My sixth birthday, it should be my sixth birthday, but this is the present I got.
I looked up at Nicole with a puzzled expression on my face.
…wait, I need to look up at her now?! She used to be shorter than me!!
As if she understood my questioning expression, she explained.
“Well, it was one of our small talks. At that time, I talked about how I was supposed to have an older brother had he not died right after he was born. And how I wondered if we might get along if he were alive, and such… Let’s see… It was when we were… nine, I think?”
Nine… it was just when we started to hang out more often, wasn’t it?
“She replied like this: ‘I can’t really relate since I am not on good terms with my brother, but… looking at you and your family’s condition, I think that given the chance, you would get along well’. How was it, similar, right? Only, she said it lightly as she kept on looking at her book, while you said it awkwardly earlier,” Nicole let out a small laugh.
I said it while I was reading my book? Something I said in a passing? A small talk we had on a whim? I can picture myself saying something of that line, but the way she said it—it’s as if she was sure it was the exact same thing I said.
Heck, it was even more than 15 years ago for you, Nicole!
How the heck did you manage to remember that line perfectly?!
Or did you make things up?
No, her tone was so full of confidence when she uttered it word by word. Most likely, she wasn’t making things up.
Nicole’s smart, I know, but this is beyond ridiculous if she really remembered the thing from more than fifteen years ago exactly as it was.
“Clyde, now I know why you felt like she reminded you of her!” Nicole suddenly turned around at Clyde and said that.
“Well, I can’t doubt your memory, so obviously it’s the truth—if that’s the case… this is awesome.”
…Please oh please don’t be suspicious of me.
I didn’t even remember saying anything like that at all, how did you even remember thaaaaaattt?!
Note to self: be careful around Nicole.
“Then, if you don’t become the queen in the future, what about becoming my daughter-in-law?” Nicole suddenly clapped her hands.
“My son is only two years younger than you. I’ve already taken a liking on you, so you don’t have to worry about the typical in-law’s fights!”
She kept on rambling happily.
How typical of her.
“Oh, that’s a nice idea. How about you consider marrying into our family, Lyra?” Clyde supported Nicole’s idea wholeheartedly.
“Uhh, I, I…”
When I was wondering how to answer them, my dad who was talking with other noble adults in close proximity to me, suddenly turned his body and leaned in our conversation.
“Did I hear something about marriage?” He quickly asked with his sweet-yet-cold smile intact.
…Dad, did you have a ‘Lyra-marriage-talks-radar’ or what?!
“Ah, Valkyane-san! I was only proposing the idea of marriage between our kids—that’s only if you don’t plan on making her the queen,” Nicole, still with her carefree attitude, answered.
I’m telling you, she’s fearless! Even when Dad shot that sharp glare at her, she didn’t flinch!
“I’m not giving Lyra to anyone yet,” Dad answered.
“Well, maybe in the future! You know you have to send her off in a marriage in the future, sooner or later, right?”
…this fearless woman I know, she never changes.
“That… will be my future self’s business and worry,” Dad replied back.
“Well, alright, but think about it!” Ignoring Dad’s reluctance to talk about it, Nicole still asked him to consider about it…
I lightly smiled, thinking on how she hasn’t changed that much.
She kept talking on and on even in the past—even when I was reading my book or when I seemed not to pay any attention to her. Truth to be told, I think I developed a selective hearing and a good concentration and attention-dividing skill because of her?
Suddenly, the crowd started to get noisier—wait, could it be…?!
At the front door—I saw that the nobles are making their ways to the people who just arrived.
It’s the royal family!!
King Titus, Queen Shaula, and Luca are there!! Hmm? Leti is not here… Oh, obviously, that means… they left Leti in the others’ care. The maids, perhaps?
The royal family’s appearance never fails to cause uproars no matter what kind of parties and whose celebrations they attended.
“Eh? Wow, that boy is so similar to Luca-sama, Lyra-sama’s friend.”
Niina’s sudden remark caused me to turn over to her, who stopped by my side to observe the situation.
“Huh, is that Luca?!” Clavis-nii who was beside her also asked.
“Why is Luca there, and his appearance…?” He continued to ponder.
…this pair of mother and son…
“It’s Luca, alright. He’s with his parents, and that outfit is… do I need to explain?” I shortly answered.
“Ah, I see, I understand now and that expla—WHAT?!”
Niina’s face paled upon realizing what I just told her.
“E… eeeeeeeeeeeeeeh?!” Clavis’ face was quite funny. His tail and ears are all standing up—wow, Niina’s ears and tail were standing up, too.
This pair of mother and son is really alike!
Well, they are mother and son, so it’s not something weird.
Their resemblances are uncanny.
“…S, s, so… Luca is the crown prince all along?!” Clavis was really surprised.
“W-w-w-whaaaat?!” Niina couldn’t get over her initial shock.
Well, I really understand how well they are ignorant of the world’s news. I’m still glad they know who the two figures are—who the current king and queen are, and what the royal family emblem looks like.
Nah really, if you don’t even know those three, then you’re doomed. Are you even the citizen of Riviera if you don’t even know who your king and queen are?!
It’s understandable that they haven’t memorized who the crown prince is… but hopefully this shock… made them realize that they should at least keep up with the news, especially the one regarding the royalty…
“S, s, should I apologize to Luca-sama and confess my sin?!” Niina asked in fear.
“S…should I also prostrate myself and apologize for being so rude, and correct my way?” Clavis’ reaction is similar.
“…I think you should just confess your ignorance, apologize, and then return to how you used to address and treat him. The way he is, Luca would prefer it like that,” I replied.
“A-alright…,” the two obediently answered.
The royal family quickly went to my side and congratulated me.
I just noticed, but they also brought along Kiri, given that his stepfather was one of the guards involved.
Using this occasion, Niina and Clavis talked to Luca, and as expected… Luca laughed it off. I bet if we are not in public, he would laugh really hard.
After talking with us for a while, we parted ways as they realized there were nobles who were eager to greet me, as many as there were nobles who would love to chatter with the royal family.
When I glanced at the upcoming nobles who came to greet me personally, I couldn’t help but skip a heartbeat.
I mean, the ones standing very close to me, the ones who are walking right towards me—they are not unfamiliar figures.
If facing Clyde and Nicole was quite hard already, this one group here… is even harder, I think. The horde over there—they are none other than… my former self’s family…
In a full set.
My father, my mother… Clyde’s mother, Kania… Their appearances were more or less the same, albeit older.
And that young man over there—with his sturdy body that developed a bit of muscle—that confident man… is he really the little brother who was timidly hiding behind mother’s back in the past?
Walking right behind my (former) parents is my (former) little brother who has turned… seventeen this year, I guess?
He has changed a lot…
As I faced the group of Grabberton in front of me—I sweated profusely. I hope they didn’t notice how my smile turned stiff.
I was fretting over how I should react especially in front of my mother—but thankfully, Kania-san was the one to initiate the talk, so I think I have more time to prepare my heart.
Kania-san didn’t stay so long to talk with me, as she excused herself to go to her son’s side after a few greetings. It’s as if she didn’t want to get in the way of my mother’s greetings. I guess… they still have bad blood even until now.
Unexpectedly, Kania-san’s lax expression didn’t change—as if she never really minded this whole feud and family drama. Well, for one, I think she was really focused on her son rather than thinking about the Grabberton family.
Her grey eyes didn’t share a glimpse of remorse, regret, bitterness—nothing negative. Even after her son has left home, she seemed content with her life.
I wonder if she frequently visited Clyde?
…I hope so.
The second one is… father.
With his amber-colored eyes that seemed to view the world indifferently, he looked at me. His almond-colored hair and beard seemed different than when we last met—but… the slightly apparent scar mark visible on his skin is still the same.
“The Hartmann family’s daughter, huh? Congratulations on your sixth birthday. I’m the current head of Grabberton clan, my name is Herbert Secht Grabberton. I have heard of rumors about your achievements. I wish you luck so that you can continue to make your family proud,” he said.
How typical of Father.
He has always been achievement-oriented, honor-oriented.
“Thank you… Herbert-sama…”
It was quite hard trying to address him as a stranger right now. But since we were never close to begin with, it wasn’t really impossible. I also did a mental practice in addressing all of them.
Father was never a talkative person. He was a person with few words, so obviously he didn’t prolong our conversation with small talks.
Which means, here comes…
“Oh? So you’re the rumored… next queen candidate?”
Her prideful demeanor didn’t change—no, perhaps it was enhanced due to her being proud of her son who should be the heir to Grabberton family?
Her voice was stern, exactly as I remembered it.
Her eyes are looking at me—it feels like she’s examining me from head to toes.
I felt like my breath got caught on my throat.
This is the only person whom I was so fixated on. The one person that I yearned for her love.
And right now, she’s standing in front of me. And we are supposed to be fellow nobles, yet strangers.
“Greetings, it’s a pleasure to meat you. My name is Dahlia van Petersburg—now it would be Dahlia van Grabberton, though, as I become Herbert’s wife.”
She proudly announced herself.
Her curly brown-hair is tied sideways as it’s also braided at the same time. Her pine-colored orbs are staring at me sternly—analyzing me.
This person is none other than…
Mother, I yearned for your love, for your praise, for your smile for all my life.
This person, a stranger.
Mother, I always chased after your back.
She is someone you have met for the first time.
Following right behind her was none other than… my past self’s little brother.
I still managed to recognize him as there are unchanging traits from his childhood—though I admit I almost didn’t recognize him before I saw his outfit and traits.
If anything, this meeting was totally expected—I have always expected this. That I would meet them again. Everyone. My past acquaintances. Since I was born a noble as well, this time.
But when the moment finally came, I felt like I was so unprepared for it.
As Domi stepped back a bit, it indicated how my past mother wanted to talk first, instead of us three talking together.
I’m quite unsure if this helps or destructive instead.
My eyes reflexively observed her again, once more. I’m unable to shift my gaze away from her.
She is familiar, yet unfamiliar.
She was my mother, but she is now a stranger.
I want to hug her, yet at the same time… I also want to run away from her.
Conflicting thoughts began to flood my mind.