Chapter 190 Victory and defeat
"The actor playing the prince is quite handsome, yet his facial expressions are very stiff."
"Ah, unexpectedly he is..." Roland was somewhat surprised, "Morning Light, the First Knight in the Western Territories. At present, he holds the position as a teacher in Border Town. He can’t be regarded as an actor.”
"He isn’t an actor?" the businesswoman asked, flabbergasted, "Then how can he go on stage?"
"Because of limited staff." he laughed, "Just take a look, there is no one besides those two who handled the previous change of setting. If the prince were to be played by one of them, it would truly... be unlikely for Cinderella to fall in love at first sight with either of them, based on their appearances."
"...you are right."
While changing into her beautiful dress, Irene stood on the side and had to watch as May walked towards Ferlin’s side. Irene saw how May placed her hand on his shoulder and began to dance – no, Ferlin wasn’t dancing, he was merely being guided by May’s exquisite dancing skills and following along with each of her steps. This dance wasn’t part of the rehearsal; Irene was aware that this was May’s improvisation.
"Her older sister tried to seduce the prince in every way possible, yet the prince remained unmoved, merely keeping his manners and talking; until Cinderella appeared in front of him. His eyes wandered over and took in the sight of the charming and delicate woman, who had bright eyes and white teeth.”
Irene knew that as soon as she walked past him, according to the script, Ferlin was meant to throw May aside, there by staging his and her tale of love at first sight. However, anyone who was able to see would likely ask, for what reason should the prince dump the beautiful and touching woman at his side, for the presently so muddleheaded Irene who completely lacked any allure?
At this moment, she saw Ferlin turn his gaze towards her at last.
In his gaze she saw helplessness, comfort, encouragement, and... she also saw his love.
Irene suddenly felt the stage become quiet. The people's laughter, their voices, and the sound of their arguments was gone, her theater companions were also gone. Only May, Ferlin, and herself was left on the stage.
Sure! My acting skills are a far cry from the Star of the West, so does that mean I should just give up and admit defeat?
No, said a soft voice at the bottom of her heart; no, she wanted to act. To her, this was a rare opportunity, or... more than likely, her last chance. If she were to give up now, she would probably never have the opportunity to stand on the same stage with such an outstanding actress ever again.
She also wanted to become like May, able to lead the audience's emotions with her behavior, gathering everyone's attention on her alone.
I'm sorry, May. She said in her heart.
If the prince was played by just some random theater actor, it would already be difficult enough for her to gather the courage to compete. By relying on her acting skills alone, it would almost be impossible for her to beat the Star of the West.
But he isn’t just anyone. He is Morning Light. He is my lover, Irene thought, please, forgive me for being so shameless. It's just that... I never want to lose in front of him.
The stage completely disappeared. Instead, a cornfield appeared in front of Irene’s eyes. The heavy ears of wheat were already ripe and hanging heavily, gently swinging in the evening breeze, just waiting to be plucked. In the distance, the sun slowly disappeared behind the horizon, coating the slowly flowing Redwater River in many warm colors. This was the place where they had frequently met up for their tryst. In this red-orange sunset, the 'prince' changed back into the 'knight', turning back into the man with whom she had fallen in love with so many years ago.
As long as it was in front of him, she could always let her most beautiful side bloom, making it impossible for him to move his view away from her... no longer acting, but instead showing off her true self, Irene lifted her robe, tied a knot in it and walked towards Ferlin.
Now when her heart was full of confidence, everything seemed so natural. The moment she reached the knight's side, she smiled to May, and the latter unconsciously loosened the hand resting on his shoulders.
"May I have this dance?" She asked.
Ferlin’s natural smiling expression reappeared within his eyes, "Of course you can, my lady.”
Although she wasn’t as skilled as May, under her guidance, the knight moved more naturally than his former jumping. The two people's tacit understanding in the scene infected the audience, which began to applauding and whistling, followed with their cheers.
All the clamor brought Irene back to the stage. Stepping on her toes, she gently placed a kiss on the Prince's cheek, before she pushed him away, turned around, and quickly ran offstage. At the same time, the deep and resounding sound of the bells rolled over the square and came back as a faint echo from the far off mountains. Not much longer, and it would be the midnight.
Soon, the drama came to its end, but with it also came the end of the play.
On his search, the prince went from house-to-house in the city and he finally came to Cinderella’s home, but this time the young lady wore a dirty and gray robe and was holding a broom in her hands while being pushed to the side by her older sister. The sister was still beautiful and she could also put on the crystal shoe.
"Your Highness, why are you still hesitating? I am the person you are looking for."
"No, she is not."
"Y-you shut up!"
Even though right now, May's performance was no less perfect than before, and was even more oppressing, but Irene no longer cringed away from her. Instead, she came out of her corner, slowly arriving at the central stage. There, she looked straight into the eyes of her counterpart with an unyielding look, full of resistance.
Everyone watching this beautiful scene began to clap.
At this moment, the witch suddenly appeared. She reached out with her hands and put the ball’s dress on Cinderella once more–
"Your Royal Highness, she is the person you are looking for."
Rosia forcefully tore off the gray robe on Irene, exposing her beautiful dress. Almost at the same time, she stroked through Cinderella’s wild hairstyle, smoothing it out, and with this, the Cinderella who had snatched away the prince’s heart appeared in front of everyone once again.
The atmosphere of the audience immediately began to overflow.
When the prince embraced Cinderella, everyone stood up, and a timely gun salute could be heard from outside the grounds, pushing the people’s mood to the peak. The endless applause and cheering continued until the narration came to its conclusion and the actors bowed and left. Only then did the audience stop.
"This was incredible," Margaret clapped enthusiastically, "I thought that the young woman would be overwhelmed by May. I never expected the result that she would be able to come back. Furthermore, I do not know whether or not it was an illusion, but her interaction with the prince felt even more natural than May’s, it was as if... she was meant to be together with the prince.
"It was indeed surprising," Roland nodded. Irene had changed her entire personality at the end; which must have been her inherited acting skills which arisen, as a result giving her the capacity to maintain her self-confidence even under May’s overwhelming personality.
In a short time, the prince had changed back into her husband, breaking away from the stocks and chains; this kind of ability was also very outstanding. In the future, in all likelihood, she will become a rising star. Furthermore, the ringing bells and salute created by Echo were equally perfect. Due to not having arranged any practice sessions, Roland had given her freedom at the beginning of the play, but he'd never expecting such a pleasant surprise.
I lost, May closed her eyes.
She had spent a lot effort in making sure that Ferlin Eltek would play the role of the prince so that he could see her at the task she was the best at –being on stage– and in this way she could leave a deep impression on him. Ultimately defeating Irene with her acting, she could use this way to show him the gap there was between Irene and herself.
For this, she had nearly stayed a week in the town, even going through rehearsal with people she would at normal times not even look at apart from a quick glance. After being delayed for so long, she was afraid that if she now went back to Longsong Stronghold, the theater boss wouldn’t treat her as well as he had before. And the most ridiculous part was that she hadn't even been able to completely defeat Irene on stage. Even though she hadn't lost to her acting skills, she had lost to the other's love.
That being the case, it was time to let go.
May took a deep breath, changed her clothes, and left via the rear face.
When she reached the end of the ladder, she was suddenly greeted by a man.
He was also tall, he stood straight, was handsome, and dressed in shiny silver armor, and was probably one of Border Town’s knights – but unlike Morning Light, who always wore a warm smile, he appeared to be arrogant and cold with his raised eyebrow, long and narrow eyes, and thin lips.
"What's the matter?" May asked with a frown.
"Hello, Miss May," the moment the other side opened his mouth, the cold air dispersed without a trace, "I’m His Highness’ Chief Knight, Carter Lannis. Your performance was so fascinating, may I ask if you would like a drink?"
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