It was not the rich hot chocolate she had had before, but a soft chocolate milk mixed with milk.
With each sip, her stomach warmed.
Even her sharp nerves softened.
“Are you okay now”
Nodding her head softly, Lilyca asked.
“What about His Highness”
“Bran must be taking care of His Highness.
Should I look into it”
Lilyca nodded her head.
Bryn winked at the other maid, and she darted out.
“I’m glad you weren’t hurt.
You said he had caught your hair, didn’t you”
“Yes, but I’m fine now.
I realised that I really shouldn’t go around alone.
Bryn was right.”
“I didn’t want you to find it out this way.
And in fact, it’s His Majesty’s fault.”
It’s the fault of the person who decided that two small children should go on a picnic unaccompanied.
Alteos didn’t like having people around him, so he took Lilyca to the office and always left without waiting, and that was the problem, Bryn frowned.
Then, the door swung open.
Bryn narrowly took the cup out of Lilyca’s hand before Lydia could hug her daughter tightly.
“Were you afraid Seriously, you don’t know how shocked Mommy was.
Oh my gosh.
I didn’t expect this to happen today.”
She took a deep breath.
“I guess that’s why people should live a good life.”
Lydia said to Lilyca.
Although she knew that Atil would be attacked by his escort knight if left alone.
Because he had hurt Lily, she wanted him to suffer, but she didn’t know it would come to bite her back like that.
“I wish Mommy could be as kind as Lily.”
Lilyca blushed and stuttered at those words.
“I am not that sweet.
Today too, I yelled out loud to His Majesty, and then, um, even if Mother was unkind, I would still like her.
Umm, it’s not that I hate that you are kind.”
“Oh Alteos deserves to hear that.
With a snort, she ruthlessly disparaged her contract husband, before laughing.
“Still, hearing my Lily say that gives me strength.”
It felt good to have a hand gently stroking her hair.
As Lilyca relaxed, she began to fall asleep.
She heard the whisper of two people in her sleep.
“The princess is sleeping.”
“I guess she relaxed.
Poor thing, how surprised she must have been.”
Lilyca felt a hand gently stroking her forehead.
“Let her sleep like this.
Cancel all my schedule afterwards.”
“I wish I could stay with you, but I have a meeting after this—”
As her voice gradually faded away, Lilyca fell completely asleep.
* * *
Lilyca kicked the air with her feet and opened her eyes.
Cold sweats ran down her body.
Her heart pounding loudly.
“Princess, did you have a nightmare Are you okay”
The light turned on immediately and Bryn spoke quietly close to her.
Lilyca raised her upper body and nodded her head.
“…what time is it”
“It is now past midnight.
Go back to sleep.
I will be by your side.”
Lilyca stared blankly into the air for a moment.
Bryn asked, tilting her head.
“Can I bring you some cookies and warm milk Would you like some fresh air”
“May I go see His Highness”
“His Highness the Crown Prince”
“There is nothing that you cannot do.
Let me ask.”
Bryn smiled and walked out of the bedroom.
Lilyca folded her legs and hugged them.
Her mother must surely be with His Majesty, so she shouldn’t disturb her.
Even though she was all grown up, she had nightmares.
And she couldn’t go find her.
‘A very, very bad person.’
It seemed that the name Rowin would never be forgotten.
The shoemaker said so.
People who do bad things and don’t think they’re bad are the worst.
“Everything they say is poison.”
That’s what he had said.
Lilyca raised her head at the sound of the door opening.
“What are you saying That it’s fine… Your Highness…”
It was Atil who was standing with his back straight.
He walked over and set the lamp on the side table.
He grabbed Lilyca’s shoulder as she was about to get up in surprise, and Atil sat down on the bed.”
“You cannot sleep”
Lilyca looked at him blankly at the tone of the stern question, then nodded her head slightly.
“If you can’t sleep like this— no, you might not be able to sleep with me here.
“So, why did you want me to come”
Even so, while he was grumbling, the person in question still came.
“Why is that”
He asked her again, and Lilyca said softly.
She glanced back at him.
“I want to sleep with you…”
Atil raised his eyebrows at the trembling girl.
She had lowered her voice, and he did not take his eyes off her, continuously staring.
Lilyca remembered that Atil didn’t let go.
He did not let go of her in that perilous situation and run away.
In the end, Atil sighed deeply and gazed in her direction again.
“Okay, let’s go to sleep.”
Smiling, Lilyca moved her buttocks to the side and patted the empty space next to her.
Atil looked at the place next to the little girl.
Lilyca patted on it again.
Atil slowly climbed onto the bed.
Leaning against the large pillow at the head of the bed, he asked.
“Are you okay now”
Atil had asked, now pushing Lilyca’s head with a pillow as she answered with a smile.
“Now go to sleep.”
Lilyca smiled as she buried her face into the pillow.
“What are you so happy about”
“Sleeping together like this.
I truly wanted to try it if I would have had a brother.”
Atil pondered this word slowly.
He had never thought of the word so deeply.
It hurt when you thought about it.
Although Uncle Alteos was there, he couldn’t shake the feeling that he was always alone.
He slowly stretched out his hand.
Seeing his hand hovering hesitatingly in the air, Lilyca raised her head and put it under his palm.
He stroked her head gently.
As he patted her round head, Atil felt his nerves loosen.
Looking at that smiling face, it seemed like what she had said earlier was a lie.
He didn’t expect her to stand in the assassin’s way.
He didn’t even know she was going to yell at the assassin.
Even saying something to His Majesty.
There was no benefit to her from these actions.
‘Come to think of it, the empress was also…’
Atil was with Alteos when Lilyca was immersing in the hot tub prepared by Bryn, trembling and shivering.
No, to be precise, he was with the emperor and his wife.
‘I didn’t know that the Empress would say something to my uncle.’
“Are you feeling better” had said the emperor.
“I was planning of doing a background check on Rowin-” But his uncle was interrupted by Lydia, who had turned her heels and raised her voice.
“If you say it like that, I think he’s going to distrust people even more.
Could you please stop making others think that way just because you don’t believe in humans”
“Oh my God, do you really have to speak as if we were all against you!”
Atil stood there, blinking his eyes at those words.
He never thought that there would be someone who could raise their voice in front of His Majesty the Emperor.
“Distrusting people Me”
Alteos’ voice lowered, and Lydia stood right in front of him.
“Ha, what do you know about me”
“Then what do you know about me that you think I don’t know”
Alteos took a step closer to her.
Seeing Lydia, whose nose seemed to touch his chest, but did not back down, Atil began to admire her without realising it.
At the moment Alteos was about to growl, Lydia raised her hand.
Then, she turned to Atil.
“I will support you until you become emperor.
His Majesty and I have no intention of having children.
It looks like Alteos is neglecting everything, but I’m going to raise you to the throne.
I have this in mind.”
Alteos was about to say something, but Lydia stopped him again.
“You said we wouldn’t fight in front of the kids, didn’t you”
Alteos clicked his tongue at her words and exhaled a short breath.
Then he crossed his arms and closed his mouth.
“And so did I.
I support his plan to put you on the throne.
It doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not.
I’m just stating the truth.”
“Talking to a child like that.”
Alteos scoffed from behind, but Lydia didn’t even look back.
“Then, you may go now.
Oh, and Atil.
Alteos stated he never have been involved in an assassination attempt before.
Why would he want to kill Atil
I have something to talk to him about.”
And then, Atil left the office as if he had been kicked out.
Bran and Pai ran up to him and asked if he was okay, but he was in no mood to answer.
It felt like a storm was raging in his head.
Seeing him in thought, Bran and Pai also shut their mouth.
Atil’s feelings were complicated.
Even at night, he couldn’t sleep.
So, when he heard Lilyca’s request, he said he will come directly.
Remembering her face, he felt like it would lighten up his complicated mood.
‘And looking at this silly face.’
All his worries seemed to disappear.
How could this girl be so defenceless
Lilyca called him.
“Aren’t you scared, Your Highness”
Atil pressed her head tightly, making it bury itself in the pillow.
“I am used to it.
This is already my fourth assassination attempt.”
Atil nodded as she pressed her head against his palm to rise in surprise.
He mumbled despite himself.
“I thought His Majesty knew everything and left it alone.”
He thought he was using him as a chess piece.
That it didn’t matter if he died.
No, he could get to live as long as it maintained the emperor’s throne.
But today he heard it wasn’t the case.
The sight of his uncle fighting with his aunt —a word that Atil was embarrassed about— came as a fresh shock to the boy.
“Still, I think it would be scary even if it was the fourth time.”
With a deep sigh, Lilyca said.
Hearing her voice, Atil was perplexed.
How could she say this
The people closest to him were Brand and Pai.
But they had a family.
If the world were to be destroyed tomorrow, they would abandon him and run to their family.
Or, if he dies, they would mourn him a bit and fill his place with another lord.
Atil was always replaceable.
However, if the family disappears, that place is empty forever.
There was no such thing for him.
So far, it had definitely been that way.
Yet, a weak, reckless, and defenceless being arose.
It was troubling.
What should he do with her
‘I have no choice but to protect her.’
Atil thought sternly.
“I feel more betrayed than scared.”
Lilyca clasped his hand, stroked his hair, and turned to lie down with him.
“You don’t have to look at me like that.
Because, when you got angry in my stead, it made me feel better.”
He looked into her eyes.
Her eyes, which seemed to take him to a faraway foreign land, eyes that shone brighter than a candle in the dark.
‘I really feel like I’m in a foreign land.’
Nothing had changed since yesterday, or so he would like to think.
However, everything had changed.
But he was determined to never say that to Lilyca.
It was a matter of pride for the 12-year-old boy.
“So, don’t worry anymore and go to sleep.”
As he pulled up the blanket and covered her shoulders, Lilyca closed her eyes.
Atil didn’t pull out his hand as she was clasping it tightly.
During the assassination attempt, she had been very scared, but at the same time, relieved that Atil did not let go.
Holding his hand tightly, Lilyca fell asleep.
Atil felt Lilyca’s breathing become even, and he extinguished the candle.
He closed his eyes.
Why would Rowin try to kill him now
He could have killed him as many times as he wanted, but he waited.
He must have been waiting for the right time and instructions from his superiors.
And that turned out to be now.
‘What has changed is the existence of the Empress and…’
He glanced at Lilyca.
‘Is it because of her’
It is unknown where Rowin’s order came from, but he must have guarded him for this sole purpose.
It was suffocating to think that all the relationships he had had in the past were lies.
It was as painful as water in the lungs.
Lilyca let out a small sound as if he had unwittingly tightened her hand.
Atil was startled and withdrew his hand.
Fortunately, she didn’t wake up.
A small hand tried to clench the air.
A younger sister without a single drop of blood.
But family was something irreplaceable.
Atil slipped from the head of the bed and laid down a pillow to face her.
It was the first time he fell asleep next to someone.
There were so many firsts that he was stunned.
Still, Lilyca’s breathing didn’t bother him, and he soon fell asleep.
‘I’ve never been tempted by sleep so easily before.’
It was his last thought before he went into Morpheus’ arms.