Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 03: After the Glittering Stage
The party continued late into the night, but a single girl left. Clouds covered the moon, shadowing Julianna’s way back to a carriage marked with a lion—the crest of Marquess Lewis.
Marquess Lewis’ lineage began with Leon Lewis, a retainer and close friend of the Hero King Abel Rowlands. As one of the “Three Pillars of the Royal Family,” his lineage continued to support the royal family, alongside the families of Duke Inglot and Duke Olcott, since the founding days of the kingdom. Many of those from House Lewis were said to be amazing people with wide information networks bringing them news from many places. The present head of House Lewis was serving as prime minister and swore fealty to the present king.
A maid disembarked from the carriage.
“Welcome back, my lady. Have you had your fill of the evening party already?”
“Yes, I have sufficiently completed my task as Father’s proxy. I’m ready to go home.”
“I understand. Your hand, my lady?”
Julianna placed her hand in her maid’s and boarded the carriage. With an order to the driver, they headed for the Lewis mansion.
Once inside the carriage, I let out a huge sigh. “Phew~, I’m tired.”
The maid knitted her eyebrows at this blatant display of exhaustion.
“My lady, a proper lady mustn’t let out such an idiotic sound inside the carriage.”
“It’s fine, Mary. Aren’t I properly playing the perfect lady outside?”
“If you’re playing a role, please continue to play it.”
“But if I play it all the time, it wouldn’t be a role anymore, it would just be me. And,” I added, “it wouldn’t be any fun anymore.” Mary shook her head and sighed in resignation.
Mary was my personal maid. She was beautiful, with caramel-colored hair and black eyes that sucked you in. And contrary to her appearance, she was a first-class maid who was even capable of fighting.
Her master, the one who made her sigh, was I, Julianna, eldest daughter of Marquess Lewis. I was idolized as the perfect lady, but that was nothing more than a character I played. Everything was fiction. It was my hobby, my favorite activity, to act.
It all started back when I used to read books out loud for my younger brother who had a weak body when he was young. In the beginning, I only added inflections to my voice. Then I started to really use different voices and completely became the characters in the stories. My brother loved it when I did that, and I improved my acting abilities to entertain him. As the years went by, my younger brother became stronger. When he turned ten, he enrolled in the military academy and moved into the dormitories. I had lost my audience, so I took my acting outside. From time to time I would become the daughter of a merchant, the daughter of an innkeeper, the son of a blacksmith, the third son of a farmer, a maid, a ruined noblewoman, an entertainer, and so on. I played all of these characters and roles. There were characters I only played once, some I stopped playing, and others I continued with for many years. At the beginning, I was severely scolded whenever it was discovered that I had snuck out, but the extensive information network I had established through these roles was too useful to the country to be ignored. I was allowed to continue as long as I didn’t neglect my duties as the marquess’ daughter. I just happened to enjoy acting out the role of a perfect lady alongside all the other acting I did, so it all worked out.
While I dozed off, we arrived at the Lewis mansion located in the royal capital.
“WELCOME HOME, MY LADY.”
The servants’ voices echoed in the entrance hall.
“I want to quickly take a bath and rest.”
“We will make the preparations.”
I wondered which bath salts would be used today as I headed to the bathroom together with Mary.
# # # # # # #
“Hah?! A summons from the second prince, Lord Edward? Are you sure, Mary?”
“A proper lady must not use such vulgar language as ‘Hah?!’ my lady. I am certain that this summons from the second prince is addressed specifically to you.”
“Specifically to me…”
Two days after the evening party, Mary came to me as I was working on the terrace and brought me this unbelievable news. How utterly troublesome… I took a sip of the black tea Mary had brewed for me to calm down.
Alright. Let’s pretend I didn’t hear it! Thus resolved, I returned to the unfinished paperwork about the levee situation in our territory. “We have harvested enough for reserve this year, so I want to quickly start construction,” I said, but Mary would not let me escape reality.
Mary said “M y l a d y” with great emphasis and an unyielding face. She held out the letter.
I can see her relentless aura… Before she could start lecturing me, I accepted the letter. The contents were as follows: “I have an important matter to discuss, so I want you to come to the royal castle.” It was indeed from the second prince and addressed to me.
“I wonder if the rumors are true.”
“Are you referring to how the second prince is meeting various ladies to determine who will become his fiancée?”
“Right, although it seems he doesn’t always really ‘meet’ them. Apparently, he just talked to them or looked at them. That’s what many of the ladies were boasting about during the evening party the other day.”
“…Boasting, you say? Are you envious of them, my lady?”
“Not at all. Why would I be envious of them?”
The second prince, Edward Rowlands, was born as the son of the queen consort, making him the first in line to inherit the kingdom’s throne. He had a beautiful appearance and a gentle and kind-hearted personality. But from my point of view, that second prince, known as the ‘Ideal Prince’, was nothing more than a third-rate actor.
What does ‘Ideal Prince’ even mean? It was true that he was good-looking, but a gentle and kind-hearted personality?! What a lie. With just a few kind words and a gentle face, he swayed people to view him as infallible just. The constant smile he plastered on his face was just a mask! When I said so, Mary absentmindedly commented in a low voice, “People do hate those who are similar, after all.” There was no way we were similar!
“Well, this is an official summons… As the marquess’ daughter, I cannot disobey the royal family.”
“Then, I shall respond that you have accepted the prince’s summons.”
I went back to my work, feeling melancholic.
# # # # # # #
When I stood before the second prince’s office, frankly speaking, I wanted to run away.
Unaware of my feelings, the second prince’s maid opened the door. There were three men inside. At the center of the room, sitting at the desk with his chin propped on his hand and a suspicious-looking grin on his face, was the second prince, Prince Edward. Standing to the prince’s right was his aide, Lord Silas Inglot, heir to House Inglot, one of “The Pillars of the Royal Family.” With green eyes and smooth black hair tied back, he was a fine-looking man who exuded a noble and refined air. It seemed he was called the “Cold-blooded Aide” in the shadows.
Standing to the prince’s left was the captain of the Third Order of Royal Knights, Lord Kiel Maybrick. He was the third son of Duke Maybrick, the finest swordsman of the Rowlands Kingdom, and himself becoming the youngest knight captain in history. His red hair was trimmed short, and his large, stunning amber eyes were resolute. It seemed he was called the “Meathead Lion” in the shadows. Hey, wait a minute. Lions are the symbol of House Lewis.
Aide Silas shot a sharp, piercing glare my way. Captain Kiel looked like he had spotted something interesting. Prince Edward had his usual fake smile on as he looked at me. The commonality between the three was that they were trying to see through me. Why must I be evaluated like this…? I performed a perfect curtsy, cursing them in my head.
“Pardon me. I am here at the request of His Highness, Prince Edward. I am Marquess Lewis’ eldest daughter Julianna.”
“Yes, we’ve been waiting, Lady Julianna. Take a seat there.”
His Highness pointed at the sofa in the center of the office. He probably situated it there in order to hold a comfortable conversation.
The maid guided me towards it and I sat. When I did, His Highness sat across from me, and Aide Silas sat beside him. Captain Kiel stood behind Edward, acting as his guard.
“There’s no need for you to be so stiff… Though I guess you can’t help it.”
“I deeply apologize, Your Highness. This is, after all, the first time I have ever received a summons from the royal family directly addressed to me… I-I’m terribly nervous.”
“And yet, for someone as nervous as you claim, your curtsy before was flawless.”
“Oh, my. That is simply because I strove to hide my trembling as best as I could.”
“If the young noblemen knew that I had caused the rumored ‘perfect lady’ Lady Julianna to be so nervous, they might try to take me out.”
“Oh, dear… Such a thing wouldn’t happen. Although, it is the same for me. If the young noblewomen knew that Your Highness, the rumored ‘ideal prince’, had invited me, something terrible would happen.”
The maids placed tea and snacks on the table while we talked. Inwardly, I was grumbling about when Prince Edward would get to the main topic. Just when I thought this meaningless conversation would drag on forever, Aide Silas opened his mouth for the first time since I entered the room.
“His Highness and Lady Julianna have an important matter to discuss. All of you, leave the room.”
The maids obeyed.
They left. One of the maids looked reluctant, though, and turned back once. She probably enjoyed gossip. Meanwhile, I wanted to leave the room with the rest.
“What is this important matter, Your Highness?”
“Yeah, the matter at hand is this—Lady Julianna, you are ‘Lia’, correct?”
“Lia…? Is that perhaps some kind of title?”
“It’s not a title. Lia is a name.”
“A name, you say… As Your Highness is aware, my name is Julianna. My nickname is not Lia but Anna. Therefore, I believe I am not the Lia Your Highness is referring to.”
In response to my denial, Prince Edward took out a scrap of paper. It was old and crumpled. Written in refined letters on the paper was this message: “Proof that I will listen to 1 thing you ask.” It was signed “Lia” in the lower right corner. As I looked at the scrap of paper, Prince Edward began his story.
“This scrap, you see, was given to me seven years ago, when I was fourteen, by a certain girl. Her name was Lia.”
“And does that girl…Lady Lia look like me?”
At my timid question, Prince Edward asserted, “Absolutely not.”
I made a blank, surprised expression. Without commenting on it, Prince Edward continued.
“At that time, she was eleven. She had bronze-colored hair and chocolate-colored eyes. She said that she was the daughter of an innkeeper in the royal capital.”
“She does not appear to bear any resemblance to me…”
“That’s right. There isn’t a single resemblance. That is exactly why I think you are Lia. I, you see, Julianna, have been searching for Lia for seven consecutive years. To begin with, I investigated the daughters of innkeepers in the royal capital. Well, I wasn’t expecting much from that, and as I thought, there weren’t any girls resembling Lia. Next, I investigated the likely daughters of nobles. Based on my conversation with Lia, I figured that she was most likely a young lady from a noble family. That was the biggest hint she gave me. So I searched for someone her age among the ladies, but I still couldn’t find her. That’s why I searched for ladies with similar hair and eyes…and I still couldn’t find her. So then I decided to search among the ladies who shared no resemblance to her. I’ve observed from afar, talked to, and actually met with them to confirm. After all of this, I have concluded that you, Julianna, are the only one who can be Lia.”
Prince Edward rattled on without a single pause. He dropped formalities and honorifics. Sipping tea to calm my nerves, I found myself slightly frightened that His Highness’ true character had come out.
“I…am Julianna, Your Highness.”
“That’s right. But, if you’re not Lia, then I’ll have to start looking towards men for possible candidates. My actions have already created rumors that I’m searching for a bride, but the next rumors would probably be about me being homosexual.”
“——?! Umm… Why is Your Highness so determined to find this Lady Lia?”
I was about to be forcibly labeled ‘Lia’, so I shifted the topic.
“I want her. She is the only woman to have ever defeated me. Oh, but I’m thinking now that she might have been a man.”
Saying that, Prince Edward held out a card. The card read: “Father, happy birthday. From Julianna”. It was the birthday card I had given my father for his birthday when I was ten years old. While I was wondering why His Highness was holding such a thing, he continued assertively.
“I had the handwriting analyzed, and this Lia’s letters are a match for yours, Julianna. The analysis was done by a professional—the chief officer of the Records Office.”
The Records Office referred to the department that recorded the history of the Rowlands Kingdom. They chronicled history, uninfluenced by the opinions of the royal family, which meant that if I were to refute the validity of the chief of such a neutral department, I would essentially be refuting the kingdom itself. Such an act was unpardonable for a noble.
“Now then, Lia, I have removed my mask of the ideal prince. Why don’t you drop your character of the perfect lady?”
Prince Edward’s face split into an egotistical and wholly amused smile. The second prince, known as the ‘ideal prince’, had ceased to exist.
T h i s b l a c k – h e a r t e d p r i n c e ! !
The only thing I could do was curse him inside my head.
this reminds me of another character’s quote “obsessive men are unattractive” lol