“Wow, really? Should I be thankful? Should I swoon in gratitude?”
“You could say, it’s a type of research for me.”
“If someone volunteers to be a research subject, they get compensated. So, could I receive my fees too?”
He ignored my retorts and smiled awkwardly. “You don’t feel a pang of guilt for your actions, do you? But you don’t think you’re enforcing justice for society, or doing something heroic, either. It’s just something you do… for something. Just like how quarantine workers get rid of rats and cockroaches.”
Is that it? It must be something similar. A long time ago, it was something enjoyable, but now it has just become my occupation. “Is that so?”
“I think you’re a psychopath.”
I titled my head and looked at him, frowning. I couldn’t tell if he was serious or just joking. “Sure, detective,” I said, “Could you also enlighten us on the definition of the word? What is a psychopath? Someone who goes around killing people?”
“No,” said the Grand Duke. “Not necessarily. Psychopaths have antisocial personality disorder. They lack the ability to empathize with others. You might even say they have the absence of a conscience. They abhor boring things. They always look for something to challenge and stimulate them. They are excellent at deceiving others and are good speakers. Most times, they can be very charming.”
Psychopaths… the description fits me well.
“Since only 15% of the frontal lobe that controls emotions is activated in psychopaths, some argue that it’s innate. But it’s still under research.”
“That’s interesting. Psychopaths. Isn’t there some drama with them in it?”
“I don’t really watch dramas, so I don’t know.” He looked at me calmly. “Not all psychopaths become serial killers. Such cases are very rare. Many of them lead normal, ordinary lives, even if they’re psychopaths. But you have chosen the worst path.”
He said it was my fault. I smirked. “It’s a relief that I didn’t turn out like the rest. Because now I can be a part of your research material, detective. Don’t contact me again. Who would consult a marmot for crimes?”
Anger, irritation. All the feelings that had been suppressed for a long time surged up. I let go of the stupid boy’s chunk and pushed him with my fist. He fell back to the ground and groaned as both of his hands covered the thing between his legs, whimpering.
“Oh, stop making a fuss! I didn’t even twist it enough to hurt you.”
I suppressed the urge to kick him. The boy wasn’t my target. The one I desperately wanted to kick was leaning against the marble statue in the garden and looking at me with a strange smile on his face. I realized why he looked so familiar. The ambiguous smile, the flat gaze…
I stopped right in front of the Duke of Glouster. His appearance had completely changed but I knew who he was. I should have known. But…
I took half a step back. Isn’t this strange? Did I really have a mental breakdown like my brothers said? How was it that the people who lived together in one lifetime were born in the same world together again? How is it possible that they would recognize each other? What was the probability of something like this happening?
“Since when did you know? Your past,” he asked.
I frowned, staring at the Grand Duke. “Not that long. You?”
“I’ve known it since I was young. Always thought I was crazy. Everybody thought that. Even my mother.”
I raised my eyebrows. “The late king?”
He only gave a curt nod. Wow. My brothers thought me brazen but they haven’t called me crazy yet or treated me differently. Only Aaron ignored me a little, but he ignored everyone when his nose was in his book.
The Grand Duke’s answer clarified everything for me. I had no doubts anymore that this was real. I wasn’t having a mental breakdown. This wasn’t something psychological. I glared at the Grand Duke, then turned to the boy who was still on the floor.
“If you ever cross me again. I won’t let you go so easily,” I said. “And when you approach any other girl with your vileness, remember that I will cut your tongue and feed it to the dogs. If that’s clear, why don’t you get lost now? Your face is making me sick.”
The boy struggled to his feet and disappeared into the darkness along the path between beautifully trimmed. The Grand Duke, a detective in his past life, an insufferable human being, just tilted his head and looked at me.
“If I’m honest, I thought you’d kill him.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you. But I have got a lot to lose in this life.”
Well, if he hadn’t turned up, the boy would have gone home with a few cuts and bruises. But hey, that’s just part of growing up! I had secretly slipped a small knife that I used to cut meat under my clothes.
Amy was puzzled when I had asked her to leave a gap between the folds of my skirt, like a pocket. But she had asked no questions. The gap had turned out to be very useful. Oh, why, do the d*mn dresses not have pockets! I had decided right then and there to have my clothes stitched in this fashion.
“Like your brothers? Your family?”
“They’re very precious to me.”
“Does your family know you killed Count Thoreau?” He asked with a sly smile.