The Heroic Tale Of A Villainous Prince Chapter 52 part 1

Chapter 52: Temptation
 

 
The Garland territory is the birthplace of Saint Claudia, so it is a popular tourist destination both domestically and internationally. As a tourism resource, it is one of the most valuable in the Leuville Kingdom, which is a testament to how the party that defeated the Night Witch is venerated. Especially regarding Saint Claudia, there are many mysterious legends, such as “she was resurrected after being burned at the stake” and “she was actually a spirit disguising itself as a human.” These somewhat dubious… no, mystical anecdotes have earned her many believers.
 
Right now, we are in a town within the Garland territory. It’s not as large as the royal capital, but not quite a backwater countryside either. The townscape blends harmoniously with the pastoral scenery outside.
 
“So this is where Saint Claudia was raised,”
 
Charl says, urged on by Makina, her eyes sparkling as she looks around.
 
“Look, Al, there’s a statue of Saint Claudia over there,”
 
Charl says, pointing.
 
To me, who has no faith or reverence for this “Saint Claudia,” it’s just a silent stone statue. But it seems to mean something different to Charl.
 
“Come on, hurry up!”
 
“Hey! …… “
 
Charl says, grabbing my hand and pulling me towards the statue.
 
“This is the real… I’ve always wanted to see this statue up close!” she says excitedly.
 
“Is that so?”
 
“Yes! This statue in the Garland territory was made based on a portrait of the actual Saint Claudia that existed at the time. But now that portrait is lost, so this is the only remaining record of her likeness. And it was crafted by the renowned artisan dwarves, so it’s highly valued as a work of art as well!”
 
“Ah, wow. That’s interesting.”
 
It seems Charl really wanted to come here badly, as she can’t stop talking.
 
I barely know even a tenth of what Charl is currently talking about.
 
Actually, I don’t know, but this feels more like a conversation between a teacher and a student rather than between engaged partners. …Maybe Charl in a teacher’s outfit? Now that’s an idea…
 
“Al-kun?”
 
“No, it’s nothing, Professor Charl.”
 
“???”
 
Whoops, almost slipped into the role of a diligent student there.
 
“Well, it’s fine to get excited, but be careful you don’t get ripped off by any shady merchants trying to prey on tourists around here.”
 
“Ufufu, you worry too much, Al. I’ll be fine,” she says with a carefree smile.
 
She does have a tendency to be a bit too trusting, but this time it seems alright.
 
I’ll just keep an eye on the situation without constantly nagging her.
 
“Milady, milady! Would you be interested in a blessed Saint Claudia doll? The very grace of the Saint herself resides within!”
 
“Eh? The grace of Saint Claudia herself?!”
 
“Of course! And today we have a special offer – the doll comes with a Saint Claudia holy water and Saint Claudia stone, all for just 50 gold coins!”
 
“For the blessed grace of Saint Claudia, that’s an incredible price!”
 
“………………”
 
As I pull Charl away from the vendor’s stall, the word “sucker” pops into my mind.
 
“Haa… I didn’t realize Charl was this passionate about Saint Claudia.”
 
“It’s not so much passion as deep respect. As I studied up on the Garland territory for this expedition, I became increasingly intrigued by Saint Claudia. So I started looking into materials about her…”
 
Charl’s gaze is fixed on the statue of Saint Claudia,
 
her eyes filled with reverent admiration.
 
“Saint Claudia was born with a special power to harness the strength of spirits. But the people of the time feared her unique abilities, scorning her as a witch, and even condemned her to the flames. Yet she never gave up, fought back, and ultimately won the understanding of the people. Even after the Garland territory suffered catastrophic damage, she took the lead in its reconstruction. It’s that strength of hers that I respect.”
 
“I’ve read up on the Garland territory too, but I didn’t delve into the details about Saint Claudia. As always, you’re impressively well-informed, Charl.”
 
At my casual praise, Charl shakes her head wearily.
 
“I’m not that impressive. Compared to Saint Claudia, I can only do this much.”
 
“This much?”
 
“I’m always the one being rescued by you, Al. When the engagement was broken off, and in the battle at the royal capital… I’ve always had to be saved.”
 
“But in that battle at the royal capital, it was because you led everyone that the damage was kept to a minimum, right?”
 
“But in the end, I was saved by Al. …I have no power, I’m still weak… But if I had the unwavering strength of the Holy Maiden…then I too could…”
 
Charl looked up at the statue of the Holy Maiden. There was an indescribable anxiety in her words, her voice, her eyes. Wanting to keep her from going somewhere, I unconsciously grabbed her shoulder.
 
“Hya? Ah, Al?” she exclaimed.
 
“Don’t worry too much. Charl just needs to do what you can. If you weren’t here, I couldn’t have been involved in this official duty at all. …At least, I can’t do purification like Leo-niisan and Luche-neesan can…”
 
Damn, I just can’t seem to find the right encouraging words.
 
I wonder what Leo-niisan would say in a situation like this. If Luche-neesan was here, she’d probably scold me, “Can’t you say something more clever?”
 
Little did I know the price I had paid in becoming a background character would show up here…!
 
“—-…… “
 
“…Charl?”
 
As I struggled for words, I noticed Charl had frozen in place.
 
“What’s wrong? Your face is red. If you have a fever, we should go back to the manor right away-…”
 
“N-no, that’s not it. Umm…”
 
Charl showed a slightly hesitant expression, but looked up at me from the corner of her eye.
 
“…We’re in a public place, and there are other people watching… So I need some time to, um, mentally prepare…”
 
“Mentally prepare…?”
 
Suddenly calming down, I objectively considered my own posture.
 
Grabbing Charl’s shoulders, leaning in close, almost as if I was about to… No, it couldn’t be that I looked like I was about to try and kiss her, right…?
 
“But… If that’s what Al wants, I’ll do my best!” she said determinedly.
 
“You don’t have to do anything! Ah, no, I don’t mean I don’t want you to, it’s just that, well, I kinda messed up there, I don’t know how to explain it!”
 
“Eh? But in that hidden book of Al’s, there were things like this, so I thought…”
 
“Forget about that book, please, for the love of god…!”
 
Damn you, Makina! You dug up that secret stash of treasured books again, didn’t you?
 
No matter how much I hide them, you find them right away…! And you even passed them on to Charl, of all people! When it’s stuff like that, just quietly hide it away without saying anything!
 

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“…Pervert,”
 
“Who’re you calling a pervert! If anything, I’m the picture of innocence for a guy my age…”
 
The one who butted in from the side was a young girl. Or rather… it was Nenel.
 
With my head cleared and having fully regained my senses, I cast an unclean look at Nenel and said,
 
“Haha, that was quite an entertaining spectacle, wasn’t it?”
 
“Yeah, I’d even feel like paying an admission fee for that,” she replied.
 
There were the two figures of Makina and Elinne, showing an oddly synchronized demeanor.
 
Realizing this, Charl and I both froze for a few seconds,
 
“This isn’t what it looks like-!”
 
We both had to make desperate excuses.
 
☆☆☆
 
“I can’t believe you two were so brazenly flirting, even with us here. You’re starting to act like a real engaged couple, aren’t you?”
 
“I’ve been saying it’s an accident this whole time!”
 
Sneaking a glance at Charl, I saw…
 
“…!”
 
Her face bright red, she averted her gaze. Gaaaah, even if it was an accident, was that too much?!
 
“Ah, um, I’m going to go look over there for a bit!” Charl quickly excused herself and hurried away.
 
“Charl!?”
 
“I’m worried, so I’ll go with Lady Charl,” Elinne said, following after her.
 
“Well, then I’ll go that way too,”
 
Makina said, joining them.
 
Left behind were just me and…Nenell.
 
“Hey, pervert,”
 
“…What do you want, you little brat – I mean, Nenell,”
 
I caught myself, trying to stay calm. I’m the adult here, I’m the adult…
 
“Why did you bring me along too?”
 
“What, would you have preferred to stay cooped up in your room at the manor?” I retorted.
 
“That’s not it, but…”
 
“…Well, you’re practically under house arrest anyway, so it’s only natural you’d feel uneasy being suddenly taken out like this,” I said.
 
I had originally planned to just bring Charl, but partway through I decided to bring Nenell along as well (and Elinne just tagged along of her own volition).
 
“There are two reasons. One is that if I left you alone in the manor, you might be taken advantage of by Simeon. The other is… I wanted you to know
 
that you have more than one choice,”
 
“What do you mean?”
 
Nenell tilted her head, looking puzzled.
 
“You still haven’t forgiven the [Land God], have you?” I probed.
 
“…How did you know that?”
 
“You’re just a mischievous brat who got caught. If you had only the desire for petty revenge, you wouldn’t have done something like that in the first place. And well… just look at your eyes. I know the type of person with a similar look.”
 
Nenel’s eyes still held a lingering hatred. That’s why I understood.
 
“You know, I have an older brother. I’ve always admired him, and that feeling hasn’t changed. But… just recently, I had a big fight with that brother.”
 
“Did you win?”
 
“I guess so. No, it’s not about winning or losing.”
 
The battle with my brother Leo is still fresh in my memory. The pain, the sensations of that time are vividly etched in my mind. It seems impossible to forget.
 
“My brother… Leo, he’s always been jealous and resentful of our family. …Probably, that’s all he had. Struggling with the gap between himself and his surroundings, cornered, the only choice he had was to hate our family. I never realized that for the longest time… I was just wrong. I regret it. Why didn’t I talk to him more? Why didn’t I prepare myself to hurt each other sooner?”
 
If I had realized sooner, maybe there could have been a different future.
 
“What happened to this ‘Leo-nii’?”
 
“He lost an arm, and now he’s estranged from the family.”
 
“…………”
 
“It’s fine to seek revenge. Keep hating the [land god] if you want. That’s your freedom. …But I don’t want you to think that’s the ‘only way’.”
 
I gently reach my hand towards the shining sun in the sky.
 
It’s impossible to reach. Impossible to grasp. All I’m holding is the void.
 
Back then, I… until the very end, I couldn’t grab hold of Leo-nii’s hand.
 
“If you don’t give up, maybe another path could open up.”
 
I crouch down to meet Nenel’s gaze.
 
“I think it must be sad to only see the past and be unable to choose the future… to only be able to hate someone.”
 
My former self had given up. Because I was resigned, I could only settle for being in the shadows.
 
But after the incident with Charl, I realized that by stopping myself from giving up, a different future had opened up.
 
… Ah, I see. I probably wanted this person to realize the same thing.
 
“Ugh… I ended up lecturing you, didn’t I? Anyway, let’s just wander around aimlessly for now. You must be bored just standing here the whole time.”
 
Charl should be fine with Makina looking after her. Elinne is with them too.
 

 
I had never fallen in love before.
 
Of course, I had the knowledge.
 
In my beloved storybooks, in the stories, there were countless loves.
 
But the idea of me falling in love just didn’t quite click, and I couldn’t imagine it.
 
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been the First Prince’s fiancée since birth.
 
For me, love was like a vibrant scenery stretching out the window. Simply watching it was enjoyable, and observing it was fulfilling.
 
In storybooks. In tales. In the tea parties with young ladies of similar age.
 
I would gaze upon love as a [story], as [words], as [knowledge].
 
I thought it would always be that way – that I would just observe love as a concept, until the day I realized I was in love myself.
 
That day. At the party held after the battle with Lord Leo and the capital siege incident, when I danced with Al.
 
I realized then that I was in love with this person.
 
I didn’t fall for him then. Probably, I had already fallen in love even before that.
 
From the time Al came rushing to the party?
 
From when he rescued me from the massive [fragment]?
 
From when he saved me after Lord Leo broke off the engagement?
 
… Tracing back, I question myself, and conclude it was even earlier than that.
 
Much earlier.
 


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