Chapter 8: Envy, Hatred, and Poverty III
The encroaching clutches of evil… didn’t reach Herscherik.
The clash of metal resounded, and a cloud of dust danced in the air. A black shadow that had come flying in stood in front of Herscherik to protect him.
“Hersche, you okay?”
The face illuminated by the moonlight smiled at Herscherik. It was his black-haired, deep ruby-colored-eyed chief butler. He was currently dressed in all black, in the same hooded clothes he wore on their first encounter.
Herscherik could only muster a short reply.
(People really can be sent flying like in games…)
When Herscherik turned to look, he saw an immobile mass left after being sent flying by Kuro’s dropkick.
Right as Herscherik was about to fall into the enemy’s hands, Kuro arrived like the wind with a kick… or to be more exact, a dropkick directly on the enemy’s head. Then, he spun around in the air once before landing on the ground. As expected of a former master-spy. Even an acrobat would be amazed at such a stunt.
(Are they dead? …Ah, they twitched. Seems to be alright.)
After confirming this mass, who was originally the person sent flying, wasn’t dead, Herscherik was relieved. They were a source of important information, after all.
“Hey, delinquent knight. I thought you said that you would protect Hersche?”
“Shut up! Or should I say that you’re late. Hurry up and help out, black dog!”
While parrying the dagger user’s slash, Oran shouted his complaints at Kuro.
“Idiot! Try being in my shoes when I returned to the meeting place after gathering proof, just to see the Rose Prince alone!”
Kuro yelled back as he rushed at the knife-thrower.
The opponent was caught off guard by the sudden appearance of another opponent such that they couldn’t accurately aim their throw. Kuro managed to dodge it with the minimal amount of movement and with a chop his hand, knocked out the enemy.
The dagger user was distracted for a second by the thud when their ally fell, and Oran used this opening to jab his scabbard into the enemy’s side, concluding the fight.
The only sounds left were Oran sheathing his sword and Kuro brushing the sand and dust off his clothes.
Colette still couldn’t understand the situation and uneasily said, so Herscherik turned around and replied with a smile to reassure her.
“Colette, wait inside until the adults call you out. Don’t go out. I mean it.”
The girl nodded and closed the door. After watching her off, Herscherik approached Baron Armin.
“…I knew that I was wrong. I understood that much.”
He only intended to do it the first time. This connection was only supposed to last until he could revive operations; once that happened, he would cut ties.
But no matter how long it took, operations wouldn’t recover. He became reliant on the drug income and had the children deliver the goods. He used the very children he was protecting. One would call it, “Getting one’s priorities backward.”
“What exactly should I have done…”
“Baron, one cannot change the past, but they can change the future. And I believe you can change it.”
Herscherik knelt down on one knee to meet the cowering baron’s gaze straight on.
Sins were not something that could disappear, but they could be atoned for.
“Please tell me. Who approached you with the drug? If we could at least determine how the drug was refined, we could create an effective antidote to the drug’s toxic symptoms… This drug is dangerous.”
Herscherik had chills down his back when he discovered the drug’s effect. Because the drug in circulation was diluted tenfold, the true effects didn’t appear. But the issue was that the true effect was enhancement.
Why was a drug which was meant to create killing machines, unafraid of death, circulating now? Who was recirculating the drug and for what reason?
“Baron Armin, please tel—!”
An indescribable unease cut off Herscherik, causing him to survey his surroundings. He didn’t know what it was. He only had a bad feeling.
Then, he found it—a person standing on top of a tall roof.
The moment Herscherik spotted that person, groans echoed from behind them. When Herscherik and his group turned to look around, the three they were fighting before were writhing on the floor, holding their chest before they no longer moved.
Oran quickly rushed over to check, but he shook his head. They were no longer breathing.
The shadow of a person on top of the roof popped in Herscherik’s mind. When Herscherik looked at that place again, there was no one there.
Baron Armin groaned. When they turned to him, he too was holding his chest as he crumbled to the floor.
Herscherik rushed over to help him, but Kuro pulled the prince back.
“If it is some kind of poison, you’ll be at risk!”
“But I can’t just leave him!”
Herscherik shook off Kuro’s hand and rushed to the baron.
“…Hershe…His Highness Herscherik…?”
Armin recalled that name belonging to the kingdom’s 7th prince, the blond-haired, blue-eyed five-year-old.
“Your Highness…I leave the children…to you. …The fault…lies entirely…on me.”
Armin gave a relieved smile at Herscherik’s response. Then, he pulled on Herscherik’s sleeve to whisper in his ear.
Herscherik opened his eyes widely. Then, he watched Baron Armin collapse. He would no longer get up.
The area was dominated by silence as the three remaining living humans just stood there.
(…In the end, I couldn’t do anything this time either.)
Herscherik banged his tightly-gripped right fist on the ground over and over again. He felt the pain run through his hand, but he didn’t care. He only felt anger toward his own uselessness.
The resolution of this case would be left incomplete. Instead, his opponent now knew of his existence. It was highly probable that the deaths of the baron and those three assailants were because of that shadowy figure.
(They put a lookout for their lookout? And someone so skilled that even Kuro didn’t notice.)
It was by mere coincidence that he discovered that figure. As a former spy, Kuro was very perceptive of the presence of people around him. So, this person who managed to get this close without Kuro realizing would not be some amateur.
Herscherik banged his fist against the ground again.
He was a step behind again. There was only regret.
“Hersche, your hand is bleeding.”
Kuro was concerned and held Herscherik’s hand. He quickly took out a clean white, handkerchief and performed some first-aid.
Kuro smiled at the apologetic Herscherik. His master would look out for others, always and forever. However, when it came to himself, the prince would be careless, making Kuro someone who would pay attention to their surroundings.
“What did Baron Armin tell you at the end? …Those three don’t seem to be carrying anything that could be used as proof.”
Oran was frustrated. He had already lined up the three bodies in one area.
Herscherik’s sentence was cut off by the sound of the door being thrown open.
A young boy came running out.
The three turned to the source of the voice to see a young boy, whose navy-blue hair looked like the night, run out of the orphanage; it was Rick.
“Director, what’s wrong? Director!”
Rick ran towards the unmoving baron and clung to the man. But after he realized that the man was no longer alive, he was taken aback for a moment before glaring at the still Herscherik.
“You! Did you kill the director!”
Oran held Rick who was trying to punch Herscherik while Kuro lifted up the unmoving prince and created some distance between the two boys.
Even though his arm was being held, Rick continued to struggle, so Oran scolded him. But Rick couldn’t be stopped.
“Let me go, big brother! Aren’t you on our side!? Is it because you really are an aristocrat!! Aristocrats are always taking away everything and everyone I care about from me! YOU’RE the ones who have everything! Give the director back!”
It was true that the baron’s death was not Herscherik’s fault. But, in order to convey this, they would need to explain the whole incident involving the drugs. In other words, they would have to learn that they were used as a cog in a criminal scheme. That was something the baron didn’t want. But, Oran believed that it would be wrong to leave it like this with Rick hating Herscherik.
“Oran, it’s fine.”
Herscherik saw how Oran was conflicted, so he shook his head. It was fine if the children didn’t know… since they shouldn’t know.
(The greater the loss is to the heart, the more you cannot live without clinging to something … even if that something is hatred.)
Just like in the past when he lost his fiancée, Oran hated the royal family, aristocrats, and himself. Even if those were negative feelings, it pushed him to live.
Besides Rick’s cries, the sound of horse hooves could be heard from afar. They were probably the police sent by Marcus.
“I truly am powerless…”
Herscherik’s muttering was heard only by his aides and melted into the darkness.