Fifth Day of the Fourth Month in the 114th Year of Ren
The birds chirped merrily and bright sunlight streamed through the thin curtains into the bare room, lighting it up. Rousing from her slumber, Pshin Yieun hoisted her aching body up and yawned. Wiping away the crust at the corners of her eyes, she called out to her handmaid.
Hearing her name being called, Cai-lin, the sole servant, took the water bowl to serve her master. After Yi-eun had rinsed her face and dried it, the faithful maid delivered her instructions for the day.
“Madam wants you to visit the palace with her. She already picked out the clothes.” Her eyes flickered around nervously, studying every movement of Yieun’s facial muscles.
When her master’s expression didn’t change, Cailin was about to ask if anything was wrong when she sighed and finally replied. “Alright, tell her I will be there.”
“Yes, I will inform Maid Bo.” Bowing as she took away the water bowl, Cai-lin shut the doors. Beyond her sight, her master’s lips curved ever so slightly upwards. Would today go smoothly?
The wooden carriage wheels bounced along the cobblestones before coming to a halt in front of enormous stone gates. The horses whined as the driver pulled the reins, constricting their movement.
Maid Bo opened the door from the inside, getting down before assisting Madam Pshin. Once done, she stood beside her master as Yieun clumsily stepped down on her own. The sun glared, making her squint. Looking up, she saw that Maid Bo had already opened up an umbrella for her legitimate mother, who was inspecting her from the corner of her eyes.
“Please come in. Her Majesty the Empress is expecting you.” An energetic, smooth skinned eunuch bowed before the trio before turning and walking through the intricately carved stone doors. Madam Pshin followed, with Maid Bo holding up an umbrella. Yieun stumbled along behind them, her chin glued to her chest and her eyes to the ground.
The warm spring sun spread across the multicoloured flowers beside the paved path, as if stroking the feet of its masters in devotion. Yi-eun could see the tidy pebbles lining the sides, preventing the plants from growing beyond their bounds. The leaves stretched limply over the line of smooth stones, and she could imagine what happened to the curving leafless branches that ended abruptly.
Soon, a golden palace rivalling the sun glittered in the distance. The eunuch continued to lead them up the wide, carved stone stairs that converged into a set of heavy wood doors. While Yi-eun didn’t have enough time to appreciate the fading marks on the steps, she could only be in awe at the giant dragon carving coiled across the double doors.
As the eunuch guided them in, a waft of lavender hit Yi-eun’s nose. It was strong, like it had been incensed in a closed room all night. The red and gold interior had much of the same extravagant feel as the exterior. Transparent gemstones hung beside flaunting red curtains while servants scurried around the room, placing various sized silver bowls and plates on a shallow darkwood table.
Madam Pshin and Yieun stepped inside, but remained standing. After their legs started feeling numb, the servants finally announced the arrival of the person they had come to meet. The Empress of Shaloz.