I briefly added, but the confusion in Damian’s face did not go away.
No, I can’t help but think it.
I heard similar statements twice today, so it’s only natural that I thought they planned it.
Pretending I didn’t know, I shrugged in response.
“By the way, I mentioned it last time. You don’t have to do this.”
Only then did Damian’s expression change.
“…You always reject me.”
And his depressed tone pricked at my conscience.
“I don’t mean it in that way.”
“If not, then?”
“…I just don’t want you to feel uncomfortable or anything, Brother.”
At the ensuing doubt that arose, I watched as Damian turned speechless.
My throat felt dry for no reason, and I gulped dryly.
I could feel my eyelashes trembling.
Nervous laughter spilled through my lips.
Should I say it or not.
In a way, it’s one of the weapons in my arsenal.
However, contrary to such thoughts, my lips moved automatically.
It was even before that moment’s contemplation could be finished.
“Your guilt is what compels you to be nice to me, Brother.”
It looked as if Damian had been shot by a bullet.
Even though this was my own way of being considerate to him.
If he didn’t notice it in the first place, then it would be better to inform him about it.
If he already knew it all this time, then it would be right to say something to stop it here.
Because he was a good person.
Right, he’s a good person.
At least, that’s what I felt.
In the past, Rosetta carried some resentment against him, but she did not consider him to be a bad person.
Well, regardless of that, I’m selfish by nature.
Compared to Rosetta’s past, my present was more important.
‘…The Duchess must be feeling incredulous, too.’
I had apologized to her just a while ago, but as of now, I’m putting my own judgment as the priority before Rosetta’s feelings.
What I feel towards the duke was still a tangled, complicated mess. But at the very least with Damian, I had made up my mind.
He’s a good guy.
I had already used him for my own gains before, and I feel like it’s time to stop.
At this rate, I’d be the one feeling guilty.
“…Guilt, you say,” he murmured quietly.
Beneath his long lashes, a dark shadow lingered for a while, then disappeared.
His lowered gaze was raised, gazing at me now.
Before I knew it, the tremors had stopped.
Looking straight into my eyes, he spoke.
“Yes, I felt guilty.”
“To me, you were like guilt personified. However.”
He paused and inhaled sharply.
His voice did not sound like it was shaking, however his lips as he took that breath quivered.
Still, his eyes were on me.
“It’s not just that. I feel remorseful towards you, that’s true, but not just that.”
Unknowingly, my mouth twitched, about to move on its own.
But the question remained unasked, lingering instead on my lips.
What’s your point in bringing this up?
“You… You are…”
Repeating the same words, he smiled awkwardly as he placed a hand on my shoulder.
The warmth passing from him to me seemed to convey his sincerity.
I wanted to avoid his eyes, but that would betray the proper courtesy I should return to him. And so, I endured it.
My golden eyes seemed to be reflected in his.
Funnily enough, it seemed like there was even a hint of some tears in my gaze as it was mirrored by his.
Then, with an expression that was no different, Damian opened his lips once again to speak.
“Because just like Alicia, you are also my sister. That’s why I’m doing this. I just want to be a big brother to my little sister.”
Right, that’s all.
With a crumpled expression, he tearfully murmured these words.
Still held by him, I faced him.
I could have shaken off his hand right away, but I couldn’t bear to.
Because Damian’s a good person.
…Just because Damian’s a good person?
No, it wasn’t just that.
Of course, it wasn’t just that.
Mog-i Oraboni’s voice echoed anew in my head.
“Even so, remember this. Even when the sky is downcast and full of clouds, the sun breaks through and rises.”
At that moment, Damian’s face overlapped with Mog-i Oraboni’s.
Throughout it all, Mog-i Oraboni was the only one I had truly considered as family.
As I stared at his and Damian’s faces together, I laughed helplessly.
The voice calling my name was very careful.
I shook my head and muttered.
“…I guess he’s right.”
“Nothing. I was just talking to myself.”
“I told you so, didn’t I?”
I could almost hear his cheeky voice.
So, I answered with my heart.
‘Yes, you were right, Oraboni.’
No matter how you try to cover the sky with the palms of your hand, the sunlight would spill through the gaps between your fingers.
No matter how much I say that I would no longer consider anyone family and no matter how much I struggle to keep it that way, it would turn out like this.
In fact, it was because I was shaken by the duke that I took a chance at Damian.
Through the fissures that had formed in the walls I built around myself, a ray of sunlight managed to seep in.
In the end, the sun would rise.
How ironic it was that people make such resolutions, yet end up not keeping them.
It was human nature to have one’s heart be shaken by every season, by every change of weather.
Perhaps it truly was up to God.
Yet again, this time, I was tricked by God. One of my resolutions had been broken once more.
Why was it that whenever I’m in front of you, I’m just this much.
I would never give up on my remaining resolutions.
Since one had now been broken, my determination flared more passionately as I vowed to change Alicia’s fate and drive out Urien.
After all, didn’t I have one more person to protect with my whole life now?
Seriously, a fool’s task.
* * *
Rosetta quietly called out to Damian, gently removing his hand from her shoulder.
Instead of answering, he only blinked.
Being called by only one’s name or title was always so nerve-wracking. He couldn’t guess what would come next.
Strangely enough, this time, he didn’t feel anxious.
Before this, he always felt antsy in front of Rosetta.
But from the way she breathed out to call him, he felt the quiet atmosphere surrounding her.
It was a smile that he had seen many times before, but this one felt especially unfamiliar.
But one thing’s for sure—it was unfamiliar, but not in a bad way.
“The favor I could ask of you, let’s postpone it for next time. I’m alright now, really. Instead, please promise me that you’ll listen to my request later.”
You have to.
A short peal of laughter followed after her words.
Momentarily enraptured, Damian stared blankly but soon nodded.
“Yes. Of course.”
After answering with a smile, he recalled what he had forgotten.
His purpose for coming here.
Damian looked around wordlessly. Because he looked like he was searching for something, Rosetta looked around as well.
At the same time that she called him, Damian found what he was looking for.
In about the middle row of the bookshelf that was used as the door to the secret library, there was a long box that’s been narrowly crammed in there.
He picked it up and gingerly handed it over to Rosetta.
“It’s a birthday present. I wasn’t sure what to choose, but I decided on something that I think you’ll be able to use often.”
…Happy birthday, Rose.
Damian added the last part in a low voice.
It was an old nickname of hers.
She was called that way when the duchess was still in this world.
The nickname was used only a few times, to the point that the person herself couldn’t seem to remember it anymore.
Damian gulped dryly as he looked into Rosetta’s eyes.
Fortunately, she didn’t react badly.
She turned the long box over in her hands, then smiled and thanked him.
“I’ll be sure to use it. Thank you, Brother.”
At that, a little conversation ensued between them.
However, this conversation did not last long. Even though the dynamic between them had shifted, it didn’t mean that just one heartfelt moment would automatically forge a bond between the siblings.
It was Rosetta who excused herself first.
“Then, I’ll go ahead. Have a good evening.”
“Yes, you have a good evening as well.”
Rosetta wanted to spend the rest of the evening alone, so with these farewells, their time together drew to a close.
Rosetta bowed her head once and left the room.
With an upright posture, Damian stood in the same spot silently as he watched her silver hair cascading behind her as she went further and further away.
Before long, she was completely out of his sight.
In perhaps the manner of throwing up, he let out a sigh.
Then, with a sunken gaze, he looked at the bookshelf that served as the doorway to the secret library.
He reached out one hand towards it.
As he rearranged ten books obliquely one after another, rattle, screech— thud.
With a series of sounds, the door opened.
However, this was a sound that could be heard only from the outside.
Strangely enough, starting from this door, all sounds from the outside could not be heard from inside the secret library.
The only external sounds that could be heard from inside were from the stairs.
And, there was an unfair aspect about this— all the sounds inside could be heard from anyone who’s outside.
Rosetta, who had come here for the first time today, did not know this.
Nor would she have known that he heard her talking to herself.
Of course, he did not mean to eavesdrop.
He first went to her room to personally deliver his gift to her, but he only heard from a maid that Rosetta had yet to return.
‘Then, is she still inside the secret library?’
As he had thought to himself, he looked out the window. The sky had already turned red.
There were no windows or clocks inside the secret library.
It was impossible to guess how time flowed in that mysterious, peculiar space.
At this point, he was somehow overcome with worry for Rosetta.
She must not know how much time had passed by, and she just might go on for longer without properly eating or sleeping.
It was a small pocket of concern, but it was enough that he worried about her as her older brother.
So, he placed the gift he brought with him on the bookshelf for the meantime and opened the door to the secret library.
Rattle, creak— thud.
With the same sound, the door opened.
Then, from the dimly lit stairs, Rosetta’s voice could be heard.
“Instead, I will protect Alicia. Damian, too. And His Grace the Duke. So… don’t hate me too much. Please.”
Her voice had been calm.
So, it hurt even more.
To the point that he almost preferred to hear her crying loudly.
Wasn’t that the voice of a person who had given up?
He was overcome with the urge to hit his burning chest, but instead, Damian clenched his hands into fists.
‘Why in the world are you…’
…apologizing when you’ve done nothing wrong.
The one who has sinned is me.
Recalling Rosetta’s voice as he was now in front of the open door, with practiced ease, Damian stepped into the dark space ahead of him.
Thanks to the fact that he had already gone in and out of this place before, he did not lose his footing on the staircase even though nothing illuminated his path.
After a certain point, his surroundings became brightly lit, and he headed towards one place without hesitation.
It was most probably the place where Rosetta had given her apology, which was conveyed with such complete resignation.
In front of their mother’s portrait.
He slowly raised his head.
Inside the frame that was propped in the very center of the wall, their mother could be seen with the same, perpetual smile.
Damian smiled forlornly.
He despaired at the fact that he could utter the word ‘Mother’ only in front of this painting.
He stared at the portrait for a very long time without saying anything. Then, he slowly spoke again.
“It’s… It’s my fault.”
It was a voice that sounded like a cry.
Don’t forget to rate and leave a review for this series on novel updates!
For update pings, novel discussions and/or to send mistake reports, join our discord server~