Empress of Otherverse - Chapter 62
Chapter 62: <Chapter 62: To hold an apple or to eat it>
Samantha apologized to me calmly, but her face was deathly pale.
“I am so sorry, your highness. I am always so careful…”
“It’s okay. I am aware that this is a usual occurrence around here.”
I hid my sigh and assured Samantha.
This first happened to me in the morning after I became Lucretius’s wife. At the time, Lucretius didn’t say anything. He just gestured me to not drink my tea.
Just like then, the silver edges of my teacup turned black. This had been happening a few times every week for a while now.
The small sauce bowl, which was made of silver, also had the same black marks.
I pushed the bowl away. It was fine since I didn’t eat it, but I still didn’t want it close to me.
Samantha quickly took the bowl away and handed it to a servant. Agnes’ face crumpled as she kneeled in front of me.
“I can’t believe this happened again. I have no excuse, your highness. This time, I will make sure to find out who is responsible.”
“… Please do.”
Even as I asked, I knew there was only a small chance she would ever find the culprit behind this.
After the bowl was taken away, Samantha and Agnes poked all the food again with silver forks. At least today, it wasn’t a close call.
A few days ago, I was about to put a spoonful of food into my mouth when Elza noticed the silver spoon discoloring. She screamed and I dropped it in time. After that incident, I lost all my appetite. Even drinking water required bravery.
I obviously couldn’t stop eating. The others also couldn’t know I was afraid to eat. From then on, I forced myself to eat small bits, but I made sure to be extra careful every time.
According to Samantha, all my foods were checked before leaving the kitchen. The fact that it passed the first test meant a specific poison was being used. It was probably something that doesn’t show when the food is still hot.
That must have been why the silver color doesn’t change in the kitchen. It only changed after the food cooled.
This meant that timing was everything. If I didn’t wait long enough, I could die.
I was walking on thin ice.
“Everything has been checked, your highness. It’s all good.”
Samantha said to me confidently. I finally started to touch the food but didn’t eat until I poked around a little while longer with my own silver fork.
I wasn’t hungry anymore, but today was an important day. I needed to eat for strength.
My face hurt. I couldn’t stop my mouth from spasming.
However, I had to continue on smiling. I tried my best to keep my voice pleasant.
“Wow, it’s amazing, Countess.”
“I am flattered, your highness.”
An elegant middle-aged woman smiled gracefully.
She was the wife of Count Ilan and the daughter-in-law of Cornelius.
Norma des Lonensia.
Currently, her husband, who was Cornelius’ second son and the heir, was only a count. However, Cornelius was a Duke, which meant someday Norma would become a duchess.
It wasn’t an exaggeration to say that this lady would be the most influential noblewoman in the future.
Lonensia was an old and powerful family. It would be beneficial to become friends with her. Of course, by the time she came to power, there was a good chance I would be back home.
“By the way, your nieces are so beautiful.”
When I complimented the two girls the Countess brought, Norma smiled broadly. She didn’t have any daughters, so I was told she treated her sister’s girls like her own children.
“Thank you, your highness.”
Two teenage girls blushed. One looked shy as she became red, while the other appeared to be acting shy just to be polite. She bowed lightly to show her thanks.
I studied this girl carefully. Unlike her sister, she was calm and confident. Beautiful brown hair and light grey eyes. She shined with intelligence and strength.
I remembered that I needed more maids.
I especially needed a maid who could be a good match for Lucretius. After I leave, I was sure his harem would overflow with women, but right now, I was the only one.
Lucretius was courting me openly, but I had no intention of accepting his feeling. I couldn’t. I had to go back home. I didn’t plan on becoming one of his many women in the harem!
I felt like this girl could be the one, but I needed to learn more about her.
I decided to test her.
I dropped my teacup and spilled my tea towards the two sisters.
Everyone, including myself, exclaimed except for that girl. Her eyes widened, but she remained quiet and calm.
The Countess asked me worriedly, “Are you okay, your highness?”
“I am fine, but are you two okay? It was my mistake. I’m sorry.”
I studied the two girls. One looked annoyed and upset as she blotted her dress with her handkerchief. The other one, however, continued to look calm as she cleaned up.
The one I was interested in was the younger sister, but she was definitely the more mature one.
“I am so sorry, ladies. I got you girls something and I hope this makes it up for my silly mistake…”
I ordered Samantha to bring in the gifts I prepared in advance.
I arranged a gift for the Countess, but I didn’t know her nieces were coming. When I found out, I secretly asked Samantha to pick something from my jewelry collection for the girls as well.
The older sister exclaimed when she saw the gifts.
Samantha brought three pieces. One was elegant and simple, which was perfect for the Countess. The other two pieces were more extravagant, which suited young, unmarried girls.
The Countess declined.
“Your highness, but these are royal jewelry!”
“His highness and I am very thankful for your father-in-law’s hard work. This is only a small token to show our appreciation.”
I handed the necklace studded with black diamonds to the Countess. I then placed the other two pieces in front of the girls.
“You can choose among yourselves.”
The older sister quickly picked the one that looked elaborate. The younger sister calmly took the leftover, which was a much simpler bracelet.
She replied, “Thank you, your highness.”
I liked her. I obviously still didn’t know much about her, but what I saw so far looked promising.
For some reason, I felt bitter that I found a potential girl for Lucretius. Why did I feel this way? I felt confused, but I ignored the feeling.
The Countess took the necklace and smiled uncomfortably.
“This is too much, your highness.”
This was what I was waiting for.
I smiled and asked finally, “Then would you do me a favor?”
A strange expression appeared on her face, but only very briefly. I could see that she realized my intention for the gift.
She had no choice, however, so she replied quickly, “Of course. You have given us such precious gifts, so I am happy to follow your wish. Please give me your order.”
I laughed quietly.
“It’s not an order. It’s just a very small favor.”
The Countess picked up the teacup and was about to take a sip when she paused as I continued.
“I would like to take one of your nieces as my maid.”
The three looked surprised. Even the younger sister, who has been keeping her cool, looked amazed.
The Countess replied politely, “But these girls aren’t worthy, your highness. I fear they may not be helpful.”
She was declining out of good manners, but it was clear she was ecstatic.
It made sense. Becoming a maid to the emperor’s wife was a great honor for any families. As my maid, there was a very good chance to make an advantageous marriage. In some cases, the maid also had a chance to become the emperor’s wife.
This was exactly why Lisbeth wanted to become my maid.
I replied, “I am so busy, especially with the upcoming ball, I need more help.”
The Countess nodded.
“It’s true… I have heard you only have five maids and that is not enough.”
So the countess knew a lot about my situation. She obviously had a good source of information.
I continued, “So please, help me.”
The Countess smiled broadly at my insistence.
She replied, “Well if you insist…”
I turned towards the two girls. They were old enough to know what this chance could mean.
I asked casually, “How old are you?”
The Countess answered instead, “The older girl is 17, and the younger is 16. The older one will be married in three months.”
I replied as if disappointed, “Oh, congratulations, but if the wedding is in three months, then it will not be possible for you to work for me.”
Usually, a maid worked a two-to-five-year term. A maid often retired by getting married. Once they raised their children and become middle-aged, they sometimes returned to serve again as the principle maid in waiting like Samantha.
I said to the older sister, “Congratulations again. I am sad to say you can’t become my maid, but I will send a wedding gift when the time comes.”
“Thank you, your highness.”
The older sister looked disappointed, but at the mention of a gift, she blushed in pleasure. It was rare for a royal member to send personal gifts.
I finally turned to the younger sister, who returned to being calm.
She was definitely something. She must have learned much from her aunt the Countess.
I asked, “What is your name?”
“Yulia, your highness.”