Bride Trials

Author: blossom

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Author’s Note: Isang maulan at malamig na pagbati mula sa aking tahanan! Certainly, the cold weather here in the Philippines is contrary to the recently heart-warming moments aired in our all-time favorite teleserye. For that, I’m giving you this oneshot straight from my heart. Hope you all enjoy it!

P.S. The Woman Who Tamed the Tiger Part 12 would be submitted at the end of July or perhaps earlier depending on my tight schedule. I just squeezed in this project as an apology (and pampalubag loob) to all my ever patient readers.😀

Enjoy!

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Bride Trials:

The Alternate Tale of the King and the Princess

Once upon a time, there was a kind and loving princess… well not your typical princess who lives in luxury with hundreds of menservants  a castle for a home and adorned with precious jewels and beautiful dresses, attending extravagant balls one after the other and have a mile long line of suitors; instead, she is the one serving her humble family, lives in a normal two story house and lives a simple life in a faraway place. Living with her dearest Mother, Grandma and elder sister, they were content and happy of what they have, but the princess is still searching for something… of what exactly, she has no idea. But she was sure of one thing, a sign will come in her way and lead her to her destiny… or so she believes.

Once upon a time, there was a callous and infamous king who ruled his kingdom with iron fist, expecting nothing but perfection from his subjects. He lived in a lone castle, having four of his trusted (and surviving) set of menservants; Joma the carriage driver, Doris the maid, Sabel the cook and Fe the head maid. The kingdom prospered under his reign, the people live in harmony and peace yet afraid of the stern king who expects nothing but the best in everything that they did. They prayed for his salvation, his ‘lucky charm’ or so to speak, something that’ll fight off the curse of black miasma that covers his castle, and his own person… or so they hope.

One day, the kind and loving princess who was named after the cheerful little birds fluttering around their house received some dreadful news. King Richard’s mother, Empress Esme sent out invitations to all the eligible ladies all over the kingdom, requiring each household to send over one lady as a candidate as the next queen and King Richard’s wife. If a family fails to send their candidate, the empress shall deem it as treason and have the whole family sent into exile. Maya, ever loving child wanted to see her elder sister Cristina have her happy ending with her beau, Jeff, and so without informing her family about her decision, left their quaint little home and began her journey towards the castle. Her clothes bag slung on her back, heart heavy with emotion and mind filled with muddled thoughts, the cheerful bird named Maya unwittingly began her journey towards her destiny…

Eyebrows crunched, forehead creased, lips set in a straight line, King Richard watched as his original four servants quadrupled suddenly and made a frantic mess out of his relatively peaceful castle. His mother’s arrival and the army of servants she brought with her added to the rage that he felt when she announced that she is going to hold a competition in order to find him a bride. Without even minding his sputtering and apparent rage, the Empress, his mother dismissed him and commanded her platoon of servants as they cleaned his gloomy palace, dusting corridors, airing the rooms and washing the linens, King Richard merely shook his head and resolved to give hell to the candidates so they’ll leave him and bring back his peaceful life, unknowingly setting the wheels of fate in motion as his destiny works itself…

‘Amazing!’

Was all she had in mind as she gazed at the huge castle in front of her. With the yellow bricks and cold cobblestone path, Maya can’t help but marvel at the magnificent size and imposing aura of the place. The blooming bush of fresh white roses piqued her attention and she happily skipped over the flora. Reaching out on a blooming bud, her hand were pricked accidentally, crimson droplets of her blood dropping at the immaculate whiteness of the bud. To her utmost surprise, the white bud bloomed slowly, shifting from the pure whiteness to a fiery red hue. Wrapping a loose bandage over her injured finger, Maya picked the fiery red flower and gazed at it in wonder. ‘It’s magic!’

One of the cardinal rules enforced by King Richard among his four trusted servants was not to touch his garden, especially his prized rose bushes. Contrary to his infamy and apparent cruel disposition, King Richard is fond of tending to plants, especially growing flowers, going as far as allotting a specific time each day to be with his plants and care for them. Anybody who messes with his flowers will receive the end of his wrath. Imagine his surprise and rage when he saw an insolent pauper picking one of his precious flowers; however, his eyes widened in shock as he saw the color change upon the girl’s touch. ‘A witch has cast a spell on my flowers!’

Her eyes caught of a figure of a man, dressed in a tattered jumper, long brown starched pants and boots, his slanted eyes framed in a pair of spectacles, hair gently tousled by the wind, lips cherry red in color and twin dimples located at each side of the cheek. He was good looking man. Her mouth opened to speak, but she is captured by his regal aura and no words were uttered. In a manner similar to a ringing gong, her mouth shut suddenly and she took calming breaths before voicing out her original question.

‘Hello kind sir… I apologize for my insolence, picking off one of the roses without permission, but I can’t help but admire them closer, instead of gazing from afar. Are these yours?”

‘Yes. And I didn’t appreciate your insolence young miss. This is a private property, how did you get in? Are you perhaps an intruder? Or worse, a thief?’

‘No! No! I apologize for wandering and picking this, but I am neither intruder nor a thief. I came here to represent my family as per the Empress’ orders.’

‘One of the candidates for the king’s bride? Why… why have you come here?’

‘Well, as I mentioned, it was the Empress’ direct order and so-

‘Would you like to be wed to such a dreadful man?’

‘Well, I won’t go as far as say he’s ‘dreadful’. A troubled man is a better term.’

‘Oh? How so? Have you met him?’

‘No, I don’t even have an idea how he looks like, but I believe that every man is born intrinsically good. Circumstances push people to change and mature, for the better or worse.’

‘Then, how do you perceive the present King Richard?’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Without pretense in your words, who is the king for you?’

‘Well… this stays between us okay?’

‘Understood.’

‘You see, I have two theories: 1.) The king is a lonely, broken man. 2.) The king is a gay.’

‘Come again? Can you repeat the second statement?’

‘Oh that? Well, it’s just a theory but come on, he’s the king! Of course countless kingdoms undoubtedly sent one of their heiresses to marry her off to our king. But he didn’t choose any one of them! All those beautiful and rich ladies! That enough is a proof that he swings the other way!’

‘They’re not even beautiful, just some rich, bratty and sniveling princesses.’

‘You’ve met them?’

‘Ah! Yes! I saw them when I was tending to the garden once.’

‘Oh. I bet they were complaining about the dirty paths and the old stone bricks eh?’

‘How did you know?’

‘From experience.’

‘You’re a princess too?’

‘Yes, I’m my mother’s special princess.’

‘Oh.’

‘You?’

‘I’m my mom’s special princess too, once upon a time in her dreams.’

‘Don’t be silly. I mean, who are you?’

‘I’m uh- I’m- Ricky the gardener!’

‘Well, Ricky the gardener, I’ll see around okay? I’ll take this rose as a welcome gift if it’s okay.’

When the last shadows of her visage disappeared round the corner, King Richard dropped his outstretched hand. The truth of his mother’s meddling in his private life is sinking in slowly. With a heavy sigh, he glanced at his side and saw a lady, sneering at his direction; she dumped all her heavy luggage in his arms. Strutting like a proud peacock, King Richard mentally shuddered at the prospect of meeting more women like her. Well, at least, one candidate piqued his interest, despite her thinking that he’s a closet gay.

With an exaggerated wave of farewell, Maya turned at the corner and leaned at the wall. She sighed, composed herself and took a deep breath. That strange experience with the rose plus meeting that Ricky guy frayed on her nerves. She can’t point it out but there was something about that guy that sends her some strange sensations that she has never experiences before. It was new… and odd. Seeing a servant beckoning her to follow, Maya squared her shoulders and banished all thoughts about the strange man. For now, she better think of a plan to be never chosen as the king’s bride-to-be.

Richard was a quiet and serious as a child. Esmeralda tried her best to shower her son with all the love she could give and encouraged him to form bonds of friendship with the kids in royal court, as well as the ordinary citizens, but to no avail, nothing worked out. Her dear Ricky still preferred the gigantic castle library as his refuge and the hardbound tomes as his closest friends. A few years passed, the late King Roberto has passed and Queen Esme has no desire to rule and so immediately passed to crown to her only son, Richard. It was a prerequisite for the ruler to be wed upon his coronation but Richard defied the council and insisted that he would rule alone.

Amidst the protest, Esme allowed her son to have his way; he was crowned as King Richard a month after the late king’s passing, unmarried. Esme reasoned that perhaps her son was merely waiting for his real mate, not allowing political marriages interfere with his future. Now after two decades, Esme regretted her decision. Her wayward son has no plans of taking a wife and starting his family. If he had no desire to look for a wife, then as his mother, she’ll take the matter in her own hands.

‘Welcome, ladies to the castle. I am Empress Esmeralda but you can call me Esme. You are all gathered here today for one purpose, to choose among you would be the next queen of the kingdom.  As you all know, for the past decade, King Richard has ruled over the kingdom after my husband, the late King Roberto died.’

‘May God bless his soul.’

‘Thank you. Now, under my son’s reign, the kingdom has prospered, the trade with the other kingdoms has flourished and peace has been established in our era. Now that the people are secured, I think it would be the time for the king himself to get settled with his life. Ten chosen ladies from all over the respected common households have been invited here. Instead of wedding him to another kingdom’s princess, I thought it would be more fitting for the king to marry someone of the kingdom’s fair lady who knows the ins and outs of the kingdom in a normal person’s perspective. I believe this would help the king in understanding more of the kingdom’s affairs and concerns.

Now, there are three aspects that you must face: the body, which would measure your capability to sire a child. Oh don’t look at me like that ladies, of course on of the primary duties of a queen is to bear the heir to the throne. Now, the second part would be the mind, this would test whether you have the intellectual capacity to be the ruler’s wife and aid him in making the major decisions in this kingdom and lastly the heart, to see if you have the capability of embracing the role as a loyal wife as well as a mother not only to the heir of throne and your other children as well as all the inhabitants all over the land.

Well, that’s it for now. Each of you would be assigned to a servant who will lead you to your chambers. I’m sure you’re all weary from travel and so I suggest you should retire. Breakfast would be served in the Dining Hall A at exactly 7. Rest well, ladies.’

Now, I’m inside my ‘chamber’ as the empress put it. Well if you would ask me, it’s as big as our first floor in our home.  There is an expensive quilt over a luxurious bed, a small tea table with two chairs and a huge walk-in closet plus a vanity station. Plus, the bathroom is HUGE! It has its own bathtub and another vanity station inside. Whoa. And the best part of it is that my room has the magnificent view of the gardens, where I can see the well-trimmed hedges and bushes. There is a transparent greenhouse filled with flowers. Ricky the gardener sure does his job well! Speaking of him, the guy is just below the balcony of her room, trimming the rose bushes, might as well say hi.

 ‘We meet again Ricky!’

‘Oh, it’s you again.’

‘Come on, cheer up! I haven’t introduced myself yet, I’m Maya from Coffee Province. Nice to meet you!’

‘Yeah. Same here. I’ll go now.’

‘Wait!’

‘What?’

‘Where are you going?’

‘At the greenhouse.’

‘Uhm, can I come with you?’

‘Why?’

‘Cause I really love flowers… I’ve always kept a small garden in our house and grow rosemary and daffodils there. I wanted to plant more but sadly, the soil and climate in our place won’t allow it. I saw that you have various collections here and I’d like to see them if possible…’

‘…Fine. But don’t get in my way.’

‘Thanks Ricky!’

Trial #1: The Body

‘Good morning ladies. After breakfast, please proceed to the Sunflower Room where the king’s assistant, Liza is waiting for you. She’ll give you some instructions and pair you up. This is your first trial. In pairs, you’re going to plan for a ball. There would be a series of balls to be celebrated a day after the other as a preparation for the grand ceremony of the announcement of the king’s soon-to-be-bride. The attendees for these balls are the citizens themselves and some chosen foreign dignitaries who are close to the royal family. With the help of your personal servants, your partner, a cook and two other assistants, plan for the event, from the theme down to the food preparation. All the pairings and scheduled dates of the events shall be announced by Liza. If there are no more questions, you may proceed to the Sunflower Room.’

‘I’m Liza and the King Richard’s personal assistant. As the Empress has informed you earlier, you’ll personally plan for a ball in pairs. Here are the pairs: Gee and Katherine, Ina and Maya, Gina and Maria, Victoria and Shiella, lastly Mia and Luna. The first ball would be headed the first pair announced and so on. Preparations shall be done by all pairings this week. Coordinate with your partner and assistants for all the details which would be submitted to me and subject for approval. Funds shall be provided by us. You can spend as much as needed, no need to limit yourselves. If there are no questions, you may go.’

‘Hi, I’m Ina, short for Katrina. I’m from the Cotton Province.’

‘Hello! I’m Maya from Coffee Province.’

‘So Maya, where do you want to go to plan for the ball?’

‘Can we go outside, in the garden? I think we would be able to think of many things with the refreshing environment there.’

‘Sounds like a plan. Let’s go.’

_

‘Hmm, I wonder if a masquerade party would be good.’

‘I think it’s not advisable Ina, considering that the guests are the common citizens like us. You know that the people are not used to the lavish parties preferred by the royals.’

‘You have a point there. Ah, we’ve been sitting around here for some time we haven’t thought of anything good! This is so hard!’

‘Yeah, being a future queen is not as easy it seems huh.’

‘Maya…’

‘Hmm?’

‘Have you seen King Richard already?’

‘No. Should I?’

‘Yes! We’re practically living at the same place. No matter how big this place is, we should be able see him at least once or twice! But with our three-day stay here, I haven’t seen even his shadow! Only the Empress dines with us but no sign of the King himself!’

‘Oh, I see.’

‘What’s with that enthusiastic reaction? You don’t like him?’

‘The king? No. I haven’t even met the guy of course I can’t judge him easily. I mean, he may be the king but he’s still a human. He is capable of feeling pain, anger, and frustration and experience bouts of depression. He’s a good and just man, albeit a perfectionist but still an excellent one. He led us to the prosperity and peace that we’re enjoying today. I’d say he’s a wise and good man.’

‘True. I heard a real interesting tidbit about him though…’

‘Oh? What is it?’

‘He loves visiting the Coffee Province, unguarded! He loves the coffee there that he sneaks out of the palace to get his favorite strain when the kitchen is out of stock.’

‘Whoa. Talk about an extreme coffee addict.’

‘And here’s more. There are rumors that he never bedded a woman in his entire life!’

‘Where did you get that gossip? I mean the king is considerably a decade older than us, I’m sure he’s more experienced than us in that aspect.’

‘No! This is the reason why there were various inferences that he was a gay. But if the exaggerations about his good looks are true, I’d say that he’s wasted if he swings the other way.’

‘I didn’t know that gossiping about the King is one of your activities for the upcoming ball ladies.’

‘Ricky!’

‘And who this guy might be?’

‘Richard, this Ina, my partner for the first trial. Ina, this is Richard, the gardener.’

‘Pleasure to meet you.’

‘Nice to meet you.’

‘So what brings you here Richard?’

‘I need to water those orchids at your side, and I heard you gossiping about the king’s sexual life… and branding him as a gay again when you were supposed to get ready for your ball.’

‘We were just taking a break and the topic was opened, that’s all.’

‘But that isn’t a sound reason to talk about a person who isn’t present. The King won’t be pleased when he hears this.’

‘You’re in close acquaintance with him?’

‘Yes, he loves the garden.’

‘What’s he like? Is he as good-looking as the rumors say?’

‘I won’t honor that question. You lot are taking these trials as if you’re in a carnival, fooling around and making a laughing stock out of everything. If you’re planning to be the king’s bride, I suggest you straighten yourselves out. What you’re doing is a plain joke-

‘I got it!’

‘Finally! When are you leaving Maya?’

‘Of course not, you silly man! I got it!’

‘Got what?’

‘The theme for the ball!’

‘Let’s do a carnival!’

‘A what?’

‘A carnival! With silk tents, plenty of decorations, role-play, painting, and lots more! It would be so much fun!’

‘We can have clowns and animal petting too! I’m sure the townspeople would love it! They won’t have to dress fancily or become so stiff in the ballroom. Out here, they can enjoy the nature and be comfortable with each other!’

‘Hey wait, you’re doing that on my garden? No way.’

‘Why not? This way, we can show to the people your hard work and the king’s beloved garden.’

‘Absolutely not.’

‘Come on Ina, let’s ask the queen if we can have the carnival here.’

‘Wait here you-

‘See you Ricky!’

_

‘What a magnificent idea!’

‘This is so much fun!’

‘Mom, let’s go and feed the goats!’

‘Empress, this ‘carnival ball’ is simply ingenious! I hope I can host something like this in my own kingdom.’

_

Congratulations ladies! You have done your own planning and coordinated with your partner and assistants with regards to holding a huge ball for the townspeople. I’m greatly impressed with some of your works and the foreign dignitaries wish to extend their praises as well. With all the five balls finally done, I would like to formally announce the ball with most number of votes from the townspeople, the foreign dignitaries and myself, the empress. The winner of this trial is… Maya and Ina’s ‘Carnival Ball’ theme! Good work ladies!

_

Stargazing has been one of my favorite past times when I was in our province. I would just sit under the acacia tree opposite to our house and just look up in the sky; tracing all the constellations that father taught me when he was still alive. As the gentle wind caress my face, I simply close my eyes, imagine my happy memories with my father…

‘Maya?’

‘Who’s there?’

‘It’s me. Why are you out here at this time of the night?’

‘Hello there Ricky. Can’t sleep. I’m just stargazing for a while. Want to join me?’

‘Sure.’

‘Ricky…’

‘Hmm?’

‘The stars are really beautiful huh? Like gossamer of threads spun intricately to form those magnificent ball of sparkling dusts. Feels like a magical experience…’

‘Long ago, stars have been said to lead all those who are astray right back to their own path. Until now, stars guide people and provide the light for those who are lost.’

‘That’s amazing. Like the ‘threads of destiny’ huh?’

‘Threads of what?’

‘Threads of destiny. There was a legend that a male and a female are bound by a thin red thread at their pinky fingers, and no matter what, they would meet each are destined to be together as lifetime partners. This applies to all people but not all are privileged to meet their soul mate. Some may meet other people’s soul mate and become bound by them by mistake, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t love each other. It’s just that only the ‘chosen ones’ meet their destined pair and their love would encompass all bounds and last forever.’

‘Wow. That’s… unrealistic.’

‘Oh come on, don’t you believe in destiny and true love?’

‘Destiny, not really but true love, perhaps. The first one is something really ambiguous to me but I saw the second one on my parents, and so I give it the benefit of doubt.’

‘Oh, you’re impossible! Ambiguous? Of course destiny is a mystery!’

‘Whatever. It’s none of my concern anyways.’

‘Wait, you’re older than me right?’

‘Yes, and so?’

‘Haven’t you fallen in love yet?’

‘No.’

‘Eh? Why? That’s a shame! You’re missing half of your life!’

‘Have you?’

‘What?’

‘Fallen in love.’

‘No, but I know it feels really great!’

‘Then how do you know?’

‘I just do.’

‘You’re impossible.’

‘Whatever. Mark my words Ricky, I won’t leave this castle unless you believe in destiny and true love!’

‘Good luck with that. But I did say I believe in love…’

‘I’m going to show you the benefits of love and the happiness it brings to you and the people around you!’

‘Woman you-

‘And I’ll be with you all the way!’

‘You’re not listening. Do whatever you want woman.’

_

Trial #2: The Mind

‘Hello ladies, it’s time for the second trial. This time, it would be done individually. Our main focus for this part would be the mind, whether you are intellectually fit and capable to aid the king in the political, social and cultural matters of the kingdom. Remember that you have an almost equal power with the king when it comes to deciding the major matters pertaining to the concerns and welfare of the people. Therefore, we would administer a paper test and practical exams with these three fields: Political (history, hierarchy, and rules of the kingdom, its neighboring countries and allies), Social (basic etiquette, dancing, cooking, music, and planning skills) and lastly Cultural (language, literature, diplomacy skills and cultural diversity). You are given six months to study on these three fields, guided by the finest instructors in the kingdom. At the end of the 6th month, paper tests and practical exams for the selected sub-fields shall be administered to all of you. Here is Liza to announce your schedule for your studies. Good luck ladies, you’ll need it.’

_

‘Excellent Miss Gee! You sure know the ins and outs of the laws in our kingdom.’

‘Thank you sir.’

‘Now, moving on to the history of the monarchy, who is the first king and describe his reign, Miss Maya?’

‘Ah, I… I don’t know the answer sir.’

‘Tsk. Tsk. That’s not the answer I’m expecting Miss Maya. Yes, Miss Gee?’

‘The first king is King Ferdinand and his reign lasted for only five years because of the war against the neighbor kingdom which shook the foundations of his rule. He died at the last stand against the invaders and he successfully established his kingdom, and built this same castle as it was today.’

‘Brilliant Miss Gee! I hope others would take your example, visit the library and take time to study their history instead of wandering all over the castle, idly tending to the flowers…’

_

‘Step, close, step, turn and stop. Slide, close, turn, stop. Turn right, step- Maya! You’re doing it wrong again! We always start at the right! I’ve said that three times already! From the top!’

‘I’m sorry Ma’am…’

‘Step, close, step, turn- Maya!’

‘I’m sorry!’

_

‘Now, repeat after me, ‘Ni hao ma?’

‘Ni hao ma?’

‘Good. Now, what does it mean and what language is it?’

‘Yes Ina?’

‘It’s a Mandarin word from our China, which means ‘How are you’.’

‘Excellent! Then what does ‘Xie xie’ from the same language mean? Maya?’

‘Uhm, sorry?’

‘I’m sorry but that’s incorrect. Who can tell me the correct translation? Yes Katherine?’

‘It means ‘thank you’ sir.’

‘Very good!’

‘I hope you would do better next time Maya.’

‘Yes sir, I’m sorry.’

_

‘The first king is King Ferdinand from Tea Province, reigning from 1949-1954, died in a battle, succeeded by King Edward from Metal Province, only reigning for a whole year because he died of the bubonic plague and was followed by King Carlos from Silk Province, reigning from 1956-1978, died of old age, next is King Roberto from Orange Province, reigning from 1978-1996, died of cancer of the jaw, and finally the current King Richard from the same province, reigning from 1996 until present. Whoa, this history stuff is really hard to take in…’

‘Technically, King Edward is from the Rice Province, but his parents separated and he followed his mother to Metal Province and he died of avian flu from the rare strain of migratory birds, not bubonic plague. King Carlos began his reign officially on 1957 because 1956 was a period of war between the soldiers and some guerrillas who planned a coup against the monarchy. And King Roberto hailed from Orange Province but King Richard was born in Rose Province, Empress Esme’s hometown.’

‘Ricky? How?’

‘If you’re planning on proving wrong your instructors, I think it would be best to get your facts straight and read some of the tomes in the library. I’m sure it would help you in your study.’

‘Ah, hi. Thanks for the advice… Really appreciate it.’

‘Maya, are you okay? You look tired.’

‘No doubt. As you have seen, I’m not doing well in my studies. The instructors seemed to be teaming up on me and asking the hardest questions out there. I didn’t attend formal schooling so I have no background on the academic aspects, so I’m severely disadvantaged. I tried catching up through reading and all but the lessons are too fast for me to follow. The only thing I’m good at is cooking and diplomacy skills. I’m going to flunk in my other subjects and kick me out just like those four girls from the first trial.’

‘No.’

‘What?’

‘You’re not flunking or getting kicked out.’

‘Says who?’

‘Me.’

‘But you’re just the gardener.’

‘I’m the gardener who knows anything and everything. I’ll be your tutor. I’ll drill everything I know to you and by the end of your studies, your instructors would not see any other queen candidate other than you, as if you’re trained by the king himself. We’ll meet here every day after your class. We have a lot of catching up to do.’

‘Wait-

‘Just do as I say Maya.’

‘Yes sir!’

_

‘Left, right, turn, step- ow!’

‘Sorry!’

‘Again!’

_

‘The fan can symbolize many things; you can convey your emotions by the simple wave and fold of your fan. Like this…’

‘Are you sure you’re not a gay Ricky? Cause your gestures are really putting mine in shame.’

‘Shut up and follow my lead Maya.’

_

‘Read ‘Moby Dick’ and translate it in Mandarin. I’ll be expecting it done by three days.’

‘What?! That’s impossible!’

‘Oh, you want to add ‘Pride and Prejudice’ too? That’s very admirable of you!’

‘I promise to translate ‘Moby Dick’ in three days!’

‘Good.’

_

‘Ricky, it’s really late. Where have you been these past few days?’

‘Around…’

‘You’re not having clandestine meetings with any of the lady participants aren’t you?’

‘Of course not Mother…’

‘Good that we’re clear here. We don’t want any of the candidates screaming foul and unfair now, don’t we?’

‘Yes Mother…’

_

‘Recite the genealogy of the monarchy. Yes Miss Gee.’

‘The first king is King Ferdinand from Tea Province, reigning from 1949-1954, died in a battle, succeeded by King Edward from Metal Province, only reigning for a whole year because he died of the bubonic plague and was followed by King Carlos from Silk Province, reigning from 1956-1978, died of old age, next is King Roberto from Orange Province, reigning from 1978-1996, died of cancer of the jaw, and finally the current King Richard from the same province, reigning from 1996 until present.’

‘That’s quite in- Yes Miss Maya?’

‘Sir, technically, King Edward is from the Rice Province, but his parents separated and he followed his mother to Metal Province and he died of avian flu from a rare strain of migratory birds, not because of the bubonic plague. King Carlos began his reign officially on 1957 because 1956 was a period of war between the soldiers and some guerrillas who planned a coup against the monarchy. And King Roberto hailed from Orange Province but King Richard was born in Rose Province, Empress Esme’s hometown and the current king recognizes his mother’s hometown as his own.’

‘That’s quite… correct. Impressive, Miss Maya!’

‘Thank you sir.’

_

‘Okay, today I will assess your over-all skills on our past lessons in tango. I’ll be your partner and play a random music. You shall lead me and demonstrate all the steps that you’ve learned and create a routine on the spot. Questions? Nothing? Then we’ll start with Katherine.’

‘Don’t step on my foot again young miss. If you do you’re- ouch!’

‘You’re too stiff.’

‘Too dry.’

‘There is no fluidity in your moves. Next! Maya!’

‘Hmm, interesting choice of sequence Maya.’

‘A triple turn dip? Quite daring I must say young lady…’

‘Excellent Maya! Perfect marks for your creativity and performance!’

_

‘Good afternoon ladies. I’ve looked over your Mandarin and Japanese translations of the assigned novel; ‘Purgatory’ and I must say I’m quite disappointed with your outputs. You have not considered the semantics involved in the text and changed the meaning of the sentence. This shows that you have not taken time in going further in your readings like I suggested. I was about to take this matter to the empress and express my disapproval, however… one lady stopped me from doing so.

Maya!’

‘Yes sir?’

‘Please tell us Sherlock Holmes’ famous quote.’

‘When you have eliminated the impossible, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.’

‘What was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s most notable work?’

‘Scarlet Letter.’

‘Who was the author of ‘The Prince and the Pauper?’

‘Mark Twain.’

‘Brilliant! You may take your seat.’

_

‘This dish is ‘delicious’! Tres bien Missus Maya!’

‘Merci, Monsieur!’

_

‘Ricky!’

‘Wha- *hug* Maya?’

‘Thank you so much! The instructors are not picking on me now and I can answer every question! It’s all thanks to you! You’re a really good friend Ricky. You’re the best!’ *kiss on the cheek* I got to go. I’ll see you here again tomorrow okay? I have a surprise for you. Don’t be late. Bye!’

‘Maya wait! She’s gone.’

_

Secret Trial #3: The Heart

‘Good morning ladies. Now, as the final trial, we would test your heart or let’s say passion in embracing the role as a loyal wife as well as a mother not only to the heir of throne as well as all the inhabitants all over the land. Out of all chosen 10 ladies from the respected families all over the land, only the three of you remained, Ina, Maya and Gee. In the first trial of the body, Ina and Maya triumphed. The second trial of the mind, Gee emerged on top, although Maya was only a hair’s breadth away. Now, the last trial would determine who would be the most qualified lady and become this kingdom’s queen and King Richard’s bride. You have stayed here for almost a year, witnessed the going ins and outs here. You have interacted with almost all of the inhabitants inside this castle and outside, but there’s someone you officially haven’t met yet.

You haven’t seen King Richard in the entire duration of the trials have you not? Well ladies, this is because he is part of the final test as well as his 4 trusted servants. The third and final test would be for you to cook a dish for each servant, Joma the carriage driver, Fe the head maid, Doris the maid and Sabel the cook and finally, King Richard Himself. You are free to use the kitchen and use the ingredients you want, but you should do everything. From the purchasing of the ingredients from the market, up to finding all these people to let them taste your dishes. Yes, ALL of them, including my son. You have to find them and get their seal of approval for your dish. However, be warned ladies, Sabel is the strictest judge, followed by Fe, so give it your best shot. You must get at least 3 out of 5 of seal of approval but you would automatically receive a perfect mark if you manage to find the king AND have his seal of approval. You are given half the day to cook and the other half to locate the people. By night, we shall announce the victor and consequently hold a banquet as a celebration for the next queen. Good luck ladies, by tomorrow, the next queen shall be determined tomorrow.

Oh, one more thing, while doing this final task, no one shall know that you’re doing a trial. This is supposed to be a secret trial. All the inhabitants of the kingdom, especially the servants here are informed that the bride trials have been cancelled and this would be your last ladies. I repeat ladies; no one shall know that there’s a secret trial going on. This is your last day in the castle. Anyone who goes against this rule shall be automatically disqualified.’

_

‘Psst, Maya!’

‘Doris?’

‘Come here. Sabel and I have something for you.’

‘Huh? What is it?’

‘A list of vendors?’

‘Those are the names of the vendors who sell the freshest produces for a reasonable price. We can’t be directly involved in this trial but this is the least we can do for you as a dear friend of ours.’

‘Oh my! I can’t accept this! I mean I really appreciate the thought guys but I feel like I’m cheating if I accepted this. I’ll do my best finding my ingredients in my own way. Thanks for the offer!’

‘We understand. Good luck okay? We’ll be waiting for your dish.’

‘I’ll do my best!’

_

‘Gee, why are you hiding there?’

‘Shh! Come here! Listen to this.’

‘What? Maya’s being backed up by those two?’

‘Yes! And I think the head maid, Fe also likes Maya. She wormed her way in their hearts and won their trust just for the sake of winning!’

‘But Maya isn’t like that…’

‘Then why did those two servants give Maya that list? Isn’t that biased and against the rules? The Empress must know this!’

‘Gee wait!’

_

‘Finally! I’m finished! Hmm, I wonder if they’ll like this. Oh, I still need to finish Ricky’s dish!’

‘Maya?’

‘Empress? Is there something you need? I still have plenty of time before noon…’

‘Under the grounds of impartiality and favoritism, you’re disqualified from the bride trials!’

‘What? But-

‘Please pack your things now Maya.’

_

‘Maya, why are you packing your bags?’

‘The Empress ordered me to leave Doris.’

‘But why? Is there something wrong? Is this because of the list? But you didn’t accept it!’

‘It’s okay Doris. I miss terribly miss my family back home, and besides, I’m sure Gee or Ina would make a good queen.’

‘But we want you to be the queen, Maya!’

‘Thank you for everything Doris. But the Empress’ word is absolute. I should leave as soon as possible. Here, I want you to have these. I just finished cooking them. I cooked this not for the trial but as a ‘thank you’ for your friendship and all the things you have done for me. Please give Joma, Sabel and Fe’s share too. I’ve labelled them accordingly. I made your favorite dishes.’

‘You’re welcome and thank you as well Maya… I’ll give these to them. But, wait, there’s an extra box. Who’s this for?’

‘That’s for Ricky. I cooked his favorite dish too, as a ‘thank you’ gift but sadly, I won’t be able to give it to him personally. Please do the honors for me and send my heartfelt thanks along too.’

‘Ricky? Who’s that?’

‘Ricky, the gardener.’

‘Gardener? But we don’t- *gasp* Maya, that’s-

‘Candidate Maya, the Empress commanded me to escort you out of the castle.’

‘Okay sir. I’m glad to have met you. Take care okay? Send my goodbyes to everyone and Ricky…’ *teary-eyed*

‘Maya! Wait! Ricky is the-

_

‘Where is that woman? I’ve been waiting here for almost an hour! Ah, I swear, if she was just playing with me, I’ll wring her pretty neck and-

‘Your Highness?’

‘Doris? What are you doing here? Didn’t I tell you not to call me that when I’m dressed like this?’

‘But Your Majesty, the Empress is requesting for your presence.’

‘I don’t entertain people when I’m tending to my garden.’

‘She said it was urgent, it’s about the bride trials.’

‘What about it?’

‘I have no idea sir. She asked me to inform you that she’ll be waiting at the drawing room.’

‘Okay. Thank you Doris. You may go.’

‘Your Majesty?’

‘Yes?’

‘Maya, asked me to give this to you.’

‘Wha- Where is she?’

‘She’s left already sir?’

‘What?! Since when?’

‘A few hours earlier sis. The two remaining candidates accused me and Sabel of favoring her that’s why the Empress disqualified her and send her packing.’

‘I’m going to talk to my Mother. Doris…’

‘Yes your Majesty?’

‘Tell Joma to prepare a horse.’

‘You’re going out sir?’

‘I’m taking my bride back.’

_

‘Ricky, let’s talk son.’

‘Mother, we need to talk.’

‘I completely understand now.’

‘Understand what?’

‘I’m sorry for ignoring it son. I knew that this is your true feeling but I’ve been blinded my selfishness and imposed my will upon you. Forgive me son. But now, everything’s clear to me now.’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘I’m cancelling the bride trials.’

‘What?’

‘I know that this trial is bypassing not only your authority but as well as your persona. This is not what you wanted and I as your mother should have respected that. I’m sorry for that son. I’ll go and talk –

‘That doesn’t matter at all!’

‘Huh?’

‘Why did you send Maya home?’

‘How did you know-

‘That is irrelevant. Why did you disqualify her?’

‘She grabbed the favor of your servants for the sake of winning the bride trials. Can you imagine someone as devious as that being the future queen? It was a good thing that Gee…

‘…is a liar. Maya is a good and intelligent woman who won’t hurt a fly even if it bothers her. I’ll leave Doris and the rest explain the situation to you. I have to go.’

‘Wait, where are you going?’

‘I’m dragging my bride back here.’

_
*sigh* ‘I wish I could at least have said goodbye to Ricky personally…’

‘Maya!’

‘Hmmm, I wonder how Mother and others are doing…’

‘Maya!’

‘Did Jeff finally propose to Cristina?’

‘Maya!’

‘Oh my Maya!’

‘Geez woman! Are you deaf? I’ve been calling for you for three times already!’

‘Ricky? Why are you here and what’s with that clothes? It looks really…

‘… expensive? Colorful? Regal?’

‘…weird on you. Is there a costume party at the castle?’

‘Yes there is.’

‘Oh? So, who are you playing as?’

‘King Richard.’

‘What? Hahaha. Okay. So why are you here King Richard?’

‘I’m taking back my bride.’

‘Oh? Is that a proposal?’

‘Yes. Will you marry me, Maya from the Coffee Province?’

‘Are you kidding me?’

‘I’m waiting…’

‘Fine, I’ll humor your charade. Yes, I’ll marry you King Richard.’

‘Good. There’s no turning back now. Come, let’s immediately prepare for the wedding tomorrow.’

‘Wai-What? Ricky!’

_

‘Mother, I brought back my bride, we’re getting married tomorrow.’

‘Are you sure about this Ricky?’

‘Yes Mother.’

‘Then your wish is my command.’

‘Wait, Ricky?’

‘Yes dear, Richard’s nickname is Ricky.’

‘But-but- that means… you’re… you’re the real…’

‘Yes, I’m the real King Richard Maya.’

‘But you said that you’re the gardener! I said those things… and did these and that!’

‘Maya, calm down. I’m sorry for hiding my real identity but I had to do it…’

‘You had to fool and make fun of someone? Me?!’

‘No! It was never my desire to deceive you! I just wanted to be treated as a normal guy… Ricky the gardener is more real than King Richard…’

‘Ricky I mean Your Majesty I-

‘No Maya! Call me Ricky just like before! I don’t want to be the king in your eyes! Treat me just like before!’

‘But you’re-

‘… still the same man! The man who has been in love with you for the past months!’

‘Ricky…’

‘You said before that you won’t leave this castle until I believe in destiny and true love. Well congratulations Maya, you’ve reached your goal. I do believe that you are my destiny AND true love. You always show up in my dreams, leaving me dazed even when I’m awake, everything about you fascinates and makes my blood sing. You turned me into a mushy and romantic sap Maya. So take responsibility! Marry and stay by my side forever!’

‘I… I’ll take responsibility.’

‘Come on say it Maya…’

‘Say what?’

‘The three magic words!’

‘Make me.’

‘Oh? Is that a challenge?’

‘Perhaps, are you up for it?’

‘You bet. Let me start now.’ *kisses Maya passionately*

‘Say it Maya…’

‘No.’ *kiss*

‘Say it.’

‘More.’ *kiss*

‘I love you. Now shut up and kiss me my King!’

‘I love you too. With pleasure my Queen.’

THE END

 

TWWTTT Part 12 would be posted soon.😀 (Hopefully).

//

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