Author: rolypoly

As the person with the dark hood turned towards her, Brielle couldn’t see the person’s face, but she could tell a few things. 

 

That the other person is a woman.

 

And that she is a very high-ranking nobleman.

 

Brielle came to this conclusion based on the sound of the approaching footsteps. 

 

The graceful steps treading the forest path, even in the pouring rain, undoubtedly reflect the outcome of rigorous training over many years.

 

The approaching figure finally lowered the hood slowly. Even in the dim light, the distinct scarlet hair became vividly apparent. 

 

“…Your Highness.”

 

Surprisingly, it was Devina Saphers. 

 

She’s the second most powerful woman in this kingdom.

 

Brielle thought maybe she had seen it wrong.

 

Even if she tried to kill her, there was no way she would show up at the scene of the murder.

 

At least in Brielle’s opinion, all nobles were like that. Although they were the ones doing the trick, they left all the dirty work to those they paid with money and never took the initiative themselves. 

 

“I’m sorry, Duchess Sheridan.” 

 

Devina smiled brightly and came right in front of the carriage. She had a friendly voice, as if they had met each other at a leisurely tea party. 

 

“It looks like my messengers treated you roughly. Right?” 

 

She extended her hand into the carriage. 

 

It looked like she was trying to help Brielle get off the floor and sit on the chair. 

 

‘What… should I do?’

 

Brielle looked warily at her white hand reaching out to her. 

 

What on earth is the Queen’s intention? 

 

It’s unclear why the noble queen of the royal court would harbor such intentions towards Brielle, a lowly maid, leading her to end up in a place like this…

 

‘…Because of the Duke?’

 

For a moment, such thoughts crossed her mind. 

 

Brielle was still concerned about the fact that she was Maximilian’s former fiancée. 

 

Even though she was aware that Maximilian had never shown interest in that engagement.

 

After all, wasn’t she her first fiancee?

 

She thought that alone was meaningful.

 

‘Maybe Her Highness the Queen…?’

 

But it was also strange. 

 

Even if she harbored lingering feelings for Maximilian, there was nothing to gain in this situation.

 

“Duchess, are you going to embarrass me?” 

 

Devina, who spoke in a rather sharp voice, reached out her hand and forcibly grabbed Brielle’s wrist.

 

“…!”

 

Brielle tried to resist it, but in an instant, she found herself being forcefully pulled outside the carriage by a strong force. 

 

The cold rain started to hit her all over, and she soon found herself rolling from her shoulders down from the carriage window to the ground. 

 

Even at this moment, Brielle unconsciously hugged her stomach with both arms.

 

It was truly an instinctive action, without the slightest thought.

 

Between the sound of rain filling her ears, Devina’s suppressed laughter and muttering was heard.

 

“…On the subject of fraudsters.”

 

That… 

 

Long ago, it used to be what Brielle called herself. 

 

Now that she has shared the whole truth with Maximilian, she forgot about it for a while. 

 

“As expected, there is no answer. That’s not Max’s child, right?” 

 

“…Yes?!”

 

Brielle, taken aback by the unexpected story, barely lifted her head to look at Devina.

 

“Your expression says it all. How did I find out?” 

 

“No, I am.”

 

“I… know, because.” 

 

Devina bent her knees and made eye contact with Brielle at close range.

 

“I would have done the same. To maintain my position… no matter whose child it is.”

 

“It’s not like that! Never like that…!”

 

“Pretending to bear your husband’s child is quite simple. After all, who would dare doubt the virtue of a duchess? Don’t you agree?” 

 

Devina smiled sadly as she pulled on Brielle’s collar.

 

“Don’t worry. Max will never know. Max…” 

 

Her voice, which had always been full of anger, became surprisingly soft and sweet when talking about Maximilian.

 

Just from that tone, Brielle knew that her assumptions weren’t entirely wrong. 

 

“…He can’t bear it if he finds out about Cici’s betrayal.” 

 

Brielle lowered her gaze for a moment and asked back what she muttered. 

 

“Cici..?”

 

“Yes, Maximilian’s… real fiancée.” 

 

What is she talking about?

 

As the real fiancée, Brielle stared at Devina with narrowed eyes in disbelief.

 

“I thought she was dead. Everyone believed that… quite fortunate, isn’t it? Don’t you think so?” 

 

Her green eyes as she stared at Brielle became mysterious.

 

Little by little, she seemed to be losing her senses.

 

“W, what are you talking about…” 

 

“What am I talking about?”

 

Before she knew it, Devina had a dagger in her hand. The sharp tip was pointed at the nape of Brielle’s neck. 

 

“I don’t trust anyone.”

 

The tip of the sword held in her trembling hand was also shaking constantly.

 

The clumsy cut of the knife left a red mark on her white nape.

 

“I won’t leave it to anyone, I will do it for sure. With my own hands, never again…!”

 

Her voice grew increasingly intense. 

 

“I will never let you stop me again!”

 

And Devina raised one arm high.

 

It probably happened in an instant, but somehow it seemed very slow to Brielle’s eyes.

 

That wasn’t all.

 

Before he knew it, she couldn’t even feel the rain hitting her face. Her body, previously trembling with cold and fear, surprisingly calmed down.

 

The tip of her sword got closer and closer.

 

Even with that distance of life left behind, Brielle felt like she was a few steps away from her current reality.

 

What on earth is this feeling of discomfort?

 

“You with my hands…”

 

Devina opened her mouth again.

 

Unlike before, it was almost a whisper, almost without sound.

 

“I will kill you.”

 

Brielle was familiar… with that lip movement. 

 

‘Familiar…with it?’

 

It was true that she had frequently heard such cruel words during her time as a maid in the Count’s territory.

 

However, the intensity of the atmosphere was never this thick back then.

 

‘This…is not a memory from when I was at the Count’s house.’

 

Much longer ago than that.

 

The pitch-black area she typically avoided by saying ‘I don’t know’ now stirred freshly in her mind.

 

「I must…kill you with my own hands.」

 

The man in pitch black clothes said so.

 

It was winter, and it was a forest.

 

Brielle didn’t have any proper clothes, so she was looking at him in her pajamas and a blanket wrapped around her. 

 

Even though she was told he was going to kill her, she wasn’t that scared, which was…

 

This was because the man had a deep wound on his leg.

 

Brielle cried because she was worried about the deep wounds that were visible through the torn clothes.

 

「…Sir, does it hurt?」

 

The man wasn’t a knight.

 

However, that’s something she only knows now as an adult looking back.

 

Young children were more accustomed to calling adults holding weapons ‘Sir’. 

 

「…!」

 

The man is startled by the unexpected words.

 

「I don’t want you to be sick….」 

 

Brielle unfolded the hand clutching the blanket, gently hugged his painful leg. 

 

「You know, Dad says it doesn’t hurt when Cici hugs him.」

 

Then, the man lowered the tip of his sword onto the face of the child who was looking up with a bright smile.

 

But it didn’t last long.

 

Silently slipping out of his hand, the black dagger fell onto the white snow with a soft thud.

 

「You….」 

 

The man forcibly dropped the child who was hugging his legs and grabbed both of the child’s shoulders.

 

「Do you want… to live?」 

 

As it was such a natural matter for a child, Brielle… No, Cici nodded her head.

 

Perhaps because of her innocent appearance, the man laughed for a moment as if he were dumbfounded. 

 

「Damn it, me too.」 

 

He picked up the fallen sword and cut off the child’s long hair. The blood on his hands quickly turned her silver hair red. 

 

「…Listen carefully, little lady.」

 

He grabbed the child’s body and dragged it in front of him.

 

「This is a hunting ground for wild beasts, and soon enough, hungry beasts that smell blood will follow you.」

 

The pure white breath he exhaled touched Cici’s face without stopping. The child couldn’t answer anything. 

 

「Do you understand? Damn it, even if I don’t get my hands dirty, the kid will never survive here! You’re going to die anyway!」

 

For some reason, it seemed like he was saying it to convince himself. 

 

In the face of the belatedly surging fear, Cici nodded her head gently. 

 

The man lowered his head for a moment.

 

And then silence came.

 

The sky was so quiet as the snow fell that the sound of it falling could be heard clearly.

 

「…Still.」 

 

After a long pause, he opened his mouth and exerted a bit more strength in the hand holding Cici.

 

「If only you were alive.」

 

「….」

 

「If you meet someone.」

 

The man lifted his gaze. The eye contact upon meeting again was incredibly earnest, as if he were genuinely wishing for something.

 

「Please ask them to help you. And… Tell them you don’t know anything.」 

 

「…Sir.」 

 

「You don’t know your name… or your parents.」

 

Cici shook her head.

 

She couldn’t forget her name and family. Therefore, saying she didn’t know would be a lie.

 

「B, but… They say lying is bad. I will get scold.」

 

「If you don’t do that, you will die… No.」

 

He stroked Cici’s short hair and spoke again. 

 

「I will die first.」

 

「….!」

 

「So, little lady.」 

 

「D, don’t say anything!」

 

The child, with a small hand covering his mouth, quickly replied. It was to reassure the man who had intended to kill them. 

 

「I don’t know anything. I won’t let you die!」

 

When she shouted that, there was a feeling of something moving in the nearby grass.

 

Somehow, a shiver ran through her entire body, as if…

 

「It seems it was closer than I thought. Have they already smelled blood?」

 

The man who muttered this adjusted his sword again and stood in front of Cici.

 

「…Sir.」

 

「Little lady, did you promise?」

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