19. The Third Prince is Too Dazzling! I Can’t Look at Him Directly!
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?”
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.
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.”
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.”
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!!”