Standard Operating Procedure
Today, also, the situation has hardly changed.
Naturally, since I could no longer expect this all to be a dream, as soon as I woke up I called for a maid and obediently allowed myself to be dressed.
Getting dressed… now that’s one hell of a problem. There are scads of things I just can’t take off or put on without help.
My nightclothes are neglige, so to speak, and they mostly left off on the lace in order to ensure comfortable sleep. Even so, they’re still very princess-y and cute. Over There, this would have passed for a normal dress, no problem.
(Though normally, panties and a bra would act as underwear…)
Adult women may have panties and brassieres, but for a 12-year-old little girl, apparently it was a slip and drawers long enough to cover one’s thighs. The Princess Option comes made with silk and an overabundance of fine lace.
And further under that are bloomers covered in even more lace. These are tied at the waist with a cord.
(Up to that point, I can do it by myself just fine.)
I can’t do the next part at all. It’s an tailored-to-a-fault, form-fitting blouse with even more lace on the cuffs.
Seriously, why would they go out of their way to put the buttons on the back of the bodice? Twelve of them! If they’d just put them on the front I could change by myself.
(…… but damn if I’m not glad this world doesn’t have corsets!)
I really think so from the very bottom of my heart. Corsets are dangerous things that forcibly change the shape of the hipbones, to the point where women have even died early deaths from them. I wore one just once for a Halloween party, and I think it nothing less than a torture device.
If it were just this it’d still be fine, but there’s still another one-piece-like dress the maids call a gown that goes on top.
The one they’d chosen today was a pale aqua blue lavished with white lace. It was a type that pulled snugly over the head, and though it wasn’t so frilly as to make me look like some sort of antique doll, it certainly put out that “I’m a Princess, kthnks” vibe.
(I’ve never worn anything from PINKHOUSE or Atsuki Oonishi before, but something like this might actually become a habit…)
The gorgeous, handcrafted lace and embroidery were undeniably exquisite. My dear maidenly heart was screaming.
On my feet were thin silk stockings. The top edge of the stockings even had a rubber ring around the very top to keep them from slipping down. Apparently, this is what the mature ladies use garter belts for.
(And those adult ladies enchant men with the sexy power of those garter belts. I see how it is.)
… please pardon me, who has no business trying to enchant anyone at this point, for getting off on that rabbit trail. Personal opinion, the garter belt is an item possessed of an infinite supply of eros.
The shoes were made of cloth. They were covered in beautiful embroidery and they sparkled. The base color was an aqua blue that matched the dress perfectly. Delicate, glittering metalwork flowers were sewn all over them, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they weren’t actually made with silver and gold… but I was frankly too spooked to ask.
(Regardless, this embroidery’s detail work is just something else. These shoes are worth a fortune by themselves.)
The soles were made out of a rubber-like substance.
I say “rubber-like” because the color is totally different from the sort of rubber I’m familiar with, since it’s a cloudy see-through sort of thing.
I learned later down the road, but this was actually made from the sap of a particular tree only found in the kingdom’s southernmost territory, Vallius.
(Aww, so cute!)
I couldn’t help but spin myself around in front of the mirror.
Pardon my bit of narcissism. I mean god, she’s just so cute! You’ll just have to forgive me if I’m charmed a little by her appearance in the mirror.
Her hair fell in picture-perfect waves, the ideal golden ringlets. Her eyes were a brilliant, marvelous color, neither blue nor green but somewhere in-between. I mean, looking at her mother’s portrait, she was a true beauty, but this kid just takes the cake.
I’m looking forward to how cute she’ll be once she’s grown up.
… Though, then I realize we’re basically talking about me here, and I’m suddenly so embarrassed I can’t stand myself.
Julia, one of the maid servants, arranged my hair beautifully and tied it with a ribbon made from the same cloth as my dress.
“It suits you so well!”
Everything, from which gown, what kind of underskirt, what sort of shoes and stockings, even what sort of hairstyle and adornments I wear have all been whole-heartedly and devotedly studied by my maid servants.
Everyone nodded as if greatly satisfied, and it was so funny I couldn’t help but smile a little.
It really was a very little. A bare quirk of the lips.
Even so, seeing me like that, Lilia smiled as if she were about to cry.
(… That just goes to show how much of a doll Alterie was.)
Even though it was about myself, I felt like crying. Every time I see how such tiny reactions bring them such joy, I’m made to realize all over again just how unresponsive she is, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry about it.
“Princess, we’ve prepared dishes from this region today.”
As always, Lilia comes bearing the wagon with the evening meal. Of course, before it’s given to me, the maid servants taste-test for poison with me present.
(I’m not sure how to feel about still needing a poison tester in my parents’ house…)
Welp, that’s just another one of those position-related things I can’t do anything about… though I’m more worried about the chef’s skills than I am about poison.
“Today is Manila clam soup. Since you favor Manila clams, Princess, the chef made a special effort with this…”
(Oooh, so she likes Manila clams.)
It was such a fresh feeling to hear this, even though it was about me.
“A- um, is this possibly… were we wrong?”
The girl starting to panic was called Ellelucia. She was the daughter of a lesser noble, her father serving as one of the Crown Prince’s accompanying military officers.
She was probably a year or two younger than Lilia. Like the rest of her military family, she had some martial skill, and had apparently served as as my guard recently.
Though she was obviously different from the knights guarding me, since she wasn’t running around wearing a sword.
As if to say of course, there’s no way she’d do that, I shook my head.
Alterie aside, I’m not a person with many particular likes or dislikes. Well, crap is still going to be crap, though.
A relieved Ellelucia smiled at me.
(I wonder where someone would go to fish for Manila clams?)
A map floated to mind.
Radiv, the stronghold of the Elsvelt family, wasn’t all that close to the ocean. To transport Manila clams while maintaining their freshness, even with the season taken into account they’d have three days at most.
Whether she could tell what I was thinking or mentioned it by complete coincidence, Julia — who was always worrying about her freckles — smiled and said, “I believe these Manila clams were brought in from your territory, Al Beizell, Princess. Apparently it didn’t even take a full day to get to Radiv from Al Beizell if one travels by boat.”
(So they sail upstream? … Let’s get a look at a more detailed map next time.)
Tempted by the sweet words of my attendants, I brought the cloudy soup to my lips.
Cutlery “here” is primarily made of silver. With just a knife, a fork, and a spoon, you could eat any sort of dish in the offing. It was rather easy compared to multi-course French meals where there was a wide variety of cutlery depending on what was being served.
Thus far I’d been able to eat without getting caught out over something, so it didn’t seem the required manners are too different, either.
(…… They really should’ve put some ginger in this. And it would’ve been delicious if they’d just used some white wine.)
But praise God, for there were no herbs present.
The way this castle’s lead chef used herbs just really didn’t work for me.
“Is it to your taste?”
I swallowed, and nodded. Julia smiled as if delighted. … So adorable.
I’d honestly taken a real shine to the maid-servants around me.
I mean c’mon, they were all such cute girls! And they served me from their hearts. That serving me from the heart thing made for major points.
I don’t mean they just stayed glued to my side and did every little thing for me. They were always close by and prepared to grant whatever wishes I had, and when I didn’t need them, they kept themselves back.
It was the peak of perfection in service!
I could sort of understand all the geeks and old men in society that adored maids.
… But don’t go looking for “moe” moments from me, please. ‘Cause I haven’t the slightest clue about any nuances of moe.
(Alrighty, so how does one go about getting back to the royal palace…?)
I did a lot of thinking, but in the end I decided to make getting back to the royal palace the basis of my next plan.
Currently, as a combined result of the information I was able to get my hands on, I decided that even if there were even more things I didn’t remember and people I would meet without a clue in the world who they were, it would still be safer to haul ass to the royal palace than to stay where I was.
(Though I’ve got no friggin’ clue how I’m supposed to interact with my so-called ‘husband,’ much less His Majesty the King or Her Highness the Queen.)
It wasn’t like I trusted the husband and in-laws that I’d never met.
It’s just that, thinking in terms of vested interests, the people in the royal family have reasons to protect me.
It’s more advantageous for them to protect me than it is for them to kill me.
(Also, if I’m in danger, that means these kids are in danger, too.)
In a sense, the maid-servants that are always with me are basically throwing their lots in with me, sharing my fate.
It’s important to figure out what really happened with the falling incident, but I’d rather do that at a safe distance from any actual danger.
It may end up distancing me from the truth at the same time, but in this case I think it would be best to exercise all due caution.
(I want to get a good handle on what’s safe, and who’s safe to believe in.)
I didn’t think the Duke would try and kill me, but I also couldn’t think of him as someone who would protect me.
Asking me to believe in someone who didn’t even try and look his daughter in the eye in the one morning greeting he gave me a day was just not a happening thing. Not to mention just how shaking my standing was in the Elsvelt family already.
“… Princess? Is something the matter?”
It was probably because I ended up so deep in thought while I was eating, but I guess I spaced out hardcore. A terrible crunching noise rang out.
Since I stopped moving, everyone stared at me with puzzled looks on their faces.
I put my hand to my mouth… and from the corner of my lips came a quiet drip. It was blood.
“Someone, call the good doctor!”
(… No guys, don’t make a fuss, it’s not what you’re thinking. The clam shell just stabbed me, I promise!)
But of course, it’s not like they were going to hear what I was thinking at them…
I tried to show them I was totally fine with some hand gestures, but at this point no one was calm enough to get it.
One of them even started shouting about how it might be poison.
“Throw it up! Immediately!”
But once I resolved myself to do so and opened my mouth, even more blood came flowing out, sending the whole room into a panic.
The doctor jumped into the fray, gone completely pale, and without so much as a by-your-leave he forced me to drink a glass of water before turning around and forcing me to throw everything up.
The clam shell fragment came out immediately. The place where it stabbed me hurt just a bit.
(I’m telling you, I didn’t drink any poison!)
The doctor looked at me. Was it just me, or did his eyes have a suspicious look about them? It was just my imagination, wasn’t it?
WHAT THE HELL IS THIS NIGHTMARE!!!!!
He forced me to down another glass of water, and shoved his thumb down my throat.
Hello, your thumb is the freaking poison here! I don’t know if your hands are dirty or not, but anybody would feel sick if some random-ass middle-aged man shoved his thumb down their throat!
There weren’t any explanations. I mean sure, if the suspect is poison it’s a total race against time.
My resistance was absolutely futile. The flapping of arms and legs from a 12-year-old girl means nothing before the power of a full-grown man, I totally got it.
Pinned down, forced to vomit… even though not a thing was wrong, after such a treatment was over, I was dead tired.
After gargling and thoroughly brushing my teeth, I buried up in bed like a cartoon character, half-crying. I didn’t have the will to change my clothes, so I just lay in my underwear.
… Please don’t blame me for just falling asleep like that.
Because honestly, I felt like I’d just escaped an attempted assault.