“There’ll likely be a noticeable difference this time.”
Instantly, Bastian’s gaze changed slightly. He studied Kalian’s face then he promptly asked.
“You, are you in touch that Selena’s knight, the prophet or whatever he’s called?”
Kalian slightly furrowed his brows.
“I know who you are talking about, but neither of those two titles are suitable for him, Grandfather.”
“Who cares. You understood it anyways.”
Kalian didn’t reply to that and chose to withdraw at this point.
“I will inform you later. Then, please get some rest.”
Kalian left the greenhouse first and Bastian’s narrowed eyes remained staring in the direction he had left for a while.
* * *
Kalian stopped by the gallery before leaving the mansion again. As soon as he opened the door, the first picture ‘that portrait’ came into his sight.
A woman smiling beautifully, draped in a gorgeous dress decorated with jewels.
She was loved by everyone in the Crawford family and if she was currently alive, Genos Sheldon would be serving her as a knight…
But as of now, she had already vanished into thin air. She was the youngest daughter of Bastian from earlier and to Kalian, she was his aunt whose age didn’t vary much from his.
This portrait was painted more than 10 years ago, and shortly after, Selena was scarred in a fire and lost her former appearance. So the Selena in Kalian’s memory had a very different appearance from this portrait. Which is why he didn’t immediately think of Selena when he first saw Yuri.
But looking at it again, they really did look alike. Of course, even if that was the case, he doubted there was any other connection between the two of them…
After a while, Kalian turned away from the portrait and left the gallery. He had work to do for now, so he had to focus on that.*
* * *
Later that evening, Lakis and Yuri sat at the table, eating dinner. But for some reason, Lakis’ hand had stopped moving while he merely stared at Yuri.
Lakis’ gaze was focused on where Yuri’s flowing hair swayed over her shoulders. Feeling the pair of eyes following her, Yuri paused. Soon her hand touched the white ribbon on her head, which Anne-Marie had personally helped her put on at the coffeehouse.
“I’m trying it out, is it weird?”
She hadn’t thought much about it so far but since Lakis kept staring, she strangely felt a little awkward.
Hearing what she said, Lakis shook his head. Then his lips parted, and a low voice flowed out.
“It looks great on you.”
At that moment, Yuri’s gaze changed slightly.
Surely it was just her imagination but…
Oddly enough, sometimes when Lakis said something and he was looking at her, she felt there was something strange about his gaze.
It was the same feeling now.
Yuri tilted her head and looked at Lakis. And as soon as their eyes met, his eyes crinkled beautifully as he smiled. Yuri’s suspicion grew a little more. She didn’t know when she suddenly began to have doubts that weren’t there before.
Maybe it was because she remembered that other day, when she clung to him and even hugged him, instead of pulling away, he hugged her even tighter.
Yuri felt her mood turning a little strange, then she looked away from Lakis and her hand began moving again.
Somehow, the atmosphere that evening was a little different from other evenings.
* * *
“What? Kalian Crawford?”
Damon was listening to the report then he heard an unexpected name.
“I knew someone would go looking for Genos Sheldon but Kalian Crawford? Why is that guy out there?”
“From what I know, he was dispatched to investigate a missing persons case.”
Hearing that, Damon quickly understood.
‘So it’s because of the major disappearances or whatever that has been going on lately.’
Everyone was hush-hush about it, but he’d heard there were even some nobles children among the missing people. Well, it made sense for them to send Kalian personally since it got to that extent.
Can’t expect less from those obvious people.
A crooked smile emerged on Damon’s face. He put the paper he was reading down on his desk, then he drummed his fingers on the armrest of his chair.
Damon looked like he was mulling something over for a while, then he soon uttered a new command.
“You, follow Kalian Crawford.”
“Gasp, are you asking me to tail him?”
“Wow, this little—! It’s an investigation. A very official one, at that.”
He clicked his tongue, like their behavior was pathetic.
Kalian Crawford and Genos Sheldon were originally close to each other. So if Genos Sheldon was in this vicinity, there were a very high chance they were talking to each other.
After Genos was expelled, Damon didn’t pay any more attention to him, but the story was different now because the Guardian of the East might be reinstated.
“W-Won’t I die if they catch me?”
“Then don’t let them catch you.”
“If it’s Kalian-nim, I’ll 100% be caught.”
The man before Damon trembled as if the thought alone was terrifying but Damon’s reaction was lukewarm.
“Since you’ll die doing a good deed, you’ll go to heaven.”
“It’s only a good deed for you, Damon-nim! If that’s the case, why don’t you follow him yourself!”
“This scaredy-cat. Courage, my ass.”
Damon leaned his chin on his hand and slanted in his seat; the look in his eyes was as if he was seeing the most pathetic person in the world. Then as if he became generous and decided to show mercy, he rummaged through his desk drawers, picked something out and flicked it at the man.
“Stop whimpering. Take this and get lost.”
The thing Damon threw was a yellow jewel that seemed to be refined with alchemy.
“T-This expensive thing in that dirty drawer…!”
This thing had the effect of erasing tracks. But if someone entered its 5m radius, it became useless, so you had to pay attention to that. That said, this should be enough to follow Kalian Crawford.
After solving one troublesome thing, Damon lowered his head again. His gaze was fixed on the paper he had been reading earlier. He stared at it with narrowed eyes, then he soon gave a cold smile.
“I don’t know who it is but…”
A low whisper sounded in the quiet room.
“Should I call them bold or ignorant.”
Late last night, a letter of unknown origin arrived in front of him. On it were the simple words, ‘The thing called the philosopher’s stone from the auction is in my hands. If you’re interested, contact me.’
And underneath was a shorter explanation on how to send a reply.
‘Do they really have the stone?’
Either ways, it was definitely a courageous bastard. Especially if you look at how they contacted him directly. Damon once again drummed his fingers on the armrest and fell into contemplation.
Should he send a reply or not?
Honestly, he had already made a decision.
* * *
The next day, the events flowed in a similar manner as usual. But when it was almost time for Yuri to get off work, Anne-Marie came to find her for something.
“Ms. Anne-Marie, I guess you got off early today.”
“Yes! Are you done too, Ms. Yuri?”
“I just need to wrap up.”
“But I have an appointment, so I’ll be stopping somewhere first before going home.”
“Oh, I see…”
Anne-Marie’s eyebrows drooped slightly; it looked like she was planning on asking Yuri to go home together. However, she didn’t leave immediately but hesitated instead. From the way she behaved, you could tell she had something to say to Yuri.
“Actually, there’s something I’ve been wondering about for a while now, can I ask?”
“Sure, go ahead.”
Finally, with a bashful look on her pretty face, Anne-Marie asked.
“Do you have an older or younger brother?”
It was a somewhat abrupt investigation.
Yuri quizzically tilted her head then she paused.
‘…Did she notice it was me she met at the festival?’
“No. I’m an only child. Probably.”
“I’m an orphan.”
Instantly, Anne-Marie stiffened. Then her mouth opened and closed. She looked like she was going to apologize for some reason, so Yuri spoke first.
“You must be happy to be getting home early for the first time in a while. I’m sure Hestia will be happy too. Please take care, Anne-Marie.”
“Yes…you too, don’t get home too late, Ms. Yuri.”
In the end, Anne-Marie said goodbye with a somewhat awkward smile on her face instead of apologizing. Left behind alone, Yuri felt a sort of discomfort like she had done something bad to Anne-Marie.
But to her, it wasn’t a bad thing because thanks to that, she had prevented herself from being asked more investigative questions.
Yuri soon finished her work at the store, then she headed to Leo’s hideout.
*Is this where I say, ‘and the plot thickens’?
PS: Switching back to old ‘previous/next’ format. I think it looks cuter.
PSS: I don’t do teasers every time. I think I’ll stop doing them for now because I got a comment asking why there are no teasers and I realized I might be doing them too much.
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