My heart raced, thumping heavily in my chest.
With an ominous premonition, I hurriedly approached and picked up the hair.
I waved my hand, attempting to dispel the barrier of light and reveal the memories.
But my efforts were in vain as the barrier began replaying the memories.

Collis sneered coldly.

“Why, are you getting scared now that you’re about to be exposed?”

In the footage, a woman with black hair and black eyes appeared.
She had an unfamiliar face in my memories, yet I instantly recognized who she was.

There wasn’t even a single photo left for me to reminisce.


It was my mother.

She appeared to be in her mid-20s, with a striking resemblance to my face before I died.
Seated in front of me, my mother handed me a yogurt bottle with a straw.

“Hyerim, I’ll buy another bottle of yogurt from the supermarket.
Have this while you wait.”

It was a lie.

My mother, who claimed to be going to buy yogurt, left the house with two large travel bags.
It was evident to anyone that she was deliberately leaving the house.

The feeling of forcibly recalling memories I didn’t want to remember was nauseating and heartbreaking.
Unable to tear my eyes away from the memories unfolding, I covered Lucerne’s eyes with my hands.

“Don’t look… Please, don’t look.”

Lucerne didn’t move my hand away or close his eyes.
He stood frozen, staring directly at the barrier of light replaying the memories.
His long eyelashes brushed against my trembling palm, tickling it slightly.

Collis wore a victorious smile.

“Lucerne, did you see? Black hair, black eyes, a house surrounded by unknown objects.
Was the woman you loved like that? Did she live such a life?”

As if seeking confirmation for her own expectations, Collis repeated her question multiple times.
Lucerne remained silent, standing still without offering any response.

Meanwhile, the memories continued incessantly.


“How dare you steal and eat food? You don’t even know your place! Get out right now!”

The face and words of my aunt, whom I thought I would never have to see again after the dream, haunted me in reality.
It wasn’t a dream; it was real.

There was nowhere to escape.

I lowered the hand that covered Lucerne’s eyes and covered my ears instead.
I sat on the floor, trembling like a bamboo in the wind.

Pull yourself together, Hyerim.
It’s just a dreadful video.

I know.
But I’m scared.
I hope Aunt didn’t hit me.

“No, please stop…”

Regardless of my plea, the memories continued.

“Oh my goodness! Hyerim! Who brought trash into the room?”

“That’s a flower pot.
I made it.
I planted apple seeds.”

“What? A flower pot? How is this a flower pot? And apple seeds? Where did you… Wait, did you really dig through the trash?”

My aunt scattered dirt on the floor.

Lucerne, who had been silent the whole time, parted his lips and uttered his first word.


I bit my lip.

Fortunately, Lucerne didn’t look at me.
With my ears covered and trembling, I hoped his gaze wouldn’t be directed towards me.

I couldn’t even imagine what he would think of me, fulfilling the wish of young Hyerim pretending to be Astia.
Would he despise me? Get angry?

One thing was certain, whatever happened, both Lucerne and I would be hurt.

My eyes felt hot, as if tears were about to overflow, but I clenched my teeth and held them back.

The lonely and mundane daily life passed by.
My twenty-fifth birthday was just another ordinary day, except for reading “Tyrant and Archmage.”

Unlike other web novels, the scenes that I used to skip through quickly now unfolded slowly.

…Lucerne was undeniably a breathtakingly beautiful man.
His jet-black hair and eyes that sparkled like a rainbow was like the embodiment of beauty descended from the heavens.

“How is Astia doing?”

“I apologize for saying this, but…”

“Do you want to apologize even in death?”

“…Her condition has deteriorated to the point where it wouldn’t be strange for you to return immediately.”


Lucerne, as if he could split his advisor and desk in two with magic, raised his sword made of magic high and trembled with anger…

Lucerne clenched his fist while standing still.
Just as I could easily read the unfamiliar characters when I first came to this place, I was undoubtedly reading the words in my memories.
With his murmured words, my suspicions turned into certainty.

“How… did you read the conversation between Caleb and me?”

I held my breath.

Lucerne didn’t take his eyes off the screen and continued reading the flowing text.

Astia’s house, where she lived, was so worn out that it wouldn’t be strange for it to collapse any moment.

She had lost all the brightness from her intelligent and beautiful days.
Her once luscious golden hair was limp and disheveled, her eyes that used to shine like stars grew dull, and her straight and neat posture became slouched.

When she coughed heavily, the children who had been hiding throughout the house startled and approached her.
Tears welled up in their eyes.

“Mom! Mom, are you okay?”

“Mom is not okay.
I’m in pain.
But don’t worry.
Mom will soon go to your father.”

As if it was something delightful, she stretched her bloodstained lips into a chilling smile…

Lucerne’s voice trembled as he spoke Astia’s name right before her death.


The next morning, a swollen face appeared in the mirror.
It was Hye-rim’s face that I had forgotten.
Black hair, black eyes, pale skin that hadn’t seen sunlight, chubby cheeks.
It wasn’t particularly pretty to begin with, but due to the swelling, there was not a single resemblance to the beautiful Astia.

After the accident that ended my life, I woke up again as Astia.
While taking care of the children and tidying up the house, when I saw my reflection in the candlelight, my slouched posture…

After the accident ended my life, I woke up again, now inhabiting Astia’s body.
As I cleaned the house and took care of the children, I saw a woman with flowing blonde hair and green eyes reflected in the candlelight.
It was an absurd scene, causing Lucerne’s body to tremble.

“How is this possible…?”

And the day after spending a happy time with the children, the roof was torn off.


As Lucerne, holding a large bouquet of flowers, called out to me as if surprised, the footage cut off.

Collis grinned crookedly.

“Well, Lucerne.
Did you see it clearly with your own eyes? Now admit it.
You were deceived by that woman.
She’s just a fraud wearing the guise of the Astia you loved.
How about that? You now have enough reason to abandon that woman, don’t you?”

I could only glare at Collis and couldn’t refute her.
Complex emotions of fear and shame overwhelmed me.
I waited for Lucerne’s cold gaze to come at me like an executioner awaiting a condemned prisoner.

Contrary to my expectations, as time passed, Lucerne didn’t move.
He neither tore me apart nor looked at me.
Instead, he quietly retreated to his bedroom and closed the door behind him.

With a thud, as the door closed, Collis, as if she had been waiting, spoke in a cold voice.

“Disgusting creature.
How dare someone, who knows not where they come from, dare to meddle with my Lucerne?”

I had no words to refute her.

In this place, I was someone who couldn’t explain where I came from or how I ended up here.
In reality, I was like a rolling stone, pushed around by life.


Collis threw a single-edged dagger towards me.
The cold and rigid handle of the dagger touched my knees as I knelt on the marble floor.
Collis’s gaze was sharper than the blade itself.


A chill ran through my chest.

It felt as if I had already shed gallons of blood, as my whole body turned cold.

Like a broken doll, I slowly lowered my head and looked at the dagger.
It had a sharp blade, a handle made of gold, beautiful decorations, and sparkling gems.
It was an excessively luxurious weapon to be stained with blood.

Collis’s voice echoed in my ears.

“I would love to tear you to shreds myself, but I am not as skilled in the art of killing with magic as Lucerne.
I don’t want to make it too easy for you by letting you choose suicide, but there seems to be no other option.”

As if she intended to witness my death, she casually crossed her arms.

So, this is the price of greed.

I thought that only in stories do the greedy receive their comeuppance.
But reality is indeed cruel.

As if possessed, I reached out my hand towards the dagger.

As my fingertips touched the sharp blade, a blue light appeared.
The defensive magic that Lucerne had taught me prevented my fingers from being cut by the blade.
As I reached further, the dagger repelled me like two opposing magnets.

When Lucerne swung the sword at me or when Collis struck me with a glass, intense and brilliant light burst forth.
But now, the faint blue light that tingled at my fingertips felt distant from Lucerne’s heart, making me sad.

Reaching out my other hand, I finally grasped the dagger’s handle, and the light disappeared.
As I pricked my finger with the tip of the blade, a drop of red blood oozed out.
It stung and hurt.

Now, I finally realized that dying and coming back to life meant experiencing a death that others only go through once, but enduring it twice.

It was terrifying.

Trembling, I tightly held the dagger’s handle with both hands.

“I… I don’t want to die…”

My voice elicited a scoff from Collis.

“You dare enter the palace without proper preparation and dare to mimic the woman that Emperor Lucerne loves? I expected you to at least have the resolve to die, considering how audacious you were in front of me.

Her condescending words pierced my heart.

“Well, looking at your memories, you do seem to be someone deserving of such treatment.”

An unloved and unloving person with no significance.
Collis swiftly reduced the days I had desperately tried to survive to worthlessness.

I felt hollow.

Fear dissipated, replaced by emptiness.

I slowly rose from my spot.

Turning around, I gazed out through the window, where darkness lay thick.
Along the path, the garden illuminated by faint magical lanterns was filled with apple trees.
The evidence that I had been loved by Lucerne, the evidence that his heart had turned towards me, pained me deeply.

I know it too.

I shouldn’t have deceived.
I knew that it could cause harm, yet I sought fulfillment by pretending to be someone else.
I shouldn’t have deceived him and his love.

How can I atone for this?

After a brief moment of contemplation, I opened my mouth with a quiet voice.

“…Fine, as you say, I will do as you wish.”

Collis, reflected in the window, stretched her mouth into a cruel, elongated smile.

“You speak fast, I like that.”


“What is it?”

“Please give me some time.”

Collis, who was smiling eerily, hardened her face.

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