Chapter 1. Prologue
Eryte’s loud voice seemed to echo the room. Nanuk leaned down and kissed me softly on the forehead. He got out of bed and opened the door. Then he said in a stern voice,
“Eryte, the way you’re shouting, you’re going to have your class extended.”
“Oh, no…No, it’s not that. It’s Rosiane.”
Nanuk quietly walked over and showed Eryte that I was sitting on the bed.
“Why is Rosie here? Did she sleep here?”
He asked with a very serious face, probably wondering why I was in Nanuk’s room.
“Why didn’t you call me! I wanted to hang out with Rosie all night too!”
He did not. He was just being stubborn. He was panting like an angry bull which reminded Nanuk to make sure to call him next time.
“Well, if it ever happens again, I will.”
Nanuk said half-heartedly, but Eryte seemed satisfied and ran off. I didn’t need to look to know that he was probably going to some place like a performance hall.
Seeing that Eryte was gone, Nanuk closed the door and walked up to me. A look of incomprehensible dread crossed his face for a moment. I widened my eyes, sweating. They weren’t bad people, so I didn’t know the standard of mediocrity, and fortunately, they didn’t seem to think what I said was strange, but it didn’t feel right.
“Yes, you know Rosie?”
Unlike when he spoke to Eryte, I was surprised by his soft tone.
I hesitated and called out his name. Nanuk smiled contentedly and caressed my hair.
“Why on earth?”
The edge of the wooden table caught in Erdos’ grasp, fell away. The table legs which had now turned to dust, collapsed with a loud clatter. Looking at the flimsy broken table, Erdos quickly lifted his head, angrily.
“Why did she say your name before mine?”
His burning gaze was fixed on Nanuk.
It was a little crazy, but I’d call it jealousy.
“I think she liked me best.” Nanuk replied.
As if lava was coming out of the mighty volcano, Erdos gulped down the water that the maid brought him. Then he turned his gaze toward me. If he could kill someone with his gaze, I probably would have died. It was such an intense gaze. I tensed up, clenched my fists, and stared at him.
“You’re a good girl, Rosie. Why don’t you call father?”
I felt a strange sense of deja vu.
“When a man just breaks the table and shows a face like that to a child, she might get scared.”
Nanuk spoke in an impatient voice as I sat on the sofa swinging my little legs. Perhaps because he was right, Erdos did not answer.
“Rosiane! It’s me, Eryte! Eryte!”
“Rosiane, you haven’t forgotten your brother’s name, have you? It’s Bernique.”
“Sister, I’m Leav. Do you remember the name?”
The crowd of kids around me was saying what they wanted me to say, but I couldn’t say anything back. The incident started during tea time, because Nanuk suddenly started bragging and boasting about how I had called his name.
As a result, the parlor became a mess. The broken teacups and overflowing drinks under the shattered table ruined the carpet, and all the voices were talking at once.
It was so crowded and noisy that I commented on what I thought. My cold words brought everyone’s movements to a halt. Their complexion looked even worse than when Erdos broke the table earlier. I could easily predict that my expression was probably not much different from theirs. They were probably angry.
Eryte exclaimed as he squeezed my cheeks. Bernique and Leav also screamed. Then silence descended again. I was a little perplexed by their unexpected response. I turned away, pretending to ignore their stares.
“Rosie ignored me….whoa…!”
Erdos’s hand landed on Eryte’s head as he was about to shout again. Is it okay to hit someone on the head with a fist that can also break the table? At that moment, the door opened and the imperial doctor walked in.
As soon as he heard the news that I finally talked, Erdos called him. Thanks to that, the commotion subsided. The room was such a mess that we had to move to another parlor.
“So the Princess spoke…?”
“Yes. ‘Noisy’ was exactly what she said.”
It made me laugh that Erdos didn’t mention that I said Nanuk’s name first.
The doctor lifted his streaming glasses and asked, “Did she use that word in the right place?”
Erdos looked at him for a moment and answered.
Then the doctor shouted with great enthusiasm.
“Princess is a genius! For someone who hasn’t been awake for half a year to figure out a word that fits the situation!”
That made me laugh. When a 25 years old entered the body of a 9 year old, the word “genius” indeed sounded funny. However, that wasn’t a problem. The problem was that these Imperial people were amused at whatever the Princess did. I thought I could probably hit someone with my fist and they would think it’s amusing.
“She’s my daughter. It’s natural that she’s smart.”
The doctor lightly ignored the emperor’s remark and tilted his head as if he was thinking of something. Then he said cautiously,
“By the way….with all due respect, who was the one who said ‘noisy’ in front of the princess?”
Erdos asked back, as if he didn’t understand.
“A child learns language by hearing. Therefore, she cannot say the word unless she heard it from someone.”
Erdos stopped talking. Then Leav spoke.
“His Majesty tells us every day that we are too noisy, she must have learned it from that.”
“Please be more careful in the future. If the Princess uses “rough words and deeds,” won’t that be a big problem?”
The doctor looked at Eryte when he used the term “rough words and deeds”. I was sure that Eryte was the only one who did not feel that look.
“You heard the doctor. Use only correct and beautiful words in front of Rosie from now on. Now get out.”
Erdos quickly cleared up the situation and ordered everyone to leave.
“I haven’t heard her say my name yet,” the children said as they were leaving.
“Rosiane is tired. Let’s leave.”
Rather than tired, I was a bit distracted. When the children grumbled and went out, the silence fell in the parlor. I picked up a madeleine cake and put it in my mouth. It melted like butter as soon as I took a bite. The added lemon flavor gave it a slightly refreshing aftertaste, and I could eat a lot and never get tired of it. It was my favorite snack at tea time.
“Is it good, Rosie?”
Erdos asked me, looking even sadder. With a face like a sculpture made of ice, it felt like he was dressing in ill-fitting clothes. I took one of the madeleines and handed it to Erdos. His eyes widened and he said,
“Are you giving it to father?”
He emphasized the word ‘father’, but I overlooked it without much ado and nodded, and he reached out a trembling hand toward me. He took the cake with a look of great emotion.
In the end, Erdos, the iron-blooded emperor, was just “the general of the four ruffians and his daughter’s fool”. His entourage would probably be stunned if they saw him like this.
In the novel, he was originally described as cold-blooded, but after the death of Rosie, he became even more serious. He was a man who always looked unmoved without any emotional expression, but it was strange to see him like this. Indeed, his love for his daughter was exceptional, as evidenced by the fact that he moved Rosie Palace to the empty Hecateon Palace. (The former Empress’s palace).
However, he was unable to make eye contact with his daughter even once… For some strange reason, he stopped his hand and spoke emotionally.
“Father is very happy. You must be an angel to pick up treats for father.”
I guess what I felt earlier wasn’t an illusion.
Erdos must desperately want to hear the word ‘father’. I lowered my head and popped the rest of the madeleine into my mouth. The word ‘father’ was one I had never uttered before. Though I had called it inwardly, asking why he left me behind.
Names like Nanuk, Eryte, Bernique, and Leav were easy to call. They were just names. But the words ‘father’ and ‘brother’ were different.
Will there ever be a day when I would really think of Erdos as my father and call him that? It was a mystery at the moment.
That evening, I had a visitor in my room, Bernique.
He approached me with a somewhat sullen look on his face, one hand folded behind his back, hiding something. When I looked at him curiously, he held it out to me with a flick of his hand.
“Rosiane, brother made this for you.”
I accepted the gift and looked at the small pile of things on top of the fancy wrapping paper.
“Hurry up and open it.”
Bernique urged me with a very expectant look in his eyes. When the wrapping paper was removed, a palm-sized black box was revealed. The vine pattern was engraved on the corners, giving it a very luxurious appearance.
What is this? I opened the lid with trembling hands, and found a stack of flashcards inside it. I closed my eyes and opened them again. Did I see it wrong? But I wasn’t mistaken, the cards with the words and pictures were still in my hand.
“The class was boring, so I made them.”
He blushed with a proud expression.
Umm, I somehow had to say thank you….I frowned and stared at the cards.
The top card showed a boy with red hair and kind eyes, and the word ‘Bernique’ was written in elegant handwriting below it.
That’s right. He had made the card, even drawing it himself, in order to imprint his name in me. I stared at the card, wondering what expression I should make.
“Rosie can’t read yet, but I think you can learn from this. Here’s what it says: Ber-ni-que.”
He quickly added.
“Bernique is my name. I want you to call me by my name.”
My heart ached at the sight of him with a hopeful look on his face. The way he spoke with his pink cheeks was so lovely, but why did I feel so painful? Perhaps because the real ‘Rosiane’ could never call him by his name.