Chapter Six: A Dangerous Date!
It’s finally come—the second one. Yes, you’ve guessed it. I’m saying that today is A Date with Prince Gilbert: Part Two.
And my preparations for this day? Yes, this time, indeed, there were preparations. So, just the other day, as you may know, the other ladies in the group—one after the other—dressed me up, chatted me up, and all-arounddolled me up like there was no tomorrow.
Take a look at me now!
I’m wearing one of Lady Merlia’s customized dresses; I’ve applied Lady Alisa’s exquisite beauty products; I’m armed with knowledge so as not to bore even a cultured prince, thanks to Lady Laila; I’m up-to-date on all the latest modern-girl topics, thanks to Lady Maribel; I’m ready for anything. Whoever my opponent is, come out and fight!
I’ve been struck down in no time flat. Yep, I knew it all along. Even if I bravely faced His Highness with my best can-do attitude, it was bound to be futile from the start.
But it’s okay. It’s not like I’m doing this for the sake of His Highness or because I feel I had to go and polish myself up. My realobjective is to help things go smoothly and build new relationships during this once-in-a-lifetime chance to stay in the royal palace.
“What a beautiful surprise! You look marvelous today, My Lady. Did you choose your attire just for our date today? If so, I am most honored.”
And so, from the very start of our date, the prince seems to be in a great mood.
We’re going to take a tour of the city in a carriage, so I’ve decided to wear a subtle blue dress—discreet yet trendy—and my hair is loosely braided with white flower accessories. My feet are in lace-up boots with heels that are thin and elegant; I may be unsteady and uncomfortable if I have to walk too much, but I don’t think we’ll be leaving the carriage.
“Th-thank you. Your Highness also looks marvelous.”
I say this even though I can only look at his shoes and pants. Because…you know.
But never mind that! Today is date part two! My heart is filled with anxiety.
So here I am alone with His Highness in the closed space inside the carriage and wondering if my beating heart, hyperventilating lungs, and, most especially, aura-seeing eyes are going to make it.
“Shall we?” he asks, in a tone revealing he’s excited to be with me again as he extends his hand.
I exhale a secret sigh and simply take hold of it.
The carriage is meant for royal figures to sneak their way into town without drawing attention, so the exterior is simple and plain. But the interior is wonderfully luxurious, with a wide sofa that’s not too hard and not too soft. And the fluffy cushions are a delight to hold. The floor is covered with a plush, soft carpet, and the ceiling is exquisitely painted with intricate nature scenes full of flowers and birds. The velvet and lace curtains shine luxuriously. There’s not even a hint of poor craftsmanship to be found.
When I was getting in the carriage, a tinge of anxiety took hold of me as I realized that if His Highness sat directly in front of me, my eyes would be in big trouble. Thankfully, he sat to my left. I knew that sideways, hisaura wouldn’t be an issue. I’m saved!
So now, the name of the game is to make this date end as quickly as possible.
To avoid offending the gentle prince while subtly making him think this girl ain’t the one is the goal here. My strategy is to refrain from starting any type of conversation. When he takes the initiative, I’ll subtly shut him down with straight-to-the-point replies and act distracted by all the exciting things going on in the streets rather than act interested in what he has to say.
Bring it on! Hoo-rah!
“Lady Randall, this bookstore is famous for its insane variety and quantity of books; it’s said that whatever your question, you’ll find the answer somewhere on its bookshelves.”
“Well, you’ve certainly piqued my curiosity! I wonder if there are any books on secret agricultural techniques?”
“Lady Randall, that’s the biggest flower shop in the city.”
“Wow! I know it’s the flowering season right now, but there are so many of them and so many kinds—so much more than I ever imagined!”
“Lady Randall, that cafe on the corner is very trendy with young people lately.”
“Is that a crepe that young man is holding? It looks delicious! And look at how generous they are with the cream and fruit!”
“There’s a take-out booth next to the café; shall we go get something?”
“Ooohh!? Would that be okay!? Yes, please!”
I’m a glutton for punishment, aren’t I? How many times do I have to learn the same lesson?
“I’m sorry; I’ve changed my mind. Let’s refrain from going there.”
The light that had assaulted my eyes sobered me up real fast.
Get a hold of yourself, Lina Randall! Stay the course!
What’s really scary is how personable His Highness is. At first, I was sure I’d be able to create the level of uneasiness and awkwardness in the air that I desired, but before I knew it, I had fallen for His Royal Highness’s warmth and charm. A comfortable, relaxed atmosphere had set in.
I’ve known all along that I’m not the brightest bulb in the lamp, but now it’s clear that that’s putting it mildly. That’s right, I’m a bonafideidiot.
But I have a confession to make. When I was on my way from the Randall territory to the royal palace, I passed through this town. At the time, I thought about making a quick stop and enjoying myself for a bit, but I had so many things on my mind that I wasn’t in the mood for fun—but things are different today.
Of course, I’m still worried about my Father, but my family’s too far away at the moment to contact other than by letter, so worrying without being able to do anything seems quite pointless.
Besides, we’re here today to look around the town. And the thing is, with a considerate and gentle guide—a.k.a. His Royal Highness—I’ve simply allowed myself to get carried away.
Ugh! I really am unreliable!
“Lady Randall, let’s get out and walk a little.”
Oh, okay. Maybe I ruined the mood a bit just now by falling into my own thoughts and letting a prolonged silence set in.
Without waiting for my reply, His Highness has had the coachman park the carriage in a slightly busy part of town. Opening the door and stepping out, he extends his hand to me. Refusing would be too awkward, so I take it and step out as well.
We’ve been walking a little, and we’ve just arrived at the cafe. His Highness seems strangely accustomed to ordering and paying; he’s offered me a berry crepe.
The prince carries his own pocket change… I find that oddly interesting and ponder on it a bit as he hands me the delicious-looking crepe.
“Eating and walking around is something people are accustomed to doing in this town, so would it be alright to continue our excursion while you enjoy your crepe?”
I’m more of a farm girl than a lady, so it’s not like this is a mind-blowing concept to me, Mister Royal Big Shot.
“Thank you very much. Yes, let’s do so, Your Highness.”
Food deserves respect, and, as you know, it’s against my policy to waste a meal.
As I sink my teeth into the crepe, the delightful harmony of the rich cream and the fresh fruit melts in my mouth.
“There are a lot of people around here, so please call me Gilbert—or just Gil. And I’ll call you by your given name.”
I gulp down my first bite of crepe, unable to resist moving on to my second bite of the exquisite dessert. This is not like me at all! I fear the prince is continuing to erode my discipline.
“Let’s go to that bookstore we saw on the way here. There will be many people there, so please hold my hand, so we don’t get separated.”
My hand joins his as if it were the most natural thing in the world. But I’m suddenly self-conscious of my sweaty palm, so now I wish he’d let go before he notices.
Now that I think about it, I haven’t held hands like this with a man who’s not family before. And I’m shocked at how hard my heart is thump-thumping. This is entirely out of character for me! So many things are happening so fast!
At any rate, I am indeed curious about the bookstore; after all, I may never travel to this place again. I’m going to brave the sweaty palms and the awkwardness!
But I wish we’d just get there already.
The prince is a step ahead, leading me by the hand as we push through the throng of people.
We’ve been walking for some time without saying a word. I have a strange, foreboding feeling. A mild sense of alarm from something coming from behind makes me quickly turn my head.
“Is something the matter?”
The prince stops in his tracks.
“I-it’s nothing. Let’s hurry to the bookstore.”
We resume walking, but His Highness is now walking by my side instead of in front of me.
Oh no! Something…something BAD is nearby!
I catch a glimpse of an aura the likes of which I have never seen, flickering among the crowd.
So far, the negative auras I’ve seen are mostly those of small-time hucksters and such. But that thing I just saw was an undiluted mass of…malice.
Now it’s me who’s pulling the prince’s hand, hurrying with panicked steps.
“Lina, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing! I just can’t wait to get to the bookstore!”
I can’t be bothered to worry about His Highness’s sudden perplexity at my behavior. Right now, all I can think about is getting as far away as I can from that thing I just saw and hope it was just a chance encounter.
But somehow, I know I’ve not seen the last of that mass of ill will.
Oh no! Is it getting nearer?
I curse my legs that are on the verge of seizing up from sheer terror, and I keep pulling with all my might on His Highness’s hand as I speed up in front of him.
Ugh! It’s just my luck. I just had to make the worst fashion choice ever today! I am not used to wearing these high-heel boots! Yes, my legs and feet are strong and sturdy after all that farm work I’ve done, but my heel has gotten caught in a small crack on the pavement. Thankfully, His Highness catches me with his arm to keep me from falling to the ground, but that painful tingle in my ankle is telling me in no uncertain terms that I’ve hurt myself.
“Are you alright? The bookstore isn’t going anywhere; there’s no need to rush.”
Right now is not the time to be saying such things! The man with the aura is following us!
When I look at someone, I’m able to perceive all sorts of details almost instantly. The person’s countenance, attire, aura color and shape, what they’re looking at—and, in this case, the knife in this guy’s hand!
I’m scared, my ankle hurts, and I want to run away! But…His Highness!
The instant I feel the man with the knife make his move, I instinctively throw my crepe in his face and stumble to the side where the prince is; he catches me with both arms.
I feel a burning pain in my arm.
I think His Royal Highness is calling out to me, but for some reason, my body isn’t responding, and my senses are numb.
My vision grows dark as I see the ground approaching my face. My stumble stops suddenly, though; it seems His Highness has broken my fall.
But never mind all that. We have to run away—fast!
I manage to open my mouth, but no words come out.
And everything goes dark…
Translator: Robert F.