“It’s over, isn’t it?”
“It’s finally over…”
Hyoro and Jaga exclaimed as they slumped over their desks.
Right now, the end-of-year written exams at Midgar Academy had just concluded.
“Are you going to check your own scores?”
Isaac’s absence left a significant gap, but I managed to get through with Nina’s cheat sheet.
I’m quite confident this time. I should have been able to barely pass in all subjects.
“No way am I doing that.”
“Scores won’t change at this point. Next week, it’s time for practical tests.”
I asked more as a formality, thinking I wouldn’t do it either, and I’d be in trouble if they asked me to.
It’s been about a month since the mysterious white fog terror incident.
It’s mid-February now.
There were investigations by the Knights and a lot of commotion, but the academy has finally settled down.
But the fact that terror incidents happen frequently in this otherworld is what makes it so exciting.
In my previous life, there were hardly any events, except for hunting down bikers.
Oh, come to think of it, my sister is in a coma.
I’m enjoying my freedom without being overwhelmed by deep sorrow. Zeta said she’ll wake up eventually, so she’ll be fine.
What’s she going to do about her job?
No, before that, she hasn’t taken the end-of-year tests, so there’s no way she’s repeating a year… I hope she graduates quickly.
“What are you going to do after this? Practice for the practical test?”
“No way am I doing that.”
“The fact that the written tests are over means we can have fun until the practical tests.”
“We won’t allow anyone to run away. We have plenty of money, after all.”
“And don’t forget, we have our strongest ally, Mitsugoshi.”
Hyoro flashed a crude smile and briefly showed a wad of bills, while Jaga shuffled a deck of cards with a triumphant look.
“Now, let’s go to our battlefield!”
“You mean my room, right?”
“We won’t let you sleep tonight. So, take a shower first.”
“I’m really going to sleep, just normally.”
I was firmly held by both sides.
At that moment, I heard Christina’s voice.
“…I’m sorry, Kanade. It’s because of my lack of power.”
“Is there really… anything I can do from now on?”
In front of Christina, there was a girl with a familiar presence.
“No way… for Eliza-sama to be declared innocent…”
The girl was in tears.
I remembered. I had helped this girl in the fog the other day.
“Come on, let’s go.”
“It seems like you’re getting anxious, old man.”
“Yes, yes, I’m going.”
Nevertheless, even though she’s declared innocent after all that, the power of the noble families is truly impressive.
With such thoughts in mind, I left the classroom.
I lay back on the bed of bills and muttered.
“Overwhelming victory is always empty…”
Hyoro and Jaga had left before the date changed. The game had turned into work midway, and I mechanically continued to collect the money.
After the excitement had faded, all that remained was an endless emptiness…
“Fufufu… You seem quite the strong one”
I got up from the bed and gathered the scattered bills, totaling 2 million zenny. Thanks to Hyoro, Jaga, and Mitsugoshi.
“A limited edition Mitsugoshi design deck of cards, huh? It seems to be quite valuable… but in poor taste.”
It had a horror theme.
Should I sell it?
Well, it’s still too early to go to sleep, and I might as well do some magical training.
As I began to manipulate my magic, I noticed a shining card had fallen by the side of the bed.
“Hmm, what’s this…?”
A luxurious card with a golden glow.
On the front, it was beautifully decorated with the words “Royal Mitsugoshi Exclusive Bar Member Card.” On the back, there was “Member Number 001, Sid Kageno.”
“I remember now. Gamma gave me this membership card because they were starting an exclusive bar at the Mitsugoshi Trading Company.”
I had ignored it, assuming they’d rip me off with knowledge stolen from me.
“An exclusive bar, huh…”
I glanced at the stack of bills.
I had a slight longing for those secret conversations in calm bars that sometimes appeared in spy movies.
“Perhaps they might give me a friend discount…”
At worst, I could just run away.
Alright, let’s go.
Speaking of spies, suits. The suit I used during the John Smith incident was in tatters, so I’d wear the Mitsugoshi-made one I received from Alpha.
I polished my shoes, parted my hair in the middle, and… I headed confidently to the night in the capital.
“Is this the place…”
Surprisingly, the exclusive members-only bar was located in a narrow underground alley. The door had the Mitsugoshi brand logo and intricate carvings, creating an atmosphere of elegance.
It must be some kind of hideout bar.
Feeling slightly nervous, I opened the door and entered. The interior was a calm space lit with ambient lighting. Over the bar counter, numerous pendant lights were dimmed, sparkling like stars.
The floor was made of Lycanthrope King Stone, and the tables were crafted from Yggdrasil wood.
The floor was made of wolf king stone, and the table was made of Yggdrasil wood. I calculated the risks and rewards of stealing it with a spinal reflex.
Due to my guilty conscience, I gave a rather foolish response.
“If you have your membership card…”
As I reached for the gleaming golden card in my pocket, the waitress shook her head.
“Sid Kagenau-sama has a face pass. Welcome. There is also a VIP room in the back…”
She gestured with her beautiful odd-colored eyes towards the seating in the back.
“No, I’ll sit at the counter.”
I hesitated for a moment, but in a spy setting, the counter was the place to be.
“Understood. Please follow me.”
“Excuse me… Have we met before?”
When I called out to her as she turned away, she turned back with a surprised expression.
With her odd gold and silver eyes and black hair, she was a half-elf.
“I’ve met you at the Mitsugoshi Trading Company before.”
“Oh, right, you were with Gamma, weren’t you?”
“I’m honored that you remember. I’m Omega. Please, this way.”
I followed Omega and took a seat at the counter.
The bartender also looked familiar. A short-haired, blond elf in a male outfit.
“I believe we’ve met at the Mitsugoshi Trading Company as well.”
“I’m honored. I’m Kai.”
“I’m Sid Kageno.”
“Of course, I’m well aware of that.”
Kai politely acknowledged, but for some reason, her fingers trembled slightly.
Perhaps she was inexperienced as a bartender. Is a high-end establishment like this okay?
“What would you like to order?”
I had already decided what I wanted. I felt like a secret agent in a certain spy movie.
I said with a deep, resonant voice.
“Shaken, not stirred.”
At times like this, maintaining a dignified and confident attitude, like that of a seasoned warrior, was crucial.
One shouldn’t let them know it’s your first time at a place like this. Instead, you should silently exert pressure on the other person, as if testing them.
“Shaken Vodka Martini, understood.”
Kai’s expression tightened.
She took a deep breath and started making the cocktail with trembling hands.
I wondered if the kind of tremor in her hands was necessary for cocktail making. I watched with curiosity, and the trembling in her hands intensified.
I wasn’t knowledgeable about cocktails, so I learned something.
It seemed that a slight hand tremor was essential for a skilled bartender.
While I was contemplating this, I suddenly realized something.
Did vodka even exist in this world?
Kai’s shoulders twitched.
No, I didn’t mean to say that to you.
The strange thing was that vodka existed in this world in the first place.
Without needing to think about it, I already knew the answer.
It was their doing.
“You drink Vodka Martini, huh?”
I was approached from behind by a voice as melodious as rolling bells. Even without turning around, I knew who it was.
“Long time no see.”
Seeing her again after a while, she seemed a bit more mature. Her golden hair and blue eyes, along with a simple dress, complemented the ambiance of the bar.
“You used to dislike strong drinks, didn’t you?”
“Did I ever say that?”
“No. But I’ve never seen you enjoy a drink before.”
Sharp as ever.
I couldn’t really tell the taste of alcohol in general. I just drank it because it seemed cool.
“It’s not that I dislike it.”
“I see. You don’t like drinking it right?”
Alpha chuckled softly.
“I’m sorry for the wait. Here’s your Vodka Martini.”
Trembling, Kai placed the cocktail in front of me. The tremors were even more pronounced. It was an extraordinary display of a professional’s skill.
“I’ll have a Manhattan.”
Alpha’s Manhattan was supposed to be a whiskey-based cocktail.
But in this world, there shouldn’t be any whiskey.
“Is whiskey available now?”
I pretended to know and decided to tease her.
“At long last. It’s not on the market yet, but it will fetch a high price when it is. A noble from the Vegalta Empire who sampled it valued the bottle at 2 million zenny.”
As I thought. They were really going all out.
I shouldn’t have shown off my knowledge of distillates like that.
“This is thanks to your knowledge.”
I desperately took a sip and downed the Vodka Martini in one go.
“…How does it taste?”
I could taste the alcohol, and that was about it.
Alpha smiled softly.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing, I’m just happy.”
“What are you so happy about?”
“That suit. You finally put it on.”
“Hmm, ah yeah”
“I ordered it for you. It’s made of silk from the Black Silkworm.”
Black Silkworms were far larger and more aggressive than silkworms from my previous life, and they were also highly poisonous. Their silk was the highest-quality material that only skilled hunters could obtain.
“I’ll forgive you for the promise you broke.”
Saying that, Alpha happily gazed at my suit.
I had no idea what promise I had broken.
“…Here you go. Your Manhattan.”
Today, Alpha was in a good mood.
She took a sip of the Manhattan and nodded.
“It could use a bit more aging, but it’s not bad.”
Alpha placed her glass down and looked at me.
“You, who doesn’t like alcohol, went out of your way to come to a bar. Is there something going on?”
“Hmm? Not really… I found a membership card in my room.”
“Are you worried about eavesdropping? You can talk about anything in this place. Right now, there are only people with connections here.”
Her tone became more serious. This meant that she was willing to play along with the spy game.
“I see… How did the mission go?”
She said it with a serious expression.
“The details of the Oriana Kingdom are as I have told you in my report.”
“Oh, that one? I read the report in about three seconds between completing missions.”
Regularly, I received a large number of reports from Shadow Garden. They were all written in incomprehensible ancient characters, so I immediately burned them upon arrival.
“Three seconds… Are you speeding up your brain’s processing speed?”
I silently sipped my glass.
“I guess that’s a technique you can’t discuss yet. I understand that it requires advanced skills. It has a considerable mental load and risk of failure… Certainly, at our current level, we couldn’t handle it. But we’ve been faithfully following your guidance and training. When the time comes, please teach us.”
“I’m looking forward to it.”
“I won’t disappoint your expectations. Absolutely…!”
“So, how about that mission?”
“The plan is going well. Rose Oriana has decided to fight as a queen.”
“Everything is going according to the original plan.”
“From the moment you first made contact with her, you seemed to foresee this outcome. It looked like you were quite concerned about her, which made me jealous.”
Alpha said it in a somewhat teasing manner.
“She’s an essential piece for the plan.”
“I understand. It’s necessary to draw those guys out onto the public stage.”
“The public stage?”
“Nothing. It’s just that I’ve been reevaluating things from various perspectives and considering the worst possible scenarios that might happen in the near future.”
“You really can see all possible outcomes, can’t you? But you should also focus a bit more on us… No, never mind.”
Alpha started to say something but stopped.
“You haven’t changed since long ago. You’ve been chasing after a grand dream all this time. It’s a dream so vast that we can only grasp a small part of it… But now, it looks like everything is finally coming together. Isn’t that right?”
“When you’re looking at a distant goal, it’s still just one step. But yes.”
“I understand. The Oriana Kingdom is undergoing reforms with the support of Shadow Garden’s capital and technology. Leave this matter to us. It’s going smoothly so far.”
“I see. If it’s going smoothly, that’s good.”
“Yes, and by the way, I’ve updated the ancient script cipher.”
Alpha handed me several sheets of paper filled with incomprehensible codes, and I instinctively furrowed my brows upon seeing them.
“It’s a decryption chart, but it seemed too easy for you.”
I rubbed my eyes, which were starting to feel watery.
“…I’ll have an apple juice, please.”
I put the papers in my pocket and made the request.
“Eh? Ah, sure, an apple juice.”
Kai seemed surprised by my choice.
“As for the continuation of our conversation, the Midgar Academy incident. Zeta’s report has arrived. Finally.”
“She’s always so slow, that child. You should tell her, too.”
“She has her own way of doing things. But it’s a fact that, thanks to her, we were able to annihilate the Fenrir faction.”
“That Fenrir faction, huh?”
“It seems she had investigated everything in advance, from their hidden hideout to their escape route. After you defeated Fenrir, it took less than half a day to wipe them out. She’s too efficient.”
She must be talking about those terrorists.
“This time, our manpower was limited due to the incident in the Oriana Kingdom. Zeta, Victoria, and a few Numbers were available, but I can’t believe they could wipe out the Fenrir faction in half a day with just this group. It’s possible that there’s something she hasn’t reported due to her personality.
Alpha sighed again.
“I’ll tell you that too. Make sure you report properly. Also, don’t be too reckless.”
“Here’s your apple juice.”
I took a sip of the apple juice.
They used good apples for this.
“Zeta also handled the post-war cleanup. She concealed our movements well. It seems like the Diabolos Cult’s moles within the Knights concealed this incident as well. So, this time’s incident will appear as a terrorist attack on the surface.”
“The usual setup.”
“As for Claire passing out, Zeta’s report was a bit unclear. It might need further investigation…”
“It’s fine. Let her rest for a while.”
It was almost certain that she would be held back a year, so I wanted her to rest as long as possible.
“Leave Claire’s case to me.”
“Alright. So you’re concerned as well, huh?”
Alpha smiled faintly.
“By the way, I remembered something related to the terrorists…”
I recalled what Christina mentioned in class today.
“At our school, we have a student council vice-president named Eliza. She was involved in various incidents and even physically abused students during the terrorist attacks.”
“Eliza… Ah, that noble’s daughter…”
“Yes, that’s her. The thing is, even though the Knight Order is investigating the incidents involving Eliza’s actions, it seems like she might end up not guilty.”
“Do you want her to be found guilty? If you do, I can…”
“No, it’s not about that. Whether she’s found guilty or not doesn’t matter to me. It’s just… there’s plenty of evidence and testimony, but she might be acquitted, and it’s a bit unsettling.”
I was envious.
“That’s true… As you said, the corruption in the Midgar Kingdom is quite severe. With the size of their country, the corruption might be even deeper than in the Oriana Kingdom. Eliza Dacuaycan’s father, Marquess Brad Dacuaycan, is a symbol of that corrupt faction.”
“The faction’s name is ‘Thirteen Night Swords.’ As the name suggests, it is a secret society composed of thirteen powerful figures within the Midgar Kingdom. They are often referred to as the shadow rulers of the Midgar Kingdom and have deep connections with the Diabolos cult and other criminal organizations. The reason for Eliza Dacuaycan’s acquittal is likely due to the influence of Brad Dacuaycan, the head of the faction.”
“He’s a shady controlling figure.……”
“The one directly involved in handling the case is probably this man. Count Goethe Mono. He is the ace of the ‘Thirteen Night Swords,’ known as Brad Dacuaycan’s right-hand man and the prosecution’s top prosecutor. Noble crimes fall under his jurisdiction. This time, too, it’s likely that there will be a non-indictment due to a lack of solid evidence.”
Alpha showed me a piece of paper with his portrait and biography on it.
So this is Goethe-Mono. He looks pretty badass. I also asked to see the biographies of the other twelve.
“Witnesses, testimonies, and evidence are all gathered, but still?”
“It’s the usual situation. With Goethe Mono’s involvement, any incident can be covered up.”
“It’s not just Goethe Mono. The other members of the ‘Thirteen Night Swords’ have also abused their power and corrupted the Midgar Kingdom. Due to their ties with the cult, they’ve continued to grow arrogant without anyone being able to touch them.”
“The ‘Thirteen Night Swords’ sounds impressive… as in, they’re bad guys.”
“Eventually, I plan to deal with them, but for now, I’m preoccupied with the reform of the Oriana Kingdom. We’ll have to let them roam freely for a while.”
These are the grand nobles of the other world.
Shadow rulers who go unpunished no matter what they do.
“I thought of something good. Thanks, Alpha.”
I finished my apple juice and stood up.
“You seem to be having fun. What are you planning to do?”
“You’ll find out eventually.”
“I see. If something comes up, contact me.”
Alpha’s figure turned into mist and disappeared.
A pretty cool exit.
“Write it on my tab.”
With that parting remark, I disappeared into the night.
Count Goethe Mono suddenly raised his head and looked out the window.
The nighttime cityscape of the Midgar Kingdom was illuminated by streetlights. He felt like he was being watched, but…
“Is it just my imagination?”
He muttered and returned to his paperwork.
The fireplace crackled.
His fountain pen moved across the documents. It was a quiet night.
He put the pen down and took a sip of his cold coffee.
“Even when it’s cold, this aroma. It’s truly the finest beans from Mitsugoshi.”
He nodded in satisfaction several times and then turned his attention to the documents on his desk.
It detailed the entire sequence of events surrounding the case of Eliza Dacuaycan, the costs incurred for the cover-up operation, and the individuals who needed to be bribed and removed.
This time, making her innocent wasn’t going to be easy, mainly because there were too many witnesses.
The testimonies of royalty like Alexia Midgar and the grand noble Christina Hope had been especially damaging.
He had gone to great lengths to overturn their testimonies.
Goethe stood up and looked out of the window. The glass reflected the face of a middle-aged man who looked like a tired tree frog.
“You’ll have to pay an appropriate price, Lord Dacuaycan.”
Certainly, this time had been quite challenging.
There were still people to deal with.
Kanade, a lower-ranked noble who had witnessed the incident, would eventually become a nuisance if left alone.
However, Goethe was better at paperwork and managing interests. He preferred to leave the dirty work to the other members of the “Thirteen Night Swords.”
“Well, that’s fine. I’m starting to get tired of being the last seat in the Night Swords. They should prepare an appropriate position for me.”
Despite his appearance, Goethe was only in his thirties.
He had joined the “Thirteen Night Swords” after inheriting his father’s position, but he had been assigned to less prestigious tasks due to his young age.
His father’s death had also been shrouded in mystery. While it had been officially ruled an accident, Goethe hadn’t forgotten the stab wound in his father’s back.
“The truth lies in the darkness. That’s fine.”
Whether it was Eliza’s case or his father’s, the essence was the same. He was about to find out what would happen if he tried to expose the darkness.
Goethe moved away from the window and rang the bell on his desk to call for a servant. After sealing the documents, they would be sent to Duke Dacuaycan…
Suddenly, he felt a presence and looked up.
Goethe Mono’s study looked just as familiar as ever. There shouldn’t be anyone else there except himself.
But there was a clown.
Unbeknownst to him, the clown had appeared on the sofa.
Illuminated by the fireplace’s light, the blood-soaked clown stared intently at Goethe.
“Who… Who are you?! When did you get there!?”
Goethe rang the bell in a sudden hurry.
“Someone!! Get this guy out of here!!”
The loud bell echoed through the quiet night.
“Hey, is there anyone here!?”
It had been more than enough time since he rang the bell. Normally, the security guards would arrive immediately.
It was a quiet night.
No, it was too quiet.
The bell slipped from Goethe’s hand and fell to the floor.
The blood-soaked clown slowly stood up.
Fresh blood dripped from his hands.
An odd sound of footsteps was heard. Bloodied footprints stained the luxurious rug.
“No way… You, did you… the mansion’s personnel…”
The blood-soaked clown didn’t answer. Behind his mask with a crescent moon-like grin, he just stared at Goethe.
Goethe let out a small scream and took a step back.
Tap, tap, tap, the clown approached.
“What… who are you? Why are you… Do you think you can just get away with doing this to me!?”
The clown remained silent.
As if mocking Goethe’s bravado, he slowly closed the distance, tap by tap.
Suddenly, a vision of his father’s face at the time of his death flashed through Goethe’s mind.
“No way,……, no way,……, are you going to eliminate me? I have contributed so much to the organization, and the Thirteenth Night Sword is going to cut me off……!”
The footsteps stopped.
The blood-soaked clown was smiling behind his mask.
“So that’s how it is… Just like my father, I—”
It is clear that he is getting closer, faster. Closer and closer to the point where his hand can reach…
“What? Don’t come any closer, stay away, STAY AWAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYY!”
Goethe threw the coffee cup. It hit the mask of the bloodied clown and shattered, splashing black liquid.
Goethe turned and ran. If he could make it to the Order of Knights…
Run, hope filled his mind.
He was still academically excellent at the Magic Knight Academy. Although he had become somewhat overweight and out of shape, he could move much faster than an average person.
Goethe quickly reached the room’s door in an instant and forcefully opened it.
If he could make it to the Order of Knights…
He hoped …. he could escape, but it was a fleeting moment.
Goethe was suddenly pushed down by an unseen force on the other side of the door.
“W-What are you doing!”
He struggled frantically and managed to crawl away.
But then, he noticed the blood that was sticking to him and realized what had pinned him down.
“You… you are the security personnel… Aaah…”
The lifeless bodies of the security team lay scattered around him.
They were known for their bad behavior, but they were also some of the most skilled magic knights, hired with substantial sums of money.
And they had all been brutally murdered.
Goethe kicked the lifeless body off himself and managed to crawl away.
The sound of approaching footsteps stopped right next to his ear.
As Goethe raised his head, he saw the clown mask looking down at him.
The clown was holding a deck of cards in his hand.
With a “kash” sound, the playing card pierced Goethe’s forehead.
Goethe’s eyes widened as if he were looking at something incredible, and he touched the playing card that was stuck between his eyes.
He fell slowly backward as it was.
Looking down at the blood spreading on the floor, the clown muttered.
His voice echoed through the silent night.