Chapter Five: A Vow of Spilled Tears (Will’s POV)
As I was about to raise my hand to knock on the door of my wife’s bedroom, I overheard the conversation she had with her maid.
In their conversation, a name kept being mentioned. ‘Cedric’—It was definitely the name of a man. Liliana spoke of how he had proposed to her, and how prince-like he was, her voice was full of glee.
I was burning in jealousy. However, said feelings were extinguished in an instant by the words of my exclusive butler.
“…Even if the ring itself is a fleeting thing, for it was made of flowers, it’s definitely prince-like of him. Even more so when compared to a certain man who refused to give his wife a ring because he deemed it unnecessary.”
I couldn’t say anything against that.
Dejected, I refrained from knocking and turned my heels towards the dining room. Frederick followed behind me with a cool face.
I entered the dining room and called my butler, who closed the door behind us.
“…Who is Cedric?”
For the week leading up to yesterday, when I was on the bed, Arthur and Frederick taught me of all the people I had forgotten, their relationships with me, along their pictures. They reintroduced me to my family, my childhood friends, my connections in the noble society, and of course, Liliana. However, they never mentioned any man called Cedric.
“…Why don’t you ask your wife directly?”
My butler gave a whimsical reply.
In the past week, I felt that Liliana was especially loved and cherished by all the mansion servants. In contrast, the servants who came to take care of me were uniformly cold. The most prominent of all was Elsa, Liliana’s maid. Fully convinced that I was out for Liliana’s blood, she tried her best to keep me away from Liliana. It was akin to a mother’s instinct to protect her daughter from harm’s way.
Everyone would praise my wife as being, ‘a gentle wife’, ‘a graceful wife,’ and ‘a humble and caring wife’ whenever they opened their mouths. To me, there was only a polite but harsh complaint, such as, ‘To have forgotten this and that, how convenient of you.’ And when it came to Elsa, she’d just outright call me an imbecile.
Near the door, I waited for Liliana while going back and forth.
I secretly asked Arthur who Cedric was, but the butler only smiled and said, “Please ask your wife directly.”
I couldn’t blame Liliana, who was ten years younger than me, and was only 16-years-old, for having a lover. Not only was our marriage political in nature, but it was also for the sake of my convenience. Back when we got married, she had only turned 15-years-old. Above all, I was aware that I was too selfish of a man to be her prince—both in the present and before I lost my memory.
Frederick, who stared at me wandering in front of the door, tilted his head.
“Have I… Ever given anything to Liliana before?”
“Well, not particularly. If it’s the dress, my lord would ask the tailor of our house for one. Elsa and the others would be the ones who resize the dress later. As for the sewing box and embroidery threads, which may as well be your final ray of hope, you merely gave Elsa and me permission to buy them for your wife. In other words, you only gave the money.”
“…What about flowers?”
“Be it a stem of the flower, a single hat, a piece of sweets, or even a wedding ring—you gave her none of those. Not only that, but you also don’t have any clue about any of her preferences. Hmm, now that I put it this way, it kinds of sheds you in a worrying light.”
Frederick laughed refreshingly.
However, his eyes weren’t laughing at all. I had begun to wonder if even my butler was closer to my wife than I was.
“…I’m saying it for your sake, my lord.”
Apparently, just like that maid, my butler could also read his lord’s heart.
“If my lord and his wife are hanging from a cliff, I’ll rescue him first. It doesn’t matter what anyone else has to say. It also doesn’t matter if anyone will resent me because of that… But, after seeing your behavior for the past year… As a person, as a gentleman, and as a knight, you’re the worst, William. Therefore, I’m angry with you.”
Frederick’s green eyes squinted in loneliness.
He hadn’t only shifted his tone but also called me by name. I, who had been fairly unaccustomed to my own name, felt like it was indeed mine after he uttered it. It proved that he was within my lost memory.
It happened when I was about to say something—
—Suddenly, a scream could be heard from the other side of the door.
My butler immediately looked towards me.
“I will confirm the situation.”
With that said, Frederick immediately turned towards the door and headed for the hallway. However, the moment he opened the door, I could hear Elsa panicking, calling ‘Milady!’ many times. Pushing Frederick away, I barged into the hallway.
Elsa was holding Liliana by her shoulders. Liliana was closing her ears with her hands while shaking her head for some reason.
When I saw her trembling, I rushed to catch her thin arm. I kneeled to support Liliana, whose legs had given up. While closing her ears, Liliana flailed as if trying to escape within my arms. Even though her silver eyes were staring in my direction, it was as if she was looking at something else. She looked afraid.
“Liliana, it’s me; stay strong!”
Her lips, which had lost their colors, quivered. As her tears overflowed, her face became distorted. Other servants, who had heard of the commotion, gathered in a row.
“F, father, forgive me, do forgive me, please…”
As she exhaled those words, she tensed and closed her eyes as if enduring something. I grabbed her thin wrists and removed them from her ears.
At some point, after I had repeatedly called her name, Liliana stopped resisting as she recognized me. She slowly opened her eyes.
Her hollow, silver eyes stared at me before turning to the other side of my back.
As she looked into our faces, Liliana’s lips trembled.
I found that her lips, which had lost their colors, were a certain betrayal towards her recent words.
The next moment, indescribable anger and impatience engulfed my chest. I felt like crying. Liliana smiled quietly. She just smiled quietly while her delicate body shivered and her face was the deep blue of color.
“Liliana, I will never let you fall, so please entrust yourself to me.”
Her slender, limp hands seemed terribly sad to me, which didn’t even know where to latch on. To make it seems like everything was fine, I stood up and gently embraced her. She was light and fragile; I felt like I could break her if I wasn’t careful.
“It’ll be alright; everything will be alright, Liliana.”
As I whispered to her, I realized that my voice was wavering.
Liliana closed her eyes once again. Due to the slightly increased weight, I realized that she had fainted.
“Elsa, come with me. Frederick, call Dr. Frederick—tell him that it’s urgent. Arthur, take care of the rest.”
After hearing three replies from behind me, I started heading for her bedroom.
The occasional wind rattled the window. The flame of the candlestick placed beside it swayed unreliably.
As the wind calmed, Liliana’s slightly rough breathing could be heard within the quiet room. I reached for the damp cloth in the basin with my right hand to wipe her forehead. All I could do was sit in a chair beside her bed, hold her hand, and sometimes wipe her sweat.
Liliana had a fever. Fortunately, it wasn’t a severe one. According to Dr. Morgan, the fever was due to her mental shock. He told me that she often fell asleep with a fever when she first came to that mansion.
I wasn’t even aware of that.
Neither Frederick nor Arthur mentioned it to me. Even if I hadn’t lost my memory, I doubted that I’d pay it any heed.
Perhaps, as Liliana said—I didn’t have enough memory of her to even remember that.
I released her left hand, which I had been clasping, and squeezed the cloth in the basin. After putting the cloth on the edge of the basin, I clasped her hand once again.
At that time, it was already around 1 a.m. In the past two hours, I told Elsa to go to sleep, but she was stubborn. She told me, “I can’t leave my precious lady to my untrustworthy lord.” However, Frederick managed to persuade her, and they went out together.
Thus, Liliana and I were left alone.
With a fleeting voice, I called her name. Of course, there was no reply.
I could only hear her painful breathing.
What on earth has such a delicate body endured?
Despite saying that she loved Elsa like a sister or a mother, she never showed the maid her bare skin. She’d put on her underwear first before asking Elsa to help her with the corset. She’d take a bath herself, change into sleepwear by herself, and never bared her skin.
When Elsa called another maid to help Liliana change, she even sternly reminded the maid, “Please remove her dress and corset, wipe off her sweat, but don’t forget to tell her that you never saw her skin.”
Dr. Morgan, who knew the secret of her skin as a doctor, told me that Liliana would reject even Elsa.
That day, similar thing happened. Liliana, who seemed to misunderstand herself as being ugly due to her stepmother and stepsister, reflexively held on to her left abdomen with her slender hand. She squeezed that area as if afraid her secret would become known to the world.
Previously, why was I so cold towards Liliana?
I was convinced that I didn’t acknowledge her as my wife because our parents decided our marriage due to political reasons. But Arthur told me that wasn’t the case.
Before I lost my memory, Arthur thought that I’d never get married due to my loathing towards women. Therefore, he was surprised because I suddenly told him that I’d get married. After all, I had an older brother who’d succeed the family. As such, it wouldn’t be a problem if I didn’t get married because there wouldn’t be a problem with finding a successor.
The middle-aged butler also plainly stated his dislike towards my actions. After unilaterally deciding to marry her and coming on to her, he said that I kept ignoring Liliana for a year.
The reason I loathed women seemed to be because a lot of women flocked to me solely because I was a high-ranking aristocrat who was skilled at martial arts and made a name for himself as a hero in the previous war.
Of course, I couldn’t recall any of that. I also couldn’t remember how I felt back then. But Arthur told me after I had witnessed how vile a woman could be, I began to despise them.
Even though the story revolved around me, I couldn’t relate to it—
—Because the present me loved Liliana.
The current William was a fool who was deeply fascinated by his beautiful wife, Liliana after she had charmed him with her laugh during their first meeting.
Said man also loved her personality. She was calm, modest, and kind to everyone. Contrary to how lowly she thought of herself, she was actually a better person than himself.
I heard a voice and proceeded to lift my head. Her eyelids quivered as her left hand clasped my hand.
I gently called her to not surprise her.
Her long eyelashes fluttered slowly before revealing her silver eyes. As if in slow motion, she stared back at me. Her misty, silver eyes stared at me for a while. After recognizing me as her husband, she tensed up once again.
“M-my, husband, I… I…”
As she tried to get up with one hand, I gently held her thin shoulders and helped her lie down once again.
“It’s alright, Liliana. I’m not angry.”
I laughed and spoke as amiable as I could. As expected, I noticed that Liliana was terrified of angering me in the last few days.
In bed, Liliana stared at me with an expression as if she was about to cry.
“My husband, th-this place is, the dinner…”
“There’s no need to worry. This is your bedroom. Rest assured that neither I, Elsa, Arthur, Frederick, the chef—Phil, Melissa, Ariana, or the other servants in this mansion are angry.”
Despite feeling regrettable, I let go of Liliana, picked up the jug on the sideboard, and filled her glass until it was half-full. Liliana tried to sit up, so I put the glass on the sideboard, and sat on the edge of the bed to support her back.
“Please lean on me. I don’t want you to collapse.”
“I wouldn’t even mind if there are ten of you leaning on me.”
After I teased her, Liliana’s expression eased a little as she leaned on my chest. I handed her the glass and gently helped her drink. I then received the empty glass. When I asked if she wanted a replacement, Liliana shook her head.
Perhaps, she had calmed down after having drunk the water. As she looked down, Liliana seemed to notice that her attire had changed from a dress to silk nightwear.
“Oh, my clothes…”
I thought of the words of Elsa and Dr. Morgan. As she stared towards me, Liliana’s face was deep blue. I once again reassured her and patted her thin shoulders.
“I told Elsa and Melissa to help you change, and they told me that your skin wasn’t seen due to the fact that they didn’t remove everything. At the same time, Elsa also said that she’d change your clothes if you felt sweaty and unpleasant.”
In an easy-to-understand manner, Liliana relaxed her expression.
At the same time, she hesitantly looked up at me with a frightened expression.
“I, I’m truly sorry… Even though my husband has invited me…”
“Don’t worry. Everyone gets sick. I can’t really blame Liliana after I, myself, stupidly fell and lost his memory.”
I wanted to lighten Liliana’s heart as much as possible, but it had proven to be quite a difficult task.
The sloppy and interrupted conversation invited silence. Liliana, who didn’t speak much about herself, and I, who didn’t know anything about her, had no recollections or topics to talk to her about.
However, I felt that our relationship wasn’t progressing much, and I gradually felt impatient.
As a result of the impatience, instead of asking for the reason behind her worry, the topic that I was most concerned about came out.
“By the way, who’s Cedric?”
After saying that, I thought that I was done for.
However, my mouth didn’t stop.
“That, was the two of you engaged? Our marriage is political in nature… Therefore, was there a man whom you’ve promised to get married with?”
I thought that I’d regret saying those words. However, I had passed the point of no return. There was no way to retract those questions back. I prayed that my face was that of a calm, adult man in front of Liliana.
Liliana looked up at me.
“Cedric is my stepbrother.”
“Since my husband has lost his memory, it’s no wonder that he doesn’t remember. Besides, you’ve never met him. Cedric is my younger brother, who’s seven years younger than me. Did Elsa mention him to you? He’s very kind. Back when he was a child, he was truly fond of me, and even proposed to me.”
“O, oh, I see… A stepbrother, ah, a younger brother, then that’s no problem, after all, it’s with your younger brother, it’s because he’s your younger brother!”
My cheeks loosened without permission. From under her pillow, Liliana reached out for a white bag. The cloth was embroidered with the motifs of flowers and birds. Seeing that she was faltering, I casually encircled my hand around her slender waist, but Liliana didn’t seem to notice. She was too excited about the contents of the bag.
What Liliana took out was a bunch of letters.
“We’d exchange letters like this once a month, but I haven’t received it yet this month… Even though it should’ve arrived…”
Liliana anxiously stroked the letter. A childish handwritten spelled her address, “To my favorite sister, Lily.”
Liliana took out the contents and spread them out. The same letters wrote of the sender’s latest situation. He said that the roses in the garden had bloomed, that his tutor praised him, that he secretly read an adventure novel—
—and finally, that he wanted to meet his sister.
I noticed that the letters were blurred.
Her thin fingers gently traced those letters; the movement was akin to caressing a child’s cheek.
I had an inkling as to why the ink was blurred.
Perhaps, it was due to her tears.
“My father and stepmother… They love Margaret a lot, but the same couldn’t be said about Cedric. They only cared about him succeeding the family. Usually, my father and stepsister would direct their frustration towards me… But now, I’m worried that young Cedric might be their new target…”
Before I lost my memory, I had no interest in Liliana. With that in mind, there was no way of me knowing about her brother. Especially because Liliana and I barely interacted. Therefore, I wasn’t aware that she was thinking about her younger brother or couldn’t visit her parents’ house or even invite her younger brother as a guest. It was easy to imagine the reason why Liliana couldn’t afford to mention those things to me.
Over the past year, what did she feel when she received the letters from her younger brother? How did she write the reply?
But apart from that, I remembered that I had hesitated upon asking a certain question.
“…Is it related to what you were distraught about?”
Her thin back, which leaned against me, shook astonishingly. Realizing that her hand, which was holding the letter, was shaking, I knew that I shouldn’t have asked that. I hurriedly retracted those words.
“Forgive me, it’s but a rant. Just forget about it… Liliana?”
With a weak force, her hand gripped mine.
I noticed that Liliana had placed the letter on her lap as she gently took my hand.
“…A-about once a month…”
She spun her words in a quivering voice. I was about to tell her to stop by calling her name.
“…My family would spend time together. At that time, my stepmother summoned me to the living room. Usually, my stepmother and stepsister would be the only ones who’re present. My father was mostly away, and Cedric would stay away. Because stepmother said she felt nauseous when she saw his face, Cedric listened to her and left the room as I entered. Knowing that my father, stepmother, and stepsister aren’t particularly fond of Cedric, I didn’t stop him.”
As she held on to my hand, I embraced her thin waist.
“When I entered the room… I was told to sit on an uncarpeted floor. After I had sat down, a soup was placed on the floor, and I was given a teaspoon. Then, stepmother said, ‘—Are you going to behave tonight? If even one drop of soup is spilled, you’d be whipped and would have to go without a meal for the time being.’ However, it was truly difficult. I couldn’t hold the plate, nor could I bend down. The teaspoon is also very small… And above all, my hands were trembling due to fear. Each time, I inevitably spilled a drop. Every time, they’d smirk, ridiculing how unsightly and filthy I was… They were waiting for me to spill the soup…”
Her grip had strengthened. Liliana slowly exhaled, seemingly enduring something.
“Liliana, you don’t have to force yourself to talk.”
Liliana stubbornly shook her head. I squeezed her thin hand, taking care to not hurt her.
“Afterwards, my stepmother took out the whip and struck my hands, shoulders, and back as originally promised. When stepmother feels like it, it’d be my stepsister’s turn to whip me. After they were happy, I’d be allowed to return to my room. I’d have to thank them for their guidance. Then, I would have to go without meals for three days… Occasionally, they’d also come into my room to whip me. However, I didn’t mind, as long as Cedric doesn’t have to go through the same thing.”
I was so overcome with emotions I became speechless.
To use a whip as part of disciplining—it was just unthinkable. Not to mention towards their own daughter. I didn’t think it was to discipline her at all.
Recalling how she begged for her father’s forgiveness in my arm, I inadvertently embraced Liliana from behind. Our hands were connected. With such a slender and delicate body, which felt as if it’d break if I were to exert force, how much pain, sorrow, and fear had Liliana endured? But still, she only thought of her younger brother. What a strong and kind woman she was!
“After I was whipped, Cedric would always cry at my bedside until he had fallen asleep. He was a gentle little brother who’d squeeze my hand as he cried, thinking of me, who couldn’t move due to all the pain…”
A tearful voice descended into the quiet room.
Liliana wrapped her left hand in her right hand brought them to her lips as if looking for the warmth of her little brother.
“My husband, after I’m gone, do you think Cedric is crying in that house? Is he getting whipped in my place? None of his letters ever mentioned any of those things. Even if I wanted to know his actual circumstance, I have no servant to trust. Unfortunately, the apprentice stable boy who acts as an intermediary can’t read a letter, so I can’t request him through letter… Even though that boy is my only family…”
It was almost as if I was told that I wasn’t her family. But I had no right to correct or protest her words. I had never made any effort to become her family.
As I peered into her face, I took a breath, wondering if she was crying.
Liliana clenched her lips as she endured her tears. Her appearance, desperately trying to suppress her tears, was so painful that I hugged her.
“…You may cry.”
“…But, my husband said that he despises seeing a woman’s tears… I can’t possibly burden you any more than this…”
I terribly hated myself, wondering if I had said those words to her face despite having only met her three times.
Arthur said that Liliana and I only had what could be considered a conversation on the first night when I left her behind. If so, I might have thrown those words to her the night we first met as a couple.
Liliana twisted herself, trying to get out of my arms. Like a child, I refused to let her go. I drew her back and pressed her face against my chest.
“…This way, I wouldn’t be able to see your crying face. Therefore, it’s alright. Doubt me if you want, but I swear that I won’t hate you.”
My nose was immersed in her soft, pale gold hair.
Liliana had tensed up, but I couldn’t afford to let her go. I wrapped her cheeks with my hand, and lifted her head so that she’d face me.
Looking into her beautiful, star-colored eyes, I took her hand and pressed my lips against her palm. Staring at her as if begging, “Liliana.” I poured the entirety of my thoughts into the voice calling for her name.
“I was a dishonest and terrible husband. As a husband who lost his memory and can’t even recognize you as his wife, I’m fully aware of how selfish this wish sounded—Still, I… I want to be a real couple with you.”
Liliana was staring at me with awe.
I wrapped her cheeks with my hands.
“But… Once my husband regains his memory, I’m sure you’ll forget about me…”
Within my arms, Liliana smiled.
My chest was dominated by both pain and sadness.
Her ephemeral smile—it was as if she had given up on everything that she expected and hoped.
It was very beautiful, but also very sad.
“Remembering how much you despised me, I’m sure we’ll revert back to those times.”
“—There’s no such thing.”
Despite my quick denial, Liliana didn’t believe me. With a forlorn smile on her face, she gently pushed me away. Then, she smiled gently once again.
“…I’m already happy with how things are.”
“Then, I want you to be happier, Liliana.”
To crush the gap that she was trying to make between us, I embraced her.
“Before you’re crushed by the weights of everything you’re trying to endure, cry. You’re my precious wife. I swear I’ll never forget you again, so please trust me, Liliana.”
Akin to a whisper, I spoke softly in her ear.
“…You truly won’t hate me?”
She asked feebly as if to entrust me with her one and only wish. As I hugged her, I nodded a few times.
“Never. I swear to God, to my sword, and to you, Liliana—that I’d never.”
“…Even if you were to know my secret?”
I realized that Liliana was squeezing her left abdomen once again.
“No matter what secret you have.”
Liliana was silent, and I noticed how rapidly my heart was beating. Perhaps, it was because I was afraid that she’d reject me.
I exhaled in relief when I felt Liliana hesitantly reaching for me. Liliana pressed her face against my chest, and her thin shoulders began to tremble.
I could hear her muffled sobbing.
Liliana, who probably didn’t know how to cry properly, tried to muffle her sobs. Her slender hands, which didn’t know where to hold on to, were just clenching my shirt.
In the end, Liliana didn’t cry aloud, but she wet my chest with her tears until she was tired of crying and fell asleep.
I hugged her and laid down with her, making a resolute decision.
I’d make Liliana smile wholeheartedly.
Solely for that, I was willing to do anything.