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"Captain, what do you mean he's dead?" Stephania questioned with a grave look. "Don't tell me that you and your men were enjoying too much of your interrogation that you accidentally killed him? You know that my father has condemned such malpractices."
"No, nothing like that, my lady." The captain instantly denied Stephania's statement while dismissively raising both hands. "As a matter of fact, the interrogation was going pretty well, and we were able to extract some valuable information out of him."
"Then, what went wrong?" Stephania asked as her expression turned even more severe.
"Kidnapping, as what we always knew, always has a mastermind behind such schemes." The captain explained. "The man is actually willing to give us the name of his client, quoting that gold is not worth the s.h.i.+t that he is going to be subjected further by our interrogating and torturing. However, as soon as he was about to tell us the name, he suddenly perished, just like that."
"Just like that?" Stephania tilted her head in confusion. "I genuinely hope that you are not pulling my leg here, captain. I don't have time for any tomfoolery."
"It's the truth, my lady." The captain insisted. "As I said, as soon he was about to reveal the client's name, he suddenly perished. To be more accurate, he was subjected to a heart attack of a sort as he screamed in utmost pain. At first, we thought that he was merely fooling around with us, but when we inspected his body after his attack, we found no pulse in his chest and no signs of breathing. As such, we declared him dead on the spot by mysterious causes."
After the captain told them his story, the magic-users of the gang, Gray, Selena, and Lily a.s.sumed a grim look as they suspected about the precise cause of the kidnapper's death.
"There's no other explanation other than magic then." Gray crossed his arms with a frown. "If you would allow us to inspect the corpse, then perhaps we'll be able to determine the root cause behind the circ.u.mstances of his demise."
They all looked at Stephania for confirmation since she's the n.o.ble Lady of the village.
"Very well." The Lady agreed with Gray's suggestion. "I thought that we could put this case behind in the past for good today, but the mystery has yet to be uncovered."
"Alright, if you would please follow me good sirs, and ladies, and I'll take you to the where his body currently is." The captain said and gestured for all of them to do so.
After a few minutes of trekking, all of them arrived inside a multi-purpose dark room that served as the morgue of the village, where they inspected the bodies of the dead before deciding the customary action of what to do with it, depending on the ident.i.ty of the corpse.
In the right corner-most of the room, the kidnapper's body is laid straight on the table naked with only a towel to cover his genitals.
Speaking of the body, they took notice that it's still in a considerable condition, evident by its recent pa.s.sing.
"Let's see..." Gray said as he began inspecting the corpse. "Aside from the injuries that he most probably got from the guards' interrogation, there's nothing really remarkable to see physically."
"Then, how are you going to determine his cause of death, Lord Gray?" Stephania, who is beside the elf, asked.
"Simple." Gray grinned as he conjured a familiar piece of green parchment from his Inventory. "To deduce a conundrum of magical essence, naturally, we combat it in the same way. The parchment of Exolv contains a Magic Circle capable of deciphering such anomalies. It's called the Seal of Magic Discernment. Let's just hope that my deduction is correct since I don't want this particular circle to be an entire waste."
The elf unveiled the parchment, revealing a complicated-looking Magic Circle. Although the design is no doubt complex, one prominent feature in this circle is the symbol of a question mark in the middle, making it the simplest to perceive from the intricate set of drawing arrays.
Gray attached the parchment on the kidnapper's dead body and muttered the words, "Exolv" while touching the said parchment to begin the circle's intended effects.
This allowed Gray to a.n.a.lyze any magical oddity present on the man's body. After a short while, he withdrew his hand from the parchment, and the circle disappeared from the paper, marking the end of its use.
"I was able to deduce some magical residue present within him," Gray said his findings. "Tell me, Captain, did you notice any drawings of Magic Circle activating upon his death?"
"No, my lord." The captain shook his head.
"How unfortunate then." Gray look turned grimace. "Either this one is some kind of dark spell or an obscure Magic Circle."
'Obscure, huh.' Selena commented on mental communication with Gray and the others. 'If the latter is true, It appears that a red parchment of Exolv is used here instead of green, thus allowing the Mage to cloak the details of his circle.'
"A red one." Gray frowned at this prospect. "Yes, it would seem so. I also know that the red parchments are rare and caused a huge fortune even to purchase one. Whoever cast the magic is most likely a Mage with a considerable amount of wealth."
"Or perhaps he stole it." Lily voiced out her point of view.
"Yes, that's also a possibility." Gray nodded in agreement with the Druid. He then continued explaining more of what he deduced about the whole matter of the kidnapper's death. "The circle was activated the moment when he was about to confess the name, for the purpose of ending his life before the information is about to be revealed. As such, I also a.s.sumed that it's a conditional type of a circle, only to be activated when certain requirements are met, which in this case, the intention of revealing the mastermind's ident.i.ty. It most probably was cast on him without the kidnapper's knowledge as he's willing to tell the name after all."
Gray paused for a moment and asked one more question to the captain. "How long is our man dead?"
"Around three hours ago, my lord, when we last questioned him." The captain answered.
"Tsk, how unfortunate." Gray clicked his tongue in annoyance. "If his death is recent, I may be able to reveal the details of the magic circle with a certain spell of mine, but sadly, it would be useless now, since a Magic Circle would decay in an hour and is already gone by now. Perhaps I may be able to decipher the circle to find more clues about our culprit."
"Forgive me, my lord, and my lady." The captain apologetically bowed his head to the whole group. "If only I were able to warn you all immediately about his death. We thought that such matters could wait in a few hours where you are all awake and refreshed for the day."
"It's fine." Gray shook his head in a dismissive tone. "You are not a Mage, so it's understandable if you lack comprehensive knowledge about magic. If similar cases such as this happen in the future, then you should learn from this mistake and immediately warn your Lord or Lady without any delay."
"Yes, what Lord Gray just said." Stephania agreed with forgiving the captain. Punis.h.i.+ng him won't do any merits, and he'll simply be off with a warning from the elf. She also knew that the captain is a genuinely good person and means well in all his actions.
"I thank you for your leniency, my lord and lady." The captain bow once more, but this time in a grateful way.
With their investigation finally deemed to be concluded, Gray and the others bid farewell to the captain before proceeding back to the Manor to discuss the gang's next course of action.
Meanwhile, inside an office at the Bardic University, we find a certain villainous elven figure sipping his exquisite red wine in a relaxing manner. He was witnessed sitting behind his desk with a look of utmost frown on his regal face.
The elf was no other than the Dean, Luthais Faelar himself, reclining behind on his office desk.
The reason for his negative expression is that he felt particularly magic of his activating a few hours ago, contemplating how the involving events transpired.
'Maddening.' Luthais mentally muttered to himself. 'And here I thought that the Guild of Shadows are renowned for easily getting the job done, but it appears that I'm mistaken.'
It was reckoned to be an easy a.s.signment for the kidnapper that he hired, infiltrate the n.o.ble Lady Stephania of the Walcot family and bring her to the location that he provided for him, where a small group of his Mercenaries will be waiting. From there, the elf will be perpetuating a ruse of leading the rescue of the fair Lady from his band of depraved henchmen.
For all Luthais knows, his men were also just as vile as he is. Whatever fate will Stephania be befallen on to her by the sick hands of his mercenaries, either by defilement or sick pleasure, he simply didn't care. As long as the Lady is alive, then nothing really matters.
It's all for the sake of gaining the trust and alliance of the Walcot, a n.o.ble family who holds great influence here in Flocaster. With them being indebted to Luthais, no doubt, he can use the family as a political bargain and backing to further his impact in the royal court of Flocaster, thus gaining significant political power and further good terms with his fellow n.o.bles and most importantly, the Count himself.
Not to mention, the Lady is indeed a succulent young beautiful woman, so that's unquestionably a bonus should she fall in love with him through his 'heroism.' If Stephania and Luthais were to be wed, it would only cement the partners.h.i.+p between himself and her family, gaining an even stronger foothold among the n.o.bility of the town.
[+7 EVIL], [+2 ORDER]
Luthais also considered that an outside party was involved in the foiling of his plan. After all, the man that he hired is someone from the infamous Guild of Shadows, and no simple guard or villager is capable of catching the man that easily.
Of course, the elf prided himself as an individual of extreme caution and always antic.i.p.ated the worst. As a result of his mentality, he implanted the red parchment of Exolv by casually tapping the a.s.sa.s.sin's back with the paper as a gesture of good luck before performing the deed, in a situation for whatever reason that the kidnapper was caught.
'Whoever this person is.' Luthais thought with pure malice as his heart burned with wicked rage.
'He'll pay dearly for standing in my way, just like the others.'
However, what the elf didn't know is that his excessive caution is one of the greatest mistakes he has ever made in his future endeavors of corruption that is to come.