I glanced sympathetically to the slow-witted administrators.

“Little miss, what brings you here?” asked Nos, his stern authoritative voice was replaced with gentleness.

Realizing the administrators’ gazes were now on me, I quickly made up an excuse.

“I wyant to leawn mowe lettews fwom Nos.” (I want to learn more letters from Nos.)

“You are so diligent, little miss. Please wait for a moment. After the briefing ends, I’ll bring a new book for you and teach you new letters,” Nos said patiently before leaving me in the care of the servants.

When Nos was taking care of me, the new administrators whispered to each other in low voices.

“That’s him.”

“I heard when he served in the imperial palace, he solved the long drought in the country and was appointed as the youngest official.”

“The Eugene Nos? Who worked in the country’s intelligence agency?!”

“Wow, I didn’t know that. I only heard he’s a genius.”

The new administrators all suddenly looked nervous and fidgety. They didn’t know when they applied for the job, that they would meet such a renowned person.

‘Oh, right. Nos was so talented that he restored the reputation of the imperial palace.’

“You don’t have to be nervous. The famed Eugene Nos is now on our co-worker.”

The woman in glasses frowned when she heard the man’s words.

“Charlie, watch your words.”

“Seria, why do you always interfere with what I’m doing? …No way! Do you like me?”

“Are you out of your mind?”

As their argument escalated, their tone became sharper, and it started to catch the attention of bystanders. Feeling the gaze of the people around them, another officer broke down their squabble.

“Don’t fight. The others are looking.”

“Jacob…you’re the loudest among us.”

Just like everyone else, I was looking at the three’s arguments.

‘That’s a Noxstone’s (border area) accent, isn’t it?’

On the day of the crime, one of the employees had testified hearing a Noxstone accent coming from the bedroom. Many had guessed it was the criminal’s voice.

Not moving an inch, I stayed beside the servants until Nos finished his duty. As I was waiting for him, I observed the surrounding officers, yet no other than the three people had that border area’s accent.

I grinned in accomplishment.

So, the search has been narrowed down to three.

*

While Nos was teaching, my head was up in the cloud. Other thoughts were swirling inside my head.

‘I should have paid more attention to the news surrounding wanted criminals in my past lives.’

Feeling regretful, I reprimanded myself. I could only remember a few famous criminals, even the memory regarding their captures and crimes was blurry.

The criminal I was looking for was charged with murder. Not just any murder, he/she was charged for killing a nobleman.

The incident, which took place earlier this year, had drawn the wrath of the whole nation.

That’s because the victim was a real noblesse oblige. In his free time, he ran a nursery school and gave all of his fortunes to the abandoned, poor and disabled people.

The whole empire was angry. Unfortunately, it was not easy to catch him/her, because there wasn’t much known about the criminal’s physical description.

‘How the hell did someone catch a wanted criminal at Dubbled before?’

Thinking hard about how I was supposed to catch the criminal, suddenly someone knocked on the library door. The door swung open and revealed the butler behind.

“Sir, the master is looking for you.”

“…Is it for the job?”

“Unfortunately, yes….”

Nos nodded weakly when he heard the Duke requesting his presence.

“Little miss, would you like to-”

“What are you doing, Nos?”

Isaac and Henry appeared behind the butler, cutting Nos off.

Isaac said to Nos sharply.

“Are you trying to ruin our plans?”

“No way.”

Henry just smiled at Nos’s awkward refutation.

“You must be preparing for ‘that’ too, huh?”

“Well, I don’t know what you are saying, young master.”

“Don’t try to fool me. If Eugene Nos doesn’t know, then who knows?”

Isaac and Henry glared at Nos fiercely.

“I’m sorry. I must go to see the Duke. Little miss, we’ll have the next class the day after tomorrow,” Nos sighed in defeat and told me.

I nodded, assenting his notice as he left the library after greeting the brothers.

Isaac, who was staring at his back, muttered.

“What a cheap man.”

“….”

I could only stare at him and his words of disapproval. Henry cut his brother’s tantrum out.

“It can’t be helped. Let’s do ‘that’ today.”

“Okay.”

The two people looked at me at the same time.

“Why don’t we go to the store today, LeBlaine?”

“Yeah, let’s go, kid”

I opened my eyes wide in wonder. The people in the estate had been acting weird since yesterday. The brothers weren’t the only one talking nonsense. The servants also kept asking me weird questions.

I remembered several conversations that I held with the servants.

“What kind of toys do you like best? “

“Oh, no, we’re just curious…!”

Not only the servants, even the knights, also came up to me and asked.

“Little miss, have you ever held a wooden sword?”

“Would that kind of gift be useful for the little miss?” they asked.

I scrunched up my brow in confusion before the realization sunk in.

‘Ah! Tomorrow is Children’s Day.’

It’s my first children’s day since Dubbleds adopted me. The Duke, the brothers, and all the servants seemed to be paying close attention to the celebration.

In my previous lives, just like the Dubbleds were doing, Duke Amity and Duke Vallua also celebrated my first children’s day.

Duke Amity and Vallua did what most guardians would do. They showered me with gifts and presents. All of it only to keep up the facade of a responsible parent. They didn’t want to be seen as neglectful parents of an adopted child.

Maybe Dubbled’s and his people had the same intention.

Although my toys given by the Duke have filled the bedroom, I still wanted to go to the store.

“Youw want me to gow wid youw?” (You want me to go with you?)

“Of course.”

“Bwut I haven’t gyet pewmission fwom the dyuke yet….” (But I haven’t got permission from the Duke yet…)

“It’s alright. He won’t mind since we are with you, LeBlaine.”

At Henry’s friendly smile, I smiled brightly and said, “I want to go!”

‘If they get me a toy, I should pretend to like it, even if I don’t’

***

I followed the brothers into a signless luxurious building. Entering in, a man wearing a half-face mask bowed deeply.

I followed Henry and Isaac’s confident stride into the back and peeked inside. In front of my eyes laid an extravagant hall. A beautiful large stage was built in front of the countless chairs rowing up to the entrance, yet only a few were vacant.

Instead of heading to the vacant seat, the brothers took me to the second floor, the private VIP section. The balcony was splendidly decorated. Big sofas, much more luxurious than the regular sitting, lay side by side.

‘We’re not here to buy toys… are we here to watch a performance?’

I was bubbling with excitement. I had wanted to go to the toy store, but seeing the beautiful opera house I immediately changed my mind.

Although the visit was an unscheduled outing, I didn’t regret following the brothers.

Well, I already had too many toys, so it was much better to watch a performance than to buy another toy. It was only once in a lifetime experience as well.

My awe for the architectural beauty was interrupted by a servant.

“Young masters and miss, what kind of drinks would you like to order?”

“Earl Grey tea.”

Henry gave a short answer, followed by Isaac.

“Milk-” he paused, then shifted his gaze towards me, “-No, black tea.”

“What kind of black tea would you like?”

“The most bitter black tea.”

“Pardon?”

“Bitter black tea!”

“Ah…yes, I’ll give you the most bitter one.”

Writing down their request, the waiter then looked at me, waiting for my order.

“Strawberry milk!” I requested.

Hearing my childish eagerness, Isaac grinned.

“Are you still a baby?”

“You’re a child as well.”

“I’m an adult. I’m drinking black tea. That’s very bitter.”

He smiled adoringly and said, “You’re drinking milk. That means you’re still a child, kid.”

I didn’t mind his words, beside his words weren’t upsetting, because it’s true I was indeed a child. Even when I grew up, people used to call me “Child.”, because of the ‘Child of Fate’ title.

It wasn’t long before the drink came out. Under the warm white milk, the glittering-red strawberry sauce had sunk, slowly changing the color into pastel pink. I held the cup of milk and sip it.
Soon warmth and sweetness enveloped my taste bud.

“Delicious?” Henry asked with a big grin.

I nod my head contentedly.

“Drink it with some refreshments. “

“Owkay.” (Okay.)

Henry and I enjoyed the drinks we were served. But unlike his usual chirpiness around me, Isaac was quiet.

The thick black liquid was swirling in his cup, untouched. The tea was several times denser than Henry’s. Even me, the onlooker could see that the tea would be very bitter.

“….”

Instead of sipping his tea, Isaac held the cup with a sullen face.

‘As I thought, he couldn’t even sip the tea.’

Feeling sympathetic at his sulky face, I offered him my glass of milk.

“Isyac, dwink this.” (Isaac, drink this.)

“Milk is for kids.”

“No, adulwts wove milks, too.” (No, adults love milks, too.)

“…Really?”

“Yes.”

Isaac, who received the glass from me, tasted the milk.

His dark face brightened as if tasting the most delicious beverage in the country. Realizing his facade was slipping, he changed his expression and coughed to conceal his delight.

“It’s decent.”

“Youw can have wit.” (You can have it.)

“But… if I take this drink, then you’ll have none?”

Isaac felt guilty and handed back the cup of milk to me. Henry shook his head in exasperation at his brother’s simple-mindedness, he then said, “Just order one more, you idiot.”

“…I, I know!” Isaac said. Even in the dimly lit room, I could see his face heating up with embarrassment.

“LeBlaine, that milk is contaminated. Let’s ask the servants to prepare a new one,” said Henry as he pushed back the cup towards Isaac.

A servant soon came with a new cup of strawberry milk. Circling the warm cup with my small hand, the hushed whispers slowly fade into silence. I sipped the milk slowly, expecting a beautiful performance.

‘Is it an orchestra? A play? Or an opera?’

I thought it was a play, considering that they brought a child like me. My heart was pounding in anticipation. In the middle of the stillness, the half-masked man that I saw earlier at the entrance came up on stage.

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to ‘heaven’.”

The man smiled mysteriously as he looked around the crowd.

“Let the slave auction begin!”

…What?!

‘You’re lying, aren’t you?’

I looked at the brothers with a dumbfounded gaze, but Isaac didn’t realize my gaze’s meaning. He instead smiled broadly and said, “Kid, if there’s anything you want to have, just go ahead and say it. I’ll buy you everything!”

Only then did I remember…

That’s right. They were called the villains.