――――I can’t possibly accept this. Why on earth must I have to see such a dreadful place?
As she looked over the swampy marshes, extending as far as the eye can see, Camilla tried to steady her quivering hands.
Certainly, she had desired to be the fiancée of the Prince.
But, that was the desire of every noble girl that age. In high society, there were very few people who didn’t greatly admire Prince Julian, who had stunningly good looks even amongst the other members of the royal family. In addition, compared to the stern and humourless First Prince, he was compassionate and jovial, the kind of man who was always popular with women.
Certainly, Camilla was responsible for starting a rumour along the lines of ‘Liselotte Ende is a loose woman’.
But, she hadn’t fanned the flames of gossip on purpose. Camilla had seen Liselotte walking with a man other than the Prince one day and had simply brought it up idly with other noble daughters. The story had acquired legs and a new pair of shoes by the time it had arrived back at her feet. Even if Camilla may have inadvertently started it, if the story takes on a life of its own as it spreads, she could hardly be blamed for what it became.
Certainly, she had used the power of her house. She had used it incessantly.
She had used her parent’s influence to gain entry to tea parties she wasn’t invited to and to take the hand of the Prince at the ball’s first dance. But, was there anything wrong with that? As far she was concerned, it was like a beautiful person making use of their charm. If a talented person could use their ability to sing and dance to get close to the Prince, then why was it so wrong to use power to achieve the same end?
Certainly, she may have taken things too far. It was true that she was at odds with Liselotte, forcing her to tears at times, earning the wrath of the Prince and the shame of her parents.
But, that doesn’t mean that Camilla was entirely in the wrong. Liselotte often cried crocodile tears and at times didn’t hesitate to return the favour to Camilla.
Despite her meek appearance, Liselotte was no shrinking violet. For every insult Camilla threw at Liselotte, she hurled back five more. Rumours about Liselotte aside, stories were beginning to spread about Camilla as well. Far from being isolated herself, Liselotte had instead been the one who sought to ostracize Camilla from polite society in return. The only way Camilla could claw her way back was through influence and financial power.
Besides, Camilla wasn’t the only enemy Liselotte had to contend with. Camilla aside, there was no shortage of people who tormented Liselotte. Rather, Camilla was blamed for a lot of their actions. However, when the tables turned, things changed very quickly. All those who had oppressed her soon took Liselotte’s side. Only Camilla, who could never give up on her love for the Prince, continued to oppose Liselotte till the very end.
Certainly ―――― Camilla had made many mistakes. However, she was by no means the monster the newspapers made her out to be. She had simply been painted as the perfect villain in the love story between the Baron’s daughter and the Prince.
In that way, she had been cast out from her home, forced into a betrothal with a grotesquely hideous man and become the topic of ridicule and scorn in high society.
This kind of ending, how could she possibly accept it?
But despite everything, the gossip, the humiliation and the banishment, what Camilla truly refused to accept above all else was the man she now beheld.
“Miss Camilla, is it to your liking? It is a boar caught in the western forest. It’s dripping with grease and truly delectable.”
The Montchat manor, deep in the Duchy of Mohnton. In the courtyard of that mansion that sat atop a lone hill, Alois, the Lord Montchat, said so as he stuffed himself with another mouthful of meat.
Before Alois, enough meat was stacked that it seemed to make up a wild boar all of its own. The meat was cooked on the bone, its once white hue burned black in the oven. Just like Alois said, the meat is glistening with fatty globules.
The mountain before him grew smaller and smaller as Alois attacked it with the knife and fork skills of a seasoned veteran. The juices flowing from the meat splashed on the napkin hanging from the cuff of his shirt, leaving a great many stains. But Alois didn’t care about such trivialities, devouring the meat with indulgent relish.
Camilla kept her distance from Alois and looked his gluttonous body up and down. It was early afternoon and the sun had just begun its descent into the west. It’s not an appropriate time for breakfast or lunch, let alone dinner.
“Lord Alois… I… I came because you said this was to be a tea party.”
“Tea… Ah, I have some! How many lumps of sugar do you take? Five? Perhaps six?”
Camilla and Alois sat at opposite ends of the large table, facing one another. Atop the table, dwarfed by the mountain of boar meat, sat a small pot of tea and a jar of sugar cubes.
“Lord Alois… I… I believe I made myself clear earlier. I have no intention of marrying you.”
“Yes, yes. I heard you. You haven’t stopped saying it since you arrived…”
Alois’ silently drooped his head at Camilla’s words. Even so, it wasn’t as if he could simply will his body to shrink, and he definitely wasn’t going to give up the meat in his hand.
“With the way I am now, you said you couldn’t bring yourself to seal our marriage with a kiss. Therefore, unless I slim down, you can’t consent to our wedding.”
“That’s right. Well then, Lord Alois, do you also remember how you answered me when I told you that?”
“Of course I do! I vowed to lose weight, just for you. That way, I can marry you without fail!”
The toad of the swamp half rose to his feet as he spoke passionately. The table rumbled as he shifted in his chair. Enduring the earthquake-like shaking, Camilla let her feelings be known.
Even if her mouth was curled into a smile, that expression was a mere mask.
“At least put a little bit of effort into losing some weight, you gelatinous frog ――――！！”
Camilla cried, grasping at Alois’ arm to try and separate the meat from his jaws.
The sensation she felt on her palms at that time was something she wouldn’t soon forget. As she touched Alois, it wasn’t clear just where his fat ended and the meat in his hand began.
Camilla could never accept it.
How could she ever exchange holy vows and kiss such a gluttonous frog in the sight of God?
It can’t be helped to be forced to marry at some else’s discretion. Camilla was a noblewoman, after all. Political marriages were the norm in her world, she had long since accepted that.
But, on the other hand, Camilla was still an eighteen-year-old maiden. Even if she had to give up on marrying for love, there were certain lines that Camilla had to draw.
And this frog-like man was far, far removed from that line.
At the very least, until the man in front of her became someone that Camilla could bear to kiss.
That unkempt hair atop greasy skin encasing a bulbous body, wrapped in clothes that should never be seen in the public eye. She would have to shape him from the ground up.
――――Until he can measure up, I’ll have to educate him…!
Shuddering as she watched Alois, Camilla etched that vow upon her heart.