1 Side Story

"Let's call off the engagement."

A man and a woman sat across from each other inside the fancy restaurant. There was no one other than them as guests, making it look like a special day for the two of them. But… despite the cozy and warm atmosphere, the woman's eyes were cold.

"Cosette, this…" the man trailed off, trying to process her words.

Cosette watched the man sitting across from her coldly, tapping her red nails against her lap lightly. That man was her lover, Ezekiel Stone. The love of her life. The man she had loved dearly with all her heart.

"I'm calling off the engagement, Zeke," she repeated in the same aloof tone, waiting for the man to raise his head to her. "I don't need to explain the reason, right? Those documents are enough to speak its volume."

"Cosette, love, this… are all in the past…!" Ezekiel — who was stunned to see pictures of his past mistakes shown to him — looked at her in disbelief. "Didn't you say you already forgive me for this? Why… why would you…"

The corner of her lips curled up into a smirk, chuckling with her lips closed. "Ezekiel, did you really think I am the person who gets blinded because of love? You cheated during the first two years of our engagement. I didn't care back then for as long as I don't catch you. However… you were caught, my dear love."

"What…"

"I am the person who never forgives, nor do I give second chances, Zeke." She snickered, amused by the sight of the man who broke her heart into smithereens. "Did you really think all these years I truly changed into that lovely, kind, and dependent lady who wants to be saved by the hero all this time?"

She laughed. "My gosh, Ezekiel! You're really a loser, aren't you? You can't love me for who I am, but you opened up your heart when I was someone who will not steal away your light," she continued to ridicule him, laughing evilly whilst shaking her head sideways. "You don't deserve me, Ezekiel."

Cosette scoffed as her eyes narrowed slightly with the same smirk on her face. Cosette and Ezekiel were arranged in a marriage of convenience. She was smart, stunning, elegant, the epitome of a socialite. Meanwhile, Ezekiel was known to be gentle and brilliant, and good-looking among his peers.

The two of them were aware that they didn't bear romantic feelings for each other in the beginning. However, since the elders of their family had already decided, Cosette and Ezekiel tried to get to know each other for the sake of having a peaceful marriage.

Their elders said that love could be nurtured if both of them tried. It was true… or at least, that was Cosette's thought. Her fiance was considerate, gentle, kind, and charming. So, it was inevitable that a woman like her would open her heart to the man she was supposed to marry.

However, in the second year of their long engagement, Cosette faced a horrible truth about Ezekiel. She caught the man, whom she welcomed in her heart, embracing another woman and kissing her passionately. Although she had heard gossip of Ezekiel's love affairs behind her back, she didn't listen to them. Not that she didn't believe or believed them.

In her mind, as long as she didn't see it with her own two eyes, she would take the gossip as irrelevant noises undeserving of her attention. Maybe the gods love or hate her because she caught Ezekiel in the act.

But instead of throwing a huge fit or confronting her fiance, Cosette went back home and cried herself to sleep. That same night, she plotted her revenge on this man. To make him feel the same pain she had gone through.

No. Cosette didn't think of ruining the Stone family or fooling around with another man. Her means of revenge were different. That was… to love Ezekiel with everything she could until he would love her to the point he would die without her.

And then, leave him.

Now, after her two years of hard work, she finally got that sweet revenged she wanted.

"Do you want me to break the news to your family? Or will you do it yourself?" she asked as Ezekiel hung his head low, rendered speechless by the coldness of the woman he loved. "Let me know about your decision. I will break the news to my father. Don't worry. I will not bring up the real reason for this breakup. I'll tell him it is a mutual agreement since my family will be very disappointed if they knew the perfect Ezekiel is not so perfect after all."

Cosette took a deep breath as she assisted herself up. Before she went away, she took out cash to pay for their dinner.

"Let's stay in contact, Ezekiel. I still want to be friends." As if to spite him, she offered and smirked before walking away, not looking back at him even once.

When Cosette reached her car, she gripped the steering wheel as hard as she could while panting. That was the revenge she had wanted all along. And yet… although it was sweet, it left a bitter taste in her mouth.

She couldn't understand the pain swelling in her chest. All this time, while playing the role of a damsel in distress — a role that was the opposite of her personality — she had been thinking of leaving him.

"He deserves it," she muttered through her gritted teeth, gripping the steering wheel even tighter. "He deserves it."

As she chanted those words like a spell, the last two years with Ezekiel flashed back before her eyes. Like a fragile glass, everything, their smiles, the warm moments, the sweet nothings… everything shattered.

"He deserves…" Her breath hitched as tears rolled down her cheeks, pounding her fist against her chest.

It hurts.

Her heart was in pain.

This wasn't what she expected she would feel after leaving him. Only then did Cosette realize that her revenge… was just another means of hurting herself.

She loved Ezekiel, no matter how detestable he was and despite the fact that he only loved the weak version of herself. Her heart wanted him, but she also knew that he would only love her if she wasn't being herself.

And that… she couldn't do. Sacrifice herself just so she could meet his standard of love.

That night, Cosette drove herself home while carrying the remains of her dead heart.

And that was how Cosette ended and the start of a cold-hearted villainess.

*****

"Hic…" A lady covered her mouth with her palm, muffling her cries as she read a side story of her second favorite character that was only released a year later after the novel, The Devil's Den, ended.

"Big sister Cosette…" came out a muffled voice, reading the last sentence of the page about Cosette Blac, who also had the same name as her. "Why did you like that kind of man? You're pretty, intelligent, and rich! He really doesn't deserve you."

In the main story of The Devil's Den, Cosette was vicious and selfish. But what she liked about her character was, Cosette was unlike any other villainess who would lose their minds in the name of love and disregard their self-worth.

Cosette, the villainess of the story, the only reason she interfered with the female lead and male lead's love story was that it was FUN. She didn't love the male lead — well she was interested in him in a way — but her feelings weren't that deep that could be called love.

All her actions throughout the novel made things interesting and somehow, it made the female lead and male lead closer. Even one reader pointed out whether Cosette was even trying to break them apart or make them closer.

Either way, although Cosette was a villainess, a lot of loyal readers of the novel liked her. They even wished for her own happy ending. But alas, the side story about her was her past for readers to get a better understanding of her character.

"Gosh… I hate the author," the sickly woman clicked her tongue in irritation. "Did she hate me that much? Why did she have to kill multiple characters, give the main villain a redemption arc only to kill him, and then this? Is she a sadist? Does she have a cup of tea with Satan every time she makes her readers cry?"

A long list of complaints directed to the author of the novel came out of the woman's mouth. She loved the author, but at the same time, hated her. Although the author made logical judgments in the course of the characters' lives and endings, she couldn't deny this conflict in her heart.

"If only this story is real and I live in the book…" she finally stopped complaining, staring at the white ceiling of the hospital room, where she had spent the remainder of her days. "… I want to change the course of their lives. If only I can… I will make this story a bit lighter with fewer deaths and agony."

The patient, who had already lost all her hair and barely had color on her dry lips, smiled bitterly. Her eyes felt heavy as she blinked weakly, feeling her breathing constrict. Since she had been sick for years, she was already used to this kind of difficulty she was experiencing.

"Sister Cosette…"

Little did she know, when she closed her eyes and succumbed to the darkness, her heart stopped and… her breathing was gone.

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