Prelude of Pearls: The 4th Segue – Right and Left
-Earlier that day, at 【Noel Cafe】-
「Nee-chan, you better hurry it up! I have a feeling that something bad’s gonna happen.」
「I know, I know. Damn it, Pearl! Where are you?!」
Two siblings wearing matching charcoal hoodies were currently searching the building for any signs of life.
Well, to clarify, Shingen and Shana were originally searching for the whereabouts of a single individual.
A person who should have been present in the abandoned cafe, but was not.
The person who the detective needed to talk to urgently.
(This isn’t good.)
The detective muttered as she searched the kitchen, leaving her brother to investigate the upper floor.
To be honest, at the current time, Shana’s mind was racing with all sorts of thoughts.
Then again, seeing how she and her brother had come upon a game-changing revelation, it was no wonder that the detective was so restless.
(Damn. Even though I managed to prove my theory, if I don’t find her before it’s too late, then-)
Seeing her brother burst through the kitchen door, Shana swerved her body 180 degrees, allowing her to see a dark-haired boy panting heavily with red cheeks.
「Nee-chan, look at this!」
Frantically approaching his sister with hasty steps, Shingen presented his sister with a small piece of metal.
With a perilous shine, the cone-shaped shard of iron hazardously reflected itself within Shana’s charcoal pupils.
It took less than an instant for her eyes to widen in fearful comprehension.
After all, what Shingen held within the palm of his hand was a bullet.
A freshly purchased bullet that was used often with the deadly apparatus known as a pistol.
「Shingen! Where did you find this!?」
「On Pearl’s dresser! It was in her bedroom!」
「……this is not good.」
Folding her arms towards her chest, Shana desperately tried to fight against the anxiety that threatened to consume her entire being.
Of course, seeing how bullet was unused, it was obvious that the only way for the bullet to be on Pearl’s dresser was for someone to have placed it there.
And since Shell Noel didn’t have any hobbies that revolved around ammunition, there was only one explanation that the detective could think of for why the pellet was found in such a place.
Pearl had obtained a gun with bullets.
Though perhaps the leap in logic was a bit drastic, considering the events that had occurred the night before, it didn’t seem so strange.
Having been betrayed by the person she loved, Pearl Noel purchased a gun with the intent of killing him and avenging her mother.
Such a hypothesis wasn’t exactly as farfetched as one might think.
Which meant that Shana had no more time to lose.
「Shingen! We’re heading to the gangster’s base!」
With utmost haste, Shana and Shingen departed the premises as they began their race against the clock.
Of course, what the two had to do was clear.
They needed to locate the brown-haired girl before it was too late.
They had to find Pearl and convey the truth to her.
Before she performed an act that she could never take back.
Before she committed a crime against herself.
「*phew* It’s been awhile since I’ve gone all out like that.」
A lone girl spoke frivolously as she waltzed through a garden of ice and snow.
The glacial landscape shimmered with a gentle majesty as the pristine coat of frost twinkled like stars in the sky.
And yet, in the midst of the icy meadow lied a pair of freshly created ornaments.
「Don’t worry about your life. You’ll simply remain frozen like that until I say otherwise.」
Hiroko beamed brightly as she turned towards her new prisoners.
Their rigid forms were cast with the dense gloss of crystal.
And yet, reflected on their visage was not beauty, but horror.
The horror that the two experienced moments before they were trapped in time.
「……truly. What a despicable person my brother must be to deceive the likes of these fools.」
The one responsible for the pair’s tragic fate muttered as she gazed at her captives, shadows mingling with her hair as they obscured her gorgeous diamond pupils.
Even though she had brought down the hammer of judgement upon these two nobles, Aoyama Hiroko was not in the least happy about it.
After all, despite their immaturity, Marine Azuru and Amachi Hiroki were people whom she regarded as friends.
And the fact that they had been unwittingly used by her brother to perform such unspeakable acts…caused feelings of rage to stir within the maiden’s fiery heart.
「But no matter. What’s important now is that we must make haste.」
Having finished her rumination, the girl with hair as pale as ice made this declaration to her followers, gathered in the frosty garden of sculptures.
Yet, none of them responded to her call.
Perhaps they were paralysed, afraid to speak to the one who had turned living humans into mere crystal dolls.
Perhaps they were awestruck, unable to utter a sound in the face of the glorious beauty that surrounded them.
Either way, Hiroko did not press her army for an answer.
After all, she was aware that normal civilians were ignorant of the true terrors that magic held.
The true might that people like her possessed.
With that said, it was also true that she couldn’t afford to sit around idly while a certain young man of blue was doing his utmost to help her cause.
Therefore, she had to act now.
Because her brother, Aoyama Aoki, was also a mage of great calibre.
A mage who wielded frightening strength that even she couldn’t match.
(……certainly even J-san would have a hard time against such a monster.)
Hiroko thought as she began to nibble at her thumb’s nail.
Although the strange individual showed that he possessed great abilities, it was clear to see that Hiroko’s unease seemed to signify that her brother would not be such an easy opponent.
However, no matter which foe one might face, tackling them with numbers was certainly a strategy that would bring about a higher chance of victory.
Which is why the Ice Queen understood that she had to find him now.
Before they engaged in battle.
—-and yet, just as the woman’s lavish lips parted, a sudden sound pierced the air, signalling the arrival of a certain individual.
A person whose sudden entrance shocked even the mistress of ice.
As opposed to the garden of frosted human sculptures, the atmosphere just outside of the warehouse grew quite heated as the girl of pink would soon lose her life to the maniacal servant of the sky.
But then again, this was the sort of outcome that should be expected.
After all, the girl had foolishly intruded upon the den of the extremists.
Those who hated the tainted, the people who were not dyed in their colours.
And Pearl, being an existence known as a Cross Breed, would undoubtedly receive even more animosity than the norm.
Therefore, she should have understood that following after that person may result in the loss of her own life.
And because of her lack of foresight, she would now pay the price.
—or so one would think.
「……*cough* *cough* o-ow.」
Gagging on dust and dirt, Pearl’s vacant mind was forcefully returned to the realm of reality.
Strangely enough, however, despite some minor bruises and a few scrapes, the girl of strawberry pink was relatively unharmed.
Even though she had been on the receiving end of a harsh storm which threatened to tear holes into the atmosphere itself, Pearl Noel had survived the onslaught of Tenjou Suzume’s chant.
Yet, having been unconscious for the duration, there was no way for Pearl to truly understand the significance behind her survival.
「W-What……happened to me?」
Holding her aching head, Pearl staggered as she surveyed her surroundings.
Although her vision was hazy and her gaze unfocused, the girl managed to stumble her way across the battlefield as she closed in on the warehouse.
Of course, in her unsettled state of mind, Pearl did not have the capacity to be wary of her surroundings.
Which is why she received such a shock during the midst of her approach to the warehouse.
Her body threatened to jolt out of her skin as an ominous shadow manifested itself in the corner of her eye.
Needless to say, the true nature behind the sudden appearance of the shadow was due to Pearl’s delay in noticing the figure.
Then again, even if she had seen the strange silhouette earlier, Pearl’s bewilderment would undoubtedly be the same.
After all, the shadow, Tenjou Suzume, was sprawled onto the ground in an unseemly manner.
Covering her mouth in horror, Pearl could only tremble as her focus was drawn towards her enemy’s miserable condition.
Her clothes were in rough tatters.
Her unblemished skin had a sickly pallor that greatly contrasted her earlier healthy appearance.
Her gaping mouth forced her face to contort into an indescribable expression.
Like her mouth, her unconscious eyes were pried open as her absent pupils exposed a lifeless canvas of white.
It needn’t be said that her appearance was horrifying.
However, the bigger question that lay behind Suzume’s mangled appearance was-
(What happened to her?)
A distraught Pearl wondered as she drew closer towards the fainted noble woman, curious as to what the cause for her collapse was.
Yet, upon approaching the girl, Pearl was able to see a certain something twinkling on Suzume’s body.
A strand of strawberry pink hair.
A voice laced with uncertainty dwindled in the breeze as its owner unconsciously flinched backwards in fear.
Fear of what she might have done.
Fear of not knowing what she might have done.
However, perhaps driven by this fear, Pearl strenuously pushed the issue out of her mind as she reaffirmed what her mission was.
「W-What am I doing! I…I have to focus!」
Though her body was wracked with nerves, Pearl somehow managed to control herself as she tightly clenched her fists in resolution.
(I have to do what I set out here to do!)
Even if I become labelled a villain for it.