“But I miss my mom and dad more than that though.”
And whilst living as a child for ten years, the coquettish and spoiled tone of speech, which she had practiced to avoid being too suspicious shone through.
Lise smiled softly at Asha’s words.
“You miss your parents? His Highness and Her Highness…they will also arrive here soon.”
Lise said whilst stroking Asha’s head.
“Originally, I thought you would arrive with His Highness, but…”
Lise’s faint murmur faded into the background.
Asha tilted her head.
‘Huh? But how come my mom and dad said they couldn’t come?’
When Yuriel’s escapade but not an escapade had ended quickly, the attendants had advised her parents to go with her when she had boarded the carriage to go to the imperial palace.
However, Yuriel and Irina had turned down the offer with a face that seemed as if they were crying tears of blood, and sent her off to the palace alone.
‘Now I know why.’
Yuriel never intended to take even another step into the palace.
She now knew that that conviction had existed even before she was born, and had only become more established ever since then.
“If you sleep for ten nights, then you’ll be able to see them soon.”
“No, actually, five nights! It’s already past midnight, so if you get past today, then one night has already passed.”
Then Lise folded a finger and gave her a soothing smile.
It seemed as if the longest time a child could possibly imagine was five days, and the amount of time they could wait was also around the same time.
Asha did not have the heart to say in front of such a Lise that “It took me six nights to come here, so even if my parents left home yesterday, they wouldn’t be able to come here in five.”
“You know the spirit you signed? That spirit will help you meet them.”
“Even though it’s a small bird spirit?”
“Doesn’t it have wings? Now, you should go to sleep so a night can pass, right?”
Lise gave her a cute smile and covered her with a blanket.
She didn’t seem to be able to answer the question of when she would be able to return.
“I have some work to do in kitchen of the main palace for a while, so if you have a nightmare or have anything you need, just pull on this bell.”
The servants on duty in Taymyr Palace would either hear the bell or they’d call Lise.
“It’s night time but you’re going to cook?”
Lise whispered, shaking her head as she swept a hand over Asha’s forehead.
“So far, the Empire has been at war until now, but it’s over now.
That’s why we’ve been told that we’re going to have a celebration party soon, so I have to go prepare for that.”
She gave an an explanation that was easy enough for a child to understand.
“Is it a very big party?”
“Of course it is, because Karno Neustadter is also coming back from war.”
After she finished speaking, Lise patted her blanket for a long time before finally leaving the room.
As soon as her surroundings were quiet and devoid of people, Asha immediately jumped out of bed.
She couldn’t fall asleep at all.
The problem was that Asha had completely forgotten about the matter.
Since the last time she had seen this story was about a decade ago, if she was being honest, the only thing she could remember was a rough impression of the plot.
However, once I had heard his name just once, the information about Karno immediately came to mind with surprising clarity.
In the original book, when the ‘Imperial Grandchild, Anastasia’, had run wild on a rampage and had begun to threaten Alexei, obviously Alexei’s aides had not had a good impression of her.
Amongst Alexei’s aides, was Karno Neustadter, who was an impressive character in various ways.
Although he was the successor to the Neustadter family and had been sent to a battlefield before he had come of age, Karno had still given all of his military merits and achievements to Alexei, who was a close friend.
‘Since the two had been close friends ever since they were kids.’
Karno himself had the right to succeed the throne, but gave it up before his coming of age and came to support Alexei in his succession.
But what would he have done if another imperial grandchild appeared in front of him and started getting in the way of everything?
Karno acted like he was on the verge of grinding Anastasia’s bones into dust and drinking it.
Then finally, the man who kickstarted the fall by of Imperial Grandchild Anastasia, by accelerating her road to ruin like a rollercoaster with a broken rail, was that Karno Neustadter!
If you made a statue which embodied the values of benevolence, love, tenderness and magnanimity, it would probably be in his image.
And at this time, that Karno Neustadter is finally returning from the battlefield.
So they had already started preparing for the banquet.
After all, it was only natural to celebrate the return of war heroes.
However, the reason why they were already going to the palace’s main kitchen to prepare was because amongst the war heroes, there was one noble who had the right to succeed the throne.
And that person was Karno Neustadter, which was the very reason why he was coming back.
‘N-No, I’m not going to meet him, even if he comes back.
I’m going to go back home soon anyways!’
Asha had just wanted to bake some snacks.
But baking them in this imperial palace, where you didn’t know when or how your life was going to end?
‘I’ll do it anywhere but here!’
Although her family was extremely poor, the day where they would finally be able to get butter and sugar would surely come!
Her parents were also on her side this time, so all she needed to do was stay alive.
To do so, more than anything else, she had to get out of this palace quickly.
Asha, who had been tossing and turning the whole night, thinking about various things, held her breath the moment she heard a sound somewhere else.
‘Did I hear wrong?’
But she soon found out that she hadn’t misheard anything.
The feathers of one of the peacocks painted in the pattern of the blanket she was using turned as yellow as a chick.
As Asha raised her body and tilted her head, and the yellow bird which had been but an embroidering on the blanket, gradually became more three-dimensional, and popped out.
The bird circled above her head, then flew off the terrace and flapped its wings.
In a swoop, the chilly winter wind from outside suddenly came rushing in through the window, which was now wide open.
“H-Huh? What is it? Aren’t you my spirit…No, wait, where are you going?!”
After following the bird for a quite a long way, Asha now looked around, worrying about the way back to her room.
Inside the dark room with tiled walls which was illuminated by a dim light, the faint sound of boiling water could be heard.
Various cooking utensils were hung up on one side of the wall.
When she opened the cabinet drawer, neatly organised kitchen knives were lined up by their type as well as a few sets of cutlery appeared.
“This is the kitchen…?”
This seemed to be the palace kitchen.
It was simple for an imperial kitchen.
As she carefully went inside and looked around, the bird that she had been looking for landed right in front of her eyes and onto the counter.
The little bird that had sprung up from her blanket was definitely her spirit, so since she thought that it would eventually return to her by itself, she decided to leave it alone and didn’t care where it went.
Nevertheless, Asha eventually followed the spirit as she wouldn’t have any excuses to tell Lise when she saw her pyjamas torn to rags.
This was because her spirit, despite looking like a chick which was only the size of her palm, pulled on her pyjamas as if it would tear her apart.
“You, stop it and let’s go back now…”
Asha, who was trying to persuade the bird that had run into the kitchen, opened her eyes wide in shock when she saw what the bird was carrying toward her.
A chick, the size of a child’s palm, was performing an act that belonged in a circus, carrying something similar to a dark brick, the size of an adult’s forearm.
‘Huh? Is this chocolate…? Just where did you get this from?’
In the meantime, the small bird kept bringing her other random things and putting them onto the counter, searching the kitchen as if it was its own house.
Unable to overcome her curiosity, Asha found a scaffolding box and stood on top of it, rummaging through the things the bird had brought to her.
“Chocolate, butter, eggs? This white powder…It’s like flour.
This is sugar?”
When she dipped her finger into the fine white powder and tasted it, there was a hint of sweetness on her tongue.
A vivid sweetness flashed through her mind.
It was the same sweetness that had swirled around her at the spirit ceremony just this afternoon.
It had definitely been harvested from well-raised sugar cane, boiled and then dried to make it into this.
‘Wait, were my tastebuds always this sensitive?’
She felt as if she would be able to tell where it came from if only she had tasted a bit more.
Then, she her eyes met the black eyes of the yellow bird.
Something was popping back up in her mind…
— Mom, dad, I miss you…even if it’s the palace, it’s cold here…I want to go home…I want to eat cake…
“…don’t tell me it’s cake ingredients?!”
The bird nodded passionately as soon as it heard her words.
At the same time, Asha looked around and grabbed the bird with both hands, shaking it.
“You want me to make a cake here? When I don’t know what will happen if I get caught?!”
Even if she was the emperor’s granddaughter, just what could she do?
The emperor radiated a force so strong, it seemed as if even if he was stabbed, he wouldn’t lose even a single drop of blood.
She could still see her older cousin’s smiling mouth and cold eyes, right in front of her.
In a palace with such an emperor, Asha was very reluctant to use the kitchen to her heart’s content.
In addition to that, she was also the Imperial Grandchild Anastasia, the one who in the future, would receive a monopoly of everyone’s scrutiny and hostility.
She didn’t want to do anything else that would attract attention.
You, wait…wait a minute! Why are you crying?! Don’t cry! What did I even say…”
But at Asha’s words, the chick-like thing started crying and pouting again.
Asha was flustered at the sight and eventually ended up raising both hands up in defeat.
It wasn’t that she didn’t want to make any snacks.
Her mother taught the local children in her neighbourhood things like self-defence, and her father also raised money by painting or selling copies.
However, just maintaining an old and shabby house already cost them a considerable amount.
The idea of buying a sack of sugar which was extremely expensive, was unthinkable to them.
If they had enough food to eat for the month and had extra money, it was all spent on some of Asha’s clothes and hiring musicians, so it was true to say that they really had no money to spare.
But even in such a house, she still had her parents who were waiting for her return.
Asha’s desire to go home was genuine.
But it was also true that if she went back home, being able to bake snacks would also be a long way off in the future.
“Okay, I’ll make it! I said I’m making it! Hmph.
If I make it and say it’s for grandpa, they couldn’t possibly blame me too much, right?”
As soon as the bird heard her, it stopped crying and burst into a clear bell-like laugh.
It was as if the bird had understood her every word.
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