Hime x Hime
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How did it come to this?
I had been so full of confidence the night before as I knelt before Queen Veranda that I hadn't thought of the biggest obstacle to overcome if I were to court Princess Amber.
My supreme lack of experience with women...
It wasn't as if I hadn't tried romance before. My interaction with Hanabe-chan was simply par for the course for how my interactions with girls my age tended to go.
For example: Back in middle school I gave a love letter to the most popular girl in class. Jun warned me against it, as she had a tendency for hilariously elaborate rejections, but I didn't listen. I wish I had.
The next day when I came to school, my locker was covered from top to bottom in sticky notes. They all relaid practically the same message.
"Not on your life, glasses."
I now hid in a rose bush, the same one I was supposed to be trimming as Morningstar Castle's newest butler. Why was I hiding in shrubbery in the middle of the castle courtyard? Let's flashback a bit.
THE PREVIOUS NIGHT...
"I guess that settles everything. Cedrick, can you show Sakuta to his quarters, and where he'll be working starting tomorrow?" Queen Veranda asked in a sing-song voice.
"As you wish, your majesty..." Cedrick sounded rather irritated at the prospect of me becoming a suitor and living in the castle. "I oversee all day-to-day operations, and staffing within the castle. It's a pleasure."
"Thank you for having me. I look forward to working with you." I bowed slightly.
"Right... This way." We left the dining area, and walked towards the dormitories. It was the same area all maids and butlers appeared to be residing.
I understood where he was coming from since I had my own apprehensions at first about the Queen's offer. I just hoped that wouldn't cause any major issues going forward.
This may be a temporary solution until I can make some money and figure out a way home. However, that didn't mean I wanted to lead a stressful existence during the time I spent here.
"This is your room." Cedrick led me to a fancy-looking room at the end of the hall. It wasn't nearly as big as the one I woke up in, but it was more than enough to live comfortably.
"Normally we would place you on the lower levels where the bulk of the new staff tend to reside, however... Due to your position as a potential marriage partner for the Princess—and because her majesty told me to—you will be allowed to live here with the more experienced staff." Cedrick sighed.
"Thank you... Oh!" I suddenly had a thought. "What will I do about clothes, and such? I didn't bring anything with me, but what I'm wearing..."
"Uniforms and leisure wear are already in the walk-in closet in your room." he replied. "Any other necessities can be brought up directly with any senior member of staff, and you will be provided for."
A walk-in closet? Very high-class!
"One thing I should mention. Your relationship with Queen Veranda aside, I don't think it wise to bother her majesty any more than necessary. Understood?" Cedrick cautioned me.
"You got it, don't bother the Queen. Wouldn't dream of it." I nodded.
After a brief tour of my new bedroom, Cedrick took me back downstairs to the main areas. There were so many different rooms that it made my head spin. We finally approached the kitchen, our last stop of the night.
"If it isn’t my least favorite elf, and who might this be?" A tall maid came walking up to us in full-dress. The young woman had jet-black hair styled in a bob cut, and dark purple eyes.
However, the most intriguing part about her was her ears... Dog ears.
A beast person!
And so, the buck didn't stop with elves.
"This is the young man who will be joining our staff starting tomorrow. Sakuta, this is the head of her majesties' maids. You'll be reporting directly to her whenever I am not around." Cedrick explained.
"My name is Sakuta Yamada, and you are?" I asked.
"You can call me Poppy! I've worked in the castle my whole life, and serve High Queen Veranda as head maid. When you run into trouble feel free to find me." Poppy introduced herself, giving a small curtsy. "And one other thing..."
"One other—" I began to speak, but Poppy suddenly produced a dull butter knife from somewhere, and held it to my neck. Huh!?
"What are you..."
"I've known the princesses and many of these maids since they were babies. I held them in my arms, helped raise them. If you attack any of them, or do something ungentlemanly... You may come to regret being born male. We're clear on that?" Poppy's polite smile never wavered as a bead of sweat rolled down my forehead.
"V-very clear! Extremely. You have nothing to worry about, ma'am!" She paused to consider my words, and then I heaved a sigh of relief as she lowered the knife back to her side.
What's with all the violent women in this castle!?
"Great! As long as you understand, we're friends now. Let me know if you need anything at all, or if Cedrick gives you a hard time. See ya!" Poppy practically skipped away as I sat there in disbelief, rubbing my neck.
"Is she always like that?" I asked Cedrick.
"I'm afraid so." He replied, rubbing his temples. "That concludes the tour of the areas you'll be focusing on. You'll start with the hedges early as we discussed, and work your way inward. Best be off to bed now."
"Thank you for the tour, sir. I won't let you down." I bowed, and Cedrick left me without another word.
Now, time to get some shut-eye.
Upkeep for such a massive place was going to be a new experience. I needed as much rest as I could possibly get if I was going to juggle cleaning and courting. How I planned to do the latter, I had no clue.
Just as I approached my bedroom door, I noticed a familiar figure standing in front of it.
Well this is a surprise…
Basking in the light of the moon was Princess Amber, her hair still wet from the bath. The silk pajamas she wore highlighted her curvaceous figure. Her beautiful refrain was in stark contrast to the stern look on her face.
"Hey, glasses!" She called, her voice echoing in the hallway. It was quite late, and most of the servants had gone to sleep.
"Hey." I replied. Silence ensued.
"Listen, I'm sorry about earlier..." I broke the awkward tension. "I really shouldn't have touched you without your permission. I hope we can still be on good terms moving forward. So—uhh… Good night." I swiftly made my way past the Princess, but she surprised me by grabbing my sleeve.
"Actually... I'm the one who should apologize." I turned to face her as she spoke. She sighed deeply. "It was wrong of me to body slam you. I guess I was a little surprised, but you did save mother so... Sorry." As she grumbled an apology, I could see her cheeks turn slightly red.
"Haha, it's alright. We all have things we're dealing with. I won't hold it against you. How about we just call this a blank slate?" I held out my hand to shake.
"Blank slate." She cautiously accepted my handshake, and turned around. She took a few steps towards the end of the hall, but slowly turned her head back towards me. "And, glasses... Thanks for catching me."
With the tiniest smile, she sent my heart fluttering into the castle wall. It was warm and gentle, unlike the one from earlier. Having nothing further to say, I went to my room and collapsed onto my bed.
"Ugh... It's been a day..."
Tomorrow the real work begins.
My heart rate eventually normalized. However, with the thought of our moonlight meeting fresh on my mind, I didn't get a wink of sleep all night long.
"So, why are you in the rose bushes again?" Princess Mavis, who happened to be walking by, asked me.
Wait... Where was I going with this?
"I was in the middle of trimming them, and saw Princess Amber walk by and sit down at the gazebo. I got startled, and fell into the hedge." I sighed. "I thought I could learn more about her tastes by observing. She came and apologized last night, but I have no idea how to talk to her."
"Oh, if that's all, you should just walk up and start a conversation!" Princess Mavis smiled. "Sissy is a little abrasive, but if you approach her honestly she can be a lot of fun."
When Princess Amber apologized to me last night it caught me by surprise. She certainly wasn't as unapproachable as I’d thought.
"And not to be rude or anything, but you look a bit like a stalker out here. Hehehe." She laughed.
"Sta—!" I quickly hopped out of the rose bush, dusting myself off.
She's right... I really hope Princess Amber didn't see me.
As my face flushed in embarrassment, Princess Mavis' laugh slowly faded until I couldn't hear it at all. I looked up to see what caused the shift in mood.
"Oh no.... It's him again." Princess Mavis' voice morphed into a low growl as she glared in the direction of the gazebo.
It appeared that someone, a man, was approaching Princess Amber.