Author: Dawn

The maid trembled. Not just Carlyn, but also the others, including the Empress, were taken aback by the unexpected turn of events.

Carlyn swiftly took action.

Twisting his wrist, he lowered his sword and used his elbow to press against the maid’s chin. Thud— the difference in strength was evident.

Seeing the maid faint from a single blow, Carlyn realized she wasn’t a trained spy.


A startled exclamation echoed through the banquet hall as Carlyn caught a suspended bottle mid-air.

Carlyn turned to the Empress.

“Her behavior seemed suspicious… We should check the contents of the bottle.”


The Empress stammered. The maid’s reaction had been strange to anyone’s eyes. Hearts raced, and spines felt a chilling sensation.

Erendil reached out and held the Empress’s hand. Amidst the commotion, it was the Emperor who broke the tense atmosphere.

“Well, the fun seems to have cooled off.”

His words dripped with sarcasm. Setting down his glass, the Emperor rose from his seat.

“Rudehrn, take charge and investigate. Interrogate her as well.”


Having finished speaking, the Emperor surveyed the nobles in attendance.

Under his intense gaze, nobles turned their heads in various directions wherever his eyes landed.

Then, the Emperor headed towards the entrance he had come from. The crowded path split like a crimson sea.

Swordmaster Rudehrn approached Carlyn.

“If it were someone else, we might have questioned them here just to be safe…”

It was the Emperor’s command, so there was no other choice. Carlyn handed the bottle over to Rudehrn.

Once the Emperor had left, the hall buzzed with excitement once again. Amidst the chatter, the Empress also rose from her seat.

“I should go first.”

“I’ll accompany you.”

The Princess followed closely behind.

* * *

“That, that wench dares to…”

The Empress placed a hand over her chest and couldn’t continue her words.

After confirming the poison, she was more agitated. It went from astonishment to anger, skipping confusion.

“This won’t do. I must send someone to her family immediately.”

“Father has likely already dispatched troops.”

Erendil interjected, stopping the Empress from getting up. Unlike the maidservants, the attendant was of noble birth.

By tomorrow morning, the apprehended maid’s family would be in ruins.

“Still, it’s fortunate that Schurtafen discovered it in advance.”

With a composed expression, Erendil took the Empress’s hand and spoke. It was only then that the Empress turned her gaze toward me.

“Oh, my… My mind was in such disarray.”

Her gaze was somewhat different from before. It was only natural after she had her life saved.

“I’m truly grateful. You saved me. I was about to become an unwelcome guest. A close call.”

The Empress, having said so, let out a deep sigh.

I slightly lowered my head.

“Have you calmed down a bit? You must have been quite shocked.”

The Empress nodded, but it didn’t seem like she had completely regained her composure. She was trying to appear calm.

Erendil asked.

“But how did you know? I didn’t even notice any signs. The same went for the Empress’s guards.”

The Empress nodded again. It would be better if she didn’t reprimand the knights unnecessarily.

“Actually, luck was on my side. I stopped her because her eyes wavered as she approached.”

“Just from that?”

“While not entirely certain, I had a duty as a guardsman. The clear confusion after I stopped her left me convinced.”

“True. When in doubt, one must verify.”

The Empress was offering both agreement and criticism.

“Perhaps one of the princes.”

Her anger was one-dimensional.

Given the circumstances of the Emperor’s birthday and the fact that it was an environment where incidents couldn’t easily occur, the likelihood was high that the culprit came from outside.

Even when I observed the princes while preventing the maid’s actions, it was clear that they were genuinely surprised.

Erendil, like me, stayed silent, contemplating. The Empress abruptly turned her head toward the Princess.

“Will you just stay quiet like this?”


“Even if you lack ambition, they won’t leave us alone over there. I won’t either. Whether we die in the Empire, get expelled, or flee. One of the three.”

The Empress’s anger was somewhat prejudiced, but the subsequent words were factual.

There was no way the prince who became the Emperor would leave his ambitious sister alone in the palace.

Any use of her would likely be as a strategic marriage for an alliance, nothing more.

Well, marriages of noble bloodlines often worked that way.

Erendil, who had been asked a question, looked at me. Her gaze seemed like it was probing for my thoughts.

Was she asking about becoming the Empress, or was she inquiring whether I believe the princes were the culprit?

Erendil still hadn’t told the Empress that she knew about my true identity.

How should I handle this situation?

“Speak up.”

The Princess resolved my dilemma. Though whether this could be called a resolution, I wasn’t sure.

In a hushed tone, I immediately activated the Winds.

“Pretending not to know in a situation like this is quite amusing. Do you have something you know?”

The Empress widened her eyes, and Erendil and I exchanged glances alternately. I maintained a calm demeanor.

The Princess spoke.

“Mother, I am your daughter. Do you think I didn’t notice the subtlety in your tone?”

The Empress closed her eyes tightly. She realized her mistake. It was indeed not an incorrect statement.

Seeing the wordless Empress, Erendil asked me.

“Is what the Princess said wrong?”

Since the suggestion was to reveal my true identity, I nodded my head.

“Your Highness, if you already suspect, I won’t hide it. Yes, it’s true.”

The Empress let out a small sigh. Erendil was satisfied.

“So, speak up. Do you have something you know?”

“I heard that the nobles of the Second Prince’s faction were busy last night. However…”

“As I thought! I knew it.”

The Empress interrupted me. The Princess raised an eyebrow slightly.

“However, I’m not entirely certain. If it was planned in advance, they wouldn’t have been so busy last night. It’s more likely that someone else manipulated the situation. Or it could have been an entirely different matter.”

Being in front of the Princess, I spoke honestly. The Empress showed signs of dissatisfaction, but there was nothing I could do.

“Even though this happened today?”

“What I mean is that it’s a highly probable possibility.”

It seemed like they were pushing on, even though they were aware. Perhaps to provoke the Princess.

The Empress reluctantly accepted it.

“I understand. I’m not a fool either. But doesn’t that also mean that even if the Second Prince didn’t plan it, he probably knew and allowed it to happen?”


The Empress turned her gaze back to the Princess.

“Erendil, you know as well as I do that I haven’t treated the princes harshly. Yet they’ve harbored resentment toward me. Now they’re even willing to stand by and watch me die.”

The princes had various reasons for disliking the Empress, but the biggest one was clear.

The accusation of poisoning the first Empress.

While there had been no concrete evidence, she had once been under heavy suspicion. The Empress had suddenly fallen ill and died.

Even the southern power, Haisen, which had been strong enough to install a princess as the second Empress, suffered losses.

‘Perhaps because of the princes and the deceased Empress’s family making a fuss.’

A doubt arose unexpectedly.

If I hadn’t been here, would the Empress have died today? The likelihood was high. The Empress was absent in the game.

If that were the case, what would have happened to the Princess?

She wouldn’t be able to ignore the gazes around her. The princes would have been suspected immediately, just like the Empress.

‘Or perhaps the deceased Empress’s family.’

The Princess might have been pushed into the imperial power struggle against her will.

Perhaps that was why she suddenly left the empire. Perhaps she grew tired of an unwanted competition.

It wasn’t certain, but even the slightest possibility was dangerous. I had to make the Princess into the Empress.

But not like this.

Even if it stirred her emotions a little, the Princess’s choice had to be entirely her own.

“Your Majesty, please refrain from pressuring her in this manner.”

The Empress stared at me dumbfoundedly. It was as if I could hear her wondering what kind of nonsense I was spewing.

“Becoming the Empress of the Empire is not an easy task. It requires determination and preparedness.”

I deliberately met eyes with the Princess.

“Even if Your Majesty the Empress and our Haisen have the same intentions, the Princess’s choice must be solely her own decision.”

I wasn’t sure if my hastily spoken words conveyed their intended meaning well.

The Empress’s expression was one of disbelief. I understood her feelings. Erendil had the same expression.

“Aren’t you here to make the Princess the Empress?”


“It’s incomprehensible.”

Indeed, it was hard to comprehend.

The Princess repeated the same words with a pause in between. Her response seemed to be connected not only to this incident but also to our previous conversation.

“It is a message for the well-being of both the Princess and ourselves.”

A moment of silence followed. Erendil was still looking at me.

The Empress seemed like she wanted to say something, but it appeared that her thoughts were not yet organized.

“Your Majesty the Empress, Lord Rudehrn requests an audience.”

The silence was broken by a voice coming from outside. The Sword Master by the Emperor’s side, and I, immediately dispelled the Winds.

The Empress scrutinized the Princess and me before opening her mouth.

“Let him in.”

The middle-aged Sword Master threw a glance at me as soon as he entered. Our eyes met for about a second.

Then he bowed his head respectfully to the Empress.

“Lord Rudehrn, what brings you here?”

“I have found the mastermind.”

Already? It was a thought that crossed my mind briefly, but considering the empire was teeming with the Emperor’s hounds, it could be plausible.

The maids were not trained professional agents.

“Who is it?”

“As mentioned earlier, the wine was poisoned.”

The empress swallowed hard.

“The maid said it was ordered by Duke Egni’s family. They captured Fasya Egni, who participated in the banquet, and the Imperial Guards have departed towards the Duke family.”

The Duke Egni’s lineage.

It was the most powerful family within the empire. Not only were they the birthplace of the princes, but also the lineage of the first Empress.

The fleeting anticipation had been correct, but it came in an unexpected way. Things were flowing too easily.

The circumstances were perfect, but if it were Duke Egni’s lineage, they wouldn’t have executed the plan so carelessly.

The Duke’s lineage was not an ignorant family about the empire’s dogs.

If the Empress had died, the maid who poured the wine would have been taken away, and the Duke’s lineage would have been implicated sooner or later.

‘Did they perhaps intend to dispose of the maid themselves?’

Even with that thought, the plan had many holes. There was something else. Something I was missing.

Was it strange to suspect this well-orchestrated scenario, so meticulously designed?

Wait. Let’s change the focus.

If it wasn’t the Empress but Duke Egni’s lineage that was the real target…

Who would wish for that?

The Princess or the Empress? The first two that came to mind. They were the enormous forces supporting the princes.

But it was impossible.

If that were the case, I would have known beforehand. The reactions of the Empress and the Princess were not abnormal, and I didn’t have the power to achieve that.

In an instant, a thought flickered.

‘Could it be… the Emperor?’

If one of the Imperial princes were to take that position after the Emperor’s death, the biggest obstacle would be Duke Egni’s lineage.

A powerful noble family, relatives of the princes, even possibly gaining merits in the process of becoming the Emperor.

Thinking about it, the Emperor would have a legitimate reason to attack Duke Egni’s lineage.

Given his character, he wouldn’t want the empire to be controlled by another family. It would have been a necessary task.

Even if it required killing the Empress… he was cold-blooded enough not to have much affection for his family to begin with.

Creating a pretext to attack Duke Egni’s lineage could be worth sacrificing the Empress’s life.

“I shall withdraw now. Oh, by the way, Carl Schurtafen. Is that correct?”

In the midst of my short contemplation, Rudehrn called me.


“His Majesty wishes to see you. Follow me.”

I immediately glanced at the Princess. Regardless of the Emperor’s summons, my current master was the Princess.

Erendil gave his consent.

“Go. Once the conversation is over, come to see His Majesty immediately.”

Author's Thoughts

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