495 Wellington 2nd Street - Chapter 1
Chapter 1 – The Death of Dighton Hartland
It was a sunny Tuesday afternoon, and the only daughter of the Count of Hartland was seated by the window as she faced Chief Constable Iathellos of the Royal Constabulary.
The man, commonly referred to as Iathel, had a rare and unusual beauty, from his silver hair—shimmering like ocean waves in the sunlight—to his well-defined features and slightly high forehead that made him exude a sharp, intellectual atmosphere.
“As I mentioned, Ms. Hartland, I wish to consult this recent string of events with you. Your cooperation would be much appreciated,” he said, the politeness of his tone mildly at odds with his stern appearance.
Two wrinkles appeared between Lucy’s eyebrows, a pained groan slipping through her lips.
‘What on earth happened for things to turn out this way?’
She pursed her lips like a child whose toy was taken away. “And as I’ve also said, I’m not the sort of person to ask when it comes to such matters. As you know, the incident with Dighton… He was the victim. I simply had no choice but to come forward.”
“No, Ms. Hartland,” Iathel rebutted firmly, the sunlight pouring through the lattice windows, the pride of the count’s residence, shining on him. “I believe that the abilities you possess will help me greatly.”
Lucy stared at him with no small amount of frustration, but before she could reply, he laid out some documents on the table. Her gaze naturally turned to the papers, the organized notes and the sketch of the scene of the crime. She squinted at first, unwilling to give in, but her hesitation and thoughts of refusal quickly disappeared along with a growing feeling of tension as she grabbed the pages.
Iathel smiled—rather attractively at that. “Are you interested?”
“Yes?” Lucy, who suddenly came to her senses, put the papers down and cleared her throat. “What do you mean, interested? It’s not that I…”
“We can discuss the details at the headquarters. Shall we go together?” He stood even before she could verbalize her agreement.
She sighed, at a loss for words.
Still, she couldn’t say anything. She owed Iathel a debt, after all.
‘How did it come to this? I’ve already spent eight years in my past life as the youngest member of the Violent Crimes Division! Do I have to investigate murder cases even after reincarnating?’
— Ten days ago —
The sound of footsteps hitting the pavement briskly cut through the chilly winter air. A tall man turned around at the cheerful voice.
“Hey there!” He caught Lucy, who was running at full speed, in his arms and pretended to lose his balance.
Lucy giggled like a little girl and straightened her crooked hat. “Did you wait long?”
“No, I just arrived.”
Dighton Hartland was the eldest among Lucy’s cousins, the son of Lord Hartland’s older sister, Victoria.
She gripped his hand as the other fixed his collar. “You’re lying again. Your hand is so cold, how am I supposed to believe you just arrived?”
He deliberately made a sullen expression in response to her sharp remarks, one that swiftly melted into affection and delight. “Our baby pumpkin is so smart that I can’t fool her at all.”
It was a bit embarrassing to be called that now that she was twenty-two, but it was the nickname her cousins gave her due to her hair color, an auburn reminiscent of autumn leaves and ripe pumpkins. It felt nice to be spoken to so familiarly, especially when it came from Dighton, who was a young, capable professor and generally the best person in the world.
She was quite proud that he cherished her so much.
When two different aristocratic families were united in marriage, the man did not necessarily become the head of the household. The one who had a higher status, either in rank or reputation, became the head and carried on the family name.
Lucy’s family did not have a very high status, but it had built up a reputation in diplomacy and royal politics over many years. Therefore, in addition to her father who inherited the countship, all of his siblings had married and carried on their family name as the heads of other households. That was why Dighton and Lucy shared the same surname despite being cousins.
“I’m sorry, Dighton, I couldn’t leave early because of Mother’s unexpected guest.”
“Aunt had an unexpected guest? Who was it?”
“I don’t know her well, but I heard she’s a countess. I’m not very familiar with such things, so it’s not very clear if being her acquaintance will help me find a husband.
Dighton’s calm smile was replaced with a wide-eyed expression. “That’s ridiculous. Why are you rushing when you’re only twenty-two?”
Her mouth dropped. “What are you talking about? It’s not ‘only twenty-two’, it’s ‘already twenty-two’! Really, has everyone forgotten how old I am? Most people get married right after their twentieth birthday!’
“Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to go along with them, right? I still hope that you’ll enter a prestigious school like the Royal University. Think about your former grades, Lucy. How could such a smart person not continue their education? It’s a waste!” he said seriously.
“No matter how much you try to convince me, I have no intention of enrolling in that school. Besides, if I were to go there, you would most certainly pressure me to major in medicine, right? You’re already known for being stingy with grades, Professor Hartland.”
Dighton raised both of his hands out at the accusation, smilingly holding out his arms toward her. Lucy naturally linked her arms with his.
“I’ve been telling you for a long time, my dream is to marry a handsome, respectable man and live a peaceful life. If I can live like that, I will want for nothing else.”
“Fine, fine, I understand. If that’s what our baby pumpkin wishes for, then that is the way it should be. In any case, where did you want to go today?”
Lucy’s turquoise eyes sparkled. “There’s a new pie shop called Levain at the three-way intersection near Canalotte, and apparently their food is quite delicious.”
“Very well, my lady. Let’s go.”
It was the beginning of winter, but the weather was sunny. A smile was the only thing lingering on her lips.
“What? You’re already the head of the department?” Lucy’s hand paused midway to her mouth, her fork covered in spiced pumpkin and almonds. “Is it really so?”
“Not officially, but there have been discussions about it. The current head is about to retire, and there aren’t many people who can take over the position. Most of my seniors also retired around last year. Now, it’s mostly young professors who are teaching the classes.”
“Oh, right. Was his name Mr. Winston? You had a friend who became a professor last year, right?”
Dighton nodded. “He was appointed a full-time professor two years ago. He’s had a hard time, really. He has the talent, but he was discriminated against because he isn’t a nobleman.”
“The Royal University is supposed to be open to both nobles and commoners, so it’s frustrating for that kind of thing to still happen,” Lucy grumbled as she started eating her pie again with relish.
Her pleased expression quickly faded, though, a change that did not slip past Dighton’s attention.
“What’s the matter? Are you worried about something?”
“No, no, it’s nothing. I just… can’t believe that you’re already going to become a department head. I feel like I’m being left behind while all my older relatives have already settled into their positions.
He frowned. “What are you talking about? You’re not being left behind, you simply have your own path. You’re still young, and it’s only been two years since you graduated. Why are you already thinking like that? Also, Michel is on the same boat, you know.”
“I think he’s going to land a lead role soon. He’d been stuck with minor parts for a while, which discouraged him, but it turned out well in the end, I guess.” Lucy pressed her fork into the pie crumbs, looking at her cousin. “Do you truly think that I have my own path?”
Dighton’s lips curled into a smile.
Why was it that whenever she saw him with that expression, she couldn’t help but feel teary-eyed? Somehow, in the face of his affection, she always felt like there was nothing in the world that could scare her.
“Of course, Lucy. You’ve shown us your limitless potential since your childhood. You’re smart, cheerful, and good-hearted. If you want to get married and start a family, that’s fine. If you want to continue your studies, you can learn anything. You can do anything.”
“Even if I pursue medicine?” She grinned mischievously.
Dighton reached out to stroke her hair. “Of course. If you enter our department, I’ll prepare an interesting project just for our baby pumpkin.”
“No need. I’ll just take your words now to heart.”
The two laughed warmly, unaware that that would be their last meeting with each other.
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