Natalie muttered to herself, suddenly feeling sceptical.
“…I thought my life was going to be something special, I can’t put it into words, but I thought I was going to do something different.”
“Something other than being somebody’s wife, mother, or an old lady?”
Natalie was taken aback by Christina’s bluntness.
“Not that a lady’s life isn’t worth living, of course.”
“Yes. It’s just a little out of character for you, I suppose.”
“…and you know, complaining like a child when you haven’t achieved anything on your own.”
“Yeah, you’re whining right now.”
At the cool words, she involuntarily chuckled again. Natalie replied with a disappointed smile.
“These days, I sometimes wonder if I’m the problem, like my mother says. Everyone else is putting up with it, so why am I the only exception?”
“Oh, Natalie. Do you want to do this too? Even if you don’t, it’s boring enough here.”
“It’s not unusual. I’m having similar thoughts with you right now. I struggle with who I am every day, what I really want, what I hope for.”
“…Is that why we’re friends?”
Christina and Natalie looked at each other and smiled.
“But that doesn’t mean we have other options, so shouldn’t we enjoy everything we can enjoy in here? So, Ms Dowse, let’s talk about some of our favorite stories. Listen to what I overheard while you danced with the idiots.”
With Natalie’s arm around her, Christina dodged the ballroom crowd and began to talk in a low voice.
A tale of a recently widowed noblewoman and her first love reunited, followed by a story of a young soldier in love with his mother’s friend.
Natalie squinted her eyes and stifled a scream with her palm. It was the beauty of balls.
“And I really shouldn’t be telling you this anywhere.”
Finally, the magic phrase, the one that got her opponent’s attention.
“David’s true identity is Prince Ian.”
“That’s amazing, right?”
Natalie couldn’t help but burst out laughing at the unthinkable. She could feel the stares around her, and she shut up.
Christina narrowed her eyes at Natalie’s reaction.
“Don’t laugh. It makes sense when you think about it, doesn’t it?”
“Oh… Christina, you’re the best, the funniest person I know.”
“Rumour has it that Prince Ian, with his dashing good looks, has a mistress in every country. David’s novels are all about his experiences.”
“What, ah-ha! No, that’s not true. If that’s his story, how does he explain this one?”
“Well… but why? If you think about the male protagonist in David’s first work, he’s totally like Prince Ian. It’s like giving away the answer, right? Clear blond hair, blue eyes, white skin. And he’s a duke. Moreover, Prince Ian is the duke of Baldoma.”
“Just because he’s a duke, he’s David?”
“Well said. And the pen name ‘David’.”
“What is it.”
“Prince Ian’s middle name is David!”
…I didn’t know that.
Who needs to memorise the full names of royalty? It’s usually Prince Ian, Duke of Baldoma, or something like that, isn’t it?
“Don’t you think it’s true? You go out on the street these days and the rumour is that David is Prince Ian. They say it’s a royal sign when a series is cancelled.”
With the controversy surrounding his new novel, which featured an unconventional affair between a noblewoman and a stablehand, interest in David was intense: betting tables were set up in the betting shops and reporters were knocking on the publisher’s door every day. David eventually stopped the series.
“Is it ‘Noble Cut’ again? That place is a real problem. Half of the news is fake. It’s like either it’s true or just forget about it.”
“…I did start with ‘Noble Cut’.”
There you go. Apparently, Christina was too impressed with the article about Ian David or something, that the prince might be David.
“They’re all about to be fined for contempt of the royal family. Why on earth would anyone want to know his identity? You seem like a smart kid, but when it involves David, you’re like this.”
“You don’t think it is?”
“I’d bet a fortune he isn’t.”
“And you don’t have any money.”
When Natalie didn’t argue back at all, Christina pouted her lips and sulked. Natalie shook her head at the sight, then thought for a moment.
Somehow, right now, she felt like she could speak.
After a short pause, she called out to Christina as if she had decided something.
“It’s a scoo!”
Someone shouted at the same time as the bell struck midnight.
Sometimes, if you stayed up late enough at a ball, you’d be lucky enough to get a scoop on a secret scandal that would otherwise be censored by the newspapers. Tonight seemed to be one of those nights.
“Natalie, what did you just say?”
Natalie smiled awkwardly and flailed. Her courage had vanished in an instant.
‘I have already given up on that job and now I plan to seriously find a fiancé and live a normal lady’s life.’
What will a confession do.
End of story.
Natalie tried to calm her pounding heart, trying to compose herself.
“I wonder what those fly-like nobles are saying behind my back.”
Ian’s voice was dry, filled with resentment and anger.
Ian slowly set his teacup down and lifted his gaze. He saw his mother, Queen Violet, her face as stern as her dry voice.
A remarkable woman, well into her late forties, but still looking like she was in her early thirties. She was well known for being the one who helped the Astius royal family’s long line of good looks finally reach its peak.
Before Charlotte, the ‘Princess of Legendary Beauty,’ that title had belonged to Violet. Now it’s more like ‘Queen of Legendary Beauty’.
If the century’s beauty, Queen Violet, with her bright blonde hair and blue eyes, had mixed harmoniously with the handsome Ernest II, with his platinum blonde hair and green eyes, it would have given birth to a sculpted prince like Edward. Charlotte and Ian, called angels, were just like Violet, so much like her that you’d swear Violet gave birth to them alone.
“I have never been so disappointed. More so than when Ernest first brought the mistress to Windsorbell Castle.”
She was still beautiful today, but Violet looked as terribly tired as her voice sounded.
Her husband’s scandals had come as a great shock to the young queen, who had been so noble and innocent. Violet had been angered and tormented enough by one scandal after another, and had finally given up.
She maintained her dignity alone, and did so for over twenty years. It was only natural that she would become obsessed with the responsibilities, duties, and high morals of her position.
Knowing this, Ian sucked in a quiet breath at the word ‘disappointment’ from his mother’s mouth.
“How you can let me down, Edward, but also Eris, that child. You must have forgotten the grace that raised you.”
“Hmm. I think it was your grandmother who raised her.”
It was the late queen who had taken care of her three siblings and other relatives at Malik House.
“So you’re saying she did a good job?”
Violet asked in a calm voice, glaring at her questioning son.
“Right now, rumors are going around among the nobles that Eris’s divorce was actually the result of having an affair with Edward. Yet you are still indifferent.”
“If I were truly nonchalant, I wouldn’t have come when you called. It was only a few days ago that I was haunted by portraits of princesses.”
Ian gently folded his eyes as if to melt his opponent gently, but Violet did not easily fall for his son’s smile.
“I see. You’re better than Charlotte.”
Violet furrowed her smooth brow, remembering the daughter who never came when called.
“No, Charlotte will always be better than me.”
Ian, lightly dismissing his mother’s words with a smirk, spoke up.
“So why did you call me here?”
“You and Charlotte knew, didn’t you?”
“We had no idea it was going to be like this.”
He meant it. If you asked him how rumours of Edward and Eris had spread among the nobility overnight, he could only call it a coincidence.
“Even between siblings, one should be happy for good things.”
“Except for their appearance, its the only pride of the Astius’s royal family.”
Violet glared at her son for his smugness.
“Dave, stop with the puns. I didn’t call you here to lecture you.”
After chastising Ian with his childhood nickname, Violet motioned to her maid. The maid set a magazine down on the tea table.
“There’s a reason why I called you here to say something unpleasant.”
The Noble Cut
It was a third-rate magazine, but it had such an impact that every literate citizen saw it.
True to its name, Noble Cut mainly covered aristocratic scandals, and it was no exaggeration to say that it grew to from the scandals of Ernest II.
There were limits to controlling the media. Violet despised the magazine as ‘things like parasites!’
“Edward’s disgraceful affair has thankfully only just spread among the nobility, but yours seems rather urgent.”
⌈Who is David?⌋
The headline of the feature article, published to coincide with the announcement of David’s new book, could be read from several metres away.
Underneath was a carefully crafted illustration. It was a realistic depiction of five people who could be David, and the man in the centre of it all wore a name tag that read ‘Prince Ian’.
“Too little, too late. It’s all because your father disgraced the royal family. How dare they put a prince’s face in a vain magazine like this.”
Writing a feature article about an erotic novelist. How can there be such a thing to do in the world? Ian thought as he looked at the black ink blob that couldn’t capture half of his physical appearance.