Apple Feast

“Um, Mom.”

Confused, I stared at the soup plate in front of me, only snapping back to reality when I heard the children calling out to me.
I resisted the urge to cover my mouth with my hand, feeling a sense of unease creeping in.

Here I was, seated in a table , dressed in a red gown, surrounded by red flowers, and served a red soup.

I didn’t know what to say, so I simply closed my eyes, trying to collect my thoughts.

The first to react was Geo.
With a puzzled expression, he muttered, “Yeah, Mom… You used to like the color red.
You would even find joy in seeing red blood come out of your mouth when you coughed.
But I didn’t like it.
It scared me.”

My body stiffened at the terrible words Geo had uttered.
There was no malice in the children’s innocent remarks, which only made it more chilling.

“Ugh, anyway, Mom likes weird things.
Blood and death.”

“Ugh, I hate it.
I like yellow soup.”

I had always been curious about Astia, the person I was supposed to imitate.
What kind of person was she? Someone who found joy in vomiting blood and lived while waiting for the day she would die?

Was she insane? Yes, she must be.
That’s why, even with so many lovely and precious things, she couldn’t cherish them.
Because her insanity made her prefer death and blood over everything else.

Those were the things I longed for but couldn’t have, no matter how much I prayed and wished for them.
A family that would love me unconditionally, warm affection, and the gaze of someone who would only see me.
Things that either bothered or didn’t matter to Astia.

I hated and resented Astia, even though I had never met her.
I despised the fact that I had to imitate her.

I tightly held my trembling hands, trying to conceal the trembling.
My whole body felt cold.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t eat this.”

“What’s wrong? Is the soup not to your liking? If you have a preference for taste and aroma, we can prepare something else.”


I glanced sideways at the red soup, then quickly turned my head away, as if trying to avoid it.
Strange as it may seem to Lucerne and the children, I couldn’t help it.
Biting my lip, suppressing the urge to retch, I finally spoke up.

“Because it’s red.
It’s disgusting because it reminds me of her blood.
It makes me feel dizzy and nauseous…”

“Calib, remove that soup immediately.”

There was no hesitation in Lucerne’s command, and Calib and the attendants swiftly took action.

In an instant, the red soup vanished, leaving me feeling relieved and at ease.

With a concerned expression, Lucerne half-rose from his seat and asked, “Are you alright? Should I call for a physician?”

“If you need or want anything, please let me know,” Lucerne said, his voice filled with concern.

Feeling embarrassed about my condition, I shook my head apologetically.
“I’m fine, just feeling a little unwell,” I replied, trying to downplay my discomfort.

The red roses filling the banquet hall triggered an afterimage of the red soup in my mind.
I fought to suppress the nausea, but eventually, I couldn’t hold it back and retched slightly.

In the midst of the commotion, Lucerne quickly came to my side, disregarding the fallen chair.
He knelt down beside me, his opal-colored eyes filled with worry.
The servants around us gasped in surprise, but Lucerne paid them no mind.

“Are you alright, Astia?” he asked, his voice filled with genuine concern.

As I descended from the chair, the children gathered around me, their expressions a mix of confusion and worry.

“Mom, what’s wrong?” Marley asked, her voice filled with concern.

“Are you feeling sick again, Mom? Please don’t be sick,” Seti pleaded.

Uncertainty filled Geo’s eyes as he questioned, “Uncle, what’s happening? We need to call a doctor!”

Lucerne called for Caleb, and without delay, he disappeared to fetch help.
Dipeume, accompanied by several other imperial doctors, swiftly arrived at the banquet hall.
They hurriedly examined me, checking my eyes, mouth, and pulse.

Lucerne remained by my side, patiently waiting for the examination to conclude.
He didn’t seem bothered by the presence of the doctors; his focus was solely on my well-being.

“Ensure that Lady Astia receives the best care.
Spare no effort in her treatment.
I want her to recover fully.”

Dipeume nodded respectfully and replied, “Of course, Your Majesty.
Lady Astia’s well-being is our utmost priority.
We will do everything we can to assist in her recovery.”

Dipeume, after carefully assessing the situation and consulting with the other doctors, stood up and respectfully bowed.

Lucerne and the children exchanged worried glances, but they trusted that I would be taken care of. 

Dipeume sighed heavily, his expression laden with concern.
I couldn’t help but feel my body tense up, my fists clenched tightly.
Was there something wrong with me?

“It seems that your stomach has been affected,” Dipeume finally spoke, his tone solemn.

I thought it was nothing special, so I relaxed, but the children, Calib, and those who waited on the meals all froze hard except for me…

Lucerne, visibly frustrated, muttered under his breath, expressing his dissatisfaction.
“I should tear the cook’s body apart right now.”

Quickly, I shook my head in disagreement.
“No, it’s not the cook’s fault.
Please don’t make others suffer because of my stomachache.
It’s not fair.”

Lucerne seemed surprised by my response, his brows furrowing in confusion.
“Do you really think it’s just a matter of not liking the red soup? How can there be no problems with the cooking if you’re struggling with the food?”

Feeling a mix of frustration and understanding, I tried to reason with him.
“It’s not the chef’s fault.
They prepared the red soup because you thought I liked it.
I’m the one who can’t handle it.”

Lucerne seemed at a loss for words, grappling with the situation.
Finally, he shook his head, dismissing the absurd idea.
“No, killing is not the solution.”

Feeling a pang of guilt, I asked, “What should I do now? I haven’t eaten anything, and the food you prepared didn’t satisfy me.”

Lucerne’s eyes softened and he let out a sigh.
“I will make sure you have something else to eat.
Anything you desire, just tell me, and I will have it prepared for you.”

Relieved by his understanding, I nodded gratefully.
“Thank you, Lucerne.
I appreciate your consideration.
I will let you know what I would like to have.”

With that, Lucerne turned to the servants, issuing instructions to prepare an alternative meal.
The children, Calib, and the attendants started bustling around, ensuring that I would have something to eat that wouldn’t cause further discomfort.

Despite the earlier setback, I felt a sense of relief knowing that Lucerne was taking care of me and understanding my needs.
It gave me hope that we could navigate through challenges together, ensuring my well-being and happiness.

“Anything is fine,” I replied, emphasizing that I was open to any alternative as long as it wasn’t the disgusting red soup.
However, Lucerne shook his head, determined to find something that would satisfy my appetite.

“You didn’t eat the food that was prepared for you.
Tell me what you want to eat,” Lucerne insisted, his eyes focused on me.

I took a moment to think, contemplating what I truly desired.
There was one thing that had been on my mind since earlier, something that brought me comfort and relief during times of nausea or hardship.
It was a simple craving, but one that seemed out of reach due to its expense and rarity.

Summoning my courage, I spoke up, meeting Lucerne’s gaze.
“Do you happen to have any apples? I would really like to have one.”

“Apples?” Lucerne echoed, his eyes widening in surprise at my unexpected request.
He murmured the word, seemingly caught off guard.
“Apple… Yes, it’s red as well.”

As I thought about it, apples did come in different colors, but the specific color didn’t matter to me.
I simply longed for the taste and freshness of an apple.

Before Lucerne could respond, Caleb silently disappeared and swiftly returned, carrying a golden tray with a single red apple placed upon it as though it were a precious gem.
Lucerne gestured to Calib, who had a peculiar expression on his face, and the apple magically peeled and was cut into bite-sized pieces right on the tray.
A golden fork materialized in the air and delicately impaled one of the apple pieces before landing in Lucerne’s hand.

Lucerne offered the apple pieces to me, his silence conveying an unspoken apology.
It was a humbling and grateful experience to be able to eat an apple immediately after expressing my desire for it.
It felt almost extravagant.

In that moment, my heart ached with conflicting emotions.
Could I truly indulge in such treats? Was I allowed to be treated with such kindness and consideration? I had to remind myself that I was Lee Hye-Rim, not Astia, and that I deserved to experience these moments of care and generosity.

When I hesitated, unsure of what to do, Lucerne extended the apple closer to me as if urging me to accept it quickly.
I received the apple with both hands, expressing my gratitude.

“…Thank you.
Thank you for the meal.”

The sound of biting into the apple filled the dining room, drawing everyone’s attention.
It was undoubtedly the freshest and sweetest apple I had ever tasted.
My senses were overwhelmed with delight.

“…It’s delicious.
The best I’ve ever had.
Thank you, Lucerne.”

Lucerne nodded his shoulders relaxing.
The children beamed with joy, and even the onlookers wore relieved expressions.
As per Caleb’s instructions, more apples were quickly brought to the table.

Lucerne raised his hand as if preparing to peel an apple.

I hurriedly set down the apple I was eating and tugged at the hem of Lucerne’s clothes.


“What is it? I won’t accept it if you’re saying you’ll be satisfied with just one piece of apple.”

“It’s not that…”

I turned my gaze towards the children.
I didn’t want to be the only one enjoying this delicious apple.

“Because it’s so delicious, I want to share it with the children.”

“Yes, I’ll make sure to bring enough for everyone to enjoy.”

“Thank you.
And… speaking of apples, could you cut them into bunny shapes? I thought the kids would love that.”

Lucerne followed my gaze and nodded, waving his hand.

The children’s eyes widened as they observed the apples enveloped in a soft blue glow.

Unintentionally, I burst into laughter at the sight of their cuteness, causing Lucerne’s magic to momentarily cease.

* * *

A sudden gust of wind swept through the room, catching Lucerne off guard.
He looked around, puzzled.
Despite all the windows being tightly shut, and the candles remaining steady, the wind persisted.

Astia watched Lucerne with wide eyes, concern etched on her face.



No words escaped Lucerne’s lips; it was as if he had been rendered speechless.
He felt a suffocating sensation, his fingertips trembling as he struggled to conjure up his magic.

Taking a deep breath to regain his composure, he pointed his finger, causing the apple skin to peel once again.

“Wow, that’s amazing! Thank you, Lucerne!”

The room filled with a chorus of astonished exclamations, sending a thrill through his heart.

Astia was a truly captivating individual.
The phrase “the most beautiful in the world” seemed inadequate to describe her.
Her luscious blonde hair cascading down to her waist, sparkling green eyes, and radiant smile were enough to captivate anyone, including Lucerne.

He had never doubted her beauty.

In fact, he believed it was only natural for her to be beautiful.
After all, she was the woman that the Emperor of the Strian Empire, a man who had more power than anyone else, wanted.
But why?

As Astia laughed with the children, Lucerne couldn’t help but ponder.

“Lucerne, is it possible to shape the apples into something other than bunnies? Kids, what shapes do you like?”

“I want a tiger!”

“Mom, I want a flower!”

“Can it be a bear?”

“Tigers, flowers, and bears.
Mom will ask Uncle.”

 “Lucerne, how about a tiger, flower, and a bear shape?”

Lucerne locked eyes with Astia, who gathered the children’s preferences and relayed them to him.

In that moment, he experienced the feeling of his heart skipping a beat.

Astia’s eyes, brimming with happiness as she interacted with the children, radiated a joy more intense than anything he had ever witnessed in his entire life.

点击屏幕以使用高级工具 提示:您可以使用左右键盘键在章节之间浏览。

You'll Also Like