The Palace Story; Legend of Zhao


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The New Status Maids had just completed a grueling 12 weeks of training, and every single one was exhausted by the end of it.

This was because each of he fledgeling had to not only undergo hard labor, (to see if the fledgelings at least knew how to do basic daily chores), but also many sleepless nights of studying for various tests and final exams which either make or break them. In any case, those that weren't eliminated additionally underwent classes to learn the basic rules of decorum. Maids such as them must be submissive to their masters, careful with their words, virtuous in appearance, and strict in their work. There was very little time to dilly dally, if a maid was lazy, they simply wouldn't last.

In the final days they would participate in three days of exams. The final tests would establish their Rank as a palace maid.

A total of 30 Maids were standing in ceremony to receive new position in the Palace. It was the Head Supervisor of All Royal Departments, that was reading the final line up.

"Miss Lian of the Shi Family, is assigned as a Junior Maid of the Embroidery Department."
Shi Lian turned to her friend Shu Bao and grinned from ear to ear, they had been assigned to the same department.
"For the position of Senior Maids, Miss Yin of the Rong Family is assigned to the Royal Records Department." Shu Bao also knew her personally, though not very well. Rong Yin was quiet and well read, and a girl of minor nobility.

"Finally, Miss Xian of the Yu family is assigned to the quarters of 9th Princess Lingli. That is all, report to your positions!"

When the maids were dismissed, Shi Lian had a small frown. "Yu Xian got the best position available, yet she was the least hard working..." She whispered to Shu Bao, then sighed "But that was to be expected because she is from the most influential family among us... do I smell favoritism?"

  • Recently endured a grueling 12 weeks of training to become a palace maid
  • Passed all the eliminations tests with flying colors

  • Personally manages the embroidery department staff and its many divisions
  • First Impression is that she’s cruel and mean because she won’t hesitate to make examples out of the new staff.

  • Recently endured a grueling 12 weeks of training to become a palace maid
  • Passed all the elimination tests with flying colors.
  • As a young women she is very quiet and well learned

  • Recently endured a grueling 12 week period and training
  • Has a reputation for being a tad lazier then her peers
  • She’d related to Noble Consort Yu Guixia

  • Recently endured a curling 12 week period of training
  • She barely passed the elimination exams
  • She’d been motivated to work harder
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A pile of rats in a trench coat
Shu Bao wasn't aware it was possible to feel so exhausted. She'd done hard work in her life, sure, but twelve weeks straight of carrying things, sewing things, cleaning things... She wasn't sure how her fingers could still feel with all the accidental pin-pricks. She knew it would pay off, however, she would soon be able to begin her true work as a maid.

She stood in line with the other girls, her back straight as a board, her hair neatly plaited, her fringe groomed, ready to receive her new role within the palace! She was anxious, that was for sure, she didn't want to stay in the Department of Hard Labour, she wasn't sure her fragile arms could take any more piles of laundry. Her eyes lit up as her role was announced, and once more as her friend, or colleague as she'd now be calling her, turned to her with a grin. They'd be together! She felt a wave of relief rush over her, at least she wasn't alone, that would make her new position a little easier.

She nodded her head as she was released to do her duties, giggling softly as she turned to Shi Lian. She couldn't hold her excitement in any longer! She let out a soft gasp as Shi Lian spoke.
"Shhhh! Someone will hear..." She told her, but couldn't contain her giggles. "I wouldn't want her position anyway... Imagine messing up in front of the Princess!" She added, her cheeks flushing a subtle rose as she imagined it. She hated getting into trouble, she always had, but getting in trouble with a Princess was a whole new level of devastating.


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Shi Lian quickly covered her mouth as Shu Bao warned her, she was one that often spoke her opinion which in this case was a simple observation, but could certainly come across as insult. Punishment for spreading gossip had been known to be harsh, and if Shi Lian wasn't careful, her thoughtless words could cause her to lose her new position, and worse be stuck in the hard labor department forever. After all, be a seamstresses for the royal family, was a well sought after position.

"What I would give to be a fly on the wall just to see that play out..." Shi Lian said wistfully as she started head in the direction of the Embroidery Department, "Sadly from what's I've heard, that's unlikely to happen."

There had been rumors that the 9th Princess Lingli had very little power in the palace. This is because even though she'd the most beloved daughter of the Emperor, her mother died young. From then on behind the scenes, 9th Princess was bullied by her royal sisters constantly up until the point they were married off and moved out. It was still said that 9th Princess was even pushed around by her own maids! Thus, Yu Xian would be more likely to have an easy life because of her family status. In whispers, they could hear speculation that Yu Xian was purposely installed into her highness's quarters as a spy by her aunt Noble Consort Yu Guixia.

"At least she wasn't assigned to one of the Prince's!" Shi Lian added with a whisper, "Just imagine... we'll have a chance to take one of the five prince's measurements!" The scandalous thought caused the young maid to blush as she grinned, clearly daydreaming.


A pile of rats in a trench coat
Shu Bao couldn't help but giggle at her friend's response. She had never been one to gossip, it was a behaviour that had been trained out of her in childhood, but Shi Lian brought it out of her! The two were of similar age so bonded very quickly, there was something about her that allowed her to... have fun! Part of her always wondered what her parents would think of her now, whispering about her colleagues...

"Do you think the rumours are true?" Shu Bao whispered, leaning in a little closer to keep her voice concealed. "They can't be, right? No princess would let her own servants push her around..." She added, tucking her hair behind her ear.

Bao could hardly contain her laughter as Lian continued, quickly covering her mouth.
"Shi Lian!" She giggled. How could she think of their masters in such a way? Though she found her own cheeks glowing a crimson hue at the thought. The Princes were known to be handsome, women across the kingdom swooned over them, and Shu Bao had the opportunity to work with them... She wondered how she got here, how did someone from such a humble background as herself find themselves in a situation such as this?


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Shi Lian's daydream was interrupted by Shu Bao's question. This caused the young maid to stop giggling and think for a moment, it wasn't often that Shi Lian made such a serious face. "While if the rumors alone were true, I wouldn't know." she spoke softly then quickly looked around to be sure that no one was in ear shot. Only after confirming that the fledgling maids had gone ahead of them, did she continue, "Any other Prince or Princess being pushed around my their servants is unthinkable... but 9th Princess herself?" she shrugged "Rong Yin knows more details about the Royal family and past history, I think she would have a better idea then I, if the rumors were true... why they could be true."

The maid trailed off, she had solemn and almost sad expression, "If true... Poor 9th Princess." she said softly.

When they reached the Embroidery Hall the new Junior maids lined up to report for duty. The Embroidery Department Supervisor looked at the new girls with a scowl.

"I've received your overall scores and most of them were average!" Supervisor Guan looked at each girl, "If you expect to keep your positions here then you'll have to work hard! Understood?"

Some maids confidently answered an affirmative while other maids nervously gulped.

Supervisor Guan looked at her scroll, "Junior Maid Shi Lian,"

"Here ma'am,"

"You had by far the lowest scores! You barely qualify to be here, you best work harder!"

"Yes ma'am! I will ma'am!"

Supervisor Guan again stared down each of the girls, she wasn't afraid to make an example of anyone. She again reviewed the results and smiled, "Junior Maid Shu Bao step forward! This one received the highest scores among you, you best learn from her!"

When the young maids made a pledge to work harder Supervisor Guan smiled proudly, then read off the assigned positions. All other Junior maids would work under an assigned Senior Maid, and assist them in the department's duties They were ordered to take these first few weeks of service seriously or be sent to the hard labor department.

Shi Lian looked disheartened when the girls were dismissed to their positions. While she would need to catch up, Shu Bao had been assigned to a Senior Maid in charge of the the royal ceremonial garb and likely she was being groomed for a higher position in the ranks.
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A pile of rats in a trench coat
Shu Bao was taken aback by her friend's serious face. She'd never seen her so stone-faced! She listened closely, hesitating before nodding in response.
"I hope they are false..." She replied softly, matching Shi Lian's solemn tone. "I could never imagine having the gall to push around a superior."

"Ah, I think we're late..."
Shu Bao told her, taking her hand and picking up the pace to join the lineup with the other girls. She found herself a spot within the girls and let go of her friend, respectfully clasping her hands together in front of her lap.

Their superior's words filled her with dread. She needed this job, she didn't want to get kicked out so soon... She'd studied so hard for this! Her heart sank as her friend's name was called. So cruel... Her back straightened as her own name was called, taking a step out of the ranks. Oh dear, here it comes... She was going to be berated, just like Shi Lian.

Her face flushed crimson as Supervisor Guan spoke. Oh no, everyone was going to hate her, she didn't want to be the teacher's pet, the one that everyone was compared to. She hesitated before bowing her head to Supervisor Guan, making the pledge to work harder with the other girls.

As they were dismissed, Shu Bao quickly made her way to Shi Lian.

"Supervisor Guan is scary..." She whispered, biting her bottom lip. "Mean, too." She added, frowning as she headed to her station.

She took a deep breath as she looked at the ceremonial garbs before her. She couldn't mess this up, these things were incredibly important, she'd be gone in an instant if anything went wrong. She took one from the rack and examined the damage.


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Shi Lian let out a sigh when Shu Bao pointed out that Supervisor Guan had been scary and cruel. "Shh... You made a good impression when you earned high scores. I don't want you to get in trouble... if someone were to use your words against you?" She shuttered, "I'm the weakest link... But don't worry, I'll work hard!" the maid assured her friend before they parted ways


As Shu Bao examine the royal garments, the Senior Maid in charge peered up from her station.

"You there!" Her voice echoed in the room and the other maids jumped as hers rang with authority, "I mean you, Junior Maid. Don't touch anything that you haven't been verbally assigned to by you superior." She warned sternly, "especially royal clothing."

Shu Bao would find that the woman who spoke appeared to be in her early twenties, quite young for a maid of higher senior rank.

"Come here" she impatiently gestured for Shu Bao to approach. "Supervisor Guan informed me I would be taking on a junior maid, you're Shu Bao?" When she was given an affirmative, she continued, "my name is Hua Lan. I'm the 1st Rank Senior Maid of this department."

Shu Bao would know that among the senior maids there were three ranks, 2nd and 3rd naturally being the lower.

This high ranking senior maid was quietly sizing her up. After a moment her voice became gentle "It's commendable that you were trying to get to work right away but for the first few weeks remember that you are to be my shadow as well as my personal assistant." Finally Senior Maid Hua offered a gentle smile, "You've proven yourself to be both book smart and quiet skilled with the hands. Or so I've gathered from your scores. We need girls like you in the palace so keep up the hard work."

"Do you have any questions of concerns before we begin?"
The Senior Maid asked as she stood and started to stretch. "I trust that you know your way around the palace well enough? Every so often I'll need you to make deliveries or run other errands."
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A pile of rats in a trench coat
Shu Bao almost jumped out of her skin as she heard a voice, quickly letting go of the garment and turning to face her. Her cheeks were bright red, her hands tucked behind her back as if she weren't going anything.
"Ahh-- I'm sorry, ma'am!" She told her quickly, bowing her head to show her sincerest apologies. As she was told to approach, she obeyed, quickly taking a few steps forward. She bowed her head to her superior once more as she introduced herself.

Shu Bao took a deep breath as she senior maid dropped her aggressive tone, hesitating before smiling for a moment.
"No, ma'am." She replied to her question, the redness in her cheeks gradually fading. She nodded in response to her explanation, smiling a little. The palace was a beautiful place, she loved every moment she spent in it so she certainly didn't mind running errands in it.
"Yes, ma'am, I do." She assured her, smiling.


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The other maids could be heard giggling with how Shu Bao was about to become the senior maids newest lackey. Hua Lan heard them and shifted to glare at them, they instantly quieted and acted like they were busy with something again.

Clearing her throat she looked at Shu Bao and smiled and nodded approvingly, "That's good!" Truth be told, she needed a girl that was well adjusted and didn't need her hand to be held. In fact she had a reputation for only accepting and training hard working apprentices. Shu Bao would be promoted very soon with her attitude, then she could boss around other lazy maids in her department, that was what they were jealous of.

"Right then," Hua Lan handed her a tray with an assortment of red silk fabric, "Deliver that to 9th Princess's quarters." she directed, "See if she has a preference for any of these of these silks for a custom dress we'll make for her." the senior maid went back to her work, "Off you go now."


The apartment court yard of the 9th Princess looked like her maids were only doing the bear minimum. Because if one ran their finger along one of the large decorative vases, they would see the maids were allowing it to collect dust.

At the moment it was unclear how many maids were assigned to the Princess, but it appeared to be deserted.

Eventually a junior maids approached Shu Bao, "Oh... Is that a delivery for her highness?"
(I'll introduce one of the Princes soon, I want to see how you play this out.)