༺ The Grey Research (2) ༻
At the unexpected remark of the blond-haired male student in front of her, Moriarty, who had been tilting her head, stopped and stared straight at him, deep in thought.
It had indeed been a long time.
In this dull world where even committing crimes had become a tedious chore, he was a presence that amused her so…
‘What could his motive be?’
For the first time in her whole life, a being had slipped from her grasp. To gauge his reaction, she, who was not part of the plan, had committed a murder.
It was quite an impulsive decision, but since the victim had been the ever-annoying dean, it turned out to be a murder she rather liked committing.
‘It doesn’t seem like he’s completely immune to fear.’
The look in his eyes when he first saw the prepared corpse clearly contained clear traces of fear.
From that look, she felt he was certainly not one of her kind.
However, the student standing in front of her now, fiddling with the mana accumulator on the table, had a remarkably composed expression on his face.
It was as if an amateurish appearance and a savvy demeanor coexisted simultaneously inside this mysterious boy.
For Moriarty, that too was intriguing.
“We’ll have to talk a bit more.”
What purpose he held, what he was thinking inside that head of his— even as a professor, she had no way of knowing them.
However, in this very situation, it was clear that she, the professor, held the upper hand.
To understand the unknown entity before her, it was time to make the most of that advantage.
“Why should I?”
Moriarty, quietly tilting her head to the side, gazing at him deeply, posed that question after some time.
“Why should I accept you?”
“I can roughly guess the benefits you’ll gain by becoming a graduate student under me. However, what benefits can I obtain by taking you in?”
What she said was practically a straightforward point.
Of course, graduate students were valuable assets to the professors. But in Moriarty’s case, she didn’t feel the need for any subordinates.
Because of the blood of an inborn criminal, she had always been alone until now.
She had never even considered having someone by her side.
“If you can’t explain that…”
Thus, Moriarty was about to press further, looking intently at the student in front of her.
But then, she suddenly stopped speaking, her eyes lighting up as she got lost in thought.
‘What has this student been looking at all this time?’
Ever since he declared his wish to become her graduate student, his gaze had been fixed not on her, but rather on the thin air in front.
At first, she thought he might be deliberately avoiding her gaze.
However, his pupils were periodically contracting and expanding, and there was an unmistakable hint of confusion mixed within his expression.
It seemed as if he was reading something from the empty space before him.
“Student, are you reading something out of thin air?”
“Then why have you been staring blankly into space?”
“…You must have seen it wrong, Professor.”
Hearing the student’s flustered voice in response to her probing question, she quietly furrowed her eyebrows.
‘I shouldn’t reveal my hand so soon.’
She had found an oasis in a barren desert. At least until her thirst was quenched, she wanted to immerse herself in this feeling.
“To be honest, it’s hard for me to accept your proposal right now.”
“…Is that so?”
“However, if you were to solve my dilemma, I might consider accepting it.”
However, before diving in, she needed to discern whether the entity before her was indeed an oasis or a mere mirage.
“What would that be?”
“Simple. What should I do from now on?”
To address the issue, Professor Moriarty began pouring out her longstanding concerns to the student before her.
“Thanks to this cursed talent that I possess, every crime I commit becomes a perfect crime.”
A deep darkness began to settle in her grey eyes.
“At first, it was quite fun. It felt like everything was in my grasp.”
“But over time, the fun started to fade, didn’t it? It felt like I was cheating to win in a game.”
“Have you ever thought about breaking that curse?”
“Of course, I tried. I took various measures to break the curse and met countless people. However, none of them could shatter my curse.”
In the eyes filled with that profound darkness, the blonde-haired student before her was reflected.
“Except for you alone.”
Upon hearing her words, the hand of the student holding the mana accumulator twitched ever so slightly.
“To be honest, I wished you would oppose me.”
“Yet, for some reason, instead of standing against me as a detective, you are saying you want to serve under me.”
A peculiar tension that had been between the two began violently undulating at this instant.
“Because of that, I’ve lost my will to live again.”
“That’s really unfortunate.”
“So, I’ll ask you once more.”
The professor posed a question in a soft voice to the blonde boy, who was discreetly wiping away his trickling sweat.
“How can I quench this burning thirst?”
Depending on the boy’s response, it could be the final question of the day.
After Moriarty finished speaking and stared intently at the student, a chilling silence began to flow in the room.
“So… if I understand correctly, Professor, you wish to engage in a breathtaking battle of wits with a detective.”
“But because of the curse that makes every crime you commit a ‘perfect crime’, so to speak, such a scenario can’t come to fruition, which is your dilemma, right?”
As the student, breaking the silence, began to speak, Moriarty started to tilt her head slightly with a hint of anticipation in her eyes.
‘Maybe he’s not up to the task after all.’
However, as his words momentarily faltered, the hope that had filled Moriarty’s eyes slowly began to fade away…
‘…I got uncharacteristically excited.’
Due to encountering such an alien presence for the first time, she had been unusually agitated.
But once she calmed her excitement and looked again, all she found in front of her was a student who had just entered the academy.
Considering that he wanted to be her assistant rather than a detective, it seemed improbable that he could solve her long-standing problem.
“It’s quite simple, actually.”
Yet, he clearly thought otherwise.
“Start offering crime consultations.”
After a moment of contemplation, with a resolute expression forming on his face, the words sprang from his lips.
“If the problem arises when you personally commit the crime, Professor, what if the perpetrator isn’t you, but someone else?”
It was, even by her standards, a highly appealing and persuasive suggestion.
“Provide crime advice using your knowledge to those who need to commit the ‘perfect crime’.”
“The only way to quench your thirst, Professor, lies therein.”
Having finished speaking, he offered her a gentle smile, then added as if he’d just recalled something.
“And that is why you need to take me under your wing.”
Hearing those words, Moriarty burst into a roaring laughter— something she hadn’t done in a long, long time.
“Just as detectives need assistants, crime consultants also require their own aides.”
“Isn’t that right, Professor?”
Seemingly, she didn’t just discover an oasis, but rather, she had stumbled upon a vast ocean.
“Regrettably, I can’t immediately make a freshman like you a graduate student. It would go against the procedure.”
After laughing heartily for a while, Professor Moriarty began speaking once more, wiping away the tears from the corners of her eyes.
“But remember this one thing.”
There was a visible fondness in her face, a face that was still drenched in the dean’s blood.
“From this moment on, you are the assistant to the crime consultant Moriarty.”
As Moriarty finished her sentence and leisurely leaned back in her chair.
– Progress: 10%
Another unidentified message appeared before my eyes.
Looking at the top of the message, I couldn’t help but chuckle.
‘These damned bastards.’
Was it because I had so stubbornly insisted on risking my life to prevent the confirmation of the plot?
– Villain Maker: Fulfilling the probability of Professor Moriarty’s appearance.
– Love-Hate Relationship: Become ‘that man’ for Holmes.
– Lady of London: Complete one sham marriage with Watson.
– Phantom Thief’s Treasure: Get kidnapped by the Phantom Thief Lupin.
– Freeze: Receive a confession from Inspector Lestrade.
(… truncated …)
The considerably long list of quests at the bottom attested to that fact.
I had no idea when I’d be able to complete all of these.
Thus, as I blankly skimmed through the daunting and challenging list of quests…
A particular question popped into my head, and I began to scratch the back of my head in contemplation…
‘Why is Irene Adler missing?’
One of the few individuals who made Holmes, the detective, taste defeat in the original stories. Moreover, the only woman Holmes had ever acknowledged. Consequently, in derivative works, she was a character popularly linked with him.
While all sorts of notable people were present as quests, for some reason, her name was conspicuously absent from the quest window.
‘Could it be?’
Just as I was about to rise from my seat with a slightly uneasy feeling, Professor Moriarty’s voice suddenly rang out.
‘Right, I was in front of this person.’
Although she had just become an ally mere moments ago, she was undeniably someone to be wary of.
“If you’re going to carry such an important photograph with you, be more cautious in the future.”
Feeling tense, as I straightened up, she pulled a photograph from her possession and handed it to me.
Inadvertently taking the image from her hands, I was immediately struck with horror and found myself frozen in place.
“This, this is…”
A stunningly beautiful woman, wearing a tiara on her head, was lying down as if she was a leashed dog.
And standing beside her, trampling on her hair, was the blonde-haired boy whose body was now mine.
“The man who can leash the queen of the Kingdom of Bohemia and take her for a walk is probably only you.”
While I stared in shock, Professor Moriarty said in a voice tinged with amusement,
“Isn’t that right, Adler?”
Wait a minute, what did she just call me?
With a sinking feeling and cold sweat forming between my brows, I then read the last line of the message that appeared before my eyes and couldn’t help but close them shut… tightly…
I was playing the role of Irene Adler.
“But remember this.”
“Even a dog, when cornered, might bite its master.”
In my dazed state of mind, Professor Moriarty’s warning echoed in my ears.
Meanwhile, at that very moment, in the streets of London… as the sunset bathed the city in its waning light.
– Tap, tap…
A woman, her figure concealed by a black robe and mask yet unable to completely hide the air of elegance about her, hurried along.
The old boarding house on Baker Street was coming into view.