It might sound strange, but I woke up one day realizing I acquired memories from my past life.
One would think it was absurd, and probably dismiss it as nothing but a whimsical dream. But not for me. In my mind everything was clear as day – from the small apartment where I used to live in a country known as Japan, to the years I spent as an office employee at a multinational company.
More importantly, I remembered the moments I played a popular otome game called Romance of the Kingdom’s Light.
Now, this was how I could tell it was more than a young lady’s mere fantasies. Romance of the Kingdom’s Light was a game about a young Saintess named Sophia, who was adopted by the kingdom’s Prime Minister until she reached the age to fulfill her duties. One day she would go on a pilgrimage across the world, purifying every kingdom of dark magic, all while encountering various love interests.
I, Annelise Rosenberg, was meant to be the villainess of that story.
I know, because I had predicted Sophia would join the Rosenberg family once I reach 10 years of age, and sure enough, I could see her standing at the foyer of my mansion, her hand held by my father, the Prime Minister of Belmont.
She was everything the otome game had described – a delicate young lady, with soft curls of hair the color of morning sunlight, and a pair of sky blue eyes that shone with sincerity. Unlike most otome games where the main character seemed rather plain and harmless, Sophia radiated beauty unlike any other.
Sophia’s image was definitely the opposite of mine. I gave the impression of an intimidating noble young lady, befitting of a villainess from a powerful family. My jet black hair flowed straight like a river of silk up to my waist, and my skin was rather pale. I inherited my late mother’s emerald green eyes and her taller stature. I could tell I was born to be the typical evil woman, or I looked like one at least.
“Annelise,” My father, Matthias, spoke with that strange mix of gentleness and authority he always had. “I would like to introduce you to your adopted sister.”
Adopted, you say, I thought as I looked at my father and my new sister. In the otome game, this was where hell started for Sophia. The adoption of Sophia, or Sophie as my father and everyone else would eventually call her, became the origin of all the rumors spreading around the noble society. Everyone thought she was more than just adopted. Not only did she share my father’s physical traits (father has blond hair and blue eyes as well), she also joined the Rosenberg house a year after mother passed away. Everyone thought Sophie was actually an illegitimate child and that my father was merely waiting for a chance to have her join the family.
However, that wasn’t the only reason why I was meant to be the villain who would make her suffer. In the game, the idea of Sophie being a part of the family put my role as the heiress of the Rosenberg estate into question. Add to that the fact that she would eventually be a Saintess and a more qualified candidate to become the Crown Prince’s bride, which fueled the anger of the game’s Annelise further.
As such, if Sophie’s existence proved the knowledge I had of my past life, then the possibility of me meeting a terrible end could come true. Exile, death sentence, losing my status and wealth – you name it, I got what every evil villainess deserved, depending on the choices Sophie would make.
Then again, unlike other villainess, I have knowledge of my possible future. So the only way for me to survive was to change the choices, right?
And it’s not as if I was intending to be evil in the first place. Simply put, the only way for me to change my future was by not copying the actions the Annelise in the game made.
As soon as realization hit me, I stared at my new sister and smiled.
“Nice to meet you.”…
When I first met my sister Annelise, I was already expecting not to be welcomed. After all, her father adopted me, a commoner and an orphan, and made me part of the ducal House of Rosenberg. I admit I lacked knowledge when it comes to politics, but everyone in Belmont knew the Rosenbergs were the King’s most powerful political allies.
Annelise was standing at the foot of the grand marble staircase, her figure tall and graceful like the faerie queen that the sisters at the orphanage used to tell during bedtime stories. Sharp green eyes that matched the color of her floor-length dress, making her look almost...inhuman. Like a beauty that was meant to be untouchable.
I admit it was frightening. For a moment, I had to ask myself a question: What am I doing here?
One day, Annelise’s father came to the orphanage and adopted me. Everything happened so fast that it was almost like a dream. But here I was, dressed in the latest fashion thanks to the money from my adopted father, as he introduced me to the rest of the family.
HIS family. I could still get kicked out if Annelise gave her word.
Oh no. I couldn’t even look at Annelise’s eyes at this point. It was difficult to even assume Annelise would want someone like me into her family.
“Nice to meet you.”
I whipped my head up, coming face-to-face with her. Annelise gave me a smile. It was an awkward one, sure, but it was sincere and better than nothing. At least she was trying to accept me.
Of course, I smiled back. “My name’s Sophia.”
“Shall I call you Sophie?”
A nickname, I thought happily. Being called Sophie felt endearing. Or maybe it was just me being hopeful. It was probably more like the latter. “Sure!”
At first, I was worried about how I would spend the days now that Sophie has become part of the family. In the game, the villainess Annelise only made Sophie’s life a hell in the mansion. Personally, however, I never found anything wrong with my new sister – if anything, she seemed to look up to me. It seemed I made a good first impression on her when we first met.
It took a few weeks for Sophie and I to start having proper conversations though. It became apparent to me the difference in how we were raised; I grew up in a noble family, loved and well-cared for by my family. Sophie, on the other hand, grew up in an orphanage surrounded by nuns and other children. While orphanages in Belmont have been funded to ensure children would get basic education, Sophie lacked the usual lessons in etiquette and other subjects exclusively taught to children of noble birth. I remembered how Annelise took advantage of this in the game; at the Magic Academy where the sisters would eventually be enrolled in, she would mock Sophie in public for not knowing basic mannerisms.
That Annelise wasn’t me, sure, but I still felt a tad guilty. And so during dinner time, I made a suggestion to father.
“Etiquette lessons?” Matthias arched his eyebrows in wonder. Father was an erudite, but his denseness tend to make him forget subtle but important matters sometimes. Even Sophie looked at me across the dining table, not understanding the situation.
“Wouldn’t it be a good idea?” I suggested, in a tone which Bellamy taught me when I was studying the art of diplomacy. “In two years, Sophie and I will enter the Academy. Aside from basic education, I think my dear sister should be taught manners for noble ladies. She is a Rosenberg as well, after all.”
Matthias smiled at me fondly, and so did Sophie. “For you to welcome Sophie into the family so quickly...you are just as kind as your mother.”
I smiled back, but I felt a slight pang in my chest when he told me that. My mother, Irene Rosenberg, passed away not so long ago. She was a sprightly woman; she would definitely adore Sophie had she remained alive today. It would have eradicated bitter rumors around the family as well.
“All right,” Matthias glanced at Sophie. “I’m going to discuss the matter with Governess Mathilde tomorrow. She can be strict at times, but she is the most well-known teacher of etiquette for young ladies here in Belmont.”
Sophie began her etiquette lessons the next day. She spent her lesson outside, at the gazebo in the family’s famous rose garden. I, on the other hand, resumed my own lessons in the library and was tutored by Bellamy. I have already completed my basic etiquette lessons, so I moved onto lessons in history, politics, literature, and some basic magic. Bellamy was also in charge of my martial arts lessons (this was something noble ladies aren’t often taught, but father wanted to ensure I could protect myself).
The Rosenberg family’s library was in a room at the back of the mansion, with tall windows revealing the family garden and the gazebo. This allowed me to watch Sophie being taught how to properly stand up, sit down, and greet other people by my former etiquette teacher Mathilde.
“I wish you focus on your books more, Milady.” Bellamy said as soon as he caught me glancing outside the window to watch over my sister.
I coughed and returned my focus on the book I was reading at the time. The lesson for the day was about Royal families and their history. It was important to learn about the dynasties holding power for an important reason: in the game, Annelise was supposedly the top candidate to become the fiancee of the First Prince of Belmont. Of course, there was also the fact that she was the daughter of the kingdom’s Prime Minister.
“The eastern coast of the continent has the kingdom of Shantigo, ruled by the Conte family,” Bellamy explained as he pointed the area on a large map placed against the blackboard. “Then the frozen north has the small kingdom of Bertrand. The western coast was the vast kingdom of Aquitania ruled by the House of Ivrea. Belmont, of course, is ruled by the family of the same name.”
“The Belmont Royal Family,” I mused. I couldn’t help but remember the villainess’ moments during the otome game. Looking back, it made me wonder what Annelise could be thinking at the time. Did she like the First Prince? Or was it just her pride that caused her to try and break Sophie and Alphonse Belmont apart?
Whatever it was, it did not lead to a good ending for Annelise. And if I do the same actions as her, then I would likely suffer her fate.
“It is important to learn more about them, Milady,” Bellamy explained. “You are to interact with them in the future, after all. Especially Prince Alphonse.”
“...Right.” I was merely 10 years of age, yet I was already being prepared for this. I wouldn’t wonder why that Annelise was so bent on becoming the Crown Princess after all her years of effort. But I – I’m not even sure if I wanted to become a candidate at all.
I wasn’t sure, probably because I was too aware of my future should I pursue a chance to marry Prince Alphonse. “Maybe I shouldn’t do it.”
“Do what, Milady?”
“Marrying the Prince?” I noticed the concerned look on Bellamy’s eyes.
“Is there something bothering you, Milady?”
“It’s just...” I understand the situation. The Royal Family of Belmont wanted to establish strong political power, and there was no better family in the kingdom that could provide that other than the Rosenbergs. There was also the fact that the King trusted father as a Prime Minister and as a great friend.
“I don’t know, Bellamy,” I told my tutor as I heaved a sigh of defeat.
“I presume it’s inevitable that you are sighing, especially because you have yet to meet the Prince,” Bellamy assured me.
“Wouldn’t it be better if Sophie marries the Prince instead?”
“Why, don’t you consider yourself a suitable candidate as well? Besides, the decision won’t be made until the Prince has reached the right age for marriage.”
I nodded in agreement. “I guess you’re right...”
Bellamy’s comments were true; there was still years to go until the Prince decides on who he should marry – meaning I still have time to change my fate. Maybe I shouldn’t overthink things so soon.
Sophie and I were only able to meet during afternoon tea. It was the only time she was able to take a break from her lessons; she seemed rather eager to learn as many things as possible, given the fact she had little time to know the basics of etiquette and education before she could enter the Academy.
In the game, Annelise would never join Sophie during tea time. But drinking tea on your own felt lonely, and I really wanted to enjoy the peaceful ambiance at the gazebo.
“It’s amazing how you’re already learning about politics, sister!” Sophie exclaimed.
“It’s nothing different to what other noble children learn,” I replied. “You will study them too someday.”
Sophie’s face fell. “I’m not sure if I can be as smart as you are though...”
“You’re hardworking – Mathilde even said so. Have a bit more confidence in yourself.” It was true; one of Sophie’s most notable traits in the game was how hardworking and cheerful she was despite the challenges she was facing. Sure, I ended up as her villainous sister, but that didn’t mean I shouldn’t acknowledge her qualities.
Sophie answered me with her trademark sweet smile. “My dear sister is just as hardworking!”
“You’re too kind.” I couldn’t help but smile in return.
“But it’s true! Even the maidservants here look up to you. Others may deem you as the flawlessly elegant young lady of the Rosenberg Ducal Family, but everyone here knows how much effort you put into your studies.”
Hard work, I was pleased despite myself. My willingness to learn everything only stemmed from the fact that I was very interested in this world, particularly in its magic.
“Bellamy told me too!” Sophie added excitedly. “How you immediately learned the Martial Language!”
In this world, not everyone had the affinity to use magic. Some were born with smaller mana pool but were blessed with other talents. In Belmont, the Royal Army required its soldiers to not just be physically strong, but also adept at using the Martial Language. It was a series of magic spells which could be applied in combat without exerting too much mana like mages do. In the game, I managed to raise my stats so much that I had completely mastered the Martial Language. I never thought I would be able to acquire those stats when I reincarnated into this world.
“One day, you will learn those skills as well,” I told Sophie. “Of course, you could choose which subjects you would prioritize.”
Sophie paused for a moment to think. “I’m not really sure what kinds of things I need to learn aside from etiquette...”
“Well, maybe Bellamy can help you - “
Our discussion were interrupted by our father suddenly arriving. Father usually stayed at the Palace to work all day and return by dinnertime, so it was unusual for him to come back in the afternoon.
“Father?” I stood up, mildly surprised. Sophie could not help but stand up as well. “You came home so early. Has your work been finished so soon?”
Father was grinning from ear to ear. “Indeed, I spent the entire week working hard to finish early today. With this, the King permitted us to go back to our estate.”
“To the Rosenberg Estate in Argenta?” I asked.
Belmont was a kingdom divided into a number of lands managed by nobles. The Rosenbergs have been given the duchy of Argenta, which became a prosperous due to the fact it contained a rich silver mine and had one of the largest ports in the continent, which rivaled that of Shantigo.
My heart pounded with excitement. Argenta was such a fascinating place, yet it has been a long time since my last visit.
Father noticed the exhilarated look on my face and smiled. “I know it’s been a while since you last visited...it would be wonderful if you and Sophie could spend your summertime there.”
“Yes, that’s true...” I could not hide the grin on my face.
“Moreover,” Father added. “We will have very important visitors who would like to pay the duchy a visit.”
“Visitors?” I arched my eyebrows in wonder. “Now, who could they be?”
Father gave me an impish grin.
“Why,” he announced. “Prince Alphonse and Prince Emile would like to join us traveling to Argenta!”
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