Chapter 11 – Is She Truly Your Friend?
Was there anything in this world that is more vexing than this?
The effort that I put into coming to the Imperial Palace with Dorothea—despite not wanting to come in the first place—was all in vain. My face crumpled in despair.
Oh, do I just wait now for him to say something along the lines of “You’re so beautiful. Please marry me!”?
Or will he ask for her name, like he did in the original novel?
Or will he omit all middle steps and skip straight to marri— ah, I think that’s a bit too much of a stretch.
“Yes?” Dorothea’s face was as pink as a peach. As I watched her face light up with glee, I felt immeasurable despair.
Oh no… did I fail to change the storyline of the novel? Was my plan about to crumble to ruins?
Just as I was panicking inside, Xavier’s baritone voice reached my ears.
“Pardon me for asking, but what is your relationship with Lady Maristella?”
Wait, the handsome man remembered my name— no… more importantly, why is he suddenly asking her that?
I anxiously glanced back and forth between Xavier and Dorothea.
I didn’t seem to be the only one who was taken aback by that question. Dorothea gave a few owlish blinks.
“…Pardon me?” she said after a short while.
“I asked about your relationship with Lady Maristella.”
Although he was polite, his manner of speech was slightly stiff. Even I could hear a strange sense of distance in his tone. Dorothea tilted her head, seemingly not understanding his question.
“She’s my friend,” she answered.
Friend my ass, I cursed internally. Never could I ever say such a thing in front of a member of the royal family.
However, what Xavier said next was a moment of reckoning.
“She couldn’t be.”
“…P-pardon me?” Dorothea stuttered.
“I find it extremely hard to believe that you two are friends,” he replied.
Dorothea and I simultaneously made dumbfounded expressions at his outright rejection.
What the heck is going on right now?
“If you were truly Lady Maristella’s friend, you would never belittle her with such insulting words,” Xavier continued smoothly.
“Excuse me? When did I—”
“You just asked her ‘how dare she’ be with me.”
“I clearly heard it twice, My Lady. As long as my ears are working well.” His entire speech was in monotone, and anyone from my world would have mistaken him for a robot.
And, to be honest, although this may not be the greatest thing to admit… I was actually kind of intrigued by this situation.
No—amused, even. No matter how anyone saw it, this was not at all a positive first encounter between the male hero and the female heroine. I might be able to achieve what I wanted without even having to go between them.
“Such expressions cannot be possible between individuals of a horizontal relationship, My Lady. Even in a vertical relationship, such phrasing… forces me to believe that you are very rude and insulting.” Xavier turned his head towards me as he finished his sentence.
Ah, that surprised me.
To describe his handsomeness and otherworldly would be an understatement. I gasped before I could stop myself.
Your Highness the Crown Prince, please at least give me a warning before you do that!
You probably don’t know how handsome you look now, but it’s kind of bad for my heart.
“Lady Maristella,” he said to me.
“Y-Yes?” I managed to clumsily articulate.
“Is she truly your friend?”
Tears suddenly pooled in my eyes.
No, she’s not my friend! I’d never be friends with someone so selfish!
She’s not my friend. Why do you keep asking? If it were you, would you want to be friends with someone like her?
My irritation, frustration, and anger mounted, until a little lightbulb popped up. I intentionally let myself appear teary-eyed. I bit my lower lip and replied honestly.
“Is that true?”
“Yes.” I choked up and bit my lip harder. That’s…more the reason why I’m shocked. I trusted that she was my friend all this time.”
“Marie!” Dorothea protested.
“I didn’t expect her to be so insulting. ‘How dare you’…was she trying to imply that I don’t have the right to even speak to Your Highness?”
“That is not true at all, Lady Maristella,” Xavier said, his voice slightly more gentle than before. “Since you have attended my birthday banquet, you too must be a noble. But even if you were not of noble birth, it is not at all shameful to speak with me.”
“Thank you for your kind words…Your Highness,” I hiccuped, and I let the tears flow. I considered dabbing on some saliva near my eyes, but decided against overdoing it. My eye makeup would smudge everywhere and make me look like an absolute mess. Just the thought of looking so unsightly in front of such a good-looking man sent chills down my spine.
“Actually, I…” When I hesitated and hinted that I had something more to say, Xavier urged me on.
“Do speak, My Lady.”
“It’s…true that I was trying to speak to you, Your Highness.”
“What do you mean?”
“My friend here told me that she fancies you and asked me to help start a conversation.”
Who would have thought that I could use that reason like this? I was so ecstatic that I almost burst out in laughter.
“I wanted to be of some help, and I was seriously wondering how I could speak to you, Your Highness. I never imagined that she would be thinking of me approaching you in that way.”
I dramatically shivered in betrayal. Xavier, upon hearing my words and watching my gestures, turned towards Dorothea with a hardened expression.
Needless to say, Dorothea was panicking.
“T-That’s not true, Your Highness. Why are you telling lies, Marie? You told me that I should solve my own problems! You said that you wouldn’t help me!” she cried.
The tears glistened in my eyes. “But my friend was telling me that she was too scared to talk to the person she liked…how could I just sit there and do nothing?” Then, I turned towards Dorothea and dealt the final blow. “I thought we were friends, Dorothea.”
“Could it be that you…never thought of me as your friend?”
…I guess I really do sound like a snake.
I wanted to puke up the salmon salad that I had a while ago, but I managed to restrain myself. The goal was just ahead. I couldn’t mess this up.
“N-No, Marie. I…I just—” Dorothea stammered.
“Could it be that you…you thought that I was trying to seduce His Highness?” I said accusingly.
“No, Marie. I never—”
Xavier’s cold voice cut in. “Allow me to interrupt, My Lady.”
Dorothea looked right about to cry when her protests were interrupted by another.
Xavier looked down at her coolly. “If you raise your voice any further, we will attract the eyes of all the other nobles.”
True enough, some of them were already looking in our direction. However, that was probably because the Crown Prince was here, not because Dorothea raised her voice.
“I suggest that you uphold your dignity as nobility, My Lady,” Xavier said.
“Lady Maristella.” Xavier shifted his gaze away from Dorothea. My heart pounded wildly when I realized that that handsome face was solely directed towards me.
Hahh, Christ. How in the world does such a face exist? How could someone have a beauty of once-in-a-thousand-years?
I was fairly certain that I was unfazed towards handsome faces, which made my current self seem ever more ludicrous. However, despite such feelings, I could not deny the fact that my heart was jumping at Xavier’s beauty.
I swear absolute honesty.
“Yes, Your Highness?” I said.
I blinked my now-dry eyes and looked at Xavier. To be honest, he was too handsome for me to look at properly, but I figured that I should treasure this sight as I didn’t know when I would see him next.
“How about we talk while we dance?” he asked.