In my world, I can't even afford to buy books every time that I want. If there's a book I want to read, I just go to the local library and hope they have a copy but if I can't borrow the book anywhere, then I need to save up for four months to be able to buy a copy. But this woman? She owns a library. Of course.
The Emerald Palace's library, I heard, is as big as the Ruby Palace's. The library is also a different room from the study. The scale of the palaces just keeps getting bigger and bigger every day.
The library is circular in shape with a high domed glass ceiling. Layers upon layers of bookshelves enclose the entire room in a circular arrangement, with balconies for the second floor, and desks are placed neatly in the middle of the ground floor. On the third floor, catwalks are placed for easier access to higher bookshelves. The furnishings in here are of the same quality as the ones outside, wooden and polished. The air smells sweet and musky, with a hint of ink and that distinct scent of paper.
There are books in any genre you can ever think of, in any field of study possible. They are mostly leather-bound in different colors, some older ones are scrolls and placed neatly inside wooden canisters. I can't even begin to imagine how many books there are in this place.
I went here this morning as soon as I heard from Krista that this place has almost every book published in this world. She said this place has all the knowledge in the world and although I doubt her, I know that's at least true regarding this world. It's like the internet around here!
I have postponed coming in here ever since I came across this place five days ago, fearing I might never come out if I dared to, but since I don't know how to go to the lake without alarming people, I have no other choice but to read about it for now. I have found five geography books mentioning that lake, Terrenvern Lagoon, in the last hour and all of them are laid open in front of me on the desk that I chose, which is the one where I have my back facing the entrance.
Nothing mentions anything about that lake being magical though, which is the only way I can explain this strange phenomenon. The only stories I can find talk about the lake being the oldest body of water in the area, going back to hundreds of years ago. They say the lake isn't man-made, which is rare in these parts of the kingdom where everything is constructed to fit the purpose the monarchy intended. Some lakes don't exist now because the Kings of the past decided to drain them of water, or reroute the water to the river, and build settlements on it. Only that particular lake remained.
The lake was named after a certain Lord Terrenvern, who according to stories lived in an estate located near the lake almost five hundred years ago. This Lord Terrenvern didn't have a family of his own so he opened his estate to people of all status who needed a temporary place to stay, from traveling merchants to adventurers and noble visitors. According to a short story in one of the five books, Lord Terrenvern fell in love with one of his guests who he lost to the lake on a stormy night. Locals believed Lord Terrenvern was destined to only welcome guests and eventually say farewell, that none of his visitors were meant to stay hence, people started calling the lagoon the Lake of Goodbyes.
That's it, nothing that can explain what happened to me and the Crown Princess. I guessed long ago that the Crown Princess and I fell into the lake at the same time and I ended up in her body because of that connection but this suggests that the Crown Princess ended up in my body, too. I can't be sure with any of these things though, they're all just guesses. I hoped that the lake is some kind of a magical place that will explain this situation but all I got is some sob story about a lord and his unfair destiny.
Would it be enough to jump in? What if it only kills me? Like, kills me completely? What if it just drowns me and doesn't send me back? Or, what if we need to re-enact everything to reverse this? What if the Crown Princess, using my body, has to jump into the same river I fell into at the same time I jump into the lake? So many what-ifs!
I lean against the chair and let my head hang back. I close my eyes and moan in frustration. I let my body relax for a moment and suddenly, something warm touches my exposed forehead.
I jump in surprise at the same time a voice rings clear in the library, "what is making you think this deeply?"
"Your Highness!" I yell rather ungracefully.
The Crown Prince withdraws his hand from my forehead and jumps back in surprise. I sit up straight, hitting the table with my hands as I stand up. When I look back at the Crown Prince, he's giving me a perplexed look.
I'm sorry, Crown Princess! I have sullied your elegant image!
"I—the door—I mean, your handmaid said you are in here so I just decided to come in. Did I surprise you?" He looks unsure, maybe even embarrassed. He's wearing a maroon ensemble this time, something a lot simpler than the white ceremonial outfit he donned during our first meeting but isn't less fashionable.
"I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to yell at you. What brings you here, Your Highness?" I ask, my hand busily closing the books behind me in secret.
He opens his mouth to say something, then closes it again. He clears his throat and finally says, "I wanted to invite you to eat with me if you are free. Luncheon will be served at 12 o'clock."
"Lunch?" Is it that time already?
"Yes." I'm already freaking out because I didn't think I will meet him again this soon and he wants to invite me to eat with him? I want to reject his invitation. Is there even such thing as rejecting a Crown Prince? Can I even do that?
This is stressing me out more than the situation involving the lake!
I try to smile as I say, "I would love to have lunch with you, Your Highness."
"Great," the Crown Prince returns a smile and it almost took my breath away. He continues, "then I will see you at noon."
He turns around and walks out of the library and as soon as he's out of sight and the door closes, I fall back to my seat and groan more strongly this time. Why did he go personally to invite the Crown Princess?! It would've been so much easier to turn him down if he had made someone else do it!
Nothing can mentally prepare me for the upcoming lunch with the Crown Prince, no amount of reading or researching at all. So when Lady Rowena who had heard about the invitation came to pick me up from the library, I just let her usher me back to my room to change my clothes to something more appropriate for such an occasion. I don't even understand what something appropriate means.
The thing that I hate about the Crown Princess's outfits is that the more they're extravagant, the heavier and hotter they are. I have been choosing the most comfortable ones I could find these past few days but Lady Rowena, this time, takes the reins. She makes me change into a tight maroon dress with a huge ballooned skirt and elaborate floral details on top of the tight corset women in this era are forced to wear. She ties a yellow ribbon around my waist to cinch the garment. She then accessorizes my bunned-up hair with a butterfly pin with rubies, which I now know are legit rubies, on both wings.
The Crown Princess looks the prettiest when she's uncomfortable, huh?
"It's almost time, Your Highness. Shall I escort you to the Ruby Palace?" Lady Rowena offers as soon as she's done.
I look at the Crown Princess for another second before I answer, "no. I'll go with Krista. You may stay here and attend to matters, as usual."
"As you wish, Your Highness. May you have a wonderful luncheon with His Highness the Crown Prince." No good luck can save me from this, Lady Rowena!
The escort from the Ruby Palace arrives just in time. I call Krista to my side and leave the room to follow the knight. Like the first time, I ride a carriage to the Ruby Palace. We pass by gardens that are even more beautiful than the one in the Emerald Palace but due to my nervousness, I can't focus on the trip even though I want to.
I catch a glimpse of gardeners harvesting what seems like grapes and I make a mental note that I will visit them even just once before I leave this place. I also hear horses neighing and Krista tells me the Sapphire Palace, where the Crown Prince's younger sister resides, keeps horses in their stables. There are more interesting things on the way to the Ruby Palace and although those things don't ease the anxiety, they at least distracted Krista who doesn't notice how fidgety I'm acting.
When we arrive at the Ruby Palace, I am once again passed to Sir Roldan who is waiting by the entrance like before. He greets me and tells me to follow him. He then leads me through a different archway, down a sunlit corridor, and into a back entrance. I realize he's making his way to the garden when I recognize the hallway, Krista did say the Emerald Palace is an exact copy of the Ruby Palace.
As we near the garden, Krista steps forward to me from where she was walking one step behind me, she looks like she has something to say so I lean my head slightly towards her.
She then whispers, "Your Highness, I will be sent away as soon as you sit down but I promise I will stay close for when you need me. Just do our secret sign."
Secret sign? What are you talking about?
Before I can even ask, we reach the garden. I am greeted by the Crown Prince who is already sitting on one of the two chairs set up on either side of a long white table. Sir Roldan walks towards the empty seat, pulls it back and looks at me. I guess he's telling me to sit down?
I look at Krista and nod at her. She bows her head to me and the Crown Prince before she walks backward, turns, and then leaves. I walk towards the seat being offered to me and sit down. I wasn't able to ask Krista about the secret sign but I try to forget it and just focus on the luncheon.
It doesn't matter, I might not need it.
"Thank you for setting aside a time to be here with me, Crown Princess." The Crown Prince starts.
How do I even respond to that?
I smile, hoping for the best, and then answer, "You're so busy with your duties so I don't see your face often, Your Highness. Of course, I must come."
"I apologize for being a neglectful husband to his wife. I promise to visit you more in the future."
Please, that's not what I meant!
"So. Your Highness. How is your day so far?" I force a smile, knowing full well anything important that I do here will have some kind of an impact on the relationship of these two when I'm gone.
Servants start serving the food. So even here they like steak. For ten days straight I have been eating steak cooked in ten different ways. I'm so tired of this menu. Just give me fried rice, please!
"My day? Nothing short of ordinary, really. I'm curious about yours. What have you been reading in the library? You looked quite distressed." The Crown Prince starts slicing his steak as soon as the servants leave.
Nothing you should know!
"I was reading on taxes." I blurt out.
The Crown Prince sets down his knife to pick up his wine glass. He cocks an eyebrow then asks, "May I know why?"
"It's..." I rack my brain for something to say. Then continue, "for work."
"Anything regarding taxes does not fall on your lap, Crown Princess." The Crown Prince looks surprised more than I am.
I slap myself mentally. Trying to bullshit my way out of this, I add, "the Duke of Aderthon, my father, wants my opinion on something."
"Your father, I see."
Thankfully, he drops the subject. I eat my steak in silence until he speaks again and asks about the letters I forwarded to him yesterday.
"I only sent back the ones which seem beneficial to attend, Your Highness. You can choose whichever, I already screened them." I chose invitation letters for the gatherings which happened in the novel which was convenient.
He sets down his knife again and asks as he drinks wine, "among those, which ones do you want to attend then?"
Me? Why me?
"Whichever you choose, Your Highness, will be my choice too."
The Crown Prince nods as he picks up his knife. He starts slicing his steak again, "You know, Crown Princess, you have been acting strangely recently. Like a different person altogether."
My heart drops at his sudden comment. I also drop my knife, making a loud clanging noise against the plate. I look up and meet the Crown Prince's eyes, who is now sitting back with his arms folded on his chest. I feel a chill run down my spine. I can't read him.
I start to say something but suddenly, someone rushes into the scene. I look to my right and see a worried-looking Krista. She bows to the Crown Prince and says, "I apologize for disturbing you but something urgent came up."
"What is it?" I ask, looking at the Crown Prince and then to Krista.
"Your Highness, there's a letter from the Duke of Aderthon. You said I should notify you immediately when it comes, wherever you are and whatever you may be doing."
This woman's father?
Trusting Krista's words which I have no memory of, I look back at the Crown Prince and say, "I apologize but I need to excuse myself, Your Highness."
The Crown Prince regards me for a moment, then nods and says, "go ahead."
"Thank you for the lovely lunch, Your Highness. I shall invite you to the Emerald Palace next time."
With a nod from the Crown Prince, I stand up and leave.
"Where's the letter, Krista?" I ask her as soon as we're out of earshot.
Krista stops dead in her tracks and looks at me innocently, "there's no letter, Your Highness."
"What?" I look at her in disbelief.
"You dropped your utensils so I intervened, Your Highness. Isn't that our secret sign? Have you forgotten that too?"
I fight the urge to tackle Krista into a big hug. This girl! I will make sure to reward you generously!
Suddenly feeling light on my feet, I glide across the hallways of the Ruby Palace, and all the way back to the carriage ready to take us back to the Emerald Palace.
On the way back, seeing the gardeners again, I even wave a greeting which probably surprised them. Hearing the horses for the second time, I tell Krista that I want stables back in the Emerald Palace too.
We alight by the entrance of the Emerald Palace and I bid the coachman a sweet goodbye before entering the palace. I am greeted by Lady Rowena who is carrying a small platter where a blue envelope is placed. Krista notices the envelope too.
"Oh, there's really a letter!" Krista comments.
A blue envelope means it's from the Duke of Aderthon, I remember. Only he can use that when sending the Crown Princess letters.
Lady Rowena offers the letter to me, which I take and open. There's only a short message in it. Once again, I feel the world rest on my shoulders.
"He's on his way here?! What the hell?! Why is everybody coming home?" I yell in distress.
"Your Highness, where are you going?!"
I look back as I run, "This woman's— I mean, my father wants me to meet him! Quick, prepare the carriage! We're going to the potter's village!"
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?