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Later that evening. 

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I was helping the Empress change her clothes. 

I was smiling more than usual, trying not to show my downcast expression…..

“Why the long face, Charlize?”

“What? Why would her Majesty say that?”

“It’s because you looked a little depressed for some reason.”

…..it seems as if the Empress’s gaze is unavoidable. She saw right through me. 

I quickly shook my head, still trying to keep up the act.

“It’s nothing.”

I can’t tell the Empress that seeing Damian getting along so well with Sienna was depressing me. 

Oh, I shouldn’t have made the Empress worry over me. 

As I was blaming myself inwardly.

“Are you worried about the relationship between his Highness and Countess Antes?”

How- 

In the face of her question that hit the nail right on the head, I froze up in an instant. 

After a while, I jumped up with a flustered face. 

“It’s, it’s not like that!”

“Oh really?”

“Of course, why would I care about the crown prince?”

I made up excuses on the fly. 

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Then the Empress stared at me with an evil grin. 

“Suuure you do. Didn’t I tell you that strongly denying something is similar to strongly affirming it?”

“No! I’m just a maid who was once responsible for the crown prince…”

“That’s a shame, I’ll just have to go tell the crown prince to head back then.”

“…..what?”

Is Damian here? Right now? 

I blinked blankly. 

The Empress whispered to me with a playful voice. 

“The crown prince is waiting for you now.”

“Really?!”

D-Damian came to see me?!

I instantly lifted my head.  

“W-Where is he?!”

“Oh, did he say he was going to be at the greenhouse? I can’t quite recall…” teased the Empress, her dark green eyes glistening with playful mischief. 

“But, oh well, since Charlize doesn’t seem to care about the crown prince at all-”

“I, I’ll be back!”

I rushed out of the room.

I could hear the Empress’s cheerful laughter penetrate the walls as I left. 

 

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***

 

After some time. 

Head maid Hayden entered the room. 

With slightly puffed-up cheeks, smile lines, and squinted eyes, she had a face that could just burst into laughter at any moment. 

“Your Majesty, I saw Charlize running frantically into the garden just a while ago.”

“Yes, as soon as I told her the crown prince was here, she left immediately. I feel a bit let down…”

The Empress pouted her lips like a child. 

Hayden, who knew the Empress well, attempted to console her. 

“Hey, are you upset?”

“Was it that obvious?” said the Empress before asking, “Do you think Charlize likes the crown prince more than me?”

“Ah, maybe.”

She picked up a comb. 

As maid Hayden combed the Empress’s long hair, she spoke in a low voice to her Majesty. 

“Why did you tell her so late? The crown prince has been waiting for her for quite a while.”

“Hey, there was no reason for me to tell her so soon, was there?”

The Empress turned and said so sullenly. 

Hayden burst into laughter.

“Well, you don’t know what the crown prince has in mind.”

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“What don’t I know about the crown prince would be more accurate.”

The Empress said with a sharp look. 

Dismissing that, Hayden continued to appease the Empress. 

“I know her Majesty cares deeply for Charlize. But don’t be overzealous.”

“Still, I’ve done everything on my part, making time for the two of them,” said the Empress.

Then with a cold face, she crossed her arms and placed them under her chin.  

“Honestly, I wanted to live with her for the rest of my life, but I’m giving that up.”

“Giving up?”

“Yes. There’s no reason I should be proud of the crown prince in the first place, right?”

In response to the Empress’s stern answer, Hayden widened her eyes. 

“But the crown prince’s achievements are surely worthy of admiration.”

“I know that.”

“All right…then why?”

“Now that Charlize’s older, he’s going to take her away from me. I hate it so much…”

The Empress held her chin and narrowed her eyes. 

Hayden replied with a felicitous question. 

“….but didn’t Her Majesty take away Charlize from the education center when she was just five years old?”

“No, I’m just the same as the crown prince?!”

The Empress who felt as if she had been jabbed in the ribs, was irritated. 

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But Hayden, unfazed, only looked at the Empress as if she was cute. 

“Do you know what upsets me the most?” asked the Empress. 

“What, your Majesty?”

“There’s no better man other than the crown prince.”

Tapping the armrest of her chair, the Empress continued with a sulky attitude. 

“The thought of sending our Charlize to the crown prince makes me burn with rage, but there’s no preferable alternative.”

Hayden was somewhat bemused. 

She must be wrong, the Empress and the crown prince used to have such a strange competitive atmosphere when it came to Charlize’s affection.  

The two were quite serious at the time. 

The Empress, who had closed her eyes for a while without saying anything, finally sighed. 

“….just, as long as Charlize is happy.”

“Oh, are you serious?”

“Of course. What kind of person does my handmaiden take me for?”

The Empress looked at Hayden with her still sullen expression. 

She then proceeded to bury herself in her chair. 

“After all, the most important thing is Charlize’s happiness.”

The handmaiden happily nodded in agreement. 

But the warm atmosphere was short-lived. 


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