‘Mother, do you even remember me?’
Tears welled up uncontrollably. I wanted to shout out that I was here right now, causing my body to tremble. However, the people outside, with their familiarity and skillful tone, began to calm my mother down.
The sound of footsteps approaching the burial chamber room grew fainter and fainter.
“Madam, Count Therid is currently in the mansion.”
“It’s not about that child. I have a daughter, a daughter!”
“Madam, please calm down. You cherished and raised him as your son.”
“No! It can’t be!”
Mother wailed. Even though she was behind the stone door, her pitiful cries resounded vividly in my ears.
As a result, tears started to flow from my eyes as well. In the meantime, my body completely lost its stability.
However, my impatience overwhelmed my fear. I pounded on the door with both hands and shouted.
“Mom, I’m here!”
Meanwhile, the conversation outside continued.
“Madam, please calm down for now. What should we do? Should we call a maid?”
“I’m not crazy! I’m sure I gave her a name. In my dream, yes, in my dream, a fairy came out, and said that I…… hmph.”
“Madam, it’s just a dream. A dream!”
“…Siara. Yes, it was Siara. I had such a child….”
The moment I heard my name, my heart, which had been pounding, stopped. Because I thought I couldn’t stay like this, my mind raced even faster. I stared at the closed door, lost in thought.
‘I have to open the door.’
I tried to think of ways to open the door, but nothing else came to mind. After all, the stone door of Astita Burial Chamber could only be opened from the outside.
‘Is there no other way? Maybe I should calm down the situation first and ask for help.’
While pondering, I heard my mother’s desperate wailing.
“Let go of me! I can’t go back to the mansion until I find my child!”
“Madam! If you keep this up, we’ll have no choice but to force you to come with us!”
“Well, they say my child is here. Here, I told you she’s here!”
“Who is saying that?”
“I saw it in a dream! My fairy told me!”
…Fairy? Reflexively, I lowered my head and looked at the ring. The ring that had changed color when I was in the mausoleum was now emitting a faint pink light.
At that moment I looked down, a change occurred in the ring as if it had been waiting. The fairy inside the gem spread its wings and flew out. Along with the fairy’s fluttering wings, fairy dust bloomed outside the ring. The dust slowly seeped into the stone door, emitting a faint light.
I held my breath and observed the situation.
The fairy dust slowly covered the stone door. Then, the solid door scattered like dandelion seeds in all directions. At the same time, the stuffy air of the cemetery was replaced by a refreshing breeze.
The stone door, which required several strong men to push it open to prevent grave robbers from entering, had disappeared.
I blankly turned my gaze outside. Under the clear sky, flowers of various colors were swirling in the air.
However, contrary to the peaceful scene, a commotion was unfolding right in front of me.
Mother, screaming and shaking her head, and the maids and knights crowding around to take her away. The loud voices they uttered tangled together and stung my ears.
I took a step forward, pushing them aside, and embraced my mother. In response, my mother pulled me closer as if asking when I had become so grown up and shouted.
My mother embraced me tightly. As I leaned against her, the tension in my body eased. But I made an effort to hold her back. My shoulder became damp from the tears she shed.
“Siara. Where, where have you been, hmph.”
“I… I went on an expedition. I was late because I had to seal the Demon King.”
“I see. You… You’ve been through so much.”
I could feel my mother’s extremely thin body with my fingertips. She, who had always prioritized her health, had become unexpectedly thin.
‘Why does my mother have to be treated like this?’
At that moment, the anger that should have been there a long time ago flared up.
‘Demon King, don’t leave me alone.’
The hatred had reached a level beyond comparison.
I held onto myself, embraced in my mother’s arms, crying like a child, experiencing both hatred and serenity.
Although I attracted awkward glances from those around me, it didn’t matter. Even if no one else remembered me, my mother remembered me.
‘Yes, everything will be fine.’
With a vague hope in mind, someone roughly grabbed my shoulder and pulled me away from my mother. I stumbled, and my gaze fell upon his blond hair, lighter than mine. His particularly cold eyes showed wariness toward me.
“Who are you? Who dares to crawl out of Astita’s grave?”
He was Count Therid, my older brother who always teased me.
There was a seven-year age gap between us, and compared to others in the Astita family, he had an unusually large build. Moreover, his specialty was obstructing the opponent’s field of vision, which made him join the Imperial Knights to make use of that ability.
But in my eyes, he was just my older brother. Seeing Therid trying to separate me from my mother, I clung to her and cried out.
“Mom! He’s picking on me!”
“What do you think you’re doing!”
“Ha, but mother, she’s unidentified-“
“Be quiet. As an older brother, you should take care of your younger sister!”
Her voice resonated like thunder, shaking everyone around. Therid, although distant, politely bowed his head toward her.
“…I apologize, Mother.”
He glared at me as if he wanted to kill me. However, I pretended not to know anything and turned a blind eye. Meanwhile, my mother regained her composure and started scolding me.
“Siara, let’s go back to the mansion. You’ve been on a long journey, you should rest.”
As Therid looked at me bewildered, I confidently hooked my arm with my mother’s and walked away.
* * *
Even after entering the mansion, the situation didn’t change. Everyone, except for my mother, had forgotten me.
As a result, even though it was a rare gathering, the dining room remained silent. Only my mother paid attention to me.
She forgot that I had grown up and personally cut the meat and placed it in front of me. Without taking a break, she smiled and talked to me.
“You didn’t eat well outside, did you? Your face looks thin.”
“No, Mother. Thanks to your care, I ate well.”
“Is that so? Anyway, eat up, Siara.”
I picked up my fork and took a bite of the well-cooked steak. It tasted just like home! The feeling of gloominess that came with the familiar food quickly dissipated.
‘Is this not a dream?’
I suddenly returned to my hometown, and my mother remembered me. It was unbelievable. To confirm the reality, I pinched my arm secretly.
It definitely hurt. However, despite rubbing the tingling area, my cheerful laughter didn’t fade.
Meanwhile, my silent father coughed to make his presence known.
“Ahem, right. Your name is Siara, isn’t it?”
He seemed unsure of how to handle the situation. Although it was a bit bitter to know that my father didn’t recognize me, I casually nodded my head as if it didn’t bother me.
“Yes, my name is Siara.”
“…I see. According to my wife, you’re the child guided by a fairy, is that correct?”
“Yes, that’s right. This ring guided me here.”
For some reason, the fairy in the ring had awakened and had been fluttering around, guiding me. Moreover, since my mother had also dreamed of it, there was nothing to argue about.
Instead of my silent father, Therid reached out his hand.
“Give it to me. I should take a look.”
Without hesitation, I took off the ring and handed it to him. He examined the ring and frowned when he saw the flying fairy.
“A sleeping fairy waking up. Unbelievable. I should report this to the Empire.”
At that moment, my mother, who seemed displeased with the atmosphere, asked in a cold voice.
“What are you all doing to the child who has just returned after a long time?”
“However, my dear, I have never had a daughter like that before.”
“Perhaps it’s just your poor memory.”
She crossed her arms and glared at the two of them.
“She is the child I gave birth to.”
With a firm tone, my father stiffened his face.
“Are you sure you gave birth to her?”
“Yes, I gave birth to her. Is there a problem?”
At that moment, my father and older brother exchanged stern glances. I, too, swallowed my saliva, trying to ease the tension in the air.
‘Mother, that statement can be easily misunderstood in many ways.’
But my mother seemed completely unconcerned. Instead, she seemed preoccupied with taking care of me.
“Eat more, Siara.”
Though I tried to lighten the atmosphere, my father and older brother remained silent. They seemed uneasy, and it didn’t seem like they were willing to let the matter go easily.
‘Well, I don’t know. Let’s just eat for now. There’s an old saying that even Mount Geumgang looks different after a meal.’
I thought that with some time, things would somehow work out. So, I swallowed the delicious food along with my uneasiness.