As we walk into the building, everyone’s eyes turn to us.
They stare openly, resentfully, but no one opens their mouth to speak.
In halls so crowded with people, the silence feels unnatural and ominous.
“I can tell what they’re all thinking just from the looks they’re giving us,” Gilles says as his eyes flit from side to side, taking in the scene.
And he’s right.
All the heated gazes on us convey much more than mere words could.
It’s like they are watching as the plague descends on them, like we’re some sort of pestilence.
I wonder if they are trying to take the moral high ground by not saying anything Though I find their disdainful stares to be just as discourteous as speaking out would be….
Maybe even worse.
“Hey, Alicia When you called those people trash….
that was actually the second time, right Though, the first time you called them trash, and the second time you said they were worse than trash, so your taunts aimed at those girls were actually more extreme.”
At Gilles’s words, my shoulders stiffen unconsciously.
“Eh Did I call someone trash before that I don’t remember…” I reply with my eye wide, my face a mask of surprise and confusion.
Gilles’s eyes also grow large in response.
When did I say something like that
I’m usually pretty good about remembering what I say, and calling someone trash seems like a pretty serious insult, so I feel like I should definitely remember doing that…..
But no matter how hard I think about it, I have no recollection of doing so.
“It was that time when we were both kidnapped.
The thugs you offed.
You called them trash.”
I don’t remember.”
You were amazingly focused on the battle at that time,” Gilles murmurs earnestly.
I remember actually killing them, but it seems that what I said back then has completely fled my mind.
What a convenient lapse in memory…..
“Ali-chan~” calls out a bright, playful voice as Curtis-Sama comes up from behind me.
“Long time no see.
How have you been”
And you seem to be doing well yourself, as per usual,” I say, and then do a double take as I search the area behind him.
“Are you alone”
Curtis-Sama grins like a cat who’s caught a particularly interesting toy within his claws.
“Oh Disappointed that Duke isn’t with me”
“No! It’s just….
rare to see your by yourself, Curtis-Sama.”
“Ah! Well that’s true~ Since I am usually accompanied by at least a couple cute girls.”
Perfectly lovely, but empty, air-headed girls by the boatload,” I say smiling sweetly up at him.
For a moment, Curtis-Sama’s face stiffens, his casual expression looking forced, but then he regains his composure and smirks at me.
“What’s this Are you jealous”
Not,” I insist, my own smile growing wider and possibly more pinched than it was previously.
Being jealous of Curtis-Sama….
What a completely ludicrous idea.
As a villainess, I’m entitled– no, required– to badmouth other women.
Plus, I’m nearly certain that I’m smarter than any of the girls that tend to hover in Curtis-Sama’s vicinity….
So, that means I’m justified to pay them such insults.
If I was less intelligent than them, I wouldn’t be so shameless as to say something like that.
“Surely you won’t lecture me about looking down on others, right” I let the words slip before I even think about.
Curtis-Sama’s and Gilles’s eyes widen a bit.
Since it’s true that they’re dumber than you, Ali-chan.
Their magic level and academic ability are both lower than yours,” Curtis-Sama says, flashing me with a flirtatious grin.
Maybe it isn’t Ah, I don’t know anymore.
Is Curtis-Sama in Liz-san’s faction or not I really have no idea what he’s thinking…..
“You really think so According to the rest of the school, I’m some idiotic good-for-nothing that puts zero effort into anything I bother to do,” I say cheekily, the corners of my lips twisting up ever so slightly as I maintain steady eye contact.
Curtis-Sama’s smile turns bitter.
“I might not be from one of the five great noble families, but I’m still capable of distinguishing between intelligence and idiocy.”
“I’m not a noble, and even I can tell,” Gilles tacks on.
Now it’s my turn to smile bitterly.
Ali-chan” Curtis-Sama starts, his gaze turning serious for once.
“What” I ask, surprised by his sudden change in mood.
“Liz is smart….
but her thoughts are too short-sighted.”
“Yes, I’m aware.”
But, Liz is the saintess, right”
This time when Curtis-Sama speaks, his voice is low.
So low that only I can hear it.
At his words, I jerk my head back and stare at him.
Just by looking into his eyes, I can see that he wasn’t really asking me if she is or not.
He seems certain that Liz-san is the saintess.
“How do you know that”
“Anyone would know if they took a second and observed the king’s behavior towards Liz.
Plus, her magic is a dead giveaway.
Being able to use every attribute….
Unless she’s the saintess, that would be way too abnormal.”
“Some state secret, getting exposed so easily,” I mutter under my breath.
“She’s pure and innocent, someone who thinks the whole world is beautiful and good.”
“Yes, I’m also aware of that,” I say, rolling my eyes, but he doesn’t seem phased at all.
He just leans in, bringing his mouth up close to my ear.
For a moment, he doesn’t move.
Doesn’t say anything.
He just breathes.
Then finally, sucking in a deep breath, he speaks, his words softer than a whisper.
“…..The king is making use of your bold, utilitarian nature.
And, this is just my own speculation, but I expect that someday he’ll tell you to become the shadow saintess.”
The moment he’s done speaking, Curtis-Sama slinks away.
He’s gone before I’ve even had a chance to fully process his words.
My mind is so full with trying to decipher them that I stop dead in my tracks.
I don’t even have enough capacity to continue walking.
Become a shadow While Liz-san acts as the face of the figure known as the “saintess”, I’ll be nothing but some trick of the light behind her
“Alicia What did Curtis say” Gilles asks, peering up into my face with an expression both curious and concerned.
“Become the shadow saintess…..” is all I mutter in reply.
At my words, Gilles’s expression darkens.
Since his mind is so extraordinarily quick, it seems that he was able to understand just from that.
……A shadow I definitely don’t want to be that.
I want to stand center stage.
I want to shine as a magnificent villainess in front of everybody! Not act as some sort of morally questionable understudy.
Why should I have to become something so pathetic as the saintess’s shadow
Though, that was merely Curtis-Sama’s own speculation.
It’s not like anything’s been decided yet.
“Curtis said that”
“No, not exactly….
he said that the king might say that one day though,” I clarify.
Gilles doesn’t seem comforted by this new information.
Somehow, his expression looks even stormier than it was previously.
I knew that I was being used.
I knew that, and I was fine with it.
However, trying to force a villainess who deserves nothing less than the spotlight at center stage into the background, now that I refuse to accept.
I’ll concede to being used for anything but that.
If he wants to take advantage of my actions, so be it.
Since I’m doing what I want to do and currying favor at the same time, there’s no downside for me.
But I will not be shoved to the shadows.
“What are you two up to”
As Gilles and I lapse into silence thinking about the implications behind Curtis-Sama’s words, suddenly an all-too-familiar voice calls out from behind me.
I whip around towards the person who had spoken.
And there, standing just outside the window, is Duke-Sama.
“It’s been a while,” he says warmly, reaching out a hand and lightly stroking my cheek.
Ah, give me a break.
First thing in the morning and my heart is already making a racket.
Looks like I’m in for another tiring day today.
….If I were to slam the window shut as hard as I could right now, I wonder how he’d react
“What do you think you are doing”
Isn’t it about time that you remove your hand ….Please If you don’t, you’re bound to realize how warm my face is right now.
That is, if you haven’t realized already….
At my question, the right side of Duke-Sama’s mouth quirks up, his eyes turning playful and teasing.
“Expressing my love.”
“I don’t need it,” I mumble quickly.
My face is rapidly growing hotter by the second.
Ahh! I ended up asking something stupid.
I really walked right into that one.
What can I do to win against Duke-Sama
……I really hate how it feels like I’m always losing in some way or another against him.
And as a villainess, it’s also embarrassing to lose to a man.
I throw my hands out the window and roughly run my fingers through Duke-Sama’s hair making it stand every which way.
His hair really is so smooth and soft.
What an unbelievable texture.
“What” Duke-Sama says, gaping.
Yes! With this, we can at least call it a tie, right I was able to completely surprise him! Not bad, me.
“I’m expressing my love,” I declare, triumphantly, smirking back at him.
For a single second, Duke-Sama freezes, continuing to gape at me.
But then his shoulders relax, a huge, happy grin slowly spreading across his face, his eyes almost seeming to twinkle.
“So there is love”
Is it just me, or does that happy grin look much more like an evil little smirk now Is there really a need for you to stare that hard at me
“Eh No, umm.”
I was just trying to give Duke-Sama a little taste of his own medicine… I never thought he’d turn those words around on me like that.
This is bad.
Duke-Sama has the upper hand again now.
When will I ever be able to win against him
Seeing my slightly flustered look, Duke-Sama’s lips arch up in a satisfied smile.
Ugh, I let him get under my skin! Things could not get any worse! I can’t believe I let him see me looking flustered! I quickly get my heart back under control.
“If it means receiving your love, Alicia, then I’d do anything,” Duke-Sama says, peering straight into my eye, his own eyes and expression earnest and sincere.
In response, I can feel my eye widening unintentionally.
And for that one moment, it feels like time has stopped.
This is the first time in my life that anyone has said anything like that to me.
Even in my past life, no one ever acted like this.
Or at least not with me!
Before, when he was always teasing me with that devilish little smirk, his feelings had seemed weak at best….
but when he looks at me like that
…..Why Why now Why is he suddenly acting so serious Is this some new, diabolical type of teasing that he’s just come up with
Abruptly, there’s a whoosh as something flies right past my face with considerable force.
It would seem that Gilles had had enough of this conversation.
Just now, he slammed the window shut so hard that the glass rattled, sounding like it might break.
“Flirt all you want, I really don’t mind.
But could ya at least give it a rest first thing in the morning” Gilles says loudly to Duke-Sama through the glass.
Duke-Sama’s smile becomes slightly strained at those words.
Gilles’s returned smile on the other hand looks oddly buoyed by Duke-Sama’s discomfort.
…..It’s a real, genuine grin.
The type you only have when you’re just barely managing to hold back from bursting out in laughter.
Maybe this is his own form of teasing Could he have wanted to try bullying Duke-Sama a bit
Usually Gilles cooperates with Duke-Sama’s every whim, but perhaps I can say that he’s still my ally When push comes to shove, he’ll take my side and help me instead
With this, our battle can be considered a draw, right Hopefully I can be forgiven for borrowing a little of Gilles’s help.
But Duke-Sama is still too formidable of an enemy for me to face alone! Someday I’ll be able to take him down on my own for sure! …..I hope.
…..Speaking of which, I wonder if I like Duke-Sama
Or, I mean, of course I like him….
but are these feelings love
They say that first love tastes like lemons….
but I honestly have no idea what they mean by that.
Plus, who even said that in the first place
Ugh, love is so confusing…..
It might still be a bit too early for me to be considering such things.