Chapter 3

 

 

My hunch was accurate.

 

What I saw on the first floor was that knight Mary had mentioned earlier.

 

“I just wanted to know the name of the wine I had this afternoon……..”

 

He was talking about wine.

 

“I’m sorry for interrupting your break time.”

 

He said sorry for interrupting my break.

 

“It was <Pure White Saint>. If this wine suits your palate, you can buy a bottle.”

 

“Yes, two bottles, please.”

 

“Please wait a moment. Head to the wine cellar and…”

 

“Hey, I’m just about to go to the wine cellar, so I’ll bring it.”

 

Mary’s voice interrupted. 

 

I hummed and glanced at Mary, who was moving away, then moved my gaze to face the knight again.

 

“Anything else?”

 

“No, thank you.”

 

He talked about wine, apologized for interrupting my break, and that was it, he didn’t even mention the missing Second Princess

 

I thought that was fortunate.

 

‘So he is not here to look for the Princess.’

 

I suppressed my surprise and waited for Mary to confirm that the knight was just stopping by again to get the bottle of wine he liked.

 

I forgot for a moment and my gaze was drawn to the imperial crest on his armor.

 

‘I’ve been looking at it for far too long.’

 

The Imperial symbol.

 

I came to my senses and my hands were soaked with sweat. I looked up and our gazes met once more.

 

‘Oh…’

 

He had a handsome face.

 

He had black hair covering his forehead and red eyes.

 

His face was extremely masculine, with dark eyebrows that made a deep impression.

 

I didn’t know much about him since I was always too curious about the Imperial family’s symbol, but seeing his face so closely was once again a surprise.

 

My neck was stiff-looking up at him, perhaps because of his sturdy physique.

 

I turned my head away, thinking.

 

‘But why is Mary taking so long?’

 

It shouldn’t take long to find the “Pure White Saint” in the wine cellar.

 

As Ethel looked at the stairs leading down to the wine cellar, she heard a voice.

 

“May I know your name?”

 

“My name?”

 

I smiled, trying my best to hide the awkwardness as my speech quivered a bit.

 

Instantly, his eyes shook.

 

“…It’s Ethel.”

 

“Ethel.”

 

“So, what’s your name?”

 

“Clyde…”

 

“That’s not a very common name.”

 

“Is that so?”

 

“Yes. It’s a name that you can’t forget once you’ve heard it………..”

 

A hint of surprise drifted across his face, then quickly disappeared. I quickly averted my gaze when his insistent stare was directed at me.

 

As I was looking at the grain patterns on the floor, I heard his voice. It was a low, cold voice.

 

“How did you know that the name Clyde was not a common name in aristocratic society?”

 

“Oh, I….”

 

“Information on the aristocracy is highly restricted to commoners. By the way….”

 

“Excuse me.”

 

He stared at me with suspicion in his eyes.

 

“Since all I hear every day are the names of commoners, I just thought the appearance of the unfamiliar nobleman and name was unusual.”

 

“…”

 

“The name Clyde seems to be rare in aristocratic society. I’ve never heard of it before.”

 

I gave him a quick and plausible excuse, but that didn’t erase the scowl on his face.

 

I carefully scanned him.

 

Clyde. Clyde Delanhill. Black hair, red eyes.

 

Could this person be…?

 

I shuddered at the sight of someone I might have known ten years ago.

 

“Your Highness, are you still here?”

 

A man in precious clothes opened the door and walked in, staring at him and me.

 

His Royal Highness.

 

I’m sure he’s a Duke.

 

‘But if he’s a Duke then no.’

 

This person couldn’t be that Clyde Delanhill that I knew.

 

Clyde Delanhill was the fifth illegitimate son of Baron Delanhill.

 

I don’t think that he would ever be called ‘Duke.’

 

The memory of the Imperial Palace, buried beyond my memory, came to mind, and my lips grew pale.

 

While I was lost in thought, Mary came back with bottles of wine.

 

“Here are two bottles of “Pure White Saint”. The price is 2 gold each. They’re the expensive ones.”

 

“You’re late, Aunt Mary.”

 

“Well, I’m late because I had to search through the depths of the cellar. It’s not easy to find these guys in there.”

 

‘You said it’s hard to find wine in a wine cellar where wine is organized by type?’

 

In a flash, the Duke pulled four gold coins out of his pocket.

 

“Ethel.”

 

I thought his voice was nice to hear. Our eyes met and he put the gold coins in my hand.

 

Our hands touched.

 

The feeling of the gold coin taking away the warmth of my hand was incredibly cold, but the hand that suddenly touched mine was just as hot.

 

“Come on, we’ll be late.”

 

The Duke followed the man who came into the inn late and headed out the door.

 

I fiddled with four gold coins and stared at the tightly closed door.

 

‘Clyde.’

 

I recited the name quietly.

 

It was a face that could only remind me of Clyde Delanhill.

 

But the man who came in after Clyde clearly called him ‘Duke.’

 

I shook my head.

 

There might be another person named ‘Clyde’.

 

I cleared my thoughts as I fiddled the gold coins, heated up by the warmth of my hand.

 

****

 

“Brother.”

 

The first princess, Karen Ethelanche, softly called the Crown Prince.

 

Her voice oozed a gentle charm that couldn’t help but draw his attention.

 

Her moonlit silver hair was scattered over her white dress, and her sparkling green eyes were beautiful.

 

Crown Prince, Joseph Ethelanche, turned and looked at his sister.

 

“Karen.”

 

Then, he quickly turned his gaze back at the front page of the newspaper article.

 

As Karen went over and sat down beside him, Joseph could smell the scent of freesia passing his nose.

 

“You used a different perfume today.”

 

 “I’m tired of smelling like jasmine.”

 

Joseph nodded half-heartedly and focused his gaze on the newspaper silently. A portrait of a woman smiling brightly reached his trembling fingers.

 

Joseph opened his mouth.

 

“…I’m wondering if Stella really looks like this. No matter how long it’s been, she must be.”

 

“Are you still thinking about your sister?”

 

Joseph didn’t answer.

 

It wasn’t until some time later that he opened his mouth again.

 

“I don’t think she would look good smiling like this. She probably doesn’t look good with her hair like this either. She was a girl who liked to keep a low profile. When the maids recommended fancy dresses, she shook her head enthusiastically and said that she always wore monochromatic clothes.”

 

“…”

 

Karen silently looked at the portrait on the front page of the newspaper.

 

The dazzlingly beautiful girl was smiling at her.

 

It was a smile that contrasted with the color of the girl’s plain hair and purple eyes.

 

Karen tilted her head slightly.

 

“Yes, her nickname is Sparrow, isn’t it? Brother is an eagle and I’m a swan.”

 

“…”

 

“This one doesn’t look much like a sparrow, does it?”

 

Karen said as if she didn’t want to have anything to do with it, which made Joseph feel uncomfortable.

 

“She didn’t like that nickname.”

 

“Oh, did she?”

 

Karen’s eyes fluttered.

 

“Oh, I didn’t know that. I thought it was interesting to hear the maidens talk about birds. Birds are so cute, why didn’t she like sparrows?”

 

“…”

 

“I can’t wait to see your face, not the picture. My sister.

 

Karen spoke in a voice as sweet as honey.

 

When the silence drifted away, she said again.

 

“I want to see her.”

 

“So do I.”

 

At the sound of his voice, Karen glanced at Joseph.

 

His golden hair was as brilliant as the burning sun, and his green eyes, like hers, were as crisp as the grass.

 

His large hands, such as they were, seemed to be very warm.

 

Karen leaned back on his shoulder, and Joseph slurred painfully.

 

“I should never have kept her existence a secret in the first place. I shouldn’t have done it. I should have let her free. If I had done that, it would have been much easier to find her, probably by now………….”

 

“It’s not your fault, brother. Hm? It was inevitable.”

 

“What a disgrace to the imperial family. D*mn it.”

 

“Still, wouldn’t it be better if the other empires were afraid of the hidden princess? Rather than to think of her as such an empty shell of a person………..”

 

“Still, she is your sister…”

 

“Please don’t.”

 

“…”

 

“Blaming won’t change anything. So please don’t do it, brother.”

 

Joseph sighed deeply. Karen did not speak any further.

 

***

 

“It seems that someone has put the youngest Princess aside.”

 

“The Crown Prince, who resembles His Majesty, is an eagle, the First Princess, who has Her Majesty’s beauty, is a swan, and the youngest Princess…She’s like a sparrow. A sparrow caught in the rain.”

 

“This is the last portrait, isn’t it? The last portrait of the youngest princess.”

 

“I hope this one goes away soon. The portrait with the four of them is like an ancient masterpiece because it’s unrealistic and beautiful, but actually having the princess there just makes it….”

 

I blinked slowly.

 

When the memory faded away, what my two eyes saw was a beautiful night sky.

 

The blackness seemed to cover everything in the world in a comforting way, but at the same time, it seemed to swallow it up cruelly.

 

Then I heard a voice calling me.

 

“Sister.”

 

Daisy let out a sleepy yawn. The image of me against the night sky fell into her eyes.

 

“Who was that person who just arrived this afternoon? Sir knight?”

 

“He was just a customer.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yes.”

 

I replied, but Daisy shook her head.

 

“No, no. As a mere customer, the way he looked at sister was different….”

 

“We’d never met before.”

 

“Oh, that can’t be true……..,” Daisy said.

 

A cool breeze was blowing.

 

“The stars are so beautiful. They’re sparkling.”

 

“Really?”

 

Stars.

 

I always had bad memories about stars.

 

“How do you show a child like this to other countries? Hmm? Karen could see the moon at the age of five, and Joseph could handle the sun at the age of eight. But Stella, this child is late. If those people knew that this child’s abilities are far behind……”

 

“Stella is only five years old. She’s only five.”

 

“There should be some use. If she’s an empty shell that doesn’t have the ability, she’s pretty… Stella.”

 

As if to cut off the bad memories, I said to Daisy.

 

“Daisy likes the stars, doesn’t she? Usually, stars are called tears in the sky.”

 

“Why is that?”

 

Daisy stared at me with sleepy eyes.

 

“They’re not the best looking. They’re not as bright as the sun or as glittering as the moon….”

 

“And yet, without the stars, the vagabonds…”

 

Daisy blinked gently.

 

“They will not even be able to see the road in the dark.”

 

Daisy left the words and fell asleep leaning her back against the fence.

 

Numerous fireflies embroidered the night sky, glistening brilliantly.

 

The sound of grass bugs pleasantly tickled my ears, and the stars in the night sky shone dazzlingly as if they whispered to me.

 

‘They are looking for you……..’

 

I closed my eyes tightly as the voice hazed in my ear.

 

I gripped Daisy’s arm tightly and said with determination.

 

“They are…but I’m not going back.”

 

I recited to myself like brainwashing.