Chapter 3

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Hole 3: Grave Robber

Chapter 3

Muoru should have been aware of how unskilled he was at that sort of thing.

At any rate, he was only a mole specializing in the digging of trenches. He wasn’t a public prosecutor or a detective, so racking his brains would naturally result in limited answers even if he just tried to guess.

But since he’d been brought to the graveyard he did have a lot of time to think about things as he dug holes. Plus, he’d heard some stories that had shed some light on his predicament.

So now he had new questions about his situation, with different hypotheses coming to mind regarding the potential answers.

First, I’d like to emphasize the fact that I didn’t kill 2nd Lieutenant Hedger Reeve.

And I swear, my old companion, the shovel labeled ”Case #50357: Dangerous weapon A”, the item rolling around within the military court’s evidence storage area, which was probably more like a junk room anyway, definitely wasn’t what it looked like.

Someone else was the killer.

Hedger Reeve’s true killer.

Somewhere in the world was the person who had removed Muoru’s shovel from his sleeping area, hit Hedger’s empty head once, discarded Muoru’s bloody companion in the trash pile and then falsely blamed him for the crime.

During his trial no one had even satisfactorily looked into his potential motive for the murder. However, if the military police had asked his soldier companions for a bit of information, they would have probably gotten sufficient answers supporting their claim. Probably statements like, “Muoru was rebellious so he was often physically punished by the lieutenant” or “The lieutenant would knock over Muoru’s food”, or “The lieutenant made Muoru clean up the horse dung all by himself”.

But, I wasn’t the only one of Hedger’s called good for nothing underlings who was the target of his bullying. In fact, there were most likely no ends to the amount of people who resented the lieutenant.

So, even the true culprit’s motive stemmed from a grudge towards Hedger. Muoru didn’t have any doubts about that hypothesis.

At first Muoru thought that the thought of killing the man had only come to him once or twice. However, thinking about it now he wondered, was that really true?

Did Hedger Reeve’s true killer really send him to the world of the dead out of resentment?

…from here on out, his theory was nothing more than a guess. And though he was merely thinking ‘hypothetically’, What if the true criminal’s goal was to utilize the prison system to falsely accuse a young working mole and make him come here?

Even Muoru was aware of how absurd that idea sounded.

But it went without saying that this graveyard was definitely an abnormal place. And on occasion, the common knowledge of the outside world was obscured. So, he could only make a judgment based on what he had personally seen and heard himself.

Which brought him to Crow’s first piece of testimony- “That old man is terrible. It’s like, no matter how many people are employed to dig holes, once they become unable to deal with the devils, they soon become useless.”

Even working a simple job of digging holes didn’t seem so simple here.  And if there were many cases where the laborers soon became useless, then it was likely that Daribedor must have been looking for other people who, besides having physical strength, would be able to keep a secret and cause no further trouble in extreme situations. This meant that Daribedor probably didn’t object to the idea of employing a former mole shackled with a prisoner’s collar.

And…

Eventually death would comer even for the grave keeper who stole The Dark’s power.

And if multiple people couldn’t be grave keepers at the same time then preparation was definitely important…perhaps, Meria was something like a spare for Maria.

So if possible, they found someone who seemed to be able to withstand dealing with those monsters. And if by chance the person was able to tolerate harsh labor then that was probably like killing two birds with one stone. Plus it didn’t matter if they tried to escape, because with a part of their body changed to The Dark they wouldn’t be able to leave the graveyard.

In other words, the reason I came here…

In the end that reason was mostly unrelated to his hypothesis.

Daribedor had made him dig graves, in advance.

That was where another piece of Crow’s evidence came in. – “The demons seem to understand their disadvantages. Now they aren’t just refraining from hunting or luring out humans, they don’t appear before them at all.”

It was only after he’d specifically finished the grave, that the flesh monster had come to the graveyard. So, in other words the attack had been planned. How in the world they did it he didn’t know, but Daribedor or the masked people probably had a way to summon the monsters.

Of course, simply summoning it wasn’t going to kill it. So in essence, calling the monster was no different than sticking one’s hand intentionally into a lion’s mouth.

But in this graveyard…there was a grave keeper.

Even so, Muoru didn’t know why or under what pretense they were luring the monsters, nor did he know if that act exposed the graveyard or the grave keeper to danger. Could it possibly be for the sake of mankind or was that just wishful thinking?

When he’d asked Crow about that they’d answered, “Even I want to know that these days. What I do know is that the people who take down the devils get a reward. And the bigger they are the more that sum jumps up. The masked companions make their living off that.”

According to Crow, the reward surprisingly didn’t come from a country or a temple organization, but from one human’s wallet. The true identity of that person was largely unknown and even for the masked hunters it was half shrouded in mystery. But some reasons for only one individual to provide the rewards were that, there were no ties of obligation, and that they would give “a very fair payment” to the person who took down the monster.[1]

The orphaned Meria and the others like her didn’t even have a family register.[2] They were humans that didn’t exist. So it must have been simple for Daribedor to deceive them with promises of a reward.

Even Muoru smiled in sympathy. It was a very easy story to understand. Although he’d only seen the inside of the mansion once, he could still recall the awfully extravagant furniture and decorations.

Provided a grave keeper like Meria was there, calling the monsters to the graveyard would generate a large amount of money for the caretaker.

As that flood of guesses rushed into his head, Muoru worried that the murderous feelings he’d once harbored towards Hedger were now burning in his chest for a different reason. And due to those feelings he now felt like his new companion in his hand was screaming to be used for a far more productive task than digging holes.

However, if he did that then this time around he’d be facing a genuine life sentence. And of course in that case there would be no chance to clear his name from the false accusation. And he wouldn’t be able to disclose any proof he had for his previous theories. He had no money for a bribe. All he had was his own body and his feelings for Meria.

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[1] “Very fair payment”  This phrase is italicized in Japanese for emphasis. I believe it is supposed to show Muoru’s skepticism with the current payment scheme run by Daribedor.

[2] Probably the same as in other countries, but in Japan everyone must register their identity with a so-called “family registry”. This is basically a record of each family in Japan. Since it doesn’t factor individuals but families, basically the author is saying Meria has no family. Which would explain why in Japanese she is called “Meria of the Mass Grave.”

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