Chapter 18 – Arranged marriages
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I've just finished cleaning and dusting the house I’ve neglected for a week when I went back to the village. A small pot filled with tomato and egg soup simmers over the firewood stove in the kitchen. I open the windows and the cold wind enters into my house carrying sprinkles of snow.

A squirrel running about in my backyard catches my attention. I scowled, hoping it didn’t trample over my vegetation. When it sees me glaring at it, the squirrel jumps away from the vegetable patch and climbed up the tree. It inquisitively looks at me from afar, holding a small chestnut.

“Don’t go near my plants next time.” I warned, even though I’m sure it can’t possibly comprehend my words. The small squirrel, startled from my voice, quickly runs away leaving its hard-earned chestnut behind.

It was time to go for work. I set off to get the measurements of a particular noble lady I’ve been recently introduced to by Janet. 

Janet, now engaged to Duke Roderic Wolfram, has made new friends in higher social circles. However, she didn’t forget her old friends, making sure to help me by recommending me as a tailor and seamstress in her expanded circle. 

My client, Elise, is a 17 year old girl with hair in a shade of rose-pink and her purple eyes gleaming like amethyst gemstones. When I notice the callous on her hands and the swords decorating her walls, I realise she must be quite adept at swordsmanship. 

Ah. She’s what frequently described as ‘strong female lead’, someone who female readers adore more so than helpless crying heroines. Someone who can defend themselves and would screw people up if they messed with her. Someone with a sass personality.

I dextrously take measurements of Elise’s proportions, and as I did so, she compliments on how experienced I was with my hands.

“I’ve always felt suffocated by the corset and the frills, but every tailor I go to always say I must bear with it.” She lets out a string of curse words towards the beauty standards. “But your designs are very nice! The dress you drew looks simple, but it doesn’t shave away the elegance so I can probably even wear it to a social gathering.”

It’s quite common for female leads to not stick to the rules and be rowdy. Break the etiquettes of noble society! Be as unladylike as they want! Do whatever the hell they want!

How else would they stand out to the male leads?

“I’m glad to hear.” I thank her and continue wrapping the measuring tape around her waist.

“To be honest, I didn’t have much expectations since every other tailor keep denying my requests. Lady Janet has a very capable friend! How about this? I’ll recommend you to my friends so you get more clients?”

No please don’t. If that happened, I’m sure I’ll attract more attention than necessary.

“Actually, I only tailor for my hobby and don’t want my designs to be commercialised. I also don’t want my name to go public because I like my privacy.” I lie, while my tears flow sorrowfully inside. How much money did I just lose by denying this opportunity?  “But it’s different for Miss Elise. After all, Janet told me you’ve been helping her adapt in the higher noble circle. I hope you can continue to support her in the future.”

“So mysterious!!” She laughs boisterously. “I can tell Lady Janet won a lottery having a great friend like you. Alright. I’ll respect your wishes. In return, I hope I can keep wearing the dresses you design.”

“Of course.” I agreed.

After taking measurements came discussing the dress design. But I felt the need to go to the bathroom, so I excused myself. On the way to the outhouse, the gossip I managed to overhear from the maids was quite interesting.

“I can’t believe our miss is getting married into a Marquis house! Which maid do you think she’ll choose to follow her to the new estate?”
“Sssh! We don’t know if this marriage will continue.” The maid’s voice got lower, almost nearing a whisper.

This is how you know the gossip is juicy.

She looks into every maids' eyes encircling her, and said the following sentence: “I heard it’s arranged!”

Ahhhh~ So it’s that type of story.

Arranged marriages are common in the shoujo romance world. I adore Elise and her personality, so I can only wish the best for her. Noticing the characteristics of Elise, I’m sure she’s a female lead. That’s good, because it means this marriage will go down the happy ending route. 

If she turned out to be a side character, this marriage will eventually break with the male lead finding his “soulmate”, probably a pretty girl who sees him for who he is… someone who frees him from the shackles of unwanted marriage etc etc. Then he will ignore the legal wife and go frolic with the girl.

Because in such romance world, as long as it’s with your “soulmate” it’s okay to cheat.

Pfft. Don’t make me laugh at that nonsense. A cheater is a cheater.

“Ahem. I overheard this while serving by lord’s bedside. Since he’s sick, he wants to see his granddaughter marry his old friend’s grandson before he dies.” The maid spills the tea with much enthusiasm. The surrounding young maids listened and retorted with 'Ooohhh' to match the mood.

Grandfathers are always a convenient plot for the male and female leads to get pushed into an arranged marriage. They threaten and blackmail their grandchildren with their old age and bad health, while they just go ‘hohoho’ in hindsight satisfied with their backhanded efforts. 

When I return back from my toilet break to discuss the designs with Elise, I see a man in the room who was in midst a heavy discussion with the female lead.

Ah I shouldn't be here. I back away and step out of the room, making sure to not leak any noise.

However, because the argument was quite loud, I can overhear everything through the door. All the inquisitive maids are eating popcorn while pressing their ears against the door. They look so engrossed with the ongoing conversation inside, like they’re here for some good tea sesh.

“Cancel the marriage.” [Man]
“Are you joking? Do you think my Count house is in a position to reject a marriage offer from a great Marquis household like yours? You should have to do it.” [Elise]
“My grandfather won’t give me the inheritance if I reject the offer. But he won’t mind if the rejection came from you.” [Man]
“My grandfather would kill himself if he sees the marriage cancelled from my end.” [Elise]
“Fine then. Let’s go ahead with this marriage. See how long you can hold on.” [Man]
“Fine!” [Elise]

Heavy footsteps head closer to the door and the maids scatter away back to their own posts, nonchalantly doing their duties. I walk further away to wait for the male lead to exit.

The door opened with a bang. The man walked out with his brows furrowed, clearly agitated.

His dominating figure with his navy blue hair and black eyes, the long legs and the firm muscles which tensed underneath his clothes with every movement he makes, even the wooden fragrance he emits just so the female lead can say “you smell so good” somewhere in the future… Ah this, this is the male lead.

I enter the room shortly after the male lead leaves. Elise, sitting on the couch, crumples her dress as she repeatedly clenches and opens her fists, her whole body shaking in uncontrollable anger at the ill-mannered words of the male lead who just left.

I wait for the very words which will come out of her mouth next. If I’m correct, once she utters those words, the story will be set.

“Haa… Fine. I will make him cancel the marriage proposal. Let’s see how long you can tolerate if I annoy the hell out of you.”

She said it.

I look at Elise pitifully. She raised the flag with her words. From now on, everything you do will only make him like you more.