Act 17: Push Boldly Forward and Mistaking One’s Love Rival
Cordelia’s appointed day with Vernoux came in the blink of an eye.
It was Hazel’s birthday. Cordelia stared at herself in the mirror after she’d finished getting ready.
“I would like to congratulate you on your birthday, Hazel-sama. Nope; that’s too heavy.”
She should have been happy to receive an invitation from a girl, but she simply couldn’t be. This is my first time going out when I don’t feel like it…… She thought that as she turned her gaze from the mirror.
“Ojou-sama, Vernou-sama is here.”
Cordelia left her room, prompted by Emina. Vernoux was waiting at the entrance and he smiled widely when he saw Cordelia. His smile is extremely fake, she thought and returned it with a fake smile of her own.
“How are you today, Vernoux-sama? I’m a little surprised that you actually came to pick me up.”
“It doesn’t make sense to go there separately. Don’t mind it.”
Right, you are. She couldn’t say that, but she sighed and made a daring remark. When they’d talked about the Hale mansion, Vernoux thought that she wouldn’t have to defend again Hazel’s fierce attacks.
“And if you change your mind because we went there separately, then this strategy would be meaningless.”
“I won’t run away now. But, this is a favour.”
“Yeah, I get it. I get it.”
He raised his hands in the air in an exaggerated way and shrugged his shoulders, thus Cordelia realised, “I might have accepted something more troublesome than I thought it was.” However, she had already accepted his request.
Contrary to his snarky remarks, his gaze was more restless than normal, and he kept glancing around.
(…… Vernoux-sama has things he’s not good at either, huh.)
Of course, she didn’t think that he didn’t have things he wasn’t good at, but he was acting differently to his carefree self. It was a very childish reaction. She was taken in by that and softened a little.
“Somehow, I feel like I’m Vernoux-sama’s older sister today.”
Cordelia spoke and turned toward Vernoux. He smiled brightly, and she felt as if his smile said, “Then, do your best to back me up today.”
Cordelia arrive at Hale mansion. She came to realise that the casual exchange was based on naivety; she was made to realise that whether she’d liked it or not.
The Hale mansion was full of blooming white flowers and gave off a calm atmosphere…… But the Earl Hale’s daughter, Hazel, was the complete opposite of that.
“Hazel-sama. Thank you for inviting me today.”
“Cordelia-sama, welcome. I hope you enjoy the party.”
Cordelia immediately greeted Hazel with a soft smile when, she saw her, and Hazel replied in the same way; but her eyes weren’t smiling. Her eyes looked as if they was wary, because she’d just found her rival.
Cordelia wanted to turn her gaze away, but it might have been too quick for her to do so.
But luckily, the person who turned away first was Hazel. Her gaze moved to Vernoux and her smile quickly changed like a flower in full bloom.
“Vernoux-sama, thank you so much for coming! Say, Vernoux-sama, what do you think of this dress? I did my best to choose it.”
“Ah, yeah. Isn’t it nice?”
“Oh my, really?! It was worth it to worry for three days and three nights, because you said I suit it.”
Cordelia couldn’t even retort in her mind, because of how happy Hazel was from the bottom of her heart. Hazel-sama’s more intense than I thought she would be. She has more personality than in the game. She thought that and couldn’t help but sense danger approaching her; she thought about stepping back…… But Vernoux stopped her.
“Dilly, you think so too, don’t you?”
“Huh? Yes, of course.”
Although she had replied straight away, she could see that Vernoux’s words had turned Hazel’s mood sour. Hazel maintained her smile, but her eyes were telling a different story.
That was no surprise. Hazel simply wanted Vernoux to compliment her, but because he asked Cordelia for her opinion, it sounded as if it was the general opinion and not Vernoux’s.
However, her glare didn’t remain for long, since she went to greet another friend, who had just arrived. When Hazel left, Cordelia protested in a small voice to Vernoux.
“It’s fine for you to pretend that you don’t notice that Hazel-sama likes you, but don’t get me involved in this.”
“You understand that it was necessary for my act, don’t you?”
“You already owe me one, if you don’t make it two then it’s not worth it.”
Vernoux evaded her complaint with a dry laugh. She’d thought he seemed like a child when he came to pick her up, but it seemed to be a huge misunderstanding.
(If it’s like this, then Hazel-sama will always see me as a rival in love……)
Even from a distance, she could feel Hazel’s gaze on her sometimes, even if she didn’t want to.
Don’t mind me, focus your attention on Vernoux-sama.
Cordelia prayed that in her heart, but it didn’t get conveyed to Hazel at all.
(I only promised Vernoux-sama that I would come here with him, but I have no intentions of getting in the way of Hazel-sama’s romance.)
If the person she likes is here then she should appeal more of herself to him, not pick a fight with her rival, Cordelia thought. However, she would be at a loss for an answer if she was asked whether that would work well or not. She had said something incredible, but she hadn’t even had her first love.
(…… Which means, oh my. If so, then I’m more of a child than Hazel-sama?)
No, that’s not true, she wanted to believe.
“Dilly, what’s wrong?”
“No, nothing. Anyway…… Ooh? Hazel-sama is coming back here.”
Even though he’d said it low enough for the people around them not to hear, she thought it was rude for him to say, “Ack,” while smiling again at Hazel and asking.
“Hazel-sama, is something wrong?”
Hazel, who approached them with a stern look on her face, put a dazzling smile on her face when she saw Cordelia. Hazel’s smile was so beautiful that it made Cordelia want to step backwards.
“This is sudden, but you’re interested in horses, aren’t you Cordelia-sama?”
“…… Horses, is it?”
“There is a horse-riding competition on right now. There are no limits on women participating, but I heard that only a small number of girls join in on the competition; it might just be me. Why don’t you participate with me, if you’re interested? I heard that you ride a beautiful horse. I think that it’s good to improve our skills by competing with people of the same age.”
Cordelia was a little surprised by her remark. She certainly could ride a horse, but she had never said that to Hazel before. The only people who knew about it were her family, the servants, Vernoux and Gille…… Or so she thought as she looked at Vernoux.
He smoothly turned his gaze away from her. I see, I don’t know how this happened, but Vernoux-sama told her.
However, even if she had determined that the source of information was Vernoux, the other thing she was surprised at did not fade. That was the fact that Hazel was also interested in horse-riding. Like Hazel said, she was probably the only one who would compete in that competition.
Even so, Cordelia couldn’t remain surprised. She immediately began thinking about how to avoid the competition. She had started horse-riding so that she could go on rides. She had never thought about competing.
(I don’t even know the rules and if I compete, then I have to focus on practicing…… If I do that, then the time I can use for experiments will decrease.)
However, I don’t want to refuse when I can’t even state my reason for doing so. It would seem as if I’m running away. And as a daughter of the Pameradia House, I don’t want others to see me being pressured by Hazel.
She thought that as her mind spun, then she came up with a very nice excuse.
“I often accompany my brother on his rides, so I have never thought about participating in competitions. But if Hazel-sama is competing, then I’ll cheer you on.”
Hazel widened her eyes at Cordelia’s reply. At the same time, her reply caused a stir between the girls, who were listening to the conversation between Hazel and Cordelia.
The girls secretly began talking with their friends and eventually one of them spoke to Cordelia.
“Mm, excuse me, I’m sorry for interrupting your conversation. Cordelia-sama, is the brother you spoke of Cyrus-sama? Or is it Isma-sama……?”
“It’s Isma-oniisama. Cyrus-oniisama often goes over the documents from the fief on his days off.”
The girls, who heard what Cordelia had said, shrilled. There were even some girls who hadn’t shrilled but instead turned red…… You guys sure are popular, Onii-samas!
I didn’t know until now that my eldest brother and older brother are so popular that they would cause girls to get this excited, just from hearing their names. Of course, I’m not surprised that they have fans, but I didn’t think they’d have this many. She thought that as she waited for Hazel’s reaction, which was the most important, and Hazel casted her eyes down.
Cordelia panicked a little. She’s probably not pleased that the girls are distracted by my brothers’ names, even though she’s the main character of the day, Cordelia thought and planned to throw her a new topic…… But Hazel suddenly lifted her face and she noticed that her eyes were more flared up than before and stopped.
“Then…… I will also learn how to do long rides.”
Hazel informed her quietly while trembling. Cordelia could never have guessed that was what she was going to say. Cordelia tilted her head in confusion, and Hazel continued boldly.
“It’s very unfortunate that you wouldn’t be participating in the competition, Cordelia-sama. But I would like to compete with you.”
“Yes. Therefore, I will learn how to do long rides. I don’t think my abilities as a rider would be conveyed to you if I don’t stand on the same stage as you. I have no experience in long rides, but there’s no way I can’t do it if you can.”
Did long riding have contests?
Hazel spoke proudly with a momentum that blew away Cordelia’s question.
(…… Anyway, I wonder if she’s trying to drag me into some kind of competition.)
I want her to stop if possible. It was a contest in which Cordelia had nothing to gain. However, Hazel, whose fire had been lit, could no longer see Cordelia’s expression. Then, she approached Cordelia and whispered in her ear.
“So, I’m not going to give Vernoux-sama to you. I’ll definitely win against you.”
Her voice was like one of a soldier going to war, and crawled across Cordelia’s skin; it didn’t suit a pretty girl at all. Cordelia froze for a lot of reasons. Apparently, she was completely recognised as a rival in love. She had prepared for that to some degree.
How much easier would it be for me if I said, “You’re misunderstanding, Hazel-sama?” But, Hazel had already parted from her and she couldn’t secretly give her reply. Of course, her voice would reach Hazel if she talked normally, but Hazel had purposely declared that to Cordelia in that way so that other people wouldn’t hear her. In short, Hazel didn’t want anyone to hear her, and Cordelia didn’t want to take any actions that lacked delicacy, even if she wanted to solve the misunderstanding. However, it seemed like most people had already realised what Hazel had said from her actions.
(…… Having said that, I don’t want to throw myself into the vortex.)
For example, if Hazel had been an unpleasant girl, then Cordelia would have an easier time dealing with her.
(She’s annoying but she’s doesn’t have a bad personality.)
Hazel was facing Cordelia head-on, despite seeming two-faced. That was true for the matter of the horse-riding. She had thrown away a favourable stage and announced that she would step into her opponent’s stage. She was actually a brave girl. Her gaze was scary, but Cordelia liked her. However, if she hinted that she wanted to back away from it, then it would likely be returned to her double-fold. That, in its own way, was scary.
Cordelia didn’t say anything in the end, and Hazel left her again, since she’d been called by her mother. The first dance song was starting. Hazel’s dance partner was her brother…… No, someone who looked young enough to be her brother, but was actually her father, Earl Hale.
“…… It’s amazing even though you’ve been singled out.”
“You’re speaking as if it has nothing to do with you.”
Cordelia replied bitterly to Vernoux, who had been watching her from a distance with some boys, who looked like his friends. However, her tone was plain. If they were not in public, then she wouldn’t hide her feelings that much, but she couldn’t expose such an undignified appearance in front of the surrounding people, nor the boys standing next to Vernoux.
When Cordelia delivered such a curt reply, she also smiled at the two boys standing beside Vernoux.
“It’s nice to meet you. My name is Cordelia Enna Pameradia.”
The boys on the left and right of Vernoux froze at her greeting.
…… They froze?
Cordelia tilted her head curiously. There was no way they hadn’t heard her. It wasn’t a special greeting. Cordelia, who was a little confused, looked at Vernoux and he sighed.
Vernoux lightly pushed the boys while she was being doubtful.
“Hey, introduce yourselves.”
The boys blinked, as if they were startled by Vernoux’s brief statement.
“Sorry about that, I’m Clifton Hack.”
“I’m Myles Gunnell.”
Earl Hack’s fiefdom thrived with their shipbuilding business and Viscount Gunnell’s family were originally successful traders. Both were well-known and prosperous.
Indeed, the son of the Flantheim House and his friends are posh, she thought. At the same time, she couldn’t help but be interested in the boys, since they knew of a world that she didn’t.
“Clifton-sama, have you ever ridden a boat to sea? I’ve never sailed before.”
“Yes, of course. I’m very familiar with the sea. I can tell you about it if you don’t mind?”
“Yes, that would be great!”
“Say, Cordelia-sama! The wood from the Pameradia fief has attracted the attention of people in foreign kingdoms too. Please tell me more about it.”
“Of course. I’m glad that you’re interested in the wood from our fief.”
She relaxed at the sight of the smiles on the serious and shy boys. She forgot all about Hazel’s strong gaze from before when she looked at their faces.
However, Vernoux tapped Cordelia on the shoulder when their conversation was going well.
“Dilly, it’s fine for you to talk, but you’ll listen to my request today, won’t you?”
“Well. They’re not here…… But there are some guys who aren’t fun to have long conversations with.”
“Anyway, you can talk with Clifton and Myles again later. Why don’t we dance first?”
Vernoux held his hand out towards Cordelia, after he whispered a remark that sounded as if he was speaking to himself. He was being forceful, even though he had phrased it like a question. Despite feeling confusion about why he’d interrupted her when she was having a fun conversation, Cordelia decided to accept this as, “Well, he always acts like this.”
But, Hazel came back before she could take his hand. Her smile was dazzling. She was probably asking Vernoux for the second dance, but he quickly took Cordelia’s hand before she could and said, “The musician is good. I’m looking forward to the dance,” as he quickly began to walk.
“Vernoux-sama, don’t you think you’re being too blatant?”
“Don’t be silly. She probably won’t give up even with this.”
Cordelia looked at Vernoux, who seemed like he was going to twitch, as she secretly peeked at Hazel. Clifton and Myles were talking to Hazel, who had been left behind, but no matter how you looked at it, they were trying to calm her down. Since their faces were twitching. Cordelia prayed for Vernoux’s friends. At the same time, she was troubled by a glance that was thrown her way.
She couldn’t hear a voice, but she knew Hazel was saying, “I won’t lose.”
(…… I wonder if the heroine was also challenged by her.)
No, the heroine would definitely accept a challenge from her rival. A heroine is someone who earnestly accepted and solve problems even in difficult situations.
But unfortunately, Cordelia wasn’t a heroine. Getting caught up in a fight for Vernoux was just perfect for a heroine.
“I don’t understand.”
“It is what it is.”
Cordelia thought about stepping on Vernoux’s foot, because he was playing dumb, but she gave up on the idea because of her pride. She couldn’t stand being thought of as a bad dancer.
However, she was staring to get a headache from the piercing glares.