“Mom! Mom!”


Before I could even turn the first page of the novel I was holding, Rie and Seti came running towards me.

Rie, standing in front of me with a vivid expression on her face, took a deep breath, her small chest heaving.

“Mom, look at this! We made it!”

“Mom, Seti and I made it.”

I gladly accepted the outstretched branch offered by Rie and marveled at it.
Inserted into a narrow split at the end of the slender branch was a primrose.
It was surprisingly sturdy, not budging even when I shook it from side to side.

I was truly amazed, and my eyes widened in wonder.

“Wow, what’s this? You made it so well!”

“Yeah, that’s right! Seti and I made it together!”

“Ojibong-ya! Ojibong!”


Rie burst into giggles.

“It’s called Ojibong! Hahaha!”

“No way! O! Ji! Bong!”

As Seti complained with a puffed-up face, Rie patted his head with her tiny hand and nodded.

“Yeah, that’s right.
It’s a magic wand, this.”

“Yeah, it’s Ojibong.”

Oh my goodness.
It was a magic wand? Their cute pronunciation made me burst into laughter.

“Ojibong, no, why did you make a magic wand? Rie and Seti can use magic even without this.”

“Yeah! But it looks prettier with it, right? It makes us feel happier if it’s prettier!”

“Oh, yeah.
That’s true.”

“Mom, look closely!”

Rie turned around and waved the branch as if she were conducting.
She even swayed her body like a ballet dancer.
And right beside her, small droplets of water formed, glistening and sparkling.

“Shalalala, round and round, twinkle twinkle, whoosh…”


As Seti shouted, the beads flew from the branch, playfully hitting Geo and Marley, who were nearby and engrossed in their own mischief.
In an instant, the children, drenched with water, let out a squeal.

“Hey, you little troublemaker!”

“Oh, it’s cold.
Rie! What are you doing?”

The observing servants swiftly approached with towels and hurriedly dried Geo and Marley.
It had become a routine for them to bring baskets of towels whenever we went to the garden, considering the frequent occurrences like this.

Rie, with a pouting face, scolded Seti.

“Hey! It’s because of you that I made a mistake! Shalalala, round and round, twinkle twinkle, whoosh! Next time, I should say, ‘Candy, jelly, delicious chocolate!'”

“Do I have to?”

Seti tilted his head with a questioning expression.
Rie nodded impatiently, as if to say, “Of course! It’s part of the spell!”

“What’s a spell?”

“A magic spell! You recite a spell and then cast the magic.
That’s how the magical girls in fairy tales do it.”

Rie’s explanation was met with a nod.
I, too, had imitated those magical girls when I was young, reciting spells and waving a magic wand.

From then on, Rie listed the requirements for being a magical girl to Seti, who listened attentively with gleaming eyes.
It covered everything from belongings, hairstyles, and attire to walking style and speaking mannerisms.
Rie was quite particular about it.

She had to wear a headband when washing her face, change into pajamas for sleep, and put on outdoor clothes even for a short outing.
When studying, she would neatly arrange her books and carefully choose the most beautiful feather pen.

At first, I found it bothersome, but soon I realized.

Rie saw everyday life as a world filled with romance.
She understood that children strive to be happy in every moment.
After finishing her impromptu speech, Rie playfully recited another magic spell and waved her “magic wand,” or rather, the branch, sprinkling water droplets into the air.
Seti also threw a fireball and joined in.

“Shalalala, round and round.”

“Banggu, pwoong!”

“Twinkle twinkle, whoosh!”


“Oh, really… I’m the poop king!”


Amused by their nonsensical banter, I chuckled as Caleb approached and whispered in my ear.

“Duke Henry and Lady Mirana have arrived.”


I was taken aback and quickly stood up.

“How did they come here?”

The Imperial Palace was under Lucerne’s control, so it would be difficult for anyone to enter freely.

“They are outside the garden.
It’s not possible for them to come inside.”

Caleb stepped back.

I could see Henry and Mirana near the entrance of the garden.
They kept their distance and positioned themselves on the outer side of the garden entrance.

When Mirana spoke to a nearby servant, the servant quickly approached me.

“They would like to observe the children playing for a moment.”

“They want to observe the children playing?”

“She asked if it would be alright, and they mentioned that they won’t come inside the garden,” the servant explained.

She asked? She asked for my opinion? Mirana did?

I blinked in surprise, and the children, who were waving their magic wands, turned to look at me.

“Why, Mom?”

“Ah… Do you remember the elderly couple, that grandparents? We met them at the restaurant before.
They want to observe you playing.”

“That’s fine.”

Their response was cheerful.

“That’s fine?”

There are usually many people watching us play.”

Rie replied nonchalantly and waved her magic wand again.

In reality, whenever the children played in the garden, there were always people watching them—those who entertained the children, those who entertained me, and the knights who protected us.
So the addition of Henry and Mirana, along with a few more servants, didn’t seem like a big deal to Rie.

However, Seti, for some reason, stared intently at Henry and Mirana before throwing his wand on the ground and running toward them.


“Oh, Seti! Wait!”

Surprised, I followed behind the child.
Geo was by my side, keeping pace.

Seti stared at Henry’s face intently.

“Hal, gaecha-na?” (translation note: the dialogue contains childlike expressions)

Henry frowned, about to say something, but Mirana, sitting next to him, lightly tapped his thigh.
He twisted his lips and finally managed to utter a few words.


“Good boy, you’re nice,” Seti’s small hand patted Henry’s shoulder, as if comforting a child.
Since Henry was taller, Seti had to lift his hand quite high.

Henry didn’t particularly appreciate the hand patting his shoulder, but he simply glared at Seti without pushing the child away or uttering any harsh words.

Meanwhile, Geo asked Mirana about her well-being.

“How are you feeling? Are you okay now?”

After a brief pause, Mirana nodded her head.


“That’s a relief.
Please take care of yourself, as you never know if it might happen again.”

“…I will.”

Geo smiled warmly and nodded his head.
As if to signify that the conversation was over, he turned his body and called out to Marley, who was about to walk away.
Mirana called Geo over before he could leave.

“Oh, wait a moment.”

“Yes? What’s the matter?”

“What’s your name?”

“My name is Geo Tote.
Everyone calls me Geo, so please call me Geo too, Grandma.”

“I am Lady Mirana.”

“Yes, Lady Mirana.”

“Well… Thank you.”

“For what? My mother went through something similar before, so I’m glad I recognized the symptoms.”

“I see.”

Mirana nodded her head slightly.

Although there was still a hint of haughtiness in her tone, recalling their first meeting made me realize how surprising this level of gratitude from the child was.
After all, she had referred us as trash.
It seemed that Geo saving her had left a significant impression, and she was genuinely thankful.

In the distance, Marley called out to Geo.

“Hey, when are you coming? Come quickly! It’s collapsing here!”

“Just wait a moment!”

Geo replied loudly and politely, and bid farewell to Mirana and Henry.

“I have to go because my younger sister is calling me.
See you next time.”


Mirana reached out her hand with a tinge of regret, but Geo had already dashed off, leaving her behind.
Seti also followed closely behind Geo, chasing after him.

I was left alone with Henry and Mirana.

…This feels awkward.

I had followed them out of concern that they might scold the children, but instead of scolding, they were unexpectedly kind, which caught me off guard.

Not knowing what to do, I decided to quietly retreat instead of picking a needless fight.

I didn’t have any reason to dislike Henry and Mirana other than the fact that they seemed to dislike me.
Mutual animosity among people was tiresome.

“It’s a relief that you’re feeling better.
I’ll return to my place now.
You can continue to observe us as long as you don’t enter the garden.”

Henry and Mirana didn’t respond, and I returned to my spot.

The two of them silently observed us, the children and me, throughout our time in the garden.
We stayed in our respective places, consuming the drinks and snacks brought by the attendants.

* * *

In the late dawn, Lucerne sat in his study, receiving a report from Caleb regarding the books he had sent and the tea she had requested for that day.

“…Today, Lady Astia seemed to enjoy both of the books you sent.”

“I see.”

His response came a bit delayed.

Lucerne didn’t instruct Caleb to check on Hyerim after leaving the palace.
However, whenever Caleb reported on Hyerim’s affairs, he always listened attentively without wavering.
He didn’t offer aimless responses or engage in idle conversation, only giving instructions when necessary.

“Try to find more books similar to the ones she enjoyed.
The cost is of no concern.
Also, make sure to reward the servant who brought the tea today.”


The speaker and the listener remained quiet.

In truth, Caleb didn’t know why Lucerne had left the palace and chosen not to stay with her.
He never revealed the reasons behind his actions, no matter what happened.
However, Caleb didn’t ponder deeply about it.
Though the excitement he once had faded away, Lucerne still showered her, the woman he had long desired, with sincere affection.

After finishing her detailed report on how Hyerim was doing, Caleb quietly left the study.

Lucerne’s face was filled with fatigue.
Leaning heavily against his chair, he let out a sigh into the air.

“She seems to be doing well.”

He contemplated whether to add the word “dare” or “fortunately”, but decided against it.

Since the day he had discovered that Hyerim was not Astia and couldn’t bring himself to kill her, his thoughts had been relentless.

Collis’s memories played in his mind repeatedly.

At first, he had thought that he was captivated by Hyerim, just as Collis had claimed.

But the more he replayed the memories, the less certain he became.
Hyerim had initially avoided him.
She was afraid.
It was him who had approached her against her wishes, using the children as a means to keep her by his side.

After revisiting the memories about ten times, he was convinced.
Hyerim had simply become Astia by a twist of fate.

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