Third Imperial Princess’s Butler Volume 1 Chapter 4 part 3

“It’s strange, though.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s strange because I heard from the museum director that all security systems were checked. Certainly, there doesn’t seem to be any change in etoile’s key.”

While the magicians in the room double-checked the other keys just in case, they found no changes. Everything seemed to be fine.

Then, the lights in the museum suddenly went out, and a bell rang violently, shaking our eardrums.

“――They’re here.”

“Hurry――kyaa!”

I lifted Princess Krell, floating the wheelchair with magic, and rushed down the spiral staircase.

Fortunately, the ‘Key Chamber’ wasn’t too far from the rooftop, so we could arrive in about a minute. In my mind, I recalled the museum’s layout as we rushed forward.

Although the museum was dark, we didn’t rely on our sight. We could perceive the location and obstacles through sound and the flow of air. It was a skill that was second nature to a butler.

Maintaining the highest possible speed, it took less than a minute to arrive at our destination.

At that moment, the lights in the museum were restored, and the sound of bells subsided.

―― Ah, they’ve come.

I expressed my gratitude, and all the magicians on the scene split open, creating a path. Princess Krell’s presence played a significant role, but the key of protection I was holding also had an impact. The sixth-heaven key was so powerful that it could intimidate lower-ranking magicians just by its appearance.

Walking effortlessly along the open path, we stopped under the gaze of a familiar woman.

“Erne-san, what triggered the alarm just now?”

I asked Erne, who was holding a small key. She tilted her head and replied.

“I wonder if it was a false alarm…?”

“A false alarm?”

“It’s strange. I heard from the museum director that all security systems were checked… but indeed, there doesn’t seem to be any change in etoile’s key.”

The glass case in the center of the room contained etoile’s key, and there were no visible changes to its appearance. For good measure, the other keys were also checked by the magicians present, but no differences were found, and they gave the all-clear sign.

So, why did the alarm go off, and why did all the lights in the museum go out?”

As I continued to gaze at the etoile Magical Key in the glass case, someone rushed into the ‘Chamber of the Magical Keys’ with hurried footsteps.

“The etoile Magical Key—is it!?”

“Ah! Finally, Director, you’re late!”

Erne waved at the museum director, who came rushing in. As he confirmed that the etoile Magical Key was still in its place inside the glass case, he heaved a sigh of relief.

I solemnly asked the museum director, who was breathing heavily with his hands on his knees, in a serious tone.

“Director, why did the alarm system go off? I heard that you had thoroughly checked everything in advance to prevent any false alarms.”

“Yes, I did it perfectly. I repeated the inspection three times recently to avoid any possibility of a false alarm. There were no elements that could trigger it.”

“So… does that mean someone deliberately set off the alarm?”

Princess Krell tilted her head as she spoke.

Certainly, that possibility is worth considering. It’s possible that someone accidentally touched the glass case, dropped a magical key, or caused some other disturbance. However, all the security mages on duty should have been informed about what would trigger the alarm, making such mistakes questionable. It’s unlikely to be the case.

“Or perhaps—”

As I reached for the protective shield key and began to speak—

A loud voice and footsteps could be heard from near the door.

“Stay put!”

“Mmmmmm!”

All attention was drawn to the scene unfolding at the door of the ‘Chamber of the Magical Keys,’ where a young man in black clothing was being restrained by the security mages. He was struggling desperately to break free, but against skilled mages, he was completely powerless and incapacitated.

This was undoubtedly the moment of capturing the intruder.

As the guards relaxed slightly, the museum director approached the man and the mages.

“Who is this man?”

“We apprehended him as he crawled out through the ventilation. He’s probably the one who was targeting the etoile Magical Key.”

The mage explained, and the museum director rubbed his chin in thought.

“Hmm, when he was apprehended, did he touch any other glass cases with exhibits?”

“We tried to prevent that, but he might have.”

“If that’s the case… then that might be the reason for the alarm.”

The museum director diverted his gaze from the man who was now crawling on the floor and gave instructions.

“Keep him restrained and take him to the locked staff room. Make sure to have someone monitoring him. Erne, you’re in charge of informing the knights.”

“Yes, sir!”

“It’s still before the scheduled time, but just in case, I want others to stay on guard on each floor until one hour after the scheduled time. We can’t assume the thief is acting alone, and there’s a possibility he could be a decoy.”

“Understood.”

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Each of them left the ‘Chamber of the Magical Keys’ to return to their positions. Relief was evident on their faces after successfully capturing the culprit. It’s understandable that they would let their guard down a bit after anticipating a much more prolonged and challenging search.

Ah, how easy it would be if it ended here.

I thought that, but reality is not as straightforward as pulling a thread.

“Stop.”

I muttered in a low voice and pressed a hidden red switch on the wall.

Immediately after the ear-piercing alarm rang, a massive fence, about three meters high, appeared around the glass case containing the etoile Magical Key. The mages who had left the room hastily returned, looking bewildered and clamoring as they stared at the sudden fence.

I warned them not to move, and Princess Krell and I approached the person trapped inside the fence.

“Now, let’s have a review… Erne.”

“Could you please stop interrupting me, Princess Krell? Can’t you leave the following questions and deductions to me?”

“Can’t I show off a little bit?!”

“You don’t need to show off, as you’re already adorable.”

After gently patting the head of the show-offish young lady, I turned my intense gaze to Erne inside the fence.

She initially showed a startled reaction when our eyes met, but soon she regained her composure and smiled.

“Um… Roth-san? What on earth is happening?”

“Well, yes. It’s understandable that you’re confused by this sudden turn of events. I’m sure your heart rate has increased. I can see a faint sheen of sweat on your skin. It shouldn’t be hot enough to cause sweating right now, right?”

As I pointed at her forehead, Erne nervously wiped the dampness away.

Now then, let’s see if my deduction is correct and ask for the answer. Solving mysteries like this during the investigation is quite enjoyable, and I’m eager to know the truth.

“Wh-What are you doing?! Are you in your right mind, Roth-sama!”

The museum director, filled with anger and concern over the sudden confinement of a valuable and trusted subordinate, approached me, and I stopped him by holding up the protective shield key.

“Shut up, I’m going to hear the explanation, so be quiet.”

Without giving the director a glance, I fixed my intense gaze on Erne inside the fence and opened my mouth.

“Shall we explain step by step? On the first day we visited the museum, I heard about the etoile Magical Key from the museum director. Based on that, I deduced that the person who sent the threat letter must be someone from the museum staff. The ability attributed to the etoile Magical Key, known as ‘Dissonance,’ seems to contain information that only insiders would know. So, assuming someone was targeting that ability, it naturally leads to the museum staff.”

“…Even so, I don’t think that’s enough reason to suspect me.”

“I’ll explain that too, so listen quietly.”

I slammed the fence, forcefully silencing her.

No need to be polite anymore. Acting or not, it felt deeply unsettling and unpleasant to maintain a respectful attitude towards such a scumbag.

“The second time was when we revisited the museum. When we met in the director’s office, you had a bandage on your finger. You said you cut it during the restoration of the portrait stone of King Naft II.”

“And what’s wrong with that? People who haven’t done it wouldn’t understand, but injuries are common during restoration work.”

“I’m not denying the injury itself. But—”

Recalling that scene, I glanced at Erne’s fingertip.

“The border between the bandage and the skin was red and swollen. If it was just a simple cut, it wouldn’t have swollen up to the second joint. Especially not immediately after the cut.”

“…”

“After that, when we left the museum and went to the reserved restaurant, Princess Krell had a dish poisoned with tree sap. The waiter was the one who laced it with poison, but I thought about where that poison might have come from. The person who asked the waiter to poison the dish would have access to tree sap. That’s when I remembered your red, swollen finger.”

“…You said it was a restaurant, but you mean a restaurant in the museum.”

While glaring at me and maintaining a defiant attitude, Erne questioned me.

“Assuming I were the culprit, how would I have identified the restaurant you two were going to? I haven’t heard anything from either of you, and from the day I received the threat letter until today, I’ve been shuttling between home and the museum. I don’t even go out on weekends—”

“Pigeons.”

Interrupting Erne’s words, I made my point, and she repeated in surprise.

“Pigeons?”

“Yes.”

I nodded and explained.

“The day after our first visit to the museum, Princess Krell and I were taking a stroll around a museum located a little away from Mifras… That’s when we encountered an unusual pigeon. It was a pigeon accustomed to humans, with a ring on its leg.”



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