Extra arc 『The Stage Ghost’s Cappricio』 Chapter 1
I’d been depressed by the God of Chance’s ruthlessness when a letter arrived for me.
The one-page letter forwarded from the Duke Lilia residence reached me as I was at school.
It was the same routine as always. Even the plain white envelope used for it didn’t change.
It hadn’t been sealed with beeswax like when an aristocrat sends a letter. I ripped open the stationary that was simply glued into place. I know this method could open the seal cleaner than using a paper knife.
What came out from inside it was, as expected, a plain white note.
『To my one and only friend』
Even the starting line, for the past two years, didn’t once change.
The owner of this letter was a lovable and earnest actress of the 『Puppet Opera』.
The first time I met her was a night I would never forget.
She’d been on the stage, and I’d been in the audience.
For me, she was the only starring actress who performed on that wonderful stage that day. But for her, I was one of many spectators. It was an encounter that can’t truly be called one, but I remember that day well.
At that time, I was feeling pretty lonely because I wasn’t able to make any female friends at the academy.
Having become an associate prefect in my fourth year, I was excited to finally have a good reason to talk with my classmates.
But my classmates — perhaps because they were being considerate to me — united against giving me any responsibilities, thanks to that, my workload was really small. Since I had wanted to be depended on as much as possible, it made me feel let down and lonely.
No, it’s not like I wanted a problem to happen. But just for a moment, I’d pictured a situation where I ended up giving personal advice or something and kinda made all sorts of mental preparations, that’s all. I did prepare special tea and snacks just in case I got a sudden visitor at my dorm room, though.
But in the end, no one asked me for personal advice so I had one-woman tea parties and ate the snacks…. No, let’s not remember that.
As I continued to spend my holidays after becoming an associate prefect in low spirits, I was invited to the theatre by Father. Furthermore, it was the stage of the 『Puppet Opera』 that I had wanted to go to before.
Among the various theatres within the royal capital, the royal theatre that had been constructed by the previous king was the best in terms of social standing and popularity. The theatre is visited even by foreign guests, and the stage where they did public performances was superb. Thus, having the popularity that possibly went with it, was the 『Puppet Opera』 . It’s not only the name of the theatre, but also the name of the troupe.
There is another official name for the theatre, but no one calls it by that name nowadays.
This theatre was famous for being the theatre 『living people cannot appear in』.
I’m proud to say that I know this theatre’s history enough to compete for the first place among those in my generation. I found it interesting and did my research, after all.
Way back then, I heard it used to be a pretty ordinary theatre.
The driving force for the establishment of the theatre was a noble who had a particular enthusiasm for the performing arts. It had been one huge project of earning many supporters and soliciting a lot of investors with his personal connections.
Though it was a little far from the heart of the capital, the place was called the best district in town and was spacious enough too. It falls short as a royal theatre in terms of formality, but in its place, it’s granted the freedom to do the theatrical programs as it pleases. Many star actors and singers were born from this place.
The incident that occurred has, by now, happened around thirty years in the past.
Back in those days, there was an actress that had the selling point of being 『a rare jewel that only appears once in a hundred years』 in this theatre.
Just researching about her, this woman had truly been an incredible person. She was famous not only for her beautiful face, but also for her superb acting and, armed with the world’s best vocal range even among the line of first-rate singers at the time, her ability to flawlessly sing difficult pieces with ease.
It was said that with her entry on stage, the status of the 『opera』 — in other words, plays that were expressed partially with lines or entirely by singing — was boosted in this country in one go.
It seemed her performance as an actress and even as a singer always earned her immense popularity.
Even though I heard she’d conducted countless public performances at the royal theatre, she continued to perform at the theatre even until the bitter end. Truly, up to the moment of her death.
That woman died on this theatre’s stage.
It was said that the incident happened in the middle of practice.
The cause of death was officially announced as illness, but it had been the death of the actress who, at the time, swept a generation off its feet. Rumours ranging from suicide, accident, to murder, still persist to this day.
And the problem was after this.
Following her death, a series of strange deaths occurred in this theatre in a very short period of time.
When something unexplainable happens, magic involvement is the first to be suspected in this country.
Since the place was also the royal capital, it seems that the Association conducted a thorough investigation at that time. The conclusion had been that 『the incident was not caused by magic』.
But that didn’t mean the whole thing was settled. Like in modern day Japan where ghost stories don’t die down even while rooted in the belief that everything can be explained with science, this world has ghost stories too.
If the Association says so, then it’s not magic. It’s definitely ghosts. That was how the rumours went.
When these kinds of rumours arose, there were people who thought 『what about it?』. In fact, it seemed there were people who tried to dispel the worthless rumour themselves. Mainly, these were the young actors and singers who’d gained experience and acquired fame through this theatre.
But the bad luck continued.
Things like when the lead actress’s health deteriorated and the performance was cancelled, or when the stage curtain was about to open and the lead actor ended up running away completely. Without arranging for extras and the like, there were many scenes where the planning was ruined.
By then, rather than a ghost, it felt more like the bad luck was caused by people being afraid of it. Of course, when going onstage for any performing arts, it’s natural that one’s mentality directly leads to failure.
Once the custom that people periodically failed on this theatre’s stage and became unable to work as singers formed, those who’d wanted to stick as the lead role here soon disappeared.
In the end, even now, after thirty years have passed, many people still believe in the rumour of the ghost that was related to this series of events.
There was a ghost in that theatre.
A lovely jewel who loved the stage and who was loved by the audience.
They say that she envied the living, and that she couldn’t forgive them for going up on her stage.
It was believed that for a theatre that had no more performers, there would be no way to run as a 『theatre』 , at least.
But even while many believed in the rumour, this theatre was still somehow operating and continuing its performances to this day.
As a 『Puppet Opera』 that only puppets could appear in.
There had been a puppet maker named Nival Galant.
The reason why I have to speak in past tense was because he’s already dead.
This renowned puppet maker had specialized in self-moving puppets. Moreover, in automatons that moved with magic.
He had a lineage that sort of extended from aristocracy, but he didn’t come from a particularly prosperous family.
While studying magic in the magic academy as a young boy, Nival learned about his power. That is to say, the power to move puppets that he made with his own hands at will. His occupation as a puppet maker had probably been quite a natural course of events.
Nival Galant carved trees, polished them, and made puppets by hand. The puppets that had been born through his hands, regardless of the base material, had appearances that would truly be mistaken for nothing but humans.
A puppet that moves with magic.
Calling them puppets that didn’t use strings was slightly different from what it actually was.
If I were to be asked what Puppet Maker Nival’s magic forte was, then representing it as magic to make robots that had been programmed to move would be much closer to the truth.
These puppets created by the hands of Puppet Maker Nival were called 『automatons』, and could sing and dance magnificently in front of people. However, they weren’t singing with their own voices, the puppets had been made to listen to singers’ songs and do something like a record and playback.
Nival Galant made various puppets with that magic, but the reason his name had instantly spread was because of the existence of the 『Puppet Opera』.
Puppet shows with puppets were originally widely popular in this country.
The huge difference between that and Nival’s automatons was, firstly, the size of the puppets. Unlike the stringed puppets, no matter how heavy the automaton was, it could still sustain its own weight and move around. In other words, a life-sized automaton could dance, sing, and move around perfectly like a human on the stage. A puppet opera, not a puppet show. It became a huge boom at the royal capital.
At any rate, since they were puppets, they don’t get tired. The can sing and dance without getting influenced by things like physical condition or state of mind. They’ll always perform exactly as practiced.
Of course, there were many people who criticize this puppet opera and say that the one-off feeling of tension was the true charm of performing arts.
『The stage is spooky and lifeless』
『They’re using borrowed songs. This stage has no merits』
Even among these criticism, the performance with high degrees of difficult songs and movements that were distinctive to the puppets went on, and had, even after the boom had passed, turned into an industrial success.
In the ten, twenty years after that, the puppet opera continued to be an industrial enterprise as one of the royal capital’s tourist attractions.
What created the boom that had blown a fresh new air into the theatre and surpassed the puppet opera’s success in its founding days, was the existence of the current greatest prima donna, Miria Galant.
The selling point during her debut went like this.
『Puppet maker Nival Galant’s greatest masterpiece』
『An automaton that surely had life no doubt breathed into it』
My friend and the sender of the letter.
(1) Nival’s name comes from Galanthus Nivalis