It was very boring and confusing to memorize the faces and details of each person. Incidentally, Liabrick kept adding to it, so there was more for Elena to memorize. Even so, Elena didn’t care much.
‘It’s harder to find a face I don’t know.’
Elena had reigned as the flower of high society and risen to the top as queen. It had been routine for her to greet the royal family and the nobles on the list every day. There was no way she wouldn’t know them.
“Let’s move on.”
Liabrick reached out and placed the next portrait along with its details on the table.
Evidently, another aristocrat was shown—Elena’s eyes shook violently as she warily took him in.
“Klaudios de Sian, the Crown Prince and future emperor of the Empire.”
There was no sound in Elena’s ears. Her eyes were filled with indescribable sorrow, as she was unable to lift her gaze from his portrait. A man she had once loved more than herself.
But the man never shared any warmth. He resented the gods when they had a child. Despite having given birth to a descendant of the Imperial family, Elena couldn’t forget the despair.
‘My passing mistakesdamned the extraordinary Empire to the depths of Hell.’
Immediately after childbirth, Elena heard his deplorations and cried in sorrow. No matter how bloody she was!!
Elena knew the Emperor had no affection for her, but how could he say such cruel things to the woman who had given birth to his child?
After that day, Elena kept Klaudios away. She no longer desired his affection. She could barely stand without filling with hatred and resentment towards him.
‘Why was I so stupid. From the beginning, we could never have been a couple. Ignorantly, I was blinded by loneliness. I craved him, obsessed over him, and resented him.’
It was only after she had returned that she realised why he’d had to push her away and hate her.
An emperor who seeked to strengthen his power. A queen who came from the highly influential grand duke. These two people with opposing political views could never coexist peacefully. Blinded by ambition, Grand Duke Franches and Liabrick did something that even they should not have done.
‘… In order to make me, a Queen Consort, Queen, they poisoned the previous queen.’ 
An atrocity committed out of concern that the previous queen would give birth to another prince in line for the throne.
At the time, Elena didn’t know if it was the Grand Duke’s scheme. She couldn’t read the Emperor’s feelings—his rage at his late queen’s death, and how he glared at her as if he wanted to kill her.
She was only able to understand his emotions after looking at the events more calmly. Why did he hate and resent Elena so much? Only when she came close to revealing the truth was she able to end all the beautiful emotions of those days filled with love and hatred.
‘I will not stand next to you again, Your Majesty.’
The string of their ill-fated relationship had left them with scars and hatred towards each other. She believed that it was better to sever this string rather than follow the same mistake.
“Are you listening to me?”
Liabrick’s voice brought Elena back to her senses in a nervous rush.
“Oh, I’m sorry. When I saw the Prince’s face, I couldn’t breathe. His portrait is so handsome, what would the real person look like?”
“We will meet him in the near future, so you can see him for yourself.”
“R-really? Oh, I’m so excited! I’m already looking forward to that day.”
Liabrick glanced at the shy and girlish Elena and gave her more details.
“You want to be familiar with the Prince, right? Then you should know every single letter written here.”
Elena nodded absentmindedly. She had been married to that man for a few years, though it had been unfortunate.
Elena was sure that Sian wasn’t interested in her, the daughter of his enemy, but she hadn’t known anything in her one-sided desire for his affection. Nevertheless, he repeatedly caught her attention—perhaps due to the lingering attachments they once shared.
As the sun went down, only a few portraits and personal information were left in the thick pile.
“This is the last person.”
Elena, who had been reluctantly listening with enthusiasm, looked at the face of the last portrait.
A deceptive man with a lovely face that could make every woman’s heart shake—regardless of that, pent-up rage surged within the depths of Elena.
‘That son of a bitch?’
Ren Bastasche. That man, better suited to bastard than his own name, was the successor to the renowned Bastasche dukedom and was Veronica’s second cousin. Genetically speaking, he was the grandson of Princess Veronica’s granduncle, who was the younger brother of her grandfather.
They might be her relatives, but strictly speaking, the Bastasche family were servants. Her grandfather, the then Grand Duke of Friedrich, had formed a hundred-year-long treaty with the family of servants, in which they could be independent on the condition that they would take care of handling the Grand Duke’s dirty work. Of course, the treaty was still in effect, and they unwaveringly obeyed the Grand Duke. For that reason, they were brimming with sources of trouble.
Ren was the most dangerous servant in the world. He would bite and kill his master if he saw an opportunity to do so.
‘Hold on, from the first time we’d met, Ren was always suspicious of me being a fake. How did he know?’
Suddenly, a question arose. How could Ren be sure that Elena was a fake Veronica in less than 10 minutes after facing her?
‘No matter how many times Ren had seen Veronica as a child, he wouldn’t have had that many interactions with her.’
Elena recalled her first meeting with Ren. She looked back to see if she had missed anything.
‘You certainly didn’t suspect me to be a fake at first.’
There must have been something Elena had overlooked when Ren had only been slightly suspicious. If only she knew what it was…
‘Could it be that time?’
Elena unconsciously touched the back of her ear. Her fingertips could feel the soft, smooth skin. She, of course, did not have the scar that the real Veronica had.
‘I heard that Veronica never had her hair tied up. She was afraid that the scar behind her ear would be revealed. I’m sure of it.’
For an esteemed noble lady, to have a scar was nothing more than shameful. It was understandable that she would be sensitive about concealing it, even though it wouldn’t be easily seen since it was behind her ear.
Is that how it is? The corners of Elena’s lips went up slightly. If it hadn’t been for Liabrick, she would have laughed with ease, but it was a pity she couldn’t.
‘I won’t be swayed by that son of a bitch anymore. It’s a scar, that’s all I need to make.’
Ren was someone she should not associate with. It would then be difficult for him to provide a reason to be suspicious of Elena being a substitute.
“Ren Bastasche. He is the heir to a family that is independent of the Grand Duke and is the Princess’ second cousin.”
“If he’s a relative, were they close?”
“No, they didn’t really get along. So, never get too close.”
Liabrick was also wary of Ren. He was a very ambitious and dangerous man to be bound by the Hundred Years Treaty. With the warning on Ren’s dangers and advice on how to deal with him, the people’s identification was finished.
“Memorise everything by tomorrow. You can’t mix up even the trivial things. Small mistakes in human relationships are irreversible.”
“I, I’ll try.”
Glancing at Elena’s face that was full of passion but had no confidence, Liabrick added, “I don’t tolerate mistakes. Everything will be real from now on, so there’s no turning back.”
“If it’s real, could it be that…”
Liabrick calmly continued while looking at Elena, who tensed up as she made her guess.
“In two days, we’re leaving and going to the Grand Duke.”
Chapter 3: Hurelbard
Elena stood by the window and stared down at the four-wheeled carriage at the entrance of the mansion. On the side of the carriage led by four white horses was a bird’s-eye pattern symbolizing the Grand Duke. The arrogance of the eagle, which gave off enough authority to suppress the Imperial family, was exuded.
“If you want to twist the eagle’s neck, you have to go for the nest.”
Elena stood in front of the mirror and smoothed out her clothes. Blonde hair cascaded like a waterfall, harmonising perfectly with a majestic, silver-embroidered dress.
But it was her atmosphere that made her look like a woman full of grace. The integrity in her benevolent eyes, her head held up proudly, and her subtle gestures gave off an irresistible aura of authority.
Before the sound of the knock faded away, Liabrick had opened the door and come in.
“The carriage has arrived. Shall we go?”
“Yes,” Elena responded and left the room.
As she passed the hall and exited the mansion, the knights who were waiting for her were polite. Instead of awkwardly reciprocating by giving a nod of her head, Elena climbed into the four-wheeled carriage. Soon she heard the harsh cries of the horses, and the four wheels began to roll against the ground.
“You handled it well without getting nervous. They may be knights, but they are lower than a princess. There is no need to respond to them individually.”
“That’s a relief. I was worried that I might’ve been awkward…”
Elena looked anxious as if the clothes she was dressed in to act as Princess Veronica was still unbecoming,
“Don’t look, Elena. Understood?”
When Elena responded reflexively, Liabrick’s eyes became fierce. Elena was a chicken caught in a trap, just in case she let loose.
“Again and again, I must warn you. The woman named Elena is dead. Have you forgotten who you are?”WuxiaWorld.S i t e Only
“I, I’m sorry. I won’t make the same mistake again.”
“Constantly remind yourself that you are a princess. Always be alert.”
Liabrick tensed Elena’s nerves in case she would make a mistake. Still, she added that all the maids who had served Veronica had been expelled, so it was okay to relax. She was determined to control Elena with the proper carrots and sticks.
 A queen consort is just the emperor’s wife—they have no real power. The queen is the one with authority.