I woke up.
My vision was clear.
The first thing I saw was the window, white and dry from the cold.
The frosty lilies, chilling to look at, were opaque, as if they had forgotten the reason for their existence.
Shadows flickered from the hazy window.
Through a small gap, a thin beam of light shone through the frosty air.
It was a dazzling light; thin but not weak.
Winter in Bellnerny was ashen and difficult, but the sunlight was plentiful in the summer.
I gazed at the bright colours. Colours that could be seen when I turned to the side
That light was accompanied by a brief blast of wintery wind and snow. Winter.
I stared at the white winter landscape through the window, but it took me quite a while to make the connection between the landscape I was seeing and the accident that made me recognize it.
I didn’t even notice that I had ‘opened my eyes’, because it didn’t make sense when connected to what had just happened.
Because I was dead.
I had closed my eyes while cursing the emperor.
I had watched him frown at my rude snide remarks as I mocked him until my very last moment.
Besides, the day I died was in the middle of summer, when the hot sun’s rays were scorching hot.
But now the landscape outside my window was definitely a winter’s day.
My brows knitted together as I felt that I had seen this old windowsill before. The slightly rough, but sentimental color of this room was definitely familiar.
As I lay going over my blurry memories, the door slammed open and a woman came in noisily.
I jumped, startled by the familiar voice.
My childhood nanny, Viscountess Cohen, died with her husband in a carriage accident the autumn before last.
What was happening? Was this heaven?
I hadn’t committed any crimes punishable by death, but I hadn’t lived as good a life as she had either to warrant me a place here, but I turned to her with a big smile on my face.
“Yes, yes. What’s wrong with you today? Getting up so early. You must be excited because it’s your birthday.”
“Huh? My birthday?”
Did heaven celebrate birthdays too? But my birthday is in winter and I died in the summer.…. I must have crossed two seasons in heaven.
Eyes wide, I asked my nanny but she just sighed.
“You have to hurry up and get ready. Wasn’t it cold all night?”
“No, it wasn’t cold.”
“I told Voight that he should cut plenty of firewood this time around because you’re sensitive to the cold.”
“Voight? Voight is here?”
Did he die too?
Did that damned emperor really kill the butler of the count who did nothing wrong?
I felt regret, but I didn’t know what to do.
My nanny frowned in that moment as if she was hearing all sorts of strange things.
“Of course. Are you talking about the vacation? Miss, it’s been a while since he left.”
“He went on a trip with his wife. Sigh, Miss, please be understanding, he just got married.”
It’s been seven years since Voight got married. What was she talking about?
Don’t tell me you can get married again in heaven.
After singing love songs like lovebirds with Emily, this happened? Really, looks could be deceiving.
As expected, men couldn’t be trusted.
“Yeah, well, they are newlyweds. They can’t help it.”
My nanny may or may not have heard my whisperings, but she grumbled as she arranged the bedding.
“Oh, and that Count too! What is the point of letting your daughter sleep in this old bedroom the day before her birthday just because she postponed her studies a bit?”
I pouted at her words, full of her characteristic frustration, but for me.
You don’t know how much I missed this kind and caring woman.
I squeezed her waist from behind as she folded the covers. She was very warm.
I was lucky to have my nanny in heaven.
“Nanny, I’ve really missed you.”
“Oh, sweetheart, how come you’re getting more and more childish?”
“I guess I’m aging backwards.” I smiled as I replied to my nanny’s question with a mischievous quip.
She finished cleaning up the bedding with me hanging off her arm as if I wasn’t heavy.
I didn’t loosen my hold on her arm for fear that she would disappear, but instead of shaking me off, my nanny spun around as she turned to leave.
“Did you have a nightmare last night?”
“Nope. Does it look like a nightmare?”
“Huh, what’s happening? Young master also has nightmares these days too.”
“Young master? Who?”
“What who? Miss’s brother, young master Lohan.”
“I thought Lohan couldn’t come to heaven…”
My eyes widened in surprise at the fact that Lohan, who had died before me was in heaven – actually I had never doubted that this was heaven.
“Lohan is here too?”
“Why do you keep saying strange things? If young master isn’t in the Count’s mansion, where else would he be?”
“Impossible, he can’t be in heaven….”
I closed my mouth as I started to refute my nanny’s words.
What did she just say?
“Where am I?” I asked, my voice raspy.
I frowned, my eyebrows furrowing heavily.
My nanny replied as she rubbed my wrinkled forehead gently with her finger and spread it out.
“In a remote attic in the Count of Beloit’s residence, in the Empire of Bellnerny. Miss, are you still sleepy?”
“This is the Count’s residence?”
The Count’s residence was burned down in a fire set by someone a month ago on the day my father and Lohan were arrested.
I clearly saw with my own eyes the charred frame that was left.…. It just didn’t make sense.
I looked around the room, pressing my hands to my pounding chest.
I knew this room.
It was an old attic attached to the Count’s residence, the ‘reflection room’ that my father often used when he punished Lohan and I when we were young.
A place that I hated very much because I despised being alone and in the dark, but I have never returned to since I was twelve.
“Today… no, how old am I right now?”
“Today is your birthday, so you’re 12 years old now.”
“…12 years old?”
When I turned pale and not moving, my nanny looked at me with a worried expression.
This couldn’t be the Count’s residence.
12 years old?
I died at the age of 18.
I turned away from her worried gaze and rushed to the door of the room.
If this was the Count’s mansion and this room was the reflection room, then Lohan had to be sleeping in the small bedroom next to this one.
He had been a good brother to me when since childhood, and he always stayed in the room next to mine when I spent the night here because he knew that I was extremely afraid of being alone.
I shouted at the top of my voice in a gruff tone.
The door to his room wouldn’t open.
Fearfully, I pounded on the solid wooden door.
Please be there, please be there. Please be there, please.
“Lohan! It’s me Laliette. Open the door! Are you in there?”
Before I knew it, my desperate voice was filled with tears.
I wanted to see Lohan again.
If this wasn’t heaven, I didn’t even care if it was hell. I hadn’t even been able to say goodbye to my brother who had been decapitated on the guillotine….
What is it?” The door opened a crack and a boy who wasn’t dressed properly popped out.
He wasn’t the sturdy young man I remembered, but his young face resembled Lohan’s.
No, it was Lohan.
His hair, not light brown like mine, but a deep dark velvet brown was a mess and hid half of his face.
I hugged the young Lohan, who looked a little flustered at me as I jumped into his arms without warning.
His eyes were cautious, unlike a child’s.
“Did you have a nightmare?”
Lohan had started to use polite speech to me ever since he was ten.
But now I was so glad to hear those blasted honorifics that I had cried, begged and even ordered angrily that he shouldn’t use but didn’t change until the day he died.
I kissed him on the cheek with a smile even as I cried.
“Good morning, Lohan.”
“Happy birthday, sister.”
Lohan said stiffly as he wiped the tears from my eyes with his cute little hands.