I leaned my head against the bathtub where I had been flicking water with my fingers. I had to admit it now.
‘I guess I’m falling for Diart after all.’
There was no other way to explain the shaking I felt when I saw him earlier. I had been attributing it to simple liking, trying to dismiss it as just a passing fancy, but the real reason I had been ignoring it was because I had come to like Diart.
“How did I end up liking that guy.”
My ideal type was a gentle and modest man, so how did I come to like this crazy guy who was the complete opposite? I didn’t know how to face Diart from now on.
I submerged my head in the water to cool down my burning cheeks.
I hurriedly got out of the water at the startled voice coming from outside. Lily, who was standing there with a pale face, hesitated for a moment before collapsing to the ground.
“I scared you. I thought you had fainted again.”
Lily sobbed. She seemed really surprised, thinking something had happened to me while she was out to get perfume.
“Are you okay? You didn’t push yourself too hard in the hunting grounds, did you?”
I had sent Lily away earlier when she was getting too worked up about the bleeding demons that I shot with an arrow. It seemed like she was still worried about me.
“I’m fine. I won’t collapse anymore from now on. Don’t worry.”
My illness was fine as long as Diart was around.
But Lily didn’t seem to believe me, and her face looked uncertain. She spoke in a stern voice as she poured perfume into the bath.
“It’s good to relieve fatigue, but it’s not good to soak in hot water for too long.”
“Okay. I’ll get out soon.”
Maybe it was because I had admitted my feelings for Diart, but Lily seemed different. It was strange to view her as someone who would eventually part ways with me to someone who would be with me for a long time.
As Lily continued nagging and pouring bathwater, she hesitated for a moment before taking something out of her waistband.
“What is it?”
“It was given to me earlier by one of His Highness the Crown Prince’s servants.”
I took the letter she handed me. At the end of the short letter, Jarvis’ name was written. They must have handed it to Lily, who had returned from the hunt first.
“Did Diart allow this?”
“Master doesn’t know. They told me to give it to you in secret, so I didn’t tell him.”
“But you took it secretly before.”
“W-well, I was worried that someone would take you away, madam…”
‘But I am the madam’s maid. Whatever choice my lady makes, I will follow.’ Even though she said that, there was anxiety in her eyes.
I smiled at Lily, who was worrying unnecessarily.
“There’s no need for that.”
* * *
Coincidentally, Duke Feischer and Duke Wheaton had left to meet and catch up with the Emperor, whom they hadn’t seen for a long time. Diart was also in a meeting with the knights about tomorrow’s hunt. It was the perfect time to meet Jarvis.
“Is it okay? It might be better to inform the Master and then go…”
“If Diart finds out, he will never let me go.”
Judging by his incredibly jealous personality, he wouldn’t allow me to go meet Jarvis in the middle of the night. Well, even if it wasn’t midnight, he wouldn’t allow me to meet him at all. This was the only chance.
“It’s protected here with a barrier so that demons can’t come in. And there are knights stationed all around.”
Besides, the other party was none other than the Crown Prince, whose identity was more certain than anyone else’s.
“Let’s go quickly before Diart finds out.”
Taking advantage of the moment when the guards were changing shifts, I headed towards the location where the runaway Crown Prince said he would be waiting. The waterfall right next to the white flag area was also close to Wheaton’s camp. I may have shouted loudly at Lily, but now that I was outside, I felt scared. Maybe I should have brought Milto with me. Just as I was thinking of going back, I heard a sound from ahead.
“You’re a truly hard person to meet.”
My heart, which had been pounding, eased at his playful tone.
“I have to carry out an intelligence operation like this just to get a glimpse of your face.”
Crown Prince Jarvis smiled mischievously. He, too, was accompanied by only one person. I placed my hand on my chest and bowed my head.
“May the radiant Crown Prince Jarvis of the Empire, always be accompanied by glory. I greet you, Your Highness.”
“…Isn’t this the first time you greet someone with such formality? You’re drawing a line as soon as we meet.”
Jarvis said with a bitter expression. It was a wounded look, but I couldn’t let myself weaken over something like this. If I acknowledged my feelings for Diart, I had to reject Jarvis’ feelings even more decisively. That’s why I had come out against his wishes.
“Your Highness, the reason I came out here is…”
As Crown Prince Jarvis suddenly opened his mouth, I unknowingly followed suit. At that moment, something slipped into my mouth.
“What… what is this?”
“It’s my love.”
Without thinking, I reflexively spat out what was in my mouth onto the ground. Crown Prince Jarvis laughed cheerfully.
“This lack of restraint… I missed it.”
Crown Prince Jarvis laughed, and then he extended what he held in his hand.
“It’s the finest chocolate from the principality1공국 is a country where the monarch’s position is a duke.”
Although he urged me to take it, I couldn’t accept it. Crown Prince Jarvis simply shook his head and placed the chocolate box in my hand.
“Eating something sweet makes people feel good. After eating everything in the box, say what you want to say. It’s better not to hear it now.”
“Your Highness, I…”
“I have met many women in my days. I understand if you don’t believe my lighthearted actions. But now, I am more sincere than ever. Even though we have only met a few times, I feel like you are my destiny.”
Just as he said, Jarvis’ expression was more serious than I had ever seen before. His anxious demeanor, fearing that I wouldn’t believe his sincerity, had an effect on me. I never expected to witness him regretting his past like this.
“I have no intention of giving up on you. So please reconsider once again. This is my wish.”
Although Jarvis was someone who used up all his remaining wishes, it would be unforgivable for me to postpone my answer. After all, the answer was already decided. Cutting it off decisively now, even if it seemed cruel, was the best course of action.
“Your Highness is a wonderful person. You may seem lighthearted, but you are more serious and deeper than anyone else. I know that. Your sincerity must be genuine. However, I cannot accept Your Highness’ heart.”
“…Is it because of Duke Wheaton?”
He must have heard the rumors too. He was also in the central courtyard, so he probably guessed how Diart and I were. There was no one who knew more about the subtleties between men and women than him, so he couldn’t have missed the change in atmosphere.
“I even made a special wish for you, yet you’re so ungrateful.”
“That’s your charm.”
Jarvis laughed softly as he spoke.
“As I said, I don’t want to give up on you. You can do as you please, and I’ll do the same.”
There was nothing more I could say. I couldn’t be any colder to Jarvis, who tried so hard not to show his hurt feelings. It was best to retreat for now.
“Shall I escort you to your quarters?”
“No, it’s okay.”
It would be strange to receive an escort from someone whom I had just rejected, and it would be pointless if we ran into Diart. We had met secretly in the middle of the night, so it would definitely look suspicious.
Perhaps sensing my intentions, Jarvis obediently backed away. I hurried away from him.
“Did you throw away my gift?”
I turned my head, feeling embarrassed. I had intended to apologize, but I couldn’t bring myself to say anything in that situation. Jarvis chuckled when he saw my expression.
“A few days ago, the Duke suddenly came to visit me and left me with ten thousand gold.”
He must have been nipped in the bud, leaving behind ten times that amount. It was such a Diart-like thing to do.
No matter how much money he had, ten thousand gold was a lot. Did he really spend money like it was nothing just because he had a diamond mine?
‘I should make my last wish for a diamond mine too.’
I saw the Duke of Wheaton’s camp in front of me. I was walking faster than usual, feeling inexplicably happy. Just as I turned my head, someone hit me hard on the back of my head. Before I could even feel the impact, everything went black.
- 1공국 is a country where the monarch’s position is a duke