I found Routh looking for me and Roselia-sama and called out to him.
[El]: “Ah! Rinoa!……? Is Rose not with you?”¹
[Rinoa]: “……you don’t have to look so disappointed about it……”
I made sure to make my grumblings quiet enough that he couldn’t hear me.
[El]: “Hm? What?”
[Rinoa]: “It doesn’t matter. Roselia-sama is resting a bit that way. ……hey, Routh, can we talk for a bit?”
[El]: “What is it Rinoa? Were your low scores that much of a shock for you?”
Right now my longest and oldest friend’s dense head is a lot more draining for me.
[Rinoa]: “My test scores don’t matter! B-But……my feelings…….”
[Rinoa]: “I, like……you……”
The words I had intended to never say aloud became quieter as I said them.
My head hung down, too afraid to look Routh in the eyes. I didn’t want him to come to hate me because of how I felt.
[El]: “…..you aren’t talking about the kind of like between childhood friends right……?”
The voice of my childhood friend, who had somehow become a head taller than me without me realizing it, came down on top of my head.
[Rinoa]: “…….I’m not. I, like Routh, as a girl likes a man. I didn’t care about it when my father told me I was going to be your wife. But then I met you, and I fell in love. Routh……..”
[El]: “……is that so? You are an important friend to me, but I’m afraid that’s it. I’m happy to hear how you feel, but……”
[Rinoa]: “I know! Do you think I’m blind? There’s no way I wouldn’t know how you feel.”
I cut Routh off before he could say any more. I didn’t want to hear the words that would follow. I just wanted him to hear my honest feelings. The last thing I want to hear back is him apologizing.
[Rinoa]: “But, I like Routh. I just wanted to tell you that much. I hated Roselia-sama at first for taking you from me. As I started talking to Roselia-sama though, I came to like her too. I couldn’t accept that feeling, so I made myself her rival. Only for her to face me back without any kind of hostility.”
I finally lifted my face, looking Routh right in the eyes as I shouted out a little louder than I really meant to.
[Rinoa]: “So! If you make Roselia-sama cry, I will never forgive you! You have to properly take care of her!”
I’m sure I’ve never looked better than I did at that exact moment.
After all these years, I was able to tell Routh about how I feel, and I’ve never felt more radiant because of it.
After watching Routh run off towards where Roselia-sama was waiting, I turned in the opposite direction.
Suddenly, somebody called me from behind.
[???]: “If that’s everything, how about we head back to everyone else?”
They handed me a handkerchief as they spoke, but what’s this for?
My head feels clearer than it ever has before, so what do I need a handkerchief for?
[Rinoa]: “What’s this for……?”
I got tired of waiting for an answer, so I grabbed the handkerchief out of their hand and wiped my face.
[Rinoa]: “Wai-! Why…..”
[???]: “……it was cool. You looked really cool, telling him how you really feel.”
They patted my head while telling me I had done a good job. And then I noticed, the handkerchief was wet.
[Rinoa]: “I-I’m crying……”
[???]: “Sophia-sama prepared everyone a delicious cake to celebrate the end of the tests. If we don’t hurry, it’ll all be gone by the time we get there!”
They told me to hurry up, that we had to hurry up and get back to Sophia-sama, yet they still stayed behind and waited for me to dry my tears.
[Rinoa]: “……..thank you Prince Eric.”
1. Ouch. Even I felt that one.