I started writing a letter to Lucerne.
I wasn’t sure if I could send it or not, so it felt more like a diary entry, but I began to write, one letter at a time.


My handwriting was a mess.
It was understandable considering I had only seen the writing here but never actually tried it myself.
Perhaps it resembled Astia’s handwriting, the one imprinted on her body.
Anyway, my first sentences were a complete mess, making it difficult to read properly.

I practiced writing diligently, not only in the drawing room but also in the garden.

“Oh, you did well.”

Asilis, who was serving tea, praised me, but her words lacked enthusiasm.
Being a servant must be tough.
I appreciate her hard work.

I glared at the paper with great concentration, but Geo and Marley, who were playing in the garden, rushed over.

“Mom, what are you doing?”

“Oh, you’re here? Mom was practicing writing.”

“Hmph, I thought you were looking at a treasure map or something.”

Marley quickly lost interest and stuck her thumb behind her head, teasingly swaying side to side.

Geo raised an eyebrow.

“But, Mom, the writing looks strange.
What does ‘Lucaeunege’ mean?”

I was amazed at how he could accurately read the wrongly written characters.
Marley clicked her tongue and pouted.

“Are you silly, bro? It means you have something to say to Mr.
Lucerne.”

“That’s right? But it’s written here as ‘Lucaeun’ instead of ‘Lucaerun.’ Moreover, it says ‘ege.’ Since Mom wrote it, it must have a different meaning.”

Showing such great trust, I felt both embarrassed and touched.

I burst into laughter.

“Sorry, Geo.
Actually, I wanted to write ‘To Lucerne.’ Is my handwriting a mess?”

“Uh… Did you write it wrong?”

“That’s right.”

“Euhaha! Mom’s a fool! You’re a fool!”

Geo was taken aback, his eyes widened, while Marley held her belly and giggled.
Marley, that rascal, how does she understand and laugh when she doesn’t know where and how I made a mistake? Instead of asking unnecessary questions, I smiled, looking at Geo with affection.

“Thank you for saying that I didn’t make a mistake.
I was touched.”


“Uh, yeah.
Mom makes mistakes sometimes.
It’s fascinating.”

“Well, I make a lot of mistakes.”

“Kyakyakya! You’re a fool, you’re a fool! You can’t even write!”

In response to Marley’s teasing, I chuckled, pretending to be a complete fool, scratching my head.
Geo was at a loss for words, not knowing how to handle the situation.

“Marley, stop it.
It’ll make Mom embarrassed.”

“Embarrassed? What’s embarrassing?”

“Well, it’s something you feel shy about.”

“Kyakyakya! It’s embarrassing, it’s embarrassing!”

Geo sighed and patted my back.

“It’s okay, Mom.
No one is good at something right from the start.
It’ll get better with practice.”

“Thank you, Geo.
You’re always so kind.
You have no idea how much comfort I receive from you.”

Geo blushed and didn’t know what to do.

“I’m the one who, uh, feels really happy whenever Mom says that.”

“Really? I’m glad.
We bring joy to each other!”

“Hehe.
Hey, Mom, if you’re okay, shall I teach you how to write well?”

“Wow, of course.
How should I do it?”

“First, you shouldn’t hold the pen like this, a little lower, like this…”

As Geo poured out everything he knew to me, I saw Marley’s lack of response and soon stopped teasing her.
After waiting for her brother for a while, she yawned and soon began to doze off.

“Oh, Marley is sleepy.
What is Geo doing? Brother! What are you doing?”

From a distance, Rie and Seti, who were playing make-believe, abandoned their toys and ran towards us.
Rie burst into laughter at my poor handwriting, and Seti, who didn’t even understand English, laughed along.

It was a peaceful late afternoon in the autumn.

* * *

It had been two days since Lucerne left the palace.
It seemed that he hadn’t prepared so many books just to fill the drawing room walls.

“Oh, of course.
How should I do it?”

“Well, first, you shouldn’t hold the pen like this.
A little lower, like this…”


Geo, filled with confidence from the praise, poured out everything he knew about writing well.
Marli, who used to tease me, didn’t react, so she soon stopped teasing.
Waiting for her brother while yawning, she soon nodded off.

From a distance, Rie and Seti, who were playing pretend, abandoned their toys and ran towards us.
Rie burst into laughter at my poor handwriting, while Seti, not understanding English, giggled along.

It was a peaceful late afternoon, except for the time spent with the children.

* * *

It had been two days since Lucerne left the palace.
It seemed that I hadn’t prepared so many books just to fill the drawing room walls for no reason.

Apart from the time spent with the children, I spent the whole day engrossed in books.
I had already read all the books adorned with red ribbons and took some leisurely time to practice my handwriting.

“Has Lucerne arrived overnight by any chance?”

As soon as I opened my eyes, I asked Asilis, who had come to wake me up, about Lucerne’s whereabouts.
Unfortunately, her answer was negative.

“He hasn’t arrived yet.”

“Still? It’s taking longer than I thought.
Is it okay to keep the position vacant for this long?”

“Because it’s His Majesty the Emperor.”

“Oh, because it’s His Majesty the Emperor,” Asilis, who was combing my hair, replied in a reverent voice.
Her tone implied why I would even ask such an obvious question.
Iris and Rosalie, who were helping with my hair, nodded in agreement and echoed her sentiments.

“It’s because he is the mighty Emperor.
Everything he does is just and in accordance with the law.”

“Even when he is absent, he commands and handles everything necessary with his magical powers.”

“…I’ve been thinking for a while, but isn’t Lucerne a tyrant?”

I was filled with a surprising amount of trust in the maids’ attitude, which seemed to indicate that they followed him out of fear.

Asilis chuckled.

“I thought Lady Astia would understand.
Yes, he does possess immense power, which can be intimidating, but he is not like other kings who indulge in revelry and excess.
He holds the Empire dearly, protects it with his mighty strength.”

“That’s right, that’s right.
His punishments may be terrifying, but his rewards are equally generous.”

“Since Lady Astia’s arrival, our treatment has improved significantly.
You might not realize how much better it has become.”

“Is that so?”

I had expected them to dislike me because of the incident, but it was unexpectedly different.

I remembered when I ordered Lucerne’s favorite tea.
Caleb mentioned that the child who carried my tea tray might receive a big reward.
Suddenly, I longed for the taste of that tea I had back then.

“Sorry, but I’d like to have some tea before breakfast.
Could you please prepare the tea Lucerne often drinks?”

“Of course, I understand.
Is there anything else you need?”


“I’d like some fresh paper and a pen, as I want to write a new letter.”

Iris and Rosalie went out on errands, and Asilis finished styling my hair.

“There, we’re done.
You look beautiful as always today.”

I chuckled a little as I recalled the Asilis who had once laughed at me.
I was the same then as I am now, yet the treatment I received was remarkably different.

“Asilis, how far is Collis’s residence from here?”

“Count Collis resides in the Magic Tower, where magical research takes place.
It’s a separate tower located on a small island at the eastern end of the Empire.
It takes nearly a month by carriage to reach there.
You also have to take a boat, and they say the boat only leaves every few days.”

“Oh my.
So there’s a chance Lucerne won’t be able to return for several months?”

“That’s something we don’t know.
The travel time is calculated based on the speed of an ordinary person without magic.”

“I see.”

“In any case, it’s not a quick trip that can be done in a day.”

Considering that he hadn’t returned in two days, it seemed that Lucerne was indeed taking Collis to the Magic Tower.
I thought about the extraordinary treatment the two of them received, which was difficult to attribute to a typical sibling relationship.

The only person Lucerne had shown warmth and consideration towards, apart from me, was Collis.
He had mentioned the possibility of using force, but it seemed he chose to be kind and accompanied Collis to the Magic Tower.

I felt a mix of regret, loneliness, and even a tinge of jealousy.

Jealousy towards his older sister, how absurd.

I missed him.
If I had known it would be like this, I would have looked at him to my heart’s content before he left.
He would come when I called, meet my gaze when I wanted him to, and occasionally make me smile.

I smiled bitterly.

Once again, I chuckled a little as I recalled the Asilis who had once laughed at me.
I was the same then as I am now, yet the treatment I received was remarkably different.

* * *

A few more days passed.
The sky remained overcast, as if it could rain at any moment.

I still couldn’t sleep properly.

Today was no different.
It seemed futile to try to fall asleep, so I got up from bed as soon as dawn broke.
The sound of the sheets and fabric rustling echoed through the quiet bedroom.

“…Should I read a book?”

Wearing my cloak, I opened the door connecting the bedroom and the sitting room.
As I was about to light a magical lamp, I froze in surprise when I unexpectedly discovered a figure.

The silhouette was seated on a chair, leaning forward with elbows resting on thighs.
Even though I knew that only Lucerne could be present here, I couldn’t be certain due to his round, hunched back and lowered head.


Trying to calm my startled heart, I waited for my eyes to adjust to the darkness.

Black hair, a white robe draped over the body, broad but gentle shoulders, and the familiar scent that wafted towards me.
It was truly Lucerne.
Suddenly, my heart fluttered.
When I thought about it, it hadn’t been that long since we were apart, but I was extremely happy to see him.

“Luc…”

“Ah.”

His body stiffened with a deep sigh.

…What’s going on?

Lucerne seemed to be in pain.
It was the first time I had seen him like this, so it felt unfamiliar.

With an uneasy feeling, I instinctively stepped back, but my foot bumped into the door.

Thud.

It was a small sound, but both Lucerne and I were startled.

“…Astia?”

“…You’ve arrived?”

He seemed surprised by my appearance, unable to capture my expression or gestures properly.
Shadows filled the space beneath his eyes, which hadn’t been there before.

“I thought you were sleeping.”

“I woke up early.
When did you arrive?”

“Just a while ago.”

I cautiously opened the door and entered the sitting room.
I couldn’t bring myself to approach and sit down, so I leaned against the edge of the long chair where Lucerne was seated.

Lucerne watched me as I settled down, then quietly turned his head and returned to his original position, as if hiding.
He lowered his head as if concealing something.

Leaning forward with concern, I observed Lucerne’s complexion.

“Are you feeling unwell? Shall I call a physician?”

“I’m fine, don’t cause a fuss.”

He looks so unwell like this.

Lucerne, who seemed about to say something, furrowed his brow and lowered his head further.
It was difficult to discern in the shadows, but I wondered if the glimmers under his tear-like eyes were tears themselves or jewel-like pupils.

What could have happened? Why did he return with such a troubled expression?

“Did something happen with Collis…? What happened?”

It was the right question.
Lucerne took a deep breath, and his round back expanded significantly.

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