|Author: Tsunose Bun||Original Source: Syosetu||Word Count: 3024 characters|
|Translator: Jiro||English Source: Re:Library||Word Count: 1606 words|
“Come to think of it, the Duke’s men didn’t ask us anything.”
“It’s not like we know a lot about the Count, and we’ve already informed the Duke of everything. Their visit was solely to retrieve Tetem so that the Duke could adopt her.”
“I guess you’re right.”
It had been a few hours since Kena and Tetem had departed. Merc and Astard were now chatting while resting inside the house. They’d decided to take a break from all that had been going on recently.
“You do some crazy things at times, you know? Couldn’t you just have made Kena your disciple without having her do that?”
Merc inquired, reprimanding Astard for subjecting Kena to such a test. Astard, on the other hand, just looked in bewilderment.
“What’s wrong with it? It would be uncharacteristic of me to just make her my disciple.”
“…You have a point. I’m sure you needed an excuse.”
An escort to a nearby town barely qualified as a mission. It was at most an errand.
The Duke’s soldiers were there with them. Then again, it was clear at a glance that Kena was the stronger of the two. It was extremely unlikely that anything dangerous would occur. Astard had most likely forced this unnecessary formal test on Kena to satisfy his own pride.
“Come to think of it, didn’t Kena say something strange back then?”
Astard asked, most likely hoping to divert Merc’s attention away from the subject.
“Huh? Oh, yea. It had something to do with Doctor Glodel’s most recent letter and such… Do you still have it?”
Astard proceeded to his room after being urged by Merc to fetch Doctor Glodel’s most recent letter. Merc decided to play along with Astard even though she didn’t feel it was necessary to look at it now that the case had been solved.
In the end, there was no harm in looking at it, and it’s not like she wasn’t curious. Astard’s face stiffened as he noticed the sender’s name on the letter’s envelope.
“This is not the professor’s handwriting.”
That much became apparent after comparing the handwriting on the letter inside the envelope. Merc could tell from a glance that Doctor Glodel had a unique writing style that was, to say the least, difficult to read.
On the other hand, the sender’s name on the envelope was written with such care that it looked as if it had been done by someone else. Even if one didn’t pay much attention, it was clear that they were different.
“Didn’t you see it when you were reading it?”
“Because Kena delivered this letter to my room immediately after receiving it, I didn’t think it was necessary to double-check the sender’s name. But it’s true that Kena felt concerned at the time…”
“Excuse me! Is the Great Sage here?!”
A voice echoed outside the barrier yet again while Astard was recalling the events of a few days earlier, his fingers pressed against his brow.
“More visitors? What is it this time?”
“Maybe Kena and Tetem are back… No. It’s way too soon…”
When Astard and Merc went outside, they noticed a group of what seemed to be Duke’s men standing at the gate yet again. This time, however, they just had one horse, no carriage, and a man tied on its back
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Moreover, Merc had previously met the man bound on the horse’s back.
“Damn… It’s Porto…”
“A friend of yours?”
“Count Fonan’s head butler. I thought he’d be dead…”
Merc instantly retreated behind Astard, embarrassed that Porto had seen her in such a humiliating attire. She’d believed he’d perished along with the Count and the mansion, but that didn’t appear to be the case.
“Great Sage! We’re Duke Lezau’s soldiers. We’d like to speak with you.”
“Again? Your colleagues were just here. What is it this time?”
Astard inquired, alarming the two soldiers.
“Our colleagues were just here?”
“That’s right. They also took Tetem, saying something about the Duke wanting to adopt her.”
“The Duke adopting Tetem? Hmph…”
One of the soldiers expressed his astonishment, which was exacerbated by Astard’s subsequent remarks. He then turned his attention to Porto, who was tied to the horse’s back.
“Great Sage. This man is one of Count Fonan’s servants. His name is Porto. He came to us not long ago with this letter.”
Astard and Merc examined the letter provided to them by the soldier, which included Count Fonan’s plea for refuge in the Chulice Empire. Fearful of being caught, the Count had apparently planned to flee to the Empire in return for Dr. Glodel’s research, which he had stolen from his home.
Count Fonan had most likely assigned the delivery of this letter to Porto.
“I see. So, after finding that your master had died, you chose to turn yourself in, alongside this letter, am I right?”
Porto yelled furiously in response to Merc’s question. He then strained his eyes and gazed at Merc’s face as if he recalled something, but afterwards shook his head, unable to figure it out.
“Young miss. Have we met somewhere?”
“You have the wrong person. Aside from that, why do you think I’m wrong?”
Merc asked. This time, though, instead of Porto, who was looking away, one of the soldiers responded.
“Apparently, this man came before us even before he was aware of the fire in the mansion. He had supposedly informed my colleagues that he was fed up with the Count’s methods.”
“In other words, you betrayed your Master, correct?”
Astard asked in an amused tone.
Porto instantly turned to glare at him but nodded quickly while clenching his teeth. He wasn’t able to completely refute Astard’s claim.
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“I couldn’t stomach the notion of the head of the long-established Fonan family, whom I had served for many years, scheming to defect to the Chulice Empire, one of the Duchy’s enemies.”
“So you betrayed him?”
“…Yes. I’d had enough of his ways. The final nail in the coffin for me was when he tortured Doctor Glodel’s granddaughter without hesitation in order to get information from the professor.”
“I see… Wait, what?”
Merc exclaimed. After hearing Porto’s sombre words, she’d needed a moment to process what was going on. Once again she gazed at the elderly man’s wrinkled face, shivers raced down her spine and her eyes widened in shock.
“What did you just say?”
“That the Count tortured the professor’s granddaughter, whom we had also abducted in order to extract information from him. The Count hoped that by doing so, he could get the professor to speak.”
“The professor’s granddaughter?”
“Unfortunately, during her torment, the girl perished in agony while gripping her chest1. When the professor realized what had happened, he took advantage of the chaos, grabbed a sword and killed himself… It was a complete disaster.”
“However, I never anticipated the Count to kill himself… He must have chosen to spend his final moments attempting to restore the Fonan family’s pride.”
Merc was perplexed by what Porto had just said. If what he described was true, then the professor’s granddaughter had been dead from the start.
“Astard. Something feels off.”
“What a coincidence. I was thinking exactly the same thing.”
When Merc called out to Astard, he responded with an uncharacteristic expression of irritation on his face. It was clear from this that he was thinking about something.
“Do you remember the time we went to the professor’s house?”
“Do you recall the bloodstained envelope we found inside? Tetem’s name was written as the sender.”
“I see. No wonder the timing seemed too perfect. By the time we received the Professor’s final letter, he had already been taken by the Count… Or, to be more precise, he had been kidnapped before sending that letter.”
“Correct. He was probably kidnapped by the Count shortly after writing the letter. After that, someone must have visited the professor’s house, replaced the bloodstained envelope with a new one and mailed it to you…… all with the intention of inviting us there.”
When Merc and Astard later went to the professor’s house, they had gotten the impression that the person who sent the letter must have been the professor’s granddaughter, so they’d brought her along.
This was most likely the reason why the last letter’s handwriting differed from the handwriting on its envelope.
“I was played for a fool. The letter even stated that I’d never met the professor’s granddaughter. That’s why they dared to do something like this.”
“Everything makes sense if we assume the heart medication we discovered in the professor’s home is Tetem’s.”
As the pieces began to fall into place one by one, the stark reality began to emerge.
“Kena wasn’t mistaken when she said the handwriting on the final letter’s envelope and the threatening letter were similar.”
They quickly grasped the whole picture. The one who had sent the letter and led Merc and Astard to the professor’s home in order to save the young girl.
The one who had gotten past Astard, the Great Sage’s, barrier without damaging it, all while leaving that threatening message underneath the watchful eyes of Merc and the others. All of those things had been done by the girl that Merc, Astard, and Kena had cared for and called Tetem all this time.
“Astard. If the professor’s granddaughter is really dead, then who is that girl? Just who is the girl that lived with us these past few days?”
Even the man referred to as the Great Sage could do nothing but stay silent in response to Merc’s earnest question2.