Chapter 4

Chapter 4


Finally, it's the end of my shift and I'm just getting my things ready before walking home. With today's economy and how much I spent the night before, I can't even afford to pay for public transportation. That's another reason why I took an extra shift too.

"Hmm..." sighing won't give me back all the effort and money I've spent. I should just accept the fact that I am broke for the remaining month!

I tied my blonde hair in a messy bun before wearing my normal clothes and kept my uniform inside my bag. I really need to wash this before using it again. Could they really smell the emperor's scent? Do the possessed a hound-like nose?

"Well, I'm out," I announce as I leave the locker room. This is going to be a long journey home. As I step my foot outside Le Stella, a familiar face suddenly appear in front of me with a smile. I bow my head a little when Grand Duchess Annabelle smiled at me.

"Grand Duchess Annabelle, what are you doing here?" She smiled before motioning me to follow her towards her car.

"Please don't be scared. I'm a good person. I have a request if you don't mind. It's not polite of me to discuss anything in the middle of the road. What kind of a noblewoman do you think I am?" I look around, making sure there is nobody around to see this. I sigh mentally before decided to get into her car.

"Where are we going exactly?" I asked when the car started to move.

"Somewhere private where we can talk about this crazy idea of mine." Grand Duchess Annabelle smiled at me. I'm having second thoughts now. Why did I even agree to be here in the first place?

Is it because I fear that she may target my family next? Or is it because she's related to the emperor?

"What's your full name?" She suddenly asked.

"Kathryn Park."

"Your age?" Huh? Why would she need to know that?

"I'm 26 years old," she smiled yet again or was that grinning? Either way, she's satisfied after knowing my age.

"Your age is perfect." There was an awkward silence all the way towards a villa that probably belongs to the imperial family. The crest on the gate such a giveaway.

"Follow me please," she said before getting out from the car. I did as told because I still cherish my life. From the stories I heard since I started working in Le Stella, these nobility doesn't have any sense of remorse when it comes to torturing commoners like me.

It's best if I just follow what she says to ensure my safety.

"Do you have any allergy that I should be concerning about?" I shake my head no.

"That's wonderful. Have a seat. Don't be shy with me." Don't be shy? You're the Grand Duchess! Of course I will get flustered for no reason.

"While we wait for the refreshment, why don't I just went straight to the point? I want you to be my candidate," say what now? What does she mean by that?

"Candidate? For?" I asked.

"After thorough consideration and how I thought of the strategy to overcome every obstacle, I decided to take you as the candidate for the emperor's matchmaking," holy mother of God. What the hell did she just say?! I never thought I could even get this shocked in my life.

"Wait a minute. Hold on! What? How do you expect me to react with that? Of course, my answer is no. Why would I even want to be in your crazy idea, to begin with?" I immediately decline the offer.

She's insane. There is no way I let myself being the talk of the day. I'm a commoner. The palace is no place for people like me.

"Hear me out, please! I think you'll be perfect to be the next empress of Gralia. Yes, you weren't born as nobility but that doesn't mean you can't participate. From the way you bring yourself to how to choose the right utensil to eat. I will teach you everything I know." She assures me but that's no assurance.

"I'm sorry. But do you know how evil people like you are? Yes, you're kind soul but not everyone is as kind as you. I'll be dead the moment they knew a commoner is trying to get the emperor's affection." The refreshment were being served.

"As I said before, I thought of every single way to overcome any kind of obstacle that may come to you. As the one who chooses you, you'll be under my family's protection. And my family is none other than the imperial family. None of the nobility will ever dare to touch you in any way possible, that includes the other candidate that my cousin or my brother had chosen," was that suppose to make me change my mind?

"Please Kathryn. Think of the glory and wealth you'll finally have. For yourself and your family. Please don't think of yourself as being sold to the emperor. Think of it as a way to provide your family with a stable income. You could be somebody if this goes well. Even if the emperor didn't choose you to be his bride, you're still a member to the court as the court lady." My family wouldn't have to suffer again?

"And as a court lady, you'll receive the benefit of being one. You'll be given a house, living expenses and a maid for it as well," my family doesn't have to fight for food again?

"It's a job that requires you to entertain the member of the imperial family while working your way towards the emperor's heart. That's it." This is all too good to be true.

Why me of all people?

"Why did you choose me?" I asked.

"Because I think you have more chances to win than the other nobility that I've seen before. Knowing the emperor since he was little, he's the type of person who doesn't choose his friends nor lover through rank. His family acknowledge that but not the council members. So part of my idea is to let Alvia have his happiness and part of it is to annoy the council members." Basically, she's using me?

"Besides, with you possessing the emperor's handkerchief that was given to him by his late grandmother, you already being a threat to the other court ladies," she chuckled.

This is all just a game for her, is it?

"Let me ... think about it." The Grand Duchess nods her head as her response.

"Of course. Do take your time but don't take too long. This is a one time opportunity. For you and your family," my family ... what am I suppose to do now?


Should I even consider the grand duchess's offer? If I do accept her terms, do I consider myself as someone who sells herself for glory and wealth? But she did mention I'll be a court lady. Isn't that a title that I should be proud of?

Watching my family right now, how they all have to endure so much for everyone's sake. I wish I could do something to change all this. I know my parents work hard for us and rarely at home but we all received the same amount of love. As the first daughter of this family, I have an obligation to take care of my siblings.

Knowing my parents have to work at their age now hurts me even more.

"What's wrong, Kat? Something on your mind?" Asked my older brother, Ben.

"What if someone came into the picture and they say they can change all this?" I asked directly. He's the only one who understands me and since he's the oldest, he should be wiser.

"Well, I wouldn't accept just like that. I will have to think hard and ask myself. Where will it bring me in the future?" Well, it's either I'll become the emperor's wife or the other way round.

If I fail, my job as a maid in Le Stella will be gone and that's the only steady job for me. It was hard enough for me to nail a scholarship at the academy and now I have to decide whether to throw away all my hard work for a simpleton dream like being the next empress of this empire.

"What kind of question was that? Please don't tell me that you enter one of that stupid lottery thing at the market. Only God knows how many Nina spent for that kind of game." I chuckled when Nina suddenly look at us with her piercing eyes.

"No no. It's not that. It's just a silly question." I smile while eating my bread. At least my little siblings get to taste good food once in a while.

"Did you get to taste all those delicious food at Le Stella?" Asked one of my younger brothers.

"Not really. The maids only permitted to eat the food that was prepared for us. We didn't really get to eat the food consumed by the nobles." I explained.

"Why can't we have a life like them?" I turned to my brother when Nina asked such a question in front of the other young ones. She's only making it worst.

"Sometimes, what we have now is all what we need. You should be grateful since all you have to worry about is studying," only Ben could turn this around and make it as if we're lucky to be alive. If it's for me, I would've destroyed my siblings' feelings.

That's the kind of person I am. I have no words on encouragement whatsoever. Lucky for them to have such a reliable older brother like him.

"Kat, what is this? It's so soft and it smells nice." When I turned to my sister, they were ransacking my stuff and played around with the emperor's handkerchief.

"Oh ... it belongs to my friend. It's what people use to wipe their faces off. It is called a handkerchief," I explained to my youngest sister.

"So soft. Can I have it?" She asked with such a cute voice.

"Oh no. It belongs to my friend and I have to give it back to him." That earned Ben's attention.

"Him? Who's him? And why didn't you ever inform me about the existing of this 'him' to me before?" Ben asked. I shrugged my shoulder as I respond.

"Because we just met recently. And we probably will never see each other again but it's fine. What about you? When will you introduce that girlfriend of yours to us?" He was taken aback when I asked him that.

"How in the world did you know that I have a girlfriend?" He asked while avoiding eye contact. Oh please. As if we didn't notice how he care for his looks and how busy he is on the weekend.

"And here I thought you went to the farm to work but instead you're secretly having a relationship with your boss?" Ben shrugged his shoulder.

"Hey, this is not about me. We were talking about you. Who is this man?" He insisted. It's my turn to shrugged my shoulder. Did he really think that I would just simply spill my secret to him? Think again.

"Well, whoever he is, I hope you make a wise decision. To be honest, I was kinda worried that you actually went on and work at Le Stella. Nothing good ever happened to people like us after working there. We're commoners. Those place only caters the nobility. We're nothing but a speck of dust in their eyes." Obviously, he hasn't met the imperial family yet.

They're actually quite civilised whenever they talk with the maids. And I can see how happy their servants are. Unlike the others, their servants have free will.

"I know Ben. It's just that, sometimes I do wish I could do more for them. They need better place to stay, better food to eat, better in everything that want we had when we're growing up. I don't want them to be like us." Ben gave me a small smile.

"We'll do what we can, Kat. Our brothers and sisters are all smart. I'm sure they will have a better future than we ever will. We're the oldest. We should help mom and dad. We're poor, but we will never sell ourself like the others. Remember that," Ben remind me.

But, the one she offer me was a job. A job that requires me to be at the palace. Where the emperor spends most of his time.

Lady Kathryn. That's actually nice to hear I suppose. Oh, God ... please ... what should I do? Give me a sign, anything. Please!

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