Editor: Areth Kyntaul
“Your… Sorry. My beloved, the celebration starts today. Do you want to come out and see it?” Luna entered my room and placed a plate of fruit on the table. I placed the map in my hand down and replied, “There are people outside right now, right? Luna, tell me the process of the event.”
If it’s too crowded, it’ll be difficult for the Shadow Squad to work. Even if they are the Shadow Squad, it’s very hard to know what every single person is doing in such a crowd.
Most plots are carried out when things get rowdy, so the more crowded it is, the easier it will be for them to pull something off.
“Yeah, there are a lot of people. But what can we do? They all came to participate in the celebration. Umm, they are on a tour right now… They go from the temple to the paddy. They are going to prepare a massive scarecrow there, and then throw the sacrificial items next to the scarecrow. Once that is done, the carnival can begin. The scarecrow will be lit up when night falls, and then they continue celebrating under the fire until sunrise. That is about it.”
The so-called sacrificial scarecrow is just burnt up to fertilise the soil I bet. It looks like the event has some meaning to it. This is a small-scale slash-and-burn farming method, isn’t it?
I stood up and looked at the rowdy crowd outside. I asked, “Where is that merchant group?”
“The merchant group has already sold all of their fruits and has joined the crowd to head to the temple.”
Luna looked at me and said with a smile, “You are worrying too much about that merchant group, are you not, Your Highness? It looks like it is not their problem. Maybe you do not have to worry about these things anymore, my beloved.”
“Yeah? However…” I stood up, grabbed Luna’s hand and continued, “Since we have to go to the temple, let’s go together, Luna. I want to see the place where you used to work and live too.”
“Ah!” Luna reacted surprised. She then smiled shyly and said, “That was a long time ago. And I am no longer pure anymore. I would be defiling the temple if I went in there…”
I cut Luna off and said, “That’s nonsense. God won’t hate his believers. Luna, what God cares about will never be your body’s purity, but your soul’s purity. Luna, you’re still kind and gentle. I trust that God would be glad to see you again if you don’t suspect him.”
Luna looked at me. She laughed softly and then walked up to me affectionately to wrap her arm around mine. She cheerfully said, “Let’s go then, my beloved. Bring Freya. I believe that it is as you said. Perhaps meeting you really was a blessing from God.”
“It looks like God didn’t abandon you then.”
Luna laughed cheerfully. She hugged my arm tightly while Freya came in from outside panting as she said, “There are so many people outside… I almost… almost couldn’t make it back… ah… brother, are you and Miss Luna heading out?”
“Uhm. Let’s go and see the event.”
“But we are humans!”
“So what? Isn’t the celebration about everything sharing the joy together?” I smiled and grabbed hold of Freya’s hand.
Freya reacted surprise and then asked, “Brother… why does it feel like you and Miss Luna are getting more and more intimate? Could it be that you two have forgotten you are acting?”
“Yes. But since we’re acting, we need to make it look realistic.” I looked at Freya and quietly added, “But don’t tell anyone about this.”
“That will depend on how you bribe me then.” Freya chuckled softly and then picked up the pearl-necklace by her chest. She smiled and continued, “Let us go then. I am looking forward to the celebration here. A celebration should be this sort of cheerful atmosphere that spreads to everyone.”
I nodded and then the three of us headed out together.
It really was bustling outside. The crowd was headed to the temple. All of them were dressed in clothes they usually didn’t wear.
I looked at the people around and stood still. I asked Luna, “I feel like I’ve seen a lot of these people in the pub. They should be villagers, right…? Luna, why don’t they work and instead go to the pub? Aren’t they miners? That includes your brother too.”
“Maybe it is because the celebration was coming up and therefore everyone is lax.” Luna chuckled softly and continued, “It would be too pitiful for my brother to be mining in the mines just days away from the celebration. My beloved, are you not too sensitive? I know that you are always paying attention to this, but you do not feel that everything is strange, do you?”
I hopelessly nodded. Luna was right. Nobody really wants to work before the holidays, let alone a laborious job like mining. It’s like how we didn’t want to open a book before vacations. Heck, we even cut our morning run a little short. It looks like I am indeed a little too sensitive.
Up till now, everything has been logically explained. Put another way, I can explain all of the points of suspicions I’ve got. Further, all of the explanations leave no room for doubt. But why can’t I shake off the feeling that the atmosphere carries an air that I can’t help but question? Why am I not the least bit convinced when everything can be explained?
Why do I feel that the atmosphere in the entire village is strange?
The grand celebration ceremony.
The odd merchants.
The lazy workers.
The high-quality gold.
What exactly happened?
Luna has been extremely cheerful and relaxed upon returning. It looks like she isn’t seeing anything out of the ordinary. Could it be that the village was like this, to begin with? Why doesn’t Luna detect anything odd…? No… A better question would be, why can’t I shake off the feeling that there’s something odd?
“Brother, you must be feeling that something is very strange as well, right?”
Freya, who was next to me, gripped my hand tightly. She looked at the bustling crowd and calmly continued, “Brother, do you feel that everything here has a logical explanation thereby making it abnormal? That is normal. Miss Luna might not sense it, but I can sense darkness.”
“What’s wrong with you two? Why are you both so vigilant? The village is just as it was when I was living here.” Luna looked at me and smiled bitterly. She continued, “My beloved, are you two not too on-edge? Nothing is out of the ordinary here, yet you two keep suspecting things. I think this must be what you are both bothered about.”
“No, I beg to differ.”
Freya looked at me and in a serious tone said, “Brother, Miss Luna got taken away ten years ago. But she does not sense anything out of the ordinary upon her return now. Miss Luna has seen it too. All of her brother’s mining tools are the exact same ones as they were in the past. However, you yourself said it, brother, the quantity of gold here did not decrease, and to the contrary, it increased. So while everything has remained the same as it has as ten years ago, the yield of gold has increased. That is the problem! How is it that they are able to produce more gold coins when everything in the village has remained as it was ten years ago? This village is suspicious precisely because everything has remained the same!”
I jerked my body violently and bumped into the person behind me. I turned around to apologise and then picked up my pace to return to the group.
I looked at Freya with the sudden realisation and asked, “That’s it. That’s it! It’s weird precisely because Luna doesn’t detect anything odd. Why? Why has their gold yield increased when nothing has changed?”
Freya nodded and went on, “Further, this village is linked to the trafficking case. A normal group of merchants came before the celebration. A normal celebration. A normal village. There is definitely a problem when there are abnormal gold and an abnormal trade. Brother, I think that the gold and trafficking case are definitely linked. Also, if they are linked, then everyone in this village… no, everyone present is a suspect!”
“That’s right. Right now, we are in the criminals’ nest… Everyone is our enemy. If a conflict breaks out… we will be fighting against everyone present…”