Chapter 8

The Crown Prince’s desire was to become emperor.

 

If he ascended the throne, it meant that he had already fulfilled the goal he had set out to achieve through Roxana.

 

Then Roxana’s value to him would have disappeared.

 

Even now he still needed her support, he treated her like trash. So, what would happen if he no longer needed her?

 

From the way he had been acting, it was obvious that he didn’t need to ask.

 

Would he see a fiancée who was only a pretender to his lovely lover? When the time comes, Roxana’s hopes will be shattered and her sacrifice will return to betrayal. It was I who was now living Roxana’s life.

 

In other words, I had inherited her misfortune just as what she had enjoyed had become mine.

 

Now, the reason I was not so bitter about the Crown Prince was because I did not love him.

 

And because I didn’t love him, I didn’t have false hopes, and because I didn’t have expectations, there was no disappointment.

 

When the Crown Prince became Emperor and I became Empress, I would remember the past like we were colleagues…….

 

‘It’s possible that I might get thrown away.’

 

I silently looked at the glowing fireplace.

 

In fact, my first thought was to visit the Crown Prince and try to negotiate with him.

 

If I say that I won’t demand anything, and that I’ll stay quietly, I think we can live in peace without causing any harm to each other.

 

But soon I realized it was a ridiculous idea.

 

Once the Crown Prince took the throne, there would be no reason for him to hold on to me any longer. What could I possibly negotiate with him for if there was nothing in my possession that he wanted?

 

So, in my opinion, there was a much greater chance that it would be the latter than the former.

 

I didn’t dare to put my future life on uncertain possibilities, but this mansion was also unfamiliar to me.

 

Because there were more than one or two people in this mansion who had hostile intentions towards me.

 

And the people in this mansion were the Duke’s people.

 

The only people who could be called Roxana’s people were her nannies and maids, but they were, well, ….

 

It went without saying.

 

If I’m not comfortable remaining in this mansion, and I’m not comfortable entering the palace, what am I supposed to do?

 

The thought of my future was very tiring, if only for a moment.

 

If I imagined a dark future, I had no appetite and I had to get up, unable to touch the feast that was placed in front of me.

 

Back in my room, I was looking out the window in a daze when Annie brought me a tray with some light treats.

 

It seemed to bother her that I had barely touched the food earlier.

 

When I faced the ignorance and hostile glances directed at me, my heart hardened instead, but I was strangely touched by the good-natured attention.

 

I was grateful for her concern for every little thing, and ate the snack she brought me.

 

Despite my lack of appetite, the snack was delicious. The bite-sized cookies looked and tasted wonderful.

 

The tea that came with it was also fragrant, and the sugar added to it made it taste sweet, which wasn’t bad even though I was not a big tea drinker.

 

Finally, the macarons filled with buttercream were beautiful in color and tasted good.

 

They tasted strangely luxurious, as if they were made with the best ingredients, much better than the ones I had at the famous bakery in my city. I chewed the macaroon lightly in one bite and then took a sip of tea. Even though I was eating delicious food, I was strangely choked up.

 

Macaroons were my original favorite snack. Not in this luxurious mansion, but in my real home….

 

I wiped my damp eyes with the napkin that was placed on the tray, my vision instantly clouded as I thought of the peaceful days before I fell into this world.

 

I thought I was finally getting used to life in this mansion, but I guess not yet. I frowned with a wince.

 

Now I was living a life of luxury that I couldn’t even imagine in my original world. But there was nothing really mine here.

 

From the clothes I wore, to the food that went into my mouth, to my family, to the people around me, to the single snack that was placed in front of me. …….

 

Everything I enjoyed now was not mine, it was Roxana’s.

 

I was now using other people’s things as if they were my own, as if I were their master.

 

There was nothing real about me in this world.

 

Remembering this fact made me feel depressed again.

 

‘Will there ever be a day when I can fully adapt to this world…?’

 

***

 

Today, Roxana’s changed appearance made the maids of honor tremble with fears even after they left the room. They had been by Roxana’s side assisting her for several years now, but they had never seen her like this before.

 

She had always been impulsive and sensitive, but she was also surprisingly compassionate, timid, and easy to deal with.

 

Today, however, Roxana was an unfamiliar sight, as if she had become a different person in a single day, and the sight she presented today horrified the maids of honor.

 

Today Roxana mercilessly kicked out Laura, the closest of the maids.

 

Unbeknownst to others, Roxana was generous to her own people. Although Laura was arrogant by nature, she had an exceptional talent for soothing Roxana, and because of the years they had spent together, she must have been very compassionate.

 

Surprisingly, however, today Roxana did not hesitate at all to kick Laura out of the mansion forever. Today she seemed to be very angry, but she did not shout or break things as usual. However, the maids were watching Roxana, revealing their emotions and belittling her as they usually did…

 

“I felt even more scared than when I saw her.”

 

Roxana’s gaze was cold, unlike before. What made her turn into someone else?

 

“She seemed too calm to simply vent her anger.”

 

“The cold expression I saw earlier is still bothering me. I used to be able to put her in a good mood by coaxing her with just the right words, but now it didn’t seem to work anymore.”

 

The maids were having a worried conversation when a middle-aged woman approached them from a distance.

 

After spotting them, she came closer.

 

She was wearing a subdued navy blue dress of high quality material with a shawl wrapped around her shoulders. As if she had suffered a lot at a young age, deep wrinkles between her eyebrows and gray hair in places. Joan was delighted to see her.

 

“Viscountess Willis!”

 

***

I checked all the letters and then went to see Stephen.

 

I said earlier in front of the maids that I would reinstate the head maid, but I just couldn’t bring myself to handle such a matter on my own. 

 

The person in charge of the mansion was the butler, Stephen.

 

He was so influential in the mansion that he held almost all the authority, including the management of the mansion and the personnel rights of the employees.

 

Of course, no matter how much authority he held, the master of this mansion was the bloodline of the Lillian family.

 

So there is no need for me, the master, to report and ask permission from him, the servant, every single time.

 

However, the issue of the head maid’s reinstatement was a little different.

 

It was none other than Roxana who kicked the former head maid out of the mansion despite Stephen’s strong opposition.

So how would he react if I asked him to bring her back again?

 

I didn’t need to be wary of him, but Stephen was certainly capable and honest, and as far as I know, he never did anything to harm Roxana.

 

‘There’s no need to make enemies out of hatred, I suppose.’

 

The fact that I decided a serious matter as the head maid’s reinstatement on my own, and now notified him afterwards would make him feel unpleasant. A real Roxana would have acted on her own without hesitation and without regard to his mood, but I wasn’t her.

 

I had some things to discuss with him about the head maid and I wanted to ask him some questions, so I decided to visit him first, like the saying goes, “A thirsty man digs a well.”

 

However, when the time came, I could not bring myself to knock on the door.

 

As I looked at the elegant dark chestnut wooden door in front of me, I recalled his face, the one I had run into a few hours earlier, responding with a nonchalant expression and showing no sign of being upset.

 

That cold, neat face hardened as soon as Stephen spotted me.

 

He was not just a servant, but he was the Duke’s henchman.

 

This made him different from the maids and other servants. Stephen’s business was not Roxana’s business, so I could not treat him recklessly or let him go at my disposal like I did with Laura.

 

If a fight broke out with him, the least I could do would be to tell the Duke what he was doing. But the Duke trusted Stephen deeply, so he might not do anything to Stephen.

 

The two of them were not on the best of terms, but no matter how much they didn’t like each other, they couldn’t do anything to each other.

 

Because of this, it was always Roxana who would look ridiculous when she was with him.

 

But I’m sure he must have had his share of pain.

 

Because even if it was just a child’s prank, it must be infuriating to be on the receiving end of such an innocent act.

 

And then there was the fact that he had to clean up Roxana’s mess, and she had to clean up after him.

 

It would have been too irritating and annoying. 

 

It became more and more difficult to think about how she had treated him in the past when she hated him for daring to complain.

 

But there was no problem that could be solved by avoiding it.

 

Besides, problems like this only got worse as time went on.

 

‘Well, let’s open it.’

 

Just as I was about to knock on the door of the office, the door opened and Stephen appeared, dressed neatly as usual.

 

He looked at me with a surprising look on his face and immediately asked in a clerical tone.

 

“What can I do for you?”

 

Standing in front of Stephen, I stiffened, not even knowing I was doing so. I took a deep breath, then raised my head and replied flatly.

 

“I have some business.”

 

He looked at me with a searching gaze for a moment, then quickly stepped back and said, 

 

“Come in…”

 

Stephen’s room was calm and tidy, just like his personality.

 

The calm room smelled of paper and orchids. Looking around the room, I saw a few small flower pots by the window.

 

The desk and bookshelves were piled high with papers and books.

 

I sat at the tea table near the fireplace, facing him. Then Stephen ordered a servant to bring tea.

 

We didn’t say a word to each other until the servant came back with a teapot and tea cakes.

 

Stephen seemed fine, but I was suffocated with awkwardness.

 

When the servant placed the tray on the table, Stephen poured me a cup of tea. He poured the tea into my teacup, and then poured milk from a glass bottle and added sugar.

 

“Thank you.”

 

Milk tea was Roxana’s most favorite drink.

 

I took an awkward sip of the tea at his delicate consideration.

 

The tea definitely tasted good. I had never been a big fan of milk tea, but it wasn’t bad, perhaps my taste buds had changed along with my body.

 

The bite-sized cookies also consisted of only Roxana’s favorite things. While I was admiring the pretty, delicate yet clean visuals, Stephen spoke.

 

“According to the doctor, you don’t need to worry anymore…… Is there any inconvenience?

 

I looked up and looked at Stephen.

 

He had asked me about my condition a few hours ago. At the time, I thought it was just a polite thing to do, because the way he was looking at me wasn’t friendly.

 

But now, hearing his words of concern for me again made me feel strange. Come to think of it, it was Stephen who instructed Annie to serve me tea and snacks earlier. Even though he didn’t like me, he cared about every single detail. His behavior alone made me wonder if it was true that he really disliked Roxana.

 

“I heard from the maid that you seem to have recovered significantly, but I think I’ll be relieved to hear it myself.”

 

His words were very warm, unlike his calm tone and cold face.