✍️✍️✍️✍️ Garden Of Poison Chapter 122 - 125 Complete Chapters ✍️✍️✍️✍️



Pang of Heart ❤️ (Chapter 122)

Music Recommendation: Buck Twenty- Thomas Newman     

Dread was all that Anastasia felt, as if she were sinking into its depths with every second that passed between the three of them in silence. She observed Dante's disapproving expression directed towards her, and his contempt for Gabriel, who was standing next to her.      

Dante remarked in a calm voice, akin to a sea that seemed poised to drown both her and Gabriel, "To think that after everything we have shared, you go behind my back to meet this man in secret."      

Gabriel attempted to address the situation, aiming to spare Anastasia from any trouble, "It isn't Anastasia's fault. It was a mistake—"      

In the blink of an eye, Dante's hand wrapped around Gabriel's neck, and Anastasia's eyes widened in panic. She scrambled to explain to him,      

"It isn't what you're imagining, Dante. I can explain!"      

As Gabriel struggled to escape from the demon's grip, Dante tightened his hold, thwarting his attempts to break free. Dante didn't spare Anastasia from his scorching glare, which resembled nothing less than molten iron.      

"Didn't I tell you to prioritise your own well-being before caring for others? Especially a man," Dante's voice was low and eerie, sending shivers down her spine. "How about you leave his side and come to mine now."     

Anastasia observed Dante's fiercely blazing eyes, which warned her to listen to him. However, her concern for Gabriel's life prevailed; all it would take was a mere snap of Dante's fingers, and she didn't want the man to lose his life because of his overly friendly disposition.      

"Please, listen to me. I will explain what happened. I will tell you everything, so please, let Gabriel go," Anastasia attempted to calm Dante, but the mere mention of the man's name on her lips only fuelled his anger further.      

Dante's grip on Gabriel's neck grew even tighter, leaving the gardener struggling to break free from the demon's vice-like hold, to no avail. His eyes narrowed, and he questioned, "Where was your refusal when he had his arms wrapped around your body? Did you enjoy the comfort of his embrace that had your heart racing?"      

Anastasia shook her head with urgency and said in haste, "My heart did not race for him. Gabriel is like my brother."     

But Dante didn't believe it, given that Gabriel was a new servant, leaving little opportunity for Anastasia to become truly familiar with the man, let alone form a deep bond. Having been betrayed by a woman once before, he wasn't going to allow it to happen again. He remarked, "It is hard to know if you are saying this merely for the sake of saving his life or not. To think you committed an act of treason when I have been so understanding and accommodating towards you. You disappoint me."      

Upon hearing those words, Anastasia's stomach sank, and she felt an ache in her chest. She quickly responded, "I have not betrayed you. I would not—"     

"To my side," Dante abruptly interjected, noticing that she had not moved away from Gabriel.      

Anastasia's lips trembled out of fear, not for herself, but for Gabriel. The man was an idiot for thoughtlessly wrapping his arms around her.      

Not knowing what else to do but comply, Anastasia obediently came to stand beside Dante, noticing Gabriel's face turning red. Before the man died, she quickly explained, "One of the guards informed me that you were expecting me here, which is why I came here. I would have never met Gabriel in secret. I implore you to ask the guard who used your name. Neither of us is at fault."      

"Quite audacious of you to assume that you are blameless," Dante chuckled darkly without letting go of Gabriel's neck. "Rather than standing here and chatting with him, you should have returned to your room. And you," he shifted his gaze to the human, who struggled to stay alive with great difficulty. "Have you not received the news that Anastasia is my woman and is not to be touched by another man? You have quite the nerve to address her by her name."      

"Dante, please!" Anastasia could feel her heart pounding loudly in her chest. "Please confirm with the guard!"     

"And were you also summoned by the guard?" Dante questioned Gabriel before forcefully shoving the man to the ground.      

Coughing, Gabriel clutched his throat, still feeling the grip of the demon's hand wrapped around his neck. His eyes involuntarily met Anastasia's, who had earlier told him that she had never instructed Theresa to ask him to meet her. Wheezing, he managed, "It…It was the guard."      

Dante detected the lie and shouted, "Guards!"      

Four guards quickly arrived at the entrance, offering their bows to the king. Dante commanded, "Take this man and lock him up in the dungeon."      

Anastasia's eyebrows furrowed, and she protested, "But—"     

"Don't think that just because I won't put you in the dungeon, you are off the hook," Dante interrupted, glaring at her. He ordered the guards, "Have all the guards brought here immediately."      

"My heart wasn't beating for him, Dante! I do not love him or hold any romantic feelings for him whatsoever!" Anastasia desperately hoped to spare Gabriel from the same fate as the other criminals sent to the dungeon.      

"Prove it then," Dante stated, as two of the guards picked up the coughing Gabriel, who was trying to regain his composure.      

"Prove?" Anastasia whispered, detecting the rage in the demon's eyes, an inferno poised to burn and reduce everything to ashes.      

"What were you two talking about that led to your heart racing?" Dante demanded, leaving Anastasia uncertain about how much he had overheard and the potential consequences they might face.      

"What if you don't believe me?" Anastasia inquired, because with the way he looked at her with accusing eyes, she doubted he was in a sound mind to listen to her, as if jealousy had muddled his judgement, fostering irrational thoughts.      

They stared at each other, and Anastasia did the one thing she believed would dispel any suspicion from Dante's mind. She took a step towards him, positioning herself directly before him, then raised herself on her tiptoes. Just as she was about to lean forward to kiss his lips, she felt Dante's cold finger pressing against her chest.     

"If I didn't know better, I would have mistaken you for a demoness," Dante remarked, pushing himself away to increase the distance between them.      

Though Dante's nail or finger didn't pierce through her chest, Anastasia still experienced a pang in her heart at his words and actions. He continued, "Before anything else, let us see which guard attempted to use my name to summon you both here."     

Anastasia's face turned red, and she quickly placed her feet flat on the ground.      

Not far from them, Niyasa stood at the end of one of the corridors, peeking around the corner with a broad grin on her face. Her lips twisted mischievously as she stared at them without letting them know of her presence.      

Soon, all the guards were summoned and gathered near the west wing, while the two guards continued to tightly grip each of Gabriel's arms. Anastasia's eyes raked through the faces of the guards, trying to find the man who had earlier informed her about Dante waiting for her.      

"Are all of them here, and not a single one remains stationed outside?" Dante questioned, and at that moment, Mr. Gilbert appeared, having been informed that the king wanted to assemble all the palace's guards.      

"Did something happen?" the Mother Queen inquired, wearing a look of confusion as she entered the area with Aziel trailing behind her.      

"Someone had the audacity to use my name to bring Anastasia here to meet this man, who seemed to have conveniently forgotten that the women of the royal family are not to be gazed upon," Dante declared. His eyes swept through the assembled guards, and he inquired, "Have their numbers been accounted for to ensure that all of them are present, Norrix?"      

Mr. Gilbert bowed respectfully and replied, "Yes, Your Highness. These are all the guards employed within the palace."      

"Let's not prolong this any further. Each of you will step forward, one by one, and Lady Anastasia here will identify the one who believed he could deceive her with impunity." With that, Dante snapped his fingers, a gesture that sent a shiver through everyone's mind. He commanded, "Begin stepping forward."     

Anastasia felt everyone's eyes on her, the guards holding expressions of wariness as they ensured she got a good look at them so she wouldn't mistake them for someone else. And as the minutes trickled by, stretching from one to three, each guard stepped forward in succession, only to have her shake her head. During this process, she stole fleeting glances at Dante, who refused to look at her.      

When all the guards were done taking their turn, each stepping forward only to retreat moments later before leaving the garden completely, Anastasia began to wonder if she had somehow forgotten the guard's face, which is why she failed to identify him. Just as these thoughts crossed her mind, she heard Dante say,      

"I hope you aren't about to suggest that the guard must be a spy or possess the ability to change their appearance." Anastasia turned to meet his eyes. "Someone who deceived both of you, orchestrating this scenario so you could spend time together in the secluded inner garden where few venture. Because the gardener's heart is beating too loudly due to the lie he spun, so what is your explanation for that?"      

Anastasia shifted her gaze towards Gabriel, who stared back at her. He said, "Anastasia didn't know anything. Spare her—"     

"…!" Anastasia's eyes widened as Dante's fist connected with Gabriel's face, breaking the man's nose and causing blood to trickle down.      

"Don't utter her name from your mouth ever again," Dante warned, his hand still clenched, before issuing the command, "Take him away."      

The two guards proceeded to drag Gabriel from the scene. Anastasia then turned to Dante and asserted,      

"You are misunderstanding the situation."      

Dante's icy gaze shifted to Anastasia, and the look in his eyes made her nervous. He stated, "Why did you not question why he was hugging you, or tell him that he shouldn't? Instead, you were rather keen on having him leave so that no one caught you both together." He paused momentarily before continuing, "It's a shame, because I believed you were different. But you always wanted a simple life, didn't you? A husband who is a gardener and one who isn't a demon."      

This time, Anastasia's heart clenched at his words, and a pang of sadness washed over her. To make things worse, the guard who had come to summon her didn't appear to exist, further complicating matters.     

Aside from Anastasia, the Mother Queen found herself doubly troubled, lacking a clear understanding of what exactly happened and having caught only bits and pieces of the conversation.      

Anastasia watched Dante walk away, not sparing her another word, as if she had failed him. The Mother Queen quickly appeared at her side and asked in exasperation, "What did you do, Anna? Especially given that you know how dear you are to him, you allowed another man to touch you. You are lucky he's not dealing with you right now, but he will certainly deal with that servant."      

"Is he going to kill Gabriel?" Anastasia's anxiety became palpable, and she pleaded, "Please don't let anything happen to him, Grandmother. He's a friend, but nothing more than that. I swear on my sister's name!"      

Like Dante, the Mother Queen was displeased upon finding out that the young woman had been embraced by a servant, and in an intimate, secluded spot at that. She said, "I cannot guarantee that, Anna. Dante is very angry right now… and the servant is lucky he didn't explode on the spot. Let us give him some time to cool down before we approach him." She offered a reassuring pat on the young woman's arm before she led Aziel away.      

When they had walked quite a distance away, Aziel whispered, "Mother Queen, this doesn't seem to be going well."      

"You think?" the Mother Queen sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose, before her footsteps finally stopped. "What's truly beyond belief is that we are facing the same situation as what happened with Maya, and as much as I want to eliminate things that can potentially cause trouble, I cannot afford to make the same mistake, especially since Anastasia is important. Not to mention, the servant's death could trigger immeasurable consequences that I am not looking forward to."     

"There's only a week left until the Golden Moon," the minister reminded the Mother Queen, something that she was already very aware of.      

"It is why Dante is acting the way he is; as we draw closer to the time of the Golden Moon, his emotions and senses will undergo change, and it might not be a good change until the effect fully takes hold," the Mother Queen explained, her concern evident. "Who is this idiot?!" she suddenly snapped, which made the minister jump.      

"The servant, milady?"      

"Yes, that servant who was taken to the dungeon. How dare he touch her when everyone knows that she is Dante's woman?" the Mother Queen glared. Everything had been progressing perfectly fine, and no one important had died in the last four days. Yet someone had to come and ruin her peace!     

"I will go and see what I can find out about the man," Aziel offered, and the Mother Queen nodded in approval.      

Far away from the Mother Queen and her minister, Niyasa watched Anastasia grow more miserable with every passing second. Satisfied with what she had seen and heard, she turned around and began to walk away when she caught sight of Aiden looking at her from the other end of the corridor.      

"Brother Dante is not in a good mood right now. It would be wise for all of us to steer clear of him. Also, don't go near Anastasia; I doubt anything can be salvaged after that," saying this, Niyasa walked past him, continuing on her way.      

By the time Aiden made his way towards where everyone had been standing earlier, there was no one there.      

Restless, Anastasia's footsteps were swift as she walked towards the dungeon. Upon arriving, she was about to step inside when the guards stopped her by blocking her path. One of the guards informed her,      

"Milady, you do not have permission to enter the dungeon."      

"I am the king's concubine," Anastasia informed them.      

"It is King Dante himself who has ordered us not to allow you entry," the guard answered, and Anastasia bit the inside of her cheek in worry.      

Would Dante kill Gabriel? Should she heed the Mother Queen's advice and wait for his anger to subside before approaching him? She dreaded stumbling upon Gabriel's severed head or limbs mounted on the wall… Gabriel had said his goodbyes, but she didn't know that the goodbye would occur like this. He had lost his sister, Stella, here, which was why he was in Versailles in the first place.      

"Is King Dante currently in the dungeon…?" Anastasia inquired.      

"Yes, milady," the guards affirmed, and she gave them a nod of acknowledgement. A part of her wanted to wait for Dante to step out, but at the same time she was scared that it would exacerbate the already dire situation.      

When Anastasia turned around to leave, she heard loud, agonising cries echoing from the dungeon, where Gabriel was confined. The screams were unceasing.      

"AHHH!!!" Gabriel screamed in agony, bound inside one of the cells.      

Dante stood outside the cell, his hands in his trouser pockets. His gaze remained fixed on the man before him, who continued to scream as the flesh of his hands progressively melted away, as if being consumed by fire. The man's hands began to bleed, filling the air with the scent of blood that pervaded the room.      

"I used to wonder if it was the typical attention that Anastasia garnered after her transition from a maid. But your eyes strayed in her direction even before that. Who would have thought that I would be greeted by a similar situation," Dante slightly smiled, but the emotion didn't reach his eyes.      

As Gabriel's skin momentarily ceased melting, a shuddering breath escaped his lips, and he uttered, "All of you royals… all of you are the same. Ready to kill."     

"If you wanted to live, you should have stayed far away from her. You are already aware of the laws of this kingdom, and yet you embraced a woman who wasn't yours. And something tells me it isn't the first time." Dante's eyes narrowed, and when Gabriel's face began to burn, a trace of blood trickling down his cheek, the man screamed once again before gritting his teeth not to give Dante the pleasure of satisfaction. "Denying anything would be needless, especially given the fact that it wasn't the guard who instructed you to meet her. Why did you go to meet her?"      

Having suffered the loss of his sister, Gabriel held nothing but contempt for this family. These men and women of high status had stolen his family member, leaving him and his parents in despair. Moreover, they were responsible for many families facing such a plight, having kidnapped their kin before turning them into slaves.      

"Because I care for her," he whispered, as if, even though he knew what would happen, he couldn't resist provoking the person before him. Another scream erupted from his throat as he felt blood begin to trickle down his skin.      

"Something that doesn't sit well with me. I won't deny that her beauty and innocence are qualities that would attract any man. A spark of fire ignites when stones rub against each other in certain circumstances, but you have crossed a line that I cannot overlook," Dante stated as he pulled out his hands from his trousers.      

Gabriel wheezed, struggling through the agony, gasping in between. Seeing Dante pull out his hand, he could already guess what the king planned next. Between his laboured breaths, he managed, "Kill me…and she will despise you."     

Dante let out a sinister chuckle, amused by the human's words, already aware of the possibility. He remarked, "I think it's much more fascinating to see you writhing and contorting in pain."     

An hour passed, and the screams persisted until Gabriel's throat had gone dry; the torment had eventually rendered him unconscious.      

Two floors above, Anastasia paced back and forth in her room, anxious at the thought of what would happen. She wrung her hands, occasionally stopping to cast a glance at the door in anticipation of Theresa's arrival. She hoped Theresa wouldn't be dragged into this ordeal and would be spared.      

Finally, the door swung open, and upon seeing the maid's servant attire, Anastasia experienced a fleeting sense of relief and uttered, "Thank God, you are here—," her words faltered as she realised the person at the door wasn't Theresa. She inquired, "Where is Theresa?"      

The maid offered her a bow and answered, "Milady, she won't be attending you from here on, and I will be taking her place."     


Blackthorn siblings' blame (Chapter 123)

Anastasia's unease grew upon hearing the maid's answer. She doubted Gabriel would have put Theresa in trouble, which was why he had likely brought up the guard to Dante so that the woman wouldn't be dragged into the unfolding chaos.      
But what if Dante managed to extract Theresa's name from Gabriel?     

She stepped closer to the maid and inquired, "Where is Theresa? Is she alright?" All she needed to know was that the woman was safe and well.     

"She must be… milady," the senior maid answered. Only a few weeks ago, this young woman had been a junior maid, but now she was serving this woman as the king's woman. "I haven't seen Theresa since this afternoon, and Mr. Gilbert ordered me to assume her duties in serving you."     

Anastasia felt like everything was falling apart, and the more she struggled to grasp control, the more it slipped away. Her lips pressed into a thin line before she uttered, "Can you do something for me?"      

"Anything you want," the maid replied, wondering what it was she wanted to request.      

"I need you to locate Theresa. See that she's fine and doing well." Anastasia's heart refused to settle down and maintained its restless pace. "Right now," she urged, as the maid continued to stand there.     

"I shall go see her right away and report back to you, milady," the maid bowed before exiting the room, leaving Anastasia alone again.      

Anastasia didn't leave her room, choosing to stay put as she could already imagine everyone gossiping about her. The memory of Dante's rejection of her when she moved closer to him to prove herself caused her to clench her hands involuntarily. She sat on the edge of her bed, lost in thought. After a few minutes, a knock echoed at the door, prompting Anastasia to rise to her feet.      

"Come in," she uttered, anxiously waiting for the maid to deliver the news.      

However, it wasn't the maid who entered, but rather Emily, who had stepped inside her room. The princess said, "I heard about what happened and thought to check on you… How are you doing, Anna?"      

Anastasia shook her head and drew in a deep breath before saying, "Not good. Did you see the king?"      

"Only briefly," Emily replied, and she made her way to where Anastasia stood. "I haven't had the chance to talk with him yet."     

Anastasia nodded, her eyebrows knitting together, and inquired, "Is the gardener… still alive?"      

Emily's eyes softened, and she replied, "Yes, it appears he is. Why did you meet him in secret, Anna?"     

"A guard truly approached me and informed me that the king was waiting for me. I wasn't there to meet Gabriel," Anastasia clarified in a low voice because she didn't know if people would believe her. "It's like someone deliberately set us up."     

The princess heaved a troubled sigh before remarking, "Perhaps, once Brother Dante calms down from his initial burst of rage, he might come to realise the truth. Do you know about his past?"      

"About his wife murdering him?" Anastasia asked, and the princess gave her a nod in response.      

"Even after their transformation, demons carry certain wounds that persist, gnawing at them, which is what initially corrodes them. At least, this is what I like to theorise based on what I know and have read on the subject," Emily explained to her slowly. "Perhaps the pain, the anguish, and the sense of rejection still lingers, and that is why he acted on impulse. However, I am confident that the situation will change within the coming hours, Anna," she added, grabbing Anastasia's hand to express her compassion.      

"I hope so," Anastasia murmured, hoping that once Dante's rage subsided, he would realise that there was nothing between her and Gabriel.      

"But on another note," Emily began, her lips tightening for a fleeting second, before she continued, "Brother Dante specifically requested a seamstress instead of a tailor for you. You should know how protective and possessive he is of you, to the extent of not even allowing a male tailor to take your measurements. Don't be sad, Anna."     

Anastasia offered a grateful smile to the kind princess, though it quickly faded as her mind remained burdened with concerns. She expressed her gratitude, saying, "Thank you for coming to see me, Princess."     

"You should address me as Emily, Anna. Despite the formalities of the palace, I have always wanted our relationship to be akin to that of sisters, but only if you want to, of course. And I will always be here to help you," Emily smiled at the younger woman.      

When the door swung open once more, Anastasia's new maid reentered the room, offering respectful bows to both women. The maid informed her,      

"Milady, Theresa is working in the kitchen now."      

A wave of relief washed over Anastasia's mind, as if half of the weight had been lifted from her shoulders.     

"I shall see you at supper, Anna," Emily informed her, and she stepped out of the room. As she approached the corner of the corridor, Aiden unexpectedly materialised in front of her, almost scaring her. "What are you doing, Aiden?!"     

"I was waiting for you. How is Anna doing?" Aiden asked his sister as they rounded the corner and continued on their way.      

"She's scared and worried," Emily exhaled, pausing her footsteps as she grasped her brother's hand. "Aiden… You haven't done anything, have you? Because—"      

"Firstly, it is rude of you to suspect me. Secondly, what would I have possibly achieved by doing something like that, Lily?" Aiden countered, slightly appalled at his sister's accusatory question. He continued, "If there's anyone whom you should suspect, it should be Niyasa. She was there, grinning as if she were quite unhinged."      

"She was there before Brother Dante arrived?" Emily frowned, and Aiden's eyes scrunched in thought.      

"I arrived when the guards were already assembled, and Grandmother was there too. I heard her voice," Aiden replied, his shoulders lifting in emphasis. "I am telling you, she was up to no good."      

"Aiden, Niyasa might plan elaborate schemes, but she wouldn't stick around to get caught at the scene of the crime," Emily discussed with her brother at the side of the corridor. When a maid entered the corridor, they fell silent, resuming their conversation once she had departed. Emily continued, "Moreover, if what you are saying is true, Brother Dante would have identified her as suspicious and taken action. And she would be spending time in the dungeon by now. And if Brother Dante hadn't detected the gardener's lie, you might have found yourself subject to questioning too."     

"I am innocent in all this. I am busy doing my own stuff," Aiden huffed, though he couldn't shake the thought that the blame could shift towards him at any moment. With that in mind, he then proposed, "There is a way to catch Niyasa."     

"How?" Emily asked, looking at him with curiosity.      

"Follow my lead, and in no time, we will expose her schemes," Aiden promised her, leaving Emily unsure about his plan's potential success. He asked, "Where is Mother?"      

"She's gone to pay a visit to Lady Noor because Victor has fallen sick. Lady Noor is worried that he caught something similar to what Lady Lucretia suffered from," Emily replied in a low voice. "I wish no more lives would be lost."     

At the front of the palace, Prince Raylen returned from his sightseeing excursion around the nearby towns, stepping into the wide entrance hall. His gaze swept over the servants, who murmured in hushed tones to each other. Upon catching sight of him, they promptly fell silent and offered respectful bows.      

"What cute little mice," Prince Raylen remarked before proceeding on his way. As he continued to walk, he overheard a maid whispering to another,      

"… long has it been going on?"     

"She's always been strange. Silent one moment, then climbing up the ladder the next," the other maid responded.      

"But to pick the gardener of all people?"     

"Who picked the gardener?" Prince Raylen questioned, prompting the maids to abruptly turn their attention to him with eyes wide in surprise. "It has been so quiet here lately. I think I could use a little gossip," he added with a polite smile.      

"T—That, it was about the gardener and…" one of the maids stuttered.      

Fortunately for the maids, the Mother Queen entered the corridor, offering a greeting, "Good afternoon, Prince Raylen. Good to see you are back."     

"Has something happened that I missed?" Prince Raylen inquired, his eyes shifting from the maids to the older woman.      

The Mother Queen turned to look at the maids and questioned, "What are you doing standing here instead of attending to your tasks?" The maids quickly dispersed, and she then redirected her gaze to meet the Storm Prince's eyes. She asked with suspicion in her voice, "Where have you been?"      

"Gazing upon women," Prince Raylen replied in an amiable tone as the Mother Queen's eyes narrowed. "So that I can find my soulmate. What happened? You look a little pale."      

"Things got a little out of hand. A nobody, a gardener, embraced my granddaughter-in-law to be, and Dante is seething with anger," the Mother Queen summarised for him.      

"Well, if you are looking for a solution, it is quite simple. Kill the gardener, and you'll have a happy ever after," Prince Raylen remarked in a nonchalant manner.      

"I would have intervened earlier, but the man is somehow important enough for Anastasia to meet him in private, and they've been deceitful. Which, in turn, has fuelled Dante's anger. Don't think about killing him, even by mistake," the Mother Queen warned the Storm Prince against taking matters into his own hands. "I am sitting on pins and needles. It's making me consider having them put to sleep and then waking them up in seven days."     

"If only such a thing were feasible," Prince Raylen hummed in response. He then murmured, "I specifically told her the story in the hopes that it would dissuade her, yet she walked straight into it. I wonder if, somewhere deep down in his bones, even though it's unbeknownst to him, his anger is rooted in his history with her, tied to who she is. Do you know how vengeful a spirit can become after its demise, after it is murdered? Returning to annihilate all it once held dear."     

"Personally, I'd rather not know. The murdered spirit, that is," the Mother Queen replied, causing the prince to raise an eyebrow in response. "What is your point again?" she asked.      

"If things are meant to be, they will happen, or… perhaps they were never meant to be."     

"Talking with you has only increased my anxiety," the Mother Queen mumbled.      

Far from the entrance, Niyasa strolled along a corridor, searching for her mother. Her mother had temporarily left the palace to visit her brother in the mausoleum, and word had it that she had finally returned. Happiness bubbled within her.      

She caught sight of her sister, who had just stepped into the corridor from the opposite direction.      

"Niyasa," Emily greeted her briefly, as if she were in a hurry to be somewhere.      

"Did you hear what Brother Dante's concubine did, Lily?" Niyasa stopped her sister. "Caught in the west wing with a gardener. How shameful."     

"It is probably a misunderstanding. Something like this happened in the past too… if you know what I mean," Emily subtly alluded to what had happened with Niyasa's mother.      

Niyasa laughed with glee before replying, "Sure, the gardener is her long-lost brother. Sometimes, you just have to trust your eyes, and Brother Dante certainly didn't disappoint."     

Emily regarded her sister with suspicion. Maybe Aiden was right? Yet she remained sceptical, particularly considering Niyasa had spent hours scrubbing the bloody corridor and wall. She asked,      

"Where are you going?"      

"To see the only person I can rely on. My mother," Niyasa replied with a hint of haughtiness and jab at her sister.      

"I heard that Lady Maya left the palace and has since returned a while ago. She's in the sitting room. Is everything alright?"      

"She lost her son, and wasn't able to attend his funeral. You tell me, if everything is alright," Niyasa threw the question back at Emily.      

"You know that's not what I meant—"     

"Whatever, I should be going. Have a good day, Lily," Niyasa remarked, before she pivoted and walked towards the sitting room.      

Emily watched her sister walk away with a hurried stride, and she let out a sigh. Her family was turning on one another, and she could only try to untangle the situation without exacerbating it.      

The hem of Niyasa's dress skimmed along the carpet in the long corridor before she came to stand before the sitting room. The maids standing outside opened the door for her to allow her entry, and she saw her mother sitting on the couch.      

A kettle rested on the small table in front of the couch, accompanied by an already-poured tea in a delicate teacup. Niyasa greeted her mother with a bow, saying,     

"Good afternoon, Mother. How was your visit?"      

Lady Maya watched Niyasa as she entered the room and took a seat beside her, but not before picking up a biscuit from the tray. With a bemused smile, she asked, "How do you think it went?"      

"Pardon me, Mother. You should have taken me along with you, it's not like I have anything to do here. At least I would have visited Brother Maxwell," Niyasa said, leaning back against the couch.     

"We can go together next time," Lady Maya proposed, to which Niyasa nodded in agreement. She said, "It is difficult to accept that he's gone."     

"I agree, Mother. I still believe it was a setup," Niyasa replied with narrowed eyes. She then added, "I think there is something that might cheer you up."     

Lady Maya frowned as she asked, "What is it?"     

Casting a quick glance at the door, Niyasa addressed her mother, "Brother Dante's concubine was discovered in an intimate embrace with another man, in a secluded place. And when caught, they chose to lie. You might have doubts about what I just told you, but it is exactly as I said."     

"How and when did that happen?" Lady Maya inquired, one of her eyebrows arching in curiosity.      

"It happened a while ago when you weren't here, and Brother Dante is absolutely furious. He deserves it," Niyasa chuckled in delight. "He refused to speak to Anastasia, which is only fitting, as she deserves that as well, and that gardener she was embracing is currently imprisoned in the dungeon."     

"With a gardener? I don't recall seeing them together previously, not that I paid any attention to her," Lady Maya remarked, bringing the teacup to her lips. "What a fool to meet the man, considering her newfound status. The weight of her position must not have truly registered with her."     

"I have seen his eyes following her whenever she's around, and even her eyes move in his direction. I knew since then that something was going on between them. Almost as if they communicate in secret through their eyes," Niyasa stated, taking a bite from the biscuit before her expression turned into a frown, causing her to set it back on the tray.      

"She must have been prepared for this outcome if she wasn't concerned about getting caught. I am surprised that they haven't killed the gardener," Lady Maya remarked, before questioning, "I assume you didn't involve yourself in any of this?"      

"No, Mother. I had no involvement whatsoever. It happened purely due to their actions," Niyasa replied dutifully and continued, "The gardener orchestrated it all; I saw him dispatching a guard to summon Anastasia, using the king's name."      

"You did?" Lady Maya questioned in surprise, and Niyasa affirmed with a nod.      

"The whole situation is so scandalous, isn't it? The king's concubine entangled with a gardener. I cannot help but smile at the thought," Niyasa chuckled gleefully.      

"Damnit," Lady Maya cursed under her breath, catching the young princess's attention.      


All of a sudden, someone knocked on the door, diverting their attention towards it. When the door opened, Princess Emily entered the room, prompting Niyasa to demand,      

"What are you doing here, Lily?"      

"I am here for our brother," Emily replied, causing Niyasa's confusion to deepen. But when the younger princess's eyes shifted towards her brother, she let out a startled scream.      

"What the hell are you doing here, Aiden?!" Niyasa glared at him as he had shifted back to his usual form. She had been conversing with him the entire time, and not her mother?!      

"Our apologies, sister," Aiden excused himself, rising from the couch to meet his elder sister's gaze. "You were right."     

"About what??" Niyasa snapped. She jabbed her finger at him and exclaimed, "I cannot believe you transformed into my mother. I will be sure to inform her about your audacity! How dare you impersonate her? I will tell Brother Dante that it was you who summoned Anastasia and the gardener, out of jealousy for not being able to be the king!"     

Emily and Aiden fell silent at this.      

"Or, we could tell him that you were the one who set up the whole scenario," Aiden shifted the blame onto Niyasa, a proposition that didn't sit well with the young princess.      

"Go ahead, and I will say that you transformed yourself into the guard," Niyasa retorted, crossing her arms across her chest. "Two can play the blame game."     

She would do it too, Emily thought to herself. Unlike her and Aiden, Niyasa was happy with the way events unfolded for their older brother and Anastasia.      

"We need you to find out which guard you saw earlier, Niyasa," Emily gently coaxed her sister, but Niyasa only stared back at her.      

"Unfortunately, Lily, my time here was wasted. Even if you did find the guard, it wouldn't negate the fact that the gardener had his hands around Anastasia. The law was broken, and it is only a matter of time before we find out who will die. I need to find my mother so that I can tell her what happened and what you two did." Niyasa glared at her siblings before storming out of the room.      

Niyasa claimed she had no part in it, Emily thought to herself. Aiden had denied his involvement when she asked him. Their mother was with Lady Noor, and Lady Maya had left the palace to visit the mausoleum. Her grandmother was hellbent on making the love ship sail, so she doubted she had any role in this matter.      

So, the question remained: who had sent the guard to Anastasia? Unless… it was the gardener himself who had orchestrated the situation, Emily speculated.     


Fulfulling an old promise (Chapter 124)

Music Recommendation: Adagietto- Beethoven     

Hours passed, and Anastasia remained transfixed, staring at the wall before her in silence, lost in her own thoughts. When it was time for dinner, she anxiously made her way to the dining room. But upon entering, she found the head of the table to be empty, and with a sigh, she took her place at the table's edge.      

Soon, the Mother Queen stepped inside the room, her staff gently clicking against the floor as she walked. With a gentle smile, she stated, "The best part of the day is when you gather around with your family all together for a meal. What do you think?"      

"You are right, Grandmother," Aiden agreed with her.     

The Mother Queen walked around the table and took a seat next to Anastasia.      

Once the food was served, everyone began to eat, engrossed in their own matters as they conversed with each other. Anastasia couldn't help but wonder where Dante was and whether he was still in the dungeon. As she had made her way to the dining room, she passed by the dungeon and felt a sense of relief at the absence of any tortured screams.      

"Is the food not to your liking, Anna?" inquired the Mother Queen, who was seated to her left.      

Anastasia snapped out of her reverie and shook her head, "No, it is delicious. More delicious than anything I had the chance to eat in the last eight years."     

"Then may I ask why you haven't touched your food yet?" the Mother Queen asked in a hushed tone, as the others at the table engaged in their own conversations.      

Anastasia's eyes shifted from the older woman to the head of the table, and the Mother Queen's eyes followed her gaze before returning to her. With a calm demeanour, the Mother Queen said,      

"Dante is taking some time to cool his mind, and he will rejoin us for breakfast tomorrow. By then, he will have found it in his heart to forgive you."     

Anastasia's grip on the spoon grew firmer, and she asserted, "I haven't done anything that requires forgiveness." Her words were slightly raised, causing everyone around the table to pause what they were doing and shift their attention towards her.      

A grim expression clouded the Mother Queen's face as she responded, "Anastasia, are you implying that you did not embrace a man? Dante caught you both, and it is only because he cares about you that the gardener is still breathing."     

"There was a misinterpretation of what occurred," Anastasia attempted to clear the air of misunderstandings surrounding her. She continued, "I know most people believe me to be in the wrong, expecting me to seek forgiveness… for something beyond my control. Gabriel shouldn't have done that, but we were summoned by the guards—"     

"I am already bored of this," Niyasa sighed, rolling her eyes in exasperation. She said, "You should have known, given that you are his concubine now, that it couldn't have been the king. Not knowing that he was absent from the palace, nor when he'll summon you suggests you are only making up stories to escape accountability for the mistake you committed. No matter how you found yourselves there, the fact remains that you hugged each other."      

"Can you not stay quiet for once, Niyasa?" Emily asked her sister, who appeared to hold no compassion or regard for another's feelings.      

"Yes, we hugged," Anastasia accepted, and Niyasa raised her hands to indicate to everyone that this was precisely her point. "However, must every hug have to imply romance or intimacy? Can't a friend hug you? Can't a brother and sister share a hug? Would you interpret that as romantic as well?" she challenged Niyasa, her hands shaking as she held the spoon tighter than before.      

"You do not share blood ties with him, Anastasia." The Mother Queen's tone carried a degree of leniency towards the young woman, but her tolerance didn't extend to witnessing her grandson's woman being embraced by another man who had only arrived at the palace a mere month ago. "You said someone set you up. What if he is the one who is behind it?"     

However, Anastasia couldn't find a reason for Gabriel to deceive her, especially considering that he could have conveyed his message through Theresa, which would have been the safest choice.      

"He might be the closest blood relation I share among anyone here," Anastasia responded, causing the Mother Queen to raise her eyebrows. "I would like to be excused and return to my room."      

"Anna..." Aiden felt terrible for her.      

"Let her go. She needs to understand that she broke an important rule and cannot act frivolously," Lady Sophia stated. "We all follow the rules of the palace, and she must do the same."     

At his mother's words, Aiden's gaze shifted towards his grandmother, who, sensing his gaze, turned to look at him with a quizzical expression.      

Offering a polite bow, Anastasia pivoted to leave the room. She had barely set her foot beyond the dining room's threshold when her stomach sank upon seeing Dante standing a mere two steps away.      

Anastasia felt her heartbeat increase its rhythm as their eyes locked, and she noticed his eyes were much calmer than the last time she had seen him. How long had he been standing there, listening to them speak? She wondered if he would walk past her and join his family for dinner, but contrary to her expectations, he addressed her instead, saying,      

"Come to the king's study."     

Dante turned around and began to walk away, and Anastasia followed him, albeit with a four-second delay. Her legs shook slightly as she grappled with being unable to read his expression or mood. On their way, Anastasia noticed the growing gap between them, and she placed her hand on her chest to steady her racing heart.      

Upon reaching his study, Dante was the first to step inside, followed by Anastasia, and the door softly clicked shut behind her. Not a second later, he turned to meet her eyes.      

Anastasia stared back at him without shying away from his intense gaze. She was relieved that he wanted to talk to her, rather than avoid eye contact like earlier this noon. Her heart didn't stop beating loudly at the uncertainty of what he would say next. But before he could utter a word, she interjected, saying,      

"You replaced Theresa with another maid."     

"Did it worry you?" Dante questioned her, his face calmer than she had anticipated, and somewhere within her, it worried her. "The possibility that I killed her?"      

Anastasia's lips pursed, not knowing if she was allowed to bring up Gabriel's name, and she cautiously said, "After what happened this afternoon, I was worried. Why did you replace my maid? I never asked you to."     

"Sometimes, we never ask for things to occur, but they happen anyway," Dante's words were cold while his eyes remained locked onto her. "I have been privy to the fact that Theresa and Gabriel have been talking, away from prying eyes. I believe I don't need to inquire about the nature of their secretive discussions."     

"Will you let me explain?" Anastasia inquired, her eyebrows knitting together.      

"You were summoned by a guard, which led to both of you ending up there. I have grasped that part. Currently, an investigation is underway to find out who orchestrated it." Dante's eyes subtly narrowed, "But you know what bothered me the most, don't you, Anastasia? I explicitly instructed you not to allow any man to touch you."     

"I didn't initiate the hug, nor did I welcome it… I did give him a pat on the back, but it was to signal him to pull away," Anastasia explained. When Dante emitted a thoughtful hum, her heart sank, and she whispered, "You doubt me…"     

"I don't. I was just thinking." Dante took a deep breath before continuing, "Something similar happened when I was an earthling, and I dismissed it as a friendly gesture. That decision ended in blood."     

Was that why he was blinded by rage? Because the resurgence of that bitter, unpleasant memory overtook his senses? Anastasia began,      

"I am not—"     

"I know," Dante responded, his gaze fixed on the woman he had purposely avoided since noon so that he could gather his thoughts and put some things into perspective. "I know you aren't in love with him. I apologise for my actions towards you, as it seems like I have been thoughtless and acted without proper consideration."     

Anastasia's eyes subtly widened at his apology. She could still feel the chilly manner in which he had pushed her away this noon, but hearing him apologise and acknowledge his misunderstanding made her internally happy.      

"Is there a reason why the gardener is familiar with you, while seemingly oblivious to your status as the king's companion?" Dante questioned her.     

"Gabriel… He is also from Hawkshead," Anastasia disclosed the truth, as she didn't want Gabriel suffering more than he already had, or Dante to snap his fingers at him. She continued, "He arrived here in search of his sister. Her name was Stella… but she's no longer alive. King Maxwell was familiar with her; her portraits are in the art room. That is all. Will you let Gabriel out of—"     

"No," Dante's reply was swift, and his jaw clenched before he relaxed it. He said, "My forgiveness is reserved only for you, not for him."     

Anastasia pressed her lips together, seeing the flicker of a glare that passed through his eyes. And though he apologised, she could still sense things hadn't fully returned to the way they were before.      

"Was I not supposed to ask the question...?" she frowned.      

"It wouldn't be you if you didn't ask," Dante remarked. He raised his hand to run it through his thick locks of black hair. It had taken him hours before he finally came to his decision. He continued,      

"It appears that I have a tendency to behave recklessly and may continue to do so in the future when it comes to women. Towards you. And this could lead to me hurting you. The scars of my past weigh heavily on the present, and before my demon self takes over, there are some things that need to be settled. I have been thinking about it, and despite it being a difficult decision, I have decided to grant you what you have wished for."     

"Wish?" Anastasia whispered, uncertain about his meaning but feeling a twinge of hope in her chest at his words nonetheless.      

"The register documenting your status as my concubine arrived early this evening, but you don't have to sign it." The demon's heart hardened before he continued, "I once gave you my word that when Aiden ascended to the throne, I would see to it. As I have the power now, I am granting your wish to you. You're free to return to your home. To Hawkshead."     


Distance Makes The Heart Grow Fonder? (Chapter 125)

The words Dante said left Anastasia stunned, because never had she expected to hear them.      
To receive the freedom she had run after all these years, she would have imagined that she would be overjoyed. To be reunited with her parents and take Marianne with her was what she wanted. But right now, she didn't feel that way.      

Earlier today, even when Gabriel mentioned leaving Versailles, she hadn't agreed to go with him. Subconsciously, she had been delaying leaving the palace and had let things flow.     

Anastasia saw Dante stare back at her. His expression was calm and composed, unlike hers, which was breaking. Her lips moved soundlessly before she hesitantly asked, "Why…?" Why now, after everything?      

"Because it is for the best. You are an earthling, who has always wanted to go home, and I am a demon from the underworld, who came here with plans. Our paths are different," Dante replied with an indifferent expression.      

Anastasia felt her heart grow heavy at his words and she clenched her hands. She asked,      

"What if—What if I say I want to stay?"     

Dante offered her a smile, which didn't reach his eyes, and he said,      

"You and I both know that it isn't what you want. It isn't what you fought for and you don't want your life to be a repeat of what happened to your sister. This is something I decided after a lot of thought, and believe it will do us both good, and I am not changing my mind. The earliest ship leaves in a week in the evening, and I will have Aziel make sure that everything is prepared for your departure."      

Anastasia felt as if someone had thrown a bucket of cold water on her, and she stood there frozen.      

Unbeknownst to her that what he had seen this noon had brought up unpleasant memories, he had made a swift verdict on it. She apologised,      

"I am sorry… that I brought up bad memories. It wasn't my intention."     

"How would you know that when you weren't there?" Dante asked her, and he walked over to one of the cupboards. "You don't have to apologise for my past, when you had nothing to do with it." Saying this, he opened the cupboard.     

"Not everyone is like that," Anastasia said, referring to women. "Just because it happened once doesn't mean it is going to happen again." She watched Dante pause for a moment before he pulled out a clay pot, and she realised it was her sister's ashes. He started walking towards her, and she felt her heart race as he got closer.      

"Something you would like to take back home," Dante said, extending the clay pot towards her.     

Anastasia stared at the pot for a moment before she grabbed the pot at the bottom and held the top, as Dante let go of it the moment she caught it. She said, "Dante…"     

"You would be surprised to know that Lady Maya was once very much like you. At least from what my grandmother used to say," Dante said to her. "Innocent, yet stubborn. Someone who craved for her freedom. But the harsh truth is that palace life will change you, no matter how much you try." He paused before continuing, "And it didn't just happen once."     

"What?" Anastasia asked with a frown.      

"I don't have a good history with women. The first one stabbed me, the second one cursed me, and who knows what the third one is capable of?" Dante chuckled, but Anastasia sensed hollowness in his voice. "I am not upset with you, rather, what happened today has made things clearer. I have to congratulate you. You will be the first person ever to leave Versailles."     

Anastasia's eyes lowered to look at the pot, feeling too many emotions at once, and none were comfortable. There it was… the curse, the stab… and her being a forest person. She reined in her feelings and said,      

"You don't want me here…"      

The people brought to the palace from other lands usually forgot where they came from. But Anastasia had always held those memories close to her, partly because of her sister's existence, who reminded her of it.      

"'He might be the closest blood relation I share among anyone here'. Those were your words earlier, and as I suspected, he is from your town too. You share common troubles, a common place, common people," Dante stated the obvious as he stared back at her. He took a deep breath before releasing it. "You can finally see your parents."     

Suddenly, something crackled in the room, interrupting them and breaking their gazes away from each other. Upon turning their heads, their eyes fell on the imp, who had returned from its journey after a week.      

"Master, I am back to serve you!" Migdre hadn't taken note of Anastasia in the room and bent forward, its forehead touching the carpeted floor. Raising its head, it said, "It was a long journey, b—" the imp stopped talking upon seeing its master glaring at it. "I—uh—must have interrupted something. I shall return la—"     

"We are almost done. Speak what you came for," Dante interrupted. "What did you find out?"      

"I visited the underworld and checked with numerous demons so I could get information, but he hasn't been seen for a few months now," Migdre reported, while its big orange eyes glanced at the earthling that had a curious scent before looking back at its master. "And about the woman who cursed you, no one has seen her since the day she cursed you, and from what I have gathered, I believe she is dead."     

"What about her last descendant?" Dante questioned, and Anastasia's eyes quickly moved to the imp, who glanced back at her. Did the imp know? Seeing Migdre was distracted, Dante told Anastasia, "You may take your leave."      

Wanting to get away from the curious imp, Anastasia offered a bow and turned to walk towards the door.      

"What about it, Master?" Migdre asked, leaning forward.      

"Don't tell me you did half the job," Dante's eyes narrowed at the imp, who suddenly became worried. "If that woman isn't alive, then find her descendant and bring the person to me."     

Anastasia softly gulped at their conversation. Reaching for the door, she stepped out, but not before turning to look back at Dante. But he was staring at the imp and talking to it without looking at her. Her heart squeezed tightly before she pulled the door shut and left.      

"I shall get to it right away, Master!" Migdre obliged, and noticed its master's eyes move to the door. "Did something happen, Master?"     

Dante's eyes followed the wall, hearing Anastasia's receding footsteps outside in the corridor, before the sound disappeared. He remarked, "Everything is fine. Just the way it is supposed to be."     

Far away from the king's study, Aziel returned to the Mother Queen's side after she was done with her dinner. He whispered discreetly to her, "I have news!"     

"Hopefully good news?" the Mother Queen asked, waiting for her trusted minister to continue.      

"Lady Anastasia and King Dante were in the king's study," Aziel informed her, and the Mother Queen clapped her hands in delight.      

"Wonderful to know that they have made up already. See, I told you that it would be alright," she said, but noticed Aziel's lips tighten. "What? Is that the Elder's registry?" she asked, noticing the book in his hand.      

"I had it placed in his study but he returned it, saying there was no need for it. And he told me to prepare Lady Anastasia's things, because she will be going home," Aziel replied with concern, and the Mother Queen's eyes widened.      

"What do you mean, she's going home?! She's going nowhere!" the Mother Queen huffed.      

"You seem to be excited, Queen Ginger," Prince Raylen said as he appeared from behind them, licking his lips.      

The Mother Queen walked right towards him before stopping and saying, "You said I shouldn't say anything, but this is clearly not working. Maybe you should take him to the underworld to pass the time and bring him back once the day has arrived."      

"It does sound lovely, as it might cement his demonic resolution." Raylen smiled at the thought and said, "You need to relax. Everything will be just fine."     

"And what if Anastasia gets on the ship and they never know? Why is it so hard for her to love him?" the Mother Queen became exasperated. "He is handsome, he is a king, he is an excellent knight and he has been excellent at everything! Any woman would fall into his arms!"     

Raylen's eyes moved to look down the corridor, his ears trying to pick up if someone was listening to them before he returned to look at the Mother Queen. He stated, "You know exactly why."     

The Mother Queen glared at him before she sighed. He continued,      

"With the amount of lives lost and destroyed before the demon was cursed, the woman of the forest did offer her heart to him after reading his past life as an earthling. But the demon was too bloodthirsty to listen. She loved him, and swore to make things better at the expense of her life, because she couldn't kill him. Not because she wasn't able to, but because it went against the values of the people of the forest. Because they are protectors, not executioners."      

Raylen found it rather interesting that the same woman's heart had to be attained by the demon, and the thought made him smile.      

"She knows who she is. Their kind," the Mother Queen whispered, and Raylen nodded.      

"I figured as much," Raylen replied, his eyes dimming at the thought. "Coming back to Dante; if I were you, I wouldn't worry about it."     

"What makes you say that?" the Mother Queen asked with a frown.      

"As a demon, let me tell you that we are conniving bastards. I don't know what he's up to, but I can tell that it is something tricky, and I doubt he will let her go that easily," Raylen revealed, smiling politely at her.      

The Mother Queen decided to retire to her room, but she paused and asked, "You said she is from a lineage that protects. What if the flower fails to heal?"      

"Then it is her decision. To finish what wasn't done before," Raylen replied, and he was the first one to walk away.      

The next day, the newly appointed maid entered Anastasia's room to wake her. But a troubled Anastasia had barely slept, and her eyes were wide open as she stared at the ceiling.      

A part of Anastasia was excited at the thought of seeing her parents after eight long years and imagining how they would greet each other and how happy they would be. But there was a part of her that had grown attached to Theresa and, more recently, Dante, who was sending her away. Was it because he knew someone was trying to frame her? And he was worried about getting entangled any further? Or was it because he had decided that it was best not to get involved with her after everything that happened yesterday?     

The breakfast with the royal family was quieter than yesterday, and Anastasia noted how Dante had once again skipped having a meal with them. She hadn't uttered a word since she had woken up. There was no Theresa to talk to, and the distance between her and Dante was growing rapidly.      

When Anastasia was finished eating and she stood up from her seat, the Mother Queen said,      

"Anna, can you help me stand? I seem to be having trouble with my back."     

Anastasia nodded and quickly helped the older woman stand. She asked, "Should I inform Minister Aziel?"      

"He is having his own back problems and will be of no help. I will be fine with you," the Mother Queen said. "How about you accompany me today?"      

Anastasia wondered if the Mother Queen was subtly trying to chaperone her so that she didn't get into trouble or cause some of her own. She offered a smile and said, "I will."      

The Mother Queen put her hand around Anastasia's arm as they walked. She noticed how the young woman was quieter than yesterday. She was like a flower that was wilting, and the Mother Queen couldn't sit and do nothing about it. She would have to talk to Dante about Anastasia's newly assigned maid, who was probably making her sad!     

When they reached the corridor to the royal courtroom, Anastasia said doubtfully, "I don't think I am allowed in there…"     

"Of course you are allowed. You are with me, and you are the king's woman. He might be avoiding you, but you have to be assertive," the Mother Queen advised her. "Men's egos are fragile and need to be coaxed by women. To let them know that they are important, more than anyone else."     

"Why can't they coax it themselves?" Anastasia asked.     

"Because they are big babies," the Mother Queen sighed, remembering her husband. She asked, "Do you like my first grandson, Anna?"     

Anastasia saw the Mother Queen stare at her, and she gave her a nod. She then said, "But things are not the same as before."     

"Oh hush, child. I am experienced at this, and believe me when I say feelings cannot be erased overnight." The Mother Queen waved her hand and said, "We have a court meeting to attend now."      

They heard footsteps coming up from behind, where some of the ministers greeted them and walked inside the room. Soon Dante appeared in the corridor with Aziel walking behind him. When they came near, Anastasia and the Mother Queen offered a bow to him.      

"Good morning, Grandson," the Mother Queen greeted him and said, "My eyes feel a little dull today, and I decided to have Anna's help in writing what is needed."      

Anastasia noticed how Dante didn't spare her a glance and he replied, "Suit yourself," before disappearing inside the room, and the two women quickly followed him inside.