༺ The Red Mana League (4) ༻
“Miss Holmes. Did you really have to go this far?”
Adler, having just come out of the restroom, sighed out loud as he spoke to Holmes.
“I didn’t want to mention, but isn’t this practically sexual harassment?”
Yet, Holmes unyieldingly pulled him by the handcuff and they began to walk the streets once again.
“Oh, there’s Miss Holmes.”
“There’s Adler too. Have they finally caught him?”
“Didn’t those two just come out of the restroom?”
Hearing the murmurs from the people surrounding them, Adler could only form a bitter smile and whispered once more into her ear.
“Bad rumors might start to circulate because of this, Miss Holmes.”
“Rumors in London spread surprisingly fast, you know…”
“I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at, Mr. Adler.”
Nonetheless, Holmes, feigning ignorance, continued to walk ahead and soon softly posed a question to him.
“By the way, Mr. Adler. Are you feeling unwell?”
“Your face looks quite pale.”
Hearing those words, Adler touched his face and tilted his head in confusion.
“Do I look that way?”
“Even if we were to take the picture taken a few years ago at your mansion as a comparison, it is still quite different from the one taken just a few months ago.”
“What caused you to become so frail in the last few months?”
Faced with Holmes’ sharp question, Adler stared at her with a taken-aback expression on his face.
“…You’ve been looking at my pictures?”
Adler, tilting his head and showing a cold smile on his face, posed a counter-question to Holmes.
Holmes, intending to reply with a look that asked why he would question such a thing, suddenly lost her words.
“And the picture from a few years ago at the mansion? Why do you have that?”
Seeing her like that, Adler posed another question and then softly and soothingly said in a gentle voice.
“Miss Holmes; stalking is a crime.”
“…That’s not what I was doing.”
“Don’t do it next time, okay?”
“I told you, I wasn’t.”
Holmes, dodging his hand that was trying to pat her head, soon muttered to herself.
‘He deliberately changed the topic.’
Although his diversion was quite slick and hardly noticeable, he clearly and intentionally avoided talking about his physical condition.
That could only mean that there was definitely something wrong with his health now.
Suddenly, the image of the hourglass she had seen earlier popped into Holmes’ mind, and she began to bite her lip silently.
‘That hourglass with an unclear origin— it can’t possibly be true…’
“Miss Holmes, we’ve arrived at our destination.”
Snapping back to reality upon hearing Adler’s words, Holmes remarked in an uncertain voice,
The entrance to the City & Suburban Bank now loomed in front of the duo…
“…I intended to come here later.”
Holmes, realizing that she had somehow been led by Adler to this location, spoke with a slight frown on her face.
“There’s nothing we can immediately obtain from here. Only after gathering all the evidence can we head to the basement…”
Holmes then stopped speaking.
For some reason, Adler was looking at her with a disappointed expression on his face right now.
For a moment, Charlotte began to break into a cold sweat.
‘What did I miss?’
Surely, she should have been the one evaluating and being disappointed by the riddle that the blond-haired boy had prepared for her.
However, seeing Adler’s disappointed gaze, she realized something…
…That she wasn’t the only one capable of feeling disappointment.
“If that’s Miss Holmes’s opinion, then we’ll come back here later…”
Adler, the one who set the challenge for her to face, could also be sufficiently disappointed in her for not meeting his expectations.
“This is the right place.”
As that thought struck her mind, a hurried voice sprang out of Charlotte’s lips.
“…The place I intended to go.”
“Oh, I see.”
Words that she blurted out without much thought.
But there was no time for her to regret them.
Having spoken those words, she had to follow through no matter what.
She closed her eyes for a moment, her pupils darting around behind the blockade of her eyelids, and then fixed her gaze upon Adler after opening them wide.
“…Mr. Adler, you are my assistant now.”
“Temporary assistant, to be precise. But for now, let’s say that’s the case.”
The gleam in her eyes seemed to indicate that she had found an answer in that brief instant.
“Then, please assist me when I give the signal.”
“You’ll naturally know when the time comes.”
Having said that, Holmes began walking towards the counter, hiding the side of her arm that was handcuffed to Adler’s arm.
“What can I assist you with?”
“I have something I wish to entrust to your bank.”
The bank employee at the counter, upon hearing her words, inquired with a smile,
“What might our young lady wish to deposit in our bank?”
Holmes then presented a ring she was wearing.
“Oh my, what a beautiful ring…”
“I’m not here to deposit the ring.”
Holmes, speaking in a whisper, addressed the employee who had been examining the ring from all angles.
“It’s merely a symbol to prove who my representative is.”
Upon hearing those words, the bank employee, who had been tilting their head to get a better look at the ring, stiffened all of a sudden.
The bank employee, who had dealt with numerous high-ranking individuals while working at London’s largest bank, surely would not fail to recognize the crest of the Bohemian royal family.
“You don’t need to worry about impersonation. I’m showing my face this clearly— if it’s a lie, I’d face execution without a shadow of a doubt.”
The Bohemian queen who had initially only agreed to send a photograph, eventually sent her the ring too as a token of silence the following day.
“By the way, does this bank have a rule or a manual of behavioral customs that allows one to make rude remarks just because they look young?”
Holmes, presenting the high-grade ring with an embedded gemstone she usually wore as a sign of credit, began pressuring the bank employee with a smirk on her face.
“Ma’am, I apologize… but this alone cannot confirm your identity.”
Yet, despite sweating profusely, the bank employee tried to do his due diligence.
“We’d need at least an official document with a seal…”
“Would this suffice?”
However, to the employee’s surprise, Adler pulled out a folded document from his pocket, hiding its contents from his eyes.
“I can’t show you its contents as they’re classified, but it’s sealed with the queen’s personal insignia, protected by magic.”
“It seems like this should suffice as proof of our identity now. Don’t you think so?”
Seeing the queen’s seal at the bottom of the document, the employee looked absolutely dumbstruck.
“Uh, I will bring the bank manager…”
The flustered employee quickly bowed his head and then hurried inside the chambers.
“Oh my, greetings, esteemed guests.”
A moment later…
“My apologies for the inconvenience. Hehe…”
Upon receiving the call, the bank manager swiftly appeared, greeting Holmes and Adler with a bright smile on his face.
“So, what exactly would you like to entrust us with?”
“I’ve heard that this bank has an underground vault.”
“I’ve also heard rumors that not just anyone can use it. At the very least, one has to be of royal lineage to access the vault.”
Upon hearing those words, the bank manager widened his eyes in surprise and questioned.
“How did you come to know about this…?”
“Don’t underestimate the intelligence of the one who hired us.”
“Ah, hmm. Understood.”
“Would it be possible for us to take a look inside?”
The bank manager, clearing his throat moments ago, responded while rubbing his hands together.
“I’ll check the reservation list right now. Please wait a moment.”
Upon hearing that remark, Holmes quietly whispered to Adler with a subtle smile on her face.
“If we can’t get into the basement, we can simply become customers.”
“Once we have valuables stored inside, we can visit at any time and even enter immediately for investigation.”
“You did well, Miss Holmes.”
Adler began to pat her head once more.
“…Such things are merely basic.”
Pushing Adler’s hand away, Holmes muttered, her heart racing a mile a minute.
‘This is fun.’
Investigating with Adler was completely different from any case she had ever dealt with before in her life.
It felt like she was unraveling a well-crafted riddle— an adventure like no other.
Especially in the tense situation just now, the sense of accomplishment felt when it was resolved made her whole body tremble ever so slightly in glee.
The euphoria she felt was so great that she even momentarily forgot that she was being comforted by Adler.
“Hmm, dear customer. I have good news.”
The bank manager, returning to a now wide-eyed Holmes, began to speak.
“At the moment, no one is using the basement. So, you’ll be able to have the space all to yourself.”
“There won’t be any thefts either. The security will be focused solely on your belongings…”
“Wait a moment.”
Hearing the remark, Holmes, uncharacteristically, showed a bewildered expression on her face.
“You mean there’s nothing inside right now?”
“Yes, it’s completely empty.”
Yet, the bank manager’s words kept echoing in her ears.
Charlotte had deduced that Joan Clay’s objective was something hidden in the basement of the bank.
The peculiar part-time job at a pawn shop near the bank, that too under such strange conditions.
When she secretly accessed the interview room, just before the anti-eavesdropping spell was activated on the office, she overheard Clay’s remark about her wish to rob London’s largest bank and obtain the object that would help her lead the vampires to an age of glory.
The fact that the coordinates were nearly identical to those of the underground area of the August Academy… And in that place, by taking advantage of their client— Miss Wilson, intricate formulas of magic circles were being inscribed.
Considering all these factors, she could only conclude that Clay’s target was this very bank’s basement.
“Miss Holmes, you can’t steal anything from an empty basement now, can you?”
But that deduction had just been negated by what she had just learned.
“For your information, the plan that Joan Clay told me about also involved infiltrating this bank’s basement.”
The soft voice of Adler from the side was driving that fact home.
“Our main premise has just collapsed.”
Exiting the bank, Adler began to address Charlotte.
“It seems like a new riddle has just emerged.”
Hearing that remark, Holmes looked intently at Adler.
“Do you, Miss Holmes, perhaps know the answer to this riddle?”
“…And you, Mr. Adler?”
As she posed that question, Adler shrugged and replied in a clear tone,
“How could I possibly know an answer that even Miss Holmes isn’t aware of?”
Charlotte responded, chuckling softly to herself.
“You’ve already realized it haven’t you, Mr. Adler?”
“The truth of this case.”
Adler’s eyes began to shine quietly at that remark.
“Well then, here’s the question…”
As those words sprang from his lips, Charlotte’s heart started to beat reflexively.
A brief, sarcastic laugh escaped her lips.
“…Why do you react that way?”
“It’s nothing, Mr. Adler.”
A few years ago.
No, just a few months earlier, if Charlotte were to look at her current self…
…What would she think?
‘She would have thought that my current self was drugged.’
Or she might have tried to strangle the current her on the spot.
But now, she had no choice but to admit it.
“What truly was Joan Clay’s objective?”
She enjoyed the riddles posed by the enigmatic man before her.
“…Joan Clay’s goal wasn’t a mere bank heist.”
And she enjoyed answering those riddles.
“Diana Wilson. She was the real target from the very start.”
Seeing Adler’s expression light up upon hearing her answer was satisfying to her.
“From the beginning, Joan Clay had her eyes on Diana Wilson.”
“You’re truly remarkable, Miss Holmes.”
Afterward, she relished the genuine praise that he offered to her.
“You truly are the best.”
She relished this feeling more than any other case she had solved up to now was able to offer her.
‘If I’m not careful…’
Knowing the side effects of alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs better than anyone else, she could easily surmise.
‘…I might become addicted to this feeling.’
If she got too accustomed to this newfound pleasure, she would undoubtedly walk a path from which there was no return.
‘Well, does it even matter?’
But she didn’t care either way.
And neither did Adler.
As if she had a curse on her, she was certain Adler had his own curse as well.
And for each other, they were the perfect tokens and sources of amusement, capable of lifting those curses.
Finding happiness in each other’s destruction, wasn’t it quite ironic?
“So, where should we go now?”
“To August Academy.”
While quietly smiling at her own thoughts, Holmes instinctively responded to Adler’s question.
“To be precise, we need to head to the basement dormitory of that place.”
“…I’m not even surprised anymore. You’re indeed remarkable.”
Following Adler who walked ahead, Charlotte mused silently to herself,
‘I wonder if three people can live in the boarding house.’
If circumstances allowed, she thought it wouldn’t be bad to take him as her assistant before they destroyed each other.
With an inexplicable chill running down her spine, Charlotte Holmes smiled and trailed closely behind me.
“By the way, I should mention in advance.”
As the case’s conclusion drew near, I began to whisper softly to her.
“Solving and investigating the case, as you can see, is the role of Detective Holmes.”
“Yes, I’m well aware, Mr. Adler.”
The lesson she needed to grasp…
“But, you see, the job of protecting such a detective is precisely the role of an assistant.”
To ensure she wouldn’t recklessly step in and end up with a game over in the future…
“If it becomes dangerous I’ll protect you by any means, Miss Holmes.”
I promised that I would undoubtedly protect her as we approached the conclusion of the case.
“You understand, right?”
Holmes seemed to have grasped what I was saying, silently nodding her head without uttering a word.
But, what’s with that hourglass she was holding in her hand?
While observing her with a tilted head, Charlotte, who had stopped in her tracks, quietly posed a question to me.
“Was what you just said sincere?”
Charlotte’s face bore an expression of disbelief on her face; as if she couldn’t understand something.
“Yes, it was.”
Why was she suddenly acting like this? I wondered in my head…
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