“You’re being way too pushy, Ilse. Esther is fine as she is. Her strength lies not in her academic ability.”
Albert, oblivious to the bloodthirsty atmosphere between Esther and me, intervened with a composed look. He’s probably just trying to back Esther up, but I have to admit I’m feeling somewhat disappointed.
“…Seems like you want your friends to be intelligent but your lover to be stupid, Albert.”
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
Albert seemed upset by my exasperated words and glanced at Esther. Of course, they haven’t begun dating yet. On the contrary, Albert seemed to believe he could hide his affection for Esther from me. I suppose it’s no wonder he would get upset if I say it that way. And yet.
“Is it because you want to dominate the relationship? Or do you want to make sure you never lose when you have a disagreement?”
I continued without any concern for his agitation, and Albert seemed at a loss for words.
“I didn’t think that…” His brows wrinkled. It’s not as though nothing came to mind. “…No, it’s simply that she’s adorable. She doesn’t know much, and I’m sincerely happy to give her from my knowledge.”
I can’t tell if he’s telling the truth or just making excuses for himself. Regardless, Esther’s eye’s shined when she realized the conversation was about her.
“Is it me you’re—”
“Then, does that girl diligently absorb the knowledge she’s been taught?” I immediately interrupted Esher before she could rejoin the conversation.
“No… She asks the same questions over and over again. I find that adorable too, and I like her, but…”
It seems like his mind is so busy pondering over my questions that he failed to realize he just confessed to Esther.
“I’m sure you find it adorable right now, but what about in ten years? Twenty? I think someone who’s both old and dumb is simply irredeemable.”
Albert made a surprised look, probably realizing he’d never thought about it that far.
“Oh, were you planning to play around while she’s still young and discard her once you get bored? I have no objections If that’s the case.”
“How awful~! Albert would never do something like that!” Esther yelled with a miffed look.
She barged into the conversation as though it could only be about her and Albert. How impudent. But Albert made no more attempts at denial, and finally looked at Esther with a sigh.
I guess he just imagined Esther’s personality remaining the same while she grew older. The blood drained from his face.
“Marriage is not the sort of relationship where you can just gloss over those kinds of things, you know. It’s going to be pretty tough when the person you’ll spend the rest of your life with can’t match your level of conversation. Whenever you talk about your hobbies or politics, will you be content with only ever hearing empty responses like ‘Wow~!’ or ‘I don’t know~!’?”
Albert’s expression gradually grew grimmer. Seems like he’s capable of realistically imagining his future life with Esther.
“That’s true… I’ve spent hours talking about politics or commerce with Ilse, but with Esther, it’s always over in just five minutes…”
“Oh, we did have a lot of fun discussing the domestic rose market and recent shifts in fashion.”
“I-I can talk about flowers and fashion too!”
“And say what?” I scoffed. “Those flowers are so red and pretty, and isn’t that dress cute? What could you possibly hope to gain from such a conversation?”
I didn’t even look at Esther, who was trying to sidestep the issue, and directed my question solely at Albert.
Before getting ensnared by Esther, Albert was a respectable student with grand ambitions who spared no effort on self-improvement. His friends were also all students of high caliber, for he only accepted those with whom he shared mutual respect. Naturally, he should have demanded the same from his future wife. And yet, ever since Esther appeared before him, Albert had almost stopped studying, opting instead to spend more and more time chatting with her. The result was the sudden gap in our scores. And if nothing was done, that gap will only grow wider.
“Well, it’s naturally up to you to decide what’s cute and what isn’t. As your friend, I couldn’t help but try to intervene. I’m sorry. I guess my expectations for you were too high, and I had selfishly gotten disappointed. I really am an unpleasant woman.”
I pretended to say something admirable, only to stab at him as a finishing blow. Albert hates being underestimated. Even more so when it comes from me, who he sees as an equal.
“Ilse… I’m sorry. I…”
He shook his head softly and gently removed Esther’s arm, which up to that moment was still intertwined with his.
“It seems I was about to make an outrageous mistake while suffering from delusions.”
Hey, that’s a horrible thing to say right in front of the poor girl. Well, that’s the way Albert is supposed to be.
I looked to see Esther’s reaction, and as expected, she was trembling with a puffy pout on her face.
“Albert, you dummy~!”
She must have realized it was a losing battle, because she yelled something that made her sound like a toddler ran off.
“Miss Jones! Don’t run in the hallways!” I shouted at the back of the girl who was running away at a slow pace. She turned around for a moment and stared at me as hard as she could.
Help, I’m so scared.
“Are you sure about this?”
“It’s okay. You’ve woken me up for good. You really are the only woman who can inspire me.”
“Well, that’s right. You’re the only one who can compete with me in grades, so you have to pull yourself together, alright?”
We shook hands and laughed like a pair of comrades in arms. Albert’s cheeks were flushed. It’s probably from the elation of discovering and dealing with the fact that he was being misled.
“In that case, would you like to go and have a glass of tea together?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, but I’ve already made plans. See you.”
I let go of his hand with a sharp movement and walked away with Joshua. I’d already confirmed my exam score and ranking, so I had no reason to stay there any longer.
“Well? Didn’t I look like a proper villainess this time?”
“Yeah, it was perfect, right down to the part at the end where you shook off that guy.”
“The tea? I’ve made a promise to go out with you, so it couldn’t be helped.”
“You don’t get it. I like it when Lady does things like that.”
“Thank you. I love you too, Joshua.”
The result of today’s battle was an overwhelming victory.
I was able to thwart Esther’s plans for Albert and protect my valuable rival’s performance, though my past fondness for him still hadn’t recovered.
Above all, Joshua and I were about to go on a date called market research. Of course, I’ll do my job properly, but I think I could be forgiven for getting a little carried away.
Today is a rather pleasant day.
I left the school, feeling refreshed, and headed for the city.
We’ve gotten a pretty substantial amount of ellipses from Albert this chapter. I’ve actually removed most of them, leaving only as many as I believed necessary to bring across his tone and hesitation.
It’s a rather similar situation to Esther and her inflections, where you have to balance accurately representing how the author intended the character to be read with the fact that an English-speaking reader probably won’t take well to there being more ellipses than words in a sentence.