33. The Third Prince is Too Dazzling! I Can’t Look at Him Directly!
Chapter Thirty-Three: The One Coming to your Rescue is not Guaranteed to be a Hero
Tracing back my steps, I find the man sitting down with his back against a pillar and with his head drooped.
“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!”
Hearing my voice, he stands up immediately.
“Um, how should I say it… Oh, it is just, I suddenly really had to go to the restroom!”
I know… It’s an embarrassing excuse. But I can’t think of any other reason a girl would break up with her escort without warning and run full speed somewhere else.
His expression of utter disbelief is hard to bear, but I stick to my story no matter what.
“B-but I’m fine now! Sorry I kept you waiting!”
I hide my anxiety with a delightful smile.
“I-is that so? Well, let’s move on then.”
The man pulls himself together and starts walking ahead of me.
Once my initial terror passes, I tilt my head, thinking if this guy is actually evil or merely exaggerating. Compared to Glenn, he is not so bad. And I felt kind of bad when I saw him sitting dejectedly by the pillar with his head down.
Even so, being put in a situation where I feel I have to run away at full speed is cruel to me. Once this is over, and assuming I survive, I’m going to have that sneaky Glenn explain it all to my entire satisfaction or else.
After passing through a secluded part of the castle, we come out to a slightly open garden. Unlike the other rose-based gardens, this one is a little sober, but it has a nice taste nonetheless.
We don’t stop there, however, and pass through into a room facing the garden. The room is not a reception hall but a general room. But, it appears tea has been served, and the table is ready.
I can’t feel anyone else’s presence around here. What’s with all this suspicious ambiance? Even someone who can’t see auras wouldn’t fall for this setup.
To begin with, red aura persons are not prone to machinations, usually. They tend to be a bit random and just act on their feelings without much planning.
At any rate, even if this guy is a villain, he’s gotta be an underling pretty low in the ranks. He’s actually a bit pitiful that way. Taking a better look at this guy, I suddenly notice he bears a resemblance to someone familiar.
“Mister, are you related to Sir Glenn by any chance?”
Blue hair and gray eyes—the same color arrangement. His aura is just the opposite, though.
“Yes. I apologize for not introducing myself before… my name is Orban Artaud.”
Ah, they seem to be on bad terms. His facial expression becomes stiff, his aura shakes severely, and his feelings of frustration turn palpable. Talking about Glenn is evidently unpleasant for him.
His hair and eyes may be the same, but his essence is unlike Glenn’s. Sir Glen is the cool and collected type, but this one is straightforward. If you set aside Glenn’s, um, controversial personality, his colors are rather beautiful. However, this person’s seems blurry, as if he has been accruing sediment over the years.
Wait, am I getting tangled into the Artaud family’s affairs now, in addition to Gil and Jerik’s? This is out-of-contract labor!
“Um, Lord Jerik is not here yet?”
“It would appear so.”
He pulls a chair for me, so I dutifully take a seat.
“This tea is His Highness’ personal selection, so please take a sip while we wait.”
Orban pours tea. It is a black tea that shines in shades of red and brown as it swirls in the cup in front of me. Ohhh, in this kind of scenario, you immediately suspect poison, right? The memory of spending days in bed fighting the poison I took when I protected Gil flashes in my mind.
“Well, I am thankful for Lord Jerik’s invitation, and since I’m here already, I will wait.”
“Regardless, whenever His Highness is late, I am instructed to recommend you wait.”
This guy’s inability to shut up when he has a comeback he can immediately shove in my face is just like Glenn’s.
The tea in front of me looks top quality. Its black surface beautifully glitters, reflecting the light, but… Under Orban’s stare, I just touch it with my lips and put it back in the saucer.
“Is the tea not to your liking?”
It is easy to tell I’m not having any by how the tea’s volume hasn’t diminished one bit in my cup.
I don’t smell or taste anything strange, and I guess I’ll have to trust for now that guy with the nasty personality but pretty aura, Sir Glenn. Even if he doesn’t care one bit what a terrible time I’m having, he won’t go as far as getting me killed! Yeah, no way… Why am I still so nervous, though?
“It is… really good tea.”
After having a sip, it turns out to be regular black tea. I needn’t be wary of it.
“That is good.”
I start feeling a little out of it and getting even a little drowsy. I’m hungry because of skipping breakfast, so my attention veers towards a row of sweets on the table. When it comes to a fight between appetite and sleep, the latter just trumps the former.
“Allow me to leave my seat to go check if His Highness is arriving soon. Is that okay?”
The light coming through the window is so serene and warm, and I… um, maybe I’ll… just a little…
The sound of banging noises echoes.
I can hear Merlia’s voice in the distance.
More banging noises reverberate around me.
“Lady Lina, are you here!?”
This time I hear Alisa.
Knocking and thumping resound.
Who’s making all these loud noises? Ah, I fell asleep. I open my eyes at the realization.
I kick my legs up when I regain consciousness. I feel one of my feet landing squarely on the face of the masked man in front of me, blowing away the mysterious figure. But I don’t feel any pangs of guilt.
Why? Why would a guy be on top of me on a bed if not to roll up my skirt and feel me up! The chest part of my dress is also strangely in disarray! You can hide your face under that mask all you want, but I can tell from your aura that it’s you, Orban Artaud!
I un-tussle my dress with a pat or two as I jump off the bed, and I run to unlock the door. All the princess candidates burst forth, and Merlia, who leads the group, hugs me with a mixture of relief and protectiveness.
“Are you okay, Lady Lina?”
I would like to know that myself! A-am I alright!? I just woke up terrified, and I don’t know what happened to me!
Feeling distressed at how I could not form words in an obvious state of shock, the ladies approach to embrace and comfort me with pats and light caresses on my trembling back.
“Wait! You over there… Ah!”
Alisa breaks off the group embrace. I raise my head and look in the direction she had yelled at.
Orban is making a run for it, jumping out a window.
“You shall not escape!”
The one who issues such a battle scream while rushing to the window is none other than Maribel. No, no! Leave it alone! It’s dangerous, so please stay in the group hug!
Yet another mysterious figure appears, only this time standing in Maribel’s way, blocking her. Where on earth did he come from!?
“Please don’t do unnecessary things, okay? Just wait in this here room.”
Who is this guy, and what’s with his misplaced chill attitude?
He seems younger than me, and I remember seeing his aura. He’s one of the anonymous robed figures brought during the Gil-poisoning-attempt case interrogation to prove I can see auras! His aura is red and yellow.
“Ah, I’m Lady Lina’s bodyguard. I was hiding above, in the ceiling. He fondled your breasts, but zero kissing and, of course, didn’t get to the main act. I’ll be off then, bye.”
My breasts… I hang my head, and my arms wrap themselves around my body.
Laila stands beside me and, taking my hands in hers, raises them to her chest and places my palms firmly on her own breasts.
“Lady Lina! It’s not a big deal! See? It happens sometimes!”
Laila is so fine and dainty, but surprisingly I can feel her breasts are bigger than min— Wait, that’s not the point!
“That’s right! It’s not something to be ashamed of!”
“Here, help yourself to mine as well.”
This time Alisa and Maribel come to the rescue, each taking one of my hands and placing them against their cleavage.
“Um, yeah, um… Thanks, ladies.”
Meanwhile, Merlia had been standing behind them, looking to be unsure what is the correct response. I look at her, and just that seems to cause a reaction.
“I-I shall not partake in this strange activity! I-I… Well, if I must!”
Crimson with embarrassment, she takes a bold step towards me, wraps my head in her arms, and sinks my face into her cleavage. Amazing bounciness! And what pleasant scent… Wait, that’s not the point, again! I didn’t look at her as if saying, “C’mon, Merlia, you know you want to!”
I turn my face reflexively at hearing my name.
Ow! Dazzling! I bury my face again in Merlia’s ample bosom out of mere survival instinct.
“What are you ladies doing with each other?”
Another voice follows, and it is Glenn’s.
“It’s common sense that the one rushing to save the lady in distress is the hero, no? Now the villain has taken flight, leaving no trace. How are you going to fix this?”
What do you even mean by that? You heartless, spineless… Ugh, I hate this guy!
So basically, Glenn’s scenario was I get taken, end up in peril, Gil comes to the rescue at the last moment, and the villain is caught in the act, right? But that timing way ahead of yours when the ladies came banging on the door is pretty much my idea of “at the last moment,” you know!
When I don’t raise my head even though my name is called, as if stealing me to herself, Merlia presses me to her body even tighter. I want to see Gil’s face, but I can’t right now without glasses, so I just kept my eyes shut and my face on Merlia’s chest, and my chin rubbing between Merlia’s cleavage. I remember Gil’s bear hug being more crushing, though.
“I’m sorry. I knew Glenn was up to something, but I thought it was his usual schemes, so I left him go unchecked for too long. I’m sorry I caused you such a horrible memory to…”
“How are you going to make it up to Lina, Lord Gilbert?”
Surprising everybody, Merlia snaps back at Gil with ferocious intensity while pulling me to her again and sinking my face in her bosom all over again.
“The least you could do is to keep your mismanagement of your chamberlain from reaching the point where it can actually hurt Lady Lina! How can you show up this late and just stand there!? Just because you are a little earlier than the royal guards doesn’t make you a hero! Truly, the fish rots from the head!”
Merlia is extremely intense. But I feel sorry for Gil a bit. You’d have more luck making cats perform a parade than “managing” Glenn. What’s more, I know how precarious the situation is after the last unexpected turns of fate and that, one way or another, something had to be done, and that maybe they didn’t have the luxury of time.
“L-lady Merlia, Gil has his own circumstances, so…”
“Nonsense! Lady Lina, there is no need to intercede on Lord Gilbert’s behalf! Now, let’s go!”
In stark contrast with the harsh gesture she directs towards Gil’s camp by blowing air through her nose indignantly, her hand on my back is gentle and supportive. The ladies’ group start to walk, encircling me in a very protective fashion. I try to look back on Gil, but I can’t see him because of the dazzling aura. I am concerned by the deafening silence that has befallen him, but I can’t speak to him now that I am walking away. I resign myself to go along with the ladies and leave the conversation for later.
But reminiscing how angry Merlia got on my behalf, I am fraught with emotion.
“Thank you for saving me, ladies. When the door opened, and I saw your faces, I felt truly relieved.”
“I just wish we had got there even just a little sooner.”
Alisa says with a troubled expression, but I shake my head. It’s enough. I am truly grateful.
If only I had run into one of these ladies instead of trying to run away from Orban, things would have turned out so different. I just learned a hard lesson; getting involved with that rotten chamberlain’s designs would never result in anything good. To top it off, the only thing he had to say after exposing me to danger was lamenting his precious plan having failed! What the heck! Next time I’m really going to stand up to him.
“At any rate, ladies, let’s take Lady Lina back to her room and try to catch a breath. Her face looks pale, and I’m worried.”
Everyone nods at Laila’s words.
Yeah, I really shouldn’t have left my room; that much is certain. But now, I don’t want to be there alone. I want to be somewhere closer to where everyone gathers. Too many distressing events are happening around me, even though I have done barely anything since coming here. My maximum distress limit has been reached several times over.
“Even so, did you look at the faces of those two? Especially His Highness’. It’s the first time I have seen you making such a face, Lady Merlia. You really bring down the thunder.”
Maribel giggles saying that, and everyone follows. Gil… I wonder what face they’re talking about. But even so, I feel at ease hearing everyone laugh. It is a comfortable air I am not very familiar with.
Maybe I can relax if I am in a room with everyone together, listening to their stories while sipping some tea. Yes, I’d like that. And then, I really want to sleep.
Change clothes, chat, tea, pillow. I make this list of requests in my head while trying not to stumble on my unsteady feet, being held by my hands and my side by my friends.