“Hey, what’s your brother’s name? Tell me his name!”
The coachman with an intimidating glare shouted loudly.
I wanted to say my brother’s name, but I couldn’t.
The person I came to meet wasn’t really my brother but the emperor of the empire, Marius.
I couldn’t say it was my brother Andrea either, because they’d surely say there’s no one by that name if they asked at the hotel front desk.
Unable to do anything about it, I simply lowered my head and fiddled with my fingers.
“We have to go to your house then. You said you have a sister, right?”
“No, I can’t! I have to meet my brother!”
“Then tell me his name. Do you want me to scold you here? Do you want to be taken to the police?”
As my mind began to go blank, a magnificent carriage pulled up behind the one I’d ridden in.
Emerging from the carriage decorated in the traditional colors and patterns of Trovanza was none other than Uncle Marius.
It was definitely Uncle Marius, but he looked very unfamiliar.
The flippant man with a mischievous smile was nowhere to be seen. Instead, there stood a ruler with an icy demeanor.
It really hit me then–he was the main character of the original story, a cold-hearted emperor.
While being held by the coachman, I shouted loudly to Uncle Marius.
I wanted to shout out “Mr. Marius,” but he was the Emperor.
Calling out the Emperor’s name recklessly in a crowded place might get me into big trouble. So, I just shouted “brother” on impulse.
Uncle Marius, seemingly unaware that I was calling him, strode confidently towards the hotel.
I hopped around, waving my hand, trying to catch his attention.
“Brother! Liliana’s over here!”
Only when I included my name did Uncle Marius hastily turn his head to find me.
The chilly atmosphere vanished like a mirage, and the Uncle Marius I knew appeared.
He approached me with a puzzled expression.
Seizing the moment when the coachman’s grip loosened, I dashed over to Uncle Marius and grabbed onto his leg.
The attendants tried to pull me away, but Uncle Marius signaled them to stop.
I could hear the coachman gasping behind me.
“Little one, why are you here?”
“I need to borrow some money!”
“I took a carriage, but I don’t have enough to pay…”
“Why did you take a carriage?”
“Ugh. To see you, of course!”
At my words, Uncle Marius’ eyes grew strangely suspicious.
I don’t know how to describe it, but it was like a perverted face that couldn’t hide his excitement… his nose twitched a bit, giving him a somewhat odd look.
Why can’t he use that handsome face of his better?
And how can someone with such a personality be the male lead? It’s really strange.
“Brother, you say?”
Mimicking my tone, the corners of Uncle Marius’ mouth curled up. His eyes twinkled playfully, making mine widen in surprise.
Realizing I was defeated by having to call Marius “brother,” I sighed heavily.
“Ugh, hurry up. Lend me the money.”
“Okay, how much do you need?”
“Um… five silver coins?”
At my reply, Marius, who was checking his belongings, looked down at me with a slightly troubled expression.
“I only have one coin.”
“Oh no! That won’t do!”
As I panicked, looking back at the coachman, I suddenly heard a chuckling sound from above. Lifting my gaze, I saw Uncle Marius trying to stifle his laughter.
What’s so funny?
I was too baffled to react when Uncle Marius tossed a gold coin to the coachman.
“Should be enough, right?”
“Oh yes, of course.”
A single gold coin is worth a hundred silver coins. I learned that from my sister Alice not too long ago.
So, Uncle Marius lied about not having money even though he did.
Annoyed, I slammed my fist into Uncle Marius’ thigh.
Every time my fist landed, he chuckled.
“I’m not even hurt. Kid, you really have a ‘peanut punch’ (weak punch). You’ll never have a ‘hammer punch’ (strong punch).”
“No! I have a ‘hammer punch’!”
“Alright, alright. Did you eat? Want to have a meal with me?”
“I brought my own food. But I really do have a ‘hammer punch,’ okay?”
“What did you bring?”
“Biscuits! They’re super tasty, so I’m not sharing them with you.”
“Ah, only eating biscuits is why you have a ‘peanut punch.’ I’m having meat, lemonade, and shrimp tempura. Dessert is pumpkin chocolate. Sounds tasty, right?”
“Uh… Then I guess I’ll have a bite. You’ll give me a bite, right?”
Just a little bit.
I held my thumb and forefinger as little apart as I could, while Uncle Marius nearly cried laughing.
Why does he always laugh when I talk?
Angry, I tried to show him my ‘hammer punch’ but suddenly realized I had changed position.
One minute I’m holding onto Uncle Marius’ legs, and the next I’m hugging him!
Uncle Marius was the kind of guy who’d steal your nose right in front of you while you’re wide awake.
He had sneakily picked me up without me realizing it.
When I came to my senses, I was sitting next to Uncle Marius in the restaurant.
He put a bib on me and asked:
“Why did you come to see ‘brother’? Did you miss me?”
“No, I didn’t miss you. And you’re not Lily’s brother.”
“You called me ‘brother’ first.”
“I was just trying to be nice.”
“Hahaha! Where’d you learn that? Max, did you hear that? My youngest sister-in-law is so cute, right? She’s adorable. I’ve never seen a younger sister-in-law like her.”
According to the newspaper, the day the Emperor officially visited Trovanza, his entourage entered the country.
The Mister Max that Marius called out to must’ve been one of the members of that entourage.
I came to the hotel not to eat with Uncle Marius, but I had completely forgotten my original purpose when I got caught up with him.
“I’m not your youngest sister-in-law. You didn’t marry my sister.”
“I will soon.”
“No, don’t. I’m against it.”
“Why? If you’re against it, I’ll be so sad I’ll cry.”
“Cry then! I’ll buy you chocolate to make up for it. But you give up on my sister, deal?”
“Why don’t you like me?”
Even while grumbling, Uncle Marius cut a steak and fed it to me.
“Mmm. My eldest sister is too precious. She’s the best, beautiful, and strong.”
“I’m the most handsome, rich, and strong man in the world.”
Hearing Uncle Marius’ brazen reply, my mouth dropped open.
Does becoming an Emperor make everyone this cheeky?
Uncle Marius is indeed handsome; there’s no debate there.
It’s just a matter of personal preference.
So claiming to be the most handsome didn’t make sense.
He might be the richest, being the Emperor.
But the strongest? Uncle Leopold wins. Uncle Leopold is like a human weapon.
“Do you even have a conscience?”
I got so frustrated I couldn’t help but glare at him.
Instead of his usual hearty laugh, Uncle Marius waved a small piece of meat in front of my mouth.
“Come on. Eat and then talk.”
I just glared at him, but Uncle Marius tapped my lips with a piece of meat.
I had no choice but to take a big bite.
“Hey kiddo, you didn’t come alone, did you? If you came with your sisters, there’s no way you’d be short on cash. Where did your sisters go?”
“Huh? I came by myself.”
After my response, Marius paused for a moment and asked cautiously.
“…You did tell your sisters before coming out, right?”
Now it was my turn to stay silent.
Before I left the house, I decided to leave a note for my sisters telling them I was going to the playground in front of the house for a while.
But wait… did I actually leave it?
No matter how hard I thought, I couldn’t remember writing that note.
I must’ve forgotten while sneaking out. What do I do now??
Faced with my silence, Uncle Marius’ own face stiffened in an odd way.
I shivered as I imagined my sisters panicking, thinking I had disappeared. The restaurant suddenly felt cold.
I quickly pulled Cookie from my bag and hugged it.
Whenever life got tough or scary, rubbing my face against Cookie’s soft fur always comforted me.
Rubbing my face like this usually calmed my fears, but today, Cookie’s magic wasn’t working.
“Cookie, I’m struggling. Give me courage, please.”
I meant, work your Cookie magic now!
To coax Cookie, I playfully tugged on its ear.
All the while, Uncle Marius, sitting next to me with a worried look, gave instructions to his attendant.
“Prepare the carriage. There’s probably chaos since she’s missing.”
“Wouldn’t it be better to send someone and report the situation?”
“They won’t be at ease until they see her face. Waiting for them to come here will take longer than me taking her there.”
After the attendant left, Uncle Marius stuffed another piece of meat into my mouth and patted my back reassuringly.
“It’ll be okay. Really. It will.”
His attempt at consolation didn’t feel comforting at all.