Author: alyalia

“…No, sorry for asking.”

 

“Lur, it’s okay to be a fool. Don’t be too upset.”

 

“Why? Are you going to take care of me?”

 

Luensir smiled slightly at Charteron’s words.

 

“You’re good-looking, so I guess having at least one flaw is not bad.”

 

“…”

 

“Did you think it’s just because you’re handsome? Not only are you the only royal prince, you also have territory given by Her Majesty last year, and you also have a kind and cute younger sister like me. Your wife just needs to come prepared to be loved.”

 

“…”

 

“I heard you’re pretty handsome, taking after our mother? Trust me and have confidence in your face! Puff your chest!” As if to cheer up, Charteron tapped Luensir on the back.

 

“…Stop talking and please, let’s sleep.”

 

“Wait. Before we go to bed, write your name on the palm of your hand. Put your little finger on it. Being certain is crucial. There’s no use doing it verbally.”

 

Luensir washed his face dry while looking at Charteron, who continued her words with a solemn expression.

 

“…Where did you learn it?”

 

“It’s clear that you’re out of your mind to only negotiate a contract verbally. Why are you wearing a brain? It must be heavy, so why didn’t you leave it behind?”

 

“Is it His Majesty Father?”

 

Charteron, who followed Arensis’s usual accent, giggled, covering her mouth.

 

“If you do this, I’m really going to sleep.”

 

“I always think about this, but don’t you think our name is too long?”

 

“Name? That’s true. But since we’re members of the imperial family, we can do nothing about it.”

 

“Charteron Laressa Astera von Elioter. Phew, I’m out of breath. No. Now, Marsetta is also included in the middle. This is a secret, but I’m only telling you, so listen carefully.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Actually… I was really worried that Lady Tania might get into trouble when she greeted us by adding Marsetta in our name.”

 

Although she had the right of succession to Duke Marsetta, she lived without using that surname. Since a new related law was enacted last year, her surname has increased by one, and it has become incredibly long.

 

“Do you write down all the names? It’s not just a rough scribble, is it?”

 

“Do you think I’m you?”

 

They stopped bickering only when they hooked their pinkies and bumped their thumbs.

 

At the same time, Arensis, who had just come out of the shower, was drying his hair and thinking about Charteron’s refusal earlier. The more he thought about it, the more depressed he felt. If it was a book, he could read it better than Martin. He really missed Charteron in the past, who would pat the seat next to her and call him to come quickly.

 

“Aren.”

 

“…Ah, Lize.”

 

Charelize, who was already in bed, looking at documents, was puzzled by Arensis. Normally, he’d take the documents with a smile on his face, put them on the desk, and kiss her first. It was strange for him to have a blank expression and not answer when she called him several times.

 

“Lize, did you call me?”

 

He seemed to have a concern. Even though he smiled, he definitely looked restless. His eyes were slightly red as if he had cried.

 

At times like this, Arensis had to drink alcohol to get drunk so he could tell the story little by little. Charelize got up from her seat, drank wine, and invited Arensis to drink it as well.

 

“Wine…? Charel, you’re allergic to it, spit it out!”

 

As soon as he saw wine, Arensis, who remembered her allergy to grapes, held her hand and shouted to spit out the wine quickly.

 

Charelize, who swallowed the wine in her mouth, shrugged to show that she was fine. “It’s okay. It’s made from raspberries, not grapes. It is said to be a special product being prepared by Grand Duke Rakiel, and they sent it to me to taste before being distributed.”

 

“…Ah,” Arensis exclaimed briefly as if he felt relieved and ashamed while sweeping his chest.

 

“You should drink it too.”

 

“…I’ll just drink a little.”

 

After a long time, Arensis, whose face turned red after emptying the wine bottle, finally opened his mouth. “You know…”

 

“Yes.”

 

“The babies… maybe… in their puberty.”

 

“Puberty?”

 

“Just, it’s the same as the last time I went. Actually… I went to put them to sleep earlier… but I got kicked out… I guess they like Martin more than me…”

 

“They definitely spend a lot of time with Martin…”

 

“Huh…?”

 

Charelize was very embarrassed by Arensis’s shocked face.

 

“I mean, um. It’s probably not like that. How old are they, and they’re already in puberty? And Lur is a very independent kid.”

 

“Yes. Lur is like that, but the fact Charteron refused cake is a serious problem.”

 

“Isn’t it because she’s tired from taking swordsmanship class and learning embroidery? It’s her first time learning something consistently for such a long time.”

 

“No. Strangely, I feel like she’s avoiding me.”

 

“…Um.”

 

Charelize was at a loss as to what to say to comfort Arensis. Now that she thought about it, Lili’s words suddenly passed through her mind.

 

“Your daughter is planning something cute. If master were to see that she keeps avoiding him, he would definitely say she’s in puberty.”

 

“Planning?”

 

“If I tell you, I have to wear a ribbon, so that’s a secret.”

 

“Why… What happened?”

 

“Anyway, if that happens, please take care of it.”

 

She turned her head for a moment and laughed at Arensis, who was thinking alone seriously.

 

“What if… she says that… she’s going to get married to someone she likes…”

 

“How old is she, and you are already imagining her to get married? Don’t worry because under the imperial law, minors can’t do it without their parents’ consent.”

 

“It’s not about the law…”

 

“Last year, you stopped Charon from trying to kiss Young Master Raphel on the cheek, telling her to do it to her father instead. Remember?”

 

“How can I forget that…”

 

At that moment, Charteron was very angry and shouted at Arensis.

 

“I don’t like it. I won’t do it. Go away. I hate you, Dad.”

 

Even though Charteron realized that she had gone over too much and immediately apologized, Arensis grieved for over a month.

 

“Your reaction was like this back then. It was so funny.”

 

“…Why?”

 

“Because you’re cute.”

 

As Charelize approached and spoke, Arensis’ face quickly heated up.

 

“I felt like I had three children.”

 

“Don’t make fun of me, Lize. This time, for real… It’s strange. As you said, the baby who kissed me every time she said she was sorry now doesn’t even like being… with me…”

 

“Are you going to cry then?”

 

“… I’m not crying.”

 

“Really?”

 

At Charelize’s continued mischievous questions, Arensis shed tears.

 

“I’m not crying, uh… I won’t cry… No. I feel like crying. I’m going to go back now and ask why.”

 

Charelize urgently grabbed Arensis, who was trying to go to his children as he got drunk. “I can’t believe the empress’s husband in this empire is so childish. Where on earth did they say that you’re ‘scary’ come from?”

 

Smiling, she pointed at the cherries on her desk. “If you only drink wine, you’ll get sick.”

 

“…”

 

“…There is only one cherry left. Do you want to eat this?” Saying this, she picked up one cherry and tossed everything else on the plate onto the floor before putting it in her mouth.

 

As Charelize nodded, all of Arensis’s attention was on her. Before he knew it, his thoughts about his children had been pushed aside.

 

“You might regret this in the morning.”

 

“Do you happen to know if the empress, who’s obsessed with work, is going on strike today?”

 

“You said it was so hard that you didn’t even rest two days ago.”

 

“That’s why I asked if you know. Let’s see if it’s the same this time, okay?”

 

“…Lize.”

 

It was the moment when Arensis, who had endured the continued provocation of Charelize, snapped the line bait.

 

* * *

One day, Martin was forced to leave after receiving a letter from her cousin, Lady Thebes, saying she was sick. Viscountess Blanche entered the imperial palace and served the children for a few days.

 

“Your Royal Highness, it’s time to wake up now.”

 

“…”

 

“The flowers in the vase seem to have withered, so I brought a new one… Which one do you prefer?”

 

Long after nap time, Viscountess Blanche, who was trying to wake the children, put down the flower she was holding on the window and asked. “Are you still sleeping…?”

 

No matter how many times she called, there was no answer, so she went into the bedroom to wake them up but then became contemplative and rushed out. “Y-Your Royal Highnesses has disappeared!”

 

The news was immediately delivered to Arensis in the Marsetta Duchy.

 

It was at the Garden of Light, or Labeven Palace, where Empress Dowager Lireet resides. First, they began a search focusing on places where the children might go. Even if there were no signs of kidnapping, the slight possibility couldn’t be ignored.

 

“Countess Kabe, is Her Majesty still holding a meeting inside?”

 

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

 

“When do you think it’ll end?”

 

“I’m sorry. Grand Duke Kalpiso’s demands were excessive… She’s going to take a break after about an hour….”

 

Because the negotiation was in progress due to the issue of recognition of the independence of Grand Duke Kalpiso, it wasn’t possible to enter without permission. The sudden interruption could have resulted in damage, but the safety of the children was more important than that.

 

When Arensis, who had decided to inform Charelize, was about to go inside.

 

“…Your Majesty Empress! Your Majesty Empress!” The shout of the Viscount Blanche, who ran without breathing properly, stopped Arensis.

 

“I-it looks like Your Royal Highnesses have gone to the festival.”

 

“Festival? Are you sure?”

 

“Yes. This… I think His Royal Highness left it behind.”

 

Arensis took a note from the hand of Viscountess Blanche and quickly opened it. It said they would definitely come by two o’clock after seeing the festival with Charteron.

 

Arensis checked the clock in a hurry. It was long past the time they were supposed to return.

 

“Where was this found?”

 

“It was stuck in the vase. A butterfly kept flying around it, and luckily, I found it.”

 

Arensis, who apparently looked back at what was written in Luensir’s handwriting, headed to the streets where the festival was held. As he desperately searched for his children, calling their names, he found Luensir looking panicked at the fountain.  Embracing Luensir in his arms, he muttered gratitude over and over again.

 

“Y-Your Majesty Father, Charon… Charon…”

 

“…Lur?”

 

“I missed Charon’s hands, so where did she go… I don’t know.”

 

Luensir, who was shaking his shoulders, soon burst into tears.

 

“What should I do? It’s all my fault.”

 

Arensis’s insides were becoming more and more pained at the sight of Luensir crying, which he had only seen a few times in his life. He was glad to find Luensir, but the preparation for the festival complicated the situation. It was even more so because of Luensir’s words that he lost his grip and parted away from Charteron due to the large crowd there.

 

“Lur, you parted away here?”

 

“…Yes.”

 

“I see. Go back first.”

 

 “I’m going to go find her too…”

 

“Don’t worry. Dad will definitely find Charon.”

 

After asking where he parted with Charteron, he gave Luensir to Hailey, who came out to look for them. Based on what he heard, Arensis anxiously called Charteron at that point.

 

The sun was already setting. He wondered if she bumped into something and got hurt as she was walking alone. The sky suddenly became unusual as he was clenching his fists with various worries. It suddenly got dark, and it would rain at any moment.

 

Charteron once had hyperventilation from trauma in similar weather as it is now. The thought that she might have fainted made Arensis even more anxious.

 

“…Your Majesty Father?”

 

At that time, someone called Arensis. There were only two people who could call Arensis like that. What Arensis caught sight of, as he turned around after hearing a familiar voice, was Charteron, tilting her head while holding a fruit skewer in both hands. 

 

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