Chapter Four: That Dazzling Light is a Human Being
It’s no good. Really, I can’t go on. I’m totally drained! To think that spending time with a man—the royal prince of all people—could be so mentally and physically taxing.
To give you a better idea of the fatigue I’m feeling, it’s like being back at the farm chasing an escaped, frenzied chicken and wrestling it into the coop, only for it to escape again and having to do the same thing all over again.
Don’t get me wrong. His Highness is such a gentleman that the knights in shining armor of the fairy tales I read as a little girl pales in comparison.
Catching sight of a rose that has just begun to bloom, His Highness says, “Its beauty is just like yours; don’t you agree?” Then, looking at my black hair, he says, “It’s like the night sky and stardust.”
When there’s a step, he says, “Be careful.” When there’s a breeze, he asks, “Are you cold?” After walking a bit, he asks, “Are you tired?”
My only replies to his care and attention are “Y-yes.” “I guess so.” And, “No, thanks.” I feel terribly sad about not being able to reciprocate the prince’s attention.
It’s not that I’m a klutz when it comes to men; it’s not as if I feel like I belong to a social class unworthy of being in the presence of His Royal Highness. It’s just that I can’t keep up with the prince; he’s beyond the scope of my understanding. He’s an encounter with the unknown and unexpected!
To communicate smoothly with people you’re meeting for the first time, looking directly into the other person’s eyes, paying close attention to their facial expressions, eye movements, and all the other visual information is absolutely indispensable. I have the aura ability, but it’s a complement, not a substitute. And when it comes to the prince, I feel totally helpless.
In my experience, when two people keep their distance, you eventually settle down into a comfortably formal relationship. But from the beginning, His Highness has been very friendly and gentlemanly, and even though I’m trying to run away as fast as I can, he just keeps closing in on me, like I’m in a horror movie or something.
First of all, his existence itself feels as if it’s coming from a faraway world. True, his status as the royal prince plays a role in this. Even more so, his being a kind of a literal mini-sun following me around is just too surreal.
I do understand, of course, that he’s a living person—a human being just like me. When he holds my hand, it feels like the hand of a strong, grown man. It’s completely different from how my younger brother, Al’s feels. And, let me state for the record, it’s not like I go around sniffing guys, but there’s some sort of very sophisticated and refreshing scent to the prince…
Anyway, when I think about having to go on more dates with the prince in the following days, my body feels even heavier, so I head to the luxurious sofa in my room and plop down so hard I must look as if I’ve just fainted. Then, I take a deep, deep breath.
The only thing I keep thinking about is how much I want to go home as soon as possible. I feel tired. Oh, so tired. Suuuper tired.
So here I am. I’ve let go of all my thoughts and am just spacing out. But now there’s a knock on the door, so I hurriedly correct my posture to something somewhat ladylike.
“Please come in.”
Miss Heidi, the maid who has been attending to me since I arrived at the royal palace, enters the room with a dinner tray.
I nearly drool at the sight of the luxurious meal that’s being laid out on the dining table in my room. The first few days, I went for the fanciest delicacies on the table, but I ended up finding them a bit too much for my stomach, which is used to average, simple food, so I asked Heidi to reduce the number of dishes. Even so, each dish here is far more luxurious than anything we ever have at home, even for special occasions.
In the spirit of not wasting food, I start eating. Eating by myself is a bit lonely, but I’ve never had such delicious food before. I would love to share this with my family…
“Ma’am, how was your time with His Highness today?”
“W-wha!?” Cough, augh!
I manage to avoid spitting out my food, but I cough and hack for ages. Heidi leisurely walks up to me and starts patting my back.
“Heidi, why are you asking about my time with the prince?”
My eyes are tearing up. Heidi is a very kind, caring maid; she’s been casually following me around, helping me—a massive klutz—navigate this unfamiliar environment. She’s also quite chatty. Her aura has a gradation that goes from light blue to green, which matches such a nature.
Anyway, I can’t talk about Heidi right now. I have some pressing issues to worry about.
“Forgive my impertinence, ma’am, but the other ladies seem to be unable to contain themselves at the prospect of being the center of attention of His Highness. But ma’am seems indifferent—to the point of rudeness. Don’t you also dream of being the one chosen by the prince? I find ma’am’s behavior very strange.”
I know, I know. It’s totally reasonable for her to feel this way. But…
“Oh, Heidi. I think that maybe I just feel like it’s not supposed to be me standing at the prince’s side.”
Heidi peers at me with an even more curious expression than before.
“Ma’am, pardon my impertinence yet again, but don’t you think that if you were to become betrothed to His Highness, your family’s predicaments would disappear?”
Fair point. It suddenly occurs that the information I’ve gathered about the other ladies comes mostly from talking to Heidi. It’s only natural that she knows a lot about me as well.
I’m aware of the fact that I’m officially one of the five final ladies in the running; however, for me, there’s one barrier that cannot be overcome.
“His Highness is too dazzling for me. Literally.”
It’s true. In the end, it boils down to that.
Think about it. Daily life with him would be impossible. Proper communication? Nope. And while fearing the prospect of my eyes going bad when looking directly at him, how are we supposed to be a happily married couple? It’s impossible to be together for any significant amount of time if I’m just focused on keeping the ridiculously luminous object that is him from entering my field of vision. That would be exhausting!
“Is that so? But since you’re one of the final ladies in the group, you must have what it takes. Shouldn’t you just do your best and go for it like the others?”
Heidi’s faint praise is a bit crushing. That’s all there is to say, isn’t it? Technically, by virtue of having been selected into the group, I must have some charm, just like the other four. At least in that respect, His Highness must fancy me.
But I don’t know what it is about me that got me into the group in the first place. What kind of charm could anyone say I possess?
It’s not that I’m trying to be humble. I love who I am, and I love my life. In fact, I’m proud of myself. I don’t think of myself as inferior in any way.
But if I were to stand side by side with the people in the royal palace? Nope. I don’t think so! I’d stand out like a sore thumb! I’m pretty sure about that.
“I will not take on unproductive endeavors.”
I shake my head decisively.
In the first few days after arriving at the royal palace, I actually thought about catching a wonderful lord for myself, someone other than His Royal Highness. However, now that I’m in the final running to be His Royal Highness’s princess, I can’t just go around cheekily making eyes at other men.
The truth is, I would shine if I were in another setting, like say, back in my territory and with my family again. All I need to shine in my own way is green farmland and my derpy family!
Anyway, if I really have to marry, I want someone normal.
Maybe I should postpone any endeavors to find a marriage partner until Al grows up enough to succeed father as head of the house.
And what kind of nobleman would want to marry a fallen countess girl like me, whose family is penniless? Who would want me merely for my feminine charm? He would have to be some sort of complete weirdo. Marrying such an oddball is categorically out of the question.
If I could manage to get Al set up with a nice wife and then use my aura-perception powers to help him restore our family’s wealth and status, then I won’t be a total loser in terms of marriage material like I am right now. Right?
While absorbed in my thoughts, my meal has become cold. But, as you know, I never waste food. Today’s full stomach is tomorrow’s vitality.
“Ma’am is too apathetic.”
I hear Heidi talking to herself, and I shrug. It’s not that I’m apathetic or disaffected. It’s just that that’s how she sees me because she doesn’t know what I’m dealing with.
“Even though ma’am would really shine if she just polished herself up a little…” Heidi mutters with a sigh as I resume my meal.
Translator: Robert F.