Chapter Two: I Promise I Won’t Go Home
I’m surrounded by glittering chandeliers, large polished glass windows, and spacious balconies facing beautiful gardens. A bonfire lights the otherwise pitch-dark garden, and the dimly illuminated roses look magical. A luxurious meal, the likes of which I’ve never seen, is being beautifully served on silver tableware on a white tablecloth. All the guests are dressed up in elegant clothes, talking and dancing and seeming to have a good time.
However, I can’t quite allow myself to get drunk on the fantastic scenery, with its absurd number of flowers covering the walls as if they were ivy. I’ve been pacing around these walls since I arrived here.
The smell of so many perfumes is amazing, but it’s too much. I’m starting to feel color sick. My eyes are beginning to twitch.
This is the first time I’ve attended an event with so many people gathered together in one place. The confluence of auras is just too much for me.
To make matters worse, my severe myopia is causing the colorful dresses of all the ladies in attendance to mix with their auras; it’s as if they’re a live painting on a canvas.
A dark green dress and a red aura. A purple aura and an orange dress. A pink dress and a yellow aura.
The colors are pushing and shoving and blending into each other. I also see some people with beautiful and lively auras, but oh, how many muddy auras there are too! I can’t stand it a moment longer!
When I ask myself how on Earth I ended up here, I realize it all goes back to that one letter.
To briefly review its contents, omitting the flowery words: We’re looking for a suitable noble house lady to become the Third Prince’s wife; if you are of proper age, come to the palace.
What a troublesome invitation.
At least the travel and stay expenses were covered by the royal palace—that was undoubtedly kind on my wallet—but I was on my own when it came to the gala dress and maids. I tailored some dresses that my mother used to wear when she was young, and then I made my way here to the gala, alone.
Don’t be too quick to raise your eyebrows at the daughter of a count traveling alone—even though we both know that a proper noblewoman wouldn’t be caught dead doing that. But the road isn’t dangerous at all. With the money provided, I completed the trip in a week and in a very normal manner despite the destination.
To be honest, there are many things I’m seeing for the first time, and my heart has skipped a beat or two here and there. Let’s just say I may have gotten as far as the second “e” in “excitement” at times.
However, in the back of my mind, I sometimes wonder if my father is making poor decisions while I’m away. And that’s quite enough to run a shiver down my spine whenever I start getting too excited. I’ve instructed Al on dear Father’s proclivities and entrusted him with the role of Dad’s keeper, but I left home feeling not a bit too confident.
Okay, enough with the color overload. It’s time to go back to the palace room that was assigned to me. There’s absolutely no reason for the prince to notice someone like me who’s, let’s say, less of a dazzling rose and more of a common ivy, so it’s better to leave this whole event to the other noble girls, all of whom seem to be in high spirits. It’s time to peel myself away from this corner of the wall I’ve taken refuge in.
Wait! The hustle and bustle just became louder and rowdier; I see a human wave converging into a single space. Tonight’s main VIP, the Third Prince, has apparently made his triumphant arrival.
At this distance, I’m not able to clearly make out any faces. But to at least get a peek into how this royal story will unfold, I might as well take a look at the arriving aura before going back to my room. I politely push and jostle my way through the tightly packed crowd and aim my eyes at the person who has just appeared on the scene…and I can’t help but make a huge frown.
It’s too dazzling!
I immediately turn away and start my retreat. I fear for a moment that my eyes will go bad—my heart throbs.
To think there exists in this world an aura so bright as to surpass the midsummer sun! Is such the persona of a king? But wait, we’re talking about the Third Prince, right? Does everyone in the royal family have such a strong aura?
At any rate, this is a person on a whole different level than me.
Skipping as many formalities, procedures, and manners as I could get away with, I’ve attended this party and made my social debut, just as I was told to do in the letter. My work here is done.
It’s time to go back to my room, get some sleep, and go home tomorrow.
How did this happen?
After the first contact, last night with His Highness the Third Prince, most of the ladies today are on their way home. Needless to say, those are the ones who didn’t get invited to the next event. Every lady knows well enough to take the hint.
There are a total of five ladies who have been given the honor of extending their stay at the royal palace. I’m one of them.
We’re currently having an afternoon tea party together.
That’s right, among those five ladies… I am included! You may be asking yourself: how did this happen?
Well, beneath my composed appearance, as I quietly sip black tea, I truly just want to spring to my feet and run away. What a fine tea, though! Its aroma wafts within the teacup and fills my nostrils with each little sip. This truly is the premium stuff.
By the way, before coming to this afternoon tea party, I collected some information on the other ladies by asking some of the maids about them. After all, I’m interested in learning more about the prince’s taste.
Daughter of Duke Ordis, Merlia: twenty years old; blue-eyed blond.
Imposing and brimming with confidence. The daughter of the crown prince’s younger brother. Her aura shines red, and when matched with her red dress, it makes for a powerful sight. I find it very reassuring that her aura doesn’t emit the eyeball-melting aural light of His Imperial Highness the Third Prince, which I feared since she has the blood of the royal family in her.
Daughter of Marquis Eusera, Alisa: eighteen years old; dark brown hair and eyes.
The eldest daughter of the Eusera family, Alisa, is clad in a green dress and also has a red aura. As a dear childhood friend of the Third Prince, she was a likely choice from the start to be among the final candidates.
Daughter of Count Bashre, Laila: sixteen years old; platinum hair and violet eyes.
Hailing from a family who has served as royal officials for generations, Laila seems to be quite the intellectual. Her light blue dress and blue aura make her bright platinum hair and violet eyes appear even more dignified.
Daughter of Baron Richmond, Maribel: twenty-one years old; light brown hair and light green eyes.
Maribel’s father made a name for himself as a wealthy merchant, and her family was recently promoted to noble status. This is the only lady present whose nobility title is below mine. Of course, she’s richer than I will ever be in my wildest dreams, but I’m not jealous in the slightest. Nope. Not at all. Her dress is yellow, and she has a faint pink aura.
And then there’s me, daughter of Count Randal, Lina: seventeen years old.
As you know, I’m the eldest daughter of an aristocrat family whose sun is setting. I’m wearing a plain beige dress, and my aura is… Actually, I can’t see my own aura.
When you look at the aura of someone standing in front of you, it looks like a halo around the upper body, but I don’t know what’s going on when it comes to me because I can’t see my own aura at all. Maybe it’s some kind of rule; I don’t know—the ability to read auras didn’t come with a manual! This is just in my imagination, but I’m hoping I have a light orange aura.
I can grasp another person’s personality by the color, depth, light, shade, and texture of their aura. Generally, an aura has one or two colors that stand out, with other colors flickering and mixing in. These colors should indicate that the person is happy-go-lucky through and through, but it’s not that simple. The complexity in the flickering colors may be a sign of other things. The auras of those who are up to no good are kind of muddy, while auras with clear colors are the polar opposite.
But let’s get back to my story. Even if you could see us standing side by side, you’d still question the sight of me—this ivy—as one of the members of this group of eminent ladies.
So, you can imagine my surprise when this morning, as I was finishing my preparations to return home, the royal maid came to my room and told me I was requested to extend my stay at the palace.
What kind of weird taste in girls does the prince have, anyway?
“Dear everyone, may I request your undivided attention please? I’d like to make something completely clear.”
Merlia’s remarks fall like a ton of bricks on the already precarious balance of energy in the air. For the first time in my life, I realize that there are moments when even the cheerful chirping of birds and the sound of the wind gently swaying the trees can do absolutely nothing to comfort me. For a split second, I think I hear a cracking sound. Apparently, I’m not going to be able to just sip some tea and go home.
“I have longed for Gilbert since I was a child. Furthermore, I don’t think any of those present here would look better as Gilbert’s betrothed than I will. So, I believe it is best for every one of you to go home now.”
Forget the tension in the air; the auras of every lady here have crystallized like ice. Auras are usually flowing and swaying, but not right now.
By the way, I suppose there’s no need to tell you this now, but just to be sure, Gilbert is the Third Prince’s name. Prince Gilbert Trace Elvasti.
“Oh my, you’re one to say the strangest things. Isn’t it you who should be going home?”
“You leftover spinster!”
…And just like that, Lady Alisa absentmindedly drops a nuclear bomb. The atmosphere of this gathering has suddenly become chilly enough to send a shiver down my spine. You could cut the air with a knife.
It’s true that a woman makes her social debut at the age of 16, and it’s said that her “marriageable age” is before she reaches her 20s.
“If you have something to say, why don’t you just say it out loud for everyone to hear?”
Oh my, Lady Laila! Surely, you’re aware we all heard those idle hurtful words quite clearly, aren’t you? Please don’t add to the number of combatants in this war, Lady Laila!
I’m in the background—a bystander, trying not to breathe to avoid detection. I wonder if my voiceless screams have reached all the way to high heaven.
“Dear Ladies, may I join you?”
A voice I don’t immediately recognize; I hear it just in the nick of time. I’m rescued! Or so I think…for a moment.
Even if God is out there listening to our prayers, I’m pretty sure my inner screams didn’t make a single blip; the person I least want to run into again in my entire life has just appeared. I quickly avert my eyes, but not before reflexively making a huge frown for the second time in my life.
Translator: Robert F.