Prelude of Pearls: The 4th Prelude – Lucid
「H-Hey!? Get your hands off of Celest!」
「Ah!? Shut up, you fucking brat!」
As a chain of loud voices and painfully harsh shouts entered my ears, I stirred in my sleep.
「Hey! Take off those clothes!」
「N-No! P-Please stop it!」
「I told you to get your filthy hands off of him!」
(………what in the-?)
Roused from my sleep, I scrunched my face as I slowly opened my eyes to the blinding sun.
I was met with a gorgeous view of the cityscape. Blue skies, white fluffy clouds, golden sun rays, vivid green grass.
Appreciating the refreshingly beautiful scenery in my groggy state, memories of the night before briefly surfaced in my mind.
Painstakingly walking across the bridge, I made my way towards the city, finding myself in a place called 【Lucid】.
However, as I realised that the money in my pocket wouldn’t be accepted in this world, I walked around, finding an isolated park.
Seeing as my journey had been quite taxing, it didn’t take long for me to rest my fatigued body on a bench.
-which eventually led to the unfolding of the current situation.
(What in the world just woke me up?)
I surveyed my surroundings in an obviously foul mood. It didn’t take long for me to find the source of the disturbance.
Three skinny, blue-haired men with pale skin and glossy clothes were gathered in a nearby, secluded location.
And, surrounded by them was—-a child?
A small girl with yellow hair was pushed against the wall by one of the men. Distress flashed across her face as tears flowed down her cheeks.
(…are the inhabitants of this world just a bunch of monkeys?)
Exasperated, I habitually massaged the inner corners of my eyes with my thumb and index finger.
Then again, could you blame me for displaying such disappointment?
After all, ever since I arrived in 【Paletia】, all I had seen were men forcing themselves onto women.
Nevertheless, I was certain that I wasn’t going to get any more sleep until I did something about this annoyance.
「O-OWW!? What’s with this girl!?」
As an unseemly sound slipped out of one man’s mouth, I narrowed my eyes, allowing me to capture a new face within my sights.
New? Perhaps another would have been a more apt description.
After all, what I saw was a girl identical to the first, sinking her teeth into the youth’s arm.
As the man swore, I [discerned] that now was the time to make my move.
I silently drew closer as I [observed] the men. They seemed similar…no, they were ‘weaker’ than the guy I had killed.
In which case, I shouldn’t have too much trouble.
At this point, I was already behind one of the men who had surrounded the twins. Seeing as all of them were distracted by the girl with the canines, I was able to dispatch one of them without the others noticing.
I grabbed the closest man by the head and forced it down to the ground.
It would seem that this was enough to knock him out.
As my attack was less than subtle, everyone looked towards me, flabbergasted.
However, it was this bewilderment that would lead to the men’s downfall.
Using my newfound agility to swiftly approach the men, I picked up a pebble that laid nearby and threw it full force at one of the men’s torso.
A repulsive sound leaked from my victim as he lost his balance.
It was then that I [discerned] a chance which could be exploited.
Still stuck in my approach, I grabbed the unbalanced man by the arm and swung him around, using both strength and momentum to fuel my throw.
And then, I let go.
Naturally, I did not release my grip randomly.
After all, the victim’s body flew towards the left over man, knocking the both of them out cold.
*Thud* *Smash* *Crash*
A series of collisions echoed through the park as the bodies tumbled across the ground.
However, paying them no mind, I simply grabbed my bag which I had left near the bench I was using to sleep.
(Ah great. Now I’m completely awake.)
As hot blood circulated through my veins, I couldn’t help but feel annoyed as my active body no longer allowed me to fall asleep.
(Damn. And I was having such a good sleep too…)
Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I began to walk back towards the two children.
「……are you two ok?」
I asked, trying to make myself as gentle as possible whilst bending down on one knee.
Seeing as my face was often scowling, I tried my best to put on some sort of front, even if awkward.
What I was met with, however, was a low growl coming from one of the girls.
Well, to be specific, it was the aggressive child who bit one of the men from earlier.
(……it’s obvious that I’m not wanted here.)
Understanding this fact, I decided to take my leave, standing before turning my back on the children.
「M-Melanie! T-That’s rude!」
「H-Hey, Celest! He’s one of them! We can’t let our guard down!」
「B-But he saved us! W-We need to at least thank him properly.」
One of the girls came up to me, adjusting her clothes before bowing and speaking with a childish voice.
「T-Thank you for saving us, sir.」
「……are you hurt?」
Repeating my inquiry, I turned back towards the girl, my consciousness still slightly groggy.
「Um, we’re fine. How about you?」
「……well, I’ve been better.」
For some reason, I decided to answer honestly as my eyes focused on the girl’s face.
Eyes of brilliant blue.
Chubby, prepubescent cheeks.
Rich, golden blonde hair.
By all accounts, the child before me was an undoubtedly cute girl.
…and yet, for some reason, something felt off to me.
I don’t actually know what it was, but this something…continued to nag at me.
「? Um, is there something you need from me, err…」
I asked, realising that I had forgotten the girl’s name. If I recall, it was…Melinda or Seles or something?
「O-Oh, that’s right. We haven’t introduced ourselves yet.」
Recognising her own blunder, the girl before me bowed before looking at me with her sky-blue eyes.
「M-my name is Celest. I’m a girl.」
In the face of this girl’s introduction, I honestly couldn’t help but express scepticism.
After all, not only was it strange for this child to state her gender but, for some reason, her eyes slightly shifted to the side as she spoke the word girl.
The child’s cheeks grew slightly red. Her fingers were unusually fidgety.
Although this could be passed off as simple shyness, my brain just couldn’t let this go.
These were the symptoms one might express when telling a lie.
『Master, you have obtained the skill ≪Cold Reading≫.』
A high pitched tone rang in my ear, followed by a robotic, feminine voice.
(…well, that was different from what I expected.)
As I was reminded of the new setting that I had adjusted on my way here, I expressed understated astoundment.
During my travels, I was constantly messing around with the 【Dom-Link】 on my phone, causing me to stumble on a feature called Audio Notifications.
The idea of having notifications told to me rather than having to look them up myself was obviously appealing. After all, it’s not like my opponents are gonna let me check my phone mid-fight.
Therefore, I toggled it on, coming across a list of voices.
Well, I say list but…there was only 1 option selected.
Conflicted, I toggled the setting, not sure of what to expect.
Yet, I guess what I received wasn’t…the worst that could have happened?
Shoving these thoughts to the side, my focus returned to the skill that I had just gained.
A skill that a certain 18-year-old virgin possessed in a certain anime about games.
-The ability to bluff and read the target in order to extract information.
(……does that mean that I obtained the ability to [read] a person?)
Seeing as the protagonist of said anime used this ability to skillfully read his opponent’s thoughts and feelings, it was reasonable to assume that I could do the same, right?
(But how did I obtain such a…wait. You mean I just-?)
An epiphany struck me.
Considering that I had just recently obtained the skill, something about my previous actions must have triggered the notification.
In order words-
The trigger was my [reading] of this girl–Celest’s lie.
「H-Hey, you! What’s with you, all of a sudden!?」
「? Ah, sorry……erm?」
A harsh, shrill voice snapped me out of my deep contemplation.
「Melanie. Melanie Ambrosia.」
With a grumpy expression, the other girl expressed annoyance towards my sudden silence.
「O-Onee-chan. Y-You’re being rude.」
「Geez, Celest. It’s because you’re like this that people like to bully you.」
「……sorry, but if you don’t need anything from me, I’m going to leave.」
I interjected, feeling slightly bad for interrupting the siblings’ strangely adorable banter.
「O-Oh, that’s right. Um, are you perhaps an adventurer, sir?」
「……you could say that.」
I responded vaguely.
Adventurer. In most otherworldly tales, this term was, more often than not, linked with one particular establishment.
(……well, I found out where I’m heading to next.)
I noted quietly as my focus returned to the twins(?).
「Is that all?」
Celest’s head drooped, shortly followed by a long, strained silence.
「………right. Well, I’ll see you two around.」
「H-Hey! Are you just gonna leave!? Without saying anything?」
As Melanie sharply spoke, I grew slightly confused about what she wanted from me.
Nevertheless, I did remember something that I wanted to say to the two of them.
「……well, I guess there is one thing.」
Walking up to the two children, I placed my hand on both of their heads, stroking their hair gently before speaking the following.
「Take good care of your little brother, Melanie.」
–as the two blond haired twins eyes widened in surprise, I simply turned around and disappeared from the scene.
Although it might have seemed immature, I left the twins alone in the park as I headed towards the city.
My reason for doing so?
To put it simply, for my survival.
It might be hard to believe, but sleeping outside and not eating for half a day wasn’t comfortable in the least.
And my body was nearing its limit.
So? What does this mean?
Basically, I needed to secure myself three things:
Naturally, the first two could be solved almost immediately by the latter.
Which is why I needed to find a source of income.
And it just so happened that my meeting with the twins allowed me to identify a potential source of revenue.
Do I need to bother with the technicalities behind such an establishment?
I mean, all that mattered to me was that it was a place where I could become employed to be an adventurer.
Or rather, a place where I could gain some cash.
「*whistles* This is pretty cool!」
I expressed my amazement towards the scene spreading out before me.
Stepping into a building with a blue banner, I was met with foreign, futuristic architecture that dazzled my senses.
Pillars were slanted at a 45-degree angle from the floor.
Windows were fitted perpendicular to said slanted pillars.
Shades of blue were reflected off of the pearly white walls and slick, smooth tiles.
As I gazed upon this scenery, it had finally sunk in that I was in a truly different world.
(-wait, now’s not the time to be standing here.)
Snapping back to reality, I began to look for the reception desk.
Surely enough, it didn’t take me long to find what I wanted.
I came across a room that had several people behind desks. All of them wore uniforms of a distinct, yet somewhat familiar design.
Nevertheless, it was obvious that these people held the job of guild receptionist.
(……well, I may as well ask one of them about membership, right?)
With such an optimistic viewpoint, I walked up to the desk closest to me. For some reason, gazes filled with disgust pierced my skin, causing me to feel self-conscious in my approach.
(It’s almost like……these people are scared of me…)
As I [analysed] the leers headed in my direction, I couldn’t help but feel perplexed.
Nevertheless, seeing as I had business I needed to attend to, I returned my focus to the clerk before me.
I raised my voice, my eyes captured by a golden brown hair ponytail.
Judging from the guild clerk’s figure and complexion, she was probably in her mid-20s.
「U-Um, yes? I-Is there something I can do for you sir?」
「………you don’t have to be so uptight with me, you know?」
Unsure of why the girl before me was acting so nervously, I spoke in a calm and gentle tone.
「U-Um…this isn’t a trick, right? To get me in trouble or something?」
「Ah, m-my apologies. I didn’t mean to accuse you.」
「……sorry, but I’m really not understanding you right now.」
Unable to even comprehend the girl’s thought process, I massaged my forehead, trying to make sure that I wasn’t half asleep.
「Well, whatever you think you’ve done wrong, you’re not at fault. Rather, just talk to me normally. Like we’re friends.」
The girl looked at me with probing eyes.
(Was she……trying to [read] me?)
I wondered curiously as I stared back at the girl with eyes of calm befuddlement.
However, it would seem that her suspicion had soon been put to rest.
「Alright then. I’ll just talk normally, cool?」
「…I don’t see why that’s such a tall order in the first place, but whatever. I’m here cause I want to join the guild. Can you help me out?」
「Sure! Just let me get the documents.」
As her attitude took a complete turn, the girl walked away from the counter and bent down, seemingly trying to retrieve some documents.
However, because of this-
-her short skirt revealed a thin piece of colourful fabric.
I was incredibly conflicted.
Well, how could I not be?
I mean, as a male, it was only natural that I would be interested in…well, this. However, I was not so barbaric as to simply savour in such a delicacy without consent.
And so, while I felt that my eyes had lingered a bit too long on her derriere, I called out to her.
「Hey, you should watch your skirt.」
As soon as she heard my voice, she straightened her back and pulled down her skirt. As her face reddened, I could tell that she was extremely embarrassed.
「…did you see?」
These words escaped her lips. It seemed as if she was concerned about whether or not I had seen her underwear.
While I would normally have lied, it seemed that the bully inside me wanted to tease this girl a little bit.
「Who knows? I’m certain that I saw some revealing black lace there.」
「That’s not true! Mine are cute pink and have stripes!」
As she had realised her blunder, I simply flashed a knowing smile.
(Well, I wasn’t expecting that from her.)
「Interesting. Pink stripes, huh?」
As I repeated her outburst, the clerk grew flustered, giving off a familiar cry that may or may not get me into some legal trouble.
「Well, jokes aside. Are the documents ready?」
「What do you mean, ‘jokes aside’! You mean you were joking!?」
「Ah, no. They were certainly visible. Watch out for your skirt whenever you try and bend over.」
「S-So you did see!?」
「If you’re asking about your pink striped unmentionables, then no. I didn’t see them. Even though you described them to me, I didn’t see them.」
As the complete and entire truth came out of my mouth, the girl pouted before murmuring the following.
「S-Sir…you’re quite mean, aren’t you?」
「Huh? Am I really?」
「Yes, sir. You are.」
「Well, whatever. By the way, cut it out with that ‘sir’ thing. It’s annoying.」
「But…what do I call you then?」
In response to her question, I suddenly realised that I had yet to give my name.
However, thinking that my avatar’s name probably wouldn’t be appropriate, I decided to use something else.
「Call me J.」
「J? That doesn’t sound like an Azurnese name.」
Although I was curious as to what this meant, I decided that I’d investigate this later and came up with a stupid excuse.
「Well, it’s just an alias.」
「Ooh~ Mr. Mysterious~ However, I’m gonna have to ask you to provide your full name for your Guild Card.」
As the girl expressed thus in a playful tone, she placed a sheet onto the counter.
「I’m gonna need you to write your name, your gender, and your class. I’ll also need you to provide me with a strand of your hair.」
(Hair? Is that for some sort of DNA test or something?)
I began to sweat.
Assuming that they had DNA testing in this world, it would be unfavourable for me, an otherworlder and outsider, to have my biometrics identified in this world.
「Um…mind telling me what the hair is for?」
I asked while trying to maintain my composure. Despite my best attempts, I felt myself breaking out into a slightly cold sweat.
「Ah, the hair’s gonna be used to connect your guild card to you. It’s basically like a string that connects the guild to you and your magic power.」
(Magic power? Well, as long as it’s not gonna screw me over then I guess it’s fine.)
As I contemplated thus, I began to fill out the ‘form’.
(Alright. Next is-)
Plucking out a strand of hair, I stared briefly at the unfamiliar blue pigment before handing it over to the girl.
「Here you go.」
「Thanks. Now then-」
Placing the strand of hair aside for the moment, the girl took out a blank card from under her desk. Following which, she placed it onto the magic circle(?) on the enrollment form.
My eyes were glued to the girl’s hands as she grabbed the strand of hair she took from me and placed it on the card.
Yet, as soon as the hair touched the card, it disintegrated…or so I thought.
In actuality, the hair strand had been enveloped and absorbed by the card as it glowed faintly. Soon after, the card ceased emitting its light as several details appeared on the card.
(…is this magic?)
I could only explain the phenomenon that happened before my eyes with that. After all, it was something that I had never seen before.
A strand of hair disappearing.
A card glowing all on its own.
It would seem that these foreign miracles would soon become common knowledge to me.
After all, by the looks of things, I was going to be in this world for some time…
「Oh? So your name is…how do you pronounce this?」
The girl inquired, struggling to read my name.
「X(ex) Cross J (jay)」
「That’s why I just told you to call me J. It’s easier, right?」
「Yeah, sure is.」
「Anyway, is there anything else I should know?」
「Ah, right. I’ll give you the rundown.」
As she spoke for a long time, I was more or less half listening to her speech. The basic gist of what she said could be summed up with the following:
- The currency of this place is Gen
- Each card is set to owner’s body signature
- Each card can only be used by the owner themselves
- Adventurer Rank is separated into 10 ranks. (Low-G to High-SSS)
- The Guild Card serves as an ID Card
- Can be shown to others
- Information on the card cannot be tampered with by magic
- Will be required in most Guild Dealings (requests, transactions, etc.)
- Can be used like a credit card in most places (seems to be connected to a bank?)
- Guild Cards can be traced if lost as long as the owner is present during retrieval request
「By the way…」
As the girl had finished talking, she began to shift the topic.
「What kind of class is 【Dominator】?」
I was stumped by her question.
It’s not that I didn’t know what it was. No, I knew precisely what kind of class 【Dominator】 was.
That’s why I was stumped.
How would you explain such a class to such a person?
「…it’s a class that prioritises control.」
「Yeah. (I think) it’s a class that makes sure that one can control the outcome of a battle.」
「I see…you really are different from them, huh?」
「Ah, the Azurian Nobles.」
As she spoke this, I just realised that I was currently lacking a great deal of common sense necessary to live in this world.
Although it was true that I needed money, it would be hard to complete jobs if I didn’t know left from right.
As such, I needed information.
However, I couldn’t simply just ask people about things that should be common sense. If I did, I would only arouse suspicion.
In a foreign, unknown world where I was all by myself, suspicion was the last thing that I needed.
Therefore, I decided that gathering information anonymously was a priority. In fact, it would be best to gather information without human interaction at all.
And there were only 2 sources of information I could think of that required zero social interaction.
The internet, and books.
As I wasn’t sure whether or not this world had internet, I decided to go with the next best thing.
「Say, do you have a library here?」
「A library? Yes, we do have one. It’s down the hall and to your right.」
After all, seeing this sci-fi scenario, I wouldn’t be surprised if physical literature had been completely eliminated.
「Cool. Do I need anything to use the facility?」
「Ah, just your guild card. Well, you’ve got that now so it should all be good.」
「You won’t be able to borrow any books with your rank. Still, you can read any of the non-restricted material.」
「Thanks for the help.」
Expressing gratitude towards the clerk who was initially scared of me, I bowed my head slightly.
「I’ll catch you around?」
「Sure. You can come here if you ever want to register some quests or have any other questions.」
Answering with a single word, I prepared myself to leave when I had realized something.
「Oh, I forgot. Mind if I ask your name?」
「What, after all this time?」
The girl giggled as she cocked her head to the side.
「Alicia. As you can tell from my hair, I’m from the Auksas region.」
「Alicia, huh? Cool. Got it. See ya.」
「Later big boy❤」
As she playfully chided me, I simply turned my back on her and raised my hand.
(Now then, it’s time to go and get some answers.)
My investigations in the library, to summarise, was quite uneventful.
That said, I was able to get a few things sorted out.
For example, the reason why everyone acted so weird when they saw me was because my deep blue hair colour apparently portrayed me as some sort of noble.
However, what was more important than that was the place that I had stumbled across.
The name of this country, Azur.
And the name of this city–
And so, everything now begins to change.
Slowly, but surely.
|The 3rd Prelude – What comes after Death?||XCrossJ’s List of Movements||The 1st Segue – Rhythm Changes|