Weeks and months and years they passed like flowing water.
After many seasons, winter where one’s breath forms a fleeting misty cloud has returned.
It may have been cold but the atmosphere around me was warm.
It was because the Empress and the Empress dowager were having tea time in the greenhouse.
“Thank you for inviting me.”
It’s frustrating to be alone in the palace all the time.”
The Empress responded with a bright smile at the Empress dowager’s appreciation.
I quietly listened as they conversed and sipped tea.
As they continued, I slowly raised my head.
The lilacs were in full bloom and contrasted with the snowy backdrop.
They were easy on the eyes.
Looking at these lilacs…
‘Damian comes to mind.’
The night I last saw Damian face to face.
I remembered Damian smiling tearfully at the handkerchief I gave him.
Those lilacs really were poorly embroidered.
‘I’ll definitely come back.
To see you again, I’ll make sure of it.’’
….right, that’s what he promised.
But despite that promise, I still have yet to meet Damian.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been eight years since Damian’s left.”
At the Empress dowager’s stirring words, I smiled bitterly.
‘Wow, it’s been eight years already’
What will Damian look like now
Has he gotten taller
Come to think of it, before he left, his gaze was above mine.
If we ever see each other again, I might need to look up just to look at him properly.
I was immersed in my thoughts for quite some time.
But the Empress’s soft voice pulled me back to reality.
“I know, time flies.”
The Empress said so as she glanced back at me with a look that was graceful as always.
“My Charlize has already grown up so much, the crown prince will have grown up a lot more.”
Still, when will I get to see Damian…”
After sighing deeply, the Empress dowager beckoned to me.
“Charlize, you don’t have to stand like that.
Come sit with us.”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Oh, refusing Her Majesty’s orders now are you”
With a teasing remark, the Empress dowager smiled with an impish expression.
However…I don’t think it’s polite of me to do so.
I glanced over to the Empress for any glimmer of hope.
Surely, she would back me up.
The Empress did nothing but smile and nod her head.
“Yes, come here and sit down.”
To add further, they offered me a seat.
In the end, I gave a curtsy and sat down.
Actually, this isn’t the first time I’ve had tea time with the two of them…
‘But I feel a bit nervous.’
Even the Empress casually pushed a basket of scones towards me.
‘Would you like some clotted cream to go with that What about jam Do you want apricot or orange marmalade”
“Oh, thank you.
I don’t mind, either one is good.”
At the same time, a hand out of nowhere poured tea into my cup.
It was the Empress dowager.
“You must be thirsty, have some tea while you eat.”
“Um, thank you.”
….gee, this is a bit much.
With pleased looks coming from two directions at me, I didn’t know what to do.
They sure do like watching me eat, don’t they
They’re like a mother happily watching their child eat.
The Empress took it a step further.
“Are you short on snacks Shall I ask for more cake”
“No, this is enough!”
I shook my head hastily.
Of course, I’m happy that they like me but….
‘When I’m together with the two of them, they end up taking care of me.’
Really, I don’t know if it’s okay to do this.
Feeling embarrassed, I spread jam and cream onto my scones.
As I did so, her Majesty, the Empress dowager spoke in a playful tone.
“Our Charlize gets prettier and prettier as she grows up.”
“No, you’re exaggerating, your Majesty.”
Even when she was a kid, I thought she was remarkably cute, but she becomes more and more so with each passing day.
Beautiful would be the more apt word now.”
The Empress dowager who commented that stealthily leaned her head closer to me.
“I hear you’re very popular with servants and knights, aren’t you
I let out an awkward laugh.
How should I respond in such a situation
Fortunately, the Empress answered on my behalf.
“Well, I’m not going to give Charlize to anyone I don’t like.”
In the eyes of the Empress who said so, she saw someone too young for that.
Her Majesty, the Empress dowager shrugged her shoulders.
“Yes, that’s true.”
“Of course, she’s my maid.”
The Empress nodded with a determined face.
“What if a wolf-like man drags away a lone Charlize”
….I don’t think that’s what the person who took me in when I was five would say.