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Identity V - Brand New Novel Series


The New Lady

Chapter 1

Clara the maid smashed another bottle of white musk.

This mansion belonged to the prominent royal perfumer, Vera Nair. It had to be kept spotless to protect Miss Vera's sense of smell.

White musk was sealed in brown glass bottles, a common sight in a perfumer's home. It had fallen off the shelf when she tried to dust the bottles.

Agnes, the senior housemaid, grabbed hold of her and dragged her to the housekeeper. "That's the fifth time she'd broken something. Nothing to do with me!" cried Agnes.

The housekeeper fined Clara half a month's salary. She huddled in a corner by the stairs when everyone else had gone, crying to herself.


Someone appeared atop the stairs — her glossy brown hair shone like darkened glass in the sunlight. Clara gazed at her with tears in her eyes, "Miss Vera..."

Vera Nair said simply, "Try my new fragrance... if you so wish."

Clara followed her mistress upstairs, taking the silk handkerchief Vera handed her, and blew her nose, making a squealing noise.

Later that night, Clara lay in her attic bedroom, talking to Agnes about the events of the day. Vera rarely admitted anyone into her studio, let alone a servant, to sample her work.

I think Miss Vera is very nice to us, Clara whispered.

Agnes turned over, saying, "That's only because your name sounds like Miss Chloe's."

Miss Chloe?

Miss Vera's twin sister.

Clara thought for a moment, then remarked, "I've never seen her around."

She'd gone missing.


Chapter 2

This year, Vera decided to hold her birthday party in the mansion. Celebrities from all walks of life were eager to court favor with the perfumer, desperate to get the first sniff of her new perfume that could bewitch the king.

In her nervous excitement, Clara smashed yet another set of china and was again exiled by Agnes to the corner under the staircase. She became quite accustomed to squatting there and crying like a child—even the spiders became good friends with her.

She had always been a clumsy child and felt she wasn't competent at anything. When Vera asked her to try the new fragrance, she was so nervous that she broke two crystal bottles on the spot.

"Don't worry," Vera said, kicking the broken shards away with her embroidered high heels, "You're just not cut for doing that sort of thing. Why don't you try being Chloe instead?"

Clara whispered, "Being Miss Chloe?"

"Stop talking like that," instructed Vera. She then ordered the other maids to dress up Clara in some vintage dresses. "Put on the dress and makeup," she told Clara, "Sit by my side at the ball and be my Chloe for the day."

Vera spritzed Clara with an entrancing perfume, her most famous creation "Euphoria." Clara felt as if her soul had left her body, carried away by the aroma. "Be my Chloe." The words lingered in Clara's mind.

Vera took her hand. Clara felt awkward and sweaty, became conscious of her rough skin and unkempt nails—trembling at the idea of wiping her sweat on the beautiful dress she'd been given.

The ballroom was full of guests. When Vera came out, leading Clara by the hand, all eyes were on her. Vera introduced Clara, "This is Chloe, my younger sister."


As soon as Clara sat down, people swarmed around her, wanting to kiss her hand. Though her hands were hot and sticky, no one noticed the slightest bit. Everyone flattered her, "You simply smell gorgeous, Miss Chloe, just like perfume."

A gentleman invited her to dance, but she dared not accept his invitation, nor any of the others that followed. Vera led Clara to the center of the dance floor and performed a dance. Vera didn't dance with anyone else the whole evening.

The ball came to an end. Later that night, Clara lay in her attic room, unable to fall asleep.

"Go to sleep, Clara. You must clean the ballroom floor first thing in the morning." Agnes instructed her.

Clara stared at the cobwebs on the ceiling above.

No, my name is Chloe.


Chapter 3

After that night, Clara often sat on the stairs, leaning against her mop in a daydream. She was no longer Clara—everyone called her "Chloe" instead. No one bothered her about working again, except for the occasional grumble from Agnes.

"Miss Vera is very kind, but you would've been kicked out long ago if the real Miss Chloe were here."

The real Chloe was said to be an eccentric, mean-spirited person. She had no interest in anything other than perfume. If anyone dared to disturb her work, she would scold them out—she was not ladylike at all.

Miss Vera was the complete opposite—she was a real lady.

After teatime, Vera asked Clara, or Chloe as she now was, to accompany her to the garden for distilling rose essential oil.

The large still emitted a cloud of mist, enveloping Vera. There were many different opinions about Vera's character. The senior servants thought of her as a lady, while the junior staff members thought of her as cold and detached.

Clara stared at Vera until she returned her gaze, "Something on my face, sister?"

The pungent rosy scent had a stupefying effect. Clara raised her head, her eyes red with steam, "What should I do to be more like her..."

You're doing a marvelous job—the way you look, your hair, your funny accent. Vera knelt in front of her and removed Clara's headscarf, "Swear never to betray me, and the Nair family will adopt you. I only wanted my Chloe back."

Clara was soon adopted into the Nair family as Chloe. She followed Vera everywhere and sat quietly by her side wherever she went. When she occasionally spoke, it was with a thin, high-pitched voice.

Vera didn't like her new sister speaking with others. To her, Chloe was a rare perfume kept in a crystal bottle; not even a whiff should escape.

She always sat quietly and was soon nicknamed the "Silent Starling." Many thought she was a mute until the day a baron came to visit.

The baron's name was Craig Nair; he was Vera's cousin-uncle and managed the family business. The baron had just returned from Venice, wanting to hand over the business to Vera.


Chapter 4

Chloe met the baron at the perfume salon before his return to Venice and became obsessed with him at first sight.

She knew that Vera didn't like her socializing with others, but Craig was their cousin-uncle—she didn't think Vera would mind.

Agnes still behaved to Chloe as she always had, prodded her awake in the morning, and yanked her corset tight when she was dressing her. Howling in pain as Chloe was squeezed into the dress, "That's what you have to do to be a lady," snapped Agnes, "So stop fussing about!"

"I can't breathe!" complained Chloe. "Leave me be! I want to read Baron Craig's letter. The maid said he's written again."

Craig had sent her letters from Venice, recounting stories about the twin sisters.

The real Chloe had been a very eccentric character, but she owned an amazing talent for creating perfume. The story went that the once mediocre Vera had suddenly become the more talented sister, outshining her sister... Then there was the story of Chloe's disappearance—Vera claimed that her younger sister had gotten lost in a snowstorm one night, never to find her way home. The tragedy had broken Vera's heart; she was the only one who had ever truly loved Chloe, so she said.

After all, nobody liked the eccentric Chloe.

After changing her dress, Chloe went to the study for Baron Craig's latest letter.

She pushed open the study door to find Vera already sitting there. Chloe saw the crumpled letters clutched in Vera's hand just as she was throwing them into the fireplace.

You betrayed me! Chloe would never fall in love with this man, with any man! Vera's tone was cold and harsh.

How can you be so sure? She was so young when she disappeared. You don't know what her life would've been.

You betrayed me!

The servants in the hall could hear Vera screaming from the study; they had never heard their mistress scream in such a manner.

Chloe would never have treated me like this! She would never have betrayed her sister! Vera rushed at Chloe and tore the jewelry from the girl's neck. "Take off Chloe's things and get out!"

That was the beginning, and the end, of an era between the two women.

Chloe was simply Clara again. She was sent back to the attic to put on her maid's attire—with all her fancy clothes and jewelry stripped clean.

This angry stand-off between them lasted two weeks. Clara cried in the attic every day while Vera locked herself in her studio. Then, one night, Clara awoke to find Vera standing over her, reeked of alcohol.

The lights were ablaze in the studio. Vera took Clara by the shoulders and made her sit down.

Perfumers mustn't drink; it destroys their delicate sense of smell... What a terrible drunk I am. I can't even remember what I wanted to say to you... Chloe, smell this perfume—everything I have to say is in it.

Clara trembled as she picked up the crystal bottle and gave it a gentle sniff—to her surprise, she couldn't smell anything.

It could've just been a bottle of water. Then something sprang out of the bottle and into Clara's nose. Whatever it was, she felt as if it was drilling into her brain. This thing was beyond just a scent—it was noxious gas.

She almost dropped the bottle, but the strange scent commanded her to keep hold of it. She was intoxicated by the aroma, caught in a kind of trance.

This is the original "Euphoria," said Vera as she retrieved the bottle from Clara's hand. "Even the king will obey its command."

It's not the same as... the other "Euphoria"...

No. It's very different. You see... "Vera's soul" is in it. Yes, a living soul is caught within, like a genie in a bottle. Her voice sounded different when she uttered her name, "Vera's soul..."

Clara finally snapped out of her trance, "Why is your soul in there?"

Her high-pitched voice startled Vera. Sobering up quickly, she glared at her.

"Get out," she barked.


Chapter 5

Shortly after this evening, Clara became Miss Chloe again.

There was a subtle change in the relationship between the women—Vera made concessions and she no longer forbade Chloe from meeting with other people. Like a bird let out of a cage, Chloe visited the most fashionable salons wearing expensive clothes. She spent her time exchanging love letters with men from the highest tiers of society.

She was no longer afraid of arguing with Vera. They argued more and more, every day, it seemed. Gradually, Vera became tired of all the fighting and stopped getting angry at Chloe with the men she was seeing.

They were all captivated by her, and her thin, high-pitched voice sounded like a little girl's. At galas, her voice flitted over the crowd like a soaring bird.

Meanwhile, Vera would sit on the sofa, surrounded by ladies trying to amuse her. One by one, these women took the new perfume from its velvet box and enveloped themselves in the strange scent. Each of them became a servile to the master of the scent.

They loved Vera, they praised her incessantly, but there she sat, poker-faced, staring at Chloe on the dance floor.

Before the orchestra began the next dance, Vera stood up and beckoned her sister over.

"Chloe!" she held out her hand, "Dance with me."

Chloe ignored her, looking straight past Vera as she was whisked around the dance floor by another man.


The ball lasted most of the night. As the guests tired themselves out, they gradually left. Chloe went straight to her bedroom and fell right asleep.

She was vaguely aware of the sound of the door being opened, but she was too sleepy to open her eyes. Several servants restrained her and dragged her out of the room. She screamed as a sack was pulled over her head and she was shoved into a carriage.


Chapter 6

Chloe lost track of how long she had been held captive. Her mind wandered ceaselessly... she could no longer be sure who she was. Then, she gradually realized she was Clara—always had been.

She was imprisoned in the Nair family country estate. Every once in a while, the key would creak in the lock on the door, and Vera would enter, carrying a little box.

Clara was sluggish and dull. Her body felt like a lead weight—her food was being drugged to prevent her from escaping.

"Are you really Miss Vera?" she asked, trembling. "I found a diary with Vera's name on it under the floorboards..."

Vera nodded, "This room used to be Vera's room... my room."

Vera spritzed in Clara's face a new perfume in the box, forcing Clara to inhale it. Clara tried to waft the scent away, "I read that diary...I don't think you are Miss Vera," she stuttered. The new fragrance had an almost tactile scent and created a tingling sensation, as if a cluster of tiny spiders were crawling into Clara's cranium, stripping away her ability to think. "In the diary, Vera seems worried about her sister," Clara continued drowsily, "She advised Chloe to launch the perfume anonymously at first, in case it was badly received..."

—then reveal herself as the creator of the perfume once it was clear that the public recognized her talent. Vera, or this woman who called herself Vera, gave a stiff little smile, "I know. I read that bit too."

Clara stared at her blankly. "Euphoria" had nearly stripped her ability to speak.

Was she... really lost in the snowstorm?

Vera ignored her, holding a bottle of toxic perfume closer to the girl's nose. Clara's thoughts whirled in her head, and the strange scent enveloped the room in darkness. An unsettling voice whispered, "No one will ever steal my work."

One fateful morning, Clara mustered the last ounce of courage and managed to escape, thanks to a careless servant who hadn't locked the door properly. She sprinted through the fog-shrouded estate, seeking a way out.

Several footmen gave chase. Looking for a place to hide, she pulled open a door—but didn't expect it to lead straight down to the basement. She fell head-first down the steep flight of stairs.

She did not hit the ground hard as she thought but was submerged in a sea of fragrance. The basement was filled with herbal perspectives, with dried plants and flowers hanging all over. Clara couldn't feel the floor beneath her feet as the fragrances flooded over her, eating away at her flesh.

As the light faded, a shriveled visage emerged from amongst the dried flowers—its skin deprived of moisture, but Clara could recognize it as Vera.

This face, this thing, was sleeping soundly... who knew how long it had been asleep of embalming spices? "Lost in the snow, they say." There had been no snow, only this fog, this deadly vapor.

But nothing mattered anymore. Clara would now join this sleeping thing. Sweet dreams at last, she thought.