A black, opaque blue barrier materialized, preventing anyone from approaching me.
Crackling electricity danced between the barrier and Lucerne’s sword, creating a loud clash.
After a moment, Lucerne’s sword vanished, and the barrier and flames dissipated.

Surprised, I placed a hand over my pounding heart and blinked rapidly.
“W-What was that? What did you do?”

“I created a barrier to prevent anything that could harm you from getting close.
If my sword was able to block it, then it should provide sufficient defense against Mother’s dagger,” Lucerne explained.

“Thank you,” I replied, still taken aback by the display of power.
I reached out my hand towards the space where the electricity had crackled, but there was nothing to touch.
Lucerne grabbed my hand, which was exploring the empty space, and gently pressed his lips against the back of it.

“I’ll be waiting for you at the dinner table,” he said.

Even though I knew that a kiss on the back of the hand was a light gesture of greeting, my heart raced.
The Emperor, who shone brighter than any jewel, was bending down to kiss my hand, someone who meant more to him than any jewel.

As we arrived at the dining table, I was surprised to see not only Lucerne but also Henry, Mirana, and, astonishingly, the children seated there.

“Ah! Um, Mom, why are you so late? We were hungry!” one of the children exclaimed.

“Wow, Mom, you look beautiful today.
The most beautiful.
Wow, I want to try it too…”

“You were already beautiful, but today you’re especially stunning.
Mom, you’re really cool.”

“Seti, Marley, Rie, Geo.
Did you wait long? I apologize for being late.
I didn’t expect us to be able to have dinner together, so I’m glad,” I greeted each of them, looking into their eyes.

Mirana, who noticed my presence, covered her face with a fan and narrowed her eyes, while Henry stuck out his tongue.
You still haven’t gotten rid of the trash,” he muttered.

Lucerne stood up from his seat and personally prepared a chair for me.
Henry seemed to want to say something more, but his voice was drowned out by the noisy chatter of the children.

“Mister, why didn’t you come to the garden today?”

“Mister, mister! I’m getting really good at shooting the wind now! I hit a leaf today!”

“Hey, Seti.
Why do you talk like that? Speak properly!”

“Hey, it’s fine to call him ‘Uncle.’ It’s rude to call him ‘Mister’!”

Mirana’s face turned pale.
“How dare they… How dare they treat the Emperor so lightly! I want to cut the throats of those brats right away…!”

What? Cut whose throats? Startled by the children’s conversation, I widened my eyes and glared at Mirana.
She stared back at me, undeterred.

The silent battle was interrupted by Lucerne’s magic.
A bluish light entered Mirana’s mouth, and she clutched her throat, gasping for air.

“Lucerne! What is this nonsense? How dare… How dare you because of ☆☆☆☆…!” Mirana’s voice became a strange mix of silence, bird chirping, and a siren.
Everyone, especially Mirana, looked pale and bewildered, but I instantly understood what had happened.
It was a profanity filter!

“Mirana, are you alright?”

“How could you do this to me? What did you do, Lucerne? I can’t even call ☆☆☆☆ a☆☆☆☆!” Mirana grumbled.

Lucerne calmly responded, “It’s a minor enchantment to prevent any hurtful words towards Astia and her children.
I kindly ask everyone to refrain from unnecessary gossip during mealtime.”

“You… you, Lucerne!”

“How could you do this to me, Lucerne?! Preventing me from calling ☆☆☆☆ ☆☆☆☆…” Mirana’s complaints were muffled.

Wow, this is interesting.
The power of magic is truly boundless.

I found it amusing and asked Lucerne for a favor.
“Lucerne, can you cast a spell on me too? Please!”

“On you? Why?”

“Because it looks fun.”

Mirana and Henry wore expressions of disbelief, but Lucerne didn’t object and cast a small spell on me.
It wasn’t a spell of significant magnitude.
Overcome with excitement, I couldn’t contain myself and quickly opened my mouth.

“We meet again, ☆☆☆☆.
Oh my, this is fascinating.
To all of you who dislike me, I understand your feelings.
But if anyone dares to use harsh words or actions like before, be prepared to face ☆☆☆☆ ☆☆☆☆ chili powder sprinkled on you.”

Oh my goodness! This is fun!

I searched for something to retort, but Mirana and Henry were too stunned to respond, so I couldn’t continue my remarks.
Marley tried to say something to Lucerne, her eyes gleaming, but before she could speak, the dining hall door opened once again.
Lucerne tensed and stood up from his seat, while Mirana and Henry’s faces stiffened.

Through the open door, Lucerne’s sister, Collis Stria, entered.
When her gaze fell upon me, she made a face as if to say, “Why is that thing here?” I maintained my composure and exchanged a glance that said, “I came here to have dinner.”

Collis snorted and shifted her gaze to Lucerne, her expression brightening.
“Lucerne! You’re always impressive, but today, you look particularly stunning.
The formal attire suits you very well.”

“Thank you.
You look beautiful as well.
Personally, I prefer this outfit to the dress you wore earlier.”

“Ohoho, is that so? If you attend a ball dressed like this, everyone will be mesmerized.”

After their earlier argument, it seemed that the two of them had decided to put it aside and engage in a friendly conversation.
Lucerne pulled out a chair next to me and gestured for Collis to sit.

As Collis and Lucerne continued their pleasant exchange, it took a while for Collis to acknowledge her parents sitting across from her.

“It’s been a while since we last met.
Have you been quietly doing well all this time?”

If it weren’t for this situation, I would have continued to live quietly.”

Henry growled as he spoke, and Collis chuckled.
“Look on the bright side.
If it weren’t for this situation, when would we have all gathered for a meal together? We might not have seen each other since our grandfather’s funeral.”

Collis swiftly turned her head towards me, casually mentioning our father’s death.
Her opalescent eyes lacked the laughter present when interacting with others.

“I apologize for earlier.
While it’s true that I dislike you, it’s only right to express gratitude when one is thankful.
Thank you.
Thanks to you, all the direct descendants of the Stria family have gathered for a meal after eight years.”

Her words expressed gratitude, but her stern face, low voice, and sharp gaze made it clear that she wasn’t truly grateful.
The children sitting nearby grew fearful and looked around nervously.

Fortunately, Lucernewas quick to sense the tense atmosphere.
“Please, Sister.”


Collis stopped speaking abruptly, realizing that the warm expression in Lucerne’s eyes had vanished.
She glanced at me and bit her lip firmly.

Well, why? What’s the big deal if I give her a stern look? I snorted with an air of superiority.

The servants moved silently, and the table was filled with bread, soup, and various dishes.
The dining hall was filled with the fragrant aroma of truffles and apples.

Collis furrowed her brow.
“Truffle and apple soup? Lucerne, are you out of your mind?”

“Come to think of it, you planted many unfamiliar trees along the road to Santuris, didn’t you? I heard they were apple trees.
What’s going on? I can’t imagine you, who used to despise apples so much, actually eating one,” Mirana commented.

Mirana’s words made my eyes widen.
“…Lucerne, do you dislike apples?”

“I don’t particularly prefer them,” he calmly responded.

You have such strong powers, yet you can’t stand something as trivial as apples,” Henry remarked.

“Father, please don’t say that.
I used to be a child who committed murder at the age of four.
But fortunately, things have improved.
I used to feel nauseated at the sight of the color red, but now I’ve made progress.
Lucerne, it seems you’ve changed too.”

So he disliked the color red to the point of feeling nauseated? I hadn’t noticed such a preference before.
The flowers he gave me for the first time, as well as the red dress I wore in the palace, were all red.

Considering he was a tyrant who killed people and spilled red blood as a matter of course, it was hard to believe that he disliked red to the extent of not being able to eat an apple.

Lucerne lowered his head.

“Sister, that’s a story from over 20 years ago, isn’t it?”

“That may be true, but Lucerne, to me, you will always be the same four-year-old child.
Oh, by the way, there are plenty of red flowers decorating the dining hall.
It seems like you’ve really improved.”

“Astia likes the color red.”

The dining hall fell silent after the sudden confession.

Collis furrowed her brow as if she had heard something strange and asked, “…I’m sorry, Lucerne.
What did you just say?”

“I said it’s because Astia likes the color red,” Lucerne repeated, his voice calm.

“Astia likes the color red, as I mentioned.
The apple trees in the garden, the apple soup, and the red flowers on the dining table—anything Astia likes becomes something special to me.
It’s no different from when it used to threaten my life in the past,” Lucerne explained.

Henry abruptly stood up from his seat.

“You, Lucerne, are you truly insane? How dare you bring that ☆☆☆☆ to a gathering of your parents who gave birth to and raised you! And to tolerate ☆☆☆! What kind of ☆☆☆☆ is this?” Henry yelled furiously.

“It’s a good thing I placed a spell beforehand,” Lucerne calmly replied.

“Lucerne, you bastard! Snap out of it! That ☆☆☆ is no ordinary woman! She has caused me so much suffering because of ☆☆ ☆☆☆☆☆ ☆☆ ☆☆☆☆!” Henry continued his torrent of vulgar language silently, with only his lips moving.

Mirana pressed her forehead and sank deeply into her chair, while the children looked at each other, frozen in place.

Collis stood up and approached Lucerne.

“Lucerne, reconsider, please? Huh? Please, Lucerne.
That woman is no good for you.
I’m begging you,” Collis pleaded.

“I know perfectly well, Sister.
I know you’ve never instructed me to do anything harmful, and I understand what kind of person Astia is to me.
I know everything, so there’s no need to explain it multiple times.
I also request that you give up on trying to change my mind,” Lucerne responded.

“Snap out of it, Lucerne Stria! This is not love, just obsession! Getting that woman won’t change anything about you!” Collis argued.

“I have already changed enough,” Lucerne replied.


The quarrel between Lucerne and Collis, the shouting filled with profanity from Henry and Mirana, and the intermittent whining of the children quickly overwhelmed my mind.
The sound entered one ear and exited the other, repeating the cycle.

In the next moment, an enraged Collis glared at me and swung the glass in front of Lucerne, hitting my head.

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