Later, that day, when Solus returned with the identity of the culprit, a sample of the poison and the hilarious new gossip as prizes, she had expected Lith to be excited or at least relieved.
Instead he was brooding, with the same annoyed face he had when he was forced to spend quality time with Trion.
"Why so gloomy? We did it, we can take her out anytime we want. Smile a little."
"I would indeed smile if we managed to find her at the first or maybe fifth attempt.
Unless math has become an opinion the last time I slept, searching thirteen rooms out of eighteen, means you have searched thirty-nine persons, more than two-thirds of the staff members.
At this point we can as swell sweep the remaining five to verify if she has accomplices. Not to mention that this maid wasn't even on my list, the psycho wife would have bested me if not for your new ability."
Lith started pacing, his mind analysing the choices at his hand.
"You are a real party pooper, you know?" Solus pouted.
"Sorry, you did a great job, but put yourself in my shoes. First, it took us so long to find her that I am pretty sure the Countess has already noticed that something is wrong. The Count and his heirs have been poisoned daily, yet they are perfectly fine.
It's safe to assume that soon she will resort to a more direct approach. We need to move fast, before her pawn flees from the scene.
Second and most important, this new piece of gossip you brought me is a nightmare! Sure, is all fun and laugh, until you realize that if the rumour reaches the Countess' ears, she may even believe it.
And while I don't care being a target, the same can't be said about my mother! We must wrap this up quickly, and try to get as much evidence as we can, so whoever is handling the annulment process will be forced to speed his bureaucrat a*s up.
Then, I can ask the Count to bring my family here as soon as possible. When those blabbering fools see that I am the spitting image of my father, that stupid rumour will die out. Only then I will be able to focus on protecting the Count again."
"Well, yeah." Solus shrugged. "But you are forgetting about the bright side. If the Countess falls for this rumour, she will get really angry. And when she's angry she makes really stupid mistakes. Always such a pessimist. And you even dare to question why you look like cr*p in a mirror."
Ever since Solus had started following the suspects, Lith hadn't been sitting idly either. To make use of whatever she would find, he needed a plausible excuse.
At random times during the day, he would pretend to go investigating on his own, leaving the three nobles with the guards, while he would actually always remain in the vicinity, ready to intervene if necessity arose.
Also, he had asked the Count to give him a tour of his magical library, getting the opportunity to borrow some tier four books and store them inside Soluspedia.
Even when they were apart, Lith could still access both the dimensional storages, it would just take some effort to operate them.
That allowed him to further expand his knowledge about the possibilities of magic, and gave him several new ideas.
The next day, after Solus identified at least one of the Countess' agents, Lith started to prepare the final steps for his new plan, while Solus searched the remaining seven rooms.
It turned out they miscalculated, since both the butler and the head of kitchen had their private rooms, because of their status and seniority. Her task was made faster and easier by the fact that she had not to tail a target for a whole day anymore.
Solus could just get inside and search for evidence as soon the coast was clear. On Lith's side things were a bit trickier. First, he had to identify the poison from the sample Solus brought back. It was a colourless and odourless liquid.
He spreaded a small drop of it on his finger and another on his tongue, without swallowing it. It tasted sweet and acidic at the same time.
"What the f*ck? A pineapple pizza flavoured poison? This is disgusting! And here I hoped to have left that cr*p on Earth."
While his stomach was turning at those horrible memories, the areas where he had spreaded the poison became numb. After a while they became red and swollen. Since breathing was getting harder, Lith immediately neutralized the poison, before looking for it in the Count's books he had stored in Soluspedia.
"Thankfully, in this world they shouldn't have synthetic poisons outside the magical varieties. It shouldn't be hard to find the right one."
It turned out to be an extract from a rare type of blackberries-like fruit that usually grew in marshlands. The whiteberries, more commonly known as doomberries, in their natural state simply had a sweet smell and disgusting taste, but their juice if properly distilled and condensed was highly toxic.
Its low dosage symptoms matched the Count's story, like the effects Lith had experienced fitted the description of its concentrated form.
At that point, the final issue lied in finding a way to get a full confession without destroying the good image Count Lark had of him. Lith didn't miss how disgusted the Count had reacted at the mention of tortures.
Lith had no interest in arts, but from the way the Count had painted him, it was clear that in his mind the young magico was valiant and righteous, rather than a cold -blooded schemer with a penchant for inflicting pain.
"This is so stupid. Not only I have to save him, but I also have to do it in a way of his liking. Having a good man as a backer is both a blessing and a curse. I need to get creative."
Having almost run out of options, Lith needed check out books he had never thought could have any use to him, before going to the Count and explain to him the only plan crazy enough to have a ghost of a chance.
A few days later, Lynna Crestwick was at her rope's end. The Countess was sick and tired of her failures, and had clearly told her to either get to job done or start running for her life.
"That ungrateful b*tch! After so many years of loyal service, always covering her sorry a*s, even volunteering to get rid of her deadbeat husband, that's how she repays me? Now I get why the sod wants to get rid of her.
I'll make a last attempt before getting out of here. I'm sick of being caught between a rock and a hard place, always watching my back. If even this fails, I'll escape to the Gorgons empire. I should be safe there."
She had no idea what could have possibly go wrong. Before getting fired, Genon had told her that the doomberry kiss was a powerful poison that even he would have a hard time to detoxify. Could the Count have an inhuman constitution despite being so thin?
During her shift in the kitchen, she waited for the plates to be left unattended before adding two spoonsful of poison into the Count's plate. It was impossible to miss, since even the napkins had the initials embroidered.
That dose would be enough to kill a dozen men, but she was tired of slowly rising the amount, day after day, waiting for something to happen.
Some hours later, she finally succeeded. After eating the soup, the Count had started to have difficulty breathing, his tongue swelling like a sponge.
Both the so-called-magician brat and Pontus, which back in the military had been a field medic, couldn't help him. The b*astard was finally dead!
Lynna, just like her co-workers, started sobbing uncontrollably. But while they were grieving, she was weeping with joy. Now she was safe, and with the sum she had agreed with the Countess, she could finally turn her lifelong dream into reality.
She didn't need anymore to work her a*s for someone else, it was her turn to live in a beautiful house, surrounded by servants.
Off course, first she had to wait for the investigation to be concluded.
Jadon, the new Count, imposed the martial law, prohibiting anyone to go out of the house without his permission. Lynna had nothing to fear, thought.
As soon as she spiced up the late Count's plate, she had thrown away the remaining poison and carefully washed the flask, before putting it back in the kitchen pantry.
During the rest of the day, every room was combed and every member of the staff had to undergo a long interrogation. When they finally let her walk, she was exhausted, all the stress and emotions had taken a big toll on her.
Also, she was starting to realize that she had actually killed a man, and a good one too. She tried to ease her guilty conscience by thinking of her future wealth and happiness, but instead she ended up second thinking everything she did so far.
"What if that b*tch breaks her word? Is not like I can expose her crime, after all. Even worse, what if my reward turns out to be a knife in the back or a poisoned drink? She doesn't need me anymore, I'm just a loose end.
Good gods, what have I done? Have I really killed a harmless buffoon, just for pile of gold?" The words 'pile' and 'gold' still had a soothing effect on her, so she decided to go to bed and put all that story behind her.
"What's done it's done, all the remorse in the world can't bring back the Count, may the gods rest his soul."
The problem was that her roommates wouldn't stop talking about what happened, it was the first time in years that a murder occurred within those walls.
After some yelling and bickering, she managed to get convince them to close the curtains and turn off the oil lamp.
Lynna had just closed her eyes when the doorknob started turning ad rattling, someone was trying to get in!
As soon as the light was lit again the rattling stopped.
"What was that?" "It must be another of Syka's stupid pranks! She's such an as*hole!"
"And how could she do it if all our rooms are closed from the outside? Martial law, remember?" Lynna pointed out.
When they were still trying to find an explanation, suddenly the room became so cold that they could see their breaths condensing, their room's window got all fogged up.
One of her roommates became really scared, banging on the door and calling for help, but no one answered. All they could do was to wear their heaviest clothes and cover themselves with the blankets.
Then, the oil lamp went out. No matter how hard they tried, it was impossible to lit it again. Panic started to ensue when the knob rattled again, even stronger than before, while their beds shook like during a quake.
"It's like in the old stories my grandmother used to tell me when I was little!" Screamed one of the maids.
"A vengeful spirit is trying to get in!"
"Grow up, Seria! There are no such things as ghosts!" Lynna was a woman of action, she never believed to folk tales. She raised her nightstand, to use it to smash the window that refused to open, when she saw him.
The late Count Trequill Lark was in front of her, despite her room being on the first floor. His whole figure was pale white, glowing in a dim light like a firefly.
His eyes were all white with no pupils, shedding tears of blood. Small blue flames were erupting from his snow-white hair, dancing around him while emitting screams of pain.
Their eyes were locked, Lynna couldn't look away, her whole body frozen stiff, the nightstand still raised.
"How could you do this to me?" The Count's voice sounded distorted and distant, barely a whisper, but they could hear it clearly as a shout.
Screaming in terror, the three women ran to the door, trying to open it and calling for help. When they looked back, the Count was already floating inside, despite the window being still locked.
When he extended his hand, they felt a jolt running through their spines, falling into a cold oblivion.