‘How did I not realize…
I looked at my sister with a dejected face.
‘No, to be honest, I might have had a hunch.
Gorgeous red locks and emerald green eyes.
A belle as attractive as a rose and was recognized as the most beautiful woman in this empire.
Only Her Majesty possessed this kind of charm.
‘…but I just didnt want to believe it.
I denied the truth, dismissing my intuition as an ominous hunch.
When I laid the pieces together, the puzzle fit.
‘Her elegant appearance and her confident attitude.
All of her exudes nobleness.
I bit my lips until it unknowingly bled.
My chest felt empty as if someone had just shot a hole through it.
“Say sorry to Lize.”
“Seeing how you mocked Lize earlier, I dont think theres anything wrong with your hearing.”
Her bright green eyes glared at Becky mockingly.
The Empress words stung harshly.
“How come you dont understand”
“Dont call me so carelessly.
When did I allow you to open your mouth”
The Empress eyes turned sharp.
The atmosphere was grim enough to make everyone nervous.
“Only a maid in training, yet you dare to defy the Empress”
“N-no, thats not it…!”
“If not, are you pretending to be unable to understand my words”
Becky, who had turned pale, shook her head.
She hurriedly glanced at me and spoke through gritted teeth, “I-Im sorry, Lize.”
Im sure Ive offended you too.”
To be honest, I could see that it was an insincere, forced apology, but still, I tried to nod my head.
Honestly, the fact that Rose was the Empress was too shocking that I didnt care much about Beckys apology.
Watching the whole scene play, the Empresss face darkened as she stepped in.
“I dont feel the sincerity from your apology.”
“Of course, I know.
I cant take your heart out to see if your words were genuine or not, so…”
The Empress examined Becky up and down as if she was looking at dirty filth.
Her lips opened.
“Shouldnt you show your sincerity by groveling on the floor”
“Yo-your Majesty, its fine…”
I stopped the Empress from going even further.
When the Empress heard the distant title I used, her shoulders stiffened.
After a moment, she looked back at me.
Her beautiful face was full of anxiety.
‘…youre making a hurtful expression…
I clenched my fist in anger.
It was she who deceived me.
The Empress red, cherry lips parted as she shook her head after releasing a long sigh.
“No, Im not okay with her,” she said, her tone complicated.
The Empress, who had said so, looked back at Becky, squinting her eyes.
“If you dont want to be kicked out of the palace right now, youd better apologize until Im convinced.”
‘What do you mean by kicking her out of the palace
The words stunned me enough to make me forget the betrayal I felt and I gaped.
“If youre not going to do it, youre going to be expelled from the palace.
In the future, no other noble family will accept you.”
“Im sorry! Im sorry, Im sorry, please, just dont kick me out!”
Beckys standing figure fell down onto the Empress feet, begging for her mercy.
However, she simply turned away from Becky with a gaze colder than the winter wind.
“With such an apology, theres no way Lize and I are ever going to be satisfied.”
“Dont you see the opportunity that I have given to you”
Eventually, Beckys cry died down as she groveled before me.
“Lize, Im so sorry.
Please forgive me.”
Becky crawled on her knees, trying to appeal for forgiveness desperately.
Her eyes, which had always been fierce, were brimming with tears.
I looked down at her with an empty expression.
‘You had been so harsh on me.
You never listened, no matter how much I pleaded.
‘You only apologize because of the pressure.
The Empress finally called me, “Lize.”
‘Pardon I looked up at the Empress in surprise.
She continued her words with a tender voice.
“What should I do with that maid-in-training”
“Ho-how dare I make the decision for the Empress.”
“No, I want to listen to your opinion,” the Empress said as she shook her head gently.
‘…whatever I want
My mind was clouded with worry at the ambiguous sentence.
Honestly, it seemed too harsh to kick her out.
Becky was just a commoner like me who didnt have a place outside the palace.
But to just move on as if nothing happened…
‘…I dont want to.
How long has Becky tormented me… This time, I wont let her actions slide.
‘Thats not going to happen!
I spoke carefully, “Then,”
The Empress gentle eyes landed on me, ready to grant any of my wishes.
Her warmth made my heart soften, but…
‘…you cant be my Rose anymore, can you
I gulped down the bitterness and opened my mouth.
“For a year, Becky will be in charge of cleaning the hallway.”
Becky lifted her head in surprise, for the light punishment was unexpected.
I continued, “But, the job for cleaning the hallway and the maids daily tasks are different.
She must make sure to do both of them.”
“Are you sure youll be satisfied with that”
“Yes,” I nodded assuredly.
The Empress, who was looking through me, gave orders to head maid Hayden.
“Carry out the order as Charlize said, but cut half of her salary during that period.”
At her words, Beckys eyes quivered.
Soon, she added, “And her promotion to a full-time maid will be put off for three years.”
At this, Beckys face paled and she went limp.
Its understandable since the maid-in-training salary was finite.
‘If that salary is cut in half, I think Id have that look on my face, too.
In addition, her promotion will be delayed by three years until she becomes an official maid.
‘Most of all, Becky was just about to get a raise.
That was why Becky was excluded when the probationary maids were punished during the laundry chores.
The Empress concluded in a harsh voice, “Its a punishment for trying to create a disparity and for harassing your fellow maid-in-training.”
“Ill carry out the order, Your Majesty,” head maid Hayden stated, bowing deeply.
The Empress angrily glared at Becky and opened her mouth.
“What are you doing Still standing here in front of me.”
“…Ill take my leave, Your Majesty.”
Becky rose from her seat as she staggered over to the hallway entrance and disappeared under the shadow.
The departure left us both under uncomfortable silence.
I couldnt figure out what to say, so I bit my lips.
After a while, the Empress relented as she called me.
I raised my eyes carefully.
She was looking down at my hands with distress.
Ive touched the water for a long time, so my hands were all wrinkled…
At my reply, the Empress frowned.
‘Did I offend her I sneaked a glance at her expression.
The Empress clasped my hands together.
Surprised at her sudden gesture, I withdrew my hand instinctively.
The Empress didnt force me and instead put down her outstretched hand in defeat.
She looked at me with downcast eyes.
The Empress took a deep breath before asking me a question.
“Why does Lize always say shes okay”
“Im not okay.
My hand is hurting…”
With a vexed voice, the Empress looked down upon my scarred palms.
I quietly closed my eyes.
If it were how it used to be, my heart would leap from joy at her kindness.
“Im only keeping my silence because I dont want to worry people who care for me,” I confessed while hiding my hands between the hem of my dress.
The Empress opened her lips only to bite it hard, at a loss for words.
Then she finally looked down guiltily.
At her remorseful expression, my mind was mixed up.
‘Dont look at me with that expression.
Why would she make such a face
‘Itd be better if you laugh at me, mocking me as a stupid kid who couldnt even recognize the Empress.
But her expression was heartbreaking, making my heartache at the sight.
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My heart was cold, so I closed my lips.
Eventually, the Empress spoke with a somber voice.
“Then lets see each other again tomorrow.”
“Pardon Ah, alright.”
I nodded in a daze.