101. Goodbye first love

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 The smell of ink, the scratching sound of a pen’s nib, and the shadows of piles of paper falling over their hands were exactly the same as tomorrow. In a space where the air seemed to have stopped, rather than silence, Violette repeated the same work mindlessly. The occasional voice heard from outside sounded like a roar in the silent atmosphere. There weren’t any conversations between the two of them. The two were just doing their own work at such a distance that they couldn’t even see each other’s expressions.



 They were once in love, and once loved.

 And now – what is the relationship between Violette and Claudia now?




****



 It was after school. Violette was staying in the school to extend her time to go home as usual, but Claudia happened to find her, and this is how the current situation came to be.

 Claudia took his seat at the desk in the study as the chairman of the board, while Violette used the sofa and table that were supposed to be used for reception to organize documents. Mirania, who was supposed to be there, was away on other business, and the other members have yet to be decided. The two of them were getting used to using the office by themselves, but the situation where time, workload, and number of people were out of proportion was not something that can be managed by getting used to it.

 Violette, who was invited to help out for the first time, agreed that there was no problem helping Claudia in his work. And because of Violette’s help, it seemed that they had a good chance of getting today’s work done. Claudia’s face, which had been staring at the stack of papers with a furrowed brow since a while ago, was deeply etched with the color of fatigue.



“Claudia-sama, let’s take a break.”



“Are you tired? Let’s call someone……”



“Not me, I meant Claudia-sama should take a break.”



 Claudia looked at Violette for a moment who stood up, interrupting Claudia’s words as she reached for the bell. The one who needed a break here was not her, who was just helping out, but Claudia, who was about to be crushed by the enormous amount of work and fatigue.

 It seemed that Claudia thought that she needed a break before the work was finished, but it was him who needed it. It would be difficult for him to even make a correct judgment when he is tired. Sometimes it’s better to rest for a while than to bury yourself in work and tired yourself out.



“If you don’t do it now, you’ll be incapable of doing more important things later. It would be better to rest for a while and take a nap if you want.”



 Violette asked the waiter waiting outside the door for a hot drink and something sweet that would be easy to digest and turned back to Claudia. Claudia seemed to be still in a daze and taking a while to understand what was being said. His eyes widened after understanding everything, and he looked surprised at Violette’s actions and remarks.

 The expression on his face seemed very similar to Yulan’s when he was unable to react quickly and became dumbfounded.



(…… Like Yulan, huh?)



 The truth was that Yulan is a lot like Claudia, and they probably have too much in common for anyone to notice.

 Violette thought that the resemblance she found between Claudia and Yulan was something she would never have found in the past. On the contrary, she would have been looking for the fragment of Claudia in Yulan, piling up feelings for her. She knew better than anyone how foolish and meaningless it was to look for a shadow of someone else by overlapping them with someone else.



 Whoever she was looking at, she would try to find the resembles. Because she wanted them to burn it into her, so that it could take root in her heart and never leave her. The love that existed naturally inside of her was always warm and feverish. And her eyes, ears, nose, and all five of her senses were always longing for that person.



 When she was thinking of Claudia, Violette’s heart was so burned out that it felt as if it would collapse at any moment. She thought that her overly strong ambition and greed were love, and she anointed herself with oil as if she was burning up but it wasn’t enough. She believed that there would be a happy ending to love after she had burned herself, and someone else, to the ground.



“…… let’s take a little break.”



 Claudia, who seemed to have given up on the idea, sighed heavily and stood up as the tea was brought to him. He sank down on the sofa across from where Violette had been sitting earlier and averted his gaze a little uncomfortably. He was always arrogant and proud of his responsibility as a prince, but for some reason, he surprisingly looked like a child.



“…………”



 Claudia sipped from his warm cup and then exhaled slowly. He was probably more tired than he realized, and it would be a little better if he could relax properly. Violette’s gaze was softer than before, and she felt relieved that she could make him take a break.



 She had only dreamed of spending a peaceful tea time with him before. She had wanted it so badly that she could not believe that on the day she would actually meet him, her view of the world would have changed so much. Violette, who was obsessed with her love for him, could never have seen this. She ran wildly without looking around, trampling all kinds of possibilities, just for the sake of getting his love.

 But things seemed to have changed. And what has changed was Violette. The person in front of her was still the same as before, but she has given up her mind on loving him. Her various desires, and hopes to become his shadow within a period of one year were gone now. This change was the result of her own efforts.



 If it was the case previously, then even Violette in her previous life would have had the possibility to welcome such a day.



 But now, she could look back. She felt like she could finally accept the things she had tried so hard to avoid looking at, and also the memories she didn’t want to remember. When she became aware of her feelings for Yulan, she realized the people she couldn’t see around him.



“Claudia-sama.”



“Hmm……?”


“I apologize for any inconvenience that I have caused you.”



 After setting down his cup, Claudia slowly looked at her. Violette should have apologized earlier for her past behavior, but until today, she had not been able to face up to her sins.

 She was sure that even now she still does not feel that she was the only one to blame. She couldn’t deny that she felt like a victim because she had no choice but to do what she did. She still felt sorry for herself, and has given up on the environment that never changes. When she was born into that family, she would never be honestly sorry for the sins she once committed. In a corner of her mind, the unquenchable embers of ‘It’s your fault’ continued to smolder.



 But her actions towards Claudia were her sins.



 In those days, Claudia, who was bothered by her, was not at fault. It was natural to reject unacceptable feelings, and Violette’s behavior was nothing more than an insidious bad move. If Violette was hurt, if she was in a difficult position and environment, she shouldn’t pour her hunger of love out on an unrelated third party. It was an annoying act of taking it out on him, no matter what excuses she pasted on it.



 She didn’t want to look away, pretend to give up, and reaffirm her ugly side. She didn’t want to realize that even though she was a sinner, she was still the kind of person who would say it wasn’t her fault. She didn’t want anyone, even herself, to know that it was all the fault of those around her that led Violette to that prison, that she had only sinned as a result – that she felt that way and could not properly reflect on her actions.

 If she said nothing, no one would blame her. Violette was the only one who knew about those days, and Claudia did not remember Violette’s true sins.



 Still, what she wanted to say was just for her own self-satisfaction. An apology not for Claudia, but just for herself. She had to face the fact that she had ended her unrequited love properly. Otherwise, she would be left behind in that prison and would not be able to move on.

 She could no longer live in a world where she was alone her whole life, and even died alone. She couldn’t be satisfied with just giving up, being swept away, and waiting for it to end. There were people she wanted to hold hands with, people she wanted to be with, people she just wanted to be allowed to live thinking about, even if they didn’t reward her.



 So she decided to bring the curtain down on her first love, which took her down on a path that made no one happy.

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