“… and Crown Prince Jaejoong likes his meals served on porcelain dishes as he feels it brings out the taste in food. Are you listening to me Lyssa?!” Greta snapped irritably as Lyssa continued to stir the soup, plainly ignoring her blabber.
“The Crown Prince Jaejoong also prefers…”
Lyssa slammed the ladle on the table and swerved around to face Greta. Her eyes blazed dangerously as she held the ladle like a sword, pointing it directly at Greta’s heart.
“Word of advice woman: Shut up.” Lyssa hissed menacingly at Greta who obediently gulped and kept quiet. Lyssa took the Crown Prince Jaejoong’s breakfast tray and with one last glare at Greta, turned and walked out of the Royal Kitchen.
“Let me give you some advice too, Greta,” Eris said as she picked up Prince Changmin’s breakfast tray. “Number one, don’t annoy Lyssa,” She said as she walked past Greta.
I shrugged as Greta turned to stare questioningly at me, and picked up Prince Yunho’s breakfast tray and left.
The Castle had been enormous from the outside, but walking along the numerous corridors and stairways, I could feel the immensity of the whole place. Intricate gold designs decorated the walls which supported several magnificent paintings. The craftsmanship of each painting was exquisite and skillful, and even a novice like me could tell that one painting alone was worth more than what a commoner could earn in his lifetime. I climbed the stairways that led me to the east wing of the castle where Prince Yunho’s bedroom was located.
I paused, leaning my ear towards the door and heard nothing but silence.
Weird, I thought. Greta had mentioned, amid all her ramblings about Crown Prince Jaejoong, that Prince Yunho was a light sleeper and he was usually the first to awake among his brothers. I turned the doorknob and was surprised to find that it was unlocked. Pushing the wooden door open, I walked slowly into Prince Yunho’s bedroom.
The room was gorgeous. Swords of every type imaginable hung from the walls while others were placed carefully on shelves. Placing the breakfast tray on a nearby table, I reached over for the nearest sword on the wall with both of my hands and lifted it gently from its support. Curved and slender with a single edged blade, the blade of the Katana shone brightly as I brought it under the morning sun. I could see that the sword’s owner had kept the sword in a flawless condition.
I heard footsteps approaching as I carefully replaced the sword.
“Hey,” Prince Yunho greeted me from the doorway.
“Prince Yunho, your breakfast is on the table” I gave a small bow and motioned to the breakfast tray on the table beside me. I looked up at him and blinked.
I found myself staring at a topless Prince Yunho.
Sweat glistened from his bare chest and I could not help but notice his toned abs. A towel was draped carelessly across his shoulders and he used one end of it to wipe his face.
“I usually take a bath after my morning exercise before breakfast. Run my bath for me Ker, thanks.” Prince Yunho continued as he placed his sword on a table and started cleaning it with an oil cloth.
“Yes your highness”, surprised he had remembered my name from the short introduction last night. Despite being only half dressed, this man had a powerful aura surrounding him; an expert swordsman. A small shiver ran down my back at the thought of crossing blades him; it would be as difficult as I imagined it to be.
“You like swords too?” Prince Yunho asked as he emerged from his private bathroom. He dried his hair with his towel and tossed it across his shoulder.
I nodded and placed the dagger that I was admiring back to its original position.
“My previous Master was a sword collector; I grew up taking care of his swords.” I lied smoothly.
“I see. That’s good. You can help me take care of my collection now.” Prince Yunho smiled easily again as he reached over for his food.
“I’d be more than happy to do that.” I replied, noticing how he was comfortable he was with a stranger in his room.
“I have a question. How did you and the other two maids manage to learn how to cook such a rare dish?” Prince Yunho asked as he munched slowly on his food.
I paused slightly, and then continued.
“The three of us met at the Food Festival while accompanying our Masters. There was a cooking contest that day which was held by the Grand Chef Roslinda and the three winners were to become her disciples. Three of us were the winners of that contest and that was how we learnt how to prepare that dish.”
“Wow, the Grand Chef Roslinda. Her stubbornness is well known and even my Father was not able to persuade her to join the Royal Chefs. You three must have been outstanding. I wouldn’t mind if you could cook for us often. Changmin probably wouldn’t mind either.” He said grinning at me.
I gave him a small smile.
“How is His Majesty’s health? I heard that he was feeling better a few days ago.” I asked.
Prince Yunho’s smile faded from his face as he shook his head slowly.
“My Father is still very sick. My brothers and I have summoned all the healers and doctors throughout the Kingdom, but none can cure him. His condition has gotten worse and now he only wakes up during the night for a few hours before falling back to sleep.”
“What type of illness is it?” I asked curiously.
“I’m not sure. The doctors and healers were all clueless as they had never seen such a condition before. Father spends most of his time sleeping and I really fear that one day he will just…not wake up.”
Prince Yunho looked up at me sadly and pushed his food away.
“Don’t worry. I’m sure you will be able to find a cure for his illness. How long has His Majesty been ill for?” I prodded, arranging my features to that of concerned.
“My Father’s condition became critical one year ago, but it was during my second year in training that I first heard of my Father’s condition.” Prince Yunho replied.
So that would mean His Majesty fell ill two years ago, I thought to myself.
“Well enough moping around, I’ll be in the Royal Library if anyone asks about my whereabouts.” Prince Yunho said as he rose from his chair and prepared to leave the room.
“Yes your highness. I’ll bring lunch over later around noontime.” I said, giving a small bow towards him.
“Sure. Nice talking to you.” Prince Yunho said as he left his bedroom.
I looked up and glanced at Prince Yunho’s back as he strode off towards the stairway. His attitude was unlike those of the previous men that I had met during my missions. Far from it. They were all shallow people, overridden with greed and weakened by women. Prince Yunho was different. He cared for his family and treated his servants without contempt.
A Prince indeed, I thought to myself as I cleared his table.
“Eyes on the tray,” I muttered to myself as I climbed the treacherous stairs that led to Prince Changmin’s bedroom. The breakfast tray groaned under the immense weight of the food that it carried. I stared at the mountain of food in front of me in disbelief and wondered how a normal person could eat so much in one meal.
As I ascended another flight of stairs, a flash of movement caught my eye; a Royal guard pacing the corridors. My eyes lingered on his sword tassel as my worst memory came rushing back to me.
“Mikura… hide … don’t let them find you … run… hide…go… they’re coming…” my Father gasped as he feebly tried to push me away from him.
“No! We have to go together!” I cried out as I stubbornly clung onto my Father’s right arm.
“Listen Mikura, I promise, I swear I will come find you and we’ll go together. Hide in the barn under the straw and stay there until I come. Do you understand?” Father whispered urgently as he grabbed my shoulder with his last ounce of strength. Had I been a bit older, I would have recognized the eyes of a dying man, but I was only six. I mistook the despair in his eyes for his promise and obeyed.
My Father never came to find me.
It was Nyx who found me sobbing amongst the haystack and it was Nyx who rescued me, and showed me the sword tassel bearing the Royal seal that killed my Father. At that point of time in my life, I was alone. My mother had died when I was young and my Father was murdered; to me Nyx was an angel that was sent by my parents to protect me and so I agreed to join the Daughters of Nyx in hope that someday I would be able to avenge my Father. So now, I could not disappoint Nyx, even if my fingers itched to poison the Prince’s food, I must complete this critical mission.
“Mikura…” I murmured as I approached Prince Changmin’s bedroom. I had almost forgotten my real name after so many years. It was familiar and yet it brought back such painful memories.
Patience Eris, I told myself as I carefully balanced the tray with one hand and knocked on his bedroom door.
I knocked again, this time with a bit more force.
Ok, maybe he’s a deep sleeper, I thought as I knocked again and waited.
My patience was starting to expire as I placed the tray on the floor, grunting a little at the weight of it.
“Prince Changmin! Your breakfast is ready!”I shouted at the top of my voice as I hammered on his bedroom door.
Still no reply.
“Ok Since the rule states that I must always knock before I enter a room, I can therefore enter his room now.” I said to myself as I turned the doorknob and then picked up the breakfast tray.
Prince Changmin’s room was dimly lit by a night lamp. A large bookshelf lined with books of all shapes and sizes was situated towards the left of the entrance. I crept silently inside and placed the breakfast tray on the nearest table. The room was splendidly furnished and was mostly dominated by bookshelves and books.
“Wow. Talk about a scholar.” I said, amazed at the vast number of books.
A snore replied me.
I followed the sound into another room and stared at the gigantic king sized bed that loomed above me. I climbed the small flight of stairs that led to the platform where the bed was located and peered down at the source of the sound.
Prince Changmin muttered quietly in his sleep.
“Prince Changmin?” I whispered softly near his ear.
I tentatively prodded his shoulder.
“Go away…………..I’m busy,” he whined as he turned around so his back was to me.
I crept around to the other side.
“Prince Changmin?” I tried again.
“nnnnnnnn…?” he grunted.
“What are you busy doing?” I asked politely.
“Eating ramen…” Another mutter.
I bit my lips to prevent the giggle from escaping.
“YUNHO!” Prince Changmin suddenly shouted.
I jumped back in shock.
“Don’t take my ramen!” Prince Changmin yelled and thrashed his hands around narrowly missing my face.
I stared at him with my mouth open.
“That’s my ramen! Go get your own!” Prince Changmin shouted again and this time, he sat up.
He opened his eyes and gazed in my direction while I could only gawk at him with my mouth still open.
We spent the next minute staring at each other.
“Whoa!” Prince Changmin cried out as he pulled his exquisite quilt up to cover his body.
“Who are you and what are you doing here?” He asked pointing a shaking, accusatory finger at me.
“I… I’m your personal maid Eris and I’m here to bring you breakfast.” I said after finding my tongue.
“Oh…Eris… right.” Prince Changmin nodded and released his hold on his quilt.
“So um… where’s breakfast?” Prince Changmin asked as he looked around.
Wonderful, what an attractive impression he must have of me; a goldfish; I thought to myself as clamped my mouth firmly together and left to fetch the breakfast tray.
“Ah…” Prince Changmin exhaled happily as he patted his stomach.
I realized I had been doing my goldfish imitation again as I watched the mountain of food disappear into his mouth in record time. I quickly closed my mouth and plastered a smile on my face.
“Do you know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day? One must always eat breakfast to stay healthy physically and mentally,” He said as he gave me a stern gaze.
“I hear that girls tend to skip breakfast to lose weight. That would only slow down you metabolism and in turn, store more fat. So I hope my personal maid will do no such thing.” He continued.
I was about to point out that his breakfast alone would be enough to last an average person for a whole day at the very least, but decided to hold my tongue as I suspected that he would launch into another lecture.
“Yes your Highness, I will remember that in the future.” I said meekly as I picked up his empty breakfast tray.
He smiled at me, satisfied that his words had an effect.
“I’ll be in the Royal Library today, so bring my lunch over later.” Prince Changmin said as he prepared to leave his room.
“Yes your Highness.” I bowed as he walked past me wondering how on earth someone could polish food that quickly and could still eat more for lunch. He might even need a larger dose of poison than normal people; grinning inwardly at that thought of killing the royal family, I skipped lightly out of the room.
“Enter.” Crown Prince Jaejoong’s voice rang out.
“Your Highness, I’ve brought you breakfast.”I bowed as I entered his bedroom.
A large window overlooked the entire kingdom and I could see the rays of the rising sun touch each household as if waking the people up. Crown Prince Jaejoong sat on a couch facing the window, his eyes deep with thought.
“Place it on the counter behind me and you may go out after that.” Crown Prince Jaejoong said as he closed his eyes.
“Yes Your Highness.” I murmured softly, scanning my eyes quickly around the room. A massive table stood impressively towards the right of the room, its top decorated with parchments and scrolls of every size and thickness imaginable, the only sign of mess in his neat-as-a-pin room. Apart from a curious painting of a single pink rose surrounded by clouds that adorned his wall, the Crown Prince’s room was richly furnished with a dark blue carpet, bookshelves that reached the ceiling, a beautiful arched couch, shiny polished chairs and a gu zen with intricate patterns carved on the quality wood.
“Would you like anything else?” I continued as I placed the breakfast tray on the counter, my eyes lingered on the gu zen, surprised that the Crown Prince could play such a feminine string instrument.
“No, that would be all.”
“I’ll take my leave now Your Highness.” I bowed again as I prepared to leave his room. Crown Prince Jaejoong seemed indifferent to my response and continued to sit on his couch with his eyes closed.
He is indeed distant and cold as I expected, I thought as I closed the door gently behind me. I wondered how I could make him reveal the location of the Seal of Power. No matter, after all, I have yet to meet a man immune to my charms. First would be to find his weaknesses, I thought as I walked to the bedroom that Ker, Eris and I shared.
“How was the first meeting with the Princes?” I asked as I closed the door behind me.
Eris looked up from her sewing and gave me a forced smile.
“Absolutely wonderful,” She said as she continued to sew the doll’s head on its body.
“Expected,” Lyssa added on as she walked out from the inner bedroom.
“Good. We will continue to hunt for clues and in the meantime, try to keep an eye out for hidden rooms.” I dropped my voice to a whisper then continued.
“The King’s health may be an advantage to us, try to find out what illness it is and if we are able to help in any way, the Princes may open up to us.”
“Hard to imagine the Crown Prince open up to anyone,”Lyssa grumbled as she picked up a half finished doll and prepared to sew on its legs.
Eris laughed and shook her head in amusement.
ALWAYS KEEP THE FAITH!
thank you my lovely beta kiryu!
comments would be loved:)