I leaned against the counter, crossed my arms, and enjoyed the spectacle.
The lady’s youngest daughter with the butterflies, or what? Beautiful hair?
Maybe a lie, since I’d never touched a single strand of those fluttering locks, but the lady fell for it successfully.
The reason I knew about the affairs of the Hayden household was simple.
It was all because of her, she who in my previous life had forced me to clean the campus and then sat next to me drinking coffee.
If that had happened more than five times, even an idiot could paint her portrait against the backdrop of Hayden’s green gate.
“Lady Hayden! We will handle this!”
Academy servants had rushed out from somewhere panicked as they restrained the lady.
“Young ladies, young masters, please return. We will take care of this place.”
Those who couldn’t be seen even with a magnifying glass when I was humiliated now strangely appeared to start fixing the situation.
They dispersed, hoping that the onlookers would also disperse, and the students who had crowded around the scene soon began to scatter.
I watched the procession leave the building.
Redmoore had disappeared earlier, and Helena, her beautiful hair flowing, had left with her friends.
The presence of Claude Valentine was quite unexpected.
At some point he had stood outside the wide open door and looked in.
Our eyes met briefly in the air.
Soon after, he turned his head and, with a smug smile at the woman in the maid’s dress next to him, escorted her elsewhere and left.
The situation was finally roughly resolved. Only the mentally exhausted Lady Hayden remained in the large hall on the first floor of the women’s dormitory, along with the servants who tidied up my luggage and Ayla and me.
Ayla looked at me nervously.
I moved away from the counter I had been leaning on and slowly approached her.
“Yes, yes, Miss!”
She replied enthusiastically, her hands folded politely in front of her.
I looked at her for a moment, choosing my words.
Even if she had ridden in a carriage, it was clear that she had rushed from the mansion.
Her skirt was rumpled, and she hadn’t even put on the shawl that ladies usually wore when they went out.
Her eyes, sparkling with an almost animal anticipation, seemed incredibly pure.
If she were an animal, she would have wagged her tail behind her waist in excitement.
I asked cautiously, “Ayla, how were you planning to bring me these documents?”
She smiled broadly and replied, “Because I’m your personal maid!”
She continued boldly, but then shyly lowered her head.
“Even if you scold me as much as you want, I won’t stop.”
Her hands holding mine twitched.
“All the maids know I care about you. When something happens to you, the good girls usually come to me and tell me. It’s the same today.”
I looked at her for a moment, at a loss.
Then suddenly I grabbed her hand.
“Wait, where are you going? … Ouch!”
She followed hurriedly, maybe even stumbling as she complained of pain, but I paid no attention, moving quickly.
“What? What’s going on?”
“You can’t just come in here!”
I opened a random door on the first floor and entered. It seemed to be the break room for the dormitory staff.
Several staff members who had been talking on the sofa were startled and stood up.
“Get out. All of you.”
“What, what’s going on?”
“What do you care? If you have any complaints, tell Desmiere.”
I pushed them all together to the door making sure none of them stayed, then closed the door firmly. I didn’t forget to lock it.
Anyway, since those guys would have watched me suffer in silence and giggled, I didn’t feel bad at all.
“Abuse of power feels pretty good.”
Despite the complexity in my mind, such a thought came through.
In my past life, I would have foolishly fought to let go of the power.
I listened at the door for a moment. I heard a few puzzled snorts and murmurs, but soon they faded with the sound of footsteps.
Then I turned around. Ayla had been standing there silently, looking at me with a puzzled expression.
I approached her and gently pushed her shoulders to sit her down on the sofa. As I pushed her down, she looked up at me.
Without taking my gaze from her sharp brown eyes, I spoke.
“Do you really want to be my personal servant? I mean, really?”
She placed a hand on my bony one resting on her shoulder.
Her confident head nodded briefly up and down.
“Yes, of course.”
But her confidence wavered for a moment at my next words.
“That application for the dormitory you brought with you, Redmoore, the only heir of Duke Desmiere, whom you serve, deliberately rejected it. On purpose. To provoke me.”
“That can’t be…”
Her eyes trembled. Her chin dropped slightly.
But her soft right hand, holding mine, stayed where it was. I continued to press.
“You didn’t suspect it in your heart? Who else in Desmiere would throw away my documents if not that bastard?”
“Maybe, maybe subconsciously I did. But when I first got that piece of paper, I just…”
Ayla looked up. With wet eyes, she stared directly at me.
“I just thought I had to get it to you as soon as possible, Miss.”
A tingling sensation ran through my mind.
A feeling that couldn’t simply be described as ‘excitement’… It was a feeling I had never experienced before.
“What is this feeling?”
It was as if my heart was pounding and my hands and feet trembled in the cascading waterfall of excessive emotions.
My lower back was tight. I struggled to control the muscles in my face and barely managed to ask.
“Do you regret it?”
“Not at all.”
Ah, she replied with a determined face. She calmed her quickening breath and voice.
“If you’re pitying me in any way, stop it now. I’m fine, really. Answering with half-hearted feelings will only lead to regret.”
“I have made up my mind. My feelings haven’t changed.”
“How much of me have you really seen? It’s only been a little over a month. Are you willing to abandon the family you’ve chosen to serve with just that time? I need to see how committed your fickle heart is this time.”
She interrupted me once. Then she continued, her voice shaking, but not stopping.
“I may be young and not as clever as you, Miss. But I know who is the right person for me.”
Unlike her thin voice, her eyes, which met mine, did not falter.
At that moment, I felt as if the girl I had thought was still a clueless child had suddenly grown up.
“Miss, and… after what happened, I’ve been thinking a lot. About what I said. About why you acted like that. And also about you, about me, about Lord Redmoore, about my family, and so much more.”
She lowered my hand from her shoulder and gripped it tightly.
“So please, stop saying ‘fickle.’ Sometimes emotions can shake one’s soul in an instant.”
Words… couldn’t express the emotions. Ayla continued to speak.
“I came to Desmiere to learn the etiquette of the capital and to gain various experiences. Fortunately, our family is only connected to the aristocracy, not dedicated to serving the gods.”
“But you are Desmiere’s maid. You entered this house to carry out her orders, bearing Desmiere’s name, land, home, and people.”
“Hear me out to the end. Becoming my personal maid means you’re giving that up. You’re betraying them in Desmiere’s land, home, and people, becoming ‘Estelle’s person,’ becoming my eyes and ears.”
My breath quickened. Ayla’s too, one after the other. Her pupils dilated.
Batou approached. Our breaths, drawn close, mingled sweetly.
“Are you Estelle’s maid or Desmiere’s?”
Ayla kissed the back of my hand, which she still held.
The face that looked up at me with the same eyes was determined.
“I am Estelle’s, your handmaiden.”
Elation erupted like fireworks. How can I describe this moment?
Unconsciously, my hand reached out. I gently stroked the tousled, disheveled forelock that had fallen in her haste.
My hand rose lightly to her back. Looking down, I heard Ayla, blushing with joy and hesitation, ask cautiously.
“May I hug you?”
I hesitated, then wrapped my arms around her slender neck. Her graceful chin rose.
Several awkward pats fell on my back, then they soon rested comfortably.
Heartbeats, whose, I couldn’t tell, resounded.