“That’s why I think that the culprit is already clear once the barrier is gone. We know who are the ones holding the key, and we would know which elements are used, so…wait, Souma, are you listening?”
“I am listening, I am listening.” (Souma)
Of course, I wasn’t, but I will answer with that.
“Really really.” (Souma)
“That’s fine then. And so, about what I was saying…”
Maki’s mood was fixed soon after I followed along, and easily resumed her talk.
The contents sound as if she is complaining like a gamer that was talking about the points they dislike, but I could tell that she is actually having a lot of fun here.
“The next problem is what to do with the taken ring.” (Maki)
“It is such a small ring, so isn’t it fine to just put it inside the pocket?” (Souma)
“Souma, you idiot! It would be discovered immediately once they do a body check!” (Maki)
Why am I getting scolded here?
I gave a throwaway answer as I swallowed the unreasonableness.
“Then, how about throwing it into a magic pocket as fantasy dictates?” (Souma)
“Geez, think seriously here! The people of this mansion don’t have adventurer bags or cooler boxes or anything like that! Souma, you have not researched enough at all!” (Maki)
“Even if you tell me that…” (Souma)
I know the answer already, so there’s no point in me researching to begin with, but such logic doesn’t work on the excited Maki.
As for why I am in a situation like this, I was kidnapped after the meal was over.
No, I said kidnapped, but she simply pulled my arm and brought me to the sofa, but my arm is tightly grappled into Maki’s chest, and I can’t run away.
“I think there’s some sort of loophole we are missing here. But I don’t know what it is until the crime actually happens…” (Maki)
“Hey, that’s fine and all, but can you please let go of my arm already?” (Souma)
I thought I made the obvious request here, but Maki looked obviously peeved here and held my arm even tighter.
“Why? Even though you were holding hands all friendly with Ringo-chan the whole time!” (Maki)
“Y-You were watching?” (Souma)
“Of course I will if you sleep at a place like that! You were also holding hands with Ina while you walked, and you were even flirting with Sazan-chan just a few moments ago—” (Maki)
“No, the last one is a misunderstanding!” (Souma)
Even if I accept the other slander, that misunderstanding alone is unacceptable.
I simply did that to stop the Tidal Wave, and it is by no means proof that I get along with Sazan.
“…Then, the other ones really aren’t a misunderstanding.” (Maki)
She stared at me.
The strength restraining my arms grew stronger.
“T-That’s not what I meant.” (Souma)
I stuttered a bit there, but even so, there was no agitation in my heart. It was totally calm.
I was calm to the point that I could silently think about this case and consider changing my internal database to Maki > Ringo with the latest information I got from Maki.
Maki was looking at me while pouting, but she eventually gave up and loosened the grip on my arm.
She narrowed her eyes as if finding this nostalgic.
“…Doesn’t this remind you of the time when we did treasure hunting? You know, the times when you would draw treasure maps and I would search for them.” (Maki)
“Aah, that.” (Souma)
Speaking of which, that might have happened.
“Even then, you were already so abnormally good at deceiving people. I would try to decode the treasure map going ‘not like this and not like that either’ at your side while you were playing your videogames.
That’s probably why I ended up liking mysteries.” (Maki)
Maki said this as if finding it nostalgic. I can’t really tell her that that was actually something I thought up so that she didn’t get in the way of my gaming.
Also, I don’t deceive people.
“When you think about it, we haven’t changed since then. You would give half-hearted answers and I would get angry. Exactly the same as then.” (Maki)
“No, I think you have grown, Maki.” (Souma)
I said flat out.
Maki opened her eyes wide in surprise.
Feeling the growth of Maki with my skin, I hurriedly stood up before she asked me where she had grown.
“Wawa, S-Souma?” (Maki)
I decided to call the useless maid with the surprised Maki at the corner of my vision.
It should be fine to give some service to Maki.
“Rirumu, I would like to think about the case with Maki! Can you lend us a room?” (Souma)
“Eh, my room? But…” (Rirumu)
I give one more push to the hesitating useless maid.
“I also want to hear what you have to say, Rirumu… Can’t I?” (Souma)
The moment I saw the face of the useless maid when she heard my words, I knew the answer before even hearing it.
“I-If you are fine with me, please do!!” (Rirumu)
“W-Wow, this is an impressive room.” (Maki)
“Really? Actually, I am pretty fussy about the interior of my room. Ehehehe~.” (Rirumu)
Leaving aside the misunderstanding of the useless maid, the room of the useless maid was in such a terrible state that it shocked even Maki the moment we entered.
“If I had to put a title to it, it would be the aftermath of a battlefield.” (Souma)
It is most likely because the useless maid trips and drops stuff on the daily.
There’s bend and dented areas all around the room, to the point that it would be hard to beat up the walls to this extent on purpose.
Also, there’s no order at all in this place.
The only saving grace here is that there’s no perishables lying around, but it is like the template of a woman that doesn’t know how to clean her room, and a variety of things are placed haphazardly.
I understand the shelf, closet, and the drawing that looks as if it was drawn by a child, but why does the room have broken vases, the statue of a peeing child without its head, and a branch pruner?
I don’t understand how her brain works.
Moreover, the personal trait of this place are the many super glue tubes lying around which you probably wouldn’t find anywhere else, amplifying that surreal sight.
There’s some with its contents still inside and some that have had their contents leak out and hardened; it really spoke a story of the sloppiness of the useless maid.
And yet, the taste of the room is completely that of a girl, so the mismatch in that area is creating quite the chaotic feel to it.
“Ah, please take a seat. I will prepare some tea.” (Rirumu)
Being told this, I sat at a chair with its back partially destroyed at the center of the room where a table with a square dent (probably a trace of having dropped something) is in.
Maki also sat at the side of the chair I sat on. A chair that had one of its armrests missing.
“Please wait, okay? My tea brewing alone is good.” (Rirumu)
Within this disorderly room, the useless maid skillfully prepared the tea set that’s the only thing that’s properly in place here with a serious face.
The words of the useless maid were true.
The only thing that the useless maid was good at was preparing the tea, and she spilled the tea in the middle of bringing it to us as if it were the most natural thing.
After that, the useless maid brought out a spare tea set which she said she has 10 of, and once we finally got the tea to reach us, I was the first one to open the talk.
“And so, first of all, I would like you to tell us about the people of this house. How is it? Are all 4 of them working hard to become the next successor?” (Souma)
The useless maid hesitated for a while there, but she began talking as if she had resolved herself.
“A-Actually, I can tell who trains at the barrier room. My room is right below the barrier room, so I can hear footsteps…” (Rirumu)
“Really?! That’s an incredible piece of information!” (Maki)
Maki bit onto the unexpected words of the useless maid.
Well, I knew this a long time ago, or like, that’s the reason why I suggested this location.
“Y-Yes. They all go to the barrier room pretty often. My sleep is hindered especially by Earth-sama who comes at night. Ah, but at those times, I would use this branch pruner to poke the ceiling, and he would get all scared… Ufufufufufu.” (Rirumu)
The useless maid showed a rare evil smile as she made a gesture of poking the ceiling, but Maki -in her detective mode- didn’t flinch at all.
“Please tell me who comes at what times!” (Maki)
Maki brought out her notepad and took a listening stance.
The useless maid must have been moved by her passion, she returned from her evil world.
“I am simply making assumptions by drawing distinctions from their footsteps, so it is not 100% certain.” (Rirumu)
She prefaced with this and began talking as if reminiscing.
“First, Fai-sama would be around 5-9 pm. He often comes around dinner. He would stay in the room everyday for a really long time in the past, but he doesn’t do so often lately.” (Rirumu)
“I see, I see.” (Maki)
“Mizu-sama would come a little earlier than that, around 3-5 pm in most cases. Speaking of which, it is not to the degree of Fai-sama, but I think that Mizu-sama hasn’t come often recently either…” (Rirumu)
“Right right.” (Maki)
“Earth-sama would often come really late at night, around 11pm to 1am. Moreover, he has been coming almost every day recently, it is really noisy.” (Rirumu)
“Fuu-cha—Fuu-sama almost never comes alone. She would normally come along when Earth-sama arrives, and I think there was one time alone when she was with Mizu-sama…
Anyways, Fuu-sama is the oasis of my heart!” (Rirumu)
“…So she doesn’t come alone.” (Maki)
Maki would react frequently as she wrote down on her notepad, but that’s known information for me.
I just let the conversation run without paying much mind.
On the other hand, Maki looked at her notepad one more time and once again began her proactive questioning.
“Then, next, do you know who and who they get along with better?” (Maki)
“Y-Yes. Fai-sama and Fuu-sama have unexpectedly good synergy. Mizu-sama and Earth-sama get along, but Mizu-sama and Fai-sama, and Earth-sama and Fuu-sama don’t get along.” (Rirumu)
“Then, what about Fai-san and Earth-san, and Mizu-san and Fuu-san?” (Maki)
“About that…hmm, it is not like they get along well, but they are at odds with each other.” (Rirumu)
“…I see. Then, an accomplice would be difficult.” (Maki)
The useless maid reacted to the mutter of Maki and wondered what she meant, and Maki showed her her notepad.
- How do you enter the barrier room?
- How do you dispel it?
- How do you bring it back?
- How will you carry the stolen ring?
- Key to the barrier room (no spare keys).
- Two elements of barrier magic from between: fire, water, earth, and wind.
- Two opposing elements from the ones you used.
- Safe hiding place?
Turn for the lookouts.
Elm → Rirumu → Mizu → Earth → Fai → Fuu.
“You see, it is simple if it is just undoing the barrier. For example, with the turns of the lookouts, Mizu-san and Earth-san will open the door at the time of their shift, so if the two of them cooperated, they could use barrier magic of 2 different elements. You can open the barrier like this, right?” (Maki)
“I-In other words, the culprits are Mizu-sama and Earth-sama?!” (Rirumu)
Maki shakes her head with a wry smile at the useless maid that drew a hasty conclusion.
“But you would need the fire and wind in order to set the barrier again, That’s why you would need 4 elements in the end.” (Maki)
“Then, if they go out without setting it up again…” (Rirumu)
“If they do that, the ones in the next shift will find that, so you would be able to tell really quickly who did it.” (Maki)
The useless maid made a complicated look that doesn’t fit her at the words of Maki.
“That’s why you would require a pairing of opposing elements to do something about this barrier. Fire and water, or earth and wind. In other words, Fai-san and Mizu-san; Earth-san or Fuu-san. And yet, there’s no chance for those pairings to be made with the turn order here.” (Maki)
“I see. I thought the orders were made randomly, but Shizun-sama actually thought about them, huh…” (Rirumu)
The useless maid said something rude all casually as she nodded.
“I think there must be some loophole somewhere though. I thought about the possibility of someone being able to use 2 elements, but…if that were the case, they could just get the ring normally without going through this hassle. Hmm…” (Maki)
Maki groaned once and then got up all of a sudden and approached the useless maid.
“Speaking of which, Rirumu-san, you can use magic too, right? Do you use barrier magic…?” (Maki)
“I-I can’t! I can use a bit of wind magic, but I can’t use barrier magic.” (Rirumu)
“Really! I promise in the name of super glue!!” (Rirumu)
I don’t know how much worth there is in promising in the name of super glue, but it seems like Maki was convinced.
She loosened up and sat down.
“…Because the only ones who can use barrier magic are the ones of this family. When I was…when I was in the slums, I crashed into Shizun-sama, and he took me in. There’s no way I could use a spell like that.” (Rirumu)
The useless maid hurriedly waved her hands at the meek voice of Maki.
“P-Please don’t make that face! I am truly happy after Shizun-sama took me in and got to get along with everyone. Even though my other acquaintances are all still in the slums… Ah, t-that’s not it. I am just saying I was really lucky!” (Rirumu)
But the useless maid made a gloomy expression again.
“I am really lucky, and I love everyone in this house, but…but there’s a small part of me that would like that ring to be gone. It is because of that ring that…everyone is fighting…
Fai-sama, Mizu-sama, Earth-sama, and of course Fuu-sama too; they are all good people, and yet…” (Rirumu)
Maki found it hard to say anything.
She probably thought that it might be better to not solve this case.
That’s why I pat her shoulder gently.
“Let’s solve it all.” (Souma)
Maki looked back at me weakly, so I told her firmly, with strength.
“A detective doesn’t just solve the case, right? You just have to find the ring, and then you solve all the problems haunting this family too.” (Souma)
“Souma… Yeah, that’s right! Totally right!” (Maki)
Maki stands up with fist tightened.
“Rirumu-san! Tell me in more detail about this household!! I will definitely guide this case into a happy end!” (Maki)
“Yes, Maki-san!!” (Rirumu)
Maki and the useless maid held hands.
A truly lovely sight.
“There’s only 5 minutes before 7pm. Is that okay?” (Souma)
The useless maid jumped up when I said this.
“Awawawawa! It is time for my shift! If I am late, Elm-san will glare at me real bad again!” (Rirumu)
“I-It is okay. There’s still 5 minutes! Calm down. You have to get the key from Shizun-san first.” (Maki)
The useless maid dashed out of the room after nodding profusely at the words of Maki.
“W-We have to go too… Wait, why are you so relaxed, Souma?” (Maki)
I waved with my hand saying ‘it is okay, it is okay’ at the hurried Maki.
“To be blunt with you, the crime doesn’t happen at this time, so there’s no problem.” (Souma)
“Souma, no spoilers!!” (Maki)
And in that way, I watched Maki run off angry, and I also stood up.
“Now then, I guess I should make my move too.” (Souma)
I once again confirmed that no one is around, and brought out a certain gem from the adventurer bag.
In front of the barrier room, the useless maid saw me and tilted her head, and Elm-san behind her bowed silently.
The useless maid had a key, and she was about to put it into the keyhole just now.
“That’s a relief. Looks like you have not entered yet, right?” (Souma)
It seems like I spent too much time in the room.
I am glad I made it in time.
“Why are you here, Souma-san? You didn’t go back to where everyone is?” (Rirumu)
I shook my head.
“I was wondering about the state of the room, you see. You are going to confirm the inside of the room now, right? Can I enter too?” (Souma)
The face of the useless maid turned cheerful at that.
“Of course! Let’s check it together!” (Rirumu)
She accepted gleefully and we three opened the room together.
“There’s the barrier and there doesn’t seem to be anything off…” (Rirumu)
The useless maid peeked at the room from outside and said this carefreely.
But I am not too happy with wrapping it up with just that.
“No, there might be inconsistencies if we enter. Let’s go in and check.” (Souma)
Saying this, we were about to step in, but…
“Wait a moment.” (Elm)
Elm-san grabbed my hand.
My heart jumped.
“I-Is something the matter?” (Souma)
“I am sorry, but can you please open that hand of yours?” (Elm)
“…Do I need a reason?” (Elm)
The butler-san looked at me with faintly opened eyes.
What incredible pressure.
“O-Okay. Here.” (Souma)
I slowly opened my left hand.
There’s of course nothing there.
“The other hand, too.” (Elm)
I was urged on by Elm-san and I slowly opened my right hand.
What was in that hand…was nothing.
“…My apologies. I am a worrywart, you see.” (Elm)
“A-Ahaha. It is okay. You do have to be careful after all.” (Souma)
I leaked out a dry laugh and quickly entered the room.
The useless maid tilted her head with a dumbfounded face.
I responded to her with a smile while saying there’s nothing to worry about, but I was internally all flustered.
(T-That was scaryyyyy!) (Souma)
There was no such event in the game.
To think a discrepancy from the game would show up here.
I tell myself to be more on guard.
I don’t think I am doing anything that bad, but one mistake and it might have been game over.
“N-Now then, let’s check the place.” (Souma)
“Yes! I will accompany you!” (Rirumu)
Depending on the listener, it might sound like a date, but we do so as we move around the room.
The first thing I did was check the ‘not yet’ that I marked on the corner of the room.
There’s no point if I don’t confirm this.
Seeing that the ‘not yet’ writing is still there, I sigh in relief for now.
But I couldn’t do anything more than that.
The gaze of Elm-san was following me no matter where I went and did.
I feel like he might suspect me if I do anything weird here.
When I tried to casually move to the back of a pillar, Elm-san also casually moved locations, adjusting it in a way that he could still see me.
(He has completely locked onto me!!) (Souma)
In the end, I couldn’t achieve much aside from confirming the not yet mark, and exited the room.
And then, on our way back to the living room, Elm-san spoke to me in a dandy voice.
“Souma-sama, whenever you have any business outside the room, please tell me. I will accompany you even inside the bathroom so there’s no inconvenience.” (Elm)
“A-Ahahahaha. Thanks.” (Souma)
At a glance, that sounds like a considerate proposal, but that’s actually his declaration of absolute surveillance.
(This is bad…) (Souma)
Even I have things I want to do stealthily.
And yet, if the butler keeps an eye on me the whole time…
I ended up glaring at Elm-san, and Elm-san responded with a gentle but ghastly smile.
—And in this way, my secret feud, which has no direct relevance to the case but is urgent for me, against the capable butler had begun.