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Chapter 28 Headhunt


 'I want to be a shooting star.
 I want to go down with you, my love, through the long night.
 I want to draw a trail of light in the night sky, and be engraved deep in your memory.
 So,
 Till the end of a billion nights, till the day when eternity breathes its last.
 Until the day all the stars in the night sky fall to the ground and I turn to dust.
 I'll keep whispering my love to you.
 I want to be a shooting star. The next time I am reborn,
 I want to be a shooting and pour you my love.'
 
 I hum softly, feeling the vibration of the carriage on my back.
 
 An old poem whose author is unknown.
 
 An old poem that was recited on the night I looked up at the stars with him.
 
 Such toothless words seemed to me, back then, as if they were written in rose-colored letters.
 
 After a long, long night, the day is finally approaching.
 
 **a
* * *
 
 
 Lucas leans on the back of the carriage, against the railing, and looks back the way he came.
 
 The night is deep, and not a star can be seen in the cloud-covered sky.
 
 Even when he turned around, the fortress was already on the other side of the night.
 
 He can no longer even see the outline of the fortress.
 
 The rattling of the wheels against the pebbles makes his hips buckle.
 
 The path they are on is a straight one that cuts through a vast wilderness.
 
 The landscape has not changed for a long time, and the only thing ahead is a gravel road stretching into the darkness.
 
 Lucas turns away from the smoldering irritation in his heart and thinks again about the mysterious incident.
 
 (Come to think of it, did the murderer know about the hidden room?)
 
 His mouth twisted at his own question.
 
 He don't think so.
 
 The murderer must have changed his plan according to the situation.
 
 Yes, a plan.
 
 It was planned from the beginning. That's all he can think.
 
 The existence of the hidden room only complicated the situation.
 
 That's all.
 
 At any rate, he know who did it.
 
 There is no longer any doubt.
 
 He doesn't know what kind of motive the culprit is, but he has a pretty good idea of the motive.
 
 All that remains is the mystery of the body that disappeared, leaving only its head.
 
 Unless he can figure out where the body disappeared to, he can still hunt down the murderer.
 
**b
 However, it is meaningless if Valerie is not rescued.
 
 In other words, his priority from now on is to rescue her, that's all.
 
 That's all he must do now.
 
 However, the six-hours delay weighs heavily on him.
 
 Compared to the large horse-drawn carriage that Olga and her companions ride, the carriage they ride are certainly faster.
 
 However, horses are living creatures. They cannot run all the time without a break.
 
 "If only I could get in touch with my mother, I'd have her do something about it before we enter the capital..."
 
 Millie, who is sitting on the driver's stand, looks back at Lucas with a puzzled look on her face as he mutters something like that.
 
 "That's quite a request. We didn't even bring a carrier pigeon with us, so there's nothing we can do."
 
 "I know, I'm just saying."
 
 "And I'm sure they're busy over there. When we left the capital they were still busy with the Headhunt."
 
 "Headhunt? It's not like Mother to have such a hard time. Is the treasure so troublesome?"
 
 Then the twins shook their heads simultaneously.
 
 "That's not the point."
 
 "At least, we didn't even know who this guy was when we left. There were rumors in the towns along the way, so I'm sure a few people were killed even after we left the capital."
 
 "Headhunt..."
 
 It's a strange coincidence when he thinks about it.
 
 A killer who takes away the head and a princess who's left with nothing but the head.
 
 Something's fishy here.
 
 It's just a hunch at this stage, but he has a feeling that the murderer, who is supposed to be working in the distant capital, is somehow involved in this case.
 
 He felt like it.
 
 "Hey, are you sure the murders after you left the capital were the work of this 'Headhunt'?"
 
 "Huh? What's that? What do you mean?"
 
 "I'm saying it could be someone else who's impersonating a Headhunt. I mean, was the body frozen or not?"
 
 Millie and Hilarie look at each other and tilt their heads.
 
**c
 "I don't know, but there aren't that many people who'd be so reckless as to chop off someone's head..."
 
 "But, but you know, Millie. I've heard that even before we left, it was assumed that it was the work of a 'Headhunt', so no one bothered to check the cause of death."
 
 Except for the first few who were killed, all of them were informed by the Crown Prince Bastian, and the only conclusion was where and how many people were killed.
 
 The formula that any headless body found was the work of a 'Headhunt had been established.
 
 The Crown Prince himself probably received the same kind of report.
 
 "Tsk..."
 
 "Ah! Another tongue lashing! I don't like it!"
 
 "Well, it's a little late for Bon-bon's bad feeling..."
 
 Hilarie puffs out her cheeks.
 
 Millie giggles at the sight of Lucas as she skillfully maneuvers the reins.
 
 Lucas spat out the word on the tip of his tongue and ruffled his hair in the wind.
 
 "That means there's a possibility that the 'Headhunt' came this way, right?"
 
 "So this guy cut off Her Highness' head? That's absurd."
 
 "Not exactly... But there's something that's really bugging me. The only problem is, I don't know what it is."
 
 "You're like an old man."
 
 "You know, the 'you just ate your dinner' kind."
 
 "I'm not an old man."
 
 Lucas frowns, and the twins laugh happily.
 
 "Ah, could it be... Bon-bon? Do you think that if the body is frozen and smashed into pieces, it will solve the mystery of the missing corpse?"
 
 "Idiot. I don't think so."
 
 In fact, if someone does that, after the ice melts, there will be a heap of pieces of meat.
 
 Not to mention, no one was ever in the accident room before the victim's body was frozen or not.
 
 Unless they had the victim's heads only at that point, the victims would have been sitting on the bed at that point.
 
 The body was there.
 
 Lucas certainly agreed.
 
 But as soon as he thought about it, he felt something stuck again in the corner of his head.
 
**a
 (What? What did I just think? What was it?)
 
 Lucas closes his eyes and says out loud what he thought.
 
 "The person was sitting on the bed, even if their head was only at that moment. But their body was definitely there."
 
 Immediately, the various events that have occurred so far begin to swirl in his mind as vivid images.
 
 Headhunt, a head left behind, a vanished body, a dimly lit room, white bones peeking through the severed flesh, a black veil. Red blood, bloody bed, bloody nightgown, dripping blood, hung men....
 
 Finally, the smirking face of the Princess comes to his mind behind his eyelids.
 
 Then Lucas looked up quietly and muttered bitterly
 
 "I see... so that's what this is all about."

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Edited Kanaa-senpai.
Thanks for reading.
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