“What did you say?” Grace wrinkled at her daughter’s retort. “Watch your rude tone. I hope you don’t make the same mistake at the party, young lady. We will talk about that later. What did you just say? Are you talking about the Warwick family?”
Grace stared at Eleanor disapprovingly. At times like these, when her mother was displeased with her, the safest course of action would be to apologize. Eleanor sighed. She grabbed her skirt and bent her knee in a curtsy.
“I apologize,” she said, “I have acted rudely.”
Grace nodded. “Alright.” Grace didn’t look very pleased but she accepted her daughter’s apology for now.
“The Warwicks arrived a few days ago. Maybe they were called to prepare for the party. I need to find out how things at their mansion are going. Alright, to do that, tell—”
“Mother,” Grace interrupted, “You said the Warwicks came; what do you mean? They sent a letter?”
Grace’s eyebrows shot up her forehead and annoyance flashed across her face. “Did you hear what I just said? Didn’t I say that the Warwicks have ‘arrived’? Did I stutter? What part of this don’t you understand?”
Eleanor couldn’t take her mother’s insult anymore so she took a deep breath and barrelled on.
“I saw them! They can’t attend the party! There has been some disturbance, so they can’t come, and the marquess returned to Wishburn.”
“You saw them?”
Grace seemed to sit up straighter at that. Eleanor, with her lips now clamped, nodded.
“When? When did such a thing happen?”
“Before the party. They couldn’t have come. They could never…”
The original story goes that before the party, the Marquess and Marchioness returned to their estate to find that their eldest son was dead, their second son injured, and their daughter kidnapped by the Count. The daughter, abused by the Count’s men, eventually threw herself out of the tower to her death. Aaron, hearing this, swears vengeance and raises hell. He would then be summoned to the palace to account for the brutal murder of a noble, where he meets Eleanor for the very first time. Princess Eleanor speaks in his favor and convinces King Inverus III that he had not been at fault.
Eleanor, the main character of The Biography of Sersaw Kingdom – The Birth of a Queen, and Aaron, her faithful shadow. Aaron Warwick, full of anger, regret and guilt, watched over Eleanor to make up for his guilt for not being able to protect his sister. He dirties his hands for Eleanor on his own accord.
Well, that was how the story was supposed to go. Eleanor had realized when she was ten that she was in the world of a web novel. She wasn’t sure whether it was an upset stomach or a bad case of cold but she had laid on the bed, sick and feverish, when the truth had struck her like a blow. She was a nineteen-year-old student named Jo Min-ji who loved the web novel and paid for it whenever a new chapter was uploaded. She was an adamant fan of Aaron. She had been repeating the same class in high-school twice. The web novel had given her comfort from all the stress and a sense of being a failure. Her last memory was from the accident that she had gotten in, when she had been making her way back home from her study group. Her life had ended before her eyes and she had entered this world.
Things were different now. She was the protagonist. She could twist the story whichever way she wanted because she knew the whole story. But who was changing the events now? Who was changing the plot when she was supposed to be the main character in it? It sounded ridiculous, and yet…
She had played the role of a princess very well. She was waiting for the coming-of-age party where the story would begin in all its earnestness: Meeting the male lead Aaron, rumours about him, and the evil schemes and conspiracies of the Grand Duke.
The party was so near. It was impossible for the story of the Warwick family to flow any differently. Eleanor’s mother must be wrong about it.
“I need to go see Inverus,” declared her mother and stood up. She turned, her skirt swirling, making her lady-in-waiting, Miss Kelevan stagger. Miss Kelevan caught herself and rearranged the Queen’s skirt.
“His Majesty is in the middle of a meeting, Your Grace,” she said.
“Hm,” Grace muttered, “My daughter seems to be… showing signs of something. It’s important. He will see me.”
Miss Kelevan gestured to a maid and whispered something in her ear. The maid went out of the room hurriedly. Grace looked at her daughter.
“You come with me,” she said to Eleanor, “Tell your father what you saw.”
All of a sudden, Eleanor’s confidence wavered. Up until now, the story had flowed naturally. But now doubts began unfurling in her mind. What if something is wrong?
Her reputation had been attributed to her ‘foresight’ from knowing the entirety of the story as it was. It was indeed a power that had made her grandmother decide to hand over the throne to her father, ignoring people objecting that her father needed a male heir. The original Eleanor in the novel had the gift of foresight, too. It was the same, wasn’t it? She knew the whole story, that was foresight!
She gathered her confidence and lifted her chin. The party was hers. The story was hers. The novel had described her as ‘the princess, wearing a red dress too bold for a fifteen-year-old, with her deep, dark hair hanging over her back, caught everyone’s attention. She especially caught the attention of the twenty-year-old Edan Duplow, who thought the event was boring.’
That would never have been incorrect. She stood up and followed her mother to the other room.