Advanced Chapters ― Ch72/27 ― The Presumed Villainess Is Being Married Off to the Ugliest Man in the Country

Completed ― The Presumed Villainess Is Being Married Off to the Ugliest Man in the Country

Chapter 1: Prologue

“Isn’t he the ugliest person in the country. . .? I’m talking about Margrave Rudy Santorina, right. . .?”

Upon hearing my words, my father nodded with a bitter expression.

The people present, seemingly sympathizing with me, all had sorrowful expressions. Some were even teary-eyed.

Unbelievable.

Inconceivable.

But it seems to be true.

“So, I’m going to marry Rudy-sama. . .That’s just. . .that’s just. . .”

Ah, my voice trembles.

I can’t control my expression.

Even restraining my impulsive body is a struggle――,

“Just a reward, isn’t it?!”

At my outburst of heartfelt exclamation, everyone present stiffened.

Oh, what should I do?

I must be wearing the happiest smile of my life right now.

I feel so happy that I want to jump for joy. Even do a cheer. . .No, that’s not appropriate.

In reality, I shouldn’t even let my smile show.

Because, right now, it’s the scene of my condemnation as the villainess.

From my ‘reward’ remark that clearly didn’t fit the situation, everyone in the room remains frozen.

. . .Was it really that funny. . .?

“Um, umm. Excuse me, I got carried away.”

Feeling awkward, I cleared my throat and tightened my expression as much as possible, then finally everyone’s time started moving again.

Perhaps they’re thinking it was some kind of mistake. . .? Everyone is tilting their heads with a perplexed expression.

My father, as if starting over, shook his head and opened his mouth with a solemn nod.

“Ah, no, it was a very sudden news. It’s natural to be confused. However, please rest assured. The engagement can still be broken if circumstances change. That’s why I’m currently trying to delay the actual marriage as much as possible. . .”

“No, it’s fine. I will marry Rudy-sama. As the other party has stated, as soon as I graduate from the academy in one month, if possible.”

As I tried to tighten my expression, unnecessarily making it sharp, I said so, and my father’s eyebrows drooped.

I feel like crying now, even though there’s no reason to cry.

“However, Margrave Santorina. . .Well. . .Certainly, in terms of personality, family background, and abilities, he is flawless as your husband. Flawless, but. . .Well, it’s not something I should say. . .But from my perspective, it’s just. . .just so. . .ugly. You don’t have to force yourself. . .”

“His appearance is not a problem for me.”

As I interrupted my father’s words and asserted, a tear fell from my father’s eyes.

No, it’s not because of endurance or dedication to the country, and certainly not because of reflection on causing trouble for the beloved child of the presumed heroine.

It’s just my true feelings. . .

After all, in this world, ‘ugly’ or ‘unattractive’ only means “pale complexion.”

Chapter 2

Perhaps, I think I might be what they call a reincarnated villainess.

I, Emmanuella Baytree, am a so-called isekai reincarnator who came to this sword and magic fantasy world from modern-day Japan.

In this world, my noble family is the Duke family, and my fiancé is the crown prince, who is also my cousin.

He has a form that is said to be the most beautiful in the country and is blessed with magical talent.

Furthermore, his proficient magic is ice and darkness.

With these specs, it feels like I fit the typical villainess archetype. At least, that’s how I felt.

Naturally, that means I should avoid the path of destruction. However, there was one big problem.

There was one major problem.

This is also the reason why I can’t confidently declare, “I have been reincarnated as the villainess!” or “I am indeed the villainess!”

I, in fact, knew absolutely nothing about this world. . .

Well, I had a vague feeling that this world resembled an otome game, based on the setting and the events that were happening. So, I made some assumptions like, “Maybe it will turn out like this?” But that was just a tentative guess.

However, I had no specific knowledge about the story or the characters. This world itself was completely unknown to me.

No matter whose appearance I saw, no matter what names I heard, no matter how memorable the conversations were, and even when a major event occurred that shook the country and seemed like the main story was progressing!

I didn’t have a clue about anything. Not a single thing.

Well, because I actually didn’t know, it was such a peculiar otome game.

Yes, this world is a bit, no, quite, maybe even ridiculously, strange.

The reason is that in this world, the sense of beauty and ugliness is significantly different from what I know.

Well, when you think about what is beautiful and what is ugly, it can vary with time and culture, and it’s hard to put into words. It’s like, a feeling of balance or something like that is beautiful. . .? It’s a bit difficult to articulate.

Nevertheless, I can assert that the rules of this world are strange.

It may be very simple and easy to understand, but I can’t help but feel strange. After all,

In this world, beauty = dark hair color.

In this world, ugliness = light hair color.

That’s how it is.

Well, there is some kind of basis or cause for it, I remember.

The reason is that in this world, hair color is considered a manifestation of the gods’ blessings.

In reality, people with certain colors, like red for fire and blue for water, are good at magic related to those elements. Moreover, the stronger the color, the stronger the magic they can use. Individuals who can use multiple elemental magics have hair colors that combine those elements. And when it comes to the ultimate, black-haired individuals, they can pretty much master any kind of magic.

So, it might be that hair color is truly influenced by the respective gods who govern those elemental aspects, rather than just a joke or something.

No, I don’t know the reason why magic can be used, it’s just speculation.

But at least, in the religion of this country, it is believed to be like that.

Well, that’s fine.

But I still can’t quite understand why that becomes the criteria for beauty and ugliness.

The first thing that felt strange to me was the public’s evaluation of my current parents.

My mother is a bit chubby but a cute and cheerful person, and my father is an unnecessarily handsome and stylish man, at least that’s what I think.

However, the public’s evaluation seems to be that my mother is a glamorous beauty, the Duchess, and my father is a clever Duke who secured his wife with his slightly challenging appearance, excellent status, intellect, and wealth.

The reason is their hair color.

My mother has glossy black hair and chestnut-colored eyes.

My father has flaxen hair and black eyes.

While hair is mainly used as a criterion for beauty and ugliness, it seems that eye color also plays a role, with darker eyes being more preferred by people.

Therefore, my mother becomes a peerless beauty, and my father, taking into account the slight cover provided by his eyes, becomes slightly below average in terms of ugliness.

No, no. No, no, no.

My mother has a soothing appearance, but I don’t think she’s that much of a beauty. . .?

My father, even though he’s my father, is unnecessarily sparkling and handsome. . .?

While it’s fine for my father to passionately praise my mother’s beauty, I wonder why the public is so infatuated with her. . .?

The fact that my mother returns love to my father without caring about his appearance is considered her beauty, while the public thinks my father is ugly.

To the extent that beauty and ugliness are determined solely by color. . .

Like a peacock?

The sense of beauty and ugliness in the people of this world is at the level of birds or insects.

I have a memory of thinking that when I was young and learned this fact.

Afterward, when I asked the people around me why facial features and body size are not considered in the evaluation of beauty and ugliness, I received various reactions like “Why do you care about such things?” or “Did the previous king choose his queen based on the roundness of her ankles?”

My sense of beauty and ugliness is treated as a peculiar fetish on the same level as the “roundness of ankles.”

No, it’s more accurate to say that facial features and body size are treated as ‘things that don’t matter’.

Yes, I’ve truly been reincarnated into a completely different world.

If this world were an otome game, the boys who seem to be the capture targets would be considered wonderful mainly because of their hair color. They all have hair that is close to black. I can’t help but think that it was a plan pushed through by someone with an extreme black hair fetish.

Well, they all have powerful magic and their faces are generally good-looking, but when I think about whether they resemble the capture targets in an otome game. . .Honestly, there are people with somewhat mob-like appearances standing proudly among them, so I can’t help but think it’s a ‘peculiar otome game’.

Moreover, my fiancé, who was ultimately captured by the presumed heroine, the Crown Prince himself, has a somewhat mob-like appearance.

To me, his gentle and unassuming facial features give a sense of calm, but since his hair and eyes are almost black, he is apparently incredibly handsome in this world.

He is an incredibly handsome (in terms of hair color) prince.

So, as evidence that I resemble the villainess, I mentioned ‘the most beautiful in the country’, but in other words, like him, I am ‘the most beautiful (in terms of hair color)’ in the country.

Inherited from my mother, my black hair that can be recognized as blue under the sun is truly the most beautiful (in terms of hair).

Oh, and my father’s black eyes, which are inherited from him, apparently add some points, so it’s more accurate to say that I am ‘the most beautiful (in terms of color)’ in the country.

Anyway, it’s truly empty.

Truly empty, but well, in this country, I am blessed with favorable specifications.

Flawless beauty (in terms of color), an origin that people envy, and a wealthy family. I have enjoyed a luxurious and happy life, fully benefiting from these blessings until this day.

Considering that I had a weak body and died young in my previous life, just being able to learn and move my body to my heart’s content was already something to be grateful for, but beyond that, I am aware that I have been given an unparalleled life.

So, it’s enough.

Even if I am judged as the villainess from now on and face what is considered a disastrous ending, I have been given magical talent and received advanced education that has allowed me to fully develop it.

I haven’t committed such grave crimes.

As a punishment, it might involve being disowned by the Duke Baytree family and having my noble status revoked, spending some years doing social service at the temple, or worst-case scenario, being exiled from the country.

Regardless of which, I have the ability to live happily, and that has already been given to me.

With that determination, today, on this day, I, Emmanuella, the villainess Duke Baytree’s daughter, have reached the day of my condemnation.

Chapter 3

Is it really okay for the villainess’s condemnation event to be this low-key. . .?

On this day that I prepared myself for with some determination, the first thing I felt was just that.

Today, in late February, when the country is becoming peaceful and it seems like we’re approaching the ending, the place I was summoned to was the reception room of the royal palace.

However, although it is located in the back of the castle, it is a relatively small room used for small tea parties with close members of the royal family.

The participants are me, Emmanuella Baytree, the presumed villainess, my father, Duke Baytree, Crown Prince Fortunato Delphinium, who is still technically my fiancé, Delina Larkspur, the baron’s daughter who is the presumed heroine and the beloved child of the goddess who saved our country, and His Majesty the King. That’s all.

. . .Isn’t it customary for such events to be held in a place where the public gathers, exposing my sins loudly and delivering a striking annulment and condemnation. . .?

Well, that kind of thing is just for dramatic effect, and in reality, decisions are often made in quiet meetings like this, with only the parties involved. Let’s think that way.

Now then, what will be my verdict?

I would be happy if it could be settled with just being banished from the capital.

Currently, as His Majesty the King reads out my charges, I hardly have any idea about most of them.

It seems that there were incidents at the academy, where I, Emma-sama, the presumed villainess, spread rumors of hiding things, telling lies, and bullying Delina-chan, the presumed heroine. I hardly know anything about it, though.

However, I do recognize the names of certain individuals associated with each charge, such as ‘using someone’ or ‘ordering someone to do something’. They are all either close friends of mine or children from families who share the same faction as mine.

I have no recollection of using or ordering anyone, but if it really happened, they must have done it for my sake.

It is true that my fiancé’s heart was stolen, but our engagement was purely political, and there was no special affection between us. Moreover, as the villainess destined to lose in an otome game, I had given up early on.

To be honest, it was just unnecessary meddling. However, everyone must have acted for my sake. Probably.

It’s also possible that someone did those things and conveniently blamed everything on me, thinking, “Wouldn’t it be funny if that person did it?”

But in any case, it means that our faction lost in politics. As the eldest daughter of the Duke family, who leads the faction, I have to take responsibility.

Since it was revealed that Delina-chan is the beloved child of the goddess, there must be some retribution for her being underestimated all this time.

In order to celebrate the grand marriage of the two blessed by the goddess, ‘No, no, it’s not a plundering situation. It’s because the previous fiancée was such a terrible woman. She had her engagement broken off because she was deemed unworthy of being the crown princess’, they probably want to say that.

It can’t be helped. This is also a responsibility that comes with this position.

“‘. . .The above is the crime of Emmanuella Baytree, and the temple seeks strict punishment from the country’. . .This is the entire text of the letter sent to me from the temple.”

However, after saying so, His Majesty the King carelessly threw the stack of papers he was holding (apparently a letter sent from the temple) onto the desk.

“Really, it’s so ridiculous.”

To the king, who grumbled with a displeased expression and snorted, I couldn’t help but tilt my head in confusion.

Huh? Could it be that His Majesty doesn’t really agree with the temple that is trying to condemn me. . .?

“It’s true! Emma-sama didn’t do anything wrong! About 90% of the recent letter was about ‘teaching incorrect manners and customs, leading the beloved child to failure’, it’s all purely my self-destruction! Neither Emma-sama nor anyone else did such a roundabout harassment!”

As the presumed heroine, Delina-chan, said angrily, her dark brown hair and eyes, which only shine pink when she uses the power of the beloved child, have an interesting nature. My confusion deepens even more. Perhaps due to her anger, her face is slightly turning pink.

Well, actually, Delina-chan, who grew up freely in the not-so-formal Baron household in the countryside, didn’t really acquire noble manners and customs.

Moreover, she acted somewhat thoughtlessly, so she often caused trouble energetically before I could stop her.

Rather, as classmates, while I was helping her with the mess she made and teaching her the correct way, we became so close that we started calling each other ‘Delina-chan’ and ‘Emma-sama’ as nicknames.

But hey, don’t you realize that I’m in a position where I can’t afford not to be properly condemned. . .?

“I’m sorry, Emma-sama. It’s because of my ignorance and stupidity as a foolish country girl that you’ve been falsely accused. . .”

As Delina-chan said that, her large eyes became teary, and I was taken aback.

“No, it’s not like that. . .”

“No, really. In the letter earlier, I realized, ‘Oh, I made so many mistakes,’ and I felt embarrassed. Ah, should I copy down the letter to properly reflect and learn from it?”

Interrupting my objection, Delina-chan tilted her head and gently hugged her shoulders. Sitting next to her was Crown Prince Fortunato.

“If it’s you, the beloved child of the goddess who has now become a position even higher than the royal family, there are many things that are not necessarily wrong. I don’t think you need to use such malicious and ominous materials for learning.”

I averted my gaze somewhat from his sweet voice. It’s too sweet.

Too sweet. Please spare me.

“Well, then I won’t do it!. . .But, things really change a lot, huh? It’s difficult. . .!”

Delina-chan said energetically as if there was no sweetness from the Crown Prince, and I couldn’t help but let out a wry smile as she groaned and held her head.

“Delina-sama, it’s quite a sudden change in your position. . .”

I unintentionally said that, and Delina-chan quickly raised her head.

“To call me Delina-sama. . .! It’s lonely! Please call me Delina-chan like before. . .”

She said while on the verge of tears, and although I managed to brush it off with a wry smile, I couldn’t let her say that.

“People from the school who used to call me ‘almost a commoner’ or ‘hey, you there’ suddenly started calling me ‘beloved child of the goddess’. . .It’s not like I need that. As for me, I’m just ‘that person.'” “That’s enough.”

I interrupted Delina-chan, who made a statement that I couldn’t just let slide, and continued with what I wanted to say since she called herself ‘an ignorant country girl’.

“Delina-sama, if I may humbly express my thoughts. You have manifested the power of the beloved child of the goddess of love and healing, and revived the country’s guardian dragon. Thanks to you, this country has been saved. Please consider how many lives you have protected and how many people are grateful to you.”

Delina-chan seems to be attentively listening to my usually stern and strict words. I continue.

“You, who have shown miracles that trace the foundation of this country, have become a noble figure in this country more than anyone else. Treating yourself with low regard is an action that belittles not only us nobles but also all the citizens of this country. Please understand that it is an act of mocking all those who are grateful to you and worship you.”

After firmly stating this, I think to myself, ‘I wonder if I’ve added another charge by saying something meddlesome’.

Well, it’s fine. It will probably just change from around 100 to around 101. It won’t make much of a difference.

“I also agree with Miss Emmanuella.”

The Crown Prince, with a gentle and wry smile, says so, and Delina-chan, who seemed somewhat dazed, slowly nods repeatedly, as if reminding herself.

“. . .Somehow, with what you just said, it feels like all the things I’ve recently been taught have suddenly connected. I see. That’s why I have to behave in a way that won’t be underestimated, I shouldn’t try to do everything myself, I shouldn’t apologize casually, and even when expressing gratitude, it should always be from a position of superiority. Ahh. . .!”

In the end, while holding her head, it seems that she has somehow come to an understanding.

“. . .Thank you. . .No, thank you, Emma-sama. If you hadn’t clearly stated it, I would have continued to belittle myself.”

Delina-chan awkwardly manages to say so. Her attitude of trying not to use honorific language towards me is admirable.

However, that includes me in it. Well, such minor details are something the instructor will teach from now on.

For now, let’s just be genuinely happy that her posture has straightened and she exudes a hint of dignity.

Chapter 4

“. . .However, Emma, you still have to atone for your sins.”

As Delina-chan and I exchanged smiles, the tense atmosphere was broken by my father’s firm voice.

“Yes.”

“W-Why?! Emma-sama hasn’t done anything to me, the person involved. . .On the contrary, she’s just been teaching me a lot like this at school!””

I nodded as if it were only natural, but Delina-chan shouted in anguish.

“Calm down, Delina. No one here thinks Miss Emmanuella is at fault. However, since a letter from the temple has been sent, we can’t just let it go without consequences. . .”

The Crown Prince reassured her, but Delina-chan, who seemed dissatisfied, glared at him.

“It can’t be helped. Our Duke family lost in the political battle. If it were just the temple saying things on their own, there might have been a chance to turn the tables. . .But now, the public believes that Emma is the villainess and the beloved child of the goddess was able to triumph over her and marry His Highness.”

To my father’s words, the King unexpectedly lowered his head.

“I truly apologize. It was the royal family who acted insincerely. . .”

I felt awkward and trembled at the behavior of a king of a nation, even in an unofficial setting. My father, who is also the king’s cousin, didn’t seem to mind it that much and simply nodded with an unreadable expression.

“It’s fine. It’s only natural for the loser to face penalties. Besides, if breaking off the engagement can create a debt to the royal family and the beloved child of the goddess, it’s a small price to pay. There shouldn’t be anyone in this country who wants to hinder the two blessed by the goddess. For now, let’s dissolve the engagement between Emmanuella and Prince Fortunato, effective today.”

My father said it casually.

Yes, Delina-chan and the Crown Prince have connected their hearts and manifested the miracle of the goddess. Although Delina-chan is the beloved child who can be called upon by the goddess, perhaps because she is the goddess of love, she needs the Crown Prince by her side and they must pray together. It’s truly like an otome game.

Anyway, because of that, these two must be blessed by the entire country and the temple, and live happily ever after.

That’s why the engagement between me and the Crown Prince, which is getting in their way, should be dissolved. That’s fine. I don’t have any objections.

“. . .The problem is the appropriate punishment for the ‘villainess’ that the temple and the people desire.”

With a bitter expression, the King said those words, and I couldn’t help but feel excited, thinking, ‘That’s right!’.

The King, the Crown Prince, and Delina-chan, who seem to think they have done something wrong, froze with expressions overwhelmed by guilt, while my father’s face seems to say, ‘What should I do?’.

“But in reality, Delina-sama. . .” “Please call me Delina-chan.”

My statement was immediately interrupted by Delina-chan’s insistence.

To move the conversation forward, I decided to obediently follow the words of the beloved child.

“. . .Since Delina-chan had been subjected to bullying similar to what the temple had claimed, even if it was only a fraction, I, as her classmate and a member of the Duke family who should be leading everyone, intend to take responsibility. I believe it’s only natural for me to be considered a villainess and receive an appropriate punishment.”

“. . .I’m sorry.”

His Majesty lowered his head again and, due to my impatience, spoke a bit faster while asserting.

“No, this is also for my own sake. Since I am perceived as a villainess by society, I must receive an appropriate punishment. Otherwise, there’s no guarantee that radical individuals won’t attempt to carry out vigilante justice.”

“That’s true. The popularity of the ‘Beloved Child of the Goddess who saved the country’ is now immense. We can’t predict how that fervor might go out of control. If you were to be acquitted, there wouldn’t be any sympathy gathering for you either.”

As my father acknowledged, the popularity of the beloved child of the Goddess who saved the country, Delina-chan, had reached a cult-like level.

The flow of this story closely resembled the founding myth of the country.

In the region that formed the basis of this country, which was originally like a gathering of small settlements, a maiden who had a connection with the ‘Goddess of Love and Healing’ appeared. She communicated with a young man who later became the first king and the leader of a certain village, and the guardian dragon of this country was sent by the Goddess, saying, “‘May my blessed couple protect everything you love’.

Through the power wielded by the guardian dragon in response to the prayers of the maiden and the young man, this country was protected from the vicious demon beasts that attacked people, and the country rapidly developed and prospered. That is the founding myth of this country.

It is clear how unforgivable the ‘villainess’ who stood in the way of Delina-chan and the Crown Prince, recreating that story, is.

If I don’t experience retribution, I will be in trouble. If I am thoroughly punished here, my Duke family might eventually gain sympathy from society.

“Um, by the way, what are the potential punishments for me at the moment. . .?”

Feeling the need for retribution once again, I asked softly, and my father, who had fallen silent with a difficult expression, raised his face.

“We were considering exile from the country and studying abroad in a neighboring country. . .However, a certain family made a certain proposal, thinking that the engagement between you and the Crown Prince would be annulled, and the temple and the noble council seem to agree, saying ‘That would be just right’.”

From the annulment of the engagement. . .In other words, it means that I will have to enter into a marriage that is so severe, befitting a villainess.

As if confirming my speculation, King His Majesty and my father, who seemed to know about the situation, both had sorrowful expressions.

. . .Is there any way to settle this with studying abroad?

No, but for now, let’s try asking what kind of terrible marriage it is, just to test the waters.

“So, what kind of proposal is it exactly?”

As I cautiously asked, King His Majesty let out a heavy sigh.

While still sighing, His Majesty lowered his head slightly as if enduring a headache, then slowly explained.

“Originally, it was a matter that the royal family had to deal with. It had been a topic of discussion for a while that a daughter with high magical power from the royal family should be married off to a certain family that is crucial for national defense. However. . .”

“Ah, yes, since the unmarried children of the royal family are currently only the Crown Prince. If we consider the closest unmarried person to the royal family. . .Yes, it’s me.”

That can’t be helped, can it? Perhaps the partner is significantly older, but for a noble daughter’s marriage, it’s probably just how things are.

If society thinks I’ve fulfilled my natural obligation and is satisfied with that, then it’s fine. . .

Huh.

Wait a minute. . .

. . .Crucial for national defense? And if there is no fiancé. . .Could it be. . .

“The family that is crucial for national defense, in other words, the Santorina Border Count family, has made a proposal to welcome Emmanuella as a bride, even a month after graduating from the academy.”

“A marriage with the ugliest person in the country―― That is currently the most likely punishment for Miss Emmanuella.”

At the words of my father and His Majesty, filled with a sense of despair, I felt an immense shock.

A proposal from the Santorina family, the family that is crucial for national defense, to marry the ugliest person in the country.

That means. . .!

Suppressing my rising emotions, I trembled as I asked in a trembling voice.

“Isn’t he the ugliest person in the country. . .? I’m talking about Margrave Rudy Santorina, right. . .?”

Upon hearing my words, my father nodded with a bitter expression.

The people present, seemingly sympathizing with me, all had sorrowful expressions. Some were even teary-eyed.

Unbelievable.

Inconceivable.

But it seems to be true.

“So, I’m going to marry Rudy-sama. . .That’s just. . .that’s just. . .”

Ah, my voice trembles.

I can’t control my expression.

Even restraining my impulsive body is a struggle――,

“Just a reward, isn’t it?!”

At my outburst of heartfelt exclamation, everyone present stiffened.

Chapter 5

I don’t mind. In fact, I’m overjoyed, but my teary-eyed father continues to persist and try to convince me.

“Do you understand, Delina? That person has dull gray eyes and hair. He’s even called the ‘Colorless Margrave’.”

“I think that sparkle is silver. And besides, I like his appearance.”

“?! W-Well, even if you don’t mind his appearance, he has very little magical power. He’s even been described as ‘abandoned by the gods’. Are you saying that doesn’t bother you?”

“Indeed, his magical power seems to be lacking, but that’s precisely why there is significance in me marrying into the Margrave family. We can complement each other’s shortcomings and build a good marital relationship.”

“Complement each other, or rather, won’t all the burden fall on you?”

“No, I don’t think so. Despite his low magical power, Margrave-sama possesses remarkable sword skills. He actually protects a harsh territory not only bordering a neighboring country but also plagued by numerous vicious monsters. During the recent monster outbreak, it was thanks to him protecting us that I was able to use large-scale magic that required long incantations with peace of mind.”

“. . .He’s also ten years older than you. . .”

“It’s not a difference of a hundred years, so it’s not a significant issue. Besides, if I recall correctly, there is an eight-year age difference between you and Okaa-sama, right?”

“. . .That Margrave territory is just too far away.”

“Well, even if that’s the case, it’s still within the same country, isn’t it? If your intention was to send me to a neighboring country for studying abroad, then it would actually be closer, wouldn’t it?”

As I calmly countered, my father’s tone gradually dropped.

I wish he would give up already.

To my silent father, I pressed on.

“Moreover, I don’t think being engaged to Margrave-sama is a punishment for me. Well, if we consider it a step down from being the crown prince’s fiancée to becoming a margravine. . .However, as a result of interacting with Rudy-sama while overcoming the recent monster outbreak, I have developed a very favorable opinion of him.”

Upon hearing my words, everyone looked at me with incredulous eyes.

Due to the weakened state of the guardian dragon, powerful monsters appeared in large numbers, and even us inexperienced academy students, including Delina-chan, were forced into battle. And Rudy-sama played a significant role on the front lines.

So, it’s not entirely impossible to say that I fell for him. . .

Why? Is it because of his silver hair and eyes? But regardless of how ugly he may be, he was incredibly cool.

With his remarkable achievements, and even though Rudy-sama has an incredibly handsome appearance from my perspective, even if he didn’t, I would have surely fallen for him.

I had a few conversations with him, and he was a responsible and kind-hearted person. I secretly admired him.

So, I raised my head confidently and sincerely expressed my true feelings from the bottom of my heart.

“I wish to be saved by Rudy-sama from the possibility of being exiled from the country. Regardless of what society or the temple may think, that is how I feel. I hope that Otou-sama and everyone here feels the same way.”

Upon hearing my words, my father lowered his head, the king gently patted his shoulder as if comforting him, and His Highness and Delina-chan exchanged some kind of eye contact.

“I apologize for letting you say all that. I don’t know how to express my gratitude for your dedication to fulfilling the responsibilities that should rightfully belong to the royal family. . .”

“Ah, I will become truly great in the temple and surely be able to repay Emma-sama’s kindness. . .!”

His Highness and Delina-chan seemed to still have some misunderstandings.

“No, I mean it. I really mean it. It’s not that I’m enduring it and behaving admirably to avoid causing trouble for everyone. I am genuinely, wholeheartedly happy about this engagement!”

I desperately pleaded, but His Highness and Delina-chan just nodded with expressions that seemed to hold back tears. They definitely didn’t understand.

“. . .Well, anyway, in that case, go ahead and bestow your favor upon them.”

My father muttered quietly.

Well, it’s true that it might be convenient in the future to owe a favor to these two who are destined to become the leaders of this country. . .

“A-Anyway! I am happy to marry Rudy-sama! Right after graduating from the academy in one month!”

I declared so as a decision.

My father, who turned pale, shouted at me in a flustered manner.

“T-There’s no way it can be one month later! We should have a one-year engagement period!”

“Why?”

“W-Well, because there are various preparations. . .”

“Even if the wedding ceremony that requires some preparations is scheduled for later, I can still go there and register our marriage, right? Breaking the deadline set by the other party without any reason would be quite disrespectful, don’t you think?”

As I stared at my father without intending to yield an inch, someone suddenly sighed.

“. . .A three-month disciplinary action.”

Those words were uttered in a casual manner by His Majesty, the king.

“. . .?”

I tilted my head in confusion, and His Majesty sighed again before delivering the difficult news.

“Duke Baytree’s daughter Emmanuella, I was considering how to respond to the letter from the temple. Indeed, as Miss Emmanuella said, the marriage with Margrave Santorina is not a punishment. If we were to treat it as a punishment, it would be a severe insult to the Margrave.”

Yes, that’s right.

Confirming my agreement, His Majesty continued.

“Therefore, your punishment will be a three-month disciplinary action starting today. During these three months, you should refrain from socializing, attending public events, going to school, and of course, marrying into the Margrave’s territory. . .Give your father, who suddenly had to send his daughter far away, at least this much time to prepare mentally.”

“Your Majesty. . .!”

My father said that with a look of gratitude, and I sighed, thinking that it couldn’t be helped.

Well, it’s true that it would be unbalanced to only receive rewards.

Honestly, I’m also relieved that I don’t have to attend the graduation ceremony, which would likely be a needle bed, or face the curious gazes of high society. It would be better to spend some time with my family before getting married.

“. . .Understood. I will comply with Your Majesty’s decision.”

As I reluctantly said that, His Majesty smiled softly.

Most of the matters have been settled.

In that relaxed atmosphere, for some reason, His Majesty, who seemed even more serious, spoke up.

“I apologize. Miss Emmanuella, I have caused you nothing but trouble.”

“N-No, it’s not like that. . .”

“Even though you have a fiancé, my foolish son engaged in a relationship with someone else without respecting you. It was an inexcusable act without any room for excuses. Once again, I apologize.”

I became flustered as His Majesty lowered his head.

“No, I think it’s a good thing that the goddess’ beloved daughter’s heart is connected with His Highness.”

Yes, really.

But if this were an otome game, there would naturally be other routes.

Depending on the partner’s family, there could have been a high possibility of the country being divided into factions supporting the reincarnation of the founding king and the current king.

Above all, if His Highness wasn’t chosen by Delina-chan, then I wouldn’t have been able to marry Rudy-sama.

“. . .I am in awe of your thoughtfulness. For you, as well as for Fortunato, I swear to do everything I can.”

I don’t know if they are unaware of my cunning true intentions or if they are simply turning a blind eye to them.

The presumed villainess seems to have overcome the condemnation event and obtained a sense of indebtedness and gratitude from the ideal fiancé, His Majesty the King, the Crown Prince, and the beloved child of the goddess, a lineup that is too luxurious.

Chapter 6

“. . .We have received a response accepting the proposal we made for the engagement. Miss Emmanuella is to come to our territory in late May, after her suspension is lifted, and intends to immediately register our marriage and start living here,”

Rudy murmured while looking at the letter he received from Duke Baytree’s family in the study of Margrave Santorina’s residence.

Upon hearing Rudy’s words, the elderly butler who had served his family since his father’s time tilted his head in disbelief.

“I, I don’t think that’s possible. . .”

Rudy nodded deeply in agreement with the butler’s words and looked back at the unbelievably written contents of the letter, reading it for the 17th time. However, no matter how many times he read it, it still said the same thing.

There were two documents. One was a document recognizing the engagement between Emmanuella and Rudy, bearing the signatures of Duke Baytree and His Majesty the King. The other was a letter written by Emmanuella herself, which could almost be considered a love letter, expressing her joy for the engagement and apologizing sincerely for the delay in the wedding due to her suspension, promising to come to Margrave Santorina’s territory in three months.

“If you don’t see it with your own eyes, you wouldn’t believe it. Even I can’t believe it. . .You should read it too.”

Rudy quietly handed over two letters and the old butler quickly skimmed through their contents.

With doubts about ambiguous expressions that could be interpreted differently or deceptive wording intended to mislead, the butler cautiously continued reading.

Occasionally, amidst Emmanuella’s overly excited and flowery praises that made him suspect if she had a field of flowers blooming in her brain, he managed to read every corner of the letters.

“. . .Indeed, it seems to be written that way, and I can see it too.”

With a voice that revealed a hint of fatigue, the old butler acknowledged it.

“. . .What should we do?”

“. . .We have no choice but to hurry with the preparations. We must make arrangements to welcome Oku-sama within three months. . .”

After exchanging these words in a somewhat calm tone, both master and servant finally grasped the unexpected situation that served as the premise, and they both became flustered.

“Well, isn’t this strange?! Weren’t they supposed to be resisted and delayed more?!”

“Of course! We assumed that with excuses like not having enough time for preparations, lacking education, family illness, or personal misfortune, she would find some pretext to break off the engagement without coming here for about three years. . .!”

“That’s right, that’s true. Actually, wasn’t it the same with my father?”

“Yes. As a result of repeating that several times, the marriage of the master was delayed, and Rudy-sama’s birth was also delayed, resulting in Rudy-sama becoming a Margrave at such a young age and still unmarried. . .”

“Father already had a terrible appearance, but I surpassed him. . .So, they’ll try to make unreasonable demands like waiting for another month, and then, of course, there will be resistance, so we will make numerous concessions, aiming for a marriage within a year. Isn’t that right?”

“That’s the understanding we have.”

Confirming each other’s understanding, Rudy and the elderly butler let out a deep sigh together.

Then, they looked at the letter that contained the unexpected situation that greatly surprised them once again. With a serious expression, Rudy opened his mouth.

“Could it be that Miss Emmanuella doesn’t know that I am colorless. . .?”

“What are you talking about? There is no one in this country who doesn’t know about your reputation. Besides, you have met her directly and had several conversations. I clearly remember the day you came back, deeply moved, saying, ‘Even though we had a conversation with this ugly face of mine at close range, she didn’t frown or cry.’ ”

“That’s right. That’s why when I heard that she was being accused as a villainess and her engagement was being broken off, I couldn’t stand it and volunteered to become her new fiancé. . .But still, I can’t imagine that she would agree to marry someone like me unless she doesn’t know that I am colorless. . .”

“In that letter, you were praised with words like ‘resembling the brilliance of the moon.’ Miss Emmanuella, she undoubtedly desires a marriage with the ‘Colorless Margrave’ to such an extent. In other words. . .”

“In other words, it means that the current situation that person is in is so difficult. To the point where she has to bestow such praise upon someone like me.”

After the word “in other words,” Rudy clearly voiced the continuation of the butler’s words, which had stumbled.

“. . .Perhaps. Considering that she wishes to move immediately after the end of her confinement, maybe she feels her safety is at risk in the capital. If she can escape and be protected here, it wouldn’t matter if they were colorless.”

Saying so, the old butler wiped away the tears that welled up as he thought about the person his master had feelings for, who was being pushed into such a terrible position.

“To push that compassionate and thoughtful young lady to such an extent. . .!”

Rudy clenched his fist tightly and muttered, his eyes filled with anger and hatred towards the people of the capital who had cornered Emmanuella.

While suppressing the same emotions from welling up in his own eyes, the old butler delivered his message.

“We must quickly arrange everything so that Miss Emmanuella doesn’t face any inconvenience here.”

“Yes, let’s prepare in a hurry. No, maybe we should send something comforting so that she can spend these three months comfortably at the Duke’s residence. Please make arrangements for that as well.”

“Understood. If she cannot leave the Duke’s residence, I believe it should be safe for the time being. However, depending on the situation, we may consider sending some escorts from here.”

“Yes, first, let’s write a reply to the letter and try to gauge the current situation over there.”

“. . .Please do not give an embarrassing and hasty response based on words such as ‘secretly admiring’ or ‘respecting from the bottom of my heart’ mentioned in Miss Emmanuel’s letter.”

“I understand. I am interpreting everything as ‘I need immediate help’ and ‘I am truly in trouble.'”

“That is a wise decision, young master. . .Ah, I mean, should I start calling you ‘Danna-sama’ from now on? Unless you have a long-standing relationship with Danna-sama and know his inner self, it is impossible to believe in things like ‘love at first sight’ as mentioned in the letter.”

“I know, don’t say it again. However, even if it’s a lie, her writing it like that must be her kindness. For the sake of her compassionate and beautiful self, I must do everything I can. . .!”

The young Margrave, who made up his mind and started to hurry, and his faithful old butler didn’t know.

The praise for Rudy written in Emmanuella’s letter and the words that resembled a confession of love were completely sincere, with no falsehood whatsoever.

From the day she arrived in the Margrave’s territory, there were more surprises in her behavior that were beyond what was written in the letter, and she would gradually be more of a handful.

Chapter 7

“Hey, have you heard about the punishment for Duke Baytree’s daughter?”

“Oh, right. It was a three-month house arrest, wasn’t it? Seems a bit lenient. . .”

“That’s not the point! That’s the punishment officially announced by the country and the temple, right?”

“Huh? Is there something else?”

“Do you know that she was removed as the crown prince’s fiancée? And they’ve already chosen the next fiancée. The partner is none other than the ‘Colorless Margrave’ Rudy Santorina!”

“That’s. . .such a cruel. . .”

“Yeah, you think so too, right?! Sure, it’s unacceptable that she bullied the beloved child of the goddess, but from what I’ve heard, all she did was some petty harassment.”

“If someone had thrown powder at their own fiancée, they might do something similar. It just happened that the other party was unfortunate. But for someone as beautiful as Ojou-san to end up marrying someone like that. . .”

“They really went too far, didn’t they?”

“Hey, you two, it seems that’s not the case.”

“Huh?”

“What?”

“It seems that there has been a discussion for a while now about marrying a high magical power princess from the royal family to the Margrave territory.”

“Oh, well, that place is at the forefront in every sense. The current Margrave is said to be incredibly strong even with little magical power, but for the next generation, it’s better to have someone with magical power who is undoubtedly stronger.”

“That place is an important base in many ways, so it’s reassuring to have a strong connection with the royal family.”

“That’s right. Considering all that, I heard that the daughter of Duke Baytree volunteered for the sake of the country.”

“Well. . .she’s not exactly a ‘villainess’, is she?”

“On the contrary, she’s quite. . .a good person?”

“She gave up the position of the crown prince’s bride for the sake of the country and is marrying that Margrave-sama. She’s more than just a good person.”

“. . .Maybe it’s because her relationship with the crown prince had already cooled off, and she’s not the type to get carried away with romance. She’s always been serious and stoic, so maybe that’s why.”

“. . .I hope she finds happiness, Emmanuella-sama. Well, the Margrave may not have a good appearance, but he’s probably wealthy. . .”

“The Margrave’s territory is a wealthy land. Although it’s a place where violent monsters are more likely to appear, it’s also a place where rare and powerful materials can be obtained from those monsters.”

“They have active trade with neighboring countries and seem to be making a lot of profit. Strong adventurers also gather there, and it’s thriving. Oh, by the way, did you hear about. . .”

❂❂❂❂❂❂

Two weeks after the (?) condemnation event.

I, Emmanuella, also known as Duke Baytree’s daughter, who is currently under strict house arrest and has no idea what rumors are circulating, am currently secluded at home, enjoying correspondence with my fiancé, Rudy-sama.

Being completely infatuated with my first romance, I send love letters to him every single day. And Rudy-sama, faithfully, replies to each one. I think it’s because I, with too much free time and magic power, create a set of reply letters that automatically return to me through magic and send them together.

His replies are always simple, summarizing as “Thank you for the letter. Today, this happened here. I’m looking forward to the day I can see you.” But even though the phrase “I’m looking forward to the day I can see you” has become a standard closing, I still find it incredibly delightful. I’m completely overjoyed.

I can learn about life in the Margrave territory, and I can’t stop. I can’t stop at all.

“Emma-chan, are you reading Margrave-sama’s letter again?”

As I read Margrave-sama’s letter with a grin in the salon, which has a good view of the garden, my mother suddenly passed by and said so with a slightly exasperated voice.

I smiled and nodded at my mother, who sat down on the sofa in front of me.

“Yes, Okaa-sama. I really love Margrave-sama’s handwriting. It’s so neat, beautiful, and dignified. . .If I were to receive a love letter in this handwriting, I might be so happy that wings would sprout from my back, and I would fly all the way to the Margrave territory.”

Hmm, as I sighed and stroked his handwriting, my mother sighed as if tired.

“Wow, to be so captivated by letters that are nothing more than standard greetings, like a boring report. . .If it were me, I would have been angry and stopped corresponding a long time ago.”

“I can’t help it. I want to marry Margrave-sama precisely because he is Margrave-sama. But from Margrave-sama’s perspective, he probably just needed a lady with high magical power for the engagement.”

My words made my mother pout in dissatisfaction.

“But look here. Lately, there have been parts in the letters that show concern for my well-being!”

As I said that and pointed out the part written in the latest letter in front of my mother’s eyes, she stared at it for a while and tilted her head.

“. . .’For the protection of Miss Emmanuella, I plan to send several knights from here in the near future’. . .This seems to be saying, ‘Don’t try to escape. We will soon send surveillance personnel,’ or so I can read it.”

My mother said that with a displeased tone, but I don’t think so.

No, if the Margrave does indeed have such possessive feelings towards me, I would be happy about it.

“No, it seems that they received some dangerous rumors about the extremist faction of the beloved children of the goddess in the Margrave territory, and they are very worried. As proof, they seem to be planning to send quite a few elite individuals. When I looked at the list of those who are scheduled to come, Otou-sama muttered ”Excessive force. . .”

“Hmm? The rumors within the country should be somewhat under control at the Duke’s house. . .But I wonder if they haven’t reached over there yet? Recently, I received reports that sympathy towards Emma-chan had been increasing among the people. . .”

My mother tilted her head in wonder, but I continued in my excited state.

“Anyway, it shows that he cares about me. While the letters may give a slightly cool impression, the items that are sent almost every day were all carefully chosen with me in mind.”

“Well. . .I suppose so. I think it’s worth appreciating the praiseworthy nature and financial power that sends you suitable items, Emma-chan.”

“Oh, Okaa-sama, you. . .”

As I chuckled, my mother turned her gaze away with a pouting expression.

My mother, in an attempt to somehow pour cold water on my excitement, is relentless in finding fault with Rudy-sama every day.

However, she has never criticized Rudy-sama’s appearance, which is considered the biggest issue.

I think my mother and I have quite similar sensibilities.

Although she often jokes, saying things like “Men aren’t about looks, it’s about wealth and tolerance,” I know that she occasionally gets captivated by my father’s handsome face. I haven’t confirmed it, but it seems like she wants to keep that aspect, which would be considered unique in terms of beauty standards in this world, a secret.

So, I believe that she appreciates Rudy-sama to some extent, considering that his appearance, apart from his color, is perfect and there’s no room for complaints about his other qualities. Maybe. Hopefully.

Chapter 8

“Emma-chan, you shouldn’t have such a happy face outside of home, you know?”

With my mother’s exasperated voice suddenly saying that, I understand. The problem is not Rudy-sama, but rather that I am too excited.

Well, that makes sense. They probably supported my engagement with Rudy-sama with the expectation that the temple and the noble council would penalize me, but if they knew that I am actually this happy, it wouldn’t be amusing.

Realizing that, I awkwardly glanced around, but my mother just stared at me without saying a word. Resigned, I opened my mouth.

“I, I understand. I will compose myself outside. . .But, I don’t want to have a serious expression that might make Rudy-sama think I’m dissatisfied with this marriage. Um, what kind of expression should I have when I go there?!”

What kind of expression should I have when I leave this house in two and a half months?

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure.

My mother, who was begged by me, tilted her head and answered leisurely.

“Well, let’s see. When it comes to the stage of arriving at the Margrave’s house and greeting everyone there, it should be enough to show a smile for the first time. After all, there are plans to greet various places along the way, and the knights of the Santorina family should accompany you, right? We don’t know who will see and say what, so it’s better to go there calmly and modestly.”

“Calmly, you say. . .”

The Margrave territory is quite far. If it were just me, I feel like I could fly through the air, but I have a maid who plans to come with me, and I have to bring various things, so we are planning a one-week journey by carriage.

Will I be able to maintain such a solemn atmosphere for that long? Even though inside, I’m feeling so happy.

Seeing me lost in thought, my mother let out a heavy sigh.

“Hey, Emma-chan, if you keep smiling like that all the time outside, people will think, ‘What is that villainess plotting now?’ It’s also unfortunate for you, who is currently receiving sympathy, if it seems like you’re not satisfied with everything. It will ruin everything.”

“That would be troublesome. . .”

“If you’re not careful, you might get hit by rotten eggs thrown by the extremist faction of the beloved child of the presumed heroine at your wedding.”

“Ugh. . .I would really hate it if it hit Rudy-sama, who would be next to me. . .”

Finally calming down, or rather, reluctantly admitting it, my mother smiled as if to say, “If you understand, that’s fine.”

Although I want to say that I don’t care about my reputation, as the Margravine, it will greatly influence Rudy-sama, my husband.

In reality, it’s not really the case, but the actions and words that deviate from the image of ‘Duke’s daughter Emmanuella’, which the Duke family is trying hard to promote, such as ‘swallowing everything for the sake of the country’ or ‘determined to fulfill her role without being pessimistic about the harsh fate’, would be better not to do.

At least, in places and situations where I don’t know who is watching.

“Besides, you know, gentlemen tend to prefer the chase, right? It’s better to be a little reserved. I’m sure Margrave-sama will be more interested if you play hard to get.”

Changing the subject, my mother said that in a charming voice, and my ears and consciousness were immediately captivated.

“S-So, that’s. . .Is that Okaa-sama’s experience, who was once called the most glamorous beauty in society and caused duels to break out everywhere during her single days?”

As I cleared my throat and asked, my mother returned a smirk and a vulgar smile.

“Well, who knows? But usually, unless there are many rivals or it’s not completely in your grasp, don’t you think you wouldn’t feel the need to desperately obtain it or hurry up?”

Laughing softly, my mother was indeed the ‘Duchess of Dazzling Beauty’.

Th-this is it. Marrying into the superior Duke family from the Count family, using her beauty (hair) as a weapon, raising two sons and one daughter (I have an older brother and a younger brother), and yet her husband’s love not only shows no signs of fading but grows more passionate every day. . .!

W-Well, maybe I should try to be a bit more dramatic.

Look, with my hair inherited from Okaa-sama, I look like an incredibly beautiful girl in this world.

And after all, the engagement was proposed by them in the first place.

Seeing that my heart is leaning heavily towards ‘Rudy-sama’, my mother smiles mischievously and asks me.

“Why are you so in love with Margrave-sama? I’ve never seen you struggle so much to maintain ‘the behavior befitting a Duke’s daughter’.”

As a former modern person, precisely because I am a former modern person, I have put a lot of effort into behaving appropriately in this world, especially as a Duke’s daughter.

Come to think of it, this might be the first time I’ve made my mother listen to a lecture or persuasion.

“Well, even if you ask me why. . .”

Feeling resistance to talking about love with my mother, I muttered vaguely.

“What do you like about him? When did you start liking him? What was the trigger for falling in love? Can’t you at least tell Mama? Come on?”

However, my mother seems determined not to let up on the pursuit and rapidly asks me with sparkling eyes.

“Even if you ask me what I like about him. . .it’s just that I somehow fell in love, you know? It’s not something like, I like him because I like him. . .”

From my previous life’s perspective, he was extremely handsome, so it was mostly love at first sight. I couldn’t find a way to explain it. Or rather, if I were to say it, I would probably be doubted about my sanity.

Although I said it vaguely, my mother pouts dissatisfied.

“Once you fall in love, you can only see the good points in other aspects, and you just keep falling more and more in love with that person. I understand that. But what about the trigger? The moment you fell in love? There should be something like that, right?”

“Well, um. . .”

Hmm, that’s why it’s difficult to explain the trigger. If my mother, who seems to have a similar sensibility to mine, is fine, maybe. . .

While pondering, I try to resist by somehow using vague words or pretty words to deceive her.

“Well, I can’t explain it, but I think there’s something like falling in love just because. . .you know? Like that time when the king chose a queen based on ankles, maybe he fell in love with that person regardless of hair color, so he just made an excuse that her ankles were more beautiful than anyone else’s. . .right. . .?”

“When choosing a queen, that person made the candidates stand on a special platform, and only their ankles were visible. They couldn’t make the royal family crawl on the floor, and women have reservations about having their feet seen, so it was not good for the ankles to be visible above the ankles. There are official records of the struggles they went through to create the platform.”

King Ankles, you have a deep obsession.

I sighed, holding my head at the unexpected blunder of a great predecessor.

Well, I think it was fine to choose based on ankles since they probably selected from among the noble daughters who could become queen candidates. . .

“. . .Emma-chan, did you also fall for Margrave Santorina because of such a peculiar fetish?. . .What on earth, like the size of his eyes or the height of his nose. . .?”

Oh. Quite close.

As expected of my mother, who has been a mother for 18 years, she came up with quite an accurate answer. However, since she has been a human in this world for 40 years, she said with a look of disgust as if saying, ‘No way, that’s impossible. . .'”

Ugh, it seems hopeless. It seems that ‘once you fall in love, you can only see the good points in other aspects’ applies to my father’s face.

. . .Can’t be helped. I didn’t really want to talk about it, but now is not the time to be embarrassed.

“. . .Just about half a year ago, there was an incident where monsters flooded out from the mountains behind the academy, right?”

I gather my courage and start telling my mother about the day I had my first direct conversation with Rudy-sama.

Although it was mostly love at first sight, I am convinced that this will be enough to satisfy my mother, that day’s memory of Rudy-sama――

Chapter 9

Delphinium Magic Academy.

It was the place where Delina-chan, who bears the name of the beloved child of the goddess and the Crown Prince’s love story, which became the stage of the presumed otome game, took place. I had been attending there until just recently.

Although there may be some variations depending on individual circumstances, the academy, where magic practitioners between the ages of 15 and 18 from all over the country gather, was facing a crisis for the first time since its establishment six months ago.

In recent years, the guardian dragon has weakened, and demon beasts have become more active throughout the country. To the extent that it could be called a flood, herds of demon beasts started rampaging everywhere within the kingdom.

And one day, finally, even though it was on the outskirts, the outbreak of demon beasts reached the Magic Academy located in the royal capital, where the guardian dragon resided.

We, the academy students who could not enter without exceptional aptitude, were, in a sense, elites, although we were still inexperienced. We also had a strong desire to protect the place we attended.

With the determination to stop it at all costs and protect the royal capital, the fledgling academy students were determined to bravely confront the crisis. However. . .

Among the academy students were the Crown Prince, and there were also many children of high-ranking nobles like me. Moreover, beyond the academy, there was the royal capital.

Naturally, reinforcements arrived.

The academy students and faculty members joined forces to set up barriers and seal the demon beasts in the mountains. However, it was not something that could be sealed indefinitely, so while hastily preparing for a counterattack, experts experienced in dealing with demon beasts were dispatched from the kingdom. We joined forces with them to fight.

Huh? There’s an incredibly dazzling handsome knight there? What’s up with that? Isn’t he too cool? You’re kidding me.

When the group of experts was welcomed into the academy, the moment I saw Rudy-sama, who stood at the forefront of the group, I couldn’t help but have a slightly irritated impression of him, who had looks that perfectly matched my preferences.

Despite desperately maintaining the composed mask I had cultivated over the years as a Duke’s daughter, I quietly became irritated by Rudy-sama, who seemed to be trying to shatter that mask just by walking.

Kyaa! He’s so cool! Oh, his legs are long. How many heads tall is he? Wow, his face is handsome too! Can I shake hands with him?! I was on the verge of shouting such things, but I desperately, I mean, really desperately, held back.

“How hideous. . .”

“Hey, isn’t that the colorless Margrave Rudy Santorina? A failure who can’t even use proper magic, why is he here. . .”

“His abilities are undoubtedly excellent, and it’s true that he is experienced in fighting demon beasts. . .Well, honestly, I wish he had considered our morale as well.”

However, the other academy students around me were in a complete uproar, completely opposite to my inner thoughts, which surprised me greatly.

Huh? Huh? Huh?!

What’s with being hideous. . .Oh, his hair and eyes are silver? Is it because the color is pale? Does it even matter? This is a school where people who can use magic are gathered. Rather, in terms of balance, don’t we not need any more wizards? That person seems to be well-trained and has no flaws in his walking style. Moreover, Margrave Santorina is reputed to be a top-class swordsman, right? Failure? Isn’t that more fitting for you fledglings?

And everyone, it’s incredibly disrespectful to say such things about someone who came to help, especially Margrave-sama. . .

Feeling a shiver from my fellow students, I glanced at him and then rushed over to Rudy-sama and the others, deciding to speak to him.

Look, I’m Emmanuella, the eldest daughter of Duke Baytree, a third-year student at Delphinium Magic Academy, and also the fiancée of the Crown Prince. I must be the one in charge or something like that, right? Oh, and it should be me who leads him to the Crown Prince, who would be the true person in charge.

That was just an excuse I came up with while walking, but in reality, I just wanted to get closer to Rudy-sama, the person I thought was the most handsome in the world.

“I sincerely appreciate your presence. I am Emmanuella, a third-year student at Delphinium Magic Academy and the eldest daughter of Duke Baytree.”

As I said that with a graceful curtsy and a smile, Rudy-sama, for some reason, stiffened.

. . .. . .

Without saying anything, without returning my introduction, Rudy-sama’s reaction made me start sweating nervously.

I always scored full marks in etiquette classes. The teacher praised my manners and smile as “‘exquisitely beautiful’.” Did I not leave a good impression? Did I unknowingly do something wrong?

Just as I became anxious, Rudy-sama, who was being tapped on the back by a middle-aged knight standing behind him, suddenly blushed and started speaking in a flustered manner.

“. . .! Excuse me, um, ah, well, it was unexpected, or rather, I was captivated. . .Ah, it must be unpleasant! I mean, I am far inferior to Duke Baytree’s daughter, so there’s no need to show such courtesy. Well, um, excuse me! I am, well, Rudy, the Margrave of Santorina!”

Seeing Rudy-sama in a panic, I couldn’t help but laugh. It was inevitable.

“Fufufu, Margrave Santorina-sama, please don’t get so flustered. It’s true that my father is a Duke, but I am still a mere inexperienced academy student. In the battle against demon beasts, we academy students should follow your instructions, so I thought it would be appropriate to show my respect.”

As I chuckled and said so, Rudy-sama suddenly became serious.

“. . .A goddess?”

The meaning of the words that slipped out of Rudy-sama’s mouth was unclear.

???

As I tilted my head slightly and smiled with a “just smile for now” mentality, Rudy-sama coughed deliberately, as if he was trying to act.

“Excuse me. I’m not accustomed to being approached by young women to this extent, let alone being smiled at by such a beautiful person. I got flustered. Um, Duke Baytree’s daughter, may I confirm the current situation?”

“Of course, please come this way. Oh, and you can just call me Emmanuella without any honorifics. Regardless of our family names, I would like to be treated as a mage under your command.”

As I said that with a smile, being called ‘beautiful’ and all, it felt like I was floating in happiness.

It was a lie.

The talk about being underlings or whatever is just a flimsy excuse I came up with. I simply want to get closer to Rudy-sama.

As I persistently requested to be called by his first name and aggressively tried to shorten the distance between us, Rudy-sama, who clearly isn’t accustomed to women, blushed intensely and then awkwardly lowered his eyebrows and smiled.

Oh, his handsome embarrassed smile has such incredible destructive power! It’s like a luxurious assortment set of coolness and cuteness. . .!

Uh-oh, I feel like I’m falling in love. . .!

As someone who is engaged, I swallowed up those feelings of admiration and concern that almost slipped out from my heart and didn’t put them into words.

Chapter 10

Type and scale of the demon beasts that appeared, what the prominent students and faculty members can and cannot do, which areas of the school grounds are assumed to be combat zones, facilities and equipment available at the school, and other miscellaneous topics, followed by a bit of small talk.

As we guided the group towards Prince Fortunato, who was standing at the rear of the group, Rudy-sama mostly asked questions and we talked about various topics.

The more I looked at Rudy-sama, the cooler he seemed, and since I was allowed to call him “Rudy-sama,” I think I was in a good mood throughout.

I may have been grinning the whole time due to my determination as the Duke’s daughter, but I’m not very confident.

Well, that was until I saw the face of Prince Fortunato, who is my fiancé.

. . .Delina-chan, I wonder if you could just go for the Prince Fortunato route.

For now, the two of us are maintaining a distance as close friends. However, as the presumed villainess who is secretly attracted to him, I keenly feel the barrier between us.

If the Prince would just break off our engagement, I could wholeheartedly pursue Rudy-sama.

As I was being brought back to reality, Rudy-sama and the Prince seemed to have reached an agreement.

With Rudy-sama and others who are accustomed to fighting demon beasts and excel in close combat at the front, and us students who can unleash powerful magic if given enough time but are still inexperienced, positioned at the rear, we roughly determined our battle formation and started moving.

Thanks to the high abilities of those at the front, we were successful in steadily reducing the number of demon beasts.

However, due to being the daughter of a high-ranking noble and having abundant magical power, I was positioned quite far back.

To be honest, I couldn’t see very well.

I wanted to see it.

I really wanted to see Rudy-sama’s achievements with my own eyes.

Since not many demon beasts were coming from the rear, I think I let my guard down a bit.

As the battle progressed, the formation began to break, and students who were running out of magic power or exhausted started falling back. In the midst of that, I gradually realized that I had been pushing too far forward. It was a painful realization.

Most demon beasts resemble beasts running on the ground, but occasionally, there are creatures that break that norm.

For example, during the outbreak of demon beasts, there are times when wyverns that soar through the sky appear.

Using my abundant magical power, I was constantly unleashing high-level magic, which I think was very disruptive from the perspective of the horde of demon beasts.

Were they trying to crush their enemy’s main artillery―me―or were they trying to at least retaliate against me, who had killed many of their comrades?

The students, including me, were foolishly casting magic, as if to bypass the group of demon beasts rather than facing them head on, the wyverns, though small, had the power of the strongest species and whirled through the air, dancing in mid-air.

A flying wyvern, with its impressive power despite being smaller tha a dragon, raced through the sky and stared straight at me, flying in from the side.

Ah.

This is. . .

Death.

“Emma-samaaa!!”

“Miss Emmanuella. . .!”

Delina-chan and the Prince shouted at the same time, but it sounded distant.

As I felt the impending sense of death, my knees weakened, and I collapsed to the ground, tightly closing my eyes.

In an instant, a loud, hard sound echoed.

It doesn’t hurt.

I’m not dead yet?

“Miss Emmanuella, are you alright?!”

As I slowly opened my eyes, Rudy-sama, who was out of breath, said that while using his sword to intercept the sharp claws of the flying wyvern that was coming straight towards me, protecting me on its back.

Confirming that I was okay, he forcefully pushed back the flying wyvern that was evenly matched with him using his sword.

“. . .You damn lizard, don’t get carried away!!”

Rudy-sama shouted at the wyvern, which had become unsteady in mid-air, and swiftly sliced its abdomen with a decisive sword strike.

Oh, how unexpectedly wild.

I thought that, but seeing this seemingly innocent person who had been visibly flustered by my smile earlier, I couldn’t help but feel a flutter in my heart at this unexpected side of him.

Rudy-sama, who seemed to have confirmed the wyvern’s demise as it fell to the ground, sheathed his sword and turned to me.

“Are you injured. . .?”

Flutter, flutter.

His gently sweet voice as he softly inquired conveyed his genuine concern for me. The contrast between this and his rough and dependable appearance from earlier once again made my heart race.

“Thanks to Rudy-sama, I’m not injured at all. I apologize. I went too far earlier.”

Apologizing, I lowered my head deeply.

“No, thanks to you being in that position, I was able to make it in time. Please raise your head.”

As I looked up in response to his words, Rudy-sama had a smile that seemed genuinely relieved.

“Thank goodness you’re safe, but your complexion doesn’t look very good. It would be better for you to step back and rest for a while. It seems that there are no more enemies that can fly. Can you stand up?”

I wanted to follow Rudy-sama’s words.

Actually, I’ve been trying to stand up many times since earlier, but I don’t seem to be able to stand up at all.

“Um. . .my hip. . .dislocated.”

When I honestly confessed this pitiful fact, Rudy-sama showed a thoughtful gesture for a moment.

“. . .Is there anyone else, ah, never mind. . .I know it’s unpleasant, but it’s an emergency, so I would appreciate your understanding. I apologize.”

After glancing around to check the situation, he said that and gently, effortlessly slipped his hands under the back of my knees and behind my back, lifting me up. . .Me! I’m being carried like a princess by Rudy-sama!!

Hyoe. Hyoeee.

With my field of vision suddenly lifted, the handsome face of a dashing type approaching me, and the sturdy physique of the person I admire being in such close proximity――I was on the verge of panicking.

“Ru-Rudy-sama! I’m, heavy, I’m heavy!”

Although I panicked and made a fuss, Rudy-sama continued to walk with a firm step as if he didn’t feel any weight, and he smiled gently.

“Duke Baytree’s daughter is as light as a feather.”

Well, even feathers can become the weight of a full-grown adult woman if you gather enough of them!

No, that’s not it!

“You called me ‘Miss Emmanuella’ earlier, and it’s lonely! If you want, you can call me Emma!”

Ah, that’s not it either!

In a state of panic, or rather, having fallen into a full-blown panic, I found myself shouting without thinking.

“. . .! I was prepared to be insulted with ‘You’re disgusting, let me go’, but when you blush so much and say such adorable things. . .”

Rudy-sama said that with a troubled expression, and his cheeks turned red as if reflecting mine.

“No, it’s not disgusting at all. Just a little embarrassing. In fact, I’m captivated by Rudy-sama’s strength. . .”

Although my voice gradually became quieter due to embarrassment, I firmly conveyed that to him.

I didn’t want to give him such a sad reaction for his kindness.

Upon hearing my words, Rudy-sama trembled as if suppressing something, looked at me in his arms, and spoke.

“Please don’t tease me too much. . .Miss Emmanuella.”

Kyuuuuun!

His handsome blushing face, so precious!

And just being called by him makes my name seem wonderful!

I wanted to shout that out, and at that moment, my field of vision seemed to be dyed pink. It was because at that moment, I had already fallen deeply in love with Rudy-sama, to the point where there was no turning back. . .

No, not really.

In reality, Delina-chan, who was behind Rudy-sama, was shining pink.

At the moment when Delina-chan thought I was going to die, she strongly wished to ‘save me’ at the same time as Prince Fortunato.

Delina-chan awakened as the ‘beloved child of the goddess’, heard the voice of the goddess, and was blessed together with the Crown Prince.

Yes, it was at this moment that Delina-chan awakened as the beloved child.

Thanks to Delina-chan’s actions after awakening, the outbreak of demon beasts at that time was brought under control without a single injury.

During the following six months, Delina-chan flourished and grew, performing brilliantly in various places alongside the Crown Prince.

From ‘Could it be the beloved child?’ to ‘Indeed, she is the beloved child!’ to the complete revival of the guardian dragon, she was widely recognized as ‘You are the beloved child!’ in a grand manner.

❂❂❂❂❂❂

“. . .So, that’s what happened during the first active role of the beloved child.”

After listening to my story, where I somehow managed to hide my compliments about Rudy-sama’s appearance, my mother nodded in admiration and said, “I see, I see.”

“In other words, the trigger was when he saved your life. I suppose you were drawn to Margrave’s strength and simplicity, his dual nature. . .?”

Summing it up like that, my mother still seemed somewhat unconvinced, tilting her head.

Well, since I can’t talk about how I fell for his appearance at first, there are some unnatural aspects to my words and actions.

“Well, it’s fine. I may not fully understand why or how you came to like him, but I can tell that Emma-chan really loves him.”

Saying that, my mother smiled refreshingly, a smile that seemed relieved and relieved of tension.

Could it be that even my mother was worried, thinking that I was behaving like ‘I’m actually enduring it, but trying to act cheerfully and failing miserably’?

Chapter 11

I had gained understanding from my family, and my secluded life centered around correspondence with Rudy-sama was passing peacefully without any issues.

It was an afternoon on a certain day when I was thinking that May was already approaching, and I should start preparing in earnest for my journey and marriage, as my confinement would be lifted next week.

Unexpectedly, I had a visitor.

“Emma-samaaa!”

In the reception room of our welcoming home, even before exchanging greetings, the beloved daughter of the goddess, the presumed heroine, Delina-chan, tightly embraced me.

And standing behind her with a somewhat melancholic expression was Crown Prince Fortunato.

It had been since the condemnation event(?), the two of them.

. . .Well, we are friends and this is an unofficial setting, so formal greetings are unnecessary.

Especially since Delina-chan has become superior to anyone else.

“Long time no see, Crown Prince Fortunato, Delina-sa. . .Delina-chan.”

As I was about to call her Delina-sama, I was met with a cute pouting face, and after giving a rather sloppy greeting, I gently separated Delina-chan from me.

“It’s been a while, Emma-sama. I wanted to come earlier, but I’ve been constantly busy with procedures, training, education, and greetings. . .I’ve been overwhelmed with all sorts of things.”

As I slipped away from her, Delina-chan was gently pulled back by the Crown Prince and said so with a gradually dejected tone.

“Thank you. You’re working hard. I’m really happy that you came to see me despite being so busy.”

As I said that and gently stroked her head, as I used to do at school, Delina-chan smiled happily, and the Crown Prince’s melancholy deepened.

If you favor one side, the other side will be left out. . .Well, it’s fine. I’ll leave the Crown Prince alone.

“Well, let’s sit down for now. . .Oh, Delina-chan, over here?. . .I see. Well, I don’t mind. . .”

As I, a member of the household, prompted them to take a seat, Delina-chan, who was pressing forward without saying a word, ended up sitting on the two-seater sofa next to me, and the Crown Prince sat on the single-seater sofa placed at a 90-degree angle next to her.

. . .It would have been better if they sat facing me.

Perhaps it was consideration not to be too affectionate in front of me, who was once the Crown Prince’s fiancée.

Delina-chan was all smiles, but I wish the Crown Prince’s melancholy would stop.

“Well, then, let’s get to the point. . .Um, what exactly is the matter today? The letter I received said, ‘I want you to see what I can do now’. . .”

I asked, trying to change the atmosphere somehow.

Delina-chan’s face brightened up and she smiled as she answered.

“Oh, right. That’s right! I can use a new magic now! So, before you leave, Emma-sama, I absolutely wanted to show it to you. . .”

“Oh, what kind of wonderful magic is it? Since you came with Crown Prince Fortunato, could it be related to your role as the beloved daughter. . .?”

“Hehe. That’s right, Emma-sama! Just the other day, the goddess appeared in my dream and taught me. It’s like, a kind of pre-emptive magic. . .”

As Delina-chan said that, she glanced at the Crown Prince, who had been completely left out.

“You know about the blessings that Delina and I, as the beloved children, receive from the goddess, right? It’s like a simplified version of that.”

I nodded in response to the Crown Prince’s words.

I knew. The blessings of the goddess were like being invincible, with constant immunity to all status abnormalities and attacks.

The two of them, who would probably survive even if the world were to be destroyed, stood up and held hands, standing in front of me.

“Even though it’s a simplified version, I want to. . .”

Honestly, it felt presumptuous. That’s what I thought.

“Because you are our benefactor!”

“You’ve been inconvenienced by us. Please let us do at least this much.”

“Ah, thank you very much. . .”

Overwhelmed by their words and smiles, I expressed my gratitude.

“Well then. . .”

“Yeah.”

“Shall we begin?”

With those brief words exchanged, His Highness and Delina-chan, still holding hands, began to pray.

“For our dear friend, Emmanuella.”

“For our beloved benefactor, Emmanuella.”

“For the blessings and protection of the goddess. . .”

In perfect unison, the moment they spoke those words, a pink light emitted from Delina-chan enveloped my entire body.

It felt warm and had a slightly refreshing scent.

The pleasant light gently absorbed into my skin and disappeared.

“How is it? How is it? Did I become more adorable just now?!”

As I couldn’t take my eyes off the light that vanished, Delina-chan, who had somehow returned to sit next to me, asked with a proud expression.

Since I didn’t feel any sense of dignity from her now, I was tempted to casually interact with her like I used to when we were at school.

Indeed, Delina-chan just now was incredibly mystical.

“You looked very beautiful. Thank you.”

As I bowed my head, Delina-chan puffed up her cheeks.

“Please stop with the formal language! And I want to be praised more than thanked!”

“Well, without explaining the effects, there’s nothing to praise, right?”

“Oh, that’s true.”

Delina-chan, who was calmly pointed out by His Highness, clapped her hands.

“Thanks to that, Emma-sama won’t die so easily anymore.”

“Huh, what’s that? It sounds scary.”

Delina-chan had an extremely triumphant look, but I trembled more than I expected because I had been given something with a significant effect.

“Delina, your explanation is too vague. . .Um, let me explain. Miss Emmanuella will automatically return to her previous state when she is in a life-threatening situation, ensuring that she won’t die.”

“That’s. . .well, it seems like I’ve been given something quite remarkable.”

I trembled again at the explanation from the Crown Prince.

What a relay. Even though this is a world with magic, I’ve never heard of something with such a powerful effect.

“Well, it’s not that big of a deal. There are quite a few restrictions on it. First, it can only be used on someone we genuinely care about. Also, it seems that it won’t work if the person receiving it doesn’t have abundant magical power, even if it’s cast in advance. But with Emma-sama, both of those are not a problem. And finally, a kiss from someone you love is necessary.”

Delina-chan said in a light tone.

Wait. Wasn’t the last part a bit strange?

“. . .A kiss from someone you love?”

I wanted her to tell me it was a lie. While thinking that, I asked, but Delina-chan nodded as if it were obvious.

“Yes. In order to return to the previous state, it’s necessary to put the body into a deep, deep sleep once. And the goddess said that without a kiss from someone you love, you won’t wake up from that sleep.”

“. . .Why?”

“Something like, ‘There’s no point in being resurrected in a world without someone you love,’ the goddess said.”

“Well, it’s quite a theory of the goddess of love. . .!”

As I groaned, Delina-chan laughed heartily.

It’s not a relay, it’s a revival (otome game style). . .!

“It’s true. If the state of deep sleep continues for too long, it’s natural that you’ll weaken. Worst-case scenario, you might stay like that. That’s why it’s better to inform the people around you for emergencies. Delina and I can explain it as well.”

His Highness calmly said, and I asked him.

“That’s very kind of you, but the part about ‘someone you love’ seems like quite a high hurdle. . .Can it be parental love or something like that?”

“I don’t know about that, but since it mentions a kiss, it’s likely to be a love relationship. However, it’s better not to activate something like this if possible. Personally, I think it’s meaningful for the people around you, and even more so if it becomes widely known.”

“Ah, like a symbol of reconciliation. . .”

I see, that’s appreciated.

It’s probably best not to think too much about what happens after the blessing is activated if I don’t come close to death.

What’s important is that “I have already been forgiven” by the beloved daughter of the goddess and even received her blessings. It’s truly appreciated that there’s a reason to spread this to those around me.

“Thank you, Delina-chan. It’s amazing that I can use such a wonderful magic!”

I expressed my heartfelt gratitude and praised her as she requested, gently stroking Delina-chan’s head.

Delina-chan laughed happily, and the expression on His Highness’s face lost all expression.

Chapter 12

On the morning when my house arrest ended, the day I was finally going on my journey.

In the hall of Duke Baytree’s residence, my mother’s serious voice and my voice echoing back her words with equal seriousness resounded.

“Serious!”

“Serious!”

“Don’t smirk!”

“Don’t smirk!”

“If possible, with an expression befitting a proud Duke’s daughter who has made up her mind for the future despite the uncertainties!”

“If possible, with an expression befitting a proud Duke’s daughter who has made up her mind for the future despite the uncertainties!”

What kind of expression is that exactly. . .

“If it seems impossible, then maintain a blank expression!”

“If it seems impossible, then maintain a blank expression!”

Well, yeah, if that’s the case, then somehow.

As I continued to echo my mother’s words while thinking about such things, I noticed that my father, brother, and younger brother, who had already bid me farewell, along with our household staff, were struggling to hold back their laughter as their shoulders shook.

I understand. I would probably laugh too if I weren’t directly involved.

But Okaa-sama is serious to the core. . .

“Mama will finally convey all the advice that she wants to tell you. Keep it in a corner of your heart and set off on your journey. Now, Emma-chan, repeat after me!” This marked the beginning of my mother’s truly numerous words.

Among them were things like “Be mindful of dressing slightly warmer during the changing seasons to avoid catching a cold!” and “Come back to your family home at least once every six months!” There were also words from my mother, worrying about her child who is about to become independent.

As a Duchess, as a wife who continues to be loved by her husband, there were also things that made me think, “I see.”

In any case, every word shows that she genuinely cares about me.

That’s why I responded earnestly.

Even if there were some things mixed in that made me think, “What on earth is this?”

Even if there were some slightly off advice that made me want to laugh because it was so earnestly serious.

I continued to earnestly echo those words filled with my mother’s love.

“. . .Lastly, if you can just keep this one thing in mind, you can forget or ignore everything I’ve said so far.”

Suddenly, my mother’s voice became quiet as she said that.

Without repeating those words, I waited for my mother to continue.

“. . .Absolutely, no matter what, be happy!”

“Ab-absolutely. . .no matter what, be happy!”

Although my voice became teary as I unexpectedly heard those words, I managed to finish repeating them.

Yes, I will be happy.

I may be the villainess, and in the eyes of the temple and the public, I may still be seen as the wicked woman who bullied the beloved child. But I will definitely be happy.

Because I am the cherished daughter of this wonderful family, who has been loved so much by my mother.

I will definitely show that I can be happy.

“Yes, yes, now that the charade is over, please get on the carriage quickly, Emmanuella-sama.”

Interrupting the somewhat solemn atmosphere, came the cold voice of that maid.

“Oh my, what a farce, Lilyria-chan.”

“Ah, I apologize. However, the scheduled departure time is approaching, so please hurry.”

Without being fazed by my mother, who puffed up her cheeks, the Duchess calmly responded with her name, Lilyria.

Lilyria, who has been living with us since I was six years old and she was ten, is now 22 years old. She has ice-blue hair and slightly darker blue eyes, making her a legal loli.

She has a petite figure and a face that is exceptionally small. Her features are as cute as a doll, but her hair color is light. Therefore, unbelievably, she was abandoned by her family, the Viscount household, due to her unattractive appearance and her poor compatibility with her stepmother after giving birth to the heir. We took her in and protected her.

The Viscount couple, who neglected her to the point where it can be speculated that it stunted her growth, went so far as to claim, “We never had a daughter like Lilyria in our house.” I secretly cursed them with all my might. In this world, losing hair or turning white is a major event, but as a girl skilled in dark magic, I thought I could do it, so I did.

Well, the result is that no one has seen the Viscount couple in high society since then, so I guess it was probably successful.

Although she is currently my maid, she was brought into our house more as a playmate and sister figure due to those circumstances. She has no reservations when it comes to our family.

And perhaps due to the aftermath of neglect or something else, despite her sweet and adorable appearance, she has a sharp and prickly personality. She only speaks harsh words.

However, she decided without hesitation to accompany me as I marry and move to the distant Margrave territory. She is actually a very good girl. We grew up together, so she understands me well. I like her straightforward way of speaking because it’s easy to understand.

“Once again, I entrust my daughter to you, Lilyria. If anything happens, please inform me immediately.”

“Of course, Lilyria-chan, I’m counting on you.”

Lilyria, who was emphasized by her lady and mother, nodded expressionlessly.

“Yes, yes. If Emmanuella-sama’s mind starts overflowing with fantasies, I will even punch her to stop it. Until she met Margrave-sama and her mind became a garden of flowers, she was a perfect young lady who wouldn’t be embarrassed no matter where she went. Don’t worry.”

“Yes, that’s right. I intended to give you an education befitting a future queen. . .but lately. . .well. . .please take care, Lilyria-chan!”

“Leave it to me.”

The maid and mother are terrible.

Well, since the reliable and capable Lilyria, who is trusted by both my parents, is accompanying me, I’ll assume that everything will be fine. Yes.

After deeply bowing to my parents, Lilyria raised her face and looked at me. Despite her small and adorable cherry blossom-colored lips, which only speak sharp words, she opened her mouth.

“Well, Emmanuella-sama, stop dawdling and let’s go already. Oh, before we go outside, please tighten up that silly expression of yours.”

“I’m sorry, Lilyria. I’ll be careful. Well then, Otou-sama, Okaa-sama, everyone. . .I’m off!”

Even though I had just recited the instructions from my mother a while ago, it seemed that my expression had still faltered. So, I tightened my expression and gathered my determination as I headed outside.

Once I take even a single step out of here, I won’t know whose eyes will be watching me.

Come to think of it, it’s been three months since I last went outside, except for our family garden.

“. . .If anyone tries to hinder Emmanuella-sama’s happiness, this time, I will definitely eliminate them. You just need to walk confidently and be happy.”

I heard Lilyria’s voice filled with determination from behind me, and it sent a slight chill down my spine.

“In this battlefield where I can follow you, there’s no way I’ll let you lose, right?”

Lilyria said with a slight laugh, and my back straightened in response to her words.

Being four years older and born as a noble lady, albeit with little magical power, Lilyria couldn’t attend school with me.

After my fate was decided, my mother secretly told me that Lilyria was crying tears of frustration because she “couldn’t do anything.”

With the determination of “this time, definitely,” and her reliable words, my tear ducts were slightly stimulated, and the feeling of wanting to be happy, no matter what, welled up within me once again.

“Lilyria, you’re still cute, aren’t you?”

“Are you blind or something?”

“That’s not true! Lilyria is my adorable, adorable, adorable maid, who I’m proud of no matter how you look at her!”

“Are you making fun of me? I may be shorter, but I’m actually much older than you.”

Mixed with a sigh, I was retorted, but I couldn’t help but think she was still cute. This tsundere.

Oh, no. I shouldn’t be grinning like this. Rotten eggs are scary.

So ‘tightening my expression’, plus ‘stimulating my tear ducts a little’, plus ‘the feeling that I absolutely, no matter what, want to be happy’, as a result, at that time, I left the house with, to others, a proud Duke’s daughter expression who had resolved to do it for the country despite having anxiety about the future. I later heard rumors about it.

What kind of expression was it exactly. . .

Chapter 13

On the 6th day of our journey, around noon, we arrived at a point where the town we were about to reach was already part of Margrave Santorina’s territory.

However, that place was still at the very edge of the Margrave’s territory, and the central town where Lord Rudy-sama resided was still a one-night, two-day journey away.

“. . .Finally, huh?”

As I said that, Lilyria, who was riding in the same carriage as me, nodded quietly.

Yes. Finally, in the next town, I would have to part ways with everyone from the Duke Baytree family except for Lilyria.

Since the Margrave Santorina family was supposed to send someone to pick me up, we would hand over the responsibility to them.

“Hey, Lilyria, this will be the last chance for everyone to go back together, right?”

When I asked again, Lilyria stared at me with a sharp gaze that was like not directed at her master and opened her mouth with a displeased expression.

“How many times do I have to say it? I have no intention of leaving Emmanuella-sama. Since the day I was picked up by you, I have belonged to you, body and soul.”

“You don’t have to be so desperate.”

Although I said that, taken aback by her strong resistance, Lilyria seemed even more displeased.

“Huh? After saving my life so brilliantly, did you really think you could just abandon me now? You underestimate the situation. Besides, even if I were told to go back, I have no home to return to.”

“Leaving your birth family aside, everyone in our family considers you as part of the family. Okaa-sama, who lamented having only sons and becoming a family of men, would be very happy if you returned, even if it was just you. . .”

“Well, that may be true. I think so too. However, I have been entrusted with Emmanuella-sama by Oku-sama. I will only return when I am with you, and occasional visits are enough.”

No matter what I said, Lilyria’s determination did not waver.

Hmm, this is troublesome.

I’m glad she’s coming with me, but now that it’s finally happening, I can’t help but feel guilty that I’ll be the only one happy, and I’m concerned that I might be interfering with Lilyria’s happiness. . .

“Lilyria, I want you to be happy too. Are you sure you don’t mind not coming back with everyone else? Like the person you left behind over there. . .”

“There is no one.”

Lilyria replied with so confidently, but that couldn’t be true, so I further questioned her.

“Well, no, you know, the person who was approaching you so eagerly. . .”

“I don’t have it.”

“That’s a lie! I’ve been forced to mediate between you and receive letters and presents from you countless times during our school days!”

As I couldn’t help but shout, Lilyria, who seemed to finally understand who we were talking about, nodded once.

“Ah. . .that was just teasing. There’s no way someone like me, an older woman who has been disowned by her family, would be taken seriously interested by him.”

“. . .That’s not true. . .”

“Is that so? Then, I have no interest in that person. Our worlds are too different.”

Knowing his true passion for Lilyria, I weakly tried to argue, but I was promptly dismissed.

Yeah, there’s probably no chance here.

Sorry, Callan. It looks like Lilyria will end up with me. . .

In my heart, I apologize to Callan Gladiolus, who loves Lilyria, the center of our conversation.

He should have made a serious approach to Lilyria.

Therefore, if this world were an otome game, he would be included among the male characters whom the player can capture, and he was a central figure in the school and highly skilled.

Well, he gave off a slightly intense feeling, though.

But that was a good balance with cool lilyria. . ., or so i thought, but maybe it was just my own opinion. Oh well.

“If Lilyria isn’t interested, then there’s nothing we can do. But if you ever fall in love, don’t hesitate to tell me.”

“Yes, yes, I understand. But more importantly, we’ll be arriving soon. Please make sure you’re prepared.”

I let out a sigh as Lilyria casually brushed off my modest request.

I wonder if you really understand. . .

❂❂❂❂❂❂

We entered the town and walked with the knights and soldiers who had come from the Margrave Santorina family to the meeting place with the other party.

The people from the Duke Baytree family we had just parted with should be handing over the luggage they brought to the waiting carriage.

So during that time, we were planning to have lunch with the representative of the other family and meet face-to-face in this town. However. . .?

. . .?

Huh, there’s someone outside the designated shop who shouldn’t be here. . .?

Oh, wait. I’m still in my travel attire. I completely let my guard down.

But even from a distance, that well-proportioned figure with silver hair is undoubtedly Rudy-sama himself. . .?!

“Miss Emmanuella, welcome. We have been eagerly awaiting your arrival.”

Gwahh, so dazzling!

He noticed us, hurried over, and said so with a refreshing smile. I thought my eyes were going to close from his handsome appearance and radiance.

“T-Thank you very much. I appreciate the warm welcome. Wait, um, was Rudy-sama supposed to personally greet me?!”

I’m in travel attire! I let my guard down!

With my hair and everything, I’m not in a state where I can confidently show myself to someone I like. In my confusion, I couldn’t help but shout.

I don’t even know what expression to make.

Rudy-sama takes my trembling hand and gently escorts me into the shop, while announcing,

“It wasn’t part of the plan. . .but I wanted to show my respect to you.”

???

I don’t quite understand the meaning behind his words as he smiles shyly.

Respect? What?

Respect? There’s no way that’s true.

“Um, well, what does that mean. . .”

“It’s better to discuss the details after we’re alone. Come this way.”

Without answering my question, Rudy-sama smoothly leads the way through the restaurant, which looks surprisingly luxurious for a town like this.

Since the staff doesn’t try to stop us, it seems like the conversation has already been approved.

Wait, no, I have no idea about the details that need to be discussed in such a fancy restaurant. I don’t have a clue.

What is going on?

Is there a major misunderstanding here?

We enter a secluded private room on the second floor. It’s the farthest room in the back, and it’s clearly the best seat in the entire restaurant. Still in a state of confusion, I sit down, and Rudy-sama kneels beside me, his expression serious as he begins to speak.

“I have read all the letters from Miss Emmanuella. Seeing how much you have struggled, I couldn’t help but shed tears along with my household.”

“. . .Huh?”

My letters? I thought they were just fluffy love letters mixed with occasional poems?

No, that’s not it. I mixed in poems because it’s the standard in this country, not because I was overly excited. Well, maybe I was a little.

But still, there shouldn’t be any tears or struggles involved, right?!

What does he mean?!

“My sword, my soldiers, my family’s wealth, and all the power of Margrave Santorina’s territory, I will follow your will. Let us seek glorious revenge against those who have driven such a splendid person as yourself to this remote land, even surpassing the goddess herself!”

Rudy-sama declares with a needlessly powerful voice, and for a moment, time stands still for me.

I see. Revenge, huh? That’s definitely a topic to discuss after the engagement. . .

Wait, revenge?! That’s unnecessary!

And besides, I wasn’t driven away. I came here willingly to marry into this land!

In this utterly confusing situation, Lilyria, who was standing behind me, inexplicably starts applauding as if praising him.

“You said it well. Miss Emmanuella is not someone who would settle for this kind of situation. I will also do my best, though my abilities are limited.”

“What are you saying, Lilyria! No! I won’t seek revenge! It’s not necessary!”

As I shout without thinking, Lilyria clicks her tongue, and Rudy-sama tilts his head.

“. . .You won’t? Then, why did you come all the way to this remote place, surrounded by knights, soldiers, and adventurers, where the only thing we have is military power?”

Why am I the one who seems strange here?

With a puzzled expression, Rudy-sama asks me, making me lose confidence as I answer.

“Well, um, it’s because I want to marry Rudy-sama.”

In an instant, for some reason, Rudy-sama’s expression darkens.

“. . .So, I’m not worthy of your trust to the extent that you won’t speak your true intentions?”

As he asks with a dejected tone, I feel guilty, but wait, why should he be dejected?

“No, um, there’s no deeper meaning to it. I simply wanted to marry Rudy-sama, that’s all. Earlier, you mentioned being ‘driven away,’ but I haven’t been driven away by anyone. I had the option of studying abroad, but I eagerly accepted the marriage proposal from the Santorina family.”

“Um, so, Miss Emmanuella agreed to the marriage with our family because we seemed useful in some way, right. . .?”

“No, that’s not it! I just want to marry Rudy-sama! Wait, did you really read all my letters?!”

???

Rudy-sama and I both have question marks floating above our heads, completely lost in this confusion, as we have our first meeting as an engaged couple.

That’s right. It’s our first meeting as an engaged couple, and yet, there’s no sweet atmosphere that I had expected beforehand.

What is this?

What kind of grand misunderstanding is happening here?

Chapter 14

Let’s organize the situation.

Um, it seems that my letter was either switched somewhere or I unintentionally used a local idiom without knowing, or perhaps rumors of a version where I’m going through a terrible ordeal have reached this place, leading them to believe that I want revenge against the royal family, Delina-chan, or the temple. Is that right?

I have no idea what caused this misunderstanding, but for now, it’s bad that they think I want revenge. Very bad. That’s like a crime of treason.

I have absolutely no outrageous ambitions like that, and I have no intention of putting Rudy-sama in danger.

We can investigate the cause later, but for now, we should quickly clear up this misunderstanding.

“Well, first of all, Delina-chan and I. . .we’re actually quite good friends. We attend the same academy and teach each other things. We call each other Emma-sama and Delina-chan. Just recently, she gave me a special blessing before I set off on my journey.”

To convey that I have no intention of opposing Delina-chan, who would be the last person I should make an enemy of, I began explaining from this point.

However, Rudy-sama frowned uncomfortably and muttered in a low voice.

“To take away the fiancée of a close friend and exile her to a remote region. . .that’s quite wicked. Perhaps it would be best to burn both them and the temple that worships such a person?”

“Don’t burn them! Um, well, since everyone already knows about this, I’ll just say it. The relationship between me and Crown Prince Fortunato, well, it had already grown cold. We were originally engaged for political reasons, and we’ve known each other as relatives for a long time, so we never had any romantic feelings for each other. Therefore, I don’t feel any bitterness about him being ‘taken away,’ or rather, I honestly don’t even feel like he was taken away from me.”

In response to Rudy-sama’s alarming statement, I desperately continued to explain. It was dangerous. It was a dangerous statement that almost made my long-used cat disguise cat want to leave in an instant.

“But the position of the queen, the most esteemed woman in the country, is more suitable for Miss Emmanuella, don’t you think?”

In response to Rudy-sama’s serious expression, I couldn’t help but respond with a dry laugh.

“No, it’s just that there was no one else suitable, so I agreed to it. I myself don’t really desire such a grand position. It comes with responsibilities, after all. Besides, the social scene is ruthless, and the palace is the epitome of that. I’m not very good at that kind of thing. . .”

No, really. If I were deemed unsuitable for that position, I would be quickly dragged down. At least, I was terrified.

If, like Delina-chan, just being there is enough to be valued, then there would be many allies and I would be safe.

Oh, yes, I’m really glad that Delina-chan chose the Crown Prince. . .

As I found myself lost in thought, Rudy-sama nodded in response.

“I’m not good at socializing either. . .Well, in our case, we have some distance from others, and it’s not desirable for the lord to leave this region, so we’re generally exempt from that. However, Miss Emmanuella is beautiful. There will still be many people who would like to invite you.”

Beautiful, yes, because of my hair color. It’s true that before I was put under house arrest, I received numerous invitations. Honestly, it was troublesome.

But, I’m also a decent magician, so maybe I can become someone who can contribute to the defense of this region in the future. . .?

“If I were to focus on the defense of this region, there would be no problem if I decline, right?”

When I asked with anticipation, Rudy-sama nodded as if it were natural.

“That’s only natural. We have always been like that in our family.”

“Then I’ll do that! Fufufu, it’ll be much easier.”

“. . .Um, we don’t have anything that interesting here, so if you get bored, feel free to go out and have fun, okay?”

Rudy-sama said those words with a worried expression as I became excited about the prospect of avoiding things I’m not good at.

“Fun? Like going on a picnic or a long ride with Rudy-sama? Ah, actually, I’ve always admired the adventurer profession! It would be great to go on a hunt together for a famous demon beast!”

Even though I said it with excitement, for some reason, Rudy-sama seemed taken aback, his posture crumbling, and he looked genuinely confused.

“Huh? Um? Well, is it enjoyable for you? I mean, if someone like me is by your side, wouldn’t it be a burden. . .I mean, if you consider me as a military asset, then of course, I will do my best.”

?

Hmm? Did I say something wrong. . .?

As Rudy-sama and I exchanged puzzled looks, I heard a heavy sigh from behind me, Lilyria.

“Let me explain. Emmanuella-sama has a peculiar sensibility. Perhaps due to being raised among brothers, despite being born as a noble lady, she has a rather commoner-like and unexpectedly uncivilized demeanor. . .Anyway, it is a fact that Emmanuella-sama is not fond of extravagant things, so being a Margravine suits her better than being a queen.”

It’s true that I haven’t completely shed my commoner traits from my past life, but isn’t “uncivilized” a bit too harsh?

Well, never mind. Yes, being a Margravine suits me. That’s what matters. Thank you for saying that, Lilyria.

“Yes, that’s right. That’s how it is. So, I don’t have any thoughts about breaking off the engagement with His Highness. I actually think it’s good that I came to this land. Therefore, revenge is unnecessary. Is that all right so far?”

“. . .Miss Emmanuella seems too kind, but well, it’s fine. Revenge is unnecessary. I understand.”

Reluctantly, Rudy-sama accepted it, though it seemed like he had some reservations. I let out a sigh of relief.

That’s good. No treason charges. Peace is the most important thing.

Now, with revenge being unnecessary.

Why did such a strange misunderstanding arise from that overly excited letter. . .?

To investigate the cause, I cautiously asked.

“Um, Rudy-sama, by the way, you mentioned that you read all of my letters. . .”

While I had written the letters in a state of excitement, it was embarrassing to confirm face-to-face, “Did you read my love letter?” So, as I asked, my voice gradually became quieter, and I’m probably blushing too.

As if my embarrassment had rubbed off on him, Rudy-sama blushed and cleared his throat before speaking.

“Ah, um. . .Well, yes, I read them all. Um, please rest assured. I didn’t have any strange misunderstandings or anything.”

“You did have them earlier. You completely misunderstood. How did you read it in a way that made you think revenge was necessary?”

Ah, the cat has left. I carelessly made a sarcastic remark. Come back, cat.

Although I was quite flustered, Rudy-sama didn’t seem to mind, and while still blushing, he continued to answer my question.

“So, Miss Emmanuella’s letter had a strangely poetic and passionate expression, right?”

“Yes, that’s correct. I’m aware of it.”

“Well, the expressions were so intense that one might misunderstand that she has feelings for me. I thought she must be cornered or something.”

. . .Huh?

Cornered? No, it wasn’t a misunderstanding, and it wasn’t just like that. In fact, it was simply a letter overflowing with my genuine affection for you.

“Well, um, I understood that it also meant ‘the item you sent the other day was quite good.’ And based on your explanation earlier, I now think it meant ‘I desire a quiet and stable life in the Margrave territory.’ However, because she used such passionate expressions excessively, I thought it was encouraging me, saying ‘The current situation is very difficult, so please help me. Use your power that I have praised you for, for my sake. . .'”

As I remained dumbfounded, Rudy-sama continued to explain with a bashful smile.

How adorable. No, that’s not it.

Cute. No, wait.

What was that?

Huh? What was that?

“Why did you interpret it like that?! Do I come across as so condescending?!”

Finally able to speak, I asked in genuine frustration, but Rudy-sama just tilted his head in confusion.

“Why even ask why. . .Because it’s obvious that there’s no way someone like me would be liked by others, especially young women. From a higher position, or rather, Miss Emmanuella is actually above me!”

With a refreshing smile, he asserted, and I felt dizzy.

You, you!

No way! Someone with such a charming smile! There’s no way they wouldn’t be liked by young women!!

Go to modern-day Japan! With Rudy-sama’s looks, he would be incredibly popular just by existing, and someone like me wouldn’t even stand a chance!!

Oh, what should I even explain first?!

“Oh, I apologize. You haven’t had lunch yet, have you? Let me prepare it right away.”

Rudy-sama, who seemed to mistake my dizziness caused by anger and confusion for hunger, went outside to give instructions. I couldn’t muster the energy to stop him. I still haven’t fully grasped the situation.

My letter, was it being interpreted in such a twisted way. . .?

Well, that’s why they’re sending such an excessive force of knights. . .

Ah, this appetizer is delicious. . .I wonder what kind of mousse it is. . .

Wait, no!

As I inadvertently took a bite of the meal that was promptly served, my consciousness finally returned.

“Um, Rudy-sama, I’ll be straightforward, but I love you. Since that day you protected me from the wyvern, I’ve loved you. In that moment, I fell in love with you.”

It’s because it’s a letter that misunderstandings have arisen.

Believing that, I looked straight at him and made a straightforward confession, but for some reason, Rudy-sama is smiling at me with eyes full of reassuring affection.

“There’s no need for you to push yourself. I am Miss Emmanuella’s faithful servant. I will fulfill any order without needing such sweet words, and I will never betray you.”

“That’s not it! Um, what, what do I have to do to make you believe me?! And, Rudy-sama, why are you the one who seems to worship me so much?!”

Once again, I felt as if a cat had embarked on a journey as I shouted.

“That’s natural. . .because I love Miss Emmanuella.”

Blushing and seemingly embarrassed, but surprisingly smoothly in his words, Rudy-sama said so.

. . .Huh.

It’s mutual. It’s a reciprocated love. If I were to receive a kiss from Rudy-sama, I could come back to life even if I were to die. Well, even if Rudy-sama didn’t have feelings for me, if I were to receive a kiss from him, I would come back from the depths of hell with sheer determination.

“. . .Why.”

“Well, to my embarrassment, it was love at first sight. I couldn’t help but be captivated by how beautiful you are. But then, after actually having a conversation with you, seeing your unwavering strength and sense of responsibility in calmly answering what needs to be done, your determination to protect the people from the crisis of demon beast invasion, it touched my heart. Now, everything about you is precious to me.”

Why, why won’t he believe my feelings, even though we’re supposed to have mutual feelings? But Rudy-sama, blushing and scratching his cheek in embarrassment, answered why he loves me. I feel like his evaluation of me is off, but he’s cute. I love him more, though.

But it seems my love isn’t being believed. Even though we have mutual feelings, the goal seems far away. What should I do?

“Excuse me. Please forgive my impolite interruption. Emmanuella-sama, it will take quite some time for him to believe you.”

At that moment, Lilyria calmly said so.

I think the same.

Confirming my nod, she then bowed her head to Rudy-sama.

“Next, Margrave-sama, if I may be so bold. Emmanuella-sama truly has terrible taste. She doesn’t mind having someone as ugly as me so close to her. You could consider it as her taking meritocracy to the extreme. If Emmanuella-sama says she fell for your sword, then I believe it’s true.”

L-Lilyria. . .!

Regardless of how she said it, tears of gratitude welled up in me at her supportive words, showing that she truly understands me.

“I see. Miss Emmanuella, you were interested in hunting down renowned demon beasts, correct? My sword is also naturally yours. Please make full use of it.”

However, Rudy-sama responded with a resolute determination, as if he were a loyal knight.

It’s no use, I just can’t get through to you. . .! It’s not like I’m only interested in your sword. . .!

Even words from my bright-haired companions won’t work. . .!

“It seems that Margrave-sama can’t imagine how she fell in love with him, starting with his sword skills. Well, I can’t blame you for not believing it. I was cautious for about three years after we first met. Eventually, I realized that ‘this person has terrible taste, and her appearance, which seems to have some deep thoughts, is just for show and she actually don’t think much, or rather, she lack sufficient thinking.'”

Lilyria sarcastically laughed and Rudy-sama tilted his head, leaving me feeling dejected.

So that’s what she thought of me. . .And she was cautious for three years. . .

“Emmanuella-sama, please give up for now. It takes time for people like us to open our hearts to others. We have experienced countless situations that make us want to close our hearts. Even without that, trust takes time.”

Upon Lilyria’s serious words, I couldn’t say anything more.

Yeah. It’s true that it would be difficult to suddenly ask someone to believe in you.

Besides, the fault lies with this world.

Perhaps due to the correlation with magical power, discrimination against those considered ugly is too severe in this world.

I thought about telling them about my past life, where common sense was different, but that would be too unbelievable.

Since we are planning to become a couple pledging eternal love, I have no choice but to make them believe in me over time.

But still, even these past three months felt like an eternity.

“. . .But, three years is a long time. . .”

“Well, do your best somehow.”

Lilyria immediately cut off my complaint, but surprisingly, she smiled gently at me as if encouraging me.

Chapter 15

Today, I finally arrived at the mansion where Rudy-sama resides.

“At least until the wedding is over, Rudy-sama and I will have separate bedrooms, right. . .?”

As I was guided to my own bedroom, surrounded by lovely and elegant furnishings, with the bright sunlight pouring in through the large window that was prepared for me, I muttered in astonishment.

“Yes. This is also a request from the Duke Baytree family, and we understand that it is necessary. Rudy-sama’s appearance, well. . .I think it will take some time to get used to.”

Father, you’re saying unnecessary things. . .!

The butler of this house, who was introduced to me earlier, seemed hesitant as he said that, and I almost let out a sigh, but I managed to hold it back.

Certainly, Rudy-sama is too handsome, so it might take some time to get used to! But they say you get used to a beautiful person in three days and get tired of them, ah, maybe it means because he’s too ugly. . .? That aspect is not a problem at all. . .?

“There are only two keys to this bedroom. One is for Miss Emmanuella herself, and the other is for someone trustworthy in case of emergencies. . .perhaps Lilyria-san would be suitable to hold it.”

As the butler handed me the two keys and I stared at them absentmindedly, he declared to me with a firm expression.

“While Rudy-sama is the master of this mansion, we all prioritize the safety of Emmanuella-sama. We absolutely do not allow anyone to approach here, so please rest assured.”

Huh. No, no, no.

Just earlier, we even went through a simple oath to the gods and submitted documents to the country. We should officially be husband and wife by now.

To exclude the husband from the wife’s bedroom for the reason of safety. . .?

. . .Isn’t the reason of safety absurd?!

Are they treating Rudy-sama as someone who might harm me?! Certifying the master like that?!

Is that acceptable, Margrave Santorina family!

No, it’s not acceptable!. . .Or so I thought!

There’s no choice.

Even if it makes me seem improper, I have no choice but to appeal from my side.

That I don’t mind. That I don’t consider it a harm to be with Rudy-sama like that.

“Well. . .I do trust you, and if it’s Rudy-sama, you can come whenever. . .”

Saying that, I gently returned one of the keys that was given to me to Rudy-sama.

Rudy-sama, with a vacant expression, received the key as if he was seeing something unbelievable, then looked at the key, looked at me, looked at the key again, and finally opened his mouth.

“. . .We always have guards around the outside of the bedroom, including outside the window. I don’t think it’s necessary to have someone stay awake inside the room.”

“Why would it come to that!. . .Ahem, excuse me. Where, exactly, is the wife who calls her husband into the bedroom to ask for someone to stay awake?”

Oh no, the cat’s out of the bag!

Feeling like it’s all in vain, I managed to put on a facade and asked Rudy-sama.

“Well, here? I don’t have any other way to be of service. . .And, no matter how anxious you may be, you shouldn’t say that it’s okay for a man who is in love with you to enter your bedroom.”

I was being seriously admonished by Rudy-sama, and it gave me a headache.

What? Should I just barge into Rudy-sama’s bedroom and try to seduce him?

Would he finally understand my true feelings if I did that?

But if his room is also locked and I can’t get in, it would be incredibly embarrassing. Actually, I don’t even feel like I can do such a thing. . .

I guess I have to try to say it more clearly.

“. . .No, that’s not what I meant. . .I mean, it’s okay for you to come in that sense. Rudy-sama and I are, after all, husband and wife.”

“Let’s conquer the castle after all.”

As I fidgeted and mumbled in embarrassment, Rudy-sama suddenly said something incomprehensible.

Huh. Why.

“Miss Emmanuella, I don’t know how the king managed to persuade you, but your feelings are more important than anything else. In fact, I cannot forgive the country that has pushed you to such a desperate resolve. Please wait. We will destroy anyone who dares to harm you. . .”

“Stop, stop, sto-o-o-op!”

I shouted to stop Rudy-sama, who was about to say something dangerous with a determined and dangerous look in his eyes, and the butler who silently followed behind him.

No treason against the nation!

Well, if the nation itself were to disappear, that would be a revolution! But that’s not the issue here!

Although I managed to stop their movements and words, Rudy-sama still had a look in his eyes that seemed to harbor a frightening determination. I attempted to persuade him.

“Weren’t you supposed to understand that I want to live peacefully here?! I mean, well, I’m. . .yes, a successor! It’s not good for my reputation to be married for years without having children. And I don’t want any strange rumors to start because of that. . .!”

When it was with the Crown Prince, I didn’t care, but if there were rumors about being at odds with Rudy-sama, even just rumors would make me cry!

Yes, this shouldn’t be considered improper!

After hearing my words, Rudy-sama nodded once and smiled gently with calm eyes.

“Miss Emmanuella, you certainly have a strong sense of responsibility. However, there’s no need to burden yourself so much. After all, I’ll just be laughed at with sayings like ‘a colorless seed won’t grow.’ Besides, our family has a tendency to marry late and not have many children. And when humans are faced with both ugly and beautiful things, they tend to judge that the ugly things must be bad. So, your reputation won’t be affected at all.”

W-What’s that!

What’s that!

“I will punch anyone who belittles Rudy-sama! I mean, it’s been happening since earlier, calling me Miss Emmanuella, Miss Emmanuella! We’re already married, so please address me informally! How low do you think of yourself and how distant do you intend to keep yourself from me?!”

As I angrily shouted, Rudy-sama flinched in surprise.

He continued to stare at me, lowering his eyebrows in a troubled manner, and hesitantly opened his mouth.

“In that case. . .I think you should address me informally as well, Miss Emmanue. . .Emmanuella. Or rather, feel free to interact with me without forcing yourself. Just like before, please talk to me comfortably.”

Damn it.

I’m glad he called me by my name informally, but it’s clear that my act of pretending to be a lady has been completely exposed. . .! Well, it was bound to be exposed!

“. . .Even if I reveal my true self, won’t you be disappointed or disillusioned, Rudy-sama?”

“Your honest self is also very lovely. Our wish is for you to live freely here.”

Although I knew it was futile, I asked, and he answered with a beautiful smile, leaving me captivated.

“Um, then, if you’ll excuse me. . .I’ll stop holding back, so Rudy, um, please don’t hold back either. So, you don’t have to use honorifics. . .”

“No, a goddess should be revered. It’s easier for me to talk this way.”

Before I could say everything, he firmly rejected me with a serious expression. What’s that?

Well, um, if it’s easier for him to talk that way, then it’s fine, right? Or is it?. . .Well, whatever.

I took a deep breath as if shaking off everything and made my declaration.

“. . .Rudy, as Lilyria said, I’m not ladylike at all, and quite barbaric. So, I didn’t come here for the sake of the country or any noble ideals. I’m here because I love you regardless of appearances, and I want you to hold the key to my heart.”

My face feels hot. I think my actions and words were quite improper.

But still, it seems to be the basis for arguments like ‘my safety’ and ‘it takes time to get used to,’ and I absolutely want to dispel the misunderstanding that ‘Rudy Santorina is the ugliest person in the country, so naturally, marriage and married life with such a man would be undesirable.’

No matter what others may think of me, that is one thing I will never allow.

“However, it’s not appropriate for someone like me to have this key. . .!”

I gently held Rudy-sama’s hand as he tried to return the key to me, enclosing the key within his hand.

In that instant, he trembled and blushed, just from our hands touching. I can’t imagine any danger in that reaction. We both feel our faces growing warm.

“Don’t say that my beloved Danna-sama is just. . .something. Besides, who else besides a husband should have it?”

“. . .Is Emmanuella truly have feelings for me?”

“Y-You’re the one saying that! And the way you said it, it sounds like you think I already have someone else in my heart, even though I just got married. . .”

“Yes. That is an unavoidable fact.”

Rudy-sama, who was being questioned by me, admitted with a dark expression.

There’s no helping it!

Arranged marriages are just like that. There may be such thoughts. In fact, many openly have lovers.

But. . .

But still. . .!

“. . .I won’t forgive it.”

I muttered in a low voice, so low that even I was surprised, and Rudy-sama looked at me in surprise.

I glare up at his bewildered expression, his face so perfectly handsome, and firmly drive my point home.

“Our marriage was decided for the sake of the country. You may have decided to take me in for the sake of the family and lineage. However, whether it’s a political marriage or whatever, a husband and wife are husband and wife. I want you to have only me in your heart, and I will have only you in mine. Any woman who approaches Rudy-sama, I will knock them down one by one.”

I declared in polite language, with the intention of emphasizing that I am the supposed villainess. Well, I can’t call myself a “young lady” anymore since I’m already married.

Anyway, as the so-called “villainess who tormented even the beloved child of the goddess,” I am determined to eliminate any romantic rivals.

With that determination in my gaze, Rudy-sama, who is the target of my stare, inexplicably blushes.

“Um, I-I’m fine. My heart, everything, belongs to you. In fact, Emmanuella, you are the first woman who has come this close to me. . .”

Oh, now that he mentions it, as I held the key, questioned him, and stared at him, I ended up in a position where I was sticking to Rudy-sama. Is that why his face is red?

“. . .When you lifted me up that day, we were quite close, weren’t we?”

As I tilt my head, Rudy-sama, still with a red face, answers while averting his gaze from me.

“That was an emergency escape from the battlefield, a rescue operation. A-Also, it’s the first time someone has come from my side. . .’It’s impossible to pursue someone for their wealth, and it’s too much to engage in a romantic relationship,’ I’ve been told. And there have been times when I’ve been spat on due to various entanglements, because of my extreme ugliness.”

What, that. Even if it’s considered ugly (in terms of color), that’s just. . .

I don’t know what to say to Rudy-sama’s sad story, so he weakly smiles and continues to speak.

“I will devote myself sincerely to Emmanuella. I will never betray you. But in the first place, there is no woman who would approach me. Even my own mother, upon seeing my extreme ugliness when I was born, was shocked and ran away without ever holding me in her arms. . .”

Alright, it’s a mother-in-law war (physical). Even if I have to use magic, I will defeat her.

My murderous intent flares up towards one of the enemies who has finally been identified as someone who made Rudy-sama sad.

“Let me add that my previous statement was not meant to imply that Rudy-sama is tolerant of infidelity or that it was intended to insult Emmanuella-sama. When Rudy-sama’s mother left this house, she had a lover by her side, holding hands. It’s infuriating for us servants, but both Rudy-sama and the previous lord, as well as society, treat it as ‘inevitable because he is so ugly.’ ”

Oh, I see. It’s indeed a mother-in-law war (physically).

In a calm but voice filled with quiet anger towards Rudy-sama’s mother, the butler informed me of the facts, and my murderous intent grew stronger.

Rudy-sama’s appearance complex is not just deep-rooted, it’s more like a trauma at this point.

It’s no wonder his self-esteem didn’t develop properly, and it’s understandable that he became distrustful of people.

How many times has he been hurt, how many times has he felt despair?

From this completely resigned state, how can I make him believe in my love?

It’s not as simple as defeating the root of all evil (Rudy-sama’s mother).

Well, even if it doesn’t have any particular meaning, I’ll definitely knock her out if I find her. Absolutely.

. . .Well, as Lilyria said, I’ve come to understand that it takes time to believe.

To make him understand as soon as possible, I have no choice but to be straightforward and go all out.

I make up my mind and put it into words.

“. . .I’ve decided. I’m throwing away shame and hesitation. Rudy, from now on, until you understand my feelings, I’ll chase after you without any pretenses, abandoning all acts of being a spoiled noble lady, and I’ll confess my love to you with all my might.”

“. . .Huh?”

With Rudy-sama looking somewhat dumbfounded and the butler with a surprised expression, I smile mischievously and make my declaration.

“Be prepared. I love you, Rudy Santorina. I really, really love you. I won’t give up until you believe it!”

For now, let’s consider it a success that I’ve closed the distance enough to call him by his first name and forcefully handed him the key to my bedroom.

But from now on, I’ll get even closer, and someday, hopefully by our wedding nine months from now, he’ll understand that we’re truly in love with each other.

Even if he’s disappointed in women, there’s no way I’ll let him give up on me.

Not on Rudy-sama, nor on the other people in this house.

With that determination, my life in the Margrave household begins.

Chapter 16

I’ve been at the Margrave Santorina’s house for a week now.

Currently, I’m being treated excessively as a guest, and honestly, it’s troubling.

No, they are treating me with utmost care. It’s beyond anything.

Despite being known as the villainess, everyone warmly welcomes me as the newlywed wife of the head of the family, Margrave Rudy.

My room, clothes, meals, and all the things around me are arranged luxuriously to the point where I, who was raised in the Duke family, feel overwhelmed. The people I interact with are all kind and considerate. It’s a very comfortable life.

However, I haven’t been able to meet Rudy-sama much. Perhaps it’s because Rudy-sama is busy with work, but our living spaces are strictly separated, even meals are separate, and I’m told that there’s no need for greetings or farewells as the mistress of this house. He comes and goes through the back entrance secretly, without even properly meeting face to face.

When I discreetly asked the maids, it seems they are considerate, thinking, “You wouldn’t want to see such an ugly person,” but apparently, the previous lady of this house spent her time like this as well.

Hmm, my determination for the daughter-in-law and mother-in-law battle (physically) is growing.

Especially since I haven’t been given any specific tasks, I’ve spent this week preparing diligently every day and focusing on practicing magic. Rudy-sama’s mother seems to pass the time by calling merchants, watching plays, and meeting with her lover. Well, I don’t feel like losing. No, I will win.

I digressed.

Anyway, even though we’re supposed to be a married couple, if I don’t actively go to meet Rudy-sama, I won’t even have a chance to see his esteemed face.

Since realizing this fact, I have made it a point to visit him on my own initiative and declare my love.

“Good morning, Rudy, I love you!”

This morning, I caught him just after he finished his training in the garden and said this.

“O-Oh, good morning, Emmanuella. Um, I think I’m sweaty, so it’s better not to get too close.”

Rudy-sama replied with a bright red face, and he looks cool today too.

It’s true that he’s sweating after training, but rather, that sweat looks refreshing and sparkling. Honestly, I want to taste it. At least, I want to keep it.

No, I’m his wife, so even if I absorb this sweat with my handkerchief and quietly take it home, no one would blame me, right?

“Ah, no!”

Perhaps sensing the danger as I aimed with the handkerchief in hand, Rudy-sama said in a slightly louder voice and stopped me with his hand.

Taking a deep breath as if to calm himself, he still had a red face as he spoke to me.

“Well. . .I understand that you were hurt by the betrayal of the Crown Prince. But I am your supporter. Even without such excessive words, I will never betray you. Actually, it’s bad for my heart to lie, so I’d rather you spare me. . .”

Hmm, is this still his response to my earlier “I love you”? It’s not a lie though.

“Yes, just your presence alone is enough. . .Ah, Emmanuella, you are as beautiful as ever today. I can see your beautiful figure even from afar, and being able to call you my wife is the only happiness I need. I will do anything for you.”

Hmm, there’s no lie in Rudy-sama’s words, mixed with a sigh.

He is certainly captivated by my beauty (hair). We have mutual feelings. How wonderful.

However, he still doesn’t fully believe in my feelings.

Or rather, it’s difficult to handle being worshipped like this by everyone in this house, including the staff.

Come to think of it, I just realized that the problem lies in me being excessively praised.

Ah, that’s right, today is supposed to be Rudy-sama’s day off.

“. . .I can do anything for you.”

“Yes, let’s even destroy the temple! The goddess belongs only to you!”

“Oh, you don’t have to do anything dangerous like that.”

I lightly restrained Rudy-sama, who responded with an excited and dangerous answer to my muttering.

“So, what can I do for you?”

He said that with an obviously dejected expression. While promptly collecting the sweat on his forehead with my handkerchief as if taking advantage of the opportunity, I put into words what I had thought of earlier.

“Today, how about the two of us, Rudy-sama and I, go on a demon beast subjugation? I remember hearing that there’s been an increase in wild boars causing trouble near a village in the northern mountains, right?”

Wild boars are quite vicious demon beasts, resembling aggressive boars. I heard a plea asking if Rudy-sama, who is the strongest force in this territory, could thin them out, just a couple of days ago.

I feel somewhat sorry for suggesting it on our day off, but I thought it might be a good idea to show my slightly barbaric side during boar hunting, to let him see a different side of me and develop a closer bond. I also have hopes that our distance might shorten through this adventure.

“Um, understood. I’ll accompany you. I was actually thinking that we should deal with it sooner. So, um, unnecessary excessive service is not needed, so please stop. . .!”

Service? What’s that supposed to mean?

Rudy-sama blushed so much that it seemed like steam would come out of his ears, and he continued speaking while wiping sweat off his forehead. I tilt my head in confusion.

Well, I don’t really understand why he’s freezing up like that, but it’s convenient for collecting sweat. Oh, wait, is this it?

As I wipe the sweat off his forehead with a handkerchief, due to the height difference, we’re quite close, causing even more sweat to pour out. Maybe he wants me to stop.

It’s not like I’m pressuring him with something like, “I’ve gone this far to provide you with service, so even on your day off, you’ll go boar hunting, right?”.

. . .Well, but it does seem like it might be endless if we continue like this, so it might be better to end it here.

“Well then, today is a wild boar hunting date! As the Margravine, I also want to prove that I’m a magician who can be of use in this land.”

I smile at him and gently retract the handkerchief.

Rudy-sama visibly exhales in relief and relaxes his shoulders.

I think it’s cute that someone as cool as him is not very experienced with women and still innocent, but honestly, I wish he would get more accustomed to me.

I wonder if he would carry me like a princess again if there’s some kind of emergency in the mountains. No, that would be too much of a burden for Rudy-sama in the mountains.

As I pondered what to do, I proceeded with the preparations for boar hunting.

Chapter 17

Oh no, should I have acted a bit cuter. . .?

I realized this after smoothly finishing my preparations, smoothly coming to the mountains, and smoothly hunting down the seventh wild boar.

Using my magic, I searched the entire mountain and detected the presence of a strong demon beast, likely a wild boar. Although it was far away, I used my expertise in dark magic to debuff the demon beast and hiked all the way to its location. In the end, Rudy-sama swiftly defeated the debuffed demon beast with overwhelming strength. Finally, I used magic to teleport the corpse of the demon beast, which I had previously set up a teleportation circle for, to the village at the foot of the mountain. Well, everything went smoothly up to this point, like an assembly line.

By the way, the plan is to have the village at the foot of the mountain, which suffered from the wild boar’s damage, handle the disposal of the corpse. Although there will be some work involved in dismantling it, selling the materials should cover the damages.

Yes, everything is going so smoothly, with no wasted effort.

But maybe it would have created a better atmosphere if I had acted a bit spoiled, like saying how scary the demon beast was or how I couldn’t ride a horse to the village.

I can’t help but feel that everything has been progressing so monotonously.

But I don’t want to be seen as incompetent. I did everything I could, and it’s just that Rudy-sama and my abilities are too high, turning it into mere work.

And you know, in terms of creating familiarity, I feel like I’ve succeeded. . .No, we have good coordination, but there’s no playful atmosphere that a married couple should have. At most, it feels like a sense of camaraderie among colleagues.

I feel like I should have noticed before reaching the seventh one, but it all went so smoothly that I didn’t have time to realize it.

Anyway, it’s hard to call this a date.

So far, there hasn’t been any thrilling moments or the suspension bridge effect.

But I did have a heart-fluttering moment when I saw Rudy-sama’s fighting up close. And when he held my hand on a difficult part of the hike, that also made my heart flutter.

On the other hand, I don’t think there would be any heart-fluttering moments from just watching a woman who stayed behind or struggled to climb the mountain.

Maybe my moments to shine are lacking, or maybe what I’m doing is just too plain. . .

“Emmanuella, even your magic is truly beautiful.”

However, just as I was secretly reflecting, Rudy-sama said that in a somewhat entranced voice while looking at me.

“Oh, um, really?”

Caught off guard by his unexpected comment, I responded somewhat flustered and then tilted my head.

My magic feels more like brute force with my abundant magical power. . .I feel like I’ve only been able to do plain things since earlier. . .Were there any beautiful aspects?

“Yes. Just by watching, one could become intoxicated by your abundant and high-purity magical power. You continuously use advanced magic without being overwhelmed by it, as if breathing. One could say that you possess the aura of a goddess.”

“Oh no, I don’t think that’s true. Your delicate control is more amazing. Since we entered the mountains, you’ve been circulating magic within your body to enhance your physical abilities, right? I don’t know anyone else who can use that kind of magic besides you.”

Instead of feeling familiar, I felt an even stronger sense of reverence from Rudy-sama’s words. So, I quickly denied his words and praised his greatness in return.

Well, it’s actually amazing. Using magic within your own body requires attention to every single blood vessel and nerve. If I tried it, I’m sure my flesh would burst.

“Oh, this is the result of my family, who has always had very little magical power, struggling to fight somehow. . .It certainly seems unusual, but rather than enhancing my body like this and swinging a sword, it would be much more efficient to cast even a single fireball.”

However, he said that with an expression that seemed to convey a sense of disappointment as he scratched his cheek.

Indeed, it may not be the fighting style that many nobles take pride in as a mage, but there’s no need to belittle it.

“Is that so? Magic may be powerful, but it takes time to activate, and my defense is as weak as paper. You cover my weaknesses perfectly. If I were left alone in this mountain overflowing with demon beasts, I’m confident I would die in seconds.”

“I would never give up the happiness of being able to protect you. Even hypothetically, it’s impossible.”

With such seriousness, he responded to my argument, momentarily leaving me speechless.

Rudy-sama always shows respect and kindness towards me. . .

“T-Thank you. Well, Rudy and I have different strengths and abilities, and we complement each other’s weaknesses. So, I wanted to say that we make a good team, like partners.”

“If I can be of use to you as your shield and sword, then maybe it’s better that I can only fight in this way.”

As my voice gradually became embarrassed and lost momentum, Rudy-sama continued to smile beautifully, looking genuinely happy.

Oh, goodness! I have so many things I want to say, like how low my self-esteem is or whether he acknowledged me as his partner or not!

If he keeps smiling at me with such open affection, my heart will be completely filled with ‘Ah, I love you!’. . .!

“Yes, I lost this time!”

“Huh?!”

Rudy-sama was startled by my sudden exclamation.

“Um, well, by ‘lost,’ do you mean. . .did I do something wrong?”

As he timidly looked at me, I shook my head in a desperate manner.

“No! Rudy was amazing from start to finish!”

“Then, um. . .what exactly is the difference between losing and failing. . .?”

He asked cautiously, and I let out a sigh.

“They say falling in love is losing. So, it means I lost.”

“. . .Huh?”

He tilted his head in confusion, and I couldn’t help but think how cute that expression was. . .As I confessed, I continued to explain.

“I came to this mountain hoping to make you see me in a different light. But in the end, I just confirmed how reliable you are and fell in love with you all over again. So, it’s a failure, and that’s why I lost. Let’s make the next date something different, not an adventure. How about going out together in town and enjoying some shopping?”

“Um, well, why?”

Instead of encouragement, he responded with a question. Did I go too far too quickly?

“Well, um, Lilyria taught me that such things are a common staple for dates. When I asked for preparations before we left today, she was greatly astonished, saying, ‘It’s unthinkable to go demon beast hunting on a date. I can’t believe you were serious. . .'”

The result was a failure.

As I spoke, my voice became more and more dejected, but Rudy-sama shook his head as if to cheer me up.

“No, no, Emmanuella, I’ve seen plenty of your good qualities. I was truly captivated by your magic, and if it means I can easily and surely defeat them, I’ve been considering how I can assist you in the future. . .”

“Well, I’m glad I could be of help to this land and to Rudy-sama.”

When I raised my face with joy at his kind words, Rudy-sama nodded with a serious expression.

“Yes, absolutely.”

“Then, please give me a reward. Let’s go on a shopping date in town.”

As I extended my hand, the cash-carrying me, Rudy-sama looked at it suspiciously.

“. . .Even without my company, if it’s shopping in town, it can be covered by my household’s account.”

“Oh, well, I have my own assets, you know? I don’t worry about money for a day of shopping in the city. I can even treat you to anything, so won’t you come with me?”

As I invited him, Rudy-sama’s angle of his head and his suspicious demeanor deepened. Why?

“. . .Um, well, my city isn’t that unsafe, so there’s no need for an escort. When Emmanuella goes out, we’ll increase patrols and have knights keep an eye out everywhere. That should be enough. On the contrary, there are many people, so it’s better to choose someone based on appearance to carry your belongings. . .”

“Is that about your mother-in-law?”

“Oh, yes. My mother used to have numerous handsome men accompany her when she went out in town. . .”

“Alright, it’s time for the daughter-in-law vs. mother-in-law battle (physics).”

“Huh?”

At my resentful mutter, Rudy-sama showed a surprised expression. Oops.

I cleared my throat and tried to cover it up with a dazzling smile.

“Oh, it’s nothing. Right, Rudy? I want you to come with me without worrying too much about being my escort. Let’s enjoy together.”

“Um, well, if it’s just carrying luggage, then it’s a matter of appearance. . .”

“You’re saying appearance matters, and you’re the one who said it. Of course, I’m attracted not only to your appearance but also to your personality and abilities. But you chose me based on appearance alone.”

“Hmm? Um, I don’t think Emmanuel needs a supporting role. . .?”

It’s slightly irritating that he probably thinks he’s ugly, but since that complex seems deeply rooted and will take time to resolve, I’ll leave it for now.

I smirked at Rudy-sama, who became even more perplexed.

“So, Rudy, you think I’m beautiful to the point where I don’t need a supporting role, right?”

It’s embarrassing to be so conceited, but if I ask him like that, thinking that I’m the most beautiful girl in this world, Rudy-sama nodded with a fascinated smile.

“Yes! Emmanuella is absolutely and overwhelmingly beautiful, unlike anyone else in the world! Your black hair that shines like the sun, your refined manners down to your fingertips, and your elegant smile that exudes charm without being pretentious. There’s no one who wouldn’t be captivated by you.”

I’m glad he didn’t go that far with his compliments. . .!

While feeling on the verge of breaking from embarrassment, I repeated my question to Rudy-sama, who acknowledged my beauty as I intended.

“So, if it’s you, Rudy, would you be happy to walk beside me in town and be proud of the man by my side?”

“Of course. The man who can walk beside you is the luckiest person in the world.”

“If it’s you, Rudy, would you be happy?”

“Of course. I would dedicate all my possessions to have that privilege.”

“Now, you can have it for free. I’m glad you’ll walk with me! So, let’s go out in town on our next day off!”

“Ah, yes. Understood. . .Huh? Um, um, huh?!”

Rudy-sama, who fell into my trap, was now surprised and confused, but I had already obtained his agreement.

If he doesn’t have confidence in being chosen based on appearance, then it’s fine to have him chosen based on appearance. The plan was a success.

“Now, now, Rudy, since we’ve decided on the next plan, let’s finish today’s work quickly! The next location seems to be a little further down to the west!”

“To the west, understood. Um, no, going back to what we were talking about, I’m afraid that walking with me might make you uncomfortable. . .”

“That’s not true, don’t worry. Oh, this way is a bit steep.”

“Take my hand. If you’re worried, I can carry you down if it’s someone like Emmanuella. No, that’s not it. . .”

“Oh, Rudy, how reliable are you! If it really doesn’t work out, then I’ll ask for your help.”

“Please don’t hesitate to ask. So, about that. . .”

Ignoring Rudy-sama, who was persistently trying to bring up the topic, I returned to boar hunting with a smile.

After that, there was nothing particularly noteworthy, and the hunting went smoothly.

I didn’t want to burden him in the mountains, so I endured it, but I wanted to confirm the feeling of his broad and reliable back, so I asked him to carry me when we reached the village at the foot of the mountain. As expected, his back was wide and sturdy, and it was truly dependable. I protected my agreement without retracting it.

It didn’t really feel like a date, but it can be considered a great achievement.

Chapter 18

In the break room of the Santorina household, where the servants gather.

“It’s been a month since Emmanuella-sama came here and became our Oku-sama. Hey, everyone, just between us, what do you think of Oku-sama?”

“Well, first of all, she’s incredibly beautiful, isn’t she? With that beauty, one would think she’d be full of pride as a Duke’s daughter, but surprisingly, she has a friendly side. . .There’s nothing to criticize about her, it feels like.”

“She has the qualities and grace to be a crown princess, and her magical abilities are extraordinary. She’s almost too perfect. Above all, I knew the previous Oku-sama, and unlike her, Emmanuella-sama doesn’t disregard Danna-sama or openly express dissatisfaction with this household. I’m grateful for that.”

“Oh, yes, I agree. I think Oku-sama is absolutely wonderful. But, well, not just that. . .Lately, I’ve started to wonder if she might have really bad taste.”

“. . .Are you talking about Oku-sama’s attitude towards Rudy-dannasama and the sensibility we can infer from it?”

“Yes, exactly. Oku-sama seems to quite like Danna-sama, doesn’t she?”

“More than ‘quite,’ it looks like she’s in love. And quite passionately, I might add.”

“At first, I thought she was trying to interact out of a sense of duty as a wife, but it’s clear that it’s not just that. . .”

“Danna-sama himself seems to completely believe that ‘there’s no way such happiness would come to me.’ Well, I suppose it’s understandable considering his upbringing with that kind of parent, but he’s really stubborn to the point of being rude.”

“But Oku-sama continues to approach him without giving up. If it were just an act to manipulate Danna-sama, she would have shown some signs of anger or frustration by now. But she only looks a little sad occasionally. So it’s not an act, but rather, she genuinely likes him. . .”

“If she just wanted to manipulate him, she wouldn’t have to go to such lengths. Just a fleeting glance or a slight smile would be enough. Besides, if it’s Danna-sama, he would do anything even without her doing anything.”

“Yes, that’s why I thought, you know, Oku-sama really has bad taste and genuinely loves Danna-sama.”

“It’s not appropriate to call our beloved mistress, who loves our master, ‘having bad taste.’. . .”

“That’s why I said it’s just between us. Besides, what else can we say? Danna-sama is wonderful in every aspect except his appearance, so we overlook that. . .It’s not like that, but Oku-sama is genuinely captivated by Danna-sama.”

“. . .Perhaps, because she experienced betrayal from the Crown Prince, she now finds Danna-sama’s appearance rather desirable and comforting.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter what the reason is, but anyway, I think Oku-sama truly has bad taste and genuinely loves Danna-sama.”

“Well, yes, I think Oku-sama’s feelings are genuine too. And it seems like everyone is gradually starting to think the same, except for Danna-sama.”

“That’s right. That’s why I absolutely think we must not let Oku-sama slip away.”

“Huh? What do you mean?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Well, you know, Oku-sama is a lady who combines kindness, high abilities, beauty, and bad taste as if she were tailor-made for Danna-sama. There’s no one else except Emmanuella-sama who fits that description! We should make it our common understanding that it would be bad if we let her go!. . .That’s why I’m telling everyone this now.”

“Oh, I see. Danna-sama seems to have given up on his own happiness, and we were starting to give up too. . .But if Oku-sama continues to stay in this household, it might be Danna-sama’s happiness after all.”

“I heard that when the previous Oku-sama left, there was a sense of relief like ‘finally, she’s gone.’. . .But we can’t let Emmanuella-sama leave, right?”

“I don’t want to say much about the previous Oku-sama. . .but let me inform everyone that she was always irritable and would whip the servants over trivial matters. It is our utmost happiness that Emmanuella-sama is now the mistress of this mansion.”

“Yikes. Scary. Danna-sama has always worshipped Oku-sama(current) like a goddess. . .but she might truly be the savior of this house. Yes, we must never let her go. Well, all we can do is continue to ensure her comfort as much as possible, just like we have done until now. . .”

“But, until now, we have been careful not to have Danna-sama in her line of sight, but wouldn’t it be better to do the opposite? After all, you know, if you like someone, you would be happy to catch even a glimpse of them.”

“That’s right. When Oku-sama sees Danna-sama, she runs towards him with a smile of pure joy that could be mistaken for a dog or a child. . .”

“While it goes against Danna-sama’s wishes, he himself has said, ‘Above all else, prioritize Emmanuella and support her, even if it means opposing others.’ We will do our best as allies of Oku-sama’s love.”

“Fufu, using the word ‘love’ feels a bit embarrassing, but it’s amazing that we, who serve the Margrave Santorina family, have days where we can strive for such excitement.”

“Since Oku-sama arrived, the atmosphere in this house has become so pleasant. Just having such a beautiful mistress adds a sense of liveliness, but if she is so happy and enjoying love to the fullest, it’s only natural for us to get carried away.”

“And to top it off, her love interest is Danna-sama. It’s a good thing that Oku-sama has such poor taste. . .It seems that tense relationships are common among noble couples. If we had to serve such a family, we would definitely feel suffocated.”

“It’s a blessing. The only problem now is Danna-sama’s stubbornness. . .We must continue to support Oku-sama and encourage her until that is resolved. There is no other choice for us but to be on Oku-sama’s side.”

“Yes, let’s do our best. For the happiness of our master and, incidentally, for our own peace! We absolutely cannot let Emmanuella-sama slip away. . .!”

Chapter 19

It had been a little over two months since I started living in the Margrave household, on a certain day in August.

Today, finally, is the day for our promised date to stroll around the town.

Due to various reasons such as me being able to participate in demon beast hunting after our last date, both Rudy-sama and I being busy, and our schedules not aligning with the weather, it got postponed until today.

In the morning, I put on the simplest knee-length dress and lace-up boots to avoid attracting too much attention in the town. I descended the stairs.

In the hallway just before reaching the main entrance, Rudy-sama, dressed relatively casually, was waiting.

“Sorry for making you wait. Good morning, Rudy. I love you.”

“I haven’t been waiting for long, so don’t worry. Good morning, Emmanuella. You look incredibly beautiful today as well. Your simplicity allows your true beauty to shine without any need for tricks.”

“Thank you. Rudy, you look wonderful too.”

We exchanged smiles, but it’s not like he accepted my feelings.

We’ve just gotten used to my words of love and Rudy-sama’s compliments. It has become a routine greeting.

Oh well, Rudy-sama is so stubborn.

In these two months, every time I expressed my love or said that I liked him, he would respond with things like “So, what do you need?” or “You don’t have to worry about me” or “Haha, that’s impossible” or “I will gladly follow any orders you give, but. . .What exactly are you aiming for?” He only returned words that denied my feelings.

Since the other day when the butler scolded him, saying “Isn’t that disrespectful to Oku-sama?” he hasn’t argued back, but probably, he still doesn’t believe me.

He still keeps his distance from me and maintains his low self-esteem. He can’t sense even a trace of confidence that I love him.

However, the attitudes of the servants, including the butler, have clearly changed. Lately, they have been remarkably cooperative with me.

Rudy-sama’s schedule, which he used to not share unless asked, is now automatically shared with me. Meals are set at the same time and place. They even encourage Rudy-sama to use the main entrance, increasing the opportunities for me to meet him.

They were already kind to me, but now, even regarding Rudy-sama, who used to show kindness that was out of place, they seem to move according to my will. I feel like I’m being spoiled even more.

Perhaps the misunderstanding that I was a wicked woman approaching Rudy-sama has been cleared up, or maybe he has come to understand that I’m just as Lilyria said, “not really thinking about anything.” Like how foolish girls are cute.

With the moat being filled smoothly, it’s about time for the main castle, in other words, Rudy-sama, to give up.

With that determination in my heart, I set out to the town with Rudy-sama.

❂❂❂❂❂❂

Margrave Santorina’s territory is flourishing to the extent that it rivals the capital city.

Walking along the bustling main street, where various shops catch my eye, I can’t help but have that impression.

Hmm, something feels off though.

Gathering my courage, I quietly ask Rudy-sama.

“Hey, Rudy, this town has relatively good public safety, right?”

“Yes, that’s correct. We have increased the number of patrol officers in the town today, and my knights are accompanying us at a non-intrusive distance. I believe there won’t be any issues even if Emmanuella walks alone.”

“Yeah, that’s right. Besides, you know, I’m a skilled magician, right? I can now use magic to create a barrier that prevents malicious entities from entering. And even if I constantly maintain it around me and Rudy, it doesn’t tire me out or anything.”

“I see, that’s wonderful. In that case, we can consider ourselves fully prepared.”

Rudy-sama nodded with a genuinely delighted expression, but that’s not what I meant.

“Yeah, so, I don’t think there’s a need for you to be in the position of my diagonal front, so to speak, as a sort of escort. . .”

I hope he understands without me having to spell it out.

As I gently conveyed my thoughts, Rudy turned to me with a bright smile.

“Understood! I will join the knights and switch to being an escort from a distance!”

“That’s not it! Why does it have to be like that?! It’s fine if you escort me or hold hands, or even better, like that couple over there, link arms and stay closer to me, by my side!”

Why does he try to create distance instead?

As I blurted out amidst frustration, Rudy-sama seemed flustered as if he had no idea what I was talking about. He really lacks awareness of being loved.

“Um, but, if I get too close, it might make Emmanuella uncomfortable. . .”

“That’s not true. I feel lonelier when my husband walks away.”

“As for security. . .Ah, well, we are fully prepared, but if we hold hands, for example, it would make it difficult to carry things. . .”

“Then I’ll carry them too. Besides, we don’t have anything to carry right now. Oh, I just can’t figure it out!”

While Rudy-sama continued to argue, I closed the distance between us and intertwined my hand with his, as if jumping into his hand.

“. . .Ah, um, well, it’s, um, not that it’s gross or anything. . .”

Blushing, Rudy-sama looked down.

Even though we are technically a married couple, it’s embarrassing to see him so flustered just from holding hands. It makes me feel embarrassed too.

My cheeks are hot. And when he mentions it again, there’s something that starts to blur in my hand.

“Well, um, I think it’s mutual when it comes to sweaty hands, so let’s not worry about it. It’s not gross or anything. It’s a special date after all. Well, if you don’t like it, I can let go. . .”

Suppressing my embarrassment, I expressed my honest feelings, and Rudy-sama quickly raised his face and vigorously shook his head.

“No, it’s impossible! It’s the greatest honor and happiness! Emmanuella’s hands are small, smooth, and if you say it’s okay to hold them, I don’t want to let go for the rest of my life. . .!”

He’s so straightforward with his expressions of affection! It’s embarrassing! He doesn’t have to go that far!

Well, I must admit that Rudy-sama’s hand feels sturdy and has a touch that is hard to let go of, more than I imagined.

But whether I can say that without feeling embarrassed is another issue, right?!

“. . .However, once we taste this kind of happiness, it becomes terrifying afterward, and above all, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable. . .”

While I secretly struggle, Rudy-sama becomes dejected and makes a somewhat timid statement.

I tightly grip his hand again and start walking.

“If it makes me uncomfortable, there’s no way I would hold your hand. It’s fine. I won’t let go for the rest of my life. Even if you say it’s terrifying afterward, I intend to be with you forever.”

“. . .Since you said you don’t need an escort and I don’t seem to be useful as a luggage carrier, at least let me do my best as your wallet.”

He’s still saying it!

Involuntarily, I glared up with a sharp gaze, and Rudy-sama, walking beside me, had eyes so poignant that it made my heart ache.

“So. . .please, don’t abandon me.”

In response to the warmth of the hand that firmly grasped mine and Rudy-sama’s earnest plea, I unintentionally nodded in agreement.

Well, whatever his intentions may be, if he continues to stay by my side, for now, I’ll consider it a good thing. . .

Chapter 20

For a while, Rudy-sama and I wandered around various shops here and there without any particular purpose.

We visited a wide range of places, from slightly high-class boutiques on the main street to market stalls and even a slightly shady shop in a back alley. Well, the shop itself looked shady, but it turned out to be an old magic supplies store that was quite impressive inside, thanks to Rudy-sama’s guidance.

In each of the diverse shops we visited.

“Is that young lady over there with the Lord the Madame? My, my, what a beautiful lady! Congratulations on your marriage!”

“Oh, Oku-sama has a discerning eye despite her youth. Not being deceived by appearances and recognizing the greatness of our Rudy-sama!

“My, how close you two are. . It makes us so happy too.”

“Our proud Lord, strong, fair, kind, and capable, seemed to have been worried that he wouldn’t be blessed with a good woman. . But if he can marry such a wonderful lady, then everything he’s done so far has been rewarded.”

“Rudy-sama, being able to marry, especially such a beautiful person, and above all, seeing her so incredibly happy. . .It’s, it’s wonderful, isn’t it?”

The people who admire Rudy-sama, seeing us holding hands and being close, were excessively delighted.

There were even people who seemed so moved that they became teary-eyed and snotty, making me momentarily worried if they were tears of frustration from a secret rival who had been aiming for Rudy-sama. But I think they were just genuinely happy. Probably.

We were treated with various services as congratulations, and it became clear just how beloved Rudy-sama is to the people here and how desperate they thought his marriage would be.

Well, it’s understandable that they would think that way, even if they believe that such a wonderful person, who is undoubtedly a good lord, wouldn’t be blessed with marriage due to his globally unfavorable appearance. It’s true that being engaged at the age of 28 is relatively late for a noble, but as a man, it’s not strange to get married at this age.

I feel a bit uneasy for some reason.

Well, it’s probably because Rudy-sama is such a good lord that everyone has been eagerly waiting for his happiness. I’ll think that way.

“Come to think of it, not a single person has ever insulted me as the ‘wicked woman who bullied the beloved child.'”

As we walked back to the main street, I suddenly realized this fact and it naturally slipped out of my mouth.

Rudy-sama nodded slightly and smiled gently as he opened his mouth.

“Rumors couldn’t sway anyone because the real you is so wonderful. The people in this town have interactions with our servants, so they must have understood your true nature. Besides, our territory doesn’t receive much protection from the so-called guardian dragon, so the faith in the goddess of love and her temple is weak.”

“Ah, now I kind of understand why Rudy occasionally says dangerous things about the temple. . .”

“No, I don’t mind going against anyone or anything for your sake, no matter what it is.”

Love is so heavy.

Rudy-sama asserted with a serious expression, and I also became expressionless.

If he loves me that much, I wonder if he can believe me unconditionally when I say ‘I love you’. . After all, it’s me who’s saying it.

“. . .I feel a bit tired.”

“Oh, we’ve walked quite a bit. It’s nearby. . Ah, I’ve heard that the café over there is very popular among young women. Shall we go in and take a rest?”

I’m tired mentally, though.

However, the café that Rudy-sama pointed out immediately was indeed a charming place, and on the open terrace, young ladies were enjoying colorful cakes.

“. . .Ah, the classic date activity, right?”

I unintentionally muttered, and Rudy-sama tilted his head in confusion.

“Classic date activity. . .? What do you mean. . .”

“Alright, let’s go. Let’s go right away.”

At times like this, it’s best not to say unnecessary things.

If I were to say something like, “Let’s have a feeding each other session,” Rudy-sama would surely feel embarrassed and definitely wouldn’t come along.

“No, I’ll wait outside. It would be a bother for other customers if someone as ugly as me entered such a glamorous place. . .”

What a surprise. I was rejected even before revealing the true nature of the feeding each other session.

Despite me pulling his hand firmly, Rudy-sama, who just stood there without exerting any particular force, doesn’t budge.

“There’s nothing ugly about you, and even if there were, everyone is too engrossed in the cake to pay attention to who’s sitting next to them. It’s alright.”

“The staff will notice. You might be denied entry.”

“That wouldn’t happen in this town. . Well then, how about this? Let’s do a taste test. Look, I’ll eat a pastry made by someone unknown.?”

“Indeed, a taste tester is necessary. Understood. I humbly accept that role.”

Love is such a heavy burden.

When I tried making an incredibly demanding request, it was immediately accepted.

What on earth am I to Rudy-sama on the inside. . .

Well, as the presumed villainess, I’m someone who can handle poisons and curses, and I can easily detect them just by their smell, so there’s no actual danger to Rudy-sama.

But still, I wish Ruth-sama wouldn’t accept without hesitation, even though he shouldn’t know that fact.

Margrave, please take care of yourself. . .

Chapter 21

Perhaps out of consideration for Rudy-sama, who seems restless and conscious of others, we were guided to a two-seater sofa seat in the back of the cafe, which was less visible to the surroundings thanks to the partition nearby.

As expected, Rudy-sama tried to let me sit alone there while he stood by my side and waited. However, I forcefully made him sit next to me, firmly holding his hand to prevent him from escaping, and leaned my head on his shoulder. I won’t let him go.

The gentle Rudy-sama, unable to shake me off, remained stiff as a board until the tea and cake we ordered arrived.

“If you try to escape again, I’ll sit on your lap.”

With a smile, I released his hand that had been held tightly all this time. I don’t want to let go, but I can’t eat the cake like this.

“Uh, ah. . .Well, I’d appreciate it if you could spare me that.”

Seemingly trying to escape, Rudy-sama, who momentarily lifted his hips from the sofa, muttered softly and gently sat back down.

Oh, the position he returned to is slightly farther away from me than before.

“Oh, so you want me on your lap?”

Pressing further with a smile, Rudy-sama shook his head vigorously, almost trembling too fast and making a rattling sound.

“Please stop! Excessive happiness and Emmanuella, it’s obvious that I’ll die from overconsumption! Even now, my heart is so. . .so noisy. . .”

With a groan, Rudy-sama, still trembling, returned to the position of leaning against me. He must really dislike being on my lap.

Well, this is a cafe, not our mansion. Moderation, discretion, appropriate timing, they’re important. I’ll save the lap-sitting for another opportunity.

Regaining my composure, I shift my gaze to the berry tart I ordered and the cheesecake Rudy-sama ordered, placed on the table in front of us.

Hmm, they both look delicious, and there’s no strange smell or unpleasant feeling from the tea and utensils. It’s safe.

“Fufu, shall we do a taste test right away?”

“Understood. . .?”

I cut a piece of tart with a fork and bring it in front of his mouth. Rudy-sama tilts his head curiously.

He still doesn’t get it, huh.

“Here, Rudy, open wide.”

As I say that and smile, Rudy-sama’s face turns incredibly red in an instant. He finally understands what ‘open wide’ means.

“Oh no, I, I’ll eat it with my own fork. . .!”

Saying that, he scoots back while still sitting, but I deepen my grin.

Oh? If you keep trying to escape, it’ll be lap-sitting, you know?

“Oh no, I don’t want that. This is a taste test, right? Maybe the fork is coated with poison. So, come on, open wide.”

Closing the distance that was created by his retreat, I say that, but the persistent Rudy-sama continues to inch back, still resisting.

“Well, in that case, could you pass me the fork then. . .?!”

“Oh no, I won’t.”

“I-I see.”

As he firmly declares that, Rudy-sama looks surprised and finally stops retreating.

Ah, or rather, there’s no more space for Rudy-sama to escape, is there? The sofa isn’t that big either.

“Yes, I won’t. I want Rudy to say ‘ah’ for me.”

As I firmly and selfishly state that, Rudy-sama’s eyebrows droop as if he’s truly troubled.

“Well, if it’s Emmanuella’s wish, I want to fulfill it. However, this is, well. . .”

“. . .Rudy doesn’t like being fed ‘ah’?”

“It’s not like that! I’m just scared of being too happy!”

As he lowers his tone with a sad expression, he immediately denies it when asked.

Push and pull, huh? But isn’t he a bit too easy to persuade?

Although I’m slightly worried about my husband’s easygoing nature, oh well. I got him to admit it.

“That’s great! Well then, open wide.”

Once again, I apply pressure with a smile. Physically and mentally cornered, Rudy-sama’s gaze wanders, but he finally, reluctantly opens his mouth.

“Uh, ah. . .Ahh. . .”

Confirming that he took a bite of the cake, I gently pull out the fork and watch him chew. How adorable.

After confirming that his throat moved with a gulp, I asked.

“Fufu, did you enjoy it?”

“I don’t know. The taste and everything. I was too nervous. With an excess supply of happiness, everything is a blur. . .I mean, how much should I even pay for this. . .?”

“Well, it’s obviously an equal exchange, right?”

As I tilted my head, Rudy-sama nodded with a “Hmm.”

“Which means, even our entire family fortune wouldn’t be enough. . .It might increase a bit if we go wyvern hunting, but even if we increase it a bit, it’s still far from. . .”

What is this guy saying with a serious face?

While feeling a headache from his troubled expression, I slowly continued.

“Why does it have to be like that. . .? Since it’s an equal exchange, can’t Rudy do the same thing to me? In other words, this time, Rudy, please feed me.”

Saying that, I gently placed the fork that he had desired so much earlier into his hand.

“?! Um, but I’ve already put my mouth on it. . .!”

“If it’s just a taste test, isn’t that fine?”

“No, it’s impossible. My goddess will be defiled. . .!”

Looking at his expression as he placed the fork on the plate and shook his head, it was not just embarrassment from an indirect kiss, but it seemed to be a color of fear.

Hmm, even I get excited about indirect kisses in my heart, but because Rudy-sama was so flustered, I had to remain calm and forcefully bring it closer, resulting in me behaving like a little devil. And as a result, Rudy-sama becomes more cornered.

What should I do?

“. . .Ugh, I’m so tired of this. . .Because of me shamelessly basking in the honor of being Emmanuella’s husband, my goddess will be defiled. . .”

“Wait, wait, wait! Why does it have to be like that?!”

Desperately trying to stop Rudy-sama, who said something outrageous while I was contemplating.

“No, well, as a married couple, it’s desirable to have a good relationship. That’s why Emmanuella is making an effort like this. I feel guilty for making her go this far. . .”

“Well, it’s not out of obligation or anything. I’m just doing it because it’s fun.”

To the slumped Rudy-sama, I told him the honest truth.

Upon hearing my statement, which could be taken as mean-spirited, he raised his gaze and tilted his head.

“Is it fun. . .? Does Emmanuella perhaps have very peculiar hobbies?”

It was more of a confirmation than a question.

Rather than Rudy-sama thinking, “It’s tasteless to mock someone so much just for fun,” it’s more like, “Because our tastes and sensibilities in this world are different, I don’t think Rudy-sama is ugly, and I love him, so it’s fun to be affectionate with him.” But in any case, I am certainly a heretic in this world.

So I nodded firmly and openly admitted it.

“Whether it’s Lilyria or the servants of the Margrave Santorina family, anyone who interacts with me daily can tell you that I’m quite different.”

“I see. . .Well, that’s, very. . .good, I suppose. . .?”

As Rudy-sama said that while tilting his head, I felt a slight sense of urgency.

Uh-oh, did he become disillusioned?

“. . .When I’m with Emmanuella, there are moments when I forget about my own ugly appearance.”

“You can forget about it! It doesn’t matter what you look like in reality, right?!”

I couldn’t help but instantly latch onto the words he muttered, and even did a little victory pose.

Because, in reality, it’s better to forget about appearances. Rudy-sama should be aware that he maintains perfection through effort in everything else. If he believes in my love, I want him to be even more conceited.

Perhaps this might work.

Maybe this time, he’ll finally acknowledge that we have mutual feelings.

My heart started pounding with anticipation. In the tension of not being able to afford any mistakes here, my fingertips stiffened.

Without realizing it, I found myself staring at Rudy-sama, holding my breath, and he suddenly gave me a faint, gloomy smile.

“If I were to forget my own ugliness, I would become unable to let you go, wouldn’t I? Clinging to this current happiness, I would be consumed by anger when it’s lost. For example, if you were to love someone else, I would feel unjustly robbed of you. And what would I do to the one who has gained your love. . .”

He said such threatening words in a somewhat nonchalant tone, stating something that seemed obvious.

Not understanding what the problem was, I tilted my head and responded.

“Well, please do that. Even if you let go, give up on the happiness of the two, or tolerate infidelity, it would be troublesome. It’s not twisted at all. We are a married couple after all.”

“. . .Huh?”

Wait, huh? That’s my line, isn’t it?

While staring intently at me, still tilting my head, Rudy-sama timidly spoke.

“Well, um, but Emmanuella is beautiful, isn’t she?”

“?. . .Thank you?”

“You’re welcome. No, I mean, because Emmanuella is beautiful, it’s like. . .there are many options, right? I’m just one of the countless beings who are attracted to you, the absolute goddess not only to me but to others as well. It would be presumptuous of me to have possessive feelings when there is such a difference in status. . .”

To summarize Rudy-sama’s stumbling explanation, it seems that he’s worried because the beautiful girl, me, is too popular, but he thinks that it’s natural for me to be unfaithful because he considers himself ugly (probably because of his birth mother), right?

“I have no intention of being unfaithful, and as a married couple, there’s no need for you to forgive such a thing. If by any chance I were to be unfaithful, you should just pour oil on my head and set my hair on fire so that I can never do such a thing again.”

“Why would you say something so dangerous! Even if it were another man, there’s no way you could do that to Emmanuella!!”

Waah. I got scolded. Maybe my example was too graphic.

No, the problem isn’t that it’s gruesome to burn a man. It’s more about whether I can do such a thing.

Is it because no matter what I do, I won’t be harmed? Well, indeed, even if I were cheated on, I couldn’t burn Ruth-sama.

As for the other woman. . .hmm, I wonder. For now, I definitely want to burn the woman who gave birth to Rudy-sama if I can find her whereabouts. I also want to curse her with the same curse I placed on Lilyria’s parents and see how she would react to becoming such a “hideous existence”. . .But. . .

. . .Ah, that’s it.

With this, there’s no danger to my life. It should eliminate the difference in status.

“Rudy, if it makes you anxious, I’m willing to turn my hair completely white! I have the power to cast such a curse!”

“No, please don’t do anything like that. I want Emmanuella to be happy, no matter what. . .”

Even though I thought it was a great idea, Rudy-sama responded with a look of disbelief.

Hmm, I guess it would be like melting your face, so to speak, if we go by the sense of my past life.

“Oh, right, if my hair were to turn white, you would end up hating me too.”

Hmm, he nodded in understanding, and Rudy-sama let out a sigh of exasperation.

“That would never happen. Although the initial attraction was based on appearance, now, everything about Emmanuella is precious to me. No matter what color, as long as you are you, my love for you will never change.”

“. . .!”

My cheeks grew hot at his unexpectedly passionate words.

But now is not the time to be embarrassed.

Taking a deep breath, I gaze directly into Rudy-sama’s eyes sitting next to me, hoping my feelings will reach him, and carefully weave my words.

“W-Well, no matter what color you are, I love you. I truly love you. If it means you’ll understand my sincerity, if it means you’ll believe in these feelings, then I don’t care about my hair. Even if it turns white, as long as your feelings don’t change. . .”

“Please, absolutely stop. If you were even slightly harmed because of someone like me, I would be consumed by guilt and perish.”

I was interrupted in a serious tone.

Although the point seems to have shifted, well, indeed, if Rudy-sama were to get burned because of me, I might cry in guilt and wither away.

“. . .I understand. I’ll take care of my hair.”

As I said that, Rudy-sama visibly sighed in relief and let his guard down. It was the perfect opportunity to insert my threat.

“But if you continue to doubt my feelings, I might do something reckless, you know? While trust takes time, if I’m made to wait for years, even decades, I might naturally turn gray with all the waiting.”

Rudy-sama gasped, and I deliberately smiled.

Under the threat from his wife, Rudy-sama let out a heavy sigh and, with an expression that seemed on the verge of tears, softly confessed.

“. . .Even if I end up deceived or betrayed later, I’ve always thought that I want to return the words Emmanuella wants from me, that I should return them. I’ve always wanted to respond to your words with ‘I love you too.’. . .”

Accepting and returning the words of love. That is certainly what I desire. No, not deceiving or betraying.

“But, in an instant, I felt that my ugliness was presumptuous, and my past self kept telling me that I couldn’t have such happiness. . .and I couldn’t say anything.”

. . .It’s deeply rooted, isn’t it.

But just being able to draw out positive words can be considered a step forward, for now.

“Thank you. Just saying that you want to return them makes me very happy. And surely, once we get used to happiness, it will become just an ordinary everyday thing. Then, at that time, I’ll naturally be able to return them, don’t you think?”

“Yes, perhaps.”

“I’m sure. So, come on, let’s be happier. . .or rather, let’s get used to me!”

I say this with an elevated tone, changing the atmosphere, and once again, I place the fork in Rudy-sama’s hand.

“. . .You still remember, ‘aah’.”

He chuckles and says that, then neatly places a bite-sized tart on the fork.

Both cakes were delicious.

Well, um, when it was my turn to say ‘aah,’ I was too nervous to taste it properly, so maybe, I don’t know.

Chapter 22

“B-Big trouble! There’s a rumor that Oku-sama’s, Emmanuella-sama’s lover has followed her all the way from the capital. . .!!”

“What? Oku-sama has a lover? Besides Danna-sama? That’s impossible. Is it some self-proclaimed misunderstanding guy?”

“. . .Y-yes, that might be true. B-but, when I investigated, it’s a confirmed fact that someone who was Emmanuella-sama’s childhood friend and had a good relationship with her at school came all the way to this remote place, even giving up his position as an Imperial Knight!”

“An Imperial Knight?! That means. . .not only in skill, but also in family background, appearance, and behavior, he must be an exceptional elite, right? . . .And he came all the way here for that?”

“Yes! I saw him in person while investigating, and he’s were incredibly handsome! . . .W-what should we do? I don’t think Oku-sama would do anything unfaithful, but if someone like that passionately pursues Emmanuella-sama, there’s no chance for Rudy-sama. . .!”

“. . .It was a short-lived spring, wasn’t it?”

“You give up too easily!”

“You were the one who said there’s no chance.”

“That’s true! But I hate it! If Emmanuella-sama is gone, this house is finished. . .!”

“Yes, that’s true. Rudy-sama’s happiness is impossible without that person. But even so, there’s no evidence the former Imperial Knight who can become an obstacle, with only his skills but also their lineage and appearance suddenly dies from a monster. . .”

“That’s a dangerous thought.”

“What other options do we have? Rudy-sama and that man who came here with such perfect and determined resolve, there’s no chance of winning in a direct confrontation. . .Well, in a sword match, I’m sure Rudy-sama wouldn’t lose, but a serious duel where they fight to the death, no one would accept that nowadays. . .”

“Ugh. . .Why, why Emmanuella-sama? . . .! Since he’s an Imperial Knight, he can easily have fun with any random beauty in the capital. . .! There’s only Emmanuella-sama for Rudy-sama. . .”

“By giving up his position as an Imperial Knight and coming here, it means his feelings are not just for any other woman or something he can forget easily. Truly, Oku-sama is something else.”

“It’s because Oku-sama’s charm knows no bounds. . .But well, Oku-sama has terrible taste. Instead of eloping with an Imperial Knight, she married into the Santorina family and came here. They’ve already entered into a marriage recently, and they seem particularly close. So, somehow, she managed to resist the temptation of a former Imperial Knight. . .or not, I wonder. . .”

“I wonder. Well, if he stays in this house, wouldn’t it be acceptable to have one or two lovers? I’m sure Rudy-sama would tolerate that much.”

“No, Oku-sama hates infidelity. She said, ‘Those who commit infidelity shall have all their hair shaved off. Let’s make this our family motto.’. . .Shaved off, not cut off, right? That’s the family motto?”

“Oh my. So, when she takes the hand of that former Imperial Knight, it means she’ll break up with Rudy-sama first, right?”

“. . .What should we do?”

“Well, how about being a night thief instead of a monster? If it’s just about strength, a night thief who can even surpass the Imperial Knights would be around the Santorina family, known for their talented individuals.”

“. . .I guess that’s the only option. But, our strongest person is Rudy-sama, but I feel like he would quickly give up on Emmanuella-sama’s happiness. . .”

“You’re right. But that also depends on Emmanuella-sama’s wishes. In reality, Oku-sama brought that former Imperial Knight to the capital and came here. He might just be a delusional guy who thinks he’s the best. If it’s a pervert chasing after Oku-sama, the strongest night thief will appear.”

“Even if he’s a pervert, it won’t be a straightforward confrontation, but an attack by the night thief, right?”

“We should thoroughly crush any seeds of anxiety. You said it too. Rudy-sama only has Emmanuella-sama. We can’t let her escape.”

❂❂❂❂❂❂

After a stroll through the town, I thought that the distance between Rudy-sama and me had gotten closer, but. . .

“You insolent Callan Gladiolus! Apologize by cutting your belly!!”

“I-I’m sorry! I didn’t think it through. . .I-I apologize, so please stop attacking!”

“Shut up! Take this! We’ll talk after that!”

“But if I take even one hit, I’ll die?!”

“I’ll revive you, so don’t worry!”

“You’re not that skilled in healing magic, are you. . .?”

Three days after our stroll through the town, I found myself in the backyard of the Margrave Santorina’s house, chasing after the nuisance that is Callan.

I use magic to rain down chunks of ice from above, and Callan skillfully avoids them and melts the ice with fire magic. Lilyria watches the scene unfold behind me.

Callan is a man who fell in love with Lilyria and asked me to mediate for him, but for some reason, rumors have spread that he is my lover.

Thanks to that, the servants cry and beg me not to abandon Rudy-sama, and Rudy-sama, who I must have hurt deeply, blatantly avoids me. I won’t be satisfied until I land a hit.

“You sneaky Callan Gladiolus, stop running around!”

“Miss Emmanuella, have you not changed at all?!”

“Shut up! Don’t speak as if you know everything! It’ll just lead to more misunderstandings, won’t it?! You don’t know anything about my true self or my hobbies. We were just acquaintances who happened to be part of Prince Fortunato’s entourage. What childhood friends?!”

“I-I never claimed that! It’s the objective evaluation of society! We’ve been familiar with each other since we were young, haven’t we?! But I apologize for the misunderstanding that all the letters and gifts were meant for you!”

“If you’re going to apologize, do it to my Danna-sama! Callan likes Lilyria, not me. Explain it properly!”

“I will! I will apologize to Margrave-sama as well. . .”

“It’s because of you! He’s avoiding me! I haven’t even seen his face today. . .”

Ugh. . .tears welled up. At the same time, my magical power wavered, and the ice stopped.

Callan noticed it and stopped in his tracks, then bowed his head towards me.

“I’m sorry. I truly regret what I’ve done. I never expected it to turn into such a rumor. . .”

“Well, it’s because a handsome man and a beautiful woman make a good picture, right, Emmanuella-sama?”

While patting my back as I gasped for breath, Lilyria said. But wait a minute.

“Lilyria, don’t act like it’s none of your business. If you had properly convinced Callan before coming here, this wouldn’t have happened, right?”

“I have firmly declined multiple times. Isn’t it the fault of the person being so persistent?”

Even though Lilyria is glaring at me, she maintains a composed expression. Well, it’s true that she has never shown any suggestive behavior towards Callan.

She either refused to accept the gifts on the spot (which is why I ended up being entrusted with them) or returned them, always cutting them off with an emotionless demeanor.

“. . .Well, chasing after a woman you’re infatuated with, even though she’s not your lover or anything, and going so far as to give up your position as a royal knight, it’s the fault of the person who does that. So, Callan, let me punch you once.”

“A punch. . .Well, if it won’t hurt much with your fist, and if that counts as an apology, I don’t mind.”

“Alright, grit your teeth.”

“Gohu!. . .Augh, I’m surprised. You have more strength than I expected. And the determination to aim for my jaw without hesitation is quite something.”

Even though I landed a solid punch on his jaw, Callan only groaned for a moment and doesn’t seem to have suffered any significant damage. My fist hurts. Maybe I should have just used magic.

Chapter 23

As I gently stroked my tear-stained fist and Callan’s jaw, which was struck with a calm expression, Lilyria suddenly tilted her head.

“By the way, did Gladiolus-sama get fired from being a royal knight?”

When asked, Callan shook his head in a flustered manner.

“No, I didn’t get fired. Well, it’s true that I’m no longer a royal knight, but I’m still serving as a knight of the kingdom. I just requested a transfer to this area for a change of duty location. I will be responsible for border defense in the future.”

“Oh, I see.”

Lilyria nodded indifferently, despite asking the question herself, showing no interest.

Hmm, well, that may be true, but it doesn’t seem like a situation to be so indifferent about. . .

“But Callan, you’ve deviated from your promising career path. If you had continued as a royal knight, you would have been secure. Being sent from the capital to a rural area is basically a demotion, right? Moreover, since the Santorina family has a strong influence in this area, the work of a kingdom knight is not just simple surveillance and regular reporting to the country. It’s not an insignificant position. To willingly choose that. . Well, I suppose it shows how deep your love for Lilyria is.”

“Well, that’s scary. . .”

Upon hearing my remark, Lilyria muttered briefly and quietly moved behind me.

In an instant, Callan slumped down, and his deep wine-red hair, which is usually much higher than my eye level, seemed somewhat dejected.

“Well, Lilyria, it’s true that it’s a bit scary, but after all, he followed you here, so shouldn’t you be a little moved or something?”

“Is Emmanuella-sama a supporter of ped*philes?”

Lilyria glared at me with a cold gaze as I tried to defend Callan, then quietly distanced herself. It felt like she was breaking not only his spirit but also mine.

“N-No, ped*phile? Callan is the same age as me, and he’s younger than Lilyria! Well, I mean, you do look completely like a child and adult together, and the difference in physique is extreme, but. . .”

Upon hearing my somewhat excuse-like words, Lilyria let out a heavy, long sigh and spoke calmly.

“Emmanuella-sama, the opposite sex that approaches me is a kind of pervert who finds any girl lovable as long as she looks like a little girl, regardless of beauty. In fact, it’s even more likely that they are extreme perverts who want to do terrible things to creatures that look like innocent girls precisely because they are ugly and older.

Callan, who was described as a possible extreme pervert, paled and shook his head.

“N-No, that’s not it! I just, I like Lilyria-san’s personality and way of life! Since I come from a family of knights, I easily empathize with someone in a servant-like position. So, I was impressed and admired Lilyria-san’s loyalty to Miss Emmanuella. . .”

Just as he said that, he awkwardly averted his gaze and continued in a subdued tone.

“Well, um, this, um, girlish appearance actually has a mature personality, or rather, a sense of resignation, strength of character, and it’s attractive in that way. But I’m not interested in anyone else who looks like a little girl or a girl! I like Lilyria-san because she’s Lilyria-san!”

In response to Callan’s passionate declaration with a bright red face, Lilyria returned a cold smile.

“You can say anything with words. Let me make it clear, I am a living human being. I have emotions, and I age over time. This girlish appearance can’t be maintained for many years. I need to eat and excrete, and I can never become someone’s obedient doll.

“I know. I find your hidden passion, which can be relentlessly devoted to Miss Emmanuella, incredibly attractive. Because you’re not a doll, you are beautiful. And although it’s not something to be proud of, our kind, humans and knights, are a barbaric race that is completely indifferent to appearances. Even as we age, your charm will not be shaken in the slightest.”

Upon Callan firmly stating it again, Lilyria’s words got stuck in her throat.

Well, it’s not something to boast about, but it’s true that they are indifferent to appearances.

In the Gladiolus family and among the knights, there is a culture of valuing practicality and having short hair. They also have a mysterious culture of praising each other’s muscles.

So, in reality, Callan and his family probably wouldn’t care about Lilyria’s appearance.

In fact, Callan’s father once said that if someone as talented as her were to marry his son, he would be delighted.

This is because Lilyria has been training quite hard to be able to protect me when the time comes.

The reason Callan and I became acquainted and why we know each other is because Lilyria was studying under Callan’s father, who is the captain of the knights and known as the strongest in the kingdom.

Despite being a petite woman, Lilyria stands out among the many disciples of Callan’s father, thanks to her exceptional skills. This is due to her extraordinary passion and determination, born out of her loyalty towards me, which led her to train relentlessly as part of a group.

I often heard that he fell in love while watching her train by my side when we met at the academy.

“Or rather, why does it feel like there was actually a pervert who wanted to surround Lilyria-san like a doll?”

When Callan suddenly asked, Lilyria nodded with a bitter expression.

“Well, um. Although it’s not something to be proud of, I was forced into three arranged meetings by my estranged family. And all of the suitors were like that. Well, since they were like that, I didn’t hesitate to punch them and come back.”

“Alright, I’ll go and cut down those perverts.”

As Callan said that and completely focused his gaze, gripping his sword, Lilyria let out a sigh of exasperation.

“Where do you plan on going without even knowing who your opponent is?”

As he was about to walk away, Lilyria gently asked him from behind.

“. . .Tell me.”

Callan pleaded with a pathetic voice as he turned back, and Lilyria chuckled.

“If I were to tell you now, it would be clear instigation of murder.”

“Ah, I can’t turn Lilyria-san into a criminal. I guess I have no choice. I’ll give up on getting the information from you.”

Nodding with a bitter expression, he briefly made eye contact with me.

Well, I suppose it means that I should investigate without needing to ask Lilyria.

And maybe it’s an eye contact that implies I, as her employer, should cooperate with the investigation. Probably.

Seeing me and Callan nodding in agreement, Lilyria let out another exasperated sigh.

“Emmanuella-sama, Gladiolus-sama, I am here without any trouble, so isn’t that enough? As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t hesitate to strike them, you know? If I’m provoked carelessly, there’s even a possibility that I’ll be judged by the law. . .”

“Yeah, if it’s Lilyria-san’s full strength, it would be half-dead. . .”

At Callan’s muttered words, a sense of crisis arose.

“Eh, you didn’t actually kill anyone, right. . .?”

Lilyria, who was gently asked by me, tilted her head with a beautiful smile.

Yeah, let’s not ask that again.

Satisfied with my closed mouth and polite smile, Lilyria returned to her serious expression and calmly stated.

“My parents seem to have learned their lesson or perhaps they realized that I had fallen behind as a noble lady. They haven’t sent me a letter since two years ago. . .When I went to negotiate with them to let me be more relaxed, I said, ‘Otou-sama and Okaa-sama still have beautifully artificial hair, don’t they?’ It seemed to remind them that we weren’t really family, so maybe that’s why.”

Ah, so Viscount and Viscountess, who became gray-haired or bald because of my curse, were actually wearing wigs. And they got angry when it was pointed out.

In this world, there is a theory that hair color is a blessing from the gods, so disguising one’s hair color is heavily frowned upon and ridiculed.

There are even extremists who claim that wigs and dyeing hair are blasphemy against the gods.

That’s why Lilyria’s parents, who feared being exposed wearing a wig, distanced themselves from high society and withdrew their control on her as soon as she noticed it. They couldn’t afford to be exposed.

“. . .So, I guess I don’t have a role to play, huh? But if you can handle everything perfectly on your own. . .”

“You’re saying I lack cuteness, right?”

Lilyria interjected with a cynical smile at Callan’s mutter, but he firmly shook his head.

“No, I think you’re too cool. It seems like the day I’ll be recognized by Lilyria-san is far off. . .”

“I-I see.”

Callan seemed lost in thought, unaware of what was happening, but Lilyria’s ears turned slightly red, and she showed an unusual sign of agitation in her voice.

Lilyria has a weakness for compliments like being cool or reliable because of her big sister nature.

. . .Why aren’t these two together?

Yes, in the first place, it would have been better if these two were together.

If they were lovey-dovey lovers, there wouldn’t have been any strange misunderstandings.

“Hey, Lilyria, now that the misunderstanding about ped*philia has been cleared up, why don’t you try to acknowledge Callan a little bit. . .?”

I softly asked with hope, and Lilyria’s expression changed to that of someone who had bitten into a bitter bug, while Callan raised his face with eyes full of expectation.

Chapter 24

“If it’s an order to acknowledge and marry him, I will gladly comply.”

“Eh?! Th-that’s not it!”

As Lilyria said such outrageous things with a seemingly reluctant expression while claiming to be happy about it, I vigorously shook my head.

“It’s not about orders, I was just giving advice. Besides, even if it were an order, marriage is a serious matter. If you don’t want it, you should refuse, right?!”

Despite my desperate approach towards Lilyria, she tilted her head with a puzzled expression.

“Isn’t it generally the master’s decision when it comes to a maid’s marriage? Besides, my life belongs to Emmanuella-sama. Since you have the power to decide whether I live or die, I should follow your intentions even in how I live until death.”

“In that case, I request that you decide for yourself how to live, whether to live or die. Why is it that Lilyria, who usually doesn’t show any respect towards me, occasionally imposes something so heavy. . .”

As I let out a sigh, Lilyria chuckled.

“I always respect you to the utmost. I’m just the type to show respect through actions.”

Well, it’s true that while Lilyria may be harsh with her words, she is kind and sweet to me in various ways. . .

“Yes, Miss Emmanuella, you are highly cherished. In fact, Lilyria-san is quite harsh towards everyone else. Neither I nor my father were even informed about Lilyria-san’s plans to move to this land.”

Callan expressed his lament with a touch of sorrow, causing me to widen my eyes.

This is beyond neglect. . .!

“I did send a letter to my master on the morning of our departure. The reason I didn’t go to greet you in advance was because I was under house arrest until the day before departure.”

Despite being looked at with disbelief by me, Lilyria calmly said so. But wait.

“The house arrest was my punishment, it had nothing to do with Lilyria!”

I shouted without thinking, but Lilyria, still wearing her composed expression, simply responded.

“It’s only natural that you can’t frolic around while your master is under house arrest.”

“When I went to see her right after graduating from the academy, she said something similar, and since then, she has refused to meet or even exchange letters with me. Well, I thought it was only natural considering Lilyria-san’s loyalty, so I backed down once. . .”

Callan let out a sigh and continued.

“After your house arrest was lifted, she moved without telling me anything, and honestly, I thought my heart would break. It’s one thing to refuse, but to add to that, being ignored is harsh. So, I somehow managed to encourage myself and it took nearly three months, including the time it took for the reassignment to be approved. . .”

As Callan muttered, he had a distant look in his eyes, as if he was thinking about all the hardships he had endured.

“Th-thank you, Callan. Well, it’s amazing that you didn’t give up.”

As I unintentionally praised him, Callan, still with a distant look, weakly smiled.

“Because until now, everyone, including you, has been uniformly rejected. I simply thought that besides Miss Emmanuella, everyone, including you, didn’t matter. I particularly don’t dislike you.”

“Well, it’s more or less the same.”

Lilyria nodded, and Callan let out a sigh of relief. Even being considered ‘doesn’t matter’ brings relief. . .

“However, let me correct you. It’s precisely because I find you special and adorable that I have been pushing you away.”

As Lilyria calmly continued her words, Callan gasped and stiffened.

“Eh. . .A-Adorable?”

For Callan, who had a rather stern appearance and was known for being cool at the academy, the unfamiliar term ‘adorable’ seemed out of place, causing him to tilt his head. Lilyria then softly smiled, as if she truly found him cute beyond measure.

“Yes, Gladiolus-sama is like a foolish dog, but he’s incredibly cute. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen him since childhood, but to me, you look very cute. Your foolishly straightforward nature, well, it’s truly foolish and foolish and foolish, but that’s why you’re so adorable.”

I wonder if she’s praising him. . .

As I watched from the side, I couldn’t help but feel a bit uneasy, but Lilyria, who said those words, had a beautiful smile throughout, and Callan, who was being spoken to, had a bright red face and a wandering gaze, so maybe she did praise him.

Come to think of it, Lilyria likes dogs.

Callan, who gave up his position as a royal guard to come here, is undoubtedly a fool.

When he gave up that position, he probably shattered any chance of a marriage meeting with the high-ranking noble ladies, and yet he came straight to Lilyria without hesitation, giving off a foolish dog-like feeling.

Finally, Callan clenched his fist as if firming his resolve, stared at Lilyria with expectant eyes, took a deep breath, and then opened his trembling lips.

“. . .L-Lilyria-san, um, I, I graduated from the academy. I’ve already resigned from the royal guard, but I’ve been recognized as a knight of the country. I can’t do anything about being younger than you, but, um, can you acknowledge that I’m no longer the ‘child who clings to their parents’ as you mentioned before. . .?”

“Yes. You’ve become splendid.”

“S-So, um, me and you. . .”

“You are charming. That’s why it would be a waste for someone like me, who is not blessed with a wealthy family or a prestigious background, and who has only Emmanuella-sama as an absolute, to make you unhappy. I firmly decline.”

As Lilyria cut off everyone’s words with a smile, Callan choked on his words.

“Besides, as I mentioned earlier, I want to follow Emmanuella-sama’s wishes even when it comes to choosing a marriage partner. I can only think of acting in her best interest. I never intended to choose my own marriage partner.”

Noting something that had been bothering me since earlier, I gently asked, even though it might not be appropriate to interrupt a proposal scene.

“Well, Lilyria, then you don’t dislike or hate Callan, do you? On the contrary, maybe. . .you actually like him?”

At my confident words, Callan looked bewildered, and Lilyria opened her mouth with an expression as if she had bitten a bitter bug.

“. . .Do you think there’s a woman in this world who can’t love someone whispering love to her?”

“There might be some occasionally, right? At least I have no interest at all. But for now, Lilyria, you like him, right?”

As I asked again, Lilyria reluctantly nodded.

“Well, if it’s a choice between liking or disliking, then. . .maybe I like him.”

With a snap, Callan, who was frozen in shock from the overwhelming joy, was left alone for now, and I pressed Lilyria further.

“You said earlier that you would obey my orders, right? If it’s a marriage that benefits me, will you accept it?”

“Of course. If it is necessary for Emmanuella-sama’s happiness, I don’t mind being turned into a perverted plaything for a ped*phile.”

“Why do I have to give such a cruel order? Well, whatever. I order you, Lilyria. Marry the person you love and be as happy as possible. Show my Danna-sama that even with a pale complexion, you can be loved this much, that you can be happy, that it’s okay to be happy!”

“. . .Ah. . ., Ahh. . .?”

To Lilyria, who still seemed to have trouble digesting it, I ordered once again.

“Now, be true to your feelings! Show Rudy what happens when you’re true to yourself!”

“I see. . .?”

Tilting her head, Lilyria seemed to still be pondering the meaning of my order. For now, I turned to Callan.

“Gladiolus, I’m sorry for hitting you earlier! It doesn’t matter about appearances, I’m glad you’re here, someone who loves Lilyria regardless. Earlier, Lilyria said she didn’t want to make you unhappy, but isn’t your happiness marrying some random black-haired Ojou-san in the capital?”

“No! I came to this place because I can’t consider that as happiness! I can’t love anyone other than Lilyria-san!”

In response to Callan’s immediate and strong rebuttal, I give him a beaming smile.

“That’s right, that’s right! No matter how good their looks or conditions are, you can’t be happy marrying someone you don’t love! So, Lilyria, I have hopes that by accepting someone who shares the same thoughts as me, it will become an opportunity for the timid Danna-sama to gather courage.”

“So my acceptance of Gladiolus-sama will be beneficial to Emmanuella-sama. . .”

To Lilyria, who responds with a single statement, I nod with a smile.

“If you truly want to be of help to me, then set aside any reservations or negative emotions, be honest with your feelings, and face Callan, won’t you?”

“. . .Understood, I will.”

After Lilyria finally nods, I pat her shoulder and turn towards the mansion.

“Well then, Lilyria, Callan, I don’t want to disturb you any further, so I’ll return to the mansion and look for Danna-sama. Then, I plan to introduce Callan to Danna-sama. . .”

At the stage of introduction, whether Callan remains a suitor for Lilyria or if they have become engaged as a couple.

Expressing my hope for the latter, I leave the scene.

Chapter 25

“. . .Yes, I see.”

In the awkward atmosphere after Emmanuella left, Callan strained his voice to try and reset the situation.

Then, he glanced at Lilyria beside him, and the gazes of the two, which had been avoiding each other until now, met with a click.

Lilyria let out a sigh, wearing a smile that lacked strength as if she had resigned herself. Callan, noticing that it was clearly different from the constant rejection before, immediately moved in front of her and knelt down on one knee.

He gently took her small, but not unreliable like that of a lady, left hand in his own, looked up as if praying, and spoke.

“I’ve said it many times before, but let me say it again. . .Lilyria-san, will you marry me. . .?”

“Before accepting that proposal. . ., may I ask you a few things just to make sure?”

Before accepting.

Accepting, but with conditions!

Upon this realization, Callan felt like jumping for joy, but he immediately regained his composure, sensing that this was a crucial moment, and nodded with a serious expression.

“Anything.”

In response to Callan’s serious answer befitting a knight, Lilyria sighed.

“Well then, first of all, this is my appearance. I have been despised by my biological father and disliked by my stepmother. Doesn’t it bother you? When it comes to marriage, you have to consider things like family and descendants, right? A human with little magical power mixing into the lineage?”

Lilyria indicated her ice-blue eyes while adjusting her bangs, showing that the only thing she can control with magic is a fist-sized amount of water.

The problem is not just her appearance.

Does he truly understand?

To confirm that, Lilyria asked with utmost seriousness, and Callan answered quite readily.

“It’s not a problem at all. My family has always valued swords more than magic, and although I seem to have a lot of magical power, I’m not good at magic because my mind can’t keep up. There’s no problem even if the magical power is low. The basic belief of the Gladiolus family is that when dealing with groups or large demon beasts, it’s faster and more reliable to cut or strike in personal combat.”

“Well, isn’t the Gladiolus family too barbaric?”

When Lilyria interjected with a slightly teasing tone, Callan laughed as if genuinely amused.

“Haha, that’s true. Even when facing large demon beasts, my relatives, who are all barbaric, step forward and want to directly clash swords, saying they’ll protect the magicians. Lilyria-san, as the epitome of that barbarism, is my father’s favorite disciple, so everyone related to me welcomes you with open arms.”

“. . .Well, I can’t deny that it feels that way. But, in reality, when it comes to marrying and connecting two families, considering practicality and external factors, someone like a refined Ojou-san who was loved and raised by her family would. . ..”

“Are you saying that such a refined Ojou-san would fit in with our barbaric family?”

When Callan asked with a smirk, Lilyria let out a sigh.

“I don’t think so, no. But if we were to marry and live in the same house, we would see each other almost every day, quite frequently. It’s unpleasant if that person is ugly. . .”

“It won’t be. I roughly know what your parents said to you, but I’m different from them.”

“. . .”

Lilyria’s words faltered as she strongly denied Callan, who had a gluttonous expression.

Looking straight up at the silent Lilyria with a serious expression, Callan asserted.

“As people age, their appearance naturally deteriorates. It’s impossible to pledge eternal love with only a wavering feeling. It’s disheartening to be seen as proposing with half-hearted determination. Besides, I believe that Lilyria-san, who continues to diligently polish her own fist without hiding her true colors or not bowing down to her lack of magical power, is more beautiful than anyone else.”

“When you say ‘more beautiful than anyone else,’ it makes me feel a bit awkward. . .”

Blushing and looking down while mumbling, perhaps to hide her embarrassment, Lilyria retorted, and Callan tilted his head.

“What do you mean. . .Ah, Miss Emmanuella, right?”

“Yes, because Emmanuella-sama is the most beautiful person in this world. And it seems that Emmanuella-sama doesn’t mind, but it would be more appropriate to address her as ‘Mrs.’ instead of ‘Miss.’ Especially in front of Danna-sama.”

It must be a way to hide embarrassment.

Callan smiled faintly at Lilyria, who deliberately muttered complaints in a low voice. He then tightened his expression and bowed his head.

“I apologize once again. I just wanted to say that Lilyria-san appears exceptionally beautiful to me, not based on the general public’s evaluation.”

“You have a peculiar sense of aesthetics, although not as much as Emmanuella-sama.”

Lilyria said with a proud expression, her face turning red up to her neck.

Callan gazed at the adorable Lilyria with an irresistible feeling and spoke, remembering something that had crossed his mind.

“By the way, Emmanuella, I mean, Mrs. Emmanuella seems to be concerned about the shape of her eyes and the length of her eyelashes. It has been said that Lilyria-san’s eyelashes are so long that they could hold small branches. Indeed, when I look at your large eyes and the eyelashes that frame them, they are truly beautiful. . .”

“That peculiar sense of aesthetics must have been influenced by my master. . .I’m sorry for that.”

Lilyria, who bowed her head without blushing this time, looked genuinely apologetic. Callan’s smile deepened in response.

“Although I was completely rejected by the person in question, Mrs. Emmanuella and I are childhood friends, after all. Naturally, it has an impact,”

“I couldn’t see through Emmanuella-sama’s facade, or rather, I didn’t get close enough to see her true sloppy side.”

Lilyria said that with a sour expression, and Callan tilted his head.

“I’m sorry if I said something unpleasant. Ah, I see, it’s jealousy,”

Lilyria stiffened for a moment, then immediately regained her composure and coldly declared,

“I’m not jealous.”

“You are. It’s okay. Actually, Lilyria-san understands Mrs. Emmanuella much better. As you said, I didn’t even notice her facade,”

“Is that so?”

“Hmm?”

“Oh, it’s nothing.”

Lilyria averted her gaze with her usual expressionless face, and Callan sighed.

“Well, anyway, I have no intention of getting in the way of the relationship between Lilyria-san and Mrs. Emmanuella. Your loyalty is your greatest virtue, and I understand that Mrs. Emmanuella is a wonderful master worthy of a lifetime of service,”

“Isn’t it usually unpleasant to have a partner who prioritizes something outside of the family when building a household? Even if I were to marry, Emmanuella-sama would always be my one and only,”

When Lilyria threw out this question, which was one of the things she wanted to confirm, Callan laughed it off.

“I love you because you’re like that, and there’s no one in our family who would dislike it. If someone in our family died for loyalty, their funeral would be a grand celebration,”

The Gladiolus family, who value loyalty above all else, have not received territories or inheritable titles due to their desire to remain in the position of a retainer. However, most of the family members have been granted a one-generation knight title through their military achievements.

Callan, too, has already obtained a knight title during his time at the academy.

The family, filled with knights, is so loyal that it makes one believe what he said is not a lie.

“I do think that would be the case for the Gladiolus family, but at the same time, I also wonder if it’s okay for the Gladiolus family to be like that. . .”

When Lilyria said this with a deep sigh, Callan returned a bitter smile.

“There’s nothing we can do about it. Starting with my father, everyone in our family is like that. Those who can’t adapt to it won’t marry into our family, and those who don’t like it will leave early. That’s how it goes, and as a result, everyone in the Gladiolus family is considered barbaric,”

“I wonder if it’s really okay for me to fit into that. . .”

“Everyone in our family would welcome the exceptional warrior Lilyria-san,”

With a refreshing smile, Callan made a firm assertion, and Lilyria relaxed her shoulders.

“Well, let’s leave it at that then. By the way, there’s one more thing I want to confirm. Even though I may look older, I’m actually quite a bit older than you, you know? I’ll become a respectable old lady in no time,”

“If it’s Miss Lilyria, you’ll definitely become a cute old lady. And by then, my hair will probably be white too. The age difference isn’t 100 or 200 years, after all,”

Callan replied with a smile devoid of ill intentions, and Lilyria returned a weak smile.

“Haha, Emmanuella-sama said something similar,”

“Oh, it seems that the Margrave couple also have a slight age difference. In noble arranged marriages, there can be a difference of nearly 20 years. Compared to that, our four-year age gap is within the margin of error. Especially since Lilyria-san looks more youthful than me,”

“You’re really foolish. There’s no way it’s within the margin of error,”

Lilyria, who continued to speak harsh words, nevertheless had an unusually gentle smile on her face.

Encouraged by her relaxed smile, Callan chuckled.

“Lilyria-san said I’m cute because I’m foolish, right?”

“Yes, that’s right. Foolish children are cute. I can’t help but think that,”

“Well, that’s good to hear. So, there was one more thing I wanted to ask. Are there any more worries?”

“No, I understand now that I don’t need to think that I don’t fit into such a foolish person or a barbaric family,”

“Then, Lilyria-san, once again. . will you marry me?”

Through letters, through face-to-face meetings, Callan has repeatedly asked Lilyria this question.

“. . After Emmanuella-sama’s wedding, I would be delighted to,”

In response to the first affirmative answer, the earnest knight broke into a wide grin.

Chapter 26

It seems that the two of them are getting along well.

Based on Callan’s beaming smile of joy, Lilyria’s excessive poker face that seems to be a result of trying to hide her happiness, and the distance between the two as they walk side by side, I concluded that.

Afterwards, I heard from Lilyria that they have reached the stage of a verbal agreement for their engagement. However, every time Callan tried to say something, Lilyria silenced him with a single glare, so I don’t know what kind of exchange took place between them.

Well, it seems that they are getting along well, as Callan is firmly under the control of his wife-to-be, and he seems happy about it. I hope they will be happy together for a long time.

By the way, I’ve been thinking since the time when he kept pursuing her even after being rejected, but Callan is quite masochistic, isn’t he. . .

When I’m glared at by Lilyria’s ice-blue eyes that are absolute zero, I feel like crying, but Callan on the other hand seems to be fascinated by it. Perhaps it’s his reward, I wonder. . .?

Well, maybe it’s because her usual tsundere attitude is so strong that her occasional dere moments are irresistibly cute.

Lilyria used to strictly address him as Gladiolus-sama, the name of his family, but now she casually calls him Callan, and you can see glimpses of her dere side.

Being tsundere in public actually makes her look even cuter, without a doubt.

I was able to observe all of this with a smirk until Callan called me.

“Lilyria-san has officially cut ties with her family, right? In that case, the one who needs to give permission for the marriage would be her employer, Mrs. Emmanuella. . .”

“Wait a minute.”

“Hmm? Ah, is it Duke Baytree’s family or Margrave Santorina’s family that employs her?”

Callan, who was suddenly interrupted by me, tilted his head in confusion, but that’s not the issue.

“No, Lilyria is my personal maid. Her salary is also paid from my personal assets. But I don’t think marriage is something that the employer should approve or not, and if it’s Callan, I agree. However, my parents, especially my mother, are fond of Lilyria, so I think it would be better to go and greet them once.”

“I was planning to do that from the beginning. In fact, the Duchess informed me of Lilyria-san’s whereabouts and even said, ‘Do your best to catch her.’ I think she has already given her consent in a way, but it’s still necessary to pay a visit.”

“I see, Callan is surprisingly good at handling things. If Okaa-sama is on our side, there shouldn’t be any problems. We can ignore Lilyria’s family. Oh, no, not that. . .What did you just call me earlier?”

When I brought the conversation back on track and asked, Callan tilted his head in curiosity.

“. . .?. . .Mrs. Emmanuella, right?”

“No, that’s not right.”

As I immediately rejected it with a serious expression, Callan became even more perplexed and tilted his head.

“Well, I thought it would be rude to call a married woman ‘miss.’ So, should I call you Margravine Santorina?”

“No, you don’t have to be that formal. But ‘Mrs. Emmanuella’ is, well, you know. . .It’s not good.”

“I don’t really see any particular reason why it’s not good. . .”

“Damn it! Can’t they understand in this different world. . .!!”

As I instinctively held my head in frustration, Callan and Lilyria looked flustered and exchanged glances, repeatedly tilting their heads.

Ah, I see.

In this world, ‘Mrs. Emmanuella’ doesn’t have any special meaning, does it?

If it were someone from modern Earth, I could say, ‘You know, it’s an old but famous story. If you don’t understand, be careful not to be seen by others and search it up.’. . .

“I’m sorry for using vulgar language. I got carried away. Um. . ., well, calling me Mrs. Emmanuella feels unlucky, or rather, it feels kind of heavy and serious. . .”

“. . .So, you felt like you were suddenly treated as if you had aged?”

Without knowing what to say, I struggled to come up with excuses, but Lilyria immediately spoke up.

“Yes, that’s it! Let’s go with that! Ah, no, of course, I’m not dissatisfied with marrying Rudy-sama. It’s delightful to be called Madame or Oku-sama, but if you’re called in such a dignified manner, it feels like you don’t quite have that level of elegance yet, you know, that kind of feeling?”

“? I don’t quite understand the elegance part. . .In that case, Emmanuella-sama, how should we address you, if I may ask?”

Asked by Lilyria, I tilted my head.

Well, what could it be?

We’re probably not close enough to be considered friends, but not distant enough to be mere acquaintances, a moderate level of familiarity.

In terms of hierarchy, it’s almost equal, I think. We’re the same age. There used to be a sense of camaraderie when we both served His Royal Highness the Crown Prince.

So, for me, being called by my first name alone is fine, but considering the previous “family status” and, above all, the fact that Lilyria-san is my employer, I was firmly refused to be called by my first name alone.

And I am a married woman.

In that case. . .

“. . .Mrs. Emma, perhaps? You know, to soften the weightiness that comes with ‘madame’ and make it more of a nickname, something like that.”

“I don’t quite understand the delicate nuance, but if that’s your preference, I will address you as Mrs. Emma from now on. So, Mrs. Emma, when you visit the Duke Baytree’s residence. . .”

While saying he doesn’t quite understand, Callan readily nodded and began telling me about the future plans for his marriage with Lilyria.

Distracted by the unexpected trap of my own name and how to avoid it in the future, I hardly paid attention to Callan and Lilyria’s conversation.

For the same reason, I completely forgot that Callan had been mistaken as my lover who followed me from the capital, and I had no idea how reckless it was to let such a man use a nickname and how much it would hurt others.

Chapter 27

On a summer afternoon, a week had passed since Knight Callan Gladiolus arrived at Margrave Santorina’s territory.

In a separate mansion near the border, which was rumored to have been used as a frontline base during wartime but now primarily served as a base for demon beast extermination due to the good relations with neighboring countries, Rudy was there.

By his side was an elderly butler who had followed him from the main residence.

“. . .So, why is Rudy-sama sneaking around and avoiding Oku-sama like that?”

After finishing the necessary tasks, the elderly butler interjected with an exasperated expression. Rudy stiffened his expression and averted his gaze.

“It’s not like I’m running away. It’s just that the demon beasts in this area have become more active lately. It’s likely that those pursued by the guardian dragon of the capital, who has regained its power, have gathered within its hard-to-reach range. So, we’ve moved our base here to exterminate them and assess the situation. . .”

“While that trend is true, it shouldn’t be a situation where you have to personally deal with it yet.”

Interrupting Rudy’s explanation, the elderly butler expressed his disbelief, causing Rudy to become even more awkward and fall silent.

Letting out a sigh, the elderly butler, who had lowered his head in front of his downcast master, asked.

“Really, is it just jealousy? You don’t want to see Oku-sama and that knight together? But I’ve repeatedly told you that the knight is not Oku-sama’s lover. He is engaged to Oku-sama’s maid, Lilyria-san.”

“Yeah, it was written in the letter from Emmanuella as well. I no longer doubt that. Besides, Emmanuella is not someone I have the right to monopolize. Even if he really was her lover, I knew from the beginning that I have no right to be jealous of it.”

The elderly butler, who looked at Rudy suspiciously after he calmly admitted it, continued to press him with a stern voice.

“If that’s the case, what is your dissatisfaction? Poor Oku-sama, rejected by Rudy-sama, is completely depressed and locked herself in her room without meeting anyone, not even Gladiolus-sama.”

“. . .I understand that it was a misunderstanding. However, at that moment when I saw them standing side by side and saw their casual manner of calling each other ‘Emma’. . .I couldn’t help but feel that they were a good match, that she deserved someone like him. ”

After a moment of silence, the elderly butler looked at Rudy with a meaningful gaze.

“I am aware that there are many individuals with equal or greater status and wealth than I have. However, even in this country, there are numerous outstanding individuals who, if it were her, would captivate regardless of appearance.”

With a glance, Rudy silenced the elderly butler who seemed about to offer a rebuttal, and continued with a somber expression.

“Emmanuella may say that looks don’t matter, but considering public opinion and the future of our descendants, it’s undeniable that good looks are important. Isn’t that a fact? Having someone like me by her side can only be a disadvantage. What she deserves, what can make her happy, is someone who excels in appearance and everything else. . .”

“Please refrain from making judgments about Emmanuella-sama’s happiness.”

In an instant, Lilyria interjected while forcefully opening the door with a bang.

Behind her, Callan followed, looking flustered.

The elderly butler, met with Rudy’s gaze demanding an explanation for the presence of an unexpected person, calmly spoke.

“There was an offer to apologize for causing a misunderstanding, so I brought them along. While Rudy-sama strictly ordered that Emmanuella-sama should never enter this dangerous place, there was no specific mention about these two individuals.”

“I would also like to apologize for eavesdropping.”

Following Lilyria, who spoke in a calm voice that showed no sign of remorse and deeply bowed her head, Callan also bowed.

“I apologize. Everything was thoughtless. I just wanted to go to Lilyria-san before she could escape, but it turned out that I went to the Lady’s presence before greeting the Lord. . .”

“Oh, no, there’s no need to apologize. I wasn’t particularly avoiding people. And seeing the two of you standing together now, I can tell that you understand each other’s feelings.”

Upon Rudy’s words, Lilyria and Callan raised their faces, exchanging glances.

“Or rather, even if Gladiolus were actually her lover. . .”

“Please stop, that’s impossible.”

Interrupting Rudy’s words, Callan said in a genuinely disgusted voice, causing Rudy to furrow his brows in discomfort.

“Is that an insult to Emmanuella? There’s no reason for her to be disliked when he can be seen as the lover of someone as beautiful, kind, and charming as her.”

“You’re such a troublesome person. . Oh, no, it’s nothing. It’s not about beauty or ugliness, but being a married woman’s lover is generally a dishonorable position. Besides, I’m only interested in Lilyria-san.”

“Callan has really bad taste.”

“That’s disappointing. Not only me, but the entire Gladiolus family should appreciate Lilyria-san more than a delicate lady whose chin can’t even be shaken with a full-force punch. And as I witnessed the effort you put in to reach this point, I fell for you.”

“. . .I guess his brain is made of muscles. In other words, it’s not about Emmanuella-sama’s charm, but his sense of aesthetics is weird.”

“I don’t think that’s the case. . .Well, anyway, I just want to say that I find it unpleasant to be thought of as someone’s lover other than my fiancé.”

While occasionally being interrupted by Lilyria, Callan appealed to Rudy.

Rudy softened his expression and nodded.

“Ah, no, I’m the one who should apologize. Even if it’s a hypothetical situation, I said something quite rude. . .You two are truly in love, aren’t you.”

Rudy looked at Lilyria and Callan with eyes that seemed to see something dazzling, as they had an incredibly harmonious exchange.

Lilyria, seemingly uncomfortable with that gaze, slightly blushed and opened her lips, which Emma described as ‘small and cherry-colored, but only harsh words come out when she speaks.’

“Because this person is a pervert with a twisted sense of ped*philia, it seems that he finds only me adorable and has no interest in anyone else. He even gave up his position as a Royal Guard to chase after me.”

“W-Wait, it’s not ped*philia. . .!. . .Or, is it? Actually, because I think you are incredibly charming. . .No, but I have no interest in anyone other than Lilyria-san or anyone who looks like a young girl. . .”

While muttering such things and getting lost in thought, Callan was ignored as Lilyria continued.

“For him, being with me brings him more happiness than his brilliant achievements as a royal knight in the capital, or his connections with beautiful Ojou-sans that come with it. That’s why he has pursued me this far. Not Emmanuella-sama or anyone else, but me.”

“Yes, my happiness lies in being with Lilyria-san.”

“Think about that a little more, you ped*phile.”

Interrupting, Callan cut in with an excessively cold gaze and sharp words, perhaps to hide her embarrassment. After clearing her throat with a cough, Lilyria turned to Rudy.

“. . .I apologize. What I wanted to say is that Emmanuella-sama feels the same way. She has no interest in conventional happiness. If she had any interest, she could have obtained any kind of happiness by using the Duke family’s power, even by threatening the king or using you as a fake spouse.

“That’s why I’m here, so as not to interfere with her. . .”

“That kind of materialistic and easily understandable happiness that the world talks about, it’s meaningless if you don’t have a heart that can perceive it as happiness. At least Emmanuella-sama doesn’t desire such things. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have been so devastated by your absence, and we wouldn’t have taken action like this.”

Interrupting Rudy’s negative words, Lilyria asserted so.

Callan and the old butler, who directly witnessed and heard everything, nodded with serious expressions, as if agreeing with her.

Facing Rudy, who began to ponder, Lilyria calmly repeated her words.

“As you know, Emmanuella-sama possesses both beauty and magical power, and she has received a noble education. She has no flaws in her lineage, personality, or any other aspect. Moreover, as a beloved child of the royal family and the goddess, she feels indebted to you. Any kind of happiness can be obtained if desired. There is no need for her to come all the way to the borderlands to marry. However, that person has chosen you and desires you. Being with you is Emmanuella-sama’s happiness.”

Unable to come up with a rebuttal, Rudy fell silent, but the old butler smiled gently at him, harboring hope amidst his hesitation, and spoke.

“To be honest, I haven’t been particularly fond of the temple since Oku-sama’s incident, but still, I think it’s not bad to respect that love above all else and value emotional happiness. The heart is something that belongs to oneself. No matter what others say, it cannot be changed. How about finally believing in Oku-sama’s love? Because no matter what happens, Oku-sama’s wish will come true, and Rudy-sama would also be content, wouldn’t you?”

“Saying ‘no matter what happens’ implies that you, Butler-san, don’t really believe it, do you? Well, I can’t say that I myself don’t think that determination might waver as we face the criticism of society. . .”

In response to Lilyria’s words as someone with pale complexion and considered ugly, Callan pursed his lips in dissatisfaction, but Lilyria smiled at him and continued.

“But even if Callan were to change his mind someday, it wouldn’t change the happiness I feel right now. Just receiving memories alone is more than enough for people like us. Margrave-sama, instead of hesitating, it would be better for you to accept it head-on and fully savor the happiness you have right now.”

“I have pledged eternal love. . .no, considering the duties of a knight, I can’t deny the possibility of an early demise. . .in any case, it would be a waste to run away from the current happiness, so I also think it’s better to face it directly and enjoy it to the fullest.”

In response to Callan’s words directed at Rudy in the latter half, Rudy finally showed a smile as if he had let go of something and nodded once.

“. . .Ah, yes. . .please tell Emmanuella that I will leave here by tomorrow.”

Upon hearing Rudy’s finally positive words, the old butler, Lilyria, and Callan nodded with a sense of relief.

However, the task of delivering this message to Emmanuella remained impossible for anyone, forever.

Chapter 28

“In the evening, around 4 p.m. if I recall correctly, Emmanuella-sama came out into the hallway outside her bedroom and informed us that dinner was unnecessary. When asked about her condition, she said, ‘I just ate a little too much for lunch.’ After receiving our understanding, she immediately returned to her bedroom. Until that point, I believe she was undoubtedly safe.”

“On that day, Lilyria-san had not yet returned, and Emmanuella-sama requested that no one else enter the room for a while, so I don’t know what happened inside the room after that. However, I don’t think there were any signs of external intrusion into Oku-sama’s room, which is located deep within the mansion.”

“We, the guards, were always stationed outside on rotation. The garden is also patrolled by security. I was outside the door, but around 11 p.m., I suddenly felt a strange and unnaturally quiet atmosphere. I called out to Oku-sama from outside the door, but there was no response. When I knocked on the door quite forcefully and it didn’t make any sound, I became convinced that a sound-blocking magic was being used.”

“Considering the possibility that Oku-sama used magic for a peaceful sleep, the first ones to enter the room were the two of us maids.

. . .We discovered Emmanuella-sama collapsed on the floor, covered in blood, unconscious.”

“There was immediately a big commotion, but upon closer inspection, Oku-sama had no external injuries and appeared to be sleeping. However, at that moment, I could faintly see a peach-colored light surrounding Oku-sama, but it disappeared as soon as the room lights were turned on. The others said they didn’t see anything like that and dismissed it as a mistake. . .”

“As there was a knight among us who was skilled in healing magic, we quickly called for that person, and then a high-ranking priest from the temple, to examine Oku-sama. Both of them diagnosed that Oku-sama had no physical ailments and was simply sleeping. However, no matter how much we called out to her, she did not regain consciousness.”

❂❂❂❂❂❂

Upon receiving the news of Emma’s collapse, Rudy, riding his horse through the dark night alone, narrowly passed Lilyria and Callan, who were on their way back in a carriage.

The day after Emma lost consciousness, in the mansion where everyone gathered, Emma, who was covered in blood and had her room searched, unable to use her room due to the destroyed key, was carried into Rudy’s bedroom, where she slept.

Upon receiving reports from those in the mansion, Rudy, with a solemn expression, shared and organized information with the three of them.

“Most likely, Emmanuella-sama was on the verge of death. Judging from the bloodstains on her dress and in the room, it seems that her thick blood vessels in her neck were cut.”

Emma was on the verge of death once.

At Lilyria’s shocking conclusion, the remaining three were astonished.

However, only Rudy, who noticed that she currently had no external injuries, despite sleeping, asked while looking pale.

“Currently, it appears that she has no injuries. Could it be that Emmanuella herself treated them?”

“No, there are also eyewitness accounts of a pink light, and that pink girl―excuse me, Baron’s daughter Delina Larkspur-sama. . .Oh, right, she became the adopted daughter of some Marquis family for the sake of marrying the Crown Prince. Anyway, it seems that the blessing of the beloved child of the goddess was activated.”

“A blessing. . .?”

“Oh, didn’t Callan know? Emmanuella-sama has received a blessing, so she won’t die even if she’s killed. She automatically recovers. Currently, she is in a deep sleep to recover her body.”

Upon Lilyria’s words, Rudy, who knew the information but had doubts due to his lack of faith, and Callan, who learned for the first time, both sighed with admiration and relief.

“However, she won’t wake up if we leave her like this. A kiss from a loved one is necessary.”

But then, looking straight at Rudy, who is considered her loved one, Lilyria asserted while meeting his gaze.

Rudy, on the other hand, averted his gaze and persistently argued with Lilyria.

“I have heard that, but. . .is that really true? It’s difficult to consider kissing an unconscious person as gentlemanly behavior. It feels resistant to do it without certainty, or rather, it feels too absurd. . .”

“The pink light has disappeared, and she has probably already started recovering, but Emmanuella-sama is still not awake. Shouldn’t we follow what we’ve heard? Besides, the boss of the pink girl is the goddess of love, right? They can solve everything with ‘the power of love,’ those guys and their associates. According to the goddess, it doesn’t mean anything if she comes back to life in a world without a loved one.”

“Truly a theory of the goddess of love. . .!”

Lilyria laughed through her nose as she groaned and held her head.

“Well, Emmanuella-sama said the same thing. Now, Rudy-sama, I would like you to kiss Emmanuella-sama as soon as possible. . .”

Seeing Lilyria pause her words, Rudy looked at her with a puzzled expression, and Lilyria sighed.

“First, we need to investigate why she ended up in this state.

Was Emmanuella-sama attacked by someone. . .or did she attempt suicide? If we don’t know the cause, we don’t know if it’s right to wake her up immediately, or rather, if we can wake her up.”

The atmosphere in the room froze at Lilyria’s harsh words.

Without paying attention to it, she calmly continued her speculation.

“If it was suicide, I can only think of her despairing about her love for Rudy-sama as the cause. That love may have already been shattered. If that’s the case, you won’t be able to wake Emmanuella-sama.”

“S-Such. . .”

Staring at Rudy, whose complexion turned pale, Lilyria continued.

“You should have realized it sooner. . .Well, the love that the goddess of love speaks of may also refer to familial love. In case you’re not enough, it would be better to have the Duchess come here as a backup.”

“Callan, quickly contact the Duke household. If it turns out that Emmanuella-sama’s near-death experience was caused by an external enemy, it would be bad if it becomes known that she is still alive. But since you have an excess of magical power, you should be able to easily send a letter while covering it up, right?”

Ignoring the speechless and bowed-down Rudy, Lilyria gave instructions. Callan immediately nodded and began writing a letter to the Duchess.

“Rudy-sama, this is not the time to despair. Be cautious. If the cause was indeed an external enemy, we must eliminate it promptly. It is an incident that occurred in the absence of both Rudy-sama and Lilyria-san, who are capable individuals. I don’t want to think that there was a lapse in security, but there are parts that cannot be strongly denied.”

The old butler tried to encourage Rudy, but Lilyria had a sarcastic smile on her face.

“There were no signs of anyone entering Emmanuella-sama’s bedroom. There were guards outside, after all. Or perhaps, is there a way to enter that room without anyone noticing?”

“Well. . .”

“There is.”

“Eh, is that so?”

Taking over the speechless butler, Rudy asserted, causing Lilyria to widen her eyes in surprise.

“The room that Emmanuella was using is the main bedroom of this mansion, the room of the successive Margrave couples. There is a hidden passage for emergencies. By using that, it is possible to enter Emmanuella’s room without anyone noticing.”

“Well, that may be true, but that passage itself is kept secret, and only the successive heads of the household know the way and can open it. . .”

The old butler tried to refute Rudy, who was revealing more and more.

But instead of being interrupted, Rudy continued.

“Oh, that’s right. In other words, among the living, it’s me, Emmanuella, and. . .my mother.”

“No way, the previous Oku-sama is estranged from this family! Naturally, your father has erased the registration of her magical power. . .”

“I think so too. However, it is a fact that she knows the way. And perhaps, my father thought that my mother, who despised this house so much, would never come back. . .or maybe, he wished for her to come back someday. The possibility that my father left that open is something I cannot deny.”

“Even so. . .”

Lilyria stopped the persistent butler by tapping his shoulder and spoke directly to Rudy.

“Let’s put aside the registration issue. We don’t know if this so-called mother would do such a thing. As long as the passage exists, there is a possibility that someone forcibly broke through. Anyway, we should first confirm whether that passage was used or not.”

“That’s right. There is a possibility that some traces remain. Let’s investigate Emmanuella’s room first.”

“I will check the exit side of the passage.”

“I will accompany you to Emmanuella-sama’s room as well. I know best if her personal belongings have been tampered with. Callan, you stay here and finish contacting the Duchess. And protect Emmanuella-sama’s life at all costs.”

As Rudy stood up and the old butler followed him, Lilyria commanded Callan.

Callan nodded with a sense of awe at being entrusted with the person she admires more than anything, leaving behind Emma, who continues to sleep. The three of them headed towards their respective investigations.

Chapter 29

Hmm, it’s not suicide, but. . .

As Rudy-sama said, thieves entered through a hidden passage and tried to kill me.

Because I still love Rudy-sama the same, if he would just kiss me quickly, I would wake up.

If that happens, I can testify about the culprit as well. . .

. . .I should wake up, right? Rudy-sama loves me, right?

I wonder if Callan and Lilyria were able to successfully clear up Rudy-sama’s misunderstanding. . .

Even if the misunderstanding is cleared, the fact remains that I hurt Rudy-sama deeply with my reckless words and actions. I still haven’t been able to apologize directly.

I might have ended up being hated.

If that’s the case, then. . .oh, no, but it’s true that it wouldn’t make sense to be resurrected in a world without someone to love, just as the goddess intended. Instead of relying on my mother’s familial love, I’ll think that if he doesn’t work out, then it’s just not meant to be.

Well, neither Lilyria nor Rudy-sama himself particularly mentioned any doubts about Rudy-sama’s love, so I’m sure it’s fine.

For now, I’ll just believe in him and wait. They say all I can do is wait.

In this eerie state of pseudo-death where only my consciousness is awake while my body remains asleep, I reflect on the events of last night when I was almost killed.

❂❂❂❂❂❂

After refusing dinner in the evening, I returned to my room and lazily sat on the sofa, forgetting to change out of my dress. I ended up dozing off.

When I suddenly realized it, it was already late at night.

The room had become completely dark, possibly because the lamp had run out of fuel. In the dimly lit room, as I stretched my creaking body, they arrived.

After seeing it only once from Rudy-sama, I had completely forgotten about the hidden passage, without any particular use for it.

The wall decoration serving as the key emitted a faint light, and silently, the wall next to it moved, revealing a gap wide enough for a person to pass through.

In the next moment, smoke, likely created by magic or a magical tool, flowed out from there into the bedroom, spreading throughout the room with a puff.

There was a scent that almost made me lose consciousness, along with a strong presence of dark magic.

Reflexively, I tried to create a barrier to defend myself, but my groggy mind and weakened body from the past few days didn’t cooperate well.

Ah, no. Even if I hold my breath, it feels like the smoke is draining the strength from my limbs.

“Ugh, damn it. . .!”

Despite that, I managed to muster a small resistance and it seems that my own high magical power automatically protected me, allowing me to maintain consciousness.

However, strength drained from my limbs, and I sank back onto the sofa.

Ignoring my sudden abnormal situation, the smoke slowly, slowly disappeared as if dissipating.

Clack

The sound of hard shoes echoed strangely. Following that, there were several presences that failed to completely suppress their footsteps.

Someone, or rather multiple people, were coming into this room through the hidden passage that only the successive heads of the mansion should know about.

Eventually, what appeared were four, five. . .? Within my visible range, there were five individuals, all tall with a good physique, but it was difficult to determine if they were men due to their robes that obscured their body lines and concealed their faces. One of them was holding a lamp.

And standing at the center of the group, as if being protected by them, was a woman wearing a flashy dress that exposed a lot of skin. She was probably the cause of the loud footsteps from earlier, wearing high heels.

“Wow, she’s incredibly stunning. Is she a Hollywood actress?”

The moment I saw that woman, my thoughts seemed to overlap and I, who was apparently confused, unintentionally blurted out the words that came to mind.

The common sense that I shouldn’t verbalize my knowledge from my previous life, as well as the Duke’s daughter persona that should have been ingrained after years of pretending, had completely fallen away.

“Huh? What is she saying? And why is she able to speak?”

The woman at the center said irritably, then kicked the person in front of her around the thigh area.

The person who was kicked bowed their head meekly without uttering a word. From the silence of the surrounding people, it seemed that the group was wary of me hearing their voices.

Nevertheless, she’s so beautiful that being kicked by her might even be a reward.

She appears to be in her 30s, maybe even in her 40s. With long limbs, purple hair, and sapphire-colored eyes.

Despite wearing flashy dresses and accessories that could be considered vulgar, her overwhelming good looks and perfectly symmetrical features only serve to enhance her beauty.

She even has a slightly sadistic charm. You could call it villainous allure.

Oh no, this is not the time to be captivated. The person in front of me is likely an intruder with hostile intentions.

“I specialize in dark magic. Magic is difficult to penetrate for opponents of higher rank than the caster, you see?”

“Tch, what an unpleasant woman.”

I tighten my focus, readjust my facade, and provocatively challenge her with as much composure as possible, so as not to let her realize that I’m on the verge of being done in. The beauty clicks her tongue with genuine disgust.

“I believe this is our first meeting. . Have we had any significant encounters in the past?”

No, definitely not. I would never forget meeting such a beauty even once.

While thinking that, I cautiously inquire, and the beauty snorts disdainfully.

“So we’re not acquaintances. It seems you’ve taken quite a liking to the stain of my past that I brought into the world.”

“The stain of your past. . .?”

As I tilt my head in confusion at her vague expression, she glares at me with a resentful gaze and spits out her words.

“Will you understand if I put it this way? This place used to be my room. I left a long time ago, but it seems the ‘passage’ remains unchanged.”

“C-Could it be, you’re my Mother-in-law?!”

“You have no right to call me mother.”

Oh, I’ve been told something truly mother-in-law-like.

Well, in reality, she is my mother-in-law. This beauty is probably Rudy-sama’s birth mother, the former wife of the previous Margrave.

Even though I wanted to insult her as a miserable old hag based on the preconceived information alone, her imposing beauty is enough to make me unintentionally refer to her as “Mother-in-law”. . .

Upon closer inspection, her purple hair is not that intense, so she is probably a moderately attractive magician who can control water and fire to some extent in this world. But I don’t have the courage to call someone with this face a miserable old hag.

Considering Rudy-sama’s age, it’s highly likely that she is well past 40, but I can’t even call her an old hag, even if it’s a lie.

“Well, it’s something I don’t want to admit, but indeed, I am the mother of that failure, the colorless Margrave.”

However, the words that come out of my mouth are undoubtedly “miserable old hag”.

“For a person who is supposed to be a mother, to call her own beloved child a failure. . .I truly despise you from the bottom of my heart.”

Even when I glare at her harshly and say that, the beauty just laughs it off.

“I was wed to a man who offered my parents money and power, a man who I found neither lovable nor anything but repulsive. That failure is not the existence I desired.”

“If you are of noble birth, a political marriage is only natural, no matter who the partner is. You should build a relationship based on respect and mutual support, regardless of the person’s character.”

“Oh, how virtuous of you. That’s why I hate you so much. You’re certainly doing well with that.”

To her words, which she spat out with genuine disgust, I immediately retort.

“No, when it comes to Rudy, I married him simply because I love him, without any obligations or entanglements.”

When I was engaged to the Crown Prince, I intended to serve him as a job, without any fluttering feelings, as I mentioned earlier.

“Oh, you have such peculiar tastes. Is it true that you and that person are truly in love, as the townspeople gossip about? By the way, didn’t call me beautiful earlier. . .?”

As if intimidated by my sincere gaze, the beauty said that with a forced smile.

“Yes. I think you are beautiful. Though your personality is the worst, but you have such a wonderful face and figure that even turn that into a dangerous charm.”

“. . .What’s with her? Even though I hate to say it myself, I clearly have an average appearance. . .It’s just sarcastic to be told that by someone with such perfect beauty. . .”

Even though I sincerely praised her, the beauty took a step back, seemingly more confused and terrified than ever.

As if supporting her back, one person in the group gently placed their hand on her.

She shook her head to regain her composure and straightened her posture, then asked me.

“No, it doesn’t matter now whether you’re weird or not. Anyway, I can’t let you live as someone who can marry him. . .Just to make sure, you don’t have any intention of living somewhere far away with someone more decent, like that black-haired Imperial Knight, even if I offer to guide you, right?”

“No, I don’t. I have pledged my unwavering love to Rudy for a lifetime.”

“. . .I see, how unfortunate.”

The moment the beautiful woman heard my response, an arrow of flames was shot from the crowd.

“Why should I not be allowed to live? It’s not like you want to return to this mansion, to this room, right?”

“Why can’t I hit you from a distance! Me returning to this house?! You’re joking!”

“I am like this, you know? It’s impossible for me not to be able to deflect the magic of a lower-ranked magician. If you have no intention of returning to this house, then why do you try to eliminate me? It’s no longer relevant, isn’t it?”

While dodging the rapid succession of magic arrows, I asked.

As for him, he may be a hopeless failure, but he has the ability to earn money. The demon beasts that the lord of this territory deals with can be sold at a high price. His father was also good at paying money. However, with his appearance, he will probably never be able to marry or have children, and he will likely die in an accident when his power declines. In that case, the wealth he has accumulated will belong to me, his mother, right?”

“Indeed, this place seems to be full of danger, but we won’t let Rudy die young. We will protect him. How long do you intend to live?”

I was so exasperated by her selfish argument that I asked with a sigh.

No, this beauty looks youthful enough to be the same age as Rudy-sama, but her actual age is not like that. Planning to outlive her own child. . .

However, in front of my exasperated gaze, the beauty smirked and smiled defiantly.

“I actually have a child conceived with someone I truly love. They will be a half-sibling to him. If he dies unmarried, that child has the right to inherit his wealth. That’s why it’s troublesome if he find a wife who can accept him. And having a child would be even worse.”

“I see, I understand. . .”

“If you understand, then give up already! You haven’t been able to counterattack, and all you do is move your mouth skillfully. There’s no chance of winning against this number of people!”

. . .So they found out.

Yes. I’ve been trying to move multiple times, but my limbs seem to be numb and I can’t move at all.

For now, I’m able to nullify the magic, but I don’t know how long I can keep it up. And if they bring out blades, I don’t think I can survive against this number of people.

Despite all the commotion, there is no sign of the guards who should be outside the door coming to help. They have probably been dealt with as well.

I’m impressed by their thorough preparation. It’s true that there is no chance of winning.

“. . .Enough.”

Eventually, the beauty said that and stopped the group’s magic, revealing her long legs as she slid them out from the slit in her dress. Attached to her thigh holster was a surprisingly rugged knife.

She took it out and clenched it, then approached me with a determined step. I tried to wriggle away to escape from her, but my still immobile body simply slid down to the floor.

“Oh, so you still can’t move. . .I’ll at least give you a quick death, you infuriatingly beautiful woman.”

She said that with a cruel smile as she looked at me, and for a moment, I felt like I could unleash at least one offensive magic spell.

However, I don’t know the abilities of the remaining five people.

They might have other preparations as well.

That’s why I decided to simply accept the blade that was about to strike me.

For Delina-chan and the Goddess of Love.

I whispered a small curse in exchange for the preserved magical power, while releasing it towards the woman in front of me.

(It’s you who I find infuriatingly beautiful, you old hag.

There are things I’ve wanted to do to you ever since I met you.)

The words I wanted to say, I couldn’t utter them before my throat was torn apart.

Chapter 30

“. . .It’s a bit late to ask, but is it okay for me to see this hidden passage?”

“If it’s Lilyria-san, who is trusted by Emmanuella more than anyone else, it should be fine. Besides. . .Ah, it seems someone has recently passed through here. In that case, this place should be sealed. . .Well, I intend to do something about it. Even if one more person knows the current situation, it doesn’t change anything.”

“I see. Then, please don’t hesitate. . .Indeed, there are so many footprints. . .Judging by the size, there are both adult males and females, I suppose. . .?”

“Ah, it seems like the footprints here resemble those made by heels. In any case, we can say that the possibility of Emmanuella’s suicide has greatly decreased.”

Emma’s bedroom, at the end of the hidden passage opened by Rudy.

Dust had accumulated on the floor, which is usually hidden and unused, and there were clear footprints left there by several people.

While gazing at them, Lilyria and Rudy exchanged such a conversation.

Lilyria, who had been observing the footprints of the individuals who likely tried to kill Emma, as usual, calmly opened her mouth and softly spoke.

“Well, what should we do now?”

“Well, it’s not something that can be resolved by just killing them.”

Lilyria and Rudy, who spoke of dangerous things in a terribly calm voice, quickly averted their gaze from the footprints and exchanged eye contact, nodding at each other.

“If it were Emmanuella-sama, she would probably say to leave it to the judgment of the judiciary. . .”

“Ah, that might be a good idea, don’t you think?”

In response to Lilyria, who was filled with the momentum to immediately attack those who harmed Emma, Rudy easily agreed.

“Huh? Wait, Margrave-sama, you seem surprisingly indifferent. . .?”

Looking at Rudy as if she couldn’t believe what she was hearing, Lilyria said so and stared at him intently.

“I see. As the husband, the Margrave, the Duke, my father, the gratitude and indebtedness to the king and crown prince, and finally, the beloved child of the goddess. If the people who care about her are deeply involved in the core of the country, it would be. . .”

Lilyria, who noticed the same anger and determination in Rudy’s eyes as her own, read the unspoken words behind Rudy’s vague statement and nodded in satisfaction.

“Yes, you’re right. It shouldn’t become a psychological burden for the victim. Let’s leave it to the country. . .We don’t know what unforeseen accidents or mistakes might happen behind Emmanuella-sama’s back. We have no knowledge of such things.”

Rudy also nodded firmly at the latter half of Lilyria’s added words.

“Well then, now that it has been revealed that this path has been used, it will be a sufficient reason to question all the people who know about this place. First. . .”

“Please wait, Margrave-sama. Something is coming.”

“. . .!”

Lilyria, who was the first to notice the approaching sound, interrupted Rudy’s words and warned him, and Rudy, upon sensing something, changed his expression.

Kokk, kah, katsukatsukakkatsu

As if expressing frustration, rough and short footsteps echoed from the end of the hidden passage.

Despite their puzzled expressions at the strangely confident figure that didn’t even seem to be hiding, Rudy readied his sword while Lilyria prepared her fists, remaining vigilant.

“What the hell did you do to me!”

As the person who eventually appeared shouted this while releasing an arrow of flames, Rudy countered with a slash and twisted his neck.

“No matter what you say. . .First of all, who are you?”

“Could it be that you’re the person known as Margrave-sama’s mother? You did come through here. Besides, there’s a resemblance between you and the two of them, at least in facial features.”

“But that person has purple hair. . .”

“You must have done something! My, my hair. . .Ahhh! It’s as if. . .it’s you!”

Amidst Lilyria and Rudy speculating on the identity of the person who appeared with a seemingly relaxed and composed demeanor, their voices were drowned out by the greatly agitated white-haired woman who clawed at her hair while screaming.

“Ah, I see. Margrave-sama, this person is the culprit who attacked Emmanuella-sama. We’ll confirm whether she’s your mother later, but for now, let’s apprehend her.”

As Lilyria said this, seemingly convinced, Rudy’s demeanor changed drastically.

With narrowed eyes, Rudy adjusted his sword and his atmosphere became more intimidating, causing the woman to gulp audibly.

“W-Wait. Wait. On what basis. . .”

“That, it’s Emmanuella-sama’s original curse. It seems we’ve only seen the hair color so far, but eventually, the hair itself will fall out. Ahahahaha! Serves you right!”

“Lilyria-san, I didn’t know you could laugh so wholeheartedly. . .A suspicious intruder who was cursed by Emmanuella and suddenly trespassed. There’s no reason not to strike her down.”

While Lilyria laughed heartily, thoroughly enjoying herself, and Rudy showed a slightly taken aback expression, their movements, though different, synchronized as they steadily closed the distance with the woman.

“S-So, such a magic that continues to have an effect even after the spellcaster’s death, that can’t possibly exist. . .”

Despite her pale complexion and shaking her head, the woman created a wall of flames in front of herself, attempting to maintain distance from the two.

“Ahaha, you’ve fallen into the trap! Why do you think Emmanuella-sama is dead? The culprit has already been identified!”

“Emmanuella is alive. If there’s someone who thinks it’s better for her to be dead, I will eliminate them with all my might.”

Lilyria dispelled the wall with a spinning kick enveloped in water, and Rudy stepped forward from there, his sword closing in on the woman’s face.

“H-Hey, what are you doing to your own mother, you unfilial child!”

Dodging backward and avoiding the sword, the woman screamed while dispersing water that served as a distraction.

Rudy effortlessly evaded it.

“If the temperature is high enough to cause burns, I thought water would be a formidable weapon, but it doesn’t seem so. It appears that she can’t do much without an incantation. . .Weak, isn’t she? I don’t think she alone can defeat Emmanuella. Lilyria-san, the attackers who are not here right now are more of a threat. You go to Emmanuella.”

Upon Rudy’s words, the woman’s face flushed with anger or embarrassment. Lilyria showed a momentary sign of contemplation, then nodded immediately.

“I believe it will be fine over there since Callan is present. . .Understood. Good luck.”

“What’s wrong with you people, thinking you can interfere with someone as ugly as you!”

As Lilyria turned to leave, the woman shouted towards her back, releasing an arrow of flames from her fingertips.

However, it was easily erased by the sword swung by Rudy in the middle.

“Hah. Now, aren’t you much uglier than us? Oh, please tell me how you’re feeling right now. It will be a souvenir for my master.”

Glancing back briefly, Lilyria said with a disdainful laugh.

“. . .Kill you!”

“Oh, what a shame. It seems you lack the intelligence and reason to express a proper opinion.”

As the enraged woman shouted with a bright red face, Lilyria turned her back as if she had lost interest and rushed towards the room where Emmanuella was sleeping.

“I won’t let you go there. I will be your opponent.”

As Rudy stood in front of the woman who tried to chase after Lilyria and said so, the woman directed a gaze filled with anger and hatred straight at Rudy.

“You, trying to stop me with your mediocrity? Although my hair color has been taken away, I haven’t lost any of my magic power.”

“A magician who has come close enough for a sword to reach is not a threat, just a fool. You haven’t been able to cast a proper spell since earlier, have you? I heard that my mother is quite a formidable person.”

With a gaze that even contained pity, Rudy looked down on the woman.

“. . .Hmph! Well, you’ve grown quite insolent!”

“If that’s the case, it must be because of my birth mother!”

The woman, shouting in anger, wrapped flames around the whip she had at her waist and swung it, but Rudy swept it away with his sword.

The woman, who seemed to have the purpose of creating distance rather than attacking, took three steps back without pursuing and glared at Rudy.

“. . .And you’ve grown quite gentle. Aren’t you just defending yourself?”

Taking a deep breath, the woman regained some composure and smiled at Rudy.

Rudy let his gaze wander as if contemplating something, then slowly put his thoughts into words.

“Every time my wife, Emmanuella, hears about you, she looks forward to it as a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law battle (physically). She wanted to beat you up, torment you, and see your pitiful crying face. She often talked about it to Lilyria-san. It seems that the curse of the white hair, which she wanted to do the most, has apparently succeeded.”

“What. . .?”

The woman showed a bewildered expression, but Rudy continued without paying any attention, speaking calmly.

“I want to grant Emmanuella’s wishes, no matter what they may be. I don’t intend to just let those who harmed her die.”

Rudy asserted, looking at the woman with a terribly cold gaze.

“I want you to be engulfed in despair, experiencing pain, suffering, humiliation, and trembling in fear, even if you wish for death. . .They say the beloved child of the goddess can heal any severely injured person.”

Feeling Rudy’s seriousness in his gaze and voice, the trembling woman looked at him, and Rudy continued to gaze at her impassively.

“However, it seems that I’m not good at holding back. Perhaps it’s because I’m always dealing with demon beasts, but when it comes to human bodies, all I see is visions of death no matter where I cut. Humans easily die from even a little bleeding. For example, from the neck. . .”

Swish.

Whether it was the sound or the fact that the blade came close to cutting through just a layer of skin on the neck first, the woman began to tremble.

“With this thinness, even a magic barrier cannot be erected. It will easily be shattered. In that case, you will die without even knowing what happened, won’t you? That won’t do.”

Rudy said, lowering his sword and sheathing it.

Ignoring the distance that should have been between them, Rudy somehow appeared right in front of the woman. The woman’s neck, which could only be felt, had indeed been sent flying a moment ago, so it was not surprising.

“Ah, ah. . .”

As if unable to believe that her own head was still attached, the woman held her neck and collapsed to the floor.

While looking down at the woman coldly, Rudy continued to calmly explain the reason for his one-sided defense.

“That’s why I hesitated to attack. You are too weak to the point where I’m unsure how much I should hold back. Although you can use magic to some extent, you rely on it too much, and your physical body is terribly weak. Slow movements, dull reactions, lack of thought, and on top of that, I can’t even sense your determination. . .In that case, I, who have no color, am much better off.”

After saying that himself, Rudy suddenly looked up as if he had realized something.

“. . .Ah, I see. You know, I am superior to you. The efforts I have made without magic have certainly paid off, I understand that now.”

At that moment, Rudy, who had a smile so beautiful that Emma would cheer if she saw it, suddenly spoke in a gentle voice.

“I appreciate it, Mother. Thanks to you, I understand now. Emmanuella was right. I’m not so bad myself.”

“Even if I lack magic power, I am actually able to fulfill the role of a Margrave. I won’t lose to someone like you, who had superior hair color. Yes, I can be of use to Emmanuella. Maybe it’s not the most refined way, but she wanted someone like me!”

The woman, staring at Rudy who trembled with joy with a gaze filled with fear. She struggled to crawl on the floor and create distance, but her movements were painfully slow.

There is no longer any strength left to rely on magic, which has been completely rendered useless like child’s play.

“If our future child ends up resembling me and has an unattractive appearance, I’ll just tell them that they can obtain weapons greater than mine or Lilyria-san’s. I want to show them the back of a parent who can be happy no matter how they look. . .That’s why I will live with her.”

Rudy declared this with a radiant smile and swung his sword down along with its scabbard. The woman could only gaze at him with a face filled with despair. She couldn’t do anything else.

Chapter 31

I vaguely sensed that the door to Rudy-sama’s bedroom, where I was sleeping, had been opened, due to the faint sound and change in the flow of the wind.

Almost simultaneously, Lilyria, who was probably sitting on a chair right next to my bed, seemed to have stood up.

“Margrave-sama, as of now, no one has come here.”

Judging from Lilyria’s words, it seemed that Rudy-sama had entered.

“I see. The butler said that the attacker is likely a professional based on the traces. Since there shouldn’t be anyone capable of such skilled work around him, they probably hired someone. I have no obligation to accompany the foolish act of returning to the crime scene in anger. Well, even if they don’t come, we will definitely capture them all.”

Indeed, Rudy-sama’s voice saying so was gradually getting closer to me.

That person came back “to the crime scene in anger”. . .Does that mean my curse was activated?

“Yes, let’s definitely capture them. Although considering the trouble, it would have been better if they had come. . .In the first place, this mansion is heavily guarded, and it would be difficult to invade without using secret passages. . .If they’re not coming anyway, I should have stayed there and beaten that damn bastard until her face was unrecognizable.”

?!

Even for Lilyria, who is usually sharp-tongued, her words were too rough, and I was quite startled. However, Rudy-sama didn’t seem to mind and approached without hesitation, with firm footsteps.

The two stood right next to me, continuing their conversation.

“The face. . .I caused some injuries because there was resistance, but I didn’t intentionally damage the face.”

“Tch. That face, Emmanuella-sama must love it. It should have been beaten to a pulp.”

“She is currently unconscious, so I left her in the care of the knights. However, if she wakes up and starts to rampage, there is a possibility of her face getting injured. I’ll let you know to be careful.”

In contrast to Lilyria, who didn’t bother hiding her frustration, Rudy-sama calmly said those words. . ..There was a slightly strange implication in “be careful,” I couldn’t help but feel.

No, it should be fine, right. . .?

He means to be careful not to cause any injuries. . .? Maybe even to stop Lilyria’s assault, at least.

After all, she is Rudy-sama’s mother. And her face is so well-kept.

“Although she is unconscious, how is her condition regarding the injuries?”

When Lilyria asked in a somewhat calm voice, Rudy-sama answered calmly.

“Ah, well, the resistance was quite intense. I had no choice but to hit her on the head with the scabbard. That’s what made her lose consciousness. Before that, she struggled a bit, so I may have fractured her leg, dislocated shoulder, and some bruises on her abdomen. There might be some damage to her internal organs as well. Oh, and to prevent her from chanting magic, I had to dislocate her jaw.”

S-So much. . .He caused that much commotion. That person.

Well, she seemed quite hysterical and the type to misuse magic.

But it’s hard to believe that she went on such a rampage that she couldn’t be neutralized without resorting to that extent.

I wonder what happened? Did Lilyria provoke her with her sharp tongue?

Rudy-sama must have endured quite a lot to remain unharmed.

. . .Unharmed, right? Neither of them has said anything about that.

It’s scary. . .

As I secretly trembled at the unexpected intensity, Rudy-sama’s refreshing voice echoed.

“Well, normally even criminals would receive treatment before being escorted to the capital, so it shouldn’t be a problem. It falls within the scope of a legitimate response to intruders.”

“But if, unfortunately, the arrangement of a priest doesn’t work out and she is escorted all the way to the capital, it will surely be painful. Dislocations, if not properly treated, can become chronic. . .”

“There are priests in this area too, but compared to the central region, there are some differences. It seems that sometimes they need to redo the treatment due to the rough handling here.”

After exchanging such a conversation, Lilyria and Rudy-sama laughed happily, saying “Ufufu, Ahaha,” but for some reason, I felt a chill.

I can only hear their voices, so I’m not entirely confident, but it seems like they are genuinely worried about that person who got injured. . .?

I’ve heard that pain in the jaw, being close to the brain, can be tough. . .

“. . .I can’t really tell Emmanuella-sama about this. She’s a kind person, so even if it was unavoidable, she would worry.”

“Yeah, that’s true. She’s already someone I don’t care about, but she’s still my mother by blood.”

Rudy-sama agreed with Lilyria’s words.

Sorry, both of you, I can hear you perfectly. . .

Well, I didn’t expect to be able to hear so many things in this state of pseudo-death.

My body doesn’t move at all, and even my breathing and pulse are not influenced by my will or emotions, but for some reason, I can hear with my ears, and I can think about various things like this. It’s a strange feeling.

Suddenly, the slightly firm touch of fingers gently brushing against my cheek made me feel a little startled, as if they were Rudy-sama’s fingers, but my heartbeat remained steady in reality.

“. . .Lilyria-san, Sir Gladiolus, could you please leave Emmanuella and me alone for a moment?”

When Rudy-sama said that, I immediately sensed Lilyria’s movement.

“Understood. I’ll go and check on that damn woman’s condition. I’m going, Callan.”

Ah, Callan was here too?!

I didn’t feel like he left, but it was so quiet for a long time that I thought he had disappeared.

He must be good at concealing his presence. Maybe it’s a skill of guards or knights.

While I was thinking about such trivial matters, the presence of people in the room gradually diminished.

Wait. Are we really alone?

No servants, no one else. Are we truly, truly alone?

Ah, the door closed! I heard it firmly shut! It’s completely closed!

Well, it’s fine because we’re a married couple, but it’s my first time being alone in a room with someone of the opposite sex, especially here in Rudy-sama’s bedroom. I wish I had mentally prepared myself a little more. . .!

Even though my body couldn’t react at all, I was starting to panic internally.

“Emmanuella is truly beautiful. . .Watching her stay still like this, she seems like a completed work of art. It feels like she has surpassed the realm of beauty that humanity can reach. . .”

Rudy-sama said with a sigh, causing the awkwardness and tension to escalate.

What on earth is he talking about?

I’m just an ordinary human being and your wife. I’m not some enchanting being.

Certainly, in this world, I may be considered beautiful, but I hope you get tired of me after three days.

Well, I do find myself captivated every time I see Rudy-sama’s face. But that’s beside the point.

“When you wake up and show various expressions, you exhibit even more charm, which is bad for my heart. Thinking that way, I might not have many opportunities to calmly face and gaze at Emmanuella like this. . .”

Rudy-sama repeated such incomprehensible soliloquies, took a deep breath, and then creaked as he sat down on the chair that Lilyria was probably sitting on until a while ago.

“I will now express in words what I can say because you’re not listening, so that someday I can convey it to you.”

Upon hearing his declaration from a closer position than before, I tilted my head inwardly.

Huh? Hmmm?

No, I can hear it just fine, but is it okay?. . .

What could he say that he couldn’t say because I couldn’t hear? Is it something like dissatisfaction. . .?

Even though he probably didn’t intend for me to hear it, his tone switched to the one he usually uses when speaking to me, and it seems like he has something he wants to convey to me. . .?

“. . .I also love you. Please become my true wife.”

In that moment, all doubts, confusion, and impatience vanished, and my heart strangely calmed down.

In the next moment, the joy that welled up from the depths of my heart exploded, enveloping my entire being.

Unable to scream in frustration from being so happy, I bit my lip, and in that moment, Rudy-sama’s voice reached my ears, gently speaking to me.

“. . .I’ve fallen in love with you. Originally, I thought I loved you, but perhaps the feelings I initially had for you were more like admiration or something. At least, it wasn’t love.”

I had a vague feeling about that.

As Rudy-sama spoke, using past tense for everything, I felt relieved, as if he was speaking directly to me. He continued.

“I don’t know when my feelings turned into love. I realized it when I felt jealous of that man who called you ‘Emma.’ Even though I know I have no right to do so, if someone as beautiful as you, it’s only natural for everyone to love you. But still, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Even though you’re my wife’. . .”

No, it’s fine. That’s how it should be. I’m actually happy.

However, I couldn’t comfort him, who continued to express his feelings in a voice that seemed like a confession of guilt. It frustrated me to no end.

“. . .The moment I thought that, I realized how terrifying I was and that I shouldn’t direct such obsession towards you. So, I left the mansion.”

No, I don’t care! Obsession is more than welcome!

Even if I’m envied or restrained, wouldn’t you be happy to know that you’re loved that much?!

I want to shout that, but I can’t do anything. Rudy-sama continues to speak to me calmly.

“However, Lilyria-san and Lord Gladiolus came over there. . .Hehe, Lilyria-san scolded me, saying, ‘Please don’t judge Emmanuella-sama’s happiness on your own.’ We talked about various things. . .but above all, seeing the two of them, I thought they looked really happy.”

For a moment, I panicked, thinking that Lilyria said something rude, but in a gentle voice that even feels pleasant, Rudy-sama continues.

“To be honest, I was envious. It made me want to know you too. Above all, Sir Gladiolus looked genuinely happy with Lilyria-san. If I were to fulfill your request, I wondered if you would smile like that. . .Above all, I realized that your happiness is the most important thing.”

“Even if it’s a lie, even if there may come a time when I’m abandoned, if it makes you happy now, then it doesn’t matter. If you can smile like that, it’s my wish. Yes, I truly thought so. I can suppress my jealousy and obsession for the sake of your smile. I will suppress them. I have decided to dedicate only the beautiful part of this emotion called love to you and return here.”

With a firm and determined voice, Rudy-sama changes his tone and gently strokes my cheek as he declares so.

It’s not a lie, I won’t abandon you, and it’s okay to be jealous and obsessed. I wish you would do all that for me. . .

I want you to show me all of that love, even the parts you consider dirty.

However, unlike Callan, who clearly states his preference as “valuing strength and the effort leading up to it more than appearance,” and the premise of “the clan and his nature,” I haven’t talked about “my past life” that is based on the premise of “face and personality matter, and honestly, color and magic don’t matter.” I’m sorry.

Because I haven’t properly explained that you are my preference, it’s understandable that my love is not fully believed, and the possibility of me going somewhere else comes to mind. I’m sorry.

“. . .And yet, when I heard that you had collapsed before I returned. . .It felt as if my heart had frozen. It was as if all the colors in the world had disappeared. . .I realized that I can’t even breathe without you anymore.”

Rudy-sama’s voice, as he spoke with a strained tone, was trembling faintly. He might be crying.

I feel even more apologetic. I want to jump up right now and prostrate myself. But I can’t.

“I realized how happy I was until now, and I regretted not cherishing it. . .So, I’ve decided that I don’t care about anything else. Even if it’s impossible, I will believe that you love me and cling to you. I will make efforts to continue being loved. Yes, I’ve decided.”

It seems that Rudy-sama’s earlier statement of ‘even if it’s a lie, even if I may be abandoned someday’ was resolved by my near-death experience, without waiting for the disclosure of our past lives.

Well, it could also be because if I wake up with Rudy-sama’s kiss, it would be proof of mutual love. Maybe I only realized the things that were truly there when I thought they were lost.

I feel both apologetic and happy that he has become more positive.

His fingers, which were gently stroking my cheek with such delicate feelings, stopped, and his palm gently rested against my face.

“I won’t lose to anyone, no matter what kind of person they are. Because I love you more than anyone else. I will do anything for you. Above all, I will respect you. I can’t do anything about my appearance. . .But I will make efforts in other aspects to keep you by my side.”

As he made this declaration, his voice, his presence, and even his breath were getting closer to my face.

“So, I believe that you will wake up, and that we are in love. I will give you a kiss as proof.”

Shortly after that declaration, a soft sensation gently overlapped with my lips.

The hand that was resting on my cheek, and probably his lips that touched mine, were slightly cold and trembling.

It feels as if his tension and fear are being transmitted to me.

If I don’t wake up.

I might just die like this.

It would also mean that I don’t love him.

That would surely be a terrifying thing.

However.

A gentle warmth spreads from my lips, caressing my entire body.

The sensation of blood gradually circulating.

It feels as if the parts that were touched by something are returning to being mine.

Behind my closed eyelids, I sense a cherry blossom-colored light, and my eyes open.

“Emma. . .”

“I love Rudy-sama too! Let’s be happy together!”

I cling tightly to the person in front of me who called my name with joy, and I shout loudly.

There are many things, really, so many things I want to say, but the most important thing to convey is.

“Um, um. . .?”

I gently moved away from the bewildered Rudy-sama and, despite feeling a bit dizzy from suddenly moving after being asleep for a long time, I forced myself to overcome it and sat up on the bed, straightening my posture.

“First, I apologize. I didn’t have a means to communicate, and it wasn’t intentional, it’s just an excuse. . .I heard everything. I’m sorry.”

“. . .Everything?”

Rudy-sama tilted his head and stiffened.

“Everything. Yes, everything. Mother-in-law, you caused quite a commotion. I was surprised. And your jealousy and obsession are very welcome. It becomes a nuisance only when it’s one-sided, right? I would also feel incredibly jealous, and because I’m obsessed with you, it’s mutual, a mutual love, no problem at all! That’s what I mean!”

While I piled on my words, Rudy-sama’s face gradually turned red.

“E-Everything! You heard everything?! Oh, no. . .!”

He covered his face with both hands and groaned.

So cute! He’s cool, but cute! I love him even more!

Honestly, I wanted to say that, but I thought I might embarrass him even more, so I pretended to be a bit coy and gently conveyed my feelings in a calm voice.

“I was happy to hear your true feelings, Danna-sama.”

“. . .If Emmanuella is happy, then that’s all that matters.”

Rudy-sama glanced up from his palms and saw my beaming smile. His eyes were slightly teary, but he did say that.

He’s truly adorable. My love for him is overflowing.

Savoring the joy of being able to finally have a conversation with him and the love I feel for him, I gathered my courage.

“Well, in exchange for hearing what you wanted to hide. . .not that it’s the same thing, but I’ll tell you one of my secrets. . .Will you listen?”

“A secret, you say. . .?”

Rudy-sama raised his face with curiosity, still blushing, but his expression turned serious as he straightened his posture.

It seems he intends to listen seriously to my secret.

“I’m not entirely satisfied with the sense of beauty and ugliness in this world. And that’s because I have memories of living in a different world from here――”

That’s how I began my long, long story.

It would be hard to believe, but Rudy-sama listened attentively, interjecting with a few questions. He neither doubted nor laughed it off, but accepted it.

In the end, he said, “Well, if not, I can’t explain why you love me.” and shed tears for my past life that ended prematurely. He vowed to fill this life with happiness from now on.

With his kindness, I fell in love with him all over again.

And so, on this day, we became a couple who understood each other’s true hearts.

Chapter 32: Epilogue

Now, a week has passed since the day I woke up from my unconscious state after the capture drama of Rudy-sama’s mother’s second attack, today.

Rudy-sama and I were sitting side by side on the sofa in the conversation room, not having an elegant afternoon tea time, but rather in a tired state, lacking even the energy to straighten our backs, nibbling on sweets and sipping tea. It was so sloppy that it could only be described as such.

“Ah, you finally came back, huh. . .”

“I can’t say such things to the Duchess, but well, I’m glad you didn’t take Emmanuella with you. . .”

Saying that, Rudy-sama and I exchanged smiles, as if congratulating each other’s efforts.

A few days ago, my father, and until just now, my mother, finally couldn’t take it anymore traveled to this place.

The reason being that Duke Baytree and his wife, my parents, took my near-death experience seriously and were trying to take me away.

Although the mastermind has been captured, there were still remaining attackers, and that mastermind is Rudy-sama’s relative.

I think it’s understandable that my father and mother couldn’t leave their daughter in such a place.

Including the fact that the journey that would normally take a week was literally bypassed by borrowing a wyvern owned by the royal family and they arrived the next day, I was slightly moved by my parents’ feelings for me.

However, I don’t want to be separated from Rudy-sama, with whom I have finally been able to connect with my heart.

I also have the pride of having come to this land as his bride.

So, I resisted.

Even if my father scolded me and my mother cried, saying things like “When you come back, I’ll prepare everything you love,” it didn’t matter.

My father, who couldn’t pay attention to me because of work, relatively quickly, and my mother, until today, finally gave up and returned, persuading them together with Rudy-sama.

Well, it was more like persuading, mainly because Rudy-sama worked hard to capture all the attackers, dealt with the secret passages, and increased my guards, including those from the Duke family, to a state where my mother could be satisfied.

However, if it hadn’t been properly conveyed that I wanted to stay here and that Rudy-sama cherishes me, even if the conditions were met, I don’t think my mother would have backed down. So, it was necessary to persuade her.

“We didn’t need to increase the guards, I feel. . .”

As I said that, Rudy-sama gently lifted my hand.

“Of course, from now on, I will protect you firmly. But, Emma is my one and only, so it’s okay to strengthen the protection as much as possible, right? I want to cherish you, my beloved.”

He firmly held my hand and said that while looking at me with a serious gaze, and although I thought it was overprotective, I couldn’t complain.

Lately, I feel like Rudy-sama has come to understand well that I’m weak to his face.

Being called by a nickname, it feels like I’m being loved in a teasing manner, rather than being worshipped and revered. . .

Well, it’s not a bad change.

“Rudy seems to have gained confidence, which is great. If it were a little while ago, you would have probably told me to go back with my parents.”

“Yes, that’s right. A wonderful woman like Emma is too good for someone like me. Especially since I couldn’t protect her. . .I’m sure she thought she would be happier if she went back there.”

Rudy-sama replied, even though it was in the past tense. I leaned on him heavily.

“I decide my own happiness. I want to be by your side. . .Will you grant any wish I have?”

“Yes. I am at your service, my goddess. I am grateful for the miracle of you wanting me.”

He said with a blissful smile, even though I was glaring at him.

. . .Damn it. He’s handsome.

“If we were together in that other world, it would be me who wouldn’t get any attention. . .There are too many people who will admire Rudy, I might not even be able to get close.”

Caught off guard by the dazzling smile at such close range, I couldn’t help but say that and gently stood up.

“No matter what world it is, I want you. No matter who else is there, no matter how the world sees us, you are my only one. It means nothing if it’s not Emma.”

While looking straight into my face as I sat back properly on the sofa, Rudy-sama said that.

“I feel the same way, my only one, my beloved. It means nothing if it’s not you. Don’t ever say ‘someone like me’ again.”

For a moment, Rudy-sama looked surprised by my words, but as he understood their meaning, his cheeks gradually turned red and he smiled shyly.

There are people who pity me as the presumed villainess and say, “She was married off to the ugliest person in the country.” There are also those who mock me.

But for me, having this person laugh and be by my side in the days to come, this is undoubtedly the happiest ending.

Chapter 33: Special Edition: Observe the behavior of others and correct your own (Final Chapter)

After my mother finally returned, Rudy-sama and I cuddled on the sofa, continuing to leisurely enjoy our tea time.

There are things I have to do, things I should do, and things I want to do to some extent, and I’m sure Rudy-sama has even more, but well, it’s okay to be lazy like this for today.

After all, just when our hearts had finally connected, the next day my parents came to attack us without even giving us a chance to enjoy our newlywed bliss.

For today, it’s fine to just relax together and forget about everything else.

The butler and all the other servants are leaving us alone, and I’m sure everyone in the mansion feels the same way. Probably.

“By the way, um.”

Suddenly, Rudy-sama brought it up, and as my consciousness was already on the verge of falling into a nap, I couldn’t help but think, ‘I really like Rudy’s voice. I like it even more after hearing so many things while in a state of near-death!’

And then, I gently straightened up and looked up at his perfectly composed face. I’m glad I wasn’t separated from this person.

“. . .By the way?”

As I tried to contain my inner excitement and gently urged him to continue, Rudy-sama answered with a slightly troubled expression.

“I received a scolding from the Duchess for the unacceptable reply to that letter.”

“Ah, I can imagine. She was complaining about everything, as if nothing pleased her. . .She probably wanted to take me back with her, but I’m sorry for my mother, no, my father too.”

“No, your parents only said proper things. They avoided mentioning things that would hurt, like my appearance. It was simply a parental desire to create an environment where you can feel at ease here. I should be the one apologizing for exposing Emma to danger.”

Rudy-sama replied with a look of concern as I lightly bowed my head.

“That’s not true. . ., oh, we’ve had this exchange so many times. Let’s stop. We’ll end up apologizing endlessly. Um, was it about the correspondence during my period of confinement?”

“Yes, it was. Despite you sending me such heartfelt letters, I only replied in a way that seemed to ignore your feelings. . .What a sinful act. . .!”

Rudy-sama said that with a hint of tears, and it occurred to me that it might be fun to blame him as well, taking advantage of my mother’s opinion.

But, well, if I did that, I might end up revisiting the contents of those passionate love letters and occasional poems I wrote back when the only means of expressing them was through letters. . .? Let’s not. I can see the flag of embarrassment.

Immediately changing my mind, I smiled as gently as possible.

“However, back then, you were interpreting the contents of my letters in a completely different way. It couldn’t be helped, right? I understand the circumstances that made it hard to believe. . .But since you understood without waiting for three years, I don’t mind.”

“Oh, my goddess, how merciful you are. . .! I am grateful for the miracle of having such a wonderful person as my wife. As a place to offer my gratitude, we should establish a temple to worship you as the main deity as soon as possible. . .”

It seems like he has stopped blaming himself, but now my husband, with teary, sparkling eyes filled with excitement, is saying things that I can’t quite understand. What should I do?

“Well, um, it’s troublesome when you put it that way. Please stop. And, I’ve been thinking about it since earlier, but isn’t it quite disrespectful to call me a goddess in a country where there actually is a real goddess. . .?”

“That’s right. It doesn’t seem appropriate to compare Emma with a foolish goddess who has found someone other than you as her beloved child.”

“It’s the opposite! I’m the one who’s inferior in this situation. . .Stop it. Don’t get angry. I don’t want to cause any trouble. Let’s stop this conversation because it’s getting dangerous!”

“Well, if Emma says so. . .”

What exactly am I in this person’s mind?

Reluctantly, truly reluctantly, Rudy-sama withdrew with a dissatisfied expression, which gave me a headache.

I survived thanks to the blessings of the goddess of love. . .

And yet, even if the faith in this land is originally weak, why does Rudy-sama want to pick a fight with the goddess and the temple? Is it because he thinks I was persecuted and driven away? I’ve said it many times, but it’s not true.

Oh, but saying “My wife is more than a goddess!” is, well, it’s just like a silly couple’s bragging, my father used to say that a lot. . .Maybe I should just stop him before he takes action? No, really. . .? Maybe some correction or adjustment is necessary. . .?

“Um, what were we talking about? Oh, right, the letter. It was about the need to eliminate the fool who received a loving letter from the supreme being Emma and sent back a dry report-like document.”

It’s still continuing, self-blame. Why did it go back to that extent?

Rudy-sama said that with a deeply serious expression, and I couldn’t help but look into the distance.

He’s always so extreme. . .I feel like I need to correct something somewhere.

“I’m saying that I don’t mind anymore, so why don’t you stop worrying?”

When I asked casually, Rudy-sama shook his head with a very serious expression.

“The Duchess said, ‘Regarding this matter, you should be punished properly. Our child was so loyal and pitiful!’ That’s what she said. So, should I commit suicide? I thought about it, but I have pledged to dedicate everything to Emma. I can’t dispose of Emma’s belongings without her permission. . .”

“Why does such a dangerous word like ‘self-harm’ come up in the result of peaceful correspondence?! Ah, I don’t want to nitpick like this, but there’s nothing else to point out. . .! Well, anyway, I understand. I will come up with the punishment from now on, so please stop saying scary things like self-harm or disposal?!”

“Thank you!”

Rudy-sama, who tends to be extreme, seemed genuinely delighted and assumed a waiting posture upon hearing my words.

I wonder why I’m being thanked for saying I will give a punishment. . .

Honestly, I don’t think it’s something to worry so much about.

But well, if it concerns Mother and, above all, if it eases Rudy-sama’s mind, it might be better to give a light penalty and let it go.

Now, punishment, punishment, punishment. . .What would be good?

Maybe I can ask for my selfishness to be accommodated.

Ah.

‘If I were to receive a love letter written in this script, I might be so happy that wings would sprout from my back and I would fly all the way to the Margrave territory.’

These words I said to Mother before. This is it.

Having a sudden inspiration, I quietly informed Rudy-sama.

“In that case, I want a love letter from you. If Rudy regrets his previous response, it would be nice if you could rewrite it. If you give me a sincere reply that I can read without thinking it’s a coded plea for help. . .Oh, well, I have it saved, but I wonder if there are no more letters from me?”

“No, they are all framed and stored in a place where the sun doesn’t shine.”

Framed, of all things. Although I had a slight hope that there were no more letters, the somewhat greedy response made me feel a bit complicated, but anyway, it seems that the conditions for receiving a reply are in place.

“Well then, the punishment is decided! Since we exchanged a large number of letters, it doesn’t have to be all of them. Just one heartfelt reply from you, even if it’s just one letter, please.”

“Receiving a chance to rewrite is very much appreciated, but wouldn’t that not be a punishment. . .It’s fine if it’s something more extreme, like burning down a temple or toppling the royal castle. . .?”

Another extreme statement. Why does the outcome of correspondence lead to overthrowing a nation? It’s becoming laughable.

I cleared my throat and decided to drive the point home.

“Have you forgotten? I love peace. I don’t want you to say such dangerous things anymore.”

“Oh, I apologize. . .! I just wanted to express the determination to fulfill any wish! If it’s a letter from me, or rather, if it’s Emma’s wish, of course, I will write it, but it may not be valuable enough as an apology to you. . .”

Rudy-sama’s complexion turned pale, and after apologizing, he seemed downcast.

There’s no need to belittle yourself like that.

“No, for me, a love letter from you is more valuable than a royal-owned wyvern.”

“Eh, no, there’s no way that’s true. . .?”

As I assert, Rudy-sama, who knows nothing about the feathers I told my mother about, tilted his head with a puzzled expression.

I deepen my smile and slowly tell him.

“Well, if I were asked to choose between the two, I would without hesitation choose your letter. The value for me is determined by me. My letters may not be as skillful as poems, and they may not hold much value to the world, but you cherish them, don’t you?”

After all, they are framed. During the nearly three months of correspondence, almost every day, they may not reach a hundred. . .No, in terms of quantity, they probably do, but putting each one in a frame is more than just cherishing them.

I want you to understand that I’m in the same boat.

“. . .I see, indeed. But in that case, it makes me nervous. Can I write a letter worthy of that treasure?”

Rudy-sama, who seems to have heard my prayer, said so with a very serious expression.

“Hahaha, it doesn’t matter what the content is! The fact that it’s from Rudy is what’s important! I also like your handwriting. Just the fact that it’s your own handwriting gives it a significant bonus, so please feel at ease when you write.”

As I laugh it off, Rudy-sama nods with a slightly relieved expression.

“Handwriting, huh. . .Ah, when I was in the country’s knight order, I was instructed to write in a readable manner by my superiors.”

“Oh, I see. Thanks to that, you can write such neat and beautiful letters. Well, that aside, there’s something I’m curious about. Rudy, have you ever been in a knight order?”

“Yes. When my father was still alive, for a short period. It wasn’t a long time, but I lived in the capital. After learning various things in the country’s knight order, I came back here.”

“I wanted to see. . .! If you were in the capital, why didn’t I catch the young knight like you. . .! Oh, wait, if you were a knight of the country, you must have been going in and out of the castle, right?! Why didn’t I know about you?!”

To me, who deeply regrets, Rudy-sama returns a wry smile.

“Oh, ahaha. Knights like me, who are not good-looking, generally don’t appear in public.”

“Ugh, you hair-color supremacist. . .! Is it really that great to be someone with abundant magical power. . .!”

“Well, um, in that hierarchy, the most important person is you with black hair, right. . .?”

As I involuntarily vent my resentment, Rudy-sama cautiously asks, but my anger doesn’t subside.

“Exactly, that’s why I will judge it as ridiculous, not out of jealousy, but from my heart. Ah, it’s frustrating. With Rudy’s abilities, you could have even been the prince’s guard. Then, I could have met you much earlier. . .!”

“We also have an age difference, and Emma was the prince’s fiancée. Even if we had met earlier, it wouldn’t have meant much, I suppose.”

“It was said that the Santorina family originally needed to marry a princess with a high amount of magical power, right? Even if I had to beg my father or persuade His Majesty, I could have done something about that. Or rather, even if it couldn’t be helped, I wanted to at least catch a glimpse of you as a knight. . .!”

Yes, in the end, it all comes down to that.

The current Rudy-sama is wonderful, but I’m sure he was also wonderful when he was being trained in his younger days as a knight. It’s frustrating.

As I genuinely express my frustration, Rudy-sama pats my head with a troubled expression, trying to comfort me.

“However, even without considering appearances, I had already decided to return to this land, so I belonged to a unit that focused on subduing demon beasts rather than guarding nobles. Although I couldn’t meet you when you were young because of that, it was because of my connection to that unit that I rushed to the academy at that time. . .”

Now that you mention it, he, who shouldn’t have left his territory in the first place, was there at that time for that reason.

It’s frustrating that we couldn’t meet earlier, but in a sense, we met at the perfect timing, just before my engagement was dissolved.

If we had met when I was a child, I might have been treated with even more reverence, and as a child who should not be touched, I might have been excluded from being a potential love interest. Starting from there would have been quite difficult.

“Yes, you’re right. There’s no point in regretting the past. I’m sorry, Rudy. I got a little. . .no, quite carried away.”

As I sigh and say that, Rudy-sama also lets out a sigh of relief.

Hmm, I wasn’t really angry at him, but it seems like I made him shrink and feel confused. I’m sorry.

Well, I’m also tired of constantly teasing his affectionate outbursts. It’s starting to feel like a mutual thing.

“Yes, that’s right. There’s no point in regretting the past. So, I’ll express my heartfelt feelings in a letter to you, who are willing to give us a fresh start. . .Um, I’ll try to avoid using too many alarming expressions.”

It seems that upon witnessing my angry expression, Rudy-sama was both unhappy, thinking, “This person is saying such nonsensical things. . .” and reflecting, thinking, “Could it be that I have done the same. . .?” He summarized it in that way.

It’s a bit complicated, but rather than directing my anger towards something that disregards my beloved, it’s much more constructive and healthy to cherish my beloved to that extent.

As the recipient of affection, it makes me even happier.

I’m glad that he realized that. Let’s just leave it at that.

I want to believe that my words and actions weren’t so embarrassing.

“I’m looking forward to the letter. Maybe I should prepare a frame for it too.”

Yes, if I receive a love letter, any worries about being disappointed should disappear!

With such a wish in mind, Rudy-sama conveyed it and had a slightly troubled, embarrassed smile on his face.

Indeed, framing a love letter is embarrassing, isn’t it?

I would be happy if he could at least keep my past letters stored in a place where no one can see them. . .

―The End―


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