The Central Maid Department was responsible for daily needs such as washing clothes and cleaning buildings, so their lives were some of the roughest if not the roughest within the imperial palace. But also due to that responsibility, they had more chances than the other maids to go beyond the inner court and enter the other parts of the palace.
Today was one such occasion, and Jasmine alongside a group of nine maids had been tasked with cleaning the imperial library. There was nothing particularly thrilling about this duty, but many were excited because there was a chance they could come across an imperial prince!
Jasmine, however, felt this chore to be no different than all the others and didn't experience any excitement. During the day, her hairs were kept in the braid style allowed for low and mid-ranked palace maids. But tied hairs or not, she was the same captivating beauty that could lit depraved flames within the heart of any man.
"I heard the sixth prince will be around today!"
"The sixth prince? Really? I heard he's the most handsome of the imperial princes!"
"Not only is he the most handsome, but he's also one of the most talented. He's less than forty years old, but his cultivation has already reached the ninth step Grand Knight Rank. If he was born earlier, perhaps he could have competed for the right of succession with the crown prince!"
Being able to reach the ninth step Grand Knight rank in less than forty years meant that he was very likely to become a Transcendent Knight in less than three hundred years. That being the case, the sixth prince indeed was a fantastic talent, but calling him capable of contending with the crown prince with that alone was foolishness.
Blinded by thirst, they didn't know what they were talking about.
"Jasmine, aren't you a bit curious about him?"
"Not in the slightest. The sixth prince is well known to be a womanizer and cause countless sufferings to his wife. I have no interest in a man like him."
She flatly replied and stepped up the pace toward the imperial library.
"What an odd girl."
"Let her be, she has been antisocial since she arrived. Who does she think she is?"
Unlike those who had been in the palace for decades, those maids were young and had not experienced its winds for long. Thus, they still lacked in certain manners and discipline.
Jasmine arrived first in the imperial library and began cleaning the shelves she had been assigned to. The other maids came soon afterward and tended to their own areas. The day was mostly uneventful with a lot of dust and splashing water. But Jasmine didn't complain.
From time to time, the figure of that Paragon Spirit Prince would spring within her mind and cause her to stop in her otherwise sharp movements to stare blankly for a few seconds.
"I wonder when he will revisit me."
She wondered with an endearing smile. She didn't doubt that he would hold his promise and come to take her away from all the palace's woes to travel across the world, free and unrestrained. Like he had said, she was his woman!
After three hours of hard work, she completed her shift and carried the bucket of water by her side toward the exit. But as she kept her gaze down and stepped toward the doorway, a tall figure barred her path.
It was a tall, handsome man with translucent porcelain skin and long, windblown silver hairs hanging below his waist. His eyes were of the same silver, and those eyes had locked onto her with obvious interest.
At first, when she saw the golden robe and the design of nine stars swirling around a winged serpent, Jasmine vainly hoped that it would be her man. However, the face that appeared within her sight was not his. It was a foreign look that carried the usual thirst she didn't want to entertain.
"My apologies your highness for blocking your path."
It was clear that this man was an imperial prince and so Jasmine curtsied as she was taught, apologized and stepped aside to allow him to carry on his way before resuming her exit.
"What's your name?"
The same thing asked by different people often had different results. Especially considering the lack of premises. Jasmine simply didn't wish to answer him.
"I am just a servant. My name is of no importance and would sully the ears of one such as your highness."
She politely declined. But although it was clear that she was playing with words to avoid him, the prince wasn't offended. On the contrary, he felt amused, and his eyes shone with stronger desire. He was the sixth prince, Wenzel Von Jurgen.
The Holy Flame Empire followed strict primogeniture succession, so the princes were referred to by their number and not their names with the eldest usually named crown prince.
Of course, there had been times when tradition was breached with a younger son wrestling the crown from his elders' hands.
Wenzel Von Jurgen had no such ambition. He only wanted to oppress all the beauties he could get his hands onto.
It was a hobby of his. A hobby that had made him infamous in the nobility cycles. He often neglected his princess consort for the sake of finding new beauties to oppress. Some chose to deliver themselves to him in hopes of a better future, those he accepted but quickly abandoned. But the rare few that resisted would be devastated until there only was one inch of life left within them.
This girl had chosen to resist. So, he had already decided to make her beg for mercy.
He laughed, turned, and left.
Jasmine heaved a sigh of relief and carried on with her day. After using a series of teleportation circles, she returned to the central maid courtyard, disposed of the bucket and returned to the flower field where she had met her long-awaited prince.
Her duties for the day had been completed, and with the little bit of time she had for herself, she sat amidst the flowers and replayed the meeting within her head with her cheeks flushed red.
But then, a shadow crept on her back, and a tall, muscular silhouette towered above her body.
She squeaked, leaped onto her feet, and spun to face that man.
For a brief instant, she was dazed. He was without a shred of doubt the most beautiful creature she had ever met and put those arrogant paragon spirits to shame. However, his body wasn't what caused her to feel dazed.
Although they looked completely different, she felt in his eyes a light that perfectly matched that of her prince.
And as his lips curled into a smile, although the faces had no similarities whatsoever, that smile still reminded her of her prince.
How could two people have such similar dispositions?
There was a difference. Her prince was a charming and admirable man whose smile could put the world at ease and whose eyes effortlessly saw through the woes of those surrounding him.
But that man in front of her…was nothing more than a hoodlum. A true, unruly, womanizing hoodlum!
"What do you want from me?"
She flatly asked after completing her assessment.
And Konrad who stood opposite to her was currently in a dilemma. How was he supposed to say what he had to say?
"Whose appearance do you prefer? My disguise or my real one?"
Hearing those words, Jasmine stared blankly for a long moment while being overtaken by the sudden realization.
To this, Konrad only nodded.
"What? Stunned by my true self?"
He jested because he knew what was to come wouldn't be easy to deal with.
Still, it would seem he had underestimated the consequences of his previous actions. Tears quickly reached Jasmine's eyes and her entire body quivered with trepidation.
"Why did you need to change your appearance that night? Why could you not just appear as your true self? Is it possible that you thought using the status of a prince would make me easy to swindle?"
And here it came.
Konrad sought ten thousand ways to answer that question within his mind, but none could make up for his previous lie. Without another lie, he could not flawlessly get out of this hurdle.
But he didn't want to lie. No functional relationship had ever been built on lies. The trap of the sand castle was something he definitely wanted to avoid.
"I had no other choice."
He just admitted. But his words were far from being satisfactory.
"No other choice? Did someone put a knife at your throat and ask you to deceive me?"
It was really something along those lines, but when the truth was not believable and only served to raise more questions, it was better left unsaid. So, he said nothing.
"Is there anything about that night that was true? Or was it all…a lie?"
She asked with a deep breath and her heart thumping from rising discomfort.
"All I told you was true. I have not lied to you. Is the form I used to appear to you that important? Am I still not here today?"
But hearing his words, the bitterness Jasmine suppressed exploded in a self-deprecating laugh. She aimed her trembling index at him, and with her wronged eyes staring directly into his, she wept.
"Not important? I suppose for you it isn't right? For you, I'm just another one of the cheap women you conquered in a night. How could it be…important? But for me, it tells me exactly what I meant in your eyes. That is…not a lot."
She was convinced that he was one of those men that got off on deceiving women and had a talent for it. It was likely that he had been observing and analyzing her to come up with a perfect strategy. And perhaps he even used some despicable ability?
But how could she know?
She was only mortal.
And the thought that her first time, that her body and soul had been given to a lie shredded her mind and daggered her heart.
She was right. Across all the others he had experienced, that night didn't mean much to him. But to her, it was not just her body that she gave him. Through it, she gave him her heart and now felt like he threw it onto the ground and ruthlessly trampled it.
For the first time in two lives, Konrad was hurt by a woman's gaze.
His body moved without his consent, and he pulled her into a tight embrace.
Those were the four words he had sworn never to say. But now he had to say them, pushed by a drive he failed to comprehend.
But could Jasmine who had already been swindled once let herself be played so easily?
"There is nothing to forgive. If I have to blame someone, I can only blame myself for being a fool. Please let go of me."
"Unless you can swear to never again deceive me, please let go of me."
"Unless you can swear that I occupy in your heart the same place you occupy in mine, please let go of me."
"Unless you can swear that in your life there will only be me…please let go of me."
Her words hammered at Konrad's heart, while her warm tears streaked down her cheeks. But he couldn't give her what she wanted.
"I can swear to all except the last."
He said while withdrawing his arms and staring back at her with an apologetic gaze.
Jasmine's eyes fell onto the ground, and her tears overflowed while she struggled to wipe them off her cheeks.
"Thank you for your honesty. May everything that happened that night disappear within our memories. I hope you have a good life. Let us never meet again."
She then turned heels and aimlessly ran as fast as she could. She only wanted to do one thing, to get away from the dream that in a flash had turned into a horrendous nightmare.