Chapter Three: I’m Fine Being an Outsider
“Well! Prince Gilbert!”
Lady Merlia’s tone of voice does a one-eighty as if she’d flipped a switch. Great transformation speed! Somehow, the pressure that had our lungs and hearts in a death grip has instantly dissipated.
“I wanted to meet all of you, so I left my responsibilities for a while to come and see you.”
So says Gilbert with his clear and gentle voice, refreshing and befitting of a true prince. Some girls blush while others, Merlia and Alisa, can’t help themselves; they smile and laugh like little girls.
I can’t seem to look up.
Gilbert: “I am overjoyed to have such beautiful ladies accept my invitation. Do you find the royal palace to your liking? Are there any inconveniences?”
Merlia: “My Lord, you are too polite. The royal palace is just as perfect as this garden. Please don’t worry yourself.”
Alisa: “If I may be so bold as to say, as long as I can be with His Highness, there is nothing else I could ever possibly want.”
Laila: “I am grateful, My Prince. I have no dissatisfactions whatsoever.”
Maribel: “There are no inconveniences. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Thank you.”
Oh no! We have an everyone says their line one after the other thing going on here, don’t we?
Me: “The meals here are plentiful and delicious. Thank you for all the food!”
Gilbert: “Dear ladies, I am meeting most of you for the first time. Let’s deepen our friendship. No matter who I choose, I promise to make time to get to know each of you individually.”
Merlia: “We used to play together as children; I’m looking forward to spending time with His Highness again.”
Alisa: “I also used to play with His Highness as a child. Do you remember? Let’s rekindle old memories and build new ones together.”
Laila: “I have seen much of the world thanks to my ventures at my father’s enterprises, so I’m sure I can entertain My Prince with stimulating intellectual conversation. I won’t let you get bored.”
Maribel: “I’m new to the royal palace, so I’d be pleased if His Highness could show me around its wonders if you have time.”
Me: “I-it looks like His Highness’s schedule is pretty busy, s-so don’t mind about me.”
Gilbert: “Is that so, My Lady? Well, I have to return to my duties. Please enjoy yourselves.”
Thank goodness His Highness is leaving! I wait a moment and then gingerly raise my head. When I open my eyes, hoping not to get blasted again by the prince’s ridiculously radiant aura, I notice that all the ladies’ eyes are focused on me.
Merlia: “Maybe you should go home soon.”
“Yes… that’s my intention,” I reply, in the manner of a conditioned reflex. The eyes of the young ladies have changed to looking at me like a pitiful child who’s lost and out of place. But I get a prickly feeling that these ladies are now cringing at the thought of me being an enemy—and the feeling is all too real.
So be it! I’m better off this way! Now I just have to play it cool and avoid rocking the boat too much until I’m allowed to go home—I don’t know when that will be, though.
Those who do not work do not eat. I can’t turn my back on my family’s motto—even if I tried, I think my mind and body would go into some sort of withdrawal. So, I head to the library in the royal palace. I’ve been here at the palace for four days.
Overly luxurious meals, big, fluffy beds, sleeping in luxury is not an enemy, but self-stagnation does not lead to a bright future.
And so, I’m at the library. I certainly can’t do weeding or home repairs at the royal palace, so I’ve come up with the idea of filling my mind with knowledge before going home. It’s considered theft to take things from the royal palace, but I can bring things back in my head! And so, I’m reading everything I can get my hands on.
What am I reading, you ask? Well, all there is to know about agriculture! It won’t have been a fool’s errand to come all the way here if I go back knowing how to improve the agricultural efficiency of our territory if even just a little. I’m packing in my head all the latest farming methods and the characteristics of all sorts of plants.
“Have you been here long?”
My self-preservation instincts take over as the brilliant light emerges from behind the shadows of the bookshelves. I close my eyes and turn my face away.
“Y-your Highness ! How do you do?! W-why are you in such a place?!”
Even though I’ve turned my face away, I’m able to rise from my seat in an instant and properly greet the prince, but this alone is tremendously difficult for me.
“Why, today is the day I will spend with you. Didn’t you hear this from your maid?”
His Highness seems to be chuckling, but I can’t look directly at him, so I’m not quite sure.
Even so, His Highness is a generous person. I know that, at best, I must look as if I’m a ridiculously timid girl to him—not being able to meet his eyes or even face him—and yet, the prince doesn’t seem to mind. Even a country bumpkin girl like me knows this is absolutely rude of me. But I can’t help but act this way.
Now, having met the prince a second time, at least I know I won’t be instantly burned to a crisp. Still, this divine-like aura is really something else!
If he gets offended and considers me to be rude, I might be ordered to go home at once. Things might work out better for me this way.
“I… I thought I had declined during our previous encounter. If there is time for you to meet someone such as myself, it would be more meaningful for Your Highness to spend that time on something more important.”
His Highness was staying true to his word and making good on his promise to dedicate one day to each of the ladies.
I had heard from the maid last night that it was my turn next; I should have declined with all my might. Even so, here I am.
“Today, there is no more meaningful use of my time than spending it with Miss Randall.”
When His Highness says such a thing, there’s no way to object. There’s no escape. I gently close the thick book and set out to put it back on the shelf as if I have just been sentenced to a prison term.
“Is there anything that Lady Randall would like to do?”
I want to read here. Alone. Please don’t think harshly of me if you can hear these words in my heart.
“No, nothing in particular.”
“Then shall we take a walk in the garden? Now is the best time to see the roses.”
I reply with a quiet “yes.” A brief silence follows.
“May I escort you?”
I feel terrified as His Highness’ hand reaches for mine. Awkwardly, I raise my face slightly, but with movements so clumsy, it’s a wonder my body doesn’t make creaking sounds. It seems that the limit for my line of sight is His Highness’ royal stomach.
However, my myopic eyes can confirm that, indeed, here in front of me stands the Third Prince with his hand extended toward me. Once confirmed, once beyond doubt, that indeed the prince’s hand is there, extended and expecting a response, I have no choice but to take that hand. I cannot decline; I cannot possibly be THAT rude to His Highness.
And so, here I am being led by a strange twist of fate into this most unexpected of situations and about to be escorted by a man for the first time in my life!
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Translator: Robert F.
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