I was in darkness.
I was in the midst of darkness on the inside and out.
Outside, I was completely surrounded by darkness. And inside, I was filled with the darkness called despair.
A hole had opened in my heart, a chilling hole from losing someone dear.
Inside the abyss where I could see neither purpose nor future, filled with so much darkness that my body seemed to be part of it, I saw a light.
A brilliant yet ominous light. But I would rather be in the dazzling, sweet, sparkling light than be in the dark.
I stretched out my own hands to the hand that offered that light.
I’ll definitely get it back. Together with that oath.
No matter how many sacrifices it takes, no matter who it may be, this oath alone, will never be overturned.
Prologue – The Sudden Emissary
In a snug, little backyard of an old, snug, little house was one small field. In that field were the figures of two people. The figures, who were crouching over between the trail of fresh leaves and donning white kerchiefs and white aprons, judging from appearance, were something like farm women or servants. One of them raised their face and looked at the other.
「Lily-sama, are you really going to marry that merchant family’s second son? 」
The voice was high-pitched and brisk as she talked, even the way she carried the basket filled with leaves on one hand was youthful.
With the plucked mint leaf on hand, the other person who’d been asked, soon raised her head.
「It’s up to Father to decide. Why do you ask, Natalie?」
She stood up with a fine posture, her spine straightened elegantly. The face covered in the white kerchief was fair-skinned, while the line of her chin and neck were slim. Rather than a burly sun-tanned farm woman, it had been more appropriate to call her『a lovely wild flower』.
Upon the reply said with a soft tone and gentle words, the young girl called Natalie raised the issue once more.
「 I mean, he’s a loose man that’s pompous and vain in both speech and conduct, you know? He pretends to be the son of nobility, but in reality, isn’t he just a good-for-nothing who plays around with his parents’ money? Even as a joke, for an idiot son like that to marry Lily-sama who has noble blood running in her veins…」
「I suppose I’ll discover his good side once we spend time together. In the first place, even if you say we’re aristocrats, that’s only because we have one who is a distant relative. It’s not like our family actually has a pedigree to boast of. If it’s a fortune we’re talking about, his is more remarkable」
『Lily-sama』, whose real name is Lillimaria, smiled.
Actually, the 『Fortwächter』 surname was remarkable to say the very least. But it was a family whose daughter personally puts on an apron to pluck herbs from the garden.
「I’ll abide by Father’s decision. Well then, let’s wrap things up here, Natalie」
That said, Lily once again resumed plucking the mint that increased with vigorous fertility in the small field.
Natalie groaned with a 「Muu」 and, although she didn’t agree, went back to work.
(It seems Mother still isn’t feeling well. It would be nice if the mints are even a little bit effective…)
Lily silently hoped as her fingers become dyed by the leave’s smell and color.
And then, a loud, steadily approaching noise reached the young women’s ears.
For a guest to visit this country-side house by horseback… the two young ladies exchanged looks.
The sound of hooves gradually came closer, stopping in front of Lily’s home. And then, while still on his horse, the visitor called out asking for her father.
Once the visitor had been allowed into the living room and provided with a second glass of water to quench his thirst from his long journey, he greeted the master of the house and quickly broached the purpose of his visit.
The purpose being「wanting to meet with the young lady」.
Taking off the hood and apron, Lily changed into her best clothes, had her hair combed by Natalie, and presented herself in the living room with her mother. When they appeared, the male guest quickly stood up and gazed at Lily’s face with scrutiny great enough to be considered rude then repeatedly nodding as he muttered:
「Hmm. She certainly has the black hair and green eyes…」
For a rural place like this, the middle aged man, who took off his mantle and fixed his hair with his hand, was certainly dressed in rare city-styled attire. But the arrogance radiating from his demeanor was definitely from the borrowed authority bestowed onto him.
「—What business do you have with my daughter?」
It was no surprise that Lily’s father, who felt curious and offended, said this with a bit of edge in his tone. When he did so, the man gave an insincere 「my apologies」 with a tone and expression that reflected that he did not at all believe himself to be rude, and cut to to the point.
「I’ve confirmed that things are satisfactory. With this, I have no objections. Let’s discuss the main topic. Allow me to go straight to the point. By my Master’s command, I’ve brought a marriage proposal to this young lady」
「A marriage proposal?」
「Indeed」 said the visitor — no, the messenger, and then gravely announced in an exaggerated gesture:
「A marriage arrangement to our “Fortwächter“ clan head, the current head of the house, Count Gordtfeldt, Salvatore Fortwächter-dono!!」
「Lily-sama, are you really getting married!? And to the clan head that messenger of a man talked about!」
Natalie swung both her hands around in wide arcs, raising her voice.
That night, after finishing dinner and saying her goodnight to her father, they both returned to Lily’s room.
Though this was the second time this day that Natalie asked this question, her tone and expression was infinitely more desperate this time. Though Lily was the Master’s daughter and a friend who was a year older than her, the young girl of sixteen years fretfully asked Lily with an expression that looked to be in tears.
「I mean… isn’t Count Gortfeldt a 70-80 year old man?!!」