Chapter Twelve: Zeke’s Feelings
On the way back, Zeke sat across Queen Catherine in a carriage, a cold sweat running down his spine. The reason? The frigid stare of his mother, who appeared to be so young and cute that she could have passed for his sister.
“Zeke. You shouldn’t say such things to young ladies, okay?”
“You should not.”
I’ll acknowledge that I, too, acted rashly. I mean, I was abruptly told I was engaged, and to no one other than Alice Salvato, so it’s understandable that I acted that way.
“Alice Salvato, huh…”
The impression Alice had given Zeke before was that of the daughter of a prominent family who was also selfish and arrogant. However, had that actually changed these past three days?
The Alice these past few days…
Huh? She is no different! She abruptly drop kicked me, and then she kidnapped me… She’s selfish and arrogant all right!
However, Zeke didn’t dislike it. That was because the selfishness Alice had displayed up until now, the need to be spoiled and flattered, was distinct from the selfishness she’d displayed in the previous few days.
“I can’t let his stepmother treat him badly,’ huh…”
Zeke said with a slight chuckle.
Several years had passed since his mother’s passing. During that period, he had been treated as a nuisance inside the royal palace, and Zeke had assumed that no one was on his side.
Zeke had been afraid that if he said the things Alice had said to Queen Catherine, he would be executed. Regardless, Alice had stood up for him.
Zeke was overjoyed by this fact alone. Zeke noticed his Mother, Catherine, lowering her head while he was laughing heartily.
“I apologize for being an inept mother, Zeke.”
With a sad look on her face, she said.
Oh no! I slipped up!
“I’m sorry, Mother. I didn’t mean it to come out that way!”
“But it’s the truth. I have truly been inept as a mother. I couldn’t figure out what you wanted or what you were thinking.”
Queen Catherine said. She then resumed her speaking after a brief pause.
“Rather, I never tried to figure them out. I assumed that because you were exceptional, you would naturally grow into a wonderful person without my intervention.”
“There’s nothing you could have done, Mother. And it is not like I was a good son as well.”
“You shouldn’t say such things. Raising good children is the responsibility of parents.”
Parents’ responsibility, huh… Well I guess that’s what most people would say.
“And since I’m not the one who gave birth to you I…”
“Don’t say that!”
Zeke exclaimed, interrupting Queen Catherine, who had a sad expression on her face.
“I couldn’t figure out how to behave toward you because I wasn’t the one who gave birth to you. I had no idea how much I should spoil you or when I should hug you.”
“If you wanted to be loved you should’ve said so. If you wanted to be praised, you should’ve said so. However, you were afraid of being rejected or neglected, so you never even tried.”
Despite my desire for such things, I ended up rejecting them. That’s probably the same for Mother.
“It was none other than Alice who extended her hand to you.”
Queen Catherine said, a smile on her face. Zeke, on the other hand, had a quite different impression of Alice than Queen Catherine.
“You’re wrong Mother. She didn’t simply reach out her hand to me.”
Alice wasn’t the kind of person who would softly place her hand on someone’s back and say, “You don’t have to sulk. Look at me.” “What are you sulking for? Get a hold of yourself!” she’d say instead while landing a drop kick on their back. And as soon as they turned around, she’d say, “You’re finally looking at me, you brat!” with a smile on her face. That is the kind of person Alice was.
“She’s quite the interesting one. I assumed she’d be just like any other spoiled young lady, but I was mistaken.”
“I completely agree.”
“There might not be any other girl like her. No matter what, don’t let her get away, Zeke. After all, there’s a debt I owe her… But, more importantly, I like her.”
“I guess you’re right. She really is quite the interesting one, that Alice.”
She really is. I don’t think there’s any other weirdo like her.
“Do you like her too, Zeke? Do you want to make her your wife?”
“…I wonder about that… To be honest, I’m not sure what love is just yet… But I know I have a good time when I’m with her.”
“Let me change my question then. What would you think if Alice married someone else?”
Married someone else?
Does that mean that she would laugh with someone else other than me? That she would walk hand in hand with someone else other than me? That she would laugh besides someone else other than me?
“Fufufu. You seem quite displeased about it.”
“I-I am not!”
To be honest, I don’t quite like it.
“Well, I suppose this will suffice for the time being. Zeke. Please remember to be kind to Alice and to treasure her, okay?”
“However, I’d be lonely if she took you away from me right after we’d finally worked out our differences, so I’d prefer you to stay my child for a little longer. Don’t fall in love just yet, okay?”
“W-What are you saying all of a sudden, Mother?!”
“To be honest, I was irritated by the entire thing. However, I also make mistakes. And I’m sure I’ll keep making them in the future.”
“You’ll likely also make mistakes, Zeke. But, if we can work together to correct such mistakes in the future, I’ll be overjoyed.” With a smile on her face, Queen Catherine said.
“Me too, Mother.”
Zeke responded with a smile on his face.
“I really am grateful to Alice.”
“Me too, Mother.”
With a grin on his face, Zeke imagined that the weird young lady they were discussing was most likely sneezing right now. But not in a ladylike manner, but rather in a straightforward, hearty one.