Erna, Kalion, Orpé, Cedric, and Vanessa sat huddled together in a grand room within the towering walls of the Grand Castle. The air was tense, and the faces of each person were dark with confusion and disbelief. Orpé’s voice stumbled out like that of a sleepwalker, “You’ve lost all memories of the past eight years…”
Erna’s hand collided with the table, her voice cutting through the thick silence. “No, it’s not that we lost our memory, we came to the future!”
Orpé’s frustration was palpable as she shot back, “Well, you still have the same temper as eight years ago.”
Cedric’s gaze shifted to Kalion, his voice tentative, “Is it really true that you don’t remember anything from the past eight years?”
Kalion’s eyes narrowed, brows furrowed in confusion. “Yeah. The last thing I remember is examining the pillars after connecting the Grand Castle and Irgis Forest with the gate magic,” he replied.
Cedric’s expression softened, “Then you don’t remember founding the Fifth Knight Division or the fall of Nandes?”
“Nandes fell?” Kalion asked incredulously.
“Yes, it was destroyed by the hands of the Grand Duke two years ago,” Cedric confirmed.
“I’m not crazy enough to start a war or destroy Nandes,” Kalion spat.
“Duchess Erna was injured by a Nandes’ assassin,” Cedric explained.
Kalion’s eyes flashed with fury, “Are you sure I killed all those bastards?”
Erna rubbed her forehead, feeling the weight of the situation bear down on her. She knew this was not a hallucination, that the others were not conspiring against them, and this was not some elaborate joke. She could only hope that they could find some way to make sense of this impossible reality.
Erna massaged her throbbing head and pondered their next move. Suddenly, the door creaked open, and Mille walked in, pushing past the serious-looking adults to hug Erna. “Mom, can you read me a book?” she asked, her voice dripping with affection.
Erna winced at the sudden intimacy, gently pushing away Mille’s arms. “I’m a little busy right now… can we do it later?”
“But you said you’d teach me magic and read me a book today,” Mille protested, clinging to Erna’s waist.
Erna felt a pang of guilt but looked to Orpé and Vanessa for help. Vanessa, sensing Erna’s distress, stood up and approached Mille. “Mille, today, I will read to you.”
“No, I don’t want to. I’m going to play with Mom today.”
“Today, Mommy Erna might be a bit busy,” Vanessa gently explained.
“No! You promised!” Mille’s voice rose in pitch, her grip on Erna’s clothes tightening as she stretched her body.
Erna’s dress slipped through her fingers, causing Mille to lose her balance and tumble onto the carpet. The girl looked up at Erna, her eyes brimming with tears. “Why… why did you promise to play with me today?” she cried, her voice filled with hurt and confusion.
Mille’s sobs grew louder, echoing through the room like a tortured animal. Orpé realized that the situation was untenable and took Mille from Erna, attempting to pacify her. “Mille, please don’t cry,” she said, her voice soft and gentle. “I’ll teach you magic that makes butterflies fly.”
“No! My mom said she’ll teach me, not Orpé!” Mille screamed, her voice piercing Erna’s ears and sending shivers down her spine. Orpé picked her up and carried her out of the room, but her screams echoed down the hallway, making Erna feel guilty and helpless.
As Erna held Lionel, he wriggled in her arms, causing her to wonder if he was hungry. Suddenly, he jerked forward, and Erna’s reflexes kicked in, causing her to release him. Kalion, who was standing nearby, quickly caught Lionel before he fell. Vanessa took Lionel from Kalion, holding him expertly in her arms.
Erna’s gaze drifted towards Lionel, who was reaching out to her from the safety of Vanessa’s arms. As she observed the child, she couldn’t help but feel a sense of unfamiliarity wash over her. The world around her seemed strange and foreign, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was out of place.