Chapter Eight: Secrets are Secret for a Reason
“So, to summarize, after making a habit of scrutinizing people’s behavior, you somehow developed the ability to see the aura of a person. By looking at an aura, it is possible to tell personality and character, and whether they are carrying good or bad intentions. In this case, the reason you were able to notice the attacker in advance was because his aura of malice stood out among the crowd. Did I get it right?”
I’m perfectly aware of how fantastic-sounding my explanation is, but the prince gets everything I said, so I can’t think of anything to add to his summary other than “Yes, that’s right.”
“Then what is the reason you can’t look at me?”
“His Highness… He’s too dazzling… Literally… To me, it’s like looking into the sun. I fear my eyes will go bad if I look straight at you.”
His Highness and Sir Glenn are looking at each other, gauging each other’s belief in my story. Quite a natural reaction, I guess.
“It doesn’t look to me like she is lying. But let’s put her story to the test just so we all can have no further doubts. Glenn, gather a few people you know well and…oh yeah, make sure their faces are covered with veils or masks.”
“Well, I guess we have no choice but to believe her.”
Sir Glenn had returned after a brief absence and brought with him a total of three people. He really wanted to leave no room for doubt apparently, because he didn’t just mask them, he brought them covered from head to toe in large black robes held around them in a manner so their figures couldn’t be seen and thus so I couldn’t even tell whether they were man or woman, child or elder.
Incidentally, the auras were each a dark navy blue, a red core with a yellow halo surrounding it, and a vibrant purple. And then, to make matters short, when I explained that the three people were serious and sincere but slightly gloomy, people who pretend to be easy-going but are actually really hot-headed, and people of strong faith who prefer to rely on intuition and feelings, I received the above appraisal.
I had to leak out my secret… But at least I got out of this pinch.
“Now that Lady Randall’s innocence has been proved, I have a request to make.”
As expected, Sir Glenn’s smile makes me recoil with dread. His aura reveals he is plotting something, and the only thing I know about it is that I’m not going to like it.
He says, “It is fortunate that fate has brought to us someone with your ability in such an uncertain and dangerous situation. I want to request you be at His Highness’s side as much as possible while you are here.”
I bow down deeply as if it were a reflex. I was going to add, “What do you think I am, a human security alarm?” when I raised my head up, but I managed to keep that thought from going to my mouth.
“You won’t go unrewarded. We will provide for your every need and guarantee your safety, and as a token of our appreciation, we will provide financial support to your house and dispatch the most experienced specialists to help your family restore their territory. Depending on your performance, we will also provide bonuses. The increased time and closeness to His Highness may provide you with an unfair advantage against the other ladies in the final candidates group, but we will make no objections. Of course, we will turn a blind eye if you were to use this advantage to captivate His Highness’s heart and officially become the Third Princess of Elvasti.”
Despite that unwanted last bit included at the end, the offer is quite exceptional, and I eagerly raise my face, only to see Sir Glenn grinning at me. I have a vague feeling of defeat in my heart.
“Allow me to pass on becoming the Third Princess. With that said, how long would I have to…”
“What a prompt reply! Though it really isn’t a difficult choice to accept such a generous offer. From the standpoint of the ongoing princess selection process, it will probably be about a year at the longest. The Prince is not at an age at which he should delay this decision for much longer.”
Sir Glenn has a bad habit of interrupting other people when they are talking, huh? He may resort to this bad habit when he feels like he is losing control of a situation. But that last remark makes me curious.
“I’m sorry to have forgotten, but could you remind me how old is His Highness?”
“Twenty-two,” said the prince in a tone that had a tinge of annoyance.
I wasn’t interested in becoming the prince’s betrothed from the get-go, so I didn’t exactly do my homework about him. Speaking of which, I realize I didn’t even know what color the prince’s hair or eyes were, since I have never been able to just look at his face like a normal person. Well, I still can’t, so I make a note to look for some pictures of him next time I’m at the library.
Even so, I feel that my escape routes are being cut off one by one. In light of this increasingly worrying spot I’ve found myself in, a bead of cold sweat flows from my neck and slides down into my very moderate cleavage.
Glenn is growing impatient at my hesitation and decides to bring out the nuclear option to serve the coup de grace.
“Well, in any case, if I can’t get you to at least nod to our offer, I will notify the Randall family that the Third Prince has requested you stay at the palace for the season. And then, to show you how persuasive I can be, I will use every resource and connection I have as a senior royal official to secretly push your family to the brink of ruin. And then, when you are done serving your purpose, you will leave the palace with no reward. Now, which one do you prefer?”
So I am being forced into providing my ability in service to the prince, and the only choice offered to me is to do it either as a contract employee and receive a reward or as a glorified slave and be unceremoniously disposed of at the end. I should have found a way to sneak out of this pinch while keeping my ability secret. The moment Sir Glenn learned I possess such a unique skill, he was bound to use all of his authority and ruthlessness to coerce me into serving his purposes no matter what.
“I accept. I will be your human security alarm. But! Not in any capacity as His Highness’s fiancée candidate. Instead, my cover will be as Sir Glenn’s fiancée, or the fiancée of someone who works just as close to His Highness as Sir Glenn. As long as we are in agreement that it’s just a cover for my secret role, I will act as a fiancée or even a mistress! Just not His Highness! That’s all!”
Sir Glenn is caught by surprise and has a look of total shock at my counter offer. I feel relieved that I am able to catch him completely off guard.
“Hey! Wait a minute! You mean you’d rather be anyone else’s mistress as long as you can avoid being with me!? Why do you reject me so much!”
Rejection? No, it’s…
“His Highness, she has revealed reasons that explain…”
That’s right, I did! But seeing how Glenn is taking a step back, it seems as if he is taking a safe distance from an impending outburst from His Royal Highness.
“No, this goes beyond that! Lina, what is it that you hate so much about me?”
The prince screams and grabs onto my shoulders with both hands, squeezing them tightly. Eek! I know you want my full attention, but I’m a delicate flower! My shoulders will be sore in the morning!
“Hey! At least face me just once and tell me how you really feel!”
“N-no, I can’t face you! Absolutely out of the question!”
While enduring the painful grip of the prince’s desperate hands on my shoulders, I am turning my body away to the maximum degree possible and struggling desperately to keep some distance and avert my eyes.
It is outrageous that someone as unremarkable as me would be giving the Third Prince the cold shoulder, pun intended, but here we are. I understand his exasperation. But there is an inescapable reason for my behavior. And it has nothing to do with whether I like or dislike the prince, nor am I trying to pull a fast one on him.
“No, I don’t hate anything about you at all! It’s just that you are dazzling to me! Like, literally! I’ve got to protect my eyesight! I don’t even know His Royal Highness enough to have any dislikes or complaints! We even started to get along on our last date! And if the other ladies see I’m with the prince all the time, they will hate me for having an unfair advantage! Even though I finally was able to make friends with them!”
After a moment of stunned silence, Sir Glenn breaks out in gales of laughter. The prince’s manly hands retreat from my slender shoulders as if temporarily satisfied with my explanation.
No, actually, he doesn’t sound very convinced. My eyes are closed, but I can hear him and Glenn murmuring things like, “How can she think so little of me…” and “From her behavior so far I think that…”
I can’t make out their murmuring, but my possibly going blind is on the table, so they had better be taking my eye safety into consideration!
“So, go undercover as my fiancée, did I hear you right? That’s pretty interesting. An irresistible offer, thank you, but I’m afraid I’ll have to pass since I don’t think that would work. Why would a fiancée of mine be following His Highness around all the time?”
Even if he shoots down my ideas, there are things that I won’t compromise on whatever we come up with, mainly my eye safety and the budding friendships I have developed with the other ladies.
Sir Glenn nods when he sees my dissatisfied expression.
“Okay, so how about being His Highness’ personal maid. We can set up a fake identity and provide you with convincing disguises made by the most skilled specialists in the kingdom, so the honor of Lina Randall will remain unbesmirched and your friendships remain unaffected.”
“The most important thing, my eye safety, is still unaccounted for in your proposal!”
As if he has been holding back, Sir Glenn’s shoulders shiver and he just bursts out laughing again. I don’t see what’s funny. I’m not having a pleasant time at all!
“Then just don’t look at His Highness…haha…What I want you to pay attention to are his surroundings.”
It seems that he does not intend to make any more concessions. Hey, didn’t he slip a small laugh there in between sentences? What an act of provocation. Mark my words, I will turn the tables on you yet, Sir Glenn!
“Okay! Please make sure to fulfill your end of the bargain and provide financial support and personnel assistance to my house. Also, please make sure my personal needs are properly taken care of during my stay; you will find that I don’t come cheap. Oh! And I would like all of these terms and stipulations signed on paper!”
My anger has reached a boiling point as Sir Glenn no longer tries to hide his laughter. Looking back later on this exchange, I wish I had been more careful with my choice of words, but at the time it was impossible to ask me to remain calm. While I was busy trying to fend off Sir Glenn’s machinations, I had become unaware of His Royal Highness, who, incidentally, had started to give off a disturbing vibe even as he sat right next to me.
Translator: Robert F.