“The newspapers are going to make a fuss over this.”
A man said. He seemed to be around fifty years old. He had a firm, barrel-like body.
“Well, it is astounding. Even I find this hard to believe.”
A voice answered him. It belonged to a man about half the age of the other one. They both wore grey hats of the same type. The hat of the middle-aged man was fittingly worn out, and the hat of the young man was brand-new. They were the kind of hats worn by the sheriffs of the Ismo Republic.
The two men were sheriffs working in Fulbeck City, Ismo Republic.
The middle-aged man was Moodly. The young man was Kalon.
It wasn’t yet night-time. Since they were standing in a street corner while it was drizzling and had no umbrellas, droplets of water trickled down the brim of their hats.
“It’s quite horrible.”
Moodly said. His eyes were unmoving from the corpse at his feet.
It was a woman. How long had she been left in the rain? Her soft silken slip-dress was as wet as if it had fallen into a river. Her flowing blood mixed with rainwater, dyeing the surroundings in a thin red.
The corpse had no head.
“It’s my first time… seeing a headless body. It’s just like some suspense movie.”
Kalon said. He saw the severed head at the edge of his vision. It was lying about three meters away. He stared at the face which became deathly pale.
“If this were a movie, we would be the leading actors, right?”
Kalon cracked a joke with a twisted voice.
“Stupid, we would obviously have only minor roles.”
Moodly retorted, his voice calm.
They both knew that corpse. They have seen her face countless of times. Sometimes she was an Armed Librarian. Sometimes she was an ancient queen. Sometimes she was a detective. Sometimes she was a thoughtless cheating wife. They have seen her displayed on the white screen among the hustle and bustle of the cinema countless of times.
Her name was Parney Parlmanta. There were no people who didn’t know her name in the movie capital of Fulbeck.
“Take a look at that wound.”
The two crouched down and looked into it.
“Do you see?”
“What am I supposed to see?”
Moodly pointed at the cut surface.
“Both flesh and bones were sliced off in a straight line.”
“The neck has some pretty hard bones. Even if someone tries to decapitate a person, they would have to use a saw or some heavy blade. In both cases, there would be some unevenness in the lines of the wound.”
“What does that mean?”
“Whoever killed her wasn’t a normal person. It was someone who can use Magic.”
“…So, does that mean some big organization is on the move?”
“Either some big-shots of the underworld or some national organization.”
“Perhaps… an Armed Librarian?”
The two locked gazes. Either way, it was not at a level they could handle. They had no training in Magic; they were normal people.
“Let us preserve the scene and leave it for Central Security.”
The two took sheets out of their government-sanctioned hopper car and covered the corpse. One for the body and one for the head.
When they finished preserving the site, Kalon went back to contact the authorities. Moodly stayed behind.
The middle-aged man stepped into the building’s shadow and took out a moist cigarette. Both the cigarette and his matchsticks became wet in the rain and were rendered useless.
Almost every murder case can be solved by excavating the corresponding Book. If they were able to find Parney’s Book they would probably immediately solve it all. Just as Moodly thought about this, he heard someone’s footsteps coming from behind.
“…Who is it!”
Moodly pulled out a pistol. He regretted his decision to stay behind.
If the criminal had also remained behind, he would become a target for them. Startled, he went closer for cover.
“Are you also looking for Lascall Othello?”
The person in front of him spoke. It was a man’s voice.
As he turned the gun’s muzzle to the man, Moodly saw him.
He had no face; the man wore a mask. That mask had no eyes or mouth. He couldn’t see in front of him… He shouldn’t have been able to see.
The faceless man carefully looked at Moodly. Moodly could feel that he was looking at him from beneath the mask.
“…A sheriff, huh. You arrived faster than I thought.”
The faceless man didn’t hold anything. However, Moodly could understand – he was on a different level. Even if he were to fight that man using a tank, it wouldn’t help at all.
But he was still a sheriff who served for many years. As such, he couldn’t do anything but try to apprehend the criminal. Moodly kept saying the same words although he knew it was meaningless.
“The sheriffs of this city are excellent. Worthy of praise.”
“O excellent sheriff. Unfortunately, this case will not be solved.”
Moodly instinctively replied.
“Because the case was just now solved. The death of this pitiful actress is the end of the incident.”
“…What do you mean?”
“She went searching in the darkness. She approached matters that mustn’t be touched upon. That pitiful woman received her punishment and lost her life.”
“…I don’t get it.”
The faceless man said.
“O excellent sheriff. You are tasked with protecting this city. You mustn’t explore the darkness. You should stay in the light.”
Saying this, the man departed.
“Good-bye. I pray for your good health.”
The faceless man turned around.
“Who is Lascall Othello?”
“…I will now give you a chance to take back your words.”
“I didn’t hear anything. I don’t know anything.”
As expected, the day after, newspapers were filled with articles about the murder of Parney Parlmanta. However, no matter where Moodly looked, he couldn’t find any information pertaining to the man known as Lascall Othello.
Eight years passed since then – enough time for the incident to be forgotten.
There was the smell of coffee in the air. Freshly brewed, hot, thin coffee. It helped awaken his body that became heavy with alcohol the previous night.
Who’s making it? Mattalast Ballory opened his eyes while thinking this. His daily routine was to boil water as soon as he woke up.
Holding his slightly aching head, Mattalast raised his body. Just as he did so, he heard the voice of a woman coming from the kitchen.
“Oh, are you awake, Matt?”
Oh, thought Mattalast. The voice he heard was well-known to him.
“Did you stay here, Hammy?”
Mattalast got off the bed as he scratched his head. He slipped his bare feet into shoes and headed for the kitchen.
“Sorry for intruding. Do you remember yesterday?”
Hamyuts said while tilting the pot of coffee. She tied her long hair in a ponytail so it wouldn’t interrupt with her work and wore an apron she pulled out of somewhere. She didn’t look like the world’s strongest warrior at all. She seemed nothing more than a sloppily-dressed housewife.
“Mmm, not really.”
“Didn’t we drink a bit after work yesterday? Your house was closer. Since it was troublesome going back, I stayed overnight.”
So that’s it, Mattalast thought as he reached the table. Hamyuts placed the steaming mug in front of him.
They were in Mattalast’s house at Bantorra Library’s downtown. In this unglamorous apartment made of white bricks, there were a slightly narrow kitchen, a study, a bedroom, a storage room and a living room. It was more or less of the size for one person to live in.
Generally speaking, Armed Librarians were highly paid. With someone near the top like Mattalast, he could afford a house ten times bigger, but he had no interest in it. He only thought about how bothersome it would be to clean it up.
The preparations for breakfast were mostly done. A pan was steaming on top of the gas stove and bread was heating up in the toaster. On the table was a salad made out of fresh vegetables with only vinegar and salt. Next to it were walnut butter and chocolate sauce.
“How much for the eggs?”
“Four minutes for two eggs.”
Staring at the clock’s second hand, Hamyuts put three eggs into the pan.
It’s been a long time since someone made breakfast for me, Mattalast thought.
Looking at Hamyuts’s chest, Mattalast raised his voice.
“What is it?”
“You don’t have your usual bunny.”
“It’s your shirt.”
Saying this, she laid a spoon and a butter knife in front of him. Now that she mentioned it, the shirt did seem bigger than her usual clothes.
“Hammy, wash it and return it to me later.”
Then, the toaster made a clank, and the slightly burned bread jumped out vigorously.
“The eggs are not done yet, but eat.”
Saying so, Hamyuts sat in front of Mattalast.
It has been two months since Mokkania’s revolt. It was a morning that was more boring than peaceful on Bantorra’s island.
“Come to think of it, what about her?”
Hamyuts started talking while stabbing her spoon in the soft-boiled eggs.
“Who do you mean?”
Several women rose to Mattalast’s mind.
“I don’t know her name, but she’s a normal librarian with blonde hair. Isn’t it bad if I’m here?”
Mattalast answered along with a sigh.
“We broke up. A long time ago.”
“So you can’t last long as usual.”
“Can’t be helped. I’m a liar after all.”
Mattalast smiled wryly.
“So you don’t have anyone right now?”
“I’ve hurt enough girls by now.”
“Stop screwing around.”
Hamyuts said with a fed-up expression.
After that, they haven’t conversed for a while. In that time, Mattalast ate one egg and a toast and finished half his coffee. Hamyuts was carefully eating around the shells stuck to the white of the egg.
Then, suddenly, Mattalast spoke in a low voice.
Hamyuts raised her face. He switched from “Hammy” to “Director”. That was not the name he gave to his old friend who was also his past lover. When he called her like that, their relationship became that of Bantorra Library’s Acting Director and her confidant.
Just a slight tinge of tension was mixed in her lazy-sounding voice.
“Did you think about Mirepoc?”
Hamyuts sighed as she placed the egg shells on top of the plate.
“You should eat slowly during breakfast.”
“Don’t think I’ve forgotten about it just because I’m so easygoing.”
Hamyuts took a sip of coffee.
“I told you to think about it overnight.”
Hamyuts’s relaxed facial expression changed. A cold light gleamed in her eyes and she gave off a ferocious feeling. It was her expression as an Acting Director that was normally seen by other Armed Librarians. The smells of the toast and coffee mixing together gave Mattalast the illusion of a smell drifting along to a carnivorous animal.
“Are you still hesitating?”
Hamyuts sighed with the coffee cup in her hand. That was also unusual – a predator hesitating.
Mattalast lowered his cup on the table and stood up, interrupting the meal. He headed for the terrace and looked outside the window.
“You know this, Director. Right now, Mirepoc is essential for us.”
Mattalast said. The face of that junior Armed Librarian rose to his mind.
“She probably hasn’t noticed her importance to us. She doesn’t know about it so she wouldn’t be in a position to direct our strategies.”
“Right. That girl seems to worry about the fact she isn’t really strong.”
“Really, she should leave those kinds of jobs to us.”
“You’re still young. Her, too.”
Mirepoc Finedell. She was a novice Armed Librarian who became nineteen this year. Hamyuts pulled her out from being an officer cadet of the Guinbex Imperial Army. She was a far too serious girl with a military temperament.
Her ability was that of Thought Sharing. If she knew the name and face of a person, she could freely send her thoughts to them. If the other party was also in possession of a Magic Right, they were also able to send back their thoughts like a telegraph. While that ability had no use in direct combat, it was extremely useful, just as Mattalast had said.
She had contributed from behind to scenes to the Dragon Pneumonia incident, the Monster incident, as well as Mokkania’s rebellion.
“Director. There’s no way you aren’t aware of how much we need her Thought Sharing ability. We cannot afford to lack Mirepoc in the upcoming battles.”
“…I’m well aware of that.”
Mattalast tried to keep talking, but Hamyuts took over the conversation.
“I know that ability is precious. And she’s one of the very few who have reached that level. Moreover, if she would acquire a battle strength that could be relied upon she would have no equals in this world.”
“Yeah. If we were talking about me, either you or Ireia would be able to replace me. We could probably find about two people of my class that could replace you. However, right now we can find no person to replace Mirepoc among the Armed Librarians.
We must never lose her.”
“I know all that.”
“I don’t want to let Mirepoc die like that. Order me, Director. Allow me to save her.”
“What you’re saying is true. We can’t afford to lose Mirepoc.
But if I have to choose…
I already gave up on Mirepoc.”
Hamyuts spoke in a cold, unwavering tone.
“The situation has already progressed to the point of no return. I think it would be fine if we had acted earlier, but it’s too late now.”
No rebuttal came from Mattalast.
Hamyuts said as if in condemnation.
“Since that girl approached this name, she can only die.”
Mattalast tired of looking for words of rebuttal. He already knew of the existence known as Lascall Othello. He completely understood the weight of Hamyuts’s words.
“I said that Mirepoc is a piece that we shouldn’t lose. But, Mattalast… for me, you are also a piece I don’t want to lose.”
“…You overestimate me, Director.”
“You don’t have to be humble. I also don’t want to lose Mirepoc. But if you were to fail in this mission…”
The atmosphere of a carnivore once again strengthened.
“I will have to kill you. I can’t do that.”
“…Are you abandoning Mirepoc?”
“Isn’t it fine? We’ve talked enough about this. It’s about time to give up.”
“This wasn’t really a discussion.”
Mattalast turned to face Hamyuts.
“I understand your position and your thoughts, Director. I understand but I’m still asking you.”
“Mirepoc’s my subordinate. Although you have brought her to us, I had my eyes on her and I trained her. Protecting her is my duty.”
Hamyuts scratched her head.
“Right, when you get stuck on something, you become completely stubborn. I got it. Go.”
“What is Mirepoc going to do?”
“She’s leaving in three days.”
“Fulbeck. She’s going to investigate the murder of Parney Parlmanta.”