“I’m sorry I said you were beautiful.
I meant it because Herwin is beautiful, like an angel…No, I meant it because he’s handsome…….”


 

Her words were filled with regret and remorse.

 

Herwin’s stubbornness, which he had vowed to never relent, melted away.

 

“……I’m sorry I got angry too, I knew you didn’t mean to.”

 

He secretly knew that Lucia hadn’t meant to tease him about the word ‘beautiful’.

 

Still, he was in a bad mood and insisted.

 

“Hehe, so we’ve made up?”

 

Lucia smiled for the first time.
Her oval white eyes were adorable.

 

Herwin flinched at the tug, oblivious to the heat in his cheeks.

 

“Is Heroin here for the New Year’s party?”

 

“Yes, he is.”

 

“Where does he usually live?”

 

“I have to travel a few days by carriage to get there.
It’s colder than here.”

 

“Eh? It’s colder than this? I’m cold right now.”

 

“Well, it’s cold but not as cold as there…….”

 

As if they hadn’t just argued, they continued their conversation naturally.

 

As the two children got to know each other, they gradually warmed up to each other, and when the adults came to visit later, they were laughing and playing.

 

“So, kids, are you guys reconciled now?”

 

“Yes! I’m going to be friends with Herrin!”

 

“Mommy, Mommy, Lucia gave this to me.”

 

Both children ran to their parents and excitedly explained what they had been doing and what they had talked about.

 

Seeing the smiles on both Lucia and Herwin’s faces, the couple smiled back.

 

* * *

 

“Whoa… it’s a baby.”

 

“Isn’t he cute? He’s my brother.”

 

“Did you say his name was Henry?”

“Yes, Henry Phoenaeus.
He’s two years old after tonight.”

 

Only one more day to go until the next year.
Herwin and Lucia, who had gotten along so well after their first day of the meeting, came to visit Herwin’s brother Henry in his room.

 

They had only seen him briefly on the first day when they were all together.

 

Henry, who had just started running around, couldn’t keep still for long and was eager to get around the room.

 

Lucia marveled at how much he looked like Herwin.

 

Lucia’s eyes widened as she realized that Henry’s face reminded her of Herwin and Hail.

 

Slightly rounder than Herwin’s piercing eyes, she stared back at him.

 

“What, what is it?”

 

“I think you’re curious.”

 


“Why am I? I’ve never heard that before…….”

 

“You look… strange.”

 

The words ‘fairy-like’ and ‘cute’ flashed through her mind, but she couldn’t bring herself to say them.

 

Lucia frowned, and she wanted to say something, but Henry, who had been in the distance, approached.

 

“Ow!”

 

“Huh?”

 

With a quick flick of his short arms and legs, Henry came to a stop in front of Lucia.

 

Henry stood in front of Lucia, doing nothing.

 

“Henry, what are you doing?”

 

Henry’s head snapped around as frightened.
Herwin called out to him.

 

“Tongue!”

 

“Yeah, does Lucia have a problem?”

 

“Lucia? Lucia!”

 

“That’s right, Lucia.
Now, repeat after me.
Lucia!”

 

“Lucia!”

 

“Lucia.”

 

“Lucia!”

 

Henry did as he was told.
Lucia, who had never been around a child younger than herself before, found the sight fascinating.

 

“He speaks well.”

 

“A little fast for his age.”

 

“Abbe, ah!”

 

Henry abruptly left the room.
He went somewhere and began rummaging through the baggage he had brought from the north.

 

Lucia, who had been watching him closely, spoke up.

 

“You know, you and Henry look a lot alike.”

 

“Yeah? I don’t know.”

 

“No, you look a lot like him! You look just like the Duke!”

 

“Hmmm! And with my dad… of course.”

 

The corners of Herwin’s mouth twitched at the resemblance to Hail.

 

Suddenly, Henry, who had been in the distance, approached with a storybook.

 

“This!”

 

“A book?”

 

Henry handed the book to Lucia.
She took it hesitantly and turned to Herwin.

 

“Henry, do you want me to read? I can read to you.”

 

“Shirer! Lucia! Lucia!”

 


Henry shook his head vigorously as Herwin tried to take the book from Lucia’s hand.

 

Herwin froze in shock, having been rejected by his brother for the first time.

 

Gingerly taking the book from Herwin’s hand, Henry handed it back to Lucia.

 

“Lucia! Lucia!” 

 

“I can’t read…….”

 

Lucia had recently begun to learn to read, but she couldn’t read fluently.
While she was struggling, Henry took her into his arms.

 

He smelled her soft breath and her dark hair.

 

Henry flicked through the book in Lucia’s hands, stopping at a scene.

 

“Lucia!”

 

He pointed a slender finger at the drawing on the page.

 

A woman with wavy brown hair and blue eyes, sitting in the middle of a forest, smelling flowers.

 

“Is this me?”

 

“Uh-huh! Lucia!”

 

Henry grinned and nodded.
Lucia looked at the woman in the painting with interest.

 

Even though it was a painting, it felt good to be able to call this pretty woman her own.

 

Lucia smiled sheepishly, and both Herwin and Henry stared at her side.

 

Then, something dry and wet landed on her cheek.
Lucia looked up, startled, to see Henry grinning down at her.

 

“Lucia, that’s mine!”

 

Herwin’s mouth dropped open as he watched Henry kiss Lucia.

 

Suddenly, an unknown spark ignited in his chest.

 

“Henry!”

 

“Purr, she’s mine, she’s mine!”

 

“Lucia is not yours, come here!”

 

“Oooh, sir, sir.”

 

“Bitter, you’re being scolded by your brother?”

 

Despite Henry’s struggles, Herwin managed to pull his brother away from Lucia.

 

Lucia rubbed her cheek and watched the Phoenaeus brothers bicker.

 

“I’m fine…….”

 

No one was listening to her.

 

* * *

 

“Oooooh, tongue meh!”

 

“Don’t cry, my dear.
Herwin, what did you do to make Henry cry like this?”

 

At Scarlett’s question, Herwin turned his head pointedly, his mouth hanging open.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“He’s been weird lately.
Yeah, yeah, he’s a good boy, isn’t he?”


 

Scarlett shook her head, then quickly soothed him when Henry whined again.

 

The corners of Henry’s eyes were suddenly bright red.

 

Just a few minutes earlier, Henry had kissed Lucia on the cheek, and Herwin had had to pull him away from her.

 

When Henry finally burst into tears, Scarlett, who was in the next room, rushed in.

 

Scarlett didn’t understand what was happening.

 

Henry and Herwin were so close that they had never argued before.

 

Herwin had always been very protective of Henry, and Henry had always been very protective of his older brother.
But now that they were on the Islands, this happened.

 

Scarlett let out an odd sigh, and Lucia came into her field of vision.

 

“Lucia, if you don’t mind, why don’t you tell me what’s been going on?”

 

Herwin, who had been steadfastly avoiding eye contact with Scarlett, fidgeted, visibly alarmed.

 

Recognizing this, Scarlett looked at Lucia with a gentle smile, not once glancing at her son.

 

“Uh, so…….”

 

Lucia looked between Scarlett and Herwin in confusion.

 

Scarlett exuded a soft yet strong aura, giving off an unspoken pressure to speak, while Herwin rolled his eyes and shook his head.

 

She wasn’t sure what to do.

 

She felt like answering Scarlett would piss her off, and she felt like she was disrespecting an adult by not saying anything.

 

Lucia’s eyes narrowed as her tiny mind continued to wrestle with the question.

 

“Heh, Herwin kissed me!”

 

“Huh?”

 

“W-what, my, my when!”

 

Scarlett was momentarily flustered, and Herwin was even more flustered than she was.

 

His cheeks had turned red, as had Lucia’s.
His hasty denial made Lucia realize her mistake and open her mouth.

 

“Oh, no, it’s not that.
Henry kissed me, and then Herwin pulled him away, and then…….”

 

“Oh, so that’s what happened?”

 

Scarlett quickly realized what had happened.
She looked down at her son with a conspiratorial look on her face.

 

Henry’s still a kid, so I’m sure he’s just fond of Lucia, but Herwin’s reaction was nothing short of astonishing.

 

A little kid can kiss a little kid, and he’s pulling her away from it?

 

“Ho-ho, when you say no to that.”

 

“Why would you say that?”

 

“But you cannot tell an adult when they ask.”

 

Herwin, who had now moved closer to Lucia, was about to question her, but when he saw the look in Lucia’s eyes, he clamped his mouth shut.

 

It was a reaction he hadn’t seen since he was in the North.

 

Was it because this was the first time they’d been together? Or is it because he likes Lucia?

 

“Either way, it’s cute.”


 

Scarlett smiled proudly, looking at the two children, and then her eyes lit up with mischief.

 

“Oh, my Henry must have a huge crush on Lucia.
I wonder if he’ll be chasing after her when he grows up?”

 

“Aww, Lucia, Lucia!”

 

Henry babbled, seemingly agitated by Scarlett’s words.

 

“Lucia, how about Henry? You’re always welcome to be my daughter-in-law.”

 

“What? Yes…I’d love to.”

 

Lucia replied hesitantly.
She said yes, but she was still too young to understand all of Scarlett’s words.

 

She just said it out loud because she felt like she had to.

 

Unlike Lucia, however, Herwin understood her mom’s words well enough.

 

“Mom! Why is Lucia coming into our house!”

 

“Why, because my Henry likes her.
Don’t you think it’s perfectly possible for two people to like each other, even when they’re grown up?”

 

“Lucia, no way!”

 

“Oh, come on, what are you fussing about, they say they like each other, do you like Lucia too?”

 

Scarlett struggled to contain her laughter and looked at Herwin with mischief in her eyes.

 

Herwin clamped his mouth shut and locked eyes with Lucia, who knew nothing.
His cheeks flushed red.

 

“Oh, I don’t know who likes who, and I don’t like Lucia!”

 

The embarrassment of the lie was evident in Scarlett’s eyes, but not in Lucia’s.

 

“Heh, you don’t like me……?”

 

“No, not that…….”

 

Lucia’s eyes widened as Herwin, who hadn’t thought of her, panicked.

 

“I, Nan Nan, like Herin, but… Herin hates me……!”

 

Huh.

 

Lucia sobbed nervously, and Herwin rushed to comfort her.

 

“It’s not like that! I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
Don’t cry…….”

 

Suddenly, Scarlett started crying, too, because she felt bad for being a tease.

 

Eventually, as the two children cried together, Henry started crying too, as if it was contagious.

 

Scarlett panicked as the tears started to fall like dominoes.

 

“Hey, guys, it’s a joke, it’s a joke.
So stop crying and just …….”

 

“Heeheehee, Herrin says he doesn’t like me……!”

 

“Oh, no, he doesn’t.
He likes me, Lucia, and he likes you……!”

 

“Ugh!”

 

“Ohh, goodness.”

 

Scarlett rubbed her forehead at the cries coming from all directions.

 

She chalked it up to karmic retribution and busied herself with soothing the three children until Julian arrived.

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