Recently, I have been returning home late. My wife didn’t welcome me, but I didn’t mind. I could already guess where she was. Besides, I understood her circumstances.
I proceeded to hand my overcoat to Touma, the butler who had served me for many years, before putting away my belongings to take a bath.
Then, I quietly made my way to the children’s room on the second floor.
I wonder if Andrew is sleeping while hugging his cherished stuffed T-Rex?
T-Rex itself seemed to be a relative of a dragon…
Within the room, I spotted Pia. With a book on top of her lap, she was leaning against the chair, asleep.
Today, didn’t she mention that there’ll be a tea party?
Thus, I put my arms behind Pia’s knees, before lifting her up.
She’s too light, how outrageous.
When I quietly headed for the exit, Toma opened the door for me.
“I’ll be taking a day off tomorrow. Therefore, don’t wake me. Please take care of Andrew.”
“That’ll be very welcome. You’ve been working too hard. For the past few days, Madam hasn’t been feeling well. I suspect that she’s lonely.”
“…Isn’t that because she hasn’t been able to go to the territory for a long time and can’t search for fossils?”
Even though I could still come up with a joke, I was restless.
How’s Pia doing? Did she get tangled with some troublesome lady?
After all, no matter what kind of issue she was facing, Pia would always put on a brave face.
Touma quietly opened our bedroom door.
“Good night, my Lord and his wife. Please have a good rest.”
“Good night to you, as well.”
With the sound of the door closing, I sat down on the bed and untied Pia’s hair. After untying the waistband of her gown, I helped her put on her sleepwear, before laying her on the bed. As I took off her gown, Pia visibly shivered from the cold. I slid myself next to her, tucked ourselves in, before pulling her into an embrace.
As warmth returned, Pia let out a sigh into my chest.
She was just as cute as it was back then, when I used to put her on my lap for handwriting practice. Then, I brought our cheeks together, and showered her raven hair with kisses. Finally, she relaxed and closed her eyes. As I leaned my face on her head, I thought to myself—
—Oh, my dear…
…My one and only.
Our first meeting occurred when I was 8-years-old. My father informed me of our engagement. ‘She’s alright.’ Was my initial thought of her. Although, honestly, as long as they didn’t pull my leg, I’d be fine with basically anyone. Nobility was often like that.
But soon after, Pia contracted a fever and was tethering between life and death. Afterwards, a prophecy was etched into her mind. The prophecy told of the existence of the multiverse. Later, when the prophecy did come true, I was horrified and was deeply convinced by her words.
Then, things changed.
The frightened and submissive Pia explained to me that she’d rather annul our engagement rather than being despised by me.
She even said—
“—To be despised by the one I love… I just can’t…”
To be honest, when I saw her wept at that time, the first thing that occurred to me was—
—Wait a minute…
After all, if she agreed to marry me, the future of the Count Parmesan would be secured for the next three generations. Not to mention, now that the duchess was absent, by becoming my wife, she’d be able to stand at the top of the aristocratic society except for the royal family. Moreover, she’d also be able to enjoy all kinds of luxury. As long as we were married, she wouldn’t be lacking anything. More importantly, what about the title of marquess? Wasn’t that the most attractive part of this marriage?
But apparently, Pia was different.
For her to say that she didn’t want to be despised by me, it was almost the same as wanting to be loved by me.
Does this girl yearn for my love, and not the title of marquis, or the wealth that comes with it?
I, I see, she wants me…
…How lovely she is.
Before I knew it, I began to feel hot. At the back of my chest, there was a newfound feeling—one that I had never experienced. Immediately, I sensed that the existence in front of me was akin to a treasure—one that I’d never encounter again if I missed it now.
It was already painful enough to see Pia cry, but I couldn’t bear the thought of her crying for a man other than me.
Previously, I fully believed that I’d never experience that kind of feeling in this lifetime. Yes, that kind of feeling—the so-called love, which consumed me in just a few minutes after I laid eyes on her. Despite being surprised by the unexpected development of my life, I soon regained my composure.
All I have to do is make her mine.
I shall create an environment where she could have a peace of mind and fall in love with me. At the same time, I also envisioned that the place where she’d shed tears from now on would be on my chest.
Thus, we grew up together and cherished each other.
I had heard that many of the Parmesan family were gifted in academics. Surprisingly, Pia was the culmination of that lineage—a child prodigy. Through meticulous surveys, she had fully grasped the topography. Before long, she could infer the minerals that could be excavated through the geology, and could carefully analyze the possibility of disasters. She was a woman who contributed to the development of the country itself through simple and steady work, rather than making superficial profit.
I calmly brushed away all the pests that were trying to swarm around Pia. The king himself, John, went out of his way to request an investigation out of Pia behind my back. Albeit it was both unexpected and aggravating, I instead turned the king into my backing.
I didn’t actually care about the benefits that might come with marrying Pia. To me, she was but a girl who loved me wholeheartedly.
How dare you drag my beloved Pia into the whirlpool of power struggle!
That being said, money was important. Using the fortune she had amassed, Pia hired some craftsmen to re-create magical tools of surveying and mining that came from her realm. Before long, they were mass-produced. The youth who showed interest in excavation was taught how to use them. Thus, human resources were dispatched throughout the kingdom, unexpectedly resulting in a new skill group and opening new job opportunities in our territory. Be it in the territories of Stan or the Parmesan, Pia was tremendously popular.
Later on, I crushed the prophecy that was etched deep like a sediment in Pia’s heart, and we got married. When Pia admitted her feelings for me, I thought to myself—
—Ah, to live, it must be for the sake of this day…
By the way, when I investigated the house of Baron Lamb, or Caroline’s, I found a strange grass field that reflected rainbow colors in the sunlight. Even if I asked an expert to look it up, nothing would come up…
…Regardless, before long, the origin of the grass was discovered. It was none other than the neighboring country with constant dissonances on the surface. Thus, His Majesty resentfully burned the entire mansion.
After getting married, Pia put a hold on her own research and prioritized her duties as the marquess.
When Pia applied makeup, she transformed into a transcendental beauty. I truly didn’t want her to appear in public. Even more so because even without makeup, she was already beautiful. However, Pia, who was now within my arms, was as defenseless as she was when she was little. To suppress the resurging urge, I had to clench my teeth.
While picking up a lock of the beautiful black hair that hung over her face, I dropped a kiss on her forehead.
As expected, Pia woke up. Disoriented, she blinked several times.
“Ah, Lord Rufus, where am I…?”
I kissed her on the lips, leaving her in trance.
“I’m home, Pia. Previously, you fell asleep alongside Andrew.”
“I, I see. Welcome back…”
“Also, everyone told me that you aren’t feeling well. True enough, there are dark circles under your eyes. Are you unable to sleep well at night? Is that why you took a nap in Andrew’s room?”
A shadow flashed across Pia’s eyes.
“…I, it’s nothing.”
Placing my elbows right next to her face, I hovered over Pia. Then, I put our foreheads together, applying pressure.
“You’re preoccupied with something. Tell me.”
Relenting, Pia exhaled.
“The night before yesterday, where were you…?”
“The night before yesterday? I went to visit Earl Chelsea, who was a loyal retainer of the former king, along with His Majesty. What’s the matter, Pia? Did the earl’s second wife say something to you?”
Once the Earl of Chelsea passed away, his ex-wife’s eldest son would succeed him, and cast out the vile second wife without mercy. As such, that woman was probably desperate to catch her next patron.
“…She said that she had a fun night with Lord Rufus. She even showed the shirt she had specially prepared for you.”
That damn woman—!
For some reason, that woman almost managed to pour medicinal hot water on His Majesty’s hand. As a result of shielding him, my shirt got dirty. Thus, I had to reluctantly borrow the earl’s. Later, I quickly returned to my office to get changed.
“Huh? With Uncle Johnny—I mean, His Majesty? You aren’t by yourself?”
I pinched Pia’s small nose.
“How did you come to the conclusion that I’ll fall for a woman as old as my mother? Not to mention, one that is caked in makeup?”
“A, as long as mother-in-law?”
“At today’s tea party, did you wear glasses?”
“Do you want me to get angry?”
Pia was as ignorant as ever, while her own self-esteem was too low. When there was such a devoted and beautiful woman in my arms, how could I afford to look at another woman?
Let alone sneak a glance at other women, I was too busy getting rid of hired thugs who were trying to sneak-a-peek at Pia’s new map—or, even worse, kidnap and put her to work in another country!
However, Pia, just like during the time with Caroline, believed that men simply lost interest in their partners after some time. When I spent time with another woman, instead of getting jealous, Pia despaired by herself.
Therefore, I had to reassure her. I couldn’t let her be depressed.
“Pia, we’ve been together since you were 10-years-old. You’re the only woman in my eyes?”
Flustered, Pia’s entire body became bright red. As if I could bear to touch another woman when I had such a pure wife…
“Pia, who doubted me, needs to be punished.”
“I, I’m sorry!”
“Sorry isn’t enough. I have to engrave it in your body so that you’ll never doubt me again.”
Pia sprang to her feet in an instant and did what she called the biggest gesture of apology on the bed—the so-called dogeza.
“Forgive me, I’ll never doubt you again, I’ll believe in you, Lord Rufus—!”
I pulled Pia over my chest and embraced her waist tightly.
“Pia, I love you. People other than you are akin to pebbles to me. I don’t care about them. Well, if they’re useful, I’ll at least try to distinguish them from other pebbles.”
“Oh, except for Andrew, of course. I cherish Andrew. Besides, his crying face looks a lot like yours.”
“Pia, I can’t be with you all the time, but believe me, you’re the only one, special, and the best gift I’ve ever had in my life.”
Growing redder and redder, Pia buried her face into my chest. I enveloped her in my arms tightly.
“Enough, already… I’m falling in love all over again for you, Lord Rufus…”
That should be my line…
As usual, I kissed Pia’s head, before turning off the lights.
That bedroom was a world just for the two of us. It was a place for me to forget all the entanglements of politics and society, and just pour my love to Pia, while asking for her love in return.
The next morning, Pia slumbered powerlessly in my arms.
“Did you realize the weight of my love?”
Exhausted, Pia answered in a slurring manner. Satisfied, I kissed Pia all over her face.
“Lord Rufus, what time are you going to work this morning?”
“Today’s my day off. We can take it slow.”
“Really? Can we spend time together? How happy I am…”
My wife softly kissed my chest. A wife who yearned for a husband called Rufus, instead of Marquis Stan.
“…Pia, did I not spoil you enough?”
The fact that I pushed her down soon after that probably wasn’t my fault.
“Father, let’s practice writing!”
In the early afternoon, we slept peacefully until Andrew, who was too bored, stormed into the room with his T-Rex.
Then, after practicing his handwriting, what should the three of us do?
Pia, the household of Marquis Stan is pretty happy, isn’t it?
After all, I was betting on my pride to protect it with all my might.