HCM – 89

“… … This will not be the last night.”

Aslei whispered. ‘I know,’ she should have answered, but Frisia’s throat choked, thick with emotion, and she found it difficult to articulate her words.

Do you really think so? Will I be able to return to the Duchy of Tintalion safely?

Maybe. No, it was highly likely. Because Duke Atreille and Aslei would never let her face the death penalty.

But Frisia felt a sense of dread when she was left alone with her thoughts.

She intuited the imperial family would end up killing her to save face in the end.

‘He must be scared too.’

Even the strong had weaknesses and fears. Everyone in the world was like that. Aslei loved Frisia, so he must be frightened by the current situation.

‘Now is the time.’

The time to confess. The time to confirm her love and break Aslei’s curse beyond any doubt.

Because it’s not just about her love anymore.

Aslei would have to enter the imperial palace to defend Frisia. Even if there wasn’t a problem, those of the imperial family who came up to the capital had to greet the emperor.

“Aslei… … .”

Taking a deep breath, Frisia slightly loosened Aslei’s arms that were wrapped around her. His eyes, relying on the dim light, looked almost black. Like windows showing a glimpse of the night sea of unknown depth.

“I love you. I don’t know when, but… … ultimately, it came to pass.”

Aslei held his breath at her whisper. Since he was alone with Frisia, he was not wearing the magic ring that disguised him.

Frisia’s vision filled with the sight of his wolf ears and tail wrapped in a soft white light.

Ah… … . Tears welled up in her eyes as she beheld him. The light slowly dwindled and scattered like dandelion seeds in a soft breeze. There was no trace of them left.

The animal-like ears and tail had completely vanished.

‘I… … .’

You loved Aslei. All the words of friendship and platonic camaraderie were deceptions. I was attracted to him. I just didn’t want to admit it.

Aslei, facing her, seemed to have noticed it too. His deep eyes were welling up and dripping with tears.

“You are the prettiest crying man I have ever seen.”

She cracked a joke to lighten the mood, and Aslei merely laughed. He knew that the curse was now completely gone and that Frisia was truly in love with him.

Maybe his tiny hopes came to fruition because all his hard efforts and tender affections changed her heart towards him.

Regardless, whatever the reason, it didn’t matter. A delirious euphoria of joy, as if he had won the world, filled his body. Yet, at the same time, he was despondent. Because the world always took away what mattered most to him.

If he attained anything meaningful, fate was always busy taking away more than what he gained.

“I love you too, Frisia.”

Tears dripped down and wetted her cheeks and hair. How he wished the two of them had realized their feelings earlier. He regretted the time he had wasted.

“I love you.”

—More than anything else in the world. Frisia did not know that nothing was as important in his life as her.

Although he was a member of the imperial family and a duke, he was always alone and profoundly empty inside.

He had never been loved, and so he had never sympathized with the love that others spoke of. His grandfather cared for him in his way, but Aslei didn’t think he was loved.

It remained the same even when countless women confessed to him.

Their emotions never considered his heart. No one cared or was mindful of what he felt or thought. No one— Except for Frisia.

She was always conscious of his feelings. Her consideration included caring for his artlessness and understanding his difficulties.

“… … You are the only one in the world.”

Who I love. The only person I can love.

With emotions that could not be expressed in mere words, Aslei whispered of love again and again. His large physique made it seem like he was holding her, even though they embraced each other.

However, he thought that Frisia was holding him. He felt comforted in her arms.

“I love you.”

It was a word he intended to whisper over and over and over again—forever. Nevertheless, he felt a bottomless crisis and fear that the opportunity to convey himself would swiftly pass.

So if. If— in the end, if, fate dealt him a cruel hand and separated him from Frisia.

Aslei forced himself to breathe again as his heart stopped just by imagining such a situation. If that happened, he would repudiate God, renounce the world… … . he intended to destroy and ruin everything.

Because this world wouldn’t mean anything to him anymore.

❁ ❁ ❁

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