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Chapter 1 - The Girl

The Calvard Republic.

There's a city in this country, a place where migrants from the East have recreated their homeland down to the bright lacquered tiles. Nicknamed the Eastern Quarter, it's a vibrant place, bustling and hot.

Orbal buses trundle down the main street lined with stands of fragrant Eastern cooking as the welcoming cries of sellers rise and fall over a crowd of travelers from the welcoming cries of sellers rise and fall every nation.

The place where the cultures of East and West meet. Yes, it was a place that wore that mantle well.

On the northern outskirts of that town was a little, run-down bar. Doubtless it had been presentable once, but now the plaster was crumbling and what doors were left barely fit their pitted frames. Of course, such a seedy place attracted the clientele to match. To the lawless and violent, it was home.

'Heh... Sorry. Looks like my win again,' muttered a low voice that echoed through the grimy room. The voice belonged to Jack.

He was of medium size and in his early thirties--a man in his prime. The frayed shirt he wore had seen better days, but the accessories adorning his body were of obvious worth. Much like the brilliant blue of his eyes, none of them quite fit someone like him.

Compared to the dirty, poor, and desperate thugs around him, he looked out of place.

Jack was always to be found at that bar gambling or sharing a round with the dregs of the town. Sometimes fighting, sometimes drinking, he passed his days in idle recreation.

As usual, today found him hunched at the bar. He'd been deep in his cups since early noon. It was the same as always--a day set to be just like all the others was stretching out before him...

...and into that familiar scene cut the shriek of the door opening.

A new customer stepped into that same old bar. But who was this new arrival?

It was a girl...unlike any other he had seen before.

第1回 少女

――カルバード共和国。この国には東方からやって来た移民たちが、故郷を想い、故郷に似せて築き上げた街がある。俗に「東方人街」と呼ばれるこの街はいつも人々の活気と熱気で満ち溢れている。

古びた導力バスの走る大通りには香辛料をきかせた東方料理の屋台が並び、威勢の良い売り子の声が旅人達を出迎える。大路を行き交う人々の顔立ちも様々だ。東西文化の交差点――まったく、その言葉通りの場所だろう。

そんな町の北のはずれにおんぼろな一軒の酒場が立っている。元は東方風の洒落た造りだったのだろう。だが、今では所々で白壁が剥がれ落ち、戸という戸はすべて建付(たてつけ)が悪い。店が店なら客も客。ここは無法者や、ゴロツキどもの溜まり場だった。

「へへ……悪いな、また俺の勝ちだ。」ほこりっぽい店内にハスキーな声が響く。

声の主はジャック。年の頃は30代前半、中肉中背、壮年の男だ。着ている襟付きシャツは、肝心の襟がくたびれ海草のようにしおれているが、それでも彼の一張羅だ。一方、その身を飾るアクセサリーはどれもこれも一目で価値の判る物ばかり。蒼い光を帯びた瞳と同様、彼にはそぐわない代物だ。周りにいる、ただみすぼらしいだけのゴロツキたちと比べると彼は少し浮いて見えた。

ジャックはいつもこの酒場で無法者を相手にギャンブルをし、酒を飲み、時に殴り合い、また酒を飲んで日々を過ごしている。

彼は今日も酒場に陣取り、昼間から酒をあおっている。いつもと同じ……昨日と変わらない一日がまた始まろうとしていた。

――そんな見慣れた昼下がり。店の扉が悲鳴のような音を立て、酒場にあらたな客を運んでくる。

やって来たのは……見慣れぬ少女だった。

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