***


Millicent followed Charlotte into a dark study piled with musical instruments and books.

“I really can’t stand that damned Jane Grant!” Charlotte exploded like a volcano when they were alone.
“Only by taking on the role of the god of beauty will I have the chance to dance with His Majesty the King in the final scene…” 

Charlotte stomped her feet.

“Adriana Beasley is the God of Beauty? Has the queen gone crazy too?” Her whining grew longer.
“Hmmm, indeed! What does a woman from the lame Bodegas empire know?” 

There was no hesitation in her use of language to belittle the queen.
To minister to the emotions of others, Millicent, a spiritualist, simply listened. 

“The maids usually comfort me at times like this.
Why are you so far away?” 

Eventually, Charlotte twisted her lips toward the expressionless Millicent. She’s such a spoiled brat, Millicent thought to herself, it was an unspoken thought.

“I’m new to the royal court business.” Millicent answered appropriately.
“I’m not sure which one is Jane Grant or Adriana Beasley…”

“Hmmm, you’ve seen them.” Charlotte grumbled.
“Adriana Beasley is tall.
She looks down at everyone else she meets like she’s better.”

“I envy her.” Millicent replied without thinking.
But it was the wrong response.
Charlotte raised her eyes.

“What are you envious of! Men don’t like legs like that,” Charlotte hammered furiously, crossing her arms.

“Why? Tall people look good,” said the insensitive Millicent.
“Besides, being tall gives you an advantage when fighting, and people don’t look down at you in general….”

“What good does it do!? Men don’t like legs!” Charlotte didn’t even listen.
“I’d rather be petite like me to marry well.”

Upon closer inspection, she seemed to take pride in her slender, pretty body. 

“Still, short legs are better than fat.” Charlotte added arrogantly.
“Look at Jane Grant, she’s so voluptuous.
She’s a fat lump.
That woman is less feminine than Adriana Beasley.”

“She’s not fat at all.” Millicent replied without thinking once again.
“She’s white and plump…”

“Are you doing this on purpose?” Charlotte fumed.
“Why do you always find fault with my words?”


For the first time, Millicent realized the fact that what Charlotte wanted was not a conversation.
She just wanted her to accept her complaints and appease her.

The spoiled ladies always demanded such things from their servants. 

“What about the other ladies-in-waiting?”

Millicent decided to give Charlotte as many opportunities to speak ill of the other ladies as she wanted. 

“The queen has two more ladies-in-waiting, doesn’t she?”

“That’s right.
Elizabeth Dalby and 

Ophelia Till.” Charlotte counted her fingers.
“There’s nothing special about Ophelia Till from an early age.” She assessed coolly.
“Such women always catch evil men and marry them well.”

Charlotte murmured as if marriage was the only priority.

“Oh, if the boring Ophelia gets a greater husband than me later….
I’ll just die.”

“…look at all the men who married just because they like women, they are nothing special.” (Millicent)

“What did you say?” 

“Ummm, nothing.
By the way, didn’t the Lady want to be a Royal Mistress?” 

Millicent asked in a roundabout way.  Charlotte nodded, “Yes.
I’m going to be the best woman in the kingdom.” 

She even stretched out her small shoulders and bragged.
“I am the woman that the future generations will call the Kintland rose.”

“…Kintland rose?”

There was a part of Charlotte’s nonsense that caught Millicent’s ears.
Millicent flinched slightly.

“Yes, there was only one woman in history who was called by that title,” Charlotte said, unaware of Millicent’s expression.
“Now that I think about it, she was not a woman worthy of that title.”

Millicent did not answer.
If she opened her mouth, she was likely to make a mistake.


“The title of best woman in the kingdom suits someone like me,” Charlotte smiled brightly, ignorant of her surroundings.

Then she performed the dance moves she had practiced earlier.
Her slender limbs swayed like flower branches.
Even just that little bit gave the impression that she was a very good dancer. 

“What about Lady Elizabeth Dalby?” Millicent decided to safely return to the original topic. 

Charlotte raised an eyebrow, “She…honestly gives me the creeps.”

“Why?”

“It doesn’t feel right.
Besides, the Dalby family is….famous that way.” said Charlotte, looking around, as if she felt uneasy.
“I don’t want to talk about that family.” Charlotte shuddered.
“Lady Elizabeth….Sometimes she stares at people like this.
Like a superintendent at a boarding school who always watches to see if there is any violation of the Creator Mother’s disciplines.” 

“A boarding-school superintendent?

 “Strictly faithful,” Charlotte said sarcastically.
“All right.
I don’t want to talk about Elizabeth Dalby, either.”

Charlotte waved her silk fan and stopped talking.

“Let’s read the cards.” 

Millicent changed the subject and  pulled out a deck of cards.
She used to help some back alley girls and half of which were a prank.

Good thing she was so useful after being locked in a corner of her room for so long.
She thought as she mixed the cards. 

Charlotte Brennan, Adriana Beasley, Jane Grant, Ophelia Till, and Elizabeth Dalby …… were the people she  had to kill as per the queen’s request. 

At the same time, they were the ones who must be killed apart from the queen’s request. 

“Concentrate and draw three cards.” Millicent said, not thinking about the other four.
The immediate prey was right in front of her.

Charlotte did as she was told.
She chose three cards after much agonizing deliberation.
Millicent turned the cards over.
In order, the recluse, the wands, and the cups, appeared.
Suddenly a plan for Charlotte Brennan was formulated.

“There was one important person in Lady Charlotte’s life, wasn’t there?” 

Millicent began to speak quietly.


“A lonely person.
Perhaps a gloomy person.
I think it’s a woman.
It’s burning.
A burning black fire.” 

She pointed to the recluse card depicting a person wearing a black cloak and holding a lantern.
She closed her eyes and whispered dreamily. 

“I see a name.
It’s spelled… AB.”

“AВ? Adriana Beasley?” Charlotte took the bait and pulled her chair closer.

 “I’ve known the woman since she was a little girl,” she said, “and our families know each other.
But Adriana is a stupid clown, not a wise one.
And not at all important–” 

Suddenly Charlotte’s face paled.
“Wait a minute, it’s not Adriana Beasley,” she murmured.
“If it’s AB, could it be Ann Bel…?”

She stopped speaking abruptly and covered her mouth with her small hand.

“I see five people,” Millicent continued as Charlotte’s silence lengthened.
“I don’t know what the reason was, but I think the five of you joined forces.
It had a big impact on the Lady’s life.
And that connection has continued to this day.
It seems strong.
So much so that no one can break in.”

Charlotte gulped as she watched Millicent.

“But the bond that held you all together has now withered and rotted away.” 

Millicent turned the cards over and thrust before Charlotte’s eyes a picture of five sticks held together by five hands. 

“The lady will be hit in the back of the head if she doesn’t strike the person next to her with that stick first.”

“Does that mean I will be betrayed?”

“Unless you betray them first.” Millicent shrugged, “Fortunately, the god of fortune is smiling on Lady Charlotte.”

Next, she pointed to the cup card.
A golden cup with a fish in it was placed in front of a girl wearing a dress with red roses on it.The girl looked at the cup with an expression of reverence.

“A good card that symbolizes a new beginning and a romantic invitation,” Millicent whispered, as if waving a carrot to a horse.
“I am sure His Majesty the King will set his sights on Lady Charlotte.” 

“Really?” Charlotte’s brown eyes sparkled. 


“I think he will approach the lady first, soon, one way or another.” Millicent lowered her voice to appeal to her.
“If the Lady had taken the role of the God of Beauty, she would have danced with His Majesty, and she would have expected a really good result, but…”

 “What?”

 “It can’t be helped, since your role is already decided.
Well, I guess I’ll offer you a glass of wine at the banquet.”

Disappointment and longing was evident in Charlotte’s eyes. 

Millicent lit up once more, “Never take chances.” The god of fortune is fickle.
He punishes those who don’t accept the favors bestowed upon them with the punishment of bad luck.” 

Sure enough, Charlotte’s impatient glare turned to the five overturned wand cards on the side.

This is it. Millicent picked up the cards.
Charlotte leaned forward impatiently, but she soon seemed to fall into a solitary worry.She rolled her eyes. 

“You’re not very good at this,” Charlotte accused, finally finishing her thought.
“I can do just fine without taking on the role of the god of beauty.”

“Of course you can.”

Millicent smiled provocatively.
Charlotte played right into her hand.

“Totally!” Charlotte exclaimed as if trying to convince herself.
“And the five of us are determined, and the initials AB, ….
I don’t even know what that means.
That never happened to me.”

She couldn’t cleanly erase even the uneasiness that was habitually in her voice.

Millicent replied quietly, “I only say what the cards showed me, Lady Charlotte.” 

“I’m going.”

Charlotte tossed two gold coins on the table.
She didn’t seem to carry a purse at all.
Then she walked away, her long coat fluttered as she passed.

When she was gone, Millicent picked up the gold coins.
It was a good thing because she was so very hungry after all the gibberish.
Nothing tastes better than a meal with free gold coins. 

And coincidentally, she had an appointment with Cardinal Rubert Mulally tonight.

***

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