“Oh, I mean, this… I’m going to give this to Alyosha.”
Asha carefully placed the scones in her hand and held them out. She brought it every day for a week, so she was a little embarrassed to say it again.
But Alexei just looked down at it. Asha tilted her head and bit her lips at the thought that popped into her mind.
‘Ah… Could the packaging have been too shabby up until now?’
A scone wrapped in slightly crumpled paper and tied with a string.
The sight of Alexei’s white shirt intensified that thought. A very royal silk shirt with ten small gold buttons and stylish decorations on the front of the top.
‘No, I thought it wasn’t too bad to look at…’
She thought it was a great vintage-style packaging, if she had to say for a past generation.
‘Vintage is just local here.’
In other words, it was a method that could be seen in ordinary households. It’s not for a gift. Asha thought she would have to take back what she just said and wrap it up again. As she tried to remove her hand, Alexei put his hand on top of Asha’s.
“More than that, Anastasia.”
Suddenly Alexei grabbed her hand, and Asha, in her mind, jumped up to the ceiling. Although she was seemingly slightly startled, her body only trembled slightly.
“You always ask Cyril to deliver it to me, don’t you? It’s been a long time since you’ve had a room nearby.”
“What? No, that’s because Alyosha is always busy. I don’t want to disturb you…”
“Does Anastasia hate me?”
Asha was stunned by Alexei’s throw. It wasn’t that there was no dialogue between the two. Since there was a conversation, Asha could be sure that Alexei felt a little soft after eating the snack.
But now, why was he saying that all of a sudden…?
At that moment she was wide awake.
‘Y…You’re gonna make me a bad guy here?! No way!’
“No, no! That’s not what I meant! It’s not like that! I just wanted Alexei to cheer up because he’s so busy studying. I was worried that I would interrupt for no reason.”
“It can’t be an interruption.”
Asha could not answer Alexei’s reply with a smile, and Alexei noticed her distrust at once.
“Our little pea has a lot of doubts.”
“I’m not a pea. There’s no doubt!”
Pea was Alexei’s nickname for her the past few days. In defiance of Asha’s vehement protest.
“But it’s true. On the first day, I just couldn’t answer because I didn’t know you were the one who knocked on my door. It’s not a hindrance for you to come to me.”
“No, I don’t want to play with Alexei…”
Asha stopped talking and bit her tongue.
‘I didn’t mean to say that!’
With Alexei’s face full of cool disappointment, Asha repeatedly wondered if she had ever rolled her head faster than this in her life.
“So! So what I wanted wasn’t for Alexei to play with me, but just for Alexei… to enjoy the sweets… to cheer up… and smile a little bit for me.”
What would Alexei think of this excuse? Asha avoided Alexei’s eyes while she was talking.
“…If it’s a smile, I always smile when I see you.”
Alexei’s voice sounded a little shaky. It wasn’t wrong. There was never a time when he didn’t smile.
“Ah no, not like that, seriously… ”
Asha thought she would rather she didn’t have a mouth of her own, and hastily shut her mouth. An indescribable silence passed between the two.
“Ah… well… So after eating this… Good luck with your studies! Haah, I’m sleepy, so I’m going to sleep…”
The contrived yawn was awkward for her to hear, but she couldn’t stand standing here any more. Asha pulled her hand out of Alexei’s and quickly returned to the room as if she were running away. The scones were not even collected.
‘Ah! How did this happen?’
She threw herself onto the bed and was surrounded by shame, and a new embroidery popped out of the curtain.
<I thought human conversation usually tells what the other person wants.>
‘I… didn’t do that right…?’
<Not at all.>
‘Really? Then do you think Alyosha will kill me?’
<Why do you keep saying such nonsense?>
She wished all this was nonsense! Asha wanted to yell at Phoebe, who didn’t understand at all. This also didn’t work out in the end.
Asha looked down from the window in the corridor on the second floor. Alexei was cautiously shooting his bow step by step in the half-baked sun on a winter morning.
The awkward conversation a few days ago had both pretending it didn’t happen. To be exact, it would be right to have no time for in-depth conversations about it.
Alexei trained in martial arts such as swords and bows in the morning, and studied with scholars in the afternoon. In the evening, he reviewed what he learned during the day, and at night, meditation to train his mind, and after five hours of good sleep, he went back to the morning…
This murderous routine was Alexei’s normal day. And now, the time to shoot an arrow, was probably the only time Alexei wouldn’t have to smile without meaning it.
“Your Highness Anastasia?”
Asha, who was looking down at him, turned to the voice she heard from behind. He wore a sword at the waist, but compared to the night, it was a simpler outfit, Cyril.
“Huh? Cyril? Why are you here? Alyosha’s over there…”
“His Highness, the Crown Prince, is only in need of escorting at night. He doesn’t need an escort during the day.”
“He doesn’t need it?”
“The power of the fire and the sun, Fafnir of His Royal Highness Crown Prince. He is stronger than anyone else on earth during the day. When he becomes an adult, no one will be able to touch him even at night.”
“Then he doesn’t need archery training, does he? He’s strong enough during the day and Cyril protects him at night.”
While watching, Alexei’s arrow was always in the middle of the target. He already had that kind of skill, and he didn’t seem to have to shoot a bow until the calluses of his fingertips were swollen every day.
“Fafnir, the spirit of fire, is so powerful that it takes mental and physical training to handle it. What’s more, now Fafnir has lost his contractor once, so it’s unstable…”
Cyril, who had been speaking so far, hurriedly shut up. He seemed to realize that he had said something he shouldn’t have said. Asha shrugged her shoulders once, as if she didn’t understand what Cyril was talking about, then put her hand into the pocket of her dress and pulled out something of her own.
It was a small lump, full in her little hand, but half in Cyril’s hand. wrapped in paper and bound with a cord.
“It’s a scone made with dried fruits and almonds, but I think it’s time to be hungry. Have one, too, mister, and give me the other one, Alyosha.”
“…Where do you get your snacks every time?”
“Huh? I made it.”
Asha replied, jumping off the footrest. Cyril looked puzzled.
“Your Highness herself…?”
“I like making snacks.”
Asha’s eyes glistened as she said so.
“My family is poor… I’ve never seen this much butter and cream before. I’m so excited that I’m making this and that.”
“Mom and dad are better than baking snacks. But I can’t go home without His Majesty’s permission.”
“So I thought it would be good to share the baking with Alyosha.”
Baking snacks worked in its own way. Anyway, they got closer than they did in the beginning. At the same time, Alexei’s attitude was strangely mischievous, but she didn’t know if she should like it if she was being honest.
Cyril, who was listening silently to Asha, fell on one knee and looked at her.
“Your Highness Anastasia… Do you like His Highness?”
Cyril’s eyes were serious. Asha groaned and tilted her head. A 10-year-old girl wouldn’t do it if she didn’t like it, looking at her cousin and making snacks all the time.
“…Well, but I’m not sure if Alyosha likes me…”
“I want to know not the heart of His Highness Crown Prince, but the heart of Your Highness Anastasia.”
Asha wriggled her hands together.
“Mom and dad say they can’t come, and the family here is grandfather… It’s just His Majesty and Alyosha, but I can’t even see his face.”
“That’s why the only family is Alyosha. I don’t hate him.”
“Is that so?”
“But I’m the only one doing it.”
Asha pouted. Cyril waved his hand with a slightly surprised face.
“That’s not true. Even to His Highness Crown Prince, the only family staying close to him is Your Excellency Anastasia. Even now, he often smiles on the occasion.”
“If you say that to others, would they all believe that? Is that what Alyosha does?”
Cyril coughed for a moment.
“But still, at the Imperial Palace, the only person that His Highness is looking at with a smile is Your Highness.”
“When a bird brings flowers, it’s like laughing because it’s amazing… Because I bring scones every time.”
At that moment, Cyril turned his head and let out a ‘pfft’ sound. A smile appeared on Cyril’s face as he barely swallowed his cough. Asha stared blankly at Cyril’s face, then rummaged through the pocket of her dress and pulled out another wrapped scone.
“Eat two, Cyril. You only have to give one to Alyosha.”
“It’s… it’s an honor.”
Feeling a bit awkward for no reason, Asha gave the reason that she was busy and she turned around first. Cyril’s gaze was felt behind her back.