༺ The Red Mana League (3) ༻
“Who could this be?”
“Hmm, oh no.”
A few hours before the plan was executed—
Upon the orders of Professor Moriarty, as I was investigating to uncover what Princess Clay was hiding from us…
“If I had known the request would end this blandly, I would have asked for more fees from Senior Wilson.”
By sheer coincidence, I had run into Charlotte Holmes who had received a request to find me from Diana Wilson.
“So, why were you lurking around the pawnshop run by my client’s family?”
Judging by her appearance, it seemed that she had just started investigating the new case.
“…This is a good opportunity.”
I couldn’t afford to miss this chance.
It was a golden opportunity to accelerate the growth of Charlotte Holmes in front of me by helping her out.
Honestly, it was indeed a bit funny that I, of all people, was helping her but given the situation, I had no choice.
In the original, Holmes solved his first case around 3 years after this age.
And about 20 years later, he used the prestige accumulated over the years to fiercely battle with Moriarty and narrowly secure a victory in their final confrontation.
But Charlotte, although she retained the brilliant mind and deductive reasoning, she still lacked the experience and prestige that the original Holmes had.
Thus, she faced a few failures in the game.
And one of them was the game’s first case, “Red Mana League.”
“I should help her out.”
Of course, it was an event that greatly contributed to her mental growth, but in her current state of mind… there was a severely high chance that it would be game over if she were to lose this case.
It was quite early but because of the appearance of an enemy who ranked at the top tier in both intelligence and power, Princess Joan Clay, and…
…For some reason that I could not fathom, it seemed that Dr. Rachel Watson, whose presence often posed to be crucial in dangerous cases, was not accompanying her today.
“…It’s a problem if I only focus on nurturing Moriarty.”
Only by balancing the opposing forces of the two geniuses can peace be maintained in London.
But right now, Professor Moriarty was growing at a terrifying rate due to my full support.
And thus, at this point where the balance might easily be disrupted, it seemed that I need to gradually intervene and make sure to maintain the balance.
Yes, if the last case was the crime introduction scenario of Professor Moriarty, then this case would be the growth period for Charlotte Holmes.
“Seeing that you’re silent, it seems that you’re quite taken aback?”
After gathering my thoughts I spoke in a soft voice to Holmes, who was confidently smirking in front of me.
“It’s quite the coincidence. I was also investigating this case.”
“You were investigating your own disappearance?”
“Miss Holmes, you’ve already noticed, haven’t you? The intricate underlying details of this case.”
Then she asked with a curious smile,
“But why is someone who claims to be a criminal consultant investigating those details?”
“It seems my client is hiding something from me. So, I decided to find out.”
“It’d be a problem if it interferes with the case.”
Just as I was about to subtly suggest that we investigate the case together to her, she sightly furrowed her brows while tilting her head to the side and…
I suddenly felt the cold touch of metal on my wrist.
“Alright then, let’s investigate it together. Mr. Adler.”
Holmes abruptly handcuffed my wrist, then cuffed her own and crossed her arms, declaring those words.
“I’m offering to hire you as my assistant for the day.”
“…What is this about?”
While I was slightly pleased to receive the grand title of ‘assistant for the day’ from her, what on earth was this restraining play all about?
“I’ve secured an accomplice in the case, or perhaps a crucial witness.”
“I won’t run away, even if you don’t ‘secure’ me. And, don’t detectives lack the authority to arrest someone?”
“You never know. Just like the last time, you might leave a note and escape leisurely without a care in the world.”
She spoke such words with a smirk on her face, playfully shaking our cuffed wrists together in the process.
“And regarding the arrest, there’s no issue. If anything, I’ll testify that I was threatened by a mage and was taken hostage.”
“That’s a bit much.”
“Shall we then start our investigation, Mr. Assistant for the Day?”
With that, Charlotte Holmes and I, handcuffed together by the wrists, began walking down the busy streets under the gaze of many.
– Progress: 15% → 17%
“What the fuck?”
Amidst all this, why had the progress of the main quest slightly increased for seemingly no reason?
“But, why did you come to the pawnshop?”
As Charlotte walked in sync with the detained Isaac Adler, she responded to his question.
“I came to meet Miss Victoria Spaulding.”
“Perhaps because the last time I barged into the interview room, I happened to eavesdrop on your conversation through the door’s gap?”
“You managed to catch the gist, didn’t you?”
“And she seemed quite familiar.”
Saying so, she took out a wanted poster from her possession and waved it before him.
“Joan Clay. The last survivor of the Clay ducal family, all of whose members were annihilated a few years ago due to treason against the state.”
“She’s now known as the leader of a group planning the resurrection of vampires, the ‘Red Mana League’. A rather dangerous individual.”
“She’s currently disguised as the naive country girl, Victoria Spaulding.”
Hearing those words, Adler widened his eyes in shock.
“Indeed, you’re the genius girl of London. Impressive.”
“How did you figure it out?”
Charlotte raised her shoulders with a hint of pride and began to explain.
“When you frequently use disguises to solve cases, you come to recognize certain things about disguises themselves. Like the discrepancy between natural hair color and the hue changed artificially using mana. Or the awkwardness that arises when trying to hide one’s original physique.”
“And always hidden behind her hair, just below her forehead, doesn’t she have a white spot that looks like a scar from a burn?”
As Adler nodded, Holmes added; as though already certain that he would agree in response to her question.
“Why would someone like her would do leisure work in this pawnshop for half the usual wage? It doesn’t make sense, right?”
“If I had to guess the reason, it would likely be the bank situated right next to the pawnshop. Maybe it’s where her little organization’s funds are kept, or perhaps it contains the relic that the vampires have been coveting for generations. It’s the largest bank in London, after all, so there’s plenty of reasons to target it.”
Saying as such, Charlotte took out a cane from her overcoat.
“I came here to investigate, but… the pawnshop is closed today. Well, can’t be helped, I suppose.”
Then, she lifted her cane high and murmured to herself in a confident tone…
“But there’s always a way.”
Holmes began tapping the ground with her cane.
“Miss Holmes, what are you doing?”
“Are you doing that because you can’t hear an echo from the floor?”
After a moment of continuing her action, Holmes, who had been tilting her head soon after, was questioned in a soft voice by Adler. She merely shot him a quiet glare in response before speaking.
“Not at all.”
“In truth, just tapping the ground with a cane wouldn’t produce an echo. If the space below was hollow enough to echo by the mere tapping of a cane, the road would’ve collapsed already.”
“It could have been stabilized with mana stones.”
“If that was the case, the mana stones Miss Holmes has would have already reacted, wouldn’t it?”
Upon hearing those words, Holmes stared intently at Adler.
“Mr. Adler, you seem to know quite a lot.”
“No, I don’t actually. As you already know I was in charge of guarding Miss Wilson, so I’m not really well-versed in the know-hows of the case.”
As Adler continued walking, Holmes followed him, lost in thought.
‘He’s not falling for it.’
In truth, Holmes had tapped the ground with her cane to elicit a reaction from Adler.
Unable to enter the tightly closed pawnshop, and also unable to visit the bank’s security room without proper evidence…
Thus, the only remaining method was to observe Adler’s reactions.
“Well, what will you do now?”
However, all Adler did was offer a sly smile in response to her trap.
“Are you going to give up verifying the existence of the underground passage?”
His expression and gaze seemed almost taunting to her.
“Typical Charlotte Holmes. Even in such a situation, you still managed to determine the existence of a passage.”
Holmes, whose eyebrows were twitching at his condescending gaze, lowered her eyes and became lost in thought.
“…I suppose I should prepare to face the vampires.”
Watching her, Adler murmured with a look that seemed to find her adorable, before clearing his throat.
“If our client really is up to some nefarious scheme, we’ll need to come up with a way to counteract the red mana of the vampire race…”
At that moment, a spark ignited in Holmes’s eyes.
“The mana of a vampire is several times more powerful than other types of mana. However, they can’t control the intensity. That’s why it’s easy to discern crimes committed by vampires.”
“Joan Clay began her part-time job here just a month ago. Hence, if there’s an underground passage completed by now, it must’ve been done using magic.”
Holmes’ expression began to brighten as she continued.
“However, the nature of the mana presents a problem. Precision control is necessary for excavation. Pouring such a massive amount of mana would likely cause the surrounding area to collapse, wouldn’t it?”
“But what if, as mentioned before, they used mana stones to prevent it from collapsing?”
“Then when I tapped the ground with my cane, it would have resonated.”
Holmes finished her sentence with a confident expression on her youthful face.
“There’s no underground passage, Mr. Adler.”
“Well done, Miss Holmes.”
As she shrugged her shoulders, Adler suppressed a chuckle and patted her head, and whispered in a gentle voice…
“Shall we move to our next destination?”
“Yes, Mr. Adler.”
Charlotte followed him, her heart fluttering like never before.
‘…Wait a moment.’
She suddenly realized that she was being gently patted by Adler’s hand mere moments before.
‘He claimed he was unaware of the know-hows of the case.’
Moreover, he had also tantalizingly dropped hints after provoking her just then.
‘…It’s likely that what he said was true.’
Whether it was true or not, according to Wilson’s testimony, Adler had been by her side almost all day.
But then, how did he know even before her that there was no underground passage?
Could it be that he had deduced it even before her?
With a slightly flustered expression on her face, she intently stared at his retreating back and at that moment Adler’s gentle voice reached her ears.
“What are you doing standing there? Aren’t you coming along?”
“The next riddle awaits us.”
Adler, having said those words, flashed a teasing smile at her.
And at that very moment, Charlotte’s heart began to race like never before…
‘Is he of the same kind as me?’
The look in Isaac Adler’s eyes referring to the case as a ‘riddle’ was filled with joy and anticipation.
And that look was strikingly similar to the excited gleam reflecting off the bank’s window across the street— that is, her own gaze.
Thus even though their purposes might differ, there was a high probability that at their core they belonged to the same kind.
Someone she had never met before, someone she believed didn’t exist in this world— her true counterpart.
A prime candidate for that role was smiling right in front of her.
‘And moreover, he seems to be on par with my skills.’
And this counterpart, astonishing as that may be, was an individual who had bested her at least once.
‘…Perhaps even more.’
No, it might even be beyond that.
If she wasn’t mistaken, he, just like her elder sister, had swiftly deduced the answer and subtly handed her a clue to reach that very answer.
Yet, unlike her hateful sister, his approach was incredibly gentle…
– Thump, thump…
Charlotte’s heart began to beat even more fiercely as her thoughts reached that point.
It wasn’t certain yet. It could just be a coincidence, and she might encounter a less impressive show of deduction at the next location, leading to inevitable disappointment…
But if her hunch was correct, numerous riddles would unfold before her in the future to come.
Riddles that might finally free her from the ‘curse’ of the terrible boredom and aimlessness that had tormented her since childhood.
Riddles meant exclusively for her, as a detective.
‘…But why is he consulting on crimes?’
With her head bowed, hiding her expression from the world, Charlotte quietly followed Adler and suddenly had such a thought…
‘He seems to have a kind nature.’
Her gaze rested on Adler’s burned left hand, a mystery that remained unsolved to this date.
She soon shook her head.
‘Of course, he’s not doing it for me.’
Only her sister and Watson knew about her ‘curse’.
Thus, there was no way for Isaac Adler to know about it, and even if he did, there was no reason for him to go to such lengths to try and solve it by sacrificing his own self.
‘…Was it Professor Moriarty?’
Suddenly, the image of the young female professor who had been sitting next to Adler in the office popped into Charlotte’s mind.
‘I should look into her background.’
Holmes, recalling the professor’s name with a frown on her face, murmured silently to herself.
– Progress: 17% → 20%
“This is driving me mad, really…”
“What did you say?”
A solid narrative coherence was forming in the stories of Charlotte and Jane, interlocking them in a web that was spun unknowingly by a blond-haired womanizer.
“Are you alright?”
“…Yes, I felt a bit dizzy for a moment.”
Adler, who momentarily stopped walking and gazed into space while perspiring for some reason, responded with a smile to Holmes’s question.
Holmes murmured, harboring doubts upon seeing Adler’s somewhat uneasy demeanor.
She then remembered the events from a few hours ago and quietly slipped her hand into her pocket.
The hourglass she pulled out from her pocket was nearing its end, with only a fingernail-sized amount of sand left within.
“Um, I need to use the restroom.”
Adler, who was in a daze for a while, suddenly asked Holmes with an innocent look on his face— scratching his head in the process.
“Can you please undo the handcuff for a moment?”
Holmes, who had been intently staring at his pale face for a while, finally spoke.
“…Let’s go together.”
“I need to stop by as well.”
And that was the moment when Holmes’ long obsession with Isaac Adler came to a start…
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