For complete strangers, Charles and Mishuli had a lot in common.
They both had similar appearances: blonde and blue eyes. You could line them together and introduce them as siblings and no one would be any wiser. Of course, they were in reality, cousins whose blood ties were quite close, so this degree of resemblance was not unexpected.
And now these two were staring each other down.
I was a little stumped at this unexpected turn of events.
As someone who knew of ‘Labyrinth Destiny’ I had been overwhelmed with an unfounded anxiety that something irreversible would occur if these two should meet. Some may laugh at me, but you could say that I had been scared of fate. I had been so worried that if Mishuli, the protagonist of that story and Charles should meet, something would happen to this reality. Maybe this bug known as Christina would be fixed.
But what of the reality of the current meeting?
Well, they were staring intensely at each other, but it was not quite the atmosphere of a fateful encounter. This was without a doubt, there first time meeting, and yet they glared at each other as if seeing their mortal enemy, angry sparks were flying.
What was especially surprising to me was that the ever-loving Mishuli was staring hard at Charles. My archangel who was always overflowing with kindness, she had such a strength in her eyes now, as if to show that she would not back down.
This was also quite adorable.
I see. So Mishuli was now capable of showing that she would not allow herself to lose a fight. She’s grown so much. I started to feel a little moved after seeing this rare side of her. The stare-down between the two finally seemed to end.
It was Mishuli who turned her gaze away to end this heated battle.
Though she was the first to look away, it was not because Charles had overpowered her. Mishuli casually walked towards me after taking her eyes off of Charles.
And as if to suggest that Charles was not something worth looking at, she completely ignored him and jumped into my arms.
“I was so lonely without you!”
“Me too, Mishuli!”
There were several distracting things about this situation, but it was still my top priority to embrace my beloved sister who had come to me. I brushed away all that I had been thinking about and accepted all of the happiness that leaped into my arms.
“I’m so happy to see you, sister!”
“Fu fu. I am happy to see you too. …But, Mishuli. Why did you come all of a sudden… Do you not usually have more a patience?”
“I’m sorry. But today, that one, Charles, or whatever his name is, ruined everything and we were separated. So I felt much, much more lonely than usual. …Am I in the way?”
“No. That’s not…”
“Yes, you are in the way.”
A rather gruff sounding voice interjected.
“Chris. Who is this?”
It was Charles who had come in without hesitation. Perhaps he did not like being ignored. He stood a little distance away from us hugging siblings, his brows were narrowed as he glared at Mishuli.
“Mmm, ahh, sorry, Charles.”
It was indeed a great error of mine to have left Charles, a guest. I could not blame him for being upset.
“This is Mishuli. She is my beloved younger sister. Is she not cute!”
I boasted with my nose in the air, but Charles only mumbled.
“I don’t think she is cute at all…”
“What did you just say?”
I needed him to modify that unfathomable answer, and so I gave him a threatening smile. But Charles just looked the other way.
Even if he were just hiding his own bashfulness by beholding the brilliantly adorable Mishuli, this was not an agreeable way to behave. Apparently, Charles’ special sensibilities included his tastes in people as well. If he could think that Mishuli was not cute, then his taste for the arts could only be twisted and outrageous.
He had my sympathies, but such defects in one’s personality did not heal in a day or two. I would have to be patient with him, polishing and teaching him to be able to understand Mishuli’s cuteness.
I started to immediately put together my plans for educating Charles, who had said such nonsense about Mishuli not being cute. Next, I introduced Charles to Mishuli.
“Mishuli. This boy is Charles. Remember? The friend I told you about before. He is quite important. So, for form’s sake, you should greet him first.”
“Um, okay. …Nice to meet you, Charles.”
After my suggestion, Mishuli did a polite bow. She did not use any honorifics, but I suppose it did not matter in this setting. After all, Mishuli still didn’t even know who he was.
“I am Mishuli Noir. Christina’s most ‘beloved’ younger sister. It is nice to meet you, Christina’s ‘friend’ Charles.”
Mishuli was not quite skilled with words yet, but she did her best in her own words. I could not help but smile at this great feat of Mishuli, who had managed to finish. Even though there were moments that were a little shaky.
Mishuli’s adorableness had been overflowing in her introduction, but for some reason, Charles had thinned his eyes in irritation.
Why would he be upset? It did not make any sense. There were slight flaws in Mishuli’s greeting, but it was more than enough for a five-year-old who had not started her education yet. In order to shower Mishuli with praise for her accomplishment, I started to pat her on the head.
“That was very good, Mishuli. That’s my younger sister!”
“Eheheh. Yes! I am your beloved younger sister after all!”
“…Then, it is my turn isn’t it.”
I don’t think it was on purpose, but Charles once again interjected while we siblings lovingly embraced each other.
According to etiquette, it was indeed Charles’ turn to introduce himself, yet the conjunction ‘but’ entered my brain.
Judging from his words and action up until now, it seemed quite apparent that Charles had not been formally educated in etiquette either. His way of speaking did suggest he was of noble birth, but that was it. He had not been properly educated yet, and for better or worse, he was free and not yet shaped.
Well, well. I wondered what kind of introduction he would show to me now. I found myself a little excited to see as Charles opened his mouth.
“I am Charles Eduard. Chris’s ‘fiancé,’ Charles.”
I mentally furrowed my brows at Charles’ introduction.
It was not very skilled at all. The parts that he emphasized were strange. He hadn’t even revealed that he was royalty. This introduction lacked important details and contained unnecessary ones, I don’t think I will be able to give him a passing score on this one.
That was my general reaction, but Mishuli’s was quite different.
Mishuli’s eyes widened after hearing Charles’ short introduction.
“Yes, that is right!”
The words escaped Mishuli’s lips as she stood in shock. Charles nodded with a particularly pleased smile.
Mishuli’s eyes were wide and watery, she swung around to look up at my face.
“Huh? What is it, Mishuli?”
It was all so sudden that I wasn’t sure what she meant.
Mishuli saw my look of confusion and desperately added.
“You said he was only a friend! It was your duty to see him! But what does he mean by fiancé!?”
“Well, Mishuli. ‘Fiancé’ means that he will likely marry me at some…”
“I know what it means! But why must you marry someone like that!?”
Why was Mishuli so upset about it?
“Well, there are a lot of reasons for it. In short, it was a decision made between our families. Marrying the person who was chosen for me is one the crosses I have to bear.”
“Oh, no… Sister… Marrying…that…”
My words must have been a great shock to her because she could only talk to herself as if delirious. I could not blame her. Mishuli was still young, to hear that the life of a noble meant you had to walk a set path, including that of marriage, would be something both sour and shocking.
But it was a reality that she would have to know of eventually. I cradled Mishuli’s head in my arms as she continued to mumble, ‘sister is…no…sister is my sister and…’ in a voice that sounded lost.
“Do you understand, Mishuli? I and Christ will one day be married. We will both be number one to each other…”
“What. What are you saying, Charles? My number one will always be Mishuli.”
I said what was only the most obvious thing to Charles, who for some reason acted victoriously.
“Charles. I will tell you this for our future as well, but I did not agree to this engagement due to any personal affection towards you.”
“But, but, are we not friends, Chris…”
“We are friends. But that is different.”
There were no objections to my sound arguments.
Charles was a friend, and I liked him well enough, but that was it. I had been bothered by his attitude towards Mishuli previously, so this was a good time to set things straight. Charles was now quite surprised, and so I continued to explain in a harsh tone.
“This marriage was decided completely separate from our own will. In that case, it could be dissolved before we know it, as well.”
For some reason, Mishuli had jumped on my explanation.
“An engagement is just some promise that can be easily broken!”
“Huh? Well, I don’t know if I would go that far. But we don’t know what the future holds, so I think we should be prepared as responsible people…”
“But unlike Charles, who only has a thin promise called engagement, I and sister will always, always be together! Will we not, sister!?”
“Of course, we will. Mishuli!”
Mishuli would always say the most adorable things. I praised her with every fiber of my being.
“The bond between you and I will last forever. No one shall break it! After all, we sisters are the strongest together!”
“Yes. I know! … Fu fu fu.”
“Ah! Chris, she stuck her tongue out! She made a face like she won and stuck her tongue out, so you couldn’t see! She is not cute at all!”
“Stupid Charles. Why should I believe that Mishuli would ever do such a thing? Right, Mishuli?”
Perhaps Charles was angry that his first friend ever had someone else they held more important. Charles seemed to harbor some unreasonable feeling of jealousy as he continued to glare at Mishuli. Mishuli herself had been jealous in her own, completely adorable way over not having her sister entirely to herself. She now took one step in front of me and stared back at Charles.
Their blue eyes clashed, sparks were flying.
I thought, but I was wrong.
“Why you little!”
“Who do you!”
They began to shout at one another, and in the next moment they had grabbed each other by the collar and were about to start a fight.
It may have been a childish scuffle. But I still could not allow it to happen. I quickly came between them and tried to make peace.
“What are you two doing! Stop this!”
“But sister! I can’t help it, I hate him!”
“I could say the same about you! You are in the way! Go somewhere else!”
“Enough of that, step away from each other. Now!”
Both of them were pointing their fingers and hurling abuse at the other. I tried my hardest to pull them apart, but the magnetism of fate that I had feared was too strong.
In Labyrinth Destiny, the story from my past life, there had been a strong force of attraction pulling these two similar people towards one another.
“Chris! Chris, you are being fooled by her! She is not cute at all! She is tricking you and plotting something!”
“Don’t say such things to my sister! You can’t even meet with my sister without the power of your house!”
“What did you!”
“What did you!”
“Could you two please stop this already!”
In this world, there seemed to be a strong force smashing them together even as they strongly repelled each other. It was most strange.