Prelude of Pearls: The 2nd Segue – Modulation
「Good grief~ he’s really too soft.」
A girl of silver spoke softly as she stood alone in an alleyway.
Alone? Not quite.
At her feet was a man with a large build and blue hair.
Unmoving, the carcas was engraved with several lines and cuts that scarred its lumpy body.
Needless to say, the mass of flesh was on the brink of death.
–well, not for long anyway.
Without warning, the silver-haired girl punctured the man’s chest with her bare hand, rupturing organs as blood erupted from the open wound.
The sound of tearing flesh scalded the solitude surroundings.
The smell of iron drifted into the alleyway, corroding the winter air with the scent of fresh death.
The man didn’t even have the time to express his agony. That was how merciless the silver girl’s assault was.
「Oh, bravo. Bravo indeed.」
A voice called out to the girl of carnage, breaking the silent madness that had occurred within the isolated “chamber”.
The origin of the voice? A cloaked figure with blonde hair.
「As expected of a goddess, I should say.」
The silver girl responded harshly towards the cloaked figure.
「Now, now. It was a compliment.」
「I don’t really care. Just do whatever you want with this thing.」
The silver girl muttered as she kicked the fresh corpse by her feet.
Yet, unlike the petite maiden, the obscured figure flashed a dangerous grin.
In response to this, the girl of silver felt sick.
After all, the individual she was talking to……was undoubtedly insane.
Perhaps more so than the denizens of the chaos.
And yet, regardless, she had no choice but to interact with her.
In order to bring about her dream.
「You better not forget our deal.」
「Yes, yes, don’t you worry. I’ll make sure that I whip up something challenging enough to give him a little boost~」
「Don’t worry. From what I’ve seen, he’s got what it takes to handle this much, at the very least.」
In the face of the little girl’s silence, the cloaked figure chuckled, waving their hand in the air while dismissing the leer aimed directly at their face.
Suddenly, the world was submerged in a wintry hell.
The temperature dropped harshly, encasing the alleyway in a prison of ice.
–or at least, that’s what it felt like.
After all, there were no signs that magic had been cast.
Which just goes to show how powerful the origin of this frosty wasteland was.
After all, with a mere glare, the girl of silver had engulfed the secluded street in a glacial purgatory.
「Look, brat. This is a warning.」
Despite being the smaller of the two, the petite girl spoke arrogantly, her tone laced with murderous rage.
The pressure coming from her miniature frame was devastating, the gravitas of her gait threatening to crush the cloaked figure.
And so, with tension thick in the air, the girl unleashed a whisper, coated with a thick layer of malice.
「If he dies, I’ll come after you.」
「Congrats. You finally got someone to join your 『Dominion』.」
「……sorry. It doesn’t sound like a compliment when you say it.」
I couldn’t help but snap back towards Silvia’s sarcasm as I began to search for my tablet. Yet, while I was rummaging through my bag, the silver-haired girl spoke up once more.
「-tch. You really aren’t cute, are you?」
Silvia pouted as she critiqued my adorableness. While I didn’t really see how I was meant to be cute, I did ≪discern≫ an opportunity for some fun.
「In contrast, I think you’re really cute.」
As I uttered an abrupt compliment with a warm smile, Silvia’s mouth floundered as she expressed unbridled embarrassment. Despite the fact that she covered her face with her hands, I could see a bright streak of pink splashed across her face through the gaps in her fingers.
(……this one’s really easy to manipulate, huh?)
I commented, amused by the girl’s reaction. Though I could tell that my tendency to tease was rearing its ugly head again, I felt that the image of a bashful Silvia was worth it.
「J…i-it can’t be……」
All of a sudden, I heard a nerve-wracked voice resound through the room. Naturally, its owner was the prideful girl, reduced to a pile of adorableness by my manipulative hand.
Yet, despite her charm, I continued to remain overly cautious of Silvia.
After all, she had one-sidedly stolen me from my previous life in order to further her own goals of conquest.
Therefore, I was unusually tensed as I gazed upon the silver-haired girl.
「J……are you……in love with me?」
I……honestly had no words for Silvia’s question.
After all, how the hell did she get that sort of idea in her head?
I mean, just because someone compliments another doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re infatuated with them.
…and yet, it appeared that Silvia had taken my stunned silence as affirmation towards her bizarre question.
「O-Of course you’d be in love with me! I-I’m a goddess after all! There’s no one in the world who wouldn’t be enchanted by my beauty!」
Silvia boasted, reminding me of a certain woman with orange hair. Though their appearances differed quite significantly, it would seem that their rotten personalities were consistent.
「Yeah, no. Sorry, but I’m not in love with you. All I said was that you’re cute. That’s it.」
「………eh? So then-」
「It was all a misunderstanding. Can we get over this now?」
Silvia’s flushed face was immediately painted over with shock in the face of my cruel comment. Seeing as this situation was already a pain in the ass, I attempted to force the topic to its end.
And naturally, this attempt didn’t sit well with Silvia.
Silvia’s surroundings began to tremble as her cheeks burned with anger. Though I knew that she couldn’t harm me, dread began to form in the pit of my stomach.
Feeling a sense of foreboding, I ≪calmed≫ myself before taking my earphones and placing them in my ear, anticipating the impending audio assault.
Shouting with all her might, Silvia’s eyes teared up before she stumbled out of the clinic.
However, while I managed to protect my eardrums, I was slightly concerned about how much mental damage I inflicted on the rather pitiable, silver-haired girl.
(………well, she should be fine I guess?)
I thought to myself, trying to offer unfounded assurance in order to appease my guilt. Although I didn’t particularly like Silvia, I had to admit that I might have gone a bit too far with my teasing.
(………speaking of which, she sure is a mysterious one, huh?)
I mumbled to myself as I began to rummage through my bag once more.
Ever since Silvia summoned us to this world, I sort of felt deep down that it was natural for her character to be both mysterious and suspicious. On the same note, however, she was incredibly naive, to the point that I was capable of easily manipulating her when I first got here (at level 1).
Yet, the strange thing is, throughout my entire time in 【Paletia】, I never really bothered myself with Silvia or her motives. Of course, being preoccupied with my own survival didn’t exactly leave me with other opportunities to tackle her mystery. However, deep down, I realised that I would have to tackle this topic sooner or later.
I mean, who was she really?
What is her relationship with this world?
Why did she have to summon us?
Why did she want to conquer the world?
And more importantly, is she really who she claims to be?
There were so many questions and I had no means of getting any of the answers.
—and so, I decided to place these questions off to the wayside as I grabbed my tablet and began to look through the files.
「*sigh* Guess I didn’t level up again.」
I muttered while rubbing my hair.
Throughout my first week in 【Paletia】, I had been constantly training myself so that I could grow stronger.
Strong enough to survive this foreign world I was one-sidedly thrust into.
However, during my “quest”, I noticed that something strange happened whenever something reached level 50 (be it a level or a skill), I would never be able to raise its level any further.
That said, the cause for this strange phenomenon was no mystery to me.
A class that allows the user to quickly gain experience in everything they try, at the expense of being unable to fully master it.
Truly, a sub-class worthy of my name.
A jack of all trades, a master of none.
(Then again, it was thanks to this sub-class that I’ve been able to become so strong in just a week.)
I thought to myself, feeling gratitude towards my status of being a half-asser.
Yet, as I did so, I began to manipulate the screen in search of a certain screen.
Takubi’s Profile screen.
(………damn. This kitten’s stronger than I am.)
I muttered as I compared the kitten’s stats against mine. Despite the fact that my level was higher, Takubi’s HP, Attack, and Agility had far surpassed mine.
(Well, on the flipside, my Domination stats are in a class of their own.)
Justifying my weakness, I stared at the kitten curled up in my lap.
This kitten was quite strong.
Stronger than I could have ever guessed.
(………just what exactly has this kitten done to get so strong?)
I couldn’t help but wonder as I stared at the furry creature.
42 levels were nothing to sneeze at. After all, from what I gathered, most of the civilians I’ve met were merely at level 15-20.
(…………well, whatever the case, I’ll just be grateful that I’ve gained a powerful ally.)
Dismissing my suspicions for the time being, I stroked Takubi’s head once more, causing a satisfied purr to erupt from my new furry companion.
I involuntarily jumped, startled by the shrill screech that entered my ears. Having witnessed the entirety of the J’s outrageous teasing, I felt my cheeks burning in the chilly morning air.
Realising the state of my pounding heart, I was suddenly struck with confusion.
Why was I feeling this way?
This question began to plague my mind, like the strong aftertaste of chilli.
Though I was aware that my face was flushed, the emotion that caused this–the emotion that continued to surge within my violently beating heart was completely foreign to me.
It definitely wasn’t love.
Yet…it wasn’t happiness or sadness either.
Perhaps the closest emotion that I could compare my current feelings to was anger.
An anger that was entirely different from my hatred towards J’s murderous declaration.
If I were to describe it………it was as if this anger was childish.
Without malice and without reason.
It wasn’t severe, yet it was unjustified.
It wasn’t timid, yet it was somewhat tame.
(………it’s like a bittersweet cup of coffee…)
I murmured, recalling the luxurious velvet beverage passing over my lips.
A beverage that was a speciality of my mother’s.
『Love is like a good cup of coffee. You become hooked on it with a single sip, and are always craving more.』
Mama’s words resounded in my mind, causing my face to flush once more.
(W-Why am I remembering this now!?!)
My thoughts in disarray, I swerved my body away from the door.
Yet, as I turned-
I gazed upon a set of eyes that shone with an ominous red light.
Upon seeing the face of a grim reaper, my mouth involuntarily swung open.
Shaken by surprise more than fear, a gush of air burst out of my mouth, expressing my uncontrolled astonishment.
Yet, before my scream could even forth out of my mouth, the silver devil before me shoved her fingers into my gaping hole, silencing my shriek.
(-!? I-Is she going to kill me!?)
Fear began to overwhelm my body as I trembled before the girl responsible for the suffocating aura moments ago.
How did she get behind me?
What was she going to do to me?
Such questions were meaningless when faced with death reincarnate.
「I’m going to take my fingers out of your mouth now. Just keep quiet and you won’t get hurt.」
The girl whispered in a sweet whisper, placing an extended index finger over her lips before slowly removing her fingers from my mouth.
However, as I obediently remained silent, I was suddenly reminded of a comment made by my good friend Shana.
『Pearl. You’re a good kid, but sometimes, you succumb to other people too easily.』
Although I never really understood where Shana was coming from, I was somewhat aware of what she was trying to tell me.
Whether it was at school or at home, I was easily pushed around by other people.
Perhaps it was because I was in the service industry?
Or maybe it was just a part of who I was?
Regardless, so long as everyone was happy, then I didn’t mind being a little compliant.
Like how J looked at Takubi with his soft expression.
Realising that my thoughts had once more gravitated towards the blue-haired youth, my cheeks flared up with a brilliant crimson. Unlike before, this heat melted my skin, blasting away the frost that resided in the air.
(S-Stop it! W-Why do I keep doing this?!)
I cried internally, trying to force my cheeks to return to their normal hue. However, as if they had a mind of their own, my cheeks refused to be tamed by my mind, flaring up even more as tender anxiety sweltered within my heart.
「Kukuku. You’re quite the innocent one, aren’t you?」
Hearing the childish voice giggle with a dark tone, I snapped out of my confusion, causing me to turn towards the voice’s owner. What I was met with was a silver-haired girl, her face contorted into a ridiculous expression of mockery.
I echoed, dumbfounded by the statement.
I mean, I knew that I didn’t exactly have street smarts, but I definitely wasn’t an idiot. I mean, I had good grades at school! And–and I even won some academic competitions!
However, regardless of my denial, the girl before me continued to mock me.
「Yep. You’re pretty cute for being one of them.」
As these words passed the silver devil’s lips, my eyes bulged.
After all, she had understood that I was indeed one of them.
(It couldn’t be-!? Does she know my secret?)
While I didn’t know she truly understood exactly who I was, I had no intention of revealing myself to her.
After all, Mama told me that our kind wasn’t welcome anywhere in the world.
「-!? W-what are you-?」
「Silvia. That’s my name.」
Believing that my insecurity was caused by not knowing her name, Silvia introduced herself.
However, rather than her name, I was more concerned about the point that she had raised.
Or rather, the secret that needed to be kept.
「Silvia-san. Please don’t tell anyone about this!」
I desperately pleaded, lowering my head as the awkward position strained my trembling legs.
「Ah, don’t worry about that. I have no interest in divulging anything to anyone.」
Relief began to swell within the confines of my heart. Though I wasn’t sure whether I had actually managed to persuade her, I was at ease knowing that she lacked the intent of revealing my secret.
Especially to J.
「……still, seeing as you are one of my kind, I’ll give you some advice.」
Silvia’s face grew clouded as her narrowed eyes added a strange intensity to the atmosphere. That said, in the face of her statement, I couldn’t help but grow confused as I tilted my head to the side.
Though I had no idea what the girl meant by being “one of her kind”, I was stunned speechless as I noted the Silvia’s hair colour.
A vividly sparkling silver.
Enchanting and bewitching. Beautiful in every respect.
「Hey, you listening?」
Seeing Silvia’s face turning sour as she reprimanded me, I could only return a pitiful reply as I apologetically lowered my head.
「Anyway, my piece of advice is this. Observe J carefully.」
Once again, I couldn’t help but return a dumbfounded response. Standing there in my stunned stupor, I tried my hardest to comprehend the meaning behind her instruction.
「Um, Silvia-san. What do you mean by that?」
In response to my reluctant question, Silvia expressed blatant distaste as she began to elaborate in an exasperated manner.
「Listen. You’re painfully naive. I bet you didn’t even know that you’re not pregnant with J’s baby.」
「EH!? IS THAT TRUE!?」
Unable to contain my shock at the revelation that I hadn’t been defiled, I shrieked at the top of my lungs.
After all, I had already resigned myself to taking care of a child of a murderer. Furthermore, the unwilling child of my mother’s murderer.
I honestly couldn’t suppress my surprise.
Rather, it was like a dream come true.
And the person who had fulfilled my dream–
「Of course. Everybody knows that children are brought to their parents by storks.」
–spoke of delusions based upon children stories.
As Silvia puffed out her chest in pride, I was rendered utterly speechless. Although it appeared that Silvia was trying to show off, I couldn’t help but pity her.
I mean, even I had learnt that babies were not a product of flying storks (even if it was only after reaching High School).
「What!? If you don’t believe me, go ahead and ask that doctor friend of yours! It’s not like merely sleeping in the same bed is gonna make babies!」
Seemingly aware of my pity, Silvia looked at me with angry eyes as she recommended that I discuss the topic with Shana-chan’s little brother.
Yet, while I had no reason to do such an embarrassing thing, it seemed that I no longer needed to.
「………I’m just gonna step in and say that neither of those methods are gonna get you pregnant.」
Shingen spoke up, having finally announced his presence to the two girls.
「See—hey, wait a minute?! What do you mean neither?!」
「I meant what I said. Now get out. This is my clinic.」
As Shingen and Silvia began to argue, I sank into my thoughts.
After all, I was bothered by J’s reaction towards my distress earlier this morning.
『……what the hell’re you saying?』
His utter confusion resounded through my ears, causing me to waver.
(………could it be that I was actually mistaken?)
As this thought flashed through my mind, I decided that it was necessary for me to confirm the facts concerning whether or not I really had a baby in my belly.
「Anyway, Pearl. You need to be extremely aware of what J’s doing! If you don’t, you just might regret it!」
Snapping me out of my thoughts, Silvia spoke as she jumped out of the window, suddenly marking the end of the conversation.
While I felt somewhat confused by the girl’s sudden exit, someone else expressed quite a different reaction.
「Geez, good riddance.」
Shingen Bonnet groaned as he saw the disturbance out of the patient room.
That said, upon seeing his figure, I suddenly glimpsed an opportunity.
An opportunity to have my doubts cleared.
In the face of my fluster, the youth with black hair swerved his body around, tilting his head in a rather confused manner as his eyes narrowed.
「? What’s wrong?」
Faced with his undisguised confusion, I couldn’t help but feel extremely nervous as I felt my face heating up. However, seeing as I had already resolved myself, I voice my request as my entire body trembled.
「C……could you check if I’m pregnant?」
Suddenly struck by an incredibly strange sensation, I felt woozy as I crumpled onto one knee.
(What in the world happened?)
I pondered as the remnants of the momentary chill coursed through my spine.
The frost was overwhelming, gripping every inch of my body as if trying to shackle my movements. While I initially thought that this paralysis was caused by fatigue, for some reason, my conscience continued to scream otherwise.
Seemingly distraught by my sudden collapse, the newly named Takubi leapt to my side, staring at me with eyes of concern. Having regained control of my body, I stroked the kitten’s chin before offering my assurance in a soft voice.
「Sorry about that. I’m fine now.」
While I had no idea if truth existed in this statement, I decided to wear a calmly express my ≪bluff≫ to the young kitten. Surprisingly taken in by my ruse, Takubi’s anxiety was replaced with content as it softly buried its neck further into my accommodating hand.
(………still, what just happened?)
I thought to myself as I glanced at my 【Dom-Note】. Seemingly curious as to whether or not something in it would help me, I opened my tablet once more.
What I was met with……was something quite astonishing.
(-!? This is-!?)
I felt my face stiffen in surprise, mirroring the emotions evoked from looking at the tablet’s screen. Naturally, the reason for my bewilderment was because of the new information that had been laid out before me.
(………what in the world is with this demerit?)
I commented internally as my attention was drawn to the new demerit. Although I had no idea why, I felt an incredible sense of dread upon seeing the “unleashed” item.
(…………I think I better take a closer look at this.)
I thought as I tapped the screen in order to investigate the origin of my unease.
「…‥what the hell?」
Surprise leaked from my mouth in the face of this ominous dialogue box.
Not only was it extremely limited in information, but both the wording and format were quite disturbing.
While the words on the screen looked like someone had chucked my tablet into a washing machine, it seemed to be somewhat intentional.
(………I don’t like the sound of this.)
As I uttered my distaste for this skill’s possible adverse effects, a chill began to permeate through the deepest regions of my conscience, causing the following phrase to subtly resound in the deepest portions of my mind.
|The 8th Prelude – The Power of Influence||XCrossJ’s List of Movements||The 9th Prelude – Hunted|