The whereabouts of the culprit(4)
It’s been a little over a month since you entered the academy. The life that was hectic in the beginning has been getting used to in a certain way. Other students are also getting used to it.
Karon and the others had settled into the school well. They had been distant from their classmates at first, but now they were able to chat amiably with them.
I was the reason no one approached me. Everyone seemed to think I was creepy for being the head of the family and the first of my class despite my colorless appearance. I couldn’t keep up with the gap between common sense and reality.
Then the solution’s easy. My classmates will be easier to get to if I’m separated from them. I’ll lose some of my guarding ability, but they’re strong themselves and Theon and the others are nearby. I wasn’t planning on leaving any longer than I had to so it wasn’t a big problem.
It’s a good thing that Karon and the others are enjoying school. Nothing can replace their smiles.
But Nina’s expression seems to be getting darker more often. Probably because we still don’t have a clue who did it. She seems to have put more thought into this case than I had expected.
We need to catch this mastermind as soon as possible to put Nina’s mind at ease.
I was visiting the Dean’s office on a holiday morning.
I’ve stopped my daily patrol of King’s Landing for today.
I’ve been waiting for you.
Since I had informed him of my visit in advance, he greeted me as usual. He did not behave in a weird way as before.
They greet each other and sit down on the sofa.
I felt a strange presence unexpectedly and my voice leaked out.
The headmaster tilts his head.
“… Did anyone enter this room before I got here?
I’m not sure what the strange presence is. But I pose a simple question to see if I can find any clues.
She replies, blinking her eyes curiously.
“Count Xippos is here. The Kingsguard will be here to inspect the mid-term exams at the end of the week. Final arrangements.
Count Xippos? I thought he’d resigned as Lord Commander long ago.
“You say that. You’re the one who did this.
I cower my shoulders in fear. I had an inkling.
What I did was duel with the sword saint 6 years ago. The castle was in shambles after that.
First of all the Vice Commander of the Kingsguard who was acting as judge is incapacitated. He was seriously wounded in the aftermath of the duel.
Next, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard was beheaded. It’s because some of the Kingsguard found out about the deputy commander’s retirement and challenged me to a duel.
I was going to have only their families take the blame since some of them acted on their own and their subordinates took care of them easily… but the nobles of the royal court fearing my retaliation denounced the entire Kingsguard. As a result, the former Commander was executed.
The last thing I wanted was for the feybeln to switch factions. but they were so impressed by my strength that they volunteered to take me on as an apprentice. To want to join the army of the man who killed the previous master… they’re a family of battle freaks. They’re so hardcore they’re even willing to convert.
They were very eager to sell, and they wanted an ostensible bodyguard for Weemlay, so we took them on. Of course, he also made them change their religion to the polytheists.
These three factors have combined to upset the balance of power in the castle. The Kingsguard is in chaos without the Lord Commander and his deputy… and I’ve got the largest force in the castle, the Faberns.
… Yeah. Can’t blame you for asking a retired guy to help you out.
Because of you, the title of Sword Saint is still vacant. The Holy Kingdom’s military might is at a low ebb.
I don’t know about that. It’s just that no one will take on a sword saint. Besides, if Konoe was that skilled he’d have fallen even if I hadn’t done anything.
I think the current Lord Commander of the Kingsguard would be beaten to a pulp by a group of Foranada servants.
The Principal’s cheeks scrunched up at my frank opinion.
Konoe has one of our top graduates in it.
You’re being too direct.
I’m stating a fact. The magical education in this world is too prehistoric. It’s not a theory but a practice.
That’s not what I wanted to talk about.”
You’re the one who brought it up.
I ignore the headmaster’s protests and let my thoughts wander.
Count Xippos showed his face. How timely.
Since Nina’s strong rejection, his son Eric hasn’t been as insistent. He’s also in my A class, so we run into each other sometimes, but it’s just a quick hello. He seems to have accepted his heartbreak, though he has a sad expression on his face.
It’s a bit of a conspiracy theory to suspect a conspiracy just because a father and daughter are in the news at the same time. We have other matters to talk about. Let’s keep this strange presence in the back of our minds.
I changed my mind and got down to business.
“Did you know that the value of beast slaves has gone up?”
“Hmm. I heard there’s someone who’s buying all the beast slaves in King’s Landing.
“That’s right. But don’t you think it’s strange? Why go to the trouble of buying slaves in bulk in the most expensive city in the world?”
“… Sure. If we’re going to do a bulk buy, we might as well go to another town.
We’ve been so distracted, we don’t even question it.
It seems the witch’s name was not a given. Only someone with that knowledge would be able to detect the curse.
Recognition Manipulation is technically classified as mind magic. But similar effects can be produced by curses.
To the human eye, things out of balance, so-called curses, appear ambiguous. This was a technique based on that phenomenon.
A minor distraction can catch even a strong man like me. It’s so weak, it’s hard to notice the difference.
However, if it weren’t for me, I wouldn’t have noticed the problem in the first place.
“I see. I’ve heard that the kidnapper you came in contact with before was clad in a shroud of magic. So the kidnapper and the slave-buyer are connected.
“The way they bought the slaves is similar to the way the witches and their minions did it. They transported the slaves they bought through way stations. Even if the number of slaves was reduced along the way.
I heard there was a black ops guild that was asked to kidnap Nina. They used multiple intermediaries to make sure we’d never get to the mastermind behind it. This is very similar to the slave shipment.
“We don’t have absolute proof… But it’s a strong possibility.
Today, we’re going to hit the last safe house we could find. Are you with me?”
Are you sure?
“Aha. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you from the beginning.”
I know the headmaster is quite upset about the kidnappers. If we can get some progress on the case, it might help calm him down, if not eliminate it.
She’s a difficult person in many ways, but I agree that she’s a good educator. I have a certain amount of respect for her genuine concern for the children’s growth and well-being.
I’ve taken into account the risks involved with bringing in outsiders. My men will take control of the area, and then me and the Dean will move in. There’s some risk, but not enough to ruin the operation.
The headmaster bowed to the wind with a feeling of deep emotion in his voice.
I smile at him and tell him I don’t care, and then I tell him the plan.
We don’t have much time. I’ll be there with my phasers, so get ready.
“Oh, so we’re going to experience the magic of illusionary transference! I’m really looking forward to it.
The headmaster is getting ready to attack with a leap.
I don’t see any nervousness on the surface or emotionally, so I think I’m ready for the real thing.