Chapter 14 – Being born as the fourth prince
I was born as the fourth prince of this country, and Alan Stuart is my name. I have an older twin brother, the third prince Jared Stuart.
I spent the years right after I was born mostly in bed as I had a terribly weak constitution. I grew up being loved and raised by mother and my nanny and everyone gently.
When my health finally improved, I earnestly began my swordsmanship and academic studies, and I worked desperately hard in order to catch up to my older brothers due to the delay. And then, all my teachers praised me as amazing, honestly, I was getting a bit carried away.
However, I realized something when I had my first academic lecture together with Jared.
The problems that I had to spend so much effort on in order to solve, Jared would always solve quickly with a cool face.
It was the same way during swordsmanship training. While I was just barely hanging in there desperately, Jared would always defeat me as if his opponent was only a baby.
I’m worse than Jared. And by quite an amount…… I finally realized that.
My academic and my swordsmanship teachers tried to comfort me by saying that Jared was special, and that losing to him is unavoidable, from then on, I refused to learn alongside Jared anymore. Then, I became distant from Jared……
And then one day, I heard this.
“What is Prince Alan doing now, all by himself.”
“Isn’t it unavoidable since he was so sickly and was bedridden for a long time, there’s no helping it.”
“Anyways, even though they’re twins, it’s pitiful that there’s such a difference between them.”
“Indeed, it seems like Prince Jared took all the good parts starting from birth.”
“Haha, taking all the good points, leaving only the leftovers, eh.”
“Oi oi, that’s going too far.”
The castle servants were joking about me while laughing in such a manner. I felt like everything was going dark before my eyes. I forgot to even blame them for their rudeness right in front of me……
The words “Prince Jared took all the good parts starting from birth” were like unremovable thorns stuck in my chest.
After hearing it once, I realized…… It seemed like that was being whispered everywhere.
My swordsmanship teacher, my academic teachers, all the servants seemed to be saying it……
No matter how hard I worked…… Jared got further and further above me with a cool face.
Before I noticed, I had become filled with an inferiority complex towards Jared.
However, no matter how conscious I was of Jared, Jared had no interest whatsoever in me, he didn’t see me at all…… That made me even more frustrated, I felt bitter…… And then I distanced myself from Jared even more…… Even so, my frustration and bitterness only increased.
I heard that Jared got engaged in the spring that we turned eight. That he himself initiated the engagement with a powerful duke’s daughter was the topic of the castle.
And from then on, it became my turn to get engaged. Of course, I was unable to decide it for myself like Jared did. The nobles were clamoring for my attention as I was still a single prince with no fiancee.
And then, my fiancee that was decided by politics turned out to be Mary Hunt. Luckily, she’s a very lovely girl. She has auburn-colored long eyelashes, and large eyes, almost doll-like. The way she tried hard to greet me in such a tiny voice was also pretty lovely. Since I’m the youngest, if I can get a cute sister like her, I’ll be pretty happy.
And then, she showed me the courtyard garden that she was taking care of. It was such a beautiful garden. When I praised the amazing garden, Mary smiled.
When I saw Mary like that, I remembered a book titled “The Girl with the Green Thumb,” that I read the other day. It was a story about a girl who could grow plants extremely well, a girl with a green thumb. Ah, Mary also has a green thumb. I tried to relate Mary to this story.
“The other day, I was told that I have a green thumb, and that it’s an amazing special existence.”
It was almost as if Mary could read my mind, she said the words I wanted to say before I had a chance, I don’t even know what to say next.
“Recently, I became friends with Katarina-sama, who told me so the other day.”
Her face was flushed, and Mary seemed to be staring off into space as she remembered that moment, her expression was just like that of a maiden in love.
Feeling completely left behind, I just replied “ah” in response. However, compared to me that only returned appropriate responses for the situation, Mary only talked about her Katarina-sama passionately.
And from then on, whenever I met with Mary, she would only talk about her Katarina-sama passionately every time. What’s more, whenever I invited Mary to tea, she always said “I promised to visit Katarina-sama today,” and rejected me.
Heck, what on earth is this person called Katarina supposed to be? While my dissatisfaction was increasing, I found out her identity soon enough.
Katarina Claes. The only daughter of the Claes family, and she also seems to be Jared’s fiancee.
Jared takes everything from me with his cool face.
This time even Jared’s fiancee Katarina, is trying to steal Mary from me……
Everything went dark before my eyes again. And, before I realized it, I was riding on a horse-drawn carriage towards the Claes mansion.
The girl that arrived late to the guest room introduced herself as Katarina Claes. She has light blue eyes and tawny hair. I’ve heard that she’s the same age as me.
Although she’s not ugly, her tight, upturned light blue eyes gave off quite the intense impression for a girl. Since she’s Jared’s fiancee, and Mary is always praising her, I thought she would be quite a beauty…… I feel like I’ve been completely had.
To Katarina Claes, I immediately mentioned Mary.
“Mary Hunt has become my fiancee. Did you know that?”
“Yes. I have been told.”
The way Katarina said it as if it wasn’t anything to her irritated me.
“If you know, stop seducing her!”
“……What’s this about seducing!?”
Katarina’s light blue eyes were wide open. Her attitude was one of not even remembering what she herself had done. I naturally became even more irritated and began shouting.
“Are you just pretending not to know!? Whenever I invite her, she always says ‘I promised to see Katarina-sama today’ and rejects me, and even when we are together she only talks about you! Everything about Mary is so pure, so it can’t be anything other than you seducing her!”
“Hey, what is this! This is a false accusation!”
Katarina’s already upturned eyes turned up even further.
“What do you mean, a false accusation? It’s the truth! With such a face, you deceived such a pure Mary!”
“There’s no way that could be true! It’s your fault for inviting Mary when she already promised to come over to my place! Besides, if you were really that attractive then she would go to see you whenever you invite her! You just lack appeal! And, she only talks about me because she finds you boring!”
“……Lack appeal…… Boring……”
I lost my speech involuntarily.
Indeed, up until now, I had a hard time of it because everyone said behind my back that Jared took all the good parts…… This was the first time someone had foolish enough to make fun of me to my face. It was so outrageous, laughter welled up from within me.
“……Hahahaha. This is the first time I’ve been made fun of to my face.”
“……Uhh~. That was…… uh……”
“I hope you’re prepared, Katarina Claes. That rant, I’ll take that as a challenge against me.”
And then I loudly declared it towards Katarina.
“Have a match with me.”
Exactly, how has it become like this. Standing in front of the tree, I was thinking. Indeed, I had just challenged Katarina Claes to a match.
If the other party was also a boy, it would have been a duel with swords, but I challenged a girl. For that reason, I let Katarina pick the type of match.
So, I thought it would be a board game like chess, but……
“Then, let’s do tree climbing!”
Katarina, said something I’m not familiar with hearing. Tree climbing? What’s that? I know the words but, I’ve never seen it in action……
Up until now, in my eight years of life, I’ve never done such a thing. In the first place, not even the commoner kids do this, and I’ve never seen a noble child climb a tree.
However, when I was asked “perhaps you don’t know how to climb a tree?” my manly pride caused me to involuntarily say “no such thing! I accept your challenge!”
And now, I was standing in front of the tallest tree in the garden along with Katarina.
By the way, the rules are simple, whoever reaches the top first wins. For sure, it will be easy to tell who’s better.
However, since I’ve never climbed a tree before in my life, I don’t even know how to start. But, since I’ve accepted the match, I can’t back down. I prepared myself, and rolled up my sleeves.
“Well then, Prince Alan. Are you ready?”
“I’m ready anytime.”
“Then, we’ll start at the servant’s signal.”
And then, with everyone watching, the match began.
And then, it finished immediately.
The result was a crushing defeat. Since I didn’t know in the first place how to begin climbing a tree, and what to do after that, I was stopped at the first branch in confusion.
And then, I watched in disbelief as Katarina climbed the tree smoothly like a monkey, and reached the top in no time. Why is it that Katarina, the daughter of a duke, is so good at climbing trees……?
“Prince Alan. With this, the match is over. Is that fine?”
However, since Katarina had such a smug look on her face – I involuntarily said something.
“……It’s not over yet……”
“Let’s have another match! I just wasn’t used to it the first time.”
“Is that really alright? You won’t beat me so easily.”
“It’s exactly what I want!”
However, no matter how many times I challenged her, I couldn’t beat Katarina who climbed trees with great speed just like a monkey.
For that reason, I decided to challenge her again at a later date.
A few weeks after I had begun challenging Katarina. I noticed something several times as I was challenging Katarina.
It’s that Katarina is always serious. She never went easy on me just because I’m a prince. And, she always looked right at me.
I’ve never challenged anyone seriously like this until now.
And always, no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t take my eyes off my brother Jared……
Katarina’s unwavering eyes and serious attitude healed the pain in my chest a little. Without realizing it, I began to consider it fun just to go visit Katarina.
However, that day finally came.
“Jared!? Why are you here!?”
When my brother appeared at the Claes mansion, I instinctively rose my voice.
“You’re saying such a weird thing. Since this is my fiancee’s family, coming over here isn’t anything strange at all.”
Jared replied with his usual composed smile. Certainly, it was as he said, so I had no reply for him.
And, without realizing it, I was surprised to find that I had somehow forgotten about the fact that Katarina is Jared’s fiancee.
“……Anyways, since I came over here to have a match with her today, don’t interfere!”
“About this match, I’ve heard that you haven’t won even once after all these times? Wouldn’t it be better if you just gave up already?”
Jared’s eyes were very cold as he said that.
The phrase “Prince Jared took all the good parts” began to reverberate in my head again.
“……N, no!! The match isn’t over yet! Even I can do it! Even I can…… Even I can……”
Don’t look down on me! Don’t make a fool out of me! I felt that everything was going dark before me again……
Even though my chest had been feeling lighter lately, the usual heavy feeling hit me again. This is bad…… I feel terrible……
“……Uh, uhh Prince Alan. If it’s alright with you, how about we change the type of match? If we climb the tree too much, mother will surely find out eventually and become angry with me.”
Abruptly, I heard Katarina’s voice and saw her idiotic face. Just by looking at that face, the heavy feeling in my chest faded a little.
Katarina proposed to change the match from tree climbing to a piano performance showdown.
I moved to the piano room, and the showdown began.
Katarina went first and performed a children’s song. Katarina played while making many small mistakes.
And then, it was my turn to play the piano. When my performance ended, everyone in the room was clapping. Katarina raised her voice in excitement.
“That was amazing. Prince Alan. You’re so amazing.”
Katarina praised me just like the teachers in the castle did. Surely, this was also mere flattery.
“It wasn’t such a big deal.”
“Nothing of the sort. Isn’t it a great talent?”
“……Something of that extent isn’t what I can call talent.”
Indeed, I did find music to be more fun than swordsmanship or academics, and it was something I was good at, but…… A great talent…… I have no such thing. I have the leftovers while Jared took all the good parts. No matter what I do, I’m no match for Jared……
“As you say Katarina, it was quite amazing.”
Jared said so with his usual fake smile.
My brother that can do anything is surely trying to make a fool out of me. The world around me went dark yet again. The pain in my chest that had faded returned once again.
“……Even though you don’t think that at all. Stop giving me compliments you don’t mean! I’m sure you’re only here to make fun of me that can’t do anything!”
It’s intolerable for me to be in the same spot as Jared any longer. Everyone will only make a fool out of me.
Before I realized it, I was running out of the room.
I was just running around blindly, and before I realized it I was underneath the tree where I always challenged Katarina.
After a while, I detected someone’s presence standing beside me. I thought for sure that it would be a servant coming to check on how I was doing, but instead it was Katarina for some reason. I muttered something involuntarily.
“……Did you also come to laugh at me?”
“……Surely you came here to laugh at me for being able to play the piano a little.”
“……Saying that you can only play the piano a little…… I don’t think it’s on the level of only being a little. It’s an amazing talent.”
“Such flattery. I can’t do anything anyways. Always second to Jared.”
This girl named Katarina seems different from the people in the castle somehow, but it’s probably still the same. Boring flattery. And then, definitely laughing at me behind my back. I already know very well that I’m no good. I mean, since everyone keeps saying so……
“……But it’s not just flattery…… Prince Alan, why is that you won’t believe in yourself more?”
“Hmm. Ever since I was born, I was always being compared to Jared, and I can’t beat him in anything, no matter what it is. Jared took all the good parts starting from our birth, and I’m only ever left with his leftovers, how am I supposed to have self-confidence?”
As I mocked myself, it seemed that even Katarina became silent for a while, but……
“……I don’t think it’s a question of being suitable or not.”
This girl really won’t shut up easily.
“……What do you mean?”
I questioned her while glaring.
“Well, uh…… Prince Jared has things that he is good and bad at, so Prince Alan surely also has things that you are good at, it’s natural that people will be more suited to some things than others.”
“Being suited or unsuited…… Then, is there anything that Jared’s bad at? I’ve never heard of anything.”
Jared can do anything easily with a cool face. Despite living in the same castle as him, from the time since he was born, I haven’t even heard of something such as a food he dislikes. He’s impeccably perfect, that’s Jared. He’s different from me with his leftovers.
“Hahahaha. I know what Jared’s weak at!”
Katarina laughed rather triumphantly.
“Prince Jared’s weakness, is, well.”
I involuntarily held my breath.
Jared came looking for us since we hadn’t returned for quite some time. Then, aiming in front of Jared, Katarina threw something.
Suddenly, Jared screamed at whatever it was that was thrown in front of him. This is the first time in my life that I’ve seen him panicking like this.
“Oi, I told you if you waited a little here you could see what Jared’s weakness was. And now, exactly what will you do?”
I had gotten close to Katarina by reflex upon seeing how distraught Jared was. Once again, Katarina had such a triumphant expression.
“That’s a snake.”
I was shocked at the unexpected answer.
“Although I say that, it’s a fake one. I can’t put a real one in my pocket since it would move around too much.”
“……No, I don’t think it’s a question of putting a snake in your pocket…… So uh, why did you just throw it?”
“That way, I can show you what Prince Jared’s weakness is.”
“His weakness is something like…… snakes!?”
“That’s right. I had my suspicions before, but his reaction just now confirmed it for me. Prince Jared’s weakness is definitely snakes.”
Katarina told me in a loud voice. I don’t know why, but she looked so proud.
However…… Jared’s weakness is something like snakes…… This is something unexpected. I mean, that’s not the type of weakness I wanted to know, I wanted to know what he was bad at such as somewhere in swordsmanship or academics…… But really, something like snakes…… But…… That’s the first time I’ve ever seen Jared panicking like that……
Honestly, at the time, he did look quite scared.
Also, Katarina threw a toy snake so proudly at the prince of a country.
I withdraw my earlier statement. As I expected, this girl named Katarina is completely different from the people in the castle. She’s also different from other noble children. What a funny girl she is.
And then, while I was thinking to myself about all these things, Jared had caught Katarina without me noticing.
The angry Jared gradually approached Katarina. Well, it didn’t feel like he was truly angry, but rather that he was pretending to be angry in order to play a joke on Katarina.
The Jared I know is constantly bored, and always puts on a fake smile. It’s like he’s not interested in anything at all. That’s the way it felt.
And somehow, Jared has become serious due to Katarina throwing a toy snake at him, and is even pretending to be very angry. Is this really Jared? As I watched while stunned, it seems that Jared is going to tattle on Katarina about her wrongdoings to her mother.
Katarina’s earlier smug look was quickly wiped and replaced as she turned pale.
In the first place, I have absolutely no idea why she seemed to be so proud earlier. Now she’s desperately crying and apologizing to Jared.
While I pitied her just a little, but…… More than that, it’s just too hilarious.
I couldn’t stand it anymore and burst out laughing while holding my belly. I laughed so hard that tears came out.
This is the first time I’ve ever laughed this much.
After laughing hard enough to cry, I feel like something that’s accumulated within me up until now flowed out of me with the tears – I could see everything clearly again, and my chest was light.
Before long, since Katarina was taken away by Duchess Claes, we went back to the castle.
When we arrived at the castle I suddenly called out to Jared.
“Even you have a weakness, eh.”
It felt rather unnatural to be talking to him, honestly, it’s been a really long time since I last talked to Jared.
And, Jared who usually kept a cool smile at all times, tilted his head slightly in response to my statement. It’s my first time seeing such an expression from him.
“It’s not really a weakness, I just happen to not like them very much.”
As he was saying so, his smile didn’t seem as composed as usual.
Isn’t it that you don’t like them very much because you’re weak with them? I found it somewhat amusing to see a different side to my brother that I thought was invincible.
“I thought you had no weaknesses, and that you could do anything.”
However, it wasn’t my belief alone. Due to all the talking behind my back, somehow without realizing it I made my closest relative into a threatening enemy. And, I couldn’t even see the real Jared. Even Jared has some things he’s not good at. Just like me.
Today, I was able to notice this entirely thanks to that strange girl.
“Anyways, as for things I’m bad at, there’s something that even I can’t do.”
It seemed like Jared wasn’t in his usual condition at the moment for some reason, he answered me with a wry smile.
“For example, predicting how Katarina Claes will act.”
“……That is, indeed……”
I instinctively gave a wry smile as well.
A girl that can climb a tree just like a monkey, as well as suddenly throw a toy snake at you, such a girl seems to be impossible to predict even for Jared.
Once again, I remembered that smug look Katarina had on her face when she tossed that toy snake in front of Jared.
I naturally loosened up. For the time being, just remembering that look on her face was so fun.
“Come to think of it, since your match with Katarina was interrupted today , are you going to go challenge her again?
“Hmm~. That’s right. Somehow, I feel like there’s no need.”
Thinking upon it, I felt really good for some reason, and I didn’t even care about the matches anymore.
Until now, I had been so stubborn about winning, considering how obsessed I was, it’s unbelievable how calm I am now.
“Then, I guess you won’t be going to the Claes mansion anymore?”
“Eh, why would that be?”
By reflex, I gave Jared a blank look. I didn’t quite understand what Jared was trying to say.
“After all, if you’re not challenging her then there shouldn’t be a reason to go visit anymore.”
“……No, that might be so, but……”
Indeed, if I’m not going to challenge Katarina anymore, I won’t have a reason anymore to visit the Claes mansion, but…… I thought about the light blue eyes that always looked straight at me. She’s my brother’s fiance, so they’re connected by that, but if I couldn’t go and visit that girl anymore… I felt that I really don’t want that to happen.
As I was thinking about this, Jared came towards me with a rather serious face. It’s also the first time for me to see this face as well.
“Well, that girl is my fiancee.”
I know that already. Once again, Jared tilted his head slightly, and gave yet another wry smile.
“Don’t you have any self-awareness? But, aren’t you definitely going to pass me?”
Jared’s smile turned fearless, then he left me and returned to his room quickly. While I don’t really understand what he means, I watched his back as he left.
Up until now, just seeing him would make my chest hurt, but now, everything is fine.
While I haven’t suddenly gotten to the point where I like Jared, it seems that no more dark feelings are welling up within me.
After Jared returned to his room, so did I. On the way there, I saw two trees side-by-side in the garden, and thought about that strange girl who was so good at climbing trees yet again.
Today, Katarina might be depressed right now because of how angry her mother is at her. Since I was the one who challenged her, I also feel partly responsible.
Next time, let’s go to apologize.
Also, at that time let’s take her favorite sweets to her as a gift.
I’m sure that like usual, she’ll stuff her cheeks like a squirrel, and I smiled again by reflex as I imagined the way she looks with her mouth crammed full of food.