The count’s unhesitating response made Molitia feel trapped. The Linerio family. A family that was the subject of numerous rumors. The gossip about Molitia herself was nothing when compared to that about the Linerio family.
There were many nasty rumors about the Linerio family, and it was said that although the Duke of Linerio was indeed a duke now, his blood was low-class. Moreover, for someone with a duke’s title, his public appearances were extremely limited. Gossip-mongers couldn’t leave such a duke alone. Some said that the duke had the blood of the devil; others said that he enjoyed killing every day and that he couldn’t get rid of the smell of blood.
In particular, the current Duke of Linerio had already fought several times on the battlefield where his appearance, a killer drenched with blood, was enough to horrify even his own side; it was a measure of how scary it would be to face him as an enemy.
Marrying into such a family was asking the fragile Molitia to die.
“I can’t marry him!” said Molitia.
“You can’t? Do you think you have a choice?” asked Count Clemence, his veins popped out. “Do you think there’s anything for you if you spurn this marriage? You don’t want to be sold where you can’t afford expensive medicine, do you?”
“No. No, it’s just . . .” Molitia trailed off.
Molitia wanted to say that there was still time left, so another proposal might come, but facing the angry count, she could only bite her lips.
“Then what? Are you going to ruin the House of Clemence?” demanded the count.
“No . . . I’ll get married,” said Molitia.
She had only one choice as there was only one marriage proposal before her. In the end, marriage was a means to an end for her. The harsh reality of the options made her sad: to be trapped in her bedroom or to be killed, screaming, at the end of a sword.
The count cleared his throat when he saw her depressed look after she had failed to resist the proposal. “Very well. If you succeed in marrying the duke, the prestige of our family will be revived.”
The count had no regard for her well-being. Looking at her father, who was thinking only of the family, Molitia sighed.
The half-forced marriage proceedings went by very quickly, and the hastily arranged wedding day approached. A week before the wedding, Molitia attended the last banquet she would enjoy as a single woman.
Normally she would have refused the invitation on the grounds of her health, but this time it was different. She was deliberately sent to the party as the fiancée of the duke to raise the prestige of the family.
As foreseen, no one approached Molitia; even the ones who were curious about the news of her marriage to the terrible duke preferred to join their acquaintances, and as the banquet went on, people were busy laughing and talking.
“Huh,” sighed Molitia, alone among the sociable people. Everything was progressing without her being able to assert her own wishes, from birth to marriage. At this rate, it was clear that the same pattern would be repeated. She didn’t even have the right to decide on her life-changing event, her marriage.
Molitia sighed again. The glittering banqueting hall was choking her, so rather than stay there, Molitia turned and found a relatively secluded terrace. The open space was a little chilly, but it let her catch her breath. When she leaned against the railing, the frigid air rose from the marble floor.
Molitia’s body trembled lightly. After tonight, she would be busy preparing for the wedding again. She was sick and tired of thinking about the wedding gifts piled up in her room.
‘I wish I had one thing I could decide,’ Molitia thought.
It was then that a heavy overcoat covered her shoulders, keeping the wind out. When Molitia looked up, startled by the sudden warmth, she saw a man standing there.
“You’re shivering alone here,” the man said, after seeing Molitia’s surprised look. Molitia blushed at his strange behavior; normally, people would just pretend that they hadn’t noticed anything wrong.
“Other people are busy dancing, and you’re hanging around a place like this. You’re unique,” said Molitia.