Clint squinted and tilted his head sideways.
“That’s a strange request.
Isn’t it common sense that the little lady should know better than I do?”
“That’s not necessarily the case.”
“It’s not easy to investigate the little lady’s family.”
Even just scratching the surface is enough, so please do it anyway.”
Then, little lady…”
Clint said jokingly as he put out the cigarette in the ashtray.
“What do I get?”
Ashmia smiled mischievously.
I’ll give you something that the detective has never had in his life.”
“…? And that is?”
Ashmia raised her finger and pointed at herself.
“A person of authority that can watch your back.”
“… Is that person the little lady?”
Clint grinned when Ashmia nodded.
But it wasn’t because he took Ashmia’s words as a joke.
“And I need to have at least one ‘police friend’ soon.”
“Is that why you chose me? It’s an honor, but isn’t it a mistake to choose an old man who’s about to retire?”
“No, I’m sure it’s an excellent choice.”
And you won’t retire.
The next 10 years are going to be tough, because I’ll save you.
“I won’t deny that you’re an old kkondae.”
tl/n: kkondae means condescending older people, mainly in a workplace.
I couldn’t find an English equivalent.
Ashmia giggled as she watched the grumbling Clint.
“Four days… No, five days will do.”
Clint lit another cigarette, burning the paper that Ashmia had handed him.
Ashmia wasn’t surprised to see it.
For she knew that Clint’s memory was extraordinary, even though he was sixty years old.
“Well, do we have a deal?”
“If the list is real.”
“I’ll tell you in advance that it will take some time to get approval for a re-investigation of the case.
Bolton, that son of a bitch, got his hands on the case… Do you understand?”
As he spoke, Clint said indirectly that he already trusted Ashmia.
First of all, I’d like to have all the nobles arrested.
Every single one of them.
It’s too bad I won’t see the detective’s face when he finds out the list was real.”
“But for the other thing…”
“A day will do, won’t it?”
Well, it’s very tight.
Didn’t I say that it will be difficult to investigate your family? Give it at least two days.
It’s harder to handle than it looks.”
I know it’s a big deal, but I’ll take it.
Now, are we done talking?”
It was when Ashmia put on her sunglasses and tried to stand up from her seat.
“… Little lady, I’m asking just in case.”
“Do you know ‘the unnecessarily tall guy with a big head’?”
‘Unnecessarily tall.’ That’s what Clint used to say when he referred to Michael Rose.
Ashmia tried her best to not let her voice tremble.
“That’s a strange expression.
I just grew taller, so why add the word ‘unnecessarily’?”
She was lucky that she chose to wear her sunglasses because it was harder to hide her shaking pupils than her trembling voice.
Clint tilted his head as he touched his shaggy beard with an expression of approval when he heard her response.
I don’t even know why I said that.”
“But what about that person?”
“No, it’s nothing.
There is just one face that comes to mind these days, but strangely, I’m reminded of him again.
So that’s why I asked if there’s such a person in the little lady’s family.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I’m pointing at anything.”
Ashmia looked at Clint smoking and spoke as she stood up.
“Please cut down on cigarettes.”
“I won’t get far.”
After they exchanged farewells, Ashmia left the interrogation room.
Then, under the police’s guidance, she left the National Police Department and as soon as she got into her car, she reached out her hand.
“Give me some water.”
Ashmia breathed heavily after taking a sip of water from the bottle.
“Are you alright, miss?”
She nodded in response to Vanessa’s question, but her expression was still stiff.
“Oh, I smell the scent of cigarettes.
Would you like to change clothes?”
“No, it’s okay.
That old man is a bit of a troublemaker.”
“Huh? Old man?”
The nickname she gave Clint when she was still Michael slipped by mistake.
Ashmia took off her hat and unbuttoned a couple of buttons from her shirt.
“Shall we go for a ride? Just to get rid of the smell of cigarettes before we go home.”
“Well, where can I take you?”
“Let’s go around Central Park.”
As the car started, Vanessa asked.
“Did the conversation go well?”
“Oh, it went okay.”
To the extent that she could hear stuff she didn’t expect to.
It’s a world where Michael disappeared, but there were still traces that remained.
So what about Nikita?
They’d been together for 10 years, wouldn’t he remember more things?
Ashmia pushed away those useless thoughts before ‘a strange feeling that calmed her down’ came up again.
Even if someone remembered Michael, nothing would change.
Rather, because “she” was Ashmia Kalanishiel, there was a future that could be changed and protected.
For now, she just had to focus on the future.
… That’s how it should be.
Ashmia looked distantly at the children, lovers and families playing in the park.
I only have ‘useless’ memories.
Ashmia sighed, grumbling some swear words under her breath.
Two days later.
Ashmia opened the sealed letter that Vanessa had brought.
She looked at the paper inside and pursed her lips without saying a word.
She was lost in thought as she showed Vanessa the paper, whose eyes widened.
“You didn’t know either?”
Soon after, Claudia came into Ashmia’s office with Vanessa and bowed down in front of Ashmia.
“Did you call?”
Would you take a seat?”
Ashmia held out her paper for Claudia to take as she sat in the chair opposite to Ashmia’s desk.
“I’m sorry, but I did some background research on you.
I think you probably know why.”
“Because of the assassination.
I had the same thought.
There must be a spy on the inside.”
“So I had to make it clear.
But looking at your records, there is one interesting thing.”
Ashmia said, pointing to the piece of paper.
“Is this true?”
Where Ashmia’s finger was pointing, the words “a member of the Imperial Secret Intelligence Service (ISIS)” was written.
Claudia nodded without changing her expression.
That was quick.
“Of course, it was ‘before’.”
“Does father know?”
Only Don Kalanishiel knows.”
“How did you become my maid?”
“I’d have to tell you a long and boring story, would you mind?”
“I’ve been abandoned.”
Of course, there was no such thing as an ability to see through lies, but Ashmia could sense that Claudia wasn’t lying.
Now I understand why you have those eyes.
Perhaps Michael had the same eyes as Claudia when he was shot dead by Nikita.
“Did father order you to watch me?”
“Can I correct it to ‘protective surveillance’?”
“Well, it’s surveillance anyway.
I don’t think you’re a spy.
Instead, there’s one thing I want to make sure of here.”
Ashmia looked Claudia in the eyes before asking.
“Is it me or my father?”
Who are you loyal to?
After a long silence, Claudia spoke.
“Before I give you an answer, I’d like to ask you one thing.”
“After the assassination attempt, Miss Ashmia seemed to have become a different person.
The Ashmia that I know is—”
A timid, sensitive and scared girl who was afraid to go out of her room, let alone out of her home, and shed tears at her reflection in the mirror even if she was wearing a pretty dress.
“Claudia! Are you suspecting her?!”
“It’s alright, Vanessa.”
Ashmia stopped Vanessa and looked towards Claudia.
You must have found me strange.”
Said Ashmia before making a pause.
“You both know when I became like that, don’t you?”
Since the death of Maverett Kalanishiel.
“Nobody told me why or how she died.
And actually, I didn’t want to hear it either.
I was just afraid that I might die one day without understanding or accepting the reality that had already happened.
I don’t know how many times I thought it might be easier to end it with my own hands.”
Vanessa looked at Ashmia with a sad expression.
A girl who wanted to be ordinarily happy in her mother’s arms faced the reality that it might not be possible.
The world that the girl wanted had faded like a black-and-white photograph.
Did mother leave me?
Can’t I feel my mother’s warmth anymore?
Looking at herself in the mirror, starting to look more and more like Maverett as she got older, Ashmia cried because she missed her mother and because she was afraid.
To escape the memories that gave her headaches and broke her heart, Ashmia opened the vial of tranquilizers and swallowed a pill with an encouraging smile.
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