Tap, tap.
I woke up to the sound of a neat knock.
It was already noon, with the sun high up, as if I had been deeply asleep.

‘I must have been really tired.’

Rubbing my eyes, I got up from my bed, and once again, I heard the knocking sound.

Tap, tap―

“Siara, it’s your mother.”

“Come in.”

As permission was given, my mother entered.
She had her hair neatly pinned up and was wearing a light indoor dress.
The disheveled appearance I had seen before was nowhere to be found, replaced by an elegant demeanor.
Looking at her made me feel embarrassed as if I had been lying in bed until the sun rose high in the sky.

‘I’ve been living comfortably for too long.’

I was born into a noble family.
During my time in the Expeditionary Force, I was too busy surviving to bother with etiquette and manners.
However, returning to the mansion brought back the habits I had learned and internalized throughout my life.

Moreover, Astita was a territory rooted in agriculture.
Therefore, our family always emphasized diligence.
It was no different from the ruling class.

‘Sleeping too much, you might get scolded.
Who knows.’

I muttered while touching the frilled sleeve of my yellow pajamas.

“……I slept in too much, didn’t I?”

Preparing myself for a scolding, I looked up.
Unexpectedly, the words that reached me were warm and affectionate.

“You’ve just come back after a long time.
It’s understandable if you’re tired.”

“You won’t scold me?”

“I’ll scold you later if you keep oversleeping.”


“Well, of course.”

As I raised my head slightly, my mother greeted me with a gentle smile.

“But still, get up now.
If you sleep any longer, you won’t be able to sleep at night.”

“Yes, I’ll get up!”

As I stood up, I hugged my mom tightly.
In response, she looked at me in surprise and then hugged me tightly.

“Honey, did you miss your mommy that much?”

Instead of answering, I nodded my head.
Somehow, my eyes welled up, and my nose felt stuffy.
Then, as if waiting for it, I heard a scolding voice saying, “What will happen if a grown lady cries?” Even that scolding sounded pleasant, and I continued to do so for a while longer.

Instead of pushing me away, Mom hugged me for a long time.
Her embrace was as warm as the midday sun.

* * *

After washing up, a maid informed me that it was time for lunch.
In our family, it was customary to have three meals together unless there were special circumstances, so I understood and replied.

‘Though since my brother became an imperial knight, it’s been only the three of us.’

And with that, I left, taking the seat that both my parents would have held.
It had been a long time since we gathered together.

It was also fun to think about what menu would be served on a day like this.

‘Since it’s lunch, maybe something like a light steak will be served.’

No matter what, it would taste better than jerky eaten on the roadside.
Humming a tune, the maid, Becky, cautiously spoke to me.

“Um, miss.”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Lunch at the mansion will be served in the garden.
So, please wear something light and bring a shawl, and for shoes―”

“Yes, it’s summer, so bring me sandals.”

“And for your hair―”

“Should I tie it up because it might get in the food? Maybe I should tie half of it.
Oh, by the way, can you give me some hairpins?”

“And also―”

“It’s already one o’clock.
I have to arrive in ten minutes.”


“Oh, and a handkerchief! Get me a handkerchief, Becky!”

Becky’s face turned pale.
She pursed her lips several times and then bowed her head.

“I’ll have it ready for you.”

I swallowed a bitter smile as I watched Becky hurry into the dressing room.

‘Becky, you know I can’t be ignorant of such things.’

But Becky must find it strange that I know even the trivial details.
So it would be better for me to pretend not to know, but for some reason, I felt mischievous.

‘I was born and raised here too.’

I loved our domain.
There were no major natural disasters, always warm sunshine shining on the land, a blessed domain where fairies stayed, fresh food, and pure people born and raised on that land.

Moreover, Becky was the daughter of the nanny who raised me.
We were as close as childhood friends, we spent time together without any sense of formality.

That’s why it was a little unsettling to constantly feel their eyes on me.
It wasn’t just Becky.

The gardener who brought beautiful flowers every day, the kitchen chef who praised my good appetite, the housemaid who greeted me every morning, the butler, and even my father and older brother.

‘Now no one remembers me.’

My eyes welled up, and I quickly wiped my tears with my sleeves.
It was sad, but I couldn’t help it.

‘It’s not their fault.’

Above all, my appetite has disappeared.
I couldn’t eat precious food tastelessly.
I clenched my fists to gather my thoughts.

At that moment, Becky came back with clothes.
I energetically spoke to her, sensing her uneasiness.

“We’re running late, let’s get ready quickly!”

Becky nodded with a trembling expression and handed me the clothes.
Even though she probably doesn’t have any memories of me, she skillfully helped me prepare several times.
Despite her usual clumsiness and timid personality, she often made mistakes in everything she did.
That’s why when she became a maid at the mansion, she insisted on serving me.

‘I-I’m immature and a stupid fool, and no one but the young lady will ever use me!’

How much Therid laughed at her bomb-like remark.
Even the nanny scolded her, saying, “Are you trying to provoke the young lady?”

But I liked Becky, and Becky liked me.
Moreover, Becky was timid and didn’t act arrogant, and her skills were good.
Even her personality was lessened in front of me.

She quickly became my dedicated maid.
Everyone who watched her was stunned.

‘It’s good that she still has that habit.’

Becky looked surprised at her skill of neatly tying my hair in a half-bun.
She stared at her hands absentmindedly and slowly blushed.
I called out to the flustered Becky.

“They’re beautiful! Thank you, Becky.
I’ll get you some cookies later.”

Becky loved blueberry cookies sold in the market.
Her taste hasn’t changed, so she nodded shyly.

* * *

As Astita was called the land of sunlight, it was famous for receiving abundant sunlight.
Moreover, natural disasters rarely occurred there, making it a place where one could reap the fruits of their labor.

The residents of the territory, who knew they would be rewarded as much as they worked, were diligent and kind-hearted because life was not difficult.

There was nothing particularly grand, but nothing was lacking in that land.
In the center of that land stood the Astita Mansion.

Built with red bricks, vines flowed over the mansion, and flowers and trees well maintained by the gardener bloomed throughout.
Everything in Astita was beautiful, but the sunflowers that bloomed widely in the summer were especially magnificent.
The sight of the narrow open space around the mansion filled with sunflowers and the mansion placed in the center was like a fairy tale, so a sunflower festival was held every year.

In the mansion’s garden, one could fully enjoy this view.
Therefore, the residents of the mansion often visited the garden.

Even in the scorching heat, it was cool to sit under the shade of a large tree without the need for a fan.

The scent of flowers and the gentle breeze made people feel good, and the mansion was filled with laughter every day.

However, for the past three years, tears and sighs flowed instead of laughter.
Still, the seasons passed, and the sunflowers bloomed.

And finally, like the sunlight shining after a long rainy season, a new person appeared.
The mansion staff greeted her with tense expressions.
It was because her existence could either be poison or medicine.

After three years, it was the moment when the Astita family gathered in the garden again.

* * *

I briskly walked through the mansion’s garden.
Fortunately, it seemed like I wasn’t too late; my parents weren’t there yet.
However, there was an unwelcome guest who had arrived ahead of time.
It was Therid, my older brother. 

He was sitting there, reading a book while maintaining various poses.
As soon as he noticed me, he closed the book loudly and said, dripping with sarcasm, 

“It’s hard to see you face to face.”

Ignoring his mocking tone, I replied without much enthusiasm, 

“I’ve been busy.”

“Busy sleeping, I suppose.”

“Sleeping is also work.”

He laughed mockingly, but I didn’t care.
Therid had been sarcastic for more than just a day or two.

As I took my seat, I gestured to a servant maid. 

“Bring me some tea first.”

The maid hesitated but approached.
Then Therid started to pick a fight over something else he didn’t like. 

“You sure know how to treat the servants like a master.”

“Perhaps Count Therid doesn’t know how to act like a master.”


He began to say something, but our mother and father appeared together, interrupting him.
As soon as Therid saw them, he closed his mouth tightly.
With his silence, the garden regained its peaceful atmosphere.

I drank my tea as if nothing had happened.
Therid also shifted his gaze back to his book.
Then, to my surprise, my mother sat right next to me and asked, 

“Oh, Therid, what’s the occasion for you to be reading a book?”

“Mother, I’ve always enjoyed reading—”

“Starting to study now? Well, it’s good to have both fencing skills and knowledge.
Oh, please bring me some tea too.”

Therid’s eyes darkened even more.
He whispered silently to me, 

“Just wait and see.”

I couldn’t understand why he would vent his anger on me after being scolded by our strict parents.
Moreover, the person telling me to wait and see was the least frightening in the world.

Pretending not to hear, I took a sip of my tea.
Therid was radiating anger, and I played dumb.
Then, our father, who had been silent all along, spoke up.

“Let’s eat.”

Before he finished speaking, the servants swiftly brought out the food, almost frighteningly prompt.

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