The Third Prince is Too Dazzling! I Can’t Look at Him Directly! Translation

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

Chapter Twenty-One: Round and Round I Go

It’s here. The day has finally arrived. The dreaded soirée.

It has only just started, and I already feel exhausted. If you must know why, just telling about the series of preparations I had to do and had been done on me since the morning would make me feel even more tired, so spare me. Let’s just say that a lot more time and effort go into a noble lady’s preparations than you think.

To make matters worse, I am extremely uncomfortable. All the people here… or rather, their auras, this thronging crowd of boisterous, flickering, vivid colors is way too much for my naked eyes. It’s as if the swirling mass of color could prickle my skin.

I knew it, though. For a penniless countess like me, this magnificent dress and these luxurious accessories, to say nothing of the exquisite perfume on my skin, are just too much. To the noble lords and ladies in attendance, who are used to events like this, this bizarre walking coordination must be an irresistible magnet for barely concealed laughs and furtive derisive glances.

My dress, which Lady Merlia chose, is deep purple with embroidered gold thread, but the shoulders and back are brazenly open. Even though I have nothing less than full confidence in Lady Merlia’s fashion sense, someone like me doesn’t have the courage to be clad in such a daring dress.

And so, since the party started, I have been sticking to the walls, hopelessly trying to shrink out of sight. Don’t stand out, don’t make a fuss. If I manage to camouflage with the wall patterns, I may be able to go unnoticed. To my greatest dismay, though, my dress’ vibrant purple will not allow it.

The emotional weight of being in the “away team” is not to be taken lightly.

“Sorry, you had to come here all by yourself, Lina. I hoped to find you in your room and escort you here, but this palace is enormous. So easy to lose your way, huh! Even so, how to say it, you look like a brand new girl!”

I instinctively raised my face when I heard my name called. And there he was. A fine gentleman whose suit concealed no old stains or overwashed spots. It was indeed my father!

“Dad! Why!”

“Golly gee, well, when I received the official invitation letter from the Queen, I could only think, ‘How on god’s green earth am I gonna afford this?’ But then Prince Gilbert requested the Crown to pay for transportation, lodging, clothing, and all expenses to bring me here. He said he was worried for my poor Lina and that the sight of his dad at the grand event might give her a much-needed confidence boost. He sounds like a really nice person, this Gilbert!”

Lord Gilbert? I never thought him capable of such thoughtful gestures. I am grateful for such a totally out-of-character surprise, though.

“Anyway… you look really refined and poised, Lina. Proper for a true daughter of House Randall!”

“You’re looking like genuine royalty yourself, dad.”

I’m giddy even if I know those are just a dad’s compliments. Right now, I feel as if I couldn’t wish for anything more than for my dad to be here with me.

“Well now, how about we go grab a bite and celebrate? I saw some succulent dishes on the way here, you know.”

As dad said that, he reached for my hand very kindly, but I shirked back to the wall’s comfort. With his eyes, dad inquired, “What’s wrong, Lina?”

“Um… it is just this dress’ back is a bit too open and…”

“Oh, is that it? It’s alright. This dress really suits you.”

I am again happy at dad’s compliment, but is this scrawny back of mine something to be showing around to other people? Such misgivings gnaw at me.

But my hesitance is quickly overpowered by my dad’s sudden laser-focus on the feast that awaited on the buffet table nearby, and so, I’m pulled through sheer blunt force away from my dear protective wall’s comfort.

“Lord Valento, how fare you tonight?”

Gilbert knows dad’s name. I’m a little startled at that somehow.

I was also a bit amazed at how I immediately recognized Gilbert’s presence behind me without seeing him. And so, I turned back to face him, taking, of course, the usual defensive measures against Mr. Mass Blob of Blinding Radiance.

“His Highness Lord Gilbert, it is an honor to meet you. I am grateful for all the considerate provisions you made for my visit here. House Randall will not forget your kindness.”

I never knew dad could be so skilled with words.

“The honor is mine, milord. We are honored that you have entrusted your daughter to our castle. Inviting you to our dinner tonight is but a matter, of course.”

And Gilbert is no slouch when it comes to having a silver tongue.

“This may be her father speaking, but when I heard that His Highness had selected Lina as one of the princess candidates, I can’t I say I entirely disagree with such high opinion of my daughter.”

“Your daughter is a lovely woman. She is incredibly, uh, expressive, and her simple charm draws in all sorts of people.”

“His Highness surely seems to know my daughter!”

Excuse me if I don’t laugh along, dad. What Gilbert is saying is not really a compliment if you read between the lines.

After that, they continued having some bland guy chat, ignoring my presence. But I was still left aghast watching them, despite the dullness of the pleasantries being exchanged.

Why is that, you ask? Well, I’m used to seeing Gilbert’s Super Sweet Charm Attack against a woman, but I’ve never seen him try to do the same thing to a person of the same sex and even more in his formal role as a prince. Is it because I have spent so much time in Gilbert’s daily life, knowing his unvarnished side, that this conduct of his right now is so jarring? It’s very unpleasant.

“By the way, Lord Valento, may I ask your daughter for a dance?”

“Well, of course! It would be House Randall’s honor!”

“Dad! Don’t consent without checking with the person in question first!”

“Lady Randall, may I have the honor of dancing the next piece with you?”

“I… would be happy to.”

As if “you’re definitely gonna dance at the ball, and you can’t bail out this time” hadn’t been the whole point drilled into me for the past couple of weeks. Oh, I’m gonna dance alright. I’m gonna show off every single move I’ve mastered. Otherwise, the grueling, Spartan-like daily training will have been for naught.

Gilbert courteously extends his hand towards me, and I lay my hand on his. He holds my hand in a soft, gentle grip. I wonder if it’s because we’re in public view that he’s being so princely this time. Unlike during the training, where he would press his body towards mine so brazenly and hold my hands tight. Now, his grip is keeping a firm but soft pressure on mine to which I’m not used to, at least not with him, and quite frankly, I feel like it tickles.

Once we were at a comfortable distance away from dad, Gilbert casually handed me my glasses.

“Put them on.”

Truthfully, I was hoping just to close my eyes while dancing, so for a moment there, my hand hesitated in taking the glasses. Gilbert is really looking princely tonight and, in that way, is displaying that other kind of dazzling effect against which the glasses do nothing. So it’s for sure that without my eyes closed, my heart will take the wallopping instead of my eyes.

“Put them on now! With that hairdo, your face is totally open, and everyone will notice anything you do with your eyes. Why didn’t you come with your hair down as I asked? And your back is showing too much. Your makeup too, what’s up with that? Too much.”

“I’m… sorry.”

I meekly accept the glasses. In contrast to the gentleness with which his hand is holding mine, his mouth is running roughshod on my feelings.

Even though Gilbert is radiant tonight, even though he’s wearing the finest suit I’ve ever seen, even though I was stoked to finally get on stage and put this dancing event behind me… I find my enthusiasm suddenly shriveled.

Why, of course, his harsh tone of voice is utterly discouraging. Even though certainly I didn’t follow all of his instructions, namely the hairdo, nobody could receive such verbal abuse and feel anything but dejected.

The dress was, of course, Merlia’s, and Lady Alisa personally supervised the makeup and hair.

I’m sorry to everyone who worked so hard for me. I knew it. I thought I had felt it from the room’s mood when I entered the venue, but to think even Gilbert would sour on me… Oh, the shock is too much.

“Raise your head. Look at me. What’s with that face?”

So even my face is no good now. This is the face I was born with, and it’s just a common girl’s. Don’t tell me to raise my head and look straight at you if you don’t like it.

Feeling such a sudden faint trace of rebellious pride, I stare back at Lord Gilbert defiantly.

And oh no… when I do, there he is… more radiant than ever. He really is dazzling in more than one way!

His hair, which always flows down, is now instead pulled back, leaving only a single strand down his forehead in the sexiest of ways. His face is not only in full display of all its features’ perfection, but his eyes beam with navy blue light more than ever. Taking in the straight sight of him is turning out to be extremely dangerous. And if he wasn’t gallant enough already, he’s wearing that black-and-gold trim suit as if he has been born to wear it, without the slightest sign of strain or looseness. “Truly flawless perfection” are the only words that come to mind at the sight of the Lord Gilbert in front of me right now.

Frustration swells within my chest. I glance at the dancing floor I’m about to enter and scream in my heart.

What’s with Gilbert? Looking so dashing and wonderful that he makes me feel like an ugly duckling! Of all the things he has done to me, this is the straw that broke the camel’s back! I’m not taking a single step further. I’m just not going to!

“You look beautiful tonight. That dress really suits you.”

I feel Gilbert leaning down on me and almost touching my ear with his lips as he whispers such compliments. I lose my breath as I feel his lips brush ever so lightly on my skin. I suddenly start feeling hot.

Reflexively, I reach upward with my hand and nervously fiddle with my ear, into which Gilbert had just whispered such a sweet compliment. What on earth is he thinking, behaving like this!? But then I look at his face.

Lately, whenever he deploys his “other” dazzling effect on me, he accompanies it with a rather nasty smile that tells me he is just teasing me. But this time, it’s not so. In total contrast with the sweetened words he had just whispered to me, his facial expression shows total displeasure. And then he says…

“And that’s precisely why I hate it.”

Excuse… me?

Give me a break! My feelings are in total disarray. Gilbert is blasting me with his most intense charm attack while simultaneously wearing a displeased face and following his sweet compliment with such a contradictory remark.

Just what on earth is his beef right now? My make-up? That the ugly duckling turned to look not half bad in this dress after all? The fact we’re about to dance in front of everyone? You have to spell it out because I have no idea!

And so, without the relief of some much-needed explanations, Gilbert pulls me into the dancing floor while my head continues to swirl in confusion, and my body is so stressed out I find it hard even to walk.

“Hey, this is our cue. We’re going in next.”

I wonder if I’m even in a frame of mind where I can dance at all, given my state of Gilbert-induced turmoil. I feel trepidation with every single step I take.

But Gilbert takes the lead and doesn’t let me fall out of sync. The first hurdle is clear. As I strike move after move, I feel all of the grueling dance practice paying off.

I glance at Gilbert’s face, and he even nods in approval.

Now that I’ve gotten into the music’s swing, I feel there’s no stopping me.

As expected from a true prince, Gilbert shows that dancing at a royal ball is second nature to him, and I entrust myself to his lead. As long as I don’t step on his foot or something, everything will turn out just perfect.

Ah, this step is the one I had the most trouble with during practice. I reflect upon it absently as my body moves almost by itself. Now it’s just another move under my belt. When I put my back into it, I can accomplish anything! I even strike a little more pose here and there. No one watching me could object to my footwork’s swiftness and precision.

Hey, Prince Gilbert, are you paying attention to my step? You were displeased at the start, but surely you can’t deny now that this girl’s got some skills, right? I’m not a dance partner to be ashamed of, right? I puff out my cheeks and look up at him swelling with pride.

“Keep up this pace. And your face in that position just now.”

Oh? Is this an official passing score from the great Prince Gilbert? And your mood has picked up a little from before, hasn’t it?

Although he is trying to hide it, Gilbert’s lips are breaking into a faint smile. I am also having a good time.

“When we’re done dancing, hand me over the glasses immediately, OK? The Queen may come to exchange some pleasantries, and when she does, I want you to check out her aura this time for sure. Got it?”

I just nod wordlessly in acknowledgment.

I’ve become quite the dancer, but even so, if I start making conversation, I’m afraid I’m not at the level where my brain can handle my feet and my mouth simultaneously. I’ve managed even to obtain Gilbert’s seal of approval, so there’s no way I’m going to risk misstepping and ruining what has been an elegant, flawless dance so far.

It’s time to get serious.

Even so, Gilbert is supporting me so well that I feel somehow at ease, and I can’t believe it, but I’m having fun.

Look! Am I not the sharpest you’ve ever seen me? Hey! I tilt my head, prompting my dancing partner for further compliments.

My dancing partner is also smiling much more decidedly than before. Ain’t that right! This is the best!

“When you complete the mission, just head straight back to your room. I have given instructions to Glenn to handle everything else smoothly, and your father may escort you back to your living quarters. Make sure you don’t do anything unneeded, OK?”

Well, that was my intention from the start, so you don’t need to insist that I drop from this exhausting party as soon as our business here is finished. I’m not so dull that you gotta emphasize the main points, you know.

But fine, that’s all I have left to do tonight, right? If so, first things first, and I’ll just concentrate on flawlessly completing our dance.

“Wanna have more fun?”

“Huh? W-what do you… mean… more… fun!?”

I’m reduced to disjointed speech because Gilbert is suddenly changing the routine, and I can barely keep up. Oh no, he’s grinning at me maliciously like he always does. Well, at least he looks like he’s in high spirits now, which I prefer a lot more than his earlier sullen mood… but this isn’t good either!

Then, just as I have feared, I feel Gilbert putting strength on his hold, and suddenly, I am high in the air. I can scarcely believe it, but Gilbert has me tracing a circle held high up above him.

What on earth are you doing, Lord Gilbert!? I want to protest, but the words can’t come out of my mouth. What’s more, he doesn’t stop at one turn. I am spun in the air three times before my feet can be allowed to come down to the ground.

With my feet floating off the ground and my head spinning high in the air, the colorful scenery around me flows and blurs in my eyes.

The chandeliers’ light stretch like a hundred streams of light, which make for a background in which Gilbert himself shines even more brightly, and I quickly realize this is yet another practiced trick in his Dazzling Prince repertoire.

I can’t help but admit defeat.

In a world rendered as swirly and blurry as before, I discover the miracle of glasses, the picture of Gilbert, Gilbert, who is merrily laughing, Gilbert and only Gilbert, is crystal clear in my vision.

As I look into his gently narrowed azure eyes, I find myself reflected within. When I realize that Prince Gilbert is likewise reflected in my deep black eyes, every sound around us vanishes as if gone far away in an instant.

I feel completely absorbed in this moment from which the rest of the world has vanished, and only the two of us exist. It is the strangest of feelings, and I can’t turn my eyes away from him.

I count three turns in the air, but it somehow feels as if I am in the air held by his hands for a long time, and my consciousness blurs in the moment. The moment my feet return to the ground, I blink hard as if a spell has been broken, and I regain my composure in an instant.

Gilbert gently supports my weight and expertly lays me until I am safely standing back on my feet. I am surprised to feel not even the slightest hint of dizziness.

For a moment, our bodies are pressed together, and I feel as if Gilbert’s scent embraces me as if it is a physical presence.

“Was that fun or what?”

I just nod.

Yeah, it was fun but, how to say it… I was weirded out too. I feel… light somehow as if still floating.

“Wanna give it a whirl again?”

“No, I’m good! Stop it!”

Gilbert just bursts into laughter.

Oh, come on, you were in such a foul mood just minutes ago! What’s with these mood swings! Not to mention that, right now, it looks like you’re enjoying this way more than I am!