I had made my debut into high society at the age of fifteen. Now, three years later, it was finally my turn to receive a marriage proposal.
At least, that’s how things appeared to be playing out.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss Marielle. My name is Simeon Flaubert.”
This gentleman had come to visit my family so we could introduce ourselves to one another. He greeted me with a smile so beautiful and elegant it almost took me aback. He presented a small bouquet of flowers as a gift, and in my moment of surprise, he took my hand and kissed it. I could do no more than gaze upon his flowing movements in a dazed state.
“I am honored to make your acquaintance,” he continued.
“The honor is entirely mine,” I said, with some hesitation in my voice. “I’m Marielle Clarac. Thank you for coming. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” I returned his introduction and gave the customary curtsy in an entirely suitable manner, if I do say so myself. I believe I just barely managed to preserve the degree of social grace expected of a nobleman’s daughter.
But in my mind, a storm was raging.
This situation is just…insane! It’s Lord Simeon, of all people! The most vicious intellect of the Royal Order of Knights… the Smiling Sword… the Poisoned Petal! THAT Lord Simeon!
Although, when I mentioned these names in my father’s presence, he responded with, “No, I’ve never heard him called anything like that.”
Yes, all right, they’re just my own names for him that I made up. Naturally, I’d never use them outside of my family. Even I can distinguish between things you can and can’t say in polite company.
Anyway, back to Lord Simeon.
Lord Simeon was many things. He was the eldest son and heir of House Flaubert, an earldom with a history that stretched back to the founding of the kingdom. He was the Vice Captain of the Royal Order of Knights, foot guards to the royal family. Indeed, from a very young age he had been the close companion of His Highness the Crown Prince. He was, in fact, the premier rising star amongst the young nobility, with a career trajectory that many said assured him an important ministerial role in the future.
Those aspects alone would have been more than enough to attract the fevered attention of every young lady of marriageable age, but what truly made him seem like Prince Charming out of a storybook was his exceptionally beautiful outward appearance.
His physique was tall, slender, and perfectly proportioned. When a calm smile showed upon the pale face that bordered on the palest of blond hair, he exuded knowledge and noble character. His light blue eyes shone from behind his glasses with kindness, yes, but also a dignified strength and sharpness of wit.
At twenty-seven years of age, he possessed a calm and composed nature that was nothing like the boys of my own age group. He truly came across as an adult, and it was quite wonderful.
And people like that really exist? These pinnacles of perfection don’t just exist in books, but in real life, too!? And…one of them is going to marry me!?
I apologized to my father internally. Until that moment, I had honestly assumed he was joking about all this! I couldn’t conceive of it being true! Sorry for doubting you, Father!
The truth, you see, is that this essentially was impossible. My father is a mere viscount, and our house has no particular history, status or fortune. Compared to House Flaubert, we existed in a different sphere altogether.
Admittedly, my father and brother had climbed to a certain level of success, both serving in the palace as government officials. However, they had not the faintest hope of becoming ministers. Our family simply did not have the pedigree that would be needed to go that far. The gap between us and House Flaubert, which had produced generation after generation of ministers, even prime ministers, was akin to heaven and earth.
If this were indeed a story, there might have been some sort of secret fated reason for his proposal—for example, he might have seen me somewhere and fallen in love at first sight. However, I was absolutely, positively certain that this was not the case.
Why? Because my looks were so unremarkable that no one would ever give me a second glance.
What kind of trickery did Father use to reel in a catch like this? It must be the biggest coup of his entire career!
“I imagine you’ve heard from your father already, but I’ve presented myself as a candidate for your hand in marriage. Would you do me the honor of accepting my proposal?”
His voice was soft. Comfortable. I’d seen him from afar at countless balls and garden parties, but I’d never heard his voice before. A beautiful voice, befitting a beautiful face.
It was just slightly high-pitched, with a sweet tone when he spoke kindly, though I was certain that if he took on a colder tone it would make quite an impact as well. Soft and flowing, yet merciless when interrogating someone… Just imagining it made me start to breathe heavily.
Ah, to be interrogated by him, just once!
“Marielle!” whispered my father from behind, poking me in the back.
Oops, this won’t do at all! Now’s not the time to be daydreaming. I hurriedly pulled myself together and gave Lord Simeon an answer. “This honor is far more than I deserve. However, I must ask you, Lord Simeon, is this truly what you want? As you can see, I’m neither a stunning beauty nor a brilliant mind. In fact, I’m a woman with no distinguishing characteristics whatsoever. The plainest, plainest, plainest of the plain.”
Father pressed his finger to his forehead, as if to stifle a groan of frustration.
Perhaps I was a bit too frank. But it was important. There was every chance that this encounter would end just like all the others, with the suitor completely losing interest the moment he saw my face. I had to make certain.
My older brother, apparently of the same mindset, had no look of reproach on his face. My mother, meanwhile, was so captivated by Lord Simeon that she seemed not to be listening at all.
“If your feelings have changed,” I continued, “please feel free to say so. I’m quite used to it, so it won’t cause me any consternation.” I wasn’t planning to start any misguided arguments about it afterward, so I didn’t bother mincing words.
Rather than expressing any surprise, Lord Simeon let out the slightest of chuckles. “Come, there’s no need to talk like that. I find your appearance quite lovely. I’ve also heard that you have a very sharp mind.”
Father! You’ve been exaggerating, haven’t you!? A great deal, by the sound of it! I stole a fleeting glimpse at Father, who was shaking his head furiously. It’s too late for that now! I get that you’ve got to present things in the best light in case people pass up a good thing, but what kind of expectations must Lord Simeon have now!? If you overdo it and give him ridiculous expectations, I’ll be the one who suffers for it later!
“I must disagree… Though it pains me to say so, I am an uninteresting woman with no particular merits. I am capable of the same things any average person can do, but little beyond that.” I paused a moment. “So you see, I’m certain that I’d only disappoint you. And to be told later that I’d disappointed you would be regrettable for me as well, so if you intend to change your mind, I’d appreciate it if you did so at this juncture.”
“Marielle, is that really necessary?” said Mother, suddenly coming back to life and cutting into the conversation after her time spent being entranced by Lord Simeon’s sheer handsomeness. “It’s clear that he wishes for your hand, and not a moment too soon! All this groveling is rude!”
Mother, no matter how stunning he is, it’s still me he’s getting engaged to, not you…
She continued, “When you’re told something as wonderful as this, it’s not the time to start fussing. It’s better to work hard at improving the aspects in which you fall short. What’s the use of giving up from the very first moment?”
Mother had a point. If I let this fine gentleman slip through my fingers, there was a real risk that I’d never get another marriage proposal ever again.
I’d never seen such an intense look on her face before. It was kind of scary. “Mother, I…”
“Do you find me unsuitable as a partner, Miss Marielle? Am I not to your satisfaction?” Lord Simeon’s sweet voice cut off the confrontation between mother and daughter. I returned my gaze to him and a shiver ran down my spine.
His smile… I can’t bear it! And his facial expression… It hides the slightest of sadistic streaks, as if he wants to tease me, no, torment me! I’m getting dizzy! How can one man come across as so dignified, yet so sensual at the same time?
Endless depths lay hidden beneath his sweet smile. What was he thinking inside, as his lips formed words that could melt a woman’s heart? Complex beyond compare, not straightforward or easy to pin down at all… Yes, that’s it! That’s Lord Simeon all over!
Everybody knew, you see. Every single noble in the entire Kingdom of Lagrange.
They knew that the Vice Captain of the Royal Order of Knights had a beautiful and friendly exterior, but was actually, in stark contrast, an exceptionally cool-headed and sometimes even severe military man—and a tactician of unparallelled skill.
Just because someone is always ready with a kind smile and a warm word is no reason to dismiss him as not being a threat. There were plenty of fools who scorned him, thought of him as a mere weakling, and all of them suffered for it. Indeed, his high rank was not earned solely on the basis of his noble lineage.
The soft and gentle Vice Captain who closely assists the tough and manly Captain.
The owner of an outstanding intellect.
It doesn’t get much more classic than this. I love it! I just can’t resist his sheer undercurrent of black-hearted scheming! It hits exactly the right spot to set off my fangirl urges!
Thank you, Father! I can’t believe I get to spend the rest of my life observing exactly the thing I love at close range! I’m so happy!
I no longer had any other choice. It seemed that Lord Simeon truly intended to marry me. Naturally, I still had my doubts about the reasoning behind his proposal, but I couldn’t worry about that any longer. All I could think about was obeying my fangirl instincts and taking the hand he had offered me.
Reason was gone, and all I had were my feelings. No…my desires. No one had ever set my heart racing like this before. How could I pass up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity like this!?
“Marielle Clarac, will you marry me?”
His question felt just like a declaration of love. I nodded, enraptured by this proposal out of a dream.
“If you’ll have me…I would like that very much.”
And that was the beginning of my engagement to Lord Simeon.