She was in a hurry, but it wasn’t easy to break through the crowd in the ballroom.
“Wait a minute.”
In addition, they had consumed hallucinogens and things weren’t looking so good. In most cases, they couldn’t even hear her when she asked for them to move. As soon as Sally managed to squeeze out of the crowd and reach the door to the balcony, she bumped into a maid who was in a hurry.
“I’m so sorry! Are you all right…” The maid bowed and apologize, but she dropped a bottle of wine in the process.
Sally caught it before returning it to the servant. “Here. Are you okay?”
Surprised, the servant’s eyes widened. Her complexion was as pale as a man who had regained consciousness after being possessed.
“I… I’m so sorry.”
“It’s all right.”
Nevertheless, the maid bowed her head several times and murmured an apology or two. She seemed to think Sally was an important guest.
“I’m actually a servant. Do you have someone as your—”
“The ballroom.” Her eyes weren’t focused on Sally. She seemed to be in a daze. “It’s best not to attend the ball…”
Instead of explaining herself, the maid said, “It’s best not to stay here for a long time.”
She then turned around, and Sally watched as the maid disappeared into the crowd.
“It’s best not to stay here for a long time.”
As Emily said, if the employees needed to be questioned, an opportunity must be created.
Ten minutes before that.
I glanced at Sally, who still appeared worried, while I headed to the balcony. Some of the men were hesitant to talk to me, but I didn’t want to give them a chance. Was I nervous because I drank the wine?
My head was throbbing more than usual. Frowning, I opened the door and went out to the balcony. The cold air welcomed me.
I immediately took off my mask and took a deep breath. “…I feel much better now.”
My headache seemed to disappear. I leaned against the railing and looked at the pond down below.
Under the night sky, the pond would be a beautiful, romantic spot, but this was very different. The fog that surrounds it was thick. You could see the withered trees around it.
…I could believe this was a scene from a horror movie as I heard the cry of a crow from somewhere. What a sullen, dreary atmosphere. The pond was opaque, so I couldn’t see what was at the bottom. It was a green color, which reminded me of unpleasant creatures like slimes. There was a rumor that a monster lived there.
Many legends and monsters naturally came to mind.
The Loch Ness Monster.
The Oklahoma Octopus.
If this world was influenced by the Cthulhu Mythos… The title of a short story I read in my previous life suddenly came to mind.
The Inhabitant of the Lake by Ramsey Campbell.
“If that’s the case, then…”
I tried to recall the contents of the story in my head.
I heard the sound of footsteps behind me.
“Who…” I turned around. “…Oh, Henry, it’s you. I was surprised.”
His familiar appearance startled my heart. Mr. Henry walked toward me without saying anything.
I looked up at him. He looked great all the time, but today was… somehow different. Unlike his usual suits, he wore a different outfit. I could feel the urge to drool.
Conscious of my beating heart, I scrutinized him. Today, Mr. Henry was dressed up as a vampire. Wearing a top hat and a face painted white to appear like a pale beauty, he also had sharp fangs peeking from his red lips.
“…Do I have to look like this?” As a devout Puritan, he expressed strong opposition to being dressed up like a vampire or demon.
“I heard Mr. Bridel likes to dress up as a vampire.”
To be liked by Mr. Bridel and use Helena’s invitation to create an opportunity to get information about him.
…He didn’t like it, but I had to admit the makeup looked good on him.
“It looks better than I thought. Why did you come here? You said you were going to talk to Mr. Bridel.”
He didn’t answer. He merely stared at me, to the extent that the gaze wasn’t persistent but blatant.
“Are you all right? You… don’t look well.” I took a step closer, and I could see he was uncomfortable.
Upon a closer look, it didn’t seem to be because of the makeup. His brow was furrowed, and his cheeks were more flushed than usual. The more persistent his gaze was, the more erratic his breathing became. I couldn’t believe that his chest was heaving. In a way, it was kind of sexy.
As soon as I thought that, I was speechless. Wasn’t I here to solve the mystery? The moment I tried to step back.
My head was throbbing, and at the same time, the scene in front of me changed.
This was… a hallucination. I was enthralled by the beauty of the purple landscape in front of me. A field of lavenders with no end to sight. The subtle scent tickled my nose. The overwhelming sweet fragrance made me feel dizzy.
Mr. Henry, who had never spoken prior, approached me and put a flower crown on my head. I met his gaze while the scent of lavender wrapped around my head.
“Emily, I made it for you.”
A field of lavender. A flower crown. I think I experienced this before, but…
This was a place where all my senses focused on Mr. Henry, who was in front of me to dig up memories of the past.
Was it because of his intense gaze? My heart which was quiet began to race.
Ba-dump, ba-dump. I tried to ignore it, but it wasn’t easy.
Mr. Henry leaned forward, and I walked toward him without realizing him. His arms naturally wrapped around me. Smelling his musky scent, I tried not to be nervous.
“The truth is…”
“I wanted to escort you.”
My eyes widened at the unexpected words.
In a low voice, he said, “But I’m glad you didn’t go with Moriarty.”
In fact, it didn’t mean anything to have an escort. It was a masquerade that had no concept of a partner outside of escorts for entering the banquet hall. Yet Mr. Henry thought otherwise. He bit his lip and looked at me.
“…Every time that bastard sees you as his property.”
The arms around me tightened their grip.
“I don’t know how I feel about you, Emily.”
Was it because of this feeling? When I met his gaze, a greedy look was in his eyes.
“This desire runs wild inside me… I’m barely holding it back.”
I gulped without realizing it. I can feel his heartbeat pounding inside his chest.
“You’re allowed to look at other people, but…”
To him, no one else could accept it.
Nevertheless… why don’t I want to push him away? I should have, yet his arms continued to surround me. His scent and warmth. All seemed to keep me in place, in this field of lavender.
“I will kill them. Remember that.”
With a sigh, I called his name. “Henry…”
I saw his eyes seemingly flash. He brushed aside my hair. His touch seemed almost electrifying; I tried to hide my breath, but it was difficult.
As his face slowly drew closer to my neck, I saw a toothy grin on his face.