without this woman.’
“Have you had dinner?” (Lucia)
“Look at the time. I’ve already eaten. What about you?” (Hugo)
“I know it’s late. I’ve eaten as well.”
Hugo wrapped an arm around her waist and stepped forward. The servants understood and dispersed. Jerome had a few miscellaneous things that needed to be reported to his master for approval, but he did not rush.
‘I’ll get it tomorrow, why not?’
The faithful butler who had never put off today’s work for tomorrow, was now no longer living like a clock as he did in the past.
“I have something to tell you.” (Hugo)
“Yea. I’d like it to be now.”
The two of them went up to the second floor. As they sat side by side on the receiving room’s sofa, Hugo was having an internal conflict between his reasoning and instinct. Should he just forget about the talking and get the ball rolling first? As he was conflicted, his body began to react to her soft body that was attached to his side.
“I went to the palace today.” (Lucia)
“Hm? Ah…you did mention that to me. Did you have a good time?” (Hugo)
“Yes. It was nice.”
Lucia had a lot of things she wanted to say to him, but she didn’t know how to breach the subject.
“You know, the day you came to me and asked me to marry you.” (Hugo)
Because the topic he chose was so unexpected, Lucia stared at him as she nodded her head.
“Why was it me?” (Hugo)
“…Why are you asking that now?” (Lucia)
It had already been a year and a half since they first got married. His question was too late.
“Because it didn’t matter.”
At first. Not only did it not matter, he was also not interested. The marriage with her was a contract. The contract only had to be favorable to him and there was no need to wonder about the thoughts of the other party in the contract.
After time passed, he couldn’t ask because he was afraid. His marriage with her seemed like it was treading on a narrow rail and he didn’t want to mention the words ‘marriage contract’ for no special reason. Truthfully, he didn’t even want to bring up this issue again.
However, as more time passed, he felt a sense of crisis that he would be too late then. Moreover, she had thanked him for marrying her, and those words gave Hugo a lot of courage. Lately, her attitude towards him was affectionate, so he thought that maybe she was quite satisfied with their marriage.
“And it matters now? In what way?” (Lucia)
“Was I one of your candidates?” (Hugo)
Lucia couldn’t really understand his words, so she looked at him without saying anything.
“What I mean is. If I had refused your offer, would you have gone to someone else?” (Hugo)
Hugo wanted to know her answer first, before he resolved the marriage contract issue. When he thought about that possibility, his insides began to boil. The mere thought that she might have become another man’s woman made him feel angry. He was cooking on the inside over a matter that did not happen.
Lucia was stunned and the fact that he was having such thoughts was somehow funny.
“Is that important at this point?”
“It is important.”
“Why? If I say I had such a candidate, what will you do if you know that now? Do you plan on harassing that person or something?
He clamped his mouth shut as if affirming her words. Some kind of resolution could be seen in his eyes. He looked ready to do anything if such a candidate really existed.
Seeing his completely incomprehensible obstinacy, Lucia’s eyes trembled. It was as if he was jealous towards someone that did not even exist.
When Lucia entered the palace to meet Her Highness the Queen, she remembered what happened at the Rose Palace. He had reacted quite aggressively toward Count Ramis, who expressed an interest in her. As a matter of fact, back then, Lucia had felt strange. He was too emotional to simply say he was expressing his discomfort towards another man approaching his wife. He was a man that did not suit the word ‘emotional’.
At the time, she tried to disregard all the assumptions that popped up in her head. She didn’t want to make her own delusions out of something impossible and get excited over it. However, now, hope was seeping through, that maybe it was not a delusion.
“…There was no such candidate.” (Lucia)
His red eyes brightened up. He was delighted. Lucia’s vague hunch solidified a little bit. Her heart pounded loudly, and her mouth felt dry. Looking into his eyes, Lucia continued to speak.
“If you had refused, I would have most likely married someone who paid the dowry to the royal family.”
In a way, that also didn’t make him feel good. Hugo was annoyed at someone that was impossible to know.
“It was a day when I went out of the palace. The day of the victory party. On the afternoon of that day, I saw you during the Knight’s parade.” (Lucia)
Hugo remembered that day very well. It was unpleasant memory of himself becoming a spectacle for people. He had played the clown and had no choice but to do so.
“Come to think of it, that party was my first meeting with you.” (Lucia)
Hugo remembered the incident with Sofia Lawrence and felt uncomfortable. He didn’t want her to recall that incident again and secretly studied her face.
“I knew you had a son. And I thought you might be interested if I suggested a marriage that fully recognizes Damian. I was right, wasn’t I?”
The biggest reason why Hugo got interested in her offer was because she boldly spoke about Damian. But that was not the only reason. He thought she was rather overambitious when she said she came to propose marriage to him. He was very amused by the small woman who didn’t stand on pretentious pride or show submissiveness.
“Is that all? That’s too…” (Hugo)
“Yes. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? To be honest with you, I was gambling.” (Lucia)
“I wanted to escape from the palace, and I needed a guardian. Your power and wealth. I needed that.”
He nodded his head. Lucia studied his expression. He didn’t look displeased at all. He had an expression like he was thinking about something.
“Don’t you feel offended?” (Lucia)
“Hm? Ah. That’s not it. I mean, I am a little confused. I don’t think you have such an impulsive personality. And power and wealth…it doesn’t seem like you are greedy for things like that.” (Hugo)
“I also hesitated a lot, but it was Norman who strongly encouraged me to do it.”
“Norman? The female novelist?”
“Norman liked the idea of a bold challenge.”
Hugo secretly thought that he should tell the people keeping watch over the female novelist to pay more attention to her.
“And, you wouldn’t think so because you have a high standard for wealth and power. For me, I thought it was enough if my food, clothing, and shelter were all settled.” (Lucia)
“Hmmm. Food, clothing, and shelter. It’s quite odd to hear that phrase coming from your mouth. Was life in the palace that difficult?” (Hugo)
“I couldn’t afford to live luxuriously, but I had enough to manage. Actually, apart from power and wealth, there was my personal desire as well…”
Seeing him looking at her with a gaze that seem to be asking,‘and what is that?’ Lucia’s eyes curved, and she laughed.
“You are a handsome man.”
His expression fluctuated.
“I really like your face.”
“…Is that a compliment?”
Hugo reluctantly replied. How should he described the look in her eyes, which were twinkling as she looked at him? The admiring gaze when you see an expensive jewel. Because it was an expression full of materialistic desire, one he usually couldn’t find on her, he somehow felt weird.
“It was good luck.” (Hugo)
“I know right? I was lucky to become the Duchess.” (Lucia)
“Not you, me.” (Hugo)
Hugo lowered his head and kissed her lips. It was a light kiss, simply sucking on her lips. He thought there was no such thing as luck in his life. Until a moment ago.
“You were desperate enough to bet your life on a gamble.”
Hugo tilted his head and kissed her again.
“And I was caught in your hands and defeated.”
For the first time, Hugo was grateful for everything he had. The wealth and the power. Everything he considered tedious because although it made living a little easier, the burden was more than the convenience. Even his own appearance which he was indifferent to and neither prideful nor derogatory about. He was grateful for all the conditions that influenced her choice.
 They can’t just cover it up and ignore it. What exactly he’s referring to is a bit vague.
 This paragraph is him saying their relationship is not on a strong foundation aka thin ice. Before they could progress, the issue needs to be dealt with. At least, that’s my interpretation. My editor mentioned it was confusing so I put an explanation.
 This event occurred in chapter 1, towards the middle.
 The literal translation is, “you were lucky.” Hence why she thinks he’s talking about her. He doesn’t use pronouns either so the person he’s talking about is deliberately vague.