Cordelia and Christina left the man for now and headed towards the store in their carriage.
When Emina opened the door, the man, who’d just returned, quickly came out from the back, “Sorry to keep you waiting.”
A day hadn’t passed since they’d visited this store and it looked the same as yesterday.
The only difference was that there was a young man in the store that wasn’t there yesterday. The young man wore nice clothes and was talking with the woman while holding materials. That young man was probably the wholesaler.
The young man and woman looked towards the entrance when they heard the man greet customers. The woman smiled when she saw Cordelia and Christina, “Oh my, welcome,” but the boy froze.
Then, a question leaked out from Christina.
“You…… Ted? You’re Ted, aren’t you? Why are you here?”
The young man’s confusion was also passed onto Christina. He flapped his mouth open and clothes, but no words came out.
“What’s wrong, Donnelly-san? Do you know this cust-……?”
However, the young man pushed Cordelia and Christina out of the way and rushed out of the store before the woman could finish her question.
Christina immediately chased after the man even though she was off balanced.
Cordelia was late to react. However, she couldn’t just ignore this even though she had been delayed.
Without hesitation, she immediately left the store to chase after Christina.
Cordelia quickly looked around for Christina. Then, she caught a peek of her on the right, but Christina’s figure was getting further and further away.
Cordelia instantly ran after her, but Christina was faster than she’d imagined. It was as if she had lied when she said her feet hurt yesterday.
(I was late, but it was only for a moment!)
Is this adrenaline rush? No, that doesn’t matter right now. I might be able to catch up to her if I took off my heels, but I’m wearing straps today. She might get even further away from me while I’m taking them off.
(I can’t catch up to her like this!)
Cordelia concluded and looked at Emina.
“You go ahead,” she tried to say, but Emina had a different idea.
“Ojou-sama, please be careful, I’m going to increase our speed.”
Emina said as she chanted in a small voice, then Cordelia felt her feet repel from the floor.
(Is this Emina’s magic?)
Her body suddenly became lighter, and she got faster just like Emina had stated. It felt as if she was being pushed from the ground. However, her balance was delicate so she would fall to the ground if she weren’t careful.
(But, we can catch up to her like this!)
I won’t fall. Cordelia told herself and concentrated on chasing after Christina.
Christina chased the young man into a narrow road without hesitation.
(I wish you would stay on the big roads……!)
It was only a street away from the main street, but there weren’t many people around. It wasn’t a dangerous place, but she felt anxious that there weren’t many people around while she was chasing someone.
“It’s alright, Ojou-sama. If we continue down this path, ――― then we’ll reach a dead-end.”
Shortly after that, Cordelia caught up with the two just like Emina said she would. Christina was out of breath, but she still rushed towards the young man who was at a loss.
(He might still run away even if it’s a dead-end.)
When Cordelia thought that, a loud sound came from behind her and a figure appeared. She looked back in fright and saw a mud wall almost as tall as Emina. She concluded that Emina had blocked off the path because her hands were raised.
(…… So Emina is good with magic that tampers with earth.)
The acceleration from before was probably the same. Emina used to be a noble, so she probably had a lot of magic power. Therefore, it wouldn’t be strange if she could cast grand magic.
On the other hand, the young man saw Emina’s magic and was petrified.
“Cordelia-sama and Emina-san. I’m sorry for rushing out on my own.”
“That’s fine. Who is this person……?”
Christina was breathless and had her back turned towards Cordelia and Emina, so Cordelia couldn’t see what her expression was. But, she could tell from Christina’s voice that she was tensed.
“He is the son of the executive of the production association and the manufacture of flora silk…… What is the meaning of this Ted?”
The young man named Ted scrunched up his face. He looked like a child being scolded. However, this wouldn’t be settled easily if he was someone who was involved in the distribution of fake flora silks. He pulled his lips into a line and stayed quiet for a while. Then, he eventually looked up and spoke.
“…… I’m not doing anything wrong…… The one’s……!”
Cordelia thought this is bad when she saw the look in his eyes, and then Ted put his hand into his pocket and kicked on the ground.
Cordelia threw a seed that she had hidden in her cuff at Ted who was quickly approaching Christina. She activated her magic, and the plant grew rapidly. The vine wrapped around Ted’s arm and the knife dropped to Ted’s feet with a loud clunk.
“I had to do this because you were confused…… I can’t even say something like that can I?”
Cordelia thrust her right hand out and declared.
Christina asked Ted a question as he remained silent.
“Are you involved with the fakes?”
“Tell me, Ted Donnelly. If you’re involved, then that means…… that your family is also involved in this fraud, right? If I’m wrong, then deny it.”
Her voice shook a little, but it was resolved. Her voice gave the impression that she was trying to suppress all her emotions so that she could stay calm.
However, since Ted didn’t answer, Cordelia was the next to ask him a question.
“I analysed the silk at my house. They told me that it was produced in Flora. I don’t know anything else…… But, it was you wasn’t it?”
Christina widened her eyes and Ted looked even bitterer.
“…… If I had been born a noble like you, then I wouldn’t have had to do something like this.”
“Noble? What are you talking about?”
Ted’s voice was quiet, but that didn’t mean they couldn’t hear him.
Christina frowned and asked him to repeat himself, then Ted smiled crookedly.
“I’m the one selling the mixed weaved flora silk. I wanted money.”
“Yeah. Of course, we’ve earned more income than the average person in the Royal Capital thanks to flora silk. But, that’s not enough…… I want medicine that could only be bought by rich people.”
“Medicine that could only be bought by rich people?”
Christina and Cordelia’s voices overlapped. Ted sneered at them and continued.
“I can buy it if I’m rich, right? The medicine for the Dark Fever’s prognostic symptoms.”
“But I have to buy it from some dangerous people because we’re not rich……!”
Cordelia also knew that disease.
It was the cause of the 『Dark Winter』which she had suffered when she was three. It was an epidemic that year, but that didn’t mean that the illness had disappeared since then. Although it wasn’t something that couldn’t be healed, there were some who died, depending on their symptoms, and some who became paralysed. Of course, people have been researching it and medicine continued to improve, but they didn’t have any medicine that could heal it entirely, since the symptoms varied from year to year.
(But where did he hear that from?)
Judging from how he was acting, she could tell that someone important to him had the disease and was now suffering from prognostic symptoms. But she didn’t understand why he would declare what he did.
“I’ve never heard of that medicine before.”
Christina said in a confused voice.
“Lies. If you really haven’t, then you just don’t know about it.”
“It’s not just sister-in-law. I’ve had that disease before, but I’ve never heard of that medicine. The answer won’t change even if you ask the Royal Palace doctors.”
Cordelia continued since Ted didn’t believe Christina’s words.
“If such a medicine did exist, then wealthy nobles wouldn’t have died from the dark fever. But, they do. Children with a lot of magic are more prone to serious illness, they die or suffer from prognostic symptoms.”
Ted shook his head more and once again muttered, “Lies.” Cordelia continued speaking while watching Ted.
“Of course, I can’t deny that nobles are in a better environment for treatment. They even get to try the latest medicine. But, the medicine that you wish for doesn’t exist yet. If someone told you that it does, then they deceived you.”
“Lies!! Those people wanted a lot of money up front, so getting nothing of value for all that……”
“Even if that’s what they told you to deceive you?’
Ted gasped at those words.
Cordelia knew that she was looking relentlessly at him. She could sympathise with him, but she couldn’t ignore that. She had to listen to what he had to say, since there may be people deceiving him, and he may be conducting industrial espionage with fake products.
“Because they…… told me a story about how a kid got better after taking the medicine……”
“Didn’t you find anything odd about what they told you?”
Ted fell silent at that question, and Christina spoke to him.
“You’ve been tricked.”
She looked at him with sympathy, unlike Cordelia, which shook at his conscience and drew out the guilt he held.
“Then…… What did I…… deceive people….. for……? But, because……”
Ted continued to spurt out nonsense. His emotions had gone completely out of control. His hope had disappeared, he felt guilty and was suspicious.
(…… I didn’t expect anything good from this, but this is really unpleasant.)
She felt as she asked Ted a question in a business-like way.
“I wonder how much you sold. Sister-in-law only noticed this year. Did you sell more before that too?”
“….. No, I didn’t.”
“It’s true! I gave them the advance three years ago, and I certainly planned this. But it’s not easy to deceive the association. I didn’t tell dad about this, so…… I had the silks made, but it wasn’t enough to sell. Even now, I haven’t sold to any other store except that one.”
“If that’s true, then the damage is minimal…… Does that store know that those are fakes?”
“I don’t know. But…… it doesn’t seem like they do from our conversations. Someone else came with me to tell them about the distribution route, and they’ve never asked me about it directly. I haven’t……”
Ted regained his senses and fumbled towards the end.
It doesn’t seem like he’s lying, Cordelia thought. He’s a great actor if this is a lie. But, it’s strange.
“If that’s true, then this is strange.”
“…… Are you saying that my words sound like lies because I’ve deceived people?”
“No. I thought about this last night, the scale of this fraud is way too small. I don’t understand the motive behind it.”
Ted widened his eyes. Christina, on the other hand, agreed, “You’re right.” Cordelia explained to Ted who was confused.
“Selling to one store…… This is a weird way to put it but, it’s not worth the risk to prepare for something so troublesome. It’s also odd for them to let someone like you operate the fraud since you would spill everything. The crooks who deceived you are competent.”
“…… However, this isn’t the place to have a conversation like this. Let’s move―――.”
To another place.
A sharp chill ran down her back, and she couldn’t continue her words. She glared in the direction of the presence.
“This is surprising. I’ve been found, even though I’ve hidden my presence.”
A person who hadn’t been here when they’d first arrived was looking down at Cordelia from the top of a building. She concluded that he was a young man from the sound of his voice, but he had his hood down low on his face, so she couldn’t see his features.
However, she felt uneasy since his voice, which didn’t sound lively, had reached her, even though he was far away.
“Who are you?”
She didn’t ask in a loud voice. But, it seemed that the person had heard her clearly.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have a name that you should remember. You should know what kind of person I am from the look on Ted-kun’s face, right? See, look.”
He urged, and she looked at Ted’s face while remaining on guard. Ted couldn’t see the young man from his position, but he turned pale upon hearing his voice.
“You’re the one who incited him?”
Cordelia said, on behalf of Ted.
He has been eavesdropping on this conversation since the beginning. I’m also certain. But then it would make this more difficult to understand. Why did the mastermind purposely come out when he didn’t need to? I could understand it if he was an idiot, but I can’t declare that, since cold sweat is running out my back. I can feel an invisible pressure.
“I’m not the one who incited him. The ones who did all got captured, you see. I’m the one taking over from them.”
“…… What do you mean?”
“Mm…… It wouldn’t be interesting if I just tell you. Well, whatever. The ones who incited that kid were the idiots who sent a little kid to you and got the tables turned on them. Do you get it?”
The young man continued amusedly.
(Lara’s…… So that means that Ted was also tricked by that Dark Guild……?)
The young man probably guessed what Cordelia was thinking and looked even more amused as he spoke.
“It seems like you understand, Pameradia House’s Ojou-san. After all, that incident happened because you instructed them. I thought it was a strange development, since the Earl and the knights wouldn’t welcome a suspicious kid…… But the truth was, you were behind it.”
“Since you know this, then you’re their accomplice.”
“It’s a bit humiliating to be called their accomplice. But well, I admit it’s not far from the truth.”
The young man said, while jumping off the building. Despite the height, he didn’t receive any shock from landing. He started walking towards them one step at a time.
“Oh, you don’t have to worry about me harming that girl in the future. I’m not interested in her, and she doesn’t know the organisation well. It doesn’t seem like she’ll be useful even if I force her back, and it’s a pain to get rid of her.”
The man walked naturally and approached Ted.
“I haven’t properly introduced myself to Ted-kun either. I’m someone from the underground, the same as the people who introduced you to the job. I don’t know how much you know, but you’ve crossed a dangerous bridge.”
“Well, the girls have already said it, so it’s a bit late to tell you this. There’s no medicine and you thrusted yourself into the flames for no reason, Ted-kun. Well, the idiots who invited you were going to get their hands on real flora silk.”
Ted was at a loss for words, and the young man patted Ted’s shoulder as if to comfort him. However, the man’s voice didn’t match with his actions, and he didn’t conceal how happy he was.
“If that’s true, then Ted-kun wouldn’t have to make the fakes after those people were captured. And no one would want to take over.”
“I don’t care about this plan, I can crush it at any time…… I heard that the daughter of the Alcott House, who is connected to the Pameradia House, sniffed out the fakes, so I came to play.”
Cordelia frowned upon the word that didn’t fit. In contrast to Cordelia’s dubious voice, the man laughed happier and happier.
“The face of a kid who has abandoned his pride and got his hands dirty, and the kid who buried people from the Dark Guild even if they were underlings. I thought it might be interesting to see you two as a set. I’m so glad it turned out just like I’d expected. It’s cheap, but it’s not a bad play.”
The man clapped his hands as if he was enjoying this as an audience and Christina tried to step forward. But, Cordelia stopped her straight away. The man strangely consented when he saw that, “Yes, you have good judgement after all.”
“I really like it how you don’t fling yourself about here, even though there’s someone vile in front of you.”
“I’m surprised you realise that you’re vile.”
“It’s not that I am, it’s just I realise that that’s how people view me.”
Cordelia had talked back to him, but it took everything she had just to think about what she should do. If she were to base her actions on feelings only, then she wanted to attack him. But she couldn’t read his abilities at all. The man wouldn’t attack them, but she didn’t have an opening.
(I don’t want to run away. But, I can’t even find an opening to run away in the first place.)
I’m sure that Emina is also searching for an opportunity. The man addressed Ted again while Cordelia thought that.
“You don’t have to be scared, Ted-kun. I said it, didn’t I? I want to see you in despair. Of course, you’ll despair more if you had to bury your precious sister…… But other people will see you like that, so I’m not really interested.”
The man said as he pushed his hood back.
What appeared was red fox eyes.
There were people outside of the Pameradia House with red eyes, but it was indeed the signature of her House.
“Pameradia’s Ojou-san. No, is it alright for me to call you Cordelia-san? You’re really interesting. Why don’t you play with me? It’ll be fun.”
““STOP FOOLING AROUND!””
Cordelia’s rebuttal was overlapped by Christina’s. Cordelia gasped because Christina had said it so strongly. Christina turned red and raised her voice, which didn’t suit her appearance.
“It’s not like I don’t understand all that you are saying. But, even I know that you’re a terrible person. What? Making people sad…… Sure Ted did a bad thing. But why the heck do you want to see him? Also, people have been deceived by the fake silk, you know?!”
But Christina’s words only served to entertain the man more.
“Wow, so you do understand, Alcott’s Ojou-san. I just enjoy watching him reap what he sowed, and it’s the buyer’s fault for not being able to tell that it’s fake silk. Do people generally mistake what they want for imitations? You would question it if it was unbelievably cheap, wouldn’t you?”
“Don’t yell. It’s not like I’m joking around either. But, if you want then I could?”
The man said, as he pulled his sword from his waist. Cordelia didn’t feel any killing intent from him, but he probably wouldn’t hesitate to injure them. She didn’t understand what he meant by ‘joke’, but she could tell that the situation was getting worse. That wasn’t a mere threat.
Cordelia still had some concealed flower seeds, so it wasn’t like she didn’t have the means to defend against his sword. Also, she thought that Emina could use defensive magic, since she could produce that mud wall. But she didn’t know if that was enough, since their opponent was someone from the underground.
(But we can’t just keep on complaining. It’s not like I can depend on a prince while I’m in danger.)
Cordelia convinced herself and took a stance.
(I’ve only learnt basic self-defence, but I still don’t like what he’s saying. It’ll feel nice just to…… hit him even once, right?)
If I can’t run away, then all I could do is take the offence. She had nothing to fear anymore when she thought that.
However, the young man didn’t brandish his sword.
“…… Too bad. It seems like our playtime is over.”
The young man narrowed his eyes as he said that and jumped back. At about the same time, Cordelia felt wind pass beside her. The wall Emina made should be behind us…… But when she thought that, a broad back was already right in front of her.
Cyrus should have been in the castle right then, but he was definitely in front of her. Cyrus glanced at Cordelia and Christina, but he didn’t speak to them.
“Emina, good job.”
Cyrus only said a single phrase. Emina had probably…… called Onii-sama with her magic.
Cordelia didn’t turn back, but she could hear someone running up to them. They were the knights who came with Cyrus.
Even in a scene like that, she didn’t feel that Cyrus was agitated from looking at his back.
“Taking your sword out in town is prohibited.”
“Yeah, I know. But I don’t want to follow the law.”
Cyrus informed the man plainly, and he confessed.
“Do you know? The law isn’t something that should be followed. The Kingdom only declared that 『If you break the law then you’ll be arrested』. So that means it has nothing to do with me, since I won’t get caught.”
“Are you going to run away?”
“Of course. There’s no merit in fighting with you.”
The young man said smoothly, as he ran up the wall and reached the top of the building. That wasn’t something an ordinary person could do.
“He’s going to pass the castle walls. Messenger, hurry.”
Cyrus quietly, yet firmly, instructed the knight behind him. Then, he began chasing after the man straight after he’d finished speaking.
Cyrus turned around for a second, and it looked like his mouth was moving, but she didn’t have time to ask him to repeat himself. Cyrus and the man had already disappeared from there.
Christina’s legs gave way when the two disappeared.
“I’m sorry…… I can finally relax.”
“I’m not surprised.”
She wasn’t surprised that Christina’s legs had given way, since they couldn’t have imagined that a situation like that would have happened when they left the store. However, Cordelia couldn’t find the right words to say.
Then, a voice interrupted them, “Excuse me.” It was a female knight.
“Are you injured?”
“Sorry for the late introductions, I am Clarice Keighley, and I work with the Deputy Commander.”
Christina was confused, but she smiled at the woman who had just introduced herself as Clarice and bowed.
Clarice looked at Christina and Cordelia.
“I’m sorry, but could I ask what happened? We would like you to tell us what happened here.”
“Certainly. But, could I…… take my companion with me?”
Christina shifted her gaze to Ted. Clarice replied, “Of course, I was going to ask you if you could.” Cordelia lost the chance to respond but concluded that it would be fine to go with her. So she didn’t dare to ask……
“Is something wrong?”
Should I call him the young man or should I call him the suspect? Who is he? Cordelia wasn’t sure how to word this and Clarice smiled.
“We’ll also talk about that at the castle.”
Indeed, this might not be something we could talk about here. Cordelia understood and agreed….. But, she was surprised.
This commotion was big enough for Cyrus to deal with it as part of his duties. That was hardly surprising. It was rude of her, but it was an extremely unlucky place for her.
(I hope nothing happens. I hope that I don’t see the Prince……!)
Different from how she felt when she met the young man from before, Cordelia felt scared for her life.