Chapter 29: I Feel Grateful for my Family

 On the carriage ride home, I received a rush of angry questions from mother.
 Since I have nothing to be guilty of, I spoke honestly about the conversation on the surface.
The meaning behind the story would not be conveyed, and there was no point in misrepresenting this area.

 After the her scolding was over, I asked mother how the conversation with the Queen had gone.

“Well, because of the occasion, I couldn't go into too much detail, you know.”

 She wrinkled her brow as she spoke.

 My mother was angry that Ethan, who had a fiancée, had set his eyes on me, and that the Queen seemed to approve of it.
 She suspected there was something behind the Queen's behavior, as it was so unbecoming of a queen.
As expected of friends who have known each other for a long time, they have an excellent relationship of trust in things like this.

“At first, I heard that she was selecting your partner because she really wanted you to find the one you love.
 Then, the “royal man who is in love with you” asked her if she could make him your only companion.
 He says that he is in a bind at the moment, but your social debut was imminent and you have no fiancée, so he said he needed a stand-in for now.”

“Mmm, insect repellent…”

“Yes, that's right.
The thing is, married men with no bug-repellent effect are out of the question.
 You just ended your engagement with His Highness Garrett, who is the most trustworthy of all the single men.
 The others are not as effective, and there is a possibility that they themselves will end up liking you, Rebecca … so they have decided to meditate on some of the more lame options.”

 Mother finished off her explanation with, ”Even so, I wish they had told me in advance!”

“For His Highness Ethan and the Queen, a surprise attack was the safest option.
 It is possible that His Highness Ethan learned about the fan at the last minute.

 Even if he had known about it beforehand, it would have been risky to get the word out considering our family would have retaliated.
 Her Majesty the Queen must have thought that mother, with whom she has known for so long, would have listened to her side of the story without rashly reaching a condescending conclusion.”

 As far as I'm concerned, it's about the person I love and his mother, so all I can say is comforting words.
 Naturally, I was prepared to let her know that I had a deep and abiding love for His Highness Ethan, but her next question went far beyond the tactic I had in mind.

“Rebecca, you adore His Highness the Crown Prince.
How long have you been in love with him?”

 I was a little puzzled by this sudden assertion.
 Since when — since when? I remembered my previous life, from the day before the graduation ceremony.
I was not aware of it, but since three years ago when I first met His Highness Ethan.
From my previous life: …

“From the first time we met…”

 I feel some kind of heat in my cheeks, so I think my face is probably red.
 Was this what it was like when I confessed to my first mother that I liked him …?
 It's a memory from a long time ago, and it's already faded, but in my previous life, I felt strangely embarrassed by my mother's warm gaze, and after I finished talking, I felt like I was in agony for a while in my room.

 My mother, seated across from me in the carriage, quickly extends her hand as pale as a white fish.
 She gently stroked my silver hair and smiled softly.

“So, when your engagement to His Highness Garrett was broken, you said you wanted to remain single …? You adore him so much that you are prepared to live alone rather than marry someone else?”

 I nodded.
My cheeks burning hot.

“I'm on your side, Rebecca.
Please tell me how you feel.
 The Crown Prince wants to make you his only companion, but he is still engaged.

 She is the princess of a country.
I don't know if it is possible to end the engagement, and even if it is possible, I don't know when that will be.
 What do you want to do?
 Do you trust His Highness the Crown Prince enough to continue to wait forever?
 What if the dissolution of his engagement proves difficult? Would you remain celibate, or would you—”

 Live as a mistress?

 I did not want her to say those words, so I rudely interrupted her as she was speaking and raised my voice.

“I adore him, His Highness Ethan.
 I may be a foolish girl who is madly in love, but I am a member of the Howard family.
 I have no doubts about my first love.
As soon as I am ready, I will leave for the Clay Viscounty!”

 Even if our hearts were to be joined, I would never accompany someone with a fiancee.
 It was a manifestation of the “all or nothing” spirit toward my beloved and an expression of my dislike of the mistress system for the rulers of this country.
 It was also to keep the promise that the Howard family would only connect to the royal family only through love, which Father had obtained for me so that I would not be reduced to the status of a mistress.
 It was also a gesture of sincerity to Princess Aaliyah, who was prepared to sacrifice even her happiness as a woman in order to be swallowed up by this country's agenda.

 It is said that there is no limit to human desire.
My motto is “He who knows he has enough, is rich,” but my love for only one person was bottomless.
 That is why I cannot stand to have my feelings returned half-heartedly.
Is it better than nothing? If you think so, it means you know enough.

 I was never the kind of person who could be confronted with the cruel fact that the one and only for me did not hold the same feeling…

 If I’m given a little, I’ll want it all.
And I resent not being given more.
It could no longer be love, but hate.
I was afraid of letting my heart be transformed like that.

 If that were the case, I would want to hold only the feeling of love.
If I could not be the one and only, I would rather give myself to a one-sided love without anything in return.
 I am self-indulgent.
I am aware that I am selfish.
I am even self-centered.
 His Highness Ethan is my other half.
That is why I could not allow myself to love him half-heartedly.

 Fortunately, I have enough understanding and funds from my family to carry out this desire.
By nature, it is outwardly bad for a daughter of a noble family to remain single.
The fact that the Howard family snickers at such publicity is what sets them apart from ordinary aristocrats.

 —I was sure that His Highness Ethan would come for me.
 His Highness Ethan will surely come for me.
So I would make every conceivable preparation so that I could confidently jump into his arms when he had taken care of all the problems.
 I will do whatever it takes to be with His Highness Ethan.
I swear this, and I will prove my words.

 I would take what I wanted for myself—this was another trait of the Howard family that was unknown to the world.

 What I can do directly for His Highness Ethan is either to act in his favor or to eliminate anything that would be detrimental to him.

 The events at the ball hosted by the queen were witnessed by many people.
 Even if it is difficult for me to win over Princess Aaliyah, there are an unexpectedly large number of snobs who are thinking of gaining influence with His Highness the Crown Prince and gaining the upper hand over me as a potential mistress.

 If I were to upset the balance of power among the nobles of the Kingdom of Lendor by making an imprudent move, it would be an inconvenience to His Highness Prince Ethan.
 As I could not see His Highness Ethan's vision for the future, I wanted to refrain from associating with people who would approach me as soon as I become a candidate for his mistress.

 If I were in the Capital during the social season, I would have to deal with invitations to tea parties, balls, and the like.
 In the first place, I had declared at the graduation party of the Royal Remus Academy that I would “move back to the countryside”.
It is not unnatural for me to decline invitations from nobles with ulterior motives, but as long as I am in the Royal Capital, invitations will come, and I will have to keep responding to every one of them.
It is in our best interest to leave here as soon as possible.

 His Highness Prince Ethan's “insect repellent” may not attract men, but like ants swarming for sugar, ambitious people swarming for power are … and ants were insects too.
“Another bug has been swarming,” I joke.

 I understood Ethan's intention that it would be fine to stay if it weren't for the insects swarming so close to me, I sighed, thinking that it can't be helped.
For the most part, it’s uncomfortable when men make advances on me, but if it's a woman who wants power or curiosity, I'll compromise.

“You know how to handle them, don't you?”

 I thought to myself, “He's so trusting of me, isn't he?
 That's how much he trusts me, and of course, I will reciprocate that trust.
 Now that my social debut is over without a hitch, I need to discuss the letters of refusal with Mother and get them out of the way.

 When I asked her for her advice on this matter, she waited for me.

“Just hand it over to me, I’ll take care of it.
 If you're going to spend time on this, you should prepare for your trip.
I will take a closer look at everyone's ulterior motives, fu fu fu.”

 Mother is thrilled to observe the human nature of the aristocracy this time around.
I'm glad she’s enjoying herself.
 True to her word, she took care of all the letters full of ulterior motives that started arriving one after another the next day.

 When Father heard from her about what happened at the ball, his mouth was smiling but his eyes were not smiling at all.
His Highness Ethan would have a hard time later on.
He deserved it, though.

 And my younger brother, David, who was supposed to be studying at the Royal Remus Academy, for some reason applied for a leave of absence from the school.

“I will protect you on the way to Clay.
I don't want you to have to be left on your own!”

 He is so enthusiastic.
 In addition to the regular guards, I also have a shadow.
I would have told him to take his studies seriously, but I was happy to see that my brother, who was 100% aloof during puberty, had evolved into a tsundere, so I gratefully accepted David's favor.

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