Kieran's serious expression turned into a delighted smile.
His sudden change of expression shocked Simones.
"2567? Are you okay?" he asked anxiously as he took out the [Calming Balm] he had with him all the time.
"It's nothing, I just find it funny that I'm frightened by the Shepherds."
Kieran waved the balm away with a smile.
"The Shepherd of Death may have shared the same name and rank as the five major societies, but that was during their prime! It's been almost 30 years since they were eliminated by Rei. Even if they did rise back from the ashes and gathered their remaining forces, they would only recover a little of their former glory. Otherwise, they wouldn't have appeared now that Rei is missing!"
"Rei and the major five societies went missing at the same time. This was a great opportunity for them to rise again, devour the other small factions and reclaim their power. They only sent an invitation to me though. What does that mean?" Kieran stared at Simones.
"Maybe they are afraid of being discovered?" Simones guessed.
"Yes, they are afraid! The Shepherds do not possess the confidence and abilities to take down the other factions, even without Rei and the other major societies, so they need to spread their name to show their strength! I am the unlucky guy Rei made a prophecy about, so I am the best possible target!" Kieran nodded.
"A lean camel is bigger than a horse, 2567! You need to be careful when you face the Shepherds! Especially considering their ability to control the dead!" Simones reminded Kieran.
"Don't worry, I value my life quite a bit! By the way, how did Rei go missing? What really happened?" Kieran asked in a serious tone, holding back his smile.
It was a question he'd wanted to ask ever since he had seen the description of [The Shaman's Partner II].
"It was that 'thing'! Don't ask me what it is, I really have no idea! Rei never told me much. She knew it would be bad for a half-ass like me to know too much. Other than the fact that Rei and the major five societies went missing because of that 'thing', I really don't know much more than you and Elli! If I could just"
Before Simones could finish his words, he sighed and gave Kieran a bitter smile.
He looked more disconsolate than he had ever before.
Simones seemed to think that he was unable to do anything to help. His helplessness had increased even more and it felt more like remorse.
It seemed like Simones knew more than it met the eye, but he was not willing to reveal any more.
Kieran was not about to underestimate anyone within Nikorei's acquaintance circle, nor would he force them to talk about something they felt unpleasant about.
He quickly changed the topic.
"So can you help me investigate the Blood Queen Tiara and the Fantos' manuscript?"
Kieran switched the topic back to the list he had found in the Cursed Society's secret room.
"No problem, leave it to me!" Simones promised, accepting the task.
The two of them continued their casual conversation. Most of the time, Kieran was listening and Simones was talking.
They ended the session at about 1 a.m. at night. Kieran went back up to his room after telling Simones goodnight.
The rewards Kieran had gathered from all the other societies had been moved to his room.
He turned on the table lamp and got ready to go through the books he had gathered about [Mystical Knowledge].
Kieran was also planning on resting after an hour or two, as he still had to investigate Sunshine Mary in the morning. Otherwise, he would not have minded reading all night.
He first went through the books he had gotten from the Fiery Hounds' place. He shook his head in disappointment. He had read those books before.
He had also read half of the books he had gotten from the Cursed Society.
Fortunately, there was also the other half. It was enough for him to read for the time being.
When Kieran picked up a book named "Stars and Destiny", he placed it back down as soon as he flipped open the cover.
He had heard footsteps lingering at his doorstep.
It was Elli. Kieran put his book down and stood up before going over to the door and opened it.
"You You are not asleep? Uhh I am going to bed!"
A scared Elli was lingering outside. She staggered back a little, looking panicked and uneasy. She was stuttering, but before Kieran could even reply, she sprinted back to her room and slammed the door shut.
The loud slam astonished Kieran.
He glanced over at her door and could clearly hear Elli screaming. From the suppressed noise, Kieran was certain that Elli was screaming her embarrassment into her pillow.
He had no idea why Elli had behaved like that.
Kieran went back into his room and closed the door with a puzzled expression.
After a while, he had completely immersed himself into "Stars and Destiny". It was the book he had been looking for. To be precise, it contained basic knowledge of [Astrology].
It was what Rei's collection had been missing.
This did not mean that Rei's collection was inferior compared to the Cursed Society's. It was just that Rei's books were too advanced. Kieran, who lacked a basic understanding of the genre, could not understand those books, even though some of them were unique in the world. Even if he could make out some words or letters, when everything was combined, it left him baffled.
The Cursed Society's books filled those gaps for Kieran. It was an unexpected surprise for him.
Kieran immersed himself in the book, not caring about Elli's odd behaviour outside his door.
"Such an energetic young girl!"
Simones, who was in the study on the first floor looking for information about the Blood Queen Tiara and the Fantos' manuscript, had exclaimed when he'd heard the commotion upstairs.
Kieran was having breakfast in the morning, when Schmidt arrived with the newspaper as he'd promised.
"Simones, a fried egg sandwich and a glass of milk, please!" Schmidt requested without any courtesy.
"Very well!" Simones replied with a happy smile.
"Thanks to Boller, I come here for meals quite often! I hope that fellow is alright" Schmidt said when he saw Kieran looking at him with a puzzled expression. Whenever he spoke about his partner, Schmidt looked worried.
Soon, he hid his emotions.
"See what the headlines are today? As expected! 'Death follows the Raven!', 'The attack of the Bird of Death', 'The Ominous Bird reigns the West Coast'... Such fitting descriptions of you!"
Schmidt was talking in a high voice, waving the newspaper around like a boy selling newspapers on the street as he read the headlines out loud for Kieran.
Kieran remained quiet as he poured cream, pepper and a whole lot of salt on Schmidt's fried egg sandwich.
"Please don't waste food!"
Kieran swallowed down his fried egg sandwich in two bites and gobbled down a glass of milk in one gulp. Then he urged Schmidt to finish his "special" sandwich and dragged him away before Schmidt could even grab a glass of milk.
"I won't be back in the afternoon. Just prepare dinner for me!"
As Kieran left instructions for Simones, he walked through the gate the workers were repairing. He dragged and threw Schmidt into the Picard's passenger seat and then started the car.
"You did this on purpose, right?" Schmidt said angrily in the car.
"So did you, I suppose?" Kieran countered Schmidt's question.
"Fine, fine! I admit it! I just wanted to see the famous Bird of Death get embarrassed when he saw his own name in the papers!" Schmidt said, finally surrendering.
"If you'd kept that last part to yourself, you might have sounded more sincere!" Kieran laughed coldly.
"I was just stating a fact! Stop the car, I need some water!" Schmidt told Kieran.
"No, you will repent for your sins by sacrificing your tastebuds!"
Kieran accelerated even more to stop Schmidt from jumping out of the car.
The car continued its journey to their next destination, the Golden Beach, at that ever-accelerating speed.
The Golden Beach was a popular tourist spot on the West Coast. During the summer, it attracted all sorts of tourists from all over the world.
It could be considered a paradise considering the sunlight, the sea and the number of women in bikinis there.
Unfortunately, it was winter now.
The chilling wind blew from the north. It was cold enough to pierce one's bones in combination with the humidity of the sea.
The dozen of uniformed police officers made the place look even more awful.
Schmidt raised his collar and tightened his coat as he got out of the car.
Kieran, on the other hand, ignored the chilling wind and looked at the Sunshine Mary at the far end of the beach.
The 20-meter tall ferry was very eye-catching.
Its mottled paint and rusty body did not rob it of its former luxurious look. On the contrary, it gave the ferry a different kind of appeal, making it look like a noble cruising ferry that had been through the sea of time.
As it rose from the bottom of the sea, it looked like an iron fortress.
On the beach below the ferry stood a man in a formal suit and leather shoes with a frivolous manner that ruined the magnificent picture.
The man looked like he was in his thirties. His hair was combed and gelled back, so that when the sun shone down on his head, the light was reflected brightly.
His face was full of bumps, acne, and some swollen sores.
His voice was as loud as a cock's, yet it sounded terrible.
"I said, blast this spot right here! Use more explosives!" The man was shouting at the police officer on duty before he noticed Kieran and Schmidt approaching.
After glancing over at Kieran, he shouted at Schmidt, "Hey, amateur! Tell your men to set up some explosives here fast! I am the mystical consultant hired by the director! If it wasn't for your tortoise-like speed, I would have already completed this task!"
The horrible voice of the man and the words he had just uttered made Kieran frown.
A mystical consultant?
If Kieran was not mistaken, that title belonged to Nikorei!
Kieran looked at Schmidt in confusion.
"You are the Raven, the Bird of Death, the Ominous Bird, the infamous 2567? Aren't you a little too 'normal-looking'? Well, anyway, I was looking for an assistant myself..."
The man interrupted Schmidt and started blabbering selfishly.
Kieran's expression turned serious.
That piece of sh*t talker