Chapter 97 – Cruelly
“Can you keep walking?”
“Yes, thanks to this. I’m grateful.”
Emilia lifted her ankle, securely wrapped in bandages.
“If it’s too difficult, let me know. Carrying you is no big deal for me.”
He spoke gruffly as he continued walking. Emilia followed behind. Relying on the strong man’s arm, she limped along, and suddenly, she remembered the day when the torrential rain poured down. Warm blood surged through her veins, and she felt lightheaded again.
To distract herself, Emilia purposely looked elsewhere, trying to divert her attention. Luckily, faint music could be heard in the distance. Thanks to the lively melody produced by the accordion and fiddle, Emilia was temporarily freed from the overpowering scent of the man and the brush of his firm muscles against her.
However, peace didn’t last long.
“There they are! Let’s go quickly!”
Several young women were running toward them from the opposite direction, seemingly in a state of panic.
If Emilia hadn’t swiftly turned her body and Hadius hadn’t instinctively pulled her toward him, they might have collided head-on with one of the women.
They narrowly avoided a collision, but encountered a greater challenge. Bodies that had tried so hard to avoid each other now collided, chests pressing against chests.
Emilia held her breath. It would take quite some time before she could breathe again.
Fortunately, Hadius seemed mostly unaffected. While she felt dizzy and breathless, he briefly paused and glanced around as if assessing something.
Lost in thought, he suddenly changed direction toward a narrow alley. It was a decision based on the judgment that a less crowded alley, even if slightly farther, would be better than the bustling main street.
The fact that he became even more composed in the face of danger, unlike herself, brought Emilia a sense of relief.
“It’s such a pity…”
As they turned onto the quiet street, Emilia murmured softly. Choosing conversation as another way to distract her mind.
“I saw Moriah’s house. Even the fence.”
Without receiving a response, she continued as if talking to herself.
“It’s both intriguing and regrettable to see it. My mind has become incredibly complex. I used to think I knew Young Master better than anyone else, but now I really don’t know.”
Hadius remained silent, but Emilia could sense that he was waiting for her next words from his slightly slower pace.
“Young Master is the most indifferent and cold-hearted person among those I know. But sometimes, he feels completely different. He’s unbelievably mature for someone of our age, yet at the same time, he seems more like a child than anyone else.”
“Is that what you mean by capricious?”
Emilia tilted her head sideways.
“At first, I thought it was caprice, but it’s not at all. It’s…”
Emilia had been limping and paused for a moment, her eyes rolling as she pondered something intently.
“…Could it be a kaleidoscope?”
“It’s that small and fascinating tube that the magician showed earlier. From the outside, it’s just a few beads inside the tube… But when you twist it a little, it shows an entirely different image. Young Master is just like that. Unpredictable.”
“Well, I’m not sure, but it seems there’s one similarity between us.”
Emilia’s gaze turned back to Hadius. He was smiling bitterly.
“I am confined. Like those little beads that can’t come out of the narrow tube. If I have confused you, it’s probably for that reason.”
You are free, but I am not yet free.
As Emilia felt her heart growing restless, his cold and dark gaze resurfaced in her mind.
Suddenly, the mask covering his face felt suffocating.
Surely, Charlotte wasn’t the only one who needed a mask. There were too many barriers between them, and Emilia Bern was a presence that still needed to be hidden from Hadius.
Of course, Emilia didn’t feel the slightest bit of resentment regarding this fact. Even during the time when she despised Hadius Meyer the most, there was never a single moment when she resented the fact that his world would never fully accept her.
When Duchess Meyer had come looking for her with the broken engagement contract, hadn’t Emilia felt a sense of relief and gratitude?
Before their relationship was revealed, Hadius needed to be freed first.
She felt that only when he escaped from his mother’s shadow could Emilia finally breathe.
“I… I don’t want to rush you, my lord.”
Emilia whispered desperately.
She still wasn’t certain how deep her feelings for Hadius Meyer could grow, or whether she could love him enough to embark on an adventure. But one thing was clear.
Now was not the time for such risky adventures. They needed time.
“I can wait. Until you are free, my lord. I can hide for as long as needed. So…”
That’s when it happened.
“Make way! Make way!”
Following someone’s cry, the faint sound of music suddenly grew louder, as if to pierce their ears. Emilia instinctively turned her head, and Hadius did the same.
People were streaming in from the entrance of the alley they had passed through. The musicians playing the accordion and the fiddle caught their attention first, followed by the hundreds of people jumping and hopping with their arms crossed.
Suddenly, like a wave crashing, a crowd surged into the quiet alley.
Hadius swallowed his curse and strengthened his arm supporting Emilia.
His sharp eyes began to assess what would be more effective: carrying the woman and swiftly maneuvering through the crowd or avoiding the throng altogether. His conclusion was reached within a matter of seconds.
Hadius cautiously but swiftly pushed Emilia against the wall. Then he positioned himself in front of her, using his body as a shield to protect her from the oncoming tide of people.
However, the procession of dancing people seemed endless, and it became increasingly difficult to evade them.
Looking around once again, he spotted a recessed area in the stone wall and quickly changed their course. The space was too cramped for both of them to fit comfortably, but at least it prevented her delicate feet from being trampled by the crowd.
Hadius leaned her against the wall and shielded her once more. The cacophony of music and the various noises created by the dancing people muffled and blocked their hearing, but the man’s other senses were entirely focused on the woman in his embrace.
Emilia was still petite, still delicate, and still beautiful. And she still had that earnest gaze while attempting to continue their conversation.
“Regarding Young Master… I’m not exactly sure what my feelings are… for myself as well…”
“As I’ve said before, I have no intention of meeting other men.”
Hadius silently gazed down at Emilia, who spoke like a murmuring bird. Due to his intense gaze, Emilia believed he was fully absorbed in her words, but in reality, his mind was completely empty.
“So, please don’t rush me. I have found stability now. You don’t need to be anxious about me. For the time being, I’ll focus solely on taking care of my mother and siblings. We have plenty of time. It’s not as if every woman in the world stakes her life on love or marriage. In fact, even the owner of ‘L’Artagnan,’ where I work…”
Hadius abruptly cut her off.
“I know what you’re trying to say.”
His voice was cold and desperate and froze Emilia to her core.
From the crisp collar of his white shirt, her gaze slowly rose to the man’s pulsing Adam’s apple. When their eyes met, Emilia finally realized.
She had once again been deceived by his nonchalant facade.
Within his darkened gray irises, there was nothing but fervent passion.
Shock struck her, and a faint heat rose from the depths of her being. Their tightly pressed bodies, devoid of any gaps, instantly resurrected vivid memories of passionate nights.
“Yes, it’s not you who’s in a hurry.”
He breathed hotly into her ear, his fingertips grazing her chin.
“It has always been me. Always.”
His thumb traced her jawline with deliberate intensity, reaching her lips. Emilia stood there, breathless, exerting all her strength to endure.
The lively music and intense dance moves kept summoning forgotten memories.
They had behaved the same on the beach. In Elver. And at the masquerade in Luene.
Breathing became shallow, and her head spun as memories of dancing together filled her thoughts. Behind her, a cold stone wall; in front of her, a scorching man. Emilia struggled to calm her racing heart. But the intense closeness, born from that place, ignited a fire within her, pushing her to her limit.
“A childish me who can’t resist impulses.”
He muttered as if chewing on his words while pressing his fingertip against her lower lip and coaxing it to part. The moist surface, enticing like a seductive flower, took his breath away.
“I am the problem.”
Just as it seemed his lips were about to descend, he hesitated and removed his own mask. Emilia gazed at the cascading black hair flowing smoothly along the black leather.
“I can’t hold back, Emilia.”
Desperately whispering, Hadius revealed himself to her. His bare face inched closer.
In that fleeting moment, just before their lips touched, Emilia tightly shut her eyes. In the enveloping darkness, everything in the world began to disappear. The clamor of the crowd, the burdens weighing on her heart, the worries, and even memories of the past few months…
And then, finally, their lips met. The slowly intertwining lips of the retreating man left her with a sense of longing. Emilia’s whole body, thirsting for relief like someone who had tasted a single drop of oasis water in the desert, surrendered to the overwhelming sensation.
As Emilia released the breath she had been holding, his lips found hers again, as if waiting. Saliva trailed along the point of contact, creating a sticky friction that lingered. He hesitated, as if debating whether to insert his tongue, before exhaling hot breath and pulling away abruptly.
Hadius desperately tried to regain his self-control and took a rough breath. But he ultimately failed. The ferocious growl resonated through his throat, exerting a strong force that crushed Emilia’s body against the wall.
Without hesitation, he thrust his tongue, moving with a fierce intensity as if devouring his prey. Like a ruthless predator tearing into its prey, he explored the trembling woman, her sweet cavern, without any restraint.
Emilia’s hand, which had been pushing him away instinctively, suddenly lost strength.
A soft moan escaped her lips, an undeniable surrender. Emilia trembled with pure pleasure and willingly opened herself up to him.
It was also a fateful encounter, a cruel destiny, for Bianca.
The empty alley, drained of people who danced away like flowing water, revealed itself to Bianca as, accompanied by the stable boy, she ventured into the village to fix the fallen carriage wheel. And there, before her very eyes, she beheld those two individuals.
The boy who once believed in destiny, embracing all sorts of sorrowful things on the pristine white snowfield… He had transformed into a man and relentlessly pursued his woman, lost in his own desires.
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