Chapter 18 – Curse (2)
Leo and Julia headed to the academy where Lady Kalia died. Viscount Berhaug, the Dean of the Sedetz Academy, greeted them in person.
There was now a formal request coming from the office of the Duke to investigate, so the Dean heard that the investigation would start soon. But he never even imagined that the Duke of Epesia himself would come here.
Julia looked at the old man with some remorse. It was inconvenient sometimes, but there were also times when it was useful to bring Leo around with her.
He was only a Duke, but here in this territory, he was treated as a King wherever he went. In fact, even amongst other nobles, the Duke of Epesia was regarded even more greatly because he was also the Commander-in-Chief of the Floren Kingdom’s armed forces.
It was surprising, however, that despite his post as the commander of a military organization, he didn’t seem to be fond of tight hierarchical formalities.
As a result, it wasn’t just once or twice that the people around him would struggle with his sudden visits because he never brought an entourage with him.
“I-If I had known that the Duke would come here, we would have welcomed you more splendidly…”
“There’s no need. Isn’t this matter under my jurisdiction? I’ll take care of it myself.”
“But how can we impose…”
Julia agonized for a moment by herself as she watched Leo shake his head calmly. Even if she herself came here to do the job, maybe it would be better if she just up and left now, and let Leo take care of it by himself.
She stared at Leo with a troubled face, but he turned to her and spoke.
“What is it?”
His gentle tone drew her out of her reverie as she was lost in thought, settling her back in the present.
“Hello. I heard that you’re Count Robinharts’ daughter. It’s an honor to meet the noble young lady of the Robinharts family that’s known for their beauty.”
Her parents were nice, gullible and too trusting, but Robinharts was originally a family that wasn’t so pitiful.
As the Dean said, children born with the last name of Robinharts were usually blessed with good looks, and this had been going on for generations.
People thought that anyone who had this surname was beautiful or handsome, that’s why so many marriage proposals would pile up.
The Robinharts family naturally strengthened their relationships with the surrounding lands, making their territory quite large compared to before, and they accumulated a lot of wealth a long time ago.
But then in this generation, Julia’s parents had lost more than half of their assets. It was no surprise that Julia herself jumped at any chance to earn a living because there came a point when the County couldn’t support itself due to her parents’ poor governance.
“I’m Julia Robinharts. I look forward to your kind cooperation, Viscount Berhaug.”
“Yes, I’ll be in your care. The Duke had boasted that the Lady would be able to solve this problem because of your great abilities.”
“Oh, really?” Julia tilted her head to the side as she asked, “When was this?”
“Hm? Oh, well, was it yesterday? His Grace said that he’ll be sending a very good investigator.”
Julia glared at Leo, who smiled awkwardly and averted his gaze. Coughing in vain, Leo avoided Julia’s narrowed eyes and changed the subject.
“First, shall we discuss the matter at hand?”
“Pardon? Ah, yes, of course. I’ve mentioned to Your Grace most of the details before. But the additional information I will give you can’t be brought up here.”
Leo nodded and got up from his seat. Then, he looked from Viscount Berhaug to Julia, then opened his lips.
“Let’s move for now.”
The academy was quite large. Because this academy was the one with the highest tuition fees and the highest number of students who were aristocrats, that splendor was reflected in the architecture as well.
“This is where the young lady of the Kalia County was found.”
When the Dean opened the door to the room and went in, a sound could be heard inside.
The Dean immediately became angry to see three students inside.
“Didn’t I say that students are dismissed early today because the academy will be closed?”
Even with his harsh words, one of the three teenage male students who had blond hair sauntered out and answered leisurely.
“We were just about to leave. We just needed to check something, so don’t be so mad.”
It was somewhat infuriating to see him act this way. After sneering and talking back at Viscount Berhaug, he finally turned away his narrowed eyes.
Then, both his eyes and mouth widened.
“D, Du… Duke… Epesia?”
“Oh, he knows me. He’s surprisingly well-educated, Viscount Berhaug.”
“I-I apologize, Your Grace.”
When the Dean was about to bow his head, Leo raised a hand to stop him. Then, he passed by the Dean and walked towards the three students, who were now standing at attention with their nervous faces looking down at the ground.
“We greet the esteemed Duke of Epesia!”
“I’ve already banned such extravagant greetings since long ago… Didn’t your father tell you?”
With a flustered expression, the student stayed speechless as Leo looked down at him with cold eyes.
“Only fools would forget to introduce themselves first, right?”
The two other students introduced themselves first, then finally it was the blond student’s turn.
“I am Thaldin, the second son of Count Rhodes. I am currently a senior at the Sedetz Academy.”
“You’re graduating? So you’re already seventeen years old.”
“Yes, that’s right, Your Grace.”
Leo raised an eyebrow in surprise, thinking that the lad looked quite young for his age. The three students stood nervously as Leo studied them.
“Yes, Your Grace.”
“So you found Lady Kalia here.”
The moment Leo mentioned Lady Kalia, the three students’ expressions hardened. Julia’s eyes narrowed as she took close attention to their faces, watching them as the Dean and Leo spoke.
“Yes, it was right here.”
“But why is such an important place open to the public?”
Viscount Berhaug couldn’t answer and just stared perplexedly. Then, Thaldin stepped forward.
“…W-We came without permission, sire.”
Leo turned to Thaldin and pursed his lips.
“Were there no guards stationed here?”
“There were, sire.”
“But that didn’t stop you from entering?”
“…They did stop us, but……”
Even if he said nothing more, it was obvious what happened. These students must have threatened the guards using their parents’ names. Perhaps the guards acquiesced because Thaldin’s father was a Count that was of a higher stature than the Dean who was only a Viscount.
Leo sighed slightly. It wasn’t that he didn’t care about the academy, but there were so many deep-rooted problems here.
He would need to solve these problems that he had put off before. Determined now, Leo spoke.
Leo frowned at Thaldin’s behavior. No matter how easygoing he was, Leo was still the lord of this Duchy.
Even if he acted like a friendly older brother, these students didn’t have the leisure to regard him casually.
“This can’t continue.”
Leo muttered unsatisfactorily, then turned to the Dean.
“Yes, Your Grace.”
“Send someone to my castle and call for a man named Olden. Tell him to send some people to the three academies to investigate who are the people involved in this case, and tell him to figure out the circumstances in which the incidents occurred.”
Leo paused for a moment before he continued curtly.
“There would be no one to deny a Duke’s words in a Duke’s castle at least, so just deliver my words. Then, the man named Olden will take care of it.”
After the Viscount nodded and hurried out, Leo was already sitting on a chair while looking at the three students.
“How should I do this? What do you think I should do to three students who think they’re free to come into an important place like this willy nilly?”
Julia sighed as Leo glared at the three children who couldn’t stop themselves from trembling in fear.
“Please stop here, Duke Epesia.”
Julia approached him and gently placed a hand over Leo’s shoulder. He looked up to her with a slight smile on his stiff expression, then nodded.
With the thought of trying to save these children, Julia shook her head slightly and stepped forward to face the students.
“I can only think that you’re trying to cover up or hide some evidence pointing towards the death of Lady Kalia. Whatever it was you really did here, you are now under suspicion. So tell me, why did you all force yourselves into this place?”
At Julia’s calm tone, Thaldin bit his lips and looked around. Then, he slowly opened his lips.
“This… this place is…”
Julia continued to stare at him wordlessly as he struggled to speak.
“This is where we did the Resurrection.”
“Then why are you here now?”
When Thaldin couldn’t answer further, he just bit his lips. But sensing that Leo seemed frustrated that he wouldn’t say anything, he quickly spoke again.
“…I thought there might be a clue here.”
Julia looked sharply at Thaldin, whose eyes were shaking in anxiety.
“…Clues about Leah’s murder……”
“Lady Kalia’s first name is Leah.”
“But it’s suicide.”
“No!! It’s not suicide!!”
“T-There’s no way. Th, That! That’s right!! It’s a curse!! We… we were cursed because… because we couldn’t do what we needed to do!!”
“Yes… a curse… It’s a terrible curse. Leah didn’t kill herself… She, she was devoured!”
“What do you mean by that?”
“…I’m next. No, not me, it could be the guys behind me, but… that—that day, th, that place… We’re all going to die! There’s no way to undo the curse!!”
Thaldin soon went into hysterics, and Julia couldn’t stop him on time. She sighed and pressed down her forehead with her thumb.
Then Thaldin, who had been screaming frantically, suddenly stopped. His eyes were wide as he looked around.
Leo stared at Thaldin as the student suddenly grew quiet, then turned to Julia. Her red eyes turned white as she scanned the room.
Then, in a hushed voice, she spoke.
“There is a boundary between the living and the deceased. This child is not yet destined to die, so I forbid you from coveting this body.”
As her subtle energy flowed out, their surroundings gradually became warm. The students looked around with puzzled expressions, then turned to Julia.
With her energy seeping out of her, Julia soon retracted her energy. She gestured to Leo and beckoned him to come.
With a questioning gaze, Leo followed, but Julia just crossed her arms and stared at him.
“What happened here?”
“What do you mean?”
“What kind of crazy place is this?”
“…What? Can you explain so I can understand?”
Leo tilted his head to the side because he couldn’t comprehend, but Julia just continued.
“This is a prison.”
She narrowed her eyes.
“Many of the deceased are trapped here, just suffering. I keep hearing a terrible sound.”
“So… The whole academy is full of spirits?”
“Yes, and… it’s exceedingly violent. Just now, what Thaldin was screaming about were the lamentations of a spirit that momentarily resonated with him. That’s why I had to release my energy.”
Julia sighed and looked around. Meanwhile, Leo furrowed his brows at her startling remark.
“…I think I’ve fallen right into your trap,” Julia said as she squinted. “I won’t be able to walk away from this.”
She turned towards the window and looked out towards the landscape. There were hundreds of souls floating in the air, screaming with agony, as if they were bound in place and could not leave.
Julia closed her eyes. Then, a moment later, her eyes turned white once more and her lips were pursed with disapproval.