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When you get super shocked, sometimes you can’t even talk. That’s how I felt right then.

All my buddies from Lemon, Olive, Grape, and Pomegranate class in Kindergarten liked being my friend.


I looked up at Mister Leopold because I felt like crying.

He was quick to make me feel better and told Edgar off.

“Liliana, Edgar was just playing. Edgar, we don’t say mean stuff to friends.”

“But what if I don’t wanna be friends?”

I didn’t get it. Why wouldn’t he wanna play with me?

I don’t think I’m boring or mean looking.

I touched my cheeks, thinking maybe my sisters called me cute just because I’m the littlest.

“Mister, am I ugly?”

“N-no, not at all. Liliana, you’re super cute.”

…He stuttered!

I plopped down and gave Edgar the meanest look. But Edgar just made a funny noise with his nose, like he was saying, ‘So what? I just said what I think.’

That made me even madder.

“You’re boring like asparagus. I don’t wanna play with you.”


“You look like you’d be good at swimming, like seaweed!”


“Yeah! Seaweed! Take that! Humph!”

I stuck out my tongue, and Edgar turned all red. He tried to come at me, but Mister Leopold was faster.

“Brother! She called me seaweed!”

Mister Leopold caught Edgar before he could do anything, and Edgar got really mad. But Mister Leopold just looked at him and didn’t let go, and I teased Edgar even more.

“Asparagus and seaweed, huh? Ehehe.”

“You, you! Let go, brother! I’ll turn that pumpkin into a watermelon today!”

“Ththth, take that!”

As I stuck out my tongue again, Edgar became so flustered that he flailed around wildly.

Mister Leopold gave me a look, but I just laughed and ran off with Cookie.

Behind me, cries of ‘let me go’ echoed. Hehe.

My sisters said you have to lose to friends to win, but he’s not my friend so it’s okay to win.

* * *

“Edgar? You met Edgar?”

“Yeah! I turned him into a seething seaweed.”

Older sister looked confused, but I didn’t bother explaining. Feeling no need to explain, I jumped onto the bed in her room. Wow. So cushy!

“Edgar is Leo’s younger cousin.”

“Younger cousin?”

“Yeah. The Emperor’s aunt and Leo’s uncle were his parents.”

“I see. But why is he in the imperial palace?”

“Because he’s been living back and forth between the palace and Leo’s house. Lately, he’s been staying at Leo’s.”

“Ah. Well, that’s okay. Now he’s just seething seaweed.”

Who cares about being royal? I beat him, and that’s what matters. I bounced joyfully on the bed until Sister pulled me off.

“The bed will break if you jump on it.”

“But it’s fun. Where’s Youngest Sister? She wasn’t in her room earlier.”

“She’s seriously considering working for the empire. She left for the palace on her first day here and even went to the mage tower.”

Well, talent was important. It removed fear and filled Younger Sister with the courage to look for a job immediately after arriving, even before she unpacked.

“Do you like your room, little one?”

“Yeah! There’s a garden in front, and I can play in front of it. Plus, it’s next to my sisters’ rooms and much bigger than the old one. It looks like it can fit more than ten friends.”

“Wow, that sounds great.”

“I’m going to make lots of friends here. But when are we eating? Liliana is hungry.”

“Food? Let’s go now.”

As I clutched my stomach and whined, Sister took my hand and spoke to the maid.

“Please take us to the dining hall.”

“Isn’t Eldest Sister coming?”

“She’ll come after meeting with His Majesty the Emperor.”

“What’s ‘meeting’?”

“To meet. Meeting His Majesty is called an audience.”

“That’s complicated.”

“It’s still difficult for a child.”

I admired the imperial palace while talking with Older Sister.

If Trovanza used vibrant colors for its decorations, everything in the Empire was decorated super fancy, from big statues to pictures and shiny gold things, and they didn’t miss any tiny bit.

I found myself gaping as I passed through the corridor and entered the dining hall through a grand door.

When I entered the dining hall with my sister, the waiting servants quickly pulled out chairs for us. I looked around the dining hall that was filled with servants and maids, clutching Cookie.

‘I wonder how they eat here.’

I felt a little shy because everyone was looking at us, so I just played with my Cookie. Then Mister Marius and Eldest Sister came in.

“Eldest Sister!”

“Huh. Mister’s not here?”

“Hello, Uncle.”

Oops! Everyone around us gasped. Why’d they do that?

“Liliana. It’s not ‘Uncle,’ it’s–”

Just as Older Sister was about to correct my form of address, Mister Marius waved her off, drawing my attention.

“I thought we were best friends, but you seem to like Alice more than me. I’m a bit hurt.”

“We’re not friends yet. You’re just ‘Uncle’ to me.”

“Ah, we’re not even friends?”

“Um… maybe ‘Frendle’ then?”

“Frendle? Hahaha. A mix of ‘friend’ and ‘uncle’?”

“Yep. But… I’m hungry.”

“Just wait a bit. Leo and someone else are coming.”


“A friend for Liliana?”

“I don’t have any friends here.”

Who could be my friend here?

While I was thinking, Mister Leopold showed up with Edgar. We looked at each other and started yelling and pointing right away.


“You, pumpkin!”


I just turned away, my nose in the air. Seaweed isn’t my friend.

“Whoa? You guys met already?”

“I tried introducing them earlier today, and well, you see what happened.”

“Did you guys have a fight? Who won?”

“Liliana totally won.”

“No way, as if!”

“Ha! Liliana did win, right?”

Marius gave me an affectionate look, and Edgar just turned his head away. Then, Marius told Edgar about us.

“Edgar, say hello. This is Alice, whom I’m going to marry. Next to her is her sister Regina. I heard Emilia went to the mage tower. I guess it’s true. And this is Liliana.”

“It’s an honor to meet you. I’m Edgar Runtvolenu.”

Even though Edgar was fuming because of me, he greeted my sisters politely.

Mister Leopold patted him on the head approvingly, causing Edgar’s cheeks to turn pink.

After we all said hello, Mister Marius, Mister Leopold, and ‘Seaweed’ sat on one side, while my eldest sister, older sister, and I took our seats across from them. This setup put Edgar and me directly across from each other.

Not long after we sat down, the food came out, and Mister Leopold started cutting meat for my little sister.

“I’m okay, thanks.”

Mister Marius tried to do the same thing for my eldest sister like Mister Leopold did, but Alice didn’t want to switch plates. Then, Mister Marius offered to swap plates with me, and I didn’t say no.

Edgar watched Mister Marius and me, looking pretty annoyed.

“You all must be wiped out from traveling. Taking it easy this week to get over the trip might be a good idea.”

That’s when the grown-ups started talking among themselves, and Edgar and I began our silent showdown, making faces at each other. Then, Edgar sneakily tossed a cherry tomato my way.


The tomato hit my plate, splashing sauce all over, and even got some on my favorite dress.

Feeling irritated, I lobbed a carrot at him, but he dodged it easily. My carrot didn’t hit anything and just dropped to the floor.

I accidentally caught Mister Leopold’s eye while I was fuming, but I quickly looked away, pretending I didn’t care. Then, when Mister Leopold was busy with Older Sister, I took my chance to flick lemon juice at Edgar.

Hehe, got him! Watching Edgar make that annoyed face made me laugh out loud. He grit his teeth and wiped his face off.

“Kee hee hee.”

I gave Edgar a big grin, even though he was giving me the stink eye, which just made him turn redder.

All of a sudden, Edgar tried to slide under the table and kicked my knee.


That kick caught me off guard, and I bit my tongue by mistake. My little sister gave me a puzzled look, but I didn’t want to complain to the adults about Edgar kicking me—that would be like losing.

I tried to kick him back.


My kick didn’t reach him. My foot just swung in the air and didn’t hit anything.

‘Am I really that short?’

It was weird because Edgar and I were pretty much the same height. But somehow, he had the reach.

Feeling defeated, I puffed out my cheeks while Edgar quietly chuckled, clearly enjoying his little victory.

“So frustrating…”

I lost.


Feeling down, I turned away from Edgar and started eating my trout with seasoned sauce. That’s when Mister Leopold, who had been watching Older Sister, spoke to me kindly.

“Eat up.”

“Uncle Leo, will you play with me tomorrow?”

“Why would Brother play with you?”

“Go away, seaweed.”

“You’re a pumpkin, after all.”

Mister Leopold called Edgar sternly as if warning him.


And Eldest Sister glared at me.

“Liliana. Is it okay to call a friend ‘seaweed’? Is it?”

“No, it’s not.”

“Did you do something wrong?”


“Then you should apologize.”

Saying sorry to Edgar? That felt super embarrassing! I couldn’t even make myself do it.

I just made a face and played with my food. Then, Eldest Sister got all serious with me.


“Fine, sorry. I’ll just call you ‘asparagus’ from now on.”

“What? Oh yeah? Well, if I’m asparagus, then you’re definitely spinach!”

“And what does that make you? An eggplant? Pfft!”

“You’re totally spinach mixed with corn!”

It didn’t take long before our finger-pointing and name-calling got too much, and Mister Leopold and Older Sister stepped in.


“Liliana, that’s enough!”

I was fuming mad.

Spinach and corn? Really? And he thinks he can talk when he looks like a potato!

I glared at him. There was no way I was going to let Edgar think he could beat me.

It’s not happening!