༺ The Red Mana League ༻
“Mr. Adler. Do you know what the easiest thing in the world to deduce is?”
It was the morning of the second day since I had taken on the very first request of our little crime consultation charade.
“What is it?”
“It is simply whether someone likes or dislikes you…”
As I was walking down the corridor of the academy with Professor Moriarty, she told me this fact with a smile on her face.
“Why is that?”
“Take a look around.”
For a brief moment, I doubted her but following her words, I quietly looked around and could immediately understand the reasoning behind those words of hers.
“…You are certainly right.”
Most of the male students in the corridor and half of the female students who were passing by were giving me a look as if they had seen an atrocious bug.
And the remaining half of the female students were avoiding my gaze with their faces blushing.
“The reason you are still alive is probably because you have won over half of the women in London to your side.”
“Is that supposed to make sense?”
“Indeed, you are the greatest child actor who has stolen the hearts of women all over Europe.”
At first, I thought it was just her making a joke and intended to ignore it, but upon her following words, I found myself unable to do anything but stop in my tracks quietly.
“But I would like to think more highly of your acting skills than the appearance you possess as an actor.”
“You’ve kept that frightening true nature of yours hidden, until the moment you met me when it finally surfaced.”
Professor Moriarty’s eyes were once again shining darkly.
“Mr. Adler. But why did you reveal your true nature to a child named Charlotte?”
“…It’s a misunderstanding, Professor.”
Feeling an inexplicable sense of crisis dawn upon me from her ensuing words, I quickly shook my head in response.
“I have revealed my true nature only to you, Professor.”
“Then why is she showing an obsession toward you?”
“Because she is a genius akin to you, Professor. It seems that she has caught the scent of the storm we are about to brew.”
At those words, Professor Moriarty, who had habitually been tilting her head to the side, stopped in her tracks and stared straight at me.
“I might need to double as Charlotte’s assistant as well. Of course, only if she uncovers my true identity…”
At that moment, as I looked at her and tried to lighten the mood by cracking a joke with a smile…
– Progress: 10% → 15%
A message suddenly appeared before my eyes.
“…You know that it was a joke, right, Professor?”
Seeing that the eyes of Professor Moriarty, wearing a bright smile, were still as dark as before, I started to explain myself while breaking into a cold sweat.
“We have already made a contract and even swore on mana. I am solely your…”
“After this case is over, I’m planning to embark on a long-term research project.”
But a bolt from the blue hit me with those words.
“It’s expected to be a very demanding research project so inevitably, you will have to sleep in my laboratory for a while.”
“Well, isn’t that great? You will be safe from assassins. And you won’t be bothered by a mana-poisoned detective either.”
Having unexpectedly been burdened with the workload of a graduate student just because of a careless slip of the tongue, I had no choice but to force a smile and respond.
“I am truly delighted, Professor.”
Next time, I need to think a bit before I speak anything.
“…By the way, they’re starting to show up.”
While making that resolution and quickening my steps, I spotted our client sitting in the lounge up ahead and began to whisper to Professor Moriarty in a hushed voice.
“As I said earlier, the overall plan should be laid out by you Professor. I will just act according to the plan you’ve devised.”
As I delivered those words, the terrifying demeanor that Moriarty had donned earlier completely disappeared and she began to wear an excited expression on her face— like a child who had come to an amusement park.
“My heart is truly racing for the first time in a while. It feels like I have come to an amusement park made just for me.”
“It is indeed an amusement park made for you, Professor.”
This rookie criminal consultant who was openly revealing her excited heart would someday become the Empress of London’s underworld without my help, I presumed.
Would I be the only privileged one to be able to see her in such an innocent state?
‘Somehow, it feels like I’m playing a princess-raising game right now.’
For a brief moment, I entertained such a frivolous thought and then walked toward our client— Princess Clay while mumbling to myself
‘But what was the ending of that game?’
I seemed to recall something about the game… A lesson stating that the more diligently one raises a princess, the more careful one should be during the end of that path.
“Ah, h-hello… Yo, you’re a bit late…”
As Moriarty and Adler approached Princess Clay who had been impersonating the fake identity of Victoria Spaulding, she extended a greeting toward them while fidgeting with her fingers.
“Th, that… You know the story we talked about last time…”
“I’ve cast a cognitive dissonance magic barrier around us. So, please be comfortable with your speech.”
“…Tsk. You should have said that sooner.”
However, as soon as Adler said those words after arriving near her, she took off the glasses that she had been wearing, crossed her legs, and put on a cold and stern expression on her face.
“Before you speak, you should first kiss my ring. Then kneel and show your respect by bowing to me.”
“I will do that once I become a part of the royal family, Your Highness.”
“I have the blood of the British royal family flowing in me. A lowly creature like you does not have the right to refuse.”
“At first, it’s always fun to be rebellious without knowing the stakes, so that later the taste of making one submit is more enjoyable, Your Highness.”
Hearing those words, Princess Clay twisted her lips and spoke up.
“That comment just now, it somehow sounded like it was directed at me.”
“Why would it be? In any case, shall we stop bickering among ourselves and get to the main point?”
As Adler made that suggestion while glancing at Moriarty, who was wearing an inscrutable smile on her face while standing at her side, the princess sighed and quietly straightened her posture.
“First, you should know about the target.”
And then, she pointed to the window at the back.
“The target I want is right there.”
A massive bank, maintained under strict security, came into view for Moriarty and Adler.
“It’s the City & Suburban Bank.”
“Yes, as I said yesterday, it’s the top bank in London.”
“So, is the student planning to rob that bank?”
“Robbing? Such an inelegant way to put it.”
At Moriarty’s words, she bristled for a moment but soon corrected the Professor’s response in a stern tone.
“…I am simply trying to retrieve a certain item that is in the underground vault of that bank.”
“What is that item?”
At that question, Princess Clay’s eyes turned red in an instant.
“It’s none of your business.”
With a look that clearly meant not question any further she glared at the Professor and Assistant duo and then continued in a more subdued tone.
“But if I get my hands on it, I can assure you that the era of vampires will return to all of Europe.”
“Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine.”
“Enough, will you tell me now?”
Ignoring the sarcasm thrown by Adler, Clay began to interrogate them, her eyes narrowing as she spoke her next set of words.
“Why do you think that my plan will fail?”
“Before explaining that, why don’t you share the plan you’ve thought of with us?”
“People are so annoying.”
With an exasperated expression on her face, she pulled out a map from her belongings and spread it on the table, then began explaining in a confident tone.
“According to this map, the building closest to the bank is right here.”
Then she pointed to a place she had previously circled.
“A pawnshop on Covent Garden?”
“They are almost back to back.”
“I am already working part-time there under the identity of Victoria Spaulding.”
Hearing this piece of information, Moriarty asked a question with a smile on her face.
“While working part-time, are you planning to secretly dig from the basement of the shop?”
“For a noble young duchess to be digging, covered in dirt like that— it’s very hard to picture.”
“It’s simple, but it’s the most surefire method.”
With a slightly reddened face, Clay responded in such a manner and continued her explanation.
“Even while taking only half the normal pay, I work diligently. The owner of the pawnshop completely trusts me. And I can use disintegration magic as well.”
“I suppose even if I keep doing this alone, the work will be finished in a few months, right? So what you two may be able to help me with, as far as I can think of, should be on the digging procedure at most.”
Having finished her explanation, she then wore a haughty expression on her face and lifted her chin before asking.
“So, will you start talking now?”
A lopsided smirk appeared on Clay’s lips as she asked, alternating her gaze between the two.
“What is the flaw in this perfect plan of mine?”
And then, silence began to flow in the surroundings.
“If there isn’t one, then we will have to fulfill the contract right here and now.”
Beginning to wear an ‘I knew it would come to this’ expression, she extended her ring-adorned finger toward Adler, commanding him with an arrogant tone.
“Kiss my hand.”
However, for some reason, Adler was merely wearing a smile on his face while quietly sitting on his spot.
“What are you doing? Swear your obedience.”
Just as Clay, infuriated by his attitude, was about to rise from her seat while speaking…
“If you break the contract, I won’t stay idle either…”
“There is a fatal flaw in your plan, as I have stated before…”
Professor Moriarty spoke up at that instant, tilting her head slightly while uttering slow and deep words.
“First of all, there is a high likelihood that someone will find the passage you’ve oh-so suspiciously dug before your work is even completed.”
“Were you planning to create a massive hole using disintegration magic and sustain the soil from collapsing using magic stones?”
“H-How did you…”
“Anyone could deduce this just by checking your first-year class records and supply application,”
She whispered such words, tapping the table in front of their seats with her finger.
“However, because of the characteristics of the red mana possessed by vampires, you won’t be able to control its power.”
“If, as a result, a large hole is made without any support to cover it up, even tapping your wand once might be enough for a loud sound to echo across the hole and notify others of its presence.”
Hearing such words, Clay responded while lowering her gaze and quietly furrowing her brows.
“If a large carriage happens to pass by there around the time everything is completed, there will likely be a number of suspicious individuals appearing to demolish your so-called perfect plan, Princess.”
“T-That’s absurd. I am aware of that, but not many people pass by this place.”
She, who had been biting her lip till now, attempted to counter Moriarty’s argument.
“And if it really comes down to it I can just reduce the size of the hole. Of course, it will take more time since I need to modify the plan now, but still…”
“There is also another critical issue.”
But when Moriarty mentioned the next problem, she had no choice but to close her mouth shut.
“Have you ever seen Mrs. Wilson, the owner of the pawnshop, going out?”
“Try to recall. I believe that she never did leave the shop premise.”
After pausing to think for a moment, Clay spoke with an incredulous expression on her face.
“Come on, surely… everyone goes out at least once.”
“According to the testimonies of those around her, she hasn’t left once in the past three years.”
Then, at Moriarty’s words, she wore an utterly shocked expression on her face.
“How can a person… Wait, hold on. How do you know about Mrs. Wilson to such an extent?”
“Your plan was impressive for a student but to me, it seems no different from a mere child’s play.”
“What the hell are you talking about…”
“Wasn’t your entire plan exposed to me in my office yesterday? That too while I hadn’t taken a single step outside of my office to boot.”
At that decisive statement, Clay, with her eyes tightly closed, clenched her jaw in fury.
“But you are quite fortunate. Since you’ve met me.”
“From now on, we will take charge of your plan. Any objections?”
When Moriarty asked her this question, Clay nodded quietly and rose from her seat.
“In that case, I will get in touch with you soon.”
As she was about to turn around and leave, she heard Moriarty’s composed words and decided to respond in a soft voice.
“If this fails, you’ll have to take responsibility, Professor.”
With that, a bitter smile quietly spread across her lips before she finished her last set of words.
“Keep that in mind.”
“So, what do you plan to do now?”
After Lady Clay left, Professor Moriarty remained deep in thought for quite a while, tapping her finger on her knee as she had done on the table mere moments ago.
“Don’t worry. After pondering throughout the entirety of last night, I found a way to infiltrate the bank without going through that pawnshop.”
She resembled Holmes when she was lost deep in thought. I casually threw out a question her way and only then did Moriarty, with a smile beginning to play at the corners of her lips, started to unfold her tale to me.
“Quite coincidentally, there is one more place in London that perfectly matches the elevation coordinates of our target bank’s basement.”
“Where is that?”
“The basement of the August Academy’s dormitory. It’s where a student, who can’t afford to pay the dormitory fee, is staying with permission from the Academy.”
With that said Moriarty produced a document from her belongings.
“Coincidentally, she is the daughter of Mrs. Wilson, the owner of the pawnshop where our client works.”
Behind the document, which featured a sullen-looking female student with exotic orange hair, Professor Moriarty’s eyes could be seen shining in a cold light.
“It’s an astonishing coincidence, isn’t it?”
Of course, I already knew the reason for this ‘coincidence’, but seeing that the professor seemed quite delighted, I decided to just leave it be.
After all, for her to grow, she needed to figure out the puzzles that the clients would be deliberately hiding on her own.
“With the elevation coordinates being the same, we can complete a teleportation magic circle quickly if we calculate correctly. The academy is overflowing with magic stones that can be used to forge the needed items, so it should take… at most, two weeks, I reckon.”
“In other words, it is the perfect location for infiltrating the bank.”
“But right now, it is the worst possible location.”
“Why is that?”
At the question I asked her, Professor Moriarty gestured me to turn the page of the document.
“As stated in that document, ‘Diana Wilson’, who resides in the basement, suffers from severe social phobia and communication disorders,” she answered in a leveled tone.
“I tried to talk to her out of curiosity once, a long time ago. She was startled and ran back into her room, can you even believe it? She’s an odd student, sometimes not attending classes at all and staying in her room all day.”
“In that case, drawing a magic circle there for the same reasons as the pawnshop will be very difficult.”
Hearing those words of mine, she slowly shook her head.
“Nothing is impossible in this world, Mr. Adler.”
“Well, it is so like you to say something like that, Professor…”
“It would be the case, as long as you are there,”
I was about to nod appreciatively but all of a sudden, Professor Moriarty, pointed at me and began whispering in a hushed tone of voice.
“Diana Wilson, who lives in the basement of the dormitory, is a female student, isn’t she?”
“Wait a minute.”
“And you are London’s foremost expert on female students, aren’t you, Mr. Adler?” she continued with a smile.
“Wait just a moment.”
This was absolutely absurd.
I had agreed to do as Professor Moriarty instructed, but this was genuinely absurd.
“Start immediately from today.”
I’ve been engrossed in my work and haven’t dated anyone before throughout my life. Just how was she expecting me to charm a woman?
Moreover, it was a reclusive female student suffering from severe social phobia and communication disorders at that.
“Mr. Adler, didn’t you say you would follow my directions to a T?”
“Professor, isn’t there another way…”
“We need to work hard to uncover the secrets that our client is hiding,”
But even so, I couldn’t refuse Professor Moriarty’s request.
I didn’t want to lose the hard-earned favor and trust that I had built up with her and become a fixture in her office, after all.
“Ah, and one more thing,” she started adding some more words.
So, I gritted my teeth and quietly nodded. However, Professor Moriarty, suddenly darkening her eyes, whispered in a low voice and started adding some more words.
“Needless to say, don’t give her your heart.”
“Graduate students have no right to be in a relationship,”
At that joke, I nodded once again and then stood up from my seat, letting out a deep sigh in the end.
‘Maybe I should just become part of Clay’s family?’
To charm a reclusive female student within two weeks.
No matter how hard I racked my brain, I just couldn’t see a solution to this problem.
Exactly two weeks later—
“Pl, please help me…!”
A girl, who had rushed into the lodging house at 221B Baker Street without warning, was desperately pleading with Charlotte Holmes.
“Yes, first, please calm down. Would you like a smoke…”
“Adler is in danger!”
While leaning back on the sofa and trying to calm the client down with a relaxed expression, Charlotte’s face slowly began to contort upon hearing those words.
“I’ll, I’ll give you anything. I have nothing, but I’ll give my life if I have to…”
Despite this, Diana Wilson, a second-year student at August Academy, continued to speak through the tears that showed no signs of stopping for even a moment.
“Please, save him…”
The curtain was rising on what would later be known as the Red Mana League case.
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