rd? Is there anyone who bothers you?”

Arten spewed out his words quickly.

Not long ago, Arten, who had been invited as a performer to an imperial banquet, visited to tell the happy news to the couple, who were usually close friends, and heard the news of their daughter there.

After hearing that their daughter had to go to the palace alone due to unavoidable circumstances, Arten had all kinds of unfortunate imaginations.

The yellow bird on the girl’s shoulder squeaked as if it were laughing.

“Everything’s all right! No one bothers me.
I’m making sweets at the Imperial Palace.”

“Sweets? You’re making sweets?”

“Yes.
I also baked cookies.
I kept carrying this to give to Arten whenever I met him.”

Then the girl took something out of her arms.
They were small packages decorated with light ribbons.
There are several of them, too.

“Share everything else with your friends.”

“Friends? Oh…”

As he glanced back along the girl’s wink, his fellow performers were looking at him with faces that seemed to have somehow dislocated their jaws.
The girl asked him again.

“What about Mom and Dad? How are they?”

“Sure.
The circumstances… It’s gotten a lot better.
They’re staying healthy but most of all, they miss you a lot.”

Arten, who had said so far, suddenly thought something was strange.
The Yuriev couple, whom he had always known, would do anything about her daughter’s work.
If her daughters were to work in the imperial palace at a young age, they would have pitched a tent in the capital.

“Please tell my mom and dad that I miss them, too.
If Arten needs to go to my house.”


“Well… that’s not difficult, but won’t they come to see you in the capital soon?”

“Well… I’m not sure how that will go.”

The girl spoke in a pampered tone, but with a very mature look.
Arten felt sorry for no reason, so he put the girl down and patted her hair gently.

“Of course, moving was not a simple problem, but don’t worry too much.
But why did you suddenly come to the palace? For what?”

“Oh, well.
Because my cousin is here.”

“Did you have a cousin? I’ve never heard of that…”

“My dad said he had a bad relationship with his brothers.
But since I’m ten years old, I have to do a spirit ceremony.”

Arten understood the situation roughly.
The couple seemed to think that it would be better for Asha to experience various cultures in the capital, even if she suffered a little, rather than growing up on the mountainous wall.
Since her relatives are in the capital, it seemed to be a difficult request.

‘Yes, it’s understandable.
Just by looking at the clothes.’

It was a delicate and colorful dress for children that Arten had never seen.
It looks so pretty that even a child of a great noble couldn’t wear it.

‘This relative’s family seems to be quite rich.
How else would you dress like that?’

“Arten, do you have to go back now?”

“Uh, uh, you’ve invited me from afar, so I have to leave tomorrow to make it on time.”

It was thanks to a growing number of invitations since becoming a performer of the royal court banquet.

“I’m so relieved to hear that you’re doing well.
How happy I am to tell your parents good things…”

“I’m always doing well.
Take care on your journey, Arten.”

“If your cousin bullies you, be sure to contact your parents or even me.
Do you know how to write a letter?”

The girl laughed again and nodded.
When the yellow chick next to him squeaked again, the girl waved at him, saying, “I have to go now.”

Arten wanted to take the girl to the place where he had to go back, but he thought that the girl would know the geography of the palace better than himself.

While Arten waved off, the girl turned around and disappeared over that corridor.
Only then did Arten notice the eyes of his fellow performers.


“Ah! I didn’t care about you guys because I was distracted.
I will apologize.
She was a child I cherished like a niece, but I heard that she is working at the imperial palace.”

“No… ah… no… who… whose child… is it?”

“There’s a couple down there that I often visit.
We built a friendship with deep musical knowledge.
Oh! I hope you come with me someday.
The couple is not very well off, so they can’t pay much for the performance, but they can have a more valuable conversation than that.”

“What’s the name of the couple?”

Arten replied, shrugging his shoulders, though he thought his companion was inquiring too much of a personal acquaintance.

“Their names are Yuriev and Irina.
Their daughter’s name is…”

“Anastasia?”

“No, Asha.”

“Anastasia’s nickname is Asha.”

“No, it’s just Asha… What’s wrong with you? You look pale.
Are you sick?”

At Arten’s question, the companion continued with a look of eagerness to scream, but in a whisper, in a small voice.

“Arten, do you happen to know the name of His Majesty’s youngest son, the prince?”

“Hmm? I’ve heard of it.
What was it? Um, Yuri…”

Arten’s face, which was reflecting on the memory, also gradually faded.

His colleague asked again.

“…What’s the name of the crown prince’s wife?”

“…”

“It must be Irina.
It was quite a commotion back then, wasn’t it? Irina Nellin, the daughter of Lord Nellin, married the crown prince and then left the palace.”

“…”

“And this year, the Emperor left his youngest granddaughter in the Imperial Palace.”

“…”

“She looks just like him.”

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