“You think I’m a bother, don’t you? Even with this incident, you must be thinking it’s just another unnecessary thing. You’ve always wanted to be away from me, haven’t you? You actually hate me… That’s why you want to break off our engagement…”
Ester spoke as if a dam had burst. However, despite her tears, I had never seen her cry before.
But I had no recollection of any of the things she was accusing me of with such conviction.
“Admittedly, before I met you, I didn’t want to become the king’s consort. But after meeting you and falling in love with you, I’ve been working hard to stand by your side. So I swear I’ve never thought of you as a bother or wanted to be away from you… let alone said anything like that or acted in a way that could be interpreted that way… So why do you think that way? Did someone tell you something?”
“No, it’s not that.”
“Then why don’t you believe my words?”
“. . .W-well…”
Even if I thought I was being pushed away and hated, I had always conveyed my love to Ester. I can confidently say that I have never made any remarks that would make her feel neglected. That’s because I never thought that way.
If that’s the case, then someone must have maliciously lied to Ester. But that’s not true.
“I’ve told you many times that I love you. Did you not take it seriously. . .?”
I couldn’t help but ask, feeling like I would never be able to clear up the misunderstanding if I let this moment pass.
Eventually, when my blurry vision cleared up a bit with a blink, Ester gasped as if she had just realized something.
“. . .I’m sorry. I need to cool my head for a bit.”
My hand reached out to her suddenly standing up, but it only cut through the air. Ester’s presence had completely disappeared from the room, and I clenched my fist to control my emotions.
I wanted to go look for Ester right away, but unlike Acardi, this was a castle in another country. I couldn’t just search around on my own without any guards or knowing where she might be, so I suppressed my restless feelings and changed into my formal military uniform. Then, with a knock on the door, Roland, who was supposed to be guarding outside the room, called out to me.
“. . .Theodore, the third princess is here to see you. . .”
“What? At this time of night?”
“Yeah, and she didn’t bring any maids or knights with her.”
For now, I went out to the living room. Although the talk about Ester’s deputy partner had disappeared, Roland, who had accompanied us as a guard, shook his head in distress and placed his hand on my shoulder.
“We can’t turn them away. Let’s ask for Esterize’s help here…”
“. . .No, she’s currently in another location and can’t be reached.”
“What?…You, what have you done?”
“I haven’t done anything. Can you stop thinking of me as a scoundrel?”
I sensed what he was trying to say and denied it with a hint of irritation.
“…I don’t think there’s any danger, but the safety of Her Highness comes first. The princess will have to handle it alone. We’ll look for Her Highness. If she returns, please leave the curtains there slightly open as a marker.”
There was no other choice. As Roland hurriedly left the room, the third princess entered.
“Hehe, sorry to disturb you so late at night.”
The princess laughed with plenty of composure, wearing a shawl but dressed quite thinly. I had to avoid any strange suspicions and tighten my nerves.
“A woman of your age shouldn’t wander around like this. I’ll lend you a coat.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll take it off soon anyway.”
I furrowed my eyebrows involuntarily, understanding the meaning of her words. Ester had talked about being snuck up on by the princess as if it were a decision, but I never thought it would actually happen…
“You’re not joking…?”
“It’s not a joke, I’m serious.”
“If that’s the case, I insist even more that you leave. I am Princess Estelise’s fiancé, after all.”
“Hehe, but that Ester is not here right now. I saw her outside earlier.”
As I widened my eyes in surprise, she approached with a chuckle. Though I knew I couldn’t lay a hand on a princess, I reflexively reached for my sword. However, she remained unfazed and looked straight into my eyes, narrowing hers.
“If that person is important to you, it would be better to listen to me, wouldn’t it?”
Of course, that person would be Ester.
“If you refuse, your important person will end up attempting to murder me. It would be quite an international problem for the next queen of Acardi to attempt to murder the princess of the Verde Empire.”
“. . .Princess Esterize would never do such a thing.”
“Whether she would or not is not the issue. I am prepared to make it black and white.”
I gritted my teeth at the princess’s threat, as if it were a trivial matter. Of course, it was not a story that could be accepted at all. The story of framing Ester and the threat to listen or face the consequences.
However, just because I couldn’t accept it didn’t mean I had the right to refuse in this situation. I hoped that Ester would come back soon, but it was unlikely. So, I decided to ask about her purpose.
“. . .What do you want?”
“It’s simple. Just treat me like your lover during this stay. And I want you to be my partner for the birthday celebration.”
It was a wish that was easier to fulfill than I had thought… No, of course, it was a request that I, personally, could never allow. I thought it was something that could be expected, especially since we were engaged… I had thought it would be difficult to accept, but it was surprisingly unexpected.
The princess seemed to have sensed my inner thoughts and continued with a somewhat theatrical tone.
“I’m already 16. I’ll soon be forced to choose a fiancé against my will. So, I want to have a last memory… Hehe, isn’t it cute?”
For Ester, the most important thing is the peace of Acardi. Therefore, I must protect it… even if Ester misunderstands me. So, at least for now, I have no choice but to nod. To prevent Ester’s false accusation, I need information and evidence.
Reluctantly, I said that, and the princess took another step closer.
“I’m happy!… Please, treat me well, Theodore.”
erhaps it was an adorable smile, but to me, who saw all women other than Estel as the same, I could only offer an awkward smile in return. And it quickly froze.
“Well then, let’s get to it… Give me a kiss.”