I accepted Eduard-oniisama’s request for cooperation almost immediately.
To that end, I asked him to spill everything without hiding anything, and I also decided to confess everything.
If I were to fight the Golden Wolf seriously, I couldn’t keep secrets from my friends.
And I suggested to my brother to get help from as many people as he can, not just me.
The next night.
The people involved in the series of incidents gathered in the reference room of the Association of Mysterious Story Collectors.
Starting from the people involved last night: me, Chloe, Eduard-oniisama, and Harlan.
And Beatrice, who is as likely to be a victim as much as I am.
Klaus, Auguste, and Harold, who have been very involved in my life.
Brad and Actorius-sensei, who share a lot of information with my brother.
Tirnanog, who will be introduced in this discussion, and last but not least, Palug.
By the time I arrived at the reference room, everyone was already present and I took my seat in the chair I had brought in the day before.
Then, the evening gathering of these twelve people commenced.
The organizer, Eduard-oniisama, stepped forward in front of everyone and straightened his posture.
“Thank you for joining us tonight. The purpose of this time is to help each other by sharing information and knowledge in order to overcome certain… difficulties we are currently facing. We ask for your cooperation.”
Once my brother finished his brief speech and bowed his head, a round of applause rose from the audience.
“Starting tonight, all conversations in this room will be recorded. If you have any questions you would like to ask later, please direct it to me.”
With that said, my brother placed a Historio Electrum on the side table next to the sofa.
It may have already started recording.
“Everyone in attendance this evening must disclose all secrets. If you are not in agreement, you may rise now.”
I waited for a while, but no one stood up.
“It seems everyone is in agreement. Then, let’s start with Sir Harlan. That will be the quickest way to explain the series of incidents and the beginning of the causes that influenced the outcomes we have faced.”
Prompted by my brother, Harlan stood up.
And that night, the first confession began.
The Margrave of Urs, Harlan Lucanrant, took off his mask and looked around.
Upon seeing his face, everyone, apart from those present last night, drew a sharp breath.
“Well, I’m sure you are surprised to see my face.”
Harlan had a much cleaner look than last night.
He smiled and began his explanation of what happened so far.
About how he became a vampire hunter when he met Sigríður and Bort.
And how the Werewolf Massacre Incident caused him to kill a relative of the former royal family in the North.
About being forced to kill Sigríður in exchange for Claude’s capture.
Claude’s escape from his long-term imprisonment.
Entering the academy in search of clues.
And about the kidnapping case on All Souls Day, his attempt to duplicate this reference room, and the rebellion of the Military Order of Útför.
“…That’s why I have no choice.”
Harlan looked down and smiled self-deprecatingly, only the corner of his mouth in an upturn.
“Just how can I help him…no, I haven’t even been able to find the reason Claude-sama became that kind of monster, nor the reason behind such violence.”
“Sir Harlan, let me talk about that. From here on, it’s my turn to confess.”
Eduard-oniisama closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and opened them once more.
“Let’s see…for me, I guess the beginning was when I inherited the wands from my mother.”
My older brother’s story which I knew nothing about begun.
He told us about the memories of his childhood with mother and Brad, his childhood friend.
About the reason he became interested in mysteries.
His enrollment in Lindis, his encounter with Actorius-sensei and Claude.
A tale of brilliant adventures and friendships during his boyhood era.
And then, about mother’s sudden death.
The legacy inherited from mother, along with the complicated and mysterious life of mother behind it.
“Who was my mother? And what exactly did she live to fight against? Before I knew it, I was following the same path as her. Then, that incident happened.”
A violent incident in Lindis Magic Academy that occurred shortly before the Werewolf Massacre Incident.
It was the case where three boys were assaulted and tortured in the morgue of the headless prince.
The name of the criminal who ran away after the crime was Claude Lucanrant.
—And the names of the victims were Eduard Aurelia, Brad Clochydd, and Elric Actorius.
I remember hearing about the incident from Lièvre.
The people involved were my brother and his friends.
After that, the victims of that incident spoke in turn about that day.
Claude seemed to have investigated the morgue of the headless prince in advance via Dolores, the artificial spirit.
On the day of the incident, he drew Eduard-oniisama’s interest with the kind of stories and tricks my brother seems to like, for example, by casually showing him a certain diary with hidden characters in it, and called him out to the basement.
Actorius-sensei fainted due to a sudden hit.
And the basement was relocated and sealed off using the corpse of the Golden Wolf Prince.
“I regained consciousness as Brad evacuated to the labyrinth and Eduard was tortured by Claude.”
Actorius-sensei fought Claude to protect my brother.
The two of them exchanged blows inside that room.
Claude too, delivered some terrifyingly vicious blows, constantly regenerating and reinforcing himself.
“Claude enjoyed our fight due to actually having damaged himself in the process, but he looked sad. Not only that, he seemed like he was about to cry. Like a child about to cry because he had nowhere to go. I was exchanging blows with him, who had that kind of expression, with the intent to kill. I couldn’t count how many times I wanted to stop and ask him for explanation.”
A drop of tear shimmered in the corner of Actorius-sensei’s eyes.
Harlan was silently watching him.
I could see his hands trembling slightly.
I can’t guess whether it was due to his pity for Claude, who was imprisoned for such a long time, or his anger at himself who couldn’t save him.
I glanced at Chloe who was sitting next to me.
She had been wanting to know the facts about her household and her older brother’s case.
Chloe was just listening quietly, dignified and straight-backed.
“I was gradually able to drive him into a corner. Just as I thought I could win as long as I kept at it, Claude turned the headless prince into a meat-shield. The fact that I pierced that corpse threw me into a state of disorientation, and then Claude used that chance to seize the upper-hand.”
At that point, apparently Actorius-sensei thought the curse would infect him.
It’s not unreasonable for him to get disoriented.
“He attacked me using that chance, and sadly, I was defeated by Claude. That’s when he came back.”
Actorius-sensei stared at Brad.
“I wanted help them, even if it meant going against Ed’s wishes, who had done everything he could to protect me.”
Brad took over the explanation of the events that happened after Actorius-sensei collapsed.
Brad, who was able to get away to the ruins of the Fourth Corpse City Annwn because of my brother, was said to have turned back driven by the bad feelings he had.
However, in the battle within that small space that followed, he lost his advantage to Claude in the blink of an eye and was about to be killed.
Brad frowned regretfully.
I think that couldn’t be helped.
Brad’s researcher temperament is at disadvantage against Claude, who seems to be a genuine combat enthusiast.
Moreover, Eduard-oniisama who had lost consciousness was restrained, and Actorius-sensei had his Nails pulled out.
On top of the fact that it was a close-combat battle which was disadvantageous to mages, he also had to protect two people who were incapacitated.
Brad continued his words after a brief pause.
“‘You should know well why I’m about to kill you, right?’ That is the last conversation I had with him.”
However, Claude suddenly left the labyrinth without killing Brad.
From that point, Claude went missing until he appeared in Lucanrant on the day of the Werewolf Massacre Incident.
“I knew why I should be killed.”
“No human deserves to be killed, Brad.”
When my brother denied Brad’s words, a complicated expression fleeted across Brad’s face.
“I will tell you the truth about my birth, otherwise you wouldn’t understand why Claude said that.”
Brad turned away from my brother and looked around at us.
Then, the facts were listed in a straightforward manner.
About the fact that he was a descendant of the First Prince of Ignitia at that time—the elder brother of the current King of Ignitia.
He was kidnapped along with his parents during his fetal stage and received some kind of treatment through sorcery from vampires.
After that, the First Princess Eléonore died in an attempt to reclaim Brad.
“That ‘treatment’ was a spell to take the soul out of the remnant of the Mad King and embed it into a living human being.”
The sound of hitched breaths could be heard in the room.
“In other words, I was selected as the new vessel of Cain, the Mad King, and the soul of the Mad King was embedded in me as a curse.”
Brad’s smile twitched as if he was having a cramp.
I could feel the hostility rising from the northerners and easterners to the point of having goosebumps.
Meanwhile, Actorius-sensei and my brother quietly accepted the confession of their longtime friend.
“Well, that’s why I should be killed, is there any objection?”
“Claude’s judgement … certainly makes sense. So Claude wasn’t crazy at that time, huh. I feel a little bit relieved.”
Uh, I know it’s logical to nip the risks in the bud early, but that was a terrible decision.
To kill a human who is not even a vampire yet at an early stage.
“The information he got was right and his judgement was sound. If you want to better this world, the quickest way is to destroy me.”
Brad’s matter-of-fact words sent the place into deathly silence.
My brother walked up to Brad and grabbed him by the shoulder.
“I will never forgive anyone who hurt my friend. Brad, it doesn’t matter who you are.”
“Ed, you’re as carefree as ever. I hope you remain carefree forever.”
The two glared at each other.
After a while, my brother turned his face away, perhaps giving in to Brad.
When the two separated, Auguste asked Brad a question.
“Why didn’t you try to use the miracle of the angel of Ignitia for yourself…?”
“I’m not worthy of paying the price for a miracle. Older accounts say that the condition for buying a miracle is to be human.”
Hearing Brad’s confession, Auguste’s expression turned vacant.
I stroked Palug’s throat.
She purred as if affirming Brad’s words.
That means the contract ritual is the only sure way of determining whether one is a vampire or not, huh.
“Certainly, no human deserves to be killed. But I’m no longer human in the strict sense of the word, right?”
Brad looked at my brother with a sad expression.
My brother opened his mouth as if to argue but bit his lips.
Auguste stood up.
The chair he was sitting on fell with a loud noise.
It was a movement devoid of any grace, which was rare for Auguste.
“Professor, but then, all this time what you’ve been teaching me was how to fight and destroy you…?”
“Auguste…I told you that I don’t believe in God, angels, or miracles…but that was just an excuse.”
Brad’s situation is much worse than we think.
“I want to believe in miracles, angels, and gods, and I still want to cling to that belief. But…I’m not qualified to be loved by such beings.”
Surprisingly, Brad’s expression was extremely gentle.
However, that gentle expression made me feel ominous.
“Didn’t I just say it? I can’t even meet the conditions to buy a miracle anymore.”
Auguste ‘only’ couldn’t ride a dragon, but that scandal alone was enough to shake the whole Ignitia.
There’s no way of telling what will happen if the fact spreads that a person of royal blood might become the Mad King.
This is why Brad Clochydd was hidden from public.
“Our confession is over. That is about everything regarding the Golden Wolf from the past to the present… If you have any questions, ask away.”
Eduard-oniisama looked around and said so.
Everyone seemed confused about what to ask.
Well, that’s understandable.
Even I have yet to fully swallow the confession of my brother and Brad.
Because they have that kind of past.
“This is not really a question, but… can I still speak up, Oniisama?”
“What is it, Erica?”
I wanted to talk a little bit with my brother about the violence in the morgue of the headless prince.
“At that time, to think that you were involved in such an incident and was seriously injured… I, I really didn’t know anything!”
“Naturally, I can’t tell something like that to a seven-year-old child you know.”
“T-that’s true, but…”
After all, I couldn’t say anything to that.
But it was a shock to me that I didn’t even realize my brother was injured.
“Claude’s torture was very sophisticated. It was a torture full of compassion.”
A torture full of compassion, huh?
Perhaps it means the violence had been controlled and adjusted just enough so that it would be possible to recover.
“Fortunately, my injuries were the mildest, so I was able to recover completely in about two weeks, but Elric…”
My brother and Brad looked anxiously at Actorius-sensei.
“It’s okay. After the incident in Knot Reed, I put the Nails back in my body and I’ve recovered a lot since then.”
Actorius-sensei laughed with an expression as if nothing had happened.
I know from Actorius-sensei’s state in the Snowsilver Cave that this is not the case at all, so it pains my heart.
Isn’t it one of the incidents that changed Actorius-sensei’s life decisions?
“By ‘Nails’ you mean the Nails of the southern continent? And isn’t the true King’s nails called the Holy Nails?”
When Auguste asked, Actorius-sensei nodded quietly.
This Holy Nail is not the Nail that weaponized giants, instead it is a magical tool that reconstruct the user’s body into a body that cannot be eroded by vampires.
It is a treatment that should be received by the kings and aristocrats of Gigantia.
“And the Actorius family is the oldest lineage that deals with sorcery, and the one who performs this treatment. They shouldn’t be the one on the receiving end, right?”
“You know the situation in the South well.”
“The Actorius family, a chief vassal to the royal family of Gigantia, struck Holy Nails into the King, gave him a pseudonym, and exiled him to keep him away from the civil war.”
“In other words, aren’t you the legitimate successor of the royal family of Gigantia?”
Actorius-sensei nodded to Auguste’s conclusion.
The audience burst into murmurs.
“As expected, Your Highness. If you line up the evidence, this matter is as clear as day.”
Actorius-sensei smiled quietly.
“It was a painful time in my life, but I was saved. It was my beloved friends who saved me. Thanks to them, I can accept my happiness now. That’s why I can’t forgive myself for not being able to stop Claude at that time.”
Actorius-sensei hung his head down in regret.
Silence descended in the room.
This is also a ridiculously heavy information.
Everyone is doing their best to digest it.
I’m still desperately swallowing it.
Harlan raised his hand to break the long silence.
“How did Claude-sama know who would be the vessel of the Mad King?”
“There was evidence of Claude receiving a package from someone just before the incident.”
Harlan’s question was answered by my brother.
The package had already disappeared from the dormitory by the time my brother and his friends, who had been treated, began their investigation.
“I thought Claude took it when he returned to the North, but was it not in his possession?”
When Actorius-sensei asked, Harlan shook his head.
“The only suspicious thing among Claude-sama’s belongings was the red leather notebook.”
“The one he used to call us to the Morgue?”
“You mean this notebook, right? Before I came to this magic academy, it was sent to me by an unknown sender.”
Chloe took out the notebook from her bag.
The moment he looked at it, my brother’s expression became stiff.
“…More importantly, who sent it to his sister’s hands?”
“That would be me.”
Harlan raised his hands.
“Why did you give her that?”
“Since it originally belonged to Claude-sama, it should be owned by his closest relative. Am I wrong?”
Is that really okay? Even though it is a ‘suspicious notebook’ written by a relative who was considered to have gone mad?
No, the people of the North have the protection of the snowsilver ore.
They probably don’t care about some monstro.
“Sir Harlan, weren’t you trying to isolate her from Claude?”
“When Chloe-sama was a child, I blocked information about the Golden Wolf from her, but at her present age, it’s a different story.”
Harlan looked at Chloe.
“Blocking information will only deprive Chloe-sama of her thoughts. People who do not think with their own head are powerless. That’s why I wanted to leave it as an option for Chloe-sama, whether to explore the past or to get rid of it.”
Chloe nodded quietly.
She stared at her notebook.
By the time we talked up to this point, it was already midnight.
Brad looked at the clock and opened his mouth.
“It’s too late for the students. Why don’t we continue again tomorrow?”
“No, wait a minute. I want to hear information about another important person.”
My brother said so and stared at me.
“Well then… you’re up next, Erica.”
It’s finally my turn.
There are things that will be difficult to talk about, but I have to do my best.
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