The alarms of death’s immediate arrival—the same crisis she felt on the day she ran into the Count—came back again with full force.
I ran away then– but where should I go now?
Retreating footsteps abruptly stopped when a thought occurred to me.
If I run away, the Count who took me will be in trouble.
Even if the Princess killed her today, in the end, she had the king on her side.
The Count is a knight and royal servant; he cannot just ignore the Princess’s opinion and will.
She was an ignorant maid who didn’t know anything, but she knew about her position.
“What are you waiting for?”
When the Butler hesitated for a moment with the cane he was forced to receive, Julia, impatient, stood up and snatched the rod from him.
“If you don’t want to do it, I’ll do it myself. Afterward, I’ll make sure you’ll pay for the crime of deceiving a member of royalty, Butler.”
She yelled out savagely and lifted the cane aiming for Shada’s face.
Closing her eyes, Shada gave strength to her shaking legs.
You can’t run away. If you run out… … .
“What are you doing now, Julia?”
It was then that I heard a low sweet voice that was jarringly out of place.
Shada lifted her head quickly.
A picturesque man was sauntering towards her with his hands behind his back.
It seemed as if their gaze met in an instant, but he immediately turned his head.
For some reason, a side of Shada’s chest started to twist.
The Count’s green eyes moved to his fiancee.
“I didn’t expect you would come without notice.”
“It’s okay if it happens between us… Oh, my God! Huey, did you call my name?”
“Oh, I’m shy. It’s so sudden.”
The Count laughed softly as he watched the woman who called his name freely and asked him to as well, long before they got engaged
“I didn’t know you’d be shy because of it…. ….. ….. Between us,”
He added, a beat late.
Then Julia was so happy that she couldn’t stop the joy from reaching her eyes.
Already her anxiety and jealousy of Shada seemed long gone.
With the maids’ support around her, Shada staggered up, quietly holding her hands together and lowering her head.
The Count’s expressionless face returned after the brief interlude.
“By the way, why is Julia holding a rod to a maid of my mansion?”
An excited Julia was at a loss of words when he asked the straightforward question.
It hurt her pride to admit that she didn’t sleep well all month because she didn’t see him. But that this vulgar woman got to see him.
While she hesitated, the tip of his lips pulled into a straight line.
First taut, then loose, like a tight rubber band relaxing slowly with great care not to snap or break.
Count Kirchner muttered sadly.
“It hurts my heart.”
“No matter how much I might be the King’s servant and knight, I am your fiance, and I must have been foolish to expect my authority to be respected.”
His melancholy eyes, indeed, looked very heartbroken.
That impeccable face hosted an expression that even strangers who witnessed it would be affected by–nevermind the Princess who loves him passionately.
Julia helplessly closed her mouth with her hands.
“No, Huey! That’ s—just.. I! Sorry. I didn’t know you’d be so upset. Just… I didn’t like that little girl.”
The Count covered her eyes with his hands without a word, and the Princess was all the more restless.
The harsh atmosphere quickly changed in an instant.
Shada was in a position where she could see the Count from the side, so she glanced at him carefully while she bowed with the other maids.
She was dumbfounded when she saw her master with such a face for the first time.
Under his long fingers, those lips of his were sneered up. A contemptuous, degrading, eerie cold cynicism. And twisted disgust.
Shady’s eyes were swollen with the sensation of her heart sinking and pounding at the same time.
But it had quickly faded away.
When for a brief moment, her mouth was left agape, her eyes met with the Butler who had been expressionless throughout this ridiculous comedy.
He hurriedly lowered his gaze.
Shada’s pounding heart didn’t subside.
I felt like I had seen something I should have never been privy to.
My palms were filled with a cold sweat that was different from before.
In my dazed ears–the voice of the Princess, who seemed to have given up her hunger for my death, and Count Kirchner, reservedly coaxing her like a zookeeper to lead her to a private parlor–echoed.
While escorting the Princess, his fingertips brushed past and rubbed by Shada’s wrist very naturally.
In that short moment, he had held her tightly and released her.
Her wrist tingled strangely as though it had been stamped with fire even though he hadn’t gripped her hard.
Shada stood, astounded, for a little longer holding her wrist gingerly even after all the maids scattered.
She only came to her senses after the Butler called her politely.
He handed over a small note to me and left.
I hesitated for a moment, and then I opened it up.
The words seemed to be scribbled in haste, but the handwriting was still elegant.
[To the library on the second floor.]
Fortunately, I had been in the royal palace for a long time, so I knew how to read letters.
And Shada, who cleans the Count’s room every day and picks up his mail, knew whose handwriting this was.
Even if she hadn’t had those clues, she would have known by intuition alone.
For a long while, Shada fiddled the paper to the point it’s edges were in tatters before she climbed up the stairs.
As a maid, she had no choice.
But even if she had one, she was confused about whether or not she would reject his invitation.