As Grey called her attention, Claire was brought back to her senses. And she clicked her tongue and emptied her thoughts.
She had no reason to think of a certain someone she hadn’t seen in five years. It must have been because she remembered the arrogant face who said he would take responsibility for even a baron as she sat down with the marriage contract in front of her.
“If you’re still considering it, we can reschedule this and come back to it.”
Claire looked up at Grey.
“That would just be a waste, wouldn’t it. You’re the one who should try and think again. You don’t have to throw your whole life into a marriage that isn’t even real.”
“I am the right person.”
Grey was right.
In any case, Claire wanted to get married because Elliot needed to be properly added to the family register. However, she did not want a real marriage that would be a union between families. So the other person had to be a commoner.
However, she couldn’t marry just anyone. She needed a man who would understand and accept this situation.
It would be nice if he could protect the Delford family with Claire. On top of that, it’s even better if he has enough social prestige to be Elliot’s adoptive father.
So, Grey fit the bill perfectly.
“For me, it is. I’m sorry about that. I know you want to repay the favor you received from Delford.”
She would be grateful if he could just help her like now.
Grey was silent for a moment, then he spoke in a low voice.
“Baron, you keep telling me to leave. But you know that I came here on my own two feet, with the freedom you gave me.”
“Um… Isn’t it strange?”
It should have been.
It was just that Claire didn’t understand that a person would give his whole life for a scholarship or something.
His father gave her a chance, but it was really just a chance, and most of what he got was done by his own hands.
It was enough for him to just say thank you in moderation. Even if he felt it was grace, it was enough for him to be a reliable ally in case something happened.
Although she knew that the relationship between a nobleman and his patron was more of an oath of fealty than that, her heart had not yet fully accepted it. Even though she thought hard about it, it was not right for Grey’s side.
“As you said, marriage is a big deal, so it doesn’t hurt to take time to think about it.”
“That’s a bit strange. It’s something you have to be careful about, not me.”
The contract was one-sided. The upper hand belonged entirely to Claire, and she could divorce him whenever she wanted.
It was actually a little awkward that Grey had to write such a contract himself. As the family’s legal advisor, it’s only natural, but still…
Grey’s hand ran lightly over the papers. The papers that had been scattered in sheets became tidy like magic.
“I don’t think I’m getting anything,” said Grey.
“Well, the Delford Barony is still a noble household after all. But there must be a better place for you if you only consider the conditions.”
“It’s not like that.”
Grey took off his glasses, put them in his top pocket, and looked at Claire.
Claire found his look anew. Come to think of it, it was rare to see his face from the same eye level.
He often hunched down to her height to show the papers, but he always showed only his side profile, never face to face. They had eaten together quite a few times, but he had never looked directly in Claire’s direction.
For the first time she could see that his eyes could take on an unexpectedly rich color.
Grey reached into his chest pocket. Claire tilted her head, curious.
What came out was a small velvet box. Claire’s breath got caught.
“If I become the Baron’s spouse, I might be able to call you by your first name, Claire.”
The moment she saw the ring box, Claire’s mind paused, even though she had already guessed.
It was then.
There was someone outside the door.
“Baron, an urgent message has arrived,” said the hotel staff.
Claire came to her senses as if freed from ice. Grey lightly clicked his tongue and answered instead.
An errand boy in a blue uniform entered.
Claire came to her senses and looked at the errand boy. He politely handed an envelope to Claire.
“He said you don’t need to reply.”
He backed off as if he had done his duty by just giving it to her.
Claire turned the envelope over.
『 E.R.K. 』
The short signature was in bold and powerful handwriting. It was a signature Claire knew well. These were the initials Erich Klausener used when sending informal messages anonymously.
If he was going to do that, he should not use an errand boy, but a normal person.
Bewildered, she opened the envelope. Inside was a card.
『 Scheduled to visit in 30 minutes. Keep your schedule open. 』
“Is this person crazy? Is this an order?”
Claire muttered unknowingly. She seemed to have forgotten about the ring box at that moment, Grey looked at her with deep eyes without a word.
* * *
It was precisely five minutes before the thirty minutes that Erich mentioned when he arrived at the Innenhof Hotel.
The doorman ran to the carriage that stopped in front of the hotel, opened the door, and froze in astonishment.
The Innenhof Hotel required its employees to memorize the faces and characteristics of the capital’s main figures, so of course Duke Klausener’s face was well known.
It was not a face to be forgotten once seen. Erich hated having his portrait out, but the newspaper still used detailed portraits of him once in a while.
When the doorman was at a loss and stayed still, Erich said in a cold voice.
“Do you want me to not get off and just go back?”
“Oh, no, sir! I beg your forgiveness, Your Grace!”
The doorman stepped back and straightened his stance, ready to salute him.
“I am not from the Imperial Family.”
“Yes, I beg your… N-No, please forgive me.”
Erich thought the hotel’s standard was low. Even if the hotel was recently built, the facilities were good, but the staff training was not sufficient.
He asked the doorman as he got out of the carriage.
“Did Baron Delford tell you to stop me?”
“What? Oh no, sir. I haven’t not been briefed about your arrival.”
“Is that so?”
Well, that was just like Claire. She did not take the fact that she knew Erich as something to be proud of.
Usually, when he went to meet people, those others would be busy bragging about it. But Claire doesn’t seem to care about personal connections. She was a woman who had an acute sense of propriety.
Want to read more? Up to  advanced chapters are available on Patreon:
For update pings, novel discussions and/or to send mistake reports, join our server~!
If you find any errors ( broken links, non-standard content, etc.. ), Please let us know or tag admin in comments so we can fix it as soon as possible.