“She has a good personality and is quite pretty. On top of that, her family is the Grand Duke’s, and the Grand Duke’s sons are rather decent. It’s rare to find such a suitable match. Why not meet her at least once? People forget people when they don’t go out; just sitting around won’t help you get over your complex nature easily, you know?”
“I understand what you’re saying.”
“It’s just not working out well.”
Finally, Jasmine could see Richard’s face, which she had longed to see. Through the gaps in the branches, she could faintly make out an expression she had never seen on him before, despite having watched him for so long.
A tired and bitter face. Eyes filled with longing that had transformed into poignant sadness. Indeed, it was the same expression she had seen on her own face this morning, without fail.
She was shocked. She had never dreamed of seeing such a pained and weary gaze because of passionate love on the Duke.
She was used to his usual composed and shallow smile, his detached demeanor as a knight, and his sincere and focused expression. Having observed him for so long, she had thought she knew a lot about him. He was someone who could wear such an expression. Perhaps it was natural. After all, he was human too.
Yet, Jasmine herself wasn’t a subject he would feel such emotions for. She wasn’t his friend or lover.
‘I’ve been caught up in misconceptions, only seeing his public image and following fantasies.’ Her heart ached. Nevertheless, Jasmine’s heart was still pounding.
No, it was beating even stronger. Upon seeing the true face behind the cold mask, jasmine wanted him even more.
‘Oh, perhaps I truly am a hopeless case.’
But what can she do? If he looked at her with those tender eyes, she couldn’t help but wish it was her instead.
Jasmine bit her nails, then suddenly felt a surge of anger. What kind of extraordinary woman would make such a handsome, sincere, impressive, capable man suffer? What does she have that I don’t? How can she be prettier than me!?
‘…What if she is prettier than me?’ Jasmine lost her confidence once again.
“Well, Lily is indeed a beauty,” the princess said.
An arrow whizzed through her heart!
“Still, the Duke’s daughter was beautiful too.”
“Well, Lily might be a little bit prettier.”
Uaaargh! While Jasmine was silently exclaiming, Nysa continued to give her opinion. This time, it was a serious tone without the playful mischief.
“But isn’t it better if the person likes you more? Someone willing to love and support you with all your emotional mess. Look at your father and sister. Both had difficult personalities, yet they found good partners and lived well. Without the Empress, our Emperor would have grown into a grumpy old man irritated by the world. And your sister’s twisted situation is also because of your father. The former Empress divorcing and leaving was also likely because of your father. You know that… Oh, sorry.”
“It’s not your fault. It’s true.”
Richard calmly interjected. His aunt, the former Empress, had frequent arguments with her husband, the Emperor, even right after their wedding and eventually divorced him to remarry after giving birth to the Crown Prince.
In this astounding family history, Richard had suffered the consequences even as an infant. The Duke of Aion, his godfather, also had some family issues. It wasn’t unheard of for a family as wealthy and powerful as theirs to have such internal matters.
If there was an exception, it might be the Liovanni Duchy, known for its harmony and familial affection within the aristocracy.
As the daughter of such a household, she must have been showered with love if she was the youngest daughter. Energetic, lovely, and charming. Even in society, she is known to be quite a lovely young lady.
Richard wasn’t naive, so he wasn’t completely unaware of Jasmine. Like so many other girls, he vaguely remembered how she looked at him with adoration. But, as people often do, he assumed it would pass. He never anticipated that it would escalate to secret confessions like this.
Regardless, she wasn’t the woman who would fit into his life. Flowers belonged in beautiful gardens. Truthfully, he wasn’t particularly interested, even if she was pretty and refined.
“But do you know that Lily is engaged?”
At Nysa’s cautious question, Richard momentarily fell silent before responding calmly.
Why wouldn’t he know? Even without actively seeking information, she seemed to have drifted to him like a dandelion seed on the spring breeze. Her daisy-like laughter, her beautiful hair, her quiet yet strong way of speaking – all of it. Unfortunately, such beauty wasn’t something he could possess exclusively.
Richard belatedly admitted to himself that he had been too greedy.
“It’s something to celebrate.”
“… Are you serious?”
Even at Nysa’s voice filled with incredulity, Richard calmly replied. “Of course.”
Once, he had entertained the thought that he might be able to be with her, maybe luck would bring them together. He had nurtured that hope because she resembled him and had similar qualities. He had wished he would be truly happy if she and he felt the same way.
But their paths never crossed.
So what… could he do? It was painful, but the only thing he could do was watch the woman he loved hold another man’s hand and get married.
Wiping his forehead, Richard let out a dry laugh.
D*mn it, unrequited love is truly a burdensome emotion.