Volume 3, Prologue - Chance Meeting
That meeting was a miracle.
It was as if the cold night was biting into her body.
A girl from a cyber-related company who was participating in a party held in a certain remote city——Kiritou Haya looked up at the night sky and spat out a sigh.
"...it really is cold."
Snow slowly fell from the sky and scattered on the ground, lit up by the pale moonlight, the scenery's beauty was fantastic. ...but it was a cold, winter night. Although she had a cape on top of her thin party dress the wind has robbed her body of heat in no time.
I need to hurry and go back... well, it's not like there's any difference whether I'm there or not.
Although it was a meeting of the Kiritou Group, she was only twelve years old and served as an 'accessory of the Kiritou Group leader'. There was no value in her being there. In fact, no one noticed that she left the site.
Even so, unmanned security shouldn't be careless, should it. Although I can understand wanting to boast about their products to others.
The organizers of the night's party was a famous company involved in manufacturing drones. That was why the most advanced drones were deployed around the venue on which the party was held. They must have had a lot of confidence to do such a flashy début right before the party.
She went past the main entrance hall and entered a slightly open area.
As snow lightly poured down, she cleared her thinking by taking a deep breath several times.
The mask she hid behind——'a young lady' and 'the real Kiritou Haya'. Although she tried to find the boundary between them, it wasn't working.
Sometimes she didn't know.
A lifestyle that didn't allow her to reveal to anyone what she really felt——just which one was 'her true self'. Was that mask made from scratch, or maybe it was born from something already existing.
As she sought to perfectly play her role, the boundary between her 'selves' started to fade.
"...what can I say."
Although she was mocking herself, she knew very well in what state she was in. Even though it was obvious no one was nearby, her tone of voice didn't go back to normal. She could no longer crudely retort to her own thoughts unless she put her mind to it.
It felt as if her body and mind were going to separate. She ignored her own will, Kiritou Haya's personality switches, attracted by the image spreading around her.
——Even if I think about it, it can't be helped.
In order to leave the cold scenery she turned on her heel, leaving her white breath behind. And then, she heard a sound from the building in the back.
She stopped moving and listened. It wasn't clear since snow absorbed the sound, but she definitely heard it. It sounded as if someone has dropped something. Haya recalled the map of the party site in her head.
In the back of the kitchen?
There was a light meal given at the party site. It wasn't weird to have people in kitchen... but that sound was too rough, a bit unnatural.
...let's take a look.
Driven by curiosity, Haya went towards where she heard the sound come from.
A light crispy sound could be heard as she walked through the snow, she quietly peeked from behind a corner. Then from the kitchen's widely opened back door, a little shadow came out from inside.
For a moment she thought Is that a cat? but soon she rejected the idea after she saw the size of the shadow.
Judging from the height, it seemed like a child? Although she couldn't see well because it was dark, but it had something stuffed in its bag.
Could it be a thief? ...I need to report to the security drones.
Haya opened a window to notify the security. However, her movement was restricted by the pair of eyes of the shadow.
At that moment, the shadow poised like a wild beast and dashed——straight into Haya.
It was too sudden for her to do anything, blown away by the shadow Haya rolled over in the snow. Using that as an opportunity, the shadow ran beside her and disappeared in the darkness.
"T-tthat hurt... w-what was that? ——Eh?"
As she stood up, she felt her right hand feeling uncomfortable. She checked it fearfully... not there.
A bracelet she always wears during parties. It was an accessory decorated with small gems, it was gone from her right wrist. She checked around to make sure if it didn't drop on the ground, but it was nowhere to be found.
She muttered that stunned, and immediately started running. Her favourite bracelet was stolen, and it was infuriating. But that wasn't why she was ran.
This is bad! How am I going to tell Father I lost it...!
The one who gave it to her was her father——Kiritou Kouya.
For a daughter of Kiritou, an existence that had been educated to act like a proper lady, losing such a thing would be a huge scandal. The misconduct couldn't be recovered no matter the price paid.
Fortunately, she saw the shadow's back soon after.
"Found you...! Stop right now!"
The thief was quite slow. It was at a speed even Haya could catch up to, even though she was wearing a party dress that forbid her to sprint. Moreover, she was heading towards the main gate around where security drones were deployed at.
"Great, now... hey, no wayy?!"
Even if she runs she'll get caught——just when Haya thought so, what entered her vision was an unbelievable scene. She crudely protested against it while changing the way she spoke.
As the drones detected a suspicious person approaching, the shadow manipulated a window with a practiced hand. Then, as if losing all their power the drones suddenly stopped. Passing by the drones which have turned into immobile figurines, the shadow escaped from the premises.
*clink*, Haya, who was startled by the metallic sound, panicked and followed her in a hurry.
She's hacking in while running?! Is that a joke? There's no way that's possible...?!!"
That was beyond the common sense she knew.
The newest model of drones should've been a difficult target to hack. Moreover, to do it with just the computing power of a terminal and while on the move, it was beyond the region of what a human could do. With that said, that couldn't be a normal human being.
In any case, the top priority was to regain the present. After drawing that simple conclusion Haya chased the shadow which fled to the nearby park.
"Please wait! Give back what you stole!"
As she continued to chase the person running away, irritation continued to build up. It wasn't the time to do this, she had to hurry and go back to the party site...!
Haya didn't even notice her tone of voice turned back to original (normal) as she picked a fist-sized stone in anger. And with a beautiful form she threw it——
"I SAID WAIT YOU DAMN FIILTHhhhhhhhhh!!!!"
Along with an insult befitting a young lady, she threw the stone with her full strength.
The stone flew in the straight line and... *gosun!*. With a direct hit to the thief's' head, a nasty sound rang out. The shadow lost its balance and fell to the ground.
"Geez, don't make me overexert myself. I'm taking this back."
She picked up the accessory which fell to the ground. However, the shadow suddenly raised its body and threw a punch towards Haya.
But, Haya lightly caught it with the palm of her hand. She grabbed the shadow's arm and caught it in a hold on the ground. The joints creaked as Haya put some strength into it, the thief cried out.
"No way I'll do that. I'll say it now, I practice aikido. Don't think you'll get out of it that easily?."
"It hurtsss, ouchouch oucchhh——?!!"
For about a minute Haya held the thief's arm with a sadistic smile on her face.
When signs of resistance were gone, she let go of the arm. In order to see the face of the thief she flipped the hood——and froze.
Judging from her physique, it was a child the same age as she was.
But her face lit up by the moonlight was beautiful beyond Haya's imagination——the term 'outstanding beauty' appeared in her head.
Refined and clean features. Her long black-bluish hair tied in a careless manner scattered on top of pure white snow.
Although it was somewhat wild, no matter who was it, they would describe her as 'a beautiful girl who exudes a fantasy atmosphere'.
Haya stared at her in daze——
A sound came from the girl's thin body——to be more specific from her stomach——together with that shameful sound, the girl's face was dyed red.
Inside of Haya's mind who was taken aback, the previous image of a 'fantasy girl' crumbled audibly.
That was Kiritou Haya's and Asumi Aoko's, the two girls' worst possible first meeting.
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