The Five Princes
“Hey, quit pushing.” Eris turned and snapped at the girl behind her. The girl glared at Eris. Eris glared straight back. I would’ve sworn I saw lightning sparks fly before the girl turned away and continued to force her way between two other girls beside me.
I chuckled wryly. “Two years and you still haven’t grown up that much, huh?” I murmured as I handed in my application to one of the officials who was standing behind the tables near the entrance of the castle. He took my application and read through it carefully, taking note of my academic qualifications and experience as a maid. All three of us had faked our maid experiences. According to the application, we were maids since birth; these lies were solidly supported by three satisfactorily terrified families.
“You may go in” The guard said and handed me a number tag, Number 189. Lyssa and Eris joined me as they too were handed a number tag each. Lyssa got Number 200 and Eris, Number 206.
“GIRLS! GATHER OVER HERE!” A plump, bossy looking woman commanded. “All odd numbers follow me, Greta. Even numbers follow Pansy here.” She yelled, slapping the back of a small scrawny woman that everyone somehow missed.
“Well, see you all later.” I said to Eris and Lyssa as I followed a crowd of girls towards Greta.
“The Princes!” Someone screeched suddenly. There was a sudden hush then an uproar.
“Where? Where?” Girls clamoured, their hair flying everywhere as they turned around in circles.
“Up there! Walking along that corridor!” A girl shouted, pointing her finger towards the second floor.
Suddenly there was chaos. Girls were screaming and running across the front garden towards the five Princes. Others were using their hands and fanning themselves furiously, some to my utter bewilderment had even started to cry. I looked around for Eris and Lyssa and was not surprised to see my shocked expression mirrored in their faces. The Princes rarely showed their faces to the public and it was usually only during special occasions that they made an appearance. Thus, most people only caught glimpses of them or were resorted to scrutinizing them in portraits. Hence, the sudden animal stampede.
The Crown Prince Jaejoong was in the lead, deep in thought, completely and admirably oblivious to the crowd of screaming girls that had gathered at the bottom of the corridor. Ever since the King became bedridden with an incurable disease, Prince Jaejoong had taken charge over the castle and the kingdom, making the important decisions. Cool and reserved, he rarely showed his emotions in front of people that were not his family and was also considered to be mysterious by the lucky few females who had the chance to meet him. He also happened to be dazzlingly beautiful, undisputedly the most handsome Prince.
The second Prince, Prince Yunho followed closely behind Crown Prince Jaejoong. He was one of the best sword masters throughout the kingdom even though he was only twenty one. We had learnt that he had trained with a sword master in the Surai Mountains for three years and only recently came back home. However, in terms of fighting, Crown Prince Jaejoong was still his superior, being more than proficient in both swordsmanship and martial arts, especially Hapkido. Prince Yunho and the Crown Prince Jaejoong would be the two biggest threats in our mission as they were the best fighters. We had sourced out all the information on them and planned the best counter attacks that could be used against them when the time arises. In the meantime, we needed to find out more of their weaknesses to help us complete the mission.
Prince Yoochun and Prince Junsu were fraternal twins, born minutes apart, however personality-wise, they were polar opposites. Known as the lady killer, the third Prince Yoochun charmed all women with his charisma, wit and mesmerizing voice. He was very talented musically and had been playing the flute since young, however, it seemed that he had lost interest in it a few years ago and switched to singing for a pastime instead. His twin brother, Prince Junsu on the other hand was the most shy around women. He would blush when surrounded by many females and would usually be found near one of his brothers during Balls held by the Royal Family. He was also the least skilled fighter. This added to his fear of women made him the least threat in my eyes. I could see Prince Junsu’s troubled expression as he whispered something into Prince Yoochun’s ear. Prince Yoochun laughed and patted him on his back before turning his alluring smile onto the crowd of screaming girls.
The last in line was the fifth Prince, Prince Changmin. He was the youngest in the Royal family and just turned nineteen a few days ago. Despite his age, he was the most well read among his brothers and was considered to be wise beyond his years. Reserved and always courteous, he mostly let his brothers do the talking at public appearances and would usually be seen carrying a book in his hand. Like Crown Prince Jaejoong, he was unaware of the deafening noises that the girls were making as he had his head buried in a thick book.
“Everyone! Back to your lines!” Guards shouted as they pushed the girls away from the bottom of the corridor. “Move it! Come on!” More guards shouted as the some of the girls started protesting.
I joined the group of girls who were heading towards a flustered Greta and showed her my number tag before proceeding to one of the rooms in the left wing of the castle ground floor.
“Number 189, 200 and 206!” Greta shouted from the doorway. Eris, Lyssa and I exchanged looks of surprise before we stood up and walked towards the kitchen. The two tasks in the morning after the appearances of the five Princes had been a breeze for all three of us. We had all passed the reading, writing and the interview sections of the maid selection with top scores and were now heading towards our last task.
“Alright girls!” Greta turned around and viewed us with scorn. “ Even though you three may have scored well in the previous two tasks and may have passed the interview by blinking those big eyes of yours, this is my section and be warned that it is not going to be easy.” Greta took out a long red candle and placed it upright on a small table beside her.
“This candle here determines the amount of time you three have left before. I don’t care how complicated your meal is; you must prepare a full set meal for the Royal Family to try and I will be watching you to make sure that no cheating occurs.” So saying, she lit the candle and sat in an armchair beside the table and watched us with a smug expression on her face.
“Ok girls, let’s get going.” I said. “We will be preparing the Joseon Wangjo Gungjung yori today. Number 200, you will be in charge of the four side dishes and soup.” I said to Lyssa as I read the number tag that was hanging from her belt.
“Number 206, you’ll be in charge of the other four side dishes and dessert,” I continued as I glanced at the number tag on Eris. “I will prepare the four main dishes and rice.” I said as we started to prepare the ingredients.
Joseon Wangjo Gungjung yori, also known as the Korean Royal Court cruisine was the cuisine traditionally consumed at the court of the Joseon Dynasty.It was an extremely difficult feast that we had learnt in the past three days. Consisting of twelve dishes served with rice soup and dessert, it was considered to be a rare delicacy as only one chef in the kingdom knew how to prepare it. She was initially reluctant to teach us, however she quickly changed her mind when Lyssa lost her patience.
“Joseon Wangjo Gungjung yori?” Greta asked in disbelief. “Are you girls even sure what that means? It is a gourmet meal, fit for royalty and prepared by only the finest chefs in the world. You girls prepare such a banquet? Pah! Don’t make me laugh!” Greta shook her and laughed to herself.
Eris was about to retaliate back, but a warning glance from me made her change her mind and attack her beef instead. I sharpened my knife carefully and started to chop the cabbage. With a small practiced flick of my hand, the knife flew from my fingers and landed on the wall behind Greta, a few centimeters above her head. Knife throwing was one of my specialties and as usual, it landed exactly where I had aimed.
Greta froze, petrified and her eyes bulged out of their sockets. Her mouth dropped open in shock and I could even see the gold filling she had on one of her teeth. I covered my mouth and feigned a shocked expression.
“ I am so sorry Greta,” I said and walked over towards her. “My hand slipped…, oh my, you’re not hurt are you?” I asked as I pulled the knife out from the wall. Greta did not seem to hear anything as she continued to gaze into space with a frozen shocked expression.
“That should shut her up for a while.” Lyssa said as Eris snorted in amusement. I nodded and quickly resumed my task.
The third and last task was to test our abilities as a cook. Since this maid selection was different from previous years as the Princes would be choosing personal maids on top of employing normal maids, the Princes would be the ones to sample our cooking. Hence this last task was crucial to ensure that the Princes favoured our food and chose us as their personal maids.
~ Prince Yunho~
“Hey guys, do you think personal maids are really necessary? I mean, wouldn’t valets be enough?” Junsu asked as he looked around at his brothers who were busy stuffing their faces with the eighth meal set that the maids had brought out today.
“You don’t have to have one if you’re not comfortable with the idea.” Yoochun said looking up at his twin brother. Junsu had been rather against the idea ever since it was announced. “I promise I’ll support you with whatever decision you make even if it means me and you not having a personal maid.” Yoochun said jokingly as he picked up a piece of kimchi with his chopsticks.
“Hyung! You would do that for me?” Junsu’s face broke into a beaming smile. “I was so scared that it would look weird if I was the only one who didn’t have a personal maid, but if both of us don’t have one, it would be perfect!” Junsu cried out in delight.
Yoochun promptly dropped his kimchi with his mouth open in an O shape as I laughed and slapped his back playfully.
“Your Highnesses, the next set is ready. I present the Joseon Wangjo Gungjung yori.” Gretal announced. Her voice came out in a squeak and I wondered if it was due to all the shouting in the morning.
“The Korean Royal Court Cuisine?” I asked in disbelief. “This I have to try! Gretal, ask the maids to hurry up!”
“It’s Gre-TA, not Gretal” Greta muttered under her breath as she directed maids to serve the dishes.
“Oh man! This is so GOOD!” Both Yoochun and Changmin exclaimed as they chomped their way through each dish. I was amazed at the amount of food that they could still consume considering that they had treated each of the previous 8 feasts more as dinner than as a sample. I had to admit though, that this food was delicious, by far the best we had tasted today. As I did my fair share of emptying the plates, I wondered if I would be able to eat for the rest of the week.
“You know, with this cooking skill, looks won’t even matter. I wouldn’t even mind if she looked like Gretal here.” Changmin said as he happily received the plate of Baechuseon that Jaejoong passed to him. I stole a look at Gretal and nearly choked on my rice at her expression.
“So I guess our choice is clear then?” Jaejoong asked as everyone finished sampling the last set. Everyone except Junsu nodded their heads.
“Joseon Wangjo Gungjung yori!” Changmin and I chorused in unison. Yoochun had opened his mouth to join us, but caught Junsu’s hopeful gaze and slumped dejectedly back into his chair.
“Well you heard them, Greta, bring in the maids who prepared that meal,” Jaejoong said, clasping his hands together.
“Y…Yes Your Highness,” Gretal stammered and blushed as she bowed and rushed off.
“I hope they really do look like Greta,” Yoochun muttered darkly under his breath.
I chuckled at his comment and helped myself to more fruits.
“Your Highnesses… these are the maids that prepared the cuisine, Joseon Wangjo Gungjung yori.” Gretal said as she bowed.
Three slim young maids followed suit and bowed deeply. Beside me, I could sense Yoochun’s spark of interest as the three maids looked up. I couldn’t blame him. Yes, even I, who usually accompany Junsu in his avoidance of women, had to admit that I was slightly dazzled by the beauties who stood before me. Just slightly.
I grinned suddenly. Oh, Yoochun was going to regret his promise.
“What do you guys think?” Jaejoong asked breaking into my thoughts.
I dragged myself out of the extremely amusing scenario in my head to examine the girls more closely.
The girl on the right was tall and curvaceous (definitely Yoochun’s type, I grinned inwardly). Her looks were the most striking of the three and the way she carried herself told me she knew perfectly well the effect her looks had on men.
The girl on the right was no less attractive, only more in the little-sister-I-never-had kind of way. Just as I was thinking how sweet she looked, her face burst into a mischievous smile that promised fun for her and trouble for everyone else.
However, it was the serene beauty of the girl in the centre that struck me the most – and awakened memories I thought I had buried deep beneath my cheerful boorishness and hot-headed manliness. I felt a burning sensation at the back of my eyes as the look in her eyes seemed achingly familiar; Mother…
“Do we have our decisions?” Jaejoong asked.
“I’ll take the maid in the middle,” I said, almost immediately.
The maid bowed and introduced herself as Ker; I was glad to note that her voice was as smooth and clear as I imagined it to be.
“The maid on the right,” Changmin said as he smiled at the young girl, Eris, who returned his smile with a grin.
“I’ll take the last maid then,” Jaejoong said before the maid introduced herself as Lyssa. Lyssa fluttered her eyelashes ever so slightly as she bowed before Jaejoong.
“We will take our leave then, Your Highnesses,” Gretal said as the four of them bowed in respect and left the Grand dining hall.
“Good, that’s settled,” Jaejoong said and smiled towards us and chuckled upon seeing Yoochun’s depressed expression.
“Hey, you’re a good brother, remember that,” I said as I patted Yoochun on his back.
“Only the best!” Junsu said as he beamed towards Yoochun.
“And you were right, they really do look like Greta,” Changmin looked like he was about to implode from the laughter he was stifling.
Yoochun groaned and slumped on the table, burying his face in his arms.
THANK YOU MY LOVELY BETA KIRYU!
EDIT: I’ve finally edited my story:) hope you all enjoyed it! comments would be loved:D
ALWAYS KEEP THE FAITH!