Prelude of Pearls: The 11th Prelude – An Undesirable Development

Prelude of Pearls: The 11th Prelude – An Undesirable Development

*Knock*

 

「Come in.」

 

Upon hearing a reluctant knock coming from the other side of the door, I called out towards the visitor, signifying that it was alright for them to enter the room.

Following my instructions, female visitor slowly opened the door, her light blue hair elegantly swaying upon entry. While it wasn’t the first time I had glimpsed her beauty, Hiroko’s graceful appearance unintentionally causing me to draw breath.

 

「I’ve arrived……」

「……yeah. I can see that.」

 

Somewhat dazed by the woman’s charm, I replied with a distant tone. In doing so, however, my eyes were drawn to her left arm, currently encased in white wrappings.

 

(…I’m gonna take a stab and say that Shingen did that.)

 

I muttered, postulating that the young doctor was the one to treat Hiroko’s wounds.

Though guilt for causing her wound still weighed heavily on my heart, I decided that now wasn’t the time for unnecessary thoughts.

After all, I needed to concentrate on the task before my very eyes.

 

「Alright then. Take a seat.」

 

I spoke, instructing the girl to sit on the mattress beside me.

That said-

 

Prelude 11: Hiroko - Disgust

A girl’s disgust hurts any man’s pride.

「……eh? Y-You want me to sit there?」

 

Hiroko’s features contorted into an apprehensive expression as her face paled upon realising the implications behind my suggestion. It wasn’t exactly difficult to infer that she was disgusted by the mere thought of sitting next to me.

Now, whether this repulsion was caused by the bed or by me, I wasn’t exactly sure. That said, the awkwardness threatened to choke me, I began to try and smooth things over.

 

「Sorry, but there aren’t any seats in this room so…」

 

Indeed. Though I had stated I would wait for her in a room upstairs, I only managed to find a guest room that had only a single bed. Naturally, this meant that there wasn’t any other furniture in the room.

No desk.

No bedside table.

And definitely no chairs.

While I offered my astute observation of the lack of stools in the room, my voice faltered slightly as my ears detected a pitiful whimper leave my throat.

However, it would seem that Aoyama Hiroko did not register the flimsy nature of my tone as she simply stood there, her face cringed and her body tensed.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her hands tightly clasped onto her skirt, trembling faintly as her knuckles grew white.

 

(……is she……scared?)

 

I thought to myself as I noticed Hiroko’s hand quiver.

Of course, it wasn’t exactly difficult for me to guess why she would be so afraid.

Especially considering the fact that I was the cause of her wound in the first place.

 

(……in any case, if she doesn’t sit down, then we’re not really going to be able to begin, are we?)

 

I muttered, removing myself from the mattress before making my way towards the wall. Upon seeing me leaning against the wall, Hiroko sighed in relief as her trembling subsided.

 

「………*sigh*…I guess I have no choice, do I?」

「……alright, let’s get down to business-」

「Hey. Before we start, do you mind if I ask you a question?」

 

Interrupting my opening sentence, Hiroko spoke up as she requested permission to ask me a question. Though unsure of what she wanted, I refrained from making a “you already asked a question” joke and simply nodded as my eyes grew curious.

 

「Shingen-san told me that my wounds were actually just scratches.」

 

Hiroko placed her hand on her left arm, her tranquil voice tickling my sensitive, musician ears.

 

「Did he, now?」

「But……with that attack that you used ……there’s no way that these “light scratches” would have been made accidentally.」

「……」

 

It didn’t take a genius understand what Hiroko was implying.

And it wasn’t exactly hard to see where she was going with this, either.

That said, I thought it wise to wait patiently until Hiroko had laid all of her thoughts out in the open.

 

Prelude 11: Hiroko - Questions

「J-san. I know that you purposefully spared my arm. Why did you do it?」

「………………why, huh?」

 

I murmured to myself, unsure of how to reply.

To be completely honest, there were several reasons as to why I chose to spare her arm. That said, as I didn’t really have any incentive to lie to this girl, I heaved a slight sigh before coming up a concise answer.

 

「I didn’t have to destroy your arm, so I simply didn’t do it.」

「……eh? T-That’s it?」

 

Hiroko’s eyes bulged, her expression suggesting that she had seen a ghost.

 

「Yeah. It’s not like I actually wanted to hurt you in the first place. Besides, you’d probably have resented me for the rest of your life if I crippled your arm, right?」

 

Having decided to openly state my reasons for leaving Hiroko’s left arm intact, I was suddenly met with an intense glare. An ominous glint shone within her light blue pupils as her gaze threatened to pierce my fragile skull.

 

「…………you’re an idiot.」

 

Hiroko spat out, her voice soft in volume yet menacing in nature.

That said, perhaps thanks to my mental fortitude, I was mostly unaffected by the girl’s sass.

 

「Yeah, probably…that said, you’re the one that got duped by this idiot.」

 

I shrugged, returning a snarky comment of my own.

However, Immediately after my speech, I could see Hiroko’s face collapsing in on itself as she scrunched up her nose. To be honest, her visage greatly resembled the face one would make after eating something extremely sour.

While I was tempted to smile due to the ridiculous nature of her countenance, I used my better judgement and created a neutral ≪facade≫.

After all, the emotion Hiroko felt was very real.

 

「…………yeah, that’s right…I was careless……」

 

The noble with light blue hair gave a wry smile as she murmured with a self-deprecatory tone.

 

(……shit. Did I just strike a nerve?)

 

Although I wasn’t exactly sure how to deal with the girl who appeared to be experiencing somewhat of a mild depression, I could not help but have this thought flash through my mind.

That said, it seems that Hiroko’s vulnerability was only momentary as she raised her head and began to speak the following with conviction.

 

「Alright. So? What are your terms?」

「Well……before we start making any sort of agreement, I’d like to know what I’m getting into.」

「…I see. So how much do you know?」

「Very little.」

 

I muttered as I folded my arms, thinking briefly about what I wanted to ask.

That said, it didn’t take me long to decide on what I wanted to know.

 

「Mind giving me an abridged version of the situation?」

「Ok. You’ve met Melanie and Celest Ambrosia, correct?」

「……the twins with yellow hair?」

「That’s them.」

 

Hiroko affirmed before continuing.

 

「Melanie has been kidnapped and imprisoned by my older brother, Aoyama Aoki. He’s the one in charge of the heathens that tried to attack the detective.」

「Your brother, huh?」

 

Somewhat surprised by the identity of the “Boss” I had fought in the alleyway, I grew somewhat curious.

 

「What’s his motive?」

「Isn’t it obvious? He’s one of those extremists. Well, him and his gang anyway.」

「……」

 

Extremists. From what I could tell, this was a term used to describe those who openly believed that the world should be rid of those who are not Azurian Nobility, to the point of conducting drastic acts such as cleansing.

Naturally, this cleansing was a forbidden practice made criminal by the law. That said, seeing how Pearl was almost cleansed earlier today, it’s clear that the law did very little in the face of the extremists.

 

「Ok. So where do I fit in with all of this?」

 

I couldn’t help but ask, somewhat curious about why Hiroko had decided to send Shana after me.

 

「W-well, I initially thought that you might have been the one after Melanie’s abduction. Of course, it didn’t take long for the detective to find out otherwise.」

 

The girl spoke definitively as she began to explain her circumstances.

 

「After that, I wanted to see if we could recruit you. Or rather, make use of your new home.」

「……as a base, huh?」

「Essentially.」

 

After having Hiroko recount her motives, I decided to accept her story as I began to move on to the more pressing matters.

AKA finding out what this noble wanted from me in our little venture.

 

「So what you want from me is basically to help you save Celest’s sister, right?」

「Yes, that is our main objective.」

「I see…do you want to do anything regarding your brother and his group of delinquents?」

「Well……ideally, I’d like to have him and his organisation put out of business but…」

「Alright. And I’m also assuming that you don’t want any of your friends to get hurt, right?」

「Absolutely.」

「I see……」

 

After firing off a series of questions (which Hiroko answered quite clearly and concisely), I placed my hand on my chin, sinking into deep thought before crossing my arms once more.

 

「So in summary, what you want to do is: 1 – Save Celest’s sister, 2 – Put your brother and his organisation out of business, 3 – Ensure the safety of your allies. Is this right?」

 

Clearly laying things out to ensure I wasn’t mistaken, I turned towards the blue-haired noble seeking confirmation.

It didn’t take long for the girl to give me what I was expecting.

 

「With the inclusion of “Allow us to use this place as a base”, then I agree.」

「Alright. With that, I now understand your terms.」

 

I spoke candidly, stroking my chin as I began to deliberate my own conditions.

Seeing as Hiroko had given me four conditions, it would only be fair to produce four of my own.

Naturally, it would be ideal if the four conditions were matched in degree of difficulty, importance, and significance.

Yet, unfortunately, things have gotten a bit more complex now.

I mean, sure. Pearl’s safety was still my primary objective.

And seeing how Aoyama Hiroko belonged to the family that runs the Aoyama Transmission Station, I should try and use this opportunity to see if I can contact my friends.

However, there was one more thing that had been added to my agenda.

Specifically, I needed to find out how Aoyama Aoki knew what happened during my first night in 【Lucid】.

……and perhaps I needed to silence him as well.

 

(So in summary, my objectives are the following…)

 

  1. Protect Pearl
  2. Understand how Aoyama Aoki found out about the first night
  3. Obtain permission to use the Aoyama Transmission Station

 

「Alright. I’ve made up my mind.」

 

I declared as I began to discuss my demands with Hiroko. After some careful consideration, we began to draw up a contract.

Prelude 11: Contract of Alliance Between XCrossJ and Aoyama Hiroko

Contract of Alliance Between XCrossJ and Aoyama Hiroko

 

At a later point in time, after reviewing the terms to ensure that everything was sound, I noticed that neither Hiroko or myself had put any terms in place to ensure that we were protected from the other party.

Yet, whether or not this oversight would cause me problems down the road remained to be seen.

 

 

 

✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫

 

 

 

「Eh!? J did what-!?」

「S-Shana-chan…p-please calm dow-」

「Calm down!? How can I stay calm when he’s been doing all of these terrible things to you?!」

 

After Shingen-san had patched up the noblewoman’s wounded arm, I invited both him and Shana-chan to my room as I provided them with a quick snack.

Yet, during the discussion, Shana-chan began to ask for an explanation regarding why I was with J.

And, after hearing my story, Shana-chan began to throw a fit as her concern drove her into a mad frenzy.

 

「Nee-chan, just cool it. It’s not like you to get so worked up over something like this.」

 

Though utterly stunned by the events I had described, Shingen attempted to douse his sister’s temper as his face took a serious undertone.

Yet, it would seem that his attempts failed.

 

「Why wouldn’t I get worked up!? That bastard’s gone too far!」

「Although I agree that he’s done some pretty terrible things, just calm down for now, Nee-chan. It’s not like we can do much as things stand.」

「Um……Shingen-san……what do you mean by that?」

 

I asked, unsure of what the boy meant.

Much to my surprise, however, the one who answered was not the doctor, but his older sister who had finally managed to regain control of herself.

 

「…the fact that he’s a noble makes it difficult for us to use any legal tactics–is what you’re trying to get at, right?」

「Not only that, but he hasn’t actually broken any laws outside of killing Pearl’s mother.」

「E-Eh!? W-What do you mean?」

 

Utterly confused, I reflexively raised my voice with widened eyes.

After all, many of J’s actions had to be illegal in some shape or form, right?

Yet, as if to dispute my thoughts, Shana-chan began to speak.

 

「Pearl………I know it might be hard for you to hear, but right now, this entire building is owned by J. It wouldn’t be strange if he claimed you were a trespasser.」

「-!? J-san wouldn’t do something like that!」

(……wait? W-What did I just-!?)

 

Basking in the aftermath of my outburst, I finally realised the implications that lied within my interjection.

I mean, even though I have been quite literally at J’s mercy, I spoke up to defend him.

After all……he had saved my life not once, but twice.

 

「Hah-?! The hell’re you saying?!」

 

Shingen-san exclaimed, his face flaring up in rage.

However, before the young boy was able to get too heated up-

 

「Sorry Shingen, but I’m going to have to agree with Pearl.」

「Wha-!? N-Nee-chan?!」

 

Shingen-san glared at his sister, completely disoriented by her interjection.

 

「Look, from what I’ve seen of him, J isn’t that bad of a person. At the very least, he won’t do anything bad without a good reason.」

「Y-Yeah, but………?」

 

All of a sudden, Shingen-san grew quiet, studying his sister with narrowed eyes before his lips parted once more.

 

「……Nee-chan. It’s not like you to be so biassed against someone. Did something happen between you and J?」

 

As scepticism formed across the doctor’s face, my mind ground to a halt.

After all, I was shocked.

Shocked and anxious.

It didn’t take long for my eyes to dart towards my best friend, greedily hoping to catch her answer towards Shingen’s inquiry.

And as my gaze fell upon my dear friend-

 

「……n-nothing happened. N-Nothing at all…」

 

-I heard Shana’s tone waver as she averted her eyes.

 

(-!?)

 

A sharp pain burned my chest.

A nauseous dread swirled in the pit of my stomach.

Though the cause of these sensations was unknown to me, I didn’t care.

After all, there was something much more important that needed my attention.

 

Prelude 11: Pearl - Accusations

「S-Shana-chan!? W-what exactly happened between you and J-san!?」

 

「P-Pearl? I-I just said that nothing happened-」

「Lies! I can tell just by looking at you that something happened!」

「Wha-!? Look Pearl! Nothing in the slightest happened between me and J!」

「I don’t believe you! Don’t tell me you-!?」

「H-Hey, Pearl. Just calm down, will you?」

 

All of a sudden, Shingen’s arm came in between me and my best friend as the youth calmly disrupted my interrogation.

…interrogation?

 

(-!? W-What did I just-?)

 

As memories of prior events flashed through my mind, I was consumed by extreme guilt and shame.

I raised my voice towards my best friend.

I even accused her of lying to me.

Though Shana-chan’s answer appeared somewhat dishonest, that didn’t give me the right to act that way.

It didn’t give me the right to look upon her with distrust.

 

「……Shingen. Let’s step outside.」

「H-Huh? N-Nee-chan, hang on a minute!」

 

Suddenly, the two siblings stood up from their chairs as they began to head towards the door.

And while I wasn’t exactly sure what prompted their sudden departure, I felt uneasy about letting them leave without even giving an apology.

 

「S-Shana-chan, I-」

「It’s fine, Pearl. I won’t hate you for something like this.」

「-?!」

 

I gasped, drawing a sharp breath in astonishment.

After all, hearing the black-haired girl’s forgiveness truly shook my soul.

Even though I doubted her.

Even though I treated her so badly.

She was still willing to forgive me for my actions.

 

「B-But why?」

「C’mon, Pearl. We fight and forgive. That’s what friends are for, right?」

「……yeah. You’re right.」

 

That’s right.

I had forgotten with all that’s happened in the past few days.

Shana……was my friend.

My best friend in this entire world.

 

「Anyway, I’ll see you in a bit, Pearl.」

「O-Ok…」

 

I murmured as I watched the Shana-chan and Shingen-san leave the room.

Although I wasn’t exactly sure what they were doing or where they were going, I didn’t really care.

After all, I was giddy at the discovery that I wasn’t alone in this cruel world.

 

 

 

✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫

 

 

 

「Alright. So should we get started then?」

「Started? Get started on what?」

 

Hiroko tilted her head to the side in response to my question.

While tempting to tease her for her lack of attention, I decided against doing so as I clarified the topic at hand.

 

「What else would we be doing? We’re gonna save Melanie.」

 

Prelude 11: Hiroko - Surprise

「Wait, we’re going to save her now!?」

 

Hiroko’s eyes bulged, astonished by my declaration. That said, in the face of her hastily expressed question, I sank into contemplative silence.

After all, though I understood the basic premise of the current situation, that didn’t mean I understood the intricate details.

Therefore, I knew that my decision would simply be uninformed.

…which is why I decided to rely on Hiroko’s judgement.

 

「Well, do you think we’re ready to save her now?」

「……no. We need some sort of plan.」

 

Hiroko’s face tensed, her mind strained in an attempt to come up with some sort of strategy.

And while I felt a strong urge to do the same, a certain issue needed to be addressed before I could even consider formulating a strategy.

 

「Well before we get to into it, we’re going to need information.」

「Information? Like what?」

「Let’s see……Melanie’s whereabouts. Your brother’s manpower. I’d also like an idea of our own battle potential as well.」

 

Listing off the essential facts crucial to our operation, I turned towards Hiroko in hopes that she could supply the information.

Thankfully, my hopes weren’t misplaced.

 

「Melanie is in a cell, underneath their hideout. Of course, the hideout is in this warehouse.」

 

Upon delivering her intelligence with a business-like calm, Hiroko took out a pitch black orb and placed it on the ground. She then placed her hand above the obsidian pearl, causing magic to pour out of her palm and envelop the black device.

Though I was initially confused, the sphere glowed with a mystical gleam before a holographic model of a large warehouse projected itself into the air.

 

「Their forces number at about 100. 90% of them are small fry similar to the goons that you and the detective fought against.」

「What about our forces?」

「There’s about 30 of us, not including you, the detective, and myself. 18 of us aren’t that combat capable. The other 12 are fairly adept at fighting, although they don’t hold a candle to us.」

「Hm……can you describe it in an easier to understand way?」

 

Finding it somewhat difficult to wrap my head around the situation, I asked for Hiroko for some clarification.

 

「You’re aware of Guild Ranks, correct?」

「Yeah, more or less.」

 

I responded as my mind recapped the basic details.

There were 10 ranks in Azur’s guild, from the lowest rank G to the highest class SSS. From what I could tell, most of the guild members were at about level 20-40 and had a rank of F-D. As for me, with my level capped at 50, I was completing rank C quests at my leisure.

That said, it would seem that Hiroko’s perspective of my power caused her to assess me quite differently.

 

「Well, let us say that you, Onii-sama, and I are all A-ranked. 10% of his underlings are at D Rank and the rest are at about an F Rank. From our side, we have Shana, who’s at Rank C, and a couple of Rank Ds and civilians.」

「……I see……」

 

Upon hearing Hiroko’s translated assessment of our forces, I felt slightly conflicted. Partly because I was placed on a pedestal, partly because our forces seemed rather mediocre.

If I were to summarise the current situation, not only are we outnumbered, but we appeared to be outclassed. Granted that the quality of our troops was somewhat higher than the opposition, it was hard to believe that we could win in a simple confrontation.

Especially because we’d be intruding upon enemy territory.

 

「Hmm……」

 

Shifting my gaze back towards the holographic building, I sank deep into my thoughts.

 

(Now……what should we do?)

 

I pondered, my brain mulling over strategies that we could take to ensure a successful operation.

It was obvious that a direct confrontation was a no-go. After all, strongholds like this warehouse before me were designed to ward off against attackers, making it incredibly difficult for us to force our way into the building.

Yet, considering the building’s layout, a stealthy infiltration seemed both more feasible and more appropriate.

I also noted that a raised metal flooring ran closely along the walls, surrounding the floor like some sort of viewing balcony. If we could place all of our allies on that elevated plane, it was possible that we could eliminate quite a number of Aoki’s henchmen.

……that is, if we had the right equipment.

 

(Those weapons……)

 

The images of the rusted weapons flashed through my mind, causing me to grow concerned.

It was obvious that something needed to be done about their quality.

 

「Hiroko. Those weapons that your troops use……what do you think of them?」

「……well, to be completely honest, they’re all just scraps of junk that I managed to get in bulk from the guild.」

「I see…」

 

I murmured before my brain grew active once more.

Needless to say, it’d be ideal for us to get high quality weapons in order to supplement our lack of fighting prowess.

But of course, producing enough money to pay for such top level equipment was another matter.

 

(……? Hang on?)

「Hey, Hiroko…why did you have to buy those junk weapons? Aren’t you rich?」

 

Upon realising that Hiroko was an Aoyama (the most influential noble family living in 【Lucid】), I suddenly directed this question to her, wondering why she had needed to spend so little when her family was quite rich.

 

Prelude 11: Hiroko - Broke

「Y-Yeah, but……m-my pocket money was cut short recently!」

「…………」

 

In the face of the dignified girl’s shameful outburst, I simply stared with eyes full of pity. Yet, as I understood that no amount of pity would change our limited budget, I decided to let things go.

 

「*sigh* Well, it’s not like we can do anything about it. Rather, it’s probably better that you didn’t buy a bulk of high grade weapons with your family’s money.」

「Eh? Why’s that?」

「Because no matter how you tried to hide such a big purchase, there’s no way that moving that amount of money would go undetected by your brother, right?」

「Ah, I-I see.」

「………Hiroko.」

 

A bad feeling creeped up my spine as I ≪read≫ the tension present in Hiroko’s face.

 

「You did try and hide your purchase of firearms from your brother, right?」

「O-Of course I did! Who do you take me for!?」

「…mind telling me what you did with the receipt?」

 

I asked, my scepticism ever growing alongside Hiroko’s unease. While I would have simply taken her word for it, her demeanour was……suspicious, to say the least.

And sure enough-

 

「I……I might have thrown it away in my trash can.」

「…………did you make sure that you weren’t followed, or that the cashier who you bought the weapons from didn’t tell anyone about your purchase?」

 

Greatly resisting the urge to facepalm myself, I reluctantly ventured further as I suspected that that Hiroko’s actions might have plunged us deep into the disadvantage.

 

「……………I might have, but then again………I might not have……」

「…………」

「W-What!? I-It’s not like I wasn’t trying to be inconspicuous about-」

「Alright, alright, I get it. In any case, let’s move forward with the premise that your brother is already onto your activities.」

 

I deflected Hiroko’s anger, slightly defeated upon discovering the huge obstacle that impeded our plans.

If Aoyama Aoki was already aware of Hiroko’s rebellion, he would have placed a tail or something to keep tabs on her.

 

(In which case……)

 

I strolled towards the opened window, allowing me to spot a conspicuous figure standing outside the cafe. Yet, immediately after I noticed the figure in the shadows, they suddenly began to sprint away at full speed.

 

「Shit!」

 

I cursed, involuntarily raising my hand in preparation to cast a spell.

However, just before I could unleash my magic-

 

「-!」

 

-a mana rope zoomed past me, latching onto the individual’s leg before reigning them in like a fisherman yanking up their catch.

 

「……nice work.」

「Why, thank you~」

 

I complimented Hiroko as I witnessed our prisoner spy being flung up into the air. Though I wanted to make a comment about her pleasant, yet menacing smile, my attention was drawn towards the tall, wimpy man with turquoise hair who had fainted upon receiving such rough treatment.

 

「……well, at least we now know we’re being monitored.」

「S-Sorry about that……」

「Nah, don’t worry about it. More importantly, we’ve got other matters that need our attention.」

 

Indeed. It was plain to see that before we could even think of formulating a plan against Aoyama Aoki, we needed cash.

That said, the real dilemma was how were we going to approach this issue of funds.

It was then that I suddenly had an epiphany.

 

「Hmm………ah!」

「W-What’s wrong?」

「Say, Hiroko. What do you think about-」

 

Bringing my mouth close to the side of Hiroko’s head, the noble woman appeared slightly nervous, trembling faintly as my breath tickled her delicate ears.

However, shortly after I went through the details of my plan, the nature of the girl’s trembling distinctly changed from anxiety to anticipation.

 

Prelude 11: Hiroko - Evil Smile

……hohohoh~ I’m liking this plan a lot, J-san~

 

………kukuku. I knew you’d agree with it, Hiroko-san~

 

As both Hiroko and I began to indulge in some fairly dark chuckles, a certain kitty relegated itself to the corner furthest away from us, shivering violently.

Takubi’s behaviour was so pitiful, it seemed like there were terrifying monsters right before their very eyes.

 

 

 

✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫✫

 

 

 

「Nee-chan?! What the hell’s the big i-」

 

*thwomp*

 

「Gah-!?!?!?!?!?!?」

「Geez. Don’t you understand the concept of a private conversation?」

 

I muttered in scorn, driving my elbow deep into his stomach. As a consequence of the sharp blow delivered to his abdomen, my little brat of a brother clutched his stomach as a loud grunt of pain to erupted from his mouth.

 

「*cough* *cough* what kind of sister punches punches their brother in the stomach?」

What was that?

「N-nothing.」

 

Glaring daggers at my wimpy little brother, I heaved a deep sigh before muttering the following.

 

「Geez……what am I going to do with you?」

「A-anyway, what did you want?」

 

Finally recovering from my elbow jab, Shingen brought himself back to his feet, standing tall as he massaged his slightly bruised stomach once more.

 

「Is this about J and Pearl’s relationship?」

「Huh? W-What do you mean?」

 

I couldn’t help but stutter as I expressed confusion towards my little brother.

 

「*sigh* And you call yourself a detective.」

Hah!?

 

I scowled once more as blood rushed to my head. Yet, despite the fact that he was met with my chilling gaze, Shingen simply sighed as he returned my glare with stern eyes.

 

「Look. If you weren’t able to tell already, Pearl’s exhibiting the symptoms of a very serious illness.」

「…-eh!? R-Really?!」

 

Utterly stunned by this new revelation, I felt my face cloud over as anxiety gripped my heart.

 

「W-What kind of illness is it? Can it be cured?!」

「………Nee-chan…you’re quite innocent yourself, huh?」

「Eh? W-What do you mean?」

 

As this strange comment passed my younger sibling’s lips, I was completely baffled. Yet, for some strange reason, the dark-haired boy heaved an even deeper sigh as he brought his palm to his face.

 

「Let me spell it out for you, Nee-chan. Pearl is lovesick.」

「……………huh?」

 

My mind grinded to a halt upon hearing Shingen’s declaration.

Despite being together for most of our lives, I have never seen Pearl show interest in a member of the opposite sex, much less an interaction.

That said, it wasn’t impossible for Pearl to fall in love.

Rather, I should be happy.

And yet, after reading between the lines, my face immediately darkened.

 

「L-Lovesick? Don’t tell me it’s with him?」

「Well, I can’t be absolutely sure until I hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. That said, the possibility is very high.」

「I see……」

 

I mumbled, somewhat conflicted about how to deal with this news.

Yet, after understanding that my contemplation would not change Pearl’s infatuations, I decided to return to the topic at hand.

 

「Anyway, let’s get onto the main topic.」

「Which is-?」

「I need you to perform Shell Noel’s autopsy.」

 

I spoke my request clearly towards my little brother, causing him to become somewhat sceptical.

Of course, seeing how I had asked him about autopsies before, I had no doubt about his abilities. That said, it would seem that Shingen had some other misgivings towards my request.

 

「……well, I don’t particularly mind, but……that means you’re going to investigate the murder, correct?」

「Yeah, that’s right.」

 

I answered, confirming my brother’s suspicions as I declared my intent to uncover the truth about this horrible incident.

 

「But why do you need to do that? I mean, J’s admitted his own guilt, didn’t he?」

「It’s because of his admission that I’m undertaking this investigation.」

 

Indeed.

It was his declaration of guilt, when no one suspected him, that made this whole ordeal reek of foul play.

I mean, the body was only discovered 2 days ago.

There was no evidence to even remotely hint at J being the criminal.

—which made his open admission all the more suspicious.

 

「……would you mind elaborating?」

「Think about it, Shingen. If J was the murderer, doesn’t his behaviour seem rather odd?」

「How so?」

「He openly announced that he did the deed without any proof discovered by law enforcement. Furthermore, he divulged this information to Pearl, the one who was primarily affected by this tragedy.」

「……I see. He could have also said that he stole the deed rather than murdering Shell and taking it by force.」

「Exactly. Plus, I don’t think he’s that bad of a person.」

 

Indeed.

From both my observations and Pearl’s accounts, I could tell that J held an unexpected kindness within himself.

Something that a cold-blooded killer would be without.

 

「In any case, I want to get to the bottom of this……for both of their sakes.」

「……fine. I’ll do it.」

「…heh. You haven’t changed, you tsundere boy.」

「I told you to stop calling me that!」

 

Shingen snapped back at me as I fondly ruffled his hair. While I acknowledge that I may have gone a little overboard, I couldn’t help but grin as my face lit up in joy.

Although my little brother was a little difficult at times, he was truly a kind soul that would do whatever necessary to help his patients.

To see that he was still the loveable little brat of a brother, I was honestly grateful.

 

(………now if only I could protect him from Hiroko.)

「……heh. I’ve got a lot on my plate, huh?」

 

I muttered, reminded of my best friend’s face, filtered with a deep shade of agony.

Though a lot had happened in this past week, I was determined to find out the truth.

For the sake of my best friend who had fallen in love with J.

To ensure that Pearl no longer had to suffer.

 

Prelude 11: Shana - Resolve

(J……I don’t know what you’re up to, but I swear that I won’t let you have your way!)

 

I declared, resolved to shine light upon the truth.

However, at this point in time, I had no idea of the irony that was in store for me the following day.

 

The 10th Prelude – The Hunter and the Hunted XCrossJ’s List of Movements The 12th Prelude – Prejudice and Pretences
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Categories: Myriad of Shades | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Prelude of Pearls: The 11th Prelude – An Undesirable Development

  1. craz1trex

    eh…?first?

    Like

  2. Thanks for the chapter.

    Like

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