< — Realization — > (1)
The next day, Hugo received a summon from the King and left in the afternoon. Knight Dean was decided as her escort/guard for the evening ball.
Antoine arrived just when Hugo was leaving the mansion and bowed in greeting but Hugo’s gaze on her bowing figure was sharp. He didn’t have time right now but he planned on visiting the boutique sometime and informing her on the requirements to take note of when making future dresses. It would be both an advice and a warning.
He considered cutting her off but the dress that Antoine made suited his wife very well. He enjoyed seeing his wife shining beautifully. It was okay to look beautiful and noble. But it should not stimulate lecherous feelings. Hugo found standards within his own contradictions.
For today, Antoine brought a blue satin dress. Today’s dress was more daring that yesterday’s. If Hugo saw it, he would have lost his temper and screamed for it to be taken off immediately. But unfortunately, Hugo was meeting with the King in a very heavy mood.
The front of the dress was crossed diagonally with folds. It covered from the right of the waist to the left chest, stretching to the left shoulder and over the back. Then it covered from the left of the waist to the right chest, stretching to the right shoulder and over the back. The collarbone and round shoulder-line was breathtakingly exposed. Instead of sleeves, jewel buttons with fingernail-sized blue sapphire decorated her shoulders.
Even though the lower back was less exposed compared to yesterday, the breast line was wider and deeper than yesterday’s dress. It was breathtaking even though the cleavage was not exposed. The same fabric was wrapped around the waistline neatly, giving it a seemingly slender effect. The train of the dress was made of multiple layers to give it a rich feel and the back of the dress was exaggerated and drawn long for an elegant feel. The back waist was decorated with a big lace ribbon. Overall, it was a dress that gave a simple yet luxurious feeling. Lucia in the dress looked like a blue rose flower.
Looking at the mirror, Lucia thought to herself:
‘He won’t like it very much.’
He was a conservative husband that covered her with a shawl when her back was exposed. She couldn’t cover herself with a shawl in the ballroom unlike yesterday. Looking at Antoine’s expression, the woman was just thrilled with the dress she made. Lucia laughed inwardly. She had a feeling that a chance would come to turn around the contract that she signed on the first day that Antoine came.
“For the finishing touch, Duchess’ jewelry.”
Lucia had discussed with Antoine about what jewelry would fit the dress. Antoine wanted to know what jewelry the Duchess had, for reference in the direction of making future dresses. Apart from the jewelries he bought from Sepia Jewelry, Lucia only had the two diamond necklaces that he gave her as a present. Seeing them, Antoine looked like she was about to faint and declared that she would make a dress suitable for the two necklaces.
“The white diamond necklace will suit this very well.”
The necklace that had practically been gathering dust since it was received, was put on her neck. The necklace with hundreds of dangling beady diamonds, wrapped around Lucia’s white neck. It adorned her neck that looked desolate because of the deep-cut breast line and suited the dress so well that it looked like it was originally one set with the dress.
‘I thought this necklace was very heavy.’
When she first got it as gift and put around on her neck, she felt like she was suffocating on the weight. But now, wearing the necklace today, it was unexpectedly not heavy. Rather, its moderate heaviness gave her a sense of stability.
Lucia arrived at the event a little while past the beginning of the ball. The noblewomen flocked around Lucia in an instant.
“Oh my goodness. Duchess. You are beautiful today as well.”
The ladies could not take their eyes off the sparkling diamond necklace on Lucia’s neck. The gap was so big that rather than envying her, they were in admiration. The noblewomen that witnessed the affection of the ducal couple yesterday did not doubt that the expensive diamond necklace contained the affection of the Duke.
“The Duchess of Taran?”
It was a slightly high toned and sharp voice. The loudly chattering women shut their mouth instantly. People split apart like dividing water and one woman made her way through the division.
A gorgeous, beautiful blonde with a haughty expression and pride in her stance. Lucia’s eyes quivered slightly.
“I finally get to meet you. You went back early yesterday.”
Katherine, blood sister of the King. The real princess and sole recipient of proper precious and noble treatment amongst the overflowing princess. The King truly loved his younger sister. Without selling her off in a strategic marriage, he married her off to a very rich Count that wasn’t corrupted in the complicated political battle. It was an measure taken after grasping the nature of his extravagant, complex and careless sister.
Lucia was fortunate enough to be hired, without any work experience, as a maid by a big noble family such as the Count of Alvin household. When she became a maid and greeted her Madam, her memories came rushing to her anew. When Lucia was the Countess of Matin, Princess Katherine married the Count of Alvin. The Madam that Lucia was to serve was Princess Catherine, who had become the Countess.
Princess Katherine was an unforgettable person. Lucia had always looked on enviously at Katherine who was loved by her brother and raised her head high in the social circle. She was not pessimistic about why their circumstances were different even though they were both princesses. Lucia did not have time to build her self-esteem as a princess. She was not aware of herself as a princess. Lucia was not envious of Katherine’s life as a luxurious princess, rather, she was envious of the fact that Katherine had a family she could rely on.
Katherine naturally did not recognize Lucia. Even if she did, she was in a position to feign ignorance. The Countess of Matin, Vivian, was a fugitive member of a family of rebellious criminals. Even though she wasn’t being chased because there was no trace of her, she couldn’t reveal herself openly.
Katherine was quite a picky master but she was not overly particular. In her own way, private and public matters were distinctly separated. Well-acquainted with the habits of the noblewomen due to her experience, Lucia worked silently and diligently with tact. Thanks to that, she won Katherine’s trust and was placed in charge of waiting on her on everything and following her to numerous parties. Lucia received the jealousy of other maids but she was able to work steadily with high pay.
Katherine, at the time, was the queen of the social circle. There was no one that dared to challenge Katherine who was backed by her husband’s riches and the strong power of her family. Except for one person: The Duchess of Taran. Therefore, Katherine was antagonistic towards the Duchess of Taran. Katherine was the source of the marriage secret of the Ducal Taran couple.
“Greetings to the Princess. My name is Vivian.”
Lucia bowed her head in greeting. The noblewomen who were secretly anticipating a fight between the two princesses were disappointed. They didn’t think the Duchess of Taran would easily step down first.
Katherine looked at Lucia with a strange gaze and closed her fan.
“You don’t need to be so formal. In any case, Duchess is a Princess as well. Argumentatively, it’s better to be a ‘Duchess’ than a ‘Princess’.”
There was no hostility in her cold voice. Katherine sensed at a glance that the Duchess was not a threat to her position in the social circle. Although Katherine could give up the Duke of Taran, she could not give up her seat as the queen of the social circle.
“We don’t even know about each other. But still, we are sisters. To be fair, I still don’t know anyone else. Nor do I plan on finding out.” (Katherine)
“Actually, I also don’t know anyone but His Majesty and you, Princess.” (Lucia)
“You don’t need to know other than that.”
Lucia smiled a little.
Katherine was not that cold unlike how she sounded. In the dream, Lucia saved enough money to buy a small house and quit her job as a maid. When she told the head maid that she was quitting, Katherine later called Lucia, a mere servant, to think it over again. She didn’t offer it again when Lucia confirmed her intention to quit but on the night before she left, Katherine asked Lucia to have a drink with her. Lucia was really surprised back then.
She sat on the sofa opposite her Madam and received a wine glass personally from her Madam. Katherine had already had a few glasses before Lucia arrived so she was a little intoxicated. ‘What will you do when you quit, do you have a family, are you going to marry’, Katherine mumbled, asking about this and that. Then she said:
[When I went to parties, there was a child I always watched. I don’t know when it started, but the child that kept coming to parties stood out to me.] (TN: not a literal child, someone younger)
Lucia listened silently to Katherine’s incoherent speech.
[I never exchanged words with the child. But every time I saw this child, I felt strange. She had heavy wooden expression that didn’t suit the merry party atmosphere and it was irritating to me. I thought I didn’t like the child.]
Katherine’s grumbles grew longer as she tilted her wine glass.
[Then from one day onwards, I did not see the child. When I looked into it, the child was my sister. I heard she was caught up in His Majesty’s cleanup of his political enemies. When I heard she had gone missing with her life and death unknown…How do I put this?]
Katherine stopped talking and gave a sigh-like laugh. Lucia was indifferently listening to Katherine’s words but gradually, her eyes began to tremble.
[I don’t know. I’m also not sure what my feelings were. ‘I should have talked to her’. I had such thought. She isn’t that much younger than me but in my memory, she hasn’t changed from how I last saw her so I end up referring to her as ‘child’. If she was alive, she would have been much older. I heard she was found dead sometime after she went missing.]
Listening to Katherine, Lucia realized why no one was chasing after her. She didn’t know how it happened but Countess Vivian was processed as dead.
[Speaking of you. You look a lot like that child. So I keep thinking about her.]
Katherine drunkenly closed her eyes so she did not see Lucia who was trembling like she was about to cry.
[She had very pretty reddish brown hair….whenever I see your black hair, I think….]
Katherine did not complete her sentence and fell asleep on the sofa. Lucia called another maid and together, they carried their Madam to bed. She cleaned up the mess from the bout of drinking, and it was almost dawn when Lucia returned to her bedroom on her last day.
Lucia cried until the crack of dawn. It was the first time she cried so much since her mother died. She understood why she could be hired, without any recommendation or work experience, as a maid of the Count of Alvin household. It was likely because of Katherine’s interference.
Lucia always thought that she was an abandoned existence, unwelcome anywhere. But there was someone who remembered her and hurt for her. It comforted her greatly.
Cutting her off: firing her.