“What? Did they cause trouble again?”


“Lucerne, don’t dismiss it as mere trouble.”

I stood in front of Lucerne, facing him directly.
I noticed that he was willing to listen, so I mustered the courage to express my thoughts that had emerged during my bath.

“Don’t mistreat them.
You may view them as expendable, but they are of noble birth.
Why do you exert your power over them and treat them as mere tools? The beatings and abuse you inflict upon them are excessive.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

I squinted my eyes at Lucerne’s indifferent response.
Considering his earlier comment about whether the beating was due to a lack of a medium, it seemed apparent that Lucerne was responsible for beating Asilis and her handmaidens, or he had given the order.
So why was he acting as if he couldn’t comprehend my words?

“Are you pretending not to know?”

“It’s not a matter of pretense; I truly have no knowledge.
Do you honestly believe I would punish them for coughing during our conversation?”

“…Then, what was the reason?”

“No, it wasn’t.”

What? Did Asilis and the others commit some other offense that warranted such punishment? I tilted my head in confusion, unable to comprehend the situation.
Lucerne seemed equally perplexed.

“How strange.
Have you forgotten what magical powers are while forgetting me? But you seem to know the magic that your children do.
I suppose it was a wise decision to summon them after all.”

Summon them?

Lucerne spoke before I could inquire further.


“I summoned the handmaidens to educate them and extracted their memories.
It was to ensure they wouldn’t cause any inconvenience to you.”

“Wait, so you used magic to retrieve the memories of the maids?”

Oh my, did he possess such magical abilities?

I hoped it wasn’t true…

“The reason they have the audacity to speak such insulting words to you and still live is because of you.
It was not easy for me to cause pain without drawing blood.
Although that will no longer be the case, if they ever cause you any inconvenience, I will punish them more severely.”

“T-They said hurtful things to me, but please don’t beat them.
Now that I know you can extract memories using magic, they will be cautious.
They promised to serve well.”

“I cannot simply cease the use of punishment.
I require some means to control those who do not obey me.”

“Find another way.
No beating.”

“Astia…”

“Never.”

Despite my resolute words, I instinctively took a step back, crossing my arms over my chest.
As Lucerne approached, I retreated two steps this time.
Our confrontations were always a game that ended with my victory.
He closed his eyes, clenched his lips, and let out a sigh.

“…Goodnight.
Let us find another way.”

“…Thank you.”

“And do not backpedal any further.”

Ideally, I didn’t want to retreat, knowing that Lucerne would be hurt, but how many people could stand their ground in such a situation? I shrugged my shoulders and swallowed nervously.


“Lucerne.
Can you truly see memories? Is it possible to witness someone’s memories?”

“It is possible.”

“How? Do the memories enter your mind like text?”

“No.
You seem to have genuinely forgotten.”

With those words, Lucerne lightly waved his hand.
A trail of blue light followed the path of his hand, projecting a video on the surface created by the light.
It showed me preparing for sleep while being attended to by the handmaidens.

My face flushed with embarrassment and anger, I impulsively slapped Lucerne across the face.

Smack!

The sound reverberated through the chamber.
Lucerne’s cheek turned red where my palm had made contact.
He stood frozen, offering no resistance or even a word of protest.
Meanwhile, a voice emanated from the projected video of Asilis.

[“Anyway, don’t flatter yourself thinking you’ll receive favor for just a few days, maybe just one night.
Here, we serve you because we are ordered to by His Majesty.
But outside these walls, I wouldn’t even turn my head if you were kicked by a wagon and left to die.“]

As Asilis finished speaking, Lucerne moved his body with a slight frown.
He murmured, running his fingertips over the spot where I had struck him.

“Long time no see.”

Long time no see? Oh my god.
This wasn’t the first time I had slapped Lucerne.
Less than a minute after the act, guilt washed over me.

“I-I’m sorry.”

Feeling at a loss for what to do, I approached Lucerne and offered my apologies.

“I’m sorry for hitting you, but… I was also embarrassed.”

“There’s no need to apologize.
I don’t regret delving into their memories.
If I hadn’t done that, they wouldn’t have realized their wrongdoings and would have continued to trouble you.”


“They seem to have turned against you because you wielded the Emperor’s power arrogantly.”

[“Ha! You’ve been deceiving us with ridiculous words last night, and you look great.”]

The voices of the ladies-in-waiting and Lucerne merged into a confused mess.
Desperate to clear up the misunderstanding, I grabbed the hem of Lucerne’s clothes as he was about to enter the bedroom.
Despite the embarrassment and the fear of facing consequences, I felt the need to explain myself.

“I’m not angry at you for reading their memories,” I stuttered.
“It’s just… just…”

My face burned with embarrassment at the thought of Lucerne witnessing those moments.
Changing clothes and bathing—such intimate acts captured in such high-definition and full-color detail.
It was mortifying.

“I mean… their memories must have included me changing clothes or taking a bath! And I… I did it out of embarrassment, shame, and privacy!” I blurted out.
“It’s like… it’s like being caught on a hidden camera! But there are no cameras here.
So, uh… what I mean is, please don’t invade my privacy like that again! It’s humiliating.
I’m a grown adult, and when something happens, I can handle it alone…”

I wanted to assert my independence, but as I looked at Lucerne’s face, my words faltered.
His face was flushed so deeply that I couldn’t even see the handprints from the earlier slap.
I blinked in confusion, momentarily forgetting what I had intended to say.

“Lu-Lucerne?”

He remained silent, turning his head away from my gaze.
It seemed like he wanted to cover his face with his hand, his lips tightly sealed like a clamshell.

“What… what’s wrong? Why are you acting shy?” I asked, bewildered.

“…I didn’t see it,” he finally responded, his voice barely above a whisper.

“…Yes?”

“I said I didn’t see it.
What are you so concerned about… It’s funny, but I lack the courage,” Lucerne responded, his voice filled with hesitation.

“Oh… I see.
But you saw Asilis’ memory, right? How…” I trailed off, unsure of what to say next.

“You don’t have to extract all of someone’s memories to confirm something.
You can selectively remove unnecessary parts and retrieve only the relevant ones.
There’s no need to retrieve memories of someone who doesn’t appear or memories of your own identity,” Lucerne explained.


“I see,” I murmured, realizing his point.
It seemed that discussing my own naked body had made me blush with embarrassment.
Despite his commanding presence as the Emperor, Lucerne could be surprisingly innocent and shy.

I couldn’t help but wonder about the mechanics of such magical filtering.
Did memories have attached keywords? Did they retrieve memories based on specific criteria like “#Astia appears,” “#not nude,” or “#during a conversation like this”? The concept seemed absurd, but I didn’t dwell on it for too long, as the whole situation was already fantastical, with me being a character in a novel and the existence of memory extraction magic.

What truly mattered was something else.
I had caused Lucerne embarrassment due to a ridiculous misunderstanding, and I had committed the very act that I had asked him not to do.

“I’m sorry for the misunderstanding.
I truly apologize,” I said, extending my palm and gently touching Lucerne’s cheek.

“It was wrong of me to hit you after I specifically asked you not to hit me.
I’m truly sorry,” I continued, remorse filling my voice.

“It’s alright.
It’s not the first time,” Lucerne replied.

“I still feel sorry though.
No, that’s precisely why I feel even sorrier.
I promise I will never lay a hand on you like that again,” I assured him, my voice filled with sincerity.

Lucerne frowned, his sudden change in expression startling me.
I quickly withdrew my hand from his cheek.
Was the area where I had hit him swollen and painful?

Frustrated with myself, I bit my lip and stomped my foot in self-reproach.
Stupid Lee Hyerim.
Even after hurting the person she cared about, she couldn’t find her senses.
It seemed that I had done the very thing that I despised the most to the person I had developed feelings for.

“Are you okay? Does it hurt a lot? Should we go outside and get some cold water? Wait a moment, I’ll call Dipeume right away.
If you sit here and rest…”

Lucerne interrupted my flurry of concerned words with a simple statement.
“…It’s fine.”

Surprised by his response, I turned to leave, but Lucerne grabbed my wrist firmly.
The warmth radiating from his touch spread through my entire body, creating a strangely comforting sensation.
It was a feeling I hadn’t experienced before, unlike the discomfort of being touched by a perverted molester or forcibly pulled away by my aunt.

Lucerne’s voice cut through the pounding of my heart in my ears.
“I don’t need cold water or Dipeume.”

He paused after those words, still holding my hand, and gently guided it to his cheek.
With his eyes closed, he allowed my palm to rest against his skin, feeling the warmth of our connection.
Time seemed to stand still in that moment and everything in the drawing room seemed frozen.
My heart was racing so intensely that it felt like I was suffocating.

I stood there, my hand pressed against his cheek, unable to comprehend the overwhelming sensations flooding through me.

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