I opened my eyes to a splitting pain in my head and heard a familiar voice.
“I’ll be back to pick you up soon,” the woman whispered shakily.
‘No! You won’t be able to return and pick me up! I’m going to die soon!’
I struggled and tried to shout, but a meaningless babble is the only thing my mouth could produce.
“Oh my, this is too sudden,” another voice exclaimed.
“I’m sorry for the abruptness of it all,” the first woman told the other.
I saw the woman holding my hand over a small box she had been carrying to the other woman.
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to pay for the child support regularly.”
The woman on the other side opened the box and breathed a small gasp.
Although I couldn’t see what was in the box, I could definitely see the greediness reflect off her eyes as she calculated all of the prices within the box.
“I promise I’ll come to pick you up, okay?” The first woman vowed, caressing my small cheek with the knuckle of her finger.
“It’s just that we’re just barely making ends meet right now .
After holding me for a moment longer, I was handed off from one woman to the other.
I struggled incessantly.
‘Hey, you irresponsible woman! Don’t go! Don’t leave me in this hell again!’
Despite my cries, the woman didn’t turn back and quickly disappeared into the forest.
That woman would never expect what fate would give her later.
After she disappeared from view, the other woman took me into her home.
As soon as the door behind us closed, I was tossed into a hard wooden chair.
All I could hear was the woman and her family gathering in the living room to ogle at all of the gold and jewels they had received as a payment for my child support.
As expected, I was left alone.
* * *
Three and a half years have passed since that day.
The memory of that night is still glaringly vivid despite the passing of time.
I am now a four-year-old girl who trips a lot.
“Ha! That’s the most I’ve ever done, right?”
But despite my young age, these madmen who pose as my family, claim that they need help and use me to make money.
“I’ve word all day long, without stopping…”
I’m currently picking up useful minerals and stones from an even larger pile of mixed stones.
Even though I’ve been working for an entire day, it was still hard to get a few minerals.
When I presented what I had found today to my adoptive mother, she got angry, yelling, “It’s not worth your meal! Don’t you think you should be earning your own living now? There’s nothing to eat tomorrow right now!”
My birth mother had given enough gold, silver, and treasurers to my adoptive family so that I would be able to eat comfortably for 10 years, yet this family was still so shameless.
In fact, this family has torn apart.
My adoptive father is obsessed with making money but doesn’t get to work because it’s hot in summer and cold in winter.
The only son of this house often comes home after playing with other local boys all day long, while also saying that he will carry out knighthood in vain.
My stepmother, meanwhile, is busy blaming the misfortune of the entire family.
She calls me a cursed child.
Mother, if you were going to leave me, you should have sent me to a more normal home.
Even worse, I’ve been through this ten times.
I have experienced being reborn nine times.
The beginning has always been the same.
During the springtime, a woman whose face is completely covered up wraps me in a small sack and takes me to this terrible house.
But the end of all of my lives have been different each time.
One thing that is always consistent is that I have always died before I turned 12 years old.
But I can barely recall the ways that I’ve died.
Not even my ninth life from before.
“It’s because we’re out of discipline! Discipline!” Andy yelled in response to my adoptive mothers’ scolding as soon as I stepped foot into the house.
“You mean she can’t even do her share? Where does she even get this laziness?”
I walked away from my adoptive mother and slightly pushed against Andy as I began to rummage through the pile of stones once more.
“It’s because of her real mother.
Who else could it be from? It’s all bloodlines and genetics!”
I laughed silently.
Genetics? As if your genetics are any better than mine.
Just take a look at those ugly lips.
“What do you even want?” I replied, tightening my hand and raising my head.
“Why, are you upset that you’re still being blamed for being left behind by your own mother? Do you still think she’ll pick you up? Hey, it’s already been over three years.
She’s never coming back.”
He stomped his feet and grabbed the minerals I had picked.
“Even though my family is losing money and is going down because of you, we’re still nice enough to keep taking care of you.
But you’re cursed! I’m just going to kick you out.
We don’t need to be nice anymore.
No person with grandma white hair like yours’ would ever be able to live normally anyways,” he berated.
“Andy, are you grumpy?” I asked him sardonically.
I’ve already lived through this injustice ten times, there was no need to keep the cycle going.
“Don’t make me laugh.
Even if you grow up okay, no one will be desperate enough to marry you, and you’ll just have to work for the rest of your life with that shabby body.
You’re short, you don’t have muscles, you’re stupid, and you’ve got a big head.
You’re never ever going to become the knight that you want to be.”
“Don’t you understand, stupid? You’re a terrible knight.
It takes a lot of training and focus to become a knight.
“That’s just bullsh-!!”
Enraged, Andy kicked hard at the stones I had sorted, and I tripped, falling right over another heap of stones.
The sharp piece of rock I landed on made my back throb in pain.
The stones I had sorted all day long were all mixed up and lying randomly on the ground.
Looking at my hard work get ruined so easily was enough to make me cry.
But I didn’t.
Because today is that day.
Tap, Tap, Stomp.
Although it’s faint, in the distance I could hear the clear horse hooves against the harsh dirt roads.
‘It’s about time you came…’
Tap, stomp, clack.
The sound grew louder and louder until everyone could hear it.
“What’s going on?” Andy asked, approaching the window and forgetting all about me and his previous anger.
When he blew the dust from the window and wiped the rest of the residue with his sleeves, he could see a procession of horses across the dim forest road.
It’s hard for a horse to reach here, a deep mountain valley.
But now there was not only one, but dozens of military horses quickly approaching our cabin, all while protecting an unusually long carriage between them.
“Andy, what do you see?” My adoptive father folded the newspaper and approached the window with him.
“Wait, that’s… that’s the flag of the Knights!”
Andy wiped his eyes with his grubby hands and bumped his face all the way up against the window until his nose was fully crushed.
“I’m pretty sure that symbol was in the book about knighthood that Rudy showed me! They’re coming this way, right? They’re coming straight to our house! Oh my God! What’s going on?” He exclaimed enthusiastically, smitten with joy and overwhelmed with a mirage of emotions, stretching out his hands, and ran to our mother.
“I took the test of knighthood last month! I’m sure I passed it!! They’re coming to get me! Mom, this is my hard work! It’s the beginning of happiness!”
All of his excitement was freaking me out, but I swallowed calmly.
Even though I’ve experienced it many times, I’m still shaking from pure nervousness.
He’s finally coming.
This life was especially hard because it seemed as if time was passing so slowly, but it has finally come to that day.
“Andy! Oh my God! Are you sure? Did you really take the test? Why didn’t you tell me!”
“Well, that’s because if I failed it, it would’ve been embarrassing.
So I was going to tell you if I succeeded and passed! But I didn’t know a group of knights would come to pick me up! Oh my! Do you think I got first place on the test? That’s why they’re coming to pick me up especially? I need to change right now! Don’t I have any decent clothes, Mom?! We can’t greet the knights like this!”
As they were jumping around in excitement, happiness, and pride, the carriage arrived in our front yard.
The man with the biggest, most beautiful, silver horse that was riding in the lead of the procession of Knights jumped down from his horse and walked straight to the cabin.
Andy popped out like a spring at the knock on the door.
“Oh… hello? What business do you have here?”
He greeted the visitor with a bright smile, but he hardened when he saw the man outside the door.
The man was shockingly handsome.
He had dazzling, vivid gold hair that reached to his shoulders.
His smooth and slender face reminded me of those marble statues.
He had perfect features and a noble and holy aura.
But what seemed to make Andy freeze was his icy red eyes.
His eyes looked down on us and made us want to lie down and beg for our lives, even though we didn’t do anything wrong.
Furthermore, his attire was also something to gawk at.
He wore a white cape that was stained with a color similar to the vividness of his eyes.
The smell of blood was not overwhelming, but it was definitely there.
However, the color and the brightness of the red made it seem as if he had just stormed out of a bloody war.
“Uh…I’m very pleased to meet you.
I-I really am,” Andy stammered after a moment of silence under the intense pressure rising off from the man.
“Is this where the Windmill Family resides?”
“Yes! That’s right! I’m Andy Windmill”
“Where’s the princess?”
“…Princess, you said?”
Andy was dumbfounded by the man’s words, but the strange man brushed past Andy and strode straight into the house and began to look around.
He walked past the dusty thread of cobwebs, worn-out tables and chairs, and headed straight towards me standing in the corner.
I didn’t make a single noise.
But I hoped in my heart.
‘I hope that he sees me like this and feels sorry for me.
I hope that your heart aches in compassion for me.
I hope that you feel guilty for allowing your princess to live here for so long.’
But no emotions were reflected in his red eyes.
“Here you are.”
He came to me, knelt down, and saluted to me.
Even when he knelt he was taller than me.
I lifted my head to look at him in the eyes, and he also studied me.
I had tangled, shaggy white hair, wobbly emerald eyes, a dirty face full of soot, and an overall shabby appearance while wearing a worn-out garment.
I have been waiting all this time for someone who will come to save me.
My heart was pounding so hard that it was stabbing me.
“Princess Anastasia, I’m pleased to meet you.
I am the Commander of the Knights of St.
Veritas, Phaeon Parsiel.”
Phaeon Parsiel is the war hero of Santra.
He’s achieved a lot from the last three years’ war and is a man who has made a reputation in the Great Land of Tranquillum as the strongest knight.
Only in this life would I later find out that he is my real father.
“Your name is Anastasia Entimoss,” he continued.
He turned around to look at my adoptive family who were just staring without comprehending.
“She is the First Princess of Santra.”
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