Chapter 170 Proposing Ceremony
Edited by: Kanaa-senpai
The next morning, I was awakened by Diana. At that time, Mei, who should have been sleeping next to me, was nowhere to be found. According to Diana, she left the mansion because she had preparations for departure and it was time for Diana and the others to wake up.
Upon hearing this, I uttered those words, but at the same time, a certain unease began to surface within me. Did my determination from last night really get through to Mei? I intended to convey it through my attitude, but I didn’t put it into words. Moreover, Mei was intoxicated last night and not entirely conscious. There was a possibility that she might not remember much from last night. As I thought about this, I became increasingly anxious. After finishing breakfast, I decided to search for Mei.
The places Mei might be were the laboratory, her house, and if it were this time of day, she might also be having breakfast in the dining hall. I decided to start by checking the laboratory, since it was closest.
”I guess she’s not here.”
Seeing the empty laboratory, I muttered to myself. If Mei had left the mansion for preparations, it was unlikely she would be in the laboratory. Still, I wanted to make sure. Leaving the laboratory, I headed to the dining hall next.
As I peeked into the dining hall, I saw Gaadhir-san’s family and the members of Spear of Shouhyou having their meal. However, Mei was nowhere to be seen.
”Oh, Master Neil, what brings you here at this time?”
”Oh, Gaadhir-san, good morning. Have you seen Mei?”
”Good morning. Miss Meisy-sama? No, I haven’t seen her today yet… Oh, Narsht!”
As Gaadhir-san answered my question, he called out loudly to Narsht-san, who appeared from the back of the dining hall.
”Do you need something, Master Neil? Good morning. It’s unusual to see you here at this time.”
”I’m looking for Mei. Did she come here for breakfast today?”
”Miss Meisy? Well, she did come early this morning. However, she didn’t seem well and only had some soup before leaving.”
Given her condition, she might be experiencing a hangover. I apologized for interrupting their meal, left the dining hall, and headed to Mei’s house. I knocked on the front door several times, but there was no response. I wondered if she wasn’t home, but when I sensed her magical presence, it seemed she was inside. Perhaps she was pretending not to be home? Just as I thought that, I heard muffled sounds of distress from behind the door. Without thinking, I reached for the doorknob, which easily turned. I chastised myself for not locking the door and hurried towards the source of the moaning.
”Mei! Are you okay—”
What met my eyes was Mei, holding a jar and spilling the contents of her stomach into it. As I watched her foolishly mixing alcohol and aphrodisiacs, I felt a sense of exasperation. While I was inwardly sighing, Mei turned around, still holding the jar, and seemed to recognize my presence. Her eyes widened in surprise.
”N-Neil?! How long have you been there?!”
Her face, which had been pale just moments ago, turned bright red for an instant, then immediately returned to pale as she plunged her face back into the jar and retched.
”Are you okay? I’ll get some water.”
I told Mei this and headed for the kitchen, but she didn’t cook, so there weren’t any cooking utensils or even dishes in her house. Nevertheless, I searched around and found an empty alchemical flask. Using magic, I filled it with water and headed back to Mei.
”Here, have some water.”
Perhaps her throat was affected by stomach acid; Mei’s voice had become a bit husky. She took the flask from me and sipped water slowly. After it was empty, I filled it with water using magic again, repeating this process three times before Mei placed the flask on the ground.
”Whew, that helped.”
”Honestly, you should’ve known better than to mix alcohol and aphrodisiacs.”
”Well, sorry… But I wouldn’t do something so reckless under normal circumstances.”
At that point, our conversation stalled, and an awkward silence hung between us. Just as the discomfort grew, I mustered the courage to speak.
”About last night, Mei…”
”I-I’m sorry! Neil!”
Mei suddenly apologized and ran out of the house.
”Wait a moment! It’s an important conversation!”
Chasing after Mei as she rushed out, I also dashed outside. Given Mei’s perennial reclusiveness and her hungover state, there was no way she could outrun me, someone who was physically trained. As we circled around the house, Mei began to stagger. Just as I thought I might catch up on the next round, Mei turned the corner to the entrance, and I heard the sound of the door closing. I rushed to turn the doorknob, but this time it was firmly locked, and I was locked out.
”Mei! Just give me a moment to talk! Mei!!”
I didn’t necessarily need to see her face; if she was on the other side of the door, that would have been fine. However, when I used magic to sense her, I realized Mei had moved to the back of the second floor. Shouting might not have reached her from here.
”What are you yelling about?”
When I turned around in response to the voice behind me, there stood Diana.
”I wanted to talk to Mei about what happened yesterday, but she won’t listen at all.”
”Well, yesterday’s incident was a disgrace for Miss Meisy. She probably finds it difficult to face you.”
”I don’t necessarily need her to face me; I just want her to listen to me.”
”Under the current circumstances, that might be difficult. Anyway, please withdraw for now.”
”At this rate, Miss Meisy won’t be ready anytime soon. Since we need to depart today, we don’t have time to waste here.”
Indeed, if I kept wandering outside, Mei wouldn’t be able to focus on her preparations. Since she had to depart within the day, it was crucial to prioritize Mei’s preparations.
As I was feeling down, thinking that I might have to give up here, Diana leaned close to my ear.
”Master Neil could ask her about that matter when he see us off. At that time, even Miss Meisy won’t be able to run away.”
”…Yeah, that makes sense.”
As Diana suggested, for now, it’s unlikely that Mei would try to run away even as they’re about to depart. So, I decided to discuss it when we saw them off, and for now, I would back down.
I regretted that decision later.
”Take care on your journey, Miss Meisy.”
”With Diana around, she’ll be fine.”
”We’re expecting souvenirs from the capital!”
”Liana, Meisy-sama isn’t going for leisure, you know?”
Gaadhir-san, Narsht-san, Liana, Moona-san, and many others had come to see Mei off. While social status didn’t matter, the closeness between everyone in the current settlement was something I greatly appreciated. However, at this moment, that closeness felt bitter. Never in my dreams did I expect so many people to gather for Mei’s send-off. Revealing my determination to Mei in this situation was almost like a public proposal.
It couldn’t be helped. I would wait until Mei returned and find the right moment to talk—no, that wouldn’t work. How many times had I escaped from situations like this before? Could someone like me, who tended to procrastinate, really follow through when things were pushed to the back burner? I had a bad habit of postponing things until the next opportunity, then the one after that, and ultimately ending up not doing anything. While there were cases where it was truly bad timing or my capabilities were lacking, this was different. There was no specific timing to show determination, and it was only my lack of courage holding me back. If I missed this chance, I might never be able to verbalize this determination again. That was the feeling deep within me.
As I shouted loudly, I felt everyone’s gaze on me and knew my face was turning red. However, I couldn’t stop now. I walked up to Mei, took her right hand, and pressed it against my left chest.
”Neil, is that…!”
In this world, this was the ceremony of proposal. The heart was considered the place where emotions resided, and allowing someone to touch your heart was akin to letting them touch your emotions. In other words, it symbolized offering your heart to be a lifelong partner. If the other party wasn’t interested, they could simply shake off the held hand and end it there. If they were interested, they would pull the hand that held them closer and press it against their own heart. That would signify a successful engagement.
I felt sweat on my hand as I held Mei’s hand, and I pressed her hand against my chest, trying to steady my racing heart, as I spoke.
”I find the current distance between Mei and me very comfortable, carefree… and that’s why I was afraid of it being disrupted.”
Talk of it being too soon or waiting until I inherited the estate were important matters for nobles’ marriages, but to show determination, none of that was necessary. Those were just reasonable words, an excuse to avoid facing the real issue.
”Taking advantage of Mei not saying anything, I leaned on your kindness, which was cowardly of me.”
”That’s not true. It’s not like I’ve been kind to Neil. I’m the same. I’ve been anxious that our current relationship might be ruined, and that’s why I couldn’t bring myself to say anything.”
Mei’s hand I held trembled slightly, and she cautiously continued as if fearing something.
”Hahaha, I thought I had more courage than you, Neil. But in this situation, it’s me who lacks courage.”
”Neil, I’m truly glad for your feelings. But you know, I’m scared, really scared… to lean on the determination you showed, Neil, to rely on that resolve.”
As if confirming my heart or perhaps distancing herself from me, Mei forcefully pressed her hand against my heart.
”I’m a backward duke’s daughter. I’m backward, yet I have the noble title. If I were to marry, I might become a disadvantage for the Atmiras family.”
Marriages among nobles had the benefit of strengthening relationships between families, but at the same time, they could be a disadvantage. A stronger relationship meant you couldn’t remain uninvolved and could potentially get caught up in troublesome matters. Especially if there was a difference in rank, when higher-ranking nobles gave their daughters to lower-ranking ones, it was akin to putting a collar on them. The side receiving the daughter wouldn’t be able to refuse the demands of the other party. In essence, Mei was afraid of becoming a collar herself and making the Atmiras family unable to oppose Duke Novack.
”Neil, you can choose a marriage partner from many options. Why would you want a backward collar like me? If you’re saying this out of a sense of responsibility for getting involved with me, then just stop. I don’t want to inconvenience Neil either—”
I raised my voice, cutting her off in mid-sentence.
”Always worried about inconveniencing others. If my bad habit is being passive out of fear of inconveniencing others and causing trouble, then your bad habit is being passive out of fear of inconveniencing others too.”
”Well, is it really that bad to be concerned about inconveniencing others? Are you saying it’s bad to avoid inconveniencing Neil!?”
”Yeah, sorry! That kind of consideration is just… a burdensome kindness to me.”
As Mei was taken aback by the abrupt argument and stumbled over her words, I lowered my voice and continued, trying to persuade her.
”That’s right, it’s a burdensome kindness, Mei. I don’t want that kind of consideration at all. What I want is your honest feelings, your true words.”
”To be honest, I can’t settle for anyone other than Mei. To be frank, I don’t want anyone but Mei. Maybe it’s too early to call this feeling ‘love,’ but I think that’s what it is. When I thought about marriage, Mei was the first to come to mind. If it’s Mei, I think we could get married and just be comfortable with each other without being uptight. If we were to spend our lives together, I think Mei would be the ideal partner. Mei said, ‘There’s no reason for someone like me to receive this backward collar,’ but is that reason not enough?”
”I’ve told you my true feelings. So now, I want to hear Mei’s true feelings.”
When I loosened the grip of the hand that was pressing against my chest, our joined hands dangled in the air between us.
”I don’t want to inconvenience Neil. You know that this isn’t just a facade, but my true feelings, right, Neil?”
”Then why do you want me to share my true feelings further? Geez, you’re quite a terrible guy.”
Her voice trembled greatly, and Mei grumbled in such a manner. I accepted her words in silence and waited for her to continue. After a few minutes of silence, Mei raised her head as if she had made a decision. She looked straight into my eyes and began to speak.
”I like you, Neil. Unlike Neil, I can’t be with anyone else but Neil. I’ve been thinking about Neil so much that I can’t stand the idea of being with anyone else. So, I’m pretty sure this feeling is definitely ‘love.’”
”What’s with that reaction? Even when someone is speaking honestly, you give such a subtle response. It’s too late for that… Neil probably knew my feelings anyway. Looking back now, I realize that I’ve been the only one revealing my feelings all along.”
”About that… I’m sorry.”
”It’s not like I’m angry… well, actually, I was a bit. You know, it’s annoying that you didn’t say it clearly when I tried not to be clear about my feelings myself. I’m quite a troublesome woman.”
Mei laughed self-deprecatingly while squeezing my right hand, which she was holding.
”Yeah, I’m a troublesome woman. Did you understand that, Neil?”
”I didn’t. Well, to be precise, I think I was avoiding understanding it.”
”You’ll have no choice but to understand if we get married. Is that okay with you, Neil?”
”I know that, but I’d like to say it boldly here. Well, I’m not so sure, though. I’m a bit uncertain.”
”Haha, very much like you, Neil.”
The hand that had been dangling in the air was slowly drawn toward Mei.
”I didn’t realize until recently, but I seem to be the type of woman who becomes quite attached. If things continue like this, I might never let go of Neil.”
As if expressing those words through actions, Mei’s left hand, which had been empty, joined in as well, and both her hands enveloped my right hand, holding it tightly.
”If you’re going to run away, if you’re going to shake off this hand, now is the time.”
”Coming from someone who’s holding onto my hand like this…”
I relaxed my shoulders, making a light-hearted remark, and left everything to Mei. The hand that had been held was slowly drawn toward Mei’s chest, and my right hand lightly touched Mei’s left breast.
”Hehe… caught you.”
Blushing deeply, Mei smiled shyly and spoke those words, causing a burst of cheers to erupt from behind us.
”Wow! Congratulations! Congratulations!!”
”Liana, you’re too excited.”
”But, Lewya-san! A sudden marriage proposal! We can’t help but make a fuss!”
”I’ve never seen a marriage proposal ceremony before, but seeing it like this makes me envious, don’t you think, dear?”
”Hey, Gaadhir, didn’t you do a marriage proposal ceremony even after getting married?”
”That’s right, he said something like ‘I thought it would be understood without doing something like that,’ and he didn’t do the proposal ceremony because he was embarrassed.”
”Well, it’s fine either way! It’s understood clearly enough!”
”Congratulations on your engagement! Hehe, so what should we do on occasions like this? Give them a gift?”
”It’s not a marriage yet, Momoka. Considering the complexities of noble marriages and the current circumstances, it would be imprudent to spread the news too widely. Sending congratulations is the best course of action for now.”
”But that feels too plain. Oh, I know! How about I personally teach Lady Mei the etiquette for pleasing Master Neil in the night?”
While the onlookers exchanged congratulatory words, Mei and I felt a bit embarrassed by the attention and blessings, but the fact that everyone was celebrating us brought more joy than embarrassment.
”I’ll probably cause a lot of trouble. So, I want to apologize in advance. Sorry.”
”You’re still afraid of inconveniencing others, huh?”
”Yeah… especially when it comes to people close to me. That’s why I’m scared of getting even closer to you, Neil.”
”Even though you’re saying that, your grip is pretty strong.”
”I told you I won’t let go, didn’t I?”
”…Yeah, you did.”
In response to Mei’s words, I tightened my hold on her hand.
”Don’t run away either.”
Mei didn’t reply to my question, but for now, it was enough that she was taking action after understanding that she might inconvenience others. Mei and I held each other’s hands firmly. To not let go, to not be able to escape—.
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Edited by Kanaa-senpai.
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