Title: Competition for the Villainess After Her Engagement Annulment
Fiorentina, a duke’s daughter, has her engagement with the Prince annulled and is unjustly denounced for crimes she did not commit. She is then exiled.
But waiting for her at her destination is the person who betrayed her…
“Fiorentina, I’m annulling our engagement! Don’t think you can get away with your behavior just because your father is a duke!” My fiancé, His Highness, the Crown Prince, announced. Even as I argued my innocence, guards dragged me out.
My former childhood friends and step-brother simply grinned at the sight.
One day, a commoner was adopted into an earl’s family. She appeared before my friends and before I knew it, I had been labeled as ‘the villainess who hurt the earl’s daughter in a jealous rage.’
Witnesses started to appear from everywhere. Even though I hadn’t done anything, no one would believe me. With that, I was condemned.
At our parent’s home, my step-brother seems to have convinced our father to cut all ties with me, as I brought shame to the family. They simply sent me a letter. No one came to see me or intervene.
A few days after the engagement was cancelled, I was put on a simple train carriage and sent to the forest at the border with our neighboring kingdom. I had been exiled with only a little water and food.
I had given up everything.
When a sign indicating that the border was nearby could be seen from the window, I put on a thin coat and headed to the exit, prepared to disembark. The train came to a halt and the door opened.
“Please, let me help you,” someone politely reached out.
I had been treated so roughly the last few days that my eyes stung with tears at the gentle voice and gesture. “…Thank you.” I reached out to this hand that treated me, who was no longer an aristocrat, so kindly before looking at his face. “Maximilian! Why are you here?!”
It was my foolish step-brother, Maximilian, who stood before me. This man latched onto me while laughing. “Sister! No, Fiorentina! I’ve finally got you. Come, let’s take a carriage to our destination. I have prepared a mansion on the lakeside for us. I’m sure you were tired in that rundown carriage. It’s okay. I’ll protect you from now on!”
I didn’t understand what was happening. Wasn’t my step-brother in love with that countess? I thought that he had helped in my condemnation to help her. I don’t know about the others, but my step-brother surely knew that I was innocent. Yet he gave false testimony and had me cornered.”
“Fi, I’ve longed for you since we met. I’m sorry I made you go through something so painful. I just wanted to get you away from that Crown Prince. I’ll never hurt you again, so please, stay with me!”
“Don’t play games! You lied and got me exiled. I won’t forgive you.”
“I’m sorry, but it was for our love. But, did I truly do anything wrong besides that testimony?” The testimony in question is when he had proclaimed that I was missing from our family’s home during the time the earl’s daughter was attacked by bandits. But I had been home all along.
“Not doing anything wrong besides—!” The moment I was ready to curse my step-brother, I heard a sigh behind me and turned around.
There stood my childhood friend, Heathcliff, the Chancellor’s son. “Maximillian, stay away from her. Fi, I’m here to help. Come over here.”
“Heathcliff! Why are you here?!”
“Fi, I’ve always liked you. Please stay with me. I’ll make you happy.” His face was ecstatic, eyes full of sadness and love at once. But I won’t take his hand.
I stared at him before saying: “…Heath, you read the condemnation aloud. All those so-called sins were fabricated. You couldn’t have been serious. If you had just asked properly, you’d have known that I’d never spoken to that woman before. So, did you know?”
That’s right. I had no involvement in these crimes. I, who had been educated to become Crown Princess, was always shadowed by the Chancellor’s assistant. In light of his connection, my innocence should have been proven without a doubt. Even in the worst case, it would have been obvious that I’d never directly hurt that woman.
“Yes, I know you weren’t involved. I’m sorry, I finally saw a chance to take you away from that Prince and jumped at it…but I hurt your honor. But Fi, we have always been connected. Let’s be together in a place where it’s only us, where we won’t be disturbed. Let’s be happy together!”
Heath grabbed my hand while Maximilian held onto my shoulder.
“Watch out!” A silver light swung down on Heath, who had tried to hug me. It slammed into him and threw him into the air.
“Are you finished?”
“Lombard!” This was another one of my childhood friends. The son of a count and a knight: Lombard. “Fiorentina, I’m sorry for being late. There are horses over there. We can use them to get somewhere safe.” He proclaimed in a commanding tone, pulling me away from Maximillian and picking me up.
“Put me down, Lombard! What do you think you’re doing? Aren’t you in love with that woman?” Lombard had been the first to get close to the earl’s daughter. It was he who had started the rumors about me attacking her. He was a man deceived by that woman’s lies; a man who wouldn’t even believe his childhood friend’s words.
“I have nothing to do with that woman. I pretended to believe her, while using her to reach the flower on a high peak. My dear Fiorentina, I only love you. Let’s explore the world together.”
“That’s right! Unhand my sister!”
Lombard shook off both Maximilian and Heath with a splendid kick, while holding me. Heath dropped his gun. What would you have done if it had fired?! I was surprised but Lombard easily broke it with his foot; this man could shatter even another person.
Then, a shadow appeared in front of Lombard, who was carrying me in a relaxed manner. “If you value your life, then get away from Fiorentina, Lombard.” It was unlikely that I would still be followed and one look at Heath’s face confirmed that it was someone entirely unexpected.
Who on earth?
I pondered the question for only a second before realizing that Lombard had exposed an opening. I twisted myself out of his grasp, falling to the ground.
Without even registering the pain, I immediately got up and ran away into the woods at full speed. The cheap clothes and shoes that I had been given, which were fit for a commoner, was not like my usual dresses. It was much easier to move around and I had managed to escape from the men and hide in the bushes.
“Hiii!” I had been holding my breath to keep silent, but the sudden whisper from behind me made me let out a strange noise.
Turning around, I saw none other than His Highness, the Second Prince Olivier. “Your Highness?! Why are you here?”
“I came to pick you up, Fiorentina. If you aren’t betrothed to my brother any longer, then please become my wife.”
“Your Highness…” I relaxed a little, feeling like I’d finally met a reliable person again. His Highness, Prince Olivier was not yet an adult. He had an adorable appearance – with a feminine face – and always treated me like his real sister. Compared to the previous three, he had done absolutely nothing to wrong me.
“Fi’s shadow reported some suspicious movements by the earl’s daughter, so I came to help immediately. I’m prepared to marry Fi. My brother will likely be disowned after this, so I’ll become the Crown Prince. Let’s clear up these false allegations so you can hold your head up high as my wife!”
A shadow? Does that mean Prince Olivier had me followed as well? Then there was something more that I needed to know.
“…Did you know that the earl’s daughter was setting me up?”
“Yeah! I had a rough idea, but realized it was a way to get Fi, so I played along. I’m glad it went the way I wanted! Now, Fi, let’s head back to the royal capital together. Instead of my brother, I’ll be the one to protect you for the rest of our lives!”
I was afraid of Prince Olivier, who was laughing so innocently. He had ignored the fact that the Crown Prince was deceived in order to obtain me and the throne?! I had thought that Prince Olivier was a kindhearted person, but I had been wrong. This made me extremely angry…
I’m completely at a loss. He seems to have shadows everywhere, so it’ll be difficult to escape from Prince Olivier.
However, there is a reason that I cannot return home, so I hatched a plan. “Thank you for your kindness, Your Highness. Would it be alright if I washed my face before returning to the capital with you? There’s a river just ahead, so may I stop by there?”
“Ah, that’s right. Your beautiful face is stained with mud. It’s fine. Let’s go.” Prince Olivier held my hand as we walked towards the river.
The area around the river was wide and open; one could see the sky clearly. I bent down, pretending to wash my face but blew a whistle instead. Like a dog whistle, it was a sound that humans cannot hear.
“Hey, let’s head back soon.” After I (actually) washed my face carefully, Prince Olivier called out to me emotionlessly. At the same time, I heard the sound of fluttering wings.
Ah, he’s finally here.
A wyvern glided down and took me away.
“Lady Fiorentina! Are you alright?!”
“Elias! You came!” I hugged the man flying the dragon. He was my servant, Elias, someone who had been with me since I was just a child. He was also the person I loved. “Elias, you don’t need to be so formal anymore. Please just call me Fi.”
We shared a kiss atop the wyvern.
Although I had been ready to give up, fate had allowed me to be with my beloved in this way. To some extent, I’d known in advance about that woman’s disturbing movements. I knew that it was only a matter of time before I was condemned and exiled.
It had been Elias who saved my heart, when I had been drowning in fear due to these false accusations. He had promised to pick me up as soon as I was exiled. He laid out a plan for us to be together in another country. If it hadn’t been for him, I might have killed myself in despair.
“I love you, Fi.”
“I love you too, Elias.”
Elias, who had joined me in my exile, was a dragon knight. His achievements in our new kingdom had awarded him some territory and the rank of earl. Blessed with children, we were able to live happily without any inconvenience.
In our home country, after His Highness, Prince Olivier had revealed the earl’s daughter’s plot, she and Maximilian were made to atone for slandering a duke’s daughter. Heath was demoted because he couldn’t see through their schemes, while Lombard went missing – and was presumed dead – in that forest at the border.
Though it seems that His Highness, the Crown Prince was not disinherited, he struggled to find a new candidate for Crown Princess. In the end, he was forced to accept the princess of a neighboring country under unfavorable conditions.
Well, it had nothing to do with me anymore, but it was likely good for the country that the Crown Prince – who had been thoroughly betrayed by all his aides – was able to build an entirely new team.
Leaving these thoughts behind, I was able to kiss my beloved today as well.
 Takane no Hana (高嶺の花), or “the flower on a high peak” meaning something out of one’s reach. Something beautiful to look at that you (realistically) cannot have. In this case, it refers to Fiorentina.
Translator’s Note: For some reason, this reads to me like an alternative ending for Irene. Well, if she had an Elias, which I’m not entirely sure she does ( 〃´艸｀)