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The following day, Clarisse went to a famous dressmaker's boutique in the capital that Jean's aunt Lotte liked.
Although she told Jean that buying a new dress for a visit to her parents' house would be a waste of money, he, who usually respects her wishes, ignored her and told her to go buy one and have his aunt find one for her. In the end, she couldn't refuse and ended up coming to the store.
The store was lined with colorful dresses, and Clarisse, who had not properly picked out a dress in a long time, quickly gave up trying to choose one herself and decided to leave it to Lotte.
"I can't believe that such a lovely lady will be wearing one of my designs! Oh my! What beautiful violet eyes! I'm getting excited. If I could, I would have tailored it from scratch, but I'm afraid we don't have time for that this time."
The store madam said so, and while discussing this with Lotte, she brought out more and more elegant dresses, leaving Clarisse flabbergasted. They said things such as "these sleeves are the most fashionable nowadays," or "this lace is the current fashion trend." She kept trying on dresses, one after the other, and then walking in front of the two.
It wasn't that she didn't enjoy it; it was just that it was something she wasn't used to, and she was utterly exhausted by the time she left the store.
Lotte eventually decided to buy two evening gowns and four day gowns. Lotte laughed it off before Clarisse could say anything, saying that Jean would be paying for the dress anyway, so she didn't have to worry about it. They agreed with the store that the dresses that needed alterations would be delivered to the Ainsworth residence later.
Her first impression of Lotte was correct; she was cheerful, kind and had a lot to talk about. When they returned home, a young woman who was one of Lotte's favorite hairdressers was also there.
She took care of Clarisse's chestnut hair, and she gave it a quick trim, saying it was perfectly cared for and shiny, with the perfect volume.
The hairdresser gave Mary a few tips on how to style her hair in a way that she thought would look good on Clarisse, as well as how to match her makeup. The two of them were happily playing with Clarisse's hair.
Jean returned from his outing in the late afternoon.
"Did you get a dress? Let's go out-.."
She was surprised because she hadn't heard anything about it. Still, Lotte, who had apparently asked Jean regarding his outfit, then advised her to wear the dark navy evening dress she had brought back to match with his.
After that, Mary helped her to do her hair, using the technique she had learned today and applied her makeup. Considering she doesn't usually dress up that much, Clarisse herself was astounded at how different she looked.
"My Lady... you look so beautiful... really."
Mary praised her again today in a quivering voice. If this stout maid quivered, then she must be highly impressed.
"...Thank you, Mary."
Her fiancé, a very masculine man with short silver hair and golden eyes, was waiting for her as she walked down the hall.
"It suits you well."
As they got into the carriage, Jean, who was also dressed in formal attire, gave her a sincere compliment, and Clarisse's cheeks flushed. Jean himself looked great - his thick physique made him stand out more than usual in a tuxedo that flattered his figure, his sturdy body stood out even more.
"We're going to the National Theater, do you like comedy musicals?"
"To the National Theater...? Yes, I like comedies very much."
Jean relaxed his eyes and told her the title of a comedy musical that was currently being performed in the royal city. Matilda had often gone to the theater with their parents, but Clarisse had never been. Her mother had tried to take Clarisse, but Matilda disliked it, so it was a no go. So the comedy that Clarisse knew was in the books.
He stared at Clarisse's face, who smiled happily.
"Did you often go to the theater when you were in the royal capital?"
But now, she was at a loss for an answer.
She didn't want to lie to him, and she didn't want him to pity her by telling the truth either.
As if he could sense her hesitation, Jean opened his mouth softly.
"I think you already know, but I'm not very good at understanding people's feelings. So I need you to say it clearly so that I can understand it."
Before she could open her mouth to say that Jean is a kind and sensitive person, he added,
"But that doesn't mean you have to try to appease me. No matter what you say, I will never dislike you. What I need is for you to be honest with me. Otherwise, I won't be able to understand what you're thinking."
'See, you're kind...'
When she looked down, Jean, who was sitting on the seat across from her, quietly asked if he could hold her hand. She turned her head and gave a slight nod, and he gently took her hand.
"There are times when I look at you, I feel that you must have been through a lot. That hardship must have been related to the Farenheit family."
Normally, the mention of her family's name brings a slight pain to her heart, but now that Jean was holding her hand and she felt the warmth of his hand and his presence closer to her, she didn't feel that pain. Doesn't the warmth of a person make your heart grow stronger? When Clarisse looked up, he had his usual stern expression on his face, but his golden eyes were gentle.
"If you don't want to tell me, you don't have to. But I want to protect you from the pain your family brings."
"I'm so rugged that the only thing I can think of is to protect you from the Farenheit family is by force. I don't mind being the bad guy if it makes you happy, but I'm sure you wouldn't like it because you're kind-hearted, so you have to decide and then tell me how I can help you. I promise, if it's for you, I'll do anything."
"...Jean-sama, you don't have to waste your time on my behalf!"
She couldn't help but look down again.
Her mother didn't mistreat her by any means, but she never stood up for her either because she didn't have an opinion of her own and was always at the mercy of her father. It was not particularly unusual in an aristocratic family. She thought a person like her father would only look for such a marriage where his partner would be expected to obey him.
She was not able to attend parties due to Matilda's interference. She had given up on the idea that she would marry for love, as she was almost certain that she would be a tool in a political marriage.
She knew that she had to find out how to deal with the other party, live in seclusion, and avoid getting in the way of her husband-to-be.
That's exactly how she envisioned her life when she learned that she was to be a substitute bride to a man-eating Margrave.
She thought that her tyrannical fiancé would be waiting for her, and that she would just have to live in hiding.
But the reality was quite different.
Ever since they first met, Jean had cared for her, and even if he didn't use words, he had always cared for her with his actions. Even now, in a situation like this, he was trying to think of Clarisse's feelings first.
"A waste is not the right word to use here. I wouldn't waste my time on useless things. Just remember that you are worth it."
Clarisse looked up at him and saw the same expressionless, scary face as usual. But his golden eyes are still filled with kindness.
"I know you and I have only just met, and it will take some time before we can truly trust each other, but for now, can't you trust me just a little bit?"
Clarisse nodded slowly.
During the time before they arrived at the National Theater, Clarisse told Jean about how she was sent to marry him as a bride in place of her sister, the Jewel of Farenheit. She also told him about her family and her relationship with her sister.
Throughout her story, he held Clarisse's hand as he listened to her story, his forehead wrinkling more and more, but he seemed to hold back and refrain from commenting on her family.
As they talked, Clarisse found herself feeling as if a weight was being lifted from her chest. It was as if she and Jean were now supporting a huge weight that she had been carrying alone without knowing it.
"I thought it was something like that. You've done well to endure until now. Clarisse is admirable."
When she was done talking for the time being, Jean sighed and said so.
His words gently caressed her wounded heart as if wrapped in soft cotton.
Jean watched Clarisse's face for a while, and then, rather unexpectedly for him, his expression softened.
"For now, you can watch a comedy tonight and laugh.”
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