”You do not need to go if you do not want to. Your father is not so weak as to be unable to decline an offer from the duke. ”
”It is my wish to go, father. ”
”Ha… all right. But under one condition. Take a maid with you. I may have publicly stated that I am of neutral standing regarding the missing Duchess, but I can not chance you being harmed on Evelyns domain. ”
”Do not worry father. Nothing of the sort will happen. ”
This was the conversation between he count and his daughter in the original story. Two minor characters who were only mentioned to act as plot armour for the dukes future failings.
After Princess Ciellas escape, the Evelyn duchy was in disarray. Without the duchess around to manage internal affairs, the duke was forced to take in a secretary. And that position was offered to none other than the eldest daughter of his greatest ally. However, that alliance was short lived, because for unknown reasons, the people of the duchy chose to commit heinous crimes against the newcomers. Crimes which made even Duke Evelyns blood run cold.
I did not pay any mind to this part of the story. The death of an unnamed counts maid was simply a necessary plot point. This incident would be the catalyst for the dukes delay in finding Ciella. Because Duke Evelyn would now spend the next six months trying to subdue the fire his greatest ally had lit under him.
The unnamed count. He was a kind man with a neutral stance on most affairs, and as he had grown up with the dukes late father, he soon became the Evelyns greatest political ally. Despite his lower status, the counts kind disposition and fair rulings caused him to become the most liked noble in the empire. So, when it came to choosing sides during the murder incident, many chose to follow the counts lead, as this was his first time strongly condemning something. Thus, with Duke Evelyns support dwindling, his wife missing, and no one to manage his internal affairs, he slowly lost his ability to keep sane.
That death was the reason there was even a story to tell. What do I do? This was one of the plot points I swore I would not change. Argh! Had I known that those two minor characters were my own father and sister then-
With a million thoughts running through my mind, I paced down the half-lit hallway.
Should I just tell father to decline Duke Evelyns offer outright? No. That would stop the killing from taking place. Without that event, Arseno and Ciella would get caught immediately. No… what am I thinking? The life of a little girl hangs in the balance! I can not just throw it away for a lovers quest! But… is this right? What if she is a secret villain or something! Then again… what could a thirteen-year-old girl possibly have done to deserve such a terrible end?
My scream echoed down the hallway as I slumped onto the ground. I had told Count Alistair that Id think about it regarding taking that girl. But in actuality, I have no choice but to refuse. I would ruin absolutely everything if I prevented her death.
My heart started to pace rapidly. Why? Why did it have to be someone I know?! Now I feel like I am the one killing her…!
My already anxious heart started to beat even faster at that thought. I grabbed my hair in anguish, undoing Alices beautiful handiwork.
The hallway darkened. A cloud must have been passing by. It was passing inside my mind as well. I felt like all the hope I had at the beginning of this new life had now diminished into nothingness. Why did I think I could easily pick and choose how this story would play out? This is not a mere fairy-tale anymore. These are real people who are going to die because of my selfishness!
Unable to face the dilemma storming inside my mind, I buried my head in my hands.
”Big… bro? ”
Through the curtains of my now tangled bangs, I saw a figure standing in the distance. It was Max.
”What are you doing here Maximus? ” I asked in a tired voice.
He did not respond. Instead, he made a beeline for my stomach.
Did he just… sit on me???
Unfortunately, this was no trick of the mind. Max had pinned me down where I sat.
”Oi, oi, OI!! What do you think you are- mph!! ”
Just as quickly as he had restrained me, he had now started to explore my face. I could not see much because of all the hair in front of my eyes, but suddenly, they were brushed aside by the caress of a gentle hand. I could see Max properly now… and he was… crying?!
I fumbled my hands, trying to hold him still. I managed to grab his forearms and force him to face me. He… he really is crying…!
A dismal sight. The poor boy pursed his lips, but his attempt at switching off the waterworks was to no avail.
”H-hey now. Surely you are not upset about that scream from earlier, right? Ha, ha. I am sorry if I startled you Maximus. I just stubbed my toe against a flowerpot. You know how it is, right? ”
He shook his head profusely, flicking away his tears. Was that not it?
I wanted to say something comforting to him, but from the low angle I was at, I could not help but let my thoughts wander. Max… he looked like a prince.
With the sunbeams lighting his platinum blonde hair from behind, and his pale blue eyes glistening like stars, I could not help but admire how good looking he was. Even whilst crying, his face had retained its former glory.
How old was he again? Fifteen? I am certain he will get all the ladies once he is my age. Not that I was not a looker myself! I actually had quite the few-
”Big brother… you
e not truly leaving right? ”
Woah. It seems like Devon had taken my insult to heart. I would not be surprised if news of my meeting with father has reached the ears of the knights on patrol too…
With cold sweat dripping down my face, I forced a smile.
”It is… true. I will be leaving for Wisteria. You did not think I would stay here forever, right? ”
”No! You cannot go! Please do not go! We promised to always look out for each other! To protect each other when things got hard! How could you leave me like this?! ”
Ah… damn you old Kallius.
”Um… remind me of when I said that again? ”
Max pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his eyes. Once he finished, he faced me with a slight frown on his face.
”Brother. I know you do not like talking about this… but that incident was the reason we made this promise! I-I do not want you to get hurt again! Like you did in that accident… ”
Ah… two years ago. Gotcha.
I was getting tired of this farce. Alice, father, and now Max. Why are they all so fixated on Kalliuss past? Why does it even matter?
Not wanting to shove Max aside, I slowly started to shift his weight away from me to free myself from his grip. I was never an older sibling, so I had not the slightest idea this was a rooky mistake.
A maddening cry. I flinched when I heard it.
”AHHH!!! HIC- YOU- YOU HATE ME DONT YOU?! ”
Max had now fully embraced me and was weeping into my shoulder. I could feel the left side of my shirt starting to get wet. As he sat tightly hugging me, I let my arms fall, giving up on any hope of leaving this situation in peace.
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