She and the Second Day 3
“Princess. Lady Lidiana has come.”
Instead of the soldier who’d escorted me until Princess Ophelia’s room, a soldier who appeared to be guarding the room called to Princess Ophelia inside.
She returned an immediate reply.
“Please let her in.”
“I understand. Lady Lidiana, please.”
He opened the door, and I went inside.
Princess Ophelia’s room that I entered for the first time was, how should I put it, not feminine at all.
There was nothing that women like. The spacious room was refreshing, but since it was uniform light brown and green, if I had to say, I’d believe if I was told it was a prince’s room.
There was a big desk in the most conspicuous location. There, Princess Ophelia was facing documents and moving a quill. Standing right behind her was her guardian knight.
When Princess Ophelia noticed I entered the room, her hands stopped, and she got up from the chair.
“Lady Lidiana! Thank you for coming. I’m happy.”
“It’s I who should thank you for the invitation.”
We exchanged lighthearted greetings. What Princess Ophelia was wearing today was a simple dress similar to the one I’d seen yesterday.
She looked me in the face and grinned. And then, she told her guardian knight.
“Ed, please leave.”
“Your Highness, however, I’m Your Highness’s knight, so――”
“I told you to leave. Can’t you listen to orders?”
“―― As you wish.”
Although he looked a little hesitant, the guardian knight Edward left the room.
Why did she expressly get rid of her escort? As I was tilting my head in confusion, Princess Ophelia turned a beaming smile to me.
“Forgive me for my rudeness. I’ll test you now.”
What is she saying? As I knit my eyebrows, Princess Ophelia put her hand on her hair without saying anything. Then she pulled with all her strength.
What came in my sight was a short hair that could be mistaken for man’s. The short hair was the exact opposite of Prince Hendrik’s long hair. It was no longer than Freed’s. I thought the shoulder-length hair from before was unusual, but the unexpected hairstyle left me dumbfounded.
Princess Ophelia smiled with satisfaction at me who couldn’t say anything. Then, she straightened herself.
“Are you surprised? That thing before was a wig. By the way, I usually don’t talk like that. ―― Once again, nice to meet you, Lady Lidiana. I’m Ophelia Raid Irvine. People in the castle call me whatever they want – mannish woman, eccentric princess, lunatic. Now, what do you think?”
“What’s with those cruel names…?”
I was surprised by her masculine tone, but the names she said bothered me more.
Every nickname was a terrible insult. Those were by no means good nicknames for the Princess of your own country. When I looked at the Princess in disbelief, she calmly said.
“I’m a fully-fledged woman, but I hate looking like one. Of course, I hate talking like a woman too. And living as myself, before I knew it, I became avoided by my surroundings and came to be called that way. I understand their feelings, so I don’t feel like being angry anymore.”
“Don’t feel like being angry…”
“It’s not surprising they want to complain about the Princess of their country being such a sham of a woman.”
The Princess said self-torturing words. But, her expression wasn’t tragic. She had absolute confidence in her way of life. It looked like that.
And, I recalled what Kate and the soldier had said earlier. Kate referred to the Princess as mannish princess, and the soldier said that I might get along with the Princess.
So it was about this.
As I became convinced, the Princess shrugged her shoulders and grumbled.
“On official occasions as before, I keep up appearances, but I don’t let myself pretend not to be myself beyond what’s necessary. Everybody hates when I appear as well, so I abstain from evening parties as much as I can. That’s why I didn’t attend last night. Nobody from Irvine talked about me, right? Everybody knows that I don’t go to evening parties.”
“Is… that so? But, why did you tell me that?”
If she can keep up appearances, wouldn’t it be better to do that?
We’re only staying for ten days. And I won’t meet the Princess every day either.
I found it strange, but the Princess didn’t answer my question and instead asked me.
“Lady Lidiana. Answer the question from before. What do you think of this hair and my way of talking? Aah, let me tell you just in case, I usually dress similar to my elder brother. I don’t like fluttery things like dresses. If you are to associate with me in the future, keep in mind that I’ll look like this.”
“… What do I think?”
While completely surprised, I observed the Princess of Irvine.
She was taller than me and the neat dress suited her very well. But, wouldn’t dressing as a man suit her as well?
She had androgynous looks, so she wouldn’t feel off looking like a man. Thinking so, I said my thoughts.
“I definitely want to see you dressed as a man. It seems like it would suit you incredibly… Just, may I have one question?”
While thinking that even her gesture of tilting her head looked somewhat manly and cool, I said my question.
“Your appearance when we first met. Since you were wearing a wig anyway, shouldn’t you have used a long-haired one? I don’t understand why you expressly wore a short wig.”
Why had she dressed like a woman(?) halfway? I found it strange.
“Aah, that’s for the sake of screening.”
When I pondered about that word, Princess Ophelia nodded with a serious face.
“From my experience until now, most people reject women with short hair. Because it’s the norm for women to have hair reach their back or waist. It’s a natural reaction. That’s why, I determine whether my hair style is rejected at the beginning. If it isn’t, I take the next step. That is, taking off the wig and showing my true appearance. Without going through those steps, people usually faint when I abruptly show them my current appearance. This is the way to determine whether a person will accept me, and at the same time, a self-defense mechanism.”
“A self-defense mechanism…”
“Be that as it may, most people, both men and women, show rejection towards me… Hum. You seem alright with it.”
“I was surprised, but I think short hair suits you.”
In my previous life, women with short haircuts weren’t unusual. Some also preferred to dress like men, so remembering that, I simply thought that Princess Ophelia had such preferences.
―― What’s wrong with looking how you like?
I guess I think like that because I lived in the country called Japan, but I still think that. Besides, her true self has, how should I put it, a lively and positive impression.
“As for me, I’d like us to be friends by all means.”
“Are you saying that as a Wilhelm consort?”
Unreservedly asked that, I nodded obediently.
“Of course, being asked to do that is also my reason. But, the most important reason is that, having met you, I want to become friends, Princess Ophelia… Is it no good?”
Was it too honest? But, somehow I didn’t want to lie.
I stared at Princess Ophelia. She stared back at me… and relaxed her expression.
“No, it’s good you’re honest. Besides, as a matter of fact, you’re the first person who wants to become friends with me after witnessing my way of talking and hair style. I’m honestly happy about your proposal. If you are okay with me being like this, I want to be friends by all means.”
I grasped her held-out hand without hesitation. I was filled with happiness.
“Please treat me well!”
When I said that with a beaming smile, Princess Ophelia said troubledly.
“Please stop using polite expressions. We’re friends, right? And, please call me Raid. Can I call you Lidiana?”
“Ah, then make it Lidi. Everybody I’m close with calls me that.”
When I answered the proposal with a happy smile, Princess Ophelia – Raid also smiled.
“Lidi, is it? Best regards, Lidi. You’re the first woman to learn this about me and become my friend. I’m happy.”
“It’s I who should say best regards, Raid. I’m also happy to become your friend.”
I was a little hesitant, but I decided to return to my natural tone I use with Freed or Brother.
Raid trusted me and exposed herself. I should also challenge myself to be the most like myself. That’s how I felt.
We smiled at each other. It felt like the tension hanging in the room dissipated. Raid rolled her shoulders.
“Sorry for asking it immediately, but mind if I change clothes? This unfamiliar appearance always gives me stiff shoulders.”
“Of course, feel free.”
Changing clothes means she’ll dress like a man. Genuinely interested in how she’d look like, I nodded with a smile.
Raid said, “I’m saved,” and went alone to the back of the room. Watching that, I asked her what was bothering me.
“Hey, don’t you need to call court ladies? Will you be alright alone?”
“There are few court ladies who want to help me change. It’s not so bad now, but at first, there were none. That’s why I had no choice but to learn to do it myself. As a result, I became able to change clothes alone.”
I regretted asking for an instant, but Raid’s voice was bright. I immediately understood she didn’t mind.
Thinking that it would take her some time to change clothes, I sat on a nearby sofa and waited for Raid to change.
“I kept you waiting.”
Raid came out after a surprisingly short time. She was smartly dressed in clothes like those Freed or Prince Hendrik always wear.
She was wearing a cravat and long coat that reached her thighs, but it suited her more than I’d expected.
I wonder if it’s thanks to her slender figure. Unintentionally, I recalled a certain musical theater troupe where male roles were played only by women.
“Wow… It suits you. You look cool…!”
Words of honest praise escaped me. Hearing them, Raid smiled delightfully.
“Thanks for saying I’m cool while looking like this.”
“Of course I’d say you look cool. Rather, is there anything else I could say?”
“I’m often told that it’s revolting as a woman.”
“… They have no taste.”
I can’t believe there are people who say such things.
Understanding that I was serious in saying that, Raid chuckled happily.
“I never would have thought the Crown Princess of Wilhelm would be such a sensible person. The daughter of the preeminent ducal house who the Crown Prince fell in love with at first sight and married after only half a year. The rumors of the Crown Prince’s infatuation can be heard even in Irvine. I was interested in just what kind of woman you were, but I’m like this, right? I was sure a genuine noble lady like you would avoid me.”
“I think everyone should be free to look as they like…”
“There are surprisingly few people who think that. Now, it’s about time I call for Ed whom I’d driven out. ―― Ed!”
After his name was called, Edward, who had been driven outside the room, opened the door and went inside. As he saw his master’s appearance, his eyes went round.
“Your Highness… This appearance is…”
“Lidi doesn’t mind me looking like this. Ah, I’m happy she recognized me.”
“I-I adore Your Highness no matter how you look! For me, Your Highness is–!”
“Yeah, I know your loyalty.”
Raid lightly fended off Edward’s enthusiastic words. Then, she gestured to shoo him away as if to say she didn’t need him anymore.
Edward looked down with a slightly regretful face and only said, “Thank you,” but I didn’t miss the expression on his face at that moment.
His fiery love for Raid was clearly visible in his eyes.
―― He really seems to love Raid.
I don’t know about Raid, but at least Edward unmistakably loves Raid.
Enough to follow his master, who dresses as a man and is shunned by her surroundings. His loyalty seems to run deep, but his feelings are perfectly romantic. I nodded that it was just as Prince Hendrik had said.
―― Hmph. But, certainly. He loves Raid even if she dresses like a man. I have no doubt, and His Highness Hendrik recognizes it too.
I only just learned about Raid dressing as a man, but obviously, there’s no way Prince Hendrik hadn’t known. I can understand Prince Hendrik’s feelings of wanting to make Edward, who supports and loves her, her husband.
I think the problem here is Raid’s feelings.
―― Is there any sign of Raid loving Edward at present?
Because he’s her personal guardian knight, she must trust him. But to me, Raid’s attitude towards him didn’t leave the stage of friends. She might only be cold in front of me, but I can’t be as certain as Prince Hendrik.
While I was pondering, Raid said, as though something came into her mind.
“That’s right, Lidi. The weather is good today, so why don’t we take a walk in the courtyard? The flowers blooming there are different than in Wilhelm, so I think you’ll have fun.”
“Wow, I want to go!”
I’m interested in flowers and plants that only bloom in southern countries. Moreover, it was written in a book I read before that the design of gardens here is different than in Wilhelm, so I want to see such a garden in person.
Seeing my delight, Raid smiled sweetly. That smile was different from when she had been wearing a dress earlier and felt somewhat masculine.
While I was impressed by how cool she was despite being a woman, Raid offered me her hand.
“May I borrow your hand? My lady?”
I put my hand on hers with great pleasure.