'The calendar loses a precious component.
The remaining months gather to play a threnody.
While the eleventh moon rises,
The Scarlet Butterfly silently brews a storm.'
'The chrysanthemum withers and falls,
To lie on the ground beside bloody Scarlet Eyes.
But you will remain supreme.
As you find that his clipped wings are as tragic as you.'
'Enjoy the interlude.
A journey awaits your wake.
East is the direction to go.
You will find one who will free you.'
Curiosity is a fickle goddess, a powerful force that paved the downfall of many men that succumbed to her allure. Yet despite the glowering threat that such a phenomenon presented to it's keeper, Chrollo did naught but keep it close to his mind.
Indeed, the Spider head often mused his fatal curiosity akin to a vice. Immoral to his very beliefs, yet inevitably created by the little humanity he had managed to salvage from his unkind upbringing. And much like a tin man's longing for the return of his gentle heartbeat, Chrollo revelled the rare moments when a semblance of an emotion sparks in his empty chest.
Chrollo Lucilfer was a naturally curious man, despite what his usual indifference might've suggested. So it came as no surprise that when he heard rumours of a nen fortune teller (who's predictions came terrifyingly accurate) servicing clients in the underground, he simply couldn't help himself from satiating his curiosity, even if it costed him showing vulnerability to people he barely knew.
The verses were short and sibylline. With a steady gaze, Chrollo observed the written quatrains with a composed ease. He traced the letters with a careful pace, blocking the dim yellow light that illuminated the text. His expression turned lax at the very first line.
'The calendar loses a precious component.'
Now Chrollo was perceptive as he was charismatic. The Spider head was observant and held a penchant for the quick deduction of texts and character. It was simply a favorable skill for a former resident of the unforgiving Meteor City. And thus it took Chrollo little to no wait before he pieced together the verse's riddle of a meaning. Although it took him longer to notice the slight ache that grasped at his heart, and then a few seconds more to feel the single drop of liquid that kissed his left cheek.
And with that, The Devil's mask of perfection gained a crack on it's porcelain walls.
A gasp was what pulled Chrollo out of his solemn daze. Forcing his eyes off of the white page, he repaired his facade as quickly as it broke. Chrollo looked up to meet the eyes of one Neon Nostrade, who stared back at him with a peculiar interest, her eyes fixated on his expression.
"My apologies," The Spider head said as he brought a hand to his cheek, a long finger touched the damp surface below his eye for all but a moment. "I was taken aback by your fortune. They are indeed accurate." Truly... Accurate. Chrollo forced his lips to stretch into a faint smile at the girl.
"Your eyes." Neon said in a murmur. "They looked so much like..." the girl stopped herself mid-sentence. Chrollo didn't neglect to notice how her countenance softened, a far off look in her averted attention. Even stranger, was how a smile, subtle and giddy, found its way on the fortune teller's lips. It was as if she was recalling a fond memory.
How strange. Chrollo's hold tightened on the book ever so slightly, Why would one smile over a stranger's tear?
"Even if it's not my place to ask," he closed the pages with an inaudible thud.
"But what do my eyes remind you of?"
Placing the small book on the mahogany table, he left the fortune covered and forgotten in the meantime, pushed to the back of his mind. The question hung waiting in the air, genuine intrigue decorated his question.
Neon's pale cheeks colored a faint pink, although her serene visage remained unchanged. "Kurapika," she spoke the name with a type of endearment that Chrollo only ever read about in romance novels, an innocent fervor in her smile.
Emotions were a sentiment that Chrollo sparsely partook in; the result of his childhood depraved of any sort of affection. Growing up in Meteor City, where the youth desperately scavenged for a single slice of bread rather than yearn for childhood sweethearts or the beats of first love, the Spider Head learned to fight only for himself above everyone else.
If Chrollo knew little of love, then Romance was a complete stranger.
"Kurapika...?" He only repeated the name, yet it tasted bitter on his tongue. It was foreign, no question, a name unfamiliar to him despite his lifetime of knowing less than conventional individuals. But Chrollo couldn't help the strange feeling that built up in his gut, tensed his shoulders, and frosted his very bones. The man dare assumed that the name held significance... but to what?
Neon nodded, "He's one of my bodyguards." Cerulean eyes turned to refocus on him. Bright lights from the cityscape reflected on her irises, enhancing the sheer wonder that illuminated them.
"Actually," her chin rested on her hand, inquisitive was her stare. Far too inquisitive, Chrollo thought. The articles he had read on the Hunter Website suggested that Neon Nostrade was spoiled and sheltered, that she was not the type to read beyond the surface level of character. If such was the case, then why was she studying him with an odd familiarity?
"You're really alike!" Neon's grin only grew wider.
"When I gave Pika his fortune," A pause was all he heard as Neon placed her hand on her chest. "He reacted just like you." Her eyes turned solemn, a sort of empathy weaved into the smile that never left her lips.
"You're grieving, aren't you?"
Chrollo only became silent.
How could she tell?
Confusion aggravated his head, bafflement seethed and left Chrollo blank of thought. His heartbeat gradually slowed.
A few long seconds was what it took for him to abandon his disarray. Despite this, Chrollo made quick work of repairing the tension, faking a chuckle to rumble in his throat. It was soft and melodic, holding a certain charm to its ring, but most importantly, it was convincing.
"Really? How could you tell? I could've sworn that I'd hidden it quite well." His voice held a joking tone, lightheartedness forced in the spaces between. Although some truth was present in his words, Neon couldn't possibly have noticed.
"Pika had the very same eyes when he read his fortune." Her voice was coated in pity when she started. Clutching her dress, the girl continued, "I asked him what he felt, since even I felt a bit confused." A dry laugh echoed next.
"He only smiled at me. Pika told me that he was only grieving. Assured me that he was okay." She reminisced with a melancholy expression, though her smile was still ever present. Stranger.
"Tell me more about him," Chrollo practically breathed the words, low and quiet. "This 'Pika' person."
Neon only obliged,"Pika is... determined. He can be really stern with me at times, although I usually think that he's too soft to be intimidating." The flush on her cheeks intensified in color, she started to twiddle her thumbs.
"He's– passionate. Although he tries to be professional most of the time, he's really bad at hiding that he cares." Chrollo observed Neon's mannerisms with a keen eye, her averted eyes and her fiddling hands. What an emotive girl, he mused. A younger Chrollo would've envied her.
And maybe he still does...
"I... really admire him." Her confession was with an innocent reluctance, though it was no less sincere. She clutched the fabric that covered her chest. Chrollo supposed it was an attempt to calm her raging heartbeat.
"I see," He nodded, a symbol of understanding. How ironic it was that the man knew nothing of her emotions, nor the drive of the words she told him. "I didn't take you as the observant type."
"I never was..." Guiltless was Neon when she admitted her shortcoming. The Spider head would've found it amusing if it weren't for the complete genuineness in her voice.
"May I ask you a question?" Again, curiosity was Chrollo's only vice. He simply couldn't help himself, and took a chance at a question to quell the burning wildfire that was his wonder.
"You talk of 'Pika' so highly, yet you willingly went against his orders to stay away from the auction..." Chrollo's voice turned dark, a hint of menace laced his words. Hardly noticed by the unsuspecting Neon, but otherwise terrifying to a more experienced listener.
"Why?" The Spider head spoke with the intent to blame. The word was accusatory, not much different from a seasoned detective's interrogation of a criminal. It was no less mortifying.
"They weren't even his orders in the first place!" Neon justified her actions, her arms instinctively wrapped around her torso; a form of defensive body language that Chrollo recognized well.
"Besides, Pika was supposed to come with me. But Daddy sent him to attend a meeting that I apparently couldn't know about." Her voice cracked, Chrollo's question affected her more than he anticipated. But still, he resolved to test her reasons.
"But does that condone risking your safety?"
"..." Chrollo's finale silenced the girl, who looked away from him in frustration. The Spider head would've declared this as a victory, if it weren't for an unexpected interruption.
"As much as I am flattered by your high regard of me, Lady Neon, I unfortunately have to agree with your companion." The newcomer seemed to have had an effect on Neon, who visibly stiffened in her seat. The stranger's voice contained a grace that Chrollo could only recognize as similar to his own.
And you must be Kurapika.
Chrollo smiled at the turn of events.
Curiouser and curiouser...