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We remained in the room as Rufus was taken away. Lana – or rather Lahna – remained in the room as well.
“Um, Lahna-sama. Thank you very much for saving me. And for treating me so well,” I thank her again.
To think that Lana, who I had thought to be a mere maid, was actually someone from the Ministry of Magic – and fairly high up in the Ministry to boot. I was surprised.
“No no, I had always wanted to sit down and have a long conversation with you, so it was pretty fun for me,” she says, flashing a smile.
Huh? Then maybe she knew about me beforehand?
“She is the superior I mentioned during the school festival,” Rafael explains, noticing my confusion.
Ah, so she’s the one who had apparently taken a shine to me… so then we may have already met in the past?
“Um, so then have we met before?”
Had I just forgotten again?
“Yes, we’ve met before, but since I’ve never met you with this appearance, you probably can’t tell who I am,” says Lahna, flashing another smile.
“With that appearance?”
What does she mean?
“She’s a master of disguise, so she has many different appearances. By the way, she’s the one who taught me how to disguise myself.”
What?! She was that master of disguise he mentioned before?! That’s amazing!
But in that case, no wonder I don’t recognize her. Actually, if that’s the case then no matter how many times I met her, I wouldn’t be able to remember her. I wonder what she looked like the last time we met.
“Um, what did you look like when we met before?” I ask Lahna.
“When we met before, I was wearing my public face,” she says, giving me a somehow meaningful smile.
As I was standing there confused, for some reason, Lahna suddenly embraces me.
“Ha ha, you’re really cute. I told you that I’d embrace you when we met next, didn’t I?” says Lahna, narrowing her blue eyes like a cat as she laughs.
She said that she’d embrace me when we met next?
And those eyes… I’ve seen them before somewhere…
“Hurry up and give back Katarina already,” says Jared, stepping in just when it seemed like I was about to remember. He drags me away from Lahna’s chest.
“Such a short-tempered prince,” says Lahna, snickering.
Ugh, and I was just about to remember…
“Katarina, are you alright?” asks Jared, looking at me with a serious expression.
“Yes, nothing happened to m – oh right! Selena-sama, Selena-sama had magic cast on her…”
I hadn’t seen Selena since last night. Rufus said that she was just sleeping, but I was worried how she was doing right now.
“Some others are heading to her location along with Ian-sama, so no need to worry,” Lahna responds.
“Ian-sama came as well?”
“Yes, after hearing the news, he jumped in with a deathly pale face. I’ve never seen Ian-sama look like that. He must be really worried about Selena.”
“Is that so! That’s good.”
Like I thought, you can’t really tell what someone is thinking unless you talk with them. It looks like Selena’s not hated like she thought.
“But really, it’s a relief that nothing happened to you,” says Jared, sighing deeply.
Everyone else said they were relieved that I was safe too.
“Be more careful from now on, okay?” Keith says.
“I understand,” I reply meekly.
“But considering that you were kidnapped… Katarina, isn’t your skin unusually smooth?” says Jared, looking at me intently.
I tense up.
It’s a bit tough for me to say that I was treated even better than usual after being kidnapped, considering how much I must’ve worried everyone.
“Is – is that so?
“Yes. I also feel like your hair is glossier too… wait, what’s this?” says Jared, voice rising. He holds my hair up as he looks at my neck.
“Huh, what is it?”
“This mark on your neck. What in the world happened?”
“A mark on my neck?”
What does he mean, a mark on my neck? Oh right, it must’ve happened then!
“Ah, it seems like I was bitten by a bug or something.”
“You were bitten by a bug?”
“Yes. When Rufus pushed me down on the bed…”
“Pushed down on a bed?!”
Huh? For some reason, Jared looks very scary. What was the matter?
“What do you mean by that? By Rufus, you mean the man that was just taken away, correct?”
“Ah, yes. Well, last night, he suddenly pushed me down on the bed, and that’s when I was bitten by a bug or something. I think that Rufus was trying to put me to sleep with his magic, but…”
For some reason, Jared looks even scarier than before. I want someone to come save me. Thinking that, I turn my gaze towards my friends standing behind me, but their faces are just as dark.
Huh, why? Everyone was all smiles a moment ago – what happened?
“It looks like we can’t trust Katarina’s definition of ‘okay’… so, did anything else happen other than getting pushed down and being bitten by a bug?”
“Ah, yes. Lana – I mean Lahna – came in shortly after so I got away before he could cast his magic on me.”
Jared let out a deep breath.
“To think that this would happen as I was taking my time, matching your pace… if I’m not careful, you might be stolen before my very eyes. I think I have no choice but to stop waiting,” says Jared, closing into my face for some reason.
I don’t really understand what’s happening, so I just think absentmindedly that wow, handsome people really are still handsome from up close. But before I knew it, Jared’s face had gotten so close I couldn’t even make out its details… then I feel a soft sensation on my lips…
W – what is this?! C – could this possibly be…?
“I won’t wait any longer. I won’t be able to stand it if someone else steals you away while I’m waiting,” says the black-hearted prince who stole away my first kiss.
Those lips… on my lips…
What’s happening? But why? Jared just uses me as a shield to ward off other women – he should actually love Maria… but then w – why a kiss…?
Everyone was getting pretty noisy around me, but none of their words registered.
My mind is filled with the thoughts of that kiss. Why, but why, I don’t understand.
Even in my previous life, I had no experience with romance – and so, my mind short-circuited. This is how the kidnapping incident ended.
I wake up to the sound of someone desperately calling out my name. I open my eyes to someone I had never expected to see, gazing at me worriedly.
“Selena, you’re awake. Thank goodness,” says Ian, embracing me as if I’m something precious to him.
It was almost like a dream, but the warmth I felt from him was definitely real.
“I heard the whole story. I’m so sorry you went through all this for me,” apologizes Ian, looking pained for some reason.
“N – no no, I’m the one who decided to do all this… I apologize deeply for troubling you by acting without thinking.”
After I wake up, my mind feels unbelievably clear. Thinking back, I can’t believe I did everything I did. I really had thought that if I took on all the blame, I would be able to avoid troubling Ian… I’m embarrassed at how foolish I was.
“Don’t worry about it. You were being controlled, it’s not your fault. More importantly, thank goodness you’re alright. I was really worried, you know?”
Controlled? I was wondering what he meant by that, but such questions flew from my mind at his final sentence.
“Um… you were worried about me?”
“Of course. You’re my precious fiancée.”
Ah, I never thought that I would hear Ian say that I’m his precious fiancée… but…
“U – um… Ian-sama, I was under the impression that you disliked me?” I ask, recalling Katarina’s insistence that to know the truth, you need to confirm things with the person in question.
“What in the world are you saying? Of course not,” says Ian, looking surprised for some reason. He didn’t seem like he was lying.
“Um, but you won’t meet with me that often, and you’re always cold to me whenever we do meet…” I ask, gaining the courage from Katarina’s words to ask everything I never could ask before.
“Ah!” exclaims Ian, blushing slightly.
What’s the matter?
“That was because… you’re so adorable that I lose the willpower to hold myself back.”
I’m troubled at his words. They came completely out of left field.
“We’re still just engaged – we’ve not yet been wedded. And so I understand that you do not want me to be overly clingy… but when I see you, I’m overtaken by the desire to touch your lovely self… thus, I’ve been avoiding meeting you and keeping my distance whenever we do meet,” says Ian, his face redder than I’ve ever seen before, “I’m sorry if you’ve misunderstood me because of that. I’ll say it again then, properly. I, Ian Stuart, love Selena Burke.”
Despite his red face, he said those words while looking directly at me.
Ah, it was just like Katarina had said.
The only person who knows what they’re thinking is that person themselves. That’s why you have to talk with them. It was just like she said.
I start to cry at my overwhelming happiness. Ian, his face still red, wipes away my tears in a fluster.
With the Katarina Claes kidnapping case safely closed, after making my report to the Ministry of Magic, I head to my partner’s place while holding a written report.
When I say ‘I’m coming in,’ at his door, he says ‘Come in,’ in response.
On entering the room, I see him looking at me with a relaxed gaze.
“Ooh, your disguise is especially plain today, I see.”
“I was disguising myself as an unassuming maid with no relatives, after all. The wig was a bit stuffy though,” I say, taking off my brown-haired wig. My natural black hair flows down my back.
“I always think that your disguises are really amazing, Suzanna Randall,” says Geoffrey with a smirk.
“Your praise is a great honour, Prince Geoffrey,” I respond, purposefully talking like a noblewoman.
That’s right – the true identity of the master of disguise of the Ministry of Magic, Lahna Smith, is actually Suzanna Randall, the fiancée of the First Prince Geoffrey.
The only ones who know of this fact apart Geoffrey are a few higher-ups in the Ministry.
To explain why I’m going as far as to disguise myself and use a fake name, if I worked in the Ministry as ‘Suzanna’, I wouldn’t be able to move as freely as I can now.
Well, thanks to my secret identity, I can conveniently take on Geoffrey’s requests from the shadows.
Geoffrey was the one who requested that I investigate the House of Mason due to the kidnapping incident – or to be more precise, after noticing their suspicious behaviour. Thanks to his request, the case was quickly closed.
Geoffrey Stuart is a man who, contrary to how he looks, is not only pretty good at his job but is also secretly doing a lot in the shadows.
So then why would he let a man, rumoured to be secretly doing terrible things, into his faction? The reasoning is simple – Geoffrey purposefully let him into his faction to get him moving, so he could then push him to ruin after gathering plenty of evidence of his misdeeds.
Based on that reasoning, he herds a lot of people like that into his faction, purposefully preventing them from joining Ian’s faction. Thus, there’s many ne’er-do-wells in his faction. And yet, he doesn’t care – he’s happy with that.
That’s right – he doesn’t really want to ascend the throne at all.
There’s only one thing on his mind.
“Hm, but most importantly, that bastard Mason – I really can’t forgive him for going after Ian and Jared behind my back. Looks like I’ll have to crush him into dust,” he says once I finish my report on the main details of the case.
Geoffrey smiles oh-so-very evilly. His expression makes me think that Mason is done for.
If Mason had just done some small-scale misdeeds, he would’ve gotten off with a normal punishment… but to go after Geoffrey’s brothers… I have no doubt a punishment that greatly exceeds his expectations is awaiting him.
“Ah, but I’m glad all’s well that ends well. Were my wonderful brothers doing well?”
“Yes, they were fine.”
“Thank goodness!” Geoffrey says, jumping up from his chair. He runs to the wall and throws open some curtains on the wall.
“Ah, my brothers are really wonderful,” says Geoffrey.
He stands by an oil portrait of his three brothers, hung securely on the wall. Normally, it’s hidden by the curtains.
That’s right – Geoffrey Stuart is in reality a pervert who loves his brothers to an abnormal extent. (On a side note, only a few people including myself know of this fact.)
And so, fighting with Ian for the throne is all an act. While pretending to fight for the throne, he’s secretly keeping an eye out for any strange or dangerous people and helping Ian out by preventing them from joining Ian’s faction.
He’s also always watching out for his twin little brothers as well, making sure that no weird people come near them.
There’s only one thing on this mind – to make sure that the brothers he so loves can live happily.
To accomplish his goal, this perverted prince will do absolutely anything.
When we first met, I greeted him by telling him that I had no interest in anything other than magical research and that I had no interest in being a princess. In response, he told me that he had no interest in anything other than his brothers and that he had no intention to ascend the throne. It’s a nice memory.
We’ve ended up getting along fairly well since that first meeting ten years ago. And so we continued our everyday life of pursuing and punishing evildoers, I for the Ministry of Magic, him for his brothers.
However, I do appreciate this pervert for being largely the reason why I can avoid the topic of marriage as I do as I please in the Ministry.
“Oh, these eyes, they’re just like mine,” says the pervert, lost in his thoughts as he gazes at the oil painting. I don’t understand what he’s saying.
He probably won’t return to reality for a while, so I help myself to some tea that had been prepared in his room. Mm, it’s delicious – little wonder from tea prepared for royalty.
But anyways, Katarina Claes really is an amusing girl.
She first caught my attention at the twin princes’ birthday party. Normally, I don’t really have much interest in others.
I was standing in the corner, a little tired of dealing with people. That’s when she came along and began eating the food at great speed. She then proceeded to chug down the wine before flopping down, drunk.
I was surprised to see someone act like that at a party held at the castle – she immediately caught my interest.
Then, the more I investigated her, the more amusing the rumours made her seem. Even though we hadn’t even met once, I really took a shine to her.
Just when I was feeling sad because I wasn’t able to talk with her much despite finally meeting her again at the festival, amazingly, she appeared during my infiltration mission. And so I was able to talk a lot with her.
After talking with her in reality, I learnt that she was even more amusing and wonderful than I had expected.
Ah, I want to put Katarina Claes in the Ministry of Magic and have her by my side.
I didn’t realize that my expression as I fantasized mirrored Geoffrey’s as he gazed at his oil painting.
With the incident over and done with, I return to my dorm room.
I had some kind of weird dream right after the incident and so my memories are a bit hazy, but Keith explained what had happened afterwards.
I’m sure that I had that weird dream because of sleep deprivation during the incident – that’s right, that has to be it. Well actually, oversleeping may be the real reason…
Anyways, apparently the case is closed.
The mastermind behind the incident was apparently a Marquis named David Mason. He had apparently executed his plan to place Geoffrey on the throne, but Geoffrey himself had no knowledge of Mason’s plans.
This was a bit off from my deductions, but I’m glad that it wasn’t a sibling fight.
On a side note, supposedly Rufus was sobbing his eyes out over at the Ministry of Magic as he revealed everything of Mason’s misdeeds, crying about how he did everything on Mason’s orders and that he had no choice.
Thanks partly to his sympathetic childhood, he wasn’t arrested for the crime and was instead taken in by the Ministry of Magic like Rafael.
To be honest, when I talked with him, he didn’t really seem that sympathetic and he didn’t seem that likely to start bursting into tears… but I guess he pulled it off well.
However, Keith and the others were lamenting that Rufus got off light. They’ve basically never met and yet they’re treating him like an enemy. Why?
The thing that surprised me the most after returning to the academy was that I was chosen for an Outstanding Achievement award.
At the very end of the school festival, students would nominate their favourite performances and other such student-made creations for the award – a few among the nominations would receive an Outstanding Achievement award.
Apparently my performance in the student council’s play was one of the things nominated for an Outstanding Achievement award. Supposedly, it was greatly praised for being so good it sent shivers of terror down everyone’s spine.
On a side note, Maria’s sweets were also very well received and were also chosen for an Outstanding Achievement award. As expected from Maria.
The award is just for the prestige and doesn’t have any prizes associated with it, but putting Maria aside, it’s pretty impressive for me to receive an award considered to be a great honour in the academy.
After all, no matter what I did I couldn’t seem to get it right – I was a stereotypical noble girl villainess. The next time I go home, I should bring along my award certificate.
Apparently my father had been pretty busy with his work so both my parents weren’t able to come to the school festival after all, so I’m sure they’ll be very happy if they see my certificate.
And so, though there were a few small surprises along the way, I returned to my everyday school life…
But I feel like Keith’s suddenly become overprotective.
He comes along with me no matter where I go. Not only Keith, actually – all my other friends too. They cling to me so tightly it makes me wonder what’s happening with all their student council work.
Well, I do kind of think it can’t be helped considering how much I worried them when I was kidnaped… but I also feel like it’s overkill even considering that.
Naturally, wanting some time alone, one day, I sneak out of the dorms and head to my field.
There stood a man who, in direct contrast to everyone else, barely showed his face in front of me since that incident.
“Ah, Katarina – we finally meet again,” says Jared, smiling beautifully.
I grow a little nervous as he nears, thanks to that weird dream I had right after the incident.
In that dream, for some reason, we had kissed. I have no idea why I had a dream like that… maybe I have so little experience with romance that my desires grew out of control? How embarrassing.
However, I had completely forgotten about the dream since I barely ever saw Jared for some reason since the incident. But seeing him standing in front of me makes me recall the dream, making me nervous.
But paying little attention to my internal turmoil, he draws near and holds me around my shoulders.
Not that I care or anything, but now that I’m more aware of him, Jared really likes touching me, doesn’t he?
Is it because he’s a prince? Is that why I grew frustrated and had such a dream… ugh, it’s all his fault.
“Since then, thanks to all the people getting in my way I wasn’t able to see you. I was really lonely, my beloved princess.”
His last words were word-for-word the line he said to the heroine Maria during that play. They’re sugary sweet, but they aren’t really that different from the things Jared says normally. Jared drops lines like that on a regular basis. It’s not unusual for him to whisper them in my ear like this too.
That’s right, this is completely normal… and yet, for some reason, his voice reverberating in my ear sounds a bit seductive and my face heats up.
Thanks to my dream, I’m way more aware of him and what he’s doing now. Even though he’s acting just the same as usual, I just can’t see him normally and it’s embarrassing.
Jared’s eyes glint for some reason on seeing my flustered state.
“Oh? What an unusual reaction – did you finally start paying attention to me after you-know-what?”
Huh? What does he mean by ‘you-know-what’?
“Hm? Ah, no, I just had a strange dream after the incident…”
“Yes, a dream where you and I… um…”
It’s no good, it’s so embarrassing I can’t even say it out loud. My voice trails off.
My face grows even redder and my tears prick at my eyes.
In both my previous life and this one, I’ve had zero romantic experiences – I’ve never even talked with my friends about the people I like. If this was 2-D, then things would work out, but in 3-D, I can’t casually drop the word ‘kiss’ in front of a handsome guy like him standing so close to me!
And if I talk about a dream like that, I’ll be so embarrassed if he thinks I’m creepy for having such a dream because my desires are unfulfilled…
Jared looks incredibly pleased considering how agitated I am. His cheeks seem slightly flushed as well.
Huh, why? Did my agitation spread?
“Hmm… was that dream something like this?”
Just like in the dream, Jared closes in with an incredibly happy face and brushes his lips to mine.
Our lips make a soft noise as they part. Jared laughs cheerfully.
“So you thought it was a dream? It’s not a dream – both this time and last time.”
“W – why…”
I’m just a shield he uses to ward off other noble ladies – Jared should actually like Maria… but he kissed me… is this a joke? Was Jared that kind of person?!
“Why kiss you? Why, because I love you, of course.”
I’m lost for words. L – love? If he loves me, then that means…
Jared places a hand on my cheek, a lovely smile spreading across his face.
“Ha ha, you’ve finally realized? I’m very happy.”
When Jared makes to kiss me again in my complete confusion, someone interrupts.
“Stop right there – don’t get any closer to my sister.”
“Move over. Keith-sama, I’ll deal with him with magic.”
“Wait a second Mary, what are planning to do?”
“No no, Mary-sama, I’ll step in here…”
“S – Sophia-sama, please calm down. Throwing something like that is dangerous. Please pick something that would cause injuries I could heal with my magic.”
Everyone runs over at once.
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