The Devoted Fanatic IV
To serve in the royal palace was the highest honour for a servant.
To make sure that she would be the one who would go there with her, Karina began to focus all her efforts on serving Maria faithfully.
She woke up the maids an hour earlier than usual in order to have them prepare Maria’s breakfast. Then she would order them to boil the water and command them to assist her in preparing Maria’s dress.
She learned all about Maria’s preferences and had the cooks prepare her favourite dishes, and after her meals, she’d serve her favourite black tea.
She would gently comb Maria’s hair, dress Maria up in the most beautiful of dresses and have cakes baked especially for Maria.
In that way, Karina’s everyday life which was once so dedicated to Madam Wenschlee had completely changed.
“Hey, Karina, I’d love to plant flowers in the garden.”
Once again, that voice relied on Karina.
Beside the flowerbeds in the Duke’s garden, Princess Maria held out a small linen bag in her palm towards Karina.
“They’re seeds I brought back from where I was studying abroad, apparently they bloom beautiful blue flowers in only a week. But, I don’t really understand how to do it by myself…”
“Yes, of course, I would be happy to assist you, Princess Maria.”
“Oh, thank you so much! When it’s over, shall we have tea together? I’d love to taste your tea again, Karina.”
“You needn’t even ask me. Of course, I’ll serve my special brew of tea for you.”
“Then, Karina, I also have one more request…”
But, before Maria could say it, her words were swallowed up by a loud bellowing from the depths of the mansion.
“Karina!! Karina, where are you!? Come here at once!!”
“My… It seems that grandmother is calling you?”
Maria’s shoulders drooped as she looked up at Karina.
“Please don’t mind me, Karina.”
“Princess Maria… I’m truly sorry, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“It’s alright. It wouldn’t be fair to grandmother if I monopolize you like this, Karina.”
As she said that, Maria’s smile had a tinge of loneliness to it.
“If Karina is too busy, I can always ask one of the other maids.”
At that moment, a sudden wave of fear and frustration overtook Karina.
“Please do not do such a thing, Princess Maria! I, Karina, will definitely be back after fulfilling the Madame’s request. So please wait for me, okay!?”
“…Okay. But, please don’t overwork yourself.”
The thought of those other maids daring to try and shop themselves out to Maria…?
(There is no way those useless little girls could ever hope to satisfy the Princess’ heart. I know that… But even though I know it, I have to be prepared in case the unthinkable happens.)
After that, Karina hurried towards the Duchess to hear whatever it was she had to say. However, she only intended to do the minimum required to satisfy her, she wasn’t intending to push herself into working overtime on her behalf.
“I received this carpet as a priceless gift, and now someone has spilt black tea all over it!! Just who on earth committed such a blunder!?”
“M-My deepest apologies, Madame!! P-Perhaps one of the other maids…”
“Maid!? You’re saying that one of the maids spilt this and left it here without reporting it!?”
In the face of the Duchess’ wrath, Karina bowed her head over and over.
In fact, Karina was the last one who poured tea in this room. After Maria had requested another cup from her, she had poured it around noon yesterday.
The stains on the carpet were indeed the same colour as the tea she had brewed, but because Karina had no memory of making the grievous error of spilling tea onto the carpet, she kept silent.
“Ahh, good grief, fine then, look for the culprit later! For now, I’ll have you wash out this stain straight away. Do not leave it to those inexperienced maids, I’ll have you do it if you would!”
“R-Right away… Madame…”
Even though she answered obediently, Karina felt a deep sense of frustration in her heart.
(Having me clean up after them, the maid who did this best hope I never find them. If I don’t get back to Princess Maria soon, someone might steal a march on me…!)
“Y-Yes! I’ll wash it out straight away!”
There wasn’t any helping it. The only thing she could do was push this job onto one of the younger maids secretly so she could return to Maria’s side. That being said, but she couldn’t see any of those maids at all.
Because of the Duchess’ order to ‘not leave it to those inexperienced maids’, she couldn’t carelessly go to call one either. Left with little choice, Karina was forced to wash the carpet herself, having to put Maria’s ‘request’ aside for the time being.
After that, things such as that constantly happened whenever she found time alone to talk with Maria.
It was as if the timing was on purpose, because every time Maria was about to mention her ‘important request’, the Duchess’ shrill voice would ring through the mansion.
Every time, Maria would smile in lonely regret. ‘Go’, she would say. ‘If Karina is too busy, I can always ask one of the other maids.’
Karina couldn’t help but feel anxious about it, so much so that even when she was listening to the Duchess’ raving, she was fidgety and couldn’t keep her mind off it.
If she didn’t get back fast enough, Maria would instead rely on one of the other maids. If that happens, wouldn’t it be possible that some other maid would be recommended to attend her at the royal palace, someone other than herself?
Such a thing seemed impossible, but she just couldn’t rid herself of the possibility. For example, what if that impertinent little lecher Anne whispered filthy lies about Karina into Maria’s ear, lies that a pure and naïve princess might just believe…
“-therefore, that’s why I was thinking of this.”
The Madame smiled as she continued on with her spiel that Karina had only half-heard.
“Tomorrow, I’ll have Maria put on a dress that Lilith used to wear at her age. I need you to prepare the dress right away and make sure there isn’t any wear and tear.”
(Dress? And having me do something ‘right away’ for such a stupid reason again…)
She was frustrated. But even if it seemed as if the Duchess’ was impatient, this was the sort of job that shouldn’t prove too much of a nuisance even if she didn’t hurry.
It was a simple job that anyone could do. She wouldn’t have to sacrifice her spare time.
“Please make sure that it’s in mint condition by tonight. There’ll definitely be problems if it isn’t ready in time, am I clear?”
As she was tarrying here, Karina’s new lord, Maria, was waiting for her. Just what was she doing, waiting on a woman who no longer had anything to offer her?
“Did you hear me, Karina?”
She felt that sigh leak out of her lips inadvertently.
“…Such a fuss about a simple dress, there’s no reason we can’t simply have it prepared tomorrow…”
It was only an instant.
Realizing what she just said, Karina held her hands over her mouth.
“What… Did you just…”
The Madame’s face looked like it was turning a shade of purple as her mouth hung agape in pure disbelief. Karina shook her head desperately, trying to take back what she said.
“That’s not…!! Madame, wait, I didn’t mean it like that…!”
“Then how!? If you didn’t mean it like that, then whatever could you have meant!?”
A shrill and hysteric scream pierced Karina’s eardrums.
“You dare go against the orders of your betters!? Oh, I see, you think to make a fool out of me, is that it!? To think that a mere maid would ever belittle me like this!!”
“It’s a misunderstanding!! I’m deeply sorry, so please forgive me…! I’ll do it straight away, so please…!!”
“Silence! I don’t want to see your face at all, so get out!! If you don’t want to receive my ‘discipline’, disappear from my sight at once!!”
‘Discipline’, Karina remembered hearing that word in the past. More than a decade ago, back when the children known as the ‘Mistress’ Daughters’ were in this house, it was a punishment that the Madame often handed out.
Karina rushed out of the Duchess’ room in a panic. Her heart was gripped with so much fear it felt like it could burst. But, as she ran down the stairs, she consoled herself desperately.
(It’s okay!! I still have Princess Maria. Even if things may have become difficult in this house, I’m still going to go to the royal palace!! A duke’s house is nothing compare to the royal palace where the greatest maids in the land reside, and I will stand atop them all…!!)
So, it would all be alright. Even if she angered the Duchess here, they would soon become strangers so there would be no problem. If Karina worked towards that goal, faithfully serving Maria, then everything would be okay.
(Quickly, I have to go to where Princess Maria is…! Finally, I can hear her ‘request’ at last…!)
Just before she reached the door to Maria’s room, Karina saw it.
A girl left from Maria’s room.
A girl who waved, smiling back towards Maria as she went.
The young maid who had defied Karina.
(Just why is that girl…!? Impossible… Could she be trying to pull the wool over Princess Maria’s eyes to try and get to the royal palace…!?)
She couldn’t allow it.
A lazy newcomer who has no sense of duty or decorum, constantly insisting that she was right about everything.
How dare she try to get ahead of Karina, who had been serving the Lord and his family loyally for over a decade? She wouldn’t forgive her.
(I have to crush her.)
She couldn’t afford to let that girl do as she pleased.
As Karina shook in rage, a twisted smile appeared on her lips.
(It feels a little nostalgic… It has been quite some time since I drove away that maid who insulted the Wenschlee family, after all.)
A stupid wench who tried to support those sisters, those daughters of a whore.
They weren’t true members of the Duke’s house, merely children of tainted blood brought from outside. On the contrary, rather than children, those sisters were mere pests that struck at the hearts of Lilith and the Duchess merely by existing, they were like dangerous insects.
“I’ll have her sent packing in much the same way… For the sake of my Master.”
In that way, Karina hoisted all manner of work onto Anne’s plate in the name of making her realize her immaturity.
From the crack of dawn until late into the night, she had her work twice as many duties as before and wouldn’t allow anyone else to help at all.
“Head Maid…! This amount of work, there’s definitely something strange about it!! Why are you ordering me to do the year-end cleaning now!? I don’t even have time to eat all day!”
When Anne finally spoke out of turn in such an impertinent way the other day, Karina replied;
“Is that so? Well then, I’ll have to ask one of the other girls to do it in your place then. ‘Anne said she hated this work, so she asked to have you do it instead’, something to that effect?”
“Because you want to shave off your own work, you’d be putting it straight onto the shoulders of the other maids. If that’s alright with you, then, by all means, feel free to hoist it on them.”
Oh, Anne’s face that looked on the verge of tears was just delightful!
Realizing that her reeducation was going splendidly, Karina basked in that sense of superiority.
(Ahh, I truly am such a wonderful boss…! Because of my instruction, even after this child has left this house, she should still be able to find a place to eat and sleep! All because of me!)
After a few days, Anne’s face had been drained of colour and became totally listless.
All the while, Karina served Maria with every moment she had spare. Of course, due to displeasing the Duchess the other day, she took great pains to stay out of her sight, but that was merely a trifle.
It wouldn’t be long now until her purpose was finally realized.
And then, one night…
Karina, who was called to Maria’s side, heard the words she had been waiting for from her adorable little Princess.
“Hey, Karina…? Can you please hear my request?”