005. Invitation (2)
It was a somewhat unexpected answer. Then again, any flower’s name coming from him would likely be unexpected. He was a beautiful person, but flowers seemed to be distant from him.
“Roses come in various colors. Do you happen to have a favorite color?”
However, it wasn’t a situation where she could show surprise in front of him. Lucia, as usual, smiled brightly and asked.
“Red roses tend to capture attention the most.”
Owen looked at Lucia’s red eyes as if he could swallow them, and his lips twitched.
“…So, you like red roses.”
Feeling the persistent gaze, Lucia, who was meeting his eyes, couldn’t help but sense it. She tried to retrieve an answer, striving to discern what was contained in his pitch-black pupils.
For some reason, Lucia felt like she was talking to herself, even though she knew better.
After walking for a few more minutes, the two finally stopped.
“Welcome to the Verdun Ducal Estate, my lady, sponsored by Duke Verdun.”
Spread before them was an enormous garden.
A truly vast and beautifully landscaped garden, full of blossoming flowers. Lucia, looking at the splendid scene with surprised eyes, spoke.
“It’s truly a beautiful place.”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. I understand why you wanted to show me this place.”
Lucia, her eyes sparkling, expressed her thoughts openly. She was straightforward about her desires and likes. She easily revealed them and often acted upon them. However, Owen was an exception.
“…I didn’t expect the lady to like it this much.”
“I like beautiful things.”
“And this place is more than beautiful. It’s overflowing with beauty. I’d want to have it.”
Lucia spoke her honest feelings.
The original Owen probably would have been disgusted with something like that. But that Owen was no more.
“Do you want to have this place?”
Owen asked, seemingly just genuinely curious. His words held neither disdain nor reproach. He was purely interested in her thoughts.
“That’s because it’s beautiful. It’s natural to want to have something beautiful, isn’t it?”
Lucia said as if it were obvious, flashing her typical radiant smile.
Owen liked her in this state. He initially thought it was because she didn’t take the novel character too seriously.
In reality, someone with such values could be a bit awkward. Wanting to have beautiful things was natural, she said.
It felt like someone who, if a bit off balance, might commit a crime.
“Yeah, that’s true.”
However, for some reason, even now that it had become reality, he still liked her. He wasn’t sure if it was just fan admiration or something more, but one thing was clear: it wasn’t only about her appearance.
He liked even these unrealistic aspects of her.
Instinct warned him that this wasn’t a good sign. If he easily accepted this fact and crossed this line, he felt a foreboding of reaching a more dangerous place.
Yet, for some reason, he had liked her even after it became a reality.
He knew it wasn’t a good thing. His instincts were warning him. If he easily accepted and crossed this line, it felt like he would reach a more dangerous place.
“It seems you understand, my lord.”
It was a warning that shouldn’t be ignored, but he dismissed it.
It seemed like he had crossed a dangerous river, but there was nothing he could do.
He liked her.
It meant he liked all of her, not just parts of her.
Denying that would be too dreadful.
“It’s not strange, is it? It’s instinctual.”
So, it was inevitable.
“That’s right, it’s instinctual.”
As Owen mumbled these words, Lucia was finally pleased to have met someone who understood her.
With an excited expression, she asked Owen, “Is there something you’d like to have, my lord?” at last.
Owen pondered for a moment at Lucia’s question. Something he’d like to have.
“…Something I want, huh?”
Owen, and ‘Owen’ as well, weren’t the types to have something they particularly desired.
No, that’s not right.
‘Owen’ wanted Bella.
But that was after Bella appeared.
Now, that future was nonexistent.
So, if not Owen, then who?
As Owen was lost in thought, a gust of wind tousled his shimmering hair.
He liked Lucia.
Whether it was fan admiration or something else, he liked her.
But he didn’t want to possess her.
Rather than wanting to have her, he’d prefer—.
Preferably, he wanted to give her what she desired in her hands.
“You already have everything.”
With an unassuming gaze, Lucia reached her own conclusion.
“Well, you are the lord sponsored by Viscount Verdun.”
She nodded, seemingly understanding.
As she said, Owen was a person who had everything.
The number of businesses he managed reached three digits, and the money he earned from those businesses allowed him to indulge endlessly in luxury.
For someone like that, there was nothing he couldn’t get.
Except for matters of the heart.
Since there were no lies, Owen nodded.
“You, too, can get whatever you want.”
Then he quickly changed the subject.
Lucia replied honestly.
“Except for one thing.”
Owen immediately sensed what that one thing was.
For anyone who had read “The Flower of the Empire” at least once, it was something they would know.
“Was there something you couldn’t have?”
Still, Owen pretended not to know.
If he made a wrong move, Lucia might catch on to the fact that he wasn’t ‘Owen’.
The original Owen didn’t know Lucia well, and certainly didn’t appreciate her obsession.
In such a situation, showing an understanding response to her obsession was impossible.
Having already accepted her invitation was enough to raise suspicions.
Because there were no lies, Owen nodded.
“I’m still working hard to get it.”
“Seems like you’re determined to get it.”
“I wanted it so badly. I was determined to get it no matter what. Luckily, the opportunity seems to have come.”
Owen understood what Lucia was trying to convey.
Perhaps it was because he seemed to be showing a gap to her lately.
He continued to contemplate.
Whether he should let her rush in more or block her.
The conclusion was quickly reached.
He had to meet her more.
Because she still didn’t understand his true feelings, he wanted to meet her and make her realize.
Actually, it was an excuse.
He just wanted to meet Lucia more.
He wanted to become close to her.
It was an ambition, but his feelings were genuine.
“One must seize opportunities. If you let them slip away, you’ll regret it forever.”
Owen casually fueled her possessiveness.
It was natural for something already burning brightly to intensify when it met fuel.
“…Yes, we should seize it.”
Lucia replied with possessive red eyes.
She stared at Owen for a while, then suddenly broke into a smile.
“Your Excellency, if it’s not too much trouble, may I make one request?”
In response to Lucia’s question, Owen calmly nodded.
Then Lucia spoke.
“I heard there’s a hunting competition in a month.”
Owen slowly responded to Lucia’s words.
He felt a sudden pang of confusion.
A hunting competition.
Although it was a setting from the original work, he had neglected to consider it due to many other concerns.
“Could you tie the ribbon I give you to your sword?”
Owen couldn’t easily answer.
In a hunting competition, a knight tying a ribbon to their sword held a special meaning. Usually, it was done between lovers, family members, or close friends.
If Lucia’s ribbon was attached to Owen’s sword—
It would undoubtedly spread rumors about an intimate relationship between the two.
Of course, Owen didn’t care about such things. He even thought it wouldn’t be bad if rumors circulated.
And if that was what Lucia wanted.
‘I need to practice.’
Although Owen had become somewhat accustomed to using a sword in his body, it was only to a certain extent. He had never used it as a weapon in real combat.
But jumping into real action right away was not an option.
‘…I need to practice.’
As Owen let out a faint sigh, Lucia bit her lower lip.
She was worried that she might have pushed too hard, or perhaps she had misunderstood and taken too much advantage of the situation.
“If it’s burdensome, you can refuse. If I’m being impolite—”
As Lucia was about to step back, Owen quickly grabbed her hand.
It was an unconscious action, and he didn’t consider that she might be embarrassed.
“That’s not it.”
Lucia stiffened at the warmth of their hands meeting again.
While she was staring blankly at the hand that Owen had grabbed, he spoke.
“Do as you wish.”
“During the hunting competition, tie the ribbon to my sword yourself.”
With his words, Lucia’s ears turned momentarily pink.
Whether Owen noticed her reaction or not, he casually adjusted his hand.
Holding hands to make it easier to walk.
“More importantly, there’s still much to see. Are you tired?”
At Owen’s question, Lucia nodded slightly.
Confirming her answer, Owen soon resumed walking.
Lucia followed him.
“Let’s walk a little more. There’s still much I want to show you.”
‘None. No purpose at all.’
Throughout the entire walk, Lucia vividly realized this fact.
‘These are just momentary whims, nothing more.’
Every word and action that came out of Owen’s mouth, every behavior he exhibited, proved it.
So that was the real issue.
Owen extended inexplicable kindness.
She had been around him for nearly three years.
The indifferent Owen, who had ignored her as if she were bothersome, was now offering such a wide opportunity.
Why was he acting so capriciously, doing things that didn’t make sense?
While not all human actions could be explained logically, at least Owen used to be such a person.
A person who could explain everything about him logically.
That was what made his capricious behavior so strange.
Lost in thought, perhaps because of her wandering gaze, Owen stopped walking and turned to look at her.
“…I might have forced you.”
Approaching her, he gently placed his hand on her cheek.
“You need to rest.”
“Oh, I’m fine.”
Although surprised by Owen’s hand on her cheek, Lucia thought she looked fine.
“No, you need to rest.”
Owen spoke briefly as he released Lucia, who thought she was perfectly fine.
“Is it really okay for you to have such a pale face?”
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