The Third Prince is Too Dazzling! I Can’t Look at Him Directly! [Chapter Nineteen]

Chapter Nineteen: Please Refrain from Using Weapons

Glenn had some weird hobbies, alright. Now I know he sneakily peeks on Gilbert’s daily dates!

After finishing my official duties as Sarita, a new duty had been tacked on to my schedule. Yes, it was this Spying on Other Girls’ Dates duty. Starting with Maribel, followed by Merlia, Alisa, Laila… Today was my turn, though.

Each lady was treated to a relaxing date in the vast and beautiful Royal Gardens this week. But, to me, every day has been Grueling Dance Lesson day instead. What was this discrimination? That doesn’t mean I’d prefer to be surrounded by roses while Gilbert whispered cliched romantic phrases into my ear, though.

“Lina, let’s get started.”

I’m wearing the prescription glasses today at Gilbert’s request so that I can see his smile in all its glittering glory. Yes, I can see you crystal clear, Prince Master of Buttering Up Girls Gilbert.

However, my work shift had been free of any flirting conduct, and I’ve even been able to focus and perform actual valuable work, so sometimes I even forget about the contract and the fiancée stuff, and that’s pretty neat. In this situation where there’s nothing but us, the spell is broken. Reality sneaks its way into my mind again.

And so, Gilbert slid his arm behind my back, forming a closed dancing position with my not so willing body. He had kicked off the partner-dancing lesson without the slightest hint of regard to the misgivings and uncomfortable-nesses that have piled up into my heart this week. When the core is heavy, the feet will be like cinder blocks, you know.

“You’re stiff today. It’s like we’re back on day one. What happened to all the moves you had already mastered?”

“…I’m feeling a little off today.”

“Are you sick? Did you eat something weird again?”

“…”

Sheesh. He makes it sound like I go around taking a bite at whatever I come across like some street dog. Thinking that made wrinkles form between my eyebrows. But my facial expression apparently confirmed Gilbert’s worries.

“!!!”

By the time I noticed, my feet were already up in the air. Gilbert had swept me off my feet. He carried me across the room swiftly to a corner where he gently lowered me onto a chaise lounge.

He’s getting a little too good at carrying me in his arms!

Without paying attention to my total embarrassment at what had just transpired, Gilbert placed his hand on my forehead and peered at me inquisitively.

“Doesn’t seem to be a fever. Maybe it’s just accumulated tiredness?”

He sat down in the space of the chaise longue and poured me a glass of water from the jug on the side table.

Well, at least he noticed I was thirsty. I’ll take a sip.

As soon as he saw I was done, he attentively took the glass and returned it to the side table. What’s with the gallantry today?

I was a bit puzzled, so I raised my upper body to a half-upright position, propping myself up with my abdominal muscles. I twisted my neck to look at what Gilbert was doing behind me.

He noticed me out of the corner of his eye, amused at my strained posture. He smiled knowingly and poked my forehead down with his index finger. I tried to avoid it a little, but it was in vain, and my head found itself being pushed down and tragically surrendering on the armrest which had become my pillow.

“Is the life in the Royal Palace too stiff for you?”

His gentle smile was lovely. I felt a tinge of defeat, but yes, it certainly was a beautiful smile.

“…No, not all, Lord Gilbert. Besides, without me around, wouldn’t you just end up getting stabbed?”

“Wha…?”

Amazingly, his dumbfounded face was still handsome enough to be framed into a picture.

“And you know, gallantry to women needs to be done in moderation, just like everything else.”

And now he was frowning and looking at me as if trying to figure out what I meant. Gilbert had a lot of facial expressions, too.

“Why you… Who in the world would act like how you’re being right now. Why are you so crabby all of a sudden…? It’s not cute.”

As if he were unaware of the suggestive smiles and sweet lines he’s been giving to various ladies morning, day and night? I have you all figured out from watching you in secret over the past week, you know.

“…You are right, Lord Gilbert. I am just a crabby rare bird. Not exactly pet material. So, please return this unlovable creature to the wild where she belongs.”

“I remember telling you I don’t want to let you go.”

It looked like Gilbert was in a sour mood now, but the one whose attitude had been soured was mine. I had spent most of my time here with the corners of my mouth pointing down, thanks to you.

In response to my sulky look, Gilbert smiled grinningly, pinching and pulling my cheek between his index finger and thumb. My lips couldn’t close. They were too busy being made into a ridiculous expression. It was humiliating. I was forced into a weird fake smile.

He-he-he…!”

I’m glad you’re having fun. It’s infuriating, but I knew it: hunky guys are just as sly as they were handsome. I gave in to his provocation and turned my face to protest this insulting situation. My eyes met with his and it turns out that he had been looking at me very tenderly… I wasn’t able to stop my cheeks from turning into a bright rouge color. My entire face was getting hot. This move should be against the rules!

If my embarrassment was pitted against my anger, anger was just going to win every time. In short, I am just an ordinary woman who is everywhere, after all. That made me feel kind of sad.

“…It’s not fair, Lord Gilbert. Wielding your handsome face as a weapon.”

“Wait, what was that? Is my face to your liking? You just made my day.”

Who is he trying to fool? You know what you’re doing, and you’re just chasing your prize, aren’t you? Before I was even able to finish that thought, he was again, deploying that lovely smile and sweet voice:

“Lina, let me give you a dress for the evening party as a gift. I promise you it will eclipse anything anyone else brings. Will you wear it for me?”

Huh!? I… I can’t! Lady Merlia was so excited to prepare my dress!”

Gilbert’s face suddenly got grumpy. You can be grumpy all you like. I have my circumstances, too.

“…What kind of dress are you ladies preparing?”

“I don’t know. Please ask Merlia.”

The growing wrinkle between his eyebrows was a bad sign. But think about it. Although I am a candidate for a Princess, I am not his fiancée. How am I supposed to accept a magnificent, one-of-a-kind dress from him? And wouldn’t it be unfair competition against the other Princess Candidates?

The dress given by Merlia was not just a hand-me-down, but also an If Lady Lina doesn’t wear it, I’ll throw it away! kind of deal, so I feel obligated to save the poor dress from a sad fate in the trash heap. Also, I can accept things more comfortably if they were from a fellow girl.

I can accept the kindness of the other ladies the same way, but it can’t be that way with Gilbert.

“…Then, wear your hair down. The less makeup, the better.”

Huh?”

I don’t have any particular preferences in those areas, so I guess I’ll follow suit if Gilbert says so. He was getting bossy again. I wouldn’t say I like that, but the mood was running sour already. So, I guess I can throw him a bone to keep his attitude from getting sulkier.

“…So, what kind of thing can you actually accept from me?”

That’s a difficult question. I’m not used to rejecting gifts in general.

“Hmmm. Well… I will take an item of clothing if it fits perfectly on me.”

By which I mean not just my physical stature, but also my social reputation. So, something not expensive nor frilly.

“That’s too vague. Give me some hints.”

“I don’t like this! It feels like I’m cajoling for stuff!”

“Cajole away. I want to give you a gift. It might as well be something that makes you smile. No books or things you can send your family. Not this time.”

Other than that, there weren’t many things I actually want.

Why does Gilbert want to give me a gift so much? If he thinks this rare bird needs special fodder, he need not bother. I survive perfectly fine on regular food! But if I insist on being stubborn and end up asking for something mundane from a Prince, that’d just be too ridiculous. On the other hand, if I demand my present to be super exclusive or expensive, I may also end up being too embarrassed to wear it.

To begin with, I’m not a girl who even liked shopping. So, this request was big trouble for me.

Gilbert was just silently waiting for me to start talking.

“I… Uhm… If you want me to like it, please come up with it by yourself! Just by knowing that Lord Gilbert put a lot of thought into choosing it, that will make me, uhm, pretty happy…”

Okay, I understand I’m out of my element and grasping for straws here, but what on Earth did I just say?

It was said that when someone gave you a present, the thought put into it was the more significant part of the present… But I made it sound like I want Gilbert to spend more time thinking about me! I want the opposite!

Did his glitter effect melt my brain without me realizing it? I don’t recognize myself anymore.

“I see. Well then, if I come up with the perfect gift, you should reward me. A kiss will do. Promise?”

“!?”

In that case, I don’t need any presents, thank you very much! When I turned my face to reply, I inadvertently got a full view of his dreamy face.

“I’ll be looking forward to it.”

Gilbert whispered in my ear, sneaking up close to me. A tingling sensation traced from my ears down to my spine. I inadvertently squeezed my eyes shut.

If a guy was this pushy, I won’t be looking forward to him having an excuse to make more advances on me, and I sure won’t be happy when he brings the present no matter what it was!

Even though my body was not being touched anywhere… I’m lying on the chaise longue with Gilbert on top of me. With him almost covering my entire body. So, the oppressive feeling was overwhelming. My chest hurt and above all, my breath…

I was anxious at how much longer he would keep his position above me, and I abruptly lashed out, breaking my paralysis. I placed my hands on Gilbert’s chest and pushed him away as hard as I could.

“Please get off me already!”

“Oh, have you regained your strength?”

Although I pushed as hard as I could, Gilbert’s body raised only slightly. Although Gilbert was suave and slender, my hands got a complete picture of his substantial and well-toned chest, even through his clothes.

It was absolutely dangerous to take note of the fantastic masculinity of the guy I was trying to get off me.

And so, I immediately tried to pull my hands away. As if to cut their escape, he took my hands, and along with them, Gilbert pulled me towards him. The distance between our bodies got even shorter.

No, please stop! I don’t want to get even closer to you!

I couldn’t open my mouth to say a word of refusal or otherwise. His deep blue eyes froze me, and my head could only tremble very slightly. Gilbert’s smile just broadened.

“Shall we carry on?”

Looking at his reaction, I didn’t understand how he thought I could want more of whatever’s going on.

It’s impossible! Don’t smile so happily at me from point-blank range!

“I feel happy when I’m with you. Show me more of that face.”

No!!!

It’s so cruel of him to ask me to show him my face even more in this situation… I must look terrible because I am so flustered under all of this emotional and physical turmoil. I don’t care how Gilbert would take this anymore. I will just say it out loud now!

Enough dancing for today! And enough skinship and glittering smiles for a week!!”

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The Third Prince is Too Dazzling! I Can’t Look at Him Directly! [Chapter Eighteen]

Chapter Eighteen: The True Power of the Glitter Effect

“Hey Sarita, what happened to your glasses?”

I knew it. Glasses, or lack thereof, are too conspicuous to go unnoticed.

“Well, all the new details in my vision is giving me a headache. It’s really nice while I’m outside. I can look at things in the distance, but when I’m doing office work like this, my eyes start to itch a little, so… Uhm… Oh, that’s right! What I want to say is that I left them in my room.”

“You’re quite talkative today, huh?”

Sir Glenn was acid-tongued, as expected. Perhaps it’s because I revealed his true nature during aura reading and, in so doing, rendered the effectiveness of his duplicitous smiles null and void. Still, his blue-and-green aura’s green outline has been getting thinner and thinner as of late. Sir Glenn, please don’t just charge forward through life as a pure dark blue! I don’t care if you have to fake it. Sprinkle a bit of kindness here and there.

Besides, Sir Glenn may have a good idea of why I don’t want to wear glasses.

That’s right. I don’t want to gaze upon Lord Gilbert’s princely face. Candela Man’s secret identity turned out to be… Candela Man. Though in a whole different meaning of the word dazzling.

As long as you don’t know someone’s face, it’s almost like they are just people living in your imagination. But now, Gilbert is all too real, and the suddenness of this realization is turning my world upside-down.

So, things that happened before… Something that I was okay with or even paid no attention to at the time was now regurgitating inside my brain with the added detail of the vivid picture of Gilbert’s devilishly handsome face.

Oh, hey. Lina. This is your brain here.

Hey, remember when this happened?

Oh, and also when he did that thing.

Oh! And when his hand and your waist…

Stop. Delete! Brain, obey your master!!!

That explains some things, though. A lot makes sense now. For starters, if you acted like a gentleman and said sweet lines with THAT face, it’s no wonder that Gilbert leaves young ladies sighing longingly in his wake. His treatment of me was pretty uncouth and annoying. Yet, I can see how Candela Man’s light-pollution powers in his proper form take an equal toll, but on the heart… Instead of the eyes.

“Well, that’s just fine. It would be a problem if Lina and Sarita were seen wearing the same glasses every day, so I prepared another set.”

Lord Gilbert… Is he the crazy-prepared type? Or maybe I should just say the crazy-rich type.

“Oh? Two pairs?”

Two velvet-covered cases were placed on the desk. When I opened them, they both seemed identical.

“One has no correction in the lenses, so it’s just for show. Your wig isn’t much of a disguise, so make sure to always wear glasses. The other pair has the proper correction lenses. This way, you can switch between your aura skill and having protection against Gilbert. Pretty convenient, huh?”

The glasses for Sarita have a simple silver design. Being men’s glasses, of course, they have a relatively lean and close-fitting style. The ones with correction have a slight feather embossing on the sides. In contrast, those without modification have a small horseshoe to tell them apart without putting them on.

The ones I received the other day during dance practice are the ones for Lina. They were a true work of art, with their discreet but gorgeous gold frame, flower decorations on the temples, and even tiny jewels inlaid at critical points.

That day, I was so enthralled by the joy of picking up my very own glasses for the first time that there was no room in my mind to think about anything but enjoy them. Once my head cooled down, and I got down to thinking about it carefully, it dawned upon me that I have no right to own such a luxurious item. There was only one answer I felt was appropriate after the fact.

“Well then, I am thankful, and I’ll use these glasses gladly, but I want to make it clear that they will all be returned once the contract expires!”

There were three custom pairs of glasses made of precious metals. All of which were exquisite works of art expertly inlaid with fine jewellery. I am not humble, but royal luxuries are not my thing.

“What are you saying? These were a present from me, so you don’t have to return them.”

“It’s not right for me to wear such expensive items. Especially when I know they were paid out of farmers’ hard-earned taxes!”

That’s right! That was the point I wanted to make!

No matter how important they may think I was for being one of the Third Prince’s fiancée candidates, or how useful I am in my role of rare creature slash human alarm system, it’s just not right to spend this much money on me.

It’s like I have become a cartoon villainess that demanded toil and tribute from my fellow farmers. Even if this had been bought with the wages of my human alarm job… That money should go instead to support my parents and the restoration of House Randall.

“Lady Lina, you’re certainly an honest-to-a-fault person. But I advise you to accept whatever items or services are conferred to you. Doesn’t the contract say it guarantees your safety and livelihood, as well as all other necessities and expenses deemed necessary to carry out the contract, to the utmost degree of perfection possible? Well, these were necessary expenses. And don’t worry about extracting a toll on the Kingdom’s taxpayers. This came out of Prince Gilbert’s wallet.”

His personal wallet?

“Yeah, I own a business under a pseudonym, so I have funds to move freely without any treasury entanglements. Of course, it’s a legitimate business that pays its taxes in time and everything, so just don’t worry about it.”

The Prince is doing business under a pseudonym. Was he actually making enough money to buy these glasses just like that? Was it really possible to run a business even though I have only ever seen him prancing around in the Royal Palace? I don’t buy his story entirely.

“I’m relieved to hear that I’m not a burden to the Kingdom’s tax funds, but… I am still uncomfortable to have that much money spent on my personal needs.”

Sir Glenn just sighed loudly without making the slightest attempt to conceal his frustration. I feel like he was about to have a full go at me again.

“Huh… Okay, I won’t ask you to understand or accept the generosity of His Royal Highness, but… If you were to get married, you’ll find yourself in a life in which such luxuries are the norm. Isn’t this a good occasion to start getting used to it?”

“!!”

Wha… What is he talking about!?

I quickly put on the aura-blocking glasses and looked at Gilbert, demanding an explanation. I’m not sure, but even if I have the feeling that he said that to make fun of me, as Glenn was, wont to do. I can’t let the more serious implication of his little speech stand uncontested. Bad jokes shouldn’t be said as if they were matter-of-course facts!

Gilbert stepped in and reined in his insolent subordinate.

“Lord Gilbert, please say something to Sir Glenn! His joke was in poor taste…”

Although I gazed at him insistently, Gilbert didn’t seem like he was about to admonish Glenn. He was hiding his mouth with one hand, an elbow on his desk, looking at me with a concealed grin. This little grin and facial pattern told me that he was about to start tormenting me.

Regrettably, even that face of his was also beautiful.

What’s worse, in my agitation, I had carelessly looked at Gilbert without any mental preparations. Now I was getting lost in those breathtaking azure eyes, which made me feel like I was plopping down into the depths of the night ocean.

“…Maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.”

“See?”

What the… Oh no, they are teaming up to tease me again. What is this uncomfortable vibe? I want to run away from here! The air is getting thinner. Somebody help me!

“Excuse me, may I request His Highness’s attention?”

Oh! Thank goodness! A voice I didn’t recognize bellowed as it was followed by a knock on the door. Nice timing!

“Come in.”

It was Glenn who replied. His tone not carrying the slightest hint of remorse at how he had just been tormenting me the moment before. I hate him.

“It’s time for Prince Gilbert’s rendezvous with Lady Richmond. Shall I announce you will be with her presently?”

“Ah, yes, I’ll be right over.”

In response to those words, the maid departed immediately. Gilbert stood from his desk, seeming ready to leave and head out straight away.

Phew… I took a deep, relaxed breath. My work today was finally over.

“Ah! Sarita, tonight’s dance practice… Don’t forget it, okay?”

And so my brief moment of relief was crushed by Gilbert’s offhand remark. I was happily watching Gilbert heading out the door, but now I’m just staring at his back, consumed by a fresh new grudge. Maybe I can just pretend that I was busy with the documents and wasn’t able to catch his remark?

“Sarita, accompany me. We’re heading out now.”

Excuse me?

What kind of invitation is that? I have a bad feeling about this.

“Don’t worry. I won’t tease you this time so that you can rest assured.”

That smile!

I don’t feel reassured at all!

“Sir Glenn, wait, I don’t like this!”

“What are you talking about? This too is part of our distinguished service to the Prince.”

Only a skilled liar like him could say that with a straight face. What we’re doing right now… We’re just Peeping Toms!

Gilbert and Maribel were sitting on a bench, talking right across a row of hedges. We were watching them from a gap between the hedges, hearing their conversation.

“Lady Richmond, how has it been living in the Royal Palace for more than a month?”

“Yes. It’s a dream come true. Above all, to be able to go on a date with His Highness is just…”

Maribel is adorable. Her face had reddened very innocently, finding herself unable to finish her sentence.

“I am thrilled that a gorgeous lady like you would find my company not entirely unbearable.”

Ah… Well, there it is. Gilbert flashed his sweet smile, and Maribel was instantly smitten.

It looks like Gilbert has zero qualms about using his special glitter effect turned up to its maximum.

By the way, the effects currently being deployed against poor Maribel were the soft afternoon sun descending from the blue sky makes his already shiny golden hair look even shinier and speaking with his back against roses that are in full bloom.

Is everything in this world conspiring to make Prince Gilbert look even more dreamy!? I wish there was another girl here to share that dig with, but all I got to work with here was… Sir Glenn.

Furthermore, those slightly arcing lips overflowing with sweetness had the destructive power to throw into utter disarray even the most formidable female resistance. I wonder if women could actually be killed by extended exposure to this. The reaction of my fellow princess candidates during the tea ceremony entered my mind.

Everyone has been deceived, however. If this particular cat gets out of the bag, they’ll see that their dazzling Prince is just a grade school bully. Super selfish and with an overinflated concept of himself. HeY eVeRyOnE, lOoK aT mE! I’m A pRiNcE aNd yOu’Re nOt!

“Lina. Look for any suspicious changes in Lady Richmond’s aura whenever she’s addressing His Highness. From this angle, you should be able to block Lord Gilbert’s out of your field of view.”

What a waste of time! It should be obvious even to a guy as insensitive as Glenn that Gilbert entirely entranced Maribel. Her eyes almost look like heart figures, for crying out loud.

I cast a disdainful look at Glenn and this work request of his, but he simply replied with a head gesture telling me to just roll with it and do it at once. Fine! I’ll take a look! You’ll be happy then, right?

I took off my glasses and peeked through the gap in the hedge.

“…I don’t see anything in particular in Lady Maribel’s aura worth reporting.”

Obviously.

“Sir Glenn, let’s go already! I don’t want to be in this embarrassing situation any longer!”

“Right. Let’s wrap up after we listen in to their conversation a bit longer. You can put your glasses back on now.”

Glenn was the type who doesn’t seem to be interested in this kind of thing. Still, he was unexpectedly serious about picking up every single corny detail in their dialogue. I didn’t want to keep listening to it, but the conversation between Gilbert and Maribel continued.

“Will I have the opportunity to dance with His Highness at the upcoming evening party?”

Incidentally, that was a hot topic at the last tea party.

“Well, of course, let’s enjoy it together. Your cute casual attire today is most charming. Still, the gorgeous appearance of Lady Richmond at the ball should be a beautiful sight to behold.”

“Oh, Prince Gilbert!”

Ugh. I can’t stand this any longer. Haven’t we heard enough? I want to go back to my room.

“Sir Glenn, I can’t be doing this any longer! Let’s go!”

I stood up and started leaving, crouching down, careful about not stepping on something that would betray my presence. I’m so angry that I’m even wondering why I’m so mad.

When I glanced back, Sir Glenn just smiled thinly.

“So, did you notice anything at all?”

Nothing whatsoever!

I’m wearing the glasses, so I’m not sure, but Sir Glenn must be giving off a very unpleasant aura right now!

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The Third Prince is Too Dazzling! I Can’t Look at Him Directly! [Chapter Seventeen]

Chapter Seventeen: Key Items You Can’t Be A Happy Camper Without

“Le… let’s take a quick break…”

“No, I think we better keep going. You’re starting to get the gist of it.”

Lord Gilbert is a teacher from hell. I’m taking dance lessons from him for the upcoming dreaded evening party, but they are not exactly how you’d picture a typical dancing lesson. There’s a twist.

The class’s name should be: How to Dance Blindfolded to Protect Against Living Light Hazards.

I was told that each Princess Candidate would have to dance a piece with Gilbert at the evening party. Since I have neither the audacity to make my escape from the Castle before the event takes place nor the dancing skills to perform, I had no choice but to submit to these lessons and practice obediently.

Of course, dancing being a requisite part of being a noble lady of any rank, I am familiar with the basics. But I can’t even remember the last time I danced at a ball, so it’s taking some time to regain the feel for it.

It’s not that I am clumsy or lack dancing instincts. I’m a girl who likes moving and shaking her body too, you know? But the dancing partner in this case… Yikes.

Even more so, to dance the waltz blindfolded, without visual information, the rest of my body feels like it’s drunk. Even if you cover your eyes, they’ll still roll around beneath your eyelids, you know! As I have said before, my body is blessed with strength thanks to all the daily farm work, but dancing and farming are two very different physical activities. Some muscles I didn’t know I had, has been screaming for a break.

We have been dancing for about an hour. I’m about to bump into the limits of my body.

I shook off Gilbert’s hand from my waist and tottered towards a chair at the edge of the room. Just by having a glass of clear water on it, the side table next to the chair seemed like an oasis in the desert, so you can imagine how tired and dried up I was.

“How are you feeling?”

I’m not too fond of Glenn’s cheekily unconcerned expression.

Moreover, the timing of his appearance is late. Had he shown up a little earlier, I would have been able to take a break before getting this exhausted.

Smoldering with irritation at the wrong culprit, I sipped from the glass of water while sending a death stare at Sir Glenn through a gap between the locks of hair hanging in front of my face.

“The item His Highness ordered was finished just a few minutes ago, so I brought it with me.”

Death gaze effect: zero.

Ah! I probably strained my death-gazed eyes because it hurt a little just now. I wish I hadn’t given in to my dark side there.

When humans get tired, they lose their capacity for patience, their hearts become hardened, and their mood becomes aggressive.

I was lying limp in my chair, like a shapeless Lina-blob, when Glenn walked up to me and held out a velvet box. It looked like the kind that would hold a necklace or another deluxe item of the sort.

It was a nice-looking box, but I was not in the mood to look at pretty things in my drained state. I just shifted my eyes from the box to Glenn, asking with my baleful stare if this box was important enough to interrupt my rest… I mean, my hard-earned break? Sorry, Sir Glenn, but if I’m opening my mouth, it’s only to drink from the life-giving water on the side table.

“Excellent timing, Glenn.”

Gilbert walked briskly to Glenn, snatched the box from the side, and then walked behind me. Outside my field of vision, I heard him opening it and then handling something metallic. In an instant, both his hands came from behind me and moved straight towards my face. Given Gilbert’s hands’ previous offense record on my person, I reflexively shut my eyes and shrugged my shoulders defensively, but then I felt something placed on top of my ears and nose. Gilbert’s hands were then gone as swiftly as they had come.

“Open your eyes. I’m behind, to your right.”

Gilbert placed his hand on my right shoulder to indicate where he was standing. Since I started spending time with him, Gilbert has come to be mindful of not standing in front of me. He also pats my shoulder to let me know where he is, so I don’t have to worry about accidentally turning my head towards him, eyes wide open, and getting scorched again.

I gently open my eyes.

“!?”

I can see!

I can really see!

I forgot my tiredness and stood up in an instant. I raised my hands to my head. I confirmed by touch that what had been bestowed upon me was a pair of glasses. I began to turn my head and look around all over the place.

The world of fuzzy things blurring into each other was just an illusion! The real world was this clear and distinct and crisp!

Moreover, is this handsome guy Sir Glenn? He is a lot younger than I thought! Wow, so this is what he really looks like.

“Please don’t just look at my face. Allow us to hear your impressions.”

“…It’s gone.”

“Excuse me?”

“I CAN’T SEE IT!!!”

Sir Glenn was knocked a complete step back by my sudden scream. You don’t get it, Sir Glenn!

“A-are the lenses the wrong grade?”

That’s not it! The world of fundamental shapes is lovely! I can see the world just fine, but that’s not why I screamed!

Sir Glenn continued to be disturbed as I slowly raised a shaking finger pointed at him as if I was beholding something horrifying.

“Oh, oh…”

?

“Aura! Where is your aura!?”

!?

Panicked, I just grabbed unto Glenn’s shoulders with outstretched arms.

“Why! Why!? Why don’t you have an aura anymore!?”

By the time Gilbert reached from behind and grabbed my arms, my farm work-strengthened arms had turned poor Sir Glenn into a bobblehead doll.

“Calm down, Lina. What about me? Take a look.”

Gilbert turned me around to face him while the now free Glenn coughed and struggled to regain his composure behind my back.

Eeeek!

I don’t care anymore!

I must know!

I opened my eyes…

What’s going on!!!

Who is this terrifyingly handsome blue-eyed blonde guy in front of me!!!

What have you done with Gilbert!?

Golden hair playfully swaying in front of his eyes. Azure eyes, which are contoured by long eyelashes. The well-defined nose bridge divides two perfect sets of sharp eyebrows, the refined thin lips and the slightly droopy eyes that are actually super sexy. All the necessary parts are here! They are appropriately placed and installed in what I can only call a work of art.

And isn’t that face looking into mine with eyes overflowing with kindness?

“L… Lo… Lor… Lord Gi… Gil… Gilbert…”

My widely opened eyes forgot how to blink.

“Am I still dazzling?”

“Ye… yes… Very dazzling…”

I gently turned my face down.

I got embarrassed because he was too handsome and it made my stupid heart go thump-thump. It’s even more embarrassing to think that this ridiculously handsome guy was staring at me with undivided attention.

“Hey, why are you acting so weird? Take another look!”

“I don’t want to! I can’t!

Please don’t ask me to do crazy things. If I keep looking at such a handsome guy, I will… I will…

“…Kiss.”

As if he knew that one word would trigger me, Gilbert whispered sweet-nothings into my ear that made a chill run down my spine, so I instinctively straightened my back.

“Look! I’m not dazzling anymore, am I?”

What is he talking about? Look at that dazzling smile! Oh no, this is bad, bad, bad! Why does Gilbert look so happy!?

“Try to properly see if my aura is still visible.”

Gilbert softly, but firmly placed his hands on my cheeks, making it so that I was looking straight into his eyes. He returned the look, staring at me intensely.

Don’t do that!

There’s nothing to look at!

I’m just a run-of-the-mill girl with glasses!

“May I interrupt?”

Before I had time to notice Glenn behind me, his hands had swiftly lifted my brand new glasses off my face.

“!”

Da… dazzling!!!

“Sir Glenn! What are you doing! My eyes are going to go bad!”

I broke off from Gilbert’s hold and turned to Glenn, protesting with a terrifying frown. There was a smoky black patch in my field of vision, typical of what you’d see after having looked at an intense light.

I felt oddly calm, however… Finding myself again surrounded by the familiar, ambiguous, blurry world.

“I deserve your scowl, but at least we have determined a key fact.”

What are you talking a… Oh, I get it!

“I can’t see auras when my vision is working properly.”

This whole thing began like this. As my myopia progressed, so did my aural perception. Now I can see that the converse is true; improving my eyesight seals away my aural sight! Interesting!

“These glasses that His Highness kindly arranged for… Too bad you don’t want them.”

No, no, no!

“I will use them with gratitude!”

I said so hurriedly as I snatched the glasses off Sir Glenn’s paws. I hugged them as if reuniting with something precious and bowed my head deeply to leave no doubts about my appreciation. The well-defined, clear-looking world is terrific.

“The person you should be thanking is standing behind you. I wish the glasses also fixed cluelessness.”

I’m sorry. That’s right, Gilbert arranged this, right?

“Thank you very much for making me such a wonderful thing!”

For a while, it seems that I will be able to enjoy myself incredibly just by doing the most ordinary things like taking a walk in the gardens or just looking at people in a whole new light.

“I’m glad you were pleased. Then, from now on, whenever you meet me, be sure to wear your glasses.”

Eh!? No, that’s a little…”

If he’s dazzling in the literal sense, I have an excellent excuse to turn my face away. But with these glasses, that defense poofs away into nothingness, and I am left fully exposed and defenseless at his figurative dazzlingness. Yes, that’s right. The prince turned out to be dazzling in a whole ‘nother sense of the word. One that I’m not confident in dealing with face-to-face either!

“Make. Sure. To. Wear. Your. Glasses! Got it?

Gilbert said intently as he squeezed my shoulders to reinforce the point. He left me with no response possible other than…

“…Yes.”

“Great! Now let’s continue the dance practice, but now with the glasses on. Ready?”

WHAAAT?

My eye safety had been guaranteed, but my mind and body are mortal too, you know! Shouldn’t we call it a day and let me rest well to prepare for the big event ahead mentally?

“Le… let’s stop for today. Lord Gilbert, you must be a bit weary?”

“Don’t worry. I can go another hour easily.”

This is precisely not the time to try to woo a girl by showing how good your physical condition is.

I sighed resignedly as Gilbert stepped up to me and held me in dance position again. Resistance was futile. I wanted to keep my face away from him as his aura lasered my retinas.

“Lina, look up. Your pose is awkward.”

I know. I know.

My brain whipped my unwilling body into compliance, forced my spine straight, and raised my face.

“Hey, why are you closing your eyes? You have the glasses on.”

I’m sorry, a part of me won’t stop resisting.

Gilbert noticed every time I acted suspiciously during the dance and insisted that I function as I usually do.

For the next hour, Gilbert, who, true to his word, did not show a hint of tiredness, seemed to be enjoying himself immensely. While all I could think about was the muscular pain I would have to wake up to within the morning. It’s hard to understand what’s so interesting about making me spin like a top.

Come on already.

I’m super tired.

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The Third Prince is Too Dazzling! I Can’t Look at Him Directly! [Chapter Sixteen]

Chapter Sixteen: The Inside Story, Glenn’s Heart of Hearts

“Glenn, I think I’m sick.”

His Highness slowly raised his face from the documents he was perusing and muttered so in a rugged tone. My eyes widened at this confession. This was the first time I had heard His Highness say such a thing. I have never seen him catch as much as a cold since the day I first met him.

“Is it a sudden illness? I will seek out a doctor immediately and be right back.”

I was about to dash out of the room, instantly dropping the complicated calculations I was working on along with the ream of paper sheets they were written on. Still, His Highness’s follow-up caused a pronounced wrinkle to form between my eyebrows.

“Just laying my eyes on her makes my chest hurt.”

Huh!?

I sat back down and rearranged the documents in proper order, sighing at the thought of having to revise the calculations from scratch.

“And what’s more, she has gotten so cute as of late. At first, she was like an indistinguishable face within a crowd of commoners, but now… Have my eyes gone bad?”

I decided to ignore his musings. How many pages does His Royal Highness think I have to work through before leaving for the day?

“She also smells really nice…”

I just kept my eyes on the numbers and figures while running my pen across the dozens of paper. I can’t do this work without focus.

“When I’m by her side, the urge to touch her is overpowering, and I can’t be like my usual myself. You know what I mean, Glenn?”

Okay, I get it. You need a shoulder to cry on, huh? I hurried to reach a point in my work where I can leave it be for now, and raised my face from the documents resignedly.

“His Highness, that’s an incurable disease.”

“You think so, too?”

His Highness smiled. No, he was grinning.

Don’t think you can toy with me. Once I decide to deal with someone, I do it without compunction. Yeah… Without compunction.

“Maybe it’s better to let things take shape in the course of the Princess Selection Process?”

“Huh. I’m not sure about that. That sounds like postponing the problem like a coward.”

His Highness placed his elbows on the desk and rested his head on folded hands. He smiled cheekily. I am afraid that the time he can afford to be this erratic is running short, I believe.

“I just don’t understand it myself. How could I get a crush on THAT?”

Well, he did show signs of being particularly affected by her from the very beginning. Even if it wasn’t what I would call love at first sight, it was something that can’t be called ordinary either. I took the trouble of trapping and keeping her within our reach because I perceived the unusual feelings felt by His Royal Highness far before the confession he was issuing presently.

Once I had a chance to learn about her and observe her more, I began to think that perhaps she was the best fit for our needs. I think we can both appreciate that even though she possessed such a functional and unique ability that would let her get a manipulative edge on anyone… She is also an honest-to-a-fault type who couldn’t trick her way out of a cardboard box even if her life depended on it. It may not sound like it, but I’m actually praising her here.

After all, she has casually been able to somehow get all the other ladies in the group to eat from the palm of her hand. These are the daughters of very influential aristocrat families with notable personalities to match. Even if she was intellectually incapable of consciously hatching a political plot, it was still an impressive Machiavellian feat.

Maybe I could just stay out of this and let His Highness try his best, but this time I do feel that he ran into that one woman in the entire Kingdom of Elvasti with whom his prospects were most dire for a reason. How should I go about this?

“For the time being, given that you can’t use your face on her and you can’t make her fall in love with you through her eyes, why not try her ears? His Highness is exceptionally adept at seducing ladies with a few words alone. If she is immune to that too, I believe she will prove to be a tough conquest, indeed.”

“I said on our date the other day, ‘Lina, be my wife.‘”

Okay… That’s an unexpected development.

“Hmmm, you really went the full distance, then. I would have never guessed it. And then?”

“I saw her reaction and my chances didn’t look too good, so I immediately pulled back, saying it was just a joke.”

“…”

What a wuss.

“But then, I saw a Morpho.”

“Incredible…Why would one of those scarce butterflies be flying around in such an unexpected place? At any rate, that’s an amazing omen, isn’t it?”

According to legends, couples and lovers blessed by the Morpho butterfly are promised eternal happiness. It’s even said that the mere sight of one brings good luck. That belief has always been strong in this region, to the degree that Morphos are featured in stained glass designs of churches everywhere.

However, that butterfly is native to very high mountains, and it’s nearly inconceivable that one would fly down into a mere town far below.

For a Morpho to show up right as their date progressed… Thinking of such improbable things happening at once, even I was taken aback.

“But I was the only one who saw it. She couldn’t tell what she was looking at because of her nearsightedness. The Morpho just blended back into the sky.”

“…”

Thinking about it, that was undoubtedly not Prince Gilbert’s day. He had to retract his sincere love confession by clumsily disguising it as a humorous jest, after the fact. Then, the legendary Morpho butterfly showed up only to vanish without Lina taking sight of it.

“How do you think I could make her fall for me?”

“That kind of thing is His Highness’s specialty.”

What’s the point of asking me about how to gain the hearts of ladies? I’ve never seen too much value in the toil of smiling at every woman I meet as His Highness does.

“Yeah, it used to be that way, but my lady-picking skills don’t work on her. It’s almost like I’m out of my element when it comes to her. How can I get her interest?”

“Well, first of all, she hasn’t been interested in you from the start. This was already particularly unusual, but since she can’t look at your face due to your aura, maybe she doesn’t even know what you look like, to begin with.”

“…”

Did he just freeze like I said something both terrible and right on the mark?

Ever since I proposed the contract for her extraordinary ability, she seemed to have lost any semblance of interest in the Prince she may or may not have had. So, I cannot discard that possibility.

“His Highness is an exceptionally charming Prince, but as a man… I mean… How should I put it… You’re slightly… Being iffy.”

“What do you mean by that last remark?”

“You enjoy teasing and mortifying the woman you love, don’t you?”

“…”

It’s about time.

I should give him the knockout punch.

I have plenty of work to finish, after all.

“So, here is a woman impervious to both your glittering smile and tender stare. Likewise, your romantic words didn’t do the trick. His Highness standing completely unarmed in front of the woman he has fallen for against his best judgment is honestly quite a spectacle to behold.”

“…”

“That woman has a deep-seated belief that she doesn’t belong here and that she is out of His Highness’s proper consideration. It will be difficult to make progress from there.”

“…”

It may have been me who made allusions to that effect in my early conversations with her, but it was His Highness who increased the misunderstanding with his actions. Treating her like a rare bird and a human alarm system.

“I managed to put her in a cage. We should keep her satisfied with appropriate fodder and gradually tame her. If you don’t train her well, she will want to escape back into the wilderness at the first chance she gets.”

“…Glenn, you always seemed to take care to stay within bounds when saying stuff to me, but you have zero qualms with disrespecting her, don’t you?”

Even when he gets a little moody, his beautiful princely features still don’t break. If there were a woman in this room, she would have been captivated.

Well, there were only a limited number of people capable of appearing to always have a dashing smile on their faces as Prince Gilbert does.

“Getting angry at someone speaking ill of a woman that is not yet in a relationship with you means your illness is terminal. If you want to protect her, though, be prepared truly.”

This time, his mouth was tied up.

“…I know. It’s strange, but it has come to this, I’m sure. I have found something I want, and I’ll do everything in my power to get it.”

That was a peculiar way of saying it, something I want. He was still not being completely honest with himself, is he?

“Is that so? Well, in that case, unless things get too dicey, I’m on your side.”

“Glenn, shouldn’t that unless things get too dicey be a no matter what?”

His Highness should know by now that such words rarely came out of my mouth.

“I can’t promise a certain result. It’s your prerogative to fall in love with her, but if you don’t keep your bearings, you could find yourself being taken advantage of. I’ll leave it to you to manage the dangers involved, but…”

I paused and smiled to myself. Again, it feels like someone was retreating backwards into a whirlpool.

“I will provide for you a sniper that could shoot once or twice in this hunt.”

Of course, His Highness couldn’t see auras, but he knew me well enough to feel a chill run down his back when he saw the smile I was making.

“Glenn, you… Don’t interfere in this, okay?

“Oh, there’s no need to hesitate. Trust me.

My list of fun jobs just increased. Was this for pleasure rather than work? No, not at all.

After all, I am a loyal chamberlain looking out for my Prince.

And I know just what to do.

I won’t let monotony and predictability rob them of their chance to bond.

Isn’t it said that people develop strong bonds only after braving the rough seas together?

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The Third Prince is Too Dazzling! I Can’t Look at Him Directly! [Chapter Fifteen]

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!”

Eeeep.

“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?

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The Third Prince is Too Dazzling! I Can’t Look at Him Directly! [Chapter Fourteen]

Chapter Fourteen: Fear it, Dread it, That Day Will Come

“So, as for our daily meetings, is it okay for me to take this much time from His Highness Gilbert’s busy schedule? Maybe I can submit some of my reports in writing, so that the two of you can meet without…”

“Lina’s hair is quite beautiful.”

With no regards, Lord Gilbert took a lock of my hair and had whispered those words in such a honeyed way behind me. I just froze stiff when suddenly planted a kiss on said lock of hair. Deliberately making a loud smacking sound for good measure.

I know. I know all too well. He must be toying with me because I somehow injured his pride, what with trying to sneak out of the meetings. Figures.

“…On the other hand, being able to spend more time with Prince Gilbert is an amazing privilege. So, if possible, I don’t want to skip any meetings no matter what.”

“It’s only logical. We may become engaged to each other, after all.”

What a bald-faced liar! I’m a Princess candidate in name only! I thought we were already past the point of pretending! But here we are.

He starts exploiting people once he finds their weaknesses and use it to make them do his biddings. I can see now how Lord Gilbert got along with Sir Glenn so well. They’re two peas in a pod! Excuse me. I want to downgrade him back to the gentle and attentive Prince I met those first few days. Thank you very much!

Today, we were appointed to have a Princess candidate date in the Palace Garden, but to put it bluntly, this feels like overtime. Because, of course, I’ve been by Gilbert’s side every day as Sarita Khlore since I signed that contract from hell.

But, to avoid raising suspicions, I also had to continue living my daily life as Lina Randall. At least the very least, my work shift was limited by the inconvenient physical inability to split myself in two. But every day? There isn’t a day in week when my eyes, mind, and body got to forget about it all and just rest!

Moreover, the speed at which Gilbert and Glenn worked was unusual. They just exchange a couple of difficult words, nod at each other, then carry on full tilt. I can only wonder what the mountain of unstated information that they alone understand are, and that, likewise, is left unspoken.

Anyway, I don’t think there’s any point in making me do any work besides my aura observation duties. It just makes sense to rely on experienced secretaries, bureaucrats, clerks, and such for the day-to-day Royal business. I think I’ll be more than happy to let those Royal people do the, uhm, Royal stuffs.

“Sarita, bring me the compendium of last year’s minutes. It’s at the top of that bookshelf.”

“Sarita, please take this document to the Finance Bureau.”

“Sarita, summarize the main points of the parts in this document marked for review.”

“Sarita, read this proposal and underline any unclear points where improvements could be made.”

“Oh, and could you bring us some tea? Make mine with two spoonfuls of sugar, please.”

Okay, okay! I’ll pour you as much tea as you want! But aren’t you piling up more tasks on me than what’s written in the contract? There are clear instructions that exceed my ability, right? Give me a break! Just because you changed my name and outfit doesn’t mean you morphed Lina Randall into your multi-use, all-purpose Sarita robot!

“Lina, you are being too absent-minded, you know? I’m really gonna have to…”

We switched to date mode later in the day, and Gilbert was escorting me to maintain appearances for the Princess stuff… But when Gilbert made a sudden motion with his arm, I just tried to jump out of the way. My hair raised like a cat.

“Hey, what are you doing? Take a seat already.”

He had taken my arm and pulled me down to sit on the bench. However, he also gently supported my body so that I wouldn’t slam my butt on the seat. A seat that he had carefully covered with a handkerchief without me even noticing. Say what you will; he’s got the gentleman act down pat.

By the way, did Gilbert just say ‘Hey, you!‘ to me just now? My mind was elsewhere, so I almost missed that. Well, that’s some change in attitude. I remember when he used to always refer to me as Lady Randall with all the bells and whistles back when we first met.

“Lord Gilbert, aren’t you getting just a bit too familiar with me?”

I want to get back at him with a well-placed zinger. Whenever Glenn was around, his snake-like attitude always made Gilbert look normal, even though he’s also the same.

No, rather than a snake… Hmmm, a grade school bully? It might be a bit of a stretch to say so because of his upbringing as a privileged princeling, but I’m starting to get a glimpse of his annoying tendencies with wanting to put his mark on every crucial point he comes across with.

“Oh, come on, Lina. We don’t have to care about formalities anymore, right? Just relax and be yourself. Oh, I know, you should talk like you’re back at your parents’ farm. Just go ‘What in tarnation! Y’all, dagnabbit!‘”

What an insult.

“We don’t speak like that! And even if we did, regional dialects are part of the culture, too! I have to wonder if such remarks reflect poorly on Lord Gilbert as a person!”

I can’t look at his face, so I can’t show him the look of disapproval in my eyes, but I’m going to raise my shoulders menacingly and stand my ground. I have to convey my anger.

“Hehehe,” I can only hear a tiny chuckle. He is totally toying with me, isn’t he?

Even though he was blatantly making fun of me, he was likewise making friendly gestures here and there; such as taking a lock of hair from my face and gently moving it behind my ear. So, I can’t help but wonder what kind of expression was on this weirdo’s face…?

I didn’t know whether I should be angry or embarrassed, so I was only able to stare forward with my body solid stiff.

Unfortunately, Gilbert looked like he was enjoying himself. You can laugh as much as you like, but I won’t give you the satisfaction of my ire.

“So, how’s your life been here lately? Looks like the other Princess candidates have taken to you quite a bit, too.”

When I noticed that, I could hear the bird’s chirping, and I was musing to myself in the back of my mind, ‘Oh, what nice songs of nature‘. I realized that Gilbert had run out of laughter, and silence had fallen between us for a serene moment until Gilbert finally started talking again. When he emphasized the word too at the end of his sentence before the brief interval of silence began, I felt that he might have wanted to convey some hidden meaning to me. Still, if I started pondering on what Gilbert might have meant with each of his weird utterings, the story would slow down to a crawl. So, let’s move on.

“I’m getting along well. Everyone is a good person.”

Unlike a certain somebody who’s sitting right next to me! My heart screamed in the muffled safety of my chest.

“To think that you could ingratiate yourself into that group of, uhm, strong-headed ladies.”

Did he just slip in a bit of a sarcastic tone when he referred to the other candidates?

“Lady Merlia uses very strong words, but she gives off a feeling alike to an older sister. Lady Alisa is also a bit high-handed, but after you get to know her, she is very amicable and cordial. Lady Laila seemed to be cold at first glance, but she is very attentive and considerate, and Maribel just lights up the room with her sunny disposition. They don’t have any hidden intentions, so even I can see that they were a bunch of really nice ladies. I didn’t have to ingratiate myself or anything to become friends with them.”

I told him off with my chin held high. He’s always kept poking at me with tinged words, but now that he did the same to the other ladies, I just had to put him in his place. In a still polite and lady-like way.

“…”

Oh, I don’t like silence when it’s just the two of us. It gets awkward. Be considerate of my shyness.

“O-oh, that’s right, one of them will be chosen by Lord Gilbert, right? Have you made a decision yet?”

“…”

I managed to sneak myself out of the conversation’s topic. However, my question did not break Gilbert’s silence. Voices are all that I could go by because I can’t see the other person at all. So, in this case, the silence was becoming a real hindrance.

“Why you… What’s the point in asking? If I say a name, would you get jealous?”

“What? I’m not jealous. I was just under the impression that Lord Gilbert had to make a choice soon. I’m afraid that things will become more intense, politically speaking, no matter who you choose. But considering that maintaining the status quo was for the best, I guess the frontrunners are Lady Laila or Lady Maribel, correct?”

“…”

That’s right. This is my current objective that I figured out after sitting down and thinking calmly about the contract. While in the Royal Palace means that the contract will end if I so much as set foot outside the Royal Palace.

Sir Glenn called it the secret service detachment, supposedly they’re there for my protection, but I bet they’re also under orders to stop me from leaving the Castle, so sneaking away in the dead of night is not an option.

I can tell that they’re pretty good at covert operations because I’ve never even realized that they were around. I have never even noticed the faintest sign of their auras betraying their position either. I wonder where they are watching from right now. It’s a bit like a horror movie.

But at any rate, ever since I was officially made a member of the Princess selection process, part of that mandate was to remain in the Palace. It is inevitable that if I were to disappear in the meantime, it would become some minor national crisis. Timid little ole’ me can’t dare make those kinds of headlines in the news.

So, in the end, my logic goes back to the fact that I can’t go home until Gilbert decides who to go with on his engagement. I have no choice, but to buckle up and accept that I’m going to be living here until that happens.

However, that doesn’t mean that there was no timing window to escape right when the Princess is decided. By then, I will cease to be a candidate myself and thus, will no longer have any official role in the Palace. This penniless Countess will start looking quite out of place as a guest at the Royal Court.

The important thing is that I don’t get tangled up in any other Royal affairs that would land me with a new role or position that I can’t sneak my way out of.

First, it would be awkward for the new Princess to have one of the former Princess candidates hanging out with her husband forever.

I just need to pretend, be quiet, and obedient while I wait for the right time to make a move.

The point here was that I’d have to have an air of ‘I gave up. I’m fine with this.‘ Otherwise, it’s to be expected that the sneaky chamberlain was going to prod at my weaknesses (while his aura jiggles with joy, of course) and was going to hatch some plot to keep me shackled to His Highness’ service.

Yes, after my heated exchange with Glenn, I was able to regain my composure. So, now I’m just calmly thinking about my plans to extricate myself out of this sticky situation.

By the way, Gilbert’s vibe is really weird right now. He’s just silent with this sullen, cold air surrounding him…

Oh no! I suddenly sensed danger. But before I could rise from my seat and make a bit of distance between us, he had already grabbed my hand. Nothing good had ever come from Gilbert hand-grabbing me. Furthermore! As he pulled my hand, he also snuck his arm behind my back and around my waist!

You’re too close, Gilbert! I don’t know what I did or said to deserve this. Did I step on a land mine again!?

Now, I’m in an almost full embrace. Even with my eyes shut tightly, I could still feel Gilbert’s face being directly in front of mine.

I can feel Gilbert’s breath!

I can smell his scent!

“…Lina, be my wife.”

“!?”

“…Sike!”

“…!”

The grip he had on mine remained, but he did remove his arm from the small of my back back and waist, so I was able to distance myself a little.

I’m glad I didn’t reply out of reflex. It would have been a very unpleasant experience no matter what I would have wound up saying.

That’s right. After all, I’m just a rare bird and a human alarm system to him. He doesn’t think of me as a Princess at all. Gilbert’s playfulness placed a lot of strain on my heart. Ah, it’s going thump-thump again.

“Ah!?”

“!?”

“Look over there!”

Please stop speaking in a loud voice all of a sudden!

My heartbeat kept going over the normal operating range.

Without even seeming to notice my wildly fluctuating heartbeat, Gilbert’s free hand pointed to a spot in the sky while keeping his other hand tightly gripped around mine.

“It’s shining through the sunlight like a flying pearl! It’s so beautiful. It’s rare for these things to be around here, so it’s got to be good luck, right?”

Excuse me, but I have no idea what you want me to look at right now. Your finger is just pointing at the blue sky.

“Uhm, I can’t see anything, is there something out there?”

“Huh? Can’t you see that giant butterfly! Oh, that’s right, you’re nearsighted. Damn. Hey, come on! We gotta get closer so you can see it!”

Gilbert stood up while holding my hand, leaving the handkerchief behind and moving forward at full throttle.

“Damn. How close do we have to be, so that you can see it? These butterflies are fast, so… Hey, don’t slow down. Hasten your pace! Ah!”

Gilbert stopped walking, so the butterfly must have flown away.

It was pretty challenging to move fast while looking only at the ground. Those who have never done it must don’t know what it feels like.

“Lord Gilbert, do you like butterflies?”

“…No, I don’t.”

Huh. Why does he seem irritated all of a sudden?

Thinking about it, if he didn’t like them in the first place… Then why was he so eager that I see it?

“Also, don’t call me Gilbert. I told you. Gil is fine.”

Ah, there it is. He’s changing the subject. At least he didn’t tease me, so I guess it’s okay…? However, I’m still wondering what bothered him so much.

A-anyway, it’s about time that we close the book on today. The butterfly went home too, so let’s go home as well without any further incidents. Okay? Let’s go!

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The Third Prince is Too Dazzling! I Can’t Look at Him Directly! [Chapter Thirteen]

Chapter Thirteen: Exercise Prudence Upon the Signing of Contracts

“I want to make something clear, though: I have no interest in the throne.”

The job candidate himself seems to be unenthusiastic.

“I intend to be at the service of His Highness for the rest of my life. However, I would also prefer to continue working for Lord Gilbert as a Prince rather than a King. It’s just that after hearing Lady Randall’s story, new possibilities and considerations came to mind.”

“Glenn, I really don’t have it in me.”

The job applicant doubled down on his claim that he doesn’t want the throne. Even if I succeed in putting someone on the throne, it’s not a job to be taken lightly, and if the person himself is not willing to do the job, it would make a lot of people unhappy… On top of the unwilling job applicant himself. Given that Gilbert is the third in line at the moment anyway… Shouldn’t his intentions be the deciding factor on whether to make a push for his claim to the throne?

“If so, why don’t you just renounce your claim to the throne altogether?”

“I have wanted to do that for years, but my father and big brother are quite insistent.”

Question! I raised my hand as if I were an attentive pupil in a mere classroom.

“I know that Lord Gilbert is His Majesty’s the King, but when you say brother, do you mean your half-brother, Lord Jerik, who is also vying for the leading position in the line of succession?”

How come he made it sound as if they were on friendly terms with each other? When at the same time, the story that I was told, made it sound like they were bitter rivals locked in mortal conflict from which only one person may emerge victoriously?

“That’s right, but my brother is an overall pretty good person, and we are lax with each other. The problem is his mother, Lady Trianna.”

Huh, so it’s that pattern where the overachieving parents are more enthusiastic and eager for their children moving up in the world in comparison to the children themselves. Yes, yes, I’ve seen this all before.

“Oh, a disturbing thought just crossed my mind, but could that attempt on Lord Gilbert’s life have been orchestrated by…”

“Well, it’s not like we haven’t suspected for a while that their faction would try to pull off something like this… So yes, we think it’s most likely someone in their faction who was behind it.”

Just my luck.

So, in the heart of things, I agreed to become Lord Gilbert’s personal human security alarm, but it should have occurred to me that this would be more dangerous than I thought. Now, it’s all but confirmed that I’d gotten myself into something much dicier than I had bargained for. At first, Sir Glenn’s terms and compensation sounded exceptionally generous. But, of course, he didn’t tell me about this power struggle between factions and the positively deadly perils they entail before I signed up for this… I just realized I drew the short end of the stick yet again!

I will work hard so that I’ll be able to earn a lot of performance bonuses and bring back home a big reward! Such was my mood when my pen came in contact with that contract; brimming with enthusiasm. But let’s slow down a little bit… Moderation! Moderation in everything, including in sticking out my neck for my Royal Lord, Mister Candela Man.

“Don’t worry too much. That attack was not an attempt on my life. It was intended as some kind of threat. There have been other threats in the past, and I can only think there will be more in the future. This time the message they wanted to convey must be: Refrain from taking a fiancée.”

You don’t know that! I could have died, you know! And as if finding Gilbert’s explanation unconvincing had reflected on my facial expression, Glenn started to explain more in detail.

“Lady Randall, you won’t be in danger anymore. These people aren’t that stupid. If they were to try a genuine assassination attempt, the Third Prince’s faction wouldn’t remain silent. The opinion in the Royal Court would tilt towards His Highness Gilbert, and the Third Prince’s faction would gain support that would threaten to remove Lady Trianna’s sons from the line of succession altogether.”

“Glenn is correct. The Esvalti Royal Family also has uncles and cousins who could claim the throne if I were assassinated. They would replace me in the line of succession against Trianna’s children.”

I’m a little uncomfortable. These talks about replacements in case I die is not very reassuring.

“But regardless, one thing is certain, and it is that I must choose a fiancée soon. And whenever I think about how the House from which I will choose my fiancée would determine whether I’d need to give up my claim to the throne, or fight against Lady Trianna for it… The decision weighs heavily on me.”

Gilbert is really tired, isn’t he? From his voice, I can feel that he has been wary of all these intrigues and power plays for a long time now.

Marrying Merlia from the Third Prince faction’s House Ordis would result in the conflict intensifying. On the other hand, although matching Alisa from the Queen faction’s Eusera House would result in appeasement and a deflation of tensions, Prince Gilbert would be kept out of power and be left with nothing to do for the rest of his life. One of the two same things will eventually happen with Laila of the neutral Bashle family and Maribel of the private sector Richmond family. The scuffle would only be delayed.

No matter where he falls, the Prince will not have peace… Being born as a Royal suddenly seems like a raw deal.

While thinking, although it came to me a bit late in the game, my brain struck upon a crucial implication.

Even if Gilbert’s Princess selection process came to an end without any further altercations, the conflict around the succession line will remain hot, so my services will not be rendered unnecessary. On the contrary, if the Crown Prince were to continue being unable to have a child and should Gilbert’s wife give birth to a boy… The Queen’s faction may finally feel cornered, and at that time, they might really aim for his life, right?

If anything, instead of freeing me, the Princess selection process’ conclusion will only render my ability even more necessary than it is right now. As I realized that, I became pretty anxious.

“So, we’re still on the same page about how I can return home when I’m no longer a princess candidate, right…? Right!?”

“…You are shrewder than I gave you credit for.”

That’s not an answer! Sir Glenn’s aura now looked as creepy as his smile. I’m feeling like I’m being taken for a ride here. So, you have no intentions of letting me go home… Was that it!?

“A-are you going to question my loyalty… Or rather, are you going to use threats like before? I don’t want to go through that again! I didn’t know the situation was this complicated… I don’t want this. I refuse. I demand the immediate cancellation of our contract! If you’re going to put pressure on my parents’ House, go ahead, feel free to do so! We are already at rock bottom, so what difference would that make!”

Yes, yes. Suppose it comes down to that, open defiance for the win! If I don’t accelerate my velocity to reach an escape right here, right now, I’ll be stuck in this place for the rest of my life! So, I planted my feet on the ground and raised the banner of rebellion, with fire breathing out of my nostrils. However, Glenn seemed to not have been moved by it. Not even one bit.

“Let’s calm down for the time being, and take a closer look at the contract. Your copy must be in your room, so please take a look at mine.”

I browsed through the piece of paper that he handed me.

Regarding the Contract Between Gilbert Trace Elvasti (G) and Lina Randall (L).

Firstly, (G) will dispatch personnel to provide the labor and expertise considered necessary to rebuild House Randall’s finances. Her lineage (L) belongs to and will also bear the monetary burden incurred in doing so.

Secondly, (G) will, to the utmost degree of perfection possible, guarantee (L)’s safety, livelihood, and all other necessities and expenses deemed necessary to carry out the contract.

Thirdly, if (L) confirms any presence of ill will or harmful intent towards (G), (L) will have to report it immediately. However, if communication is rendered hazardous, (L) may give priority to her safety.

Fourthly, special bonuses shall be awarded upon recognition of remarkable achievements on (L)’s part.

Fifthly, if either Party (G) or Party (L) violates this contract’s contents, or requests the contract’s cancellation due to any circumstance… Any money and goods exchanged to pursue this Contract’s fulfillment shall be returned to the rightful owner, and the contract shall be rendered null and void.

Sixthly, this contract shall continue for the duration of (L)’s stay in the Royal Palace and shall expire upon (L)’s departure from the Royal Palace.

“I don’t see any problems here. I read it carefully. Please cancel the contract right now!”

If I were to repeal the contract right now, there won’t be any “money or goods” to return because the assistance to my parents’ House hasn’t even begun, so nothing can be lost from it! After reading the contract and feeling confident that I was in the clear, I said those words to Glenn directly, brimming with bluster and confidence, my chin held high and my flat chest sticking out. However, instead of a crushing defeat, Glenn simply started writing down on a piece of paper… As if my powerful whirlwind of rebellion hadn’t even grazed him.

“Let’s see… This should be accurate. It’s the amount of money that was spent on your stay during the three days, up to now. That signifies the days after signing the contract. Please pay it in full at the Treasury.”

I indignantly took the piece of paper out of Sir Glenn’s hand. I had to do a double-take because I couldn’t believe my eyes. On that paper was a number that was only slightly different from the sum my entire House spends in a year.

“Wha… what… What is this!? Is this a joke!?”

“No. Since signing this contract, we upgraded your status to a state guest’s level, so that’s the amount. Daily meal expenses, labor costs for care, as well as your maid, and the secret service detachment assigned to your protection behind the scenes. Other daily expenses are also included… Oh, and the books that were given by His Highness also falls in the exchanged goods category, so they are eligible for return.”

What kind of scam is this! Unbelievable! This whole thing was set up so that with each day that I spent here, the amount I owe shoots up into the sky!

Even if they grabbed me by the ankles and turned me upside down, I still won’t nearly have enough to pay for all this, regardless of how hard they try to shook me. It seems like I have no choice but to do my best until Gilbert decides on who he’s going to marry.

“And Lady Randall, please take a closer look on the duration of the contract again.”

“…Well, let me see, so it says that it is in effect for the duration of my stay here as a Princess candidate, doesn’t it? You said that would take at most a year, didn’t you, Sir Glenn?”

“It reads for the duration of (L)’s stay in the Royal Palace until (L)’s departure from the Royal Palace. It doesn’t say anything about the Princess selection process. Even if you object on the grounds of a previous verbal agreement consisting of my statement on the prospective duration of the Princess selection process… I only said, from the standpoint of the ongoing princess selection process, it will be probably about a year at the longest. Therefore, that applies only to your Princess candidate status. Not to the Contract contents, which only says that it remains in effect during your stay at the Palace, regardless of your status as a guest, be it as a Princess candidate, or any other position.

“…”

“…Lina.”

Lord Gilbert! I know what you’re thinking even if I can’t see your face! Right now, you’re looking at me with pity… Like a poor maiden in dire need of rescue, isn’t that right, Lord Gilbert!?

“You were too careless. Well, I guess it was checkmate for you the moment Glenn made his first move, though.”

So said Gilbert as he patted my shoulder. I could only stand there stunned and speechless.

“How daring! Lord Gilbert! Isn’t this your signature here on the contract!?”

“Ah, about that. I often need Glenn to take care of matters for me. So, to avoid any hassle, I just give him a few blank sheets with my signature already on them.”

Is he for real!? And he talks to me about being careless! Glenn could abuse the power of a blank sheet of paper with the Royal Prince’s signature on it. Are they so close that they trust each other completely? Two young men with their spirits so tightly entwined usually means…Wait, this is no time to wonder about that!

“Then that’s even more invalid! The contract has been a fraudulent document from the moment it was penned!”

Take that! This argument cannot be overlooked! Speaking like Glenn, oh, please take a closer look at the part… where I beat you!

“Lady Randall, do you remember that there are three copies of this document? One is here. The other one is in your possession. Then, pray tell where the remaining copy is?”

Like I should know. Glenn’s grin speaks to his total confidence in his victory.

“I have submitted it to His Majesty, the King. I thought it would be a good idea to keep him informed of our arrangement, considering possible future developments.”

What the…! You put me in a position where if I wanted to argue that it’s a fraudulent document, then I’d have to argue with the King!?

“By possible future developments, you mean hedging your bets in case I wanted to get out of the contract!?”

“That is an unjust suspicion. It’s an action taken to prevent any possible misunderstandings with His Royal Highness regarding your increased presence around the Prince.”

“That’s an absolute lie! You conniving, black-hearted, double-crossing, scheming… snake!”

I can’t handle this anymore! However, Gilbert’s hand came from behind and covered my mouth to put an end to my verbal rampage.

“Lina, just let it go. Glenn is the type that never forgets the words you throw at him.”

So, you’re saying he’s a total snake… Got it. But I still can’t help myself. My feelings of outrage won’t die down. I struggled to take Gilbert’s hand off my face, but it didn’t budge. He makes it seem like certain things might escalate further if I continued.

“I think the terms in the contract are generous enough for both you and your House. Even if there are some dangers involved, which should not amount to any significant threat… You and your family’s livelihood will be assured for life. Why don’t you think about it as being offered a significant and permanent full-time position at the Royal Palace in the service of His Royal Highness? Ah, yes, that’s a great way to put it. Of course, if you are selected as the Third Princess, we will be able to dispense with disguises and fake identities.”

Who does this guy think he is, fooling around with legalese and fancy speech? He is just basking in the euphoria of his victory and being smug about it. What nerve!

“Lord Gilbert, please use your right to speak the final word on this matter… Or, at least, just do something… Please!”

I finally peeled off the hand holding my mouth shut, and implored him while squeezing his hand with all of my lady strength. Even with my face cast down, I couldn’t solely count on the persuasive power of my genuine distraught and the pleading look in my eyes, so I put all of my heart into my grip. However, Gilbert’s answer was…

“…I’d rather have you on my side for the time being. I don’t want to let you go for now.”

“N… No way…”

How mean of him! Not only did he include me in the final candidate’s group as some sort of exotic creature for his curiosity, but now, just because he’s learned that I have a little functional ability, he won’t let me go anymore!

“Furthermore, Lina. Far be it from me to add insult to injury, but my advice would be to learn every detail you can about what you’re getting into and not leave anything to chance. Or, to be blunt, did you even really read the contract?”

What! Was there something else that I missed!?

“If you cancel this contract, the only one who has something to lose is you. To cancel the contract, the money and physical goods were the only thing stipulated…Which is to say… Your ability, and the services provided by it, are not mentioned at all.”

Ah–

Ah–

Ah–

I can’t hear anything anymore.

If you ever find yourself in such a situation, you have no other choice, but to simply let go, and reach a spiritual state of selflessness. But when I got there, the first thing that came to my mind was…

I’m sorry, dad.

I guess I really am a chip off the old block.

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I Don’t Care, So Let Me Go Home! x Background Setting (8)

Right Marshal, former Knight Commander, Vidika (female):  She is from the Horse tribe in the steppes of the continent. She became a bouncer and came to Lemaire, where she met a man that she fell in love with at first sight! She tried to kidnap him to bring him back home, but was stopped by the Knight Commander at the time. The man she fell in love with at first sight was a nobleman, and she tried to win him over by force, rising to the position of Knight Commander. Eventually getting married. It’s unusual for a foreigner to become the Knightly Order Leader, however she was given the right to a knighthood. Not for being a woman, but for being able to get by with her fists. Because she loves children, she usually wears an ordinary Knight’s outfit and a tiny sword to avoid frightening them. However, when she is in battle, she fights on horseback in her horseman’s costume with a short bow and a Kukuri sword. The horse is an ordinary rough horse, but it can fly!

Left Marshal, former Head of the Magicians, Isabella (female):  The mother of the current Leader of the Magicians and Knight Commander. A beautiful witch of indeterminate age. Isabella, who has been in a family of sorcerers for generations had a high magical element. She fled because she didn’t want to be forced to have a pure-blooded child from an early age. She was on the run for a long time, but her childhood friend caught and married her. People believed that women were unsuitable for magic because their power becomes unstable after pregnancy. Still, she discovered and established a new method of measuring magic power and demonstrated that it was not unstable, but, instead, stable in another vector. Because of her achievements, she was appointed as the Head of the Magicians’ Association. She is good at large-scale defensive magic. Recently, she’s been into studying demons and have been actively inviting Vidika to join her in tearing them apart.

Protagonist (Rururia): Resting like the dead.

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I Don’t Care, So Let Me Go Home! [Chapter Forty-Two]

Four People, For the Sake of One Person: Knight Commander

“It seems as though you’ve called for us, how can we be of use to you?”

“Well… I think you’re pretty aware of the situation by now.”

 Standing next to the door, I replied to the person in front of me.

As I watched her habitually play with her red hair that shines like steel, thoughts of her being a disgusting woman whose good looks will never fade fill my mind.

Tock. Tock.

As I heard the light tapping that emanated from the door, I readied my small sword.

Seeing me, she lightly looked at the ceiling and answered the visitor: “Come in!”

Swoosh. Crunch.

The moment the door opened, my sword was caught in mid-swing. “Well, well… Your senses are quite sharp. Very good! Excellent!”

“Nothing has changed, huh? Right Marshal.”

“You’re pretty busy, huh? Knight Commander.”

He was pushed back by my apprentice’s sword.

Hmmm… I sense that you haven’t missed a day of training. That’s very impressive.

“What a nuisance… You people have no manners!”

“Thank you for coming. His Excellency, the Left Marshal.”

My apprentice, Lionel, gave a stiff greeting.

Things have barely changed, but you seem to be doing well. I’m glad!

“Hey! Don’t call me by my formal title! You can just call me Isabella. Like you always do.”

“I’ve never called you that before. Left Marshal.”

“You’re so serious, Rai-chan!” Lionel responded with a pained expression.

Isabella is not as good with him, as well…

Well, he is on par with the Sorcerer Commander… Our very own Knight Commander…

That’s enough! I wish I could get used to it…

Sheathing my small sword, I sat down beside Isabella.

Seeing this, Lionel stores his sword as well. However, he remained standing. I see that he’s still wary of me.

This is getting more and more satisfying!

“So? What is it? I’m sure you called both me and Vi for a reason.”

“It’s Vidika. Say it in its entirety.”

Isabella appropriately nodded her head, “Yes, yes. I can’t count how many times we’ve had this conversation already…”

I have a good-sounding name, Vidika. Even my loving husband compliments me on how good it sounds!

“I would like to ask you both to defend the country temporarily.”

The moment Lionel said that, Isabella’s expression changed and became more serious.

Hmmm? So, Lionel, Isabella, and I are going to battle here?

“Why are you asking us, retired people, to do this when you are one of the active leaders?”

Isabella does have a point…

I’m a general, but in reality, it’s just a title. I’ve been out of practice for a long time. It’s now just a lovely ornament I have to show off to others.

Under normal circumstances, the Order’s actual heads: the Sorcerer Commander and the Knight Commander, would be in charge of crucial matters regarding national defense.

“Let’s hit the enemy headfirst!”

That’s Lionel in a nutshell.

I nodded my head, but Isabella didn’t seem convinced.

“Wouldn’t it be better if we went there?”

“Yes, I’m also interested in the ‘Fallen Hero’ as well… But saying, ‘Shut up, you fighting maniac!’ sounds good too…”

Then I got scolded.

As for me, I don’t care if it’s a defensive battle or an expeditionary one… As long as there is a battle.

This looks like it’s going to take a while. I’ll have to do some mental training beforehand.

The current Commander will take care of it so that the rest of the world will know.”

“That’s what His Majesty told me. But I don’t understand it, too. I can’t believe you’re going somewhere else when the very survival of our country is at stake.”

“Is it a woman?”

“Huh?”

I was playing with an apple with the tip of my sheathed sword, but Isabella took it away with magic.

Oh, ha! That’s what magic is good for.

“What do you mean, ‘woman’!? The iron-masked, simple-minded, sorry-hobbyist Rai! There’s no way there can be a woman!”

“…Your Excellency, Left Marshal.

Isabella-chan! I’m here, too!

Lionel’s face… Isn’t it a nice one? The stature of somebody who would never cheat on a lady.

“Men tend to change when they have a woman.”

“Hey, not all men are like that…”

Lionel spoke in an uncharacteristically brusque manner.

As Isabela stared at him, her face lit up.

See? I told you so.

“No! No! You should have told me that before! Rai!”

“Uhm… Things are going pretty fast, I guess. Well, then when’s the marriage going to happen?”

Isabella quickly forces Lionel to sit next to her and taps him on the shoulder without hesitation.

“I get it! It’s the ‘Dragon Knight’s Bride’, isn’t it? I thought it was just a baseless joke!”

“Oh? I, for one, thought it was just an accident.”

“Erm…”

“Oh, no, no. You’re not going to be a bride by accident, are you? Though, I’m pretty sure it’s like that for Rururia.”

“Wait, that name… Ah! That’s the decoy girl.”

“Therefore…”

“Ahhh! No way, and by no way, I mean no way in hell! You are saying that she’s going to be the defenseless princess whom the Knight saves?”

“Hmmm, I see. That’s going to be a fascinating turn of events.”

“No!”

“Two people overcoming hardships in the name of their love… So romantic!”

“Hardship is what strengthens love. That’s what happened to my dear husband and me.”

“Wai-“

What’s with all the mumbling, Lionel?

“Okay, okay! Vi and I will take care of it… To be honest, when Your Majesty first approached us, I was going to turn down the idea of leading the defense because it’s too much work!”

“It’s not Vi… It’s Vidika. We got you covered, don’t worry.”

“Thank you very much!”

Isabella and I answered back with big smiles on our faces.

Hmmm? You don’t seem too happy about something, Lionel…? Your gaze seems empty…

However, that would still be Lionel’s spouse.

I miss the time when he was only ten years old, swinging a sword. I immediately turned him into my apprentice without any questions asked.

The big crybaby is now getting married… Yeah, right…

“Well, well, our dear Lionel…”

“What is it?”

“Say that to my idiot son who isn’t here, will you?”

“As you wish, ma’am.”

Isabella smiled, but her magic power expanded and shook the window due to anger. Oh, I can hear the sound of teapots breaking in the back.

With that being said, Lionel’s twin… who’s also Isabella’s kid, didn’t shown up.

 I thought the subject was about the two commanders leaving…

 Good grief. Is he still in his rebellious stage?

“Come on, come on! Tell me more about her, Rai-chan!”

“Well, what color would you prefer for my apprentice’s spouse? I’m thinking of buying her a necklace.”

“I think it’s about time you should leave…”

We got reprimanded.

“Don’t change the subject!”

“So, what color do you prefer?”

 The two of them held Lionel down, so he wouldn’t be able to flee.

Oh, you’re pretty strong, Lionel. Unfortunately, it’s two against one.

Just give up and spill!

We have to get the gift for Lionel as soon as possible, so he wouldn’t think of running away from the girl!

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I Don’t Care, So Let Me Go Home! [Chapter Forty-One]

Four People, For the Sake of One Person: Irene

My daughter has offered to host a small evening party. The guests have already been decided, but there was something unusual about the whole situation. Especially hosting a part at a time like this.

After receiving confirmation, she decided to hold the party immediately in a few days. Hmmm, Irene is very impatient. Despite such a sudden evening party, of course, all the guests selected by Irene attended. There were several tea ceremonies, but it was the first evening party hosted by Irene. Indeed, when she asked them to join, she got a friendly reply. What is Irene planning to do?

I’m watching Irene exchanging greetings with aristocrats, trying to figure out the reason for the event because the organizer is my daughter. 

My daughter, who usually tried to hide from others in the shadows, is currently actively chatting with them today.

…Even more unusual.

“By the way!”

The voice belonged to the son of a Count family owning internal territories. He realized he had attracted public attention, blushed, but continued. 

“Recently, I’ve heard disturbing rumors… It seems that monsters will move more actively from now on.”

With his words, the noise became louder. How did you get here at all? The participants in the party were people from inland and remote areas. Moreover, there were no great aristocrats close to the Royal family. It’s safe to assume that this was an excellent place to incite people.

“Such…”

“My home…”

“Speaking of, there were many people who temporarily moved to another country…”

“I have problems…”

“Not if the Royal family also escapes…”

“Ladies and gentlemen!”

A majestic voice drowned out the noise. What a nostalgic sight. My late wife would also often rule the crowd with her beautiful voice.

“We are all aristocrats here.”

Someone placed down the glass. So, naturally, everyone gathered around Irene.

“And in the current crisis, we must take appropriate action.”

As she said that, she looked around amidst the silence. The clamor that was heard earlier seem to have subsided.

“Right, let’s welcome the monsters!”

“I remember training a long time ago.”

“Whatever happens, let’s make fine dust out of them…!” 

They were aristocrats with warlike land territories. They had much enthusiasm because they, more than anyone in their class, were exposed to the threat of monsters. Irene responds to them with a bright face and a big smile.

“Well, this is wonderful! I will help you as much as the Dilaver family is able to!”

Thus, it can be said that the Duke’s family can intimidate the inner Lemaire; that the Duke’s family is under the protection of the outer Lemaire.

Most were unhappy with my daughter’s words, but the rest are just calmly looking at her.

However, I will not dare to either assert or deny her declaration.

What will all this lead to? Irene…

“What on earth are you planning to do, Irene?”

After the evening party, I immediately called my daughter to my office.

“I…”

My dear daughter looks down indecisively. Warm green eyes alike to sunlight gracing through trees, graceful black hair comparable to the blackest of stones, with a face as lovely as the most beautiful flower. My daughter leaves a powerful impression and is very similar to my wife, who died a few years ago. I am ready to give whatever she wants… Usually, she wants something strange, but acceptable.

“Father, are you going to leave the country?” She looked at me expectantly.

I admire you, my daughter. I intended to leave in secret, but did you notice it? Does that mean the remarks she made during the evening party were aimed against me?

“You’re going with me, Irene. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“Oh, that’s…”

Irene once had a high fever when she was just three years old. She constantly said that she would die if she stayed here. No matter how many times I hugged her and repeated promised that nothing would hurt her, she refused to believe me. For some reason, seeing my child weep in fear of dying made me chose to be a father rather than a Duke.

That’s why.

I was surprised that high-ranking people liked the idea but ultimately left it alone. That way, they would protect my daughter even if I’m not there to oversee her, and it’s a good reason to go abroad… It was a miscalculation that the engagement to the prince, organized by His Majesty, fell through.

“But I want to stay here!”

This was a surprise. Why did my daughter suddenly say that she wanted to stay here? Nevertheless, it’s too late.

“I won’t hear any of it.”

“Why, father?!”

“That’s because you can’t be in this country anymore. Why do you suddenly want to stay?”

Irene doesn’t know what to say in response. 

I decided to always get the facts straight with my daughter… Well, I decided so when she suddenly abandoned the engagement with the Crown Prince.

“For no reason… It’s just that the Duke’s family can’t move abroad. They’re finally ready.”

“Abandonment of engagement with the Crown Prince… Engagement requests from many nobles… If there is such a reason, regaining our co-ranking will be a sufficient enough reason to go abroad with you. However, my younger brother will succeed to the title. “

“Besides, if you take advantage of this turmoil, you can untie your hands away from any further action.”

“I’m sorry, but it’s too late. I cannot allow you to have the luxury that you had before… But I can finally fulfill your wish that you don’t want to die here.”

I laughed, but my daughter still had a pale face… Now I’m thinking whether it was necessary to implement everything I did earlier…

I cautiously approached Irene as she stood up.

“What’s wrong, Irene…? Is the fear of death still wiping you out?”

I reached out to touch Irene’s shoulder, but my daughter wasn’t there. Hmmm? 

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

While yelling so, Irene threw herself into my arms.

“Stop it! Irene!”

Although I tried to bring her to her senses, she stubbornly refused to raise her head.

My daughter gradually calmed down. While I was confused with her words, she continued to pronounce…

“I’m so selfish! Selfish!”

Irene continued to scream.

“I have no title! I have no sword! But I was still so selfish! I was crazy! I was sick! I was sick…”

Irene talked continuously while nursing a runny nose.

She’s all that’s left of my late wife

“Nevertheless! I found something more important than surviving!”

“…It’s my first time hearing such things” Although I was a little hurt about not knowing such things beforehand, I urged her to continue.

“Not long ago, I realized one crucial thing… I’ve lived for 16 years, and there were a lot of important people I’ve cherished here… In Lemaire… I thought that I could finally live here even if I was a different person…”

…It’s challenging to hear. There were a lot of things that didn’t make sense, but in short, does Irene now want to live in Lemaire because there are important people she holds dear here?

“If so, then you should have told me that earlier.”

“Oh! Father! You are so gentle and kind…! I couldn’t say it! I was afraid that you would hate me.”

…I have seen her face covered with tears many times, and it seems that this is still my weak point.

“That’s why… That’s the reason why I couldn’t help but trample on father’s feelings!”

Irene grabbed my arm. There was no fear of death in her eyes. Nothing of the sorts. It was just a pure willful wish.

“I want to help Rururia by any means!”

“Ah, Irene…”

She wiped away her tears that had begun to flow mercilessly. She took a deep breath, and stared at me.

And as she did, new tears started to appear from the corners of her eyes.

“I…”

“Like Sara-san… I’m not smart… like Soran-kun… I can’t protect anyone… I can’t use magic!”

In the midst of her eternal sobbing, I couldn’t understand a single word she was saying.

“But, I still want to help her… Just as how she never turned her back on me!”

Irene started to calm down a little. It was probably because she finally said what she wanted to say.

“And, Father… It’s not just that I don’t want to die anymore. I want to live here. I want to live in this country…”

“…I see.”

I closed my eyes and thought about it. Of course, I did try to leave this country for the sake of my daughter. But if Irene doesn’t want to, she doesn’t have to. I don’t know if I could get out of this current situation, but I still have to deal with those people. However, even if I assume that this was planned to support Irene’s story. My work has increased significantly… First of all, I have to contact my younger brother.

Thinking as far as that, I laughed bitterly: my daughter is very charming.

However, since Irene has decided to remain as a member of the Duke’s family, I have to train harder than ever.

That’s the path Irene chose.

“The situation will be tough even if I tried to recover it now. If I can’t deal with it, I’ll have to leave the country, no questions asked, all right?”

“Okay! Do your best!”

“You will take care of those people, right?”

“Yes! Do I have to many marriage requests? I will deal with that too.”

I can’t help but sympathize with the fact that although she’s trying to take over my affairs, I cannot give her absolutely everything, except for a few, in any case.

Well, as a father, I’ve calmed down more because at the very least, I don’t have to send my daughter elsewhere. Irene will stay at home all the time.

“As a countermeasure for this time, there is no problem in following that route from the evening party… But there are a few points to be corrected.”

“I will do my best as a member of the Duke’s family.”

She now has a face that expresses that she’s achieved her goal. With tears, nonetheless. It’s much better than a desperately-wanting-something-but-cannot-have-it expression.

“May I ask why you changed your mind all of a sudden? When you calm down, can you tell me properly?”

“…Of course! I won’t hide it anymore!”

…Anymore? Hide? All these secrets she’s disclosing to me now are completely unexpected. What are you doing, my daughter…

I couldn’t hide my frustration from my strangely cheerful daughter.

With a big smile on the beautiful face that she inherited from her mother, Irene was determined to tell me everything.

“I’ll tell you everything, father!”

All of a sudden, I felt weak as I was listening to my daughter’s story.

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