Part 1 Collapse of Ciel-Terra
[1-17] Learning by compulsion is not allowed
Translation by Glass
Earl Keeley immediately dispatched troops to the strange room that Iris had accidentally discovered.
The results of the autopsy concluded that the two corpses found had been affected by the spell 『Bind』 and killed by 『Poison』.*
*T/N: These are the katakana readings, the kanji used are:
Bind - restricting bondage
Poison - poison dye
At first it merely seemed to be a bizarre magical murder incident but further investigation by the Earl's men revealed more surprises one after another.
First, illegal chemicals and black market goods were seized from a room in the apartment house with the two corpses.
Next, the room itself was leased under the name of a non-existent merchant.
Furthermore, the dead men themselves were adventurers hired by Night Python to perform subversive activities such as sabotage, investigation, violent assignations and sometimes even assassination.
No one knew why the two men had died. It was a possibility that they had committed a blunder in their line of work and were thus taken care of, but there was no concrete evidence.
In any case, accounting for the fact that they established a base near the castle, then it is almost certain that they were preparing an attack on the Earl's household.
And from that room came another important clue.
The murdered man seemed to have left a dying message written with the last vestiges of his strength. Written on the floor from blood that had been vomited out, were the words 『Golden Bird Back Door Hidden Room』. It had been concealed under the dead body.
The Earl, who recognized this as an important clue, once again sent out soldier to the Golden Bird and found Night Python's base...... filled with corpses.
Night Python had established a base of activity in plenty of cities, but the Earl had learned of and kept control over the El Taref branch. However, that base had been in fact just a dummy whilst the base in Golden Bird was the real thing.
It was not known why everyone had been killed. All that was evident was that there was a raid done by multiple sorcerers. Could it be internal strife? An assault from a competing criminal organization? An attack from someone who carried a grudge against Night Python?
Anyhow, a lot of information regarding Night Python was gleaned from the order slips, writings, letters and other correspondence left behind.
While the base annihilation incident is left a mystery, the operation to eliminate Night Python had advanced to the next stage.
The first men that Iris (Rene) attacked with her 『Inhumane and Violent Interrogation』 had 『cooperatively testified』 that they received the order to set up a base there for the time being, after which they were to receive orders from Night Python one by one. In other words, they were not only unaware of Night Python's main purpose but also did not know the whole plan.
When she had followed the men, she had been disappointed to find that empty place that was obviously only a temporary residence, but letting them remain free until they made contact resulted in a bingo.
Tracking them by tracing their emotions, Iris arrived at the hidden base in the Golden Bird.
Then, after waiting for nightfall, Iris snuck out of bed and became a ninja.
By the way, after killing those two, Iris had, of course, fabricated the dying message.
It might have been a little unnatural, but she had managed to inform and guide the Earl.
Before going to sleep, Iris read a memo in bed summarizing the progress of the operation, and cracked an evil smile.
Benedict had written the memo. Since she had to be Miss Catherine during the day, she had no opportunities to talk to her friends. But Benedict had complained that it would be bad for Iris, working as her double, to not know of the general situation, thus they had been given permission by the Earl. So for now, it came with a 『Burn After Reading』 warning attached.
With this state of affairs, Iris might end up finding what she was looking for as long as she supported the Earl in secret...... perhaps.
This time around, Iris had managed to reach the core of the issue in the shortest route possible, but she wouldn't always be able to do this.
Her liege, Earl Keeley, would have the personal connections and the information network that she, the strongest undead, didn't have. Especially since it would be difficult to collect information from both the remote areas and across such a wide range, no matter how much magic she possessed. Therefore it should be fine to let the Earl make up for her weak points.
—— Furthermore...... The head honcho in charge of this territory had not been inside the city. Could it be that they dare not reside in the city since it is right under the Earl's nose?
Either way, it would be hard for Iris to get involved, especially with the remote locations. Her emotion sensing can't even reach the range of a high-powered radar. For the time being, she'll have to leave it to the Earl and his underlings to do the running about and investigations.
That said, what else could Iris do now?
——The Informant. I suppose I should look for him in here. After all, the viable range for my emotion sensing is just about perfect here.
It'll be fine to leave the guild staff informant for later, yesterday's J-whatever-his-name-was, said that the upper echelons of Night Python may be planning to resume contact with the serving staff informant. Could she be able to tell the Earl that he's the suspicious element here?
If this were the case, then her current working scope is the castle.
It can be done while she's on standby as the shadow double.
* * *
Although it is said she has become Catherine's shadow double, Catherine's daily life itself was almost the same as usual.
Except that, within this period that Iris is on active duty as the double, each day within the castle, two schedules for Catherine are drawn up.
Which schedule that the real one follows, and which schedule that Iris had to follow, the Earl himself will decide every morning. And all the while, Iris herself will live as Catherine.
Her hair is dyed orange with 『Color Spray』 magic and face lightly dusted with makeup.
And then to even wear the same clothes, of course the girl in the mirror becomes as alike as two peas in a pod with Lady Catherine herself.
There are to be no differences in treatment between the real one and the fake, all employees are to treat them as 『Lady Catherine』 no matter which one they encounter.
Iris couldn't really tell whether this procedure would accomplish anything, but as long as she worked exactly as instructed, if any problem should arise it would be the Earl's responsibility.
Of course, it was naturally Iris' job if the task involves appearing in front of the general populace.
『Besides, there's no need for you to talk』 was the Earl's quip regarding this matter. At this point in the job's duration there are no plans so far that involved that particular aspect, but simply having the shadow double available just in case such a contingency happened was enough to give the Earl some peace of mind.
Her life as Catherine was actually quite busy.
First of all was study. As part of her essential education, she learns grammar, geometric mathematics, art and sociology from a tutor.
Next comes her training as a future bride. These were general household skills such as embroidery, needlework and cooking. For the time being, she is at the level of an elementary school economics class, but already able to do cleaning and laundry. While normally such tasks are entrusted to servants, she must be capable of doing the same tasks on her own.
Such was the daily life of aristocratic girls living in Ciel-Terra.
Although it was given that 『you won't know what kind of household situation you're going to marry into』, it was actually either 『It's only natural to be able to do this』 or 『It's embarrassing if I can't do it』 or possibly both that greatly contributed to reinforcing this tradition.
Iris had lived to adulthood in her previous life, but she had only lived for ten years within this world. While she had read and learned as much as she could about the present society, in truth she was really grateful for the grammar and social science classes.
Incidentally, no matter what she did her knowledge, scholastic ability and proficiency level could not be faked, so the tutors ended up in the position of knowing which is which.
"...... Marvelous. Lady Iris, you might be a math genius."
In a study room with one blackboard and one desk. Iris was praised by the Geometry Math teacher who had been hired solely for her lessons.
Iris called him 『Mozart』 in her mind because the hair on the sides of his head were rolled up. It is a student's special privilege to give teachers a strange nickname since time immemorial.*
*T/N: lit. Since the creation of the heavens and earth.
Solving a math problem that, by Japanese standards was at the junior high level, had earned her high praise, but Chojiro had graduated from university in his previous life. Of course it was a given that she could solve any question at that level, but to be so impressive in Mozart-sensei's eyes did sting a little.
"By the way Lady Iris, you're a magician aren't you? The truth is, I also teach magic. Unfortunately, Lady Catherine did not have the talent for it, so her study of magic ended at theory and the basics."
"He~h, is that so?"
What an unexpected factoid. So Mozart-sensei is a magic user.
If it counts for anything, she felt that music still suited him better.
In fact, the theory of magic was also an indispensable part of aristocratic culture (although, only those with talent could actually practice it). Catherine can't practice magic because she doesn't have the talent for magic, and thus it had been taken out of her schedule since her study of the theory was over and done with.
"Pardon me for asking, but how high is teacher's magic?"
"In terms of levels that adventurers often use, my mastery of the basic arts is at level 2 while my fire elemental mastery is at level 1. Oh no, it's quite embarrassing. For me to teach the first steps in using magic this is ample enough for me to be careless about it. What about you, Lady Iris?"
"My water and wind mastery is at level 3. And a bit for the others."
"Oh my, that is quite an admirable achievement for your age."
For the sake of convenience, the degree of difficulty in learning all magic had been standardized into 『Levels』.
It meant, up to what level of magic are you able to use, and a barometer to measure one's true abilities.
Mozart-sensei's practical ability is only at the level of 『pretty good for an amateur』.
And his opinion of 『Iris』's ability was that it was 『quite incredible that it's already that level at your age and nothing to be ashamed about』.
Even so, to have growth potential accompanying such talent could mean great success in the future. He would need to keep an eye on Iris* in the future.
*T/N: Original text said Rene, but it doesn't make sense because he only knows her as Iris.
Actually, the ability of the person within is......『at par with the strongest magician of the human race at present, and estimated to grow even stronger in the future』. Of course it would still be tough to use any high-level magic, but what it simply means is that there is no such thing as 『magic so complex it would be impossible to use』. The only restriction is the type of magic that is impossible for her to use, such as sacred magic.
"If it's no trouble at all, I'd like to see a little bit of Lady Iris' magic."
"Of course. However, since Lady Catherine can't use magic, if I show any indication of using magic I'll be instantly discovered to be the fake."
"Oh, that is true. I'm very sorry."
Mozart-sensei laughed apologetically.
Since they've already touched on the topic, currently the entire castle was wrapped in a ward that protected against detection and information gathering magic laid out by a team of magicians under their employ. The only thing left to worry about is low-tech eavesdropping.
——Well, I should be worried about that but...... maybe it would be good if I activate my emotion detection already.
It's quite possible that even now the informant would be spying on Iris' movements, trying to figure out and ascertain the difference between the real and the fake.
To solve that problem, Iris gradually expanded the range of her emotion detection little by little.
There's no one in the spots where one can eavesdrop. Only gray emotions like those of tired salarymen on overtime flowed from the servants coming and going through the corridor.
——I guess the odds are low that I'd catch anything here. Maybe I should widen the range even more......
Was what she thought at the time.
Suddenly, Iris felt that the alertness of someone in the immediate vicinity rose sharply.
——What's that? Who's there?!
What she thought just now was simply a nondescript reaction, quickly turned into nerve-crackling alertness. It was like a regular employee comfortably plodding along a corridor that suddenly encountered a director in front of them.
She wondered if they had met the Earl, but she didn't feel any other reaction.
Whoever it was didn't give any indication if they saw or met anyone, but they headed straight for the study room that Iris is in.
——Are they coming to me to narrow down where I am? Plus it's an unnaturally negative reaction to me.......
While waiting, she pulled her emotions together and presently, a refrained knock sounded at the door.
"Come on in."
Mozart-sensei called out, and a lone male servant came in.
While he had no especially defining features, the young man carried a slightly timid demeanor.
"I've brought the textbook and materials for the geometry class."
"Thank you for your trouble."
He dropped the triangular and semi-circular panels that he had been holding on top of the teacher's desk.
Those were rulers for drawing figures on blackboards that were pretty common in school.
Then he bowed and thanked both the teacher and Iris properly.
However, the emotion he exuded while he looked in Iris' direction were peculiar. That negative vigilance seemed to burn even stronger.
The man exited the room, but he paused for a few seconds after leaving the room, after which the sound of his footsteps died as he went away.
"Sensei, who was that just now?"
"Oh that was Diaz. He's been assisting me a lot lately. He mentioned that he wanted to 『deepen his knowledge with age』 so, he's been teaching himself while helping me."
"Is that so......"
――No way...... Could it be this guy?
It's suspicious. Too suspicious. While there's nothing wrong to suddenly want to better yourself academically, when considered together with his emotional reaction it stinks too much.
"Uhm, sensei. Please excuse me, I'd like to go for a bathroom break......"
"Please go ahead, but be careful. Remember, when you leave this classroom, you are 『Lady Catherine』, aren't you."
T/N: I said I would post after a few days, but this chapter was much longer than I thought, sorry it took so long!
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