Even now, Dame Aster probably had on a random pair of boxer shorts that she grabbed off the clothesline, belonging to who knows which brother. And honestly, boxers were super comfortable, so I didn’t blame her.
“I’m kneeling, Little Miss.”
Oh, she’s kneeling. There was no need to delay any further. I remained seated and looked at Dame Aster, who was down on one knee. Holding the rolled-up parchment in my left hand, I stretched out my right, tapped her on each shoulder and the top of her head with informal ceremony, and got straight to the point.
“I appoint thee, Dame Aster, as my personal knight.”
“I appoint thee. Give the certification to the duke and get an official appointment date.”
“Little Miss, you can’t simply decide…”
“As you wish.”
Good girl. I handed Aster the certificate and called Violet over. There was much to do for the appointing of a single knight. First, Aster needed to get fitted for some clothes that screamed, “I am Rosalite Roxburg’s personal knight. Mess with me, and you’re screwed, so move along.” I also had to get her a weapon with the House of Roxburg crest. The appointment ceremony would be held in the main hall, so that was that.
I had to call in the House’s administrative advisor to submit an official knighthood title request to the Crown. Since she’d start working today, I also had to draw up a proper form about the change in her salary and give it to our head butler. There was a reason I was called the Young Mistress of the estate. As the official heiress, I had to shut myself up in my office and execute official duties after this short teatime. Goddammit. If only I had an older brother or sister, I could dump everything on them. For fuck’s sake.
“Violet, strip her down and get her measurements.”
“Yes, Young Mistress!”
“W-what are you doing?”
I’m busy. Chop, chop. I munched on some snacks as I watched Dame Aster’s futile opposition, wondering why she resisted when it was all coming off anyway. Speaking of which, it was about time Lily brought in the sex offender.
“Young Mistress, I have brought Sir Dylan.”
Good, good. You’re right on time, Lily. I allowed him entry and looked at my sex offender cousin. The family gene was strong in him. He showed off his sparkly silver hair and golden eyes, but his hair was pitifully curly. Tight, curly, silver hair creates a really weird sense of dissonance. Thank god that the duke, Rion, and I have straight hair.
“You called, Rosalite?”
“Yes, I did. Would you like to die here or be thrown out?”
I was a busy person, so I got to the point the moment he sat down. I shot a look to Aster, who was still getting fitted in the corner, and she tactfully picked up her scabbard to show she was ready to draw at any time. On a different note, the fact that Dylan didn’t even glance once at a naked woman getting fitted in the corner said something about his—how should I say this—sincere feelings for Rion.
“What’s with the threat? Did you suddenly realize your place and feel you’re in danger? I mean, I am the perfect fit to be the heir.”
Bullshit. There were plenty of shits better than you in the branch family, and no one ruled the duchy or put pressure on the Crown as well as I did in both lineal and branch families.
“Rion may live like that because of the duke’s one-night mistake, but that does not change the fact that he is my little brother. If you’re too dumb to understand what I’m getting at, then you’re an inconvenience to this family. Just thinking about sending condolences to my dear uncle about his son’s death already breaks my heart.”
I dabbed at imaginary tears with my sleeve. Even if he was a piece of shit, I didn’t want to see a young man die prematurely, and I certainly didn’t want to dirty Aster’s hands so soon.
I alluded that he would still have a title even if he weren’t an official member of the dukedom, so he could probably receive a bit of land from his father and live far away in the boonies for the rest of his life.
Dylan slammed his fist onto the table, stood up, and left, huffing loudly. Now I just had to make Rion an official member of the house, let the uncle know what Dylan did, and remove him from the family registry. I was busy as a bee. Rion, do you have any idea how busy I’ve always been because of you?
“Are you okay with this?”
Aster finished her fitting and walked toward me, looking dubiously at the door Dylan had left through.
“If he tries to get revenge…”
“Nah, he doesn’t have the balls.” I denied her concerns and smiled, beckoning her to sit across from me.
The other cup of tea I requested of Violet was for Dame Aster.
“How long until three o’clock?”
“It’s past three.”
Well, damn. I should hurry up, drink the tea, and resume work. I was the one who suffered if I put things off till later.
“Let’s… take our time.”
Maybe I should relax a little. It’d been a while since I’d felt this peaceful at home and longer since I’d shared a conversation with Aster. Basically, I wanted a little mental break. I spent some time talking with Aster about the pretty clothes I would put her in, the appointment ceremony, and things concerning the Brown family. I hadn’t had such a warm and fuzzy time in a while. I should return to the work the duke had dumped on me.
“Young Mistress! Young Mistress, there’s trouble!” someone shouted just as I was about to leave the sitting room with Aster, my new knight.
Huffing and gasping for breath, Olivier, the maid assigned to the annex, made her report. She has no reason to be here, so what is the problem?
“Sir Dylan… Sir Dylan, h-he took Rion and—”
Uh… Sir Dylan took Rion and… uh… well, um… author, I’ve got a bad feeling about this, but I’m wrong, right? It’s not what I think, right? No, you wouldn’t do that to me…
I didn’t even get a chance to organize my thoughts when I realized I was sitting in front of my table. Two o’clock in the afternoon? Check. Blue sky outside the window? Check. Long length? Check. Becky, Lily, and Violet preparing my afternoon tea? Check. The garden was beautiful, the birds were singing, and the warm sunlight was streaming over my peaceful duke estate. I took a sip of hot tea.
Dear author… has the level of difficulty increased, or is that just my imagination? I was sixteen-year-old Rosalite.
Rion died because of my carelessness in my twenty-first life, but I wouldn’t go down that easy in my twenty-second life. Fucking Dylan. How dare you humiliate me. I drew up a report, cursing the duke’s younger brother, Uncle Louis’s second son, Dylan. I’ll humiliate you this time since you dared humiliate me in my last life. Don’t mess with me, Dylan. I’d been doing official business in my office for decades, and I had developed the skills to write five thousand words in thirty minutes.
“Young Mistress, I have brought Rion.”
He’s here already? In a move of self-reflection, I had kicked out Becky, completed the process of appointing Dame Aster as my knight, and called Rion immediately. I had planned a meeting with the duke, Aster, Rion, and that piece of shit Dylan, and obviously already notified the duke’s office that we would be there at four o’clock.
“Violet, get Rion a hot chocolate with marshmallows. And another cup of coffee for me.”
“Yes, Young Mistress.”
Caffeine and sugar were my only friends in this wearisome world. I added another sugar cube to my coffee that already had five.
“Y-you called, Young Mistress?” said Rion.
Rion flinched as he bowed. How cute. I tapped the seat across from me with a pen and ordered him to be seated. He refused, asking how he could dare to sit at the same table with the Young Mistress. He was taught well, living in the servant’s quarters. I ordered him to sit once more, and he reluctantly took a seat. Look at him, shivering like a scared little bunny. Absolutely adorable.
“You really are quite cute.”
“I get why Dylan’s obsessed.”
When the words left my mouth, Rion blanched and fell to his knees. He swore that he and Sir Dylan were not in that kind of relationship, and he would never do anything that would shame the family. He looked as though he would burst into tears at any moment. It was so endearing. This was why I couldn’t help but tease youngsters.
“I know. You’re raising dust. Sit down.”
A smile played around my mouth, and Dame Aster’s brows furrowed as she looked at me like I was a disgusting human being. Just wait until you get older. Giving people a hard time was the only skill you’d gain when you were old.
“I’m sorry to say that you…”
Rion dropped his head, his eyes swimming with tears, anticipating my declaration that he needed to die. Oops, he’s crying. I should tell him quickly.
“You are officially to join the House of Roxburg.”
“I’m… sorry, Young Mistress?”
“I don’t know if it’s the duke’s one-night mistake or the maid’s, but in any case, I’m accepting and bringing you, a mistake, into the House as the official son of the duke and my little brother, where I will work you like a horse until you die.”
“Lily, prepare a room for Asterion in the annex and provide him with two maids. Maids, not manservants.”
“Yes, Young Mistress.”
Lily sternly left the room. Violet, who brought the drinks and went about her business, also showed no change in expression. These two were so proficient at hiding their emotions. Exemplary maids, indeed. There was a huge difference between them and Dame Aster, wide-eyed while spilling a glass of orange juice.
“So, Rion is the duke’s son, Little Miss?”
“Is the duke out of his mind?”
“That’s why mother left and won’t come back.”
Aster had a look of dawning realization, the puzzle pieces clicking into place as she glanced back and forth between Rion and me.
“Come to think of it, I guess you two look alike.”
You guess? He’s a goddamn carbon copy.
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