Chapter 8:

The lady and the maid (Part A)

Toaru Ramen no Hanashi

A slap rumbled loudly in the extravagant-looking hallway with Helen, down on her knees to the crystal marble floor. A livid voice from her father soon followed.Bookmark here

"What in the world did you do that for?!" the white-haired gentleman said, visible veins twitching in his temples. "Do you have any idea of how much shame you brought to our family just because of your damfool actions?"Bookmark here

Helen couldn't help but glare to her father. "Are you seriously saying that, Father?"Bookmark here

Her mother, in a neutral disposition, calmed her spouse. She also gestured her daughter to downplay her confrontational attitude to which Helen helplessly obliged. After a few moments, she stood up in not so graceful manner and threw the shoes she once held dear to her heart. Seeing the hoydenish display of the third offspring of the house pissed the head of the family as he pushed aside his wife and struck Helen's cheek once more.Bookmark here

The ongoing spectacle had everyone in the castle-like mansion extremely dumbfounded. A large number of servants in the gallery, just stood sheepishly and appear to practice their everyday work trying to remove their existences out of the commotion.Bookmark here

Helen sighed as she pushed her hair to her back. "Are you done now, Father?" she asked, with an austere mien planted to her face with reddish bruises on her one cheek. The look in her eyes unwittingly put her father to a stop. Before even hearing his father's answer, Helen showed her back and walked herself straight to her room barefooted.Bookmark here

For a while, his father could be heard enraged to the point he was screaming curses, but his spouse could no longer tolerate such disorder anymore. She gave her husband a hit from her prized handheld fan opting Helen's father to finally resign to calmness. Before long, Helen's door opened after a number of knocks. The owner of the room though, was crouching in the corner of the room, dejected, close to crying her hearts out.Bookmark here

"Oh my, oh my..." the voice said.Bookmark here

Helen upon hearing it, slightly quavared, pulled her knees to her face, effectively hiding her mien.Bookmark here

"I'm not in a good mood today. Just go away..." Helen blabbed, her voice not so audible. Still her intentions can be telegraphically translated from her mood. She doesn't want anyone to be around her at the moment.Bookmark here

A silence summoned itself and casted it for a few moments. Helen, still in her hunchback posture while pushing her face to her knees, suddenly felt a gentle sensation on her head. Despite delighted, she soon tried to rebuff the tenderness by pushing the hand petting her hair.Bookmark here

"Didn't I tell you to leave me alone?!" she angrily said, finally ditching her inelegant sitting posture and showing her slightly beaten face.Bookmark here

"Finally..." the voice sighed. "Are you okay, milady?"Bookmark here

Gazing towards Helen with a benignant look is the maid, who befriended the lady of the house for already a full year since the cheesy joke incident. Inevitably, Helen's eyes flooded without reservation and she began sobbing like a sorry mess. The maid who particularly shares a close and genuine bond with Helen, soon comforted her friend with a loving embrace.Bookmark here

"Hush, hush, milady. It's such a shame to see your charming face in this mess. Better stop crying or you'll turn yourself into a pufferfish."Bookmark here

Helen still weeping, managed to throw a question. "I-Is it really... that bad?"Bookmark here

The maid didn't answered back, but she lifted Helen's face and carefully tended the bruises in her lady's right cheek. After a while, Helen's tears finally stopped coming out of her eyes albeit a few remaining sniffles. The maid sat herself beside Helen and slowly dragged her friend's head to her shoulders.Bookmark here

"Have you calmed down?" the maid asked with a soft voice.Bookmark here

This time, it was a nodding Helen who didn't reply with words. The silence recasted itself once more, but this time, it was welcomed. A humming voice soon escaped the lips of the maid. A tune, so gentle it put Helen into a talking mood.Bookmark here

"You see, I gave my sister's husband..." she paused, apparently pondering before opening her glossy lips once again. "No, gave is such a weak word. I catapulted him with a piece of my mind." she added, puffing her chest out awkwardly.Bookmark here

A weak laugh was released by the maid. "Oh, ho... so that explains why the baron was seething in rage earlier. I could even hear him shouting as I plucked some herbs from the vineyard."Bookmark here

Helen straightened her back while squatting her bottom flat on the floor. "I really don't get it. My sister is being treated horrifically, all the while when she's conceiving that bastard's offspring. To add salt to the injury, my parents knew all about that prick's infidelity for a while now, but they haven't done anything to..."Bookmark here

A finger landed to Helen's lips.Bookmark here

"Ssshh, milady. You shouldn't just casually speak of those things. What if somebody else heard that and gossips about it?" whispered the maid, with a worrying look.Bookmark here

Helen pouted, but with the sound argument of her friend, couldn't keep her childish reaction. "But still... I wish my own family would do something about my sister's well-being."Bookmark here

The maid patted Helen's hair. "Your kindness knows no bounds, milady. I sure hope the baron will do something for your sister's behalf."Bookmark here

"Geez, you're so quick to treat me like a little kid. Just a reminder, you're only two years older than me!"Bookmark here

"Oh my, oh my... milady sure loves her rejoinders."Bookmark here

A short back and forth banter persisted, but it wasn't enough to change Helen's main concern.Bookmark here

"Jokes aside, I really hope my sister will be well especially since she's pregnant."Bookmark here

The maid silently nodded and soon, stood up from the short siesta. "I will now take my leave, milady. In the meantime, please have some rest."Bookmark here

After a bow, she exited the room and to her surprise, stands the viscountess with her face half-covered by her handheld fan. As a maid of the house, she immediately bowed and greeted proper salutations to convey her respect. The viscountess, a distant relative of a certain count from the capital, was always a neutral character. Between her and the husband, her maiden family has the higher authority based on noble ranks thus, despite not imposing her will over family matters, can seldom put the baron on a leash whenever the latter would go astray from the proper display of nobility. She is well-liked among the servants because of her tendency to be appropriate and kind. In spite a woman of few words, she can express her thoughts clearly and is known for her huge enthusiasm of botanical life.Bookmark here

After she saw the orthodox respectful bow of the maid who went out of her daughter's room, she nodded and ease the maid. "Good work. You may go."Bookmark here

Moments later, the viscountess knock the door. "Helen, can your mother come in?"Bookmark here

Helen who heard of her mother's request, took exactly five seconds before opening the door herself. Still with a miffed mood, she welcomed her mother with a frown.Bookmark here

"Please have a seat, Mother."Bookmark here

Sensing her daughter's narky temper, a sigh behind her handheld fan was released. She slowly took a gander to her daughter's room as it seems to appear she hasn't come in after some years. Helen felt a bit self-conscious to the hovering eye of her mother prompting her to offer her mother a seat in her bed while she remained standing leaning to a pillar close to an open window.Bookmark here

The viscountess accepted her daughter's offer and closed her handheld fan, displaying her aging look but still contains a charm to be reckoned with.Bookmark here

"I know you are upset, dear. But you have to practice prudency all the same and not to just yield into your anger." the viscountess said, with a sad expression.Bookmark here

Helen who saw the frown on her mother's face, felt a sting to her heart. "My apologies, Mother. I will sure to take your advice deep in my heart."Bookmark here

The viscountess can feel the sincerity on her girl's words. She patted the soft foam beside her, gesturing Helen to sit beside her. Helen couldn't resist the chance to cuddle with her mother so she followed the suggestion and rested her head in her mother's bosom.Bookmark here

"But you know, I didn't just came here to reprimand you, my dear." her mother softly whispered. "I want to commend your familial love, especially to your disheartened sister."Bookmark here

Helen's tears found a way to leak from her eyes. "Then why?! Why doesn't father do something for sister?!" she inquired.Bookmark here

Her mother could only shake her head and once again, her face grimaced a frown.Bookmark here

"Is it because they have ties to the royal family? Does noble ranks far outweighs our own sense of morals? Sister is being treated terribly, not just by her imbecile of a husband, but by the whole family of theirs!" Helen added with a stern tone.Bookmark here

Her mother sighed again, visibly distressed as well. "No, no..." she said, pausing on an awkward note. "But the political climate nowadays... it's hard for us to do something for your sister... for my own firstborn daughter..!"Bookmark here

After Helen heard her mother emphasized the last line, she could no longer press the matter even though she holds a deep sadness for her sister. The viscountess embraced Helen with a tight one.Bookmark here

"I'm very sorry, my dear. I feel thoroughly incompetent to call myself your mother. In spite of my burning resentment to the other family, I could do nothing but bite my own nails and hope for the better." Helen's mother said wearing a resigned look in her face. As she said, she is livid at the other family for maltreating her first born, but since the other family outranks her own, she could only grit her teeth while praying for a miracle to ease the suffering of her daughter.Bookmark here

The mother and daughter moment dragged on silently. Helen found herself drowsy after a heartful cry and soon drowned into the comfort of her mother's embrace. Sensing her daughter's shape, the viscountess laid her second daughter to the soft bed and silently hummed a lullaby. Before long, she left the room leaving Helen in a peaceful sleep.Bookmark here

A few days passed, Helen is sitting under a large tree in her backyard. With a book in her hand, half-finished, she took a brief siesta and immersed herself to the chorus of singing birds flying in the vicinity. Her sister's circumstances remains unresolved, but due to the elements working behind the scenes, mostly negative, Helen could not impusively let herself loose as her actions may further imperil the concerning situation. Following a short intermission, her friend arrived with a tray of refreshments.Bookmark here

"Would you like some tea, milady?" the maid asked with a sweet smile.Bookmark here

Helen sighed a mild one before receiving a cup of her favorite aromatic tea brewed from the leaves her mother personally attended. She soon invited her maid friend to sit beside her as they conversed random topics to pass time. Due to their closeness, they could almost talk about everything. They would go rave on the most mundane of things for hours.Bookmark here

As the sun continues to head westward, Helen sentimentally asked her friend.Bookmark here

"You know what, we've been tight since a year ago, right? I think I deserve to learn about your real history... not the usual sidetracking jokes you often fling out of nowhere."Bookmark here

A paused took over for exactly ten seconds. The rooted smile on the maid's face turned into a horizontal line devoid of her usual effervescent nature.Bookmark here

"Are you going to order me to bare everything?" she snarkily asked, offending Helen to a great extent.Bookmark here

"Do you take me for a fool?!" Helen instantly answered, even standing to show her protest.Bookmark here

But the maid waved her hands, inviting Helen to sit back beside her. "You're so easy to provoke, milady. Don't you get tired at getting riled at the weakest of snides thrown at you?"Bookmark here

"How about you?! Am I even your friend? What makes you think I'll just smile and accept such ridiculous riposte?" Helen responded, obviously feeling wronged as she sat back beside the maid once again.Bookmark here

Hit by a sense of guilt, the maid dropped her head to Helen's shoulders. "Forgive me, milady. I hope you can find it in your heart to excuse my rude showing."Bookmark here

Helen apparently vexed, did not utter a word, but welcomed the head of the maid in her shoulders by plopping hers as well. After confirming Helen's improving mood, the maid finally resigned herself.Bookmark here

"Well, my background is not really interesting though... do you really want to hear it?" the maid asked, rubbing her palms against each other for no reason.Bookmark here

"Are you seriously asking me that?" Helen responded with a bored tone.Bookmark here

Another sigh escaped the maid's lips. "Argh, geez. I'm warning you, don't blame me if you fell asleep midway!"Bookmark here

So the maid began her life story. At first, she instantly revealed that she grew up as an orphan. Decisively, she started to cut through that particular issue right away. Growing up as orphan, she mingled with some parent-less fellows in a certain part of the slums of Vladivostok for survival purposes. They would scavenge, eating leftovers thrown at the garbage bins in the streets and oftentimes would resort stealing in the market with risks of getting beaten to a pulp if caught. For years, she was part of the street orphans who made a name for themselves in their area. Occasionally they would end up getting tossed to an orphanage, but after some days living the conventional life, they would soon end up in the same dirty streets again. That cycle went on in a loop making the authorities finally giving up on their wellbeing.Bookmark here

As the years passed by, the young female orphan at one point, tried to score big in an attempt to secure a meal. That day was supposed to be a fellow's birthday. Most of them can't even recall the day they were brought to the world, but with them growing tight as if they were real family, such day are imperative to have a celebration. The young female orphan is already acclaimed in the group. She is a skilled pickpocket, she can run fast, she knew the layout of the market like the back of her hand and most of all, she is good at improvisations such as acting like a child of a random marketgoer, enabling her to mingle naturally to the crowd in the market despite notoriously known for her misdeeds.Bookmark here

As aforementioned, that day is a birthday of a fellow orphan. A boy, almost three years younger than her, who was enlisted to the group after being abandoned by his parents in a nearby dock three years ago as a young toddler. He will soon be six years old according to his memory opting the older members to devise a plan for a meager celebration.Bookmark here

So after getting her target quota, the young female orphan treaded into the market. This time, she cleaned herself and wore a stolen one piece blouse of beige color and paired her getup with a wide green hat for additional cover. As for the shoes, she shined her usual ones and put up some stolen socks as well. With her disguise finally done, she naturally loitered in the market with a hay bag hanging on her shoulders and started her mission.Bookmark here

Her to-do-list is to procure fruits, cheese, some meat and lastly bread. After managing to snag in the bread in a bakery without much effort, she successfully acquired fruits along with a roll of cheese in a record time as well. Her camouflage is on point that day as the stall owners doesn't have any room for thoughts about them being robbed in broad daylight. After crossing three of her four objectives, she finally hit the meat section of the crowded marketplace.Bookmark here

As expected, the noise in that particular section and the volume of marketgoers is immense. The congestion in the walking space made it ideal for the young orphan to sneak her hands to the merchandises displayed in the stalls. She skillfully took line of sausages and put it in her bag and after that, she ran to a corner and sighed. After five seconds, she excitedly took a peek inside her hay bag and inevitably smiled at her successful excursion.Bookmark here

On her way back to their hideout, a scene made waves in a certain part of the streets. Naturally, she would avoid going to such gathering, but after hearing a familiar wail, she was compelled to fit herself to the tight gaps with hopes that her expectations go wrong. But alas, after reaching the endline of a circle, she found her fellow orphans pinned on the ground. The correct conclusion immediately reached her alert mind as her friends got caught snatching in the act. Naturally, they were beaten thoroughly, though this time, it was a tad different from their usual failed missions.Bookmark here

The stall-owner, a newcomer in the market is a huge man, with intimidating biceps showcasing his ripped build. Along with him are two huge characters of almost the same physique, if not bigger. They were ruthlessly battering the kids without regard to their young age and undeveloped body frames. The female orphan seeing firsthand, the hammering cruelty, prompted herself to jump into the situation, but before she could do the unthinkable, a firm grip to shoulders prevented her. Upon looking at whose hands it is, she gasped and surrendered in her feet. Before long, a loud voice erupted along with some whistles. It was the local authorities who finally put a stop the commotion.Bookmark here

Stepping in front is a tall man of lean build, his medium-length dark hair flutters in the air. He immediately ordered the arrest of the assaulters, despite their resistances and reasons. To rebuked the muscleheads opposition, the dark-haired official glared at them with severe hostility that even without words tells his intention to lock them up if they keep on hindering his police mandates. As for the beaten orphans, he instructed their punishment by locking them to a recurring orphanage, though this time, he was kind enough to help patch their injuries. Even though he was often a figure of opposition to the orphans' perspective, they silently obeyed their comeuppance almost immediately.Bookmark here

After dispersing the gathering crowd who treated the commotion as some sort of entertainment, the police officer gave a light knuckle to the young girl's head.Bookmark here

"How many times should I tell you dorks not to steal?! I believe I already told you on numerous occasions that if you want something to eat, go to us and we'll give you some rations!" he angrily reprimanded the young girl.Bookmark here

The girl in response, scratched her hair and threw her hat to the ground. "Why do you even care, huh?! We are street rats! No one should give us a damn!"Bookmark here

Another knuckle dropped to her sorry head. "Why are you acting like you've seen or experienced the worst side of humanity? You're just a dumb kid who resorts to do bad deeds if things doesn't go her way."Bookmark here

Hearing such words, enraged the young girl to oblivion. "What do you even know about us?! You live in a comfortable place, you sleep on a soft bed, you eat fresh foods, you drink hot drinks, you don't know the hardships we..." she said, tears showering out of her eyes.Bookmark here

For a while, a staggering silence fell upon them, before the police officer crouched his one knee and took the fallen hat on the ground. He slowly shake off the dirt and put it back on the girl's head. "You're just a kid. Let us adults help you. The thing about us having comfortable means is because somebody guided us to properly grow so we may know how to live life without inconveniencing others."Bookmark here

Rubbing her eyes, the girl quietly sobbed in the spot before getting lifted by the police officer. He then put the young girl, roughly looking like she's seven or eight, in his arms and snuck a peak to her hay bag.Bookmark here

"You little imp. Although I'm impressed at how skilled you are,snagging these without getting caught, I still feel I must give you a stern lecture." he paused, lifting the girl once again onto his shoulders. "Let's go and tell me where you obtained these. I'll have you apologize to the stall-owners and pay for it so they would forgive you."Bookmark here

Without any time to resist the officer's statement, they soon skimmed the stalls where the young orphan stole the goods and one by one, the police officer paid for it and even apologized together with the young perpetrator. With enough sincerity on his words and his reputation as a proper enforcer of justice, the merchants did not press any charges and soon went back to their business. Finally at the last stall, the young orphan who saw the display of her older companion insisted that she be the only one to request the merchant's forgiveness. The officer who was slightly surprised easily gave a soft nudge to the kid's back and even gave her the payment money.Bookmark here

Approaching the bakery's interior, the young orphan, a bit shivering in her steps stumbled in the counter-like section where a young woman adult with an exquisite charm greeted her with a loud voice. A "Welcome" spooked the orphan in her tracks, her legs giving up on her dropping her bottom to the cold dirty floor. The officer who saw the occurence, straight away came to the child's rescue and helped her get back to her feet.Bookmark here

The lady behind the wooden divider then jumped, fluttering her long skirt in the open, leaving the officer with a slight blush. It seemed he saw something that he's not supposed to see. After reading the officer's reaction, the young lady could only behave shyly while flashing a coy glare that put the officer on the spot. He tried to apologize, but was dismissed with an audible "Hmmp" plus a gesture of gaze aversion.Bookmark here

The young orphan in the middle of the mild fuss, couldn't help but laugh that soon opted the lenient tizzy to an end. A cough soon escaped from the mouths of both adults, almost simultaneously that once again agitated them but with their experiences as an adult, they would soon recover their composure in no time.Bookmark here

Once again, the initial intention to apologize presented itself on a perfect manner. The kid removed her hat that covers almost all her face. To show her genuine sincerity, she mimicked the bow her old companion showed earlier and soon expressed her apologies. Bookmark here

"Umm, I'm very sorry! I stole some bread earlier and I'm here to pay for it..."Bookmark here

Naturally surprised, the young lady wasn't able to speak for a good ten seconds. Learning that a young child managed to stealthily shoplift in her watch put her in a short daze. As soon as the aforementioned ten seconds passed, she chuckled weakly and gave a light chop to the young girl's forehead.Bookmark here

"Bad little girl." she mumbled in a voice only she and the little girl could hear. "But thank you for coming back and saying you are sorry." she added, tenderly playing the ample cheeks of the little girl.Bookmark here

After getting her apologies accepted, the young girl's expression brightened. The young lady from the bakery kept on poking the child's cheeks that it prompted the police officer to raise the child out of her reach. Another unrelaxed moment flips the script, but it didn't last that long. After a ring chimed in the counter section, the bakery lady returned to her post and accommodated the buyers of their shop's merchandise.Bookmark here

Since the apology has been conveyed and accepted, the bakery soon met a hectic time where a surge of customers entered almost the same time. Upon seeing the piling line inside the establishment, the girl and the police officer soon exited the breadhouse. Bookmark here

Outside, the police officer dropped the kid in the ground and softy caressed the girl's hair. "I'm proud of you." he said in a gentle tone that made the cheeks of the child blushed.Bookmark here

The simple gesture brought a deep sensation inside the girl's chest prompting the girl to put her hat back to hide her tearing eyes. As the droplets fell to the ground, the kind officer once again lifted the little girl, like a father would carry his child. Before they could walk away from the entrance, a loud voice halted their tracks.Bookmark here

"Hey, you two! Wait!" said the voice, belonging to the lady working in the bakery.Bookmark here

Wondering as to what caused the bakery staff to rush her way outside, the two companions faced the bakery lady. As the adult, the officer inquired. "Yes? What can I do for you?"Bookmark here

Helen stretched her posture. The azure sky from earlier is slowly turning into a dusk-colored one. The maid stood up from the large root of the tree and shook off the dirt in her livery. After a while, she glanced towards the far reaches of the baron's territory.Bookmark here

"So... after you apologized to that bakery lady, what happened?" Helen asked, leaning her back to the thick stalk of the tree.Bookmark here

The maid sighed heavily. "Well, I'll just shortened it. They became a couple and they sorta adopted me as their own kid."Bookmark here

A brightened look in the face of Helen emerged, evident by her twinkling eyes. She clasped her hands and pressed her chest. "Oh, that's so nice!"Bookmark here

Helen's reaction made her friend smile. "Yeah, it was." the maid softly replied, making sure Helen did not hear her words.Bookmark here

"Did you say something?" prompted Helen, surprising the maid to a slight agitation. The servant awkwardly shook her head to dismiss her friend's question and played her "I have to get back to work" card with perfect timing, leaving Helen no room for rebuttals. But before the maid could go back to her duties, the young lady of the house reached for her skirt, stopping the servant in her tracks.Bookmark here

"Make sure to tell me the rest, okay?"Bookmark here

The maid shortly pondered her response, but ultimately just nodded without uttering any promises. She did a flawless bow to Helen and returned to her everyday chores.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.