I followed Lucerne’s lead and lifted my head to the sky.
The moon, partially hidden behind the twinkling stars, was faintly visible in the corner.


“When the Harvest Festival comes, my sister will return to the Imperial Palace.”

“The Harvest Festival? Sister… who is that?”

“My sister is much more proficient in various magic than me, who can only break and destroy.
When My sister comes…”

Was he talking about his sister, who he said would make the apple tree grow? As he mentioned his sister again, just like during the day, he trailed off.

Lucerne’s grip on my back tightened.
Startled, I held onto him even tighter, almost gasping for breath.
My ribs hurt, and it was difficult to breathe, but Lucerne’s expression as he looked up at the moon seemed even more pained, so I couldn’t say anything.

Lucerne lowered his head and gently looked at my face before asking cautiously, “Astia, may I wipe away your tears?”

“Of course, you can do it as much as you want.”

The arm that was wrapped around my shoulders approached my face, delicately wiping away the tears on my cheeks and around my eyes.
The touch felt both trembling and ridiculous, as if he were touching precious glass beads.

Why was wiping away tears such a difficult task for him?

Using all ten of his fingers, Lucerne wiped away my tears and then blew away the tear drops on his hand with the wind before wrapping his arms around my shoulders once again.

“…I don’t know how you will change in the future, but I made a vow for you.
I promised to love you no matter what form you take.
So, promise me as well.
Promise me that no matter how the situation changes, you will stay by my side.”

…Again.

“Because of you, I keep wanting to postpone my decision.
But I can’t do that… Whatever happens in the future, I hope you will remember.
I hope you will remember that my world changed after you came to the Imperial Palace.”

“Is it about what you mentioned before? About wanting to postpone a decision? Is something going to change because of that?”

“Please, answer me.”

There was an unusual restlessness in his voice.
Before hearing my answer, he stared at me with a face that showed no intention of yielding.
We engaged in a staring contest for a while, but I couldn’t overcome his resolute gaze.

With a sigh, I replied, “Yes.
I will stay by your side.
I promised to do so.”

“I will not let you go.
No matter what happens, I will never, ever go back to a life without you.
No matter how you change, I will restrain you, even if I have to use your children as leverage, and keep you by my side…”

“What are you saying?”


Lucerne tightly sealed his lips and said nothing more.

The words about not being able to make a decision.

The possibility of me changing.

The sister who was skilled in a different kind of magic than Lucerne.

Magic that can retrieve someone’s memories.

The unfinished Sanghwa garden.

No way.

No way he intends to revive Astia’s lost memories, right?

Startled, I pushed Lucerne away.

“Lucerne, what are you plotting? Just be honest with me.
No way, no way, you…!”

My trembling lips prevented me from blurting out the rest of my words.

Neither I nor Lucerne said a word until late into the night when we returned to our rooms.

My heart was in turmoil.

* * *

Lucerne’s black hair was tousled by the wind as he sat at the top of the palace.

Don’t remember the past.

Just remember me here and now.

I forcibly swallowed the words I had wanted to bring up so many times.
I suppressed the desire to contact my sister and ask her not to come to the Harvest Festival.

Astia seemed to have sensed that Lucerne was trying to revive her memories.
She didn’t ask directly, but I could tell from her reaction.

I sighed, wiping my face with both hands.

“Haah.”

It must be confusing.


Wanting to remember the past but unable to easily say so.

The past version of Astia would have been different, but the current Astia was kind and virtuous.
She knew that her past self had pushed Lucerne away.
If she regained her memories, she would want to leave, and she knew that would hurt Lucerne.
It would be a dilemma for her.

“You are truly compassionate.”

Who was saying that to whom?

The current Astia wouldn’t be able to say that she wanted to regain her memories first.
Never.
So Lucerne had to step forward and help her regain her memories before she became more distressed.

Because he had decided to fulfill what Astia wanted.

Because he didn’t want to leave Astia in distress because of his own selfishness.

That way, he wouldn’t have to see that sad face he made when he looked at the apple tree.

I understand.
I understand it very well.
But I didn’t realize that knowing it in my head and accepting it in my heart could be so different.

“I don’t want her to find memories.
I don’t want them.” 

To remain without memories, with broken wings, by my side as it is now, I wished for that.
I didn’t want to let go of the happiness.
I didn’t want to return to the gray world.

If only time could stop like this.
If only my heart could stop.

I went back and forth between heaven and hell multiple times a day.
As happy as it was, it was equally agonizing.
When Astia smiled at me, she was so beautiful that it felt like my eyes would go blind, but at the same time, I was tormented by a terrible impulse to gouge out my own eyes.

In a few days, when my sister comes to the palace, everything will return to its original place.

Astia will hate me again.
Perhaps the memories of laughing and talking with her while I lost my memories will become agonizing for her, and she might wriggle in pain.

And Lucerne, seeing Astia not smiling at me again, will also suffer.

Do both of us really have to go back to the past where both of us have to suffer? Can’t we live like this, even if it’s a bit sad and frustrating?

No.

It’s not possible.

“Will you love me, no matter what kind of person I am…?” 

Because I promised.

Because it’s what Astia wants.


I opened my mouth wide and took in a deep breath of the cold autumn night air.
I tried to soothe my burning insides even a little bit.
I knew it was in vain, but I had to do something because I didn’t know what else to do.

Until the Harvest Festival, there was nothing Lucerne could do except hope that time would pass a little slower and that he and Astia would meet and laugh more often.

* * *

Persistent questioning, coercion, and persuasion were all in vain.
Lucerne remained tight-lipped and refused to budge an inch on that matter.

I even asked Caleb and the maids in case they knew anything, but Caleb only left me with the assurance that I would find out soon, and the maids trembled, unable to provide any answers.

Perhaps sensing my anxiety, Lucerne became even more dedicated to me.
Occasionally, during the day, he took the time to teach the children how to use magic.
Marley, Rie, and Seti followed his lead, and over time, Geo also began to let down his guard.
It made me both happy and wistful.

Today was the day Lucerne’s sister was supposed to arrive.
The day I would finally discover what Lucerne had been hiding.
It was a sunny autumn day, just four days before the Harvest Festival.

As usual, I sat in the apple orchard, watching the children play and run around.

“Yaaaah! Who will run from here to there and be the first? It’s a race!”

“Oh no! Marley, using the wind is cheating! Hey!”

“Poof! Hooch! Ha, isn’t a lightning strike to the rear cheating?”

“You cheated first! I’m going first, nyah!”

“Ahaha, Rie.
Sorry, but I’m already here.”

“What? Geo, did you use magic too?”

“A-du achi-ka! Achi-ka! Ack! Hoo-aah!”

Seti, who couldn’t handle magic as well as her older siblings, stumbled and fell after stepping into a puddle.
Her dress was soaked with muddy water, and the shoes were rolling on the ground.

“Ouch! My socks! My sh-socks came off!”

“Pffft!”

Oh my goodness.

I spat out the tea I was drinking into the roadside teacup.

“Sh-socks? Wait, are we talking about shoes?”


The older siblings who had run far ahead didn’t notice Seti and she cried, shouting words that could be pain or shoes or who knows what.

I quickly set down the teacup and approached Seti.
It was a struggle to force the rising corners of the mouth down.

“Seti, are you okay? Did you hurt yourself when you fell?”

“Mmm! It hurts when I fall.
My sh-socks came off.”

“Y-yea… right.
Your s-shoes came off?”

“Mmm.
Sh-socks came off.”

“Yeah, yeah.
Mom will put your shoes back on.
Let’s go to your older siblings.
Got it?”

“Mmm! Put sh-socks back on.”

I picked up the fallen shoe from the ground and put it back on Seti’s foot, brushing off the dirt from her dress.
The child giggled as if asking when they cried and ran towards their older siblings.

I sat down, watching their adorable little figure from behind.

Behind me, Caleb approached.

“Lady Astia, there’s an announcement that we have guests for dinner.”

“Guests?”

As I casually inquired, my heart sank in my chest.

It seemed that Lucerne’s sister had arrived.
Despite preparing myself in advance, my heart thumped anxiously.

Pretending to avert my gaze from the children, I asked slowly, “Is it Lucerne’s sister?”

“Yes, that’s correct.
It is Countess Collis Stria, the sister of Emperor Lucerne.
Duke Henry and Duchess Mirana will also be accompanying.”

It was going to be a difficult dinner, I thought.
I made a mental note to get some antacids from Dipeume.
I nodded my head and said, “Thank you for letting me know.
I’ll prepare.”

“There’s no need for you to prepare.”

“What?”

I looked up at Caleb with a puzzled expression.
As always, he spoke with a composed face and said, “Since Duke Henry’s last visit, didn’t you fall ill, Lady Astia? He has requested that you try not to leave your room until the guests have left after the Harvest Festival.”

“Not leave my room?”

Surprised by the unexpected request, my eyes widened.

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