25. The Third Prince is Too Dazzling! I Can’t Look at Him Directly!
Chapter Twenty-Five: The Hands that Carry the Greatest Responsibilities
“You, become Jerik’s consort.”
W-what!? No, no, no way. Totally impossible.
“I have told Jerik to clear his schedule this morning for the two of you to meet. Head to the east garden. Understood?”
“I-if you’d allow me a word, Your Highness. I-I…”
“This conversation is over. You may leave at once.”
And such was the first event in my morning…
The tense verbal exchange we had at the soirée made me afraid to answer the Queen’s call and face her again. But instead of a confrontation, it was an order to become a consort princess. This is what the phrase lightning out of the blue was coined for!
After leaving the soirée, Gilbert sent me to my room and said, “I’ll hear your story later, so don’t go to sleep until I come back.” But… I just went right into my bed.
I thought, I’m gonna be worked to death as Sarita tomorrow like usual, anyway. I’ll have Gilbert yell at me then; I wanna sleep now. But it seems I made a mistake.
Nobody could expect to be summoned by the Queen herself without any kind of notice or warning, right?
And so, right now, I’m taking a walk with the aforementioned Crown Prince through the aforementioned garden.
“Looks like my mother has said something unreasonable yet again; I’m sorry if she has troubled you so.”
Jerik apologized while wearing a kind but somewhat forced smile. Of course. After being suddenly told that you have to take this runt of a girl as a consort princess, I can see how Prince Jerik could feel troubled.
“No, it’s fine, Your Highness, you don’t need to apologize! But, about the matter of becoming a consort princess…”
“I know. I will present my steadfast refusal to my mother, so don’t let that trouble you anymore. I wanted to have a friendly chat with you, so that’s why I acceded to mother’s request to meet you here.”
Oh, the feeling of relief is real.
Even so, His Royal Highness is such a quiet, calm, and extremely nice person. Now that I think about it, didn’t Gilbert say as much?
“But remember, Lina, it’s just Jerik, all right? At any rate, to think that mother would come to like you and after meeting you just once is quite something.”
Is my being thrust into this mess supposed to mean the Queen likes me? I was sure this was just something she came up with to mortify me and harry me… No, wait… Judging from Trianna’s aura, that shouldn’t be the case.
“Mother wouldn’t throw me a consort princess just to annoy Gil. She wanted to keep you close by. And that means she likes you.”
It’s a complete mystery to me what bit of our tense interaction last night could have made the slightest positive impression on her. Jerik smiles in his always refined manner, watching my face contort into all sorts of expressions as I think as hard as I can, trying to figure this conundrum out.
“I wonder if my mother found herself drawn to you as her exact opposite. Unlike her, you don’t hold any ugliness in your heart.”
Please wait, Prince Jerik! I don’t think there is anything ugly in your mom’s heart either! I have never seen such a noble aura as hers in my life. No matter how many times I try to interpret it, it’s always a beautiful rose blooming on a starry night.
“Her Highness the Queen is pure as snow. And I believe she is a deeply loving person as well. It is just that she is very hard on herself and others…”
Jerik stares at me with wide eyes… I didn’t expect that look of surprise. I wonder what he really thinks of his mother.
“Calling her ‘pure as snow’ is a little… It’s very curious. You have only known her from meeting her once yesterday. And regardless of the venom in her words, you seem to hold her in higher esteem than me.”
Jerik tries to smile, but I can tell he has mixed feelings. I feel as if I have somehow terribly hurt his feelings.
“E-excuse me, Prince Jerik, I’m not trying to shoot you down. Please don’t be sullen. I merely think Her Highness the Queen is misunderstood, that’s all…”
Last night, just as I had feared from Glenn’s tale about the succession crisis, Trianna made her entrance as the evil queen. If all you have to judge by are her words and demeanor, superficially, she would seem to anyone as nothing short of a bonafide villain.
I can only surmise that she is putting on an act, but at the moment, I have no idea what purpose that’s supposed to serve.
“Misunderstanding or not, many problems would be solved if mother just weren’t there. I have so many bitter memories in my life because of her meddling.”
Uh… okay. Jerik’s feelings seem to be deep-rooted. I guess I can’t expect him to change his mind on the opinion of someone who just popped into his life.
Prince Jerik’s aura colors start to turn increasingly gloomier.
“Hmm, it is my impression that Her Highness the Queen has a large place for Lord Jerik in her heart. I don’t know about misunderstandings, but… have you tried talking to her about it?”
That’s the best I can think of as a follow-up. But his face and aura do not change one bit.
How frustrating. I can’t find the words to get across what I saw in Queen Trianna’s aura.
“A large place in her heart? That person who has thought of nothing but the matter of succession even before I could tell left from right… ever since Gil was born. Do you think everything would be alright if we just sat down and had a friendly face-to-face? In my own way, I have made sincere efforts, but they scarcely ever bear fruit. No matter what I do, my mother’s expectations are never met. As long as I am the Crown Prince, nothing will ever be good enough. ‘Any weakness in the ruling class will only sow chaos within the Kingdom.’ And I am expected to bear it all.”
Prince Jerik turns his gaze forward and continues walking towards the garden’s deepest area. With his back turned to me, he continues.
“If there is no one else who can take up the mantle, I will persevere. That is duty. But that’s not the case, for there are other Crown Prince candidates. Is it so wrong to daydream of taking this heavy burden off my shoulders and entrusting this duty to someone else?”
I stare at the small flowers growing in the gaps between the cobblestones, unable to form a response. Prince Jerik continues to keep his back turned to me as if not expecting support or refutal.
Jerik is a very earnest and honest man. But no matter how upstanding and positive someone tries to be, everyone has a negative side. I wonder if he should just open up about his true desires, but I guess that’s a non-starter right now.
As a person in a position of great responsibility, I can see how the big picture occupies most of his thinking. But I think that if he could just be upfront about what he wants to do and who he wants to spend his time with, even living with this heavy burden of his would become much lighter. If he just has to endure in silence, that will absolutely not be good for his health over the years.
I can’t pretend to understand the feelings of people in high positions such as him, but I think people who know how to find their happiness have an easier time picturing what could make other people happy as well. If he has to ascend to the throne just because it’s what others have prescribed regardless of his wishes and even against them, I feel that Jerik should balance with a little self-indulging for his own mental well-being. That way, he will be able to work for the happiness of all the people in the kingdom.
But for me to say these things to him as if I was a mentor or something would be the height of impudence, seeing as how I am an inexperienced girl ten years his junior. In the end, I just stay silent.
Absorbed in my thoughts, I barely realize it, but we get all the way to the hedgerow of roses. This part with the big deciduous trees marks the garden’s end. Rays of sparkling sunlight shine through their leaves, gently sliding down Prince Jerik’s red-gold hair.
He turns and starts speaking anew.
“You are aware that I don’t have any children, right?”
“I can’t make a sweeping statement that there an heir to the throne won’t be born because there is still Gil, but there has been no sign that my princess and I can produce a baby for ten years now. It’s fair to say there’s little hope we could in the future. Even so, I wouldn’t want to beget a woman like my mother. Above all, if I can’t have a child, I could hand over the throne to Gil.”
Sounds right, but still…
“Prince Gilbert doesn’t want to be king. However, someone else is still in the line of succession. So could the Second Prince Joel…?”
Whenever the issue of succession to the throne comes up, everyone mentions Jerik and Gilbert, but there is also Prince Joel in between, right?
Jerik’s yellow aura is as clear as it is intense.
“Joel is no good.”
The moment the name Joel comes out of my lips, Jerik’s mood brightens up a little. I don’t know why he is no good, but it’s clear that Jerik is not saying it negatively.
Now that I think about it, I have never heard Prince Joel being mentioned whenever the succession issue is brought up, so I wonder what the reason for such a total exclusion is.
“I want Gil to succeed to the throne. He’s far more suitable for it than me. Or, Lina, do you think Gil is somehow not fit to be king?”
Such a big question for a small lady like me.
“I-I don’t think my opinion holds much weight in this regard.”
Geez, how does he want me to answer that?
Jerik casts a piercing gaze at me, the same amber eyes as Trianna.
“No, I’m asking you as a person who Gil has chosen to keep at his side. Do you think Gil is fit to be king? Is he qualified for the duties of the throne, or isn’t he?”
Honestly, if Gilbert had to be king, I’m sure he would be able to do the job flawlessly.
I hardly think the country would keel over if Jerik took the job, but Jerik would be straining himself if his feelings remained as they are today. Above all, he is aware of it. From what I’ve heard before, there is also anxiety within the kingdom about his ascent to the throne giving too much influence to Roke, Queen Trianna’s home country.
In that respect, Gilbert is unrelated to Roke, and he knows to be careful, so I think he would be able to strike the right balance. But, he has zero inclination to take the job. That poses some questions as to what his performance would actually be.
It would be great if you could add Gilbert and Jerik and divide by two and put that person in charge.
“Do you think he is lacking in some particular areas?”
It’s like he just read my mind, so I freeze in surprise for a second there.
Jerik then produces the most mellow smile I have seen on his face all day.
“You will be able to cover for those. I am grateful that you have come to Gil’s side. As long as you are by his side, I would feel comfortable yielding my royal duties to him with a clean conscience.”
Just when I start to reply, he claps enthusiastically, and I can’t bring myself to continue.
“Well then, let’s leave our chat at this point. I think I’m starting to make you feel anxious. Do you know your way back on your own? I want to walk and feel the wind on my face a little more.”
Saying that, Jerik turns his back to me and starts walking, leaving me unable to continue talking. I curtsy towards him to mark the end of my interaction with him and start tracing my steps back.
Now that I know Gilbert and Jerik’s feelings, I am more confused, not less. I don’t think it makes sense, in my opinion. But knowing Queen Trianna’s thoughts may be the key to solving the problem.
It just struck me that I am knee-deep in this problem of succession to the throne… I should say up to my neck, actually. I wonder how all this happened before I even knew it. I look up at the sky and sigh heavily.