The child hastily picked up a shard of a broken mirror that had fallen on the floor.
She was in too much of a hurry, and the sharp edge slightly cut her fingertips, but it didn’t matter. She looked into the mirror shards with her eyes wide open.
In the mirror reflected a lousy looking child with skinny cheeks, frizzy white hair, and golden eyes.
“I really… stayed alive.”
Thiel muttered as she traced her face in the mirror.
‘How am I alive? I was obviously dead.‘
On that very snowy day, on her grandfather’s balcony.
When she closed her eyes, she could still clearly recall her grandfather’s shouts.
She could recall the balcony too, which felt cold, lonely and scary.
She remembered hearing the laughter of Rowen and her grandfather, as her consciousness clouded.
‘But I’m alive? Am I dreaming?‘
Thiel looked blankly at the mirror shard in her hand.
Just a moment ago, a drop of blood flowed from her finger that had been cut by the shard.
‘It’s not a dream. I’m really alive.‘ Her sore, wounded finger and flowing blood were the proof.
Thiel carefully pulled up her cumbersome bangs.
A scar was clearly visible.
The wound was caused by a fall when Rowen pushed her down the stairs a month before Thiel’s death. Right before she died, the scab was almost completely healed, but now the wound was so large and red.
“It looks like I was hurt yesterday.”
Thiel muttered and carefully touched the wound on her forehead.
The site of the wound stung.
When she took her fingers away from her forehead, there was a thin layer of blood on them.
“Did I return to the past? But how…”
Thiel muttered blankly and looked down at her palms.
A weak light shimmered on her scarred hand and quickly faded.
‘Did I see it wrong?‘ Thiel rubbed her palms together again.
But the same light as before did not show.
‘I must have seen it wrong.‘
It wasn’t too much of a stretch to be hallucinating, since she had just been raised from the dead.
Thiel stopped staring at her palms and slowly raised her head.
In Thiel’s empty eyes, the ceiling of the attic tangled with spider webs, was reflected.
She was back in the past.
That meant that if she didn’t do anything, she would die again a month later.
Thiel narrowed her eyes.
The voices of her grandfather and aunt still echoed in her ears.
The cold air from the balcony lingered in her heart and she felt like it was freezing her body.
Thiel thought while gripping her chest with her small hands.
‘I hate the thought of dying again.’
Being stuck on the balcony again.
Hearing the laughter of her family members as she died was even more…
Thiel rubbed her sore eyes with the cuff of her sleeve. The corners of her eyes burned bright red as she rubbed them hard against the rough fabric. However, Thiel didn’t even notice the sting and made a promise while holding up a small hand, palm open, up to her eyes.
‘I’m going to run away.
Even if I get lost and die alone, I will run away.’
Thiel nodded vigorously to herself.
‘But where should I go?‘
Thiel pondered as she squatted on the floor.
Thiel’s maternal family, Nestian, was located in a snowy field.
Even if she managed to escape, it was clear that she would freeze to death before long.
‘So I have to decide where to go and run away…’
Thiel chewed her nails and stared blankly at the mirror. At that time, Thiel’s golden pupils were reflected in her eyes.
The moment she looked at the eyes that her grandfather and aunt always despised, calling them ‘gross’, a thought flashed in Thiel’s head.
After Thiel carefully pronounced the words, he took a deep breath in surprise.
And after instinctively looking around and making sure that no one was looking at her, she was able to put her mind at ease. It was forbidden to mention the ‘Asterian’ family in the Nestians’ mansion.
The Asterians of the Black Leopard family.
The Nestians of the snow leopard family and the Asterians of the black leopard family had not been on good terms since a long time ago.
The fact that Thiel was not recognized as a granddaughter was also because she inherited the blood of the Asterian family.
That was also the reason why Grandpa Zender looked at Thiel and muttered this all the time…
“Useless! If the head of the black leopard family sees you, they’ll probably tear you to death right away.
You can’t even thank me for keeping you alive…”
Remembering Zender’s words, Thiel crouched down.
Not only her grandfather, but also Thiel’s aunt Cornelia, the next head of Nestian, Rowen, and the servants of the family all spoke similarly to Thiel about Asterian every day.
If the black leopards of that family saw Thiel, they would bite and kill her right away.
There is no family that would welcome such a mongrel like her.
However, Thiel, who had lived in Nestian all her life, did not know about any family other than Asterian.
“I have nowhere else to go.”
The world was too harsh for a young child with no connections to live alone. However, if she remained in the Nestian family like this, it was obvious that she would die in a month.
“Let’s go to the Asterian family.”
It was because the Asterian family household was the only place that she had at least a little bit of information about.
The Asterians’ territory was located on the opposite side of the Nestians’. Unlike the Nestians’ land, where it snowed all year round, the Asterians’ territory was said to have a very mild climate. So even if Thiel was kicked out, the Asterian territory would be more suitable for living alone.
Thiel tried pronouncing the unfamiliar word to herself a few times, but then stopped. If she called him dad, he might tear Thiel to death right away. Her grandfather and aunt said that everyone in the Asterian family hated her terribly.
“Because my mother died because of me… ”
…but she’s her daughter.
So wouldn’t they look after her if she said that she would eat little and live silently? A light of hope flickered in Thiel’s eyes.
‘Okay, let’s just eat a little and not stand out…‘
She was able to live on a piece of bread every two days, so she planned on appealing to them using that point. Having decided on a destination, the question now was how she would escape. Thiel’s room was in the attic of the mansion, and since it was in the most secluded place, there was a low chance that she would be found out if she ran away.
“The security is so tight.”
Thiel sighed as she watched the knights roaming the garden through the window. Besides, there were no servants in the mansion who did not know Thiel’s face. So if she went out of the room, she was sure to be beaten severely and dragged back into the room.
“Is there any way to sneak out?”
Then, the attic door burst open.
At the sudden flash of light, Thiel’s eyes reflexively squinted.
Outside the open door, Emma, the maid who brought Thiel food, was standing tall.
Thiel was most afraid of Emma among the maids of the mansion. It wasn’t because Emma hit or insulted her. However, Emma did not feed Thiel often. Because there was only one maid in the mansion who came to this attic, Thiel had to starve until she gave her food.
At that time, Emma walked up to Thiel with an angry face. Thiel reflexively shuddered.
Emma mumbled as she threw two hard, stale loaves of bread in front of Thiel.
“Ugh, others are following Lady Rowen to the imperial palace, but I can’t believe this is what I have to do.”
‘I have to be the maid for a mongrel‘, Emma thought as she stamped her foot angrily.
“Come on, eat.
I won’t be coming for a while, so save it.”
‘You won’t be coming for a while?’
Thiel’s eyes widened at Emma’s words, then opened her mouth slightly.
‘Come to think of it, someone came from the Imperial palace around this time.‘
‘I just remembered.’
A month before Thiel’s death, Thiel’s cousin, Rowen Nestian, became a ‘Crown Princess candidate’. To be precise, all the girls around the age of the crown prince were candidates for the position of Crown Princess. Because of this, the Imperial palace sent the Emperor’s direct aide to check on Rowen, so the Nestian family were busy preparing to welcome guests for a while.
Thiel didn’t care. She was left with almost nothing to eat while guests from the Imperial palace stayed. Since the door wasn’t locked, she could have left the room if she wanted to, but Thiel couldn’t.
Because her grandpa was so scary.
Recalling her memory of that time, Thiel bit her lip slightly.
‘No, it’s rather good.’
Emma wouldn’t even come near the attic while the guests were staying. All of the maids in the mansion were trying to catch Rowen’s attention. Cornelia was too busy dressing Rowen and didn’t care about Thiel, and neither did Rowen nor her grandfather.
So she could run away while the guests were staying at the mansion.
Emma quickly left the room. Tiel took the two loaves of bread that she had thrown.
‘Still, I’m glad the food she gave today was bread.‘ She thought as she hid the bread under the blanket she usually slept under.
Thiel’s meal was either soup as thin as water, or hard bread. If she had been given the thin soup, Thiel would have had to run away from the mansion without taking any food.
An embarrassing sound rang out from under her thin nightgown, under the skin on her stomach where her ribs were exposed, but Thiel held it in. Even she was hungry, she shouldn’t eat now. If she remembered correctly, this was the last meal Emma gave her while the guests stayed.
Thiel supressed her hunger and turned around in place.
With a very faint light, the child disappeared without a trace, and a small, ugly snow leopard appeared in its place. It was Thiel’s leopard.
The little snow leopard trembled.
Other snow leopards would have been able to endure this much cold, but Thiel couldn’t. This is because she was a mixed blood of a black leopard and a snow leopard, and had thin fur as a result.
So, Thiel had always been weak against the cold.
Thiel shivered and crawled under the blanket where the bread was placed.
At the sight of a baby snow leopard holding on to the bread, the rats that ran after smelling the bread hesitated.
Tiel closed her eyes while holding two loaves of bread in her small arms.
In order to escape, she had to replenish her stamina first.
“It’s finally today.”
Thiel clenched her little fist.
Her thin lips clenched.
Today, she would escape this mansion.
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