Geo had conveyed that he would not have dinner together.
I did not want to eat alone, so I made the other children dine in the palace.

In the grand dining hall, there were only Lucerne and me.
The thoughtful man had let go of all the servants, and I filled the table with half sigh and half tears without minding the eyes.

I sat blankly in front of the table with a fork and knife put down, and a splendid dish was placed in front of me with a thump.
They were apples carved in various flower shapes.

When I looked up, Lucerne’s eyes gazing at me with his hand on the table met mine.

“At least eat forcibly.”

“I’m sorry.
I really have no appetite.
Shall we get up after you’re done?”


“Think about how Geo and the other children will feel if you collapse,” he said.

I was thinking blankly about if I don’t eat properly because of Geo… My rigid head couldn’t think properly.

Lucerne sighed.

“Do you want the children to feel guilty?”

“Will Geo feel guilty because of me? I’m an imposter who pretends to be a mother.”

“He’s the same kind child who was gentle to Mirana, who spread contempt to others.
The child who still loved the mother who hit and hurt him.
You know better than me.”


Geo was a kind child who cared for people like the scary Lucerne, Mirana, and Henry.
If I said I skipped meals because of him, though he did nothing wrong, he’d apologize.

Then I took my fork and stabbed an apple that Lucerne let go.
The apple crunched and squeaked on the fork.

“I’ll eat.
A kind child shouldn’t hurt anymore.”

“You thought well.
Though your soul has changed, you’re still the biological mother of the children.
That part hasn’t changed even if the situation has.”

I smiled slightly at his rebuke.

I was relieved.
I almost hurt Geo, but Lucerne prevented it.
As he said, the children seemed to be quite precious to him.
I only thought they were hostages to hold onto Astia.

The curve of my lips stiffened.
My heart ached with sadness.
Tears almost fell.
Lucerne looking after the children softened my heart.

My throat tightened.
“Was telling the children the truth…really the right thing to do?”

I know there’s no answer.
Though I asked even knowing he can’t give me an answer.

I shook my head quickly.
“I’m sorry.
It was an unnecessary question.”

Tears fell down.
Geo’s teary face crossed my mind, hurting my heart.
I hugged the fork as if it were a lifeline and curled up.

Lucerne knelt on the floor slowly.
Seeing me crying from below, Lucerne spoke in a small but determined voice.
“It was the right thing.”

My chest went ‘kung’.
I met Lucerne’s eyes after stopping my sob.
I forgot I should compose my expression, surprised.

Lucerne made a sad face seeing mine.
“You did well,” he said.


“It was something you had to do someday.
It was good to quickly remove the rotten parts before your bond with the child deepened.
Though you didn’t intend it, since a problem arose anyway.”

My lips trembled.
Tears didn’t stop.

“What if I just lived my whole life pretending not to know? Wasn’t that possible?”

“You know that’s impossible,” he said.

“Wouldn’t it be possible if we kept Collis’s mouth shut and you and I remained silent?”

Lucerne took a short breath and fell into thought, then closed his eyes and pulled his face closer.
I was startled, thinking he wanted to kiss me, but it was a mistake.

“Hit me.”


“Test if you can live pretending to be Astia.
The thing Astia did most when with me was hitting my cheeks, so try it.”

It was impossible for me.

Lucerne easily explained why I couldn’t be Astia.

Her beautiful features, hair scattered on her forehead, pale cheeks, sharp jawline – everything was lovely.

I wanted to pull Lucerne closer and kiss him, not hit his cheek.

I stood still like a mute, then Lucerne opened his eyes I had closed.
My face reflected clearly in his gem-like eyes, showing we were close.

You’re different from Astia.
Quite the opposite actually.”

Sadness welled up.
Tears swelled in my eyes.

His words felt like saying I couldn’t replace Astia.
It felt like saying he couldn’t love me because I didn’t resemble Astia.

Lucerne stared at my teary eyes as he continued.

“You could’ve pretended to be Astia.
But like you first thought, the children would’ve been confused.
They would’ve been mixed up between Hyerim and Astia.”

Like Geo at the Full Moon Festival, they would’ve lived with anxiety that their old mom might return someday.

I shook my head after swallowing my tears.

Cruelly, Lucerne’s faint voice comforting me soothed my heart.

“You can’t regret what you’ve already said.
All you can do now is hope Geo overcomes his sadness well.
A mother’s death cannot be undone.
If he gets through this crisis, the child will grow steadier and tough.
That’s how children grow.”

Lucerne was right.
I didn’t want to make Geo sad, but Astia was dead and couldn’t return.

I looked at my two hands.

“I hope Geo copes well.
At least I can hug him warmly.
Astia may have been beautiful, smart, and great, but she didn’t love the children.
I will.
I’ll say I love them and hug them.”

“That will be enough.” His short answer touched me.

Because of the moisture, a hazy light appeared around Lucerne and the candle.

“Thank you.
I thought I loved the children most, but you also cherish and trust them a lot.
I’m relieved,” I said.

“Just because I think of the children…” Lucerne smiled wryly and fell silent.

We said nothing for a while.

Lucerne’s breath tickled my face.

Excitement, regret, something ran through my whole body.
My fingertips tingled.

The man I loved was within reach.
I wanted to hold him in my arms, to hold him.

Burning with desire, I unconsciously twitched, noticing my selfish heart.
Lucerne stood up.

“Finish your meal first, I’ll tell them to prepare food again.”


I continued eating, swallowing my regret.

The pallor on Lucerne’s face darkened and took on a reddish hue.

* * *

The autumn sun painted the garden in long shadows, making it somehow lonely.
Not just because some purple flowers had withered and fallen to the ground.

Seti threw a stick on the ground, and Rie sat down forcefully while Marley and Seti were drawing on the ground.

“Yuck! Marley yuck! Draw for me!”

“Ugh, I hate you too! I like brother Geo!”

“Marley, you’re not a kid but acting like one.
Draw properly!”

He seemed to want to draw a line for fun, but his mind didn’t comply.

The children, who’d been waiting for the eldest brother for days, kept bumping heads but without the child who guided them, they just kept whining without satisfaction.

Marley threw her stick and sat down next to Seti.

“Why isn’t brother Geo coming out? Isn’t he bored being locked in his room?”

“He said he wants to study.
He will be 8 soon and needs to study to go to the academy.”

“Does he have to go to the academy?”

“Of course! It’ll be so fun! That’s becoming an adult! At the academy, you can make new friends, walk the streets alone.
You get to choose your clothes in the morning, study, read as many books as you want!”

Rie kept saying how exciting academy life would be, but Marley and Seti were uninterested.

“I just want to keep playing with my brother.”

Marley and Seti puffed up their cheeks, and Rie also drooped her head.

“……Well, I feel the same.”

Though I don’t know what I stood for, I knew what I didn’t.

In reality, the four children were an impossible big family.
When they gathered, it was hectic and noisy with no peace of mind.
Yet when I saw the scene of Geo missing and only three children, I strangely thought four kids should really be four after all.

Geo’s absence was too big.

Translator’s Note: Ah, the complexities of family dynamics! Let’s hope Geo finds his way back to the group soon.
Stay tuned for more heartfelt moments with our little adventurers!

点击屏幕以使用高级工具 提示:您可以使用左右键盘键在章节之间浏览。

You'll Also Like