Chapter 1: Rose, Scum, Comeuppance, and Friendly Fire
Omenage 897 9th revolution 2nd day
Sunland Unreign Kingdom Capital City Elden, Division 9
Qualanado Pleasure Street
Illuminated by the streaming sunlight, the hostesses stripped of their colorful and gaudy makeup looked horrendous.
The capital city of the Sunland Unreign Kingdom, Elden, Division 9—known by the people as the Qualanado Pleasure Street.
The uneven buildings in the street, built so closely as to not leave any gaps, were neither well-maintained nor particularly worn-out. In these back-alleys, even the hobos sleeping in rubbish don’t search for leftovers here. When night falls, the streets will be chock-full of lust, money and booze, with colorful neon lights shining upon the men and women bustling along the avenue, but currently, it was merely cramped and filthy. Everything looked wretched.
A man stood atop the roof of a building looking down upon such a street, a bright-red rose being manipulated at his fingertips.
He was roughly 15 meters from the ground.
At such heights, one could not be free from the contagion of the surface. Even now, it threatens to crawl up from the ground, grip his ankles and drag him down. It was the corruption that had spewed forth from the people of the country, no, the continent, and left to accumulate and fester.
A wandering poet from bygone days, Dragan Penbruken, once said this.
A wind blows through the Sunland Unreign Kingdom.
Gathering the filths at the Qualanado Pleasure Street.
It was customary for Penbruken, famed for leaving behind many alluring traveling ballads to novel and erotic epic poems, to embellish, but in fact, in the Sunland Unreign Kingdom, which occupies the major half of Southwest portion of the Eternal Continent Luminous Alpha—also known as the α Continent, there were no laws. Order does not exist. It was up to one’s freedom to steal, snatch or even kill. However, those who steal, snatch or kill must always watch their backs lest the table turns on them.
Conventionally, the king was supposed to protect his people, and in return gain their cheap respect and an absolute authority. However, ever since the establishment of the Sunland Unreign Kingdom, its king never once changed their founding principle.
Namely, to reign over the country, but not govern it. To dominate, but not administer.
Seated on the throne of the Shining Glory Palace right at the heart of the circular capital city, Elden, just what was this king, who held the same name throughout the generations, thinking.
In any case, since ages past, this area, known as the Land of Dread and Chaos, Eldeinion, was dotted with countless portals to another dimension where Freaks spilled out from and ran rampant. That name persists till today and was now a nest for criminals and escapees. One could also call it a paradise for sexual deviants. It remains a Shangri-la for the Magicians who seek the immutable truth irregardless of morals and ethics, the Healers who mend the injuries of people, and the Monks who employ the blessing of gods to resurrect the dead.
More than anything else, it was the center where the largest movement of money occurs on the α Continent.
The money an objectification of all kinds of human desires mingled together.
It was often said.
If you have no status, no backing, no connections, nor anything that matters, and you still wanted to get rich, head to Sunland, Elden.
That was how the gathering of filth came about.
Then again, the grungy alley of the Qualanado Pleasure Street was not the only thing reflected in the pale blue eyes of the man.
“Should I meet, or should I not……”
That was something the man had asked himself several tens, hundreds of times.
The answer was always the same.
It was better not to meet. After contemplating about various considerations, that was the only answer he got in the end. The man himself knew that most distinctly.
But, just look at this rose. Those plump yet soft red petals. This mystical visage which seemed like it was born of a miracle. How beautiful. However, a rose has it thorns. Even so, despite knowing that one would be hurt if they touched it, he can’t help but extend his hands towards it. Indeed—
“That is you.”
The man took a deep whiff of the rose. It was so fragrant as to dazzle the eyes. What an aroma. This is precisely the scent of the Lucifer that mesmerizes, no, bewitches men.
The man wrapped his arms around his black-clothed body, casting his eyes down in melancholy.
“However…… Ah, as expected…… I can’t show myself before you. What a cruel mistress fate is. To think that a day would come when I can do naught but watch over you from afar like that……”
The end of the man’s sight lies on a fine path weaved between the buildings. Unlike at night, when those who seek to fulfil their lust transact with the enterprises who provide such services, it was quiet in the day. Occasionally, coquettish voices of men and women could be heard coming from the bars and brothel which operated all day round, but the streets could not be said to be lively otherwise.
In that path devoid of human presence, a person suddenly dashed through facing straight ahead, their flame-red hair bobbing in the air.
Their body was cladded in an Unlimited ICE bodysuit with a wine-red, orange and black theme, and a cloak above that. Carrying a qVq backpack with a thin blade hanging off their waist, they looked precisely like a Cracker.
However, a Cracker referred to one who dives into the Underground which lies below here in Elden, and plunders loot from the Freaks which dwell there. It was a considerably violent vocation. For the owner of such hair which appears to be made from molten ruby, and whose bodyline seem so dainty despite their light armor, they really did not suit such a savage trade.
Nevertheless, despite their delicate physique and lean muscle that almost appears crafted, that aesthetic facial features and those luxuriant faint-pink lips, one aspect alone changes their overall impression.
It was their eyes.
The fierce, vibrant light in those unbelievably exquisite orange eyes turned what looked to be just a work of art into a show of the beauty of life. Despite that, there remained a vestige of fragility and ephemerality about them that betrayed their precariousness.
I want to protect them, the man thought.
I must protect.
“Nonetheless, this wings of mine for which to fly to your side has been plucked bare, and this throat of mine for which to dedicate songs of love to you has been charred by the scorching heat overflowing from my chest. Aah, if only—”
The man swiped his head as his voice came to a halt, and he swept up the lone tear welling up in the corner of his eye with his fingertips.
He looked up at the sky for a while, and smiled. It was a pained, yet satisfied smile.
If there was anyone watching the man at this time, they would’ve thought he was acting out a one-man show. However, the man was not pretending in the very least. To put it simply, that was just how his personality was.
“Alas, let me offer up this flower to you. This flower which bears your name.”
The man tossed the bright-red rose in an elegant movement.
“—In flower language, they signify love, passion, or perhaps, an ardent romance.”
The rose drew an arc across the air as it fell.
Slowly, but surely.
Riding along it an ardor which cannot be contained even in a million words, as it fell towards the feet of his beloved.
A rose fell down.
The moment Mariarose bent down to pick up the red rose, a certain ominous forecast ran across her mind. She immediately raised her head, but there was completely no sign of any human figures behind the windows nor atop the roof.
A rose. A bright-red rose. Mariarose could only think of one person who could toss something like that for it to land 30 centimeters within of her feet. That man, who would pop up before her at every opportunity since a while back, has not shown himself lately.
Of course, that was wondrous news.
Certainly, it was true that that man had saved her life on countless occasions, but Mariarose had never requested for him to do that in the first place. Don’t even joke about thinking of asking for repayment.
To top it off, what that shitty bastard asked for was, more than anything, transcending mere assets, for the unbreakable union between them, both in hearts and in minds.
“I don’t have an interest in that kind of things.”
Still, what should I do about this rose. It would just beget unwanted thoughts, so I should just smash it under my feet, but the flower was without sin. Left with no choice, she slid it into the side pocket of her bag. Unconsciously, she felt a gaze on her and turned to take a quick look around her surroundings.
She never would have thought that someone would have witnessed that scene.
How careless of her.
“Is that a flower maiden I see. Gehehehe.”
A group of guys seemed to have come out from the building Mariarose just went by. They must have been drinking from the happy hours till now before ten in the morning. Dressed in bondage fashion from Vintage + Devil which the likes of hooligans prefered, the three profusely crass men had flushed faces.
“Look, we got a real beauty here.”
“Shall we have her breakfast instead, gufufu.”
All the three men had a tattoo in the design of an ‘S’, ‘m’, and ‘C’ on their bare chest or biceps. No—that’s wrong. That wasn’t a tattoo. It was a brand. Thus, it only looked similar, but was slightly different from ‘SmC’.
I sure saw something unwanted. If not for that sickening brand, I wouldn’t even have to waste time on these dumbasses and might’ve just let them off after showering them with contempt.
“—I’ll give you guys just one chance.”
Mariarose glared at the three of them and spoke in one breath.
“If, you immediately take back what you just said to me and apologize, then leave behind some cash for reparation and instantly get out of my sight, I might just consider forgiving you guys. If not, I’ll help you guys save some money for the plastic surgery to fix your god-awful sickening goddamn piss-ugly make-me-want-to-puke shitsack you call a face. Aah, if I put it in such a roundabout way, perhaps your good-for-nothing rotting crap of a brain cannot understand? Let me put it to you short and sweetly then. I’ll kill you.”
“HuH, tAkE bAcK? Or you’ll kill us?”
The skinhead, the one with the largest build among the three, clutched his belly exaggeratedly as he guffawed. From the weird way he pronounced take back, it seems that he did not understand what it means. Per his face which looked like he had a few screws loose in his head, he really was an idiot.
“Ain’t that cute. I don’t dislike tomboys like this. My old man often told me this. For those women who like to play hard to get, you need to force yourself onto them. That is the number one funny thing for a brave man to do, as the past has demonstrated. It’s history! Hihihi.”
“What a shitty old man……”
Mariarose grimaced with a look of utter disgust as she pointed her right metal gauntlet at the face of the skinhead and propped it up with her left. Still, she was about three meters away from him. Of course, her hand itself could not reach him.
Nonetheless, with a soft click and the sound of friction, something like a thick needle stabbed between the eyebrows of the skinhead.
The eyes of the skinhead wandered up to look at the object stuck at his forehead. After a moment, what the hell is this. Or so that was probably what he wanted to say, but that doubt did not left his mouth. Instead, what came out were nonsensical utterances like, ‘gogebo’, or ‘gugego’.
As his friends watched in shock, the skinhead convulsed through his entire body, and he collapsed backwards with the whites of his eyes showing.
Mariarose immediately turned the aims of her right gauntlet towards one of the remaining two, the man with holes in his teeth. She then rested the thumb and index finger of her left hand on the switches by the side of her right gauntlet. If she pressed both sides, a mechanism in her gauntlet will shoot out a dart that has been coated with the fast-acting neural poison, P9 Douter+. As the dart was slim and mechanism not very powerful, its range was pretty short, but it was a sure-hit at three meters.
“Which of you wanted to taste this next? Or, do you finally feel like apologizing although it’s already too late? If you bring that meatsack and get the hell away, maybe he’ll wake up after some time. Although he might die instead if his luck is not good.”
The man with holes in his teeth retreated a few steps back as he extended his hand towards the sword with a wide blade by his waist.
“It’s despicable for a woman like you to use a projectile weapon……”
Three men ganging up on me and you call me despicable? That was probably something Mariarose wanted to point out as well. However, more than that, surprisingly, what pissed Mariarose off more than anything was a different word.
Mariarose let loose a dart without any hesitation. The man immediately dodge his body to the side, but perhaps because he was drunk, or that he was originally a slow-wit as the dart pierced into his right cheek. He screamed unintelligibly with a, ‘Pia!’, and plucked it out of his cheek immediately, but it was too late. The P9 Douter+ was deadly even at a small concentration. The man only had seconds longer to move.
And Mariarose would not let those moments come to waste.
She drew her sword from its scabbard in one smooth movement while closing the distance between her and the last man in two steps. He was a man with a markedly large nose. Her slender sword flashed in a line upwards straight at that hideously eye-catching nose that he may or may not have been proud of.
They fell off brilliantly.
Within the second, Mariarose had aimed for the right hand of the man who was too shocked to even register pain. They were his fingers, which fell off cleanly from his hand, all the way from his index finger till his pinky.
“Nor a woman!”
As a finale, Mariarose twisted his body to send a low kick towards the man’s nether region, and flicked off the blood from her blade.
As his sight ran across the blade, he thought, as expected of a treasure from the age of the Dreadsters, the Burning Rapier, Gouka—or not; it was just a replica, fake Gouka, but still a fine sword. There was not a single chip on the blade despite slicing through the bones of a human finger.
“Hmph…… well, although I’m not below using some underhanded methods from time to time.”
Mariarose then wiped off the blood on the sword with some old rags and returned it to its scabbard.
Now, what should he do with these lesser-than-dung beetles. In fact, he had a feud with those cretins who insolently displayed the mark of ‘SmC’, so it may have been better for him to end their lives, he thought. However, since their’s are a brand and not a tattoo, they were nothing but small fries.
SmC—formally the Sadistic Murders Club.
Mariarose spat out in a mutter as he looked down at the men who fainted in agony or were convulsing.
Around this time, SmC was gathering up the hoodlums here in Elden, and continuously expanding their influence. For that, they had prepared a brand with the letters, ‘SmC’. Those wishing to join them would mark the brand somewhere on their bodies as a sign of loyalty to them.
In other words, those with this brand on their bodies would be able to avoid being attacked by the SmC, and losers with rotten dispositions everywhere were begging for the brand even now.
In addition, the brand needed to be extremely hot and it was excruciating to be branded. Thus, there were also a group of imbeciles who parade around the streets haughtily as if to say they were amazing for withstanding the pain of the brand.
It was a trend amongst the braindead mofos, so to speak.
The SmC, feared for their heinous and inhumane action even here in the Sunland Unreign Kingdom.
And those maggots who riot around, conceited over borrowing their name—
“Not that I give a damn about them.”
No matter how many maggots one killed, if they do not splatter the flies which lay eggs, there will be no end to them. And, this was a trifling matter in these streets. Not to mention, even with the expanse of the α Continent, there weren’t many places that was as safe and livable as Elden.
After all, despite it having happened a long time ago, there was an era when the Clan “Cruel” brutally oppressed and mercilessly massacred the people, after they were overthrown in Motorolly up north and came to Elden. In the ten-odd years when Clan “Cruel” tyrannized, blood and screams were common occurrences in Elden, and in one account, they even slaughtered citizens in the thousands.
What’s worse, the oh-so-great king of the country never even yielded from his policy to ‘reign over the country, but not govern it’.
In the end, what defeated the Clan “Cruel” in a long and difficult struggle were the Clan “Avenger”, formed from the citizens to oppose the kin of “The Cruel”.
With that event as a precedent, it gradually became the norm in the lands of Sunland to form Clans, where the members share a bond of consanguinity despite their non-blood relations—this is especially true of Elden, where living alone is not an easy task.
Or rather, it was exceedingly harsh.
Mariarose himself, who sustained his livelihood through work as a Cracker for two and a half years alone, had the severity of it imprinted into his bones.
Nevertheless, rather than for mutual support, criminals who group up into Clans like SmC do so in order to more efficiently execute their wicked plans. It was a disconcerting phenomenon, but in this country where the concept of morality was vague, the only things one could do about something else that displeased them were to resolve it with power or to ignore it. The only other thing would be to hope for a natural disaster to befall them in the name of god’s punishment.
It was commonly said that the period of time when Azael Novendark, “The Cruel”, ruled over Elden was known as the Bloody Ages. I sure hope something similar to that never comes to pass—
“But, I must say, no matter how many of these gathers……”
Mariarose shrugged his shoulders at the three branded idiots and made to turn back. It was at that moment.
He sensed a presence. Someone was behind him. And pretty close too. It can’t be an ally of the three idiot, could it. Whoever it was, they can’t possibly have any decent motive for them to sneak up behind people.
He only pondered for a second. His body moved on its own reflexively after that.
With his left leg as a pivot, he stepped hard on his right leg and twisted his waist around while drawing out fake Gouka from its scabbard. That was an iai technique he learned from the book, ‘Techniques of the Sword’, written by Burning Ballad, a self-proclaimed student of Sword Saint Van Vlad XL “Mortalred”. Originally, the iai technique was developed for use with a moderately long curved blade, but as Mariarose was more flexible than average due to his lean musculature, he was able to use the technique even with the straight blade of fake Gouka with his superior pliancy of his wrist and waist.
In addition, fake Gouka was pretty light. Mariarose thought that that rather splendid quickdraw himself.
But, he did not let his guard down for even a moment. After the iai draws a wide arc, it would result in a considerable lag. To make up for this weakness, should he go forwards or backwards?
Mariarose chose forwards.
In order to dodge the iai strike, the other party leaned his body to his left.
They were in extreme close quarters. Before I can bring my sword back, I should use my left leg to crush his right knee. Mariarose analyzed his next action in a heartbeat and moved to actualize that.
It was only when he judging the distance between them that Mariarose recognized that face which had far apart eyes.
The one who was clutching his right knee as he cowered was a man Mariarose knew.
Or rather, he belonged to the same clan. If anything, he was an ally.
Mariarose scratched his face as he tried to think up of an excuse. However, did he actually needed one? Nope. Not a single bit. No way did he needed to.
Mariarose pointed his finger at Katari, a fellow member of the clan with a weird name of “ZOO”.
“It’s all your fault! Yeah. That’s what you get for creeping up to people’s back. I’m not in the wrong at all. You are hurting now only because it’s all your fault, so you can’t call this anything but reaping what you sow.”
Katari, born in the Kingdom Izulha of Kemeck, couldn’t raise any rebuttal towards Mariarose but groan in pain in his local dialect.
It seemed that his kick packed quite the punch.
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