Part 4 – Chapter 8: The Painter
Piam guided us to the edge of the residential district in Crambarrow, which was by a park with a grove.
It was a two-story house with an atelier, and there was a staircase connecting to a large balcony, allowing you to access the second-floor from the atelier.
The garden was plain, filled only with mown grass, in spite of being quite large. And in the corners, there were shovels lying around, exposed to the wind. There was even a swing for children, which someone had made.
They had seen other houses in the residential district on their way there, and many had shown great artistic sensibilities with their statues and tended flower gardens. But there was something comforting about the plainess and lived-in feel of Piam’s house.
Piam opened the door and shouted inside.
The door leading to the atelier opened, and a young man replied, ‘welcome back.’
The man who appeared was in his early thirties, and had a rather gloomy face. His work clothes were stained with paint as he rolled up his sleeves with a look of embarrassment. And then he smiled.
“You don’t really look like friends of Piam. Customers, perhaps?”
He had a low, calming voice as he looked to Tor and then the twins. And then he gestured to the back of the house.
“Please come in. While we cannot offer much, our house is always clean thanks to Piam. And I’m quite proud of it.”
“Hey, brother! Introduce yourself first!”
“Oh, ah, excuse me. I’m being berated again. Hello, I am called Kirish. Now, please come in.”
Kirish laughed after being reminded by his sister. He introduced himself and then led the way to the back.
Piam puffed out her cheeks.
“He didn’t even ask for your names! I’m so sorry. My brother has always been unfit for proper society.”
Piam seemed to be the strong one, and had some thoughts about her brother. Regardless, she urged them to come inside.
And so Tor and the twins thanked her and entered.
As Kirish had said, the place was very clean. There wasn’t a speck of dust anywhere, and the floors and ceiling reflected the light of the magitec lamps.
As they went to the living room, they saw that the wall was decorated with two paintings. One was a simple drawing done by a child, while the other seemed to have been done after some growth.
“Piam drew these when she was younger. You can see the improvement, can’t you?”
Kirish grinned as he looked at the two drawings.
“So, what is your business here? You appear to be an Adventurer, but you ladies… Well, I am not sure.”
“We refused to take any sides regarding the vampire incident, which resulted in us being refused at every inn. It was then that Ms. Piam helped us.”
Mailey explained, and then Kirish looked puzzled.
“What? That’s what this is? Oh, how terrible. I sympathize with you.”
He said, even though he looked like he was ready to burst into laughter.
And then Piam pointed to Tor and the twins and introduced them.
“This man is Mr. Tor. A B-Rank Adventurer. And these pretty ladies are Ms. Euphie and Ms. Mailey. I’m sorry, I don’t know who is who…”
“No, not at all. It happens all of the time, so it is fine. A small difference.”
As they shared each other’s thoughts, it didn’t really matter which one you were talking to.
Euphie and Mailey turned to look at Tor.
“If anything, Mr. Tor is abnormal in ability to observe the differences.”
“I got used to it.”
If you were with someone every day, then you would start to see things in their gestures that were different. Besides, Tor felt that as traveling companions, he must not confuse one for the other.
Kirish then gestured for them to sit on the sofa.
“So, you three have come to investigate the vampire incident?”
“Yes, as we had a personal interest in it.”
Mailey said, as she sat down on the sofa next to Euphie.
Tor sat on a wooden chair that Piam had prepared.
Kirish folded his hands together and looked at Tor.
“Interest, eh? I doubt you will be satisfied then.”
“It seems like that.”
Tor agreed casually, much to Kirish’s surprise.
“So you already know that it is not the work of vampires then?”
“We checked the autopsy reports. And so it is difficult to believe that the deaths during the past two years are related to vampires.”
“I heard that you were B-Rank, but you have impressive investigating abilities.”
Said Kirish, and then Euphie smiled and said,
“If anything, I am curious to know why you don’t think it is the work of vampires, Mr. Kirish.”
“It was when I first came to Crambarrow, I think about fifteen years ago. I was commissioned to do a few paintings, where the subject was vampires. And so I did some research. And what is happening now does not align with the information I gathered back then. The methods are too different. And so I assumed that the culprit must be different as well.”
“Brother, you never told me any of this?”
“Really? Well, uh… I suppose it was about two years before I found you.”
Kirish said. He was looking up at the ceiling as if trying to remember. “Well, it is in the past.” He said, finally.
He and Piam then looked at the trio and laughed.
“Ah, sorry. Yes, we are not actually related. It is not a delicate story or anything. So there is no need to feel awkward.”
The trio were a little surprised at the sudden revelation, much to Kirish’s amusement.
Piam also showed no signs of caring.
“Apparently, I was placed in a box in front of this house over ten years ago. There was a letter inside, saying, ‘this is your child.’ Would you like to read it?”
“No, thank you.”
The twins said with troubled expressions.
But it is a delicate subject! Tor thought jokingly.
Piam then sat next to Kirish and chuckled.
“It really is nothing. I am able to live just fine. I can draw and…while my brother is a strange person, he raised me well, and even made that swing in the garden.”
“Ah, I will have to fix that.”
Kirish said as he looked out of the window at the swing. And then he turned to the lock on the wall and shook his head.
“Well, not today.”
“I already told him that I’m not the age to be playing with swings.”
Piam said with exasperation. But then she smiled as if remembering something.
“But more importantly, they bought my drawing today. My drawing!”
“Oh? How very unusual. While she may still be learning, I would be glad if you took good care of it.”
Piam protested with a jab, but Kirish laughed.
They seemed to get along well.
Piam then looked at the twins.
“That’s right. Please tell us about your travels. Have you ever seen a waterfall or a large river? Have you any great mountains?”
Apparently, Piam wanted subjects to draw, and so Euphie and Mailey started to tell her.