Caleb calmly conveyed the instructions.

“We will bring the meal to your bedroom.
You can meet the children within the confines of Santuris.”

“But Santuris is within the imperial palace… Is it okay for the children to come in?”

Caleb smiled faintly, as if there was no need to answer.

“Duke Henry has not yet arrived.
Please retire to your room before his arrival.
We will prepare the tea and food again and bring them to your bedroom.
There will be a separate occasion to greet Countess Collis.”

“Ah… I understand.”

The servants and maids bustled around silently.
Some went to catch the children; others went to prepare new tea and food, and a few unfolded large umbrellas to provide shade all the way to the courtyard of Santuris.

The children, who had heard that it was time to leave, ran towards me.

“Mom! It’s time to say goodbye! We’re going back to our rooms to wash up!”

“Oh, but I want to play more! The weather is so nice today, I want to play until night!”

“Goodbye, Mom!”


I hugged Geo, Marley, Rie, and Seti as they ran towards me.
The children followed Caleb and the servants, getting farther away.
They chatted and giggled among themselves, occasionally turning back to wave their hands at me.
With sweaty palms, I barely managed to greet them.

Lucerne’s sister had arrived.

I hoped that what Lucerne wanted her to do wouldn’t bring back Astia’s memories.
I desperately wished that my true identity wouldn’t be revealed while trying to recall lost memories.

I arrived at the chamber in front of the bedroom, my legs trembling.
I was nervous that I might encounter Collis on my way to the room, but fortunately, I didn’t run into anyone.

Asilis disappeared, saying she would prepare the food and a change of clothes.

I paced anxiously in the antechamber.
What if Lucerne really wanted to bring back Astia’s memories? What should I do then? Should I escape? Should I hide? Should I refuse to meet Collis? Should I say that I don’t want to remember anything?

“What should I do?”

As I bit my lip and muttered to myself, I heard the unfamiliar voice of a woman shouting, “Stop talking nonsense!”

Startled, I quickly swallowed my breath and hid behind a nearby chair.
What was that sound?

Calming my racing heart, I cautiously peered through the decorations on the chair.
Lucerne’s bedroom door was slightly ajar.
I tried to glimpse inside through the crack, but the distance was too far to see clearly.

This time, I heard Lucerne’s voice, “Please, sister.
It’s something only you can do.”

“No! I won’t do it! How can you ask me something like this?”

Judging by Lucerne’s deferential tone and the way he addressed the person as “sister,” it seemed like Collis was inside, conversing with Lucerne.
His voice sounded different from when he dealt with other people.
It wasn’t angry or indifferent.
He sounded desperate and earnest.

“Sister, please understand.
This is the first and last favor I ask of you.”

“If it’s your request, I will do anything.
I wouldn’t hesitate even if it costs the Empire or my life.
But not this request.
That woman is not allowed.”

“Sister, please.”

“Didn’t I tell you not to get involved with that woman? You cannot love that woman, and she cannot love you either! After suffering so much, don’t you understand?”

I stiffened behind the chair in an awkward position.
Lucerne couldn’t love me, and I couldn’t love Lucerne? What was she talking about?

I pondered Collis’s words and then cautiously moved away from the chair, drawn towards the door as if under a spell.
I knew I shouldn’t eavesdrop, but I was curious.
Why couldn’t Lucerne love me, and why couldn’t I love Lucerne?

Leaning against the door, I stole a fleeting glimpse inside.
Lucerne stood there, composed and tidy.
The conversation continued.

“I’ve told you already.
Astia has lost her memories and changed.
She is no longer the person who hurt me.”

“That’s impossible.
Every word you say contradicts the others.
Don’t you understand? ‘A trap you can’t escape’ isn’t a disease that can improve overnight.
Moreover, I’ve never heard of losing memories as a side effect of getting better, and selectively losing memories, as you claimed, doesn’t make any sense!”

“It may be hard to believe, but it’s true.”

“You’ve been deceived! That woman is pretending to get better.
She might be waiting for the moment to deceive you and stab you in the back, or maybe even destroy everything you have! That woman is capable of such things!”


With a slight pause, Lucerne spoke.

“I, too, have thought that she might deceive me and try to kill me after luring me into complacency.
There have been moments when she gave me happiness only to take it away and plunge me into terrible despair.”

“You see! That woman is…”

“But, sister.”

Interrupting Collis, Lucerne spoke firmly and calmly.
His composed voice tugged at my heart.

“I don’t mind.
If Astia intends to kill me in the midst of our happiness, I am willing to die.”

“Lucerne! What are you saying?”

Lucerne raised his hand and gripped his own neck.
Just like when he talked about the people he had killed in front of the children and me, as if he had no choice, he pressed his collar and throat.

You can be paired and dyed in brilliant colors.
Now, I have no self to live without that sweetness.”


“I will accept anything sweet, even death or revenge.”

“Are you really insane?”

Dazed, I followed Lucerne and gripped my neck.
I couldn’t breathe.

Collis’s scream echoed in my ears and struck me.

“Lucerne, think clearly.
I’ve told you so many times.
You are her enemy, and she is the Grim Reaper trying to take your life.
She hates you.
The only thing that she can’t kill or have is you, so she clings to you!”

“I love Astia.”

“No, Lucerne.
That’s not love.
It can’t be love.
I know.
I love you.
I love you more than my father, more than your mother.
I can do anything for you.
But you’re different.

“I will do anything for Astia too.
Haven’t I told you? If Astia wants it, I will gladly give up my life.”

Collis’s voice fell silent.
After a few breaths of disbelief, a thumping sound followed.
The sight of Lucern through the crack in the door disappeared.

“Sister, are you okay?”

“This can’t be true, Lucerne.
Why have you changed like this? What kind of life is yours? How can you casually offer your life when the breath you cut off to protect your life is so precious?”



With a sharp sound of flesh hitting flesh, the bedroom door suddenly swung open wide.

I met Collis’s gaze without any chance to hide or escape.

Collis had lustrous opal-colored eyes that shone brightly like Lucerne’s, and she was a tall and beautiful woman with thick dark ash-colored hair.
She had a firm and curvaceous figure, standing somewhere between me and Lucerne in height, with a dignified and upright posture.
Her form-fitting aqua-colored dress was stunningly elegant.

Collis frowned, looking at me, “Who is this curly-haired woman?”

“Oh, hello, I am…” I began to greet but hurriedly stopped when I ran out of the bedroom, and Lucerne stood between me and Collis, protecting me.
Collis chuckled in disbelief.

“Lucerne, are you shielding the woman who eavesdropped on our conversation? Are you willing to be torn apart for her? Is she the same woman you were talking about just now?”

“That’s right, you saw her.”


“If anyone lays a finger on Astia, no matter who it is, you won’t forgive them.”

It was an unexpectedly gentle warning from the tyrant Lucerne, but Collis seemed shocked by his demeanor.
She bit her lips tightly, glared at me for a moment, and then silently walked across the parlor and out.


The sound of the door closing reached us, and only then did Lucerne slowly turn around.
I avoided his gaze, feeling sorry.

“…I’m sorry for eavesdropping.”

“It’s okay.
It’s my fault for not properly closing the door and making loud noises on the other side.
But more importantly…”

Lucerne’s finger hesitated and touched under my chin.
I thought he might grab me and lift me up, but his finger simply rested there.

I glanced at Lucerne, subtly examining him.
“Why are you like this?”

“…Didn’t anything come to mind?”


“I thought maybe you remembered something after hearing our conversation just now.”

“No, nothing.”

This foolish man, even in a situation like this, is anxious that I might recall something.
Why did I call for Collis when I fear recalling the past so much? Was it just my intention to make the apple tree in the garden grow? Was my misconception that her magic could revive Astia’s memories?

Lucerne let out a deep sigh, and his finger, which had been under my chin, disappeared.

If something comes to mind, tell me right away.
I need to go back to Lady Collis.
You probably heard it from Caleb, but Henry, Mirana, and Lady Collis are all here at the palace.
I might encounter them, so try not to come out of the bedroom if possible.”

“Just a moment, Lucerne.”

I called out to Lucerne, who was about to turn toward the door where Collis had disappeared.
His gaze, which had disappeared, returned to me.
It was as if he would always come when I called him, as if there was nothing more important than listening to me, he looked at me with that expression.

Amidst the confusion caused by the conversation between Collis and Lucerne just now, I wanted to confirm one thing.
Whether he really intended to help me remember or not.

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