Translator: Kurehashi Aiko Editor: Queenie
The city was decorated with various flower pots situated here and there. With the Flower Festival being tomorrow, the whole city was engulfed in the air of festivities, and the merry atmosphere was simply overwhelming.
People were coming to the city from all over the country, gathering in front of the Great Temple. There were way more people here than usual, but I was still walking through the market with a basket in my hand.
Inside of the basket I was carrying were apples, fresh, red and ripe.
Originally, I was supposed to accompany Klanven during his duties at the Great Temple, but then he suddenly said that he wanted to eat some fresh fruits for lunch today. Because of that, instead of staying at the Great Temple, I was now walking through the market, doing shopping.
It goes without saying that I couldn’t oppose Klanven’s wish, but with the festival being almost upon us and with so many people gathered in the city, going through the market was proving itself to be extremely difficult. I also wanted to go together with Klanven so that I could keep an eye on him, but he just said that “Filmina is not a child anymore, so she can handle a little shopping all on her own, right?” I hated when he was did that, but I still ventured into the market without a word back at him.
Of course, it was better for me to do the shopping than for Klanven himself to do it, but I just wished he wouldn’t put that in such a crude way. Or ask me for my opinion first. He did say however that the assassins won’t be foolish enough to try to attack him in the open on a day like this, but can I really believe his words?
「…… Oh well, guess I’ll also buy some flowers since I’m already at it……」
Klanven gave me the money for shopping, although he did that with some amount of pouting, but I held a separate sum of my own money for which I wanted to buy a bouquet. Klanven also told me not to go wild with money and only buy two or three apples. So before I went to buy them I spent some time carefully picking out the flowers that would go well with that man’s looks and not wither for some time. But as I was maneuvering my way through the crowd, I could feel someone staring at me. It was strange to feel someone’s gaze upon me in such a huge crowd of people. I tried to ignore it and carry on, but the feeling just wouldn’t go away…… I was also quite sure that the intentions behind that stare couldn’t be pleasant at all.
I decided to stop dead in my tracks and look around. The people around me stopped as well and looked at me in annoyance, but no one was gazing at me with any kind of malicious or twisted intent.
Then I saw it. Someone was looking right at me. I then broke into a run, and I could hear loud footsteps coming right after me, as well as a short whistle following suit soon after. I wanted to scream but then I realize it would do me no good in this crowd, so I just continued to run without looking back. I needed to widen the gap between me and my pursuers, and only then I could think of somehow losing them.
I say losing them, but in such a crowd it was hard to just pick a direction at random and make a run for it. That is exactly why I failed to notice that the direction I was running towards was leading me into a set of back alleys that eventually ended in a dead end.
Looking behind me I saw about five women approaching me, breathing heavily. They were wearing long cloaks with hoods, but I could catch a glimpse of the clothes beneath the cloaks. It was the palace wear, the same that I saw almost everyday.
I was staring at them, unable to say a word, and then one of the women came forward, speaking in a clearly irritated voice.
「Finally, we caught up to you……」
All five of them looked rather unfamiliar, their faces looked strange and alien to me. They may have been members of the Extremist Faction, but to chase one woman in a group of five, it was a little bit of an overkill.
While I thought that, the women continued to get closer, spreading across the alley so that I wouldn’t be able to escape.
「You, don’t you think that you are getting a little bit overconfident?」
It took me quite some time to process the meaning of that question. “Getting a little bit overconfident” could have many different meanings depending on the situation or context. It could be referencing my behavior, the way in which I was talking to my peers, or even something that I did in the past. I had no idea what they were talking about and seeing my confusion that one woman snapped at me with irritated voice.
「Don’t know what we’re talking about unless we say it clearly?」
「We are talking about the people you have around you. Not only did you monopolize His Highness Klanven, but now you are hogging Edilka-sama all to yourself!」
「The Princess is way more beautiful than you, so why are all the men flocking around you like you are some sort of a Goddess or something!?」
I was stunned by the litany of curses and disgust that was being thrown my way. But thanks to that, I finally understood what was going on here. It was the kind of situation where a girl gets closer and closer to the most famous boy in the whole school and the other girls are getting jealous of that, which would usually result in all sorts of bullying situations, or even open threats and violence. Frankly, I wasn’t happy in the slightest to be thrown into that kind of situation.
I also guessed that they had no idea that I was the wife of the court magician, and that I was going around and seducing men simply because I had nothing better to do. But why did they even care about that? Anyways, I have found myself in an unexpected pinch here.
As I looked them over, I began to step back, but then I eventually hit my back against the wall. I held my breath at that moment. The basket full of fruits slips from my hands and falls to the ground. The apples and the flowers alike scatter all over the ground. The women stepped all over them as they got closer and closer. “No, what are you doing!” I wanted to shout, but was unable to. The flowers were now destroyed and I couldn’t use them for anything. Seeing that I felt devastated and gripped my first unconsciously.
「Nothing to say to that, huh!?」
「Even if you said something, it’s not like it’s going to matter at all!」
I wanted to say something, but the anger I was feeling just wouldn’t let me formulate any words. I wasn’t afraid of them. I was just mad. I thought that I might be able to give that man a flower crown this year. But thanks to them, I wouldn’t be able to do that.
I was being tossed around by those two, now even the Princess was suspecting me of illicit behaviors, and I was too weak to even reclaim my precious bookmark by myself. In the beginning, I was certain that I’d be able to do this, but now I was no longer so sure about that. However, working together with that man over the last couple of days was so much fun to me, and I only came to realize that now.
I know that there was a slim possibility that he might come and save me again, but I simply couldn’t let him do that every single time I found myself in trouble. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if he was to look at me with those cold eyes of his and say that I’ve managed to get into trouble yet again.
The days that I have spent with both of them were so fun and precious to me, that I would never want to exchange them for anything else. Sure, there were moments in which I was feeling down or discouraged, but the positives were definitely outweighing the negatives here.
However, I didn’t enjoy this kind of situation right now. Not in the slightest. The women’s gazes were penetrating me, and as beads of cold sweat started to flow down my neck, I unconsciously moved my hand towards the bracelet, slowly but surely, so that they wouldn’t catch on to what I was doing.
If I use this, that man will come here immediately and all of my troubles will be over. But if I don’t use it and he somehow finds out about this incident, he is going to be all like “Why didn’t you call for me?” kind of mad. However, I felt that calling him here would be a bad idea, since he was the object of obsession for those women.
In the next moment one of the women grabbed my wrist and took the bracelet off my hand, thus ending my dilemma.
「Take a look at this bracelet!」
They caught me off guard. I tried to snatch it back, but the woman withdrew her arm quickly and upon seeing my desperation to retrieve it she smiled maliciously at me and in the next moment she raised her hand and intended to smash the bracelet against the ground. It was easy to imagine that the bracelet would be destroyed beyond recovery if that was to happen.
I couldn’t bear the thought that not only the flowers, but also the bracelet that man gave to me would be destroyed.
I tried to reach out my hand, but it was too late. The bracelet got smashed against the cobblestone and shattered into pieces. Then, the other women began to stomp on the remaining pieces, making sure the bracelet was beyond recovery.
Tears must have dripped down my cheeks upon seeing that, for the women looked at my reaction and began to laugh at me.
「See, that’s what you get for being such an overconfident bitch!」
「Out of my way!」
I knock the woman who was stomping on the remains of the bracelet out of my way. Her scream was worrying me just a little bit, but at that time my mind was all fuzzy and the bracelet was the only thing I could really think of. I tried to pick up the shattered pieces of the bracelet while the woman shakes on the spot, having problems with maintaining her balance. Then the other women restrain me by holding onto my hands.
「Let go of me, please!」
「That’s so you don’t think about doing anything cheeky ever again!」
「Yeah, know your place, you little whore!」
One of the women raised her hand, wanting to hit me to the cheek, so I reflexively closed my eyes expecting the impact of the hit to reach me. Alas, nothing like that happened.
「–––– I think that’s about enough of that.」
Instead, I heard a gentle voice speaking. Opening my eyes, I can see a person wearing a deep hood, holding the woman’s hand from behind.
「What the hell do you think you’re doing!?」
Another woman, the one who snatched the bracelet from me, rushed to help her companion and tried to shake the person’s hand off of her. But then she gazed inside of the hood of that person and her face immediately turns red. She then lets go, clasping her hands in front of her chest, mumbling something as she backs away.
「E-everyone, let’s pull back!」
「Eh? What the hell are you talking about, Shinderia-san!?」
「Please wait for us!」
The women run away from the alleyway while looking upset. They were like a storm, coming unexpectedly and then just like that they were gone. While I was still at a loss for words, the person picked up the pieces of the broken bracelet and brought them to me.
「Here. Filmina, are you alright? The flowers are done for, but I think the bracelet can be repaired. Well, an amateur might think it’s done for as well, but trust me on that.」
「Oh, yes, umm, thank you very much.」
I received the pieces with both hands and see if they are indeed broken. The metal fitting inside of the bracelet was more or less intact, but the ornament in the shape of a lotus flower which housed the magic gem was crooked and bent. It was always blooming beautifully while I was wearing it, so now the differences were all too obvious. The person who was in front of me said “don’t sweat it” to my thanks.
「Umm, how did you know my name……?」
When I asked the person that question, he only mumbled “Oh, that’s right!” and then put his hands on his deep hood.
「It’s me, don’t you recognize me?」
What came out under the hood was hair as bright and golden as the sun, it almost seem to shine. His looks were pleasant to the eyes and the only real way in which I could describe his features would be “Prince-like”. His face was really drawing attention.