Chapter 1 – A Leopard Can’t Change Its Spots
The day when Alexandra’s life began to fall into ruins was the day she got married to Cleo Guillaumin von Reyes.
In order to make Cleo—the third son of the incumbent-emperor and the man she loved—the heir to the throne, Alexandra did anything and everything she could. She never hesitated to stain her hands with blood, nor did she hesitate to cast aside her morals and conscience.
Even her parents, Marquis and Marchioness Zychlin, acted as Cleo’s scapegoats when he was charged for treason, and they were executed in his stead. Alexandra never required that from her parents, of course, but they sacrificed themselves for the sake of their one-and-only daughter’s bright future.
If they knew that their daughter would meet such a tragic demise, they would never have gone so far.
In any case, Cleo was able to safely ascend to the throne despite his position as the third-born imperial prince, thanks to the sacrifices of his wife and her parents. In a story like this, the husband would normally love his wife dearly, and properly repay the grace and kindness she gave to him in full.
In truth, everyone expected that. They expected the Emperor to be completely enamored by his loving, faithful Empress. They thought he would love and cherish her, and that the two of them would live happily ever after as the main characters of a fairy tale.
But when Cleo became emperor, he followed down a path that no one had anticipated. He not only looked at his wife, but looked upon other women as well. Each night, he brought a new lover to his bed, and his attentions never lasted on a woman longer than three days. On top of that, not once had his “partner” been the Empress.
As the nights grew in number, Alexandra’s life was no different from that of a woman separated from her husband. There was no glory waiting for her upon making her husband the emperor. All she received was the empress’ crown for the sake of appearances, and her husband’s betrayal. Only loneliness accompanied her during the cold, long nights when she grit her teeth at the injustice.
Those were already horrible in and of themselves, but that wasn’t the worst of it. No, the real problem revealed itself when a sly and cunning woman caught the Emperor’s interest.
The woman’s name was Rowena. The daughter of a fallen noble, she won the Emperor’s love with her beautiful looks and her deliberately innocent act. When she received the Emperor’s favor, she was given a new castle called Segolene, and even the noble title of marchioness. Rowena was now of the same rank as Alexandra’s parents.
As the situation began to spiral out of control, Alexandra’s mental state started to slip. Her parents already sacrificed their lives for her husband. She offered her youth and dedication, but her husband never acknowledged her love and threw her away for another woman as soon as he became emperor. It would have been stranger if Alexandra didn’t lose her mind after everything she went through.
With her mentality frayed, Alexandra needed something else to depend on. That was when a swindler who disguised herself as a magus approached her. Alexandra’s good judgment had deteriorated along with her physical and emotional strength, and she fell for the swindler’s bait. Alexandra tried to use the talisman given to her by the so-called magus to gain the Emperor’s favor.
However, when the people found out about her plan, they mistook the talisman as a means of planting a curse upon her husband. Alexandra was charged with using black magic on the Emperor, and was stripped of her imperial title before being thrown into prison.
No matter how much she cried out that this was unfair, no one would listen to her. What was worse, the swindler lied and testified that the talisman was made for cursing the Emperor. In truth, Rowena sent that magus to trick Alexandra, but Alexandra did not know that. She may have been able to figure it out if she were more sane, but with everything that happened to her, she had long since lost her sense of judgment.
And that was how the life of Alexandra, a young woman of twenty-six, ended. However, perhaps it was because of the empty wish she made in her last moments that…
Alexandra opened her eyes with a short groan. Her mind felt like it was stuffed with cotton.
‘What’s going on?’
As she tried to take stock of her situation, a voice called out to her.
That loud, sharp voice woke Alexandra up from her sleep. Startled, she snapped her eyes wide open, and her vision cleared.
“Who—” she mumbled groggily.
“Lady Alexandra, did you doze off? Goodness, how could you sleep on such an important day!” a woman’s voice chided.
That voice was familiar. Alexandra blinked twice to see who was speaking to her so loudly.
“…Penny?” she said in a dumbfounded voice.
“Yes, it’s Penelope. Lady Xandra, did you doze off?” the woman named Penelope said.
“Why are you here?” Alexandra asked.
Not long after Alexandra became queen, Penelope was killed by a castle burglar. So how was she here…? Alexandra blinked twice again, struggling to understand her surroundings.
“What do you mean by why am I here?! Of course I would be here. I am your lady-in-waiting, My Lady,” Penelope said in an exasperated tone.
Should be dead.
The second half of that sentence remained unspoken.
Maybe this is the afterlife? Am I dead?
Alexandra looked forlornly at Penelope. But why…why did Penelope look much younger than when she died?
“Penny, how old are you?” Alexandra asked.
“Goodness me, My Lady. What’s going on with you?” With an incredulous expression, Penelope answered. “I am eighteen years old! You even arranged my coming-of-age ceremony just two months ago.”
Upon hearing those words, Alexandra felt as if she’d been splashed with the cold water of reality.