Even with glass between us, with a cute girl in front of me, I was slightly nervous.
If she were a normal girl, I don’t think I’d even be nervous at all. But Claudia Rheinland wasn’t any ordinary girl.
First off, a normal girl doesn’t get arrested on murder allegations.
Second, a normal girl doesn’t carry around a weapon as if it were all she had to remember her parents by.
And third, a normal girl doesn’t proclaim herself the hero.
… Maybe princess would’ve worked out, I thought as I looked at those blue eyes before me.
But I’d have to revise that… A princess didn’t look so unfortunate.
The girl called Claudia Rheinland was a girl whose full appraisal gave off some lingering shadows.
Unrelated to how dim the room was, irrelevant to the healthy radiance of sunlight, it looked as if the pale light of the moon would suite her better; a girl suited to a dark, damp air. That was Claudia Rheinland’s image.
… Rather than a princess, perhaps she was closer to a witch.
Perhaps discomforted by my long look, or perhaps that’s what her usual expression was like, Claudia narrowed her slanted eyes and looked at me.
“Is there… anything strange about me?”
“Eh? Oh, not at all. I was thinking over what we should talk about.”
“… I… don’t know anything about you.”
… But she added on. “You’re the same, aren’t you?”
“Yes. You’re exactly right. Unfortunately, we don’t know anything about one another. In this instance, the first thing we should do is introduce ourselves.”
I said it as cheerfully as I could. I didn’t want to put her on guard, and more than anything, to fight in the trial to come, her cooperation was an absolute necessity.
… You have to build a relation of trust with the client.
That weird, spaced out, but proficient attorney boss of mine always spilled that phrase from her mouth.
So I decided to do just that.
“I’m Daniel Lockhart the lawyer. My job is to protect your rights.”
“Rights? Exactly what part of me would that be protecting?”
She made a face that implied she really didn’t understand from the depths of her heart. I could see at once that she had increased her grip on her sword.
“Those rights would be your basic human rights.”
I thought to recite the definition from the textbook word for word, but stopped myself.
“Pretty much, I get money to protect your legal interests. That’s my job.”
“… Money? But I don’t remember paying you any money.”
… And I don’t think you have money in the first place.
The first part of her words were well enunciated, while the later parts dropped in tone before fading out entirely.
“Even if you don’t pay, the country is paying me. This country has a law that, no matter the criminal, they shall always be afforded an attorney.”
… Then, said Claudia. “The reason you’re protecting me is because of money?”
The tone of her voice was the strongest so far.
“That’s right. I took on this job because I wanted the money.”
I gave an immediate reply. Claudia’s mouth closed into a straight line, as she gave me a sharp glare.
To be honest, I could have lied there. That I’m saving her because I treasure her, or because I want to protect her, and such idealistic drivel was better suited to a young girl in her teens.
But I wasn’t good at lying. Even if I spouted driven from my mouth, I’m sure before those piercing blue eyes that seemed to see through everything, it will all have been for naught.
… If I lied to her, I couldn’t get her trust. In that case, I don’t care if she hates me, I just want us to be honest.
“It’s not like I… was living a life of camping out over there.”
Claudia’s used an overly self-depreciating tone. And I recalled. The words I had said in court.
“I had a proper house there, and a bed, and a table, and chair, and even a bookshelf. I was always reading the books father left behind, learning about the world through them.”
At the first part her stone was strong, but after that, it gradually began to shake, and become a tearful plea.
“I… am not a savage. Neither am I an oddball. I am not defective in the head. I only thought to do something good for everyone’s sake.”
I didn’t know what to say. I silently listened to her words.
“I… know about people… like you. They come out a lot in the books at my house. They’re the type of villains who’ll easily cheat, trick, use violence, and do the worst sorts of things for their own selfish desires, right?”
A majority of that was close to false allegations. But I didn’t think to deny it.
… I mean, she wasn’t wrong. I was definitely using her to earn my bread.
As I recall, the amount you can earn in court-appointed defense is close to chicken feed. The level when you’ll finally get some loose change if you win the suit. But whether it be easy money, or small change, there’s no changing the fact it was money earned by using people.
“The worst sort of person. More wicked than the demon lord. The criminal calmly bullying the weak isn’t me, it’s you!”
“Is that so… by the way, in your books, what happens to those villains?”
On my question, her most abject face of all turned to a smile. But even if I said that, it was the sort gained from tormenting another, a cruel smile.
“The ally of justice kills them all. Without leaving a single villain alive…… The ally of justice uncovers their evil deeds… all of them… all of them, everyone is properly defeated… justice always wins, and evil always loses… and the final page is always a happy end.”
Claudia continued talking, containing her sobs. She was looking down, so I couldn’t see her expression, but I thought she was surely crying.
Large drops of water dripped onto the table. Her entire body was trembling as she spoke.
“So why… are you all I have? Why is a villain like you the only one who’ll save me?”
Claudia raised her face. What’s she’d been desperately enduring to that point had crumbled, and with all her emotions on display, rather than some hero, she looked like a simple, normal girl.
The girl was crying after all. Nothing more and nothing less, raising a stifled cry I couldn’t call a voice, she looked as if she was wishing for help from the entire world.