"…All the dresses were torn to shreds.”
She didn’t fully comprehend what Michael was saying at first.
She was completely blindsided. She already knew that not all events would flow the same way they did in her previous life, however, she could not help but feel knocked off balance by something that she hadn’t experienced before. What went wrong? Something changed because this was different from her last life. The problem was, she couldn't even begin to guess the root cause.
“When I opened the carriage…"
“Let’s go to it immediately."
Elena rushed ahead first, and Michael followed behind. Elena, who could not have been that familiar with the layout of the mansion, strode unquestioningly towards the carriage, and Michael couldn't help but tilt his head in puzzlement.
When they arrived, Elena examined the scene with hawk-like eyes. There were two carriages that were used by the traveling party. One was the carriage which Elena and Mirabelle arrived in comfortably, and the other was the one that carried the luggage. The family maids rode in the luggage carriage, and the rest of the men rode their own horses. At present the coachman, the maid, Mary, and the knights were standing around looking perplexed. Upon seeing them, Elena addressed the group with a calm voice.
“What happened here?”
Mary was the first to answer.
“After the you entered the mansion, I opened the carriage to move the luggage…and the dresses were destroyed."
Mary’s face was red, brittle under Elena's gaze. Elena glanced at her face then turned towards the nearby knights.
“Did you see anyone suspicious?”
“No, My Lady. We traveled straight from the dress shop to the mansion, so there was no room for anyone suspicious to approach.”
Even Elena agreed. They hadn’t stopped once on their way here from the dress shop. Lastly, she spoke to the coachman, who was standing shuffling restlessly.
“Did you notice anything strange when you were driving the carriage?”
“Oh, no, My Lady. It's like a real ghost.”
The coachman seemed to be terrified he would have to pay for the damages. It was not easy for an ordinary man to afford a dress worn by a noblewoman. But that wasn't what mattered now. It would be a waste of money, and even if Elena had the wealth…
Now the problem was that it was be difficult to find another dress for the ball. All the tailor shops in the capital were now full. Even if a dress were to be ordered now, it would be impossible to meet the deadline.
A sigh couldn't help but escape from her mouth.
It was then.
The coachman, watching Elena’s troubled look, hurriedly opened his mouth as he suddenly remembered something.
“Ah, My Lady. There was something unusual.”
“What was it?”
“Well, we had four maids traveling with us. Mary sat with me up front because she wanted some fresh air…"
Mary nodded affirmatively at his side. The driver stammered on as he tried to recall his memory.
“There was a maid in the carriage you were traveling in, so there had to be two maids in the luggage carriage. But today there was only one girl.”
Mary, who was still listening quietly, noted that she also sensed something strange.
“Come to think of it, Tilda asked to stay in the luggage carriage alone because she was not feeling well.”
Because Elena was riding inside the carriage with Mirabelle, she didn’t know who was on the coachman’s seat. Unusually there had been two maids riding on the coachman's seat on Elena's carriage, while Tilda was alone with the luggage. The full story had to come from her.
“Where is Tilda now?”
Mary's face turned white at Elena’s question. She seemed to come to a damning realization.
“W-well…I couldn't find Tilda, so the other maids went to look for her.”
After hearing this, Elena immediately knew who destroyed the dresses without having to delve any further. House Blaise was a family of knights. It would be difficult to sneak past the escort of well-trained soldiers towards the carriage, unless the culprit, however, was an inside woman.
As Elena remained silent, one the knights standing next to her spoke up first.
“We'll search the perimeter, My Lady.”
This was all planned out. The chances of finding Tilda were low, but it was better than nothing, so Elena nodded.
“Then please take care of it.”
The knights exchanged glances with each other then quickly scattered. Elena couldn’t push down the acid feeling in her throat as she looked at the wreckage of the dresses in the carriage.
'…Who the hell was responsible for this?'
Tilda, a maid, could not have done this alone. Someone was moving in the shadows behind her, but they were not easily seen. Elena wondered if it was someone from a previous life. Since returning to the past, she couldn't think of anything she had done to incur resentment against her.
Elena contemplated quietly for a moment, then turned to Mary.
“Did you notice anything strange about Tilda while we were traveling?”
“Not at all…"
Mary, whose words trailed off to a murmur, then suddenly lifted her voice as if something struck her mind.
“Oh! She received a letter from Sophie a few days ago.”
Her memories of dismissing Sophie gradually emerged to the forefront. Tilda and Sophie worked as maids together, and even if one of them was fired, they still could have exchanged letters. Elena had a sense of foreboding.
“Tilda was the only one to receive a letter? What about the other maids?"
“No, the other maids didn't receive any. Tilda and Sophie were close friends from the beginning.”
"…Is that so?"
“Yes. But it might not be important, My Lady."
Mary still seemed to have a guilty conscience over Sophie, and had a slightly embarrassed expression on her face. Sensing her discomfort, Elena replied with slight nod of her head.
“I see. Don’t worry, I’ll figure out if it's in any way related.”
Mary's expression turned bright again, and Elena looked away from the torn dresses. Staring it at wouldn't return to its original state. For now, she had to think about how to handle this.
Elena raised her voice to speak to the rest of the people gathered about her.
“We all had a difficult journey getting here. Go and get some rest.”
For the nobility, luxury good and displays of wealth were highly valued. It would not be unusual for noblewoman to scream and cry in this situation, but Elena remained collected and calm. Michael, Mary, and the coachman gathered here couldn't hide their surprise.
“Oh, My Lady…"
“Mary, go get some rest.”
Elena turned away first, and everyone bowed their heads. Michael alone followed Elena's wake as she disappeared peacefully into the mansion. Without turning her head, Elena spoke in a low voice to Michael.
“Please contact Blaise Castle and search for a maid named Sophie who was recently dismissed. Find out what she's doing now in as much detail as possible.”
“Yes, I’ll send word right away. Leave it to me, My Lady."
Michael held his hand to his chest as if to reassure her to trust him, and Elena simply nodded in return. The simple gesture was so elegant that Michael couldn’t help but stare at Elena’s profile in awe.
As Elena made to her room, she wondered who was the culprit responsible for the incident. She could have asked Kuhn to investigate, but in her experience, domestic affairs should be resolved as internally possible. If she found out who the culprit was, she would make sure they would never get away with it. She needed a dress because she had to attend the ball, but she was even more angry when she remembered Mirabelle’s smiling face.
'…I just need to catch them.'
As they reached Elena's room, Michael bowed more deeply than the first time.
“Good night, My Lady."
“Yes, and you too.”
After she closed the door, she began to check if anyone was in the room. Only after confirming she was alone did she carefully unpack the dagger and sandbag weights she wore on her ankle. She didn't always have the time to exercise, so she wore them as a second best option. Because of it, she was now much more physically fit than when she first rescued Carlisle. She rubbed her stiff ankles for a moment then hid the dagger and sandbags at her bedside. She had a habit of sleeping with a sword beside her from her previous life, in case of surprise attacks when she slept.
Elena walked to the window and took a red handkerchief, and then tied it to the handle so it could be seen from outside. It was the first time she had summoned Kuhn since he saved Mirabelle. There was no guarantee that the signal would work at this mansion, but Elena knew that Kuhn would come to her.
There was a lot of work for her to do in the capital. However, since a major incident already happened on the first day, it was yet one more problem among a pile of things to be solved.
Elena looked up at star-filled night sky and murmured to herself.
"…I’ll be busy again tomorrow.”
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