At night, Ester ended up in the room that the Crown Prince had newly prepared for couples. After finishing her bath and heading towards the bedroom, she was sitting on the bed, looking at some documents while illuminated by the moonlight.
Her Claret hair, which was not completely dry, was down on her back, and her originally soft body lines were clearly visible in her negligee, which seemed to have thin fabric even from a distance. I couldn’t help but look away.
“. . .Theodore?”
Noticing me and calling out, she still wore her face veil as usual, which prevented me from fully discerning her expression… but she hurriedly placed the documents she had in her hands on the bedside table.
…That’s why I have no confidence in not doing anything…
…If that’s the case, then I don’t mind.
Because of that conversation, I can’t help but think about it. If she said she wouldn’t mind, unexpected as it may be, I heard that she would remove the face veil at that time. To be honest… I want to see it. I want her eyes to reflect me. And if our bodies are connected—well, at this point, regardless of the actual situation, it would be an implicit understanding that it would happen—but then our marriage would be certain. If that happens, Ester won’t need to worry about finding a good match for me after our engagement is dissolved… unnecessary concerns like that.
What was interrupted by the princess at that time was a declaration that if I couldn’t marry Esther, I would rather remain single for the rest of my life… But in truth, I even think that death would be better, just as she said. Imagining living in a country ruled by Esther, bound to another man other than me, feels like my heart is being crushed in my chest.
However, she always hid her face and never showed it to anyone other than her family because she was a sacred being. It was also true that I had reservations about violating her body while still unmarried. Moreover, if she were to become pregnant as a result, it would disrupt various plans, and she would have to prepare for the already busy wedding while being pregnant.
“Can I sit next to you?”
“Uh, yes…please do.”
I sat next to Ester, hiding my inner turmoil and nervousness.
I wanted to touch her. I wanted to hug her. But I knew that I would lose control if I did so.
“…You must be tired. Shall we go to bed now?”
I gathered what little reason I had left and just stroked her head. Then, I got on the bed, trying not to keep her in my sight too much, and i heard a slight gulp.
“I’ll go to bed a little later. Good night.”
I could tell from her tone of voice that the words she swallowed were not what she really wanted to say.
“…Ester, am I getting in the way by being here…?”
“No, not at all…I was the one who suggested it.”
Ester tried to say something but closed her mouth. Maybe I should tell her that she doesn’t have to force herself to speak if it’s difficult, but I wanted to know as much as possible about her, so I silently waited for her to continue.
Since the first time I met her, Ester had a tendency to try to solve things on her own. Even when we were close friends in our childhood, she rarely confided in me about her troubles. So I wanted to know what she was thinking, what she wanted, and if there was anything I could do to help, no matter how trivial or silly it may be.
I sat back down next to her and touched the hand that was tightly clenched. She flinched her shoulders for a moment in surprise, but then took a deep breath and seemed to make up her mind.
“What do you think about the third princess?”
“Well…to be honest, I think she’s quite troublesome.”
It was a disrespectful statement towards a princess of another country, but I answered honestly without trying to hide my true feelings. Ester didn’t scold me for it, she just smiled awkwardly.
“I was hoping that even if you were to be with someone other than me, it wouldn’t be her. I’m sure there’s someone better for you, otherwise it’s just… “
She didn’t seem to intend to voice the rest of her words that were cut off there, but I didn’t pursue it. More than that, it was sad to think that Ester had always assumed that we would eventually be separated.
“However, if you think about it calmly, the third princess has a high status, excellent appearance, and even magical talent… She may have some flaws in her personality, but she is said to be intelligent despite her appearance. If she wants to be with you, she will come to Acardi without hesitation and love and cherish only you.”
Ester spoke in a lonely and somewhat resigned tone. Although I wanted to hear her out, I couldn’t help but purse my lips at the unfavorable turn of the conversation.
“As for me, there will be many times when I won’t put you first as the next queen. Even as an individual… I couldn’t find any aspect where I am better than the third princess, whom I dislike. If I had to say, it would only be that I can use healing magic as a substitute for a first aid kit.”
Before I could interject and say that it wasn’t true, she continued to spill her words. I could only shake my head to express my disagreement.
“It may be my ego that I don’t want you to be with her, and I may not have had to go this far to stop it…”
Finally, Ester fell silent. Her voice was thin and strained at the end.
“That’s not true. Really, I don’t want to be engaged to the third princess… or any other young lady.”
“Is that true?”
I don’t want her to worry about how she compares to others. Even if there were someone who was considered better than Ester, I can only love her. I looked straight into her eyes, wanting to convey my true feelings.
“I see…I understand.”
I nodded in relief, hoping that Ester could understand even a little bit…but it was short-lived.
“Come to think of it, Angelica is much better than the princess and the daughters of Verde…isn’t she?”
I was taken aback by the fact that she hadn’t even conveyed it to me a moment ago. Why did she bring up Princess Angelica’s name?
While I was at a loss for words, Ester, who seemed to have regained her composure, spoke in a slightly higher tone than before.
The age difference might be a hurdle, I thought… but if there’s only about an 8-year gap, it can be overlooked. Even now, Angelica, the perfected beauty, would become a stunning beauty standing by your side. She’s cute, intelligent, and can even communicate with animals through magic…”
I couldn’t bear to hear her talk happily about me being with someone other than her, so I finally interrupted. I couldn’t control my emotions and ended up raising my voice, causing Ester to jump in surprise.
“Ester…do you really like me?”
I asked her, speaking from my heart.
I’ve liked you since the day we first met.
Because I like you…I don’t want to see you touched by the princess.
She had said that to me before. When I heard those words, I was so happy. So why doesn’t she want me?
I don’t understand Ester’s feelings.
“. . .Does Theodore really say that?”
The answer was a small voice, almost drowned out by my rough and agitated breathing. I concentrated hard, not wanting to miss a single word, hoping for a positive response to my question.
And that voice sounded like it was about to cry.