“–His Highness, the culprit is crazy. He’s a madman, but he’s very intelligent.“
Juan’s shaggy hair peeked out over his glasses as he turned his eyes straight at Erika.
The class was over and the rest of the group headed for the city in the afternoon, leaving Erika who wanted to investigate and outdo the rest of them in her own way.
“I know what you mean. They killed our knights and broke them out of jail, there’s no way they’re normal humans. I’m not going to let them get away with it.”
“That’s true, but… what I’m trying to tell you is that the murderer isn’t even thinking like a human being.”
From inside his cell, Juan kindly explained to us about the case and the curses.
Buried in a pile of books that hadn’t been there the day before, dark circles formed under his eyes. He looked impatient to solve the case.
Erika and some knights behind her…. listened to him earnestly, even having a desk and chairs set up.
“Your Highness, why do you think that I have been experimenting with witchcraft repeatedly, to the point of keeping a lot of animals just for that purpose?”
She had assumed that he had been experimenting out of a desire for intellectual exploration, but Juan’s words and actions so far suggested that that was not the case.
Erika had no idea what the reason could be.
“Because curses are so infinitely diverse, and because…. there are still so many unknowns.”
“…..that leads you to believe that the culprit is crazy?”
“In this case, yes, I think there might be a connection….“
Juan recalled the field work conducted earlier this morning.
The need to apprehend or kill the culprit had increased, not even considering the emergency situation of the mutated orcs escaping.
Knights hurried to and fro in the laboratory late at night, after the attack happened.
As the knights’ torches illuminated the darkness, Juan, wearing shackles, examined the destroyed wall using a spell stone and other tools.
“…What do you think?”
Juan replied to Alto, who was still very quiet, while carefully choosing his words to convey what he wanted to say.
“This is… probably the result of more than three different curses used at the same time. There were differences in the residues of the curses around the area.”
“In other words, it is probably not a magic tool. It would be inefficient and very unlikely to pull off combining spells to achieve a single effect with a magic tool.”
This was the worst report ever that could be given.
If it had been a magic tool, Madame would have been more likely to be the culprit, and the investigation would have finally found a new direction to research in depth about.
However, if it was a magic tool that the culprit had personally constructed, they had nothing to go on.
“Your Highness, we must hurry. It is important to search for the orcs that were taken, but it is also equally urgent to find the culprit of this crime.“
It seems Juan’s report wasn’t finished.
“What do you mean by that?”
“If he could perform a combination of such advanced curses to destroy the wall, he knows more about curses than I ever will.”
“…It is very likely the culprit is experimenting on humans.”
“Not just one or two, but… many…”
Alto and the knights, whose faces had been continually turning pale at Juan’s conclusion, froze.
“Even I, who experimented daily, was groping to understand the effects curses had on animals, since there was no way I could communicate with the animals properly. If the combination of curses he is using is so sophisticated, they must be experimenting on humans….”
“…Juan. Do you have any idea who the culprit might be? Right now, your opinion is the most important.”
The knights looked fearful and impatient at the possibility of a madman lurking in the royal capital.
Experimenting with curses on a large number of people was an unholy possibility that was bone chilling.
“If it was… Madame, she could prepare for humans to sacrifice and experiment in secret, but if the… priest was the culprit, the spell stone should react to him and his surroundings, especially considering the concentration of curses is this high.”
“Neither of them were close to this area…”
“That’s what I mean. After all, we have no proof. We might as well just forget about their physiques and investigate people other than the two of them. Just… if we don’t hurry…”
Juan said that Madame was the most likely candidate to be the culprit, but he was nervous and wanted them to go through other lines of inquiry too.
Alto and the knights, even after hearing about the possibility that the culprit was experimenting on humans, could not help but ask the reason why they had to hurry, although they were hesitant to listen to any more bad news.
“…Why is that?”
Speaking to Erika, Juan gave the same explanation he gave to Alto and the others at the scene a few hours earlier.
“…The killer is crazy. If he has gone this far into curses, he is most certainly still… experimenting.”
Erika and the knights her widened their eyes in shock.
The culprit was still experimenting on humans.
It may be taking place right now, right under our noses, in the royal capital.
And at the same time….
Hakuto and his group were questioning the people near Father Shock’s church.
This was the 29th person they were asking.
No, it would be more than 50 if the interviews they conducted around Madame’s house were included.
“He’s a good man. He takes care of our children, and all he wants are small donations.“
“Is that so? …By the way, where’s your kid now?“
“I just picked him up, so he’s inside waiting for dinner.”
He was interviewing a single mother, who had one child, at the entrance of the second floor an old apartment building.
The sun was setting.
Just like Hakuto, the others must be on their way back by now.
However, they did not get any results, and the answers they got were all similar to each other.
Madame was a ‘mass of greed and complexity’, ‘the only woman who opposed Hildegard’, and ‘a terrible devil by all and any means’.
Father Shock was ‘a saint’.
“…sorry to interrupt your meal. I’d like to hear a little more, if you don’t mind….”
“Uh-huh, I was just kidding. I’m just making fun of you because you’re so cute. Anything specific you want to know?”
Hakuto was relieved to see that the flamboyant, revealing woman who worked in the entertainment district exuded good-naturedness, and continued the conversation.
Oswald’s nose turned up.
“Is he… really treating injuries and illnesses for free?”
“Well, yes. But I feel so guilty… I give what I can as an offering, but it’s still less than half of what I should be paying.“
At this point, the suspicions they had of Madame were being cleared, and he was hoping that they would be able to find some holes that Father Shock had during their investigation.
“He does all this for people in the red light district like us, and most importantly, for the kids. I feel thankful for him from the bottom of my heart.“
Looking at this woman’s casual smile, he felt guilty.
“My leg joints have been aching since I got back too, tomorrow I was going to see-”
“Excuse me, sorry for interrupting. Was that stall always around here?”
He interrupted the conversation and pointed to a food stall that was selling around a corner of the residential area.
“Yes, they sell around here because they couldn’t obtain a license. To be honest, it’s a hassle to go out to the street from here, and it’s cheap, so they are very helpful.“
“Oh, I see.”
Glass stroked his chin with interest.
“Oh, sorry, my son’s calling. Can I go?”
“Oh, yeah. Thank you so much.“
“I’m sorry I couldn’t give you the information you need, but good luck, okay?”
The woman winked at them and walked back into the room.
Without any useful information, he walked back along the main street in the sunset.
“…Why are you so strong, Glass-sama?”
Leaving Hakuto to ponder in his own thoughts, Oswald asked the question that had been bothering him for some time.
“Well, I think it’s because… I went straight for what I wanted to do.”
“I guess you haven’t experienced the…. setbacks that we have. Especially since your that strong…“
“Yes, I have.”
Glass immediately responded to Hakuto’s sarcastic and childish comment, which leaked out of his mouth unintentionally.
“I faced setbacks often. I am skilled, but just because I’m strong doesn’t mean I could save anything, and when I was a child, I had a lot of trouble with a wall that was unusually hard and high.”
The ‘wall’ that Glass referred to.
Whether it was a skilled master, his father, or a monster, various imaginations passed through the minds of the two young men.
And in the shadows, the words, ‘Strength is not enough to save you.’ echoed in their minds.
“I wonder if this thing really is unbreakable. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. What am I doing? …I asked myself that question, and went through trial and error every day.”
Squinting nostalgically at the setting sun, he talked about his old memories that he was fond of.
“And that’s when I finally started to break down the wall. Nothing was unbreakable with my fists. There was nothing that could compare to my power and skill. It was when I was filled with such confidence. That was when I met him….”
Glass sputtered, which was extremely unusual.
“I thought I was going to die.”
When Glass talked of an enemy so deadly that even he was prepared to die, they naturally thought of a huge beast, like a dragon.
“…did you not run away…?”
“For some reason, I didn’t like the guy very much. Besides… there was a cute little spectator behind me.”
Oswald remembered his grandfather’s back, warm and frail.
The back of a great man who protected him and his childhood friend.
“It may not be a setback, but it happened this morning. We have to get the head of the group to approve the food we serve to the students before we serve it to them, and we failed once again.”
“Being a servant sounds like a really tough job…”
Oswald, as a representative of the common public, genuinely sympathized with the servants who had to deal with the selfishness of Erika and the rest of the academy students.
“No, it’s fine. The princess comes to the salon frequently, or rather every day, so I’ll be grateful even if she judges my food even more strictly. But you know what?”
Glass vented more and more passionately, as if something was making him depressed.
“That old man… the team leader, even after he finished eating and gave a pass to what I made, he said something like, ‘I think bread is better… I don’t like rice so much….’ I’m afraid that his taste buds are inferior to those of a pond snail.” He said emotionally.
“…you have quite the poisonous tongue.”
Oswald and Glass walked down the street, talking to each other in an unusually relaxed manner.
Behind them, Hakuto felt pained because of how immature and inexperienced he was.
He had assumed that Glass, who was so talented, had a natural gift and had always been able to do everything perfectly.
He could not possibly know the suffering ordinary people went through.
He felt extremely sorry that not only had he been dragging Glass along for these investigations, he had also been sarcastic to him on top of it.
It would have been worth it if he had gotten some new information.
However, all he got was what he already knew.
In his own way, he pondered about the suspects with malice in his mind.
During the morning practice, Alto lightly informed him that the culprit was still probably committing crimes related to witchcraft every single day.
Madame’s alibi was becoming more and more solid, and she seemed to have started preparing for her trip that started tomorrow.
Shock was busy taking care of children and treating illnesses.
The main street was bustling with people heading home, or out to the bars and the entertainment district.
Food stalls and restaurants were hawking to those people, while various aromas wafted in the air.
He walked along, staring blankly at the backs of Glass and Oswald, thinking about the case.
His stomach rumbled at the savory smells, but he walked on without noticing.
“Hakuto-sama, is something wrong? If you are hungry, let’s go buy some food.“
Hakuto suddenly froze and looked pale, and both of them became worried.
A sudden thought filled with malicious intent passed through his mind.
“Hakuto-sama? Are you perhaps not feeling well…?”
“No, no, I’m fine. I’m fine. Wait a minute….”
Let’s think again.
There was no need to do (…) such a crazy deed.
But he was reminded, in his ruminations, of Alto’s words, who claimed that Juan had told him that,
‘The culprit was crazy.’
A shiver ran down his spine, and he cowered due to a different kind of fear he felt compared to what he felt when he faced the Demon Lord.
‘The curse usually manifests itself in the form of a minor ailments.’
No, he didn’t want to convince himself of the possibility of such an abomination any longer.
‘A dead soldier with a gouged shoulder.’
But the more he thought about it, the more it made sense.
‘Advanced curses require a large number of test subjects.’
He couldn’t think straight, because what he was thinking couldn’t be the case
The pallid Hakuto looked like he had stumbled upon an insane entity.
Ooh, I’m excited for what he could have possibly realized.
Chapter 93 is done! I’ll be back with a new one!