༺ Put Yourself in Another’s Shoes ༻
“Raise your han… huh?”
Rachel Watson stormed in while holding a gun, a tense expression evident on her face. Soon after, however, she was… staggered by the sight before her.
Her one and only friend, Charlotte Holmes, was quietly sitting inside the room.
For some unknown reason, she was drenched from top to bottom in cold sweat, sitting right next to her fiancé.
Unable to comprehend the situation before her eyes, she blinked with a blank light in her brown orbs for a while before slowly lowering her gun.
Her eyes then narrowed subtly.
“What the hell is going on here?”
“… My dear friend, Rachel Watson.”
As she observed the peculiar scene and posed her question, Charlotte Holmes, taking some time to gather herself, resumed using her usual tone of voice.
“The man sitting beside me is complicit in a crime that I am investigating.”
Upon hearing those words, Watson’s face turned pale blue in fright.
“… I-It can’t be that serious now, can it?”
“Unfortunately, it is indeed quite serious.”
“Is that really true, honey?”
Then, she looked at Adler, who was disguised as Neville, with trembling eyes.
“Ah, it seems… it seems so.”
When Watson addressed him as honey, Charlotte’s expression turned cold, and Adler quietly lowered his gaze to the ground, not daring to look up.
And then, silence ensued inside the private room.
“Watson, you might be disappointed when you find out the true nature of this man.”
“So, if I may advise…”
In that tense silence, Charlotte quietly started speaking with a smirk on her face.
“… I know.”
“I already knew he was involved in a crime.”
Watson opened her mouth with a serious expression, interrupting Holmes mid-sentence.
“It’s all because of Isaac Adler.”
“This innocent person tried so hard to buy an engagement ring for me and got involved in a crime because of that son of a bitch.”
Charlotte Holmes’s expression grew colder and colder.
“… I’m sorry for badmouthing your boyfriend, but it’s the truth.”
“Nevertheless, the fact that he’s indeed complicit in a crime hasn’t changed, Watson.”
Soon, with neither yielding even an inch, an odd tension started to unfold between the two women.
” Just… break up with Neville St. Claire.”
“He’s involved in a massive crime that requires years of investigation. Hence, it has come to a point where only I can handle it.”
In that tense atmosphere, it seemed that Charlotte Holmes had the upper hand.
“So, just end your relationship.”
She had a good reason for it too…
“In fact, I’ve been quite considerate of you. Because the truth is quite shocking…”
And at that moment, Charlotte, wearing a seemingly regretful expression, pulled Adler toward herself to apprehend him…
“… I don’t want to.”
But, Rachel Watson shook her head vehemently in denial.
“Watson, this isn’t a matter that can be resolved by being stubborn…”
“That’s because we can’t break up now.”
The next moment, the words that leaped from out of her lips began to turn the situation in its entirety.
“You can’t break up?”
“We just got engaged.”
“We are legally engaged now.”
Charlotte Holmes, who had been wearing a proud expression till now, was dumbfounded when she heard her response.
“… What are you talking about, Rachel?”
“Do you remember the church we stopped by during our date earlier?”
The same went for Adler as well.
“But that was… a dating course for a trial engagement, wasn’t it?”
They had only been on a unique date to experience the feel of how an engagement went; he had no memory of actually getting engaged to her.
“That’s right. Everything followed the standard engagement procedure, but since there was no witness observing from the side, the engagement wouldn’t typically be considered official.”
“Yes, the priest clearly explained it that way…”
“However, look at this…”
But, in the next moment, Rachel Watson shyly extended the back of her hand to Adler…
Both Adler and Charlotte Holmes were dumbfounded by what they saw.
“This is the seal of engagement…”
On the back of her hand, an engagement seal, symbolizing the obligation to marry the other as quickly as possible, was engraved.
Adler absentmindedly touched the seal and soon realized that he also had a similar mark on the back of his hand and couldn’t help but wear a stunned expression on his face.
“Why did this appear?”
“You still don’t understand?”
Then, Rachel Watson shyly held his hand in hers.
“This is a miracle created by our love, Neville.”
“If not, it’s surely a divine message telling me not to let you go.”
Of course, this was not the whole truth.
While Adler and Watson shared a passionate kiss and whispered their love for each other, Charlotte Holmes, standing right beside them with vacant eyes, unknowingly became a witness to their engagement.
Realizing this belatedly, Charlotte Holmes emitted a black smoke from her body and began grinding her teeth in silence.
“Neville, now we are legally bound to each other.”
On the other hand, Isaac Adler, who was stunned to learn that he had unknowingly reenacted the contents of the original story, came to his senses at Watson’s whisper.
“… So, can you come by my side now?”
He discreetly glanced at Holmes and then slowly rose from his seat.
“I’ll handle this man from now on, Holmes.”
“Also, you mentioned that there was a significant crime with his involvement, right?”
As he sat down beside her, Watson naturally leaned against him with her arms nestling into his.
“I’ll help too.”
Then, she smiled brightly, a lingering innocence on her lips.
“The three of us working together… we will definitely figure something out.”
Charlotte, who had been grinding her teeth, lowered her head silently upon seeing her friend’s expression.
“… I see.”
A moment later, she raised her eyes slowly, shining with utmost resolve…
“… The three of us will figure it out together, huh?”
As Watson responded with an enthusiastic look, Charlotte rose from her seat with a cold expression on her face.
“Where are you two heading to now?”
“Us? Uh, well…”
Watson scratched her head as she answered back.
“If Neville is okay with it, I was thinking of going to the racetrack…”
“There’s an exotic horse race happening tonight. I heard it’s the new trend.”
She then began to explain with a sparkling luster in her eyes.
“Well, instead of horses though, demi-humans would race each other. Isn’t that fascinating?”
“… Isn’t that illegal?”
“Come on, there’s no way. The abolition of slavery, regardless of race, was enacted even before we were born.”
“There’s a legitimate loophole these days called graduate students, you know?”
“It’s their own choice though. Anyway, treating the demi-humans as slaves is a story of the distant past.”
Isaac Adler was listening to the conversation with a slightly intrigued expression on his face.
“For instance, Silver Blaze, who currently enjoys the highest popularity in this unique racing world, receives more attention than most actresses…”
He exclaimed, eyes widening in surprise.
“… Are you saying that Silver Blaze isn’t a horse but a Demi-Human?”
“What did you say, honey?”
“Ah, never mind.”
As Watson tilted her head, Isaac quickly closed his mouth.
“… Well, okay. Sounds good. Let’s give it a shot.”
“Hmm, sure. If you really want to…”
As he got up from his seat, Watson flashed a triumphant smile while humming a tune and was about to head out of the room when…
“Let’s go together.”
Charlotte Holmes’ remark seemed to pour cold water over their joyous mood.
“We three are collaborating together, aren’t we?”
“Aren’t we? My dear assistant?”
A peculiar tension once again flowed between the two close female friends and colleagues.
Just before Watson burst into the room, I had thought at the time that it was a very wise decision on my part to cast a preconceived enchantment on Charlotte— an enchantment that would obscure her usage of the black, smokey mana from the eyes of others, thus protecting her secret that she was able to use mana.
However, at this very moment, I dearly wished that I had not done such an act— that her usage of mana had been revealed back then.
As I was heading to the racetrack with my arms crossed alongside Watson, Charlotte Holmes, walking right next to me, was enveloping my body in an invisible black mana and went as far as to suffocate me with her powers.
“… Ms. Holmes.”
The energy that tightly enveloped my body wriggled wildly, brutally contorting my entire being.
“This is truly sexual harassment.”
“In that case, why did you put that enchantment on me, huh?”
Simultaneously, my mana was rapidly being absorbed by Charlotte.
“… I think the transformation will wear off at this rate.”
“That’s the intention after all.”
Thanks to her – who had been discreetly up to mischief at the café earlier but was now practically doing it in the open – the duration of my disguise, which should have lasted a few hours, was significantly shortened.
“… What are you two discussing?”
“Nothing at all.”
“Why are you shivering then?”
For some reason, Watson nestled deeper into my neck and leaned her head against me while eyeing us with clear suspicion in her pupils.
“… I think I’ve caught a severe cold.”
I couldn’t bring myself to tell Charlotte’s only friend that I was being sucked out of my vital energy in real-time by her dear friend, so I made an excuse with a flushed face.
Watson slightly lifted her head and looked at me with a sympathetic gaze.
As her pure white neck, which was pressed against my shoulder, became exposed – and a soft scent began to emanate from her – I could feel a sudden surge of thirst for blood begin to rise within me. It was quite possibly happening due to my rapidly depleting mana.
“Then, take this.”
But since I was about to visit Ms. Mycrony’s house in a few days anyway, I just clenched my eyes shut, suppressing the urge to taste blood. Soon, I found Watson offering something to me.
“… What’s this?”
“It’s medicine. It’s very good for colds.”
Trusting the words of the doctor, as soon as I received the bottle, I began to gulp down its contents.
However, a suspicious heat soon began to spread throughout my body.
“Wha-What will happen if you drink all of it at once!”
Unable to manage the surging warmth, Watson grabbed hold of me and murmured.
“… I intended to have you take it slowly when we went back to the lodging.”
Could this be the brandy that was considered a panacea in the 19th century?
If that was really the case, I was in serious trouble.
“… I, I need to use the restroom for a moment.”
“Do you want me to accompany you?”
With my mind becoming increasingly hazy, I struggled to maintain consciousness as I staggered toward the restroom across the street.
‘… I really can’t handle alcohol.’
I still couldn’t forget the blank expressions of the female students who discreetly avoided my gaze after the events of the day before— when I got drunk from just half a bottle of alcohol during our college MT (Membership Training).
‘What should I do?’
I still didn’t know what had happened that day.
A few minutes after that.
Watson, who had been waiting for her fiancé with a worried expression, soon widened her eyes and drew a pistol from her coat.
Now, for some reason, Isaac Adler, her newfound nemesis, was approaching the spot where she and Holmes stood
“H-How did you get here…!”
Watson, although aiming her gun at him, took a few steps back with a tense expression as she watched him approach their direction with a fiery heat in his eyes.
However, the spot where Isaac Adler stopped was right in front of Charlotte Holmes.
Charlotte Holmes, who had successfully unveiled his disguise according to her plan, tilted her head at his somehow changed demeanor.
“You’re addressing me by my first name now…”
Just then, completely out of the blue, Adler firmly grasped her arm.
As he harshly pushed Charlotte against the wall and coldly commanded her, Charlotte, who had been staring at him with wide eyes, subconsciously lifted her head.
Right at that moment, Adler’s sharp fangs dug into her fair neck.
As pain spread throughout her body causing Charlotte to struggle, Adler gripped her arm even more tightly, pinning her against the wall.
At that perilous moment, as Watson was about to desperately cry out and pull the trigger of her gun…
Charlotte quietly raised her hand and gestured for Watson to stop.
“… As expected, you’re stronger than me.”
With that, she whispered to Adler, clearly feeling the sensation of being overpowered by someone for the first time in her life.
Then, Adler’s cold gaze turned to her.
Staring intently into that gaze, Charlotte Holmes soon quietly bit her lip and surrendered herself to him.
‘Even when overpowered by such a scumbag…’
An indescribable, eerie emotion surged from within her.
‘… Why do I feel this way?’
For reasons Charlotte herself was not privy to, seeing her dear friend standing in front of her and watching them with a dazed expression on her face, intensified her surging feelings several times over.
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