Act 15: The Girl with the Dark Brown Hair
A few days after the Flantheim House evening party.
Cordelia secluded herself up in her laboratory and thought about essential oils.
(A fragrance that Sara-sama would like. A fragrance that Sara-sama would like.)
Three days after the evening party, Nirupama had taken Cordelia out, as if she was kidnapping her, and they visited the Flantheim mansion once again. The Marquees greeted them with plenty of sweets, so Cordelia enjoyed those first. She observed the conversation between Nirupama and Sara, and then showed Sara the essential oils she had, other than the rose one.
“They all smell nice.”
“Are there any you like?”
“Well, I want to try them all, but I just don’t know where to start.”
“I also brought some perfumes and balms that I have. I hope that you would try them also.”
“Thanks. I’m very happy.”
Sara looked as happy as she’d said she was. But then, Cordelia noticed something.
Sara-sama probably doesn’t like all the fragrances here, she just hadn’t found something that’s caught her eye.
She thought that and concentrated her magic in her eyes, and looked at the magic colour that was surrounding Sara. She memorised the hue and thought about what blend would work well for that hue of magic.
(Of course, I’m sure Sara-sama would be happy even if I don’t blend it for her, but it’s worth it if she’s happy.)
For now, Sara could just use the things that Cordelia had given her. She was still thinking of a blend for Sara, but it might have been faster just to listen to her impressions of the ones she had used. However, if she was really to think about blends seriously, then she wanted more kinds of essential oils. Should I search for more herb habitats in the library? Cordelia was really troubled over where to start.
(And then…… This has nothing to do with fragrances, but it might be good to change the plain dark reddish-brown bottles into something cuter.)
The colour might not be easy to change, in order to prevent a change in quality, but there are many ways I could make the label. The bottle I’m using now is easy to use, but it’s a bit boring.
Cordelia thought about it as she took a small bottle from the table.
“…… Hey, Ojou-sama.”
“What’s wrong, Ronnie?”
“Aren’t you pushing yourself a little too hard? You’re spending more time on that chair than usual. Why don’t you take a little break?”
Ronnie told her that and Cordelia tilted her head. She had no intentions of pushing herself too hard.
But, she did feel like her shoulders were a little stiff when she moved them. Apparently, what Ronnie had said wasn’t wrong.
(I wonder if I was more distracted from my encounter with Prince-sama than I thought.)
They hadn’t talked that much, and she intended on feeling relieved after she reconfirmed that she’d avoided him, but apparently, she was more aware of him than she had thought she was.
(But, I can’t help it, my life is at stake.)
Will I be reflected in Prince-sama’s eyes as 『just a normal lady』? She was a little worried about that, but the current her had no way of knowing the answer. Of course, she could find the answer to a certain extent if she asked Vernoux, but then that would cause misunderstandings, and she couldn’t ask when she knew he was probably going to tease her more.
“I’ll prepare some tea. So, please rest for now, Ojou-sama……”
“Excuse me, Cordelia-sama.”
“Emina? Come in.”
A knock sounded at the door, interrupting what Ronnie had to say, and Cordelia invited the person in.
“You have a guest waiting for you.”
“A guest? For me?”
“Yes. Aisha-sama is here.”
Cordelia quickly stood up at those words. This was the second time Aisha had visited without an appointment. Is it that urgent that she didn’t even have time to send a letter? She headed towards the parlour while feeling anxious.
In the parlour, Aisha wasn’t sitting on a chair and instead was staring out of the window.
“I’m sorry for making you wait, Aisha-sama.”
“It’s been a while, Cordelia-sama.”
She thought that it was a bit hasty for her to ask after the greetings, but was extremely worried, so she asked. Aisha widened her eyes in surprise and said while looking very serious.
“Yes, something big has happened.”
“What on earth……”
“Well…… I was able to buy the limited custard pie from the store that has the longest queues in the Royal Capital. So, would you like to eat it together?”
“Th-that is certainly a big deal.”
Cordelia thought she was going to stumble for a second there, but that was certainly a big deal.
Cakes had a short shelf life. It was inevitable that Aisha had come without an appointment if she had gotten the cake so suddenly. Cordelia had also heard about the pie from Ronnie and wanted to eat it, but she didn’t think she could.
Unfortunately, the queues were just too long. Even though it was spring, the sun’s rays were harsh, and Cordelia couldn’t say to her servants, “Go queue up and buy this for me.”
Incidentally, Ronnie knew about the pie because the onee-sama’s from the magician’s wing had ordered him to go buy them some. Then, he heard about the queue and ran away using Cordelia as an excuse.
“I’ll have tea prepared. I’ll also get them to divide the pie for us.”
“Thank you very much.”
Cordelia spoke and gave the pie to Emina. She was really looking forward to eating it. I wonder how delicious it is.
“Cordelia-sama, could you please listen to something else while we wait for the pie to be ready?”
“The main reason why I came to see you today was because of the pie, but there’s something else. To tell you the truth, I’ve been entrusted with a letter from father addressed to Cordelia-sama.”
“Zeke-sama wrote a letter to me? What is it about?”
“Even I don’t know what he wrote in the letter…… I don’t mind. You’re free to read the letter now as well, if you would like.”
“Then, I’ll do that.”
Cordelia cut the seal and took out the letter that was inside of the envelope. There were two sheets of paper inside, but everything was basically written on one page. The letter, which began with greetings, was filled with strongly written letters.
She followed those letters with her eyes and then stopped breathing.
『The merchants who bought wheat from Caina village before seem to be connected to a Dark Guild. The merchants themselves are disposable pieces to the Dark Guild, so we don’t have any information, but you probably don’t have to worry about the village. I have dispatched some soldiers there just in case. At the moment, it is still unclear whether they would retaliate because the village has stopped selling them wheat. It’s also highly probable that they won’t do anything to the village. They want money, so they probably won’t chop down the money tree themselves.
However, they do have the tendency to eliminate those who they view as a threat. I have received a report stating that one of their comrades was trying to gather information about you in Ertiga. This information was only conveyed to a select number of people as not to rouse concern. But Elvis-sama has given me permission to inform you of this, Cordelia-sama. There is no real threat here at the moment, but please be careful.』
“…… Cordelia-sama? Did my father write something rude?”
“No, he didn’t. It was just that I wanted to visit again since I haven’t been there in a while.”
Aisha seemed worried, so Cordelia smiled to trick her.
She had heard about the existence of Dark Guilds before then.
They were places where people, who threw away their morals so that they could live according to their desires, gathered. She had heard about it being like that from her older brother, Isma. It was the general term for them, since there were many different groups. Fortunately, she had never met them before.
(I’ve also heard that they raised a revolution under the pretence of a coup in the past…… What is a revolution when they use illegal funds and trick people?)
However, Cordelia didn’t have much time to think right then.
That was because the extremely delicious looking pie and tea were brought back into the room.
“Wow! Look, Cordelia-sama. I can see fruits where it’s been cut. It looks delicious.”
“Then, let’s eat, Onee-sama.”
“Yes. Let’s eat a lot!”
Cordelia spoke with Aisha about trifling things as they ate the pie.
However, the contents of the letter were stuck in her head and she couldn’t enjoy the conversation.
Then, time passed and it was time for Aisha to go home, so Cordelia saw her to the entrance.
(People who do unpleasant things appear everywhere.)
She hadn’t done anything wrong and the only thing she could do was to accept their challenge.
(Otou-sama must have wanted me to think of a way to handle this if he was willing to let me know about it.)
What should I do and who should I ask help from? She had to think more about it when she got more reliable information.
Cordelia gave a long sigh at the possibility of trouble after her encounter with the prince and returned to the parlour. Then, she noticed that an earring that must have belonged to Aisha was on the sofa.
I might still be able to catch up to her, Cordelia thought as she quickly headed for the gate. I’ll ask someone to deliver it if I missed her…… She thought and continued, but then she heard a child’s scream.
Currently, there was only one child in the Pameradia House and there was no way she would hear that child scream, but she had certainly heard one scream near the gate.
What is it? She thought that, and Aisha was no longer there when she arrived at the gate.
But instead, there was a girl who looked to be the same age as Cordelia there. She had dark brown hair and a bobbed haircut.
(That’s a rare hairstyle.)
Girls in this kingdom generally had long hair and noble girls had longer hair than commoner girls. However, even for commoners, it was strange to have hair that almost reached the shoulders but didn’t. Even children had hair long enough to tie.
However, other than thinking it was 『strange』, she also thought that it was 『nostalgic』. And what was important right then was not the girl’s hairstyle. She realised that the commotion was caused by this girl when she approached them.
The girl was snapping at the Parmeradia House’s gatekeeper.
“Like I said! This is such a big house! So there should be something I could do, right!?”
“I said there isn’t. If there was, then Master-sama would order us to make the arrangements.”
“Are you saying you’re stumped over how many people you have working here?”
It looked like the girl wanted to work at the Pameradia House.
However, Cordelia honestly thought that it was natural for the gatekeeper to take her lightly. Little girls were too young to be hired as servants. Besides, she was screaming in a place where nobles lived. Servants would not be accepted if they didn’t have an introduction letter, or at least some etiquette.
She seemed like a very stubborn girl, but she really had no choice but to give up. She would trouble others if she made a fuss for too long, so Cordelia approached them to help the gatekeeper. Then, she noticed something.
(…… What a strange girl.)
She knew this from her hairstyle and attitude, but the strong magic surrounding her could only be said as rare. Her magic looked as if it hadn’t settled in her body yet and was flowing out from within.
(It’s extremely rare for someone to have that much magic power even though they aren’t a noble…… Ronnie also falls into that category.)
However, there was a catch. The magic was swirling around the girl. She probably wouldn’t display her magic like that if it was just high. It looked to Cordelia as if she couldn’t control her magic.
“Can I take a bit of your time?”
“I’m busy right now…… Cordelia-sama!”
“Thank you for your hard work. It looks like a rare guest has come, doesn’t it?”
“I…… I am very sorry.”
In contrast to the gatekeeper who was acting a little uncomfortable, the girl was talking cheerfully.
“You’re this mansion’s Ojou-sama!”
Cordelia, who was getting pointed at vigorously, smiled.
“It’s nice to meet you, Ojou-san. Do you want to work at my house?”
“Yes, that’s right! I’m poor so I left the countryside…… This is such a big mansion, you know. There should be work for me here, right?”
Cordelia met the girl’s gaze and stared at her. The girl waited motionlessly for Cordelia’s reply.
“Okay. I’ll accept you on a trial period for a while. However, you have to be accepted by my father.”
“Then, can you get this Ojou-san to leave quietly?”
The gatekeeper looked stumped and serious at Cordelia’s joke. It probably didn’t occur to him at all.
“It’s fine. There’s someone who would look after her, isn’t there?”
The gatekeeper frowned and then finally said, “Aah.”
“First, come here for a second, Ojou-san. Can I ask for your name?”
“It’s Carla. Nice to meet you, Ojou-sama.”
“……. Then, I’ll walk Ojou-sama to that place.” The guard
So, Cordelia walked through the familiar path with the gatekeeper and Carla. Then, she glanced at the familiar greenhouses while opening the door to the laboratory and magnificently declared.
“Ronnie, I’ve brought you an assistant.”
Then, she surprised Ronnie who was trying to make a cup of tea for himself. Although the tea miraculously didn’t spill, the gatekeeper, who saw that, put a hand to his forehead in amazement.
That night, Cordelia tried to tell Elvis what had happened, like she told the gatekeeper she would.
When she asked the butler Hans when Elvis would be free, she was guided to the study straight away. Elvis had already heard about what had happened.
Elvis began talking as soon as she entered the room.
“I heard that you hired a servant.”
“I did. She was causing a racket at the gate. However, I did put in the conditions that it was a trial period and she would need father’s approval to work here. I’m thinking of leaving her to Ronnie.”
Elvis finally turned to face Cordelia after she spoke, and she became nervous under his gaze.
“I heard that Aisha came today, but was that wrong?”
“…… I did receive a letter from Zeke-sama.”
She knew what he wanted to say. Even if they were in peaceful times, it wasn’t a wise choice to let someone of unclear origins into the mansion. He thought that she had made a foolish choice if she understood all this and still invited Carla in anyways. For argument’s sake, she thought it couldn’t be helped even if Elvis had said, “Is your head just for show?”
However, she also knew that he wasn’t rejecting this idea just because he was asking about it. She couldn’t get swallowed up by the mood.
“That child…… Her name is Carla, and she hides an extremely strong magic, but she can’t control it. I wanted to watch over her a little, because if her magic were to run wild, then it would affect those around her.”
“…… I also saw her magic, but her magic probably won’t affect other people even if it were to go wild. There’s no point in accepting someone who could become your enemy.”
Elvis had already seen Carla.
“Does the person herself have any influence?”
Elvis didn’t answer. No, Cordelia wasn’t sure if he didn’t answer, or if he couldn’t answer because he was unsure. But either way, Elvis’ decision would probably not change. Therefore, this didn’t change the fact that she wanted him to approve of Carla.
“I won’t be surprised if she is connected with a Dark Guild. But, I think if that was true, then she would have had a better way to infiltrate our mansion.”
“I was informed that Zeke-sama hasn’t caught their tail yet. Therefore, if she is someone from a Dark Guild then wouldn’t this be a kind of chance? This is the Pameradia House; we have the advantage. But, I would be very glad if she has nothing to do with a Dark Guild.”
Of course, the people working at the Pameradia House would probably be troubled from her inviting Carla to work there. They would need to keep a watchful eye on her. Other than Ronnie, she needed to get the other magicians to watch out for Carla as well.
(….. The most important reason was that I was worried about her, even if I say such things based on her outward appearance.)
She didn’t think he would approve if she said it was because of her intuition. Therefore, she had prepared some reasons to back it up. They both stared at each other in silence for a while.
“…… I’ll let her work here on trial. However, reports on her would not only be given by you, but from others as well.”
“Thank you very much.”
Cordelia’s thoughts were probably conveyed to Elvis.
An answer was given to her after a long interval and Cordelia bowed deeply.
The next day, Cordelia went to her laboratory after she finished breakfast.
First, she stood in front of the door and listened carefully to what was happening inside. The two inside were quarrelling over something…… Or rather, it sounded as if Carla was mad at Ronnie over something. Cordelia opened the door without knocking while thinking that it was extremely noisy inside.
“What are you quarrelling about first thing in the morning? Your voices could be heard from outside, you know.”
“Oh, Ojou-sama. Good morning. Please listen! This pipsqueak told me to work so early in the morning! It’s still so early in the morning! You know!!”
“Ojou-sama, listen to me! I never heard about Ronnie not working if he doesn’t drink his tea!”
Cordelia tilted her head in confusion because she couldn’t predict that they would say those things. Then, she looked at the clock. It wasn’t as early as Ronnie was saying it was, but it wasn’t late enough for someone to be angry at him.
“…… It’s good that you’re enthusiastic, but I don’t mind if you relax a little more, Carla. It’s not time for Ronnie to start work yet; this is normal.”
“Ronnie, could you make a cup of tea for Carla as well? And could I also have one also?”
“Understood. Please wait a moment.”
Ronnie put his cup of tea down and stood up. Then, he carefully took some cups out of the cupboard. Carla looked really uncomfortable while watching Ronnie.
“…… Hey, am I really going to drink tea as well?”
“Oh my, do you hate tea?”
Cordelia smiled at Carla who was mumbling. “Then, that’s good,” she said.
Ronnie, who heard their exchange, shrugged his shoulders and laughed while getting the tea leaves.
“Pipsqueak, it’s not like you wanted to work from early in the morning, you just wanted to meet Ojou-sama as soon as possible right? You can relax now that she’s here.”
“Wh…… That’s not true!”
Carla denied it in a loud voice. It was so loud that Cordelia wanted to tease her, “Oh my, that’s too bad. You didn’t want to see me?”
“Hey, what kind of jobs can you do Carla?”
“…… I can clean. I’ve never done laundry before, but I think I can do it if I’m taught how to.”
“Cleaning and laundry, is it? But unfortunately, Ronnie doesn’t do any cleaning or laundry. You’ll be his assistant so…… Ronnie, is there anything you could ask her to do?”
Cordelia asked Ronnie as he was pouring water into the pot.
“………… Something like recording personal research results?”
She noticed why he had paused for so long.
The truth was there was nothing for Carla to do.
She had ordered Carla to be Ronnie’s assistant, but Ronnie’s tasks weren’t easy enough for an amateur to do. In the first place, she couldn’t let Carla know what she had asked Ronnie to do. His normal duties were confidential and included defence of the mansion and various magical research; so they couldn’t let Carla see those so easily. Cordelia asked Ronnie because he knew that and she was a little surprised that he had proposed something.
However, Carla frowned at Ronnie’s answer.
“I can read but I can’t write. Can’t you get me to do something else?”
“…… Then, oh right. How about letting her be in charge of regulating magic tools? If it’s a water heater then she could use it for laundry or cleaning. My reputation would also go up.”
Cordelia was interested in Ronnie’s second proposal. However, Carla looked unhappy.
“I’ve never used something like magic before. So I can’t use it…… What? What’s with your face?”
“Nope, I was just thinking you’re making such an amazing face.”
“Honestly, what is it?”
“My bad, my bad,” Ronnie waved his hands lightly, but he didn’t look like he felt sorry at all. Of course, it wasn’t like Ronnie was playing around…… Or so Cordelia thought but, what the heck are you playing at? Cordelia certainly thought that Carla had a great expression on her face, but they weren’t getting anywhere like this.
Cordelia went between the two and said, “Calm down.”
“Ronnie, this is my proposal. Won’t you teach this child magic and how to write? Like you can see, she has plenty of magic, doesn’t she?”
“Ojou-sama, I’ve come here to work. What would it do for me to learn something like magic?”
Carla, who immediately took a posture that said she refused, protested to Cordelia in an unhappy voice. But Ronnie patted her head.
“Pipsqueak, this is also work. This is work to remember your work.”
“Pipsqueak, pipsqueak, stop calling me that! In the first place, I don’t need magic to take care of Ojou-sama, now do I?! So I don’t have to do something like……”
“She has maids to take care of her every day needs, so she doesn’t need you to do that. And, if you speak like that then you don’t know about Ojou-sama’s life at all. Either way, you can’t work if you don’t study, so you might as well learn magic as well.”
Carla hung her head down in shame. She couldn’t argue if she didn’t understand the situation. For the time being, Cordelia was relieved that they’d decided on a job for her to do.
“Then, it’s decided. Ronnie, starting from today, you’ll be Carla’s teacher for a while. You will use half the day for magic and the rest for writing practice.”
“If that is what you wish Ojou-sama, then I’ll do what I can.”
Ronnie words had the hidden message of, “This is troublesome,” like usual, but he was also peeping at Cordelia. What are you thinking, that was probably what he was thinking.
That was what Cordelia felt anyway, so she smiled wryly. Just watch her for a while, she seemed to say.