In the middle of the night, Mille appeared suddenly and was led back to her room by a maid who rushed to comfort her. The maid struggled to soothe Mille, who cried inconsolably all the way back. Watching this, Erna couldn’t help but sigh and slump onto the sofa.
“You’re so stubborn,” she muttered. The more Mille screamed, the more determined she seemed to become. It gave Erna a headache. Were all children like this?
Erna sighed again and resumed reading the Grand Castle’s magical records. She had dedicated herself to restoring the castle’s magic for eight long years, and now others could use magic within the castle walls with her permission.
As she read on, the sun began to rise outside, but Erna was too engrossed in her work to notice. Finally, she paused and said aloud, “Oh, so other people can use magic now.”
While she was poring over past records, Kalion strode in, holding Lionel. “Look at this, Erna. Lionel called me dad!” he exclaimed, beaming with pride. Kalion approached Erna, still holding Lionel, and encouraged him to say it again. Lionel blinked and made an odd sound. “Did I hear that wrong?” Kalion asked, puzzled.
“No,” Erna said flatly, skeptical of Kalion’s claim. But then Lionel spoke up, his voice ringing clear. “Aba! Appupapa!” he cried out.
“Did you hear that?” Kalion asked, his face lighting up. “He definitely said ‘dad’ just now!”
Erna looked at Kalion incredulously. No matter how many times Lionel repeated the word, she couldn’t bring herself to believe that Kalion was actually the boy’s father. Nevertheless, Kalion hugged Lionel tightly, spinning around in excitement before flopping down on the couch with the child in his arms. Lionel giggled gleefully in Kalion’s embrace.
“Is it true that you love children?” Erna asked.
As she watched Kalion playing with Lionel more skillfully than she expected, Erna felt a pang of emotion. Then Kalion’s eyes widened as he asked, “Don’t you like it?”
Erna hesitated. Indeed, she had never been as good with children as Kalion was. She had never hugged Lionel the way Kalion did. And hadn’t she even fought with Mille, exchanging heated words with the child?
“I don’t know,” Erna murmured weakly. She had always wanted a child, even though the issue of succession in Hesengard loomed large. But why was it so difficult to connect with a child, even when one was right in front of her?
As Erna fell silent, Kalion scooped up Lionel and headed outside, telling her to take a break. A moment later, she heard Mille’s excited voice from the garden. “Daddy’s the demon! Let’s catch him! Ready, go!”
Suddenly, a ball of fire appeared at the tip of Mille’s finger. Erna was astonished, but Kalion sprang into action, running as fast as he could to dodge the child’s fiery attack.
* * *
As Kalion returned from lunch, Erna noticed the food stains that covered his clothes. “What happened?” she asked as Orpé entered the room with a pile of magic-related paperwork she had requested.
“I had lunch with Lionel and Mille, and they ate well,” Kalion replied proudly. He excitedly went over to Orpé to tell him what the children had eaten and how much they had enjoyed it.
Orpé listened and smiled, as if she already knew.”You haven’t changed at all, even though you don’t remember,” she said. “You always took care of meals. Even when Mille was little, you took great care of him. When Mille was born, Erna suffered from labor pains for a whole day, and you were crying outside, blaming yourself. You prayed to every god, saying you would never have a second child, but then Lionel was born, and we were all surprised.”
Kalion listened to Orpé’s words with a serious face, then asked pointedly, “If Erna was in such danger, why did we have a second child?”
“How could we know? You came back from your trip to the lake house and Erna was pregnant!” Orpé said, feeling aggrieved.
Erna rolled her eyes as she looked at Kalion with her papers in hand. “It’s your fault,” she said.
* * *
As the night deepened, Erna and Kalion lay side by side on the bed once more. Erna had just finished adjusting the defensive magic in the Duke’s castle in case Mille made an appearance. She had read the magic formula several times and quickly found the spot to modify it. Thankfully, there weren’t many changes needed. Erna made the Grand Castle’s magic formula disappear and stretched her arms out on the bed, feeling a sense of relief.
“Okay. With this, we won’t be attacked in the middle of the night,” Erna said, turning to Kalion.
Kalion smiled, “You’re amazing, Erna. You’ve got magic down to a science now.”
Erna beamed with pride. She too had discovered that she had become more proficient in understanding magic formulas and distributing magical power. “I studied hard for eight years, Erna Hessen guard.”
As she spoke, Erna reached out her hand with her fingers spread. Suddenly, she felt a sharp pain and frowned.
“Are you okay?” Kalion asked, noticing the pained expression on Erna’s face.
Erna slowly lowered her hand and cautiously pressed her enlarged chest, feeling the pain and hardness. “Why is this happening?” she murmured.
With a furrowed brow, Erna cast a recovery magic on herself, hoping that it would alleviate the pain. She closed her eyes, thinking it would be okay after some rest.
The next morning, Erna awoke with even more pain and a feverish feeling in her chest. She gritted her teeth and asked herself, “Why is this happening?”
In just one day, Erna’s chest had become harder, and she continued to feel sharp pain. It was a sensation she had never experienced before, and she didn’t know what to do. Quickly, she called for a maid to fetch Orpé.
When Orpé arrived, Erna explained her symptoms. Orpé’s expression softened with relief. “That’s mastitis,” she said.
“Mastitis?” Erna repeated, her brow furrowing.
Orpé nodded. “You had a severe case when you stopped breastfeeding during Mille’s time. It seems like you’re suffering again this time.”
Erna’s heart sank. “Then what should I do? Should I take medicine?”
“No,” Orpé said. “It’s said that getting a massage is the best way to relieve it, rather than taking medicine.”
At the mention of massage, Erna’s face hardened. The slightest touch was excruciating, so how was she supposed to endure being kneaded like this? The thought made her want to refuse, but the persistent pain still made her squirm. She groaned and asked Orpé, “Where can I get a massage? Should I find the person who did it for me during Mille’s time? Is that person still in the Grand Castle?”
Orpé hesitated before answering. “Uh, well… it was done by Duke Kalion.”