After a while, Calib entered the dining hall with Dipeume and several palace attendants.
He quickly assessed the situation, maintaining a calm demeanor, and attended to Mirana.


“She had a seizure,” Caleb remarked.

Geo, who had been sitting nearby, nodded.
The sweat that had formed on the child’s chin dripped onto the floor.

“You arrived quickly, sir,” Geo said.

“This is the palace.
You’ve been through a lot.
From here on, it’s my responsibility,” Caleb replied.

Caleb gestured to the palace attendants standing behind him, and they promptly removed Geo’s finger from Mirana’s mouth.

Marley and Rie’s faces turned pale.

“Oh no, is brother okay…?”

“Oh, brother.
You must be in so much pain… What should we do…?”

Startled by the children’s words, I leaped over the broken table.
One of the palace attendants poured clean water onto Geo’s hand and wiped it with a cloth, which quickly turned red with blood.
My chest grew cold.

“Geo, my goodness! What is happening? Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.
Oh, it’s cold.”

You’re clearly not fine!

Blood continued to flow from Mirana’s injured gums, staining her teeth.
Tears welled up in my eyes without realizing it.

“Oh, what do we do? Geo… I’m sorry, Mom is sorry…”

“But why should Mom be sorry when Grandma is the one who did it?”

Geo lightly chuckled.
The smile on the seven-year-old’s face seemed too mature, making me even more emotional.

Amidst the falling tears, Lucerne swiftly approached us.

“Astia, are you alright?”

“Lucerne, what do we do? Geo is hurt…”

The palace attendant, who had been inspecting Geo’s wound, hesitated, as if unsure how to respond after witnessing the falling tears.
Lucerne pushed the attendant aside and sat beside Geo.
He examined the injured hand and licked his lips.

“Don’t cry, Astia.
The injured person seems unfazed, so what will happen if you cry?”


“But…”

Lucerne tightly held Geo’s injured finger.
The child furrowed their brows, indicating that the wound still stung, but he didn’t groan or cry.

The blue light in Lucerne’s hand flickered for a moment before fading away.
He released Geo’s hand that he had been holding.

Geo, blinking their eyes as if unable to comprehend what had happened, slowly lowered their head and looked at their own hand.
The wound had healed cleanly, just like my palm had earlier, leaving no trace.

In a casual tone, Lucerne spat out, “You endured well.”

“Are you referring to me?”

“Yes.”

“Ah…”

Geo’s green eyes trembled and sparkled brilliantly.
It was like a tiny universe filled with countless stars.
Their face expressed as much gratitude as when I shared milk with them, but it carried an even more dignified expression.

The palace attendants quickly took care of Mirana and escorted her out of the dining hall.

Dipeume sighed deeply and reported to Lucerne, “It appears she had a seizure due to shock.
It doesn’t seem to be a serious illness, but if the handling had been improper, the foam or vomit could have blocked her airway, potentially leading to a life-threatening situation.
The child’s response was excellent.”

“I see.”

Lucerne bowed his head and locked eyes with Geo.
The child blushed, seemingly embarrassed.

“Well, sometimes Mom used to have episodes like that.
She seems to be fine these days.
This place is nice.
In our neighborhood, there was never a time when the doctor arrived before Mom threw up and fell asleep.”

I felt my heart break once again at Geo’s hesitant voice filled with embarrassment.

How terrifying it must have been.

The child, who trembled uncontrollably by their mother’s side, not responding when called and anxiously waiting for time to pass while biting their fingers, looked pitiful.
I pulled their small body closer and held them in my arms.

“It’s okay, Geo.
It’s okay now.”

“Yes, Mom.
Now that I’m okay, please don’t cry.”

I bit my lip, holding back tears.

It felt like the child was not the one being embraced by me, but rather that they were supporting me.
Their trembling back as I gently patted it made me too touched to find the words to say.

Seated beside us, Seti, who had been watching over us, suddenly jolted upright.

“Grandpa, does it hurt?”

Surprised, I quickly lifted my head.


Seti approached Henry, who had been sitting dazedly since Mirana disappeared.
The child didn’t hesitate or falter, immediately hugging the man who became their grandfather.

Due to the sudden event, everyone, including myself, the other children, Lucerne, Dipeume, and Henry, widened their eyes and froze.

Henry, who was staring intently at the hand gently patting his shoulder, hesitantly began to speak.

“You, you… How dare you lay a hand on me?”

Contrary to the content, his voice trembled thinly, as if deeply moved.

Lucerne murmured in an indifferent voice.

“I will have the chance to witness this for a long time.
Seeing someone patting my father’s shoulder.”

“Lucerne!”

“Did I say something wrong?”

Instead of a response, Henry let out a growl-like sound, resembling an injured animal.

Dipeume coughed awkwardly, attempting to change the atmosphere.

“Your Highness Henry, please follow me.
Lady Mirana is about to wake up, and it would be best for you to be by her side.”

“…Very well.”

As Henry followed Dipeume out of the dining hall, Lucerne also stood up from his seat.

“Astia, let’s go back as well.”

“Alright.”

“Caleb, send the children back and prepare dinner again to bring to the bedroom.”

“Understood.”

While Lucerne gave instructions to the servants, I released Geo from my embrace and interacted with the children.

“It was a chaotic evening.
Is everyone okay? And Mom, are you alright? Earlier, that scary lady tried to hurt you.”

“Yeah, Mom, I’m fine.
You saw earlier, right? Mr.
Lucerne protected us.
Mr.
Lucerne is a kind and powerful superhero, so don’t worry.
Now, it’s time to go back to our rooms.
Listen to Mr.
Caleb and see you tomorrow.
Goodnight, everyone.”

“Yeah! We won’t worry.
Mom, sleep well.”

“Bye, Mom! See you tomorrow.”

“Good…niiiiight! I’m going first!”


“Mwah-bye!”

The children greeted each other and walked away.

As they passed by, I looked at each child one by one, and at the end, our eyes met with Geo.
I winked with one eye, as if to say, “You did well today.
You worked hard.” In response, Geo, who had widened his eyes in surprise, immediately broke into a delighted smile.

After returning to the bedroom, Lucerne and I had a simple dinner in the reception room.
We sat facing each other, but neither of us spoke.

I mulled over what had happened at the dining table.
Collis’s venomous face, as she pulled out strands of hair, in an attempt to expose my true identity, kept lingering in my mind.

Collis was said to be capable of various kinds of magic.
Perhaps, unlike Lucerne, who can extract memories from people’s bodies, he can retrieve memories from non-human objects, like hair.
For example, my hair, which belonged to Astia.

I wondered if it would show the memories from before the possession.
However, I worried whether it would reveal anything and if it would be safe.

Just as the tea, which had been left untouched, started to cool, Lucerne finally spoke.

“Today… I’m sorry.”

His voice, filled with dejection, jolted me back to reality.

“It’s okay.
Thank you for protecting me.”

“I hold her in such high regard, that’s why.
When I was young, I relied on her and she saved my life many times.”

Lucerne touched his neck with a sorrowful expression.

I felt like I understood a little now.
Every time he mentioned death, Lucerne would touch his neck.
Perhaps someone had tried to strangle him, but with Collis’s help, he survived.
That’s why Lucerne treated Collis with kindness and affectionate conversations, unlike his strained relationships with Henry and Mirana.

Lucerne had persistently persuaded and bargained with Collis, even if a slight mistake could lead to death.
I understood his attitude now, considering the close encounter with life and death that they shared.

“I think I love you a lot.”

“I’m not sure if love is the right word for the emotion.”

“Love can take various forms.
It’s not just limited to romantic love between a man and a woman.”

“…I’m not so sure.”

His response, filled with loneliness, stirred my heart.
I used to sympathize with and feel a sense of camaraderie towards the lonely Lucerne, but not anymore.
It hurt.
I wanted to comfort him.

I lowered my head.

“…Collis said she loves you.
Moreover, you love me.
You are receiving and giving love.
So, don’t feel lonely.
Don’t say that you don’t know love.”

My words made Lucerne smile bitterly.


“Astia, you…”

Before he could finish his sentence, the reception room door suddenly swung open.

Bang!

Collis, who had torn my hair at the dining table, stormed in with a crimson face.

Lucerne stood up from his seat and stepped forward, hiding me behind him.

“Why have you come here again, sister? The defensive magic I cast on Astia is still active, so don’t even think about laying a hand on her.
I won’t listen to your talk about not being able to love Astia anymore.
Please leave.”

Furious and trembling, Collis threw the bundle of golden hair he had been holding onto the floor.
The strands of hair scattered haphazardly on the smooth marble floor.

“Lucerne, I told you.”

“I told you to leave, Your Highness.
I don’t want to use forceful magic on you.
This is my final request.
Please, just leave.”

Collis exclaimed in a firm tone.

“That woman is not Astia! Lucerne, you’ve been deceived!”

…What?

It felt as if all the blood in my body drained to my toes.
Dizziness overcame me, and my vision darkened.
Lucerne’s back, which had been shielding me, drew closer and then moved further away repeatedly.

Could it be? Did she see it?

With Astia’s hair, my memories? No, right? I hope not, please.

Fear made my body shrink, but if I retreated here, it would be admitting that I am not Astia.
I fought against that thought.

“Why are you spouting nonsense?”

“Shut up!”

Lucerne’s low voice echoed faintly.

“Don’t say Astia is not Astia.
Don’t utter such ridiculous words.”

Collis’s gaze passed over Lucerne’s shoulder and landed on me.
To her, my pale face was clearly visible.

Staring at me without blinking, Collis sharpened her gaze.

“Yes.
I don’t know how that cunning vixen managed to deceive you, but I understand that reasoning with you is impossible.
So, look closely with your own eyes.
See the true identity of that woman.”

From the scattered hair, a clear, yellowish light emanated.
The light created a thin barrier in the air, just like when Lucerne showed me Asilis’s memories before.

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