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The man standing in front of me while smiling pleasantly was the Crown Prince. Besides him, with a rare face full of grins was my Father.
In the middle of the terrific pressure, I could only pull my stiff cheeks into a cramped smile.
「……His Highness the Crown Prince?」
With a quaking voice I muttered.
Lightly nodding the Crown Prince came before me and elegantly kneeled.
The mantle he wore billowed airily. Seeing the golden embroidery of the Crest of the Royal Family, I could only grudgingly accept that he was the real deal.
「Greetings beloved princess. My name is Frederic van de la Wilhelm. To attain this engagement with you at this time truly makes me happy. Thinking that I should see your honorable face at least once, I’ve arrived like this today without sending a notice in advance, but I wonder, is it a bother to you?」
Receiving his greetings, I froze.
His renowned turquoise eyes were fixed on me.
For a moment, it felt as if I had seen those eyes somewhere, but after registering the words he said just now, that sense of deja vu vanished.
Why would he say that at our first meeting?!
In our country, only in proposing marriage would a man tell a woman his full name, even in a house where the engagement partners decide that a proposal isn’t necessary.
It’s gotten to the point where an official ceremony existed just for the exchange of names prior to the wedding. Names were regarded that highly.
Just now this man, without a doubt, had announced his full name to me.
I was engaged to him but even though the ceremony has yet to come, he had already revealed his name to me. I could only think that it was to implicate and make it known that he assents to this engagement.
With a bad feeling, I looked to my side where Father stood trembling, moved with deep emotion.
……This is bad.
I had intended to break off the engagement but I couldn’t understand why the Crown Prince had rushed over here first thing, or what he was thinking.
If I could, I would speak my mind without holding anything back about that matter, but it wasn’t something to be spoken about in front of the servants and everyone else.
Someway or another I had to get alone with my father then skillfully smooth things over with the Crown Prince.
While I was calculating many things in my mind, my Father began to pester me from the side.
I became aware of Father’s impatient voice.
It seems like he wanted me to give a reply in regards to the Crown Prince’s disclosure of his name.
If one wanted to consent to the proposal, one would likewise name him/herself in return. In the case of a refusal, depending on where someone was from and whoever was in their family, they would name themselves differently using their family names.
That was the theory, but as expected it would be bad not to name myself in this situation.
When I checked my surroundings, I realized that the servants were also examining me excitedly.
Don’t even mention Father. His gaze bore into me with extreme vigour.
……I understood that there was no place for refuge.
I resigned myself and plastered on a smile. ……Albeit, a strained one.
「……’A bother’ you said. It is no such thing. It’s an immense honor, Crown Prince. I am called Lidiana von Vivouare.」
For the time being I judged that rejecting him now was impossible so I let etiquette take over and named myself in return as I held out my right hand.
Anything less wouldn’t have been permitted. ……Especially with Father around.
Accepting my words, the Crown Prince dropped a chaste kiss to the back of my extended hand.
That gesture was overly sweet to the point where it was unpleasant. Looking at it from an outsider’s perspective, he was just like the princes from stories I’d read in my past life. Ah, he’s a real Prince, isn’t he.
Anyhow, because of this rite-like motion, the engagement had been completely established.
「Thank you. Please refer to me as Freed, Princess Lidiana. May I call you Lidi?」
「Yes, please do as your Highness wishes.」
At any rate I had no right to decline. He could call me whatever he wanted.
……But I refuse to call the Crown Prince by a pet name.
I don’t know if he’d guessed my sentiment, but the Crown Prince stood and gave a small chuckle.
「Are you shy? Lovely Lidi. It’s fine for now, but eventually, please call me ‘Freed’ in that cute voice of yours, ok?」
Corny!! So corny!!
I’m hit with a strong urge to retract my hand.
The Crown Prince’s beautiful appearance along with the lines he had just uttered suited each other extraordinarily.
But just because it suited him didn’t mean that I would like it.
……It’s no good, he and I just aren’t compatible. We lived in totally different worlds.
It was regretful but as expected, I had to move towards the immediate cancellation of the engagement with the Crown Prince.
To begin with, I was already a woman with sexual experience so my qualifications for marrying the Crown Prince was already determined.
Even if it was deliberate.
I didn’t even think that we would exchange names in such a place so that was a failure on my part.
I’m sorry, Father, Crown Prince.
But even I have things I won’t give up.
I looked over at my father sharply.
Afterwards, in an effort to entertain the Crown Prince, Father would no doubt lead him to his esteemed parlour room.
In order to prepare myself, I would have to return to my own room.
At that time, I will confess the truth to my father.
He could then explain the situation to his Highness and have him comply with cancelling the engagement.
This was the only method left.
After I had decided that, the Crown Prince once again interfered with my plans.
「Prime Minister, I wish to speak with Lidi alone. Is that not permittable?」
The Crown Prince said the words in a gentle yet firm tone. From that, anyone could tell that refusal wasn’t an option.
There was something about that tone that was familiar. However, this wasn’t the time to worry about something like that so I quickly disregarded it.
Of course, Father wouldn’t object.
「Why, certainly! Then, to where would you like to be guided? If it’s my estate’s parlour room, I believe that your Highness would not be disappointed.」
「I would like to see Lidi’s room.」
The Crown Prince promptly ignored my father’s suggestion.
Wait a minute, my room!? So he’s saying that he wants to go into an unmarried woman’s room?
Initially, what he said sounded completely absurd, but upon further reflection, I remembered that he and I were both recognized by our parents and considered to be officially engaged.
I realized that as long as he had Father’s permission, there wouldn’t be an issue.
Refuse!! Refuse him, Father!! You must show him your prized parlour room!!
「Is that so? Then as your Highness wishes…… Now then, Lidi. Be sure to remain courteous to the Crown Prince.」
Father had seen my prayer-like behaviour, but that guy quickly gave way to the Crown Prince.
I knew this would happen, but I couldn’t help resisting it a little.
But once it came to this, I had no option other than to nod.
I had bowed and nodded like a lady but inside, a storm was raging.
What should I do? What could I do?
My initial plan of confessing to my father and having the family circle break off the engagement fell apart the moment the Crown Prince arrived at my house.
My plan to have my father directly reveal the situation to the Crown Prince and cancel the engagement was crushed before it could be put into practice.
I couldn’t afford to spend any more time on this.
It was only a matter of time before the date of the wedding is decided and it turns into something irreversible.
Then what could I do?
While leading the Crown Prince to my personal quarters, I desperately wracked my brain.
However, why did the Crown Prince decide to agree to the engagement with me?
Judging by his behaviour since before, it didn’t look as if he was unwilling.
I didn’t know why, but it strangely seemed as if he was eagerly anticipating it.
The only merit to marrying me would be having my Father backing him, but from the rumors it didn’t seem as if he was a person who needed it.
No matter how I much I thought, I couldn’t understand a lick of it, so I stealthily let out a sigh.
The Crown Prince, who was walking beside me, heard it.
「To sigh like that, is there something wrong, Lido? Such a distressed expression does not suit your beautiful face. Please smile.」
The words ”I was worrying about how to cancel this engagement with you!” were lodged in my throat.
I frantically told him that there was nothing wrong in response and guided him to my room.
Inviting the Crown Prince into my room, I left the door slightly open as according to the rules of court conduct.
A lady would not be as thoughtless as to pass the time with a man in a locked room. ……For outward appearances.
「This is my room. There isn’t anything particularly interesting here, though……」
The Crown Prince and I sat face to face on the large sofa inside my room.
「No, just the thought that Lidi spends her life here, it’s of great interest to me.」
「……Is that so.」
While replying to the Crown Prince who was happily observing his surroundings, I considered my next move.
But in the end, I couldn’t think of anything so I gave up on it.
……This is enough. I’ll tell him directly.
If he wanted to call me a loose woman, then he could call me whatever he wants.
It was much better than keeping silent and going along with the marriage, only for it to be discovered on our first night.
Conveniently, right now we were alone. I’m thankful that it would only be the Crown Prince who would hear my confession.
I haven’t conversed with him much, but he seems like a gentle person. Maybe the Crown Prince would accept the nullification quietly and it would all be over with that.
Yes. I felt that that probability seemed likely. Actually, wasn’t it quite high?
The more I had thought about it, the more my conviction, that this method would be for the best, grew.
If I had thought about it normally I would’ve realized that it wasn’t, but with the continuous occurrences that led to this situation my head had overheated.
I didn’t notice that I was in no condition to be making any composed decisions.
I ordered the maid to bring tea, and she bowed her head and left to room to prepare it.
Now!! There was only now!!
Motivating myself, I stood up.
「What is it, Lidi?」
Although I had been immodest when I had stood up frantically, the Crown Prince’s courteous response did not falter.
「I……I have something important to say to your Highness!!」
The anxiety was too much, so I stumbled awkwardly.
While the Crown Prince was expressing an archaic smile, he encouraged me to continue.
It’s going well!! If it’s now, then I can say it!
Let’s go, Lidi!! For the purpose of grasping my future!!
I gulped in a large breath and resolved myself. I opened my mouth.
「I, I cannot marry you, your Highness!!」
Thank you very much.