"The Crown Prince returns tomorrow?! Why are you telling me that only now?!" I spill some tea on some of the letters, sending Krista into a panic.
I clutch my head as I feel a headache coming. I am doomed. I had hoped that I wouldn't see him until I leave but according to Krista, the Crown Prince sent a message this morning to the palace announcing his return.
I can meet the King if I have to, it's the Crown Prince that I don't want to see. At all. In the novel, he's not the typical main male character. As I said, everyone in the novel had dark sides of their own and the Crown Prince is not an exception.
A child of the King with a concubine from an unimpressive family, the Crown Prince is actually just a figurehead. He was crowned heir of the King at seven when his older brother, the son of the deceased first Queen, died in battle. Without the Crown Princess's support, he would be powerless. Despite that, he was rather ambitious. Since his ambition didn't match his capabilities, he accepted the help of the Marvalovs. And so everything he did was according to the wishes of the Crown Princess's family. However, as soon as the female protagonist reached out her hand to the Crown Prince, he abandoned the Crown Princess.
I can't blame the Crown Prince, yes, he just wanted to stop being a puppet (also, his first love was back) and the female protagonist promised him that power but the way he abandoned the Crown Princess really didn't sit right with me. It was ruthless and nothing the Crown Princess deserved from him. That's only one of the reasons why I don't want to meet that man. And yet, I have no choice since he's coming back tomorrow!
"Are you worried about what to wear, Your Highness? Lady Rowena has taken care of that. Your Highness doesn't need to worry. Your Highness is already the most beautiful in all of Rovia but tomorrow, you will be like a goddess!" I almost gag at Krista's words, forgetting I have the Crown Princess's face. The Crown Princess is described to be the most beautiful woman in the kingdom but that will change when the female protagonist arrives. Still, I don't have to worry about that! Why would Krista even suggest that?! I'm worried I might be busted by the Crown Prince!
"Krista, I have to welcome him, right? I can't lock myself up in the Emerald Palace, right?"
Krista asks, "who else would welcome the Crown Prince but his Crown Princess, Your Highness?"
"Right. Of course."
I go back to reading the invitations, or try to. The peace of the garden can only do little to ease the anxiety building up in my chest, my mind constantly goes back to overthinking every time I try to focus on my work. I'm already struggling to play as the Crown Princess in front of the servants, how can I fool the Crown Prince?
The Crown Prince has known the Crown Princess since he was twelve. They studied together, fooled around together, dreamed of a better Rovia together until eventually, he abandoned the Crown Princess. Even though things did not end well between them, the Crown Princess was still his friend. He knew her better than anyone else. Not to mention how intelligent he was in the novel. How can I fool that man?
I sink into my seat, which Krista must've noticed because she suddenly suggests that I take a break, "I will bring the medicine for your ankle, Your Highness. Please take a break. I will be back."
Krista scurries off to fetch the medicine, leaving me alone in the garden. I take her offer and set down the letter I have been reading. It's no use to try anyways, not when my mind is somewhere else. I take the opportunity to enjoy the surroundings.
The garden is just behind the Emerald Palace. When I first saw this place earlier, I tried my best to conceal the awe I was feeling. I know every nook and cranny of this palace will be stunning but the garden doesn't have to be this mindblowing!
The pathway leading from the back entrance of the main house to the garden was made of cobblestones, flowering shrubs grow on both sides of the path. The entrance to the garden is an archway of vines and red flowers. Everywhere you look, you'll see different kinds of flowering plants. Tall walls of greens enclose the garden and you can also hear flowing water, which Krista said comes from a fountain just outside the south wall. I am sitting by the tea table set up in the middle, under the shade of the only tree you can find here, a cherry blossom tree. Looking at this place, I don't want to know how extravagant the garden of the central palace is.
I read in her journal that this is the favorite place of the Crown Princess. On the night of her wedding, she hid here and cried her eyes out. The Crown Prince had found her here then, comforted her, and promised her that he would be good to her.
As the reader, I know how the Crown Prince was conflicted about the Crown Princess. He didn't like how he was just a puppet and how she was the one who attached the strings on him but at the same time, he pitied her. On the night of their marriage, he accepted the fact that the Crown Princess, just like him, was only an instrument. Still, there were days when he allowed himself to hate her. While I'm here, I should avoid calling upon that side of him.
I finish my cup of tea and set it aside. I need to plan my next steps. The meeting tomorrow might be inevitable but it should be the first and also the last. I don't want to stay here for long but still, I need to prepare.
I pull out the journal which I have hidden in my skirt earlier. I leaf through the pages I have already read and find where I had stopped. The Crown Princess details here one of the many days she had spent with the Crown Prince.
Some days, the Crown Prince would come to the Emerald Palace to have breakfast with the Crown Princess like the day the Crown Princess penned this entry I'm reading. They talked about political affairs which I barely understood and made plans to visit the King together some other time. In the afternoon, they met again to discuss the upcoming banquet the Crown Princess was in charge of and they parted before sunset. According to the Crown Princess, this was the most interaction they had for years.
The Crown Princess had always been formal towards the Crown Prince ever since he reached eighteen. They only talked comfortably to each other when they were alone but even that gradually stopped when both of them started taking up serious tasks in the Royal Court, when they had no time to talk about anything aside from work.
I leaf through the pages again and find the entry on the day the Crown Prince left for Ataleania, the kingdom which lies in the northwest of Rovia. Here, the Crown Princess mentions the reason the Crown Prince went to the neighboring kingdom.
Ataleania is one of the allied nations of Rovia. Following the war between Ataleania and Stemovia (the kingdom across the sea, I think) which ravaged the lands of the former, in which the Rovian army was sent to aid Ataleania, the newly crowned King sent an invitation to a representative from Rovia. The King ordered the Crown Prince to personally go as a sign that the kingdom intends to keep the diplomatic relationship with Ataleania. This is not something of importance in the earlier parts of the novel, which is why it's a lifesaver that the Crown Princess wrote about this day (or else I would have been clueless and the Crown Prince would have found that suspicious), but nearing the end of the novel Rovia will declare war against Ataleania. The war will actually be one of the reasons why the Marvalovs will completely be annihilated.
I don't know anything about politics so I will avoid that topic as much as I can. Maybe just express relief over his safe return? I should be fine if I just talk about the invitations I read yesterday, right? That's still about work, after all. I will avoid bringing up things that I have no knowledge about.
These mental preparations can do little to ease my anxiety and I know I will carry this until I am at a safe distance away from the Crown Prince.
In the morning, servants entered the Crown Princess's room by orders of Lady Rowena. Despite my protests, they assisted me in bathing and in dressing up. I noticed how everyone was on edge and I had an idea that it was partly because of my still swollen ankle. When Lady Rowena found out about my injury yesterday, she called Krista to her office. I know Lady Rowena scolded Krista severely because when the latter appeared again during the night to tuck me in, her face was puffy. I made a mental note to reward Krista greatly before I leave.
It was a little before lunch when a knight arrived at the Emerald Palace, bearing the news of the Crown Prince's arrival. With my hand shaking in agitation, I followed the knight, with Krista and two more handmaidens, to the Ruby Palace—the official residence of the Crown Prince.
The Ruby Palace is located just east of the Emerald Palace and to get here, they made me ride a carriage. I thought it was far but now I know we could've just walked. The Ruby Palace is as grand as the Emerald Palace. White walls and tall columns, marble floor and velveteen curtains, golden chandeliers and shiny ceramics. Footsteps echo in the wide empty corridors. Smooth carpet lines the surface of the hallways. Paintings adorn the walls. It's all too grand and luxurious.
The knight passes me to a grey-haired man standing by the entrance to a huge chamber of gold and ceramics, right by the grand staircase leading to the second floor. The man is wearing a military uniform almost similar to the one Duke Delaney had worn, only his is less decorated but not less impressive, considering he seems to be just in his late twenties. There's a small scar on the right side of his face, just over the cheekbone, but that doesn't distract one from seeing his good looks. His green eyes are vacated, showing no sign of thoughts and emotions. There's no hint of regard in the way he looks at me. Judging from how the knight offered him a salute, to which he slightly nodded, he seems like a higher-up around here.
Grey hair. Green eyes. Military uniform. Youth. A scar on his face. Animosity towards the Crown Princess. He must be Sir Roldan Ackenheart, the most trusted royal guard of the Crown Prince!
Roldan Ackenheart, the man who vowed to protect his master and will try to assassinate the Crown Princess under nobody's command. A man more dangerous than the Crown Prince.
He speaks first, his voice deep and steel cold, "The Crown Prince awaits Your Highness in his study. Please follow me."
I squeeze my own hands to stop it from shaking. I'm already this scared to see his royal guard, how can I face the Crown Prince?
Roldan Ackenheart turns away, walks through the archway underneath the staircase, and disappears into the next chamber. I take huge gulps of air as I follow him. We walk across a long hallway which ends by a wooden double door. The eyes of the people in the portraits on the walls seem to be following me. No distraction can stop me from thinking of one thousand ways this can end negatively for me. I feel like I'm about to barf the breakfast I had a while ago.
Ackenheart stops abruptly by the door, knocks twice on the wooden surface and only pushes forward when we hear a man answer. The sunlight greets me as the doors swing open.
The room before me shares similarities to the study in the Emerald Palace. The walls are lined with shelves that extend up to the high ceiling, where a golden chandelier hangs in the middle. A sturdy-looking wooden table is placed in the middle right across the room from the entrance, next to the huge glass windows overlooking a garden, papers and books are piled high on it. On my left, a sofa set is neatly placed.
I hear the silvery voice before I notice the silhouette on the other side of the wooden desk, "Welcome, my Crown Princess."
The person walks to the side of the table, away from the blinding light that framed their tall and lithe body. Light illuminates their face and I see a man of incomparable beauty. He has sun-kissed blond hair, parted in the middle with one side swept up. His eyes are crystal blue, like water with the sunshine dancing on its surface. He has a sharp nose and well-defined facial features. He is dressed in a white ceremonial ensemble, decorated with golden chains and cufflinks. His shoulders are wrapped with white fur attached to a maroon-colored one-shoulder cape.
No doubt, this is the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Rovia.
Mediocre and down-on-her-luck novelist Dahlia Grace finds herself transmigrated into the body of the Crown Princess, the cunning villain of the last novel she read before dying. Determined to start fresh, Dahlia decides to rewrite the Crown Princess's story in her own favor.
With her newfound beauty and intelligence, Dahlia uses her knowledge of the novel's plot to manipulate the events to her advantage. As she navigates the dangerous court of the kingdom, she realizes that there are deeper conspiracies at play and that her role as the villain may not be as clear-cut as she once thought.
Determined to uncover the truth and ensure her survival, Dahlia must use all her wits and cunning to outmaneuver her enemies and emerge victorious. Will she succeed in rewriting her story and finding her happily ever after, or will the forces against her prove too strong to overcome?