Today marks exactly one week since I arrived at the royal capital. Tomorrow I’ll be leaving the capital since I’m concerned about my territory. Finally, I’ll be going home.
Patrick said he had an errand and went out in the morning. Ever since we visited the church, he’s been going out daily without telling me where he’s headed. There is no way…
「Is he having an affair?」
「No, that’s impossible.」
My speculation, which has an established reputation for being wrong, was dismissed by Rita. Well, that isn’t good. Patrick and I are a loving couple… no, no, no, nothing is different.
「But I don’t have any proof he’s fooling around.」
「Miss Yumiela. You should realize how loved you are.」
What the heck, this is embarrassing. It’s kinda embarrassing being told something like that with a serious expression. I’m loved, am I? This is annoying. Rather than feeling loved, I feel embarrassed. Heh.
Since my facial muscles are dead, I always look expressionless. Looking at my blank expression, Rita said.
「Ah, so this expression is what Patrick is talking about. Thank goodness I’ve seen it.」
「…I didn’t make a face.」
「No, you didn’t. I swear it on my life.」
Isn’t she going overboard incorrectly with all this loyalty? I think that making light of your life is entirely unrelated to one’s loyalty. And I don’t want her life value’s view to be skewed.
「Rita, your life is yours alone. Please don’t bet on your life too easily.」
「I’m so grateful that Miss Yumiela cares so much… I’m really lucky.」
Rita trembles in admiration. I can’t believe that Rita’s admiration runs deep… just what kind of person am I?
It’s a little bit after noon, and suddenly there was a commotion from our residence’s front door.
When the noise got even louder, I could already guess who it was. I bet you.
◆ ◆ ◆
Currently, it feels like a boomerang struck me in the back of my head, but that’s it. I was dressed to be taken to the Duke house.
「Look! The dress really suits you!」
「Why do I need to wear a dress? I was told this was only a dinner invitation.」
「Don’t you usually wear a dress for a party?」
Party? It should have been a dinner invitation from Eleanora. Why are we talking about parties?
The black dress I was forced to wear restricted my movement and showed my bare shoulder. If given a chance, I would take it off right now. But just because it’s uncomfortable, doesn’t mean that I will strip my clothes in public. I’m a civilized person not a caveman.
「I didn’t hear anything about going to a party?」
「Did you really? But no worries, it’s all the same, you’d be able to have a meal there!」
Oh, I forgot. She’s someone who gets away scot-free after being asked by the Cardinal to invite me to church but played around instead. This can’t be just a simple dinner, I should’ve asked for more details.
Well now that I’m here I hope I hear some news about the Duke, it should be easier if I come to the party.
Whether it’s a dinner party or buffet party, you shouldn’t worry about the meal because there would be more food to choose from.
Eleanora looked at me in my black dress from top to bottom and said with a smile that couldn’t be better.
「You look lovely! Yumiela-san, you look great in black!」
She said that in earnest. She really believed that the combination between my black hair and black dress would look gorgeous, she didn’t care about the deep-seated disdain towards people with black hair in this kingdom.
If such a pure girl seems delighted, maybe going to the party that I hate once might be nice, it will make her happy.
「Where is the party and when is it?」
「The party is here! Father will be hosting the party. And all the people from father’s faction will be here.」
Does that mean this party is a gathering of people from the extremist’s faction? Scratch my last thought, I don’t wanna go.
The dance hall where the party was held, was said to be the largest after the royal castle and the academy’s hall, but it was a bit smaller than I imagined. Just because it’s smaller than expected, does not mean that many nobles would own such a dance hall.
When I swept my gaze across the room and looked at the furnishing, everything from the table to the doorknob seemed expensive. It was well polished and gave off a classy feeling.
「Hey, don’t be so nervous! I’m with you.」
I don’t feel nervous but excited. My strength was nearly gone by the time I finished my make-up and had my hair braided. The heels I was wearing were also difficult to walk in.
Eleanora must have gone through the same thing, why did she look okay? Maybe she’s used to it since she usually wears a dress.
「The Duke will be there, right? Since I was invited, I should greet him…」
「Isn’t your father going to be there?」
「Eh? I was the one invited by the Duke wasn’t I?」
「I’m the one who sent you an invitation! Father said I could bring as many friends as I want.」
The Duke probably wasn’t aware that I would be here. Is that really okay?
The details I got from talking to Eleanora was that the Duke himself rarely attended the regular scheduled extremist gathering.
Looking even more dressed up than usual, she puffed up her chest with pride.
「Well, I have a role as the host to play at. It’s the least I could do as Edwin-sama’s future wife.」
「Huh, what did Miss Eleanora do?」
「My suggestion was accepted by my family!」
Isn’t that what you are supposed to do as a host? The Duke’s housekeeper works hard… no, it would be even harder to clean up after the job was entrusted to her.
About fifty people were in the hall, they were the heads of the families from the Duke’s faction along with their family. They were surprised to see me attending the party without notice.
While everyone was looking at us from afar, a man approached us. No, no, I’m only attending this party for the various cuisines lined up on the table. I didn’t come here to have a casual conversation with some oji-san I didn’t know.
「Thank you for inviting me today, Miss Eleanora. Oh, this is the first time that we met, young lady.」
「This is my friend, Yumiela-san!」
What a load of bullshit, obviously you’d know who I am just by looking at my hair. Just because you smile to try and hide your intention does not mean I can’t see through it.
Before Eleanora could say anything back, he continued by speaking to me. I held myself back as I tried to control my anger.
「Nice to meet you, Count Dolknes, my name is Arcleton. And just like you, I was given the same rank.」
「Nice to meet you.」
「If you’re here today, does that mean that Count Dolknes will be under the Duke’s patronage?」
「No, nothing like that.」
As expected, he must have thought that I’m changing sides. If he thought that way, I would’ve laughed at him. The plan to make Prince Edwin the next King has become even more solid.
At my denial, he doubtfully said.
「Then, why would you come here?」
「…I came because my friend invited me. No other reason.」
「I see, so you’re here because of Miss Eleanora’s invitation. Then let’s leave it at that.」
His upbeat temper couldn’t even hide his true intentions. This is going to cause a troublesome misunderstanding in the future, I can already feel it.
My hunch was correct, next to me Eleanora moved to grasp both my hands.
「Yumiela-san! Now we are friends! That’s the first time I heard you acknowledge our friendship!」
「I know, but please let go of my hands. Look, don’t you need to greet all the guests and play the host since this is your family’s party?」
「Oh! You’re right! I’ll see you later!」
She trotted towards the other guest with a big smile on her face. Okay, she finally left.
Next time someone comes to greet me I have to clarify that I have no intention of joining the Duke’s faction. He looked at Elanora’s retreating figure in front of me with a condescending expression.
「You seemed to have a hard time, that young lady isn’t right in the head. But I guess it a blessing in disguise, it makes her more malleable.」
His disparaging remarks about Eleanora offended me and I tried to retort. But, I would be just as guilty now, wouldn’t I?
In fact, just now I persuaded her to leave me alone and play the host. What is the difference between them who egg on Eleanora to pursue the prince and me?
Maybe I should treat her better. I have avoided having a deeper relationship with her because she’s the Duke’s daughter.
But before that, the man who stood in front of me continued talking nonsense without care.
「His Royal Highness Edwin is worthy to be the next King. Count Dolknes seemed to have noticed it as well.」
「But His Highness doesn’t seem interested in becoming the next King? Didn’t he say he has no intention of succeeding the throne?」
「True. But that’s until he said he was worried about his honor, deep down he must have that desire to succeed the throne. With that in mind, can you say you’re his loyal subject?」
That sounds bad. Does he really believe that Prince Edwin is aiming for the throne or is he trying to capitalize on his lack of ambition?
I couldn’t place a finger on it, but one thing that I know for sure is that he doesn’t have an ounce of loyalty. As evidence, he was already anticipating the future official position. The royal faction, who currently held the important governmental positions would be removed and the Duke’s faction would be appointed to fill in the positions. That was clearly his aim.
He didn’t realize I looked at him unamused while he spoke animatedly.
「Moreover, His Highness subjugated the Demon King. As a noble, you must take up your sword in times of crisis. Ultimately, power is everything. Count Dolknes, you should know better, right?」
「You could say that.」
I can’t completely deny his claim because so far I’ve gotten out of difficult situations using physical force.
But this is different. Just because I’m extremely strong doesn’t mean that I’m a good noble or a good lord. The world doesn’t revolve around how strong you are. I’m the perfect evidence of that.
「If you say that power is everything, why not assign everything based on how high your level is? Say, what is your level?」
「Ah, I’m not good at combat…」
「Then you will be nothing but an insignificant noble.」
「W-what! I’m talking about His Highness here, he was the one who defeated the Demon King! Is there any nobleman who can beat His Highness?」
I was there. I’m the one who defeated the Demon King.
I thought he understood that much. It’s useless to talk about it any longer. Let’s cut this talk short.
「I can. If you want to rule the kingdom through force from behind the scene go for it, but don’t forget that I’m here. I won’t stop your endeavor but if it ever threatens my well-being, I’ll deal with you with all my power.」
「T-that’s… I’ll try not to stir any trouble for you.」
「You do that, I’ll keep my eyes on you.」
I turned my back and walked away from him. The nobles who stood around and listening were moving out of the way, opening a path for me.
It would be nice if this would make them lose their interest in me a little, but I don’t think it would affect them that much. To begin with, the second prince faction is trying to rebel against His Majesty the King and the Crown Prince. Even when I clarified my standpoint, it didn’t change the situation either.
Why did this happen when I’m coming over for dinner? At least I should eat when I can. Plus, it’s free.
In the meantime, let’s get something to drink. I saw Eleanora on my way there.
She was having conversations with girls her age, I think I may have recognized some of them. These girls are the one who was throwing their weight around at the academy as part of Eleanora’s entourage.
「Right now your chance. When His Highness become the King, you can be the Queen… isn’t that wonderful?」
「But both my father and Yumiela-san said it’s not a good idea.」
「If you get married you won’t feel lonely. If both of you were married, your union would be blessed.」
「Is that so? But I’m…」
Eleanora was about to change her mind any moment after being surrounded by her peers who kept egging her on. Looking at that scene, they’d most likely curl their lips when it goes smoothly.
「You’re one step closer from marrying His Highness!」
「Are you sure? Marrying Edwin-sama…」
When we were still in the academy, Eleanora was always surrounded by people. And now, even though we had graduated she was still the focus of their attention. But how many of them were her real friends? Isn’t Eleanora, who looks like the polar opposite of me, alone like I used to be?
Duke Hillrose’s expression when he talked to me yesterday suddenly came to mind. It wasn’t a bad expression, but when he talked about Eleanora before we parted ways there was a gentle smile on his face.
No, he’s irrelevant. I’m going to face her on my own volition as a friend not because of her father.
「Miss Elanora, wouldn’t it be nice if I invited asked you out once in a while?」
By the time I noticed, I was already walking away tugging on Eleanora’s hand. Her entourage looked flabbergasted at us like they didn’t know what was going on.
We quickly walked along the corridor rushing out the hall. Eleanora made some noises but she went along without resistance.
「Hey! Where are you taking me?」
「Uh? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter where are we going, as long as I can eat.」
Nevertheless, the way Elanora walked was slow. She looked like she was about to fall down any minute now after keeping up with my pace. That’s what happens when you wear heels.
Then without warning I carried her.
「Hyaaa! You can’t do this, let me go! Edwin-sama…」
Eleanora’s face turned red when she said that, what kind of misunderstanding are we having this time? What is so embarrassing about getting princess carried? I’d like her to think that this was better than being carried on my shoulder.
We were running out of the Duke’s residence, walking towards the capital’s street. I also have trouble walking because of the heels… should I take it off?
I ended up kicking off my heels right there and walked barefoot. The pebbles on the street were welcomed to try to hurt my feet.
「I didn’t know that Yumiela-san was such a pushy person.」
「Miss Eleanora is pretty good at it, too. Shall we go into some random store?」
Running under the darkness in the evening, I went from the middle of the noble district to the commoner district. The dimly lit streets were illuminated with the light coming from the stores. It’s hard to say when there were so many well-lit restaurants on the street.
I put down Eleanora in front of a fancy restaurant that I would never normally visit.
「Isn’t this… kidnapping?」
「No, we are friends having dinner together.」
「So, friends usually do this kind of thing? I didn’t know that.」
What do friends normally do? Since I don’t have many friends, I will refrain from saying anything since I’m not sure myself.
Let’s go inside, my hand pushed the door.
The staff was somewhat unnerved by our appearance but still politely served us.
Looking at the store’s interior, this place was even fancier than I expected. We chose to sit by the window. It wasn’t a surprise that this restaurant’s customers were nobles.
But none of the customers were wearing dresses. Naturally, none of them were barefooted.
After quietly observing our surroundings, Eleanora started talking in a good mood.
「This place is lovely! It’s pleasant even though it looks modest.」
This, looks modest? If this is modest, what would that say about my favorite store in the capital?
◆ ◆ ◆
While sipping her after-dinner tea, Elanora earnestly said.
「The meal was delicious! It’s hard to say the ingredients were good but they were interesting and enjoyable to eat!」
I have to say something as well, something about the way it tastes… it was really good.
Well, I don’t care about cuisine. While stalling the conversation by sipping the tea little by little, I think about something that’s been on my mind.
Money, what should I do?
I had brought enough money to pay for the dinner but currently, I’m broke. I left it at the Duke’s residence with the clothes I was wearing before I changed into this dress.
That’s why I mentioned that this dress was useless. The lack of pockets is one of its many flaws.
As I looked at Elanora, I thought that she wouldn’t have brought enough money like I did. She wore a necklace with a large jewel embedded in it… That would be a good payment substitute, right?
「Yumiela-san? What’s the matter?」
Would the staff be in trouble? But there’s no other way, I thought worriedly as I stared at her chest.
Then I heard a familiar voice from the side.
「What are you doing here?」
Yes, a wallet arrived!
He saw us from outside as we were sitting right beside the window. It wasn’t planned by the way, Patrick was just walking past the restaurant when he saw us. We’re lucky!
「Thank goodness you’re here.」
「Why are you walking barefoot? Where are your shoes?」
「I took them off. It was getting in the way.」
「Are you a child?! …Haa, it can’t be helped.」
Patrick sighed deeply. And he suddenly carried me in his arms.
Wait a minute, this is embarrassing. I’m sorry I lied… being carried on the shoulder is better than this.
「Miss Eleanora, let’s go. The Duke’s carriage is waiting outside.」
「You two look wonderful! I also like Edwin-sama… Aah! Edwin-sama has become Yumiela-san! Get out of my head!」
It appears that I’ve interrupted Eleanora’s fantasy. Patrick looked at me like he’s asking “what I’ve done now.”
Eleanora, who entered the Duke’s carriage, bowed to me. I wasn’t looking presentable in Patrick’s arms.
「Thank you, today has been fun!」
「I’m glad to hear that.」
「Yumiela-san, will you asked me out again?」
「…If I have the opportunity, I will.」
Sometimes it’s nice to do this. Maybe once every four years.
Not long after we saw Eleanora off, we headed home. He still won’t let me down so I ended up in a sideways hug.
Since the streets were getting less crowded, I didn’t have any urge to hide my face anymore. Looking at the night sky, I couldn’t help but nestle my face in his chest again.
「I think I’ve made a friend.」
I stared into Patrick’s eyes, his eyes were as beautiful as the starry sky. Then I continued to nudge his chest with my nose.
His gentle voice comes into my upturned right ear.