After bringing Nicole back to her room, Camilla pressed a brush into her hands.
“Comb my hair.”
Once she said that, Camilla undid her braids by herself and sat in the chair with her back to Nicole. Behind her, Nicole simply stood there, looking confused as she held the comb.
“Comb my hair.”
Camilla repeated her own words back ad verbatim. She looked straight ahead, exhaling a deep breath as she tried to keep a lid on her feelings. The anger swirling in her chest had far from settled. Although her true intention had been to strike at those maids, she ended up taking Nicole’s hand by some strange instinct.
It was probably not the right move, in hindsight. But, even if Camilla had the chance to do it all over again, she knew that she would take Nicole’s hand that time as well. And as much as she would like to vent her rage at someone, what point is there in getting angry at that girl who trembled silently behind her?
Nicole hesitated for some time as she stood behind Camilla. But, she couldn’t simply leave Camilla alone without being dismissed and she was hardly about to be disobedient now.
“…….Please excuse me.”
With a quiet voice, she took Camilla’s hair in her hand.
Nicole’s hands were as clumsy as usual.
She didn’t know how to control the force in her hands. She didn’t know how to let hair flow through the comb. The only way she knew how to brush Camilla’s hair was to simply sweep through it with power.
When her hair got tangled up in the comb, Camilla yelped out in pain and Nicole brought her hand to a stop. Fear ran up her spine. There was no boundless enthusiasm anymore. None of the regular Nicole.
“I-I’m sorry. Really, after all, I’m…”
“Even if you cannot comb properly, I did not tell you to stop. This time try to be gentle with my hair.”
It was as if her body was conditioned to obedience. Nicole simply nodded without any sort of defiance. With trembling fingers, she took Camilla’s hair in her palm once more.
There were few words spoken between the two of them as she brushed. Every so often, Camilla would admonish Nicole’s combing. She felt herself getting angrier as she had to repeat the same thing over and over. Yet, even though her anger was rising, Camilla didn’t yell or shout at Nicole.
Nicole finally spoke out of turn, as if she couldn’t bear this strange atmosphere anymore. As she stopped coming Camilla’s hair for a moment, her words were coated in anxiety.
“…You’re… Really angry, right…? About what I did…”
“Of course I am.”
“Right… Any punishment you have for me, I’ll take it. Anything.”
“Start moving your hands again. They’ve stopped.”
Nicole started combing again straight away, as if she were startled by Camilla’s words. And naturally, she hardly put any thought into controlling her strength as she panicked, yanking at Camilla’s hair with the comb.
“Stop using so much force, and stop making me repeat myself time and time again. You will never be able to take care of anyone at this rate.”
Nicole nodded obediently, taking greater care to be gentle with Camilla’s hair this time and ending up actually combing slightly better than before.
“If you cannot do something this simple, I will be in trouble once you become my personal maid.”
Camilla’s pure black hair wasn’t soft and fluffy, but well preened and alluring. Combing it gave Nicole the same dread as handling a precious vase, as she inserted one hairpin. Then a second. Then, after inserting the third, she finally realized.
“Oww! How many times do I have to say it!?”
“Mistress? You want me… To be your personal maid, Mistress?”
“Stop calling me Mistress!”
Camilla has no idea how many times she’s had to say that. She’s not yet the Mistress here. Such a thing has yet to be decided either. Camilla still needs more time.
But, Nicole couldn’t understand Camilla at all. She blinked in confusion, completely disbelieving the words that she had heard. Her hand had come to a complete stop again.
“What do you mean why? I will have those other girls dismissed. I was utterly furious when I heard them trying to blame you for all that!”
Camilla’s position right now was Alois’ guest. And, a potential future wife. She knows she’s not liked by any of the servants, but they can’t act against her out in the open.
The same would go for her maid. They wouldn’t be able to simply force all their work onto her like before. She wouldn’t have any time to neglect her duties. Not whilst she remained at Camilla’s side.
“If you wish to quit, you can do whatever you like. Since you have such great magical power, you should be able to quite easily find work anywhere? If you are worried about your family, then don’t be. The House of Ende can hardly measure up to the Storm family… Rather, they cannot measure up to Lord Alois.”
She felt pathetic saying that. But, it’s true that Camilla held virtually no power of her own anymore. It’s inevitable that she would have to rely on Alois for help. He probably wouldn’t take in Nicole unless she did.
“Why…” Nicole murmured to herself again, as she looked down at Camilla who had a slightly frustrated look on her face.
“Why are you going so far for me? I was only ever was a nuisance to you…”
“I am not doing this for you.”
Hmph, Camilla sniffed hard as she struck out her chest. She frowned as she looked forward, not turning back to see Nicole.
“They just made me really angry.”
People who humiliated and tormented others whilst using someone else as a patsy, they were the type she detested the most.
She had been fuming with anger as she saw Nicole simply stand there and take all their abuse silently.
That was all.
“If you understand me, then move your hands! If you cannot even comb hair properly, I have no idea how you plan on being my attendant, even if it is only temporary!”
In a fluster, Nicole began combing again.
After repeating the same motion over and over, Nicole’s hands grew more and more steady.
Camilla also didn’t have to snap at her as many times. To try and lift Camilla’s foul mood, Nicole simply kept combing.
“You have gotten much better.”
Nicole didn’t say anything in response to Camilla. She just kept silent as she brushed.
The sun that had shone through the windows began to pass below the horizon. Just how much time had she spent combing since that afternoon? She had expected to give up long beforehand, but no matter how many mistakes Nicole made, she kept on going.
In silence, she combed once. Twice.
Thrice. Nicole spoke softly as the comb passed through Camilla’s hair.
“I… I am an illegitimate daughter of the Ende family. I’m not a proper member of the house.”
“I heard it before.”
“My mother was a maid who slept with her master. Mother also had her husband, and my brothers. If that was it, then it would have been the end of it.”
Her family, her brothers. She heard about that before as well.
“But, because of my magical power… My… My family were used as hostages. To make sure I don’t try to escape, all of my family work for the Ende.”
In Nicole’s hometown, the Ende family were the main employers. They had close ties to the Montchat family who ruled the Duchy as well. There was no way for them to refuse. If they did, losing their jobs wouldn’t be the end of it. They wouldn’t even be able to stay in the town itself anymore.
Nicole kept talking as she combed. The words were pouring forth as if a dam had broken.
“The young lady from the Ende family pushed all her work onto me. I couldn’t refuse her either. But eventually, something changed, and they began to accuse me of being clumsy on purpose.”
Nicole’s hands didn’t stop moving. She exhaled softly as she gently combed.
“At the same time, I started to lose control of my magical power. Because of the strong miasma, I couldn’t suppress it by myself anymore. But, I did my best not to hurt anyone.”
With a shuddered breath, lukewarm drops of water began to fall. They fell onto Camilla’s hair and the floor below.
“There were so many people around, people all over the mansion, so I… I had to hold it back.”
Feelings of tension, anger or depression. She remembered Alois talking about how magic was influenced by emotions just like that.
– Nicole’s magic power going out of control mostly happened when she was alone.
A place with no one nearby. When Nicole was all by herself. Camilla finally understood as she listened to the sound of the tears hitting the floor.
“You have been crying all alone this whole time, haven’t you?”
She heard a deep sobbing behind her.
Even though Nicole stopped brushing again, Camilla wasn’t angry about it anymore.
If anyone was interested in helping me edit these chapters (out of the goodness of your heart), please get in touch through the contact page.