one who’ll soon leave the household.”

“…Thank you for your advice, Aunt.”

Theodore replied reflexively, and at this, Missus Seymour smiled at him kindly.
She soon lightly curtsied towards him before walking away.

Theodore remained in that spot, still lost in thought.

‘Unimportant memories.
Someone who’ll soon leave the household…’

He found those words unpleasant.
And the more he ruminated, the more he had a bad feeling about it.
It’s true that Missus Seymour had been taking care of him for a long time now, but… He knew that it was only because of the protectiveness she felt over him.

Though the previous duchess asked her to take care of him, it wasn’t only because of this that she wanted to think of herself as someone like his ‘mother’.

‘Perhaps…’

Seeds of doubt that had been planted slowly budded.
He wasn’t certain of it exactly just yet, but he had a strong hunch that there was something wrong here.

 

* * *

 

If one cog in the framework were to get misaligned, then everything would start to break down.
The first time he felt that something was amiss was just one day after Lily Everett got married and left.

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Hessen sat on the sofa, a sour look on his face.
Pulling out a cigarette, Owen was sitting on the sofa in front of Hessen and soon opened his lips.

“Do you want a smoke?”

“I’m good.”

When Hessen refused, Owen nodded lightly.
He raised the cigarette to his own mouth and lit the end of it.
He inhaled once and soon exhaled, the pungent stench of its smoke permeating the air.

“I heard you crossed paths with Lily and Theodore Valentino.”

“F*ck, does everything reach your ears?”

“Be respectful and call me Brother.”

“Brother, over my dead, frozen…”

While Hessen grumbled under his breath, Owen took in another puff of the cigarette.
Sitting with his legs crossed, he leaned back against the sofa and exhaled smoke for a long time.
Looking like this, he was like the very portrait of boredom and relaxation.

Tak, tak.

He shook off the tip of the cigarette on the ashtray then leaned back once again.
Then, Owen asked.

“Tell me what happened.”

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“What else.
They’re the same as before…”

No.
It wasn’t the same.
In the time that he hadn’t seen Theodore Valentino, it seemed like he was strange, somehow.
However Lily Everett on the other hand—she was still the same.

‘Though she has some strange hobby of walking around while pretending to be a maid.’

After contemplating for a moment, Hessen snatched Owen’s cigarette case on the table and spoke.

“He’s a little weird, that guy.”

At those words, Owen’s eyes glinted.
Hessen didn’t notice because he was lighting his cigarette.
He inhaled deeply just as Owen did, but immediately after a cough burst out.

Cough…! Cough, cough!

“What kind of crazy— Are you smoking this because you think it tastes great?!”

In any case, Hessen threw the cigarette after spewing out colorful swear words.
Blurry smoke rose exactly from the crystal ashtray.

“Didn’t he seem like a completely different person?”

“What are you talking about?”

When Owen asked like this, Hessen frowned and answered with another question.
He wondered what kind of nonsense his older brother was spitting out.

Instead, Hessen looked for some water to rinse his palate, but Owen just curved his eyes into crescent moons.
Then, with a subtle tone of voice, he spoke as though whispering a secret.

“So it seems he lost his memories…”

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