Prelude of Pearls: The 14th Prelude – Truth Hidden Within Lies
Having finally recovered from the shock of the painfully traumatic ordeal, I slowly made my way down from the building’s roof and back onto the cold, desolate street.
Desolate? Perhaps empty would be a better depiction.
After all, there were several people walking around during the dead of night, going about their usual daily lives whilst unaware of the uneasiness settling within the frosty air.
That said, amongst the few sparse strays that were oblivious to the weighted atmosphere surrounding me, a strange quartet, consisting of people with varying heights, had congregated in the street.
Naturally, due to the city lights revealing their hair colours, I was already well aware as to who these people were.
That said, I was not expecting these guys to appear here out of all places.
Being called out so blatantly by Aoyama Hiroko, I narrowed my eyes, surveying her expression while basking in a strained silence. Though I had no idea what she was doing here, it would appear that the maiden of light blue had an idea of what had just occurred on the rooftop of tragedy.
「T-That’s one awful face, huh?」
Seemingly pressured by my scowl, Hiroko faltered whilst giving me a wry smile. Of course, while I couldn’t tell if my face looked as terrible as she was suggesting, it was clear that my current condition was making her uncomfortable.
And so, I decided that it would be best to excuse myself from the conversation.
「………sorry, but I need some time to myself. Whatever it is that you want, would you mind putting it off until later?」
「W-well, it’s not like I really want anything, but-」
「Damn it, J!?」
Although Hiroko tried to clarify the nature of her visit, before she could finish her sentence, a mysterious force tugged at my shirt, swinging my body through the air with rapid momentum.
Naturally, since it had happened so quick, I didn’t realise that my body had been pinned up against a wall. When I did recover my senses, however, I was met face to face with a boy of dark hair and eyes blazing with rage.
Acknowledging the existence of the young doctor before me, I simply stared at him, my eyes jaded as they calmly ≪observed≫ the situation.
「What the fuck do you think you’re doing?! Are you insane?!」
Shingen swore through his teeth as his fists wrenched themselves around my collar. Although I wasn’t 100% certain earlier, Shingen’s current behaviour conveyed to me that he, as well as those behind him, had definitely witnessed the events that unfolded between Pearl and myself.
「Hey, don’t just clam up! Fucking answer me you son of a bitch!」
Unable to stand my silence, Shingen decided to coax a reply out of me as his grip tightened even further. That said, I wasn’t just going to give a reply towards the enraged doctor so simply.
At least, not until this hot headed
prick youth managed to calm his shit.
Or, perhaps, until someone else calmed it down for him.
「Shingen, that’s enough.」
Upon hearing a low rumble, Shingen swerved his body as he directed his gaze towards the origin of the abrupt voice. Naturally, my eyes followed suit as they caught a certain, hoodie-wearing teen in its sights.
「-?! Nee-chan! Fuck off! Didn’t you just see what this guy did?!」
Shingen lashed out towards his sister as blood rushed to his head. While it was quite obvious at this point that the ragtag group had witnessed my transgressions against Pearl’s trust, it made me feel slightly better to have my suspicions confirmed by the doctor’s loose, worked up mouth.
Interestingly enough, however, the girl who I had expected to see in a similarly fevered state was contrastingly calm, an air of frosty maturity surrounding her.
Then again, seeing as she’s a detective, it might be best to describe her current condition as hard-boiled?
「Of course I did.」
Unaware of my simple, inconsequential thoughts, Shana’s lips quivered as her eyes narrowed.
Her charcoal pupils shimmered brilliantly in the night as they observed the scene with an aloof hostility.
Though I had yet to acquaint myself with this girl in-depth, I could easily ≪read≫ her displeasure.
And yet, it would seem that Shingen was currently too worked up to notice Shana’s foul mood.
「Then why the hell are you getting in my-?!」
「Shingen. Shut up.」
The doctor sharply inhaled, his grip on my collar gradually loosening as his head began to cool.
Yet, in spite of this, the hooded detective’s orders did not stop there.
「Shingen, I think it’s best if you go back.」
「Hah-?! Why would I-」
「Someone needs to look after Pearl. There’s no one else here who could do a better job than you.」
Immediately cutting off her little brother’s argument, Shana’s voice resounded throughout the silent street. In the face of her words, Shingen’s eyes widened, shocked as his rage was cut down by his sister’s blade of reason.
However, the doctor’s anger wouldn’t be subdued simply by the rationality exhibited by this hooded detective whose gaze failed to break away from my cold pupils.
「……don’t worry. I’ll handle things here.」
「-tch. Fine, I get the message.」
Although frustrated, Shingen begrudgingly left the scene in pursuit of Pearl, supposedly leaving the girl with long, black hair to deal with his affairs on his behalf.
And so, after the dark-haired youth left the scene-
A laboured hush lingered in the air as we confronted each other with polarised wills.
One in search of the truth.
The other to preserve the lie.
In all honesty, the scene itself was quite reminiscent a western where two cowboys end up in a standoff.
Then again, since the tension caused by waiting for someone to act was more or less the same, my comparison wasn’t exactly too far off.
(Well, whatever the case, there’s no way in hell that I’m gonna waste time here waiting for a thimble to roll by.)
20 seconds passed by, all of which neither Shana nor myself spoke a word.
It was at this point that the remnants of my patience had shattered.
And so, in order to put an end to this stalemate, I walked forward.
However, I did not approach because I wanted to engage in a proper conversation.
To be honest, I wasn’t even trying to walk to her position.
All I was doing was beginning to make my way back to the cafe.
And Shana just so happened to be in my way.
「Look, if you don’t have anything to say to me, then I’m going.」
I muttered as I continued to walk past the hooded girl.
Yet, as I took about 4-5 steps after saying this-
-a stern voice leaked out of the detective’s mouth.
Needless to say, I was growing pissed after having been forced to wait so long for any sort of reaction from this girl.
And, to be honest, with the shit that I just had to go through moments prior, I already had enough things preoccupying my brain.
–which is most likely why my words sounded a lot harsher than I had originally intended them to be.
「……if you’ve got something to say, hurry up and spill it.」
Craning my neck towards the girl with black hair, I noticed the hoodie convulse slightly in the face of my pressure.
That said, this cowering lasted but a moment as the detective turned around, slowly walking so that she wounded up obstructing my path once more before her lips parted.
「J…did you really kill Shell Noel?」
「……hah? The fuck are you on about? Didn’t you hear me earlier?」
I questioned the doubts raised by the detective, my tone full of empty scorn and ridicule. Yet, instead of flinching back in the face of my ≪Intimidation≫, the hooded girl narrowed her eyes before continuing to coolly evaluate the situation.
Well, I said coolly but, after ≪reading≫ her expression, it was clear that her steel facade was rather forced. Of course, I doubted that Celest nor Hiroko would be able to tell, due to the fact that their gazes were also directed in my general direction.
Nevertheless, whatever the reason for Shana’s discomfort may be, she seemed determined to persist with this rigid pretence as she raised her voice once more.
「I want to hear it from your mouth. Did you use that knife to kill Shell Noel?」
「……*sigh*……why are you asking me questions that you already know the answer t-」
「Answer the question.」
Understanding that Shana wasn’t going to let me go until I gave her the answer she was expecting, my body relaxed as tension escaped from my pores. As if preparing itself to support my will, all the cells in my being relieved themselves to allow complete fluidity in movement.
And so, with this newfound flexibility, I took a deep breath.
「Fine. I stabbed that knife right into Shell Noel’s chest. Are you happy now?」
「……I see…do you have nothing to say about that?」
Shana commented, her tone incredibly suggestive as her eyes attempted to probe into my soul.
—it was at this point that my irritation had reached its peak.
「Look, what’s with the questions? In case you weren’t aware, I’m a little busy over here.」
「Busy? Even though you were going to lay your hands on my friend?」
Naturally, as if in response to my own frustrations, Shana exhibited an aggressive roar, her eyes riddled with disdain and hatred.
Her will to kill was so strong that it caused me to reflexively lower my stance in preparation for the inevitable attack.
Yet, luckily, someone intervened before the situation devolved into an all-out brawl.
「Ok, Shana-chan. I think that’s enough. We’ve all got things to do so that tomorrow ends up being a success, correct?」
Hiroko called out towards the detective, causing her to snap out of her furious trance. It went without saying that the noble still seemed to exert some sort of influence over the girl with the hood, resulting in Shana being unable to simply ignore anything that came out of this maiden’s mouth.
And so, in response to Hiroko’s subtle hint to not start anything with me (her ally), the detective’s murderous intent slowly began to retract, allowing me to do the same.
「……well, I’m gonna leave. That’s fine with you guys, right?」
As the skies mercilessly grew darker with each passing second, I decided to take my leave so that I wouldn’t waste any more of my time with the inquisitive detective.
After all, there was a lot more for me to do before the big day came.
「Yes, that’s fine J-san. I’ll be seeing you later.」
And so, as Hiroko bid me farewell, I made my way back to the cafe, leaving the noble of light blue to deal with the troubled detective.
「So? What did you think?」
After waiting for the blue-haired bastard to leave, I turned towards a young boy with bright yellow hair as I asked him this question.
「H-He wasn’t lying.」
I murmured as my mind reflected on the events that lead up to this point in time.
After leaving Shingen’s lab, the two of us ran into Hiroko and a portion of her shota army. Needless to say, after joining them in their pursuit to tail my best friend and her love interest(?), we settled in a building across the street, using Hiroko’s magic to peek in on the conversation.
And, while I couldn’t help but feel various emotions upon seeing both the sweetness and the destruction of the two’s relationship, Celest began to unintentionally analyse the youth’s face with a critical eye, accusing him of lying when the man said he had raped Pearl’s mother.
Naturally, I didn’t believe the little boy’s outrageous statement.
Or at least, at first glance.
However, my detective instinct continued to sound the alarm bells in my head, guiding me towards the notion that Celest had identified something crucial.
And, after performing a few tests, it was plain to see that Celest certainly had a knack for ≪reading≫ people’s expressions.
An ability which I would use to my advantage in an attempt to extract more information.
Specifically, whether or not J had actually killed Shell Noel.
And from what he had just said, J did not lie in the face of my questioning.
Well, if he did, then that would mean that J was capable of speaking falsely without even batting an eye.
—in which case, finding the truth just got that much harder.
「So? J-san stabbed Shell Noel with a knife. It’s not much different from what he had told Pearl-san, right?」
「……no. That’s not quite right.」
Realising that Hiroko’s remark wasn’t quite an accurate depiction of the scenario, I refuted her statement with uncertain words.
「Oh? How so?」
「Simple. What J’s truthful testimony provided was that he had placed the knife into Shell Noel’s chest.」
Beginning my explanation regarding the significance of J’s declaration, I first laid out the facts that rested within said individual’s statement.
Following which, I supplemented my argument by introducing the new facts that I had only recently uncovered thanks to my little brother’s meddling.
「However, the cause of death wasn’t the stab wound. In fact, Shell Noel was already dead when the dagger was plunged into the chest.」
「T-Then doesn’t that mean J-san didn’t kill her?」
Finally understanding the weight of this discovery, Hiroko expressed her surprise as she raised the issue that we all wished were true.
That said, I couldn’t just let this comment slide so easily as I gave a rebuttal.
「No. Not necessarily.」
「What do you mean?」
「Well, let’s say that J actually did stab Shell with the knife. Even if the knife stab didn’t kill the victim, doesn’t mean that J didn’t do something else to Shell which ended up killing her.」
That was the problem.
After reading the autopsy properly, I was able to determine that the knife was only stabbed once into the woman’s chest. Naturally, seeing as the wound was caused after death, this would mean that the blood loss was caused from somewhere else on the body.
And there was no evidence either in favour or denial of J possibly having caused the true origin of death.
「Hmm……I see. You have a point.」
Crossing her arms, Hiroko nodded before sinking into thought. Seeing as she wasn’t going to be talking for a while, I also began to dwell on the facts that I uncovered about this peculiar case.
After having finished up my duties at Pearl’s cafe, I headed over to the crime scene with Shingen, looking over all of the evidence at the scene.
Suffice it to say, the following concerns had made their way into my detective notebook (AKA my phone):
- No blood was found around the part of the building where Shell’s body was discovered
- Killed somewhere else?
- Building was cleaned?
- Sign of respect?
- Sign of respect?
- The scene was ransacked with the exception of a single, untouched table in the middle of the room
- Why just the table?
- Table untouched? Or table replaced?
- A layer of dust coated the table, a small, round portion of which was left untouched
- Possible evidence of there being a recording crystal?
- A pillar had grooves matching the shape of the rope found on Shell Noel’s wrists
- She was trapped here?
- The two nobles’ corpses were quite far away from the spot Shell Noel was found in
- Killed by Shell?
- One of the corpses’ penis had been cut off and left on the floor
- Rapists Noble Scum
- Cut off by Shell?
- Traces of semen were found on the floor
- Raping Shell?
Of course, after discerning all of these facts, I was brought to Shingen’s lab to gather more information about the corpses and other points of interest which I also added to my notebook:
- Shell Noel’s body was found with the following:
- traces of semen inside of vagina
- chest wound caused by knife stab
- rope bound around wrists and legs
- devoid of blood around the body
- Shell Noel’s knife wound was caused after death
- Knife was devoid of prints
- Shell Noel’s wrists and ankles had marks on them, determined to be bruises and rope burns
- Currently analysing the semen traces in Shell Noel
- Currently analysing the semen on the floor
To be honest, the more clues that I uncovered throughout the investigation, the more that I began to realise that things were not as they seem.
For example, if J was going to be so open about killing Shell Noel, then why was the knife devoid of fingerprints? I mean, it’s not like he was bothering to cover his tracks and, from what I could see, he didn’t wear gloves.
Putting two and two together, I would have expected to see his prints all over the knife’s handle. In fact, I managed to sneak out a knife that he used to eat his dinner with in order to check and compare his fingerprints.
And yet, when I had Shingen scan the dagger that punctured Shell’s chest, the handle was clean.
Furthermore, there was also the issue of the cause of death: Blood loss.
I mean, forgetting about the whereabouts of the blood that Shell had supposedly lost, where did the blood exit from?
From what I read of the autopsy, there was no place for the blood to exit from (with the exception of the wound that was caused after death).
In which case, if we can’t find the true cause of death, then we’ve got an impossible crime on our hands.
As Hiroko suddenly called out to me, I snapped out of my contemplation and set my sights back onto reality. From what I could see from her strained features, it would appear that the noble has been trying to get my attention for quite awhile now.
「Finally. Are you alright?」
「Y-yeah. Sorry, I was lost in thought. Did you want something?」
Apologising for being briefly cut off from my surroundings, I explained myself before asking what it was that Hiroko wanted.
「Well, basically, I was wondering what the point of doing all this was if it didn’t matter.」
As I allowed the noble’s point to sink in, I was reminded of the topic that we had discussed earlier regarding the fact that J stabbing Shell’s chest had no weighting in the determination of whether he was her killer.
And so, after catching up to speed, I gave Hiroko my answer.
「Because I wanted to check if he actually did it.」
「? But it doesn’t matter, does it?」
「Of course it does. If J-san killed Shell Noel through blood loss, why did he stab a knife in her chest?」
I responded, correcting Hiroko’s misconception before delving deeper into my reasoning.
「Furthermore, if he was going to be so open about killing Shell Noel, why would he wipe his fingerprints off of the knife.」
「I see……that is strange indeed.」
Realising the problem that I had identified earlier, Hiroko also began to grow suspicious about J’s actions as a dark expression formed across her face.
As she sunk into silence once more, I began to look over my notes in an attempt to try and shed some light on the situation.
However, it was at then that I was suddenly struck by an epiphany.
An epiphany that may very well change the entire outcome of this case.
「……no way. If what I’m thinking is right, then that changes everything!」
「J-san……he…I can’t believe he…」
Waking up in the middle of the night, I rubbed my swollen eyes as my hollow voice lifelessly resounded throughout the darkness of my room.
「………why…why did this happen……」
Sitting upright, I continued to stare at the floor, my eyes dull as the realistic nightmare continued to steal the light from my world.
The horror was so strenuous that I wanted to cry so badly. Yet, after having bawled my eyes to sleep upon running back home and locking myself in my room, it seemed as though my tears had run dry.
「J-san………how could you?」
I sobbed through clenched teeth as the memories of the blue-haired noble’s betrayal continued to flash through my mind. As they did so, questions began to overflow my vulnerable brain once more.
Why did J rape and kill my mother?
Was everything he did for me……everything he said to me all just a lie?
Was I really only being used by him?
Did I really……fall in love with such a terrible person?
My heart throbbed painfully once more, causing me to burst into tears.
As I had thought, my heart wasn’t ready to stop crying as it forced my dried up eyes to create another river.
It was almost like someone forcing a water tap open even more, despite the fact that it was already fully open.
Or maybe it was like someone cutting onions despite having had them exposed to lemon juice.
Whatever the case, I didn’t care.
After all, the agony of my soul was far more important to me than some stupid comparison.
As the symptoms of depression threatened to strangle me, I felt my heart growing more hollow after every tear that was shed.
Needless to say, realising that I was destroying myself by doing this, I tried my hardest to suppress my despair.
Yet, it was incredibly difficult.
Difficult and painful.
Yet, after what seemed like forever, I finally managed to regain my composure, to the point where my wails were no longer controlled by my ever-flowing tears.
Well, at least my external voice wasn’t.
(Why……why does it hurt so badly?)
I asked myself a pointless question.
Because I already knew the answer.
It was bad enough that J killed and raped my mother.
But he had also been kind to me.
He was nice to me.
He helped me.
He saved me.
He made me fall in love with him…
——–And then he trampled all over my feelings.
He betrayed me.
My heart threatened to once again burst out of my chest in the face of this knowledge.
Luckily for me, however, I swallowed my heart, allowing my sorrow to bleed out inside me.
Of course, I realised that this overwhelming misery would either crush me under its pressure or drown me in eternal suffering.
Which is why I began to think.
Think about what I was going to do from now on.
I mean, what was I going to do now?
He now knows who I am…and I now know who he really is.
So what was I planning on doing now?
I mean, after telling him who I was and hearing his reason for killing my mother, I was hoping to tell him my true feelings.
But now…I don’t know.
I mean, I still love him. Even if I despised myself for having these feelings towards such a hideous villain, I couldn’t help but adore the young noble.
So do I confess my feelings for him?
……no. I don’t think I could.
I mean, how was I going to tell the man who raped and killed my mother that I fell in love with him? He’d probably either rape me or laugh in my face.
Or maybe even both.
Then maybe I should just wait for my feelings towards him to fade away?
………I don’t know. This is the first time I’ve ever experienced love so I have no idea if feelings like these would ever go away. And even if they did, I don’t think I could handle falling in love ever again.
Well, what if I turn him in and give him to the police? Like, have him repent for his crime and come out a better person?
…………well, from what I heard from Shingen-san and Shana-chan, that might end up doing more harm than good.
And even if we were successful, I doubt that he’d come around.
Then…………do I just forgive him?
Do I forgive him for raping my mother?
Do I forgive him for killing her?
Do I forgive him for blackmailing me?
Do I forgive him for using me?
Do I forgive him for betraying me?
Do I forgive him for betraying my feelings?
「……there’s no way that I can forgive him.」
After I managed to shake myself away from Shana, I made my way back to the cafe.
That said, however, I realised that there was something I needed to check into before I returned, causing me to go to the guild’s shop.
Luckily for me, it seemed that Alice was still running the shop, allowing me to get what I wanted quickly and easily.
Simply put, what I wanted was bullets.
Bullets for my pistol.
That said, seeing as I knew very little about guns, I had to get Alice to check it out in order to determine the bullets that I needed. Although I didn’t quite get all of the things she said (due to the fact that she was so excited about the gun I managed to get quite cheaply), I managed to get a single magazine for the chamber, filled with bullets that were appropriate for my needs.
And so, with this newly stocked gun, I hauled my tired body back to the cafe and up into my room.
Needless to say, before I did, I told Hiroko that I wanted her to come up to me after 10 minutes.
And while there wasn’t anything really preventing me from seeing the blue-haired noble immediately, from the tuft of silver hair that I saw poking out of my window from outside, I expected to see a certain, no good brat intruding upon my abode.
「Well, well, what do we have here? From the look on your face, I can see that it all went rather well.」
「…………shut the fuck up.」
「Please, don’t even, Mr Dominator. In case you haven’t caught on by now, I’m stronger than you. I won’t be taken in so easily by a wimp who can’t do jack shit by himself.」
「What do you want?」
I glared sharply at Silvia, her silver hair remaining still as the person was overly unfazed by my ≪intimidation≫.
Unlike those other pests that shudder in my presence, it seems like this one will be a lot more useful.
「I wanted to see the look on your face after seeing the shit that you pulled on Pearl.」
「Just kidding, just kidding! I wanted to check something with you.」
After getting flustered for a bit, Silvia regained her composure as her gaze shifted towards the pistol placed in my inner jacket pocket.
The pistol that was now filled to the brim with freshly bought bullets.
「……you’re not planning on dying, are you?」
(-?! I see…so she already knows, huh?)
Realising that my newly laid plans had been seen through by this seemingly young girl of silver, I simply sighed before conveying the following towards the concerned Silvia.
「………don’t worry. I’ll only do as much as is necessary. Nothing more, nothing less.」
As I spoke, a tense lull fell between the two of us.
However, this didn’t last very long as Silvia’s pursed lips parted slowly.
「……alright. I’ll trust you for now so give it here.」
Seeing the girl’s outstretched hand, I couldn’t help but just stand there, my body locked in place as I continued to stare at the girl with a narrowed gaze.
「What? I already know that you’re not planning on using that thing yourself so I’m gonna help you out.」
Realising that there was no point in continuing this unnecessary standoff, I took my pistol out and threw it towards the girl.
「I’ll make sure that this gets to where it needs to be.」
「……yeah. You do that.」
And so, after this brief exchange, Silvia left my room, the pistol parcel held in her delicate hands.
Of course, just as Silvia left, Hiroko came in and I began to get the rest of my tasks for the day over and done with.
Firstly, I managed to get some info that Hiroko had been coaxing out from the tall, wimpy man that we captured the night prior. Initially, our plan was to simply get a grasp of how things operated, as well as a basic understanding of their bases layout if possible.
Naturally, from what we learned, they used walkie-talkies to report to each other constantly. Furthermore, they needed to send a report once every hour in order to let the other members know that everything was alright.
And seeing as how we had gotten this info way past this hourly report, it was obvious that the other members had begun to feel that something was off.
Well, even without obtaining this info, Hiroko told me that there were quite a few customers of noble birth hanging around at the cafe today, causing me to raise a brow. Luckily for us, Hiroko had found a brown wig which she used to effectively camouflage herself so that our operation wouldn’t be discovered.
With that said, it was only a matter of time before things got annoying fast.
I mean, even throughout this entire fiasco with Pearl, I had already seen several sentries staked around this area. Well, I probably would have been blind not to see them considering that their gaudy punk-rock outfits stood out more than a mafia in kindergarten.
Nevertheless, if I were to express things bluntly, it was clear that time was of the essence.
Therefore, Hiroko and I decided that we were to strike tomorrow.
Well, I was actually already planning on doing that but seeing that the pressure was now on, I felt that I could no longer chicken out of this venture.
Anyway, the second item on the agenda was basically a review of all the equipment that Hiroko had gained while I had been out with Pearl.
From what I heard, she left it to one of her colleagues called Takeru (the one who had taken a shot at Pearl) and had him place the goodies in a storage room. While she had told Takeru to be careful, I thought that it would be best to simply incapacitate all of the guards in the area to ensure that there would be no info leaks.
Then again, since taking this action would have risks of its own, I decided that sending Takubi to check on the storage area was probably a safer option.
In any case, what we basically managed to get was a decent firearm for each member of her outfit. From this info, we began to lay down our plans for our assault that we’d bring about the next day.
And finally, the most important point of all, I began to negotiate with Hiroko about the extra term that I still had on our contract. After much debate, a few concerned glances, and a couple rounds of persuasion, Hiroko finally surrendered as she approved of the new term I had set.
And so, with all of the preparations set, I would begin once more on my quest.
My quest to bury the truth within the lies.
My quest to take on all of the evil.
|The 13th Prelude – The Point of No Return||XCrossJ’s List of Movements||The 15th Prelude – Molto Attaco|