Chapter 86 - Rocky Start
Act 8. Will This Contract Work?
“Um, Father. I have something to talk to Max about… Can we go upstairs?”
He had agreed to wait and keep an eye on us, but was that because he had not allowed us to date yet? He stared at us bitterly and nodded once.
‘Well, the goal wasn’t to get permission from him anyway.’
As far as I was concerned, my goal was to make sure my father gave up on trying to set me up on a blind date with the crown prince. Even if he opposed our relationship, it was enough if he didn’t make me take part in the meeting.
“We’ll be upstairs then.”
My father remained silent at my words.
‘He must be disappointed in me for what just happened,’ I sighed without realizing. I was now in a position where I was grateful for not being married off to someone, let alone inherit any of my father’s property.
‘The only solution left is for me to become independent. Until then, I’ll have to hang in there.’ With this thought in mind, I walked with Max up to my room. When I arrived, I saw Sella and Mary tidying up.
“Where’s Merilyn?” I asked them.
“Oh, she’s in the laundry room.”
‘I guess I have no choice.’
I was a little worried since Merilyn was usually in charge of preparing the tea, but said calmly, “Please bring us tea and cookies for two and use my favorite tea set.”
“Yes, my lady!” The two maids spoke in unison with determined voices and left the room. I closed the door and turned around.
‘Now, let’s have a serious discussion about our contract… What on earth?’
I saw him lying comfortably on my couch.
‘I understand that we’re in a contractual relationship, but we’re supposed to be a couple now. Would it hurt for him to play the part properly?’ I sighed for a moment, then took out a few sheets of paper and two quill pens.
“Hey, come here.” Hearing my call, he made his way to the tea table. “Sit down.” I gestured to the seat across from me. “Regarding our contract, I was thinking of writing down some terms and conditions. If you want anything from me, write it down here.”
At my words, he picked up a quill pen and began scribbling some things down. I stopped in the middle of my writing and watched him curiously.
‘He’s left-handed… and his handwriting is just terrible.’
As I was watching in amazement at his writing, he frowned slightly and muttered, “It’s smudged.” The common notational system favored right-handed people. No matter how carefully he wrote, he was going to run into some problems.
“Here you go.” I took out a handkerchief from my pocket and handed it to him. Without a word, he grabbed it and started wiping the ink off his hand. Then, he scratched out the smudged part and started writing again. I curiously looked at what he had written and started to chuckle. It stated the following:
During the period of this contract, Jubelian will not meet with another man.
‘I’m in this relationship because I don’t want to meet another man…’
At that moment, he asked in an irritated tone, “Instead of laughing at someone else’s terms, why don’t you write yours?”
Although what he said was true, I decided not to admit it to spare my pride. “It was interesting, so I was just taking a look,” I said instead.
“What’s so interesting?”
Usually, mercenary guilds provided lessons on reading and writing to avoid training pushovers who couldn’t read requests and contracts. “Your handwriting is very freewheeling. Did you learn how to read and write from the guild?” I avoided being direct about his terrible handwriting.
“I didn’t learn it in a guild. I learned from my mother,” he frowned. The moment I heard his words, I was overwhelmed with extreme embarrassment.
‘I’ve made a mistake.’ He must have been offended by the snarky remark I made about something that he learned from his mother. I swallowed nervously and said, “Hey, about what I said just now—”
At that moment, the door opened. “We’re late, my lady.”
I nodded at Mary and Sella to let them know it was okay. “It’s fine. Please set up the table for us.” Soon the table was decorated with appetizing cookies.
‘Ah, it looks delicious.’
When I picked up the teapot and poured tea into the cups, the soft yet slightly bitter scent tickled my nose. ‘Hm, I was concerned about how well the tea would turn out because Merilyn didn’t prepare it, but it seems like they did a good job.’ I was about to give the maids a quick compliment but groaned slightly when I noticed the teacups they brought in were pink and full of flowers.
‘Well, it should be fine, right?’ Since he wasn’t a nobleman, I assumed he wouldn’t know the meaning of the cups. With this thought, I smiled at him.
* * *
When he saw the teacups, Max doubted his eyes. ‘Did she ask for these cups knowing what they meant?’
Expensive teacups were a source of pride, but they were also a measure of how the host or hostess thought of their guests. Costly and valuable teacups containing lots of gold were used with precious guests, and colorful and beautiful teacups were used with noblewomen. For male guests, tea was usually served in cups that did not contain flowers or bright colors.
When negotiating over disputes at the border, Max had occasionally faced barbarian lords who expressed their hostility towards him with teacups. Even so, they only used cups with monsters drawn on to make sarcastic remarks about his brutal personality; they had never used colorful cups with flowers like these.
‘To use teacups like these…’ She was either trying to insult him, or she didn’t know what they meant. ‘Do I seem weak to her by any chance?’ When he thought about it, it wasn’t an unreasonable assumption since Jubelian had joked about protecting him before. Max stared at Jubelian with a suspicious look.
“Oh, these are my favorite teacups,” she said with an innocent voice as if she didn’t know anything. Listening to her, Max stared at the cup again. Although he hated flowers, the gold rim of the cup was luxurious, and the shape was adequate as well. The longer he looked at it, the more he thought that it wasn’t so bad.
“It’s decent,” he commented. At his words, he could see Jubelian smiling with her eyes slightly curved. Max smirked as he brought the cup up to his mouth.
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