Read at Watashi wa Sugoi Desu!
Chapter 21: That Day The Girl Encountered Destiny
[Father, happy birthday. From: Julianna]
It was my father’s birthday. Having already reached the age of 10, I wasn’t inclined to do something like giving him a birthday card, but at the behest of the head maid, I reluctantly wrote one anyway. At any rate, it wasn’t like my father would be happy to receive a present from me…
My father, who was almost never home, came home today for some reason. Even though I’d been looking forward to seeing Vincent, who had enrolled in a military boarding school a few months ago and who I’d heard was coming back today, too… What a terrible, horrible day.
“Pardon me. Do you have a bit of time, Father?”
I honestly didn’t want to meet with him, but the head maid had been badgering me to deliver the card directly, and so I’d approached my father’s office. I entered to see my father in the midst of a mountain of paperwork. My father’s golden hair, shining under the light streaming in from the windows, was a clear reminder of my own blood relation to him, no matter how much I disliked it. Fortunately, in terms of eye color, my father’s were green while mine were purple, the difference in color somehow enabling me to maintain my cool as we spoke. Purple eyes were apparently extremely uncommon, and because it gave me a sense of connection to my late mother who had the same eye color, it was the only part of my appearance that I liked.
Concealing my desire to turn tail, I did my utmost to act bright and energetic as I presented the birthday card to my father.
“Father! Happy birthday.”
My father accepted the birthday card and gave it little more than a cursory glance, looking wholly uninterested… If anything, his eyebrows creased in a displeased frown.
“If you have the time to waste on frivolous things, how about you work towards something for the sake of the household instead? You’ll one day marry into another House on behalf of House Lewis, after all. However…House Lewis has no place for incompetents. If you cannot be of use to this House, my daughter by blood or not, I will cut you loose.”
“My sincere apologies, Father.”
I swiftly curtsied and fled my father’s office.
I knew it, I knew it would turn out like this! My father hates me… no, he only ever saw me as a tool to be used for the sake of House Lewis! I shouldn’t have drawn a birthday card just because the head maid nagged me to.
House Lewis has no place for incompetents.
The words I’d been told countless times felt like a curse to me. Even if I learned perfect etiquette, even if I came to be able to spin through the most intricate dances with a grin, even if I picked up the languages of other countries, my father would never give me a word of praise. The only words I did receive were always the same. Every time I heard them, I would inevitably realize how insignificant of an existence I was in my father’s eyes.
Upon running into my private quarters, I leapt onto the bed without a care for my attire.
“I hate him… I absolutely despise him! Father, House Lewis, I hate them all! Only Vinnie…is my ally.”
A single tear trailed gently down my cheek.
“My lady, I have brought tea.”
A maid entered the room carrying tea. Although I honestly wished to be left alone for a while, there was no helping it. I wiped away my tears, putting on a mask and stowing away my feelings.
“There’s no need. It’s for my lady’s sake, after all.”
I glanced at the maid’s face and noticed that she was a newcomer. Although she was probably here because she was concerned about me… to tell the truth, it wasn’t any of her business. But because there were good intentions behind it, I withheld my criticism.
Drinking the tea raised my spirits just a little.
“Still, Master was so cruel, wasn’t he?! To disregard the birthday card my lady went out of her way to draw, just like that.”
It’d already spread among the servants, huh… I hadn’t wanted to know that. I involuntarily flashed a bitter smile, but the maid continued to talk, remaining unaware.
“Fortunately, because my lady was born a girl, you’ll be able to leave this house if you get married! My lady is pretty and endearing, you see, so there are already marriage proposals coming in from the likes of royals of neighboring countries and high-ranking nobles within the country. There has even been a marriage proposal from that House Macmillan! It’s amazing!”
As part of my noble’s education, the family trees of every noble family within the country were largely imprinted on my mind. As for the current situation of House Macmillan, the duke had been bereaved of his wife… His daughter, who was a year older than me, should be his only other family member. In short, the duke himself was the only male within the household—I believe he was the same age as my father. I knew in my head that political marriage was a noble’s obligation. However, it was a different matter when such circumstances befell my own self.
“…Could you leave me alone for a while? I’m sorry.”
Once the maid had left the room and I was alone once more, the tears welled up, unbidden. Have I no choice but to live as a tool for the prosperity of House Lewis? One after another, unpleasant thoughts arose in my mind.
“I’m going to lose all heart like this… This won’t do. I need a change of pace.”
I retrieved a notebook from a locked drawer of my desk. The brown leather cover was lightly worn, belying its age. Opening the notebook, I stared intensely at the first page. Written upon it were incomprehensible rows of letters. I had received this notebook roughly one month ago, from my late mother through my attending doctor. Apparently, it was something my late mother—Elizabeth—had written during her lifetime, which my attending doctor had forgotten he was holding onto, and, although belatedly, he had then passed it on to me, her daughter.
I had two mothers: Mother Elizabeth and Mother Karen. It seemed their relationship had been that of the first and second wives of the marquess, but according to the head maid, they had been on good terms. Mother Elizabeth had died giving birth to me, due to her naturally weak constitution. Mother Karen was Vinnie’s mother, and I heard that after Mother’s passing, she had raised me as if I were her actual daughter. Because she had lost her life in an accident when Vinnie and I were three years of age, I hardly remembered her.
The notebook I had received from my attending doctor allowed me to feel as if my mother was right by my side, and as such was a precious treasure of mine.
“As expected, I can’t read it, but…”
I had picked up immediately that these lines were written in code. But I did not know its cipher, nor could I thoughtlessly seek help from others. Personally, I had been excited to work on solving it the old-fashioned way, but it appeared that each page was written using different ciphers, so decryption had not been proceeding as planned. At that point in time, in House Olcott—Mother Elizabeth’s family home, to which I had often been entrusted—I had discovered a book on decryption. It seemed that Mother Elizabeth had possessed a natural talent for cryptography and had developed numerous ciphers in her lifetime, or so I had heard from my grandfather. At that time, I had unconsciously broken into a smile, thinking, my mother really is awesome.
“Hmm, if I recall correctly, we shift three letters here, break them up… and move this forward by two.”
I transcribed the text word-for-word onto another sheet of paper as I pulled its cipher from memory.
“Done! Hmm, let’s see, let’s see…”
Gazing upon the decrypted text, I found myself at a loss for words. Why did I decrypt it? If I hadn’t decrypted it, I could have continued to be misled into thinking my mother alone loved me… It was too late for regrets. Because this knowledge had become mine.
Forcefully wrenching open the door, I dashed out. The servants along the corridor stared after me with startled eyes. I could hear voices calling out “My lady!”, but I ignored them.
I made a beeline straight for the entrance to the house. Upon arrival, I saw my beloved brother standing there. My brother, whom I hadn’t seen in a few months, had grown slightly during our time apart. Although I felt the urge to just run up and embrace him without a thought, with my current mental state, I would end up saying some irreparable things. Because while I loved my brother, I was also jealous of him.
“What’s wrong, sister?!”
I ignored my brother and left via the front entrance. Then, slipping past the servants, I headed for one of the side buildings. It was the research facility in which my attending doctor resided.
Entering the facility, I witnessed my attending doctor, Howard, performing some sort of questionable experiment. But as that was a common occurrence, I called out to him without hesitation.
“Howard, I’ll be borrowing ‘that’.”
“So noisy from the moment you arrive. You don’t have to ask my permission every single time. In the first place, it’s supposed to be yours.”
His crotchety attitude was just the norm, so I paid it no heed as I entered the room labeled ‘Experiment Preparation Room’. I opened the closet located on the far end of the room and retrieved the items I came for. What I had pulled out were a bronze-colored wig, coarse clothes, and equally raggedy shoes. I flung off my dress, quickly put on the retrieved items, and then flew back out of the experiment preparation room. As I was about to leave the research facility in that state, Howard called out to me.
“Hold up. You’ll probably stand out with those eyes… Use this.”
What he held out to me was eye drops. As I stared suspiciously at it, Howard continued.
“Although it’s still a prototype, it can change one’s eye color. Though I haven’t been able to properly adjust the coloration, so there’s no telling what color they’ll turn.”
I applied the proffered eye drops, then looked to the mirror to check. As I watched, my purple irises turned a burnt umber.
“…Amazing. Thank you, Howard.”
“Hmph, I was just using you as a guinea pig. If you’ve no more business here, hurry up and leave.”
I left the research facility behind me, heading for the staff entrance and through it, sneaking out of the mansion grounds. My destination was the royal capital’s downtown. At any rate, right now I didn’t want to be Marquess Lewis’ daughter Julianna, but someone else entirely.
I thought I’d start afresh, jotting down my feelings in a brand new journal.
Today, I became the bride of the Rowlands Kingdom’s minister, Gerald Lewis. With this I, Elizabeth Olcott, will take on the surname Lewis, becoming Marchioness Lewis. First Marchioness Lewis, that is, considering Lady Karen and Gerald’s wedding ceremony will be held next week. Lady Karen is Gerald’s most beloved person. Surely she will become his steadfast support.
The religious faction has been suspiciously active recently. They’re trying to start something, is what my woman’s intuition is warning me. It’d be great if the wedding between Gerald and I can serve as a deterrence, however minor. But, as foolish as that side consort’s son may be, the religious faction succeeding in elevating the first prince to power is only a matter of time. I only pray that the first prince will be raised as a good royal.
It would seem that the intensification of the faction war between the religious and royalist factions is no longer avoidable. His Majesty may have outstanding advisors by his side, including Gerald, but their numbers may not be enough to afford the second prince, next-in-line to the throne, the supporting talents he will need. His Majesty also acknowledges me as a close advisor, despite my status as a woman. But as much as I excel in cryptography, there’s nothing I can do about my naturally weak constitution. How I envy my eldest brother who is the embodiment of health. My condition in the past year or two has been especially unfavorable. As such, birthing the child between my comrade Gerald and I shall become my final duty in dedication to His Majesty. My child, who would be born with the blood of Gerald’s mother—the former king’s sister, the blood of my mother—the princess of the Samorta Kingdom, and the combined blood of House Olcott and House Lewis flowing within their veins, would surely possess a lineage only inferior to that of the first princess. An advisor if they were to be a boy, and a consort if they were to be a girl; either way, they will be able to become the prince’s support. Although I will not be able to watch over it, I pray to the Goddess Luwell from the depths of my heart that Gerald’s and my choice will bring forth a wonderful future in the eyes of His Majesty and the people of the Rowlands Kingdom.
Rowlands Kingdom Calendar XXX Year XX Month XX Day Elizabeth Lewis
Having arrived downtown, I unfolded the paper upon which I’d written the deciphered text from Mother Elizabeth’s journal. Perhaps because I’d been clenching my fist tightly, the paper was all scrunched up and the ink was smeared from my sweat. It was doubtful that anyone would be able to read it now. I violently stuffed the paper into my pocket..
Father thought of me as nothing more than a tool. But Mother Elizabeth who gave birth to me was different…so I had thought in order to protect my own heart. How about that? Even my birth mother wished for the “me” to exist as a tool. I was jealous of my brother who was born from a loving couple. Even though he was the same brother who had mutually supported me after Mother Karen’s death. I didn’t want anything to do with this—any of this—anymore. The pedigree of the blood flowing within me, House Lewis, my parents, everything… I had come to hate all of it. If only I hadn’t been born as Julianna Lewis…
As I gazed vacantly out at the downtown pedestrian traffic, I discovered a suspicious figure. Standing smack in the middle of the street was a young man, who looked about 4 to 5 years older than me. He had short, chestnut brown hair and wore commoners’ clothing, but one glance told me his shoes were high-class goods. Some noble family’s kid going incognito, huh—as I observed, I found myself baffled at the eye color of the young man who was now looking this way. Blue eyes as clear as the azure sky. They were something I’d seen numerous times when my father would drag me to the castle. The same irises as the second prince of the Rowlands Kingdom, Prince Edward. The hair color may be different, but the eyes and doll-like features left me no room for doubt. For his sake I had been born, for his sake I had expectations placed upon me to exist as a living, breathing tool.
“Goddess of Purity Luwell, how cruel can you be…”
The quirk of fate can be a terribly cruel thing, so I thought as I gazed at the second prince (my destined person) with eyes that carried no emotion.