40 Stick of Pain Pt.2

    Namjoon's train of thought was interrupted as he noticed a few of the maids passing by. He was currently ambling across the courtyard to return to his quarters when, from the corner of his eye, he suddenly observed movement. He glanced up briefly and spotted the maids looking at him before masking a giggle which unavoidably escaped their lips. As they neared him, he acknowledged their presence by giving them a quick but friendly smile which, without fail, made the maids giggle even louder.

    Namjoon couldn't help feeling a little bored by the maids' reactions. He was getting tired of the attention he was receiving, not because he disliked the source but, because it made him feel like all women were the same.

    And whenever he started thinking like that, he ended up comparing every woman to her.

    Namjoon shook his head to disrupt his current stream of consciousness. Here I go again, he thought, why am I always thinking about her? He couldn't understand why he was still so shaken up by the painting and why his mind couldn't let her go. It had been five years already. He had succeeded in forgetting her temporarily but something stopped him from burying his memories of her again.


    Namjoon abruptly stopped. He glanced towards the direction of the maids' quarters where he could hear voices overlapping. Oh, yes. I wonder how Gyuri is faring... Namjoon thought as he changed his course and started heading for the maids' quarters. He had almost forgotten about how she had saved Taehyung's life and how she was somehow well versed in revival techniques which were still a new concept in Saim.

    Curiously, Namjoon pondered about Gyuri. Who was she exactly? When he met Gyuri, he believed she was just a normal serf, one that desired a better situation than the one she was currently in. Namjoon was impressed by her bravery and so decided to reward her but little did he anticipate how fond Taehyung would grow of her as time went by. But that wasn't the only thing he didn't anticipate. Namjoon didn't realise how he too, would be affected by her presence.

    "Gyuri, where have you been all day?" Madam Zhou asked sharply. "I have been searching for you everywhere."

    Namjoon watched from the entrance as Gyuri replied, "I was with the Young Master."

    "The Young Master?" she repeated dubiously. Madam Zhou inspected her appearance with one brow raised. "But why are your clothes wet?"

    "Erm..." Gyuri struggled to reply.

    From behind the wall, Namjoon watched her worriedly. Before they had parted, he had made Gyuri swear that she will not say anything about what happened earlier that day. After all, what good would it do for the rest of the household to know that Taehyung had almost drowned?

    "I accidentally fell into the lake" Gyuri responded rather convincingly.

    Namjoon breathed a sigh of relief.

    "The lake?" Madam Zhou stated, still not believing her. "Why were you near the lake in the first place?" Madam Zhou continued to interrogate Gyuri who, somehow, managed to evade every one of her questions.

    From afar, Namjoon couldn't help being impressed by Gyuri's skilful acting ability which, he consequently reminded himself to be wary of. It appears Gyuri was quite artful in deception.

    "I do not want you to go near the lake again" Madam Zhou finally instructed her. "Especially if you are with the Young Master. He is not an accomplished swimmer so it is very dangerous."

    Again, Gyuri managed to feign ignorance. "Of course, Madam Zhou."

    Madam Zhou straightened the creases on her robes before continuing. "Good, well, now that is out of the way, I would like to address why I have called everyone here." She gestured to all the other maids who were gathered around the common room.

    Namjoon backed away silently. Gyuri seems fine, he thought. There is no more reason for me to be here.

    "It has come to my attention," Madam Zhou began, "that a large quantity of food from the pantry has gone missing."

    Namjoon froze.

    "And," Madam Zhou continued, "that is unacceptable. Our great kingdom is going through hardship due to famine but that does not excuse anyone from stealing." Namjoon spotted Madam Zhou leer at the maids, "especially not from the Kims."

    "Madam Zhou" one of the maids called out, "how much food is missing?"

    "At least three baskets full" she replied.

    A gasp escaped the mouths of all the maids present as they erupted into whispers.

    "And if I do not address this now, more might go missing."

    Gyuri exchanged looks with Mayu, who was nearby. "What will happen if the person gets caught?" she whispered worriedly.

    Mayu's brow was furrowed with concern. "It's very likely that she will get flogged."

    Gyuri bit her lip. Memories of her narrowly escaping being flogged fleeted through her mind, reminding her of the terror she felt when she saw a whip aimed at her for the first time. The sound of it cracking on the floor as the ruddy-faced man demonstrated its lethalness echoed in her ears causing her to shudder. Just imagining the painful stinging sensation on her back was enough to deter her.

    "I will give you all one chance to own up" Madam Zhou declared, interrupting her reverie. "If no one does, I will have no choice but to punish everyone."

    "But, Madam Zhou," a different maid spoke up, "how do you know it is one of us? What if it is one of the servant boys? Or even the kitchen staff?"

    Murmurs of agreement followed suit.

    "Silence!" Madam Zhou's voice resonated around the small common room. "Only the maids and kitchen staff have access to the pantry" she explained. "And I have already spoken to the kitchen staff. They are innocent."

    Again, the room erupted into murmurs but, this time, they were of disagreement and objections.

    "How can you be so sure?"

    "It was definitely the kitchen staff!"

    "Who would dare to steal from the Kims?"

    Gyuri watched as an uproar erupted in the common room. Some of the more proactive maids contested Madam Zhou's verdict while others, like her, eyed each other in suspicion, wondering who the culprit could be. Gyuri glanced at either side of her and noticed that Pho was as white as paper.

    "Are you okay, Pho?" she enquired. "You're not looking so good."

    Pho smiled at her weakly. "I'm just feeling under the weather" she replied, her voice hoarse.

    Gyuri approached her and felt her forehead. Her palm was immediately stung by her high temperature: she was burning up like a furnace. "You've got a temperature!" she exclaimed. "Pho, you should be in bed."

    "I can't. I still have work to do" she said in between coughs.

    "Everyone, silence!" Madam Zhou's voice boomed over the bickering of the maids. "If no one admits to the thievery, I will have no choice but to sanction everyone with no meals for three days."


    Gyuri watched as all around her, the maids descended into chaos at Madam Zhou's warning. Three days of no food was potentially a death sentence for a maid. There was no doubt that they would still have to work the long hours despite the lack of meals. Gyuri heard Pho cough beside her, drawing her attention. She stretched her hand to rub her back for her to calm her coughing fit and was startled to find that she could feel the indents of her spine through the thin material of her robe.

    Gyuri couldn't help but worry over Pho. Three days without food? Pho might not survive! Especially not with her current condition...

    "Well?" Madam Zhou had finally managed to regain order over the maids. "Will no one own up to it?" She surveyed the room, her gaze meeting with each and every one of the maids present.

    The maids glanced at one another with the same accusatory stare, no one daring to come forward. Eyes shifted from one direction to the next, suspicion hanging in the air like a tangible cloud. Gyuri shuffled uncomfortably as she felt others' gaze gloss over her.

    Madam Zhou waited patiently for someone to come forward but no one did. With her patience wearing thin, she announced finally, "If the culprit does not hand themselves in now, there will be no food for everyone!"

    Whispers erupted amongst the group again but all Gyuri could focus on was Pho coughing from beside her. She eyed her worriedly as the room continued to descend into disorder. Gyuri tried her best to soothe Pho's coughing fit which was a lot more violent than before. She rubbed her back repeatedly while Pho's body shook from underneath her fingertips. There was no way Pho will survive those three days at this rate.

    "It was me!" Gyuri abruptly declared. She knew that the only way to move on was to admit her guilt even if she had only taken one basket's worth instead of three. "I stole the food."

    Silence befell the room as all eyes turned to her.

    Madam Zhou was surprised. "Gyuri? It was you?" she asked in disbelief. "You did it?"

    "Yes," Gyuri replied, which caused the rest of the maids to break out into their own conversations.
Previous Index Next