Lucerne looked seriously at the children.

“Okay, do as you practiced.” 


The children each grabbed one of my fingers and closed their eyes.

The ground shook and the wind blew.
Small droplets like rain or fog tapped my skin and the surrounding air warmed up.

Above my head, huge earth, water and fire spread out and fluttered in the wind.
The magic, which continued to increase in size, mixed here and there and draped a beautiful veil like the aurora.
A few servants and knights let out Oh’s of admiration.

“Everyone has worked hard.”

“You have worked hard too.
Thank you.”

Upon my greeting, the children rushed and clung to Lucerne, shouting with excitement.

“Lucerne, you’re awesome!”

“Thank you for teaching us magic.
Please continue to teach us a lot!”

“Me too! Mister, make me the world’s greatest magician!”

“And me! Make me the coolest magical girl in the world!”

The children hung on Lucerne’s pants or nestled their heads between his legs, each filled with determination and enthusiasm.

Lucerne seemed momentarily taken aback by the intense display of affection but soon nodded his head.

If that’s what you want, consider it done.”

“Yay, that’s amazing!”


As the children enthusiastically cheered, they fell silent at Lucerne’s low voice.

Normally, once the children started chattering, they wouldn’t quiet down until they had said everything on their minds.
However, strangely enough, they all hushed at Lucerne’s single word.
Was it because of his dignity? Were the children overwhelmed by his presence? It was a curious sight.

After confirming the quietness around him, Lucerne spoke slowly.

“Since you’ve all worked hard, I’ll prepare special rewards.”

“Rewards? What are they?”

Lucerne’s gaze fell on me.

“The last harvest festival, I couldn’t attend due to some circumstances, but the Day-Night-Moon event will be held soon.”


Marley and Rie laughed cheerfully and hopped around.

“Wow! Day-Night-Moon! Are we going to the Day-Night-Moon festival?”

“Leaving the city might be difficult, but we can watch it from inside the palace.
We might even be the first to release sky lanterns in the empire.”

“Wow! Being the first sounds awesome! I love being the first!”

“Yeah, it’s something I usually do, but this year, Marley, I’ll let you take the lead.”

“Yay! You’re the best, mister! I’ll make you the second coolest person after the hero, Malitia-nim!”

“An honor indeed.”

“I want to participate too! Now that my wish has come true, I want to release a sky lantern!”

“Sure thing.”

Unlike his siblings, Geo hesitated.

“I still haven’t had my wish come true, so I don’t think I can release a sky lantern.”

“Alright then, I’ll prepare a white bread that grants wishes for you.”

“Th-thank you.”

“How many do you need?”

“Just one is enough.”

The children chattered about their wishes and rushed towards the garden playground.

As their voices faded, they expressed their gratitude to Lucerne.

“Thank you, Lucerne.
I’ve never seen the kids like someone this much before.”

“It’s nothing special.
How’s your condition?”

“I’m fine.
I’m not sure if magic was cast on me.”


At that moment, a gentle autumn breeze blew.
The wind picked up the fallen leaves from the ground, swirling roundly towards us.
The leaves noisily hit the long rows of gardeners and the walls, but they didn’t reach me and Lucerne.

Lucerne nodded as he watched the passing flurry of leaves.

“Looks like it worked well.
The wind is avoiding you.”

“Is that so?”

“Now you can worry a little less.”

I awkwardly raised the corners of my mouth at his reassuringly soft voice.

After sending the excited children back home from the garden, we headed towards Santuris.
Lucerne walked a half-step ahead on the dimly lit path, where sporadic magical lights flickered.

“By the way, Lucerne, what is this Day-Night-Moon you mentioned?”

“It’s a peculiar day when the length of day and night is the same.
Around the beginning of the new year, people release sky lanterns to express gratitude to the gods if their wishes came true, or they eat white bread and hope for their wishes to be fulfilled before the sun sets.”

“I see.
So Marley and Rie must have said they want to release sky lanterns because their wishes came true.
But Geo’s wish hasn’t come true yet.”

“That’s correct.”

As I asked, Lucerne muttered.

“As the Emperor, I had to be the first to release sky lanterns every year.
But my wish was never granted.
It was so painful, you have no idea.
But this year…”

His voice became low, and I felt a tinge of sadness.

“But this year, my wish finally came true.
Astia is by my side, you see.”

I wanted to protest.

Naturally, I couldn’t voice my thoughts aloud.
The unsaid words felt like a stab in my throat.

Instead, I blurted out an unintended lie.

“Congratulations… I’m happy for you.”

Lucerne didn’t respond, and an awkward silence settled between us.
His beautiful eyes lost focus and stared somewhere on the ground.

Chirp, chirp, chirr… The sound of a grasshopper finally broke the silence.

I cleared my throat and changed the subject.

“Do you think the festival might be dangerous?”

Lucerne, who had been lost in thought for a moment, answered with a composed voice.

“Traditionally, sky lanterns are released outside the city walls with many people watching.
However, doing so in such an exposed area would make us an easy target for assassination attempts.
This time, we’ll do it on the rooftop of Santuris.”

“On the rooftop?”

When I looked at him in disbelief, he returned a nonchalant response.

“But I can fly.”

“Aha, you can fly.”

“They would enjoy it.”

“It’s safe to place knights below and go up to the rooftop.
Santuris is isolated from other buildings, so there’s no worry about someone climbing up from below.
Also, it’s elevated and has a considerable height, so unless they can fly, there’s no need to worry about intruders.”

Hearing that it’s safe like that, I couldn’t help but think how wonderful it would be to go up there frequently.
It’s a frivolous thought, but imagining the joy on the children’s faces made my heart flutter.

“What would you prefer?”


Caught off guard by his sudden question, my eyes widened without grasping his intentions.

“I’m asking whether you’d like to release the sky lantern or eat the bread.
Prepare for the one you prefer, so feel free to tell me.”

To wish for something or express gratitude for wishes fulfilled.

There was no need to ponder.
I wanted to eat the bread.
I wanted to make a wish.
I wished for Lucerne to fall in love with me, not Astia.
But here, I couldn’t choose the bread.
I couldn’t reveal my true feelings and jeopardize the fake pretext.
I had decided to live as Astia.

I forced a smile and raised the corners of my mouth.

“I’ll release the sky lantern.
I don’t have any wish I want to make.”

A hint of sadness briefly passed over Lucerne’s face.

* * *

On the day of the Day-Night-Moon festival, as the early evening meal came to an end, the sky had already turned a golden hue.
The children were dressed much fancier than usual, and their excitement was palpable as they fidgeted with anticipation.

“Mom, let’s go and release the sky lanterns quickly, okay?”

“Mister, did you prepare the sky lanterns? Mine is going to be a really huge one, you know?”

“Wait a moment! Marley, your underwear is showing.
You need to wear your pants properly.
And where did you put one of your socks?”

“Ah, ah, ah! Ouch! Pants, pants, easy! Ouch, it hurts!”

“Silly, clumsy.
It hurts because you keep running away while I’m trying to pull up your pants properly.”

“Woong, you’re a big bully!”

“Ouch! Kid, why do you keep calling me a bully?”

“You’re a bully!”


Rie giggled.
Usually, she would roll around on the ground with joy, but today she was wearing an elaborate dress with plenty of hair decorations, so she laughed out loud instead.

“Seti, you said it well! That’s right, a bully is a bully, so we call him a bully, right?”

“Woong, correct.”

“Hey! Ah, ha.
Are you really going to defeat all the evil in the name of the righteous knight, Marley?”

“Sorry, but that’s something I can’t allow.”

Marley became teary-eyed at Lucerne’s words.

“Why? Why not?”

“We need to go and release the sky lanterns now.”

Even as Rie affectionately patted Seti’s head, Marley, who seemed ready to cast a spell at any moment, and Seti, who stood confidently with his hand on his waist, sparkled with anticipation.

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