༺ Hidden Route ༻
“Why have you been acting like this since before, Neville?”
A few hours after the date between Rachel Watson and Isaac Adler had begun…
“You’re not feeling well again, are you?”
Seated in a private room provided inside the coffee house, Watson opened her mouth as she looked at Adler, sweating profusely across from her, with unadulterated concern in her eyes.
“… No, I’m fine.”
“What do you mean you’re fine?”
Adler, who was sitting a little away, waved his hand dismissively in response to her question. However, to the trained eyes of Watson, he looked more than a bit suspicious right now.
“Your face turned pale and then red continuously throughout our date, you were even shivering on your own.”
“And what’s with that anxious look in your eyes?”
With those words, Rachel Watson gently held Isaac Adler’s hand.
However, as soon as she touched his hand, she could feel just how cold his hand had become— which only worried her further.
“Is there something wrong?”
“… Hmm. It’s nothing.”
As Adler held her hand and looked away to respond, his body subtly twitched at that very moment.
“You didn’t have a bad experience in that place, did you?”
“How could that… be?”
“Look, you’re twitching again on your own. What on earth did you do in that opium den to be in this state?”
Watson, who was alarmed by his unusual appearance and clueless regarding what to do in this situation, gripped Isaac’s hand even tighter and shared her warmth.
“It wasn’t just a simple task of receiving an item, was it? Were you forced to take some strange drug, or did you become the subject of some unknown curse?”
“Rachel, first calm down…”
“If not, did some invisible evil spirit attach itself to you?”
Adler, who had been trying hard to reassure her with a forced smile, subtly turned his gaze to the side at the mention of an invisible evil spirit.
“How could that be possible?”
Rachel Watson did not miss that fleeting change.
“Isaac Adler… that piece of trash.”
As she muttered with a cold expression, Adler’s eyes widened in surprise.
“Why are you acting like this?”
“Don’t worry, honey.”
Watson whispered with a determined look in her eyes as she gazed at him lovingly.
“I’ll take care of that scum.”
“And as for you, I’ll take responsibility and look after you.”
On her ring finger, a ring more precious than anything else shone quietly.
“… I love you.”
After gazing deeply into the eyes of the man in front of her for a while, Watson slowly leaned in…
“Wa-Wait a moment!”
“No-Now’s not the time…”
As she tried to kiss him, Adler recoiled with a shocked expression on his face.
“I think I might have a cold. It shouldn’t spread…”
Rachel Watson pulled his hand, which she had been holding till now, toward herself and quietly kissed him on the lips after gazing intently at him for a moment.
“Just a moment, I’ll be back.”
She then flashed a soft smile and teasingly licked the back of his hand with her tongue before whispering in a soft voice and exiting the room.
‘… I wonder if there’s a place nearby that sells brandy.’
It was to purchase the panacea and the love potion that would be responsible for the events of the upcoming night in a few hours.
Thus, a brief silence enveloped the room.
“… Can you still not see?”
Within that silence, someone’s low voice echoed inside the room.
“You seem to feel tactile sensations very well.”
Charlotte Holmes, who had been hiding her appearance and sitting on Isaac Adler’s lap all this while, tilted her head and asked.
Then, Charlotte completely pulled back the black smoke obscuring her existence and revealed herself to the world.
“… You can see me now, right?”
The emptiness in her eyes demanded an explanation from the man in front of her.
“… Ms. Holmes.”
Adler, looking up at Charlotte with those eyes, soon wore a troubled expression as he began to speak.
“Sexual harassment is wrong.”
At that moment, something inside Charlotte snapped into two.
“… Didn’t you shower me with affection first?”
Then, a toneless voice began to flow out of her lips.
“You were the one who flirted with me first.”
“And now, you are calling it sexual harassment?”
Simultaneously, her black, smokey aura began to billow out an press down on Adler’s body.
“So, what exactly did you do with Watson in the room?”
“So, getting touched by Charlotte Holmes, whom you like, is sexual harassment, but getting blatantly caressed and embraced by Rachel Watson, whom you don’t even like, is romance?”
“It doesn’t make sense. So, explain it clearly to me.”
In that state, Charlotte began to whisper in a soft, eerie voice.
“How does this situation help in developing the narrative between you and I?”
The light from the room’s illumination reflected quietly in Adler’s eyes as those cerulean orbs once again bore down on her.
“Tell me before my patience runs out, Mr. Adler.”
“What kind of riddle is this?”
How much time had passed since then?
“I told you I am a villain, didn’t I?”
Adler, whose arms were held and pressed against the wall by Charlotte, began to softly whisper with a gentle smile on his lips.
“Didn’t you ever consider that I might harm those around you— those who are my enemies?”
Charlotte silently gazed at him, not speaking a word.
“I am not your kind assistant. Much less, your accomplice.”
“My role right now is the professor’s loyal hunting dog.”
As the existence of the professor was mentioned, her expression became rigid.
“Of course, I want to lose to you. I want to meet my end at your hands.”
“But that applies only when you’ve fully grown.”
Adler continued the conversation rapidly upon seeing her trying to retort.
“Ms. Holmes, you’re still a fledgling.”
“Awakening your mana was unexpected, of course, but facing both the professor and me head-on as you are now will surely lead to your defeat.”
Upon hearing that, Charlotte’s eyes wavered ever so slightly.
“That’s why I want to nurture your growth. So you can become the hope of London, as I mentioned before.”
“Of course, to do that, wouldn’t I have to test you?”
Adler whispered in a soft voice, meeting her anxious gaze head-on.
“Your most cherished friend, Rachel Watson. I plan to make her one of us.”
“… But if you grow a bit faster, you could prevent that, couldn’t you?”
He whispered the question to Charlotte.
“Do you understand what I’m saying?”
But when Charlotte didn’t respond, Adler kindly continued to explain.
“From now on, I will begin to devour the people around you, one by one.”
His explanation echoed softly in Charlotte’s ears.
“Your assistant, your sister, the inspector… I’ll consume them all for the sake of nurturing the person I cherish— you.”
“And if you fail to grow properly, I’ll devour you too.”
Even after hearing that declaration, Charlotte remained silent, just gazing at Adler with the same intense gaze.
“Of course, you wouldn’t want that. A detective being devoured by a villain, that’s a bit unsavory, isn’t it?”
“Stay strong, Ms. Holmes.”
Adler, having carefully set Charlotte down beside him, gently stroked her hair and added softly.
“… And please, hate me.”
A profound silence began to envelop the room.
My heart ached while looking at Charlotte Holmes beside me, her head bowed and wearing a vacant expression on her face.
‘… Yes, this will do.’
But, it was an inevitable situation.
– Progress: 0% → 20%
I had to proceed with Chapter 2 of her quest, after all.
Would the odd relationship we had maintained until now finally be resolved?
Yet, it seemed that might be for the better.
No matter how much I thought about it, I felt like I was being torn apart from the inside.
“… What if I devour you first?”
Feeling both relieved and regretful, I was about to leave the room – aware that the time of my disguise was about to run out – when she suddenly spoke up.
“What if I devour you first… before you devour those around me?”
Charlotte’s statement, her head now raised and her gaze piercing through him, began to resonate clearly in the room.
“… Or what if I simply clear everyone around me?”
“Then, I would be the only one left for you to devour, wouldn’t I?”
As he blankly listened to her incomprehensible remarks, Charlotte’s eyes shone as she continued to press on.
“Come to think of it, there’s no need for that. You could just devour me from the beginning, as I’m your target, right?”
“I won’t resist. So, try it. I’ll stay still, so go ahead and devour me.”
Taken aback, he felt a sudden dizziness take control of him but managed to find his voice somehow.
“What on earth are you talking about?”
“I don’t know.”
That was Charlotte’s answer in response.
“I don’t even know what I’m saying right now.”
“It’s strange, Mr. Adler.”
Her gaze was no longer completely vacant.
“… Clearly, I should be angry that you, the villain, are targeting the innocent people around me.”
“I should despise you for a rational reason such as that, but…”
However, it was slightly twisted…
“For some reason, it’s the fact that you would become intimate with such people that makes me unbearably angry instead.”
The look of realization in her eyes dyed her pupils with the same color as my hair.
“Just the thought of it makes my heart flutter with anguish.”
As I stared blankly at her, she, looking both confused and somewhat anxious, grabbed my hand.
“Ultimately, I do despise you, but something feels very strange.”
Why was she acting like this all of a sudden?
“… What did you do to me?”
As I, who was flustered by the unexpected events, was being questioned by Charlotte’s trembling voice… Suddenly, a notification appeared before my eyes.
In front of my eyes, there was a notification I had never seen before.
It was that exact moment when Isaac Adler froze upon seeing the message in front of him.
“…Why do I hear a woman’s voice inside?”
The voice of Rachel Watson, who had returned holding the brandy she was going to serve to her fiancé, echoed from beyond the door.
The situation from a few hours ago was ironically being replayed, only with the roles now reversed.
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