Completed ― I Was Confessed to by the Person I Was Admiring

Completed ― I Was Confessed to by the Person I Was Admiring

Chapter 1: What’s wrong with being funny

It was an event that seemed like a story I had seen somewhere before.

In Japan, I fell ill at a young age and died. It seems that I was reincarnated into another world that was not Earth, but for some reason, my memories remained faintly.

Normally, memories of past lives can hinder the next life, so they should be erased, at least to some extent. However, memories of things and objects I liked, as well as my personality, remained except for language.

Of course, I wanted to know the reason, so I asked around and read literature within my range.

As a result, it seems that the place where I was reincarnated has a composition that makes it difficult for the memories of the soul to be completely erased. Therefore, there are occasionally people around with similar memory retention.

While I thought that such a fantasy was impossible, there was nothing I could do about being born with memories. I decided to live my life as best as I could and be reasonably happy.

So, I have been living my life day by day.

Fortunately, I was born into a family where I didn’t have to be born in a harsh, cold village or as a slave, and I didn’t have to face a situation where I had to throw myself into battle with incredible abilities. If I work hard according to the common sense of that place, I will be rewarded to some extent.

The house I was born into. Well, to put it plainly, it was a lower-class noble’s house.

In this world, which resembles Europe in some ways, there were such classes that existed naturally. Well, I interpret it as a kind of parallel world. Of course, my knowledge is poor, so there is a high possibility that I am wrong.

However, it’s not like I’m in trouble or anything.

The house I was born into was the Baron Valcourt family. The income was decent, and my father was an ordinary man who managed the territory leisurely and spent his time fishing occasionally. However, my mother was different. She was a daughter of a noble from another country and a remarkable woman who chased after my father and forcibly married him. Moreover, she was beautiful.

My brother, who inherited my mother’s blood, was very beautiful and was in high demand among ladies. He would get exhausted and sulky during gatherings.

He is a kind and important older brother to me.

And then there’s me. I resemble my father in appearance, and I’m not ugly. If I dress up, I look decent. Because of the memories that remained, I have a slightly different way of thinking, but for now, I’m just an ordinary 18-year-old. The only thing I can boast about is my hair and eye color, which is a beautiful honey color inherited from my mother.

Even I have to find a marriage partner from now on. Women born into noble families are not allowed to work, so we have no choice but to rely on our husbands to support us for life.

Otherwise, it would cause trouble for my older brother and his future sister-in-law.

So, for the past few years, I have been sticking to my mother’s sister, my aunt, and her daughter like goldfish poop and attending social gatherings. That’s why I’m still participating in such gatherings now.

Now, the main topic begins.

In front of me stands a handsome man.

He called me over and brought me to the garden pavilion, saying he had something to talk about, but he hasn’t said anything since then.

Getting impatient, I asked him, “Um, what is it that you wanted to talk about?”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I’m just trying to organize my thoughts. Please wait a little longer.”

“…Okay.”

I have no idea what he wants to say. He still doesn’t move except for muttering “no” or “hmm” in a low voice.

So, I absentmindedly look around the garden. It’s beautiful, and I honestly think so. The mansion where I was invited is the Marquis family’s estate, built only for hunting.

I am one of the guests invited to the Marquis family. A ball is scheduled to be held tonight. However, there is still plenty of time until then, and I had enough time to stroll around the vast garden owned by the Marquis. That’s where he caught me.

He – I think his name was Jeremiah Castalde – was the eldest son of the Marquis family and the next heir. He was a handsome man with slightly long black hair and sharp blue eyes. The Ojo-samas who had forced their way in using connections, were aiming to shoot him down somehow.

He was superior in both wealth and appearance, and I had also been admiring him from afar.

Before my reincarnation, I liked what was called idols.

I wasn’t such a passionate fan, but I felt happy just watching them on TV or listening to their songs. Not only idols, but I also liked handsome actors. While shining my eyes on their activities, I fought against illness every day. Their dreams were my support.

There were so many beautiful things in the world, and just being able to see them made me feel glad to be alive.

Even after coming here, my passion for watching them hasn’t cooled down. I found handsome men in the social circle and enjoyed chatting with my friends about how wonderful they were, what type of person they were, and what kind of women they liked.

Of course, I also loved watching plays. No, it might be my favorite hobby.

After all, there were quite a few handsome foreign actors lounging around, making it a really enjoyable daily life.

Of course, I wasn’t looking at them as potential marriage partners. I thought that was presumptuous.

Eventually, Jeremiah finally spoke up.

What came out of his mouth was a surprising request.

“Tonight, I would like you to dance with me and only me!”

Huh?

I was momentarily stunned. My head was in a whirl from the suddenness of it all. Without thinking, I blurted out the following lines.

“…Um, that’s fine, but why me? I don’t really understand. We haven’t talked much, and I’m just an average-looking person. There are so many other beautiful flowers blooming, so why me…???”

After giving a long-winded and incoherent response, Jeremiah fell silent for a while.

“Well, can I take that as a yes?”

“Yes, I have no reason to refuse. But it’s still strange.”

“If it’s okay even if it’s strange, then that’s good! Thank you, I look forward to it.”

My sense of beauty was stimulated by his lovely explosive smile. Wow, what destructive power. I almost felt dizzy, but I have to hold it together. This is a rare opportunity to observe him up close. I can’t just collapse when there’s a Hollywood-level handsome guy right in front of me. Pull yourself together.

Ah, I wanted to take a picture!

Unfortunately, there is no such thing in this world.

I managed to reply somehow.

“Uh…yes.”

“Well then, shall we start with a lesson so that you can dance with me on an equal footing?”

“Eh…?”

“I don’t want you to dance randomly since you’ll be dancing with me. It could lower my dignity, you know. But it’s good that you’re not one of those high-minded ladies who can’t be asked to do such things. I would like you to be my partner until this gathering is over.”

Oh, I’ll give you a reward too.

Shall I send you some jewelry, or would you prefer a dress? Well, you can decide that for yourself.

Oh, you’re making a strange face. I see, I forgot to mention something important. Let me explain it to you step by step.

I know that I am seen as a good marriage partner by you ladies. However, honestly, I don’t feel that way yet. So, I want to make it look like my attention is only on you by dancing with you tonight.

I think this kind of request is more suitable for a lady with a bad reputation or a widow, but I am a host on the side of the master, so it would be awkward if I only socialized with such people. If I only entertained those people, what would people think of me, who invited them? You can understand that, right?

However, you have a faint presence, you don’t stand out, you’re plain, you seem obedient, and you seemed to understand what I was saying. Also, there is no problem with your background… that’s why I asked you for this favor.

Um, did you dislike it, by any chance?”

He explained his selfish reasons with a puppy-like (cliché) face and asked me. My rebellious spirit was shattered in front of that face.

Although I had many doubts, such as whether he had said such a thing before, or if he had such a plan, or if he was being too rude, or why he was so determined to accept it, I had no choice but to surrender to his handsome smile’s destructive power.

Damn, I’m so shallow…

“Well, since I accepted it, I’ll do my best.”

I secretly swore to stare at his face and make a hole in it.

And so, I was forced to become his partner.

Chapter 2: I have a feeling that my muscles are sore from the dance lesson.

“That step is wrong! Be more elegant, more graceful.”

“I-I’m sorry.”

I shrunk my body after receiving scolding for the umpteenth time.

I wasn’t originally someone with good motor skills, so my feet inevitably got tangled in the unfamiliar dance. I’m making an effort, but it’s no use since I wasn’t originally equipped for it.

Right now, I was in the dance hall inside the Marquis’ mansion.

It was one of the smaller halls among several, apparently used only for parties with close family and friends. It was also used for practice.

The sound of a light piano echoed in the room.

Surprisingly, a piano almost identical to the one in that world existed here. I don’t know the details of how it works, so I don’t know if it’s exactly the same, but to an amateur’s eyes, it looked almost identical.

The piano, which occupied a corner of the hall, had his friend’s wife (a beauty) sitting on it, and his friend (the Count’s son, who was the object of admiration) was laughing happily nearby.

I want them to help me instead of laughing, but unfortunately, my SOS doesn’t reach them.

Reluctantly, I stepped on the steps with the feeling of “Awaken, motor skills, awaken!”

To be honest, it was a painful time. I want to be released as soon as possible.

After that, I tried to decipher his rude words in my own way. I could have asked him directly, but I thought it might be rude.

The conclusion I came to was that I should pretend to be his girlfriend during this period, or make them think that I am the person he is interested in. In other words, I would be his convenient girlfriend.

If I was wrong, it would be embarrassing, so I mustered up the courage to ask him before I was brought here. The answer I got when I returned was, “What, didn’t you realize it?”

“I interpreted it as you admiring me purely because you often looked at me and didn’t seem to have fallen in love with me.

Besides, you’re so plain.

I thought it was lucky that someone as plain as you was invited here. And as I thought, you accepted it. My evaluation of you was not wrong after all.”

He said this while poking me with a needle.

I know that I’m plain, but it still hurts when someone else says it. Anyway, as a result of talking to him, I realized that he lacks “sensitivity.”

Certainly, he wasn’t wrong.

Rather, the correct answer is a big hit, ding-dong, ding-dong. It was intensely frustrating.

So, I retorted a little.

“Oh, my, you were observing me to the point of knowing that? Jeremiah-sama must have been very free. Or do you have a hobby of observing people?”

When I said that, he blinked for a moment, then said somewhat flustered.

“Simply put, among the flashy poisonous flowers, you, who are plain, were easy on the eyes.”

Once again, I was treated as plain, but my remark seemed to greatly confuse him, and I was very satisfied with the result. When I remembered that moment and grinned, I was scolded again.

“What are you laughing at? Concentrate properly. You’ve been stepping on my foot since earlier.”

“Oh, sorry. I guess I’m not good at dancing I’m not used to.”

I apologized in a hurry, and he finally stopped moving.

He was slightly out of breath. I was grateful that he stopped moving because I was even worse. My lack of exercise was painful. I don’t feel like making more effort in the future, but I feel heavy thinking that I’ll have muscle pain tomorrow.

“Let’s take a break. Also, it seems like it’s better to give up on teaching you the new dance.”

He said it in a tone that seemed like he was about to click his tongue.

“I’m glad you finally noticed.”

I said with a smile. Then he turned his face away looking troubled and called a servant with a bell. It seems that he wants to have tea.

It was around noon.

In this country, there are two meals a day.

Dinner is around evening, so a light meal is taken from breakfast until dinner.

I sat down on a chair placed against the wall and watched the situation.

The servants skillfully carried tables, chairs, tea utensils, and tableware at a fantastic speed, and created a space where we could easily enjoy tea in the previously empty hall.

I was impressed.

We don’t do this kind of thing in my house. We make our own tea, and we have a designated room for meals, and we only eat there.

I thought to myself that they are truly a great noble family as I took my seat. Jeremiah sat on my right, and on my left was Tatiana, the lady who had played the piano earlier.

She exchanged smiles with her husband, Lord Bruno Grimani, and then spoke to me.

“Nice to meet you, Lady Lorraine… It feels strange to introduce myself like this. Actually, I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a long time. So, I know about you.”

I was surprised.

I didn’t think anyone besides Jeremiah had noticed me, a plain person like my humble Lorraine.

Chapter 3: When did that happen?

“H-Huh…why is that again?”

I asked, and Tatiana gave a bewitching smile on her beautiful face.

Oh my, what a thing. I’m so happy to be able to see such a beautiful face that could rival that of an actress up close that I could die. If I could be surrounded by such beautiful roses, I wouldn’t mind being used as fertilizer around here.

In my next reincarnation, I might as well become nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium. I may be an inorganic substance, but who cares? I’m all for being an inorganic substance.

After all, the three people surrounding me now all have faces as if they were good sculptures. I feel like I’m in paradise, in heaven.

As someone who loves beautiful women, I thought I could eat ten bowls of rice just from this situation alone.

Tatiana murmured to me, tilting her head slightly, “You don’t know, do you?”

Her dark reddish-brown hair, beautifully tied up, was exposed to the sunlight and appeared to have a golden tint. The color of her eyes, surrounded by long eyelashes, shone transparently like emeralds. Her skin was as smooth and white as cream.

To be frank, I think she is a treasure of humanity.

Her husband, who was smiling gently next to her, had tightly curled hair with a mixture of deep gold and brown, and a face as perfectly sculpted as Michelangelo’s statue. When he smiled, small wrinkles formed at the corners of his eyes.

It was creating an irresistible flavor.

It would look good if he had angel wings attached to his back.

He had a similar build to Jeremiah, and the sight of a cold beauty and a gentle beauty standing side by side was impressive.

“Um, what is it?”

Since I really didn’t know, I asked while holding a cup of tea.

“Well, it’s become popular among young girls these days, and you were the pioneer. Thanks to that, I was able to meet my husband. I wanted to thank you someday and ask why you started doing such a thing.”

She laughed with a hint of implication and said so. However, I still didn’t understand what “something I started” meant. For now, I took a sip of tea.

Wait…what is this tea? It’s incredibly delicious, and the tea leaves are of such high quality. The tea I usually drink at home is not as bad as the one for commoners, but the quality of the tea leaves is inferior, so it doesn’t have such a soft aroma.

I decided to enjoy it leisurely since it was such a good tea.

The surroundings were sparkling, the tea was delicious, and I felt like I could die today.

In such a state of mind, Tatiana asked me with a little shyness.

“Um, can I call you Lorraine? You can call me Tatiana too.”

“Oh, yes. Of course, please call me whatever you like.”

‘I can’t call you by your first name secretly,’ I added.

“I’m glad, that makes me happy. So, I want you to tell me how you started what’s currently trending in high society.”

Tatiana asked with an oddly excited expression. I still couldn’t see where this conversation was going. I had no choice but to ask her directly. What did I start that was trending?

“Um, what do you mean by something I started? I don’t have any memories of starting anything special.”

“Oh, is that so? But I heard from the ladies that it was you who spread this way of thinking.”

Lord Grimani, who had been quietly enjoying his tea and snacks, spoke up for the first time. Following his words, Tatiana began to speak.

“Yes, regardless of whether they are married or unmarried, upper-class women are bound by marriage, aren’t they? If they are lucky enough to have a husband they desire, that’s great, but there are many cases where that’s not the case. Of course, they can have a lover, but that requires a certain level of appearance, wealth, and status, so most women are deprived of the pleasures of being a woman.

That’s where you appeared, my lady. ”

“You spread the idea of admiring the existence of a well-featured, well-behaved gentleman or lady. You taught us a different way to see the dreams we used to seek in theatrical stories!”

She spoke with an unusual passion, and I was surprised, my eyes widening.

‘When did I do such a thing…?’ I thought, but in reality, I remembered.

It was a story like this:

There was a certain lady. She had fallen in love with a gentleman, but he had a lovely fiancée.

She was struggling with the thought that they would never be together, so I told her that she should thoroughly support him, cheer him on, and help him be happy.

Even if they were never together, she could watch him be happy and feel like she was contributing to his happiness, and in her heart, they could be together.

She put this into action and gathered other ladies who were also in love with him, starting to support him with all their might.

In other words, it was a fan club.

At first, he was bewildered, but once he realized that the ladies had no ill intentions, he stopped worrying.

I remember that from then on, a large number of artists were hired to draw his portrait, and a collection of poems was published, collecting his words, which had a certain economic effect.

However, I didn’t have the consciousness that I made that opportunity.

“I belonged to a cheering club for him. I was just happy to be able to speak to my beloved Bruno. But he spoke to me first… You see, I wasn’t born with a good family background. If it weren’t for that, I wouldn’t even exist today, so I’m grateful to you.

I really wanted to be friends with you. I’m glad we met.

I have to thank Jeremiah. If he weren’t Bruno’s friend, I wouldn’t have been able to meet you like this.”

Reaching over, Tatiana tightly squeezed my hand with both hands.

My eyes blurred and she seemed to be shining. I was frozen, not knowing what to do.

I couldn’t keep up with the astonishing facts.

I suddenly realized that there was no concept of a “fan club” here. And for now, I muttered as if to say,

“Um, thank you.”

Chapter 4: I desperately need heart medication

“So, why did you say that to the lady?” Jeremiah asked, who until then had been staring at me silently.

I muttered, “Well…” and fell into a brief silence.

She was one of my friends, and he should already know that I wanted to comfort her because she seemed to be going through a tough time.

So, the question must be why I chose to comfort her in that way.

How should I explain this?

Saying “I liked idols in my past life” would be strange, and explaining what an “idol” is would be difficult. After all, I don’t have the skill to explain it in an easy-to-understand way.

Above all, if I start talking about my past life, I might be considered crazy.

So, I decided to say this instead:

“I thought it was okay to like beautiful things. You know, my appearance is like this, and there are things in the world that I can’t do anything about with my own power. But dreaming is free, isn’t it?

By immersing oneself in that world, one can momentarily forget the reality that cannot be helped, heal one’s heart, and then face reality again. Isn’t a world where you have to give up everything just because you don’t have it, cruel and too painful?”

I expressed what I had once thought in words.

Then, Jeremiah smiled as if he understood. It was the moment when the ice rose bloomed.

At that moment, my heart received an extraordinary amount of damage. If this were a manga, I would be spitting blood. No, I would be having a nosebleed. Maybe I would even be foaming at the mouth and collapsing.

“I see, that’s certainly true.”

Muttering, Jeremiah narrowed his eyes and drank his tea, and I averted my gaze from him.

“Well, what a wonderful idea. Let’s make those words the motto of our support group. It’s free to dream! It’s wonderful to love beautiful things.”

Tatiana sang out her words, and I opened my mouth like a fish pulled out of the water.

No, please stop, what kind of embarrassing play is this? That’s what I wanted to say, but Lord Grimani agreed, and for some reason, even Jeremiah supported it, so I had no choice but to shrink back.

Even so, I never thought that the words I spoke would produce something so significant.

I must express my gratitude to the aunt and cousin who brought me here.

Otherwise, I would never have known about such a situation, and above all, I would have remained ignorant of the fact that people were bound by my words.

Originally, only a few people were invited to this mansion.

The nobles head to the capital to pay their respects to His Majesty the King when it gets warmer. Then, the season of socializing begins, but that time is still far away.

The nobles, especially the women, were endlessly bored.

Christmas does not exist in this world.

Therefore, during the winter, noblewomen are confined to their territories and experience extreme boredom. So, Marquess Castalde, who could no longer bear it, decided to gather close friends and hold some kind of event every day.

My aunt was invited because she is related to her, and my cousin, who is her daughter, was also invited. My mother asked if I could come along, and that’s how I ended up here.

Therefore, there are not many people in this mansion.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been able to meet Tatiana and Lord Grimani like this.

After all, I am usually a wallflower among wallflowers. I can blend into the wall to the point where I could be called a veteran. It’s just like a ninja. I didn’t train for it, but I can do it, so there’s nothing I can do about it.

Even with acquaintances, I’m at a level where I can easily overlook them.

I end up being stealthy even when I’m not trying to be.

If it weren’t for this, I wouldn’t have been able to have tea with these glamorous people.

“I’m glad I was able to meet you after all. Hey, let’s not only meet while we’re in this mansion, but also in the capital. And let’s support the support group together.

Let’s teach the maidens who don’t know this happiness yet, okay?”

My heart was about to explode when she said this with an upward glance, as if asking for a favor.

Someone, please give me medicine that works on the heart.

“O-of course. If I can be of any help. And I’m very happy to have met both of you like this. Thank you for introducing me, Jeremiah-sama.”

“…R-right. That’s good.”

He stumbled over his words and blushed a little. There is nothing cuter than a handsome man blushing. Feeling my heart racing, I suddenly wondered why Jeremiah had been acting strange from earlier. Moreover, he seemed to have a sad expression on his face.

I didn’t know the reason for it. However, I thought to myself, maybe… I quickly scanned my gaze and looked at Tatiana, who was talking to Lord Grimani.

Perhaps he liked her. However, she ended up with her beloved Lord Grimani. That’s why he looked so sad from earlier, I thought.

Even with his beautiful face, power, wealth, and everything else, love still might not work out for him. There’s nothing to be done about it. People’s hearts cannot be controlled. Sometimes, even we can’t control ourselves.

I decided on my own and returned my attention to Tatiana’s voice as she spoke.

“No, let’s start from when we arrived at this mansion. Let’s support the support group… There may be young girls here who are suffering from painful love, right?”

“Oh, that’s troublesome.”

Jeremiah was the one who interrupted Tatiana’s words, which she was speaking fluently.

“I asked her to be my girlfriend while she stays here. It’s already quite a burden, so I don’t want to put any more pressure on her.”

I felt like I was suddenly splashed with cold water from the top of my head by his words. The dreamy feeling was blown away all at once. Come to think of it, that was the case.

“… Fufu, a girlfriend, huh.”

Then, Lord Grimani smiled at Jeremiah with a suggestive smile. While I was frozen, Tatiana also had a similar smile on her face. Jeremiah noticed it and quickly returned to his unhappy face.

He quickly drank his tea, put the cup back on the saucer, and stood up.

“Well then, that’s why I’m going to show off to the others until dinner. That way, I won’t be asked to dance a lot.”

Saying that, Jeremiah looked at me meaningfully.

He meant for me to come with him. I reluctantly stood up. Then, Jeremiah took my hand, naturally wrapped his arm around mine, and said,

“Well then, sorry for interrupting your private time. See you at dinner.”

“Ah.”

And so, I was once again dragged by Jeremiah to the garden.

Chapter 5: Why was he in a bad mood?

Although I should have changed into evening wear, I had no will to resist and went outside again with him.

The sun was already setting, and the sky was tinged with dusk.

Looking up again, I saw Jeremiah’s face.

――Beautiful.

I was mesmerized as I stepped on the grass.

Since being reincarnated and growing up here, I have seen many beautiful people. Among them, he was the most outstanding.

When I was invited to a big ball, I happened to see him, and his appearance is still burned into my mind.

Of course, even if I say I like beautiful people, I have my own preferences. I prefer faces that are closer to feminine, with a beauty that cannot be expressed in words.

And Jeremiah fits my taste the most.

However, he is the son of the Marquis family.

He was a distant existence to someone like me. So, it was also a word directed at myself that it was enough just to look at him.

Despite that, he walked next to me with a sullen face.

They say that there are various things in life, but I never thought something like this would happen.

“How long do you plan on staring like that?”

“Um, until I get bored?”

I answered easily to the words spoken to me in a bad mood.

To be frank, the only reason I accepted his request, which had nothing but disadvantages, was that I could see this beautiful face up close. Otherwise, I would have refused right away.

“…I’ve been wanting to ask you if we had the chance to talk. Among many other attractive men, I think you looked at me more often. Why is that?”

Jeremiah stopped on the side of the road and asked.

“That’s because Jeremiah-sama’s appearance was my favorite.”

I answered without any need to hide it. Since my hobbies were already known in the conversation with Tatiana and Lord Grimani earlier, there was no need to pretend.

Above all, I thought it was pointless to wear a mask for someone who would never see me as a romantic interest.

“I see, that’s an honor.”

A slightly bewildered voice came back. He started walking again, blushing a little. I walked with him. It was a good sunny day, and it wasn’t cold even in the evening. It’s already spring.

There are four seasons in this world as well. Of course, there are differences in details compared to Japan, but I was happy to be able to enjoy the changing seasons.

I walk while alternating between looking at the garden and the beautiful faces, refreshing my eyes and mind.

Since there is nothing in particular that I want to say, it is quiet. I can see the figures of gentlemen and ladies who were invited from afar. They seemed to be having a rendezvous over there, but when they noticed me, they looked surprised and stared at me.

It seems that the purpose of this stroll has been achieved.

However, I suddenly think that I hope I appear to them like a ghost in their field of vision.

Then I remember that there is a support group for Jeremiah. If I write my name on the list with some excuse like being treated kindly by him during my stay in this mansion but being rejected soon after, perhaps the storm of jealousy that will come in the future will be eased a little.

I must make use of what I have, or else I will be in trouble if I can’t get married. While thinking about future measures, Jeremiah speaks up again, perhaps unable to bear the silence.

“There was one more thing I wanted to ask.”

“Yes, what is it?”

“To be honest, I thought this offer would be rejected. Actually, I think I’m asking for something terrible. Why did you decide to accept it?”

The offer is probably to be his pretend girlfriend for convenience.

Can I honestly say that it’s because I want to stare at your face? But I didn’t know how else to explain it, so I decided to be honest.

“It’s because I want to be by your side. As you know, Jeremiah-sama is very handsome, and I, for one, would never have had the chance to get close to him if it weren’t for this. So please don’t worry about my slip of the tongue.”

I explained and smiled. Then he stopped again and stared at my plain face for some reason. His blue eyes seemed to be moist and heated.

I wondered if he was embarrassed or if I had upset him, so I waited for him to say something.

I don’t mind being stared at, but being stared at like that is quite uncomfortable.

I know very well that I don’t have a figure or appearance that is worth staring at so much. It’s ingrained in me, like a daikon radish that has been simmered for a long time.

As I was becoming like Munch’s scream inside my head, Jeremiah finally spoke.

“That sounds like you’re saying you like me?”

What came back was yet another question.

Well, I did say that, so Jeremiah’s ears and head were perfectly normal to hear it that way. However, it’s not like I like him as a romantic interest, so I need to explain it properly or he might misunderstand. I hurriedly said,

“Yes, I like you. But it’s not like I love you as a romantic interest, it’s just that your existence is attractive. I know it’s a bother for you, and for someone like me to make you a romantic interest would be blasphemy against God. Jeremiah-sama also has preferences, right?

So, please don’t worry too much about my feelings… Jeremiah-sama?”

I noticed that Jeremiah’s face had become resentful, and I was surprised, wondering if I had said something wrong. It also looked like he was disappointed or sulking.

I shouldn’t have said anything to make him look like that, but…

Before I could ask what was wrong, he spoke in a somewhat blunt tone.

“I understand your feelings well. But until I think it’s okay for you to stop pretending to be my girlfriend, please act like one properly.”

“Of course, ah, we should return to the mansion soon. The wind is getting colder.”

“Yeah.”

After that, there was hardly any conversation, and we quietly returned to the mansion while enduring the piercing stares.

Chapter 6: The eyes with their flashing, destructive power.

When I returned to the mansion, I quickly changed into a dress with the help of a maid. I might make it in time for dinner. As I was having my hair done beautifully, my cousin Dorothea came into the room and asked me a little discontentedly.

“Hey, Lorraine, when did you get to know Jeremiah-sama?”

“Why do you suddenly ask that?”

“Well, it’s because people are talking about how you two were walking around the garden arm in arm and seemed to be getting along well.”

I was surprised by her sudden remark.

It had only just happened, and it was already spreading. While trying to gauge Dorothea’s suspicious mood, I wondered what to say.

Dorothea admires Jeremiah. I have heard many times that she wants to get close to him at any cost at this gathering. In other words, she was trying to restrain me.

I couldn’t say anything careless.

“We just happened to be taking a walk, and he kindly showed me around. Jeremiah-sama was very kind. He was considerate of me because I was alone. That’s all.”

“…Okay, that’s good. Oh, can you ask him to dance with me later? You’ve become acquainted, haven’t you?”

“Of, of course. Is it okay at the ball later?”

Upon hearing this, Dorothea’s face lit up.

She gave the impression of being a strong-willed person, and her age was the same as mine. She had pale golden hair, white skin, and slightly drooping light blue eyes that sparkled. Unfortunately, she was not as beautiful as Tatiana, but her strong-willed nature made her seem a bit obnoxious.

However, she was not a bad person, and she was positive and passionate, and she would not do anything to kick people down.

“Thank you. I was actually angry that Jeremiah-sama met you before me, but I’ll let it go. Now, my mother is waiting, let’s hurry.”

“Yes.”

Prompted by her words, I quickly got up from my seat after finishing my preparations.

❂❂❂

The dinner party proceeded in a peaceful manner. Every dish served seemed luxurious to me.

Plates were placed on the table, and each time, maids or butlers would serve us from the large dishes. Everything was course cuisine, and I felt like I had come to eat French cuisine.

From two appetizers to soup, there were fish and meat for the main course, and ice cream was served as a palate cleanser in between. After that, it was time for dessert, and the meal ended with tea.

Since Jeremiah, Tatiana, and Lord Grimani were seated far away, I looked around for a handsome man nearby while finishing my meal.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to see Jeremiah.

When I looked at him once, he returned a very happy smile. After all, it was my favorite face. If I kept looking at him, I would be plagued with palpitations and shortness of breath, and I wouldn’t be able to eat.

Since I could be seen so much if I finished eating, I decided to concentrate on eating for now.

Although I was able to avoid his smile, I felt a significant amount of meaningful glances.

However, since I could enjoy such a wonderful meal, I didn’t want to worry about it. I ate without any concern while telling myself that.

I want to give applause to the Castalde family’s chef.

By the way, Dorothea and her mother are relatives, so they sit closer to the head of the table, and I sit next to them. The elderly gentleman sitting next to me was the ultimate gentleman, so he didn’t ask any rude questions, and the dinner ended peacefully. The guests separated into men and women and began to relax.

Time passed leisurely.

Some male guests began to volunteer as dance partners for the upcoming dance.

Those who didn’t dance played card games or enjoyed drinks.

Gradually, more and more eyes began to pierce through me. It’s time for battle.

I felt the ladies approaching me stealthily.

Their eyes were saying, “Why did he talk to such a plain and unremarkable girl like her and take a walk? I’m much prettier than her.”

It’s just my imagination, but I think it’s mostly accurate.

I was expecting a barrage of questions to come my way, but it was Jeremiah who appeared.

The movements of the ladies who were about to approach me for questioning stopped when they saw him.

He approached me with unwavering steps, and with a superb smile, he extended his hand. I froze, but while my brain was bleeding at how wonderful his smile was, I greeted him with a smile plastered on my face.

“I’ve come to pick you up. You’ll dance for me, of course, won’t you?”

“As long as it’s not a daytime dance, I’ll be happy to.”

When I said that, he grinned and took my outstretched hand.

“As you wish, Lady.”

A sidelong glance.

It had the power to stop a person’s heart and make them unable to stand.

Completely overwhelmed by that power, I stumbled carelessly. Jeremiah immediately held me up by the waist, but I wanted to shout at him for doing something so intimate. Did he know how it looked?

Just as I was thinking that it would make us look like lovers, I remembered that I had been asked to play the role of a girlfriend, and my head began to ache.

I was envious of myself for being defeated by the destructive power of his beautiful face.

“Are you okay? If you’re feeling unwell, I’ll just stay by your side tonight…”

“No, I’m fine. More importantly…”

Sweating on my back, I regulated my breathing.

With only the mission of fulfilling what I had to do, I beckoned to Dorothea and her mother, who were watching us. Then, I noticed him flinch slightly.

“You probably already know this, but they really want to dance with you.”

“I should have properly explained why I asked you to do something like this.”

Jeremiah gritted his teeth. His hand wrapped around my waist was starting to hurt. I understood what he was trying to say. If that weren’t the case, he wouldn’t have asked me to be his fake girlfriend. But since I’ve been brought here, I can’t help but listen to them.

Soon, Dorothea came over quietly, lifting her skirt in a greeting and smiling warmly.

Chapter 7: You don’t have to be so aggravated…

“It’s been a while, Jeremiah-sama. I heard that you guided Lorraine? Thank you very much for your kindness.”

“No, it was my pleasure. I had a very enjoyable time.”

In an instant, Jeremiah’s face, which had reached the highest level of discomfort, changed to a gentlemanly smile as he spoke.

What a quick change. I want him to teach me that technique later.

Blushing at Jeremiah’s smile, Dorothea spoke cutely with her eyes looking up.

“Also, did you hear from Lorraine… about that?”

“Oh, the dance. I’m sorry, but my schedule is already full. If I have the opportunity next time, I would like to be your partner then.”

He said with a truly disappointed expression. Dorothea looked like a wilted flower and said, “Well, that can’t be helped,” and went to the other young gentlemen.

Her mother, in other words, my aunt, who encouraged her back, glanced at me for a moment.

Hmm, that’s strange. I feel like she’s filled with curiosity. I thought she would glare at me, but her eyes are different. It’s a face that says, “Let’s get involved in other people’s love stories and give advice for fun.”

Come to think of it, my aunt loved to gather respect by saying that she had mediated between young men and women she knew, and that she had given them various advice.

Of course, it was the same for her own daughter. Since Dorothea’s marriageable age had arrived, her enthusiasm was tremendous, even to an outsider’s eyes.

I was definitely being watched.

As I was inwardly panicking about what to do, I was pulled strongly by the waist.

“Let’s go to the hall soon.”

“Uh, yes.”

He had already returned to his unhappy expression. Why was he angry? At least, thanks to me, the other ladies besides Dorothea didn’t come near us.

I should have fulfilled my requested role.

My brilliant speculation, filled with my own arbitrary and biased opinions, was that Jeremiah still couldn’t forget about Tatiana. That’s why he asked me to be insect repellent, even if it was just for that time. I was just right, with a modesty that would be easily forgotten by everyone once everything was over.

So, this should be fine.

However, he seems angry about something. Moreover, he looks like he’s in pain. He must be tormented by various emotions, I thought. For now, there seems to be nothing I can do but leave him alone.

Reluctantly, I tried to read his expression.

But as I stared at his angry face, thinking it was cool, I was stopped by someone from the side.

“Hey, Jeremiah. Can you introduce me to that young lady?”

“…Aurelio. Don’t you understand the situation just by looking?”

“I do, but I couldn’t resist my curiosity. I was wondering who the little bird you’ve been holding onto since earlier was.”

As he spoke, the young man who called out to us, Aurelio, winked at me.

I was momentarily surprised and forgot to greet him.

That’s because earlier in the dining hall, I had found him while looking around, thinking that I couldn’t see Jeremiah and that Lord Grimani was too close to him to be in my field of vision, and he was a handsome man.

“Nice to meet you, lovely little bird. My name is Aurelio Caldelara.”

Ignoring my reaction, he introduced himself.

“Oh, I’m Lorraine Barricoeur. Nice to meet you too.”

Although I said that, I couldn’t give a proper greeting because my waist was firmly held. While smiling, I thought that even if he didn’t hold me so tightly, others would know that he was someone I was interested in.

However, Aurelio didn’t seem to be bothered by such things.

Unlike Jeremiah, he wasn’t a straightforward beauty. Rather, he didn’t belong to the category of beautiful people, but he had a mysterious atmosphere that attracted attention.

Aurelio had a prince-like appearance with soft golden hair and pale sky-blue eyes. He could be called a nobleman.

His physique was sturdier than Jeremiah’s, and he wore his clothes perfectly, effortlessly pulling off the latest fashion trends.

He seemed to be sparking some strange rivalry with Jeremiah.

I didn’t know the reason, but I decided on my own that he might be some kind of rival and diligently dug up memories about the Caldelara family name in the meantime.

There are quite a few nobles in the Floesland Kingdom.

While thinking that it would be good if it existed in my lacking brain, I searched my brain and finally remembered the name of the Viscount Caldelara family.

If I remember correctly, the head of the family died of illness, so his young son should have taken over the position.

That means Aurelio is Viscount Caldelara.

He said to me with an interesting look in his eyes, “Hehe, you’re a cute little bird, Jeremiah. How about giving me the right to dance with her too?”

“I’m sorry, but all of her dance plans have my name written on them. I’m sorry, but maybe another time.”

Jeremiah said somewhat brusquely (greedily). Although he was smiling, his eyes were not. Aurelio looked at Jeremiah, who seemed to be enjoying himself, shrugged his shoulders, and narrowed his eyes.

There was something about him that seemed to be plotting something, which was irresistibly charming.

I stared at Aurelio.

I really think he’s a great subject to admire.

If only he didn’t call me “little bird” every time.

It makes my back itch every time he says it.

“That’s a shame. Lady Lorraine, I would be happy if you could leave a place for my name next time. See you later.”

He said, winked again, and turned on his heel, heading towards the dance hall.

It seems that he went to another lady he had promised to dance with. As I watched him go, I heard a click from above and was surprised.

Chapter 8: It was an intense day

I looked up in surprise. Then, I met a beautiful face and eyes. They seemed somewhat wary and worried.

“…It’s better not to get involved with him too much.”

“Huh, why?”

Not knowing why I was being told that, I asked back unconsciously. This time, it was Jeremiah’s turn to widen his eyes.

“He’s a playboy. He’s always fooling around with widows and ladies from somewhere, and he’s famous for being quick to act. It’s obvious what will happen if an unmarried girl gets involved with him.”

“…Are you worried about me?”

“Of course.”

As I was held by the waist and looked down upon with a serious gaze, I once again received a great deal of damage to my heart. How many more times do I have to take this damage before this mission is over?

My face flushed, and my legs felt like they were going to give out.

What a deadly weapon, that face can kill a maiden. In many ways.

Of course, his “of course” probably implied the possibility that if the lady playing the role of his lover was seen with another man, it would not only be meaningless, but also suggest that Jeremiah had lost his lover to another man.

However, even if that were the case, I was too happy to be looked at with a serious face that I could die.

“T-thank you. I’ll be careful.”

“Please do so, now it’s about time for the music band to be ready. Let’s go.”

“Yes.”

Looking around, other guests were also heading towards the dance hall downstairs.

We joined the flow and on the way, Tatiana and Lord Grimani waved their hands, so we also turned around. Soon, we arrived at the hall where the chandeliers sparkled and a gentle melody could be heard.

Even an amateur like me could tell that the glamorous sound was coming from instruments made by talented musicians and excellent craftsmen.

As I was listening to the flowing music, Jeremiah said,

“So, let’s have fun dancing.”

“Y-yes.”

I answered in a hurry, and a funny smile spread across my field of vision. There were many other pairs who had started dancing, but I couldn’t see them anymore.

He was the only one in my field of vision.

Soon, a hand was placed on my waist, and I felt my body stabilize. The steps that were slowly taken were not forceful, but gently led me, who was clumsy, with care.

It was polite, calm, and passionate.

It was just a small dance party for a small group, so there was no need to be too strict about the rules, but he was very proper.

I didn’t feel the need to lead him, and by the time I was slightly out of breath, I had completely entrusted myself to him.

It was like a dream.

Perhaps because my past life was too miserable, I felt that God thought it was pitiful and wanted to show me a little bit of a better life this time.

If that’s the case, thank you, God.

I feel like I can live on now.

I completely forgot my original purpose for coming here and enjoyed watching Jeremiah while dancing. Well, it’s okay to be a big fool once or twice in life.

As the night wore on and the crowd dwindled, Jeremiah said, “It’s time to close. Let me take you to your room.”

“Okay.”

After resting for a while, he escorted me to the entrance of my room. My head felt a little dizzy. It was like my brain had turned into cotton candy.

However, no matter how much my brain turned into cotton candy, I must not forget my manners.

“Thank you for today. I had a great time.”

“I see. Well then, see you tomorrow.”

Whispering those words, the front suddenly became strangely dark. Wondering what it was, I was startled when I felt a soft sensation on my forehead.

——Wait a minute, did I just get kissed on the forehead?

Not understanding the meaning, I stiffened up, and Jeremiah, who had a satisfied cat-like expression after finishing his meal, said.

“Good night.”

He only said that and left with a firm step. However, as for me, I couldn’t recover from the shock for a while and stood frozen in front of the door.

A kiss on the forehead.

That shouldn’t be something you do with someone who is just a convenient lover. Moreover, it’s not something you do with someone you just exchanged words with today. It’s incomprehensible. I don’t know what he’s thinking.

As I swayed and muttered to myself, Dorothea, who seemed to have danced over, looked at me curiously with a flushed face and shook my shoulders.

By the way, Dorothea and I share the same room.

“Hey, what’s wrong? Your face looks really weird. It’s like you’re half burned and half frozen in fear. Did something happen?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand. I’m sorry.”

Unable to construct language well, I spoke brokenly and desperately mobilized all my energy to move my body.

Anyway, I had to rest.

Tomorrow will be much harder than today.

I have to restore my physical strength. Today, I only had to show off my relationship with Jeremiah, but from tomorrow, I have to endure the gaze of the people around me.

Jealousy, hatred, and various things will be directed at me.

In addition, there is a high possibility that my aunt will say something.

I guarantee that I won’t be able to endure it without getting enough sleep.

My joints creaked, and I entered the room like a broken robot. For now, I’ll sleep. I couldn’t even answer Dorothea’s curious “What’s wrong?” and immediately called a maid to change my clothes and lay down.

God, I’m grateful for your blessings, but please don’t overdo it, or my lifespan will be shortened.

I said to God in my bed.

However, Jeremiah’s happy smile that he showed me at the end was strongly burned into my eyes, and in the end, I couldn’t fall asleep easily.

Chapter 9: Baroness Palmara, runaway start

The next morning, I managed to cover up my slight lack of sleep with makeup and told the maid that I wanted to have breakfast in my room.

Honestly, I wanted to be alone a little longer.

Looking out the window, it was a clear and sunny day.

According to the plan, the men were supposed to go hunting today, leaving only the women in the mansion. The time had finally come for their jealousy and hatred to rain down on me.

Wow, that’s depressing.

“Maybe it was a bit too much to exchange for being seen up close.”

I muttered absentmindedly.

I was alone in the room. Dorothea had gone to the dining room for breakfast. I had to lie to her, who had worried about me until the end, and tell her that everything was really okay if something happened.

“Sigh, I really want to tell the truth.”

I sighed and muttered, and then I heard a voice.

“What do you want to say?”

Surprised, I looked for the source of the voice and noticed that my aunt with a gleeful look in her eyes was looking at me through the slightly open door.

——How long has she been there…!

Baroness Fiorenza Palmara, my aunt, had a slightly overweight figure due to overindulgence. She gave off an impression of having a comforting presence, but also gave off an impression of being someone who was loyal to her own desires, depending on how you looked at it. In reality, she was the latter.

My aunt, with her hair tied up high, which had increased in white hair, and dressed in a daytime dress that seemed to squeeze her flesh, looked at me with eyes full of excitement.

Eventually, I said to my aunt, who came into the room laughing happily, while feeling truly amazed from the bottom of my heart.

“No, it’s nothing major. I’m just a little tired, so I thought I’d decline today’s tea party.”

“I see. Then why are you so tired? Is it because of Jeremiah?”

Her fastball, which didn’t need any sugarcoating, hit my heart. I wished she had at least sugarcoated it a bit more. It was too straightforward, and I was left stunned. My aunt then snorted and showed a proud smile.

“Did you think you could fool me? I could tell right away that there was an unusual atmosphere between the two of you just by looking at you yesterday. So, what’s going on? Did “he” say something to you?”

Her inquisitive eyes moved around restlessly.

Exposed to that gaze, I groaned and said, “Um…”

Well, I thought it would come by yesterday, but it came earlier than expected, so I hadn’t come up with a suitable answer yet. I was planning to come up with a plan in the morning, but I couldn’t help but be amazed at my aunt’s quick actions.

I was troubled about what to do.

I can’t tell the truth, and if I answer as a girlfriend, I can only say, “I like him.” But once I say that, she will be thorough in making it happen.

The intentions are not important. Creating more couples is her raison d’être and the greatest entertainment.

That’s the kind of person my aunt is.

As I stumbled over my words, my aunt seemed to realize that I wasn’t going to answer anytime soon and nodded suggestively.

“I see, I understand. You’ve fallen in love with Jeremiah. But you can’t say anything because you don’t know how he feels. It’s okay, leave it to me, I’ll make sure everything works out.”

“Uh, um, Auntie… it’s not like that.”

“It’s okay, it’s okay. My cute niece is in trouble, so I want to help her. Don’t worry, you don’t have to worry about anything, everything will go well. Well then, we should meet Lord Castalde right away.”

My aunt’s eyes began to shine all at once.

This is a bad situation, what should I do? But no one has been able to stop her actions until now. Her husband, Baron Palmara, early declared that he would only provide money and not interfere, and her son followed his father’s lead.

Dorothea also said, “It’s useless to say anything when my mother is obsessed. Besides, leading the men and women she has her eye on to marriage is not a bad deed. It’s actually a good deed.” So she doesn’t seem to be willing to listen.

“Well, it’s getting busy now!

Dorothea also wants to find a man she likes as soon as possible. Then we can arrange a marriage proposal together and have a joint wedding!

Oh my gosh! Isn’t that wonderful!”

It seems like particles of light are overflowing from her small eyes and filling the area.

Sigh, have I finally reached the limit of eye strain? It’s still morning, and I thought with a distant look.

“I’ve decided! If possible, we’ll have a joint wedding this fall, and if it takes a little longer, we’ll have it next spring. First, let’s subtly talk to Lord Castalde, and then to Jeremiah and your parents.

Now, now, this is going to be tough.”

My aunt shouted alone and hurriedly left the room.

With a patting sound, the door closed, and I finally came back to reality from my state of escapism.

“This is troublesome… I have to tell Jeremiah-sama first.”

As I said that, I realized that he was out hunting and not at home. While he was away, my aunt would surely talk to Lord Castalde.

And my parents would definitely receive a letter.

Under siege.

I feel like a cornered deer. If things continue like this, it may cause great trouble for Jeremiah and hurt Dorothea.

“Ugh… I hate this.”

It’s still morning, but I thought it was the worst start.

Chapter 10: Relationship Crowding

In the afternoon, I made up my mind and left the room.

By the way, I didn’t have any good ideas. My thoughts were spinning around in circles, and I eventually decided to go out in a somewhat desperate manner, saying “whatever happens, happens.”

I went outside like a frightened mouse, trembling with fear.

I had given up on coming up with any good ideas with my brain, which was as good as useless, even if I stayed in the room.

If it came to this, there was no one else to rely on but Jeremiah, who had returned.

I decided to rely on his brain. He should be better than me.

In the first place, if he hadn’t asked me to be his fake girlfriend, we wouldn’t have ended up in this situation. I decided to take responsibility and make him use his brain to the fullest.

The hallway was deserted, and there was no one around.

I heard that there were quite a few books in this mansion. I was walking around, thinking about catching a suitable servant and asking them to guide me to the library when someone called out to me from behind.

“Hey, are you feeling better?”

When I turned around, Aurelio was approaching me with his usual enigmatic smile.

“Oh, yes. I recovered after taking a rest.”

“I see, you must have been tired from dancing yesterday. Jeremiah didn’t leave your side the whole time.”

His words caused my brain to overheat. Steam must be coming out of my head. I tried not to think too much about it, but when he said it so casually, it was the most embarrassing thing.

“Well…it was just a coincidence.”

“Hahaha, well, it can’t be helped. Most lovers who have just fallen in love are like that. It’s not just you guys. Anyway, I was actually looking for you.”

“What, me?”

Before I could tell him that he was mistaken, he rummaged through his pocket and pulled out a thin piece of paper, handing it to me.

It was a letter. I received it with confusion and looked at Aurelio’s face. He seemed embarrassed with a shy smile.

“I want you to give this to Dorothea. I heard you two are roommates…I didn’t want to give it to her directly, so I thought it would be easier to ask you.”

“I see…I understand. I’ll give this to Dorothea then.”

After saying that, I suddenly wondered when the two of them had met. Aurelio seemed to notice my curious expression and happily explained.

“Actually, I was her dance partner at the ball yesterday. At first, I thought she was a woman with a tough personality, but when we talked, we got along very well. That letter is a thank you note.”

“I see. She’s actually quite attractive, but she’s losing out because of misunderstanding. She’s determined to find a gentleman who can see her true worth despite that and marry him. Lord Caldelara must have noticed that.”

“Yes, that’s why I wanted to get to know her more and declined the hunting invitation to attend the tea party.”

It seems that Aurelio was able to confirm what kind of person Dorothea was there. As someone who had witnessed my cousin being misunderstood and frustrated many times, I was happy about it.

“I see. Then, I’ll make sure to deliver it to her properly.”

“Thank you. Sorry for keeping you, see you later.”

Aurelio said that and left cheerfully.

After watching his back with a warm feeling, I looked at the name of Dorothea written in elegant handwriting. It was clearly a love letter.

Just as I thought it was good, I suddenly realized something.

This might not be good.

Dorothea admires Jeremiah. I heard that he was the first person who didn’t care much about Dorothea’s character. Since then, she has repeatedly said that she wants to be friends with him.

On the other hand, Jeremiah is heartbroken and even asks me to be his insect repellent. The reason seems to be that Tatiana married Lord Grimani.

And it seems that Aurelio has fallen in love with Dorothea.

According to Jeremiah, he is a playboy. What should I do if this is just a game? Is it okay to hand this over to Dorothea?

“W-What should I do?”

However, since I made a promise, there is nothing I can do.

I have no choice but to indirectly tell Dorothea that he is a playboy.

“Ugh, this is troublesome.”

“What’s wrong, My Lady?”

“Ah!”

I let out a scream without any sex appeal as a voice suddenly came from behind. When I turned around, Jeremiah, with slightly messy hair, was standing there looking startled.

He was still as picturesque as ever, dressed in hunting clothes instead of his usual refined attire. If he had a gun and was in the forest, he would look like a legendary bandit.

However, he was standing in the hallway of the mansion and did not have a gun in his hand.

It seems he had returned from changing clothes.

When I realized that Jeremiah was not a hallucination, I put my hand on my chest and took a deep breath to calm my pounding heart. He really is bad for my heart, I thought to myself.

“You don’t have to be so surprised. Am I a monster?”

“I-I’m sorry. I was lost in thought… You’ve returned.”

“Yeah, just a moment ago. Anyway, what’s that?”

Jeremiah’s blue eyes were fixed on my hands with a dangerous glint.

“Um, it’s something entrusted to me by someone else. It’s not for me, though.”

“I see. If it’s not too much trouble, could you tell me about it?”

“I can’t because I don’t have the person’s permission.”

As I answered, I felt Jeremiah’s eyes light up. Why was he so curious? I guess he didn’t want his “girlfriend” to get something suspicious.

“I really didn’t receive it for myself, you know?”

“I understand even if you don’t say it multiple times.”

“Well, you have doubting eyes… Anyway, did you have any harvest?”

I deflected the conversation. Jeremiah furrowed his brow for a moment, but soon told me about the hunting results of the day. Eventually, I waited for the story to end and told him that I was afraid my aunt had misunderstood and that an engagement might be pushed forward.

Chapter 11: Isn’t that too different from what you’re saying?

After finishing the story, Jeremiah said something unexpected.

“I see, that’s fine too.”

“…Huh?”

Why did he come to that conclusion from the story just now? I stared at him in surprise, and he gave me a wicked smile. Even that villainous face looked good on him. I accidentally felt my heart skip a beat, but I quickly regained my composure, realizing that now was not the time to admire him.

“It’s okay to at least get engaged. It will make it more believable and serve as better protection against bugs. I can openly protect you as well. Unlike marriage, it can be dissolved later, so there’s no need to take it too seriously.”

“But…the promise was only for the duration of my stay in this mansion, right?”

If we made that public, we would have to keep up the act throughout the upcoming social season. That would be quite a burden.

Above all, Dorothea and Jeremiah’s fans wouldn’t stay quiet about it. Well, it’s okay to tell Dorothea the truth…

“Do you hate being with me that much?”

His voice shook me again, and it was once again unexpected. Why did he seem so pained? I didn’t want to see him look so sad. Somehow, my heart was beating even faster.

It’s safe to say that I’m in love with his face, which is quite troublesome.

Or rather, I can’t see Jeremiah’s true intentions. I don’t really know who he is in the first place. There are parts where I can’t judge which expression is acting and which is serious.

“No, it’s not like that… but if we get engaged, it will get in the way if a good opportunity comes to Jeremiah-sama, and I am also looking for a marriage partner, so I don’t want to waste the next season.”

I try to imply that there are only disadvantages for both of us.

“I see, then let’s do this. If you end up being left behind, I’ll take responsibility. So, I want you to cooperate a little more during the social season. Is that okay?

Actually, I’ve been enjoying spending time with you… I want to get to know you a little better.

Women who speak frankly like you are rare.”

“Ah, yes, that may be true.”

Basically, it was considered manners among the nobility to express what you want to say indirectly. Speaking frankly was considered indecent. However, I couldn’t use such unique expressions, so I made excuses that my memories from my past life remained and talked normally.

After muttering that, I realize that I skipped over a more important line.

“No, wait a minute. What do you mean by taking responsibility?”

“There’s only one way to take responsibility. Get married.”

“With whom? Are you going to find someone for me?”

“Why do I have to do that? You’re marrying me.”

I stared at him as if he were an incomprehensible creature after he spoke those shocking words so casually.

If you ask him normally, what he says is very correct. As a nobleman, no, as a man, it’s the most proper thing to do.

He delayed his marriage on his own responsibility, so he’s taking responsibility by getting married.

Yes, it’s correct. He’s a mirror of a nobleman. Wonderful. I want to give him a big round of applause.

But why can’t I nod obediently?

Even though I’m like this, I’m still a part of the nobility, so there’s no difference in status between Jeremiah and me. Even the upper class rarely looks down on us.

Well, in the first place, marriage between commoners and nobles is not allowed, so if we force it, we’ll be kicked out of the upper class.

Besides, the Baron Valcourt family has a small but decent income that can provide a dowry.

There’s no fear of poor nobles trying to do something to the property of wealthy nobles.

In general, the Castalde Marquis family is wealthy. They even have a company in a foreign country. That’s why the lady of the house can entertain nobles like this and still manage somehow.

So, there are no major obstacles.

“Um, you’re joking, right?”

“No, I’m serious.”

Jeremiah answered as if he didn’t really understand the reason for the question.

I imagined the scene of myself smiling next to him, with my face contorted.

Doesn’t it feel really strange? — It does to me. A lot.

If it were someone as beautiful as Tatiana, it would be balanced, but I only look like a servant to the high nobles. It’s not that I dislike my own face. It’s just a matter of balance.

As I hesitated to answer, Jeremiah continued to speak.

“If that’s not enough, should I give you something? I promised to give you something if you fulfilled your promise, so just tell me what you want.”

“No, it’s enough. It’s just that…”

“Just what?”

I had no choice but to be honest here. I gathered my courage and said:

“I’m worried that I might not measure up to your expectations in terms of appearance.”

“Measure up?”

“Yes, because my appearance is ordinary. But, Jeremiah-sama is very handsome.”

Speaking with a downward gaze, my tone naturally became smaller at the end of my sentences.

It’s kind of self-deprecating, I thought, and closed my mouth for a moment, hearing a big sigh.

“That’s ridiculous. You look inferior?

You just lack confidence in yourself.

Okay, then let’s go shopping tomorrow if the weather is good. My sister, who happens to be visiting here, will come with us, so you can consult with her. What, you just don’t know how to dress.

Your honey-colored hair and eyes are very beautiful.

I’m saying it, so it’s true. So, I asked you to be my girlfriend.

Well, I’ll go back to changing clothes soon. Let’s talk later.”

He lifted a strand of my hair and dropped his lips, leaving me frozen without a response. Yesterday’s incident was shocking enough, but what was with his sweet smile and words now?

And he kissed my hair…?

I have no idea when we became so intimate.

While I was being tossed by waves of questions swirling in my mind, Jeremiah had already left.

I immediately returned to the room, and I started embroidering. I stabbed the needle into the fabric while escaping from reality.

Concentration――!

I must transform this fabric into a gorgeous thing no matter what!

After killing time with that thought, I finally remembered the letter that Aurelio had given me, but it was already night.

I hurriedly gave it to Dorothea, but forgot to add “playboy” to it, and regretted it the next day.

Chapter 12: Big-eyed siblings

The next day, unfortunately, it was sunny, and I had to go out without any excuses.

I tried inviting Dorothea, but she looked troubled and somewhat lethargic. She sighed and looked out the window with a sad expression, flipping through her book of poems. However, she seemed unable to concentrate on reading and kept looking outside.

Since she didn’t respond at all, I urged her.

“Hey, what are you going to do?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t feel like going out today.”

“I see. Well, I’ll go alone, but are you really okay?”

I asked Dorothea, who had a troubled expression.

She finally turned to me at the sound of my voice, opened her lips as if she wanted to say something, then closed them and trembled her eyelashes. I was really starting to worry.

“Is it because of the letter I gave you yesterday?”

“N-no, it’s not like that. Come on, you have to go quickly, or Jeremiah-sama will be waiting, right?”

“Okay. I’ll go then, but if it’s okay with you, let me hear about it later. Auntie will be worried about you in that state, right?”

“Okay, I understand.”

Dorothea finally nodded, and I felt a little relieved that we had made arrangements. Anyway, I had to make Jeremiah realize that no matter how fashionable I looked today, it would be useless.

After this battle, I’ll listen to Dorothea’s worries. I might be able to help, and it should be much better than keeping it all to herself.

Once the decision was made, all that was left was to act.

Feeling confident, I left the room and headed to the entrance hall, where I almost collapsed at the sight of Jeremiah and his sister Paula, dressed for going out and holding a cane.

What a sight to behold, this brother and sister!

While Jeremiah had a similar face, his sister was a beautiful woman overflowing with feminine charm. She had glossy black curly hair and a smile that reminded me of a cat. Her slightly purple-blue eyes turned violet depending on the angle and sunlight.

She was wearing a blue dress for going out and waving at us.

By the way, Paula was already married. Her husband was His Excellency the Duke.

He was a person who was related to the royal family and apparently fell for Paula’s beauty and proposed to her on the spot. As a loving husband, the rumors about the Duke couple were always heartwarming stories. Occasionally, there were jealous remarks, but they were usually canceled out by people who knew them well.

Even Paula has a fan club, a group of supporters who praise her. They hold recitation events for the Duke’s poems that praise her (which are included in a poetry collection that the Duke self-published and are said to be indecipherable to those who have never been in love), and they perform plays for free using scripts written by members, featuring the Duke’s confession scenes.

As someone who loves theater, I went to see it sneakily, and it was quite exciting. But I never expected to meet the real-life subject of the rumors like this.

You never know what will happen in life.

There were two box-shaped carriages next to them, and two servants were busily preparing them. Two carriages were prepared for the two of them. Of course, Paula would be in the same carriage.

Unmarried women should not be alone with men in private places.

When I walked up to greet them, Paula smiled.

“Nice to meet you, although I don’t think we’ve ever had a proper conversation before. Please call me Paula, Lady Lorraine.

Today, my younger brother wanted my advice, so I came along, but he’s also good at choosing clothes. I’m just here as a chaperone, but don’t worry, I won’t get in the way.”

“No, not at all. I would love to hear your opinion. The Castalde family’s fashion sense is so wonderful that it can be felt anywhere,” I replied while staring intently at the two of them.

I was burning their image into my retina. What a picturesque couple they were. While I was lost in thought, Jeremiah spoke with a sweet smile.

“Well then, shall we go soon? Ideally, I would like to have the dress made by a tailor in the capital, but that’s not possible. Let’s make a dress that enhances your charm today. I’ve always thought that Lady Lorraine’s dresses are too old-fashioned in design and the colors don’t match. If we have time, we’ll also visit a hat shop and a jewelry store.”

“What? I can’t let you go that far…”

I was surprised to think that he intended to give me not only clothes but also hats and jewelry, which would be a considerable expense. Especially the price of jewelry is outrageous, and I don’t even have anything of my own. Everything was handed down to me from my mother and relatives.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. When a man gives a gift, you just accept it quietly. Besides, if you become my sister-in-law in the future, the jewelry will stay in the Castalde family, right?”

“Yes, we are not officially engaged yet,” Jeremiah said with a bright smile.

It seems that he hasn’t told Paula that I am his “fake girlfriend.” I wonder why. Since they are family, there is no need to keep it a secret, or rather, it’s strange not to tell her.

As I was thinking that, he suddenly reached out his hand to me.

It seems he will take me to the carriage.

While watching him with a suspicious gaze, a mischievous smile returned to his face.

No matter how much I try, I can’t feel excited in a situation filled with suspicion. I got into the carriage with a strange face, and Paula got in too. Then the door was closed.

Soon, the carriage began to move at a leisurely pace, heading towards a nearby town.

Paula, who was sitting opposite me, was looking at me with a somewhat happy expression. It wouldn’t be of any benefit to keep looking at me like that, but she must be interested in the girl her younger brother showed affection for. For a while, silence flowed, and only the sound of the carriage and horse rattling could be heard.

Still, it seems that Paula couldn’t keep her mouth shut, and she asked.

“Hey, if it’s okay, can you tell me?”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“What attracted you to my younger brother?”

At the sudden question, my eyes twitched.

Chapter 13: Blood ties show up in the most unexpected places

I couldn’t just say “his face” straightforwardly.

If I said something like that, not only would I be looked down upon, but Jeremiah’s request would also be ruined. I tried to think on my feet and came up with some good things about him.

“Well, he’s very straightforward, isn’t he? I won’t say anything that I don’t mean, so you can trust me. Besides, he’s kind. Not only does he point out flaws that I wouldn’t notice myself, but he also seriously considers how to overcome them… And despite being such a handsome man, he doesn’t seem to be arrogant about it, which I think is wonderful.”

Based on the information I had obtained from observing him from afar and the recent list of rude words, I came to a conclusion and Paula’s face lit up.

“Well, that’s wonderful. You really understand the good things about him that other ladies couldn’t see. You see, he has a sweet face and a promising future. It’s so attractive that everyone is blinded by it and no one can see his true nature.

He’s actually a gentle and delicate child who can’t lie. I’m so happy that you’re going to be my sister-in-law. There’s nothing happier than that.”

Her delicate hand, wrapped in white gloves, reached out and enveloped my small hand.

My heart aches with overflowing affection from the violet-colored gaze directed at me. I want to say no, that’s not it, but if I say that, it will be over. So, I nod with a smile plastered on my face.

“I’m proud to think that I can also have a beautiful sister-in-law like you.”

“Ara, don’t praise me too much.”

Paula laughs happily.

“But first, we have to find a dress that suits you. If you enter the social season like this, people will say things like ‘she’s so dull’ or ‘she’s so plain’ or ‘she’s not stylish’ or ‘she looks cheap’ or ‘she looks shabby’ behind your backs, and they’ll just laugh at you for being a countryside Baron’s daughter.”

With good material like this, it’s a waste to let it rot before the flower blooms. You have such beautiful hair and skin, it’s such a shame.”

Paula looks at me carefully, as if pondering what would suit me.

It’s nice that she’s seriously considering what would suit me, but on the other hand, I feel it keenly.

——They are definitely siblings.

Or rather, was that line just now worse than what Jeremiah said? He said I was plain and had a weak presence, but he didn’t say I was dull or anything like that.

Or rather, a lot of insults were flying around.

I was impressed in a different way that they had such a wide vocabulary.

“My husband, Duke, isn’t very good at dressing up even though he’s at that level. He was terrible. So, when he tried to court me, I told him off and said he should pay more attention to his appearance. Then he immediately proposed and said he had been waiting for a woman like me.

He said that you’re wonderful because you don’t decorate your words, and at first, I didn’t like it, but if you keep hearing it… Oh, I’m getting off-topic.

Anyway, leave it to us today.”

“Yes, please do.”

As I answered, I suddenly thought that Duke-sama must be someone who enjoys being abused. I don’t think I’m wrong. Are there any other people who are happy to be insulted? No way.

I told myself that my face, which was now stuck with a smile, was actually serious, and I wanted to get to the city quickly. I wanted to see Jeremiah as soon as possible. It’s better to be told that I’m plain by him than to keep showing off my lovey-dovey tongue in front of Paula.

I kept praying in front of Paula, who continued to mix her poisonous tongue with her lovey-dovey talk.

Ah, the air is so fresh.

When we arrived in the city, we got off the carriage in front of a tailor’s shop. Other wealthy people were getting off their carriages and shopping in various places.

Nearby, maids and servants were running around busily.

My spirit had been worn down to the point where I felt like it was a distant memory that I could enjoy watching the two beautiful people up close. It felt like my spirit had been meticulously sanded away.

To take away even the luxury of watching was truly terrifying, my dear sister.

Even if there was no malice, I wanted to escape from reality so badly that I would catch a nearby child and advise them to stop speaking ill of others, even if it caused inconvenience.

I hope that all the members of the Castalde family are not poisonous-tongued.

I prayed to the god who would be beyond the clear sky. I understand that it is meaningless. However, even if it is meaningless, useless, or ends in vain, there are times when we want to cling to something.

“Lady Lorraine? Are you perhaps drunk? You look a little pale.”

“Oh no, no, I’m fine. I was just questioning why I was born into this world too much.”

“…Ah, I see. I’m sorry. You should ride in the same carriage as me on the way back.”

Perhaps he sensed something, as Jeremiah said with a very sympathetic face.

Internally, I became like a character in a dramatic manga, thinking, “If you knew, why didn’t you do it from the beginning?” But there was no point in blaming him.

For an unmarried woman, being alone with a man in a carriage is not a good act, even if they are acquaintances and plan to be engaged in the future.

“What are you two talking about? Come on, Madam is waiting too, Lorraine. Come over here. Look at this beautiful fabric. Oh, this fabric is also beautiful. It will definitely suit you!” Paula exclaimed as she entered the store and began to get excited about the various fabrics.

I looked at her tiredly and started to walk unsteadily. Then, Jeremiah took my hand immediately. I was truly grateful this time.

“Thank you.”

“No, I did a bad thing. But my sister’s eyes are sharp, so I brought her with us. I think you will like the finished dress.”

“Yes, I think so too.”

I smiled back at the unusually kind Jeremiah. I didn’t have the energy to admire the dresses, so I looked directly into his eyes and conveyed my gratitude as much as possible. Then, Jeremiah briefly became serious and immediately turned his face away.

Perhaps my feelings didn’t come across well. While feeling disappointed, I followed him into the store.

Chapter 14: They are planning to make a spectacular transformation

Madam Sabrina’s Shop.

As the sign indicated, the owner of the tailor shop was a well-built female proprietor. Seamstresses were bustling around her, and there were several other customers besides us.

“Oh my, Lady Ojo of Castalde! Welcome back. What can I do for you today?”

“Long time no see, Madam. Today, I came to have her clothes tailored, not for myself. She didn’t have anyone to advise her around here. But I thought it wouldn’t do if she stood next to Jeremiah like that.”

Madam’s dark brown eyes caught me. I felt like I was being locked on. I became uneasy as she looked at me as if she were scrutinizing me from behind her glasses.

“Oh, so Lord Jeremiah has finally made up his mind to settle down. Congratulations, this means the Castalde family and my shop are both safe now. Well then, please come this way, let’s take your measurements.”

“Oh, yes! Thank you very much.”

I hurriedly replied and headed towards the back of the shop.

After that, I took off my dress and was measured. After it was over, I sat on the chair provided with Jeremiah and listened to Paula and Madam arguing fiercely while holding the cloth in front of them. I no longer understood what they were saying. I didn’t even understand what I didn’t understand.

Still, when I answered questions about the clothes I had, their colors, designs, and decorations, I heard several voices sounding terribly disappointed.

Wait, that sigh wasn’t just from the three of them.

It’s understandable that the shop’s customers listen to other people’s conversations, but I wish they wouldn’t show their attitude.

Moreover, there were obviously mixed voices of sympathy. Please leave me alone because it makes me sad. I know very well how lacking my sense is.

After all, I felt embarrassed when I tried my best to dress up with such a plain face and a plump body, so I didn’t touch on that aspect of information too much.

I strictly ordered the tailors and maids to make things that were not too flashy, so as a result, they became modest and unimpressive.

Still, my mother had a say in the evening dress, so it was somewhat glamorous, but as a result of my dislike for extreme exposure, the plainness increased.

“Why didn’t anyone pay attention to this? Certainly, the Valcourt family’s location is a remote place, and there is only abundant nature around, but even so, why are there only brown and gray colors? It’s like they’re using protective colors to avoid being attacked by beasts. What is this!”

“I’ve been saying that…” Paula made a gesture of holding her head in her hands with her usual poisonous tongue.

“That’s right. It’s one thing if it’s an old maid, but for a young girl to have only those colors, and the designs she heard about are like relics from the previous century, not just outdated.”

“Well, in that case, let’s make a complete set! Lord Jeremiah, would that be okay?”

To the determined Madam, Jeremiah nodded with a serious expression.

“Yes, please do. I want her to awaken to the joy of dressing up. Even if it costs a lot, I don’t mind paying for it.”

“W-wait a minute! Even if it costs a lot, that’s really troublesome. Besides, I don’t need underwear. We’re not getting married, and I can keep wearing my riding clothes and regular dresses as they are.”

“No way! I can’t let you wear such clothes! After all, you’re my future sister-in-law, which means you’ll be the future Marquess. Lady Castalde cannot be allowed to dress so shabbily! You should dress appropriately for your position!”

Eeeh…

It seems that in Paula’s mind, Jeremiah and I were already married. Isn’t that going too far?

In any case, Jeremiah and I were just acquaintances who had met a few times and exchanged greetings. Recently, he asked me to be his pretend girlfriend, and we became close. I thought that was already difficult enough, but now it has developed into an engagement, and apparently, we are already considered to be getting married.

It’s too much of a leap. I can’t keep up anymore. What kind of thought process is she having?

Jeremiah must be troubled by this too. I thought that since I am just playing the role of his girlfriend, I would ask for his help and looked to him, but I collided with a sweet smile. Wait, I expected a troubled smile in return.

This is like a smile directed towards a real lover.

My heart was about to stop, but I managed to hold on.

“Don’t worry, this kind of expense is nothing. Look forward to it. There will be another ball scheduled for the last day of the gathering in this mansion, and you will be presented there. It seems like everyone will be amazed, so it will be fun.”

“Uh… but…”

I was about to say that I should pay some of it, but Jeremiah put his index finger on my lips and closed one eye.

“I won’t hear any more. You just have to wait quietly for the dress to be ready, okay?”

What a foul play. My mind went blank, and I unconsciously nodded my head up and down. There was probably some kind of hypnotic effect.

I thought he was too good at acting while looking at his finger that had left my lips.

I wanted to praise myself for not collapsing on the spot. Well, I might have looked like a young girl in love, lost in thought, but that was probably all right.

——But it’s probably better not to continue playing the role of a girlfriend for too long.

While wiping my flushed cheeks with my cold hand, I let out a small sigh. Yes, it’s not good. If I continue like this, I will definitely fall in love with him. I want to avoid that at all costs.

However, it’s too late to back down now.

——Get a grip, it’s just for viewing.

While reminding myself of that, I watched the heated debate in which Jeremiah also participated. Anyway, I’m honestly happy to be able to wear a new dress.

I wonder how it will turn out, so I turned my attention to something else.

Chapter 15: Please don’t make fun of me

After finishing all the orders with Madam, we headed to the hat shop.

There, I was made to buy more accessories such as fans, and in the end, I was gifted matching earrings and a necklace from a jewelry store.

I earnestly pleaded with them to treat it as a loan because it was too expensive, but I was persuaded by the siblings and ended up accepting it.

The accessories were made of a transparent gemstone that was finely cut, similar to diamonds, and were particularly expensive. I hinted that I would prefer something more affordable, similar to amethyst, but it was no use.

Even when I indirectly said that I didn’t need expensive jewelry, it was useless. In the end, I was scolded for not having jewelry that matched the dress.

According to Paula and the jewelry store owner, my current possessions were not suitable for the new dress.

Why do I have to be scolded when I’m trying not to spend money?

Gifts are very nice, but they can be intimidating if they are too expensive.

The brilliance of the jewels in the box I held was so beautiful that it was almost a waste for someone like me to wear them. I sighed again, thinking that Tatiana would be delighted with the jewels.

Feeling a bit uneasy, I headed towards the carriage where Jeremiah and Paula were talking about something. Eventually, Paula sent me a meaningful glance, and I tilted my head in confusion. However, I quickly understood the meaning. It was because Jeremiah had boarded the carriage that I was riding in.

It seems that he noticed that I was exhausted from Paula’s sharp tongue.

“I’m sorry for the trouble…”

“It’s okay, don’t worry about it. Besides, there’s something I wanted to see.”

“Something you wanted to see?”

Jeremiah, who sat in the front seat, had a really happy expression, and it took a while for an answer to come back. As I hesitated to ask, the carriage slowly started moving.

The sun would set soon.

The gentle afternoon air was mild and sweet, tinged with the colors of spring that would soon arrive.

Eventually, Jeremiah took the box with the jewels from my hand and took out the contents. It was illuminated by the faint orange light shining through the window, creating sparkling particles of light inside the carriage.

“It’s beautiful. This is definitely suitable for you. Can you try wearing it for a bit?”

“Here? Right now?”

“Yes. Oh, let me put it on for you. Come here.”

Jeremiah indicated the space next to him. However, it was quite narrow, and we ended up being quite close. I thought it might be bad, but he pulled me over and forced me to sit down.

“Ah, um…!”

“Stay still.”

His breath on my neck made me shiver involuntarily. As a cool gem settled into my chest, he finally returned me to my original seat. My heart was beating fast.

“Oh, it suits you very well. If you wear the finished dress, you’ll understand what I meant.”

As he looked at me with narrowed eyes and praised me, I became even more unsettled.

I couldn’t look straight at his face. It was a perfect opportunity to see his beautiful face that I would never tire of looking at, but I gritted my teeth and looked at him.

“Please don’t give me any more gifts like this. Even if I try my best to play the role of your girlfriend, I won’t be able to repay you.”

“Girlfriend, huh… Well, you can think of it as an apology for my sister’s outburst. She didn’t mean any harm. It’s just that everything she says is interpreted as unwanted, so it turned out that way.”

“I-I see.”

As I touched the jewel on my chest, I looked at Jeremiah, who seemed a little sad. Today, I felt like I saw an unexpected side of him.

“Yeah, you see, my sister is a stunning beauty. So, if she shows even a little bit of interest, people misunderstand and think she’s interested… She’s been called a fickle woman by the man she had a crush on, so she started saying bad things to people she liked after that.

So, if she said a lot of bad things about you, it’s the opposite of my sister’s interest.”

“Um, so does that mean she likes me?”

“Yeah.”

Jeremiah smiled wryly at my exasperated expression. He seemed incredibly happy and amused. If there was a reason, it was probably because I was liked by Paula.

I’m starting to understand Jeremiah’s attitude even less.

——I’m playing the role of a girlfriend, right?

I keep reminding myself because I might misunderstand and think I’m her real girlfriend.

“If that’s the case, I’m happy too. Then, let’s try replacing the words with the opposite next time. But, I think I’ll still feel down if I’m not used to it.”

“Haha, I guess so.”

Jeremiah laughed loudly with an innocent face that I had never seen before. His face was completely turned towards me, and his smile was terribly dazzling.

It was the first time I saw him laugh so openly, but was this the way he always laughed? Before I could even think about how beautiful it was, my chest tightened with pain. At the same time, I felt my body heat up.

I was terribly confused, enveloped in a sensation that was different from anything I had experienced before.

The closest thing I could compare it to was the reaction I had when I was moved. I understood that I was happy because I had seen his happy face for the first time.

“But I’m glad you didn’t deny that she’s a terrible person. Most of the young women who met my sister would start crying right away.”

“I see. But if you listen carefully, you won’t think that way. After all, all the words were for my sake. It’s just that Jeremiah-sama and Paula-sama are so kind, but it’s hard to tell. It’s like they’re testing others, as if looking for someone who can expose themselves…”

Even if you take just one of Paula’s words, the language may be harsh, but the content is full of compassion. The same can be said for Jeremiah. I had seen it for years, so I knew that about him.

When I looked at Jeremiah with a slightly proud expression, he looked at me with eyes that seemed to see something precious.

“Was, was I wrong? If so, I’m sorry.”

“No, I’m sure that’s it. You’re really cute, so cute that it’s troublesome.”

“… …!”

I involuntarily gasped and widened my eyes. How could this person say such embarrassing things so casually?

“… Please say those kinds of lines to someone you really like.”

“It’s not that big of a deal. I just stated the truth.”

“…That’s enough.”

Jeremiah seemed to be teasing me, and I turned my face away and furrowed my brow. I know I’m not that cute. Maybe something I said didn’t sit well with him. Otherwise, he might have just found my reaction exaggerated and funny.

The trip with Paula was tough, but the return with Jeremiah was even more uncomfortable.

I kept chanting in my mind to hurry up and get back to the mansion, and I deliberately didn’t look at his face.

My plan to enjoy the view to the fullest ended up being a complete failure.

Chapter 16: I’m tired, but…

During the carriage ride, I received a barrage of poisonous remarks, and at the dressmaker’s, I was laughed at and made to realize that it was useless to dress up. However, I was completely taken in instead of being made to realize it, and on the way back in the carriage, I was thoroughly teased to the point where my heart was in critical condition, and by the time I returned to the mansion, I was exhausted.

Furthermore, even after that conversation, Jeremiah continued his mysterious “cute, though” attack, so I had to keep reminding myself not to misunderstand and say “Eeeh?!” in a deep voice, which made it even worse.

Finally, I managed to make it to my room in a tired state, and thanks to the efforts of the maid Dora, I managed to change my clothes and prepare myself to go to dinner, albeit a little unsteadily.

I was tired, but I was also hungry.

I thought that the exhaustion of today would surely be healed by the wonderful cooking of the chef. With that in mind, I felt a little bit of my tiredness disappear and my energy return.

I also spoke to my roommate Dorothea, but she said she had no appetite.

I didn’t have the luxury of worrying about her, so I said, “Okay, see you later,” and left the room.

Just then, I ran into my aunt, who seemed to have come to pick me up. She lined up next to me with a meaningful look and began to report on today’s achievements in a low voice, ignoring my plea to spare me as if it had never been heard. And so, Aunt talked like a waterfall on a vertical board.

“Hey, listen, I finally got to meet Lord Castalde today, and I hinted that his son and my niece seem to get along very well.

Then, he said it was a joyous thing!

If my niece is from a good family and has a good reputation, there should be no problem if his son is interested. However, let’s not rush things and wait for the social season to see how things go. Really, they don’t understand, young people can’t wait that long, can they?”

I listened carefully, even though the development was too fast to keep up with. Anyway, I must thank Lord Castalde for telling her not to rush.

I don’t know much about him, but I’m sure he’s a decent person.

“Well, I’m glad he approved. Thank you, Auntie, it must have been tough.”

“Hohoho, it’s nothing when it comes to my niece’s marriage.

Anyway, what about Dorothea? It’s dinner time, but she’s still changing?”

“Well, uh… I called out to her, but she said she had no appetite…”

“How unusual. Let me go see her. Dorothea, Dorothea, what’s wrong?”

When Aunt opened the door and entered the room, she went straight to the bedroom.

I followed her, curious. Then, I saw Dorothea lying on the bed. Her face looked pale and she seemed to be in pain.

“Well, what’s wrong? Should I call a doctor if you’re in pain? Does something hurt?”

“No, it’s okay. I just have a headache… You two go have dinner.”

She spoke weakly.

Compared to Dorothea’s usual lively voice, it was unbelievably thin. I became worried and approached her, saying:

“Hey, your complexion looks really bad. If you’re feeling unwell, we should call a doctor after all.”

“Don’t call a doctor… But, I want Lorraine to stay by my side after dinner. I think I’ll feel better if we talk.”

Dorothea looked at me, pleadingly. From her appearance, it was clear that she was holding something she didn’t want to tell Aunt.

“Of course, no, I won’t go to dinner. So let’s eat together here tonight.”

“No, you two should go properly. I’m fine, so please, Okaa-sama.”

“But…”

“Please, I’m begging you.”

Dorothea’s voice, which repeated itself strongly, made me meet my aunt’s eyes. My aunt shook her head. I also knew that it was difficult to persuade Dorothea in this situation.

Reluctantly, my aunt and I decided to head to dinner.

“I’ll come back as soon as possible.”

I left the room after saying that.

When I stepped into the hallway, my aunt muttered, “She seems to have something troubling her.” She had also noticed it. It was not the flu or a temporary illness, but a mental illness.

“Lorraine, I’m sorry to ask, but please tell me about that child’s story later. There may be things that are difficult to talk to her parents about.”

“Yes, I promise.”

I sincerely promised and hurried to the dining room.

❂❂❂

The dinner was still wonderful, but it was difficult to enjoy it as casually as usual. The more I thought about needing to return and hear Dorothea’s story, the slower time seemed to pass.

Perhaps because of that, I didn’t care at all about the cold, piercing gazes from the young ladies and their mothers. Once the last dessert was finished, it was over. Waiting for everyone to finish and start standing up to spend their time as they pleased, I stood up from my seat and exchanged a glance with my aunt. She responded with a nod that seemed to say “please,” so I nodded back.

She would return to the room after a while. She shouldn’t be in the mood to enjoy anything leisurely tonight. I had to tell her the results early, so I hurriedly left the dining room.

Just before that, Paula, Tatiana, and Lord Grimani invited me to play a game, but I politely declined, saying I was tired. Hearing their disappointed sighs, my heart hurt a little, but for now, I was worried about Dorothea.

Then, I felt someone following me from behind.

I didn’t pay attention to the fact that there might be others who wanted to return to their rooms early, but as I approached a deserted hallway, my arm was suddenly pulled. I lost my balance and was about to fall backward, but I was caught before I hit the ground.

When I lifted my head, the faces I had seen enough of today were illuminated by the faint moonlight coming in from outside.

I felt like I had fallen for a prank.

My heart was pounding.

I couldn’t help but get angry.

“What are you doing? It’s dangerous!”

“I caught you properly, didn’t I? I just wanted to talk, but you were about to leave, so I stopped you.”

“There must have been another way… Are you trying to kill me?”

“That would be a bad thing to do.”

Jeremiah said in a tone that definitely didn’t suggest that he thought that. Since I was being held from behind, my neck was bent as I looked up. I tried to change my posture because it was difficult to talk, but I couldn’t move because I was being held tightly.

Moreover, I couldn’t understand why I was being treated like this. Is this some kind of game?

Or maybe he’s just really enjoying teasing me.

If that’s the case, it’s annoying. It’s extremely annoying.

“Please let me go, I’m in a hurry.”

“Do you have something to do?”

“Yes, my cousin is sick, and I want to be by their side. So please let me go.”

When I said that, he reluctantly let me go.

“Well, I guess that can’t be helped. Let’s talk tomorrow… But before that, I wanted to tell you something properly.”

This time, Jeremiah had a gentle smile on his face as we met properly for the first time. It was another expression I had never seen before. My breathing momentarily stopped, going against the will of the Lord.

Chapter 17: Something nasty was going on

“Today was so much fun. Everything I said in the carriage was my true feelings, so please don’t misunderstand me. Well then, goodnight my love.”

Jeremiah, who lined up lines that were too sweet and sugary to be said by a cool guy (or rather, didn’t suit him), took my hand with a natural movement and kissed the back of it.

His blue eyes, which were directed towards me as he bent down, held a strong light that pierced through me and kept me pinned to the spot.

Eventually, he let go of my hand and said, “See you tomorrow,” before walking away looking cool.

On the other hand, I was left standing there, unable to say a word, still frozen in place.

What was that just now? I felt like I had been hit by a sudden storm and was left in a daze. For a while, I looked in the direction he had left.

After a while, I came back to my senses and became angry, thinking that I didn’t need to act like a lover in a place where no one was watching.

“Ah! I don’t understand that guy at all!”

I felt like stomping my feet, but it would be meaningless. At best, it would only result in me injuring my foot and increasing my frustration.

Anyway, for now, I need to focus on Dorothea rather than analyzing Jeremiah’s actions.

I quickly returned to my room, switching my focus.

❂❂❂

When Dorothea saw me coming back, she jumped up with such force that I wanted to ask her if she was really sick.

“Oh! Lorraine, I’ve been waiting for you. I don’t know what to do, but I can’t consult with Okaa-sama… That’s why I wanted to ask you.”

“Of course, I intended to come back as soon as possible, but it took a little longer. So, what do you want to talk to me about?”

Dorothea pulled a chair to the bedside, sat down, and grabbed my hand, leaning forward. Upon closer inspection, her body was trembling slightly.

“Well, you see… there was a letter that you gave me.”

“Yes, Lord Caldelara’s letter.”

When Aurelio’s name was mentioned, Dorothea’s hand squeezed mine tightly.

…It hurts. It hurts so much that I wonder where she got that strength from, but I couldn’t ask her to let go. While enduring the pain, I waited for her response.

“That was a summons letter.”

“So, did you go?”

Dorothea nodded and averted her eyes. It was hard to tell because of the candlelight, but her cheeks were flushed. Her eyes seemed to be getting teary, and she looked like she was about to cry.

I wondered what had happened.

Suppressing the urge to cut in, I waited.

“I was with him all morning today. We strolled through the garden, had tea, and it was fun and enjoyable. But when I came back and spent time with the other ladies, I heard it.”

He’s a playboy, whispering sweet words to various women and making a name for himself… So they told me not to take it seriously. Then, they started a gossip session about you, but I’m already so overwhelmed by it…”

“I-I see.”

My face twisted involuntarily. Well, I had a feeling that something was being said behind my back, but it was tough to hear a report without any context. I could guess the content, but there were still things that bothered me.

But I told myself to put my own feelings aside for now.

Ignoring me, Dorothea began to speak as if a dam had burst.

“Hey, what should I do? Can I believe him? I can’t consult Okaa-sama about this. She’ll definitely oppose it… But if what they’re saying is true, am I just being deceived? Am I being played with? Or is he just trying to find a suitable lady to marry because he wants a wife? I can’t believe anything anymore… I thought you might know something since you received that letter, right? He’s not really that kind of person, is he?”

I thought this had become troublesome.

After all, I hardly knew anything about Aurelio. I only knew that he was an acquaintance of Jeremiah. Jeremiah had warned me not to get close to him because he was a libertine (prodigal).

If I believed that, I could only say that it would be better to stop. However, I had not seen Aurelio in any libertine scenes, so I couldn’t say for sure.

Besides, what should I do about my promise with Aunt Fiorenza?

If I tell her about this conversation, it will seem like I’m tattling, but I can’t say nothing either. Among the limited choices, what action can I take? I voiced the question that suddenly came to mind.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know either. So, please wait a moment while I look it up. But before that, there’s something I want to ask you.”

“What is it?”

“Weren’t you admiring Jeremiah-sama?”

Dorothea then looked surprised and asked back.

“Why do you think that?”

“Well, you said you definitely wanted to get close to Jeremiah-sama, so I thought you liked him.”

Somewhat bewildered, I said, and Dorothea finally smiled and began to explain.

“Well, he is the best among the current candidates for a marriage partner. Even if I couldn’t be seen that way, I thought that if we could become friends, he would have a good network and could introduce someone. At that time, I wasn’t aiming for anyone specific, he was just the top candidate… Oh no, did you mind that? If so, I’m sorry. I think he’s a desirable person, but I don’t have any feelings beyond that, so don’t worry. Your rumors are incredible. It’s a storm of jealousy because there are so many ladies aiming for him. But don’t worry, you are suitable for him.”

“T-Thank you.”

I intended to listen to her, but I ended up being comforted, and I thanked her while feeling pathetic.

Huh, that’s strange, salty liquid is coming out of my eyes. I didn’t plan to release salt from my eyes.

If I’m criticized any further, I’ll be bedridden. I’ll stay in a canopy bed for a while.

While becoming petty, I thought about it.

Chapter 18: My head is getting confused

When feeling helpless like this, it’s best to focus on something else.

So, I put all my effort into thinking about what to do about the situation that had arisen in Dorothea.

However, one worry has been lifted, which is a relief. Now that I know that Dorothea won’t be hurt if I continue to play the role of Jeremiah’s girlfriend, I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

But a new problem has already arisen.

Watching Dorothea, it seems that Aurelio is serious about her. I’ve heard stories of falling in love immediately after meeting someone, but this is the first time I’ve seen it happen. Moreover, the other party is a well-known libertine. If you think about it properly, the only thing to do is to tell her to stop. If she still insists, I will advise her that if she can endure having a mistress someday, then it’s fine.

Because Aurelio Caldelara is a Viscount and would make a perfect marriage partner. He seems to have a good income, and the only flaw is that he’s not faithful to women. If you can turn a blind eye to mistresses and illegitimate children, it’s fine, but Dorothea doesn’t seem capable of such tricks.

Or rather, I couldn’t believe that Aurelio was trying to seduce Dorothea. Not because Dorothea is unattractive. On the contrary, if she didn’t have a strong personality, I think Dorothea would be somewhat attractive.

There were several other ladies invited to this mansion, and even from a woman’s perspective, there were some exceptionally beautiful women among them, including some widows. If one were used to playing around like Aurelio, they would choose women who were not averse to giving in to passion, like these women, as it would be less troublesome.

However, Dorothea had the opposite nature of such women. It should be clear after talking to her for a while. Yet, Aurelio seemed to be passionately pursuing her.

——There might be something going on.

I thought I shouldn’t rush to a conclusion.

“Well, anyway… let’s observe a little more. We can get to know him while staying in this mansion, and I’ll also investigate. From the way he talked, I didn’t think he was the type of person rumored about… Maybe he’s carrying something.”

“Carrying something…? What do you mean?”

I didn’t know what to do with Dorothea’s anxious face. To be honest, what I just said was just a hopeful speculation. However, I was exposed to her too earnest gaze, so I said it after a preamble.

“You know, this is just my guess, and it may not be true, but I think people who indulge in “playing” have some kind of emotional problem. Not everyone is like that, but they may be in despair or have to give up something… If he is like that, maybe he will stop his debauchery if we can solve his emotional problem.”

“Ah! If that’s the case, I’ll do whatever it takes to help him.”

“That’s right. So, let’s make sure we know what kind of person he is now. I’ll help too, so cheer up, okay?”

“Yes, I’ll try my best.”

Dorothea nodded quietly. It was a bluff, but it seemed that I was able to plant some hope. However, if he was really a true philanderer, she might get hurt.

I felt heavy-hearted.

Speaking of feeling heavy-hearted, I had to tell my aunt about this. What should I say? When I imagined my aunt’s face, I suddenly remembered the conversation we had about Jeremiah.

What did my aunt say to Lord Castalde again?

As I pondered about it, his smile came to mind again, and I became confused. And then I suddenly remembered. Yes, something had been bothering me for a long time.

I was surprised by the request to play the role of his girlfriend, and I had forgotten about it.

The Jeremiah I knew and the one I saw in the past few days were too different.

In the past, during the social season, when we exchanged greetings and I watched him from afar, Jeremiah seemed like a colder and more distant person, and I had the impression that he was rather stiff.

He had a promising future and was beautiful, so he was often surrounded by young ladies and their mothers, but I remember his eyes being cold and a sneer on his lips, even though he behaved politely.

Well, I was fascinated by his harsh face.

At least, in the past few days, he has shown me an unpretentious attitude and smile that he has never shown in such situations. Above all, he seemed to despise the ladies and mothers who were making a fuss about marriage.

That’s why I understood that he didn’t like that kind of talk. That’s why I easily accepted his proposal.

Of course, I thought it was acting, so I expected him to behave coldly. But he keeps paying attention to me and teasing me. Is this his true nature? And what does it mean that he is showing it to me?

My head is spinning.

“Lorraine…? What’s wrong? Your face is red. Are you tired?”

“Oh, yeah…maybe. There were a lot of things going on today, but I’ll rest soon. Dorothea, you get some rest too, I have one more thing to do and then I’ll go to sleep.”

“…Yeah, um, Lorraine, thank you. I feel a little better after talking to you.”

“Well, that’s good. Goodnight then.”

After holding Dorothea’s hand, I stood up and left the room. I had to go tell my aunt, but I couldn’t tell her everything.

I shook my head and tried to shake off the thoughts about Jeremiah that were occupying my mind.

——Acting as a girlfriend, acting as a girlfriend! I’m not like the other ladies who are aiming for him, and I’m not desperate, so I’m sure he’ll be easy to talk to. That’s all.

I told myself that and hurried to my aunt’s place. I told her that Dorothea had fallen in love but didn’t reveal that the person was Aurelio. I also didn’t mention that the other person was interested. If I said something like that, I could see my aunt doing everything in her power to stop it.

“Okay, so… So you’re trying to find out who he is, what he’s like.”

“Yes, I know there are things I can do, but… so please wait a little before questioning Dorothea.”

“Well, I guess that can’t be helped. Oh, I know! Why don’t we ask Jeremiah? He knows more about these things, and speaking of Jeremiah’s eye for women… Oh, I wish someone like that would appear for Dorothea soon.”

As the old lady sighed and put her hand on her cheek, I said, “Well then, I’m tired today, so I’ll excuse myself.” and quickly returned to the room where Dorothea was.

I don’t want to think about Jeremiah too much right now.

My head is already confused, and I feel like I’m going to collapse from heatstroke.

I’m not good at thinking in the first place, so I sighed.

I wonder if I was too hasty. As I listened carefully, I could hear Dorothea’s breathing. It seems she’s already asleep. Relieved by that fact, I called a maid to help me change and prepare for bed, and finally lay down.

As I rested my head on the pillow and closed my eyes, I quickly felt sleepy, probably because I was tired.

However, Jeremiah appeared in my dreams repeatedly. In the dream, in a rose garden that had just bloomed beautifully, he said to me with a happy expression, “I finally found my true love. Thank you for everything so far, I want you to continue being a good friend.”

I laughed and watched him and his real girlfriend standing side by side, saying, “What a picturesque scene. I wish I had the heart of an artist to capture it.” But then I realized that salty tears were coming out of my eyes and was confused by my own reaction. There was no reason for me to cry…

Even though the scene changed, similar scenes continued to play out.

In the end, I couldn’t sleep well and the fatigue remained until the next day.

Chapter 19: I’m scared…

I have no appetite.

My chest feels sick and my body feels heavy. Perhaps it’s because of indigestion caused by the luxurious meals I’m not used to eating every day.

After all, the food I eat at home is always simple.

Sometimes I want dessert or something a little more elaborate. However, if I express my dissatisfaction, my father will hold an elaborate explanation session at an incredible speed, and I won’t be released for half a day, so I don’t say anything. The taste is good, and I’m not hungry, so I have no complaints, but when I see the greatness of Castalde’s cooking, I can’t help but feel that it was simple.

However, even the best food can cause digestive problems if eaten every day.

While grumbling to the Castalde family’s chef, who I praised every day, to be a little more gentle on my stomach, I decided to take action immediately.

By the way, I decided to forget about the dream.

After all, a dream is just a dream. I thought it was simply because I spent the whole day with a beautiful person and stared at their face too much.

I also realized that expensive gifts were probably just to end things without any afterthoughts.

At the same time, my heart felt a twinge, but I interpreted it as my heart screaming in pain from taking too much damage.

Yesterday was a festival of various vague complaints such as palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, and headaches. It wouldn’t be strange if there was some damage left somewhere.

Alright, my doubts have been resolved.

I feel refreshed.

Today, while keeping an eye on Aurelio, I’ll lower my level of attractiveness and have a heart-friendly day. Even if you are playing the role of a lover, you don’t have to be close to him every day.

We went shopping together yesterday, there’s no special business today, and there are no events, so time is passing by leisurely. The sky was calm and sunny, with a few clouds floating in it.

While pretending to take a walk, I hid from the ladies who seemed to be emitting death rays and searched for Aurelio.

Dorothea said she would have breakfast in her room, take a little rest, and then meet Aurelio again. She said she would try to probe him subtly, but I don’t expect anything from that. Dorothea’s eyes are clouded with love, so anything she hears will be interpreted in a rosy way.

I must grasp his true intentions no matter what.

With a determined spirit, my stomach ache seems to be relieved.

As I walked confidently, I spotted Aurelio in the corner of my eye!

I quickly hide in a nearby bush and watch him look up at the sky with a pained expression. Anyway, should I call out to him somewhere and try to talk to him indirectly? No, maybe I should keep an eye on his actions like this.

As I ponder, he returns to the building.

I can’t let him get away, so I put on a stern face and secretly search for his destination. Will he go to the library from here? Or is he planning to borrow a poetry collection to read to Dorothea?

However, contrary to my expectations, he heads towards the wing with guest rooms.

Will he return to his room, or is he going to visit Dorothea directly? No, how bold of him…

Or rather, he has been wandering around and stopping, making it difficult to predict his actions. Damn it, what should I do in this situation? What would a pro do in this situation? Ah, damn it, he changed direction again, that bastard…

While encouraging myself with manly words, I secretly follow him.

However, Aurelio doesn’t take clear actions. It’s getting annoying. Should I just call out to him? But it seems very difficult to do so.

Aurelio looks pained and desperate, and he can’t seem to calm down as he shakes his head from side to side and wanders around, trying to do something.

I wonder what kind of emotional expression that was?

Anyway, no woman has appeared so far, and no one has approached him, nor have he been approached.

“Hmm…”

“What are you doing?”

My surprise at that moment was beyond anything I had experienced before.

I want to praise myself for not screaming. However, in my surprise, my feet got tangled, and I almost fell backward. But I didn’t fall to the floor, as a strong arm wrapped around my abdomen and supported me.

It was, of course, Jeremiah’s arm.

He then stood me up properly and looked into my face as we faced each other.

I waited for my pounding heart to calm down.

By the way, we are now at the corner of the hallway. Until a little while ago, Aurelio was leaning against the wall, but when I looked away for a moment, he disappeared somewhere.

The tailing failed.

When I realized this, I sighed disappointingly, “Oh well.”

“I’ll ask again, what were you doing?”

“Um…”

How should I explain it? It’s not something to be praised, so it’s hard to say.

“I was watching Aurelio until now. Is something wrong with him?”

Hmm, he seems angry about something. Jeremiah’s expression, which is usually a mixture of kindness and severity, was now just severe. Was it because I was doing something strange in the mansion?

His face was stiff and looked like it was about to explode.

Feeling a chill, I apologized without thinking.

“Um, I’m sorry… but there is a proper reason for this.”

“Oh, really? Then let me hear that reason. For now, let’s go to the study.”

“…Yes.”

I was pulled by the arm and forcibly dragged along, following him to the study. There was no one there, but the smell of a large number of books filled the room. He closed the door to the entrance and finally let go of my arm, gesturing for me to sit on the sofa.

As I sat quietly, Jeremiah sat across from me, still looking angry.

“So, why were you following Aurelio? My girlfriend…”

With Jeremiah’s use of the word “girlfriend,” I understood why he was angry. That’s right. Objectively speaking, my actions would make it seem like Jeremiah’s “girlfriend” was chasing after another man. Although no one should have seen it, if it were to be known, Jeremiah would have lost his “girlfriend” to another man.

“I’m sorry. I’ll explain properly…”

I hastily explained the reason. After hearing everything, the severity finally disappeared from his face, but he still seemed unhappy.

Chapter 20: I’m not good enough for you

“I see, I understand the situation. However, please stop doing things like that. I will gather information about him, so you just stay quiet. If you want to do something, just try to probe during conversations…”

“Okay, I understand… I’m sorry.”

I apologized to Jeremiah, who still exuded an aura of irritation from his entire body. I wondered what I could do to make him forgive me.

He was really scary when he was angry. I felt so down that I was about to cry. I was so down that I started to cry a little.

“You don’t have to apologize so much… I was out of line. Wait, are you crying?”

“Uh, yeah… I was just a little scared. It’s my fault, so it’s okay, don’t worry…”

I couldn’t say anything more.

Jeremiah stood up and came to my side. He brought his lips close to my eyelids and wiped away my tears. I was gently embraced without knowing what had happened due to the shock.

What is this? Why am I being hugged?

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t control my emotions. I didn’t mean to scare you…”

I couldn’t say anything.

I said absentmindedly, “Really, don’t worry about it,”

My voice trembled. But I thought it was better than saying nothing.

Still, Jeremiah didn’t seem to be letting go anytime soon. I stared blankly outside, feeling like someone passing by was looking this way, but I didn’t know who it was.

After some time had passed, Jeremiah finally let go, but he didn’t move away. Instead, he held my hand, and I was shaken.

“What can I do to make it up to you?”

“…Huh, that’s actually my line.”

When I reflexively responded to Jeremiah’s words with surprise, he looked momentarily surprised, then quickly put on a troubled smile.

“I see. I’m really sorry. I’ve heard when I get angry, I’m scary…”

“Yes, that’s true. But since you were rightfully angry, there’s nothing to be done. Thank you for comforting me.”

I said, rubbing my eyes.

I felt strange, but also a little curious. The anger that had been directed at me was certainly scary, but I had done something that deserved it. Even so, I was surprised that he would comfort me like this.

“Oh, I really felt bad. Anyway, let me handle Aurelio and your cousin’s matter. As soon as I get the information, I’ll let you know.”

“Yes. My aunt told me yesterday to rely on you… I shouldn’t have jumped the gun. From now on, I’ll do as I’m told and I’ll do my best as your [girlfriend].”

As I said that, he showed a somewhat complicated expression.

“Hey, do you remember when I said I had something to tell you yesterday?”

“Oh, yes. I was flustered about Dorothea at that time, but I remember.”

In response, he nodded once and grabbed my right hand a little tightly.

“Actually, my father came to me and told me that your aunt talked to him about you, and asked for my opinion on what to do. I said it was okay to proceed with the conversation. So, I’m thinking of announcing our engagement on the last day of this gathering, but I wanted to make sure I have your consent.”

“……Konnyaku (Engagement)?”

For a moment, I thought I misheard and he said “konnyaku” (a type of food), but there is no such food in this world. Besides, konnyaku is not something you announce, it’s a healthy, low-calorie ingredient that women are happy to have. If that’s the case, it means exactly what it says. Engagement, not konnyaku, no, engagement. In other words, it’s a promise to marry this person.

TL: 婚約:(Engagement/Kon’yaku)—こんやく(Food/Konnyaku)

“If you really don’t want to, then you can say no. However, there aren’t many people I can trust like you, so I want you to be my girlfriend for a little while longer.”

My right palm was squeezed even harder, and a feverish gaze was directed at me.

I froze.

What should I do? But the beautiful face that I liked so much was looking at me as if pleading. My chest tightened, and I had trouble breathing. I couldn’t refuse.

“O-Okay. If I can be of any help, I’ll be happy to do it.”

I will continue to be a fake lover.

I added quietly in my heart.

“I’m glad you said that. I’m sorry for scaring you… You might hate it, but let’s stay together a little longer. I want to talk to you, and I still want you to learn that dance. Didn’t I say there’s another ball scheduled?”

“Yes, but… I’m really bad at dancing.”

And I had a little resistance to dancing with Jeremiah. I remembered the gaze directed at me on the day I was asked to be his partner. I couldn’t match him.

However, the more I realized that being by his side wasn’t just about his appearance, the more I knew I was exposing myself to a bad situation. Yet, I couldn’t refuse when asked.

“So let’s practice, you don’t have any plans in the morning, right? Besides, the dress you ordered will arrive soon. Oh, by the way, why don’t you show me yourself in the dress first?”

“Of course, but I’m a little worried because it’s my first time wearing such a gorgeous dress, and I’m not sure if I can pull it off.”

“Don’t worry, it will definitely suit you. Come on, let’s go to the ballroom. I’m also thinking of inviting Bruno and the others on the way.”

He took my hand and helped me stand up. As he placed his hand on my arm and smiled at me, I completely lost the will to refuse.

Oh no, this is a really bad development.

“Also, you’ll meet my father tomorrow. If we can get approval from your parents, I want you to sign the engagement pledge. It’s better to do this kind of thing early.”

“W-what? Already?”

“Yes.”

I felt like there was something hidden in his sweet smile.

I felt like a moth caught in a spider’s web. There’s something I don’t know. If we continue like this, it seems like there will be no turning back.

Today, I’ll write a letter to my family. I wrote a letter a little while ago, before Jeremiah asked me to be his girlfriend. I thought I should tell them what’s happening now.

But I had a premonition.

I probably won’t make it in time…

Chapter 21: I want to know what you really think

After that, things progressed at his pace.

He found Tatiana and Lord Grimani talking on the terrace and invited them to the ballroom, where dance lessons began just like that day. This time, there was no shouting like before, but they were gently chiding me in their voices.

I couldn’t lift my face at all.

So, I desperately focused on my footwork and somehow managed to do something resembling a dance.

“You’re getting better. See, I told you so.”

“It’s because you’re a good teacher.”

In fact, his teaching was so good that he could be a dance instructor. Dancing to Tatiana’s music was fun, but I gradually began to be concerned about Dorothea.

However, tea and light snacks were brought in again, so I couldn’t bring myself to bring it up.

In the end, I didn’t have much freedom in the afternoon either, and I just watched the two of them from afar.

At night, I took a pen to write a letter. However, I was unsure of what to write. I couldn’t be honest, and I didn’t want to lie either.

“What should I do about Otoo-sama, Okaa-sama, and Nii-sama’s response?”

Even if I muttered to myself, I didn’t know the answer.

It may be a good story, but they should want to know their daughter’s feelings. I asked myself. If I continued to play the role of Jeremiah’s girlfriend, when would I be released?

Moreover, listening to his words, it sounds like he would rather marry me, a close friend he can confide in, than marry any other lady. If I do nothing, he might actually end up doing so.

I wonder why he dislikes women who make a fuss about marriage, as I have heard him say. I want to know, but it’s hard to ask.

Besides, is it okay to just marry him like this? At least I don’t feel bad about it. No, it’s probably the opposite. I am not unfamiliar with romantic feelings.

If things continue like this, I will definitely fall in love.

If that happens, even if I understand in my head that it will be difficult later, my heart won’t listen. It’s just that kind of thing.

But something doesn’t feel right.

I can’t shake off the feeling of discomfort standing next to him.

It doesn’t match, and although he has never said it directly, the eyes of those around us definitely tell me so. Not only that, but I also feel the same way.

——I just need a little more time.

I felt that desperately.

Surely, Otoo-sama won’t agree so easily. It would be better to go home, cool your head, and meet him again. Even then, if Jeremiah-sama still wants to be engaged, you can sign at that time. In the letter, just write that you made a lot of friends and got along well with Jeremiah-sama.

Alright, it’s decided. I decided and then wrote neatly with my pen and folded it. I’ll send it tomorrow. I’m worried about Dorothea, but there’s nothing I can do if I rush everything.

I moved from the writing desk to the bed and blew out the candle flame, then lay down.

❂❂❂

The next day, as I was about to check on Dorothea’s condition after breakfast, Jeremiah immediately caught me. Since being asked to play the role of his girlfriend, we’ve been spending a lot of time together.

Perhaps because of that, I’ve become accustomed to his face.

I no longer feel my heart pounding or my breath quickening every time I see him, and instead feel a little relieved in place of loneliness. However, I never tire of looking at his face.

“As I said yesterday, I want you to meet my father. He’ll be out for business in the afternoon.”

“Understood.”

I’ve already made up my mind about that.

Bring on the poison tongue like Paula’s, I can handle it. I just hope it doesn’t go off on a tangent. I’m used to hearing things like “plain” or “unremarkable.” Even though I’m a little nervous about what’s to come, I put on a ladylike smile and take Jeremiah’s arm as we start walking.

Suddenly, an unpleasant noise reaches my ears.

“Well, how can she be with Jeremiah-sama every day with such looks? I wonder what kind of tricks she used.”

“She must have used some kind of magic. Otherwise, I can’t understand why he’s always with such a girl. I’m much prettier than her…”

“Yeah, I’m sure they spiked it with some suspicious drug or something.”

The whispered voices had the characteristic sound of young girls. I had been looked down upon many times before, but I had never been jealous. I was used to being criticized and insulted, so I strangely didn’t get angry. Instead, I began to feel sorry for them.

“Don’t worry about it. But why are they so sneaky? That’s why I hate it…”

“I’m completely fine with it. If it comes to physical violence, that’s a different story, but I’ve been used to being bullied to some extent. They are probably more miserable than me. They want something so badly, but they can never have it.”

I shrugged my shoulders and received an unexpected glance.

“…I was surprised. I thought you would be hurt and cry.”

“Don’t underestimate the life of a plain girl. Besides, every lady sympathizes with someone they know is beneath them, so it’s easy. I’m not beautiful, after all.”

“It seems we don’t agree on that.”

Jeremiah had a mischievous smile on his face.

Certainly, he always said I was cute, but I could never agree with him. I thought we would always be at odds on this topic, but then I saw the door to the study where Marquis Castalde was yesterday. I tightened my lips and regained my composure.

Chapter 22: So that’s how it came to be!

When he opened the door to the study, I saw the back of a gentleman sitting at a writing desk, completely absorbed in writing. It was a somewhat difficult atmosphere to interrupt. However, Jeremiah didn’t hesitate to enter the room and call out to the gentleman.

“Dad, do you have a moment?”

The gentleman then raised his face and turned around.

He was an elderly gentleman who, with his neatly combed gray hair, must have been quite popular with women in his younger days. He resembled Jeremiah, but gave a more rigid impression.

He was dressed neatly, and when he noticed me, he stood up and looked me up and down from head to toe for a while before relaxing his demeanor.

“Oh, it’s fine. Ah, I see, it’s about her…”

Under his scrutinizing gaze, I involuntarily shrank back.

Jeremiah and Paula’s evaluation of me circulated in my mind. But for now, I decided to behave properly for Jeremiah’s sake and smiled, holding the hem of my skirt.

“Nice to meet you, I’m Lorraine Valcourt. I’m very happy to meet you.”

“Likewise. Do you know my name?”

“Yes, of course.”

As I nodded, Lord Castalde turned his gaze to Jeremiah.

“I’ve heard about Baroness Palmara, and she says you’re a good girl. She’s been pushing me to consider you, and since you’re not opposed to the idea, I was imagining a different woman, but yeah, I wouldn’t be against her… After all, you’ve learned your lesson about your mom, haven’t you?”

“No, it’s not like that… It’s just that it’s certain that she’s of a different race than my mother.”

Jeremiah said that and looked at me, smiling happily.

It was a mysterious conversation. I didn’t understand it, but there seemed to be something in common between the two of them. As I was wondering if it was okay to ask, Lord Castalde started talking.

“That’s wonderful! Let’s move forward with the conversation before this young lady escapes. I’ve already written the permission letter, but we have to talk to her father. It would be good to visit her mansion today or tomorrow.”

“I understand. Will you come with me?”

“Ah, yes.”

In response to Jeremiah’s question, I nodded reflexively. The conversation was progressing smoothly. I was confused if this was really okay, but Lord Castalde continued to speak with a distant look in his eyes.

“No, I’m really glad. I heard that you were really into it, so I was worried that she might be a glamorous woman. I failed with that before. Ah… no, I love my wife, but… still, her biggest flaw is her unusual spending habits.

I’ve told you many times, don’t make this kind of mistake, and don’t be blinded by the glamorous butterflies of high society, but I know they’re attractive.

Quiet and reliable, excellent women tend to be overlooked by men.

But you brought a wonderful, unassuming butterfly, and I’m happy about that.”

Oh no, here it comes.

I knew he was going to say something. It’s somewhat softer than what Paula or Jeremiah would say, but he’s definitely calling me plain. He’s praising me, but I can’t be happy because he’s pointing out my flaws.

What’s the right way to react when someone praises your flaws?

I don’t move, keeping a smile on my face. This mask has already become another face. Like a lifelong friend. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to survive in high society, where everything is about socializing.

“Lady Lorraine… please take care of my son.

Yes, it’s wonderful no matter how many times I see it. That dress that doesn’t have a trendy or luxurious feel. The face that doesn’t seem to have any makeup. The appearance that seems to say that trends and noble prestige have nothing to do with me. The old-fashioned necklace that seems to declare that the accessories inherited from ancestors are sufficient.

It’s as if she’s saying that she’s going down the path of frugality and thrift without being swayed by frivolous trends or noble prestige… She’s a wonderful person, isn’t she?”

“…T-Thank you for your kind words. I’m honored.”

I answered desperately, but my face twitched.

Even though I was being praised with all my might, I didn’t feel like I was being praised. I prayed that I wouldn’t be told something completely off the wall, but the gods were cruel. They really did come at me from left field.

Well, it’s true that I’ve been careful not to spend too much money while still being polite. After all, just being able to eat properly every day, having a home, and sleeping in a warm bed is quite luxurious.

That’s already a pretty extravagant thing.

I know about the poor living conditions of the neighboring farmers, and I live off the taxes they pay, so I don’t want to waste money. That’s all.

The Valcourt family’s territory is not very large, nor is it particularly wealthy. Since there is nothing special that can be harvested, income from farming inevitably becomes the main source. Therefore, we naturally became frugal.

It’s awkward to be praised for not doing anything special.

“You don’t have to push yourself.”

“No, it’s okay. At least, I appreciate the praise.”

I replied to Jeremiah, who spoke softly and considerately.

Well, it’s still less shocking than Paula, who was relentless. But still, I feel strangely cold when I think that I am seen as “plain” in most people’s eyes.

Even if you are born with a glamorous face, there are still many hardships. There are also hardships for those with plain faces. With a strangely mature feeling, I continued to smile.

“Anyway, I’m relieved. Now, let me give this to you… It will be valid as long as her father, Baron Valcourt, signs it.”

“Thank you very much. Then, I will head to the Valcourt family right away. Excuse me.”

Jeremiah said that and took my arm. I hurriedly bowed to Lord Castalde and was dragged out of the study by him.

“Well then, I’ll prepare the carriage. The weather is good, so we should be able to come back tomorrow.”

“W-Wait a minute!”

In the hallway just outside the study, I inadvertently stopped him.

Chapter 23: I hate myself for not saying no

“Did I forget to ask if you had any plans today? Oh, right. If you have something, we can do it tomorrow.”

“No, I don’t have any plans today, but that’s not what I meant… I want to confirm something. Um, if we continue like this, will we really become engaged?”

“Yes, we will.”

“Are you really okay with that?”

Without hesitation, he nodded in response to my serious question.

“It’s okay. Haven’t I told you many times? I’m willing to marry you.”

“But… we’ve only known each other for a short time.”

“If you need time, we have plenty of it from now on. There’s no problem… or do you not want to?”

I widened my eyes at his gaze.

The emotions floating on his well-structured face looked really sad, as usual.

“Um, well…”

“You said you were looking for a marriage partner, but is it not enough for me to be your partner?”

“No, it’s not like that! You’re more than enough, to the point where I couldn’t even imagine it.”

“Then there’s no problem. Shall we go… I’ll be waiting in the entrance hall, so come when you’re ready, okay?”

I couldn’t say no.

❂❂❂

An hour later, while being shaken in a carriage, I was agonizing over why I had ended up in this situation. I had visited the Castalde family’s estate with my aunt and Dorothea to find a potential marriage partner. As I watched it recede into the distance, I clutched the skirt of my outdoor attire.

By the way, when I reported this to my aunt, she went into a frenzy and told me to hurry up and go, don’t dawdle, with a terrifying expression. With the help of the maid Dora, who was brought from home, we managed to pack up while being urged to hurry up and make a fuss, and we finished preparing at an abnormal speed, which surprised Jeremiah.

When I was told that it was not fitting for a Lady to be so quick, I felt sad.

Although his words were not meant to be malicious, they could easily be interpreted as “You are not acting like a Lady” if taken at face value.

It’s going to be hard to get used to this.

Also, the maid Dora was to accompany Jeremiah’s servant in the back carriage. In other words, we would be alone in the cramped space of the carriage again.

“Don’t be so nervous, I won’t do anything. Not until we’re engaged.”

“I, I understand.”

“You don’t understand. It means we’ll do something once we’re engaged.”

“…Wait, is this a mistake about the marriage?”

“Well, it’s not a problem if something happens since we’re going to get married eventually.”

I looked at him and thought, ‘I’m not sure what you’re talking about.’

With a lukewarm smile, I averted my gaze from the beautiful creature in front of me.

I can tell that my emotions are starting to get out of control.

It’s not just my imagination that my attempt to rest my mind has resulted in the opposite. Today, I was supposed to listen to Dorothea’s story and subtly gauge Aurelio’s seriousness in conversation. But inside, I was on the verge of tears.

And when I was about to leave, it seemed that Dorothea was already meeting with Aurelio.

I was worried about my aunt’s cloudy expression.

Come to think of it, Jeremiah said he would do something, but what exactly does he plan to do? I decided to ask.

“Um, what’s going on with Dorothea and Lord Caldelara?”

“Well, I’m having the mansion’s servants look into it subtly. And I’ve hired a detective to investigate him, so we’ll eventually get some information. It’s someone we can trust, so it’s okay.”

“I-I see…”

As I remembered Dorothea’s enraptured expression, I sighed.

She looked happy, but also seemed to be in a lot of pain. I didn’t think falling in love was a bad thing, but it seemed difficult when there was someone else involved.

Besides, I put my hand on my chest and thought.

My chest had been hurting since earlier. I knew the cause, but I didn’t feel like I could stop it anymore. I decided to give up and accept that this was also part of life.

However, I couldn’t stop thinking about how it had come to this.

I tried to speculate by combining the information I knew.

Tatiana, who he seemed to have feelings for, was already married. Moreover, the couple were so close that it was embarrassing to watch. While I thought it was embarrassing, I didn’t want to miss anything and stared at them, but the overly sweet atmosphere gave me heartburn. No one could interfere with their relationship.

That’s why Jeremiah might have thought it would be better to be with me, who was easy to be around, if he couldn’t have the person he liked.

Marriage born from a friendship based on unwavering trust might have seemed preferable to him. That’s why he approached me with this kind of proposal.

While telling myself that, I tried to avoid Jeremiah’s gaze. Regardless of his true intentions, my heart would become uneasy if things continued like this.

The carriage ride was quiet and comfortable, and soon we entered the territory of the Valcourt family, which was right next to the Castalde family’s territory. The carriage slowly made its way down the road, which was mostly farmland. We stopped for meals along the way, and by the time evening approached, we could see the Valcourt family’s estate.

Suddenly, I caught a rare glimpse of nervousness on Jeremiah’s face.

Eventually, we arrived at the estate. The Valcourt family’s mansion was not as large as the Castalde family’s, but it was an old building that had won in terms of age.

It seemed that it had been used as a fortress in the past, and had been abandoned when the money and energy ran out after various renovations. As a result, the buildings were a mishmash of different architectural styles, with no sense of unity.

It seemed that the successive heads of the Valcourt family were all lazy. My father was the same, so I decided that it must be the case.

Soon, when the carriage arrived at the entrance hall, the butler quickly came out to greet us and led us to the guest room. My mother and brother were already there, and they warmly welcomed us.

“Well, well! I never thought you would come back in this way. Welcome back, Lord Jeremiah. My husband is waiting for you in the study,” Lavina, my mother, said happily.

Jeremiah greeted her politely, “Thank you. Then, I will visit the study first so as not to keep him waiting. I would be happy to talk to everyone afterward.”

He then gave me a meaningful glance and sent it my way. I couldn’t understand the implied meaning, but he was guided by the butler to the study.

As I watched his back disappear, I heard a suppressed laughter from behind and turned around with a grimace on my face.

Chapter 24: Do you think we can go ahead with this?

In my field of vision, a beautiful woman of indeterminate age appears.

She is none other than my mother, Lavina, the baroness of Valcourt,. She has smoky golden hair and golden-brown eyes that look like melted gold. A stunning beauty like her is what people mean when they talk about a woman who wakes you up.

It seems that she knew Jeremiah was coming to visit, as she is not wearing her usual plain dress without any gold, but a proper evening dress.

Her bright green dress is dazzling to the plain girl I haven’t seen in a while.

Looking at my mother smiling meaningfully in front of me, I couldn’t help but think that she and Aunt Fiorenza don’t look alike at all, even though they are sisters. One reason for this is probably their eating habits. Aunt Fiorenza, who was probably cute when she was young, loves to eat. As a result, she has a plump figure like she does now, but she looks her age, even as she ages.

However, my mother is like a model of anti-aging, so much so that she looks like a mother and daughter when standing next to Aunt Fiorenza. My guess is that the secret lies in the medicinal herbs that my mother cultivates.

However, the tea made from that mysterious herb is a thick, dark green substance. Curiosity got the better of me, and I secretly drank it once, but the pungent and bitter taste paralyzed my nose and tongue, so I have no intention of drinking it again.

For a week, I couldn’t taste anything I ate.

But my mother drinks that every other week.

And yet, she seems to be able to taste it.

The composition of this world, where memories remain in my mind, is as mysterious as it gets.

She’s my real mother… It’s a complicated feeling, but I’m used to it now.

Right next to me, a face similar to my mother’s is smiling a little worriedly.

He is my gentle and handsome brother, Claudio, who I might doubt if he really shares my blood. His kind eyes are a pale gray-green inherited from our father, and his hair is a golden curly inherited from our mother. Just standing there, he exudes a noble aura.

He has a similar atmosphere to Lord Grimani, but my brother has a more dignified feel, while Lord Grimani is like a work of art. This is probably because my brother’s hobbies are swordsmanship and horseback riding.

As I watch my family, whom I haven’t seen in a few days, my mother’s suggestive laughter can be heard.

“Fufu, you came back so quickly, and you already caught a big fish. You truly are my daughter… Now you finally understand that you are my daughter, right? Yes, I knew someone would catch you. That’s why I asked my sister to take you with her.”

My mother says with a very happy face.

It’s like saying you caught a sea bream. Well, it’s not wrong, but… I feel like you shouldn’t say everything as if it’s your own achievement.

“I didn’t really doubt you.”

“Well, that’s good to hear. After all, you’ve always liked Lord Jeremiah, right? Please tell me how you won him over. How did you do it?”

My mother murmurs while gazing at me.

“Yeah, I want to know too. No matter how much I say it, your plain appearance won’t convey your charm.”

My brother, Claudio, asks curiously.

“I want to know that too.”

I answer and sigh. I can’t possibly tell them the truth. Like how I was asked to play the role of his girlfriend and for some reason, Jeremiah suggested that we should just get engaged.

“But, it seems like he liked that I was plain. Lord Castalde also praised my plainness and took a liking to me, and he also liked my unremarkable appearance.”

“Oh, I see~. I didn’t know that his taste was for plain women.

But, well, I think he’s a good match for you. I haven’t heard any bad rumors about him, and he doesn’t seem to be a playboy. But, of course, I have to talk to him properly. Well, I think it’s better to get to know him a little more before getting married, but the problem is his personality.

He’s unresponsive and seems unable to hide his words, so even among gentlemen, there are people who avoid him.”

“I-Is that so? I don’t know much about men’s social circles, but I see.”

As a noble, it is considered impolite to speak bluntly. If you can’t use the storytelling technique of conveying things indirectly and softly, you will be considered a commoner or a parvenu and kept at a distance. Jeremiah is a high ranking noble, but he seems to be not good at that kind of thing.

It seemed that there was a reason why he was annoyed by the young ladies and their mothers in that regard.

“I see. Lorraine, did they say something to you?”

“It’s not a big deal.”

“Hmm, they probably said something like ‘plain’.”

“…”

Bullseye.

As expected of my brother. But how did he know? When he realized he had guessed correctly, he laughed heartily and said, “Ahaha, I knew it.”

“I thought he would say that. I’ve been told the same thing, and I feel like he has a mask-like smile… I realized that it’s painful to be there. Lord Jeremiah is good at reading people.”

“But, Lorraine doesn’t really mind.”

“Well, it wasn’t said to insult me, so…”

I felt a complicated feeling when I thought that Claudio had also been told the same thing. While we were chatting like that, Father and Jeremiah returned. Father, Baron Paul Valcourt had a smile on his face.

Father was thin and looked very poor next to Mother. He had light brown hair and thin, gray-green eyes, and his facial features were noble, but not particularly noticeable.

I could proudly say that I looked like my father.

“Lorraine, welcome back. I heard from him, and I have no reason to object, so I signed it. The wedding will be in a year, as usual, but that’s okay, right?”

“Yes, thank you, Otoo-sama.”

As I said that, he patted my head.

“Well then, let’s have a modest dinner.”

When Father said that, the servants started preparing. Mother stood next to Father, and Jeremiah offered his arm to me. My brother followed behind. As we headed to the dining room, Jeremiah said.

“Since I sent a letter beforehand, the conversation went smoothly. I was worried about opposition, but fortunately, there was none. Now we can make the announcement… I also invited Baron, Baroness, and Claudio to the ball on the last day of your stay. Baron declined because of work, but the other two will be there.

Now everyone can see you in that dress.”

“…Uh, yeah.”

I couldn’t look directly at the cheerful Jeremiah and just nodded vaguely.

Oh, we’ve come to a point of no return. But is this really okay? I still couldn’t come to a conclusion.

Chapter 25: I think it’s unfolding too quickly

After a peaceful dinner, I retired to my room at night and felt like I had returned after a long time. My familiar room, the furniture and furnishings I was used to, the books I had read, and the beloved trinkets.

As I looked at each of these things, my heart finally felt at ease.

“I don’t know what to do, it’s all happening so fast.”

I thought about various things, such as whether this kind of thing should take more time, or whether both parents were too easy-going, or why Jeremiah and my brother Claudio were strangely getting along, but I was tired anyway.

I rolled onto my canopy bed.

I was already dressed in my nightgown, so it was okay to sleep like this. I finally felt liberated. Hooray for my home. My home is the best. It’s healing.

But tomorrow, I have to go back to the Castalde family’s mansion.

Above all, I’m worried about Dorothea.

The room was already dark, and only the moonlight shining in from outside illuminated the interior. Suddenly, I realized the obvious fact and felt strangely shaken.

Jeremiah was sleeping in the guest room right next to me. He was there, whom I had been staring at all this time. It was hard to believe it was real.

I had admired him from afar, thinking about secretly joining his fan club – which is called the “Supporting Association” here. I thought just watching him was enough. In fact, I laughed at the idea of having any involvement other than watching. Jeremiah Castalde was that kind of person to me.

But now, he is my fiancé of all people.

I had tried not to think about it too much, but it was an undeniable fact.

“It’s like a dream…what happened, was it a miracle?”

I muttered and rolled over on the bed.

The question of whether it was really okay or not came to my mind again and again. But no matter how much I thought about it, the answer was already there. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

Suppressing the strong desire that was born in my heart.

Yes, the sweet desire that someday he would come to like me…

❂❂❂

The next morning, we were busy getting ready to depart.

After breakfast, my mother came to see us off at the entrance hall, her eyes shining as she spoke.

“We’ll try to catch up with you as soon as possible, so wait for us. I’m looking forward to seeing you in your new dress.”

“Y-Yeah. I’m looking forward to seeing you over there. Don’t expect too much from my dress, though.”

“Ara, that’s impossible. I’m going to let my imagination run wild for a while.”

After happily announcing this, my mother turned to face Jeremiah.

“Well then, please take care of my daughter.”

“Of course.”

“She’s not the type to speak her mind, so it might be a hassle, but please take care of her health.”

My brother, who was standing next to my mother, said this, and Jeremiah nodded.

“Yeah, I thought so too. I’ll be careful.”

“I’m sorry I can’t go, but please come and visit us again. You’re always welcome.”

My father said happily. Jeremiah received it with a sincere smile.

“That’s great to hear. I promise to visit again.”

“Well then, see you.”

I said goodbye and got into the carriage. Jeremiah soon followed and sat across from me, opening the window. Soon, the carriage began to move, and the Valcourt family’s mansion gradually receded. Jeremiah and I waved our hands, and as the wind grew colder, he closed the window.

As I leaned back against the seat, I took a small breath.

“I want to stay a little longer next time. The buildings and everything are interesting.”

“Is that so? It feels like it lacks unity, though.”

“That’s why it’s good. It just means it has a long history. Castalde’s mansion is relatively new, so I envy those kinds of buildings a little.”

“Come to think of it, it burned down several times in the past due to war.”

Castalde’s family lineage goes back to knights. They have a higher status than the Valcourt family and have served the country for a longer period of time. According to rumors, there were fierce disputes with the neighboring family, and Castalde’s castle was burned down many times. The Valcourt family was on good terms with the Castalde family and often extended their assistance.

“You know a lot… I see, the Valcourt family had a long-standing relationship with them.”

“Well, besides that, the beauty of Castalde’s mansion and garden was also a topic of conversation. They said they made the latest garden… It was really wonderful.”

“I’m glad you liked it. That mansion and garden will be yours in the future, too.”

Huh?

Suddenly, the atmosphere inside the carriage became sweet, and I froze. It wasn’t supposed to be a topic that would create such an atmosphere.

What should I do? Should I change the subject to a bloody story about our ancestors fighting with swords? That might dispel this atmosphere in a flash. But it would be rude to suddenly change the subject, so I gently suggest it with a smile.

“Well, but… we’re still in the engagement stage, so if Jeremiah-sama changes his mind, please let me know anytime. I don’t want to be a nuisance.”

“Is that what you think? You seem to be only concerned about me. But if that happens, you’ll be seen as a daughter whose engagement was nullified, which is not a good impression.”

It was only then that I realized that. It’s not to the extent that I can’t get married, but it’s true that it would be difficult to get a good impression. I should have noticed something like that beforehand, but it seems that my brain has really become useless.

However, I knew that I wouldn’t have chosen the option of “refusing” no matter how much I thought about it.

“…That’s right. Well, it’s okay if it happens. I just have to find my own way, but of course, I would like your support and help.”

As I shrugged my shoulders in resignation, Jeremiah’s face turned sour.

Did I say something strange?

Then, Jeremiah’s hand, filled with anger to the point of danger, reached out and grabbed my hand, and he said with a smile.

Chapter 26: Unbelievable, but two in a row

“Oh, so does that mean you see me as a heartless person who easily abandons their fiancé?”

I turned pale at those words. Of course, it was completely different.

My hand, which was grabbed with strong force, hurt. I quickly shook my head.

“No, that’s not what I meant! I didn’t say that. But, I just looked around and saw many people who are more attractive than me. So, I was wondering if it’s okay to tie me down like this…”

“I see, that’s what you meant… But why do you deny your appearance so much? It sounds like you’re denying yourself, not just your appearance.

Is appearance really that important?

What’s important is mutual consideration. And for that, we need to think of each other as desirable. And I think you’re desirable. Besides, everyone has their own preferences. To me, you’re cute, and sometimes even beautiful.”

“What nonsense, Jeremiah-sama. Shouldn’t you get your eyes treated?”

Even I couldn’t agree with my own statement. I couldn’t help but let out a dry laugh. However, his words, “Is appearance really that important?” pierced my heart.

It seemed that my way of thinking was biased. I had to admit that.

“That’s a terrible thing to say. You’re praising me, but then you recommend eye treatment. Well, when we return to the mansion, if you wear the dress that my sister and Madam have chosen for you, change your hairstyle, and put on makeup, you’ll surely have to change your way of thinking.

I don’t really want you to dress up too much, but if you don’t, you’ll continue to belittle yourself like that.”

“…It’s not belittling, I think it’s the truth.”

Even though he said that, he shrugged his shoulders and didn’t agree with me.

I was somehow dissatisfied and had a sense of unease in my heart as the carriage journey continued. The journey by carriage on the same road as before was comfortable, but an awkward silence continued.

The hand that had been held tightly was already released, but it felt hot and painful, as if it had a fever.

Had I been denying myself that much?

Had I convinced myself that I was a worthless person, believing the words of those around me? I had tried to polish only the inside, even if I couldn’t change things like appearance.

However, I couldn’t just reject his words. I needed to think about it a little.

Eventually, when we returned to Castalde’s mansion, I felt relieved in a strange way.

When we got off the carriage, Jeremiah told me he had some business to attend to and kissed the back of my hand before saying, “See you later.”

“Okay,” I replied.

I couldn’t forget his cheerful eyes as he walked away.

I told the maid, Dora, “I have to go back for now. I need to change my clothes first. And I’m worried about Dorothea too.”

“Yes, I understand. But, Ojo-sama, you are truly loved. I envy you. He rushed the engagement because he didn’t want to lose you to someone else.”

Dora, a young girl, sighed in admiration. Her cute face was adorned with freckles. Her brown hair and blue eyes were lovely. She loved pretty things and enjoyed decorating my hair and modifying my dresses a little, but she was dissatisfied because I wouldn’t let her do it.

I looked at her with a suspicious gaze.

“Is that so?”

“Yes, I can tell from the way he looks at Ojo-sama. He doesn’t want to let go of her even for a moment.”

“…You’re imagining things. Anyway, we don’t have much time until dinner. I’m a little busy.”

“Yes. Oh, I’m looking forward to the new dress that’s coming! Ojo-sama, please don’t refuse to let me do your hair next time. I’m sure Jeremiah-sama will be pleased.”

“Okay, okay, I got it.”

While giving appropriate responses to Dora’s chatter, I returned to the room where Dorothea was supposed to be.

As soon as I announced, “I’m back,” I heard a sound like furniture falling over inside, and Dorothea came flying out of the door that opened with great force, crying and clinging to me. I widened my eyes and panicked. When I glanced back, Dora was also dumbfounded.

“Lorraine, I was deceived after all!”

“Wait a minute, what happened? Calm down, here, wipe your tears and nose with this.”

When I said this, Dora quickly offered a handkerchief.

Although her face seemed to be twitching, I was relieved anyway. If this continued, my coat for going out would have been soaking wet. I only had one coat, so it would have been a disaster if it got wet.

Thank you, Dora. We’ll have a big thank-you party later.

Then, Dorothea sat down on the floor, completely deflated, covering her face with the handkerchief that was offered to her, and began to speak.

“We had promised to meet on the terrace today, but before that, I had made plans to take a walk with another lady in the afternoon. So, I met him there, but guess what he did? He ignored my voice!

I thought he couldn’t hear me, so I asked him again, and he asked me which lady I was.

H-He probably didn’t want to be seen as my lover since I was with another lady. Once I realized that, he couldn’t even try to woo me! How terrible, just terrible.”

“…That’s what happened?”

Although it was somewhat incoherent, I understood what she wanted to say. While stroking Dorothea’s back as she sobbed, I was filled with anger towards Aurelio. Since it had come to this, there was no need to ask Jeremiah to investigate.

It would be best to just not get involved.

Then, a figure seemed to notice the loud crying and appeared. When I looked up, it was an older woman, Dorothea’s mother. Behind her was Paula.

“Oh my! What happened, Dorothea?”

Her mother hurried over to her daughter and began to stroke her back, just like I did. Paula looked at me with a puzzled expression and spoke.

“I heard that you were coming back, so I was talking to Baroness Palmara and waiting for you. I was going to tell you that your dress will be delivered soon. Then suddenly, there was a loud noise, and I was surprised… Hey, what happened to her?”

“She was deceived by a terrible man. He had been pursuing her ardently for the past few days, and Dorothea looked so happy that I couldn’t say or do anything about it… But I guess it’s over now.”

“That must have been tough. But it’s good that you didn’t get too deep before it got out of hand.”

“I think so too.”

Dorothea was still sobbing and unable to say anything.

“Anyway, you should change your clothes. We’ll come up with a retaliation plan for the trash that hurt this girl later.”

I couldn’t believe what Paula had just said.

“Ara, you look surprised. But I still have an unending hatred for men who toy with weak women, you know. I won’t be able to sleep after seeing such a scene… don’t you agree?”

“Y-yes.”

“Ojo-sama, let’s change your clothes for now.”

“Okay.”

Prompted by Dora, I hurriedly changed my clothes with her crying in the background. I had a feeling that something troublesome was going to happen as soon as I got back.

However, as I changed, I thought that I couldn’t believe Aurelio would do such a thing. Jeremiah had told me not to do anything, but I wouldn’t be satisfied unless I confirmed the situation myself.

So, I decided to find an opportunity to talk to him.

That was my resolution.

Chapter 27: Dinner party aka observation

Dorothea couldn’t make it to dinner, so I ended up heading to the dining hall with Paula. Aunt stayed behind to take care of Dorothea.

“Please come back and tell me about that rascal’s behavior at dinner.”

I nodded firmly in response to the request made in a low voice and headed to the dining hall.

Then I ran into Jeremiah. It seems he came to pick me up. When he recognized Paula, he asked suspiciously.

“Why are you with Nee-san?”

“That’s because I heard that Lorraine would be back before dinner today and that her dress would probably arrive tomorrow. In the meantime, I was talking to Mrs. Palmara next door. Then there was a commotion, you know?”

“Yeah. I was supposed to come with Aunt and Dorothea, but it seems a bit difficult now.”

As I said that, Jeremiah put his hand on his forehead and sighed. He seemed to understand the situation from my few words. Paula, who saw his reaction, narrowed her eyes while holding a fan.

“Jeremiah, did you know about this?”

“Oh, yeah. I received a consultation from Lorraine. However, I don’t know much about him either, so I was investigating the details…”

“Can you tell me the name of that man?”

“I’ll have to decline. I don’t know what Nee-san will do if I tell her.”

“Just a little retaliation.”

A low laughter rose from within the fluffy feathers of the fan, as if trying to drag back the soul of an escaped hell messenger. With her glamorous beauty, even her angry face was beautiful. I was almost mesmerized, but I realized it wasn’t the time for that and regained my consciousness.

“Please stop. We can’t be rude to our invited guests.”

“Well, you also have a duty to protect your invited guest, don’t you?”

“Um, shall we go now? It would be inconvenient if we were late for dinner, and there are also some things I want to confirm.”

As I spoke, Jeremiah furrowed his eyebrows. I thought he might have noticed, but I started walking alone without worrying about it.

As a result, I ended up walking ahead, enduring the unpleasant atmosphere that seemed to say “I don’t like this” from behind.

I prayed to God that everything would be okay and headed to the dining hall without expecting anything.

❂❂❂

As Aunt and Dorothea didn’t come, I explained the situation to Marquess Castalde before taking my seat. As Jeremiah’s mother, she had a very graceful appearance and her age-defying attire was wonderful. She proceeded with the meal while being careful not to spoil the atmosphere, even though she seemed worried.

I stole a glance at Aurelio while being concerned about the two empty seats next to me.

He seemed to be very depressed and wasn’t eating at all. It bothered me that he was only poking and stirring the contents of his plate and not putting anything in his mouth.

I wasn’t the only one watching him. Jeremiah was also gazing at him with half-closed eyes.

Paula seemed to be trying to find out who made Dorothea cry by following that gaze.

The meal was delicious, and I ate as usual. I felt that I wouldn’t have the energy or stamina if I didn’t eat.

The hateful glares directed at me were getting stronger day by day.

From this situation, it seemed that it was already known that I was Jeremiah’s “special” person. Well, that was what he asked me to do, so the results were excellent. I ignored it, thinking so.

Along the way, my eyes met with Tatiana’s. She nodded a few times, seeming to want to express her concern. I sincerely thought that she was a really good person. At the same time, I also met Lord Grimani’s gaze and he had a similar expression. I decided to explain the situation to those two later.

Then, I looked back at Aurelio again. He seemed to be troubled by something.

Eventually, when the meal was over, Aurelio stood up quickly. He said that he was tired and excused himself. I also left the table, saying that I was worried about my aunt and cousin.

I hurriedly followed him and found that he was waiting for me in the hallway. It seemed that he also wanted to talk to me.

“It seems like you have something to tell me?” he said seriously. I nodded and asked, “Do you also have something to tell me?”

He nodded and looked around before saying, “Then, shall we talk in the place where the painting near the entrance hall is displayed?”

“Okay.”

As I answered, I heard footsteps from behind. It was Jeremiah. I thought that Paula might have followed him, but since she had a higher status among the invited guests, she couldn’t just leave easily. Jeremiah must have come up with some reason, probably that he was worried about me or something like that.

After all, the number of death rays was increasing every day. It was clear to everyone that Jeremiah was obsessed with me.

That’s why this approach would work.

I was truly impressed by his acting skills.

“I’ll go with you… I don’t want my fiancé to be alone with another man.”

Jeremiah stood behind me and placed his hand on my side. He seemed to want to claim me as his own. My heart involuntarily skipped a beat. I still couldn’t get used to this.

“Fiancé? Have you already progressed that far? You were faster than I thought.”

“Lord Caldelara, are you misunderstanding something?”

“But if you get engaged so hastily, it’s natural to think that way. Lady Lorraine is certainly lovely, and you could easily win her over…”

“Is it necessary to talk about that now? We should be talking about you and Lady Dorothea, her cousin.”

Jeremiah spoke through gritted teeth.

They still seemed like acquaintances to me. However, I didn’t know much about him. I wondered what that meant. Curious, I asked.

Chapter 28: Wobbly feelings and disturbing shadows

“Excuse me, how do you two know each other?”

Then, Jeremiah and Aurelio exchanged a glance for a moment. After that, Aurelio explained with a smile.

“We went to the same school. We were also in the same dormitory, so you could say we were acquaintances. Jeremiah and Bruno were excellent, and they were always together and stood out because they looked glamorous.”

“I remember them teasing me sometimes.”

“Oh, I see. No wonder, because I thought you were kind of easygoing.”

I nodded in agreement.

“Did it seem that way? Well, you don’t mind if I listen to you anyway, do you?”

“Oh, that’s fine. But it’s not good to have an audience here, so let’s move.”

Aurelio said that and repeated the conversation we had just had. Jeremiah also agreed, so we headed to the corridor decorated with paintings.

When we arrived there, Aurelio immediately began.

“Actually, this afternoon, she suddenly told me that she didn’t want to see me anymore and asked me not to come. I heard that she had other appointments in the morning with other ladies, so I was killing time in the library.

Then, in the afternoon, when I invited her for a light meal, she suddenly said that to me.

Lady Lorraine, I don’t know why she would say such a thing to me. What happened to her?”

As he slowly spoke, my head became confused.

If what he said was true, who was the person that Dorothea claimed to have met? Anyway, I summarized the story that I heard from Dorothea and told him.

“What? I don’t know anything about it. If she spoke to me, there’s no way I wouldn’t answer, and I couldn’t pretend not to know. Even if I did something like that as a joke, I would apologize and say it was a joke right away… Could it be that Dorothea’s eyesight isn’t very good?”

“No, I heard that she can see a little blurry when reading a book, but she can recognize faces.”

“Or maybe there’s a man here who looks so much like me? At least, I haven’t met anyone in any seat.”

He put his hand on his mouth and made a thoughtful gesture.

Then, Jeremiah spoke first.

“I know everyone’s face, but I don’t have any idea about a person who looks like you.”

Jeremiah tilted his head curiously. There was a silence in the room for a while. Aurelio didn’t seem to be lying. If that was the case, did Dorothea see a ghost, even in broad daylight?

I denied that it was possible because I had never seen a ghost in my life, and I knew that Dorothea was not the type to be interested in spiritual matters. So, what could be happening?

Eventually, Aurelio muttered, “No way.”

“Do you have any idea what’s going on?”

“Well, no, but…he shouldn’t be here. He should be at sea by now…”

“At sea…do you have a brother?”

“Yeah, I do. But he shouldn’t be here…Anyway, I’ll look into it. Thank you, and please tell Dorothea that I haven’t betrayed you.”

In response to his earnest plea, I asked a confirmation question again.

“So, can I assume that you still intend to propose to Dorothea?”

“Yeah, I was planning to take it slowly and progress with our relationship during the social season. She’s a wonderful woman, and I’m glad to have met her. If she doesn’t like me, there’s nothing I can do, but…I don’t want it to end like this.”

I felt a glimpse of seriousness in Aurelio’s voice. After a little hesitation, I thought it might be good to give him a little more time.

“Well… in that case, I’ll try to trust you a little more.”

“I appreciate it, Lady Lorraine… Well then.”

He returned a stern look and lightly bowed to me and Jeremiah before leaving.

Jeremiah took a breath and said, “Is it okay to believe his words? If he’s lying, won’t your cousin be more hurt?”

“Well, that’s true… but I just can’t believe that he’s trying to deceive Dorothea. Besides, Jeremiah-sama is also gathering information, right?”

“Yeah, it’s still ongoing. I think we’ll have results soon.”

“Then I thought it would be better to judge after hearing those results.”

At least, I trusted Jeremiah.

It was strange that we had only known each other for a short time, but I never doubted what he said. Perhaps it was because I knew he was not good at lying.

“Oh, so that means you trust me.”

“Yes, of course.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that kind of line so soon. Your attitude towards me has become much more relaxed compared to the beginning.”

Upon hearing that, I involuntarily widened my eyes.

Upon reflection, I had become accustomed to speaking casually without realizing it. In the past, even asking a single question required a lot of courage. However, now I can easily ask various questions. I thought it was probably because we had spent a long time together and intimacy had developed.

“Maybe we just get along well, or perhaps our way of thinking is similar.”

“That might be true. Let’s talk about the content of the book we read next time. Are you going back today?”

“Yes, I’m worried about Aunt and Dorothea.”

Even so, since Aunt was with me, I wouldn’t have much of a chance to be alone with Jeremiah. However, being together with him in the dark of night made me feel uneasy.

I felt a slight sense of loneliness in his gaze, and a sensation like my stomach was being squeezed.

I want to stay like this.

I suddenly thought that. I was greatly confused by the sudden appearance of this emotion.

“Well then, see you tomorrow. My sister said the dress should arrive tomorrow too. I’d love to see you try it on.”

“Yes, but we won’t know if it really arrives until tomorrow.”

“Sure, then let me take you to your room.”

“You don’t have to go that far. I’ve been staying here for quite some time, so I remember my way around the mansion, even in the dark…”

As I was about to say that I was okay, he pulled my arm.

“I just want to take you there. Don’t refuse me. Normally, it wouldn’t be a problem, but there are quite a few people in this mansion right now. If something happens, I’ll regret it later.”

He said in a warm voice and gently placed his hand on my arm. I couldn’t refuse. Seeing me obediently following him, he started walking leisurely.

As we walked side by side, my heart was beating loudly. Eventually, we arrived at the room, and Jeremiah kissed my forehead and said, “Goodnight,” before leaving.

Still confused, I entered the room and sighed.

Chapter 29: Fearful experiences with mother and daughter

When I quietly opened the door, my eyes met those of my aunt who was sitting on the chair in the guest room. Two white eyes floating in the darkness. I was startled and stood still for a moment. That was really scary.

After a while, my eyes got used to the darkness, and the plump outline of the aunt appeared, and I was released from the horror state.

Looking around the room, which I could finally see, there was a candlestick on the table. However, the candles were not lit.

In front of it, empty dishes were left on the table. On the table with bread crumbs, there were soup plates, a bottle of fruit liquor, and two glasses. It seems that they had been drinking. While I was looking at it, the aunt spoke to me.

“Oh, you’re back. It’s good that you get along well… My recommendation seems to have worked.”

Her voice was small, but I blushed unintentionally. It seemed like she had heard our conversation earlier. Oh my god, it’s so embarrassing. I felt like I wanted to disappear.

“…Th, thank you for your recommendation. So, where is Dorothea?”

“She’s already asleep. Have a little drink, and how is that impudent person doing?”

It seemed like she had been waiting just to hear that. The reason the candle wasn’t lit was probably to not disturb Dorothea’s sleep. I approached the chair next to my aunt and sat down, wondering what to do next.

“He seemed to be troubled about something. I don’t think he would be so down if he was trying to cheat her. I was curious, so I stopped him and talked to him a little… He said that it wasn’t him and he wanted Dorothea to know that.”

“I see, but what if it’s a trick?”

I thought about my aunt’s words filled with rejection. It would be useless to say anything to her right now. However, I couldn’t just leave it at that. I didn’t support Aurelio, but I still wanted more time.

“Well, um, Auntie, I took your advice and consulted with Jeremiah-sama about him and Dorothea. He promised to investigate him. I don’t want to waste what Jeremiah-sama is doing for us right now. So, could you please wait a little longer? Once the investigation is done, we’ll know what kind of person he is and it will be easier to come to a conclusion.”

I pleaded with a hint of reluctance to use Jeremiah, but couldn’t think of any other way. After thinking for a while, aunt sighed and said,

“Alright, let’s wait for Lord Jeremiah to investigate. Well, I feel like I already know the outcome, but in the meantime, make sure Dorothea doesn’t get close to that man.”

“Of course.”

“Phew, anyway, I’m glad we could talk. I’ll come back tomorrow.”

“Yes, good night.”

My aunt stood up looking tired and left the room.

I called Dora to change and headed straight to the bedroom. Finally, I can rest. Have I been too busy these past few days? Since meeting Jeremiah, every day has been too hectic.

While praising myself for not giving up, I lay down on the bed.

“Ah, ugh…huh.”

I unintentionally let out a big yawn.

I hope I can have some time to relax tomorrow, even if it’s just a little. I wished for it, but I had a strange conviction that fate would betray me in some unexpected way. And so, I fell asleep.

❂❂❂

The next day, when I peeked into the adjacent bedroom, I was startled again by Dorothea’s face.

I almost blurted out “Eek!” but managed to stop myself. Don’t worry, she’s alive.

However, her eyelids were swollen and dyed purple, looking pitiful. Her complexion was pale, like a ghost, and her hair had lost all its shine. Since she was wearing white clothes, it made her look even worse.

She looked so ghostly that when she turned around on the bed, I felt like my heart was about to flip over, in a completely different way than I felt with Jeremiah.

“…Dorothea, your face looks terrible.”

“I know, I saw myself in the mirror earlier and scared myself. So, Lorraine, I’m going to stay in my room all day today. Please tell Okaa-sama about it…and also, could you find me a book?”

“Sure, what kind of book do you want?”

“Well, a novel would be nice, something light, but a romance. Just no tragedies, and no poetry either, it might make me feel worse.”

“Okay, got it. But wait a minute, I need to get ready first.”

I came in my sleepwear, so I wasn’t prepared for anything.

I called for Dora.

She was fully awake and started preparing while happily talking about the dress that might come today.

“Based on Lady Astorga’s story, I think it will be a feeling that you have never worn before. So, I want to try the hairstyle that Her Royal Highness the princess started, which is currently in fashion. It’s like this, fluffy and bundled, but doesn’t look like it.”

“That doesn’t suit me.”

“No! It definitely suits you.”

Dora asserted.

By the way, Lady Astorga in her words is Paula. The name of the Duke family she married into is Astorga. They are a great noble with vast land and immense power. They are a prestigious family that has even married a lady to the royal family.

“Oh, the dress… Hey Lorraine, if you get it, the dress will be here to unfold and try on, right?”

“Yeah, but…”

“Oh, that’s exciting. You’ll show it to me too, won’t you?”

“Well, yeah, but Jeremiah-sama asked me to show it to him first after trying it on.”

With that, Dorothea let out a faint laugh.

“Well, then I’ll tell him before trying it on. But really, I envy you. How did you manage to win him over? Among the ladies, he’s nicknamed the Ice Prince and is considered the most ideal marriage partner, but also the most difficult person to conquer. It was even said that he wouldn’t marry until he inherited his title.”

“I-I see.”

Unable to declare that he wanted me to be his lifelong bug repellent, I hesitated. As a result, my attention was elsewhere, and I didn’t notice that Dora had changed my hairstyle on her own.

When she said, “It’s done,” and I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t help but scream.

“Hey, no way! Dora, what are you doing?”

“You were spacing out, so I thought it would be nice. It’s cute, isn’t it?”

“Really, it’s beautiful, Lorraine.”

Dorothea said as she looked at me in the mirror, but that wasn’t the point. If I went out looking like this, I wouldn’t be able to hide anymore. Even if I didn’t intend to hide, I was able to hide from the murder beams filled with the ladies’ malice precisely because I could hide.

If I stand out like this, I might be subject to actual force.

While thinking that, I looked in the mirror.

As I was thinking that I needed to have it fixed, there was a knock on the door.

“Lorraine, I have something to talk to you about. Can I come in?”

I was surprised to hear an unexpected voice from the other side of the door.

Chapter 30: Morning when my stomach hurts

“Ah, wait a moment. I’ll come out!” I shouted.

“I understand,” came the reply. I sighed as I looked into the mirror and gave up, standing up from the stool.

There was no help for it. I would have to postpone getting my hair done again.

“Well then, I’ll go have breakfast. I’ll also let Auntie know.”

“Okay, please do.”

“And Dora, please take care of Dorothea.”

“Yes, leave it to me.”

She nodded in response and opened the door to go outside. There, I saw Tatiana and her husband, Lord Grimani. While I thought they were rare visitors, I couldn’t help but be mesmerized by their beautiful appearance again today. Then, Tatiana asked me curiously:

“Couldn’t we have talked in your room?”

“Um, I share my room with my cousin. She’s not feeling well today and doesn’t want to see anyone…”

“I see.”

As Tatiana and Lord Grimani walked slowly, they exchanged a brief glance, and their atmosphere became strangely tense. Come to think of it, they said they had something to talk about, but they didn’t seem to be able to bring it up easily. Was it something difficult to say?

“Well, actually… I have something to talk to you about regarding your cousin.”

“Do you know Dorothea?”

“Well, we haven’t talked a lot in person, but everyone staying in this mansion knows about her and Viscount Caldelara. It’s that hot, we even felt a little embarrassed watching from afar.”

Saying that, the two of them exchanged smiles.

Personally, Dorothea and Lord Caldelara, I don’t think you are the only ones who would like to be mentioned. If there was a ranking for being together all the time, they would definitely be in first place.

“Well, you and Jeremiah beat me to it. It’s amazing, I’ve never seen Jeremiah with such a defeated look on his face before. It must have been quite something… And they’re always together, you can really feel that they never want to be apart.”

A defeated look on his face…?

That’s ridiculous. Maybe it means that Jeremiah, who always showed a cold smile, started showing emotional expressions.

Otherwise, it’s incomprehensible. I mean, I can’t imagine him with a lovey-dovey face. It’s beyond my imagination.

But I think we are always together to make people around us feel that we never want to be apart. So, it can be said that we have succeeded completely. However, honestly, I often think we are too close.

Anyway, the probability of Jeremiah being near me is so high that it startles me. He’s always there, almost like a stalker. It’s a bit exaggerated, even if it’s to show that we’re lovers…he’s there.

Oh, I thought he wasn’t there and was relieved, but he was in the corner of my vision.

At that time, I thought to myself, “He’s really playing around.”

As I reminisced about it and felt warm inside, Tatiana hurriedly corrected the topic.

“Oh, we’ve gone off topic. That’s not what I wanted to talk about… I wanted to talk about Lord Caldelara.”

“What happened to him?”

Tatiana looked uneasy and glanced at Lord Grimani. Then, he took over the rest of Tatiana’s words.

“Actually, I saw him getting close to other ladies. Not only that, but he was probably just playing around, but he was dressed as a naval officer. It may not be a big deal, but I thought I should tell you…you can see how much your cousin admires him. But…”

“Yes, it might be bad if it continues like this. I wanted you to know, well, you already know, right? If she’s feeling unwell, then that’s probably the case, right?”

“…Yes.”

I nodded. I had no reason to lie, and I didn’t want to deceive someone who was worried about her. I thought it would be okay to tell them, but I decided to avoid giving a detailed explanation because Dorothea might not like it.

“It’s easy to say it’s a common story, but it still hurts. If there’s anything we can do to help, please let us know.”

“Thank you, I’m sure Dorothea will be happy.”

I sincerely thought so. When Dorothea’s face recovers, I’ll introduce them. I decided that and headed to the dining room while talking with the two of them and telling my aunt about Dorothea’s face. My aunt seemed relieved to hear that Dorothea was doing well, although she was worried.

On the way, Tatiana noticed my hairstyle and praised me for being cute. She insisted that I shouldn’t change my hairstyle anymore. I was at a loss, but I continued the conversation with them, burning with a mysterious determination that no matter what they said, they would put my hair back in a bun.

❂❂❂

After finishing the meal, I decided to search for the book that Dorothea had asked for.

As a result of changing my hairstyle, it seems that I attracted the attention of some gentlemen. Of course, I had already factored in the power of the murder beams from the ladies being twice as strong as usual. They didn’t forget to send flirtatious glances at Jeremiah and other young unmarried gentlemen while showering me with murder beams.

While impressed, I felt a bit sick to my stomach.

As a result, I couldn’t eat too much and finished my meal feeling like crying.

Come to think of it, Jeremiah’s smile seemed more powerful than usual. It was not so much a smile as a smile to hide his true emotions. It was scary. Everywhere I looked, my stomach was in pain, so I decided to leave quickly.

Above all, if I stayed, I would likely be caught by the ladies after the meal. I quickly got up from my seat and headed to the library. In any case, running away is winning, which is my motto.

When I arrived at the library, I immediately began searching for the book. It was difficult to find because I was given a confusing order. The Castalde family’s heads have had a strong desire for knowledge for generations, so the library in the mansion was well-stocked. The shelves reached the ceiling, and books from various fields were stored there.

While using a stepladder to search for books, I took a break and went to the window to look outside. It was slightly cloudy outside, and it was a bit chilly today. I thought that I wouldn’t be able to take a walk outside and lowered my gaze when I saw a figure similar to Aurelio’s.

“Lord Caldelara? But his clothing is different.”

That was Aurelio, who Tatiana and Lord Grimani had seen before.

He seemed to be chatting with some young ladies. It was not very clear from this distance, but he looked happy, and my stomach felt queasy.

Dorothea was suffering so much…

However, why was his clothing different from usual? As I was thinking about that, someone entered the library. I was surprised and turned around to see Jeremiah and Paula. They saw me and their faces lit up as they walked towards me. Paula immediately pulled my sleeve.

“You were here! We were looking for you because you weren’t in your room. Come on, come on!”

“Huh? What? What?”

As I looked at Jeremiah in confusion, he returned a happy smile, and my heart skipped a beat and I stumbled as if I had missed a graceful landing. We had just exchanged a nod at breakfast, so I thought he was busy today and let my guard down.

I still think this face is a weapon.

“I heard that the dress for the ball is finished. The others are not yet, but Madam came to tell me that she wants the size of that dress to be adjusted precisely, and…”

As Jeremiah spoke, he reached out to touch my stray hair which had deliberately left behind and said with a slightly dangerous look in his eyes, “This hairstyle suits you well.”

I froze at the challenging look he gave me.

Chapter 31: The dress has arrived!

His face looks scary for some reason. He’s smiling, but this is definitely an angry face. There’s no mistake about it.

After all, I’ve been staring at his face for a while now. While enjoying how beautiful it is, I can’t help but notice if there’s any expression on it. Eventually, I became aware of even small changes and gradually became able to read his expressions.

So I know. He’s angry. But what is he angry about?

Could it be that he didn’t like this hairstyle? But he just praised it. He doesn’t usually lie, so it’s rare for him to say something he doesn’t mean. I had a lot of question marks floating in my head, but Paula pulled my arm and brought me back to reality.

“Come on, let’s go!”

“Ah, yes.”

I start walking as if being dragged by her. I’m sure it’s not just my imagination that I feel a chill from behind. However, I have no idea what he’s angry about, so all I can do is quietly chill my spine.

It’s cold. Very cold. Okay, I’ll drink some warm tea later.

Deciding that, I return to the room, but Dorothea is not there, and instead, there is my aunt. Tatiana is also there, but Lord Grimani is outside the door.

“Oh, Auntie and Lady Tatiana? What are you doing here?”

“Oh my, I told you to call me Tatiana. Honestly… Of course, I heard you were having a fun conversation. You’re adjusting your new dress, right? I’m going to have a new dress made soon, so I’ll use yours as a reference. Of course, the gentlemen will have to wait outside.”

She said mischievously with a laugh. She was full of mischief and very cute. Then I noticed something. Except for my aunt and Madam who was about to arrive, everyone around me was so dazzlingly beautiful.

It seems they have to show off their new dresses soon.

I screamed in my mind, “What a harassment!” And why is wearing a dress and showing it off the most boring thing? It should be the opposite.

I should be the one around saying, “Wow, Lord/Lady so-and-so, you look amazing!”

Something is wrong, everything is wrong.

I feel like I’m alone in enemy territory.

But I didn’t have time to make excuses as I heard Madam Sabrina’s voice from afar.

“Oh my, are you all gathered already? Then let’s get started right away.”

I froze at her voice. There seemed to be no time left for excuses. In the end, I was dragged into the room by Jeremiah and Lord Grimani and forced to try on the dress.

I was burning with shame and my head was blank as four women in colorful dresses cheered in front of me. While watching it as if it were someone else’s business, I vaguely thought that God didn’t listen to my wishes again.

Then, a particularly loud cheer pulled me out of my escapism.

“Oh my! It’s lovely. Come on, Lorraine, let’s try it on. With this, you won’t be called a plain, unfashionable, and unrefined girl anymore. I picked it out, so it’s definitely perfect.”

“Oh, did you pick out this design, Lady Astorga?”

“Yes, that’s right. Lorraine had lost so much confidence in herself and even gave up the pleasure of dressing up, so my brother asked me to help her. It was so much fun.”

As if recalling a scene from a tailor’s shop, Paula touched the fabric of the dress and Tatiana looked at her with admiration.

“It’s amazing. It incorporates the latest trends and suits Lorraine perfectly. Um, would you mind looking at my dress next time?”

“Oh, of course. Um…”

“My name is Tatiana, Countess Grimani. I’m a friend of Lorraine’s.”

“Oh, really? Then of course, I want to get something new for the social season too. Let’s go together. And of course, Lorraine will come too, right?”

“…Uh, yes. Of course, I’ll accompany you.”

I hastily replied, trying not to interrupt their lively girl talk. It seemed like they were having fun, so I didn’t want to spoil the mood, but my response might have been awkward.

Meanwhile, Madam was steadily dressing me in a dress.

At first, it was a ball gown with a wide hem.

The bright red carmine color of the dress was too flashy for me, but I tried it on anyway, overwhelmed by the atmosphere. Madam had a needle in her hand and was adjusting the size carefully.

Eventually, she took out a hair accessory that matched the dress from the luggage she brought. It was a red flower hair accessory made of the same fabric.

She put it on my hair, which was still tied in a bun from this morning.

I wonder what I look like now. Am I like a clown? I’m so anxious that I want to faint.

Madam, who had made some adjustments to my dress, stepped back a little and looked at me.

“Okay, it’s perfect… But it’s strange that you haven’t dressed up properly until now. You’re so beautiful, aren’t you?”

“Really, yes, I knew my judgment was correct after all!”

Paula said happily. Tatiana, who was playing with the fabric that Madam had brought, looked over and opened her eyes wide in surprise. She stared at me for a while with her mouth open, unable to close it.

How should I interpret this reaction?

“Wow, you’re a completely different person now! Why didn’t you do this properly before? It’s only natural that Jeremiah won’t let you go now.”

Tatiana stood up from her chair and started circling around me.

However, I wasn’t used to being looked at instead of being the one looking, and I was so embarrassed that I couldn’t bear it. And what was Tatiana saying?

A different person…?

“Now, shall we show the gentlemen as well? Sorry to keep you waiting, both of you.”

Madam said that and headed towards the door. I was about to say “Wait,” but it was too late. Eventually, the door opened and Jeremiah and Lord Grimani entered, and both of their eyes turned towards me.

My cheeks grew hot. I felt like I was about to explode with discomfort.

As I stood there, unable to lift my face, someone approached me.

I wondered what to do as I tensed up my body and waited for hm to say something.

Chapter 32: The future that we can see

“I had expected it, but it’s really beautiful. I’m glad I asked Nee-san,” said Jeremiah.

“Ah, how should I put it… it’s really like a different person,” Lord Grimani added.

I couldn’t believe what Jeremiah and Lord Grimani were saying. Of course, it’s nice to be praised, but it’s hard to accept when it’s directed at me.

“…Um, are you all teasing me?”

I finally lifted my face and saw Jeremiah up close. I had probably thought so, but the admiration in his eyes was unmistakable.

“Of course not. You’re Lavina’s daughter, right? We just haven’t looked at you properly until now. Well, please stay like that. I’ll call Dorothea.”

With that, the old lady got up and left the room. After seeing her off, Jeremiah spoke.

“Lady Palmara was right. We’re not teasing you… but it’s troublesome when you become this beautiful.”

“Huh?”

“It would even attract the attention of other men, wouldn’t it? I think some men have already realized that you’re actually beautiful because of that hairstyle… Well, I feel sorry for them, but they’ve lost their chance to approach you forever.”

That’s certainly true. There’s no point in trying to court me, who is already engaged. Suddenly, Jeremiah took my hand and made a dancing motion, asking the others.

“Don’t you think it’ll be fun to see the guests’ reactions when they see her appear like this?”

“Yes, they’ll surely be surprised. And then they’ll regret it… I can almost see the faces of the jealous ladies. What a great feeling. But that’s not all. When the social season comes, other people will be surprised too. They’ll see the future Marquess Castalde and some men will worship her,” Paula said with a laugh that seemed like she was about to burst.

I shuddered at Paula’s words.

Me, who had been avoiding the spotlight with all my might until now, being worshipped…?

Imagine it… A crowded venue filled with many nobles and celebrities, and me walking confidently and elegantly through the wind. Refined gentlemen gather around me, and Jeremiah stands next to me with a gentle smile.

I’ll be envied by other ladies, have no shortage of dance partners, and have witty conversations at dinner. And next to me will be Jeremiah, standing affectionately.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

It’s impossible.

Or rather, I can’t handle it. If I had such thick nerves, I wouldn’t need a strange technique to blend in with the wall using ninja skills. If I were in such a situation, my nerves would snap.

Ignoring me, who was trembling in fear, Tatiana spoke up.

“Well, maybe a support group to support you will be created. It’s that beautiful. No, maybe I should create it myself!”

“Oh, I won’t object.”

I thought to myself, “Please object, Lord Grimani.”

In any case, it’s even more unlikely for me to have a fan club. No, I would like to recommend eye treatment to everyone here.

As I was thinking that, Dorothea appeared, her face looking better than it did in the morning.

However, she was completely covered in a cloth like a Showa-era thief, with only her eyes visible.

“Dorothea… Even if you don’t want to be seen, that’s not the way to do it,” I said, but she cheered as soon as she saw me.

“No way! Is it really Lorraine? That’s amazing… You really are Lady Valcourt’s daughter. I don’t know why you’ve been dressing so plainly until now.”

“I-Is that so? I can’t believe it.”

“Well then, look in the mirror! You’ll believe it if you see it with your own eyes, right, Jeremiah-sama?”

“Yeah, that’s right. If you can’t believe it that much, you should look in the mirror. There’s no funny business going on.”

Dorothea and Jeremiah nodded at each other and forcibly pulled me in front of the mirror. I was perplexed, but when I saw myself reflected there, I was speechless.

There was definitely someone different there.

A young girl dressed in a relatively deep red dress with a collar that was relatively open. Her lovely hair was shining with a honey color. The lightly applied makeup tightened the previously vague eyes, making her a woman who was truly suitable for the word “lady.”

I was stunned as I looked at it and turned around after a while.

“Do you believe it?”

For the time being, I nodded my head.

Then, Jeremiah’s hand reached out and gently touched my throat. It was just a light touch, but the movement of his fingers reached the peak of embarrassment.

My pulse quickened and my breathing became shallow. I didn’t want him to notice, so I tightly pursed my lips.

While watching my behavior with a joyful expression, Jeremiah said while still touching between my collarbones.

“If you wear the necklace I sent here, it will be perfect. But let’s save that for the day of the ball.”

“That’s right. Buying it was the right decision after all. I checked Lorraine’s collection, but there weren’t many things that matched the new dress.”

I wonder when she started fishing for people’s jewels. She seemed to sense my question and without any particular guilt, pointed to Dora, who was standing there secretly.

“I had her show me some of yours, but there were a few that suited you. Let’s try them with another dress later.”

While listening to Paula’s story, I looked at Dora with resentment. When Dora noticed that she was being watched, she smiled with a smug look on her face.

It was the smile of a victorious winner who had obtained what she wanted after a long battle.

“…Okay.”

I couldn’t refuse her alluring, rose-like smile.

I nodded with a vague smile and looked at the mirror again.

I still couldn’t believe it.

I felt like what I had always thought was crumbling away.

I was anxious and unsteady on my feet.

I wanted to quickly change back into my usual clothes and read a book quietly alone. That way, I wouldn’t have to face anything and I wouldn’t have to try hard to do anything.

As I lined up my restless thoughts, my true feelings became clear.

I had been running away from various things because I didn’t want to stand out. I made excuses like “I’m plain and ordinary anyway” and gave up easily even if I wanted something because I didn’t want to fight.

When I looked up, I met eyes with Jeremiah.

After seeing his truly happy eyes, I looked at myself in the mirror again. The self I imagined earlier as Jeremiah’s wife. The longing to become like that. However, I couldn’t possibly become like that without making sacrifices.

So, I thought.

What kind of person do I want to become…?

Chapter 33: What I want to become

I also wonder what I really wanted, not just my appearance.

The answer came to me without much waiting.

I wanted the person I loved to love me back. I wanted to become someone who could love and cherish him from the bottom of my heart, and have the capacity to stand by his side. I wanted to be useful to him and become someone worthy of his love.

That was what I wanted to become.

However, in reality, such a thing was just a dream. Knowing that, I decided to raise the white flag and live a moderately happy life. Above all, it was painful to put in effort and not receive anything in return.

But is effort something that should be done with the expectation of a reward?

It shouldn’t be.

Even if the effort put in is not rewarded, what is gained from the effort is not lost.

So, what is it that I want so desperately?

After touching my neck, I looked at Jeremiah’s hand that had moved away, then raised my gaze to look at his face. If his eyes, which were directed at Tatiana, were directed at me, I couldn’t help but think how ridiculous I was to think such grandiose thoughts. At the same time, I realized my own feelings.

(I see, I must have already…)

But I desperately convinced myself that it wasn’t true. However, I could hear the voice of my heart whispering that it was a lie.

There’s no way I’m suitable for him. I’m plain, unremarkable, and not beautiful. I’m not smart, and my heart isn’t particularly broad either.

Just being engaged to him is enough for me. That’s the extent of my capabilities.

However, my appearance, which I thought was unsuitable, was proven to be not as bad as I thought. I can’t compare to Paula or Tatiana, but I’m much better than my past self.

At least, I won’t be laughed at standing next to Jeremiah…

While thinking that, a warning bell rings, telling me that I can’t just keep going like this.

I knew that love wasn’t just a fluffy, enjoyable thing. It’s even more so when it comes to marriage.

Lost in thought, I heard Madam clap her hands.

“Now then, we’ll make some final adjustments, so gentlemen, please wait outside.”

Jeremiah reluctantly said, “I’ll wait until it’s over,” before leaving with Lord Grimani.

Soon after the door closed, I heard Dorothea’s suggestive laughter.

“My, I’m starting to feel embarrassed. You two were staring at each other so intently.”

“Indeed, but still, how did Jeremiah notice you? He usually avoids getting too close to ladies because of what happened to his friend.”

“…His friend?”

When asked, Paula shrugged her shoulders.

“Yes, that’s not the only reason, but I’m sure that was the hardest part for him. That friend was not a nobleman but the son of a wealthy landlord. He was a sincere and kind person, but he started to go crazy after getting engaged to a certain lady. That lady was very beautiful, and he was very proud of her.

But that lady was actually a cheater. She switched his friend to a more successful man… Since then, he became an alcoholic and died one day after falling off a horse.”

Silence enveloped the room that was lively until then. Paula noticed that the air in the room had become heavy and apologized in a hurry.

“I’m sorry, it became gloomy. But it’s okay, it’s over, and my brother has you. Let’s talk about something more fun!”

“Yes, that’s right. Shall we talk about the ball the day after tomorrow? As I recall, you’re inviting some of the prominent people who live nearby, as well as some political figures, aren’t you?”

Dorothea understood Paula’s intention and changed the subject. The heavy atmosphere changed, and the brightness returned as they talked about political satire.

But I had been thinking about what Paula had said.

After being adjusted here and there by Madam and getting help from Dora to change into my usual plain dress, her story remained stuck in the corner of my mind.

Eventually, the dress for the ball was completed, and Madam promised to deliver the other ordered items soon before leaving. In her hands, she held a bright red dress with embroidery in gold thread and a hair ornament specifically for the dress. The silky fabric had a beautiful sheen and a smooth texture.

After I changed, the gentlemen joined in the conversation, but Dorothea went off to her room alone, followed by my aunt. And when tea time was over, Paula, Tatiana, and Lord Grimani left.

However, Jeremiah stayed and said, “We have time until dinner, shall we go to the library or something? You declined when I invited you before, but there’s nothing else to do today, right?”

“Yes, I don’t mind.”

“Is something wrong?”

“Just now, Lady Astorga told me about your friend…”

Not wanting to stay silent, I spoke up, and Jeremiah looked at me for a moment as if caught off guard before giving a faint smile. He turned his feet towards the door and then sat back down in the chair next to me.

It seemed that he was willing to indulge my curiosity.

Just that made me extremely happy.

“I see, I thought you would know someday. So, what did you think?”

“I thought it was a terrible story… Jeremiah-sama stopped approaching young ladies and their mothers because of that.”

“It’s not just because of him, there are countless other reasons. Besides, it’s not just women who are terrible, men can be too. I know that it’s not always the case because fathers and mothers are different, but wouldn’t you be horrified if you got involved with a bad partner?”

“Of course. Then why do you think I’m not that kind of woman?”

When I asked, Jeremiah answered while looking at my face intently.

“At least, I don’t think someone who hesitates when I offer to buy a dress for them is an insincere person.”

“…I-Is that so?”

“Usually, women are very happy to receive dresses and jewelry as gifts, but you were only concerned about my finances. Besides, when you accepted my offer after my initial rude attitude, I knew you were a kind person.”

Unable to say that it was just because of my face, I grimaced.

“I’ve said it many times, but you’re an amazing woman. I don’t understand why you belittle yourself so much.”

As he gently took my hand and looked into my eyes, I couldn’t bear to look at him and lowered my gaze. I wanted to convey my true feelings to him, but I was afraid to say everything.

However, I also wanted him to know about me. So, I opened my mouth.

Chapter 34: I wish I could be by your side

“Do you know that I have memories from my past life?”

“Oh, yes. I know someone else who has them too, so it’s not that rare…”

He tilted his head curiously. In reality, being a memory holder can vary greatly, with some having strong memories like me, while others only have vague ones. There are even some who only possess technical knowledge or skills.

In my case, I have no knowledge or skills related to language or technology, but I have a vivid memory of my experiences. I knew that this was probably the cause of my personality.

“Well, I think it’s probably related to my past life. I died before my current age in my past life. I think I was around fifteen or sixteen years old.”

“That’s quite young.”

“I had a serious internal organ disease… and there was no treatment available. I realized that no matter how much effort I put in, there are things that I can never achieve.”

“Also, due to taking a lot of medicine, my appearance was in a terrible state, and I was teased at school because of it. Children can be quite cruel, you know?

So, I gave up on everything, thinking that I was no good and that effort is never rewarded.”

This was the first time I had talked about my past to someone other than my family. I had never even told Dorothea. But I wanted him to know.

I wasn’t afraid of what he might think, but I wanted to convey it properly. However, my heart was beating fast. I wanted to cancel out the fear somehow, so I opened my mouth before he could respond.

“But, Jeremiah-sama and Lady Astorga taught me that the current me, who was born here, is different from my previous self. I must thank both of you. Otherwise, I would have been trapped in my own beliefs forever.”

My voice trembled. I was weak and pathetic, but I didn’t want to be denied. I waited for him to say something. Eventually, he spoke in a calm tone.

“I see, that’s what happened… But if my actions can help you stop belittling yourself, then I am satisfied.”

Jeremiah gently held both of my hands.

Only gentle colors floated on his well-formed sweet face. I couldn’t find anything that would deny me. Moreover, just being by his side like this was enough. Even if he didn’t see me as a woman, it was enough to be by his side like this.

However, if he said he wanted me to stand by his side like this even after the engagement period was over, I would make the effort to be worthy of that position. Even if I wasn’t rewarded, I would be satisfied with that.

Once my mind was made up, I felt relieved.

“Thank you. From now on, I will try to see myself more justly.”

“Please do. Well, now that we’ve finished talking, what do you say?”

“If it’s the library, I’ll go with you.”

I replied with a smile.

❂❂❂

After that, Jeremiah and I spent some time in the library and talked about our favorite things for a while. It was surprisingly close, and I was quite surprised.

As a result, we made a promise to go to the bookstore together next time.

I couldn’t help but smile.

Then I realized, “Oh no, this isn’t good for Dorothea,” and finally noticed that she wasn’t there. I went to the next room, thinking that maybe she was there, but she wasn’t.

“It’s strange, it’s been a while…”

I remember going out to get a little fresh air because I wanted to feel the wind on my face. Since it was night, there would be no one around. That was right after I returned from dinner. After that, I called Dora to change and get ready for bed, and then I read a book under the light for a while and reminisced about the daytime events after she left.

The surroundings were already enveloped in darkness, and the wind blowing outside was making eerie sounds as it hit the building.

It seems like the wind is strong today. I can’t stay out here for too long. If that’s the case, maybe something happened. Anxiety spread through my heart, and I couldn’t calm down.

“I have to go look for her.”

Her mental state is not good at all. I can’t leave her alone. Aunt trusts me. She should want to change rooms with me, but she’s just respecting her daughter’s feelings and not changing.

That’s why I was asked so many times.

I held a candle and got off the bed, quietly heading towards the door. Then, I heard a modest knock, followed by a muffled voice.

“I’m sorry to bother you so late at night… Could you spare a moment to talk?”

I was surprised and stared in amazement. It was Aurelio who spoke. Anyway, I unlocked the door and opened it, and a troubled smile appeared in front of me. But for some reason, I felt uncomfortable and took a step back.

“Lord Caldelara…?”

“Yes. I have something to discuss about your cousin. I’m sorry to bother you so late at night, but just for a little while.”

“Wait, can I ask a question first?”

“What is it?”

His narrowed eyes were like those of a fox, and I felt my spine stiffen. No, something was different. Did Aurelio ever smile like this? And above all…

“Why are you dressed as a naval officer instead of your usual attire?”

“…With that phrasing, I wonder if you’ve noticed.”

I reflexively raised the candle and shouted.

“Don’t come any closer!”

My body was paralyzed with fear, and my hands were shaking uncontrollably. The young man standing in front of me was not Aurelio. His soft, straw-colored hair tied at the back of his head and his sweet, beautiful face were almost identical to Aurelio’s, but he was slightly larger in build.

There was no way I could match his strength. I looked towards the door and reached out to close it, but before I could, his hand was already on it. It wouldn’t budge no matter how hard I pushed or pulled.

“You shouldn’t be doing something so dangerous.”

After he spoke those words lightly, a numbing pain shot through my wrist. I realized that the candlestick that had fallen to the floor had been knocked out of my hand. But before I could react, I was hit in the solar plexus by his fist, and my consciousness faded.

With my face contorted in pain from the tremendous impact, I looked at him.

The expression on his face was a flat smile.

Chapter 35: Two series of high-frequency

“…Ugh.”

I was awakened by the pain in my abdomen and the coldness in my legs, and I faintly opened my eyes. I realized that my body was lying on something soft, like a bed. After blinking several times, I tried to understand the situation with my dull, aching head. However, before my mind could start working, a gentle voice spoke to me.

“Oh, you’re awake? Well, that’s helpful for me.”

Upon hearing that voice, I quickly understood the situation. I glared at the young man who was sitting next to my feet. I was lying on a sofa, and what seemed to be his coat was draped over my body, but my hands were tied together in front of me. However, my legs were not tied.

“I wish you wouldn’t stare at me so much.”

“You expect me to smile at the man who punched me and brought me here? If you think that, then you’re crazy.”

I spoke in a harsh tone, abandoning my usual ladylike speech. The room was dark, and the only light came from the moonlight shining in from outside. As I stared at the room illuminated by the moonlight, I noticed that Dorothea was lying next to me.

“Why did you bring us to this place? What do you want from us?”

“What do I want…well.”

He let out an interesting laugh and leaned closer to my face, answering my question in a calm tone.

“You can probably guess, right? Most importantly, I have business with you. I didn’t have any use for the other girl, but she was in the way, so I knocked her out and brought her here. She hasn’t woken up yet, but it seems like she realized my true identity, so I have to take care of what I was asked to do before she spreads the word.”

“What were you asked to do?”

“Well, I was asked to make you a cripple… The people who are obsessed with the son of this mansion don’t like you and would prefer to get rid of you if possible.”

His words made me widen my eyes.

I wasn’t directly told anything, but it seemed like I had earned some resentment. At this point, I thought that Jeremiah had not left my side because he was afraid of this kind of situation.

“Also…”

A hot breath touched my face, and I froze in fear.

The feeling of a hand stroking my cheek was unpleasant. The hand slid down my cheek, picked up my hair that was not tied up and scattered, and lifted it up, staring at me intently.

“Your hair is beautiful… At first, I didn’t want to be involved in any scandal, but I decided to accept it because you are my type. If you want, we can even get married. Well, all you have to do is spend the night with me today. I’ll send her home later, and you can spend the morning with me in the same bed. It’s a scenario that the lady in question will see. If this becomes a rumor and spreads, Lord Jeremiah will be disappointed in you.”

“…Marriage?”

I murmured, looking at him blankly. It seemed that he had no intention of doing anything, but then I was hit by the thought of what Jeremiah would think.

If I spent the night with this unknown man, Jeremiah would be angry and disappointed, as he should be.

Naturally, the engagement would be nullified. I wouldn’t be able to face him properly after doing something like this. I felt like crying. The most enjoyable thing in my life would be gone if this continued.

My heart was in turmoil, and anger and sadness threatened to overflow.

However, he continued to speak, ignoring my emotional state.

“Yes, marriage. It’s not such a bad thing for you. I have property, and I’m proud of my looks, which are the same as my brother’s.”

“Brother…”

“Yes, Viscount Aurelio Caldelara is my brother, we’re twins.”

His smile as he chuckled was very similar to Aurelio’s.

He had a well-proportioned face that was almost no different from Jeremiah’s, with the charm and allure unique to a military man. Why would a man like him be doing such a thing?

There was a somewhat conflicted expression on his face. It was different from the elegant and gentle smile of his brother. They were born almost at the same time, but the difference between a nobleman and an officer created a rift between the two. The reason for his conflicted expression must be hidden there.

Perhaps he is one of those men who have no shortage of women.

Some women might think it’s okay if a man like him hinted at marriage, but I was different. If I couldn’t continue to admire Jeremiah like this, there would be no reason for me to live.

Even if it was a futile struggle, I didn’t want to be captured like this.

I had to do something.

I told myself to calm down.

“I see, no wonder you don’t know Dorothea.”

“Well, yeah, I was startled when a woman with a stern face suddenly smiled at me. I thought she was going to cling to me again. I can’t believe you and she are cousins.”

“I don’t think so.”

I glared at him challengingly and took a deep breath.

It’s a shoddy resistance that can’t even be called a strategy, but there’s no other choice for now.

“Besides, I don’t think you’re as attractive as you say you are… Kyaaaaaa! Nooooo! Perverttttt!”

“…Damn it!”

A large hand reached out and covered my mouth. I don’t know where this room is, but there are more people staying in the mansion than usual. I hope someone hears us.

And…

When I looked to the side, Dorothea woke up.

She looked at me and him in surprise and confusion, and began to raise her high-pitched voice.

“Noooo! Help meeee! Lorraine, why are you tied up? I hate it! Is there anyone here?! Don’t look this way, you pervert, criminal, villain, womanizer, thug, yakuza, rat, scumbag, pervert!”

“…”

Dorothea screamed with a rich vocabulary that rang in my ears.

Whenever she faces something scary, she always screams like this. While looking at him, who covered his ears with a grimace, I stood up from the sofa and kicked him in the groin.

Chapter 36: I love you

“Uwa!”

“Tch!”

I clicked my tongue without thinking after my full-powered kick was dodged.

If it had landed, the situation would have been resolved in one fell swoop, and I couldn’t help but feel frustrated. It was a one-time surprise attack against a man, especially a soldier.

Dorothea finally stopped screaming when she saw that.

When our eyes met, she asked tearfully, “Hey, what, what’s going on… and that person…”

“This guy isn’t Lord Caldelara, he’s his younger brother. You saw him too, he’s trying to kidnap me at someone’s request.”

“What did you say!”

Dorothea quickly sat up, but her legs were tied, and she rolled over onto the floor. However, Dorothea gritted her teeth and began crawling towards the door.

“Wait!… Damn, I should have tied your legs too.”

“That’s right. As someone who enjoys admiring handsome men, your verbal attacks won’t work on me. Do you think I’m the kind of person who can be fooled by being teased about marriage?”

“No, I was serious about that.”

I stood in front of him, trying to stop Dorothea, and glared at his beautiful face. I wanted to admire it, but I had to hold back for now. Or rather, if I’m going to admire someone, I rather worship his brother’s face. For that reason, I had to fight now.

However, he didn’t pay attention to Dorothea and grabbed my arm, pulling me towards him. Since my arms were not free and I lacked explosive power, I was easily caught.

“It can’t be helped. I didn’t want to resort to force.”

“W-What?”

As my feet floated and I thought I was lifted up, I screamed when I saw his hand on my skirt.

“Hey, what are you doing!”

“I’m just tying your legs. If it comes to this, I have no choice but to make it look like we’re eloping.”

“No! Stop it!”

I struggled desperately, but my strength was no match. As I watched ropes being tied around both my legs, I was frustrated by my own weakness.

Will I be taken away by him like this? I’d rather die than let that happen.

Dorothea desperately tried to help me.

“Wait, Lorraine, I’ll go call for help…”

But before she could finish her sentence, the door opened with tremendous force. The next moment, he, who had been holding me down, was punched and rolled on the floor.

I heard groans, and I lifted my head to calm my pounding heart.

In the moonlight, Jeremiah, burning with anger, stood there.

Jeremiah fell on top of him and repeatedly punched him in the face. The painful sound echoed many times, and I panicked and said, “S-stop it, please stop!”

Even so, Jeremiah didn’t stop, so I reached out my bound hands and pulled his clothes. Finally, he stopped hitting him and hugged me tightly with a pained expression.

He hugged me so tightly that I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

With a big sigh in my ear, Jeremiah said, “I’m glad you’re okay…”

My heart raced uncontrollably at his heartfelt words.

The strength of his arms around me was suffocating and painful, but at the same time, I was so happy that I felt like I was going crazy.

“I came to your room because you hadn’t said you were taking a break today. But you weren’t there, and Lady Dorothea wasn’t there either. So I thought something might have happened and searched the entire mansion with Lord Caldelara, whom I met on the way.”

“Thank you very much.”

I muttered and immediately started shaking.

When I had decided to escape from here no matter what, I hadn’t felt like this, but I realized that I was still scared.

My eyes became hot, and even though I knew I was safe now, tears overflowed, and I started sobbing.

“You must have been scared. I’m sorry for being late to find you.”

I couldn’t hold back anymore and clung to him, crying for a while at his warm voice.

During that time, Jeremiah kept stroking my back, apologizing and telling me that everything was okay. I was so happy that I couldn’t help it.

I really do love Jeremiah.

Looking at it now, I realized it from the bottom of my heart.

His straightforwardness that can hurt others without lying, his beautiful appearance, and of course, not everything, but I want to be by his side and be even happier if I can be of help to him.

Above all, I strongly felt that I didn’t want anyone else to touch me except him.

That chilling feeling when he touched me while I was lying on the floor. I never want to experience that again.

At the same time, I felt that I could be with someone who could think that far without confessing my feelings. I felt that it was not good to continue like this.

Then, I’ll say it properly.

It’s okay to love even if it’s not returned.

I decided that and waited for my turbulent emotions to calm down.

Eventually, as my sobbing subsided, I noticed the other person in the room.

Through my tear-filled and blurry vision, I saw Aurelio. He had already untied Dorothea’s rope and was using it to tie up his brother.

When he noticed that I was watching, he looked apologetic.

“Lady Lorraine… My foolish brother did something he shouldn’t have. I heard about it from the lady who was hiding next door.”

“I see. So why did he do something like this?”

Jeremiah asked on my behalf since I still couldn’t speak well. Aurelio rolled his brother onto the floor and sat next to Dorothea, who was looking concerned, before lowering his head and speaking while holding his nose with both hands.

“My brother Emilio came here without my knowledge and pretended to be me. He lost a lot of money in a poker game… A lady proposed this to him… If he could either harm Lady Lorraine or involve her in an irreparable scandal, she would make his debt disappear.”

“Well, that’s so selfish.”

Dorothea was furious. Aurelio nodded and looked at his younger brother, Emilio.

He was lying face down with a sullen expression. Aurelio asked in a frustrated tone, “Are you sure about this, Emilio?”

Emilio let out a sigh before answering.

Chapter 37: About the Settlement and the Future

“Basically, that’s how it is.”

“But why are you here when you should be at sea?”

“There was a temporary ceasefire. So, I visited my brother in his territory and was playing around to see when you would notice. Then, I was challenged to a gambling game by some lady from somewhere.”

Aurelio sighed, looking tired as if he had lost count of how many times this had happened, as he watched Emilio make a movement that seemed like he would shrug his shoulders if he wasn’t bound.

“If you do something like that, it will cause trouble for me too. You should have known what would happen if you did something like that to a lady from the prestigious Baron family, right?”

“Of course. She’s not someone who would easily be swayed even if I wished to marry her. So, I thought if I didn’t like her, I could just ask my brother for money. But when I saw her, she was quite to my liking, so I decided to do as that lady offered.”

“Emilio, I’m not saying that playing is bad. But you don’t seem to know the difference between play and serious matters… Did you want the title of nobility that badly?”

Aurelio looked at his younger brother with a piercing gaze. Emilio, who received that gaze, smiled a twisted smile and laughed with the corners of his mouth raised.

“If I wanted it that badly, I would have killed my brother a long time ago. What I don’t like is that he’s the only one who gets recognition… That’s why I joined the military. If I excel there, I will leave a name filled with much more honor than just being a noble.

Besides, I intended to take responsibility.”

“You… Did you do this knowing that she was my fiancée?”

I looked at Jeremiah in surprise as he spoke in a low voice. He glared at Emilio with a fierce look that seemed to say he wanted to kill him. However, Emilio remained calm with a cool expression.

“No, I didn’t know that. The lady I was asked to do this said she would awaken Lord Jeremiah’s eyes before she became engaged, so I thought it hadn’t happened yet. Oh, I see, she’s already engaged.

I may have done something bad… If you want to duel, I’ll accept it. However, I’m pretty good at shooting even in the military, so you’ll probably be the one who gets hurt.”

“Emilio! That’s enough. I’ve been too lenient until now. I and the Caldelara family have nothing to do with you. From now on, no matter what happens, I won’t support or speak up for you.”

I’ll take care of the lady who asked you to do this. Don’t worry about the money. Also, leave the house in the capital… If you come back, you understand?”

Aurelio said coldly, pushing Emilio away. However, Emilio didn’t seem scared or confused, but rather laughed happily.

“I understand, but I can’t change my face, so it’s better not to completely cut off our relationship. Well then, please untie the rope first. I’ll leave here right away as you said. That was a close call, by the way.”

When I noticed Emilio’s eyes were on me, I glared back at him. Despite that, he just smiled.

Aurelio stood up from the sofa and untied Emilio’s rope. Emilio, who soon became free, rubbed his wrists and looked at me.

“Goodbye, Lady Lorraine. Let’s meet somewhere again… When you get tired of him, if you want, you can become my lover.”

Emilio said with a charming smile – but his face had a bruise and his lips were cut and bleeding. I felt Jeremiah next to me was full of killing intent, so I spoke up first.

“Too bad, that will never happen, and I don’t need a lover.”

“Is that so? But people can change their minds. Remember that.”

“I refuse.”

In response to my words, he turned his back and waved his hand, then walked away somewhat awkwardly. Outside, someone screamed. It was probably one of the guests who had come in surprise at the screams of Dorothea and me. Eventually, the sound of the door closing was heard, and Dorothea opened her mouth as if she had been waiting.

“So, what are you going to do with that lady?”

“I’m willing to file a police report if it’s too out of the ordinary… Jeremiah, what do you want to do? And Lady Lorraine, you suffered the most.”

When Aurelio said that, everyone’s gaze turned towards me.

I groaned, “Um,” and asked myself what to do.

Certainly, something terrible had been done to me. For a moment, I thought it was all over. But I also understood how that lady felt. Even I would have felt a boiling rage if Jeremiah had been friends with a plain and unremarkable lady.

Above all, it was all over now.

From the conversation between Emilio and Aurelio, it was also clear that Emilio was the one who had been dissolute. Aurelio had just been falsely accused.

And so, Dorothea’s worries were resolved, and the worst-case scenario was avoided.

So, I thought it was enough.

“I don’t want to make too big of a deal out of it. There may be a need to be angry with that person, but…”

“But I can’t just let it go. I almost lost my fiancé. Besides, where is the guarantee that something similar won’t happen again?”

“That’s true, but…”

As I struggled to figure out what to do, Dorothea spoke nonchalantly.

“I don’t think there’s any need to do anything.”

Everyone looked at Dorothea. She put her index finger on her lips and said with a smile.

“Isn’t that right? I’m sure that lady will faint when she sees Lorraine at tomorrow’s ball. I only know Lady Tatiana, who has the same caliber as you and Jeremiah-sama standing side by side. Am I right?”

“Well, that may be true, but…”

Jeremiah still seemed dissatisfied. As for Aurelio, he seemed to have no idea what Dorothea was talking about because he hadn’t seen it.

“If they still have something to say after that, you can just report it to the police. Also, I know the president of the support group that Jeremiah-sama belongs to. I’ll tell her about this and let her know that Jeremiah-sama is heartbroken. You know how formidable they are, don’t you?”

“Well… that’s true.”

Even Jeremiah couldn’t help but nod at this. I conveyed my thanks to Dorothea with just my mouth moving without saying it out loud. A mischievous smile came back to me.

At that moment, a yell echoed from the hallway.

The familiar voice was definitely my Aunt Fiorenza’s.

Chapter 38: Warm reassurance

Running in with a rumble, aunt opened the door with great force and hugged Dorothea as soon as she saw her.

“Oh, I’m glad you’re safe. Lorraine is gone too and I was worried something had happened to you!”

“It’s okay, Okaa-sama. Everything has been resolved… My troubles have been resolved too. Hey, let me introduce you to him, my beloved.”

Dorothea said so and pointed to Aurelio. Aunt, with tears and snot on her face, glared at Aurelio and said in a voice that echoed from the depths of hell.

“You’re the man who deceived Dorothea, aren’t you?”

“N-No, it’s a misunderstanding! I intended to follow the proper procedures, but due to circumstances, please listen to me.”

“Fine. However, if I’m not convinced, I won’t let you marry her even if I have to use force.”

“Y-Yes.”

Aurelio’s throat made a gulp sound. Dorothea hurriedly tried to calm the situation by saying, “Okaa-sama, he’s not like that.” I smiled at the scene and turned my attention to the person who came in with Aunt.

Standing there was Marquess Castalde. Mrs. Castalde’s fair skin had turned even paler, but she walked towards me with determination and gently touched my hand.

“I’ve heard the story from my husband and son… so, what happened? The guests were startled by the sudden screams.”

“I will explain.”

Jeremiah said so and carefully explained the situation. After hearing everything, the tired-looking lady dropped her shoulders and smiled at me.

“It was a disaster. Women’s jealousy is always a terrible thing, but it must have been scary. Honestly, she did a terrible thing to my future daughter-in-law.”

I was surprised by the lady’s words, which were full of compassion. At the same time, I remembered that I had forgotten to go and greet her first due to being caught up in various things.

Of course, I didn’t have absolutely no time. Deep down, there was a part of me that avoided it because I didn’t want to be denied. However, The Marquess looked at me with a calm gaze. Joy welled up inside me, and my chest became warm.

“But it’s okay now, right?”

“Yes. And I will be careful to prevent such things from happening in the future.”

Jeremiah nodded at his mother. I was choked up and couldn’t speak, but I made an effort to say something.

“Um, I… apologize for being late with my greeting.”

“Oh, it’s fine. I was busy too, and I knew Jeremiah was running around. I thought we could talk after this house party. Besides, I trust my husband and this child.”

“Thank you very much.”

I managed to express my gratitude, and The Marquess – Lady Natalia said, “Don’t worry about it.”

“Anyway, since it must have been tough, please rest. I’ll explain this to my husband and guests, so what will you do?”

“I’ll stay with Lorraine a little longer.”

“I see. Well then, I hope you recover in time for the ball.”

Natalia said that and smiled at me before leaving the room. Aurelio’s voice continued to explain things in a rambling manner. As I listened absentmindedly, my body suddenly floated up.

I let out a small scream in surprise.

When I opened my eyes, Jeremiah’s face was closer than ever before.

I looked down fearfully and understood the situation. This was what they called a “princess carry.” I felt unreliable floating sensation and instinctively put my hand on his shoulder and said in confusion,

“Um, is it heavy?…I can walk.”

“It’s not heavy. Aurelio, we’ll retreat first.”

“Oh, uh…sorry about today. Lady Lorraine, I’m really sorry.”

While Aurelio explained with cold sweat under the sharp gaze of my aunt, he turned to me with concern at Jeremiah’s voice.

Beside him, Dorothea looked at me with an open mouth, grinning happily. I knew what she wanted to say, but honestly, I wanted her to stop. It was embarrassing enough, and her grin was just adding insult to injury.

“No, please do your best with Aunt’s persuasion.”

“Thank you.”

“Have a good time~.”

The last line was from Dorothea. I was about to get angry, but before that, Jeremiah took me out of the room. There was no one in the hallway. Probably, the Marquess had taken them away.

As I was carried in an embarrassing position, I realized that the place Jeremiah was heading to was not the room assigned to me and Dorothea.

“Jeremiah-sama…aren’t we going to my room?”

“Oh, we’re going to my bedroom.”

“…!”

Thinking that it was indeed bad, I made a startled face, and Jeremiah chuckled in a low voice.

“I’m not going to do anything…I just want you to rest nearby. I’m worried about you, not just today, but I want you to stay longer than other guests.”

“Would it be okay to go home a little later?”

“That’s fine if you discuss it with your mother and brother who will come tomorrow.”

“Then, let’s do that.”

After the affirmative answer, I didn’t say anything. I was getting tired and sleepy since I arrived here. However, there was something I wanted to tell him.

But I didn’t feel like I could say it properly in this situation.

Eventually, we arrived at Jeremiah’s bedroom. When I opened the door and entered, I saw a room enveloped in masculine colors. It looked a bit heavy, but I thought the room with a lot of blue would suit him.

Jeremiah carried me to the bed and asked as he laid me down.

“Is there anything you want?”

As I spoke, my head was stroked, and I closed my eyes with a ticklish feeling. I felt a slightly uneasy voice that was very pleasant, and my heart felt relaxed.

“Well… um, thank you for coming to help me today. I’m glad.”

“It’s fine. Rather than that, make sure you rest properly. You’ll probably be under the attention of guests tomorrow, so you’ll definitely get tired.”

“Yes. Good night.”

“Good night.”

After the quiet exchange of words, I closed my eyes.

Perhaps I was tired after all, as sleep quickly came over me. I wondered in a daze where he, who had opened the bed for me, would sleep, but that thought was also quickly swallowed up by the sea of sleep.

The answer to that question would become clear the next morning.

Chapter 39: Heartbreaking morning

The next morning, I woke up with a hazy head and felt discomfort from something warm next to me, so I moved my body. I wondered if it was a cat or something, groaning while rubbing my eyes and trying to confirm it.

As a result, I was speechless.

Why is there a beautiful face suddenly in the morning?

Moreover, he hasn’t woken up yet. His unstyled hair was covering his face, and when I moved my gaze, I noticed that his upper body was bare.

“…?..!..!”

I was shocked and speechless, struggling to breathe due to the shock as I tried to get out of the bed. However, something was caught, and I couldn’t get out. It’s strange, why can’t I get out of here quickly and confirm the situation? As I searched for the reason, I realized that an arm was wrapped around my back.

Moreover, it was in a position that was almost touching. By the way, it seems that our legs were stuck together. My brain was about to boil with the shock.

With my almost stopped head, I remembered yesterday’s events. I remember being brought here by Jeremiah to rest nearby because he was worried. Maybe because I cried and was tired, I fell asleep easily when lying down.

Come to think of it, I wonder where Jeremiah is sleeping.

But I never thought we would be lying in the same place. No, this is definitely his bed. So, it’s free to use however I want. Besides, I don’t think I have the right to complain since I occupied it and caused unnecessary worries.

But this is not good. We’re not even married yet…!

As I was rushing into every possible thought, Jeremiah, who was holding me, woke up. When I looked up at him, our eyes met with a drowsy gaze.

“G-Good morning.”

I said with a slightly stiff expression. Then, a happy smile returned.

“Oh… good morning. Did you sleep well?”

“Yes…like a log. Um, could you let me go now? I want to get up.”

“No. This feels good. Just a little longer.”

He mumbled with his mouth closed and closed his eyes again, starting to breathe deeply. I can’t leave it like this. I said with a troubled expression.

“Eh! Wait, please don’t sleep, Jeremiah-sama? Jeremiah-sama~!”

“Don’t call me -sama. We’re getting married, you know?”

“But…”

“I won’t let go unless you call me that.”

If he says that, I have no choice but to call him that. I want him to let go no matter what. My heart can’t take it if he continues like this.

“J-Jeremiah…please let go.”

“No.”

Why not?!

After a while, a similar exchange continued, and by the time the servant came to wake us up, I was almost completely drained.

❂❂❂

“I think it’s rude to ask for too many details, but how was it? What are your thoughts on spending the night in the same bed with a man for the first time?”

Dora asked me as I changed into my worn-out clothes. By the way, we were still in Jeremiah’s bedroom. He had already left to change and was waiting for me in the living room, which was connected to this bedroom.

Jeremiah had instructed the butler who came to wake him up with a grimace to call for Dora and ordered us to have breakfast here today.

I didn’t really object, so I obediently followed his orders. Besides, I honestly didn’t want to suddenly show up at a table where there might be a lot of people after that. Jeremiah must have been considerate of me.

“It’s not like anything happened, but it’s bad for my heart to call him Jeremiah instead of Jeremiah-sama… If this continues, I’ll have to get used to it quickly.”

I muttered. Thinking back to how many times I had called him the wrong name in the bed, it gave me a headache. However, it would take some time to stop calling him “sama” and address him informally, considering the long time I had been using honorifics and calling him a subject of worship and admiration.

“Well, I guess so. But he was gentle with me because it was the first time.”

“Are you misunderstanding something, Dora?”

“Oh no, I won’t ask too deeply.”

While grinning, Dora quickly finished dressing me up. As always, she was efficient. I thought about how much she had helped me.

“Okay, we’re done. You must be excited today. I’ll let you decorate as you like, so be prepared.”

“Ugh, I know.”

I feel sick at the thought of being exposed to so many people’s eyes again. Even just being noticed by two or three people makes me nervous. I head towards the living room while wondering if I’ll be okay.

Dora left the room still grinning, saying she had to attend to Dorothea.

So, I’m the only one heading to the living room. As soon as I step in, I see Jeremiah basking in the sunlight, leisurely reading a book.

The pouring sunlight makes his glossy black hair shine, and the melancholic expression on his face is truly beautiful.

As I stare blankly, he notices me.

“Oh, you’re here. Shall we eat? It’s already been brought out. I remember you liked eggs.”

“How did you know?”

“Because the thing you never left on your plate during meals was eggs.”

So, why do you know that? The answer is simple. He was watching… Even I know his likes and dislikes as a result of staring at him.

I am now convinced that I had a desire to know everything about the person I liked, but at that time, I didn’t know that this feeling was the reason.

I glanced at the food arranged on the round table made of white stones.

Thinly sliced cold meat with a hint of redness. The sauce served with it was a paste with a spicy kick. The bread was piled up and not too fluffy. Pickled vegetables of various colors and drinks were also lined up.

There were also boiled eggs and a soup made of beans and grains.

“Even though it’s just the two of us, it seems like a lot.”

“It seems that the servants misunderstood and prepared it as a celebration. Look, there are also baked sweets.”

As he pointed to a place, there was certainly a cute nut cake. It was truly a celebration as it was topped with precious fruits from the southern region, which were rare at this time.

We haven’t done anything yet…

Besides, I don’t even know if we will get married like this. If he doesn’t want to bring romantic feelings into the marriage, there is a possibility that the engagement will be broken.

I sighed and sat down at the table, then said.

“Since we went through the trouble, let’s have it. Well, actually, there was nothing there.”

“Yesterday was tough, are you okay?”

“Yes, thanks to that, I slept well and I’m fine… but thinking about being exposed to so many eyes at the ball depresses me.”

“Haha, that’s just something you get used to.”

He said and started eating. Then I picked up my fruit water. For a while, we talked about trivial things while eating.

Chapter 40: Now it’s time to go to the dance hall!

While eating, I asked a question that had been on my mind.

“Oh, by the way, why were you with Lord Caldelara when you rushed into the room?”

“Oh, that. Actually, yesterday, the detective finally found out about his brother’s existence. According to various people, it was the younger brother who was the libertine, not Aurelio, the older brother. They look so alike that it’s easy to mistake them, but many people noticed the difference in their statements.

When I asked why he let his younger brother go and what he was going to do about Lady Dorothea, he said that he felt guilty for forcing his brother into dangerous military service because he inherited the title.

He was serious about Lady Dorothea. After that, I tried to tell you guys about it, but I heard a terrible scream, and I thought my heart would stop.”

Jeremiah explained while cutting the meat with a knife and fork. I nodded in understanding. At the same time, I felt relieved.

“I’m glad Lord Caldelara isn’t a libertine noble. Now Dorothea can be happy, and my aunt will be happy too. She was excited about having a joint wedding.”

“Oh, a joint wedding. Not a bad idea, but I want to have the wedding as soon as possible, so they’ll have to agree with me.”

“Why are you in such a hurry?”

“Because I don’t want something like this to happen again.”

I thought the same thing. However, Jeremiah is charming even if we get married. There will still be people who see me as a hindrance. But if we get married, we will have the protection of the law. I thought that was what he wanted to say.

Eventually, after finishing our meal, we had a simple dance lesson.

He kindly granted my wish not to fail. Tatiana, Lord Grimani, Paula, and even Dorothea and Lord Caldelara, who were so hot that just watching them made me feel feverish, were invited to the lesson. The lesson and the small tea party for just us were very enjoyable as we talked about yesterday’s events.

After that, Jeremiah stayed close to me. When I asked if he had any other duties, such as patrolling the territory, he said he was okay. Marquis and his wife were busy preparing for the ball today.

I still haven’t told him my true feelings.

I tried to bring it up casually, thinking it was a good opportunity, but fear took over and I couldn’t say it in the end. I regretted it and vowed to tell him after the ball.

In the afternoon, the orchestra arrived, and the servants became busy.

I was also taken to my room and caught by Dora, who had shining eyes, and finally, the preparations began.

To be honest, I still had doubts about whether I should stand next to him even now. I should have been convinced when I saw myself in the mirror.

As I changed into my dress and had my hair done quietly, I felt like I was being crushed.

Eventually, when everything was ready, I put on that necklace.

As Paula said, the jewel matched the dress well. Suddenly, I remembered that Jeremiah had put it on me in the carriage, and the necklace seemed special.

When everything was ready, Dora, who looked in the mirror, said, “It’s perfect.”

“Yes, now you can show those foolish ladies that you are worthy of standing next to Jeremiah-sama.”

“Y-Yeah.”

Encouraged by Dorothea’s strong words, I nodded. Dora called out, “Our preparations are complete,” and the door opened. Jeremiah and Lord Caldelara, who had already changed into their evening wear, appeared. Apparently, the two of them had hit it off, and I could hear their cheerful voices from outside.

Lord Caldelara looked at Dorothea first.

“It’s beautiful. You’re wonderful as usual And Lady Lorraine… that’s why Jeremiah is so desperate. She’s very beautiful.”

“T-Thank you.”

Feeling grateful, Jeremiah reached out his arm.

My heart was beating faster. It was finally happening… I naturally froze at the thought. However, as if he could see through my inner turmoil, Jeremiah spoke.

“Shall we go? I’ll show those who say you’re not worthy of being by my side.”

“Y-Yes.”

Is such a thing really possible? I wondered anxiously as I took his arm. We were escorted to the hallway, and headed towards the hall where we had danced before. Dorothea and Lord Grimani followed us from behind. Others who were ready also headed towards the hall, reluctant to leave their last stay.

Then, people who saw me looked surprised or concerned. Those who looked concerned were probably the ones who knew about the commotion that night. I nodded to them and kept moving.

I was getting sick with nervousness.

I told myself that I was just going to see my mother and brother if I went to the hall, and tried to calm myself down. Jeremiah, who walked beside me, had a disgustingly confident stride.

As I furrowed my brow, I met my aunt and Paula who were having a conversation along the way.

“Oh my, the main character of today has finally arrived. And, I’ve heard the story… even the name of the lady who did something terrible. But when I see you, I realize how foolish I was. I looked at your face, and it’s just moderately cute. Above all, your insides are worse than a sewer and completely rotten. With that kind of attitude, even the devil wouldn’t eat your soul.”

As soon as Paula met me, she said that and gave a sly laugh from behind her fan.

“That’s right! Lorraine. Oh, It’s you, Lord Caldelara, perfect timing. Today, my husband is also here, and we plan to stay the night since he came to pick us up. Please meet him.”

“What, Baron Palmara… y-yes.”

Aurelio, who had been whispering sweet words to Dorothea and making me feel like I was drinking sugar, suddenly changed the relaxed atmosphere and his face twisted. He seemed slightly nervous.

The nobles and celebrities invited to the Castalde family have been staying until today, and many are planning to leave tomorrow. Some, like Baron Palmara, came to pick them up and stay overnight. Some guests only attended the ball and stayed in nearby towns.

As I looked at Aurelio, I thought, “Aunt Paula, don’t give him such a surprise attack.” Then, Jeremiah, who seemed irritated, said something.

“Well then, shall we go soon?”

“Yes, I’m looking forward to seeing Lorraine’s reaction.”

Paula said that and stood behind me. The six of us headed to the hall together. Soon, I heard the sound of light dance music from beyond the open door, and I swallowed hard.

Chapter 41: At the time of the unveiling

As soon as I stepped into the hall, I was enveloped in a rustling commotion.

When Jeremiah appeared, many eyes turned towards us. My skin prickled and my stomach felt heavy. My plea for them not to stare so much didn’t reach their ears, and I could hear whispers of conversation.

“Who is that person? I feel like I’ve seen her somewhere before.”

“I know, right? And she’s so beautiful… Could it be related to the Marquess’s major announcement?”

“That could be possible. They look so good together, though.”

I could hear sighs of admiration.

It wasn’t just women who were looking at us. Men were too.

“Hey, who’s the person next to Lord Jeremiah? Did she just come here recently?”

“I don’t know, but with so many guests coming and going today, it’s possible. She’s so beautiful, though…”

“Ah, I’d love to dance with someone that beautiful.”

Beautiful? Gorgeous? Good together? Wanting to dance?

Those were words that had nothing to do with me, and there was no chance they were referring to me. Ha ha ha, if someone said that to me, I’d think they were joking or question their sanity. Or maybe it was a nasty prank.

If there was someone who said it for any other reason, they must be sick. It’s a pity. The best I can do is refer them to a doctor.

As he said that, the ice in the glass heheld made a clinking sound.

In front of the person with a melancholic expression, the master just polished the glass indifferently, and the cigarette left behind by the customer crumbled and burned out in the ashtray, making a faint sound…

Words that are so unlikely that they lead to strange fantasies in my mind are listed one after another.

I moved my feet in disbelief and looked for my family. I thought that if it was my family, I could hear their honest opinion.

Eventually, Jeremiah found my mother before I did.

As soon as my mother noticed us, she came over. Tonight, my mother was dressed in a gorgeous dress for the ball and was terrifyingly beautiful. My brother, dressed in formal attire, stood next to her.

As the focus of attention of the invited gentlemen and ladies, their gaze concentrated on us as they approached.

I involuntarily shrank back.

“Oh my! Lord Jeremiah, what a wonderful ball it is. It’s an honor to be invited.”

“No, I’m glad you could come. I hope you’re enjoying yourself.”

“Of course. Such a ball is not something that can be done easily.”

“No, it’s being managed by my mother.”

After greeting Jeremiah, my mother and brother looked at me. At the same time.

“Well, Lorraine, you look absolutely stunning. It was worth looking forward to. No wonder people have been talking about you since earlier. Some people may have even realized that we are mother and daughter.”

“I, is that so? To tell you the truth, I can’t believe it. After all, I’ve always been in a place where such rumors didn’t exist.”

I thought my family would give me honest opinions, but contrary to my expectations, they kept praising me.

“What are you talking about? You look beautiful today. Right, Lord Jeremiah?”

“Well, yes, even without dressing up, I think Lorraine is cute.”

Jeremiah responds to my brother’s words. Then, my mother and brother give me meaningful looks.

“Oh my, you are loved. It’s worth coming just to see that. Now, you should go and greet the other guests, right? You can talk to us later. Go ahead.”

My mother pushes my back and tells me to go towards the other guests. I actually want to stay a little longer, but today is the day of the engagement announcement, so I can’t. I nod with a feeling of regret.

“Uh, yeah…then, see you later.”

“Excuse us.”

Jeremiah bows and returns a smile.

Then, my eyes met with a certain lady standing in front of me. She looked at me, then looked at my side, and looked back at me. I could tell that her originally pale face was now contorted in shock.

She stared at me intently for a while, then tightly pursed her lips.

I recognized this lady. She had stared at Jeremiah during various events we were invited to. I remembered it well because there were others who did similar things to me.

Her expression was that of a love-struck maiden.

As I recalled this, I opened my eyes wide, wondering if it was her.

As if reading my thoughts, Jeremiah whispered to me.

“She’s the lady who asked Lord Caldelara to trap you.”

“I see…she’s a lovely lady.”

I said quietly, then looked straight at the lady and smiled and nodded. The lady averted her gaze from me and seemed to be a little unsteady.

There were many other ladies around her who were of a similar age.

Perhaps these ladies had also come here to target Jeremiah. They supported the unsteady lady in a panic and looked at us, but as soon as they saw me, they quickly averted their eyes in fear.

Eventually, the lady who had somehow recovered walked towards me as if she had made up her mind. I stopped and waited for her to speak.

She opened her mouth to say something, but her lips trembled and she couldn’t seem to find the words.

Watching her, I felt the desire for revenge that had risen within me subside. Dorothea was right.

She had already received enough punishment for what she had done to me.

Even if her scheme had succeeded in making me a wounded person, Jeremiah would never turn his feelings towards her. Jeremiah, who had a somewhat fastidious nature, would never fall in love with someone who would deceive and manipulate others to get what they want.

Knowing that, everything about her seemed ridiculous and made me feel sad.

But she was unaware of my inner thoughts and, with a haughty expression, the lady looked at me with hatred in her eyes and said, “Nice to meet you, Lady Lorraine… I never thought I would see such a beautiful person. But I don’t regret what I did, and I won’t give up on my feelings.”

“Well, I’m glad you think so. But I have no idea why you would say such a thing to me, I’m sorry.”

When I spoke, the lady’s face was filled with humiliation.

“Well, if that’s what you want, then it’s fine. You seem to have a lot of confidence in yourself, but who knows how long that will last. No one knows what will happen and where.”

“Yes, that’s true. But I’m not so sure. I just know that with a tainted heart, no matter how lovely one’s appearance may be, a wonderful gentleman will never love you. I truly believe that from my own experience.”

As I spoke, I hoped that she would change.

“…! What do you know about me? Besides, for people of our rank, love has nothing to do with marriage. Isn’t that right, Jeremiah-sama?”

She looked at Jeremiah as if seeking salvation.

However, in response to the lady’s pleading gaze, he only gave her a cold stare that froze even her heart, with an expression that included contempt. Even I was chilled by the coldness in his eyes.

The lady completely lost her voice.

Without answering her question, he simply said, “Excuse me, I’m keeping other guests waiting.”

After that, we headed in a different direction. The face I saw just before she disappeared from my sight was filled with despair. I thought it was too cold, no matter what.

With his hand still on my waist, I said in a small voice, “I think a slightly softer attitude would have been better.”

Then he looked disappointed and said, “You’re kind, to speak so kindly to someone who tried to hurt you and ruin your life. Well, you’re the reason I wanted to marry you.”

“I don’t think I was kind. Besides, she liked you from the bottom of her heart.”

“That’s the punishment for trying to steal my fiancée. If she try to do anything else, I’ll report it to the police. I don’t want to go through that again.”

Jeremiah said with a grimace. The hand on my waist tightened. I thought it was a parallel line no matter what I said, so I didn’t say anything more.

Eventually, I saw the figure of the lady in the distance. Jeremiah said, “Let’s go see my mother,” and I nodded. The marquess seemed to be talking to some local dignitaries, but when she noticed Jeremiah and me, she nodded and clapped her hands twice.

“Everyone, I have some wonderful news to share today. My son Jeremiah and Lady Lorraine of the Baron Valcourt family are officially engaged. Please join us in celebrating.”

For a moment, silence enveloped the room. But soon, cheers erupted. Those holding wine glasses raised them high and shouted words of congratulations. At the same time, I felt like I heard screams from more than a few ladies and their mothers.

Chapter 42: Trembling with anticipation

On the other hand, I was driven by the impulse to disappear right now.

Oh, I wish I could become invisible. Or rather, I never thought I would disclose it like this. I thought I would introduce myself to each person and say, “I am the fiancée.”

It’s so overwhelming to suddenly become the center of attention like this, and I feel like my mind is about to disappear into a haze.

Looking at Jeremiah as if to say, “What are you doing?” he gives me a very satisfied smile. It’s a smile I’ve never seen before, as if to say, “I did it.”

Amidst the words of congratulations and the sound of toasting, a slow waltz begins to play.

Jeremiah, still smiling, leaves me for a moment and says, “Would you like to dance with me?”

I feel like I’ve been trapped, but I can’t refuse his invitation because I like him so much that I want to look at his face forever and listen to his voice. I smile and answer, “I’d be delighted.”

The people who witnessed that exchange open up a path for us as we walk to the center. No one has danced yet. It seemed like we were going to start it off.

Amidst the attention, we step forward and start to dance.

I’m still not very good at dancing, but it’s the latest dance I’ve managed to learn desperately.

For a while, only we danced.

My heart felt like it was about to explode. However, if I entrusted myself to the strong arms that led me firmly, I naturally began to enjoy moving.

As the song progressed, other couples began to dance.

I saw Tatiana close one eye and say congratulations to us, so I nodded shyly.

Dorothea and Lord Grimani also joined in. Other couples we had become friendly with during our stay at the Castalde family’s estate, close friends, sons and daughters of local dignitaries and politicians also joined in.

And so, the ball began.

After dancing a few songs, we left the circle.

While we ate the light snacks that were prepared and waited for our bodies to cool down with drinks, Jeremiah approached me with a slightly hesitant expression.

“Hey, there’s something I want to talk to you about… Can we go outside for a bit?”

I stopped drinking and remembered that I also had something I wanted to say. I had forgotten due to the nervousness. This might be a good opportunity.

“Yes, well… Actually, I also have something I want to say.”

“I see. Then, shall we go to the garden?”

Jeremiah showed a momentarily bewildered expression before pointing to the door on the south side of the hall. That’s the closest way out. The main door is always open, and tired guests or those who want to get away from the noise often come and go.

I placed my hand on Jeremiah’s outstretched arm and began to walk.

Although there were eyes looking at us, it seemed that they thought we wanted to be alone, so no one spoke to us.

When we reached the hallway, we passed the library and dining room and went out onto the terrace that led to the garden.

From there, the natural garden outside the mansion could be seen well. However, it was currently night, and although the moon was out, it wasn’t very visible.

Jeremiah passed the terrace and headed to a place where no one could eavesdrop.

Eventually, when we reached the stone bridge over the stream that flowed through the garden, he finally stopped. It was still early spring, and the night wind was cold.

When I shivered slightly, Jeremiah immediately noticed and took off his coat, draping it over my shoulders. My heart tightened at his natural gesture.

“I’m sorry, I should have brought a coat for you. But I thought someone might hear us inside the building…”

“No, I’ll be fine. Thank you.”

When I answered like that, Jeremiah looked a little relieved and then cleared his throat.

“I see, then let’s keep it brief. But before that, I have to apologize to you.”

“Apologize? Why?”

“For everything I’m about to say, including the presentation earlier.”

I tilted my head because I couldn’t see what he was trying to say. At the same time, I felt a sense of unease creeping over me.

Could it be that the engagement was a mistake?

Or maybe there were conditions attached to the engagement or marriage?

Jeremiah looked guilty as he began to speak.

“I’ve been lying to you all along. If I didn’t do this, I didn’t think you would agree to our engagement so easily… But if I don’t act quickly, someone might notice your charm, like Lord Caldelara’s brother. I was thinking about what to do when you came to this mansion. I had an excuse to get closer to you.

However, I didn’t think you would believe me if I suddenly confessed my feelings, so I decided to start by restraining others.”

As he spoke calmly while looking into the distance, his words seemed like a confession of love, and I couldn’t help but look away. I felt a mixture of hope and anxiety, and my emotions were in turmoil.

“Honestly, I thought that the way I said it was bad later on. However, you accepted my offer. I was surprised, but I was desperate not to waste this opportunity.

You said you liked my appearance, but you didn’t say anything about me as a person. Even so, I thought that if I used my appearance, your feelings might waver.

Despite that, no matter how much I tempted you or gave you gifts, it had no effect. But once I realized that it came from an inferiority complex, I wanted to do whatever it takes to get rid of that misconception.”

I could feel the wind moving slightly, and Jeremiah turned to face me.

Then, he held both of my hands. But I couldn’t lift my face and was doing my best to suppress the turmoil in my chest.

“Finally, you got rid of that misconception…I’m happy.”

This is strange. This sounds like a confession of love. He was speaking calmly, but it was a story of my (Lorraine’s) struggles. I couldn’t take it anymore and asked what he meant.

“…Wait a minute. That sounds like you’re saying that you like me.”

Then, he looked at me with a surprised expression.

Chapter 43: The object of my admiration confessed to me

“Don’t you get it yet? I’ve been telling you that all along.”

I was surprised by his sudden confession. I couldn’t believe it. So, I muttered with trembling lips.

“B-but… I thought love liked Tatiana.”

“What! Where did you get that misunderstanding?”

“On the first day of dance lessons…you were looking at Tatiana.”

With a confused mind, I managed to say something, and Jeremiah looked momentarily stunned before laughing happily. I didn’t understand why he was laughing, and I felt left behind and frustrated.

“That’s the reason. Actually, I’ve already talked to her and Bruno about my feelings. I asked them to cooperate with me in a roundabout way. That’s why I was looking at her. But when I introduced you to her, Tatiana seemed to like you a lot. She’s a good friend, but she’s only Bruno’s wife. You’re the only one I want as my wife.”

“T-Then…”

Is it true? That you love me, that you’re in love with me? As if scooping up the thoughts floating in my eyes, he said,

“Ah, I love you.”

I heard it clearly. It wasn’t a mishearing, I heard it clearly!

I stare into his eyes, worried that he might say, “I’m just kidding.” But he remains silent, showing no signs of joking. I am convinced.

It’s not a lie.

The fact makes my eyes well up with tears. He looks at me and adds more words.

“Even if you can only have friendship towards me, that’s okay. I hope you will eventually come to love me. But I didn’t want you to be with another man… I am sorry for forcing you into this engagement, but I don’t regret it.”

He releases my hand and embraces me tightly. I remember the pained expression he showed just before he hugged me, and I realize that I have to tell him the emotions I have been pretending not to notice for so long. Above all, I feel that I will regret it if I don’t say it now.

“I, I… have always thought that I am not worthy of you. So I convinced myself that it was enough just to look at you. But I couldn’t help it.”

“Lorraine?”

“I love you too. I really do…”

I tell him and cling to him tightly.

I am so happy that my head feels like it’s about to explode. But I am happy enough to accept it.

“Is that… true?”

Jeremiah’s voice trembled. I nodded repeatedly in his arms. Then, he hugged me tighter and spoke in a voice that seemed to be overwhelmed.

“My God. If that’s the case, I didn’t have to do this.”

“No, if you hadn’t made me aware of many things, I wouldn’t have accepted it. So, it’s not a waste.”

“Ah! I see… I’m happy. This is the best day ever!”

When I said that, Jeremiah laughed loudly. I also laughed along with him. However, there was something that bothered me.

“Um, how far was it planned? Maybe, Lord Caldelara or that lady…”

“No, I don’t know about them. That incident was unexpected even for me.

I just wanted to make you my fiancé by any means necessary while you were here. I planned to ask you to be my lover first, and then slowly persuade you.

Even if it didn’t work out, I was planning on arranging for us to spend the night alone together and then use the scandal as a way to bring about our engagement.”

I was surprised by what was revealed.

It could have been a terrible situation if he had made one wrong move. However, if he went so far as to try and make me his wife, there was nothing more I could be happier about.

Still, that incident was definitely the catalyst. When Emilio touched me at that moment, I finally became certain of my feelings of love. Until then, I had dismissed this painful emotion as mere admiration.

“I intended to use anything available. That’s why I used my position… If someone tells you that they will take responsibility and marry you, kind-hearted people like yourself wouldn’t refuse it right?

Above all else, for someone who is looking for a marriage partner like yourself, I should have been an ideal candidate. If your wish came true, even if there was another man in your heart at the time, I thought you would choose me.”

“But there wasn’t such a man… From the beginning when even I didn’t realize it myself until now…I’ve always loved you.”

To be clear Jeremiah let go of my body and cupped both of my cheeks with his hands before asking,

“So you’ll marry me then?”

“Yes.”

“I want you to see me only as a man. I won’t tell you not to have male friends, but if you do something like that, I might kill the other person and imprison you somewhere.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at his words.

“That’s impossible. The only face I want to look at for the rest of my life is yours. Not just now, but even when we’re old, I want to see your happy face, angry face, sad face, and even your slightly mean face… all of them.”

Upon hearing that, Jeremiah smiled with genuine happiness.

Then, his face came even closer.

“Well then, it’s better to see it up close. I also want to feel you closer…”

Even with his breath on my lips, I didn’t run away. Instead, I leaned in closer. Eventually, our lips met in a gentle kiss. As I closed my eyes and felt the soft sensation, I was embraced tenderly.

At first, it was just a simple kiss.

But gradually, it became more passionate and deeper.

When I slightly opened my eyes, I saw a face that I thought was the most beautiful and beloved in the world. From now on, I would continue to gaze at it without ever getting tired. I was incredibly happy. Filled with joy that I could live with him, I thought to myself.

I never thought that I would confess to him, who I thought I could only admire from afar and never have any contact with. I will never forget this night…

[S1 End]

Chapter 44: Major Characters

※This is a simple note to avoid confusion during the writing process.

Lorraine – the protagonist, Baron Valcourt’s daughter

Jeremiah – Marquis Castalde’s eldest son

Dorothea – Baron Palmara’s daughter, Lorraine’s cousin

Fiorenza – Baroness Palmara (Dorothea’s mother), Lorraine’s aunt

Tatiana – Countess Grimani

Bruno – Count Grimani, Jeremiah’s friend

Aurelio – Viscount Caldelara

Paula – Duchess Astorga, Jeremiah’s sister

Dora – a maid in the Valcourt household

Madam Sabrina- the female owner of a dressmaking shop

Paul – Baron Valcourt, Lorraine’s father

Lavina – Baroness Valcourt, Lorraine’s mother

Claudio – The eldest son of the Valcourt family and Lorraine’s brother

Lionero – Marquis Castalde and Jeremiah’s father

Natalia – Marquess Castalde and Jeremiah’s mother

Emilio – A naval officer (Aurelio’s twin brother).

※ Relationship between Castalde and Palmara families:

(Current) Marquis Castalde’s mother is the sister of Baron Palmara’s mother, which means that Jeremiah’s grandmother is Dorothea’s great-aunt.

Chapter 45: Marquis’ son, seen

Marriage

It’s a headache-inducing word just to think about it.

That’s because I’ve been troubled by that word for a while now. I know that I will eventually have to marry a proper lady of a certain family.

Those who inherit territory and titles have an obligation to pass them on to the next generation. That’s why they marry for that purpose alone. In the noble society, it was common for there to be no love involved.

Of course, I know that there are exceptions. I cannot say that marriages based on love do not exist, especially when I see my own parents and my happy sister.

It is not something that I can believe will happen to me, a miracle-like stroke of luck. At least, I, Jeremiah Castalde, was not that optimistic.

So, I decided to at least become a good person and choose a good daughter-in-law. There is still plenty of time to choose. I am not yet at the age where I have to get married.

However, mothers who have daughters of marriageable age do not care about my situation and push their daughters onto me. I think that’s inevitable.

I am the one who is destined to inherit the Marquis family in the future.

As a marriage partner, she has to be the best match for me.

However, I still had no intention of getting married. As long as there is time, I had decided that I would find my own bride with my own power.

That’s why I was eagerly waiting for the moment to escape, keeping an eye out for any opportunity.

It’s early summer now.

I have already greeted His Majesty the King, the Queen, the Crown Prince, and the Princess, and the social season is in full swing. After finishing the greetings, my father immediately retreated to our territory and is busy with management work.

I also wanted to help him if possible, but…

“No, Jeremiah, if you participate in the events during this season, it may be useful later. You need to know what kind of women are out there to find a better bride, and you can’t just follow what others say. Of course, I can recommend someone for you, but you won’t be satisfied with that, will you?

Above all, if you don’t choose a woman carefully and marry her, it could lead to bad behavior later on. So, think of it as special training to develop your ability to judge people.

I’m not saying you should only associate with women. You also have a role as a member of parliament, and it’s okay to engage in debates. It’s also good to cultivate connections with other nobles and wealthy people by playing with them.”

My mother explained the importance of socializing endlessly to me, who complained about wanting to go home quickly.

Since there was some truth to everything she said, I couldn’t say anything and just nodded. Actually, it was like a trial. If it would be useful in the future, I should endure some discomfort.

But I was getting irritated.

I am currently attending a soirée hosted by Viscountess Beckaria. It is a relaxed gathering where not only nobles, but also wealthy people and large landowners gather. My sister Paula, who is the Duchess of Astorga, was invited here, and I came along as her escort.

When most of my duties were over, a young girl and her mother, who had just made their debut in society, looked over at us. I had a bad feeling and decided to escape to the dining table, declining my sister’s offer to stay.

I took some wine from the tray carried by the server and quickly scanned the table for something delicious. There were colorful foods that were easy to eat.

Although the capital is inland, various ingredients are brought in from all over the country, including rare foreign ones. Dried fruits and sweets are especially popular. Such foods are often served at gatherings like this, as it is a good opportunity to show off the wealth to provide them.

While pretending to look at the food, I was relieved to see the mother and daughter targeting someone else. Then, I picked up a plate and took some food. I thought I would leave after eating this. As I found a suitable chair and sat down, about to put the food in my mouth, my spine tingled.

“…I feel like I’m being watched.”

I mutter and move my gaze around to find the cause of the chills. Eventually, I found the owner of the gaze.

It was a young girl.

She was dressed in plain clothes that could only be described as dull, and her hair was tied back with a decoration attached to it as an afterthought. She was small and slender, but that was all.

She was so plain that you might overlook her if you didn’t look closely.

However, there was one exception.

The girl’s eyes were shining with joy. Her mouth was smiling, and it was clear at a glance. She was in love.

I couldn’t help but grimace.

Because the person she was looking at was none other than me.

“Is it my face again… Enough of this.”

I groaned and drank my sake in one gulp. It was clear that I was being dominated by frustration. It would be best to leave quickly. Perhaps she was attracted to my appearance. What if some kind person, under the guise of kindness, told her that I was the son of Marquis Castalde?

There was no way to know what the result would be.

To escape from that gaze, I quickly finished my meal, informed my sister, and left the evening party.

A few days later.

“What the hell is this! There’s a limit to being impolite.”

I vented my frustration in the study. Since my father was absent, I was free to use the study in this house. This was the happiest time for me, where I could write letters and read books.

But now, it was different.

I took a sip of the amber liquid in my hand and let myself feel the burning sensation in my stomach for a while before spitting it out.

“I understand how you feel, but it’s better to enjoy alcohol slowly. It’s bad for your body.”

The other person in the study chuckled. He was Bruno, a friend of mine since my boarding school days, and now Count Grimani since his father passed away.

With his golden hair and handsome face, he was in the same position as me until last year.

As a Count and a young man with a good appearance, he was also a good target for being forced to marry a daughter. That’s why we went back and forth between each other’s houses and complained to each other.

But now, he’s a married man.

Last year, he married a surprisingly beautiful lady whom he found from somewhere. She was not a face often seen in high society. According to him, she was forced to live in poverty because of her father.

And it was a proper love marriage.

I was secretly envious.

He obtained a woman who was not something that could easily be obtained, so there was no way I couldn’t be envious of him. As for me, I am an existence that I don’t even know if I can obtain.

“I know, but I’m getting tired of it. I want to return to my territory today.”

“I don’t think Lady Castalde will allow it. Besides, you haven’t been harmed in any way, so why not just enjoy the view?”

“At first, I thought so too. But she keeps staring straight at me, and even if I try to look back, she disappears before I know it. I only saw her face at first, and I don’t remember it very well.”

Frustrated, I drank more alcohol.

Bruno chuckled knowingly, “So basically, you don’t like being the only one being watched.”

“Of course not. If she’s going to look at me, then I should have the right to look back.”

“She’s probably just embarrassed. My female acquaintances say they would faint if you smiled at them, so she probably doesn’t want to be seen.”

How ridiculous.

Although I thought so inwardly, I sighed without saying anything.

Chapter 46: Marquis’ son, reminiscing

I have been told such things before.

As a man, there is no reason for me not to be happy to be admired by women.

Having an appearance that can attract women’s attention is a happy thing. However, just by looking at my sister who has struggled because of her appearance, I knew that it was not always a good thing.

Therefore, I feel a sense of caution towards women who look at me like that. I try to see what the person looking at me is thinking behind the scenes.

As a result, I cannot be happy about it. Although I cannot be happy, I understand the courtesy, so I don’t get too frustrated just because I was looked at.

However, there is a degree to everything. That lady looks at me so much that I want to get angry as if she is going to make a hole in me. And yet, does she not want to be looked at herself? Even if she says it’s because she’s embarrassed, it doesn’t make me feel any better.

I spoke as if I were spitting out my thoughts.

“If you don’t want to be looked at, then don’t look. It’s not good to faint every time just because your face is pretty.”

“Well, yeah. But as someone who has actually fainted before, I’m a little happy about it.”

“I see, you got married and your head is in the clouds. No, wasn’t your wife there?”

“Yes. That’s how I met her, so I have to thank those women as much as I can.”

I don’t know the details, but there has been something popular in high society for the past two or three years.

It’s called the “Support Group,” and it’s a mysterious group that gathers people who like a particular person, especially handsome upper-class gentlemen and successful generals in the kingdom’s army, and supports them without permission.

Of course, Bruno and I are also part of it, and on birthdays, piling up gifts on our birthdays and making a fuss about our suitability if we say anything politically. It’s a group that is both appreciated and annoying.

It’s not clear when it started.

Still, it was certain that it contributed to Bruno’s happiness.

“Hey, Jeremiah… Are you so stubborn because you’re still hung up on Dario? There’s no other reason for you to dislike such an aversion to young women and their mothers.”

“Of course, that’s part of it. But it’s not just because of him.”

I muttered and took a sip of my drink.

The hot, thick, syrupy liquid spread quietly on my tongue and eventually fell into my stomach with bitterness and sweetness. That burning sensation.

The emotions I felt at that time were similar to this.

“I see. We’ve gotten off topic. Anyway, I don’t think you need to worry about that lady who keeps staring at you without saying anything.”

“No, it bothers me. I want to know what kind of person she is. It’s still annoying to be constantly watched like this.”

When I said that, Bruno shrugged his shoulders and took a breath, but he smiled happily.

“It’s rare for you, who always seems so detached, to become so emotional. I want to see it too. How about this? I’ll lend you mine and Tatiana’s eyes. If there are any events you plan to attend, let us know and we’ll help you search together.”

“I see. It’s easier to search with six eyes than two. I’ll count on you then.”

I said that and showed him a bundle of invitations. Then, he pulled out the ones they were planning to attend, albeit with a slightly strained expression.

After receiving them and swearing to definitely find what I was looking for, Bruno left.

I was reminded of what he had said.

Dario.

He was the first friend I had made outside of the noble class. By chance, he had expressed interest in a business I was involved in and wanted to invest in it.

It was going well until he got engaged to a poor lady.

The scene from that cold day came back to my mind.

A solemn funeral was held in the cathedral.

There were many attendees, which clearly reflected his personality. He was a rare person who could get along with anyone regardless of their social status. There were rarely any people who disliked him.

But he died.

It was so sudden.

At first, I didn’t know if he was really dead. But those eyelids would never open again. His skin was so cold that it seemed to steal my body heat.

By touching him, I realized that his death was a reality and it hit me hard.

As I watched my friend with closed eyelids in front of me, I thought that even if there was a marriage based on love, only a lucky few could obtain such a thing.

Otherwise, the plain young man in front of me would be pitiful.

His eyelids would never open again. His skin would never feel warmth. The world he dreamed of was destroyed by his love.

I quietly offered him flowers and turned my back to the coffin.

Inside the solemn cathedral, people dressed in black listened to the majestic requiem and occasionally sniffled or held back sobs.

I couldn’t bear it anymore and left the cathedral.

Although there were a few people outside, they were not willing to come out into the biting cold wind, and those who did quickly returned to the cathedral. However, I remained in the wind and gazed at the sky for a while.

It will soon be the season of socializing.

The season to greet His Majesty the King and deepen ties with the nobles.

I enjoy observing the greetings to His Majesty and the people of the court. Sometimes, I am even invited to dinner parties at the lower end of the table. However, I was not interested in deepening relationships. For me, the capital was nothing more than a place where parliamentarians debate. Participating in politics is a noble duty, and I am proud to be supporting this country.

However, I was tired of the daily parties, those looking for a marriage partner for their daughters, and those drowning in alcohol and gambling. But as the heir to the Castalde family, I couldn’t refuse all invitations.

“You’re such an idiot, Dario. I told you from the beginning not to trust that woman.”

As if speaking to a friend in the sky, I returned to the cathedral to join the funeral procession. Dario, my first friend outside of the noble class, was buried on the cathedral grounds that day and fell into eternal sleep under the cold soil.

When I brought a bundle of invitations to my mother, she widened her eyes.

“Well, what’s the occasion? You hated it so much.”

“Bruno came to visit earlier, and I thought I could tolerate it if I went with him. I asked about the events we’re planning to attend, so I won’t have to resort to drinking.”

“I see, but they just got married, so don’t disturb them too much.”

Putting down the embroidery she was holding, my mother said as she looked at the bundle I handed her.

“I understand. Besides, I have a purpose now.”

“Oh, that’s good. Did you find the person you were looking for?”

“It’s something similar, but not quite. For now, I’ll be satisfied with just attending these events. After they’re over, I’ll return to my territory.”

I said firmly, and my mother laughed as if to say she couldn’t help it.

“I understand how you feel, but it’s just the beginning.”

“If I have to waste my time attending pointless gatherings, I’d rather help the peasants in my territory. Anyway, that’s all.”

Without waiting for a response, I left the room.

I didn’t want to be near my mother anymore and be persuaded by her words. I didn’t think I could argue with her logically. Besides, there was an event scheduled for tonight.

I wanted to avoid drinking.

In any case, it was good that I had a purpose. In my heart, I declared war on that lady, “Don’t think you can hide forever.”

I would teach her what it feels like to be uncomfortable under someone’s gaze, just like she did to me.

Thinking back to the lady’s bewildered figure, I smiled softly.

Chapter 47: Marquis’ son, lose track

At night, I arrived at the Viscount’s mansion, which was the venue, by carriage and immediately headed to the organizer to exchange greetings. I looked for Bruno and Tatiana, who were supposed to be there, and soon found them, feeling relieved.

As I tried to approach them, I heard a voice calling out to me from the side. When I turned to look, I saw a woman dressed glamorously waving her hand.

I couldn’t help but let out a small groan.

There were already several faces that I didn’t want to see again, and her face was one of them.

The memories that came back to my mind still evoked a sense of discomfort, like when I accidentally smelled something foul. Unaware of my feelings, she approached me with a happy expression.

“Long time no see, how have you been?”

“I’m fine. And you, madam?”

“Fufu, not really. I’m not a madam anymore…I’m Baron Baiano’s widow.”

The woman, Baron Baiano’s widow, smiled seductively and put her index finger on her plump lips, looking at me meaningfully.

——She’s the same old woman…

I looked at Baron Baiano’s widow, who was dressed in a deep red dress, with a cold feeling.

I knew that her existence was also one of the factors that made me avoid mothers and daughters who run amok with marriage aspirations. Before getting married, she had enthusiastically approached me.

It was an unpleasant memory.

I wanted to be released from her quickly and achieve my goal. ——But.

“Do you understand the meaning of this? Do you remember the words I told you before?”

“…I’m sorry, I forgot. It was many years ago when I met you.”

When I told her that, she narrowed her eyes in disappointment and pursed her lips.

It was a lovely gesture. How many men were captivated by her at that time? And she successfully captured a nobleman. Perhaps the only thing that was unexpected for her was that he died so soon.

“Well, maybe. Shall I remind you again?”

“That’s fine, but I’m keeping my friends waiting, so maybe next time.”

“Oh, that’s a shame. But I believe you will remember even if I don’t tell you.”

Baron Baiano’s widow didn’t linger any longer and slipped past me, heading towards another gentleman. Feeling refreshed from being released, I approached Bruno and Tatiana.

As expected, Bruno frowned and watched Baron Baiano’s widow’s back.

He was one of the people who was approached by her around the same time as me.

“Hello, Lady Grimani. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Good evening, Lord Jeremiah. It’s a lovely night, isn’t it? I heard about you from my husband. So, what kind of lady are you looking for?”

Tatiana smiled like a blooming rose and her eyes shone with curiosity.

Objectively speaking, she was simply beautiful. Passionate red hair, green eyes with a transparent golden mix. Her voluptuous figure was wrapped in a vivid green dress.

On the other hand, Bruno had a sour expression and was wearing a green outfit to match hers.

Seeing them, I felt envious.

“To be honest, I didn’t see her very clearly either. But if we’re here, we’ll probably be able to find her, and then I’d like to borrow your eyes.”

“I’m looking forward to it. Searching for a mysterious lady who disappears like smoke. I was a bit bored, so I’m glad to have something interesting to do,” Tatiana said with a smile.

I laughed at Tatiana’s words.

Then, Bruno, who still had a sour expression, spoke up.

“Jeremiah, what did she whisper to you earlier?”

“She? Oh, it’s nothing much. She just said she became a widow. In other words, she wanted to say that she’s in a position where she can play whenever she wants. ”

“You don’t need to bother with her. Some libertine should provide her with a lovely night, and once she finds a partner, she won’t even look at you.”

“I see. That’s good to know.”

I shrugged my shoulders at Bruno, who seemed relieved. However, he still looked like he had something more to say to me. Thinking that there might have been a misunderstanding, I spoke up.

“I was only slightly interested in her. I wasn’t seriously infatuated with her.”

“I know. But she’s probably looking for her next partner. And you’re still single, so it’s better to be careful,” he explained, and I understood. Perhaps he had already talked to the people around here before I arrived and heard about such topics related to her. Thinking that I should just listen obediently, I nodded.

“I see. I’ll do that.”

As I answered, Bruno finally showed a smile. Tatiana next to him also smiled, seemingly relieved. While looking at them, I glanced around the venue.

Tonight, a ball was being held. During this season, nobles hold balls at their homes at least once, so they go out every night.

I don’t visit anyone other than close friends or relatives. If I did, my body wouldn’t be able to handle the influx of events, no matter how many I had.

The chandelier hanging from the ceiling illuminates the hall, and snacks and chairs are provided for those resting on the side. In the distance, the exhausted orchestra plays familiar dance music day and night.

As I absentmindedly looked over there, she came!

I quickly looked in the direction that gave me chills and told Bruno and Tatiana.

“There she is, you two. That girl.”

“What? Where? I can’t see her. There are too many people here.”

They looked in the direction I pointed, dissatisfied. I also searched hard. However, the eyes that should have caught my attention for a moment quickly blended into the surrounding scenery and disappeared.

“What was she wearing? If we could at least figure that out.”

“I think it was a light green that didn’t stand out. I think her hair was blonde… Her accessories were understated, and there wasn’t anything particularly distinctive about her.”

As I spoke, I became irritated at how plain she was.

Looking around the venue, young girls are incorporating trends and pursuing their own fashion, but that girl is wearing something that completely blends in.

I usually think that I should assert myself more, but now I’m thinking the opposite.

Then, I feel a chill and the hair on the back of my neck stands up again.

I look in that direction, there she is. Although it’s hard to see clearly from a distance, a girl with pale green, elegant dress and light golden hair is looking at me.

As soon as she notices me, she panics and quickly averts her gaze, disappearing into the crowd.

Feeling like clicking my tongue, I followed after her.

I burn her golden hair into my memory.

Tonight, I will make her feel uncomfortable. With that thought in mind, I move forward. Then, Bruno asks me.

“Did you find her?”

“Yeah, over there.”

I answer and chase after the golden hair again. Despite her plain appearance, her shiny and glossy honey-colored hair is unforgettable. I have a good lead, so I move through the crowd.

Then, I hear a voice from the side.

“Oh, did you come to chase after me so soon?”

It was Baron Baiano’s widow. She wraps her arm around my confused arm and asks me with a coy look.

“Oh, no. I was trying to call out to an acquaintance I found. Sorry, but please let go.”

“What’s wrong? You’re so cold.”

She says angrily and quickly lets go. It seems that I had been quite rude, but that wasn’t the problem.

I strain my eyes through the crowd and groan softly.

——Oh no, I lost her.

The honey-colored hair is already gone from my line of sight, and the girl in the green dress has disappeared without a trace.

Chapter 48: Marquis’ son, to be reunited

Suppressing the urge to shout, “What the hell,” I stood still in that spot. Bruno and Tatiana, who caught up with me soon after, noticed me and called out.

“Jeremiah, did you lose sight of her? It seems like you were caught by Baron Baiano’s widow again.”

“Yeah, that’s why I lost sight of her. Damn it, I thought I was so close.”

I said without hiding my frustration, and Tatiana laughed in a troubled way.

“But, you were able to get some clues, so let’s consider it a good thing. Maybe she didn’t come here after all? It’s not fun to catch prey that’s so easy to catch.”

“Tatiana, I don’t think Jeremiah is doing this for fun.”

“That’s true, but it’s still about catching prey, isn’t it?”

Tatiana looked at me and asked as if questioning me. I think she’s right.

It’s a kind of game. A desperate measure to survive this painful season. In fact, chasing after her honey-colored hair was more fun than I expected.

“That’s right. Since I still have to attend many parties, it’s a good thing that I found out her appearance, including her hairstyle, which is the most distinctive feature.”

“Exactly! But still, honey-colored hair… huh.”

“Do you have any idea?”

When asked, Tatiana tilted her head. It seems that she thought of someone, but she hesitated to speak. I waited anyway, and then Bruno, who seemed to have lost his patience, asked.

“If you have any idea, it’s okay to say it. Even if it’s wrong, it’s not a big deal.”

“Really? Well then, I’ll tell you, but I think it’s a wild guess. That woman is an owner of an incredible beauty, and various anecdotes are whispered about her. And above all, what’s distinctive is that she has luxurious honey-colored hair. Her name is Lady Lavina Valcourt.”

“Oh! That’s right, it’s the house next to your territory, Jeremiah.”

Bruno pointed his finger and said.

Of course, I immediately remembered. It was the territory next to the Castalde family’s. The owner was the Valcourt family, who held the title of Baron. The head of the family had a terrible plain face, but he had a love marriage. At that time, there were various rumors about why Lady Valcourt, who was a beauty beyond compare, chose him.

I was still young, so I couldn’t understand the details, but the impression I got from meeting her a few times later was not different from the rumors.

And among her divine beauty, what stood out the most was her shining honey-colored hair.

“I see, that’s possible. Maybe she’s related to her, that girl… come to think of it, she had a daughter, but what did she look like?”

I should have met her somewhere before. However, I can’t remember clearly, feeling somewhat hazy. It’s as if her face was shrouded in mist, and I can only vaguely recall it.

“Hmm… no, I can’t remember either. How about you?”

“I can’t remember either. There’s no way we haven’t met her, considering she is her daughter! She’s the envy of all women living in the aristocratic society, you know?”

I understand Tatiana’s perplexed expression.

It’s almost like some kind of magic that we can’t remember this much. Anyway, it’s pointless to discuss Lady Valcourt and her daughter here.

The most important thing is to catch her.

“That’s right, we’ll know if we catch that girl. Okay, let’s participate somewhere tomorrow.”

“Yes, we’ll help as much as we can.”

“Thank you. But don’t push yourselves too hard. I don’t want to interfere with you newlyweds.”

I smiled at Tatiana and Bruno alternately. The two of them exchanged a glance for a moment.

“It’s okay, don’t worry about it. We’re just participating in the event.”

“That’s right, and besides, we’ll have plenty of time alone together when we get home, right~?”

Tatiana smiled happily at Bruno’s words. It was heartwarming, but at the same time, I felt envious. I decided to leave early and told the two of them before leaving the venue. I called out to the waiting coachman, and the carriage immediately headed towards the townhouse.

Alone in the carriage, I closed my eyes and thought back to that hair.

Yes, if I could catch her, I would rudely look at her hair. I’ve decided.

Then, for some reason, my heart began to flutter. The event that I had found boring suddenly began to look enjoyable. It’s strange how I only felt irritation at first.

Thinking that way, I slightly twisted my mouth.

Since then, I have been attending gatherings without Bruno and Tatiana, searching for a lady with honey-colored hair. I have seen her a few times, but she always disappears from my sight so smoothly that I wonder if she was just an illusion.

Despite my frustration, I attended quite a few parties and even surprised my mother.

“What’s going on? Or is my son here a different person?”

“He’s definitely your son. I just found something fun to do.”

I answered my surprised mother at the breakfast table. She looked at me as if she was seeing a strange creature.

I didn’t want to be pried into too much.

After finishing my meal, I went out as usual.

My destination was a lecture.

There are several squares in the capital, and one of them is where a young politician is giving a speech. Since I know him, I can’t not go. But it was much more enjoyable than a trivial event.

I told the servants to prepare the carriage and soon I was inside, heading towards the western square.

I watched the people passing by from the swaying carriage.

A child in rags was shouting. Most of the people walking on the street were vendors. They had loud voices and haggled with customers. It was a familiar scene. After watching for a while, I saw people choking on the dust kicked up by a carriage on an unpaved road, and I told the driver to slow down.

Eventually, I saw my friend standing in a building facing the square.

He was shouting from the balcony using a loudspeaker. The audience gathered below were nobles or wealthy people. Only those who could participate in politics were present, but some were accompanied by women.

I avoided them and entered the building.

Then, I stopped for a moment.

——That is…

A man with a sturdy build and a woman accompanying him.

I recognized her graceful demeanor. My stomach tightened. I had heard that she was staying in her territory with her husband, so why was she here?

Unconsciously, I approached the pillar of the building to escape her sight.

She passed by without noticing me.

Her rich black hair swayed, and I heard her laughter. She wore beautiful clothes and had a graceful smile. Seeing her happy face made me feel betrayed.

At the same time, I had a bad feeling.

If they were here, it meant that the couple had come to the capital. If so, they might show up at the gathering I was about to attend.

Did I have to see the face I never wanted to see again?

But I didn’t want to run away from such a trivial matter.

Still, I couldn’t stop frowning. My head hurt.

I decided not to think about that woman.

I switched my thoughts and started thinking about something else as I climbed the stairs. – Yes, if I’m going to think about something, it should be something enjoyable. My thoughts naturally turned to the girl with honey-colored hair.

Chapter 49: Marquis’ son, glaring at each other

After that, I joined my friend’s speech and spoke a few words myself.

Eventually, I was invited to go for a drink after the speech, but I declined. I wanted to move my body a little, and I also had to prepare for the evening party.

I wanted to somehow get the recent incident out of my head.

I parted ways with my friends and headed to the dojo that I often visited when I came to the capital.

There, they taught martial arts from a country south of here, and both men who used it as a form of exercise and wealthy aristocrats and businessmen who learned it as a way to fight were there.

If I didn’t exercise a little, my physical strength would quickly decline, but I couldn’t go on a long trip on horseback in the capital.

So I learned martial arts instead.

I thought it would be better if it could also be used for self-defense.

After sweating there for a while, I returned to the mansion and began preparing for the evening party. However, in the middle of getting ready, when I had to stop thinking about something, the unpleasant experience suddenly came back.

“…Damn it.”

A face that came to mind involuntarily. Laughter during the day. When I put my hand on my temple, I felt my ears ringing. I shook my head. How can I bury this unpleasant memory in the darkness?

Sighing, I raised my head.

Don’t think about unnecessary things.

I tell myself that.

While telling myself that, I hoped that the woman with honey-colored hair would attend the party I was about to go to. If I just focus on her, I can be temporarily released from this unpleasant memory.

Eventually, I finished getting ready and headed downstairs to get on the carriage.

This time, it’s not far from my mansion. The host is the widowed Marquis, who is quite well-known in the social world. She has many connections with nobles, wealthy people, politicians, and celebrities, and holds various events during this season. This one may be small-scale, but many nobles, wealthy people, politicians, and celebrities are invited.

My mother said she would come later, so I could have gone with her, but I wanted some time alone.

That’s why I left a little early.

We proceeded on the paved road and arrived shortly. Many people had already gathered and were enjoying the evening party. I went to greet the widowed host and her son, Marquis and Marquess.

At that moment, I felt like I caught a glimpse of honey-colored hair in my field of vision.

After finishing the greetings, I turned my feet in that direction and stopped.

“…Ah, as I thought.”

I muttered as if groaning.

The daydream from earlier in the day appeared again.

The deep laughter and the beautiful dress.

Despite being born into a noble family, the lady in question was unable to make a living due to her father’s dissolute behavior, and she had almost no property to speak of. She relied on her beauty and eloquence as her only weapons.

She appealed to wealthy gentlemen, using her charming way of speaking to both express her plight and please men.

Many men fell under her spell. Dario was one of them, and he offered her a helping hand early on. He allowed her to live in his house and acted as her guardian.

Gradually, he began to believe that her feelings were directed towards him, and he proposed to her.

She accepted, and the two became formally engaged.

However, just three months later, as soon as she found a wealthier and more attractive man, she employed the same tactics of drawing attention to herself. It worked, and the engagement was broken off.

Dario, who had believed in her, died in a riding accident while trying to recover from his disappointment.

I will never forget the exchange I had with her upon hearing the news.

She said, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember him that well. But I do remember that he was a good person. It’s really too bad. He must have just had bad luck.”

I countered, “He was really down. He was hurt by the one-sided cancellation of the engagement by you.”

“Is that so? Well, I didn’t know that. When I explained my change of heart, he accepted it easily. It didn’t seem like he was that obsessed with me.”

Without ever saying it was her fault or apologizing, she ended the conversation.

“I’m sorry, my husband is waiting for me. I feel sorry for what happened to him, but he’s no longer someone I have anything to do with. Goodbye, Lord Jeremiah.”

With a smile that seemed refreshing, she left.

It became clear that she didn’t even consider it a betrayal.

Watching Dario, I thought to myself. It’s better not to expect anything from the beginning than to be betrayed. What women with a desire to marry want is primarily status and wealth. They want a guaranteed life by marrying a man who has those things.

Can she be blamed for that?

I won’t blame her, but there may be some lingering emotions in my head.

The ideal woman.

Someone who looks gentle and understands my foolish ideals. A woman who I can believe will never betray me and who I can love.

I laughed at myself.

There’s no way such a woman exists. In this aristocratic society filled with calculation and desire, there is no such woman.

Let’s switch our thinking already. Right now, all I want is to complete this small revenge. Disgusted with myself for being dragged down by unpleasant memories, I looked around everywhere.

She’s not here. But if what I saw earlier wasn’t a mistake, she should be coming. I’ll find her before she leaves, remember her name and face, and stare at her too.

I stroll around the venue leisurely.

The murmurs of people, mixed with the scent of perfume, and the smell of cigarettes from afar. It seems like someone is playing a card game somewhere. I have no intention of participating tonight.

After walking for a while, I suddenly felt that chilling sensation on my neck.

When I turned around, I met the gaze of a petite woman with honey-colored hair. She opened her eyes in surprise, but still looked at me for a while.

“Oh, so you’re not running away tonight… in that case.”

Naturally, we ended up staring at each other.

Surprisingly, I couldn’t stop the corners of my mouth from lifting. It’s a game of who will feel awkward and look away first.

Finally, my wish is fulfilled.

I realized that my sinking feeling had turned into excitement.

The unpleasant feeling until then disappeared, and only joy filled my heart. The girl who didn’t look away was so amusing. I stared at her while laughing recklessly.

I have no intention of looking away from her.

In the meantime, I observe her carefully.

She was quite young, in her late teens, and seemed to have just entered society. Her shining honey-colored hair was tied in a simple style, and she was wearing a yellow dress. Her arms and waist were thin. She looked plain, but not bad.

If you had to determine whether she was your type or not, she was definitely your type.

Her eye color was not clear, but her round eyes were cute.

After staring at each other for a while, she was called by someone. For a moment, she looked reluctant to leave, but she was either forced or finally looked away.

I slowly pushed through the crowd and followed her.

If you want to see it that badly, I’ll let you watch as much as you want.

In return, I won’t stop until you look away. Tonight looks like it’s going to be fun. I naturally smiled and followed the girl in the yellow dress.

Even if someone calls out to me on the way, I politely decline and make sure not to lose sight of her.

The time for revenge has finally come. I won’t let anyone get in my way. With that thought, I followed her and the other girl into a separate room.

Even I stopped in my tracks.

Apparently, a group of women were going to get together for a light tea. I sniffed. I knew it was not a good idea to go in there, no matter what.

Reluctantly, I stood by the door and waited for her to come out.

Chapter 50: Marquis’ son, eavesdropping

Then, the women began to talk about something.

With nothing else to do, I listened in, knowing it wasn’t a good thing to do. At the same time, I recognized a voice I had heard before and furrowed my eyebrows.

It was the voice of the woman who had abandoned Dario.

How far would she continue to haunt me? Despite feeling annoyed, this was finally an opportunity to catch the honey-colored haired woman. I decided to wait, accepting that there was no other way.

The conversation continued with trivial gossip and talk about fashion.

I was impressed in a bad way that they could continue to talk about such meaningless things endlessly.

Then, the topic turned to marriage, and that woman began to speak.

“Well, I never had any dreams or hopes for marriage. What’s most important is that the man sees me and thinks I’m desirable. I did my best, but if I couldn’t find someone to propose to me, then I wouldn’t be able to get married. Being proposed to is the most important thing.”

The women let out impressed sighs, as if in agreement.

“That’s right. No matter how wonderful a man is, it’s inappropriate for a woman to propose to him.”

“Next, you have to properly discern what the other person can give you.

I wanted to marry someone who would give me what I wanted. It was tough, but now I’m very happy. After all, this dress is at the forefront of fashion, and I can attend gatherings of nobles like this, and he will buy me anything if I ask.”

I heard several sighs that seemed to want to say “I’m envious.”

But I felt nauseous. Did she throw away the man who loved her and the old things she no longer needed for something like that?

“You don’t want to live a miserable life, do you? Besides, if I walk with someone who looks inferior, I’ll be embarrassed, and above all, men who can’t dress well are no good. It’s also painful to have boring conversations, but my current husband has everything.”

She said with a slightly boastful tone while laughing.

A perplexed atmosphere enveloped the room. While praising her husband, she seemed to want to say that she herself was amazing. Sensing that, hesitant agreements were murmured.

I couldn’t help but want to see their expressions, so I peeked.

Among them was that honey-colored girl.

While the other women showed a faint jealousy on their faces, only that girl was smiling quietly.

“In any case, it’s an enviable story. We also have to work hard to be noticed by someone like that.”

A lady in the room speaks up, “By all means do so, what’s important is knowing what you want. And then, being in a position to choose someone who has that from among those who propose to you. That’s the secret to being happy in marriage.”

The laughter that followed was haughty and sounded truly enjoyable. It seemed that her words had stirred up jealousy among the other ladies in the room.

Because it’s not something that just anyone can do.

First of all, one must have beauty that can captivate men. And, importantly, she was probably the most beautiful among the women in the room.

She implied that if she could do it, they should give it a try.

Then, a quiet voice interrupted.

“That may be one form of happiness, but I don’t want that.”

It was a woman with honey-colored hair. The gazes of the ladies in the room were focused on her. She seemed uncomfortable with the attention, but began to speak calmly.

“Oh, why is that?”

“I don’t want you to take it the wrong way, but if there was someone in there who genuinely liked me, I would have to betray those feelings, wouldn’t I? I think it would be too difficult for me to accept and move on from that. I could never feel happy about it.”

“Well, I think it’s better than being miserable because of a lack of money.”

That’s true.

Many of the fallen nobles meet tragic ends. Especially for women, job opportunities are limited, and there are actual stories where their fate is something they want to turn away from.

“Of course. It’s important to have a certain level of financial stability. What I mean is that I don’t think wealth gained by betraying someone can lead to happiness. It’s more painful to betray someone… If it means enduring such unbearable feelings, then being a little poor is much better.”

The woman with honey-colored hair spoke firmly and clearly, denying her.

“Yes, that’s one way of thinking. But my husband loves me, and I am happy.”

“I see. That’s just my personal opinion.

That’s why what I think is important in marriage is having enough assets to live on and a good personality. You’re going to spend your whole life with them, so you don’t want to marry someone unpleasant.”

She deliberately raised her voice at the end and said it playfully.

“Oh! I understand that. I was thinking the same thing.”

One lady followed her lead.

The atmosphere of the room suddenly changed. The previously unpleasant air caused by her boasting turned into a cheerful one.

I stepped back from the door and pressed my forehead, feeling dizzy from the shock.

It was the moment when I met the woman with honey-colored hair and felt genuinely happy. It was a refreshing and exhilarating feeling. Above all, her words seemed to speak for my heart, and I was deeply moved.

Betraying someone to gain happiness.

I easily dismissed such a thing as true happiness. I had always thought so, but no one understood me. It was said that it was natural for the strong to take from the weak, but doing so only made me feel worse.

Above all, the part where the woman with honey-colored hair said that she could never come to terms with a man who fell in love with her. She couldn’t just throw him away easily.

Something warm settled in my heart.

The ideal woman I had thought was never there.

Even if I loved someone, it would be better not to fall in love at all if I would only receive formal feelings in return. But if I could hold such feelings that could blow away even those thoughts… if there was such a person…

“No, it’s still too early. I don’t know what kind of person she is yet… I need to get to know her better. Besides, maybe this time she just responded because that woman’s comment was unpleasant.”

I muttered under my breath as I put my hand to my mouth.

Because of my status, wealth, and appearance, women come to me on their own. It’s a difficult task to find a woman who isn’t interested in my wealth, income, Marquis’ son status, or good looks.

What I want to see more than anything is herself.

And family.

The woman who can give me that is probably someone who can understand someone else.

I stopped and listened to the conversation again.

Her voice was slightly high-pitched but calm, and I remembered it. But what I wanted to know most now was her name. As I listened quietly, I heard her voice.

Next, a lady who seemed to be an acquaintance laughed.

“I have the same kind of thinking. It makes me happy, Lady Lorraine.”

“Well, so do I. I’m glad I told you.”

A lovely laughter echoed.

I grinned. I knew her name now.

“Lorraine.”

I put her name on my tongue as if savoring a fine wine. Lady Lorraine with honey-colored hair. Now I could narrow it down to who she was.

To be honest, I wanted to keep watching her more, but I decided to stop today.

My mother should be coming soon. If I don’t go pick her up, she’ll be angry.

With a clear mind, I walked away from the door at a leisurely pace.

Chapter 51: Marquis’ son, distressed

“What? Did you find out who she is? But how did you do it?”

“It wasn’t a very commendable method, so I’d rather not say. Actually, I saw her at the party two nights ago that you guys didn’t attend. She seemed to be heading somewhere afterwards, so I followed her carefully.”

I explained to Bruno and Tatiana, who had come to visit, about what happened two nights ago and what happened afterwards.

Since then, I had traced my memory and made my own deductions based on the lady’s name. The conclusion was quickly reached.

Her name was Lorraine. She had honey-colored hair and was a daughter of Baron Valcourt, who owned the neighboring territory, and had just entered high society.

When I asked my mother about her characteristics, she easily gave me the answer. The lady’s name was Lady Lorraine Valcourt. I was honestly surprised when she said that I had met her several times before.

Anyway, I called the two of them to tell them just this result.

After hearing everything, Bruno had a meaningful smile on his face.

“I see, I see. Eavesdropping is certainly not a commendable method. But, well, I would have liked to see her face.”

“Really, it’s very frustrating, but there’s nothing I can do, so I’ll just imagine her.”

“So, are you still not satisfied?”

When Tatiana asked me, I groaned a little.

The discomfort of being stared at had completely disappeared by now. However, another reason had emerged. That is, I became interested in her.

“Well, it’s not that I’m dissatisfied, but rather, I became interested in another aspect.”

“Oh really? You, who used to dislike young women so much?”

I gave Bruno a sour look as he made a genuinely amusing face.

“I like women too, you know. What I dislike is being forced into marriage. I understand that it’s important to them, but I don’t like being forced, and I dislike what they do for it even more. But Miss Lorraine seems to be a little different from those people.”

As I spoke, I saw Bruno’s face become even more cheerful. He wasn’t the only one. Tatiana’s face was also shining.

“I see, so what you’re saying is that a lady who might be suitable as a marriage partner you’ve been looking for has appeared?”

“She hasn’t appeared, but there seems to be a possibility.”

As I corrected her, Tatiana shrugged her shoulders. Then, Bruno opened his mouth.

“So, the fact that there is a possibility made you want to know more about her, right? Then, what if Miss Lorraine is the woman of your dreams, what are you going to do?”

“Of course, I plan to propose to her. But that’s still a long way off. If she is the woman I’ve been looking for, then I’ll do it. However, there is also a possibility that she is not.”

“I see. Well, if you find out anything about her, let me know.”

Tatiana’s words made me a little confused. I felt sorry for getting involved in such a trivial matter, and I didn’t feel like asking for any more help.

“That would be helpful, but…”

“It’s okay. Besides, if she’s the person you think she is, she’ll surely become a good friend of ours. I don’t have many female friends… I know the reason, but can you give me a little hope?”

“That’s the situation. It’s not a big deal. I just listen to conversations and eavesdrop a little.”

I couldn’t refuse after being told that. I sincerely thanked Tatiana and Bruno.

“I’m happy to have you as my friends. Thank you.”

“No, but from the information we have now, that person seems quite plain. I wonder why? If her Okaa-sama is Lady Valcourt, I’m sure she would look good if she were dressed appropriately.”

“Yeah, Claudio, her older brother, had a well-proportioned face like her mother’s, so I remember him well. Since we should have met him at the same time, Tatiana and I must have seen her too.”

Bruno tilted his head curiously.

I understand what he means.

“I see, she might resemble Baron Valcourt, the head of the family. He was a person with a thin face and not very memorable, so it’s probably true. But wait, Jeremiah, wasn’t your preference for someone more glamorous? She looks neat, but not glamorous.”

“…That was true before.”

I recall the boarding school days that led me to meet Bruno. At that time, I was a child and was attracted to women with mature charm. However, various experiences after that changed my thinking.

My sister, Dario, and my friends.

People who looked happy after getting married but then indulged in infidelity with unhappy faces.

I felt a deep fear of not wanting to become like that. I tried to forget my current situation by immersing myself in fleeting happiness.

“But now it’s different. And getting married means that we both have an obligation to the survival of the family. I’m human too, and I want to be kind to the woman who becomes my comrade. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t respect a woman who can’t reciprocate that kindness.”

“Indeed, I agree with that.”

“However, I wanted to say that sometimes preferences can come into play later on, so it’s better not to be careless.”

Bruno’s words made me feel a slight irritation.

He was implying that Lady Lorraine might not be beautiful. I sighed and remembered observing her. There was nothing unpleasant about her at this point.

No, I actually wanted to touch her, talk to her, and see various reactions.

“Well, that’s not a problem at all. I also looked at her for a while. If she was too ugly, I would have looked away, but she had a clean and slender figure. She wasn’t a world-class beauty, but she had a pretty face. She could be stunning if dressed up.”

“I see, I see. Well, I guess I was being meddlesome.”

Bruno smiled suggestively and looked at his wife. Tatiana understood and narrowed her eyes, looking at me with a happy expression.

What the hell is going on? What do you want to say?

I thought that if you had something to say, you should say it clearly, but you didn’t. I could imagine what you were going to say in an instant.

Internally, I think it’s ridiculous.

I think that people’s hearts and thoughts are not something that can change so easily.

“Well then, maybe I’ll take a closer look too. I’m looking forward to it. Oh, no, it’s already this late.”

“Really. We seem to have stayed a long time. Well then, Jeremiah, let’s meet again at some ball or evening party. If there’s anything, I’ll write and send it to you.”

“Yeah, I’m glad you came.”

Bruno and Tatiana left, telling me not to worry.

Left alone in the guest room, I picked up the cold tea and took a sip. Finally, I murmured what they wanted to say.

“Surely, Bruno would say something like this, ‘Hey, Jeremiah, don’t you even know such a simple thing? You’re in love, no doubt about it.’ ”

I deliberately imitated him and said it in a calm but amused tone.

That couldn’t be true.

I only saw her face once. I don’t even know what kind of person she is. No, I know a little. She changed the atmosphere of that place and had a proper self-assertion.

Her voice, when she said that betraying someone was painful, was resolute. Yes, that’s what moved me. That’s why I just wanted to praise her.

After telling myself that, I stood up and left the room.

For now, I just need to get to know her. To start, I need to learn about the people around her. Going to some kind of gathering would be the best way to do that. I headed to my bedroom and called for a servant to prepare myself.

Chapter 52: Marquis’ son, increasingly troubled

After that, I left the townhouse and actively participated in gambling and card game gatherings to search for Baron Valcourt or his son Claudio.

In addition, I gave money to servants and merchants to gather information about Lady Lorraine to find out what kind of lady she was. Gradually, information about her gathered in my hands, and I assembled her personality like solving a puzzle while looking at them in my study.

Of course, I continued to attend balls and dinner parties.

My mother was delighted, but the nights without Lady Lorraine were boring. If I had companions like Bruno or Tatiana with whom I could discuss politics, it would be a better night, but otherwise, I would quickly leave the venue to avoid the beautiful but poisonous moths that swarmed around me.

Sometimes I would run into Baron Baiano’s widow, and I would witness her using her charm as a weapon to manipulate young wealthy men while mingling with unmarried daughters.

I noticed that she was sending me glances and trying to approach me, but I decided to ignore her as it would be a waste of time to engage with her.

And so, a week passed.

On a sunny morning, I sighed as I looked at the scattered papers on my writing desk in the study. They contained my impressions of Miss Lorraine, which I had written myself or had my servants investigate, as well as her actual words and actions. The common denominator of all of them was the source of my headache.

As you may have already guessed,

“She’s just plain, unremarkable, and unnoticeable. It would be better if she were stunning.”

Of course, there are other factors besides just being alive and able to speak. As I held the paper in my hand, I read stories about how she was considered lucky or unlucky depending on whether she was seen dressed up or not, and how there were only four out of five people who could see her.

I thought it was quite a strange treatment for a lady. A normal lady would either get angry or depressed, but she didn’t seem to care much.

“I can’t tell if she has thick nerves, is easygoing, or is deliberately making it that way.”

The next paper I picked up contained stories that the Valcourt family’s servants had heard after being bribed.

I picked up the paper and read it.

“She likes stories and buys books when she comes to the capital. Her behavior is generally calm and obedient. She hasn’t caused any trouble and hasn’t lashed out at the servants.

Also, Miss Lorraine seems to have memories, but it hasn’t caused any problems in her life, nor has she excelled in anything in particular.

She seems to like gatherings, but she’s not fixated on any particular man. However, when she returns from gatherings, she writes something in her diary while laughing alone in a creepy way, and it seems that no one can peek because they’re too scared to see what’s inside… or so they say.”

There are no particular deductions. Although I am curious about the contents of the diary, everyone needs their own world. Perhaps, because she is usually quiet, she is venting her frustration in that way.

I sighed and threw the paper I had in my hand onto the table and immersed myself in my thoughts.

This week, I could only find her twice. Moreover, both times I lost sight of her and couldn’t stare at her. Above all, I was most angry that she didn’t notice me.

I sincerely wanted to take revenge at tonight’s ball.

On that night.

As usual, I dressed in my evening attire and headed alone to the nobleman’s mansion. My mother was tired from the daily gatherings, so she said she wouldn’t be going anywhere today or tomorrow. She likes glamorous things, so during this season in the capital, she always energetically participates in various parties, but perhaps she’s feeling her age.

As I thought about that, I looked at the familiar scenery from the carriage.

The street where many upper-class people live is neatly arranged, and the streetlights that are lit here and there have small insects gathered around them.

I thought it looked like a crowd of people gathering around someone with status and wealth.

Soon, I arrived at the venue. Many carriages were already waiting, and I could hear the chatter of the upper-class people dressed in colorful evening attire.

As soon as I got off the carriage, I stepped from the darkness into the glamorous brightness.

The scent of women’s perfume and decorated flowers mixed together, and the smell of tobacco, alcohol, and food filled the air. As usual, I greeted acquaintances before focusing on my purpose.

In the center of the ballroom, men and women were dancing happily to the music played by the band.

I wasn’t interested in that, but when I stopped and looked, she was there.

She was dancing with a young man I didn’t know, and her usual plainness disappeared a little, revealing a sense of openness. Her expression was lively and she looked like she was having fun. Seeing this, I felt irritated.

There shouldn’t be any reason for me to be irritated with her.

But what if that young man had already proposed to her?

There couldn’t be many men who could see the hidden charm in her plainness.

However, once the suspicion arose, it was hard to dispel. I couldn’t bring myself to ask anyone, so I just kept staring at her.

After a while, Lady Lorraine returned to our side, perhaps tired from dancing. The young man was with her, and when I looked where they had come from, I saw people with similar hair colors nearby.

It was her mother and her brother Claudio.

I hesitated whether to ask her to dance, but it would be strange to suddenly approach her. Besides, we had no connection.

Then, I heard a surprised voice from nearby.

“Hey, isn’t that Jeremiah? How are you doing?”

It was Bruno and Tatiana. As always, the two of them looked good together and seemed to have already found their significant others, as they were looking in that direction.

“Well, tonight she didn’t seem to notice me. I was thinking of asking her to dance, but I thought it might be too sudden.”

“I see. But why did you suddenly think of that? Weren’t you supposed to gather information first?”

“That’s true, but when I saw her dancing with a young man earlier, I was worried that I had been beaten to the punch.”

When I said this with a hint of irritation, the two of them looked at each other in surprise.

“So, have you come to a conclusion? When are you going to ask her?”

“No, I haven’t come to a conclusion yet.”

“Really? That’s strange.”

Tatiana looked at me with a puzzled expression. Bruno also looked just as puzzled. I didn’t understand why they were so confused and asked them.

“What are you trying to say? Just tell me clearly, what’s wrong with me?”

“Well, um… if I can say it clearly… are you in love with her?”

For a moment, I didn’t understand what he was saying.

If he had said it in his usual joking tone, I would have understood right away. But Bruno’s expression was serious. Perhaps because of that, my understanding was delayed and strange words floated in my mind.

Intense? Carp? Or was it intentional? No, that would be contextually strange. Certainly, there was nothing about her that was unsuitable as a marriage partner. Her personality also matched what I was looking for.

However, that was all. Or so it should have been.

“No, that’s impossible. Besides, I’ve never even talked to that person before.”

“Well, that may be true. But it seemed to us like you were jealous.”

I was speechless at Tatiana’s words and screamed inwardly.

Chapter 53: Marquis’ Son, admits

That’s ridiculous!

However, I couldn’t find any evidence to deny it. In the first place, I don’t even understand what romantic feelings are. Of course, I understand physical compatibility, but what is love?

If I did fall in love with Lady Lorraine, as she says, when did I start feeling that way?

I decided to ask her honestly.

“Why do you think that? Can you tell me? I don’t really understand it myself.”

“Well, isn’t it because you feel jealous when you see a woman dancing with another man? There’s no other explanation for it. If you’re jealous, it means you like that person, right?”

That’s right. She’s not wrong. However, I couldn’t accept it right away. Therefore, I decided to put the conclusion on hold for the time being.

“I see. So at least I have feelings for her. There’s no doubt about that. I don’t have any bad feelings towards Lady Lorraine.”

“That seems a bit different, but oh well.”

“But why is she so plain? I saw her up close for a little bit, but as the daughter of Lady Valcourt, she has a beautiful figure. She should dress up… It’s strange.”

Tatiana says as she looks at Lady Lorraine talking to her family. I nodded my head.

“I definitely thought the same thing. As far as I know, the Baron Valcourt family is not so impoverished that they cannot afford new dresses, and the Baron and his wife are not so extravagant, so it’s not about money. I can only think that there is another reason.”

“Yeah, I think so too. Tatiana was so enthusiastic about it, so I took a look. I think if she dresses up, she could become the belle of the social scene in one go. So, I thought about it a little, and maybe someone said something about her appearance.”

I tilted my head at Bruno’s words. He explained to me, “In other words, she may have been teased by someone when she was a child. Considering that she looks more like her father than her mother, she may have been called plain or unremarkable. Even childhood memories can sometimes leave unexpected scars.”

“Ah, I see. That’s very possible.”

If that’s the case, it’s a shame. I thought that from the bottom of my heart.

However, I suddenly realized something. If she had stayed the way she was, there wouldn’t have been many people besides us who would have noticed how lovely she was.

Until my feelings come to a conclusion, I can’t have her get married.

It might actually be a good thing that she’s plain.

“Right? Well, you can only ask the family or the person herself about that. Oh, the music has changed. Tatiana, what do you want to do? Do you want to dance a little more?”

“Yes! I love this dance.”

“Okay then, Jeremiah, I’ll excuse myself. Oh, and one more thing. If you’re planning on talking to Lady Lorraine, it’s better to do it sooner rather than later.”

I didn’t understand why he said that and looked at him with a puzzled expression. He told me, “From what I’ve seen in the past few days, she leaves early. That’s all.”

Bruno said “okay” and went with Tatiana to the center of the hall. I was left by the wall and couldn’t help but smile wryly, thinking that they were also observing her.

I knew that she didn’t stay long at gatherings she attended. However, I didn’t plan on talking to her today. I just wanted to observe her from afar. So, I searched for her figure as usual.

Suddenly, I felt a piercing gaze. It wasn’t Lady Lorraine’s. It was a group of young girls. I avoided their gaze, which seemed to be asking me to dance, and searched for her honey-colored hair, but couldn’t find her.

Perhaps she was already getting ready to leave.

If that’s the case, it’s a shame.

I sighed and thought about going home. I had no plans to dance with anyone. Dancing with anyone would just be boring. Even the strong, bewitching, and beautiful ladies, the cute ladies from well-bred families who were raised to have empty heads, and the daughters of wealthy people who were after noble status were all out of the question.

When I let slip my true feelings, I was told that my ideals were too high.

Marriage in the upper class is impossible without calculation or obligation. Love may or may not arise from there. However, the important thing is the survival of the family, I remembered being scolded.

I looked back at where Lady Lorraine was and asked myself if she was the same.

At that moment, I saw the young man she had danced with earlier among a group of young men walking ahead of me. He was well-dressed, not a noble but a young man from the upper class who incorporated trendy clothing.

His features were sweet, and he looked like the kind of young man that young girls would make a fuss over.

They were a little drunk and seemed to be talking loudly, so much so that I could hear them. I furrowed my eyebrows at their voices.

“Come to think of it, you were dancing with a lady who isn’t your type. Is she rich?”

“No, she’s definitely from a decent family, but she’s not rich.”

“Then why did you dance with her? Do you know her?”

A young man dressed in flashy clothing, looking like a young man from a good family, persistently asked. The young men nearby, who seemed to be military personnel, also listened with interest.

The young man who was asked replied with a slightly annoyed expression, “I was asked to do it. She’s a friend of the lady I’m interested in, but no one wanted to dance with her, so I asked her to dance just one song.”

Then the young man next to him patted him on the back and laughed.

“I see, I thought it was something like that. Otherwise, who would want to dance with such a plain and unremarkable girl? Her face is ordinary, her body is thin, and her head is probably not much better.”

The flashy young man made a gesture indicating “idiot” next to his head.

The young men watching burst into laughter.

It had been a long time since I had felt like I wanted to punch someone. It had been since my childhood fights when I lost my temper.

Her face appeared in my mind, the one who said that betraying someone was painful.

It must be that their eyes are clouded if they can call such a kind person an idiot.

If Lady Lorraine dressed properly and showed off her charm to the fullest, they would surely regret what they said.

Thinking that way, I wondered why I was so angry about her honor being tarnished.

I couldn’t think of the reason right away.

However, I couldn’t bear to see her being insulted. She is not someone who deserves to be spoken to like that. I am convinced of that.

But how can I do something about it?

First, it would be best to approach her as a friend.

In that case, it seems easiest to become close to her brother, Claudio. However, I don’t even know what kind of person he is.

As I was thinking about that, the voices of the young men faded away.

Young girls who were only following them with their eyes. Lady Lorraine was not among them.

Relieved by that fact, I caught sight of her honey-colored hair. And there she was, looking at me with those shining eyes.

That strange feeling of excitement welled up in my chest.

She didn’t even glance at the young man she was dancing with, and instead looked at me with eyes full of admiration and joy. I still don’t know why she was staring at me like that.

But I was happy.

To be looked at by her with such eyes.

——Jealousy means you like that person, right?

Tatiana’s words hit me hard.

I see… I reluctantly admitted to myself that I seem to be attracted to that plain lady. That thought had become an undeniable fact within me.

Chapter 54: Marquis’ son, lost

Perhaps it would be futile to try to shake it off.

I don’t know when or where I started feeling that way. Nevertheless, as a retaliation for her staring at me, I stared back at her, and that was the result.

It was not love at first sight, but love at hundredth sight.

For a while, I didn’t move. I accepted her gaze and organized my thoughts.

Even now that I have admitted it, I cannot come to a conclusion right away. I felt that acting on emotions alone would lead to failure. Of course, there would be no problem proposing to her while still in the heat of the moment.

The marriage between Lady Lorraine of the Baron family and me would be reasonable in anyone’s eyes.

Still, I want to observe the situation a little more.

I waited until she stopped looking at me. After she left with reluctance, I returned my gaze and left the evening party slowly.

I’m tired today.

It’s better to rest and make decisions after returning home. For now, it’s impossible to approach her and change her way of thinking.

I got on the carriage and told the coachman to take me home.

The next day,

A surprising report came from the servant who had been investigating Lady Lorraine’s whereabouts.

“So, is she the one who started the Support Group? Really?”

“Yes. It seems that way. It was started by one of her friends, but it was Lady Lorraine’s words that sparked it. From her statement, it can be inferred that she is someone who lacks confidence in herself.”

I couldn’t help but be confused by the report.

The impression I had of her did not match the words the servant just said. The Lady I knew was a straightforward and charming girl, yet she lacked confidence in herself.

“I see. There must be some reason for it. If that’s the case, her appearance and behavior must come from there.”

“I also see it that way. Since Jeremiah-sama asked me to investigate Lady Lorraine, I have been watching her closely. It seems that she has a low sense of self-worth, but I cannot find any significant flaws that would require her to be treated so poorly. Perhaps, you can feel that from the statement that sparked the creation of the Support Group.”

I looked at the piece of paper in my hand, swayed by the words of the servant.

There, Lady Lorraine’s words to the lady, although fragmented, were written.

As I scanned it, I sighed.

“But she’s still looking for a marriage partner, isn’t she?”

“Yes. Perhaps because she is still young, she is not proactive and rarely speaks out herself, but like most noblewomen, she seems to have the intention of marrying for the sake of her livelihood.”

“I see. I understand… Thank you. Please report to me if anything else comes up.”

“Yes. Excuse me then.”

After watching the servant leave, I sighed briefly.

Finally, I felt like I understood why she had been staring at me so much but had never spoken to him.

Upon reflection, I realized that what I could read from her gaze towards me was “admiration,” with no ulterior motives. In other words, she was just admiring me.

From the previous report, does she think that she is not worthy of me?

It was a very strange thing.

After all, she came from a good family and had a lovely appearance. If she dressed properly and showed some social skills, she shouldn’t have any trouble finding a partner, especially since she was still young.

It’s not like she lacked common sense, but her perception of herself was off.

However, it didn’t seem like she had trouble talking to men. The report stated that she talked to people who shared her hobbies and interests. Seeing that, I furrowed my eyebrows. At least, it is not that we do not have the same interests at all. No, in fact, it seems that my interests are compatible with hers.

However, she only looked at me and didn’t approach me.

“Is she only interested in my appearance?”

That couldn’t be helped. We haven’t even had a proper conversation before. We didn’t even have a chance to learn each other’s preferences. Despite that, I hurt myself with my own words. I shook my head and corrected myself.

The cause of everything lies within her heart.

If I don’t eliminate that cause, I won’t even be able to get her to look at me.

Not only that, if she thinks I’m an unattainable existence for her, suddenly approaching her would only make her wary.

I guess we have to start by getting to know each other and slowly filling in the gaps.

But how do I do that?

It might be good to borrow Tatiana’s help and be straightforward about it.

As I pondered, my interest turned to Lady Lorraine’s motives for her actions.

Why does Lady Lorraine stubbornly dress plainly and never behave extravagantly, even though she shows interest in handsome men like me but never approaches them? There must be a reason why she thinks she doesn’t deserve me.

If I knew what that reason was, there might be something I could do about it, but I felt exhausted just thinking about it.

After groaning for a while, I gave up thinking about it.

I will eventually have the opportunity to talk to her in person. It would be good to talk to her then. Although she seems to be considering marriage, she is not in a hurry, so there is no need to rush.

Today, there is a gathering of young nobles.

I had to start getting ready soon.

I stood up and called for my servant.

After the meeting, my fellow party members invited me to drink with them, but I declined and headed to the evening party I had been invited to.

At that time, my colleagues teased me, saying things like “That stiff finally found a goddess” or “Has he finally been able to enjoy a secret meeting with his lover?” but I brushed it off.

And it’s not entirely off the mark.

The more I learned, the bigger her presence grew in my heart. The only issue now was how to get to know her.

I had been thinking that it would be great if Baroness Valcourt held a party and invited me, but it turned out that she had already done so.

I heard that she held a few evening parties and dinners for her daughter Lorraine at the beginning of the social season. However, it seems that she has no intention of doing anything else.

I don’t know if it’s because she’s new to the social scene and is taking care of her inexperienced daughter, or if it’s just too much trouble, or if it’s because she doesn’t have the money, or if there are other reasons, but unfortunately, I didn’t attend those evening parties or dinners.

I think I received an invitation, but at first, I just thought it was a hassle.

I never thought I would regret it so much.

Anyway, if the other party doesn’t open up, that approach won’t work. It might be better to invite her over, but the Castalde family has already held several events, and my mother has declared that she won’t be hosting anything anymore.

“…Maybe I should just approach her directly if I see her.”

I muttered to myself as I looked around the venue.

I want to talk to her, even if it means risking being cautious. My desire grows stronger with each passing moment.

My mind is made up.

But nothing will start if I don’t talk to her. So, as usual, I decided to start by looking for her honey-colored hair.

Chapter 55: Marquis’ son, to make up one’s mind.

While avoiding young girls and their mothers who approached me, sometimes dodging them, I listened to the music and people’s voices that flowed around me.

During this time, I also kept my eyes moving around.

However, I couldn’t find her.

My frustration gradually closed my heart. Why isn’t she here? If she’s not here, then being here is just a waste of time.

Avoiding the eyes of the girls who seemed to want to dance with me, I sighed. If she’s not here, then there’s no reason for me to be here, but I’m hungry. I decided to head to the room where food was prepared to satisfy my hunger.

As I left the dance hall filled with heat, the wind blew in through the open window. The wind was slightly warm, indicating that summer was approaching.

In other words, the social season would soon be coming to an end.

Looking back, it was the longest stay I had ever had.

As I walked, I unexpectedly had such a thought.

There were no people in the hallway, and only the noise that could be heard from far away mixed with the wind. Then, another voice was mixed in.

I stopped suddenly. I recognized that voice. It seemed to be coming from the terrace. I headed in that direction.

As I approached, I could hear the intense exchange of voices.

“This… How many? How could you… How dare you dance in front of me…How…”

“It’s… Did you? That I… I like to do things in… What’s wrong with…”

The fragmented words I heard seemed to be a lovers’ quarrel, a familiar topic in high society. There was a woman’s voice filled with grief and a man’s voice that sounded troublesome.

It wasn’t anything unusual. It happened often.

However, the woman who was screaming in agony was the woman who betrayed Dario. I stopped in my tracks and suddenly thought.

Is the one who betrayed being betrayed in the end?

As I hesitated whether to leave or not, I heard a loud shout from the man and a sound like something being hit. Then, I heard hurried footsteps and saw a shadow walking towards me.

He was a slender man dressed in very fashionable clothes.

I think he was a nouveau riche whose parents made a fortune in one generation.

When he noticed me, he awkwardly said “Excuse me” and left.

As I watched his back, I heard another set of footsteps from behind and turned around. There was a woman holding her cheeks.

She looked at me with tears in her eyes and a sarcastic smile.

“Well, what a coincidence to meet you here. Or did you come here to hear about it? If so, it must have been fun for you. Are you satisfied now that I’m in such a miserable state…?

“Well, at least it’s been proven that your choices were wrong.”

Upon hearing this, she burst into hysterical laughter.

“Yes, that’s right. I realized it shortly after getting married. To think that the person I desperately tried to find turned out to be such a tyrant… But I won’t get a divorce. I still need his status.”

“…I see. Well, most marriages are like that. You just exchange something for something else.”

In front of me, she was putting up a brave front, but she was trembling slightly.

It must be unbearable with regret and sadness. Even though it was her own doing, her appearance was pitiful.

However, I didn’t want to comfort her.

So, I just stated the facts.

Then, she sighed self-deprecatingly and muttered to herself.

“That’s right. I only made a covenant with him to give me his status and children while he gave me the life I wanted. But if I had known, I wouldn’t have gotten married like this. Someone told me that not too long ago. Even if it’s an action for oneself, betraying someone is more painful… Being betrayed is painful too… I wonder if it was painful for “him” too.”

I was amazed by her change.

It was undoubtedly Lady Lorraine’s words.

“Oh, I’m sorry for holding you back. But let me say one thing, you can forget it right away… Hey, it’s said that acting on emotions is bad, but I think it’s better to act than to regret so much.

Nowadays, I think it’s wise to forget about such things if you find yourself in a situation where your reason is tested.”

Her eyes staring into the distance seemed to envy the past. And when she said, “Thank you for listening,” she walked away like a ghost.

Left behind in that place, I thought about the meaning of her words.

Perhaps she chose her current marriage because someone advised her to do so. But she implied that she wanted to be with Dario if that wasn’t the case.

Thinking that way, I felt like my grudges were melting away.

I felt pathetic for not being able to forgive her forever.

Isn’t it okay now?

“I see, that’s right.”

And I chewed on the last thing she said.

I should take action instead of worrying forever. I know where my emotions are leading me. If I hesitate, I might miss my chance.

I moved my feet again towards the room where dinner was prepared.

Lady Lorraine isn’t here. But tomorrow, I’ll beg my mother to hold one last event and invite her there.

As soon as I made the decision, I felt relieved.

I arrived at a room where several people were enjoying their meal and immediately took a plate of various foods prepared on the table and enjoyed them.

There were various dishes, from those that satisfy hunger, such as roasted wild birds, fresh seasonal fruits, and boiled red shrimp mixed with sweet sauce, to those that are easy to snack on, such as sandwiches with cold meat and small cakes. They were luxurious enough to be seen at any event, but not particularly outstanding.

Despite that, they tasted very delicious.

After finishing my meal, I returned downstairs. Without thinking, I peeked into the ballroom again and saw a dandy man and Baron Baiano’s widow dancing.

Apparently, his affair partner is the Baron’s widow.

Both of them seemed to be intoxicated with their illicit relationship. After taking a glance, I headed towards the carriage that had been waiting for me.

It’s already late today, but I’ll talk to my mother about it tomorrow.

I gently closed my eyes and imagined her honey-colored hair in my mind. At the same time, various expressions that I remembered were also recalled.

I want to see her up close.

I want to touch her, dance with her, and speak to her to see her reaction.

I noticed that my mouth was naturally smiling, but I left it alone. I was immersed in joy, looking forward to tomorrow.

That’s why I forgot.

Perhaps the Valcourt family has already left…

Chapter 56: Marquis’ son, get the opportunity

“What’s wrong?”

“Well, you see… it seems that all the Valcourt family members have returned to their territory. The head is a member of the House of Lords, so he will come back to the capital again, but I don’t think the others will come back.”

The next morning.

A visitor came to me while I was waiting for my mother to wake up. The visitor was Bruno, and I thought it was a good opportunity to talk to him, so I headed to the guest room.

But what I heard from him as soon as we met was the last thing I wanted to hear.

“Is that true?”

“Unfortunately… Tatiana was also disappointed about it. So, what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know what to do even if you ask me.”

I sighed deeply and leaned back on the sofa.

I regretted not getting involved with her and her family earlier, but it was already too late.

“Well… they went back.”

“You should have acted a little earlier. But, you know, I never thought I would see you in this state.”

“In this state?”

I frowned, not understanding what Bruno meant. He had a cup of tea in his hand and a funny smile on his face.

“Yeah, look at you, getting so worked up over one woman. Well, it’s very much like you to not care about appearances. You looked desperate, it’s quite comical watching from the sidelines.”

Bruno chuckled merrily. In other words, he must have meant that I was being comical now. I couldn’t help but make a sour face. I felt like I was being made fun of.

“It’s payback for Tatiana. You made fun of me so much back then. I decided that if the same thing happened to you, I would make fun of you to my heart’s content.”

“I see, I guess I deserved that,” I said with a wry smile as I got up.

“Anyway, thanks for letting me know. I was actually planning to ask my mother to invite them over later, but it looks like I saved myself a wasted trip.”

“Yeah, if you do decide to have a party, it would be better to have it at the Marquis’ mansion. They were your neighbors, right? You could invite them.”

“Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. I need to go back to my territory and think about what I can do for now.”

Despite my words, I was deeply disappointed. I wouldn’t be able to see her from afar for a while. Not only that, but the thought of her getting engaged to someone while we were apart made me freeze with fear.

“That’s a good idea. I’m also thinking of heading back soon. The capital is too hot.”

“Yeah.”

After that, we talked about some harmless topics, and Bruno left. As if to make up for the disappeared goal, I decided to go out.

I headed to a club where women were not allowed.

I thought it would be good to try gambling to relieve my anxiety.

My mother was still asleep.

I called a servant and headed to the club by carriage.

In the end, several days passed without any particular thoughts, and the day to leave the capital finally arrived.

The air was filled with the refreshing feeling of summer, as well as a sense of lethargy, and the movements of the servants were somewhat sluggish. Without blaming them, I boarded the carriage and left the capital.

The Castalde family’s estate is located north of the capital.

The land is rich, but the winters are harsh. The Valcourt family owns the land next to it, and it is possible to visit them if desired.

Although our family were apparently close friends in the distant past, we are now just acquaintances.

Even though we are neighbors, we are quite far apart. It takes three days from the estate for hunting owned by the Castalde family, which is closer, but from the estate itself, it takes that long.

Unless there is a special party or event, it is not easy to visit casually, and it is a delicate and troublesome place.

I was lost in thought inside the carriage.

My mother seemed tired and was dozing off in front of me. After looking at her face, I sighed.

I thought about various things, but I couldn’t come up with a solution. Above all, even if I suddenly visited, what should I say?

From what I heard, she doesn’t have much confidence in herself. She doesn’t talk to me even though she stares at me with a hole-burning gaze. That’s because she thinks she’s not suitable for me.

I couldn’t help but snort.

I wanted her not to decide things on her own. Because it’s me who should judge that. I will observe the behavior and actions of the other person and make a proper judgment.

Appearance is not everything.

Thinking that way, I chuckled bitterly.

In short, I am dissatisfied that she didn’t talk to me. If she had, I would not have had to go through all this trouble. If asked, I would have been her escort or whatever, just for the sake of being a neighbor.

During that time, I could have noticed her personality.

But it’s too late to say that now.

Then I should do what I can. If there is an opportunity to get along with her, I will never waste it.

I’ll come up with any excuse and keep her close to me.

By doing so, she will gradually get to know me as a person. That way, I should be able to overturn the inferiority complex she has. At least, I plan to make that effort.

By being together, we can get to know each other’s personalities more deeply. Then, I can propose to her.

Even if I am rejected for any reason, I am still a good candidate.

Not many ladies would give up the opportunity to become a Marquess in the future.

I nodded slightly.

It may not be perfect, but it’s the only thing I can do. A man who is good at handling women may be able to come up with a more clever way. Unfortunately, I lack that ability.

I sighed softly again and looked out the window.

The flowing scenery changed from a densely populated city to a rural landscape. Looking at the scattered trees and cows grazing on grass, I suddenly felt calm.

Finally, I can go home.

That was the only consolation.

Opportunities didn’t come around easily.

According to what I heard, the Valcourt family went on a summer trip to a summer resort and won’t be back for a while.

Needless to say, I was disappointed.

Autumn was busy.

While being busy, it became a daily routine for me to look at the neighboring territory. However, there was no talk of Lady Lorraine getting engaged to anyone or having a suitable man, and it was worrying that there was no mention of her at all.

Eventually, the opportunity finally came.

During the long winter, my mother couldn’t bear the boredom and said she wanted to hold a small house party and invite acquaintances.

Among them were the names of Baroness Palmara and her daughter.

But that’s not important. The important thing was the name written next to it. Lady Lorraine Valcourt. The name I had been wanting to see for a while.

She’s coming. She’s coming from over here.

My mood soared on its own, and her name began to feel like something wonderful. As I stared at her name with a surprised expression, my mother asked me.

“Is there someone you’re interested in? Or is there someone else you want to invite? But I’ve already invited Count Grimani and his wife, and I’m sure everyone you’re close to is already on the guest list.”

“No, I just want Bruno and Tatiana to come a little early.”

I answered like that.

I focused all my nerves on holding back the loosening of my mouth. If I didn’t, I would become a creepy man with a silly grin. I didn’t want to be thought of as crazy.

“Well, it’s always nice to have someone to talk to. Then let’s write it on the invitation and prepare their room early. But anyway, I’m looking forward to it. We have to leave here early and head to the Samoneliva mansion.”

My mother said with a genuinely happy expression as she looked at the invitation list. I nodded and headed to the study to write a letter to accompany Bruno’s invitation.

What to write was already decided.

I will write that I want their help in devising a plan.

Chapter 57: Marquis’ son, begin

After sending the invitation, we headed to Samoneliva Mansion, a hunting lodge built by the late Marquis Castalde. It is located furthest south among the Castalde family’s properties and the cold is somewhat mild.

The mansion, surrounded by rich nature, is built with stacked red bricks. As the mansion suddenly appears in the middle of the forest, it is also known as the Witch’s Mansion.

Although it is smaller than the main residence, it has many rooms, which shows how much power and wealth the Marquis family had at that time.

Bruno arrived the day after we arrived.

I secretly rejoiced at their earlier than expected arrival. After telling them the situation and asking for their cooperation, Tatiana eagerly nodded.

“Indeed, it’s a perfect opportunity. There’s also the material of having to entertain as the host, so why not start by asking for a dance?”

“I see. So, what else do women like to do?”

When I asked, Tatiana looked at her husband intently and then blushed a little before saying, “Um, well…” and taught me various things.

I took notes one by one and engraved in my heart to try everything that I could.

From the next day, guests began to gather little by little. They came in order from those who were close by. Since the Palmara family was a little far away, they arrived five days later.

The number of guests had already reached almost everyone who was invited, and events such as balls were being held.

My mother was happily directing things and chatting with the invited ladies. I participated in hunting and waited for the time to come.

In other words, I was waiting for Baroness Palmara and her daughter, Dorothea, to come and greet us with Lady Lorraine.

Soon enough, they arrived.

I politely enjoyed their company and saw Miss Lorraine after a long time. It had only been about six months, so she shouldn’t have changed much, but I thought she looked even more beautiful up close.

However, I felt that her appearance was too plain as usual.

It was ridiculous to think that any random stone on the ground was more stylish than her. I felt that this was also a manifestation of her lack of confidence in herself, and I had a desire to improve it no matter what.

Nevertheless, she had a lovely face, shining hair, a slender figure, and a beautiful posture. Why did she persistently try to eliminate decorations to this extent?

There must be a reason why she never tries to appear in front of anyone and blend into the shadows, even to the point of erasing her presence.

I wanted to know.

With the guidance I received from Tatiana, I asked her to be my dance partner during this party first.

The reason was to avoid the daughters who were looking for a marriage partner.

It was said that being too obvious from the beginning would make them run away.

To be honest, such a roundabout way was extremely troublesome. However, I decided to endure it because I wouldn’t be able to find out if she ran away.

As soon as I parted with her, I headed to her room.

In my hand is a folded paper letter. It only said that I wanted her to come to a certain place. If she doesn’t come as a precaution, I would have to think of another way.

After all, I had plenty of time.

Unlike in the capital, there was a reason to casually call out to her.

I slipped the paper into her room and headed to that place.

I called her out to the vegetable garden behind the mansion. It was just a place where evergreen trees were flourishing with green leaves, and there was nothing else. However, it was a perfect place for a secret meeting because it was surrounded by trees.

It was only when Tatiana told me that I realized that I was apparently the biggest target for the young ladies invited to this modest party.

In other words, she warned me that if I was seen being friendly with Miss Lorraine, it might cause resentment among those young ladies.

Therefore, I was told that I might not be able to meet her unless it was in a place where no one could see us. And if I could successfully persuade her to accept the conditions, I was told to keep her as close as possible.

I thought it was great to have Tatiana as a confidant.

Soon, she arrived.

The moment I saw her, I felt a little weak. That’s because she had a gray stole on her head, making her blend in with the surrounding rocks.

She looked like a nun.

Anyway, I called out to her.

“Lady Lorraine? I’m glad you came.”

“Oh! Yes. Um, this…”

She said that and showed me the paper I had left behind earlier. Seeing her small, white hand holding the paper, I felt an urge to grab it.

However, I had to hold back here.

“Yes, that is something I left there. Actually, there is something I would like to ask of you, so I called you here.”

“I see. Um, what is it that you would like to ask me?”

Her golden eyes, staring straight at me, blinked a few times. They were big eyes, clear and very beautiful, and I found myself staring at them absentmindedly.

“Um, what is this talk about?”

“I’m sorry. I’m just trying to organize my thoughts a bit, so please wait.”

“…Okay.”

She tilted her head with a puzzled and slightly troubled expression. Even so, she didn’t take her eyes off me. Being stared at like that made me feel uncomfortable.

I shivered and my smooth cheeks turned red. If I followed the golden strands on her face with my eyes, they would lead to her lips.

Her plump lips were slightly dry, perhaps due to the cold. She moistened them with her tongue without noticing.

At that moment, the words I had prepared flew out of my head.

Next, a faint irritation arose towards her blasphemy she was committing against her attractive appearance.

Why doesn’t she take better care of herself?

Perhaps because of that, my tone became a little arrogant.

“Tonight, I would like you to dance with me and only me!”

Then, she returned a hesitant and flustered response.

“…Um, that’s fine, but why me? I don’t really understand. We haven’t talked much, and I’m just an average-looking person. There are so many other beautiful flowers blooming, so why me…???”

It seems that she really lacked confidence. She didn’t even realize that she was also one of the beautiful flowers. I had no choice but to ask.

“Well, can I take that as a yes?”

“Yes, I have no reason to refuse. But it’s still strange.”

“If it’s okay even if it’s strange, then that’s good! Thank you, I look forward to it.”

As I said that, her cheeks became even redder. I wanted to touch her, but now was not the time.

“Uh…okay.”

There was an air of inconvenience, but I felt that now was the time to present my conditions.

There must be a reason to always be together.

I had to come up with a reason, no matter how flimsy. I said the words I had been thinking about all this time.

“Well then, shall we start with a lesson so that you can dance with me on an equal footing?”

“Eh…?”

I panicked when I saw her face twitch a little. Because of that, my true feelings slipped out of my tongue as sound.

“I don’t want you to dance randomly since you’ll be dancing with me. It could lower my dignity, you know. But it’s good that you’re not one of those high-minded ladies who can’t be asked to do such things. I would like you to be my partner until this gathering is over.”

Oh, I’ll give you a reward too.

Shall I send you some jewelry, or would you prefer a dress? Well, you can decide that for yourself.

Oh, you’re making a strange face. I see, I forgot to mention something important. Let me explain it to you step by step.

I know that I am seen as a good marriage partner by you ladies. However, honestly, I don’t feel that way yet. So, I want to make it look like my attention is only on you by dancing with you tonight.

I think this kind of request is more suitable for a lady with a bad reputation or a widow, but I am a host on the side of the master, so it would be awkward if I only socialized with such people. If I only entertained those people, what would people think of me, who invited them? You can understand that, right?

However, you have a faint presence, you don’t stand out, you’re plain, you seem obedient, and you seemed to understand what I was saying. Also, there is no problem with your background… that’s why I asked you for this favor.

Um, did you dislike it, by any chance?”

I wanted to strangle myself as I closed with a smile.

What a way to put it.

Even if you say that you can get away with being so blunt, you’re going too far. This is what happens when you try to be clerical.

I realized that lying was not the right thing to do.

Eventually, Miss Lorraine spoke in a relaxed manner.

Rejected.

The unexpected words jumped into my ears, who had prepared myself for the worst.

“Well, since I accepted it, I’ll do my best.”

After that, she gave me a strangely challenging look. I thought her eyes shining with anger were beautiful. At the same time, I was relieved from the bottom of my heart.

I thought it was all over, but she was still Lady Lorraine. When I looked into her eyes, which flickered with golden flames, my mouth naturally relaxed.

Anyway, I caught her.

All that’s left is to slowly persuade her.

I took her hand and said quietly.

“Thank you very much. In exchange for accepting this troublesome role, I will make sure you enjoy it.

Well then, I look forward to working with you.”

“…Yes.”

A modest reply.

She doesn’t know what she has taken on. I wonder how surprised she will be when she learns of my purpose.

Anxiety always lingers in my heart.

Will she accept me properly?

The gaze directed at me feels more like goodwill than hostility. Can I be conceited and think that she likes me?

Anyway, the plan has begun.

Now it’s a showdown between her and me. At least, I won’t give up. I waited for six months. Waiting a little longer won’t make much of a difference.

Now, let’s begin.

[S2 End]

Chapter 58: The Invitation to The Duke’s residence

I think it’s a bit late for self-introduction, but I’ll do it anyway. My name is Lorraine Valcourt, the eldest daughter of the ordinary-looking Baron of the Valcourt family.

Until recently, I was living quietly in this world, looking for a marriage partner and admiring handsome men in high society, and looking forward to going to the theater. My immediate goal was to find a man who seemed to have a good personality before it was too late.

That was the plan.

However, that plan changed recently because I got engaged.

And the surprising partner is none other than the heir to the Marquis Castalde family, Jeremiah Castalde.

He was the owner of a super high-spec beautiful face and the person who was the most refreshing sight for my eyes.

He was someone I had been admiring for a long time, and I was planning to continue admiring him and make him a spice of my life. Can you believe it, madam? It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? I still can’t believe it and sometimes have mysterious conversations in my mind, wondering what happened.

Honestly, even now, I still can’t believe it. I wonder if it’s a dream or if I’m already dead. Every day, I wake up in the middle of the night and check the dress I was given to confirm that it was real.

After the gathering where such a miracle had occurred ended, I stayed at the Castalde family’s villa for a few days before returning to the Valcourt mansion. The season was still far from spring, and it was especially cold now that New Year’s had passed, which corresponded to the Christmas season in Japan.

The Floesland Kingdom is colder than Japan, so even the playful nobles are spending their time quietly in front of the fireplace, planning for spring.

During that time, I received an invitation.

“Oh, Duchess Astorga is Lady Paula.”

I murmured in surprise as I opened the invitation, which was written in elegant handwriting.

“Um, Lady Lorraine… Are you doing well? I am doing well too. Actually, I received a consultation from my younger brother. He’s worried about whether you can behave as his wife in a suitable manner. He said that you’re studying every day to improve your education and conversation skills. So, I wanted to help you and sent this invitation along with this letter.

The Duke Astorga’s mansion in the capital is visited by nobles and members of parliament every day for discussions and dinner parties. There are limited places where people gather during this season, but if you stay at the Astorga mansion, you can learn a lot. I also sent the same invitation to my brother, but if you have anyone else you want to bring, please let me know.

For those who are willing to accept, I will send an invitation again from me. I’m waiting for an early reply…”

When I looked inside the envelope again, a card came out with my name written on it. While looking at it, I turned it over and another paper came out. When I opened it, it said in small letters, “If you come, you can openly spend time with Jeremiah (lol笑).”

Who told Paula (lol笑) about this?

I know that there are very few modern Japanese reincarnated people mixed in this world, including myself, but don’t tell me that.

While thinking that, the content of the message certainly struck a chord with me.

Even if we were engaged, since we were not married, the time we could spend together was limited. I wanted to talk more and spend time together, but that was not possible in this world or on Earth.

So, after thinking about it for a while, I decided to accept this invitation.

The snowy royal capital.

I rode in a carriage on a sparsely populated street. Unlike the roads with exposed soil up until then, I looked up towards the ceiling, swaying with a different vibration.

Suddenly, my eyes met with the person sitting across from me. Of course, it was Jeremiah. When he noticed me, he narrowed his eyes with a pleasant expression.

“Are you tired? But we’re almost there.”

“Y-Yes, it seems so.”

I smiled while holding my chest. My heart wouldn’t stop pounding. I should have been seeing him throughout this journey, so why was it different now?

I knew the reason.

“Maybe you’re cold?”

“Huh?”

I felt a shock on my wrist almost out of nowhere, and I was pulled towards him. As I spun around and moved to the seat, he hugged me from the side. He whispered in a low voice in my ear.

“Here, you won’t be cold anymore, right?”

“Uh, um, but…”

“Just a little more patience. We’ll be together in a warm room once we get to the mansion.”

“I-I thought we had separate rooms…?”

Surprised by his sudden words, I turned my face towards him. Then, a beautiful face approached me at an incredibly close distance.

“That’s right, I want to be with you more. Don’t worry, I’ll be a gentleman.”

Jeremiah whispered sweet words with a smile, but I wasn’t fooled.

“I don’t believe you.”

“Oh, why is that?”

His blue eyes narrowed sharply.

Just by looking at me with those eyes, I couldn’t trust him.

“But, Jeremiah-sama said it himself. He said he wouldn’t do anything until we’re engaged, but he might do it after.”

“Oh, right. But I swear I won’t do anything you don’t like. I don’t want you to hate me.”

He said it calmly, and I felt a little relieved. Yeah, at least the Jeremiah I know is not the type to force anything. So, I thought if I told him that this position was uncomfortable, it might be okay.

“Then please let me go. It’s too narrow and uncomfortable like this.”

Jeremiah smiled. Alright, I can escape from this bad position for my heart. After all, he’s so close that he could kiss me any moment. Although I’ve become more tolerant to this beautiful face than before, I still can’t help but feel my heart racing and my breath shortening.

However, to my disappointment, he said with a refreshing smile.

“I refuse.”

“Eh? Why?”

“Because it’s cold.”

Saying that, he hugged me even tighter.

No, no, no, I’m going to die. I’ll suffocate like this. I feel like I’m going to have an arrhythmia. I hate my moderately tough mental strength. My head is in a state of panic.

I was speechless and could do nothing but endure.

Eventually, the carriage slowly came to a stop. At that moment, Jeremiah finally released me. I was finally able to breathe properly, but I completely lost my color and waited for the carriage door to open, turning completely white.

I’m exhausted.

When I look at the source of the problem, he smiles ruefully. I’m really happy to see that face. But then I thought to myself.

I’m going to die young.

Since our engagement, Jeremiah’s attitude has softened more than I imagined. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like much has changed, but when we’re alone, he teases me and tries to touch me.

Well, it’s natural for lovers to do such things, but I’m not used to being in a situation where my ideal person suddenly appears next to me and does such things. After all, this is a person whom I had been thinking of having as a snack for the rest of my life.

The feeling of inferiority that had been ingrained in my heart, even from my past life, is not something that can be easily dispelled.

So, while I was exhausted in contrast to Jeremiah’s happiness, I got off the carriage. And then, I let out a sigh of admiration.

Chapter 59: Her tongue was alive and well

Before my eyes stood the magnificent Duke Astorga’s mansion. Generally, the residences of nobles are luxurious. They cherish the wealth inherited from their ancestors and use the wealth they have acquired in their own generation to renovate their homes even more luxuriously.

Moreover, the owner of this mansion is a Duke.

They are always given the role of serving and accompanying the country’s ruler and own extremely large estates even in the limited land of the capital. The sight of the white, huge building sitting on the estate, which is inferior to the royal palace but close to it, is simply astonishing.

I was staring at the building for a while and suddenly realized that my outfit was a disaster. I was dressed like a noble lady, wearing a proper daytime dress, but it was not made by the tailor I went to with Jeremiah and Paula. It was something I already had, with brown trimmings and a warm woolen shawl over it, and a yellow bonnet on my head. It was one of the better ones I had in my possession. By the way, I had planned to change into it after arriving because I didn’t want it to get dirty on the way.

On the other hand, Jeremiah was dressed as a proper nobleman as usual.

There was no way I could compare to him. I looked at Dora, who had come down from the following carriage, and thought that I had to change my clothes immediately. Then, another woman got off the same carriage as Dora.

No, it would be more accurate to say she was a young girl. She wore a slightly rural, floral dress and had a rustic appearance. Her cheeks were reddened by the cold, and her eyes sparkled.

She was Dorothea’s younger sister, named Lucia.

Unlike her sister, she was truly a beautiful girl, like a doll with blonde hair and blue eyes. This time, when she saw the letter inviting Dorothea, Lucia, who had nothing to do, forced herself to come along. After all, she boasted that if they didn’t let her go, she would thoroughly disturb Dorothea’s time with Aurelio, and she really started doing so. Dorothea begged me to bring along.

“I’m sorry, Lorraine, but I can’t take it anymore. Please help me.” I can’t do anything about the tear-stained letter sent with Mrs. Morena as a chaperone. Besides, if Lucia gets caught up in the pleasures of the city, I’m sure we’ll have less trouble. I have to believe that, and if I refuse, I’ll have a bad night’s sleep. Above all, I felt like I couldn’t stand being alone with Jeremiah, so I decided to accept it.

Of course, it would have been fine with another person, but the newlywed couple Bruno and Tatiana couldn’t be invited, and I thought about bringing my brother, but he hates the capital. That’s why Lucia ended up coming along.

She was also staring in awe at the grandeur of the Duke’s mansion.

Then, as if she had been waiting, Paula appeared from the entrance hall. She was Jeremiah’s sister and the Marquess Astorga, and as always, she came with a smile on her face and an imposing beauty.

“Welcome, I’ve been waiting for you.”

Paula greeted us with open arms, and I, Jeremiah, and Lucia exchanged the usual greetings. During that time, I could feel glances being directed at me from time to time. Of course, I know what she wants to say. I know, okay? Please don’t look at me with eyes like a demon finding its prey.

Even though it was close to freezing, I felt a strange sweat on my back… I inadvertently looked in the direction of the day after tomorrow, and Paula let out a faint breath. Scary, scary.

“So, who is this?”

Paula shifted her gaze to Lucia. I looked back at Paula and noticed that her eyes were shining brightly, causing my cheeks to twitch.

“Um, this is Lucia from Baron Palmaralady’s family. Thank you so much for inviting me even though we don’t know each other very well!”

Lucia’s voice clearly conveyed her sincere gratitude. Paula stared at her intently and suddenly lifted the corners of her mouth. Jeremiah frowned when he noticed it.

“Nee-san, you’re not planning anything bad, are you?”

“Ara, don’t be so suspicious. I just think it’s a waste not to use the talents I have for others. Don’t you think so too, Lorraine?”

“Uh, yes, I do!”

I reflexively answered, pierced by her intimidating eyes framed by long eyelashes. It was as if I was about to shout, “Yes, ma’am!”

“Lady Lucia, I welcome you. It doesn’t matter if we’ve met before, it often gets in the way anyway. And above all, it’s worth modifying such a shabby Lady like you. Oh, sorry, forget what I just said?”

Paula smiled broadly and offered her hospitality. I pretended not to see it, but Lucia was confused. Jeremiah put his hand on his forehead and made a bewildered face, muttering something like, “Well, whatever.” I want to say that if he’s my lover, he should help me, but he has a track record of trying to change my too plain appearance from the beginning, so I’m sure he’d rather promote it than defend it.

There is no escape, and I have prepared myself for this.

In any case, I have a long-standing relationship with Paula. It would be better to learn how to protect my mental state from now on. Alright, let’s do it, I’ll do it. Bring it on! I put on a fighting spirit as if I were going to battle and smiled.

For a noble lady, a smile is a weapon.

“Well, if we keep talking here, we’ll get cold. I have prepared some delicious sweets and tea, so let’s move the conversation there.”

“That’s a good idea.”

Jeremiah shrugged his shoulders and extended his arm towards me. After hesitating for a moment, I took his arm, and Dora, Jeremiah, Lucia, and I stepped into the Duke’s mansion.

The interior was beyond my imagination.

The elegant entrance hall was made entirely of white marble, and the paintings on display hinted at the history of the Duke family. Among the nobles, the Duke, who held the highest position, had privileges that set him apart from others. The mansion, which was a symbol of his power, spared no expense in its construction.

In that sense, the people of this world and the people who lived in my previous life are no different. Thinking about this, I wonder if the god who created this world and the god who created the other world are the same.

As I walked, the servants standing around bowed their heads to me. As expected of the Duke’s mansion, they had a considerable number of servants. I looked at them and thought to myself. Suddenly, my eyes were drawn to one of the good-looking servants, and Lucia whispered to me from behind.

“Lorraine-oneesama, that servant is wonderful.”

“Yes, indeed. It’s because we’re in the capital and at Duke-sama’s mansion.”

I answered and laughed, then looked to the side and met Jeremiah’s icy gaze. I felt my smile freeze. Although he was smiling, he was definitely feeling uncomfortable. I averted my gaze from the servant and cursed myself.

As I have said before, I am shallow.

I love good-looking people above all else, regardless of gender or social status. It’s not just nobles; my search function automatically activates for handsome men. It’s like the scene in a typical food program where you’re lured by the smell and wander over there.

However, I am Jeremiah’s fiancée and we have pledged our love to each other. Moreover, he has clearly stated that he will not tolerate me looking at other men. Of course, I fully intend to abide by that.

However, it’s not easy to change a long-standing habit. Besides, the period leading up to our engagement was as short as a blink of an eye. It would be amazing if I could suddenly switch my mindset.

But that has nothing to do with my boyfriend next to me.

I started to think of excuses while breaking out in a cold sweat.

Chapter 60: Names of nostalgic things

Eventually, we arrived at the tea room and each took their seat. Despite it being winter, flowers imported from the tropics were arranged in a vase, emitting a pleasant fragrance.

The furnishings and interior were refined and tasteful, and even I, who was not particularly knowledgeable in that direction, felt comfortable.

“Well then, please relax for now. We don’t have to introduce you to everyone yet, and I also want to go shopping first.”

Paula’s eyes shone like an owl in the dark night.

The scene of being taken to a tailor shop in the past suddenly came back to me. Will I be embarrassed and laughed at again?

——Ugh, I don’t want to.

While thinking that, I looked at Lucia.

She was a beautiful girl, but not yet of an age to appear in society, and perhaps due to the intentions of the tutor hired by Baron Palmara, she was dressed quite plainly.

She seemed indifferent to her appearance, but if she became Paula’s prey, things would probably change.

Above all, it was a relief that I wasn’t the only human sacrifice. At least, I could have some time to rest.

“Well, I also want to go and give my opinion.”

“Yes, of course. I understand. I will also take your opinion into consideration, and I will make sure to accompany you when shopping. Since we have come all the way to the capital, let’s make things that we can’t get in the countryside.”

“That sounds good.”

As usual, she’s talking without considering my opinion…or rather, she’s planning to ignore it from the beginning. Well, I know I’m not useful, but…

Feeling indescribable, I gaze at the tea and sweets prepared on the table. As expected of the Duke family. The craftsmen who make the sweets must be incredibly skilled. Even a small cake is strangely beautiful and elaborate. It’s almost too precious to eat.

I avert my eyes from the beautiful siblings in front of me.

Until a little while ago, I could enjoy the tea while admiring their faces, but now I feel defeated that I can’t worship them because of their stares.

After all, everyone around me is beautiful.

If I don’t enjoy myself, the name Lorraine Valcourt will be ruined.

I gather my courage and raise my head, and then I notice the servant who is serving us. He was the young man I saw earlier.

His face is not as artificially beautiful as Jeremiah’s, but he is handsome. He has reddish-brown hair, which is not so rare in this country, and it is slightly trimmed.

He had a tall, well-proportioned, supple body wrapped in a high-quality outfit that suited him well. He had a mole near his eyes, and his bright smile was charming. His eyes were deep blue, like blue flames that were the opposite of Jeremiah’s somewhat cunning impression. When he noticed me looking at him, he winked back at me to an extent that I couldn’t tell why.

Well, um, why?

Depending on the situation, it could be a rude act, but when he did it, it looked strangely good. However, I didn’t remember anything like that happening to me. Maybe he had an Italian temperament.

When the conclusion was reached, I felt calm.

However, he dropped a bomb on me that completely destroyed my calmness when he came close to me and whispered in my ear.

“…Don’t you want to eat sushi, ramen, or curry?”

!!!

It’s been a little over eighteen years since I was born into this other world.

During that time, I had never heard those words before. I stared at the young servant with astonishment, and he had a pleasant smile on his face. It seemed that there was no mistake.

He was also a reincarnated person. Moreover, he was either a Japanese person like me or someone who lived in an era where sushi, ramen, and curry existed. It was possible that he was a foreigner since Japanese food had spread to other countries, but I think the era was quite close. Of course, I wasn’t sure, but I had a feeling.

Still, the three things he mentioned were probably favorites of most Japanese people in my era.

Ignoring my state of great confusion, he finished his work with the other servants and left the room after announcing that everything was ready.

Then, I heard Lucia sighing next to me.

She looked very disappointed.

When I turned my face towards her, she puffed up her cheeks and looked at me. Her expression was just like a hamster. Apparently, she didn’t like the fact that the servant’s attention was directed towards me.

I have a bad feeling about this.

I wish she would stop thinking about a love affair between people of different social classes… As I was thinking this, a chill came over me from the side. I felt my body suddenly cool down, as if a draft had blown in. I immediately knew where it was coming from.

Perhaps Jeremiah had seen that young servant whispering something to me. He probably didn’t know the content, so there was a high possibility of misunderstanding.

I need to come up with a lot of excuses for this. But the more I panicked, the stronger the cold air directed towards me seemed to become. It’s doubtful whether I can even get him to listen to my excuses at this rate. What should I do?

I was confused about where to look and inadvertently looked at Paula. Then, she returned a suggestive smile.

“Fufu, Lorraine hasn’t changed.”

“Eh?! Um, that’s not it.”

“It’s okay, I don’t mind. But it’s better to keep it in moderation.”

I knew that painfully well.

Honestly, I couldn’t see the face I wanted to see the most. No matter how much I apologized, it seemed useless. But I swear it’s not cheating. This is an act similar to appreciating art. How nice would it be if I could say that out loud?

As I lamented, Jeremiah sighed and spoke up.

“Nee-san, what kind of education do the servants receive? If you leave those kinds of people alone, they’ll only get worse. How about finding them another job as soon as possible?”

His tone was calm, but essentially he was saying to fire them. I turned pale. I couldn’t take away the job from that young man due to a misunderstanding.

“Well, I don’t know…”

“If you want, I can find a replacement servant. There are plenty of people with suitable personalities for the Duke family who understand manners.”

“Yes, but there aren’t many people with the appearance suitable for the Duke family’s servants. Besides, are you planning to run around the capital leaving Lorraine alone?”

As Paula scolded him with a wry smile, Jeremiah fell silent. Then, he looked at me with a displeased expression.

Even that expression was attractive, and I couldn’t help but feel a sensation like my heart was turning over. Is this what they call jealousy or something in that direction? I thought it was something completely unrelated to me!

No, it’s no good. I’m too happy. I could die today and be satisfied.

While my expression remained serious, I felt like I was on cloud nine. Jeremiah spoke with a resentful tone.

“I didn’t mean it that way. But could you please have female servants around her?”

“Sure, if it makes you feel better. But I’ll bring you along to help with the heavy lifting. If you don’t like it, you can stand off to the side and watch. You won’t have many reasons to go out anyway.”

“Yes, that’s what I intend to do.”

Jeremiah grimaced as if he had bitten a bitter bug and sipped his tea. Ah, even when he’s angry, he looks cool. He’s so beautiful. Well, in Jeremiah’s case, a smile is rarer, but I like his angry face too, so I decided to watch him for a while.

This is the benefit of being a lover.

Only I can do this. How happy I am.

“You’re so lucky, Lorraine-oneesama, to be loved like that.”

“Huh, yeah.”

Lucia suddenly said enviously. I was confused about how to answer, so I smiled ambiguously. Smiling is convenient. Most of the time, you can get away with it.

“Well then, I’ll go check the room.”

“Ara, but you just got here.”

“Yes, but…”

Jeremiah put his cup back on the table and looked at me with piercing eyes. I wanted to hide my face under the table, but I managed to hold back.

It seems that he has something to tell me.

It’s probably related to that young servant.

I felt a strange feeling of happiness, fear, and wonder.

Chapter 61: A too happy misunderstanding

Paula seemed to have noticed the awkwardness between me and Jeremiah. I wished she hadn’t noticed, but I couldn’t say that and just looked down at my hands, enduring it.

Eventually, Paula let out a troubled sigh and said with a bewildered smile, “I understand how you feel, but manners are important. However, I’ll let it slide this time… It’s not often that you come to me.”

“I thought Nee-san would understand,” Jeremiah said with a smile, taking my arm without waiting for a response. I stood up in a hurry and our eyes met. His eyes, which were usually calm like the surface of a calm sea, were now like a storm.

“Let’s go, Lorraine. Excuse us, Nee-san and Lucia.”

“Ji-Jeremiah-sama.”

I tried to say “wait,” but my gaze was sealed shut.

I became as quiet as a frog stared down by a snake and followed him obediently. I managed to call out to Paula and Lucia before leaving.

From beyond the door, I could hear Lucia’s cheers. “Wow, amazing! That means they want to be alone, right? Definitely!”

Aah, you’re saying something that could make me turn to ashes with embarrassment, but you seem to be enjoying it so much. I’m going to be so embarrassed when I meet Lucia later.

Despite my inner conflict, Jeremiah continues to move forward. The Duke’s mansion is an unknown place to me, so I have no idea where he is heading. Therefore, I don’t even know if he is heading towards the room designated as the bedroom.

“Um, Jeremiah-sama?”

I was about to ask where he was going, but Jeremiah suddenly stopped. Wondering what was wrong, I was about to speak up again when he muttered something.

“Just call me Jeremiah.”

“Huh?”

“I don’t think you forgot our promise to call me by name only, did you?”

I opened my eyes wide and then covered my mouth. That’s right. I hadn’t forgotten, but when I returned to my family after parting with him, I felt embarrassed to call him by name only and thought it was still presumptuous, so I reverted to my previous way of addressing him.

“I-I’m sorry… but there was a reason for that. I still couldn’t believe it was real, it felt like a dream.”

“I see, but is that all you forgot?”

Jeremiah looked at me with eyes that seemed to be searching for something, and asked me with a questioning tone. I wonder why I have to be looked at with such eyes. The only things I did were accidentally adding an honorific to his name and occasionally staring at the young servant out of habit.

So, I decide to ask him fearfully.

“Um, was it wrong for me to look at the servant?”

There was no immediate answer, but I feel like his beautiful face twisted slightly to my liking. I knew it wasn’t a good feeling.

I apologize and open my mouth, not wanting to be misunderstood.

“Indeed, it’s a long-standing habit, so it’s not easy to fix right away. I’m sorry. But I’ll definitely fix it. Or did I do something else strange? Please tell me. I don’t want you to be seen in a weird way because of me.”

“Well, that’s one thing, but there’s another reason.”

Jeremiah asserts strongly, and a troubled voice comes out. Did I say something wrong? If so, I want him to point it out. I can’t see my own flaws.

“Then what is it?”

“…What did that servant say to you?”

I looked at Jeremiah’s eyes in surprise. I didn’t think he reacted so strongly, the mask of his smile was peeling off. He looked somewhat angry, but at the same time, he seemed worried.

In other words, Jeremiah might think that he said something strange and made him feel uncomfortable. That’s why he got angry at me like that.

In other words, Jeremiah took that attitude because he was worried about me.

My cheeks flushed involuntarily, and I covered my face with both hands.

I was so happy and embarrassed that my heart was overflowing, and I couldn’t answer right away. Jeremiah’s expression became stern, wondering how he took it.

“After all, he must have said something inappropriate to you, right? But don’t worry, I’ll ask Nee-san to take care of that person. Now, tell me…”

“Oh, no…that’s not it. It’s not like that.”

“I know you’re kind, but you don’t have to protect someone like that. If something bothers you, tell me properly. I would be ashamed of myself if I didn’t know you were in pain.”

Jeremiah put his hand on my shoulder and spoke with a serious tone.

In front of that, I was still ecstatic and felt like I was about to die. Breathing difficulties were an understatement. Like a fish pulled out of water, I opened and closed my mouth, desperately trying to calm myself down.

After struggling with myself for a while, I told Jeremiah, who looked worried.

“I’m really happy right now.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I understand. Um, Jeremiah, do you know that I have memories of my past life?”

When I asked him in return, he looked puzzled and tilted his head.

“Well, information about nobles naturally comes into the social circle… and, for various reasons, I wanted to know about you, so I looked it up.”

Jeremiah said with an awkward tone.

I started to feel uneasy, but I suddenly remembered what happened at the hunting lodge owned by the Castalde family.

At the time of his final confession, he said he had intended to woo me from the beginning. In other words, he must have investigated my background to see if I was a suitable marriage partner.

It’s a common thing.

I nodded knowingly.

To be honest, I want to know the truth, but at the same time, I don’t really want to know. It’s a delicate feeling. Anyway, it doesn’t matter now, so let’s leave that topic aside.

“I see. Well, that’s strange, isn’t it?”

“What is?”

“That servant knew that I had memories of my past life.”

As I spoke, Jeremiah’s face turned to surprise. I continued.

“Just now, I was told something that only someone who lived in the same country and era as my past self would know. I was really surprised… but if it’s true, I wanted to know why he said that.”

There was no need to hide anything, and it was not good to let Jeremiah misunderstand, so I easily said what I was thinking.

Then he let go of my shoulder and brought his hand to his mouth, growling. Only the sensation of his large hand touching my shoulder remained.

――It’s a little regrettable.

As I tilted my head wondering why, Jeremiah finally spoke.

“I don’t like the sound of that. I’m curious about how he got that information, but more importantly, I wonder why he decided to find out.”

“Exactly, that’s why I’m thinking of talking to him.”

“That’s not a good idea.”

Jeremiah said firmly.

“It’s too dangerous. If you’re going to ask, I’ll be there too.”

“But if you’re there, he might be wary and not tell me the truth, right?”

I just spoke my thoughts, but it seemed that Jeremiah didn’t take it that way, and his eyes began to take on a freezing temperature again.

Wait, did I say something bad?

I looked at the face of my beloved fiance with a vague smile and a cold smile.

Chapter 62: Heartburn dinner

“Lorraine, doesn’t that sound like you were trying to meet him alone? Or is it just my imagination?”

It’s strange, it’s cold even though we’re indoors.

I want more fur stoles. It’s so cold that I want to layer ten or more of them. The stoles are supposed to promise the best warmth that can be a proof of nobility and wealth, and I’m already wearing one, but it’s still so cold that I want to layer more.

But for now, I have to answer the question of the Ice Prince, or I’ll be scared. So I’ll honestly answer him.

“It’s not like that.”

“You’re an idiot. Even the bugs around here have more caution.”

Ah, it’s been a while since I’ve heard such a piercing line.

Well, I’m used to it. I know that behind those words is a feeling of worry that’s hiding under a black cloth, so I won’t take it seriously. But I feel like crying.

“I’m, I’m sorry, I’ll be careful.”

As I answer, a big sigh is released.

It’s hard to tell if he’s amazed or relieved. After all, I can’t look at the face of my beloved because I’m scared.

“Well, it’s good that I knew beforehand. That way, I won’t have to put you in danger. But you’re right, I might just get in the way if I go.”

“In that case, I’ll give up. It seems like it would be safer to avoid the danger.”

“No, I think it’s better to know what he’s planning. You might get involved in something without even realizing it.”

Jeremiah is thinking about something seriously.

I quietly watched his face until he came to a conclusion. How cool he looks, struggling to come up with a good idea.

It’s not a face that is often seen, so it’s better for his excellent brain to do the thinking. Above all, he is a trustworthy person. I just have to trust him and act accordingly.

So, for now, I decided to watch and burn it into my retina.

Eventually, Jeremiah seemed to have come to a conclusion and turned his gaze from the floor to me.

“It’s a cliché, but I’ll have someone guard you. At least while you’re in this capital city.”

“Huh, but if that’s the case, shouldn’t I have a strong servant with me?”

Nobles are generally wealthy, so they need servants to act as bodyguards when they go out. That was the role of the servants.

“Yes, but it’s no use if I can’t trust them. There are suitable people in the Castalde family’s estate, but they are servants of that mansion. But I know someone.”

Jeremiah said while looking out the window.

“Lorraine, I don’t want you to go out until I bring that person. Well, I don’t think you want to go out in this weather anyway.”

“I see.”

Snow was falling outside, and it seemed like it would accumulate by tomorrow.

There were few people on the road beyond the gate of the Duke’s mansion. I didn’t want to catch a cold by going out on a day like this. I nodded.

“Understood, I’ll do that.”

As I answered, Jeremiah looked a little apologetic.

“I know it will be inconvenient for you, but I don’t know what to do if something happens to you.”

“It’s okay. After all, I came here because of my selfish desire to be a suitable person next to Jeremiah. Please don’t worry about it.”

While saying that, I couldn’t look directly at Jeremiah’s face. Why does this person say such things that make him unable to come down to earth like it’s normal?

I used to think it was acting, so I could let it go, but now that I know it’s true, it’s awkward.

“Thank you. Well then, shall we go to the library? The Duke’s mansion has a large library, and you can see various things. If you know the place, even if I’m not here, you won’t get bored.”

“Y-Yes.”

I managed to smile, and Jeremiah smiled happily. It was good that the misunderstanding was cleared up, but I couldn’t stand that face with such destructive power.

Like a heroine in a romance novel, I couldn’t muster the courage to face it head-on, so I inadvertently looked down at the floor.

That night, a modest dinner party was held at the Duke’s residence.

Those gathered were the Duke and his wife Paula, his younger brother Jeremiah and his fiancée (me), and my younger cousin Lucia. Originally, Mrs. Morena, the accompanying person, was supposed to join, but she did not arrive even at night.

According to Lucia, she will probably come while taking a break in some town. That means I have to keep an eye on Lucia as much as possible until then.

In my mind, I wondered why they did not assign a more proper person to be the chaperone, but the Baron or his wife. I remembered the faces of Baron Palmara and his wife, whom I knew well, and gave up.

If it were those two, such a situation could happen.

As for Lucia, she seemed to be looking for the figure of the familiar servant and wandering her gaze around. However, since each of them has their own role to play, I thought she wouldn’t show up until mealtime, but she did. At that moment, Lucia’s eyes light up.

I was annoyed to see that.

On the other hand, the Duke, who had no idea about the situation happening behind the scenes, happily talked to me.

“Oh, I’m very happy to meet you, Lady Lorraine. When I heard about you from Paula, I felt a sense of familiarity,” Duke said with a slightly weak laugh.

He was a tall gentleman in his mid-thirties, and at first glance, he didn’t seem to have outstanding looks. However, his demeanor and behavior were refined, and he had a good physique and dignity.

His facial features were also good-looking, but his calmness was prominent, and combined with his light brown hair and eyes with drooping gray-green eyelids, he looked very gentle. However, according to Jeremiah, he transforms into a sharp-minded person who thoroughly considers the interests of the royal family and the country in politics.

I was surprised by the words that came out of the mouth of such a great nobleman. Where could you feel a sense of familiarity with this plain embodiment?

“I heard that you’re not very good at dressing up either. I heard that you have a dress that looks like an artifact from a bygone era. Actually, I was like that too until I met my wife.”

Come to think of it, I feel like I heard that somewhere. It was when Paula was saying something. She was in the midst of praising with her wonderful sarcasm, so my memory is vague because I was taking care of my heartache, but she was also saying something about her husband.

“I was scolded severely. She was famous for not coming out into society much, and I thought she was a weak woman, but when I met her, she suddenly said that my attire was not suitable. But I fell in love with her at first sight, so I even thought it was a good opportunity. Even if she scolded me, I was happy to be able to interact with her.”

While eating, the Duke occasionally looks at Paula with affection.

Paula seems to be happy to be looked at, and a smile appears on her lips.

“Thomas was so persistent at that time. He asked me over and over again every time we met, wanting to know what was wrong with his attire. Thanks to him, I ended up spending all my time dancing and dining with him.”

“I didn’t want someone else to steal your time. Besides, I can get good advice from you, so there’s nothing to say.”

“You’re a troublesome person.”

Paula laughed happily. And the two of them looked at each other. I’m already full, thank you for the meal.

I had heard about it and had Duke-sama’s poetry collection related to the support group, and the content was very touching, but when I saw the actual thing, I felt a little heartburn.

Tatiana had commented that they were a silly couple beyond imagination, but it wasn’t like that. It was at the level of a minor pollution.

I shifted my gaze to the luxurious food in front of me, which could be mistaken for palace cuisine. As expected of the Duke and Castalde families, their food was delicious, but the chefs here also served visually stunning and innovative dishes.

It would be a shame not to enjoy it to the fullest.

Jeremiah, who knew this would happen, was not looking at his sister and her husband from the beginning and was focusing on his meal. Leaving the two of them to their own devices, I decided to follow his lead and make the meal the main focus.

Chapter 63: Troublesome feeling

However, the time to gaze at each other can only be enjoyed until it ends. I elegantly ate the large prawns with sauce and even tried the meat dishes during that time.

Ah, it’s delicious.

Since I usually live modestly, I have to indulge in luxury when I can. But if it continues, I might actually get fat. I should exercise somewhere.

While thinking about such trivial things, I eagerly ate, and the Duke, who had finished the gazing time, returned to the conversation.

“Oh, by the way, Lady Lorraine is planning to go out to various places while staying here, right?”

“Yes, I haven’t really tried going to such places before, but I want to get used to social events a little more.”

After all, I have been an extremely inconspicuous existence, mastering the art of being a wallflower among wallflowers and being able to hide in crowds. Of course, that was convenient for admiring handsome men, but now that I have someone important to me, it is preferable to do the opposite.

I don’t need to stand out, but I want to become a good listener.

“I see, that’s good.”

The Duke nodded while looking at Jeremiah and me alternately.

“Besides, the biggest winter event is coming up soon. Take your time and enjoy it. After all, you will become my sister-in-law someday.”

“Well, that’s a good idea. Stay until the Javier festival.”

“But wouldn’t that be too much trouble for you?”

I thought I would only stay for about half a month, but that would mean staying here for over a month. I was confused, and Jeremiah spoke up.

“It’s okay. It’s not a bad thing to spend time with me, and it’s his grace’s offer. You can explain it to your family in a letter. Besides, I want to spend time with you during the Javier festival.”

He narrowed his eyes and looked at me as if asking what I would do. I was caught off guard and stopped breathing. What a cheap shot. I thought he wouldn’t use sweet words while we focused on dinner tonight.

I put my hand on my chest and answered while trying to hide my agitation.

“Yes, that’s a good idea. Actually, I’ve never seen the festival held at the cathedral in the capital, so I wanted to see it once.”

I smiled desperately like a lady.

I did well to hold back. My heart was still beating fast, but it seemed to have returned to normal somehow.

However, Jeremiah’s surprise attack was devastating. I’ll have to be more careful from now on. Yes, I’ll do that.

Behind my smile, I told myself that.

“That’s good. I’m looking forward to it too,” Jeremiah replied with a smile. He probably saw through my agitation. With no way to resist, I closed my eyes and quietly regulated my breathing.

By the way, the Javier Festival is a celebration of the day when a person who conveyed God’s teachings appeared in this world.

When I was young, I thought it was like Christmas, but at a dinner party, a pastor with memories happened to be invited, so I asked him about it. He answered that it was more like Easter. I don’t really know what that means, but I think it’s completely different now, as it’s in the spring and not the birth of the savior, and there’s no mysterious old man like Santa Claus.

I used to go to the festival held at the church near the Valcourt family’s mansion. One of the pleasures was the special feast made only during that time. However, my father was always busy during that time, so I rarely went to the capital city, and I had never visited the festival here, which is said to be the most magnificent and glamorous.

Moreover, if I can walk with Jeremiah, there is no reason to refuse.

After a while, when my breathing had calmed down, The Duke looked at me and Jeremiah with a smile and said, “That’s right, young man. There are also events suitable for lovers, so I understand why you want to go. I also wanted to go, but Paula refused me with all her might. That was so sad~.”

While saying that, The Duke glanced at Paula, but she was enjoying her drink. She noticed it and ignored it. I felt a little sorry for Duke.

However, he seemed used to it and quickly changed the subject, saying, “Oh, by the way, Jeremiah is with you, so as long as you choose where to go, it should be okay. But the capital has been a bit dangerous lately, so be sure not to go to any dangerous places.”

“Did something happen?”

I couldn’t help but ask.

It’s not that I don’t read the newspaper, but I don’t read it that often. I only read it occasionally to kill time.

The content is difficult to understand, and I don’t understand much about politics. Besides, not much happens in my territory, so there are things that I don’t need to know. Of course, there are things that I should know, so I read it occasionally.

So, even though The Duke told me, I didn’t immediately understand what he was talking about.

“Yeah, there have been a series of small explosion incidents here and there, and some people have been injured. Moreover, it seems that the target is the upper class, such as nobles, bureaucrats, and military personnel. Since there has been no damage to the common people, I think there is no mistake.”

“That seems to be the case. We don’t know the purpose, but it’s better to be cautious. So far, it seems that no ladies have been involved, but we don’t know how the culprit will act in the future.”

In response to The Duke’s worried words, Jeremiah answered.

I was surprised and a little uneasy to hear that such a thing was happening.

“Don’t worry, Lorraine. The police are also working on it, and places where only the upper class can enter are safe.”

“Yes, I hope they catch the culprit soon.”

I answered like that.

There is also a police force in this country. However, the investigation is still relying on circumstantial evidence to identify the culprit, so it is unreliable.

But honestly, I don’t have a real sense of it.

In both my past and present lives, I have never been involved in an incident, and I can’t imagine such a thing happening to me.

“Yeah, I hope so too. Well, after a dark topic, sweet things are a must. I have something special made for tonight.”

The Duke casually changed the subject and called for a servant to bring something special. It was a colorful and beautiful assortment of sweets, and I couldn’t help but let out a sigh of admiration.

There were also rare foreign sweets mixed in.

Among them, one caught my eye.

——Isn’t this ohagi (mochi)?

I stared at it, which looked like a small, boiled and mashed bean that was formed into a shape. It was made small so as not to stand out among the other fruit preserves, but it was clearly something eaten during the Higan festival.

“Oh, that’s something one of the servants made to recreate the taste of their hometown, and the chef approved it. Now, please take whatever you like. Tonight’s dessert is made up entirely of things from outside this country.”

“I see. Thank you.”

I decided to try it right away.

I just had to taste it.

It was small enough to fit in one bite. It was a bit odd to have a glass of wine placed next to it, but I chewed on it anyway.

——Hmm, the taste of the beans is a little different, but it’s definitely ohagi.

I already knew that.

It was probably made by one of the servants, likely him. He had red hair and a bright smile. I finished eating it with mixed feelings.

Somehow, I feel like I can’t avoid having some kind of relationship with him while I’m staying here, no matter how much I try to avoid it.

――If that’s the case, I’ll stick with Jeremiah as long as I can. Besides, it seems that I will have a personal servant.

In other words, I just have to avoid meeting him alone.

While thinking that it was troublesome, I enjoyed the other desserts as well.

They were all delicious, and I thought I might get a cavity, but the dinner that night ended happily and peacefully.

Chapter 64: You can’t judge people by their looks

The next afternoon, as Jeremiah had said, he went out to bring back a servant who would act as a guard.

He had apparently informed Paula and The Duke about it.

I asked what kind of person it was since it seemed to be someone Jeremiah knew. The answer I received was, “A serious and delicate person. I think you’ll like him.”

In my mind, a gentle and kind person with glasses came to mind. If that’s the case, I could become close to him as Jeremiah said. I decided to wait with anticipation.

By the way, I ate too much at dinner last night and ended up only having drinks in the morning. After all, there were too many things I wanted to eat. Now, my stomach is finally starting to feel hungry.

I’ll probably have tea later and hold out until night, so I picked up a book that Jeremiah and I had searched for yesterday.

I’m in one of the guest rooms at The Duke’s mansion, not the bedroom assigned to me. Occasionally, gentlemen and ladies who came to greet the Duke and Duchess visit and look at me with interest.

At first, I honestly wanted to hide behind the chair and pass the time, but then I realized that it wouldn’t do any good. I would just be a suspicious person. So, I prohibited myself from moving from the chair.

Today, Dora is excited as usual and is doing her best to dress me up, so I should look fine.

Of course, since it’s daytime, there’s no need to be as flashy as at night, so I’m a little relieved.

As for Dora, she shouts that the night is the time to show off her skills and is now busy choosing a dress. The dress I had made at the store I went to with Paula is managed by Dora every day and waiting for its turn. Seeing her blissful face makes me feel like saying sorry for everything up until now, which has become my daily routine.

So while struggling with unnecessary conflicts internally, I focus on remembering the faces and names of the people who come to greet me while returning their bows.

This kind of diligent effort will bear fruit someday.

If I am to become Jeremiah’s wife involved in politics, socializing is essential. I have avoided it until now because I didn’t like it, but I must not damage his reputation, so I write down the characteristics of the people on the paper with a rough breath.

“Um, Sir Pirlo has a round nose and a protruding belly and is wearing an ill-fitting wig. Was he a bureaucrat?”

With the book open, I try to recall the names I memorized several times. After repeating this several times, Jeremiah showed up.

“Oh, you’re here.”

“Ah, welcome back.”

Saying that, he stood up. When I looked at Jeremiah, a smile naturally appeared on my face. Just being casually spoken to like this actually made me quite happy.

I had thought that being spoken to was just a dream, so there was nothing I could do about it. However, it would be inappropriate to be too happy. I stayed there and waited for his response.

Then, he widened his eyes as if taken aback and put his hand on his mouth. When I looked into his eyes, it seemed like something good had happened, but he didn’t say anything, so I didn’t know. I tilted my head in wonder and looked at his face, and he cleared his throat and tightened his relaxed face as he said:

“Oh, I brought her here. Landegger, this is Lady Lorraine who will be your new mistress. Greet her.”

“Yes.”

A soft, warm voice was heard.

I lifted my head wondering what kind of person she was, and there was a tall man standing there. He had black hair slicked back and thin, slanted blue eyes. He looked like he was in his mid-thirties.

His sharp facial features were terrifyingly sharp, almost like a bird of prey. Honestly, he seemed serious but lacked sensitivity.

The image in my head was completely opposite to what I saw.

——Certainly, he seems very strong… but he’s a little scary.

“My name is Dennis Landegger, Lady Lorraine.”

As he began to introduce himself, I tightened my bewildered expression and straightened my posture. He directed a gaze that could kill with just his eyes towards me, and his cheeks turned a little red.

“She’s a beautiful lady, Jeremiah-sama. I, Dennis Landegger, will risk my life to protect her.”

“Oh, please do. She’s someone very important to me. However, I want you to keep in mind that you should avoid situations that you cannot handle with your strength alone. I trust you and know your strength, but there may be situations where you cannot handle it. So, don’t get close to those kinds of situations from the beginning, okay?”

“Yes, understood.”

He respectfully placed his hand on his chest and thanked Jeremiah.

I didn’t know how to respond and just gazed at the reliable appearance of the bodyguard who looked like an assassin.

Then, Jeremiah smiled and said,

“Well then, why don’t you go out with her. You didn’t go anywhere yesterday, so I think it will help you get used to it.”

——Eh?

“Her?”

My doubts spilled out of my mouth as we went outside.

Jeremiah made a bombshell statement as if there was nothing strange about it.

“Oh, I know she looks like this, but she’s a woman. She usually helps her parents manage the townhouse owned by the Castalde family. She’s usually a maid, but I thought this would be better.”

“Then, what about her hair…”

“It’s always been like this. I’ve dressed as a man several times before, so I usually wear a wig.”

He, or rather she, answered politely, but she looked like a man from any angle. She looked like a well-featured assassin. There was a coolness that was somewhat like the protagonist of a hard-boiled novel.

If you put her in a suit and gave her a gun, it would be perfect.

Suddenly, the scene of someone sniping from the top of a building somewhere came to my mind for some reason. Of course, the sniper succeeded and quietly left without anyone’s praise. Watching over that was the beautiful night butterfly…

Memories of when I secretly read my father’s novels came back to me.

And yet, she’s a woman…?

While being attacked by intense discomfort, I put on a ladylike smile and greeted her.

“S-so, yeah. Nice to meet you, um…”

“Please call me Denny, Lady Lorraine.”

She said with a smile.

Behind the mask of the lady’s smile, I was trembling.

I knew that she was probably trying to reassure me. But even though I understood her, her smile was too scary.

It was a smile that seemed to be plotting something. It was not a gentle smile, but a sly one. Moreover, her eyes were not smiling.

In addition, while considering me, she occasionally glanced at the window or the corridor behind her, not neglecting her vigilance. What a professional, there were professionals in this world too. She could even be a princess’s bodyguard.

I feel like it’s a waste of a professional to protect such a plain lady.

“Y-yes, then I’ll call you Denny.”

As I answered, my gaze involuntarily went to her chest.

Because I’m curious, because I still can’t believe it, because the atmosphere is too hard-boiled.

No, no, a lady shouldn’t do such a thing.

I desperately mobilized my self-control and forcibly averted my gaze.

“Yes. Lady Lorraine… Actually, I was looking forward to meeting you. Lord Jeremiah told me about you and said you were very lovely. He also said we have similar hobbies, so I think I can be of service to you during the festival where I will guide you around the capital later.”

“I-I see. Hobbies…”

I couldn’t help but wonder if I had the same hobbies as someone with such a hard-boiled appearance, but if Jeremiah said so, it must be true.

After all, he knew things that sometimes made me want to scream, “Why do you know that?”

Perhaps noticing my demeanor, Jeremiah gently told me, “She’s also a book lover, Lorraine. In the Castalde family, it’s better for even the servants to have education, so we teach reading and writing. That’s why there are many book lovers.”

“That, that’s wonderful. Then let’s go to the bookstore. I’ve always wanted to visit one since coming to the capital.”

“That’s a good idea. Let’s go out then. Dennis, get ready.”

“Understood.”

Dennis nodded politely at Jeremiah’s command and immediately began to prepare for their outing.

Chapter 65: Unwanted reunion

This is the first time I’ve been out since coming to the Duke’s mansion.

However, because I had been asked to be Lucia’s temporary chaperone, I couldn’t go out until Mrs. Morena arrived. So I expected Lucia to accompany me, but Dora, who had been preparing my clothes after hearing about it, offered to be her temporary chaperone. Jeremiah agreed that it would be fine, so I decided to accept his offer, and my heart was filled with joy.

There is snow on the street from yesterday, but the street has been cleared so it’s not that difficult. However, the air is cold and my nose hurts. But I didn’t care about that.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a bookstore.

I’m happy to be able to go, and my mouth can’t help but smile. Jeremiah noticed and spoke up.

“You look happy.”

He said as he looked at me with eyes that had changed from freezing to the warmth of spring snowmelt.

It’s not good for my heart to be looked at like that, but that feeling is also very happy, so I nodded vigorously.

“Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to go to a bookstore, and I’m really happy to be able to be together like this.”

To be honest, Jeremiah fell silent as if caught off guard and turned to the side. Did I say something strange? I wasn’t sure, so I fell silent too. A strange silence filled the carriage.

Feeling awkward about the silence, I spoke up. “By the way, I was surprised to hear that Denny is a woman. She came in as a servant, so I thought she was a man.”

It seemed like Jeremiah was also bothered by the silence and he immediately answered my question with a wry smile. “Ah, she used to be concerned about it, but she gave up at some point. She said that fulfilling her duties as a servant is more useful and that she already has a place where she can use her heart.”

What on earth does that mean?

As I was curious but found it difficult to ask, Jeremiah seemed to have sensed it and explained it to me. “Denny is talking about the support group. She also has a preferred man, but I don’t think it’s me. After all, I’ve known her since we were children.”

“Since then?”

“Yeah, they are my trusted servants. They have been serving the Castalde family for generations. They are almost like family. That’s why I decided to set her up with you. It’s good that she’s not only strong but also a woman.”

“Oh, why is that?”

I asked, thinking that as long as someone is trustworthy and strong, it shouldn’t matter whether they are male or female. Jeremiah shrugged his shoulders and gave me a look that seemed to say, “Isn’t it obvious?”

“It doesn’t feel good to see you getting close to another man, even if he’s just a servant.”

For a moment, I couldn’t understand what he was saying. But as I began to understand, confusion slowly set in.

My emotions couldn’t keep up.

I had forgotten.

Come to think of it, Jeremiah was like this. Everything that I could brush off as acting before, I couldn’t brush off now. Because this wasn’t acting. I had learned that on that night.

As if cornering me with his words, Jeremiah leaned in closer and said, “I told you, I want you to only look at me…”

“I-I said I would.”

I did say that.

I didn’t think it was that bad, though. Well, as a servant, I do have more opportunities to interact with other male friends than with Jeremiah. But even so, I never thought he would be bothered by it.

“Even so, because you are kind, you will surely show them compassion. I can’t say for sure that they won’t come to like you. If that happens, I don’t know what I’ll do to that man, so wouldn’t it be better to avoid such a situation from the beginning?”

“I think so.”

I nodded like a puppet without saying anything.

To be honest, I felt like something was off with Jeremiah since coming to this capital city. Unlike when we were in that mansion that brought us together, he clearly seemed uneasy.

Without knowing why, I decided to do as he said for now. Jeremiah seemed satisfied with my nodding puppet-like response and returned his face to its original position after getting too close.

I couldn’t help but feel relieved.

Even now, my heart races uncontrollably when that beautiful face gets too close.

Soon, the coachman announced that we had arrived at the bookstore and Dennis opened the door for us. Jeremiah helped me down and I saw a bookstore for the first time in a while.

The smell of paper tickled my nose.

Naturally, my face relaxed. Opportunities to smell the scent of new paper are rare. In the countryside, new releases always arrive late. That’s why I always wondered if my father would go to the capital city.

“Well then, shall we go?”

“Yes.”

Jeremiah and I, followed by Dennis, entered the bookstore. We immediately began searching for books. Of course, we were looking for novels. As I scanned the entire store to check the location of the books, hoping to find new releases, I noticed something.

There was a man in the bookstore who looked familiar.

To make matters worse, he was wearing a naval officer’s uniform.

My face involuntarily twisted.

My feet began to move towards him. In my mind, I told myself not to worry about someone who just looked similar to someone else and how many naval officers could there be anyway? But that figure definitely looked like him.

My movements became stiff and strange, and Jeremiah and Dennis quickly noticed.

“Lorraine, what’s wrong? Did something happen?”

Behind Jeremiah, Dennis looked around with sharp eyes. I hesitated on what to say.

But it seemed to work against me.

The man noticed us before we noticed him.

——Oh, he’s coming this way.

With his footsteps, even Jeremiah noticed. He quickly put on a stern expression and stood behind me as if protecting me. Next to him, Dennis was ready to act in case of an emergency for her masters.

“Hey, what a coincidence. I didn’t expect to meet you in a place like this.”

“Well, I didn’t want to meet you anywhere, to be honest.”

Jeremiah replied with a freezing voice. The other person shrugged and then shifted their gaze to me.

As I thought, he’s beautiful.

Although my brother is more graceful, this person has a heroic quality that my brother doesn’t have, and his physique is slightly better. Above all, unlike my brother’s gentle eyes, he exude a terrifying charm like that of a hunter seeking prey. Their sun-tanned skin did not detract from his attractiveness but rather made them look more rugged.

While I was mesmerized, I greeted him in a low voice while remaining cautious.

“Good day, Lieutenant Colonel Caldelara.”

Yes, the person standing there was Emilio Caldelara, the naval officer who had recently tried to cause a scandal for me. He had a sweet smile on his face but his eyes remained sharp as he spoke.

“Oh, you know my rank. Did my brother tell you? You see, I got promoted in the recent war. I did it all by myself.”

“W-Well, that’s impressive.”

I answered in a monotonous tone. Although I heard about his rank from Aurelio, Viscount Caldelara, who is his older brother, it was not because I had any particular interest in it, but rather because I happened to hear it while accompanying Dorothea.

Emilio looks at me, who is like a frightened rabbit, with a joyful expression. It’s bad for my heart in a different way than when Jeremiah looks at me. It’s because the fear from that time comes back.

“Anyway, aren’t you going back to the sea? How long will the sailors wander around on land?”

The low voice increases the tension.

I’m scared hiding behind him. Jeremiah is cool too, but maybe because he’s handsome, he has an incredible presence. Moreover, when I look back, I met eyes with someone with an even scarier face. Dennis nodded as if to say it’s okay, but it’s too scary to be comforting.

To be honest, this situation is a bit difficult for a plain and ordinary lady like me.

By the way, since my mental state is like tofu, I want this staring contest between the dragon and tiger to end as soon as possible.

Putting aside my mental conflict, Emilio calmly responds to Jeremiah’s insult without any reaction.

Chapter 66: Attack at the bookstore

“Don’t we also need a break? After all, when we’re at sea, we’re always risking our lives to protect His Majesty and the citizens. If we don’t come ashore like this, we won’t be able to have a decent meal or even rest properly.”

“I see, that’s true. However, don’t involve us. We are currently staying at the Duke Astorga’s house. If something happens to us as guests, The Duke won’t leave you alone.”

Upon hearing that, Emilio’s smile disappeared from his face for a moment.

However, he quickly returned to his usual suspiciously sweet smile and looked a little troubled.

“I don’t like it, why the hell would I do that? Last time, I was just persuaded by your admirer. Even then, I only did it because I was bored at the time. But I can’t get bored in the capital city. So, there’s no need to worry.”

“…Sorry, but I can’t trust you.”

Jeremiah answered coldly.

Emilio just shrugged slightly and said without answering that.

“I just came here to buy a book.”

Then he looked at me. I couldn’t help but tremble slightly.

I saw the darkness and faint heat in Emilio’s eyes again. It was clear that he hadn’t changed at all. When he noticed me looking at him, he smiled faintly.

“Lady Lorraine, enjoy the capital. See you later.”

Emilio said that briefly, bought a book, and left the store. Jeremiah didn’t move until he left the store. Dennis quickly went outside and came back a little later.

“Did he leave?”

“Yes. I watched until he disappeared, so he won’t be coming back here.”

“I see…”

Jeremiah murmured and sighed heavily before turning to me and asking,

“Lorraine, are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you…”

Actually, I was a little tired, but it wasn’t just because of Emilio. I was absorbed in the atmosphere.

“Shall we go back? I was thinking of going out a little more, but do you want to rest?”

When asked, I didn’t feel that tired, but I looked at Jeremiah. He seemed to be worried about me in some way.

If this were my past life, I would have obediently followed his suggestion, but now I don’t feel that exhausted. So I thought that maybe he was more concerned about my feelings and said,

“I’m okay, but I don’t feel like walking outside anymore. So why don’t we just buy some books and read them together at home?”

The purpose of coming to the capital this time was not just to socialize.

I wanted to spend time with Jeremiah. If I no longer felt that way, I thought I could make good use of it, but…

Jeremiah doesn’t respond immediately.

However, there is something like joy in his eyes, so he probably won’t refuse.

I wait with anticipation. And at the moment he tries to speak…

“That’s a good idea, Lady Lorraine! So, which one would you like? My recommendation is this one!”

Suddenly, Dennis pulls out a novel-like book from the shelf and hands it to me. I reflexively take it and grimace at the title. What…a pure romance novel!

“I-Is this…Doki Doki in The Rose Garden ~Secret Ring~?””

“Yes! It’s a work by the most popular romance novelist among women in the capital right now. I’ve been thinking about which one to introduce to Lady Lorraine since I heard Jeremiah-sama’s story. Which one would make you happy?”

She who had been hard-boiled until then suddenly looked like an ordinary woman with shining eyes. What’s going on? Was she cursed or something? Or maybe she had been cursed until now and it was lifted? However, unfortunately, I have never seen a curse in this world either.

However, there are surprisingly many stories floating around about ghosts causing mischief or people dying after seeing ghosts, so I couldn’t say for sure that they don’t exist.

“O-Oh, really… I’ll read it, thank you. Well then, I think I’ll look for something I like too.”

“…It’s Garbo, I think.”

A terribly unhappy voice mentioned the name of my favorite author. Due to Dennis’s interruption earlier, I was too scared to look at the face, but I timidly looked up. As expected, our eyes met and the temperature seemed to drop below freezing.

“Y-Yes, that’s right.”

That author was a minor foreign writer. Therefore, it was unlikely to be found unless you went to a bookstore in the capital city. If it was a book by a famous and popular author, it could be found in the towns of Valcourt.

I had mentioned it to Jeremiah a while ago. It seemed that he remembered that one word. Somehow, my chest felt warm and uncomfortable. I was so happy that I couldn’t find the right words to say.

Ignoring my feelings, Jeremiah handed me Garbo’s book.

“T-Thank you very much.”

“Let’s buy a few more books and read them together alone.”

When he said “alone together,” Jeremiah turned his face away slightly. He still looked unhappy, but he didn’t seem angry. A slightly embarrassed attitude made me smile involuntarily. Holding two books close to my chest, I nodded with a beaming smile.

“Yes, by all means.”

Chapter 67: Whereabouts of Lucia

After browsing through several books at the bookstore and having Dennis carry our luggage, we returned to the Duke family mansion. We still had some time. I didn’t plan on attending any gatherings today.

“Shall we go to a small guest room somewhere? Dennis, tell the servants to prepare a room and tea.”

“Yes, sir.”

As soon as Dennis received her orders, she bowed elegantly and left. As soon as we left the bookstore, she transformed from an ordinary woman to a professional. The gap was so great that I had a headache, but I convinced myself that I would get used to it and ignored the supernatural phenomenon in front of me.

As we walked slowly, I looked around the Duke mansion again. It was like being in a museum, with wonderful things arranged in exquisite positions and colors.

As I looked around absentmindedly while holding onto Jeremiah’s arm, I saw someone ahead. It was definitely Lucia. Moreover, she seemed to be hiding in a decorated jar and looking at someone.

Dora and another one of Lucia’s maids were standing a little away from her.

I regretted looking at who Lucia was looking at without thinking. Even if I tried to pretend I didn’t see anything now, it was too late when Dora turned around and our eyes met.

Dora looked at me with a face that seemed like she had something important to say. I sighed softly and tried to call out to Jeremiah next to me, but he spoke first.

“Is that your cousin and the maids over there?”

“I’d like to think I’m wrong, but it seems so.”

“What are they doing? Your cousin seems to be watching the servants who are doing maintenance on the candlesticks in the hallway…?”

Yes, Lucia was currently staring at the servants who were doing maintenance on the candlesticks in the hallway. And if my guess was correct, that was the infamous servant.

The handsome aura emanating from his red hair and appearance was unmistakable.

“That’s right—oh, Dora’s coming this way.”

Dora, who seemed impatient with my reluctance to approach her, walked up to me with a triumphant look on her face.

“Welcome back, Lorraine-sama. As you instructed, I kept an eye on Lucia-sama.”

Since I had been asked to serve as a chaperone, I could not let Lucia out of my sight. However, I asked Dora to be her temporary chaperone, if only for a short while.

I asked hesitantly.

“Um, was there anything unusual?”

“Yes, Lucia-sama relentlessly chased after that servant and watched him, sometimes blushing and fidgeting when he spoke to her, but she behaved appropriately as a lady.”

Wait a minute, I don’t feel any lady-like behavior at all. Besides, there was a strange smell.

With a grimace on my face, I shifted my gaze from Dora to Lucia and let out a small groan.

Those melting eyes, cheeks dyed rose-colored. The sighs that escaped from her slightly parted lips were entrancing. There was no mistaking it…

“Um, for now, we don’t need a chaperone anymore, so could you go back?”

“Yes, understood. Then, I’ll go back to choosing a dress to make you look beautiful tonight.

Dora bowed and hurried down the hallway. I wished she wouldn’t try so hard since I wasn’t going anywhere, but I quickly gave up on that idea.

Besides, it was better to be with Jeremiah if we were going to be together. While I looked good when dressed up, my plain face made me look somewhat childish without any makeup.

Therefore, if I was next to the high-spec handsome Jeremiah, I would disappear without any presence if I didn’t dress up.

I know he still doesn’t like being surrounded by women, so it’s more useful to stand out and act as a bug repellent.

So, I gave up on being inconspicuous.

Of course, I’m afraid of many things in my heart.

“I’m looking forward to it.”

A voice came from beside me. I couldn’t help but look away. I couldn’t imitate the advice of “looking forward to it” or “you can expect it” in response to that line.

After all, I still lack confidence in myself.

That’s why I came to the Duke’s mansion to improve myself even a little bit.

I didn’t know how to respond, so I turned my gaze to the maid who was standing behind Lucia, looking flustered. The maid was looking back and forth between us and Lucia, seeking help.

Anyway, I had to do something about Lucia.

As a servant, she couldn’t be too forceful with her master. So, I called out to her for the time being.

“What are you doing there, Lucia?”

Then, Lucia slowly turned around and blinked her eyes a few times as if she had just noticed our presence. I screamed inside my head. She was exactly like a dreamy little girl.

Although her clothing was plain, unlike me, Lucia was a beautiful girl who just radiated beauty. And if she made such an expression, imagine what kind of scene would unfold.

“Oh, Lorraine-oneesama. You’ve returned.”

“Yes, but more importantly, what are you doing here? Let’s go back to the room since it’s getting cold.”

“But…”

Lucia looked regretful as she glanced at the servant, but I pretended not to notice and said anyway.

“I can’t leave you here alone, so let’s go together. Besides, we need to prepare for the night and you don’t want to trouble the servants, right? Oh, and let’s have tea together later. I’m already preparing it.”

“…Yes.”

Reluctantly, Lucia nodded.

Her expression clearly showed that she didn’t want to go, but she stood up with heavy steps and came closer to me. After confirming that, I let out a sigh of relief.

Chapter 68: Heartbreaking night

After that, I felt a little guilty looking at Jeremiah. I couldn’t keep the promise to spend time with him alone.

But I can’t just leave it alone.

Until I properly hand over the mission to Mrs. Morena, I am responsible for Lucia.

“Um, I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s okay. Besides, I can still spend time with you, so I’m fine. Above all, I like your kindness towards your friends.”

I froze.

A bomb was suddenly dropped. How should I respond? If I could say something like “Thank you, I also like your ○○ aspect,” it would be perfect, but I haven’t reached that level yet. So I said in a small voice,

“T-Thank you.”

“It’s okay, let’s go. Dennis has also returned.”

When I looked up, I saw Dennis walking towards us. It seems that she is ready. With a shrinking feeling, I looked at Lucia. She looked at me with a very envious expression and said,

“Shall we go, Lorraine-oneesama?”

Her suppressed voice echoed in my heart.

During tea time and dinner, Lucia was not feeling well. I didn’t know what to do and silently wished for Mrs. Morena to come quickly in my heart.

Or rather, why didn’t the chaperone come with us? If there was a reason, I wanted to be informed properly. However, since she didn’t come, there was nothing else I could do but try to handle it myself.

But what should I do?

Above all, the other party is a servant… it’s a love affair with a completely different social status. It’s out of the question to cheer them on or meddle in their relationship casually. However, I couldn’t persuade myself to give up either.

My head started to hurt as I thought about it over and over again.

I decided to put aside my thoughts about the uncertain future for now. Later on, I judged that it would be better to secretly consult with various people. Call it escapism if you will, but this is beyond what I can handle alone.

First, I’ll write a letter tonight. The first recipients will be my aunt and Dorothea, and if I have time, I’ll write to my mother too.

Alright, now someone will give me good advice. Of course, I plan to consult with Jeremiah and Paula as well.

With that decision made, I focused on dinner.

Several distinguished guests were invited to tonight’s dinner. Paula seems to be considering various things she wants to learn. I want to meet her expectations somehow, so I’ll try to participate in conversations with unfamiliar gentlemen and ladies.

The topic ranged widely from the Javier festival to where they went this summer, to the magnificent renovation of someone’s mansion, and even to how terrible it was. Somehow, I managed to keep up with it all.

Jeremiah helped me with things I didn’t know, so I managed to get through it all and was pretty tired by the time we reached dessert.

I’ve always tried not to stand out, so I’m not used to socializing and get tired easily.

Oh well, I’ll consult with them tomorrow and rest early today…I thought as I enjoyed some sweets when Lucia, who was sitting next to me, stood up.

“Lady Lucia? What’s wrong?”

“I’m terribly sorry, but I’m not feeling well, so I’ll go back to my room first.”

Lucia replied to Paula with a really sickly face.

“I see. Take care.”

“Thank you. Excuse me.”

After a light bow and greeting everyone there, Lucia quietly left. I wanted to follow her immediately, but that would be rude, so I managed to hold back.

The remaining gentlemen and ladies started talking about what might have happened, but I didn’t feel like joining in. After finishing my meal and declining an invitation to play games, I left the dining room.

As expected, Jeremiah followed me.

“Are you going to Lady Lucia’s room?”

I stopped and faced him before nodding.

“Yes. Her condition seemed strange… I’m sorry for causing you trouble today.”

“No, don’t worry about it. If it’s a bother, I’ll say so. Well, to be honest, I wanted to come here alone with you.”

Jeremiah said with a somewhat wry smile.

I couldn’t help but press my chest at his slightly disappointed expression. It was a completely different feeling from the surprise I had felt before. I was very confused.

My eyes became a little hot and I looked down, but I managed to squeeze out some words.

“I wanted that too.”

“I see, that’s good. Let’s make sure to find time again.”

“Yes.”

The sound of “let’s make sure” made me happy and my voice trembled a little. I hoped he wouldn’t notice as I managed to raise my face and Jeremiah said,

“I’ll walk you to your room.”

I nodded obediently and took his hand. After that, we arrived at the room without much conversation. I reached for the doorknob to open the door when Jeremiah suddenly remembered something.

“Oh, right. I have something to do tomorrow. I really don’t want to leave your side, but duty is duty… So, tomorrow, Dennis will be with you at all times. If you want to go somewhere, make sure to bring her with you, okay?”

“I understand. I promise.”

I will keep my promise. With that determination, I replied to Jeremiah, and he reached out his hand. Wondering what he was doing, I gazed at him as his large hand, covered in gloves, touched my neck and gently pulled me close. Then, a soft sensation grazed my cheek.

I widened my eyes and stared at Jeremiah’s face as he smiled and said, “Well then, goodnight.” He disappeared into the nearby room, not far from where we were. I was left in front of the door, once again frozen in place. After a while, I collapsed onto the floor.

It was so sudden that it was bad for my heart.

While groaning with my still-racing heartbeat, I screamed inwardly.

It was just a greeting, a goodnight greeting――!

However, it took some time for my heartbeat to calm down. I felt completely defeated by his power and finally opened the door to the room with great effort.

Chapter 69: Lucia’s Confession

As I returned to my room, I repeated to myself, “Calm down, calm down.” I had been distracted by Lucia lately, so I was more on edge than usual.

Before, I could brush it off as just a greeting, but now it wasn’t that simple. I realized from the bottom of my heart that the destructive power of his beauty was no joke.

Yeah, I still can’t believe that beautiful person will become my husband in the future. I have confidence in my lack of confidence, so even if he touches me like that, I still feel like I’m dreaming.

Well, it’ll work out somehow… or will it?

Feeling anxious and at ease, I decided to focus on what needed to be done and changed into my nightwear with Dora’s help. Then, I headed to Lucia’s room.

As soon as I knocked, the door opened immediately. The first thing that caught my eye was a troubled-looking maid.

“Lorraine-sama, you’ve come. I’m glad. I didn’t know what to do,” she said weakly, looking at her master sitting at the table. As expected, Lucia was writing a letter at his writing desk and seemed to be quite focused. He hadn’t noticed that I had come. I tilted my head in confusion.

When the maid said, “Please wait a moment,” she informed Lucia of my visit. However, she didn’t notice me right away. After calling out to her several times, she finally seemed to realize that I was there.

“Lorraine-oneesama…?”

Lucia turned to me with a somewhat vague expression.

“Lucia, are you okay? I was worried because you look really pale.”

Upon hearing this, Lucia quickly stood up from her chair and rushed over to me with great force, her eyes moistening as she spoke.

“I’m glad. Actually, I was thinking of consulting with Onee-sama, but it was kind of hard to get there…”

As she exhaled a sigh of relief, I stumbled a bit.

Her aura as a beautiful girl was dazzling, so dazzling. What a beautiful girl aura it was. If there were any naive young men around, they would fall in love completely, and even middle-aged men would want to protect her. That’s how shocking Lucia’s current weakened state was.

However, although I usually thought that it was good to see something beautiful, tonight for some reason, a different impression came to mind.

――I’m glad Jeremiah didn’t see this.

I was surprised by the sudden thought from a different direction. I never thought I would think such a thing.

――No, no, now is not the time to be thinking about that!

Forcibly diverting my attention from my own thoughts, I looked at Lucia, who was struggling to speak. This feeling was similar to when I talked to Dorothea, so there was probably no mistake.

Thinking that it had become troublesome, I called out to her.

“Lucia, what’s the matter?”

“Uh, um… well, you know, it’s about the servant I talked about yesterday. Today, I was really bored, so I got permission from Duchess Astorga and wandered around Duke’s mansion.”

“And then…?”

Although Lucia seemed hesitant at first, once she realized that she was being listened to properly, the words began to flow out of her.

Although the content occasionally jumped around, this is what it was about.

During the day, Lucia was bored because Mrs. Morena was not there and she couldn’t go out without permission. So, she asked Paula for permission and wandered around the Duke’s mansion. Just then, that servant appeared, so she caught him and asked him to guide her. He kindly accepted and showed her various things, such as a hallway decorated with paintings and the history of the Duke family.

He showed excellent work as a servant, preparing tea immediately when she felt hungry and bringing warm clothing when she felt cold. He continued to do so until the butler came and ordered him to work. However, she seemed to have followed him because she couldn’t bear to leave and wanted to see how he worked.

Well, I can understand that.

“He’s amazing. He deals with any rude guests…and runs around without being affected by the cold. Watching him, I feel excited and it’s very painful.”

“Y-Yeah…”

This is serious.

I started to have a headache.

“What should I do? Hey, Onee-sama, could it be that I’m in love?”

She looked at me with sparkling eyes, and I was at a loss for words. In this case, there are several possible answers.

One is to answer that it’s true and support her.

The second is to say that it’s not true and that she probably just caught a cold.

The third is to acknowledge that it’s true and then convince her that it can’t happen because of their different social status.

Now, which one should I choose?

Whichever one I choose, it will only be a sad thing for Lucia. I couldn’t help but think of Dorothea. She also fell in love with a man who was called a libertine and caused trouble because of it. In the end, it turned out to be a misunderstanding, but why do sisters fall in love with such people? No, is it because they are sisters…

I groaned inwardly as I looked at Lucia.

If she enters society in the future, she will be a beautiful lady with admirers lining up and a support group formed immediately. And yet, the person she is yearning for now is a servant of all people.

Well, marriage itself is possible, but can someone who has lived as a noble suddenly live like a commoner? That’s also questionable, even though there have been such examples before, there are no success stories.

“Lorraine-oneesama?”

Lucia called out to me curiously as I remained silent. Even that gesture was terrifyingly adorable. I couldn’t bring myself to hurt her.

Chapter 70: The true face of the servant

“S-So, I see. But those symptoms aren’t just from love, so let’s wait and see a little longer. If anything happens, tell me, and at least don’t go anywhere tomorrow.

Oh, maybe it’s a bad cold, so make sure to treat it properly if that’s the case. Otherwise, you won’t be able to go to the theater you were looking forward to, right?”

When I said that, Lucia nodded as if she understood but also seemed unsure. However, she nodded at the mention of the “theater” she was looking forward to from the bottom of her heart.

“I see. Okay then, I’ll just write a letter and go to sleep today. Thank you for worrying about me, Lorraine-oneesama.”

“It’s okay, don’t worry about it. Well then, rest well.”

“Yes, good night.”

Lucia smiled and nodded before returning to her writing desk. I told the maid to keep an eye on her and left the room, saying that if anything happened, she should let me know.

As I heard the sound of the door closing behind me, I couldn’t help but crouch down on the spot. I had lied to protect Lucia, but it was a desperate move and sounded like something a quack doctor would say.

——You, servant whose name I don’t know. And Mrs. Morena who still hasn’t arrived.

I muttered complaints in my mind and thought about it.

Anyway, this wasn’t a problem that could be solved by just me. When I returned, I would immediately send a letter to my aunt and Dorothea, then talk to that servant and explain the situation when Mrs. Morena arrived.

That’s all.

The things I had to do were decided.

No, I couldn’t do anything more than that.

“Alright, let’s do it.”

I stood up with determination and quickly returned to my room to write the details in the letter. I wrote the letter with a fierce expression (at least that’s how I imagined it in my head) and then fell asleep.

The next morning.

Jeremiah had gone out.

Mrs. Morena hadn’t arrived yet.

And worst of all, Paula had gone out. Duke-sama was working. That meant I had to handle everything alone today.

If I really were alone, my heart would have been completely broken, but I had a strong ally called Dennis.

Although I had decided to talk to her last night, I was really unsure of what to do. However, when I saw Dennis’ face in the morning, I felt like I could somehow manage it.

While deeply grateful to Jeremiah for introducing her to me, I decided to take action.

“For now, is there anyone around?”

I walked down the hallway with Dennis.

We needed to find a servant and ask for “his” whereabouts. Then Dennis said,

“Oh, that person over there is a butler.”

“It’s true. I’m sorry.”

When I called out, the butler looked a little surprised but came over right away.

“What can I do for you?”

I was at a loss for what to say to the polite butler in front of me since I didn’t know his name. Then, Dennis, who was standing a little behind me, spoke up.

“Lady Lorraine has some business with the servant Paolo. Where is he now?”

“Paolo, is it? I have ordered him to continue yesterday’s work, but shall I call him for you?”

“Yes, please. Lady and I are in the guest room over there.”

“Understood. Please wait a moment.”

The butler gracefully bowed and left. I stood there speechless since I had tried to go by myself. However, Dennis seemed to have already found out the servant’s name. She looked at me and grinned.

“Gathering information about enemies is essential for escort duties. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask. If there is something I don’t know, I will definitely investigate and show you.

Well then, let’s go to the guest room. I’ll prepare the fireplace.”

“Yes.”

I couldn’t say anything in response to his sudden ominous words and his smile that seemed to be plotting something. So, I just nodded obediently.

After a while, when the room had warmed up a bit, there was a knock on the door.

“I have brought him.”

“Please come in.”

With the voice, the door opened and that handsome butler – Dennis, according to the information, his name is Paolo Hübner – came in. His well-groomed appearance was still so beautiful that I couldn’t help but be mesmerized.

“Excuse me. Lady Lorraine, what can I do for you?”

His blue eyes, which seemed to be smiling even though he wasn’t, turned towards me. I couldn’t help but stare at his face out of habit and quickly closed my lips in embarrassment.

“I have something to discuss. If it’s okay with you, please leave him alone with us.”

“Yes.”

The butler glanced briefly at Paolo with a puzzled expression before leaving the room. When his footsteps could no longer be heard, I thought about where to start.

There were many things I wanted to ask, but first, I needed to settle things about Lucia.

“I never thought you would call me first.”

“…What?”

I was surprised when he suddenly spoke to me in such a casual tone.

Since I was born into the aristocratic society, only my brother had ever spoken to me like that.

“You should know your place.”

Dennis immediately approached Paolo and threatened him with a low voice from close range. However, Paolo remained calm and cool.

“We don’t have such a thing in the country where we lived. Well, if you don’t like it, we can change it…?”

“Who do you think you’re talking to…”

“It’s okay, Denny. I knew it was like this.”

I put my hand on my forehead and sighed involuntarily.

If he had lived in modern-day Japan like me, there would certainly be no such thing as social status.

I didn’t intend to start with that topic, but there was no other way. I looked straight at Paolo.

“What do you mean by ‘I knew it’?”

Dennis still didn’t seem convinced.

If I didn’t explain it properly, we wouldn’t be able to have a conversation.

While looking at Paolo, I told Dennis:

“…He also has memories like me, and he lived in the same country and era as me.”

Chapter 71: Memory Holders

“What, what did you say? I can’t believe it…”

Dennis exclaimed in surprise at my words. Paolo nodded as if it was expected and said,

“It’s true. I was also surprised at first, but I never thought that such a person would exist in this country, so I was happy.”

As he said, Paolo looked happy.

Actually, I couldn’t believe it just from his words. But after eating that ohagi, I became convinced. If it weren’t for that, I would still be skeptical. But…

“But how did you know that I’m [that]?”

I asked, and Paolo answered with a smile.

“It’s simple. It’s the [Supporters Group]… The philosophy of that club is just like an idol fan club or a fanatical group, right? I thought that only people who [retain memories] would start something like that.”

“Well, but you don’t know for sure. There might be someone who came up with such an idea.”

“Well, yeah, so I investigated.”

“But, investigating is not that easy.”

Why is it so easy for Dennis and Paolo to obtain people’s information? Come to think of it, Jeremiah said he had investigated me too. Is there so much information leaking out? If so, it might be better to manage it more carefully.

This is practically no privacy at all.

As I inwardly turned blue or became indignant, Paolo continued.

“I originally had a different job, not as a servant, but I couldn’t stand it anymore. Since many noble ladies were running the [Support Group], I thought that the person who created it was probably also a noble lady. So, I became a servant and investigated. That’s how I found you.”

I see.

It’s very easy to understand and completely correct. Is his head smart or am I just stupid? I feel empty thinking that it’s probably the latter.

“So…”

“That’s right. Well, I was planning to tell you someday, but I didn’t expect you to come to me first. Did you want to talk about your hometown? Oh yeah, do you remember my question?”

Of course, I remember. The shock from that dinner cannot be forgotten. What happened after with Jeremiah is even more unforgettable.

“Of course, there are things I want to eat. But since I was born and raised in this country, I don’t have that much desire for it. Above all, it can’t be reproduced.”

I do remember the taste to some extent, enough to recognize it when eating ohagi. There were some favorite foods, but my body doesn’t remember them well, so the desire for them is not strong.

“At first, I had given up too, but I wanted to remember it after all. I tried a little harder… I asked a friend who is a cook to research it, but I want you to try it too.”

“Is there such a thing?”

The completion level of the ohagi served at that banquet was quite high. If that’s the case, something quite similar might be available to eat. Out of curiosity and expectation, I leaned forward without thinking.

“Oh, if you’re interested, I’ll take you there next time… Oh, and the guard over there can come too. They’ve added it to the menu of that restaurant and it’s quite popular.”

“I definitely want to go. That ohagi from that night was your prototype, wasn’t it?”

When I asked, Paolo nodded proudly.

“Yeah. I think I did pretty well myself. There are quite a few materials in this world that are similar to over there, so I thought maybe… How was it? Was it good?”

“It was really good. If only there was some tea to go with it…”

As I was about to say that, I realized that I had completely forgotten the main topic. The reason why I asked him to come here was not to talk about Japanese food.

——No, I did want to talk about it someday, but right now, Lucia has a higher priority.

“Oh, I understand. But even though there are teas similar to black tea, they’re too bitter to drink without processing. There might be something in another place rather than this country though.”

“Y-yes, well… um…”

“Actually, aren’t you more knowledgeable about that kind of thing? As a noble, you must have tasted various luxury items.”

Asked in a questioning tone, I lose the opportunity to start the conversation. That’s because there was a change in his demeanor, which had been cheerful until then. Especially the weight of the word “noble” was a dark one that didn’t match his image at all.

“…Unfortunately, I rarely eat foreign things. My father doesn’t like luxury.”

“Oh, he’s a good person.”

Paolo said so and looked complicated for a moment, then fell silent. It was an awkward atmosphere, and it was difficult to speak up, but I decided to bring up the main topic here because if I didn’t say it now, I might not be able to say it again.

“…You know, I called you today because I had a request. You were followed by a girl who came with me yesterday, weren’t you?”

“Oh, yeah. I was surprised when some gorgeous girl looked over here, but it’s common, so I ignored or dealt with it casually. What about it? Was she your companion?”

His words made me feel indescribable.

As expected, it seems to be a common occurrence. Well, Jeremiah said something similar, so maybe people who look good have similar experiences to some extent.

Above all, he is such a handsome man that even I, who is superficial, give him my seal of approval, so it’s only natural.

“That girl seems to have feelings for you. I’m a little troubled about it…”

“Oh, I see.”

Paolo nodded and smiled, but for some reason, my spine began to chill. When I looked into his eyes, he wasn’t smiling at all. On the contrary, he seemed angry.

“So you’re a noble after all. When you say you’re troubled, it means you’re worried about what will happen if your companion lady gets involved with a man of a different status, right?”

I somehow understood what he was trying to say.

There is a class system in this country. However, the country we were previously in did not have such a system.

With his memories intact and being born into the working class, he may have had many unpleasant experiences that were different from me, who was born into the nobility.

I sighed and said.

Chapter 72: Overlapping thoughts

“Um, I don’t really care about social status.”

“What?”

Paolo seemed momentarily confused and spoke in a silly voice, but I continued without paying attention.

“Social status doesn’t matter to me. But when it comes to marriage and such, I think it’s better for you to avoid it indirectly until you reach the age where you can enter society… Is that okay?”

As I asked, Paolo looked at me with a bewildered expression. Since he didn’t answer right away, I became anxious and asked again.

“I-Is it possible that you’re aiming for a marriage of convenience?”

“…Hahaha!”

Despite my confusion, Paolo started laughing for some reason. I secretly looked at Dennis, who seemed incredibly angry and had a face that could be taken down at any moment. I quickly averted my gaze and asked him.

“Why are you laughing?”

“Well, I just thought that I was the one who was trapped in this country.”

“…What?”

I tilted my head because I didn’t understand what he meant.

“People say you’re weird, don’t they?”

“Yeah. But the people around me know that I have memories, so they overlook it and are always willing to correct me if I’m wrong…”

Actually, I couldn’t really feel the concept of social class. Even if I was taught that things should be done a certain way here, I couldn’t nod my head right away because it seemed to lack rationality. However, as I grew up, I got used to it and now I rarely hear about it.

“That’s right. But don’t you think this way? In this world or country, things that are considered wrong may be the opposite in the country we came from, and the way of thinking in this country may be considered wrong. So which one is right?”

“Well…”

“You’ve never thought about it, have you?”

He asked me in a different way than before when I hesitated to answer. Although he had a smile on his face, I could feel the pressure that he wouldn’t tolerate any nonsense, and as a timid person, I felt a little scared of him.

However, I understood that feeling well.

So I answered honestly.

“Of course, I’ve thought about it. But I thought it was useless just to think about it. After all, what one person can do is limited, so I thought it would be better to accept it and think about what to do with it. I’m not that smart, and I don’t have abundant knowledge from my past life…”

“Well, that’s probably true. I’m similar… yeah, you can’t do anything alone.”

Paolo said with a slightly wry smile, then let out a big sigh and scratched his head, saying, “Ah.”

“Sorry, it turned into a dark story. I used to talk about this kind of thing with people who had similar memories in the same class, but there was no one born in modern-day Japan, so I ended up saying unnecessary things.”

“Don’t worry, I was happy to hear it too.”

In fact, I finally realized how grateful it is to be able to understand nuances and even words without having to explain what I know, just by being born here.

He must have been in a similar situation.

“I see, that’s good then.”

“Yeah, but please take care of Lucia.”

“Ah, I got it. But I can’t handle it while I’m working, so you’ll have to do something about it.”

I nodded.

Of course, I had no confidence that I could do anything about it, but I intended to somehow figure it out. If I couldn’t, Lucia would be in trouble. Since I had taken responsibility for her, I wanted to avoid any trouble.

“I’ll do my best. Well then, I’ll definitely go to that shop someday. Um, what’s the name of the shop?”

“I’ll guide you when the time comes, so look forward to it.”

“Got it. Oh, you should probably get back to work now.”

Thinking that I had talked for a long time, I said so, and Paolo returned to the bright smile he showed at first and answered.

“Don’t worry about it. I enjoyed talking too, and to tell you the truth, it’s still not enough.”

I felt the same way, but the servants should be quite busy. Currently, we are the only guests visiting this mansion, but nobles who came to participate in the parliament being held in the capital city also come to this mansion.

There must be a need to handle that.

If you want to talk more, you can go to the store he mentioned.

“I had fun too. Well then, see you.”

Thinking it would be bad to keep him any longer, I said that to send him off. Then, he changed his demeanor in an instant.

“Yes, my lady. Excuse me then.”

He bowed elegantly with movements that were truly like those of a servant of the Duke family and left through the door. I was mesmerized by his gesture and became absent-minded. Although I didn’t feel it much while talking, he was still a handsome man.

Unlike Jeremiah, there was nothing bad for my heart, but I couldn’t help but admire him. Then, I heard a cough from behind. When I turned around fearfully, I met Dennis’s expressionless eyes.

She said in a low voice while still angry.

“Lady Lorraine… I didn’t say anything as you ordered, but I don’t like it. Just because you are from the same hometown doesn’t mean I’ll allow such language,” Dennis said, with bitterness overflowing from every corner.

Feeling pressured by Dennis’s attitude, I smiled vaguely and said, “I’m sorry. But it’s true that I felt relieved because you were there. Thank you.”

Dennis looked surprised when I sincerely apologized for causing her unpleasant feelings, as it is not appropriate for a noblewoman to speak to a servant in such a way. After all, I am in a superior position and they are in a serving position, so it is not acceptable. However, I still wanted to say it.

“I trust you. So please continue to help me from now on.”

Chapter 73: Invitation from Paula

“Y-yes, understood.”

Dennis nods in confusion. It seems like the area under her eyes is slightly red, but I decided not to dwell on it too much.

I didn’t want to cause too much confusion.

“Well then, I’ll go back to my room for now.”

“Yes.”

Dennis nods and walks in front of me. She still seems a bit awkward, but she heads towards the room while keeping an eye on her surroundings as usual. Watching her back, I decided to continue writing the letter.

I had planned to send it out earlier, but I was too tired yesterday and only managed to write the part for Dorothea.

Anyway, I was able to accomplish the main goal of “settling things with Paolo.” I smiled inwardly, feeling relieved and decided to take it easy for a while.

However, it wasn’t going to be that easy.

“Lorraine, can I talk to you for a moment?

I heard that the Duchess of Borj is holding a night party to kick off the social season in five days. I thought I’d buy something small since we’re going anyway. Come with me since I’m going out now.”

Paula suddenly visited my room just before noon and said that.

“…A night party, you say?”

I stopped my hand, which was scribbling on paper with a pen, and looked at Paula with a puzzled expression.

“W-Well, that’s sudden.”

“I told Jeremiah to tell you about it. Did he not?”

I had absolutely no idea.

However, it’s unlikely that Jeremiah would forget to mention something like this. There must be a reason.

I immediately realized what it was. After all, my head was so full of Lucia yesterday that I felt like screaming that I would explode if anything else was added.

Even this morning, I had to muster all my courage to finally talk to Paolo. It’s not hard to imagine how he judged my state of mind.

“Yes. I had a few things going on yesterday, so I’m sure he was just being considerate.”

“Well, whatever. Anyway, both of you come with me. You’re temporarily chaperoning her, and since I’m here to accompany you, there’s no problem,” she said with a very pleasant expression.

In my mind, memories of being mentally beaten up in a carriage vividly resurface. Even though I understand that it’s true, there’s a world of difference between criticizing myself and being told by others. It’s a memory that I felt too much to the point where it was ingrained in me.

However, I couldn’t refuse.

Above all, it was a great opportunity to distract Lucia’s attention.

“Y-Yes. We’ll prepare right away.”

“Fufufu, I’ll change that hat that looks like a lump of dust into a proper lady’s hat. And that girl with that too embarrassing outfit, yes, tomorrow I’ll call the people from the shop that I favor to make her clothes. Is that okay?”

“Y-Yes.”

If someone with such a terrifyingly beautiful smile approached me like this, I had no choice but to nod like a puppet once again.

I secretly thought that this must be how it feels to be stared at by a goddess.

“I’ll tell her later.”

“Okay~.”

Paula gave me a satisfied smile as if I was completely stared down by a snake, or rather a goddess, and left in a swashbuckling manner.

An unbearable silence descended in the room.

However, Dora, the maid who heard it, suddenly shouted, “Oh, changing clothes! We need to prepare clothes for going out.”

Yes, that’s right. Changing clothes again… It’s such a hassle, I thought while taking a deep breath. It felt like a storm had come. My mood was like a scattered tree.

I regained my composure and returned to the letter.

I really wanted to write to my family too, but I didn’t have time, so I decided to write only to Dorothea.

When I finished writing, I headed to Lucia’s room. As usual, I attracted her attention by saying that we were going to see a play and went to see the clothes and accessories for it. Then we made a promise and had some light refreshments.

After changing clothes, we followed Paula’s invitation and went to the city of the royal capital with Lucia and Dennis.

When I went outside, the scenery of the capital city was not much different from yesterday when I went out with Jeremiah.

Unlike yesterday, the sun was out and it was a little warmer.

In the midst of that, we got on a large and luxurious carriage and arrived at a street lined with shops in no time. I was impressed by how comfortable the ride was.

After Dennis dropped us off, Lucia and I followed Paula to the shop. There weren’t many people on the street, but occasionally there were gentlemen and ladies.

Because it was cold, I wrapped a large woolen stole around myself as I entered the shop.

Inside the shop was much warmer than outside, and there were many hats lined up.

“Wow, amazing…so beautiful,” Lucia murmured in a manner of speaking.

Even a maiden in love couldn’t help but be fascinated by this sight. Her eyes were sparkling. For now, I felt relieved that she seemed to be okay for a while and looked at the hats too.

From extravagant ones decorated with many artificial flowers to those adorned with colorful bird feathers, the elaborate hats were enjoyable just to look at.

I used to visit places like Dorothea’s often, but I never bought anything. Of course, it was because I didn’t want to stand out.

Then Paula looked towards the back of the shop and said, “I have a long-standing relationship with the owner of this shop. She’s very skilled…she’ll definitely make something that suits you.”

“Eh, don’t we choose from what’s here?” Lucia said in surprise, and Paula looked disappointed and said incredulously.

Chapter 74: Awkward reunion

“I can’t do something as embarrassing as buying something that already exists. The good thing is, we are the ones who create trends. We have to be role models for other people in this country.”

“…R-Role models, you say?”

Lucia asked in a puzzled tone.

As for me, I understood Lucia’s feelings well as her mouth twitched. No matter how you look at it, it’s too much of a burden.

Moreover, those words are probably directed towards me. Thinking that, it made me feel sick to my stomach. I said I would do my best to become suitable for Jeremiah, but there are things that humans can and cannot do. It’s impossible for me even if it takes a lifetime. So I decided not to ask.

“Yes, role models… Lorraine has already gathered some things before, so let’s start with you, Lady Lucia. I’ll introduce you to the shopkeeper.”

With that said, Paula quickly disappeared into the back of the store.

Watching her back, Lucia whispered to me.

“Lady Astorga is an amazing person, isn’t she?”

I sensed various meanings behind her words and nodded with the same twitching smile as her.

“Yeah, I thought I understood it, but I feel like I’ve been reminded again.”

However, this is still on the cute side.

It’s nothing compared to when I was showered with abusive language by a goddess who had a face and figure almost identical to Jeremiah’s.

I’ve been criticized for having a strange way of thinking every time I meet her. Moreover, she’s saying it all out of goodwill.

Well, even though I know that, it’s still troublesome that it doesn’t seem that way.

Soon, we heard cheers from the back, and footsteps heading towards us. Lucia and I turned our attention in that direction.

Then, a cheerful young woman appeared with Paula.

“Let me introduce you. This is Miss Marisa Sabino, the owner of this shop.”

“Nice to meet you, Ojo-sama.”

Miss Marisa, the shop owner, smiled and had beautiful features similar to Paula’s despite being around the same age. She had chestnut-colored hair tied back in a bundle and slightly drooping gray-green eyes. She was wearing a sturdy brown dress that looked like work clothes.

——If she dressed up, she would be quite beautiful…

However, I thought it was such a waste for her to be running a hat shop in a place like this, but people are free to choose whatever profession they want.

However, I quietly made up my mind.

——When buying hats in the capital city, I’ll come here.

“So, Lady Astorga, which one should we start with? Since neither of them has anything suitable for the upcoming season, I think we need a few things.”

“Yes, of course. But Lady Lorraine has a few things on hand. So let’s start with this one.”

When Paula pointed to Lucia, Miss Marisa said, “Certainly,” and picked up some nearby hats. After putting them on Lucia and looking at her, she hesitated for a moment.

I just watched her with pleasure.

Thinking that it was like watching a play, suddenly Miss Marisa’s eyes widened.

“I got it! I got it! Come here quickly. We need to draw a design right away. Lady Astorga, please come too. I want your advice. Come on, come on.”

With a laughter that sounded like a chuckle from the back of her throat, Miss Marisa grabbed Lucia’s arm tightly and began to drag her towards the back of the shop.

The cheerful and gentle beauty disappeared, replaced by the appearance of an artist who had been possessed by something.

I was intimidated by her behavior.

“Uh, um, wait a minute, Lorraine-oneesama!”

“Lucia, do your best.”

I easily abandoned Lucia, who had come seeking help. Lucia had eyes like a lamb being taken far away, but it was impossible for me to rescue her.

Eventually, when Lucia disappeared into the back of the store, Paula said, “Lorraine, I’m sorry, but could you wait a little bit? Well, it shouldn’t take too long in that state.”

“Oh, sure. I understand.”

Nodding, Paula disappeared into the back of the store with an aura of hesitation. Left behind, I sat on the chair and admired the numerous beautiful hats.

“I wonder how I would look if I wore something like this?”

Handsome idols and people with superior looks can pull off strange outfits to some extent and still look good, but I feel like it would be awkward for someone like me. Well, maybe I could make it work if I dressed up, but if I wore something with those big bird feathers sticking out, it would definitely look ridiculous.

I hope nothing weird happens, I thought as I absentmindedly watched the people outside. Suddenly, a familiar figure passed by in front of the store. He also noticed me and widened his eyes.

For a moment, we stared at each other.

I froze and thought about whether or not to say something, but the other person’s stiffness dissipated faster.

“Well, what a coincidence?”

“…Yes.”

With a little caution in my response, the passerby, Emilio, gave a wry smile.

“You don’t have to be so guarded. Besides, you have excellent guards with you, don’t you?”

As I unconsciously looked at the carriage in response to his words, I saw Dennis, who had a terrifying expression, coming towards us at a brisk pace.

The carriage we had ridden in was parked in a place that wouldn’t obstruct the store. It was a little far away, and Dennis had been waiting there.

Eventually, Dennis came to my side and stared coldly at Emilio, who refused to leave. During this time, I felt a strange pressure from her silent presence, which should have been protecting me.

But the presence in front of me was even more nerve-wracking than Dennis. To be honest, I wanted to hide behind Dennis’ back like I did when we last met.

But I couldn’t do that here. The other party was being polite, and Dennis was there too.

‘Get a grip,’ I told myself.

While I hesitated, the two of them engaged in a silent battle. There was no way Dennis would back down from a staring contest, and Emilio smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

Then he looked at me and said, “I want to talk for a bit since you seem bored.”

As he said that, his face, which had a certain dangerousness different from his brother’s, was directed straight at me. His eyes looked a little lonely.

Why was he looking at me with such eyes?

I didn’t really understand, but I told myself to get a grip and opened my mouth.

Chapter 75: Incident Encounter

“I don’t mind if it’s just a little bit. However, I can’t stay long because I have company with me, and I don’t want to talk about anything too strange.”

Although I had been exposing my true self lately, I put on the mask of a familiar smile. Otherwise, I would have quickly hidden behind Dennis’s back, remembering what happened back then.

Emilio nodded with a strangely refreshing smile, whether he realized it or not.

“Of course, I won’t say anything strange. But I’m glad… I thought you hated me, to be honest. When we met a little while ago, you didn’t even respond to me properly.”

Emilio said this with a relieved and genuinely happy expression.

This is the rumored bewitching smile.

It certainly has considerable destructive power. He used it to deceive women in the capital by pretending to be Aurelio and seducing them one after another.

Well, I’m still a woman, so I can understand how the women who were seduced by him must have felt. Just by smiling, he emits an unusual amount of sex appeal. Aurelio didn’t have this. However, I said that I wouldn’t lose to the sex appeal of a playboy.

“Yes, that’s right, um, oh, at that time, my voice was weird because of a cold.”

I thought to myself what a stupid lie it was, but once said, it couldn’t be taken back. Emilio suddenly became aware and approached me with a questioning look, getting a little closer to gauge my reaction.

I almost recoiled at the sight of his beautiful face.

The structure of this shop is so annoying.

The door is wide open so that the hats displayed inside can be seen clearly. It’s probably because it’s a busy street. Sitting on the chair placed there, there is no wall separating me from the passersby.

“That’s too bad. Are you okay now?”

“Yes, I’m fine. Please don’t worry about it.”

“That’s impossible. You’re a very lovely woman. If you were suffering, I would be too.”

I thought to myself what a guy he was.

It’s even worse because he looks so sad. Everyone has fallen for this kind of thing. It’s not just about looks anymore. It’s about behavior and actions. What a smooth talker, what a womanizer.

The name “Casanova” came to mind in my head.

I never thought I would meet someone like him in this way, someone I thought I would never have anything to do with in my life. You never know what will happen in life.

Actually, I doubted if there really were living Casanovas, but it turns out there are. The world is full of surprises.

While thinking about unnecessary things, I replied, “W-Well, then I’ll be careful about my health from now on.”

“Please do. Oh, by the way, not only your health, but I don’t recommend going out for a while.”

“Huh? Why is that?”

When I asked, Emilio raised one eyebrow and tilted his head slightly away with a puzzled look. I couldn’t help but feel relieved.

“Haven’t you read the newspaper? The capital has been dangerous lately, especially places where the upper class gathers.”

“Oh, you mean the explosion incident.”

I nodded, remembering what Duke Astorga had said. Certainly, Jeremiah had also warned me to be careful. However, today was Paula’s invitation, so I thought it would be okay.

“Well, there haven’t been any deaths so far, but we don’t know what will happen. Above all, I don’t want you to get hurt.”

Somehow, Emilio’s behavior had been strange since earlier.

I was confused about how to react and silently frowned at him while he looked back at me.

As we stared at each other for some reason and my head became even more confused, a voice came from the back of the store.

“It’s your turn soon, Lorraine…”

Then, Paula came over to me on her own initiative. She frowned as she saw the incomprehensible scene unfolding before her, then came over to me with a charming smile.

I let out a small scream inside.

This smile is just like Jeremiah’s. It’s a smile that doesn’t show any joy in the eyes, but is shown when one is deeply frustrated.

“Oh, if it isn’t the officer with no morals. Do you have any business with my cute future sister-in-law?”

“No, I was just passing by and wanted to say hello.”

“I see. Well, you’ve done that now. Isn’t it against manners to stay here any longer?”

Although Emilio should be taller than Paula, they look almost the same height. Emilio smiled wryly at Paula.

“Of course, I got Lady Lorraine’s permission. But if I’m bothering you, I’ll take my leave for today.”

“I see.”

Paula nodded with a smile. Even Emilio seemed to be taken aback by her intimidating smile. He looked at me regretfully and was about to say goodbye.

It was at that moment when I thought I should say something.

A tremendous explosion sounded from a building quite far from the hat shop.

There was no time to scream.

As I stared in disbelief at the trembling air and rising dust, people started running towards us from the direction of the building after a short pause.

Finally, some people started screaming.

“Damn, we didn’t make it in time.”

Emilio muttered under his breath, gritting his teeth and staring at the point of the explosion.

“That place was where a tea shop that even the upper class gathered at was located.”

Then Paula said with a stern expression.

Her words brought a certain image to my mind. I trembled involuntarily at the thought. If we had stopped by there for tea after visiting the hat shop and had time, we could have been caught up in it too. In other words, there was a possibility that we were also involved in it.

Chapter 76: No going out

As far as scale goes, it wasn’t a significant explosion.

I don’t think there will be any fatalities, as it was just like a firework exploding, but there was still a possibility of serious injury, so it was scary enough.

“Well, let’s stay here until we calm down a bit and then go home today. Honestly, what is the police doing?”

As Paula said that, she placed her hand on my shoulder. I felt a strange sense of relief from her touch, and I was finally able to catch my breath.

Then, when I looked around, Dennis was staring at the site of the explosion with a stern expression. She must be prepared for anything. Her presence is also very reassuring to me.

Then, Emilio, who had been looking at the building with regretful eyes until then, spoke up.

“…Lady Lorraine. I’m sorry, but I have work to do, so I’ll excuse myself. I’ll apologize when we meet again. Well then.”

He gave a proper military salute and hurriedly left. He’s a soldier, so it seems like he wouldn’t have much involvement in this kind of situation, but I wonder if there’s some reason behind it.

I silently watched his back without being able to return his greeting.

After that, we waited as Paula suggested until the chaos subsided and then returned to the Duke’s mansion.

“Lorraine!”

As soon as I returned, I ran into Jeremiah, who had already come back, and before I could even say anything, he hugged me. It was quite a strong hug, and I almost let out a frog-like voice, but as a lady, I held it in with all my might. However, I couldn’t even speak while the embrace continued.

Although I was happy that he was worried about me, my spine was a little sore.

In addition, the piercing gaze on my back was also painful.

“Jeremiah, that’s enough. Your beloved Lorraine is about to suffocate.”

Paula’s exasperated voice finally made Jeremiah loosen his grip, but the embrace still didn’t end. I thought that I wouldn’t run away even if he didn’t hold me so tightly and tried to breathe.

“I know, but…I heard about the situation. I never thought that even such a place would be targeted. Nee-san should also avoid going out.”

“Yes, you’re right. But it’s frustrating. It feels like we lost somehow.”

“It’s not about winning or losing. And Lorraine and Lady Lucia shouldn’t leave Duke’s mansion.”

Suddenly being banned from going out, I widened my eyes in surprise. However, now that he mentioned it, it might not be a good idea to wander around dangerous places.

But if that’s the case, then coming here seems pointless.

Perhaps, until this situation is somewhat resolved, events will have to be canceled or postponed.

It’s unfortunate, but there’s nothing we can do about it.

“Well, there’s nothing we can do. As long as these two are here, I won’t be bored.”

Paula’s eyes were directed towards me and Lucia. It wasn’t a mistake that they sparkled a little. While sighing that I would become like a dress-up doll, I said:

“Anyway, why don’t we move from here? It’s cold.”

Everyone nodded in agreement.

After discussing our plans for the future in a different location, we each went to our rooms to change for dinner.

Jeremiah naturally followed us on the way to the room.

He had a somewhat gloomy expression as he spoke.

“I can’t believe something like this is happening in the capital. What could be the purpose of doing such a thing, especially targeting places where the upper class gathers?”

It seemed like the work of someone who held a grudge against the upper class. Well, there were actually people who did things to earn such grudges, but this seemed different.

“Anyway, don’t go out. I can’t bear to think what would happen if something happened to you…”

Jeremiah stopped and let out a big sigh. His expression looked tired, and it made my chest feel heavy too. So I spoke honestly.

“I feel the same way. Jeremiah, can’t you reduce your outings even a little?”

Just as Jeremiah was worried about me, I was also worried about him. I wanted him to spend more time by my side and not go out too much. I looked into his eyes as I spoke.

Then, a surprised expression appeared on his face.

“…You really are something.”

As he muttered happily to himself, my arm was pulled tightly. Once again, I was in Jeremiah’s arms without understanding the reason, repeating “why” in my head.

I was just worried about him in a very ordinary way, so why was I getting this kind of reaction? If you like someone, isn’t it natural to worry about them?

“Do you want me to be by your side that much?”

“N-No, it’s not like that! I do want you by my side, but if Jeremiah were to get involved in something…”

As I stumbled over my words, Jeremiah whispered in my ear while still holding me.

“I understand. Then, except for when I have something important to do, I’ll try to be by your side as much as possible. It will also make me feel more at ease.”

That’s true, but I can’t help feeling like we’re misunderstanding each other. Well, if he’s going to be by my side, then I’ll feel more at ease too. It’s also nice to be able to watch him from up close, but I still can’t quite accept it.

“Besides, we still haven’t fulfilled our promise to read a book together. Well, since I originally intended to be by your side as much as possible, I don’t think it will change much, but let’s adjust our schedules a bit more.”

“Still, I’m glad.”

I just want to be with him for even a little bit.

As I said that from the bottom of my heart, Jeremiah let out a ticklish laugh. We laughed together for a while.

Finally, I thought that today had gone well.

Then I remembered.

There was one more thing that I had to say properly. If I didn’t say it, he would definitely get angry. So I decided that I should say it and opened my mouth.

Chapter 77: At Supper

“Um, so, I forgot to mention earlier, but I actually met Lieutenant Colonel Caldelara again today.”

Jeremiah’s expression changed to one of displeasure in an instant. I wondered if he would get angry, but I had to report it anyway.

“Well, Lady Astorga was there too, so nothing happened, but his behavior was a bit concerning.”

“Concerning…?”

Yes, when the explosion happened, Emilio said it himself. He said regretfully that he “didn’t make it in time.” In other words, he must be involved in some way with that incident. I tried to convey this to Jeremiah as best as I could.

It may have been difficult to understand due to the mixed situation explanation, but Jeremiah listened carefully.

After finishing my story, I felt calm and thought to myself that I liked this side of him.

“I see, I understand what you’re trying to say. If I have the opportunity, I can tell my acquaintance who is involved with the police. However, since that man belongs to the navy, he may be moving in that direction.”

“Maybe so.”

While nodding in response to Jeremiah’s words, I felt relieved that I was able to say what I needed to say. Because of the incident at the bookstore, I wanted to at least let Emilio know that I had met him.

If I stay silent, I feel somehow guilty. Of course, there is nothing to feel guilty about, but it’s strange.

“I’m glad you told me. You should rest a bit…you must be tired?”

“No, I’m fine.”

Certainly, it was scary, but I didn’t feel tired.

That’s because I wasn’t teased by Paula and the hat shop owner. By the way, Lucia, who was teased, looked a bit tired.

“I’ll change clothes right away. I don’t want to be late for dinner.”

“I see. Then should we stay up a bit tonight? There’s no need to go out tomorrow, so I can be by your side.”

The moment I heard those words, my face involuntarily lit up. We haven’t been together much lately. I was a little dissatisfied because I thought we could talk about various things while looking at his beloved face, but we couldn’t do much. So my face smiled on its own.

“Really? That makes me happy.”

While it may be bad for my heart to be by his side, it was still very happy for me to be close to him.

Then, Jeremiah suddenly turned to the side and put his hand on his mouth. Did I say something strange?

“What’s wrong?”

“No, it’s nothing.”

“You don’t seem like it’s nothing though?”

What should I do? Maybe I should have been more excited. He said he would be with me after all. He must have managed his time for me. But as I was thinking about how to convey my feelings, Jeremiah muttered softly.

“Yeah, I just want to get married soon.”

“…?”

I became even more confused and tilted my head. His usually sharp eyes seemed a little red. When Jeremiah noticed that I was looking at him, he coughed deliberately and said,

“It’s cold talking here. Shall we go back and change?”

“Oh, yeah, that’s a good idea. My room is nearby, so I’ll go there and then come down when I’m done. Please wait for me.”

“Got it.”

I watched Jeremiah’s slightly awkward figure as he returned my smile and then headed towards Dora’s room, swearing to myself that I would be excited next time.

There was still some time until dinner, so after changing clothes, I gathered in the living room with Jeremiah, Paula, and Lucia to talk about the day. Soon after, Duke Astorga arrived, and the butler came to call us to move to the dining room.

No matter how many times I see it, the dining room of this Duke’s mansion is amazing.

Of course, even on informal days like today, various arrangements are made for the meals served. Above all, it’s amazing that different dishes are served every day because ingredients are gathered from all over the capital.

And they’re all delicious.

As we enjoyed our meal today, the Duke began to talk about what happened that day.

“That was quite a disaster. I’m glad everyone is safe.”

“Really. But why can’t they catch the culprit? We’ll be laughed at by other countries if this continues.”

As Paula said this, she took a sip of wine with a dissatisfied expression. She looks good in red, I thought as I was tempted to take a sip too. It’s refreshing and goes well with meat.

“Our country’s police are making efforts, but the opponent is cunning. According to what I heard, the explosives were very sophisticated and beyond our country’s technology.”

“Then there’s a possibility that other countries are involved?”

“No, our country’s technology is quite high in the world. It’s better to consider other possibilities.”

In response to Jeremiah’s question, the Duke answered with a bitter expression.

I thought to myself that perhaps he was a human born in the same era as me and reincarnated here. Of course, it would be impossible for someone like me who has no knowledge or skills, but there may be others who are not like me…

Despite thinking that, I just listened without saying anything since it was just a mere imagination.

Eventually, the Duke and Jeremiah’s conversation gradually shifted towards politics, and it became incomprehensible to me.

“Gentlemen always end up talking about such things. Well, that’s fine. Oh, Lorraine.”

When I was called out, I had food in my mouth and couldn’t answer immediately. I quickly swallowed it, but Paula spoke first.

“Today’s plans were ruined because of that incident, but we decided to invite Miss Marisa here tomorrow. Since tomorrow won’t be a workday anyway and you can’t go out, you’ll have free time, won’t you?”

Although it was in the form of a question, there was no choice in Paula’s words. I could only vaguely nod in response.

Chapter 78: Finally here

“Well, it certainly is boring.”

“I agree, so tomorrow I’ll have the hat made again here. And let’s call the tailor too. It will probably take a few days, so it’s a good way to kill time… fufu, I’m looking forward to it.”

“Haha, yes, that’s true.”

As I answered, I glanced at Lucia and saw her sending me a pleading look with a face that seemed annoyed.

I’m sorry Lucia. I have no way to stop this beautiful goddess.

So instead of answering, I shook my head with a resigned expression. Lucia then looked despairing and stabbed her fork into the meat with resentment before eating it with great force. She was binge eating. I hoped she wouldn’t need stomach medicine later, but I continued to nod vaguely in response to Paula’s cheerful conversation.

Eventually, it was time for dessert and the meal was over.

After waiting for the right moment, Jeremiah and I talked a little and then decided to retire to our rooms for the day.

Jeremiah said it was better that way.

It felt like the day had gone by too quickly, but in reality, there had been too much going on today. When I returned to my room and had Dora help me change clothes, I finally felt the exhaustion hit me.

In my heart, I thanked Jeremiah as I crawled into bed and quickly fell asleep.

After breakfast, I thought that I wouldn’t be caught by Paula so soon, so I was in the library of the Duke’s mansion with Jeremiah.

As we talked about the contents of the books we had bought and the ones we wanted to read but didn’t have at hand, Dennis, who was waiting near the entrance, said something.

“Jeremiah-sama, Lady Lorraine, someone has arrived.”

“Hmm, I wonder who it could be?”

As I muttered that and looked around where Dennis was, I heard a voice.

“Oh, there you are, Lorraine-oneesama.”

“Lucia? What’s wrong? Did something happen?”

“Well, actually, Mrs. Morena has finally arrived!”

Lucia, who seemed to have run over, said happily with her cheeks flushed. Her eyes were shining, and I let out a sigh of admiration in my heart. It was like a pale-colored flower that had just bloomed and was still dewy. She still had an innocent look about her and wasn’t overly dressed up, which made her overflowing with neatness.

However, I didn’t understand why Lucia was so happy. Did she miss Mrs. Morena that badly? It’s possible that she has a good relationship with her chaperone, but I thought her way of expressing joy was strange…and then I realized.

Jeremiah is also here.

Without a doubt, I became scared of what Lucia might be thinking after seeing his current state.

However, I still wanted to know, so I quietly looked at his face.

Then, he looked over at me. He looked a little happy, and my heart started beating faster even though I had been calm until then.

“That’s good to hear. Now you can finally be free.

“Y-Yes, that’s right.”

He gave me a smile with some hidden meaning, and I couldn’t give a proper response. I didn’t want him to make that kind of face. It was true that the shackles were now gone, and if the situation in the capital was resolved, we could go out together anytime. But just imagining it made my heart race even more.

In a way, it might have been better to have been decided as Paula’s toy. At least I should be able to prevent being made a fool of just by my appearance.

“Fufu, now Lorraine-oneesama is finally free too. Well then, that’s all I wanted to say. Oh, but I’ll greet you later, so take care.”

“Y-Yes, okay.”

I nodded in agreement to Lucia’s excited words, and she skipped away with a spring in her step.

As I watched her go, I suddenly thought.

“I understand that I’m going to be released, but it looks like Lucia is going to be released too.

Yes, Lucia said, “Lorraine-oneesama too.”

I had a bad feeling about those words. However, now that an official attendant had come, it was Mrs. Morena’s job to take care of Lucia. There was nothing I could say about it.

“Lorraine, I understand that you are worried about her, but I want you to focus a little more on yourself. And don’t forget that I also want to monopolize you.”

“…Y-Yes, I understand.”

Once again, I couldn’t find the words to respond to his sudden declaration of monopoly. His beautiful face across the table had a pleading look. Those eyes were definitely directed only at me.

Even though I had remained completely unfazed by Lucia’s explosive smile, this was something else entirely.

——I came to the capital to match up with this person. I have to get it together!

With determination, I picked up the book and said, “Shall we return to the topic at hand?”

Then Jeremiah nodded happily.

In the afternoon, Miss Marisa Sabino, the hat maker from yesterday, visited the Duke’s mansion. Additionally, the dressmaker Madam and her seamstresses that Paula had mentioned also arrived at around the same time.

“I’ve been waiting for you, Miss Marisa.”

“I apologize, Lady Astorga. It took me a little longer to gather the materials, but I promise to make something exceptional.”

Miss Marisa was escorted by the butler and first said that. Then she quickly glanced at me, Paula, and Lucia’s faces.

Then she stopped her gaze on me, who she missed seeing yesterday, and said:

“Well then, let me decide on Lady Lorraine’s hat first. Is that okay?”

“Yes, leave it to me. She doesn’t have any decent hats at all. Look at this dusty thing. Not only that, she even has something that looks like a nun’s habit. I can’t believe she wore this in public,” Paula said with a sigh while showing Miss Marisa my hat that she had taken out from somewhere.

Chapter 79: Petit nightmare again

While I let those insults and abusive words flow in one ear and out the other, I looked at Dora. However, she was completely absorbed in the fabric brought in by the dressmaker Madam and didn’t notice me looking at her resentfully.

It was definitely Dora who gave that hat to Paula. It may not have been malicious, but why did she give it to her without even telling me? I decided to tell her later.

If I give Paula any more of my clothes or accessories, I’m sure I’ll shed tears of blood in my heart for a while.

It’s sad that I can’t stop it even though I know that. No, I know it will get better if I just endure it. But still, it’s hard not to feel irritated.

I wanted to escape from reality, so I turned my attention to a middle-aged woman rowing a boat while sitting on a sofa placed by the window.

She had a similar body shape to Baroness Palmara and was dressed in a simple dress with good taste. Although there were quite a few white hairs mixed in her hair, she didn’t seem to care about it and appeared to have completely lost any sense of fashion. I felt like we had something in common.

She is Mrs. Morena, the chaperone who Lucia had informed me of her arrival just a few minutes before. She looks tired and is already lying down, not paying any attention to Lucia.

Is she okay like that?

The wife of a prominent neighbor who served as my mother’s chaperone when she could not accompany me was a bit stricter.

“Lady Astorga, I will first give you what you requested.”

“Ara, it’s done already? As expected of you. Lorraine, come over here. Miss Marisa should be with the blueprints by now, right?”

“Yes, I’ll borrow the table then.”

Miss Marisa nodded at Paula’s words and spread out the paper she brought on the table. She started drawing something with tremendous force, which seemed to be the blueprint. I was about to look over there when Paula called me again, so I reluctantly headed over.

Then, the tailor Madam spread out some fabric.

“Um, what is this?”

“Can’t you tell just by looking? It’s a dress.”

I could tell that much. However, the size of the dress spread out in front of me seemed to be only for me.

Confused, I looked at Jeremiah without thinking. He seemed to be having fun and was sitting on a chair by the window like Mrs. Morena. When he noticed my gaze, he nodded.

I wondered what that meant, and Paula said in a slightly teasing tone.

“Really, Jeremiah is out of tune now. He used to be bad with women and said he would never accept gifts. And now, look at him.”

“Huh, so you mean this dress…”

“Yes, it’s a gift from that boy. Of course, I chose the fabric and design based on his wishes, so they all suit you perfectly. Well, we didn’t have enough time to make more than one dress, but if we can make it in time for the social season, it’ll be fine. Today, try this one on.”

Paula said confidently.

I looked at the beautiful light blue dress in front of me and then at Jeremiah. He was looking at me with a face that seemed to say he had succeeded in his prank.

It made me very happy, but I also felt like I had been had. Paula knew that I had no choice but to accept it if she was involved. I didn’t want to make him spend too much money on me…

Still, the dress with the colors of spring was so beautiful that I decided to be happy about it this time.

“Um, thank you very much.”

I said it in a slightly louder voice, Jeremiah said “Don’t worry about it” and gave me a melting gaze.

Feeling extremely uncomfortable, I turned to Paula.

“Now, please take off that dress that looks like a rag. I’ve been wanting you to change for a while now.”

Suddenly, words that felt like a slap in the face flew at me.

“I’m sorry, a rag? But this is my favorite dress because it’s comfortable and easy to wear. I’ll never let it become a rag.”

I rebelled a little in my mind, but it didn’t seem to have much meaning. Despite my thoughts, Paula continued with her plan.

“Now, Dora, get ready!”

“Yes!”

Dora and the other maids and seamstresses energetically prepared the changing space. I had thought we would be moving to another location, but upon closer inspection, there was a similar dressing area next to us. Lucia seemed to be inside. I could hear small moans, probably enduring embarrassment.

After all, there were men present in this place.

“Come on, Lorraine, okay?”

“…Yes.”

I couldn’t refuse the dominatrix’s command that controlled this place and reluctantly went inside. I changed with Dora, who had come in with me and convinced myself that this was a fitting room in a clothing store.

In the middle of it, I heard Lucia, who had finished changing earlier, being scolded and praised by Paula. She also seemed happy.

After struggling for a while, I managed to finish changing and roughly fix my hair, and Dora said, “Lorraine-sama is ready!”

“Okay, then take your time coming out.”

For some reason, I was ordered to take my time. I was puzzled, but did as I was told, and quickly put my feet, hands, and head through the blindfold before exposing my entire body.

I couldn’t make a grand entrance that would live up to expectations, so I awkwardly stepped out of the changing space like a broken mannequin and was exposed to everyone’s eyes.

The seamstresses and maids who saw me first opened their mouths in surprise. Since Jeremiah came up with the idea and Paula placed the order based on it, it must suit me well.

I can tell from the way everyone is surprised.

I’ve experienced this several times before.

Anyway, no matter how many times I experience it, I always think at this moment that my mother’s genes are still inside me.

Chapter 80: Exhaustion

I can always feel their presence, even though it’s not always clear whether they’re there or not. It’s so sad that I can’t feel like a parent and child unless it’s in this form, but it can’t be helped because it’s the truth.

Once again, I felt that subtle feeling, but I thought that Jeremiah’s reaction was the most important, so I tried to look out the window. At that moment, the door was knocked unexpectedly.

“Lady Astorga, additional fabrics and materials have arrived, so I brought them. What would you like me to do with them?”

“Come in.”

“Understood.”

The door opened and several servants entered. There were butlers, footmen, and maids, each carrying boxes and fabrics.

Among them was Paolo.

When I looked at him, I noticed that Paolo was also looking at me. He seemed stunned, but was there something surprising?

After thinking about it, I realized that I wasn’t dressed in my usual plain clothes. It seems that I surprised him.

He stared at me for a while without moving.

Not only him, but also other young footmen and maids. I’m not used to being stared at by so many people, so I wanted to hide in the shadows somewhere, but I managed to hold back.

If I were to be next to Jeremiah from now on, this kind of gaze would inevitably come down on me. I think to myself that I need to get used to it, but I can’t stop my cheeks from twitching.

Just as I was thinking that I still had a long way to go, an older servant among them poked them. The servants who came back to their senses began to move briskly.

However, only Paolo was glancing over here and there, with slightly awkward movements.

Well, certainly, if a plain girl without any presence suddenly dressed like this and stood in front of you, you would be surprised and want to take a look. But I want them to concentrate on their work.

Or rather, I don’t want them to look too much.

Paula seemed to have noticed that something was wrong with the servants, but she didn’t say anything in particular and gave instructions to each of them. The servants lined up the items in the designated places with practiced movements.

While watching Paula like that, I secretly thought that she was probably happy with the excellent work and wouldn’t scold them too much.

Eventually, when they finished moving, the items were arranged so beautifully that it was almost like this room had become a store. Paula nodded in satisfaction.

“This is good. Now let’s get back to our usual work.”

“Yes.”

When the butler bowed respectfully and left the room, everyone followed suit. However, Paolo continued to stare at me with a look of astonishment until the end.

Seeing him like that made me a little uneasy about our next meeting. However, I was interested in the Japanese food he made, and he was the only one born in Japan at the same time with memories of that era.

There was no choice but to meet him again.

As I sighed, Paula spoke up.

“Now, Jeremiah, come over here. Right, Lorraine, you can start by choosing your favorite fabric from this list.”

I was taken aback by the sudden nomination.

I thought that anything would do if there were no specific instructions, so I picked up a brown fabric that wasn’t suitable for evening wear. The reason I chose it was simple. It looked thick, fluffy, and very warm.

Looking around, I picked up several fabrics and laces.

With both hands full, I looked at Paula and saw her making a face so stern that it made me recoil.

“Oh dear…”

“This is hopeless. It’s catastrophic and destructive. Do you have a self-destructive tendency to choose things that don’t suit you even though you’re a genius?”

I was stunned by her exasperated words.

“Well, there’s no helping it. I’ll teach you how to choose from scratch. For now, please put everything back where it was.”

While speaking, Paula sighed and placed her hand on her forehead. ‘Is it really that bad? We’re still in the material stage, so what made Paula so desperate?’ Honestly, her usual sharp tongue was not as sharp as usual. Normally, she would say words that hit not only the mind but also the soul with a punchier punch.

Without understanding it at all, I decided to follow what was said and return to the original plan. After all, I knew from the beginning that I had no sense of fashion. No matter how much I studied, there was nothing I could do about it.

So, I have been using fashion magazines as a reference until now. I believed that if I followed them, I wouldn’t look too weird. However, it seems that I am not good at choosing things that suit me.

Well, I can ask Jeremiah or Paula about that. It would be more constructive to rely on the advice of those around me than my catastrophic sense.

Thinking that way, when I raised my face, I suddenly met Lucia’s eyes.

——Um, why do I feel like there’s some kind of intense hostility?

I thought Lucia was distracted by the fabrics and materials lined up, but she was directing a murderous gaze at me without even looking at them.

After feeling uneasy inside, I finally realized something. That’s right, Lucia liked Paolo. Moreover, of all people, Paolo was only looking at me.

Of course, I think he was only looking at me because it was unusual, but given the situation, it’s not unreasonable for Lucia to misunderstand.

I panicked, wondering how to explain, but Jeremiah kindly spoke up to me.

“Don’t worry too much about it. That’s just Nee-san being herself. Besides, I know what suits you best.”

“…Thank you very much.”

Jeremiah’s consideration really touched me.

“Let’s choose together. We have plenty of time.”

“Yes.”

With a gentle touch on my shoulder, my consciousness was filled with only Jeremiah for a moment.

What a foul play, what a smile.

After that, with Jeremiah joining in the fabric selection, we were able to come up with something that satisfied Paula and move on to the next stage.

Chapter 81: Too sweet to die

Finally, the break time arrived, and I enjoyed tea time in my changed clothes.

Dora lightly arranged my hair, so I didn’t look out of place. Later, I realized that the dress Jeremiah gave me was not for evening parties but for daytime use. It had a neat and elegant design, and it didn’t make me feel as dull and outdated as my usual clothes. I didn’t feel any discomfort wearing it.

“Do you like it?”

“Of course! I don’t feel uneasy wearing it, and it’s really beautiful. Thank you so much.”

“Well, I didn’t want you to be criticized by my sister too much. This will make you feel a little relieved, right?”

I smiled and replied to Jeremiah’s question, “Yes, I guess so.”

Of course, the background to his consideration was related to my first meeting with Paula.

I was still too embarrassed to be alone with him at that time, so Paula and I rode in a carriage. However, my spirit was exhausted, and there was a time when my soul left my body. He probably remembers that incident and is being considerate of me.

It was very much appreciated.

“Well, if you like it, that’s enough.”

Saying that, Jeremiah narrowed his eyes and looked at me.

Staring at me, I felt incredibly uneasy. In the past, I wouldn’t have felt this way even if someone was looking at me. At that time, I dismissed it as a coincidence if our eyes met.

I put the cup of tea back on the table and felt very happy.

Being given gifts like this, having someone by my side who worries about me, and feeling so happy that I wonder if I’ll ever be this happy again in the future.

“…But I feel like you don’t wear the things I gave you very often?”

Taken aback by his unexpected question, I looked at Jeremiah’s face. He continued with a slightly dissatisfied expression.

“Well, it can’t be helped since most of what I gave you before were evening dresses, but there were other things too, right? If you’re worried about something, please tell me clearly.”

——H-He’s really looking at me!

In the past, I was the one who stared at him, so I knew more about him than he did about me. That hasn’t changed much even now.

So I understand. When you stare at someone, you can learn a lot of things. In other words, he was staring at me.

The moment my brain understood that, I felt like I had a fever.

So this is what it means to have your face turn red!

I couldn’t reply for a while, and I ended up looking straight into Jeremiah’s eyes. Then, he looked a little sad. I thought I had to clear up the misunderstanding, so I spoke up, stumbling over my words.

“W-Well…”

“Well?”

“I-it’s just that…I feel like it’s a waste to wear it, and besides, it doesn’t make sense to look pretty when you’re not around, Jeremiah.”

My voice became as quiet as a mosquito’s buzz towards the end.

However, that was the truth. I received it as a gift, and I want to wear it in front of him and have it on me. But as Jeremiah said, the previous gift was mainly for evening parties and such, so there was no opportunity.

“I see. So that’s how it is. That’s right, that might be better.”

“Huh?”

“I told you before, didn’t I? I don’t want to see you getting close to other men, and if you dress conspicuously like that, the chances of men approaching you will be lower because you won’t stand out. That’s better for me…because I can have you all to myself.”

He said it. I remember it vividly. It was when I asked him why I had to be accompanied by Dennis.

At that time and now, my heart is in a pitiful state. Rather than that, I can’t think straight. What should I do about this?

“Thank you for telling me. Well then, we should go before Nee-san gets angry.”

“Y-Yes.”

I stood up as instructed, but my legs stumbled from the shock I received from Jeremiah.

“Ah.”

He caught me before I fell, but being in such close proximity was difficult for me now.

“Are you okay? If you’re tired, I’ll tell Nee-san that you need to rest.”

“I’m, I’m fine!”

If I do that, I would end up being treated like a toy for even longer. I desperately tried to move my legs and told myself that I had to go with the strength to leave footprints on the floor.

Jeremiah looked worried and said, “That’s good, but if you’re tired, please tell me.”

“Y-Yes, okay. No, really, I’m fine!”

I had to pull myself together and stand up. Otherwise, I would die, mainly my spirit would die.

Encouraging myself like that, I took a step forward. Then Jeremiah gently moved to my side and offered his arm. His consideration made me happy and grateful, but once again my thoughts became foggy.

After that, somehow we managed to return to the makeshift hat shop and tailor inside Duke’s mansion. Despite feeling disoriented, I followed Paula’s instructions and managed to get through all the measurements and other tasks.

The next day, I woke up and started my activities while still feeling somewhat tired from yesterday.

The reason was that I finally received a reply to my letter and wanted to read it. I headed to the library in Duke’s mansion. There was a writing desk there, and I planned to read a book after reading the letter and writing a reply.

The reason why I wanted to read a book was that Jeremiah was out today, so I had nothing to do. I no longer needed to monitor Lucia, and I wanted to recover my worn-out spirit a little.

When I arrived at the library, Dennis had prepared the fireplace, and the room was warm. I thought it was very kind of her and immediately opened the letter.

Chapter 82: Jealousy is scary

First, let’s start with Dorothea’s letter.

As I spread out the paper and read it, there were a lot of apologies listed. It wasn’t her fault, but I still felt sorry for her. According to Dorothea, Mrs. Morena has a chronic illness and is quite lazy.

“…On top of that, her hobby is napping. I wonder if it’s really okay to chaperone Lucia.”

I had a feeling like that, but when it’s written in a letter from someone I know well, it makes me incredibly anxious. However, Baroness Palmara, my aunt, seems completely unconcerned. She seems to trust her daughter endlessly and thinks that as long as she has someone suitable with her, there won’t be any problems.

However, Dorothea is worried, so she wrote that she wants me to keep an eye on things when I have the chance.

I will write a response about it.

“I’ll make sure to check on things when I have the time, and as for the rest…”

With a little groan, I manage to finish writing my response and move on to the next letter. This one is from my mother. I consulted with her about Lucia. After all, I had no idea how to handle this kind of situation.

“Let’s see…there’s no medicine for the disease of love. This isn’t much of an answer, Okaa-sama.”

I was quite disappointed with the blunt response from my mother. I had hoped to receive some better advice, but as I tried to continue reading while thinking that, I heard someone entering the room.

When I looked up to see who it was, it was Lucia, who accounted for ninety percent of the contents of the letter.

“Is it okay if I come in, Lorraine-oneesama?”

“Uh, yes, of course.”

I quickly folded the letter and pressed it firmly with my hand so that it wouldn’t be read. Although I had a calm smile on the surface, I was nervous in the opposite sense of when Jeremiah was around.

Lucia, who sat down on a chair near me with a smile and concealed her agitation, had a stern expression that could ruin her beautiful face. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but I still feel like she’s glaring at me.

——Is it because of what happened yesterday after all?

I couldn’t think of any other reason why she would talk to me like this. If it were a complaint about not being able to go out, she would have looked dissatisfied, and if it were a request for something, she wouldn’t have looked like she was about to burst out in anger.

While looking at me with a gaze that seemed to want to grab me at any moment, Lucia still didn’t seem to want to start talking.

Reluctantly, I took the initiative and spoke up.

“Um, is there something you wanted to talk about, Lucia?”

“Did something happen? Please tell me what’s going on!”

With an expression of anger, Lucia raised her voice.

“W-What is it?”

Feeling pressured, I wanted to run away, but I held back. Lucia seemed to be on the verge of grinding her teeth as she spoke.

“Why is his behavior different before and after I consulted with Onee-sama?”

“What do you mean?”

“You can tell just by looking!”

I asked again because I didn’t understand, but Lucia seemed to have some strange misconception. I couldn’t do anything if I didn’t understand what she was talking about.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Um, could you please be more clear?”

Then, Lucia glared at me with a resentful expression. It was really scary, but I couldn’t run away. I had to be strong.

“I always watch him, so I know. He’s always looking at Onee-sama, looking very happy and a little sad… It hurts my heart to see that.

Before, Onee-sama said it might be a misunderstanding, but it’s not a misunderstanding. I like him, so I can’t forgive you.”

“I-I haven’t done anything.”

I tried to continue saying that, but my voice wouldn’t come out in front of Lucia’s sharp glare.

“Then why does he look at Onee-sama with such longing eyes?”

All that came to my mind was that he probably wanted me to come to the store quickly. Perhaps he wanted to talk. For the first time in this world, both of us had met someone from the same country, from the same era, with the same memories.

However, Lucia, who knew nothing about it, continued.

“Onee-sama, did you do something to him? Even though you have a fiancée, and such a wonderful one at that.”

“Now wait, calm down and listen to me!”

“I don’t want to hear it. You’re just going to make excuses. It’s useless to try and get everything you want like that. I won’t listen to Onee-sama anymore!”

Ugh, what should I do now?

She didn’t even listen to what I had to say, let alone my excuses. What should I have done? Besides, Paolo doesn’t look at me for that reason.

“I’ll do as I please from now on, so there’s no need for you to interfere. Mrs. Morena is my chaperone. As long as I’m healthy, she won’t say anything. Thanks to her, I’ve been able to do whatever I want until now. And that’s how it will be from now on. That’s all I have to say.”

Lucia just said what she wanted and left the library like the wind. I was left there, completely stunned.

When Lucia’s presence had completely disappeared, my eyes fell on the paper in front of me.

As I unfolded it again, my mother’s familiar handwriting caught my eye. Seeing it, I couldn’t help but dryly laugh.

“Yeah, Okaa-sama is right.”

There is no cure for the disease of love. That’s exactly what Lucia is going through right now. I has never experienced such intense love before, so I really don’t know how she feels. Anyway, all I can do is watch over her.

“Paolo, I hope you can avoid her well.”

I did ask him not to get too close, but there must be limits to that. As a servant, he cannot avoid interacting with guests.

I let out a deep sigh and picked up my pen.

Chapter 83: Not at home

Although it was daunting to write a reply, considering that Mrs. Morena is that kind of person, I had to report to her.

I thought that it wouldn’t be too difficult to reply to my mother, so I started writing a reply to Dorothea first.

In front of me, a fragrant tea with steam rising from it was placed. I picked it up and took a sip.

“Ah~, I’m so tired.”

“It took quite a while, didn’t it?”

Dennis spoke to me. Beside her was Dora. Since there was no need to dress up today, Dora seemed a little bored. However, she wasn’t bored because she was jotting down notes on how to tie my hair and what accessories to use if she had time.

“Yeah, there were things I had to write down even though I hardly go out. And for the first time in my life, I was jealous. I don’t understand why people would be happy about this…”

I felt like lying down on the table and saying this. I had already gotten used to talking to Dennis in my natural state. For some reason, except when she had a scary face, being with her made me feel very relaxed.

Perhaps that’s why I ended up complaining and venting my frustrations like this. Then Dennis chuckled.

“You’ve been through a lot. Lorraine-sama is a kind person, so there’s nothing you can do about it. Surely, Jeremiah-sama liked that part of Lorraine-sama.”

Dennis’ words almost made me spit out my tea.

Oh no, it would be a waste to blow such good tea like this, and above all, it’s not very ladylike.

“W-Why are you suddenly saying that?”

“Well, I’ve been watching nobles for a long time.”

“I see.”

Certainly, Jeremiah said something similar. But I don’t think I’m kind. I just don’t think I can be happy at the expense of someone else’s suffering.

Besides, even though Lucia is suffering so much, there’s nothing I can do for her. This country’s system, laws, and class society won’t change. It’s a country where living within the given framework is the norm.

Suddenly, I think of Paolo, Lucia’s love interest. He seems to be having trouble fitting into this country’s way of thinking and being.

But there’s nothing I can do for him either.

“Please don’t worry too much. Jeremiah-sama will be concerned.”

As if reading my mind, Dennis says this, and I nod obediently.

“Well, if it’s not a problem that can be solved by worrying, then worrying will only tire you out.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

Dennis nodded vigorously and offered the sweets and food on the table. While I put something that caught my eye into my mouth, I decided to meet Paolo later. Dennis would be angry, but leaving it alone would leave a bad aftertaste.

It’s not like I have to meet him today, but I’ll try to meet him as soon as possible and tell him about the change in the situation. Then, I’ll consult with Jeremiah. And when the case is solved, I’ll go to Paolo’s shop.

Thinking that way made me feel relieved.

I put another beautiful piece of candy in my mouth. The sweetness of sugar spread gently on my tongue, and my face naturally broke into a smile.

Now that things have settled down, I thought I would read a book and relax, but I was thrown into a situation that was far from calm.

After finishing my leisurely tea time and moving to my room, I was flipping through pages trying to decide what to read when Dennis suddenly appeared with the expression of a skilled assassin.

“Lorraine-sama, the servant Paolo insists on seeing you about something. He’s waiting in the reception room. Shall I let him in?”

“U-Uh, sure, let him in.”

In response, Dennis opened the door with a stern expression and invited the person who was standing in front of it into the room. That person, Paolo, didn’t seem to care about Dennis’ gaze and came straight to me, bowing respectfully.

“Lady Lorraine.”

Paolo called me so with a strangely passionate voice. It wasn’t just his voice; his cheeks also seemed slightly red.

I wondered if he had a fever, but what came to mind was still Lucia. After all, she had said that she would do whatever she wanted, and I was afraid that she might be clinging around him as she had said.

Anyway, I had to ask to find out, so I inquired.

“So, did something happen? Is Lucia causing trouble after all?”

“Well, yeah…kind of.”

Paolo’s response was somewhat hesitant.

Seeing him in a difficult position, it seemed that my expectations were correct. I looked at Paolo, who seemed like he wanted to bury his head in his hands and avoid eye contact.

“I’m sorry, something happened and caused you a problem.”

I couldn’t say, “Please be careful because she might think you like me and get jealous and go crazy,” so I apologized with vague expressions.

“I’m trying not to get her in the way of work, but it’s difficult.”

“I’m fine. It’s uncomfortable to be followed or watched, but it’s nothing new.”

——So that’s what happened…

Paolo scratched his head and answered with a wry smile. I suddenly remembered that he was also handsome and couldn’t help but smile awkwardly. I had only been looking at him from the perspective of someone with past memories, so I had carelessly forgotten.

He must have been popular with women at work.

After all, until things turned out this way with Jeremiah, admiring handsome men was my favorite pastime. It was only natural that I was drawn to him without realizing it.

Rather, I wondered why he wasn’t used to it or why he was troubled. He must have been tired from all the things that had happened recently. That must be it.

“Well, if that’s the case, let me know if anything happens.”

I said this in a disappointed tone.

Chapter 84: Lonely smile

Then, Paolo looked at me as if he wanted to say “Poor you,” and said:

“Oh, I see. Anyway, the reason I came today was to ask when you can come to the shop.”

That was the main point, and his expression was a little serious. However, I groaned softly.

“Is it impossible after all?”

“No, it’s not that. You see, there have been a series of explosion incidents recently, and it seems that the upper class is being targeted. That’s why I’ve been told not to go outside.”

Actually, I witnessed it relatively close by, so the fear from that time is still ingrained in me. Fortunately, no one died, but I heard that some people were seriously injured, which made me even more scared.

“I want to go, but I don’t think I can do it right away. It’s still scary.”

“But those incidents are only targeting places where the upper class gathers. So my place is safe. It’s a place where only workers hang out.”

“If it’s such a place, it’s even more dangerous.”

Suddenly, Dennis spoke up. She had been silent last time, so I was surprised when I looked at her and saw her staring at Paolo with eyes that seemed to be looking at a fool. As expected, Dennis’ expression in these situations is quite scary.

“Anything can happen in the downtown area. It’s also a breeding ground for crime. The most dangerous people are often found among those kinds of people. I won’t allow my master to go to such a place.”

Paolo meets Dennis’ gaze and they stare at each other silently for a while. The tense atmosphere was so thick that I couldn’t say anything.

Eventually, Paolo spoke first, unable to bear the tension in the air any longer.

“…Well, it’s certainly not safe for a girl to be alone. There are also drunks around, so it’s hard to say it’s safe.”

“Then…!”

“That’s why you should come too. Besides, you have a fiancé, right? You should bring that person along too. I’ll make sure we get a seat where we won’t be bothered, so please come. I really want you to come, please.”

Paolo interrupted Dennis, who was about to say something, and pleaded with me.

Honestly, it was hard to refuse after being told that much.

However, I didn’t understand why he was in such a hurry. I could only think that there was some reason, like the store’s survival being in danger.

“Well, I guess I can go.”

“Then…”

“But why can’t we go after this incident is over?”

I asked honestly, feeling skeptical. Paolo fell silent for a moment before scratching his cheek with a slightly embarrassed look.

“I want to talk. More, more… You will eventually leave here, and then we won’t be able to meet.”

“I won’t be gone long, okay? I always come here during the social season.”

“Isn’t that a long time from now? Are you telling me to wait until then? I was worried that you might have to return to your territory because of the incident,” he said with a slightly rough voice, and Paolo turned to the side.

He seemed a little sulky. I didn’t expect him to show such an attitude, and I felt guilty and my chest tightened.

Perhaps, unlike me, Paolo’s memories of his past life are quite vivid.

I have read stories about people like him who couldn’t bear the difference between their past and present lives and went insane. Of course, it was not a made-up story but something that was recorded as true.

I don’t want Paolo to become like that.

“I don’t care if you bring another guard with you, I…”

“Okay.”

I interrupted Paolo as he tried to offer more conditions and said firmly what I had to say.

“L-Lorraine-sama!”

Dennis groaned in shock as if she was about to approach us. I felt bad seeing her reaction, but it also hurt my heart not to listen to Paolo’s request.

“I’m sorry. But you have to come with me, and I’ll explain the situation to Jeremiah. Is that okay?”

“But, I…”

Dennis seems unable to accept it. However, ignoring her, Paolo happily comes to me and takes my hand.

“Thank you! I was worried that we might not be able to talk properly and you would leave.”

“Why would you think that? Even though we just met, I wouldn’t forget about it so easily and I would like to keep in touch if possible.”

Paolo’s statement was so out of character that I was a little miffed. Even if I were forcibly returned to the Valcourt territory, there must be a way to contact Paolo.

“Yeah, sorry. But you have a family, a fiancee, and friends, and you have a place in this world. There’s no way I can fit in there.”

“What are you talking about? You’re already my friend.”

At least that’s what I think. We’ve only known each other for a short time, but our connection is not shallow. He is the only person I know in this world who has the same past life as me, in the same era and country. It’s difficult to live without any involvement.

“Oh yeah, you’re right.”

“That’s right.”

As Paolo nodded his head in agreement, he smiled a little sadly. Why did he have such an expression? Perhaps there was a secret to his earlier words.

He had said, “You have a family, don’t you?” But it sounded as if he didn’t have anyone like that.

It was difficult to speak about such delicate matters.

“Well then, I’ll wait for your good news. Call me when you have something to say. I’ll think more carefully about what to make until then.”

“Okay, I’ll do my best.”

“Then, I’ll get back to work.”

Paolo reluctantly released the hand he had been holding onto and returned to his usual graceful servant persona as he left.

The warmth of his touch remained on my hand strangely, leaving me perplexed.

Chapter 85: Jeremiah in anger

While looking in the direction where Paolo had left, I felt like something was different from before. However, it was just a vague feeling.

If I were to compare it, it was like suddenly being seen as an adult instead of a child, which was how I had been treated until now.

“Is it just my imagination?”

I muttered to myself and decided that thinking about it was pointless. Maybe Paolo was really feeling unwell, as evidenced by his flushed cheeks. If that were the case, I could understand why he had been so desperate to get me to the store.

Feeling unwell can cause an inexplicable sense of anxiety. I knew this well from my past life, where I had often been bedridden.

“Right, I see. Yeah, that makes sense.”

I had been feeling uneasy about Paolo’s change in attitude, but once I reached a conclusion, I felt relieved. As a result, things that had not been in my field of vision before finally came into view.

For example, Dennis leaning against the wall and worrying about something.

“Wait, what’s wrong Denny?!”

“…It’s nothing. I was just thinking about how I could perfectly protect Lady Lorraine if Jeremiah-sama were to approve this matter. I was also wondering what steps I should take to make Lorraine-sama give up this matter.”

——Wow, you’re leaking things you’re not supposed to.

I think I shouldn’t have worried him so much, but when I remember Paolo’s expression and that record at the same time, I can’t stand still.

I’m sorry, but please bear with me here.

“I’m sorry for being selfish. But I really want to go.”

“Please don’t say such a thing, Lorraine-sama. My duty is to protect you. I will risk my life for that.”

“What! No, I don’t want you to risk your life. You’re the only one I can rely on.”

When I said that from the bottom of my heart, Dennis stumbled as if she had been told something outrageous and crouched at my feet. She seemed flustered.

“My God. This is the first time in my life that I have been needed so much. Lorraine-sama… I, Dennis Landegger, intended to serve the Castalde family for life, but I want to stay by your side like this.”

I was even more flustered when She kneeled on the floor and made a knight’s oath-like declaration.

What should I do about this?

“Please let me stay by your side.”

As Dennis looked, tears shone in her eyes. Should I think about this properly? For now, I said:

“You know, I don’t mind, but you should talk to Jeremiah or his father. I can’t decide on my own, so I can’t give you an answer right away.”

“Yes, I understand. However, my feelings won’t change.”

That’s troublesome.

Anyway, eventually, I will marry Jeremiah. Besides, he seems to have made up his mind to leave Dennis to me, so there shouldn’t be any problem if I leave it alone.

“S-So, yeah. Um, for now, I think I can finally rest, so I’ll read a book here.”

“Yes, leave the watch to me.”

No, there’s no need for that within the Duke’s residence. I wanted to say that, but I picked up the book without saying anything.

I let out a sigh unintentionally.

I just wanted to rest my heart a little.

The next day.

After breakfast, I was called to the greenhouse by Jeremiah. I noticed that he had a stern expression, so I stopped in my tracks.

I wonder what’s wrong. It’s not just my imagination that he looks angry. Well, even when he’s angry, his coldness increases, and he looks like a cruel demon, which I can’t help but admire, but I don’t feel like getting closer.

However, since I’ve come this far, I can’t just avoid him. I slowly walked towards the side of the beautiful prince emitting an angry aura.

“Lorraine, I heard from Dennis. Give up.”

He suddenly said that even though I hadn’t said anything yet. I immediately knew it was about Paolo.

And I also sensed the reason for Jeremiah’s anger. I sighed and said,

“But we’re just going out to eat?”

“That’s still not okay. At least until the capital is safe, I won’t let you go to unsafe places.”

“I see.”

Then, can’t we at least find a way to contact him? Leaving Paolo alone like that still worries me. While thinking about what to do, I sighed and Jeremiah said with a slightly flustered expression,

“Oh, no, I understand your feelings too. I heard about him. Dennis was quite angry, but it seems that the country where you both lived in the past didn’t have social classes.”

“Yes, at least that was the case in my country.”

Until now, I haven’t talked much about my past life, not only to Jeremiah but even to my family. The main reason was that I felt like they wouldn’t understand even if I told them.

So, I would answer when asked, but I never thought about telling them anything more. Therefore, Jeremiah’s question was unexpected for me.

“To be honest, it’s a territory that I can’t step into, so I envy that servant. However, I don’t want to take away your past for such a reason.”

“Jeremiah…?”

I couldn’t help but call out to him in his unusually tense atmosphere. This was the first time I had seen him like this. I was completely bewildered.

What could Jeremiah be so worried about?

“But for now, please don’t go to that store.”

He looked straight at me, and I thought my breath had stopped. It had been a while since I saw such a serious expression. I could tell from the bottom of my heart that he was worried about me.

I was so happy that my chest felt tingly.

——But.

“Do you know about the records of Gryphalva?”

“…No, is it some kind of book?”

“Yes, it’s a book written by a scholar who was interested in people with memories in this world. I read it before. It includes various memory holders, from those who became happy to those who were possessed by the past and committed suicide. The author concluded that those with clearer memories tend to have unhappy endings.”

Unknowingly, I tightly clench both hands, with such strong force that my fingertips and joints turn white. Because I was scared if I didn’t.

Chapter 86: Sweet and bitter thoughts

As it is, it’s very easy to just listen to what Jeremiah says and say, “Okay, I will not go.”

However, now that I’m involved, I can’t just leave it alone like that. I don’t intend to be a counselor or anything. I have something important to me now.

So…

“To me, Paolo seems like that kind of person too. So, could you allow us to stay in touch?”

I said it. I said it out loud. There was a brief pause, and then the answer came back with a heavy sigh.

“…I understand.”

Although his voice sounded reluctant and truly opposed, Jeremiah nodded. I was relieved by his words and felt like collapsing on the spot, but I held back.

“Sigh, thank you very much. I’m glad. I was worried that if I said something like this, you might hate me.”

“What are you talking about? There’s no way I could hate you.”

“But it’s completely my selfishness. Even if I love Jeremiah so much and wish we could live together, if our feelings drift apart for some reason, I don’t have the confidence to keep you with me.”

Perhaps because I was too nervous until now, I blurted out lines that I wouldn’t normally say. In the end, I forced a smile and looked at Jeremiah, hoping for any kind of response.

Then, he was staring at me with his cheek pressed against the back of his hand. Oh no, did I say something wrong? I panicked.

“Uh, I just spoke my mind without thinking. I’m sorry, please forget what you heard!”

“…No.”

“Huh?”

“I said no. I won’t forget what you said.”

I made him angry!

I turned pale, but Jeremiah continued without paying attention to me.

“Anyway, I want to ask you again.”

“Huh?”

“You said you wanted to know what you think of me again.”

Before I knew it, I was staring blankly at Jeremiah, who had come quite close. Then, I slowly began to understand what he was saying.

In other words, it was like he was telling me to confess again.

“Why do you want me to say it again?”

“You don’t usually say things like that. Sometimes I just want to make sure. Can you say it again?”

He looked at me with a sad expression, and my head felt like it was going to explode. How can I refuse when he looks at me like that? But still, my embarrassment kept me from speaking up.

Jeremiah remained silent and continued to stare at me.

I couldn’t bear it, I couldn’t bear it so much that I couldn’t help but wish to disappear like smoke.

After a moment of silence, I resigned myself.

“I want to live with you forever. I love you.”

As soon as I said it, I covered my face with both hands. I thought it was so mean to ask me to repeat this kind of thing, but I couldn’t say it.

As I writhed in my heart, my hands covering my face were grabbed. I resisted, but of course, there was no way I could resist his strength, so he forcibly pulled my hands away and my face was exposed.

“N-No, please don’t.”

“You’ve been staring at me all this time. Yet you won’t show me that cute face of yours. That’s not fair.”

“Ah!”

I was about to say that there was no way I was cute, but Jeremiah looked so happy that I couldn’t say anything.

For a while after that, Jeremiah teased and stared at me, saying it was payback for being watched. My heart felt like it was going to explode. While thinking that this was torture, seeing him so happy made me happy too.

However, by the time I was released from such sweet torture, I was completely exhausted and collapsed.

Three days had passed, and I finally made up my mind.

Of course, it was about Paolo’s request.

With the help of Jeremiah and Dennis, they searched for someone who could contact Paolo on my behalf and found several people who were willing to take on the task. This helped me make up my mind.

“It’s hard to refuse. I really wanted to go.”

“Opportunities will surely come again. Besides, since his employer is Lady Astorga, he won’t be unable to live.”

“That’s true.”

Encouraged by Dennis, who stood by me like my shadow, I waited for the moment. Paolo should have already been informed that I was waiting in this reception room.

As I gazed towards the door, hoping he would arrive soon, I heard footsteps. Then, there was a knock on the door. I stiffened, thinking he had arrived, but was disappointed.

The butler of the Duke’s mansion had entered through the door.

“I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, Lorraine-sama. But unfortunately, Paolo cannot come here.”

“What do you mean?”

“He has resigned from here.”

I was just surprised by the cold words of the butler. It was certain that I hadn’t seen Paolo since then, but I thought he was just out on some errand.

“W-Why?”

“Well, it’s due to personal circumstances, and I can’t say for sure, but anyway, if you don’t mind, I have this to give you.”

The butler said that and handed me a neatly folded piece of paper. I took it and immediately unfolded it.

“…It seems to be an address for somewhere.”

Dennis quickly scanned the paper and said.

As she said, there was an address for an unknown place written on it. What could be there?

And why did Paolo disappear without a word?

There were so many things I didn’t understand, and I sighed while placing my finger on my forehead. For now, I had to investigate this address. That was all I could do at the moment.

Chapter 87: Hidden in a piece of paper

I thanked the butler and immediately asked Dennis.

“Hey…”

“I understand what you want to say. If that’s all, I’ll investigate it today… However, there may be some places where I cannot take you.”

She already understood what I wanted to say and firmly pointed out that fact. I couldn’t say anything.

And, I thought she was right.

I didn’t want to worry Jeremiah by doing something unnecessary.

“Okay, then please.”

“Yes, understood. I will take care of this.”

Dennis smoothly took the piece of paper from my finger. To be honest, I thought I might not get it back, but I remembered the address written on it. If I write it down somewhere while I still remember it, I should be able to manage.

The only other thing that worries me is…

“Denny, be careful.”

After all, it’s an address I don’t know at all. There are dangerous places in this capital city. Normally, it’s just a matter of not getting too close, but this time it can’t be helped. No matter how strong Dennis is, I’m a little worried.

“Thank you. I’ll make sure to find out what kind of place it is and come back. Please wait for me for a while. And please don’t think about going outside the mansion alone.”

“That’s rude. I’ve never done anything like that before.”

She was so persistent that she couldn’t trust me a little, and I couldn’t help but get annoyed. Then she smiled wryly and said, “I’m just worried. I’m sorry.”

With that, she headed to the door with the piece of paper in her hand.

“Well then, excuse me.”

I nodded back at Dennis as she left the room and watched her back. Probably, that address is somewhere in the capital city, so she should be able to find out today. Anyway, I decided to write down the address I remembered and headed to the room where I had something to write with.

As the sun began to set, Dennis returned.

It was shortly after I had finished changing into my evening dress. When Dennis came to me and returned the piece of paper, he looked puzzled and said, “It seems like a place where commoners eat. I’ve been watching for a while, but I didn’t see Paolo Hübner.”

“Ah, thank you. A place where commoners eat, huh?”

Those words struck a chord with me. He had mentioned having a restaurant where he was allowed to serve his prototype Japanese cuisine. He had also been persistent about wanting me to come there recently.

If that’s the case, this restaurant might be the one.

“Hey, is this place a restaurant that serves something different?”

“Oh, yes. I talked to some customers and they said they serve dishes that seem foreign.”

“What kind of dishes?”

When I asked her out of curiosity, Dennis thought for a moment before answering, “It’s something like a stew with a lot of spices poured over grains boiled without being ground into powder. Depending on the type of meat used, it’s supposed to be very delicious.”

——Curry!

That’s the only thing I could think of. I was itching to go try it out. Besides, even if Paolo wasn’t involved, I wanted to try curry. Unaware of my thoughts, Dennis continued on.

“Besides, there is also something where they boil and elongate it without baking any powder, and then soak it in soup made from bones and eat it.”

——Isn’t that ramen?

The more I heard the report, the more I wanted to go. Even Dennis, who had been focused on the report, noticed my expression. She immediately made a stern face and shook her head.

“No, that place is in the downtown area. It’s not a place where I can take Lorraine-sama.”

“B-But, that dish…maybe.”

“In that case, we can call the chef from that restaurant here. Then you can eat it, right?”

Certainly. That would be safer. However…

“But if we do that, won’t we be taking away the enjoyment of the customers who are enjoying the food at that restaurant?”

“Doesn’t matter for just one day, does it?”

Dennis said as if it were obvious, but I couldn’t nod my head. I felt bad for the head chef who worked at Duke’s mansion.

That’s not all.

I looked at the piece of paper again.

I couldn’t feel anything from the plain writing, but I thought about Paolo’s feelings when he entrusted this to me. I didn’t know why he stopped, but he seemed to want me to visit him no matter what.

“No, I have to go after all.”

“Lorraine-sama!”

“I’m going even if you try to stop me. After all, he’s an important friend.”

Looking at Dennis pleadingly, she looked at me with a face full of anguish and eventually dropped her shoulders.

“I had a feeling you would say that. That place is relatively bright and healthy even in the downtown area, so I would not stop you unless you are in such a situation.

“Okay then.”

“My job is just to protect you, Lorraine-sama. But what about Jeremiah-sama? He will surely be furious, won’t he?”

“Ugh.”

I groaned as she hit a sore spot.

It’s sad that I can vividly imagine that scene. But I’m not going to do anything wrong.

“But, we’re just going to eat…”

“I will report what I see.”

Although she said it in a somewhat dismissive tone, I still had no intention of giving up on going. Of course, Dennis will accompany me and we’ll come back right after eating.

Above all, the dangerous place is where the upper class gathers, not some diner in the downtown area.

I really wanted to go.

“Okay, I understand. I’m prepared to be scolded to death. So, I’m going.”

When I firmly declared this, a big sigh came back. Dennis looked troubled and bowed her head.

“I understand. Then, I will make arrangements to ensure that there is no danger and we will head there with utmost care.”

“…Thank you, I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s my job.”

Dennis said that and quietly left the room. She was probably preparing to fulfill my selfish request.

Feelings of guilt and a sense of responsibility were strongly conflicting in my heart. To calm myself down, I gently placed my hand on my chest and exhaled.

Chapter 88: Stores in downtown

The next day, I was surprised when I saw what Dennis had prepared.

It was a disguise costume that would make it impossible to tell that I was a noble lady. After staring at it in amazement for a while, I hurriedly changed my clothes, realizing that this was not the time to be doing such things.

Feeling guilty for having Dora clean it up for me, I managed to finish changing and followed Dennis through the servant’s passage. It was rare, so I couldn’t help but be distracted by the surroundings, but I quickly regained my focus.

By the way, Jeremiah was not around for a while. Of course, he would come back at night, but during the day, he was attending the parliament and not by my side.

He had resigned himself to it as his duty, but since the incident, he seemed dissatisfied with not being able to be by my side.

I’m kind of itchy with joy.

However, if he were by my side all the time, even though I had become quite accustomed to it, it would be difficult to breathe. So, I also thought it would be nice if he went out occasionally.

Feeling like I was being extravagant, I followed Dennis out of Duke’s mansion.

“We’ll walk from here. It’s not far, but if your feet are hurting, please let me know and we’ll use a carriage.”

“Okay.”

I nodded obediently and headed to the downtown area on my own two feet, following Dennis. At first, it was a quiet upscale residential area, but gradually the number of people increased and it became noisy.

The streets were overflowing with all kinds of people and things, and people buying and selling were constantly exchanging loud voices.

This was the first time I had seen such a scene since I was born in this world. As I looked around curiously, Dennis said to me,

“Don’t get separated.”

“Y-Yeah.”

It seemed dangerous to be too distracted.

I tried to focus on Dennis’s back, but my concentration was inevitably interrupted by the cries of street vendors attacking from all directions. Moreover, a delicious smell wafted out, and I thought it was not good, so I grabbed Dennis’s hand as she walked ahead.

Dennis stopped in surprise. Her gaze was puzzled, but I wasn’t concerned about that.

“I’m sorry, but I might get lost if we don’t do this.”

“No problem.”

Dennis smiled a little happily and started walking again. Somehow, I felt that her pace had become more relaxed.

By the way, I think Dennis’s skills are amazing. Even at this point, no one seems to know that I am a noble. Well, I don’t have any noble aura to begin with, so with the commoner clothes that Dennis prepared for me, I can blend in perfectly.

Feeling a little sad thinking to myself, “As expected of me,” I didn’t stop walking.

Eventually, after passing through an area with slightly larger stores filled with hustle and bustle, I continued on and saw houses where the working class lived.

The stone-paved road was also dirty and had a somewhat unpleasant smell.

Then, Dennis stopped there.

“That’s it.”

“That’s a tavern, right?”

“Yes, they also seem to provide meals at the stall in front during the day. Quite a few people gather there, don’t they?”

Now that she mentioned it, people were indeed gathering at the location she pointed out. I could see people eating at the shabby place where tables and chairs were arranged haphazardly.

“Let’s go.”

I nodded in agreement with Dennis’ words and took a step forward. The further I went, the better the smell became. It was a somewhat nostalgic scent that even drew me in. As I entered the store, a lively salesperson was chanting the names of dishes.

“Now, it’s our special foreign-style stew! It’s delicious! We also have foreign-style porridge!”

“Um, one of each please.”

I immediately placed my order. The salesperson smiled and said “Thank you as always,” then shouted to the kitchen in the back. The food came out almost immediately without much waiting time. As expected, it was exactly what Dennis had described, so I picked it up and sat down at the table.

Dennis quickly paid the bill, and the two of us peeked at the food from above.

The steam rising from the dishes looked like nothing but curry and ramen imitations. Anyway, I decided to try it. First, I slurped the ramen imitation and opened my eyes.

“It’s delicious.”

The taste felt nostalgic. It should have been my first time eating with this body, but for some reason, I felt that way. As I stared at it in amazement, I suddenly felt a presence behind me.

“Could it be, Lorraine?”

There was a familiar tone in the voice. I turned around and saw the person standing there, and thought to myself, “I knew it.”

It was Paolo, wearing a dirty apron.

I felt relieved to see him but also angry that he disappeared without saying anything. However, I held back my anger and said:

“I see you figured out.”

“Well, I thought I saw someone who looked familiar somewhere. So I thought if that person was there, maybe you would be too.”

Paolo tilted his chin towards Dennis. Certainly, she wasn’t wearing a wig or any disguise, and she had her usual face.

“I guess you came to see me.”

“Well, if you disappear like that, of course I’ll be worried.”

I said to Paolo, who was smiling happily, with a look of disbelief. ‘Is this really the time to be so carefree? I came prepared to be squeezed dry later.’ But Paolo, who didn’t know my situation, took my hand and said with a smile.

“Thanks. Since you came all this way, I’ll treat you. Not only that, I’ve made a lot of things in case you came, so come on in.”

“But, we don’t have much time.”

I wanted to go, but I also knew that I had to return at a certain time. Dennis seemed dissatisfied but took out his watch and said,

“It should be okay for a little while longer. I’ll let you know when it’s time.”

“Okay then, I’ll take you up on your offer.”

“Great, this way.”

Paolo took my hand and started walking without caring about Dennis’ sour expression.

Chapter 89: Gathering of Memory Holders

He then asks the waiter to bring the dishes inside, and brings us into the restaurant. Inside, it was still like an izakaya(tavern), with many bottles of alcohol lined up and counters and tables polished and waiting for customers.

“Oh yeah, there are some guys I want to introduce you to. Well, most of them are working at this time, so it’s no good, but a few are here.”

Paolo pointed in a direction where there were already several drunken men, even though it was still daytime.

They were picking at the food on the table and raising their voices.

“Hey, Paolo. What’s up? Bringing a girl with you in the daytime? Lucky guy.”

“It’s not like that!”

I could tell from his response that it was a common occurrence and he wasn’t really angry. I was then taken to the kitchen and was amazed when I saw the dishes placed on the counter.

“Wow, did you make all of these?”

“Yeah, well, finding similar ingredients was tough, but making the seasoning was the hardest part.”

He said that and handed me a fork. I guess he meant for me to eat. As I looked at the dishes in front of me, I asked him,

“Can I eat this?”

“Of course, I actually want to hear your opinion.”

That made sense. For now, I picked up what looked like “rolled omelet” with the fork he gave me and put it in my mouth.

“It’s delicious.”

To speak honestly, Paolo looked at me with a suspicious gaze and asked, “Do you really, really think so?”

“Well, it’s a little different, but this is really delicious. Oh, I’ll get some of the other dishes too.”

Saying that, I tried some other Japanese-style dishes. They were all delicious, but they didn’t have the unique taste of Japan.

There was something crucially missing.

“After all, the seasoning is lacking, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, I know. But that’s just how it is.”

Seeing Paolo sigh heavily, I patted him on the back.

“It can’t be helped. This is a different world and a different country. I think we’re lucky if we can reproduce it.”

When I said that, Paolo showed a slight smile. While we were having such an exchange, a male customer who had been drinking earlier came over to us with a smirk and said, “You guys are obviously close. Just be honest and tell your big brother.”

“That’s not it at all. You see, this girl here is the same as me and you.”

When Paolo said that with a slightly annoyed expression, the drunkard’s playful demeanor changed completely and he stared intently at me.

Since he was staring too much, I stared back at him.

The drunkard is in his late thirties, with black hair, light brown eyes, and tanned skin. He looks older due to his stubble, but from my perspective, which seems to specialize in observation, he doesn’t seem that old. He has a sturdy build, and his body seems to be made for labor.

“Oh, I see. Is this the woman you’ve been talking about sometimes?”

The stubbled man asks, and Paolo nods. I suddenly feel a chill down my spine and reflexively look at Dennis. Ah, she’s angry. Very angry. But I can tell she’s holding back because if she were to act out here, my identity would be revealed.

I prayed that I could endure it with a forced smile.

“Well, I’ll have to introduce you to Cassini-San. Come here, girl.”

“Wait a minute. Um, what do you mean by ‘the same’?”

I was confused by the beckoning gesture and asked Paolo. He nodded reassuringly with a smile.

“They’re all guys who have memories of the same past life as us and are drinking over there. They’re from different countries, but they’re all born in modern times.”

My brain didn’t immediately understand what he said, and I looked at the drunken group in confusion. I know they’re all working-class people, but I never thought there would be so many.

“Are there really six of them?”

Until now, I could count on one hand the number of memory holders I had met. Moreover, since they were all people from different eras, our conversations didn’t match, and many of them had already passed away. So, I could only be surprised by Paolo’s words.

“It’s true. The story is also reliable, so you can trust it. Would you like to talk a little?”

“Well, until it’s time, sure.”

I nodded and turned towards the drunken group beckoning me over. As soon as I sat down, I was surrounded and bombarded with questions. Where and when were you born? Did you have a job? And so on.

After all, they all looked stern, so it was a little scary. Still, I thought that such an opportunity was rare and tried to answer their questions somehow. However, their stories started in the meantime, and it was challenging to keep up.

“I was a skilled technician over there. There’s nothing like that in this world, so just fixing something a little complicated is enough to receive a storm of praise. But when they’re that happy about it, it feels good.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. Anyway, they’re so happy about something that seems impossible to do.”

“Right, right. They even give you food as a bonus and rely on you. Over there, I just did it for work, so I never had this kind of opportunity.”

The group nodded with their cups in hand.

As I listened to their stories, I felt happy but also a little pathetic that I couldn’t do anything.

But that’s inevitable.

They have something to build on.

“It’s nice, but I died early, so I don’t have anything like that.”

“I see, it must have been tough, but you were born again, so you can definitely do something!”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

In response to my slightly honest remark, they all comforted me at once. Until now, I had no one to talk to like this.

“Thank you very much.”

All I could give them was my gratitude, but I strongly felt that if I could do something, I wanted to do it for them.

Chapter 90: Things that can’t be helped

“Hey, you’re a good kid. I envy Paolo. I still don’t have a wife,” said the scruffy bearded man with resentment.

Paolo arrived and placed additional dishes and drinks while glaring at the man. The intensity of his gaze made the man snort and shut his mouth, reaching for the food and stuffing it into his mouth. Then, the man’s dissatisfied face changed completely.

“Oh, you made something delicious again, man.”

“Wow, that’s true. You could be hired by the court with this level of skill. It’s so delicious.”

Fellow diners who had also started eating followed suit.

“Stop it, please. Cooking for those guys is just too depressing.”

Thinking that he would be happy to hear that, Paolo made a face as if he disliked it and said so. Hearing that, I was surprised and stared at his face. When he noticed my gaze, he looked a little awkward and turned his eyes away before returning to the kitchen.

I muttered in wonder, “Why is it depressing?”

Then, a well-dressed man who seemed to have a relatively well-paying job among them spoke up as if he had heard my muttering.

“Isn’t that something that’s already obvious?”

Even though he snorted and said that, I didn’t really understand, so I looked at the man with a troubled expression. The man looked at me and frowned slightly, but explained.

“Listen, you may not know the reason, but the people above us in this country don’t evaluate us properly. Everything is about class, class. In this country, class is everything. No matter how great our achievements are, we can never hope to live like those above us. Except for those who kill people.”

The atmosphere in the room suddenly became heavy with the resentful words that were spoken. I couldn’t say anything. Suddenly, I became scared.

If everyone in this room found out my true identity, how would they react? As I was thinking about that, a man who had been drinking quietly until then raised his voice.

“But there are some who evaluate us properly.”

“But Cassini-san!”

“Yeah, those guys are weak. That’s why we’ll always be like this… God is truly unfair.”

Although it was a murmuring voice, I could hear every word clearly. I looked closely at the person who spoke. He looked like an artist or something. His long brown hair was curly and messy like a natural perm. He was thin and his appearance was similar to that of his companions, but he seemed to stand out just a little bit.

“Do you think so too, Miss?”

“Uh, yes, I suppose so.”

I replied instinctively when suddenly asked by him. The man, called Cassini, nodded and smiled at me.

“Don’t worry too much about what he said. Inequality follows you everywhere.”

“Y-Yes.”

I wonder if he was trying to console me.

However, for some reason, I felt a chill down my spine. It was as if he could see through my true identity and I couldn’t help feeling that way.

“So, you came to see Paolo? You just met him, right?”

“Y-Yes.”

“Well then, I’m sorry about that. We don’t often have the chance to drink with a young girl. Hey, you guys, let’s change the venue.”

When Cassini said that, his companions complained one after another. However, the companions who were told things like “Don’t get in the way” and “You understand how It feel, right?” as if they were being chased away obediently stood up and headed for the entrance. In the end, everyone stood up and left, leaving me alone in the silent shop as they headed towards the entrance.

I hurriedly stood up and tried to stop them, but it was too late.

“Sorry to interrupt, now you can get along.”

Leaving behind a completely mistaken line, they left. The shop was quiet as it prepared for the night, and Paolo walked towards me in amazement.

“They didn’t have to leave.”

When I told him that in confusion, Paolo smiled wryly.

“They’re good guys. That’s why I wanted to introduce you to them. There are others besides them, but everyone is busy.”

“Yeah, that’s too bad.”

I said while staring at the entrance with a subtle feeling of wanting to meet them and not wanting to meet them. It still felt like I could hear Cassini’s voice in my ears.

My first impression was that he was an artist, but I changed my mind.

That’s not it.

I feel like he’s someone who is more mentally agile (intelligent person).

He’s not particularly handsome, but he’s someone who leaves an impression, good or bad. As I continued to stare at the entrance, Paolo said hesitantly.

“Did you want to talk more?”

“Huh? No, it’s okay… I think everyone would be uncomfortable if I were there.”

Yes, that’s probably why they changed locations. They probably realized that I was naive about the world. At least, I think they suspect that I’m not above them.

It wouldn’t be relaxing to have someone of a higher class who they don’t like during their leisure time, and I don’t want to be a bother either, so this is for the best.

As I told myself that, Paolo said,

“Well, in a way, I’m also uncomfortable.”

It was a casual remark, but I was a little shocked. Even Paolo felt that way. However, there was nothing I could do about it. I forced a smile.

“…I see. But, we can’t do anything about our birth.”

“That’s not what I mean, it’s not about that.”

“Huh?”

Before I knew it, Paolo was staring straight at me. He was trying so hard that he could have said it himself. Unlike when I was dressed up, there should be no value in looking at me now, let alone less than the tip of a needle. Why?

Not understanding the meaning, I raised my voice.

Chapter 91: Suddenly stunned

“Hey, Paolo, what’s wrong? You seem different… Did you catch a cold or something?”

“Well, yeah, it might be something like that.”

“Hey, you should rest then. Eat something good for your body and do you have any medicine? If not, I’ll try to get some for you…”

I thought it might be something like that.

Even though I only saw him for a little bit, he was working hard. He was working so hard that I was impressed by how much stamina he had. There might be a reason for that, but if he’s sick, he should take a break. At least, I don’t think Paolo is in such dire straits that he can’t take a day off.

“I don’t need it.”

“But…”

When I was about to say more, thinking about what would happen if he got worse if left alone, he suddenly took my hand. He held it tightly with both hands. Without understanding what was happening, Paolo had a serious look on his face.

“Medicine won’t help.”

I felt a sense of danger in his gaze and started to back away, but his grip was too strong for me to move.

——Um, what should I do?

I didn’t want to ignore him, but Paolo was a little scary right now. When I was at my wit’s end and tried to ask Dennis for help, he said it.

“I like you.”

“…”

Is this what they call a bolt from the blue? I stand frozen in place, meeting Paolo’s gaze. Well, actually, it’s not so much that I’m meeting his gaze as I simply don’t understand.

“I know there’s nothing we can do about it. But I just wanted you to know, even if it’s just a little bit, that I wish I could be inside you.”

Paolo looks at me with moist eyes. I really want him to stop from the bottom of my heart. It’s troublesome to be looked at with such a sad expression. No, I’m already at my wit’s end.

In fact, when did this happen? When and where did Paolo develop feelings for me? I can’t figure it out no matter how much I think about it. At least, I don’t think there was anything like that.

Moreover, I think I was pretty close to Jeremiah at the place where Paolo works, but did he not see that?

I try to understand the current situation with my confused brain spinning. And finally, what came to mind was about my past life. Certainly, it’s not often that the era and country are the same. If he feels fate in that, then I can understand.

No, that must be it.

However, even if I understand, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s endlessly troublesome.

“You, a noble, and me, we have too much of a difference in status. But you know, feelings and status are not related. That’s why I wanted to test you… I was really scared, but you came here like this.”

“T-Then, that paper…”

“Yes, I wanted to see what would happen if I suddenly disappeared leaving something like that behind. As a noble lady, you should have needed a lot of determination to come to a place like this. I wanted to know how far you could go.

But you came… I thought you might never come and that I should give up. But you had me in your heart. So, I don’t want to give up.”

Hearing an unexpected truth, I felt overwhelmed. The feelings contained in that piece of paper were different from what I had thought.

“It’s probably impossible right now. But people’s hearts can change… someday, when I can have you, for sure——”

——S-stop it.

I couldn’t listen anymore. When I decided that I had no choice but to shake him off, help arrived immediately.

“Lorraine-sama!”

Dennis shouted sharply and pulled me away from Paolo. In shock, I fell into Dennis’ arms.

Ah, it’s so reassuring.

As I thought that, Dennis’ angry voice was directed at Paolo.

“You! What are you going to do to Lorraine-sama? Depending on the situation…”

Dennis glared at Paolo with eyes that made even me tremble. However, Paolo didn’t even care about such a murderous gaze and looked at me instead.

His gaze was so intense that my spine involuntarily shuddered.

“Lorraine, I want to know your answer.”

My body reflexively twitched at his quiet voice. Of course, the answer was already decided, but I couldn’t seem to find the words. Still, I opened my mouth, thinking that I had to say it properly.

“…I’m sorry.”

Only one word came out. However, Paolo seemed to understand and gave a bitter smile. I never intended to hurt him, but it was sad to see him make such a face.

“No, you have your own position and circumstances too. I knew that. I’m the one who should apologize.”

Paolo muttered and fell silent while standing there. I hesitated whether to say something to him or not, but before I could come up with any words, Dennis spoke coldly.

“Lorraine-sama, there is no reason for you to stay here any longer, and quite some time has passed. Let’s go back.”

“…Yes.”

She was right. No matter how long I stayed here, there was nothing I could do. I nodded obediently and let Dennis lead me towards the entrance.

As I was about to leave, I turned around and shouted, “Paolo! It was delicious, thank you!”

Then I immediately turned my back to the shop and followed Dennis. As I walked, I thought that I didn’t want it to end like this. I didn’t want my relationship with him to come to an end.

However, there are important things to me.

My family, friends, and Jeremiah.

It is certain that I would never choose Paolo over them by cutting them off.

I can’t handle it.

As I walked, I secretly sighed.

Chapter 92: I’m tired

The next day, I was made aware of how angry Dennis was.

“Hey, why is this servant following you around so much?”

While having breakfast in my room and changing clothes with Dora, I noticed something was off when we were about to leave the room. Dennis was more on edge than usual, and there was a young boy who seemed like a servant or page standing next to her.

I asked what was going on since we had plans to stay in today.

“It’s for surveillance.”

The response I got was firm. I could tell that she was very angry.

“But why do we need so many people if we’re not going out?”

“It’s at Jeremiah-sama’s orders.”

“What? Jeremiah?”

I repeated my question, looking at the composed faces of the servants. I thought of a reason why he would do something like this and came up with one.

“Did something happen again?”

“Yes. There was an explosion in the capital city right after Lorraine-sama went out yesterday. I couldn’t bear the thought of something happening to you, so I told Jeremiah-sama everything last night.”

Her serious words made me feel a chill throughout my body. In other words, I was out at such a dangerous time. On top of that, Jeremiah found out about it.

I froze in place with a double fear.

What a mess. I admit that I did something reckless, but it didn’t have to pile up like this.

I’m already feeling pretty down about what happened yesterday.

I returned a scowl in silence and headed to my room.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m feeling a headache coming on, so I’ll rest a little longer.”

Or rather, my whole body feels tired. I think I just changed clothes, but I’m already tired of everything. It’s the first time since I was born in this world that I’ve felt so tired after just a few steps out of the room.

Unintentionally, a chuckle escaped from my mouth.

I have accumulated too much mental fatigue. I want to stay home and rest today.

“I see. Then I’ll continue to stand guard in front of the door. Another person will come in the afternoon, so I’ll introduce you then.”

“…Okay.”

It was too much trouble to even reply, so I leaned against the door and returned to my room, surprising Dora.

Ah, it’s getting red outside.

Looking up from my book, I vaguely thought that. In the end, I spent most of the day cooped up inside. I didn’t intend to spend my time like this, but I was more tired than I thought, and I didn’t feel like going out.

I immersed myself in books and took naps when I got tired, not wanting to think about yesterday or Jeremiah. I also had all my meals in my room.

“I seem to be remembering things from the past.”

The past referred to here is not the past as Lorraine, but the time when I lived in Japan. I used to spend a lot of time cooped up in my room back then. Since I didn’t particularly like exercise, being cooped up wasn’t particularly painful, but not having any friends was lonely.

But now, I can do what I like.

Yet there seemed to be no change in essence.

“Perhaps my personality from over there is still lingering.”

This is a feeling that can only be understood by someone born with memories. That’s why Paolo may have been so fixated on me. Otherwise, this wouldn’t have happened.

I let out a big sigh.

“I guess it’s time to go home. Jeremiah will be relieved too.”

I don’t want to break my bond with Paolo, but I can’t respond to his feelings. If I continue to be involved with him, I will end up hurting him.

Because…

“I only love Jeremiah. I want to be with him forever, hear his voice, see his figure… I don’t want to give myself to anyone else. Well, maybe that’s going too far.”

I chuckled softly and sighed again, then glanced at the door. I thought someone might come and ask about dinner soon.

“Hmm?”

I wonder if it’s just my imagination, but it seems like the door is slightly open. Could it be that someone heard my murmurs just now? I’m pretty sure there should be a guard watching over the princess’s room like the one on the door, under Jeremiah’s orders. I haven’t checked it thoroughly, but I have a feeling.

——No, no, I kept my distance and spoke quietly enough, so it should be okay…

When I convinced myself of that, the door slowly opened. I almost groaned and quickly covered my mouth with my fist.

As I wondered how to react, there was Jeremiah standing there, illuminated by the evening sun shining in from outside.

I felt like screaming out loud.

While I was wondering why he was quietly there, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by the beautiful image that unfolded, as if a beautiful death god or devil had appeared.

“Uh, well, I wasn’t going to ask.”

Then, the beautiful devil said with a shy face.

I was so surprised that I felt like spitting blood in my head for the first time in a while, and I followed him with my eyes as he entered.

Since it’s not often that I see him like this, I enjoy it thoroughly. But then I noticed.

Why is Jeremiah so shy? I thought about what was making him shy and finally realized it.

It was about the words I accidentally blurted out earlier.

“… Did you hear me?”

I asked while looking at Jeremiah’s tense face as he approached.

Now that I’ve noticed, it’s not a time for observation. Please don’t say that you heard everything――!

“Oh, well, from around the time you decided to go home…”

I covered my face with both hands at his awkward response.

Chapter 93: I still like it

It’s embarrassing, too embarrassing. I’ve had such bad luck lately. Maybe it’s just a bad time for my fortune. I want to go to church and get some kind of blessed item to wear all the time.

As I thought this half seriously, Jeremiah’s hand touched mine. My body reflexively trembled.

“Lorraine, I want to see your face.”

I shook my head at his voice. I definitely don’t want him to see my face in this state. I’m so embarrassed that my face is contorted and I feel like crying. It must be terrible.

“I’m sorry about today. I heard from Dennis and got angry. It’s not that I didn’t believe in you, but I didn’t like it. But now I realize that this is not something I should do. So, I want to apologize to you properly by looking at your face, Lorraine.”

Although he called my name gently, it made it even harder for me to show my face. He gently removed my hand from my face as if handling fragile goods. I resisted by looking down, but ended up bending over in front of him and not averting my eyes this time.

“I’m sorry, please forgive me.”

“N-No, I just did something selfish and made you worry.

I said there was no need for him to apologize, but Jeremiah shook his head and held both of my hands firmly as he spoke.

“No, I shouldn’t have done such a terrible thing.”

“It wasn’t terrible. I was able to rest today.”

While saying that, I thought I should explain properly to him, given his serious demeanor. Even if it’s scary or incomprehensible, I have an obligation to do so since I caused him worry.

“Jeremiah, I’m sorry. But I couldn’t just leave that person alone because he seemed so lonely and in pain. It was reckless of me.”

As I said it, I felt down, but it was the truth and there was nothing I could do about it.

Above all, it was even more embarrassing that despite causing so much worry, there were no results. Jeremiah looked at me with a smile.

“That’s right, you were reckless.”

“Yes.”

It was true. No matter how much he called me stupid or foolish, I had done something that couldn’t be helped.

“But I know that your reckless actions came from your kindness. So please, Lorraine, can you not make me out to be such a terrible man?”

His gentle voice seeped into my heart.

I thought it was unfair. The person with my favorite face was looking at me with a troubled expression and saying such things. Moreover, in that beloved voice that was bad for my heart.

I absolutely couldn’t refuse like this.

“I don’t want to do that either.”

I secretly thought to myself. However, I was really happy deep down that Jeremiah was concerned about me and doing various things for me.

“I’m glad you say that, but I think you’re a bit clumsy… I’m afraid someone might take advantage of you if I leave you alone.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll study.”

“Okay, please do.”

Finally, the severity disappeared from Jeremiah’s face and a gentle smile appeared. I smiled along with him.

As we laughed together, I realized that I really liked this person.

I didn’t hesitate when Paolo confessed to me because I didn’t feel the same way. Even when I’m with Paolo, my heart doesn’t ache or feel overjoyed like it does when I’m with Jeremiah.

Above all, a different future was more important to me than the same past. I didn’t want to hurt him, but my choice wouldn’t change.

I want to live with Jeremiah.

I am sure that there are many aspects of Jeremiah that I do not know yet. Discovering them makes me happy.

After that, Jeremiah said that he would eat with me in my room instead of going to dinner.

Since he said he wanted to be with me, I had no reason to refuse, and the servants were asked to bring the food.

The preparation didn’t take much time, and the menu was almost the same as what Duke and Paula were served, on a not-so-large table. As usual, it was luxurious.

While eating, I talked with Jeremiah.

The topics jumped around, and sometimes he said things that were bad for my heart, but we talked about various things that happened when we weren’t together. We talked about Lucia, Dennis, and also about people with memories.

When the conversation turned to the fact that their situation is not very good, Jeremiah said,

“That’s one of the problems we’re dealing with now. They probably have knowledge and technology that we don’t know about.”

“Yes, there are some amazing people among those with memories.”

Among those with memories are not only technicians but also scholars and researchers. Moreover, there is a possibility that there are people like me who were born in modern times or even born in the future and died.

“That’s right. Each country has begun to notice this. Some countries have already invited such people to the center of their country. Our country is lagging behind because of the caste system.”

“Then, what should we do?”

“Abolishing the system is difficult, so I’m thinking of making an exception. However, there are some stubborn people.”

Jeremiah made a gesture as if he was enduring a headache, but I could feel his determination to accomplish it no matter what.

I thought about it, if an “exception” was made as he said. It might not be possible right away, but if it was established someday…

“Well, they’ll figure it out someday. They can’t see it now, but there are a number of countries that are growing rapidly.”

“Then maybe those people will be rewarded someday.”

“Yes, I think that would be good for the country.”

I looked into Jeremiah’s deeply nodding eyes and felt happy. I always wondered what his duty was, but this was it.

I felt proud of many things and a smile naturally appeared on my face.

“I believe in you. That’s why this country will surely get better.”

Those words came out smoothly.

Because I really thought so.

Then, Jeremiah blinked for a moment and then said with a slightly embarrassed expression.

Chapter 94: A maiden in love is scary

“Thank you… It really makes me happy when you say that.”

He said it with a truly happy expression, and I couldn’t help but feel a flutter in my chest. Above all, I was able to make him look like this.

I want to be of use to Jeremiah, even if it’s just a little.

I felt happy.

“I still want to get married soon.”

However, the destructive power of the next line and his slightly troubled expression blew away what I had been thinking of saying in gratitude.

I ended up choking on my drink while trying to calm myself down with a white head and a red face.

The next day, I was still feeling vague about everything that had happened yesterday, so I declined breakfast and thought about staying holed up again.

Jeremiah apologized, but he still wouldn’t reduce the number of guards because he was worried. He also said that Dennis didn’t want to reduce them no matter what.

In the end, it was decided that we would continue like this, and I had no choice but to accept it without objection.

So today, I’m accompanied by three or so servants, feeling like a bit of a villainous Ojo-sama.

By the way, according to Dennis, if we go out, the number of accompanying servants will increase. In that case, it will be male servants instead of maids.

I wonder what people who saw that would think, but I decided to understand that if I didn’t want to go against the two who were worried about me and avoid that delicate situation, all I had to do was to stay inside.

So, for today, I’m in the library as usual.

I can’t help but come here because it’s especially calming.

Maybe I should study scams and crimes that I promised Jeremiah yesterday. As I climb a ladder to search for books on that topic in high places, the library door suddenly opens with tremendous force.

I was surprised and accidentally dropped the book, letting out a mournful cry.

“Ah!”

I lamented the damage to the book, which was expensive and Duke-sama’s possession, but Dennis quickly took the book from me. Then she looked at the door with a stern expression. I also felt relieved and followed her gaze to confirm the person on the other side of the door, my mouth twitching.

“Lu-Lucia…”

A voice that was almost a groan came out of my throat.

Well, I was prepared for it because I thought Lucia would realize soon that Paolo wasn’t here and come to ask about it, but it’s quite nerve-wracking when it actually happens.

“Lorraine-oneesama, did Onee-sama do something?”

“W-What do you mean?”

It’s difficult to understand when you say something vague like “something.”

Then, Lucia walked up to me and said while clinging to a stepladder.

“It’s obviously about Paolo! Why isn’t he in this mansion? I thought he was out for some delivery or something… but when I asked, I heard that he quit!”

“Oh~, yeah, it seems so.”

There’s no way I can say that the cause is me. And especially after such a confession.

I have no idea what to do.

However, Lucia raised her eyebrows at my response.

“You think it’s okay to say ‘it seems so’? Onee-sama, aren’t you worried? You seemed so close, but now you don’t care about him anymore? I didn’t think you were that kind of person.”

“Wait, Lucia. I didn’t say I don’t care. I’m sure he had his reasons.”

“What reasons? Quitting such a good job… there must have been something serious. Aren’t you worried, Onee-sama?”

Feeling pressured by Lucia’s expression as she climbed up the stepladder, I quickly said without hesitation.

“Oh, um, actually, I’ve already seen where he works. He seems to be doing very well there, so it’s okay.”

After I said it, I knew it was a mistake, but it was too late to take it back. Lucia stopped moving for a moment after my words, then her face lit up.

“Is that so! Oh, that’s good. I thought something had happened to him. Then, could you please tell me the location?”

“Uh, um…”

What should I do? I’m scared of what might happen if I don’t tell her.

However, I can’t let Lucia go alone, and above all, going out now seems dangerous.

“Um, sorry. Denny took me there, so I don’t know it well. I think there was a paper with the address written on it, but I forgot where I put it…”

“I see.”

Lucia seemed to believe my words and quickly got off the ladder and went straight to Dennis to ask her to tell her. However, Dennis was indifferent.

“I’m sorry, but my master is Jeremiah-sama. I cannot guide you without permission.”

“It’s okay, just tell me the location.”

“I cannot agree to that. The capital is currently dangerous, so it would be better for you not to go out alone, milady. If something happens, it will be His Grace Duke Astorga’s responsibility.”

Even Lucia, who was usually quick with words, couldn’t respond to this. She glared at Dennis with a look of great dissatisfaction and made an unbecoming act of snorting and saying, “Fine, I’ll find it myself. Excuse me.”

Lucia turned her dress and left the library with her footsteps echoing. I looked at the door for a moment, but there was nothing I could do, so I got off the stepladder and muttered, “I have a feeling she’s going to do something reckless.”

“I think so too. She is like a collection of the worst parts of Lorraine-sama.”

“…Uh, wait, what do you mean?”

I was surprised by Dennis’ words and reflexively asked her again.

“I mean it exactly as I said. Both Lorraine-sama and Lucia-sama tend to rush headlong once they have made up their minds.”

I couldn’t say anything to Dennis, who said it plainly with a serious expression.

Chapter 95: Shocking Morning

As Dennis said, Lucia is indeed an extension of my indiscretion. Moreover, she is also a face-value person like me and has often imitated my hobbies since we were young.

Dorothea often complained to me that Lucia was like Lorraine’s younger sister.

Despite not having been here for very long, I was once again reminded of Dennis’ greatness for seeing through it.

At the same time, I thought to myself.

“Do masters and servants resemble each other?”

That line that hit me in the chest from Dennis earlier. That is exactly the characteristic that the Castalde family naturally possesses. They are not aware of it themselves, but they often unintentionally make fun of them while trying to compliment them.

Dennis tilted her head when she heard my muttering.

“Is there something about me that resembles Jeremiah-sama?”

“Sigh, no, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. More importantly, we can’t just leave Lucia alone like that. Maybe we should ask Jeremiah or Lady Astorga to assign someone to her.”

“Wouldn’t it be better to tell Mrs. Morena?”

Dennis said curiously.

Certainly, as she said, in this case, it is normal to inform the chaperone. However, there is a “but.”

“I think it’s useless to tell her. After all, she hasn’t said a word of complaint despite all the fuss Lucia has been making so far.”

And so, she spends her days sleeping on the sofa or bench and staring blankly. Although I occasionally hear “be a little more ladylike,” she seems to think that she has fulfilled her duty and shows no particular signs of moving.

It’s like having a living cushion that breathes.

“That’s true.”

Dennis seemed to have some idea and quietly lowered her eyes and sighed. I also sighed along with her.

The next day.

That morning, there was one topic that dominated the conversation.

“I never thought it would come to this.”

Jeremiah said with a stern expression as he spread out the newspaper. I had just finished breakfast and getting ready, so I didn’t know what he was talking about and tilted my head while asking.

“What happened? What do you mean by ‘this’?”

Then he beckoned me over. As I approached as he gestured, he pulled my arm and made me sit next to him. My heart was pounding heavily, but when I saw what he was pointing at, it pounded even harder.

“Why would they do something like this?”

The newspaper had a large article on it, a so-called statement. The content was shocking to me.

It was about the recent series of bombing incidents. Although the damage was minor, the incident had spread anxiety among people. The perpetrator who caused it had come forward.

They claimed to be memory retainers.

I covered my mouth with my hand in shock. However, I couldn’t take my eyes off the article. There was still more to it.

It expressed dissatisfaction with the current situation, especially regarding the difference in treatment between their country and other countries, which was what Jeremiah had been concerned about.

As I read further, it stated that they could understand their power better through this incident and that they always had the power to take over the center of this country. They expected a response in the future.

I was thinking about the people I saw at that bar.

I don’t want to think that they are involved in something like this…

“…Are you okay? I told you because you would find out eventually.”

“…Yes, I’m okay. It was just a bit surprising.”

Although I answered like that, from Jeremiah’s concerned expression, I knew that I didn’t look good.

Actually, it was quite a shock.

However, I don’t want to worry him.

Above all, there is nothing I can do about this situation. I can only watch over the situation.

“Well, that’s good, but anyway, you should refrain from going out. Don’t go out alone.”

“Yes, I will do that.”

I nodded firmly, and Jeremiah’s expression brightened a little.

Then he gently hugged me.

“Do that for me. I’m scared when I think something might happen to you.”

His quiet voice penetrated my ears, and I instinctively held my chest. Despite being anxious, I felt happy.

I closed my eyes and calmed my breathing before answering.

“Yes.”

I don’t know what kind of situation he is imagining from this situation.

I’m sure it’s not good.

If that’s the case, it’s best to just listen obediently.

Resting my head on his bigger shoulder, I thought so.

Three days after that incident.

Today, Jeremiah is not out, but as usual, I am surrounded by Dennis and the increased number of guards and servants, wandering around the Duke’s mansion.

In reality, I think it was a terrible thing.

However, there is no need to be on edge all day long, and if I’m in trouble, Dennis is here. So I decided to enjoy reading without isolating myself.

While leisurely reading a book, I became a little melancholy thinking that these kinds of days might increase in the future.

I didn’t think I would need to kill time in the capital city. Before coming here, I talked with my mother and brother that if we were in the capital city, we wouldn’t be bored. It seems like a lie now.

It’s still okay for now, but if it continues for a long time, it will become very boring.

At times like this, I wonder why nobles can’t work. However, I understand that labor for entertainment is different. I don’t quite understand this aspect.

Anyway, as a born lady, I think I can find various things to do.

So after spending the day like that, I returned to my room today to change into a dress for the evening.

Chapter 96: Lucia is missing

Dora was waiting there, and everything was prepared. All that was left was to change clothes. Honestly, I still wasn’t used to dressing up too much. Nevertheless, I continued to try to get used to it.

“Haah.”

I let out a sigh unintentionally, but Dora, who was used to it, didn’t mind.

“Now, now, let’s make you look extra beautiful today!”

“Yes.”

I answered with a completely uninterested voice and moved as Dora instructed. At that moment, the door opened without any warning.

Startled, both Dora and I couldn’t even scream as we looked at the person who suddenly entered.

She had brown hair mixed with white, and was wearing a yellow dress. She was a middle-aged woman with a medium build. She seemed to be overflowing with fatigue from her face and looked like she could collapse at any moment.

For a moment, I couldn’t remember who she was and stared at her for a while before finally realizing who she was.

It seems that I couldn’t connect her with the impression I had seen so far because she looked completely different.

I called out the name of the person who suddenly appeared.

“Mrs. Morena?”

It seemed that she had run here as she was out of breath and looked like she was in pain. Her hair was messy and her clothes were slightly disheveled, but she didn’t seem to care about that at all as she looked around the room with a despairing expression.

“W-what should we do? Oh, my God, oh, my God. It’s my fault for not looking more carefully.”

“Excuse me, what happened?”

Without stating her business and suddenly opening the door, Mrs. Morena sat down alone in the room. I couldn’t help but ask her.

Normally, I would condemn such rudeness, but she seemed so desperate that I couldn’t do that.

Then, Mrs. Morena slowly raised her face and said in a desperate voice, “Lucia, Lucia is nowhere to be found. Lorraine-sama, do you know any place where she might have gone?”

When asked, the first place that came to mind was Paolo’s shop.

But Lucia didn’t know the location of that shop. Neither Dennis nor I had told her, and there was no way for her to know.

That’s what I thought, but I had a bad feeling and said, “Dora, could you take a look at the book with the red spine over there?”

“Huh? Okay.”

Although she tilted her head suspiciously, Dora picked up the book with the red spine from the stack of books on the table and flipped through it as instructed.

As I struggled to move while changing clothes, I asked her, “Is there anything stuck in there?”

“No, there’s nothing.”

To convey the accuracy of her words, Dora opened the book and showed me while flipping through it. I felt my body go limp.

I’ve been had――.

“We have to go look for her right now. Call Dennis, hurry!… Lucia must have gone to that store.”

“Uh, y-yes.”

“Lorraine-sama, do you know where that child is?! If so, I will go! I will take responsibility and bring her back!”

Mrs. Morena screamed like a banshee. Then, Dennis appeared with a troubled-looking Dora.

“What’s wrong?”

“It seems that Lucia took the paper I wrote Paolo’s address on. Oh no, what should we do?”

She might have already left this mansion. Moreover, judging from the situation, she probably went secretly and without any companions. A young girl wandering around that place alone at this time.

I cursed my own stupidity.

“I understand the situation. Then, we will search with the servants. Lorraine-sama and Mrs. Morena, please wait at the mansion.”

Dennis made her stern face even sterner and spoke in a harsh voice.

Then she immediately tried to leave, so I raised my voice.

“I’m going too!”

It’s definitely my fault.

If Lucia had caused trouble for Paolo or the guests, I would have to apologize. That’s what I thought, but…

“No, it’s not possible.”

I was flatly refused and intimidated by a sharp gaze, making me tremble with fear. The force was so powerful that my spine shook. But I couldn’t give up. I couldn’t leave everything to the servants.

“Please, don’t go alone. I don’t care how many attendants there are, please take me with you!”

“No, it’s not possible. It’s dangerous outside.”

“But it’s my fault. It’s because I accidentally let slip that this happened. I can’t just sit here.”

“Still, please wait here with Mrs. Morena.”

I looked at Dennis, who wouldn’t budge, with resentment. What she said was reasonable, but it was frustrating for me, who was so worried and couldn’t do anything.

As I was at a loss as to how to persuade her, Mrs. Morena spoke up.

“Take me with you! If we stay here like this, what should we say to Baroness Palmara? Oh, if only I hadn’t taken my eyes off her for a moment because I wasn’t feeling well. Hey, please take me to that shop.”

“No, but taking a lady to that neighborhood…”

“It’s okay. It’s my fault that this happened, and I won’t be able to sleep until I see that child safe and sound. My heart is already weak, and I might kick the bucket if we don’t hurry. Come on, let’s go.”

Mrs. Morena pulls Dennis’ arm with a force that seems like she’s about to run, despite her previous lazy demeanor.

Seeing Dennis’ perplexed expression, I thought it was a good opportunity to speak up.

“That’s right, Dennis. Mrs. Morena is right. But it’s cruel to take Mrs. Morena, who has a weak heart, outside. I’ll go instead. That way, Mrs. can be at ease, right?”

“But…”

Dennis was cornered by me and Mrs. Morena and seemed a bit flustered, but he still wouldn’t give in. Then, Mrs. Morena said even more forcefully.

Chapter 97: Going downtown again

“Oh, please don’t worry about it, Lorraine-sama. Even if I have a heart condition, as long as I don’t engage in intense exercise, I’ll be fine. My pulse is just a little off, and my hips and knees may not be in good condition, but I’ll manage somehow. So let’s go quickly.”

“But…”

Still, when Dennis tried to refuse, Mrs. Morena glared at hER from behind her heavy eyelids and asked,

“Are you saying that you won’t take me with you? It’s not right to refuse the request of someone who doesn’t have much time left. Are you telling me to die with regret?”

“…Uh.”

I felt like I saw the power of middle-aged and elderly people in her weakened state. Even Dennis was at a loss for words.

Seeing her rare state of weakness, I thought to myself that maybe…

“So, I’ll go. I don’t want you to push yourself when your body is in pain. Mrs. Morena, I will definitely bring Lucia back. So, could you wait here for me?”

“Lorraine-sama, but this is my problem.”

“It’s my problem too. I don’t want to regret it. If something happens while you’re waiting here alone, I’ll have to carry that burden with me forever.”

Upon hearing this, both of them fell silent.

I waited anyway. There was nothing else I could do. It was a shame to waste this time, but there was no helping it.

“…Understood. Then, we will take Lorraine-sama with us. Mrs. cannot risk her health, so please stay here. We cannot accept any objections to this.”

“Oh, I told you it’s going to be okay. But I don’t want to be a burden on you guys, so I guess I’ll just have to do what you say.”

“Yes, I’m sorry.”

As I bowed my head, Mrs. Morena waved her hand as if to say it was unnecessary and frowned.

“Don’t say that. Baron Valcourt’s lady does not do such things.”

“Yes. Well then, shall we go, Dennis?”

“Yes.”

Although Dennis nodded reluctantly, she seemed to have made up her mind and quickly gathered the escort servants and prepared the carriage. After declaring once again to Mrs. Morena that I would definitely bring her back, I left the room and immediately got into the carriage.

As I got off, thinking that walking and riding in a carriage were different in speed, I headed towards the store while being looked at strangely by the people around me.

It’s like feeling like a rare animal.

After all, my appearance is incomplete, with my hair not properly tied and no makeup, but only a dress and a coat on top. Moreover, considering the place and time.

I think it’s really strange for a young noblewoman to be wandering around with her servant.

“Please be within my reach. Honestly, I don’t have complete confidence in protecting you… Besides, I can’t trust him.”

“What do you mean?”

“He’s from the working class and he has memories. There’s a possibility that he’s acquainted with the culprit of that incident… Even if he himself isn’t involved.”

Seeing my expression become stern, Dennis added.

“If a lady like you goes to such a place in that appearance, do you know what will happen?”

“I trust Paolo.”

That was the only true feeling I had.

It’s true that he was born in a low class, but I don’t think he would do something like that. I want to believe that. Because even though I don’t really know much about him, he confessed to me.

We just talked about our past lives and ate the food he made…

Thinking about it, I started to feel uneasy. I stiffened slightly and approached the entrance of the store.

As the street gradually became darker, the streetlights lit up.

Walking carefully on the road that still had snow to avoid slipping, I tilted my head as I listened to the sounds leaking from the shops. I thought I might hear Lucia’s voice, but there was no sign of it.

Rather, despite the lights being on, it was quiet and even eerie.

Today isn’t a holiday or anything, right? But there are no customers, and I hope nothing happened.

“It looks like someone’s here, but they’re not open.”

Dennis said, pointing to the sign.

“Maybe that newspaper article has something to do with it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I remember they also had memories. If such an article were published, there is a possibility that they would be driven out of here. There could be many other reasons why they can’t stay here.”

It was only then that I realized the possibility.

That’s right, I never thought that Paolo and the others were involved. However, for those who don’t know them, they could be suspects. If that happens…

I hurriedly knocked on the dirty wooden door.

“Is anyone there? Is anyone there?”

“Lorraine-sama, your voice is too loud. You’re drawing attention to yourself.”

“But…”

Maybe she’s not here. If that’s the case, what happened to Lucia? Only bad thoughts come to mind.

I reach out to the knocker to knock on the door again and open my mouth, but Dennis♀ places a hand on my shoulder and pulls me back.

“Step back, someone’s coming.”

I stare at the door involuntarily at Dennis’s voice.

I also wonder how good her hearing is. I couldn’t hear anything, and there was a reasonable amount of foot traffic around, making noise.

But anyway, I know someone is there.

I hold my breath and wait as the door opens cautiously. The face that appeared from there was someone I knew.

“Lorraine…”

“Paolo, thank goodness. I was wondering what happened since the store wasn’t open.”

“Well, you see…”

He answered awkwardly and looked at me with a subtle expression that seemed somewhat frightened yet slightly happy.

Chapter 98: Something that flies and is on fire

Observing his behavior, I sensed that something had happened, just as Dennis had said earlier.

I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at the thought that this shop might also disappear, but I continued the conversation, thinking that I had to convey the main point.

“Anyway, I’m glad you’re safe.”

“…That’s not why you came here, is it?”

Paolo, who had been staring at me with a stern expression, let out a sigh and scratched his head awkwardly.

“So she did come after all?”

“Yeah, she’s inside the shop right now…”

Paolo glanced briefly at Dennis standing behind me, looking like she was about to pounce, then quickly returned his gaze to me. He seemed a little scared. I could tell from the way his mouth twitched.

“Let me see her. I’ll bring her back right away.”

“Okay.”

Paolo shrugged his shoulders and led me and Dennis into the shop. He looked startled when he saw the servants trailing behind us.

“Wait a minute, it’s going to be difficult even if so many people come in. It’s small and we won’t even be able to sit down.”

“But…”

I looked up at Dennis in distress. She glared at Paolo with a stern expression and then spoke to the servants.

“You guys wait here. If we don’t come back in an hour, we’ll break in. That’s all… Is that okay with you?”

The last words were directed at Paolo, who nodded with suspicious behavior. The two servants tightened their tough faces even more than Dennis and answered solemnly, as if they were about to give a military salute, “Understood.”

Feeling a little overwhelmed by the grandeur of it all, I followed Dennis into the store.

Unlike during business hours, the cleaned tables and chairs and the kitchen prepared for use at any time looked lonely.

Paolo didn’t even glance at them and headed towards the back of the store. We passed by stairs leading down and a room filled with food on the way. At the end of those rooms was a room with light leaking out.

It seemed to be a place to take a break.

Paolo beckoned us and we stepped into the room.

Inside the room were two simple beds, a shabby writing desk for keeping accounts, and a shelf for recipes and such.

It was certainly small, but I wondered if it was enough for two more people as I looked around and tilted my head.

“Paolo, where is Lucia?”

“…She’s not here.”

“Huh?”

I was puzzled by his cold response. Then I noticed something strange about Paolo’s behavior.

It wasn’t just because of the awkwardness of what had happened that I was sure of. His demeanor was even more tense.

“But you said she was at the store earlier.”

As I tried to continue, there was a noise behind me. Three men appeared in my field of vision. They all looked like working-class men in dirty, worn-out clothes, and they were well-built.

Before I could even say anything, they caught Dennis.

“What are you doing? Stop it!”

Paolo grabbed my arm reflexively as I struggled, and it was no use. He held me tightly, and it hurt.

On the floor, Dennis was desperately resisting.

However, no matter how strong she was, she couldn’t match the strength of three men. She was being gagged and tied up.

In pain and shock, I asked with tears in my eyes.

“Why are you doing this? What did I do?!”

“Well, I didn’t really plan on doing this. No, I was planning on giving up…”

“What are you talking about?”

I didn’t understand anything he said, so I just kept asking questions. It was partly because it was the only thing I could do at the moment, but also because I wanted to distract myself from the fear by asking questions.

“But, in the end, with the arrival of that lady, Lucia, we were able to bring you into our group as originally planned.”

“Group? What kind of group?”

“Of course, a group of people with memories like yours.”

It wasn’t Paolo who answered my question. It was a man standing leaning against the door of the break room. He had a noticeable presence and stood out among the working-class people. I recognized him from somewhere.

He had curly brown hair and a thin build. There was something about him that gave off an artistic vibe and his sharp eyes added to that impression.

Tonight, he was dressed a little better and wore a neat coat, although it was second-hand. He even looked like a scholar.

“You are…”

“Nice to meet you, Lady Lorraine Valcourt. Well, it’s not the first time we’ve met, but it’s the first time we’ve met properly since we only exchanged two or three words before.

I’m Cassini. I’m working on improving the status and living conditions of all those with memories in this country.”

His words were spoken calmly but coarsely, yet they were quiet, which made them somewhat ominous. I had so many questions to ask, but as soon as I heard his answer, my voice choked up and I couldn’t speak.

“Oh, by the way, did you read the newspaper the other day? I thought it was about time to reveal our true identity. Our aim was to make the upper class of this country aware of our value and show them the difference with other countries,” said the man, Cassini, with a happy expression.

I was once again shocked and couldn’t speak. It made me cry to think about my lack of discernment.

He continued to speak to me.

“To be honest, I wanted to welcome our comrades in a more peaceful way. But there was no other choice. Maybe Paolo’s charm wasn’t enough. Honestly, I wanted Paolo to elope with you. Well, I understand your feelings. Your partner is a promising son of Marquis and also very handsome, right? Certainly, he and this man are incomparable,” he said with a slightly distorted laugh.

But more than that, I was shocked by his words. Does that mean Paolo’s confession was a lie?

I honestly want to stop here because I can’t believe in myself anymore, but I still can’t speak.

Then Paolo let out an annoyed voice.

Chapter 99: Shock x 3

“Cassini-san, I was serious. Please stop using phrasing that leads to misunderstandings!”

“Ah, sorry. That’s right… I was actually planning to persuade her, but you begged me to wait. But I never thought that your persuasion would turn into a love confession.”

Cassini said with a slightly amused expression. Paolo was visibly flustered. I couldn’t help but turn around and look at his face as he held me onto his arm.

As a connoisseur of handsome men, I couldn’t help but admire him and express my thoughts in my mind.

――Wow, he’s so cute…

Paolo, who couldn’t look at me with a red, embarrassed, and angry face, had the destructive power unique to handsome men. I was so absorbed in watching him that I forgot about the situation.

“Oh, Miss Lorraine, have you fallen for him again? If so, I think it would be more peaceful and better if you worked things out with him.”

“No, no, that’s not what I meant…”

I became visibly agitated at Cassini’s teasing words.

Paolo then turned to look at me in reverse.

I panicked at the slightly expectant expression on his face.

“I think it’s a good match, and Paolo is quite serious. Besides, if you say that you are our comrade, the engagement will fall apart. Wouldn’t it be easier to switch now while your feelings are still light?”

“Wh-what!”

I was shocked once again.

Jeremiah’s face came to mind.

His happy face, worried face, angry face… losing the ability to see all of them was like losing a large part of the joy of living.

I was so overwhelmed that I felt like collapsing, but Paolo hurriedly supported me. I couldn’t even say thank you.

Then, the groaning from the floor grew louder.

Dennis was rampaging.

“Hey, Cassini-san, this servant has incredible strength. It’s dangerous.”

“Is this person really a woman?”

His comrades asked in a voice full of fear.

I apologized to Dennis in my heart. If I had followed her advice, this wouldn’t have happened.

“Well, there’s no other choice. Use the drug… Anyway, there’s no point in staying here forever. The one we wanted came to us, so let’s withdraw.”

“Yes.”

“Understood.”

After the response, a cloth was placed over Dennis’ mouth.

It must have been some kind of drug. I heard the groans getting quieter and eventually disappearing, and I mustered up my last bit of strength to ask.

“Wait! Just answer me this, is Lucia safe?”

“Of course. Well, we have to keep her confined since it wouldn’t be good to let her go free, but she’s an important hostage, so we’re treating her properly.”

“…I see.”

I muttered those words and closed my mouth.

There were mountains of things I wanted to ask. Why did they think of bringing me into their group? Did they really commit all the bombing incidents up until now? What are they planning to do from now on?

But I didn’t feel like I could understand even if I asked anymore.

My head and my feelings couldn’t keep up.

Paolo grabbed my arm and urged me to walk. We left the store and got on a carriage, heading somewhere. I thought I should remember the way, but gradually I lost track of where we turned and eventually gave up and closed my eyes.

In my heart, I kept apologizing to Jeremiah, Paula, and my parents. Even though it wouldn’t change the situation, that was all I could do.

That night, I was taken to an inn somewhere.

I was given a pretty good room with a proper bed and some furniture. I rested there for a while. They also served me food, but I didn’t feel like eating much.

Despite that, my stomach was empty, so I ate what was served.

Compared to the luxurious meals I always had in my dreams, it felt like I suddenly returned to reality.

After that, a female companion helped me take off my dress and I went to sleep. I was tired, but I couldn’t sleep well.

In a drowsy and shallow sleep, I had a nightmare-like experience.

I forgot about it when I woke up, but it felt really unpleasant.

“By doing this, I feel like my previous life was too blessed.”

I muttered to myself and then the door was knocked. The woman who took care of me yesterday came in.

“Are you awake? If you need any help, please let me know. It seems that being a noble lady requires a lot of attention.”

“Y-Yes. But I can do most things by myself.”

When I replied to the woman like that, she looked at me with a very strange expression on her face. Then she left after leaving food and clothes and telling me to call her if I needed anything.

I muttered while looking at those things.

“Well, that’s how it is.”

Normally, a nobleman’s daughter can hardly do anything by herself. In fact, if she does something, she will be looked at with lukewarm eyes.

When I was little, I struggled because I didn’t understand the feeling of having someone do everything for me. However, the preparations for a noblewoman’s appearance are often things that cannot be done alone, so I had no choice but to have someone else do it.

So, as usual, I had Dora help me with all the preparations.

However, I can dress myself in simple clothes and tie my hair without any problems.

I changed into the prepared clothes and called for someone to bring me food.

I have to meet Lucia today.

Cassini said that, but I can’t be sure until I see her with my own eyes, and I’m also concerned about Dennis’s treatment.

Then, the woman from earlier came and, looking puzzled again, asked me to wait before leaving.

As instructed, I waited absentmindedly until someone came.

“… Paolo.”

It was Paolo who came. He still looked awkward as ever and was a little surprised when he saw me.

Chapter 100: Confirmation of current status

“I mean, dressed like that, you look just like us. It’s like you’re a different person from when I saw you at the mansion.”

“Oh, yeah, I think it’s like a special makeup or something.”

Seeing his puzzled expression, I honestly told him.

In reality, I am overflowing with confidence that I am plain and would be buried in the crowd. It’s strange that I now attract so much attention and receive praise.

So, I thought about it and realized that it was only when Dora went all out and Paula prepared the dress and accessories to reflect Jeremiah’s taste that I became like that.

Without those things, I would still be a plain lady.

Thanks to Jeremiah, I have gained confidence in myself, but this is different. I think it’s important to see reality as it is.

Just the other day, when I wore the disguise clothes Dennis prepared for me, I easily blended into the downtown area. From that, it’s clear that my appearance is still plain.

In other words, I don’t have the elegance or dignity of a noble, so without clothing and behavior, I can easily blend into any class.

From such things, I began to think of that state as special makeup.

“And special makeup…you didn’t go that far, did you?”

“Not really. I mean, if I don’t do anything, this is what I look like. But I don’t think I look like a noble lady, do I?”

Paolo fell silent.

Still, he had a face that couldn’t be satisfied, but eventually he sighed and said,

“Well, I still think Lorraine is cute…I won’t argue with you about that.”

Paolo interrupted my words before I could finish.

“I know you’re not confident, but it can’t be helped if that’s what you think. And since I’ve come this far, I won’t give up.”

“…What won’t you give up on?”

“You.”

I froze at the cold response.

His serious gaze was painful. I felt like I wanted to disappear and was filled with anxiety about the future. So, I hurriedly said,

“U-Um, more importantly, I want to meet Lucia and Dennis. I want to see them safe and sound.”

“…We’re treating them with respect…well, you probably won’t believe it. After all, we kidnapped you like this.”

I couldn’t say anything in response to Paolo’s reluctant words. It was true. No matter how sincere he was from now on, I probably wouldn’t be able to believe in them or even Paolo.

“I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to bring you here like this. But because the Baron’s daughter, Lucia, came to the shop and caused a commotion, we were about to be reported to the police, so we had to change our plans. That’s when we decided to take advantage of it.”

I see, I thought.

So they successfully lured me in by not letting Lucia go. However, there was still something I didn’t understand. I asked.

“Hey, why did you want to bring me in as a member? I don’t have the knowledge or skills like those people, and I’m from a noble family, so aren’t you rather jealous of me?”

I had been wanting to ask this for a long time.

It’s not normal to think about welcoming a plain and powerless rural noble lady like me as a member.

Basically, I don’t think I have any value to offer.

“It’s simple. It’s because you’re a noble.”

“…Huh.”

Well, it’s true that I’m a noble.

However, I’m a woman and from the lowest-ranked Baron family. I didn’t understand the meaning of bringing me in just because I’m a noble, so Paolo explained it to me with a face that didn’t seem to understand it well either.

“According to Cassini-san, having someone with noble memories around means that even the upper class will listen to you. He was saying something about learning how to behave without being looked down upon. That’s what he said.”

“I see, I understand now.”

It finally made sense to me.

Cassini wanted to show the upper class their worth, but some of them wouldn’t listen unless they were of the same social status. It was also necessary to teach their comrades proper behavior.

If you didn’t know the bare minimum of etiquette, you would be looked down upon even more.

I understood why I was needed now. However, there was another reason that didn’t quite click with me.

“But I’m a woman, so I can’t really get involved in politics or anything. I don’t think I can communicate properly either…”

In reality, I didn’t think women were treated very well in this country. Who would listen to the ramblings of a young girl like me?

Paolo responded, “But your name carries quite a bit of influence.”

“Influence? There’s no way that’s true.”

“It is. Look at the ‘Supporters Group,” he said with a smile.

I couldn’t help but exclaim “Ah!” when it was pointed out to me. Certainly, their power must be incredible. And they are a group.

I didn’t know until I met Tatiana, Countess Grimani, and heard her story, but it seems that they have been increasing in number without my knowledge.

Although I have only seen them from afar, what if I were to claim to be the originator of their idea?

The faces of the ladies who know about this came to mind, and I seriously thought that with that kind of power, we might be able to move the country. I couldn’t help but think it.

“…Are you convinced?”

“Yes. I am very convinced.”

Paolo looked at me and gave a wry smile.

“Well, that’s why we need you.”

“…I understand. But I still want to meet the two of them.”

I persistently insisted.

Paolo fell silent for a moment, let out a big sigh, and finally nodded.

Chapter 101: We meet often

“I understand. But I’ll always accompany you wherever you go. Otherwise, I can’t take you out,” he said, seeming worried that I might escape.

Even though it’s embarrassing to say it myself, if it were possible to escape, I would have done it already. I know this because my physical abilities and brain function haven’t changed much even though I was reincarnated.

There’s no way to escape.

I said self-deprecatingly.

“So it’s like any other outing. Someone has been with me all the time lately.”

“I see. Come to think of it, I was a servant until recently. Shall we go, Ojo-sama?”

Paolo said with refined gestures as if he were wearing a formal dress, even though he was dressed in the clothes of the townspeople. I answered him with mixed feelings.

“Please guide me.”

When I stepped out of the room, the first thing I had to do was go down a lot of stairs. While listening to Paolo telling me to be careful not to fall, I looked around. At first, I thought we were going underground, but when Paolo picked up a lamp in what seemed like an appropriate place, I became slightly uneasy and stopped to ask.

“Hey, how far does this go?”

The passage seemed to have been dug out of a large rock face that was no longer even a building.

I don’t even know where I’ve been taken. Moreover, I never imagined that such a place would exist in the capital city.

“Don’t you know? This area below is hollow. It seems to have been an escape route for the royal family in the past.”

“Is that so? But where is the palace…”

I muttered with a subtle sense of discomfort. It was during the social season a year ago when I became an official member of high society. At that time, I visited the palace to greet His Majesty the King, the Queen, the Crown Prince, and the Princess. So I knew the way to the palace.

However, I don’t think the scenery I saw when I came here was towards the palace…

“Yes, the old castle. The current one was built later. Also, it seems that the current royal family was not the first to rule here. I don’t know much about it myself, but a scholar in our group told me that.”

“I see.”

Come to think of it, I vaguely remember hearing such a story when I studied history in the past. I’m not very good at memorizing things, so I don’t know it very well.

“I can’t really feel it myself, but it seems like the continent is going through a tough time.”

“Yeah.”

I nodded as I remembered Japan.

Soon, a dim light appeared in the direction we were heading. I wondered if it was an exit, but the path continued.

As I tilted my head slightly and continued on, I discovered something on the wall and blurted out.

“Is this electricity?”

What is attached to the wall here and there is clearly a light bulb. I saw it for the first time in my life in this world. It was natural that things that were commonplace over there didn’t exist in this world, so I was incredibly surprised.

“Yeah. There’s a guy in our group who can make devices that can generate their own power. I don’t really understand it, but apparently we can generate power here too. Well, it’s just enough to light up the surroundings a bit.”

Even that was surprising.

I became interested in the people who gathered here that retained their memories. People I had never known before, except by reading documents. And yet, they are here.

As I was thinking about such things, Paolo headed towards the dark side again.

“…Hey, where exactly is she?”

My legs, which couldn’t deny the lack of exercise, were getting a little tired, so I asked.

Moreover, what comes to mind from this scene is a damp and dirty place like an underground cell. Is Lucia really okay?

“It’s inside the old castle I mentioned earlier.”

“What! So…in the dungeon?”

“No, we can’t leave her in a place like that. She’s an important hostage, and…”

Paolo stopped himself from saying something. I wanted to ask him what it was, but before that, a staircase appeared. This time we’re going up. Lucia is ahead.

I followed Paolo in silence.

Eventually, as I climbed up the stairs, I saw light above my head and took a deep breath. Then, what spread out before my eyes was a decaying stone building. Some parts were still usable, but it was quite shaky in places.

As I continued down the dimly lit hallway, Paolo called out to a young man standing in front of a certain door.

“Hey.”

“Oh, hey, wait, is that girl…?”

“Yeah.”

When Paolo nodded, the somewhat tired-looking young man looked at me with lukewarm eyes. I feel like I understand what he wants to say, so I don’t want him to look at me too much.

He’s probably definitely disappointed.

“Um, you came to see her, right? Wait a minute.”

The young man quickly opened the door. I was surprised that it wasn’t locked, but as soon as I entered, I understood why. There were several metal cages in the room that looked like they were used to confine people.

I immediately searched for Lucia.

——But.

“…aine.”

When I saw the person in one of those cages, I couldn’t help but let out a sound. It’s someone I’ve seen before. And it’s someone I didn’t really want to meet.

Then it seems he noticed me too.

He opened his eyes wide, furrowed his brow, shook his head left and right while still staring at me and said,

“This is strange. Am I dreaming?”

The young man who muttered so slowly got up from his seat. Then, Paolo, who seemed to be suspicious of me for stopping, spoke up.

“What’s wrong, Lorraine?”

It wasn’t me who answered that voice.

“Oh, it’s Miss Lorraine! Lorraine Valcourt… What are you doing here?”

“…Do you know him?”

I hesitated on how to answer, but nodded. Because the person there was someone I could call an acquaintance. With a sigh, I said,

“Well, I guess you could say we’re acquaintances. So, Lieutenant Colonel Caldelara, what brings you here?”

Chapter 102: Angry Lucia

Yes, the person who was captured there was Emilio Lieutenant Colonel Caldelara, a person I didn’t want to meet again since the incident at the hat shop where he disappeared without a trace.

He seemed a little troubled by my question.

“Well, I just got caught up in a little mistake. But more importantly, why are you here?”

“That’s…”

“That voice, Onee-sama? Is it Lorraine-oneesama!”

I reflexively looked towards the voice that came from behind the curtain a little away. Of course, I couldn’t see anything from here. I told Emilio “I’ll be back later” and headed towards there. Paolo didn’t stop me.

When I went beyond the almost tattered curtain, there was Lucia inside a large cage. Inside, there was a bed and some small items were provided.

The treatment was different from Emilio, who had only a few blankets and the bare minimum necessities. Also, there was a fireplace nearby, so it was warm.

“Lucia! I’m glad I finally got to see your face.”

“Did you come to rescue me?”

Lucia seemed quite surprised and asked apologetically. I nodded and sat down on the spot. Seeing that, Lucia lowered her eyes and said.

“Um, I’m sorry… for doing something on my own. I should have listened to Onee-sama more carefully.”

“Well, that’s true. But I’m just glad you’re safe.”

“But, Onee-sama… the people who captured me were after you. It’s because of me that your reputation was tarnished…”

As Lucia said that, she suddenly looked up. Wondering what was going on, I turned around and noticed that Paolo had arrived. He looked a little awkward, but Lucia’s eyes widened as soon as she saw him.

“…So you finally show your face. I thought you were a good person, but you deceived me so well. You used me and I will never forgive you.”

“No… I didn’t use you…”

“You thought you could use me because I’m still young. Yes, I was fooled and felt stupid about it. But just because I was stupid doesn’t mean you can use me.

I shouldn’t have trusted someone of lower rank. The world we live in is too different. You can’t survive without being able to do this kind of thing.

Yes, that’s right. We’re like baby birds… I don’t want to be involved with him ever again.

But!”

Paolo was interrupted in the middle of his sentence by Lucia, who began to list her grievances and suddenly raised her voice.

“I will retaliate against you. I won’t forgive you for doing such a terrible thing, leaving two young women injured. I won’t be satisfied until I get my revenge. Yes, that’s right. I’ll report everything, including your pathetic appearance at the Duke’s mansion and your sloppy work. I’ll tell every servant I meet from now on!”

“…”

Paolo looked at Lucia, who made the declaration while breathing heavily, with an indescribable expression.

As for me, I was at a loss for how to react and fell silent.

Should I scold her for not behaving like a lady? But even upper-class ladies often speak ill of others as a form of entertainment.

More importantly, should I tell Lucia that Paolo never intended to take Lucia hostage in the first place? But would Lucia believe me if I did?

It seemed unlikely.

Besides, this situation had prevented a more troublesome one from occurring, namely running away with Paolo after falling in love with him.

Although there were many misunderstandings, we could deal with them later.

As I was lost in thought, Lucia turned to look at me.

“Lorraine-oneesama, I’m really sorry. I got caught in the clutches of such a worthless man and dragged you into it… But it’s okay. I’ll tell Jeremiah-sama properly, so it’s my fault and Onee-sama is not to blame… So don’t worry, let’s wait for help.”

“U-Um, yeah.”

With tears welling up in her eyes, she said it with the force unique to a beautiful girl, and I could only nod. What a tragic heroine. This is the heroine’s solo performance. If this were a play, it would be a highlight. It suits her so well… but because of all the misunderstandings, everything has been ruined.

For now, I thought to myself.

——Well, at least she seems to be doing okay.

If this is the case, she should be able to manage until help arrives. Moreover, when I quietly looked around, even the people standing guard were leaning towards Emilio. In other words, they were avoiding her.

This means that the danger to her person is likely low.

With that conviction in mind, I asked as I moved away from Lucia’s cage.

“… Paolo, where’s Denny?

“Y-Yeah, she’s in another room.”

“I see. Then take me there.”

“Got it.”

Paolo pointed in a certain direction and led the way. It seems like we need to leave the room first.

Then, Lucia screamed as she saw it.

“Wait a minute! Where are you planning to take Lorraine-oneesama? You’re not thinking of doing something, are you? That’s not good. If you do something, Jeremiah-sama won’t stay quiet. You’ll be nothing but seaweed, and your life will be over!”

Hearing this, I wondered what was going on with Jeremiah in Lucia’s mind, but I was too scared to ask. Then, I turned around and said,

“Lucia, I’ll come back again!”

“Onee-sama!”

Lucia clung to the bars and called out to me.

Paolo muttered when he heard that.

“I feel like I’ve become a really bad guy and my stomach hurts.”

Although I felt sorry for him as he put his hand on his forehead and let out a big sigh, I said,

“Well, it can’t be helped, because you guys are acting like a bad guy”

Paolo made a displeased face when he heard that, but he only said, “I know,” and didn’t argue any further.

I smiled wryly and tried to leave the room following him.

Just before that, the voice of a person who had disappeared from my mind because of Lucia’s situation suddenly came rushing back.

Chapter 103: My servant is awesome

“Please come and see me too. I’m lonely,” Emilio said, waving his hand as I looked at him in surprise. I furrowed my brow and lowered my head before leaving the room.

If I went to see Lucia, I would automatically see him too.

It’s hard to be around someone who makes you nervous. I couldn’t help but complain.

“… Why is he and Lucia in the same place? Why didn’t they leave her with Denny anyway? That way, it would be separated by gender.”

In fact, why are men and women being held together when they are supposed to be treated with respect? I had my doubts.

“Well, you’ll understand when you see where we’re going.”

“Where are we going? Where Denny is?”

“Yes.”

Paolo said with a subtle expression. I didn’t really understand, but I decided to follow him and see for myself.

The gloomy stone corridor was still as cold as ever, and it felt like my heart was freezing. However, the fact that there were people passing by occasionally meant that Paolo’s companions really lived here.

I thought it must be tough for them.

As they passed by and saw Paolo, they looked at me with knowing expressions. Some looked at me with a mocking face, while others looked at me suspiciously.

Most of them were young people, but occasionally there were middle-aged people mixed in.

I had a feeling that there were more men than women, but there were also a fair number of women.

However, I didn’t feel like they were all on the same page. Some seemed motivated, while others seemed to regret something. They all surely knew that what they were doing was a criminal act.

As I watched them, I wished that at least one of them would stop doing this.

Eventually, we arrived at a place where the sun didn’t shine much, and we stopped in front of a sturdy-looking door.

“We didn’t originally use this as a makeshift prison, but it has the thickest walls, so we ended up using it.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

I tilted my head in question to Paolo’s response. He didn’t answer and opened the lock as if he had made up his mind. There was a cage inside that looked like Lucia and Emilio had been put in.

The cage was double-layered, with a small cage inside a large one, in a strange state.

In addition, the inner cage was quite damaged. It wasn’t rusted or damaged due to aging, but it was bent in various directions. I was momentarily surprised, but relieved when I saw the person sitting there.

“Denny! I’m glad you’re safe.”

“…! Lady Lorraine, I’m glad you’re safe too.”

As soon as she noticed me, she came towards me with the force of ramming into the cage. No, she was practically ramming into it. The impact shook the cage violently.

“I’m fine. I slept in a proper room and I’m getting food… But, is Denny okay?”

“I couldn’t protect Lorraine-sama. At least, I’m thinking of escaping from here and going to pick her up, but this cage is quite sturdy… Please wait a little longer. I’ll figure out how to break it soon.”

“B-Break it?”

I didn’t quite understand what she was saying, so I looked at Dennis’ cage and then at Paolo. He answered while looking in the opposite direction,

“You understand now, right?”

His expression was tense as if he thought he would be killed if their eyes met. Certainly, Dennis now looked like a wounded beast with gleaming eyes, disheveled hair, and a haggard face that had become sharper, so I could understand his feelings.

However, I wondered if it was only the fear of her appearance that caused such a reaction. Before I could ask what he was planning to do, Paolo grabbed my shoulder and hurriedly moved me back.

“Please step back a little. She’s going to attempt to break it.”

“E-Eh, wait, Denny?”

Before I could ask what she was planning to do, Paolo grabbed my shoulder and hurriedly moved me back.

Immediately after that, there was an incredible sound.

It made a noise that was incomparable to the shaking from earlier, and the cage shook violently. It repeated several times, and I had to cover my ears because it was so loud. If I didn’t, my ears would have gone crazy.

“…Hmph, still not enough.”

Dennis’s voice echoed, and the ear-piercing sound stopped. I stared at Dennis in amazement and tried to remember what she had done.

I remember her headbutting and tackling, hitting things with something she took out from somewhere, and doing various things. In other words, all the bent iron bars scattered around were her doing.

——I-It’s amazing…she’s not human.

“I’m sorry, Lorraine-sama. It seems like it will take a little longer.”

“U-Um…don’t push yourself too hard.”

It wasn’t going to take just a little longer; Dennis was going to break before she could break the cage. I grimaced and thought about how to stop her.

“No, this is nothing. Please don’t worry. Being sturdy is my forte…”

Even if she says she’s sturdy, there must be a limit.

While thinking that, I looked at Dennis’s condition and couldn’t see that she was really struggling. I wondered why that was, but I said:

“That’s impossible. I understand how you feel and I’m happy, but this happened because of me. If I had followed Denny’s advice at that time, we wouldn’t have had to do this…”

I had been wanting to say this to Dennis since it happened.

After this happened, I didn’t just sit around doing nothing. I thought about it so much that my head felt like it was going to explode. The conclusion was that there was almost nothing we could do now.

And all of this happened because my judgment in trusting Paolo was wrong.

“I’m sorry. It’s because of me that you followed me…I won’t trust my judgment anymore.”

“Lorraine-sama, that’s not true! It’s because I let my guard down…”

“It was a trap. I don’t think I could have handled it. It’s my fault for believing in Paolo.

“…Hey, I can’t just let that go.”

I heard a voice protesting from behind.

Chapter 104: What will happen now?

However, I decided to ignore that and continue.

“Maybe I wanted to believe it because we were both memory holders in the same country and era. So it’s my fault, I’m really sorry.”

“No, it’s still my duty to protect you.”

As Dennis continued to speak, I sighed and reluctantly decided to use my last resort. Otherwise, she wouldn’t listen even though I was her master.

Well, even though I say master, it’s more like a temporary thing. I think the real master is Jeremiah. After all, it’s not fair for such an idiot to be her master. How many times have I repeated that to myself since then?

Yes, I’m an idiot.

I’m not suitable to be her master. However, while I’m still the temporary master, I want to act like one. So I said,

“If that’s the case, don’t do anything that hurts yourself. This is an order. If you can’t follow it, you don’t have to stay by my side anymore.”

“Lorraine-sama…”

Dennis looked at me with a surprised expression. Her eyes were moist, so I think she understood what I wanted to say. – Maybe.

“If you understand, rest. When the opportunity comes, please protect me properly this time. I won’t act on my own judgment anymore, so I’ll listen to what you say.”

I added with emphasis, and tears quickly filled Dennis’s eyes. At this rate, she seemed to be quiet and obedient.

I felt relieved.

To be honest, it still takes some courage to say such pompous lines. It was worth saying, even though I had to suppress the urge to shout, “Who do you think you are?” at myself.

“I’m glad I met Lorraine-sama.”

“Y-Yeah.”

“I understand. It means to be prepared for emergencies. From now on, Dennis Landegger will focus on preparing her mind and body. Please rest assured… Hey, you there.”

Dennis wiped away her tears and then glared at Paolo. Paolo visibly panicked under her sharp gaze. He looked so pitifully startled.

“W-What!”

Even though he tried to sound tough, his voice was slightly trembling. I looked at Paolo with a lukewarm gaze.

“You were saying that Lorraine-sama was someone you would protect, right? I believe that’s true. If anything were to happen to Lorraine-sama…”

“…I won’t let that happen. She’s an important person to me too. I don’t need you to tell me that I have to protect her.”

Paolo desperately replied in a low voice that even made me feel scared of Dennis. Although I was taken aback by the words he used, I pretended not to hear them.

“I see. Then I’ll believe you.”

After being coldly spoken to, Paolo groaned with a hint of regret, but then let out a big sigh and said, “Okay. Well then, Lorraine, it’s time to go back. We need to eat.”

“Huh, already?”

“Yeah, if we stay out of the room for too long, we’ll be suspected of something strange. I don’t want that to happen, and there are other places I want to take you.”

“I see…”

I looked at Dennis with reluctance. I don’t think I’m particularly shy around people, but being surrounded by unfamiliar faces other than Paolo was still scary.

“It’s okay, Lady Lorraine. I will definitely come to help you.”

I couldn’t nod honestly at Dennis’ sudden words and answered hesitantly, “Yes, I hope so.” Then, I left with Paolo.

As we walked, I thought about what Dennis had said. It was probably referring to Jeremiah. Yes, it’s hard to imagine that he would do nothing once he knows about this.

But will he really be able to find this place?

Perhaps Paolo and the others haven’t been found yet because they were hiding so cleverly.

Also, the reason why I couldn’t nod honestly was because I was worried about how he would see me after being captured like this.

Not just him.

I was scared of how the people around me would see me.

My future would be determined by the situation.

I didn’t want to think about it.

But I couldn’t help but think about it.

Paolo spoke up, as if to break my thoughts.

“Well, for now, Lorraine must believe in me a little more.”

“Huh?”

“Both of them are safe, right? There was one extra person, but as I said, we didn’t do anything beyond confinement.”

I looked at Paolo as if he wanted me to believe him, and I nodded my head, although I thought it was a problem before that.

“I’m glad. I keep saying this, but I really didn’t want to do this. I wanted to face you properly, so I’m sorry.”

I didn’t want him to make such a sad face.

Doesn’t Paolo know how blessed he is with his appearance? Even if you were reborn, you couldn’t be like him.

After thinking that, I realized something.

Paolo didn’t betray me after all. He just had no choice but to choose that path because of circumstances. Thinking that way made me feel relieved.

I shrugged my shoulders and said with a smile, “I don’t want you to apologize.”

“Right.”

Paolo shrugged his shoulders and started walking, just like me.

We walked in silence for a while. Eventually, we arrived back at the room we were in before, and Paolo suddenly said:

“…I will definitely keep my promise from earlier. Please believe that. Also, don’t leave this place when I’m not here.”

“O-Okay.”

“Alright, I’ll make you dinner.”

He said that and locked the door before leaving the room. I replied instinctively, but I tilted my head wondering what he meant by what he said earlier.

After a while, I realized that he might have meant that he would protect me and I leaned against the wall and sighed.

“…I feel like I understand Lucia’s feelings now.”

Chapter 105: The one that sleeps in the castle

I couldn’t see anyone but Jeremiah, so I had no idea. For me, Paolo was someone who lived in the same country and era, and felt like a comrade.

However, now that I’m seeing only him, I understand well.

――Paolo is really cool.

It’s not just his appearance.

He has a way of saying and doing things that women want to hear. And it seems like he does it naturally.

I was confessed to by such a charming man that you rarely come across.

Of course, I understand that it’s because I’m special to Paolo. But I feel like I’ve used up all my luck.

And because of the situation, it is heartwarming to be cared for.

“…I want to see Jeremiah.”

My feelings wavered, and I unintentionally blurted it out.

After finishing lunch, Paolo visited my room and said he would guide me around the castle. I thought I might meet Cassini, but Paolo shook his head.

“No, there’s something I really want you to see. It seems to be related to us memory holders.”

“Related to us?”

“Yeah. Has Lorraine ever thought about why humans like us are born in this world?”

“Well, of course.”

Such a thing was rare when I was in Japan, and I probably didn’t believe it. I liked fortune-telling about past lives, but that was about it. However, here I am proving it myself.

I had doubts and tried reading books, but my brain couldn’t understand it. Since then, I’ve been throwing it out there, saying that someday someone will investigate it.

“Well, even if we say that, we can’t investigate it. But there’s someone here who can. He was an archaeologist in his past life. According to him, there are various materials sleeping in this castle, and he’s always hanging out in the library. The materials are interesting, so I want to show them to you.”

“I see. Then I want to see them too.”

“Alright, it’s decided.”

Paolo reached out his hand and said, “Let’s go,” and I naturally took it, coming back to my senses. I realized that I had let my guard down completely, despite chanting a spell-like incantation to myself earlier to not do so.

I reminded myself to pull myself together.

I can’t even count how many times I’ve said that to myself lately.

It seems like my limit is gradually approaching. Please give me some time to rest my worn-out nerves.

While thinking such things, I followed Paolo to the library where the scholars were. Apparently, he is so engrossed in his research that he doesn’t even introduce himself, so everyone calls him “Professor.”

“By the way, they call him ‘eccentric professor’ when he’s not around.”

“What’s that?”

I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. While talking about such trivial things, we arrived at the library and were introduced to the professor by Paolo.

According to Paolo, the professor wants to focus on his research without worrying about his daily life, but as a laborer, he can’t even attend school properly and has no choice but to work while doing research.

“It’s common sense in our time that human ability is cultivated by individual talent and effort regardless of social class. Don’t you think this place is really behind the times?”

Without even introducing himself, he suddenly said it. His tone was calm, so it didn’t sound like a grudge, but there was anger in his words.

“I-I suppose that’s true.”

I nodded obediently since there was nothing else I could say.

“The only difference between the upper class and us is whether or not they have had an education. Those who have not received an education cannot even understand what they are saying. There may be some advantages to that, but well, there’s no point in lamenting. Leave that to Cassini-san, and I have to produce results in my own way.”

I blinked my eyes repeatedly as he spoke in complicated words. For now, I understood that he was talking about smart people. However, it was questionable whether I understood what he was saying.

I asked him within my understanding.

“Um, what do you mean by results?”

He looked shabby and smelled bad, so I stood away from him. Paolo was still close to me, so he must have smelled it too.

However, the scholar seemed completely indifferent to such things. While scratching his messy head like a bird’s nest, he held a slate in his hand and said,

“Look at this. It’s called a myth, but it says that those who once ruled this land were not us. However, they were humans who were more powerful than us.”

“Doesn’t that mean different races or something like that?”

“I think that’s probably the case, but it seems to be different from our sense. Essentially, their abilities are different as humans. For example, some had incredible strength, and there were even races with animal-like abilities. However, it’s interesting that they were still considered humans.”

“But then, how did the world become like it is now?”

It was a simple question.

If there were such amazing people, why aren’t they around now? If they’re not around, it can only mean that something happened.

Then the scholar smiled wryly at my question.

“That’s a good question. The answer is already out there—it’s us.”

“Us?”

“That’s right. We memory holders were already there in that era. They used their knowledge to repel those races and became the rulers of this world. Since then, we have been contributing to this world as humans.”

I couldn’t help but exclaim “Oh!” It was a natural thing to think about, but I had never thought about it before.

Chapter 106: World Past

“However, if there are reincarnated people among those who do not have memories, it wouldn’t apply, right? How do you know that those without memory are people of this world?”

That’s when Paolo spoke up for the first time.

He seemed to already know about other things and had been silent until now, but indeed, now that it was mentioned, it was true.

“I don’t know about that, but the person who wrote this said so. The author must have known something as evidence. I want to investigate that too. If this is true, we can let the world know what our existence is.”

“Is that [the outcome]?”

“Yeah. Well, not just that. Anyway, what we obtained from the materials here is proof that people with memories existed in the past. But at least one of my long-standing questions has been answered with this. I think it’s a wonderful thing.”

“…Question?”

When I asked what it was, the scholar said,

“Yes, I think you also know that there are people in this world who are beyond human. They take most of the good jobs, and even if we try to imitate them, we can’t. It’s always been a mystery to me. But now I finally understand. They are descendants of the race mentioned in this story.”

The scholar took out a book.

It was written in such an old language that I couldn’t understand anything. However, he seemed to be able to read it and pointed out, “Here it is!” I’m sorry, but I had no idea what was going on.

So, I just smiled vaguely and let it go.

It is written that they couldn’t completely abandon their country or hometown and started living among people. I think someone in the future researched and wrote this, but at that time, they were still considered a source of fear.

“I-Is that so?”

“Yes, it is!”

I couldn’t understand his happy and enraptured expression as he gazed at the document, so I thought about something else.

That’s because the face of a certain person came to mind.

“…Then, maybe.”

“That servant who’s always with you.”

Paolo said at the same time as my murmur. It seemed we were both thinking the same thing. We looked at each other and I gestured for him to continue.

“Ah, um…so, that servant who’s always with you is incredibly sturdy and has good eyesight. I thought maybe…”

“I thought the same thing. Actually, until I came here, I only thought of her as an amazing person…”

When she tried to help me regardless of her own safety, she was simply amazing. That’s all I can say. It felt like being in front of a cage with a starving beast. I felt bad for Dennis, but at that time, I was scared.

Well, considering she was calmly dealing with something that would normally result in more than just bruises, it might be natural after all.

“What are you whispering about? Who is the servant?” The scholar noticed and joined in. I reluctantly explained about Dennis. Then he nodded and said, “I see.”

And once again, he went to get something. He immediately brought something back and showed it to me again.

This time it was a simple slate-like drawing, but it was unclear what was being expressed.

The only thing I could understand was that there was a picture of a bipedal animal-like creature that I often see in fantasy stories. There were also pictures of animals’ heads.

In other words, people who looked like this lived in this world a long time ago. It was truly a fantasy.

And Dennis is apparently a descendant of them, although it is unclear which one.

“Look here, isn’t there someone depicted here breaking rocks? Do you know what this represents?”

“Haah… no.”

Even though he spoke with shining eyes, it only looked like a shoddy painting to me.

“It means that there were people who could do this kind of thing. It’s scary, but those who had memories in this world before us took over the earthly hegemony from these monsters with their knowledge and skills. Don’t you think it’s amazing? It proves our greatness.”

In other words, it was an indirect boast.

I just gave vague responses while watching the passionate scholar speak until his sermon ended with lukewarm feelings. However, it didn’t seem to end anytime soon. It seems that he has accumulated quite a bit of dissatisfaction.

Perhaps feeling sorry for me, Paolo said with a sigh, “Professor, please stop there for today. Lorraine is still not used to many things.”

“Hmm, oh, I see. Are you tired… Well, you are a lady after all. Let’s continue the story next time.”

I couldn’t help but look at Paolo with gratitude. Suddenly, he made a subtle face and then averted his gaze.

I wondered if I had done something wrong, but I couldn’t think of anything. I bowed to the scholar and left the library.

I don’t hate the musty smell so much, but I feel somewhat relieved.

It seems that learning about the past is more tiring than I thought.

Still, I think it was worth using my useless brain to its full potential. I was able to come up with my own answer as to why people with memories gathered here, who I didn’t understand very well, were doing this.

“Thank you, Paolo. I’m tired, but I learned a lot.”

“I see. That’s good then.”

A simple response. I suddenly asked him.

“Why did you want me to know that?”

If my thoughts were correct, it should be better to keep it locked up. Even if it was to be used, it could cause trouble, and there were people among our group who didn’t like me as a noble.

Despite that, he took me to that place.

In other words, there must have been a reason why he wanted me to know that story.

Then, Paolo stopped and turned around. His face looked somewhat pained, and I wondered if it would have been better not to ask, but it was too late now.

“…Do you want to know?”

When he asked me back, I hesitated for a moment but nodded.

Chapter 107: The loneliness of being different

I thought that the story in the library probably included something related to my future.

I don’t know what Cassini wants from me, but if I can know, I want to know.

“…Okay.”

Paolo answered and looked straight into my eyes.

“But first, I want to ask you something. When you heard that, didn’t you feel like we are different beings from the people in this world?”

“Huh?”

“Sure, we look the same as everything else. But this world is different from the world we came from. In this world, we are comrades who can share the same things. But we can’t do that with the people here.”

“That’s not natural. If you keep saying that, we’ll never be able to understand each other.

I vaguely understand what he wants to say, but why is that a problem? At least I don’t feel that way towards my family or Jeremiah.

In fact, I’m starting to lose track of what Paolo is trying to say.

I thought it was about the future, but it seems different.

“That’s right. But I couldn’t throw away my memories or change my feelings. Honestly, it was lonely not being understood… Did you ever feel that way?”

“That’s…”

“You did, right?”

Asked with a strong tone, I nodded.

Probably, everyone born in this world as a memory holder has felt it at least once.

Only I know it.

Only I can understand it.

Only I——I don’t know.

To say that it’s not lonely would be a lie.

“Yeah. That’s why you’re one of us after all. You’re one of us on this side. No matter how much we love each other and work hard, there are things that can’t be filled.

I wanted you to know that.”

Quietly, but strongly, I bowed my head at Paolo’s words.

It was clear that what Paolo said was true. Even so, I imagined many faces in my mind.

The face that stood out the most was still Jeremiah’s.

“Then, I wanted you to choose between me and him.”

I raised my face unconsciously.

Paolo had a serious expression on his face. Seeing that, I realized that he hadn’t given up on anything yet.

Moreover, I could feel his confidence.

I felt like my heart was being squeezed and unconsciously pursed my lips. I had been avoiding thinking about it until now. That’s how I felt.

“You don’t have to hurry with your answer. But now that it’s come to this, it will probably be called off with him, and I don’t want to give you to anyone else…”

Paolo reached out his hand to me as I stood there dumbfounded. His fingertips touched my cheek and trailed down to my chin.

I could clearly sense what he wanted to do from the touch. I looked into Paolo’s eyes as if I was being sucked in.

Floating in his slightly brighter blue eyes, different from Jeremiah’s, was…

“…!”

I reflexively swatted away the hand that was reaching for my lips.

Paolo looked a little hurt, but he shrugged it off with composure and said, “Sorry, that was too sudden.”

I thought that wasn’t the issue, but I couldn’t voice it. I looked at him resentfully and muttered in a small voice, “My feelings haven’t changed.”

“…Let’s go back.”

Paolo didn’t answer and started walking again. I followed him, and we walked in silence until we reached the room. Even when he left, he didn’t say anything.

I sat on the bed and sighed.

There were so many things I had to think about, but I couldn’t organize my thoughts. I didn’t want to complain because Dennis was doing her best and Lucia was enduring, but I couldn’t help but mutter weakly, “I want to go home.”

However, reality wouldn’t allow it.

How did things end up like this?

There’s nothing particularly noteworthy about me except that I have a hobby of admiring handsome men, and I’m plain, a little stupid, and cowardly. Why do I have to be involved in such a big event?

“I guess I must have used up all my luck. But that doesn’t mean they had to involve me.”

I’m starting to get angry for some reason.

It’s frustrating to think that I’ll just end up being used again. Whatever it takes, I’ll find something I can do.

“That’s right, but I need to know more.”

I don’t know anything. I realized that today.

How do other people with memories live? What dissatisfaction led them to participate in this? Maybe there’s something to gain from there.

“Okay, Paolo is trying to stop me, but I don’t care.”

Staring at the stained wall, I made up my mind.

I’ll strike back even if it’s just a mosquito bite. Or even if it’s just a needle prick.

“Tomorrow, let’s go somewhere we didn’t go today.”

It’s okay to take it slowly.

I won’t push myself too hard because it won’t change anything.

Anyway, all I have to do now is eat well and sleep well. After devouring all the food Paolo brought me, I quickly fell asleep, much to his surprise.

Today, like every day, I was talking to a woman who was keeping watch over the room where Lucia and Emilio were being held, while dragging Paolo along like a guardian spirit.

By the way, yesterday I talked to a middle-aged man who manages the food supply. He looked almost homeless, but he happily told me that he used to be a bodyguard in his past life.

Before that, I talked to a young man with an open-minded atmosphere who told me he was a doctor in his past life. He lamented that the medical care in this world is too miserable.

“So, how did you die?”

When I asked her, the young woman answered my question with a wry smile.

Chapter 108: What I can do

“I’m sick. It can’t be helped since I’ve been using my body too much, but I’m just too busy every day… Fufu.”

It seems that her past life was a female president.

It is strangely powerful. Although she only complains about how this world, or rather, this country is too far behind in treating women

“Yes, that’s right. There are hardly any places for women to work, and even though I’m a noble, I can’t live without getting married.”

“Yeah, it’s so unfair just because we’re women. That’s why I’m cooperating with him to change that part of this country. I know it’s wrong, but I feel like nothing will change if I don’t do something here.”

“That’s not true. I know some legislators who are taking action because they think it can’t go on like this.”

“That’s amazing… but it’s too late,” the woman continued. It seemed like she had a lot to say. I tried to listen as much as possible and focused on asking about the situation and why the people gathered here took such actions.

After a while, it was time for a shift change, and the conversation ended. I said that I would have dinner with Lucia and the others today. Paolo didn’t say it was a bad idea, but he looked exasperated.

“You’re not tired? I’ve never seen them talk so much… you’re surprisingly good at listening.”

“That might be true. But since we both have memories, we’re interested in each other, and I think it’s fun. If I were talking to a noblewoman, I would have to endure even boring conversations and get tired,” I replied as we headed towards Lucia.

“Well, I understand that too. It really seems like you’re having fun. I was surprised when you suddenly said you wanted to talk.”

“But I never thought I would have the opportunity to talk to so many memory holders.”

As I said that, I felt like I was drifting away from my original purpose.

I intended to extract information, but it seemed like it was just small talk. Above all, talking to them is really enjoyable. One reason might be that there is no roundaboutness around nobles.

Also, it’s interesting when common points emerge when summarizing the conversations.

For example, when asked about their state when they died, most of them fell ill before achieving their goals. Some died young, some in accidents, and some had a hard time accepting death.

Moreover, many of the people gathered here were prominent figures in their past lives, so even trivial conversations have substance.

“Well, I think it’s not a bad thing to get to know everyone. Especially considering what’s to come.”

“I see.”

Although I was hesitant to respond to the sudden interruption, I decided to at least give a reply.

“It’s fun, I guess.”

“You’re getting dirtier day by day.”

In fact, it has become considerably dirtier than when we first met. The shining handsome man has become a sloppy one. However, now a different fragrance is being emitted, which I think is amazing.

“It can’t be helped. I can’t groom myself. At least lend me a mirror.”

“It’s impossible.”

Paolo said bluntly, and Emilio shrugged his shoulders.

“I know. I just said it.”

Still, seeing Emilio looking disappointed, I asked him.

“Why can’t you lend it? Can’t you just watch?”

“I don’t want this guy deceiving our comrades. While some can avoid him like earlier, there are also those who have no immunity.”

“I see.”

I fully understood the content that Paolo reported with a weary expression. Indeed, that would be bad. However, I couldn’t help but think that it would be better if he were a little cleaner while gazing at Emilio for some reason. Then, I couldn’t take my eyes off him, even though I didn’t know why.

It was because it felt like something was being buried when I looked at him.

I stared at him for a while.

Even though it was almost unconscious, I realized that I was still seeking the place where I originally belonged somewhere in my heart.

“Um, Miss Lorraine. Is there something on my face?”

When he asked me, I finally came to my senses.

I did something strange. From Emilio’s perspective, who had no idea about my inner thoughts, it must have seemed very strange.

Feeling awkward about making him uncomfortable, I quickly apologized.

“…Oh no, I’m sorry. It’s okay. There’s nothing on your face. I just got a little wild.”

It was probably because I hadn’t been looking at Jeremiah much and was anxious that I ended up searching for his traces on Emilio even though there shouldn’t be any. However, since he was the only male aristocrat here, it couldn’t be helped.

——Is this a withdrawal symptom? I have to be careful…

“I see. That’s too bad. I thought maybe you had finally noticed my charm.”

“Well, I already noticed it.”

As I replied with a “what are you talking about,” Emilio made a face like he had seen a rare item. There was no reason for him to make such a face, so I furrowed my eyebrows and asked.

“Did I say something weird?”

“…You noticed? Really?”

Then, Emilio fired back with a question in response to my question. Of course, I strongly nodded in agreement.

I shouldn’t have any trouble understanding. His charm is almost overflowing, to the point where I could stare at him for a long time, just like after Jeremiah.

Besides, he once pretended to be his brother and indulged in debauchery in the capital. He must be very attractive if he can have many women in his life. Isn’t that the best proof?

“That’s ridiculous… There’s no way you would notice…”

“…What do you want to ask?”

Perhaps frustrated by Emilio’s reluctance to answer the question, Paolo asked in a sharp voice. Emilio finally looked up at that question.

Chapter 109: Confession of perplexity

“If you really notice my charm, then why don’t you look at me?” Emilio suddenly asked, and Paolo and I exchanged glances. Paolo shook his head sadly, and I sighed.

It seems we both had the same impression.

As I was thinking about how to answer, a voice of exasperation spoke up.

“Well, that’s obvious. Lorraine-oneesama loves Jeremiah-sama, doesn’t she?”

I turned my gaze to the speaker, Lucia. She was looking at Emilio with a disappointed expression, not me.

“That’s not an obstacle at all. If I exchange words with a woman at first sight, regardless of whether she is married or not, she will come to me on her own.”

“…He’s an enemy of men,” Paolo muttered under his breath.

“He’s an enemy of women too,” I added.

“Then he’s an enemy of humanity…”

“…He might be the reincarnation of the Demon King.”

“No, that’s going too far. I take it back.”

“I can hear you know,” Emilio said with a slightly hurt expression, so Paolo and I fell silent.

Did we go too far? Let’s apologize just in case.

“I’m sorry.”

Upon hearing that, Emilio made a slightly dissatisfied face, but then sighed and said, “Don’t worry about it.” I felt like comforting him a little, but I thought it would be better not to say anything unnecessary.

However, he really is a womanizer.

As I thought from the bottom of my heart, I suddenly became worried about Lucia. After all, she was in the same space as Emilio for a long time. I thought it would be okay because there was a partition, but his voice was also alluring.

So, I looked at Lucia as if to ask, and she shrugged her shoulders with a look of exasperation. There was no particular difference from her usual self.

While showing a somewhat apologetic expression to me, Paolo avoids looking at me. Emilio seems to be looking at me, but there is quite a distance, so it may be difficult to know.

For the time being, I turned my feet towards Lucia and let out a sigh of relief.

“Looks like I’m still not on your mind.”

“Huh?”

When I turned around to the voice mixed with a sigh, I met Emilio’s eyes directly. Unlike the faint, gentle color of my brother’s eyes, the grayish eyes that reminded me of a storm had a painful color floating in them.

He had a surprising transformation from his previous playful self, and I held my breath at his serious expression.

I feel like I’m doing something really bad. I fell silent and placed my hand on my chest.

“It’s ironic… it was easy to get while playing, but when you get serious, you can’t get it.”

“Lieutenant Colonel Caldelara?”

“Could you please call me Emilio?”

I flinched at his words. I remembered how Jeremiah had been saying the same thing to me until recently.

Emilio seemed to notice my expression and gave a faint, somewhat cold smile as if he could see through my thoughts.

“Now that it’s come to this, you won’t become Lady Castalde. But I don’t mind. You can still live a life that’s not much different from before, and your honor will be protected. Please choose me. It’s different from before… I really mean it now… from the bottom of my heart.”

I was confronted with something that I had been trying not to think about as much as possible, and my strength seemed to drain from my legs.

Jeremiah is probably still worried about me now. Just imagining being rejected by him makes me feel dizzy.

From the expression on Emilio’s face, it was clear that he was saying it on purpose. And it was also true that the offer presented was very helpful to me.

I know, and I’m saying it.

It was clear that he was serious.

——However…

“I…”

As I tried to answer Emilio’s words, my shoulder was strongly pulled from behind, and I was pushed back a step. Then, my arms were wrapped around my shoulders, and I was startled.

I looked up, I could see Paolo glaring at Emilio with an angry expression.

“Hey, cut it out. I decided to protect her, and I won’t forgive you if you lay a hand on her.”

“Are you planning to kill me? You’re not the leader of the memory holders gathered here, so can you do whatever you want?”

“You’re not a hostage, so Cassini-san will turn a blind eye.”

I couldn’t speak because of Paolo’s unusual cold voice. Even though I wanted them to stop, both of them were too intimidating.

Despite Paolo’s words, Emilio continued with a cruel smile.

“Well then, let me ask you one more thing. Can you promise her a life befitting a noblewoman? Can you protect her honor? I can do it, but can you?”

“That’s…”

Paolo stammered.

I thought it was such a mean question. It was impossible for him as a worker-class person to do such a thing.

Knowing that Paolo couldn’t answer, I asked the question. Emilio is still Emilio, I thought to myself.

But what is this situation in the first place?

In a way, it’s like a dream-like situation, but it’s not really happy or anything.

Because they left me completely out of it.

Or rather, it seems like I’m the only one who doesn’t fit in with the situation. It’s not just that it doesn’t suit me, it’s just plain weird. I’m not even that valuable of a person. Please don’t use up any more of your luck on me.

“…Wow, it’s like a novel.”

Lucia’s innocent comment hurts in various ways. But thanks to that, my stiffness loosened up. Finally able to speak, I turned to the two of them and said.

Chapter 110: Declaration of determination

“Um, sorry to interrupt the fun, but have you forgotten about me?”

Then, both Paolo and Emilio said at the same time.

“That’s not true.”

“That’s not true, is it?”

“Well then, please stop for now. Also, please listen to what I have to say.”

As I said that, the two men’s gaze turned towards me.

Anyway, the argument seemed to have been interrupted. All that was left was to convey my thoughts.

Alright, I psyched myself up in my mind.

Even though there were only three people in the audience, it was still nerve-wracking. I took a deep breath and spoke up.

“First of all, I want to say that it seems like both of you were talking under the assumption that I would choose one of you, but I don’t intend to choose either of you.”

“But…”

Emilio looks at me suspiciously.

I had expected that.

What he probably wants to say is that if we go back like this, it will damage my reputation. Certainly, it wouldn’t be a good story, and if we do as Emilio says, we can come up with various lies. Since the fact that we are trapped here is true, we can make up something plausible.

That way, we can minimize our losses.

However, there was something more important to me than that.

“But, it’s not like we can go back to the way things were, right? So…”

To Paolo’s question, I shook my head.

That wasn’t the issue.

“Then why? Even if you want it, it may not be possible for those around you. You may be rejected by many people…”

“That’s okay. I have decided not to betray myself.”

As I assert this, both Paolo and Emilio fall silent with subtle expressions.

Although I may have hurt them, I was relieved that I was able to say it properly.

I had been thinking about it all along.

Even considering the worst-case scenario, that was my conclusion.

Jeremiah was the one who gave me courage. It was impossible for me to betray someone like him.

“…But still, I won’t give up.”

A squeezed-out voice came from behind.

“Paolo.”

“Yeah, me too. Our luck has finally turned around, so I don’t want to give up here.”

“Lieutenant Colonel Caldelara.”

I laughed at their words. They were such troublesome people. But being needed made me happy.

One day, one of them might push me too far. Thinking that, I said:

“It’s probably pointless, but do your best.”

Then, a sigh could be heard from a little distance away.

“Lorraine-oneesama, you’re so cool.”

It was Lucia.

She looked at me with eyes that seemed to be admiring me. I was surprised. I felt like she had some kind of terrible misunderstanding.

It was as if she thought I was one of the glamorous people in the world. I think I said something that only people like socialites or actresses are allowed to say.

I said it with a feeling of almost dying.

I thought I had to say something, but Lucia was faster.

“I want to be like Onee-sama someday. So that I can manipulate a wonderful man like that…”

Ah, I knew it.

I cursed my slow thinking, but I knew that Lucia didn’t listen to people.

I wanted to scratch my head, but Paolo still wouldn’t let go.

As I wondered what to do, a helping hand appeared unexpectedly. It was the silly sound coming from my stomach, signaling hunger.

“…Shall we have a meal?”

Paolo said with a small laugh.

“Yes.”

I replied with nothing but embarrassment.

Three days had passed since the event that seemed to have used up almost all of my love luck for the next life. Almost every day, I went around listening to the people in the castle.

Sometimes I talked about myself, and there were times when we got excited about completely unrelated topics or when they confided in me about their troubles.

At first, some people were wary or disgusted with me, but gradually they began to accept my presence, and I was hardly ever looked at with hostile eyes like when I first arrived.

“You never get bored, do you?”

Paolo, who still accompanied me as a guard and watchman, said that to me, and I smiled wryly.

“Really, but it’s interesting.”

And I continued to think that in my heart.

I had been brought here for quite some time now. While I wanted to go back and see everyone’s faces, I was also afraid of how they would react, so I tried not to think about it too much. But when I returned to my room, I couldn’t help but think about it, so sometimes I walked around until I got tired and could sleep right away.

When that didn’t work, I wrote down the stories I heard. As I wrote, I eventually became sleepy and could finally sleep.

By the way, I have been given a room inside the castle now.

It seems that they can’t leave me in that inn forever. However, it’s a pretty good room. Still, it didn’t change the fact that I couldn’t settle down.

“Don’t you think you should rest a little more? You look thinner.”

“It’s okay, I’m on a diet.”

“You don’t have to do that. You’re already thin overall.”

Paolo’s casual words made me snort.

“I know that. I’m flat overall.”

“I-I didn’t say that!”

I glanced at the flustered Paolo and sighed deliberately with lukewarm eyes. Then, Paolo groaned.

“S-Sorry, I take it back.”

“It’s okay, I’m not bothered.”

As I replied with a slight smile, Paolo looked troubled. While thinking that I had told the truth, I shifted my gaze forward and met the eyes of a bearded man. He came near us with a very cheerful chuckle. Seeing that, Paolo and I stopped.

“It’s nice to have a good relationship. I’m a little jealous.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Hahaha, well, she probably doesn’t know. Anyway, we’re being called. Ojo-sama over there is coming too.”

Paolo’s face tightened at the bearded man’s casual words. While feeling a creeping sense of unease in my chest as I watched him, I asked.

Chapter 111: Dinner with Cassini

“What is the summons about?”

“Cassini-san is calling for you. He wants to meet you tonight at the dining hall of this castle.”

I blinked at the man’s words.

I had been waiting eagerly for this moment, but since he hadn’t come yet, I thought it was hopeless for today.

To be honest, it took a long time for him to call me.

No matter how much I wanted to talk to Cassini, he kept insisting that he was busy and couldn’t make time for me.

Now, I finally know what he wants me to do. When I first arrived, I was dying to know, but now I’m afraid to ask.

Still, there was no change in what I wanted to ask.

“Understood.”

“Paolo will guide you. Well, it’s not like a nobleman’s evening party, just eating and talking, so he wants you to relax. Alright then, I’ll tell Paolo and Ojo-sama that you two were getting along well.”

Paolo replied with a stiff “Thank you,” and watched the man with a beard leave. After a while, when he was completely gone, Paolo let out a long sigh.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, no, it’s nothing.”

It didn’t look like nothing at all.

He had a face as if he was holding some kind of secret. Without asking any further, I looked at Paolo’s tired face for a moment and said, “Well, that’s good then.”

“Okay then, shall we go? Where are we going?”

He seemed to be pushing himself a little too hard, but perhaps relieved by my response, he asked in his usual manner. Worried but not wanting to corner him, I answered with my usual tone that we were going to dinner.

Paolo nodded and headed towards the dinner. Following behind him, I let out a small sigh.

I have entered the dining hall where I was called a few times before.

It is a simple place with long tables and chairs arranged in a slightly spacious area that reminds me of a medieval castle.

However, there are decent dishes lined up there now, and I couldn’t help but be fascinated by them.

Of course, I cannot compare them to the dishes I have seen so far, but there are chunks of meat and baked goods-like things.

Since coming here, the meals have been small in quantity, and I have never really felt full.

My stomach made a growling sound again at the good smell that tickled my nostrils.

Then, a cheerful laughter came from behind me.

Almost reflexively, I turned around and saw Cassini standing there, having tidied up his appearance a bit and holding back his laughter with his hand on his mouth.

I cursed my stomach for being like this even at a time like this. I had put in some effort, but this ruined it all. I suddenly felt deflated.

Even the air that had been tense until then seemed to loosen up. The people who were preparing the meal also had indescribable looks on their faces.

“No, I think it’s good to be honest.”

“Oh, no…I’m sorry.”

“There’s no need to apologize. Paolo, take her to her seat and let’s start soon.”

“Yes.”

Led by Paolo, who nodded, I sat down at the seat he indicated. A large piece of meat was placed right in front of me, and I casually averted my eyes.

My stomach growled again, and I couldn’t stand it.

Fortunately, my wish was granted, and my stomach didn’t growl until the meal began.

“Well then, let’s talk while we eat.”

Cassini said and offered a prayer before the meal. It wasn’t something from this world. I don’t know the details.

Following his lead, I offered a prayer that is commonly performed in this country before starting the meal.

Although it was a large table, only Cassini, two people who seemed to be his subordinates, Paolo, and I were eating. The people who had prepared the meal were nowhere to be seen. They were probably eating somewhere else. While thinking that, I took a bite of boiled potato.

The meals lined up were quite different from what I had been eating as a daily meal in the Valcourt family. Although they looked similar, the texture and taste were inferior.

However, since I was hungry, everything tasted delicious.

The bean soup was well-cooked and thick, and the meat that had been molded by solidifying the end meat and pouring sauce over it had a strong spice flavor. The chunk of meat was thinly seasoned and became more delicious as I chewed.

After eating silently for a while, I suddenly came back to my senses.

I came here to talk, but it seems like the meal is the main event. However, since everyone else is eating silently, it’s hard to disturb them.

I reached for the French fries, thinking I would eat a little more. Since there are no servants here to serve me, I have to take it myself. As I was thinking about whether to have bread next, Cassini suddenly said,

“As expected of a noble, you eat so neatly.”

“…Uh, no, that’s normal…”

I answered while looking at others, and bones and bread crumbs were scattered around.

After seeing that, I corrected my answer and said,

“That’s how I was taught.”

“Maybe it was in a previous life?”

When asked if it was from my past life, I fell silent. Come to think of it, I wasn’t told much about how to eat from the beginning. My brother was often scolded, but I wasn’t.

I nodded, thinking that he understood even though I only answered vaguely.

“I see.”

Not knowing why he asked me that, I tilted my head.

Cassini reached for the bread and then looked at the dishes on the table. Looking at the plates that had been mostly eaten and the remaining ones, he muttered,

“First of all, I want to know what you thought. How was today’s food for you?”

“Well, it was very delicious.”

Not understanding the intention of the question, I answered honestly. Then Cassini raised an eyebrow and looked at me suspiciously.

“Really? I don’t think it compares to the meals we had at the Duke’s estate just a little while ago.”

“Why compare it to the Duke’s house? Their cuisine is on par with high-end restaurants, you know?”

Upon hearing that, Cassini grinned.

Chapter 112: What is a memory holder?

“So, comparing in itself is foolish. You’re absolutely right. In other words, it means that there is a tremendous difference between you and us.”

At that moment, I felt like I understood a little bit of what Cassini was trying to say. However, I didn’t want to be lumped together with the Duke family and our Valcourt family.

There is quite a difference between here and there.

Nevertheless, Cassini continued talking, looking a bit perplexed at me.

“Even if we are superior, there are those who are privileged just because of their birth. We are much more useful to the country and its people… What do you think about this situation?”

“…Um, I don’t think it’s a good situation.”

As I answered while taking a piece of bread and eating it, he nodded repeatedly without caring.

“That’s right. But these people in this country won’t budge… It’s different in other countries.”

“Other countries?”

When I asked, Cassini repeated, “Yes, other countries.”

I felt like I saw a dark anger in his eyes, and I swallowed and involuntarily stopped eating.

What exactly is different between this country and other countries?

“In other countries, they gather people with memories like us who seem useful regardless of their status and protect them. Then they make them work for the country. And they give positions and wealth to those who have actually achieved something and prevent them from going to other countries. Recently, there have been rumors that the eastern countries are becoming stronger, and that’s exactly what’s happening there.”

He seemed to want to say that if he had been born in that country, but I was just surprised.

The world was moving without me knowing it.

However, since I had no significant knowledge or ability, I didn’t feel like a party involved.

So I just said what I thought purely.

“If that’s the case, why don’t you go to that country? It’s not like it’s a country where you can’t go, and there shouldn’t be any restrictions.”

Then Cassini smiled as if he were making fun of me.

“What about the cost? We don’t have money like you noble folks to travel. It’s okay to go to the neighboring country, but the eastern country is far away. It would be impossible even if we threw away all our money. Besides, I’m not that physically strong. I can’t endure a long journey.”

I thought it was impossible when he said that.

After all, transportation in this world is still not very convenient. It’s in a state where railways are just about to be realized.

If you wanted to go, you could probably go, but since the main means of transportation are walking and carriages, it takes time, and if you were to cross the sea, you would have to smuggle yourself when you ran out of money.

“So that’s why you started doing this.”

“Yeah.”

When I looked at Cassini nodding, he certainly seemed a bit unwell. It’s probably not a lie that he’s not physically strong.

If that’s the case, I painfully understand why he had no choice but to resort to such means.

Even so, I can’t help but think.

“Did you really have no other way to convey this? Maybe there was a better way.”

“Ah…that may be true. But it’s too late now. In many ways.”

I wondered what he meant by “in many ways,” but Cassini didn’t explain any further and started a different conversation.

“Miss Lorraine, this is a question for everyone here, but I really want you to answer it…why do you think we were born in this world with memories from our past lives?”

“Why…?”

“Well, for example, don’t you think there were hardly any people in the world we were in before who had memories like ours?”

That’s certainly true.

There are people who reveal that they have memories, but they are rare. And since it’s mostly self-reported, it’s doubtful whether it’s true or not.

There are also stories of being able to see past lives, but that’s also questionable.

So I answered honestly, “I suppose so.”

“If that’s the case, don’t you think this situation is unusual? At least, I think so…there must be a reason why we’re here. What do you think?”

When asked like that, as someone who had hardly thought about such things before, I was about to answer “I suppose so,” but I tried to think about it for a moment.

But nothing came to mind. Of course, I hadn’t completely ignored the question of why we have memories.

I had thought about it a little bit.

However, I just couldn’t come up with an answer no matter how much I thought about it.

It was like the question of why I was born or what I’m living for, which is almost impossible to answer. So I gave up thinking about it.

“…I don’t know.”

I answered honestly.

There’s no point in pretending to be something I’m not. Cassini probably has an answer, so I decided to listen to him.

Then he chuckled and said, “I don’t know what the purpose is, but I heard you’re going around talking to the people here who have memories. Haven’t you noticed anything in common?”

When Cassini asked me, I tilted my head.

Certainly, as he said, I’ve been talking to people with memories here and writing down what they say. But everyone’s life is different, so there’s nothing in common.

“Something in common…?”

Cassini just looked at me as I stumbled over my words.

Before I knew it, the whole room had fallen silent. Everyone here was listening to Cassini’s words and me.

I glanced over at Paolo, who had also been asked the same question.

I tried to think about what we had in common with our dreams from past lives, our deaths, our current lives, and our dissatisfactions with them and those of others, but I still didn’t know.

Cassini’s sigh pierced my ears as I fell silent.

Chapter 113: Reality that cannot be changed

“I don’t understand… well, never mind. It’s not like I realized it right away either. It’s just troublesome to be suddenly asked about it. In that case, let me change the question. Let’s try to remember how those with memories lost their lives.”

Upon hearing that, I felt a little down and tried to regain my composure by recalling the faces of the people I had met and talked to here. Some were happy to talk, while others finally told me after being spoken to every day. There were also those who still wouldn’t even talk to me. There weren’t many memory holders gathered here.

When Cassini mentioned how they died in their past lives, there was a part that suddenly caught my attention.

“Come to think of it, everyone became the same face and then couldn’t do anything in their past lives…”

“What about you? Wasn’t that not the ending for you?”

“I… died from an illness.”

Muttering that, I thought maybe… I looked at Cassini as if asking a question, but he remained silent as if waiting for an answer. I cleared my throat and said,

“Everyone died tragically or suddenly.”

“That’s right. I also died in an accident… in other words, every human with memories hasn’t fulfilled their life properly.”

When I learned that, I became convinced. There is a meaning for us memory holders to be here.

“What do you mean?”

“We were born here to start over. To accomplish what we couldn’t in our past lives. That’s why we have knowledge and memories.

But if we continue like this, it will just repeat itself. Just because we were born in this country, will we end up unfulfilled again?

I can’t allow that. Don’t you think so too?”

Cassini’s eyes glimmered with madness as he spoke. I involuntarily pursed my lips and stared back at his eyes without answering.

However, he continued speaking without caring about that.

“It’s not just me. Everyone gathered here agrees with my thoughts. There are even those who have far superior knowledge, skills, and talents than me but can’t act on them. It’s a waste. Why is there so little freedom in this country… why can’t we even choose our way of life?

To me, it seems like the class system is getting in the way.”

I also thought that was certainly true.

I had been touching on their frustrating thoughts for a while now. There was no way I didn’t understand.

“The people in this country don’t know. They don’t know that human superiority or inferiority can’t be divided by class. If that’s the case, we should teach them.”

“So, you did that kind of thing…?”

“That’s right. They should understand it now too. Just by showing a little bit of our seriousness, we can easily cause this level of chaos. With just a few people, we can expose the incompetence of those above us in this country.”

Cassini let out a chuckling laugh. It must have been enjoyable for him to see the rulers in a panic.

Even I could sense the chaos of those who govern this country through the newspapers.

“Finally, they had no choice but to recognize the power we possess. It was truly exhilarating.”

Cassini spoke with delight.

I looked at the faces of his comrades sitting at the table. Some had the same expression as Cassini, while others seemed to disagree.

Paolo seemed to be one of them.

Seeing that, I understood that this group was not united. If that was the case, could it not be used to our advantage? I thought so, but nothing came to mind.

More than that, I felt annoyed by Cassini’s enjoyment.

“That’s great… but isn’t it meaningless to make them recognize your power with something like that?”

“What do you mean?”

Cassini asked back with a grin on his face. It was clear that he only thought of it as a minor setback. Although it was true, I still wanted to say it.

“You may have conveyed that you possess knowledge and technology that the people of this country do not yet know about, but don’t you think fear and distrust were also conveyed?”

It’s not easy for many people to accept something so unknown.

In fact, their actions may have pushed other memory holders into a corner. Despite my frustration, Cassini snapped his fingers and pointed at me.

“That’s right. That’s where you come in.”

“Huh?”

I asked back with a puzzled look on my face.

“A young and reasonably beautiful girl from a noble family who died tragically and was born into this world. That alone changes the impression. Moreover, if you add the story of falling in love with a man born in the same country in your past life, but being hindered by social status and running away like this, how about that?”

We protected her and took action for her.”

As he spoke of a tragic story mixed with facts and lies, I momentarily wondered who he was talking about.

However, there was no doubt that it was me.

“Even if you get caught, how do you think many people will feel after hearing this story? At the very least, the negative image will be diluted.”

“…Is that why you brought me here?”

“Yeah. Well, to be honest, it would have been better if it were true, but there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Cassini glanced at Paolo and shrugged his shoulders. Paolo was facing the opposite direction to avoid the gaze of those around him, but I could tell he was probably frowning.

“Who would believe such a lie?”

“I don’t know. Only those close to you would know that it’s a lie.”

I was unable to speak up firmly after being told that.

I could easily imagine Cassini’s situation.

I lost the will to glare and let out a sigh.

Chapter 114: Hazy Hope

In the end, I can’t do anything.

I understand well that I can’t change the situation. Is a powerless lamb only good for being sacrificed quietly? Thinking that way makes me feel helpless.

Cassini stood up and said, “Well.” It seems that the conversation is over. I felt too lazy to even look at him and just stared at the food left on the table.

Although it looked so delicious before, now it feels like everything is covered in stones and sand.

“I had a good time talking tonight, Miss Lorraine. If you need anything, just let me know and I’ll prepare it within my ability. Well then, see you.”

Ignoring the fact that I wasn’t looking at him, Cassini said that and left the dining room with some people.

The sound of footsteps getting farther away.

When it was completely out of hearing range, I finally took a breath.

“Lorraine, are you okay?”

Paolo stood up and came over here, looking worried as he peered into my face. I couldn’t answer immediately, but somehow managed to slowly raise my face and forced a smile.

“Yeah, somehow. But I’m really tired.”

“I see… Shall we go back now?”

Paolo’s voice was so gentle that it made me feel like leaning on him.

For a while, I watched the people leaving here without saying anything. Then, when almost everyone was gone, I finally spoke up.

“Hey, can I ask you something?”

“Huh? Yeah, sure…”

Confusion could be heard in his voice.

But I really wanted to ask.

“Paolo, do you have any regrets?”

I didn’t say what about. But I felt like he knew even without saying it. After hesitating for a while, Paolo said softly,

“I do.”

“Did you ever think about running away?”

At that moment, I finally saw Paolo’s face. He looked a little troubled, but had a faint smile.

“I did, but I couldn’t.”

“Why?”

“Because the people here are my comrades. At least they understand pain and suffering. And because Lorraine is here now…”

Hearing that, I felt relieved. At the same time, I realized that Paolo was kind after all. That’s why I didn’t want him to be involved in this, I thought belatedly.

“We can’t turn back now… If this country doesn’t change, nothing will change anyway.”

“Yeah, that’s right.”

While listening to Paolo’s words, I wondered why there was no other way for us to take.

“I wish there was a more peaceful way.”

“If only I had the power to find it.”

The number of lamps in the room decreased, and the dining hall became dark. The darkness seemed to spread endlessly, and I let out a small sigh and said, “Shall we go back? It’s getting cold.”

“Yeah, sure,” Paolo answered.

I looked at Paolo’s face as he answered. His face, illuminated by the light of the lamp in his hand, was surprisingly well-structured and even felt eerie.

That reminded me of a beautiful face that also appeared in the darkness of night, and I instinctively placed my hand on my chest.

Paolo didn’t notice my gesture and started walking slowly.

“Be careful because it’s dark.”

“Okay.”

I nodded, but secretly furrowed my brow due to the sharp pain. I walked while telling myself that it was useless to think about it.

Eventually, we arrived at the room I was given in silence. I felt relieved when I saw the bed.

“Well then, good night.”

“Yeah, see you tomorrow.”

As usual, I responded to Paolo’s greeting. The door was closed and locked immediately after that.

The sound of the lock seemed strangely heavy.

I shook my head slightly and sat on the bed. It was a closed and dark room. There was light, and someone would come if I called out, but I thought to myself:

——Lonely.

I hadn’t felt that way for a while.

“It was harder than I thought,” I muttered to myself and lay down on the bed.

The next day, I decided to listen to Paolo’s story again.

“Are you okay? You look like you should rest today.”

Paolo said with concern, so I told him clearly.

“I don’t want to be alone in that room.”

Paolo seemed at a loss for words when I looked straight into his eyes and said that. He sighed heavily and scratched his head.

“Okay, but if you’re not feeling well, we’ll go back.”

“I’ll do that.”

While taking a break, we walked around the castle.

There were still people who hadn’t been talked to, but they were all people who didn’t even bother to talk.

It would be difficult to talk to them, I thought. Then I saw someone I had exchanged words with several times walking towards me from the opposite direction.

He was the oldest among their group, short and thin with white hair mixed in his roughly cut hair, and had a very serious-looking face. (I called him Oji-san.) When he came close enough to talk easily, he looked puzzled and said, “Hey, are you okay?”

“Huh?”

“Well, you look pretty pale. Shouldn’t you rest?”

Oji-san looked at me with a worried expression. I was about to deny it, but Paolo was quicker.

“Right? I’ve been telling her that too, but she won’t listen. Well, probably because she talked to Cassini-san yesterday.”

When Paolo said that, Oji-san seemed to understand.

“Oh, I see. That’s probably the reason.”

I wondered how he knew that just from that, but when I looked at Oji-san, he nodded several times and sent me a sympathetic look.

Chapter 115: Anomalies, and…

“That was tough, wasn’t it? I understand because I have experience too. That person says things that are like gouging out your heart and crushing your hopes accurately, you know.”

Oji-san laughed, but his laughter lacked strength. It seems that Oji-san has had a similar experience.

“I want to say that you don’t need to worry, but it’s impossible.”

I looked at Oji-san who sighed after saying that. He seemed to be recalling something from the past with his distant gaze. Looking at Oji-san’s expression, I suddenly thought that there might be others who are only cooperating because they were pushed into a corner.

“Anyway, for now, it’s better to rest. How about playing a game to pass the time? I think there was something we could play…”

“…Thank you for your concern. But I’m fine and I want to stay like this…”

In fact, I felt more at ease when I was moving around. So, I intended to walk around no matter what. However, Oji-san interrupted my words with a serious expression and a disappeared smile.

“No, that’s not good. You have to rest especially at times like this. If you collapse, everyone will worry. Rest quietly.”

“…Everyone?”

I unintentionally asked again.

I doubted for a moment who “everyone” referred to. Was it about my family who was far away or Jeremiah whom I had told Oji-san about?

However, the unexpected answer came back.

“Yes, everyone here. Not everyone, but not just Paolo who is your knight. It’s me and the people who have talked with you so far. Everyone regrets involving you in this to some extent and is worried about you.”

“But…because I was born as a noble?”

I could only nod since he said what I was going to say. Oji-san smiled awkwardly and continued.

“Indeed, I think we had those feelings at first. I also thought so a little. But you didn’t look down on us and listened to us a lot. There aren’t many people who can do that without any prejudice… Your fiancé had a good eye for people.”

“That’s not true.”

I really just talked to them.

It was embarrassing to be told that much. As I couldn’t raise my face, Paolo nodded as if to add insult to injury.

“Yeah, I think so too.”

“See, it’s a majority vote.

Of course, there are those who still worry about it, and there are also those who are only interested in your usefulness, but there are also people who are not like that.

So, for the sake of everyone, take a break… and for the sake of your family and fiancé too.”

“…Okay.”

I couldn’t say anything in response to that.

I obediently replied with a “yes.” Oji-san nodded several times as if satisfied.

“Good. I’ll bring you something later.”

“No need for that.”

“It’s okay, it’s okay. Well then, see you later.”

Oji-san smiled again and walked away, waving his hand. I looked towards Paolo as if seeking his opinion. Then our eyes met.

I couldn’t help but stare at his face.

“Well then, shall we go back? If there’s something to distract you, we can find it on the way.”

“…Okay.”

Since I had said that to Oji-san, I couldn’t just not go back. I averted my gaze from Paolo and nodded.

When I returned to the room, I agreed to Paolo’s suggestion and decided to play for a while. It was still too early to sleep, and above all, I wasn’t that sleepy.

Despite not being able to sleep much last night, my eyes were wide awake.

Therefore, on the way back, I borrowed some cards and played on the bed.

We didn’t bet anything.

Paolo suggested that the loser should obey the winner as a joke, but I felt it was better not to do it. Because I am quite weak when it comes to gambling.

If I had to do everything he said, it would be annoying.

So I firmly refused, and although he looked slightly disappointed, I ignored it.

I wondered what he was going to say, but since I didn’t want things to get awkward, I decided not to say anything.

We played like that for a while, and it was getting close to noon.

In the distance, I heard a sound that was unfamiliar to my ears. I raised my face, which was looking down, and looked at the window.

Paolo, who was facing me, made the same movement. I moved my gaze a little and looked at his face. I could tell he was very tense.

I didn’t feel like asking why, so I asked a different question.

“What’s that sound?”

“That’s gunfire.”

I looked at the window in amazement at his firm voice.

There was no point in doing that. Even though we were in the same castle, we didn’t know what was happening from here.

“I’ll go check it out. Don’t open this door unless it’s me.”

“O-Okay.”

I didn’t want to be left alone, but I couldn’t ask him to take me with him. So I just nodded.

Paolo emphasized again not to open the door and left. I put away the cards and looked at the door with an uneasy feeling.

It felt like I had swallowed lead.

For a while, I sat still without moving, but gradually became unable to bear it and stood up and sat down repeatedly.

“Maybe I should have gone with him after all.”

Muttering to myself, when I stood up again, the door suddenly opened with force.

In front of me, the men I had seen at dinner with Cassini were standing. They rushed into the room in a panic and said,

“Come with us. We have no choice but to take you hostage.”

“Huh? What do you mean… Ouch!”

My right upper arm was grabbed with strong force, and I screamed unintentionally. However, the man didn’t answer my question and dragged me away as if pulling me along.

Chapter 116: Shaken by anxiety

My arm hurt from being grabbed, and my steps were too short, so I had to run to keep up, unable to ask any questions as I was taken away.

——What happened? They said something about a hostage…

The man seemed not to notice my state and continued to drag me along. Soon, I saw other men coming from the front, also with someone in tow. When I saw their figure, I couldn’t help but scream.

“Lucia!”

“Lorraine-oneesama!”

They noticed me and called out, but the men didn’t pay attention to us and just nodded at each other.

The men who had joined us started walking again. Lucia and I looked at each other, but we didn’t have time to speak. Along the way, we passed by people I had talked to before.

Everyone looked surprised when they saw us.

“You guys stay here. No, if possible, run away!”

The man said this to his passing comrades. However, one of them seemed unconvinced and spoke up.

“What happened? Did they find out about this place?”

“That’s right!”

The man stopped and replied irritably. His comrades were shocked by his words and looked at each other.

“What a mess. We discussed everything and took various measures. It must be because of the difference in equipment.”

“It’s about information and resources… Anyway, we need to decide what to do.”

Meanwhile, Paolo’s “gunshot” sound echoed several times.

The man ignored his comrades who had started discussing and said, “Let’s go.” I almost tripped but managed not to fall.

I thought to myself.

“Could it be that the police found this place?”

If that were the case, it would make sense for them to use the word “hostage” earlier and their panicked behavior and the line telling us to run away.

In other words, we might finally be able to get out of here. Once I realized that, I couldn’t think of anything else. Hope and anxiety mixed together, and my heart pounded fiercely.

Soon, I heard a loud voice. It seemed to be the entrance to the castle. I had never been there before, so I wasn’t sure, but there was a gate big enough to look up at, so it couldn’t be wrong.

I was told when I was walking around that this castle was used as a mere residence until it was abandoned, so there was no drawbridge like the ones you see in movies.

I couldn’t believe Cassini and the others hadn’t prepared anything, but the fact that we could hear sounds nearby meant that it had already been breached.

I stared ahead as if devouring everything with my eyes.

It had been a long time since I had prayed. I hoped that the people who had come here would be the ones who could help me.

After all, I haven’t been able to contact my family for a long time.

I haven’t even seen Jeremiah’s face.

Actually, it had been very painful and sad for me. I couldn’t help but tightly purse my lips. If it turned out to be a disappointment, I might not be able to recover for a while.

Little by little, the light grew stronger. I could see that I was heading towards a hall where the light was shining in from the corridor.

Suddenly, there was a small metallic sound. I moved my gaze and gasped as the man holding my arm pulled out a knife from somewhere and brought it close to my neck.

Without screaming, I stepped into the light with the knife still pointed at me.

The place I came out to was a grand staircase. My view opened up all at once, and I looked down at the people facing me. One side was, of course, the people with memories. The other side was a group of people in uniforms that I had seen many times in the city. However, there was another group wearing different uniforms mixed in.

——Is that a military uniform?

I was amazed.

It seemed that the men who brought me here were also surprised and muttered with groaning voices.

“What the hell, why did the military come all the way out here?”

“Hey, don’t tell me that’s the prince?”

The men’s faces turned pale, and their voices trembled slightly.

Suddenly, I remembered the image of the prince who chose to be a soldier and commanded on the front lines despite being born into royalty. The scene at that time was burned into my mind and wouldn’t leave. It was probably true for most women.

The prince had a well-defined sweet face and always had an unreadable smile. His long chestnut hair had a strong wave, giving a gentle impression. His large golden eyes, which were different from mine, gave a sincere feeling. He was also well-built, and the military uniform suited him terribly.

I had only seen him when he was presented to society, but I felt from the bottom of my heart that he was a resident of a completely different world.

There was no way such a gentleman would be in a place like this. As I thought that, the existence they spoke of appeared before my eyes.

I couldn’t believe it right away.

Not only that, but I could see someone standing near the aforementioned prince who was hard to recognize from a distance but had too much familiarity.

For a moment, I felt like my breath had stopped.

——eremiah…

He was there with the same appearance that I had been staring at all along. He was staring at me, and only me.

His gaze seemed to say, “It’s okay.”

I recall those blue eyes that I found more beautiful than any gem. I never thought there would come a time when those eyes would look at me like this.

Unknowingly, my body trembles.

He was indeed looking for me.

Various thoughts come and go, such as how much I worried him, or how he will surely scold me. But in the end, the only feeling left was happiness.

My eyes start to feel hot, but I can’t cry here. I have to hold back my overflowing emotions and tighten my face.

Still, I couldn’t help but shed a few tears.

“The Secretary of State is here too. It’s kind of funny…”

“Yeah, I feel like I’ve become someone important.”

They let out a dry laugh and were completely intimidated. But when their eyes met with Cassini, who was shouting below, the laughter disappeared immediately. Fear remained, but now there was a sense of determination as they took a deep breath.

I finally arrived and shrank back.

“That’s enough! Is it okay for these guys to die?!”

A loud voice that made my ears hurt was uttered near my head.

I grimaced, but then noticed something reflecting light on the side of my neck and cleared my throat to look at the scene downstairs.

After the man’s voice, I realized that their gaze was focused on me.

Chapter 117: Who made you think that

The movements of the police officers who understood the situation slowed down. Then, an elderly man with a high position stepped forward from behind the police officers. He gave off an impression of severity.

He spoke in a clear voice without tension, “Let me talk to your leader. In the meantime, if anything happens to the hostages, we will kill them all. We are prepared for that.”

At that voice, the comrades who were struggling to prevent the police officers’ invasion exchanged glances. They seemed anxious and unable to decide what to do.

From behind them, Cassini slowly stepped forward. Despite wearing tattered clothes, he exuded an atmosphere as if he held a government position. Not only me, but everyone’s eyes were focused on him.

“I am the leader.”

“Oh, it’s you…”

The elderly man narrowed his eyes coldly and looked at Cassini as if appraising him. After confirming his appearance and features for a while, the man spoke.

“I won’t say anything bad. Stop resisting and release the hostages right away.”

“What if I refuse?”

“As I said earlier, we will judge that some sacrifices are unavoidable.”

In other words, they would resolve the situation even if it meant killing someone. I felt contempt mixed in the man’s voice.

I looked at Cassini. Then, his hand seemed to tremble slightly.

“Huh, you big shot still don’t understand what we’re asking for? Or what’s happening in this country?”

“What do you know? You are criminals. Who will listen to what a criminal has to say about the future of our country?

Even if it’s true?

When Cassini asked in a firm voice, the older man shook his head from side to side.

“Even if it’s true or false, do you think there are people who seriously listen to your words? You made a fuss and thought you could be in the newspaper, but your playtime is over.”

“Playtime? This is not a game. We took action for ourselves and for the future of our country. You should be grateful. Otherwise, someday this country will be invaded by another country, and you, the prince over there, and your precious things might be taken away. It will be too late to regret then.”

“Worker ants have quite a mouth.”

The man’s words mixed with sarcasm, and the comrades present there changed their expressions. Everyone showed anger and glared at the man.

“Do you really have that much value? Your memory of being active in a foreign country is probably very excellent, but committing a crime makes it hardly worth mentioning.”

After the man’s words, the knife that had been pointed at me shook. I immediately understood that it was due to anger.

The arm that was caught hurts.

I can hear his frustrated and pained breathing.

Even though I should be in a situation where I might be stabbed, I understood his feelings well.

I understood it all too well.

That’s why I couldn’t stop.

“Who made you think that?”

The voice was clearer than I expected and echoed through the area.

I was a little surprised and scared, but I didn’t want to stop. I just wanted to let out the feelings that had built up in my chest.

The gaze of everyone in the area was focused painfully on me.

It was more intense than at the party.

It felt like it was piercing me even more deeply.

“I’m asking who are you!”

“M-Me?”

“Who else is there? You’re the representative!”

The middle-aged man, who was probably in a fairly high position in the police organization, seemed confused by the angry voice that had come from an unexpected direction.

Well, he probably didn’t expect to hear anything other than “help me” from a hostage, but that didn’t matter.

“Everyone here isn’t doing this because they like it. We just want our abilities to be evaluated correctly. It’s just that you guys cut us off with things like rank, so we had no choice but to take this route.”

“Aren’t you a hostage and a victim? Are you one of their comrades?”

The man’s sharp eyes caught me.

Feeling intimidated by his condemning gaze, I looked at Cassini and his comrades in surprise and said:

“Comrades? No, I think what they did was wrong too. But there are people here who were forcibly brought here. There are people who just wanted to escape from a painful life or who were genuinely worried about this country and gave up their lives to participate. But everyone had no choice but to take this route because they couldn’t even get their voices heard due to their low rank.”

I didn’t raise my voice that much, but since the area was so quiet, my voice echoed clearly.

“So what? You committed a crime.”

“So what? Our lives are at stake here!”

I retorted directly.

Even the man seemed to have lost his voice and didn’t respond immediately. Then, a stifled laughter came from behind.

All eyes, including mine, turned in that direction.

The one laughing was the prince. He laughed heartily with his hand over his mouth and then walked towards us.

No one else could move.

Jeremiah also seemed surprised by the prince’s sudden action.

As for me, I wondered why the prince was coming over here, but I couldn’t move as if I were fixed in place.

My heart beat loudly in sync with the sound of his footsteps.

What does he want to say? I became scared just imagining it, and my mind went blank.

Now I regretted it and thought that maybe I should have stopped, but it was too late.

After a while, voices of restraint such as “Please stop” or “It’s dangerous” were heard, but the prince ignored them and continued to approach until he stopped near the middle-aged man.

Then he looked straight at me and smiled.

Chapter 118: Why?

It was a smile that seemed genuinely happy from the heart. It resembled the innocent smile of a child in some way. However, in reality, it was different, and It didn’t feel alive at all.

Still, I didn’t look away.

At this point, I thought there was no point in running away, and I didn’t want to run away.

As the golden eyes collided with each other, similar yet different, the prince’s smile deepened.

He confirmed that our gazes met properly before speaking quietly.

“If that’s the case, why don’t you show me some evidence? If there are really those who were forced to participate or lent a hand due to financial difficulties, or those who are genuinely concerned about the country, then come out here and surrender quietly. In exchange, I will take responsibility for deciding their treatment. I won’t do anything bad…I swear to God.”

At the sudden proposal, I couldn’t answer immediately.

I also had a feeling that I couldn’t believe such a good deal right away, and above all, I didn’t think they would accept the prince’s proposal.

Even if they believed and came out, there was no guarantee that the prince would keep his word. Without any assurance, I didn’t think everyone would come out.

“What’s wrong? Have the people you mentioned already fled or are they cowering in the back?”

I glared reflexively at the prince who provocatively spoke with a smile. He must have known what he was saying.

He was far worse in nature than an overbearing middle-aged man.

It felt like I was being told that criminals were just criminals after all.

“Lorraine-oneesama…”

I heard Lucia’s worried voice.

Even though it entered my ears, I couldn’t say anything. At least I thought I could just avert my eyes.

Instead of watching the man as if he were there for entertainment, I stared at him out of sheer stubbornness.

At this moment, I truly understood why Cassini and the others had no choice but to do this.

“Miss Lorraine, why…”

Then, Cassini spoke with a somewhat puzzled voice. Without looking in that direction, I said in a small voice.

“I also have memories…so.”

“…I see. Thank you.”

A grateful word mixed with a bitter smile.

Without averting my eyes from the prince, I said quietly, “You’re welcome.”

After that, there was only tense silence in the room. The breaths of the people there looked like mist.

I couldn’t say anything, and the prince didn’t say a word for some reason.

Then, small footsteps echoed.

Everyone looked over there. The sound came from behind me. In other words, it meant that one of my fellow memory holders had appeared.

While thinking “why,” I turned my gaze towards him to confirm, and I was surprised.

“O, Oji-san?”

There he was, the Oji-san I often talked to. He still had a gentle smile on his face as he slowly walked towards me.

“Oh.”

The prince sounded impressed and looked at Oji-san as if appraising him. I repeated to myself, wondering why he had come now and what would happen.

“Oji-san, if you come now, you’ll get caught…”

“Yeah, I know. I heard it.”

“Then why?”

He could have just run away. As I thought that, he looked at me with his usual calm eyes.

“I didn’t want to make you a liar.”

“Huh?”

“If no one came out, you would have become a liar. Besides, this kind of opportunity may never come again.”

Oji-san looked at the prince with a gaze that was different from what he had directed towards me, as if hiding something.

Even though he was looking at him like that, the prince didn’t change his expression at all.

But he didn’t look down on him either.

I wanted to know why Oji-san was making such a face, so I asked him out of curiosity.

“What kind of opportunity is this…?”

“It’s not every day a commoner gets a chance to talk to royalty. If he listens to what you say properly, I thought it wouldn’t matter even if I got caught.”

“What if he doesn’t listen and it was just talk? There’s no guarantee that what he said earlier wasn’t a lie.”

If it was just an excuse to resolve the situation quickly, then I fell right into that trap.

“Then I would rather be called a liar.”

I hated being used as an excuse to catch everyone. It was the first time in my life that I wanted to curse myself for being so stupid. I was so frustrated that tears came out.

Then Oji-san laughed in a troubled way.

“I don’t like that.”

“Why?”

I didn’t understand why Oji-san would go so far to defend me. There was no reason for Oji-san to do so. We had just met here for the first time, talked a few times, and had meals together. It was just a relationship like an acquaintance.

So I asked him why he was so obsessed with it.

Then Oji-san looked somewhat lonely and said quietly.

“Maybe because you listened to me.”

“Huh?”

“At this age, I have no family. My experience over there got in the way, and I have no income to support myself, so I’ve been alone all this time. So it’s been a long time since someone listened to me properly, and I was really happy about it.”

Oji-san said with eyes that seemed to be looking at a distant place.

I understood that he was thinking about the world outside of here and his experiences there.

“I complained, cried, and said troublesome things. Even so, you tried to understand me. I felt saved…that’s probably the reason.”

“That’s not a big deal.”

In the first place, the motive was impure.

I was asking around for information because I wanted to escape from here.

Well, it had turned into just small talk along the way, but it was fun to listen to someone’s story, and it allowed me to escape from reality for a while.

Even though I didn’t have the right to say such things.

“Still, you didn’t make fun of me or get annoyed even when I talked about my past life. That’s enough for me.”

“But…”

I groaned, still unable to accept it.

Suddenly, a big sigh reached my ears.

Chapter 119: Each choice

“But there’s nothing here. It’s not just that old man, you know. I was saved by you too.”

“Wha-why?”

I turned my gaze to where the voice came from and was surprised.

I was so surprised that it felt like the world had turned upside down. That’s because, along with the owner of the voice, several others were gathered there.

All of them were people I had talked to before, and I could see Paolo in the back. When our eyes met, he looked a little embarrassed and turned his face away.

I stared at the scene in amazement.

I never dreamed that so many people would move for me, someone as insignificant as myself. After all, what I did was such a small thing.

I couldn’t find the words to say.

This must be what true speechlessness feels like. I thought that without even thinking about it.

“Well, even if you ask why… I’m surprised by what I’m doing too. After all, I know that if I come out like this, I’ll be caught… but I still thought it was okay.”

She shrugged her shoulders with a wry smile and said.

Everyone had a similar expression on their faces. I just stared at them intently and repeated “why” in my mind. But since nothing else came to mind, there was nothing else to do.

Then suddenly there was applause. It was only one person clapping. I looked over there.

“Excellent, just as you said. Frankly, they seem like such decent people that I have a hard time understanding how they could have caused such a situation.

The prince said with that annoying smile on his face.

I should remember his name by now, but I had no intention of recalling it because it seemed silly to call him by his name with reverence.

“Well then, as promised.”

The prince said coldly and looked at those who were unsure of what to do behind him.

Just that was enough to make them all start moving at once.

Without giving any specific instructions, they captured everyone who had come out for me and the others who were fighting back.

All I could do was stare at them in amazement.

——It’s the same.

I’m just like everyone else, a powerless human being.

It might have been me over there. Thinking of that, I felt a sense of regret.

When I was feeling helpless, Cassini suddenly raised his voice.

“Miss Lorraine, don’t blame yourself. What you have in your hands now is something you grabbed with your own power. I’m telling you, so there’s no mistake.”

I was surprised and turned my face towards them, and there was Cassini with a calm face that I had never seen before. Paolo was also nearby, looking somewhat apologetic. When he saw me, he smiled sadly and quickly turned his face away.

There was a strong determination floating there.

Soon, the police and the prince arrived near me and caught the man who had been holding Lucia’s arm. Lucia was also released at the same time, and the prince looked straight at me and said, “Thank you for your cooperation. Thanks to you, the damage here was considerably reduced.”

“…You’ll keep your promise, won’t you?”

Without pretending anything, I glared at the beautiful face that was much higher than mine.

The owner of that face nodded with a sneaky smile.

“Of course… Ah, here comes ‘him’ who followed us worrying about you. Well then, excuse me.”

The prince lightly raised his hand and walked away and passed ‘him’ as he approaches me.

After staring at the prince’s back, I tried to look at ‘him’ standing in front of me. But I couldn’t.

“Lorraine.”

My name was called with a deep sigh of relief mixed in.

My hand that I had clenched in front of my chest trembled involuntarily.

My legs had lost their sensation and felt like they could no longer support my body. I took a deep breath. I thought that if I breathed in the cold air, I would calm down a little. But I couldn’t calm down at all.

Because I didn’t know what kind of expression to make. It didn’t feel right to be happy about it honestly. First of all, I had to apologize with all my might.

It was my fault that it turned out like this.

So, I should raise my face quickly and apologize, but I couldn’t even do that.

I was so scared.

In a subtle silence, I stared at the stone pavement at my feet that had deteriorated over the years.

Suddenly, a shadow fell there and I was hugged before I realized it.

My head went blank, and I forgot to breathe and stiffened my body.

“I’m glad you’re safe.”

The voice I had wanted to hear for so long came from above my head. With the relief that seeped through that voice, I was finally able to breathe.

At that moment, Jeremiah’s scent filled my nostrils, and I suddenly felt embarrassed. To hide that feeling, I finally said the words I had been thinking of saying.

“I-I’m sorry.”

“Seriously. You don’t usually do something like this. You suddenly took an outrageous action… You…”

He held me with much stronger force than usual, and my back hurt.

I wanted to apologize again, but I couldn’t do it like this. Jeremiah continued.

“I was surprised earlier too. I never thought you would confront His Highness like that. He may have a gentle tone and demeanor, but he’s a scary person.”

“I-I see…”

I was annoyed, but I didn’t think he was scary at all.

In other words, he underestimated me. That’s probably how it looked from his perspective, like a child trying to intimidate him.

“Oh, I couldn’t do it if it were me.”

Jeremiah laughed a little.

Finally, I was able to lift my face there.

In my field of vision was the face that I had longed to see so much. That face was a little tired, but still beautiful and smiling kindly.

I felt as if my frozen and stiffened heart was slowly melting away.

Chapter 120: Words of Salvation

When I was captured, I often had nightmares.

In those dreams, Jeremiah would be angry, exasperated, or distant.

Even though I told myself that it shouldn’t be like that, the anxiety couldn’t be wiped away and always accumulated as a cold lump in my chest.

But now, it has disappeared.

Completely gone, melted and flowed away.

“You’re finally looking at me, Lorraine.”

Then, Jeremiah raised one eyebrow in a troubled manner.

His eyes were angry, but also endlessly gentle. There was no coldness, only relief floating around.

Feeling sorry, happy, and embarrassed all at once, I unconsciously turned my face to the side. But then…

“Nevertheless, my cute fiancée has managed to captivate so many people without even realizing it. I was truly surprised.”

The words that entered my ears didn’t allow me to accept it. Captivate? What on earth was he talking about? I tilted my head slightly while staring into Jeremiah’s eyes.

I don’t remember doing anything like that at all. Not even a tiny bit of it. Before I could ask why, Jeremiah spoke up.

“When you stood up to His Highness, I thought it was bad. I was worried that you would be treated as one of them. But I never thought they would come out to help you.”

“Yes. I was surprised too.”

I nodded while recalling the events that had just happened.

“But I have a feeling about it. They were probably saved by you without even realizing it. You must have solved something that they were struggling with.”

“But all I did was talk with everyone…”

That’s right, all I did was talk. I listened to everyone’s stories and shared a little bit of my own.

And yet, I can’t believe that I saved them.

On the contrary, I even think that I pushed them into a corner and made them end up being captured.

“That was a good thing. Everyone wants to be known and seen for who they are. They were cornered and must have been suffering. Above all, they probably wanted someone to listen to them.”

With Jeremiah’s words, I once again thought of Oji-san and everyone’s faces.

Then, I murmured.

“…If that’s the case, then it’s okay.”

“Yeah, I’m sure it is. I believe it more than anything else. Because I know you the best. Thanks to you, the situation was resolved without anyone getting hurt… You saved them, their hearts. You can be proud of that.”

Jeremiah narrowed his eyes and looked at me while patting my back. His words slowly seeped into me and seemed to heal my wounds just a little bit.

At the very least, Jeremiah accepted me. The fact that he forgave me made me happy.

I felt like I was able to be of some use to everyone, even if it was just a little.

Finally, I reached out and hugged Jeremiah myself. Until then, I was unsure if it was okay to touch him. But even so, he didn’t resist or flinch.

My eyes welled up with tears and I turned my face to the side.

Then, I awkwardly met Lucia’s gaze.

I had completely forgotten that there were other people here.

Feeling embarrassed, I turned my face away again and saw several police officers and Dennis and Emilio walking out of the building with their assistance. There were others who seemed to have been captured as well.

Except for Dennis, most of them were just a little weakened but unharmed.

As I breathed a sigh of relief inwardly, Dennis was brought over to us. When she came closer, I could see that she had an incredibly serious expression on her face and tears in her eyes.

“Denny, are you okay?”

I couldn’t help but ask, but she shook her head in response. As I looked at her with a puzzled expression, Dennis suddenly spoke up.

“I’m sorry!”

The people around us flinched at the volume of her apology. She seemed as if she was going to fall on her knees.

“I failed to protect Lorraine-sama even though I was with her. It’s all because of my incompetence. I’m prepared to accept any punishment!”

“…No, more importantly, why are you in such bad shape?”

Jeremiah responded to Dennis’s apology with a sharp tone and asked her a question. I could understand his feelings. Even I wouldn’t have known why she was the only one in such a terrible state if I hadn’t witnessed it myself.

Dennis answered his question with a pained expression on her face.

“I thought I could break the cage that those people had prepared and rescue Lorraine-sama, but it was much stronger than I had imagined and I couldn’t destroy it. I probably got a little hurt during that time.”

“A little…?”

Even Jeremiah’s eyes looked somewhat eerie. While I was wondering what to do, I decided to just watch the situation unfold for now.

“It’s not a big deal. What’s more important is that I caused Lorraine-sama to experience something terrible…I’m truly sorry.”

“Ah, yes…you did disobey my orders and let Lorraine go outside.”

Dennis’s body trembled at Jeremiah’s calm voice as she hung her head deeply. Even so, she didn’t say anything and just waited silently. Unable to bear it any longer, I spoke up.

“W-Wait! It’s not Denny’s fault. It’s my fault. Denny opposed it until the end. But I begged her because I really wanted to go.”

“Lorraine, even so, she shouldn’t have disobeyed my orders.”

I tried to think of how to argue back as he spoke in a calm voice. There were many different circumstances at that time. I was hesitant about how to convey that, but help came from nearby right away.

Chapter 121: After-the-fact this and that

“That’s not true. I’m the one at fault. If I hadn’t acted like that, Lorraine-oneesama wouldn’t have had to go through this.”

“Lucia…?”

When I turned my face towards the surprised voice, I met Lucia’s eyes, which looked somewhat embarrassed. But she quickly averted her gaze.

“What do you mean?”

When Jeremiah, who didn’t know the situation, asked, Lucia answered with her eyes still averted.

“Lorraine-oneesama just came to pick me up because she was worried about me. I left the Duke’s mansion without permission because I wanted to meet a servant named Paolo and talk to him. But it was a trap…”

“A trap? What happened?”

“Well…”

I groaned, but decided to tell the story for now.

“It all started because I was careless. I didn’t want Lucia to suffer, so I tried to find a way to settle things peacefully…”

Then, I briefly explained the events from Lucia’s disappearance from the Duke’s mansion to Mrs. Morena’s uproar up until now. Lucia listened to it with an unbearable expression, but as soon as I finished speaking, she said energetically as if she had been waiting for it.

“I’m really sorry!”

“…No, it’s not your fault. The one at fault is the person who tried to take advantage of your feelings.”

Jeremiah said, causing Lucia to tear up and look down. Perhaps due to the cold, her cheeks and nose were red, making her look even more pitiful.

I was at a loss for what to say.

She had probably been holding on and enduring until now. But now that everything was over, she was on the verge of breaking down. Her legs were shaking, and she looked like she was about to collapse any moment. As I watched nervously, Lucia swayed and stumbled.

Dennis noticed and reached out, but she was too late.

“Oops.”

Suddenly, a person appeared out of nowhere and caught Lucia just in time. When I saw his face, I couldn’t help but call out his name.

“Lieutenant Colonel Caldelara.”

“Hey there. I’m glad we’re both okay. Well, she’s not exactly okay in every way,” Emilio said with a wry smile as he supported Lucia’s shoulder.

“Yes, that’s right,” I muttered while looking at Lucia, who had managed to stand up again with Emilio’s help.

Then Lucia realized who was supporting her and looked back in surprise. In an instant, her cheeks turned red. I saw that and thought, “Huh?!”

“You’re okay too. That’s good… Um, it’s okay now, so let go.”

“I don’t think so. I can’t believe what you’re saying. Even when you were caught, you kept pretending to be tough.”

“…Fine, just let go. I don’t want to give a strange impression by being seen like this.”

“You’re still stubborn even though you can’t stand on your own. ”

Emilio said with a light laugh, Lucia shouted to let go and swung her arms, but she seemed dizzy again and stumbled, groaning as she leaned on Emilio with a strange expression.

As for me, I grimaced at what was happening. Come to think of it, these two were captured in the same space. If they raised their voices a little, they could have talked. In other words, they must have exchanged some words without my knowledge.

“In that case, it’s okay to be stubborn. If I get along with someone like you, I won’t be able to face Onee-sama. Let go.”

“I refuse.”

Lucia, who was exhausted and couldn’t move her body as she wanted, groaned in frustration but realized that there was nothing she could do and fell silent while sulking.

Then Jeremiah asked suspiciously,

“Why is he here?”

“Well, I don’t know either.”

He said that he was caught just because of a small mistake. Besides, I didn’t have the luxury of worrying about Emilio, and I didn’t ask him because I didn’t think he would tell me.

Then Emilio, who seemed to have been listening to our whispered conversation, spoke up.

“Actually, it was on the orders of a certain nobleman. I couldn’t mention his name until the situation was resolved, but you know, it’s that person Miss Lorraine was fighting with earlier.”

“Um, that…uh.”

“Prince Adrian.”

Jeremiah’s slightly exasperated voice added a clarification.

I groaned “ugh,” but Emilio continued without seeming to care.

“Yes. Right now, I’m like that person’s handyman and was investigating an incident involving someone with memories. Thanks to that, I was promoted, but I made a mistake because I’m not used to it.”

Emilio laughed, relieved that everything turned out okay.

His words made me wonder.

“Why is His Highness investigating an incident involving someone with memories? Isn’t that the police’s job?”

“He said it was personal, but I think it’s different. That person has a very broad perspective. Unlike the stubborn members of parliament who only focus on this country, he’s looking beyond it. I think this incident is probably part of that…probably.”

With a shrug, Emilio gave Jeremiah a somewhat provocative smile. Jeremiah, on the other hand, said nothing and calmly met Emilio’s gaze before speaking.

“There is no doubt about that. But I heard good things. I would like to talk to His Highness once.”

“I hope you get the chance.”

They both said so and smiled.

However, their eyes didn’t smile. I just shrank in Jeremiah’s arms.

I didn’t have the courage to interrupt between the two who seemed about to spark. I couldn’t do anything about being a thoroughly chicken person, and I thought to myself that someone should do something. Then, a relaxed voice called out.

Chapter 122: A boisterous smile is also good

“Um, I came to pick you up. Are you Jeremiah Castalde-sama, and are these ladies Lorraine Valcourt-sama and Lucia Palmara-sama?”

Thank goodness!

They were probably servants and coachmen from the Duke family. I had never heard such a relaxed voice before, so I thought they must have come after Paolo as I turned my attention to them.

Then, I met the gaze of that tall young man who was somewhat handsome but not much different from what I had imagined. He looked at me and then turned his eyes to Jeremiah, suddenly flinching and turning pale.

“I’m Jeremiah Castalde.”

“I-I see. So, those ladies over there are Lorraine-sama and Lucia-sama.”

“That’s right. This guy has nothing to do with us, so you can ignore him. Got it?”

“Y-Yes, sir…”

The young servant trembled at Jeremiah’s freezing voice.

Poor thing. There was nothing I could do but pray in my heart for him to endure it, as he had just had bad luck.

The servant made strange movements while trembling, but still managed to fulfill his duties with a quivering voice.

“W-Well then, this way please. We have prepared a carriage.”

“Understood.”

Nodding casually, I head towards the carriage. Behind me, the servant bids farewell to Emilio and offers his hand to Lucia, barely visible.

Jeremiah seems to have no intention of greeting Emilio and heads towards the carriage with a quick pace to ensure that I don’t trip.

There are two small carriages lined up ahead.

Perhaps the road leading up to this point is narrow, which is why they are arranged like this. While thinking that, I realize how exhausted I am upon seeing the carriage.

Finally, I can go home.

I am filled with that thought.

However, I should at least greet Emilio. I thought so, but I closed my mouth upon hearing a voice from behind.

“O-Okay, I’m going. It’s better for your health to not overdo it with playtime, you know!”

“…I know.”

Lucia snorts at Emilio’s response. It probably means that she doesn’t believe him. Emilio says with a wry smile in a murmuring voice,

“Miss Lorraine, take care.”

At the parting words that I heard, I turn around for a moment. Our eyes meet. As I thought, he had a somewhat lonely expression, but I only give a slight nod and get into the carriage.

As for Lucia, she is led by the servant and gets into the other carriage. Soon after, the carriage starts moving.

Unconsciously, I let out a big sigh.

Then, I realized that I was very tired.

“…It was tough.”

“Uh, yeah.”

I answered like that and immediately screamed inside.

It was because Jeremiah next to me gently held my hand. Now I couldn’t relax in a different sense.

After all, it had been a really long time.

To hear his voice like this, to see his figure――to be touched like this.

“At night, when you didn’t come back, I couldn’t sit still. Even now, if I don’t hold onto you properly, I still feel anxious… I’m glad you’re safe.”

“I-I’m sorry.”

The hand that was held was warm. While feeling a great sense of relief, I apologized.

I didn’t want to make him feel that way.

Regret flooded in.

“No, I just want you to know. If something happens to you, how I would feel.”

I looked at his face with surprise.

My heart ached at his troubled and slightly pained smile.

Until now, I didn’t think I had acted recklessly. However, this time was different.

My feelings ran ahead and I didn’t consider the danger.

I looked straight into Jeremiah’s eyes and nodded.

“Yes, I’ll be careful.”

“Please do. Otherwise, my heart won’t be able to take it in many ways.”

As he spoke, Jeremiah played with my hand, squeezing it and intertwining his fingers.

I was confused about what to do with his gestures, which seemed to convey some intention or not. And in the end, he lifted my hand and kissed the back of it.

I couldn’t react to this sudden action.

As I froze, Jeremiah relaxed his eyes and chuckled. I wondered what kind of smile it was, but I remained stiff as he spoke without letting go of my hand.

“It seems like nothing happened between you and him. I’m relieved.”

“W-What do you mean by nothing…!”

I didn’t understand what Jeremiah was trying to say at first. But as soon as I understood, blood rushed to my head and my cheeks grew hot.

In other words, while I was captive, Jeremiah was worried that there might have been some romantic connection between me and Paolo.

“That’s impossible. Paolo is just a friend…”

“It didn’t seem that way to him. If he had come by force, you wouldn’t have been able to resist.”

“Well, that’s true.”

Now that he mentioned it, it was true. I hadn’t worried about it at all, but Paolo had confessed his feelings for me.

“You trust men too much. It seems that it wasn’t wrong this time, but I want you to be more careful in the future.”

The eyes directed at me were subtly scary.

Although the mouth was in the form of a smile, it gave off a dangerous impression. And yet, why is it that it’s so perfectly fitting?

Unconsciously, I was fascinated by this rare sight, and Jeremiah continued his words.

“Otherwise, I don’t know what I’ll do to that man. I don’t.”

My spine shuddered.

This is a serious look.

Or rather, what does he intend to do? Did my careless behavior this time make Jeremiah go crazy?

If so, I’m sorry.

He wasn’t supposed to be the kind of person to say such things.

I have to make sure that he never makes such a statement again. However, this expression on Jeremiah is also very impressive in its own way.

But that’s a different story.

I said firmly.

Chapter 123: Warm place

“I-I understand! I’ll be careful, and give it my all.”

It was a word spoken with the sole intention of not wanting Jeremiah to make any criminal-like remarks, but for some reason, he nodded with that scary smile still on his face.

“Yes, thank you for that.”

I don’t believe him at all.

I had an intuitive feeling, but there was nothing I could do about it. After all, I lacked credibility as things were now.

It depended on what happened from now on for him to believe me. I glanced at his hand that still wouldn’t let go and said,

“I’ll do my best to make you believe me.”

“Let’s hope so.”

He answered with a voice that still lacked any expectation, and Jeremiah didn’t say anything more. However, he still didn’t let go of my hand.

I felt a little happy about that and at the same time, very warm.

The air was very cold.

In fact, it was approaching evening, and everyone’s breath was white just a while ago. Usually, I would wear gloves to keep warm, but I didn’t have any now. My bare hands were numb, and my fingertips hurt.

He held my hand as if to warm it up.

Moreover, he had taken off his gloves without me noticing, and his body temperature seemed to be flowing into my hand.

Usually, if something like this happened, my heart would be in trouble. But because of my tired brain, the warmth was just comfortable, and I naturally closed my eyes.

The feeling of the shoulder next to me was just reassuring, without any anxiety.

Slowly but surely, the strength drained from my body.

In addition, my thoughts slowly melted away, and I unknowingly fell asleep.

In the end, it seems that I fell asleep in the carriage.

Without waking up at Duke’s mansion, I was carried to my room by Jeremiah in what they call a princess carry.

Dora repeatedly tells me about what happened at that time and hands me a steaming cup.

“Everyone at the mansion was focused on you!”

“Y-Yeah…”

“Moreover, Jeremiah-sama was here just a moment ago. He said he was worried and wanted to stay with you, even though he must be tired himself. Lorraine-sama, please don’t do something like this again!”

“Yes, I understand.”

I hold the cup with both hands and stare at its contents while giving a vague answer. After all, I’m not really paying attention to what she’s saying.

My nerves feel like they’re burning with embarrassment.

“Really? I believe you. Oh, and yesterday was so eventful. We were relieved, saw an amazing sight, and Mrs. Morena collapsed. But Dennis-san is amazing, isn’t she? She’s standing outside now, even though she looks like she’s being taken to the gallows!”

“Hold on, Dora. You should have told me that sooner.”

I almost dropped the cup in my hand without thinking. However, Dora shrugged her shoulders with a cool expression.

“Even if you try to rest her, it’s useless, you know? I’ve told her many times already. But she still won’t move. And even Jeremiah-sama told her to rest, but she won’t listen, so there’s nothing we can do.”

I couldn’t say anything as I listened to Dora complaining with a sharp tone. Indeed, there was probably nothing she could do.

If that’s the case, the only ones who could do something about it were me and Jeremiah.

Moreover, if we wanted her to listen, there was probably a way to say it.

I let out a big sigh.

“Dora, for now, please call Denny.”

“Okay, I understand.”

With a face that seemed to say it was useless, Dora left the room as instructed. Then, I felt a slight commotion outside. I couldn’t hear it well since we were separated and Dora had closed the door. I waited with concern, wondering if everything was okay, and soon heard the sound of the door opening.

“Lorraine-sama, I called her. She was being difficult, but when I said it was an order from you, she came.”

“…I see. Well, it doesn’t matter.”

As I watched Dora reporting with a sigh mixed in her voice, I couldn’t help but admire my own servant.

It seems she has already learned how to handle Dennis.

I wonder why some people have such high adaptability. I feel like I’m just a small servant or a waste of ability.

Unaware that she was being thought of in such a way, Dora snorted and looked at Dennis, who was hesitant to come to the bedroom, and said, “Come on, already.” Then she went to the next room.

“Come on, you’re being waited for, hurry up!”

“Y-Yes.”

Surprised by the weak voice that I had never heard before, I watched as Dennis came towards me fearfully. She looked like she had come to a funeral.

“Um, Lorraine-sama… do you have any business with me?”

“If there’s nothing, I wouldn’t have called you.”

While answering like that, I looked at her face that was still painful and hadn’t been treated properly, and furthermore, her face showed signs of sleep deprivation.

She already had a scary face, but it had become even more terrifying. At this rate, no one except Jeremiah, Paula, and Dora would be able to approach her.

“Well, what can I do for you?”

I said firmly to Dennis, who asked in a voice that seemed to disappear.

“Rest now.”

“B-but, I…”

“Just rest. If you don’t listen to me, you’ll have to reconsider becoming my servant.”

It won’t mean anything if I don’t say it strongly.

Honestly, I’m not good at behaving like a noble, but I thought there was no other way to make them rest.

So, I gathered all the noble elements within me.

Dennis was startled by my voice, trembled, and then became dumbfounded. Then, tears welled up in her eyes.

“Um, Denny?”

I panicked, thinking that I might have hurt her, but I was surprised by the words that came out of her mouth.

Chapter 124: Rise, later impact

“May I still serve you, madam? Even Jeremiah-sama was disappointed, and I thought it was inevitable that I would be dismissed…”

“No, no, I don’t feel that way at all!”

I vigorously shook my head from side to side and denied it with all my might.

Or rather, was this servant thinking that much? If so, then I can understand her actions up until now.

However, I don’t remember taking such an attitude, and I’ve been sleeping until just now, so I shouldn’t have done anything to give her the wrong impression.

If that’s the case, then who did?

“But Duchess Astorga, Paula-sama said that I was useless, and the steward of this mansion lectured me that there are plenty of replacements… The people of this mansion run away as soon as they see me, which means that they no longer want to have anything to do with me…”

“I-I see… That’s what happened.”

I could imagine that scene, and I sympathized with Dennis’s feelings.

Of course, I also understood the feelings of the servants who avoided her. Her appearance now is quite something.

While feeling a subtle emotion, I felt sorry for Dennis, who was completely depressed.

This incident was my responsibility.

If Dennis had some responsibility too, it was only that she didn’t forcibly stop me.

If anyone is going to be mentally torn to shreds by the blame, it should be me who suffers, so there is no reason to stop it.

I could honestly comfort her, but I know exactly how Dennis would react. She would probably insist that she is the one at fault and not listen. Furthermore, she might suggest that she continue to keep watch.

Therefore, I decided not to comfort him and spoke up instead.

“Anyway, I don’t intend for Denny to quit. So please rest properly. I can’t have you walking around with such a pale complexion, you know?”

“Lorraine-sama…!”

Dennis didn’t notice my slightly strained smile and had tears in her eyes as she pursed her lips. She was probably holding back tears, but I couldn’t help feeling like she was glaring at me.

“I am happy…to follow you, Lady Lorraine. I will serve you for the rest of my life.”

“Y-Yeah, so just rest.”

“Yes! I will rest with all my heart and soul. Please don’t leave the mansion for a while, as I will be back soon!”

With a bow and a loud “Excuse me,” Dennis briskly left the room. I waved my hand towards her back and said in a voice that I didn’t have much hope in, “Make sure to rest well~,” before letting out a sigh.

Then, laughter could be heard from the direction of the door.

When I looked over there, Jeremiah was shaking his shoulders as if he found something amusing, but I didn’t know what was so funny.

Although I wanted him to tell me, he was still laughing and couldn’t speak, so for the time being, I decided to watch him for my first viewing of the day after waking up.

Even though he looked the same as usual, there was a slightly worn-out feeling about his standing figure that made me feel sorry and want to apologize right away. However, no matter where I looked, he was still cool.

Not just his face, but his whole figure was good-looking.

I could see that figure that I thought I might never see again like this.

While savoring that thought and watching him, Jeremiah finally came over after his laughing fit subsided. Seeing that, Dora smiled meaningfully at me and said as she headed out, “Well then, I’ll excuse myself.”

I wanted to retort about that smirk of hers, but Dora left quickly. I wanted to click my tongue, but I stopped myself because Jeremiah had already come close.

“Good morning. How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine. Um…more importantly…”

Yesterday, I wasn’t really conscious of anything because of the situation, but my heart started pounding when I saw the beautiful face up close for the first time in a while. Furthermore, I remembered what Dora had said about yesterday and couldn’t help but ask.

However, I couldn’t ask.

If I asked, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to walk around this mansion with a cool face anymore.

Because the gaze of the servants directed at me is too painful. It’s almost unbearable. However, Jeremiah turned his gaze towards me and asked, “What is it?”

It’s too suspicious not to ask anything in this situation.

I immediately said something else.

“Um, why were you laughing just now?”

“Oh.”

Jeremiah muttered that and laughed a little again. It seems like it was really funny.

I was relieved that I didn’t self-destruct and waited for an answer.

“I thought you were getting close to her.”

“Getting close?”

I asked again, thinking that I haven’t lived with animals yet. Jeremiah casually said,

“Landegger. Didn’t she just act like a loyal hunting dog?”

“Did you see it?”

I asked that, Jeremiah nodded easily. After exhaling a long sigh, I thought that it wasn’t entirely unlike him.

“I saw everything from start to finish. But it didn’t seem like I needed to intervene, and it was interesting, so I just watched it as it was.”

He remembered something and smiled faintly.

With such a trivial gesture, my heart skipped a beat. I was amazed at myself and pursed my lips.

“Well, it can’t be helped. If I didn’t say that much, she wouldn’t have rested.”

Jeremiah laughed happily again.

“Landegger has a tendency to get worked up. If she gets like that, I was going to do something about it. I’ve failed before with that approach. So honestly, I was happy you said that.”

I widened my eyes at what Jeremiah unexpectedly said.

Chapter 125: Suspended for a while

“I told you that the Landegger family has been serving the Castalde family for a long time. Dennis has been taking care of me and Paula since we were little. But, with that appearance and personality, things never went smoothly. I wanted to do something about it, but before I knew it, it became like that.”

Jeremiah speaks a little embarrassedly.

I listen silently, surprised.

“I knew that what she needed was a master who wouldn’t deny her true self, but neither Paula nor I could become like that. I tried having you take care of her this time because it was necessary, and it seems to have worked out.”

“I-I didn’t know that.”

Certainly, I have never denied Dennis in particular. I thought it was just the way she was, and because her face was scary but didn’t give me a bad feeling, I didn’t care that she was a weirdo.

Because――.

“Well, I think I’m much more of a weirdo than she is.”

When I say that, Jeremiah has a very kind face for some reason.

He looks very happy, which makes me happy too, but I don’t remember saying such a good thing. I smile back and then the door, which was left open, is knocked on.

I look over there and see a beautiful woman who I want to admire again after a long time looking a little awkward.

“Oh, Nee-san, you’re here early.”

“Oh, I see. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t help it. Besides, it’s okay. We have plenty of time from now on. After all, Lorraine is banned from going out for a while.”

“…Huh?”

Ignoring me, who was frozen by the sudden ban on going out, Paula, the beauty, approached me with a smile.

“Lorraine, I’m glad you’re okay. I was really, really worried about everything… About life, and about everything else.”

My eyes were fixed.

It was no longer something to be admired. I trembled silently. I could hear Jeremiah sighing, but he didn’t seem to have any intention of stopping.

Well, that’s understandable.

At this point, it seems that I have no choice but to resign myself to Paula’s anger. Oh, I wish she had at least let me have a meal.

While I was escaping from such thoughts, Paula began to speak.

“Before coming here, I also met Lucia. Of course, I made her understand what she did wrong and told her not to go out for a while. This way, that child will become a little more mature.”

I became really worried about Lucia becoming an old woman before becoming an adult, but I can’t go see her now. I engraved in my heart that I would go later and looked at the thinly smiling beauty.

“You’re already an adult, but you should know more about your own abilities. What you can do and what you can’t. What kind of situation your actions will lead to… Oh, that’s right, you came here to learn about those things, didn’t you?

Fufu, don’t worry, I’ll teach you thoroughly from now on.”

“T-Thank you very much.”

I nodded with a trembling voice.

“Oh, that’s a good attitude. You’re reflecting properly… But that’s not enough.”

Paula came close to me and sat on the bed, staring at me from a very close distance. My heart was pounding. As I gazed into her eyes, which were similar to Jeremiah’s and seemed to see through everything, she erased her smile and reached out her hand. Her beautiful hand wrapped in gloves touched my cheek.

“You have a kind face unlike mine. I know that your heart is just as kind as your face. But that won’t protect you or the important people in your life… Think about the person who loves you.”

“That is…”

As she touched my cheek, I looked down.

I couldn’t meet Paula’s gaze directly.

“This time, you went through a difficult time, but we also went through a difficult time. Your family did too. Do you understand that?”

“Yes.”

“Yes, you know that, don’t you? But it’s not just the human heart that gets hurt, it’s also the trust and evaluation of those around you. That’s what you did, so remember that.”

I lifted my face and looked Paula in the eye.

She wasn’t angry, but I could see the emotions in her eyes. I didn’t want to betray those feelings.

So I nodded firmly.

“I understand.”

“Good. I’ll be tougher on you from now on, so be prepared. You won’t leave here for a while, okay?”

“Yes.”

After I said that clearly, Paula seemed satisfied and finally smiled.

Then she pinched my cheek tightly.

“Ek! That hurts!”

“It’s payback for worrying me. Be glad it’s only this much.”

I winced in pain as she pinched harder than usual, but Paula let go quickly.

But it would still hurt for a while.

I held my cheek and looked up at Paula as she stood up.

Then Jeremiah gave her a look of exasperation. Paula noticed and seemed a little apologetic as she said:

“I’m sorry. But I didn’t do it that hard.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“It’s written all over your face that you’re being childish. I know that too, but I still wanted to be a little mean.”

Jeremiah returned a smile to Paula’s words and said nothing else, just “Hmm.” Paula looked a little sulking.

As I watched their exchange while holding my cheeks, I was completely captivated by the shocking sight of a beautiful woman sulking.

In my mind, it was almost nosebleed-worthy.

It’s regrettable that I can’t expand my field of vision or increase the resolution any further. After all, I’m just a human and don’t have such abilities in this world.

After all, there aren’t many fantasy things in this world.

Although I touched on the fantasy part of this world a little in this incident, I still don’t know because we weren’t actually born in that era.

More importantly, the fantasy beings in front of me are more important. I decided to stare at them until Paula said her next words.

Chapter 126: Peaceful, anxious

For me, it was a rare moment of relaxation and visual pleasure, but Paula fell silent for a while in an unfamiliar situation before saying, “Anyway, Lorraine will be on probation for a while. Alright then, I’ll come back later.”

With that, she left the room as if running away.

I sighed and thought to myself that I had returned again. At the same time, I felt that I was still happy.

As I watched Paula leave, Jeremiah moved.

He quickly sat down where Paula had been sitting and placed his hand on top of mine, which was still touching my cheek.

“Did it hurt?”

“Uh, no…I’m fine.”

I almost recoiled from his closeness but managed to hold back. Jeremiah was worried about me. It would be bad if I ran away.

I thought so, but being this close was really bad for my heart.

“I think Nee-san has been frustrated for a while. She couldn’t move because Duke begged her not to go out since it’s dangerous outside…”

“I think that’s for the best.”

I didn’t want anyone to be in danger. Even so, Jeremiah must have been moving around knowing the risks.

“…Um, I’m sorry. I caused you trouble.”

“No, I’m just glad you’re safe. Besides, I didn’t do much. It was all His Highness who found that place and prepared for the attack. I just asked to be taken along because I thought you might be there.”

With a voice tinged with regret, Jeremiah spoke about what had happened up until then. I said to him,

“That’s enough… When I saw Jeremiah there, I was really surprised and even more happy.”

I had seriously considered something that I wouldn’t normally think about, fearing that he would be disgusted and cut me off.

In aristocratic society, appearances are very important, and lies and disguises are sometimes a part of everyday life. Even if the individuals themselves feel differently, they can succumb to pressure from their surroundings.

But he searched for me.

He searched for me and came all the way here.

Realizing this made my heart warm up all at once, and I felt sorry and incredibly happy beyond words.

“I see, then it was worth the effort.”

“Of course!”

I emphasized that point.

Then Jeremiah came even closer. Before I knew it, he was hugging me.

“I thought about what I would do if I couldn’t see you anymore.”

The voice whispering in my ear was calm, but it had a hint of sadness, and for a moment, I was at a loss for words.

“…I’m sorry.”

In the end, only the words of a typical apology came out. Even so, if it could calm his feelings even a little, I thought I would say it as many times as necessary.

That’s all I can do.

I put my hand around Jeremiah’s back and waited for his next words.

For a while, time passed like that without him saying anything. We’ve never been like this for so long before.

The sound of my heartbeat was incredibly loud.

——I, I want him to say something.

Even if I thought that, Jeremiah only occasionally changed the position of his hand and didn’t open his mouth easily.

If that’s the case, maybe he just wants to be like this. If so, it would be bad to ask him to do something else. After all, I caused him a lot of trouble. I have to endure this much.

As I thought about it, the sound of my heartbeat became louder and louder.

I feel like my whole body has become my heart. My consciousness is starting to fade. This is bad. Feeling that way, I opened my mouth hesitantly.

“U-um, um, Jeremiah?”

“Hmm?”

When I called out to him, he moved his body slightly away so that I could see his face. But even so, he was still too close, and my palpitations didn’t settle down.

Somehow, I feel like I haven’t been able to gaze at Jeremiah’s face much. It’s all because of my heart, but it’s such a waste.

We can be together like this, after all.

While thinking that, I deliberately looked straight at his face and said,

“Um, well, I’m really sorry. I’ll do anything I can to make it up to you for causing you so much trouble.”

Jeremiah looked surprised.

I praised myself inwardly for being able to say it properly. My heart is pounding, but I should have conveyed my apology with this.

Then Jeremiah said, “Oh.”

He looked at me and smiled instead of the surprised expression he had before.

Did I say something strange? I have a bad feeling about this…

“Anything, huh? I’ll remember that. But let’s stop for today. You should rest a little more.”

“I slept well, so I’m not tired anymore.”

“Still, you need to rest. I’ll be with you all day.”

Jeremiah was stubborn, but I nodded along, thinking that I wasn’t that tired.

Just a moment ago, I said I would do anything.

“Okay. I’ll do it.”

“Good. Shall we have a meal or have it brought to us?”

“Yes.”

I nodded, and finally Jeremiah left. His weight and body heat disappeared, and I felt a little lonely.

Still, he was nearby.

Compared to when I thought I had lost him, it was nothing. Besides, considering those who had lost more than me, how fortunate my current situation was.

I thought about my fellow memory holders for a moment. I hoped they were being treated properly, but I still worried about them.

It would be impossible to know about them right away, but I wanted to learn more about them.

Watching Jeremiah call for a servant, I thought so.

Chapter 127: Lucia was Lucia

After that, I talked about trivial things with Jeremiah and had meals together. The topic of people with memories was hardly mentioned, and as he declared, we stayed together until I fell asleep.

However, Dora looked at me strangely, and Paula occasionally showed up, and the Duke visited, so I was reasonably busy. But I was happy to have plenty of time with Jeremiah.

Thanks to that, I slept soundly at night, and Jeremiah even appeared in my dreams.

Feeling truly relieved, I was able to rest both physically and mentally.

And then the next day.

I thought it was strange to be sleeping when I wasn’t sick, so I convinced Dora, who insisted that I should still be sleeping, to let me get up and move around as usual.

Of course, I didn’t go outside.

I had been told so strictly not to go out that I didn’t even want to.

Spring was approaching amidst the commotion, but it was still cold and there were many cloudy days. I had heard that the weather in the winter capital was usually not good, and it was really true.

Looking at the scenery outside the window, I wondered if I should write a letter or go see Lucia.

“For now, it seems like Denny is resting.”

She hasn’t shown her face since then. In other words, she should be resting properly. I thought so, but I still had a slight unease.

I shook my head slightly from side to side and told myself that I shouldn’t believe it and decided not to think about it.

By the way, Jeremiah is out doing something with Paula. I don’t know the reason, but I think they’ll be back soon.

Dora is busy with her work.

There is still time until the meal.

I muttered “Okay” and left the room.

Suddenly, I felt several gazes directed towards me. I walked pretending to be normal while my face twitched slightly.

——As expected, they’re watching me.

Paula must have ordered them to keep an eye on me so that I don’t take any arbitrary actions and don’t go outside the mansion.

I can’t stand being watched like this, even though it’s nice to see them. But there’s nothing I can do about it.

I headed to my destination with awkward movements.

Of course, my destination was Lucia’s room.

To be honest, I had been curious for a long time, but Jeremiah, Paula, and Dora had been keeping a close eye on me, so it was difficult to visit her. It was because I thought that I might find it easier to talk when I’m alone with Lucia, but there were other reasons as well.

With Jeremiah nearby, I was not comfortable talking about Paolo.

Eventually, I arrived at Lucia’s room and knocked on the door. Her maid came out and invited me in. Then, I went to tell Lucia about my visit.

Suddenly, I heard a muffled groan from the adjacent bedroom.

“W-What?”

I had planned to wait until I was called, but I was so surprised that I ended up entering the bedroom.

What I saw there was a small pile of cloth that had become like a small mountain. I think Lucia was probably curled up under the futon.

I don’t remember doing or saying anything that would cause her to be like this.

Moreover, she was trembling slightly…

“Um…”

When I looked at the maid in confusion, she had a tired expression on her face and said:

“I’m sorry. She’s been like this for a while… Even when Lady Astorga comes, she doesn’t come out of this state easily.”

That must be tough. Maybe it’s because of Paula. It’s probably just my imagination, but I feel like Jeremiah is also playing a role in this.

Those siblings have incredible insight.

Even if someone looked at me like that, I would be ecstatic, but Lucia must have been scared. As I watched, the maid began to shake the pile of cloth.

“Lucia-sama! It’s Lorraine-sama, don’t be afraid. Lorraine-sama won’t do anything and won’t say anything~.”

“Come on out~,” the maid said in a rather perfunctory tone while shaking the bundle of cloth. She seemed to be getting quite annoyed. However, it seemed to be for the best.

A voice came from the bundle of cloth.

“Lorraine-oneesama?”

“Yes, I’m already here.”

Finally, the bundle of cloth moved in response to the maid’s words. There was a rustling sound, and a head popped out of the cloth. The movement was somewhat turtle-like.

However, I could finally talk to her. I smiled and said,

“Good morning, Lucia. Um, are you okay?”

In response to my question, Lucia didn’t react immediately and stared at me for a while. I didn’t know what to do and froze with a smile that seemed forced.

Eventually, Lucia’s stiffness eased and she said,

“Onee-sama…I’m sorry.”

Lucia drooped as if she were about to wilt and collapse. I panicked.

“It’s okay now that it’s over. You and I are both okay. It was tough, but I was at fault too.”

When I said that, Lucia surprisingly nodded obediently and said “Yes.”

“Is everything really okay?”

The situation just now was quite abnormal.

I have some idea about the cause, but I won’t say anything unnecessary. I feel like it’s not a good idea to even let Lucia hear a few words or someone’s name in her current state.

Then, Lucia opened her mouth and looked at me without answering the question.

“Lorraine-oneesama, I always envied you. You always looked happy and smiled even in unpleasant situations. I couldn’t do that, but I thought maybe I could if I imitated Onee-sama.”

“…I see.”

“After that, I would secretly grin at cool-looking men, observe them carefully, and hide from people’s eyes in plain clothes. Then, I stopped caring about anyone’s eyes and didn’t hear anything unpleasant.”

…It’s kind of unbearable.

I feel uneasy as if my embarrassing parts are being exposed, but Lucia is serious. I reluctantly decided to listen without telling her to stop.

Chapter 128: Oh my god

“But, isn’t it wonderful that I’m the only one who knows such things about someone so cool and beautiful? I understand why Lorraine-oneesama always looks so happy. Even if there are unpleasant things, if there are more enjoyable things, It won’t bother you.”

“Uh… well…”

It was certainly true, but there was still a minimum level of manners required. Although I thought so inwardly, I couldn’t interrupt the conversation and could only groan.

“Originally, I also liked looking at people with beautiful faces and loved plays. But then I thought, isn’t it better to only look at what you really like instead of seeing a lot of things?”

I thought she was talking about Paolo.

Lucia still has feelings for him after all. She said that in front of me, but does she still think about him in her heart?

I understand that feeling now.

I didn’t know before, but once you think about someone, it stays in your heart and doesn’t disappear easily.

“Not only that, but I think it’s best to look for someone whose inner self you can also love.”

Lucia’s appearance was different from before, and although she looked tired, her cheeks were tinged with a faint blush. But I thought, ‘Something’s wrong. Something’s different. I feel a strong sense of discomfort.’

Because if she was thinking about Paolo, she wouldn’t react like this. After all, Lucia must have been treated badly by him. As I began to feel confused, the decisive blow was struck in the next moment.

“Yes, for example, someone like Lieutenant Colonel Caldelara.”

——Eh?

My eyes widened, and my mouth hung open. This must be what it feels like to be in such a state of mind. It’s rare to understand that state of mind so clearly, and while lightly avoiding it, I looked at Lucia.

She was sparkling with excitement and sighing.

If this were a shoujo manga, flowers would be blooming around her. I think it suits her, but the problem is the person she mentioned.

Lieutenant Colonel Caldelara.

In other words, Emilio. There should be no one else who matches the name Lucia mentioned as Lieutenant Colonel Caldelara.

It’s the name of the guy who once kidnapped me and even proposed marriage to me for some reason.

He seems to have become somewhat decent, but I still find him scary and don’t think I will ever like him.

However, Lucia said it.

She mentioned his name as an example of someone you can like for their inner qualities. Of all people, she had to mention that man’s name. I was at a loss for words and could only open and close my mouth like a fish caught on land.

“I talked to him when I was captured there. We talked about many things. He listened to me properly and even gave me advice. He told me about strengths and weaknesses that no one had ever told me before… It was really refreshing.”

Lucia spoke with a different tone than when she talked to Paolo, and there was a hint of a troublesome smell. This is the face of a woman.

She still has some innocence left, and I’m not really sure why, but I somehow thought that.

——Why did you say that to Lucia, Emilio?

I cursed Emilio in my heart for being so difficult, even though he has the same face as his brother. But Lucia didn’t notice my inner conflict at all and let out an ennui-filled sigh.

“…Um, Lorraine-sama. Your expression has become very complicated.”

The only servant who noticed my state of mind spoke up with concern. I quickly regained my composure and thanked the servant with a smile.

However, even if I regained my composure, the problem remained.

Moreover, it was worse than with Paolo.

I think I am also responsible, but I can’t handle it no matter what. I have no choice but to entrust it to the Palmara family.

It’s just a mess.

I sighed heavily, different from Lucia’s heavy sigh.

After that, Lucia became absent-minded, and I decided that there was nothing more I could do and left the room.

“Lucia, it’s tough.”

Why does she always fall for troublesome people?

“Well, it’s not that I didn’t have a hunch.”

When we were released from the memory holders, I noticed that Lucia’s gaze towards Emilio was strange. However, I was scared to think about it, so I pretended not to notice.

But now, it feels like it’s being pushed in my face.

However, this time there is no shortage of opponents. But it’s Emilio we’re talking about. It’s unlikely that he would be a match for Lucia. And Dorothea probably wouldn’t allow it. Aurelio might not allow it either.

I thought and thought but couldn’t come to a conclusion, so I got tired and went back to my room.

After all, hearing Lucia’s story had caused quite a bit of mental fatigue. Even though I slept soundly. My energy seems to be running out abnormally. Slightly dizzy, I think I need to toughen up more.

Still, for now, I just want to rest.

Especially my brain.

I hurried back to my room and, finding no one there, I turned my attention to the stack of books. It was the books that Jeremiah and I bought when we first arrived in this capital city. I picked up one of them and headed towards the fireplace.

I decided to escape into the world of books for a while.

As I confirmed the title, I almost dropped the book. This wasn’t something I had bought.

The title engraved on the poorly made leather cover read “Rose Garden of Excitement ~Secret Ring~.”

Chapter 129: Fulfillment in its own way

I knew of its existence, and it’s not like I wasn’t interested. However, in the countryside, it’s difficult to get books that are suitable for entertainment.

So, I came across it without seeing it much…

I gently opened the page.

As I flipped through it, there were cute illustrations. I hesitated for a while, then eventually sighed and hung the book on the chair next to the fireplace.

“Well, I’m tired… so maybe this is a good time.”

Besides, since Dennis recommended it to me, it would be a shame not to read it. And, it might not be a bad idea to try reading something like this once in a while.

With that in mind, I wrapped a stole around my body and started reading.

It has been almost two weeks since I was ordered to be under house arrest.

My mother also sent me a letter, expressing her worries and telling me to listen to Jeremiah from now on. She also wrote about how foolish and idiotic I was in multiple pages.

In response, I wrote a letter full of apologies and decided in my heart to even prostrate myself if I were to return home. I don’t think I’ll actually do it, but I still feel sorry enough to consider it.

I also received a reply from Dorothea.

It had a similar tone to my mother’s letter, expressing her worries and calling me foolish. She also wrote about Lucia.

She apologized for causing me trouble and said that they would take care of things from now on. I wonder how they will take care of it. There was a hint of anger in the letter that was a little scary.

Lucia should have received a letter from her too, but I wonder what was written in it.

By the way, Mrs. Morena was once again troubled by Lucia’s love-struck behavior. Although she couldn’t take her eyes off her, she complained to me about how Lucia has no eye for men and how she wishes there was some kind of medicine for it. It was annoying in its own way.

I had prepared myself for boredom, but surprisingly, I was living comfortably without any problems.

As evidence, the area around the chair I use by the fireplace is slowly being eroded by books, and it looks like I could trip and fall if I’m not careful.

I spent my time like this without particularly worrying about it, my eyes fixed on the book.

Apart from the time spent with Jeremiah and attending gatherings such as small dinner parties and tea parties held at Duke’s mansion as suggested by Paula, this is how I spend most of my time.

Then, light footsteps echoed outside the door.

I looked up.

At the same time, the door opened elegantly, and Dennis, who had fully recovered after resting properly, entered with new tea, snacks, and a book in her hand.

“Lorraine-sama, I brought you some tea. And this too.”

With that, Dennis gently placed the book on the table in front of me.

“Thank you!”

I eagerly closed the book I was reading and put a bookmark in it, then picked up the new one. The cover was inscribed with these words:

The Bride’s Song ~ A Kiss on White Fingertips ~

Looking at it, I sighed contentedly.

Then, as if on cue, Dennis offered me tea. I thanked her and took a sip of the slightly sweet-smelling tea.

“I’m glad you like it.”

While serving as a waiter, Dennis said with a somewhat proud tone.

Knowing that her eyes were directed towards the books around her, I smiled vaguely.

Yes, I didn’t think I would like it so much either. I liked books even before my reincarnation, but I was somehow not good at romance novels… What kind of change in my mindset is this?

While tilting my head, I looked at the book that Dennis first recommended to me and then at the books placed around me. Most of them were by the same author, but there were also some by different authors. However, they were all romance novels.

All of these were collected by Dennis.

She originally had some of them, but since Dennis couldn’t afford to buy many books, she brought back some that she had borrowed from a rental bookstore.

I suddenly remembered when Dennis returned.

She came back with a strong spirit and asked me with such force that I felt like I had to ask her for something, “Do you need anything?” I said that I wanted to read the continuation of this story as if I had been waiting for that line.

After that, Dennis gathered books for me at an incredible pace, and I was soon surrounded by them. I remember Jeremiah coming to check on me and being completely freaked out.

Later, Paula came and said with a serious face, “Maybe it’s better to let her go outside after all.”

By the way, although I was a little confused at first, I soon got used to it and thought, “Well, I can’t go out anyway.”

In fact, it even felt like a familiar sensation.

So, I am enjoying my life as a shut-in.

I think I was already used to not being able to go out because of my weak body, but I feel like I need to exercise a little because I seem to have gained some weight.

While drinking tea and looking at my belly, there was a knock on the door. When I answered, Dora came in with a stern expression.

“What’s wrong?”

“…Lorraine-sama has a guest…”

Dora hesitated to speak. There shouldn’t be any guests who would make her look like that.

However, there was no reason for the person who immediately came to mind to visit, so I searched for any other possibilities but couldn’t find any.

After all, even though it had just entered spring, it was still cold.

Most of the acquaintances in this capital city should be spending their time in their own territories. If they were to come out, it would have to be during the Javier festival. That’s still a little ways off.

For now, I asked Dora what was going on.

Chapter 130: Uninvited visitor

“Um, so who is the visitor?”

Then, Dora twisted her already stern face into an even more disgusted expression as she uttered the name.

“Lieutenant Colonel Caldelara. That criminal.”

If it were an ill-mannered person, Dora would have spat out saliva with a face that seemed to say that even uttering his name was filthy.

Of course, I didn’t want to hear that name either. For some reason, I met him again when I was being held captive by the memory holders, and he even confessed to me again.

Well, thanks to that, I could understand his charm, but that was all.

However, he has a high status, seems to be doing his job properly, and behaves properly.

He is like a different person from back then.

Above all, if he observes etiquette, there is no reason to be rude to him. Absolutely not. Unfortunately.

However, there was one thing that bothered me.

It was Paula, the mistress of this Duke’s mansion. She hasn’t left the mansion today and should still be here. After all, she came with a seamstress to adjust my dress a little before changing into evening wear later and took some clothes with her while talking to Dora.

That means Paula should know about this.

“…Is he already here?”

“Yes, shamelessly enough, he’s in the reception room.”

“Well, Lady Paula allowed it.”

When I said that, Dora finally changed her stern expression to a thoughtful one and said, “Yes, that’s right.”

“Moreover, Lady Astorga herself guided him to the reception room. Can you believe it? Do you have any thoughts on this?”

――Paula guided her herself?

Even I was surprised at that.

Why did such a situation occur? If I had to guess, maybe she was asked by a superior, not for personal reasons.

If it had been for personal use, he would have been kicked out early.

The only other possibility is that Paula had some kind of idea. Maybe she wanted to ask Emilio, who was involved in this incident, something.

I came up with various speculations, but ultimately it would be quickest to meet with them in person.

To be honest, I’m only worried about Jeremiah not being here because Paula and Dennis are here.

Besides, Emilio might know what happened to everyone who has memories. He might be involved in some way even now. After all, he said he was forced to pursue that incident.

If that’s the case, there’s no way to completely rule out the possibility. After all, his superior, who seems to be a “noble person,” is interested in everyone with memories.

To be honest, it has been bothering me for a while. But since I have caused so much trouble, I couldn’t tell Jeremiah or Paula, and I didn’t know what to do.

This is a rare opportunity.

I don’t want to meet Emilio, but if I think about it, it’s not a big deal.

Thinking that way, I looked at Dennis and saw that she had a very stern expression. Perhaps because I had only seen her calm smile recently, seeing her with the professional switch turned on after a long time was still a little scary.

Well, I’ll get used to it eventually.

Anyway, there’s no point in just sitting here forever.

I stood up and said to myself, “Alright. Let’s go and see. Denny, come with me.”

“Yes, understood.”

Dennis immediately replied and headed towards the door with brisk movements. Dora looked a little worried as she followed me and said,

“Lorraine-sama, if you don’t want to go, you don’t have to force yourself…”

“It’s okay. I’m not that scared anymore, and Dennis and Paula are with me.”

Actually, I’m not as afraid of Emilio as I used to be.

Perhaps it’s because I have experienced something scarier this time, I thought.

“But if you don’t want to go, please come back early.”

“Understood. Oh, by the way, about this… if possible, I’d like you to keep it a secret from Lucia. I’ll ask Paula too, but you know, it’s complicated.”

It would be a big problem if Lucia found out that her beloved Emilio was here. If it has already been conveyed, then there’s nothing we can do, but if not, I don’t want her to know.

“Ah, yes. I’ll talk to Lucia’s maid.”

“Please do.”

With that, I opened the door and headed to the reception room with Dennis, who was waiting for me.

I knocked on the door of the reception room. Immediately, Paula replied, “Come in,” and I entered the room through the door opened by Dennis.

The first thing I felt was a very tense atmosphere.

――It’s hard to enter…

However, I felt that if I hesitated, I would be thought of strangely, so I took a step forward with the feeling of “let it be.” As I approached the two of them, my eyes met with Paula’s.

“You came. Please hang your coat there.”

“Ah, yes.”

I thought about greeting Emilio, but obediently followed Paula’s instructions. Then, I timidly looked at the guest.

Emilio still had an unreadable smile on his face and nodded at me while looking at me.

“I’m glad you came. I thought you might refuse.”

“…I wouldn’t be so rude.”

Just when I thought he was going to say something cheerful, he said something like that, so I sighed.

“Really?”

“Yes, really.”

“Then, can I come to see you occasionally or exchange letters?”

He suddenly said that, and I was confused. Very confused.

So I blurted out.

“…Why?”

“Why? Because I want to see you and exchange letters with you. Haven’t I been saying that for a while? I’m interested in you.”

I don’t understand it at all. I looked at Emilio with suspicious eyes. However, his impenetrable mysterious smile didn’t crack, and he just narrowed his eyes happily.

I didn’t know how to respond and silence fell in the room. The one who broke it was a big sigh.

Chapter 131: Returned memoirs

“So, Lieutenant Colonel Caldelara, when will you be able to tell us your requirements?” Paula asked in a frustrated tone.

Emilio shrugged his shoulders and answered with a playful expression, “I’m sorry. I was just so happy to meet Miss Lorraine.”

“I see. Well, if you haven’t settled down yet, we’ll have to reschedule. Both Lorraine and I have things to do. If you can’t tell us your requirements right away, could you please take your leave?”

Paula said with a voice that never lost its elegance and a perfect smile that never lost its beauty.

I feel a chill down my spine.

The room is heated, but it’s still cold.

I looked at Emilio with a slight twitch. Then, a crack appeared in his perfect smile.

Well, that’s understandable.

Although it wasn’t obvious, he was told to leave if we had no business here.

Emilio cleared his throat and said, “I’m sorry about that,” before picking up a bag that was placed at his feet.

What came out of it was a bundle of papers that looked vaguely familiar.

Emilio stood up, came close to me, handed me the paper, and then returned to his seat. I looked down at the bundle of papers in my hand and couldn’t help but exclaim when I saw the characters written on the cover.

“Why is this…?”

It was information from my friends that I had written down, thinking it might be useful when I was captured by Cassini and others. Well, it might be more accurate to say that it was a brief history of each person’s life experience. In fact, that’s all that was written.

“It was written by Miss Lorraine. I’ve already confirmed the contents, my lord asked me to return it to its owner.”

“Lord …?”

When I looked up from the bundle of papers and saw Emilio, he nodded calmly and said, “Yes, His Highness Adrian.”

At the sound of that name, I groaned inwardly. I had tried not to think about the second prince as much as possible, but it seemed that it was impossible.

I looked at the bundle of papers again. My name was signed on the cover, and it didn’t seem to have changed since the last time I saw it. However, there were traces that someone had read it.

To be honest, not being able to take this out was a regret of mine. It was the only thing that confirmed my connection with everyone. So after everything was over, I thought about looking for it, but for a while, I’m not going to leave the duke’s mansion.

So, I asked the servants of the mansion for help, but I was told that the place had become the property of the military, and I couldn’t search for anything on my own.

I had already given up on it, but I never expected it to come back to me in this way. And to make matters worse the prince had read it.

“…I see.”

Furthermore, even though I didn’t know, I spoke to the prince in a quarrelsome tone. I’m glad I wasn’t arrested for disrespect, but I’m still scared because I don’t know the reason.

I feel like I can never go to the royal palace again.

However, I have no regrets.

“He was reading it with great interest. His Highness seems to be very interested in Miss Lorraine. Well, as for me, it’s a good thing. It gives me an excuse to come and see you.”

Emilio said that with a happy expression, while Paula looked like she had just tasted something bitter.

Indeed, no matter how much Paula objected, she couldn’t send Emilio away who was acting on the orders of His Highness.

As I watched that, I became even more confused.

Honestly, I didn’t intend to do anything that would pique his interest. Or is it simply because I have memories?

If that’s the case, then I can understand.

“Well, anyway, I’m glad I could be of help.”

Ignoring Emilio’s pick-up lines, I said.

Then, Emilio slumped his shoulders.

“Can’t you at least flush… No, it’s nothing.”

Stared at by Paula, Emilio cleared his throat again. I looked at him with a lukewarm gaze.

Eventually, he seemed unable to bear the atmosphere and took something out of his luggage and handed it to me again.

“What is this?”

“It’s a letter of gratitude from His Highness. And also, he asked me to tell you that they are doing well.”

I looked up at Emilio from the envelope. He nodded and continued speaking.

“Probably because he thought you might be worried. Also, we are making efforts to ensure that those who were not involved in the conspiracy can be dealt with lightly, but Cassini, the ringleader, and his close associates must pay for their crimes. And if you’re worried, you should visit the barracks at the palace.”

I looked down at the letter that was handed to me.

It was written on high-quality paper and sealed with the royal emblem. There was no doubt that it was a letter from someone in the royal family.

――I can’t believe it.

However, it undeniably existed. It was a thin piece of paper, but it definitely existed. As I stared at it, Emilio continued speaking.

“So, His Highness and his direct subordinates listened to their stories and investigated their knowledge and skills. Thanks to the notes that Miss Lorraine left behind, we were able to learn about their personalities and hear useful information from those who seemed promising.”

“I see. But I don’t think you would have noticed something like that right away.”

“Indeed. That’s why we didn’t find it ourselves. It was the red-haired young man who was always with Miss Lorraine who gave it to me, saying ‘This is something a lady who took issue with His Highness wrote, so please return it.’ After checking its contents, I thought it would be better to show it to His Highness. I consulted with my colleagues, and they agreed. As a result, we had to return it now, but it helped us move things along quickly. Maybe he knew that and showed it to me on purpose.”

As I listened to Emilio’s story, I gently stroked the bundle of papers in my hand. I didn’t quite understand, but apparently it had been useful for everyone.

Feeling happy about that, I said.

Chapter 132: Can I be proud?

“Oh, I see. Thank you for telling me,” I said, my face involuntarily breaking into a smile.

I stroked the bundle of papers that had helped me in that place several times.

This bundle of papers, or rather my memoirs, had done a lot for me while I was confined to that castle with nothing else to do. Thinking about it, I felt a strange sense of affection for them.

Then I turned to Emilio, and he seemed to be avoiding my gaze with a bewildered expression.

“Oh, no. If you’re happy with it… um, yes. It seems that not only His Highness but also His Majesty became interested in people with memories after this series of events. So maybe the situation will get even better.”

“That’s amazing.”

I was just surprised by the facts that Emilio revealed one after another.

However, the news that everyone’s situation might change was undoubtedly good news.

“Yes, I was surprised too. At first, His Highness only saw them as mere criminals. So he only thought of using them as tools to find people with interesting memories. If Miss Lorraine hadn’t spoken up at that time, His Highness wouldn’t have been moved at all. And without your memoirs, they might have been treated even worse… You really are an amazing person.”

“Oh, no… it’s not like that.”

If you praise me that much, I feel like I’m not myself and have no place to belong. I feel embarrassed and uneasy, so I tend to deny it.

Then, Paula, who had been silent until then, spoke up.

“…It’s okay not to be humble about it, Lorraine.”

“Huh?”

“You did something significant. You should be proud of it. Don’t you think so?”

I felt even more shrinking inside when she asked me that, but Emilio also agreed with Paula.

“That’s right. You should be proud of it. If you weren’t there, they would have had a harder time.”

Being told by both of them, I didn’t know what to do. In the first place, in this kind of situation, shouldn’t I be humble? I thought, but apparently it was different for the two of them.

After thinking about it for a while, I said one word.

“Um, thank you very much.”

Then Paula and Emilio looked at me with a subtle smile and sighed disappointedly.

Well, I couldn’t find any other words. I’ve never been told something like that by anyone before.

“Well, it’s typical of Lorraine.”

“That modesty is also attractive. And yet there are bold aspects that you showed to His Highness…that’s good.”

They express similar, yet subtly different opinions to each other.

Certainly, I’m not good at asserting myself, so it’s fine, but Emilio’s words are hard to listen to. I wish he wouldn’t secretly mutter pick-up lines.

As I’m thinking this, Paula seems to have thought the same thing and furrows her brow.

“Lieutenant Colonel Caldelara, if you do anything indecent to my sister-in-law, it won’t end well for you.”

“Oh, I’m sorry if you overheard me talking to myself. That was rude. But I just thought that way.”

“I see. Well then, are you done with your business?”

Emilio nods with a disappointed expression from the bottom of his heart as if he was told to leave between the lines. He stands up with a sigh and looks at me.

“To be honest, I’d like to bother you a little longer, but I’m busy too, so I’ll excuse myself for today. Oh yeah, please come visit the barracks. Not just His Highness, but I’ll be waiting too.”

Emilio says this and closes one eye towards me. He looks so good that I can’t help but stare. Again, I think it’s persistent, but this man is really handsome.

“In that case, I’ll visit with you too. I’m worried about Lorraine being alone. I can’t let her go to a place full of men without an escort. Oh, and maybe we should bring Jeremiah too. Is that okay with you, Lieutenant Colonel?”

“Y-Yes, yes, of course..”

Asked with a smile by Paula, Emilio’s expression tightened slightly. It seemed like he was planning something suspicious. I silently thanked Paula in my heart and hoped to meet everyone again soon.

Then, Emilio’s expression changed from that of a playful person to that of a soldier, and he said, “Well then, see you later.”

“Ah, yes.”

After replying, the reluctance in his demeanor disappeared, and he briskly left the room. I hesitated for a moment before standing up.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to see him off. I was able to learn what I wanted to know…and he brought this too.”

“I see. Take care. But don’t go outside. And when you’re done, come back to the room.”

“Understood.”

Nodding at Paula’s words, I left the room to see Emilio off. He had gone quite far ahead, so I ended up having to chase after him at a jog.

After a while, Emilio noticed that I was following him and stopped in surprise.

“What’s wrong?”

“I came to see you off. And also, I wanted to properly thank you again.”

“You don’t have to do that.”

While saying that, Emilio smiled happily. It’s strange how he looks like a normal handsome young man.

“I’m doing it because I want to. Please don’t worry about it.”

“Okay.”

He said that and started walking. However, his pace was quite slow. I decided not to think about whether he was being considerate of me or if there was another meaning.

We walked in silence for a while.

I glanced at Emilio from the corner of my eye.

Suddenly, I remembered the look he had when he saw his brother Aurelio. The emotion that came to mind was familiar to me, but looking at him now, it seemed like he had nothing to do with that feeling.

As I stared at him like that, Emilio looked uncomfortable and turned his face away.

Chapter 133: Remaining Words

“Um, could you please not stare at me like that?”

“Huh, does it bother you?”

As a man who was used to being stared at by women as if it were an everyday occurrence, I was surprised by his words.

“Of course. If a man is stared at like that by a woman he’s interested in, he’ll misunderstand… or is it okay to misunderstand?”

“I don’t know. I just like looking at things.”

When I said that easily, Emilio made a groaning sound and frowned reproachfully.

“By the way, that lady Lucia told me about your hobby. Personally, I advise you to stop.”

“But… I’m not bothering anyone.”

Why is it wrong to just sneak a peek? Jeremiah knew about it too, but he didn’t tell me to stop.

However, lately I have been looking only at him, so I rarely look at anyone else. Nothing else satisfies me.

So, I didn’t think it was that big of a problem…

Not understanding Emilio’s reason for saying that, I tilted my head and muttered.

“That’s not the point. You’re already engaged, right?”

“Yes.”

“That’s why it’s not okay. There are men like me who will misunderstand.”

“There’s no one like that.”

“There is.”

I was surprised when he said it with a serious face and clear words.

“Anyway, please remember it.”

“Uh, well, okay.”

I couldn’t understand it at all, but I thought it would be better to listen quietly here.

Still, I thought it couldn’t be true.

Eventually, when we reached the entrance, Emilio stopped.

“This is good. It’s cold, and it’s better to go back soon.”

“Yes, you’re right. Thank you very much for today.”

“No problem, it’s my job. Oh, I forgot to say one thing.”

Emilio said as he put on his coat.

“I can’t say much about it, but I think there will be something good happening soon.”

“Something good?”

“Yes, something good. Well then, excuse me.”

Emilio quickly finished getting ready and left without giving me a chance to ask any questions.

I could still call out to him from behind.

But for some reason, it was difficult to call out to him. His hunched back seemed to be telling me not to call out, so I closed my half-opened mouth.

——What kind of good thing is he talking about…

Emilio didn’t give me any hints, so I couldn’t even imagine. I let out a small sigh and returned the bow.

I have to hurry, or Paula will be waiting.

At first, I walked quickly. But when I thought that Paula was waiting, even that felt frustrating, and in the end, I started running.

However, in the end, I ended up getting a scolding from Paula.

That night.

When I told Jeremiah about meeting earlier that day, he immediately frowned.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. But more importantly, please take a look at this.”

I showed him the notebook and explained how helpful it had been. I wanted Jeremiah to know.

After hearing the story, Jeremiah nodded quietly and said, “I see. That’s good.”

“Yes. I was worried all the time.”

“I know. You always looked like you wanted to say something, so I thought you were probably worried about them. But I also knew that you were holding back for our sake.”

We sat on the open part of the two-seater sofa, and Jeremiah smiled at me while looking at my face. Then he gently overlapped his hand holding the notebook with mine.

Just that made my heart beat wildly.

“Still, I pretended not to look because I wanted you to be here with me. So I’m happy that your worries have been resolved.”

“I-I see.”

My voice unintentionally rose.

While calming my pounding heart, I watched as Jeremiah’s hand reached out and took the notebook.

“Can I take a look?”

“S-Sure.”

When my hand was released, I felt a little calmer. However, it was quite embarrassing to have someone read something I wrote other than a letter. While I was sitting there feeling uneasy, Jeremiah suddenly said,

“I see, I understand now.”

“W-What do you mean?”

I couldn’t stand stuttering like this since earlier, so I couldn’t help but ask.

“It’s clear that you genuinely care about them. To be honest, I’m a little jealous.”

Jealous? They are not more than friends or comrades. They are important to me because we can share our feelings, but it’s strange to think of them that way.

As I looked at Jeremiah with a puzzled expression, he noticed my state and gave a wry smile.

“Just kidding. What I understand is that you are indeed a wonderful woman. I’m happy to be by your side.”

“!”

What a wave of attacks. If he praises me so much, there won’t be anything left to praise in the future.

Moreover, he had the audacity to show me his most gentle smile, which is my favorite, making him even more wicked.

Feeling at a loss, I ended up getting a little angry and said in return.

“You say that, but it’s actually Jeremiah who is wonderful. I don’t know anyone else as kind as you, in this life or the next. I’m the one who’s happy to be by your side!”

When I returned his words back to him, Jeremiah looked a little surprised at first, then became dissatisfied.

Strange. Why is he dissatisfied when I praised him?

“Um, did I say something weird?”

There was no answer even when I asked. As I was wondering what to do, he suddenly reached out and hugged me, and my thoughts stopped.

Chapter 134: Step closer

With a blank expression, I remained motionless in Jeremiah’s embrace, and he spoke in a dissatisfied tone.

“What are you trying to get me all worked up about? Besides, if you don’t say that, you’ll distance yourself from me right away, won’t you?”

“Huh?”

I didn’t remember doing such a thing, so I immediately refuted him.

“I didn’t do that.”

“I know you’re trying to do that. But probably unconsciously, I can’t let my guard down because you won’t stay close unless I tell you to. It’s not just physical distance, but also emotional. I want to be closer.”

——But we’re already so close!

I screamed inwardly, but there was no way he could hear me, so I fell silent.

“I want to hear more of your true feelings.”

The voice was right next to my ear. Finally, I understood what Jeremiah wanted to say. However, I didn’t think I could do it right away.

I trust Jeremiah.

But I thought it would be difficult.

Perhaps sensing that, Jeremiah moved away slightly and spoke quietly.

“You don’t have to hurry. But I want you to remember.”

“…I understand.”

While I replied like that, I thought about why I ended up in this situation and what the cause might be. But it was something I didn’t even notice about myself, so there was no way to come up with an answer right away.

“No, I’m sorry for suddenly bringing it up. By the way, Nee-san called you today too?”

“Oh, yes. She said she would need me later, but it’s a bit much, and I feel bad about it.”

“Don’t worry about it. She’ll be happy if you do as you please.”

Jeremiah said that and then smiled a little at the corner of his mouth.

“That’s better for me too.”

“Why is that?”

“When something like today happens, I feel relieved if she’s by your side. I wish I could always be with you, but it’s not possible.”

Then he said in a low voice, “I’m glad nothing happened,” and I felt a warm sensation around my chest.

I was happy to be noticed, and my face naturally relaxed into a smile.

But that’s not all.

Earlier, Jeremiah deliberately changed the subject. He noticed that I was in trouble. Each and every thing he did made me happy.

I nodded obediently and said “Yes.”

Jeremiah looked satisfied and brought up another topic. We talked for a while until the servant called us.

It was the afternoon of the fifth day since Emilio’s visit.

The spring air had become stronger, and the scent of flowers had begun to drift, so I stopped staying in my room and took a walk outside.

After all, I hadn’t exercised properly.

If I continued like this, I would become fat. Dora strongly recommended or rather pleaded with me to move a little, saying that it would be so sad if the lovely dresses Lady Astorga had prepared for me no longer fit. So, I decided to wander around the garden of the Duke’s mansion.

However, it was not just a garden like that of a small mansion.

The Duke’s mansion, which has a considerably large site, is about the size of a park, and it is even possible to run horses.

I stroll through such a garden with Dennis as my companion. The paths maintained by the gardener have a few spring flowers blooming, and I feel somewhat uplifted.

However, since the wind is still cold, I intended to finish in a short time.

While walking in the garden, I suddenly thought that I never expected to have such a long stay. Life is unpredictable.

Well, it was because of Paula’s strong request, but this was the first time I had ever left the Valcourt territory so far.

While thinking about such things and looking at the magnificent mansion, I remember when I first arrived. The biggest difference from that time is not just the season. The biggest difference is probably Lucia.

I gaze into the distance and think of the beautiful girl who is probably still at the mansion seeking advice from Paula.

Since then, Lucia, who had been obsessed with handsome men, had completely stopped and began to devote herself to learning how to behave like a lady. She had become incredibly charming.

Her clothes were no longer plain and outdated imitations of mine, but rather sophisticated outfits that she had cleverly put together with Paula’s advice, without spending too much money.

I am a little envious of how effortlessly she can do things that are impossible for me, but there’s nothing I can do about it since we have different abilities.

However, if Lucia were the way she is now, Paolo might have fallen for her. She had changed so much that I couldn’t help but think that.

Well, I don’t think they’ll see each other again.

Mrs. Morena, who had changed her ways, was by Lucia’s side, and a noble lady who could go anywhere without feeling embarrassed was almost complete. Whenever I saw her, I couldn’t help but exclaim “Wow!” and stare at her.

“Well, there have been a lot of changes.”

“Yes.”

Dennis nodded. If I hadn’t come here in the first place, I wouldn’t have met her and had such a hard-boiled experience.

As I gazed at the small flowers swaying in the wind, I murmured.

“It’s getting cold, so let’s go back for now.”

“Yes, then let me prepare some tea when we return.”

I bid farewell to Dennis and headed towards the mansion. Eventually, as I arrived at the entrance, I noticed that there was a guest.

While wondering who it could be, I felt like I recognized him somehow.

He was a young man with red hair and slender limbs. He was tall and even his back view looked impressive, but his clothing was not that of a noble or upper-class person. Was he a new servant? I thought as I watched him.

Then, that person turned around and looked at me.

I was startled when I saw his face and stopped in my tracks.

“…Why?”

A groaning voice flew out of my throat involuntarily.

Such a shocking person was standing there.

Chapter 135: Return of that guy

As soon as Paolo saw me, he smiled and came over.

Dennis, who was on guard, stood in front of me and asked, “Why are you here?”

“I came to say hello. I also have a small request,” Paolo said with a bright smile.

I observed Paolo while feeling puzzled. His clothes were clean, and he didn’t seem to be hungry. He looked healthy and didn’t seem like he had been captured by the military.

For the time being, I decided to ask what was on my mind.

“Are you okay?”

“What do you mean?”

Paolo asked with a puzzled look on his face. I looked at his whole body again and repeated my question.

“Weren’t you captured?”

“Yeah, but I was released… They didn’t want me to be there.”

He said it nonchalantly, but I had no idea what had happened. I was about to ask more questions, but Paolo was quicker.

“Oh, right. Let me explain properly. So can I come in?”

Paolo pointed to the mansion, and I was momentarily speechless. After all, I was just a guest here. It’s not that people couldn’t be invited, but permission would be needed, especially since it was Paolo who was asking.

Depending on the situation, you could be kicked out immediately.

By the way, it would be troublesome if he ran into Lucia. If possible, I want to talk outside, but Jeremiah would worry if I went out.

I was still undecided on what to do when Paolo seemed to sense something and said, “I got it,” before walking away.

“Hey, where are you going?”

“I’ll get permission first.”

“No, but…”

“It’s okay. I have a secret weapon.”

He said that and gave me a wink. He’s quite stylish, I thought, but I couldn’t shake off the feeling of suspicion, so I looked at him with a suspicious eye.

However, Paolo didn’t pay any attention to me and quickly went into the mansion. I couldn’t stop him.

I hurriedly followed him and heard a voice filled with surprise. It was probably the butler. He might have noticed that there was someone in the entrance hall.

“Why are you here!”

“I have some business here. May I have an audience with the lady of the house?”

“That’s not going to happen. You were ordered not to enter again…”

The butler stopped speaking when he saw the paper that Paolo showed him. Then he looked back and forth between Paolo and the paper with a suspicious look.

“What nonsense is this? What will the lady of the house say? What is the master thinking… No, more importantly, why do you have this?”

“Due to certain circumstances, I was fortunate enough to have an audience.”

The butler’s face becomes somewhat resentful, but he is a first-class servant. After a sigh, he reluctantly said to Paolo,

“I have no choice. I will inform the madam… Until then, please wait in the reception room.”

“Understood.”

When Paolo replied, the butler still tilted his head, but then turned and disappeared into the mansion. Then, he immediately turned around and said with a very bright smile,

“Well then, let’s go.”

I couldn’t refuse and just nodded, following Dennis and Paolo back to the mansion.

When we entered the reception room, Paolo seemed familiar with the place and started fiddling with the fireplace before finally sitting down on a chair.

“Um, what should I start with?”

“Anything is fine. I don’t know anything.”

Paolo muttered, “I guess you’re right,” and then looked at me after thinking for a while before suddenly bowing his head.

I was surprised by the sudden action and stared at him.

“First of all, thank you. You saved me, not just me, but everyone thinks so. They asked me to tell you if I ever met you.”

That’s when I understood what Paolo was talking about. After all, Emilio had just come and explained it to me.

Even so, hearing it again like this made me feel embarrassed and unsure of how to respond.

After hesitating for a moment, I suddenly remembered that diary.

“Hey, why did you give that thing I wrote to His Highness? And why did you have it?”

I had been meaning to ask him if we ever met. Emilio had said that Paolo had given it to him. That means Paolo had somehow retrieved it during that time and had been in possession of it.

“Oh, well, I thought it might be thrown away if I left it there. It was such a waste since you worked so hard on it. Besides, I was curious about the contents.”

“So, you read it?”

When I asked, he nodded easily. It wasn’t embarrassing content, so it didn’t matter if he said he did, but for some reason, it felt awkward.

“I read it and thought they should know too. So, I gave it to the easiest person to ask. You know, that frivolous-looking colonel. I have a connection with him, and he seemed to be obsessed with Lorraine, so I thought he wouldn’t handle it carelessly.”

This reminded me of the time when I was in captivity. Both of them said something that made my stomach ache, so I couldn’t forget it even if I wanted to.

I sighed and nodded. “Well, I guess so.”

“I never thought it would lead to this result, but thank you. We always seem to be saved by you.”

“No, I’m happy to be useful.”

As I said that, I realized that I had actually been able to help everyone and naturally smiled.

Then Paolo’s expression became subtle.

Maybe he was frustrated that they always seemed to be saved by me. I wanted to ask him about it, but it was difficult to bring up. As I was thinking that, the door suddenly opened without warning, and Paula entered the room with a chill and discomfort emanating from her entire body.

Paolo and I reflexively turned our gaze towards her.

When Paula looked at us with a piercing gaze, she seemed unusually flustered, and I couldn’t help but blink.

Chapter 136: The Secret of Paolo

Even Paula, who always maintains a calm attitude no matter what, cannot hide her frustration.

It’s not a facial expression that is often seen, so I couldn’t help but stare.

Then, Paula sighed and said, “Please explain what this means.”

Asked in a low voice, it was not Paolo but me who trembled. On the other hand, Paolo, who was asked the question, did not show any fear and just shrugged his shoulders.

“It means exactly what is written there. I will be working here for a while longer. The workplace will be different, but I will not cause any trouble for the madam.”

After saying that much, Paolo stood up and bowed his head.

“Thank you for your cooperation.”

Looking back and forth between Paolo and the paper in his hand, Paula shook her head and put her hand on her forehead. It was a gesture that seemed to say she couldn’t believe it.

I was curious about what was written on that paper, but I couldn’t intervene and just watched the situation.

“So how did you get Thomas’s permission? I can’t believe he would make such a decision without consulting me. What did you do?”

I thought maybe Paula’s sharp voice was because Duke Astorga had made this decision on his own.

I’m not sure yet, but I had a feeling that was the case.

“Perhaps it is because His Highness has given me the opportunity to show my skills. I couldn’t suddenly start working at the royal palace, so they arranged for me to stay with Duke Astorga for a while. They thought it would be easier for me to be accepted where I originally came from.”

“…I see.”

Paula looks like she’s about to tear the paper apart any moment now.

It’s almost too difficult to speak up. As I’m wondering what to do, Paula lets out a sigh of resignation and says quietly,

“Well, there’s no point in me saying anything now that it’s come to this. In that case, I’ll make use of your skills that His Highness has recognized.

Mark Küchner, from now on, make a new dish once a week. It can be a dessert too. If you can satisfy me with your cooking, I’ll recognize you as a chef.”

“It would be an honor.”

I feel like there are sparks flying between the two of them, but maybe it’s just my imagination.

While thinking this to myself, I was curious about what Paula said. However, it’s not a situation where I can intervene, so for now,

I express my doubts out loud as if talking to myself.

“Mark Küchner?”

Yes, Paula definitely said that.

And she said it to Paolo. It definitely sounds like a person’s name…

“Oh, that. That’s my real name.”

“…What?”

Then, Paolo said it so easily. No, if I reflect on what he just said, it would be Mark.

My head is getting confused.

I don’t understand.

He smiled and told me, “Paolo Hübner is a pseudonym. Not only that, but I was actually born in the neighboring country.”

He told me another secret as if it were nothing, and I was speechless. I looked at Paula in confusion and saw that it was true. If it had been a lie, Paula would have looked stunned by now.

Understanding my thoughts, Paula glanced at Paolo, or rather Mark, who seemed to be enjoying himself with a smile and said, “It seems to be true. His Highness’s subordinates investigated.”

Looking at the paper in her hand, Paula seemed indifferent. Well, that’s probably true. Information about Mark, not Paolo, would have no meaning for her.

“Moreover, he was quite famous in the neighboring country. It says he worked for the Duke family and was often invited as a palace chef. I don’t know if it’s true… but I’ve heard rumors about a handsome man with red hair who makes interesting dishes.”

After remembering something, Paula lowered her voice.

“You should have just stayed in the neighboring country.”

I decided not to ask about it, feeling a bit uneasy.

On the other hand, Mark still seemed to be having fun.

“Well, it was fun in its own way, but I heard from an acquaintance who has memories that Cassini-san is here in this country with other people who have unusual memories, so I decided to come and check it out. But it’s a hassle to stay here for a long time… I was told it would be better to pretend to be a Flosland person, so I decided to do that.”

With a refreshing smile, Mark continued talking as if it were nothing. I thought to myself that it wasn’t such a casual topic, but when he looked at me, he continued.

“So, they said I should change my name too, but I was at a loss as to what to do. I thought about it a lot, but when I got tired of thinking about it, I saw madam’s name and thought it would be good. But I looked for a surname that sounded similar and was easy to call.”

“…Come to think of it, it does sound similar.”

I muttered while feeling somewhat tired.

I hadn’t really noticed until he mentioned it, but it did sound similar to Paula’s name. It was basically something that didn’t matter much, so I hadn’t paid much attention to it, but there was a reason for it.

Still, even though I didn’t really care, when I looked at Paula, she seemed very unhappy.

I can understand how she feels.

I let out a small sigh and thought that it would be troublesome until I got used to it, but then I thought of something even more troublesome that had already come to mind.

Of course, it was about Lucia.

Lucia was supposed to return at the same time as me, but she seems to want to learn more from Paula.

However, now that it has come to this, wouldn’t it be better for her to leave here early?

It goes without saying that Mark’s work here means he will be living here. There are some servants who have been given houses on the premises, but they are very few. There are also some who commute, but they are also a minority. This means that we will inevitably run into each other. If I think about Lucia staying, my head starts to hurt.

Chapter 137: Worried

I’m genuinely happy that Mark has been released.

I could express my gratitude to His Highness the Prince with all my might.

And, I’m also happy that everyone’s abilities are being properly evaluated. Regardless of the actual situation, I think so.

The same can be said for Mark.

However, that’s a different story.

Lucia finds herself in a situation where someone she doesn’t want to see and someone she wants to learn from are in the same mansion.

I’m worried about her.

I wondered why things weren’t going well.

“Well, that’s why. From now on, call me by my real name.”

“Y-Yeah.”

Mark seemed relieved, whether he knew or didn’t know what was going on in my mind.

“Sigh, I can finally tell the truth. It’s unsettling to be called by a fake name all the time.”

“I see.”

“Yeah, at first I wasn’t used to this name either, so I remembered my name over there.”

“I forgot, so there was no such thing for me.”

Mark muttered “I see” and then suddenly smiled.

“Can you tell me Lorraine’s name over there secretly? You remember it, right?”

“I do, but…”

I was on my guard, wondering if he was going to make fun of me or not, and that’s when Paula looked as if she wanted to complain.

The door was modestly knocked.

“Um, I heard Lady Astorga is here…”

My face twisted at the somewhat hesitant voice I heard from outside. Why of all times, I couldn’t help but think.

The owner of the voice was Lucia.

I looked at Paula. She had changed her expression from looking like she wanted to complain to one of concern.

“What should we do?”

“…Even if we keep quiet, she’ll find out eventually.”

Paula decisively spoke in her usual tone and called out to the other side of the door without waiting for my response.

“Come in.”

Then, the door opened gently and Lucia timidly entered the room. At that moment, I glanced at Mark. He looked a bit uncomfortable, but he didn’t seem particularly shaken. Perhaps he had already considered this possibility from the beginning. He was so composed that I couldn’t help but think that was the case.

“Um, I’m sorry. I heard there was a guest here, but I really wanted to talk to you.”

Lucia finally turned her attention to the “guest” and immediately made a face as if she had found something dirty.

I thought I had to say something, but Lucia quickly erased her expression of disgust and showed a graceful smile.

It was such a stunning change that I blinked several times, wondering what had happened.

“Oh, so you were a new servant even though I called you a guest. Have you finished talking?”

“Yes, I’m done.”

Paula finally smiled like a big rose without hiding her true feelings of being able to get rid of the trouble. Lucia, who heard that, also smiled shyly like a blooming rose.

I couldn’t say anything.

Mark didn’t speak either. Or rather, I think it’s impossible in this situation. Even though he seemed to have a heart of steel, it was impossible.

“Well then, go to your workplace right away. You can ask the head maid about the details of your room and such. Since they are all people who know each other, you don’t have to worry about anything.”

“Yes, understood.”

Mark replied with a subdued tone and looked a little disappointed towards me before quietly leaving the room.

As for Lucia, she continued to smile as she looked in that direction when the door closed. Even though she was smiling, I felt like she was glaring.

After a while, I confirmed that the presence had moved away and asked hesitantly.

“Um, Lucia, are you okay?”

“What do you mean by okay?”

“Well, I mean… you probably didn’t want to see him.”

As someone who was in love and betrayed, I couldn’t imagine feeling good. If someone did that to me, I wouldn’t want to see their face again.

But Lucia said with a smile.

“I certainly didn’t want to see his face, but it doesn’t matter anymore.”

I was stunned by her words.

I stared at Lucia’s lovely face intently, trying to detect any lingering feelings. But I couldn’t sense any dark emotions from her at all.

I realized that she really didn’t care.

“Because it was all in my mind. Because I knew.”

“What?”

“What it really means to love someone. I finally understood that. So I know it wasn’t love.”

As Lucia spoke with sparkling eyes, looking into the distance, I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed.

Around her, there were flowers shining in the light for some reason, making the scene very picturesque. If I were a painter, I would want to capture it in a painting no matter what.

However, I’m terrible at drawing, and there are no cameras or devices with that function here.

More than anything, the things Lucia has done so far are flashing through my mind at an incredible speed, and I can’t focus on anything else.

Looking back, Lucia followed Mark and unjustly criticized me with full force out of jealousy, but if that wasn’t love, then what is?

In addition, I can easily imagine who the person Lucia really loves is, which only makes me feel more uncomfortable.

“So it doesn’t really matter.”

Unaware of my inner thoughts, Lucia said that with a beautiful smile.

Chapter 138: Somewhat happy

“Are you okay?”

A pleasant voice echoed in my ears, and I slowly opened my eyes.

As expected, there was a beautiful face full of concern. After staring blankly for a while, I realized.

I was currently lying on the sofa in the room. A blanket was draped over my body, and it seemed like I had been seriously sleeping.

I need to get up. Thinking that, I tried to raise my body, but the owner of the beautiful face, Jeremiah, immediately stopped me with his hand.

“It’s okay to stay like that. More importantly, what happened? How do you feel? Have you called a doctor?”

“Oh, no, it’s not that serious. I just got a little tired.”

I muttered and looked into the distance.

After a short pause, Jeremiah brought a nearby chair and sat down on it.

“What happened? Can you tell me without getting too upset?”

I hesitated at his question.

Certainly, I was incredibly tired, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. Still, I remembered Jeremiah’s sincere gaze and the words he said to me earlier, so I decided to tell him.

“Well, you probably already know, but…”

I started talking about how Paolo, or rather Mark, came here. As expected, he seemed to know already and frowned uncomfortably but didn’t say anything and urged me to continue.

Sometimes he nodded along without interrupting the conversation, but I didn’t say anything more. Thanks to that, even difficult conversations went smoothly.

After that, Lucia’s story continued a little more. However, I was at a loss when it came to talking about the difference in emotions towards Mark and Emilio. Above all, I wanted to change her perception of Emilio, but I also knew that her feelings for him were helping to heal the pain of her heartbreak and betrayal, so I couldn’t say anything.

Feeling stressed out like that, the discussion then turned to the difference between love and infatuation.

In the end, I even asked for his agreement by saying “You understand, right?” but I didn’t understand myself, so I had no choice but to vaguely evade the question, and my stress continued to build up.

Even though it didn’t end there, he noticed that I was mentally exhausted and had become like a nodding doll, so I changed the subject by bringing up the topic of dresses for the Javier festival that we were preparing.

It seems that Lucia was also looking for Paula because she wanted to talk about it. The topic changed quickly, and I was relieved for a moment, but as expected, I was also dragged into it. We discussed which dress was good, what kind of attire was suitable for this season, what color was necessary, and while being criticized or praised, we managed to get a passing grade.

Well, I received plenty of fatigue from it.

However, Paula seemed satisfied and Lucia seemed to be having fun, so it can be said that it was meaningful.

Still, I was tired.

I was really tired.

And then Mark came to show off his new servant uniform sneakily, which made it worse.

I felt sick to my stomach at the thought of Paula and Lucia noticing.

“That’s what happened. It’s trivial, isn’t it?”

“No, it must have been tough.”

I blinked at the words of comfort.

“Every time I hear your stories like this, I always wish I could be by your side, but that’s not always possible. So when you’re feeling down, don’t push yourself too hard and take a break.”

“But it’s just something like this…”

“No, being caught in the middle is tiring. I feel that way too, so it’s only natural that you’re tired too.”

“That may be true, but I want to become stronger. That’s why this kind of thing is not enough… but it’s not going well, and I’m still weak. I have to give up on something again…”

I murmured that much and stopped.

This is just a complete complaint.

Saying something like this is meaningless.

Certainly, there was a lot of stress built up, but I think it’s just an excuse. I didn’t want to tell Jeremiah this story because it was so trivial. But when he came back home and worried about me, I ended up saying a lot of things.

His voice was so gentle and the light in his eyes was calm.

I didn’t want to worry him.

――But I’m happy that he’s worried about me…

As I fell into self-loathing for a moment, Jeremiah came closer with a happy expression for some reason.

As I was bewildered, a hand suddenly reached out and lightly pinched my cheek.

It hurt a little and tickled, and I couldn’t help but express my dissatisfaction.

“What are you doing?”

“Because I’m happy.”

What is that? What does it mean to pinch someone’s cheek because you’re happy? I looked at Jeremiah, but he had a face like he was seeing something very important and couldn’t be happier.

In an instant, my heart suffered a great deal of damage.

I thought I had gotten used to it, but I’m glad I was lying down. If I had been sitting in a chair, I might have fallen.

Jeremiah gently said to me, who was in such a state:

“You finally spoke up and complained properly.”

“Huh?”

I was confused by his words, which came out of his mouth with an incredibly happy expression. Have I never complained before? I feel like I have, but when I search my memories, all I can remember are memories of being scolded for some reason.

I can’t bear the thought that maybe all I’ve been saying to Jeremiah lately is apologies, but putting that aside, I think I’ve been complaining properly.

“That’s not possible.”

I answered without confidence, and Jeremiah shook his head.

“No, you certainly consulted with me and relied on me. I was happy about that, but I was a little worried. I know that you are always working hard, but please do it in moderation.”

“But…”

If I do it in moderation, I will never become the person he deserves. I don’t have any shining qualities in my appearance, social skills, or anything else, so all I can do is work hard.

If I do it in moderation, Jeremiah will remain far away.

That’s sad.

“It’s okay. I’m here for you… that’s why we got engaged. You don’t have to try so hard. You don’t need to do something for me to the point of forcing yourself.”

Those were kind words.

I almost cried, but I held back. If I cried, I felt like I wouldn’t be able to stop.

Chapter 139: Busy on national holidays

“What I want is for you to learn how to protect yourself in society and not to kill your own charm,” Jeremiah said, his words choking me up as it was something I was most unfamiliar with.

“Oh, right, there was one more thing,” he added.

“A-Another thing?”

“Don’t pay too much attention to other men. I learned about my own patience this time, but the conclusion is that I don’t have much of it.”

I choked up even more at his smiling words. After all, my long-standing habit had not yet been broken. I was perfectly happy just looking at Jeremiah, so there was no need to supplement with other handsome men, but my eyes moved on their own.

“Yes, I’ll do my best.”

I answered meekly, tears completely gone. There was nothing else I could say.

Then, satisfied or so it seemed, Jeremiah nodded and I thought it was over. But he came closer and closer.

Before my brain could catch up, he lifted me up by the shoulders and slid his arm under my knees, giving me a floating sensation.

“Ah!”

I swallowed my scream and was thrown into confusion by the situation I found myself in. It was because he was holding me like a princess carry and taking me somewhere. The direction was clearly towards the bedroom.

“Um, excuse me, but I’m not sleepy yet. Besides, I haven’t eaten…”

“Even if you’re not sleepy, you’re probably tired. You should rest in a warmer place instead of this dreary place.”

“Well, that’s true…”

Indeed, he was right.

Although the temperature had risen considerably, it was still quite cold. Even so, it was too much trouble to go to bed, so I ended up lying on the long bench.

And by resting, my physical and mental strength had recovered somewhat.

I had thought that I might be able to attend dinner now.

“If you’re not sleepy, why don’t we have a meal together? Come to think of it, I came here because I wanted to be with you, but we haven’t been able to spend much time together because of all the unnecessary things. I want to make up for it a little.”

“But Paula is waiting too…”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll tell her.”

I couldn’t say anything more when he said that.

It’s not that I didn’t like it.

But this felt like some kind of rehearsal for the wedding night and made me uneasy. It was enough to make me want to thrash around without knowing why.

Well, I wouldn’t do such a thing.

While I was in a state of great confusion, I was gently placed in the middle of the sleeping berth. When I sat down on the soft bed, my body sank into it.

“Well then, just call Dora to make youself more comfortable. I’ll come back and talk to you, so wait quietly.”

With a threatening “goodbye,” Jeremiah turned around and left. Watching his back, I fell forward.

——He’s definitely teasing me!

I wondered if it was payback for causing him trouble.

Suddenly, I thought, maybe I’ll have to face Mark at dinner. He didn’t want that.

A weak laugh escaped me as I imagined it.

There’s no way that would happen. But even in this form, I’m happy to be with him. His beloved face that never gets boring no matter how much I look at it. His figure.

I can watch him as much as I want from up close.

We can exchange words.

I laughed to myself and called Dora as instructed.

Javier festival day.

The nobles dressed in spring attire and went out while the sun was still high. They visited neighboring houses and exchanged words of celebration for the arrival of spring.

Sometimes they would miss each other, but in that case, they would visit again.

Most men looked bored, while women went out with excitement and heavy breathing. This is because most noblewomen buy new dresses at this time and compete with each other’s level.

It’s like a prelude to the upcoming social season.

In Valcourt territory, I spent a more peaceful time enjoying dinner and small gatherings at night, so I was surprised by this.

All the time was spent on this during the day.

We carried light snacks like sandwiches and finally returned home in the afternoon, exhausted just from that.

“It’s…hard.”

After following Paula around, I finally returned to the mansion and collapsed onto the sofa in my room.

“Are you okay?”

Dora asked me with a worried look on her face, and I smiled wryly and said,

“If I rest a little, I’ll be fine…but it’s not over yet.”

I glanced at Dora’s hands and said with a gloomy feeling. She already had a dress for the night, and despite her worried expression, she was eager to change me from the neck down.

Well, that can’t be helped. Dora had been waiting for this moment when I could finally go socializing.

Well, thanks to that, I didn’t receive any strange looks from the ladies I visited, but rather jealous glances.

“I just need a little rest for now.”

“Understood. Then I’ll go choose some accessories properly.”

Dora said that restlessly and left. Dennis, who brought tea in exchange, furrowed his eyebrows when he saw me.

“Lorraine-sama, I brought you some tea.”

“Thank you…?”

I looked at the cup that was handed to me and noticed something different. I stared at the contents for a moment. It seemed like the color and smell were different from the usual tea.

Without touching my lips to the cup, I looked at Dennis’ face with suspicion.

“That’s herbal tea. It seems to be made from dried flowers.”

“No wonder it smells good.”

“You seemed tired, so I changed it up. If it doesn’t suit your taste, I’ll switch it back to the usual one…”

With a doubtful voice, I decided to try it anyway. It had a sweet and fruity taste with a slightly grassy flavor, but it seemed like it would be effective. Without saying anything, I drank about half of it and then spoke.

Chapter 140: Thinking of the future

“Thank you. I would be happy to ask for your help again.”

Dennis breathed a sigh of relief and her face lit up. Her softness oozed out, and she didn’t seem scary at all.

And I looked at the contents of the cup and thought to myself.

She really has a woman’s perspective, making flower tea for me when I’m tired.

Although she is strong and tends to forget, I feel more familiar with her than usual. I couldn’t help but smile.

“I’m really grateful to have Dennis around.”

I muttered what I was thinking.

Looking at it this way, I think everyone around me is amazing. Even Dora has a sense of recognition that even Paula, whom I didn’t know, recognizes, and Dennis is reliable and considerate.

Maybe there are other amazing people that I don’t know about. I’m living surrounded by such people.

How lucky am I?

I sipped the tea as if chewing it and met Dennis’ eyes. She looked shocked about something.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, no. It’s nothing.”

She said that and turned to the side. However, her eyes were red. She seemed embarrassed. I answered “I see” and quietly drank my tea.

Honestly, I was very tired, but somehow I felt quite healed.

After a while, Dora returned a little hesitantly. As I had recovered quite a bit, I stood up to dress in the evening gown she had brought as she suggested.

Thanks to Jeremiah’s comforting words and the tea that Dennis gave me, I managed to hold on until the day of the Javier festival, and now I was in a carriage.

Only Jeremiah was riding with me.

Perhaps he didn’t want to tire me out even in the carriage, but we often ended up alone together, which was both considerate and bad for my heart.

Moreover, lately he has been, how should I put it, getting closer in various ways.

Of course, “closer” simply means in terms of distance. Not only that, but the frequency of our touches has also increased significantly.

I wanted him to keep a little more distance from me since he had caused me so much mental stress, but I couldn’t say anything and thought I would get used to it as I endured it.

However, as expected, it was not easy to get used to. Even now, he was holding my hand with a very gentle touch. I thought he didn’t have to do that for me not to run away, but it made me a little happy, so I kept quiet.

Still, my heart was pounding and it was tough.

I looked outside to calm my restless heart.

There were people working every day. There were craftsmen who had been around for a long time and people who worked in factories, as well as those who did business with them. However, today everyone was off and their expressions were softer.

I also saw many parents with their children.

They were probably going to church together as a family.

Today, without any distinction between high and low, I simply rejoice, pray, and spend my time peacefully, just because the season has come around again.

I gazed at that scene intently.

And then, I suddenly remembered.

In my past life, I had also gazed at the scenery outside like this. The sound of joyful voices ringing in my ears, smiles, and the small voices of arguments mixed in. Faces talking seriously about something. All of these things combined, and I was envious.

It was difficult for me to see the faces of people who could live with purpose, dreams, and hopes——because I couldn’t go there.

And then, when I came to this world, I met people who shared the same feelings for completely different reasons than me.

I wanted to do something about it.

However, there were only a few people who had the power to change the situation alone, and I realized that I was not one of them. Still, there were things that I could do. That fact was amazing to me.

I opened my mouth naturally because I wanted to convey this feeling.

“Jeremiah, I’ve caused a lot of trouble for you and everyone else, but I truly think coming to the capital was a good thing.”

Suddenly spoken to, Jeremiah blinked. His beautifully shaped eyes became round with doubt. Seeing that, I couldn’t help but let out a chuckle.

“In my past life, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even dream or fall in love. But, meeting Jeremiah and being able to be together like this, I can live an age that I have never experienced before. That alone is amazing, but it’s still not enough.”

Jeremiah listens silently without interrupting. Although there are no words of agreement, I feel relieved that he is watching me properly, so I continue to talk.

“There’s something I really want. Of course, it’s not something that would inconvenience you, so please don’t worry.”

“…I see.”

Jeremiah mutters and stares at my hand. I didn’t know what he was thinking, but I didn’t feel like he would deny me. However, I couldn’t imagine him accepting it either.

I wait patiently for Jeremiah to speak.

“…I don’t want to force my thoughts on you. But if it ever leads to you leaving because of it…”

“That won’t happen.”

I say firmly, interrupting Jeremiah’s voice tinged with anxiety.

“I already told you. I want to keep looking at your face and your figure forever. The thing I want most is to be by your side for the rest of my life and become your family.”

Yes, I fell in love that I couldn’t in my previous life.

It couldn’t have happened without Jeremiah. I fell in love with him because he was the only one. Moreover, we have promised to get married. It’s amazing. There are many things to look forward to, such as the wedding and having my own family, even though it’s still in the future.

However, I talked about this because I wanted something else.

For example, what immediately comes to mind is that I want to meet more people with memories like mine. I want to talk to them. I want to know more about why we and they came to this world.

Of course, if they are in trouble, I want to help them within my ability.

“I haven’t decided yet, but I want to investigate more about this world. Within the limits of what is possible, I want to achieve something, in other words, I want to have pride and feel alive.”

Yes, that is what I want the most. That’s what I learned from my experiences this time.

The face of someone trying to accomplish something.

I want to have that kind of face.

“But if you’re not by my side, the colors will disappear from my life. I don’t want that. Within the limits of what is possible. I think it would be greedy to ask for more… My life with Jeremiah is more important to me…”

I couldn’t finish my words.

I was pulled and hugged, and before I could say anything in surprise, a low voice whispered in my ear.

“You can do whatever you want. I don’t mind helping you.”

“Uh, no, but…”

I wanted to say that it would be a bother, but he beat me to it.

“I’ll give you everything that the old you couldn’t get. Let’s stay together forever.”

“Y-Yes.”

I wanted to answer with “Of course” or “Naturally,” but the atmosphere wasn’t like that, so I swallowed those cheerful responses.

Eventually, our bodies separated, but my heart was still beating fast.

When I looked up, there was a gentle smile.

Suddenly, I felt relieved by that smile and took his hand and stood next to him. Jeremiah seemed a little surprised, but he let me do what I wanted.

Then I leaned my head back and cuddled up to him.

Jeremiah moved slightly. It made me happy, and I felt like I was allowed to do it naturally and smiled.

My heart was still loud as ever, but I could be very calm. It was comfortable.

From now on, this will be my place.

With that feeling, when I closed my eyes, the warmth from one side of my body became clearer.

A feeling of warmth that made my stomach feel warm and itchy in some way filled me up.

I’m happy.

I thought so from the bottom of my heart.

Chapter 141: 1/8 — (Jeremiah POV)

If humans find something that is truly important to them, they will do whatever it takes to obtain it. In fact, I was desperate this winter.

I, Jeremiah Castalde, was born as the son of a Marquis, and with my good looks, I was a pretty good catch for many ladies and widows. However, based on past experiences, I thought carefully about choosing a partner.

But no matter where I looked, there seemed to be only suitable compromises for partners, and the issue of marriage was always put on hold.

Then suddenly, a woman appeared.

Her name was Lady Lorraine Valcourt.

She erased my past and had a very attractive personality. I decided to make her my wife no matter what and struggled to finally get engaged.

However, since we were still in the engagement period, we couldn’t always be together. My sister Paula called me to the capital city to spend some time together. I was happy that we could spend some time together, but various incidents were happening in the capital city, and memory holders were involved in them.

As a result, Lorraine, who was a memory holder and a noblewoman, was involved in their incident and was kidnapped while I wasn’t there. I wanted to find her with my own hands, but in the end, I couldn’t do anything.

While I couldn’t find my girlfriend, I thought about various things, couldn’t sleep due to anxiety, and was busy with work and chores. I distracted myself with work and chores, but eventually couldn’t take it anymore and went to talk to a police acquaintance to find someone who seemed to be involved in the incident.

Finally, I found out that the second prince of this country, Prince Adrian, was involved and he offered to cooperate and act together.

And then, I found her.

She was wearing dirty clothes that were far worse than the familiar shabby dress, her beautiful golden hair was roughly tied up without any decorations.

Her skin, which had a good color and luster, was slightly dull, and her body had become a little thin.

I couldn’t wait to take her home when I saw her like that.

I wanted to wipe away the dirt, give her plenty of food, let her rest slowly, dress her in beautiful clothes, and restore her daily life.

When Lorraine’s eyes met mine for a moment, she looked shocked. Then she looked at me with a happy, unbelievable, and above all anxious expression.

I don’t know how much I wanted to tell her that everything was okay.

However, soon after, Lorraine began to argue with people who were so intimidating that even I had to pull myself together.

I was surprised by that.

In the end, she even argued with the prince, which made me feel weak.

I wonder where all that energy was sleeping. I never really speak up for what I want or raise my voice.

But it overlapped with a certain scene.

When I gently scolded the woman who had played with my friend.

At that moment, I felt like I saw Lorraine’s unchanged heart clearly.

Everything was over, and Lorraine was released, but she didn’t move from that spot. She should have known that I was there, but she didn’t even try to look at me. Her golden eyes, which usually stare at me as if they could pierce through me, didn’t turn towards me.

With a sense of impatience, I went to her and hugged her small body.

Lorraine didn’t look at me right away, but as we talked little by little, she finally turned to face me. She was trembling slightly and had tired eyes.

Looking at the color reflected in her eyes, I understood.

She was afraid of something. I didn’t know what it was, but I wanted to reassure her and continue talking. I also wanted to hear her voice. As we did so, Lorraine’s feelings seemed to calm down.

Perhaps because of that, on the way back in the carriage, she finally showed me her usual smile. I teased her a little, but it seemed to be good for her.

It was because she was unexpectedly seen in a vulnerable state.

Either she was being reserved as usual or she still hadn’t completely let her guard down, but she didn’t touch me much and even became skittish when I approached her. However, at that moment, she leaned on me and fell asleep as if she had collapsed.

Seeing Lorraine’s peaceful sleeping face, I also felt relieved.

Finally, I saw the precious woman I had been worried about losing or changing her heart. But being close to her like this made those worries disappear as if they were foolish.

However, this incident made me realize that having someone important is not enough just by having them in your hands. If you don’t do anything, you will eventually lose them.

As I listened to Lorraine’s breathing while she slept, I thought about what I could do.

As we arrived at Duke’s mansion, Lorraine was still deeply asleep. Without thinking much, I naturally carried her to the room.

When my sister saw Lorraine, she finally relaxed her stern expression and immediately had a thoughtful look on her face.

Then she said to me…

For a while, we should keep Lorraine from leaving here. I thought it was a good idea. Lorraine was somewhat weakened. She could rest thoroughly while we came up with a plan. I readily agreed to my sister’s proposal.

Little did I know that I would regret that decision later…

I ordered the coachman to stop the carriage and opened the door to step outside.

As soon as I did, I felt a chilling cold that made me reflexively pull my collar up. The sky was cloudy and gloomy, as if reflecting my mood. I let out a sigh and walked slowly.

Next to the museum was a building. I stopped when I saw the entrance, a beautiful and serene house with walls and pillars all in white.

It was the home of my friend in the capital. I came to consult with him about something this time. To be honest, I wanted his wife to be present as well. Her frank opinions were very helpful.

However, my friend had come to the capital alone for business this time. He would want to return to his territory soon, but he offered to talk when he saw me by chance. I had no reason to refuse.

That’s why I came here like this.

However, for some reason, I hesitated to enter right away and stood there looking at the building for a while. That’s why I deliberately stopped the carriage away from it.

But even so, there was no clear answer.

I made up my mind and reached for the knocker.

Chapter 142: 2/8 — (Jeremiah POV)

A servant appeared immediately and led me to the reception room.

The interior of the room, decorated with sophisticated furnishings, was familiar but did not provide any comfort.

After a while, my friend appeared.

“Welcome, Jeremiah. It’s been a while since you came to me for advice. Is something wrong with Lorraine?”

As I tried to greet my friend, Count Bruno Grimani, I was stuck on the teasing question he threw at me.

“Well… judging from your expression, maybe things aren’t going well.”

Bruno said that with an indescribable expression and then suggested that I sit down. I sat down as he suggested and asked him.

“How did you know? I was about to explain it to you.”

“Well, because you usually handle everything smoothly, and the only reason I can think of for that troubled look on your face is her, so I just said it.”

Bruno said with a wry smile.

I didn’t think it was true, but come to think of it, I didn’t have many memories of asking my friends for advice.

“So, what happened? You were so happy to be called to the capital and be together.”

Prompted by him, I decided to briefly explain what had happened so far. I had already conveyed it in a letter, but I thought it would be better to explain it in person.

Thinking that it would be inconvenient if it was too long, I talked to Lorraine about what happened around the time she returned, including my feelings at the time. They both listened silently, so it was easy to talk, but when we finally came to the part where I touched on the content of the consultation, Bruno gave me an indescribable look.

Feeling uneasy, I cut off the conversation for a moment.

Then, as if he took the silence as the end of the story, Bruno asked in confusion, “She’s not still under a ban on going out, is she?”

I could see Bruno’s feeling of disbelief in his voice, so I quickly looked away and focused on the furnishings.

“If that’s the case, is it still ongoing? But why? The incident has already been resolved. His Highness declared it so, and if you’re really worried, you can just have an escort. You finally got a chance to go where you like.”

“That’s true.”

I thought of Lorraine at the duke’s mansion.

Surrounded by a pile of books and spending all day there, she was being taken care of by faithful servants who obeyed my sister Paula’s orders even if she couldn’t go out, and she seemed quite happy.

Seeing that, I didn’t know what to do.

Maybe it’s okay to let her go out now.

However, I hesitate to break that seemingly happy situation. Perhaps they are trying to forget the painful things that happened.

Besides, my sister Paula still refuses to leave.

As a guest, I am hesitant to go against her wishes while staying here. I don’t want to make an enemy of the duke.

I even thought about finding someone to be a chaperone and moving to the Castalde mansion in the capital city.

So, I asked around subtly. However…

“Lorraine herself doesn’t want to leave. Maybe she’s afraid of going against Nee-san’s orders, but she seems to have decided to stay. Besides, she doesn’t seem too unhappy, so I can’t really force her.”

“Hmm, I can’t say anything since I don’t really understand the situation. Lady Astorga still hasn’t allowed Lorraine to go out, right? Then for now, we just have to wait and see.”

“I see, that makes sense.”

While nodding, I was not convinced. It couldn’t be okay like this. I was sure of that, but the situation made me hesitate to take action.

“…I know you’re kinder than anyone else.”

When we fell silent, Bruno suddenly spoke up. I looked at my friend who still had a calm smile on his face.

“It’s not just me, she probably knows too. So maybe she’s not trying to leave because she wants to reassure you and the people around you, rather than just following Lady Astorga’s orders.”

When asked that, I thought about it for a moment.

I had thought that might be the case. If all those eccentric behaviors were done to reassure everyone, then I could understand it easily.

However, it still seemed too enjoyable for that.

“So if we subtly let her know that everything is okay now, she’ll probably stop on her own.”

“I see, there’s no other choice then.”

I let out a big sigh and decided to end the conversation.

“Thank you. I feel a little better now that I’ve talked to you.”

“Well, I’m glad. If Tatiana were here instead of me, she could have given you more helpful advice.”

I thought that was true, but just being able to talk about it made me feel a little better. It was nice to have a friend who would respond kindly even in sudden situations like this.

I thanked him again and left the Grimani mansion.

After returning to the Astorga mansion, I decided to go check on Lorraine’s condition for the time being. I knew that the situation hadn’t changed much without even seeing it, but I still had a faint hope that there might be some change.

As I approached the room, I ran into Dennis, who seemed happy while taking care of Lorraine all day long.

In her hand was a tray with an empty cup and saucer, indicating that she had just finished drinking tea.

“Jeremiah-sama, welcome back.”

“Ah, how is Lorraine?”

As I asked while looking at her face, Dennis seemed pleased. It was faint, but she looked so happy that it was hard to miss.

It’s no wonder.

The master had taken a liking to the entertainment novel she recommended.

Seeing that expression, I truly felt that it was the right decision to introduce the two of them. Dennis is a hard worker. However, because she tends to go too far and is easily misunderstood due to her appearance, her true value has not been recognized.

Thinking it was good, I waited for a response.

Chapter 143: 3/8 — (Jeremiah POV)

Dennis averted her eyes and her previously cheerful expression changed to one of confusion as she answered quietly, “I’m fine.”

“…Well, no, never mind.

“I’m sorry.”

It’s not her fault. However, it seems like she’s struggling with both happiness and agony. Dennis has been like this lately, but the reason is easy to guess.

In other words, she’s happy that she shares the same interests with Lorraine, but she regrets that she can’t leave her room because of it.

“Well, I’m glad you’re not bored.”

I hide the fact that I want to take Lorraine out soon.

“If it’s okay with you.”

“Oh, I’m sorry for interrupting your work.”

Dennis answered “No” while still looking apologetic and headed towards the kitchen to put away the tea set. I watched her back as she left and muttered to myself, “Well then,” as I looked at the door. For some reason, beyond the closed door, it felt far away.

I shook my head and told myself it was just my imagination as I opened the door.

And then, I hesitated for a while.

What should I say? Since I’ve already opened the door, it would be unnatural not to say anything, but Lorraine was writing something.

I thought it might be a letter, but it seemed different.

As I fumbled, she noticed me first.

“Jeremiah, you’ve come back.”

“Oh, yeah… What are you doing?”

“This? I’m adding and correcting missing parts of my notes. It’s important.”

Her smiling face didn’t show any signs of the difficulty of being cooped up, and it made me feel happy too.

To tell the truth, I wanted to touch her, but I didn’t want to disturb her, so I looked away.

As I followed the small, Lorraine-like characters in the text, I suddenly thought of something.

“When you finish writing that, why don’t we make it into a book?”

“Huh?”

Lorraine looked at me with round eyes, surprised.

“We can’t publish it, but we can make it into a book. Shall I ask for it?”

“But it’s not that great. As long as I can read it.”

“Your friends will be happy. Besides, I think it’s probably important as a reference. We don’t know much about people with memory.”

I said persuasively.

It was just a vague idea, but it seemed like a very good one. For me, knowing about people with memory was also about knowing Lorraine.

I want to know more and more, to the point where there is nothing I don’t know.

And I thought that if there were more things to do, it would distract her from boredom. Even though Lorraine decided to do this on her own, I didn’t want her to suffer. With that in mind, I waited for her response.

Lorraine stared at her diary and eventually said in a small, embarrassed voice, “Um, but I’ve only just started…”

“Can you think about it?”

“Yes.”

She nodded a little anxiously and looked troubled, but for some reason, her reaction seemed adorable to me, and I felt joy at seeing it.

Lorraine couldn’t stand it anymore and turned her face away, pursing her lips and staring at the paper in front of her. Thinking that I would be a hindrance if I stayed any longer, I turned my attention to the pile of books next to me.

Lorraine noticed this and exclaimed “Ah!” but I ignored her and picked up a book before returning to my seat.

I decided to wait here until mealtime.

Watching me, Lorraine seemed relieved and returned to her work. Although she occasionally looked over at me, she didn’t seem as nervous as before.

I realized that she was getting used to my presence.

Although there are things I want, I don’t intend to rush things. I plan to wait patiently until Lorraine’s hesitation and fear disappear little by little.

Quiet time passed.

Lorraine and I spent our time like this until Dennis and Dora came with candles in hand as the sun began to set.

The next day, Paula seemed to have thought ahead and called a tailor to make costumes for the Javier festival. I tried to join in, but Paula said it was a surprise for the day of the festival and kicked me out of the room, leaving me unusually free.

“Now, what should I do…”

Killing time is usually easy. There are many things to enjoy if you go out. You can go to a club or go to the stable and move your body, which has been dull lately.

However, as someone who is imposing that situation on Lorraine, I felt hesitant about going out to kill time. On the other hand, reading is the only thing that comes to mind.

I sighed and walked leisurely around the mansion.

There was no particular purpose, but it was good to take a break since I had been busy lately.

The outside still had a monotonous color. Although the snow had disappeared considerably, it was still far from the season of flowers. If I strolled through the garden, I might find some lovely small flowers, but I would have to go get my coat.

As I walked, thinking it was troublesome, I heard a rude voice saying “Ugh” from ahead. When I stopped my feet unconsciously, I noticed Mark looking at me with a strained face while holding some material in his hand. He seemed to want to say something for a while but eventually said “Excuse me” and tried to leave.

However, I stopped him.

“Wait.”

“…Is there something you need?”

Mark responded suspiciously.

“It seems like you have something to say?”

When I asked, Mark made a disgusted face and remained silent for a while before averting his eyes and saying,

“Yes, there is. But…”

“Why don’t you just say it?”

Then, Mark made a face as if he had found a crazy person. I chuckled and honestly told him what I had been thinking of saying when we met.

Chapter 144: 4/8 — (Jeremiah POV)

“I heard that you always make unusual sweets and food for Lorraine. So, I was planning to thank you when I met you. Lorraine is always very happy, thank you.”

“No, I’m just doing it on my own. If it makes her happy, then that’s good.”

Mark responded somewhat bluntly, “Well then,” and tried to leave. Watching his back, I thought about what it would be like if I were him.

It was a very painful thought.

I thought about what I could do for him, but Mark probably wouldn’t want to borrow my power. I knew that. Even so…

“If there’s anything I can do to help you, please let me know.”

Before I knew it, I had said that.

Mark stopped abruptly and looked bewildered. Then he shook his head as if to say “whatever” and made a bitter expression before saying,

“You’re a strange person. You’re not like any noble I’ve ever seen.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes, I’ve never met anyone like you before.”

Mark declared firmly and then muttered under his breath, “It’s annoying.” I understood that it meant he was irritated, but I decided not to ask about it since it was natural.

“But with those words just now, I feel like I understand who you are as a person. I had a feeling before, but now I’m sure.”

I saw a face mixed with complexity, resignation, regret, and a sense of relief, as if he had just let go of a heavy burden. I felt a strange feeling as I looked at him.

Mark took a deep breath and looked straight into my eyes before speaking.

“…Please make Lorraine happy. Otherwise, I won’t forgive you.”

I was momentarily taken aback by his words. Then laughter welled up inside me. It was as if he had said that he didn’t need my help. In fact, it was probably true. Mark was the kind of person who didn’t need much help from anyone. Rather, he was the one who could help others.

Then there was only one thing I could say.

“I promise.”

“Absolutely. If you break it…”

“That won’t happen.”

“I’m glad. That settles it.”

Mark suddenly brightened up and said so. I couldn’t help but ask.

“Settles what?”

“Well, I was hesitant, but talking to you made my doubts disappear. I’m glad we talked… Thank you, Jeremiah-sama.”

Without explaining anything, Mark bowed deeply and told me not to ask any questions.

“Well then, I’m still in the middle of work, so please excuse me.”

“Y-Yeah, I’m sorry, huh?”

Mark briskly returned to work, leaving me bewildered and sighing in front of my remaining questions.

“Did he do that on purpose?”

There was a lingering feeling of indigestion. If he did it on purpose, then it worked out according to his intentions. Or maybe, if it wasn’t intentional, it was a statement of not wanting to share anything about himself.

“Well, it doesn’t matter if I don’t know.”

I strongly told myself that and still felt good about being able to talk to him.

In important matters like this, it’s necessary to draw a line.

I don’t like dragging things out.

“Well then, shall we go back for now?”

I still feel like I won’t be allowed in, but that’s okay. With a slightly lighter feeling, I started walking again.

Looking back, a chaotic world spread out before me.

I expressed it like the beginning of a myth, but it’s not a grand story. However, there was no other way to describe it.

As I stood in front of the door, perplexed, Lorraine came up to me with a smile. I reflexively averted my eyes.

My cheeks felt hot, but it was probably just my imagination.

“How about this?!”

“Well, I think it suits you, but why are you dressed like that?”

“It’s a costume for a party.”

Lorraine happily showed off her clothes as she spoke. She was wearing a simple dress that looked like a giant piece of cloth layered several times over, like the stone statues often seen in ancient ruins. It was plain, but had plenty of decorations, making her look like a small goddess.

However, the problem was that it exposed a lot of skin.

I asked while struggling to keep my eyes in check.

“A costume party?”

“Yes. Paula suggested having a small gathering after the Javier festival, so I suggested a costume party. There are others too.”

Lorraine took my arm and happily led me to where the other women were. I looked at Paula and Lucia and my face twitched slightly.

Each of them was wearing a costume that they would never normally wear. That’s fine, but why are they dressed in such a subtly incomprehensible way?

Paula was dressed in men’s clothing for some reason and had a whip in her hand. I understand the men’s clothing, but why military attire?

As for Lucia, she was wearing clothes with far more frills and lace than usual, and it suited her abnormally well. If she stayed silent, she would be completely like a doll.

Both of them, no, even Lorraine seemed to be having a lot of fun, and I momentarily tried to cool my head and wander my gaze as to what I should say.

At that moment, I noticed someone crouching in the corner of the room. She was wearing a normal girly dress, but her hair was short. Looking at her back in an adult-like dress with a black and purple theme, I thought it might be Dennis.

Perhaps because of that, a question slipped out of my mouth.

“Could it be… Dennis?”

Then the person whose back was visible trembled greatly and shouted while holding their head even more.

“D-Don’t come near me! It’s poisonous to Jeremiah-sama’s eyes!”

I didn’t know what to do and my voice got stuck in my throat.

“That’s not true. Look over here. Dennis is really beautiful.”

“That’s right. There’s no mistake in my judgment. If only she would tidy up her hair, she would be quite something.”

Paula declared with a strange laugh.

Then Lucia, who looked like a fluffy little girl, ran over and said with a smiling face, or rather, trying to hold back her laughter.

Chapter 145: 5/8 — (Jeremiah POV)

“It’s okay, you look like a beautiful woman, right? Can you show us?”

Well, wouldn’t it be better not to force her so much? That’s what I thought, but for some reason, I found it difficult to speak up.

If you don’t want to be seen that much, I probably shouldn’t look.

Well, I can imagine the situation even from this state.

Rather, Lorraine is more of an eyesore. I tried to calm down the women who were enjoying themselves and avoid looking at her.

However, before that, Dennis stood up.

She clenched her fist tightly and said in a groaning voice, “Okay,” then turned around. Her face was red. Unusually red. Other than that, it was as expected.

There was no reason for Lorraine and the others to do anything so terrible. Dennis looked like a proper lady, with slightly sharp eyes.

“How is it? She’s quite beautiful, so I was surprised!”

After hearing Lorraine’s excited voice, I paused for a moment before saying, “Ah, yeah.”

“See? I told you!”

As I listened to Paula’s triumphant words, I couldn’t help but acknowledge that it was true. I hadn’t thought about it before, but it was only natural.

However, considering her state of mind, she must be reaching her limit soon.

“Dennis, I know you’re beautiful, but I need you to get back to work soon.”

“Y-Yes! I’ll change and be right there!”

Dennis’s face lit up as if he could finally escape, and he disappeared in an instant. The women let out disappointed sighs.

“Well, I’m satisfied because I finally got to see Denny in a dress. I may have forced her a bit, but Denny actually likes cute things and dresses.”

“Is that so?”

I was surprised by Lorraine’s words with a wry smile. I have been watching Dennis for a long time, but I didn’t know that.

“Yes. But because of her appearance and the fact that she’s somewhat otherworldly, she decided to focus on her work… So I thought it would be okay for her to participate in this kind of opportunity, but maybe I went too far.”

“This kind of opportunity?”

“It’s an internal party, so I wanted the staff to participate as well. That’s why I thought she could wear a dress instead of always wearing men’s clothes. I knew she liked it.”

As Paula spoke, I understood. Paula had a deeper relationship with Dennis. And there are things that only women can understand.

Anyway, I understood from that explanation why they had even made Dennis wear a dress. However, it seemed impossible for her to wear it…

Then, Lucia spoke in a suggestive tone, as if feeling that the conversation had come to a pause.

“By the way, Lady Astorga, Lorraine-oneesama, aren’t you going to show “that” to Jeremiah-sama?”

“Oh, yes!”

The disappointed atmosphere until then suddenly changed, and Lorraine’s expression became filled with joy as she headed towards a table piled with fabric. She searched for something and pulled it out.

I didn’t understand what they wanted to show me, so I silently watched Lorraine.

“As a matter of fact, we also thought about Jeremiah’s attire.”

Lorraine happily showed me three outfits hanging on her arm. As I glanced at them, I had a bad feeling. They were all things that I would never wear, such as abnormally long fabrics, excessively plain black fabrics, and ones with the same decorations as the one Paula was wearing.

“This one is matching with mine. You often see this kind in old temples. Then this one is a military uniform, matching with Paula’s. And this one is what butlers wear. You can brew tea in it and experience the feeling of reversing the master-servant relationship!”

“…”

I was at a loss for what to say. For now, I was happy to match with Lorraine, but I didn’t want to wear that.

However, if I didn’t wear anything, Lorraine might be sad because she was enjoying herself. I had to wear something… What should I do?

“Also, this is a traditional costume from the ethnic group of the country where I used to live. It’s called a kimono, but to be honest, I don’t remember it well. Then someone told me that there were similar clothes in the northern country far east of here, so I reproduced it.”

It was a loose-fitting garment with no buttons and everything was fastened with strings. It felt unfamiliar, but it seemed easy to wear. The colors were calm and likable, and I didn’t like excessive decorations.

“If Jeremiah doesn’t wear it, I’m planning to give it to Mark. I thought he might be nostalgic for it.”

“Hmm.”

Honestly, I was thinking about which one I could tolerate, but it was decided with that one word.

“But actually, I want to try wearing this too. How about letting me try it on? I’m interested in the traditional costume of your country too.”

“Of course! Then let me call someone.”

Lorraine said happily and rang the bell. Soon, a male servant appeared with a man who seemed to be a merchant.

“Well then, please wait a moment.”

“Yes.”

“But before that.”

Since I was going to change anyway, I took off my coat and gently put it on Lorraine’s shoulders. Then I firmly grabbed the front and said, “That outfit is too cold. I don’t want to see you suffer from a cold, so you should change quickly. Wear something warmer, okay?”

“…Y-Yes.”

Seeing Lorraine turn red in an instant, I felt the urge to hug her. However, it would be impossible here. I couldn’t do anything more. With a very regretful feeling, I went to the next room.

Then, there was a little commotion from the next room, but Paula was there, so it should be okay. As instructed by the servant, I changed clothes and put on the clothes that were handed to me while listening to the merchant’s explanation.

“It feels a bit uneasy.”

Muttering to myself, I immediately returned to the next room.

“I’m done.”

As soon as I called out, the voices that had been echoing until then suddenly stopped. With a slight nervousness, I opened the door to the next room.

Chapter 146: 6/8 — (Jeremiah POV)

When I appeared, the women’s gazes were so intense that it was almost painful. Of course, since we were well acquainted, it wasn’t uncomfortable, but I needed someone to say something.

For the time being, I left the room and asked if there were any mistakes while showing my whole body.

“How is it? Are there any mistakes?”

“No, there aren’t… Ahhh, why are there no videos or cameras in this world! I can’t leave such a beautiful appearance behind!”

Lorraine shouted while wearing a dress with a dazzling pattern woven on a pale peach-colored fabric, which was said to be the traditional costume of her former homeland. But unfortunately, I didn’t understand what she was saying.

“Calm down, Lorraine. It’s certainly very nice, but if you want to say that much, why don’t you invite a painter, you know, to the party?”

Paula calmly advised her.

Lorraine said regretfully, “Yes, that’s a good idea,” and then calmed down a bit and looked at my appearance. After a short while, she smiled softly.

“Then all that’s left is a sword or something like that to make it perfect. I never thought it would turn out this nice. Thank you, Jeremiah.”

“No problem, I’m happy if you’re happy. So, should we both go to the costume party dressed like this?”

“Huh? Is that okay?”

“Of course.”

I nodded vigorously. Usually, when it came to costume parties, I just wore slightly flashy clothes with a mask, but if it made Lorraine happy, this would be good too. Above all, I was happy that she had thought of me.

And she did it for me.

“That’s great, Onee-sama! She said she wanted you to wear this all the time. Besides, Jeremiah-sama looks good in anything.”

“Is that so? I don’t know because I’ve never worn different clothes before.”

At Lucia’s words, I looked at myself. I changed my clothes slightly depending on the season or event, but basically, I chose similar things. So I really didn’t know.

“In that case, why don’t you try various things from now on? With Lorraine-oneesama.”

Lucia called out to Lorraine.

“Yes, if you could do that for me, I would be very excited…I mean, happy.”

Lorraine stopped herself from saying “excited.” I remembered when I first met her and suddenly found it funny.

This was also a world I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t met Lorraine.

Surely, there will be more things like this in the future. It’s a very enjoyable thought. I said with a laugh.

“In that case, let’s have another party like this. This time at the Castalde mansion.”

“Yes, that’s good. I’m looking forward to it.”

When Paula said it, Lorraine blushed slightly and smiled happily, saying “Yes.” If I can see that smile, I’ll do anything. I thought that while watching the women laugh together.

The next day was a calm and sunny day, with a fragrant breeze announcing that spring had arrived. I was visiting a jeweler in such a cheerful mood.

I had received a message that something I had been thinking of giving to Lorraine since the incident in the capital had arrived.

The shop facing the main street was sparsely visited by gentlemen, and there was no hustle and bustle. It was a high-class store that even supplied jewels to the royal family, so they didn’t have any cheap items, and only upper-class people would visit.

As soon as I entered the store, a guide appeared and led me to a room on the second floor. After waiting for a while there, the owner himself appeared with the ordered item.

He respectfully placed it on the table in a cloth-covered box and showed me the contents by removing the lid.

“This is a top-quality item that arrived yesterday. How is it? It’s a stunning red, isn’t it?”

“Indeed, it’s beautiful.”

I carefully examined the contents of the box.

Inside was a pendant adorned with stones of a milder color than ruby. The characteristic of this stone is that its color is not stable. However, what was in front of me was all red with a yellow luster on the surface, shining golden depending on the light. It’s not easy to get because it’s rarely available for some reason and is popular.

Still, I really wanted to give this to Lorraine.

“I hope you are satisfied with our service.”

“Oh, you found it well. I thought this store would have it and I was right.”

“Thank you very much. Please continue to favor us… Now, please sign here.”

As instructed, I signed the document, paid the prepared money, and received the jewel. When I touched it, I felt a warmth somewhere.

Then I greeted the shopkeeper and left the store.

While walking back to thr duke’s mansion, I imagined Lorraine’s reaction when she saw it. At first, she might make a slightly puzzled face. But if she is happy, her eyes like the sun will shine with tears.

I don’t want to cloud those eyes.

I wished for that with this stone. In other words, it’s like a talisman. There may be no effect, but I wanted to give shape to my wishes and thoughts.

The gifts I’ve given her recently were to make Lorraine look beautiful or to not kill her charm.

Everything is for her.

But this is for me.

It may be selfish. That’s why I was a little scared to give it to her. Still, I want to see her face when she sees it.

I chuckled and quickened my pace.

Chapter 147: 7/8 — (Jeremiah POV)

The Javier festival has arrived.

The women were busy since morning, while us men were leisurely preparing while watching their busy state. I look at the clear sky and think that it takes a lot of time to get ready.

It seems like the gloomy sky until just last month was a lie.

While waiting for the women in the entrance hall, Lorraine, who looked tired at first, came out. It seems that she was the first one to start getting ready. However, it paid off as she looked lovely today.

She wore a light green dress that was reminiscent of spring and a hair accessory with flowers of the same color. However, she still seemed cold as she tightly held onto her woolen stole and coat, letting out a sigh. Combined with light makeup, she looked somewhat melancholic.

I feel something uneasy about her appearance that I can’t ignore.

——Isn’t it a bit too much? You don’t have to look so beautiful during the day…

I let out a small sigh after thinking that.

It’s a happy thing for me too when Lorraine shows her true charm. However, I’m not very happy right now. I know the reason for that, so I don’t intend to tell her not to dress up.

As I struggle with my own feelings, Lorraine notices me.

In an instant, her tired face changes into a smile.

Her golden eyes widened, and a happy voice slipped out of her mouth.

“Jeremiah! Were you already here? You should have waited inside, it’s still cold outside.”

Lorraine asked with flushed cheeks, not needing any makeup. I felt the fog in my mind disappear as I looked at her expression.

“That’s right, but it’s quieter here. And thanks to being here, I can spend a little more time with you.”

“Y-Yes…um.”

Lorraine was unusually tongue-tied and seemed to want to say something, but quickly closed her mouth. The two eyes that usually stared at me were now looking at the scenery I had been gazing at.

“It’s beautiful.”

I was a little confused when she suddenly said that.

“Spring is coming.”

“Yeah.”

I thought I should have given a better response, but nothing else came out. Lorraine didn’t seem to notice my inner conflict and happily gazed at the well-kept garden of the Duke’s mansion in the morning.

As I looked at her profile, I still couldn’t say anything.

I didn’t want to ruin this peaceful and quiet time.

So we spent some time like that for a while.

Even though Lorraine was looking at me, she seemed to be lost in thought and enjoying herself without being too flustered.

I was just watching Lorraine in a rare relaxed state.

However, such a quiet time did not last long. The entrance hall became a little noisy, and Paula, Lucia, and the duke appeared.

I joined them and got into the carriage with Lorraine. We were going to visit nearby houses and greet the residents. Although it was customary, it would take a lot of time to visit all the houses, as many of them would be empty. I usually find it a bit troublesome, but this time Lorraine is with me.

I settled down right next to Lorraine in the carriage and told the coachman to start driving.

Inside the carriage, Lorraine looked out the window with a curious expression and suddenly said,

“Jeremiah, I’ve caused a lot of trouble for you and everyone else, but I truly think coming to the capital was a good thing.”

Surprised, I listened as she began to speak hesitantly about the thoughts she had been carrying with her until then.

“In my past life, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even dream or fall in love. But, meeting Jeremiah and being able to be together like this, I can live an age that I have never experienced before. That alone is amazing, but it’s still not enough.”

She paused to take a deep breath.

“There’s something I really want. Of course, it’s not something that would inconvenience you, so please don’t worry.”

“I see.”

I somehow understood what Lorraine was trying to say. However, there was one thing that I couldn’t compromise on.

“…I don’t want to force my thoughts on you. But if it ever leads to you leaving because of it…”

“That won’t happen.”

Lorraine said firmly.

“I already told you. I want to keep looking at your face and your figure forever. The thing I want most is to be by your side for the rest of my life and become your family.”

With a slightly embarrassed expression, but still with a strong determination in her golden eyes, Lorraine spoke.

“I haven’t decided yet, but I want to investigate more about this world. Within the limits of what is possible, I want to achieve something, in other words, I want to have pride and feel alive.”

As she continued to speak, Lorraine’s eyes took on a shimmering, wet look, and I couldn’t help but be captivated. I love those beautiful eyes that possess such strong vitality.

“But if you’re not by my side, the colors will disappear from my life. I don’t want that. Within the limits of what is possible. I think it would be greedy to ask for more… My life with Jeremiah is more important to me…”

I couldn’t listen to her words until the end.

My body had moved ahead of my mind.

Chapter 148: 8/8 — (Jeremiah POV)

I held Lorraine’s warm body in my arms and brought my lips closer to her slightly cool ear.

“You can do whatever you want. I don’t mind helping you.”

“Uh, no, but…”

“I’ll give you everything that the old you couldn’t get. Let’s stay together forever.”

“Y-Yes.”

Her voice was hoarse. Then Lorraine fell silent and naturally leaned on me. It felt like a sign of trust.

I wanted to do anything for this woman.

I hoped to ease her pain even a little bit. The weight I felt from her was comforting.

I realized that I was smiling naturally.

This must be what happiness feels like.

That night, even though we should have been tired, the costume party was lively. I wore traditional clothing from Lorraine’s hometown with her.

Lorraine was overjoyed, and the other guests seemed to be enjoying themselves as well.

After dinner and dancing, I left the group playing games or changing clothes and returned to my room. I changed back into my usual clothes and took out the pendant that I had put away.

I had told Lorraine to come to the library after we danced, but she would take some time to change and come. However, she was a woman who moved quite quickly, so I couldn’t stay too long. I put the gift in my pocket and left the room with a lamp in hand.

As I walked down the hallway, the mansion was quiet and still. There were few people because it was really just a gathering for insiders.

Eventually, I arrived at the library, but Lorraine had not yet arrived. As I felt relieved about that, I heard small footsteps approaching. When I turned around, Lorraine appeared in a simple nightgown with many layers of warm clothing and her hair unstyled.

Considering the time of the day, it is a very unfortunate outfit.

I forced a smile, wondering if my patience was being tested.

“You’re early. You could have dressed a little warmer. It must be cold,” I said with a smile.

“But I didn’t want to keep you waiting. Besides, if it’s too cold, we can just move to one of the rooms, and there’s a fireplace there too,” she said with her usual bright smile, and I couldn’t say anything.

I felt stupid for feeling guilty.

“So, what did you want to talk about?”

Asked with eyes that didn’t doubt anything, I cleared my throat and nodded.

“Yeah, there was something I wanted to ask. You were supposed to stay here until the Javier festival, right?”

“Yes, that’s right. I’ll go back to Valcourt first. Then it’s time to prepare for the social season, but there’s not much to do.”

“In that case, why don’t you come to the Castalde mansion after returning to Valcourt?”

Lorraine blinked a little and spoke with a slightly troubled voice.

“But we’re still engaged…”

“I mean, stay for a while until the social season. It’s better to get used to it even a little before getting married, isn’t it?”

I said such things while my real intention was elsewhere, but I didn’t say it.

“That’s right. It would be better. I haven’t been to your estate yet. But won’t your family be surprised?”

“It’s okay. I’ll tell them in a letter. Besides, I want to be with you… not just that, I want you to know about me and my family too.”

Looking straight into Lorraine’s eyes, I told her how much I wanted various things from her.

It seemed premature to say such things to my fiancée, but I couldn’t bear it. It was terrifying and yet I couldn’t help but expect her reaction.

My heart was pounding loudly. It had been a long time since I struggled to say something like this. At the same time, it had been a long time since I wished for something from someone.

Then Lorraine let out a faint laugh.

“Fufu, of course, I want to know. Especially if Jeremiah wants me to. Actually, I wanted to go there as soon as possible, but I felt like you were busy and it was hard to say.”

Lorraine laughed happily, and she didn’t seem to be forcing herself to say it. I felt relieved from the bottom of my heart.

Then, slowly, I took out that gift from my pocket.

“Thank you, and…this too.”

“Huh? Oh!”

Before Lorraine could say anything, I put it around her neck. The red gem that contained a golden sparkle swayed at the neckline of her thin nightgown.

For some reason, seeing that gave me deep satisfaction.

“Again? It’s really beautiful, but…you don’t need so many.”

“It’s okay. It’s not just a decoration, it’s a charm.”

“A charm?”

“Yes, it seems that color has the power to ward off evil. I wish I could always be by your side to protect you, but that’s not possible. So, well, it may not be effective, but I want you to have it for peace of mind.

It’s not just for decoration, I’m giving it to you because of my selfishness.”

I want you to remember every time you worry about me when you see that gem.

Lorraine carefully placed the red stone on her palm and looked at it closely. It was not very clear in the light of the lamp.

“Okay… I’ll keep it safe and wear it all the time.”

Lorraine answered and muttered as she rolled the stone on her palm.

“I see, it’s a charm. Then I’ll give you something too. I’ll choose something that won’t get in the way, and I’ll give it to you on your birthday.”

Unlike the usual gifts, Lorraine smiled genuinely with joy.

“Yeah, I’m looking forward to it.”

Although I thought she didn’t have to and that I didn’t need anything in return, I had no choice but to respond that way after seeing her smile.

Lorraine continued to gaze at the jewels with delight, but suddenly sneezed.

“It’s getting cold. Let me walk you to your room.”

“That’s a good idea. Shall I prepare something warm for you?”

“Oh, yes.”

We answered and left the library.

Lorraine walked ahead of me, and I followed her small back. Eventually, we arrived at the room, and Lorraine invited me in without hesitation.

The fireplace was still lit, and the room was warm.

“What would you like? Alcohol again?”

I felt trusted by her straightforward question, but it also seemed a little unsatisfactory. However, I couldn’t betray Lorraine, whom I trusted completely.

“Well, something warm would be nice.”

As I sat down on a chair and watched her ring the bell to call the servant while nodding in agreement, Lorraine came closer and said,

“Oh, right. We need to pack and write letters from tomorrow. Please tell Paula that Jeremiah said so. I can’t do it myself. And we also need to discuss Lucia’s situation.”

Lorraine began to ponder with a groan.

Although there was no need to hurry, her conscientiousness was cute. I absentmindedly watched her as she found paper and began writing something.

The room was warm, and my loved one was right beside me.

It was a quiet night that passed without incident.

But such moments were precious. I never thought there would be days when I could be by someone’s side with such calm feelings.

I feel like I could fall asleep like this.

I’m sure I’ll think back on this time many times in the future. For some reason, I was convinced of that and closed my eyes for a while.

—The End—


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