Chapter 3:

Double Face


Romeo stood there, shocked to his core by Franz’s words.Bookmark here

“F-fiancée…? You mean… you’re engaged?Bookmark here

Yuri simply averts her eyes. Franz pulls her even closer.Bookmark here

“That’s right. My beloved Yuri and I are to be wed when the time is right. Isn’t that so, darling?”Bookmark here

“That’s…”Bookmark here

The more Franz speaks, the more uncomfortable Yuri looks. It fills Romeo with anger, but before he can say or do anything drastic, the maid girl snaps a picture of Franz embracing Yuri with her smartphone, and Franz finally lets go of Yuri.Bookmark here

“Indeed,” says the maid, blushing behind her glasses. “Master Franz and Miss Yuri have been engaged since they were kids.”Bookmark here

“Huh!? Since back then!? How!? Don’t tell me this was their parents’ idea?”Bookmark here

The maid looks down, fidgeting with her phone.Bookmark here

“No, it wasn’t their parents. It was actually—”Bookmark here

“It was my beloved Yuri who proposed to me, actually!” Bookmark here

Franz interrupts with a smug face, pressing a hand to his chest. The girls behind him go wild once more and are immediately shushed by the maid.Bookmark here

This time, Romeo is incredulous. Yuri waves her hands in front of her frantically, her face beet red.Bookmark here

“I-It’s not like that! Franz and I used to play together as kids all the time, you see, a-and… one day he told me he was a prince so, s-since I liked fairytales, I asked if he could turn me into a princess a-and he said yes, if we got married, s-so…!”Bookmark here

……Ah. So that’s how it happened? Bookmark here

Romeo immediately feels relieved and endeared at the same time. At its core, it’s a cute reason for a kid to propose to someone, but more importantly… Yuri was panicking over Romeo getting the wrong idea, wasn’t she?Bookmark here

Franz, however, looked as haughty as ever.Bookmark here

“Fufu. My beloved is so shy— it’s simply adorable, don’t you think so?” He addresses the girls surrounding them, who all start talking over each other as they agree.Bookmark here

“...Okay, who are all these girls behind you?” Romeo finally has to ask. “They seem to be into you, but they get excited when you talk to Yuri too. What gives? I thought they were your groupies or something.”Bookmark here

Franz covers his mouth with the back of his hand in exaggerated shock. Bookmark here

“Oh my. Don’t tell me you don’t know who I am?”Bookmark here

“Uh, obviously not? And you know I don’t, you introduced yourself to me.”Bookmark here

“Well, that’s because I thought you would recognize me, but not recognize me.”Bookmark here

If Yuri weren’t here, Romeo would be cursing Franz out immediately and maybe give him a punch or two in that annoying face of his. A vein pops on his forehead but he does his best to grit his teeth and reply as calmly as he can instead.Bookmark here

“What are you even talking about?”Bookmark here

“Sophie,” Franz says as he snaps his fingers. Bookmark here

The maid immediately rushes in front of him, scrolling through her phone quickly until she finds an app and opens it, shoving the screen straight at Romeo’s face with excitement.Bookmark here

On the screen plays the opening sequence of a dating sim for girls, where many different handsome 2D men, each with different romantic catchphrases, flash one by one. Sophie pauses the video when one in particular gets the spotlight: it’s a blond character, foreign-looking, dressed as a prince from a fairytale. Bookmark here

“This is Francis III, a magical prince and the default love interest in Pretty Prince, a very popular smartphone game for girls! Master Franz here was the model for him! You can see the resemblance, can’t you? Can’t you!?Bookmark here

Romeo cringes. Bookmark here

The girls all giggle quietly as they proudly flash some of the merch on their bags and their outfits at Romeo. It’s all Francis III merchandise. Bookmark here

Franz flips his hair.Bookmark here

“That’s right. And sweet Yuri here looks and acts exactly as the faceless protagonist of Pretty Prince, which makes her perfect material for CG art, which is why my personal maid Sophie is tasked with taking plenty of pictures of us whenever we’re together. These girls are all Francis III fans, so naturally, they’re my fans, too.”Bookmark here

“...Huh. I see. That’s stupid.” Bookmark here

“Pardon?”Bookmark here

“I mean… you’re not really a prince, are you?”Bookmark here

“Were you not listening? A popular prince is based on me! I am even allowed to manage Francis III’s online social media accounts! That’s how my fans knew I’d be here! He is basically me!”Bookmark here

Franz’s eyebrows twitch in desperation as he tries to stay as in-character as possible, yet visibly fuming. Romeo mostly feels sorry for the guy now— or, he did, until Yuri reaches for Franz’s hands again.Bookmark here

“Franz… I appreciate you coming all the way here for me and my brother, but would you mind waiting outside? The noise might be…”Bookmark here

Yuri trails off apologetically. Franz looks at her for a second, then sighs dramatically.Bookmark here

“Oh, my. I have inconvenienced you yet again, haven’t I? Seeing you in such low spirits has truly turned me into a beast, I see. I apologize, I will have all my princesses leave at once, and I shall meet with you again when you’ve had time to gather yourself. Sophie?”Bookmark here

Sophie stops snapping pictures and raises her head quickly.Bookmark here

“Yes, Master!”Bookmark here

Without missing a beat she raises her hand, commanding the attention of all the girls there. They step aside to make room through the hall, and Sophie immediately starts marching out with her arm still in the air as a beacon, the rest of the girls following obediently. Bookmark here

“...Thank you, Franz,” says Yuri in her quiet voice, letting go of him and stepping back with her arms behind her.Bookmark here

“Anything for you, darling Yuri.”Bookmark here

Blegh.Bookmark here

“I’ll go tell my brother you’re here, if you want.”Bookmark here

“I don’t care about that ug— ah, uh, I mean, there is no need. I shall return once he’s had more time to rest.”Bookmark here

Yuri, who somehow completely missed what Franz was very obviously trying to say, nods with a smile.Bookmark here

“Thank you. I’m sure it’ll make him really happy to hear that.”Bookmark here

Yeah, I don’t think I need to know what their relationship is like to know that Raging Fist Endo will not be happy to hear that.Bookmark here

“Do you want to come back in, Romeo?”Bookmark here

Romeo shakes his head.Bookmark here

“I’m good. I don’t wanna disturb your time with your brother any more than I already have. It would be incredibly rude, after all.”Bookmark here

He says with a pointed jab at Franz, looking at him. Franz in turn glares back at Romeo, clearly holding something back.Bookmark here

“I see… Well, my parents are coming to visit in a little bit, so you don’t need to walk us back, but if you both need to leave now, I understand.”Bookmark here

“Don’t worry about us, my dear Yuri. You can go back to your brother. This time, I shall escort your male friend back myself.”Bookmark here

“I don’t need a fake ‘prince’ to escort me.”Bookmark here

Yuri smiles at how they seem to be getting along. She bows her head, then quietly disappears back inside the room. Bookmark here

When the door is closed, Franz crosses his arms and looks at Romeo from head to toe with a condescending look.Bookmark here

“So. Romeo, huh.”Bookmark here

“Yeah?”Bookmark here

“...Can I be frank with you?”Bookmark here

“Why do I have the feeling you will do whatever you want no matter how I—”Bookmark here

“I don’t think you should be friends with Yuri anymore.” Bookmark here

Romeo sputters the rest of his sentence.Bookmark here

—Hah!?Bookmark here

Franz simply shrugs.Bookmark here

“I told you. We’re engaged. I don’t think it’s a good idea for her to get close to anyone that isn’t me.”Bookmark here

Romeo scoffs, unsure if he’s hearing this correctly, scratching the back of his neck. Bookmark here

“Man, get over it. She was a kid and thought you were a real prince. I don’t even think it counts.”Bookmark here

IT COUNTS!” Franz blurts out, uncrossing his arms to ball them into fists, which makes him look less like a threat and more like a child throwing a tantrum. Bookmark here

“It counts, it counts! She said it, and she’s never taken it back! So it counts!!Bookmark here

Romeo is startled by his sudden change of personality, looking at him with surprise and disgust. Bookmark here

Franz catches this and gasps, straightening himself and clearing his throat, flipping his hair again and continuing in a calmer tone.Bookmark here

“...Fufufu. I can tell, you know. You have that look in your eyes.”Bookmark here

“......”Bookmark here

“You’re after my Yuri, aren’t you?”Bookmark here

Ba-dump.Bookmark here

“...You’re a creep.”Bookmark here

Franz grins at Romeo’s vague answer, no doubt in his mind that he hit the nail on the head. He shakes his head with a shrug.Bookmark here

“I would back down if I were you. She’s way out of your league, and... if you truly cared for her, you’d agree she deserves to be with someone as amazing as she is.”Bookmark here

Ouch. Romeo struggles to not let his face show just how much that stung.Bookmark here

“Besides,” Franz continues, more solemnly this time, “Yuri has liked fairytale princes ever since she was little. That’s why, after her proposal, I decided I would turn myself into a prince for her. I changed everything about me just so I could be with Yuri one day. Everything. You have no idea how hard I’ve worked to better myself, but I keep reminding myself she’s worth it. So now that you know how committed I am to this, it should be obvious, yes? That you don’t stand a chance, Romeo.”Bookmark here

For a very brief moment, Romeo feels some kindred towards Franz. Yuri made both of them decide to be better people, but Franz went about it in a very bizarre way. Bookmark here

You’re like a prince!Bookmark here

“.......Oh. Right.” Bookmark here

Romeo mutters to himself after that line from Yuri in the alley comes back to his mind, illuminated under a completely different light this time. A heavy, painful light.Bookmark here

...Maybe that really is what she wants?Bookmark here

“Did you say something?”Bookmark here

“...I said you’re a clown.”Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.