Somehow, things were developing in an unpleasant direction.
Damon thought to himself, sensing the strange atmosphere that was spreading around the East. Of course, because he spent most of his time in the Alchemist Tower lately, he couldn’t help but be blocked off from the rumors outside.
The same could be said for the other alchemists as well, while he was in the tower, ‘that rumor’ never entered Damon’s ears.
But as soon as he returned to the Salvatore mansion, Demon was immediately exposed to the story circulating among the public.
It was truly a jaw dropping rumor.
Apparently, they claimed that the East’s great noble Salvatore family might be involved with heretics who were the prime suspects of the explosion incident.
Naturally, Damon’s father, the head of the Salvatore family, was furious. He fiercely blew his top, asking them to immediately find out what scoundrel was spreading this kind of rubbish rumor.
Still, the rumor was yet to circulate vigorously; it was just quietly passing around from mouth to mouth. And so, the Salvatores moved to silence the rumors right away.
It wasn’t anything else but heretics.
In the east where heretics were ostracized and oppressed, being falsely accused of having involvement with them was more than humiliating for the great noble Salvatore family.
However, if it was just humiliation, then that would have been better. In a way, the rumor was a bit of a threat. The hunt for heretics about 5 years ago had swept through the East violently.
The fact that the sister of the current head of the Crawford family, Selena, died during that time was implicitly known among the nobility. Therefore, no one would be pleased to be connected to heretics.
Still, the Salvatore family was a great noble family after the Crawford family so their position could not be shaken by this alone. Of course, apart from that, they couldn’t help but be in a foul mood because of the malice mixed into those rumors.
And today, which was a few days since then, Damon was feeling strange.
‘Why haven’t the rumors settled down even though some time has passed?’
The Salvatores had definitely instructed people to deal with the rumors but till now, they hadn’t seen much of a return.
Rather, as time passed, the rumors about the Salvatores and heretics seemed to grow bigger and bigger, like a snowball.
At this point, it wasn’t just about ignorant people gossiping, he had even heard suspicion that a rebellious force was moving behind the scenes, avoiding the eyes of the Salvatore family.
“Damon-nim, are you heading to the Alchemist Tower?”
“No. I have to go and check on the situation outside. Prepare the carriage.”
Instead of going to the Alchemist Tower, Damon decided to go the main street which was crowded with people. Of course, he got reports from time to time but he felt like he had to personally check how far the rumors had spread.
“Dammit, there’s already a mountain of things I have to deal with…”
He felt like his luck was bad this year. Somehow, it seemed like nothing was going well at all. Still, he hadn’t run into Genos Sheldon so there was one thing that wasn’t as bad as he thought.
Then suddenly, Damon remembered the person who was circling his mind some time ago.
‘Now that I think about it, that woman…’
He recalled the strange woman in black who had the philosopher’s stone and whom he met after chasing the butterfly last time.
‘Was she a heretic?’
At first, he thought she might be an alchemist but after hearing the announcement from the Central Council, he suddenly thought she might be a heretic.
Once the suspicious took place in his mind, he felt uneasy and began to wonder if things would get troublesome because he got needlessly involved.
‘The fact that she was walking around alone in the middle of the night, looking like that was suspicious too. She’s not the culprit behind the explosion or anything of the sort, right?’
Damon’s eyes narrowed as he walked down the stairs. He hurried his steps, wildly contemplating whether or not it would be good to tell this to Kalian Crawford, the person in charge of the case.
* * *
I reflexively greeted the person that entered the coffeehouse, then I paused.
“Khm, somehow, it has been a while.”
The person who came into the store was Damon. He looked at me, gave a fake cough for some reason and greeted me.
I returned his greeting without thinking much.
“Yes, it has really been a while. You must have been quite busy, right?
I’d already heard the rumors that the items used in explosions were made from alchemy so I thought Damon might be investigated as a member of the Tower. In addition, both Kalian and Genos seemed to be busy these days, so I figured Damon had probably busy too which is why I said that.
But for some reason, when Damon heard what I said, his shoulders suddenly shook like he was startled.
“That…it’s not an excuse, I’ve been very busy lately…”
His eyes even shook, and he began to stutter a long thread of words like he was trying to explain.
“I came to the front of the store some time ago but something happened and I couldn’t come inside so I just went back, I’m not lying, really…”
Seeing that, I tilted my head wondering why this person was suddenly acting like this. Then when he continued speaking, I abruptly realized.
It seemed Damon thought I was blaming him.
This was the first time I was meeting Damon like this after the explosion at the shopping mall happened. Of course, that was only in regards to an official meeting.
In the meantime, I had seen him once at an auction house but since I was hiding identity that time…
However, even if Damon was only coming to check on my condition now, I had no intention of claiming he was heartless or anything of the sort.
“Yes, I see. I didn’t know you came to the store.”
I felt like Damon would keep rambling on, so I cut him off in the middle and asked for his order.
At that, Damon sat down awkwardly and asked for a cup of coffee for now. Then when I was about to leave, he asked:
“That red-haired guy that was next to me last time, has he come to store?”
“Yes, he comes here often.”
At that, Damon’s face crumpled. Ignoring dissatisfied look on Damon’s face, I headed to the kitchen.
“…I’m right, aren’t I?”
“I think so. He came with a bouquet last time and definitely said his name was Damon Salvatore…”
Then I heard the people in the store whispering softly among themselves and glanced out of the kitchen.
I saw Damon idly folding the tissue on a table with slight annoyance on his face like a grouchy kid. Then I noticed a few people staring at him from a nearby table.
I had heard the rumors circulating around lately so I was also aware. It was a rather vicious rumor that tied the Salvatores and Heretics together.
But not long ago, when Damon kept coming to the coffeehouse to make romantic pledges to me…
It seemed there were people in here who remembered his face from when he proudly revealed his name. The perception of heretics among the public wasn’t very good so naturally, the rumors concerning the Salvatores were not good.
Of course, I didn’t think it was at the point where I needed to worry yet, but I felt like it would be dangerous if things kept going at this rate.
Damon’s face also stiffened slightly, as though he could hear the whispering in the store.
A while later, he gulped down the coffee I brought for him and stood up from his seat.
“You never know so for a while, be careful when you go to places with a lot of people.”
Damon seemed to think another terrorist incident might happen so he gave a brief word of caution then left the store.
Maybe it was because he was busy today or maybe it was due to the whispering of the people around but he didn’t say very long in the coffeehouse unlike what I expected.
And after a while, another customer arrived and came looking for me.
“Yuri! I came to see you today!”
The one who entered the coffeehouse was Bastian. Today was the first time I was seeing him since we had dinner at the Crawford mansion a few days ago.
“It’s been a while since you came to the store. There’s a seat over there.”
“Okay, can you bring me a cup of tea? Anything is fine with me.”
Bastian told me his order as he smiled with an expression like he was very wide awake today.
To think 2 nobles would stop by the store, one after the other.
I thought it was fortunate that Mr. Gilbert was currently away for a bit due to personal reasons.
I brought Bastian the ginger tea he seemed to really like when he came the other day.
“I have to apologize for last time, I couldn’t even say goodbye when you left. I drank a little too much.”
“Not at all. I was a little worried, but you look very healthy today so I’m relieved.”
“Haha, is that so? Somehow, I feel like I have a lot of energy these days too.”
Sure enough, Anne-Marie’s treatment was effective; Bastian’s face definitely looked much brighter.
“Right. Is your work still okay?”
“Yes, my working hours have even gone down nowadays.”
“By the way, where’s the store owner? Did he leave you to do everything and go out to enjoy himself?”
“No, he said he had to something came up, so he had to step away for about 2 hours today.”
Like that, he and I engaged in some small talk.
However, I couldn’t spend a long time with him because it was a busy hour and the customers were pouring into the store.
Bastian stared at me as I walked around the store while opening and closing his mouth like he had something to say to me. Seeing him like that, I began to wonder if he came here to tell me what Kalian had blocked him from saying at the dinner.
“Then, I’ll get going now. See you again on Friday.”
However, Bastian eventually got up with regret on his face, like he couldn’t find the right timing.
“There are a lot of terrible things outside lately so stay away from crowded places! That said, it’s secluded here so it’s probably okay…”
Before leaving the store, Bastian clicked his tongue and left words of concern like Damon earlier.
The coffeehouse is secluded so it’s safe in a way.
He didn’t say it directly but considering the atmosphere in the East lately, it was obvious that Bastian was speaking with the explosion in mind.
After all, the unknown culprit only installed explosions in places with a lot of people.
It was something Gilbert also said from time to time, but I wondered if Gilbert would have been a little offended as the store owner if he had seen Bastian looking around the store like it was unreliable.
And after a good while, it was Anne-Marie’s turn to show up in front of me.
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