“I see the noble moon of the Empire.”
Even though they were left alone, Avelin’s polite attitude remained the same. If she didn’t know anything, she was gentle enough to mistake it for the truth, as always.
She politely greeted Anastasia, then lowered her eyebrows fully and continued her words.
“It is a pleasure to be here, Your Majesty.”
“Thank you for welcoming me, Lady Hazel.”
As of yet, they did not know the true nature of this woman.
‘From the beginning, she was a woman who has been deceiving everyone.’
What was she up to, who was she? In a situation where she knew nothing, she couldn’t reveal her claws prematurely.
Therefore, Anastasia smiled and wore the same mask.
“I didn’t know you would welcome me so warmly.”
“That’s because I’ve been waiting for Your Majesty.”
It was abominable to see her so naturally put her lies in her mouth.
Maybe she could spit out lies with such an innocent face without blinking an eye.
“You don’t know how worried I was because you suddenly disappeared without a word.”
“Is that so? Sorry.”
Anastasia offered her apology with no regrets at all.
“I knew my heart and came back in a hurry. Before the troubles of those close to me deepened.”
Avelin asked Anastasia with her lips trembling.
“Are you going to stay at the palace from now on?”
“Of course. Originally, I was going to leave the palace, but…”
Anastasia wiped the rouge around her mouth with her finger and shed a thin smile.
“His Majesty can’t forget me.”
At that one word, she could see Avelin flinch.
It was so clear that she could almost smile bitterly.
“I’m thinking of changing my mind, too. It’s hard to suppress my feelings for him anymore.”
“I’m glad you changed your mind.”
Evelyn asked, still smiling.
“But then what are you going to do about the oracle?”
When Anastasia pretended to be irresponsible and made a face like she wasn’t sure, Avelin’s expression was even more nervous.
She gulped down her dry saliva and added.
“As you have always told me, I’m afraid that the Goddess will attack Rosenberg.”
“Don’t say that already. Well, wouldn’t we find out if we continue?”
“Of course, she won’t destroy this country that she built herself with her own hands to punish only me.”
Anastasia smiled carelessly and scratched Avelin’s insides.
“I should go back to the Empress’ Palace now.”
“Well, I’ll see you again.”
Leaving an elegant farewell, Anastasia whizzed past Avelin and walked in the direction of the Empress’ Palace.
Somehow, Avelin seemed to stare at her from behind, but Anastasia raised the corners of her mouth coolly instead of looking back.
‘I will never be fooled by you again, Avelin.’
She was sure she’d find out the truth. And if the divine punishment did not fall on her, Anastasia would convict her herself.
As soon as she arrived at the Empress’ Palace, it was the maids of the Empress’ Palace who ran out in a wind of tears and greeted Anastasia.
Everyone ran out at once and hugged Anastasia.
Surrounded by the crowd, Anastasia was given a hectic reception by the maids.
“Where on earth have you been? Do you know how worried we were?”
“Oh, I missed you, really…!”
“Are you okay? Oh, my God. Oh my gosh. You’ve become a new person I haven’t seen before!”
“I’ve been eating well and doing well. Didn’t you hear from Selene?”
“Selene said that Your Majesty had a very hard time in the countryside!”
Anastasia burst out laughing and gazed playfully at Selene, who lied.
“You too. If you say so, everyone will think I’ve been through a really hard time.”
At Anastasia’s criticism, Selene snuck away from her eyes and made her own excuses.
“Oh… You did have a hard time.”
“Did I put you through a lot?”
“Your Majesty is very… That’s not what I meant. To live in this glorious palace, you’ve been in that cramped cabin for over a month. How uncomfortable it must have been if you didn’t show it to me.”
“When I heard the story, I thought my eyes were spinning! I’m so, so glad you’re back!”
It was around the time Anastasia was sharing a tearful reunion with the empress maids.
“Huh? The lady-in-waiting is coming!”
As Anastasia turned her head, she saw Mrs. Rochester returning after guiding the Vislante envoy to the guest palace.
Mrs. Rochester’s eyes, who found Anastasia, quickly got wet. She approached Anastasia with an urgent step.
Soon, Mrs. Rochester, standing in front of Anastasia, stared at Anastasia with a trembling look as if she could not believe it.
Anastasia’s eyes gradually got wet when she saw her like that. Anastasia hugged her first.
“I missed you.”
Upon hearing Anastasia’s voice, Mrs. Rochester eventually began to sob over her feelings.
Mrs. Rochester, who hugged Anastasia’s soft body, scolded her master who returned with tears.
“Why… Where the hell did you go and now you’re here, Your Majesty? How much, how much…”
Anastasia patted her with a bitter expression as she looked at Mrs. Rochester, who was unable to speak properly due to her sobbing.
“Sorry. I was very worried.”
“Are you saying that…”
Mrs. Rochester sobbed continually and buried her face in the arms of Anastasia.
“I prayed every day. Your Majesty, wherever you are, to always be safe. What kind of trouble were you going through? Are you eating well without skipping meals? … It was heartbreaking every hour and every second.”
“Still, I think the Goddess heard my prayer. Because you didn’t come back too late.”
Mrs. Rochester lifted her tear-soaked face and looked at Anastasia. Her bright eyes, wet with tears just like herself, came into her view.
“Every day, I prayed for you to come back as soon as possible.”
Anastasia struggled to open her mouth in a choked voice.
“I couldn’t turn my heart away. Thank you for praying for me, Mrs. Rochester.”
“This is all because of Your Majesty. Why did you write the letter so desperately as you left…”
Mrs. Rochester sobbed and held Anastasia’s hand tightly.
“I couldn’t go anywhere, and all the Empress’ Palace ladies, including myself, were waiting for Your Majesty here. I had a hunch that you would come back one day.”
“… That hunch was right.”
“You’re not going anywhere anymore, are you?”
Mrs. Rochester asked Anastasia in an uneasy voice.
“You can’t go. If you run away again, I’ll really… Then I’ll go out and find Your Majesty myself.”
“I’m not going anywhere now.”
At the firm answer, Mrs. Rochester’s eyes flashed.
“I’ll stay here the whole time. This is my home.”
“Your heart… Have you decided?”
Anastasia nodded with a smile.
“I’ve made up my mind. I will be here, by the side of my people.”
“Well thought out.”
Mrs. Rochester shook Anastasia’s hand with an emotional expression.
“The Goddess cannot help but help this kind of majesty. Such a nice and beautiful person… How can you be so polite?”
“… I know.”
Anastasia muttered with a strange smile.
“If the Goddess knew my true feelings, she wouldn’t be so hard on me… I must have been looking at her too narrowly.”
Then a welcome cry came from not far away.
As if Anastasia had cried, she turned to the sound with a big smile.
Louis was running at full speed toward her.
Soon, Anastasia hugged Louis’ body, which jumped into her arms. Louis’ soft scent gently brushed the tip of Anastasia’s nose.
“I missed you so much, Empress…”
Louis, who was in Anastasia’s arms, began to whimper with a face that seemed close to bursting into tears at any moment.
“You’re safe, right? Did you get hurt?”
“I’m alright, Louis. Thank you for your concern.”
“Well, I’ve been keeping my promise while Your Majesty was away.”
Then Louis whispered in Anastasia’s ear in a small voice.
“No matter how much my uncle or anyone else asked me, I never told them that I was writing to Your Majesty.”
“… Well done, Louis.”
Anastasia smiled bitterly and hugged Louis tightly.
“Thank you for keeping your promise.”
There was a reason why Louis burst into tears of joy as soon as he saw her.
Starting with delivering a letter to Louis through her father, Anastasia continued to exchange letters with the child even when she went to Belrose.
As a result, Louis was relieved that Anastasia had not left him completely, and waited for Anastasia without a fuss, recalling her promise from the past.
“But you came back earlier than I thought.”
Louis said in a voice of wonder.
“You said you would come back only after divorcing my uncle, so I thought you would not come back before that. So I was disappointed…”
“I changed my mind.”
Louis’ eyes turned round at the words. Anastasia smiled and stroked Louis’ disheveled hair.
“I won’t divorce His Majesty.”
“Is that… Is that true?”
“Yes, I will continue to be Louis’ aunt.”
Louis’ mouth quickly cracked with a big smile.
The child couldn’t control his joy for a while, so he looked at Anastasia silently with a reminiscent face, and eventually hugged Anastasia tightly and shouted.
“I love it! I’m so happy! All my wishes have come true!”
Anastasia smiled and hugged Louis as hard as she could, with a voice full of sincerity.
“I’ll never, ever go anywhere now, Louis. I promise.”