The Devoted Fanatic VI (Final)
“…Just what is this!? What have you done, Karina!?”
As her face turned a deep shade of blue, the Madame screamed at her. Because of everyone in the room noticing the dead rat one after the other, the commotion was spreading.
“You served this to me!? I… I ate something like… Ughh… Geh…”
The Duchess pressed her hands against her mouth as the vomit began to spew through her fingers. The table was covered in bile as her friends shrank back in horror.
(Why!? Why was something like that inside the cake!? Impossible, Anne, that girl…!?)
“Ughh.. Gyehh… Karinaaaa!!”
Her hair frayed and wild, the Duchess grabbed Karina’s collar.
“Why did you do this!?”
“M-Madame, your dress is stained…”
“Whose fault do you think that is!? So you really did bear a grudge against me for the other day, is that it!? To think you would do such a thing…!!”
She was being treated as the culprit. Realizing that, Karina’s face turned pale.
“P-Please don’t blame me, Madam! I would never do anything like this at all!!”
“Then who else could ever have done this!? Didn’t you say that you baked the cake ‘from scratch’!? How could a dead rat have found it’s way in without you know-… Urghpph…!”
The Madame’s face twisted in disgust again as she violently vomited. Her friends screamed at the sound of the splatter, backing away from Karina and the Duchess even more.
“That’s horrible! Duchess Wenschlee, you truly ate a dead rat…!?”
“Perhaps even we were made to eat it too!? No, even if we didn’t, the cake was tainted with such a thing…!”
“How could the Wenschlee family ever hire such an awful maid!?”
The Duchess trembled as she heard them whisper to each other. As she raised her head again, she glared hatefully at Karina, a trail of bile running down the corner of her mouth.
“Silence, you ungrateful lout!!”
Reaching out in blind anger, she grabbed a chair and brought it smashing down over Karina’s head.
A dull pain rocked through her head. Falling to the floor that was already slick with vomit, the Duchess once again raised the chair.
“To me… How dare you do such a thing to me!? And in front of everyone!?”
“P-Please stop! Madame, it hurts! IT HUUUURTS!”
After being smashed with the chair over and over again, blood began to run down to her chin. Pulling herself off the ground, Karina fled in desperation.
“Stop right there, Karinaaaa!!”
(Why!? Why is such a thing happening to me…!?)
Trying to wipe away the blood that was flowing down her face, Karina kept running. Even in her confused and injured state, she found herself making a beeline straight for the henhouse.
(It was Anne!! She must have set up this trick to try and get rid of me…! I won’t forgive her, I won’t forgive her, I won’t forgive heeeer!! So long as I make her confess in front of the Madame right now, I can prove my innocence!)
As she opened the door to the henhouses, she screamed Anne’s name in anger.
As she threw open the door, a frightened rooster crowed in surprise. As it flapped its wings in a panic, the smell of chicken droppings wafted through the air.
Anne, surrounded by that mess but seemingly having cried herself to sleep, suddenly jerked awake in surprise as Karina yelled. Her eyes looked swollen and red from her tears, but Karina wasn’t going to be hoodwinked by her act.
“You!! You put the dead rat in the cake and baked it, didn’t you!?”
“I’ll have you confess right now!! Tell Madame what you did!! I’ll untie you, so get up right now!”
“Don’t dawdle! I’ll be in trouble if someone finds you here, so quickly…”
From just outside the door she had thrown open before, she heard a beautiful voice call her name.
She looked back slowly, as if someone had struck her in the back. Then, when she saw that girl standing there, Karina slipped into despair.
Her Highness, Princess Maria, was watching her.
Behind her, two stunned looking manservants flanked her as she stood in the doorway of the henhouse… All of them staring at Karina, who had grabbed Anne by the scruff of the neck as she openly wept.
She had been seen.
(What do I…)
Even if she knew that she had to say something right now, she was seeing white. Stepping back slightly in fear, Maria’s petite shoulders began to tremble.
“I-I… I saw that Karina looked scared and was running whilst bleeding, so… I was worried that something had happened, so I called some people to help…”
Standing behind Maria were two of the Duke’s manservants, who looked completely astonished as they stared at Karina.
“Karina… Didn’t you say Anne had ‘run away’…? Then, why is she in a place like this…?”
“Why did you run here straight away and yell Anne’s name before opening the door…?”
“N-No, that’s wrong…”
Karina trembled, shaking her head side to side.
“That’s wrong, Princess Maria! It’s this girl who is the bad one!! Anne put a dead rat in the cake, not me!! I didn’t do anything, I’m innocent!!”
“Karina!! I finally found you, to think you tried to escape to a place like this!?”
The Duchess, seemingly having been alerted to what was going on by someone, grasped an iron rod in her hands. Karina’s teeth chattered as she saw the rod that the Duchess had once used to beat the daughters of the Duke’s mistress.
“Release Anne at once!! You’re the one who trapped her here, aren’t you!? I heard you screaming that ‘Anne did it, Anne did it!’, but how could she be if you locked her in here!?”
“N-No… That’s not it, please don’t…”
“Silence!! How dare you make me eat such a thing, you’ve brought me no end of shame!!”
“Gyaaah!? GYAH, AHHH!?”
“You are fired!! To think you went against me twice! Twice!! Do not think that you will ever find work in this country again!!”
“Ahh, h-help me…!”
Everything was over.
Karina had devoted everything throughout her entire life to climbing to her position as the head maid. She had staked her pride and reputation on the trust she had earned from her master and other noble families.
It all crumbled away. Each time the iron rod cracked against her bones, it was like another blow against her very being.
(No… I still have one last hope…)
As she trembled under the weight of those blows, Karina reached out a trembling, desperate hand. Reaching out to Maria, who was behind the Duchess.
The shrill and enraged shouts of the Duchess pierced her ears.
(My… Real master…!!)
Maria, who anxiously cradled Anne in her arms, didn’t look her way at all.
“Princess. Mari… a…”
At that time, Karina couldn’t hear what it was that Maria was whispering softly in a voice so quiet it was like air.
“A long time ago, Sherry baked a cake like that for us.”
Maria’s eyes turned cold as she glanced towards the ground.
“Back then, when you found out, you filled it with dead insects and forced us to eat it… Though I’m sure you don’t remember that at all, do you?”
Princess Maria quietly sipped from a cup of tea, seated in one of the most popular high class cafes in the capital.
With her blonde hair braided down the side of the simple dress she wore, Maria was disguised as a simple town girl. Without putting on any airs, she drank from the teacup without any of a princess’ etiquette.
After taking a sip and letting a breath leak from her lips, she looked at the dark-haired young man who sat opposite her… When Jin spoke, he sounded upbeat.
“The tea here has a pretty high-class reputation, but is it really as good as you’re making out?”
Since Jin wore those black tinted glasses, it was even harder than usual to discern just what intentions lay behind his smile. But, it seemed like there wasn’t any hidden meaning behind his question.
Deciding so, Maria gently put the teacup back down on the saucer.
“That’s right. It has a beautiful fragrance as well.”
“Then, good for you. I caught a rumour that apparently the proprietress here used to serve a noble family as a maid when she was younger… That said, you can probably taste tea like that whenever you want.”
“That’s not entirely true. Not too long ago, I had to taste the most dreadful tea nearly every day.”
The tea Karina brewed barely had any fragrance at all, and it left a bitter taste on the tongue. Compared to that experience, the tea from this café was lovely and sweet.
Jin seems to have understood what she was implying, as he smirked boldly.
“It seems like our ‘product’ was useful in the end?”
“Yes. Thank you for supplying the corpse. It would have weighed on my conscience to have killed an innocent rat for something like that.”
“Ha ha, something like that would weigh on your conscience? After you used, lied to and drove those people into a corner?”
It had been Maria who had put the rat’s corpse in the cake.
To be precise, she had baked a cake with a rat’s corpse in it, then let Karina present it as her own.
(Karina seems to have thought that it was Anne’s handiwork, however…)
That was wrong. Anne was completely innocent from the beginning.
Because in fact, Anne hadn’t baked a cake that day at all.
She was still in the process of making one, which is why she needed eggs from the coop.
After Karina stalked her as the maid made her way to the henhouse, Maria planted the cake with the dead rat in it the moment the kitchen had been left empty. She had baked the rat into the piece of the cake where the rose frosting bloomed so that her grandmother would enjoy that particular pleasure.
And as expected, that specific slice had been served directly to the woman who took the leading role at that party.
Maria had prepared a lot of things leading up to the birthday party.
She had coaxed Karina into getting carried away and becoming infatuated with her. In order to set up the circumstances she desired at the birthday party, she spared no effort in antagonizing the relationship between Karina and her grandmother.
The reason why her grandmother had ordered Karina to do all sorts of troublesome jobs was that Maria had devised those situations in the first place. She had secretly spilt the tea on the carpet, had asked if she could wear that old dress of her mother’s and made all sorts of other requests to her grandmother.
And when it came to making Anne seem like an obstacle, Maria had been behind that as well.
That said, she did feel sorry for what she put Anne through, being overworked that desperately. She may be free from Karina now, but the experience of being threatened in the henhouse, in particular, must have been traumatic.
“But you really were gambling quite a lot this time, weren’t you?”
“Yeah. If that head maid didn’t go after that young maid like she did, you wouldn’t have been able to swap the cakes, right?”
Ah, so that’s what he meant?
Maria took a sip of that most enjoyable tea before she spoke again to Jin, savouring the aroma as she did.
“I didn’t really leave anything up to chance?”
“That woman had done the same thing before in the past. In order to drive out the maid who had helped me in my previous life, she often trapped her in places like that, claiming she was skipping on her work.”
That maid from back then, her name was Sherry.
She was a maid who reached out a hand of kindness to Maria and her sister. But, tormented and harassed by Karina, she was driven out of the mansion.
“…If the person she held a grudge against was a maid, I believed that she would repeat her actions from back then.”
“Hmm, I see. ‘People really don’t change much’, something like that, right?”
Jin laughed. Behind those glasses with the dark lenses he didn’t typically wear, his eyes narrowed as he did.
“That old lady seemed like she was injured pretty badly, but is that the end of it? She was fired by the Duchess, right?”
“No, she wasn’t. Of course, she’s no longer the head maid, but since I asked on her behalf, she is still employed there.”
“Because what else does Karina have besides her job? She has no family nor a lover, she had devoted her entire life to her position. The word will spread quickly after this incident, so she has no hope of being hired anywhere else… Therefore…”
Maria spoke softly as she tapped a finger on the lip of her teacup.
“Now she has nowhere to escape to.”
After those wounds eventually healed, certainly she could leave that house?
But for a woman who only lived for that one job, after squandering the only place she was truly ‘required’ in this world, she may not yet have realized that her life would be forfeit if she left. However, simply having her lose her life to starvation in a few weeks time in some gutter wasn’t good enough.
“Since she has nowhere else that would take her in as an employee, if she lost her job she wouldn’t survive long, so she has no choice but to stay in that house. Surrounded by a master that hates her to death and young maids who all hold a serious grudge against her.”
“Surely grandmother will find many excuses to get that rod out again and again, and when she isn’t being beaten the other maids will torment her as well. It will be exactly like what she did in the past, or rather, it will be even worse. Even if she’s tormented and harassed, unlike the other girls, she couldn’t simply quit. Since if she quit, she would die, so she either has to choose death or a lifetime of suffering.”
As Maria slowly traced an indifferent finger around the edge of her teacup, Jin made an exaggerated face.
“All I’ve done is have her return her debt, with interest. What she has inflicted on all those maids over the years isn’t something she can atone for with her life alone.”
Maria’s eyes were still calm as she looked down at her tea.
(…Yes. I am just paying them back in kind.)
That’s how it had to be.
Hayden who beat and raped many women, and Karina who drove her juniors and the employees under her to such despair they lost their minds. As well as the grandmother who beat both Maria and Nina with an iron rod, the grandfather who averted his eyes to everything that happened… and Lilith.
(So, I’ll take my revenge by having them fall to their own actions, though I too one day…)
She was sure that, someday, she too would fall in such a way.
But right now, that didn’t matter to her. She had no intention of ever leaving the path of vengeance that she walked, no matter just how much suffering might await her at the end of the road.
“At any rate, I carried out everything I intended to do this time.”
Jin sniffed slightly.
“So, your revenge on the Duchess is done as well, then?”
“No, not even slightly. Whilst having her be humiliated in front of her friends was a good appetizer, I won’t be satisfied until I truly drive her to despair.”
“Oh, well then, I’m looking forward to it. Ah, right, I brought the ink you ordered.”
Maria thanked him as she took the parcel he produced from his jacket’s pocket. Opening the package, there was indeed a small bottle of ink, wrapped in several layers of protective paper.
The ink had a dark blue tone, like a deep sea. Running a finger over the nostalgic manufacturer’s label, she swore once more.
(No matter where this path of mine leads, it does not matter.)
Watching her silently stare at the bottle for a while, it seemed that Jin finally grew bored as he lent back in his chair.
“I’m hungry. I’m gonna order some food, do you mind? You should eat something too.”
“I’m going home. After all, I have to write a letter of introduction to the royal palace for a certain maid.”
“Ah, what’s with that? You’re so cold.”
“Besides, when I eat with someone wearing glasses like that, people are going to look at me suspiciously.”
“Ain’t it fine? I’m wearing them to be incognito for your sake, you know?”
For someone who must have travelled to a lot of foreign countries, he had no idea what the term ‘blending in’ meant.
She thought about saying it, but Maria held her tongue as she paid the man she had waved over. And then, she stood up.
It was then that she heard the man at the counter who had taken their order earlier say something.
“Heeey, Sherry, come here!”
She heard footsteps from the kitchen. The woman who answered him had as loud a voice as the man’s.
“What!? What do you want!?”
“One of our customers wants to drink your tea!”
“Yes, yes. Please wait just a moment, okay?”
Just what was it that Jin had said earlier?
“I caught a rumour that apparently the proprietress here used to serve a noble family as a maid when she was younger…”
Remembering what he said, Maria lowered her eyes.
Before the women came back out of the kitchen, she began to walk quickly. Even if the person who didn’t know she was here was the one friend she had all those years ago… She had to keep walking. She had to leave those blissful memories in the past, because she couldn’t stop now.
The only thing she needed was hatred.
Telling herself that, Maria left through the café’s front door. Just what did the person who was her friend all those years ago look like now? She didn’t need to know.
Not quite as bad as what the rapist got, but it seems like a pattern is emerging where Maria is more interested in having people live out the rest of their lives in abject misery that reflects the crime they committed, rather than quicker and more direct revenge. I’ll leave you to decide whether or not her methods are for the best.
It’s also pretty interesting how little we actually see things unfold from Maria’s POV, but I kind of like that. It’s fun to read from the POV of truly awful people sometimes, in my opinion.