Chapter 1. Prologue
(* T/L: Rosiane is also called Rosie. I’ll use the two names throughout depends on the scenarios)
Erdos looked back at him with his eyes wide as his name was polished in a low voice.
“Oh, I’m sorry, it’s just so amazing.”
Eryte, who quickly apologized, lifted his hand and glanced at me pwith light-colored eyes. Leav popped in as Eryte’s eyes that had the sense of playfulness melted long folded, it felt like a bad boy.
“My brother is still uncultured no matter how hard you look.”
“Well, even without that, I’m cool enough.”
Eryte replied to Leav’s sarcasm with a grin.
“Silence. Eryte, sit down. Now, Rosiane. Did you sleep well?”
Eryte took his seat quickly. Erdos, who had summed up the situation in a few words, looked back at Eryte with a different look on his face than when he asked me.
When I looked around pretending not to understand the situation, Erdos, who stroked my head, introduced me one by one.
“Your name is Rosiane Asteria. You’re the only Princess of the Empire and my daughter.”
My father, Erdos Asteria. His eyes which were like a blue sea, crisp violets, or shining diamonds depending on the lighting, stared at me. It was a mysterious sight to look at. He now pointed to Nanuk.
“First prince, Nanuk de Asteria. Your eldest brother.”
A face that looked exactly like Erdos’s face, which was contained beneath golden hair that glittered like an early sunset. His cold gaze turned to me.
“Second prince, Eryte de Asteria. I’m your second brother!”
While exchanging glances with Nanuk, Eryte suddenly introduced himself.
They came out of the same womb, but they look different. Nanuk looked sharp, perhaps because of the long, upraised eyes tail, and the sharp blade-like atmosphere added to his cold impression. Eryte’s eyes were equally raised, but it was because of playful eyes or pleasant atmosphere, he seemed to resemble the Empress. Smiling, Eryte held out his hand to me.
When I took his hand in mine, he shook it firmly. Of course, he was immediately stopped by Erdos…
“It’s a handshake!”
He opened his mouth wide and explained in a tone that sounded like he was fondling a child. I don’t know how long there had been handshakes waved around like this, but that’s how it looked to the little guy. The conversation died down for a while as the prepared meal was served. The food was brought incessantly throughout, I wondered what kind of dinner was going to be served in the course.
“Hmm, I am the third prince, Bernique de Asteria. I’m the twin brother of Rosiane.”
A gentle look appeared beneath his hair, which was like burning embers. I smiled softly at his gentle gaze.
“What? Why are you two so close? Rosiane, let’s have dinner and go play with this nice brother!”
Eryte suddenly shouted.
“Be quiet, brother. Sister, I am Leav, the Fourth Prince. I’m your ‘only’ brother.”
He spoke to Eryte coldly, but warmly to me. It seemed that the mere word ‘only’ gave him popularity, and so the dinner continued. I patted my stomach. I didn’t know how much I ate, but the food was so delicious and unusual that I must have been eating for a long time.
And the more time that passed, the more I felt that this place was not a dream. An oddly vivid sensation, a warm breeze stinging my cheeks, the taste of food filling my mouth, even the intense pain letting me know that this was real. It was too absurd to sort out. My mind resembled a battlefield as I walked through the garden with Erdos holding me in one arm.
“It’s getting very chilly.”
“I thought it would be much colder in the north. It was so cold while we were hunting that I almost got weak…..No, I was dying,” said Eryte, quickly correcting his words, conscious of Erdos’s cold gaze.
The sight of the four brothers following Erdos as he walked ahead of them made me smile a little.
“Watch your words from now on, Eryte. I’m afraid Rosiane will learn it from you,” Erdos snapped at him.
“Rosiane, we’re going to have dinner together every night from now on.”
“Ah! The night air is cold. Melissa, bring a blanket.”
Melissa was my nanny, a woman in her early thirties. She reminded me of Pippi, with her orange twin tails and freckles. She was following me from a distance, but at the sound of Erdos’ voice, she hurried to her feet. Before the blanket arrived, Erdos hugged me more tightly, and the children, who were only following behind, gathered around us.
“Sister, are you all right?”
“Are you alright, Rosiane?”
“You’re so weak, what are you going to do?” Eryte mocked one of the brothers.
“Eryte, shut up.”
I had no idea that they would make so much noise just because I sneezed once. I looked at them in bewilderment as they began to ramble on.
Ah, the sniffles. Erdos was on fire when I sniffed and called the doctor. What in the world would make them behave this way to Rosiane? She had been lying on her bed like a doll since she was five, and she definitely must not be able to form attachments properly, and yet they were so close to her and treated her like the most precious thing in the world, calling her little sister and big brothers. I was baffled. If I hadn’t been an only child, I wondered if I would have understood. It was something I didn’t understand.
Of course, it was the same in the novel. Everyone mourned her death and always missed her. They adopted a child who resembled Rosiane. The twins, Bernique, fell in love at first sight with a silver-haired woman who looked just like his sister, and his brother, Leav, almost had an accident when he fell for the schemes of a silver-haired saint who reminded him of his sister.
Eryte, who had been chatting with Nanuk for a while, clapped his hands as if he had remembered something, and Erdos looked back at him.
“Oh, yes, Father! I want to give that silver fox I caught to Rosiane! I think she would look great with a silver scarf!”
“That’s a great idea.”
As if impressed, Erdos patted Eryte on the head. I yawned at the sleepiness that overtook me. It was because I had eaten well and was surrounded by warm, fluffy blankets that my body felt sluggish and relaxed.
“Are you tired, Rosie?”
I yawned so many times that he shifted his feet back to my room, hoping I would get some sleep soon.
The garden we walked through was between Arche Palace where the emperor lived, and Herteon Palace, where I stayed, so it didn’t take long to arrive.
“Are you leaving already?”
Eryte looked surprised and opened his eyes wide as if he wanted to stay in my room a little longer. Leav and Bernique thought differently, they did not think about anything else, but only about the expression on Erdos’ face.
“It’s time for bed, Eryte.” Erdos was adamant.
Eryte paused, and at the sound of Erdos’ stern voice, he stopped talking.
“Sweet dreams, little sister,” Bernique said, kissing me on the cheek.
“See you tomorrow, sister.”
Leav kissed the other cheek. My cheek tingled where his lips had touched mine. I felt a tickle in the corner of my chest. Nanuk stroked my head without saying a word. But underneath his cold expression, only his eyes were dimly laden with tenderness.
“Look forward to the fox scarf!”
A sigh escaped Nanuk’s mouth as Eryte shouted and ran out of the room. After Erdos and his sons left one after the other, Melissa took off the blanket wrapped around my body and helped me get dressed.
I had spent another really unproductive day eating, sleeping, and playing, but I felt like I was having more fun than ever. But what should I do now? What will happen to me tomorrow?
It was a sleepless night.
My parents died when I was four years old. It was a car accident. The truck driver fell asleep at the wheel and hit our car. I was only four years old, and I was the only one who survived the accident where our car was half destroyed. From that time on, my grandmother, who raised me, always scolded me for killing my parents.
Even though I had done nothing wrong, she did anyway. Her outbursts led to assaults, and my body was constantly scarred. Perhaps because of my dark mood and scars, my classmates kept me away from them. A gloomy child. That was the way others looked at me. After my grandmother died when I was 18, I lived on my own. Aside from becoming friends with Jiwoo, whom I met by chance at work, there was no one else by my side.
I just felt like that. There was no point in living. I didn’t have any aspirations to achieve anything or any particular goal I wanted to have, and it was hard to take care of a single body. I spent more and more time at home, and more and more days were filled with depression, and I lost the will to live. I wondered if I had a thirst for life in the first place. I didn’t want to do anything. I dreaded the mornings that came every day, and I was anxious for the day to end. With each day I fell deeper and deeper into the abyss. So I decided, for the first time in my life, to do exactly what I wanted to do. I had never done anything I wanted, and I could never overcome the great impulse that was approaching me. So I tried to kill myself, twice.
No, it was more like one failure and one success. It was safe to say that it was a success in the end. I got out of a place I was sick of. But that didn’t mean that I wanted to enter the world of the novel.
The door opened a moment later.
“You’re up early.”
It was Erdos. It wasn’t often that he came in the morning, so I was curious and looked at him. He pulled out something as he sat on the bedside chair. It was a book, covered with soft leather. “Snow White Princess and the Seven Dwarves.” It was the very book that Leav had tried and failed to read yesterday.
“A long time ago, there lived a beautiful queen…..”
He opened the book to the first page with a lean motion and began to read in a leisurely tone. Perhaps because it was morning and he sounded more relaxed than usual. However, it was boring. Why was he here..? I wondered. Perhaps he couldn’t see my bewildered expression, but after reading for a while, he seemed troubled and stopped reading. Then, after a moment, he continued his story.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”
He sounded like he’d murder someone.
“…… The queen is the most beautiful in the world, but I can’t stand her. Who the hell is going to read this? I’ll have the head of the teacher that recommended this book.”
Perhaps he read it as a child. He spat fiercely to himself, as if he thought I had the spirit of an ordinary baby. Then, he flipped through the book with a furrowed brow and put it down quickly on the table, roughly stroking his hair.
Through the window, his hair glistened in the sunlight, shining like a jewel. His exposed eyes looked more transparent than usual, and the long eyelashes shadowed them.
“Rosie, you’re not having fun, are you? Should we go for a walk before dinner?”
He raised his head quickly and asked calmly. It was a question that I could not answer, so I had no choice but to comply. Though I thought it was a hundred times better to take a walk and enjoy the fresh morning air than to listen to a fairy tale reading that I knew what it was all about anyway.
Erdos, who took away the brush Melissa was trying to give me and carefully put it around me, held me up with one hand as usual.
“Oh! My sister! Are you awake?”
It was a moment later Eryte jumped in as the door swung open.