Despite my utmost effort to divert the topic, the future chancellor wasn’t swayed in the slightest. Instead, he pressured me with his smile. After sweating bullets for a few minutes, I caved in.
“…In summary, the moment you saw my face, you received some kind of divine revelation—a prophecy, to be exact. Apparently, seven years later, when we’re enrolled into the academy, a certain baroness named Caroline would appear. She has blonde hair and peach eyes. Afterward, five people, including me and the prince, would be captivated by her. Then, even though you—my fiancée—are without a fault, I’d falsely accuse you at the graduation party, and not only that, banish you from the kingdom—!? …This me, who’s madly in love with you—!?”
I didn’t think that the 10-years-old Rufus would be that scary when he got angry—! I almost slipped off my chair—!
But I mustn’t falter—!
“—That’s right! While I don’t think that you’ll believe me, I do believe in the prophecy! I have my reasons!”
Although it might sound farfetched, such was the plot of the otome game.
Since Rufus was the next chancellor, his emotional management was top-notch. Eventually, he regained his cool.
“…Pardon me, Lady Pia. I have to say that despite the absurdity, your prophecy is also too specific. As such, I hesitate to dismiss it as mere delusion. Then, can you give me some time? I’d like to visit the baron’s house…”
“No! Please annul our engagement right away! Please, I don’t want to be hurt anymore! If you’re just going to make me suffer through that later, then I’d rather you dissolve our engagement now!”
Rufus peered at me, who tearfully shook her head. Then, he pondered a bit, before changing the subject. Perhaps, it was to calm me down.
“…Before anything else, Lady Pia? Let’s say that you truly become a commoner, how’d you survive alone?”
“Uh, I’ll… look for fossils.”
In my previous life, I graduated from the Department of Paleontology at the Faculty of Science. There was no concept of fossils in that world as of yet. Even in other worlds, there have been living creatures and humans since prehistoric times. As a result, I might be able to discover fossils from somewhere if I were to dig hard enough. Perhaps, I might even find dinosaur bones!
Thus, I began to explain the concept of fossils to Rufus.
“Then, after finding said fossils, what are you going to do?”
“I find the excavation process to be exciting. Upon finding a fossil, if it’s valuable, I’d then sell it. Everywhere in the world, there are wealthy people who love history and have an eye for rare things. Hopefully, I’ll make the great discovery of the century. Once that happens, I’ll build a museum and exhibit the fossils. I’d be the curator of the building. Even if it isn’t extravagant, I’d be able to sustain myself.”
“Hmm. In truth, I’m still skeptical. Do you honestly believe that I’d abandon you, my fiancée, and my duties as an aristocrat for the sake of this woman?”
“Lord Rufus, do you remember what you said earlier? Our engagement is political in nature. Therefore, once you meet Caroline, you might discover the meaning of true love. Afterward, regardless of what I did, you’d only regard me as an eyesore…”
I recalled the greenhouse date between the crown prince and Caroline. In the game, the scene was described in vivid detail. Meanwhile, Amelia, his fiancée, was plotting in the shadows.
If that were me, and the crown prince was Rufus, I could understand why I’d be full of malice. Nevertheless, I was a cowardly chicken. As such, I couldn’t imagine myself being aggressive. To loudly denounce Caroline, or even pour wine on her dress—those were beyond me. At most, I could only punch my pillow.
Thus, I wept even more.
“To be despised by the one I love… I just can’t…”
As I leaned down, I tightly bit my lips.
To shed tears by merely picturing such a scenario, what a mishap—!
“I’m sure that regardless of how much I yearn for you, I won’t be able to compete with her. Yet, you refused to allow me to quietly bury my love. Isn’t it enough for my heart to be destroyed? Despite that, you’d also banish me…”
The plot of the game and the experience of my previous life overlapped in my mind. As a result, I ended up rambling. Because of that, I began to choke on my tears and had to cover my face with both hands.
“H, hey, are you alright—!? In the prophecy, did I mistreat you to such an extent—!? You didn’t say all that just so you can cut ties with me—!? …Pia, the face you’re making… I mean, surely, the Parmesan family has remained neutral since its founding and has never made a move to slip into power… This means, you genuinely adore me to the point that you’re hurting like this… Since when? Apparently, unlike other women, you recognized me as an individual and thought that we could have a long future together… I’m screwed… Pia, look at me.”
After being told so Rufus, who seemed to be in contemplation, I peeked at him.
“Pia, forgive me. Our engagement will remain. I’ve decided that my spouse can only be you.”
“…B, but why?”
Before I realized it, his eyes were burning with determination.
“—All you need to do is stand beside me and watch. I’ll absolutely never betray you, Pia.”
Rufus’ fighting spirit was blazing—!
But seriously, why though—!?
“I, it’s fine, you know—! No, actually, it’d be quite problematic if you were to do so—! If you were to end up falling in love with Caroline, then it can’t be helped—! If you don’t break our engagement right away so that I can start my research when my parents can still support me, I won’t be able to support myself later—! Besides, if you were to annul the engagement when we’re still young, I’m sure that there won’t be any lasting impact—! Afterward, there might be a baron or a viscount that’d be kind enough to wed me—hyiiii…!?”
…Rufus’ fighting spirit turned into a Gatekeeper of Hell—!
“Pia…? Since I’ve already declared you to be my spouse, it’s uncouth to talk about other men.”
“For me to be betrayed this early, how hurtful it was.”
“Lord Rufus, like I said, I won’t mind—! Love is blind, after all—!”
…My crappy ex-boyfriend said that to me.
“Do you think so? To me, you seem frightened. Alright, then shall we make a bet? In the unlikely event that I betray you and choose this Caroline or whatever her name is at the graduation party, I’ll give you 100 million gold in compensation and lifetime access to the Marquis’ territory. There are many excavation sites there. You’re free to unearth whatever you want. So, as it stands, the engagement continues. How’s that? I’m willing to accept this challenge.”
“I, I don’t have 100 million gold—!”
I replied, half crying.
“Pia, you don’t have to pay when you lose. It’s a matter of my pride. Fufufu, Pia sure is amusing.”
Although, come to think of it, the territory of Marquis Stan…
The territory of Marquis Stan consisted of the entirety of the Roussnant Mountains in the North.
“Didn’t the majestic Regen River flow through it—!? Then, up that Regen River, there’s a glacier—!! All untouched—!! Surely, huge fossils are waiting to be unearthed there—!!”
…I, I have no choice but to take him on, but…
“…Well, if you can make a contract in writing, I’ll consider it.”
In my previous life, my ex-boyfriend promised to marry me. However, that was a lie. In the end, be it money, research results, or self-worth—I was deprived of everything. As such, I didn’t trust promises.
“I like you more and more. A chancellor’s wife should be cautious, indeed. Alright, give me a pen and paper.”
Rufus smoothly prepared the contract. Despite his age, he managed to come up with a document that could serve as a legal basis.
Then, I noticed something—
‘—If the above case doesn’t occur, B marries A and moves her residence to A as soon as possible.’
“…What’s the last paragraph about?”
“Keen eye for detail, I see. Are you truly 10 years old? I really like your attitude, Pia. You aren’t easily bedazzled by money. It’s normal for a marriage to be preceded by an engagement, right? It’s no different than any other engagement. However, if I write only about things that benefit you, then there’s no advantage for me. As such, I’d like a reward for overcoming the prophecy.”
“Reward… is it necessary? I mean, is this statement the reward?”
I involuntarily tilted my head.
“It’s necessary, and yes, that’s the reward. Aside from the loveliness of your heart, which I learned today, a woman full of potential who can receive divine prophecy and promises wealth and fame with the previously nonexistent concept of ‘fossils’ …I’d hate to see you be snatched away by the royal family. Now, Pia, won’t you sign the contract?”
Wondering what Rufus was smiling at, I read the contract once again. However, the things written there were all in my favor …or so I thought. Thus, I signed my name. Compared to Rufus’ handwriting, mine was much more childish.
“What’s wrong? You look depressed all of the sudden. Do you dislike the contract?”
“No, I just thought that compared to mine, Lord Rufus’ handwriting is so beautiful …I’ll practice seriously from now on.”
Rufus blushed for some reason.
“…No one has ever praised my handwriting before. I’m glad that my efforts are recognized. Thank you. Do you like my handwriting?”
“Yes, I like it very much. The characters are so gentle. It reflects your consideration towards the reader.”
I gently traced Rufus’ handwriting with my index finger.
“…I can’t. You’re just too straightforward.”
Suddenly, Rufus planted a kiss on my cheek.
“Eh? Huh? Eh!?”
I involuntarily touched my cheek.
“I’ve just kissed you. Aren’t we engaged? Besides, our feelings are mutual.”
“I, is that so?”
“That’s right, my fiancée. Alright, considering that Pia is still sick, let’s spend some time practicing writing today. I’ll teach you.”
Rufus helped me to stand, before escorting me to my writing desk. For some reason, he made me sit on his lap.
“Eh? Huh? Why!?”
“Didn’t you like my handwriting? This way, it’ll be easier for me to teach you.”
I was holding a pen with my right hand, while my left was holding the paper. But soon, Rufus’ hand enveloped mine, while the other surrounded my waist. Our distance was so close that we were touching.
“W, wh, what is—!?”
“Remember the movement of my hand. The more we do it, the more you can imitate it.”
Rufus’ slightly larger hand engulfed mine. Afterward, he taught me how to write like him.
There was no one else in that room.
We were both 10-years-old and were trusted by adults. While the door was open, after the tea had been served, neither Sarah nor Rufus’ attendant would come until Rufus was about to leave…
“…A, aren’t we too close?”
“Why? Don’t you want to get better? Didn’t your tutor teach you this way when you were little?”
Rufus tilted his head. Upon seeing his beauty up close, I began to feel dizzy.
Am I being overly self-conscious? I mean, we’re kids, right? Then, it should be safe…
“You still believe that I’d betray you. But I’m not going to. I also won’t allow myself to be set up by someone else. Pia, I thereby put my pride on the line and declare that I’ll love only you for the remainder of my life. Did you know that my house is quite fond of competition? The more difficult it is, the more thrilling it’d be. In the meantime, Pia, don’t stare at other men but me with your warm, pale gray eyes, alright?”
I wasn’t sure if it was because we had shared a secret, but Rufus seemed like an entirely different person. Even though it had only been about an hour since he came to my house, I didn’t think that he was lying.
As I thought, is it because I confided in him? How troublesome…
Also, we’re close…
Somehow, I feel like I’ve triggered something strange…