|Chapter 4: The People's Circumstances|
|Interlude III: The Girl's Conflict||You Are Here||Interlude IV: The People's Police|
Synopsis[edit | edit source]
After abandoning Elmer C. Albatross at the Third Library, Huey Laforet lazes about his storehouse home for several hours until he realizes he forgot to buy groceries. He sets out at sunset for the marketplace—fully restored from yesterday's chaos—and grouses about Elmer right up until he bumps into Monica Campanella.
Monica falls into step with him and talks about how Elmer not only livened up Renee Parmedes Branvillier's afternoon classes, which Huey skipped, but even managed to ensure Renee stayed on topic. Her approving tone leads Huey to accuse her of "taking Elmer's side," an outburst of genuine irritation that takes him aback.
Elmer, who has been eavesdropping on them for some time, reveals his presence by teasingly accusing Huey of being jealous that "Moni-Moni" is talking about him. His declaration that they will make a great team is vehemently rejected by Huey, who yanks his hands away from him. The movement causes Elmer to drop a book he was carrying, which Huey recognizes as Giordano Bruno's De l'Infinito Universo et Mondi, a book banned by the church.
Where Huey is alarmed that Elmer is carrying a church-banned book around in public, Elmer is not, considering that Lotto Valentino has only one church to its name. This is only one of the reasons why Elmer feels that the city is strange, and he lists a few of the other things that have caught his eye. Though Huey privately agrees with many of Elmer's points, he instead dismisses Elmer as a 'newcomer' with open hatred. However, Elmer counters that it is precisely because he is a newcomer that he is noticing something is off.
Once Elmer leaves, Huey excuses his own behavior to Monica as the result of fatigue; though his gentle smile is fake, he does at least admit that Elmer actually irritates him. Monica admits in turn that she is jealous of Elmer because Huey at least treats him honestly. She and Huey both agree that something is not right about Lotto Valentino; recalling Elmer's comment that the streets are lacking in smiles, Huey mutters that the world does not need smiles at all.
By the time Elmer returns home to Esperanza C. Boroñal's manor, Niki has already retired to her chambers. In the dining room, Elmer and Esperanza discuss Esperanza's attitude towards woman for a little while before Elmer abruptly changes the subject and reports what he learned via eavesdropping on Dalton Strauss' meeting with Denkurō Tōgō and Zank Rowan. Realizing that this is not a conversation for their ears, Esperanza's maids leave the room.
Dalton has already informed Esperanza of the situation, as it turns out, and Esperanza confirms that the powder is a drug. As for the gold ornaments, they are counterfeits that some of the citizens have been using to 'buy the city' from the aristocracy.
Huey skips classes at the Third Library the next day, which worries Monica to no end; already regretting admitting her jealousy of Elmer, she frets that Huey's silence could potentially be an outright rejection of her feelings. When Elmer comments on her fretful countenance, she coldly rebuffs his friendly outreach; undeterred, he deduces that she is afraid he will 'steal' Huey from her, given that the only times Huey has shown real emotion have involved Elmer.
Embarrassed and upset, Monica pummels her fists against Elmer's back to no avail; he laughs and assures her that he has no romantic intentions toward Huey and that Huey hates him besides. Furthermore, he sincerely believes that she and Huey would make a good couple and expresses his support for such an endgame.
Shortly afterwards, Elmer suggests that they go visit Huey, having taken Renee's assumption that Huey has a cold at face value. Thirty minutes later, as they are walking to the marketplace, Monica realizes she does not know Huey's address and informs him of the fact. Elmer assures her that he knows where Huey lives—he asked Maestro Dalton for Huey's address. Monica's earlier worry that Elmer might have romantic intentions toward Huey returns, but that worry turns into a deeper alarm when Elmer nonchalantly reveals he knows where everyone in class lives, Monica included.
Fearful and perturbed, Monica asks Elmer how much Dalton told him about her. He replies that he does not think Dalton told him anything problematic, but even so, he will keep what Dalton said to himself. Monica warns him against prying into other people's pasts, presuming that he would not like people learning that he is a witch's son, but his reaction is far more indifferent than she was hoping for. He acknowledges that people generally do not like their pasts to be discussed, "setting [himself] aside," and promises he will not share what he has learned.
Nearby, several children playing in the square sing a popular street song about a 'demon' coming to mask everyone's faces, alluding to the Mask Maker serial killer. Monica asks Elmer how much he knows about the Mask Maker, and he relates some of the rumors he has heard as they enter the marketplace proper. He asks what Monica thinks of the Mask Maker in turn, specifically bringing up how over half of the Mask Maker's were witnesses - most of whom were children their age.
Before Monica can share her thoughts, Elmer is confronted by Niki's bald master. He demands to know what Elmer has done with Niki, but Elmer's responses antagonize him to the point of violence. However, a tall man with sharp eyes intervenes before the man's fist reaches Elmer; Elmer identifies the newcomer as Aile, the leader of the Rotten Eggs. Aile, surprised, asks if the girl (Niki) Elmer ran off with before told him his name; Elmer affirms this as the case, and then thanks Aile for intervening.
Aile says that he has heard Elmer has been looking into the Mask Maker and the drugs, the latter of which openly confuses Monica. Realizing that Monica is not involved, Aile is deliberately vague and advises Elmer to not pry into the city too much if he wants to live a normal life. Elmer replies that he will decide whether or not to pry after he learns the true nature of the city, but Aile retorts that the City Police might not give him time to do so.
Monica asks if that means the City Police are on the side of the aristocracy, to which Aile replies that it is the opposite: the City Police sides with the common people. He repeats his warning to Elmer before taking his leave.
Elmer and Monica resume course for the storehouse district, where Elmer attempts to figure out which storehouse is Huey's. After making sure that they are alone, Monica expresses her disbelief that Elmer has been doing something as dangerous as investigating the Mask Maker. going so far as to shake him by the collar. He explains that he is not trying to be a nuisance; he just wants to make people smile, which he has a better chance of achieving by arming himself with knowledge. However, he admits that he can be 'dense' when it comes to these sorts of situations, something that 'Speran' constantly points out to him.
Monica responds to Elmer's concerns about the danger of ignorance by countering that ignorance can also be bliss, opining that a truth that saves a few people could at the same time make more people unhappy. From the doorway of a nearby storehouse, Huey emerges to ask them what they are doing; Monica, upon realizing that she is still holding Elmer by the collar, panics and pushes Elmer away from her. Elmer loses his balance and topples off the harbor's edge and into the sea.
After Elmer is safe on dry land once more, Huey reluctantly allows him and Monica into the storehouse in order to find out what they were doing. Monica spends the next ten minutes apologizing every time Elmer sneezes, until Huey suggests in exasperation that Elmer wring out his sopping shirt. Elmer moves to strip his garment, and Huey thinks nothing of it until he notices Monica's attention is fixated on Elmer. Though he sardonically wonders if Elmer has taken off his trousers, Monica's expression speaks of something more serious, so Huey looks for himself—and freezes.
Elmer's exposed back and arms are covered in countless scars of all sizes and types, a sight so grotesque that it genuinely just might be worse than Huey's memory of his mother's wound-covered body. Upon noticing the tension in the air, Elmer apologizes for exposing them to such a sight and quickly reaches for his shirt, warning them to wait as "it's worse in the front." He resumes humming a cheerful tune, and neither Huey nor Monica can bring themselves to ask about Elmer's past.
That evening, Elmer to the Boroñal manor to find Esperanza and Niki have started dinner without him. He joins them at the table; though late, he is the first to finish dinner and retires to his room in short order. Niki thanks Esperanza for the meal and, when he promises that his people will protect her from the Mask Maker, thanks him once more for 'everything' before returning to her own room. As Elmer is absent, Esperanza does not realize that Niki's smile is fake.
Meanwhile, Elmer stretches out on his bed in the guesthouse and decides to investigate the drugs tomorrow morning. As he dozes off, a creaking sound prompts him to open his eyes, at which point a paper with red handwriting on it flutters onto his face. The first line is reminiscent of Aile's warning earlier that day—"do not delve any further into the matters of this city"—but the second line, "this pain is a warning," is not, and Elmer wonders what it means.
Another creaking noise prompts him to lower the note, and he comes face-to-face with an individual wearing a beautiful white mask. The masked person leaps onto Elmer's bed and stabs his left arm with a silver stiletto.
Several hours later, Monica finishes prepping the next day's ingredients for the patisserie she works at and retires to her bedroom. She wonders what she should do if Huey returns to school while she opens her bedroom windows, only to freeze at the sight of a masked man watching her from the window behind her desk.