“Did you hear of what happened to Lady Bom?”
“Serves her right.”
“She chose the wrong person after all, why would she pick a man below her means when she has so many suitors?”
“Beats me it’s almost like she thinks he’s her destined person.“
“He’s already engaged too, everyone’s saying she seduced him desperately. I can’t imagine how she must have been for the rumours to be so big.”
Bright lights reflected off the golden surfaces in the Chrysanthemum ballroom. Holding up the tray carefully so the drinks wouldn’t spill, Sasha made her way through the crowd, offering the beverage to those who had empty hands. Her blonde hair which was tied up neatly, contrasted with the black and white uniform she wore.
Even though she wore a maid’s outfit, the proud members of society were polite enough to thank her as she went. After all, they probably did know her before she took this job.
She was a palace maid, who’s status as a waiting room staff was a respectable position. Her role today as a waitess was because the palace multitasked to keep costs low. Her family’s status was not low either.
She weaved through the gaps easily, and as she walked, you could almost see her ears perk up. She listened to the news and gossip this way.
An inkling of romance here, a number of the streams were flirting. Some gossip about other members, break ups, affairs and a few on the state of the nation and the hope for the future. “Oh my,” a familiar voice appeared, from very close to her. Sasha looked up and saw an old classmate of hers, staring maliciously at her.
“I had heard the rumors that you gave up your status to work here. But to think you were working as a palace maid?” The tone was mocking and the owner of the voice was clearly looking down on her. Sasha sighed inwardly, her face not changing in emotion. The lady continued speaking. “Have you given up on finding a husband?”
It was obvious that was an insult meant for her, but Sasha didn’t care much. In fact she didn’t remember the name of the speaker. “Would you like a cocktail?” Like an experienced waiter, she carried out her duties instead of replying to the provocation. “Of course I should take one-! To make your job easier.”
A few other attendees around them were now aware of the drama and watching it. At a corner of the hall, someone with blonde hair snickered.
Sasha stood respectfully, holding out the tray for the lady to take the glass. Then when she was sure the glass was taken, she walked off.
Only to feel a splash of cold liquid on her back and arm. The cold sensation on her hot back made her shiver in shock and pleasure. “I’m sorry, I’m so careless.”
Because it was summer, the uniform she wore was thin. The liquid of the cocktail she served was a pale yellow, causing the shade of her skin to be seen quite clearly. Fortunately the cup did not hold much liquid inside.
Mustering a most brilliant smile, Sasha addressed the offender. “No problem, accidents happen when you’re tipsy. Please excuse me, it will be inappropriate for me to stay here.” She then made her way back to the kitchen to be changed.
As she entered the staff door, she felt a presence of someone following behind her. Before she turned around a cloak was placed around her shoulders. A low, warm voice entered her ears. “Sorry I couldn’t get here earlier.” Sasha shrugged off the cloak and disappeared into the staff room.
However, the crown prince followed her in, his short blonde hair fluttering in his haste. “Are you hurt?”
“No, please go back, it’s not right for you to be here.”
“In this palace, I can go anywhere I want.”
“Is this how the highly praised crown prince should act?”
It was pointless to say more. As the crown prince, he was stubborn but he still had the authority to do as he wished. Although he had the reputation of doing things as he pleased, the king allowed him to do so because his methods were always proven to be better than other strategists. With his results, no one could complain.
The exception was Sasha, who didn’t care much about his achievements and wasn’t a fan of his clingy ways.
“Are you going to follow me in here?” She was halfway into the female changing room, yet he showed no signs of stopping. “If you allow me.” He didn’t miss a beat.
[What a flirt]
She went in and quickly locked the door in case he decided to have his way. She didn’t think his integrity was that low, but you never know what sort of pranks he could pull.
When she came out after changing, he was gone.
She had no choice but to return to the hall, with another platter of tibits but strangely she didn’t see the lady who had disturbed her.
[It’s better this way.]
She was curious but it wasn’t something she could ask directly to anyone.
“That lady who just went home…”
“Yeah didn’t you see her dress? It was well ripped!”
“Who did it?”
“It was an accident, the prince tripped during the dance.”
“I think he tripped over her foot. He was very apologetic though.”
She inadvertently heard the story.
For a moment her first thought was that it was a planned move, but it seemed that it really was an accident. Whichever way, it was a good coincidence for her.
The next morning, the air felt cool. The waiting room servants assembled for roll call. As they waited for Rita, the head maid to announce their duties, there was a topic all of them were interested in.
“That attack almost ruined her face.”
“Who in their right mind would attack a lady with acid anyway? If you ask me she must have seduced him too in the past. There’s no motivator like jealousy. “
“Oh my, are you speaking from experience? “
“No way. You know me. “
“Still for it to be so brutal… “
“What are you talking about?”
“Ah Sasha, there was a Lady who attacked another with acid for taking her fiance. It’s all the public can talk about now.”
“Acid? Did she die?”
“What do you mean? The attack missed, fortunately.”
“I heard the acid landed on a pig instead and melted it instantly”
“That’s just a rumor – Oh! Sasha about yesterda-”
At that moment, the head maid’s footsteps had stopped and she rapped the reception table with her knuckles.
The sound carried through the chatter merely because it was loud enough.
The hall was quiet enough to hear a pin drop.
The head maid opened her mouth.
“We are respectable people, we do not need to gossip about others.”
“Today, we will clean the waiting room hall, those who the vases are due for inspection, so please take them all to the back while you clean. Later, there will be a graduation party in Chrysanthemum hall. But we won’t be serving there. Tonight, you can have a rest.”
There were cheers around the room. The group went off quickly to get their work done. The faster they were done, the earlier they could rest tonight.
Sasha took the task of moving the vases. The waiting room staff consisted of a team of female, and Sasha was among the strongest. The various ornamental vases were made of materials like gold and ceramic, meaning they were heavier than they looked. The vases, as pretty as they were, tended to be fragile with delicate pieces snaking over the edges and surface.
As she worked, Sasha could catch snippets of what the guests were talking about. The rooms were not so badly sound proof, but Sasha had sharp ears which could catch the conversation, a little better than others could.
She heard giggling from the first room, one male, one female voice.
“Do you think Lady Tarter will be at the ball this afternoon?”
“She hasn’t asked me about it and It doesn’t matter if she goes, I’ll still be with you.”
Sasha wrinkled her nose and scrubbed harder ignoring the rest of the conversation. Such information wasn’t of use to her. Affairs were commonplace among the nobles. Unless someone paid her, she wouldn’t benefit from learning about this one.
But her curiosity got the better of her, when she passed the reception and heard the staff whispering about the latest guest being the one involved in the rumor. She stopped by for a moment to catch the names from the guest list. Sir Bom and Lady Fisker.
She thought about it as she wheeled the vases to the back on the waitering trolley.
“Where are you going?” A low, warm voice entered her ears from behind. Sasha froze as she turned around as slowly as she could muster. Behind her, the smiling face of the crown prince stared at her expectantly, with unusual excitement. The overwhelmingly bright combination of his golden hair and sparkling blue eyes caused Sasha to want to back off. Unconsciously she took half a step back. As her foot raised, the prince moved forward, backing her up into the wall. “Hmm? You’re not trying to leave without answering, are you?”
[Think about your life]
Sasha’s eyes wavered. With her position, it could be counted as an offense to the royal family if she were to not answer.
“Just to the storage room… crown prince… sir.”
“Oh. To clean or to replace that?”
“Then why are you holding that?”
“… to clean… we’re bringing them to the backroom to be checked.” She felt the energy drain from her body.
“I see.” he nodded as he stepped back, waving his hand. “and next time no need to be so formal, address me by name… when we’re alone.” He winked. “We have history after all.”
Instead of moving out of the way, his hand moved in an arc and grabbed the trolley. He swiftly pulled it from her grasp. “Wai-ng-!” she unconsciously let out an incomprehensible sound as panic overtook her. Fortunately it wasn’t loud. She was too worried to grab the trolly for fear a vase would slip and break, but she couldn’t simply let it be taken away either.
Her hand was reaching out, but the prince’s other arm had already wrapped around her back. “Which way?” he spoke into her ear as he pushed her by the back of her waist, out to the hallway. Of course he didn’t really need directions from her, as he also lived in the palace. Sasha freed herself from his arm by twisting out from below.
As she did, she saw the door of the waiting room open.
The couple which was inside stepped out. As they did, they caught sight of the crown prince and were startled. “Oh my, We’re sorry we didn’t know you were here or we would have greeted you, your highness.”
It seemed they had not noticed Sasha, which was a relief as she was on the floor after that maneuver.
“Not at all, Lady Fisker and Sir Bom,”
“We’re honoured that you remember our names.” “What would that vase be for?”
“Nothing much, I was told these were special, so I’ve come to see them myself.”
“As expected of the crown prince. Nothing escapes your consideration.” The two shared their approval that the prince himself would take part in affairs of the palace.
“If you could we would like a few moments to discuss something with you.” Lady Fisker had caught sight of Sasha, and she motioned to the trolley with a tilt of her head. “Why not let this maid behind you do the work?”
“I suppose this must be an urgent matter?”
“Not at all, but we won’t be able to come for the next month, as Sir Bom would be in the country on business. And I have business on the other side of the country.”
“Then I should lend an ear.” The prince nodded. “Sasha, please.”
The three left her to do the work she needed.
Sasha wondered what topic they had would be so important, but judging from the direction they were walking in, she would hear about it soon.
Sure enough, there was news to share at dinner time.