Prelude of Pearls: The 7th Prelude – Nobility
Under the night sky, filled to the brim with the aurora’s brilliance, two shadows had gathered.
One of the shadows wore an iconic hoodie, hiding most of her features from view.
The other shadow had a stream of mystic blue flowing elegantly behind her.
「So? How was it?」
A refined voice permeated the surroundings.
Prompted by the cool timbre, reminiscent ice on a Summer’s day, the hooded shadow spoke.
「I find it hard to believe that he’s the culprit.」
「Oh? What makes you say that?」
「He’s one of your kind.」
Though it wasn’t clear what the hooded figure’s last statement meant, the icy individual understood it perfectly.
To summarise, it meant he was a man of tolerance.
One that was not blinded by prejudice.
「It’s good to see that some of us weren’t corrupted by those barbarian practices.」
「…like you have the right to talk about corruption you Shotacon.」
The hoodie leered at the entity of light blue with disapproval.
Yet, the girl simply shrugged it off.
「*Ahem* Well, I pretty much understood that he wasn’t a bad guy after all that Celest-chan told me.」
As the name of a certain individual had been thrown into the conversation, the icy maiden spoke once more.
「So? Do you think he could be useful?」
An immediate affirmative came from the hoodie.
「I still don’t trust him. However, he has a strange power. I think it would be a valuable asset.」
「Strange power, hm?」
Intrigued, the dignified voice urged the hoodie to continue.
「Yeah. It was like magic, except without Mana.」
Indeed. It was.
In this world, there were several practices that brought about unique, miraculous events known as magic.
However, regardless of the discipline, Mana was required to create these phenomena.
Magic without Mana was absolutely unheard of.
「See for yourself. You be the judge. I’m just your informant.」
The hoodie shrugged, dismissive of her client’s disbelief.
However, this did not annoy the girl.
Rather, it only made her even more curious.
And so, as a dangerous light filled her pearly blue eyes, the girl spoke calmly.
「We’ll have to look into that ourselves, won’t we?」
「-!? What the-!?」
A shrill cry pierced my ears, causing me to reflexively jump out of bed.
Turning towards the source of the shriek, I saw the tear-stained face of a girl with brown hair.
Her visage, for some reason, held an expression infused with both fear and anger.
For some reason? Yeah, that was complete bull.
I was perfectly aware of the reason behind this girl, Pearl Noel’s miserable visage.
After all, it was I who had pushed her into such a state.
(………c’mon. Pull it together!)
I muttered, finding my conviction weakening.
I had already decided that I would go through with this, didn’t I?
「What? It’s just you, huh?」
Yawning, I continued to put up an aloof, uncaring [facade].
After casting ≪Forced Calm≫ on myself, resolve swiftly returned to my side as I made good use of the new 《Asshole》 trait I obtained.
「I……can’t get married anymore.」
I couldn’t help but blurt out my incomprehension.
Yet, upon realising where I was, things slowly started to make sense.
Last night, upon returning Pearl to her mattress, I plopped my exhausted body right next to the sleeping girl.
It wasn’t exactly strange for this girl to assume that something of an uncivilised nature had occurred.
「You know, I didn’t do anything to you.」
I spoke, trying to ease Pearl’s anxiety. However-
「D-Don’t mess with me! You and I were s-sleeping in the same bed!」
Tears flowed down her cheeks as Pearl grabbed a nearby nightcap and pulled it over her head. Despite her attempts, however, I could tell that her cheeks were reddened by embarrassment and shame.
「I-I’ve already……a baby……」
「……what the hell’re you saying?」
I asked the mumbling girl, tears and snot staining her pretty features.
Unable to understand how she came to this conclusion, I could only heave a heavy sigh, my mind trying to wrap myself around her thought process.
(Sleeping together……it couldn’t be……)
Stumbling upon an idea, I ruffled my blue hair before directing the following question towards the damsel in distress.
「You…do you know how to make children, right?」
「W-what are you asking all of a sudden!?」
「Just answer the question. If you don’t, I’ll burn that deed.」
Though Pearl’s interjection reminded me of a certain, red-haired neko-imouto, I wasn’t in the mood to deal with this sort of thing (cause I was drowsy -_-).
However, in the face of my threat-
Pearl abruptly leapt from where she sat, her outstretched arms reaching for my knapsack near the floor.
And yet, just as her fingertip was about to brush against the bag’s strap-
Pearl’s hand froze in mid-air, seemingly locked in place.
No matter how much force she exerted into her arm, it wouldn’t budge a single inch closer to my bag.
Needless to say, this had been my doing once again.
A skill that allows the user to manipulate the air.
However, what I found out by experimenting with this skill is that air manipulation is quite useful.
For example, I could align air molecules in a straight line to create an invisible weapon.
Or, I could strengthen the bond between the molecules and force them to stay in place.
Which resulted in the creation of the ability I was using to prevent Pearl’s advance.
To overly simplify, I was manipulating the air around my bag, creating a force field that blocked anyone from accessing it.
To be honest, this was primarily a defence technique synthesised from ≪Wind≫ and another skill, used in order to protect myself from harm.
However, like most tools, there is always more than one application.
「You…did you really think you could just take it so easily?」
With a condescending ≪Facade≫, I taunted the girl, desperately trying to grasp onto the bag contained her mother’s deed. Of course, in response to my arrogant attitude, Pearl glared at me with stern eyes. And then-
『Master, you have obtained 1 INT from successful blackmail.』
For some reason, my phone decided that now would be the perfect time to chime, loudly declaring the notification throughout the room.
「……what was that just now?」
「……nothing you need to worry about. More importantly, answer my question.」
I changed the subject, shifting her focus away from my phone and back to the topic at hand.
「Eh? That’s……when a boy and girl sleep in the same bed together, they make a baby, right?」
My mind ground to a halt, unprepared to deal with the girl’s naivety. When I finally did manage to snap out of my stupor, I couldn’t help but hold my head in my hands as I involuntarily expressed my utter amazement.
「You……are you stupid?」
A sharp sensation pierced my cheek as a crisp crack resounded through the room. Though my HP didn’t fall much, that didn’t stop my gaze from turning towards my assailant.
Her silky brown hair swayed violently as her hand trembled. Though I was on the receiving end of her slap, it was clear that she had felt the sting more than I had.
Yet, before I could make a comment, the girl with tears in her eyes ran out of the room, taking some clothes along with her.
「………what the hell?」
I spoke, reflecting on the astounding chain of events that had just occurred as I used conjecture to reconstruct the scene.
After waking up, Pearl saw me sleeping next to her, causing her to believe she was pregnant (which resulted in a huge scream).
Shortly after, I blackmailed Pearl with the deed I got from her mother’s pendant, consequently causing the girl to try and take it from me. Ultimately, because of my ≪Barrier≫, Pearl was unable to take the important parchment out of my bag.
Eventually, Pearl slapped me after I called her an idiot for thinking that she and I had a baby.
Which brings us back to where we are now.
I commented internally as I ≪analysed≫ the information.
After all, the only reason Pearl would have grabbed her clothes was because she wanted to leave.
And it was very hard for me to believe that this girl would leave her mother’s deed in the hands of a stranger without keeping an eye on them.
(………ok. So what does this mean?)
Understanding that something was wrong, I drew up 3 rough hypotheses regarding her motives of fleeing the scene.
Hypothesis Number 1: Pearl wanted to run away from me because I was threatening her.
Of course, this hypothesis was impossible as Pearl loved her mother dearly. There was no way that she’d simply abandon her mother’s restaurant because of her own circumstances.
Hypothesis Number 2: Pearl was angry at me because I had called her an idiot.
This was highly unlikely as simply being called an idiot wouldn’t make one want to run away from home. Furthermore, considering that Pearl wanted the deed, she wouldn’t purposefully distance herself from me simply because of this.
Hypothesis Number 3: Pearl was going to the doctors to get her belly checked.
While this seemed the most plausible, I doubted that she would so willingly go to a clinic to find out the status of her womb without bringing along the man responsible, AKA me.
As all of these ideas seemed off, I noticed something strange.
My knapsack’s usually closed zip had been opened slightly.
「…it couldn’t be……」
Trying to affirm my suspicions, I walked over to the knapsack. What I found was that the piece of paper I had placed inside of it was no longer there.
「………I guess I was right to have placed that dummy sheet in there.」
I praised my sceptical mind as I clasped onto the locket hanging around my neck.
Just in case Pearl had any funny ideas, I had placed a blank sheet of paper into my bag to act as a decoy whilst the real deed rested in the locket.
I mean, while there was only so much 1 girl could do, I decided that it would be better not to take any chances.
After all, from what I saw, Pearl wasn’t the simple individual that I had initially thought she was.
As I was investigating my bag (trying to find out how in the world Pearl managed to take the false deed), I noticed a strange, thin substance entangled around the zip.
Under closer inspection, I could identify what this unknown piece of string was.
A strawberry-pink strand of hair.
「……it couldn’t be.」
Suddenly realising that something was amiss, I decided to search for the girl that had run outside into the pelting rain.
My heated body wailed, my muscles straining as they propelled my body through the sky’s tears. Although each droplet of water burned like acid on my skin, I ignored it, focusing my all into running far away from the blue haired boy.
While it pained me to leave that monster in my mother’s most cherished place, I assured myself that everything would be ok.
After all, with this piece of paper in my hand, I was going get rid of that villain once and for all.
(……it should be far enough now, right?)
Ducking into an alleyway to catch my breath, I quickly realised that I had actually dragged an umbrella along with me.
Opening up my umbrella, I took out the piece of paper that I stole from the boy called ‘J’. Although I obtained this sheet with a technique that must never be used, I had no choice.
After all, I desperately wanted to take back what was rightfully my mother’s.
And so, opening up the crumpled piece of paper, I saw……
……a flyer for the 【Lucid Department Store’s】 special bargain sale.
My eyes widened, stunned by the world’s betrayal of my hope.
This piece of paper was meant to be my salvation. The way of freeing my home from the clutches of that strange man.
And yet, I was back at square one.
I had failed.
Despite trying so hard, I had miserably been so preoccupied in my victory, that I hadn’t realised that what I held was absolute garbage.
And so, I was stuck here in the middle of an alleyway, soaking wet from my head to my knees.
Of course, I hadn’t given up. So long as J held that deed, I wouldn’t give up.
After all, that was the last thing that my mother had left behind for me.
And I would do whatever it took to take it back.
…but first, I needed to go back home.
I needed to find that boy once again.
(……but to think that he defiled me up to this point!)
Through the hand placed on my stomach, I could feel something swirling within me. Whether it was anger or despair, I wasn’t entirely sure.
However, I could be certain that this sensation wasn’t a pleasant one.
Tears clouded my sight as I dragged my heavy feet out of the alleyway. As my umbrella shielded me from the pebbles hailing from the sky, I staggered lifelessly down the streets.
Where was I going?
Honestly, I had no idea.
Yet, as I approached a familiar alleyway that I had often passed by at this time of day, I felt my face brighten up slightly.
Hearing a familiar purr, I smiled. It would seem that my little friend had also come here to partake in our little daily ritual.
Entering the alley, I came across a black cat, its fur drenched by the relentless rain.
「Come here, little kitty~」
I crouched as I beckoned the kitten closer. It didn’t take long for the kitten to leap into my arms with subtle joy. As its damp fur touched my skin, I felt a chill creep into my body. However, even though slightly damp and cold, the feline’s warm core assured me that the black ball of fur was still a living, breathing creature.
「There’s a good kitty~」
I stroked the kitten’s fur tenderly, attempting to use my warm hands as a towel. As I did so, I couldn’t help but stare at the young stray, alone and abandoned in this world.
Just like me.
Tears streamed down my cheek once more as my face fell.
Honestly, I was surprised.
With all of the crying that I’ve done throughout the past month, I thought that all of my tears had dried up.
However, it seemed that my eyes had not yet exhausted their grief.
The cat purred audibly, poking its neck towards my cheek while lapping up the signs of my sorrow.
「*Giggle*. Thank you. You really are a kind little kitten.」
As I thanked the cat, an image of a certain, dark-haired boy flashed through my mind.
Just like this kitten, the boy was nameless but kind.
In fact, the closer I looked, the more I felt that the two were remarkably similar.
Their dark hair.
Even their cuteness.
「W-What in the world am I thinking?」
Finding myself comparing this little kitten to the boy at the bar, I couldn’t help but blush in slight embarrassment.
Yet, this embarrassment reminded me of a different boy that I was on less than good terms with.
(……I think it’s about time, huh?)
I extended my frail legs, tensed due to being in an uncomfortable position for so long.
「I need to go home now so that’s it for today. I’m sorry.」
I said my farewells, feeling guilty about not being able to bring the little kitty along with me.
Although I had been struggling to maintain my finances over the past month, I wouldn’t be nearly as capable of supporting the two of us.
Besides, for some strange reason, the kitty was very good at surviving by itself.
Over these past few weeks, the little kitty had been able to always meet me, as lively and healthy as ever. While I did give it some food from time to time, the kitty seemed capable of finding its own way to survive.
Knowing this, perhaps I purposefully left it behind, just so I could admire how it constantly continued to preserve its life every time I met the little ball of fur. Perhaps I wanted to use this little kitty as my role model, to show me that it’s possible for a stray little kitty to be able to strongly cling to life, in spite of the harshness that the world threw at it.
To be honest, I couldn’t be sure.
However, it would seem that I wouldn’t be given any time to mull it over.
A sharp sound pierced my cranium as I saw the kitten leap into the air and in front of my face.
–a bright burst of red exploded from the kitten’s tiny body.
「……well, this is gonna be a pain.」
I muttered as I waded through the rain.
Thankfully, my trusty hoodie shielded me from the sky’s tears.
However, that did not change the fact that the downpour was making it difficult for me to track Pearl.
「Geez, why did it have to rain now?」
Complaints continued to spill from my mouth as I narrowed my eyes.
A set of pink footprints stained the pavement, allowing me to trace the trail that the trembling teen had trekked behind her.
Yet, seeing how the rain threatened to wash these tracks away, I needed to move quickly.
After all, there was a very real possibility of her being in danger.
A dull sound reached my ears, accompanied by a delayed cry of pain. Judging from the impact that I had felt earlier, I assumed that this cry belonged to the person that I had crashed into.
「Ah, sorry ‘bout that. You alright?」
I asked while surveying the boy I had crashed into. With black hair and skinny build, the boy was of relatively moderate height and had rather normal facial features.
However, in spite of all of these features, the one thing that stood out to me was his attire.
Specifically, the hoodie that he wore over his head.
「Y-Yeah. I’m fine, but-!?」
As I pulled the youth up, he stared at my figure with wide eyes. Upon ≪reading≫ his face further, I could see a flare of hostility flash through his eyes before the boy lowered his head.
「I apologise! I had no intention of obstructing your greatness!」
「Ah, no. I don’t really care about that…」
(……shit. I forgot about the fact that I’m considered as a ‘noble’.)
I cursed internally as I felt discomfort from this boy’s reverence.
Though thankfully, this wouldn’t last for long.
「Ah, that so?」
As if his remorse was but a facade, the boy uttered these words with eyes of clear disdain and hostility.
「You’re a fucking piece of shit.」
The youth rebuked me with a dirty look.
Though I had no idea what I had done to earn such hostility, I decided that it would at least be worth asking.
After all, it wasn’t like I was particularly thrilled to have an insult thrown right into my face.
「……while I feel like I’m gonna regret asking this, would you mind telling me what’s with the hostility?」
「-tch. What’re you gonna do if I don’t? You gonna have me strung up by my feet!? That’s how all you nobles deal with us “pests”.」
Unable to comprehend the sudden shift in topic, my mind zoned in on a specific word.
(Ah, I see.)
It didn’t take me long to understand the implications behind this word. Rather, as I had met a few during my adventures as Victor, I understood well just what it meant in Lucid to be a noble.
Pompous and patronising.
To be blunt, these adjectives were on the nicer end of the list I had come up with for the characters known as nobles.
……and whether I liked it or not, my blue hair labelled me under their moniker.
「So? What’s it gonna be, oh great and powerful Noble?」
The youth taunted, snapping me out of my contemplation.
It was clear that this boy thought I was evil.
Rather, he thought that all of us were.
All of us with distinctly blue hair.
I remained silent.
Though I wasn’t exactly happy to be treated with disrespect, it couldn’t be helped that the boy looked like he wanted to kill me.
After all, I was an Azurian Noble, even if in appearance only.
Yet, unfortunately for the boy, I didn’t have any reason to hold him in the same regard.
Why? Should I have a reason?
I held no such discriminative thoughts in my heart.
Although cliched, what was more important to me was how a person acted rather than how they looked or where they were from.
Besides, the youth’s fury wasn’t directed towards me, but what my appearance symbolised.
Thus, regardless of my circumstances, I couldn’t really feel any resentment towards him.
「Look, I don’t really plan on-」
Hearing a sharp sound ring out somewhere off in the distance, alarm bells went off in my head as the image of a brown haired corpse flashed through my mind.
I involuntarily screamed as I dashed towards the sound of the gunshot.
「-!? Hey, you!? What are you-?」
「Look, I don’t know who you are and I don’t care! Someone’s going to die if I don’t make it in time!」
Screaming thus towards the black-haired youth, I began to run for my life.
After all, if I didn’t, then the brown-haired girl I was responsible for would probably lose her own.
「Kuhahaha! That face full of despair is priceless~」
A man with bright blue hair let out a hearty laugh as he leered at me in derision.
However, I didn’t care about his ridicule.
After all, I was more worried about the kitten cradled within my paralysed arms.
From the lifeless feline’s body, a red substance began to ooze out, painting its fur a vivid, dark red.
(This……this is all my fault……if I wasn’t here, then……this little kitty wouldn’t have to……)
Tears once again fell from my eyes.
Not because of the fact that the kitty was dying.
But because the kitten had received the bullet that was clearly aimed for my head.
Why did you try to kill me?
This is what I wanted to ask the culprits of this kitten’s murder.
However, the rest of the words didn’t come out.
Not because I was too afraid to speak, nor because I was consumed by despair.
It was because I already knew the answer to the question.
It’s because to the nobles……no. To these radicals, our existence is something that cannot be tolerated.
That’s most likely why……J killed my mother.
Because he was one of them.
A noble that despised the other races.
A noble that couldn’t stand the sight of us daubs.
「Cool it, Kaito. Let’s just get this over with and return to Boss’s side.」
A calm, feminine voice cut through the laughter. Looking towards the owner of said voice, I could see a woman with unusually adult features holding a gun towards my face.
Her eyes looked at me as if I was garbage.
……and reflected in those pupils, I could see a set of hopeless eyes staring right back into them.
Those eyes……were my own.
I thought to myself as I covered the body of the dying kitten with my own.
At the very least, even if I couldn’t take back the thing that Mama held dear to her, I would at least protect this shred of life that had given me joy.
This would be my way of saying thank you.
And this would be my way of saying goodbye.
……I made it.
Somehow, I made it.
Although I had no idea how, I made it in time.
And that was enough for me to save Pearl’s life.
(Still, to think I’d see her again.)
I muttered to myself as my gaze fixated onto the girl I pointed my gun at.
Bright red lips.
Rich, glossy skin.
Though I was only aware of it now, the girl I had fired upon was the very same that I had confronted yesterday.
The delinquent girl that had attacked Shana.
(Guess it really is a small world after all.)
Reminded of a simple but annoying tune, I evaluated the situation.
A skill that allows the user to hurl concentrated particles of air at a target.
While it wasn’t a particularly powerful skill, it was useful for crowd control.
I could disarm or stun opponents simply by pointing my gun at them.
Well, to be honest, there was a bit more to this skill than that but…that was primarily what I used it for.
After all, unlike normal ammo, air bullets were quite cheap.
And so, with this invisible hammer, I knocked the pistol out of this girl’s hand.
Sensing a disturbance in the surroundings, I quickly shifted my body backwards, causing the incoming unidentified object to miss its target.
「-tch. Who are you, bastard?!」
Retracting his arm, a man glared at me with a savage glare as his knuckles cracked intimidatingly.
(………great. Just great.)
I muttered to myself as I realised the harsh reality of the situation.
I was at a massive disadvantage.
It was obvious that the odds were stacked against me.
I mean, there were 2 of them and only 1 of me.
Though I wasn’t exactly the green weakling that I was a week ago, that didn’t mean I was battle hardened.
Not like these two.
Furthermore, Silvia’s words made me extremely wary of my standing.
『In actuality, you’re the weakest among your friends.』
While I did manage to slip away from the delinquents yesterday, that was only because I caught them off guard.
And besides, escaping and winning a fight are two completely different things.
(That settles it. I’ll just grab Pearl and get the hell out of—-?!)
My focus wandered towards Pearl who sat on the border of my peripheral vision.
However, what corroded my attention was what her body had been covered in.
(That’s not……her blood, is it?)
Noticing the lifeless heap that was perched on Pearl’s lap, I was immediately assured that it wasn’t.
Yet, the identity of this lifeless heap had sent my mind whirling once more.
A red cat.
Suddenly, I felt something inside of me snap. Looking back on it now, I understood that the red cat held a particularly strong symbol for me.
After all, it represented the neko-imouto that had also arrived in this world. The intelligent girl that called herself my little sister, Kiriko.
Obviously, this cat couldn’t possibly be her.
And yet, the parallels between this cat and Kiriko evoked the same emotion within me.
Even though I’ve never met her in person…even if her little sister mumbo jumbo was an act…even if she ended up hating the current me that has become an 《Asshole》 and 《Murderer》, I still treasured this little sister.
And this man……was most likely the cause for this little red cat’s suffering.
It was at this point that I dropped all ≪facades≫.
It was at this point that I was earnestly enraged.
It was at this point that I couldn’t hold back.
Because now, I was beyond reason.
All that mattered was saving Pearl and the injured kitten.
After all, if I let this little kitty die, I would no longer be able to face Kiriko again.
And so, I pointed my pistol towards the two nobles.
Uncaring of consequences, nor my chances, I glared at the two as ill-intent spewed forth from my mouth.
|The 6th Prelude – Marionette||XCrossJ’s List of Movements||The 8th Prelude – The Power of Influence|