It was so scary I didn’t want to turn around. The prince shouldn’t have entered puberty yet, so his voice shouldn’t have changed, but how come he could speak in such a low voice?
“Welcome back, Your Highness Dylan.”
“… Schwarz. What are you doing?”
Schwarz left his seat with a serious look on his face and approached the prince to bow deeply. What is with this difference in treatment? I was still his master’s fiancée.
“I was speaking to Lady Berthia.”
“Really. To Bell? About what?”
“We were simply chatting.”
Seeing how he answered the prince with no hesitation, it felt like he had prepared the answer in advance.
Schwarz would handle everything with the prince. I felt relieved knowing that, but then I heard the prince saying “Bell” with a reproaching-like voice.
I unconsciously stiffened as the prince called my name a second time. Like a metal toy needing oil, I turned to look behind me. There, Will, with a pale face, and the prince, with narrowed eyes, stood, staring at me.
“Bell, what did you talk about?”
He was aiming his attack at me instead!
I turned to Schwarz, hoping he would help me, but I couldn’t meet his eyes. I had to do something about this on my own.
“Is it something you can’t tell me?”
I wasn’t able to say it.
Enough, I will just come out and say it. I didn’t want to lie to the prince. Even if I explain it honestly, the one it’ll trouble is Schwarz. Because it was Schwarz who wanted me to celebrate the prince’s birthday with him.
While feeling guilty and about to say it casually, a chill ran down my back. There was an overwhelming bloodlust right behind my back. As I thought, Schwarz probably did assassinate people.
I decided to pretend to not know anything.
“Well, are you aware of the rumors going around about me?”
The bloodlust behind me disappeared, and, feeling relieved, I tilted my head and looked at the prince. In my opinion, this man had unrivaled looks.
“It is hard to say myself, but… that I am beautiful.”
“Oh, about that. Since you don’t go to parties often, the nobles arbitrarily started saying that. Well, the head of the Thibus Family didn’t deny it either.”
Will, standing behind the prince, said. His soft hair bounced.
“Who is beautiful?”
“Some unknown woman.”
“It’s about Bell.”
Although I didn’t want to say it because Will would tease me about it, the prince ended up doing it. Hearing his words, Will stiffened for a moment before frowning and coming closer.
“What? You are beautiful?”
“Hey, I’m your Elder Sister.”
I raised my finger and scowled at him, and Will clicked his tongue before correcting himself1
Thanks to the prince being here, Will acted obediently. It was because he would praise him if he listened to what I said. Even now, the prince was patting his head and telling him “good job”.
Will clung to the prince’s back while sticking out his tongue at me.
“Elder Brother Dylan! This person isn’t beautiful at all!”
“What? Is that so? I think she is plenty cute, though.”
The prince gave a troubled smile and glanced at me. Why was no one telling me I was beautiful?
“See, take a closer look. Because she’s cute.”
I thought the prince, who was slyly tilting his head, was much cuter.
As he said, Will stared at me. It was so embarrassing I couldn’t stand it. I had no… pimples. It was okay. Since I had clean skin, it was okay.
Feeling like a tremendously long time had passed, just as I started wondering if his staring hadn’t opened a hole in me yet, Will finally spoke up.
The surroundings turned silent. The breeze whistled, and there was only the sound of rustling leaves.
With an unusually forced smile, the prince patted Will’s shoulder.
“Err, did it hurt your feelings, Bell?”
“Huh? He only said the truth, though.”
One of Will’s remarks hit me for the first time in a while. I had probably built up a resistance to his abusive language by now.
I startled the prince and Schwarz by laughing weirdly.
“I-it’s okay! You are cute, Bell!”
“That is right. I think Lady Berthia is beautiful enough to stay as you are now.”
“It’s fine. I’m a woman who can’t become beautiful just because of flattery.”
Pouting, Will approached the prince and whispered in his ear.
“Did I say something I shouldn’t have?”
“Hmm, you need to be more considerate of others’ feelings, Will.”
Although I couldn’t hear what they were talking about, the prince sighed heavily.
Will had a blank look on his face as he wondered what had been so bad about his words. I was glad to have received his first attack. A man who couldn’t flatter anyone wouldn’t become popular with the ladies, and maybe not even the head of the house.
High society was a place filled with lies—was what Father had told me.
As the older sister, I opened my mouth to warn him, but something soft collided against me. Looking down at my stomach, I saw curly gray hair bouncing around.
“Will? What’s the matter…?”
“I’m sorry, Elder Sister.”
Raising his face, his blue eyes seemed to be covered with a film of water2. In the reflection from the light, they sparkled even more than usual.
“I was too embarrassed to say it honestly… I’m sorry, Elder Sister, I hurt your feelings, right? You are… really pretty.”
Smiling brightly, my younger brother truly looked like an angel. The moment he said I was pretty while clutching my dress was so clever. How cute. He was an angel. A true angel.
“W-Will! You are so adorable!”
“Is this much fine?”
The arm I reached out to hug Will was skillfully dodged.
“Elder Brother Dylan told me to be more considerate, so…”
Looking at the prince in despair, I saw him holding his forehead and hanging his head. Schwarz also gave a somewhat troubled expression.
“Will… I don’t think you were considerate at all…”
“Why? I did as you said, though?”
“If you were considerate, you wouldn’t frankly say you did it because of the prince.”
Being reprimanded, Will frowned sullenly.
“… I even did it properly.”
“You should distinguish between what you should say and what you shouldn’t.”
Smiling as I patted his head, Will avoided my hand with a huff and went to the prince’s side.
“Elder Brother Dylan… Am I no good?”
“Yeah. It was good you corrected yourself, but you have to lie without the other person finding it out. Do you understand?”
“So they won’t find out?”
“H-hey! Please don’t tell Will these things!”
Will stroke his chin as he thought.
Contrasted to Will’s cheerful reply, I was at wit’s end. He was being corrupted. The prince will end up corrupting him.
“Bell, you think I’m corrupting Will, right? How mean.”
Sometimes, I really suspected the prince could read my mind.
But even I knew that, on top of becoming the head of the family, there would be many unavoidable situations. High society was filled with lies, after all. If you master the art of lying, there was nothing to be afraid of. Knowing that, the prince might have taught Will this.
“No, I am actually grateful. If Will becomes skillful at lying, he will definitely become a proper nobleman in high society.”
“A nobleman in high society… What a cheesy way of calling it.”
“Rather, isn’t it exactly like you?”
Schwarz looked at me with a perplexed expression, and the prince’s shoulders shook as he cackled.
They are making fun of me…
“It is about time I go home. Schwarz.”
“As His Highness Dylan said.”
He dedicated every part of himself to the prince, huh?
I looked at Schwarz with half-lidded eyes, but he remained unbothered. For the prince, this was an everyday occurrence, so it didn’t seem strange.
While Will was talking to the prince, Schwarz approached me and murmured,
“Please, celebrate his birthday.”
To give Schwarz peace of mind, I nodded deeply.