Chapter 1. I like you, Prince

 

***

 

“Hello, Prince Lochlan.”

 

A twelve-year-old girl in a pitch-black mourning dress greeted her fiancé of the same age.

 

“April.”

 

Lochlan hurried up to her. The tears still lingered on the small face he looked at with concern.

 

It was only natural, since the funeral of her father, Count Campbell, had only been a week.

 

“I’m sorry. You didn’t have to come…” 

 

“It’s fine….”

 

Wednesday at 3pm.

 

It was the one day when they met once a week and had tea.

 

April and Lochlan had kept this promise without omission since they were ten years old when the engagement was made.

 

However, during the past week, a series of cruel things happened to April.

 

April’s mother died of childbirth fever after giving birth to her younger sister, and the weak baby born shortly after followed her dead mother.

 

The day of their funerals, April’s father, Count Campbell, was also found dead. People, who said that the healthy Count died because he could not overcome the shock of losing his wife and child overnight, were very worried about April who was left alone.

 

“…. I wanted to come to ……Prince.”

 

April finally looked up at Lochlan and tried to lift the edges of her lips up. She didn’t know what expression to make, so that was what did.

 

“…April.”

 

“It’s true. When I woke up this morning ………”

 

April squeezed her hands together. The end of her long drawn out breaths began to shake as if she was about to start crying again.

 

“I was so glad it’s Wednesday today.”

 

In an environment that had changed so much, one of the only things that remained the same was truly important.

 

“I was worried…… what if the prince doesn’t like me………” 

 

“My 3 p.m on Wednesdays will always be owned by April.”

 

He added the small word ‘forever’ . May it only reach April’s ears in this life.

 

“Thank you….”

 

April finally broke down in tears. So far, she had received a lot of comfort, but nothing had ever reassured her like this.

 

“I hope this helps you, my favorite young lady.”

 

April shook her head lightly. It was outrageous that he said it was only a little.

 

“The prince had given me so much help. Thank you, and…”

 

April stopped talking for a moment and looked straight at him.

 

“…I really like it.”

 

Lochlan looked at her with a slightly surprised expression, then smiled faintly.

 

“That’s too generous, April.”

 

He held out his hand.

 

“From now on, don’t evaluate me as a man standing in the doorway for so long and help. Do you understand?” 

 

(*I didn’t really understand the joke)

 

April smiled faintly but modestly at the light joke. He took her hand in his.

 

“Let’s go. I’ll listen to everything you have to say.”

 

He took the lead, and soon April followed him and looked at his back.

 

Even though they were the same age, he was always taller than April and always more mature. April thought that Lochlan was what the world called a Prince, itself.

 

She glanced back at him for a moment.

 

Between the golden hair swaying in the wind, there were beautiful purple eyes.

 

Lochlan looked at her as if to ask, “Are you all right?” So April gave a small nod and followed him.

 

“…Thank you.”

 

Even as she murmured in a voice too quiet for him to hear, Lochlan’s grip on her hand tightened a little more.

 

It was as if he was replying to her words, gently.

 

***

 

Twelve-year-old April had no right of succession, despite being the only bloodline of the deceased Count Campbell.

 

That right fell to the Count’s younger brother, who had long lived a life of debauchery on the outside, and who, with a raised eyebrow, accepted April as his adopted daughter.

 

“You want me to take in a child out of the blue? Surely, if you can make the Prince my son in-law, it will be a lucrative business.”

 

April’s uncle’s blunt words caused not only April but also the old servants who were protecting her to open their mouths in surprise.

 

The Campbell had been a family that had upheld honor and elegance for generations. No one could get used to this kind of behavior.

 

The brutality of the new Count continued.

 

He brought in a mistress, with whom he had maintained a relationship without marriage, and made her his wife. There was also a young girl born between them.

 

This was something that would never have been possible in a conservative aristocratic society, so naturally the new Count Campbell was surrounded by ugly news.

 

Taking advantage of this opportunity, other aristocrats who wanted to take April’s place also appeared.

 

They emphasized that new Count Campbell was not worthy of marrying into the royal family and inevitably tried to break the engagement between April and Lochlan.

 

But their engagement, which led to honest feelings, did not even have the slightest tremor. Not even until the year they turned 16.

 

That’s what people often call a “busy sixteen.”

 

It was the first year they stepped into the marriage market, and all the nobles during this period rushed to parties and performances to enjoy the “most beautiful age”.

 

The hustle of that period was no different for April and Lochlan, who were already engaged.

 

Moreover, in that year, there was also a ceremony to appoint the Prince who just became an adult as the successor.

 

“Congratulations, Your Highness.”

 

April, now a beautiful sixteen-year-old woman, bent her knees slightly to congratulate Lochlan.

 

“It’s a pleasure to celebrate with you, April.”

 

“Lochlan.”

 

Prince Dominic was Lochlan’s twin brother, and April had always had a very difficult time dealing with him.

 

‘He’s kind of scary.’

 

“Well, I need to say hello to the Crown Prince…”

 

Dominic nodded and briefly looked to the place where Locklan was.

 

Lochlan began to glance at him as well, as he saw his twin brother had approached April.

 

“Tsk, if you’re so worried, don’t leave your fiancée alone………..” (Dominic)

 

At his small mumble, April asked,

 

 “What?” 

 

“No. Shall we dance?”

 

Dominic held out his hand in a light gesture. Over his shoulder he could see a line of men and women, pairing up and crossing.

 

April bowed her head, 

 

“I’m sorry I made a promise to Prince Lochlan.”

 

“I know. The promise was Lochlan’s thirteenth birthday present, but for your first dance too?”

 

 “Yes, Your Highness.”

 

“But that’s okay. I don’t think people will even be able to tell if it’s me or Lochlan dancing with you.”

 

The royal twins had an uncanny resemblance.

 

Not only did they have great looks and voices, but they also had large bodies that completely covered April.

 

The young ladies of the society had a lot of fun trying to guess who was who, if the twins wore the same formal attire.

 

“We’re exactly the same person, anyway.”

 

Dominic took another step closer to April.

 

“We’re well-trained enough to take each other’s place in an emergency, April.”

 

It was the exact same way Lochlan would speak.

 

April stared at him curiously, and Lochlan, who returned just in time after greeting the guests, quickly hid April behind his back.

 

“It seems that stealing a thirteen-year-old boy’s birthday present is not the right action for the Prince to take. Brother.”

 

“I thought my brother was sixteen like me.”

 

Dominic still extended his hand toward April and spoke stubbornly.

 

“A gift given to a thirteen year old will forever be a gift to a thirteen year old boy.”

 

Lochlan slammed the back of Dominic’s hand down. Dominic retreated without further nastiness.

 

“Different….”

 

It was then that April’s small voice interrupted between the two men.

 

The men, who looked exactly the same, looked back at her at the same time. Perhaps embarrassed by the stares, April fiddled with the sleeves of her dress with her head down.

 

“So you two are different. I… know that.”

 

April crept up behind Lochlan and bent her knees slightly in front of Dominic.

 

“That’s why I can’t dance with His Highness the Prince. I’m sorry.”

 

Dominic, who had been staring at her,  touched his forehead.

 

“Ah, if you take it so seriously, it makes me sad, like I’ve really been rejected….”

 

 “My brother was rejected. So I’d appreciate it if you’d go over there and not hang around my precious fiancée.”

 

Lochlan hugged April’s waist lightly, both eyes straining.

 

Apparently, he didn’t want to share the seat next to her with anyone.

 

“What?”

 

Dominic shrugged and laughed.

 

“I should… since I’ll be deciding on my fiancée soon anyway.”

 

Dominic sighed and disappeared into the crowd of women.

 

April, who was looking at his back, turned around with a puzzled expression. Locklan’s hand, which was wrapped around her waist, also naturally loosened.

 

“I thought the Prince had decided to engage Miss Isabelle Wollin.”

 

“Well, thanks to his friendship with Miss Olivia Palmer, he’s done with Miss Wollin.”

 

“So is he going to engage Miss Palmer?”

 

“He ended it with her because of Josephine Cunningham.”

 

“Then he’ll engage Miss Cunningham?”

 

 “Unfortunately, Miss Cunningham has a fiancé. …It seems that it will be difficult to achieve a serious relationship this time as well.” 

 

“It seems like the Prince is hiding his sincerity.”

 

“Maybe he was scared, because sitting next to him is very difficult.”

 

April wondered if Dominic’s inability to be serious in his relationships with anyone was due to his fear of inflicting the heavy fate of the Crown Princess on the ladies.

 

“A position that seems unbearable to me.”

 

“There would be no reason to endure it. April is my fiancée, and I have no intention of giving her to another man.”

 

“That, that’s true. Hmmm…… The Prince is talking to a new lady again.” 

 

“He should at least pretend to accept the requests of the nobles. If there’s going to be a war, he’d better get married soon.”

 

When talking about the cruel word war and Dominic’s difficult situation, a small wrinkle appeared on April’s face.

 

“Are you worried?”

 

“Yes, I’m worried. He is Your Highness’ brother. 

 

“You’re very kind.”

 

Lochlan reached out toward his pretty fiancée, who was constantly looking at Dominic with concern.

 

“But please think of me once in a while.”

 

April finally turned her head towards Lochlan and smiled softly as she let him take her hand.

 

Lochlan was her fiancé, who was as gentle and beautiful as when he was a child.

 

“I always think about you. That’s what ……”

 

But…

 

Unlike him, April has changed a little since she was a child.

 

Now it was difficult for her to say a frank ‘I love you’ to Lochlan.

 

It wasn’t that her feelings had changed.

 

No, it was more like they’ve grown, so maybe “changed” was the right word.

 

Her feelings for Lochlan had deepened over time, which she could not have overcome without him.

 

But her heart, painfully full, would always stay only in her mouth.

 

When she saw his beautiful face, she felt too embarrassed to say any honest words.

 

‘I don’t want the prince to misunderstand.’

 

Perhaps April didn’t like him anymore.

 

“That’s what….?”

 

Lochlan urged the rest of the words, and April bit her lips and fled with the words, “I forgot.”

 

“I see. That’s a big deal. Come here.”

 

 “Yes, yes?”

 

“Dance with me and you’ll remember.”

 

Lochlan stepped forward, then looked back at April, and smiled playfully.

 

“I like you, April, so please remember what you were going to say to me. Without that word, I probably won’t be able to live.”

 

‘What should I do?’

 

April’s face grew hot and she began to find it difficult to even make eye contact with him.

 

She didn’t want the trembling of my heart to be revealed by the fingertips that follow.

 

…At the end of the banquet that day, April failed to deliver the words Lochlan had hoped to hear…

 

***

 

The “war” that Lochlan spoke of occurred after the two rumors of Dominic’s infamy broke out.

 

The commoners who were loyal to their country, as well as the nobles who knew honor, fought side by side with each other and went to the front to make their achievements.

 

Dominic, the son of the royal family, was no different, and neither was Lochlan.

 

“I have a somewhat rude request. April.”

 

A day before he left for the battle, Lochlan sat down in front of April, looking very serious.

 

“Anything you want.”

 

 “Do you mind if I untie your hair?”

 

April lightly touched her hair.

 

“I don’t mind, but why?

 

“I…….”

 

What? Before Lochlan even finished answering, his hand reached over her neck and gently tugged at the end of the blue ribbon on her hair.

 

There was a soft rustle of cloth and a strand of silver hair fell to her shoulder.

 

In his hand was April’s hair ribbon.

 

It was only then that April realized what Lochlan wanted was a keepsake.

 

“But I have a different gift…………” 

 

“Did you buy it? I heard you bought a handkerchief in Apec market yesterday.”

 

April nodded lightly.

 

Lochlan was a Prince, and she didn’t want to embarrass him by giving him a shabby gift.

 

“Of course, I’ll be happy to receive that, too. April must have thought of me and picked one, but this one…………….”

 

He tilted his head and put his lips on the ribbon, as if he was kissing his lover.

 

“I want to have something that is close to the person I like.”

 

April felt so embarrassed for some reason that she couldn’t even look at him properly and just blushed.

 

 “I will always tie it to my arm. Thinking of it as my fiancée.”

 

Lochlan still kept his lips on the ribbon and looked at April softly.

 

“…You don’t like it?”

 

April shook her head.

 

Remembering over and over again what he had said about she was the person he liked.

 

“I have to say it too…..I like you, Prince.”

 

April clasped her hands together in embarrassment. It was quite a long time before she could speak honestly to him.

 

“Hey, Prince!”

 

“Huh?”

 

“It’s …”

 

Lochlan’s lips, which had tried to kiss April, stopped.

 

“….”

 

“Hahaha.”

 

April couldn’t say she liked him properly, but he was laughing out loud, as if it was funny.

 

April thought to herself, ‘that’s too much.’

 

“I’m sorry. You’re really… cute, what can I do? April.”

 

Lochlan’s face came close to her forehead.

 

As his ticklish breaths touched her, April remembered him kissing the ribbon.

 

Her mind went even more blank and April covered her mouth with both hands. It was to hide her strange imagination.

 

Lochlan, who was watching her quietly, just smiled as usual.

 

“Hmm, you’ll tell me when I come back, right?” (*he wants her to tell him that she loves him clearly.)

 

April nodded slowly, her face still half hidden.

 

“Thank you, I already want to come back.” (Lochlan)

 

***

 

It was after Lochlan left for the battlefield.

 

April practiced the words “I love you, my prince” in front of his little portrait in secret.

 

Every day, in a ridiculously serious way.

 

For April, it was like praying for his safe return.

 

Was it the power of her prayers?

 

Or was it the wisdom and strength of the kingdom?

 

The kingdom won the war in two years.

 

It was a time when the newspapers portrayed and sang praises to war heroes in full swing, and people were celebrating the victory every day like festivals.

 

…..April heard the news of her fiancé Lochlan’s death.

Notes

N/A

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