Often the secret lock of friendship between children will have the power to withstand any lock breaking.
For a child, a promise of secrecy was not one to easily break. It boasts an unshakable stubbornness that can withstand any threats from adults. And so there was no doubt that the nights events would forever remain a secret in my new friend, Charles’ heart.
Things had followed my exact blueprint, and I was elated by a sense of satisfaction.
There were some hitches along the way, but in the end, I had been triumphant. The formidable foe who had pushed me to the brink was actually easy to manipulate, if you knew how. He still had a ways to go before he could be considered a rival of such genius as I.
“Why are you laughing?”
“Fuhahah…huh? Oh, you know. I am just so pleased to become friends with you.”
It was not as if I could tell him the naked truth, so I said whatever came to my mind in the moment. And then it came to me.
Through my lofty plans, Charles had now become a friend… But, in fact, this was also the first time that I had made a friend on equal footing.
My mouth had grinned a little, and the wickedly sharp-eyed Charles did not miss it.
“You’re laughing again.”
“Well, why shouldn’t I? …Ah. By the way, Charles,”
I remembered and asked. Of course, I would act in the proper manner if we were in a public space. But we were friends now, and this was a personal interaction with no need for honors or respect.
“By the way, why did you come here?”
Thinking back, Charles hadn’t even been at the dance hall. As a duke’s daughter, I would have without a doubt been made to greet the third prince if he were present.
So that meant that Charles being here had nothing to do with the ball that was being held in the dance hall.
“I came to read a book.”
Judging by those words, he seemed to have simply slipped out of his room and came here.
And now that he mentioned it, he had been carrying a book under his arm ever since he appeared. It was a fairly thick tome, but the cover suggested that it was a sort of picture book.
However, I think, as I look around the garden.
This garden was outside and it was now night time. The moonlight would allow you enough light to see where your feet were, but I doubted that it was enough to read by.
“Can you read?”
“It’s too dark.”
As I had thought. I laughed as Charles’ shoulders dropped in disappointment.
Most likely he had come to read during the day and found it terribly comfortable. He had escaped from his room in the night in order to repeat the experience, only to end in such a failure.
It was rather adorable to see such childish foolishness.
Why not? I still had time, and the tools were here. I will show Charles some of this etiquette that had been beaten into me.
“Let me see that book.”
“Okay, but what are you going to do? Can you read in the dark?”
“Fufufu. Charles. Remember this one thing. Books are not only useful for reading.”
I laughed proudly as I accepted the book from Charles and placed it on top of my head. And just like that, I spun so that my dress fluttered. The book that lay on my head remained completely stationary and balanced.
“What do you think? Books can be used as props for such street performances as well!”
For balancing the book on my head, I received my second applause of the day. I had utilized the etiquette that I had learned and nodded with satisfaction. I had gone through the trouble of learning this trick and had wanted to show it off.
Now that I had done it, I decided to try out one more thing that I had learned from Mariwya.
“What is it, Chris?”
I returned the book that was on my head and stretched out my arm as I made a suggestion.
“We can hear the music from here. Why don’t we dance?”
Charles blinked at the hand I had offered him.
But when he finally understood what I had said, his eyes lowered in disappointment.
“I don’t know how to dance yet.”
“Well, I can.”
I forced Charles to swallow his denial with my words.
“Now, hold out your hand Charles.”
I knew the steps and could very well dance, but a seven-year-old dancing at a ball attracted the wrong kind of attention. But to that point, this place was safe. I had a partner who just happened to be the right height and we were in a place where no one was looking. Surely I would not be punished for wanting to put my acquired skills to the test?
After I insisted, Charles hesitantly stretched out his hand. His self-conscious hand was received by my incredibly confident one.
“Now, let’s do this. One, two, three!”
The music that leaked from the dancehall moved at the exact same tempo as Mariqya’s clapping. And to the music, I and Charles held each other and followed the steps.
It was very unharmonious, we were out of sync and our movements were scattered.
The primary reason for this was Charles, who could not do any of the basic movements.
“I told you that I hadn’t learned to dance yet!”
Charles fired back obstinately as I glared at him in annoyance. Indeed, it was probably ridiculous of me to demand a five-year-old to dance. Good grief, I thought with a sigh as we continued with the steps.
“Well, alright. It was my fault for forcing you to..ah….agghh!”
Our badly timed movements were a bad match for conversation. We had finally become entangled and fallen. We both found ourselves in a bed of flowers.
We fell on our backs, crushing the flowers. And I stared at him dumbly.
I had ruined a corner of the palace garden. What was I going to do? A part of me felt that way. But more than that…
For some reason, an uncontrollable laugh forced its way from my lips.
It wasn’t my usual boisterous laugh. It was a softer laughter that came from the pit of my stomach.
“…Puh, Kufufuf, AHhahah!”
Charles started to laugh along with me. We looked at each other and our innocent laughter echoed around the garden. Why were the two of us laughing? Even though I was a genius, I could say. But we were enjoying it. We were children lying in a flower bed and laughing at the top of our lungs for no reason.
Who knew just how long we lay there and laughed? Though I think that it was just two or three minutes at the most.
Once we were finally done laughing, we stood up and brushed the dirt off of our clothes.
“Well, Charles. I think I will go back now.”
I quickly checked my appearance and made sure that I did not have any dirt on my dress. I fixed my disturbed hair and shook off the leaves until I was satisfied that no one would think I looked strange.
“…You’re leaving now?”
“Yes. Later, Charles.”
He nodded but his voice had been tinged with sadness. My father would send out a search party to come looking for me if I was absent any longer. If this turned into a big thing, it would damage my perfect reputation as a lady.
So I needed to go back to the dancehall even if it meant that my friend would feel a little lonely.
He shouted at me as I turned my back on him and started for the exit of the garden.
“We will see each other again, won’t we?”
I turned around with a bold smile at his hopeful question.
I declared. I didn’t care if he was royalty as I stood proudly with my legs straight and my chest puffed out.
My assurance was even based on something substantial. As the duke’s daughter, and being of similar age, I would surely have many opportunities to meet the royal family in the future.
But more than anything, the name Charles had a rather deep connection to me due to the memories of my past in ‘Labyrinth Destiny.’
“Do not forget when we meet again, Charles. I am Christina Noir. The sole child of the Duke Noir and your friend!”
I proclaimed haughtily before turning on my heels. This time I did not stop or look back as I made my way back to the dancehall.
I reached the hallway without anyone seeing me. While I walked, the name of the friend I had just met appeared once again in my head.
The third prince of this kingdom. According to my knowledge of my past life through ‘Labyrinth Destiny’, he was one of three who would possibly marry Mishuly.
And one other thing.
“…Fufuh, I see. That one was to become my fiance.”
Charles Eduard was also the villainous daughter, Christina Noir’s fiance.
The art in that story had taken some liberties in the design, and since most of it was when he was around fifteen, I had not recognized him. But it had come to me when I heard his name.
Charles and I were to be married as was arranged by our families. It was one of the obstacles that Mishuly would face with the romance in ‘Labyrinth Destiny.’ Should Mishuly overcome the obstacles and marry Charles, then I would be condemned to one of my three fates. That fate was suicide by poison. Well, I wondered how this meeting tonight would affect my things.
I recalled Charles’ overjoyed expression as I made my last declaration. And I smiled.
Even as a genius, I could not predict the paths of fate that had entered the labyrinth.
But for now, I felt intensely happy.