Empress of Otherverse - Chapter 38
I spent my time off at Lonez. It was wonderful. Elza and Luis didn’t know that the baby story was fake, so they treated me like I was made of fragile glass. I felt guilty for lying to them.
During my stay at Lonez, they came to me for punishments. While we sat in the lovely garden, Luis asked me respectfully.
“Your highness, we deserve to be punished.”
“Pardon? What are you talking about?”
I was so surprised I almost dropped my cup of hot, sweet milk tea. My eyes widened as I stared at them.
Elza, Luis’s younger sister, also looked determined.
Luis answered, “We were going to ask you earlier, but we thought it would be best to wait a while until you recovered. That tragic day when you were poisoned, it was Elza who was on duty that night.”
I couldn’t remember for sure, and I didn’t understand why that mattered.
Luis continued, “Both Elza and I should have prevented it, yet we didn’t even know what had happened until the principle maid in waiting alerted us. We deserved to die for this crime.”
I almost dropped my cup again, but thankfully, I ended up spilling a little bit of my tea on the white-lace dress.
I hoped it didn’t stain.
While I looked shocked and confused at their resolute declarations, Luis continued, “As the daughters of Count Loventis and the maids of the first wife of the emperor, we have failed to do our duties. Please punish Elza! I am no better as I am responsible for my little sister’s mistakes. You must punish me as well!”
Why does everyone want me to punish them?
I started to sweat as I sat my cup down on the wooden side table.
How would convince these two women?
I thought carefully before I put on a bright smile. I finally opened my mouth.
“But I am very happy.”
The two girls looked up at me with wide eyes. I hoped my smile looked genuine.
“That night… It was very unfortunate. I’m not saying you have no fault in this, but even Samantha found me after I was already poisoned. Even if you found me before her, there was nothing you could have done that would have changed the outcome.”
“There is a saying in my homeland. Misfortune is always followed by a blessing. I am happy to have such wonderful people like you worrying about me. Those who are truly responsible are in jail already, so there is no need for you to be punished.”
Luis looked at me reverently, but she shook her head.
“But your highness, the fact still remains that we committed a terrible crime. The water in your room was poisoned. It should have never happened.”
Well, it was actually the emperor who put poison in that water, but I couldn’t tell them the truth.
Luis continued, “Please punish us.”
The doctor was expecting to lose a finger, so I suppose the girls were sure they would be punished too. Was everyone in this castle masochist?
I tried to control my expression.
“… Alright. If you insist, here are your punishments.”
I was only doing what they asked, but their faces darkened when I agreed. Well, I guess no one ever really wants to be punished. I could understand they had no choice but to ask for it.
“Elza will work as both my maid and my servant for a month. I will also be cutting both of your salaries for half a year. In addition, you two will alternate being on night duties for the rest of my stay in Lonez.”
“Y… your highness!”
The sisters both looked up at me with tears.
The punishments I gave were embarrassingly light. Being demoted to a servant from a maid status was considered demeaning, but it was only for a month. She would be reinstated when I returned to the castle.
Salary cut was an unpleasant deal, but these women were from a powerful noble family. They didn’t serve me for money. They were here for the honor of working for the royal family.
The fact that I ordered them to the night duties was actually a compliment to them. It meant despite what had happened, I trusted them with my life. It meant
I considered them my people.
The girls looked up at me with adoration.
I knew what exactly happened that night, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. However, this didn’t mean I could tell them the truth and not punish them at all.
This was overall the best solution. I smiled at them.
“I trust you both. Please serve me to your best abilities, Luis and Elza.”
Gosh, I sounded so fake, but they didn’t know. They looked up at me lovingly.
My sweet vacation finally ended, and I returned to the castle. Many high ranking figures welcomed me warmly.
The dowager empress didn’t come to see me. I was told she wasn’t feeling well. I knew the truth, but I didn’t care.
Everyone treated me very carefully. Those especially close to me acted cautiously and made sure not to show any overt happiness or excitement.
It made sense. Officially, I just recently lost a baby.
I smiled and chatted as if nothing happened, and soon, people started to treat me normally. I didn’t want to be pitied, so I felt relieved when things went back to the way they were.
To celebrate my return, the emperor ordered a day off for everyone including the servants. Expensive foods were gifted to them as well. I made sure it became known that I was behind this idea.
Because of this, people seemed to treat me with genuine warmth. Of course, I didn’t trust them still, but this was a positive thing.
I learned that in this world, the noblemen treated their servants as if they were animals or furniture. I wanted to make sure that people, especially the low-born folks, knew I was different. Giving the servants a day off was a calculated move on my part.
This was how I would survive in this world. I needed to win people over.
I accepted the fact I was on the same boat as the emperor. If the dowager empress wasn’t defeated, the emperor’s future was bleak and in turn, my life could be over.
Unfortunately, I needed the emperor more than he needed me. If he lost this game, I would be executed, but if I died, it didn’t mean the emperor would lose his fight against the dowager empress.
This was not fair, but it was what it was.
While I rested at Lonez, I thought of many plans. Treating the servants kindly was one of them.
The servants were a very important part of the castle life. If they disliked you, they could sell important information about you to the highest bidders. I heard of many occasions when something like this happened in Korean history. I thought it would be smart to use what I knew from history classes.
Of course, I didn’t expect people to become loyal to me with a mere day of rest. What I wanted were small changes.
I wanted them to see me a little differently. I hoped they would see me as a kind and fair person who took care of my own people. I thought this small change in perception alone could make a difference in my future.