ranslator: Kell | Editor: Weasalopes
Movement from the Royal Capital
「It’s okay, Hikaru. You don’t have to worry about it.」
「I know. I’m doing this for myself.」
Indeed. Not for the knight, not for anyone – but only for himself. The knight got what he deserved. Hikaru made a promise not to kill anyone when saving Lavia. What happened afterwards was none of his concern. The one he made the promise to was even saying he didn’t have to worry about it. And yet…
「I just don’t want to regret anything. No, that’s not it. I just can’t stomach what they’re doing.」
「What do you mean?」
「I spared the guy’s life, and now these people, who have nothing to do with the case, are going to kill him. I’m just pissed at how they run things around here.」
Lavia heaved a sigh.
「You’re too confident in yourself, you know that?」
「Does that turn you off?」
「No. That’s part of your personality as well. If you really insist, then you can do whatever you want. But promise me you won’t push yourself and do anything dangerous.」
Hikaru escorted Lavia back to their room before heading to the knights’ station. He assumed the Morgstad residence was vacated by now, and he was right. The investigator from the capital and the knights, including East, were at the station. Although the word “station” didn’t quite fit since the place was just as grand as the Count’s mansion.
「Is he an idiot?」
In a room were three people. A man wearing a coat with blue and white stripes – the trademark of an investigator. His hair was cut short overall, with the top forming a tomahawk. He gave a sharp vibe to those around him. Sitting across him were two knights – East’s colleagues.
「Here’s your tea.」
A maid entered the room, pushing a cart. Working this late at night dried one’s throat, and the investigator liked to drink hot tea even during summer. He waited for the maid to leave before speaking.
「So he’s the second son of a baron.」
「Yes. Though they’re sanctioned nobles only.」
Noblemen with no domain were called sanctioned nobles. There was a law in Ponsonia which stated that only nobles could hold regular positions in the government. In order then to appoint competent individuals as civil servants, a system was made to grant only noble status to the people without giving them land.
To those skilled men, having a noble status was appealing. It wasn’t limited to one generation, and the annual salary was fixed regardless of whether or not one had a domain.
This posed a problem, however. If not properly managed, the number of nobles would just keep on increasing. As such, nobles with domains were encouraged to absorb sanctioned nobles through marriage.
「His father was not a member of the Order of Knights. The documents say he worked in the taxation department and was essentially the number two in-charge of national tax collection.」the investigator said.
「I heard his father is a strict man. He quickly learned that East was not good at numbers, so he made him join the Order as a knight.」
「How is he at his job?」
「He’s incredible. No one else trains as hard as him.」
「There’s no point in training hard if he’s just going to lose against a bandit.」
「That’s what’s bothering me. I can’t believe that East would lose to a bandit.」
「He says a kid defeated him.」
The knight groaned while the other one – the skirt chaser – cut in.
「Maybe there’s something preventing him from telling the truth.」
「I think we can rule out that possibility. I used a magical lie detec
「In that case, maybe he was tricked. All the bandit had to do was make East believe something to be true.」
「That is indeed possible.」
The two knights relaxed as soon as they realized the investigator was not being harsh on East.
「Please don’t get the wrong idea. My job is simply to bring the truth to light; not to protect the honor of the Order.」
「We understand. Right?」
「I’m glad you do. Anyway, I want to ask you a few questions regarding the murder of Count Morgstad.」the investigator said, flipping through his notes. 「An assassin sneaked in through the balcony at night, killed the Count, then escaped. The murder weapon used was a dagger that had its inscription destroyed, and with a blade length of thirty-two centimeters. It was left on the crime scene. Upon hearing the alarm, you and East rushed to the scene to find the Count’s daughter, Lavia D. Morgstad, already there, and the Count dead. Is this correct?」
「In that case, the daughter was the first to discover the crime. So there was nothing wrong with her being sent to the royal capital as a suspect.」
「Yes, I suppose. But that girl didn’t kill him.」
「Why do you think so?」
「There would be blood on the killer if they used a dagger. But her clothes didn’t have a drop of blood on them.」
「Let me ask you this, then. How long did it take for you to get to the Count’s room after you heard the alarm?」
The two men looked at each other, though it was only the other guy who was on duty that night.
「Less than a minute I think.」
「That’s pretty much how long it would take no matter where you were in the mansion.」the lady-killer knight agreed.
「Let us assume that the assassin came from outside. It was raining that night and the door to the balcony was closed. The Count noticed when it was opened. He then pressed the alarm. The assassin got close and killed him. Before you arrived, the daughter opened the door to his room but the killer had already escaped.」
The knight seemed to have noticed something odd.
「Lady Lavia said she didn’t see the killer…」
「Yes. That’s in the report as well. So that would mean the assassin managed to kill someone who would clearly fight back, and then somehow escape in an extremely short amount of time, which I think, is impossible. Or are you saying that the killer got close without the Count noticing? He would hear the sound of rain if the door to the balcony was opened. Besides, there wasn’t much signs of resistance from the Count. He also had magic items on him that would’ve protected him if he just said the words.」
「That type of item can’t be activated when someone’s extremely close.」
「Exactly. It’s strange that the killer got close enough that he couldn’t activate it.」
「Ah, I see.」
「In other words, the Count let the killer get that close. The culprit didn’t come from the window. If we take all this into account, there’s really only one person who the Count would let close to him. His own daughter.」
The men exchanged glances once again.
「Your face says there are odd points in my reasoning.」
「No, it makes sense logically. But something’s just not right.」
「I agree with him, Sir. Yes, normally a parent would allow their child to get close to them. But normally a daughter wouldn’t kill her own parents. Especially not someone as pretty as her…」
「Her looks doesn’t have to do with anything, you idiot. I’m sorry, Sir. Anyway, we were not exactly close with the Count and our bodyguard mission was only for a day. But even a day was enough for us to realize something.」
「What is it?」the investigator asked, his eyes lighting up.
「The Count was wary of his own daughter.」
「Apparently Lady Lavia had been kept inside that mansion for years and she wasn’t allowed to go outside.」
「So she was on house arrest? That could be taken as a motive for the murder.」
「Yes, but this also means that the Count wouldn’t let her daughter get close that easily. So it completely contradicts the reasoning that the killer is someone close to the victim.」
「I see. That is a great point.」
「But you’re not even taking notes of it.」
「Yes.」the investigator said as he closed his notes.
「Since she escaped, I am almost certain that the daughter is the killer. I’ve received instructions from the royal capital through magic phone to find any clue that might help in finding her.」
「Magic phone… How much did you pay for it?」
A magic phone was a magic communication device installed in every lord’s mansion. It required massive amounts of magic and catalyst to operate, so it was only used during emergencies. One call cost a lot of money. There were no lords in Pond so the device was installed in the knights’ station instead. The fact that it was used meant that the matter was of utmost importance. After all, a horse could make it to Pond in four hours.
「Forgive me, Sir, but I think it’s a bit late to be all worked up now when she’s already escaped. I actually believe those adventurers are the suspicious ones.」
「East thought so too, right?」
「I think his name will be cleared if it’s proven that the adventurers were working with the bandit.」
「You’re right! Then we should—」
「We’re already on it. This is confidential information, but special forces have been dispatched to the adventurers who escorted the daughter of the Count.」
For a brief moment, the two knights was at a loss for words.
「S-Special forces? They’re people who fight in the frontlines of war, right?」
「The targets are adventurers, after all. Who knows what they’re going to do? Adventurers don’t really care about authority.」
「Isn’t this going too far, though?」
「Listen.」the investigator said, tapping his finger on the table. 「His Majesty has his eyes on this case. I need to wrap up my investigation as soon as possible and give my report at the royal capital. I’m leaving Pond tomorrow morning so I need to gather all the necessary information before then.」
They both flinched.
「East’s sentence will depend on what I’ve gathered. Are the adventurers and bandit working together? Did Lady Lavia really kill the Count? If an assassin really did come from outside, you’ll receive the death penalty as well.」
The knight who was with East on the night of the murder turned pale as a sheet.
「Anything but that! I have a wife and kids!」
「I will not be the one to make the decision. There are a few things that are not clear in your testimonies. I feel there are contradictions. Please allow me to use a lie detector on you to find out if what you’re saying is true. As you two are not suspects, I cannot use it without your permission.」
「A-All right. You okay with that, right?」
The investigator took out something that looked like a glass pen and placed it on the table. It was a device that contained magic to detect lies.
The three men didn’t notice someone was watching the whole ordeal. Hikaru, who had snuck in with the maid’s tea cart, listened to their whole discussion until it was over.
The next morning.
The guild opened just after sunrise. During winter, the place would have to be opened while it was still dark out, so most receptionists hated this morning task. But Aurora was different. She opened the guild without much concern. In fact, she liked working in the morning best since not a lot of adventurers were around yet.
A boy entered as soon as the guild opened. There were no adventurers around, so Aurora talked to him.
「Do you have a request for the guild?」
She thought he was a client as he looked too young to be an adventurer.
「No, I came here to take a request.」the boy said, showing his guild card.
「Oh, I see. I’m sorry, um… Hikaru-san. It’s just that I haven’t seen you before.」
「It’s fine. I’ve only ever taken jobs from Jill-san and Gloria-san.」
Aurora was surprised upon hearing that he’d already taken requests from her other colleagues.
「So anyway, you are?」
「I’m Aurora. I look forward to working with you.」Aurora said, bowing.
「I do as well.」
Hikaru bowed in return. The way he did so made it appear like he was really just a kid.
「I’m looking for a request, Aurora-san.」
The boy flashed a smile.
「Something like a delivery to the royal capital. I wanted to see the place at least once.」