The mansion was filled with the sound of footsteps across the floor and also above her. She was still standing in the hall thinking about it when the councilman named Heuren arrived to stand next to her side, "Lady Vivian, won't you go search for the clues?" he inquired.
"Ah, yes," she smiled and took the nearest room to see if there was something different than the last time she had visited.
The councilman saw the beautiful woman disappear into the room, he stood at the door to stare at her. Heuren was happy to volunteer when his superior Lionel had asked him to accompany him to the second examination. He was delighted because he knew he would be meeting the eligible Lady Vivian there. Their previous encounter had left a deep impression of her on him. She was not only graceful but also smart with brains to have been able to connect the dots and answer every single question Lionel had thrown at her.
He was at a good position now as he was a councilman who worked for one of the niche department though he doubted a woman would call his killing abilities niche. But he was confident that Vivian wouldn't mind it. Maybe once the exam would get over, he could ask her for a walk in the town or in the meadow which wasn't far from here. And if everything went well, he could ask her hand in marriage. Nodding to himself as he had an internal monologue with himself, Heuren only came to realize that the fair maiden had exited the room and from his sight.
Vivian already knew where the skeleton was, would it be easier if she went directly to touch and see what it had before she would come to report on the matter. But then, she thought to herself, it would only bring in suspicion on her as to how she knew about it. Taking her own time, she walked to one room after another. When she reached the next room she saw one of the men in there, opening every cupboard and drawer nosily to close it with a thud which made her close her eyes. Looking in the other direction she stared at the drawers to hear the man speak in a tone of arrogance,
"What is the council thinking by allowing a woman take part in the examination as if she would clear the exam. A woman is supposed to cook and clean the house and if need satisfy the man in the bed than roam out here shamelessly alone," Vivian's face snapped to look at him. The man had come across many to know how one would react, especially if she was here it would mean he would have quite a temper character as this was no place for a sweet girl. They had three days, with nine males and one woman, surely he could have his amusement. Ready to hear her retort, he waited for her to throw words of whiplash.
Vivian walked forward to him, her steps firm and sturdy with every movement forward to him. Stopping a few away from him, she asked, "Are you done?" there was a bored tone in her voice. The man blinked at her, "I want to take a look at the cupboard or are you going planning to steal and take it home that you are hovering here," someone at the entrance of the room cleared their throat.
It was the councilman, who stared at both of them, "If I find someone fighting, you shall be immediately disqualified. Hence, refrain yourself from rebuking any possible physical or verbal argument unless it has something to do with the task," he stood there for a long time that Vivian saw herself out as she felt there were other rooms to explore than being stuck with a brainless idiot.
The time passed by quickly with everyone trying to find that it was already night. The sky had turned dark, the weather had turned extremely chilly. Luckily for Vivian, she had worn a thick woollen coat before leaving the Carmichael mansion.
Everyone had been so enthusiast about finding the body that when their stomach began to grumble did the real problem come up. There was nothing to eat in the mansion. It was an empty, deserted and abandoned place which hadn't been used in many years.
Some went outside while come stayed in the mansion too intent to find this body for some reason which none could find. In all the previous hours, Vivian had avoided stepping towards the stairs. She was utterly scared where her dream would come true and therefore had stuck walking around the same rooms visiting over and over until she heard one of the men tell how they were going out to see if they could get anything to eat from the forest.
But Vivian wondered what would be there outside in this cold winter-like weather. With the snow mansion which was located away from the villages and placed on top of the mountain like a place, the entire place would be frozen where there would be nothing available to be called as food.
When there was no one around, the councilman called Vivian to the side making sure no one was there he gave her a bag of something, "Take it," he said and quickly left before anyone could see them chatting together.
Opening the little bag, she found an apple and an orange inside it. Thankful for the dinner, she went to the corner of the room before munching and throwing away the skin. It wasn't sufficient but it was enough to sustain for a few more hours. If one were to go travel to the village nearby, it would take about half a day of work both to and fro to the snow mansion.
As the night passed by, some took refuge to sleep as there was still two days for the exam to complete while most of them stayed awake still looking through things before they gave up and took themselves to bed. As funny as it was, Vivian had taken herself to sleep in one of the closest. It wasn't that there weren't any beds but it was because she didn't feel it comfortable to be sleeping out in the open. And her reason was quite justified when the morning arrived.
Heuren the councilman was happy yet sad a the same time for leaving the mansion and letting the other councilman named Oliver to take his place on the second day.
The man was happy because the snow mansion gave him shivers. It wasn't just because it had been deserted for many years but also because of the haunted story he had heard when he was still studying for his exams. And he was sad because he would be leaving Lady Vivian here by herself in the midst of the other men. When he had gone to make sure if she was alright, the lady had gone missing. He had spent the entire night and morning to later find her walking through one of the passageways by which time he had dark-eyed circles.
Vivian had received another fruit before Heuren had left and she couldn't tell how thankful she was for it. This made her think if it was because she was a woman that he had shown his concern for her.
The second day, Vivian decided to take a step on the stair before stepping down again. This went up for an hour in the morning until the man named Jamien came to ask her, "Are you scared of the stairs, milady?"
"You could tell that," she answered staring at the stairs which she had previously tried climbing.
"How unfortunate," the man sang, walking up the few flights of stairs she had gathered courage for, he said, "Let me walk with you. If you won't even look at the first floor it would be equal to telling you have given up. I also see that you haven't gone out to eat but there were some seeds and orange peel I found not far from the trees behind," he chimed in, his bright red eyes staring at her knowing that she had acquired the fruits, not by herself.
Vivian didn't confirm his words and behaved as if she didn't know what he was talking about. Confessing that the councilman had been partial to her would only land the councilman in trouble which she didn't want.
Not responding to him, she took a deep breath and decided to walk up the stairs to see the man follow on her trail.
"See? It wasn't that bad. All you needed was motivation," he said smiling at her, "I apologise if you're still angry for what happened at the soiree we met," he was talking about the time she had fallen in the river to hurt her leg.
She gave him a firm smile, "What makes you think that? I wouldn't expect a man like yourself stepping in either. Please don't worry about it."
"I will be seeing you around. All the best," he gave her a smile which had turned to become uncomfortable every time she saw it. It wasn't just about the incident that took place in the soiree but the vision she had of him, where he had cut one neck after another was what had come to bother her.
Being civil both of them bowed their head, where he took a left and she took the right from the staircase before coming to realize this was not where she was intending to go. Now that she had, she walked a few steps before stopping to see down the stairs just similar to how her dream was. She stood there for a long time, not touching anything even though she had her gloves on looking down and waiting to see if she would see something odd but nothing ever happened. It was just that after so many repeated dreams of the same ghost over and over she didn't know to do about it. Maybe it was only her figment of imagination as she was stressed, thought Vivian to herself.
Going to look at other rooms, she inspected every one of them closely until she came to stand near the place where Leonard had brought her but where was the door? she tired looking at through the walls but there was no door. Had it been camouflaged that now she couldn't find a way to it? Leonard had told her that he and Nicholas had spent quite some time here when he was young. The reason Leo could find it easily must have been because they had spent more than one or two night.
"Stupid woman. What is she doing trying to touch the wall," one of the men commented before disappearing into another room.
Vivian rolled her eyes. It was her hands and her space. She could do what she pleased! Not finding it, she moved forward to the other rooms. Before that, she hadn't seen the walls where the pictures were hung. Sure she had seen some of them with Leon but there were some that were hidden from the naked eye. While exiting a particular room at the time night where the sun that was hidden had set itself did Vivian come to stand in front of a portrait which was actually very small compared to the others that had been hung making Vivian's mouth go dry at the person in it.
So much for the figment of her imagination, she said to herself dully as creepiness surrounding her began to make her cold. It was the ghost she had been seeing. If this person existed before and if her dream had some sort of meaning...then did that mean, there was a ghost haunting this mansion?
At her conclusion, she gulped as dread came to settle in the pit of her stomach making her feel unwell.
She felt her head spin, holding on to the wall to steady herself she took a deep breath, "Breath in and out, in and out," she told herself.
She needed to sit down but she didn't want to sit here! Not now at least, if the person's frame was here there was no telling if the woman's bedroom was the one she stood at or the one behind her.
"Oh God," she prayed.
All her life she had been scared of ghosts and she had hoped to never meet one. Hurrying down the stairs, she went out of the mansion, almost running to the water mill, she sat down.
Once she was done calming herself down she tried to think through on what was happening and why she was here. The last time when they had arrived, both Leonard and she had found the skeleton from where her visions had come alive. This place must hold secrets which either didn't want anyone finding or wanted to let out the truth on what might have happened in the past. It was a mere skeleton and maybe the council couldn't deduce what was there here.
This was the reason why the council had put the new candidates hoping there could be a new approach in finding out the whys.
But the question was what happened?