“I thought it was suspicious, so I decided to inform the knight commander about it first.
He was getting ready to go out but he came back for a while, and I was about to tell him about Miss Charlotte when he entered the room, but then the commander was very flustered when he noticed that his gold brooch had disappeared.
It looks like it’s very precious to the commander because he usually pins it on his overcoat…”

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“……”

“After seeing what I saw, I think it was Miss Charlotte who took it.
I saw Miss Charlotte enter the knight commander’s room before it disappeared, that’s why…! Miss Charlotte isn’t acquainted with the commander and she’s not assigned to the knights’ quarters, yet she entered the commander’s room… T-That’s why I thought she was suspicious.”

After prattling out her explanation while she continued to look visibly nervous, Serena hurriedly lowered her head the moment her gaze met mine.

Anyone who had eyes could see that she seemed to have no talent for lying.

With a sharp tone, I asked Serena directly.

“So you’re saying that you’re the only witness, but who’s to say that you aren’t the thief here? It looks terribly like you’re falsely accusing Charlotte to cover up your own tracks.
How can I believe your words?”

“B-But, I’m—”

“In the first place, Charlotte is a lady-in-waiting, and compared to a maid like you, she has a higher wage.
Tell me, who between the two of you is the more likely to be tempted by the commander’s brooch? If you do just a bit of critical thinking, you’d be able to guess the answer, yes?”

“No, Madam! I didn’t steal it! R-Really, I…!”

“If you really didn’t steal it, then it’s fine if we conduct a search, right?”

“B-But…”

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“Lily, that’s enough.
Serena is—”

When I cornered Serena, just as expected, Missus Seymour stepped in.
But I cut her off and asked back.

“Missus Seymour, have you tried searching these people? Shouldn’t that be done first?”

Missus Seymour’s expression slipped for a moment as she pretended to be unaffected, but she immediately answered calmly.

“…I didn’t think that there was a need to cause such a commotion.
There’s a witness here, so that should be enough.”

“I don’t know about that.
Isn’t it very possible for anyone to claim and pretend they’re a witness? Let’s start with the people who are already here.
Except for Charlotte, you’re all assigned to the knights’ quarters, correct?”

To answer my question, one lady-in-waiting and two maids nodded blankly in surprise.
They had never seen me act like this before.

I looked elsewhere—towards Serena, who had turned as white as a sheet, and the other maid, who continued to stand still while expressionless this whole time.

At first glance, that maid looked like she was entirely calm.
But once I looked at her closely, I could see how she kept picking at the sides of one fingernail, blood slowly trickling out from the fresh wound.

I approached that maid and asked her.

“Why is your hand like that?”

“……!”

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The maid flinched noticeably, as if she didn’t expect me to ask that question at all.

She looked at me with eyes that went as wide as saucers, hurriedly hiding both hands behind her as she stammered.

“I-It’s, just, it’s… a habit…”

“You’ll have to correct all your bad habits before you can become a lady-in-waiting later, won’t you?”

And right on cue, Missus Seymour interfered once again.

“Lily, I don’t think this child’s habits matter at the moment.”

“Yes, Missus Seymour, you’re right.
So let’s hurry up and do a body search for all the people here.”

“Do we really need to do that? I’m more curious about why Charlotte Brandon entered the knight commander’s room.”

“Actually, Missus Seymour, she did that because I told her to.”

When Missus Seymour spoke, she had a smile on her lips.
But now, as she heard my answer, her eyebrows wriggled.

“Don’t you think it’s strange for Charlotte to steal a gold brooch like that when she went to the knight commander’s room under my order? It’s not just anyone else’s order—it’s mine, the Duchess’. By chance, will you say that I ordered her to steal that brooch? Or perhaps, do you think that she impulsively pocketed it in there? She didn’t exactly enter that room without anyone knowing.
She went there because I gave her an order to do so, didn’t she?”

“……”

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Missus Seymour’s eyes were blazing with fury.
But regardless of that, I turned to the three maids and two ladies-in-waiting.

“Now, come forward, let’s search you one by one.
Or whoever did it, just come forward and confess before the search.
If you do that, I’ll spare you from any corporeal punishment.”

However, no one admitted anything, so the search eventually commenced.

The search was conducted by Charlotte.
Missus Seymour glared at me with blazing eyes, but at that moment, Charlotte paused when she took off one of Serena’s socks.

“Oh, this…”

As her left foot was raised, Serena remained frozen and speechless.
Her face was completely pale.

The gold brooch slipped out the sock.

She was walking so strangely because the brooch was hidden in her sock.

Serena stumbled back and soon collapsed to the floor.
I already expected it, but her conviction really was weak.

And I already knew the answer, but I still asked.

“Serena, did you steal it?”

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“N-No…”

Her shoulders shook as her lips opened and closed.
Tears welled up in Serena’s eyes as she shook her head vigorously, as if she really was innocent.

When she was about to say something, the unmannered lady-in-waiting stepped forward and shouted.

“You! You’re the one who stole it, but you tried to pin it on someone else?! You also stole Lucy’s silver earrings last time, too, didn’t you? Your younger siblings must be so proud of how you’re making a living!”

The situation started irrationally, and this time, too, it would end irrationally.
And it seemed like the most irrational person here was the one who characteristically had no self-awareness.

As that lady-in-waiting pointed at Serena, her finger was shaking.

I grasped that hand and held it still.
Shocked by this, the lady-in-waiting turned to me.

With a somewhat bored tone, I said,

“Stop it, Ayla.
It’s no use.
Unfortunately for you, even if you sell the knight commander’s gold brooch… No.
Actually, no matter what else you steal, you won’t be able to settle all of your lover’s debts.”

“What, w-what are you…”

This lady-in-waiting’s name was Ayla.

I had quite the laundry list of the disgraces of each and every servant working in this household.

And of course, this included Ayla.

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