16. The Form of Love
The moment the door opened and saw Sherry’s face, which was more worn out than the last time I saw her, I instinctively hugged her.
“…From just not seeing your face for three days, I thought I was going to go crazy.”
I couldn’t believe there was a period in my life where I could bear only meeting her once a month.
For the past few days, I had been thinking of Sherry from morning till night.
I didn’t know why I loved her so much. Before I realized it, Sherry had become the center of my world.
She muttered, “I’m sorry.” in a small voice.
What was going on inside her mind right now?
Regardless—we needed to talk. When I told her to talk in my room, she faintly nodded.
After moving to my room, and having a maid prepare some fruit tea—Sherry’s favorite drink—I immediately dismissed her.
Inside the room, where there were only the two of us, I stared at her across the table. Her eyes were red and swollen. I wondered if those tears had been caused by me—and my chest felt ready to burst.
I then asked her—
“—Why are you crying?”
“…I’m truly, sorry…”
“There’s no reason for Sherry to apologize.”
I didn’t know what she was apologizing for. Sherry did nothing wrong. Due to my quick response, I saw her eyes waver sadly.
…What should we talk about?
It seemed that she was aware I had been withholding an important story from her.
“Did someone tell you about my parents?”
Towards my words, Sherry nodded. I took a small deep breath to ease tension, then continued.
“…My mother is a very delicate person.”
Though I referred to her as ‘mother’, I never thought of her as one. It was the nanny and the maids who raised and cared for me. I didn’t have any family-like memories with my mother.
“When she was 18-years-old, my mother attended her first party. There, she met my drunken father. Due to the influence of the alcohol, my father proposed to her. My mother, a sheltered girl, was swayed by his drunken words.”
My father was terribly weak to alcohol and would always suffer severe hangovers afterwards. As such, he normally never drank.
But that day, his friends forced him to drink out of mischief. My father, upon waking the next day, had no recollection to anything at all—he didn’t even remember the existence of my mother.
“My father has a really handsome face, so my mother was instantly smitten by him. She kept saying that her fated person had appeared. Ever since then, she was overjoyed. However, no formal engagement ever arrived. My mother only wanted to be engaged with my father—at the same time, my father already had a lover, one with whom he vowed his future to. My mother, who had been endlessly thinking of my father since the day they first met, eventually fell ill.”
My father and mother had the most beautiful faces compared to everyone else.
The only thing I was grateful for was that I was born with a good appearance. After all, Sherry said she had always loved my beautiful face.
“My grandfather, who was a marquis at that time, was furious that his cute granddaughter was tossed away like that. He subsequently rushed to my father and insisted he take responsibility.”
Those words he spoke out of inebriation altered his entire life.
Even if it was merely a verbal promise, my grandfather’s wrath, which stemmed from the illness of his cute granddaughter—both physically and mentally—was considerable. I heard that the count and his wife at that time were also afraid of my mother’s grandfather. Thus, they desperately persuaded my father.
“Soon, they got married and I was conceived. However, my father couldn’t forget his former lover, and he didn’t seem to have any affection towards my mother or me, the child she gave birth to. My mother, who is still hopeful that my father would grow to love her someday, started to break down little by little—hysteria, delusions, and it eventually self-harm.”
My father had my mother conceive me out of obligation—no more, no less.
I recalled that my mother, who teared out her hair, uttered incomprehensible words, and sometimes kept laughing, truly terrified me as a child. I didn’t want to believe that she was my mother.
“Eventually, my father abandoned my mother and went to his former lover. Then, as if her soul had perished, my mother became a shell. Then, she began to avoid me, because my face resembles father. When I grew up, I came to this mansion as a means of escape. I have never met either of them since.”
That foolish mother of mine was probably still hung-up over my father.
Once, I had asked my mother—
“—Why do you love father so much?”
My mother laughed with tears spilling down her face—
“—I don’t know anymore.”
Her form of love, which resembled obsession, may had been passed down to her son. I was certain what I felt for Sherry was similar to what my mother felt for my father.
It was the kind of affection that was heavy, bleak, and only caused pain.
“My father is truly hopeless.”
He, who chose to run away from everything, was also selfish and weak.
Even though nothing he did was father-like, he became a father figure to me only when it was convenient for him.
“…Because of my parents, I swore that I would never fall in love with anyone. Because love is useless.”
Love was nonsense.
I didn’t want to turn into a fool because of said feeling.
I also didn’t want to cause pain to anyone, just like what my father and mother did.
I told myself that.
“But, I fell in love with you.”
Sherry’s eyes widened. She had been silently listening to my words.
I didn’t mean to fall in love with her. Just, slowly but surely, Sherry filled the entirety of my mind.
Thus, I was made aware that nothing about love was logical.
“By the time I was in the final year of the magic academy, my fiancée had already been decided. I met the woman my father had chosen for me a few times. No matter how much I asked to be with you, my father refused to allow it.”
Profit and loss were the only things my father ever cared about.
“From my grandparents, I discovered that my father yearned to become a knight more than anyone else. However, because he has no magical power, he failed many exams and finally gave up. Around that time, my father, who knew about my magical power, told me to aspire to become a knight. However my grandparents stopped him, telling me that I have the right to chase after my own dreams.”
I remembered my father muttering regretfully—
“—Why is it only you?”
My father, who desperately yearned to become a knight, was so jealous of his young son, someone who didn’t even know what a knight was.
“That’s why—when I told him that I was going to be a knight, I felt like I saw my father’s heartfelt smile for the first time. As an exchange, I told him to accept our engagement.”
The only negotiating card I could offer to my father was to become a knight. To outsiders, it was a story where a filial son fulfilled the dream his father couldn’t achieve.
My father eventually agreed.
“My father said he won’t accept the engagement until I become the division leader. From my experience, I know that there’s no changing his mind. As such, I did my damnedest to reach that position. I don’t want your family to suffer the consequences if I failed to become one.”
Regardless, I had confidence partaking such conditions. I had baseless confidence that Sherry would love me forever, whether or not I said anything to her.
“But, while I was preoccupied with convincing my parents, I may have been afraid to express my feelings through words. I was afraid that confessing, ‘I want to be with you,’ would alter your life while I was still in no place to take responsibility for you. I said nothing to you because I thought it was the best course of action, and also because of the promise I made with my father.”
For a woman of marriageable age, three years must had been very long. No wonder Sherry’s feelings towards me changed—everything was my fault.
Still, I wanted her to know, even if it was too late—
“—I love you. For the rest of my life, you’re the only one for me.”
From the bottom of my heart, that was what I felt.
Before I realize it, I could see large tears overflowing from her crimson eyes.
***T/N: Omg this is healthier than my one week’s worth of meals.