༺ The Red Mana League (2) ༻
Dr. Rachel Watson, having closed the hospital early to welcome her day off, had finally arrived at the boarding house.
“Were you talking with the client?”
As she asked the question, she had no choice but to tilt her head at the sight of a girl sitting on the sofa, shivering in fright.
“Wh, who, who are you?”
“Miss Watson. She is my assistant and partner, so please relax.”
At those words, the girl started to murmur in a soft voice, her eyes tightly closed shut.
“Two, two people… there are two people here…”
“Wh, whew. Whew… Let’s calm down…”
Watson, who had no choice but to stare blankly at this bizarre scene spoke to Holmes who was sitting quietly in the armchair.
“So, what exactly is this girl’s story?”
Holmes then began to whisper with keen eyes as though she had already seen through the truth of the matter.
“She seems to be under the delusion that she is a member of the Freemasons. She is deeply immersed in various conspiracy theories and the occult. Not to mention, she also has a strong interest in Chinese culture. That’s about all I can deduce at first glance— she’s a student at the academy by the way.”
As soon as she finished speaking, Watson, as if accustomed to this routine, pulled out a notebook from her bag and began to record those words in said book. Meanwhile, the girl who had become the subject of Holmes’ analysis began to send a gaze toward her with her eyes wide open in shock.
“Is, is it by any chance, a form of divination?”
Was the question asked by Diana Wilson, in a flustered and meek tone.
“No. I’ve merely cut out all the intermediate deductions and told only the starting point and the conclusion.”
“Well, I suppose you could consider it a rather cheap form of divination per se. Let’s just leave it at that for now.”
Concluding the charade, Holmes leaned weakly against the sofa. Watson, in a soft voice, posed a question to her.
“How did you figure all that out?”
“The imitation pin that is shaped like a triangle and compass – the symbols of the Freemasons – she has that pinned to her chest. The fish tattoo that’s inked on her right wrist. The numerous superstitious behaviors she exhibited before entering this boarding house. Coming to that conclusion is rather simple once you put it all together.”
Watson merely nodded her head; as if convinced by her words, but soon had to furrow her brows slightly and pose another pressing question to Holmes.
“But today… your attitude seems oddly off, doesn’t it?”
“Watson. Dealing with a client who is filled with illogical and fanciful thoughts— someone who can be said to be the exact opposite of me, a composite of rational thinking, turned out to be more challenging than I previously surmised.”
“To say that to her face…”
“Not to say, this client mentioned ‘that man’, after all…”
As Watson was about to scold Holmes to stop talking… she had no choice but to make a surprised expression upon hearing that statement of hers.
“Do-do-do, you know him?”
As she cautiously uttered Isaac’s name with a dubious expression on her face, Ms. Wilson reacted vigorously.
“What on earth is going on here…?”
“Senior Wilson. I apologize for this, but could you please explain everything from the beginning once more?”
As curiosity rose on Watson’s face, Holmes, sitting beside her, propped her chin on her hand and made the suggestion to the client.
“It’s quite a peculiar story, so I’d like to organize my thoughts while hearing it again. And sometimes… Watson points out perspectives that I hadn’t considered, so it will undoubtedly be helpful for your request.”
“Yes, yes. I’ll tell you everything, for as many time as it takes, to help solve the case.”
Watson and Holmes’ eyes were now fixated on her form, as she straightened her back and began to steady her voice.
“I first met Isaac two weeks ago from now.”
“So, that Isaac Adler….”
As soon as the flushed Ms. Wilson’s explanation ended, Watson who had been wearing a blank expression on her face from one point of the story quietly opened her mouth.
“He confessed to you abruptly, his face blushing, when you opened the door in response to his knock?”
“Yes, yes. He said he had had a crush on me for a long time…”
“…That seems highly unlikely.”
With a puzzled expression on her face, Watson tilted her head and, with Holmes still deep in thought with her eyes closed, took the initiative to ask some questions to the client.
“What was the reason he gave?”
“At the library… he said he fell for me while I was reading a romance novel…”
“And you accepted that?”
At those words, Wilson bowed her head in shame, her face reddening.
“It was the first time… The first time someone had approached me like that.”
“And so, I was so taken aback that I missed the timing to refuse… and since that day, he kept coming to my room without fail…”
Knowing full well about the notorious reputation of the infamous Isaac Adler, Watson who had been glaring at her with a frown asked with a worried expression.
“He didn’t do anything strange to you, did he?”
At that question, she just vigorously shook her head in response.
“No, it was actually fun. He brought me books from the library that I had been too shy to visit recently… and sometimes we played board games together.”
“And, and he… he talked with me too. I was scared at first so I just rambled about anything… but then it started to become fun as we kept doing it over and over…”
Listening quietly to her disjointed words, Watson cast a fleeting glance toward Holmes.
And as always, Holmes was already lost in her own world, her eyes closed.
“He was pure and kind, contrary to what people say about him.”
“…That doesn’t seem to be the case.”
“On the contrary, when he was with me… he seemed to be even more embarrassed than I was. But, but that side of him was oddly endearing…”
As Wilson spoke, her face morphed into an even deeper shade of red and the blush even reached all the way up to her ears.
“It’s like a romance novel. The Scum of London is Clumsy Only in Front of Me. That would be the perfect title for this story.”
“That, that might… become a hit if it gets published.”
“…Well, with that face, if he acted awkward, just who wouldn’t fall for it?”
Having thought the story to be highly implausible, Watson then muttered, realizing that Adler’s very face was implausibility itself.
“Anyway, I’ve heard enough about your small love story. Can you now focus on explaining why you are here?”
At that moment, Watson who had been deep in thought asked a question imitating a detective instead of the preoccupied Holmes. In response, Ms. Wilson took something out of her belongings.
“It was about a week ago. When he came to see me at the usual time, he handed me this.”
Watson’s eyes fell on a club announcement from the August Detective Academy that Ms. Wilson had taken out for them to see.
“A Mock Crime Consultation Club?”
“Yes, it’s a club that was created a week ago. Isaac is the president of it.”
“What did he say when he handed this to you?”
“He, he told me to take the test…”
As Wilson spoke she began to sweat; as though she was still feeling nervous.
“I, I was going to refuse, of course. I was comfortable with Isaac, but… other people still scared me…”
“It seems like you have a severe case of social phobia.”
“Yes, but he said then… That he has become very busy with club activities lately so he won’t be able to see me as often.”
With that, she murmured, her hands tightly clenched.
“I didn’t like that.”
“It wasn’t fun to be cooped up in my room like before. I found myself waiting only for the time when he would come to mingle with me.”
After arriving at this point, her voice, which had been shaky the entire time, finally steadied.
“I had a good reason to do so.”
“What was that reason?”
“I’ll explain that after I tell you the whole story.”
Having said that, she switched to a clearer voice that was different from before and began her tale.
“Anyway, taking advantage of the time in the evening when there were fewer people, I entered the interview room on the third floor, and they were all waiting for me.”
“Do you remember who was there at that time?”
“Um… let me see…”
As Ms. Wilson tried to recall, she hesitated for a bit but soon answered.
“Professor Jane Moriarty, Isaac, and… Victoria Spaulding.”
“I couldn’t ask earlier because your story was so scattered, but who is this Victoria Spaulding?”
At this point, Holmes, for the first time in this second recounting of the client’s tale, opened her mouth to ask a question.
“She is a student who works part-time at my mother’s shop. Before I got close to Isaac, she was probably my closest friend.”
“Hmm… So you’re saying that this student was a member of the Mock Crime Consultation Club, right?”
“Yes, that’s right. I was quite surprised when she greeted me with a warm expression and offered a handshake.”
“…She offered a handshake, huh…”
Having recounted till that point, Diana nodded and glanced toward Holmes whose eyes were still closed shut, and then continued her story.
“After finishing the handshake with Victoria, Professor Moriarty asked me to demonstrate my mana.”
“Was that because of the special regulation written in the club announcement?”
“Yes, well… I didn’t have high expectations, given my orange color of hair.”
At this point, she paused momentarily.
“…Strangely enough, it appeared. Red mana appeared when I tried to summon it.”
She scratched her head and with her hand extended, continued her story while showing off the orange mana.
“I tried several times afterward, but I just couldn’t reproduce that fiery; not even once.”
“But at that time, it was a perfect red to my eyes. And I passed the test.”
Watson, who had been examining the orange mana back and forth, scratched her head for a bit and then opened her mouth.
“It looks orange no matter how I look at it…”
“I know, right? I have absolutely no idea what happened. At this point, I wonder if I might have had a hallucination at that moment…”
“It wasn’t a hallucination.”
In the midst of their back and forth, Holmes interjected for the second time.
“Ah, please continue. I’m just talking to myself.”
“Yes, yes. Anyway, after that, I was assigned a rather strange role in the clubroom…”
“Such as blindly copying incomprehensible formulas, perhaps?”
“C-Correct! Did I explain that earlier? Or is it your deduction-slash-divination again?”
“…Please continue your story.”
Wilson, who was looking at Holmes with sparkling eyes, cleared her throat and resumed her story.
“It was work unrelated to crime consultation as far as I could tell, but it was still nice. I received a rather generous allowance and above all, I could see Adler for longer periods of time.”
“However, that small happiness ended abruptly today, as we reached the two-week mark of the club’s founding, without any warning whatsoever.”
With that, she pointed to a crumpled memo that she had previously placed on the table.
Only just discovering it, a sigh escaped from Watson’s mouth.
“Of course, I went looking for Adler everywhere. But he was nowhere to be found.”
“…Wait, but it could really be due to unavoidable circumstances, couldn’t it?”
Watson, as if suddenly struck by a doubt, tilted her head and threw that question after hearing out her words up to that point.
“You’ll think differently when you see this.”
Glancing at her, Wilson then pulled something out of her pocket.
“An occult ornament?”
What she pulled out was nothing other than an hourglass, with golden sand falling downward as if emitting smoke inside the glass chambers.
“It’s not just an occult object. You, Charlotte Holmes, must already know that magic and mysteries are no longer mere fabrications.”
“Regrettably, I have to admit that fact,” Holmes replied with a sigh.
“This clock shows the remaining lifespan of a person.”
Holmes, who had been frowning at the appearance of the occult item, asked with her eyes wide open in surprise.
“Of course, it requires the subject’s blood, among other things… and external interventions could alter the fate…”
“Is that really authentic?”
“…Yes. I have one for myself as well.”
Saying those words, Wilson took out another hourglass from her pocket.
“There, Ms. Wilson’s is almost entirely drained…”
“I am suffering from an unexplained incurable disease.”
“I’ve tried everything to cure it, even dabbling in all sorts of occult practices. But in the end, nothing worked out for me.”
That was the moment Watson fully understood the reason why the girl before her had so easily given herself to Adler.
“I don’t have much time left.”
“So the reason you accepted Adler is, then…”
“…Well, perhaps because he brought laughter into my life? A life that had been listless every day and didn’t have much time left.”
With a forced smile on her lips, Wilson murmured those words and then pushed the sandglass forward.
“This sandglass, it was quite difficult to obtain. I don’t know if it will be enough for the fee, but…”
“I’ll take the case.”
Before Wilson could even finish speaking, Holmes had already begun to write a receipt, tearing a page from her notebook.
“So we just need to find Isaac Adler and change his fate, right?”
“As for the payment, I’ll accept these two hourglasses.”
With her mouth agape, Wilson’s eyes started to well up with tears.
“Th-Thank… Thank you…”
“Thank you so much…”
And for a good while afterward, Wilson’s tearful words of gratitude echoed throughout the walls of the boarding house.
“What do you make of this case, Holmes?”
As Diana Wilson repeatedly bowed her head in gratitude before taking her leave, Watson casually threw a question toward Holmes.
“It’s rather perplexing for you as well, isn’t it?”
Hearing those words, a faint smile began to grace Holmes’s lips.
“The cases that seem most perplexing are precisely the ones I adore the most, Watson dear…”
Uttering out that line, Holmes rose from her seat and brushed her shoulders lightly as she began to stride forward.
“Finding a clue that leads to the truth is exceedingly difficult but once you grasp it, everything tends to unravel in an instant.”
“Are you saying…”
“While there are still some unresolved questions left, I think I’ve definitely grasped a clue that may unravel this mystery…”
And just like that, she donned her overcoat that had been hanging on the wall and pocketed a pair of handcuffs.
“I’m planning to verify that clue now. From Wilson’s residence, the pawnshop, to the academy— I have many places to visit today.”
“Uh-huh. I see.”
“It’s still early morning now, so if we move quickly, we should be able to verify everything before the evening ends.”
Saying her piece, she headed toward the door, extending a hand to stop Watson as she attempted to rise and follow her.
“And I’m genuinely sorry… but for this case, I have to handle it alone. Because this matter is…”
“Alright, take care Charlotte.”
As Holmes scratched her head in an attempt to apologize to her partner, she had no choice but to scowl at the sight of Watson, wearing a content expression on her face.
“Why are you making that face?”
“Shouldn’t one avoid feeling overly jealous when their unrequited love seems to be straying away from them? She has such a sad story too…”
“Watson, I’ve told you time and again that I…”
“Charlotte, just look at your face right now.”
As Watson called her by her first name and pointed toward the mirror, Holmes turned her gaze in response.
On the face of the usually cool and composed woman, a displease and slightly puffed-up expression had surfaced unknowingly.
“Our Charlotte is so cuuuute, right now…”
“To think that the great Charlotte Holmes is being jealous. Living long enough does bring some surprising sights to you as they say. I thought for sure that you’d never go through a teenage phase in your whole life.”
“Be quiet, Watson.”
With those words, Charlotte swiftly shifted her steps toward the exit and quietly murmured to herself under her breath.
‘…This time, you won’t be able to run away from me, Adler.’
In her grasp, the handcuffs she had picked up a short while ago were clinking busily.
Sometime after that, the day was gradually beginning to darken.
“Miss Holmes, it has already gotten this late.”
For some odd reason, Charlotte was walking the streets of London, now blanketed in darkness, with her steps perfectly matching those of Isaac Adler— the very person her client had been so desperately searching for. She was now closely attached to his side.
“How was it, conducting a cross-examination with the suspect?”
With handcuffs binding their wrists together, they had caught the attention of people throughout the day.
“If you found it enjoyable, would you mind finally uncuffing us, as promised?”
It should be noted that the key to those handcuffs was not with Adler but with Charlotte instead.
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