Perhaps she herself couldn’t believe it even if she was the one who said it, but Yennit looked a bit dazed.
Ophelia knew nothing about magic, but her magical affinity was the best ever recorded.
“I’ve heard from Lord Alejandro that members of the Milescet Imperial Family typically have high magical affinities, but isn’t this a bit too much?”
“Everyone in the Milescet Imperial Family is born with high magical affinity? Shouldn’t they all be mages then?”
At the side, Cornelli looked at her quite enviously, but Ophelia didn’t answer. She touched her own forehead.
Her head was throbbing. This was the aftermath of regaining her lost memories.
It’s not just the memories about her mother, Amelia, that had been erased from her mind.
—Is that child the one out of wedlock? The one born between His Majesty and the mermaid…
—Shush. The child will hear.
—So what if it does? It’s amazing how a monster is pretending to be a human being, and a child at that. How the hell can you make a monster human?
—I don’t know the details, but there is an heirloom that’s handed down from generation to generation in the Imperial Family. I heard that their wish could come true with it.
—With such a precious item… Haa, well, it’s done anyway. So that child is human?
—Yes. She passed all the tests at the temple. She’s normal. His Majesty is even disappointed that she’s perfectly normal. I mean, how could she not even have any abilities at all, tsk, tsk.
Ophelia couldn’t see who those people were, but she clearly remembered the barbed contempt mixed with those unknown voices.
Then, younger than she looked in the other memory, Amelia found Ophelia and looked at her perplexedly.
—Baby, how did you go out? You shouldn’t have been able to come here…
As Little Ophelia proudly demonstrated what she had done a while ago, Amelia’s apprehension grew deeper.
—You already know how to do that, my daughter… You’re all grown up now.
—That’s right, since you’re my daughter…
I hope you forget it all quickly.
As Amelia murmured under her breath, Little Ophelia noticed that her mother’s hand over hers was trembling.
Back when she was still young, Ophelia couldn’t understand, but right now, she could see just how urgent her mother’s touch had been.
And how much Amelia had been protecting Ophelia from the palace and from this life.
Tears rolled down Ophelia’s cheeks.
“Are you sure you’re not hurt?”
Seeing her tears, the two mages beside her called out her name as they were startled. They asked if she was alright, but in response, Ophelia only smiled faintly.
“Really, I’m fine.”
Rather, it felt as if the long-standing acrimony she harbored within her had come undone.
All her life, she thought that no one loved her. It came to a point that she comforted herself with the unhappy stories of the princesses she read about in fairytales.
Even the man, who once sweetly whispered to her that he’d love her forever, turned his back on her, so the thought that nobody loved her took deeper root within her heart.
But the truth was that she, too, was loved. There were people who loved her and did not hesitate to stake their own lives for her. Her own life, this life, was the proof of this.
‘I thought it was enough for me to have just Alei, to have only one person who could love me.’
But as the tears continued to flow from her eyes like this, perhaps she had been too overconfident to think so.
Her life had been like a gust of wind that did not have its own place, wandering around without being able to settle. But what grabbed hold of her to anchor her down was the love, like a deep shadow, she herself had not been aware of all this time.
She had never been so happy to be alive. Ophelia cried and laughed at the same time.
The mages around her, who didn’t know the reason for her tears, could be seen scrambling around here and there, frantic.
Then, there were also green sprouts starting to surround Ophelia on the ground.
The commotion was so funny to her that Ophelia eventually burst into a peal of laughter. Then, she remembered that there were a few individuals she was supposed to meet.
The ones who lived in the ocean, her sisters who were from a different father.
* * *
“…And so that’s why, after that, I started being able to use magic.”
Ophelia shortly explained to the mermaids—what she could remember, and what the Siren Tower told her.
She wasn’t even required to tell the specifics of the story.
The mermaids who, along with Ariel, came to the meeting place, noticed at once that there was something different about Ophelia.
“I knew something had gone wrong when Mother didn’t come back.”
“I didn’t expect Lord Siren to really do that favor…”
“But I wanted to believe that Mother was alive somewhere out there…”
“We should tell Father about this.”
“We’re going to witness the humans be swept away once again.”
The mermaids’ reactions varied. The younger the mermaid, the more agitated she was. On the other hand, the older the mermaid, the calmer she was.
However, everyone’s eyes were the same. The love they had for their family was evident in all of them.
Feeling as though she had committed a great transgression, Ophelia couldn’t hide her feelings of guilt and remorse in front of them.
It was none other than the first mermaid princess, Rubelia, who took Ophelia’s hand.
“Don’t make such a face. You are not at fault. We’re just thankful that we could hear about the truth through you. Your mother and our mother are not two separate beings, and the grief we feel about losing a loved one cannot be weighed against each other. There is nothing for you to be guilty about.”
“…Thank you for saying that.”
“Most of all, I’m surprised that what I thought was a coincidence wasn’t truly a coincidence.”
Rubelia pointed out something else. It was the fact that mermaids tended to have names similar to their other family members’ names.
“So we all named ourselves after Mother and Father. I’m Rubelia, this is Lamellie. Over there is Terria, and…”
Rubelia introduced the sisters one at a time by their names. And at the end was Ariel, the youngest child who looked just like Ophelia.
“Especially the name Ophelia, it’s the name of the mother of our mother… I mean, it’s the name of our grandmother. She had died before mother became the queen and before she could use magic. She often grew sad as she looked back during that time when she couldn’t do anything to help.”
The mermaid and the siren didn’t have the ability to use magic from the very beginning.
Rubelia further explained how Amelia, who shared magic to her fellow merfolk, grieved about how she gained nearly omnipotent magic, yet she had been unable to do anything to prevent the death of her close family.
“But your name is Ophelia, and I thought that this was just a coincidence… I didn’t realize that the truth was not so far away.”
“I came out here to catch up with you, but I didn’t expect that this was what I’d hear.”
Ariel chirped up as well. She was the one who helped Ophelia organize this meeting, and the same as before, she also looked confused.
“Honestly, I don’t have any memories of Mother, so I don’t feel as close to her as our older sisters. I just think sometimes how I wish I could have met her, I guess?”
Ariel held Ophelia’s hand, further saying that she was more surprised to find out that she and Ophelia were family.
“Strangely enough, I found myself gravitating towards you ever since I first saw you. Isn’t it amazing that we’re actually family?”
“I feel the same way.”
The guilt of taking their mother away from Ariel ate at Ophelia, too, but she tried not to show it.
She could feel that Ariel’s smile was lightening the mood.
And on the other hand, truthfully, Ophelia also felt happy.
“On my way to the magic tower, I was a little… I mean, I felt very alone. But I found out that I have a family, and it truly makes me happy.”
Everything had gone as planned—she left the land completely and headed towards the magic tower, which was cut-off from the outside world completely—but in the end, she had been left with a bitter feeling.
Perhaps it was because she couldn’t go back to land through her own efforts alone. And even if she wanted to run away, she had nowhere else to go because she was surrounded by the ocean on all sides.
This deep-seated anxiety of being all alone stayed with her, and even as she basked in her newfound happiness, this anxiety sometimes reared its head.
The emptiness that had been within Ophelia before was now being filled with the things she had once lost, but found again.
“I don’t think I have to be so anxious anymore.”
Ophelia wrapped her other hand atop Ariel’s and laughed.
There, on the beach that touched the blue waters, which reflected the sky. The shallow current coming up to the shore soaked Ophelia’s toes.
That midday, there were no anxieties or unease at all.
* * *
Before long, Ariel’s sisters went back.
A bit of time was needed to sort out the commotion, but they soon told Ophelia about how they fulfilled their promise properly. This was one of the reasons they came up to meet her.
The mermaids levitated a clear sphere of water to show what they had seen. And there, Ophelia saw a familiar figure.
It was a man, crying while clutching Ophelia’s torn clothes.
—Please, no! Ophelia…!
He had completely broken down, but Ophelia recognized who it was.
Ian Carle Ronen.
Until the very end, he denied Ophelia’s death and eventually had to be taken away.
Perhaps, they would never see each other ever again on this shore.
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