“I, Sharon de Michel, accuse lady Camilla and lady Chieri of perpetrating the attack in the dungeon!”
Struck by the villainess Sharon’s accusation, Chieri staggered back, her eyes wide open. The nearby knights silently surrounded her.
Chieri tried to talk, but before she could get her words out, the other villainess, Camilla, shouted. It startled Sharon.
“Sharon, have you lost your mind?! You would dare accuse me, a duke’s daughter, of such—”
“We have already notified the Reese dukedom,” prince Joel cut off Camilla, while Andy moved in front of Sharon protectively. “The duke himself had expressed his wish for you to admit to your crime, Camilla.”
“No… Father… he couldn’t have! This must be a plot to frame me!”
To Chieri, Camilla’s shout sounded a thousand miles away.
Why did this happen, she thought. Why am I here? It should have been me. I should be standing where they are!
Before she knew it, Chieri was already glaring at Sharon and Fleurety. It hadn’t escaped Joel’s eyes. He scowled.
“Lady Chieri… you are one of the Partner candidates summoned from another world. I never would have expected such foolishness from you. I understand you have yet to familiarize yourself with this world, but it does not excuse your actions.”
All strength left Chieri. The knights to her sides caught her as she slumped to the floor, and they carried her forward. While their grasps were gentle still, the moment Chieri tried anything, they would not hesitate to pin her to the floor.
Having known no hardships in her life before, the middle-school girl was utterly unprepared for the oppressive air of the court. She trembled in fear.
Camilla looked at her and smirked.
“Speaking of which, I’ve heard that little girl complaining about how Sharon and her maid kept sticking to sir Eric and sir Elias. Is there not the possibility that it was her? That her hideous jealousy had driven her to order the attack?”
Chieri gasped. Camilla was trying to push all the blame to her.
The woman hadn’t been lying — Chieri had told her that, and she was jealous, more or less, but it was all to rile up Camilla.
Until now, Chieri had continued to deflect the malice that came her way toward other people — at the moment, it was Kamishiro, the girl who now called herself Fleurety. And now that Chieri was the one being put on the spot, the one being judged, her frustration was crushing. She ground her teeth, her eyes misty.
“She’s not saying anything, see? It surely confirms my words—”
Camilla continued, sure in her triumph, when she was once again interrupted, this time by Elias.
“May I have a word, your honor?”
“You may.” Joel readily agreed.
Chieri whispered, convinced that Elias was going to save her, the heroine. Of course he would be. This was the world of a game. When the heroine was in trouble, surely there would be someone to save her.
She thought wrong.
“To my utmost regret, this incident also involved people from the Church. My personal interrogation has revealed that lady Chieri, the next possible Saint, had mentioned in passing her displeasure against lady Sharon and lady Fleurety for their perceived deeds. Acting on their impatience, the priests then proceeded to commit the assault.”
Elias’ words only drove Chieri deeper into a corner. She couldn’t even refute. She might have not given an explicit order, but nevertheless, it was a fact that she had spoken while forgetting her own position. Her responsibility in the matter was undeniable.
“See?! The little girl did it. And besides, does Sharon also not share part of the blame for her actions?” Camilla pushed.
“No. Sharon and her maid have done nothing to be criticized for.”
This time, the woman was refuted by instructor Eric. Prince Joel nodded and waved for him to continue.
“I would even go so far as to say that I have not seen any student as earnest and faultless as Sharon. Meanwhile, several male students had told me they were manipulated by lady Camilla to turn against Sharon and her maid.”
“Impossible!” Camilla shouted, outraged.
“I can corroborate as well. The Church’s priests had apparently been convinced that their actions were justified, and that it was lady Camilla who had suggested them so,” Elias followed up on Eric’s testimony.
Camilla was panicking. She cried out in desperation.
“All meaningless testimonies! Are you saying my words hold less weight than those vulgar priests and students?! Where is your evidence?!”
“So you want evidence, is it…”
From the hands of his attendant, Joel took hold of a piece of paper, his disgust toward it apparent.
“This is a receipt from a back-alley pharmacy documenting a purchase made by the Reese dukedom. The product is… well, it would suffice to say that it is of an extremely sexual nature, and several of the male students have shown the distinctive symptoms. The investigation had also concluded that it was one of lady Camilla’s attendants who had placed the order.”
The substance detected was a mix of Camilla’s usual order and the drug that Fleurety had given her.
Unlike modern Earth, the method to detect residual chemicals that the people of this world utilized was not very precise. But unfortunately for Camilla, the woman had also used in parallel the drug that Fleurety had made, which was so powerful as to leave after-effects for the substance user. More than enough residuals have been detected.
Camilla also found it unbelievable that the pharmacist had betrayed her. Had she not spent more than enough to silence the shopkeeper?
No one in the court noticed Fleurety’s demonic smirk.
What do I do… what do I do?!
Chieri was seized by panic. The way things were going, Camilla would soon be indicted, which would also mean that Chieri would be forced to confess.
Her crime wasn’t as heavy as Camilla’s, but her prospects of becoming the next Saint would be irrevocably beyond her grasp. Even if the Church would forgive her, she didn’t believe the kingdom would.
Everyone would turn away from her. She would no longer be able to clear the game.
What do I do… somebody… Goddess, save me!
For the very first time, Chieri prayed. Chieri, a girl born of a religious family, a girl who had never believed in gods and deities, who was convinced that the game’s Goddess was nothing more than a part of the programming, now prayed whole-heartedly upon facing her crisis.
For the first time, she heard the Goddess’ voice.
A young knight carrying what looked to be a magical communicator ran toward prince Joel and whispered in his ear. The prince paled.
Elias looked to the ceiling and muttered, as though answering a voice only he could hear.
“Monsters spilling out of the dungeon…”
It was the most important event for a player going through the Saint route. An event where the Saint would make use of her holy power to fight against the tide of monsters together with the capture targets. An event marking the heroine’s transformation into a true Saint.
Like a bolt out of the blue, the Stampede struck.
“…well now, if this isn’t deliberate then I’m not sure what is.” I mutter.
The kangaroo court has been interrupted by a sudden outbreak of monsters.
And right before the judgement was made too, so of course the lady Camilla immediately took the chance to run with her subordinates in tow, saying she would “keep the monsters at bay” and citing her “duty as an instructor”. She did it all before prince Joel could recover from his momentary bewilderment and order her capture. Very speedy, she is.
I don’t know whether she would actually fight or if she was only thinking of running. Well, I have more important things to worry about, at any rate.
As for lady Chieri, she would be going to the frontline as a Saint by the Church’s entreaty. She sure is a hard worker.
This whole situation is just so convenient for them.
And besides, I think Elias also had an oracle from the Goddess…
“Letty… shouldn’t we be doing something?”
So, since it turned out that the trial would be suspended until further notice, I have taken lady Sharon back to our room for a rest.
Today’s snack is a baked cheesecake. I personally prefer a more traditional cheesecake, but milady has been tired, what with everything that has happened today. I believe she would appreciate a cheesecake with a bit more… heft in its texture.
“You are still a student, milady. There is no need for you to be facing danger. It is the sort of matter best left to the adults.” I say, pouring her a cup of fragrant black tea.
“I… well, I guess you’re right, but…”
Milady still looks unconvinced as she takes a sip of tea. She must be worried about Andy, who has gone to fight.
In this world, fifteen is the age of majority, but while milady’s fifteenth birthday has already passed, she still also needs to graduate the academy before she is legally considered an adult.
I give her a reassuring smile.
“So please, just leave the danger for the gentlemen to deal with. You should be relaxing and enjoying the calories that you love so much.”
“I told you, I don’t like calories!!!”
All the same, I’m sure she is thinking that she should be out there protecting the common people, as is her noblesse oblige. Truly, she is a model for nobles. But as her maid, my own responsibility is to keep her safe.
I could only offer my sympathy to lady Chieri, who has been recruited for the front line. Though I wonder if she would be fine… she doesn’t seem to have the necessary training to survive on the battlefield yet.
Oh well, there are tons of knights there anyway. No need to worry about her.
“The knights and soldiers need to work for their pay too, milady.”
“…they sure have it rough. Ah, but his Highness Joel is going too… I can’t just be sitting here drinking tea…”
As royalty, the prince has gone ahead to the third dungeon where the Stampede has happened. It is why Andy is with him, and also the reason for milady’s worries.
…it can’t be helped, then. For milady’s peace of mind, I would have to ensure Andy’s safety.
“Oh my, what a gaffe. I have forgotten to resupply our store of snack ingredients.”
Well, it seems I am not quite a master actress.
“Then I’ll go too—”
“Do not worry, milady. I am simply visiting a store near the third dungeon. I will be back before you know it.”
I don’t want to say milady would be useless weight if she accompanies me, but… well, it certainly would be difficult for me to go all out. And besides… some people still need to be punished.
“Promise me you’ll be fine, Letty. Sir Andy and his Highness, too…” she says, taking my hand in hers.
“Leave it to me, milady.”
I tightly clasp back and give her a smile.
“I’m sure all the stores being attacked are having a 100% off sale right now.”
“No, that’s not what I’m worried about!”
I jest, of course. I’m only going to beat the price down to the absolute minimum for the products that are about to be crushed in the chaos.
A/N: Can the merchants ever recover after facing The Haggling Maid?