I Am the Real One
Keira Parvis was kneeling below the guillotine’s blue blade. She was barely able to lift her neck but still managed to look up. Even though her vision was blurry, she could see the features of his face. His light hair and red fluttering cloak were barely visible.
“For the crime of deceiving the empire, it is only right that you pay with your life.”
“That isn’t true, Your Grace!”
A voice cried out from nearby. It belonged to her grandfather.
“Keira is Your Grace’s blood-related child! You will regret this! My daughter would have never deceived her husband! If you do not believe—gah! You will shed tears of bloo—mhhm!”
A soldier stuffed a cloth into his mouth, and when his voice was silenced, everything became quiet.
But then, a lively voice, distinctly out of place given the current situation, broke the silence.
A small girl dashed over to the execution platform. Her hair fluttered in the wind. It was the same silver as the grand duke’s. The features chiseled into her face resembled the grand duke’s too closely to ever doubt their blood relation.
Keira glared at her. She still remembered the words this girl had whispered to her after seeking her last night.
“Did you know that you are the real one?”
The very same “real” grand duke’s daughter who had whispered that to her stretched a hand through the bars toward Keira. The warmth of the girl’s palms clasped her shoulders while an immaterial energy seeped into Keira. The memory of what happened next would stay with her forever.
She could hear running water nearby, then suddenly, she was surrounded by droplets. Except they weren’t water droplets at all. Shapes materialized in light blue fluid: a mermaid, a wolf, and a skylark. She knew instinctively that they were water spirits.
The “real” grand duke’s daughter even told her:
“The fact that you can see the water spirits means that you have latent elementalist abilities. I guess this is proof you really are the daughter of that idiot duke.”
Keira had already given up on everything, but even still, she could not let those words pass without note. The very reason she—who had once been cherished so dearly by her people—had become a criminal in the grand duke’s eyes was because she was not his “true daughter.”
But if that wasn’t true...
She wanted more than anything to demand an explanation. But, with the gag firmly tied around her mouth and her limbs chained tightly, it was of no use. After she had whispered the hopeless truth to Keira, the “real daughter” stood up with satisfaction, as if her business here was done.
“I’ve said everything I wanted to say. I’ll see you at the execution tomorrow.”
I’m the real one? Incomprehensible sounds burst out of Keira’s gagged mouth as she realized the truth. Of course, the guards paid her no attention. Morning came, and the execution proceeded as planned.
The silver-haired girl ascended the execution platform and took the grand duke’s arm.
“Why do you risk standing so close?” she asked him. “She may try to hurt you. You must come down from there, Father.”
“...Yes. Very well.”
The grand duke and his daughter descended from the platform, and the soldiers forced Keira under the guillotine despite her resistance. When her neck was fixed in place, the voices of the crowd cheering on the execution grew more riotous.
Keira’s gaze, now tilted downward, saw the smirk on the grand duke’s daughter’s face. She mouthed:
“My, my. Poor thing.”
Slash! The blade sliced through the air.
And then, darkness.
* * *
On the day the new grand duke inherited his title, he received a prophecy from an oracle:
“Not long from now, humanity will face a great threat. Young lord, to avoid this threat, you must remember one thing. Whatever happens, you shall have only one child who is an elementalist.”
The Parvis house was the guardian of the northern border, and Keira was born into this house as its first daughter. All the women of the Parvis house eventually develop the ability to talk to Beatrix—the great spirit of water. They were known widely as “elementalists.”
“Whatever happens, you shall have only one child who is an elementalist.”
Keira was born as the one and only elementalist and was raised to fulfill her destiny. Without an elementalist who can commune with Beatrix, the continent experiences no rainfall. As the only one with this ability, she was highly respected.
One growing up in such an environment might be expected to be tyrannical and proud, but Keira was always humble and hard-working. There was only one reason for this: she sought her father’s love. Having lost her mother at a young age, she looked to her father for everything.
What must I do to gain my father’s love?
She never failed to reproach herself after having such thoughts. She made great efforts to absorb her teachers’ lessons as quickly as possible. Even when angered, Keira never acted in an undignified manner.
She did her best to become perfect, hoping her father could find no fault with her. All this just to be told she was doing a “good job.” That measly line of praise was his favorite.
The teachers her father employed called her a genius. They were lavish in their praise, saying they had never come across such a prodigy. They could only imagine that her father must be overjoyed with her achievements.
Yet, her father had never—not even once—hugged his daughter. A single kind word had never crossed his lips. Brushing her hair or kissing her goodnight was beyond imagining. Even though he was not an affectionate sort of man, many found it was hard to believe that he could be so cold toward his own child.
Father would visit me if I were ill or hurt, wouldn’t he?
Thinking away at such thoughts, Keira had even fallen down the stairs on purpose. Her leg broke on impact, and her body was covered in bruises. She was injured to the point where she could not leave bed for days.
Yet, her father never came to visit. There wasn’t even a letter or note on his behalf asking if she was okay. Keira was ten at the time.
I want you to like me. I’m trying so hard. Father, please, just once. Please just look at me.
Keira put all of her effort into everything she did. She never knew whether her father would ever look at her, but if he did, she wanted to make sure he saw something good. Thus, she lived 20 years trying to become an acceptable daughter.
She might have gone on living an entire life this way if it weren’t for the appearance of that girl.
“I am the daughter of the former Grand Duchess Rowena and, by blood, Your Grace’s eldest daughter, Cosette.”