After being pulled into the carriage by His Highness Levy, we arrived before the tower which was at the outskirts of the school grounds. The lack of people probably isn’t just because it’s a day-off. The tower looked old and it felt like ghosts could pop up any time now. People wouldn’t come go out of their way just to come here.
“This is my favorite place. It’s called the Tower of Lament.”
“What an eerie name. It seems perfect for ghost stories.”
“I guess so.”
His Highness Levy approached the tower while laughing and opened the rusty door.
The door opened with a screech. Immediately, wind passed through its gaps and breezed through the tower. It almost sounded like a woman’s weeping.
“Thus, the Tower of Lament…”
“Exactly. Come on, let’s go.”
I followed after His Highness Levy and went up the stairs.
“I thought it would be the perfect time.”
“It’s a surprise.”
His Highness Levy laughed profoundly. He seemed to be concerned about the surroundings even when we were on our way to here. I wonder if that’s also somehow connected to this.
I could only see his back from my position, so I couldn’t look at his expression either.
“It seems that this place was originally a watchtower. It was built because there used to be a battlefield near here. That history is also the reason why this tower was named the 『Tower of Lament』”
“So that’s what happened.”
When we climbed to the top, we came up to a wide space. A very beautiful scenery, dyed in the color of twilight, opened before us. It’s strange. Even though I should be used to seeing dusk, the sky I saw here was exceptionally beautiful.
I had never seen such a beautiful scenery before.
His Highness Levy was wearing a very serious expression. I wonder if he’s planning to talk about something important?
“It might be cowardly of me to say something like this when you’re confused by your surroundings changing…”
I wonder what’s wrong? His Highness Levy seems somewhat nervous.
“In truth, I was going to tell you after you had made you social debut, but I heard that there were already marriage proposals coming for you and I panicked a little. Saying this might make you doubt my qualifications as the future King, but I don’t want to have any regrets, so please listen.”
After taking a deep breath, His Highness Levy continued.
“I like you. I love you regardless of whether you have the Dark Spirit King’s protection, Light Spirit King’s blessing or if you’re a duke’s daughter.”
It took me a moment to understand what I was told, but as soon as I did, my face instantly heated up.
“Claudia, you still don’t seem to be aware of it, but I am also proposing to you.”
“I d-didn’t… know that. But, why…do you…um…like me?”
“It’s a bit difficult to explain. At first I was interested in you because a noble lady not trying to curry favor with me looked rare. And after we started to get close as friends, I felt respect for you for not losing kindness towards others even though you were shunned. That’s not all. It made me happy when you showed different expressions from time to time, even though you were usually expressionless…I started wondering what kind of expressions you would show next time and when I realized, I had already been chasing you with my eyes.”
His Highness Levy looked straight at me.
“All of those small things piled up and I fell in love with you. There’s no need to answer me immediately. I’m fine with us occasionally talking and going outside together like before, so you could gradually become conscious of me. I intend to wait until you are able to give me an answer.”
I’m thankful that he’s willing to wait for me. After all, I have zero experience in romance, even with both of my lives added up. It’s impossible for me to answer him on the spot.
Perhaps noticing my inner turmoil, His Highness Levy smiled, as if to reassure me.
“Thank you very much. In truth, I don’t quite understand what sort of thing affection is. So I would like to think about it while I spend time with you, Your Highness.”
Saying so, His Highness Levy smiled. That smile for some reason made my heart throb.
A few days after, a letter came from His Highness Levy, asking me if I’d like to “travel incognito to downtown.” Just as I was writing a reply in my room, my brother decided to visit me.
“You were invited by Levy, right? I took the liberty of answering for you and told him that you would be free the day after tomorrow.”
“…I intended to decline though.”
Brother made a surprised face, but I answered him in a matter-of-fact way.
“Even if my skin color has changed, my appearance is still very conspicuous. If our identities were discovered, even His Highness Levy could be harmed.”
“It’ll be fine. That guy’s pretty strong and you have Lord Gerald. You’ll still have an escort even if you’re just sneaking out. There won’t be any problems.”
His Highness Levy is the crown prince. In other words, he’s the future king. It would be terrible if something happened to him. Taking his safety in account and declining the outing is a better idea.
“You’re so dense. It’s a date invitation.”
My brother laughed. It was the kind of ill-mannered laugh you’d use when teasing others.
“Didn’t Levy confess to you?”
The moment he asked, my face turned red and I felt my temperature rising.
“W-why do you know…”
“I found out just now.”
…I was tricked.
“Knowing you, you still haven’t answered him, have you?”
“…I don’t quite understand if I like him as an opposite sex or not.”
“Then you just have to spend more time with him. That way you might be able to find the answer sooner.”
“…I understand. I’ll be leaving.”
Thus it was decided that I would be visiting the town with His Highness Levy.
“Are you okay? Do you feel tired?”
His Highness Levy asked gently while we were walking around the town.“No, I am fine.”
We wore hooded cloaks on top of commoners’ clothes. His Highness Levy was wearing a hood to hide his face, while I was trying to hide the color of my hair.
“Don’t hesitate to tell me if you get tired.”
“Yes. Thank you very much.”
He smiled gently as he expressed his concern for my well-being.
“Do you often come to the downtown, Your Highness Levy?”
“Call me Levy.”
I was hesitant to drop the honorifics, but since His Highness was quite stubborn, I ended up being the one to give in first.
When I glanced at him, I saw him waiting for me to call his name while smiling.
“…Do you often come to the downtown, Levy?”
“I would also like you to stop speaking politely if possible.”
The words of His Highness Levy…er, Levy, made me unintentionally stiffen up. Looking at me, he smiled bitterly.
“That can still wait until later, I guess…I come here from time to time.”
“Is it? There are certainly royalties who never step outside the palace, but Edgar also sneaks out often.”
Now that I think about, His Highness Edgar also had sneaked out to downtown on the day when I first met Emily. Those nostalgic memories faintly warmed my heart.
“Father also used to come down to the town when he was our age.”
“It may be that townspeople have been interacting with royalties without even realizing it.
“You could say that. Do you also come here often, Claudia?”
“No, I only drop by occasionally.”
Taking a walk leisurely at a place where nobody knows me is a good change of pace.
“I see. Where do you usually go?”
“I don’t visit a particular place. I only wander aimlessly and enter shops that catch my eye.”
“Same as me then. Let’s also stroll around like that today.”
“By all means.”
Hearing my answer, Levy took my hand while laughing satisfyingly and entangled his fingers with mine. Seeing how surprised I was, he laughed like a child who had succeeded in his mischief.
“We’re only holding hands. Is that a no?”
His warmth was transmitted to me from out connected hands. Perhaps I had finally become conscious of him after his confession the other day, my heart was unusually noisy. It was so loud that I was afraid he would hear it too.
It’s the first time I’ve held hands like this with a man. I’ve always thought that romance was something unrelated to me and a day like this would never come.
I started feeling embarrassed and helpless, so I hid my heated up face from Levy by looking down.
We walked aimlessly around the town and entered the stores that caught our interest…it was that kind of casual date.
After we became tired from walking, we entered the nearby cafe. We choose seats which were hidden from human eye and sat down after taking off our cloaks. Right after, Levy said suddenly.
“I was able to see your smile for the first time in a long while. There were so many things happening recently, you were tired, right? You’ve always seldom showed a different expression, but recently you’ve become even more rigid.”
“…My deepest apologies for causing you to worry.”
I wasn’t aware of it myself, but it may be so.
It’s been a long time since I was able to forget everything and purely enjoy myself like today.
Levy must’ve taken me out to cheer me up. Thinking so made me really happy.
“Thank you very much for today. I was able to enjoy myself a lot thanks to you, Levy.”
“I’m glad you’re saying that. Let’s come again.”
After that, Levy escorted me to my estate.
During that time, my heart felt warm.
After a long vacation, I returned to school full of anxiety. Attending the academy for the first time after my skin color changed was both embarrassing and scary, since I didn’t know what kind of reaction I would get from others.
Contrary to my expectations, my classmates reacted quite tamely.
“I’d heard about it, but…”
“Seeing it so up close…”
“It feels really out of place.”
Emily, Lily and His Highness Edgar looked at my white skin and expressed their impressions.
“I can’t get used to it either. I keep thinking ‘who’s this?’ every time I look in mirror.”
Hearing my words, Lily took a long hard look at me.
“Well, I guess anybody would be like that if the skin color they saw in mirror for 14 years suddenly changed…Somehow, you’ve become 20% more beautiful so some bad folks might start to flock you.”
‘You were already a beauty to start with though…’ – she added.
“I was taken aback but you are still you no matter what, Claudia.”
Emily said with a smile and everybody agreed.
Thank god. All tension drained from my body as I felt relief.
At that moment, Ronald entered the classroom.
“Good morning. I’ve heard rumors about it, but now that I see it in front of me, it does feel out of place.”
“Good morning, Ronald.”
After I greeted him back, Ronald continued talking with an amicable smile on his face.
“You were already lovely before, but you’re also lovely like this.”
“Ronald, if you’re trying to make passes at Claudia, you’ll have to compete with my brother.”
His Highness Edgar said teasingly.
“With His Highness Levy? I’d rather avoid that. Let me gracefully withdraw here.”
Smiling, Ronald returned to his desk.
Since he’s sociable and treats everyone equally, he’s popular with classmates of all genders. The way he can so naturally engage in a joking conversation like this is also one of the reasons why he’s so liked by others.
“Hey Claudia, I heard that you received blessing from the Light Spirit King, so were there any changes except for your skin?”
Emily asked, full of curiosity.
“I’ve become able to use healing magic, but I haven’t given it a try…there are no other obvious changes.”
There are no changes outside of my appearance.
Even with the addition of the blessing from Light Spirit King, I am still me.
I thought so, encouraged by my precious friends.
After school ended, I was stopped by somebody just as I was trying to go home.
Turning around to face the voice, I found a boy standing before me. He had a prim appearance but still didn’t give out a quite pleasant feeling.
“Is there anything?”
When I asked, he boldly approached me and stood right in front of me. I backed away, but he also stepped forward and once again closed the distance that I had opened between us.
“Why are you getting closer?”
“Because I would like to have a word with you.”
“But, is it really necessary to get so close?”
What’s with this boy? He’s making me really uncomfortable.
“You are indeed right. However, I would like to talk with you while close.”
“If it is the kind of conversation that would require discussion at a short distance, I would have to excuse myself.”
I tried to turn around but the boy grabbed my hand. At that moment, an unpleasant feeling ran through my body.
This didn’t happen to me when His Highness Levy touched me, even though they’re both males.
“Please wait. Won’t you please accept my feelings?”
“I do not understand your words.”
I couldn’t help furrowing my eyebrows. Just what is this guy telling to a person whom he’s meeting for the first time?
“I love you. Please accept my feelings.”
“I refuse. I do not know you.”
“Well then, please get to know me from now on…”
“I have no desire to know more so I will refrain from doing that. Please let go of my hand.”
I felt Gerald move behind me. At this rate, this guy will be in danger. Thinking so, I tried to get away from him, but instead of loosening his grip, he grasped my hand tighter.
“You are such a cold person. I――
“Can you give it a break?”
It was Levy, who had suddenly appeared near me, who interrupted the boy’s words.
The boy looked at Levy and his face turned pale.
“I am in the middle of courting her. It would be one thing if you were somebody who was close to her since the beginning, but it’s extremely unpleasant to see an irrelevant guy try to approach her.”
After gently smiling at me, Levy glared at the boy. It was a cold, sharp glare that could turn anybody’s knees weak.
“Release her hand and I’ll overlook this matter. However, there won’t be a second time.”
Intimidated by Levy, the boy turned his tail and ran away.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, thank you very much.”
“I’ll send you home. It would be horrible if the same thing happened again.”
I do feel anxious, but thinking about being escorted by Levy makes me feel awkward. Besides, I have Gerald with me.
“Let me send you back. As a man, who is in love with you, I can’t forgive those kinds of lowlifes.”
I don’t know how to reply when I’m told something like this so smoothly. I’m not used to it so I don’t know what kind of face I should make.
“By the way, it’ll turn red if you rub so much, Claudia.”
Looks like I’ve been unconsciously rubbing my wrist, which was grabbed by the boy a while ago. Even though Levy stopped me, it had already turned a bit red.
Levy very naturally took my hand and gently kissed my wrist.
“It doesn’t feel as disgusting like this, right?”
My mouth was left gaping open and my face flushed red. Looking at the state I was in, Levy laughed happily.
That’s when Gerald appeared with a displeased face.
“You’ve become too cocky, brat.”
“You should’ve saved her faster then.”
“I held back because I felt your presence nearby. After all, it’d be troublesome if my careless interference caused wicked rumors to spread. Just because Claudia’s appearance has changed, it doesn’t mean that fear that humans have for me has disappeared.”
“I suppose so.”
“That’s why you have to be the one to protect her.”
Saying so, Gerald disappeared.
“Well then, Lord Gerald has also left you to me so it’s about time we got moving.”
“My apologies for having caused you troubles.”
I feel really guilty. Things wouldn’t come to this if I had been more responsible.
“There’s no way it would ever be troublesome. I’m happy to have helped the person I love. Feel free to depend on me by all means.”
Levy said and laughed carefreely. It was so dazzling that my face heated up even more.
A few days after this occurrence, during one afternoon, I was having an elegant tea time with Lily and Emily at the school’s salon.
“So, how are things between you and His Highness Levy, Claudia?”
Emily lowered her voice and went straight to the business. Lily also leaned forward and eagerly stared at me.
“Even if you ask me that…”
I trust both of them so I can tell them everything. However, I don’t have any romantic experience so I’m troubled at how to start talking. Regardless, I opened my mouth.
“I was confessed to and we snuck out to have a stroll in downtown.”
“Oh my! So you’ve already had a date!”
The girls blushed, screaming in high-pitched voices.
It’s natural for noble ladies to marry the partners decided by their parents. However, that’s exactly the reason why everybody is longing for love. They are also very interested in the love life of others and always feel ready to offer their insights on the matter.
“His Highness Levy has obviously sent a marriage proposal too, right?”
Emily asked, making sure just in case.
“Yes, that is what I’ve heard.”
Emily sank her teeth into my reply.
“So, have you replied already?”
Emily and Lily looked at me as if they couldn’t believe what I was saying.
“I mean, even if he told me his feelings, I have no idea how I feel for him.”
My words left them stunned. After sighing deeply, Lily asked with a tone one would use with a child.
“How do you feel when you are together with His Highness Levy?”
“What do mean ‘how’?”
“Does your heart beat faster or something of that sort…”
I replied while remembering myself when I was with His Highness Levy.
“It always does.”
Even that one time, when we had a date in the downtown, my heart kept loudly thumping in my ears just from him holding my hand. I had something to ask the two, who were excited after hearing my reply.
“…Speaking of which, I had something to ask.”
“What is it? Feel free to ask anything.”
Emily said happily while bending forward.
I told them about how uncomfortable I felt when a stranger grabbed my wrist the other day.
“So, what exactly is your question?”
Hearing Lily’s question, Emily once again looked at me.
“I don’t understand why I was fine with His Highness Levy holding my hand, but felt uncomfortable when somebody else did the same…”
My question seemed to have made Lily dumbfounded, while Emily sighed like she was exasperated.
Both of them look like they want to ask how I couldn’t understand something like that.
“You’re a complete beginner at love, aren’t you?”
Lily nodded, agreeing with Emily’s words.
“It can’t be helped. There hadn’t been any men until now who would notice Claudia’s charm, after all.”
“That’s also true, I suppose. That is why I’m so angry with men who are trying to approach her only now. I absolutely support His Highness.”
Emily looked straight at me with an unusually serious expression.
“You feel your heart beat faster whenever you’re with His Highness Levy, right? In that case, I think you are already aware of the answer.”
The two looked at me warmly, even though I still couldn’t understand what Emily meant.
“Claudia, feeling your heart throbbing whenever you’re with a specific gentleman and feeling unpleasant when you are touched by another gentleman is a sign of love”
“In love? Me? With His Highness Levy?”
Pointing her index finger up, Emily said.
“Try to imagine how you would feel if His Highness Levy got close to a lady other than you.
I tried imaging it like Emily told me and it felt really unpleasant.
The area around my heart started hurting and a very ugly feeling assaulted my mind.
Perhaps realizing something from my expression, Lily said while nodding.
“If you didn’t love him, you wouldn’t feel anything. If you feel anger or some other unpleasant feeling, it’s called jealousy.
Hearing that, I opened my eyes wide.
“…I have read about it in the book but I never thought that I’d experience it firsthand.”
Emily took a sip of a cold tea to moisten her throat and said.
“Since we’re talking about His Highness Levy, I’m sure he has long noticed Claudia’s feelings.”
Banging both her hands on the table, Lily replied.
“You’re right! He must be waiting for Claudia to realize it herself!”
Lily made me stand up unusually forcefully.
“Strike while the iron is hot, Claudia. Hurry up and confess so you two can be mutually in love,”
“The fact that an engagement proposal has come from His Highness Levy means that Their Majesties have already approved your relationship. There are no obstacles to stand in your way.”
Emily showed a radiant smile to me, who was still hesitating.
“I get it. I’m going.”
Saying so, I ran off to a certain place.