It was strangely quiet inside of the carriage heading to Duke Aquafresca’s estate at the royal capital. Elsa’s appearance was different from usual but it was Luca whose attitude was different. Elsa’s dolled up appearance was probably better than he’d thought so the person in front of him was a woman and not 『Elsa』. Elsa noticed that his gynophobia was acting up.
Elsa didn’t intend to do something as troublesome as provoking his symptoms. Since Luca was silent, she also remained silent and absentmindedly watched the scenery outside of the window. No, she wasn’t absentminded, her sight was blurred because she wasn’t wearing her spectacles.
Luca abruptly called out to her and she looked at him. He opened his mouth acting slightly suspicious.
“That…… It looks good on you.”
“Ah, yeah. You don’t have to force yourself to praise me. Also, I forgot to mention it but thanks for the necklace. Can I have it?”
“Ah. I chose it for you.”
Elsa always wondered how he could behave suspiciously and have a fear of woman when he can say such things.
“If so then thank you. Luca, your tastes might be better than mine……”
Before she commented on his tastes, Elsa didn’t care that she wasn’t fashion-conscious but she left that part out.
When she spoke, Elsa was still Elsa so Luca started talking more.
“I actually wanted to give you the full set including the earring, bracelet and ring but Clarissa told me that, 『it’ll attract too much attention』.”
“Yup. It will.”
Elsa would also be troubled over suddenly receiving something like that. She would start thinking things like, “What should I do?”
“Elsa you don’t have any self-sense but you know what suits you, don’t you? Don’t you think you should try a little?”
Luca was saying that every woman in the world cared about how they looked. Elsa tried to push the bridge of her spectacles up but then remembered that she wasn’t wearing any so she dropped her hands down.
“It’s a waste of time. I think it’s fine to do whatever you want as long as it doesn’t go against the rules. Or rather, I wouldn’t mind attending the academic conference dressed as a man.”
“No…… That’s…… Yeah. Who knows, it might suit you.”
Elsa was fairly tall so if she disguised herself well enough with makeup, she might be able to look like a man even with her feminine face.
While they were talking about trivial things, they arrived at the Prince’s estate. When Luca showed the invitation, the gate opened and the carriage entered the estate grounds. A strict-looking maid greeted them in front of the estate as Elsa took Luca’s hand and got out of the carriage.
“Thank you for coming.”
The maid didn’t seem surprised even when she saw Elsa’s appearance. The letter Luca received stated 『Invitation for Duke Inglacia, one companion allowed』. Elsa can only believe that it was an indirect way of saying, 『Bring Elsa』. Actually, Luca and Elsa both interpreted it that way.
The maid guided them to the salon. Duchess Aquafresca was already waiting there for them. A beautiful woman with chestnut coloured hair stood there smiling.
“Welcome, Elsa. I didn’t think you’d really come.”
“But it looked like you were asking me to come.”
Teresa and Elsa hugged each other while exchanging such words. One way or another, they had a close relationship.
“Ah, you’re still wearing that hair ornament.”
“Oh…… Well, yeah.”
Ten years have passed since she’d received it. One’s reputation was good if they knew how to make things last, but it also meant that they didn’t have anything else to use.
“Still it’s a little childish, I’ll give you another one on your birthday.”
“You don’t have to.”
Elsa didn’t know if she’d have the chance to use it even if she received a new one so she answered vaguely.
Teresa was a beauty. She took after her father like Elsa did so she wasn’t a flashy beauty like Alesia was. She had chestnut coloured hair and clear brown eyes. However she had quite a strong personality.
Her husband, Prince Lionelo was a handsome man in his early 30s. He had light brown hair and clear light blue eyes. They made a really cute couple. Incidentally, they are in a loving marriage despite their status.
“Nevertheless, I didn’t think that Duke Inglacia would really bring a woman with him.”
“That’s true. I wonder how he persuaded that girl to come. Or did he push Elsa down?”
Elsa rebuked Duke Aquafresca and his wife’s rude remarks…… Or rather, it was mainly Teresa.
“He wouldn’t do something like that and also Luca stop hiding behind me.”
“Hah, I did it without thinking.”
It was a surreal sight to see the tall but slender Luca hiding behind Elsa but Duke Aquafresca and his wife were just smiling.
“I don’t think it makes any sense for you to use Elsa as a shield.”
“This is what they call birds of a feather flock together.”
“…… Hey, those two couples are similar, don’t you think?”
“I strongly agree.”
Elsa pointed out to the couple who were saying rude things. Luca nodded. Teresa and Lionelo who shouldn’t have heard also nodded so Elsa thought, ah as I thought they’re similar.
“Err, don’t put me together with Raymond.”
Alessia said sullenly. The rude couple was Marquis Marquisio and his wife. Those two are in a political marriage but they get along really well. Alessia would sometimes return to the Lombardini household whenever they quarrelled but she’d immediately return home after ranting for a while.
Unlike Alesia who says things flat-out, Marquis Marquisio, Raymond said things a little spontaneously. Elsa felt as if that insensitive part of him was subtly like Luca. In other words, she thought that Luca and Raymond were more similar.
“Anyway, let’s talk about that after we’re seated.”
“Yeah. Elsa, let’s talk over here.”
Lionelo and Teresa moved the conversation along. Elsa, who was being led by her sister, sat down next to her. Alesia also sat on the other side of Teresa. It was a two seater sofa so it was rather cramp. Lionelo was seated on a single sofa and Luca and Raymond were sitting side by side.
“Now then, thanks for coming both of you. There are times when I want to talk to my sisters.”
“Well, I want to go back to the university and prepare for the academic conference.”
Elsa casted a damper from the beginning at Teresa’s happy opening speech. However, Teresa didn’t care and laughed.
“Oh well, isn’t it fine for you to relax a bit? If it’s Elsa then you’re fine even without preparation.”
It’s important to prepare for it. It wasn’t just the explanation that she needed to prepare, she also needed to prepare answers to questions that she might get asked.
On the opposite side of where the three sisters were having fun talking, the husbands and Luca were also having a heated discussion. The three were from the same generation but their ages ranged a little. By the way, Luca is the youngest.
“So, Elsa was unsatisfied by the professor’s explanation and said, 『I will go verify it! 』. Then she climbed up the clock tower and tried to throw the ball……”
“Wait a minute, what are you talking about!?”
Elsa, who noticed that her black history from her student days were being exposed, put her hand on the table where the tea cups and confectioneries were placed and leaned forward. She was trying to grab Luca. However, she wasn’t wearing her spectacles so her aim was off and she lost her balance.
“Ah, you okay?”
“Yeah, Tha…… no, you, what were you just talking about?”
It was Luca who caught her and Elsa grabbed onto Luca’s neck in her unstable posture. Of course, that was possible because Luca had caught her.
“Okay, okay. Let’s leave the lover’s quarrel for later.”
Alesia said and pulled Elsa backwards onto the sofa. Elsa, who had been in that posture couldn’t sit back onto the sofa by herself so she frankly gave her gratitude.
“It’s great that you get along but keep it moderate, okay?”
Teresa said while smiling sarcastically. Luca had already revealed eccentric nature to Lionelo and Raymond so they just ended it by smiling slightly at Elsa’s strange behaviour.
“Well, many geniuses are eccentrics. Professor Elsa’s behaviour is acceptable, isn’t it?”
It wasn’t Luca who had just casually said something rude but Alesia’s husband, Raymond. He’s really callous.
“Hey Raymond. That’s not true. Elsa’s definitely changing.”
“And Elsa’s an associate professor not a professor.
“Luca that was unnecessary information.”
Elsa rebuked Luca who honestly retorted at Alesia who was fuming. Elsa was indeed an associate professor but she was mainly called 『Professor』by the teaching staff. So the title wasn’t wrong but her job title was.
“You’re good friends.”
Lionelo said but Elsa wasn’t sure who he was referring to. He could be referring to all of them.
Elsa, who had calmed down and stuffed her cheeks with tarts, swallowed it, drank tea then answered Teresa who had called out her name, “What?”
“I want to ask why you and Duke Inglacia are going out.”
Teresa asked innocent but Luca was coughing violently at the question. Elsa on the other hand didn’t seem shaken.
“Well, let’s just say our interests match up.”
“Oh…… did you want to get married soon as well, Elsa?”
“That’s not necessarily true.”
Elsa dismissed Teresa’s remark. What Teresa thought was happening was a little…… No, probably different from what was happening. Luca wanted a pretend sweetheart and Elsa wanted research funds. That was where their interests collided.
Alesia roughly explained the circumstances to Teresa, but she didn’t tell her the truth. That same Alesia was grinning.
“Well Teresa, let’s patiently hear them out. And Elsa, won’t you come over and teach my children?”
“Ah, I want to ask you the same thing.”
Lionelo piggybacked on Alesia’s request. Well, Elsa didn’t mind tutoring but she was a little terrified when she thought about what Alesia was thinking when she candidly diverted the conversation.