Chapter 09: The Past 02
It was a month later that I first met my marriage partner.
My marriage partner was the one who wanted to meet, and that man consented because I learnt enough about etiquette and culture not to be embarrassing in public.
However, the fact may be that he couldn’t go against someone of higher standing.
That man had my marriage partner invest in his business in exchange for one of his two daughters, and he chose me without hesitation.
His beloved daughter wouldn’t be the one who would be held hostage, the detestable girl would be.
Of course, I remember that day… the day when I first met Orpheus more vividly than when I was ordered to marry him.
That day was also a cold afternoon.
However, the weather was good, unlike a month ago. There were no clouds in the sky, and the bright sunlight shone in the parlour.
That man had said that my marriage partner not only had money, but was also good-looking, and he was undoubtedly right.
Earl Rosenstein, Orpheus Dimitri von Rosenstein is a handsome young man with black hair and blue eyes, and he had a melancholy aura.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Earl Rosenstein.”
“Call me Orpheus. Please let me call you Ophelia, too.” He smiled lightly and replied in a friendly way when I greeted him while admiring his handsome appearance.
“Then, I’ll do that,” I answered and felt somewhat uncomfortable.
If I look closely at Orpheus’s smile, I could see that it didn’t reach his eyes.
His mouth was drawn in a bewitching arc, but his blue eyes were cold.
He shot an icy glance, which was appropriate for his eye colour, my way.
I couldn’t feel any goodwill coming from him, and his eyes made me feel the complete opposite of that.
――― What is he not satisfied with?
That man told me to stay silent about being a prostitute’s daughter.
So, he probably hadn’t told Earl Rosenstein either.
The reason why I’m disliked is probably not because of that.
Is it my impression? Or appearance? Or perhaps both?
I’m not a beauty.
I prepared myself to some extent, but I felt horribly miserable when I actually saw him look at me like this.
I don’t care if the servants of the house hate me, but it was different when it came to my future husband.
I pulled back my stiff smile so that he wouldn’t hate me more and stood still while that man and Orpheus talked.
Then, when it felt like an infinity had passed, Orpheus said, “Could I talk with your daughter alone?”
“Ah… I don’t mind… What about you, Ophelia?”
“Can you have a proper conversation?” ――― That man glared at me and said.
Honestly, I was worried about being alone with Earl Rosenstein, but I can’t refuse. “It’s fine,” I nodded, and that man walked past me. He whispered in my ear, “Don’t say anything unnecessary,” before leaving.
“He’s a strict father.”
Orpheus smiled wryly.
“Did you hear him?” I asked, and he replied, “My ears are good.”
“Most importantly, your father’s voice is a bit too loud.”
“I’m very sorry for showing you something ugly.”
“Don’t worry about it. Your father is probably just worried about you.”
I sincerely thought that it was good that my head was facing down since I couldn’t maintain the smile on my face.
That man was worried about something else, but I endured this because I would be in trouble if this marriage fell through. I smiled again and lifted my face.
Our conversation continued.
He had excellent conversational skills, and he was also a good listener.
I was weary because he had asked a lot of personal questions, but I had already prepared the answers in advance, so I couldn’t accidentally slip up.
“By the way, I have something to tell you,” Orpheus abruptly said when the conversation came to a pause.
“What is it?” I corrected my posture, and he began talking seriously, “You may have heard about this from your father, but I have a cousin. She’s 23 years old now, but she has been living with me for six years because she’s blind and has no other relatives.”
Of course, I haven’t heard about this.
All he told me was the bare minimum, which was that Orpheus was rich and good-looking. That man didn’t tell me his age or position in court.
“She told me that she was going to leave the mansion when I told her that I was getting married. She said that you might hate her. However, it took six years before she was finally able to move around a room by herself. If she moves to a new environment, then she would have to start all over again. If she doesn’t have a chaperone, then she will live a crippled life where she can’t do anything.”
I finally saw where he was going with this.
Orpheus wants me to let his cousin stay in the mansion after we get married.
He wants me to accept the presence of his cousin, who has an impairment and has no other relatives.
“Six years ago. Did it have to do with the epidemic?” I asked after thinking a little, and Orpheus nodded.
“Yes. She lost her parents to the epidemic, and she managed to survive even though she had suffered from it as well. But she lost her sight. She had a fiancé at that time, but it was cancelled…”
――― Then, why don’t you marry that cousin of yours?
I thought but didn’t say out loud.
He might not want to marry her out of sympathy when there is no love involved. Or, he might have preferred to get married to a daughter from a distinguished family instead of a woman with no backing, because it came with benefits.
It was callous, but I heard noble marriages were like this.
For them, love is something they can enjoy after marriage.
And, I had no right to refuse this marriage even if Orpheus loved another woman.
I was that man’s tool, and I had no choice but to obey his order.
“I’m sorry to hear about that,” instead, common words came out of my mouth, but I also meant half of it.
Six years ago, a raging epidemic took the lives of many people, regardless of their rank.
My mother was also one of the victims.
However, the pain and sadness that Orpheus’s cousin received when she lost her family, her eyesight and got abandoned by her fiancée, was far worse than mine.
I sympathised with her even though I hadn’t met her yet, and I didn’t want her to experience more pain than she already had.
“Please continue to let her stay in your mansion. She doesn’t have to worry about me.”
“Do you really not mind?”
Orpheus’s gaze softened when I nodded, and he said, “Thanks.”
“I’m lucky to be able to marry a kind woman like you. I’m so glad to have met you.”
That was probably lip service.
Still, I was so happy to hear them that my cheeks turned red.
I felt that this was the first time someone other than mother had accepted my existence, and I was filled with joy.
“I feel the same way.”
I looked straight into Orpheus’s blue eyes and admired his beauty again.
His snow white face was really handsome, and I stared at it too intensely, and… that was when I knew.
The swirling blackness deep in his cold eyes.
A feeling which was close to depression and resentment, which was a characteristic of those who had suffered enough pain to distort their character.
――― Ah, this person…
At that moment, I realised.
That Orpheus was the same kind of person as me.
He went through a dark past like I had and made it to today.
――― I see. So, it’s not just me?
A strange impulse welled up within me.
They were feelings that I couldn’t understand nor put into words. It was like we were two sides of the same coin, I wanted to hug him, or refuse and reject him as much as I could.
When I noticed this, I said to control my inner turmoil, “I’m the same as you. I’m delighted to meet you, Earl Rosenstein.”
I curtsied slowly and thought that I wouldn’t mind marrying this person.
I thought that we would understand each other.