Act 6; A Black Rainbow
It was none other than the Imperial Palace where the knights who found us that day immediately led us to secretly without being noticed.
The chapel within the bell tower and the main mansion were far away, and it was April Fool’s Day, so the guests who attended the banquet would not have guessed exactly what happened while they were playing around.
I later heard from Lettis and Benya that the situation was roughly as follows;
As I remembered from the novel, it was said that the Serpente children went to study abroad – at the royal academy of Przeya.
These were the children of Serpente who did not know anyone on the Ecliptic, in addition, the mystery of why they went so suddenly was solved with the excuse of fleeing in the middle of the epidemic the year before last.
The first to person to have doubts about the status of the duchy of Serpente was Assad di Romena de Avalona, the eldest son of the emperor and the crown prince of the empire. Although he was still young, he was known for his excellent political sense and insight for people. He was the male lead of the original work.
It was not known what caused him to show such sense anyway, but it was said that the crown prince suddenly ordered a tax investigation to most Serpente-related businesses, including Python Bank, and there was a big fuss.
The imperial finances, which were destroyed by the shoveling of the two generations of the former and the current emperor, had a considerable debt to Python Bank, and to make matters worse, the reputation of the emperor had fallen quite low due to the epidemic. No matter how direct the order had been from the crown prince, it could not have been obeyed.
In the end, the large-scale tax investigation wasn’t carried out, but he was successfully able to raise suspicion around the situation of the Python bank.
For example, the young duke studying in Przeya suddenly redistributed his shares to his relatives, or the most unpopular of the dead duke’s brothers, the Viscount Eppolit, moved his residence to the imperial capital and began to engage in all kinds of businesses…
The crown prince secretly cooperated with the knights of Python to send an auditor to Przeya, but found out that the brothers and sister had asked for a visiting class system due to apparent deterioration of their health.
The brothers and sisters were staying at a villa owned by the Serpentes in the capital of Przeya. To be exact, actors who had a similar appearance to them were living there.
So while we were trapped in the tower, there were stand-ins in Przeya. I couldn’t even imagine he’d planned that.
If we had died in the middle of everything, they would have come back after about ten years – pretending they were the real ones and would live according to the wishes of the relatives. Your childhood appearance can change with time as you grow up.
There were still unanswered questions. If things went this way in the original, and we were freed, what kind of variables did we achieve to move ahead of months this time?
And how did the knights who sought us out with the crown prince realize we were confined to the tower?
“How long has it been since she started coughing?”
“It’s been about a month and a half.”
“Did she have any other symptoms? Fever, vomiting, and stomachache.”
Upon arrival at the Imperial Palace, Lettis and Benya were immediately taken to the main palace, and I was under the guidance and care of the Imperial Palace with Estelle, who was excited and conscious.
When I faced a real lawmaker and a member of the royal family, I had a hard time facing reality. The royal courtier, who looked solemn and had on a delicate expression, asked me a few more similar questions and called out assistants and sent me out. It seemed unusual, so I kept feeling nervous.
“I’ve prepared a meal. Are you hungry?”
“Oh, look, I’m just the princess’s nanny. I mean…….”
“That’s all right. Don’t be scared and come here.”
I was all anxious and confused because I didn’t know how things were going, but everyone in the palace was surprisingly kind.
The kindness of strangers, if it was the me from the past, I would have just been embarrassed, but now I had doubts about what they were up to.
I was led to a small and gorgeous room separate from my brothers and sisters’ and ate alone. It was a fascinatingly appetizing dinner, which I had not experienced in a long time, but I couldn’t seem to taste anything because I was still so puzzled. Everything just felt like an April Fool’s joke.
At last we were able to reunite again by the time it was dark and late at night.
When Lettis and Benya entered, I was sitting beside Estelle, who was fast asleep, waiting eagerly. I didn’t know exactly who or what I was waiting for.
The haggard, grave-faced boys came into the view of my blankly raised eyes. For some reason, I couldn’t say anything at the moment. The two came quietly and sat close to me.
There was a moment of silence. While all of us seemed to be looking at each other but not being able to open our mouths easily, Lettis, who silently looked sideways at Estelle’s sleeping face, opened up first.
“What did the courtiers say?”
“……I haven’t heard anything yet. I asked, but he didn’t give me a detailed answer.”
“Have you eaten?”
“Yes. What about you and Benya?”
“We did, too.”
Then I was able to hear the whole story, which I mentioned earlier. I just listened in raptures while the two of them took turns talking. I got goosebumps when I heard about the stand-ins living in Przeya.
“Did they really have to use substitutes?”
“We were just as surprised as you were. They were similar in appearance, had their hair dyed, took home-visiting classes, and did not go out with students from the academy. So no one found out.”
I tried to ask how much the person who pretended to be me looked like me, but refrained because it seemed like a silly question. They couldn’t have met our “counterparts”.
Oh my god, a stand-in. I couldn’t imagine how meticulously they had prepared everything, down to the very appearances. I’m sure it was planned long before they locked us up earnestly.
“but how did they find out? That… we were trapped there?”
“Your Highness the Crown Prince?”
It was then that an unexpected figure appeared. I, too, looked back at the door, following Lettis’ exclamation.
Then I was caught in a panic. Gods, no, why the hell are you coming out of there?!
……Ah, this is your house.
Under the chandelier lights, soft golden hair shined palely. I hurriedly bowed my head in front of the beautiful young man staring at me with his dark purple gaze and wished my body would disappear inside the floor.
God, why didn’t I think of that? I didn’t know we’d be reunited like this!
……No, it wasn’t exactly a reunion. Yes, he just pretended he didn’t see me back then and just left.
“I, your Highness…….”
As soon as I hurriedly opened my mouth and tried to get my act together, he also opened his mouth. To be exact, he seemed to tilt his head a little to one side and suddenly said this.
“You’re just the way you used to be.”
The blood drained from my face seemed to be visible now. What do you mean? Old acquaintances? Did you really see me back then?
“Have you ever met Sasha?”
The crown prince frowned slightly at Lettis’ question. Then he replied.
“What, you forgot? You introduced her to me like she was your cute younger sister. It’s already been five years since then.”
“I asked him if I could say hello to you, but he is so impudent that he coldly refused.”
……Aha, did that happen? As I stared, Lettis turned a blind eye to my interrogative gaze, all red like a ripe tomato. Benya was just looking at us alternately with an unexpectedly subdued stare.
Phew, I’m glad you didn’t see me then anyway. Honestly, it’s not a big deal to say I saw him, but I might be blamed for forgetting that I met the crown prince.
Anyway, the crown prince, who I saw after a long time(?), seemed to have become more handsome. he felt more mature than before. He said he’s two years older than Lettis, so I think he’s about 19.
This young prince is our savior.….
“Well, I had a little talk with the imperial palace.”
“……the princess seems to have pneumonia.”
For a moment, it seemed like ice water had been poured on top of my head. The purple gaze seemed to carefully scan our bloodless faces one by one, and soon stayed in Lettis’ open eyes.
“I have told them to do everything they can, so we’d have to wait and see. But it is best to be prepared just in case.”
It felt like a thunderbolt that somehow came out of the blue. Hey, prince! What the hell are you talking about? You’re telling us to prepare ourselves? I can’t believe our Estelle has pneumonia.
Nevertheless, it was a natural result in a way. Estelle has always been weak. In addition, considering the confined life in that cramped space, which could be ventilated, the duration of the struggle in the poor environment, and the lack of a nutritional diet, it was enough to happen.
I didn’t realize that maybe I had already guessed it unconsciously.
I may have been trying to deny it on purpose and comfort myself that it was just the symptoms of a cold. Even so…
……No, Estelle will be alright. You didn’t die in there; you came out alive. We came out months earlier than before. This time again, the variables will definitely change. Everything will be different from the original…….
“And, Lettis, you must go into treatment right away. It’ll be a big problem if the metastasis has already begun.”
And Lettis’ eyes. So many things had changed from the original, so it was not impossible for Estelle will live. Yes, Estelle will get through it. My baby sister will surely overcome…….
After Lettis and the Crown Prince left, the rest of us sat by Estelle’s side in silence. Neither Benya nor I could bear to speak, but I was drawing all the worst things in my head.
Benya’s hand held my hand tightly while I was struggling to swallow the tears that kept soaring.
It was then that Estelle, who was sleeping like the dead, exhaled breathlessly, looked this way with a cough.
The beautiful sky-blue eyes looked back at her brother and the young nanny with a hazy light as if she were wandering in a dream.
“……where are we?”
“It’s the Imperial Palace.”
Benya replied instead of me, who couldn’t open my mouth. It was a voice that sounded dry as if trying to be calm.
“The Imperial Palace…”
“Is the prince here to save us?”
And they lived happily ever after. It was the story of Rapunzel – one I told her dozens of times in the tower.
Estelle looked away from Benya, who had no answer and turned to me. Perhaps something magical had happened, since a broad smile spread on her sunny face.
“Sing me a lullaby, Sasha. I’ll go to bed quickly and get well soon.”
There’s a saying that sleep is the best medicine. Yes, sleep was the only prescription for us while we were trapped inside the bell tower. During my sleep, I didn’t feel sick, I didn’t feel pain, I didn’t know if a day or month had passed.
I clasped Estelle’s hand, trying to shake off the pernicious idea that was sticking tenaciously. And sang her favorite lullaby. It was more of a prayer than a lullaby.
Mom….I miss you mom. Duke, Duchess…. Please save Estelle. We barely managed to escape from that terrible life, so please help us to enjoy only happiness and see only good things. Please let us live happily for a long time like the main characters in a fairy tale.
Was fate inevitable once decided? Unfortunately, we were not the main characters of this story. The variables that we tried so hard to think of as hope turned into black afterimages like a stove that burned and left behind only bitter soot.
Estelle suddenly died a mere two days after we left the bell tower. With her fourteenth birthday only half-a-month away, she went incredibly quietly, as if she were sleeping, despite her dry cough.
Lettis lost an eye forever. Even the best medical staff could not revive the already damaged eyeball. He would live with the deadliest handicap-physical disability a noble-man could have for the rest of his life.
* * *
On that indifferent spring day, a colorful rainbow hung over the clear sky when the spring rain stopped, Estelle was buried by her parents’ grave. The official cause of death was pneumonia, but the reality was closer to murder.
After I left Estelle, I was enraptured for a while. Maybe because I wanted to deny reality, I seemed to be seeing hallucinations and had gone insane.
Benya once found me humming a lullaby in the middle of the night. It was only later that I found out about it, but at that time, they were afraid that I would follow Estelle and went crazy too.
No matter how hard I tried to deny it, I had no choice but to admit it in the end. The fact that Estelle was no longer here, and that my baby sister, my lovely lady, will never be seen again. The fact that those who contributed to her death will pay no price.
It was the order of the emperor. The decision was made in consideration of concerns over the expansion of similar crimes and the loss of Serpente’s honor, as it would’ve caused a great stir if known to the public that the Serpente brothers and sisters had spent nearly two years imprisoned.
In the long run, it could not be denied that it would be good for us too if the truth wasn’t known. Since it was the royal family that restored us to our original positions, we owed a considerable debt to them.
In any case, Lettis and Benya agreed, and they did not refuse to make it seem like they had just returned from studying abroad. The vermin that did those things to their nephews and niece only had to return to the countryside and pretend as if nothing happened.
The only people who knew the truth would be us, the emperor, the crown prince, the Serpente vassals, the subjects of the incident, and the Knights of Python, who came to find us in person that day.
It goes without saying that the guards who used to act like our owners had already been executed. There were other people who needed to die more than them, so it was ridiculous.
At the end of spring, when the warm and blue sky ripened deeper and the season of passion and festivals was approaching, I boarded a ship leaving the empire at the port of Valencia.
It was to go to vibrato. One day, just as I had asked for while lying down at the dark and dirty library floor, I went to a school for the first time.
Sponsored by the Python foundation, it was an international academy that anyone could attend as long as they had the money.
“In the end, studying abroad did become a reality, although it’s ironic you’re the only one that’s going.”
Lettis became a duke at the age of seventeen and was very busy, so Benya came to see me off.
The silver-gray hair that had grown was now neatly arranged, and his body, which had also grown, was wrapped in fine clothes that fit perfectly. The memory of the bell-tower seemed as perfectly far away as a dream.
“How do you feel?”
“……I honestly don’t know. I’m just nervous. I’m wondering If I’m able to do this.”
“You said it was your wish. Don’t you remember? Since your wish came true, enjoy it as much as you want. Don’t come up with bad ideas.”
It was a soft, calm voice. His pale blue eyes, like the cold winter sky, slowly scanned my hair, face, the newly tailored velvet dress and industrial shoes one by one. It was felt like he was trying to preserve my current appearance in his eyes.
“The same goes for you. Don’t come up with bad ideas, eat a lot of delicious food and study hard. I don’t want to have a master who’s not smarter than me.”
He laughed as I answered back playfully. it was a mischievous smile, as cheerful as when he was still a child.
“Oh, yes. I’ll try my best not to be an ugly and dumb aristocrat who asks the intelligent Confucian Duke to do this and take care of that. I think he’ll still do it, though.”
“He doesn’t seem to have much time to sleep. What if he dies from overwork without me?”
“I’d be happy if he did. Then I’d get to inherit everything and take over.”
The sea breeze blew our hair as it danced on our faces. It was time to get on the boat, but my feet didn’t move easily. Passengers passing by were looking at us, giving us a strange look.
I hesitated to open my mouth, straining my hands holding the trunk. I thought my tears had already dried up, but somehow my voice trembled as if I were about to burst into tears.
“We’ll see each other again, right?”
It was a silly question even to my ears. Benya responded with a smile to the silly question. Gloved rough hands gently touched my disheveled bangs.
“This is the best we can do. This place is too dangerous for you, and neither I nor you have the ability to protect anyone yet……. We’re just separating for a while until then. To make your wish come true,”
A commoner girl with deadly secrets of the Serpente family. Whether it was on the imperial side or on the relatives’ side, there were a lot of reasons to try to get rid of me.
And Lettis and Benya were still young. He was young and lost nearly two years of valuable time.
Furthermore, there were no adults to trust and rely on. We were all the same in that we could not trust anyone now, and it would not be easy to settle down in an aristocratic society overflowing with all kinds of demons from heaven and earth.
Nevertheless, I was able to leave because I knew that they would survive, grow more meticulous and stronger than anyone else, and that they would become crafty and skillful adults like a serpent.
A powerful boat horn rang through the songs of the quacking seagulls. Now I really had to go.
“I’ll write to you. Take care.”
“Be careful of seasickness.”
That was it. I hesitated and then turned, clasped my trunk and ran up the stairs leading up to the ship. The crowd was huge as it was a large passenger ship.
This reminds me of the movie I watched in my previous life. I think it was Titanic…
My room was first class. An exclusive area for the nobility. When we all went to vibrato in the past because of Estelle, I stayed in a third-class room with my mother. Should I say this is a success in my life career?
“Welcome aboard the Viento, Lady. I’ll take your luggage.”
After handing over the trunk to a seafarer that had a languishing impression, I looked around the port for the last time before heading to the first-class cabin. Benya was still standing there looking up at me.
In the end, I smiled and waved my hand as hard as I could. He also waved his hand.
That was the last time we saw each other for the next seven years.
I have decided to forgo sticking with the kakao chapters and will use the raws which use volume system instead of by chapter. that means that nothing will change for you of course but the chapters will be longer than the ones in kakao.