NEOMA'S voice was hoarse when the book discussion turned storytelling time ended.
For three hours, she did nothing but talk about N*ruto. She ended up telling the whole story of the first season. Thankfully, Sir Glenn came back to pick her up to prepare for her dinner with the emperor.
"Can I skip dinner?" Neoma asked in a hoarse voice. Currently, she was lying on the sofa of her bedroom ala-Cleopatra. Lewis was standing behind the sofa, Stephanie was in the bathroom while preparing her bath, and Alphen was in the next room– the giant walk-in closet– while preparing her clothes. She always had to dress up extravagantly whenever she had a schedule with her father. "I don't want to see Papa."
Sir Glenn, who stood in front of her, smiled kindly. "Are you still upset because of the argument you had with His Majesty, Your Royal Highness?"
She nodded eagerly. "I can't believe that Papa got upset just because I reminded him of my mother." She got up when she remembered something. "Sir Glenn, is there a picture of my mother here in the palace? I want to see her."
In her first life, she didn't even have the chance to know her mother's name. After all, it was forbidden to talk about her. She died in her first life without knowing who gave birth to her.
[At least, this time, I learned my mother's name.]
"I have a picture of Lady Roseheart," the knight answered with a sad smile. "Actually, it's a group picture. Do you want to see it, Princess Neoma?"
She nodded eagerly. "Yes, please."
Sir Glenn smiled brightly at her. "I'll show it to you after your dinner with His Majesty, Your Royal Highness."
Neoma groaned in complaint, then she plopped back on the sofa. "You're a trickster, Sir Glenn."
"STARTING tomorrow morning, you're required to consume poison with your food."
Neoma almost chocked on her white truffle pasta because of what the sc*mbag just said.
Gosh, she was just starting to enjoy her luxurious dinner but then, the emperor had to open his mouth and ruin her night completely.
"Why are you acting surprised?" Emperor Nikolai asked indifferently, then he sipped his red wine before he spoke again. "You're at the age where you should start consuming poison little by little so your body would develop immunity against it. Since your body is different from average kids, you won't die as long as the amount of poison you take in is right. Madam Hammock is in-charge of that."
The emperor was a sc*mbag but this time, he wasn't saying that just to be mean to her.
In her first life, after Nero was poisoned, he began taking different kinds of poison to strengthen his immunity against it. But even if her twin brother wasn't poisoned, he would still have to do it at that age.
After all, it was a custom for every prince born in the royal family to do so.
Since she was acting as the royal prince now, she had to follow the practice in place of Nero.
"I understand, Papa Boss," Neoma said. When she accepted that job, she knew the responsibilities that came with it. As long as she knew that a task was within the scope of the role that she accepted, she would do it without complaint. "I will do it."
She'd lie if she said she wasn't scared.
In fact, she could even say that she was traumatized because she died of coconut wine poisoning in her second life.
She often joked about her "pathetic" cause of death because she knew that it must have been funny to outsiders. But to be honest, deep inside, remembering the pain that she went through until her final moments was anything but funny.
[Let's not think about it.]
"Aren't you going to complain?"
She turned to the emperor who was throwing her a suspicious look. "I know that this is a part of my responsibility when I accepted your job offer, Papa Boss," she said direly. "I'm a professional child actor. Plus, I'm not like a certain someone who throws tantrums when things don't go his way."
He just rolled his eyes at her "shade."
"Aren't you going to apologize to me, Papa Boss?"
He raised a brow at her. "Why would I do that?"
"I have a long list of things that you need to apologize for," she said. "But I want an apology for the last argument that we had, Papa Boss. I really hate it when I get yelled at for no valid reason at all. I get that you hate me because of my mother. But it's not my fault that I was born as your daughter, is it?" When he didn't react, she continued. "Believe me, Papa Boss. If I had a choice, I wouldn't choose you as my father."
If she could choose a father, she would choose her dad in her second life again and again. Her dad back then might not be an emperor– but he treated her like a princess.
[I miss my mom and dad.]
"The stamp that you requested is almost done," Emperor Nikolai said, obviously changing the topic. "Glenn will discreetly send it to your palace once it's finished."
The emperor was acting like how some Asian parents act around their children. Instead of apologizing, some of them simply acted nice to their kids.
But in Emperor Nikolai's case, he wasn't acting "nice."
He was using his wealth to shut her up.
Neoma let out a sigh while shaking her head. "Papa Boss, you're so bad at being a father."
"SIR GLENN!" Neoma called excitedly when she saw the knight waiting at her outside the dining hall. "If you're a knight, you should keep your promise."
Sir Glenn chuckled, then he got down on one knee and put his hands on her shoulders. "Your Royal Highness, shall we take a walk before you head back to your palace?"
She nodded, then she turned to Lewis who stood quietly behind her. Whenever she would go to her father's palace to have a meal with him, she would only bring her butler because the emperor didn't want more people in his place. "Lewis, go home first."
Lewis didn't move as if he didn't want to leave her with the knight.
"I'll be fine," she assured him. "Be a good boy and I'll tell you a new story before I sleep."
Lewis's eyes sparkled, then he bowed to her.
"Good boy," Neoma said, then she turned to Sir Glenn with a big smile. "Shall we, good sir?"
WHEN NEOMA sat on the bench in the rose garden in front of her palace, Sir Glenn got down on one knee and looked up at her with kind eyes.
"I'm only going to show you the picture once, Your Royal Highness," Sir Glenn said with an apologetic look on his face. "His Majesty doesn't know that I'm still keeping this picture. He'll probably kill me if he finds out about it."
"I understand, Sir Glenn," Neoma said, then she raised her right arm. "I promise that I will only look at the picture once."
He smiled in relief. "Thank you, Your Royal Highness."
After that, Sir Glenn took out the pendant of his necklace from the breast pocket of his uniform. It was a plain tear-shaped silver locket. When he opened the locket, a projector-like transparent cube appeared above it. Inside the transparent cube was the picture he promised her.
There were four people in the photo.
Emperor Nikolai sat on the red sofa beside a woman with pinkish hair and light blue eyes. Sir Glenn stood behind the emperor, and a handsome knight with black hair and golden eyes stood behind the lady.
The only woman in the picture was obviously her mother.
Her first thought was that her mother was beautiful.
And then, she thought the woman looked familiar.
A sense of dread filled her as she realized that it wasn't only her mother who looked familiar to her. She also recognized the face of the knight with golden eyes.
Her heart started to thump painfully against her chest.
She didn't recognize them right away because of their strange hair and eye color that didn't naturally exist in the modern world. Back then, the two had natural black hair and dark brown eyes– just like how she looked like in her second life.
[This can't be…]
She felt gutted.
She couldn't breathe.
And then, her body started to shake uncontrollably.
"Mommy…" Neoma whispered in disbelief while looking at the pink-haired woman that looked exactly like her mother in her second life. And then, her blurred gaze shifted to the knight with golden eyes. That was when her tears finally rolled down her cheeks quietly. "Daddy..."
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