From the moment I can remember, my mom and dad were already gone. Whenever someone asked me to make a wish, I would pray and say, “Please give me a family.”
But, no one wanted to adopt me until I was eight.
“We live in an era where people eat their own children. How much food have you been eating? You should be grateful for staying in an orphanage.”
That’s what the director used to say. He’s not wrong.
It was a time of war. Countless people were dying in the battlefield, and bodies of starving people piled up on the streets every day.
Still, I didn’t give up.
A dream of being loved by moms and dads and playing with brothers. A dream of living a happy and prosperous life.
“The director wants you to come to his office.”
So for the first time in my life, my heart thumped when the Director said he was looking for me.
Maybe he wants to talk about adoption?
I rushed to the director’s office. However, instead of there being a couple who wanted children, there was a nobleman.
I was inwardly disappointed. The aristocracy didn’t adopt commoners. But, for a moment of disappointment, I was surprised by the director’s terrible appearance. It seemed that he was threatened with a sword by the noble.
“You’re the one…”
Inside the cage, a water bird was blinking.
“…I’ve come to ask you something. Can you hear what the Spirit of Water says?”
I saw the bird’s eyes.
I wasn’t surprised when I saw a bird made of water for the first time. I could even hear the voices of fire, earth and wind.
<It’s you, I’ve heard a lot of rumours.>
The bird told me.
“Yes, I can hear it.”
“Oh my god, I can’t believe that the Baby of the Prophecy I’ve been looking for many years has really been in an orphanage.”
At that moment, surprisingly, the sword shone. The nobleman who saw it shed tears.
His eyes turned to the director. The director was shivering in the corner in fear.
He had a pale face and a crumpled shirt that was caught by the nobleman earlier. In addition, he was wearing a shirt only because his coat was drawn with a sword.
The director’s thigh was wet, showing half a circle. He wet his pants.
The director shouted in surprise at the eyes of the nobility.
“S-Sorry, I didn’t report it! I really thought it was just a child’s lie.”
“Hold him! It’s an imperial order.”
The director was seized in a moment. I also stiffened.
<This guy won’t hurt you.>
Said the Spirit of Water in the cage. No one but me seemed to have heard what the Spirits had said. There were only three people in the room.
The nobleman saw me again with a sword in his hand.
“This kid, won’t be here this time.”
The nobleman almost gnashed his teeth.
For a moment, I was reflected in the nobleman’s eyes. I had a clear face, was small and thin, and was wearing old clothes I got from my orphanage sister.
Another look of mourning passed over the nobleman’s face. But he held back his anger and stood up to see me for the first time.
“Let me introduce myself to you now. I am Count Daruan, loyal to the Great Imperial Hasfelt Family.”
I stayed still. It was mainly because I couldn’t understand the situation.
It was embarrassing. First of all, I’ve never heard of any respect.
But, the first person who treated me with respect was much older than me and a great aristocrat.
Even if I didn’t get a proper education, I knew the strictness of the status system.
“Excuse me, may I ask for your name?”
The aristocrat tried to laugh as kindly as possible. But, a big body and smile rarely fit together.
“Adele… It’s Adele.”
“Adele, that’s a good name. The last name will be added soon.”
Does that mean that I’ll have a family?
I really wanted to ask, but held it in because calm and quiet children get praised. Besides, I was too young to judge the situation.
Is he my family?
When I blinked calmly, the aristocrat looked at me with a slight surprise.
“First of all, please bear with me for one more day. It’s a shabby place. I’ve been told that keeping secrets is a top priority.”
You want me to bear it?
I’ve lived here for eight years.
But, the nobleman seemed genuinely sorry.
“Do I have a family?”
Oh, I couldn’t stand it after all.
As soon as I said it, I regretted it. He hesitated for a moment, but he still had a friendly face.
My face reflected in the eyes of the nobleman. Pink hair, blue eyes, and a body too small to be eight. The nobleman spoke slowly, but firmly.
“”Yes. Tomorrow, right away. No, I’m coming to pick you up as soon as the sun rises.”
<You can count on him.>
The spirit beside him kindly added. I nodded, making eye contact with the nobleman.
I’ve always had to be on the lookout for the director.
No, all the children in the orphanage did that.
Whoever upset the director had to stay in the solitary room all day. There were no clean rooms, except for the room where the director stayed in the orphanage. But, the solitary cell was especially dirty, and there were many bugs.
Sometimes, I was stuck in the solitary cell, too. The reason was simple. For example, I didn’t avoid the director’s eyes.
Also, I was always hungry. Even moldy bread wasn’t given properly, so I was constantly hungry.
Still, everyone in the orphanage tried to look good to the director.
Because the director’s words were important to meet good adoptive parents.
But, after the aristocrat visited, it was different. I didn’t need to clean the orphanage, which I always had to do, and I didn’t have to bake cookies to sell them on the street.
Even all the orphanage children ate meat soup this evening.
Meat soup! Except for the day three years ago, when the director was very happy to succeed in the late marriage, it was something we had never eaten.
[A reward for secrecy; a reward for secrecy.]
The director kept muttering. Then I checked myself periodically. I thought it was all a dream, because it was so unrealistic.
It didn’t make sense for a nobleman to cry while holding me.
I was daydreaming until the next day. That’s why I didn’t say hello to my best friend, Madeleine.
“Look over there. Someone’s here.”
“I guess he’s adopting someone!”
“It’s the record book! Every time any of us got adopted, the director took that register and went out to the gate!”
At the sudden uproar, I raised my head. At that time, the first day I saw my father, I was avoiding the sun in the shade under the tree. The gate of the shabby old orphanage opened slowly.
And a very big and fancy carriage came in, which is the first one I’ve seen.
The carriage was engraved with a black eagle’s pearl. The carriage stopped. And soon a very noble-looking man in a black uniform got off. I could see the director running away. I couldn’t breathe for a moment.
What is it?
The director bent over, said something, and soon looked around. And our eyes met. I lowered my head in a hurry.
I used to be locked up in the solitary cell because I made eye contact with the director.
But, it soon became quiet.
The children, who would’ve talked a lot due to a strange atmosphere, were also quiet.
I managed to have some courage in the wake of the ensuing silence. I decided to slightly look up. I slowly raised my head and saw him.
The man who stood in front of me.
My older sister at the orphanage looked numb.
“…You’re so handsome.”
I blinked at the man.
“She’s the one?”
A strange man whom I had never seen before.
Black-haired, blood-like red eyes. A man of appearance whom one will never forget at first sight.
The atmosphere was frightening.
Please give me a family. Even though I begged, I had never imagined to live with a man this young.
“This is going to be my daughter.”
Just now, I was called ‘this’.
The man, called the Duke, was arrogant and confident. The tall height was daunting and charismatic. He was too young to be someone’s father. And most importantly, there was no wife who would be the mother.
I didn’t even see what I had imagined to be brothers and sisters. Five knights with swords were watching here from behind the man.
“I have a daughter while being unmarried? Who made the decision to stop me from getting married?”
I could feel the eyes of the children. Madeleine, in particular, stood far away with her eyes wide open as if surprised.
A sense of reality struck me at the moment.
My heart throbbed.
But, I just couldn’t be happy.
So far, it’s been so different from the parents who came to adopt a child. First of all, he was a nobleman and had many knights, and most of all, he had no guidance from a mother.
Moreover, I was reminded of the Duke’s life.
Towards me, I was sure, the one who he had never seen before.
He wants to kill me.
But, what did I do wrong?
The next moment, the man who was probably going to be my father pushed a knife into my neck.