It was an accident, it truly was. Geord should have been paying more attention to where he was going; if he was, then Katarina would never have lost her footing and scarred her face the way she did. How unbecoming of a prince, even a third prince, to allow a lady to be harmed through his own negligence.
"Yes, you really did screw up, didn't you?" Geord found himself taken aback by Katarina's comment. Yes, he was to blame for her accident, but he didn't expect her to be so straightforward about it. He knew that the girl had a habit of getting cross at the drop of a hat, but she usually directed that attitude towards everyone but himself, and the few times he invoked her wrath were more downplayed than this.
It was unsettling, and made even more so by the utter look of disgust she was giving him from the comfort of her bed.
"I-I can't apologize enough, Miss Katarina," Geord said.
"No, you certainly can't. Just look at this!" Katarina pushed her bangs back to reveal the scar he had given her, fashioned into the shape of a checkmark, of all things. "What if this ridiculous thing never heals? How am I supposed to get married in such a state?!"
"Y-Yes, I understand, and that's why, in order to make amends, I would like to offer you my hand in marriage."
"What?" For some reason, Katarina's disgust grew even further.
"I'm serious. It's the least I can do after what happened. Plus, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't attracted to you before all of this." It was more of a half-lie. Katarina was certainly a cute girl, there was no point in denying that, but her bossy and arrogant attitude made it difficult for Geord to spend too much time with her in one sitting. A part of him often used the excuse that it was something she'd grow out of when she was older, and now he had a perfect chance to see if that would be true. "Well, Miss Katarina, what do you say? Will you please do me the honor of marrying me when we are grown?"
Katarina kept staring at him, and as she did, her look of disgust faded away into a smile. The plan seemed to be working. When she started leaning in close to him, he couldn't help but think it was working too well.
"Wait, hold on! I know we're engaged now, but isn't kissing before the wedding a little too—" As it turned out, Katarina's face wasn't heading for Geord's face, only his ear. She stopped moving, and then, while still maintaining that same smile, said seven simple words.
"Go to hell, you piece of shit." What was almost surprising for Geord was that he didn't pass out right then and there; such an action ended up being reserved for the carriage ride home.
Katarina's parents and maid were about as furious as she expected them to be. Rejecting a proposal from one of the princes of Fortuna was one thing, but telling him off the way she did was apparently inexcusable. They went on and on about how bad it was going to make them look, but one comment that stuck out to her was mother saying that they'd have their heads on pikes for insulting Geord the way she did.
In response to that, Katarina thought to herself, "Yeah, why not? If I'm fated to die, I might as well take this worthless family with me."
There was more Katarina's bump on the head than a simple embarrassing scar. Between recovering from the initial blow and losing consciousness after it, Katarina Claes saw a blurred vision of some woman colliding with some sort of armored carriage. That wasn't very important, but what was important was what she saw after that: alternate versions of her own future. In them, she had grown up to be a haughty, self-centered woman who flaunted her status in life to do whatever she wanted without worrying about the consequences. It was everything she wanted out of life, and more.
The problem was that no one was smart enough to see her future self for the wonder that she was. For one reason or another, her behavior, the perfect representation of nobility in the United Territories of Fortuna Romantica, was met with scorn by everyone aside from a few classmates, and upon entering the Academy, those unwarranted feelings of hatred were increased by the presence of some dirty commoner girl who ensnared everyone with her fake charm and admittedly good looks. Worst of all, the people who unjustly hated her included the prime minister's son who couldn't keep it out of his sister's pants, some bastard child her parents were going to take pity on, the youngest prince who couldn't accept how he wasn't good for anything, and his brother, the snake in the grass, Prince Geord.
Geord. Just thinking his name gives me an aneurysm, Katarina thought. In the futures where that bitch Maria goes after him, all it takes is a few puppy dog eyes for him to drop his loving fiance and go after some commoner filth. That kind of behavior is unspeakable, and yet she is somehow the victim in all of it! Sometimes, all I do is make sure she knows her place in the world, but instead of being lauded as a hero, he works to get me exiled! Other times, I try to kill the thieving harpy for trying to take what belongs to me, as is in my right to do so, but I can barely tear through a nerve ending before he kills me! Where the hell do you get off treating me, Katarina Claes, with such disrespect? I would have given you the world once, but if you're fated to become a man who can treat his fiance with such sadism, then you can just burn in hell, Geord Stuart!
"Young lady, are you even listening to us?!" Her mother snapped her out of her mental rant. There was never a future where she or her father came to her aid like the good parents they were supposed to be; some parents they were.
"Oh yes, I'm listening, and I'm so very sorry about how I behaved with Prince Geord earlier." Katarina lied as naturally as she breathed.
"What on Earth compelled you to speak to him that way?" her mother asked.
"I was doing it for his sake, Father, I truly was." Everyone raised an eyebrow, so it was time to go all in. "Prince Geord blamed himself for my accident, but in reality, I was the one who caused it because I was the one doing such a poor job of watching where I was going. I couldn't live with myself if Prince Geord tied himself down to a foolish girl such as myself out of misplaced obligation, so I needed to make myself come across as unappealing as possible so the matter of engagement could be dropped. It was for his sake, it truly was."
"You really thought about all of that?" her father asked. "Oh, my wonderful daughter! How compassionate and mature you are for your age!"
"Is that what really happened?" asked her maid, Anne.
"Yes, of course it is," Katarina said. She didn't say another word, but she still looked at her like she was trying to stare right through her. The nerve of her. She was nothing but the bastard of some random baton, yet she had the audacity to try and cross-examine her. She needed to find a way to get her fired, hopefully one that involved framing her for a crime.
"Even so, that's still no excuse for the way you acted. Surely there had to be a better way for you to turn him down, yes?" her mother asked.
"I suppose that I might have been a little bitter about the whole thing, regardless. Even if it was my fault, it doesn't change the fact that my face has been scarred for all eternity! Whatever am I to do with myself, now? I'll surely be the object of ridicule for all of my peers! Oh, how dreadful my life will be!"
"Please don't cry, my precious child!" her father said. "You are a strong, proud member of the Claes household, so I know you can beat this if you just believe you can!"
"I-I'll try." Katarina wiped away the tears she had been shedding on command. She knew from her visions that the scar would fade away in a few years' time, but they didn't know that, so no point in not milking it for all it was worth. "But still, I don't think I'm ready for anyone I know to see me in such an unsightly state. Would it not be possible for me to hide out somewhere for just a few days until I regain my confidence?"
"Anything you want, my dear. Just tell me where you'd like to go, and we'll—" Katarina immediately named a location and all of the surrounding areas in fine detail.
"That was awfully quick of you," Anne said. It was almost like she actively desired to go to prison, or something.
"A friend of mine told me about that village once, and I've been dying to go there, ever since."
"Are you sure?" her mother asked. "If you truly wish to go to the country, then one of our villas—"
"No! It has to be that village, it just has to!" Her mother sighed and conceded, and her father ran off to make the arrangements. Everything was going according to plan.
There was no way Katarina would allow any of those futures to come to pass. Katarina Claes was one who was destined to rule over the world, not let it treat her like a chew toy. With the knowledge given to her, she would twist any and all fates presented to her and bend the world into one where she comes out on top, with no room for anyone who would dare get in her way. She already got a start on that with Geord, but she wasn't going to take any chances. No, the only way to ensure her victory over life was to cut out the root of the problem.
The only way for her to absolutely win was to kill Maria Campbell.
I could have made this longer, but this seemed like a good place to end things. Also, I only just started the third light novel, so if it turns out that the setting actually does have a name, then I'll make adjustments.