9. Older Sister and Younger Sister—Interlude 2~
- Author Note: This chapter contains the perspective of long-time-no-see Liliana, Anne Marie, and sometimes the Queen.
“Lily, look! It’s the hair ornament I told you about before! The one from that distant land! With this single delicate stick, you can bundle up your hair no matter how thick it is!”
‘Amazing, isn’t it~’ the bright smile on her younger sister’s face signified how well her recovery had progressed.
“Yes, yes it is, Marie. Have you learned something new again?”
“Mhm! Luke never fails to tell a me new story every time we meet.”
I was very happy to see that Anne Marie’s smile had returned, but at the same time, her words filled me with unease.
Anne Marie was a quiet child.
She wasn’t outspoken, but quite keen on studying etiquette as a lady. Yes, she was the diligent ‘Honor Student’ type.
Nevertheless, when it came to Gilbert’s knowledge, her eyes would sparkle. When Anne was still a child, she would stick close to Gilbert and listen to his every word—afraid to miss even a single one.
Seeing the present her reminded me of the way she used to be back then.
Her eyes glittered again—not because of Gilbert, but because of Luke.
She would never be an eligible candidate for marriage anymore. Which basically meant, Anne forever lost her chance to rise in status. Such was the price of divorce. But me, my brother, and my father didn’t regret it.
Marrying Gilbert entitled her to not only the title of Duchess, but a glamorous life prospering with wealth too.
But whatever was the point of any of it if the heart that recognizes such things died?
Lucky for us, we no longer needed marriage at this point.
I just wanted Anne Marie to be happy.
Luke was the son of a wealthy merchant, and he was also kind.
However, at the same time, I couldn’t help but be anxious that he too would end up being another Gilbert.
“Well then, let’s have tea, Maria!” “Your Highness, thank you for inviting us…”
Queen Maria smiled merrily.
Truth to be told—I disliked her. And she surely knew that.
“Your Highness, did you say something to Anne Marie?” After the ceremony had ended, I gathered my courage and confronted Maria.
She only tilted her head.
“Ara, and why do you ask that?”
“I remember that you two had a tea ceremony together just the other day, in private. And after that, Anne Marie, she… she changed.”
On the surface, nothing seemed amiss about Anne Marie, but right after that tea party with Maria, I could feel it. Fear had bubbled within me—it was as if I had been experiencing the day Anne Marie ‘disappeared,’ again.
“Hmm… surely it was because I told her to ‘return’ Maria to me.” The Queen chuckled.
My face froze. I instantly shot back at her:
“Why—! You—! Aren’t you aware of how dire her condition is right now—!?”
My father had told me regarding the Queen’s plan.
The Queen wanted to take an extreme measure and that was meeting Anne in person. Anne might recover if she met the actual person she was trying to impersonate.
Thinking that they would simply drink tea together, I wasn’t present. Instead, it turned out that the Queen had casually told her, “return Maria.”
The Royal Family—! Turns out they are all pricks, to victimize my little sister over and over like this—!
“Of course I am aware, but that’s beside the point.” She again titled her head. “You, and Gilbert—are both funny.”
Maria continued, “Once, she liked gerberas, so you give her a bunch. Now, she likes roses, and Gilbert give her lots of them—‘Which one do you like, Anne Marie?’—what’s with all that? Why do all of you limit her with just those two? The world is filled with many, many more flowers,
“So I told her that I’d show her the world. Once there is no longer room for anything new, she’ll return ‘Maria’ to me.”
“Ah! Finally! You said my name!”
“That will only make everything worse …have you even thought of that…? Say, what if it only messes Anne up more? What do we do then?”
“Hmm, who knows?”
“’who knows’, you say—!!!”
“Well, if that happens…“ Seeing her graceful, guiltless smile, I was at lost for word. “Then, by all means send her to the monastery~! What other options remain for us?,
“She’ll spend the rest of her days there—free of worldly desires, letting go of hate and praying to God; she’ll definitely attain peace! Or something even more miraculous—she might get a GIRLFRIEND there! There’s always room for new possibilities!,
“—but, to achieve said new possibilities, we have to walk through dangerous paths. Risks must be taken.,
“Say, you found your sister precious, right?”
“Well, let’s see, if Anne Marie is precious to me, I’d think along these lines: ‘Even if I am to be separated with my beloved Anne Marie—…, even if we were to be separated forever—…, no matter how unbearable it is—… if it enables her to find joy, then I’ll put everything at stake!”
The Queen then continued, her eyes bearing a fierce resolution.
“The cause of her broken mind; the reason of her physical injuries—I can’t deny my involvement in them.”
I couldn’t return her gaze.
“I’m unable to …I can’t do that!”
I don’t want to be separated from Anne.
At the same time, I’m unable to bring myself to choose—knowing there’s always the possibility that it’ll only harm her even more…
“You don’t have to do it, then. After all, you are her family. And everyone around her—be it Gilbert, or us—are twisted in our own way. You just have to stay true to yourself and love her with all your heart—just like right now. I think that both you and Raymond are whom she most needs. That’s why, stay by her side.”
Hearing that, I raised my face and stared resolutely at her.
“Um, Liliana, you see… For me to see the outside world, Luke has asked me to travel with him.”
“Is that so—? Well, do Father and Brother know about it?”
“Well, as for Brother, sure… suffice to say, he’s opposed to it.”
As a noble, traveling abroad would cause some concerns. But, I was sure that wasn’t what Raymond was concerned with.
Again, just like the time she agreed to marry Gilbert, Anne Marie decided upon a thorny road.
“Why do you want to travel with Luke?”
“Well, the idea of traveling with him itself is fun, but more than that—I want to see different countries with my own eyes!”
Luke gave me this chance, she said. “He also said that even I, as sheltered as I am, could surely do something. That I wouldn’t be a burden; that I’ll surely contribute to something!”
Then, Anne smiled mischievously—that smile the kid her would show me after she had performed a little prank. “That reminds me, I also received remuneration from the divorce. Sometimes, you get to treat yourself a little, right?”
The only difference now was that there was strength in it.
Ahh, who am I looking at, right now?
My sister had grown.
Well, I guess there is nothing else I can do—
“Father, Brother, can we talk?”
“Is this about Anne Marie?”
—other than supporting her decision, as a sister.
**T/N : Gosh this intermission wrapped up beautifully. *wipes a single tear.