Chapter 2

 


Translated by Yui

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“… They do look alike, but I’m not sure. I think the only thing the woman at the inn and the missing princess have are brown hair and hazel eyes. Just that…”

The carriage was riding at full speed with the duke’s aide’s horse. Their destination was the Imperial Palace. The Duke always headed there after having a meal.

Once the carriage stopped, the door opened and the sentence etched on the man’s imperial armor reflected the light. The duke and his aide walked quietly in the silent palace halls.

“Your Grace.”

The aide referred to the Duke, whose forehead was wrinkled. He had a bothered look on his face, but ignoring that, his aide continued.

“I don’t want to nag but you should be more punctual, now that you’re the Commander of the Imperial Knights’ Order, and soon will be a member of the Imperial Family. As I said in the carriage, she looks like Stella Ethelanche…”

The aide pursed his mouth slowly, with a pensive look. The Duke walked without saying a word. The aide let out a sigh.

”…are you still hung up over that unrequited love?”

”You’re talking nonsense.”

“A lot of fakes claimed to be Princess Stella. But fakes are fakes. I’m sure the one at the inn is a fake too.”

”Talking without knowing the truth. How much longer will you blabber till I shut you up?”

The man’s blood-coloured eyes gave a warning to his aide, a bloodthirsty aura released to cut down anyone in front of him. Yet, the aide did not give way.

“It’s already been 10 years since there were no stars in the Imperial Palace’s sky. Almost ten years. The stars don’t appear at all. That too, only in the Imperial Palace, nowhere else.”

“…Heaven blames the imperial family. But it’s farfetched to say that the missing princess survived. Don’t you think there’s a reason for heaven’s anger? The woman in the inn.. She’s just an empty shell that looks just like Stella. Your Grace, you have to face the present. Please don’t get swayed.”

His war-ravaged personality hadn’t changed at all. The aide rolled his eyes and looked at the blade near his neck. He couldn’t believe that he was still so sensitive. Stella Ethelanche, the missing princess, was certainly the sore spot. The aide tried to apologize for his rudeness, when-

“What are you talking about?”

A silver-haired woman popped out of the corner of the hall. The aide’s eyes widened.

As if he was overwhelmed, he greeted her with immense courtesy. The woman’s eyes fluttered, and her hair hone. The silver-haired woman in the white dress was an eye-catching beauty, but the Duke was stoic.

 

“Your Grace.”

With a smile on her face, she linked her arms around the Duke’s neck.

 

The Duke immediately showed an uncomfortable expression.

But she didn’t yield. The first princess Karen Ethelanche. She was the moon goddess, called the Moon Child, and the first love of many men.

“I missed you, Knight Commander.”

And most importantly-

She was the sister of Stella Ethelanche, the missing princess.

 

                                                               * * *

 

“He seemed to like you.”

Mary’s voice rang out along with the clatter of dishes.

I replied instantly, “No way,” smiling and carefully tucking the well-washed plates into the drawer. After washing the dishes, Mary supported her waist with her hands and stretched her back.

“Well, I’m right. All he does is look at you with a stupid look on his face. I didn’t want to say anything, but the servant seemed to be looking for you, so I called. Don’t blame me too much.”

“You’re too into fairy tales.”

“What? No, no, no, just no. When I called, ‘Ethel,’ he looked shocked. His expressionless face even had a hint of embarrassment…”

“Misunderstanding is a disease, ma’am.”

“Misunderstanding is nothing.”

Mary grinned as if she knew everything. She covered her mouth with one hand and waved with the other.

“You’ve never been in a pink love, have you? He’s so handsome, wears imperial armor, not a bad catch at all. That’s how you meet your right one, you know.”

(T/N: Pink love as in… well, as the name suggests, fluffy first love.)

“Here comes the advice of Mary – the most popular girl in town.”

Uncle Hans was coming into the kitchen with a pile of plates. Clack, the dishes were placed on the table.

“Good job, Hans.” Mary kissed Hans on the cheek.

Hans said with a grin,”I went to pick up a little something, and you’re already talking about Ethel meeting with a guy.”

“She’s not seeing him yet.”

“Yes, yes. How time flies like this.”

Mary and Hans gave me a big hug in unison. I looked at those two and smiled. Their arms were warm.

 

“Oh no. I’ve been holding you for too long. Now listen to me. You should rest. You did a great job today, baby. I brought muffins to your room.”

“I used the raisins I brought in yesterday. It’s going to be very delicious.”

“Thank you.”

I bowed and turned around, Mary and Hans, who were busy chattering.

As I slowly climbed the stairs, Mary’s words became clear in my mind. That the man from the morning might like me.

‘Aunt Mary could have thought that because she didn’t know I was the missing princess.’

 

As I take the last step, I see a warm room waiting for me.

My room. My room to welcome me, not anyone else.

There’s only one thought in this peaceful moment. I don’t want to lose this place.

So let’s just hope this incident doesn’t matter.

The servant left without a doubt and didn’t come looking for me. There’s no way I will be more involved.

                                                                        * * *

“My father wants me to marry the Duke as soon as possible.”

Karen, the first princess, examined the Duke. The Duke stayed in the carriage without saying a word. Karen’s eyes were on the Duke’s teacup.

As expected, the aide pestered the Duke.

“Your Grace.”

“……”

“Your Grace.”

The Duke sighed and scratched his head. It’s annoying to entertain a chatty woman when he’s been swinging a sword all his life. The aide, who chatted next to him, was just as cumbersome. But, he had a brain in him and looked at the princess with his usual expressionless face.

“That’s why you called me?”

A low, calm voice with courtesy, but Karen easily noticed that he was angry.

Karen’s eyes fluttered. Her mouth formed a pretty line. She seemed to know that her smile was lovely, and the way she spoke was friendly.

“You must be busy assisting Father. I bothered you too much. But don’t be too upset because I just wanted to meet you.”

The aide was still staring blankly at her. She shifted her gaze and glanced at the aide.

She pulled up the corners of her lips, “Do you mind if I borrow His Grace for a moment, Sir Peter?”

“Oh, you can borrow him for as long as you want. Even for your whole life.”

 

The aide’s body shook.

The cold-eyed duke said, expressing his displeasure, “If you have nothing more to say, I’ll get up.”

Standing up from his seat, he bowed politely to her. A gentle voice grabbed his step to leave quickly.

“The Duke is a strong candidate for Buma. In people’s views, father’s…And mine too.”

The Duke looked at her without saying a word.

“That’s what everyone thinks.”

Karen’s eyes drooped. As the Duke’s gaze lingered on her face for a long time, Karen blushed a little and avoided his gaze, looking embarrassed.

“Now, then…Excuse me.”

 

The princess looked at the distant Duke. The aide offered an apology on behalf of the duke who slammed the door.

“I’m really sorry.”

It was quite excessive to call it a poor apology, but Karen, of course, did not point it out. Instead, she smiled kindly and received his apology as if it were natural.

“No, I was the one at fault.”

 

                                                                * * *

 

The aide in the hallway looked silently at the back of the departing people. His stare soon turned to the Duke’s restless hands. The Duke was clasping his hands in an anxious manner. It was like the behaviour of a man trying to shake something off.

“To the <Adventurer’s Shelter>.”

As soon as he got on the carriage, the Duke spoke in a determined voice. Judging from his stubborn look, he seemed to have no intention of changing his mind.

“By the time you get to the <Adventurer’s shelter>, it’ll be about four o’clock. There’s not enough time to have a meal…”

“Let’s get going.”

The aide gave a discontented look to the Duke, but the Duke didn’t spare a glance. As the Duke ran his rough fingers ruggedly through his black hair, his eyes blazed.


His two red eyes looked extremely agitated.

‘He looks like this again.’

The Duke, who doesn’t even care about most people, has looked like severe pain ever since he met the First Princess.

‘I just can’t understand what he’s thinking.’


That’s why he’s just silent.

He just watched his master.

                                                                 * * *

 

“Sister, sister!”

A little girl burst open the door, ran over and sat next to me.

“Look, another witness to the youngest princess. Look!.”

“Daisy.”

Daisy was the daughter of Mary and Hans, who took care of me. The ten-year-old little lady fiddled with the front page of the crumpled newspaper. The newspaper seemed to have been picked up from the floor.

[Unlucky princess, spotted again? : Special Report on Hampshire Street]

The missing princess. My face was printed in the newspaper.

I looked at the portrait.

My hands gently traced the face which didn’t look anything like me.

Daisy added excitedly, “I’m right, no? Right? The youngest princess is so pretty that she  was hidden in the palace. They kept her existence hidden in the palace so that no great nation’s emperor could dare to covet her.”

Hidden away.

Yes, it was known that way. But the reality was even more brutal. I hid my bitter smile and stroked Daisy’s hair.

 

“Daisy must be interested in the youngest princess.”

“‘Everyone in the world is curious except you. What, are you not?

“I…”

“She must feel like she has everything in the world, right?”

 

Daisy looked up at me with a look of excitement.

“I would want a sister like Her Highness, and a brother like His Majesty the Crown Prince. Imagine being treasured by the Emperor and Empress, so that no one would be able to take her away.”

I just smiled and tucked Daisy’s hair behind her ears.

“The youngest princess who was never found…Daisy is prettier than that princess.”

“Sister is a liar.”

Daisy stuck out her lips and folded her arms, with a pouty look on her face.

After a moment, she turned and asked, “Really?”

“Yes, Daisy is the prettiest in my eyes. A princess.”

Daisy curled her lips for a moment and soon hugged my waist tightly.

The warmth of the little girl against me was comforting and I stroked Daisy’s back.

 

“Ethel.”

I looked back at the door. Mary standing behind the door said, “Heh. I knew it,” she beckoned me with a knowing look. I walked to Mary with a surprised look on my face and she whispered in my ear.

“Go down to the first floor.”

I froze on the spot.

 

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