The march of the other kingdoms toward the capital began to be known. Information originating from the members of the Council quickly spread throughout the capital. Upon hearing the news, the people fell into great chaos.
Although Hessenguard was able to withstand Aether’s army somehow, the fact that Hessenguard might soon turn into a sea of fire and blood fueled fear in everyone. People’s horrid memories of the past war once again resurfaced.
What had spread to the capital inevitably reached the Grand Castle. When the servants of the castle encountered one another, they talked of the news they had heard in whispers.
“I am going home tomorrow. Fortunately, Aether’s knights are not very interested in ordinary people leaving the capital. They just ask a few questions and let you go,” said one.
Another asked, “Then shall I leave too?”
Although, a servant of the Grand Castle cannot easily quit, some maids had already made up their minds and packed their belongings. As more and more people were leaving, it was only natural that the entire Grand Castle was in turmoil, which caused more pressure to those who remained. If they decided to stay a little bit longer, there was a high chance that they wouldn’t be allowed to leave anymore.
Because of its enormous size, the castle needed sufficient manpower to cater its residents. Besides, the bustle in the Grand Castle depicted the health of the grand duchy of Hessenguard. It was inevitable to hold the minimum number of people to maintain the castle functioning.
The servants collectively thought: What will happen if I stay here?
In the past, the Grand Castle was unharmed. But that was when Vanessa and the Council were trying to defend the masterless castle. Vanessa was not here now. This time, everyone was as anxious as if they were stranded on a shaky bridge at the fact that Vanessa wouldn’t be able to help them.
Those who wanted to leave rushed to write their resignations so as not to be late. However, before they could even do so, they were all summoned.
Everyone sighed and headed to the lobby. Among them, there were many people who secretly murmured that they had to leave. When maids and servants in the Grand castle were all gathered together, the chief servant and the chief maid appeared.
“Everyone, be quiet.”
The lobby became quiet in an instant. Both the chiefs were elderly women. The younger one of the two, the chief maid, stepped out in front of the crowd and began to speak in a loud voice.
“Everyone knows very well what is going on.”
Should I sneak out?
Everyone’s eyes widened in surprise. And then the surprise turned into fear.
It was clear that they were aware of their intentions and that they would be reprimanded. They would refuse every single resignation letter they attempt to hand in. If so, it becomes a crime the moment they leave on their own volition. Those who work in the Grand Castle can only leave by having all their belongings checked with permission and signing an oath not to divulge what transpired within the castle.
It is merely a formality, but when a problem arises, it can even lead to treason.
I should’ve plucked up my courage a day earlier!
Are they saying they won’t accept my resignation anymore?
How do I convince the guards at the entrance?
Everyone’s faces turned pale and they chatted with the people next to them.
When the chief maid shouted loudly, the murmur ceased again.
“I will convey the words of Grand Duchess Erna,” the maid announced. She cleared her throat for a moment before continuing. “Everyone has worked hard so far, and anyone who wants is free to leave at any time. The chief servant and chief maid will prepare a consolation for your hard work, so make sure to take it. I wish you all good health wherever you are.”
After she had finished speaking, the chief maid continued in a slightly trembling voice.
“We also have a wagon ready for everyone. Aether’s army also promised to let you pass without any inspection, so let’s all prepare slowly and come down to the front door. The consolation is equivalent to the hours you have worked.”
The chief maid turned with a bitter smile. When the two chiefs disappeared, everyone hurried back to their respective rooms.
Meanwhile, one of the young maids sighed and headed to her own quarters. The young maid walked through the hallways of her raucous quarters into her own room. The Grand Castle boasted generous hospitality to its employees to the extent that each maid acquired independent rooms.
I have nowhere to go, thought the young maid. She was an orphan—a war orphan. War orphans are widespread in Hessenguard. When the war concluded ten years ago, she was only eight years old, and has since grown up in an orphanage. Then, a year ago, at the recommendation of the director of the orphanage, she entered the Grand Castle.
“If you want, you can work in the Grand Duke Castle. The Grand Castle gives priority to hiring people from orphanages,” the director had said.
Although she is said to be a lower-ranking maid, she receives good benefits at a much higher salary compared to other jobs. She could also rise in the ranks if she passed the necessary examinations and worked long hours. She had no reason not to work in the castle.
After a while, she noticed that the noisy hallway had quieted down. Frowning at the sight of the clutter of those who left hastily, she began to clean up, although no one asked her to. Upon finishing, the maid headed to the kitchen. Most maids are assigned the kitchen chores or laundry during their first year.
She sat in the corner of the desolate kitchen. I knew this would happen, she thought.
Originally, the kitchen was never left empty. There were always people in stand by, in case someone asked for something to eat.
“I guess the chef is quitting, too,” she mumbled.