How was it possible in a world without internet or smartphones? It had only been a few days, but the rumour had even reached Nancy.

“The whole nation has been completely shaken up! It’s being hailed as the encounter of the century!”

“Well, since the Casanova and Femme Fatale have met, it’s bound to be interesting.”

“Why are you speaking as if it doesn’t concern you? They say the Emperor has completely fallen for you, Miss.”

“It’s just baseless rumours.”

“Then, are you saying you’ll soon become the Empress?”

What empress? More like a slave being sold into an unfair contract, maybe.

“Nancy, do you know if there were any empresses in the empire’s history who came from commoner backgrounds?”

“Nope, never happened.”

“Has the current Emperor ever chosen a commoner as his empress?”

“No, he hasn’t.”

“Well, in that case, there’s no chance of me becoming an empress.
I don’t want to, nor do I aspire to.”

“Are you giving up on His Majesty just because of the gap in your social status? Love can conquer all, you know?”

“You need to quit reading those sappy romance books.”

Nancy was an avid fan of Douglas. 1Nancy admired Elise, the protagonist of “The Red Star of the Empire,” just as I admired Claudia, the protagonist of “The Platinum Swordswoman.” Who would hate a beautiful, confident, and intelligent female main character? Inspired by me, Douglas created Elise.
However, I was merely a supporting villain.
I ambitiously sought to seduce the tyrant, but I stumbled right at the start.
Not only that, I completely wasted a precious opportunity.

‘I never imagined I’d be the type to bawl my eyes out when I’m wasted.
Nicolai’s shirt was soaked with tears and snot.
Talk about being a cheap drunk2 right there.’

I behaved disgracefully in every possible way towards a man I met for the first time while I was in a defenceless state.
I also said too many things that shouldn’t have been said.

“I don’t want to die again.
I hate the thought of that guillotine.
But what can I do? Sob.”

Nicolai looked awkward.
He hesitantly patted my shoulder and quickly withdrew his hand.
He was like a clueless greenhorn who had never been on a single date in his entire life.

‘I pretended to be fine, but I was actually scared as hell.
Whether it was about becoming Elisabeth or waiting for the second death.
I talked a big game about stopping Claudia, but it was just false bravado.
I thought I wouldn’t have been so terrified if I had acted tough.’

The anxiety I felt because I couldn’t confide in anyone transformed into tears as it met Nicolai’s warmth.
The tears that I had held back for a long time flowed incessantly.
Nicolai, with an inscrutable face, said,

“If you want to cry, cry freely.
I won’t go anywhere.”

Even after several days had passed, his low voice lingered in my ears.
My thoughts were in turmoil, and my emotions would fluctuate a dozen times a day.
They would surge to feverish intensity, only to cool down abruptly.
I experienced a mix of embarrassment, guilt, gratitude, and curiosity.
Why did he want to make me his consort? Did I really look like an interesting plaything to him?

“So it turns out he desires my body after all…” I unintentionally muttered out loud.
Nancy, who was brushing my hair, turned beet red.

“Please, tell me honestly! What happened that night at the palace?”

Kiss, hug, tears, contract.
None of it was insignificant.
Nicolai was immune to my charm magic.
It meant that I couldn’t manipulate him as I desired.
Playing a seduction game with him would be like courting disaster.
How could I, someone who values monogamy, become yet another consort of that libertine emperor? It was horrible to even imagine.
My plan to seduce him and make him a wise ruler had already failed, or at least it felt that way.
If that were the case, the best course of action would be to avoid getting involved with that tyrant as much as possible until Claudia appeared.
Just the thought of Nicolai sneaking into my bed late at night sent shivers down my spine.

‘Let’s give it a shot and ask the Nettletons for help.
I know it might seem a little shameless, but it’s not like I have any other choice right now.’

Eluding the public eye, I arrived at the Nettletons’ mansion.
It was a large and old-fashioned estate, but I could tell that it was greatly lacking in maintenance.

‘The driveway is broken, and the garden untended.
I thought the book was a hit.
Hasn’t he received his payment yet?’

Douglas’s father was notorious as a terrible gambler.
If he hadn’t met an early death, the marquisate would have faced more than mere expulsion from the ranks of the five noble families; they would have been left penniless.

“Welcome, Elisabeth.”

“We’ve been waiting for you, sister!”

Any worries about facing humiliation and disgrace for being shameless seemed insignificant as Douglas and Susan greeted me warmly, erasing those concerns.
It seemed they have completely forgotten the insults at the party.
Douglas bit his lip as I revealed the seduction game contract.

“Even if His Majesty is the emperor, he can’t do something like this.”

“I heard that those consorts from the high-ranking noble houses have seized control of the rear palace.
What would you do, sister? Susan’s face was filled with concern as she spoke.
I nodded in response.
The other four prominent noble families.
I was well aware of what they were up to.
Their evil deeds depicted in the novel were truly bone-chilling. 

“I’ve done some research of my own.
Lady Freya of the Lehman Dukedom, Lady Rose of the Brendan Marquisate, Lady Emma of the Piper Marquisate, and Lady Cynthia of the Blackfold County.
They are all aiming for the seat of the empress, correct?”

“If it weren’t for His Majesty’s stubbornness, one of them would’ve been already become the Empress.”

“Then why hadn’t any of them become the Empress?”

Susan raised her voice, as if she had been anticipating my question.

“Because he’s a philanderer, bar none! He wants all the women in the Empire for himself!”

“Be careful with your words, Susan.
No matter what anyone says, he’s still the sovereign of our empire3.”

“He captures innocent women and takes them away, and now he’s even targeting my sister.
I can’t forgive him.” Susan clenched her small fist tightly.
The fire of anger blazed in her eyes.

‘It seemed unlikely that Susan would develop unrequited love for Nicolai.’

Just as I was feeling glad, Susan slapped her knee and said, “I’ve thought of a way to stop that shameless tyrant!”

“What is it?”

“I’ll ask Claudia to kill him.”

“Eek!” Goosebumps crept all over my body.
This was the scariest thing I’ve heard since I reincarnated.

“Susan! How could a knight who has sworn loyalty kill their lord?!”

“Audie has always wanted to punish the emperor.
She hates womanisers like him.
I know this well because we’ve been friends since childhood.”

‘I know it way better than you do! I’m the one getting killed by Claudia every single night!’

I almost let slip of my tongue.
My palms became damp with cold sweat.
First, I have to calm Susan down.
“Susan, that would be considered treason.
I appreciate your concern for me, but please don’t do anything reckless.”

“Even if I don’t ask, at this rate, Audie might do something soon.”

“Is she that resolute?”

She may be as stubborn as a mule, but she’s a righteous person.
She’s stronger than any other knights!”

I felt hopelessness and despair.
It was as if someone were trampling on my hand while I was barely hanging onto a cliff.

‘Is this how Claudia will make her comeback? No matter how I struggled, it’ll be in vain?’

The flashing blade of the guillotine seemed to graze my neck.
The fate of death was carving out a dark path at every turn.

‘Do you think I’ll give up like this? The one who used the tyrant’s shirt to wipe my nose was me.
I’ve had enough of dying a helpless death in my previous life!’

I fixed my determined eyes on Douglas.
“Lord Douglas, If I may be so bold?”

“You have my full attention.”

“Lord Douglas, as the Marquess and Susan’s only guardian, if you truly care for your sister, you should provide her with firm guidance.
Especially in a situation like this.”

“You’re right, Elisabeth.
I was too negligent.” Douglas blushed.
My gaze shifted to Susan, who was already looking dejected.

“Do you treat treason as a mere game? A single word from you has the power to cost countless lives.
Do you think you can shoulder that responsibility?”

“I’m sorry.
My eagerness to save you got the better of me…”

“Do you think I can live comfortably if I put you in danger? I’d rather enter the palace over and over again.”

“No, don’t do that! I won’t entertain these pointless thoughts anymore.” Susan looked remorseful.
However, for a fleeting moment, her gaze upon me filled with a poignant wistfulness.

“Even in this situation, you’re only worried about me, aren’t you, sister?”

What’s this about now? I blinked.

“I knew it.
That day, you went to the terrace to protect me, didn’t you?” Susan stated confidently.

“You were afraid that I would become the tyrant’s victim, so you sacrificed yourself instead, right?”

“That’s not the case at all.”

“Even if you try downplay it, it’s no use.
Among the five great noble families, our Marquisate is the only one that has never produced a consort.”

“I heard that the other consorts entered the palace on their own accord, is that true?”

“If it weren’t for you, I would’ve been dragged into the harem as well because that’s the kind of person the Emperor is.”

Susan was misunderstanding something.
Currently, no one refers to themselves as the ‘Five Great Noble Families’ anymore.
It’s just a name of the past, and the nobles who rule the empire now are only the “Four Great Noble Families” excluding the Nettleton Marquisate.
Nicolai, too, showed no interest in Susan.

‘Should I clear up the misunderstanding or just let it be? I mean, it’s not like I’m hurting anyone.
Well, it’s true that I did try to save Susan.’

I’ve decided4.
After some deliberation, I immediately shifted my approach and also made sure to wear a lonely expression while averting my gaze.

“I apologise for having deceived you.
I just didn’t want to see you blame yourself.”


“Just like how you consider me, a mere commoner, as a sister, I also think of you as my dear younger sister.
If I can protect you, then it doesn’t matter to me.”

Even for me, that was a remarkably natural impromptu performance.
But it’s true that I think of Susan as a dear younger sister.
It was also true that I would stepped up to the tyrant to protect her.
Douglas murmured as if he had finally realised everything.

“So that’s why you decided to break off our engagement and deliberately pushed us away cruelly.
To the point of saying things you didn’t mean…”

It’s true that I didn’t mean those words, but why jump to conclusions so quickly from there? Is jumping to conclusions some kind of family trait? As I wondered in confusion, Susan hugged me tightly.  

“You saved our family from mountains of debt and protected me.
I can’t let anyone take away such a sister from me!”

Susan was a child who appreciated even the smallest help immensely.
My heart ached for her kind-hearted nature.

“Susan, it’s too early to give up.
I have one last way to save Elisabeth.”

Douglas stepped forward, wearing a resolute expression that I hadn’t seen before.

Douglas took me to a small chapel inside the mansion.
Susan, who had a weak respiratory system, didn’t follow along since the chapel had not been cleaned in years.
I covered my mouth with a handkerchief and entered the chapel.
The ancient marble statues of the gods caught my attention.
There were so many gods in this world.
Douglas kindly explained them to me.

“The figure holding a sword is Tatos, the God of war.
The one accompanied by the wolf is Mourasynthia, the Goddess of healing.
Over there, you can see statues of the God of literature, the God of agriculture, and the God of the sea.”

“Why does the Goddess of healing have a wolf, and why are her eyes covered?”

“That’s because legend has it that Mourasynthia’s wolf is a mystical creature capable of uncovering the root cause of all illnesses.”


“I was taught that the blindfold symbolises equality in healing both the rich and the poor, the nobility and the commoners, without any form of discrimination.”

“There’s no way such a god could exist.” I swallowed a derisive scorn as memories of my past life resurfaced.

“The poor always die first.
The idea that everyone is equal before death is laughable.”

Douglas flinched at my staunch attitude.
In my past life, I died from a pandemic while volunteering abroad.
At that time, only a handful of countries demonstrated effective measures in respond to the global outbreak of the novel pandemic.
While South Korea was considered relatively safe, I was in a country that lacked even adequate medical facilities.
Being already infected, I couldn’t even board the chartered plane sent by my home country.
The pandemic transformed a once impoverished yet peaceful country into a dehumanising hellhole, where murder ensued over a bag of flour or a single oxygen cylinder.
Unclaimed bodies littered the streets, and it was for this reason as well that I gave up my respirator to a child.

‘I wanted to give up everything.
The harsh environment and the life I had to get through alone.
I seized an opportunity to die by using the child as an excuse.
Do I even deserve to live this new life?’

Even though I vowed to never give up, there were moments when these depressing memories would swept through me.
Douglas lightly tapped me on my shoulder.
He was covered in white-coloured dust and cobwebs, as if he had crawled out from somewhere.

“This is a divine artefact that has been in my family for generations.” Douglas held out a small box adorned with red leather.
The lid was inlaid with a copper emblem featuring the engraved image of the Goddess Mourasynthia.
The box opened to reveal an old monocle resting on the velvet cushion.

“It’s an old copper monocle?”

“It may appear shabby, but it’s still a sacred artefact.
By offering this, one can defy the orders of His Majesty.
It can, however, only be done once.”

“Are you planning to use your power to defy on me?” “Nothing’s ever a waste if it’s for you.”

“We’re no longer engaged.”

“It’s embarrassing, but there’s a passage like this in the novel I wrote.”

“What passage?”

“Verily, those ensnared by love oft partake in acts of folly, conscious of their futility and jest, yet persist without respite.
Rather than bemoaning, they discover delight.
And it is by means of this very endeavour, doth my heart affirmeth the truth of my love’s veracity.”5

Douglas recited, his gaze fixed intently on me.
An unfamiliar sensation, which I couldn’t pinpoint if it was on my face or inside my stomach, tickled me incessantly.
He was truly a steadfast and upright man.
He wrote down those words as he thought of me.
It felt as if his sincerity was being etched into my heart, one letter at a time.
For a moment, I thought I could forget about Claudia and Nicolai.
Even if I couldn’t fully accept Douglas’s love.

‘Romance is beyond me in my current situation.
The only thing I can offer Douglas is to not torment him with false hope.
But why does my heart keep fluttering? It’s a strangely puzzling feeling.’

A subtle silence pierced the small chapel, and Douglas’ gaze on me intensified.
Unable to bear the awkward atmosphere, I grabbed the monocle.

“Thank you.
I will make good use of this sacred artefact.”

“You mustn’t touch it carelessly!”

The warning came too late.
A brilliant white light emanated from the monocle.
It was a light that felt nostalgic and familiar, as if from somewhere.

“A righteous soul has discovered the Iris of Mourasynthia.
A perk shall be offered.
Will you accept it?”

       To be continued…

Translator’s Notes:

1 Just a slight rant.
I have this little idiosyncrasy about how I define the words ‘protagonist’ and ‘lead.’ In fan translations, you would see the titles with these two words all over the place, mostly thanks to dodgy machine translations.
Yes, even though ‘protagonist’ and ‘lead’ are often interchangeable, they carry a slightly different connotation.
For me, a protagonist is the central figure of a story.
You know those stories where there’s only ONE main character and the rest are supporting? Well, you call that main character the protagonist.
whereas the word ‘lead’ refers to a character who has a prominent role in a story but may not necessarily be the sole focus.
A perfect example would be a story where there’s a male lead and a female lead.

2 알콜 쓰레기 (alkol-sseurehgi) means ‘alcohol trash’.
Not only was it already a slang word, it got shortened further to just ‘알쓰’ (alsseu).
In Korean, it refers to someone who’s a lightweight at alcohol.

3 제국의 하늘이시다 (is the sky of the empire) I chose not to translate this literally and just be concise because such an epithet was just such an Asian way of conveying the divine status of the supreme authority of the monarch in traditional East Asian cultures, such as China and Korea.
The emperor was considered to have received the mandate of heaven to rule.
Thus the term “天子” (heavenly son/heavenly ruler) was born to emphasise their transcendent status and influence.
You get holy kings in a western setting, and then there’s the “heavenly ruler” in the east.
Immersion is a thing :s for me anyway.

4 계산은 끝났다 (gyesaneun kkeutnatda) This is another translation style choice.
It translates literally to ‘the calculation’s done/finished/complete.’ The sentence was emphasising that Elisabeth has finished deliberating and has come to a decision about whether to admit she tried to save Susan or not.
But while it sounds okay in Korean, even in Chinese, it would sound fine—the exact same sentence—but for me personally, I think there’s a disconnect from the previous sentence to this sentence if I were to just translate it literally.
Language quirks.
Japanese, Chinese, and Korean all share similarities in their languages, but each has its own quirks.
I find Korean, more so than Japanese, uses more idioms and proverbs in day to day speech, and that itself shares a great similarity to the Chinese language.
Even in Japanese, it would’ve been so weird to continue the sentence with “I’ve calculated” in this context… it’s just unnatural.
 Well, anyway…

5 I tried to Shakespeare-fied it.
Ahhh, this brought me back to my secondary school English lit years… Considering the setting, I thought it’s much more fitting to literary-fied the passage.

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