It was only the birthday of a twelve-year-old girl, but number of visitors at the Count’s residence was incredible.
The supporters of both the queen and empress’ faction had probably gathered here to please my father, who had maintained his neutrality until death.
I was such an ignorant little girl who looked on happily at the crowd, who didn’t realize at the time that they weren’t just there to celebrate my birthday.
I had been so stupid.
I hated my naive twelve-year-old self.
Twelve years old was indeed young, but in retrospect, it wasn’t an age where I should have been blind to everything going on around me.
I should have suspected that there was a good reason why these powerful nobles, whose faces I had never seen since birth, visited Beloit with an abundance of gifts.
If I had paid even the slightest attention to politics, I would have realized right away that the Emperor was a madman.
Instead of being proud of my father’s inflexibility, I should have been worried about the repercussions of that unyielding straightforwardness that he continued to maintain even if it were to snap.
But I didn’t.
I had thought that a noble’s duty was simply to take care of his estate and set a moral example for others. I didn’t consider the political stance and responsibility that my father had assumed.
Beloit had no intention of becoming politically involved, but he didn’t realize that the other nobles and Emperor wouldn’t see it that way.
My father was a fine man, but I didn’t realize that there were no perfect people in this world.
I had so much blind faith in my father that I had forgotten he was a human being and had no idea of the weight on his shoulders.
I spotted my father amongst the people filling the hall.
He had a stiff expression, as if the nobles crowding around him were annoying.
Seeing the face that I had missed that was much younger than the one I had seen before I died, I forcibly swallowed tears that were about to flow.
His velvet dark-brown hair was exactly the same as Lohan’s.
Warm and deep, the color I liked best.
If my father had perfectly supported the Empress this time, I wonder if Beloit would be okay.
I shook my head at the ridiculous question.
The County of Beloit was part of a long-standing axis of the central aristocracy, but my father guarded his neutrality like his life depended on it.
He was born morally righteous and upstanding so would not have changed his mind easily.
The only person who could change things was me, who came back from the future.
The Emperor was born a brutal beast, and so he became a madman, whereas my father was born unyielding, and thus that way forever.
He had no intention of obeying the Emperor’s careless orders for the sake of his safety.
So I had to change it. I would protect Beloit.
I grabbed the hem of my dress and ran.
The first person on the scene who saw me was my father’s bodyguard and escort, Lord Herman.
He tapped the unnamed man and my father’s back as they talked, making them turn to me.
I nodded my head to Lord Herman and carried forward, ignoring the look on my father’s face that said he was about to scold me for interrupting adults when they were chatting.
“Laliette, it’s polite to greet your elders first when you see them.”
I greeted the nobleman who stood stunned by my father’s hard voice hurriedly then kissed my father’s face.
“Daddy, Dad. I’ve really missed you. Do you feel okay? How are you? You still have dark circles under your eyes right now. I don’t think that hoea 1a kind of fragrant herb that is dried, rolled in paper, lit and and then smoked is helping….”
Needless to say, I kissed my father’s coarse beard.
He seemed a little bewildered by my display of affection.
Of course he was.
I wasn’t a delicate person by nature.
“You must be really excited because it’s your birthday.”
My father stroked my head, looking a little, well, actually very relaxed.
I nuzzled my face into his chest, wiping away the few stray tears.
The scent of my father’s sour pea cologne, which I had always hated so much, felt fragrant.
“Dad, live a long life.”
“It seems …… the young miss loves the Count very much.”
The man who stood himself up like a folding screen, watching us father and daughter who weren’t hesitant with our affection opened his mouth with a laugh.
I dropped my gaze to his brow.
I looked closely, feeling that he looked somewhat familiar.
Who was this?
“Happy birthday, Countess Laliette. I am Louis Baden.”
As soon as he mentioned his name I remembered who he was and where I’d seen him before.
He became the head of the imperial knights without a single inherited title, the Emperor’s loyal dog who took my father and Lohan to prison without saying a single reasonable word.
I smiled brightly, hiding my clenched fist.
Damned son of a bitch!
I didn’t forget to swear in my heart, though.
“Thank you, Sir Baden.”
His face questioned my words as he stroked his chin slowly.
“How did you know I was a knight?”
It was a sharp question.
It was true, since he and I had just met for the first time and he wasn’t armed. So how did I know that he was a knight?
I seriously wanted to go back to my room to flick myself on the forehead again.
Inwardly I blamed myself for my stupidity, but outwardly, I feigned innocence.
“You look cool and if you look cool, you must be a knight.”
I replied with my round eyes wide open, and Louis smiled at me.
It seems he wasn’t offended by a child’s innocent compliment.
“Young miss is also very pretty and beautiful.”
I wasn’t being polite to him as I lifted my chin on purpose.
Oh, now I’m being a little rude.
I looked back at my father, afraid he would scold me, but he was still smiling. It seems the effect of my kiss was more than I expected.
“Dad, I’m hungry.”
“Yes, yes. Let’s start with food.”
My father patted me on the back and asked for Louis’s understanding.
But when my father said he would be out of the room for a while, the dog emperor’s dour bastard looked at me with a smile.
“Come to think of it, I’m hungry too. Young miss, may I come with you?”
I was sure he wasn’t asking this in anticipation of a rejection.
He wasn’t yet powerful enough to lead the Order, but he would later become the sword of Emperor Rasperich I.
Thanks to his amicable personality, even my shy father liked him, so you would think that coaxing a child like me would be a piece of cake for him.
But I snickered so that he could hear me.
I shook my head hard, trying not to recall the past, or rather the future when he had he had abandoned father’s favor, obeyed the Emperor’s ridiculous orders and sent my father and Lohan to their deaths.
Louis’s face darkened slightly. I was very happy to have offended him.
“I want to eat alone with my father. Please, I hope you will understand.”
I grabbed my father by the collar and hurried him along, avoiding Louis’s gaze.
My father didn’t say anything, but he seemed to have noticed that I didn’t like him.
My father gave a simple cordial farewell considering his strict nature and left the table
“Do you dislike him?”
“Yes, be careful with that man. He looks very bad!”
My father wasn’t the kind of man who would ignore something just because a child said it. Nor would he listen to groundless slander, but I would take care of father.
Making up my mind, I jumped down near the table where my favorite dishes were placed.
“Wow, Marcel seems to be displaying his skills very well today.”
My father’s eyebrows shot up.
Ah, was this still around the time when Marcel was still assisting in the kitchen?
I shook my head hastily.
“No, Chef Bernot. Marcel took care of the potatoes, didn’t he?”
I clucked my tongue softly, as if I had misspoken and took my seat in the middle of the table.
I wanted to have dinner with my father for the first time in a long time, but he told me to stay with my friends and walked away.
I guess it hadn’t been that long for him.
A group of aristocratic ladies of the same age were in the middle of conversation and waved their hands at my appearance.
I smiled at the girl I was most familiar with among them.
“Long time no see, Riché.”
“’Long time no see’? It hasn’t been a long time since we saw each other, why are you making a fuss?”
After a small scolding, she left her seat and walked up to me.
Her frizzy blue hair spread out in the air like flowing water, then quickly flowed down in waves, reminding me of her father.
Riche’s raccoon-like father, Marquis Gorten.
He wasn’t as respected like my father, but he was one of the powerful noblemen who narrowly avoided the Emperor’s madness with his quick wits.
He was like an uncle to me, and he was my father’s best friend for many years.
Then he abandoned my father so coldly and easily that it overshadowed their years of friendship.
I still remembered the cold look on his face as I got down on my knees and begged him, “Please, save my father.”
The one thing he said, looking down at me as I just shed tears, was a swear word without a trace of sympathy.
I gritted my teeth, but there was no way that Riché, who was as ordinary as I was, could have known about the betrayal.
Still, I don’t think I could ever love her as much as I used to.
I felt sorry for her, so I grabbed her hand.
“What is it?”
Riché’s hand felt thin enough to break, unlike my chubby ones.
Come to think of it, even as a child, Riché was as frail as the wind.
I looked carefully at her wrist, which was dry and slender like a tree branch.
“Nothing. Have you eaten?”
“How are we supposed to eat first when you’re the main character today?”
Riché laughed and her words seemed to be saying that what I said completely didn’t make sense.