I, Christina Noir am a lady.
No, it would be an exaggeration to assert that I am a lady, as I have not yet been recognized as one.
Mariwa would say that I was still a baby bird on its way to becoming a lady. However, when it came to appearances, even Mariwa has admitted that I could successfully pose as a lady, perhaps because I was that promising.
And it was with this ladylike form that I went down to greet the guests that had arrived.
“Welcome, Prince Charles.”
Charles had come with Oxe as his escort, much like every other day, and I greeted them with my most graceful courtesy.
“It is the highest of all honors to be able to receive one of the royal family. Even though our humble house is one that you have graced many times by now. I pray that you will stay long and enjoy your time here.”
It was no matter to me to play the perfect lady with perfect manners if I wanted to. As I went through the proper motions with an elegant air, I peeked upwards to see their reactions.
First, it was Oxe who let out a shriek at my ladylike greeting.
Yes. He was incomprehensible as ever. He may not have been the highest rank of gentlemen, but why must he raise his voice like that after seeing so perfect a lady? It was a most strange thing, and yet it was undeniable that the moment he had seen me, he had shaken as if seeing something that defied reality.
“What has happened to you… Oh. Did you eat something that has gone bad? Did I not tell you so many times that you should not eat the weeds growing around here…!”
With a stiff, ladylike smile I ignored the inconceivable insult that poured from Oxe’s mouth.
It’s barely worth mentioning, but as my honor is at stake I will just say it. I have never eaten any weeds that were growing around here. I have never even thought of it. The only thing that I could recollect that did in fact occur, was when Charles tried to eat some grass that was growing in the herb garden and I had stopped him.
But Oxe, I was now aware of his actual view of me.
I looked at Oxe who was still looking at me with a bewildered and worried expression and decided on one thing.
I would thoroughly torment him later.
Charles, on the other hand, did look remotely surprised. He just cocked his head to the side with a slight expression of wonderment.
“Why are you in your second form? I don’t really like that one, you know.”
“Hey, now. Charles. This is the crown of my labors!”
I had been wearing this lady’s disguise made by me and Mariwa, but it was torn right off within seconds of meeting Charles.
I did realize it, but it was already too late. Charles smiled when he saw that I had now returned to my first form.
“Ah, you’re back then.”
Hearing him say that so happily definitely drained any enthusiasm I might have had for acting like a lady. In the corner of my vision I could see Oxe sighing with relief, ‘She was pretending…’ I will definitely not be merciful to him when the time comes, I think with a sigh.
I always become a little sulky once I’ve switched back.
“Hhh. I had thought that this would be the best way to measure the space.”
“Exactly. What we both think, what is the optimal space for use to have. It is a most important thing to measure. I had transformed into my second lady form in order to measure the optimal distance between us.”
The lady’s appearance was well suited to measuring such things. In fact, in the social world, it was easy to grasp just where you stood with another person when you had your lady’s face on.
Oxe narrowed his eyes a little when he heard the reason for my conduct a moment ago.
“But, why now of all days?”
It was a good question, but then again, I was still incredibly angry at his unbelievable behavior towards a lady a moment ago.
I would not be satisfied until I had my just revenge. I called his name with a smile and drew close to him and whispered something completely unrelated into his ear.
“I know that you’ve been making moves on one of our maids.”
Oxe’s face froze as I whispered this.
His reaction proved it. I knew it. I had my suspicions as one of the maids always seemed to be in a good mood every time Charles had visited. And I was right.
Having succeeded with my little trap, I laughed and drew a step back.
“I’m sure you have urgent business, Oxe. Farewell. Now get out of the room.”
“La-lady Christina! This, this, this, this is a mistake! I would never, I swear! We are just confiding in each other and…”
I had no intention of listening to the excuses that he had frantically started to make, and while I realized how bad my manners were, I continued to smile at him as I pointed towards the door.
“Enough of that, just leave. Alright? Don’t you have something that you need to report to father?”
I might have to tell him if you don’t confess right now.
Oxe recognized the unsaid threat and he exited the room with a dark cloud hanging over him.
I felt good. Charles seemed to have not been able to follow this interaction. His eyes followed Oxe suspiciously as he left.
“What happened to him?”
“He is going to suffer the consequences of thinking he could hide something from me.”
Father would surely listen to all the same excuses he had just presented. It would hardly be a scandal for an escort of a royal visitor to have made moves on a servant, but it did not look good either way. But I didn’t know what their exact relationship was in the present, or what would happen now. Compensations aside, it must be quite depressing to have to make such a report to the lord of the house.
Well, given father’s personality and the maid’s as well, it was unlikely that anything bad would actually happen to Oxe.
Once Charles had heard of the reasons for his subordinates actions, he gave an uninterested ‘Hmmm’ and moved on.
“By the way, Chris. What did you mean earlier?”
“Earlier? Oh, about the optimal distance.”
Oxe’s actions did not deliver enough material for conversation and we immediately returned to the original subject. Even his master showed no concern for poor Oxe, and I too decided to push that matter to the back of my mind.
“Depending on just how much we feel for each other, the distance that makes us the most comfortable will change. That’s what I meant. I was thinking of measuring the optimal distance for us today.”
“…so, did Mishuli say something to you?”
Charles went straight passed my words and arrived at the root of it all. I had a moment of deja vu.
“Well, yes…but, how did you know?”
“It doesn’t take much to know something like that.”
“…I see. So you know.”
Apparently, he could tell.
Unlike Mishuli, Charles was scowling, but the general flow of our back and forth was the same.
It was most odd that in spite of not being Mishuli, he was able to discover the origin of something just like her. Maybe there was a reason. As both Charles and Mishuli were related by blood, maybe it was a special intuition that the royal family was equipped with.
“But, if that’s all that it is, it can be whatever distance you feel is best.”
Charles offered bluntly as I was thinking of the special intuition that might exist among royals.
“Hm? Is that really alright?”
“Yes. Because I like you, Chris. It would make me happy if you kept whatever distance that you wanted to.”
He was as honest as ever.
A smile appeared on my face. Surely there were not many people who would not feel happy at such a declaration of affection as I just witnessed. It was without a doubt, one of Charles’ favorable qualities that he could clearly express his emotions.
“You do say the most adorable things, Charles. I too, have a certain degree of fondness for you.”
I expressed my honest feelings of friendship in return and tousled his blonde hair and patted him as a reward. He would eventually grow taller than me, but that had not happened yet. I suspected that this height difference would last at least two or three more years.
If he would leave the decision to me, then I felt that our current friendship was the best distance. I thought this, but…
“Chris. I might as well say it now. But, I like you just as much as you like Mishuli.”
My hands stopped dead as he continued to say this.
I looked seriously into the eyes below me. Even Charles would know just how much I loved Mishuli. She was number one for me, that was an unshakable position. To say that his affection equaled that, it was quite the claim.
But, it seemed that he was not exaggerating either.
“…I’m sorry, but you do know that I don’t like you as much as I do Mishuli?”
Charles cooly accepted my cold and cruel words.
He was younger than me, and he had swallowed this reality without balking. He smiled firmly.
“But, it’s fine. One day I will catch up with Mishuli with a different kind of ‘like.’ You’ll see.”
I became speechless.
He had not said anything particularly strong. It wasn’t an expression of intense emotion. And yet, there was something mysteriously unmeasurable about the resolve I felt in those words. The quiet smile and the honest words went straight to my heart.
I was left in shock for a while, but then a strange and unexpected laughter started to come from my throat.
“Ku fu fu fufuufu.”
As a reaction to my laughing, I held Charles head down with a heave.
It was a good thing that I had gotten rid of Oxe. It was also a good thing that I was still big enough compared to Charles in order to do this. I held his head away so that he could not see me. I don’t know why I was even thinking about such things.
“Fu fufufu. Charles. You really are an honest boy.”
Speaking with Charles gave me a smile as if a sudden fountain of unending happiness was tickling me, it felt like it would never end. What was this emotion that surfaced when I heard his words? Even though I was a genius, I could not think of any that was fitting. I wanted to burst into laughter, so it was clearly not a negative one, but it also felt a little different than just happiness.
“It is one of your better qualities that you can speak so honestly.”
I told Charles the truth about his favorable qualities. All the while I existed in this wondrous feeling like I was floating.
“I see. Thank you, Chris.”
And then the next thing that I heard from just slightly below my gaze was also honest.
“…But, Chris. This is hurting my neck, let me go already.”
“Fufufu. I refuse!”
There was some discontent at my flat refusal, but I couldn’t let go of him just yet.
I could not say why, exactly. There wasn’t any particular reason, but I could not let Charles see my current face no matter what. I would not let go of his head.
“How much longer–?
“Mm? Let me see…”
I couldn’t really answer that either. But I don’t think it should be too long. In spite of the force I was using to hold his head away, I had been feeling a mysterious sensation in my cheeks that hadn’t stopped smiling.
I didn’t know why, but there was some kind of heat present there.
They needed a little more time until they…
“Fufu, just a little longer now!”
Just a little longer, I needed some time.