She cried until her ears buzzed and she felt dizzy.
She wanted to curl up as the betrayal was extremely excruciating, but she couldn’t let herself go like that.
Because she no longer had any money.
‘Do not cry.
Stop crying, Lilyca Vans.
It’s not so bad.
Rather, aren’t you ashamed of having so many tears at eight years old’
Mentally encouraging herself, Lilyca took a deep breath and stood up.
Living in a slum required perseverance.
Besides, she thought back to her motto: “work is credit”.
She couldn’t not go to work today even though she was sad and sick.
If she didn’t go to work, the credit given to her, the one she has accumulated over the years, will be null and void.
Without owning anything else, that one pride was all Lilyca had left.
Lilyca patted her cheeks and stood up.
After washing her face with cold water, she left the house.
Today was the day to go to work, not in a slum, but a bar on the outskirts of the capital.
After wiping her hands, feet and face at the well, she left the slums.
There are many expensive glasses in bars, but long, thin glasses are not easily cleaned by large adults’ hands.
However, the hands of a child like Lilyca adapted easily, and she did the job of washing and wiping the glasses without leaving stains on them.
Although it wasn’t usually something that would be entrusted to a child from the ghetto, Lilyca was more than welcomed after proving her sincerity.
Besides, it was a job that gave two big fairy tales, so she couldn’t miss it.
If by misfortune, she accidentally broke a glass, she might not be able to pay it back even if she worked in the bar for the rest of her life.
So Lilyca worked diligently and very carefully.
She was tired because it was a lot of work, but thanks to that, she managed to stop thinking about her mother.
When the job was done, she was exhausted.
She was working way too hard for her little body.
The landlord handed her two big fairy tales, and after saying goodbye, Lilyca returned home.
She knew she had to go home, but she didn’t want to return today.
So Lilyca strolled through the streets, thinking about the two big fairy tales she had won.
But people passing through the streets saw how dirty Lilyca was and they avoided her like the plague.
Lilyca was quickly ashamed and headed back to the slum.
However, it was not until sunset that she finally returned home.
Maybe her mother was back.
She could apologise or maybe she would have brought some money.
Or else her father would be back.
Thinking this, Lilyca smiled bitterly.
It was a hopeless smile.
As soon as she opened the door, she felt something different.
It was like a sign that only the owner of the house could feel.
Nothing was missing inside, but Lilyca was very nervous because it wouldn’t be strange if a theft happened here.
Moving slowly, her hair standing up like a kitten, Lilyca looked around.
“Miss Lilyca Vans.”
Lilyca jumped at the voice from the darkness.
She turned in the direction of the voice, a man with a hood covering his face stood there.
Even though he wore a worn hood, Lilyca knew he was a high-ranking person.
His clothes covered by the cloak looked expensive at first glance, and more importantly, she guessed it by looking at his shoes.
He had an upright posture, giving an air of perfectly mastered pride.
He had to be a man who didn’t have to bow his head in front of many people.
“You are very late.”
“Who are you”
Lilyca spoke first when she realized he had no intention of hurting her.
“I came to get you.”
Lilyca’s eyes widened in surprise.
Then, they immediately furrowed with suspicion.
“Is it because of the rent or-”
“No, your mother asked me to pick you up.”
At his unexpected words, Lilyca exclaimed in amazement,
“My mother Me”
“What happened Have you been discovered too If that’s not the case…”
“You will hear the details later.
I am only a messenger.
It would be best to go out in the small alleys without being detected.”
Lilyca crossed her arms at the man’s response and said firmly,
“I will not follow a stranger without thinking.”
For a moment, the man looked puzzled.
After some thinking, he introduced himself,
“I am Lauv Wolf.”
So what Lilyca looked at him with those words clearly written on her face.
The man took on a serious tone.
“In fact, Miss Vans’ mother is in critical condition.”
“There was an accident and she told me to come to get you.
She asks for you fervently.”
Lilyca didn’t know what to do.
Did her mother really have an accident Oh my God! Had she been hurt trying to break into the Imperial Palace
When she remembered the crying and screaming last night, her heart raced.
Quick, let’s hurry!”
Lauv hastily opened the back wall plank.
The wall panel, which was intact before, was missing, but Lilyca didn’t even notice.
Lauv quickly dragged her into the dark alley.
They emerged into a smaller alley and the man whistled.
A cart that had been hiding until now stopped in front of him.
“Oh my God…”
Lilyca had never seen such a large carriage so close.
Plus, it was the first time she would go inside a carriage at all.
Lauv opened the door and helped Lilyca into the carriage.
The wheels were so big that she couldn’t get into the vehicle without help.
Lauv looked at Lilyca.
Then, he advised the amazed little girl,
“Miss Vans, you shouldn’t trust people so easily.”
Confused, Lilyca was about to say something, but the carriage door closed.
* * *
When the carriage stopped, Lilyca was stuck in a corner of the carriage like a crippled cat.
She thought she trusted her senses too much.
Maybe it was because she had been exposed to many dangers, but now Lilyca instinctively knew who meant her harm.
She didn’t know how many times she had avoided dangerous things thanks to them.
It was a gift that even the shoe shiner recognised in her.
However, she had ceased to be vigilant because her senses had not indicated any danger to her.
She grabbed the handle and pulled it towards her, her eyes expressing that she wouldn’t set foot outside.
Lauv, who was about to open the door, thought for a moment about what he should do.
If he forced the handle of the carriage, it would be scratched, but he didn’t care; that would be the best-case scenario.
What worried him was the risk that the little girl would be injured.
“G-go away! Go!”
Lilyca cried out desperately and glared at him, but Lauv felt no threat.
It was no big deal if she got scratched in the process of opening the door.
However, she looked so fragile, that he was afraid the slightest shock would break her bones.
“Is it true that my mother was injured”
His thought cut off, Lauv answered the child’s hesitant and worried question.
Your mother is in good health.”
From inside the carriage, the swear words of the slum dwellers were shouted, insults no noble girl had ever heard.
Finally, Lauv decided to cross his arms and wait for the girl to calm down.
Lilyca thought that if he tried anything, she would hit him as hard as she could.
But as time passed calmly, she gradually relaxed.
The scenery outside the carriage door captivated her.
She saw a beautiful garden and a building even more splendid than all the wonders that had graced her eyes.
Even the water fountain made happy noises.
The surroundings were not noisy and did not look like a human trafficking site.
Looking carefully around her, Lilyca leaned a little more towards the door.
Once she got close enough, she saw Lauv.
He had moved away and was now out of reach.
Her head sticking out of the door, Lilyca looked around.
If you looked this way, it was a garden, if you looked over there, it was still a garden.
However, the manicured lawns and trees still looked suspicious to her.
“Where are we”
Lilyca asked a question and Lauv gave a simple answer.
“It’s a separate palace.”
“A separate palace”
“It is one of the smaller palaces attached to the Imperial Palace.
Are you ready to go down now”
With that, Lilyca gripped the carriage door tightly.
Lauv stared at her intently.
Lilyca slowly began to take refuge in the back of the carriage.
Lauv sighed softly, feeling like he had missed the opportunity to catch the kitten who was halfway out of its hiding.
Suddenly, a woman ran out of the palace.
“Lilyca Is Lilyca there”
Her voice was that of a familiar mother, but her outfit was way too dazzling.
Lilyca had to check several times if the person in front of her was her mother.
The little girl jumped out of the carriage when she found Lydia running towards her, one hand holding the hem of her loose dress.
“Lilyca! Thank God.
I’m sorry, were you worried Uh Mommy is sorry.
It’s all her fault.”
Her mother’s clothes were soft and the folds made a nice crisp sound.
Lydia’s arms were comforting and her cheeks brushing against her seemed very soft.
Involuntarily, Lilyca said,
“I’m really, really angry.”
She wanted to express her frustration.
Contrary to her expectations, her mother neither got angry nor pushed her away.
Rather than that, she hugged her even tighter.
“I know, Mommy was wrong.
She did something really wrong.
But she had no other idea.
Forgive her, OK”
Lilyca’s heart softened as her mother apologised again and again with a shaky voice.
But how did all this happen Where are we What is going on”
“Yes, let’s come in and I’ll tell you everything.”
Her mother smiled, stood up, and then took her hand.
Finally, she looked at Lauv.
“My pleasure, Lady Lydia.”
Lauv greeted her politely.
Lilyca hesitated and waved her hand, and Lauv bowed his head slightly as well.
This surprised Lilyca and she clung to her mother.
It was the first time she had seen a grown man bow to her.
“Come on, let’s go in.”
Her mother started walking with her as if it were natural.
Lilyca entered the building and looked back once more.
Lauv was still standing but was soon obscured by the trees.
Moreover, the brilliance of the detached palace soon captured the girl’s heart.
Among the many separate palaces attached to the Imperial Palace, the “Palace of Dawn”, as its name suggests, was built with rose-coloured marble and surrounded by golden decorations.
Although it was rather simple among the secluded palaces, it gave Lilyca an overwhelming sense of intimidation.
She held her breath and looked around her.
Lydia decided that her daughter should be washed first.
Her brown hair was greasy and bushy, and her fingernails and ears were black.
There were no servants in the palace, but there was no particular difficulty because hot water was abundant.
“Is that a bathtub”
She was very surprised, so amazed that this place was filled with hot water.
Her astonishment did not stop there when she saw the clear water turning black, or when she noticed that the soap, which smelled good, tasted bitter and irritated her eyes.
It was just amazing.
Lilyca thought a piece of her skin had come off as she was washed from her hair to the tips of her fingernails with a brush.
A warm, sweet scent was applied and Lilyca put on her new clothes.
She wore incredibly soft and thick underwear, as well as a dress full of lace.
It was the first time she wore such a gorgeous, yet dense outfit, so it felt a bit suffocating underneath.
Wearing silk socks and soft lambskin boots, Lilyca wondered if she was dreaming.
Several times she stroked her clothes and enjoyed the pleasant texture.
A little later her mother came in with some light food.
For the first time, she tasted jam.
It sparkled like jewels on soft bread that seemed to melt.
Then her mother explained,
“It’s raspberry jam.”
Lilyca cleared her throat.
She was slightly thirsty so her mother gave her an orange drink that tasted amazing.
Lydia told her it was called orange juice.
She didn’t know what an orange was, but Lilyca thinks the world is really big and there are a lot of delicious things out there.
While she was eating her bread with great enthusiasm, her mother asked her,
“Lilyca, are you surprised” How do you feel now”
She had been so bemused that now, she was exhausted.
It seemed like nothing could surprise her anymore.
As Lilyca was already muttering her question softly, her mother smiled and lowered the tone of her voice.
“Your mother said she was going to the Imperial Ball.”
“Well, I did it.”
So, I met His Majesty the Emperor there.”
Shocked, her voice rose a notch before dropping again.
“His Majesty is a very scary person.”
Lydia smiled as her daughter whispered with a worried look on her face.
“It’s okay, His Majesty is a reasonable person.”
Wondering what was the link between the reasonable and the scary, the little one questioned,
“How did it go”
“Well, your mother is going to marry His Majesty the Emperor the day after tomorrow.”
Lilyca was so stunned that she didn’t even realize the bread had fallen to the floor.
Also, surprisingly, she hadn’t heard a sound when her soft bread slipped from her hands.
Lilyca stared at her mother.
Her lovely mother had always been Lilyca’s pride.
Her wavy golden hair and blue eyes seemed to glow in the dark.
Today, her mother was even more beautiful.
So much so that she couldn’t even recognise her directly.
Compared to her mother, she had unremarkable, dull brown hair.
It would be so nice if her hair could wave like clouds.
However, her turquoise eyes, which were similar to her mother’s, were her pride.
Don’t run away from reality.’
Lilyca shook her head and picked up the bread that had fallen on the floor.
However, her mother took what she was going to put inside her mouth as it was dirty.
She then thought that this room was a thousand times cleaner than her bedroom…
Watching the precious bread being taken from her hands, Lilyca continued,
Are you blown away”
With her big smile and the playful expression of a child, Lilyca couldn’t tell if her mother’s words were true or not.
“Really With His Majesty You, Mother The day after tomorrow”
Of course, this is no ordinary wedding.
I’m going to tell you a little secret just for you, Lilyca.”
Lydia looked around and leaned toward her daughter.
Lilyca bowed as well.
“In fact, it is a contractual marriage.”