I felt a sharp, prodding pain against my cheek.
“…Hey, how long are yer gonna sleep?”
I was able to recognize both the pain in my cheek, and the fact that the speaker’s voice was that of a male. The voice sounded scratchy and a little hoarse. And, if I’m not mistaken…the owner of this voice wasn’t young.
“…I see yer up now, eh? Yer should stand up and hear what meself has ter say.”
Guided by the voice I gradually opened my eyes. My eyes fully open, I still couldn’t see anything, which I tried to attribute to the fact that I wasn’t adjusted to the dark yet, or to the fact that my vision was just blurry. But, even after waiting for a few moments, I still couldn’t see anything. It seems the ambient lighting or blurriness of my vision weren’t the issue.
All around me, darkness ruled. Though, I only thought so because my eyes were open; if I closed them the darkness would be the same. …Putting it another way, it was pitch-black whether my eyes were open or closed. Up and down seem to exist, and I could also feel the ground. It appeared I was lying down, as though in bed.
Putting my hand to the ground in the pitch black darkness, I pushed myself up until I was sitting cross-legged. It was so dark, I began to feel as though my body were floating in space. I had no way to perceive just how vast this space I was in was.
“…Well, that’s fine I s’pose.”
The voice came from my left. Guided by the sound, I turned my gaze to the left.
There was an old man there whom I had never seen before, with a magnificent beard of white. He had deep wrinkles etched over his face, and if I were to guess his age I would have to say it was well past seventy. His hair protruded out in tufts, but its color was pure white.
But what was bizarre, was that the old man was sitting down, one leg bent with the knee up, in the middle of complete darkness. No matter how hard I looked, I could only see him as floating in space. I started to feel dizzy.
After the old man confirmed I was looking his way, he spoke softly.
“Do ya understan’ what’s happenin’?”
I looked around, but the darkness was the same. By the way, the old man and myself seemed to be illuminated by some unseen source of light. I definitely felt I was sitting on the ground. Only, neither myself nor the old man were giving off a shadow. Focusing on that point, there was no doubt this spacial place was special. If so… then my next step should be to see if I were really awake.
“That’s fine. It’s okay if ya don’ force yerself ter understand what’s going on, so just listen to what meself’s got ter say. …First off, this isn’t the world yer from. It’s not some other world either. If meself had ter say, it’d be like the gap between worlds.”
“The gap between worlds…”
I was just told something nonsensical. The words I was hearing and the sensations felt by my body were real. If this was some kind of dream, where all five senses were functioning properly, it would be astounding on so many levels.
But I immediately decided on listening to what this old man has to say, rather than worrying about how to grasp where I was. If this were a dream, maybe that decision wouldn’t be that big a deal. But if not… I figured gathering information here would have a big impact on whatever comes next.
The old man continued to talk while facing me.
“Meself is a disciple of God Clancy. I was just in the process of transferin’ from yer world to the world of Florence. Who woulda’ thought yerself would crash headfirst into meself’s ass, and the both of us would fall into the gap between worlds.”
For a moment, I put my current situation on hold and nearly blew it. Sure I felt like I had crashed into something headfirst, but to think it was this old geezer’s ass…! No matter what, dying from head butting an old coot’s ass in some love hotel’s back alley was the one kind of death I want to be spared. But, with things as they are, I would love it if I could return safely to my own world…
“I see… It did feel like I slammed headlong into something, but it was just your ass then.
“Don’t make fun of meself. …If meself had sensed killing intent, it woulda’ been avoided, but I didn’t as it was so sudden.”
Hearing the words killing intent brought about a sudden sense of unease. Trying to relieve myself of it, I brought the conversation back on track with a rather simple question.
“So…what needs to be done to get out of here? It’d be fine I guess if I could be back when I wake up.”
At that, the old man broke into a wide grin.
“It’s not impossible to leave this gap, but there’s something that needs doin’ first.”
His smile was definitely not a warm, kind one. Starting to feel apprehensive, I tried asking the old man before me.
“Could you give it to me straight, without acting all high and mighty?”
“There’s just one thing yerself needs ter promise meself. …Don’t tell anyone that we met in this space.”
I was relieved at such a comparatively laid-back request… so I responded as though it were no big deal.
“Something like that?”
“Something like that, yep. But I tend ter be a little on the distrustful side. If possible, meself would appreciate it if we could promise with magic.”
Never thinking to hear the word “magic”, I repeated it in my question to him.
“Magic? By magic you mean, that? Chanting spells, summoning fire and making explosions…”
At my words, the old man let out an unintentional snort.
“Yep, yep. That magic all right. …But there will be no fire or explosions, just a limitation so you won’t be able ter talk about meself or this space.”
It’s not like I was disagreeable to the terms, it’s just, to be honest, being on the receiving end of some strange technique didn’t make me particularly happy. The conversation proceeded in a way that continued to blur the line between dreams and reality, and seeing as I was still hesitant, the old man spoke again.
“While limitation magic is simply a limitation, it is a kinda contract. Contracts are there to provide benefits to both parties, so in return for accepting the limitation yerself can obtain some skill in return.”
“Yep. This is a chance for yerself to get some skill that would be inconceivable in yer own world. …Maybe a skill to run faster than anybody else. Or a skill where yerself would have more mana than anybody else. Skills for more knowledge than anybody else, or for X-ray vision…”
“X, x-ray vision!? A keyword like that is what man dreams about…!”
…Wait, hang on a second.
Being able to see all those hot women’s naked bodies, seeing and nothing more, it would be like living-death.
…The choice I have now is whether to accept the limitation or not. If I don’t accept the limitation magic, there is the risk the old man won’t let me out of this space. In a dream that risk doesn’t really mean anything, but in the off-chance this isn’t a dream… Instead, if I opt to accept the limitation magic, there is a high chance the old man will help me leave this space. If this is a dream, then accepting the limitation won’t be a problem. But if this isn’t a dream, I am stuck with the limitation, but gain one skill and the condition that I am to be released from this space.
Thinking about it like that, the only option I should choose is that of accepting the limitation.
If I accept the limitation, and considering that this isn’t a dream, I should really make sure to choose a good skill.
…The moment I thought that, for some reason the faces of Hisaki and Kamoda floated up in my mind. To be honest I would rather forget what I’d seen, but on the other hand had I not seen it, I would be stuck wondering about the truth behind how Kamoda managed to get promoted to manager. …How I should act was a problem for later. The real problem is whether I am able to obtain the information for taking the best course of action. Considering things in that light, the tiny thought that popped into my mind began to grow and take shape.
“Alright, I’ve decided. I will accept the limitation. In return, I want the ability to understand in detail the status of people and things.”
At those words, the old man looked at me and grinned widely.
“…Heh, yer tellin’ me yer understand the value of that?”
Even for the old man, the skill I’m thinking about is that valuable?
“There are things that you can’t do anything about even if you have information, but there are also things that you can’t do if you don’t have the information.”
I spoke in a tone of self-mockery, regarding the skill I had decided on.
“…Alrighty then. In exchange for that ability, yer will be charged with the limitation then.”
With that, the old man raised his right hand, and began drawing characters in the air with his pointer finger. The characters shown with their own unnatural irradiance, as he proceeded to create some kind of incomprehensible diagram.
“That’s right. To commence the limitation and transfer us from this space.”
I no longer had any idea about whether this was a dream or not, as things were growing even further out of control, but watching the old man draw that magic circle, I was honestly impressed.
“So gramps…You’re really a God or something?”
“No, no. Meself is nothin’ more than a disciple of God Clancy. Meself makes mistakes, like when yer headbutted meself. ”
Grinning widely, the old man showed a row of strangely white teeth.
Little by little the light from the magic circle grew to envelop me, and I could feel myself starting to float. …Just like how I felt before coming to this space. To tell the truth, it wasn’t a particularly pleasant feeling. Looking at me enveloped in the magic circle’s light, the old man grinned widely yet again. Looking at that unrefined smile, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy.
…But, it was only now that that sense of unease hit home.
“Ah, by the way. There’s one thing meself forgot to mention. …Meself is in the middle of transferring from yer world, to the world of Florence. So, yer can get out of this space, but it’s not yer world, but Florence where yer will be going.”
Hearing that, I took a few seconds to process it before freezing as realizing struck.
“…Wha? You can’t mean…!!”
A powerful light rose from the ground, encompassing my entire field of view. But before my vision failed me, I could see the old man, that undignified grin on his face.
“Give it up. I did say yer would be leaving this space, but never did I say yer would be goin’ back ter yer own world. Well, yer might be able to find some way to go back to yer own world in Florence though.”
“Dammit all! You fuckin’ tricked me!!”
That this were a dream and I would wake…I was once again engulfed with this desire.
If things continued, not only would I not be returning home, I would also find myself in another world entirely. I moved my hand to try and catch the old man, but met only air, before my consciousness started to slip away.
In defiance, I screamed again. I don’t know if my words reached the old man or not. Right after, my consciousness left me and for the second time today I was unable to resist sliding into darkness…
Hey everyone, thank you for reading the second part of the prologue for Beauty, Sage and the Devil’s Sword. My word this was a long prologue…or is that just me? lol.
After all that work, having a nice big chocolate chip cookie really hits the spot. Next chapter starts Part 1, and we start to see things move along now. I look forward to comments and whatever feedback you guys have.