30. The Third Prince is Too Dazzling! I Can’t Look at Him Directly!
Chapter Thirty: Things Lurking in Your Heart Even if You’re Unaware of Them
It’s the morning of the second day of life under confinement. I feel worn out and on edge from overusing my brain.
I barely managed to finish dinner, but I didn’t get a peep of sleep last night. Now here I am, all sleep-deprived. I used to think of myself as strong when push comes to shove, but it turns out I’m surprisingly delicate.
From the soft light coming through the window, it seems that the breakfast service should arrive soon. Just as I think that, I faintly hear voices outside the door. I guess it’s time.
After a couple of knocks, the door opens with a clicking sound, and I casually direct my gaze that way.
This human-shaped ball of light… Gilbert? I can’t look at him, but my downcast gaze notices the meal wagon coming in, making its characteristic sounds as it passes through the door. Unable to look, I wait for word from the all-too shiny person. But then, I feel my glasses being carefully put on. It’s Gilbert, of course. Good, I would be in trouble if there were any more such eye-melting, literally dazzling people running around out there.
A-a woman!? With my glasses on, I dare look up. Contrary to all expectations, there stands a blonde, stunning blue-eyed beauty. I didn’t know such a pretty lady could exist in this world! She has the most perfect of facial features. And unlike Trianna, she wears a soft expression and kind countenance on her face.
“Hey, what you looking at, you idiot?”
The shining golden beauty has a volcano for a mouth!
“Don’t you get it? It’s me!”
M-me? So, after all, s-she is…
“Shh! Don’t say it out loud!”
Reflexively, I try to shout when I feel his big hand cover my mouth.
Ah, I can smell Gilbert’s scent. It seems it’s not a case of mismatched identity.
“Now, don’t scream or make any loud noises, OK?”
I make quick little nods to show him I understand. His hand moves away slowly, and I take the chance to take a closer look at Gilbert’s face. I sigh in relief when I recognize him behind the disguise.
The more I look at him, the more I’m stunned by his beauty. Standing there in maid garbs, with even a dash of expertly applied makeup, nobody who didn’t know otherwise could say he was anything short of amazingly beautiful. Even his maid dress fits him perfectly, so even if you want to make fun of him, you can’t if you actually see how he looks in it. He must have disguised himself to come here without anyone knowing.
“Lord Gilbert, you are… an absurdly beautiful person, aren’t you?”
Half-jokingly having fallen in love with this “new” maid person and unable to look away from his perfect features, I suddenly feel his hand on my chin, pushing it upward and gently closing it. I realize then that I have had my jaw ajar this whole time.
“Keep your mouth shut! You are a lousy idiot, aren’t you? It was the first thing I said!”
“Please stop calling me an idiot… I get it, okay? I’m sorry.”
Even his lips are more beautiful up close. Anyway, I knew I was gonna be scolded for having gotten myself into this situation, just being held captive without a smidgen of success to show for it.
“Wait… what’s with those dark eyebags? Did you get any sleep?”
That’s right. Even a girl like me has nights when she just can’t catch any sleep. Put yourself in my shoes for once instead of just observing me like a weird creature! I tried to picture all sorts of scenarios with my teeny brain. Because of that, I just ended up obsessing about what would happen if Jerik knocked on my door. I couldn’t even make it to the bed, worried that if, by any chance, Jerik took my hand while I was asleep, that would make my removal from Gilbert’s princess candidate group official. Then I would have to live in this palace as his consort for the rest of my life…
So I am truly relieved that the guy who sneaked into my room turned out to be none other than Gilbert.
“I-I… was worried what would I do if I couldn’t see you ever again…”
I look up at Gilbert’s face with my bloodshot, rheumy eyes.
My eyes turn into little dots out of surprise. Instead of being chastised, I receive an apology. I suddenly wonder what’s going on.
“I-I wanted to come here sooner, but between official meetings with dad and the Queen and consulting with big bro, I had my hands full… I-it’s not like I was leaving you last. Hey, don’t cry!”
Because I cried profusely without even realizing when I first met Trianna, for a moment, I thought it was happening again. I dab at my eyes but feel no wetness. I’m not in a crying mood either.
Maybe my eyes are so bloodshot and glassy that it looks like I’m crying?
“I’m not really…”
“I said I’m sorry, OK?”
Suddenly, Gilbert hugs me tightly, and I lose my breath, totally frozen. I-I may die if you don’t let go, you know! Wrapped in his tight embrace, my chest hurts for more than one reason.
Anyway, I can’t hold my breath too much. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, but that results in my inhaling Gilbert’s scent, which disturbs my heartbeat in all sorts of weird ways.
T-this is not the time to be doing such things. I put my hands on Gilbert’s chest and push him firmly to put some distance between us.
“L-lord Gilbert, there are more important matters at hand than…”
“How many times do I have to remind you? It’s Gil, OK?”
I really can’t be bothered now; whichever one is fine, really. This exchange is also starting to grate on my nerves, so let’s just roll with it.
“Gil… How is His Majesty’s condition?”
“He is stable for now and can talk.”
“Is that so? That’s good news!”
I had been worried about that too since I first heard the news. If something too serious happened to the King, it would be utter chaos. Jerik would be crushed as he would have to become king against his wishes. Gil would also be forced to make decisions before he has time to know what he really wants.
“For the time being, anyway. Looks like dad had been hiding his poor health for a long time. His pushing me to find a princess candidate and his attempts at fixing the succession problem seem to have been motivated by that.”
Oh, that’s right! We need to talk about the princess candidate thing!
“Hm! I have a request with regards to that!”
Taking the opportunity since Gil just started talking about his princess, I decide to say what I have been stressing about since Trianna’s remarks. After thinking about it overnight without sleeping, I think this is the only way. Please do not say no. I take a deep breath and then squeeze Gil’s hand with both of mine.
“Gil! Please marry me!”
Gil’s eyes open wide to the fullest, and he seems to freeze on the spot. This is the first time I’ve seen him make such a face, and it is easy to see how shocked he is by my words.
“W-wait a minute! What’s this all of a sudden…”
“Am I not good enough to be your princess? Have you decided on another one of the ladies already!?”
“N-no, that’s not it. From the start, I-I always thought of you as…”
I have to strike hard and fast before he says no!
Gilbert’s mouth is shut close by my daring advance, and he gulps visibly. And then…
“Wait! Let me say it first as a man!”
“That the best strategy is to put up a united front!”
“Sorry, Lina… you were saying?”
Gil rubs his brow with a finger, showing an agonized expression. Does this mean I can’t expect a positive reply? I think we both are trying to speak simultaneously, but I’ll take the opportunity if he’s letting me go first. I have no choice but to present all the merits I can think of for my idea so that he feels allured.
“I thought about it a lot. Yesterday, Her Highness the Queen told me to give birth to Jerik’s child, and I don’t think I possibly can! That’s why, before I get too acquainted with Jerik, if I could become your princess, it could prevent that, even if it’s just for show. If you haven’t decided on a princess yet, I think it is very convenient to choose me since I don’t belong to any faction, right?”
While talking to my father, I figured it out. Even though being picked as the princess may be preposterous for someone who is here only to be an employee, my ability’s disclosure has shown that I can be a useful ally. And with that, I think I can function very effectively as a partner from the give-and-take perspective.
“I-I’m not asking for anything as luxurious as being the official princess. Just a consort princess would be fine. That way, it would be convenient for everyone. Sir Glenn said… that when you found someone you like, you could still keep me by your side without a fuss.”
“Why you… I thought I didn’t hear right when you just came out and proposed, but I should have known better than to believe you actually meant it. Damn it! And to bring Glenn into this!”
Gil seems to start getting into his angry mode. If he ends up fuming and my point of view doesn’t come through, an unwanted future awaits me. This is where I’ve got to be humble until somehow I manage to make him nod in approval.
“Um, and of course, in that position, I will continue to make efforts to carry out my unique duties! I won’t settle with half-hearted efforts or do anything that might become a hindrance to your plans. That’s a promise! I’ll also do my best to learn all the manners of a true princess!”
Gil slips his hand from mine and then grabs back one of my hands.
“You forget one possibility… If I take you as my princess and then I don’t find anyone who stirs my heart, what are you gonna do? Would you just stay by my side all your life? Because if I take you as my princess, I don’t have any intention to take anyone else.”
He looks me straight in the eye while saying that, and I find myself unsure how to react. My head is boiling. I was expecting several possibilities, but getting counter-proposed wasn’t one of them. Ultimately, I am even more confused than yesterday.
“O-of course, I thought of that! I think I-I will be fine with it if it’s with you. I will be by your side. If you don’t mind it… Um, so…”
So are you gonna decide already? I want to blurt that out, but the words get caught in my throat. Please, please, please don’t refuse.
Gil brings his free hand, lays it softly on my cheek as if to stop my inner turmoil, and just says, “I understand.”
I am glad not to be rejected. My heart, which has stopped beating while waiting for his crucial answer, is suddenly released from the tension and stars pumping blood again. I take a deep breath to help it out.
“But anyway… you really haven’t thought this through, have you?”
“When I said I wouldn’t take any other princess beside you, that means you’re gonna have my child, right? You’re running from my brother, but you’re getting caught by me.”
H-he’s already caught me, though. With both my hands now held, I find myself paralyzed and unable to turn my eyes away from his. What deep, deep blue eyes.
“Um, not accepting another princess beside me… that, um, is not a definite decision… yet, right?”
He looks at me as if to say, “That’s not what I’m asking.” Oh, this is such immense pressure. I-I can’t… breathe…
I glance down, unable to withstand his gaze. But he won’t let me, releasing my hands from mine so he can pick my chin up with one hand and pull me closer with the other around my waist.
“Hey! Look at me!”
“If it is your child… I think I can give b-birth… to your child.”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen him with a smile on his face as broad as this one. And being made to look at such a gallant and beautiful face from a point-blank range has me thrown into uncontrollable turmoil.
Gil continues talking still so close to me, with the faint tinkling of a small laugh in the back of his throat.
“Have you realized you’re contradicting yourself? Or are those your true feelings?”
If I’m told that without explanation, I’m not gonna understand. Where exactly is this contradiction? I’m already in total turmoil; I am not in a mental space where I can get all philosophical and stuff. Just let go a bit; you’re too close. But instead, Gil pulls me closer into his chest. Eek! This is physically painful, actually.
“Well, that’s okay. That confirms one thing, at least. Did the Queen say Jerik ‘s child?”
“No… she said the Crown Prince’s child.”
The exact words from Trianna were “Jerik’s consort princess” and “give birth to the Crown Prince’s child.”
Even if I can’t see his face being hugged like this, this embrace is so warm and tight that my heart is still beating just as uncontrollably. I remember my hands, which I hadn’t known what to do with since he hugged me, and try to push on his chest to make a little breathing room, but Gil catches them and puts them around his waist. He continues to talk in this hugging posture.
Ah, I’m gonna die crushed, aren’t I…
“It’s a strange turn of events for you to be pushing for my decision, but to be honest, I was also somewhat impatient after all. It’s just that I never thought that things would change so suddenly. I wanted to think that tomorrow would be the same as the day before.”
Gil gently runs his fingers through my hair.
“And… I really doubt you realized it, but now that I know you feel the same, I’ll stop taking the easy road. I’ll move forward instead from now on.”
I wonder when I started feeling so at ease with the feeling of Gil’s hands on my body, his scent, his voice. At first, I was just flustered, and all I could think of was how I was going to escape.
And now, I am enjoying the feeling of his hand patting my head. Having skipped a night’s sleep, his words start to feel like a lullaby. I am sleep-deprived, so I don’t quite understand its content, though.
“And well, I know I have been acting ridiculous. But I was thinking seriously about things in my own way… Now we are finally saying these things but in such a place and dressed like this… I’m sorry about that.”
Gil reaches with one hand to the breakfast wagon and takes out a palm-sized round box. His hand slides between us and opens the lid slightly, revealing an exquisitely delicate, milky-white butterfly.
“It’s a candy I made for you… I tried to match one of the things I want to do with the shape of something I thought would make you happy.”
A candy!? This elegantly shaped, intricately decorated butterfly is made out of candy? My eyes light up. The more I look at it, the more beautiful it seems.
“Wow! And it’s cute and beautiful!”
What’s more, when I tilt it, its milky-white surface breaks into rainbow colors at random under the light.
“Do you like it?”
“Then, give me a reward.”
Oh, I’m so shallow! I vowed I wouldn’t react like an overjoyed little girl at any presents!
But there’s no denying I was ecstatic at Gill’s thoughtful present just now. I’m really happy, but, seeing Gil’s lips closing in, I close my eyes and… cover his mouth with my hand.
I can feel Gil’s lips under my hand as he asks confusedly. His golden hair falling on my face tickles quite a bit.
“G-Gil, you are dressed like… um, you are like a beautiful lady right now, so, um… it feels weird…”
Gilbert seems to die inside a little. But there’s no helping it! He really looks like a stunning, perfect female beauty in this disguise… A kiss’ effects right now would be unpredictable. It looks like I killed the atmosphere because he pulls his body apart from mine. Whoa! Breathing, I’ve missed you.
“Uh, I get it… That candy’s gonna melt any moment, so take a bite now.”
“Huh? I can’t eat something like this!”
Even though I know it’s a candy, it’s such a work of art that I feel guilty even just thinking of chomping down on it.
“Don’t worry. I can make more. Let’s go see real butterflies at the park again.”
Thinking about it, he talked about butterflies that time before, didn’t he? I wonder if he likes butterflies a lot. I’m not really interested in them, but if he tells me to go with him, well, I’ll tag along for the ride.
“I have another thing to deal with, but my elder brother won’t be making any moves. This room is really the safest place for you right now. So just be a good girl and stay here, OK?”
He’s disguised as a girl, but his smile is very manly. That looks very funny. I’ve been locked in my room out of fear and worried sick, but this moment of levity has lifted my spirits.
“Um, uh, please come back again soon, okay?”
Gil pats me on the head roughly, and I get my hair scrubbed into a bird’s nest. Then, without looking back, he leaves the room.
The room suddenly becomes very quiet. My gaze drops to the butterfly in my hand. And for a while, I simply stand there.