She whispered, and from deep within her chest, a voice began to resonate.
[Whisper… Do not awaken the slumbering artifact.]
“Nebula, wake up quickly. This lazy one.”
Cecille exerted a little more force in her voice.
“We did it. We’ve gone back 20 years. So hurry up, fool.”
[…Huh, what did you say? Did we really succeed?]
The voice named Nebula woke up, taking a deep breath.
“Is that really true, Cecille? Did we really go back 20 years? I never knew we’d actually succeed. This feels like a dream come true!”
[Well, shall we begin then? You haven’t forgotten, have you? Our plan to conquer the world together! Now, the entire continent is practically at our feet!]
The identity of this voice was her dark magic artifact, Nebula.
Her rapid advancement in dark magic skills in such a short period of time was attributed to her innate mana affinity and control abilities, but the power of this artifact was substantial as well.
Nebula was a massive ring containing the condensed power of dark magic. She had acquired it by chance when she escaped from the palace before the regression.
If she hadn’t obtained Nebula back then, she surely would not have survived outside the palace and would have died.
“Yes, Nebula must be owed a lot. But…”
Cecille raised the corners of her mouth in a mocking smile.
“It’s about our plan to conquer the world.”
[Right! When do we plan to start? Tomorrow? In an hour? Maybe right now?]
In the darkness, Cecille’s eyes and teeth shone brightly as she twisted the corners of her mouth in a smile.
“It’s all canceled.”
[…What did you say? Are you serious?]
“Whether I’m serious or not.”
Cecille said resolutely.
“I’m no longer interested in world domination. All the plans we made back then are canceled. Oh, and I want to stop using your power now. Can you leave me? Is that possible?”
[No, how could you even ask that, Cecille! This is betrayal! Betrayal of our past ten years!]
While Nebula protested, Cecille’s smile grew colder and colder.
“What about the agony that felt like it was burning inside me for ten years? Who manipulated me into committing heinous acts through hallucinations? Who was responsible for that?”
In hindsight, all the pain, hallucinations, and abnormal obsession with Nebula had started after she obtained that cursed ring.
“It’s obvious now that it was because of Nebula’s magical power, although I never suspected Nebula as the cause before the regression. It’s all clear now that it’s out of influence.”
The pain, the hallucinations, the unhealthy obsession with Nebula—all of it had been caused by this cursed ring.
So, to Cecille, Nebula was nothing more than a troublemaker, and that was putting it mildly.
Nebula was left momentarily speechless by Cecille’s words, causing a great shock.
[C-Cecille, this body…]
“I’m not interested in your excuses. Just answer this. Can you leave my body? Can you?”
Nebula hesitated for a moment and then replied in an eerie voice.
[That… is impossible. This body has completely merged with your flesh. It was back then when I swallowed this body to prevent you from taking it from me…]
Because she had acquired the dangerous and precious dark magic artifact, Cecille had been pursued by various people for a long time.
The one who had tried to assassinate her had also committed such acts to take Nebula from her.
However, due to the magical influence, Cecille, who had an obsessive attachment to Nebula, had swallowed it just before she would have been killed to prevent it from being taken away.
Nebula, not an ordinary ring, had melted and fused with Cecille’s body when it entered her abdomen.
‘When I try to sense the flow of magic, it seems to be somewhere near my heart…’
Attempting to retrieve it was no easy task, and there was no guarantee that it could be extracted even if she tried.
‘Even though I’m currently free from Nebula’s influence, without knowing the cause, there’s no guarantee that its influence won’t return at any time.’
And she didn’t want to live like that again.
It was truly a life… worse than death.
Her body constantly felt like it was burning, and because it hurt, she loathed everything visible. The booming hallucinations made it impossible to distinguish right from wrong.
‘If Nebula’s influence touches me again, I’ll end up doing terrible things, and eventually, I’ll be brutally murdered as punishment. It won’t be any different from before the regression.’
The fact that she could return to that time at any moment made Cecille very uneasy.
Cecille remained silent for a while. Nebula watched her, then finally spoke.
[Cecille, are you okay? It’ll be fine. Don’t worry too much.]
[I truly regretted it back then. From now on, I’ll be as cautious as possible. How about reconsidering extracting me? Aren’t we the perfect team?]
Cecille had ignored Nebula’s persuasion but suddenly spoke.
[…! R-Really? You’re incredibly forgiving, Cecille. You’re still my best partner!]
“It’s okay. Even if I can’t find a way to remove you right now, I can start looking from now on. After all, I was the most powerful dark magician on the continent, and I won’t be unable to retrieve a ring from my own body.”
[That’s what you meant by ‘it’s okay’ in that direction…]
Nebula sulked, but Cecille nodded without caring. It wasn’t time to give up yet. She was sure she would find a way.
‘And… I must definitely get out of Nebula’s influence and live a different life this time.’
As a wicked and cruel dark magician, she had had enough of living a life pursued and fighting every day.
What Cecille desired now was simply peace.
A life where she wasn’t chased or tormented by anyone, a life where she didn’t have to fight for her survival. A life filled with love and being loved.
A normal and happy life.
‘I have no intention of revisiting world conquest or the cruel deeds of the past. They were wrong, but… if I were to commit such acts again, my life would be in jeopardy, naturally. Dreams are fleeting.’
Cecille considered herself far from being a moral or conscientious person. Perhaps it was inevitable due to the time she had spent as a dark magician.
The deeds she had committed in a half-mad state were just that, and yet, everything she had seen and heard for ten years was nothing but such things.
‘In situations where redemption is difficult or actions leave a bitter taste, I won’t hesitate to use any means to achieve my goals.’
Cecille’s violet eyes sank deep into the darkness.
‘I am a dark magician. Even though I’ve nullified time, I’ve committed unforgivable acts in abundance. There’s not even a speck of hope for salvation. I just want to live peacefully until I die.’
With that conclusion, Cecille… yawned widely and stretched.
“It’s difficult to stay awake late with an eight-year-old body after all. I should sleep.”
[That, that’s right! It’s a good idea. You should sleep when you’re tired.]
She lay down on the bed and snuggled into the blankets. The blanket, filled with goose feathers, was soft and smelled clean.
[Have sweet dreams, Cecille.]
The moment her head touched the pillow, Cecille drifted into a sweet slumber.
It had been a long time, a truly long time, since she had experienced such a deep and comfortable sleep.
* * *
The next day, Grand Duke Bartholomew instructed Anne to have Cecille fitted for new clothes.
Cecille had brought a few of her clothes and personal belongings from the palace, but they were all old and in very limited quantities. Even when combined, they didn’t fill more than one travel bag.
“Master has taken such good care of you; it’s really fortunate, Miss,” Anne said happily, as if it were her own business. “He has provided a generous budget, so it should be fine for you to have your clothing tailored at the most famous childrens’ tailor shop in Illiaz Family.”
Illiaz Family was a wealthy suburb of the capital, filled with the most luxurious clothing shops and restaurants.
However, contrary to Anne’s expectations, Cecille shook her head.
“I’d like to have my clothes tailored in Greenwich instead of Illiaz Family.”
“Greenwich? Are you sure?”
The tailoring shops in Greenwich weren’t bad, but of course, they couldn’t compare to Illiaz Family.
“Still, Miss, the tailoring shops in Illiaz Family are truly remarkable. Once you see the clothing there, I’m sure you’ll be very satisfied.”
Anne tried to persuade her again, but Cecille remained firm.
“I prefer Greenwich. Let’s go to Greenwich.”
‘And… while Illiaz Family’s tailoring shops aren’t bad, I still prefer Greenwich.’
The most luxurious tailoring shops in Greenwich had two advantages.
‘At this point, it’s best not to get involved with anything too high-profile. Spending money recklessly, without a clear understanding of how long I’ll be here, could raise suspicions. It’s possible that even this decision is a test in itself.’
Cecille didn’t want to do anything that might make her look bad in the eyes of the Duke, whether it was the Grand Duke himself or his subordinates.
‘Moreover… This house is not bad as it is, but it’s still lacking in terms of comfort for me to live comfortably. Improving the environment in this house a bit might help. And if I can gain the Duke’s trust in the process, that would be even better.’
And the first step of her plan to improve the mansion’s environment was to go to Greenwich.