Chapter Twenty-Seven: A Mother and a Father

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I rushed out of the study and into the corridor. My vision hazy and my thoughts jumbled, I did not notice a young boy approaching me with quick steps.

My eye sight...everything is blurry...

I felt my knees give out as I was softly embraced by someone. Gazing upwards, my amber eyes were met with his golden brown ones. In his stare, I could feel concerned intermixed with a hint of sorrow.

Why is he looking at me like that...

After making sure I could stand on my own, he let go of me.

"Pardon me," I muttered under my breath.

"It is fine after all our...I mean, let me help you to your carriage," the apprehension palpable in his voice.

Without a second thought, I took his arm.

I flung the carriage door open to find Mariah sobbing. Her hazel eyes swollen and the colour of her rosy cheeks drained, she cried hysterically.

"Mariah...," I whispered.

She wrapped her arms around me tightly, "Miss...hick...My Lord...hick...he is no longer...hick..."

The words Mariah had uttered were the same as Rey's however hearing it from her made me grasp the gravity of the situation. My legs, still weak, were shaking as I felt a cold yet secure arm wrap around my shoulder. It was Duke Zenos.

"Let's go together," he said, gently.

After Mariah had regained her composure, she began explaining what happened, "The Lord...had an accident. His carriage, it fell from a cliff. After the initial inspection it was concluded that the horse lost its footing and it let to this unfortunate incident. His body...it has arrived at the estate..."

It is the same...exactly how he died in my previous life. However, I am still fifteen. He died when I was sixteen before I travelled back in time. What...what could have caused this to happen...

The rest of the ride was spent in silence. We arrived at the Rosario estate and I walked into the parlour followed by Duke Zenos and Mariah. My eyes fell on Raelia. I traced her gaze to find my eyes land upon my father's still body.

Upon noticing my presence, Raelia broke into crocodile tears, "Sister...how could something like this happen? Father...sniff...this is truly...sniff...horrible."

I pushed her out of my way, my head throbbing and my heart pounding.

Raelia pouted, "I was trying to be nice hmph," and angrily stomped out of the room.

However, I couldn't care less. My father's corpse lay in front of me, his expression as calm as a river. If I wasn't aware, he was dead, I could assume he was just taking a little nap.

Everything is just like the last time...even his peaceful expression.

"Everyone please leave me alone," I ordered.

Duke Zenos hesitated, "Will you be alright?"

I nodded, silently.

I was left to myself, only surrounded by the sounds of my own breathing.  As I listened to my heart beating, a memory from the past resurfaced.

"Eli! Eli! Where are you?" I heard my father shout.

I let out a whimper at his rough but tender call.

He sneaked up on me and raised me high in his arms, "There you are, my princess."

When he noticed the tears in my eyes, he panicked, "Wait...is my baby crying? What happened?! I thought you would be happy since it is the first time you have invited children of your age to play. Did your friends say anything?"

I bawled my eyes out, "They...aren't...my...friends...They teased me...saying...I...I...don't have...proper...etiquette...because...I have...ve no moth...er."

"Who said that?! Should I go teach them a lesson?!" he asked, fury overtaking him.

"Nooo! You will only make it worse like you always do!" I protested.

A glum expression took over my father's face, "Eli, will you look at me for a second?"

I reluctantly gazed up to meet my father's sincere eyes, "Eli...your mother passed away after she gave birth to you and I did not remarry. Many of my vassals requested for me to get married again but I refused. I believed it would be better for you to be raised by me alone than someone unknown however was that a mistake on my part?"

Seeing my father's downcast face, I could not help but embrace him, "Don't say that, daddy...to me you are both mom and dad!"

I retreated to catch a glimpse of my father, only for him to whisper, "Don't look at me...I look embarrassing..." as I felt his wet cheek brush against mine.

"Is father crying? Hehe. Crybaby!" I grinned.

He patted my head gently, "Yes yes...I was definitely not the one hiding in the bushes, sniveling."

"Oh my, your hair is a mess," he added, taking out small leaves and branches from my tousled curls.

He picked me up and sat me on a nearby bench, "Let me braid it for you."

"Daddy, can you braid hair though?" I questioned, doubt translucent in my tone.

He let out a uncertain laugh, "Uh..well...are you doubting my astonishing talent?"

"We will see about that," I giggled.

Father coughed and began to braid my hair. The end result was of course as I had expected.

I flipped back my shabby braid which looked like it would fall apart any second, "Well, father, is this your astonishing talent?"

"Fine, this is one thing I am bad at," he sighed.

"You should know when to admit defeat, daddy," I smirked.

He chuckled, "Of course, winning against a tough competitor such as my daughter will not be so easy. Now then let's head inside."

As we were about to enter the mansion, my father stopped, "Wait here for a bit."

He returned after several minutes, his face flushed red. Panting, he sat down at my eye level and attached a rose to my crimson hair, "The look is now complete! Please visit my hair salon again if you are satisfied with the service, dear customer!"

We both laughed out loud at the last line. His smile under the radiant sunlight filled me up with warmth.

The next day, as I passed by his study, I heard some distressing noises. As I peeked inside, I could make out the figure of Mariah and father.

"That is not how you do it, My Lord. How many times has it been already...why must you do this, My Lord?" Mariah said, frustratingly, to my father who was struggling to braid a wig.

Father, his hands tangled between the hair, said, "For Eli. For her, I would do anything. To her I am both her mother and her father. I cannot let her ever sense the absence of a parent. I am the world to her right now and even if her world were to expand in the future, she will always mean the world to me. I will spare no expense or effort for her happiness."

To think that kindness, that warmth, that affection no longer exists...To not be able to witness his dazzling smile or feel his gentle touch...

Finally, a tear trickled down my cheek and then a second one, followed by a third.

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