“M-Miss Jeremie, is this really going to be all right…?” The maid was clearly agitated. Miss Jeremie, on the other hand, seemed as happy as a clam.
“Of course it is. There’s nothing about this that could possibly harm you.” The woman was smiling, but her eyes burned with jealousy and intense anger. These fiery emotions were directed entirely at Abigail. Miss Jeremie thought of her current position. Even though she had been relieved of her duties as a nanny, she had managed to remain in the palace all the way up until now. It was all thanks to the goodwill of her uncle, Duke Stork, who had helped her obtain another position as a maid.
However, despite understanding this, her rage did not dissipate. Not only had she worked as a nanny for ten years, she was practically Blanche’s second mother. Then a mere figurehead of a queen dared to confront her and shame her. Miss Jeremie could not, and would not just take that sitting down. Somehow, she must somehow watch that stupid queen’s face color with shame and despair.
“It’s nothing special.’ She continued, smiling brightly, ‘I’m just trying to put everything back to how it was in the past.” That’s right. She was just trying to return everything to its rightful place. After all, Sabelian still had not completely opened up to Abigail. If Abigail made a blunder here, all the trust the woman had accumulated till now would crumble to dust.
“You have to make it quick, Miss Jeremie. If I don’t bring it over soon…” Miss Jeremie raised her head. The maid was right; Abigail might send the food back if it arrives too late. She took out a small bottle filled with a brown powder inside.
Lifting the plate cover, she inspected the plates, identifying a dish with a noticeably smaller portion inside. This must be Princess Blanche’s. She started pouring a considerable amount of the powder over the meat. “Give this to the princess. Since it is a smaller portion, you should be able to distinguish it much more easily.”
“Yes, I understand. But what is that powder you just…put on?”
“You’re curious about too many things.” The maid turned completely pale at her words. Despite her bright smile, Miss Jeremie’s face seemed incredibly menacing to the maid, “Don’t worry too much. This is just for the princess’ weight. Would you like to try some?”
Miss Jeremie handed the bottle over. The maid, after a small pause, tried a little bit of what was inside, “Ah, this is…”
The maid’s complexion brightened significantly. Miss Jeremie quickly snatched the bottle out of the woman’s hands,“You should serve it before it cools.”
The maid nodded and quickly pushed the cart away. Miss Jeremie simply smiled as she watched all of this happen. This should be nothing more than a small accident. Just a small one. But it would be more than sufficient to completely destroy the trust Abigail had built up until now. What’s more, she had already hidden the same bottle in Abigail’s room. The woman would surely be accused as the culprit once the accident happens. Satisfied with her plans, Miss Jeremie left with a smile on her face.
Meanwhile, the maid had finally reached the dining hall. Sabelian, Abigail, and Blanche were sitting at the table, waiting for their dishes to arrive. Their sorbet bowls were already empty. The other maids shot her a glare; Abigail was surely going to complain about this. But Abigail didn’t say anything. Or rather, she was far too busy chattering away with Sabelian and Blanche without a care in the world, “It’s usually very tasty to begin with, but this tastes even better today for some reason. I asked the chef to make an apple sorbet, since Princess Blanche said she liked apples. How is it?”
“Ah, yes! It was very tasty.” Blanche spoke with shining eyes. The maid was rather surprised by the girl’s expression. In her memory, Blanche was always expressionlessly eating her food during her mealtimes. This happy and almost innocent childlike behavior of hers was quite contrary to her usual self. Sabelian, on the other hand, was seated quietly amidst the chatter going on around him. While he did not really join in, he did not seem very bothered by the two either.
By then, the maid had finished laying out the dishes in front of the three. Her hand trembled a little when she placed the dish before Blanche but she didn’t worry too much otherwise. After all, she reasoned, Miss Jeremie only put a normal spice onto the dish. Plus, nothing happened when she had some of it herself earlier.
The steak shone under the light, perfectly cooked, juicy and tender. The browned meat was laid out next to several different sides. Blanche lifted her fork and knife slowly. The girl’s innocent, unsuspecting eyes were glinting with excitement.
The maid’s heart started to pound. A part of her told her that nothing was going to happen, but another, louder part of her warned her that something was about to happen. As the beat of her heart seemed to accelerate and pound harder against her chest, someone raised her voice. “Wait.”
It was Abigail. Sabelian and Blanche stopped in their tracks when she spoke, “What’s wrong, Miss Abigail?”
“It looks like my plate got switched with Blanche’s.” Abigail switched the two plates as she spoke. Sabelian watched as she did so, “Did something go wrong?”
“Ah, it’s nothing special. I didn’t ask for asparagus as I don’t really enjoy its taste.” Indeed, the sides on Blanche’s and Abigail’s plates were different. The maid’s face paled as she only just ended up realizing what the chef had said a moment ago: that Abigail preferred anything to asparagus.
Blanche’s dish was now in front of Abigail. It was too late. The maid couldn’t stop her. The only thing she could do was watch from the sidelines. Abigail picked up her knife, its edge sinking into the meat without any resistance.
As she slowly sliced through the steak, it parted to reveal the lovely pink flesh inside—a perfect medium rare. Abigail cut out a piece of it and put it in her mouth. Slowly, she chewed the meat, savoring the flavor till it passed down her throat. Abigail went for the next piece. In this manner, three, four more pieces of meat were devoured with no problems.
The maid released a sigh of relief in her head. It was great that nothing had ended up happening but the moment her nervousness passed, more suspicions turned up to quash the tiny bud of relief she felt. Why did Miss Jeremie do that in the hallway? The maid left the room with a strange gut feeling brewing in her stomach.
Abigail, on the other hand, was enjoying her steak a little too much. If she had to be honest, it was a teeny bit heavily spiced. However, it did not taste off in any other way and was perfectly cooked to a T. She contemplated eating a bit more, eyeing the last piece of meat on her plate.
However, remembering the diet she’d put herself on, she forced her fork down. Ever since her ‘rebirth’, she’d been practically living off the desserts the chef made for her. As a result, while she was still quite thin and by no means chubby, she had definitely put on some weight compared to how she’d been before her death.
Abigail swallowed the tiny bit of bitterness in her mouth. She had confidently told Blanche that the girl had all the right in the world to get fat. And yet, when it came to herself, she could not even manage to practise what she preached.
She could not even convince herself what she had managed to convince Blanche of.
‘Personality is more important than looks’ was something that beautiful people said often. But Abigail, no, Baekhap, was unable to say this herself. Because the only thing Baekhap received whenever she uttered those words was mockery and laughter. To them, she possessed neither. Gradually, she came to realise that confidence was something that belonged exclusively to the good-looking.
Right now, she looked beautiful in Abigail’s body but she was still afraid. Afraid of a repeat of all the stares she had experienced in the past on the off chance that she ended up getting fat. When would she be able to tell herself that it was ok to be ugly, that it was ok to be fat? Perhaps some day, she might manage to muster up the courage but today wasn’t that day. She wiped her mouth determinedly with a napkin.
After a few more dishes, they were served cups of tea. Abigail took a little sip of her black tea as she looked over at the two people around her, “Princess Blanche, was the food to your liking?”
“Yes, of course! It was very tasty…!” Blanche smiled brightly. Abigail noticed that the girl appeared much more relaxed than before. She had to admit it was a rather nice meal as far as meals went, but she did have her regrets despite that. Normally, people would make small talk as they drank together, but Sabelian was just quietly drinking by himself.
By the looks of it, if things were to go his way from here, the man would be getting the hell out of here as soon as he finished his tea. Abigail quickly came up with a topic they could converse about, “In any case, Princess Blanche. Your clothes are very pretty today. They suit you wonderfully. What do you think, Your Majesty?”
Sabelian put down his cup of tea to get a good look at Blanche. Blanche squared her shoulders the moment her father’s eyes landed on her. Meanwhile, Abigail was glaring surreptitiously at Sabelian, “She’s pretty, right?”
It sounded almost like a threat. Fortunately, Sabelian correctly interpreted it as one, “Yes, she’s pretty.”
Though his words were completely void of any emotion, Blanche still looked to be quite flattered by his compliment.
“Right? She’s normally very pretty, but she’s even more…” Abigail stopped short mid-sentence and began to rub her eyes furiously.
“Is there something else?” Sabelian prompted but just then, Abigail had bigger fish to fry. Was she imagining things? It felt like she had just witnessed fairy wings sprout out from behind Blanche just now. She definitely must’ve been imagining it. To think I’d hallucinate from Blanche’s sheer cuteness… Abigail clicked her tongue and took another sip of tea.
Though the tea was undoubtedly normal, Abigail was suddenly struck with an intense feeling of dizziness after taking that sip. It felt like her body was shaking all over the place. She was dizzy and hot, even a little nauseated. But at the same time, she felt a little more…happy, for reasons she could not quite identify at the moment.
The fairy wings appeared on Blanche again. Pink, almost transparent wings.
Abigail smiled warmly, “Ah, so Blanche really was a fairy.”
The words seemed to come out of nowhere. Sabelian and Blanche stared at Abigail with varying degrees of confusion.
“Princess Blanche, you’re really very cute today.” Abigail continued speaking with a beatific smile on her face. Sabelian stared silently at it. He had always thought that her face was that of evil incarnate. Before, no matter how brightly or how sweetly she smiled, he could always sense a faint trace of evil beneath. And yet, the smile on her face now was…very pure. Her relaxed smile was simply beautiful. He had never seen a face like this.
Sabellian was very familiar with smiles. After all, every person he had met so far had approached him with a smile. Perhaps the sight of one would have eased others, but he had learnt very early on that their smiles always hid some sort of ulterior motive. Abigail’s face right now had none of that. Her pink cheeks were rather beautiful. The woman who usually felt like the manifestation of winter itself most times, suddenly looked more like spring.
“She’s cute, right?” Abigail turned to him again.
“Say that again for me.”
“…Cute. I think.” His words had no direct subject to them. Even so, Abigail beamed victoriously, “Right, Princess Blanche is the cutest in the world! And do you even know how nice she is? There must be so many hardships she’s going through, and she’s enduring all of it. Poor thing…”
Abigail let out a big sigh, “Your Majesty, why don’t you love your beautiful child? Just look at her, she’s a fairy! She even has wings on her!”
Abigail started to mumble to herself like a drunk person. Her eyes were glazing over, as if her vision was blurring before her. Was she pulling something again? He couldn’t help but wonder as he observed her behaviour.
No, Sabelian realized, something was definitely off about this.
TL: Soju Jimmy
Editor: Midwinter Gimlet
QC: Solistia Cosmopolitan