Chapter 12 – 15 Year Reunion (6)
Bianca returned to her room. She felt drained, shoulders sagging. Though she hadn’t done anything to cause her body to feel so physically fatigued, she was exhausted from having been stretched thin both mentally and emotionally. She headed for the window, holding back the desire to collapse on her bed.
Other than a light or two twinkling in the distance–likely houses belonging to the serfs–she couldn’t make anything out due to the darkness that had settled outside. Bianca stared out the window absentmindedly.
Even if it were the middle of the day, sun out and bright, the scenery before her still wouldn’t feel familiar. It wasn’t because she had lived elsewhere for 15 years after she had been kicked out of the castle, but rather because she had no interest in the view outside during the years she had been living in the castle.
Bianca didn’t have an interest in the world outside the boundaries of her room. In the past, she had holed herself in her room, engrossed solely in how she could decorate it to resemble the room she had back in Blanchefort castle.
The present Bianca came to realize that the world wasn’t just her room. After all, she had personally gone through the experience of things that she didn’t think had anything to do with her, entangling and strangling her. She was aware that there were those beyond the far horizon who were eyeing her spot with hungry eyes.
The world continued beyond the edge of the dark, distant horizon. Bianca pulled herself together by telling herself that today’s incident was nothing in comparison.
It was only natural that Zachary would refuse her advances. They were a mess from the moment they met. Their marriage was one that started off on the wrong foot. The past Bianca hadn’t liked Zachary and there were many reasons as to why she hadn’t accepted him as her husband. For example, his title and status as a baron were subpar compared to her family’s, not to mention the fact he seldom even showed his face due to constantly being out on the battlefield. There was also their 13 year age gap.
Frankly, such an age gap was common amongst nobles. Compared to cases involving a 16-year-old girl married off to a man nearing his 60’s or a youthful 18-year-old married to a 45-year-old widow, Bianca and Zachary’s age gap was nothing. It was just that their first meeting took place when she was the very young age of 7.
She had met him when she was much too young and too much time had passed since then.
Though they hadn’t made an effort to get to know each other, the decade that had passed between them left a lumbering awareness of the other. The firm layers of prejudice that had piled over the years shook precariously.
It was like a placket of buttons in which you only realized you had misfastened after reaching your neck. No, that’s not it. You would’ve known as you were fastening each button, it’s just that you didn’t unfasten and try again. Instead, you just kept going while putting it off. You closed your eyes, ignoring it, despite the obvious outcome.
Bianca rubbed her arms and adjusted the warm cape over her shoulders when she felt a cold draft seeping in from the cracked open window. She had always been someone who was sensitive to the cold, but she found her sensitivity heightened after falling ill and freezing to death in the convent, reacting to even the slightest chill.
She stared out the window, snuggling the cape up to her neck. Her figure was reflected on the frosty window. There wasn’t a single blemish on her pretty, pale face and everything she wore was luxurious. Even so, the girl in the mirror appeared somewhat uneasy.
‘Come to think of it, he said this cape suits me, didn’t he? Why did he suddenly say that? Was he being sarcastic? Calling me out for spending money on this while he was out fighting in a war?’
A sneer surfaced on her soft lips. He most likely viewed the amount of money going in to support her lavish lifestyle as too excessive to be brushed off as the price of the pact between the Arno and Blanchefort families. A white fox fur cape. Expensive dyed fabrics that had to be procured from a distant foreign country. Jewels, gold ornaments, as well as fragrance oils that were a must for her baths. Even the musical instrument she played as a hobby was expensive.
As shameless of an excuse as it was, these were all things that came as natural in Bianca’s life. She had grown up surrounded with only the finest things while under House Blanchefort, so House Arno seemed inferior in her eyes. It was only when she had been wretchedly kicked out that she realized just how exorbitant all the things she had enjoyed were.
Recalling Zachary’s words telling her to notify Vincent of anything she wanted the moment she had come to see him, it was clear what he thought of her.
A wife who silently turns her head away, not even greeting her husband who she hasn’t seen in a long time, despite spending his money left and right. Convinced that any time she tries to talk to him would be to talk about materialistic items.
Bianca was sure to be akin to detestable shackles in Zachary’s eyes. That might have been why he had said those words, telling her to go to Vincent. It was likely done to criticize her as well as signify that he did not believe her when he heard her say she wanted to fulfill her duty as his wife.
His voice when he complimented her fur cape had been most gentle. A soft kindness she heard for the first time.
Was I mistaken? Or perhaps he was referring to something else?
Bianca used to think Zachary was made of rocks at one point because of how gruff and always relaxed yet indifferent he was towards her, regardless of whatever she would do. However, no matter how much of a curt man he was known to be, it was possible that he was someone who would be sweet to his mistress.
The trace of gentleness she had heard in Zachary’s voice, which he hadn’t been able to hide, bewildered by Bianca’s sudden expected behavior, was just a small taste of that.
Bianca felt a tingle in a corner of her chest for some reason.
No. What’s important is that I was able to catch him off guard to that extent.
She shook her head. Her feelings were starting to go on their own in a direction she didn’t understand. How Zachary’s voice may sound when whispering in the ears of his mistress wasn’t important. A mistress was just a mistress. Even if his mistress were to become pregnant, that child would only be an illegitimate one.
For the first time, Zachary–who was always unreadable regardless of what Bianca said or did–had shown emotion. It had been quite subtle and did little in helping understand what was going on in his head, but it held significance in that the things which were kept hidden away thus far were brought up to the water’s surface, exposed to some degree.
Bianca was determined not to relive the same life she had gone through in the past, and she would need to grasp onto Zachary in order to accomplish that. He was her lifeline.
So let’s give birth to his child before he passes, as that’ll prevent those who kicked me out from doing it again.
It was a rather calculative and selfish thought for a 16-year-old girl, but for a 38-year-old who had died a wretched death on the floor of a convent, it was reasonable.
Zachary entered the bathroom. The heated water had become lukewarm while he was occupied by Bianca’s visit.
The servant attending to him asked, “Shall I re-heat the water?”
“It’s fine. It doesn’t matter,” Zachary replied curtly and shrugged off his clothes.
His well-trained body was taut and littered with small scars attesting to his constant days on the battlefield. There were several larger ones here and there as well. Most of them were from his young and hot-blooded days, though there were still quite a few received after he had gotten married. Of course, Bianca would have not the slightest idea as to when he had received any of his scars.
Zachary stepped into the tub. The heat had all but dissipated from the water, leaving only a faint warmth in its wake, but that was enough for him. After all, he didn’t need to worry about being targeted by an unexpected arrow to the back here. He released the breath he had been holding, a long sigh escaping his lips. The fatigue and toxins piled up in his body seeped out into the water one by one.
T/N: I’m back!! No set release schedule yet, but I’ll be aiming for 2-3 chapters/week while I try to reorganize my life after being out sick for a while.