Chapter 129 The Name of the Mastermind
Edited by: Kanaa-senpai
After concluding my discussion with Niya-san, I immediately took action. First, in order to turn the condemned criminals into criminal slaves, several procedures were necessary. I sent a letter to my father through the Harvest Hoe, relying on him for assistance. The contents of the letter explained that individuals with Hanahaku knives had infiltrated the frontier settlement. I requested the necessary documents and procedures to employ them as criminal slaves and laborers in the settlement. I also requested arrangements for a slave merchant who could facilitate the contract with the criminal slaves, and I included the Hanahaku knife as evidence. Although it became necessary to ask for various things on his end, it was unavoidable since it would be difficult to handle the necessary procedures from the frontier settlement.
The response to the letter arrived quickly and was mostly positive, except for one issue. While it was not a problem to turn the criminals into criminal slaves, it was difficult to directly employ them in the settlement. This was because there was a law that generally prohibited the victims or informants of a crime from being recognized as the masters of the criminal slaves. Magic that disregarded others’ wills and exerted control was heavily regulated, and the criminal slave system was one of the few legal ways to use controlling magic. Therefore, to prevent the abuse of this system and the imposition of false charges to control criminal slaves, victims and informants were not allowed to buy the respective criminal slaves. When I learned this from my father’s letter, my initial plans were disrupted, and I was at a loss. However, the letter also provided a solution to this problem. While it was impossible to purchase the criminal slaves in the settlement, it was sometimes permissible to use controlling magic for interrogation purposes in cases of significant crimes in order to thoroughly investigate their relationships and connections. In this case, since the person remained silent and it was necessary to accurately ascertain the origin of the Hanahaku knife, I managed to obtain permission to interrogate them using controlling magic. In essence, the purpose was to investigate the origin of the knife, but while at it, I could also ask the things I wanted to know.
Although the original plan had changed slightly, it was still fortunate that I could conduct the interrogation. After exchanging letters with my father several times, a person capable of using controlling magic arrived at the frontier settlement a few days later along with two carriages. One of the two men who appeared approached me while rubbing his hands together as soon as he saw my face.
”Ah, this is Master Neil. Long time no see.”
”Have you forgotten? You purchased a criminal slave from my shop before.”
”Oh! From that shop.”
He was the shopkeeper of the slave merchant where I bought Pius. I had heard that people capable of using controlling magic were arranged from the nearby city, but I never expected to meet him again in this way.
”I heard that you would cooperate with the interrogation and will be handling the criminal. What about the carriage behind you?”
”Well, since we are visiting the frontier settlement, I thought Master Neil could also take a look at our goods.”
I asked if he really needed two carriages to bring three people back, and as expected, it seemed like the slaves were being transported.
”I see. We can talk about that later. Let’s take care of our business first.”
When I informed them of this, the shopkeeper of the slave merchant looked slightly surprised. Not only him, but even Diana, who was beside me, seemed dumbfounded. She probably remembered that I had been consistently negative about buying slaves when I visited the shop before and reluctantly made the purchase after Diana explained the necessity. It was understandable that they couldn’t believe I made a positive statement regarding slave trading. The shopkeeper probably brought the slaves to sell to Diana rather than to persuade me, judging from our previous encounter. However, I had changed a little since then, although it was just a small change.
For the time being, I postponed the purchase of the slaves and guided the two men from the slave merchant to the trio they had captured. The branding of the criminal slaves and the use of controlling magic went smoothly, and the shopkeeper, who had become the master of the three criminal slaves, instructed them.
”You will answer Master Neil’s questions truthfully. That will be all. I will be waiting outside, so please call me when you’re done.”
The shopkeeper seemed to suspect that this matter might involve something troublesome. It was understandable that he didn’t want to get involved in such a troublesome affair by prying into unnecessary conversations. After completing the requested task and giving minimal instructions, the men from the slave merchant quickly left the room. Inside the room, only Diana, myself, and the three criminal slaves remained.
”Alright, let’s get to the questions. Do you have any other accomplices?”
”No, it’s just the three of us.”
The man immediately responded to my question, as if breaking his previous silence. It seemed that the controlling magic was functioning properly.
”Where did you obtain the Hanahaku knife?”
”When we were commissioned for an assassination, the client gave it to us.”
”That’s quite generous of the client. Wasn’t it collected from you after the job was done?”
”We were told to keep it since there might be future assassination requests… Although we would have preferred to get rid of such a thing.”
The latter part of the response deviated slightly from the question, indicating that it wasn’t influenced by the controlling magic. Perhaps after being forced to speak with the magic, the man couldn’t help but reveal his true feelings.
”Do you take on various jobs individually?”
”We don’t have a set employer. It’s more like… there were times when we sensed someone behind the clients who brought us the requests.”
”How did you know that? The clients didn’t explicitly tell you who they were working for, did they?”
”It becomes evident as we complete more and more assignments. While the clients were different each time and the requests seemed unrelated, if there was a specific individual who benefited from our successful jobs, it couldn’t go unnoticed.”
I started to grasp the situation. They made use of a multitude of individuals to avoid being caught, but essentially, they were close to someone behind the clients.
”So, the person who requested you to investigate the secrets of the frontier settlement, was it also that ‘someone’?”
”Well, I can’t say for sure until we get results. You see, we can always sense that ‘someone’ when the requests are successful and that person benefits. But of course, there are also requests that come from unrelated individuals.”
”Alright, let’s change the question. If you were to succeed in uncovering the secrets of the frontier settlement and report it, do you think that ‘someone,’ who is not the client, would benefit?”
”I believe so. The more people who know the secrets of the settlement and profit from it, the more advantageous it becomes for that ‘someone’ in the end.”
”The more they profit, the more advantageous it becomes…’ huh?”
As I heard those words from the man, a chilling sensation ran down my spine, and at the same time, a possibility flashed through my mind. I had intentionally avoided asking about the identity of that ‘someone’ until now, but I made up my mind and decided to inquire.
”And who exactly is this ‘someone’?”
Under the influence of the controlling magic, the men were unable to remain silent or hesitate in their responses. However, at the moment I threw that question, it felt like an eternity as if they were hesitating to utter those words. Finally, the man spoke the name.
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Edited by Kanaa-senpai.
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