Chapter 9:

The lady and the maid (Part B)

Toaru Ramen no Hanashi

Days later, Helen bothered the maid continuously for the extension of the story. The maid tried her best to refute her lady's attempts to no avail. The stubborn, assertive and persistent Helen would even go to crazy lengths, such as sneaking to her friend's quarters at night just to hear the continuation of the unfinished account of the maid. After being completely overwhelmed by the young mistress' enthusiasm, the maid conceded to Helen's demand, thus extending her life story.Bookmark here

According to her, after getting adopted by the police officer and his lover, they set out to live in a small house in the downtown part of the city, with a clear view of the seashore. A small port, centering trade, is the most significant landmark she could remember with various ships, both local and foreign entering in an hour after hour basis. The busy vicinity meant tons of working opportunity, thus making the place lively and boisterous, bustling with a huge amount of people from different races and statuses.Bookmark here

The police officer remained an enforcer, while the bakery lady would shift her occupation into a stallowner, with mainly seafood as merchandise. The young girl would often help her new mother in the market, and with her streetwise disposition, she would become the poster girl of their stall, contributing greatly to their everyday sales and profits.Bookmark here

Her new parents are kind and caring. They treated the once orphan, as if they are their own, slowly transforming the girl's warped vision of life into a quotidian one. They taught her proper manners, they supported her basic academic needs and even enrolled her into a school, they gave her love and affection to help her learn all kinds of emotional sentiments and they gave their all, hoping that one day she would grow into a proper adult capable of doing the right things and avoid the wrongs.Bookmark here

The blissful days went by and by the fifth year of them being together, an unfortunate happening fell upon their peaceful lives.Bookmark here

Helen gasped as she heard the statement. She examined her friend's lonely mien who paused her story and sort of sniffled lightly. For a whole minute, there was no words. Helen kept her curiosity to herself in consideration to her friend. She just sat quietly beside the maid, waiting for the moment the solemn silence to vanish on its own.Bookmark here

"Forgive me, milady." a voice said. "Shall we continue then?"Bookmark here

Helen felt a sting and given her gentle character, she, on the spot, decided to quit learning of her friend's background with good intentions. But as the maid heard the young lady expressing her desire to cease the story, she gainsaid it with a flick to her friend's forehead.Bookmark here

"Thank you, milady. But kindly remind me again, who's the one who kept badgering me to bare my sob story, mhmm? I believe that person had a pretty face, a snow-like complexion, eyes clad in ocean colors, kissable reddish lips and a disposition of utter stubbornness. If I remember correctly, she would be at least two years younger than me and..."Bookmark here

Helen gulped the air in her throat and clumsily raised her hand before answering. "That would be me..."Bookmark here

The maid softly chuckled before petting Helen's hair. "I know you're trying to look after me, but I'm fine. You really have such a kind heart, milady and for that, I'm very proud and glad to say you're my friend."Bookmark here

Helen tightly grip a portion of her chest to the point it slightly tinged a sense of pain. Before long, the maid restarted her words and Helen focused herself absorbing everything her friend told her.Bookmark here

As maintained by the maid, she indicated the tragedy that befell her adoptive parents in a concise fashion. Apparently, one local noble who took a sensual liking to her mother, pressed false charges to his father to have him imprisoned and soon executed. Without due process and a fair trial, the particular noble instantly wiped her family's blissful days as if it is the most worthless thing in the world. With her father gone, the mother was constantly harassed until she was forcefully made into a concubine. Lacking the means to retaliate, the mother of the orphan pleaded the noble to extend the invitation to her child. With enough supplication from her mother, the noble mindlessly allowed the notion as if he was granting them a grand consolation.Bookmark here

After hearing such event, Helen was so enraged she bit her lips in sheer frustration. The maid in her astonishment immediately attended the situation by calming her friend with a bleeding mouth.Bookmark here

"M-Milady! Please, please! Calm down!" begged the maid, with a visible wrinkle in her forehead.Bookmark here

"H-How do you expect me to calm after that?!" Helen answered with a livid tone, as if she was the one hurting.Bookmark here

The genuine feelings of Helen brought tears in the maid eyes. It is the first time Helen saw her friend cry. After seeing the maid in a helpless state, Helen felt the urge to embraced her friend. She slowly dragged the maid into her bosom and silently wept as well.Bookmark here

After the tears stopped leaking from their eyes, the maid continued her story while in Helen's arms. Progressing to the focal part, the maid revealed that during the times when she and her mother are residing in the noble's abode, the other concubines who were born as nobles would frequently abuse her and her mother as a means of passing time. It became prevalent for at least half a year before the father of the noble, who happened to hold an earl title, took a liking to the young girl who was made to work as a maid in the mansion.Bookmark here

During those times, the abuse her mother was getting totally stopped in fears of the earl's authority. After the benevolent earl learned the true circumstances that led the mother and child to be a concubine and a maid, he would immediately disown his son and send him on an exile to a faraway city. That went the same to the concubines, who just tied themselves to the pigheaded noble for money and reputation, as they were told to pack their belongings and leave before they would suffer the consequences of their abuse to the mother and child.Bookmark here

For a while, the mother and child were treated rightfully and stayed in the earl's protection for at least another three months, but fate was surreally cruel to them. Either due to the fact that the earl was in his late seventies having comorbidities or was hated by his uncouth offsprings resorting to foul play, the kind old man suddenly died one day. His wife, soon followed days after, due to depression, leaving the mannerless offsprings vying for the succession of the earl title. Needless to say, the exiled noble returned to the house and made the life of the mother and child hell for another ample months.Bookmark here

One day, as the mother and child is resting in the quarter of the servants, a knock in the middle of the night resounded in their door. As the mother opened it, she was surprised to see the eldest daughter of the earl, who happened to be wed to another high-ranking noble, approached them with an enticing offer. The mother was told to appear on the court to elaborate the cruel incidents that was inflicted by the noble who led her and her child to live a rollercoaster life. Apart from that, should the noble in question be indicted for his crimes, the eldest daughter swore that she would grant the mother and child freedom along with anything they would ask. She even promised a hefty sum of guaranteed money in exchange for their cooperation.Bookmark here

"To be honest, even as a child, I thought it was our chance to exact revenge." the maid spoke in a weak tone. The wrinkled line under her eyes and the stained parts in her cheeks gave Helen another reason to feel hurt.Bookmark here

"Did your mother... accepted the terms?" Helen inquired, careful in her approach.Bookmark here

The maid released a single chuckle and soon shook her head. "My mother's an outstanding character. While she did appear in the court to reveal the episodes of horror we suffered due to the noble's underhanded plots, she didn't accept a single coin from the eldest daughter. I still remember the fuming look planted on that old bag's face after my mother rejected her riches."Bookmark here

Upon hearing the valiant act of the maid's mother, Helen released a sigh of relief. "Your mother's amazing!"Bookmark here

An inaudible "Thank you" was the sole response of the maid. Although Helen didn't hear it herself, she could literally read the tender, yet proud expression in her friend's face.Bookmark here

Still feeling exuberant from hearing the joyful climax of the story, Helen innocently asked her friend. "Say, would you be willing to introduce me to your mother? I really want to meet her after learning her unwavering character."Bookmark here

The maid's lips curved a bit with a conflicting wrinkle in her forehead. After Helen heard the revelation from her friend's mouth, she tried to immediately apologize, but was prevented by an anticipating finger to her lips.Bookmark here

"It's alright, Milady. My mom... she may be already gone but as long as I remember her, she will always stay with me." said the maid, her eyes fixed to the darkening sky.Bookmark here

Helen struggled to find the words to say. She fell mute as her sight wandered to the direction of her friend's gaze. As they both stared into the sky slowly being filled with little twinkles from afar, the maid spoke. "My dream is to be able to visit my mother's homeland someday. I heard she came from an oriental country called Nihon. I also want to resume her dream as a merchant as I travel from place to place, meeting new people and learning of new cultures and histories."Bookmark here

Helen's eyes bulged a bit upon hearing her friend's words. Despite feeling a bit lonely from the fact that one day they would inevitably be separated from each other, she let words of encouragement seep out of her mouth. "I pray that, one day, you'll be able to fulfill your dreams."Bookmark here

After that day, Helen felt a little proclivity towards learning the points of trade. At the same time, she would also converse her friend and share what she read from a book or let her friend teach her a thing or two based on the maid's past experiences.Bookmark here

Helen also learned her friend's circumstances as to how events led her to work within Helen's family and so on. Day after day, they were almost together that made Helen push the unpleasant thoughts of her family's misdeeds onto the remote corners of her mind. If she can describe those times she spent with her friend, she would indeed, without a shred of doubt, tell everyone that it is the best times of her life.Bookmark here

However, one fateful day changed everything.Bookmark here

News of Helen's sister's failed labour reached her family. Apart from the awful news of the unborn babe, it seemed the Helen's sister also fell into her demise upon learning her child's untimely quietus. There was a deep and solemn mood circulating in the huge castle-like mansion and Helen, in her unstable state, attempted to storm off the house to see the situation herself and seek answers from the other family. But unfortunately, the baron who despite devastated himself, stopped her daughter's rage with a slap that made Helen fall into the marble floor. As expected, Helen did not take her father's action well.Bookmark here

"Are you that daft, Father?! Your daughter was killed by that family and I know that you yourself are aware of that!" shouted Helen, with a livid tone that echoed in the long hallway of the mansion.Bookmark here

The baron closed his eyes, apparently attempting to calm himself. He was shaking on his ground while holding his cane, his feelings in a mess. The heartbroken viscountess, stepped on to pacify the situation. Regardless of her aching heart, she still practiced her usual gracefulness that halted the commotion from getting worse.Bookmark here

Time passed by and the whole family, including Helen's busy scholar brother, gathered in their father's study. The discussion went sour as both the father and brother tried to push a notion of forcing the other family for a compensation either of monetary value or a piece of territory. Upon hearing the absurd suggestion, Helen couldn't resist jumping on her brother's neck and gripped it with all of her strength screaming curses at the top of her lungs. The unbecoming scene only added to the conundrum as the whole family bickered to the point of hurting each other physically. The youngest sister of the family pulled Helen's hair and involved herself to the violent uproar. The tumult and chaos inside the study could be heard by the manservants who placed themselves outside the huge and extravagant door, mostly for their entertainment. There's only a minuscule amount of servants who were genuinely concerned about the affairs and Helen's friend is one of them.Bookmark here

Helen's mother who couldn't tolerate the situation any longer decided to impose her will. She slapped her youngest daughter, she hit Helen's head with her fan, she kicked her eldest son on the ground and threw a thick book to her husband's face. Only the youngest child in the family, who was crying in a corner safely avoided the fury of the viscountess.Bookmark here

"How can you all act like animals at a time like this?!" the usually calm noblewoman roared, her tearing eyes shining like an ember. "Are you that incapable of respecting the memories of our first-born daughter?! Your older sister?!" she added, looking at the shamed faces of her husband and her children.Bookmark here

Stunned by the viscountess' words, no one uttered an excuse. Each and one of them took their time to reminisce their loved one who they thought perished with a lot of regrets in her heart. At the same time, they've also reflected the most penchant of memories they shared with her.Bookmark here

After mollifying the turmoil, they once again tried to restart the discussion. Despite their best attempts to contribute for a better resolution, the focal problem still roots deeply making it unlikely to get rectified in a proper way.Bookmark here

As aforementioned, the suspected family belongs to a higher echelon of nobility. As a mere baron household, Helen's family cannot simply put direct pressure to the other by just conventional means. In order to do so, they must procure ineluctable proofs of the misdeeds and provide their testaments to the court, knowing that the higher ranking family will have the upper edge by simply brandishing their reputation to sabotage their grievances. It's not a matter resolved by who is right or wrong, but by who is the more powerful than the other.Bookmark here

Deep inside, even Helen recognized their impediment. But a logical take is definitely inappropriate in such event, as they were robbed of a family member pushed to depression leading to a malapropos death. Once again, even though the idea is irrational to say the least, the compensation interest resurfaced much to Helen's chagrin. This time however, Helen prevailed over her anger and argued until the end that there must be some other way to pressure or even punish their wrongdoers.Bookmark here

As the hours passed by, still with no definitive conclusion to their personal dialogues, a carriage transporting a messenger from the other family knocked on their gates. Left with no choice but to discern the letter's contents, they reluctantly have it read to them in a private space in their vast garden.Bookmark here

Half-expecting to get the subject of the letter right from the start, Helen's whole family plopped their heads after the message was relayed to them. To their worst fears, the other family outright denied any transgressions that could've led to their daughter-in-law's death. In essence, they were blatantly sweeping the matter under the rug by imposing their authority through means of a "condolence gift" that should put an iron to the creases left by the incident. They were also quick to suggest that it would be futile to press any form of protest, though not in a literal manner, that ultimately closed the door for a proper conclusion.Bookmark here

A short silence radiated in the garden until the baron broke it with a stomp of his cane. Helen could see a stain in his father's cheeks that showed how he took his first-born's death, but she knew the words that would be said after a short while.Bookmark here

Ultimately, it was decided that they would begrudgingly accept the unfair terms of the other family. After they told the messenger of their intentions, Helen's family would never be the same.Bookmark here

Time forwarded itself without a chill, unaware of the happenings around it. It was already five days since Helen's family conceded to the intractable behests of their in-laws. Helen found herself sitting in the balcony in the highest floor of their mansion, blankly staring in the bright and cloudless sky. After a few moments, a knock in a nearby door broke her concentration.Bookmark here

"Milady. It's about time we head to the funeral." said the voice, belonging to her maid friend.Bookmark here

Helen nodded weakly without uttering a word. As she stood up from her seat, the maid realized Helen's weak posture thus she rushed beside her lady to offer her shoulder to support her wobbling friend.Bookmark here

The maid sustained Helen along the trekking of the stairs, step-by-step, very carefully. It seemed Helen got so weak after not partaking any decent meal for days, only eating one or two mouthfuls before entirely losing her appetite. The bags under her eyes were also worrying. After some time, Helen and the maid found themselves on the surface floor, awaiting the other attendants to make way towards the funeral of her sister. It just so happens prior that day, due to the insistence of the baron who used a portion of the "consolation gift", the remains of her sister has been sent to their local church by the other family, to be blessed by the clerics before the actual burial. Even though Helen's family doesn't have great love for religion, but just for the sake of finding relief, they seek the church's assistance to appease the soul of their loved one.Bookmark here

The baron and the viscountess soon arrived at the lowest floor. Dressed in all black garments, they ordered the servants to ready the carriages. Following after a few moments are the twins, clad in the same color of clothings. The youngest sister energetically jumped on her last step from the stairs, while the youngest brother took his sweet time walking in his usual pace. Within a few minutes, the carriages were ready and they soon set went their way to their destination.Bookmark here

Upon arriving at the church, a short mass was conducted, attended by a few relatives, close family friends and their respective servants acting as their entourage. Helen's maid friend was instructed to accompany the family and to attend Helen personally. The one who gave her the particular order was the viscountess herself, who knew of her daughter's close bond with a mere servant.Bookmark here

The first period of the mass went smoothly with cardinals wearing robes of white, holding scriptures, recited prayers of profound meaning while whisking some sort of fluid to the remains of Helen's sister. Soon, one by one, the visitors were allowed to get close to offer their prayers and bade their last farewell to the deceased person.Bookmark here

The peaceful solidarity inside the church was touching, with a few quiet sobs being shared by their closest relatives and family friends. The baron and his family appreciated the genuine and kind gesture that was shown to them by their company. But like a clockwork, a tempest suddenly ravaged the calm atmosphere without warning.Bookmark here

Arriving at the church, were members of the other family, totally uninvited. Due to their renowned authority, despite their boorish entrance, they were able to silenced the whole list of guests as they cut in line towards the remains of their deceased in-law sleeping peacefully in the center. The baron was quick to protest their presence, but with the family rankings being an indomitable thing among nobility, Helen's family were forced to discontinue their gripes without much effort. Soon, all of the prior attendees of the funeral bade their immature leaving, hoping not to get caught in the crossfire between the two families.Bookmark here

After some time, the only ones remaining inside the chapel besides the baron's family and the in-law nobles were the hesitant clerics, unaware of their role in the quagmire. They immediately went to the baron to inquire if they will continue the mass, but it was the viscountess who gave them the permission to take their leave. The baron in his ire, then stood up from his seat and directly asked for a dialogue with the head of the other family.Bookmark here

However, it appears that the only ones who attended were the wife of the other family's head, a noble with a countess title closely related to the royal family and her son, the husband of Helen's deceased sister, a noble with an viscount status. Upon seeing the sight of the man who contributed greatly to her sister's demise, Helen screamed at the top of her lungs, grimacing a livid mien directly to the earl.Bookmark here

The cowardly son of the countess, completely intimidated, hid in the back of her mother. The countess who saw her son's pathetic display resigned to a sigh before offering a dialogue of remote condolence. While her words may seem sound sincere, the look on her frosty face unreservedly insinuates the otherwise. Her lifted chin, her crossed arms, her wine-red gown with a flamboyant flowery design utterly exudes a supercilious aura within her that put Helen in another sequence of fit. The supposedly solemn funeral turned into a scandalous one, that will soon be a commonplace gossip throughout the baron's territory.Bookmark here

As expected, it was the viscountess who led her family's protest. With a proper salutation offered first, she went straight to the countess' face and asked of their intentions. The tense staring contest lasted for a minute before the proud countess opened her handheld fan to cover the lower half of her face.Bookmark here

"Why, of course, to say goodbye to my dearest daughter-in-law. What else?" she mumbled in a tone of remote sarcasm.Bookmark here

The viscountess, despite her boiling temper, responded calmly. "We're very sorry we're unable to extend your family an invitation. We were under the impression that it'd cause you hassles if we did, especially with the way you set the terms according to your message."Bookmark here

The frosty look on the countess face turned into an even more severe expression. "Oh, you really think so? Well, like I said, we came here to offer our final prayers, That seemed righteous enough, eh?"Bookmark here

The baron stomped his cane that echoed inside the chapel. "Can we ask you to leave, milady? We would greatly appreciate if you can grant us this chance to spend this time in silence." said the renowned pompous baron who bowed perfectly in front of the countess.Bookmark here

Amidst the unexpected showing of Helen's father, the viscount son of the countess sneaked himself in the altar and wailed noisily like a child, instantly grabbing everyone's attention. He cried, gripping the dressed corpse of his wife with extreme force while kneeling causing the body to fall with him on the ground. That particular scene was the last straw of the baron's family, their patience, as expected, ran out.Bookmark here

Helen's scholar brother ran towards the viscount and grabbed him by the collars, prompting the countess' entourage to forcefully intervene and bring the baron's eldest son to his knees. The countess flaunted her usual patronizing tone and asked if such behavior is permitted on a solemn ceremony. Helen trembled on her ground, ripped her tight clothing, particularly the long skirt and jumped towards the countess. But before she could even reach her target, she plopped down hard on the ground after a servant of the countess anticipated her hostile actions. The following chaotic happenings wasn't resolved until the viscountess in her ire, slapped the wrinkled face of the noblewoman in front of her.Bookmark here

"Get out... Get out of here!!!" she shrieked, her eyes again tearing without reservation.Bookmark here

A true face of a grieving mother left the countess to finally ditch their insensitive funeral-crashing. Within a single snap of her lanky fingers, her guards alongside her viscount son, left the chapel before firing a warning that she would never let the transgression against her pass unanswered.Bookmark here

And so, the countess and her party soon boarded their carriage. But before she could close the door entirely, she was intrigued by what she saw at the chapel's gate. After a short discussion to her driver, she stepped out of lavish wagon to talked to a certain individual.Bookmark here

'Well, well, well... who do we have here? How long has it been? Perhaps a decade or so?" the countess said, still with her fan covering her lower part of her face.Bookmark here

The certain individual bowed respectfully without answering.Bookmark here

"Now, now... Don't be such a snob, darling. I still owe a huge favor to you and your mother. I must exact it or else it's unbecoming of what a noble should conduct oneself, do you agree?"Bookmark here

The certain individual clicked their tongue, but assumed a composed answer almost immediately.Bookmark here

"If that's how you feel, then please leave this family alone. They've already grieved so much in the past days."Bookmark here

A snicker was released by the rude noblewoman. "Do you seriously believe that? I don't think for a second you really stand by your words. For you and your mother, nobility is a subject of resentment, anger and regret."Bookmark here

Despite the provocative tone of the countless, the certain individual remained calm. "Even if what you said is true, I still want to believe that even among nobility, there's a few who houses a good heart within themselves. And I can attest that in this family... there are people who values blood more than tangible riches."Bookmark here

The noblewoman lost the sarcastic smile in her face. She closed her handheld fan and shook her head lightly. "You utter fool... besides, who are you to tell me what to do? What can a mere lowly maid such as yourself do if I teach this lowly family their place? Surely you don't think I can't erase your worthless self if I feel like it, right?"Bookmark here

This time, it was the maid who released a sarcastic chuckle.Bookmark here

"Of course, you can. I don't doubt that for a minute, madame. But even a cornered rat such as myself can be dangerous, especially with what I know about your family's circumstances." the maid immediately replied.Bookmark here

The countess shrugged her hands in the air. "Bah, suit yourself. With respect to the brave viscountess, I'll let this wretched family off for a while, but like I said, it's a noble's obligation to return whatever favor they received."Bookmark here

With a graceful walk unbefitting of her rude behavior, the countess retraced her steps towards her carriage. Before long, her company left the vicinity for good. The maid sighed heavily, trying to ease her heightened heartbeats. Memories of the past surged inside her head. Her innocent father's death, her mother's horror episodes and now, the family she serves gained the misguided rancor of a villain. She can't help but worry for them, especially for her friend.Bookmark here

After concluding the messy funeral, the baron's family soon returned to their manor. They were all absolutely drained and despondent after reliving the earlier events. What was supposed a solemn and tranquil funeral turned into a violent mess that was totally undeserved by her sister who passed away.Bookmark here

Helen, with the support of her friend, lied down to her bed. Weak and totally spent from all her wailing, parched is her throat and her body getting more frail by the second.Bookmark here

The maid friend filled a glass of water and slowly let her friend sip on it. But despite her best efforts to lead Helen to drink her much needed fluid, the lady of the house absentmindedly let the water just flow in her lips down to her neck and body. Realizing the futility of her actions, she carefully drop Helen back to the bed after wiping the wetness and left the glass of water in the table before exiting the room with ample reluctance in her heart.Bookmark here

Meeting the viscountess on her exit, she immediately bowed, but was interrupted on her motion.Bookmark here

"How is she?" the viscountess asked.Bookmark here

The maid took a few seconds before answering. "She's getting weaker, madame viscountess. She couldn't even drink her water."Bookmark here

Helen's mother sighed a small breath, with a half-clenched fist resting on her chest. "Is that so..."Bookmark here

The dialogue stopped, with no further words uttered. The maid interpreted it as her queue to excuse herself, but after properly conveying her words with a bow, she was again interrupted with a grip to her wrist.Bookmark here

"I know it may sound strange, but please... do support my daughter, no, your friend in this trying times..." Helen's mother paused, then she looked straight to the maid's eyes. "Can I rely on you on that?"Bookmark here

After hearing such statement from the viscountess, the maid was expectly jolted. To think that the lady of the house herself would ask her that favor. A surging wave of complicated feelings erupted inside her, but ultimately, she knew that her grieving friend is in need of a company, a helping hand, someone who will support her weakened stance of life. She clenched her fist under her uniform and faced the mother of her friend. "I'll stay with her until she can find the strength to be her usual self again."Bookmark here

The viscountess gently smiled and patted her servant's head. Without a word, she left her way to her chambers. The maid, still flabbergasted, composed herself with a sigh.Bookmark here

"Even if it's the last thing I'll do..." she mumbled to herself and soon went back to her quarters.Bookmark here

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