Chapter Fifteen: The Long-Awaited Boat Competition
With the boat competition just around the corner, I started practicing handing the trophy to the winners.
After all, it’s a big event that attracted the attention of many islanders. I have to make sure my husband, Nolan, won’t be shamed in front of such a large crowd just because of me.
As I was looking around the mansion to find something that could serve as a placeholder for the trophy, with a thief’s glint in my eyes, I found my desired object in an empty room. It had an avant-garde shape, with three hairs growing out of a large copper-colored broad bean. However, it was only moderately big, just the appropriate size to hold it in both hands.
I rehearsed many times in front of the big mirror in the bedroom with the object I chose perfunctorily serving as the trophy. I walked gracefully while holding the trophy with both hands and pretended to walk towards the winners. I glanced at the mirror to check myself, flashing a gentle smile.
“Congratulations on winning the competition!”
…No, that sounded lame.
I exaggerated my smile, which looked vulgar. The royals and nobility smiled gracefully, making them look more modest and profound… Probably.
I returned to my original position to rehearse again, walked gracefully, and smiled when I arrived in front of the mirror. However, when I tried a modest smile this time, I looked as if I was not happy. It wouldn’t be a good message to the populace if they assumed that the newlywed countess didn’t enjoy the boat competition and was reluctantly participating. Once more.
To begin with, I was the one who had the reputation as the woman with whom prince fell in love with at first sight. I, at least, had to show an equally beautiful smile. It may be necessary for me to try harder to cross the hurdle Nolan had increased selfishly, but if possible, I really don’t want the populace to give me disappointed looks. Hence, I sat in front of the mirror and tried to make my eyes look wide open, smiling sweetly, and adjusting the angle of my neck to create the best smile of my life.
I then held the mysterious object and repeatedly moved in front of the mirror.
It was now day of the boat competition.
I, for once, doubted my eyes if it was really the Dahl Island I knew, as I saw the flood of people rushing in.
The venue for the boat competition was, of course, the biggest lake on Dahl Island. As we arrived in the carriage, the executive committee members who managed the island gathering came to greet us.
They greeted Nolan and me respectfully, and Nolan gave them a charming smile, which made me, who was quite accustomed to seeing his beautiful face back at home, took a second look at him. It was because the smile on Nolan’s face was too sincere and friendly, something I have never seen before, making me wonder if he actually liked boats. However… I didn’t sense anything of that sort at all.
“Countess, let me guide you to your seat!”
I felt slightly awkward whenever they called me countess.
They had prepared gorgeous-looking seats for me and Nolan, the count of this island. There was also a canopy made of canvas arranged around our seats from where we could easily have the best view of the lake. The blowing wind across the lake was very pleasing.
Nolan was still not sitting down when I went to sit as he was giving instructions to the committee members about the liquors he had brought. While doing so, his expressions were still bright and cheerful, and I unconsciously found myself staring at Nolan from my seat. Only after doing so did he come to me and sat down as I kept looking at him from the side. Thereupon, Nolan made a confused face.
The bright and cheerful expression he had in front of committee members splendidly vanished in the air as if it never existed as he asked me, “Is there something on my face?”
It was the opposite, in fact.
If anything, something had disappeared from his face. His amiable look from earlier.
I guessed that Nolan just wanted to give the impression of a kind ruler to the islanders. I thought it was quite amusing and cute of him.
“No. You were just different from how you usually are.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing deep in particular.”
“Then let me rephrase myself; what superficial meaning does your question have?” Nolan was unexpectedly being pushy.
I observed his face and saw his brows furrowed and looking a bit unhappy. I thought of bring mischief and gave him some advice. “You look more lovely when you’re smiling, Nolan-sama. The smiling Nolan-sama looked very cool.”
…Huh? What was it?
“Liese, you also look lovely when smiling.”
“Eh!? Errr, that…” I faltered at the sudden praise even though I said the same thing to Nolan just now.
“But it still surprised me seeing you studying your smiling face that much.”
Studying my smiling face? I blinked my eyes, wondering what he was talking about.
“…Actually, I was stuck wandering around the corridor because I couldn’t find the right timing to enter the bedroom last night.”
The bedroom… Studying my smiling face?
So… So he saw me so awkwardly practicing giving the trophy to the winners…!?
As I trembled incessantly in silence, Nolan’s following words gave the death blow to me. “I recall you say congratulations about 30 times.”
I was so ashamed I wanted to crawl in a hole if ever there was one.
I couldn’t look at him in the face because of the overwhelming embarrassment I felt. All I could do was turn away and hope that the breeze blowing across the lake could cool down my flushed face.
When I sneakily glanced to look at Nolan’s expression, our gazes met. He laughed out, because of my sneaky glances, he looked extremely happy.
He pulled a reverse prank on me.
At the shoal of the lake, Marco was carrying the children of the island in both his arms, becoming some sort of ride for them. Some were hanging on his outstretched hand, while others were clawing their way up from his wide legs. Eventually, he swung his arms and began playing with them after jumping on the shallow water. I could hear the adorable and delightful squeals of children from where we were.
Ricardo, on the other hand, was busy entertaining the ladies that gathered from all over. He went over to where the ladies were, and served drinks with his usual harmless and amiable smile. I could hear the high-pitched voices of ladies echoing.
I asked Nolan next to me while nailing my gaze at Ricardo, “Hey, Nolan-sama. Ricardo is quite a womanizer, isn’t he?”
“Well, I don’t interfere in their personal life. It’s their wish, what they want to do.”
“But he’s married, right?”
“Yeah. He married around a few years ago.”
I heard Ricardo left behind his wife and children at their residence in the Royal Capital and accompanied Nolan to Dahl Island. It was like a job transfer, to speak.
“Does his wife not get angry with him?”
“I think she must have realized getting angry at him will not result in anything.”
“So there was such a thing. It’s amazing how he could keep his smile at the ladies no matter the age.”
“Well, it’s something impossible for me to imitate.”
“That… That’s fine.”
The boat competition began with the opening speech led by the head of the committee.
Long and narrow boats in diverse colors lined up on the lake, and the men sitting rows of two began moving their oars at once. Each pair of rowers were dressed in different outfits. Seeing them spinning their oars at the same speed without even a bit of disorderliness was impressive.
The starting point wasn’t fixed, and they were scattered until it was time for rowing. As a result, I didn’t understand what was happening. The islanders almost drew near the shoal of the lake, livening up the competition with loud cheers. They seemed to know the rules.
The lake, at this point, was already congested with boats. Besides the fact that I didn’t know the rules, I couldn’t even figure out which team was likely to win. However, I didn’t want to pour water on their excitement, so I tried cheering for them while barely keeping a smile on my face.
Their families accompanied most of the people who came to watch the competition as they spread out the carpet on the side of the lake and watched the match while enjoying their drinks. This competition was apparently one of the rare sources of entertainment for the islanders in Dahl Island, which was primarily peaceful without anything special to mention.
I found a blond-haired young boy with his family, which suddenly reminded me of Peter. He should be living in the Royal Capital along with his mother with the support from Nolan’s maternal uncle.
I wonder if he’s doing fine…?
At one corner of the lake, young girls ha gathered with their clothes raised to their knees, soaking their feet in the water while giggling and frolicking. I suddenly moved my gaze to see Ricardo also gazing at them. The view must be the more attractive part of the competition for him than the boat competition itself.
I called Ricardo to move beside me and asked, “Well, why is Ricardo-san not wearing his wedding ring?”
Ricardo gave me a flash of his amiable smile as usual. “Because others strangely are put on guard when they see the wedding ring on my finger. That’s why it’s better not to wear it.”
I wondered what kind of inconvenience there it caused him for them being vigilant? It was really out of my comprehension.
I tried asking Ricardo about the competition. “What team do you think is on the lead right now…?”
Ricardo quietly taught me. “Madam. The team dressed in red seems to be in the lead currently.”
Even Ricardo seemed to know the rules of competition.
In sync with the thunderous cheers that went up, a group dressed in blue raised their hands in excitement on the boat. A large portion of the audience rushed up to them.
I didn’t know what had happened, so I asked Nolan, who was beside me. “Why are they so excited?”
Nolan replied with an amazed tone, “Because the winning team has been decided.”
“Ehhh? So that team won?”
“You don’t know…?”
But Ricardo said it was the red team…
Maybe their performance dropped somewhere in between?
When I looked at Ricardo with a selfish but reproachful gaze, he was also blinking his eyes in confusion. I’d noticed it recently, but Ricardo was quite unreliable at important moments.
It was finally time for my debut as the committee members accompanied the winning team members to the venue’s main stage. As instructed, I stood up from my seat and advanced toward the winning team with a beaming smile on my face. Everyone must have practiced crazily, seeing how all of their skins were utterly sunburned.
I then received a large trophy, almost half my height, from the committee members and handed it to the representative of the blue-colored team respectfully.
Thunderous cheers went up when they received it. The winners showed wide grins, and the audience gave them generous applause.
It was quite a peaceful day.