Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 23: The Victor’s Smile
Despite being the middle of the day, the tavern I had set my sights on was full of hubbub. Looking around, I noticed there was an unexpectedly large number of female patrons, while the people drinking alcohol were the minority. On the contrary, it might be this crowded precisely because it was daytime.
“Welcome~. Please help yourselves to any free table!”
A lively-looking waitress called out to us. Heeding her words, the second prince and I chose a table tucked in a corner and sat facing each other.
“May I have your orders?”
“I’m here for the first time today. Do you have any recommendations?”
“It is lunchtime, so I’d probably recommend the daily special lunch plate~.”
“Big sis, I’ll have that and some fruit juice. What about big bro?”
“I’ll have the same, with a side of skewers and lemonade as my drink, please.”
“Two daily specials, skewers, a fruit juice, and a lemonade. For the handsome young man and his cute sister, we’ll have them out post-haste! Well then, please make yourselves comfortable while waiting~.”
After jotting down our orders with a mischievous grin, the waitress moved towards the kitchen. Surveying our surroundings, I noticed the bubbling excitement amongst the young ladies, who were all looking at the prince. However, perhaps because the prince was far younger than them, none of them made a move to approach him.
Simply admiring the view? Whether for better or worse, I had no clue. I snuck a glance at the prince, but he was preoccupied with looking around the tavern, not showing a single sign that he had noticed their gazes. As expected of a member of royalty, he was accustomed to it.
Although he seemed not to notice the surrounding looks, he, as if noticing mine, cocked his head to the side and inquired, “What’s the matter, Lia?”
“Eh?! Sorry for staring… I was just thinking that big bro is really popular among the ladies here.”
“I don’t think that’s the case. They surely think of me as some rare animal, no? Furthermore, if we’re speaking of being popular, I think Lia is too. Dear me, what kind of looks do they think they’re throwing a child’s way…”
“Boo—, are you saying I’m also some rare animal!?”
While acting oblivious, I regarded the surrounding gazes carefully, and indeed, I could feel the attention coming from a portion of the males present in the tavern. A taste for young girls, huh… I was right not to have come alone.
“Speaking of which, what is Lia’s family doing at the moment?”
“Uh, my dad and all are at work. And I… snuck out of lessons.”
I thought up a childish enough reason in order to not be suspected.
“Is that so? What are you learning in your lessons?”
“Reading, writing, and math. Today, I was learning math from my mother.”
This much should make sense for an innkeeper’s daughter. The literacy rate of the commoners in my country was still quite low. It may be relatively high among the merchants and civilians in the capital, but the farther one ventured into the countryside, the lower it became. That said, the literacy rate was still high compared to the surrounding nations… As for the changes commoners’ education would undergo from now on, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that it all hinged on this prince here.
“What level are your reading and writing skills at, Lia?”
“Hey! I can read simple words and write my own name at least, you know?! I even read this shop’s menu properly on my own!”
For an eleven-year-old commoner, it was slightly above-average academic ability. However, the prince widely lauded as a genius didn’t seem to take it too well…
“That level—no, wouldn’t it be better for you to work harder? I’d say being good at your studies greatly broadens your horizons.”
“Ughhhh, if big bro says so, I’ll try a little harder… But I prefer drawing over writing words.”
“You have to try.”
The prince lightly poked my forehead. Why did it feel like he’d gradually shed his reservations…
“Sorry for the wait~. Two daily specials and a serving of skewers~. Should I bring out the drinks immediately?”
“After the meal, please.”
The daily special lunch plate consisted of stir-fried minced meat and rice, topped with warm vegetables. The blessing of being able to eat it without caring for table manners, using only a single plate and fork! Commoners’ culture is the best! I took a bite and, just as expected of a tavern reputed for its food, it was delicious. I continued eating with a giant grin.
“Dammit! One more time!”
“Man, today’s just been easy pickings~.”
“Just you wait and see. I’m gonna show you hell!”
“Oy, oy, I’m already holding onto 3 free passes to order you around.”
As I was drinking my fruit juice after the meal, there was a group enjoying themselves over poker at a nearby table. A casual glance around at the other tables showed that there were more than a few groups amusing themselves with the card game. Was it the current trend?
“That’s… ‘poker’, right? It’s the current trend, huh.”
The prince seemed to have been thinking the same.
“So it seems.”
Perhaps because they’d noticed our scrutiny, the group at the nearby table called out to us.
“What, are you two interested as well?”
“What a prim-looking young man and lady pair, though.”
“Big bro and I are an innkeeper’s kids. It’s all about customer service so of course we’d keep ourselves prim and proper.”
“Ho, pretty insolent for a little brat~.”
“Waaaah, stop it—”
One of the older men ruffled up my hair. That ‘hair’ is a wig! So really, please stop it!
“Alright, let’s stop it right there. You two wanna have a go? If necessary, we’ll teach you the rules.”
“A customer taught me before so I know at least that much~.”
There was a time where I’d played it with Vincent, so I had a good grasp on the rules of poker.
“I know the rules as well… though I haven’t played before.”
“Is that so! I’ll lend you a deck if you like. I have two after all.”
“Is it really fine? Thank you~”
“Make sure to return it properly, ‘kay? Also, if you’re gonna play, it’ll be boring not to bet on something.”
“That’s right, kiddo. Recently, having the loser obey the winner has been the fad. Like I have 3 free passes to order this fella around, see?”
Smirking, the man pointed out another man from his group.
“Aaaah? If you’re gonna rub it in that much then let’s go another round, oy!”
“Well, you’re both just brats, after all; you’ll probably have fun even with no stakes. Awwright, shall we go a 4th round? Hehe, I’ll be able to save up enough to visit Amalia’s store…”
After handing the cards to me, the men returned to their own table.
“What shall we do? Shall we play poker?”
“I see, since we’re doing this, shall we bet something? …The winner gets to order the loser to do anything, was it?”
This prince, what did he think he was saying to a younger girl? For some reason, the prince’s refreshing smile looked downright sinister.
A bet, eh… It might not be a bad thing for me.
If I won and gained a free pass to order him around, just maybe, I’d be able to get the second prince to not marry me.
“Sure, sounds good~ because I definitely won’t lose!”
In this way, the high-stakes poker game between the second prince and I began.
“Too bad… Royal straight flush. Looks like it’s my win.”
What do you think the chances of a royal straight flush are!? Unbelievable… This must be what they call beginners’ luck. I’d let down my guard thinking he was a greenhorn. When I snuck a glance at the prince, the same refreshing smile was still in place.
“Urrghhh… Fine, just give whatever order you want, then!”
“I still don’t have anything I want to ask of you, I think.”
“Are you trying to take pity on me—!”
“Don’t be angry, don’t be angry. Isn’t ordering a girl around degenerate behavior? …Don’t you think it’s about time we leave? We still have to return the cards, too.”
As he said so, he swiftly organized the deck. However, it did not escape my eyes: the second prince retrieving the cards hidden up his sleeves, that is!
P L A Y I N G F O U L D E S P I T E B E I N G A P R I N C E !
Didn’t cheating against a girl fall under the category of degeneracy?! I was truly concerned for the second prince’s concept of morality.
Even though he was hailed as a genius, the people around him must have it hard… My cousin Linus who was many years older, came to mind. He sometimes handled the second prince’s protection, if I recalled correctly. Hmm… I should give him some sort of reward for his noble service next time we met.
“Sorry, Lia, but could I trouble you to go return the cards? I’m going to handle the payment.”
As Lia, I pretended not to have noticed the foul play. Even though I was actually really mad!
“Mister, thanks for the cards~.”
“Are you done with it already, little lady? How did the showdown go?”
“Ahaha, you’re more of a kid than your brother, so it can’t be helped!”
“Next time I’ll win, just you wait!”
“Is that so? Well, good luck!”
“Mister as well. Ah, mister, is it alright for me to have this piece of paper?”
“This? Sure, but…”
“Thanks! Then, see you around.”
“Take care of yourself~.”
I received a piece of paper—a circus flyer—from the man, then headed towards the waitress.
“Miss, can I borrow a quill and ink?”
“Hm? Sure, but what are you using it for?”
“I’d like to give big bro a present!”
“I see, I see, a good kid who thinks of her brother, hm? There are writing tools by the bulletin board there, so feel free to help yourself to them.”
I trotted over to the bulletin board. These are the ink and quill… I made a crease in the circus flyer and tore along it, reducing it to roughly the size of a ticket. Then, on the back side, I wrote down orderly letters. Letters that would be impossible for an 11-year-old innkeeper’s daughter.
I unconsciously revealed a grin. For cheating against a girl… Fufu, I’m never going to meet him again as Lia anyway, so I’ll be claiming the last laugh!
When I looked towards the prince, I noticed he had gotten held up by an older lady employee. He didn’t seem to have noticed my careful act of retaliation.
“Big bro, let’s hurry up and go!”
I hugged him firmly, throwing him a lifeline. He breathed a sigh of relief, tagging on quickly, “Mhm. We have to get home soon, Lia. The food was delicious; we’ll definitely come again.”
Leaving the older lady employee, who looked like she hadn’t had her fill of chatter yet, behind, we left the tavern. This tavern was on a straight road off the main street, so there was little traffic… but, I spotted knights a ways off. They were likely searching for the second prince. The knights looked this way and started approaching.
Lia’s duty had come to an end, so—
“Here, have this! A present as a memento for defeating me!”
I handed him the [I-O-U-coupon] I had written before. Upon my doing so, the prince revealed an astonished expression. One couldn’t fault him for it, since Lia, who should have been but an innkeeper’s daughter, could write tidy letters to the standard of someone from the upper class.
As if to rub salt into the wound, I whispered, “Playtime is over, Your Highness, the Second Prince. You’ve caused everyone quite a bit of trouble, so at least apologize to the one you’ve troubled the most, ‘kay?”
At the tone of voice that was markedly different from Lia’s, the prince looked even more confused. For an instant, I smiled in triumph, before quickly fabricating Lia’s harmless, innocent smile.
“Well then, big bro. Goodbye!”
I’ll probably never meet you again as Lia, I added inwardly.
After ascertaining that the knights behind us were close, I dashed for the main road in a full sprint.
After this, the story ties in with chapters 1 and 5. Additionally, it might be easier to understand if you read chapters 4 through 6~, is what I think. Because Anna is 10 years old at this time, she might end up doing childish things like gambling on poker with the second prince thinking she could perhaps order him around, or revealing just a little of her identity out of spite. As outstanding as she may be, she’s still just an immature 10-year-old. Although even at 17 years of age, she still has the drive to get even with anyone who messes with her, if not returning the slight at least twofold.
On the other hand, Prince Edward was born with his demon king disposition. It’s absolutely untreatable. The reason he wanted to win so much that he was willing to go so far as to cheat, is because he wanted to see Lia’s defeated expression. Incidentally, it was an unconscious desire on his part… What a scary kid!