Chapter 3: The Villainess Makes Up her Mind

“Ilse~! Good morning!” Esther waved her hand and shouted as she ran loudly towards us from the other side of the corridor. I was walking around with a male friend, who waved back with glee.

“Oh. Good morning, Miss Jones.”

“Geez… Call me Esther, okay~?” Esther smiled, gasping for breath. 

She was always this friendly. Some would say over-familiar.

“You look cute today, too, Esther.”

“Kyaa~! Please stop teasing me!”

My friend praised her in place of a greeting, and she shoved him lightly, blushing. I watched him get ecstatic at her light touch, a blank look in my eyes.

Esther had a warm atmosphere and a unique way of speaking, stretching the edge of her words. 

At first, I didn’t have such a negative impression of her. After all, she was the heroine of a game I liked, and I was controlling her myself. I was emotionally invested in her, to some extent. I even cried once over her tragic love story when playing a route other than Tristan’s.

I first saw her after entering high school. She was exactly like the character in the game: a soft and lovable girl. It brought a smile to my face.

“You had a ball yesterday, didn’t you~? I’ve never been to something like that. Was it fun~?”

“It was nothing special—just the usual information gathering and making connections.”

She could laugh without a care and say things that are just a little off making everyone around her smile. Even when men fawned over her, she kept her demure attitude and never got carried away, and when people laughed at her for being such a natural socialite, she would pout and say, “No way! I’m not!”.

It might seem strange for me to hate her like that, but…

“As usual, huh? Really~?” She tilted her neck and spoke in a meaningful tone.

I could feel the tension in my temples. I’m going to put you down, you bitch.

At first, I could watch her with a smile. But only at first. After all, I could see it clearly, watching from the sidelines.

The heroine was just too much. Her entire personality was artificial. 

Her attitude was blatantly different in front of the boys. It was plain that she was just a calculating, unnatural fraud.

Come to think of it, even back when I was playing the game, I was constantly calculating, picking my choices with the mindset of “men like this kind of thing, don’t they?”

It’s unbelievably annoying when you see it in person. I suppose the NPCs in the game world must have thought so too.

Once I realized that, I decided not to get involved with her. She was precisely the type of person I was least comfortable with. 

But she never let me stay away; her hostility towards me was unmistakable. I soon grew tired of her approaching me whenever we spotted each other.

I could understand her interest in Tristan. He had a sharp nose, double eyelids, and a big smile. A spirited talker who could communicate clearly, with many friends and a solid aristocratic position. At first glance, he’s a prime real estate. In truth, he’s so dumb everything else pales in comparison.

Still, I can understand the rivalry. And I’ll give her credit for having the guts to approach him despite our betrothal.

However…

“I heard something awful happened~ …Are you sure there’s nothing wrong?” 

She looked up at me and hid her mouth behind a loosely formed fist. 

Ah, there it is—the mysteriously cute pose. My friend looked fascinated by it, staring wide-eyed. 

“Did you hear that, Lady? She knows what happened yesterday, yet she’s still asking.” Joshua, who was standing behind me, whispered in my ear.

Of course she knows. And of course I noticed. That’s the whole point of this charade. She came to rub it in my face.

“Wow, did something happen?” My friend looks at me with curious eyes. He was absent from the ball yesterday, so he didn’t know the story yet, but he was a chatterbox and loved to gossip. The second he hears about Tristan abandoning our engagement, the whole school will know.

Esther may have been aiming for this when she chose to speak to me right now.

“No, nothing important. Well, something may have happened, but it was pretty trivial to me.” 

She smiled and tilted her head.

It seems that she really does want to set me up as the villain. Perhaps my presence is precisely what she needs to look fragile and pitiful. 

On the one hand, there’s the tall, sarcastic woman with good grades, bad eyesight, and uncute looks. On the other, a pretty girl with acorn-shaped round eyes, a short stature that inspires protectiveness, who’s a little dumb but full of charm.

Between the two of us, it’s obvious who’s cuter. I understand that. So does she. 

So from the moment I met her, she’d locked on to me as a tool to promote her branding.

Even though she already took Tristan, she’ll continue to get involved with me. To save herself from looking like the villainess who stole my fiancé, she has to make me seem like a villain myself.

It’s all clear now.

Well, alright then. As you wish, I shall be your enemy from this moment on.

Having made my decision, a dim, faint smile emerged on my face.


Notes:

  1. Esther has a weird inflection where she elongates the last vowels of some words, and makes frequent use of onomatopoeia. I tried to bring across the general tone with some specific word choices and the tildes, but it was a bit of a challenge as simply inserting a tilde every five words she says would have made this chapter . I hope I managed to strike a good balance between accuracy and not-making-the-readers-rage-quit-on-the-spot.

BTW, here’s a classic example of making-the-readers-rage-quit-on-the-spot levels of accuracy with Japanese punctuation and inflections.

The game is Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment, for those of you who count suffering among their hobbies.


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