✍️✍️✍️✍️ Garden Of Poison Chapter 86 Complete Chapters ✍️✍️✍️✍️



His Blossoming Beauty (Chapter 86)

Anastasia felt like her life was falling apart, reaching a level of despair that surpassed anything she had experienced before.      
Every piece of news that reached her ears offered no benefit and instead led her towards the life she despised. She had seen from afar how her sister had been broken and then put back together, but not in the way she had originally been, but rather how the people of the palace wanted her to be.      

"Aiden, let us go find Grandmother. Anna, you should rest today. I will have food sent to your room," Princess Emily said, hooking her arm around Prince Aiden's.      

Prince Aiden wanted to talk with Anna, but it seemed like there were other pressing matters he had to attend to. As he was pulled towards the exit of the room, he said, "I will see you tomorrow, Anna," and raised his hand with a smile before he and his sister disappeared from the royal courtroom.      

As Anastasia turned to gaze at the door, she heard Prince Dante's words coming from behind her, "I will walk you back to the room. Come." When he walked past her and reached the door, he noticed she hadn't started moving and stood there frozen on the spot.      

Anastasia's lips trembled, and she pleaded, "I don't want to be a courtesan. Please help me." She was terrified by the thought of it, acutely aware that she had just become a prized possession of the royal family.      

The cold look in Dante's eyes softened, and he patiently offered, "Accept my proposal to be exclusively mine. You won't have to go through anything that you fear by my side."      

Anastasia's hands clenched, and she wanted to cry again, but her eyes remained dry, as if she had run out of tears. She said to him, "You told me I had a choice. That I had time to decide. I don't need a life of luxury," she shook her head. "I want a simple life, not a life in a palace."    

Dante touched his still-wet face, wiping away the blood, before looking down at his fingers stained with the blood of the dead servants. He walked back to where she stood and said, "You had a choice then, and you still have a choice to decide to come to me. The only difference is that the situation isn't the same as it was an hour ago. Or would you prefer that I claim you right now?" His gaze captured the fearful expression on her face.      

"What about letting me go from here, considering you are aware of the injustice?" Anastasia asked him, even though she already knew the answer. "I don't want to walk in my sister's footsteps. Help me leave the palace."    

But Anastasia was knocking on a door that wouldn't let her out.      

Her mind was left in conflict, for she had always believed that she would one day be a free woman and would no longer be obligated to follow the rules of palace life. It was her dream. While she cared enough to step into the first prince's room, it didn't mean she was in love with him. And the genuineness of his offer wasn't enough to convince her that he wouldn't one day find his soulmate once she assumed the role of his concubine.      

And this was something Dante was aware of, that her feelings towards him were of care rather than the affection he harboured for her.      

Dante had seen women break within the walls of the palace, but Anastasia still had a spark in her eyes. And as endearing as he found her thoughts of wanting to leave or escape, he wouldn't let her go. A part of him desired to rob her of the freedom she believed she still possessed and make her his exclusive concubine, but he knew she would despise him for life. It would negate the one step of progress they had made and set them ten steps back.      

Anastasia's eyes lowered in thought before she said, "I need time… To think about your proposal. B—but I don't want to sleep with men."    

"It won't happen," Dante assured her.      

"How is that possible?" Anastasia asked him with a frown. "What if King Maxwell orders me to sleep with a minister? No one can go against him. Even you are powerless before him," she blurted out. "I am sorry," she quickly apologised.      

For a moment, Anastasia wondered whether her words would upset Dante, but to her surprise, he offered her a slight smile. He agreed, saying, "I am someone who doesn't have the ability of the Crux or a position that can challenge the king's authority. I have been shunned for it, but that won't stop me from protecting you in my own way. So believe me when I say that you won't be forced to be intimate with others."    

Anastasia nodded, and soon they left the empty courtroom and returned to the room that Dante had brought her to before.      

After seeing that Anastasia was comfortable in the room, Dante made his way to his grandmother's chamber, where Emily and Aiden were already present.      

Emily looked angry at the turn of events, and she voiced her discontent, "Grandmother, Anna is my maid, and you explicitly stated that the decision regarding what would happen to her was mine to make."    

The Mother Queen wore a look of displeasure while Aiden rummaged through the pulled-out drawers of the cupboard, searching for something. She said, "That's how it was in my time. Now the king has changed and established new rules with Maya." She instructed Aiden, "Check in the corners; it should be there. I am sure I hid a spare seal in there."    

"It isn't here, Grandmother. I have thoroughly checked all the drawers you asked me to," Aiden responded before standing up and placing his hands on his back. He said, "I don't think the seal is going to be of much help when the king will refuse every seal you present." He then asked, "What if I want to make one of the women my exclusive concubine?"      

"Brother Dante, you are here," Emily acknowledged, appreciating his impeccable timing.      

The Mother Queen huffed, "It falls under Maya's approval as she's in charge of both the concubines and the courtesans."      

"How is Anna doing?" Aiden asked his elder brother with concern.      

"In pain," Dante replied with a grim expression. He asked his grandmother, "How far are we from learning what's present in Evin's body?"      

"Is it the poison?" Emily inquired.      

"I believe someone has charmed the young lady because her blood had a hint of something. It is possible that she is under some sort of spell," the Mother Queen explained to her other two grandchildren.      

"Like someone is purposefully keeping her asleep?" Aiden asked before adding, "The only people who usually spend time with her are Queen Maya and Lady Ruby."    

"Queen Maya has been feeding something to the woman," Dante said while his thoughts went back to Anastasia, who had laid down on the bed with great difficulty.      

"That is odd," Emily said with a thoughtful expression. "I mean, if their intention was to deliberately keep her asleep, why wait until she was pricked by the Blackthorn rose?"      

"Because there are a few charms that wear off after some time, and with her asleep, there has been no opportunity to recast the spell," Dante explained, and this caused his siblings' eyebrows to rise in surprise. "The safest option to preserve any secret is to either kill the person or induce a deep slumber."    

"The problem is that we don't know what is being used on her," the Mother Queen said, pursing her lips. She said to her granddaughter, "Emily, you and I will go and see if we can collect some of the sleeping beauty's blood. Unfortunately, you will be the one to draw it out."    

Emily's eyes widened at her grandmother's words, and she asked, "There will be people in the room, making it difficult to even prick her with a needle."      

"I did it just fine by pinching her ear. I am sure you will find an opportunity. It is necessary that we understand what is going on in the palace," the Mother Queen said in a serious tone. "I can't believe my seal will be taken away, and I can't recollect where the spare is."    

Emily returned to the previous subject and asked, "Is there nothing we can do to stop my maid from becoming a courtesan?"      

"Did you not hear what the 'king' said, Emily? It is his decision, and we all know nothing good ever comes from going against your superior's decisions. It would be wise to find another maid in her place," the Mother Queen replied, as if telling her granddaughter to give up on it. "There's no turning back now that she's already been proclaimed a courtesan."    

"But Grandmother—"    

"Emily dear, do you not love your mother or the rest of the family?" The Mother Queen retorted, turning to face her granddaughter, who looked taken aback. "Don't do anything that can put your mother in jeopardy. Currently, they are in the old palace, but just one word, and they will be imprisoned to never again see the light of day, or worse, be exiled so you will never see her again. Is that what you want?"      

"But Mother didn't do anything," Emily replied.      

"She didn't, but she will bear the consequences for your mistakes. Have you considered that part of the reason Dante engaged in a duel with Maxwell was to safeguard his mother's care from being snatched away?" The Mother Queen questioned, and the room fell silent. "Do not act recklessly and risk causing harm to yourself or others that could cost them their heads."      

Dante was enraged by the forced turn of events, and his inability to do something about the situation made him furious at himself. He knew that if Maxwell found out about his affection for Anastasia, it would only make the king turn her into his concubine. The mere thought of his brothers or any other man touching her was enough to snap the dwindling patience he had left.      

The only way to fix this was to expose the truth that Maxwell appeared to have been hiding his feelings towards Anastasia's deceased sister. He said,      

"If you cannot draw out her blood, another option is to find out where the potion is being mixed before it reaches Evin. If we can stop her from consuming it, there is a chance she will wake up."    

"Then it is time we found out which ones are the puppets," the Mother Queen agreed.      

While Dante and the Mother Queen conversed about the servants who worked under Queen Maya and Niyasa, Emily only listened. On the other hand, Aiden's eyes moved around the room before they fell on a calendar in the corner. His attention was drawn to a circled date, and he muttered to himself,      

"What's happening on the twenty-sixth of this month?" Aiden wondered aloud.      

Could it be the day of the celebration being hosted by Queen Maya? It seemed that his grandmother's enthusiasm for celebrations had not waned, Aiden thought to himself. He noted there were still eighteen days before the event, and who knew what else would transpire before then.      

The following day, Anastasia was relocated from the servants' quarters to the Paradise Tower. In the past, she had only stood outside and had never placed her foot inside. It felt like it was only yesterday she had come here to talk to Marianne.      

A pang of loneliness pierced her chest as she stared at the undrawn curtains.      

"What are you doing there? Get inside," Madame Minerva ordered and murmured, "Where are the servants?" The woman then walked to one of the pillars and pulled on the rope for the curtains to part away from each other.      

Anastasia's eyes fell on the courtesans, who were already awake and sitting in front of their dressing tables. Some were brushing their hair, while others were fixing jewellery around their necks or hooking earrings into their ears. Joyful chatter filled the room as if the women here enjoyed their life.      

"Finally, a maid," one of the courtesans remarked and ordered, "Hurry over here and clean the table."      

"She's not here to clean," Madame Minerva interjected.      

"What is she doing here then?" Another courtesan inquired curiously, while the rest were in the process of dressing up for the day, though they also stole glances at the maid and the Madame through the reflection of their mirrors.      

"This is Anna. She has been promoted to a courtesan," Madame Minerva's words caught everyone's attention. They stopped whatever they were doing to turn and look at the maid. The woman instructed Anastasia, "Go and make use of that corner."      

As Anastasia made her way towards the unoccupied dressing table, she could feel the confused, questioning gazes directed towards her. It was unheard of for a maid to be elevated to the status of a courtesan.      

Suddenly, the room erupted into a flurry of questions directed at Madame Minerva,      

"How is it possible? A maid entering our ranks and taking our position?"      

"Who allowed it? Is this some kind of joke?"    

"Are you certain you brought in the right person, Madame Minerva? I don't believe she will look the part."    

"Why her? We already have enough in number. Do we really need another one?"      

The noise in the room grew louder with every question spilling out of their mouths, until Madame Minerva glared at them, "Silence! It was decided by King Maxwell. She's a former maid of Princess Emily. No more questions and get back to your preparations. You are all required in the Hall of Mirrors."    

The courtesan seated across from Anastasia asked, "Aren't you that mute maid?"      

Madame Minerva, who was aware of the events that had taken place and had been informed by Queen Maya, stated, "She can speak. Anna. Your clothes will be brought to you, so take a bath and get ready. You will be joining the other courtesans in the evening."    

Anastasia had hoped that her injuries would give her enough reason to stay away from the life she was pushed into. She said, "My back hurts."    

"Oh, dear. Everyone's back hurts here," one woman laughed, and the others burst into laughter.      

But Anastasia didn't find it funny. She heard Madame Minerva say, "You will need to observe and learn from how the others interact; it will be beneficial once you are ready. In the meantime, you will receive instruction in reading and writing, as well as music, dance and art, which others aren't fortunate enough to learn."    

Anastasia already knew how to do everything the instructions would entail, but if it would buy her some time before she understood what to do, she was more than happy to play dumb. She watched the women, who were carefree and not scared of Madame Minerva.      

When her eyes met the woman sitting next to her, the woman asked, "What did you do to gain the king's favour to end up here?" The woman had black eyes and hair, her eyes tired, letting one know she was the oldest among the courtesans.      

"Nothing," Anastasia murmured.      

"No one does nothing to get their position elevated," the courtesan brought a long stick towards her mouth before sucking on it and blowing smoke into the air.      

"Amber, what the hell?! I told you to not smoke when I am sitting next to you!" One of the courtesans complained with a glare and waved her hand around in an attempt to disperse the smoke.      

"I thought you could use some fragrance," the woman chuckled and then turned to look at Anastasia. She said, "You should be careful. The dressing table you are sitting at is not a lucky one. The last courtesan who sat there was murdered."      

"Marianne?" Anastasia asked, which piqued the older courtesan's interest.      

"She was famous in the court, but there's a saying. When you burn fast, you also exhaust fast," the courtesan remarked before turning away from Anastasia to fix her hair.      

Anastasia's eyes fell on the mirror before her. Her hand reached for the surface of the table, tracing the smooth wood. To think that she now sat exactly where her sister once did.    

As the hours of the day passed by, Anastasia went with the other younger courtesans to study. Upon completing her lessons, she was sent to bathe, where an abundant supply of water was provided for her use, a luxury not offered to the servants. The chamber walls were made of marble, and so was the floor, illuminated by brightly burning lanterns.      

Once she returned to the Paradise Tower, a change of clothes awaited her.      

Madame Minerva ordered the oldest courtesan, "Amber, help the girl get ready. I don't want her wearing either too little or too much makeup. She's a maid who doesn't know how to apply it." The woman then went to talk to the young girls who were in the process of being transformed into future courtesans.      

"What are you doing?!" Anastasia asked, startled when the older woman tried to pull on the towel around her body.      

The courtesan stared at her and said, "Looks like you will make things difficult for Madame Minerva. You will be dressed and undressed several times in and out of here. So get used to it. Now remove it so that you can don your dress."    

Anastasia's hands clenched. When the courtesan pulled the towel away, unwrapping it from around her body, she became rigid. As the woman assisted her with wearing the dress, she noticed the whip marks on Anastasia's back.      

Once dressed in a fine silk dress which covered Anastasia's back but not so much the swell of her breasts, her brown hair was styled with shimmering pins. She saw the courtesan pull open the drawer of the dressing table at which she sat, and Anastasia asked,      

"Aren't the jewellery pieces shared by others?"      

"The courtesans don't like using jewellery belonging to women who are dead," Amber replied as she picked out a thin necklace. Anastasia picked up an earring she had previously seen adorn her sister. She didn't know if she was supposed to feel happy or sad that she was using what her sister once wore.      

"Aren't you getting dressed?" Anastasia asked the woman, who finished hooking the end of the necklace around her neck.      

"My time is up here, and I am here merely to assist others. By the standards of the courtesans, I am an old woman," Amber responded, unbothered, and when her eyes fell on Anastasia, she laughed, "Aren't you a beauty?"    

Anastasia stared at her reflection. Her lips were painted red, her cheeks holding a touch of pink, and her eyes lined with black kohl. Her appearance had changed to fit the image of a courtesan, and she could feel herself turn nervous.      

"If you are smart enough, you will attract a passing man," Amber's comment caught Anastasia's attention.      

"Passing man?"      

"One who doesn't serve in the royal court," the woman commented, stepping back and sitting on the adjacent seat. "All these ministers and people of demon bloodline will discard us like we are nothing once they find their soulmates."    

"What are you doing sitting there talking?" Madame Minerva questioned Anastasia and said, "Follow me. We have somewhere to be! Hurry now!" She clapped her hands.      

Anastasia stood up, watching the older courtesan stare at her. She quickly followed Madame Minerva with her earrings swaying as she walked out of the Paradise Tower. They made their way from the main palace, eventually arriving at the building named the Hall of Mirrors. On their way, people couldn't help but turn to look at the woman newly added as one of the Blackthorn treasures.      

On their way, Madame Minerva instructed,      

"Make sure you present yourself at your best. As you are inexperienced, the wise thing would be not to open your mouth unless you are spoken to. Don't upset anyone inside, and comply with their requests. If they ask something of you, do it without question."    

"What if they ask something I am unable to do?" Anastasia asked the woman, who halted her footsteps, prompting Anastasia to do the same.      

"Like what?" Madame Minerva's eyes narrowed, indirectly telling the young woman not to test her.      

"Like singing songs or dancing…" Anastasia responded.      

"You will do none of that. The Hall of Mirrors is reserved for the experienced ones. This evening, you will only be serving there, so ensure you carry yourself with grace and don't drop anything, not even by mistake," Madame Minerva warned her.      

When Anastasia entered the hall, her eyes were immediately drawn to the beautiful marble floor, which looked like a flower with its petals spread open. Oval mirrors were placed on the upper sections of the walls at even intervals, reflecting the room's grandeur. Many candles burned brightly, illuminating the space, complemented by the dazzling chandelier suspended from the centre of the ceiling. Translucent curtains, shimmering like stars, adorned the room, shining under the golden light emitted from the flickering flames that burned all around the hall.      

"Is this the same woman who was brought in earlier?" One of the courtesans whispered to another standing beside her. "I cannot believe it is the same person!"    

The courtesans couldn't help but gawk at Anastasia. Some of them looked at her in awe, and the rest in envy.      

Soon, the ministers and other officials entered the hall, taking their seats. A few sat at the bottom and a few at the top balcony, where one could comfortably sit and watch the dance performance below. With no maids or other servants present, the courtesans served drinks and other refreshments as they elegantly moved between the guests.      

Anastasia didn't find her current work to be any different than that of a maid, only that she was now serving drinks to people while wearing a fancy dress.      

"And what is your name?" One of the men in his forties stopped Anastasia without picking up the offered drink.      

"Anna," Anastasia replied. She didn't like the attention, and it made her feel squirmish.      

"I am Corbin Langston. Come join me, Anna," the man said, pulling her by her hand, and Anastasia felt alarm bells ring in her head.      

Anastasia offered a pleasant smile, but it was hard to keep it in place with the nervousness oozing out of her. She said, "I will come to sit by your side once I finish serving the drinks, Mr. Langston."    

"Corbin, please," the man smiled as he stared at her. "I am sure the other courtesans will take care of it."    

The Mother Queen took her seat on one of the balconies, and next to her sat Princess Emily. On a separate balcony, at a distance from them, Queen Maya assumed her seat, joined by Princess Niyasa, who sat alone with her maid standing behind her.      

When Emily's eyes fell on Anastasia, she felt a cold sweat break out. Her former maid's bruise was concealed with makeup, but she had transformed back into the woman who had attended her mother's birthday celebration.      

"Emily," the Mother Queen called her.      

"Yes, Grandmother?" Emily asked, worried about how Anastasia was doing.      

"Is it just me, or does that courtesan resemble someone?" The Mother Queen questioned, and Emily's eyes slowly widened.    

"Ah, her? She's Anna," Emily nervously laughed before adding, "My maid, Anna. You saw her yesterday and on other occasions." Her grandmother was already cross with her about not disclosing Anastasia's ability to speak, so she didn't know if she should or shouldn't reveal the truth.      

"I am sure I have seen someone like her before," the Mother Queen brought her binoculars up to her eyes to take a closer look at the courtesan.      

On the floor below, Anastasia didn't like how the man caught her hand and was trying to force her to sit next to him without letting her leave, even for a moment. She wanted to step away, but she couldn't, seeing how the other courtesans let the men touch them, or even initiated it themselves.      

"You there, take the tray," Mr. Langston called one of the experienced courtesans to take Anastasia's tray before shooing her away. "There. All done." When his eyes moved behind Anastasia, the man remarked, "Prince Dante, what a surprise to see you here. I don't think I have seen you here before," he laughed.      

Anastasia turned to see Prince Dante, her anxious eyes meeting his calm ones.      

"I kept hearing everyone talking about it and thought to pay a visit to see what the buzz was about," Dante responded, and he said, "You don't mind if I join you, do you?"      

"Oh, of course not!" Mr. Langston quickly moved aside. He then said to Anastasia, "Make sure you meet me before you leave. I would like to have a word with you. You can go now."    

Back on the balcony, Emily hid her face while the Mother Queen gasped and exclaimed, "Tasia Flores! That woman is here! How dare sh—Wait, she was your maid?" She pulled the binoculars away from her eyes and turned to her granddaughter with narrowed eyes.      

"Grandmother, how about we step out of the hall for some air?" Emily proposed.      

"I will punish you, but before that, I will punish her! How dare she run?!" The Mother Queen turned furious, and her blood pressure rose. "To be fooled once is forgivable, but to be made a fool twice is inexcusable. And you. How dare you mock my memory? I am disappointed that you have deceived me, lying to my face without revealing the truth. Call the guards!"      

"You cannot do that!" Princess Emily quickly pulled her grandmother's hand, who stood up, ready to order the guards.      

"I can, and I will," the Mother Queen declared with determination as if no one could stop her, despite not having found the second seal yet.      

Not knowing how to make her grandmother stop, Emily hastily interjected, "She's important to Brother Dante!"    

The Mother Queen opened her mouth as if ready to call out the order but stopped and turned to look at her granddaughter. Suspicion furrowed her eyebrows as she asked, "What?"