Chapter 8: Prince, Butler, and Trap III
Herscherik woke to the midsummer humidity.
However, even though his eyes were open, his vision was not completely clear. Rather, it was cloudy, like he was engulfed in smoke. No, this wasn’t a simile; the room really was filled with smoke.
“No way, a fire!?”
Herscherik was about to fall into a state of panic, but in a brief moment, his state went past panic into being calm and collected.
This was the result of his previous life’s training. The area Ryouko lived in was prone to natural disasters, so Herscherik could easily recall, even now, the time she was in elementary school where the principal’s sincere scolding would come flying out of his mouth at the students who couldn’t care less about safety drills.
The always calm principal would strongly admonish the students lined up in the schoolyard.
“If there really was a fire this time, half of you students would be dead. If you can’t do it during practice, there’s no way you can do it during the real thing!”
He would make them redo the practice from the very beginning.
If they couldn’t reach the destination within the evacuation time limit, they had to do it again. If the principal find anyone unnecessarily chatting, everyone had to do it again. A satisfied smile finally appeared on the principal’s face when he saw the large number of students no longer uselessly chatting and now standing in a line formation. He gesticulated.
“As expected of my school’s students. Most certainly, all of you here will not be negligent when a real disaster hits.”
Thanks to such an elementary school experience, safety drills were the only thing taken seriously to this day.
If the lower grades were going to pointlessly chatter, the higher grades would warn them, so the lower grades accurately followed the higher grades’ example. The image of everyone cooperating in the safety drill was continually passed down from alma mater to the newer generation.
The composure Herscherik had cultivated from that time allowed him to regain himself, and he dropped down to the ground.
During a fire, smoke accumulates in the upper area of the room, meaning that breathable air would be in the lower half. He wanted to avoid inhaling in the smoke and falling unconscious at all costs.
Herscherik crawled on the floor and headed for the door.
When he finally reached it, it refused to move, as if something was holding it closed.
(No way. Was I set up?)
The question of who it could be didn’t even appear in his mind.
He had easily anticipated that someone would target his life. The person with the highest possibility was that Count Grimm.
Still on the floor, Herscherik looked at the pocket watch. It wasn’t that late at night yet.
(Was he aware that evidence was being gathered? …No, this would be too fast of a reaction.)
Besides, it was unthinkable that Kuro, who had managed to easily infiltrate the royal castle, would make such a mistake.
(Is this like a Driven into a corner; nothing left to do situation?)
The flames have already breached the middle of the room. Even if he tried to escape through the window, getting out by himself from the 3rd floor was impossible.
‘Do not leave this room.’
He recalled that man’s words.
He had said so. Therefore, Herscherik made up his mind to stay.
He grabbed the blanket, not yet burned, and used the pocket watch’s magic to create water.
He patted himself on the back for memorizing what kind of magic he could do with the pocket watch in this time of need.
The amount of water he could create by utilizing the wandering magical power was enough for a single drink, but definitely not enough to put out a fire of this degree. But, he could at least soak the blanket.
Herscherik wore the soaked blanket over himself and crawled over to the unburned area of the room with the least amount of flammable objects.
(Kuro, I’m waiting for you.)
Herscherik resolved himself; he placed the wet blanket near his mouth and curled up as tightly as he could while he waited.
But fiery hands were already creeping towards him.
By the time Kuro noticed the ruckus in the villa, he had already found the documents to be used for evidence.
There was a mountain pile of documentary evidence in the study he infiltrated.
He chose the best among them that followed Herscherik’s specifications and stuffed it in the inner pocket of his jacket. Infiltrating this mansion easier job than he had expected, with there being insufficient guards and no barrier. As he was about to leave, he looked out the window and saw the hill with the villa surrounded in a red light.
The instant he noticed this anomaly, Kuro immediately sprang into motion.
He threw open the window and jumped out without hesitation. He grabbed on to the branch of a nearby tree, swinging around it like a gymnast on a horizontal bar, and landed on top of it. He quickly pulled out his knife, stabbed the trunk, and jumped down.
Because the knife was still in the tree, his falling speed slowed, and he touched down on the ground, soundlessly. As soon as he landed, he rushed towards the hill with the villa. Weaving through the forest of trees, his speed didn’t drop in the slightest.
For a brief moment, the sound of something slicing through the air resounded.
Kuro hid behind a tree smoothly, as though it was simply reflex and he hadn’t heard that faint sound. In the next moment, two arrows, one after the other, pierced the tree’s trunk.
“To dodge this, as expected of the illustrious ‘Shadow Fang’.”
“…..Who are you?”
From behind the tree, Kuro scanned his surroundings, searching for the voice’s owner.
(How do they know I’m ‘Shadow Fang’?)
As if to mock the vigilant Kuro, a man appeared out from a tree’s shadow, tall, thin, and gloomy.
Kuro was certain he had seen this man before, several times in the underground guild, but it was only in passing, and they never talked to each other.
“Don’t make such a strange face. You’re already famous underground, y’know? They say that ‘Shadow Fang’ disappeared. Most of folks think that you’ve already kicked the bucket and stuff…Well, I thought so too….”
The man said and snorted.
“If I hadn’t gone and paid the information broker, I would’ve never noticed that the 7th prince’s primary butler and ‘Shadow Fang’ were one in the same. So, how’d you manage to weasel your way up there?”
His words were painted with envy. Envious that a man, who could only live underground, was now standing on the front stage.
(Tch, I should’ve silenced the information broker.)
Kuro silently clicked his tongue and revised his thinking.
The information broker will sell information as long as you provided money. They sold it fairly to anyone. It didn’t matter if the buyer was an aristocrat, an ordinary citizen, or a criminal.
“You gonna chase after me?”
“Nah, even I don’t have that much free time to do so. It’s just that another request told me to find and take you in. I didn’t know the full details, so I went and bought info from the information broker. Well, if the contents of the info were really true, then me and the client are gonna be in a pinch, so we struck a deal that I don’t gotta bring you in.”
Kuro wondered about how much confidentiality was being handled within this contract, but seeing his opponent break this rule revealed that he probably realized how dangerous of a situation he had put himself into.
While this had nothing to do with the Kuro of the present, it was still sickening to hear of this disloyalty.
(When I get back, I’ll have to erase all traces of ‘Shadow Fang’.)
Or else, it was quite obvious that this would bring misfortune to Herscherik in the distant future.
“So, my current employer just hired us to scare the folks here….Anyway, do you understand why I told ya this much?”
The man grinned broadly. Kuro also understood the meaning of this. He sensed several people surrounding him.
(They number 15, eh?)
Their weapons shone in the light of the moon.
“Our employer said that he wants that prince to disappear. The villa’s already a sea of flames. If we stall ya here or kill ya, we’ll get a special reward for it. I mean, if we can kill ‘Shadow Fang’, we’ll increase in value, y’know.”
The man was confident in his victory, but Kuro looked at him with emotionless eyes. This was the face he had whenever he did this kind of work.
“….You’re the ones who shouldn’t be underestimating.”
Was Kuro, the man once feared as ‘Shadow Fang’, purposely being submissive, allowing his opponents to run their mouths and surround him?
The only reason for him to do so was that he wanted information.
To identify the idiot who would do such a foolish thing.
“You know they say that dead men tell no tales.”
Now that Kuro had the information he wanted, these guys had served their purpose.
The emotionless Kuro scoffed.
This cruel smile was one that he would never show Herscherik.