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Chapter 4.5: A Certain Girl's Past and Future
In the Duke's household, there was a daughter who was called the unwanted child.
Despite being born into the highest-ranking noble family, she didn't have any Magic Power. She had a pair of eerie, mismatched eyes. And even though she had inherited her father's silver hair, she didn't resemble her parents at all. From the day she was born, the girl was already an undesired existence.
Her family acted as if she didn't exist. The servants jeered at her in secret. The high society talked behind her back as well. Unknowingly, the little girl began to crave for affection from others.
Be it studying, dancing, or etiquette, she would learn everything at an astounding speed. Just for someone to praise her, just for someone to notice her.
However, that only served to further her isolation within her own home. As the situation deteriorated, the pain in her heart increased as she fell deeper and deeper into despair.
While in such a state, that little girl was engaged to the First Prince by imperial decree.
It was a purely political engagement. In those days, the First Prince was being considered as an excellent candidate to inherit the throne. And the need to find him an appropriate queen surpassed the wishes of the individuals in question.
Out of the countless number of fiancée candidates, she stood out the most. Brains, looks and etiquette, there was no girl who was able to match her. However, those were the only criteria for her to be chosen as the First Prince's fiancée.
But even so, that girl was on cloud nine. It was the very first time her efforts had been recognized.
She loved her fiancé from the bottom of her heart. Even though they were clearly sent out of obligation, she would treat any letter or gift from him as if they were her greatest treasures. She was completely devoted to the fiancé who had never once even smiled at her.
'Even if it doesn't work out right now, surely I'll receive his love someday', her heart was holding onto that baseless hope.
And then on that fateful day, she witnessed it.
In a beautiful flower garden, her younger twin sister and her fiancé were gazing into each other's eyes.
Her fiancé, gazing straight into the reddened face of her bashful younger sister. When the girl inadvertently noticed the tiny spark of passion slowly lighting up in his eyes, her field of vision became distorted.
Just like that, her world was completely destroyed.
Only insults would spew out every time she opened her mouth. Whenever anything happened, she would immediately get angry and find fault in the people around her. That was the infamous unwanted child of the Duke's household.
They didn't feel any guilt about oppressing her. Because she was a failure, because she was an existence unfitting for the Duke's household, and because she had no Magic Power. There was no way for her to retaliate.
Somewhere inside their hearts, they knew that she was better than them, that she was more beautiful than them. Because of that, they neglected her and treated her with contempt. They would trample on that girl's pride while feeling a twisted sense of superiority.
In this kingdom, people without Magic Power were all treated as 'unwanted children'. There was no doubt in their hearts that this was the treatment she deserved.
And yet, the girl reflected in their eyes at this moment was crouching in front of a flowerbed in the corner of the garden as she cut the flowers.
That same girl who had been ordering the servants around for everything was holding pruning shears in her hand. That same girl who would approach whenever she saw them was now paying them no heed as if they weren't there.
How shocking it must have been to them.
For the past month, the unwanted child of the Duke's household had not been the girl they knew.
She no longer lost her temper, she stopped being concerned with others, and she ceased to demand for anyone's love.
They only met her once or twice a day. They had never thought about wanting to meet her, nor had they thought about going to meet her.
And yet, when the girl they had willingly neglected had undergone a complete change without their knowledge, they felt an enormous amount of disgust and fear.
As if looking at an mysterious monster, they stared at that silver-haired girl day after day.
The noble girl Ruvik served was a girl with horrible mood swings who was prone to losing her temper.
She wasn't like that in the past. Up until two years ago, she had been a graceful and gentle person, a perfect, refined noble daughter. Even with Ruvik, their relationship was close enough that they would make jokes with each other.
But on that day two years ago… on the night of her birthday party, that girl turned into a completely different person. She started to raise her voice towards her family and lose her temper whenever something didn't go the way she wanted. There wasn't a single trace of that once-graceful girl left.
'What made her become like this? Why did she become like this?' Ruvik would repeat those questions in his head whenever he had to face his master's anger.
The clear and beautiful female voice pulled Ruvik back to reality.
He was currently in the garden of the Filiaregis Duke household. Today, he had come with his master to pick some flowers to decorate her room with.
Warm sunlight poured down onto the garden as the flowers gently swayed with the winds. Surrounded by such a tranquil scene, the gloomy fog shrouding Ruvik's heart slowly faded away.
"What's wrong? You don't have to just stand there, come over here. These flowers are all lovely, you know?"
The girl beckoning Ruvik was crouching before a flower bed, her silver hair fluttering in the wind.
In her hand were the pruning shears she had received from Cloud, on her lips was a faint smile.
For the past two years, she hadn't even once smiled towards Ruvik. He believed that she was slowly beginning to reopen her heart.
The smile on her face overlapped with the same one from his memory of two years ago. Since her sudden change on that day, Ruvik thought that he would never be able to spend time like this with his master again.
Around the time she stopped showing any concern for others, the relationship between them also began to crumple. He had to pay close attention to her expressions and choose his words carefully so as to not suffer her wrath. And in the end, he would still have to endure her unreasonable anger.
However, as if it was the work of a miracle, that noble daughter had returned to her former tenderhearted personality.
It began about a month ago. She suddenly stopped getting angry. And not only that, she began to show even more emotion than before.
She even began to be proactive in her studies. For the past two years, she had not once touched a book, and yet she was now absorbed in reading almost every day. While her words and actions had become quite strange, at the same time, her interactions with Ruvik had softened remarkably.
At first, Ruvik could only be bewildered by the sudden transformation, just like that night two years ago. However, as he observed that girl by her side, he realized that those eccentric mannerisms as of late weren't an act.
Despite her sharp mind, she could also be quite absent-minded, a girl that Ruvik couldn't come to dislike. He knew that the girl crouching before him was the same girl in his memories. From the fact that she was unaware of the simplest things, or the fact that she knew of techniques that he had never heard before, there was almost no difference between the two girls.
'Even after what happened, my lady has returned to how she was before.' While looking at his current master, Ruvik was able to genuinely believe in that thought.
"As you wish, my lady."
With a gentle smile forming on his face, Ruvik stepped towards his master… Drossel.
"Oh, Lucas. It's been a while."
"Indeed, it's been a long time."
Two men were each seated on a sofa in a formal-looking room decorated with sophisticated furniture.
One of the men had short blond hair and deep blue eyes along with a fierce-looking face. The other man sitting on the opposite side had honey blond hair in a buzzcut. He had crimson eyes along with gentlemanly features.
"So, it's not like you to hold a formal meeting with me like this. Something must have happened, right?"
"Indeed, I want to report something to you. Because there are still a lot of uncertain factors, I would like to request that it remains a secret for now."
Hearing what the fierce-looking man had to say, the crimson-eyed man narrowed his eyes as if amused. He raised the corners of his mouth slightly.
"Oooh? That's great, do continue."
"Then, if you would, please take a look at this."
Saying that, the fierce-looking man placed a large pile of paper on top of the round table between the two of them.
The crimson-eyed man grabbed the sheet atop the pile. At first, his face was dubious, but as soon as he ran his eyes through what was written, his expression was replaced with one of astonishment.
"…Lucas. How in the world did you get your hands on this?"
"They're from a student of the academy. The things you see here, all of them were from a student enrolled in our Lucrezia Academy."
The crimson-eyed man grabbed another piece of paper. His expression turned grim as he scanned its contents.
However, the fierce-looking man didn't miss the fact that his crimson eyes were lighting up inversely to his increasingly worried expression.
"But, Lucas, this will lead to a revolution in the realm of Magic in our kingdom."
"I understand that. That's the reason I'm reporting it to you like this."
"Magic Power consumption drastically reduced, conversion efficiency increased by a nonsensical proportion, load on the processing circuit lessened… It's just a Basic Spell, and yet, what's with these Magic Formulas' ridiculous level of performance."
"The person who created these called them 'Sorcery Formulas'."
"I see, so that person had thought about it too. Certainly, these can't be considered Magic Formulas anymore, they're something else entirely."
The crimson-eyed man stared at the pile of paper. His eyes wrinkled in joy as he drank his glass of wine. It had been a very long time since anything had gave him such a sense of exhilaration.
"Kukkukku… I wonder what kind of genius was able to write something like this? I will have to meet that person soon."
While stroking his chin, the crimson-eyed man made a sinister grin like that of a mischievous child planning a prank.
Seeing that expression, the fierce-looking man knitted his brow and let out a deep sigh.
"You will surely meet her before long, so please just let everything run its course without acting rashly, Your Highness."
While surrounded by flowers in a myriad of colors, the humming silver-haired girl suddenly let out a sneeze. It wasn’t likely due to cold temperatures, as it was a clear day in early summer.
"Sniff… I wonder if someone's talking behind my back?"
"Maybe it's just simply a chill?"
The head gardener of the Duke household looked at the softly sniffing girl.
As the sound of shears echoed through the garden, light footsteps approached the two from behind.
"Hm? What is it, Ruvik?"
"I'm here to inform you that Mister Erik is leaving."
Erik was a merchant who the Duke household had been a regular customer of. He had come today to deliver the dress her younger twin sister had bought.
"He's going already? Has he already left the residence?"
"No, I'd say he's still in the entrance hall."
"Then I'll head over there right away."
Putting down the pruning shears, the silver-haired girl cheerfully stood up.
"Say, what kind of story do you think Erik will tell today?"
"Hm… I don't have a single clue."
"Oh, really? Fufufu, I'm looking forward to it. I wonder what he'll talk about this time. Maybe about the change of the Iris Empire's trade tariff? Or maybe about the state of ours financial market?"
"They're all stories a high-ranking noble wouldn't be asking about…"
Hearing her butler's sensible rebuttal, the girl wrinkled her red left eye and blue right eye with a smile, a gentle and cheerful expression that she wouldn't have shown just a short while ago.
"It's fine, right? I'm not a normal noble daughter in the first place. And that person… uh… the Duke wouldn't say anything anyway."
"…My lady. Don't tell me you've forgotten the Master's name?"
"My lady, I'm only telling you this for your own good. Please try to at least remember the names of your family members."
"But it's my principle to not waste time and effort on anything I have no interest in…"
"You see… For argument's sake, let's not discuss whether that principle is good or bad. If you can't at least remember their first names, it will only lead to difficult situations in the future."
"Really? I've already memorized all the names of the heads of each noble family in this country, you know? Just now, I just happened to forget, but since you've mentioned it, I'm starting to recall them."
"I don't think that's the issue here…!"
Seeing the silver-haired girl's nonchalant face as if it was common sense, the butler leaned against the wall with one hand to support himself while clutching his stomach with the other.
"Hang in there, Ruvik. I'll get you some stomach medicine later."
"…By the way, my lady?"
"What is it, Cloud?"
"The Master and the others have been watching you this entire time…"
Hearing that, the girl turned her head to find her family staring at her from afar.
Their eyes were filled with various emotions. Anger, hatred, jealousy, and confusion. Her eyes only met theirs for just an instant.
"I don't care. Let's just leave them alone."
Without a care to her surroundings, the girl walked towards the residence. The head gardener hit his forehead with his palm before staring up at the sky, as if he had abandoned all hope.