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Published at 19th of November 2020 08:18:41 PM


Chapter 21

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Chapter 21




“…”

When I used to live in the orphanage, a volunteer worker visited every now and then, and after they’d stroked my head one time, I wasn’t able to sleep at night. I’d try to replay the feeling of their fingers on my head by patting my head with my hands, heart thumping with excitement. 

When will they come again? When will they come and pat my head again?

At the sound of cars I would run out and wait, to no avail. Even after multiple times of this same occurrence, I didn’t know when to stop. 

But I knew to stop when I met that person again. 

「Oh my, I’ve never seen a girl this friendly upon our first meeting. How wonderful. 」

「… 」

This isn’t the first time though.

You praised me for being a good child!

My heart didn’t pound from having my hair patted like the first time. It didn’t get warm, nor did it throb.

It was only then that I realized that I was just like any sort of random pitiful child to this person, and my already cold world became colder.

「You wouldn’t understand even if I explained to you, Selene. Because your parents are here.」

「Your Ladyship.」

「I’ll only confuse her by being nice to her for a few days. I can’t be the only one in a comfortable position.」

「But Your Ladyship isn’t just being casually nice to her, you really mean it.」

「…Hmph.」

I’m telling you, she only catches on quickly at times like this. 

I lowered my head as if I hadn’t heard her. 

The children only rested for a few minutes before the lessons started again. 

「Ugh. That old woman’s at it again.」

I covered my mouth trying to stop my tears that felt like they had been waiting to come out. At the thought that one day Haniel would wake up to the cold reality of the world like I did, I felt like I was suffocating. 


「See that! She’s only like that to Haniel! She leaves the other kids alone and just goes after my Haniel!」

「…Your Ladyship, that’s because Haniel’s the only one who isn’t able to follow the instructions. 」

「Ergh. Shut your beak.」

You think this is her fault, that she can’t follow instructions because she doesn’t want to? There’s always a last place if there’s a first place!

But at times like these, I thought that it was fortunate Haniel didn’t have a mother present. To have to hear the painful words of someone else scolding their own child for not doing something well enough would make anyone’s heart pound like it would pop out of their chest. 

「Heup. But what are they doing? What did she teach them for them to be like that?」

「Ah ah, she’s taught them to act like that if they get wounded and form a bruise.」

At the tears that started to fill my eyes once more, Selene continued to explain as if trying to appease me.

The children all gathered in one place, with their heads back and tongues out. And naturally, my Haniel wasn’t able to even follow that and only blinked her eyes. 

「Whew. That is such a useful lesson, but it seems that whether she’s really trying or not, Haniel just can’t stay focused.」

「… 」

Come again, you birdbrain?

As I glowered at her, Selene instinctively lowered her head. 

At this rate, Haniel would end up labeled as a failure of a student, so I tried to wrap up the facts as much as I could.

「It’s because she’s still young. She’s a newborn baby. When she learns to understand people’s words, Lady Melloe will probably say she doesn’t need to take lessons at her academy.」

「Yes, yes. Of course. As if she’s someone’s child. 」

「…She’s different from us.」

I didn’t have any more energy to scold Selene. It was already heartbreaking peeping at Haniel through the bushes.

「I’m telling you, she already has many family members to teach her. So rather than staying at a place like this, for sure…」

It would be better for her to return.

This was actually the reason that pricked my heart the most.

Even if Haniel’s brother was a tyrant, what better people than her own blood-related family members to take care of her.


I couldn’t help but stress the importance of family, perhaps since I’d never had one. 

「…Of course. 」

That was obvious. What’s more important than family, right?

I quickly turned my head before my heart would soften at Haniel’s trembling appearance. 

If I kept being like this, I wouldn’t be able to let Haniel go. Before that happened, I shifted my attention and called Selene over as I thought of the next step in my plan.

「What’s the emperor’s usual schedule for when he stays at the Winter Palace?」

「Uhm…Usually the highest noble families of the region are to hold a welcome party for the emperor. Because one can only visit the Palaces of the regions upon invitation from the emperor or empress.」

「Then does that mean the duke’s household usually host such an event?」

「Of course. Since the House of the Duke of Evendell has the highest standing in the North. 」

Despite being a worker in the household, I could hear the pride in her voice as she spoke of the duke’s family.

She fluffed up her feathers.

「We prepared so much food for the previous celebrations. We even decorated the halls with ice sculptures and covered the floors with golden silk. Everyone admired the ice flowers and jewelry.」

「Really? Then when will a celebration happen again?」

「I’m not very sure. Since all the nobles of the Northern Lands will need to first be invited to the welcome party…Wh-what is it. No way…do you actually want to attend it?」

「What do you mean, ‘No way.’」

「Your Ladyship! You can’t! You will only face humiliation if you go. You will be in front of many people and even the Emperor will be there!」

「All the more reason to go.」

「Ah…」

She was reacting like this because she didn’t know the situation properly, but Selene was utterly terrified.

She tried to express her worries while licking at the wound she’d gotten last night.

「Still, you can’t. Do you not remember what Lady Rania said to you? She told you not to show your face and to not leave the estate for the moment, saying that she absolutely wouldn’t allow any of that.」

「How funny.」


I wasn’t making fun of Rania, I actually meant what I said. 

I shrugged my shoulders and turned towards the brightly-lit palace across the lake.

「Then did she curse me with my permission?」

◇ ◆ ◇

“Please forgive us, Your Majesty. Because there was no time to prepare properly for Your Excellencies’ arrival, many things are now lacking.”

“It’s fine.”

The manager of the Winter Palace trembled like an aspen tree. 

With the emperor suddenly arriving with the two princes at the Palace in the middle of the night, it was impossible to figure out their motives. 

“U-uh, though I’m not sure what is Your Majesty’s purpose-”

“Do I have to get permission to come to my own house?”

“…No. Not at all, Your Majesty.”

As one of Rashid’s eyes began to narrow, the manager prostrated his body to the ground. It seemed as though daggers would fall on his head should he dare lift it.

But the Emperor’s intentions really couldn’t be fathomed at this point. 

“The late Empress often spoke of the beauty of this place.” 

“…”

Peyton, who had been watching the man’s fidgeting body, spoke up.

Though the chances of finding their sister here were slim, they had to put to rest any suspicions to lessen the risk of useless news of Haniel’s disappearance spreading. 

“The Emperor has taken some time to himself for the first time since his ascension to the throne. We are just here to quietly take a look, so watch your behavior.”

“Ahh I see. I will quickly prepare the bedrooms and studies for your use.” 

With an ‘oh, I get it’ expression, the manager straightened.  

The Winter Palace was the late Empress’s favorite place, so it made sense if her sons wanted to follow her footsteps in her memory.


It seemed as though the rumors that they were only cold-blooded were wrong. 

A warm expression spread across the man’s face for the first time. 

“Then would Your Excellencies first like a tour around the estate? The late Empress particularly enjoyed the beauty of the Palladium lake. There are many places to go and many rare animals to see-”

“Do you think I came here to see some animals!” 

“…T-then what would Your Majesty like to see…”

“That…”

At the emperor’s anger, the manager hurriedly swallowed his words. But with effort, the irritated Rashid slowly shut his mouth. 

The lines on his frustrated face softened, leaving a hint of confusion. 

“…Enough about that. Did you announce my arrival?”

“Yes, I have. There was a commotion as soon as the three lit up pillars were spotted.”

“So?”

“According to standard practice, I’ve invited Duchess Evendell for your arrival first. The late Empress was first welcomed by the Duchess in a welcome party.” 

“…The Duchess.” 

“Yes. But since Your Honorable Highness wanted to rest quietly, I will turn her away. Even though having the Duchess be host is the custom, I’m sure she will understand since she doesn’t have the Duke to ask nor does she have an empress to serve. I will inform Lady Rania inste-” 

“What, no. Who told you to do that.”

Rashid, who had been holding his head, suddenly stretched out his hand, and the manager began to tremble, his throat dry.

At seeing the look on the princes’ faces, the manager caught on quickly and hastily brought out a letter. 

“H-here it is, Your Excellency.”

“…This is.” 

“Yes. This is the Duke Household’s crest. Though it is the symbol of the North, rumor has it that the Duke’s Household wishes to change it on the reason of it being too ominous of a sign.” 

Rashid eyed the seal on top of the elegant envelope. His sharp eyes made out two black swan feathers inlaid on top of crystals.

As he smoothly tore open the wax with his thumb, Rashid’s red lips turned upwards into a smile. 

“…No. How fitting.” 



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