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Regina Stellarum 02

Author:Duke Category:Unreal Update time:2022-10-27 11:48:23


She fidgeted on the spot, eyes glued to the floor.

"I don have one, Your Grace."

"Hm." A flip of paper, sheets swapped out and stacked atop each other.

This was not the most ideal of situations to be in. What had started out as doing the studies of her employers son, a simple task as long as she kept quiet and minded her business while doing household duties, had slowly but surely turned into something a bit closer to a crime than shed ever imagined. Studying the ancient language of this world, which was just the language she spoke before waking up here, should not have been her death flag so early into her comfortable life as a nobody without even a name.

She was just "Boy", and while she hated it, it was as peaceful as she could keep her life in this situation.

It had to have been two months ago now—when she woke up on the streets, not in her bed or even her own home, and spotted an unfamiliar reflection in the window of the store shed been laying in front of. A young boys body, skin darker than what hers should have been and hair a shaggy, matted brown with knots in all directions; it wasn her, and it hadn taken her long to figure out the predicament she was in. Shed killed herself, after all, because reading the final chapter of the revised version of "Lullaby for a God" had been too burdensome for her weary heart to handle. And on that first day in the body of "Boy", she happened upon a request for a tutor from a local baron that required one simple test: Correctly decipher the ancient text included on the application.

"How do you know what it says so accurately?" Baron Clemont had asked her when hed called her into his study.

"I just do," shed replied without thinking. "I grew up speaking it."

Maybe it shouldve been a bit more suspicious, the way Baron Clemonts son suddenly took to the ancient language with profound skill. Maybe she shouldve paced the answers she put down for the older boy more believably. After shed taken over submitting his work to the countrys capital, there was no doubt those the Baron reported to had begun to side-eye his sons sudden spike in understanding of the language.

But hindsight was always twenty-twenty, and "Boy" hadn thought to be more careful when many correct answers garnered far more preferable treatment.

So here she sat now, in the middle of the Barons study, as the Duke of the North sat on the Barons chair.

"You said the young lord called you Boyd. Was that a lie?" the Duke asked her.

She pursed her lips. "I... Yes, Your Grace."

"Why did you lie to me?"

"I did not want my employers reputation to suffer because his servant had no name." She fidgeted again. Baron Clemont was not permitted to stay in the room, but he was no doubt listening through the other side of the door for any crumb of information he could use. "He has yet to give me a name, Your Grace."

The Duke sighed heavily. He picked up one sheet of paper and, with a glance to her, contemplated his next question.

It was all too weird, she told herself. A duke should investigate strange things under the Kings orders, certainly, but this one? From the north? The barony was too far west to have been needing the intervention of Duke Gelum, who observed the frigid north near the ruins of the old empire; it shouldve been the Duke of the West who came to investigate, rather than the father of the protagonist.

Figuring out who this man was wasn difficult, honestly. The Duke Gelum from the story didn look like him, having darker hair and bright blue eyes—this Duke Gelum was albino, strikingly different from those around him that even she couldn help staring, and the glasses perched on his nose were never a thing associated with Sirius Gelum.

This was Remus Gelum.

"Y—Your Grace?" she squeaked. Pale eyes flicked over to her again, briefly, before he scanned the writing on the paper.

"Normally Id demand you speak unless spoken to," the Duke said flatly, "but you seem as confused as I am. Speak, boy."

"Why are you the one investigating this?" she asked. Both the Duke and his assistant looked at her, brows raised. It was hard to get over how pretty the people in the world of a book could be, but perhaps that was just the power of magic bull**. Unless someone was stated to be hideous or average or unremarkable, theyd default to being pretty or handsome or beautiful.

The Dukes assistant was elegant as he exchanged a glance with the albino man. Wine red hair was parted to the side neatly, a small beauty spot above the left side of his lips.

"Duke Flos should be the one to oversee this, certainly," the assistant began. "But this is business of—"

The door to the study burst open. She startled, almost falling out of the chair from the reflexive jerk her body gave. Duke Gelum looked unsurprised as his assistant turned red in the face, his composure slipping as he quickly walked past the servant known as "Boy" with clear anger in his posture.

Small footsteps met him inside the study. The assistant began to hiss at the intruder. She turned around in her seat, nervous, and the first thing she saw was the Baron peeking in from behind the door frame with a confused expression. He was more wrinkled than usual with all the panicking he was going, between the potential crime hed committed and the Duke of the North being in his home. But it wasn the Baron whod intruded. Her eyes darted back to the assistant, whod bent down somewhat to properly address whod barged in.

"Damn it, Selene, I told you to stay in the carriage with the young master!" the assistant hissed. She could see a frilly dress on the other side of him, decorated with ribbons and lace and perfect for the warmer weather in the region. Whoever this girl was, she was small—probably the same age as the poor, nameless girl subject to this questioning—and there were wisps of unruly red hair flying about as she shook her head and stomped her feet onto the ground.

"Im bored! And Sirius is mean!" Selene snapped. It was... not comforting, having the former Duke of the North in front of her and a girl named Selene dropping the name of the Dukes son so casually. "He keeps acting like Im going to curse him!"

"Then stop threatening to!"

She swallowed thickly and turned back around in her seat. She kept her eyes on the floor as Duke Gelum watched her.

Perhaps it wasn the original version or even the first revision shed woken up in after her suicide. She remembered that Selene Charron, the typical red-haired villainess of the story, grew up being spoiled by her merchant parents. Spoiled so much that she felt entitled to whatever she wanted, including the love of the son of the Duke, Sirius Gelum. Selene Charron wasn small by any means—she was tall for her age as a child, something Sirius cited as a reason for why he disliked her when they first met—but seeing as she was around the same height as Selene from afar...

Was it too early for them to know each other? She couldn be any older than ten, maybe nine if she was just tall in her new male body. Selene didn fall for Sirius and thus demand his affections until her debut into society at fifteen, where shed towered over her peers and saw eye-to-eye with the prideful male lead. They hadn grown up as frenemies or anything, and the author had stated clearly in the origin story of Selene Charron that she never met the future Duke until her debut. She scratched at her knees nervously. Was this a second revision? An editors decision? Did they want to add something less shallow as a reason for Sirius to reject Selenes affections, even if she was a brat about them?

She might have to quickly reevaluate her current position. Once again, hindsight couldve worked wonders if shed remembered how much attention knowing an ancient language would garner.

"Let her stay, Helio," Duke Gelum cut in. The assistant stood back up, clearly annoyed, and stomped back to the Dukes side. The little redhead and potential major villain trotted victoriously up to her seat, but she didn look at the servant before greeting the Duke.

Selenes red curls bounced and covered her face entirely as she pulled at her skirt and curtsied. They looked so soft, she thought, and she almost wanted to feel them. Itd been so long since shed last felt her own hair be so smooth and healthy.

"Thank you, Your Grace," Selene said, and it was almost smug. The Duke didn even react, not even to reprimand her for her tone. She couldn recall Selene having this kind of freedom around Siriuss father, let alone having known him in the original versions.

Duke Gelum nodded once at Selene. He picked up the papers again and readjusted his glasses.

"Ill have a talk with my son later," Duke Gelum noted. And then he was waving Selene over, the young girl marching her way to the desk without hesitation. "Selene, a favour. Write something down for me—anything is fine."

The Duke looked to the open door, where the Baron was still peeking inside. The Baron was silent.

"Bring your son. Ill resolve this swiftly."

Five minutes had never felt so agonising before in her life. Not even when shed been waiting for her blood to wash down the sink and for her consciousness to fade. Maybe it was because she knew what would happen this time. A tiny crumb of knowledge regarding the outcome and those around her, giving her ample reason to want to crawl into a hole and, ideally, die again.

Baron Clemonts son was almost an adult, already seventeen and frankly an embarrassment in the barony. She would never have been required to do his studies for him if he even cared to learn, and she would never have been verbally abused by him for something she knew naturally if he didn have such a complex over it. From what she could gather, most staff didn like him to begin with—so it was no surprise that she was treated better for working so hard on his behalf, even by the staff.

Selene was scribbling away at the desk as she contemplated what to write. She was expressive, and now that she could see the redheads face, it was hard to deny that Selene had an almost... childish charm to her. Like she was less of a brat, and more of an excited child about to be given what shed asked for. Selenes cheeks were rosy and plump, a smattering of freckles under each eye, and when the redhead glanced over at her, she could see those wide eyes were an almost hazel hue, not quite the typical red hair and green eyes shed seen in many other series.

The redhead was just as transfixed on her in return. She slid the paper to the Duke, much to the chagrin of the assistant, and the Duke wrinkled his nose at the message written upon it for a brief second.

"Hm." Another grunt, and Selene just shrugged at him in a manner far too disrespectful to belong to a noble child.

"So whos this?" Selene asked, crass.

"Manners, Selene," the assistant growled under his breath.

Duke Gelum continued to squint at the paper Selene had written on. "Likely the one actually deciphering the tasks sent to the Barons son," he said smoothly.

Selenes eyes were twinkling more than before, intrigued. She sank into her seat some more, trying to avoid the redheads gaze and praying shed disappear into thin air, but the other girl approaching her to get a better look was confirmation no god would grant that wish.

"He looks like one of the people from the west," Selene mused. A gloved hand reached out and grabbed her hair, soft as though handling a small bird, and Selene smiled. "They always look so pretty."

She was taken aback. "Th... Thank you?" she mumbled.

"But hes real scrawny for a boy," Selene went on. "Hey, do they feed you enough here? Do they even give you warm water for a bath? You look like a misfortunate Cinderella instead of a rambunctious lad."

It was likely an insult, but it only blossomed hope in her chest. She could feel the warmth rush to her cheeks, her eyes darting to Selenes, and she nervously reached up to touch her hair as well. Selene let it go, and she tried to fix it with a sudden realisation of what had been said.

She tried to sound disappointed and hurt, but the hope was hard to ignore as she mumbled, "Is that so?"

There was barely enough time for Selene to make a remark about the reaction. The redhead only had enough time to go still, gears clicking in her head, before the Barons son burst into the room and broke Selene from her train of thought.

The villainess shed once read about was on full display when the Barons son barged in with his voice raised. This small girl, no older than ten, darted forward and grabbed the older teen by the cravat he wore; she was stronger than she looked, too, and before the teen had a chance to punish his nameless servant for drawing attention, Selene was throwing him to the ground and stomping on him with bedazzled shoes to keep him down.

"Thank you, Selene," Duke Gelum said lightly.

"Greet His Grace," Selene commanded the Barons son.

Josiah Clemont was an idiot, but he wasn so stupid that hed forget his place. The rage that had blinded him, likely fueled by his fathers complaints when fetching him, practically fizzled out when he realised Duke Gelum was still in the room. Josiah all but forgot the nameless servant sitting in the chair above him, face pressed to the floor as he whimpered a greeting to Duke Gelum.

Duke Gelum reclined in his seat and propped his chin on one of his hands.

"Read this aloud for me," Duke Gelum announced. He pushed the paper forward, within Josiahs reach once he was allowed by Selene to stand.

It was an easy task if the statement wasn in the ancient language this whole investigation was based upon. It was an easy task if Josiah had actually taken the time to learn it himself like Baron Clemont wanted him to.

Josiah held the paper in his hands. He was silent, still as a statue. The only time he moved was when he lowered the paper, clearly checking to see if Duke Gelum was watching him—and he wasn , the mans glasses removed from his face and being cleaned with his full attention against a handkerchief. Josiahs head began to turn, back towards his servant, and then Duke Gelum spoke without looking back up at him.

"Its written on the paper," he reminded the teen, "not the boys face."

Credit where credit was due, Josiah at least tried when he looked back to the paper. He cleared his throat, forcing himself to sound confident, and he smiled at Duke Gelum as he answered.

"Its a love letter," he declared. Selene slapped her hands over her mouth, and the assistant was quick to push her behind him. Duke Gelum blinked slowly at Josiah, prompting him to continue. "As you can understand, no one person can properly translate Riisian language—but there are keywords to pick up from this, Your Grace. Its a short letter addressed to someone named Lee, as evidenced by the name at the top of the statement. If I had to guess, its a letter of reminiscing between lovers in the twilight years of their marriage. Its brief because affectionate words were not considered common among the people of Rias."

Josiah set the paper down and held his head high. Duke Gelum picked up the paper again. He seemed to have a habit of grunting instead of saying anything, and his assistant always seemed to fill in the gaps when that happened. It was less the Duke being lazy and more... If she had to guess, it was more the Duke trying to refrain from saying something he shouldn . Was the assistant handling the investigation rather than the Duke? It would make sense behind the scenes, she thought. Maybe the assistant was the one whod been deciphering the script up north for the capital while noble families across the country tried to catch up and garner favour for their potential usefulness.

Duke Gelum set down the paper as his assistant told Josiah, "Please wait outside for His Grace to summon you again."

The glare Josiah threw at her was hard to miss, even for a blind man.

"Keep watch of them outside, Helio," Duke Gelum added. The assistant nodded. Soon it was just Selene, the Duke and the nameless servant in the room, and her anxiety was beginning to rise once more. Capital punishment was abolished while the protagonists were children, she recalled, but there were still crimes to be charged with and punishments to prevent future crimes of the same ilk from reoccuring.

Deception... This counted as deceiving the royal family, right? If it came out that Josiah was lying and she was the one sending in the translations? It wouldn just be the Baron and his son punished—itd be her as well. What did they do for deception again? She squeezed her eyes shut, breath stuck in her throat, and tried to recall Siriuss judgement upon a spy in the dukedom.

"Its the removal of the dominant hand," Selenes voice called out. She opened her eyes, startled, and shrank into herself. Selene wasn smiling like earlier, but she still had her curious gaze upon her. "And the tongue. The punishment you

e trying to think of."

"Ah, right." Duke Gelum slid his glasses back up his nose. "They got rid of capital punishment the year before last. Shame."

"I didn take you for a barbarian, Your Grace."

She coughed, stunned, and doubled over to catch her breath. Was this how Selene was supposed to act? She was bratty in the confines of pages, certainly, but this girl in front of her was boldly insulting Duke Gelum by mocking him.

Duke Gelum grunted once, but he did deign to fire back his own insult at Selene.

"Birds of a feather, I suppose."

Tit for tat. Playful banter. The words flowed so smoothly between them that there was no way theyd never ribbed the other before.

"That would be the correct punishment, however," Duke Gelum went on. He glanced over at her, leveling "Boy" a heavy stare, and his words were as much a threat as one could manage while being polite. "If you lie about what you see on the paper."

Ah. And if she had to guess, it was Selene, the one who wrote it, who knew the correct translation.

She really couldn lie and try to pretend that Josiah Clemont had truly gotten smarter overnight. Either way, if she lied now or told the truth, shed deceived the royal family by doing the work in his place.

A couple of months was a hell of a record to beat when it came to making poor decisions as a... Would she technically be a transmigrator? Regardless, if someone could beat her record of dying after starting a new life, shed be impressed. Wait, she reminded herself—it wouldn be death, but shed wish it was. No tongue and her dominant hand being removed was pretty damn harsh, and Baron Clemont would kick her out back onto the streets to avoid another investigation like this. Her life would be over without being over, and then the plot would progress, and then the Slumbering God would wake, and then the Plague of Dreams would start, and then—

Selene was in front of her. Two hands landed on her cheeks, almost slapping sense into her as her face was squished between the childs palms. She felt her chest ache, heard her breathing stop, and she quickly realised that shed been having a panic attack.

"Im going to count from one to five, and then five to one. Each time I do, I want you to breathe in and out in time with me," Selene explained. It was a technique she was familiar with back in her old life—her mother used to do it with her, especially when she stressed over school and later on during the hazing period at work as an adult. It hadn done her any good when shed finished the revised edition of the book, but right now, she was just thankful Selene was trying to comfort her.

This wasn quite the Selene who was supposed to wake an old god and almost send the world into a deathly slumber. This was just a girl who was close to Duke Gelum, marching to the beat of her own drum, and unaffected by the protagonist she was supposed to be head over heels for.

Maybe Selene was just like her.

She counted mentally alongside the redhead, breathing in and out in time with her until her heart stopped beating loud enough to deafen everyone in the room. She could find another way after losing her hand and tongue, she told herself; this wasn the end of the line, not when this world had so much more to offer with its opportunities. The people Soleil and Sirius met on their journey had great aspirations that were never looked down upon, so why would she be any different once the plot started?

When Selene smiled, there was a dimple on her left cheek that made her look even more youthful than her freckles already did.

"Do you have a name?" Selene asked her.

"No, my lady," she said immediately.

"Thats a shame." Selene let go of her face and pursed her lips. "Do you have any names you like? Well make it yours right now."

A name she liked? She could always go with her old name, but as far as everyone else saw her, she was a young boy. She didn recall the magic system of the world allowing for much in terms of gender, nor was the author the most well-versed in the queer community beyond one female character down the line who competed with Sirius for Soleils heart as a running gag. The inexperience of this world and its author wouldn do her much good, not when shed never felt displacement like this in her past life either.

She let out a short sigh and shook her head.

"Then, can I pick one for you?"

She met Selenes gaze, hoping that the name wouldn be too difficult to get used to. "You may, my lady," she mumbled.

Selene righted herself to her full height again, releasing the nameless servants face and planting her hands on her hips instead. She watched the redhead walk back to the desk where Duke Gelum sat. Hed been quiet the whole time, watching the two children with a blank expression, and he didn seem bothered by Selene stepping in and naming the servant herself. Maybe he knew Selene was trying to keep the poor servant calm and able to answer truthfully, or maybe Selene was just allowed to do as she pleased whenever she wanted around the man.

Finally, as she picked up the paper from the desk and returned to the servants side, Selene nodded with her decision.

"Stella," she announced. "So we can match."

Stella... That was a girls name, wasn it?

Duke Gelum voiced the same confusion. "Youd give him a girls name?"

"I would. Because she is a girl. Shes just a little rough around the edges, is all, but a maiden at heart nonetheless."

Stella... It was a pretty name. Didn it have a meaning relating to stars?

"Selene, you

e going to make the poor lad a laughing stock."

"Then Ill pummel whoever laughs to death."

Stella... When Selene said they matched, was it because her name also had a meaning relating to the moon?

"He has to agree to it first."

"She will! Its a beautiful name. And well be matching! Who wouldn want to have matching names?"

Stella... Come to think of it, didn the main characters and Selene have names relating to celestial bodies? Soleil was the sun, Sirius was a constellation, a combination of stars, and Selene was the moon... If she looked at it from the perspective of clichés, wouldn the thematic naming place her as... Moon and stars—the villainesss underling?

She couldn help it. A laugh bubbled up. It was soft and weak, but it stopped the Duke and the young girl from their bickering.

"It really is a pretty name," she agreed with Selene.

"Well its yours now," Selene insisted. She handed the paper to her—Stella—and she carried herself with that same confidence shed entered the room with. "So, Miss Stella, I want you to tell me whats written on this paper. If you get it right, youll be coming with us. I oversee everything relating to Riisian culture and language up north, and I want only the best assisting me with my goal."

Was Selene able to read the ancient language fluently in the novel? It didn matter anymore, Stella thought. This was an opportunity right in front of her, and the knowledge that Selene would take her under her wing if she correctly identified the script came with the implication that her dominant hand and tongue were safe for the time being.

She lifted the paper, scanned the language of the world—the country—she used to live in back in her past life, and she blinked at Selene with a fraction of the redheads confidence.

"Its an obituary for an author."

Selene was practically glowing with how brightly she smiled.

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