Chapter 5: Investigation, Information Broker, and Hint I
Just like in Herscherik’s previous world, the midsummer nights were sweltering. But as the prince, Herscherik’s room was very cool as it was equipped with magical air conditioning. Infact, the temperature in his study was so low that it troubled him. However, the moment he would turn it off, the heat would rush right back. He wanted to open the window to better adjust the temperature, but his butler had incessantly scolded him about that previously. So in the end, Herscherik reluctantly put on a coat and sighed at the mountain of documents before him.
(I thought that this was a good place to focus, but……)
Even though only two years had passed, the number of documents on this event was surprisingly lacking. Furthermore, even though he was looking at the reports written up by the Patrol Bureau, there didn’t seem to be anything about the drug he was investigating.
(This proves that some higher-ups had to be involved……)
In other words, there was the possibility that someone in the castle, with enough power to cover up this incident, was involved.
Herscherik sighed once more and turned his gaze to Oran. The knight was also immersed in the documents in front of him. Herscherik continued to stare at him as he felt around his pockets for the pocket watch. He then checked the time and saw that it was already 8 PM.
“Oran, are you not going home tonight?”
Oran’s working hours were during the day, so he would leave whenever it turned to 6 PM, hence Herscherik’s question.
He knew that they were pressed for time, but they also shouldn’t push themselves. If they kept at it for too long, their efficiency would decrease. Plus, he didn’t want to force Oran to work overtime.
Oran didn’t look away from the papers as he tried to reassure his master.
“Yeah, just a little more… You know what. I’ll stay over tonight.”
He had a room prepared for him here when he became a personal knight, and if he had to wake up early for tomorrow, it would be troublesome to have to go all the way back home.
(I’ll probably pop back home for a change of clothes though.)
Oran opened another document. This one was the evidence record for an incident from around that time. Having read plenty of these kinds of reports, he scanned it for any questionable details.
He suddenly sensed something off about this document.
“Even though a drug was involved in this case, there isn’t a single description of it.”
“All of the documents were written in a way that implies the incident had nothing to do with the drug.”
Herscherik’s eyes opened wide.
“For example, this.”
What Oran handed over was a document from around the time two years ago when the drug was in circulation.
It described a baron’s violent assault on a man in the red-light district and his eventual suicide.
“It says that this man lost his sanity and went berserk, but the cause wasn’t investigated. Don’t you find that strange?”
It was supposed to be the Patrol’s main job to investigate causes.
But there were a number of these cases that stopped at just the facts, not going further into the reasons why. Moreover, these incomplete investigations were all stamped as “processed.”
“This is interesting. We need to look into this.”
(If we can’t trust the reports, we’ll just need to ask the victims themselves.)
Even if documents can be falsified, living people cannot. They could lie, but it couldn’t be that hard to sense if something was amiss.
“Tomorrow, I’ll go out and ask those affected at that time.”
“Eh, the prince will?”
Oran was surprised at Herscherik’s proposal. In response, Herscherik displayed a puzzled look.
“Eh, I can’t?”
(But I want to investigate……)
It was the same when he watched police procedurals in his previous life. One of the police characters Ryouko admired had once said, “In order to solve this case, I need to do some footwork.” Of course, this was just a line in a script.
“But, it’s in the red-light district, you know…”
“Red-light… Ah, right.”
Herscherik finally comprehended Oran’s words. There was nothing happening in the red-light district during the day. So, Oran was saying that the time to investigate would be at night when businesses would be open. As expected, he couldn’t let the prince, let alone a 5-year-old, go out at such a time and to such a place.
Herscherik calmly nodded, but Oran was conversely flustered. While Herscherik was internally a 34-year-old adult and wouldn’t be fazed like a 5-year-old child at the existence of a red-light district, there was still a visual disconnect for the viewer.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door of this room filled with awkwardness.
“Excuse me, Master Hersche. His Majesty has arrived.”
“Eh, Father has?”
Herscherik noted Kuro’s formal speech and stood up in a panic. As he adjusted his outfit, he pushed through the documents and rushed into the living room.
(It’s been a while since I saw Father.)
Herscherik used to stay in his late mother’s room before, in the inner palace, and his father would often drop by after work. However, ever since he had moved to the outer palace, their times never matched and they saw each other less.
It was rare for his father to come here this late… Nevertheless, it was still a bit early for his father’s work to end for the day. It may be possible that the king purposely finished sooner just to meet him.
Thinking so, Hercherik just had to get up.
Meanwhile, Oran remained in the study, still with a dumbfounded look on his face at the difference between his reaction and how calmly Herscherik was talking about the red-light district.
(I really don’t get him……)
Was this how kids around the prince’s age were like? Or perhaps, Herscherik was an outlier?
Oran even wondered if he should view this as the standard just in case, seeing how his youngest sister wasn’t that far off in terms of years.
“Oranju, come over here!”
Being called from the living room made Oran snap back to reality.
He collected his thoughts and realized that he would be meeting Herscherik’s father, the king. This would be the first time Oran had ever had an audience with the king.
He quickly checked his outfit. He was wearing his usual, casual clothes.
(I should’ve listened to the black dog and wore something a little bit better……)
Kuro had always spat out complaints about Oran’s usual attire.
He would say, “Even though you’re a delinquent knight, you’re still the prince’s personal knight. So, wear something more befitting.”
(But was that a befitting outfit?)
He recalled the outfit he wore on his first day and shook his head. He wanted to be free from that outfit.
(……Well, my boss said it was fine.)
Oran convinced himself and left the study.
“So you are the one who became Hersche’s personal knight, young Octavian, son of General Ordis.”
Oran looked at the man who spoke and gaped. The strands of the man’s platinum blonde hair looked like moonbeams of the highest quality1. His eyes were like the prince’s, the color of a kingfisher’s feathers, and they gave off a gentle feeling. Even though he was reaching his 40s, his beauty made him look like he hadn’t even hit 30 yet.
Such a man stood before Oran and called his name. It wouldn’t be strange to say it caused him to froze up.
(Wow, I know that Prince Marcus was a beauty as well, but……)
The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, but that tree was on a level of its own. Oran didn’t think kindly of the royal family. But, his hatred of them was thrown to the side when he encountered that king’s beautiful and gentle smile.
(In comparison, the prince’s looks are pretty normal…)
Compared to the king, the prince blended in with the background. Of course, that wasn’t to say that the prince wasn’t beautiful, but it relieved Oran that the prince looked relatively plain in comparison to the king.
“……Oranju, Father is off-limits.”
Herscherik shot a quick glare at the motionless Oran. For a second, Oran couldn’t comprehend what was said to him, but then he realized that his exchange with the 1st prince was on Herscherik’s mind, and he felt that same exhaustion again.
(How does this boy see me……)
Oran became somewhat troubled. Of course, the prince didn’t mean anything bad by what he said. It was just that his knowledge was very broad due to his previous world.
“What are you saying, Hersche?”
“Nothing!~ Father, would you like some tea? Schwartz, we had some late-night snacks, right?”
Soleil shook his head, smiling as Herscherik turned to his butler.
“Yes, just a moment.”
“I’ll help too!”
Herscherik followed after Kuro as he left the room. Even if the prince came along, nothing would really change, but Kuro didn’t say anything and left alongside his master.
The two left behind a room that fell into an awkward silence.
And the one who broke that silence was the king.
“Hersche isn’t being too unreasonable, is he?”
The room was silent again.
He was conversing with the country’s king. Since he belonged to a lineage of knights, he had polished his military skills over any sophisticated social skills.
The king continued to speak.
“That child is different.”
What a hard-to-respond-to statement. Oran continued to remain silent, seeing that any comment he could make could be seen as an insult to royalty.
The king sensed this and let out a strained laugh.
“Hersche is different from normal children. But, it’s not because he’s a prince; it’s because he’s Hersche.”
For a moment, Oran shook his head, not understanding the king’s words.
But, the king continued.
“In a sense, that boy’s misfortune could be to be born into the royal family.”
With these new words, Oran finally understood what that previous statement was about.
Surely, even if he was born as a noble, a knight, or even a commoner, Herscherick would be the same. He was the type of person who would act for someone else’s sake.
“I have a duty to protect the citizens.”
That wasn’t said as a formality.
As a prince, the range of those he must protect grew, as did the pressures he faced. However, the prince accepted this all naturally.
“I am both proud and delighted to call Hersche my child… but… I ask that you protect my boy.”
This man was not asking Oran as the king of an entire nation. He was asking as a loving father.
Silence fell between the two again, but it wasn’t as awkward as it was before. While Oran pondered how he should answer this request, the prince and butler returned with tea in hand, thus ending the conversation between the two.