Chapter 6: Orphanage, Baron, and Revelation II
The moon illuminated the outside while the lighting fixture that utilized wandering magical power illuminated the inside of the room.
After they left the orphanage, Herscherik and his group went through the secret pathway and returned to their rooms without any issue. But their current situation consisted of nothing but issues.
“Just as you would expect, it’s challenging when there’s nothing to go on…”
Herscherik muttered as he sat cross-legged on the sofa by the window.
In the end, they couldn’t get any substantial information from the Information Broker, and the trip to the orphanage Oran’s fiancée volunteered at only confirmed his powerlessness. As such, this day was fruitless.
“It’s strange that after so much investigation, we come up with nothing.”
Kuro agreed with the prince’s statement.
(Information that even escaped Kuro’s grasp… On top of that, not a single piece of physical evidence…)
It was definitive that the drug was responsible for both this incident and the one from two years ago. However, there was absolutely no trail left behind to trace. The circumstances surrounding this matter were abnormally clean. While there seemed to be some involvement coming from higher-ups, this too was only speculation.
In the first place, the only reason why they knew that the drug incident from two years ago was connected to this one was because of the information from Oran’s father, Roland. This information was given to them by the mere coincidence as Oran, someone close to the concerned person in the incident two years ago, had become Hersche’s personal knight and that he and his group just so happened to encounter the disturbance in the castle town.
It wasn’t possible to check the status of the current investigation but it was likely that it was receiving the same treatment as the incident two years ago.
“It really looks like there’s nothing…”
Oran let out a sigh and Herscherik followed suit.
Herscherik repeated Oran’s last word when he suddenly remembered the Information Broker’s words.
‘Beginning and End. As well as, all and one. That’s your hint.’
(Beginning and End. All and one. …Ah!)
There was a flash.
Herscherik jumped off the sofa and rushed to the study. He rustled through the mountain of documents, removed several pages, and placed them on top of the desk.
“…So it really was like that.”
Kuro called out from the other side of the door.
The two aides were surprised by their master’s sudden movement and so followed him to the door, waiting for his orders.
“The two of you, come here!”
Herscherik beckoned to them and pointed to the documents laid out.
They were documents summarizing the expenses of each of the bureaus in the Greisis Kingdom, going back five years ago.
By the way, the country registers the beginning of the year as spring. In his previous world, this would mean that the year ended in March and began in April.
“Only the budget two years ago had an unexpectedly low spending for this bureau.”
This was the expense report for the Research Bureau. It was clear that that year, it was halved compared to the other years.
“But, if you look at the average budget, it’s no different than all the other years. Except for that year, all the actual expenses exceeded the estimated budget.”
The budget was constructed based on the previous year’s actual numbers. If the previous year’s expenses were lessened, the following year’s budget would be lowered.
Even in his previous world, there were TV specials about how each country squandered its money.
There were reports about certain local administrations purchasing useless items that exceeded their budget. Why did they do such a thing? Their calculated budget would be seen as surfeit by the country and thus lowered the following year if they didn’t. Then, they would be stuck in a situation where the necessary amount they would need wouldn’t be provided. So, they tried to use up most of their budget.
It was the same in Ryouko’s company; they wanted to avoid having their budget reduced, so there were times when they wasted money. Then, Ryouko would promptly send a report to her superior, and the higher-ups would file a written explanation as well as a letter of improvement to resolve this issue.
Returning to the current story, Herscherik felt something off about this Research Bureau. While there were fluctuations in the differences between the estimated budget and the actual expenses of other bureaus, the one for the Research Bureau was abnormally dramatic.
“Only the Research Bureau has this big of a difference between its budget and expenses. I was only checking the actual expenses before, so I hadn’t noticed.”
It wasn’t like research always goes the way one wants. Success wasn’t always guaranteed, so it was more likely for them to be going in the red than fulfilling the budget.
In fact, the budget of all other years besides the one from two years ago had a lot more expenses recorded.
(The Beginning was the determined budget while the End was the actual expenses.)
The hint the Information Broker gave him certainly existed.
(But, how does this relate to the drug? The remaining hint was…)
Herscherik rummaged through the Research Bureau’s documents. The expense reports on the Research Bureau fit almost perfectly within their estimated budget. Was this because of the bureau’s efforts, or possibly…
“The Magic Potions Laboratory of the Research Bureau… The spending on this section was conspicuously low.”
Herscherik pulled out several documents detailing the expenses for this section from spring to summer. He didn’t really understand them, but they appear to list technical language together with names of products as well as their unit price, quantity, and total cost.
He took out another document detailing a similar previous year’s expenses for comparison.
“…The unit price is completely different. Is this normal?”
Herscherik showed his two aides the document. He had overlooked this bit before as well because he was only paying attention to the totals for the year.
“The market price is over double this.”
Oran took the document and said with a click of his tongue. Kuro took a peek of the document from the side and nodded.
In other words, the research expenses from the Magic Potions Laboratory were unnaturally low, so the entire Research Bureau ended up sorting out the rest of the budget to match the previous years.
Just as the Information Broker had said, among All of the Research Bureau, only One laboratory was suspicious.
(Tch, I only had eyes on the accident.)
Herscherik cursed himself. The start of everything was the incident, so he had directed his investigation in towards that direction rather than the source.
He managed to catch this thread because of the Information Broker’s hint. However, if he had been more attentive in his examination of the documents, he could have noticed this earlier.
“If only I had focused more,” thought Herscherik. It was fine since this time, he had the Information Broker’s help. But, there would not be a next.
Herscherik reflected on his actions and changed his mood. There was nothing he could do about it now since everything was in the past. The question now was how to make use of this new information.
“The period these prices were active is quite intriguing.”
Herscherik alerted the two looking over the document.
The period the cheap price was utilized was between the spring and summer two years ago. In other words, it matched the time of the drug’s initial circulation.
“Perhaps they had received gains from somewhere else, which was what allowed them to have such cheap prices…”
(It was highly likely that some backroom deal was going on.)
But if there was a backroom deal, what became of it? Compared to the previous years, the price of expensive medical herbs had decreased. This meant that something was used to substitute money for something worth that value.
When Herscherik came upon this thought, he realized the worst possibility.
“Could it be that the country producing the drugs is…?”
The bureau probably developed a new drug and sold it for high prices, which meant they were able to fund their own production, causing the low spending. Of course, the people involved most likely profited or gained something worth the price. And if a government official was involved, their rating would go up for decreasing the budget. Lining their own pockets; killing two birds with one stone.
But after the incident, the information about the drug and the entire incident was hushed up and everything went underground, and spending returned to normal levels. Of course, it is likely that the information was given to another party and the people involved most likely gained something worth the price.
If the country’s research plans were leaked out, it would be a huge problem, shaking the very root of the country. And if the Patrol Bureau was being pressured by the higher-ups to suppress the news, they would have no choice but to finish the investigation quickly. The slapped-together nature of the evidence record made sense now.
But, there were still questions.
(Now, if we can find a link between the backroom deal and the incident…)
“…Kuro, I want you to go to the Regional Legal Affairs Bureau first.”
“What should I look for?”
Kuro inquired the specifics for Herscherik’s request, but he did not ask his master for the reason.
“The registry of the officials from two years ago. Focus on those who worked in the Research Bureau. Oh, as well as the list of officials working in the Finance Bureau at the same time.”
The people who leaked the information about the drug’s research were most likely limited to those inside the Research Bureau. There was also the possibility that people in the Finance Bureau handling the documents and reports involved turned a blind eye to this, to cover up the truth.
“Next, I want you to get all the info from the Finance Bureau about the clients who dealt with the Research Bureau at that time.”
Kuro left without a sound, and Herscherik saw him off before turning to Oran next.
“I want you to recall all the acquaintances and people around your fiancée two years ago. I’m sure that there should be someone among them who is connected to this latest incident as well.”
Oran gave a reassuring nod.
Hersherick threw a glance at the documents he had spread out.
(Something is still bothering me.)
He still felt like something was off—the same kind of feeling you get when you have a small fish-bone stuck between your teeth.
Herscherik felt like he must have missed something, but he was unable to clear this sense of discomfort until Kuro came back.