𝐂𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝟑𝟗: 𝐔𝐧𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐈𝐧𝐯𝐢𝐭𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧
One sunny afternoon, while strolling through the garden with Florenci, I noticed a leather water flask floating in a bucket filled with water.
“Okaa-san, could this have been left behind by one of the gardeners?”
“It might be.”
“Why is it floating?”
“It’s empty inside, filled with air.”
“So, would it sink if we put water inside?”
The moment I bent down to pick up the flask, I realized something.
It was about Irma, who had drowned in the lake.
If she slipped and drowned, wouldn’t it be strange for her body to float on the lake?
If she had drowned, she would have swallowed a lot of water, her body would become heavy and sink to the bottom of the lake.
Why on earth was her body floating on the lake?
The reason is simple.
She was murdered by someone and thrown into the lake.
Her body was found floating on the lake, not sinking.
Perhaps Irma’s death was not an accident.
The moment I realized this, my heart pounded violently.
“Okaa-san, is something wrong?”
“Ah――N, Nothing. The flask might be used for gardening, so let’s leave it here.”
Feeling frightened, I took Florenci’s hand and returned to the cottage.
Ever since I went to the backyard with Rosa, I can’t stop thinking about Irma’s death.
Why did she die?
The knights’ investigation concluded that she slipped, fell into the lake, and drowned. But the more I think about it, the more it seems wrong, it’s frustrating.
Maybe she was killed by someone.
The more I think about it, the less I understand why Irma was killed.
And that’s not the only reason it bothers me.
Everyone I met in Binemöer knew Irma, her family and acquaintances, and I still feel her presence strongly, even three years after her death.
And I can sense from the nuances of their words that they haven’t accepted her sudden death.
There’s no way a young woman about to get married would take dangerous actions knowingly.
Even if her fiance said he couldn’t reciprocate her love, a girl born into a noble family would understand that it’s natural.
Furthermore, the place she headed for was also a question.
Would she go alone to a lake that is dim even during the day and usually shrouded in fog, in the middle of the night?
I absolutely couldn’t.
If she wanted to clear her head by walking, wouldn’t the garden, rather than the backyard, be enough?
There must have been some major reason for Irma to have gone to the lake.
There were too many puzzling points about Irma’s death.
If there is a different truth from what the knights investigated, the remaining ones may accept Irma’s death and be able to live peacefully.
Therefore, I had begun to want to unravel the mystery of her death.
How should I go about investigating Irma?
While contemplating, a letter arrives for me.
Annie says, “The Marchioness instructed us to check the contents immediately.” So, I flip the envelope over to confirm the sender.
Written in the sender’s section was Karina・Von・Glaunorn――the king’s concubine.
A flurry of question marks descends upon me. Why on earth would the concubine be sending me a letter?
I open the envelope, pull out the note inside. With a beating heart, I read the letter.
It was an invitation to discuss Vulcano’s culture over tea.
Concerned by my deep pondering, Ga-chan peeks into my face with a worried look.
“Ah. . . . . . yes, Ga-chan, I’m fine.”
I cannot help but feel that Ga-chan’s round eyes are pleading, “You’re not okay, are you?”
Noble interactions can sometimes involve political intentions. Whether or not to meet the concubine isn’t something I should decide on my own.
I decided to consult the Marchioness. With that thought, I stand up.
The Marchioness was out in the garden, elegantly sipping her tea.
The weather was fine today, and it wasn’t too cold, so she seemed to be enjoying herself.
Upon seeing me, the Marchioness brought up the letter from the concubine.
“You received a letter from Karina・Von・Glaunorn, didn’t you?”
“What did it say?”
“Well, it was an invitation to learn about Vulcano’s culture over tea.”
“Oh, what a roundabout way of putting it.”
The Marchioness explained the intention behind the letter in a way that made it clear to me.
“She must be looking to strengthen her power. By ingratiating herself with you, she hopes to eventually secure our support from the House of Marquis.”
“I see, so that’s it.”
It appeared to be a strategy of “To shoot the general, first shoot his horse.” The puzzle suddenly fell into place.
I had heard that most of those who support the concubine are the nouveau riche. Historical families like the Marquis Falkenhigh do not support the concubine.
If the House of Marquis became an ally, the social foundations the concubine stands upon would become more solid.
“Then, should we decline the invitation. . . . . .”
“No, it would be good to meet with her once.”
Surprised by her words, I doubted my own ears.
“Marchioness, why do you suggest that?”
“Remember when you spoke with the queen before?”
“Just like that, talking with Karina・Von・Glaunorn and getting to know what kind of person she is won’t be a disadvantage.”
She says it’s important to see for oneself the other person’s personality and their way of thinking.
“You’ve heard the rumors about the concubine being a wicked woman and the king being fooled by a young girl, right? It might be fun to verify those rumors yourself.”
“Uh, yeah. . . . . .”
What concerns me, though, is if the word spreads that I visited the concubine, I might be mistaken as a member of the Concubine’s Faction. The Marchioness says I don’t need to worry about this point.
“Faction affiliations are expressed in social events such as evening parties by wearing accessories that symbolize both sides. So, you won’t be misunderstood as belonging to a faction just because you met with her.”
“I feel relieved hearing that.”
In that case, it might be good to meet her once.
Thus, with the Marchioness’ advice, I decided to meet with the concubine.
Before I knew it, the day to visit the royal concubine had arrived amidst my bustling schedule.
Together with Ga-chan, we wrapped the handkerchief that I prepared as a gift.
It’s an item adorned with lace that Ga-chan and I created, on a silk handkerchief.
I hope she likes it.
The dress is the first one I purchased for myself since coming to Binemöer.
The beautiful willow green fabric felt very pleasant to the touch.
The button on the back was fastened by Ga-chan.
Applying makeup thoroughly, I present an elegance befitting a married woman.
After studying the trends in Binemöer, I managed to tie my hair with Ga-chan’s help.
I got ready in about an hour and, as Florenci saw me off, I left the Marquis mansion.
Ga-chan clung to my chest, serving as an ornament.
Not being alone eases the tension slightly.
I wanted to stay in the carriage for longer, but we soon arrived at the royal palace.
Guided by the waiting maid, I headed to the royal concubine’s quarters.
When the maid knocked on the door, a beautiful voice responded.
The door opened, and a luxurious beauty greeted me with an easy smile.
Such a beautiful woman that I thought light from heaven might be pouring down on her—she was Karina・Von・Glaunorn.