, it went okay.”

To the extent that she could hear stuff she didn’t expect to.

‘Unnecessarily tall.’

It’s a world where Michael disappeared, but there were still traces that remained.

So what about Nikita?

They’d been together for 10 years, wouldn’t he remember more things?

“…”

Ashmia pushed away those useless thoughts before ‘a strange feeling that calmed her down’ came up again.

Even if someone remembered Michael, nothing would change.

Rather, because “she” was Ashmia Kalanishiel, there was a future that could be changed and protected.

For now, she just had to focus on the future.

… That’s how it should be.

Ashmia looked distantly at the children, lovers and families playing in the park.

Damn you.
I only have ‘useless’ memories. 

Whoo!

Ashmia sighed, grumbling some swear words under her breath.

***

Two days later.

Ashmia opened the sealed letter that Vanessa had brought.
She looked at the paper inside and pursed her lips without saying a word.

She was lost in thought as she showed Vanessa the paper, whose eyes widened.

“You didn’t know either?”

“I didn’t.”

“Call Claudia.”

“… Alright.”

Soon after, Claudia came into Ashmia’s office with Vanessa and bowed down in front of Ashmia.

“Did you call?” 

“Yes.
Would you take a seat?”

Ashmia held out her paper for Claudia to take as she sat in the chair opposite to Ashmia’s desk.

“I’m sorry, but I did some background research on you.
I think you probably know why.”

“Because of the assassination.
I had the same thought.
There must be a spy on the inside.”

“So I had to make it clear.
But looking at your records, there is one interesting thing.”

Ashmia said, pointing to the piece of paper.

“Is this true?”

Where Ashmia’s finger was pointing, the words “a member of the Imperial Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS)” was written.

Claudia nodded without changing her expression.

“It’s true.”

[4.
Bloody Debutante]

That was quick.

“Of course, it was ‘before’.”

“Does father know?”

“Yes, exactly.
Only Don Kalanishiel knows.”

“How did you become my maid?”

“I’d have to tell you a long and boring story, would you mind?”

“In short?”

“I’ve been abandoned.”

Of course, there was no such thing as an ability to see through lies, but Ashmia could sense that Claudia wasn’t lying.

Now I understand why you have those eyes.

Perhaps Michael had the same eyes as Claudia when he was shot dead by Nikita.

“Did father order you to watch me?”

“Can I correct it to ‘protective surveillance’?”

“Well, it’s surveillance anyway.
I see.
I don’t think you’re a spy.
Instead, there’s one thing I want to make sure of here.”

Ashmia looked Claudia in the eyes before asking.

“Is it me or my father?”

Who are you loyal to?

After a long silence, Claudia spoke.

“Before I give you an answer, I’d like to ask you one thing.”

“Ask.”

“After the assassination attempt, Miss Ashmia seemed to have become a different person.
The Ashmia that I know is—”

A timid, sensitive and scared girl who was afraid to go out of her room, let alone out of her home, and shed tears at her reflection in the mirror even if she was wearing a pretty dress.

“Claudia! Are you suspecting her?!”

“It’s alright, Vanessa.”

Ashmia stopped Vanessa and looked towards Claudia.

“I understand.
You must have found me strange.”

Said Ashmia before making a pause.

“You both know when I became like that, don’t you?”

Mother.
Since the death of Maverett Kalanishiel.

“Nobody told me why or how she died.
And actually, I didn’t want to hear it either.
I was just afraid that I might die one day without understanding or accepting the reality that had already happened.
I don’t know how many times I thought it might be easier to end it with my own hands.”

“Miss…”

Vanessa looked at Ashmia with a sad expression.

***

A girl who wanted to be ordinarily happy in her mother’s arms faced the reality that it might not be possible.

The world that the girl wanted had faded like a black-and-white photograph. 

“Why…”

Did mother leave me?

“Why…”

Can’t I feel my mother’s warmth anymore?

Looking at herself in the mirror, starting to look more and more like Maverett as she got older, Ashmia cried because she missed her mother and because she was afraid. 

***

To escape the memories that gave her headaches and broke her heart, Ashmia opened the vial of tranquilizers and swallowed a pill with an encouraging smile.

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