Prelude of Pearls: The 19th Prelude – Answers
A long time ago, I was taught a saying.
The world is not always black and white.
And yet, despite my agreement with this phrase, that was all I could see before me.
And white appears once more.
My vision continued to flicker between these two extremes, sending my mind plummeting down into a spiral of utter confusion.
And yet, whilst in this disoriented state, I could see things.
Strange, strange things.
I saw a youth bathed in a dirty blue light, snickering hysterically as his crazed eyes shone ominously in the darkness.
I saw the woman who I thought was weak, nobly sacrificing her own life to prevent the birth of a monster.
And most importantly-
-I saw the girl I was trying to protect, placing a sinister piece of black metal against her head.
(I……I have to stop this!)
I groaned, attempting to exert my will onto the surroundings.
With each grunt, I could feel my life draining away.
And yet, for some reason, I didn’t care.
After all, nothing could matter more to me at this very moment than saving Pearl’s life.
—despite my impaired vision, my ears still managed to pick up the coffee girl’s bewilderment, signifying to me that I had successfully prevented her death.
What did I do, you ask?
Is it really important?
After all, I just saved Pearl from shooting herself in the fucking head.
I mean, even if I used my DP to prevent the bullets from igniting, all of that was irrelevant.
All that mattered was that Pearl was safe.
—-at least, for now.
「Looks like you lucked out on bullets, huh Cross Breed?」
A low snarl resonated within the room, vibrating my ear drums as they reminded me of the true villain behind this entire incident.
The man who had Shell Noel kidnapped in the first place.
The man who had forced Pearl’s mother into taking her own life.
The man who would undoubtedly kill Pearl for just being a Cross Breed.
My mind suddenly began to race furiously, causing me to grit my teeth subconsciously.
Yet, the cause of my mental acceleration was completely unknown to me.
Was it because I was so enraged by the idea of this fucker’s way of doing things?
Was it because I was so afraid of Pearl ending up the same was as her mother?
Was it because my body was in a near-death state?
I honestly couldn’t say, nor could I give a damn.
After all, regardless of which it was, that didn’t change a single thing.
After all, this whole thing wouldn’t end…unless I ended it once and for all.
(Guh! C’mon! Just last a little longer, me!)
I murmured, mustering every ounce of energy left in my being as I felt the unsettling blackness gradually making its return.
I probably didn’t have much time left.
—and I sure as hell wasn’t going to waste it!
For a moment, my field of view returned, causing a torrent of information to flood through my closed retinas.
And, from what I could see, the pistol that Pearl was using had been so coincidentally aimed at the gangsters’ boss.
I didn’t even waste a second of the opportunity that the innocent had given me, immediately commanding the metallic weapon to fire off a round.
Needless to say, the effects of such a command were obvious.
To both him and to me.
「*cough* What the……fuck just…」
「Heh………rot in hell……you fucking…piece of……」
Having lost our strength, both Aoyama Aoki and I fell silent.
His energy had been sapped by his mortal wound.
Mine had been drained by my empty tank of DP.
It would seem……that my body was unconsciously using it to repair itself, commanding my flesh to close its wounds and my blood to stop gushing out onto the floor.
However……now that it had been expended……
「J-san!? Don’t die!」
—It looks like this is the end of the road for me.
「Calm down, Pearl! Damn it, Shingen! You’re a doctor! Do something!」
「Like hell do you expect me to just fix a wound this large without any equipment!」
「No! Please! Don’t die!」
—-that was probably the last thing I heard before my vision cut out entirely.
It came so suddenly.
Without precedent, and without warning, it came, just like it always did.
And like always, I was powerless to stop it.
The time to wake from my slumber.
The moment when the body forces the mind to return to reality.
The moment when one returns to the realm of the living.
Yet, for some reason, I felt that this time, things were……different.
My ears twitched, tickled by the groan that involuntarily escaped my lips.
My eyelids fluttered, allowing a painful light to filter through the gaps in my eyelashes.
Yet, as my irises gradually adjusted to the harsh exposure, I was able to somewhat make out my serene surroundings.
A white room with white walls. White sheets, white tiles, white curtains, white lamps.
Honestly, it was a bit too white.
Especially for a being of darkness such as myself.
I muttered, placing my hand against my pounding head in an attempt to calm myself.
And, while my skin reacted fondly to the coolness of my fingers, I couldn’t help but squint as my blurry vision began to pick up a few more points of interest in my surroundings.
—especially the brown-haired maiden who was right beside the bed that I was laid out onto.
I hesitatingly spoke, stunned by the girl’s vivid reaction towards my revival.
Her soft pupils were opened wide, beads of tears pooling into the corners of eyes.
Her dainty hands convulsed uncontrollably as they were clasped over her gaping mouth.
Her face grew tense, contorting her delicate features into an inexplicably surreal expression.
Yeah, I’d say so.
I mean, I never thought I’d see such a mixture of concern and relief appear on the innocent’s face.
Especially towards the person who had killed her mother.
As the girl of coffee dived into my chest, I winced slightly as a shot of electricity ripped through my muscles.
Yet, Pearl didn’t seem to notice my brief moment of agony as she buried her face into my clothes before letting loose a cry of sorrow.
「……what the hell?」
Stuck in an incomprehensive daze, I could only display utter confusion whilst gazing upon the innocent’s overreaction.
Luckily for my dumbstruck self, however, it would seem that those who could offer me an explanation were present in this room of white.
「……it’s good to see you are well, J-sama.」
I meekly murmured, my voice seemingly giving out on me as my diaphragm was slowly being crushed by Pearl’s weight.
After acknowledging the noble woman, it was apparent that there were also other individuals gathered in this isolated room.
The hooded detective of charcoal.
The young doctor of jet black.
The immature, servant twins of gold.
The ice queen of light blue.
—-and an additional presence whom I have never seen before.
「I don’t know too much of the details, but it would appear that my children have caused you some trouble.」
A deep, resolute voice resonated throughout the secluded room of white.
Needless to say, said voice came from the man who stood next to Aoyama Hiroko, causing my gaze to shift as I studied the intruder with uncertainty.
His flawless face was perfectly chiselled into a visage that mixed beauty, wisdom, and kindness into a delicately aged unity.
His stature was refined, years of experience creating a sharpened body that possessed an undeniable, almost natural elegance.
To be honest, this strange man’s bewilderingly faultless appearance made me slightly jealous.
Yet, despite all of these aspects, what truly caught my attention was the man’s hair.
A distinct shade of rich, imperial blue.
「Aoyama Ren. Aoki and Hiroko’s father.」
Upon learning the man’s name, I grew silent.
But could you really blame me?
Although I wasn’t exactly sure why this man was here, it was clear that he was interested in me.
And the last thing I wanted my little escapade to do was to draw the attention of this city’s ruler.
「I’m sorry to do this to you, considering you just woke up, but would you mind answering a few questions for me?」
Hiroko spoke up, seemingly distressed by her father’s actions.
Looking at the two, I couldn’t really see the family resemblance.
After all, even though Hiroko acted quite regal, there was always this aspect of superficiality that was laced within her behaviour.
But then again, what do I know?
My existence is probably the furthest thing away from this so-called nobility.
「Aoyama Ren. With all due respect, the patient isn’t in any health to-」
「What do you want?」
I immediately spoke, interrupting an irked Shingen whose clenched fist trembled as he attempted to dissuade the leader of 【Lucid】 from conducting his questioning.
Of course, the reason why I decided to accept Aoyama Ren’s arguably unreasonable request was not because I felt sorry for Shingen.
No. It was simply because I knew that he’d eventually come back to visit me later if I declined his offer now.
—which meant that it was better to get things over and done with now rather than waste even more of my time later.
I mean, it’s not like I was going anywhere anytime soon.
Especially with a girl bawling her eyes out in my chest.
「Well, for starters, do you prefer tea or coffee?」
In the face of Ren’s disorienting question, the room fell into utter silence.
After all, no one had expected such an inquiry coming from the one who effectively ruled these lands.
Not even I could have imagined such a thing.
But then again, I was always one to think on my feet.
「………what kind of tea?」
「………sorry. I have no clue what that is.」
I responded pathetically, regretting the fact that I didn’t take the time to study the foreign culture of 【Paletia】.
However, instead of giving me a strange look, the imperial blue man simply nodded before turning towards the golden siblings.
「I see. Well, in that case, coffee it is. Celest?」
「Ah, hang on Celest! I’ll help too!」
「Onee-chan! You need to rest.」
「Don’t worry! I’ve already had plenty of rest!」
Two familiar faces entered my vision, causing me to smirk as the banter reminded me of my first day in this world.
Although a lot has happened, I found my experiences strangely fascinating.
—even if there was a lot of strife along the way.
「Sorry, but if you could get some milk and sugar as well, then that would be swell.」
I shouted towards the retreating figures, my strength having somewhat returned to how it was before I wound up in this sick bed.
Yet, before I could even address the issue of my regained energy, the man—Aoyama Ren flashed me a surprised glance before speaking his mind.
「Oh? I pegged you for the type who drank their coffee black.」
「What can I say? I’m a little kid inside.」
I shrugged, feeling slightly conflicted about the fact that I was once again thought of as being much more mature than my age.
Then again, considering my outward appearance literally no longer reflects my mental age, I guess it was simply something that couldn’t be helped.
「……so? That can’t be all you wanted to ask me, right?」
I inquired, my eyes narrowing as they shifted their attention towards Ren’s lips.
For some reason, however, the atmosphere of the surroundings immediately changed as I did so, causing even the girl who was crying her heart out in my chest to suddenly grow silent as she began to listen in on our conversation.
And then, it came.
That one question which I somehow knew was going to come.
「Did you, or did you not kill Miss Shell Noel?」
Silence once more returned to the white room as all eyes turned towards my direction.
Needless to say, the anticipation that perpetuated the silence was ridiculously strong.
Yet, for some reason, I couldn’t help but think it was strange.
After all, the people gathered here all witnessed Shell Noel’s final moments.
They must have known that I didn’t kill her.
So why were they looking at me so intently?
Suddenly, I felt a slight tug on my shirt, causing me to turn towards the side as the sight of a concerned, tearful girl caught me off guard.
I knew that Pearl had also seen that film of Shell Noel taking her own life.
The very same film that featured me saving her mother from Aoki’s henchmen.
—–it needn’t be said that I had failed utterly in convincing Pearl that I was her enemy.
Therefore, I no longer had to keep up this stupid ≪Facade≫.
「…I may as well have.」
I uttered grimly, my eyes growing downcast as I reflected on what had happened that night.
Had I not left her alone……had I not dropped that knife in that room.
Pearl’s mother wouldn’t have had to die.
Sure, I’m probably talking nonsense.
After all, there was no point on talking about what-ifs this late in the game.
Nevertheless, though, that didn’t change how I felt.
Or rather, the guilt that was wedged within my innocent heart.
「I take it that you saw that film?」
Realising that everyone was still watching me intently, I raised my head, directing my attention towards Ren as I attempted to filter out the painful gazes of the others onlookers.
Yet, seemingly unaware of my plight, the man simply nodded solemnly before his lips opened once more.
「Although you changed the scene, I’m assuming that you did it out of respect for Shell Noel.」
Hiroko chimed in, her brow furrowed as she failed to comprehend the meaning behind her father’s assumption.
「Think about it. If J hadn’t masked the scene so well, it would have been a lot easier to identify that it was a suicide.」
-the one who answered was not the man of imperial blue, but the hooded detective who had remained silent up until now.
「Besides, I highly doubt that Shell’s dignity would be maintained if people started to gossip about her taking her own life.」
I couldn’t help but scoff upon hearing Shana’s explanation.
After all, she absolutely nailed it.
Even though I messed with the crime scene…even though I drove that knife into Shell’s heart, it was all so I could mask the true cause of death.
—–fat lot of good that’s done, huh?
「………anyway, is that all?」
I asked once more, unable to control my face properly as I could feel my features contorting into a wry smile.
Yet, in the face of my strange expression-
-Ren simply spoke thus, causing me to sink into a silence as I stared at him with anticipation.
Although I wasn’t entirely sure what he was going to ask me, I had a feeling that it was going to be another zinger of a question.
And sure enough-
「If you wouldn’t mind me asking, why did you do all of this?」
—in that split second, my entire world froze.
Not because of the abruptness of such a poignant question.
Not because of Ren’s stoic delivery of such a question.
No. The only reason why I had been caught off-guard by the imperial man of blue—-was because I had no idea how he found out about my plans.
「I’ve heard of the situation from Detective Bonnet over there.」
As Ren swiftly returned a short answer to my query, my focus shifted towards the hooded girl, my narrowed eyes boring into her charcoal hair.
And, while I wanted to throw out some sort of complaint towards her, I understood that there was nothing I could do about what had been done.
Besides, it’s not like she answered to me in the first place.
「Was there a real need for you to go through all of this?」
Aoyama Ren asked once more, his pupils shining with a solemn gleam as they intently honed in on my face.
It was obvious to me that the man was waiting for my answer.
—and so, after much deliberation, I decided to give him one.
「……of course there wasn’t.」
I felt my gaze inadvertently stray towards the brown-haired girl, her face no longer buried in my chest as her eyes were also locked onto my visage.
Despite merely glimpsing at her face for only a moment, it was clear that she had also wanted to know the answer to this question.
She desperately wanted to understand what had possessed me to do all of the things that I had done.
—-and to be honest, I wanted to as well.
……who am I kidding?
I understood goddamn well exactly why I had done all of this.
Yet, understanding and accepting were two different matters entirely.
「……let’s just say that for all intents and purposes, I needed to become a villain.」
I could feel my lips tremble in the frosty winter air.
However, as my ears twitched upon hearing my words, I realised that I needed to make an amendment to my statement.
An amendment that truly reflected the very moment I had decided to dedicate myself to becoming one with the darkness.
「No. I needed to become a Servant of Evil.」
It was most likely that night.
That night in that bar.
It was then that had made my decision.
My decision to help Pearl get over her mother’s death.
My decision to become her mother’s killer so that she could blame someone for taking her family.
My decision to hide the truth within a myriad of lies.
「Y-You……it couldn’t be…」
In the face of my declaration, a distraught Pearl suddenly began to whimper uncontrollably, causing the once composed Shana to shift her posture in concern.
It needn’t be said at this point that the innocent girl had caught on to the subtleties behind my statement.
However, I could have never predicted Pearl’s reaction towards the realisation of who I was.
All of a sudden, I felt a strong grip clutch my shirt, shortly followed by a soft pounding and a shrill cry.
And yet, it was the tears that flowed from her cheeks that stood out to me more than anything.
Tears of rage.
Tears of sorrow.
Tears of disbelief.
Tears of confusion.
But most of all—tears of gratitude.
「Idiot, idiot, idiot, idiot, idiot!」
Pearl buried her face into my chest once more, ceaselessly repeating the same insult as she continued to beat my chest without restraint.
However, her words were not poisonous, nor were her strikes painful.
She was like a child.
Blind to the concept of malice as she frantically thrashed about in my chest.
And in the face of the innocent’s raw emotion, I-
—I wrapped my arms around her, stroking Pearl’s hair as I allowed her to expel the rest of her pent up emotions in silence.
「………he really is an idiot.」
A grumpy girl with silver hair grumbled, sipping audibly on a cup of soda as her brow furrowed in displeasure.
Needless to say, this girl was none other than the culprit behind J’s sudden appearance in the world known as 【Paletia】, Silvia.
However, what she was doing in a burger joint a few metres away from the hospital that J was currently housed in, one could only hazard a guess.
「Excuse me? Would you mind if I took this seat?」
Suddenly approached by a girl with deep blue hair, Silvia could only stare, her pouting face covered with crumbs as she glared at the newcomer with a reproachful gaze.
「Why are you here?」
Silvia spat out, placing down the burger she held in her hand before turning towards the strange girl that had asked to sit next to her.
Normally, one would begin to question the reason behind Silvia’s uncalled-for hostility.
Yet, in this scenario, it was entirely appropriate.
After all, in order to prevent any annoyances that may come from her hair colour, Silvia had placed a ≪Barrier≫ of sorts, surrounding her so that normal people wouldn’t pay any sort of attention towards her.
—-which meant that this individual before her wasn’t by any means normal.
「……oh dear. Was I found out already?」
The girl snickered before taking her seat next to the silver-haired girl, adjusting her skirt before casually unwrapping her burger with precise movements.
Needless to say, this nonchalant demeanour simply served to irritate the girl of silver, causing her to lash out towards the person who had chosen to sit next to her.
「What do you mean, already? There’s no way I could find you unless you wanted me to.」
「As expected of a fallen deity. Although you’re an imbecile, at least you’re better than some of the others.」
「You picking a fight!?」
Silvia growled, slamming the table as she leered at the woman of royal blue.
Interestingly enough, many of the restaurant’s patrons heard the noise made by Silvia’s anger, causing them to turn towards an empty seat near the window.
And, luckily for the two women, the ≪Barrier≫ had deflected most of the attention garnered by Silvia’s foolishness, allowing them to enjoy their conversation peacefully(?).
「Dear me, Silvia-chan. You must learn to control your temper.」
「You could learn to quit it with your sarcasm as well, Aogami.」
The silver-haired girl spoke sharply as her eyes narrowed in annoyance.
It was evident simply from the woman’s majestic aura that she was no mere mortal.
For she was the goddess that resided in the country of 【Azur】.
She was Aogami.
「So what brings you here, miss 《Goddess of Wisdom》?」
Silvia barked once more before biting into the hamburger that she had left on the window-bench that she had been sitting at.
As a side note, all of the countries had a deity of some sort tied to them, each with their own special characteristics.
And seeing how 【Azur】 was the technically advanced country that depended on the resource known as intelligence, it made sense that their Goddess was one that pertained to the aspect of Wisdom.
—however, this also meant that beneath her elegant demeanour lied a cunning, dastardly mind.
「Nothing too tiresome, I assure you. Think of this more like a courtesy call, rather than proper business.」
The woman spoke as she began to nibble on the burger that she had purchased.
「I see that you’ve brought in a traveller.」
「Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t have the time, nor resources to deal with him at the moment.」
Aogami casually declared, noting the sweat that began to form on Silvia’s brow.
Unlike her usual bratty self, the look on the silver-haired girl’s face was peculiarly morbid.
Her pale face had been drained of all its blood, almost making her skin look as white as her hair.
It would seem that having one of her travellers found out by Aogami had been quite devastating to the young girl of silver.
Yet, Silvia understood that there was nothing she could do about it now.
Thus, she could only press forward.
「S-So what? I-I-It’s not like I care or anything, idiot!」
「I see you still have your bipolar streak going on, Silvia-chan.」
Silvia raged once more, standing up as she screamed at the top of her lungs.
Unlike the last time, however, it would seem that none of the innocents going about their daily lives noticed the pitiful girl’s scream.
「Now, now. No need to flare up. It’s bad for your health.」
「*pant* *pant* Anyway, that can’t be all you came here for, right?」
Heaving a few deep breaths of air, Silvia sat back down, hydrating herself with the soda she had purchased before playing with the ice cubes inside the finished cup.
However, in response to the girl’s innocent question, Aogami simply smiled brightly before unleashing a relentless torrent of murderous intent.
「I don’t know what you’re trying to pull, but if that boy becomes a threat to my country, I will immediately eliminate him.」
Aogami’s prickly words effortlessly tore through the weak defences of Silvia’s copy, causing the mirage to whimper as her limbs began to tremble uncontrollably.
Yet, despite acknowledging that the individual before her was not Silvia’s true body, the woman of royal blue leant forward, her slender fingers running along the silver shade’s face as she released a sweet, sinister smile.
「Do we understand, miss Fallen Goddess of Biela?」
「I see that you’re back.」
I muttered as Ren walked back into the room, having left earlier due to Pearl’s outburst.
Naturally, the others followed him out so as to give the two of us some privacy.
Though, to be honest, all that ended up happening was Pearl simply cry her aching heart out in my arms.
「Has she calmed down a little?」
The Azurian Noble asked, causing me to smile wryly as I looked at the girl beside me.
Currently, Pearl was wordlessly watching the man, her face beet red as she tightly wrapped both of her arms around my own.
In all honesty, I had no clue what Pearl was trying to do.
I mean, during the brief intermission, after she had settled down for a bit, the girl suddenly grabbed my right arm, clinging to it like a Koala to a tree.
Of course, her grip wasn’t strong enough for me to feel any pain.
Rather, I could have easily forced her off of me if I so chose to.
And yet, the way that she had positioned herself made it difficult for me to do so.
After all, it was like Pearl was desperately making sure that she wouldn’t lose me ever again.
「You’re a lucky man…J, was it?」
I answered, unsure of whether his words should be taken as a compliment or a token of sarcasm.
Then again, if I were in his position, I’d probably do something similar.
「In any case, if you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to talk to you about your hair colour.」
Aoyama Ren characteristically inquired once more, his soft smile seemingly trying to convey to the brown-haired girl that he meant no harm.
And, while I wasn’t entirely sure whether or not the innocent understood this message, I decided to give the man a break as I placed a hand on Pearl’s head before opening my mouth.
「Hm? Ah, right. Well-」
「Say no more.」
All of a sudden, Ren interrupted me before I could even start explaining, crossing his arms before continuing to speak.
「From what I’ve observed, you don’t have the characteristic……arrogance that most of us of noble blood possess.」
I shifted my gaze to the side, wondering what sort of reaction that the black-haired siblings would have to the noble’s comment.
Strangely, however, instead of scoffing or making any outbursts, they simply stood there, clenching their fists whilst staring at the man of imperial blue.
And, while I initially wasn’t sure what to make of this, Aoyama Ren didn’t seem to pay them any mind as he spoke the following.
「And yet, your hair is richer than any noble’s I’ve seen.」
「J. Who are you?」
In the face of such a strange, but entirely warranted question, I could only sit in silence as I plucked a strand of hair from my head, examining it thoroughly.
Although I had been in this world for about more than a week, I never really took the time to just settle down and really understand that fact.
……rather, I never told anyone else about how I’m someone from another world, huh?
—-do they even understand the concept of other worlds?
Then again, would they even believe me if I told them?
(…………well, I guess I might as well give it a shot.)
Thinking thus, I stopped twirling the strand of hair in my fingers before narrowing my eyes and tilting my head upwards.
And so, with bated breath, I began to deliver my response.
「………if I told you I was from another world, would you believe me?」
|The 18th Prelude – The Beginning After the End, and the End of Beginnings||XCrossJ’s List of Movements||The 20th Prelude – The Dominator’s Departure|