Chapter 20 – Hearsay & Embarrassment
The next day, as Liz was walking down the hall, she suddenly heard a shrill scream from the room of one of the candidates that she just passed.
“What’s wrong!?” Liz rushed into the room. She saw Natalie sitting on the floor, her pale face asking for help. Tears were accumulating in her quivering eyes.
‘What is the matter?’
“The flowers! Flowers bloomed on my sacred plant!”
Liz was confused, “—Congratulations!”
“I don’t want to be congratulated! I might get eaten!” Natalie is truly frightened.
Liz approached Natalie’s sprout. A yellow flower about the size of a fingertip was blooming at the tip of a small branch of the plant. It’s a ‘sacred flower’, so it should be different from ordinary flowers, but it actually looks cute.
Liz smiled and faintly touched one of its five petals. The delicate petals are soft, there was no sign of any change even if they were touched.
“You’d better stay away! Don’t get too close What if you get bitten?” Natalie panicked.
“They don’t bite nor do they eat. It’s a pretty flower. It’s good.” Liz smiled.
Natalie seemed to have relaxed after noticing Liz’s attitude is the same as usual. She remembered that the chief priest said that you may possibly get hurt but it wasn’t a sure case.
“Yes…It’s an ordinary flower…” she muttered to herself.
When she saw Liz before her she suddenly came back to her senses, “I knew that. I was just a little confused!”
‘She isn’t honest, is she?’
Was it tsundere? she hasn’t seen that part of her before. Natalie is a little younger than Liz. She clutched on her soft dress skirt, her round cheeks were flushed red, lightly glaring at Liz.
“What’s the matter?” Grace, the daughter of Duke Igner, entered the room, her eyebrows furrowed, frowning. For a moment her eye caught the sight of Liz but she quickly diverted her eyes away.
“Grace! Flowers bloomed on my plant!” When Natalie happily told her, Grace’s face became stiff. She hurried to the flower pot to take a look, her eyes on the yellow flowers uttering not a single word.
“Um, Grace …?” Natalie quietly muttered.
Grace snapped out of it and recollected herself, “I’m glad, you’re first among the candidates.”
“Really?! Thank you!”
“Although, it doesn’t mean that the first one to bloom is the most suitable candidate nor a criteria.” Grace said with an elegant smile but her voice sounded like she was scolding.
Natalie’s happy smile instantly disappeared.
“I believe it’s better not to talk too loudly when the flowers have bloomed. A boastful behavior isn’t a proper attribute for a saint.”
It was probably because of the way how she talked and smiled that the feeling of it felt like she were being accused of, the atmosphere is heavy. Natalie’s mood and energy went downhill, her shoulders dropped.
It was a different atmosphere compared to the moment she had with Liz. The silver ornament on her black hair shook with melancholy.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m saying this for you, Natalie”
“Yes, yes! I know, of course!”
“Good. I’m glad.” Grace walked out of the room, elegantly flinging the long skirt of her dress over. She didn’t even glance at Liz when she passed before her. She treated her as if she was not there. She has been harassed multiple times but Liz was impressed by the fact how thorough she has been and was able to go so far.
As soon as Grace was gone, Natalie voiced out her advice, “Hey Liz! You’re quite friendly with Prince Keefa. You both have completely different social statuses. You should be careful, there are eyes around you. And there’s Grace!”
“—are you anxious, worried for me?”
“That’s not the case! I’m not at all worried!’
Astonishingly, Liz looked at Natalie with a straight face. Despite her harsh words, Natalie’s face was deep red. She wasn’t really sure if Natalie’s flowers were a concern but she thought and said that it was beautiful.
‘She really isn’t honest, you know.’
Liz couldn’t help but laugh. Natalie turned her head to the side to hide her embarrassment. When Liz was going to leave the room, Natalie stopped her, “Well—”
“…It’s nothing. See you later.”
Once Liz left the room, Natalie, who’s all alone in her room muttered, “It’s just a rumor that Duke Igner is pushing his daughter, Grace, to Prince Keefa as his fiancee….but it’s only a rumor.”
* * * * *
“Listen! Finally, my sacred flowers have bloomed though they’re just ordinary flowers.”
“Me, too. A little red flower had bloomed for me. I hope the chief priest will be surprised.”
The candidates’ plants had flowers bloom one after another, their joyful voices overflowed in the area.
In the midst of all this, Liz’s sacred sprout, by far the largest, did not show any signs of any flowers blooming at all.
‘They’re not blooming.’
It’s growing. The branches and leaves were growing more and more, but that’s it. Not even one bud of flower can be found.
‘What should I do?’
Just as she’s in her room facing the plant, she started to feel impatient. Impatience leads people to think and behave differently.
Remembering the chief priest’s words, that the buds grow depending on the sacred power of the candidate themself. Liz took note of it and closed her eyes, calming herself down and putting her hands out towards the plant. ‘Haaa!’ she tried to bring out her power to pass it to the plant.
She was unsure whether it would work but impatience can be quite scary, what’s even more worse,
“—what are you doing?” A voice behind her asked.
Surprised, she was visibly shaken and horrified. Her room door was open and standing before her was Prince Keefa with a confused expression.
It wasn’t a habit for her to lock up her door since she grew up in the countryside, but since she was too absorbed with what she was doing, she did not hear the knocks nor the voice behind her door.
‘Did he see it?’
She’s unsure. Keefa has his lips shut and his expression is as serious as usual.
‘Did he? ―No, no.’
Though, by her intuition it seems that he has saw. When her red eyes met with his, he looked away from her awkwardly.
“…What were you doing?”
“Well, you were doing something? Or rather strange movements—”
“I wasn’t doing anything.” She wasn’t going to admit it. On the other hand, she asked him a question, “What did you want?”
“I thought I could do something to help.”
How could she ask him to do something, he’s the Crown Prince, “It’s alright, I’m good.”
“You can tell me anything. I swore to you that I’d help you.”
“There’s nothing really. Rather, I’d want you to go back.” Before she could make any more mistakes.
“I see… I understand.” Keefa looked down and closed the door. He seemed downcast and sad.
Liz gently opened the door with no sound, leaving a narrow space she peeped out and saw Keefa standing by the corridor, his hand on the wall. His rounded back was facing her, shaking.
She knew it, he was laughing. He was holding back his voice after he had witnessed her odd behavior. But it was rude to laugh in front of her face, so he desperately put up with it and now it seems that it has exploded.
More than anything, she was seen by someone that she didn’t want to see the most.
Liz quietly closed the door, cursing his wide back that was still shaking from laughter. Her hands were on her hair, she wanted to tear it out.