Prelude of Pearls: The 5th Prelude – An Interrupted Cadence
(She’s still following me, huh?)
Seeing a familiar hooded figure tailing me through the crowd, I couldn’t help but express such concerns.
A few days after I got my guild card, I noticed that a strange device had been planted in my bag. Upon further investigation, it appeared to be some sort of item that traces one’s location called a Tracking Pen.
While I was slightly paranoid about having such an item in my possession, I kept it around, using it to broaden my investigation.
Investigation into what, you ask?
Into whoever was trying to tail me.
It didn’t take me very long to find out that my tail was a girl in a strangely iconic hoodie.
「………should I confront her?」
I mean, sure. I left this issue alone as she wasn’t really doing me any harm.
However, I had to admit that having someone constantly observing me was becoming somewhat of an annoyance.
Furthermore, the girl’s stalking spiked in intensity yesterday, making me feel increasingly uncomfortable.
(……yeah. Let’s do it.)
I muttered to myself as I walked into an alleyway.
「……you may as well come out now.」
I turned towards the girl, my eyes honed on her figure lurking behind a dumpster.
Understanding that my gaze would not shift until she came out, the hooded individual steadily crept into my view. Although her head was mostly covered by her hood, I could make out two things.
Long, flowing jet-black hair that flowed down to her waist.
And a vividly dark expression that blanketed her pretty features.
「………how long have you known?」
「……don’t you think you should be the one answering questions?」
Trying not to give away the fact that I was already aware of her tailing since she first started, I confronted the girl before me.
「So? Who are you?」
「…don’t you know that you should give your own name when asking for someone else’s?」
「What? You already know my name, right? You’ve been investigating me after all.」
Returning a quip of my own, I urged the girl before me to supply her name.
「Shana. Shana Bonnet. Detective.」
Although this name gave me a bad feeling, I narrowed my eyes, carefully [reading] the girl’s visage.
(It would seem that she’s telling the truth.)
Concluding my [cold reading], I rubbed my hair before asking another question.
「Ok. So why were you following me?」
「………can’t answer, huh?」
Taking her hesitation as a refusal to respond, I sighed before bringing my hand to my scalp.
Yet, as I did so, something piqued my interest, causing me to shift my line of questioning.
「……well, then maybe you can answer another question.」
Taking out my phone from my left pocket, I opened up a certain application as I stood silently, my guard raised.
And then, after ensuring that I was ready, my lips quivered.
「You weren’t the one who called those guys here, were you?」
The sound of footsteps suddenly reverberated through the narrow alley.
Judging from the sound alone, there were several people rushing towards our current location.
Were they enemies? Were they allies?
I had no way of telling.
Therefore, I prepared myself by flipping out my 【Dom-Link】.
Just in case I needed to engage in combat.
As a group of blue-haired punks flooded the alleyway on both sides, the detective cursed through her teeth.
From what I could see, these “punks” consisted of several men and women with rebelliously torn clothes.
Sea blue, navy blue, sky blue, dark blue, turquoise, cyan.
Despite the varieties of blue hair, I was not very thrilled.
After all, it would seem that Shana knew these people who had surrounded us.
And seeing how she turned and staggered backwards, it was clear that this hooded girl and these…gangsters(?) weren’t on the best of terms.
A cute squeal escaped from Shana’s mouth as the back of her head collided with my chest.
「Calm down. It’s just me.」
Towards my expression of concern, Shana glared at me with an agitated leer.
(……I guess I better not use ≪Forced Calm≫ on her.)
Determining that it would be inappropriate of me to use a buff skill on the girl I had just met, I returned my focus towards the gangsters.
(……12, 16, 15. They’re easy enough to deal with one at a time, but…)
I muttered to myself as I referenced all of the punks’ levels. None of them were a match for my actual level individually, but…I wasn’t exactly confident about facing this many people at once.
How many people, you ask?
Offhand, I’d say about 20.
Yet, the sea of delinquents suddenly parted before a single youth with dirty blue hair.
「We got some business with you, b*tch.」
I remained quiet as the deep voice resounded throughout the alleyway.
My eyes moved towards the owner of the voice.
A tall, relatively well-built man with dirty blue hair stood between the parted sea.
It would seem that this man was the leader of the pack.
「You’ll be coming with us, you little spy.」
My gaze strayed towards the girl still in my chest. While I wasn’t particularly sure what was happening, it was clear that these people were after Shana.
Nevertheless, not giving a damn about my predicament, the dirty blue boy declared the following with a coarse tone.
「But before we do, I’m gonna show you some pain!」
(So……now what do I do?)
I wondered to myself as I looked towards the pleasant blue sky, now filled with storm clouds. As I felt a trickle of water fall onto my face, I once again redirected my gaze towards the blue-haired posse.
Apparently, hair colours in Paletia represent nobility and lineage.
And from what I’ve been able to tell, blue hair was a sign of nobility of this country: Azur.
(……well, I’d prefer it if I didn’t get into a scuffle with people who stand out so much.)
Strange. The way I say that makes it sound like I actually have a choice in the matter.
In any case, the fact of the matter was that this situation was quite unfavourable.
I mean, it’s 2 against 20.
And with my vulnerable disposition, there was no way that I was going to try my luck with these strangers.
(……water, huh? I guess that’ll work.)
Although subtle, my lips formed into a slight smile.
One that did not go unnoticed by two figures near the centre of the pack.
「-?! Boss, this man?」
Addressing the boy with dirty blue hair was a girl of maternal features.
Bright red lips.
Rich, glossy skin.
Regardless of interests, anyone who laid eyes on this girl would probably say that she was “hot”.
And, just like her appearance, the tension surrounding us suddenly began to flare.
「? Hou? Look what we have here.」
The boy with dirty blue hair, “Boss”, expressed interest as he raised his brow. While his build and demeanor seemed rather aggressive, I wasn’t intimidated in the least.
After all, there wasn’t much that these delinquents could do in the face of my next move.
With a firm gaze, I softly uttered a single word, my delivery intense and indignant.
And what followed……could only be described as miraculous.
A brilliant burst of barbaric blue blinded the surroundings, indiscriminately lashing out with lethal brutality.
Some might call it frightening.
Others may be overcome by the awe of this beautiful blue beast.
Yet, whether you were one to tremble in terror or be stunned by its splendor, I really didn’t care.
And neither did the crackle of the electricity which I had just unleashed unto the world.
*Crackle crackle crackle*
A high pitched chirping could be heard from the azure spark.
And yet, as the turquoise jolt ripped through the traces of water on the floor, a different cry could be heard.
With each chirp of lightning, a delinquent wailed before collapsing.
The volt continued twittering.
Their lives continued flickering.
While I didn’t particularly have any obligation to, I used a…certain skill to ensure that 3 people were not harmed by the fireworks of saturated static.
The first was the girl with the hoodie, Shana.
The second was the lady of maturity, Lackey A.
And the third, a boy with dirty blue hair, “Boss”.
「Boss! Please stay back!」
The two youths, secured and disturbed as their eyes focused on their surrounds.
The sky-blue light pulsated, rippling through the alleyway graced by rain.
And yet, the boy at the epicenter of this attack…had disappeared, along with the girl in the hoodie.
「……*phew*…looks like we’re safe.」
I was met with a face of displeasure as I heaved a sigh of relief.
Naturally, the owner of this scorn was none other than the hooded girl.
「Let go of me.」
Shana spoke as her eyes trailed on my hand attached to her wrist.
I apologised while loosening my grip, noticing a thin line of red appearing across the girl’s heated cheeks.
「Anyway, who were those guys? I get the sense that you aren’t exactly on the same side.」
In the face of my question, Shana glared at me, her furious gaze probing me mercilessly.
If I didn’t know any better, I would say that she was [reading] me.
Although I had no idea why.
「…………you don’t seem to be lying.」
「……why would you think I am?」
I couldn’t help but return an expression of incomprehension towards Shana’s mumbles.
「You’re a strange man, J. A strange man indeed.」
「That’s not the first time I’ve heard that.」
I spoke dryly towards the girl.
After all, throughout my adventures in the guild, lots of adventurers continued to tell me that I was strange for someone of my kind.
What did that mean? Well, that’s a story for another time.
But suffice it to say, my appearance would have others often mistake me for someone I’m not.
「I’ll see you later, J.」
In the face of Shana’s abrupt departure, I couldn’t help but instinctively call out in an attempt to stop her.
However, the hooded figure simply turned around, her narrowed eyes tempered with tender kindness.
「Thanks for the save. You’re not a bad guy, for a noble.」
And with that, the girl walked away.
I stood in silent solitude.
The bustle of the city, undisturbed by my solemn stature.
Nevertheless, I didn’t care.
After all, my mind was focused on the lingering trail that my tail had left behind.
(………I didn’t think this was going to be so useful so soon.)
I thought to myself as my deep blue eyes were imbued by a radiant shimmer.
A skill that allows the user to view the world through the lens of control.
Putting it another way, I could see whether a thing was owned by someone.
Although I was still wrapping my head around the intricacies and implications behind this recently obtained ability, this basically served as an all-purpose scouter.
And this scouter had managed to track a vivid set of charcoal footprints.
(It’s obvious who these belong to.)
I mumbled, mulling over my next move in my mind.
Do I go to the guild, ignoring the girl who had not only been tailing me, but had been attacked?
Or do I go after Shana, pursuing the truth while exposing myself to whatever dangers may lie in store?
(………well, the answer’s obvious, isn’t it?)
Without hesitation, I turned, neglecting the prints that would soon evaporate into the sky, singed by wintry clouds.
After the whole fiasco with Shana and those gangsters, I made my way to the guild and applied for a job playing as a pianist.
I mean, the pay wasn’t exactly bad and I was looking forward to getting my hands back on the keys.
And so, I started my shift at about 5 PM, currently pressing through my 8th hour.
At that time, however, I noticed a lone girl with brown hair sitting at the bar counter.
The reason I had noticed her was because she had been sitting there for about 3 hours now.
Although quite peculiar, I paid it little mind as I began to play a song that was taught to my by a friend.
A song that was tragic, yet beautiful. A breathtaking piece that wouldn’t fail to pull at one’s heartstrings.
Its title? The Servant of Evil.
Composed by Mothy, the second song in a collection of pieces that depicted a heartbreaking, yet heartwarming story.
And it was a song that I never forgot the moment I heard it.
「~🎵You’re the queen and I am your servant🎵~」
「~🎵If we could be reborn in our next life, then please play with me again🎵~」
The moment I finished my song, weeping could be heard coming from the girl at the counter.
(? What the?)
I was suddenly bewildered as to the girl’s sudden display of sadness. Yet, regardless, I paid it no mind as I took my second break and walked towards my boss.
「Good work, Victor.」
「? Ah, right. Yeah, thanks.」
I answered half-heartedly, forgetting that I had used my alias for this job.
Alias? Well, yeah.
I mean, it was annoying for me to interact with people when they kept mistaking me for a noble.
Therefore, I used a certain skill of mine to change my hair colour to a gentle shade of black.
While I won’t go into the specifics, the name of the skill pretty much explained it all.
(…man, this isn’t like me.)
I thought to myself as I bought a bottle of diet cola and skimmed through the magazine on a nearby rack.
Normally, I would have no interest in magazines. Yet, browsing through some of these articles helped me understand a bit more about this new world.
Which is why I decided to spend this free time studying it.
(? What’s this?)
I thought to myself as my eyes widened at what I had picked up.
The magazine that had drawn my attention was entitled the following:
Aoyama’s famous Transmission Station! The Most Powerful Transmitter and Receiver in all of 【Paletia】!
I couldn’t help but internally express my surprise.
After all, if I had access to this, I could potentially contact all of my other friends who were also sent to this world.
Therefore, I began to forage through the magazine for information.
From what I had read, it appears that the station uses the magical properties of the Aurora hanging above 【Lucid】 city in order to send and receive messages over large distances.
According to the article, this station was capable of reaching almost all of the countries in Paletia. Furthermore, it seemed that it specialised on honing in on specific signals from a distance, like a sort of radar or something.
The more I read, the more I was convinced that this transmission station could possibly solve my problem of reuniting with my friends.
However, as expected, it wasn’t that easy.
The Aoyama Transmission Station was only allowed to be accessed by those with proper authority. There are only two people who could issue such authorisation.
The Royalty at the Azurian Capital, 【Ruri】, or the Aoyama themselves.
The Aoyama family includes three people, the head, the elder brother, and the younger sister. Their names respectively were Ren, Aoki, and Hiroko.
Aoyama Ren appeared to be a dandy, middle-aged man who was a famous aristocrat. He was expressed as being very just and kind, taking a more forgiving stance towards other nationalities.
Aoyama Aoki was a stylish young man of many achievements, most of them featuring physical strength. That said, there were apparently various dark rumours surrounding him that had been defined as ‘baseless’ by the magazine.
Aoyama Hiroko was described as a beautiful and talented young woman that focused more on artistic achievements. There were also various mentions of her ‘distinct insistence’ on ‘racial equality’ which, for some reason, was slightly denoted in a negative light.
(Well, regardless of who they are, this doesn’t really help me at the moment…)
Sipping the remains of my diet cola, I walked back to the piano and began to play once more.
It’s now about 3 am.
Obviously, I’m tired.
You would be too if you were playing music for 10 hours.
I heard a slightly meek, yet melancholic voice call out to me.
I turn around.
I saw a girl with brown hair and round, chestnut eyes. Although her pale face had a smile plastered onto it, her watery eyes and slightly strained cheeks felt almost painful to look at.
Of course, I had recognised her. She was the girl that was sobbing on the counter about 2 hours ago.
(…what, she’s still here?)
I thought as I examined the teary-eyed girl.
Upon closer inspection, I recognised her from somewhere else.
Remembering the picture in the locket that hung around my neck, I realised who this girl was.
She was the ‘one who was left behind’.
「What is it?」
I gave a terse reply.
「Er, that song was really beautiful. Thank you. You must be really talented.」
Although she spoke words of praise, I couldn’t help but see it as hollow due to her strained expression.
Still, she had come up to me after waiting for a full two hours so she must have really wanted to thank me for the song.
「Thanks. But even if you say that, you’re grieving over something, right?」
I spoke the following as I stared at her distantly. Thanks to the ≪Illusion≫ spell, my black hair cascaded over my eyes, obscuring parts of my face.
「You were crying earlier, right?」
「T-That’s true, isn’t it? …sorry.」
「Why are you apologising? You haven’t done anything wrong?」
I respond with the following in an attempt to relieve some of her burdens. Regardless of my intentions, however, the girl’s shoulders trembled as she appeared to be on the verge of tears.
「…you’re really kind, aren’t you?」
As her lips trembled, I continued to speak in short, sparing sentences.
After that, an awkward silence began to envelop the surroundings as our conversation paused.
Perhaps unable to bear the weight of the lull, I spoke up.
「…if it’s ok with you, I’d be willing to listen to your story.」
Unsure of whether that apology was a ‘I’m sorry but I don’t want to talk about it’ or a ‘sorry for causing you trouble’, I was at a loss for how to respond.
「My mama—my mother is gone.」
For some reason, she had phrased her words quite ambiguously. As her statement could be interpreted as either her mother being deceased or missing, I was slightly perplexed as to how to respond. Thus, I simply remained silent.
「I’m not really sure, but thanks to your song, a lot of memories came flowing back to me that I couldn’t hold back the tears…」
「Um, what was that song called again?」
「Servant of Evil.」
I replied bluntly. It was a song that I had fond memories of. A song that had a beautiful melody and a heart wrenching story. Although I wouldn’t necessarily have thought that the song’s theme of ‘loyalty’ would have resonated with this girl’s plight, nevertheless, I had told her plainly of the song’s title.
「Servant of Evil…weird.」
「Yeah, it is.」
As she spoke that, she began to walk towards the exit.
「Thanks. You really are kind, aren’t you…」
「Not that again…」
Although I had answered in an exasperated manner, the girl seemed to have regained some of her spirit as she smiled while laughing softly.
「But you’re really good, you know. Please play for me again.」
As she spoke this, she smiled. Not the sombre, strained smile that she had given me before, but a truly beautiful, beaming expression.
As I was taken aback by her beauty, she left the premises.
I was currently at a loss for words.
After all, this was the first time that I had talked with the one who was left behind face to face.
To be honest, she was completely different from her mother.
Her mother was weak.
She was driven to despair and desired death.
She cowardly ran away from her responsibility, her remaining kin.
And in the end, she died without a giving a single word to her child.
Yet, this girl, unlike her mother, was strong.
Even though her mother had been missing for over a month, she still clings to hope.
Even though she’s been driven to despair, she can still make a strong expression like that.
(…come to think of it, she’s the only one that thanked me for my performance, didn’t she?)
I was suddenly reminded that she was the only one that had given me a truly heartfelt compliment for my playing.
She was the only one that expressed gratitude towards my music.
(…I guess it’s decided then.)
I resolved myself as I clenched my fist.
It’s time to return the favour.
|The 1st Segue – Rhythm Changes||XCrossJ’s List of Movements||The 6th Prelude – Marionette|