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Tara makes a decision about accompanying Kyle to Reese and the future of their relationship.
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Episode 202. About 10 months (79)
Kyle's face was a mixture of laughter and nervousness. He tugged my hand slightly and leaned towards me.
I swallowed, avoiding his gaze.
"I - I'll think about it. It's a very sudden offer."
He stared, intent on my answer, then slowly opened his mouth.
"You're very skilled at that."
"Yes. You never make it easy for me. Always, every decision you make, you never give into me lightly. However, that's a good thing."
How long had I been holding my breath? I inhaled and carefully pulled my hand from his.
He gently released it .
He frowned regretfully a moment later.
I was about to turn around and say goodbye, but gazed back at him as a sudden thought came to mind.
"Your Highness has surprised me as well."
“You convey your feelings very well. I never thought you would be someone who would express your emotions so clearly.”
"Is that so? I'm not sure. I've never felt this way before, so perhaps I just didn't have anything to say. However, ever since I’ve become aware of it, strangely, I realized I want to express it to you, over and over again. Is it supposed to be like this? Or am I strange?"
He was asking me instead.
"B- By any chance. Is this, um. This kind of confession- uhh. Towards a woman. These kinds of feelings. Is this.... your first time?"
I couldn't believe I was asking this. It would have been an unimaginable thing to ask the first time we met. Once again, I marvelled at the difference between our first encounter and the present. I waited, anticipating his answer.
"I believe I told you. This feeling, what I feel for you, it's a first for me."
"In - Indeed you did. Well, I - I'll go and wash... I mean, I'll go get ready.”
I must be crazy... what did I mean ‘wash’?
I managed to escape the room, moving with a very awkward gait, my limbs creaking stiffly.
I returned to my room and packed. I would have to leave today anyway.
“A date… ”
It was all I could think about. I'd said that I would be brave, however regardless, the looming extermination of my entire Family remained unchanged.
As long as that future remained unaltered, my worries would persist.
Nevertheless, the fact that I was even experiencing this... It was something I never expected would happen in this lifetime. Honestly, I could still hardly comprehend the Second Prince's feelings for me.
After packing away the final articles of clothing and putting my bag in front of the door. I paused to wipe my hands.
“Hmm… What do I do now?"
While I stood there worrying about it, my cheeks reddened as I thought back to him lying in bed early this morning drinking his medicine.
His full red lips. His moist and tempting mouth. And the way he'd licked his lips with his tongue.
It felt like he had been trying to make me burst into flames.
[So…. when are you going to be brave?]
"Since when did you become so desperate?"
This was a big deal. My mind was still churning.
“He's a good kisser. And what can I say about his looks? And his body... well. But why does he have to be the Prince.. ha...."
I grumbled the words regretfully.
"He has that mind, those looks, and that body, and yet he wants the Crown Prince position as well? Does God only care about one person? This is so unfair!"
Spitting out those words changed nothing. But I felt just a little better.
I sighed again, lowering my head. But I jerked my head back up as soon as a sudden thought occurred to me.
“Alright, I’ll try it out. If we try it for just a few days, it will become clearer whether this is a terrible idea or not.”
The same day at noon.
Fred Berg, having removed his make-up, looked very different from the first time I had seen him.
He had also chosen to dress up in a neat navy suit for his visit to the Inn as if to remind us that he was a nobleman, despite his initial appearance.
Certainly, thanks to his younger appearance, he looked more lively, but his eyes also gave off a highly intellectual air.
There was no reason to hide his true identity anymore.
On the first floor of the inn, there was a small drawing room that was well concealed from the entrance way.
There, Second Prince Kyle, Fred Berg, and I were seated together.
I sat still, deeply immersed in thought while I waited to order from the inn’s tea service.
I could no longer deny it. I liked him. My feelings for him were not as strong as what he felt for me, but they were true.
I glanced at Kyle as he conversed with Fred about the Central Axis project. My gaze kept being drawn towards him, completely unbidden.
Ha... How could I have fallen so quickly?
I was sitting right next to him, so I was very careful when turning my head towards him, but it made me feel oddly nervous and excited.
I kept pressing down the centre pages of my notebook, which had already been well smoothed down, and I kept drawing circles on the pages to ensure my brush pen still worked properly.
And then I glanced at him again.
His large hand, currently rested on the table, caught my eye. I appreciated the look of his large hands, long fingers and neat fingernails.
I could have easily believed that he'd had his nails tended to.….
His white shirt and black jacket fit his frame perfectly, and gracefully accentuated the elegance of his neckline, collarbone and chest.
Ah. Since he was a Prince, obviously he had a professional tailor. Of course his attire would be luxurious.
His hair was neatly styled and the corners of his mouth were gently lifted into a perfectly business-like smile.
His shoulders were wide, leaning fully against the chair.
The way he sat while concentrating on the Baron's story was so leisurely, with one leg bent under the table and the other stretched out in front of him. Overall, he looked utterly resplendent, relaxed and natural.
Strangely, today he looked even more handsome.
He had a talent for making even an unfamiliar space feel comfortable.
My face was hot again, and my heart was thumping like an out of control metronome.
He had so much natural masculine charm. Why did it take me so long to see him this way?
Then our previous encounters began scrolling through my mind in chronological order.
[Are you saying that you wish to receive the same punishment as a commoner? All right then, Chris, proceed!]*
Kyle, ordering Chris to whip me in my own house.
[Order of Public Notice: Department of Military Logistics and Administration
Administrative Region: Durban Tripoint, Hellarion Province]
I remembered how Kyle had sent me to Durban, an active conflict zone, after I had expended so much effort to pass the exam.
[You're saying Elias Pharmaceuticals did this out of altruism? You want me to believe that now?]
And finally, Kyle's rough interrogation when my family was implicated in the Dragon Fruit affair came to mind.
Not only that, but in all our other encounters, did he not openly stab me to the core, rebuke me and sling verbal daggers at me?
And all with a very rude and expressionless disposition.
I shook my head as I suddenly remembered the Second Prince's perpetual aloofness. I stared at Kyle with a different emotion than before.
And then our eyes met.
How long had he been watching? I quickly turned my eyes back to their original location, but he completely turned his head towards me and stared.
With a light smile on his face, he tilted his head and asked quietly.
"Hmm? Enjoying the view, Second Aide?"
I immediately pulled my lips into an angry smile, completely forgetting to maintain my poker face. One corner of my mouth trembled slightly as if I was having a miniature convulsion.
"No, Your Highness. I seem to have developed a spontaneous twitch in my eye. Hahaha."
"Is that so? I see. I wondered what I had done wrong, and I swear I could sense some murderous intent."
"Ha ha. What nonsense.... I would never dare be so presumptuous. That's truly absurd, Your Highness Hahaha."
I waved my hands and strongly denied it.
"Is that so?"
I nodded so vigorously my head threatened to fall off. He glanced in my direction as if peering into my soul, and then slowly nodded in acceptance.
"Your order, the waiter asked, but you didn't answer."
It was just as he had said. A young male servant was looking at me with a puzzled expression and holding a notepad.
He seemed to have been waiting for me ever since I had drifted off to recall the past.
"Ah... haha. Apologies, I must be deaf… I would like some apricot juice. I'll have it very cold, please."
“There are also simple finger foods such as cakes and cookies available. What should I prepare for you?"
As I focused on the menu handed over by the employee, Kyle, strangely enough, noticed where my gaze lingered on the menu, and immediately placed an order.
“Carrot cake, crackers topped with smoked salmon, and water.”
For each menu item Kyle listed, I internally applauded, thinking, ‘That's the right choice.’
Immediately after the drinks and food was served, the Prince went straight to the main topic without any comment or preamble.
"So. Would you like to join me?"
Fred, with a stern expression on his face, rearranged the front of his clean cut jacket, then slowly rose from his seat.
I sipped the apricot juice that the chef had prepared, and turned my head sharply towards the Second Prince.
My prediction had been correct!
After all, the Second Prince was indeed the Second Prince.
The Elias Family’s maids often got together and gossiped.
There were various subjects that the maids loved to discuss.
In the case of the young maids, the knight's lodgings were the main topic of interest, and in the case of the older maids, the unusual habits of their masters, stories about other maids, and various other rumours were mainly discussed.
To put it simply, they gathered because they were bored, and it was verbal backstabbing disguised as idle chatter.
Until 3 months ago, Aria, and her remarkable change, was a hot topic. However, after Tara came back, their discussions were filled with stories about Tara and her drastic transformation into someone almost unrecognisable.
“The children of this house changed so drastically over time!”
Previously Jason's trip to Gaion had caused a fuss, but after a while, the topic had slowly shifted towards the Countess's noticeable mania.
Even now, four middle-aged maids sat huddled together on one side of the kitchen gossiping.
"She keeps smiling strangely. It's scary!"
The kitchen maid said, as she wiped the tableware for the upcoming party with a dry dishcloth.
Victoria's dedicated maid, Margaret, who had come down to the kitchen to assist her mistress, overheard the words.
"Right? I'm not the only one who senses it, right? She laughs while eating, laughs instead of doing business, and laughs out of the blue while bathing. Even when she was getting a massage, she just lay there chuckling and laughing."
Editor's Notes -
* These flashback sections are parts of the novel that we have not translated yet since we are doing this out of order, so there will probably be some inconsistencies and these sections are subject to change in the future.
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