Seti returned with his cute, huffing breaths after putting one blueberry each into the mouths of the two servants.
Holding two more blueberries in his hand, he mimicked the act of feeding blueberries to the servant who pretended to be “Rabbit, Rabbit, I’m at the Sea.” When he held out the plate, Liye took a few blueberries out and offered the plate to Seti.

“Seti, take all of these!”

Ignoring his sister’s advice, Seti grabbed two more blueberries from the plate Rie offered.
Marley couldn’t help but chuckle at his behavior.

“Mom, I think he’s really being silly.
He could just take them all at once.
Why does he keep taking two each time?” Geo affectionately ruffled his little brother’s hair.

“Seti is still young, so he doesn’t know what’s easier and simpler.
We just have to teach him.”

“What’s the use of teaching him? He’s such a fool that he forgets everything!”

“Still, we have to patiently teach him until he learns.”

“Ugh, I’ll end up being the big brother!”

“You won’t end up being the big sister.
Marley, you were even naughtier, but you turned out fine, didn’t you?”


As Geo mentioned her name, both Marley and Rie turned their attention towards us.
Rie set down the doll she was playing with and stared at me, while I propped my elbows on the table and leaned forward.

“When you were three, it rained, and it was so dark that the sun disappeared.
You cried so much, saying, ‘Sun, where are you, Sun?’ for days.
Do you remember how loudly you cried?”

“Me? Did I do that?”

“Yes, you did.
The monsoon lasted for days, and you kept crying and crying, asking for Sun.
It was quite a commotion.
You cried even harder whenever the clouds covered the sky again after a brief moment of clear weather.”

“That’s impossible! I wasn’t like that! Oh no, I’ll be teased by my big brother! Or worse, I’ll be caught by the monster!”

“I’m telling the truth.
You even believed that sun was hiding behind the clouds.
You would go outside and look at the sky, crying, ‘sun, how is it? How is it?’ It was quite the scene.
You cried for days.”

“That’s absurd! I can’t believe I was such a fool!”

“It was so much crying that even Mom got irritated every day.
Isn’t that right, Mom?”


Unexpectedly, they turned the focus to me.

The children all turned their gazes toward me.
Geo looked at me expectantly, but I didn’t have anything to say.
The story the kids were talking about was Astia’s past that I couldn’t recall.
I could simply say, “Yes, that’s right,” but it wasn’t easy to respond all of a sudden.
Perhaps it was because of the suddenness, or maybe because I had exposed that I wasn’t Astia to Lucerne.

Thankfully, Seti appeared just in time, his forehead covered in beads of sweat.

“Mom, blayy!”

Seti’s tiny hand felt like a saving grace as he eagerly approached me.
I quickly got up from my seat.

“Sure, Seti.
Mom will give you the blueberries.”

Taking the two blueberries I offered, Seti beamed and dashed off to the servants.

Lucerne, who had been observing the kids quietly, casually remarked, “They’re adorable.”

Rie giggled at Lucerne’s nonchalant praise.
“Seti is adorable, right? And I’m pretty.”

“Hey, what makes you pretty? I’m the cool one!”

“No! I’m pretty, and you’re not cool! You’re just a troublemaker.”

“What? I’m not cool? Little Rie, it’s war! Let’s fight!”

“Rie, Marley.
Don’t fight.
Both of you are pretty and cool.”

As I watched the kids playfully bicker, I couldn’t help but sigh silently.

Lucerne’s gaze fixed on me was piercing.

It was a dark night, and sleep eluded me.
I tossed and turned in bed until I felt something warm and solid touch my fingertips.
Startled, I lifted the covers and saw a white blanket rustling.

“Why can’t I sleep?”

“I’m sorry.
Did I wake you up?”

“You didn’t wake me up; I wasn’t asleep.”

Lucerne’s low voice pierced my ears.
It was an unfamiliar sensation.
Embarrassed and ticklish, my body trembled.

“I cast a spell, and yet you feel cold.

“I’m not cold.”

Lucerne pulled the blanket over me, covering me all the way up to my neck.

When his fingers brushed my neck, I flinched and froze.

“Maybe something hurts.
I should call Dipeume right away.”

“No, it’s okay! I’m really fine!”

As Lucerne tried to get out of bed, I quickly grabbed his arm.
Unlike his formal attire, I could feel the warmth of his flesh through the thin, light sleepwear.
I quickly let go, feeling flustered.

“You don’t have to worry.
It’s just… It’s just that I want to be next to you.”

The white blanket rustled and made a soft sound as it moved.

“Why can’t you sleep?”

“It’s natural, isn’t it? I already know that even the imperial palace without you isn’t safe.
It doesn’t make sense to leave you alone.”

“But, but! I’ve also cast protective magic.
I won’t be easily harmed.”

Lucerne responded by lowering his head.

Why is it that Lucerne loves and cherishes me, but I’m the one feeling embarrassed?

“I-I feel embarrassed.”

“If you think of me as a large doll, it might help.”

“Will it be like that? I’ve messed up my sleep for tonight…”

“Don’t worry about that.
If you want, I can cast a sleeping spell for you.”

“A magic spell?”

“A sleeping spell isn’t that difficult, you know.”

I hesitated for a moment but then nodded enthusiastically.

“Okay! Please do that then, it’s probably better.”


Lucerne reached out and gently stroked my head.

“May you have sweet dreams.”

With those soft words, a warm sensation enveloped my body.
The tension I had been holding eased, and my eyelids grew heavy.
Blinking slowly, I closed my eyes and opened them again.

“Um, Lucerne, may you also have good, dreams…”

In my last struggling effort to keep my eyes open, the reflection of Lucerne in my tired pupils was still the familiar and smiling face.


With those words, I finally succumbed to sleep.

* * *

Despite the weak enchantment, Hyerim fell asleep quickly.
The caretakers who looked after her had received reports that she hadn’t been sleeping properly lately, but they hadn’t expected it to be this bad.

“She must have forgotten that sleeping in is also a promise,” one of them muttered, but there was no response from the deeply sleeping Hyerim.

Sleeping in, eating what she wanted, doing what she wanted, and occasionally smiling.
That was all Lucerne had wanted for her, and Hyerim had managed to do just one of those things.
During the day, she spent time with the children, and at night, she quietly read books.

The accumulated precious jewelries and beautiful dresses in the palace, along with dazzling social events, were all outside of Hyerim’s interest.
She didn’t want any of it.

There was something Lucerne wanted to do for her.
He wanted to give her a gift, something she would like.
After much consideration, Lucerne had the idea to bring in a book that Hyerim would enjoy and beautifully wrap it, along with a heartfelt note.

However, it was a mistake made by one of the caretakers to include a note with Hyerim’s name on it.
Lucerne had only intended to instruct them to prepare the gift, but somehow the note with her name got mixed in.

The memory of that moment came back vividly.
Holding the pen, Lucerne had simply wanted to write Hyerim’s name once, just to see how it felt.
It was the first time he had ever written someone’s name with such a feeling.
He felt embarrassed as if his own emotions were written all over the paper along with her name.

“Why did you write her name on that note?” At first, the question had surprised him.
Now that he knew she had seen the note, it made sense for her to ask.

Later, he felt sad.
Instead of asking, “Why did you write my name on that note?” she asked, “Why did you write Hyerim’s name on that note?” as if talking about someone else’s name.

Was it because she had decided to live as Astia and not Hyerim? From Lucerne’s perspective, who loved Hyerim and not Astia, it was a bitter question.

Finally, he became curious.
What did Hyerim think when she saw the note? Was she flustered? Angry? Or perhaps… happy?

He wanted her to be happy.
Whether it was because of the note, the book, or because of Lucerne himself, he hoped she would be happy.

He hadn’t asked the caretakers about Hyerim’s reaction when she received the gift.
He was afraid that she might not have been happy and didn’t want to hear it.

But she personally thanked him and read the book without any resistance.
So, he concluded that she must have been happy, even if her actions were just a facade.
He chose to believe in the Hyerim he could see.

He wanted to see her genuine smile again, but at the same time, he was afraid to face her true feelings.

He couldn’t help but chuckle at the conflicting emotions he felt.

He reached out and could almost touch her from where he sat, watching her sleeping peacefully, breathing gently.
Even though he knew it was because of the magic, he found comfort in the fact that she was soundly asleep by his side.
The stern expression on her face had softened, and he liked the gentleness that took over her features.

It had been over twenty years since he had known her, yet he had never seen Astia sleeping.
Perhaps that was why he found it endearing to see Hyerim sleeping so peacefully.
Despite knowing it was because of the enchantment, he felt a sense of pride.
Her usual sternness disappeared, and her softened face was to his liking.

For over twenty years, he had known Astia, but he had never seen her sleeping face.
Perhaps that was why seeing Hyerim sleeping before him felt like he was not seeing Astia, but Hyerim.

It felt like I could only watch from afar.
My attempts to find traces of Hyerim in Astia’s appearance were amusingly futile.
I wished she would come back.
I wished she would be the Hyerim who used to smile at me.

Except for the times I desired Astia, I had never wanted something so desperately before.

“Hyerim,” I whispered her name.
The name felt unfamiliar on my lips, and my cheeks felt hot.

For some reason, I gathered the courage to lean towards Hyerim and called her name again, this time in a louder voice.
“Lee Hyerim.”

“Hmm?” She made a soft sound and took a deep breath.

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