It wasn’t difficult at all to recognize that the man who saved her was Wilhelm.
Others might be surprised at how you can tell the difference between the common black hair and the scattered red eyes, but once you fell in love with one person, that distinction was a breeze.
But the man didn’t seem to recognize her.
She didn’t love her, so it was natural, but the moment she was about to feel sad…
‘What, you know it’s me?’
She couldn’t help but be sure from the trembling eyes and voice.
Anastasia wondered why he was pretending not to know her.
Does he think she didn’t know who he is?
‘It’s going well. Let’s take this opportunity to have an honest discussion.’
Unless it was now behind the mask, there was no opportunity to talk openly like this.
“Still, you shouldn’t say that on the first night of your wedding.”
The problem was that Wilhelm wasn’t too good at acting. Anastasia hurriedly changed her words to hide her embarrassment.
“That’s right. So what should I do? I like my husband so much, he thinks of me as a friend even if he treats me well.”
“… I don’t know about that…”
“I don’t know why my husband pushes me away. In fact, in the past, I had bad conduct and rumors, but… Now I’ve been reflecting a lot and am trying to become a new person.”
Anastasia asked Wilhelm with a serious, curious expression.
“Is my husband’s reluctance because of my past?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Then what do you think it is?”
“Well, my guess is that most people don’t love.”
Wilhelm opened his mouth after thinking quite long.
“They are strangers to love. People who lived far from love.”
“So it’s going to be hard to get your feet in there. They would think of it as a terrifying unknown world.”
“Then do I have to wait? I don’t have time.”
“You don’t have time?”
“… That is.”
Anastasia hesitated to answer.
“My husband might end up loving someone other than me.”
“It will never happen.”
“Why are you so sure?”
At the look of suspicion from Anastasia, Wilhelm swallowed his dry saliva and responded quickly.
“Perhaps your husband is not interested in love at all.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying. If one day a fateful opponent appears… You can be passionate about your partner, as if you were born to love.”
Anastasia’s mouth, who knows the original work, said. She continued after a brief silence.
“I keep dreading that day. And before that day comes and it hurts so badly, I will try to make a decision.”
“Do you mean…”
Wilhelm asked in a panic for a moment.
“You really want to bring in a paramour…?”
“I won’t do that. It meant I was going to reconsider my marriage.”
“Is it possible that your husband does not perform any duties other than love?”
Wilhelm asked in a tone of sudden urgency.
“Respecting his wife and caring…”
“Of course. My husband is a sweet and responsible person.”
Anastasia nodded her head. Wilhelm’s expression turned a little relieved at that moment.
“All I want is love, not the kindness you might show to a friend.”
Anastasia, who exhaled desperately, burst into tears and bit her lip.
“I think I just have to give up. I feel like I’m becoming a bad person. I feel like I’m forcing my feelings on someone who doesn’t like me.”
Anastasia’s eyes reddened as she spoke up to that point, and Wilhelm asked, more bewildered than ever, at her face that looked like she was about to cry.
“Are you okay?”
Anastasia, who gave a simple reply, quickly changed her stance.
“No, actually, it’s not okay. Honestly, it’s so hard. So, why are you so uselessly handsome! If he had been a little less handsome, I wouldn’t have been in love with him.”
“No, it’s nothing to be sorry about. My husband is handsome.”
“… That’s it.”
Wilhelm, who answered with a somewhat confused expression, spoke about the problem he had been concerned about the whole time.
“By the way, you said that you were married by arrangement… Is there any way to get a divorce? If the family opposes…”
“Well, there must be at least one woman with similar conditions to replace me. If such a person appears, he will let me go without any regrets.”
“… There is not.”
“A person who can replace… There is no such person.”
After a long time, the answer with an enlightened expression was flat.
‘I’m sure it’s the case right now.’
But what if Avelin showed up? He didn’t like her as a woman after all.
“I have to go see my wife.”
Anastasia was perplexed by Wilhelm’s words at that time.
Suddenly? Here? Why?
“I have something I must say now. You should go now, too. Your husband will be waiting for you.”
“No, my husband is not interested in me…”
“I will be waiting.”
At that moment, Wilhelm suddenly grabbed Anastasia’s hand and said.
Anastasia almost screamed at the sudden touch.
She was working hard to manage her expression, but Wilhelm did not notice the strangeness of the situation now, so there was no change in his expression.
“Come on. He might be looking for his wife.”
“… I see.”
Anastasia struggled to ignore her pounding heart, and she pulled her hand from Wilhelm’s.
With the thought that she had to go back to the Empress’ Palace right now.
Anastasia hastily returned to the Empress’ Palace.
She took off her mask and changed her dress, and she waited for Wilhelm.
‘Did you say you were coming to see me?’
There was nothing to say even if he didn’t come at this rate.
But Anastasia wanted to look forward to it. It was a desperate wish, to be exact. Please, she wants him to take a good look at her once in a while.
How long had it been
“Your Majesty the Empress.”
Mrs. Rochester approached Anastasia with a surprised expression.
“The Emperor has come.”
Anastasia stood up from her seat with a surprised expression. Wilhelm was walking into the room just like he was at the masquerade.
“I see you, the sun of the empire, Your Majesty the Emperor.”
As if he had come in a hurry, his breathing was a little rough.
“Fortunately, you haven’t slept yet. Thank god.”
“What’s going on tonight…”
“I have something to tell you.”
“Then I’ll take you to the drawing room…”
Wilhelm shook his head and asked.
“I want to walk the garden together. Is that okay?”
It was completely unexpected to this extent. Anastasia glanced at Wilhelm’s face as she walked beside him with her trembling heart.
He offered to go for a walk, and he was just walking without saying a word. But he wasn’t walking without thinking, his breathing was changing every moment.
Like someone who was in deep thought.
“I’m always looking for Your Majesty, and it’s refreshing to see Your Majesty come in person.”
Eventually, Anastasia broke the silence first.
“What do you want to say to me?”
In fact, she was worried. Hearing his intentions, she guessed he came first to announce the end of this relationship with the decision not to hurt her any more.
‘Then what should I do…?’
That was the moment. His firm arms suddenly gently embraced Anastasia’s delicate body.
Anastasia let out her bewildered moans at his unexpected embrace, as she heard his soft whispers.
“I-I came to realize it too late.”
Wilhelm’s confession continued while Anastasia’s eyes clouded at the unknown words.
“I thought the reason I couldn’t accept your heart was because I didn’t like you. I thought my heart was interested in you just as a companion.”
“No. It wasn’t you… You cannot be replaced by anyone.”
Wilhelm exhaled, tightening the arms around holding Anastasia.
“Even if such a person appears and gives me a choice.”
Anastasia’s heart began to beat faster. She waited for Wilhelm’s next words, feeling dizzy from her rapidly beating heart.
“I don’t think I want to let you go.”
“I don’t know what this feeling is.”
Wilhelm looked at Anastasia again.
Had there ever been a time when his eyes looked at her in such a desperate and affectionate way?
Anastasia felt her heart burst when she saw his wet eyes. Her whole body burned with excitement that could not be explained clearly.
“I want you to stay by my side. I want you to smile at me and tell me that you like me.”
“I… Is it too late? Am I being too greedy?”
After a while, Anastasia barely opened her mouth to answer.
“Of course not.”
Anastasia shook her head as her eyes filled with tears.
“It’s never too late.”
It really was. She had only suffered heartbreak for three months.
Compared to the size of her mind that she had to organize for the remaining two years and nine months, that much mental hardship was like child’s play. So she had no choice but to say thank you.
“Thank you for putting me in your heart before it’s too late. Actually, I was getting tired.”
“Sorry for making you tired.”
Wilhelm hugged Anastasia again.
It was an unexpected repetition of hugs, but this time she wasn’t as surprised as before. Her happiness overwhelmed her surprise.
“I will work hard so that you don’t feel like that in the future, and that I can repay the kindness you gave me.”
Anastasia smiled brightly like someone who had heard him say that she would surely pick the stars in the night sky.
And he held her tightly in his arms, as if glued on it. She then quietly spoke her words.
“By the way, Your Majesty, what you said earlier. You said I can’t be replaced by anyone.”
Anastasia asked in a slightly trembling voice.
“If I’m a fake, what would you do if the real thing appeared instead of a replacement?”
“Fake? Really? People are not objects, you’re saying strange things.”
“Just… It’s family.”
“Even if that happens, my heart won’t change.”
Anastasia looked at Wilhelm with a slightly startled expression.
“Really, there is no such thing as a fake. A person is not something that can be replaced by someone else.”
“All that matters to me is you, Anastasia.”
A faint smile crossed Anastasia’s lips at those words. It didn’t matter even if these words were futile rhetoric created by the hot emotions of the moment.
Just by confirming that he had these kinds of feelings for her, even for a moment, was enough for Anastasia to be satisfied.