What on earth is that mask?
With my head still lowered, I ruminated over the King’s appearance.
A steel mask covered his head entirely, leaving only his mouth visible. On the top were two horn shaped protrusions. Amongst his dark colour-schemed outfit of black clothing and black cloak, only that dull silver of the mask stood out.
Does he wear that even in summer? Wouldn’t it get stuffy?
Ahh, wait, is this meant to be a comedy skit?
However, all the people here were still on these knees cowering in fear. The mood was still heavy. It seemed that these people were truly scared of the King.
“Are you deaf? I told you all to get out!”
The King raised his voice in anger; his voice even lower than before. The guardians all scattered like baby spiders, each hurriedly dragging the girl they had brought with them out of the reception hall. Similarly, Sigurd-san also placed his hand on my shoulder, and still clueless as to what was happening, we left the hall.
“Wh-What is going on?”
The moment the large reception door closed I sidled right up to Sigurd-san. There were too many things I wanted to ask.
“Hm, the truth is, I was concealing this from you but, the side consort selection this time was something we decided to conduct on our own accord.”
I know. Um… you’re making a face like you’ve just revealed some shocking revelation but, after hearing the King’s words, even an idiot would be able to figure that out.
“I heard that he didn’t like the ladies of the aristocracy so I thought that a girl from the masses would meet his requirements but….. I was wrong after all, huh.”
What do you mean, ‘I was wrong after all, huh?’ Couldn’t you have made sure first before recruiting consort candidates?
Opps, I almost got side-tracked. The thing I really wanted to know was why the King was wearing a mask.
“There are…… various reasons.”
Oh? Sigurd-san suddenly became tight-mouthed. But I wasn’t just going to back down either so I pressured him with silence. However, even till the end, Sigurd-san still wouldn’t explain about the mask.
“An-Anyway, His Majesty appears to be in ill humour today. Let’s come again another time.”
And, as if he had pulled himself together, he forcefully changed the subject. There really must be some big story behind the King’s mask.
After such a clear rejection, I don’t think he’s going to change his mind even if you come another day.
Sigurd-san said that he would invite me to stay in his house for the time being and started to walk towards the exit. Please wait a minute, Sigurd-san, before that, there is one thing I have to confirm no matter what.
“By the way, Sigurd-san, your house, does it have a bath…..?”
“A bath? Of course.” He sounded somewhat bewildered that I would ask that sort of question.
Hearing his answer, my vanishing hope was relit. Sigurd-san, you really are a viscount! Yahoo Rich People!
“Oh. You want to take a bath?”
“Yes. Very, so much a hand is going to come out my throat.”
Sigurd-san then apologetically said to me, whose eyes should currently be sparkling,
“I’m really sorry. Unfortunately, the bath in my house is currently out of order. I believe it will be repaired in the coming spring however…”
S-Spring is over half a year away.
“Now that it’s a cooler season, you won’t sweat, right?” Hearing the viscount say those words with a smile, he suddenly felt very far away. This person, who I had, just moments before, trusted as an ally, and would follow to the ends of the earth, had now become my world’s greatest enemy.
…….Natalysia-san, you liaaarrrrrrr!
Gasp! No, no. I accidently blamed that goddess Natalysia. It wasn’t Natalysia-san’s fault that the people in this country didn’t regard taking baths as anything that important.
“Let’s go then.”
I didn’t answer and stopped where I was standing. Sigurd-san, who had walked a few steps ahead immediately noticed and cocked his head in questioningly.
“I will stay here.”
“I will work in the royal castle.”
“Wh-What are you saying, Aeeda? Didn’t I just tell you that we’ll come again another day?”
Since Sigurd-san didn’t have a bath, there was no point visiting his house. My desired oasis wasn’t there. In that case, staying in the castle instead would have a much greater bathing probability. That was the conclusion I reached.
In short, “If you don’t have a bath, I’m not going to your house.” But I couldn’t say that to him because I’d feel really guilty saying it outright. After all, he was the great benefactor who brought me all the way here.
I needed to think up some way to refuse him indirectly. What should I say? I desperately turned my head into full operation mode, and finally came up with a bright idea.
“I want to stay here and gather information about His Majesty. Also, His Majesty and I might even coincidently pass each other.”
“I see. You’ll seduce His Majesty after investigating his taste in women! How reassuring. Alright. I will immediately put you forward to become a court lady.”
I asked, as this was yet another word I had never heard before. I was told that a court lady was a job title for a person who waits on a noble. Apparently, their role is mainly to aid their mistress, such helping them with makeup, changing clothes, managing their valuables and other similar duties. In Japan, I believe they would be something like a housekeeper or a maid.
Normally, the job of a court lady is for daughters of lower aristocrats but I was told I could probably become one too if I had Sigurd-san’s recommendation. That was a really welcome situation. Cheers to political power.
“Don’t worry. Other than waiting on your mistress, all the difficult jobs will be performed by other people.
I shook my head the moment I heard that.
Although I may have learnt it hastily, I was someone who had obtained the special skill called the ‘fraud makeup technique’, which can only be freely used by the chosen few. I am not being conceited but with my inherent dexterity, as long as I learnt how, I was almost certain that I would also be able work well as a court lady.
However, that wasn’t the job I wanted to do.
The impression I had of a court lady was someone who had to become like air and work to make sure their mistress suffered no discomfort.
In contrast, I was someone who was really bad at keeping still and waiting on other people. I was the type to work continuously whenever I was free, either sweeping or wiping, not the sort to stay in one place. Also, when I’m absorbed with something, I won’t see anything else. Even if I became I court lady, I had a feeling that I would be fired pretty quickly. I say that with confidence.
“Um, if possible, I want to do a water-related job. More precisely, a cleaning job would be good. If that’s not possible, cleaning dishes would also be fine.”
“Wh-Why? Cleaning is a hard job that even among the servants it is a job for the lowest stratum.”
Cleaning was a job for commoners and the job title was a maidservant. The volume of work a maidservant had to do was huge and because the castle was extremely big, it had extremely harsh working conditions. There were few applicants and they always had a shortage of workers. Because of the worker shortage, it led to the endless vicious cycle of the work load increasing even further for every worker. I had heard of a similar story at my cleaning job in Japan. All worlds suffer from the same problems…..
“I like cleaning more than eating three meals a day.”
Sigurd-san made a face that said ‘What on earth are you saying?’ No, I didn’t make a verbal slip and nothing is wrong with my head. In reality, I have cleaned more often than taking three meals a day. Or it might be more correct to say, I wasn’t able to have even three meals a day.
After I said please, bowed my head and wouldn’t move, Sigurd-san reluctantly agreed and went to talk with one of the castle employment management staff. Just when thought he had left, he came back with an OK. To be able to get them to hire some girl of a doubtful origin so easily, Sigurd-san’s reputation was not be underestimated. Sigurd-san might have more influence and authority than I had originally thought.
Well, at any rate, starting from today, I will be working in Rozshien Kingdom’s Royal Castle.
I somehow managed to send away Sigurd-san who was hovering around saying ‘I’m worried, I’m worried.’ Worrying about someone he’s just met, going around and doing things on his own even though he’s a noble, I had the feeling that he must be a bit weird.
I was taken to meet Asti, a fellow maidservant, and was told I was to learn how to work under her. Asti-san looked around five to six years older than me. She was tall and was a beauty with dark brown hair and eyes with an intense gaze.
I bowed my head and said ‘I look forward to working with you’ but Asti-san only gave a short ‘Yeah’, with a cold expression. She might be bad at expressing emotions just like me. I suddenly felt a sense of affinity. I’d be nice if we could become friends.
A lot of the other young girl servants were beautiful too. Were looks also part of their recruitment criteria? They told me their names but because there were so many of them I couldn’t remember them all. I must remember all their names quickly. After Asti-san simply explained the job content in monotonous speed talking, the other maidservants all surrounded me.
“Hey, hey, is it true that you came here to become a side consort, Aeeda?” asked one of them with immense curiosity.
I no longer introduced myself as Aida but as Aeeda. When I nodded because that was the truth, they broke out in indescribable echoes of Ohhhh.
“Um, may I ask a question? I met His Majesty earlier but, that mask… mguafd-”
As Sigurd-san wouldn’t tell me why the King wore a mask, I tried to ask the girls instead but they hastily covered my mouth. Did I do something wrong? After they sensed I wasn’t going to ask anymore and that I was suffocating, they finally restored my air. And, starting with ‘Keeping this between us’,
“People say that anyone who sees His Majesty’s bare face will cursed.”
“According to rumours, they will die within a week.”
“I heard that their dead faces were too gruesome to look at.”
They all started talking away, each adding a similar comment. Even though they said to keep it between us, their lowered voices gradually became louder and louder. In the end, they all reached the conclusion that no one has ever seen His Majesty’s bare face. Just like the common proverb ‘three women make a market’ states, the conversation livened up, and for some reason they eventually ended up talking about the castle’s ghost stories. A headless ghost prowls around in the dead of night searching for his head, the feeling of someone staring at them from a wall; from big ones to small ones, heaps of ghost stories were told.
However, I didn’t found stuff like ghosts scary. Hence, I merely responded in admiration, “There sure are a lot here,” disappointing them as they weren’t able to draw out a reaction they expected. Opps, maybe I should have acted like I was a little scared.
By the time we found a good place to end the conversation, it was the servant’s dinner time. Even though I hadn’t worked yet, they let me eat in the small cafeteria next to the kitchen. As expected of the palace, although the food was leftovers, it was still exceptionally delicious. Each and every one had its own subtle flavour. Even though I had to admit that I had never tasted anything so delicious before, I started to really want to eat Horz-san’s cooking. His food wasn’t as elaborate as this but it had a dear warm taste of family. Oh no, it was still just the first day but I was already getting homesick.
As before, Asti-san did not participate in the conversation and ate silently on a seat on the corner of the table.
She’s a lone wolf, huh? My sense of affinity with her grew more and more.
“Okay, Aeeda, I’ll show you to your room. It’s in the basement.”
“Excuse me……. Is there…… a bath…..?”
“Bath? Of course not. It’s not like we’re the king or queen.”
I see. So that’s the answer in the end.
Yeah, I had the feeling that was the case. More like, what else was I expecting.
After going down the stairs, I was shown to a simple room with a bed and a small table that was small but still bigger than the internet cafe room,. Possibly because it was a semi-basement, there was a horizontally long fixed window near the ceiling.
The maidservant who brought me to my room went back to work. Bored, I spread the folded sheets onto the bed, and lay down on it, but as expected, I couldn’t sleep.
Without sleeping a wink, I waited until late at night, and with a candlestick in my hand, I secretly retraced my steps back to the kitchen.
In the kitchen, which was many times bigger and ordered than the kitchen in the Star Viewing House in Setruvi, I scooped water into a tub and soaked my hair.
The water was bitterly cold, but my heart felt even colder than that.
It appears that in the end, unless I became a side consort, I would not be able to reach my bath.
―――It’s hard. It’s too hard!
When I breathed a sigh and covered my face, a fake-eyelash came off and a black drop of liquid landed on the palm of my hand.
I don’t regret coming to the palace but, Father and Mother in Heaven, just for today, am I allowed to cry?
Why does life never work out the way I want?
Is this my punishment for being selfish and wanting to have bath?
Uuuu uuu uuu uuu….
After that day, the palace in Rozshien Kingdom gained one more ghost story: “Night after night, in the kitchen, you can hear a woman’s sad moaning.”
As for the true story……. It needn’t be said.
 A set phrase that means you desperately want something so much you can’t take it anymore.
 Aeeda has an expressionless face so even though her eyes should be sparkling she doesn’t know if it really is.
 She wants to do a job in the part of the building where water is circulated (kitchen, bathroom, etc)
 女三人寄れば姦しい means ‘Whenever women gather, it is noisy.’ Women are chatterboxes so if three women gather together it will be extremely, extremely noisy