The other customers had similar stories to tell.

They came in out of curiosity, then ordered desserts because they were so impressed with the taste of the scones that they received as a courtesy treat after they ordered a drink.

Everyone seemed to agree that they were delicious.

Not bad for the first day of business, right? Erin switched places with Melly and went back to the kitchen to make cookie dough.

It was a plain butter and egg dough with powdered sugar and vanilla essence.
Erin mixed the dough well, put it into a pastry bag, squeezed it to form each cookie, and baked the dough into coin-shaped balls.

A Fragrant and irresistible buttery aroma slowly began to emanate, from the hot flames of the oven.

After a while, golden brown cookies filled with savory buttery flavor were formed.

Erin took a bite out of the warm cookie.

As the cookie crumbled in her mouth, the buttery flavor spread through it gently with the sweetness.

“I think I’ll serve these instead of scones in the afternoon.”

Erin grabbed the tray of cookies and headed for the shop.

As she opened the back door that led from the garden to enter the shop, she immediately saw some men coming from the outside.

Erin stopped in surprise.

“Miss Erin.”

A familiar middle-aged man spotted her and approached.
It was the face of a man that she had seen every day for the past several years.

It was The Emperor’s chamberlain.
He bowed respectfully before Erin.

“Miss Erin, His Majesty the Emperor wants to see you.”

Nine years ago.

Sunlight streamed through the ornately tinted glass.

There was a long hallway leading to a small annex with a chapel at the western end of the palace.
Erin was standing there, and on the altar was a statue of a deity and a candlestick.
A golden chalice also sat on one side.
The chapel was deserted and quiet.
You can only see the outlines of two figures.

‘I’m sorry,’ 

the Emperor said to Erin there, frankly apologizing.

‘I knew Raymond didn’t like this marriage.
But I didn’t expect it to be this bad.
I’m sorry, I don’t even have the face to see you.’

That was about three months after her marriage, when everyone was talking about how the new Duchess was boring, and it was probably why Raymond was being dismissive towards her and not even wanting to spend a night with her.
The Emperor summoned Erin to the chapel and apologized,

‘This is all my fault.’ 

She remembered being so stunned at that moment that she couldn’t even breathe.
She couldn’t believe that the Emperor, who was always so high and mighty, was bowing before her, so she couldn’t think of anything else.

‘Yo—Your Majesty, I’m fine, don’t beat yourself up too much, I’m really fine.’ 

She said. ‘I’m really fine.’ 

Despite being the recipient of the apology, Erin was embarrassed and tried to appease the old emperor.
At the time, she thought it was fine.
She had been married for about three months by then, so she was able to put up with it.

I am deeply grateful to your Majesty for everything that you have done for my father.’ 

Although she realized Raymond’s insincerity and the reality of her married life, Erin was still satisfied that her parents were at peace, and she was willing to put up with any humiliation that might come her way.
The emperor shook his head and said,

‘As long as I live, I will protect you no matter what.’ 

The old emperor kept his promise.
He was reluctant to get too involved in his grandson’s personal life, but he stood by Erin when he had to.

Even when things had gotten out of hand with Einz, he trusted her and was willing to stand up for her.
And now, Erin’s little shop was filled with imperial servants.

Outside the door to the street was a carriage.
The tea drinkers looked at Erin and the chamberlain with wide eyes in surprise.

“His Majesty has asked me to bring you back, Your hi— Lady Erin, to the palace.”

The middle-aged chamberlain in the Emperor’s service politely informed her of the Emperor’s wishes.
His Majesty has returned.

She knew this would happen someday.
She didn’t expect it to be so fast.
Even if it was just for a short visit, Erin had no desire to return to the palace.

“Was it an order?”

Erin asked the chamberlain calmly.

“Did the Emperor order me to return to the palace?”

The chamberlain looked at Erin calmly before answering,

The Emperor said he was simply asking you to do so.”

“I see.
The Emperor is a gracious and cultured man.
He would never force anyone to do anything.
Thank you for looking for me…”

Erin nodded, and calmly and clearly stated her intentions.

“But I will not be returning to the palace anytime soon.
I am grateful for your trouble.
So please pass this on to the emperor.”

“Yes, Lady Erin.”

At that moment, Erin’s mind flashed back to the tray of cookies she had just made and brought to the shop.

“Oh, wait.”

Erin begged, and took a small glass jar from the shop and filled it with cookies, wrapped the opening in paper, tied the paper with string, and decorated it with a ribbon.
It looked pretty good when she put it all together.
Erin handed the jar to the chamberlain.

“It’s just a little but please give this to his Majesty.”

Raymond was walking down a long corridor inside the Emperor’s palace.
The Emperor had been away at war and had returned to the palace after a long absence.
In the corridors leading from the reception rooms to the clerks, Raymond was walking with his usual calm toward the gardens of the Emperor’s palace.

As he walked slowly into the corridor, everyone bowed down to him.

The Emperor’s Palace was the most opulent and luxurious part of the Imperial palace.
Marble floors and painted ceilings.
The corridors were filled with ornate vases and sculptures, a luxury unimaginable in any other country.
The empire had long been rich, but it was the current emperor who had brought it to this level of prosperity.

“His Majesty is waiting for you.”

The emperor’s tea room was on the first floor, facing the garden, and the scent of fresh flowers wafted pleasantly through the wide-open windows.
As he approached the tea table, the gazes of the two men seated across from each other over their teacups turned to him.
One was the emperor, the other the chancellor.

The elderly chancellor calmly stood up from his seat and bowed to Raymond.
Raymond walked over to the table and bowed.

“I’ve seen Your majesty the Emperor.”


Unlike the grizzled chancellor, the emperor was a kind and gentle-looking old man, his blue-gray eyes, which was unusually clear for his age, was watching Raymond intently.

Raymond took a seat facing the emperor.
It was the first time they had met in months.
Raymond glanced back at the chancellor, but his eyes were emotionless and he said nothing.
On the table was a teacup and tea pot of fine porcelain, the kind that could only be found in exotic lands across the sea.

It was a beautiful teacup with a pure white ground and a pale blue wisteria flower, trimmed with a golden rim.
It was a complete tea set, with teacups and tea pot.

The emperor, who likes tea, also had a hobby of collecting tea sets.
As Raymond sat down, a servant poured him tea on an ornate teacup.

The fragrant, multi-flavored black tea slowly filled the immaculate white teacup.

“You must have had a hard time filling in for me.”

“I can never compare myself to Your Majesty, who led the war in the South himself, and my inexperience has made it difficult for you here.”

Raymond said, adding a mild admiration as he took a sip of tea and set the teacup down.

The chancellor who was quietly sipping his tea, was pleased with the comment.

“Your Majesty has run the country far more competently than I have.”

After the formalities of greeting, the emperor immediately cut to the chase.

“I returned early because there was some unpleasantness in the palace.”

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