I struggled to speak, my lips trembling as I finally managed to get the words out.
“Lucerne, is it possible that the decision you mentioned, is it about… restoring my memories? Did you ask Collis for that?”
Please, tell me it’s not true.
Lucerne’s eyes sank heavily.
The eyes that used to sparkle whenever I smiled were now filled with a deep sadness.
“I said I was glad that you lost your memories.”
…Did I make a mistake?
As I released the tension and let my shoulders relax, Lucerne spoke with a hint of hesitation.
“I don’t want to search for your memories.
Even if you’re just a half of yourself without them, as long as you stay by my side, receive my love, and give me your heart, it doesn’t matter.
I’ll bring everything you desire to your feet.
But, aren’t you different?”
Am I different?
It took me some time to grasp the meaning of his words.
I blinked my eyes wide a few times.
“Did I want to regain my memories?”
“You wanted to change, didn’t you? Even if you changed, you still wanted to keep my heart tied to you.
If you didn’t want to regain all your memories, there wouldn’t be anything more to do.
I just… pretended not to know because I didn’t want it.”
“What are you saying? I wanted to regain my memories…”
I was about to deny it, but suddenly, a conversation I had with Lucerne, where I poured my heart out and resolved to live as Astia, came to mind.
“Will you love me no matter what kind of person I am…? Will you promise to love me, and if not, to let me go even if I lose myself?”
I had said those words hoping that Lucerne would love me for who I truly was, not Astia.
But it seemed that Lucerne misunderstood and thought I wanted to return to my original self as Astia.
I was taken aback, and my voice trembled with confusion.
“Did you try to recover my memories because you thought I wanted it?”
“Yes, I did.
Didn’t we talk about it? Unlike me, who can only break and destroy, you are skilled in various types of magic.
You’re perfect for reviving lost memories or breathing life into things.
If the apple tree you planted is also your magic, it will bear fruit in no time.”
Lucerne sighed and ran his hand through his hair.
“…It seems that recovering memories or growing an apple tree won’t be easy tasks.
But while my sister stays in the palace, I will do my best to persuade her.”
“No, no, Lucerne.
Please don’t do that.”
“Don’t do what?”
I quickly nodded my head.
“It’s a misunderstanding.
I… I don’t have any desire to regain my memories.
I was just worried that seeing the change me might make you change your heart.”
You long for the past.
Haven’t I always told you that I’m watching over you? I can’t bear to see you sometimes longing for the past with a distant and sad expression.”
A face longing for the past.
I finally realized.
Lucerne had been staring at me, lost in thought, as I sat there absentmindedly, thinking about ‘Hyerim.’
I quickly shook my head.
“It doesn’t matter.
I’m still perfectly happy.
I don’t want to ruin this life by unnecessarily reminiscing about memories.”
Lucerne’s eyes softened at my last words.
It was an honest sentiment.
I didn’t want to lose my current happy life.
I wanted to continue living as Astia, even with the loss of memories.
I wanted to forget about Astia’s past and Hyerim’s lonely past.
“You’re happy too, aren’t you? Or Lucerne, are you okay with losing this life?”
My question seemed to unsettle Lucerne visibly.
He was about to say no, but as I looked into his wavering eyes and trembling lips.
I looked directly into Lucerne’s eyes, determined to express my desire to embrace the present and let go of any lingering memories.
He instinctively took a step back, trying to avoid my gaze.
If memories resurface, this life we have now will undoubtedly crumble,” I said firmly.
Lucerne’s expression grew distant, and he spoke with a hint of resignation in his voice.
Maybe we’ll find ourselves drifting further apart than before.”
“No, it’s not ‘we’,” I corrected him.
“Fine then, I will find a way to distance myself from you even more than before.”
Before Lucerne could retreat any further, I reached out and grabbed his hand.
“We won’t be able to look into each other’s eyes like this anymore.
We won’t be able to hold hands or share meals together.
Perhaps we may never see each other’s faces again, and even if we do, I won’t be able to smile at you the way I do now.
Is that what you want?”
I had cornered Lucerne in this game where he always loved me more.
Even if it meant pushing him into a corner, I wanted him to stop chasing after the memories of the disappeared Astia.
Lucerne tilted his head as if he were under a spell.
“I wouldn’t want that.”
“Then that’s settled.
Memories or whatever, it doesn’t matter anymore.”
“Astia, are you truly okay? I mean, really, living like this without your memories…” Lucerne’s voice trailed off filled with concern.
It’s more than enough for me, even now,” I assured him.
There was no need for further words.
Lucerne awkwardly raised the corners of his lips, and I smiled in return.
The burden that had plagued me for days had been resolved, and I felt lightness in my heart.
I was relieved that Lucerne would no longer entertain thoughts about Astia’s memories.
Releasing his hand from my grip, Lucerne reversed our positions and gently kissed the back of my hand.
The touch of his lips against my skin tickled, causing me to slightly shrug my shoulders as I laughed once again.
“Thank you, Astia.”
“I should be the one thanking you.”
“Well, now go rest in the bedroom.
I have to attend the dinner banquet before it gets too late.
I wish we could have shared the meal together, but it’s a shame we can’t.”
“Let’s eat together.”
Lucerne furrowed his eyebrows, looking somewhat troubled.
“I’m sorry, Astia.
As the ruler of the palace, I can’t excuse myself from the dinner with the guests who have come to the palace.
I can’t afford to anger the noble guests.
However, we can have breakfast or tea together tomorrow.”
Oh no, did he take my suggestion of eating together as a tantrum instead of a genuine request? How adorable.
That can’t be true, right?
I tilted my head and giggled.
“What are you talking about? Of course, Your Majesty should attend the dinner banquet.
I meant that I wanted to join the banquet as well.”
“You? At the banquet? Tonight?”
Lucerne’s quick question was endearing.
He seemed quite surprised by my proposal.
“Yes, I want to be at the dinner banquet tonight.”
“No, that’s not possible.
Tonight’s dinner is not only for the noble guests but also for Henry and Mirana.
They might say something foolish and distress you further.
I can’t let that happen.
Instead, let’s have breakfast or tea together tomorrow.”
Last time, it wasn’t because of Duke Henry and Duchess Mirana.”
“It wasn’t because of Henry?”
You saw it last time, right? Am I someone who can easily be bothered by them?”
“Even if it’s uncomfortable, I want to greet them properly.
I can’t hide in the bedroom every time they visit.
Though it might be difficult to have a good relationship with them, at the very least, I want to stand confidently.
Besides, I didn’t properly greet Lady Mirana earlier.
Is it not possible?”
“…If you get hurt tonight, I won’t be able to forgive myself.”
“That won’t happen.
Even if I get hurt, I will forgive you.”
Lucerne, who had been lost in thought for a moment, nodded his head.
“If that’s how you feel, then I can’t refuse.
I will instruct the maids to prepare for the dinner.”
“Thank you, I thought you might refuse.”
“Didn’t I say it before? I will do anything you want if you ask.”
“Be careful with those words.
What if I ask you to sell the empire?”
“Do you want me to sell the empire?”
“Of course not.”
I playfully tapped Lucerne’s hand with a smile.
A faint smile appeared on Lucerne’s lips, making his handsome face even more radiant.
The preparations for the dinner banquet were assisted by Asilis.
She may have been a cunning woman, but being a noblewoman with extensive experience working in the palace, she proved quite helpful in these matters.
We had an implicit truce.
After the incident with the poisoning, I forgave Asilis for her previous disregard of me, and in return, she faithfully assisted me in my palace life.
I decided to reward her with praise to Lucerne for her assistance.
It was a reasonable arrangement.
After finishing her preparations, Asilis left the bedroom with a brief remark to wait.
I sat at the edge of the bed, waiting for the maids.
However, when the wait finally ended, the one who came to me was not a maid.
“Always beautiful, but today, particularly stunning.”
I turned my head towards the source of the voice.
Lucerne was leaning against the windowsill.
Lucerne was leaning against the windowsill.
Overjoyed, I approached him with cautious steps and gently took hold of his sleeve.
“What’s the matter? Weren’t you supposed to go prepare for the dinner?”
“I was in the middle of preparing.
I just remembered something I forgot.”
“Then why didn’t you come in through the door? What if I was changing your clothes?”
He blushed at the suggestion that I might have been changing clothes.
I couldn’t help but burst into laughter at the sight of him, resembling a mischievous child.
“But your face right now is adorable.”
He didn’t know how to respond to being called adorable, so he just rolled his eyes in an adorable, absurd manner.
I couldn’t stop laughing, and it made my ribs ache with a pleasant tickling sensation.
“I’m sorry for teasing you.
But why did you come back? You mentioned that you forgot something?”
As Lucerne watched me laughing, he flicked his finger.
A bluish light bounced off his fingertip, swirling around me before disappearing into the floor.
Suddenly, something strange happened.
Without knowing, I waved my arm in the air where the light had been, but nothing could be touched.
“I cast a protective spell.”
“A protective… spell?”
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