Chapter 1

***

 

It started snowing early in the morning and finally stopped in the afternoon. By the time I stepped out of the building, all sides were covered with white snow.

 

I stood in front of the crosswalk with my cell phone in one hand. I pressed and held the power button on my phone and the screen lit up with a bright light, messages that I hadn’t been able to check started flooding in. 

 

[Noona, you know the super sale ends today, right? Just pick up a bag of ice cream when you come over.]

 

While I was checking the stagnant letters, a new one arrived. It was the only complaint among the messages of support and encouragement that raised an eyebrow. I naturally gritted my teeth as I thought of my brother’s face, who would be at home watching TV leisurely. How could I, who had just completed a lifetime of serious business, run errands for someone who was at home playing?

 

‘Is he out of his mind? Why do I hate him so much?’

 

I felt like I was getting crazy, but suddenly the air around me became cold. I shoved my hands into my padded pockets and looked ahead.

 

The crosswalk lights turned green just in time. About halfway across, I saw a familiar car.

 

I saw someone sitting in the driver’s seat and waved my hand with a happy face.

 

“Mom!”

 

It was cold and I wanted to warm up my cold body in the warm car as soon as possible.

 

I hurried towards the car.

 

Just then, I heard a loud whistle in the back.

 

I turned my head, startled by the sudden roar, and saw a motorcycle running towards me.

 

Instantly, everything around me seemed to slow down.

 

But on the contrary, my body, sensing the danger, froze and did not move. The next moment, with the feeling of being pushed away, my body lifted into the air and immediately crashed. I couldn’t even scream properly due to the cruel pain I felt for the first time in my life.

 

Under my reddening vision, I saw a broken motorcycle and the driver lying bleeding with his leg broken in a strange direction.

 

Something warm flowed down my cheeks.

 

I couldn’t even tell if it was tears or rainwater. My body was motionless, my heart beating faster and faster, and everything felt slow, as if I was the only one in the world who had stopped.

 

People screamed loudly.

 

The sun had set a little and I could see my mother’s face, all pale and pallid.

 

“Uh, it’s …….”

 

I opened my mouth, but no sound came out. 

 

Only then did I have a hunch that something was terribly wrong.

 

The people around me were not looking well either. 

 

I moved my head slowly and looked down at my body.

 

“…”

 

The figure was so terrible that I couldn’t even open my eyes to see it.

 

I felt empty. I burst out laughing at the unrealistic sight. 

 

After a trickle of blood from between my opened lips, the tears began to flow.

 

How did I end up in this situation?

 

I slowly closed my eyes and opened them again.

 

Was this what you call a flashback?

 

I closed my eyes and the events of the day slowly went through my mind.

 

Today was the day I was to take the university entrance exam.

 

Early in the morning, I left home after putting on my thick jacket and a backpack. It was certainly a very important day for a student, but I wasn’t the least bit nervous.

 

I had already been informed a few weeks ago that I was accepted to the university of my choice. In the meantime, I spent all of my time studying, besides reading romance novels, which was my only hobby.

 

It was exhausting.

 

I went to bed after midnight and woke up at dawn.

 

Sometimes I felt so miserable with the repetition of life and cried for no reason at all, but it was okay.

 

I didn’t give up until the end, and finally I achieved it.

 

Thanks to my life of looking only forward, I ended up being accepted into the business administration department of a prestigious university, and it was clear that my future would be solid.

 

I struggled enough, and now all I had to do was to be compensated for all the hard work I had put in.

 

At least, that was what I believed for sure until …… a while ago.

 

But they say you’ll never know what the future might bring.

 

I had  worked so hard, but I couldn’t even go to college, and it was such a waste. 

 

I felt so frustrated at the unfairness that I thought I wouldn’t be able to close my eyes even if I died. However, contrary to my mind, I was struck by a strong drowsiness. At the same time, my vision gradually became cloudy. It was as if I was being sucked into a deep sleep.

 

‘This is absolutely ridiculous.….’

 

I slowly closed my eyes. 

 

Soon darkness consumed my vision.

 

“…”

 

“I warned you not to be vulgar again, didn’t I?”

 

An unfamiliar voice sank into my eardrums. The voice woke me up slowly. It was as if I had awakened from a deep sleep. I could feel the texture of the cold marble floor against my skin vividly. I didn’t know why, but I felt a tingling pain in my wrists and ankles. Before I could figure out what the hell was going on, I heard the voice that had woken me up again.

 

“How long are you going to keep doing that?”

 

‘You’re not talking to me, are you?’

 

I slowly raised my head and looked up. A man with blond hair and blue eyes was looking down at me with a cold face, while a beautiful woman with dark green eyes was looking at me with a surprised face. They were dressed very flamboyantly, like the heroes of a fairy tale, and they were the most beautiful people I had ever seen in my life. And I was lying in front of them in a tight, saggy dress with a tight waist.

 

My body froze as if the accident had stopped at an unreal sight. I slowly looked around, frowning. For the first time in my life, I saw this landscape.

 

Marble floors, large chandeliers on the ceiling, dozens of foreigners in peculiar clothes…. A scene that could only be seen in medieval Europe was spread out before me. 

 

I couldn’t hide my bewilderment.

 

‘What? Where the hell am I?’

 

It was indeed indoors, but it seemed to be even bigger than a school playground.

 

Even in the midst of chaos, the gorgeous decorations attracted my attention.

 

‘Is that real jewelry?’

 

The man opened his mouth again while I was distracted by the eyes of a nearby sculpted statue.

 

“You’d better stop looking so dirty and go back. Or go somewhere and chill out.”

 

I was sure that the man’s eyes were on me. The man’s gaze was definitely on me, so his words must have been directed at me as well.

 

I ended up frowning at a series of his vitriolic remarks.

 

I was dumbfounded by the absurdity.

 

But the man, unconcerned with his own reaction, turned to the woman beside him.

 

“Claire, let’s go. I’m sure you were startled, so you’d better go and rest.”

 

The man said, and the woman gave a small shake of her head, then turned her gaze to me again. Then the man’s gaze also turned back to me.

 

“…”

 

The man’s demeanor was arrogant, his gaze on me was like he was looking down on something foul. Rather than being annoyed by his gaze, I first wondered if I was dreaming right now.

 

“Are you still here?”

 

The man’s tantruming voice roused me from my reverie. I could hear a rustling around me. I felt the prickling of people’s gazes piercing through me. My right wrist hurt as if it was injured, and my heart was beating wildly.

 

I brushed my lips and raised my upper body with my hands on the floor.

 

My mind was filled with the idea of getting out of this place for now.

 

As I turned with a bewildered look on my face and hurried to my feet, I bumped into someone’s chest.

 

“Ugh!”

 

I saw a clean white shirt, an elegant suit, and a small pendant encrusted with red jewels.

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

I made a small apology in a panic, and without waiting for the other person’s answer, I walked away.

 

“Even if he’s the Crown Prince, I can’t believe he’s treating the princess that way. If the Duke comes back and finds out about this, he won’t sit still.”

 

“That’s true. His Highness is really too much.”

 

“She probably deserves it too. That’s why he did what he did.”

 

Every time I took a step, people’s eyes followed me. I couldn’t understand what they were talking about while looking at me, but I felt as if I had become an animal in them and turned into a spectacle.

 

I walked randomly looking for a place where there were no people.

 

It was then that I discovered the terrace. I didn’t know where I was and I had nowhere to go anyway, so I needed some time to calm down and take a look at the situation.

 

“Hmm…”

 

As soon as I opened the door to the terrace, I lost the strength in my legs and sat down.

 

I let out a deep breath.

 

‘What is going on here?’

 

I was trying to calm my confused mind in the cold breeze, when for a moment, I saw a strand of golden hair, waist-length, blowing in the wind.

 

I reached out and touched it.

 

The hair, thin and long like a spider’s web, hung gently in my palm. My skin was particularly pale from the moonlight, and my fingers were slimmer and longer than I remembered.

 

I raised myself up slowly and approached the window.

 

‘What is this?’

 

I couldn’t believe my eyes for a moment.

 

The reflection of myself in the glass was so unfamiliar.

 

The light golden hair, the strange white skin, the big, yellow eyes, and the thick lips were definitely not my own. I couldn’t take my eyes off my incomprehensible image and watched for a while, but my reflection in the glass didn’t change a bit.

 

‘Am I dreaming right now?’

 

I had a feeling that everything was too vivid to be a dream, but other than that, there was no other way to explain this situation. The glamorous lighting and musical sounds inside felt alien, and the people in it were not only unfamiliar, but hostile to me.

 

‘Where in the world is this dream coming from?’

 

The tears welled up in my eyes, the blood, the broken pieces of the motorcycle and the screams of the people, and my mother crying at the sight of me…my tears flowed naturally as I recalled my last memory.

 

I thought I would never be able to live after the horrible accident as I saw in the movies, but now that I was so clear in my consciousness, it seemed like a dream, too.

 

When I was convinced that everything was a dream, I laughed in despair.

 

I didn’t know why I kept having nightmares like this, but now I think about it, I was addicted to horror movies and romance novels back then.

 

That was how I started having these crazy dreams.

 

I was afraid I would never see my family again, and all my efforts during that time would go down the drain.

 

It was unfair to disappear.

 

My heart was still beating fast, but it was better than before. I wanted to go back to reality as soon as possible, and as soon as I got home I would throw away all the horror movies and romance novels in my room.

 

I swore and wiped my tear-stained face with my sleeve. Then I turned around and walked towards the parapet.

 

The quickest way to wake up from a dream that I was aware of was to bang my head against something or run away from a space that scared me.

 

‘How could I not wake up from this?’

 

Finished thinking, I huddled against the parapet of the terrace and looked down. The moon’s reflection in the lake next to the garden full of red roses was breaking in the wind and swaying in all directions.

 

The distance from the terrace to the ground seemed a bit far, but not too high, and there was a soft lawn.

 

Of course, in real life, a fall from this height would be very painful.

 

I think I might break one part of my body or get seriously injured.

 

But I knew that this was a dream and it wouldn’t affect me. 

 

I took a deep breath and stood on the railing. A breeze was blowing and the pleasant scent of flowers coming from the garden below wafted to my nose.

 

Perhaps it was because of the dream, but I felt more hazy than frightened. Then I stepped into the air.

 

Just then, someone reached out to me.

 

“Princess, no!”

 

The nice voice seemed to be frightened, desperate, and urgent.

As soon as someone grabbed my wrist, my body, which had fallen, was hanging in the air.