“Shelley isn’t here yet, but I feel like putting something in my mouth, so why don’t I get tea prepared?”
“Thank you very much. But, before that… Even though it had been urgent, I’m sorry for suddenly disappearing like that.”
“That’s fine. I was surprised when I realised you both were gone, but I received your message from the knight.”
“I was looking at an acquaintance’s shop. I was browsing too many items in there.”
Cordelia felt strange again by Earl Zakharov’s words.
Earl Zakharov seems to prioritise Shelley’s wishes, but he forgot about her because he was so focused on things he liked?
“Were you looking at things to gift to Shelley-san?”
“That’s right. But it looks like I’ll have to give her a congratulations present.”
It seems like Earl Zakharov has been informed about her possible relation to Earl Clydereine.
“Have you already heard about it?”
“Yesterday, I waited for Shelley-san at the church until night time, but she was with a Clydereine House magician. I asked what was going on, and the magician told me that she might be related to Earl Clydereine. I was so surprised,” Earl Zakharov said, as he smiled a little.
“If she’s related to the Clydereine House, then she wouldn’t be related to me. That’s a shame, but we’ll have the opportunity to meet each other in the future. It’s an honour to be able to get along with her.”
“Besides, she brought us together. I got to know you because of her. I might ask if I can borrow Ronnie, who can suppress three men in the blink of an eye by himself.”
The Earl joked, and Cordelia smiled as she tilted her head.
My doubts are still there, but I’m sure of one thing.
“Earl, can I ask you something? Is Shelley-san here?”
“She’s not… Why do you think she is?”
“How did you find out that three men tried to kidnap her? The only people that know that is me, Ronnie and the knights. We have to report it immediately if there is an insolent person who leaked information outside, but when did you hear about it, since you were at the church until night time?”
Cordelia smiled and the Earl widened his eyes. Then, he smiled.
“You’re really smart. No, I was careless since I was happy.”
“I think you’ve talked quite a bit, even though you say I’m smart. Why did you try to kidnap Shelley? And, why are you happy?”
He could get his hands on Shelley, even if he hadn’t tried to kidnap her. If Cordelia hadn’t tried to influence the relationship between Shelley and Earl Clydereine, then it would have been better for Earl Zakharov to make a move after he got his hands on her.
But Earl Zakharov remained calm.
“Even I know that there are people after Shelley. There was someone who offered me a completion bonus because I had a relationship with her.”
“However, his offer wasn’t appealing to me. Sure, he had offered a lot of money, but I’m not after money, and I don’t think I can buy what I want with that amount.”
Earl Zakharov continued, and it didn’t seem like he was lying.
“What is it you want?”
“I want commendation.”
“Yes. Commendation that can be bought with money disappears in an instant. But I found out from a certain man… that I had an opportunity to talk with you, Cordelia-san. So, I accepted his proposal.”
Cordelia knitted her eyebrows because he had suddenly said her name, but Earl Zakharov looked happy as he continued eloquently.
“I’ve always known about you. You’re famous among my circle. When you were under 10, you educated the children in your fief, and you collected noble children and conducted charity work. So, you know how pleasant it is to be admired, right? No, there’s no point in living if I’m not admired. The more I give, the more thanks I get in return. The happiness I get from that can’t be substituted for anything else.”
“So, what does that have to do with what you want to talk to me about?”
Earl Zakharov said as he put a small potted plant on the table.
“What is this?”
“It’s a herb that fascinates people. It gives people pleasure and fun hallucinations… No, it can even make you see dreams.”
“So, it’s a narcotic.”
“It’s just grass like this, so it needs to be processed.”
Cordelia also researched narcotics to find out about dangerous herbs, but she didn’t recognise the herb that he had presented. It looked like flax, but it had several different traits than flax, such as red leaves.
“This is a plant from the north, but it’s a good plant and grows anywhere. But, it’s hard for me to raise a lot of them by myself. That man told me that Cordelia-san is interested in all kinds of herbs, so you’ll definitely help me if I can get to know you.”
Cordelia glared at Earl Zakharov when she heard the word ‘north’.
“I wonder if the man who told you about me is from the dark guild in the north.”
“Oh, he is. He said that you’re a soft-hearted person, so if you hear that Shelley-san is in danger, then you would certainly appear, even if you’re unsure. If Shelley-san had been kidnapped, then I would have killed two birds with one stone, but I’m not disappointed since it wasn’t a sure thing. I just gave a gold coin to some hoodlums, and it would be disappointing to let go of a child who is so emotionally attached to me.”
“You didn’t rebuke the girl who became emotionally attached to you for her sake, did you?”
“She’s cute, but she’ll keep on talking if you don’t stop her. There are times when she’s annoying too. I thought I could use her peculiar powers, so I told people she resembled my late wife… and everyone immediately accepted it. It’s my natural virtue.”
Earl Zakharov kept the same smile on his face since the beginning and wasn’t timid at all.
(I see. Ghost didn’t lie to me, but he held his real motive.)
I didn’t trust him, but I never suspected that was his motive.
(He also meant this when he said he wanted to have fun.)
If so, then I’m angry, but I also understand him.
Shelley-san coming to the north might indeed be trouble for Ghost, but he was looking forward to seeing me protect her.
“When you lost your ships, did you not think about buying some more?”
“You don’t know how it feels to lose a large amount of money you’ve saved in an instant, do you? People looked at me with pity. They pitied me. I couldn’t stand it. That’s why I couldn’t stop acting as I had before, even if I gave up on ships. I thought it would be fine if I found another method of income… That was a miscalculation.”
“You chose the wrong choices because of a worthless reason. That’s not a miscalculation; you lost rationality.”
However, Cordelia’s words didn’t reach Earl Zakharov.
“This herb isn’t being circulated in this kingdom yet. If people aren’t on their guard, then I won’t have any rivals.”
“Don’t you think that’s against ethics?”
“Selling it to customers who want it and making them happy. Spend the money I earn on charity and gain more praise. I don’t think it’s something to worry about since no one’s losing anything.”
Earl Zakharov got more and more excited by his words.
“The man in the north said this; Cordelia-san probably needs money, so why don’t you tempt her? I heard that you were different from Earl Pameradia and your brothers and that you were a tomboy and weren’t restrained by existing things.”
“You are Earl Pameradia’s daughter. You’re probably also good at stimulating plant growth. You know how wonderful these gold producing plants are, don’t you? Of course, some people may dislike this once it’s made public, but it’s not a prohibited item, so it shouldn’t be criticized. Some people might also try to make money in the same way once they know about it, so we can’t let them know.”
Apparently, another person has been attracted by Ghost’s cajolery.
(No, that’s not right. Earl Zakharov jumped into this mud boat himself.)
Cordelia wiped away the stern expression on her face and smiled again.
Then, she slowly raised her palm at the plant, and the plant withered in an instant.
“I like doing things that make me happy. However, I can’t agree with your ideology at all. Earl, no, Zakharov; you’re disgusting.”
Zakharov didn’t seem to understand what was going on, but Cordelia continued.
“Buying commendation with money? That’s wrong. There are certainly things you can’t buy and do without money, but the thing you have acquired is scorn. You might think you wouldn’t be caught, but I have no reason to overlook this.”
The smile she had put on her face, once again turned sharp.
At the end of Cordelia’s glare, Zakharov slowly raised his face from the potted plant.
However, the smile that had been lost in his face was back in an instant.
“This is quite different from what that man said. I heard that you would think more positively about this. ――― But, in any case, I’ll have you help me with this.”
“Do you think I would help you after everything I’ve said?”
“If you have to, then it’ll be a different story. You’re smart, so you’re also a little proud.”
Zakharov said as he slowly stood up.
“I have powers that aren’t inferior to a magician’s. I might be inferior to your father and brothers, but I even know martial arts. If I carry you to a carriage and take you out of the royal capital, then you’ll have to help me.”
“Ronnie will think something’s off if I disappear from this mansion. And, Otou-sama knows that I’m here.”
“Just like with Shelley-san, it’ll be fine if I tell them that suspicious people attacked the mansion. In fact, I could have kidnapped you at that time if you had told Ronnie to chase them by himself, but you were more cautious then, unlike now. Well, I know you’re on your guard because you confronted me while leaving your tail.”
“So that’s how it was. I don’t agree with how you think, but I understand it.”
He was recklessly indirect, but things didn’t go as he had planned. However, he still thought that he was in an advantageous position, and was relaxed.
However, Cordelia wasn’t panicking either.
“Then, I’ll tell you. I’m Earl Pameradia’s daughter. You said that I was cautious before, but didn’t you think that I might have thought this was a trap?”
Cordelia spoke as she quickly scattered some seeds.
“I’ve also heard that this is your special attack!”
Zakharov swung his sword down sideways and mowed down the plants which Cordelia had rapidly grew, but the plants quickly grew back to the same height as it was, and attacked Zakharov like they had a mind of their own. However, Zakharov’s sword was embedded with magic, and he didn’t yield.
(I don’t plan on losing in a magic endurance test, but it’s not a contest right now.)
Cordelia smiled, and in the next moment, a thick ivy vine wrapped itself around Zakharov’s neck from behind.
“I’ve been told to learn self-defence.”
“If your carotid artery is tightened, then you’ll lose your consciousness… but before that, your neck will feel tight, and you’ll find it painful to breathe. You weren’t paying attention to your back, so I took it to my advantage.”
Cordelia spoke as she used another vine to fling the sword out of Zakharov’s hand. Then, at the same time, she strengthened the binding on his hands and feet. Zakharov’s expression distorted even more, but Cordelia was surprised.
(It went better than I thought.)
I thought it would be enough if I just stalled him a little, but I’ve trained my magic more than I imagined. But he was probably careless due to how Shelley-san usually acts. If his standards for ‘children’ is Shelley-san, he wouldn’t feel nervous even if he thinks I’m somewhat smart. In that case, I’ll have to thank Shelley-san a little.
“Wh… at… the… hell…!”
Zakharov said that his magic power was equivalent to that of a magician’s, and broke through the bondage on the left half of his body with his own magic. However, Cordelia didn’t panic.
She had already bought enough time.
“Zakharov, you’ve missed one more thing.”
“Ronnie. He’s more reliable than you think.”
The moment Cordelia said that, the door was destroyed violently.
“See, isn’t he really reliable?”
“Argh… Ojou-sama, I told you to give me a signal if something happened, but I didn’t tell you to suddenly start a fight. What magic did you use?”
Zakharov widened his eyes in surprise, and Ronnie sighed as he scratched his head.
“Anyway, I’ll hear it later. I understand that you couldn’t settle things quietly, since it has become like this.”
Thus, Zakharov, who claimed to have the same power as a magician, quickly lost consciousness, because he wasn’t able to resist a real magician, especially since he was already restrained.
Later, Lara, who was waiting nearby, sent a message to the knights, and Zakharov was handed over to them while he was still unconscious. The knights searched the mansion and interviewed the servants, since Zakharov was manufacturing narcotics, but the servants had thought it was a decorative plant.