I. Beloved Doll
"Let me pull your hair back. I'm sure the Viscount will love it~"
"I don't need such 'love'."
"What are you saying, miss? You're currently the Viscount's daughter."
I stood behind her back and whispered into her ear. However, my eyes were instead looking at that expressionless face, which was reflected in the makeup mirror.
"In the beginning, what was our reason for coming here?'
That's right, Miss and I are the same. We were both sent here to be nurtured by the butler.
"Clearly, there's quite a number of substitutes, aren't there?"
"Miss, you're the real apple of the Viscount's eyes."
"That's what you think, because he hasn't abandoned me like the others, right?"
Hearing this, I couldn't go on.
Being abandoned isn't something new in this period of time.
Originally, there were supposed to be some children that were adopted by the Viscount, in here. But other than her, the others were seemingly barred from living in the mansion.
They weren't unique, but they shared the same trait: Golden hair.
But just recently, it became somewhat unusual. The Viscount appeared to have brought home even more children at dusk and apparently, this was getting more frequent.
Yet, it is futile to hide it. Miss is far more clearer than me on what those children will experience in the mansion.
"Can you address me like how you did in the past? You're aware that all he needs is me."
She spoke. Her pair of eyes were hollow.
"After all, what awaits me and that demon is different."
The words were at the tip of my tongue, but I couldn't help but swallow it back.
Regardless whether it's the past or present, I'm still unable to do anything.
"Don't say that, I'll dress you up before you greet the Viscount."
"Greet? By staying silent and foolishly smiling at him?"
"The Viscount loves you."
As I spoke, I combed her gold, somewhat curly long hair. Afterwards, I saw a large patch of a deep purple bruise behind her neck.
I looked at the makeup mirror once more. What I witnessed wasn't her face, which still show no signs of anger. It was mine.
"Don't laugh in this moment."
The me in the mirror said.
"Souffle, why are you here?"
"I'm taking care of you now."
"Have you ever thought of leaving?"
"Leave? But to where? Without my lady's request, I no longer have anywhere to go...."
"....That's right, no place to go...."
Akin to being possessed, she repeated this.
Silence fell between us until I thought of a topic.
"Miss, do you want to chat with Lilia? Lilia's a good child, she'll always listen to what I have to say."
Lilia is the name of my hand-made doll. That name also belongs to a human I met a long time ago.
She's positive, gentle and was the only person who was willing to listen to what I had to say in this gloomy world.
"Alright. Thank you, Souffle."
I'm not sure whether my weak words were effective. After hearing this, the corners of Miss's mouth began to curl at an unsightly angle.
Clearly, I merely wanted to console this helpless and lonely person, who is just like me. But, a faint voice was speaking in my heart.
Yes, descend into even more helplessness, Miss, my beloved doll.
II. Butterfly in the Fog
"Ah, Miss, it's almost time for the Viscount to return."
Taking out my pocket watch, I watched the approaching time and became uneasy.
"Well, Souffle, you go first."
"But Miss, if you don't appear on time, the Viscount will... "
"Nothing will change, will it?"
I don't know how to comfort the person in front of me. As the lady said, if the Viscount wants to embarrass her, then any reason is an excuse.
But I still have to do something for her.
In order to relieve the Viscount's anger a little, I chose to wait in front of the door early.
As a housekeeper, the first thing to learn is to arrange everyone's time perfectly.
That's what the butler at the Duke's mansion told me before.
Whether it is your own, or other servants or even the master's time, you must master it in an orderly manner so that you can provide better service to the host.
Although I am regarded as a Food Soul called by the nobility, I have never received any attention because of my lack of talent.
Free life made the aristocratic etiquette I learned useless. On the other hand, the aristocratic etiquette did not contain the basic qualities that made me a housekeeper.
So, under the arrangement of the Duchess, I came to Viscount Pell's Palace, who had been very close to the Duchess in recent days, to study as the Duchess' future housekeeper.
"What about Anna?"
Sure enough, when the Viscount returned to the palace, the first sentence was to inquire about the whereabouts of Miss.
"Young Miss is changing clothes."
"I should have told her to come and greet me! Why can't you do that?" The anger between the Viscount's words grew as if the cane in his hand would swing at me the next second.
"Lord Viscount, why should you be angry about these little trifles?" said the man standing beside the Viscount.
"I wanted you to meet that child of Anna today, Mr. Vita."
"Your excellency, it's not too urgent. Everything is still in the experimental stage. " The strange voice of the man is accompanied by a familiar and hazy suffocation. In an instant, I remembered -- some of the past that should have been forgotten.
I looked up uneasily at the man who was talking to the Viscount. He was wearing thin-rimmed glasses, a brown windbreaker coat and a box with strange lines in his hand.
Ah, I know his name. I've heard it many times from that man's mouth a long time ago.
"Have we met before?"
His face showed a polite and gentle look, but this gentleness flowed on the surface, and the coldness hid in his red eyes.
I bowed my head.
"I should be mistaken. I always feel that you're familiar."
As he said this, he finally turned away from his inquiry and continued his conversation with the Viscount.
"Lord Viscount, everything is in order."
To my surprise, the Viscount's mood soon calmed down under his three words.
"Well, Mr. Vita, let's continue experimenting here. Whether it's equipment or the environment, it's ready for you."
"Thank you for your help, Lord Viscount."
"Randolph, take Mr. Vita with you."
"Yes. Please follow me, Mr. Vita."
Randolph was the Viscount's housekeeper. His slightly rickety body and white temples told of his years of hard work in serving the Viscount. He bowed slightly to the Viscount.
"Sir, I hope you remember today's meeting with the Earl."
The Viscount was slightly stunned and then laughed out with disdain.
"Oh, yeah, meet... In that case, you can accompany me this time, Souffle."
"Oh... good, good." The Viscount's sudden nomination made it difficult for me to hide my panic for a moment.
In fact, besides being trained to be a qualified noble housekeeper, I came to the Viscount's palace with the task of finding ways to get information from another nobleman, known as the Count of Gamblers, through Viscount Pell.
In a country ruled by aristocrats, collusion between aristocrats always seems unavoidable.
The Duchess said that the Count of Gamblers had been in the limelight lately, even secretly trying to plot to bring down the Duke.
Viscount Pell was originally a gambler count, and the two acquaintances often came and went, so I will use the time in the Viscount's palace to find relevant evidence.
But did the Duchess really believe that I could find evidence to send me here? No, I don't think so.
"What are you waiting for?!"
"I'll get the carriage ready right away." At the sound of the Vice-count's rebuke, I hurried back to my feet and went out in a hurry to get the carriage ready.
The moment I opened the door, a jewel red butterfly flashed past my eyes.
I know this butterfly, which is as beautiful as a handicraft and belongs to the Duchess.
But if, I mean, if, this butterfly came here with Mr. Vita...the Duchess has long known that this person will come here?
III. The "Me" in the Mirror
This question in my heart was eventually dispelled by myself.
I was taken in by the Duchess by pure coincidence, but I hope I can make some changes this time and not let that person's tragedy repeat itself.
Soon I was driving a carriage, and with the Viscount, I came to the Gambler Count's mansion.
From the outside, the size of the mansion is not much different from that of the Viscount.
But the extravagant, gold-inlaid decoration reminds me of that magnificent royal city in my memory.
When he arrived at the mansion, the Viscount didn't wait for the Count of Gamblers to greet him.
But he seemed accustomed to it, and followed the servants calmly, letting them take us to the basement of the Count of Gamblers.
Somehow, the basement seems to be a place that these nobles generally like to hide secrets.
And the basement here is a huge casino, as I heard.
I followed the Viscount to the table where the Count of Gamblers was.
There were two other lords at the same table with the Count, who were talking to him.
"Your excellency, it seems that I am late. I'm really sorry. "
"That's all right. I don't care about time like a duke. "
"Ha-ha-ha-ha, yeah, that kind of person who has to calculate the travel plan for minutes is really terrible. "
I know that they are ridiculing that the Grand Duke’s severity of time is different from ordinary people.
If they knew that I was the one sent by the Grand Duke, would you still say that?
Or would it be like Viscount Pell, observing my reaction while saying such a thing?
"Viscount Pell, you don't know how good our count's luck has been lately. Basically, I haven't seen him lose."
"Luck is also a kind of strength, isn't it?"
These nobles started a new gamble as they said this.
"Then let me start shuffling."
A blonde boy was playing cards with ease. The gambling has started and everyone was focused.
Perhaps it's because this basement is too empty, and no one can hear anything other than the sound of playing cards.
At that time, I noticed that the boy with blond hair seemed to have done something secretly when he was playing cards.
"You won again, count."
Several rounds of gambling ended, and only I found out that the blonde boy changed cards for the Count of Gamblers every time.
"Why do you pause, Viscount? What's the matter this time?"
I was about to listen carefully to their conversation when suddenly the Viscount called my name and directed me to wait outside with his eyes.
I had to leave.
Before leaving, I peeked at the blonde boy who was shuffling his cards at the gambling table alone.
Should I tell the story of the young man besides the Count of Gamblers? Why didn't everyone notice it, but would be noticed by me?
Is this the evidence that the lady wants to see?
I kept thinking about it, tangled, and time passed quietly between my hesitation.
Finally I waited until the Viscount came back from the basement. He said nothing, and I had nothing to gain. I had to drive home.
"What about Mr. Vita?" The Viscount returned to the house and called the housekeeper.
"You're back, Sir. I have placed everything for Mr. Vita according to your request."
"Sir, do you want to send your dinner to the study or to the dining room for today's dinner?"
"Dining room, please bring Mr. Vita over, too. In addition, Souffle, bring the lady down for dinner today."
The voice of the Viscount's last sentence was markedly suppressed, with an irrefutable meaning.
—— But now Miss doesn't want to see the Viscount at all. I said so silently in my heart, frowning in the aisle, hesitating, and accidentally glimpsed at the glass window beside me.
"It looks like you're unwilling to look at it. If you have any objection to the Viscount's arrangement, let's talk about it. "
The figure in the glass mirror has the same face as me, but this time, there is a strange smile.
"In the basement of the Earl's Palace, too. Why not just say it? How interesting is it that once the fraud is uncovered, how can these people who have a false face because of their interests kill each other? Don't you want to see it? You really want to see it, don't you?"
Again, this illusion, like a ghost, can't be shaken off.
"I don't believe what you said. I'm not sure. Maybe I was wrong at that time... "
"How could I be wrong? I made you notice that Food Soul was cheating."
"Food Soul? The blond boy is also a Food Soul?"
"Now you believe me?"
I was surprised, and the smile in the face of the mirror deepened.
"It's just a weak Food Soul. That skill can only deceive people who haven't seen the world. "
"Who are you? Why, why do you always follow me?"
"Oh, me? I was you. At that time, because of your wishes, I appeared~”
“But Lilia is still dead~ It’s a pity that it’s such a beautiful human being. I'm also very sad."
My whole body inexplicably came with pain. Even the dolls, Lilia and Vivian, who were hiding beside me, flew worriedly to my side as if they were comforting me.
"Are you staying with the Duchess now because she and Lilia look exactly alike?"
"No...No, it isn't."
"When do you want to deceive yourself? Coward!"
Memories of the past swept in like a tide.
The bloody red memory gradually became the darkness to the abyss, and just for a moment, I could no longer wake up from my dreams.
"I haven’t made any progress for so long. Lilia will cry when she sees me, coward."
But it’s convenient for me to come out.
—— "Now it's time for me to enjoy myself~"
IV. A Beginning after the Fall of Curtains
For me, going back to the Duke's House is a very simple matter.
Viscount Pell couldn't punish me too much because I was the housekeeper of the Duchess.
So it's easy for me to let the Duchess be a shield and tell lies like she was called back by the Duchess.
However, our Duchess is a very strange woman, and she is also a Food Soul that can't leave afternoon tea.
Clearly not so sentimental, but interested in some human affairs.
To be precise, she is very concerned about the human being called Lilia.
Even when I rarely went to find her, she would look at the story book that was said to have been left by the real Duchess of that time.
But I guess that's why she keeps that useless coward around.
Of course, it does not rule out that she really wants a Master Attendant.
I told her what had happened at the residence of the Viscount and the Count's, but she did not seem very surprised.
My words seemed to give her some exact confirmation, and she waited for the story she was looking forward to.
So, our Duchess planned the story for the new protagonist to develop next.
The days that followed were actually calm for the coward.
In order to make the story go smoothly, the Duchess quickly recalled me to her residence, the Museum of Time.
Later, the Grand Duke hosted a rare birthday dinner at the proposal of the Duchess.
The night was particularly long.
At the dinner, Viscount Pell introduced the Mr. Vita to the sick Grand Duke.
After the dinner, the Count, a gambler conspiring to gain power from the Duke, lost everything in that gamble.
The kingship of this country is in vain, and the nobility is the only one that covers the sky.
This is perfectly confirmed by the aging Duke.
The Count of Gamblers didn't have time to become popular among the nobles, and it became a talk of people in the streets and lanes.
"Do you think it's over? Souffle."
"You'll ask that. Doesn't that mean everything is about to start?"
"It's a good answer, it shouldn't be boring next."
"Then, madam, what interesting things do you want to tell me when you forced me to wake me up? "
I looked at the woman's expression in front of me, proud and beautiful, but it revealed the cruelty that this face shouldn't have.
The flash of a smile in memory is absolutely impossible to appear on the face of the woman in front of me.
This is the look of this person in the memory of the coward.
"Today is the birthday of the Duke, and he asked him a question." As she spoke, the Duchess turned over a page of her storybook.
"Is it true that people who have betrayed others are still trustworthy? How do you feel that you have to answer all your questions?"
"If you're afraid of betrayal, just let him have no chance to betray. "
Hearing my answer, she looked up at me with great interest.
"The dead have no chance to betray others."
I didn't care what she looked at. Of course I knew what to do next.
"And I hope next time you can wake me up in a gentle way, Duchess. "
That night, instead of attending the Duke's birthday dinner, I arrived at Viscount Pell's house at night.
Because I didn't want to be too eye-catching for the time being, I lightly jumped onto the second floor of the study.
The study's lights was on. As I learned before, it was the Viscount's office time.
At this time, Viscount Pell was delighted with the defeat of the Count of Gamblers, and all the money he had lost to the Count of Gamblers because of gambling was returned to his name.
The Viscount was surprised to see me suddenly appear on the balcony of his study as the housekeeper of the Duchess.
"Souffle? How did you come here today? I have already apologized to the Duke for his birthday, since I am too busy to attend."
He seemed to be confused, but pretended to warmly welcome me into the study.
"No, the Duchess had something to say."
"Since it was the command of the Duchess, I will do my best. Hmm..this amount......why...?"
As he loosened his guard and turned his back, I pierced his heart with the cane he laid aside.
"It's great that you can agree so quickly, Viscount."
Then I gave the flame to his death and burned everything.
Everything cannot stay hidden.
In the light of the fire all over the sky, I made a final farewell to the sad man with the most brilliant smile possible.
"Did you just destroy the lab that I worked so hard to find?"
The gentle and elegant Mr. Vita appeared quietly behind me that even the shadow reflected by the fire seemed to be entwined by the black shadow of a snake.
But I wasn't the coward who would run away because of that. I turned around and looked at him with a smile.
"But haven't you found the next stage, Mr. Black Snake?"
Many things were meaningless from the beginning, and so was his birth.
Souffle was just a Food Soul summoned by the nobleman who was addicted to pleasure.
"This is a Food Soul? It doesn't look any different from human beings."
His Master Attendant, as an immediate family member of the royal family, never had any concerns about food and clothing.
Therefore, even if he summoned a Food Soul, he didn't have much interest in it.
Not expected, not needed, so Souffle always stays in the dark corner.
But this is the best way for Souffle, so he can continue to live as a shadow aristocrat safely.
In a kingdom that seems calm and peaceful all day long, a weak Food Soul like him is gradually ignored even after his Master Attendant had passed away.
He didn't show special combat talent, but he was very good at meticulous sewing, which he discovered when he lived as an accessory in a kingdom full of nobility.
So he created his first doll, Vivian.
Vivian, as he thought, was a very clingy child.
With short curly hair and dark pupils, she would always follow him by pulling on the corner of Souffle's clothes.
But the doll is unchangeable, just like his life. No one knows how terrible this kind of life is.
Until one day, Vivian suddenly disappeared.
The gears of fate are gradually turning.
In the palace, Souffle was constantly looking for Vivian. He kept calling Vivian's name with a volume that was not so loud in other people's ears.
"Are you looking for this child?" Following the sound, he looked at the tall tower that had covered most of the sunshine for him.
The girl who raised the question was the one who leaned out of the window of the tower.
Souffle moved slightly and stepped out of the shadow of the tall tower.
For the first time, he looked at the sunshine without any preparedness, and saw the girl's long, golden, sunny curls, and blue eyes as blue as the sky. That was probably the first time he liked the colors in the sun.
From then on, he would come to the tower from time to time, and the girl said that she had been forgotten by everyone.
In the same situation like him, for the first time in this kingdom, Souffle had found what he can call a "friend".
The girl has a beautiful appearance and a touching voice. She often read various fairy tales for him inside the high tower.
She said that she used to read for her sister, but when he asked questions about it, the girl was silent or opened another topic and never told him the answer.
He soon stopped asking questions. After all, it was the first human being he could talk to without any hesitation.
For him, there is no need to know too many secrets, and the emergence of the girl had already been a great fortune.
Satisfied with the present situation, the only thing he knew was the girl's name, Lilia, the same name as the queen of the kingdom.
Lilia said she couldn't leave the tower for the time being, but a man named Vita would take care of her.
Souffle had never seen Mr. Vita in Lilia's tower. Because whenever this person was about to appear, he feels a cold suffocation that forces him to leave the place.
Lilia must have been imprisoned by some terrible demon.
At that time, Souffle didn't know the reason why Lilia was bound to the tower, but looking at Lilia's calm and bright eyes, he couldn't help thinking that she might not be as unfortunate as he thought.
Otherwise, why would the story read from her mouth be so beautiful?
But soon, this life like the fairy tale she read was destroyed by the people who suddenly broke into the kingdom.
The anger of the people is like a ghost. They hold weapons in their hands and killed many guards and nobles of the royal city.
Countless blood-stained feet trampled on the original tranquility of this kingdom.
The whole kingdom had already fallen into purgatory before he could even figure out what had happened.
"Find the bloodthirsty butterfly!"
"Yes! Kill the witch!"
Such remarks are endless.
Souffle didn't know who they were looking for, but the people who had fallen into madness wouldn't hesitate to attack him at the sight of nobles dressed in gorgeous clothes.
At that time, he could only hide behind the door of a small room in a corner, daring not to make any noise.
The chaotic sound of footsteps kept passing by.
Souffle hugged the doll that he managed to look just like Lilia, and dared not step out the door. Vivian could only hide by the corner of his clothes in fear, daring not leave half a step.
He is not as powerful as the Food Souls people call him. He doesn't even know what ability he has.
But he wanted to go out and take away Lilia, who was imprisoned by the tower.
Once found by those humans, Souffle didn't dare imagine what terrible things would happen to her.
While he was afraid, he prayed that there would be someone around Lilia who could protect her.
Even if that person is not him, even if that person is a demon...it's okay.
Although he thought so, the hands that were constantly clenching gradually came with pain, and the blood oozed out from his palm.
After all, there is no way to escape the fact that he is an excuse of a "waste".
However, he hadn't been out long before he was discovered.
"Look! It's a nobleman! He must know where the bloodthirsty butterfly is!"
Souffle can only keep running forward. He knew that once he stopped, he would end up in the same way as other nobles.
But even if you keep moving forward, you will only attract more pursuers.
Soon, people from all around blocked his way.
Without any hesitation, the sticks in their hands swung at his head, twice, and it was too late before the heavy blows fell on him.
Souffle crawled desperately, his mind was full of thoughts of wanting to see Lilia.
"Don't kill him yet. Ask him where the bloodthirsty butterfly is!"
"Hey! Don't die! Answer before you die!" Somehow, Souffle was only a few steps away from the corridor outside.
The sun was slanting, and Souffle was constantly moving towards the sun with the body that had been bruised.
Just go out and walk through the beautiful garden where he can see the tower and his beautiful Lilia.
But no! He can't see her anymore.
Behind him, the humans who tried to see where he was going were waiting for that moment.
He has no way to protect her, let alone lead these people who only want to kill the nobility of the royal city.
He was obviously a Food Soul, but at this time, it was better to die.
With this in mind, he stopped struggling and lay his back on the ground.
At that moment, he had a bloody wound on his head, but he didn't know why he laughed.
"Is this guy really a nobleman? I think it's a madman!"
"You see, he has been holding onto two dolls for a long time. It's disgusting."
He couldn't tell who was speaking malicious words in such a mocking tone.
"Regret? Do you regret your weakness? Then yearn for me! I'll help you kill all these humans."
Suddenly, a totally different voice came to Souffle's ear, echoing in his ear with great clarity.
"Who? Who is it? "
Souffle kept asking for answers.
"Sure enough, it’s a madman who talks to himself, deal with it!" As soon as the voice fell, he felt the pain that had pierced his abdomen, and Vivian and Lilia, who had been pierced by the foreign objects.
"God, these two dolls are moving!"
He's also a monster. The panic-stricken human once again stabbed Souffle's body with the sword in his hand.
Just then, a loud cry came from a distance.
"Everybody! I found the bloodthirsty butterfly! She is hiding on the tower on the other side of the garden!"
"Really!? Quick! We can't let that witch run away!"
Souffle's eyes widened. He had difficulty breathing, but he wanted to struggle to get up.
No, no... you can't!
"Would you like to save her? A coward like you can't do it, can you?" The voice reappeared in his ears, like a devil, reaching out to him with the temptation to save him.
Souffle caught the redemptive hands in the illusion, and his tone was almost pleading.
"Please... please... save her, how can I save, save Lilia..."
"Oh, really, it was better to give up this body earlier and change into me."
He didn't know what had happened to him. At the last moment, he saw his hand reaching out with the black mist.
Souffle, who slowly stood up again in the dark fog, looked at the humans who were holding blood-stained weapons, revealing an evil and arrogant smile.
"Ah - so those of you who just beat up this coward, it's time for you to come over and report~ I will personally send you to hell!"
The bell struck four times, and when he woke up again, he saw a completely strange sight.
He didn't know how he came to this place, nor where he was going.
He was not expected by anyone from the beginning.
All the pain he couldn't stop was telling him that it was all over.
In the end, he couldn't hold on to anything, and even lost the last friend who gave him something to look forward to.
But why did he survive?
Why does a worthless self still exist?
There is a blank space in the fault of memory, only a great sadness, let him recall a little, and there will be irrepressible tears to wash away the mind.
Dolls don't speak. They witnessed everything, but they can never tell him.
A few years later.
Having lost everything, Souffle still wanders around the dark corner like a homeless stray cat.
Until now, a beautiful butterfly flashed in front of him. The red wings were so beautiful, it didn't appear to be a living creature.
His eyes couldn't help following it until it flew to a four-wheeled, exquisitely carved noble carriage that was far away, and it landed on the back of the hand of the noble there.
But at this time, it wasn't this butterfly that had made it impossible for Souffle to remove his eyes. The person sitting in the carriage was no different from the face of Lilia in his memory.
When he reacted, he stopped in front of the carriage.
Souffle had subconsciously protected himself, but the carriage did not hit him.
"What a madman! Do you want to die?!" The coachman pulled the reins and yelled at him.
Without holding back, he called softly and walked towards her.
"Maniac, you think the name of the lady is something you can call out freely?"
The coachman's whip swung at Souffle's body, knocking the doll in his arms to the ground. Souffle's body is stiff, but when he raised his head, a dark mist slowly diffused in his eyes.
"You actually know the name, this is really surprising." Strange enough, the lady in the carriage seemed to be very interested in him.
"Since you're surprised, would you be interested in knowing about me?"
"Oh? Know? Do you think you have such value?"
"This is naturally the judgment of the lady."
The lady in the carriage looked at the Souffle who seemed so different from when he'd stopped the carriage, and her smile deepened.
"If that's your wish, then come with me."
This may be the reason why the miracle of his worthless survival will happen.
Now, Souffle thinks so.