* * *
“There’s no guarantee that that bottle is at the bottom of the lake.”
“No, I’m sure that it fell to the bottom of the lake. Because that’s what I’d witnessed.”
When Dooha rescued Young Lady Pauline yesterday, she recalled that the medicine bottle that was sticking out of its owner’s pocket sank to the bottom of the lake.
The medicine bottle that contained the drug known as ‘Devil’s Nap’.
Perhaps she might not find evidence that Pauline tried to kill her, but if she could find that, she would at least have justification to punish her.
“Also, don’t worry.”
Dooha took off her cloak and handed it to the head maid.
She was wearing ragged work clothes and knee-high boots, like that of women that worked in the fields, instead of a dress.
“I also have pretty good eyesight.”
“Madam, even so, for the Madam to personally handle such a matter, it’s a little…”
The head maid glanced in the direction of the tent where the knights were resting.
“You can have either the knights, or the servants do…”
“I’m the only one who knows what the medicine bottle looks like. Also, if I were to ask them to find the bottle, they would require a reason, but I’m not sure about being honest.”
However, if she lied and said that it was a personal item of hers, she would definitely be criticised for wasting manpower on finding a glass bottle.
“That’s why, I’d rather look for it myself. I’m confident in finding things.”
She had a time limit of 10 minutes.
In addition, taking into account how Layla would drag it out for as long as possible, Dooha had a maximum of around 15 minutes.
“Well then, please help me keep track of the time, Sylvia.”
After leaving behind a short request for the head maid, Dooha headed into the emptied lake unhesitatingly.
* * *
As Claude dealt with Layla, who kept picking a fight with him, he got up quickly when he realised that the break time had gone on for much longer than he thought.
The knights that followed him and clicked their tongues with disappointment as they got up.
When he came out of the tent, he frowned when he saw that the Duchess was still standing by the lake.
Unlike previously, her hair was slightly dishevelled and the strangely red face made her seem like someone that had just been running around.
But Claude didn’t have a delicate enough personality to care about such minor differences.
He had only found it strange that the Duchess had not left here yet.
“You were still here?”
“I couldn’t leave as Sir Claude was keeping my favourite handmaiden.”
“What? No, that’s…”
Claude tried to explain that he wasn’t the one that held up Layla, but the reverse.
“Oh, why do Imperial men like to distinguish between right and wrong. I got into trouble while dealing with him, Madam.”
Layla, who had been chattering irksomely up till this point, hid behind the Duchess’s back.
Claude looked at Layla dazedly and gritted his teeth.
“Please excuse me, Madam. I’ll have to get back to work now.”
Dooha looked at the retreating appearance of Claude, who scratched the back of his head like he was quite angry, and asked quietly.
“Layla, what in the world did you say to Sir Claude?”
“What? I didn’t say much. He’s just being like that because he’s sulking.”
“Yeah, it’s not a big deal, so don’t worry about it. By the way, Madam, did you find what you were looking for?”
Layla stuck close to Dooha and spoke in a lowered voice.
“Don’t tell me it was destroyed like the boat…”
Dooha pretended not to know and turned her gaze away, before taking out a small and shiny glass bottle.
“It seems that the Empire’s God doesn’t hate me that much.”
Even a small amount of potion remained in the glass bottle that she brought out.
The red transparent liquid sloshed at the beck and call of Dooha’s gestures.
As soon as she saw the medicine bottle, Layla burst into hearty laughter.
“As expected of our princess, no, of our Madam!”
“What do you mean as expected? Please don’t ever do something like this again.”
The head maid, who’d followed them, also nagged with a lowered voice.
“Do you know how nervous I was, as questions like ‘would someone pass by’, and ‘would they witness it’, kept running through my head? What kind of duchess goes through the mud in search of evidence?”
“Here it is, Sylvia.”
The duchess disregarded the head maid’s chagrined cry and took a step forward lightly.
Unlike the smile that was hanging on the corners of her lips, her golden eyes were gleaming sharply.
* * *
Dooha stirred the tea before her with a spoon.
The bottle of medicine that she’d found at the bottom of the lake yesterday sat on the table.
The drug within the bottle was the ‘Devil’s Nap’.
This was confirmed as the head maid had secretly requested a skilled physician outside the castle to analyse its contents.
‘What should I do…’
She’d been thinking about it all night, but she has yet to come to a conclusion.
Apparently, it was because the life of Young Lady Pauline of the Blair County was too unfortunate.
‘She might not be in her right mind because she lost people that’s dear to her one after another.’
The duke that she had a one-sided crush on, and the mother that she’d followed sincerely.
If Pauline admitted that she tried to kill her and apologised, she could have concealed the drug-related incident to a certain extent.
Just then, Layla rushed into the room with an urgent look on her face.
“What’s the matter, Layla?”
“Pauline, that Young Lady!”
“What about Pauline?”
“That woman just asked the Duke for a meeting! She’d just entered the Duke’s office!”
Dooha hadn’t expected this.
At that time, she thought that she would never see Pauline, who was fleeing in terror, again.
It wasn’t enough that she evaded responsibility after doing something wrong, but to come here again?
Should she be described as bold, or stupid?
“Do you know why?”
“According to the other maids, it seems that it’s to nitpick about how the Madam interrogated her at the lake.”
The expression on Layla’s face was pretty severe.
“Madam, what are you going to do? Shouldn’t we stop Young Lady Pauline?”
“She’s already in the middle of a meeting with the Duke, so what do you mean stop her?”
Dooha picked up the bottle on the table and fiddled it with her fingertips.
“No matter what designs the Young Lady has, it won’t work out as she wishes.”
“How can you guarantee that? What will you do if she tries to frame Madam!”
Dooha threw a bottle of medicine upwards like it was a toy and grabbed it.
“Do you think the Duke is a great man that’ll just quietly listen to a woman that’s slandering his wife?”
She and the duke, they certainly were far from a ‘loving married couple’.
However, the both of them recognised each other’s existence more than any other couple.
“I’ve decided to trust you.”
Trust was also formed between them.
Dooha stretched and got up from her seat.
“The weather is nice. Shall we go for a walk?”
Unlike her restless handmaiden, the Duchy’s mistress began moving her feet too calmly.
There wasn’t any signs of gloominess on her face.
* * *
“Right. So this is the reason I have to take time out of my busy schedule to listen to your words.”
Leonhart stared at the two people standing before him silently.
He was just looking at them, but a heavy and sharp momentum flowed out from his entire body, which was enough to cause an ordinary person’s knees to wobble.
“Isn’t the Duke also aware of it?”
A vassal of Esbaden’s, Count Blair, met the eyes of his Lord and opened his mouth.
He was an old gentleman that gave off a crafty and despicable impression, and was nothing but skin and bones.
“About the incident that occurred during the outing that was hosted by the Duchess not long ago.”
The count’s words caused Leonhart’s brows to furrow slightly.
That day’s incident was something that he didn’t really want to recall.
As it was the day that he’d almost become the duke that lost his new bride.
“That day, the Duchess slandered my daughter in front of the vassal’s wives.”
Count Blair glanced at Pauline, who was standing behind him with a bowed head.
She was dressed beautifully, but she had a pale countenance and kept biting her lower lip.
Just like someone that wanted to run away from this place if she was given a chance.
Leonhart glanced at her expression, before tilting his head to the side.
With a face that’s more elegant than anyone else, he matched well with the improper posture.
“I require an apology.”
Count Blair looked directly at Leonhart and tilted his chin upwards slightly.
“From the Duchess, to my daughter personally.”
With that sentence, one of Leonhart’s handsome eyebrows rose like it had been pulled upwards.
“Are you saying that sincerely, Count Blair?”
“Do I appear to be someone that would crack jokes in the Duke’s presence?”
The duke brushed back his bangs that were drooping slightly and rose from his seat.
“To think that those words weren’t a joke but spoken seriously. I was wondering if you’re in your right mind.”
He slowly walked to the front of his desk and stood before Count Blair.
As the duke had been rolling in numerous battlefields ever since he was young, just standing up made his body seem overwhelming.
Count Blair tried to maintain a nonchalant look on his face as he looked up at Leonhart, who was much larger than himself.
“Is there a reason why I can’t get an apology?”
“In that case, why should the Duchess bow her head to the Young Lady of a Count?”
In the face of the Duke’s rebuttal, Count Blair was flustered but didn’t back down, and spoke sharply.
“My daughter is much more pure and virtuous than any other aristocratic young lady. However, she was insulted in front of everyone, so how am I to just let this go…”
“It’s best if you let it go, Count.”
Leonhart stood in a crooked posture with a hand on his waist.
“That day wasn’t just dangerous for the Count’s daughter only, but also for all the vassals’ wives.”
His deep blue eyes landed on both the face of Count Blair, and Young Lady Pauline, who was standing behind him.
“Of course, including the Duchess.”
Leonhart lifted the cup that was placed on his desk.
As the weather was warm, he was purposely served cold herbal tea.
He took a sip of the vivid golden tea water that reminded him of his wife’s eyes and continued speaking.
“And as far as I’m aware, while there wasn’t any evidence that the boat Young Lady Pauline had presented that day had problems, there’s no evidence that there weren’t any problems.”
“What kind of sophistry is this? So even when evidence of a problem wasn’t discovered, my daughter deserves to be treated like that!”
“I meant that you shouldn’t be hasty, Count.”
“Then if my wife is found to be guiltless, you’ll be in trouble.”
Leonhart added a short sentence.
“Quite a lot of trouble.”
* * *
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