Cold melancholy melted away to red hot anger.
As that day wore on, the only thing Camilla could feel was the boiling rage rushing through her head. She didn’t have time to calm down, as when that anger swept through her it snuffed out all her shock, confusion and despair.
It was obviously done out of malice.
It was an attempt to personally hurt Camilla.
Someone truly wanted to humiliate her. It was different from the gossiping that always happened behind her back, something much more cunning and low.
Who was it that stood above Nicole, controlling her like a puppet?
– Do you really think I am going to just stay depressed like this?
Whoever did this was obviously rejoicing in her suffering. So, the longer she wallowed in misery, the more fun they would have.
Therefore, can she really afford to sit here feeling sorry for herself? Camilla got to her feet, lifting up her face.
She might end up doing something brash and making even more enemies, but so be it.
– I need to hear what Nicole has to say.
Who put her up to it? Why did they want to open up her old wounds with such an imitation? Just who was it that wanted to humiliate her like this?
– I will tear you down.
Alois promised her he would find the culprits, but Camilla wasn’t the type of person that could just sit idly by and entrust everything to someone else.
She would find out who was behind this herself.
As she chewed her lip as if to bite back her rage, Camilla strode through the mansion alone.
Her destination was the maids’ sleeping area.
There was a large room on the second floor with beds and cots lined up next to one another, it didn’t get much sunlight.
This was the room where the low ranking servants and maids were quartered. When they were older, they would climb the ranks and move on to have their own rooms.
She moved to the sectioned off part where the maids slept. As she looked behind the partitioning curtain that separated the sexes, she couldn’t see Nicole at all. When she questioned the other young maids, they said that some of the senior maids had called her away.
Then, she had to go to the northern room on the ground floor. That was where the senior maids had their rooms.
Those rooms were the northernmost rooms in the whole mansion. For the younger senior maids, they weren’t given individual rooms but would instead bunk with several others. Still, they had more personal space than the junior maids, and they got better food and pay as well.
The first three rooms that she came across were all rooms that were shared by young senior maids. Only one of them had a slightly ajar door. Light leaked out from the open doorway, as the other two doors were shut.
It was still early afternoon. Although it may seem a bit early to be turning on the light, these north facing rooms likewise didn’t get much sunlight so they could become dark quite easily.
There are people inside.
She couldn’t see anyone else in the hallway either. Should she rush in now or wait and see? As she hesitated, she heard a voice.
“Nicole! Did you really do it the way we told you!?”
Camilla held her breath on instinct.
She really had become an excellent eavesdropper.
“The Master is searching for a culprit right now! You didn’t say anything stupid, did you? You said what we told you to say, right?”
As the girl spoke, Nicole’s body became stiff. Even though that girl didn’t have any advantage over her in height or weight, over the years she had known her, she had been conditioned to fear her.
“‘I did it all myself’, that’s what you were supposed to say, right!? I don’t think it’s possible, but did you rat us out? You know what will happen to you if that’s true, don’t you?”
That girl’s curly and soft hair was the same colour as Nicole’s. Whilst this girl didn’t have freckles and seemed to care a bit more for her appearance than Nicole, the two of them looked very similar.
And that’s only natural, considering that the same blood flowed in their veins.
“Hurry up and say something, you scum!”
The girl shoved Nicole hard on the shoulder. Nicole staggered backward a step, but she still said nothing. She might get berated if she stayed silent, but things would only get worse if she opened her mouth. So, it would be better to just not say a word.
As she watched Nicole stay taciturn, the other girl scratched at her hair in frustration. Standing next to her, the other maids tried to calm her down with a ‘now now’.
“Calm down, Leonora. There’s no way that we will get found out.”
“That’s right. Just because he’s searching for a culprit won’t help him if he has no idea who the culprit is.”
Those maids trying to calm the other girl down definitely weren’t taking Nicole’s side. If anything, they wanted nothing to do with her.
“Hmph,” the girl called Leonora snorted through her nose. It’s hard to tell if she was convinced by that. But, she seemed to have calmed down a little bit as she scowled at Nicole.
Her eyes were lightly pigmented, the same colour as her hair. That eye colour was another difference between her and Nicole.
“Ahh, if only I had magical power like that as well. I wouldn’t have to wallow in a place like this. If I had inherited magic power instead of scum like you, I’d have been the one going to the capital and having the Prince fall in love with me at first sight… Instead of Liselotte.”
She seemed to hate Liselotte in a completely different way to Nicole, judging by the venom in her voice as she spoke that name.
“That bitch who was always going ‘Lord Alois! Lord Alois!’ back in the old days, she sure did well for herself! Since she’s the Prince’s fiancée, she might even be Queen someday! Even though her looks are nothing special!”
“A Queen when her partner is only the Second Prince?”
At the maid’s words, the other girls tittered and laughed. Leonora scoffed as well.
“She wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less.”
As she spat those words out, she turned again to glare at Nicole.
“I can’t be satisfied with this either. Being a maid in a place like this? It cannot end here for me. Do you understand me, Nicole?”
Nicole’s shoulders slumped as she stayed quiet. The girl didn’t care as she kept on talking.
“Everything that happened, you decided to do it on your own. In a thoughtless attempt to comfort the pitiful evil woman thrown away by the Prince, you acted alone. Just like always… Hey, what do you think?”
Just like always. Nicole replied, her voice barely more than a whisper. Her hands were pale as a sheet as they shook. Her senses were fading and she couldn’t keep a hold on her flow of magical power. She was terrified that it could run rampant at any moment.
“It’s possible that neither the Master nor that villainess really heard what you had to say. So, please tell them clearly yourself. Bow in front of the Master and tell him about your crime. Tell him that since you’re the culprit, he shouldn’t be looking for anyone else and should simply punish you alone instead. Did you hear me?”
“Without your magical power, the Ende family would want nothing to do with you. Just remember, that’s the only reason a bastard child of a mistress is kept around. Your brothers, and the rest of the family, you do remember who are feeding them, don’t you?”
“Then, repeat it back to me. You did everything alone. Say it.”
Nicole clutched her palms together It was on the verge of overflowing. She couldn’t even feel the touch of her magical energy anymore.
“…Yes! I did everything by myself because I wanted to! Everything… Everything!”
The tips of her fingers felt numb like she had received a static shock.
Then, someone grabbed her hand firmly.
Nicole didn’t realize that someone had thrown open the door.
She didn’t realize that someone had strode into the room and grasped her hand.
Whilst the maids in the room widened their eyes in shock, Nicole looked at the person who now held her hand as well.
“Come with me.”
Her voice sounded calm and measured, but there was a wave of very obvious anger boiling beneath her words. She pulled on her arm strongly as she said it and Nicole didn’t have the strength nor the gumption to resist her.
The person that Nicole had deeply hurt with her magic. The person who had been banished from the capital to this remote place. The person who would one day become the mistress of this mansion… Camilla.
Nicole lifted her head to look at Camilla, who stood much taller than her. As she towered above the young maid, the stark image she cut was a blur of barely restrained emotion.
– Did she hear it?
She did. She must have heard what Nicole had said.
“I… I am furious.”
Camilla glared at Nicole as she said that.
Behind her, the girls breathed a sigh of relief. They were relieved that the hammer blow of fury didn’t seem like it was going to fall on them.
Camilla only took Nicole with her as she left the room.
Yet, although Nicole didn’t notice it as she feared just what was to come, the maids in the room had their words of relief clog in their throats as that always emotional Camilla flashed them a final look, a chilling glare colder than ice.