A sound disturbed the silence of the darkened orphanage.
I couldn’t see what I was treading on since it was so dark. The most significant factor, though, was that the sound was a little louder than I had anticipated.
Miss Raiolla was a light sleeper, thus it was not unusual if the heavy door opened abruptly after hearing the faint sou–
Bang! The door I was hoping not to open slammed open with a thud.
“Who’s there?! Who is the naughty kid breaching the rule of not roaming after the lights go out at eleven o’clock?!”
The silent space was filled with an angry voice, comparable to that of a witch in a fairy tale. A huge lady approached me with a faltering, ludicrous stride as if she couldn’t control her body. Even though I was already fifteen years old, I still had to lift my head to look into her eyes.
“Miss Raiolla, please accept my apologies. I couldn’t sleep after waking up from a frightening dream, so I decided to go get some water.”
Knowing how much she despised the sound of a kid crying, I looked her in the eyes and steadied my shaking voice.
If this were a regular orphanage, she would have stroked my head and smiled after what I said, but… My opponent was Raiolla. The dreaded mercenary who runs the Troy orphanage!
The auburn eyes looking back at me were bloodshot as if they hadn’t slept in days. She had been suffering from insomnia for years and was grateful for any sleep she could get. And it appears that I woke her up from her peaceful slumber today.
Perhaps because she had just awoken and her eyes were still adjusting to the darkness, she didn’t notice the tree in front of her and collided with it while walking vigorously.
Without a moment to breathe, the tree bumped into the distracted Miss Raiolla.
The lights and ornaments that the children had placed on the ‘Imperial Tree’ were smashed on the ground, making various noises.
‘What kind of one-man show is this?’
Pieces of glass, large and small, bounced to my feet.
“Are, are you alr–”
“Of course I’m not okay!”
Miss Raiolla sprang up and yelled.
Fortunately, despite the enormous disturbance, the kids did not come out. The children who knew Raiolla’s fiery temper were well aware that the instant they opened the door, what would have been an hour’s lecture would develop into two hours, and may possibly reach five hours.
As a result of the tragedy, Miss Raiolla approached me fully awake, evading the shattered glass.
‘Okay, let’s give up one of my ears today,’ I thought as I looked at the comical yet terrifying sight. I was prepared to put up with her nagging like a shotgun.
“Leah! Go and sit in the thinking chair!”
I set aside the preparations I had for tonight and walked to the thinking chair, led by Raiolla’s hand.
Terry, who had previously documented the longest period of Miss Raiolla’s nagging, claimed she had heard her nagging for three hours, but I had an uneasy feeling that it might exceed that length tonight.
Raiolla grabbed a thin whip from the side table as she gazed at the situation, which had devolved into shambles with a fallen tree and shattered glass. The whip itself didn’t appear to be particularly painful, but the forearm that held it was a weapon in and of itself.
I swallowed dry saliva and walked towards the thinking chair placed in the center of the room.
‘Ouch! It hurts!’
Tears welled up as a piece of broken glass that I hadn’t seen was stuck in the sole of my foot. I didn’t make a sound, though, because enraging Raiolla with needless whining would be counterproductive.
My feet were stabbed three more times as I walked slowly.
Swallowing a sigh, I sat down on the old chair and opened my mouth.
“I’m the bad kid who disobeyed the eleven o’clock rule.”
While sitting in the chair, you must confess what you did wrong. Miss Raiolla then approached, brandishing her whip in the air.
She circled me like a shark seeking for its meal while chatting intently.
“Leah, you are an orphan fostered in the renowned Troy orphanage sponsored by the magnificent Kavlos Duchy, yet you just make blunders day after day.”
None of the statements were true. Except for the fact that my name is Leah, everything she said was a lie.
The sponsorship of the Kavlos Duchy was a joke; they didn’t even pay for our food, so we lived on three pieces of potato every day.
Next, the modest Troy nursery home with only a few potatoes in the food cabinet was unlikely to be a distinguished orphanage. Located in a thick isolated forest, few people knew about the existence of this building.
Caring was also a farce. The orphanage’s director was a dictator who only cared about tormenting and ignoring the children.
Finally, I wasn’t an orphan. Both in the past and the present. In this life, my family would most likely be living comfortably in a gorgeous old Castle in the capital.
Raiolla’s mouth kept running wild as I was immersed in thought.
“What is the fourth of the Troy Orphanage’s top ten rules?”
“At eleven o’clock, the lights go off.”
“You’re perfectly aware of it, but you’re disregarding it. You’re making fun of me, aren’t you?”
I peered anxiously at her clenched fist, which was twisting the whip.
As I wiggled the wounded soles of my feet, which were tingly and itching, Raiolla’s voice became louder and harsher, and I began to feel a headache…
The children’s room door sprang open wildly.
A kid stood in front of the open door, staring at me with an odd expression on his face. Most of the kids had already awoken and were peering nervously inside the room, which could be seen through the slightly opened door.
“Eek-! You punk!! Why did you come out?!”
Miss Raiolla swung her whip and shouted hysterically.
“It’s so noisy that I can’t sleep at all.”
“Are you talking rudely to me?!”
‘It sounds even more absurd and pompous when you say it like that!’
My jaw dropped open as I glanced at Luka, a year younger than me. He gave me a sidelong glance and added,
“Leah did nothing wrong. I asked her to get me some water.”
Miss Raiolla’s nerves were frayed as a result of Luka’s peculiar, rebellious demeanor.
I gave her a puzzled look, and a thunderous roar erupted in response.
“I’m saying you two have to change positions!”
Luka approached the seat where I had stood up, trembling. Then, instead of sitting down, he slumped in the chair and stated,
“I’m a bad child who got Leah in trouble.”
He gently stated what he believed was wrong according to the regulations. Raiolla’s face flushed red with wrath as she was astonished by Luka’s brazen statement.
“Is that your–! You really don’t know what you did wrong?!”
“I can’t think of anything other than that.”
“Who taught you to speak like that?!”
‘Me… I-I taught him…’
It was definitely me who taught Luka. I took a step forward, gripped his shoulder, barely restrained my urge to recite “11 Things to Be Careful of in Front of Grandmother” while trembling, and stared Raiolla in the eyes.
She wiped her brow and waved her hand toward me.
“You go in. I need to fix your bad habits today, Luka.”
‘He never asked me to bring him some water or anything…’
I looked at Luka, confused, and he nodded as if to encourage me to rush in.
Choosing to endure Raiolla’s never-ending lecture on my behalf… Friendship may certainly be thicker than blood. However, as soon as I glanced at Raiolla’s whip, fear seized my heart.
When Luka saw how concerned I was over the situation, he made a gesture with his lips and said, “It’s okay, just go.”
At his resolute words, I moved my stinging soles and cautiously returned to my room.
Miss Raiolla’s frightening back was the last thing I noticed before closing the door. Nonetheless, Luka stared at her with callous red eyes.
I crouched in front of the door as it slowly closed behind me. The blood dripping from my feet didn’t bother me.
‘I’m concerned about Luka out there. What on earth was he thinking…?’
The orphanage’s head, who was tolerant of Luka compared to other children, did her best not to touch such a dazzling child. Because she didn’t want the product to be harmed.
However, given Luka’s attitude, it didn’t appear as it would end with nagging.
My mind cooled down recalling the kid who had to cope with Raiolla alone on my behalf.
I couldn’t shake off the image of dark-brown hair and red eyes, that gleamed even in the dark as if they were standing right in front of me.
“No matter how much I think about it, I can’t leave it like that.”
I sat at my desk across from the children’s beds and began to write a letter in unusual and elegant handwriting.
[Dear Miss Raiolla:]
The first step was to put down the recipient’s name.
[I love you. I melted in front of your warm auburn eyes. Are you maybe the manifestation of an angel that adores children? I hope to meet you on the day when the two moons rise.]
While writing, I had goosebumps in my arms.
[From Viscount Louis Conn]
Raiolla was the honorary stalker of Viscount Louis Conn, the orphanage’s manager.
Even though she was a witch at heart, she was helpless in the face of love. She would be willing to die if Viscount Conn asked her to. So, if the Viscount fell in love with her child-caring abilities…
The crucial question was whether Raiolla would be fooled, considering Viscount Louis generally treated her like a bug on his foot and paid little attention to her.
‘First and foremost, let’s air dry the ink that I just wasted on such a lousy trick.’
‘May Luka be protected from that horrible old lady,’ I pleaded with each blow, without naming a new target.
Then, with my eyes gleaming with anticipation, I looked at the time and blew the note through the crevices in the bottom of the door.
A little later…
“What exactly is this garbage?”
Raiolla’s complaints about the children failing to fulfill their daily cleaning responsibilities were heard through the locked door. However, tens of seconds after discovering the contents of the paper she had mistakenly labeled it as trash…
“Oh my goodness, oh my goodness! Why hadn’t I noticed this letter earlier? For the first time, the Viscount replied!”
Raiolla’s cheerful voice, who was falling like a fool in the face of love, was heard. Fortunately, she was fooled by my sloppy letter. I strongly questioned her mental age, which was possibly younger than the toddlers here. She wouldn’t have been able to manage this place with such a stone-head if she hadn’t been a brilliant fighter from a former mercenary guild.
Fortunately, after reading such a message, Raiolla’s spirits skyrocketed. Humming under her breath, she entered her room, leaving a reminder that anything like this should never happen again. I didn’t breathe a sigh of relief until I heard the door close. Luka was already standing in front of me as soon as I cautiously opened the door. Unlike me, who was shocked, Luka was calm, staring at me with his scarlet eyes.
‘Does one have to have this amount of strength and determination from a young age to become a male lead in a novel?’
Fortunately, there didn’t appear to be any issues. I sighed in relief once more and grabbed his cheeks.
Luka furrowed his brows and muttered in a leaky voice as his soft sticky rice cake-like cheeks were stretched to both sides.
“Don’t ever do that again. It was my fault, and I should pay for it.”
Luka gazed at me silently while I murmured softly, then suddenly, with his gentle hand clutching mine, he moved so near that I could feel his breath tickling my nose.
1. [Luka was speaking without using honorifics and after Raiolla questioned him, he simply added ‘yo’ which is how any sentence ends when being respectful]↩
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