“I want to quickly grow up, gain my freedom and power soon! Then, I’ll be able to take Firis away from this place and we can go to see the world!”
That’s what I kept saying not long after I found out that my real mother was actually Firis, the one who had always been there for me.
For all my life up until that moment, I always knew that she was my wet nurse and the maid assigned to take care of me and raise me. I even felt closer to her than my “mother”.
I rarely saw Mother. I saw Firis every day.
Mother was cold. Firis was warm.
At some point in my life, I questioned Firis’ sincerity—if it was all due to her obligation and duty of work, rather than her pure feelings towards me.
Though deep down, I felt that she was sincere. But still, I was afraid.
At my 6th birthday, I was truly convinced that Mother and Dius-niisama shunned and hated me. It took me so long to finally accept it. But since the process was gradual, I was… okay, just bitter. That was when I thought… If Firis—the one who had always been with me and the one who was so kind to me—actually felt the same deep down, I didn’t know if I could hold on.
So, after I found out the truth, everything started to make sense.
I didn’t quite understand it the first time Firis and Chloe explained the whole situation to me, but as I matured, I gradually came to understand.
Aah, so, no wonder!
There were so many “no wonder”s that popped in my mind from time to time.
But, no matter.
No matter how hard it might be, I had Firis by my side. I could do my best. So that someday, we could be happy.
But one day, Firis would often fall sick. She even collapsed.
At first, I thought that she might be overworking, but before long…
It was apparent that her health was deteriorating. She got nosebleed and coughed blood often.
Gradually, it turned worse. Sometimes, she couldn’t really move her hands well. Sometimes, it felt as if she couldn’t see things clearly.
The doctor who checked on her only said that her body was ‘withering’ and it might be caused by the accumulation of her poor lifestyle so far. Nothing else could be done.
Well, there were herbs and medicine that could alleviate her symptoms and make her feel better, but in no time, I found them ineffective.
And I panicked. I felt like my time was running out, but I wasn’t even an adult, nor did I have the power to fulfill my promise to her.
I couldn’t even take her to a better doctor—to get a better treatment. Basically, I was hopeless and I hated this.
The only blood-related family member that sincerely loved me was dying, but there was nothing I could do… except to watch her suffer and get weak day by day.
It was the worst feeling I had to experience.
And finally, the dreadful day came… I would be lying if I said that I didn’t see it coming at all. The truth was… I saw it coming all along, yet I always denied it.
I was afraid.
Afraid that if I were to admit it, I wouldn’t be able to keep on.
To make her happy… was my life goal.
I had nothing else in my mind, so how could I imagine my life without her?
Maybe… a life without her was not ‘life’ at all.
That day, on that very fateful and the most bitter day in my life… I watched her seemingly weaker than usual. No, it wasn’t exaggerating for me to say that she was the weakest on that day.
“Mom, please get better soon, okay?”
I tried my best to smile as I grabbed onto her hand so tightly, afraid if I were to let go, I’d lose her forever. Although it wasn’t any of help…
The hand that was in my palms felt so small and thin. Although Firis’ hands were slim and tender to begin with, this kind of small and thin… was different.
I could feel tears started to form in the corner of my eyes, but I tried to hold it in. I didn’t want to make her worried.
Phyllo was right next to her, flapping his fins worriedly at her face.
Hearing my voice and Phyllo’s cry, Firis turned at the two of us and weakly smiled. For some reason, I could sense the bitterness that her smile contained.
When I looked into her eyes—thankfully, her eyes didn’t seem to be so disorganized. They were clear—as if she could see us clearly.
Do we still have hope, after all?
I began to have hopes. That after this, Firis would gradually be better, and I could work hard to fulfill my promise.
But then, I felt that her breathing turned slower—it was so faint that it was unnoticeable. The little strength that she had in her hands gradually left her hands—and I could sense it.
Her eyelids were gradually closing—as if they were getting heavier.
Phyllo’s panicked cry made me believe that my bad premonition was right… And it made me lose my composure.
“Mom, don’t close your eyes!! Open them… it’s okay, you will get better… you will get better… and we will see the world together!!” I shook her hands frantically.
Firis weakly opened her eyes and she looked at me firmly—tears flowed from her eyes.
“Cyan… I love you.”
“Firis—Mom… I love you, too! So, stay with me, please…”
Her words made me even more frightened.
Please… please don’t say the words that feel like you’d go away from me… Please say that you’re just… feeling sleepy. Please, anything but this.
“Phyllo… Take care of Cyan, okay?”
“Piii!! Pii pii!!!”
“Mom, what’re you talking about? C-come on, stop scaring m—”
As my hands loosened their grasp on Firis’ hand, before I even noticed, her hand was already stroking my face gently. I softly grabbed her hand, too.
“Sorry… I love you, Cyan. Please be happy…”
Then… I felt as if she lost all of her strength. I still continued to support her hand—so that it won’t leave my face.
…So that she won’t leave me.
But she still closed her eyes and her breathing and pulse turned even worse.
“Firis, no, open your eyes, please? Stay with us! Don’t leave me alone…”
At that time, I could no longer hold my tears.
But no matter how much I begged and how much I shook her body, there was no response from her.
“Firis… Mom… I love you…,” I weakly said as I felt like I should say this before it was too late…
In the end, I could no longer sense her pulse and breathing…
My memory after that point was quite hazy.
I just felt that Chloe was also devastated when she found out that Firis was no longer here.
Being only a maid, we couldn’t really hold a great funeral for her.
…And it wasn’t as if Firis knew so many people that people would come to her funeral… and that really made me sad.
We only held a small prayer for her before she was cremated.
I wanted to bury her properly, but when I thought that her ashes could be spread to the world—that she could be free and see the world… perhaps that was better than letting her be buried in the cramped graveyard.
Besides, I felt like… I wouldn’t have many chances to take care of her grave, so rather than making her lonely there… it’d be best to let her be free.
Yes, she couldn’t be free during her life, so at least she should be free after her life ended.
As to when and where I could spread her ashes… I’d have to think about it later. So for the moment, I had to keep her urn.
“Oh, look what we have here? Are you still sad, hmm?”
It was Dius-niisama with his irritating tone again. I had no willpower to fight him now, so let’s just ignore him.
“Poor little maid… Until the end of her life, she only dwelled here and didn’t have the chance to live her life to the fullest.”
Whose fault was it, anyway? You and your parents could just let Firis and me go, or let us go outside often, but no. You all forbid us from going outside.
“Ohhh, that’s right! She had you, that was why she couldn’t live freely!”
“She had no choice but stay here in order to take care of you… She could have gone anywhere she wanted if she chose, but she didn’t. It was all because of you.”
“W-what are you talking about?! It was obviously because you, Hillde-sama, and Father…”
I saw Dius-niisama smile after he got a response from me, but it wasn’t important.
“Naïve little Icarus. You’re so stupid. How did you not get it? What could chain her to this house, other than you? So long as they didn’t stir up troubles and could silently go elsewhere, we would let our workers go, right? If she didn’t have you and decided to leave, nobody would have prevented her from doing so.”
“After working here for years and saving up, surely she’d be able to have some money to start living elsewhere, right? But you had to pop out of nowhere, so unexpectedly! I’m sure that deep down, she felt that you were the reason she had to live a restricted life.”
No… That’s not true… Firis didn’t lie. She didn’t think so.
My mind was screaming those words, but deep inside my heart, seeds of doubt began to form. After all, what Dius said… really made sense.
Why did Firis start to work here, in a corrupted house? I remembered her telling me because this was the only decent job offered to her. Was she planning to save up and quit in the future… if it weren’t for me?
“I heard that for women with weak bodies, getting pregnant and giving birth could be dangerous. Oh, perhaps she died so young because she gave birth to you. She could have lived longer and better if she didn’t have you.”
No… No, it wasn’t true!!!
“She knew that and secretly blamed you too, but she didn’t have the heart to tell you.”
Enough… enough… enough!!
“What gave you the confidence to say them all?! You didn’t know her! You didn’t know us! You’re just lying!!” I snapped and raised my voice at him.
Unexpectedly, he chuckled, approached my ears, and said with a small voice.
“Isn’t it obvious? She didn’t even leave anything for you. You also don’t know much about her, do you?”
My eyes widened at his words.
That was… what I had on my mind—the thing that I was so worried about.
After her death, I tried to find anything that she left behind to no avail.
There was nothing.
Not a single letter, not a single thing…
But there was something odd. Her favorite pocket watch was missing.
So, I thought that…
“It must be you! You stole some of her things and threw it away—or hid it from me, right?”
“…Hahahah!! Why would I do that?! Oh my… Icarus, you’re so funny!”
“Her favorite pocket watch disappeared prior to her death. She lost it because you took it away from her, right?”
“Pfft… I wouldn’t even want to be near her, so why would I do that?! Perhaps she sold it for some medicine or anything, right?”
“No way she’d do that! It was her beloved pocket watch, she also promised she’d give it to me someday!”
Someday, after I could give her a good pocket watch.
I knew that everything he said must be lies. That he was the one who cruelly interfered.
But after hearing to his nasty words almost every day, the idea was planted in my mind.
“Her unhappy death was your fault.”
“She wasn’t able to prioritize herself more because of your existence.”
The more I heard him, the more I thought it might be true.
More doubts started to grow within my heart.
What’s more, Phyllo also disappeared. At first I thought he only wanted to be alone since he was so sad of losing her.
But Phyllo never returned.
And no matter how hard I tried to look, there was really nothing left behind for me.
At that time, my state of mind hadn’t recovered yet after losing her, and I was also guilty that I couldn’t do anything for her. In the end, Dius took advantage of my weakness at that time and planted those nasty and horrible ideas inside my mind, the ideas that would haunt me for years after that.
“Mom, can you tell me more about yourself? I want to know more about you, especially when you’re just a child!”
“Mmm, well, I guess I can tell you… but after your coming-of-age ceremony, okay?”
“Because I’m afraid there are some thing that you won’t understand unless you’re mature enough.”
A promise that remained unfulfilled.
Because… you wouldn’t be able to be there at my coming-of-age ceremony.
And in the end… Dius’ words were true.
[You also don’t know much about her, do you?]
…That’s right, I don’t. I don’t know how she spent her childhood. She didn’t really want to talk about it to me, for some unknown reasons.
I know that. I know that.
But those words that Dius said… they hurt so much.
After a while had passed, I took up another objective in my life.
Alright, I might have caused her to suffer… I might be the reason Firis couldn’t live a fulfilling life ‘til the end, but… the Hartmann family that caused her to suffer—the Hartmann family that caused many other to suffer just like how she suffered… I must destroy them before I go away!!
After all, Firis once told me that she also lived a hard life before she came to the Hartmann house, and who were the ones who committed so many wrongdoings and even tried to cover any illegal activities in their territory?
If only the ones who managed the Hartmann territory did right and managed the territory well, she wouldn’t have to suffer so much.
If only I wasn’t here, perhaps she could have lived a better life…
I’m going to crush the Hartmann family before I can continue to atone for my sins!
The sin of keeping silent all these years even after knowing the Hartmann family’s nasty secrets…
The sin of causing my beloved one to suffer…
Therefore, some time after I turned 13, I tried to “behave” myself the way Father would want me to be, so that he’d listen to my request.
Though it was hard, I tried to be cold and be distant with the others, especially those that Father and Dius-niisama didn’t hold in high regards. It was mainly the commoners, which included those who worked for this house. Obviously, those who knew me quite well in the past were so surprised.
After I made sure that Father was quite convinced I was too shocked due to Firis’ death and tried to desperately hold on to the family members I had, I made my request.
“So, you’d like to move to a dormitory? Harmonia Academy?”
“That’s right. Hi—Mother and Dius-niisama would be happy if I could go there, too, right?”
Since they won’t be able to see me that way.
“Why would you want that? Could it be that you’re trying to get away from me? Are you trying to oppose me?”
“No, I will listen to all your requests. I want to go to Harmonia Academy to widen my networking. I heard that some of the nobility and the royal family went there. Wouldn’t it be advantageous for us if I were to go there?”
Though Father frowned, he pondered and weighed the pro and contra—and finally, he agreed.
Actually… it was so that I could gain some connections to crush this house while seemingly trying to support this house.
But it was fine. For the time being, I’d try to obey all his words—no, his orders.
“Also, Icarus. Your engagement’s been decided. You can’t refuse it, okay? As for the engagement—”
“I understand. I’ll leave that for you to take care of, Father. No matter what, I’ll accept it. You know what’s the best for our family, after all.”
“Well said. I will tell you when you will formally greet their family with us. As for your fiancée, she is—”
“Father. Can’t we just skip all those details? Isn’t it more important for us to work on our prosperity rather than doing all those? It isn’t like they could refuse too, right?”
I hated saying those words, but Father contently smiled. After all, he only saw the others as tools and didn’t really pay any mind to them. Even to Hillde-sama, Father didn’t seem to really care about her. Not like Hillde-sama minded.
Anyway, once I crush the Hartmann family, I can dissolve the engagement and let the poor family be free. It wouldn’t be wise for me to get acquainted to them and involve them in my plan in the future. Not knowing them would be better for me.
In the end, I got Father’s approval to enroll to Harmonia Academy. I felt that I was getting better at acting—at being two-faced. I wasn’t sure whether I should say it was good or bad… But for my goal at that time, it was good.
Before I went to Harmonia Academy, I fired Chloe after making up some ridiculous reason that a typical arrogant and cruel noble would, in order to dispose of the “pawns” that they no longer need. It was hard for me to act cold to her—but if I were no longer here in the Hartmann’s house, who could protect her?
She was now the only person I cared for, so I didn’t want her to suffer.
My action boosted Father’s trust in me. He felt that I was finally “seeing the right way” or “becoming even nobler”.
Though it was hard for me to part with Chloe, at least, knowing that she was alive and free from the Hartmann house was enough.
Chloe was the only person who tried so hard to convince me that Dius-niisama’s words were false. She tried so hard to make sure that I didn’t have any negativity in my mind concerning Firis, but… Dius-niisama’s words were engraved so deeply in my wounded heart. Chloe’s words made me feel better, but… nobody could know the truth other than Firis herself.
Chloe also said that she knew Firis was keeping some things for me, but in the end, even she couldn’t find those things she spoke of.
Still, her words gave me hope. Even though it was such a tiny hope.
How nice if what she said was true?
“Cyan-sama!! Please reconsider! I still want to be here, to take care of you—”
On the day Chloe was to leave the Hartmann house, she still tried to cling to me, to plead for me to change my mind. It took me quite an effort to harden my heart to shake her hands away and to say these following words.
“Go. I have no use of you already.”
After turning around from her, I bitterly smiled.
Go… and live well, Chloe. There will surely be a lot of other options for you out there. It’s not good for you to stay here, although you might be so used to this kind of life.
Chloe was reluctant to go because of me and Firis’ presence back then. Now that Firis was gone, she was reluctant to go because of me. But I’d be gone from this house for… well, I didn’t even think of really going back here.
She was also afraid to change. She was afraid to look for new opportunities. I knew that with her ability, she’d be able to find a better job and a better livelihood.
So… although I might be harsh, I wanted to give her the chance to get a better future.
After all, I wouldn’t know what would happen to her once I left, if she were to remain in this house.
To be honest, I felt free after entering Harmonia Academy. I decided to never mention my full name and address myself as just “Cyan” there, hiding my heterochromia and my true identity.
After all, rumors about the corrupted Hartmann family were already spreading, and apparently it was even more spread among the commoners and since there were commoners in Harmonia Academy—it won’t be good for me to openly announce myself as one of the Hartmann.
Still, I was wondering. If rumors about the Hartmann family’s corrupted nature were so widespread, why hadn’t they been caught?
No evidence at all to back up the claim?
Father and the others seemed to be very skillful at hiding their traces, but… I hadn’t expected it to be at this extent.
One day, after settling in Harmonia Academy and leading a lowkey life for a year or so, the chance that I had been looking for finally came.
I was walking around the area where there were little to no people. I was wondering how I could reach out to powerful figures, such as the royal family members… when I happened to come across one.
I had no idea that it was a very fateful encounter.
At that time, I wanted to find another comfy place to eat my lunch while gazing at the nature. But in the middle of my way, I just had to turn my head to my side and saw…
A figure with short light brown hair and vibrant green eyes was crouching down at a secluded small path. His hand was petting the stray cat monster as it was eating. Perhaps, that person was the one who gave it food. Since he was looking at the cat, his left hair—which was slightly longer—fell and covered a bit of his face.
But luckily, I still managed to remember the face of my country’s crown prince, be as detached as I might be.
So, I immediately recognized him.
Though I was a bit nervous, I decided to approach him first.
As I approached him, he heard my footsteps and turned to look at me.
“Hello. Feeding the cats? Can I join?”
The crown prince—Titus—seemed to be assessing me from head to toe before he smiled.
“Sure. I’m Titus from the Advanced Level. Who might you be?”
I smiled and braced myself.
I have to succeed. Getting closer to him would be my best bet… I can work together with him… to banish the Hartmann family.
At the same time as that thought, I could feel a little bit anger. That anger stemmed from my blaming the royal family for not being able to do anything faster to the Hartmann family.
I swallowed my mixed emotion and said in a friendly way.
“I’m Cyan, a new student from the Intermediate Level. It’s nice to meet you.”
That was how I got acquainted with the person who’d be the king in the future—the person who’d be my best friend.
Titus and Cyan are of the same age. However, Titus has always been in Harmonia Academy and enrolled to the special class, so at the same age, Titus is already Cyan’s senior at school.