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I Don’t Care About Being Liked by the Capture Targets. I Will Be Myself and Free! – Chapter 24

Chapter 24: Encounter with a Mysterious Boy (Part 7)

Zach Neal separated, and she watched him leave the lake.

When Chloe peeks behind the hydrangea bushes――.

“Marion?!”

She unintentionally raises her voice in surprise.

This is because Marion, who is sitting with her knees hugged, is shedding tears.

“What happened?!”

Has she been hiding for so long that her legs have gone numb?

Chloe remembers it clearly.

It was certainly painful enough to make her cry.

However, contrary to Chloe’s expectations, Marion stands up straight.

She doesn’t have one leg awkwardly floating in the air.

It seems that it has nothing to do with numbness.

“I’m sorry. I’m just happy.”

“Huh. . .?”

“It’s the first time someone has protected me like this.”

Chloe manages to swallow the words “Is that all?”.

Come to think of it, Marion said she had never had a friend before.

Although it may not be a big deal for Chloe, it must have been so happy for Marion that she cried.

(A first friend, huh. . .)

The first friend, the first person to be kind to her.

The emotional connection that person taught her.

(It’s certainly something special.)

If she remembers Steed’s encounter, she can understand Marion’s feelings.

However, it feels strange to think that she has shaken someone’s emotions so much.

Her back starts to itch.

Probably, yes, because of embarrassment.

“Chloe? You’re frowning. . .Are you angry?”

“Huh?! N-No, of course not!”

She feels like taking a blunt attitude to hide her embarrassment, but she holds back.

She didn’t want to trample on Marion’s happiness.

Handing Marion a handkerchief and telling her to wipe her tears, Chloe secretly vowed.

(I want to cherish this child as my friend too.)

Especially if Marion doesn’t have any other friends.

Of course, she knows that Marion could be a destructive force in her life.

If asked if she has thought about it properly, she would have to say no.

(If I tell Steed about today, he will definitely lecture me.)

Steed may be cheesy and sweet to Chloe, but surprisingly, he can be quite naggy.

Imagining Steed’s nagging made Chloe feel depressed, so she sighed and quickly changed the subject.

It’s Chloe’s bad habit to think that everything will work out in the end, even if a troublesome problem arises.

Her mother scolded her for it all the time.

It seems difficult to fix the problem at this point. 

(If it becomes so troublesome that I die from this bad habit in the future, I may need to face it. 

This is a matter of personality, and I’m not suited to persistently thinking about it forever. 

Besides, the problem with Zach Neal is more urgent now!)

Prioritizing Zach Neal is definitely the right thing to do.

Believing so, Chloe quickly switched her mindset.

“Hey, why was Marion being searched for by Zach Neal? I told him that I was Marion, and he invited me out tomorrow afternoon. . .Was that a bad move? I wanted to protect you, but ended up doing something unnecessary. I’m sorry.”

“No way! Don’t apologize! Thanks to Chloe, I wasn’t found. I’m the one who should apologize for involving Chloe. . .”

“Oh, don’t worry about that. I did it because I wanted to.”

“Chloe. . .You’re really a good person. . .”

Marion, moved to tears, hugs Chloe tightly.

“Huh?! Wait, Marion. . .?!”

“I won’t forget the kindness you showed me! I’ll definitely repay you someday!”

As she is hugged tightly and her cheek is pressed against Chloe’s, her cheeks become hot.

This is the first time she has received such a straightforward expression of friendship.

Steed and Roland wouldn’t go this far, after all.

(Certainly, this is a distance that is allowed between friends of the same sex.)

She doesn’t hate it, but she is so embarrassed that she can’t stand it.

“Marion, um, I understand that you were moved, but could you let go of me soon?”

After hugging her tightly one last time, Marion releases Chloe.

(I thought she was a quiet child, but she’s surprisingly passionate. . .)

To hide her still-hot cheeks, Chloe turns away and fixes her messy hair.

“I want to be a good person like you too.”

“Hmm.”

She frowns at the remark.

She was called a good person twice.

Chloe aims to be a “villain,” not someone who is called a “good person!”

“You know, Marion. If you’re going to compliment me, you have to say ‘villainess!’”

“Eh? What makes you a villainess?”

“. . .!”

“Chloe comforted me when I was crying. She’s a very kind person.”

Marion smiles happily.

Chloe feels like she’s been hit in the head with a blunt object.

What on earth is going on?

Not only was she called a “good person,” but also a “kind person.”

(I still have a long way to go. . .)

She wants to change that impression no matter what, but she has become friends with Marion.

There will be plenty of opportunities for Marion to get to know the real Chloe from now on.

(But let’s get back to the topic.)

“Can you explain about Zach Neal within your knowledge?”

“Of course. It’s embarrassing, but I’ll tell you. . .”

After nodding back, Marion hesitated awkwardly and then began to explain.

Marion’s story surprised Chloe quite a bit.

It turns out that there is talk of an engagement between her and Zach Neal.

Marion’s family, the Viscount Berry family, is a prestigious aristocratic family with territory to the north.

However, the family is in dire financial straits and is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Come to think of it, Steed mentioned something like that.

The heroine is a bankrupt daughter――.

On the other hand, the Neal family is a wealthy family that made their fortune in forestry, although they do not hold a title.

Moreover, Zach was the eldest son of the Neal family.

Marion’s parents desperately wanted the engagement to succeed as the only way to rebuild the Viscount family.

For the Neal family, it was an unparalleled opportunity to gain a connection with a prestigious family through money.

Without confirming Marion’s intentions, the engagement talks continued to progress, and finally, the day of the face-to-face meeting arrived.

That day was today.

Marion murmured with a sad face, ‘I understand it’s beneficial for both families.’

“But. . .I have a dream. I want to become a doctor and cure Okaa-sama’s illness.”

“Well! That’s a wonderful dream.”

“Thank you. But as soon as I get engaged, that dream will die.”

Women are expected to enter the household as soon as they get married.

But if she wants to become a doctor, she has to go to university and study medicine.

“My parents intend to marry me off as soon as I graduate from the Royal Academy at eighteen.”

“I see. . .”

At the point of engagement, the path to university is certainly cut off.

Her dream will die.

The words Marion spoke earlier left a heavy weight on Chloe’s heart.

As someone who also pursues a dream, she can understand her pain well.

If someone were to order her to stop aiming to become a villainess――

(I would rebel, scream, and resist with all my might.)

Marion seems to have taken action in the same way, even if she didn’t go as far as to rebel.

She received advice from her maid allies, dressed as a man, and ran away from the debutante ball.

“Fufu. So that’s why you were dressed as a man. Well done.”

Chloe became even more fond of Marion for her boldness.

She now understands Marion’s situation.

(Oh? But that’s strange?)

Steed gave Chloe various information about Marion.

(But the engagement is news to me.)

She hasn’t even heard the story about Marion dreaming of becoming a doctor.

Why didn’t Steed mention it?

It felt strange that he forgot to tell her.

If Chloe had known that Marion was cross-dressing in this summer resort, she would have been more cautious in her actions.

(But thanks to that, I became friends with Marion, so it’s okay.)

As Chloe ponders, Marion lets out a sad sigh beside her.

“Maybe running away was a mistake after all. It doesn’t solve the problem. We have to face it and do something about it.”

“Do you have any specific ideas on what to do?”

“Well. . .I’ll try to behave in a way that makes Zach Neal-san dislike me. Maybe he’ll get sick of me and reject me himself?”

Upon hearing Marion’s words, Chloe remembers Zach Neal.

There’s no way that Marion can handle that unpredictable troublemaker boy. It’s impossible.

“Oh! I know! I’ll play that role for you!”

“Huh?!”

“Since I’m already pretending to be Marion, he still believes it.”

“But, but. . .”

“Or does Marion have confidence that he will dislike her?”

“W-Well. . .”

“Zach Neal is quite a twisted person. I’m worried that a straightforward girl like you might be manipulated by him.”

Marion turns pale at Chloe’s words.

Zach Neal went out of his way to look for Marion.

It’s safe to assume that he’s enthusiastic about the engagement.

Chloe can only imagine Marion being coerced by Zach Neal into an engagement against her will.

(There’s no way I’ll let that happen!)

“Don’t worry, Marion. If it were me, I’d have no problem being disliked by others! As someone aiming to be a villainess, I’ll behave as arrogantly as I can!”

As a friend, Chloe wants to help Marion.

With that in mind, Chloe was quite eager.

“Don’t worry. I’m pretty confident that people will dislike me.”

“But. . .I feel like I’m relying on you, Chloe.”

“Don’t say such negative things. We’re friends, right? I think friends should help each other out in times of need! So please rely on me this time.”

Chloe puffs out her chest and confidently hits her fist.

“Then, tomorrow. I’ll come to your house before our appointment time, so please tell me the location.”

Still looking confused, Marion tells Chloe the location of the Viscount’s villa.

“Chloe, I’m sorry for relying on you so much. If there’s anything I can do for you, please tell me anytime. I’ll do anything for you!”

Marion hugged Chloe again, but this time Chloe managed to hug her back.

(Alright. I’ll do my best tomorrow!)

When Chloe returned to the country house with enthusiasm, Steed greeted her at the entrance, sitting on the marble with a pale face.


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