I thought there was something special about them being imperial spies, but at first glance, they all looked ordinary.
“These are the people?”
“You found them sooner than I thought.”
Seeing people locked up in a room tied with thick ropes, I felt like I was watching a movie, but the situation before me was real, not fake. I commanded as I stared at them, their bodies trembling with fear as if they felt the presence of people.
“Take off their eye patches and gags.”
Stephen looked at me as if to say, “Are you sure?”
“If that’s what the Lady wants, I understand.”
I looked around the room for a moment while Stephen untied the cloth that covered their eyes.
There was a lot of dust in the room, as if it had been left unattended for a long time. The heating didn’t seem to work and cold air came up from the floor. I felt a bit sorry for them who had been lying on the cold floor, but then I felt disgusted thinking that one of them might have been watching my every move and my privacy. It bothered me to no end.
I vowed that if I ever caught that spy, I would not let him get away with it. But now facing them, I had a little trouble figuring out how to handle it.
“My lady! I’m sorry!”
One of the servants shouted as soon as the gag was released. He looked frightened. When his eyes met mine, he became more and more agitated.
His voice was trembling and his eyes were full of tears, making him look very desperate.
“Miss, please forgive me just once. I needed money for my wife’s medicine and I couldn’t help it………..”
As I stared at him with a frown, Stephen explained the gist of the matter to my ears.
The servant’s wife had been suffering from a chronic illness, but her condition had worsened rapidly, and the salary he was currently receiving was no longer enough to cover the cost of medicine and living expenses.
So he ended up borrowing money from people around him, and eventually borrowed private loans….
After listening to Stephen’s words, the servant’s story seemed to be true.
The servant’s circumstances were indeed unfortunate.
The other two men beside me also had their own reasons. Unlike the servant who was kneeling at my feet, the other two seemed to have given up and were just waiting as quietly as possible for the punishment to be handed down.
But the frightened look was the same. I asked Stephen.
“Servants who sold their master’s privacy for money……. Stephen, in this case, how should we punish them?”
The Duke’s punishment would be to beat them to the brink of death, then fire them, or to send them to the mines to work.”
Stephan replied calmly.
I listened to him and nodded silently.
Perhaps other families also punish their servants in much the same way.
The servant’s face grew increasingly pale. But I wasn’t going to go that far.
Whipping them until just before they died, or sending them to the mines to do labor…. ……
Aren’t the two methods too cruel? I closed my eyes and thought for a moment.
It was true that they were wrong, but I didn’t want to punish them so brutally. However, I couldn’t just let it go with the word forgiveness.
“What do you want to do, Young Lady?”
I could see a hint of nervousness on the servant’s face.
I was struggling with what to do with a frown when I discovered something odd.
At first I thought it was my imagination, but now I saw it wasn’t. The servants slumped at my feet but looked at Stephen’s face while asking for forgiveness.
I shouldn’t be surprised.
Honestly, it’s because Roxana was not the kind of master that the servants respected.
They talked about her behind her back.
I had forgotten about it for the past few days, as I had been feeling a bit better after the removal of the maids, but I didn’t feel so good when I realized once again what Roxana’s place was in this mansion.
“Forgive me, miss. If you give us another chance………”
I asked, looking down at them coldly.
“How can I trust you?”
I spat out in a cold voice, referring to the servant looking up at me with a dazed look.
“Everything is difficult at first, but then it is easy.”
“I am truly sorry, Young Lady. Forgive me just once, and I will make sure this never happens again.”
This time, the servant, who had been silent until now, said in a desperate voice.
“You have already betrayed your master once. How am I supposed to believe in you?”
I asked in a calm and quiet voice, instead of speaking excitedly and angrily like the usual Roxana. Then the servants all stopped talking at once, as if they had made a promise. The expressions on their faces were mixed. But I no longer cared about their reactions.
It also didn’t matter if they were sincerely sorry.
“Stephen, you handle it yourself. But I need to talk to you about something. Follow me.”
I took one last look at them and then walked out of the room. Their faces were filled with deep despair. Stephen and I came out of the room, I waited for him to lock the door, then said.
“As I just said, you can handle them yourself, but don’t make it too bad. I’d rather just send them far away.”
I added just in case Stephen misunderstood.
“But that doesn’t mean you have to send them to do labor. And don’t forget to give them severance pay.”
Stephen had a bewildered look on his face.
I spoke quickly before he could open his mouth.
“They didn’t reveal any important secret anyway.”
“That’s true, but….Are you sure you’re okay with this?”
Stephen asked me with a look of disapproval.
He wanted to punish them severely from the beginning and get rid of them. I didn’t want to leave the informants in the mansion, either. But the way Stephen said it was too harsh.
“There’s nothing not to be okay.
It’s not going to be okay. Oh, and for the time being, we will be working to save the sick in the name of the family.”
“Huh? Why all of a sudden…”
Stephen asked curiously.
It was a natural reaction. Until now, Roxana hadn’t been the least bit interested in such things.
In fact, I didn’t plan to do this from the beginning either. However, what I heard in the room earlier was frustrating and I couldn’t overlook it.
I couldn’t forgive the servant for betraying me, but apart from that, I guess I couldn’t help but feel pity for him after hearing about his sad situation.
I averted my gaze from Stephen, who was staring at me, and continued.
“We’ll send some doctors so that anyone who is sick, no matter how poor, can receive medical care.”
After I finished talking, I asked him with some concern.
“Will it be difficult?”
Stephen gave a small smile.
“Absolutely not. I was just about to talk to His Highness about the starvation that killed many people.”
“I see. I’m glad to hear that.”
I was about to go back to my room, but I asked a little hesitantly.
“Stephen, I hope my father won’t blame me for this later on.”
Stephen looked dazed for a moment, then immediately burst out laughing.
“No, of course not. I think His Highness would be rather pleased with how much his daughter has grown.”
I could feel the warmth in his face as he said it. But I was still worried.
The work of helping people was quite tedious and costly.
To control the people who gathered to receive food rations, a lot of people had to be mobilized, and that was no easy task. When I thought about it, I wondered if I had gone too far. In my memory, the Duke had never once been angry with Roxana.
He tolerated Roxana’s extravagance, though he never said anything in general….
I felt bitter as I thought of the young Roxana looking up at him with a longing for attention and affection that I couldn’t even picture properly in my hazy memory.
“Is that so?”
Stephen stared at me with a compassionate face.
“That was a bit unnecessary, I know. Anyway, thank you for your time. I’ll go up now.
After I finished speaking, I stepped away. Stephan’s gaze was felt through the walk, but fortunately he didn’t stop me.
I went around the hallway, climbed the stairs, went back to my room, closed the door, and collapsed. I looked out the window and saw a white moon rising high in the sky emitting blue light after sunset.
Far away in the distance, I could see the colorful fireworks beautifully lighting up the sky.
Come to think of it, today was the last day of the festival.
I gazed out the window with a feeling of sadness.
The fireworks continued for a while.
Each time they exploded, colorful lights would swirl in the dark, quiet room and then disappear.
It was a beautiful scene that brought tears to my eyes as I watched.
Perhaps because it was the last day of the festival, the fireworks were extraordinarily spectacular and lasted for a long time. However, when the long fireworks were over, all that was left was a shuddering silence and darkness.
As I was alone in the dark room, looking out the window, I saw the image of Roxana in my memory and the image of me now.
I wonder if Roxana felt the same as I do now.
I wanted to hug her and comfort her if she was right in front of me. And I needed to be comforted too.
But I was well aware of the fact that it was not possible.
There was no one for Roxana then, and there was no one there for me now either.
Today, the empty room felt particularly lonely.
The long, long festival was eventually over.
The next day, I received an invitation.
It came from the Imperial Family.
A grand banquet will be held in the imperial family in the near future.
The words on the first line caught my eye.
[You are invited to Prince Payne’s victory banquet.]
I recited the name of the Second Prince with an invitation in my hand.
Currently, there were only two princes in the imperial family.
One of them, the Crown Prince was named Jeremy, and Payne was the name of the second prince…… I traced Roxana’s memory and recalled some information about him.
As a result, I was able to recall many things about him. The second Prince’s mother was an exiled princess.
She was dedicated to the empire as a tribute, and the emperor accepted her as a sign of reconciliation.
Some time later, the second Prince was born between her and the emperor, and she passed away from illness before he was ten years old.
Thus, the second Prince was alone in the imperial palace at such an early age.
His mother had the status of Empress, but the power and authority she held was too weak. And after she died, even that feeble power disappeared, so it was easy to guess what the position of the second Prince was in the Imperial Palace….
It was obvious.
The second Prince had been constantly pushed to the battlefield since he was young, and had been moving from one battlefield to another for several years since then. In effect, he was sent to die, but against everyone’s expectations, instead of dying, he grew up to be a brave young man.
More recently, the troops led by the second Prince had won a series of victories, which made him a war hero, a title that was cheered and rejoiced by his people. People focus only on the outcome and not the process, but it must have been unusual for a child to survive those long years of fighting on the battlefield.
(*T/N: This second Prince has the same fate as Achilleon lol.)
I felt a pain in the corner of my heart when I thought of the child who had spent every night on the bloody battlefield with a real sword instead of a wooden one in his weak, not yet fully grown hands.
I put the invitation in a drawer and closed my eyes slowly and opened them. The situation with the second Prince was indeed unfortunate, but since the Crown Prince and I were in the same boat, I can say that he and the second Prince, who must be hostile to him, were adversaries.
In addition, my family was particularly powerful among the families that supported the Crown Prince, so in the second Prince’s point of view, I and the Duke would be like a thorn in his eyes.
The second Prince was one of the biggest dangers I had to take into account.