Those who killed me. Those who took my life. Those who despised and insulted me, threw me into the executioner’s yard, confiscated my property, slapped my cheeks, and tore my hair!
They were all guilty. They were all accomplices. They killed me. They killed me. They killed me. They drained all my blood, spread it over my family, over my honor, over my territory, and frolicked on my corpse!
“In Valentina, you will not only share a special status carriage, but also spend a more brilliant time as a stepping stone for the future of the Empire than anyone else with a once-in-a-lifetime sparkling youth…”
[Khalia, call my name]
[Khalia, call our names]
[Khalia, Khalia, Khalia.]
Faintly, consciousness receded like receding water, and a great force eroded my existence.
My lips trembled as I tried to pronounce a single name with borrowed strength that was not mine.
Near the entrance to the Chairman’s office, murmurs grew louder.
“It’s His Highness.”
“His Highness has arrived.”
Thump. At that moment, the oak door slammed against the wall, making a loud noise.
At this sound, my senses returned. My limbs trembled uncontrollably. My body grew cold.
Was it because I had regained my senses or…?
I turned my head urgently to find the owner of the voice that woke me.
As if suddenly appearing in front of me, there were the stairs leading up to the lectern.
Beyond them, my eyes met his.
“I apologize for the intrusion. There were many people looking for me, so I had to leave. Do you not know how difficult it is for gentlemen to leave in the middle of a pleasant event?”
A man with golden hair that seemed to have caught the sun.
He bowed his head and elegantly adjusted his disheveled cravat with a majestic gesture.
Red spots began to appear between his disheveled collars.
Some in the crowd laughed lightly and mockingly, while others couldn’t take their eyes off him, even as they bit their tongues.
“Cough, please be quiet!… Your Highness, please sit down.”
“If the director says so, I will follow.”
His unique tone lengthened the final consonants.
The head of the man going down rose.
With a refreshing smile on his lips, he looked around as if searching for a place to stand, and then our eyes met.
At that moment, a flash of shock pierced my head.
The clues to the man’s scattered identity came together in my mind.
It is him.
The eyes I had overlooked as meaningless and useless, but had gazed upon for the last time as I stepped onto the stairs to death…
His melancholy gray eyes.
The first prince, Claude Valentine.
With every step, a light breeze tickled his hair.
His shining golden hair seemed to carry the grace of divine favor, and though he looked a bit pale, his smooth white skin was not unpleasant to behold.
His straight and strong nose was delicate, but not fragile.
His graceful lips always held an unruffled, attractive curve that never seemed to sag.
Beneath his reddish, sensitive nasal bones, his densely curled eyelashes covered his gray irises.
They appeared almost gray in the bright sunlight streaming through the window.
“Herthel, you look as beautiful as ever. Ah, McConnell, did you enjoy your vacation? Those who spent the summer with you must be jealous.”
The prince answered the calls, suppressing laughter, subtle gestures, and fluttering fans from everywhere without hurrying his steps.
His smooth face, graceful gestures, and enchanting way of speaking drew scorn from men and admiration from women.
Something was strange.
Somehow, I couldn’t take my eyes off him as he walked.
The most noble tree in the realm, but also the most humble weed.
That was his nickname, even though he was the first prince of the realm.
He was not the eldest son, but neither was he an illegitimate child. Originally, he was the son of Grand Duke Camelot, the Emperor’s younger brother, and an adopted child.
The Valentine Imperial family had been in dire straits for generations.
Even when they married, they rarely had children beyond their thirties.
And even if they did, there were only one or two at most.
Some even criticized the curse of inbreeding due to the obsession with pure blood, but that was an unknown truth.
Emperor Theodore’s children were particularly weak, and the eldest son of the current Empress, Teano, had no heir until he was almost forty.
When the Grand Duke and Duchess finally gave birth, their first child was Claude Valentine.
The emperor accepted their loyalty and adopted the child as a prince.
However, six years later, the Empress miraculously gave birth to a prince after sixteen years of marriage, and Claude’s position was overshadowed.
The second prince was adored by the whole kingdom. He was a blessed existence.
Prince Claude, on the other hand, continued to look disappointing as he grew older.
His unnecessary love of gambling, his association with women and back-alley ruffians did not befit the first prince of the empire.
Noble gentlemen treated him with contempt, while women found him a charming rogue who aroused their curiosity.
For some reason, I couldn’t take my eyes off of his figure as he walked toward the fourth year line. He was a bit away from Helena.
The headmaster started a boring speech again, but it seemed that no one was paying attention, including me.
Strangely, I averted my eyes from him.
I remembered the day I died.
I couldn’t take my eyes off him that day either.
He was someone I secretly hated.
Normally, if our eyes met by chance, I would quickly walk away or tremble and hold my breath until he passed by.
With a deliberately casual and carefree attitude, an empty smile, and even imitating the character I had created while hiding my true nature, everything disgusted me.
Why couldn’t I take my eyes off him that day?
Why was he looking at me again?
He had become something I could no longer comprehend or understand.
The Claude Valentine of that day was gone. He was gone forever, never to be known.
I gnawed on my lip as I stared at the pattern on the shabby floor.
In any case, it was good for me. The attacks had stopped.
It was a moment when something unexpected could have happened if I had stayed still.
My body felt strange, as if it didn’t belong to me. Goose bumps crawled over me.
Those ‘voices’ that had been tormenting me since before my death were now even stronger.
The sudden seizures and the strange power trying to take over my body.
It seemed they had some influence here as well.
“I should do something. Even tonight if I have to.”
I bit my lip again. It was the first time I responded to the calls of the voices I had avoided for seven years.
Regardless of what might happen, I had no intention of avoiding them any longer.
After a long opening speech, the students dispersed from the auditorium.
I immediately went to the dormitory.
Most of the students preferred to live in the dormitory.
Many students came from various regions of the Empire without townhouses in the capital and found it more convenient to live in the dormitory rather than commute every day.
The finances of the Imperial Academy, funded by the nobility’s treasury, were ample enough to accommodate numerous students with plenty of rooms to spare.
As long as you submitted your application form on time during the pre-enrollment period, that was it.
As I entered the main hall of the girls’ dormitory, I couldn’t hide my trembling eyes at the sight before me.
Sounds of discontent echoed throughout.
My belongings, which I had sent ahead through the wagon, were scattered all over the floor, clothes strewn about and bags wide open in the middle of the hall.
“Oh my… How messy.”
“What a mess. For someone who claims to be the earl’s descendant, you’re rather unprepared.”
The ladies fanned themselves, hiding their smiles as they whispered to each other.
“Whose work is this?”
Helena instantly came to mind. As I quickly scanned the hall, I noticed that her red hair stood out.
Had she come early or was she waiting here after causing this commotion?
But I dismissed the thought. On second thought, it was unlikely.
Would she dare to provoke someone like me, who now enjoyed the Duke’s protection, while she had lost her status as the Duke’s daughter?
“That seems unlikely.”
As I stood there trying to collect my thoughts, a crowd began to gather around the commotion.
“What’s going on? What’s all the commotion?”
“Is this a witch’s belongings? Have they been thrown out of the dormitory?”
The lady behind the counter, Mrs. Hayden, didn’t bother to clean up the mess as she looked at me with a cheeky smile.
I approached her first.
“What’s the matter, Miss Estelle?”
The elderly lady spoke quite kindly, but there was a clear note of mockery in her eyes and lips.
I asked slowly, “My things are on the floor. What’s going on?”
“Unfortunately, Miss Estelle, you didn’t apply for the dorm, so you can’t stay here. We couldn’t bring your luggage in, so we had to leave it on the floor until you arrived.”
The Baron’s wife, Mrs. Hayden, made a theatrical gesture with her hand. I immediately refuted her.
“But I’m sure I put in the application for the dormitory. Two weeks ago, along with my desired class schedule. Did the administration make a mistake?”
“No, Miss Estelle. Our Valentine staff never makes mistakes. It’s true that we received your class schedule from the office, but we never received a dorm application from you.”
I bit my lip at her condescending laugh. As I stood there, my belongings were exposed to everyone’s eyes.
The commotion grew and even male students gathered in front of the building to observe the situation.
“… So are you saying I should just stay like this?”
“There is one thing I can help you with.”