Chapter Nine: Candela Man Strikes Back
“Glenn, leave me alone with Lina.”
Oh… Just what does the prince intend to do now?
“Understood. Your Highness, please try not to stress out Lady Randall too much. Lady Randall, I’ll prepare the documents you want. Well then, I shall leave you with His Highness.”
This flow of events is seriously strange.
“Wait a minute! Why are you leaving the two of us alone!”
His Highness and Sir Glenn just decided on their own, and I didn’t get a vote. Oh, I’m really angry now. What is the prince thinking, wanting to be alone with a maiden who is just seething after all this questioning and threatening? Have they got no common sense? Sir Glenn, if you’re leaving, please take His Highness with you!
“If you have recovered enough, can I talk a little?”
Before I can say no, His Highness is already leaning on me, so I end up swallowing my words of flat-out refusal.
Moreover, a small clicking noise from the closing door announces Sir Glenn’s departure from the scene. He just locked an unmarried woman and the castle’s lord together in one room!
With my hands wrapped in his, his princely body closing in on me, and being addressed by my first name, my verbal faculties are having a little trouble. I better not be finicky about personal space issues right now, because priority one at the moment is keeping my pounding heart and hyperventilating lungs from exploding.
“W-w-well, what is it? A-also, Y-your Highness, you are a little close…”
“It’s Gilbert. Gil is fine, too. Don’t mind about formalities.”
No, no, no, I do mind! No way I’m getting all casual and intimate with you! In the first place, that was a one-time thing when we agreed to call each other by our first names in the city—it was to avoid raising suspicions around other people. However, I shouldn’t sour his mood any further. That’s right. His Highness, I mean, Gilbert, seems to be angry for some reason. This is getting a little weird, though; I’m the one who is supposed to be angry.
“L-l-lord Gilbert, could you please move back a little?”
Seemingly acceding to my request, Gilbert takes a little distance. But his hands are still closed around mine, so what’s going to happen next remains unpredictable.
“I allowed the misgivings of my subordinate to cause you a lot of grief, Lina. You can demand I make up for it. Can I offer you the finest dress or the most precious jewel as a token of my apology?”
It is wise of me to stop myself right before blurting out, “I don’t need anything like that, you big oaf!” If you would like to send flour, salt, sugar, etc. to my parents’ home, please do so! That is what I want to request, but I understand that it may be embarrassing to ask the crown prince for such basic items.
I adjusted my tone and demeanor to be polite and meek so as to give off an innocent-girl vibe. If I play this card right, I might be able to trick him into leaving in a matter of minutes.
“Your Hi—I mean, Lord Gilbert. You don’t need to worry. As a loyal subject of our kingdom, it is just natural for me to lay down my life if it is to protect my prince. And as you can see, I am alive and recovering just fine, so you don’t need to pay special attention to me.”
There! How about that! It’s a model answer! Ah, but wait, what’s that? That restless vibe from before is still emanating from the prince, I can feel it without even looking at his face.
Moreover, he is now clutching onto my hands even more tightly! Did my answer score low? What should I do! Ah, how do I get rid of him?
“L-Lord Gil… Please. My hand… It hurts a little…”
Let go! There, I called you “Gil” like you wanted! For a penniless countess like me to address the crown prince by a nickname is insane enough already. I can’t help but put “Lord” before it, that’s just so ridiculous that I should be laughing at myself.
But, whatever! It doesn’t matter anymore. That’s right! I’m not sane anymore. Get away from me and just go home already!
“Ah, forgive me, I should’ve remembered that Lady Lina does not concern herself with such superficial items. Then, what about books? It seems you enjoy our library. How about, the New Botanical Encyclopedia, all five volumes?”
“And how would you like the Farming Tool Catalog, with Recommendations and Tips by the Kingdom’s Most Legendary Farming Pros?”
“Oh, there’s more. The Complete Collection of Edible Plants Endemic to the Kingdom of Elvasti, Top Ten New Varieties of Heat-, Cold-, and Disease-Resistant Grains, and A Hundred Tricks Too Good to Be Secret for Those Who Seek the Highest Efficiency in Agriculture.
“When it’s just the two of us, call me Gil. If you accede to my humble wish, all the books I just mentioned will be yours.”
“Gi-Gil! Yes, I would like those books very much, please!”
Did I succumb too easily to this devil’s whispers? Whisper away. Girl wants her books! When my house faced unbearable monetary hardship, I had to sell even our most treasured books. All that remains is the family tree.
“I don’t like that you have this handicap that prevents you from meeting your beautiful eyes with mine, but, well, it can’t be helped.”
With my small hands still enclosed in Gil’s, his fingers reach to meet mine, and then our fingertips press together ever so softly.
Did Lord Gilbert just “kiss” my fingertips? The moment I feel his soft touch as a sort of kiss, I turn red as a tomato, the hot fever of embarrassment running from my fingertips all the way to the top of my head. Gyah! My hands pull out and run to my chest to huddle together in shock.
“For the time being, I don’t want to impose on you any further. If there are any other things we can do without facing each other, like what I just did…I’ll do them.”
What? This guy is full of himself! How am I supposed to feel? Damn, I’m still angry…Lord Gilbert, I will call you whatever I want to in my head, thank you very much! Seems that he is drawn to my attitude of zero interest in his person.
What a difficult person to deal with! I bet he is used to being the center of attention all the time just for showing up and for every single thing he does, so now that he finally meets someone outside his bubble who doesn’t care for the royal charade he’s been living in since birth, somewhere in his subconscious he just feels he has to get me to acknowledge his awesomeness, too, just like everyone else. Even if I’m just a low-rank, penniless countess!
To think that the person this ridiculously shiny aura belongs to is such a child! I wish I could see what color it is, but it’s too shiny to look at. I wonder what his colors could tell me.
The spoiled man-child type’s auras tend to be red or yellow, but they are also often adept at feigning friendliness, so blue is another possibility. But, when they act gentlemanly, they can turn greenish. Then again, purple auras, who crave attention like no other auras, fit this type to a tee.
What color could it actually be, anyway, Lord Gilbert? To me it’s like I’m trying to analyze a mysterious alien life form.
Anyway, I have to focus on the task at hand of extricating myself out of this sticky situation.
“Gil, why did you include me in the group of final candidates for princess?”
Oh, no, I messed up. Even though that thought was indeed crossing my mind at the moment, that’s not a question I want to be asking right now. I was aiming for a major change in the topic of conversation but isn’t this just a mild deviation?
“Ah, back then when we saw each other for the first time at the evening party for all the princess candidates, I was curious when I happened to see you and I wondered why you were making such strange and scary faces at me. Do you remember?”
Eh, I wasn’t quite staring as much as just frowning harder than if I had taken a bite of a lemon.
It’s kind of nice that he identified me and remembered me from among so many other girls, and to do so from such a distance clearly means he has very good eyes. But on the other hand, now I wonder how weird my face must have been for him to notice me from afar in such a large crowd.
Moreover, does that mean I got into the final candidates group as just the “rare bird”? It makes a lot of sense, but it’s not a happy realization, to say the least.
“Would you have preferred I say, ‘You looked incredibly cute, and that’s why I chose you’?”
“No, it’s fine.”
I’ve known it all along. I’ve felt out of place as a member of that group from the start.
“You’re making a wrinkle between your eyebrows.”
His fingertip lightly poked me between my eyebrows. I’m only tolerating this because it’s the Third Prince of Elvasti, but if it was anyone else, I’d be knocking him out cold.
Endure, little old me.
Now, Gilbert’s mood is improving. What harmless phrase can I use to get him to go home without any frictions? I’ve got to try something!
“Gil, I’m sorry, I’m a little tired, so I’d like to rest.”
Just perfect. No guy could object to this. After all, I’m still in rehabilitation!
“Oh, yes, you’re still recovering.”
Lord Gilbert stands up obediently. The exit is over there! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!
Hey! Wait! Who said ‘Please give me a big hug before you leave’? Of all the things I expected to happen there, Gilbert grabbing my back while scooping his arm below my knees and picking me up like a baby was not one of them! He then carried me to my bed.
He held me so close that I wasn’t able to even squirm or flail my legs. Instead, I just balled myself up in his arms and into a rigid body, like a captured roly-poly. I closed my eyes, clenched my teeth, curled up my toes, and even held my breath for a moment. If he had taken any longer to lay me down on my bed, I might have passed out.
“Well then, rest well”
While still rigid, I feel a high fever running through my whole body, originating from my brow this time. The soft feeling that remains on my skin is… Is it that?
A kiss on the forehead!
Even after the door opens and closes and the footsteps fade away into the distance, I remain in statue form for a long time.
Translator: Robert F.