A woman in front of me straightened up her torso. With an incredibly authoritative tone, she said, “Though I don’t understand why Her Majesty would allow someone into the living quarters, I shall obey Her Majesty’s order. As she has given permission, you will be assigned as Her Majesty’s attendant; it is an important post. Regardless of your past, you must now obey my command. Always ensure that you give Her Majesty the utmost respect and loyalty, understood?”
The middle-aged woman wasn’t as tall as me, yet I appeared puny before her… Her hair was perfectly bundled behind her head without a single lose strand. I wondered how long it’d been since she last smiled. Her mouth looked as though it had permanently turned downward – imagine an upside down smile. Her narrow and long eyes made her appear aggressive. By the looks of it, my superior was going to be a handful.
I decided to respond with brevity: “Understood.”
Queen Sisi led us to the palace then put me in the hands of the ladies-in-waiting who worked at her living quarters. There were only ladies-in-waiting in the palace. Everyone who saw me was surprised, but what made me happy was that they were all pretty. Queen Sisi sure did handpick them herself. I guess it improved her mood to see cute girls around her.
We were provided with a small room to live in. Apparently, the ladies-in-waiting shared the place. I guess Queen Sisi was in a fantastic mood to allow Leah and me to enjoy a room.
“Good.” The lady-in-waiting turned and explained, “Follow me. I’ll show you around the living quarters. This is where Her Majesty resides. Though she almost never takes strolls here in her free time, it’s still representative of her. We, consequently, cannot allow it to embarrass her. Even the smallest room must be kept pristine clean at all times. Additionally, regardless of what you do and when, you are not to let others see you dirty or anxious. If you are dirty, leave the residential palace for the meantime.”
On the first floor was a big chamber. Facing the front doors was a white marble staircase. Jade pillars lined up on either side. However, where the stairs split into left and right down the centre, was a wall where a huge painting was hung… In all fairness, it was perfectly fine to hang a painting since it was art. The issue was the painting she had hung up, how do I put it…? Err… Leah would be able to paint the exact same thing if you gave her a brush, paint and paper. The quality of the painting was what a primary school kid would produce. In fact, it looked immature… I couldn’t figure out how it was meaningful or worthy of being put on display.
“Did Queen Sisi’s child draw it or something? Sisi, who loves children, cherishes her child’s painting, so she proudly hung it out… Queen Sisi doesn’t look as though she has children, though. Plus, she looks around my age. Wouldn’t it be a little too early for her to have children at her age? Moreover, would she go to the frontlines if she has a husband?” I mused.
“Umm, Head Lady-in-waiting…” I stood on the stairs and tried calling out to the head maid. She was still in the middle of rambling about the history of the building.
“Are you a lady-in-waiting or a museum guide…?” I wanted to ask.
She wasn’t too happy about being interrupted. She turned around and gave me a frown: “What is it? Do you have a question?”
I pointed at the painting and curiously asked, “Umm… this painting…”
Before the lady-in-waiting could reply, I heard laughter overhead. With a lady-in-waiting following behind her, Sisi descended the stairs. I didn’t know where she was heading to, but Sisi dressed more revealingly than before. Her clothes had the valley between her jugs exposed. You couldn’t help but imagine the twin peaks with how tight her clothes were on her. Nonetheless, Sisi was nonchalant about it. She walked up to my side and looked up at the painting. I couldn’t read her mind from her smile.
Sisi asked, “What do you think of it?”
I couldn’t say it was horrendous… though it was undisputedly a failure as a piece of art…
“Sorry, Your Majesty, but I do not understand art to evaluate it.”
That was a perfect response. It didn’t put down the painting but wasn’t deliberate praise, either. Thus, it could be interpreted that it was nice, but I, unfortunately, lacked the skillset to tell.
Queen Sisi smiled: “I painted it when I was young. My father hung it here. Lots of people said it’s beautiful; they said that I have artistic talent. What do you think, Little Doggy?”
“I think the people around you are a bunch of ignorant people with long noses…” was my genuine thought.
What could I say? Should I join them in lauding Queen Sisi? She wasn’t an idiot. She could tell if her painting was good or not. She definitely knew others were brown nosing her, but was I supposed to say in the presence of the ladies-in-waiting, “Cancer. I can’t believe you’d hang out this embarrassing primary school level painting. My stomach is about to burst, hahaha?” Surely, she’d drag me out and torture me to death for saying that… Brown nosing her wouldn’t be effective, however… so flattery was no good, but I couldn’t embarrass her, either. It was a tough pickle to get out of…
“I believe that your father is proud of this painting, right? Your father must love you,” I answered.
I decided to dodge the question… It was basically the equivalent of saying, “From your father’s perspective, it’s fantastic, but from my perspective… I don’t think it’s good.” I surmised Queen Sisi would understand that.
Queen Sisi laughed and then nodded: “Yes. After all, he was the only who sincerely loved me, I suppose. Everyone else around me has their own agenda. My father is no longer with me, sadly. Who should I show off the painting to?”
“Please do not say that, Your Majesty, we truly love you. I believe we, the ladies-in-waiting here, are here because they love you. We, too, think the painting is adorable and pretty!”
I think I figured out why Queen Sisi didn’t remove the painting after hearing the lady…
Queen Sisi’s smile was slightly awkward: “I know. I trust all of you, as well. I have to go out for a while. Train Little Dog well. I hope he can also be absolutely loyal and respectful to me as you all are.”
“Yes, Your Majesty!”
“Oh, and nobody is going to ask for my opinion?!” I wanted to blurt.
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