TW: Mention of eating disorders
Editor: Sudo & Nila
Book I Part I
Bluebeard and the Shining Knight
“I’ve finally found a worthy groom for you, darling,” announced Father, as he wiped off his lips with a napkin.
Sitting on the knees of my eldest brother Cesare, I felt the urge to run back to my bedroom and throw up all the food I’d just eaten.
My second brother Enzo, who had been busy devouring an awfully smelly quenelle, slammed his fork down and cried out in protest, “Not again! Father, how many times has it been already?”
“It hasn’t even been three months since her last engagement was called off! Regardless of what our family would gain from this marriage, shouldn’t you at least try to consider her feelings?”
“What a surprise to see you side with your little sister. Then, would you rather battle the barbarians yourself instead of accepting Britannia’s support?”
“What are you talking about? Those savage barbarians up north wouldn’t stand a chance against the likes of me, the greatest, most noble soldier to ha—”
“Shut your trap, boy.”
The greatest, most noble soldier took the rest of the quenelle on his plate and shoved it into his mouth, aggressively chewing out of spite.
The marriage proposal wasn’t any surprise to me though. I knew that it would come sooner or later.
“Who is it, Father?” I asked cheerfully.
My father, who had been staring disapprovingly at Enzo, looked back my way and smiled.
“He is Britannia’s hero. The king’s beloved nephew and famous knight of the North. He is very handsome, I’m sure you’ll like him.”
“What! Father, do you know how bad his reputation is?!”
“Boy, was I talking to you?”
Enzo became quiet again.
None of them had any idea that this handsome knight of the North would one day massacre our entire family. Oh you poor idiots…
As I pretended to hesitate for a moment, Cesare, who had been stroking my head, called for me again. His long fingers groped the back of my head and I shuddered in revulsion. It felt like a cold snake slithering up my neck.
I slowly raised my head and locked eyes with Cesare. After glancing at his eerie azure eyes, I shifted my gaze to Enzo who was frowning discontentedly, and then to Lady Julia and my father beside her, both seated upright, poised and dignified as always.
“Thank you, Father. I’m grateful that I can at least be of some service to you with this marriage.”
Cesare curled his lips into a rare gentle smile and pressed them up against the top of my forehead.
“Perfect as always, our sweet little angel,” he whispered.
Now I really wanted to puke.
But I had more pressing matters to attend to than throwing up. After all, the handsome knight of the North was out to kill me too.
I had thought that with that untimely helicopter crash, my tiresome life had finally come to an end and that I could finally rest. But if I’d known that I would be reincarnated as a lady in the Renaissance Era, and as a character in a novel that I’d read long ago, and, to make matters worse, forced to survive in an environment that was just as vile as my previous life, would I still have thought the same?
If I was going to be reincarnated as a character in this novel, couldn’t I have at least been born into a decent family?
I could feel my stomach tense up and my eyes begin to water. I’d gotten good enough at throwing up silently that I didn’t need to worry about being caught by the maids, but, nevertheless, it was still excruciating every time.
One thing in common between my old and new life was my eating habits, or as I should really call it, my anorexia. Before I became Rudbeckia de Borgia—I mean, before I died—I was the adopted daughter of an upper-class family in Spain. I guess you could say I was a child of charity.
Having been adopted at a very young age, I knew nothing about the so-called ‘Korean Peninsula’ where I was born. Like my adoptive siblings, I attended a prestigious private school in Madrid and lived a life full of ballet classes, tennis clubs, horseback riding, and charity events.
I think the first time I felt different than the kids around me was sometime around fourth grade, when a boy in my class laughed at me while pulling back his eyes. At first I didn’t understand what it meant, so I just laughed along with the rest of the kids in my class. I thought that my eyes were round like everyone else’s, so I had no idea that he was mocking me.
Over time, I grew numb to the racism that I faced at school, but as for my life at home, despite the sophisticated, welcoming facade of my adoptive family, there was always an unspoken rule that I was to be treated differently, that I was an outsider.
Each of my adoptive parents had separate lovers, and my second brother, who was a rising tennis star, was publicly exposed for his promiscuous private life and drug addiction. The only one in my adoptive family who would sometimes treat me nicely was my older sister, and she committed suicide at age twenty-one. As for my eldest brother, I quickly learned that he was a monster, just like his father.
So it became a habit for me to play the role of a smart, cheerful, and obedient daughter, since if I ever brought the smallest bit of shame to my family or offended them in the slightest, there was hell to pay. And when I woke up here in this world, life was exactly the same.
At first, I thought I was just hallucinating before l passed away. But when I looked in the mirror, instead of seeing my face, there was a beautiful western girl staring back at me.
It took me a few days to realize that I’d become Rudbeckia de Borgia, a character in the fantasy novel Sodom and the Holy Grail that I used to read as a teenager.
The novel was set in the Renaissance Era and revolved around the tale of a vile, corrupt Pope who abused his power to oppress others. It was a story about the countries of the North and the clergy bravely rising up and banding together to overthrow the wicked Pope, his supporters, and the entirety of the house of Borgia.
The name ‘Sodom’ in the title referred to the people of the northern Romagna region of Italy, and ‘Holy Grail’ was a metaphor for the holy site of the Vatican City. And as for lucky me, I was reincarnated as Rudbeckia, the Pope’s only daughter.
I, Rudbeckia, was destined to die, and to die no less than at the hands of my future husband.
My father and older brother, in an attempt to gain even more political influence, were hell-bent on marrying off Rudbeckia, and after three unsuccessful engagements and another last minute cancellation, she ended up being married off to Izek van Omerta of Britannia.
As to why someone as noble and austere as Izek would lose his mind and decide to murder his wife’s entire family after only being married for six months, it was Rudbeckia who had made him go crazy.
It wasn’t love that made him lose his mind, it was hatred—hatred of Rudbeckia, who’d poisoned his little sister. Cesare had miscalculated the severity of Izek’s rage when he ordered Rudbeckia to assassinate her.
When I think about it though, more than being mad about Rudbeckia murdering his little sister, it seems like Izek just got fed up with his backstabbing b*tch of a wife and ended up killing her.
Regardless, it’s clear that Rudbeckia was following Cesare’s orders, and, if my vague memories were correct, Rudbeckia didn’t exactly have the greatest of personalities either.
As a matter of fact, I remember that after she moved to the North, she was known by those around her as the Pope’s evil spy, and was notoriously disliked for disregarding basic etiquette and treating other women like maids. That included her husband’s precious little sister and even the girl’s childhood friends.
But now that I’ve lived as Rudbeckia for three years, I’ve started to understand why she acted the way she did. ‘The beloved Princess of Romagna’, ‘the Angel of Sistine’—it was all just an act, just like my previous life in Spain.
Hearing his knock, I shoved my mint candy pouch into a drawer and stood up. He opened the door before I’d even answered, like he always did.
Cesare, known formally as Cardinal Valentino, still had on the black robes he was wearing at dinner. He had his father’s jet-black hair and deep azure eyes, and although people described him as devilishly handsome, to me he seemed closer to the devil. It was a small comfort to me that the two of us didn’t look anything alike.
“You looked upset earlier, so I got worried and came to check on you.”
I played along like usual.
“Oh Cesare, you know me too well.”
“Are you unhappy about the marriage proposal? You can be honest with me.”
As Cesare approached me, he paused, turning his head towards the small turtle statue on my nightstand. He seemed to stare at it with a kind of deep affection. It was a closely guarded secret of mine that I absolutely despised turtles.
“It’s not that… I don’t know, it’s just that the North is so far away. I won’t be able to see you much while I’m there. I’m worried I’ll be terribly lonely.”
“Why would you be lonely? You’ll be with your husband.”
“That doesn’t mean anything to me. If I could have it my way, I would stay here and live with you forever, Cesare.”
“I’m honored that the most beautiful woman of Romagna cares for me so much.”
Cesare came beside me and placed his hand on top of my head, his lips curled into a smile of satisfaction. I had given him the answer he had wanted to hear.
He slid his hand down to my cheek and I continued to play along, closing my eyes like a stray kitten being petted.
There was no telling when the hand that stroked me so gently would turn violent. Although I had managed to keep him and the rest of the family on my side so far, I knew better than anyone that, if they saw it fit, the people around me would turn against me in an instant.