Chapter Fifteen: I’m Honored To Be Remembered So Fondly
Today is the second portion of the Tea Party with the Other Lady Candidates.
It’s been a month since I came to the Royal Palace… Today the weather is fine, so I’m guessing that the tea in the garden must be fantastic. Unfortunately, the company is high-tension.
I had a great time meeting with them individually when they invited me to their rooms (or should I say, when they abducted me into their rooms). We had lots of things to talk about, not to mention we actually had a good time.
Maybe we shouldn’t get together like this.
All of us in the same place, I mean. Each one on their own is unique and personable, but when it came to anything Gilbert-related… Aren’t we all supposed to be cutthroat rivals?
Right now, everyone is just sipping away at their tea, waiting for someone to start the conversation. There was an awkward silence that seemed never-ending. It’s like time was dilating, turning ten minutes into an hour, and that isn’t an exaggeration. I have to start the conversation somehow. Come on, Lina, think of a topic…
“Lady Merlia, the dress and accessory combination you are adorning today is wonderful.”
“Oh, thank you. This accessory is actually not an off-the-shelf product. It’s a custom design made especially for this dress.”
With one hand, Merlia fluttered the blonde hair over her ears and lightly bobbed her head, making the earrings she was wearing sparkle beautifully in the sunlight. As expected from a high lady, she knows how to show off her looks and accessories.
“Clothes and embellishments are all there is to you, huh?”
A-Alisa! We can hear you!
“L-Lady Alisa, is that a new perfume you are wearing today? What an amazingly refined fragrance. And isn’t your hair looking glossier compared to the last time we met?”
“You noticed? It’s because of a sesame oil I used that was made from special flowers that aren’t available in this country. Look how smoothly my fingers run through… It’s all thanks to that special oil.”
As she passed her hands through her hair, the strands spilled from her fingertips like threads of silk.
An angelic halo seemed to kept on forming whenever Alisa’s hair bounced. The scent of a delicately fragrant flower flowed towards me. I was entranced, even though I was a woman, too.
“Both of you are all about appearances.”
Oh no, is it Laila’s turn this time?
“B-by the way, Lady Laila, that treatise you lent me on the irrigation worked. The North Region was almost illuminating.”
“Yes, I found it most interesting, too. It’s wonderful to see that the new construction method has produced such remarkable results. If the outer regions are thriving, the country as a whole will flourish.”
I was very impressed with the idea of utilizing the natural cycles and geography of the land to develop more efficient agricultural techniques without requiring more money or resources. It’s impressive that Laila kept on picking books and readings that always fascinated me, as of late. She seems to have identified my interests and developed a sense of what I will find most interesting.
“Everyone is just going about the same topics as always.”
Oh, that’s right. It’s okay, Maribel. I’ll talk to everyone properly.
“L-lady Maribel, this wonderful tea, uhm, isn’t it that popular brand that the Richmond family sold exclusively? It’s exquisite. The color is likewise stunning. Whoever came up with this product must be attuned to trends and what’s going to be popular next.”
“It’s the tea I found and advised my father to pick up. Is it to your liking? I’m overjoyed.”
It just struck my mind that it would be pretty sweet if Randall’s territory also had an exceptional product that was super popular in the Royal Capital.
Although we have land to spare, it is no easy task to develop a product that I can place full confidence on that will draw the attention of the ever-changing tastes and sensibilities of the Capital dwellers. In that respect, Maribel has the natural talent to be sensitive to the latest trends and even the market tendencies.
“So, Lady Lina…”
Wow, they all spoke at once. Using the same line. They then casted side glances towards each other, like they were keeping tabs. After that brief moment of eerie quietness, they broke the silence all at once. Their first impulse was to talk to me. Oh no, I can only reply one at a time. Does this mean I have to designate the rest as the loser runner-ups to be Lady Lina’s interlocutor? That’s too awkward!
“W-well, e-everyone really likes me today, huh?”
I said as I was feigning ignorance of the brewing conflict. I mean… I’m not wrong, right? Their shared glances grew sharper. What!? Was I wrong?
“That’s right! I like Lina!”
A love confession. It was Merlia who has set the game to hardball and taken the first shot.
“Lady Lina is a friend who has never shown intimidation even if I mistakenly take a high-handed attitude! On the contrary, she doesn’t just bend like most people; she even argues my points. She is a friend I can really have a conversation with!”
So, Lady Merlia sees me like that. Indeed, after she threw the strong word, her aura froze for a moment… Then she shrunk down a little as if strangely regretting it. That told me that she is a nice tsundere. I can see how if someone who can’t read people were to receive her words at face value could be crushed under the intensity of her tsundere outbursts.
“Please wait! I also adore her!”
The second shot was fired. This time, it was Alisa.
Lady Alisa was as much a straight-shooter as Lady Merlia. Since they are two people with similar aural colors and textures, it stands to reason that their words and actions were also identical.
“I didn’t inherit my mother’s rare hair and eye color. I have always felt unremarkable due to my brown hair and eyes! Even though Lady Lina has rare obsidian hair and eyes, she never boasted about it! For her to ask for my guidance in feminine matters was just so sincere of her!”
Wait, did Alisa lack confidence in herself all this time because of her hair and eyes? This is the first time I’m hearing about that. On the contrary, there aren’t many people whose hair was so lustrous, with eyes as clear as her. I think that’s much better than unusual colors.
Above all, Alisa’s heart is as beautiful as her hair.
“I-I also think that Lina is… An irreplaceable friend of mine! Whenever I tried to talk about politics or economics, more than once, men have treated me with condescension. I felt very lonely until I met Lina, who also devoured books as much as I do. She even shared her expertise on topics such as agriculture, which I’m still unfamiliar with. I never thought I would find someone like Lady Lina!”
Laila was embarrassed, but she expressed her favor. I’m really misunderstood. I’m not an intelligent person. It’s just that I’ve specialized in agriculture. In the future, I fear that we will have a topic exchange where I might disappoint Laila. I better keep crunching those books.
“I love Lady Lina, too! When it comes to being an aristocratic, I’m a newcomer. Some venerable people say that I’m vulgar. On the other hand, sometimes I catch my fellow merchant colleagues saying I’m taking on airs… They were beginning to take their distance from me. Lady Lina treated me like a real friend. She smiled and chatted with me very naturally!”
Lady Maribel was always so cheerful… To think she was having such a hard time fitting in. I’m now used to keeping up with Lady Maribel’s machine-gun tempo.
Ricochet, shotgun, whatever, have at you.
“So, Lady Lina!?”
I’m being asked to take the last move in this game of social chess.
“Of course, I love you all, too!”
But now I am wondering if can I live up to everyone’s overflowing love and expectations? I will do my best to become a person who deserves their trust.
During such an exchange, I came up with a question to ask everyone! It’s something I have been wondering about for a while now. I think now is a good time to move on from the current topic and move on to that. It was becoming a bit much, so I’ll take this chance to hear their answers.
“Sorry to change the subject, but what do you all like about Lord Gilbert?”
Their faces lit up all at once as if everyone just pictured their favorite food, or something.
“Even just the way he stands is so princely and…”
“Those beautiful looks…”
“I’d like to mention his ability to handle anything in a refined manner…”
“He’s such a gentleman…”
“And when he looks at me with that wonderful smile!!”
Ah. A lot of solid points, but I can’t say I sympathize with at all. Come to think of it, I said I’d look for a picture of Gilbert the next time I was at the library. However, I’ve been too busy to go lately. The ladies all seemed to melt in unison at the mention of his face, so I’m sure it must be a lovely face, but sorry, my lack of creativity won’t let me imagine it.
Moreover, he’s mean to me. So, everyone’s stories just don’t jive with me too much, you know?
I was finally able to ask what had been on my mind for the past few days now. I see that Gilbert is very popular with women, but that’s not exactly news to me.
“Oh yeah, speaking of Lord Gilbert, there will be an evening party hosted by Her Majesty two weeks from now. We will have the opportunity to dance with Lord Gilbert as Princess Candidates. Above all, we’ll have the opportunity to meet with Her Majesty.”
Oh, about that… Can I sit this one out?
If it’s an event sponsored by Her Majesty the Queen, I will have to prepare a military-grade excuse.
Still, I really don’t want to go.
I can picture it already: After getting color-drunk on a sea of auras and Royal bling, I’ll be captured by Mister Candela, the Human Light Hazard himself. All hope of emerging victorious from that struggle will be lost. I will end up limping out of the dancing hall, burdened with a crushing defeat. I just know it.
“Everyone, this is a proposal from me… But would you all agree to focus only on making your best appeal to Lord Gilbert and Her Majesty the Queen? Let’s not try to disparage each other as candidates, yes?”
Merlia’s remarks are always so strongly worded. On the flip side, if this truce was not convened right now, would that mean it will become an ugly turf war between noble ladies? That’s a world I do not want to thread on.
“You are right. Let’s be direct rivals out in the open instead of sneaking in the shadows.”
“I never planned to reduce myself to such vulgar behavior anyway.”
“I hadn’t even thought about such things, but I agree.”
The three ladies answered in the affirmative. And as if instantaneous, a threefold gaze was directed at me.
“Oh, uhhh, maybe I should be absent from this event.”
“What are you talking about!”
“Lady Lina, if you feel like you do not have a good dress or accessories for this occasion, as usual, I will supply you with appropriate ones!”
“It’s a chance to show off your beautiful hair and skin at their best, so please attend!”
“An evening party is all about information warfare. Can you see how you can gather all sorts of information and use it to keep ahead of the other courtesans?”
“Let’s go together! I will be all alone if you don’t go!”
“Ah, but, uhm… Yes… I’ll be there.”
Talk about peer pressure.
What have I gotten myself into yet again?