༺ Investigation (1) ༻
In the living room of the mansion.
Albrecht sat across the table from Renee, sitting in a daze as he recalled what he had just heard.
Why did she respond like that when I apologized? It wasn’t just anyone else, but me? This Albrecht was apologizing.
He had endless questions.
Albrecht, who had been mulling over a situation he had never experienced before in his life, soon began to come to a conclusion that was close to self-justification.
‘Ah, the Saint is blind!’
Because Renee was blind, she wouldn’t know how beautiful Albrecht was, and that must have been why she reacted that way.
The beloved of all that would forever be beautiful. An angel descended from the heavens. The most perfect creature.
Those descriptions could only be understood if you could see him.
Only then did Albrecht nod in agreement.
After that, he felt much better, and just as he was about to speak again, a thought struck him.
‘…Then, what about my voice?’
Once again, his thoughts made him freeze.
Albrecht’s voice was sweet, so why were the Saint and the Apostle next to her not impressed by his voice?
No, apart from that, even if the Saint was blind, the Apostle was able to witness Albrecht’s beauty. So, how could he be so indifferent?
Albrecht felt his heart pound. His sparkling gold eyes, which were as bright as the sun at midday, shook with anxiety. The tremor from his fingers spread all throughout his body, and chilling energy began to flow from Albrecht.
Count Baishur, who was watching from the sidelines, felt the urge to flee from the room.
He expected this situation, but it did not mean that the bitterness in his heart disappeared.
The embodiment of narcissism. A child who knew nothing about the world, and completely lacked the ability to read the atmosphere.
He could understand that his superior, who had all those three things, did not understand this situation, but shouldn’t he at least keep his cool? He did not come here to play, did he?
Count Baishur really wanted to run away, but unfortunately, it was impossible.
This was his own mansion. The only other choice was being forced out onto the streets if he ran away.
A sigh came out of Count Baishur’s mouth. He looked at Albrecht, then at Renee and Vera across from him, and opened his mouth.
“Your Highness, shall we get straight to the point?”
Albrecht suddenly jolted and cleared his dazed expression, coughing loudly.
“I have something to think about for a moment, so I’d like to excuse myself in front of the guests.”
You are the guest.
Such thoughts rose in his mind, but Count Baishur held himself back. The Count was a man who believed in hierarchy and devoted himself to the Empire and to the Imperial Family.
It was a situation where he could do nothing but sigh.
“May I get to the point now?”
At Albrecht’s trembling voice, Renee nodded her head.
It was a short answer, as expected. Albrecht’s eyes trembled once again.
“Y-yes! Then, I’ll get started.”
‘Eh, ehem!’ A coughing sound was heard, followed by Albrecht’s words.
“I came here because of what happened the night before. The reason why the Apostle of Oath was in the slums. Your goal seems to be in line with ours, so I came here to ask for your assistance.”
Renee’s fingers twitched at his words.
It was for a different reason than during the day. Vera went to the slums. Hearing that statement brought back memories of the situation before the Prince arrived.
Vera spoke in a voice she had never heard before, and she could not say anything in front of him.
Eventually, their conversation fizzled out when Albrecht arrived.
She had to say something, but she missed the timing and was not able to speak.
Renee clenched her fists on her knees and opened her mouth.
“…What kind of help are you talking about?”
“I want him to join in the investigation of the slums.”
Once again, Renee flinched. Vera, who was sitting right next to her, felt it and turned to Albrecht and asked him.
“Why are you investigating? I think you should mention that first.”
He used a blunt tone, as expected. The difference was that there were hints of annoyance in it. It was the result of entangled self-inflicted anger and irritation.
A very explicit emotion. Albrecht became perplexed again.
“Ah, of course! Oh my, I’m being sloppy today!”
An unnatural ‘Haha!’ came along with those words. Albrecht tried to suppress his rising embarrassment and continued to speak. After his embarrassment disappeared, he became serious.
“People are going missing.”
“…Are people disappearing from the slums for a day or two?”
“Not in the slums, but throughout the capital. These incidents are happening all over the city, except for 1st Street to 3rd Street.”
1st Street to 3rd Street were the living area of the nobles. Albrecht was saying that the disappearances were occurring in all areas except for those places.
Naturally, Vera’s expression hardened. The same went for Renee. She raised her head and faced towards where Albrecht’s voice was coming from.
…Well, he shouldn’t be doing it at a moment like this, but Albrecht finally brightened up upon seeing the two of them focusing on him.
Then, Renee asked.
“Shouldn’t we take action? If something is happening on such a large scale…”
“It’s not as easy as it sounds.”
Count Baishur answered.
He looked at Renee and Vera, and explained in a distressed tone.
“A public investigation is impossible. If we make a scene, the case might get buried.”
“Why is that?”
Renee’s question was an expected one.
It was an incident that took place throughout the Imperial Capital. This was happening throughout Farvan, which was the size of a few capitals of other kingdoms stitched together.
There must be more than a hundred people missing, but in such a serious situation, a public investigation was impossible.
It was Vera who answered Renee’s question.
“…The suspect is a noble, is that right?”
“Oh, the Apostle is quite quick-witted.”
It was a conclusion that Vera came up with not because of his wits, but because he knew the Empire very well.
Despite the large-scale incident, only the living areas of the nobles were unaffected. Albrecht went into the slums to investigate. It was a situation where Albrecht even had to ask outsiders himself for help.
“That’s right, we think the nobles are behind the disappearances.”
Albrecht blatantly expressed.
“We are speculating that the suspects must be among them. However…”
“If you stir up a strict area, there will be a lot of opposition.”
“…That’s right. It’s a shame, but the current Imperial family is not very powerful.”
Vera understood exactly what Albrecht meant.
The current Imperial Family, or the current Emperor to be precise, was so weak that he should be conscious of the nobles’ opinions. That was what he meant.
In fact, Vera knew that because he used that to his advantage in his last life to make deals with the nobility.
The Emperor’s power was weakening and the nobles’ influence was getting stronger. Naturally, as the conflicts between factions and secret deals became more rampant, the Empire became more chaotic.
Three years ago, on the first day of the Week of the Midnight Sun, the Emperor made his move.
It was a journey to make the Imperial Family great again.
Of course, it was only within the Empire and ended in failure.
Moreover, it was an unnecessary journey.
‘It’s a problem that will end when the Prince ascends to the throne.’
Four years from now, the First Prince, who was currently the Crown Prince would become the Emperor, and the Imperial Family would enter an unprecedented golden age.
Vera, who was momentarily reminded of the events in his past life, looked at Albrecht and asked.
“So that led you to the slums?”
“Yes. No matter how much I think about it, there is no place like the slums to erase people without a trace.”
Vera nodded. What he said was right. There was no place other than the slums to easily dispose of a corpse.
“…Are you investigating the newly formed cartel in the slums?”
“It’s a relief that we’re on the same page. Are you able to help us?”
It was a question full of anticipation, accompanied by the confidence that he would get a positive response.
Vera frowned at him and looked at Renee.
The decision would be made by Renee. That was what he thought.
Renee’s fingers trembled as she realized that Vera was waiting for her opinion through the silence.
Of course, they had to help.
That thought came to her mind, but what came out of her mouth was different.
“…Can you give me some time to think it over? I can’t answer your question right now.”
It was a request for a little delay.
Suddenly, Albrecht’s smile cracked.
Albrecht, who had become frozen stiff, left with the help of Count Baishur.
The only ones left in the living room were Renee and Vera.
And so, the awkward atmosphere that had prevailed before Albrecht’s arrival was beginning to reappear.
Renee took a deep breath, feeling Vera’s presence next to her.
This couldn’t go on forever. She had to loosen up this atmosphere.
Fortunately, Renee knew how.
If she wished to convey her feelings, she had to do it with her words.
“What do you think?”
Vera responded to Renee in the most hesitant manner.
“…I will follow the Saint’s judgment.”
“Is that so? I think you’ve already broken that twice.”
Vera’s body shook.
Renee, who was sitting on the same couch, felt Vera’s panic.
“Once in the mountains, and once this time. No, you also fought the Dragonians when we first met and didn’t say a thing. So, it’s three times now.”
“You should. You should also be sorry.”
“I am sorry.”
I’m alright. I don’t care what kind of life you’ve had or who you were.
She had to say that, but why did her words come out cold?
Renee felt resentful towards her body, which was not moving the way she was feeling.
“Did you really do it for my sake?”
Vera couldn’t answer right away.
The truth was, the underlying motive of his actions was for his own sake.
Renee was so precious that it would be more painful for him if she was in danger than for him to be hurt, so he chose to be hurt by himself.
If he did that, it would be hard for his body, but his mind would be at ease.
Renee spoke to Vera, who remained silent.
“You know what, Vera?”
“What is it?”
“…For me, Vera is precious.”
Her words came out a little shaky.
Even under those circumstances, she felt embarrassed to say it.
“Vera is so precious to me that I don’t want you to get hurt.”
Vera also considered her precious to him.
Although it was different from love, it still carried the same precious feeling.
Renee slowly moved her hand that had been on her lap the entire time to the side.
Her hand fumbled for Vera’s.
Finally, her hand reached Vera’s hand.
“Vera wants to chase the light, right?”
“You said you needed me for it.”
Renee squeezed Vera’s hand and said.
“So why don’t you trust me?”
Vera’s fingers trembled.
Renee continued speaking, holding Vera’s hand tighter so his trembling wouldn’t sway her.
“Vera, you said that you need to be with me to chase the light. That means I am your light.”
“So, please trust me. I believe in you, no matter what kind of person you were…”
Renee conveyed her sincerity.
She knew that raw sincerity touched his heart more than flattery. She said those words after learning them from Vera.
“…So, trust me a little. If I’m your light, then don’t doubt your light.”
Vera looked at the white hands that were on top of his.
He engraved the words he had heard.
Did he not trust Renee?
Was that the reason he was trying to hide it again?
“What’s your answer?”
Vera hesitated, and then he replied.
“…What you said was right.”
Vera’s hand moved, and he clutched the white hand on top of his own.
Their fingers intertwined, creating a cross between each other.
He came up with an answer.
He was a person who couldn’t even trust the light he chased.
This time as well, it was Renee who reminded him.
Thinking such thoughts, Vera let out a small chuckle and ran his thumb over Renee’s hand.
In the quiet atmosphere, their warmth lingered for a long time.
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