No, upon careful consideration, the premise was wrong.
While Hyerim might not feel desire, Astia could definitely feel it! Completely! Without a doubt!
However, Lucerne never even hinted at such intentions.
He was the Emperor, and I decided to stay by his side to protect and care for the children.
He could have taken advantage of me as Astia, but he didn’t.
Probably because he still cherishes Astia… I suppose.
The sound of raindrops falling made me startle suddenly without realizing it and gulp.
It was just the two of us, Lucerne and me, in the huge tub.
Lucerne, a gentleman among gentlemen and shy, had come in using an instant transmission magic that he usually used for assassination.
Fortunately or unfortunately, we couldn’t see each other’s naked body and only existed in the same water.
I had been hugging my shoulders in a corner of the tub for a long time.
Collis, safety, life, everything felt distant.
As I gazed at the white steam rising from the water, my head ached.
My heart beat like crazy as if I was sick.
It’s this tense to be in such a space with someone you like.
Will Lucerne be the same? Will he be tense, embarrassed and curious about my figure beyond the partition, like me?
My thoughts were cut off.
It was stupid of me.
Of course Lucerne wouldn’t be like me, even if he was tense, embarrassed and curious about beyond the partition.
What makes him tense and embarrassed is Astia, and what makes him curious beyond the partition is also Astia.
Because Lucerne likes Astia, not me.
When I thought that Lucerne liked Astia, my heart that had been beating fast gradually calmed down.
As Lucerne was kinder to me, my heart kept dying little by little.
I thought it was okay.
Even though Lucerne didn’t love me, I would love him the same, and I thought I could accept gratefully the love he poured onto Astia instead of me.
But it wasn’t easy.
It was tiresome to have to be protected by Lucerne without any prospect.
As I continued thinking blankly, Lucerne spoke.
“……Let’s wash up.”
We have to wash.”
The voice in the watery space sounded as foreign as the one I heard in bed.
I came to my senses and quickly moved.
I soaked the sponge in water and rubbed my arms.
Beyond the partition, it was still quiet without a ripple.
“Lucerne, you wash up too.
You should wash while I’m washing.”
I don’t need to wash separately because I have magic.”
“Ah… That magic is convenient.”
“When I was six, to escape a rebellion, I hid in a secret warehouse for ten days.
I yearned so much to wash off the itch and irritation that I somehow learned the magic.”
Suddenly, the water on my lips tasted bitter.
What a bitter person.
“I’m here not to wash but because I’m worried something might happen to you.
So don’t mind me and wash comfortably.”
“Okay, I’ll wash quickly.”
Washing alone felt strange already though it used to be natural when I was Hyerim.
I gently massaged and sprayed water on my skin.
Though I disliked and was embarrassed, when I actually washed, Lucerne didn’t really bother me.
I even thought he had left because it was quiet.
He’s still here.
“I thought you’d left because it’s quiet.”
A low laugh was heard.
“You seem to have already forgotten why I came in.”
“That’s not true.
It’s just that there’s no sound.”
“Or did I look like a person who would disappear outside and leave you alone?”
“That couldn’t be.”
“That’s a relief then.”
After that, Lucerne closed his mouth and fell silent again.
* * *
Days passed as Lucerne and I stayed together without parting for a moment.
Thanks to the ironclad security, not a single suspicious shadow came near me.
Every day was peaceful and the sense of crisis faded.
“No, that’s not it.
You have to blow it up more.”
“Like this? Huu huu!”
“Ah, that’s enough! I know how to do it!”
“Kraaa! Why won’t it work for me?”
“Yay! Wow, Seti did well!”
“Yay! Wow, Seti did well!”
“Seti did it.
Rie, you can do it with a little more practice.”
“That was good.
I can do it too! Huuu!”
“Yuck! Rie can’t do it! Kraa!”
“Marley, brother will teach you.
First, don’t shout.”
As Marley screamed, her outstretched hands were trembling in midair.
Geo corrected his posture next to her and kindly explained how to do it.
When Rie succeeded in the magic after mumbling to herself, she flopped down on the floor.
Lucerne, who was teaching magic next to them, nodded his head.
You’ve all learned it correctly.
Practice the same magic ten times, and then come back.
I’ll have you try it directly on Hyerim.”
“Yuck! Do I have to do it ten more times?”
“Seti, one, two, three, four, six….!”
“Seti, you’re counting the numbers wrong.
After four comes five.”
“One, two, three, four, five, seven.”
“You missed six this time.”
“Ahk! Rie, what do I do if you shoot a water gun at me?”
“Oh, ehehe, sorry.”
The children practiced magic playfully and Lucerne taught them seriously next to them.
Recently, Lucerne has been teaching the children magic in earnest.
It was for preparation in case of Collis’s attack, but the process was fun.
The children obeyed Lucerne well, and patient Lucerne coped well with the noisy and willful children.
The five gathered in an unfamiliar magic practice looked like a real family.
“Geo, stop and help Marley.
Rie and Seti, practice a little more by yourselves.”
When the children answered brightly, “Yes!”, Lucerne made me, who had been sitting watching, stand up.
We moved to a tea table under the tree.
“It wasn’t difficult because the children are talented.”
Lucerne drank cold water.
Though it was approaching the dead of winter, Lucerne’s nape exposed above his dress from wrestling with the children practicing magic under the sun was dotted with sweat.
The sweat that glittered in the sunlight was very pretty.
Lucerne put down the glass on the table and looked at the children frolicking.
“It’s because of you.
Learning and mastering magic is not easy for children.
Their body and mind get tired quickly.
The children are willingly challenging that difficult task to protect you.”
“Is that so?”
“It’s almost done now.
Today they can cast magic on you.”
Though the children’s magic was not as strong as Lucerne’s, unlike him, they had their own specialized areas.
Lucerne said that if the children cast protective magic together with him, the effect would be better.
Lucerne willingly volunteered to teach magic and the children diligently practiced the difficult magic.
I was truly grateful countless times.
“If you are grateful, cherish your life.
You have to live healthily for a long time.”
I smiled bitterly at the careless answer.
I have to pretend to be Astia for a long time.
“Marley, He’s Lucerne.”
The children called for us, each raising their voices.
“They seem ready now, faster than I thought.”
Lucerne stood up first and held out his hand to me.
Receive the gift the children have prepared.”
I hesitated for a moment, taken aback by the sudden hand in front of me, but I soon lightly put my hand on the big hand and stood up from my seat.
“Mom, hurry up! I’ll forget!”
“Brother, look! We can do it now!”
“We can do it now!”
The children approached the garden center, chattering.
As Geo, Marley, Rie and Seti surrounded me, Lucerne withdrew his hand and stepped back.
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