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A Beautiful Song for a Marionette

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It was sudden.

We’ve been livin’ peacefully in a mansion, avoidin’ people at any costs. My Master wasn’t fond of them - they were simply a problem, a nuisance. He wanted t’ focus on his work rather than socializin’. So he ran from the cities and decided t’ hide in the darkness.

From time to time, we had quests. It was easy to remember all of them, even for someone as problematic and stupid like me. 

Well, of course, we’ve also had to deal with adventurers who believed he was the Evil Lord, just because he had no mercy for people when angered. 

Dunno what happened to ‘em. They’re probably dead or turned into dolls, if my Master was in mood. I didn’t care because I was a mere doll. The only thing I cared about was the orders. 

Thinkin’ too much wasn’t one of ‘em. 

Ya know, ya might think livin’ without free will might be bad, but I actually liked it. Back when I was still alive, I almost died. People were afraid of my mismatchin’ eyes and thought that I’m definitely some kind of demon or something like that, so I had to run from ‘em.

Back then, Master was traveling. He was fond of every kind of beauty and offered lost souls his ‘help’ in maintainin’ it. And then he found me. I forgot the entire conversation, but I remember that one sentence which changed everything. He said:

“If you are willing to give yourself to me, I will make you beautiful.”

I’ve been given a chance.

That was enough.

At first, I felt a bit odd, because I wasn’t as emotional as I was before, but it was only for a few weeks. I let the Puppeteer decide for everythin’ while I simply followed his orders and took care of him. And I was happy.

But then, somethin’ happened and when I woke up, my Master was gone.

I couldn’t believe this. He felt safe in his own castle, why would he disappear like that? Without his orders, I slowly started to feel emotions like when I was a human again, and it was… Scary.

I was waitin’ for him, but for nothin’. Alone again, I didn’t actually know what can I do. Why did it happen? Have I done somethin’ wrong? I was afraid. Really, I wanted t’ find him, but someone had t’ protect our home.

But waitin’ was tiring me up. I lost all hope.

That’s why I decided t’ risk and find him by myself. Hell only knows how long I’ve waited. And I still believed he wouldn’t just abandon me without sayin’ anythin’. 




“Hey… Are you alright?”

He was willing to ignore the unknown voice until the person would leave him alone, but they turned out to be pretty stubborn. The sudden touch on his shoulder was enough to wake him up.

“Stop it!” 

He grabbed his weapon and pointed it at the stranger who was kneeling in front of him. 

It was a young boy with a blue hair tied to a short ponytail with a big, gentle lavender eyes. He immediately moved back and squeaked when he saw a weapon, waving his hands nervously. 

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry! I didn’t want to scare you…!”

He gave him a second to calm down a bit, waiting impatiently for a reason why he was bothering him. The young boy took a breath, tightening his arms on his chest.

“I won’t hurt you, I promise… I can’t even kill a single fly,” He started, his voice still shaking. “Your energy is so weak, I thought something bad happened… I couldn't just walk by and ignore it.”

He listened to him, still unsure what to do. The person in front of him was so fragile, he wasn't looking dangerous at all. To be frankly honest, he believed the boy was the lucky one - if the person he decided to wake up was a bandit, he would probably try to fight back or do something bad. 

That’s why he slowly lowered his weapon, much to this boy’s relief. He wasn’t a bad person.

“Sorry, kid. ‘m not a fan of sudden touch from strangers. Could ya stop lookin’ at me like that?”

“Ah, I’m so sorry!” He apologised again, lowering his head. “Your eyes are really beautiful, I couldn't stop looking at them… Ah, I probably sound so strange again! Uh, please forget about what I said!”

“Ya do like apologising, don'cha. Who are ya, by the way?”

The boy laughed nervously.

“Yes, I do hear that a lot… I’m Shino Hajime, p-pleasure to meet you!” He nodded his head and slowly stood up, giving him a hand to help. “Sir…?”

“Kagehira… Mika.”

Kagehira gave him a glaze before he used Hajime’s hand to stand up. The boy quickly turned red and took his hand back. 

“Ah, sorry… I’m doing this again.”

Now since he was standing, Kagehira could examine him properly. And to be honest, his looks weren’t what he expected - he was pretty sure people in the country weren’t wearing this type of outfit. 

“I-Is something wrong, sir?” Hajime noticed the gaze Mika gave him and turned even more red, avoiding eye contact. 

“No, it’s okay, just… ‘m not sure where am I now.” 

“Yumenosaki Kingdom! I don’t look like local people here, don’t worry…! But to be honest, your outfit also looks quite unusual, if you let me use that word. Why are you here, sir?”

Kagehira scratched his head and closed his eyes, giving himself time to think. 

To be fairly honest, he didn’t know as well. He was wandering around, looking for him… And at some point he felt like his head exploded. 

“Maybe I fainted from hunger or somethin’...” He muttered to himself. “I don’t remember last time I did, but hell only knows how long I traveled.”

“What… You’re definitely not okay!”

Much to his surprise, Hajime heard his mumbling and immediately panicked, looking around. 

“Ah, don’t panic! Oshi-san would definitely scold me if he was here!” 

“O-Oshi-san…?”

“Mhm, my Master! I’ve been lookin’ for him… Have ya seen him maybe? That’d be very helpful~”

Hajime looked at him slightly confused, forgetting about his previous statement about fainting, while he tried to guess who was the “Oshi-san” Mika was talking about. He wasn’t sure what to do as he started looking around nervous, until he hit his open palm with a fist.

“I don’t know who are you talking about, but I might be able to help you!” Hajime smiled kindly at him. “I’m working in an inn nearby, so… Do you mind if we’ll go there? I made you feel awkward, so I’d like to repay it, and my friend might be helpful! We also have rooms and food-”

“Nah, ‘s really okay, kid. I’d feel even worse for wastin’ yer time, ya don’t hafta make up for somethin’ so trivial.”

Hearing his words made Hajime’s smile disappear, what surprised him. Why was this boy so stubborn? He didn't know him, he could be someone dangerous - and here he is, wanting to help him. 

But for some reason, something was telling him we won’t give up soon, and he personally would be a bit sad for making Hajime worry over someone like him. 

“Uh…” Mika scratched his head. “Okay, for one night, maybe?”

“O-of course! Please follow me!”

His face lightened up as he grabbed a basket laying right next to him, filled with herbs. 

Damn, that was quick. 



The Inn really was close to them. Kagehira wondered at first how he didn’t notice it before - the building was eye-catching, close to the road. It wasn’t the biggest Inn, but with its warm colours and type of architecture, it’s hard to miss it. Mika’s grip tightened on the basket he took from the young boy as he entered, looking around curiously. He was pretty sure he never saw that style before, so it was both interesting, as well as slightly frightening. He couldn’t say he disliked that, though.

“Ah, welcome back, Shinonon!”

An unknown voice came out of nowhere, scaring him to the point he almost let out of the basket. When Mika calmed down a bit, he gazed upon the person who came closer to Hajime, wearing a big, friendly smile on his face. 

The redhead was slightly higher than Hajime, with his clothes resembling the same style as his. He was holding two cups in his hands. 

“Good work, Shinonon~ Take a sit and rest before you’ll get back to your shift, okay? There’s not that much movement right now, I can easily handle it for now! Oh, and of course, I’ll make some tea for you.”

“S-sure, thank you…” Hajime nodded his head, slightly embarrassed. “Ah, let me take that basket. Do you mind tea, sir?” 

“I’m okay with it. Thanks for takin’ me in…” 

Kagehira’s face wasn’t that much different - especially when suddenly the redhead noticed him and came closer with a curious look. He furrowed his eyebrows when he gazed on Kagehira’s face.

“I feel bad for you for having a golden eye,” He mumbled under his nose, but before Kagehira could ask what he meant, a big smile appeared on his face. “Ah, Shinonon, I’m jealous! Whenever you come back, there are new guests and you doon’t even say who they are! You’re so famous~”

“Ah, no, it’s just…” Hajime shook his head. “This is sir Kagehira. I just met him nearby, he seemed very confused and tired, so I hoped I could help.”

“Hm, hm, I get it! Long journey, right?” 

Mika nodded his head, not sure what he should say. 

“I’m Akehoshi Subaru, Shinonon’s helper!” The redhead saluted. “I used to be an adventurer, but now I’m working in this peaceful place to make sure Shinonon’s okay~”

Mika almost sighed when he heard the name of his previous job, but managed to stop himself. 

“I’m still shocked you agreed, to be honest,” Hajime said with a weak voice. “Trickstar used to be quite famous… They definitely gave you better options in the capital.”

“Yeah, the others used it, but I just wanted to continue doing what I thought is right! Shinonon, you're just to modest~ This Inn is pretty much important for travelers between the Kingdom and the Empire, especially now! Right?”

They started talking more about the journeys and other job propositions Subaru received, so Kagehira quickly lost the possibility to join their conversation and focused on his tea instead. 

“Ah, I’m sorry!” Quickly enough, Hajime noticed they left him alone and apologised again. “I tend to get too much distracted while talking about this, so…”

“Nah, it’s okay. Don’t mind me.”

“No, no, you came with me so I could help! Um… Your Master, right?” 

“‘Master’?” Akehoshi quickly caught the topic and looked at the Marionette again. “Hm, you look really good for someone who has a Master! With such good looks I was almost sure you might be a lord yourself~”

“What? No way, never! ‘m nothin’ more than a d- Than a servant!”

He almost said “Doll”, of course… But something told him it’d be better to use a different word in front of Subaru.

It’s hard to tell what other people think about him, but… He never looked at this like that. Well, since the topic finally got on a proper track, he gave them a quick description about Shu, avoiding the biggest details that would make them suspicious. Since Subaru used to be an Adventurer, he could heard something misleading about his dear Master - and that would be problematic, right? Right.

Both Hajime and Subaru closed their eyes and started nodding their heads, trying to think about it.

“To be fairly honest, I’ve never seen anyone who would look like him!” Subaru was the first one to talk, furrowing his eyebrows. “No idea, sorry.”

“Hm. I do remember my teacher used to have different guests, but I was really young and too nervous…” Hajime’s face turned red as he pressed his hand to his face. 

Ah, that’s no good then. He was just wasting their time, wasn’t he? 

“I shouldn’t be surprised,” Mika sighed with a sad face. “He doesn’t like crowds, so lookin’ here won’t help too much… And I still dunno how can I repay ya for takin’ yer time to help.”

“Use it wisely, boy! We still prefer to be nicer, not everyone here in Yumenosaki wants to help!” 

“H-huh.”

Yes, that bright smile of his was sometimes too strong for him. It’s like he was looking directly at the sun.

“But! But, but…” Subaru giggled and crossed his hands. “One of my friends is working in the capital, and it is a great source of informations, see? He might have a clue for you if you give him an evidence I’ve sent you!”

“You’re talking about Isara, right?” Hajime interjected. “Do you still have a contact?”

“Yup! Maybe we’re not travelling as we used to, but I still tend to meet with him whenever I’m going to the capital! Damn, I wish I could see both Hooke and Ukki as much, I kinda miss them~”

“I thought sir Hidaka was working there as well?”

“I heard he left. None of us heard from him. Still!” 

Subaru noticed that they both started to lose the topic, so he clapped his hands. 

“I still have no idea how to thank ya… Ya don’t even know me…”

And Kagehira meant it. 

Hajime just met him few minutes ago, he wasn't just a typical kid who could play the “I’m the innocent small kid, help me!” or anything… How did they trust him so much to the point of giving contacts from the capital? 

He jumped when Akehoshi started laughing. 

“Ah, you’re such a shy boy!” He came closer to him once more and patted his shoulder. “I can tell! My intuition is as sharp as my blade, you really want to find your Master! And after all those years I’ve spent with people I learned helping those in need can be really funny, you know? Everything thanks to my group and Shinonon as well!”

“Please, stop it. It’s really okay, sir,” Hajime brought all of his courage so he could sent a warm smile without getting nervous again. “If you really feel like you need to pay us, hm… The second shift will be harder and we are one person short today, so maybe?”

“I’ll do my best!”

Though, to be honest, he wasn’t sure if he won’t turn into problem itself. Oshi-san was always asking him not to get close to work like that. He’s not a butler, so he might fall down and break something. There was a lot of people and with his eyes, there’s no way they wouldn't look at him with at least curiosity.

But those two were really kind, and Mika didn’t want to leave with a debt, that was also something Oshi-san was avoiding. He can do it if he wants, right?

What he didn't notice though was the fact that he was looking at Hajime the whole time, up to the point the boy’s face turned so red he had to put his cup back and hide his face. Subaru laughed again. 

“Ah, almost like a love from the first sight, Shinonon!”

“No, it’s just… Awawa…”

“Hm, I can’t hear you~ I might have to tell that Mr. Knight you’re already cheating on him~” 

“Please, stop it!” He almost screamed that, making other guest tur their gazes, interested in such a commotion. Akehoshi quickly covered him and stood up, apologising for their lively conversation. “Uuu, Akehoshi is bullying me… What am I supposed to do?”

“I'm just honest! You’re such a cutie people tend to believe you’re a girl, I can’t stop that?” 

“Yeah, he’s right,” Without thinking too much, Mika nodded his head with a soft smile. “‘m pretty sure Oshi-san’d agree on that.”

“Stop it, you two…”

They gave him a second to collect himself. 

“I’m just kind of jealous my Shinonon is so popular, forgive me!” At first, Subaru’s face was bright as always, but he suddenly calmed down, and a smile disappeared from his face. “But you know, Kage… You should avoid knights at any costs if you’ll meet them.”

You couldn’t ask for a more sudden change of the atmosphere. Even Hajime’s face turned darker. 

“The old warriors of the Kingdom…”

“They’re damn dangerous. Hell only knows what’s the real deal with then since the war technically ended,” Subaru continued. “But they are considered a real threat for everyone. Up to a point the Emperor is the one who’s protecting us, rather than our King!”

“Scary. How are ya ‘sposed t’ recognise them?”

“Well, if you’ll meet a crazy warrior with golden eyes too eager to end your life, run. And don’t look back. They have that specific aura around them. If you’ll become their target, you’re as good as dead.”

Sounds serious… Oshi-san never mentioned knights before. Who the hell are they? Psychopaths with a fancy name to hide their real face or what?

“Ahaha, we got really gloomy right now…” As quick as before, Subaru forced a smile and scratched his head. “I just remembered, so I had to say a word about them! That knight we mentioned earlier was just a wanna-be and more real case, though right now calling someone else a “knight” is considered an insult....”

“I believe Kagehira should know, so it’s okay,” Hajime took another sip. “But, to be honest… If he’ll just go to Isara, he might just avoid him, thinking he just heard your name somewhere.”

“Oh, right! So clever, Shinonon!” Another bright laugh, after which Akehoshi leaned over Kagehira, speaking quietly. “Ask him why he stopped travelling and remind him about that one arrow he got right into his knee while calling him ‘Sari’ all the time, he’ll remember how much I laughed back then.”

That sounds painful. Why the hell were you laughing at him? That’s what Mika wanted to ask, but he managed to stop himself. 

 

Soon they’ve been forced to stop all the fun chatting, the more clients has come. And some of them weren’t really as patient as others, so both Hajime, as well as Subaru, had to go back. 

Of course, Kagehira went with them - Akehoshi suggested that in order to get used to people, he could help him with the orders. He only asked him to hide his golden eye.

First hours were the worst, Mika was still a bit confused where he should go, but soon enough, he got the grasp on the basics. 

But… Something was off. It took him time before he could tell he felt if someone was observing him. Even though there was a lot of people looking at him. But in this crowd, one person was giving him goosebumps. Was it real, or was it simply his fear towards humanity? 

When Hajime walked towards him seemingly worried, it stopped. But it still was bothering. Thankfully, Hajime let him sit down for a bit. 

Luck was still on his side, because the rest of the shift turned out to be peaceful. On the evening, they contacted one of the merchants who was going to the capital in the morning of the next day and persuaded him to take Mika with him, saying that he’ll be able to guard him without paying too much. 

It looked like he needed it, so he agreed. So Kagehira could sleep peacefully and get ready for the next day. 

Sadly, he couldn’t sleep in the night, but that didn’t get in his way later.

Fate was really on his side for now. Not only he got in touch with those two nice people, got a nice cup of tea, managed to find someone who could get him to the capital… This was too good to be true. Yet it was happening right in front of his eyes. 

Shu always told him the outside world is unforgiving, that it will try to kill him as soon as he’ll leave the safe mansion. 

 

The capital also filled his heart with hope. Seeing such a bright, beautiful town was like a strange dream. Not all people were smiling, but he didn't meet anyone who could bother him for his outfit or eyes - of course, people glanced at him, some better-looking higher class even whispered, but nobody really stopped him. 

The town was big enough to the point where Mika’s head hurt, but the merchant was kind enough to tell him where the Archives were. Isara should be there.

He spent a lot of time in darkness. It was pretty, but his eyes were in pain. Thankfully, they spent few hours on the road, it was already evening. Time sure has passed quickly.

But… Maybe the world has finally changed? Maybe he and Shu will be able to see it after such a long time…?

 

When Mika entered the Archives, he was greeted with a silence, really nice a change of pace. The town was pretty loud. There wasn’t too many people inside, so he decided to go and look for Isara on his own. Subaru said he should be somewhere on the second floor…

He didn't notice how silent his steps were, so when he bumped into another worker, they both jumped. After a quick talk, she was kind enough to point out which room was occupied by Isara and his co-worker. She also added that she’s not sure if he’ll be able to meet with him, as he got a job straight from the higher-ups few days ago.

Well, great. But maybe the second guy will be helpful. There’s always hope, right?

Oshi-san would definitely call him naive if he was here.

But he still decided to go there after thanking the lady. Before he entered it, he knocked the door, since he didn't want to scare him the same way as the lady before.

“Hello, is sir Isara here?”

There was no response. Not even from the co-worker. Maybe he was out of office as well?

In this kind of situation, most people would give up and go, but something just tempted Mika to open the door and look. 

Another knock.

Nothing. 

His rand rested on the doorknob. The doors opened easily and entered the room with caution. Weren't they locking them? Strange. 

He was greeted by the darkness. The only light source was coming from the single rays of the moon, making the room even more eerie. Mika’s eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness as he stepped forward. He noticed a figure laying on a desk, his face hid behind his arms. 

“Good evenin’, sir…” Mika came closer to him and gently patted his shoulder. 

Just now his nose caught the familiar stench of blood, and when he withdrew his hand, it was dirty. 

Without thinking, he grabbed the person by their shoulders and pulled him towards the chair to see their face.

The blood was coming right from their neck. The wound was deep enough to make the head bounce. 

Whoever this person was, they were already on the other side.