After school on that day, Christina was waiting for Kanade in a classroom at Midgar Academy to discuss the incident.
Kanade was the girl who had exposed Eliza’s wrongdoings in the white fog. Naturally, she had earned the enmity of the Thirteen Night Sword.
“Oh, I’m sorry for making you wait, Christina-sama.”
Kanade seemed nervous and looked around cautiously.
Although there were still a few students left in the classroom preparing to leave, there was a considerable chance that the radical faction, the Thirteen Night Sword, might resort to extreme measures.
“Kanade, did you hear about the morning incident?”
“Yes, of course. I can’t believe Count Goethe Mono ended up like that…”
“The situation has changed with his death, for better or worse.”
“Yes, you’re likely to be a target. There’s no doubt about that.”
Kanade’s face turned pale.
“You’ve been unharmed so far because the Thirteen Night Sword had the upper hand. There was no need to risk taking action against you. However, the situation has changed with Count Goethe’s death.”
“They’re at a disadvantage… is that what you mean?”
“Yes, they’re in a tough spot. Of course, I might also be a target. So, I have a proposal for you.”
As Christina began to speak, a cry from a frightened male student echoed through the classroom.
“W-What is this!?”
Christina addressed the male student who had raised his voice.
In the classroom, there were only Christina, Kanade, and the male student who had just let out a pitiful scream.
“W-What happened, Christina?”
The black-haired boy was flustered as he turned around.
He was an ordinary male student, but he was also someone who had been the subject of various rumors, so she barely remembered him.
“Yes, that’s right. Look at this. I found this on the ground.”
“What is it?”
The document was stained and had two types of stains. One was a black stain, and the other was a reddish-black stain.
From the black stain, there was a faint coffee aroma, and from the reddish-black stain, there was the smell of blood.
As soon as she picked up the document, Christina’s expression turned tense.
The document detailed the entire sequence of Eliza Dacuaycan’s actions, the costs of the cover-up operation, and the relationships between the parties involved.
It was clear that this was the document that should have been lost at the scene of Count Goethe’s murder.
Christina quickly checked her surroundings to ensure that no one was present.
“Sid, where did you find this?”
Speaking in a hushed tone, Christina asked.
“Um, it was sticking out from that shelf… I thought someone might have forgotten it.”
It was a shelf provided for the classroom. It was assigned to each student, and Sid is pointing to Christina’s shelf.
“In my shelf…!?”
“Oh, so it’s your shelf. Sorry, I just…”
“No, I’m glad you noticed.”
“I see, it’s good you didn’t forget anything.”
“Sid, did you look inside?”
“Huh? Oh, I glanced at it, but…”
“I see… you’ve seen it.”
Christina’s voice lowered.
“Uh, was the document I saw something I shouldn’t have?”
“Yeah, it contained highly sensitive information.”
“I only saw it briefly, so it’s almost the same as not seeing it at all, right? Anyway, I’ll leave now, so see you tomorrow…”
With unexpectedly swift movements, Christina caught Sid as he tried to leave.
“Sorry, but I won’t let you go.”
“Uh… that’s a bit high-handed.”
“I’m doing this for your own good. You wouldn’t want someone to cut your throat while you’re asleep, would you?”
“Cut my throat? Are you planning to do that?”
“I won’t do it, but you don’t know who might be watching. If they find out you’ve seen this, they’ll definitely come after you.”
“They? I don’t really understand, but it’s not very considerate to leave such a document in the classroom.”
“I didn’t put it there.”
“I didn’t put a document like this in the shelf. I have no memory of it.”
“Someone who wanted to show me this document.”
Unspoken anxiety filled the air.
Someone had taken an important document from the murder scene and deliberately placed it in Christina’s shelf at the academy. They might be watching her even now. While not necessarily sinister, not knowing their motives or identity made it eerie.
“Oh, there’s something written on it.”
Suddenly, Sid pointed this out.
“What’s written on it…?”
Sid should only be able to see the back of the document from his current position.
“I think there’s something written on the back, like with a reddish-black stain. If you look closely, doesn’t it resemble words?”
Flipping over the document, she indeed found faintly written words in blood. The letters were hard to make out due to the bloodstains.
“Jack the Ripper. A name…”
“Maybe the person who put the document in your shelf?”
“Who in the world is he… and why did he give me this document?”
“In that case, I’ll be heading home soon.”
Once again, Christina caught him as he tried to escape.
“Um, my sister is unconscious, and I’m worried about her, so I can’t sleep at night. I want to be by her side as soon as possible…”
“I’m aware of your sister’s situation, but for your own safety, I can’t let you leave.”
“I can protect myself.”
“Considering your academic performance, I’d count from the bottom up. I’m saying this for your own good.”
“Even if you tell me that…”
Ignoring Sid, Christina turned around.
“And Kanade, you can’t go home starting today either.”
“Eh? Does that apply to me too?”
Kanade exclaimed in surprise.
“That’s right. I was actually planning to suggest this from the beginning, but starting today, both of you will be living at the Hope family’s mansion.”
“Great, I’ll feel more at ease now.”
The reactions were mixed.
“This is for your safety; there’s no way around it. We can provide security at the Hope family’s mansion.”
“Thank you, Christina.”
“Well, then, why don’t you start packing your things and head to the mansion?”
And so, the three of them began living together for their own safety.
Christina pondered while swallowing hard.
I have a few loosely defined rules when it comes to killing people.
One of them is to try not to kill people who seem pitiable when I kill them. And the other rule is that it’s usually OK to kill the bad guys.
Yeah, no problem with that.
Today, I find myself in Christina’s house. Unexpectedly.
“You want some too, Sid? It’s super high-quality coffee made by Mitsugoshi. You might never have a chance to drink it again, so you should drink a lifetime’s worth now!”
The timid girl from the classroom was now guzzling coffee in a boisterous manner. She’s a common but cute girl with black hair and black eyes, and she’s from the penniless noble family.
“You can drink mine too.”
Gamma sends out more than I can consume.
“Really? Yay, Sid-kun, I love you!”
So, after receiving a rather light “I love you” from her, I sighed deeply as I settled into the sofa.
I never expected to end up staying at Christina’s house.
As a mobster, I wondered what this would be like ……, but Kanade-san, who is about to drink a lifetime’s worth of coffee, is truly a mobster herself, so I guess it’s not a problem.
“Yep, no problem.”
It seems that once again, I’m having a problem-free day.
“Can I have some chocolate, Sid-kun?”
“You can’t have chocolate.”
“Aww, you’re so stingy, Sid-kun, I hate you!”
I quickly rescued the chocolate meant for me from her hands. It’s a newly released high-end green tea truffle. Gamma sent me a prototype of this last month. I heard that reservations are filled up for a year in advance, but I managed to get my hands on it.
This is the power of a high-ranking noble… truly something to envy.
“Even the sofa is a high-end brand from Mitsugoshi… The chandelier, the rug, the tableware, all of it is part of Mitsugoshi’s luxury line…”
She’s such a Mitsugoshi maniac. Or perhaps, how extensive is the Mitsugoshi Company?
With the truffle in my mouth, the door to the sitting room was knocked.
“May I come in?”
“I appreciate your invitation! Thank you very much!”
With incredible agility, Kanade-san deeply bows her head in thanks.
“No need to be so formal. I’ve prepared the rooms, so let me show you around.”
Christina heads out to the hallway, and I follow her.
The beautiful carpet, the wall and ceiling decorations, the numerous artworks in the hallway, all of it is far beyond what the poor Kageno Baron family can afford.
“17 million… 54 million… 90 million… 200 million…”
Kanade, walking next to me, mumbles softly.
“What are you doing?”
“Ueh!? You heard that?”
“I was trying to guess how much the artworks cost.”
I made sure to burn into my memory the vase that Kanade mentioned was worth 200 million yen.
“This is the dining room. We plan to have dinner here tonight. And next to it…”
Christina, with her practiced manner, continues to guide us through the mansion. She stops at a double door after ascending a grand spiral staircase. There are two magic swordsmen who seem to be acting as our escorts in front of the door.
“This is your room.”
With that statement, she opens the door, revealing a spacious bedroom.
“Uwaa~, it’s like a princess’s room.”
Kanade, full of excitement, rushes over to the bed.
“Sid’s bed is the leftmost one.”
“Christina-san, am I in the right place?”
“Of course, it’s fine. Then, my bed will be in the middle.”
“By the way, why are there three beds?”
I voiced the question that had immediately sprung to mind upon entering the room.
“Because there are three of us.”
Christina points at me, Kanade, and herself.
“Ah, I see. There really are three of us.”
“The reason is that it’s more efficient to have the protectees together in the same room.”
“I see, it makes sense.”
I’m satisfied with the explanation.
“Although we’ll be sharing a room, your bed is separated by a bookshelf. That should be sufficient.”
“I’m not the best in practical skills, but I’m a hundred times stronger than you. If you try anything funny, I’ll knock you into next week. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!”
Kanade strikes various poses while speaking in a condescending tone, completely at ease.
I raise my hand in a gesture of surrender and take a seat on my bed. My luggage from the dorm is already placed next to it.
In the order of beds by the window, it’s me, Christina, and Kanade.
“I’m next to the door with the window in front. If something happens, I’ll be the first to die. Quite fitting for the poor Baron family.”
I muttered softly.
“The chances of you being targeted are the lowest, Sid.”
“Aah, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean any harm.”
In fact, I’m delighted.
“There are two guards in front of the door and three below the window. All of them are skilled swordsmen who have participated in the Bushin Festival main event.”
“Be at ease. It’s far safer here than in the dorm.”
“I’m relieved then. I’ve heard most of the story on the way here, but may I ask what happened this morning?”
“Oh, sorry, but I need to use the restroom…”
Kanade says. Most likely from drinking too much coffee.
“There’s a bathroom in the adjacent room.”
As Kanade hurries out, Christina starts to explain.
“Countless guards were dispatched, and the entire mansion has increased security. We’ll be fine, so don’t worry.”
“That’s a relief. I’m just a regular student; I never thought I’d get caught up in such a horrific event…”
“Your safety is a top priority. We need to be cautious. But don’t worry too much; we have well-trained guards.”
“Okay, that’s reassuring. By the way, the document that had a name written in blood… It’s truly terrifying.”
“Most likely, it’s the missing document from the crime scene.”
“I can’t believe it… Writing in blood is a horrifying act.”
“The way Count Goethe was murdered was unusual too. This is more than just a typical murder. The culprit is acting with some kind of purpose.”
“Being an ordinary student like me and getting involved in such a heinous event… I can’t believe it.”
“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to endure it. You might be a target as well.”
“Tonight, I probably won’t be able to sleep due to fear. That’s because my life might be in danger…”
Christina comforts me as I shiver uncontrollably.
A cold night breeze enters through the window gap.
The night wore on as we returned from the bathroom and had a late dinner.
I enjoyed a lavish meal, making creative adjustments to the gourmet recipes from Mitsugoshi Trading, and I was pleasantly surprised when a platter of what seemed like salmon sushi appeared.
It had been ages since I had sushi, from my previous life.
“These innovative dishes were all so delicious!”
After our meal, back in the room, Kanade was still excited.
“Mitsugoshi Trading’s recipe books never disappoint. Kanade, you should try them out at home.”
“Eeh?! I-I can’t afford expensive ingredients…”
“They also have recipe books that use affordable ingredients. There should be recipes for dishes like tuna burgers, which once used discarded fish.”
And so, the culinary culture of another world continued to evolve.
We chatted with a school trip-like excitement on our beds for a while.
After a while, the crackling of the fireplace, the warm atmosphere, and the soft light from the flames made us feel drowsy. Christina gently turned off the room’s lights.
“Shall we get some rest now? We had so much fun talking, I lost track of time.”
“Eh, but I want to talk some more.”
It was around midnight. Kanade gets into her futon, still mumbling.
I too got under the covers, and Christina prepared to do the same.
Just as Christina was about to lie down, there was a knock on the door, and a maid entered the room.
“Christina-sama, the master is requesting your presence.”
“Both of you, go to sleep. I’ll go talk to my father.”
Kanade was already asleep, murmuring her response.
Christina turned back towards me at the door.
“Yes? What’s up?”
“I feel like we’ve met somewhere before.”
“Not that. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s as if we’ve talked somewhere.”
“Hmm, I don’t think so.”
“It’s probably just a familiar feeling. Sorry for asking such a random question.”
Chris smiled faintly, trying to downplay it, and then she left the room.
Late at night, Christina found herself in her father’s study. He was flipping through documents, and his hands trembled.
“This is a dire situation.”
“If we have this evidence, we can progress the trial in our favor. We can convict Eliza Dacuaycan.”
Christina’s father pounded the desk, his voice growing harsh.
“All this because you decided to meddle in the affairs of the minor nobles, Christina! The Night Blades are now our enemies all because of your actions…”
“Father, the Night Blades are already eyeing the Hope family. With the assassination of Count Goethe Mono, it’s the Hope family that stands to gain the most.”
“So, it’s your meddling that made us a target in the first place! No, could it be that you…?”
The anger in her father’s voice shifted to a mixture of fear as he turned to Christina.
“No, Father! I had nothing to do with this. Count Goethe Mono was killed by Jack the Ripper.”
“Father, let us assist Kanade. With this evidence, we can convict Eliza Dacaiqan. If we do that, it would weaken the Night Blades, and more nobles would be inclined to support the Hope family.”
“No, think about it the other way. If we send this evidence back to the Night Blades, they may recognize us…”
“But won’t the Night Blades just let those who know their secrets off the hook?”
“Gah… No, wait. I heard that you invited a certain minor noble to our home.”
“Yes, Kanade is being protected here.”
“Excellent. If we hand that person over to the Night Blades, it should show our sincerity.”
“That won’t happen. I won’t allow it, even if it’s you, Father.”
“Are you defying me, Christina? Remember that I am the head of the Hope family!”
Her father’s voice grew louder, but Christina glared at him.
However, her gaze didn’t waver; it was her father who looked away.
“I’ll take care of this matter for a while. We need to verify this evidence, and we can’t rule out the possibility of a trap.”
“Once Count Goethe Mono was killed, the Thirteen Night Blades will certainly act. Next, they will likely target Count Kuzaya and Baron Grehan.”
“The two martially inclined members.”
“Both of them are among the younger members of the Thirteen Night Blades. That’s why we can’t predict their actions. But, I don’t want to die yet.”
With that, her father walked away, holding the documents.
Christina sighed as she watched the flickering flames in the fireplace.
“These are the great nobles of this country… Everything has rotted away.”
Christina laughed as if she had given up.
“Ridiculous… My father, who can only read the Night Blades’ intentions, and powerless me…”
Why did Jack the Ripper put the evidence in her locker? Christina had a single hypothesis.
“He wants me to report it. That’s why he left evidence of the Night Blades’ misdeeds…”
But there was nothing she could do.
To get the evidence acknowledged required power, and she didn’t have that power. If the powerless showed the evidence, they would be crushed.
“If I only had the power…”
How satisfying it would be to cleanse this country of all those parasites.
A face suddenly popped into her mind: Goethe Mono’s death expression. A playing card was stuck in his head, and he had a dumbfounded look on his face.
Until Alexis called out to her, she had been engrossed in the count’s lifeless face.
In the late-night study, a small laughter echoed.
Count Kuzaya and Baron Grehan were in a dimly lit secret room, deep in conversation.
“As for Goethe Mono’s case, have we made any headway on identifying the culprit?”
Count Kuzaya puffed on a cigar.
“All the eyewitness accounts are full of nonsense about clowns. It’s infuriating.”
Baron Grehan said with a sneer.
“It’s the work of a highly skilled hand. All the eyewitness information disappears as if by magic. Even our elite magical traces tracking team couldn’t get any leads.”
“They’re true professionals.”
“Yes. Goethe Mono had hired a sufficient number of guards, but they were all taken out with a single blow. We can assume the perpetrator has the skill of a Knight Commander.”
“Perhaps they’re from the lawless city. There used to be an assassination group called ‘Zeturo.'”
“If it’s ‘Zeturo,’ they have the required skills. But I’ve never heard of an assassin associated with clowns.”
“Maybe it’s a newcomer?”
“Who knows? But even if we don’t know the identity of the clown, we can make an educated guess about who might have hired them.”
Count Kuzaya spread some documents across the table.
“We have a few suspects, but the Hope family is especially suspicious. Unfortunately, we lack evidence.”
“That’s a shame. Isn’t there any evidence?”
Baron Grehan spoke with an evil grin.
“We can always go back to the old method – kill them, and they’ll talk if we give them a little pain.”
“Don’t rush things. What if we’re wrong?”
“Heh. If there’s no proof, we can make some. Dead men tell no tales.”
“But it’s the Hope family we’re dealing with here. Cleaning up afterward will be troublesome.”
“Ha? You’ve killed members of the major nobility before.”
“Not this time. You should know that the Fenrir faction has been annihilated.”
“The Fenrir faction? Ah, the religious group that has been supporting the Thirteen Night Blades, right?”
“That’s right. Due to their clash with the Shadow Garden, it’s become difficult for the sect to offer support. We’re currently negotiating with another faction. Until that’s settled, we need to tread carefully.”
“What a hassle. It’s just a religious sect that bit the dust.”
“You know nothing. Their power and the danger they represent…”
Count Kuzaya’s serious tone silenced Baron Grehan, who swallowed hard.
He exhaled a sigh to mask his agitation.
“Gah, things have become a real pain after Goethe’s death.”
“Don’t rush. We’ll continue to monitor the Hope family as instructed.”
“Hey, Onii-sama, you remember that Christina girl? She’s quite the beauty, right? If we have to take out the Hope family, can you let me have her?”
“Do whatever you want, but make sure you clean up properly.”
“You’re the best, Onii-sama!”
Baron Grehan burst into boisterous laughter.
“Oi, shut it, Grehan.”
In the dimly lit underground room, eerie laughter echoed.
Grehan had already lost his smile, but Count Kuzaya put his cigar down with a stern face.
“Who the hell is that?”
Kuzaya’s voice was low and menacing.
In the concealed room, it was only the two of them. Only a select few knew about this place.
The laughter continued, but the source of the voice remained elusive. They strained to hear it, searching left and right, in front and behind, but it was coming from above.
Then, something dripped.
A dark-red liquid fell onto the table, creating a stain. The thick scent of blood filled the air.
They looked up at the ceiling.
There, a blood-soaked clown was clinging.
The clown looked down at them and sneered.
Kuzaya and Grehan swiftly swung their swords overhead.
Being considered martial experts, their movements were refined. Their blades cut the clown, and blood splattered everywhere.
The blood-soaked clown fell to the table.
Kuzaya and Grehan swung their swords while laughing.
With each strike, the clown was cut, and blood sprayed.
Gradually, the clown’s laughter subsided, and it twitched uncontrollably.
Kuzaya looked down at the brutally mutilated clown.
“Did this guy kill Goethe? Just a worthless fish. Or maybe I’ve become too strong.”
Grehan proudly wiped the blood from his sword.
“I used to make a name for myself in the Bushin Festival, too. We’re not like Goethe’s bodyguards. It was just that our opponent was weak.”
Kuzaya also had a satisfied smile. It felt like their old edge had returned after a long time.
“Well, well, Clown-kun. What kind of face are you hiding…?”
While laughing, Grehan tried to remove the clown’s mask.
“What is it, brother?”
He turned around, looking annoyed.
“There’s a… there’s something in your head…”
Grehan quickly reached to the back of his head.
At the back of Grehan’s head, a single playing card was deeply embedded. He touched his head absentmindedly as blood flowed down his neck.
“Onii-sama… Y-You have a card in your… head.”
As he spoke, Grehan slowly collapsed forward.
The playing card stuck in the back of his head was the two of spades.
Twitching uncontrollably, Grehan lay on the ground. Despite the obvious fatal wound, he slowly began to rise.
It was the blood-soaked clown.
“You… How are you still alive?”
Kuzaya was trembling, looking down at the clown that was standing upright despite suffering from a severe injury.
Kuzaya began to step back.
Then, with a sharp twang, the clown advanced.
“Wait, what do you want?”
Picha, picha, picha, the clown continued to advance.
“Is it money? Who’s your employer? How much did they pay?”
Picha, picha, picha.
“W-Wait! I’ll double it! I’ll provide all the money and women you want!”
Thud, there was a light impact on his back.
Kuzaya had reached the room’s end without realizing it.
“Don’t come any closer! I hold a Bushin-ryu Grandmaster License!”
Picha, picha, picha, picha.
“If you get closer, you won’t get away…!”
With fierce determination, Kuzaya swung his sword.
He was skilled at this range, and he could already see in his mind the moment when the clown’s head would be severed.
But his sword only cut through the air.
“At that distance, he dodged…”
The clown had merely taken half a step back.
However, this movement defied human physiology, surpassing the limits of human reaction.
“What are you…?”
Kashu, there was a sharp sound.
Kuzaya felt a sensation at his throat.
A playing card was embedded in Kuzaya’s throat.
The card was the three of spades.
Spitting out blood, Kuzaya tried to swing his sword.
His sword grazed the clown’s nose and hit the floor.
He collapsed forward, spewing blood, and soon, he lay motionless.
The blood-soaked clown then carried the two lifeless bodies and vanished into the night.