Was Astia capable of making such expressions?
“Get out of here! The Emperor is worse than a dog, and the empire is over!”
Her utterance of abusive words was a stark contrast to the Astia who interacted with the children.
Lucerne questioned if this was how she expressed gratitude when treating the children.
He recalled her appearance while chatting with the children in the carriage and thought to himself, “You were so pretty.”
Astia with the children is so dazzling.
He had been by Astia’s side the whole time she had been riding in his carriage since last night, but she did not look into his eyes.
When their eyes met, he was afraid of the hand gestures and swear words that would come flying.
He thought he was used to it now, but her refusal was unwelcome.
He was still nervous as he didn’t know when Astia would turn out the way she did before.
Astia, who suddenly changed after she suffered from an illness, was a little strange.
But even though he was nervous and awkward, he decided to keep looking into her eyes.
If it was Astia that he didn’t know that she was so dazzling, he wanted to keep looking into her eyes for now, even if she swears and curses at him after regaining her memories of her original self.
The wind kept blowing in Lucerne’s heart.
That night, Astia had to endure being harassed for a long time by the ladies-in-waiting.
“How dare you tell him to carve an apple into a rabbit shape?”
“Are you His Majesty the Emperor with unprecedented power? How dare you say such a thing to someone who could destroy the whole world if he wanted, doesn’t Lady Astia think?”
“There are even families that were destroyed just because he participated in a ball hosted by the aristocratic faction.
You never know what will happen if you dare to disobey him.”
“Besides, isn’t the imperial family’s magic symbolizing power and destruction from generation to generation? How could Lady Astia tell His Majesty to use that kind of power to peel apples?”
“Anyway, it was great.
Who knew you would wield the power of destruction so skillfully.”
“Rabbit, bear, tiger, flowers next.
I’ve worked in the imperial family for quite some time, but I’ve never heard of making a flower shape by carving an apple so thinly.”
Lucerne, you were a scary person.
It must have been a really great incident that Lucerne cut the apples as I requested without much fuss.
I thought the kids would like it, so I just mentioned it casually.
I didn’t know he would ‘carve the apple into the shape of a real rabbit’.
The running rabbit-shaped apple was dynamic and even realistic.
Lucerne, the one who cut the apple, had no complaints.
Everyone was happy, including Seti who received the rabbit, Marley and Geo who received the tiger and bear, and finally Rie who received the flower.
Rie’s expression was still vivid as he cried and ate the oxidized and yellowing apple.
The problem was with the maids.
The maids were talking about how stupid and reckless I was while I was washing and changing.
Their constant chatter made my ears ache.
I understand their surprise, but it annoyed me a little.
“You got through today safely, but you better be careful next time.
You should know your place.”
“If you want to live, don’t go against his displeasure.”
“We have served His Majesty at the Imperial Palace for four years now.
No one knows His Majesty as well as we do.”
Cheeky advice and useless ramblings.
When I was working part-time, I encountered customers like this from time to time.
They treated me as someone who barely had a part-time job, giving me advice and engaging in invisible violence.
Live life upright, they would say, as if young people these days lacked effort, and they expected me to listen to the advice of an adult who had lived decades longer.
At first, I would get angry and shoot back at them when they ignored me.
How good are you when you only come to the convenience store to buy triangular gimbap? I was scolded and fired for daring to stand up to a customer.
After that, I learned to hold my tongue even when I heard unpleasant stories.
Fortunately, I wasn’t working part-time right now.
I accumulated my anger steadily, without worrying about being reprimanded.
The final blow came from the maid, Asilis Bloom.
“Don’t flatter yourself just because you’ve been invited to the emperor’s bedroom,” she said.
At best, you were supposed to attend the emperor’s night, but it would be ridiculous if you were kicked out right away.
I don’t know how you fell in love with His Majesty the Emperor, despite having no title and no children”.
It was as if the maids could hear the laughter in their hearts.
These women thought I was just Lucerne night attendant.
They misunderstood the situation, but ‘thinking’ and ‘talking’ are completely different.
As if the majority of them, in front of the person concerned, were mocking it.
They saw me as an easy target because I stayed silent.
I was willing to endure the attacks from the maids.
I made a troubled expression and smiled awkwardly.
Thanks to their ridicule, it wasn’t too difficult to put on a strange expression.
“I can’t help it because Lucerne is so active.
If I lock the door to keep him from coming, he’ll break the roof, and even if I say no, he’ll come running and kneel down before me.
What can I do?”
“How dare you… No matter how favored she is, isn’t that rare?”
The maids whispered in low voices, unsure if they were talking to each other or to me.
I was so surprised that I could barely utter a word, but I couldn’t help but laugh because it was so cute.
“You saw Lucerne kneeling in front of me during dinner earlier, right? It wasn’t once or twice.
Besides, he had been begging me to come to the imperial palace before, so even though I yelled at him to stop, he didn’t give up.”
“Oh my God! Are you saying you actually dare to talk back to him like that?”
I nodded my head plainly, as if there was nothing wrong with it.
“To be precise, it was ‘Get out of my sight right now,'” I corrected, emphasizing the exact words Astia used.
“No matter how favored you are, isn’t this too harsh! How dare you speak such arrogant words to the Emperor of the Strian Empire! This is tantamount to tarnishing the honor of the empire!” one of the handmaids exclaimed, her voice filled with indignation.
“Aren’t you the one who shouts loudly at me, who is favored by the Emperor of the Strian Empire, arrogant? I am not the one who kneels before the emperor you worship,” I retorted, standing my ground.
The faces of her handmaids, Iris and Rosley, turned white, while Asilis, another handmaid, bit her lip and glared at me with resentment.
“So, are you saying you’re going to tell His Majesty right now?” Asilis asked, her voice laced with a hint of threat.
“What are you saying childishly?” I replied dismissively.
Asilis narrowed her eyes and continued, her tone filled with bitterness.
“Anyway, don’t be flattered by the fact that you’ll be favored for only a few days, maybe one night.
“It is here that I serve you at the command of His Majesty, but when I go out, I don’t even have to turn around if I die after being kicked by a wheel of a carriage, a woman like you,”
“Do I look like a girl of only a few days?” I shot back, challenging her assumption.
Asilis’s explanation followed, attempting to persuade me with her words.
“If your Majesty really loved you, he would have put you in the Imperial Palace, at least the consort’s quarters, by killing all those who opposed you.”
It was something you didn’t know.
Lucerne is purer than you think.
To the point where the word tyrant is not appropriate.
To the extent that he couldn’t bear to see Astia fade away from his sight.
To the extent that I believed it would be fine if the world Astia disappeared was gone.
My fingertips, which had been held by Lucerne earlier that day, trembled.
Asilis smiled triumphantly, assuming my silence meant shock or horror at her words.
“Then, Lady Astia, don’t defy His Majesty’s wishes throughout the night.
Please,” she concluded, her tone carrying a hint of mockery.
Just as they finished their remarks, the bed was prepared, and the three maids bid each other farewell and left the room.
I stretched out both legs on the bed and lay down.
I thought I would fall asleep quickly because I had eaten my fill and was lying on the soft bed, but I couldn’t easily drift off to sleep because everything felt unfamiliar.
After lying down for a while, I found myself reminiscing about Lucerne and Astia from 〈“The Tyrant and the Archmage.”〉 Lucerne would often plead while Astia adamantly refused.
Why was their relationship so distorted?
It smelled familiar.
I found myself trembling, huddled in the corner of a small, dimly lit room with tattered curtains.
Aunt’s large hand struck my head, and the familiar pain made me realize that this was a dream.
“How dare you steal food? You don’t even know your place! Get out now!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I was just so hungry and couldn’t resist!”
It was the day I took a yogurt from the refrigerator and ate it.
“I won’t do it again.
Please forgive me this once, Aunt!”
Tears welled up in my throat, but I held them back.
Crying would only invite more trouble, as it would be seen as being annoying and loud.
I begged for my hands to become my feet.
My palm was swollen and sore from being beaten.
“You don’t even appreciate the kindness of being fed and sheltered! Do you have any idea how much it costs to provide for you? Tsk! The old saying is right.
I should never have taken in a child with black hair.”
“I’ll work hard and repay you! So please don’t kick me out, please!”
Of course you have to pay! When you start working, you have to pay full child support.
Did you understand?”
I will pay you back, so please forgive me…”
“Oh, I can’t throw this away!”
I pleaded with her not to discard it.
While I was afraid of my aunt’s harsh words, the time I spent alone in the empty house my mother had left me was even more terrifying and dreadful.
At the age of seven, I needed my aunt.
It had been a while since I had this dream, but it seemed to resurface because I had been discussing debts with Geo during the day.
My aunt, who had been scolding me for a long time, disappeared into the bright light beyond the door.
Left alone, a mix of relief and loneliness washed over me.
There was only one way to endure this moment.
I closed my eyes quietly, waiting to wake up from the dream.
After a while, an unfamiliar ceiling came into view.
A canopy woven with golden thread, a blanket as light and soft as a feather, and a bed as large as the studio where I used to live—all appeared before my eyes.
It was the bedroom opposite Lucerne in the dim light of dawn, before the sun had risen.
It was then that I let out a sigh of relief.
“It’s been a long time since I had a dream about my aunt…”
I gently touched my face, checking if tears had escaped, but fortunately, there was no moisture.
Being transported into the novel and becoming Astia was nothing short of luck for me.
It meant that I no longer had to worry about providing child support to my relatives who had taken care of me as a child.
Now they were just figments of a dream.
Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to fall back asleep, I decided to get up.
When I was feeling down, it was best to move my body somehow.
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