It finally happened.
Alberu expected the worst to inevitably come, but for it to come so soon… What was the point in preparing so much to avoid this outcome, if it would happen anyway! If only he had been aware of the evils he was facing much earlier, then he could’ve avoided this! But no, it was already too late.
Alberu had run out of cookies.
“Those four…” A vein popped in the King’s forehead as he massaged his temples at the thought of his dongsaeng and his trio of children who, even today, kept on visiting his bedroom and looting it for food like he was a goddamn picnic basket. “And here I thought that keeping around ten boxes was playing it safe. What are they, bottomless pits!?”
Little did Alberu know that, in a sense, his insult was right. Even Raon with his love of cookies couldn’t finish that many boxes, even with Cale’s help.
So Raon had dumped all the delicious cookies in his dimensional pocket.
Because Cale told him to.
Needless to say, the former trash was still a terrible influence on children even after defeating the White Star and (barely) avoiding the Prime Minister position Alberu attempted to foist on him at the last minute.
“And I had just given Alexandre his paid leave too…”
Alexandre being Alberu’s most trusted baker. The King, being who he was, couldn’t just get some random cook in the castle to bake for him after all. That was just begging for somebody to slip something into his food, and while Alberu didn’t fear being poisoned with his constitution, the gazes of some of the noblewomen in his court still scared him sometimes.
Who knew what kind of potions they would try and have him consume in an attempt to make him bed them?
“No, this calls for desperate measures.” And little did people know how reliant Alberu really was on sugar just to keep working. Without cookies, how would he remain focused? “It’s been a while, but I have to take them out again.”
He ran to a nearby cabinet for what he needed.
It was a box containing one of the few personal treasures Alberu had.
From appearances alone, one wouldn’t consider it to be anything that special. After all, it looked just like any other box – far from ornate or decorated, it was actually fairly beaten and scratched up. But were a mage be the one to find it, they would find themselves in awe at the magics that surrounded the box, and for good reason: Alberu himself had been the one to enchant it, with the help of Eruhaben-nim.
Few were the things that he considered precious, and these being the few gifts left behind by his mother deserved nothing less but his best in being preserved. Carefully unraveling the magics around the box, Alberu breathed deeply and smiled as he opened it up and took out the items he needed.
A pair of baking mitts, an old apron, and of course, a simple disguise artifact. Memories, good memories flushed across Alberu’s cheeks as he remembered how his mother would poke him on the nose, telling him ‘This will be our secret’ as she took him out for snacks late at night in the servants’ kitchens.
“As always, thank you, Mother…” Alberu whispered, before he shook his head of the nostalgia. Right, right, the cookies. “Hm, I need to be quick. There’s plenty of things to do.”
Putting on the disguise amulet, Alberu turned to a nearby mirror and smiled. Unlike his usual disguise, his hair turned tawny while his eyes became a dappled green. Of course, even like this he was still handsome… but it was the kind of handsome you could expect from a normal farmboy, not a prince or elf. Snapping his fingers, he wove a spell into his clothes. In a stream of mist, the elegant and decorated clothes of a king changed into that of a servant, and with a sigh of relief he slipped on the apron and the mittens.
He looked at the magic clock – he only had three hours before his next appointment.
Plenty of time.
It was fairly easy, slipping past the servants and the guards with his disguise on. After all, not only did he look more commonplace now – especially after he slipped on a pair of fake glasses to hide his face – he was still a trained warrior and the king that owned this castle.
Really, the disguise was overkill. But it was safer this way, as opposed to everyone hearing about how their king attempted to slip into the kitchens because he couldn’t trust anyone else to bake him his cookies.
So when he entered the kitchens, Alberu easily bowed his head past nobles, gave quick compliments to passing maids to distract them from studying him too closely, and slipped the head maid a bribe and a quick story about baking treats for family back home just so he could have access to the cooking supplies.
“Don’t you dare ruin anything, understand!?” The head maid bristled at him, but Alberu easily waved it off with a cheeky smile and easygoing air.
“Trust me, missus!” ‘Albert’ winked at the head maid, playing his role as a mere nobody to the hilt. Certainly, nobody would see him now and recognize the airheaded flirt to be the Emperor of the Roan Empire, though it helped that he looked a lot younger this way. “I wohn’t wreck a thing!”
The head maid placed a hand on her face. “Why do I somehow not trust you? Still, if what you’re saying about your younger siblings is true, I won’t hold you for too long. Be sure to treat them well, okay?”
Alberu decided then and there to give her a pay raise the moment he had a chance. Anybody telling him to spoil Cale Henituse deserved as much. And so, when the head maid left the kitchen to him, Alberu went to work.
Time to get to baking.
Magic was truly amazing.
Alberu thought as much as he took out precise measurements and prepared dough without the need of tools or even a mixing bowl. With a wave of Alberu’s mana, individual streams of flour, milk, butter, and other such ingredients gathered before him. The hardest part really was finding the baking sheet to place everything on.
With one hand, Alberu began kneading the dough while his other began to leaf through an aged recipe book. From what he was reading, it was easy enough to make the cookies like his mother used to, but unfortunately he had very limited time while the recipe involved letting the dough rest for an hour.
Time to use time manipulation magic then.
Kneading the dough for one last time, Alberu did a quick chant before he wove the time magic around the dough. In a small part of his mind, Alberu found it amusing that he was using such a difficult and mana-intensive spell just to speed-bake cookies, but what use was magic if you weren’t going to use it to make things convenient? His dongsaeng would certainly agree.
He dug through the bag of chocolate chips and began sprinkling it into the dough, massaging it into the mix. Meanwhile, the ovens he was pre-heating was nearly hot enough – just in time for Alberu to shape his dough balls on to the trays. All at once, five trays worth of cookies flew into the ovens of their own volition.
And as they baked, Alberu moved on to the next recipe. Almond cookies, On’s favorite. Without knowing it, Alberu began to hum as the symphony of baking and magic weaved around the kitchen.
Three hours later saw Alberu back in his office. Cale blinked when he came in and saw his hyung with a speckle of something white on his nose.
“Hyung, you look… cheerful?”
And here, Cale thought that Alberu would be irritated after the little prank Cale pulled on him. Wasn’t Alberu incredibly dependent on cookies to function? But right now he almost looked chipper.
“Oh, certainly. Had a short trip through nostalgia and all that.” Alberu smiled, hiding away his thoughts of evil things to do to his dongsaeng in the future as he held out a box towards the hero of the continent. “Nevermind that, anyway want a cookie?”
Try and take away his cookies? Cale would pay. But not now, when Alberu had so much fresh cookies all to himself.