I must explain a few things before talking about the boy. Firstly, this world was set within a novel, and secondly, I had been reborn here. After nine years of living in this world, I had become used to the rebirth thing. Still, I’d only just realized that all this was happening inside a novel, which shocked me.
The difference in people’s lifestyles helped me understand that I wasn’t on Earth anymore. However, everything was still very ordinary, so I had never even suspected I was in a novel. This boy in front of me just gave me a huge reality check.
Still, it was a novel I had enjoyed reading. Lucky for me, I remembered the main character by his weird last name—Shuell Severilous. Nickname: Shu. The only son of the Duke of Severilous and, as I kept mentioning, the main character of the novel I was currently living in.
The task at hand was simple enough. I needed to bring him home and take good care of him.
“We’re leaving, Arwen. And do not ask me to take one of those dirty things along. Tsk, a slave would be a better purchase.”
Wrong. The hatefulness of my mother’s appalled voice cut through all my thoughts. Hence I couldn’t simply take the boy home with me. I had been reborn into this world, but the fantasy part of my life apparently ended there. My family was far from wealthy or even loving.
Instead, it was a dwindling household where my parents, the viscount and viscountess, only wanted to raise a pretty daughter to marry off for money. With no wealth in the family and my parents’ general distaste for children, I had no belongings or money of my own. Could I really take care of Shuell if I were to bring him home?
I’d be lucky if my father didn’t beat him to death.
Still, having read the novel, I also couldn’t just leave and wait for someone else to get him. In the novel, the Duke and Duchess of Severilous located Shuell in no time. That was not surprising, considering their wealth and authority as the kingdom’s only dukedom. The issue was that they passed away on their way to find their son.
They say slow and steady wins the race, but in their rush to see Shuell, his parents ended up speeding through the countryside in their carriage. The uneven terrain caused the horses to tire out and the wheels to loosen. They met their end when the carriage rolled down a hill.
There was no branch family for the House of Severilous. With Shuell being but a child, left alone to mourn his parents, the House disappeared into history.
Taken in by an orphanage, Shuell would be constantly abused until he met the heroine, Rietta, in the winter after his twelfth birthday. And unless this man, the orphanage director, had lied to me, Shuell was now seven years old.
In other words, if I were to leave Shuell here, I’d be turning a blind eye to the next five painful years of his life. It was a matter of bringing him home regardless of what would happen or leaving him to the abuse he’d inevitably have to endure. This was a choice only I could make.
I had been an adult in my previous life, but I was a child here. My ninth birthday had only just passed. Wasn’t it too much to ask of a child to prevent someone’s lifelong trauma? At the very least, it shouldn’t be my burden to bear, trapped in this body.
I kept my frown, but seeing Shuell’s tear-streaked face, I could not turn my back on him.
“Mother . . .”
“What? How many times do I have to repeat myself? We’re leaving. Stop acting so uncouth in front of all these peasants.”
“I want to bring that boy home.”
Confusion took over my mother’s face, though her furrowed brows made it clear she remained more angry than bewildered.
“That boy. I want him to come home with us, Mother.”
“Have you lost your . . . Arwen!” Her first instinct was to yell at me, but she lowered her voice once she remembered we were in public.
That gave me just enough time to pull on my best innocent expression. “But, Mother, he’s so adorable.”
My frankly ridiculous reason was enough to make my mother’s lips shake as she forced herself to smile. Her eyes were still glaring daggers at me, but I pointed straight at Shuell and raised my voice.
“I want that boy, Mother. You said you’d buy me whatever I wanted. Please?”
This caught the director’s attention. With a gleam in his eyes, he pushed Shuell toward me slightly, which only angered my mother further. My mother, Viscountess Broschte, valued appearances above all else. She had no choice but to take Shuell home lest she lost face in front of all these commoners.
“We’re going to have a conversation at home,” she said through gritted teeth.
I sighed to myself. She’d surely slap me, but if that were all it took to save a life, I would gladly accept it.
“Stupid girl! When will you ever learn?” my mother yelled as soon as we stepped into the house.
Her shrill voice seemed to pierce my eardrums, but it was nothing I hadn’t expected. I bit my lip and fixed my eyes on the floor, pretending to be sorry, as she ranted and raved.
“Are you happy now? Now that you’ve humiliated me like this?”
“N-no, Mother. Of course not. I just—”
“I said I’d buy everything you need for your debutante ball, not whatever you want! Are you trying to bankrupt us?”
She lowered her voice, her eyebrows drooping. “Oh, how will I ever explain this to him? How will I tell him that we have another mouth to feed when we’re impoverished? He might kill you!”
Yes, the Broschtes were poor compared to other nobles, but it wasn’t as if my parents had to do manual labor to put bread on the table. As a viscount, my father had been granted a territory, albeit a small one, and the tax profit was enough for us to afford small luxuries. However, the truth was that we were relatively poor, which was why my parents devoted themselves to earning titles and saving money.
My mother was complaining about having to feed Shuell, but realistically speaking, how much could a small boy like him even eat? Her complaints were especially annoying considering that my own meals consisted of basically crumbs so as to maintain my weight.
I sighed inwardly. I’d need to starve or secretly buy some food for a while, I thought as I scrunched up my face and sobbed.
“I-I’m so sorry . . .”
It had taken me a while, but I could finally cry on command. I knew I frustrated her whenever I acted dumb and naive. Surely enough, my mother blew out her breath and waved her hand dismissively.
“Enough. Go to your room. And don’t you dare be late for dinner!”
Exactly as I’d thought. I bowed my head without saying anything and rushed out of the room, ensuring to stumble along the way to pretend I’d stepped on my skirt. I could hear my mother’s huff of disapproval.
As soon as the doors closed behind me, I reassumed a blank expression. Acting like a child every day was starting to take its toll on me, and I felt I had a split personality.
But isn’t it nice and simple to be a child?
A useless, dimwitted crybaby of a daughter. If I were to argue with my parents about every little thing, they would berate me for being arrogant, and if I were to ask to attend the Academy, they’d tell me to focus on bridal classes. That was why I needed to stay as their stupid daughter, too embarrassing even to marry off until I came of age and could be independent.
Though I wasn’t sure if that were possible.
I looked at the hallway window. My parents had splurged on high-quality glass, so they functioned as mirrors, and all I saw in my reflection was a little girl. Big eyes, red lips, flowing silver hair. Silver was a rare hair color, even in the capital, and I was considered a great beauty here in the countryside.
That was why my parents raised me as a graceful doll, reminding me every day that I must marry rich and always remember my family and my brother. However, any porcelain doll would break if it were treated the way my parents did me.
If I didn’t have my memories from my past life, I’d really be an idiot.
I halted once I reached my room. The rustling from inside made me hesitant to open the door. I was going to go right in, but the fact that Shuell seemed to have stopped moving meant he was most likely now frozen stiff. My mother had left him in my care completely, not even explaining the situation to the servants. This probably meant that she didn’t care what happened to him. Still, thanks to this, I could keep Shuell in my room, so I had no issue with it.
Before our trip back home, I’d barely had enough time to instruct him to go to the third room on the third floor, so he had no idea what was happening. He must’ve been nervous, nervous enough to freeze up at the sound of footsteps. I knocked lightly on the door, looking over my shoulder to ensure no one was around.
That would have been enough to make my mother livid. Just as she wished for me to marry rich, she also believed I should naturally reign over commoners as a noble. And what noble knocks for a commoner in her room? She would have fainted to hear it.
“Shu, it’s me. I’m coming in.” I opened the door as quietly as possible and immediately saw a small gray bundle in the corner.
Was he supposed to be hiding? I shook my head. Perhaps he thought he hid well, but he was in plain view. He’d had to hide swiftly and had just crammed himself into whatever corner he could find.
Such a childlike thought process. I knew he had been in a rush, but it really wasn’t the smartest choice he could have made. I mean, look at your head. His platinum-blond hair gave it all away.
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