Tomorrow, Dad will be hearing the triplets out.
She felt that things were moving along quite quickly, but there was no way a certain monocle weirdo tactician would turn down Dad’s request.
“Maomao, can you come along to transcribe the talks into notes for me?”
“…it seems weird one will be there.”
If we’ll be with the weirdo tactician, Maomao shook her head.
“You can rest easy, Rakan won’t be coming.”
“That’s fine then, but what about Yao-san?” Maomao glanced over.
“I turned her down. It won’t work out because she can’t write in shorthand.”
(I can’t either…)
Maomao stopped mid-sentence.
If she were to speak carelessly, Yao would probably insist on doing it, which En’en would wholeheartedly forbid. They’d be at a stalemate.
If she were to know that it’s due to lack of skill, Yao would accept it even if she was vexed, so it would be wiser for Maomao to keep her mouth shut here.
For a while now, a frustrated Yao has been watching Maomao from behind a pillar. From behind her, En’en waved a cloth as if to say “Please just leave already.”
“Since you understand, shall we get going?”
The earlier they finish, the earlier they can return, Maomao thought.
A military conference room had been arranged for them. It was neither spacious nor cramped—rather than a conference room, its size was closer to that of an interrogation room.
“Oh, you’re here.”
Coming to greet them in front of the room was the familiar large breed dog, no, Rihaku.
“I’ll leave it to you.” Dad greeted him politely.
“Yeah, as soon as anything happens, call for me. There’s also another person inside, a secretary, but he’s only a civil official, so…” Rihaku thumped his muscular chest. His personality was refreshing as usual.
“Why is Rihaku-sama here?” Maomao asked, tilting her head.
“It’s an order from the higher ups. With the people in question being who they are, it’ll be troublesome if they raise a ruckus right? You’ll need a strong guard. But you see, I am acquainted with the triplets and Boku, and moreover, I know you, which is why I was picked.”
It was reasonable.
“Occasionally, a job like this one is a good change of pace.”
The ranking of the tassel on the waist of smiling, nice guy was different to last time’s.
“You seem to be doing quite well in terms of promotion,” she said.
“Yeah, thanks to that, I’ve been getting a lot of deskwork.”
She wanted to ask how much higher his income is now, but that would be rude so let’s not. Also, how long until Rihaku can redeem the owner of his heart, Pairin of Rokushoukan*?
(T/N: 太白楼 Taihakurou??? Totally a typo here. The author got mixed up with the brothel of another story she wrote (Zegenya Guen) xD)
“Sorry, I know you’re in the middle of a conversation, but can I ask a couple of questions?” Dad looked at Rihaku.
“Yeah, sorry. By all means.”
“You mentioned before that you were acquainted with the triplets, but do you know their individual personalities?”
At Dad’s question, Rihaku placed his hand on his chin and tilted his head.
“You can ask, but how do I put it? Those three, you can say that they’re sly. They look exactly the same and their voices are really similar. As for their personalities, can you really say they’re similar? I don’t know them well enough to tell them apart.”
“Hoh.” Dad nodded. “Do they get along with one another?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Rihaku denied resolutely. “In the past, when they messed up at work, I questioned them to see which one was responsible. However, the other two didn’t even try to cover for the one who messed up. Instead, there was a ‘don’t smear my reputation’ kind of attitude.”
“This messing up at work incident, could they be doing it to avoid being caught or something?
“Do you think they could do it? Put on an act before Raka… no, the monocle old man?” Rihaku, conscientious as he is, remembered what Maomao told him before.
The weirdo tactician is a creature who amassed all the bad points of a human being, but he was a cut above the rest in Go and Shogi, as well as his character-seeing eyes.
“It was amusing, that time. Ah, I remembered.”
“I think, among the triplets, two of them spoke truthfully. Though they were self-indulgent and basked in their father’s power, they had no intention of shouldering the punishment themselves. As such, they didn’t put on a show of covering up their own mistakes. Provided they don’t have a guilty conscience, they probably won’t lie.”
“Can I take your word for it?” Dad asked for confirmation, squinting.
“Even if I ask you to believe me, there’s no guarantee I’m correct, right? Well, as a tendency, please take it as that I don’t think that they would lie to give themselves drawbacks by covering up for the others.
“You are a very honest person.”
“D-do you think so?”
“Thank you. Well then, if anything happens, I’ll have you rush over,” Dad said and entered the room.
Maomao followed him.
There was one other person inside the room, a man who appeared to be a civil official. He must be the secretary Rihaku mentioned.
When the secretary noticed Maomao and her dad, he stood up from his seat and bowed. “They should be here very soon. Please sit here.”
“Excuse me.” Dad sat down on the seat. There was a single sheet of document on the table.
It contained information on the triplet’s official positions and their relations. It was prepared on the weirdo tactician’s orders, but its presence seemed to say “others don’t have the authority to punish you”.
“Well then, what shall we do?”
They will be hearing out the triplets one by one.
Anyway, the first person showed up, so they had to start the talks.
Maomao dipped the brush tip in ink in preparation to record the conversation to the best of her abilities.
There seems to be a misunderstanding, but I have nothing to do with Boku’s younger sister.
It’s unthinkable to make a move on a fourteen-year-old little girl. You can’t suspect me without evidence though.
Hm? Where did I go yesterday?
About that, I was strolling idly around town when I finished work. Anyone can go for a drink at least, right?
Yesterday, I felt like gulping down some cheap wine, so I headed in a southerly direction.
I didn’t go all the way to the pleasure district. That place isn’t somewhere you can enjoy wine.
The thunderstorm? (T/N: Just so people know, in Japanese, 雷, refers to both thunder and lightning. I tried to account for both contextually, but if it reads like someone got sound and light mixed up, I’m accountable for it. Let me know if so.)
Ohh, are you referring to that blinding flash of light?
It seemed to have crashed down nearby. Not long after I felt the sky light up, there was a loud rumble. It gave me quite a shock.
When was it?
It was when the evening bell rang. Since the thunder was heard right after that.
Yes, that’s why it has nothing to do with me,
The one responsible was one of my younger brothers. Do whatever you want.
But you know, you should have an inkling as to what will happen if you accuse one of us as the culprit based on guesswork and no evidence?
The first person was the eldest son.
His tone suggested that he didn’t believe they knew the identity of the culprit.
Maomao wrote her notes with irritation.
Dad was stroking his chin in thought.
Even if Maomao and the secretary didn’t note it down, if it’s Dad, he can probably memorise every single word without error. He was that capable a person.
Swapping over with the eldest son was another one with the same face. She looked at the document—the second son was next. It seems they will be taking turns in an easily understood manner, starting from the oldest.
It’s suuuch a bother. Calling me in while I’m in the middle of work for an interrogation, really now. What are you going to do if I’m not the culprit?
Well, I’m certain of my own innocence, so let me go back as soon as we’re done with whatever there is to talk about.
Where I went yesterday? I was off-duty so I rode around lightly on horseback. I have work the day after so I came back during the evening after a day trip.
I was tired so I went to sleep as soon as I got back. You know where my place is, right? If you know who my dad is.
Is there anyone who can testify?
Even if you ask that, you won’t believe my servants, right?
That’s how it is.
I don’t think anyone noticed that I left my room.
What I was doing at the time of the evening bell?
Aah, that? When it thundered?
I was shocked. The sky lit up with the sound of the bell, followed by that violent roar of thunder.
The person ringing the bell was probably surprised as well. If you were standing in such a high place, it can’t be helped if you’re struck by lightning.
Unfortunately, it seems that the worry was unfounded.
Are we done?
I’m going back to work.
Whether it was my older brother or my younger brother, please investigate properly, okay?
Well, of course, I would advise that you think very hard so you don’t mess it up.
This one also spoke in a provocative manner.
Maomao recorded it on paper, eyes narrowed.
Dad was nodding as he stroked his chin again.
She wanted this farce to end soon.
Interrogation of the third and youngest brother began.
Needless to say, he had the same face, so she was somewhat tired of it, but bore with it nonetheless.
Why am I last?
You don’t even have to see me if my older brothers already confessed.
Yeah, can we end this quickly?
My work has already ended for today.
Speaking of where I was yesterday, I was working the entire day.
Yeah, it was around the time I returned home, but some annoying task was forced onto me.
Something like fetching documents from the archive—they should have asked for a civil official. That weirdo tactician, gosh…. No, it’s nothing. Anyway, I went to retrieve it, but there was a court lady who caught my eye, so I had some fun chatting with her.
Which archives, you ask?
The one on the west side. Military officials don’t even go there. Well, shall I be thankful for the new encounter?
Well, after we did this and that, I ended up staying over time.
Yeah, I think I was at the archives when the evening bell rang.
I didn’t hear the bell, but, it was probably around that time.
If it’s the thunder, I heard that.
I was holding a letter in both hands, and the sudden flash made me drop it in shock.
When I stooped down to pick it up, there was a sound like the earth was trembling. That had been really loud.
How long until I picked it back up?
I was a little disoriented, but it was at most four, to five seconds?
I want to go back quickly, so can we leave it at that?
Okay, then I’m going back.
The three of them were hopeless.
Maomao got tired from just writing it all down.
Only Dad that was nodding, looking like he understood.
The secretary seemed to have more work still; he swiftly wrote a clean copy of his notes.
Maomao whispered to Dad so the secretary couldn’t hear. “Dad, do you understand?”
“More or less. I wonder if we’ve gathered all the evidence there is?” he said indifferently.
A question mark hovered above Maomao’s face.
She had intended to learn many things from Dad, but it would seem she still has a long way to go.
What is going on inside this old eunuch’s head?
“Well then, shall we organise all the information once we return?” As he supported his unsteady body with a cane, Dad got up from the chair.
Once outside the room, she saw Rihaku who looked a little disappointed that he didn’t get his turn.
What Dad had asked for as soon as they returned to the medical office was a map of the capital and its surrounding regions.
It’d be better to borrow one from the archives, she thought, just as Court Physician Ryuu produced his own copy, which was good.
“Don’t dirty it,” Court Physician Ryuu said.
Dad, who planned on writing on it, hid the brush.
Do we have something we can use instead? She looked around and brought back a few small multicoloured ceramic paperweights used to pin down medicine wrapping paper from flying away.
“What are you doing?” Yao and En’en showed up.
It was the end of the workday for the two of them. Court Physician Ryuu also said nothing.
“I was thinking of sorting some of the information. It’d help if you two are also here.”
Since he spoke with some anticipation, Yao turned a little red, turning away as if to say “of course.”
En’en carved her milady’s actions deep into her heart.
“First, this one.” Dad set a red paperweight on the centre of the capital.
“Is this where the evening bell was rung?”
“Definitely. It’s stationed here so it could be heard all over the capital.”
As the second son of the triplets had said, the bell was in a place resembling a sentry watchtower.
Next, Dad placed three navy blue paperweights down. “This is where the eldest son claimed he was, this is the home the second son mentioned, and this is the third son’s western archives.”
“So everyone claimed to be at different locations during the incident.”
“That’s right. From Boku’s conversation, his younger sister had been around here.” Dad pointed to the red paperweight. It was just at the row of shops.
“Some eye-witnesses would be good, but none of the three have any. Do you know who is lying?” Maomao made sure to speak with a little more politeness to Dad so she wouldn’t get scolded this time.
“Yeah. But before that, shall we organise some of the information？“ Dad looked at the three court ladies. “Does everyone remember the thunder from yesterday?”
“Yes, it was a dreadful sound,” Yao said.
“Since it was so close to the lodgings,” En’en said.
The lodgings, located in the northwest of the capital, wasn’t very far from the northwestern forest.
“It was around here.” Dad set a blue paperweight on the map.
“And the place where the lightning struck was…” He set down a yellow paperweight.
Maomao and the others blinked. They couldn’t grasp what he was trying to do.
“May I ask another question?” Dad asked.
“The lightning, the thunder and the sound of the evening bell, do you know the order in which they took place?”
En’en raised her hand energetically. “First the sky lit up. Then, it thundered around three seconds after. I think the evening bell was around the same time. Since the earth rumbled at the same time the bell rang.”
“You have a good memory.” Dad was in awe.
Maomao understood that En’en’s memory was vividly engraved with the sensation of Yao clinging to her.
That was all there was.
(Why did Dad ask about that?)