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Genre: Issekai (Romance)
“Cornelia. I don’t love you. I have already given my heart to another woman, so don’t expect any love from me.”
As soon as he entered their bedroom – a married couple’s – he, Rolf Geresheim, said those words coldly to me while I sat on the bed.
Without intending to, I found myself sighing.
I am Cornelia. The second daughter of Count Geisler, who holds land in the region.
In terms of face, I suppose I’d be in the middle-upper range. I am 18 years-old and have reddish-blonde hair.
If there was anything unique about me, well, if you look closely, you’d notice that my eyes were actually of different colors. My right eye was green, while my left eye was turquoise. It’s such a subtle difference, however, that you wouldn’t be able to notice it unless you focused. That’s how unexceptional I am, just a common daughter to a count.
And today I was married to Rolf Geresheim, the son and heir to the house of a marquess.
With golden-brown hair and amber-colored eyes, he was a handsome man indeed. He reminded me of the marchioness and was quite beautiful.
But he always wore a sour face whenever he saw me. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him laugh. Then again, the number of times we’ve met could be counted.
After the wedding ceremony, where relatives and close acquaintances had been invited, I was given a bath and scrubbed thoroughly by the maids, dressed in a thin nightgown, then thrown into the bedroom. I had some time to think before Rolf came.
That’s why I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised to hear him say that.
Not only was I not surprised, but my true feelings slipped out unintentionally. I hurriedly covered my mouth, but what had escaped couldn’t be taken back. Rolf’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.
“What did you say?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. It was just that you acted exactly as I’d expect you to that I’d let that slip.”
“Expect me to? Just what were you expecting””
Seeing him question me with a puzzled look actually took me aback. Wasn’t everything he’d done until now meant to make me lose hope for this marriage?
If he were to say there was no such intention, I’d start to doubt his character.
“Not only have you shown no interest in me, you’ve even shunned me. You hate me, right?”
These certainly weren’t the kind of words you’d expect a bride to say on her first night. But Rolf was the one who broached this topic first, so I don’t feel like caring anymore.
“Hate? …Perhaps, or maybe I just find you to be a nuisance…”
Rolf furrowed his brows and mumbled some excuses.
“There’s no need to put up a front. You’ve already made it clear that you’ve rejected me, and I’ve already given up. So what’s more important now is what we’re going to do. Shall we break up?”
“What ridiculous thing are you saying! How could a couple that has just gotten married possibly break up!?”
“Indeed. In that case, let us continue our marriage for awhile, and once things have cooled down, let us break up.”
It was unthinkable given the circumstances, but I was still relieved to hear that he didn’t suggest for us to break up right away. It’s him we’re talking about, so I figured he might actually say it. That’s why I asked.
Rolf laid bare his confusion as he watched me. He seemed to have something to say.
I tilted my head and silently urged him to ask away.
“Normally… Shouldn’t you be getting mad and crying? Why are you so calm?”
“If I told you why, I’m sure you’d get angry. Besides, the reason doesn’t really matter, does it?”
“It bothers me. Please tell me why.”
What ‘it bothers me’? While I do want to just let that pass, I can’t help but get the urge to snap back.
I mean, isn’t he just the worst? The fact that he’s wondering why I’m not angry and crying means that he came here knowing that he was about to do something that would me angry and cry. This man came here with every intent to hurt me, and when he saw that I wasn’t hurt, he became confused.
Even selfishness ought have a limit.
“When I got here, I just gave up, or rather, I understood… In other words, I just stopped caring. In the first place, a man that tells you on your very first night that he doesn’t plan on loving you is the worst.”
When I sighed and glared at Rolf, his face was red from fury.
He was the one who said he wouldn’t get angry, yet here we are.
“You’re really rude, you know. And you might have said that you wanted to break up, but are you sure about that? Didn’t this marriage happen in the first place because you couldn’t do that?”
“Yes. Well, okay, so we can’t break up right away. The promises that were made when we married have yet to be fulfilled too. But fear not. Our territory has stabilized. At this rate, I believe we can repay our debt in three years.
That’s true for the technological support we agreed on as well. Though we’ve only just begun, the craftsmen are passionate about their studies. I’m sure they will all become respectable craftsmen in three years.”
“Wait a moment. What are you talking about? Your family is poor. That’s why you clung to us in tears, right? Technological support? What support could you possibly offer us?”
“That’s my line. While it is true that we received a portion of the business capital from the marquess, we have already repaid a portion of it, and now, only half remains.
We did receive aid when disaster struck, and we are grateful for that. However, we’ve agreed to repay your family by sharing our expertise in dyeing that utilizes our local specialty.”
“Wait. Then why did you even marry me? There’s no need for you to get married at all, is there?”
“Because it was more convenient for me to be married off. The technology we would be sharing with you is something passed down in our family, so it wouldn’t be a mistake for me, who has inherited that knowledge, to pass it down. No one will try to needlessly interfere too so long as the knowledge is passed down to one’s in-laws. We are similar in age as well, so it was convenient.”
Rolf looked at me with shock.
He really is good looking, though. It’s not everyday that you see someone that look so good while looking so dumb.
While I was being unusually impressed by his looks, he timidly asked me.
“But… I thought you liked me.”
I was speechless. Flabbergasted, even. Not because he was out of his mind, but because he was correct. I didn’t expect him to say that straight to my face.
At the very least, I would have never asked it. ‘Don’t you love me?’ Oh, what an embarrassing thing to say.
It’s terrifying how potent a weapon a good face is.
“It’s true that I was once fond of you, but rest assured, that ship has sailed, and just a moment ago, vanished into the horizon.”
I’m sure of it! I told him with my chest puffed out, and for some reason, Rolf started to become flustered.
“Huh? W-Wait a moment. You don’t like me anymore? Not even a little?”
“Yes. Not even a little.”
Speechless, once again, I found myself sighing. There have been a lot of sighs today. There just seems to be no end to them.
“You’re asking why? When we first met, you muttered to yourself, saying, ‘why does it have to be woman like this…’ Understandably, whatever favor ability I might have had for you was on sharp decline since our first meeting.”
“There’s no way I could have said something so impolite!”
He glared at me, but I didn’t cower and returned his glare. If he’d really said those things without intending to, then I must have been really pitiful that day. After all, that would mean that the person himself didn’t even realize he’d hurt me.
“Impolite or not, it is what you said. And you remained mum until it was time. You ignored me no matter what I said, refusing to utter so much as a response.
On that day, the only words you uttered was a greeting and that impolite line that you supposedly would never say. I remember it vividly.”
“I don’t want an apology. Not when that’s only the start. You do realize that you’ve essentially abandoned your duties as my fiance, right?”
He tried to apologize, but I stopped him and began counting with my fingers.
There was a tea party that was regularly held for the sake of fostering our relationship. But he canceled on the first day, and since then would refuse to show up under all sorts of excuses. In the two years leading up to our marriage, that event could never be realized properly.
I tried sending letters, but not once did I get a response. It was curious if he had even read them at all.
Our birthdays occurred twice during our engagement. I sent him a safe and conventional gift on both occasions, but I never so much as received a thank-you or heard his thoughts on the presents. And since we never saw each other, he never arranged anything for my birthdays either.
Did he even know when my birthday was?
I had a graduation party when I graduated from the royal academy. I’d asked him to be my escort then, but he refused that too. That one was quite a blow.
There was no getting an answer from him through letters, so I figured I would just go and ask him directly, but he wouldn’t meet me at all. In the end, upon seeing my plight, my father searched for Rolf himself, but he just told him that he’d already promised to escort his cousin.
Does he know what it felt like to be in the same place as my fiance yet have to be escorted by my older brother? No, there’s no way he could.
Neither could he understand the feelings of my father seeing his own daughter neglected. After all, he told him straight to his face, ‘Oh, my younger cousin, Martina, is graduating too, and she’d already asked me to escort her.’ When my dad came home, he apologized to me with tears in his eyes.
“He’d spoken to the house of the marquess because it seemed our relationship wasn’t proceeding well, but he didn’t think it was this bad. Corney, if it’s too much for you, then you don’t have to go through with this.”
My father was worried about me, and he even considered to break the engagement, but I stopped him.
“Even if we managed to call off the engagement, society would see our family as untrustworthy. And you, my mother, my family, and the people would all suffer.
So it’s alright. I will marry Rolf-sama not to become his wife but to teach the craftsmen our technology. Eventually, I’ll be sent back and cause you trouble, but…”
When my father saw me resigned to my fate, he cried.
But to become untrustworthy in noble society was no different from a death sentence. That’s why he couldn’t do anything.
That day my whole family cried… Evidently, not out of happiness but out of bitterness.
Yet unaware of all this, Rolf didn’t even so much as bother meet my eye during the wedding. His lips also stopped just short of touching mine. The priest glared at us for that, so I admit I actually laughed a little.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to receive the guests alone, but it was the marquess and his wife who accompanied me.
They were my in-laws now, and it was a saving grace that they’d taken a liking to me. Alas, Rolf continued to ignore me.
As for my cousin Martina, who had been my classmate at the Royal Academy, she despised me, and I had to endure her harassment.
After everything I’ve gone through these past two years, it was only natural that my feelings for Rolf would weaken, yet when I told him that, he was dumbfounded.
He was speechless, motionless, as he sat beside me while we talked. When he attempted to sit closer to me, I quickly distanced myself, and that seemed to hurt him. Deep inside, I just thought, ‘don’t mess with me.’
He might look hurt now, but does he even understand what I and my family went through?
“Rolf-sama. Since you don’t love me anyway, let us form a contract. You won’t love me, and I won’t love you.”
“A contract? Ah, yes. It would indeed be better if we formalize it.”
I asked him to wait and opened a door that led to my room. The master bedroom was situated between my room and Rolf’s and was connected by a door to each. I should have the door to my bedroom from the master blocked later.
There’s a bed in my room too, so it won’t be a problem. I had been gradually moving my belongings there too, so everything was already in place. I opened a filing cabinet and took out two contracts, two spirit stones, two sets of ink and pens, and two blood-sealing needles.
When I’d gathered all the items, I returned to the bedroom. Rolf had moved to the sofa.
I sat down opposite him.
I took the seat in front of him.
“We’ll sign at the same time once we’ve agreed on the clauses.”
I gave Rolf one set, and he stared fixedly at the contract paper.
“Is this paper for a spirit contract? You’ve prepared well.”
“But of course. There’s no trust between us, so a spirit contract would be for the best.”
In a spirit contract, the agreement would be overseen by a spirit. Should one party break the contract, the spirit will enforce the agreed-upon penalties. It’s designed to make it less likely for those of lower status or position to be forced to endure unfair situations.
By the way, spirit stones are the reward given to the contracting spirit. I don’t know what they use them for, but watching the rather rugged-looking contract spirits receive the spirit stones with such joy is kind of cute. I like them. Alas, not many people share such sentiments.
“You might not like writing so much, but this is a contract concerning both of us. Please cooperate.”
“Hah? I’m not particularly bad at writing, though.”
Huh. Then why didn’t he reply once to my letters? I wanted to ask that question, but I swallowed it before I could. It didn’t matter anymore.
“I see. Then there shouldn’t be any problems. Let us begin.”
Afterwards, we discussed the terms of the contract and wrote down the agreed-upon terms on paper. Rolf had surprisingly neat handwriting.
What we agreed upon was a mutual non-interference in each other’s lives, including our lifestyles and social circles. We wouldn’t complain about the company the other kept, as long as it didn’t tarnish our family names. We also agreed to cooperate when needed for social events, where having a partner was necessary, and in those cases, we were supposed to engage in normal conversation.
We couldn’t suddenly act like an affectionate couple, given that we’ve hardly even made eye contact. That would just come off as suspicious instead. We acknowledged that we had no intention of loving each other, so there would be no marital intimacy. While I wanted to completely prohibit physical contact, since we were living together, there might be situations where we touched each other, like if one of us were about to fall down the stairs, for example. So we left some ambiguity in that regard to avoid triggering the contract’s penalties. Essentially, as long as we maintained a reasonable distance from each other, there wouldn’t be any issues.
After three years of marriage, we will divorce immediately. This will likely face opposition from the Marquess and the Marchioness, so it was Rolf’s responsibility to convince them.
I also committed to sincerely teach the craftsman my family’s dyeing techniques.
Of course, that was part of the initial agreement, so I had no intention of withholding that knowledge in the first place.
We had a thorough discussion and made various decisions. I couldn’t help but laugh at the irony, thinking we probably wouldn’t ever talk this much again in the future.
Finally, to alleviate our concerns, we included provisions for appropriate living conditions and set penalties accordingly. If the contract was violated, the penalties were to be instant physical punishment and, while talking to someone they cared about, a forced silly face, performed by the contract’s spirit. It could lift your nose like a pig’s or pull your eyes to the side, making you look comically strange.
It didn’t matter to me, but it would surely be a blow to Rolf, who usually carried himself so seriously. In fact, he seemed to pale slightly at the thought.
If there’s anything missing, we can just make a new contract later. In any case, with that, we both put down our pens.
We exchanged the contracts we had each written and verified them. We signed and marked both pieces of paper with our blood seals. We pricked our fingers with needles, letting a drop or two of blood fall. And with that, the contract was complete.
All that was left was to form the contract with the spirits. As a pale green light shone from the contract marked with a seal of our own blood, two small contract spirits, about the size of a child’s fist, appeared. They had the body of a child and the face of an old man.
That imbalance made for a creepy sight, but regardless, the two spirits happily accepted the spirit stones I offered. These stones glowed in blue, and the spirits carried them carefully in their hands as their cheeks slackened.
Well, they seemed to like them.
They looked happy.
I made sure to provide the best stones I could, as it is said that if the quality isn’t good, the spirits might not accept them.
“I’m counting on you.”
As I smiled at them, the spirits patted their chest and nodded, as though to say ‘just leave it to us.’
The contract spirits vanished while showing off their stones to each other. Their faces were stern, yet at the same time, innocent and cute.
This might have been the worst day of my life, but at least I got to see something nice at the end.
Because of that I was happy and my heart became lighter.
Carried away, I found myself speaking to Rolf.
“Come to think of it, Rolf-sama. Who is this person that you love?”
“Why would you ask that?”
Rolf’s face remained expressionless, but there was a tinge of wariness on him.
“Oh, don’t worry. I’m not planning on harming her. I just thought it would be better if I avoided coming into contact with her. That’s all.”
I told him that he didn’t need to glare at me so much, but his brows just furrowed deeper.
“Ah, could it be Martina-sama?”
“Why would you even think that!? She’s just a cousin! No more no less!”
“Sigh, I see.”
So his fiancee was even lower than someone who was just a cousin, huh… I caught myself thinking along those lines, and promptly stopped. To this person, I must be an existence that’s even more insignificant than the fleas on the neighbor’s pet dog.
Well, there’s no point thinking about it. Thinking about it will just hurt me.
“I don’t know where she is.”
Ah. I thought the conversation was over, but he continued. “Oh, really?” I said flatly, but Rolf ignored that and looked blankly into the air as he searched his memories.
“She was vivid… Like a spirit… She was beautiful. She saved me.”
“Is that a poem? …Erm, I suppose not. So she saved you. Was she you first love?”
“Wha—! Y-Yes, that’s right. She’s my first love.”
The way he said that with flushed cheeks exuded such charm that nine out of ten women in the world would have been captivated by him. As for me, well I am already a part of that one out of ten. After all these years, I’ve already been completely disillusioned. No matter how beautiful he may be, I won’t be deceived anymore.
“As for me, you were my first love.”
“Haa? Stop it. It’s unpleasant.”
“Same. The me that loved you is long gone, but at least allow me to bid goodbye to the last vestiges of that girl’s heart.”
At this rate, I won’t be able to sleep from all my pent-up feelings, so I’d like to take this opportunity to relieve myself. I managed to get my demands through like that, but in so doing, I realize that I might be quite self-centered myself.
“Do you remember meeting me when I was ten?”
Yes. Of course. You don’t remember at all. But it was very memorable to me.
My family and I had gone to one of the top summer resorts in the country. There was a large lake there.
Seeing the local boys swimming so enthusiastically in such clear waters made me want to take a dip myself.
But alas, I was a girl. Moreover, a nobleman’s daughter. Appearances had to be kept, so I chose a spot away from prying eyes to swim and play. There was no way I wasn’t going to play.
“But when I went to the lake to play by myself, you suddenly fell into the water. I just happened to be playing mermaid then. So imagine my surprise when a scene straight out of the Mermaid Princess occurred right before my eyes.
I saved you and couldn’t get you out of my mind, so when I heard that we would be engaged, I felt like it was destiny at play. Unfortunately, it was just my imagination.
It turns out love at first sight is a terrible thing when the inside is rotten. As is, even the slightest flaw could lead to disappointment, yet you couldn’t get even one thing right…”
Midway through my story, Rolf’s complexion suddenly turned pale, and he yelled, his lips trembling and his voice choked. He seemed poised to lunge at me any moment.
“Scary. What is it so suddenly? It’s late into the night already, you know. You’ll trouble others like that.”
“Who cares about that! Tell me more about that story about the lake!”
“You’re noisy. I can hear you without you yelling, so please speak quieter.”
I said that calmly, and Rolf sat back on the sofa. He gazed at me intently with a solemn expression. Though he looked a bit unwell, it didn’t seem like he was actually feeling ill, so I decided to leave him be.
“Tell me about when you saved me at the lake.”
“Okay. So you really don’t remember? You must have lost your memory when you crashed into the water, huh.”
“No! I just want to confirm if what I remember matches with your story!”
So arrogant. Even though he’s the one begging here.
But at the same time, it makes me wonder why he wants to talk about this. Well, it’s not the first time he’s been rude anyway.
“Sigh… As you wish. When you fell into the water, I tried to save you, but you clung to me. It seemed dangerous for us both, so I sank back into the water once, separated from you, then held you from behind and pushed toward the shore.”
“…What did I say after that?”
“Huh?” Oh. You said that your other shoe was missing, so I went back to get it.”
The water was really clear, so I could find the shoe even when it fell to the bottom of the lake.
When he heard my answer, Rolf sighed bitterly. He looked like he was about to cry as he looked at me.
“You had red hair then.”
“Sigh… It’s true that my hair was more reddish back then, and my hair was also wet from the water, so the color must have appeared stronger.”
“You also had blue and green eyes.”
“That’s true even now. You can’t tell unless you look closely, but… Wait, I thought you forgot?”
“No, I still remember. I haven’t forgotten even for a moment!”
Sigh, I see.
I feel sorry for Rolf, who looks like he’s in such distress, but I’m sleepy already. I’ve been busy with dress fittings and other things since this morning, and it’s getting late already, so I was thinking of calling it a day when Rolf suddenly lifted his head after looking down.
“I found you at last! Cornelia, you are the fairy princess of the lake!”
What is he going on about? He’s looking at me passionately too. Those cheeks of his that were pale until just awhile ago were flushed with red, and those eyes that would always look at me so coldly were now moist.
Huh? Don’t tell me?
It was unthinkable, but just in case, I asked.
“…Don’t tell me I’m actually your first love.”
When I said that, Rolf smiled. It was a smile I’d never been before. He was that happy.
I see. So that’s the answer.
“Enough with the jokes. Even if I am the person that you have been looking for, there is no reason for me to return those sentiments. Have you forgotten how you’ve treated me until now? It is impossible.”
Rolf had extended his hand to me, but that hand quickly fell. What did he even have in mind with that hand?
“But you said you loved me.”
“Are you deaf? No? Then you must have heard. That I told you that those feelings are gone already. I don’t feel anything for you, and will not feel anything for you!”
Upon seeing me refuse to budge, Rolf looked like he was about to cry. In fact, a tear did actually fall from his eyes.
“I’m sorry! I”ll apologize, so please!”
He bowed his head hard enough to hit the low table, but it was too late.
“I also told you that I don’t want your apology. We have already gone past that stage. You understand, right?”
I waved the contract we just signed, and Rolf, without any hesitation, tried to tear his apart, only for the two contract spirits to materialize in the air and smack him on the head with a club, sending him sprawling onto the sofa, while the other one unleashed a lightning magic attack. Rolf spammed a little at that.
It was such a wonderfully executed combo that I found myself applauding.
When the two spirits turned to me, I smiled and gave them a thumbs up. Very cool. The way they disappeared right away was also cool.
Lying on the sofa, Rolf let out a disgruntled groan.
“W-What’s with those things?”
“Oh? Did you not know? The spirit contract is under the protection of the contract spirits. Any attempt to tear it apart will lead to physical and magical retaliation just like what you’ve experienced. I hear it gets worse each time, so don’t think it will end so lightly the next time.”
“Why would you use this sort of contract?”
“I told you that too. There is no trust between us. In fact, didn’t you try to tear apart the contract yourself just now? If not for the spirits, you would have been able to act like the contract never happened while changing your attitude, no? Fortunately, I got the spirits’ help!”
My voice surprisingly echoed in the quiet room. Reflecting on having raised my voice so loudly in the middle of the night, I noticed Rolf, still lying on the sofa, staring at me.
Tears welled up in his eyes.
Like I said. Don’t cry.
“Wouldn’t you normally ask if the person is okay?”
“…Are you okay?”
“…Do you hate me that much?”
But if I told him that, he’d probably cry. So annoying.
So I just didn’t say anything and got up. With the contract in hand, I went to the door to my room.
“I’m tired, so if you’ll excuse me. If you can move, you should go back to your room too.”
Without even turning I around, I told him that and quickly went to my room. I slipped inside the room and leaned against the door. I let out a loud sigh, feeling remorseful for shouting so loudly in the middle of the night. As I did, I heard someone say, “Wait!” So, I hastily locked the door.
However, just the lock might not be enough, so I moved a chest and placed it in front of the door.
Now, I was safe.
But, as expected from the Marquis’s estate, the chest was well-made and quite heavy. Fortunately, I was strong, so it wasn’t a match for me. There were noises coming from the adjacent room, but whatever. The banging and creaking of the door were surely just my imagination.
I laid my tired body on the bed and quickly fell into a deep slumber.
The next morning, I was awakened by the yells of a maid. The maid had been shocked to see that was a chest in front of the door leading to the adjacent bedroom.
She asked, “How did this get here?” and “Who did this?” But when I replied that we could move it if we tried, she just turned pale and fell silent.
Perhaps she was a delicate person.
The maids didn’t say anything about me sleeping in my room. They might be thinking, “I knew it,” but they didn’t show it in their attitude.
As expected from the Marquis’s estate.
I believe that the quality of the servants reflects the status of the master. I thought they were a wonderful couple, but… well, they had one flaw.
When I finished getting dressed, someone knocked on the door as though they had been waiting for me. That was none other than the only flaw of the marquess and his wife, Rolf.
A maid looked at me and asked with her eyes, “Should I open it?”
I shook my head.
“There’s no reason to open it.”
The maid was understandably offended, so I took out the contract and began to explain.
“We have formed a contract among ourselves promising not to interfere in each other’s life. It’s something we both agreed upon, though… Rolf-sama might have simply forgotten.”
I raised my voice slightly when I said that and laughed, and the knocking stopped. It seemed that he had once again remembered the contract.
I headed to the dining room leisurely to have breakfast.
When I entered the dining room, the couple and Rolf were already seated.
The husband and wife looked at me in surprise.
What could it be?
There’s nothing wrong with my appearance… The maids took care of everything perfeclty.
“Good morning, Cornelia. About last night…”
“Dear. Some delicacy please.”
The marchioness gently scolded the marquess in a hushed tone. Oh, I see.
They must be surprised because the newlyweds showed up together for breakfast.
Normally, if they had spent their wedding night in the usual way, it would be difficult to wake up at this hour. And a shy bride might feel embarrassed to show her face and would have breakfast in her room.
“Nothing of the sort happened last night, so I’d like to have breakfast here.”
When I said that, the expressions on the faces of the couple were priceless. The marquess had a scowl like the spirits of the contract, while the marchioness had an impressively blank expression, and they both glared at Rolf.
Rolf was far from ordinary, too.
He looked down, pale and trembling.
Yet, from time to time, he would glance in my direction, which was quite annoying.
The marquess, who seemed to have sensed something, kindly proposed a discussion after breakfast, and I gratefully accepted.
I thought it would be a good idea to tell everyone about the contract sooner rather than later.
With our respective thoughts, we enjoyed a delicious breakfast.
During the conversation after the meal, I explained in detail what had happened last night while showing them the spirit contract.
The first words spoken by Rolf left both of them astonished.
Then came a storm of apologies.
But that was just the beginning.
As I continued to speak including about the things that Rolf had done in the past… Or rather, what he hadn’t done, both of them turned as pale as ghosts.
“I’d scolded him every time there was a complaint from Count Geisler, but I see now that it was not a matter that could have been resolved with just scolding.
I appear to have underestimated my own son. This is inexcusable. Cornelia, I cannot even ask you to forgive me. Do as you please.”
“What? But father! We’ve already gotten married! How could such a thing be permitted!?”
I want to retort and ask him what he was talking about, but before I could, the marchioness smiled mockingly at Rolf.
“Rolf, be quiet. Have you no shame? To say that you don’t love your own wife is the height of outrage. You ought to have been divorced on the spot! When I heard about the spirit contract, I thought it was excessive, but it’s another story altogether if you said that!
If anything, I want to thank Cornelia! For being will to endure you for three years!
Were something like this to have happened to me, I would return to my family’s home no matter the time!” The Marchioness scolded Rolf, her tone filled with anger and disappointment.
The marchioness, who was ever calm and gentle, was actually furious. Rolf tried to explain, but his mother wouldn’t have any of it.
She turned to me, took my hand gently, and from her surprisingly cold hand, I could tell just how much she was suffering.
“Corney, I’m so sorry. I don’t even have the words to apologize for allowing you to waste your precious time on such a foolish man. I am to blame as well for not realizing just how foolish my son was. I’m truly sorry.”
I gently caressed the hand of the tearful lady as a gesture to warm up her cold hand.
“No, Mother! I… I thought of it as our problem, and I stayed silent, trying to resolve it myself. It’s my own foolishness for thinking too highly of my own abilities. But don’t worry, I will be sure to devote the next next three years to passing on my skills and knowledge to your craftsmen. That’s why I came here.”
I was implying that I never expected anything from Rolf, and Rolf seemed to have read through that properly, so he called out my name sorrowfully, but it was meaningless.
Rolf still couldn’t understand that the time for eliciting sympathy and receiving pity had long passed.
“B-But, father… Cornelia is my fairy princess…”
Upon hearing “fairy princess,” both of them widened their eyes. It seemed that the marquess and his wife were aware of their son’s first love.
“Rolf, you noticed it just now!?”
“And here I thought you’d noticed it a long time ago. How pathetic.”
“That just goes to show how little you’ve looked at Cornelia.”
Hmm? So both of them knew that I was his fairy princess? After a moment of bewilderment, Rolf fiercely confronted his parents.
“You knew? Then why didn’t you tell me from the start!? If you did, then I would have treasured her more!”
I wonder if Rolf is completely oblivious to how pitiful he is. I discreetly averted my gaze from Rolf.
“Rolf, if she’s truly the person you love, then you should have figured that out for yourself. We went to great lengths to find this so-called fairy princess of yours and arranged for her to be your fiancée. That, in itself, was a considerable level of indulgence, and you ought to be grateful for that.”
“Huh? But… The color of hair and eyes were completely different, so…”
“My eyes haven’t changed. My hair just became a little more blonde. That’s all. You never really met my eyes from the moment we met, so there was no way for you to notice my eyes in the first place.”
“Cornelia! Please! I’ll look at you properly from now on, so let’s try to make this work!”
Suddenly, from the other side of the table, Rolf leaped over and grabbed my hand. It was far from proper decorum. Even a five-year-old noble child wouldn’t behave like that.
But before I could even register my astonishment, Rolf was sent flying.
Then the contracted spirit that had punched him materialized with a club in hand, landing on one knee on the table. What a stylish landing.
“Rolf! Are you alright!?”
The marchioness showed her concern, and Rolf, who had fallen to the floor, slowly got up.
Then in the next moment, the marquess burst into laughter, while the marchioness stifled a giggle, her face turning red as she tried to contain herself.
As for Rolf, who had risen from the floor, a contract spirit was perched on top of his head, gripping the flesh on both his cheeks and stretching it up like strings, causing his eyes to narrow, his upper lip to curl up, revealing his gumline and teeth, and his mouth to hang half-open in a grotesque expression.
I had expected this, and I had no particular fondness for Rolf to find his exaggerated expression amusing, so I just stared at him with a blank look.
With a sudden release of the spirit’s grip, Rolf’s face returned to normal. He must have felt quite awkward in this situation since his parents were stifling their laughter, and I had a cold, unamused expression.
How he felt about the contrast between his parents, who were laughing, and me, who was not, was anyone’s guess, but he ended up lowering his head.
Once the spirits had finished their task, they glanced at me and gave me a thumbs-up. I reciprocated the gesture with a thumbs-up of my own, and they disappeared with satisfied expressions.
Is this how they always leave, with this playful attitude?
I might start looking forward to their visits then.
I coughed, trying to regain my composure as my face threatened to break into a grin.
“Contractual violations through non-emergency contact, I see. Assault and making funny faces. Quite unconventional, isn’t it?”
“Father and Mother laughed, but Cornelia didn’t. Thank you.”
“It’s the other way around.”
“Huh? The other way around? What is?”
“Friends and family will laugh if you make a strange face. But there’s no way an unrelated stranger would laugh. They’ll just be disgusted.”
When I said that, Rolf shed a tear. He quickly got up from the floor and excused himself before rushing out of the room. The three of us watched him leave, and after the door closed, we exchanged glances.
“I can’t believe Rolf… I knew he had quite an infatuation with his first love, but I never thought it would go that far… I’m truly sorry for what happened, Corney.”
“I apologize for my son as well…”
“No, it’s not your fault. I’ve been quite harsh with my words as well. If it bothers you, I can arrange to stay in a separate residence and instruct the craftsmen from there. Please, let me know what you would prefer.”
“It’s fine for you to stay here. Despite only knowing each other for two years, I believe we understand your character quite well. I can tell from the way you dislike Rolf that what he did must have really hurt you. If, however, it becomes too difficult for you to stay here, please let us know. You can tell me or my wife, whichever is more comfortable for you. We will arrange for an alternative accommodation immediately.”
“Thank you for your kind consideration, father-in-law. I have no intentions of harming him, so it will all depend on him.”
I lowered my head and smiled, but a wave of exhaustion washed over me.
I’m not sure if I was able to smile convincingly, but seeing as how the expressions on the Marquis and his wife wore were similarly tired, I must have been tired indeed.
Sigh… I’m so tired.
Rolf, who had rushed back to his room during that conversation, stayed locked in his room for three days straight.
But I only found out about that later since I had been busy interacting with the Marquess, the marchioness, and the craftsmen.
I’m sure I’ll live the rest of my days like this, and three years will pass by in the blink of an eye. Rolf would likely try to do something from time to time, only for the contract spirits to appear and save the day. I’ll have peaceful interactions with the Marquis and Marchioness while imparting my knowledge to the craftsmen and honing my own skills. Then, once I’m free from Rolf’s influence, I will finally be able to pursue a love that isn’t bound by appearances. I look forward to it all.