“Hi! How’s it going? Did you miss me? …Hey, are you listening!? Look at me!”
I raised my head and met the gaze of a girl looking down at me.
She was so high up above me; I should have been no bigger than a pea to her. But somehow, I just knew that she was looking down at me, and that her words were directed straight to where I was sitting.
“Let’s begin. Introducing an Upward Acrobat who once wowed the crowds and players as a Gallows Bowl cheerleader! The star of our humble circus troupe! A world-class acrobat extraordinaire! Behold, the unbelievable grace of the great and marvelous Marjorie!”
The clown’s voice rang out clearly, prompting the loudest cheer of the day.
She started her performance, bringing the roar of applause that filled the enormous tent to a halt. She waved her trademark parasol around, looking as dignified and graceful as if she were sauntering down a promenade…
“Damn that child, she’s always off with the fairies.”
On the way home, my mother complained ceaselessly.
“Well, we had fun, didn’t we? The dancing animals, the fire rings, the tightrope walking… You don’t see things like that every day,” rebutted my father.
Our village, Issach, lay deep in the mountains near the border of Brandt Gate, had plenty of mountains and forests, and plenty of nothing else. For us, bears and wolves weren’t dancing pets. They were pests that came into the village at night scavenging for food.
“You know what I mean! She couldn’t have been more than six years old…”
“But she sure was cute.”
“Not you too… Damn it. The men of the village are going to be too distracted to work for days now.”
My mother sighed, and then hurried me and my father, who was looking a little dazed, toward home.
I turned around to get one last look at the circus tent—it was no illusion. It stuck out proudly from a clearing in the forest. We could still just about hear the lively music that continued to play. Those words still rang in my head…
“Did you miss me?”
That was the night when I learned that the girl all the way up on the tightrope was actually a succubus.
“You want to join the troupe?”
As the clown I was talking to screamed this at me, I realized that I must have been talking to the wrong person. Not that I had any idea who I should have been talking to about joining the circus.
But it turned out that he was the right person after all.
“Well… You might actually be just what we’re looking for. What’s your talent?”
“Don’t ‘huh’ me. You don’t seriously think you can join the circus without a talent, do you?”
“Erm, I’m pretty good at chopping wood. And I’m handy with knots.”
“Sounds like you’re almost ready to take over the family farm. That’s not what I meant. Got anything else?”
“I’m pretty fearless. Like when I got lost in the mountains…”
“You know circuses don’t tend to go into the mountains. And we try not to get lost…”
“I can eat more than anyone else I’ve ever met!”
“Feeding the animals is expensive enough, are you trying to ruin me!? Go home, kid!”
The angry clown was about to return to his tent. I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass me by.
I was done with my nothing life. I was ready to do anything to get away.
“I can climb higher than anyone I know!”
This stopped the clown in his tracks.
He turned around on the spot like a little puppet.
“You wouldn’t be lying to me right now, would you, kid?”
He came closer.
“O-Of course not. I’m telling you the truth!”
I felt the pressure emanating from the clown who loomed large right in front of me, but I stood firm.
After reading through the many pages of the contract and repeating the pledge over and over, I was finally allowed to enter the backstage area of the circus tent. I still didn’t understand much of what was going on, but I had heard before that the Pale Moon, this circus troupe, had many secrets.
I was taken back without so much as a cursory introduction.
“Even a country bumpkin like yourself must have heard of Bruce. Yes, the very same Violence Bruce from Team Diabolos. When I recruited her from Gallows Bowl, I knew from the moment I saw her that she was special… Well, they say we all find one thing in life we’d do anything to get our hands on.”
“Your predecessor lasted less than a month. The one before that ran away after three days. The one before that managed to make it three years before retiring. He told me that after he left us, he had become a priest. Still, it’s been ten years since the last one left us. You men really are pitiful creatures.”
The clown… no, the director of this circus, was mumbling under his breath, but I couldn’t make it out.
At the top of the tent, the various crates and stages, long abandoned, looked like they were sitting there waiting for me to fix them.
“Well, here I go!” This was to be my workplace for the day. I was going to make this place as good as new, for her.
The clown’s sarcastic voice rang in my head.
“Good luck with that, kid. I think you might hold out longer than the others.”
I quickly drew the curtains back.
There she was. The circus troupe’s flamboyant star, the Upward Acrobat Marjorie, perched on a rope.
She waved her trademark parasol around, looking as dignified and graceful as if she were sauntering down a promenade…
“How’s it going? Did you miss me?”
“Yes! I look forward to working with you!”
The succubus treated me to a smile that was identical to the one she flashed at me that day.
It had been 10 years since she picked me out of the crowd, and I am now 16 years old.
<<Notes about Terminology>>
A demon that looks like a woman.
Succubi on Planet Cray range from violent demons to those who find a place in society (as cheerleaders, in circuses, etc.)
They live off the essence of the opposite sex (i.e., men), so men should be careful when in their presence.
Also known as the Pale Moon, they are the most famous circus troupe in the world.
Favored by the Demon King who presided over the “Banquet of Eternal Night,” they toured throughout Planet Cray.
Rumor had it that they were actually a group of assassins under the direct control of the Demon King.
This rumor persisted thanks to the average life expectancy of the Demon King’s rivals, the increase in suspicious deaths in the cities the troupe toured to, and the fact that the Demon King held onto power for so long despite being a notoriously poor military commander.
Supervising Editor: 中村聡