At the age of 15, I got enrolled in the royal academy.
To my surprise, I got a PhD in geology for a dissertation I wrote last year on fossils. A doctorate that I had dreamed of in my previous life. I was so surprised that I was kind of in a daze.
Geology and fossil research didn’t infringe on existing academic principles of that world. Moreover, they also didn’t interfere with various vested interests, and were purely academic in nature. Apparently, the higher-ups of the academy were pleased.
Although, for some reason, all my research results, including my doctoral dissertation, were strictly controlled in the name of the Marquis of Stan. It seemed that any use of my theories and methods, whether by the academy or the state, required the approval of both the marquis and me. Albeit, mostly the marquis.
Personally, I thought that it was unnecessary to go that far…
So, why would someone with a doctorate study at the academy? As such, I decided to pursue my own path. Afterwards, I was given a laboratory in the academy’s research building with my own nameplate (another dream of my previous life) and was told that I could attend only the classes I liked.
Apparently, I had received a doctorate the day before I enrolled in the academy. It was an awkward comparison, but it was kind of like receiving a Nobel Prize before the Order of Cultural Merit?
I consulted with Rufus about which class to attend. Rufus advised me to study things I wasn’t particularly good at—such as political science and business administration. They were certainly necessary for my future.
When I said that I didn’t want to stand out for being a doctor, Rufus told me to use the setting he had instilled in me before. That I didn’t attend regular classes due to my poor health.
I always sat at the very back of the class and quietly took the lessons. Sometimes, Rufus would sit beside me.
I was startled by the sudden mention of my name.
“Lord Rufus, don’t startle me like that.”
“Only me and the president come to this laboratory, though? What are you reading?”
Ever since I was enrolled into the academy, two years had passed. Uncle Johnny, who I met for the first time during the children’s tea party, also visited the dull laboratory quite often. Presumably, he was close with the president. Hence, he had the permit to enter the research facility.
Usually, he’d bring me the currently trending sweets from the royal capital as souvenirs. Other than that, he’d also bring in formal river and mountain survey requests.
When I was at a loss for what to do, a letter came from my father, Count Parmesan. In a shaky handwriting, he said, “Respectfully accept this request.”
Is he being threatened?
However, when I inquired about my father, he only said. “I, it’s alright! Everything’s alright! There’s no problem at all! I’m just indebted to this man, that’s all.”
Because the requests were highly profitable, I considered it as a nice addition to my future prospect.
“Pia, you must keep this a secret from Rufus. Deny, deny, deny. After all, if you were to divulge the secret, it might lead to a coup d’etat…”
“—Kuudere? Lord Rufus? Well, perhaps…”
Although, I couldn’t promise to keep him a secret. After all, the overprotective Rufus had attached a guard to me.
As I recalled what Uncle Johnny had previously stated, I sneaked a glance at Rufus. Supposedly, he was Uncle Johnny’s natural enemy. Then, I put on my glasses and stood up to brew tea.
“Uhm, whenever anyone on this floor visits this room, they’re so kind and friendly! The book is about an adventure in the Northern region two centuries ago. I read it to compare the terrain and the animals that inhabit the region as of the present. Because I only have one year left in the academy, I’m trying to read a wide range of books… I need to get all the necessary knowledge in my head!”
“I see… You’ve been giving your best. The knowledge you’ve gained through here shouldn’t be wasted. Well, about those visitors, there’s no need to worry since I already researched everyone on this floor.”
In terms of personality, Rufus hadn’t changed from the time when we used to run together in his territory along with his dogs.
However, upon entering the academy, he grew taller, gained muscles, while his physique developed into that of a man.
His straight, ultramarine, hair was ear-length. He’d often brush them back. His round eyes became narrower with age. His emerald eyes were full of wisdom, shining as if they could see through anything.
As of the present, my fiancé was already working as the right hand of my father-in-law, the chancellor. If anything, the academy was a hassle for him.
Rufus played an important role in the kingdom.
Compared to him, I was but a fossil nerd, who desperately tried to find a way to live on my own in preparation for the bad end. Even then, I was still indebted to Rufus.
Rufus crossed his legs on the sofa, rested his elbows on the armrests, and sipped some tea.
He was only there to take a break.
Well, he can visit anytime he wants…
…Albeit, I do wonder how long this peace will last.
“Pia, are you lost in thought again? What’s wrong?”
“N-no, it’s nothing…”
I sat opposite of him and drank tea as well.
“Is that so? By the way, I just got a call earlier. Starting tomorrow, there’ll be a new student. If I wasn’t mistaken, her name is Caroline. She’s Baron Lamb’s lost daughter… well, a secret child, to be exact. Surely, Pia has mentioned this seven years ago. Apparently, Pia’s prediction has proved to be true! Pia, isn’t it wonderful? You can hear God’s prophecy!”
Before I realized it, I had dropped the cup. The cup shattered into pieces, spilling tea everywhere.
Rufus rushed towards me.
The escort, who stood at the corner of the laboratory, immediately cleaned the broken pieces.
“Stay still! Are you burned!?”
“I’m wearing a lab coat, so it’s alright…”
After taking care of both my wet lab coat and the garbage, the escort left.
Rufus sat on the sofa while holding me. ever since we enrolled into the academy, I hadn’t practiced writing. Therefore, it had been a while. When I twisted myself to get free, Rufus embraced me deeply.
“Pia, are you afraid of Caroline…?”
“Do you not trust me?”
“…Earlier, didn’t Lord Rufus say that the prophecy came true?”
“Indeed. From now on, it’s the real beginning.”
Finally, the day had arrived. The storyline of the game should’ve started tomorrow.
I felt the urge to cry, so I desperately bit my lips.
“The stage and the actors are finally set. Pia, be my spectator. Whether or not I’m a man who can be fooled by an impromptu baroness, you should see for yourself.”
I wished I could be as confident as him…
Instead, I got anxious easily. Soon, I began to feel suffocated. I took a deep breath to try to calm myself down.
Rufus, who noticed it, immediately rubbed my back.
“Pia? Calm down? Take a deep breath. While I’m on a stage, I’d rather not involve Pia. How’d Pia like to spend her time at the academy?”
As I sat on his lap, I tried to make eye contact. If I didn’t tell him, he wouldn’t understand.
Then, I said in a fleeting voice.
“…I don’t want to meet Caroline. If possible, I don’t want to be alone with her.”
Rufus nodded softly.
“I see, I’ll handle everything. I’ll make sure that you’re never in the same class as her. I won’t let anyone lay a finger on my Pia. I also won’t leave you alone. You want to eliminate the possibility of being framed by Caroline, right?”
He was the only one who’d understand me.
But that wasn’t the problem right now.
I was more concerned about his heart.
“I mean, if Lord Rufus were to fall for Caroline, it can’t be helped. She’s probably more beautiful than me. She’s… she’s better than me in every aspect, so…”
I could understand without even looking. Caroline was totally pretty. After all, she was the heroine!
On the other hand, I wore a dingy lab coat over my dark blue uniform. To make it easier for me to research, I braided my black hair.
After using the microscope, my eyesight began to deteriorate, so I started wearing glasses.
As for makeup, the marquess advised me against it. “You mustn’t apply makeup until you’re married? Otherwise, it’d be more difficult for us to eliminate the threat?”
…I still couldn’t comprehend her reason.
I wasn’t any different from my former self, who got dumped for being such a nerd.
It became apparent to me that I’d rather die than be hated by Rufus.
Why, why won’t things ever work out for me?
Unable to stand it, I began to cry.
“…Pia, why are you still saying that? Dammit—!”
Rufus tightened his embrace around me. My tears spilled to his cloak.
“Not only did my feelings fail to reach you, but why are you so keen on devaluing yourself?! Is it because we sheltered you too much? You simply have no idea how amazing you are! While your family may not say anything about it, your academic endeavor is wonderful! This is an oversight on my part!”
Rufus gently loosened his grasp and continued to rub my back until I stopped crying. Then, he lifted my chin.
“Pia, do you remember that day’s contract?”
“For all my pride, I won’t yield to any woman but you. Therefore, Pia has but a year left of free time before graduation. As long as the escort, Mike, is following you, you may stretch your wings in the royal capital for a little while.”
“…Because I’d get deported a year later?”
I was about to cry once again!
“No! Because in a year, from the top of this clever head to your cute toes, everything’ll become mine! Pia, I’ll absolutely make you regret ever doubting my feelings!”
Rufus placed his hand on my cheek, while the other lifted my chin. Then, he leaned in.
…For the first time, I was kissed.
It was unexpectedly deep for a first kiss. My whole being was sealed in his embrace. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be able to do it with someone I didn’t like.
In the end, I was so surprised that I stopped crying.
Then, our lips separated, and he began to kiss my tears.
Afterwards, he peered into my eyes.
“Pia, it’s your fault for provoking me. Did you know how desperate I tried to put up with it? Anyway, this should have conveyed my feelings a little. Since we’re getting married in a year, there’s no problem.”
Rufus proceeded to lick his lips with his tongue, giving off spectacular sex appeal.
“Pia, you’re truly sweet.”