Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
“See, I think this is the flower you were talking about, Runa.”
“Am I wrong?”
“No, I think you’re right…”
“Is that so? I’m glad,” said His Highness laughingly, his voice close enough to make me shiver. That reaction was only natural, though, seeing as His Highness was sitting right next to me. It was probably because he wanted to look at the illustrated encyclopedia of foreign herbs on my lap with me. Since earlier, our arms had touched several times, and our faces often came close to each other. Each time that happened, I smelled a nice, soothing scent and, for some reason, became nervous, making it hard to keep up the conversation with him.
Only a short while ago, we had been sitting facing each other and chatting while drinking tea. “Since we’re engaged now,” he had said, and before I realized it, the two of us were sitting side by side on the sofa, close enough that it seemed like our bodies would touch.
Also, he has started to call me ‘Runa.’
When I was young, my mother used to call me that, but now it was a childhood nickname only my father, who missed my mother, used. For some reason, His Highness seemed to know of the nickname, saying, “Because we are engaged, I want to use a special nickname,” with a smile.
“Ah, Your Highness?”
“How do you know my childhood nickname?”
“…I see. So you don’t remember.”
When I raised my head to his quiet voice, I saw that His Highness seemed rather lonely all of a sudden.
“You were three years old, almost four. At that time, you would sometimes come to visit my older sister’s rooms.”
“You were brought along by your mother, and I heard her calling you that.”
It was my first time hearing of this. I knew that Mother was close to the princess, who was later married off to a neighboring country, but I heard she had stopped going to the royal castle when she got married to my father.
“It was around the time my sister was discussing engagement. At the request of my sister, who was worried about various things, your mother visited the castle many times. At that time, you were young, so you came along too. You and I met in the garden three times.”
“Is that so…I’m sorry. I can’t remember much about my mother ever since the accident.”
“Well, then–no, it can’t be helped. It was such a terrible accident. It’s already a miracle that you’re alive.”
It felt like His Highness’s face brightened just a little.
“Actually, Runa, I asked to marry you the first time we met.”
“12-year-old me fell in love with you at first sight, and by the third time I wanted us to get married.”
“Fufu, are you surprised?”
I really was surprised. I didn’t have any memory of that nor had I ever heard of it from my father.
“I met you in a garden near my older sister’s chambers, so no one else knew about it. Well, even if the adults knew, they would probably have only viewed it as the whims of a child.”
“That’s right…but I’m surprised. Um, I really don’t remember.”
“I understand why you don’t remember, so don’t worry about it.”
His Highness’s hand gently stroked my drooping head. He was probably being considerate of all the things I had forgotten after the accident.
His Highness is really kind. He is a person that would be wasted on me.
“Even so, it seems like fate that I would ask to marry you again more than 10 years later.”
“That’s right. Perhaps, since that moment, Runa and I have been bound together by fate.”
“I wonder if that’s so…”
I was engaged to His Highness the Second Prince, and after that engagement was broken I was immediately engaged to His Highness Willacliff. From the outside, it might have seemed like fate. Otherwise, I, a low-ranking noble and a man, would never have caught the eye of His Highness.
“Was it fate?”
“Yes, I’m sure it’s fate.”
The hand stroking my head was so kind that I thought I might grow to subconsciously depend on it. It’d been a while since I last felt this way, perhaps not since my mother’s death.
“…Well, fate is something you make yourself though.”
“Now, let’s take a look at the herbs on the next page.”
I couldn’t properly hear the last words of His Highness, but when I raised my head in confusion, His Highness was gently smiling. The small thump my heart made upon seeing his expression surprised me, and I quickly shifted my gaze back to the encyclopedia on my lap in panic.
Although I could feel His Highness’s stare, I felt that it would be best to pretend to not notice it. I could only stare at the pictures of herbs drawn in the encyclopedia.
His Highness did not come today, but a single guard was sent to the mansion to deliver a book from him. The book was a collection of stories that my mother had read to me as bedtime stories when I was little, but I had lost my copy some time ago. When I told His Highness about it the other day he had said, “If I find it in my collection, I’ll bring it to you.” He even took the trouble of sending it over.
“I’m sorry to make you go out of your way.”
“No, no, this is a part of my job.”
I’d seen the man’s face somewhere before, but he didn’t seem to be one of the guards who were always escorting His Highness Willacliff. Even so, I could tell from his appearance that he was a guard. Was he stationed in the royal castle?
I had always been uncomfortable around knights, with their intimidating statures and swords, so it was a relief that the person in front of me had a gentler voice and calmer atmosphere than I expected.
“I’m sorry for making you do something like this even when you have other duties as a guard. Um, there isn’t anything that needs to be done particularly quickly, so please tell His Highness you don’t have to bother with delivering things in the future.”
I thought that if I left it like this there would undoubtedly be a similar case in the future, so I asked the guard to pass my message on to His Highness. His crinkled eyes widened by a fraction, then his expression turned into a friendly smile.
“I apologize. I was just thinking that you’re exactly as I expected.”
“As you expected?”
Hearing his words, I raised my head to his still smiling face.
“His Highness would like you to remember him even when he cannot be present. He intends for this book to be the reminder, so there is no reason for Sir Ernis to be reserved.”
“Remember, is it.”
Even if you didn’t see someone for a day or two, there was no way you would forget them that quickly. And now that we were engaged, it would be impossible for me to forget His Highness so easily.
“I don’t think it’s possible to forget His Highness, though.”
“…How do I say this? I understand why His Highness worries over you.”
“Ah, just talking to myself. The word ‘remember’ wasn’t quite right. His exact words were, ‘I want you to always think of me’ .”
“I have watched over His Royal Highness for many years. I think he is a little excited to finally be able to express his feelings openly. The huge collection of books that His Highness Willacliff has amassed would be worthless if he could not use them this way.”
“What do you mean?”
“In the end, His Highness Willacliff is just a man, so I request that you accept His Highness’s feelings.”
“His Highness is coming tomorrow afternoon. Please give him your thanks in person then. I’m sure he would be pleased with that. Now, please excuse me.”
The large guard left without even entering the drawing room, keeping a friendly smile until the end. As for me, though I heard things that concerned me, I was unable to confirm anything. That afternoon, I ended up absorbing myself in the book and forgot all about the guard and the things I had heard.