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482 Am I Capable Of Love?

    Dream Rise House.

    Under the orange sky, Jessica sat alongside Zed and Felicity.

    She mustered her courage, and with a smile that could do little to hide her nervousness, she asked, "Zed... could we go out for dinner?"

    Her question surprised Zed but he smiled, and replied, "Why not?"

    Felicity observed Jessica and smiled. She has been close to Jessica for a long time and could understand more than Zed could.

    "Well, you two have dinner," Felicity rose to her feet before continuing, "My parents are going to have guests so I have to entertain them."

    Jessica internally thanked her.

    ***

    An hour later.

    A red sports car parked in the parking lot of a luxurious and lavish restaurant. The host of the restaurant quickly stepped up as a handsome youngster and an equally gorgeous woman stepped out.

    The youngster has black hair with tempting facial features and a fit body that every woman would find attractive. The woman was almost twenty-years-old with brunette hair, fair skin tone, and a stunning figure. She has glasses but they didn't hinder her beauty, instead, they gave her the innocent, studious touch suiting her personality.

    They were obviously Zed and Jessica.

    "Please, follow me," The host guided them to their reserved table.

    Like a perfect gentleman, Zed helped Jessica to her seat before sitting across her. The waitress offered them two menus and took her leave.

    "How are your parents and brother?" Zed asked while scanning the menu.

    "They are good," Jessica answered.

    "That's great," Zed smiled. "You know sometimes I envy you."

    "Envy me?" Jessica dropped the menu and looked at him.

    "You have a great family," Zed explained with a smile. "Despite financial limitations, you support each other... something that rarely happens in more privileged families."

    He said while thinking of his own birth parents who were supposedly from a very powerful background, and yet, discarded him. Then there was Felicity's family... her elder brother betrayed her for status and power.

    "Thank you," Jessica replied and then with a smile, further added, "Your family might have died while you were young but you now have a family. Felicity loves you."

    "Yes," Zed agreed. He has forgotten he has lied to her by saying his parents died when he was in the slums.

    "Can I ask you something?" Jessica nervously rubbed her hands.

    "Sure," Zed replied while deciding what to choose for starters and main course.

    "Are you in a relationship?" Jessica asked.

    "No, why?" Zed stopped and raised his head.

    "Nothing," Jessica answered nervously. "I just asked so this dinner wouldn't be misunderstood if you were in a relationship."

    Zed's eyes constricted.

    If he was an ordinary youngster, perhaps he would be oblivious to Jessica's intent, but sadly, he was neither naive or oblivious.

    He studied her body language and thought of everything that has happened until now... from the time he met her to this moment.

    "She likes me... perhaps even..."

    Zed looked into her eyes and saw something that any young man would be more than happy to find. Not him though, for it hurt what little conscience he had.

    "How could I have been so stupid to not see what I have done to her?!"

    Jessica has more than physical beauty. She has a kind heart, a soft personality, and a likable disposition.

    She was the charming girl next door and this was why he couldn't let her on and ultimately break her heart.

    "In a way, I have let her on... by helping her so many times...she was bound to be smitten..."

    Everyone had the right to live the life they want, pursue the things they desire, in the ways they saw fit.

    Her desires were simple... a comfortable life with one true love and trustworthy friends.

    Perhaps her desires were not awe-inspiring, but they were great. To each their own.

    She might not have stated her dreams and desires, but he could guess them, at least he thought he could.

    "And that's why I couldn't hurt her."

    Even if he was his alter ego, he wouldn't take advantage of her feelings. There were certain boundaries he would never cross unless the opposite party has done something he couldn't forgive. This was his principle...

    A minute has passed since her reply and no more words were exchanged. Jessica didn't know how to continue the conversation and bring the matter she wanted to.

    "Jessica," Zed started, his tone polite. "There is nothing to be misunderstood. Besides, any man would be more than happy to be in your presence."

    Jessica smiled but when he said the next sentence, her smile faded and her heart sank.

    "I'm sure someday you will find a Mr. Right and make him the happiest man in the world."

    This statement was like a clap of thunder to her ears. She didn't have any experience with romance but even she could understand what he meant.

    He was politely refusing her...

    She realized he knew her intent and has refused her.

    All her hopes of a possible date died and her eyes turned misty.

    She knew he must have a reason for him to refuse her without even giving a chance of dating. She wasn't asking for a relationship, just dating: getting to know each other, spending some time, and finding if there was a chance of a prospective relationship.

    Yet he didn't even want that...

    "Can I know why?" Jessica asked.

    She knew well enough to know it wasn't due to her poor background or her weak strength. He was not the type to judge a person on those factors or even physical appearance.

    Zed could feel the hurt in her tone. He could even guess how painful it was for her.

    In this world, there was nothing as painful as being refused by the first crush. The pain was far worse than a knife stabbed in the heart.

    "I don't want you to drown in a sea of sorrow because of me," Zed answered her. "I couldn't have that on my conscience."

    "That's not true! You are the kindest person I have known! So you are wrong!" Jessica strongly refuted him.

    A person like Zed was incapable of giving sorrow to others.

    "So far, just like the rest of the world, you have seen what I wanted you to see," Zed replied with a barely audible sigh. "My true self will disgust you."

    "No! That's impossible!" Jessica exclaimed. "You help those in need, you don't take advantage of people in vulnerable situations and you are incredibly kind even when you don't have to..."

    Zed couldn't help but smile. What she said was only true for Zed but not for his alter ego...

    Kiba was everything a woman of her disposition wouldn't like.

    "Jessica, I don't want to take advantage of you," Zed explained with a forced smile. "You are a dream and you deserve someone who could not only respect you the way you deserve... but also appreciate as you appreciate him... sadly, I'm incapable of that despite what you might believe."

    Jessica turned silent. Tears erupted in her eyes and trickled down her cheeks.

    The sight of her tears made his heart ache, but he knew he must continue. He has to kill her feelings.

    "I don't want to sound patronizing but the liking you have for me is because of what I have done for you," Zed explained further.

    He hoped to explain the psychological factors of her being smitten so that her heartbreak wouldn't be terrible. He felt, maybe if his words were offensive enough than she would build anger in her heart, quickly getting over her feelings. That would be for the best.

    "Zed, for the first time I can say that you are wrong," Jessica replied confidently. The tears in her eyes died, replaced with burning self-confidence.

    "Wrong?" Zed was startled by the sudden change in her disposition.

    "You are right when you say my liking towards you is founded on things you have done for me... giving me the courage to stand up against bullies, saving my life from being ruined by the local gang, and helping me whenever I was in need...

    "But you are wrong to actually believe my liking is some infatuation. People like each other for their qualities, for their deeds, for what they do... for what they contribute.

    "So, in this world, is liking or love based on these factors only infatuation? Then, is there any couple in this world who share love?

    "Because you like or love someone for what they do... you fall for their qualities. It could be as simple as sharing food, helping in studies, or even going together for a walk... I might be clueless, young, and naive... but even I know that!"

    "!" Zed was astonished... both by her explanation and the change in her disposition.

    For the first time, he realized he has failed to understand a person and that too someone whom he considered simple.

    Zed's lips curled up and he smiled.

    "I'm glad you proved me wrong," He said, "And I'm happy your tears are replaced by confidence. Now I don't have to worry about being thrashed."

    "Thrash?" Jessica was startled by the sudden change in topic. She then thought of something she has forgotten till now and glanced around.

    Many people in the restaurant were looking in her direction.

    "Ah!"

    Jessica realized what happened between her and Zed has attracted attention. Her cheeks flushed with warm blood and cute dimples appeared.

    "Please smile otherwise they will think I'm bullying you," Zed politely requested, "And if that happens, they will bring me to some dark alley and beat me to a bloody pulp. What's worse, I would have done the same if I was in their shoes."

    Jessica couldn't help but giggle. The environment has turned serious and embarrassing, but he knew how to brighten her mood.

    "Jessica."

    "Yes?"

    "You were right," Zed said with a wry smile, "But trust me when I say you don't know me."

    "Then give me a chance to know!" Jessica begged.

    After all, wasn't that dating about?

    "I will, and don't think I'm doing you a favor," Zed continued, "You are the master of your fate. So, don't sell yourself short by believing any man is worthy enough for you to beg."

    Jessica smiled. He was always considerate of her, building up her confidence and self-esteem.

    "But before we date, give yourself time to think about what I have said," Zed stated his intent. "Think about what would you feel to learn I'm opposite of what you think... Give yourself the time to think logically, without any pressure."

    Jessica nodded.

    "We have all the time in the world," Zed continued, "So, taking a few months to decide is the best. Because by then, you will have enough rationality to overpower your emotions."

    "I know what my decision would be... but I will do as you ask," Jessica replied. She could see the logic in his request and knew he was doing for her good.

    "That's more than enough."

    A few minutes later, the waitress served them lavish dishes.

    Burrata with Heirloom Tomatoes, Prawn Cocktail, Avocado Salad, Sunchoke Ravioli, Reggiano Cream, and more.

    They had a great dinner... far better than Jessica expected for she got what she wanted, even if it was delayed by a few months.

    ***

    Three hours later.

    Central District.

    Between multiple skyscrapers, Kiba appeared above a fifty-story building. He looked down to see hundreds of vehicles passing through streets and intersections. On the footpaths, a sea of people walked past, including couples. The way the couples walked together with hands in hand and the smitten-looks they gave, it was clear they were in love.

    "Love."

    Kiba let out a breath of air and sat down on the terrace. In his life so far, he only followed his dream of lust and vanity to the fullest. He pursued women for physical intimacy and never love.

    In fact, he never sought love nor desired it.

    Maybe it was because of the life he lived in the slums, or because of his world view in general, he never had any interest in gaining what people called love... The greatest emotion one could ever experience.

    "What is love?"

    Kiba wondered while checking the couples down on the streets.

    "Is it romanticization of lust, need, and stability? Or something that transcends everything?"

    As he thought further, he noticed an octogenarian couple, lost in the presence of each other. There was no lust, need, or any element he could give a negative touch.

    Kiba shut his eyes.

    His mind flashed pictures of every woman he has ever slept with. There was never a woman with whom he connected more than physically.

    No.

    There was one.

    "Eva."

    Kiba remembered the last time he slept with her. It was a few days ago and for the first time, he felt what they were doing was more than sharing body warmth... the feeling was what people usually referred to lovemaking.

    Eva's picture faded and another woman's picture flashed. It was someone with whom he has shared no physical intimacy, yet the feeling he has for her was far stronger than Eva.

    "Ashlyn."

    He didn't try to deny for he knew what existed between him and Ashlyn was something special... was it love? He didn't know. Maybe he will know the next time they met.

    Kiba then thought of the woman would be the source of the only pure love he was capable of... the mother of his yet to be born daughter.

    "Agatha."

    Their relationship was complex despite appearing to be so simple.

    "Sighs~"

    He tried to clear his mind but more pictures emerged... some of them part of Zed's life.

    Sophia.

    Much to his surprise, a blurry picture of Jessica also emerged.

    Finally, another picture emerged. It was special for it was hidden in darkness, masking the identity of the woman.

    "Surely I can't be in love with so many?"

    Kiba opened his eyes and smiled.

    Without rising to his feet, he tapped his hands on the terrace and leaped ahead. He passed through the gap between skyscrapers.

    Swoosh~!

    The high altitude air currents brushed past him, making his hair float.

    "Maybe I don't know much about psychology as I believe otherwise I would have known that..."

    High in the air, he lifted his head and looked at the bright moon.

    "Even I'm capable of love."
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