HAPPILY EVER AFTER(12)
By the time he arrived at Roam after a few days journey on his horse without sleep, the entire situation was already over and waiting for him. As soon as he entered the walls of Roam, he could feel a gloomy aura in the air. The people that came out to see him gave their greetings with utmost respect. Their attitude wasn’t that of meeting the young master but that of greeting a new master.
He slowly got down from the horse. He couldn’t take a step forward; it was as if his two feet were rooted to the floor. Someone approached him and said something to him but it went unheard.
“Pardon? The two bodies are insi…”
“T-The west tower…”
“All of you…withdraw. Do not come until I call for you. If I catch you in my sight, I will cut off your head.”
His voice started off calmly but ended in a tone oozing with blood. He swept a cold glance over the wavering and unmoving figures of the people around him then thick bloodthirst burst forth from him. He was suppressing his desire to rip out the necks of everyone here and slaughter them.
Several weak-minded people held other people for support as they sank to their knees and dispersed with pale complexions. His cold red eyes gazed at them then he headed for the west tower.
As soon as he reached the top of the stairs and opened the door, he was swarmed with the smell of blood. A smell he had never found repulsive before made him feel nauseous. The stone floor was smeared with a large black blood stain.
The vassals were shocked by the fact that the culprit who murdered the ducal couple, was the spitting image of the young master so they couldn’t bear to move the body and left it there. All they did was take a wooden coffin and put the corpse inside.
He dragged his feet to the wooden coffin. As he looked at the closed coffin, he took in a deep breath like he had just ran a race. He slowly bent down and got on his knees, then he pushed the lid of the coffin aside with trembling hands.
A young man with a grey complexion, like that never seen on a living being, lay inside with his eyes closed. The cracked wounds on his neck were spotted with dried blood stains. The expression on the dead body was serene. The stench of the corpse that was beginning to decay pierced his nose.
As he looked at the face of the young man, which was just like him, extreme emotions swirled in his eyes. It felt like his blood was flowing backwards. Grief, and anger that seemed to drive him mad burst forth from within.
Hugo opened his eyes with a start. The warmth of the body next to him quickly dragged him back to reality.
A dream. Hugo heaved a sigh.
As he stared into space, he felt the own unstable pounding of his heart.
‘That damned guy.’
Even though he left like that, why was his first appearance in his dream that of the last time he saw him? Hugo inwardly spewed curses at his brother. He sighed heavily and carefully removed his hand that was wrapped around his wife’s back because he didn’t want to wake her up. He sat down motionlessly on the bed for a bit, then he came down from the bed.
Quite a long time passed after Hugo left the bedroom. The world was immersed in the deepest darkness that occurred just before dawn.
Lucia turned on the bed, wanting to feel his warmth but only felt a vacant, cold space. She woke up halfway and opened her eyes to realize that the space next to her was completely empty. Although her husband was the type to get up early, that didn’t mean in the dead of the night.
Lucia got down from bed to search for him. As she looked around, she noticed a small light coming from the door crevice of the receiving room. She approached quietly, opened the door and poked her head inside. The first thing she noticed was the three or so uncorked wine bottles lying on the table.
She frowned slightly.
He definitely didn’t like wine so much that he would go drink a few bottles alone at this time of the night. She looked for her husband, and when she saw his rear view by the window, her heart throbbed. He seemed strange, as he stood there with the moonlight falling on him through the window.
For some reason, she felt lonely as she once again realized that no matter how much they loved each other, they could only be separate people.
Lucia wondered what it could be. Perhaps this wasn’t the first time he had come out here in thought and she had never seen it so she didn’t know.
Should she go comfort him? Or would it be better for her not to disturb him? She didn’t know what to choose, so she didn’t approach, and just stood holding the doorknob. She couldn’t even turn around and go back to the bedroom like she hadn’t seen anything.
She merely called him inside, but like magic, he turned around. Then he smiled faintly and gestured to her, as if telling her to come here. Lucia walked up to him as fast as she could, almost like she was running.
She threw her arms around him and buried her head in his chest. His arms reliably wrapped around her waist. As his large hand stroked her hair, she lifted her face and he kissed her forehead.
“Did you have a bad dream?”
“You weren’t there so it felt empty and I woke up. What about you? Did you have a bad dream?”
“Yeah. Even though I’ve never had one before.”
Hugo smiled wryly. He had never even had dreams before. Perhaps he might have had a dream while he slept but he never remembered when he woke up. This was his first time waking up from a bad dream and being unable to go back to sleep because his mind was disturbed.
“A dream is just a dream, Hugh. You don’t have a pendant, after all.”
Hugo leaned on her shoulder and chuckled.
“The guy who made a mess out of your workshop in your dream. You really won’t tell me who it is?”
The fact that Count Matin got off so easy still annoyed him. So he tried to blow off steam with the other guy, but she completely refused to say anything.
“It didn’t happen in reality. He might be living a diligent life now, so I don’t want to blame him for a crime he didn’t commit.”
“I doubt he’s being diligent. I can assure you, people’s nature don’t change that easily.”
“Still, there’s no need for you to know.”
“But you told me about Count Matin.”
“Well, I couldn’t explain well without mentioning Count Matin, so it couldn’t be helped. Let’s stop talking about this. I’m never telling.”
Hugo swept her into his arms then he walked to the sofa and sat down. He sat her on his knees and hugged her soft body tight. As he breathed in her smell, Hugo felt his subsided feeling gradually rising again.
Lucia gently stroked his hair without asking anything. Although she wanted to know everything about him, she could understand if there was something he couldn’t tell her.
“Philip is dead.”
“…I feel complicated.”
“It’s just as you say. I wonder why I don’t feel lighthearted.”
“Because Philip was there for a huge part of your life.”
A long time after Lucia gave birth to Evangeline, Hugo gave her the full story of what Philip had done. Her heart ached when she finally realized how hard it was for her husband at the time. She felt sorry for not being able to share his pain.
However, she didn’t hate Philip that much. She simply felt that the life of the man called Philip was pitiful. Her connection to him in her dream was also part of it, and if it wasn’t for Philip, she wouldn’t have gotten Evangeline in the end. After all, Lucia wouldn’t have ever taken the medicine to treat herself, personally.
In addition, whether she hated him or not, Philip was a remnant of her husband’s lonely childhood. Her husband might disagree, but Lucia thought so.
“If you really want, you can take a visit to the north. Perhaps you need a break.”(Lucia)
“Shall we go together?”(Hugo)
“If you go with me, what kind of break will it be? We’ll just spend the time traveling in a carriage.”
“True. It will trouble you.”
“I didn’t mean I don’t want to go because it’s troublesome. If you want to go, I’ll prepare for it.”
“No, it’s fine.”
“Then, later. When the children are all grown up, let’s go to the north. I know I went a year ago, but I miss it more as time goes by. I think we should go back someday.”
“Yeah. Let’s do that…”
They hugged each other for a while, not saying anything.
10 years of marriage. They had reached a point of tranquility where simply being together was enough, and it was never awkward no matter how long the silence was. Perhaps this peace of mind was more precious than a hot and intense love.
Lucia caress his head like she was comforting him and he held her tight, with his face buried in her soft chest.
“…It feels strange to see Damian the same age as his father when he died.”(Hugo)
His brother had died at eighteen years old. At the time, Hugo thought his brother was an adult. He thought that when Damian was eighteen years old, he would be able to comfortably entrust everything to Damian like Damian had received the title.
However, when he looked at Damian, he realized it was a very young age. Even though he acted like an adult, the expressions he clumsily revealed without even realizing it showed Hugo that he was still a child.
“It’s because you pamper him so much.” (Hugo)
“What’s this all of a sudden?”(Lucia)
“I’m talking about Damian. He’s still a kid. I wasn’t like that at his age.”
“Since you’re saying this, I have something to say too. You also pamper Eve too much. She’s like a spoiled five year old.”
“What do you mean? Eve is young. She’s only seven now.”
Lucia glared at him. Her husband’s standards were way too different for their son and daughter.
“You sent Damian to boarding school at six. I thought you said that at six, your child should be able to survive even if they were thrown into a desert?”
“That…! Who was it? Who told you? Damian? Jerome?”
“I’m definitely not telling you.”
“You think I don’t have another way if you don’t tell me? I’ll just grill the two of them…”
When Lucia’s eyes slanted, Hugo shut his mouth. Then as he grumbled, he buried his lifted head back into her chest.
Lucia hugged his head and giggled. Her husband got more adorable as he got older. Sometimes, when she saw him acting like a stern father in front of his son or acting cold and indifferent in front of other people, she inwardly burst out laughing.
“It’s because you’re looking at Damian with the eyes of a father. In the eyes of parents, no matter how old their child is, their child is young. When Eve grows up to twenty or thirty, do you think she’ll look like an adult in your eyes?”
“Damian is all grown up. He might be young in your eyes and mine, but to others, he’s an adult. Even if you tell him about his birth father, I believe he can understand now.”
“…Can he really understand?”
“Of course. He’s a very considerate child. How much are you willing to tell him?”
“I was planning to burn down the secret room in Roam. I mean, I was going to secretly take him to my brother’s grave.”
“You’ve changed your mind?”
“I think Damian should know too. It’s up to him to accept it or not.”
Even now, Hugo occasionally flipped through the records from Philip’s hideout. The medical knowledge accumulated by Philip’s family from generation to generation was capable of saving the life of a dying person.
In addition, there were experimental records about whether a Taran female could have a child with a normal man. Fortunately, according to the records, Evangeline could marry an ordinary person, have a child, and live a normal life.
The couple of times that Evangeline was sick, Hugo was helped by the records. He realized how precious the medical knowledge in them was as he smoothed down his chest in relief after his daughter’s high fever quickly subsided. The knowledge gathered by a family for hundreds of years was a treasure. Of course, he also realized that the knowledge in the secret room was a treasure.
“I think you’ve made a good choice. If Damian were to take over from you without knowing anything, it’s like only inheriting half.”
“Do you want to come along when we go to Roam?”
“No. Don’t make exceptions. That way, in the future, it will remain that only the head of Taran can enter that room.”
Hugo kissed her lips then he stood up with her in his arms.
“I don’t know about anything else, but Damian won’t get a better wife than mine.”
Lucia smacked his chest as she laughed.
“What are you saying? Damian will have a wife much prettier and wiser than me.”
“That is impossible.”
“Don’t try to compete with Damian in strange areas. Our Eve too, will get a husband more wonderful than you.”
“It looks like our daughter won’t get married.”
“No such man exists.”
“Oh you, seriously.”
Hugo entered the bedroom, kissing his laughing wife’s lips. As Lucia lay on the bed, snuggling in his embrace, she said:
“Hugh, I have a present for your coming birthday. You can look forward to it.”
“What is it that you’re so confident about it? I will look forward to it.”
The completion date of the brooch commission would roughly match the date of his birthday. Lucia wanted to give him the brooch and also tell him the story from her dream. What could be the identity of the brooch from her dream? She felt like it would be fun for both of them to put their heads together and solve the mystery.