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CATB Chapter 2.1

Back to the Stage

crack, crack.

 

The gruesome clacking of teeth gnashing filled the dark room.

 

Tak, tak, tak.

 

The sound of nervous tapping on the table grew louder, louder, and louder. As the moon peeked through the window, the room was filled with bluish moonlight. Then a bright face like a radiant flower was revealed in the dark.

 

A girl with a beauty comparable to that of a beautiful and serene lake was sitting at the table. Her elegant, swan-like posture, made it possible to guess her noble lineage. Her slender shoulder line was smooth and white like a lily, enough to make many men suffer with desire. It was a picture that would leave anyone in awe.

 

However, the expression reflected on that innocent and bright appearance was like that of the Snow Queen who sentenced the harsh winter. A cold anger lingered in the eyes of the gentle-looking dark woman. Ariel’s eyes fell on a letter delivered by a henchman planted in Connecti.

 

‘Alexa is currently experiencing rapid change. I think you should come quickly. Most of all, Alexa’s hair had all but disappeared by some kind of magic. After Princess Ariel left, she stayed for a while and then suddenly summoned the servants to dispose of the Princess’s diet…’

 

Crunch.

 

The stiff paper crumpled easily in her slender hands

 

* * *

 

“Miss Alexa! Please stop!”

 

Mikhail, who was my escort to Connecti, gasped for breath.

 

“You’re a knight, and you’re this tired already?”

 

“Well, Miss Alexa is a monster… Ah!”

 

Mikhail covered his mouth with his hands. I don’t know why all the people here cover their mouths whenever they say something.

 

“You’re saying I’m as good as you are, right? I’ll take it as a compliment.”

 

Mikhail nodded his head enthusiastically as his eyes narrowed.

 

“Of course! Of course! Miss Alexa is probably the best in the kingdom. I guarantee!”

 

“Then take this, too!”

 

“Miss Alexa, please!”

 

My swordsmanship practice came to an end when Mikhail was struck in the head with a fierce blow and fell to the ground. I decided to learn the sword for fun, but Alexa’s body was optimized for fighting in one way or another. She has a great basal metabolic rate, has great stamina, and even though she just began learning, she simply overcame Mikhail, who had been at the sword for 20 years. Mikhail’s sword was shattered against mine whenever I played with him.

 

“What the heck? I hit you so gently?”

 

As he looked down at the shattered sword, bewildered, Mikhail rubbed his bleeding forearm which had been scratched by the shards.

 

“Ugh, Miss Alexa put mana in the sword. That is cheating, it’s cowardly!!”

 

“I don’t even know how to do it!”

 

“Coward, hew, foul play.”

 

It wasn’t until I promised crybaby Mikhail a special dinner that I was able to get rid of the stigma of being a cheater.

 

“By the way, I feel awesome. Wow…”

 

I felt a slight tingle in my finger as I held the sword.

 

‘Is this magic?’

 

I swung my sword at one of the statues in the garden, and it sliced cleanly.

 

“Oh, my god! The stone was cut!”

 

‘Alexa, you’re such an aggressive munchkin. If you were a man, you’d have the best life.’

 

Whether she was a general or a prince, she would have lived a completely different life.

 

‘I guess usually a man is a Beast with a Beauty.’

 

But I’m not one to grieve over what I don’t have, so I’m pretty satisfied with Alexa currently.

How nice it is to be able to recognize that she is at least a woman after getting rid of all the fur. Not as muscular as she used to be, and at the same time, still has a strong body.

 

Lily and Jen’s valiant efforts made her hair silky and her skin smooth. She looks good now, at least she doesn’t look like a beast – ugh, I want to pay tribute to my ability to develop her to this extent – and, as an added bonus, doesn’t she have epic Munchkin fighting skills?

 

‘This is a game that I win 100%, whether I fight with my brain, or my sword. It’s the best, really.’

 

I think dreaming of a fairy tale love story in this fairy tale world is useless. If sweet love stories are the main focus, there is no way I would possess a beast in the first place. It’s been over three months since I’ve been here, and there’s no way the male protagonist wouldn’t have appeared yet.

 

‘Wait, am I not the main character in the first place? Fuck, the beast can’t be that insignificant. No, you have to think positively.’

 

I shook my head gently.

 

‘Whether it’s the main character or not, I’m going to live my life. Even if I’m not, my life and Alexa’s won’t be harmed by what I’m doing.’

 

My motto was to live a life faithful to reality. I have lived my life doing my best in my situation wherever and whenever I am, and I believe everything I am doing is still right. Whether that was my ego or arrogance, it was the logic of an orphan who only had the guts to believe.

 

“Miss Alexa, Princess Ariel is visiting.”

 

Lily’s voice cut through my contemplation.

 

“Ariel?”

 

“Yes, she’s waiting in the drawing room. Would you like to see her right away?”

 

Alexa’s suspicious sister…

 

“Hm~ tell her to wait.”

 

‘You said you would visit every two months, so it’s about time you came’

 

“Alexa?”

 

A delicate voice resonated slightly from the drawing room. I stared at the owner of the voice.

 

Ariella de Emerante Dwight, the one and only beloved Princess of the Kingdom.

 

Yes, just by looking at this, it became clear that Alexa was not treated like a princess, let alone a normal royalty. True to the description Jen gave me, the girl standing in front of me was born to be the main character.

 

Glowing platinum blonde curls fell down her back, and her sky blue eyes glistened like jewels. Her clear skin, slender shoulders, and sweet voice made the world’s beauty shine even more.

 

‘Damn it, you’re really damn pretty.’

 

When people talk about the protagonist of a story, they usually refer to this kind of person. I sighed and walked towards the girl.

 

“Ah, the Flower of the Kingdom, Ariel.”

 

She briefly bent her knees to stand, and I could clearly feel her intense gaze shining on me.

 

“Are you really… Alexa? How… how do you look…”

 

Are you talking about Alexa, the hairy one?

 

“Sister, it’s really me, Alexa. You’re surprised by how different I look, aren’t you? It’s like a dream for me, too.”

 

“What the hell happened? Because something happened…”

 

Her soft voice didn’t change, but she couldn’t hide her trembling eyes. I noticed it in that gaze. The older sister’s eyes, looking at her transformed sibling, contained not ‘joy’ but ‘anxiety’. I walked over to Ariel and took her hand.

 

“I mean, it’s been a long time. I don’t fully understand either. Anyway, my magic has been lifted and the fact that I’m facing my sister like this doesn’t change.”

 

“Th- The magic has been broken?”

 

“Yes. I’m no longer Alexa the Beast. Only your sister, Alexa de Peliazen Dwight.”

 

 

I smiled at her.

 

“Yes… but how do I know you’re really Alexa? Alexa…”

 

“It’s only natural that you don’t believe me. I looked so ugly before that probably nobody knew what I looked like in the first place. However…”

 

I put my index finger on a vase sitting next to me on a table. Sending a little surge of the magical energy flowing through my body, it infused into my fingers.

 

Crash!

 

The glass vase shattered, sending little bits across the table top. Ariel looked at me in surprise, and I smiled wider.

 

“Is there anyone other than me who can do this?”

 

“…”

 

“Now will you believe me? I am your sister.”

 

“Alright, I see it now… You truly are Alexa. Now that your hair is gone, I can see your old face.”

 

‘Old face? Ah, Alas. The face I had before being cursed.’

 

I nodded, feeling surprisingly, a little sad. Ariel’s eyes fluttered as if she was anxious, but then she calmed down, and straightened her back. Her warm hand grabbed mine.

 

“I’m really happy. You coming back like this, I really…”

 

Her glittering blue eyes began to fill with moisture, and then immediately transparent tears began to drip and drop.

 

“How heartbroken I was to hear that you were confined in your room… I wanted to come right away, but I couldn’t find time because my father’s birthday party was just around the corner. I can’t tell you how much I regretted not bringing up the story of my engagement to the Marquis of Berford for nothing.”

 

‘Berford? Ah, the Marquis, who is ostensibly my fiancée?’

 

The instance of an older sister getting married to her younger sister’s fiance is something you only watch in dramas. I was thinking about what to do with my expression, and I felt Ariel looking at me strangely. When our eyes met, I was startled, Ariel stretched out her hand. Just now… did I see it wrong?

 

“I’m so glad you’re back to being ‘normal’. Seriously, I’m so… happy.”

 

The spender hand holding mine was too hot. Compared to the chill from her cool eyes, the comforting intimate act seemed strange.

 

‘It seems like you don’t like my transformation.’

 

Ariel touched my shoulder affectionately. Oh no, she’s more sophisticated than I previously suspected. She was an opponent not easily stepped on, able to hide any trace of tension and anxiety as though it never existed.

 

The other maids in the drawing room were wiping their tears at her performance.

 

“Princess Ariel has such a beautiful heart.”

 

“It’s so touching, I think I’m going to cry too. Oh my God.”

 

Ugh.’

 

I glanced around, still hugging Ariel. Almost everyone was assimilated with Ariel, except Jen and Lily watching us blankly from afar.

 

‘She must have made everyone turn to her side in this way.’

 

Alexa’s pretty sister seems to know how to respond quickly to changes in her situation, and how to appeal emotionally.

 

I grew up very quick witted. As I lived alone, I became more and more adept. Thanks to this, I was able to catch the sneaky ways of those who spoke to me often.

 

How many times have you been deceived by a kind and friendly appearance just to be stabbed in the back? It was the same when I was bullied in high school and when I was scammed by my landlord in college.

 

My hunch said, this pretty crying princess here had antipathy against me. But for whatever reason, there is no reason for me to acquiesce to the antagonism of Princess Ariel– I’m not Alexa.

 

Alexa, who is suspected of being a significant pushover in the past, must have fallen prey to the cunning Princess quite a few times. But for now, I just need to find my own way to live. There is no reason for me to take revenge on Ariel.

I observed her without letting my guard down. And I aimed for the right timing. I’m sorry Alexa, but I come first.

 

“Sister.”

 

I gently embraced Ariel who was still touching me. I felt her slight stiffness.

 

“I missed you. I wanted to visit you as soon as my curse ended.”

 

I hitched my voice, pretending to cry a bit.

 

“Can I be with you now? Now that I am no longer a ‘monster’?”

 

Ariel unlatched herself a bit from my embrace, and I begged her with sparkling eyes.

 

“Alexa. That…”

 

“I want to be with my sister. I don’t want to be alone here anymore. I want to be with my sister… with my sister!”

 

I tightened my hold on Ariel and sobbed. Because Ariel is smaller than me, it’s more accurate to say that I crushed her. Ariel panicked and patted my back.

 

“If that’s what you mean… it wouldn’t hurt to go back.”

 

“Seriously? Sister!”

 

“Yeah, now… It might be okay.”

 

“Ah! Good! Seriously amazing!”

 

Ariel relaxed a small amount, hugging me once again. The maids wiped their tears, whispering at how it was a touching scene. But I knew that while we stood there holding each other, she and I were immersed in different thoughts.

 

* * *

 

My return to the capital proceeded fairly quickly at my urging. I decided to return right away with Ariel, Lily, and Ren. The rest of the servants stayed behind to pack everything up properly, which didn’t really matter to me, because Lily and Ren were the only ones I needed.

 

As soon as I arrived at the palace, I met with Ariel and the King.

 

“Father is immensely looking forward to meeting with you. He’s always been so worried about you.”

 

I snorted inside. Bullshit he was worried. The king was the one who used Alexa thoroughly. He was an unlucky person who ate up everything he could under the pretext of Alexa being his daughter.

 

If such a man were my father, I would rather say I was happier as an orphan than Alexa. I only have a short memory, but my father was completely different from the king. A true father would not have neglected his cursed daughter so much. He wouldn’t have made Alexa a national bastard so he could eat up all kinds of swear words and live a long life without disease.

 

I had considerable skepticism about the existence of the king, no, the existence of Alexa’s father. And my prediction was right.

 

“My daughter!!”

 

As soon as I entered the King’s drawing room, a slender man ran toward me with open arms. I stood completely still. The embarrassed man quickly withdrew his arm and approached.

 

“The curse has been lifted? What a happy relief! I didn’t have a single day of dry eyes due to my worrying over you.”

 

I tried very hard not to scoff, and played the part of naive Alexa.

 

“Thank you for your concern, your highness.”

 

“Don’t be so formal when you call me! Call me father! Am I not your father?”

 

It was difficult to think of this man as a father, because he had not acted like a father until all my fur had fallen away. In addition, I was disgusted by the fact he used his daughter arbitrarily for 11 years. I managed to smile.

 

“It’s still awkward. I’ll try to get used to it.”

 

The king took a step back from my polite but distant tone. The eyes above his gracious smile were scrutinizing. He spoke in a caring, gentle voice again.

 

“Of course, of course. Naturally, it will take some getting used to. You turned out so beautifully. Your father never imagined you could be so beautiful.”

 

‘How could anyone have known that I would look like this underneath all that fur?.’

 

I merely responded by nodding my head.

 

“But…”

 

I lifted my head at the king’s voice as he continued to speak.

 

“Your strength… Was your power taken away as well? Of course, I am very happy that you are back. Well, it’s because your role is important for safety…”

 

Seeing him worry that the magic would also disappear when the magic was lifted made me sick to my stomach.

 

“Of course, I know it very well. It doesn’t seem to be much different from before, so you don’t have to worry.”

 

“Really? That’s a relief. Thank God.”

 

The king murmured and took me back into his arms. Mechanically hugging him, I tried to smile.

 

——

 

“Are you still awkward with our father?”

 

A simple greeting to the queen—this was also a repetition of the pretentious and formal situation I had with the king. The queen had her eyes filled with tears, but I’m sure she was faking it. She didn’t even look at me in the face, and seemed reluctant to even lay a finger on me, unlike the king who had at least hugged me―Ariel spoke with me on the way to my palace, which the king had assigned to me.

 

“Yeah, it’s still kind of awkward.”

 

On the way here, I found out that Ariel and I were only a year apart. Because I am one year younger, I originally used honorifics to speak with her, but was given permission to use friendly conversation. When we were younger, we used to speak politely to each other, but Ariel accepted my friendly words more happily, saying she felt a sense of distance because I would use respectful words from time to time.

 

That was a little unexpected. Actually, no. She and everyone on the way to the capital were like that. Ariel, of course, was quite good to me, far beyond my expectations–except for a slight shift in the way she looks at me from time to time. My meals, snacks, and even gifts were packed and brought with me.

 

When I observed the kind way she took care of me, or Alexa, the diet and strange dresses she made for me felt like a lie.

 

Ariel glanced at me and said, “Okay, but try to adapt quickly. Our father… he doesn’t like anyone who isn’t his family.”

 

That seemed like the first sincere advice Ariel has given me. As she said, the king seemed to be the type who was very obsessed with pretentiousness. As long as I keep my distance from the king, he will probably continue to be wary of me.

 

Even in his present appearance, he did not loosen his guard. Like Alexa in the past, I must show complete submission and obedience to the king to avoid unnecessary suspicion. The problem was I didn’t really want to.

 

I sighed and looked at Ariel. Feeling my eyes, she looked at me with innocent eyes.

 

‘What kind of person are you behind this angel-like image? Why do you hate Alexa? I want to know. What are you thinking right now?’

 

“What?”

 

She asked with a light smile. I sighed again.

 

“You’re my older sister.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“But the king is not my father.”

 

“What do you mean? I don’t understand.”

 

“You don’t have to understand. It’s just like that for me right now.”

 

I don’t know what I’m talking about either. However, Alexa’s body, which I am in now, was preventing me from completely hating Ariel. Is it because the kingdom has strong positivity towards her, or because I am not completely sure about Ariel’s feelings? Either way, it’s always confusing.

 

Ariel was a princess of the Felipe Kingdom, recognized externally and internally. It can be said that the king’s trust in her is quite strong because she even hosts the king’s birthday party instead of the queen.

 

It was not a lie to say that I was busy, but it was hard to see Ariel since she took me home on the first day.

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