(3RD PERSON POV)
The rowdy snack time had come to an end and it was now time to go back.
“Won’t you come back again”
“We will miss you….”
All the children felt sad at the thought of Anastasia leaving them.
They had only met for the first time today, but looking at how they held onto her, it would seem as if they’ve known each other all their life.
“Of course I’ll come back again.”
For Anastasia, it was difficult for her to hide her own feelings.
She had known these children from her first regression to this novel.
“I will definitely come back as often as I can.”
Then she kissed the forehead of Lucy, the twelfth child who would always follow her around.
Lucy smiled and hugged Anastasia tightly, while Anastasia returned her warm embrace.
Wilhelm looked at the scene with zero comprehension.
He still has not gotten used to the sight before his eyes.
It was something that he had never imagined before.
Never would he think in his life to see Anastasia treating a child kindly without hesitation.
It was at that moment, when he couldn’t take his eyes off Anastasia, that he was spoken to.
His eyebrows furrowed in thought.
“Your Majesty! Your Majesty, please come back with the Empress later.”
The tenth child, Thomas, spoke to Wilhelm.
It was the first time that a child had spoken to him without being afraid.
Wilhelm was a bit perplexed.
When he couldn’t answer right away, Thomas continued speaking.
“The two of you are friends.
Wilhelm was awkward with the usage of the word ‘friend’ that came out of the child’s mouth.
To use that word to bind him and Anastasia together, it somehow complicated his current feelings.
‘Is that word even fit to be used in connection with the both of us’
He felt skeptical, because everyone in the Empire recognized them as a couple.
But Wilhelm had never been in a harmonious state with Anastasia
Not even for a moment, and he knew that Anastasia would definitely agree with him.
He thought that nothing had changed, even now.
Since Wilhelm couldn’t tell the kid the main issue between him and Anastasia, he could only provide a vague answer.
That answer would probably turn out to be a lie.
It was why he felt kind of guilty about using it as his answer.
Thomas, unaware of the current situation, asked with a broad smile.
“It would be really nice if the two of you came together again.”
It was then that Anastasia’s voice was heard, as she called out to him.
As he turned his head, he saw her approaching them.
“We will be leaving now.”
“…Okay, let’s go.”
The two got into the same carriage, as twenty children and Mrs.
Essential waved goodbye to them.
The carriage then set off for the Imperial Palace.
It will only take about three to four hours by carriage to arrive back at the Imperial Palace.
From the moment they departed, only silence was present within the carriage.
It made Anastasia worried that it would be a long journey.
‘I hope that this will not be an awkward journey…’
Anastasia wanted to close her eyes and pretend to be asleep, but she was worried that Wilhelm might think that she was obviously avoiding him.
Then Anastasia thought of an idea.
‘I can just pretend to fall asleep naturally after we have a conversation!’
It wouldn’t be strange at all.
Since she had traveled such a long distance this morning.
Anastasia was thinking of something to talk about and before too long, came up with a good topic.
“Thomas seemed to have said something to Your Majesty earlier”
“He’s the last kid that Your Majesty spoke with.”
“What did he say Did you also enjoy coming here today”
Naturally, Wilhelm was able to easily recall the previous conversation and immediately became embarrassed.
Wilhelm was contemplating if he should be telling the truth.
If he does, the awkward atmosphere would become even more uncomfortable.
But he was also worried that if he lied and said Thomas didn’t say anything, Anastasia might misunderstood it as hinting that he didn’t want to talk to her.
‘….No, wait a minute.
There’s no reason for me to care about the latter part, right’
[pr/n: methinks thou protest too much.]
Surprised by the fact that he was genuinely worried about Anastasia misunderstanding him, Wilhelm immediately replied.
“We didn’t talk much.”
‘…I guess he didn’t want to talk to me.’
Of course, Anastasia had no choice but to think so with his response.
‘Well…that’s a good thing for me.’
[pr/n: no, your husband is just in denial right now.
Watch him regret it later and be a die hard simp.]
It was when Anastasia was about to lean back, thinking that it would be better to just pretend to be asleep, that Wilhelm spoke up.
“Are these the only escorts that you brought with you”
Wilhelm’s unexpected question came out before he realized it.
Anastasia looked at Wilhelm with a puzzled look.
Her face was that of someone who didn’t understand the meaning behind his question.
Wilhelm then repeated his question.
“Are they the only escorts that were brought with you”
Anastasia didn’t immediately understand what he wanted to ask, so she paused for a moment before she replied back.
“Is it too much”
“If you think it’s too much, I’ll reduce it even more in the future.”
“No, that’s not it.”
Wilhelm immediately interrupted her.
Anastasia looked at Wilhelm with a perplexed look from his sudden outburst.
Wilhelm looked at her and sighed.
As if he was surprised by what he had heard.
“Really…even a person like you could change this much.”
“There’s only a quarter of your former escorts present.
What I’m trying to say is that you took with you less than the usual number.
I’m not saying that it was excessive.”
Only then did Anastasia answer with a look of understanding.
“It was just for today’s outing.
I thought that too many escorts would be unnecessary and I didn’t want to cause any discomfort for the Essential family.
“Even so, you are the Empress of the Empire.
I think that you should be escorted accordingly.”
“Thank you for your concern.”
“I’m not worried.”
Wilhelm immediately denied it.
Anastasia looked at him as if to say, ‘Then why are you being like this’
“…..Again, I’m not worried.”
[pr/n: again…thou protest too much.]
Wilhelm had an ambiguous attitude, as if he didn’t know what words to use.
Anastasia’s brows furrowed slightly, waiting for him to speak.
However, the next words that came out of his mouth was on the opposite end of their discussion.
“…..Why are you doing this all of a sudden”
It was a voice that was genuinely curious to know the answer.
“You weren’t like this in the first place.
That’s why I wanted to ask you because I’m really curious.”
“I’ve already answered it before, Your Majesty.
I just had a sudden realization that I didn’t want to continue living this way and that made me want to change into a better person.”
“Still, it is impossible for a person to change that much so suddenly.”
“What are you hiding from me”
“No, it’s nothing like that.”
Anastasia unconsciously bit on the soft flesh inside her mouth.
His reaction was not unexpected.
It was extremely natural to have suspicions.
Rather, it was strange for other people who had accepted her sudden change without any doubt.
As he stated, it’s impossible for a person to suddenly transform their behaviors, without undergoing some harrowing events.
“But I don’t really understand His Majesty’s reaction.”
“What do you mean”
“Whomever I ask, they would always say that they like the way I am now.”
Anastasia was really puzzled.
‘Wouldn’t it be a good thing that his wife, who had always been involved in incidents or gambling scandals, to suddenly become a mature woman Shouldn’t he be the one who should be proud about the things that I’m doing now’
‘He might still have some lingering doubts.’
But Anastasia couldn’t help but feel that there was some sort of hostility mixed into it.
It was originally a hostility that stemmed from his dislike of Anastasia.
“I feel that His Majesty is not satisfied with the positive changes I have implemented.”
“It’s only natural for me to react this way.
Especially if we consider today’s situation.”
Wilhelm pointed out sharply.
“You basically hate children.
You were even reluctant to hold a noble child.
But now you manage to get along with all those kids, who are very noisy and cry all the time.”
“How could you change so much that you are capable of even smiling genuinely to those commoners and even playing with them”
(TN: This will now be under Wilhelm’s thoughts.)
‘I don’t even have my own child yet, but I could tell that her attitude towards those children was very affectionate.
To the point that it is inconceivable to think that it was a possibility.’
“Even if your attitude changes, your tastes naturally won’t follow suit.
Am I the only one who thinks that this entire situation is strange”
“…Then what do you want to hear from me”
Anastasia couldn’t see a way to get through this hurdle.
She decided to try to close the conversation as quickly as possible.
“Did you think that I had some grand design when there was no such plan”
“In time, Your Majesty, you will know the truth.
I will not elaborate any further than this.”
Leaving those words behind, Anastasia closed her eyes as if to show that she had nothing more to say.
Silence rang inside the carriage.
It was Wilhelm who broke the silence first and called out to Anastasia.
But there was no answer.
No response, no movement to his inquiry.
He then asked again in a very hopeful tone.
“Are you…pretending to be asleep”
“…Did you really fall asleep”
Wilhelm was bewildered, yet was convinced that she did.
‘She had traveled a long distance this morning, and she must have been dead tired after playing with those kids the whole day.’
“I haven’t even asked her about everything yet.”
In fact, there was a question that was the most important to him.
“Why did you cry like that earlier”
‘What happened that made you so sad The intense expression on her face as if she had lost a loved one.
It stayed in my mind and could not be erased.’
Wilhelm felt that if he was to ask her now, he knew that he wouldn’t be getting an answer from her.
‘She would definitely avoid it when she would not normally do so.’
“….I have no idea what you’re thinking.”
“Your behavior these days has always been beyond my expectations.
The unpredictable things that you do, it all confuses me so much.”
These situations and emotions that he had never encountered before made him uncomfortable and anxious.
Every facet of Anastasia, every action that she took…they all penetrated his heart slowly but surely.
(TN: My gosh I’m screaming right now.)
[pr: SEE! Give up man.
You a goner for her now.]
“What are you thinking of Anastasia”
Even the name of his wife, the first he had spoken in two years they were married, was quite awkward.