“It appears that she lost her way,” said Eugene, the butler. “There is a merchant’s store down the castle. The servants usually visit there if they need something urgently. I think she was planning to go there too.”
“Why would a royal maid visit a store in this godforsaken village?!” Eleanor exclaimed.
Everybody went quiet. No matter how much she might dislike the Grand Duke, it wouldn’t do to completely forget one’s manners. The Glouster estate had always indirectly controlled the royal family. The estate was always occupied by the King’s siblings. They were probably proud of their estate. The late Queen, the sole ruler of the land, had loved the Glouster estate. She would occasionally travel here for small vacations.
Neither Eleanor not Inverius the 3rd liked the Glouster estate or the people living here. However, it wouldn’t be wise to express her dislike so openly. Not when she was physically present here.
“What you mean, Your Highness, is that, a royal maid wouldn’t have the need to buy anything so urgently. Isn’t that true?”
Eleanor was glad for Ethan’s timely interruption.
“Yes,” she said hurriedly. “She would have informed me if she was planning to leave the castle.”
“It is truly regrettable,” said Eugene. “If you are in immediate need of another food taster, we can find you a suitable candidate from here, Your Highness.” Eugene bowed respectfully.
Eleanor stomped her foot. “What are you even saying?! My maid has just died. The least I can do is find out why.”
“I am afraid only the person who died will know the exact reason. There are so many dangerous beasts in the forest. No one should enter it without guards by their side.” Eleanor’s eyes widened at the Grand Duke’s voice.
The Grand Duke had loved his niece when she was young. They used to be close. Ever since he regained his memories from his past life, he distanced himself from her. It felt like she knew of his evil deeds. He walked past his butler.
“Mostly, the servants and maids visit the store for… personal supplies,” said the Grand Duke. “Sometimes women need these products on short notice. But if you were to find yourself lost in that condition and wander into the forest, you might catch the attention of many wild beasts wandering there.”
The maids nodded. Their faces were pale. Eleanor couldn’t grasp what he was saying. Finally, Jane Ann leaned towards her and whispered, “He means the menstrual towels, Your Highness.”
Eleanor’s face turned bright red. The man is crazy! Why would he say something like that in front of everyone? Has he no dignity at all? Is he ignoring the fact that I am a princess? How can he be so crass!
“No matter what your reasons are, nobody should leave the castle and wander into the forest alone. It is very dangerous. Any guard from the castle would have accompanied her at one request.”
“Is there even evidence that she left the castle?” asked Eleanor. What if she was killed?”
The Grand Duke titled his head slightly and looked at Eleanor. “A murder, Your Highness? Why would anyone do that to a royal maid?”
“Because….” Eleanor caught herself before blurting out something she would regret later. She couldn’t tell him her maid, Elsie Swindle, had planned to drug him to go through his possessions. Eleanor wondered if Elsie had put in enough drugs in his food, the Grand Duke looked perfectly fine to her. He didn’t seem sick at all. She should tell her father to throw the person who sold her that drug into prison for being a fraud.
“The guard patrolling the back entrance has been questioned. He saw a woman walk out alone. Since she didn’t ask for any assistance, he did not bother because he thought it was the castle maid. He could have mistaken her for a maid from Glouster. The sun was only about to rise and it was still dark outside. However, since this has come to pass on my estate, I feel partly responsible for relaying the news to His majesty as well. I will also inform and compensate the maid’s household.”
Eleanor couldn’t believe any of it. She took a step forward and pointed at the corpse. “I will have to examine the body.”
The Grand Duke stared at her blankly. His eyes sometimes reminded her of her mother from her past life. Those eyes had always been angry. She had always beaten her every time her grades dropped. Someone with eyes like that couldn’t ever be good. That was why she hated the Grand Duke so much. Yes.
“Are you sure, Your Highness? The body… might have been torn very badly by the beasts.”
“I cannot trust this,” she said. “I will have to see the body with my own eyes. I want to see if it is really her.”
The Grand Duke gave a curt nod and gestured to his butler. The guard stepped forward on the butler’s instruction and carefully unwrapped the cloth from the body.