That day, an intruder barged into her study.
He was a good-looking man with black hair and clear ice blue eyes. His tall height gave way to long limbs and he looked to be in late twenties. A very attractive person from all appearances but when he found the person he was looking for, he yelled at the top of his lungs.
“I’m begging you, Elza! Marry me!”
The woman slowly pushed up her spectacles by the bridge and said: “You, get out.”
Elza Lombardini, the daughter of a duke, was a researcher studying history at the National University of Fillure. She was also a teacher whom many referred to as “Professor”, but she was only an associate professor.
Her grey eyes and her chestnut-coloured lashes gave off an intellectual aura, emphasized by her silver-rimmed spectacles. Her looks weren’t bad but for some reason, the scent of disappointment wafted from her.
She was already twenty-eight years old and had missed her chance at marriage. Due to her eccentric ways, even the people around her had given up on her.
The intruder yelling out incomprehensible things was Duke Inglacia Luca. Succeeding his house at age twenty-five, along with his beautiful appearance, he had made a commotion among the young noble ladies. Since he held a position in the royal court, he frequently stayed at the capital during off-seasons.
That very person was in front of Elza right now, as the winter was ending and spring was about to begin. He gave one the feeling of someone who shouted out insane things and she spontaneously rebuked him.
“I’m serious! You’re the last one I could depend on!”
Elza who was in the middle of correcting the student’s paper, put down her red pen, rested her elbow on the desk and crossed her fingers. “…… I’m sorry, can you repeat what you just said?”
“Marry me, Elza!”
“As I thought, get out. And then go to sleep. You’re considerably tired.”
“I’m quite clear-headed.”
There were people who weren’t clear-headed like him but it was common sense not to reason with them. Elsa looked at the beautiful duke and let out a sigh.
“You, are your eyes only for decoration? What are you thinking proposing to an eccentric woman like me? Those noble ladies that yearn for you would faint upon hearing this.”
“Oh! So that’s the problem……!”
As he said those words, Luca prompted himself to sit on the sofa. He moved aside the books scattered around like he was used to do so. It wasn’t the first time he’d barged into this study but it was the first time he’d acted like that.
Elsa and Luca had an inseparable relationship since they were in primary school, although they didn’t mean to. It could be said that they were friends with a slightly odd relationship.
They were both the same age. Even if they differed in gender, both of them were intelligent and shared a rivalry to become the top student at their school. Usually, such a relationship would be regarded as “being in bad terms”, but theirs was nothing like that. Instead they had a rather good relationship: Elsa, with her researcher’s disposition, was a natural airhead, while Luca tended to have a systematic train of thought. Both of them got strangely along, it was a friendship beyond gender.
They seemingly had similar minds and continued their interactions even after graduating from university. Now, they were both twenty-eight years old and still single.
“For now, let’s have coffee.” With that in mind, the woman poured a cup. It wasn’t something a duke’s daughter would do but since she secluded herself inside of her study, she was able to do things herself. She usually had an assistant to help her but she wasn’t leaving her study today.
“My father’s already urging me to marry……”
“He has been saying that for a long time now, has he not?”
Elsa poked where it hurt. Still single despite being a twenty-eight year old woman, it would soon be impossible for Elsa to get married and even her family had almost given up any hope. But even if they were the same age, a man was different from a woman, it seemed that a single twenty-eight year old bachelor was even more popular.
“Isn’t it fine? You have good looks so you still have options.”
Hearing her say that in a monotonous tone, even if it wasn’t to the extent of her being jealous, Luca drank up his coffee in one gulp and said:
“You, you said that despite being aware that I have gynophobia?!”
“Then, who the heck is the duke in front of me, talking to the associate professor of the opposite gender?”
Elsa sipped her coffee while teasing him.
“That’s because Elsa’s my friend.” Luca grimaced at her remark.
“You, you should apologise to me, shouldn’t you?”
This guy is hopeless, she thought. “It’s fine now”, she said, shaking her head in astonishment. Luca became sullen.
“What is it?”
“It’s nothing. Ah, we’re friends indeed……”
He was correct. She decided to go back to the reason why he shouted such stupid things.
“You weren’t this flustered when your father told you to marry before. What happened?”
It depended on what had happened but he might come and bother her again, thus she wanted to solve the problem right away. It was intolerable that he was bothering her even though she was in the middle of writing her thesis.
“To be honest…… I had several marriage interviews today.”
“Oh. Was there someone you liked there?”
Luca covered his face with both his hands in response to Elsa’s curiosity.
“So…… Was there……?”
“You call yourself a woman?!”
Normally, Elsa should be on his side but she was pressing for a reaction out of him each time. Young ladies these days are carnivores, he thought.
“So, did you refuse?”
“Of course I did! But…… the other party wouldn’t give up! Recently, whenever I go out on social functions she would approach me……”
It was a lucky problem but to Luca, it was a matter of life or death. That was how bad Luca’s condition was. He was a duke, had money and to top it off, he was good-looking. Incidentally, his father had passed his title to his son and was now living a leisure and enjoyable life with his wife.
“It would have been fine if she’d only just talked to me or asked me to dance! But, she’d blatantly press her chest against me and touch me suggestively……!”
“How many times am I going to say this? You, are you a girl?”
No matter how he phrased it, Luca’s reactions were those of a woman’s. However, you can wager that Elsa nonchalantly acted similar to a man. Those two may have been born to the wrong gender.
“Then, I had an idea. If I had a sweetheart then I could solve this problem.” Luca said with a serious expression on his face. For a moment, Elsa was at a loss for words.
“…… I feel like this is going to get really complicated. Go ahead, please continue.”
“So, I thought the only one I could ask was Elsa.”
“In the first place, the only friend you have that’s a woman is me, right?” She said calmly while rebuking him like usual. Elsa confirmed with herself and nodded.
“Anyway, I understand why you said what you did now.”
“But, I refuse!”
Elsa stood up while holding a conversation that no one would believe belonged to two twenty-eight year olds. She took the cookies off the shelf and ate it with her tea.
“In short, if you want me to masquerade as your sweetheart, then you don’t need to go as far as marriage. I think I would be inadequate to be your partner. Go snatch a young, beautiful and down to earth girl.”
From the story so far, Elsa was an unfavourable candidate. When Elsa asked Luca about his marriage interview in detail, he told her that there were close to ten people and they were all in their twenties. Elsa who was close to thirty, didn’t think that she could hold them back.
“Elsa, you’re pretty, don’t you think so? I don’t mind settling down with someone like Elsa.”
Luca was quite against girls who were brimming with enthusiasm. Elsa was too.
“Well I guess it is okay for me to say thank you. It’s not a bad idea but if it’s someone who really wants to steal your heart, they wouldn’t give up even if you have a sweetheart or a wife, don’t you think so?”
“No but if I take Elsa along with me to social functions then it’ll spread that 『I like someone like her』.”
“In other words, you want to spread the fact that you want a lover who’s a bit older.”
“If it were you then it doesn’t matter if you’re older or younger, I would still have come to you.”
Elsa didn’t know if that was something to be proud of. Luca was very serious but what he said was a little cruel.
“For goodness sake, I’m begging you! And I’ll be grateful if you’d really want to get married.”
“Go think of a more decent marriage proposal. Then come and say it to me.”
Elsa completely discarded him. He had said some persuading words but the rest were just horrible.
“Or just tell me the advantages to helping you. It’s not enough for me to cooperate with you just because you have good intentions.”
She didn’t have any spare time and she wasn’t nice enough to just help him out for free. She had been harshly told by others that she had rid herself of being a woman but it wasn’t a problem to her since she was living happily.
Proposals may be tough but if one just pointed out the advantages then it would work out somehow. If that much sweetness wasn’t done then Elsa didn’t think she could help Luca out. Conversely, there are calculating woman who would help out if there were benefits. “You, are you really a duke’s daughter?” Elsa had been told so by people before, but really, it was none of their business.
“Okay, I got it. Luca pondered and raised his voice. Elsa took a break from leisurely eating the cookies and looked at Luca. He stretched out his hands and wiped the cookie crumbs from the corners of her mouth:
“If you cooperate with me then I’ll give you as much research funds as you want.”
“…… Are you serious?”
Research required money. Elsa mainly studied history but she also dabbled in law and mathematics. She would sometimes work as a lawyer or as a private tutor. Of course, she’d also teach at the university but research still required money.
People called Elsa 『Eccentric』but she spent most of her pay on her research. She had enough sense to put money down for her livelihood but the rest of her money went into funding her research.
Even now, she still managed to fund her research but if he wanted to fund it instead, then she wanted it.
“I understand. If you’re fine with me then I’ll cooperate with you.”
Because of that, Elsa replied quickly. Luca said, “Thank you for helping me out……” Neither of them had realised that this was like a patron contract. Was the common sense of these two people alright?
An uneasy combination was thus born. Elsa and Luca shook their hands together vigorously.
Beginning translated by: kukkiriri and Agni @NUF
Beginning edited by: Midori @NUF