“What did you say!?” Bradley’s eyes widen in shock and he quickly removes the cup from her hands, “Why did you drink it!?” his pitiful expression made Ophelia’s heart flutter for a glimpse of a second.
“Are you saying that we allowed an assassin to infiltrate the party!?” the Earl speaks obnoxiously loud but even then, Ophelia noticed his true intentions. You can say that she already had her suspicions about how much that man knew from the start.
“How should we solve this situation...?” Ophelia smiles charmingly.
“Erwin, gather all the maids and butlers” the Earl declares to his most trusted servant and then, after five minutes, every worker was lined up on the garden.
Both the Earl and Patricia start looking at the servants, trying to find any possible culprit, and then reach Milly. Her head was hanging low since she knew that everything would be ruined if they found her.
“Lift your head” the Earl states but the maid ignores his remark. Feeling the nerves grow, she clenches her hands in her dirty skirt.
‘If I hadn’t bumped into her this wouldn’t have happened...’ Milly didn’t want to murder Ophelia, she knew she couldn’t live with such guilt but her younger brother was sick and she needed the money. She had no other choice.
“Are you deaf? Lift your head,” the Earl starts to grow impatient but the young maid continues hanging low.
Milly glances at the Duke who was holding Amanda in his arms as she remained unconscious. He ignored her, making her understand that she had always been alone in this, to begin with.
Earl Hillgarden signals Erwin to lift her head.
“Riddle me this Duke: there are two individuals, one is filled with greed for what he doesn’t have while the other is filled with blood lust. Who do you think will survive?” Ophelia grins as her father senses a shiver run down his spine.
‘She couldn’t know... There’s no way... She’s been locked up all this time... How could she know...?’ he couldn’t stop trying to deceive what his gut was saying. The Duke wanted to believe that Ophelia was still his innocent, obedient child. There’s no way she could’ve turned into such a monster.
“Ophelia is fine, isn’t she? Is there really a need to go to such extents?” the Duke intervenes in a shallow attempt to save his skin. He was not sure if the maid would keep everything to herself and he couldn’t allow his honor to be questioned.
This comment was also a shameful attempt at controlling the nobles whose gossips were heard through the waves in the air. He thought he was able to shift the attention towards something else but there is something that he forgot. There is something much more valuable for nobles and aristocrats than money, and that is nothing else but pure entertainment.
“Duke, are you perhaps suggesting that I leave any remaining doubts regarding my honor?” the Earl replies coldly. Duke Criswell turned his attention towards Amanda, hiding his frustration.
“Who are you?” Patricia gasps in shock as she sees Milly. The Earl grins as his reasoning reaches its climax. The pieces had been played out and now it was the time to move the Queen.
“I’m a new maid milady...” Milly gulps as she tries to think of a way to settle this situation peacefully.
‘Ah... Shit...’ Ophelia was starting to feel the effects of the poison. Her body was weakening and was burning up, almost as if she had a high fever.
“We haven’t hired maids in more than half a year” the Earl frowns right before signaling Erwin, “Tie her up, we need to report this to the royal guards”
“I recognize you...” Ophelia steps back and everyone could see the fear in her eyes. Her hands started to tremble, “You are one of the Duke’s maids!”
At that moment the attention goes to Duke Criswell.
“What are you talking about Ophelia? I’ve never seen that woman in my life!” even in a tense situation, he kept his composure.
‘Everything is...’ Ophelia could feel the world around her starting to rotate as her strength left her body, ‘I need to hurry up.'
“Her name is Milly! I remember her!” Ophelia yells as she starts losing her balance, “Don’t tell me... My own father tried to...” her hand covers her mouth as tears run down her face.
“Ophelia! I never did such a thing!” he yells while trying to prove his innocence.
“Then how do you explain Milly’s presence!? Who else could’ve done it!?”
'This brat...' the Duke looks around him anxiously, he needed to find a way to shift the blame of this incident, he still had many great things in mind and he couldn't let Ophelia ruin them, 'Should I say that Milly was hired by someone else? Maybe blame the Stattons? They've been in the mansion several times... No, I still need them. The Hillgardens? That will just sound like I'm forcing excuses,' he gritted his teeth in frustration, 'Maybe someone of the other houses?' as his eyes glanced through the several nobles he realized he didn't have anyone that suited the requirements to become his scapegoat, 'Fuck... What if I say she acted on her own? Maybe someone else attempted to kill? Playing the pitiful father part... Wait... That's it!' he was running out of options but as he looked down he realized the key to his escape.
“I thought I had raised my children properly but I was wrong... How could Amanda think of such a scheme...?” his voice was serene as he accused his own unconscious child.
‘You really...’ Ophelia couldn’t stop but to feel her hopes crumble. Deep down she thought that maybe, one day, the Duke would apologize for all his wrongdoings but, looking at him now, she understood: the greed had clouded his judgment and his attachments.
As she looked around at the nobles, Ophelia comprehended she had lost. The Duke was going to blame Amanda and, after the incident earlier today, it was easy to accuse her. He would leave unscattered, as he always did, even if he had to sacrifice his own blood. Ophelia’s fists clench as her face turns pained, she despised Amanda but she...
“Duke... You...” Ophelia’s strength finally leaves her body. The poison was already kicking in deeply and she couldn’t be there anymore. Her body falls but Bradley catches her.
“Are you alright Ophelia!?” his voice was nowhere near calm or charming, in fact, he looked like an emotional wreck with something similar to tears at the corner of his eyes. Ophelia could hear Terrel rushing to her side and she knew that she couldn’t allow that, who knows what that man will do to her if they are left alone.
“Keep... Terrel... Away...” she whispers while caressing Bradley's face right before feeling her consciousness leave her body.
“Ophelia! Wake up! Ophelia!” Bradley touches her face and feels her high temperature. Her breath was unsteady and several red spots in her body had started to appear.
“Someone call for a doctor!” Mace was in a state of panic as he saw the painful expression on Ophelia’s unconscious body.
‘She really was...’ swiftly and kindly he holds her up in his arms.
“Ophelia...! What happened to her skin!?” Terrel looks at her in disgust making Bradley glare down at him, “Well... Mace, take her, we should head back,” he couldn’t bear the thought of touching such an imperfect being.
“Do you think I’ll let her go with the likes of you?” Bradley hugs her tighter. In his head, Ophelia’s words were as clear as day: keep Terrel away. He had seen the way that man looked at her and he even witnessed his grotesque dominance play earlier. He knew that if he left her alone with him then there would be no way for her to become his just like he so desired.
‘I’m not letting her go that easily... Not until I win’ he knew what he wanted and how much he wanted it. At this point, he already considered killing Terrel off somewhere, ‘The reaper will get him, I’m just hurrying the process,’ but he knew he couldn’t.
“Please just take her into one of the rooms upstairs, let her stay here for the time being” Earl Hillgarden intervenes, “Erwin, show them the way please.”
“Go” Catherine whispers as one of her servants follows them quietly.
‘Amanda did... And I was trying to...’ Patricia was pale as a ghost, in her head she thought how that could’ve happened to her and that terrified her.
“Why did you poison Lady Ophelia?” the Earl questions Milly as she sat down with her body tied with a rough rope.
“I needed the money” she grits her teeth as she glances at the Duke, grabbing her fate on the thin hope that he would help her in any way.
“Who paid you?” she grows quiet, she knew she couldn’t speak. After what had happened everyone was already suspicious of the Duke and his daughter but, even then, if she sold him her brother would die.
“I will ask you one last time, you must know that if you don’t comply it will be extremely painful for you” she knew what the Earl meant.
‘Torture is it...’ of course, it was but somehow, in her silly little mind, she had already thought of this scenario. Her mind was prepared for the upcoming beating but still, her body wasn’t. Her arms were trembling as tears started to leave her eyes, ‘What can I do? What can I do?’ panic filled her thoughts.
"Have it your way, take her away and beat her up until she speaks, no one wants to see something so revolting” the Earl’s glare was cold as ice and Milly understood that she wouldn’t get out of this alive.
She needed to save her brother but she also wanted to survive, she didn’t want to die. Milly’s parents passed away from a contagious disease when her brother was only a baby and somehow she managed to get through. She survived from eating leftovers, spoiled or rotten, and worked hard in whatever she could get. At some point, she considered selling her body but her wish to be happy, for once in her life, was stronger.
‘That’s the only way... isn’t it?’ there was no other way for her to survive without sacrificing something and so, without any further thought, as the servants were lifting her, she places her tongue out and bites it with all the strength her mouth muscles had. As she felt her teeth penetrate the flesh a rush of pain and adrenaline runs through her body. Tears fell from her eyes while sweat dripped from her pores. Everyone understood what was happening as they saw a spurt of blood shower the ones around her.
‘This is...’ Patricia couldn’t stand this anymore. Why did she have to be involved with such a thing? How come her dream had been shattered so easily by schemes? Today was supposed to be about her, a fun party where she could set her trap on a Duke's son, perhaps Bradley Trace, ‘So why... Is this happening...?’ her stomach growled loudly as she tried to restrain the vomit from coming out.
“Stop her!” Earl Hillgarden yells but it was too late. A horrid amount of blood is coughed out of her mouth as the tongue falls on the floor, squirming with the last memory of the muscles within it. Milly looks up and sees Earl Hillgarden with several bloodstains on his face while he carried a disgusted and petrified expression. Seeing his disappointment, Milly smiles widely, showing her vivid red mouth, she knew she would finally be safe, her brother would be safe. Annoyed, the Earl slaps her harshly, making her stare into Duke Criswell's direction who looked horrified at the scenario. Milly keeps on smiling and the Duke couldn't bear to look any longer but she didn't care, if she didn't have a tongue then she wouldn't be able to tell who'd ordered it. The servants drop her on her knees, making her skirt be tainted by her own blood. Everyone was terrified, the ladies were pale and the men were disgusted. As her body started to become numb from the pain, Milly loses her senses, passing out on the red tainted grass.
She knew that bitting her tongue off was the only option she had. Her brother was now safe and, she would try her best to find a way to survive, perhaps become a farmer in a faraway land but, if she couldn't and death would be the only destiny that beholds her then she would gracefully receive it as an atonement for her sins.
“So filthy!” the heavy silence in the air was interrupted by Holly’s voice that, due to the shock, portraited her true intentions. If this was at any other time, all the nobles and aristocrats would’ve started gossiping and her image of a saint would be for sure ruined by a small little slip but, currently, Milly’s blood bath and Duke Criswell's expression was way more interesting.
‘Pure entertainment,' Catherine chuckles behind the bright red fan that hid her lips. She was finding this scenario most amusing, ‘I wasn’t expecting her to drink the poison, she is indeed fearless,’ in her eyes all of this was so pleasing. The pain that Milly went through, the psychotic side of Ophelia, the Duke’s frustration, the Earl’s feeling of superiority, everything was just as she had imagined it, in fact, it was even better.
‘Ophelia... I want you to show me more...’ her flushed face and rushing heart showed how thirsty she was for what the cursed child could provide. She needed more, more of this theatrical play where everyone is nothing but her mere puppets, she needed more of this feeling of superiority that aroused her.
“What are you doing?! We should get her a doctor as well!” Mace intervenes as his expression turns from frightened to resolved. He knew of that woman’s sins but he needed her alive. Even without a tongue, she could be taught how to write and, if that could happen then she would be able to come clean about her employer. Milly was an important chess piece to the upcoming war among the several houses.
“Why should I bother helping a murderer?” the Earl answers sarcastically to Mace’s remark, almost mocking his intentions.
‘What a little mind... That’s why you will never be anything more than a mere Earl’ he glared at him and, suddenly, Patricia dashes out towards the mansion. Her pale complexion made it seem as if she couldn’t hold this sight any longer. On the other hand, the majority of the other nobles and aristocrats were just observing the whole situation without considering the people involved.
‘They only care about themselves’ Mace knew how this disgusting society worked, filled with sinners compelled by greed, lust, and lack of humanity. He couldn’t reprimand them too much though because, deep down, he knew he was no different.