Chapter 21. The inside story

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‘If this happens, my plans will be thrown out of whack…’

 

If Terban said that much about Bandel, Shenil had no choice but to retreat. She was the one who didn’t want to be suspected for going out on a limb.

 

She returned to her palace, struggling to figure out what to do now that things had changed from her original plan.

 

Then I heard the maids talking, as if they didn’t know Shanil had arrived. 

 

“Lady Chenille is obviously going to be the future Empress.”

 

“Isn’t it obvious? Isn’t she the only one who is close to His Majesty?”

 

“And don’t you two look great together? It’s obvious that His Majesty likes Lady Shanil. Or he wouldn’t be so attentive.”

 

Shanil listened to them and immediately gave an unintelligible smile. She knew well what stories were circulating about her and Terban.

 

But she didn’t pretend to know about it, nor did she deny it.

 

Since Terban did not deny it either, it was only natural that these rumors would be inflated. And that was exactly what Shenil wanted.

 

She was also confident that he would choose her in the end. It was so obvious that she was the most suitable person for the position of Empress.

 

‘Indeed, what lengths did he go to in order for me to come to this place?’

 

When Shanil was looking down at her legs, which no longer felt any pain, a maid hurried towards her.

 

“Lady Shanil, the Duke is here to see you.”

 

Shanil didn’t pay much attention to the fact that he had come to visit her this late at night without an appointment. It was as if she had foreseen the man’s visit.

 

“Come on, lead me.”

 

The maid led the way into the parlor, where a middle-aged man with the same golden hair as Shanil’s was sitting.

 

When Shanil naturally sat across from him, he immediately brought up the subject.

 

“What’s going on?”

 

“It’s too late, Father. Lord Bandell has been chosen as the Commander of the Order.”

 

“Tsk.”

 

Her father, Duke Raymir, was not pleased with Shenil’s news and clicked his tongue tightly. Even at that, she leaned deeply into the couch and said calmly,

 

“You expected it to some extent anyway. With Terban’s character, it is impossible for anyone to join the Order.”

 

“You’re right. Even so, the more of us in the Imperial Palace, the better.”

 

“Still, since we’ve taken care of the most troublesome one, El, there’s no need to move quickly, is there?”

 

This was the reason why Shanil was relaxed despite the disruption to her plan, and the Duke agreed. El, who was assisting the emperor closely, was like the thorn in their eyes.

 

El was no help to them in what they were trying to do, but rather a hindrance to their work at every turn.

 

At first, the Duke tried to get El on his side, but she would not budge.

 

So he decided to get rid of her, but before he could, Shenil went out first and took care of El.

 

But you were in too much of a hurry. It’s not like you.”

 

‘I just thought it was time. Anyway, I handled it perfectly with father’s help, so that’s good, right?”

 

The Duke nodded in agreement. He was also the one who hid the poison in El’s room.

 

It didn’t matter what method he used, as long as he could pull El away from Terban’s side.

 

“I think we should take a little more time on the matter. It might be better to attack the aide first.”

 

So the secret dialogue between the father and daughter continued for a while, which no one could have imagined.

 

***

 

Waking up, Ellea blinked a few times and got up from her bed. When she turned her head, the sky had somehow darkened.

 

“I guess I fell asleep.”

 

At that moment, there was a knock on the door and the voice of Borence, the head maid, coming from outside the door.

 

“May I come in, Your Highness?”

 

“Come in.”

 

With Ellea’s permission, Borence and a young-looking maidservant walked inside.

 

“All the preparations for the meal have been made. And here is Jane, the maid who will assist the Princess.”

 

“My name is Jane, and I will do my best to serve you, Your Highness.”

 

“Please take good care of me. Jane.”

 

El was just being cute at Jane’s nervousness. When Borence went out, Jane helped Ellea to get ready before going to the dining hall.

 

“Your hair is very soft.”

 

“Thank you. Jane, have you worked here long?”

 

“Yes. But I still have a lot to improve.”

 

Despite her humble words, Jane was quick with her hands and very skillful. It seemed that Borence had taken all of this into consideration when she chose her to be Ellea’s handmaiden.

 

‘They both seem like good people.’

 

Ellea, too, had spent a great deal of time in the Imperial Palace as a knight, so she could predict what kind of person they were at the first meeting.

 

So, in the mirror’s reflection, she could see that Jane was nervous as if she was holding back something she wanted to say.

 

“It’s okay, don’t be so nervous.”

 

“Yes?” 

 

“I’ll be spending a lot of time with Jane, so I want to get to know  you. If there’s anything on your mind, you can feel free to ask.”

 

When Ellea hit the mark, Jane could not hide her surprise and she stopped working. Then she showed her distress, wondering how to answer.

 

Because Borence told her again and again to be more careful than usual in front of Ellea.

 

‘What should I do?’

 

As if she had seen through Jane’s heart, Ellea spoke.

 

“I don’t know anyone in Rubain, so it would be nice if you did.”

 

When Ellea gave her a deliberately sullen look, Jane plucked up the courage and spoke her thoughts.

 

“Actually, I was really surprised when the head maid assigned me to be the maid in charge of the Princess. I was worried that I might make a mistake. I think I could see it in your eyes.”

 

“Only a little.”

 

Jane found it surprising that Ellea was trying to put her at ease, unlike the cold impression she had initially given her.

 

The way the Princess naturally led the dialogue so that she, the maid of honor, would not be uncomfortable.

 

When Ellea saw that Jane’s tension had loosened, she asked what she was curious about.

 

“Jane, have you been working only in this palace?”

 

‘’No. I was working in another palace when I heard about the presence of an imperial princess, so I came here. Most of the maids of honor do.”

 

“Then the maids who are now working with you must be disappointed. Maybe you would have been better off where you were working originally, but anyway, I’ll leave this place after sometime.”

 

When Jane realized what Ellea meant, she was at a loss as to how to respond.

 

However, because Ellea was well aware of the situation in the palace, she brought it up more comfortably.

 

“Don’t look like that. I know what you’re going through, and I’m sure it won’t be too different from Zevenica.”

 

In order to get ahead in the Imperial Court, connections were naturally important. And for that, there was status.

 

One of the fastest ways to do that was to take care of the higher ranked nobles.

 

However, when Jane was suddenly instructed to work in the palace where Princess of Zevenica lived, the atmosphere must not have been pleasant.

 

Of course, some people would consider this as an opportunity, but there was no gain in it since Ellea would be leaving anyway. She was sure that there were far more people who thought that it was a good idea.

 

Not all the servants in this palace would welcome the Princess with open arms.

 

At that moment, Jane hurried to speak, hoping that she would catch her attention.

 

“Most of them, including myself, were happy to serve the Princess. They all only hoped that today would come.”

 

Jane’s warm heart could really be felt as she spoke desperately, and Ellea nodded to reassure her.

 

However, if Jane was right, there were indeed people who were unhappy with the Princess’s presence as Ellea expected.

 

“Still, thank you for being honest with me.”

 

“Thank you?”

 

Jane thought she misheard the word ‘thank you’ for a moment. It was because high status nobles never said thank you to servants like herself.

 

They considered their servants as their property, so they wouldn’t mind treating them poorly.

 

Furthermore, even among the maids who worked in the same palace, it was common for them to discriminate and exclude people because of their status.

 

But Ellea never showed such rudeness. At the moment, Jane even wondered if all of Zevenica’s imperial families and nobles were like this.

 

At the same time, Jane was convinced that she was incredibly lucky to have come here to serve the Princess.

 

“The princess is a really nice person.”

 

“I also think Jane is a good person. I think we’ll get along pretty well.

We seem to have a lot of similarities.”

 

“Huh? Yes, that’s for sure.”

 

As Jane freaked out for a moment at Ellea’s words, Borence walked just in time.

 

“I’ll show you to the dining room when you’re ready.”

 

“Yes. Thank you for your help, Jane.”

 

“Yes, Your Highness.”

 

The two left together, and Jane, left alone in the room, suddenly remembered the person who had said something similar to her  some time ago.

 

“He said the same thing to me back then.”

 

“Sir El.”

 

She remembered the only time she had ever had a conversation with El. She could still remember it vividly even after all this time…

 

****

 

Jane’s status was noble, but she was the eldest daughter of a Baron and was literally only noble in name.

 

When her family’s situation worsened, she came into the imperial palace as a lady-in-waiting. She did her best to do her job with a cheerful personality even in difficult circumstances.

 

However, as was the case everywhere, there were those who were unhappy with Jane and bullied her.

 

Since she was alone, there was no one to help her, and she had no choice but to be beaten.

 

That day, as always, the crowd approached and tried to forcibly hand over their share of work to Jane. But she could no longer endure their actions.

 

“No more. It’s your job, so you do it. I have my share of work.”

 

 “So, while you’re at it, you should do our work, too. Unlike you, we are very busy.”

 

“Yeah. You may be fine, but we shouldn’t have calluses on our hands.”

 

It wasn’t enough that they shamelessly delegate the task, they casually spat out the words in an easy-going manner. 

 

“No. I’ll tell the head maid everything.”

 

“Ha. Do you think she can help you? You need to know your place.”

 

They approached threateningly as Jane continued to defy them. Just as they were about to raise their hands, a voice interrupted them.

 

“Let’s stop there.”

 

Everyone turned their heads away at the voice, including Jane.

 

A person in a knight’s uniform was standing behind them. To the bewilderment of the maids of honor, it looked like they knew who it was.

 

“Sir El.”

 

Having figured out what the situation was, El immediately approached Jane leaving the maids surrounding Jane behind.

 

“Are you okay? Did you get hurt?”

 

“What? Yes.”

 

“What are you all doing to one person?”

 

When El gave off an intimidating atmosphere, they waved their hands and tried desperately to tell her it was all a misunderstanding. But it was useless as she knew everything.

 

“Apologize. And if this happens again, I won’t stay still.”

 

The maids of honor, who knew of El’s position in the Imperial Palace, hastily apologized to Jane and fled in a panic. She watched them until the end and then turned to Jane and said.

 

“It’s all right now. Didn’t I scare you?”

 

“I’m fine. And thank you so much for helping me.”

 

“It was the right thing to do.”

 

‘So this is Sir El.’

 

Before she knew it, Jane had forgotten about what had happened earlier with the other maids and was confused by the fact that the person who had saved her was El, whom she had heard rumors about.