Gilbert Conler.

I remember him as the eldest son of the Conler family and the person who is considered the most similar to Grand Duke Estin. Even if he wasnt described as such in the novel, I felt that his features and the features of Grand Duke Estin were very similar.

Especially… that cold look on his face.

“Gilbert is here!”

I was staring up at him for a while when I heard Bonitas welcome voice from behind. Bonita came running and picked up Gilberts luggage. In the meantime, Gilberts gaze did not leave me. It was a very persistent look.

“Oh. The Grand Duke is out of town today.”

“I know. He went on a preliminary survey.”

“I wish you were here on your birthday. Gilbert-nim, youve grown taller!”

“I heard youre busy with a lot of things. So, how are you doing, Bonita?”

At Bonitas kind words, Gilberts gaze finally turned to Bonita. Out of that gaze, I heaved a sigh of relief. Bonita said she had taken care of the three brothers since they were born at Conlers Castle. 

“Of course. Im so happy to have our cute little miss back.”

Bonita grabbed me by the shoulder and talked. Gilberts gaze, which I thought I had barely escaped, fell back into me like an arrow. Its cold. His gaze flew all over my body. But I did not worry since I have a Bonita. Standing awkwardly next to him, I jumped to Bonitas side. Its the first time Ive felt this painful look. 

“Mary Conler.”

A voice resembling Grand Duke Estin called my name again. I pondered for a moment. Is it time to say hello to him? I cleared my throat and greeted him. Lets greet each other as bright and cheerful as possible like a child. **They say you cant spit on a smiling face. That would be the case here. 

[T/N: **It is hard to get angry at a smiling face.] 

Hello, my brother. Im Mary. Im so happy to meet you like this!

All right, thats what Im going to say.

“Oh, my brother…nice du?”

“……What?”

“Are you happy too?”

Wait, this wasnt what I was thinking. I was so nervous that my tongue twisted and the greeting went out in a complete mess. Gilbert Conler, who has been responding to me with a cold expression all the time, changed to a puzzled look as if he was dumbfounded by my greeting.

Did I succeed in changing his expression?….

Seeing Bonitas hands trembling close to me, she seemed to be holding back her laughter. I wanted to quit everything and scream and run away, but I held it in and stood smiling. Oh, the time is like this…… I just want it to stop.

You cant spit on a smiling face, but I think Im going to get cramps on my face from smiling. Still, I tried to keep my smile as bright as possible, but I felt as if I had filled my dimples with plaster.

Of all the days today, Grand Duke Estin, Lucas, and Hestia are not here, apart from a preliminary survey of Padula, which will soon be cleared. I missed my hero, Hestia, and even though I hate him, I missed not only Lucas on my side, but also Grand Duke Estin. 

Realizing that Bonita was my only lifeline, I held her hand tightly.

“Hello.”

Rexs thin voice was heard behind him. Rex approached me. Perhaps because he was such a weak child, even greeting Gilbert felt somewhat commendable. Oh, this child is good at saying hello…… and I cant.

“Rex Bluea?”

“Long time no see, brother.”

Have you two met before?

It was quite surprising to see Gilbert welcoming Rex more than I thought. You treat me, younger sibling, like that. Hey, Im your real sister. We have the same blood. Come to think of it, Rex Bluea has the same blood. And Im more attached to Rex than to Gilbert.…. Anyway, I understand now.

“Yes, I heard the story.”

“Oh, Im fine. You came to the funeral at the time, but I couldnt even greet you properly…….”

“Its all right.” 

Gilberts eyes were somewhat sad. He was capable of such human feelings. Look here, Give me a sad look. Feel sorry for me, too. Look, Im your little sister who was kidnapped and recently returned. 

While the three were standing so awkward, Bonita clapped her hands.

“You shouldnt stand here, go to the garden and greet each other.”

Under Bonitas guidance, we sat at a white table in the garden and faced each other. Gilberts eyes stayed somewhere else, but after a while it turned to me again. Why are you looking at me like this? Why? Are you so happy to see your sister after a long time? Then tell me, please…….

“Ill get the tea. The three of you can talk for a while waiting for dinner.”

Bonita disappeared with Gilberts luggage. Soon there was an awkward silence between the three of us. Even if I want to bring up anything, I cant think of anything as if my head went blank when that gaze caught me. Seriously, is this the curse of the Conler family?

“……they say your ability manifested.”

“Oh, yes.”

“Is it really necromancy?”

“Y, yes, thats right.”

“Amazing… Are there any limits to what you can do?”

“I havent done it properly yet, so Im not sure about that yet.”

Gilbert and Rex talked about many things. The two seemed to communicate better than I thought. Gilbert seemed to be very interested in Rexs ability. Indeed, it was a rare feat, so it deserved attention. Rex was like a fish out of the water, but he still answered Gilberts question very well.

Yes, Im the only one who needs to do well.

“So, when did your ability manifest?”

Uh, thats….

I carefully checked Rexs countenance. As expected, Rexs expression was not good. I heard about Rexs ability, but Gilbert didnt seem to know how it was manifested.

Rexs talents became apparent after the death of his mother. His first command was his mothers body. I didnt want to let Rex say it himself. Its too painful for Rex.

“By the way!”

“……?”

Gilberts expression turned to me as I stepped in suddenly. You think I want to talk to you? Its all for Rex. Rex smiled faintly at me as if he noticed my intention. Rex, you trust me……. Ill protect you.

“Well, its my first time seeing you, and I have a lot of questions.”

“……I see.”

“Im also curious about the Imperial Academy. They teach so much about various studies!”

“Well, what are you interested in…….”

“Tell us about your first love”

When I dont want to go to class or change the subject, I always talk about my first love!

Rexs pale face turned paler. Im trying to help you right now, but how can you look like you dont understand what you heard?

“First love…?” 

“Oh, I mean…….”

“I thought youre curious about the studies.”

A very sharp look fell on me.

I said I wanted to be close to Gilbert, but I think weve grown further apart..….

“Dinner is ready!”

Bonitas bubbly voice broke the silence among the three of us. What a relief. Nice timing, Bonita. The three of us rose from our seats in ghostly silence and headed to the dining room of the castle without a sound.

The quiet castle of Conler became noisy at the news of the return of the eldest son of the Conler family. The menu, which was already fancy, was upgraded. But even among those fancy menus, I kept my head down, strangely dispirited by Gilberts gaze.

Only the clatter of dishes was heard at the table where only three people were sitting. As the mistakes continued to repeat, the will to say anything disappeared.

No, I dont know why the innocent Rex is down again……. you have to eat a lot.

Even the finest T-bone steak never went down my throat. Even though my portion is small, I cant eat anymore. In the end, I couldnt empty the plate clean and put down the fork again.

“Why did you not finish your meal?”

“She has a weak stomach…….”

Gilbert, who peeped at my plate, asked disapprovingly. Bonita made an excuse for me. Bonita hates leaving food more than anything else, but she must have felt sorry for me, to take my side like this.

“Bonitas gotten pretty weak, too.”

“…….”

“I think its been a while since I came back, but the manners are terrible.”

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