Translator: Denryuu; Editor: Ryunakama
I dragged the unconscious doppelganger back to Elvi’s mansion.
「It’s true… there really were two Rolands…」, she gasped upon seeing that we looked identical.
She had brought me a rope, which I used to tie the doppelganger’s hands together. I made sure that it wouldn’t come off, greatly reducing his chances of escape.
「I believe that this is the person behind King Reubens’s assassination. I’ll leave you to handle the rest.」
「Okay」, agreed Elvi. 「He will be sent to the oubliette at once.」
「If he’s anything like you, won’t he bust out of the oubliette with ease?」, questioned Lyla.
「I am still bound by the laws of physics. It’s difficult for me to do anything when chained and placed behind bars.」
「It’s coming from you, so it must be true」, said Elvi. 「Once security and surveillance have been set up, can I trouble you to take a look?」
「That’s your job, isn’t it?」
She may be hesitant because it’s ‘me’, I thought.
「You have my thanks.」
Hurrying outside, the Holy Knight mounted a horse that a servant had brought from its stable and rode off gallantly in the direction of the castle.
「What an adventure. Could he be someone, or something, that assumed your appearance?」
「Not a chance. That was, without a sliver of doubt, my ‘Faint Shadow’.」
「…I see. I was reminded of our battle in my castle when he used that skill right in front of my eyes.」
I took a seat on the doppelganger, who showed no indication of waking up soon.
「My right arm, which you were using as a back scratcher, disappeared. And then this guy showed up. Thoughts?」, I asked, rapping on his cranium. 「He said that he came from that arm. Can we just dismiss it as bollocks?」
「Maybe we can think of it as a spell that both you and I have yet to know of.」
We both felt that we were missing the big picture.
「It doesn’t look like he’ll talk. What a shame.」
Lyla had proposed to try all sorts of spells on him, which we did after knocking him awake. None had any sizable effect however, with the exception of one for somnolence.
「Your information-squeezing spells don’t seem to work on him.」
「Perhaps he’s impervious to all magic of this type.」
Demon magic was superior to human magic in every case. If Lyla, who stood at the pinnacle of the pyramid of demonfolk, was unable to make it work, then it could safely be declared impossible for a human.
「But how did this happen, and just why does he want to replace you…」
I had the same questions, but was no closer to an answer than she.
Elvi soon returned from her business. Following one of her subordinates, we headed for the oubliette beneath the castle with the sleeping doppelganger in tow. The servant placed a burning torch on the wall, illuminating the surroundings. It consisted of a single cell.
He gets the whole floor to himself, I thought. Special treatment indeed.
「There will be nobody to stand guard. We’re making it unpredictable. We will only send people — on a rotational basis — down to provide food and water. I find that the fewer chances he gets to interact with others, the better.」
「Those are good measures. He may be able to lure others in with words.」
「Can he…?」, said Lyla and Elvi in unison, their faces full of doubt.
「Time and trust are required for that to happen」, I continued. 「Elvi’s method will prevent any prolonged contact, and I think it works.」
Elvi’s subordinate cuffed the doppelganger’s limbs, making sure to lock them. His arms were tied in such a way that they were pulled behind his back. He was also blindfolded, with the knot tied at the back of his head and the ends gnawed off.
「These grilles are made of an anti-magic material」, explained the subordinate once we were out of the cell. 「We only learnt of this long after the construction of this cell, but they also block skills.」
「A special cell reserved for special prisoners」, added Elvi.
「For VIPs only」, I said.
Lyla cast a weak spell to test the bars for herself. Nothing happened. Not even a sound from them.
Everything was in place. I was unable to find a single loophole to comment on. As long as the human part of the plan doesn’t go to pot, I don’t think he’ll be able to escape.
「The torch on the wall is lit only for visitors — this place is pitch black otherwise. The blindfold will make it difficult to his eyes to perceive any form of light.」
The subordinate took the torch off the shelf, causing the far corners of the oubliette to recede into the darkness. He returned to his duties once we were above ground again. We then headed for the room that had become the Imperial Guards’ headquarters to decide what to do with the doppelganger.
「It’s best for the country that we get rid of him as soon as possible.」
The longer he sits in the oubliette, the more time he has to escape. That will certainly complicate things. Lyla glanced at me, and I nodded slightly to indicate that I understood.
「I want to know why he exists. In both the literal and philosophical sense」, I said.
「What will you do with that information?」
「He apparently grew from my right arm. If it’s true, it’s a result that neither humans nor demons have ever managed to achieve.」
「You have got to be kidding.」
「I would think so too… but that skill belongs to me, and only me. He acted like me, and thought like me. You have already seen his face too.」
「That’s true…」, said Elvi with a frown.
「Perhaps his arm just happened to have been chosen this time」, said Lyla.
「…But by whom?」
「If only we knew. It would save us a lot of trouble. If there really exists technology that can generate an identical body from a preserved arm… do you know the implications, straight-laced girl? It might be possible to clone an entire person from a hair alone.」
「So what should I…」
「Take as much time as you need to interrogate him」, I said. 「Like what I went through. That was one of the worst experiences of my life.」
Having been tasked to assassinate a prisoner, I had infiltrated the prison, masquerading as one myself.
「I, usually a resilient person, was left in the darkness of the oubliette. I didn’t know how long I would be there for. My sense of time dulled. I was starving all the time. I was a pitiful wretch. The warden that came every now and then barely gave me more than a lick of water each time. He greeted me on some days, and we would have small talk. On others, he spoke not a word. Trapped in the darkness, so far removed from the cycle of day and night, my mind became muddled. That warden became my guardian angel, my only source of escape. Yet he never asked a thing from me. That’s the kind of interrogation I went through.」
「W…What happened in the end?」, stuttered Elvi.
「The temptation to talk grew stronger each day. To tell him stuff like who I am, why I was there and who I had to kill. I believed that doing so would make him spend more time with me. Entertaining the only person I had with me became more important than what I had gone there to do.」
I learnt later that the interrogation had been carried out with the aim of finding the prisoner that had hidden a large stash of money outside. The culprit had confessed before I told them everything, and I was set free.
That prisoner had been my target.
「Instead of forcing him to talk, we make him talk of his own accord?」
「Exactly. Since no amount of magic can make him talk, it’s the only choice we have.」
Elvi was clearly reluctant to carry it out.
「What if」, chuckled Lyla when she saw her expression. 「You can’t bear to do that to a person that looks like Roland…! Right?」
She had hit the nail on the head. Elvi turned red immediately.
「I-I can’t help it, okay? He resembles a friend I went through thick and thin with. Even if they’re different on the inside, he maintains that he is Roland…」
「If that’s the case, then you can get someone else to do it. It won’t take much to act as his guardian angel.」
「Okay. Let’s do that.」
And so it was decided.