Here is the next chapter! Also, no, Eugene is not the ML.
ED: clover, eristol
Alicia remembered very dearly how she first met him.
It was a world where ‘our parents are good friends’ was never the reason why two children would ever meet each other.
She was only told “Don’t embarrass our family” as she was sat at his side, but at the very least, she understood what that implied.
Eugene was a boy with somewhat curly hair, his appearance resembling that of a cute angel.
Though there were no actual angels in this world, that was just how Alicia pictured them.
With golden blonde hair, and sky blue eyes.
Alicia had silver hair and violet eyes, so when they sat together, they looked like they formed a set together.
And that ‘angel’ seemed to be pampered by his parents quite a bit.
Since Alicia was a guest at their home, he brought her tea himself, serving her cup with unsteady hands and giving off the impression they were playing house.
Seeing that, Alicia’s parents brought their hands to their cheeks as they said, “Aww, what a cutie,” but Alicia could hardly look at him with ease, feeling like something was about to happen.
On top of that, whenever he was conscious of her presence his hands would start shaking from nervousness, making the silverware clatter, and when he walked, he had to almost slide his feet rather than lift them so he would not lose his footing.
But in the end, Alicia’s suspicions hit their mark and he tripped, splashing the tea in front of him.
Yet Alicia was the only one affected by it.
A large amount of tea was absorbed into her clothes.
Luckily some time had already passed since Eugene had brewed the tea, and the clothes she was wearing were bulky with many layers, which she only used for special occasions, so in the end she was not burnt in any way. However, that incident still led to her having to change clothes in a stranger’s house.
Of course, she was polite about it, telling everyone it was fine and not to worry about it, but her true thoughts were different.
After all, they did not have a daughter at Eugene’s house.
While Alicia waited until her clothes dried out, her hosts tried everything they could to make her feel at home.
They went as far as letting her use their bathroom, though first they scrubbed every nook and cranny of it while rearranging everything so it would look more aesthetic.
They also measured her as accurately as they could, which meant they would probably gift her a rather luxurious dress in the near future.
Once her clothes had dried, she returned to her seat beside him, their parents acting like nothing happened and just saying ‘the two younglings should deal with the rest’. Alicia felt a heavy mental strain weighing on her when sitting next to him, so she was unable to calm down.
She realized he was about to apologize, but she still interrupted him.
Turning the words her parents had directed her way and thrusting them on Eugene instead.
“Don’t embarrass me.” She had said.
…All in an outburst of anger.
And perhaps…some jealousy as well.
As she grew up, she had always been pushed to grow stronger herself, while here was Eugene, whose parents raised him in a loving manner for no specific reason.
A moment later she regretted it.
There had to be another way she could have worded it.
Perhaps, she could have said, “You aren’t suitable for me! You need to push yourself harder! Be reliable now!”
Or even just saying “Try to not show so many openings for others to take advantage of (like you are now), we can support each other through (as couple this moment, and eventually as a married couple)” would have been enough.
Maybe if she had done that…
…things would have turned out differently.
Even to the present day, Alicia still wondered about that.
She lowered her gaze that had been fixed on the ceiling.
She saw the two of them, side by side.
Their hands locked together, as if a manifestation of their strong will to never let go of each other.
…But everything was the consequences of her own actions.
Their shoulders twitched as if by cramps, but they did not lift their heads yet.
She wondered if they felt intimidated by her. Though that was never her intention.
She always had a frail body, so she spent all of her time reading books inside her home.
Thanks to that she earned the label of a smart child, which was much better than that of an abnormal child.
Yes, Alicia was originally an outsider who slipped into the circle of reincarnation in this world.
Looking back to the memories of her past life, there had been multiple stories like hers there.
Specifically, a literary genre known as reincarnation in another world.
Worlds that were filled with amusing situations.
Thanks to that, she managed to adapt to this world.
But whenever she thought about all those countless stories she read in her past life.
If it was any of the main characters of those stories, their lives would have never gone the same way as hers.
But Alicia kept all her thoughts to herself, as she was striving to be a lady, and losing her cool in public was unacceptable.
That was something she was dead serious about.
After all, a big part of Alicia’s personality was that of a maiden.
There were times when she thought she might be in an otome game’s world, and that perhaps she was the protagonist.
But whenever she thought about it calmly enough, she always got to the conclusion that that was impossible.
After all…a protagonist should be someone who saves her fiance, not someone who inflicts trauma on him.
Alicia had expected her partner to go through the same hardships and efforts she had gone through.
…That was her intention.
Yet that was probably just the fruits of her own pride.
If she was able to go through it, anyone should be able to as well.
That’s what Alicia thought.
Her own self-derision was probably affecting her as well.
Thinking of Alicia as his future spouse had begun building a huge amount of pressure on Eugene.
For him, she was a lady with perfect manners that pushed him on.
Every time they met, she would point out a multitude of flaws on him.
Even though he could have attacked her or been mean to her in return, his choice to distance himself from her instead was probably more mature than anything she did.
It was a big difference from Alicia, who was struggling to come in terms with her memories and always had trouble finding a balance in her life.
Though if she could excuse herself somehow, in her mind, Eugene was more like a comrade for her.
The companion she would fight alongside with.
And if it was a fight she was going to fight, the more weapons the better.
And the least openings the better.
But her grandiose thoughts which she never voiced and communicated to Eugene only drove him deeper into a corner.
So if only she had told him something…
Not speaking had been Alicia’s gravest mistake.
And the hole she began digging that way only kept spreading deeper and larger.
But at the same time, Alicia did not have enough time to think about her partner, and she was pushing things a bit too much.
She always struggled to fit in with the world, to act like she belonged here, to understand the common sense, to be praised by the people around her, and to never fail at anything. She could only imagine living as the perfect person.
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At first that went well.
She was praised for it, and that put her in a good mood.
Without realizing she was drowning away her own internal voice, Alicia kept responding to the ever increasing expectations from the people around her time and time again.
Until that day came.
“Mother, I think this might be a little difficult for me.”
When she said that, the adults around her stared at her blankly as if they had heard something outrageous.
Even her mother had a quizzical look.
Alicia could only muster an “Ah” when she realized what she had just done.
“You should be able to do something like this. You’re just saying you can’t out of your unwillingness to do it.”
Alice only smiled and nodded to what they said, an empty and silent smile floating on her lips.
Her hurdles only became higher, and the advantage she used to have was shaved down little by little, her efforts considered only natural.
So, when Alicia met Eugene, she instantly gained a superiority complex, conceited about her skills, pushed herself even harder even when her body was about to give up, it became a time when she felt like she barely had any time to breathe.
But how, why?!
That kept nagging her in her mind, leading a fragile life, and while her surroundings did not directly attack her, she also did not consider anyone an ally. If anyone just poked her a bit, she would easily break.
But she finally got over it, came to terms with herself, gained some mental stability, put on a perfect mask, relished on its beauty, and now even felt satisfied with herself. It was now considered the dark past of Alicia.
And it was also the beginning of dark times for Eugene.
This also led to Alice sinking into a sea of guilt, and if she could have gone back, she would have done so without thinking twice.
With time, the chances for them to meet decreased and ten years passed until they met again.
They both began attending a school with the aim of developing an excellent next generation that was mainly occupied by the sons and daughters of nobles.
When they greeted each other there, Alicia finally realized her own failures.
“It has been a while, Eugene-sama. I hope no major mishaps happened in your life.”
She thought that would be a regular greeting.
But the reply she got was cold and curt.
“You can rest assured, I didn’t commit any major mishaps you’d need to worry yourself about.”
“I did not mean it that way.”
“Then what could you mean? I’m no longer a child you have to keep watch on all the time.”
That also signaled the moment she gave up in being the protagonist of the story.
There’s no way that could be me, she calmly resigned herself.
“Is that…how you always saw me then…?”
There had been plenty of hints laid in front of her before, as obvious as thunder in a clear day.
But Alicia had overlooked all of them.
Now, she did not know what she could tell him, if she tried to get closer, his expression told her the conversation was over, his whole posture stiffening up in defense.
She would never be able to amend her failure.
In the stories she heard in her past life, the heroine and her fiance would always somehow get close to each other.
So Alicia had convinced herself it would be the same with her.
But that also meant that if they did not get along from the start, she had no idea what she could do.
After all, if he had put all the effort he could, the situation would have changed for the better.
Alicia had been doing that for a long time already, pushing forward without any concern, just striving to move forward.
In the end, the situation did not get any better, but took a whole half turn and deteriorated immensely.
If what they had, had started as zero, now it was below in the negatives.
It was obvious he would eventually feel attracted to other females.
Alicia managed to grasp that fact.
He would find his own way of coping with the trauma that Alicia had afflicted on him for so long.
So the sentence she thought he should have heard.
The sentence she wanted to voice if a chance arose.
Was a sentence better left unsaid now.
Maybe she had been a bit obstinate as well, or rather, she had been stubborn.
All of Alicia’s days could be summarized in a single word: efforts.
But now that she saw the results from that, one thing became obvious to her.
Alicia had been just a mediocre person, while Eugene was superior.
Maybe they had been built differently.
The difference between them was like the gap between the ground and the skies, he was so far away her hand would never reach him.
Eugene though, a part of him probably still thought of Alicia as a prodigy, but from her standpoint that was simply ridiculous.
He had caught up to her with breathtaking speed, taking the lead and running ahead much farther than her.
She understood that.
It was the annoying truth.
She even thought it was unfair.
But the advantage she had in the start was gone now.
At this point, she even considered if it was obvious she would need to have an advantage like that.
Her behavior was par for the course for a regular 20-year-old, though in her case she had only been ten back then.
Even when the young Eugene felt a strong opposition against her, he would still strive to meet her every demand.
There was nothing Alicia could have complained about.
Rather, she actually felt attracted to his devoted attitude.
But he probably did not realize that.
And seeing how things turned out, leaving him in the dark would be for the best.
She had prepared herself for the day when she would eventually have to admit defeat.
And when that time would come, she would praise Eugene honestly.
That way she would be able to keep her head high.
After all, it was true she had struggled as well.
That’s how she, with her below average body felt.
So to you, who is going higher, rising above others, easily leaving behind all the efforts I put…
…I just want one thing, at least one thing…
Can you crumble the puny pride I’ve had in myself during all this bout of stubbornness?
Alicia felt ashamed of herself.
She had been a bit too self-important.
It embarrassed her so much she planned to carry it on her back to the grave.
Their paths would not cross anymore, and the future she envisioned was just a figment of her imagination now.
After being unable to be direct, unable to say the words to convey her feelings, Alicia was now experiencing the future she brought on herself.
That’s why there was only one way she could reply to the request to break off their engagement.
“I accept your request to break off our engagement.”