Leah looked at Erhart with curious eyes as if she was seeing something strange.
Who on earth was the one lying on the sofa with both eyes closed?

Erhart Winston Hesseles.
The only son of concubine Olivia Winston, who is loved by the emperor so much that word was going around that she would have been appointed as Empress no matter what her background was.
However, he was also the son who was hated by the emperor for unknown reasons.

Leah irrationally once thought that Erhart was the child born of Olivia’s infidelity, but that thought was corrected immediately.

Erhart was born with shiny blonde hair as if made by melting pure gold, which was a symbol of the Hesseles lineage.
And besides that, Erhart had some resemblance to the face of the emperor, who stirred the hearts of socialite ladies with delicate lines and sharp-looking appearance in his youth.

In any case, Erhart, who was pushed out of sight because he was hated by the emperor, never slept during the day when the sun was shining so brightly.
Not just the day.
He didn’t sleep well at night either.
Even if he lay down and closed his eyes, or fell asleep, he slept so lightly that he was woken up by the slightest noise so much so that he didn’t even keep servants in the bedroom or outside the door.

He was always on the edge, and he knew well that he had no choice but to.
Leah had been in the Imperial City as a nanny for more than a decade since she had been baby-sitting him as an infant, so how can she not know? Erhart had not slept for a long time since he came to Argen, and looked at the sea beyond the balcony, and was indifferent to everything.

Of course, even now, he was not interested in and devoted to anything, so it meant a lot that he was closing his eyes during the day, without hearing the sound of her entering.

The soft carpet swallowed the sound of the shoes, but Leah, who consciously quietened her footsteps, approached cautiously.
She looked at Erhart, who was still asleep without even thinking of letting go of what he was holding.

He had a very peaceful expression on his face in the room where the sunlight was pouring in through the large windows on the south side.
The corners of his lips that rose from his usual blank expression or in mocking were still in place, but he still looked youthful.

‘Leah.
If that’s the case, how about going to Marie? I will personally write a recommendation letter to Mother.’

Erhart once scoffed that she should go to his younger sister, Princess Marielle, who had just turned five, if she was going to treat him like a child over and over again.

But the fact that Erhart looked young in Leah’s eyes didn’t mean he really was young.
She watched from the time he couldn’t even walk, and watched his history, from babbling, crawling, walking, learning to horse, and running, so how could he appear so grown up?

She had been watching for a long time, so even if he comes of age, gets married and gives birth to a child, he would remain as an afterimage of when he was a baby in Leah’s eyes.

“…”

Perhaps the mild climate of Argen helped to relieve the hardened heart that was colder than ice and snow.
If that was the case, she would have been grateful to the emperor who drove me here.
She wished he could sleep with such a peaceful face for a long time to come.
It would be perfect if he could meet a good friend with whom you can share your heart or a lover he would promise for the rest of his life and start a family.

It was not something to hope for when seeing a prince who should have been loved by the Emperor because he was the son of the favourite concubine.
He should have knights, or those who wanted to be his lover, at his feet.

Leah swallowed her saliva and turned her back to leave.
He was enjoying a good night’s sleep, so although Olivia had sent a carrier pigeon, she couldn’t wake him up for that reason.
Not to mention the snacks or tea served together.

“I’d rather visit him at night than that.”

Leah, who was going out cautiously, turned her head back to the sound of a low voice.
Blue eyes, cooler than ice and snow, blinking languidly, and looking up at Leah.

“You’re sleeping so sweetly, how could I disturb you?”

Leah went back and put the snacks on the tea table.
There was a sweet fragrance.
Erhart narrowed his eyebrows at the smell of sugar for a moment, and then straightened his expression.
It was because he couldn’t answer Leah’s question as to why he kept asking for sweets despite hating them so much.

“Are you tired? You take a lot of naps.”

Leah continued to talk while pushing our tea in front of me.

He was tired.
He hadn’t been able to sleep for several nights.
Originally, he didn’t sleep deeply, but there was a minimum amount of time to sleep, but now he had been staying up all night these days, so the aftermath eventually came when the sun was up.

“Are you suddenly trying to grow taller?”

“Aren’t your bones throbbing? My younger brother also said that his bones were sore at the age of His Highness, and he grew up a lot.”

Fully alerted to the sight of him lying on the bed when it was time to sleep, without paying attention to the balcony, Leah had no idea that he could not sleep at night.
So she brought up the story of her younger brother and chattered with excitement.

“You’re going too far, it’s just a nap.
Leah.”

From Leah’s point of view, she knew that it wasn’t just one nap.
Except when he was a child he couldn’t remember well, Erhart never took a nap.
He had never slept so deeply that even other people’s presence could not be heard.

If the emperor sends an assassin, he may be helplessly beaten.
Should I be alert? He was unfamiliar with himself looking for a way to live after thinking about that for a while, so Erhart rubbed his lips.

“Is that so?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve already woken up, so it would be better not to sleep anymore.
Your Highness has never taken a nap, so you probably don’t know, but if you nap for a long time, you might see the dawn with dry eyes at night.”

Then, wouldn’t it be better to take a nap at least once a few days if not every day? Erhart kept his expressionless face, and continued to think that Leah would have been surprised if she had read his mind.

“And Her Highness Olivia sent you a letter asking for your well-being.”

What made him stop thinking was a letter sealed with a dark red seal with a thorny rose.
Olivia Winston.
The elegant handwriting on the wheat-colored envelope was Olivia’s.
Even if it was not handwritten, the rose with six thorns was a symbol that the emperor bestowed upon Olivia.
No one could imitate this without being quite crazy.

“…”

Erhart, who was rubbing the dry seal with his finger, tore it open with an expressionless face.
The pale pink interior was filled with the same handwriting that was written on the outer.

It was nothing special.

A brief greeting, the current state of the social world, and the story that Marielle had grown a little in the meantime.
The two-page letter ended with the question of how it was in Argen, and whether it was bad there.

She was not going to write anything important using a carrier pigeon that could be stolen by someone while coming a long way.
Nevertheless, after examining the insignificant content once more, he put it between his fingers and flapped.
Erhart got up from the sofa he had been buried in softly.

As he sat down at a desk that was bigger than his body, Leah took care of quills, ink and parchment.
After immersing the nib in the black ink, Erhart looked down at a blank piece of paper as if to organise his thoughts, and moved his hand without hesitation.

Like Olivia’s letter, his greetings meant nothing much to anyone who looked at them.
The crackling sound of a pen on parchment filled the scheduleless afternoon.

———

After filling out all the letters that would take a few days to be sent, he finished eating, and after walking around the palace grounds, the sun finally set.
Leah and the attendant who made the bedding left and Erhart got up from the bed as soon as he was left alone.
He leaned against the wall, accustomed to navigating the path, and went outside.

He was so used to it that he was able to get out of the passage without getting lost without floating a magic orb that emits light.
After walking a little from the cave with the passageway, Erhart loosened his robes and sat down on a rock.

How long has he been doing this?

Ripples rose beneath the surface of the water, and a familiar face popped up.
He only came at night, and Erhart spent the night with him wide-awake, and eventually surprised Leah by dozing off during the day.
Still, looking at Erhart with a blank expression on his face, Rayan smiled, and his cheeks lifted.

“Erich!”

“Did you wait long?”

Rayan shook his head.
Looking at him, Erhart lowered his body and sat down, taking out the cookie he had brought into his robe’s pocket.
Rayan’s eyes lit up when he heard the rustling sound.

“Are you waiting for me, or are you waiting for this cookie?”

“Both.”

The confident answer, which seemed to contain no worries, was brazen, but not detestable.
After giving him a cookie, he looked it over and took a bite.

“What do you think?”

“Sweet, … uh, I don’t know what this tastes like.”

Rayan tried it and held it out to Erhart as if he wanted an explanation.
Who gives the prince some cookies he had taken a bite out of? Of course, he was not a human, he was a mermaid, so there were no restrictions and no need to point it out, but at first Erhart was embarrassed when he held it out thoughtlessly.

Erhart, who now took a bite quite skillfully, licked his tongue at the stinging sweetness, then pondered what the unknown taste he was talking about.
A piece of dried fruit was chewed.

“It’s called sour.”

“Sour?”

He answered Rayan and held it out back to him, who was tilting his head, and took another bite.
His eyes glittered with delightful light.

‘What’s this?’

They shared each other’s names, and fifteen nights passed them by.

On the first day, Erhart had taken a madeleine just in case Rayan could not take my eyes off the thing he had created with magic.
Because he was so curious about the outside world.
He remembered Rayan, who watched with a vigilant eye and ate and then opened his eyes wide.
Her cheeks were red and her eyes gleamed.
When he was in a good mood, his tail, which was slightly exposed above the surface of the water, swayed softly.

Since then, the reaction has intensified when he brought something a little sweeter than a madeleine.
Rayan clearly liked sweets and his reaction was funny and even cute, so Erhart has kept asking for sweet cookies or cakes since then, at the risk of Leah’s suspicious gaze.

Of course, he didn’t just bring him what he liked.
For some reason, he wanted to play a prank on Rayan, so he even gave Rayan a bittersweet fruit.
It was uncharacteristic of himself.

‘… You, human.
What’s this?’

At that time, he could not avoid being splashed with water by Rayan, who had eyes full of disbelief.
He didn’t even fan with his hands, so in the end Erhart had to apologise and promise never to do it again.

The most unbelievable thing is a promise without any proof, so it was a little concerning as Erhart watched Rayan, who believed it flat out and took what I gave him without question.

“Eat cleanly.”

Watching him eat little by little, he reached out and wiped the crumbs off his lips.
Now, when he touched his hand, instead of moving away, he felt a little strange as he moved closer.
So, although it was surprising, he was also happy.
It was a childish feeling.

“El.”

Rayan, who wiped it off as much as he could, called him again, with crumbs around his mouth.
Erhart gave him a nickname, but Rayan shortened it to El.
It was a nickname that young princesses who haven’t made their social debut could be called.
It was a strange feeling so he told him to call him Erich a few times, but Rayan didn’t even pretend to listen and called him El, so he gave up.

“What?”

He replied, removing the crumbs from his mouth, without telling him not to call him that anymore.
No matter how oppressed he was by his father and a crown prince in name, he was accustomed to being served rather than serving others but now it seemed natural to take care of others.

“What’s the matter?”

“…”

“Hm?”

Green eyes with an innocent light looked at him.

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