How to Tame My Beastly Husband — Chapter 37. Silent Rage
This chapter has been re-worked by Regan
What the hell did that mean? Annette paused, waiting for more details, but Railin just smiled at her, and said nothing more.
“It isn’t good to avoid one’s problems,” she said, lifting her chin. She made an aristocratic little figure, with elegance imprinted into her bones. “Sometimes there are things we ought to face ourselves. I will go out the front door, thank you, whatever is waiting there.”
“Please,” Railin said, bowing. “Do as you wish.”
He showed her out. He was privately certain that Annette would regret it, but he enjoyed his games too much to give her any further hints. When she said some things we have to face ourselves, his bewitching face had twitched into a nasty smile.
Pulling her hat firmly down onto her head to conceal her face, Annette moved confidently to the exit.
It took less than five minutes for her to regret ignoring Railin’s advice.
Why did I listen to me?!
No doubt, as a principle, it was better to face one’s problems, but in practice the Crown Prince Ludwig was standing before her, and Annette would have liked to slap herself.
“Annette,” Ludwig called carefully. His long silver hair was tied back, and his delicate face was already wobbling, as if it had been cast from crystal and might shatter at any moment. It made her want to cry with him. Celestine was his fiancée now. Why did he keep chasing after her?
“Annette, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” he said, approaching her with a mournful expression, only for the branches of a nearby tree to rake over his head. He was a tall man and so beautiful, she had sometimes wondered if he was a prince who had wandered out of his fairy tale. But contrary to this graceful appearance, Ludwig was so clumsy, he could have managed to break his nose if he fell backwards in an empty room.
It was especially ironic given that his half-brother was a prodigy with a sword, and very nearly a Sword Master.
“Your Highness,” she said, gently placing her handkerchief against his forehead. “How did you get here? Did you follow me?”
Her voice was soft, but both her eyes and her tone were quite firm. She had worn a veiled hat to visit the Guild of Secrets. It concealed her down to her neck, and still Ludwig had called out her name the moment he saw her. Romantic persons might have thought: ah, the power of Love! But the city gossips would not be so charitable. If they were spotted, they would immediately assume that she had somehow followed the Crown Prince, or arranged to meet him.
And now he had exposed her identity. For a married woman, nothing good could come of this. Seeing Annette’s wary expression, Ludwig came no closer.
“I know this is a nuisance for you,” he said, looking very lonely. “I do know that. But…I couldn’t stand it. It’s so awful. There is no one I can trust to bare my heart. There’s no one but you.”
His silver eyelashes lowered wistfully. His blue eyes were filled with a terrible loneliness and pain. It was such a pitiful sight that any woman who saw it would have been moved to comfort him.
“You already have a fiancée,” she returned, without any malice. “And there are many people who would like to speak with Your Highness about your land. You are only like this because you will not respond to them. Please open your heart and make new connections. Relationships are important for royalty.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you knew what it was like! Celestine, she’s…she’s so different from you, I can’t even compare. I…Annette, I can’t imagine ever marrying her…”
His emotions were everywhere, and he finally burst into tears. Ludwig had a sensitive disposition, more suited to a musician than a royal, and he had always been anxious. Annette had always tried to cheer him up when she was by his side. Viewed in the most positive possible way, she was a pillar of strength for him, supporting him emotionally. But in practical terms…
She was his wailing wall. His emotional caretaker. His nurse.
Calmly, Annette assessed the truth of the situation. What if Ludwig had hit it off with Lady Keers? Would he still be clinging to Annette this way, if he had? Did he even like Annette as a woman? Or was he just relying on her for nurturing, the maternal love he had been denied?
Either way, it didn’t matter anymore.
“Annette, please.” Tears flowed from his blue eyes, filled with agony. “Don’t push me away so coldly. If you do this to me, I don’t know…”
His hands trembled as he reached for her, pressing his forehead to the back of her hand. It was as if he were praying for her help, begging. Like an angel kneeling before her and worshiping with reverence.
Annette was not moved. She had come to the Guild of Secrets with the intent to leave Raphael, and even if her mind was made up, she was still Raphael’s wife now. Even if she accepted Ludwig’s affections out of pity, she would still end up hurting Raphael later. And if she had to hurt one of them, it was the right choice to hurt Ludwig.
“Your Highness, I am very sorry for the pain you feel right now. I sincerely hope that you will be able to find peace and be happy. But I cannot help you do that. I am married now to someone else.”
Gently, she pulled her hand from his grasp and took a determined step backward, drawing a line between them. She listened to his complaints, but she did not approach to comfort him. There would be no misunderstandings between herself and Raphael later. She was not so softhearted that she would indulge such immature behavior.
Ludwig gazed at his empty hand. His breathing slowed, and his beautiful face distorted with despair.
“Raphael. That damn Raphael! He’s all everyone ever talks about! It would have been better if he was the Crown Prince, wouldn’t it? Even Father thinks so!”
Ludwig’s bloodshot eyes looked so similar to Raphael’s. Ludwig was usually a quiet person. Annette had never heard him shout like this, pulling at his beautiful silver hair, clearly wounded deeply to his heart.
“Then why the hell was I born? What is my purpose? If I hadn’t been born, Raphael would be the heir to the throne! He took everything from me, my father, my reputation, my…even you, Annette, even you!”
Listening to him, Annette sighed inwardly. King Selgratis must have compared Ludwig to Raphael again. He was a good king, but he had never been a good father, and he had always been displeased that his only legitimate son was a soft man, unfit to rule, a musician that liked to play the lute. He had often insulted Ludwig by comparing him to his half-brother.
Ludwig was very sensitive. His father’s attitude deeply distressed him, and he longed to be acknowledged. Sometimes, it drove him nearly to madness.
“Tell me, Annette,” he demanded. “Do you think the same? Is Raphael more capable than I? Is that why you’re being so cold, and pushing me away? I am not even a man in your eyes, compared to the great Raphael Carnesis!”
A tear streaked from his blue eyes. He had come seeking comfort for his broken heart, and only found more pain. From the moment they met each other as children, Annette had been his only companion. To be rejected by her was like the end of the world.
Annette closed her eyes. Ludwig was not a bad person. But he was very weak, and quick to depend on others. Annette had always been kind to people who needed her, but she couldn’t do that now. Not when it was Ludwig who always picked on Raphael.
Raphael also had not had a comfortable life. Now, everyone thought him a man that lacked nothing but lineage: favored by the King, an outstanding swordsman, famous among the people, and now granted the title of Marquis. But Raphael had earned all of that. Unlike Ludwig, he had gritted his teeth and ground his bones for everything he had.
“Prince Ludwig,” Annette said coldly.
It was the first time she had ever said his name like that, and Ludwig was stunned when he met her eyes. Like looking like a stranger. Just by saying his name, she had shifted the tone of the conversation.
“I honestly do not understand this situation very well. You know that I was falsely accused, and Your Highness chose to let go of my hand. Of course, I know at the time that it was a difficult situation, unfavorable to you. But if I was as precious to you as you claim, you ought to have protected me. Am I wrong?”
“Annette, th-that…listen, back then, I…”
“No, Your Highness must listen to me. At the time, you were afraid of His Majesty’s wrath, and so you let me go. I was not only removed as candidate for your princess, but was then married to someone else, as if I were being sold. It is clear that I was most damaged by this situation, but instead of blaming Your Highness for my losses, I tried to understand you. And now you come and reproach me for it?”
Her voice was not self-pitying, nor was it filled with anger. The charge was calmly stated, as if she were reading words from a book. But every word struck Ludwig like a blow. It hurt like hell.
But Annette was not done. The rage she had never voiced was just beginning to break through.