Chapter 13: Encounter with the Crown Prince
–I used to work in the royal palace of this kingdom of Leia.
The nights at the Royal Palace are long.
Especially on summer nights during the evening party season.
When I was in the palace gardens at night, I could hear the elegant music of the orchestra on the wind.
It was around two months after I started working at the royal palace as a royal magician.
As the lowest of the low, my boss worked me from morning till night, and I was dragging my exhausted body as I walked to the dormitory building.
The palace was huge and consisted of many buildings.
I took a shortcut to the gardens, and was walking along the neatly trimmed lawn.
The grand hall shining brightly came into view.
It’s quite a distance from here, but the lively voice and music reached me.
Noble ladies in gorgeous dresses are gathered together, dancing with sturdy gentlemen.
Musicians glided their bows lightly over the strings of their amber-colored instruments.
The balcony was bathed in the brilliant light of the great hall.
On the balcony, there were several pairs of young men and women with glasses in their hands, cheek to cheek, chatting about something.
I wondered if they were lovers.
“So that’s the royal soiree.
It’s always gorgeous.
My status would never allow me to be invited.
I involuntarily looked down at my own attire.
It’s a long, plain, dark purple robe from head to toe.
I’m a sorcerer, so I can’t help it.
The bag hanging from my elbow was also a plain one, containing the thick and heavy magic books that were my work tools.
I was proud of my work, but I still longed for a glamorous evening party.
Across the large lawn garden, a different world spread out before my eyes.
It was a different world within the same royal palace.
(What would it be like to dance in that world?)
I wondered what I would see in the eyes of the ladies as they spread the hem of their dresses like butterflies and twirl around.
I wondered what it would feel like to hold hands with the nobles and dance to the music.
As my thoughts wandered, my body naturally moved.
I put my bag on the grass, put one hand on the trunk of a nearby tree, bowed, pretended to be a lady, and said,
“Well, would you like to be my partner? Yes, I’d be happy to.”
I put my left hand on the twig and hugged the trunk with my right hand.
The moment I raised my face, the twig above my head hit my forehead, and I crouched down and fainted from the pain.
It was dark, so I couldn’t see.
“Ugh, so embarrassing…”
“I like it.
How would it feel to be able to dance in such a nice dress?”
“I bet you’d get fed up with all the superficial chatter and the constant kicking down of each other.”
Someone suddenly spoke to me from behind, and I shouted briefly.
As I hurriedly stood up, I saw an unexpected person standing behind the tree.
It was Ulysses, the Crown Prince.
He was neatly dressed in a red robe embroidered with gold threads, and his chestnut hair looked soft in the night breeze.
Although I had seen the Crown Prince in the royal palace, I had never had a direct conversation with him.
“But, Your Highness! Why are you here…”
Wasn’t the Prince supposed to be attending the soiree?
As I looked up at him in confusion, he tilted his head and looked at me.
“And when you’re as beautiful as you are, people are going to come up to you and ask you to dance, and you’re going to have a hard time getting them to stand in line.”
“What are you saying? You’re joking.”
“I never thought a sorceress would want to go to a ball.”
Even a sorceress has a maiden’s heart.
Then the Crown Prince laughed mischievously.
“If it’s all right with you, would you like to dance with me?”
“No, thank you! I’m not interested in dancing!”
The Crown Prince laughed out loud, his eyes dancing in a funny way.
“I was asking the tree because I didn’t have a partner.”
“You were watching me?”
I shivered with embarrassment and frustration at being teased.
“And you were swatted away with a branch and rejected brusquely, weren’t you?”
“It’s only a tree! I was only trying to imitate them!”
It’s too embarrassing.
I bent down on one knee to leave and said, “Gozen, excuse me.”
You’re right, the tree can’t be your partner.
So here’s just the person for you.
Shall I dance with you to apologize for teasing you?”
The Prince then reached out his hand to me, his brown eyes dancing with joy.
–I’m being played with, completely played with.
His brown eyes looked really happy.
And isn’t it a bit patronizing to have a dance partner as an apology?
“No, thank you.”
I held my still sore forehead and turned away.
As I started to walk in the direction of the dormitory, the Prince called out to me.
I turned around to see that he had picked up the bag I had left on the ground and was holding it out to me.
“You forgot something.”
I was about to lose my precious book of magic.
I hurriedly reached out my hand to get it.
Touching the hands of the crown prince would be disrespectful, so I tried to reach for the handle of the bag without touching his hands, but in my haste I lifted it in a strange way and dropped it.
Immediately after the bag fell, the Prince lifted his right leg and contorted his face.
He kept one leg up and bounced up and down.
–The bag had been dropped on the Crown Prince’s foot.
(Oh my God! What a thing to drop on such a person! The magic book is hard and heavy!)
I quickly got down on my knees and hung my head.
“I’m so sorry!”
The Crown Prince sat down on the grass, rubbing the back of his right leg in agony, perhaps the horn of the magic book had hit him directly.
“I’ll take you to the infirmary! Please hold on to my shoulder.”
I suggested, extending my arm, but the Prince waved one hand with a flutter.
“No, no, no.
It’s no big deal.
–Besides, if you go to the infirmary, you will be punished.”
I lowered my outstretched hand to the ground.
If it became known that I had injured the Crown Prince, I might be subject to some kind of disciplinary action.
But I couldn’t just turn a blind eye, so I stood in front of the Crown Prince and watched him for a while.
I noticed that the music from the hall had stopped.
It seemed that it was time for a break from dancing.
“Why didn’t your Highness attend the soiree tonight? Why were you in the garden?”
“I hate soirées.
I don’t like noisy things.”
“– Is that how it is? … looks like fun…”
“If you look at it from a distance it might be the case.
But in reality, dancing is just a hassle.”
Pointing his chin at the brightly lit hall, the Crown Prince looked at me.
He smiled at me, saying he was sorry for destroying my illusions and longing.
The Prince removed his hand from his leg, perhaps the pain had finally subsided.
When he looked up again, he suddenly asked me.
“By the way, you have a northern accent.
What state are you from?”
“I’m from Baral.”
You’re a long way from home.”
“It’s a beautiful place with green rolling hills.”
“I’ve rarely been to the northern provinces.
When did you get to the royal capital?”
In response to the question, I rambled on about Baral.
I sat down next to the Crown Prince.
I was hoping that he would somehow know that I was a poor girl who sent money home to my parents and that I was a hard worker, and that he would feel sorry for me and forgive me for dropping the book.
When I finished talking, I heard the music of the waltz playing again.
The Crown Prince suddenly closed his eyes.
It seemed that he was listening to orchestral music.
His body naturally picked up the rhythm, moving from side to side.
The music was just a triple beat, which made it easy for his body to follow the tempo.
“–I want to dance, after all.”
“Would you like to go back to the ballroom?”
“No, I want to dance here.”
The Crown Prince smiled as he said this.
I’m surprised by his innocent expression, like a naughty child.
The Prince stood up and extended his right hand to me.
“I hope you will take the hand that is offered to you the second time, even if it is out of sympathy.”
Before I could open my mouth to immediately say no, the Prince continued,
“I am the luckiest man in Leia tonight to be dancing with you.”
The Crown Prince kept reaching out to me, so I sat up a little.
“But don’t you hate dancing?”
“Dancing in the open garden is surely more enjoyable than an evening party in a large hall.
–Soon, the waltz will be over.
I took his hand as I stood up.
We looked at each other and leaned in close.
In that moment, I realized that I had plunged into the unknown.
I couldn’t take my eyes off the brown eyes that were looking down at me at close range.
The green of the surrounding trees and the glittering lights of the hall were immediately out of sight.
I clasped my right hand in his and fearfully placed my left hand on the Prince’s shoulder.
I just listened to the waltz and danced with the Crown Prince to the sound.
It didn’t matter if I was good at dancing or not.
It was incredibly pleasant to just stare at the prince in front of me and do one thing.
The starry sky twirled in accordance with our movements.
I stare up at his face against the backdrop of the night sky.
My consciousness was so heightened that I felt as if I were being sucked into the stars.
Every time we spun together in time with the sound, I felt like my body could really float and fly away.
I wanted to say something.
But my mind was too excited to think of anything else, so we just danced in silence.
It was the first time in my life that I had ever felt this kind of excitement in my heart.
Soon the song ended.
Feeling a sense of regret, I tried to let go of his hand, but on the contrary, the Prince’s hand tightened.
The Crown Prince reached out his right hand to my waist and pulled me tightly, fiercely impatient.
The song was over, but our dance was still going on.
The sound of the orchestral instruments faded away, replaced only by the crunch of the grass we were stepping on.
“Royal Palace Magician.
What is your name?”
The Crown Prince looked at me intently and waited for my reply.
I had never felt so happy to be asked my name, an ordinary thing that I had experienced so many times in so many places.
I wanted him to remember my name properly, so I made sure to answer clearly.
“–What did the Crown Prince say at that time?”
I think he said, “That’s a good name,” or maybe he called me “Liesel.”
Anyway, this was how Ulysses and I met.
After that, the Prince began to visit the royal palace’s magical office whenever he needed to, and we began to meet there frequently.
I began to look forward to the Crown Prince’s visits to the Magical Office, and eventually we began to meet in secret.
We would meet up in unpopular places, such as a sunny balcony or a corner of an abandoned garden.
I was so happy to see him and to talk to him, that I realized that what I was harboring in my heart was love.
And I expected the same thing from the Prince.
When he kissed me for the first time, I had a dream I shouldn’t have had.
The little girl from the bottom ranks of the aristocracy dreamed a reckless dream and then was quickly kicked down by the girl who had it all.
When I opened my eyes, I shook my face from side to side strongly.
(That future will never come, don’t worry.
I tell myself and clench my fists hard.
After the performance of the charity concert, the last event of the year came to an end.
After this, we all had to clean up the entire school.
For some reason, a group of boys were following Iris out of the hall and seeing her off to the carriage.
“What’s that? Help me clean up properly!”
Cynthia glared at the crowd of boys, her face reddening as she clutched her broom with both hands.
There were paper bags and cake wrappers on the ground in the schoolyard, probably blown away by the wind.
With a dustpan in one hand, I used my broom to sweep up the trash.
Holding the garbage bag was Gideon.
I wondered if he was going to see her off.
Iris is Gideon’s childhood friend.
Sweeping the ground with a broom, I approached Gideon with the garbage bag.
He kneeled down on the ground and spread out the garbage bag with both hands and held it ready for me.
(Even so, I haven’t heard that voice in a long time.
A sweet, soft, angelic voice.
I remembered Iris’s face and voice for the first time in a long time.
I gathered up the trash with a dustpan and put it in Gideon’s trash bag.
“You’re not going to see that Iris girl off, are you?”
Gideon looked up and glanced at the carriage.
“We’ve talked enough in the stalls.
Besides, if so many people are seeing her off, I don’t think I need to be there.”
“I thought you and her were good friends.”
Gideon’s eyes widened slightly for a moment and shook his head from side to side.
“–We’re just childhood friends.”
In the past, Gideon was like a protector of the saint, and at the royal palace, he was treated by the saint as one of her many followers.
But from what I saw today, their relationship this time seemed to be rather reversed.
I thought as I looked down at Gideon, who was picking up the trash from the dustpan and putting it into a garbage bag.
Perhaps that’s just as it should be.
From an objective point of view, this Gideon was kind, gentle, earnest, hardworking, and even good-looking.
Even if he was a childhood friend, it would not be surprising if she fell in love with such a person.
“…but she probably doesn’t think so…”
I was being a little sarcastic.
I turn my back to him, shaking off Gideon’s blue gaze as he looks up at me in surprise.
I then proceeded to sweep the ground with my broom in a messy manner, chasing the remaining trash.
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