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Editor: Lickymee, Skythewood, Nate, TaintedDream
There was a small patch of trees located some distance from Coda Village, and within those trees was a small house.
The house was roughly the size of two six-tatami rooms. There were two small windows in its walls which were designed to allow the maximum amount of light and wind into the house, due to the lack of glass in this world.
Its walls were made of sun-dried bricks laid on top of each other, and was covered in ivy vines.
The light that filtered through the arching canopy above them warmed the surrounding air causing the house to have an elegant feel to it.
Someone had parked a wagon in front of the house. The bed was buckling under the weight of a small mountain of crates, sacks, and books tied together with twine.
After looking at the amount of luggage on the wagon and the donkey grazing beside the road, one might ask if this was too much for one poor beast to draw.
In front of this heap stood an obviously troubled person, clutching a bundle of books.
She was a girl with silver hair, and looked to be around 14 or 15 years of age. She was wearing a kantoi.
(TL Note: A Kantoi is something between a poncho and a robe. https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%B2%AB%E9%A0%AD%E8%A1%A3)
“Master, we can’t keep piling things onto the wagon.”
No matter what they did, they simply could not cram anything else onto the wagon. The girl calmly related this fact to the person inside the house.
“Lelei! Can’t you think of something?”
A snowy-bearded old man poked his head out from a nearby window, with a “I can’t take this” expression on his wrinkled face.
“It would make more sense to leave the Coam fruits and the Lochte pears behind.”
The girl called Lelei removed the sacks full of ripe fruits from the wagon one after the other. She placed the book bundle she was holding into the space that was freed up.
Coam fruits and Lochte Pears were herbal medicines that were very effective against high fevers. However, these fevers were rare, and so they were not particularly necessary in the short term. And while they were rare, they were not unobtainable by any stretch, so the precious books she had just loaded up took priority over them.
The white-haired old man sagged his shoulders.
“The Flame Dragon shouldn’t have woken up for another 50 years, why now…”
The news of the Flame Dragon’s attack on the elf village had spread like wildfire.
Normally, they would have dropped everything and fled, but since they had warning in advance, there was still some time to pack. As a result, the village was filled with activity as everyone made their preparations to escape.
The old man grumbled and carried the sacks which Lelei had taken off the wagon back into the small house. There was a secret door under the bed where he planned to hiding them .
In the meantime, Lelei guided the donkey over and hitched it to the wagon.
“Master, you’d best mount up quickly.”
“Ah? What are you saying? I’m not interested in mounting a little girl like you.Your big sister would be much better… Oh yes, your big and bouncy sister…”
Lelei glared at the old man with the coldest look she could muster. Then she proceeded to solidify the air into a lump and launched it at him. The solidified air was still only about as hard as a rubber ball, but it still hurt when it hit someone.
“Hey! Stop it! Magic is not a toy! Magic is not to be used for personal gain or enjoyment… Hey!”
“Although there’s still some time, we can’t play around like this. Let’s move out soon.”
“I got it, I got it, no need to rush… you really can’t take a joke, can you?”
The old man gripped his staff in one hand and settled into the seat next to Lelei. Lelei, on the other hand, glared at the old man and spoke.
“Jokes are meant for entertainment between friends, parents, lovers and other closely related people. However, once they start taking on a sexual nature, one must start taking the other party into consideration as well. For instance, it would be completely unacceptable to start making lewd jokes around a teenage girl. This might well irreparably damage the relationship with them. I believe this should be common knowledge for mature individuals, no?”
The old man sighed deeply as his disciple lectured him.
“Huu… I’m so tired. I wish I didn’t have to get old.”
“Objectively speaking, that is incorrect. I feel that Master is as hardy as a cockroach.”
“Now that’s what I call rude. Is that how a disciple should be speaking?”
“This is how I was raised from childhood, and I was raised by my Master.”
After her unreserved words, Lelei lightly struck the donkey with her riding crop.
The donkey obediently tried to move forward, but it could not, because the wagon’s bed was overloaded.
“...Like I said, we’re carrying too much.”
“That was expected. Also, you were the one who said we could keep piling things on, Master.”
Lelei quietly jumped off the wagon.
She felt that it would be better to keep walking than sit still on an immobilized vehicle.
“Oi, oi! Lelei, you need to be more patient! If you’re like that, nobody will want to marry you, and that would be a shame!”
As the old man said that, he took up the goad and struck the donkey. The donkey tried its best, but as expected, the wagon refused to budge.
Lelei noticed that one of the wheels was embedded into the ground, about a third of the way in. If it was stuck like that, it was only natural that the wagon could not move.
“Master, I think you need to get off the wagon.”
“Don’t, don’t worry. After all, don’t we have this?”
The old man raised his staff, and Lelei sighed. Mimicking the tone of her master, she replied:
“Magic is not a toy. Magic is not to be used for personal gain or enjoyment…”
Sweat poured like a waterfall from the old man’s forehead, and he rushed to answer her.
“We are magicians, we do not walk like the rest of Humanity.”
However, he could not defy Lelei’s glare, which was utterly devoid of warmth or compassion.
The old man’s mouth opened up as if he were going “ah~”, and he began chanting the words he had not spoken for a long time.
His solemnity as an educator clashed with the other feelings in his heart. It would seem the old man’s next move would take some time. After a while, he looked at Lelei with an uncomfortable expression on his face.
“I… I’m sorry.”
“That’s fine. After all, I know that’s how Master is.”
Lelei was a child who did not sugarcoat her words.
After using magic to lighten the weight of the luggage, the donkey could easily pull the wagon and its mountain of cargo. And so, Lelei and her Master sat on the wagon and left the home they had occupied for many years.
As they drove the wagon to the center of the village, Lelei noticed many families with wagons full of things, much like herself and her Master. It wasn’t just wagons they used, but haywains and plow harnesses, and some people had even loaded up their horses with saddlebags.
Lelei looked closely at the other villagers, as if she were studying them.
Her Master spoke.
“You’re an intelligent child. Everyone else must look foolish to your eyes.”
“It’s only natural that Humans would flee with everything they could carry once they heard of the Flame Dragon’s approach.”
“You said it was natural for Humans… does that mean they’re foolish, then?”
Lelei could not deny her Master’s words.
If they really valued their own lives, they would immediately drop everything and run as far as they could. Stopping to take on and secure luggage would only waste time that could be spent on fleeing, and the luggage itself would slow them down. It would be too late to abandon it when the Flame Dragon came.
To begin with, why did humans even struggle so hard to survive? Death was inevitable — it would happen sooner or later. What was the point in slightly prolonging one’s life?
Lelei logically dissected the topic as she considered it, and the old man was agonizing over how to speak with her.
When they reached the center of the village, the way forward was blocked by a line of wagons.
“What’s happening up ahead?”
The column of wagons did not move, but Lelei’s Master received a reply from someone in front.
“Ah, it’s Kato-sensei. And Lelei too. Ah, we’re in trouble now. Someone overloaded their wagon and the axle broke, and now it’s stuck in the middle of the road and blocking everyone. We’re all pitching in, but it’ll be a while.
They would be bogged down by the wagons behind them even if they wanted to turn around and take another route. This was what some might call a Catch-22.
As her Master was talking to the villager, Lelei’s attention was drawn by a group of mysterious men, who spoke a language she had never heard before.
“Disaster relief is part of our job too. Start by towing away the affected wagon! Itami-taichou, please ask the village chief for permission to begin operations, and Tozu, you tell the people behind that there’s been an accident and to take another route! Language? Use body language! Kurokawa, go make sure nobody’s hurt up ahead.”
At a glance, these men were all dressed in green… Well, green and some other colors, like brown.
No, it looked like there was also a woman among them. They seemed to be wearing helmets; were they soldiers from somewhere? However, they didn’t wear armor. It would seem they belonged to a group that Lelei did not know of.
Although she wasn’t quite sure what they were saying, the men and the woman leapt into action under the orders of a roughly 45-year old man.
From the look of things, he seemed to be their commander. They felt like some sort of military organization, the kind that contained their violence with rules and regulations.
She told her Master that she was going to “check things out”, and got off the wagon.
The wagon that was the cause of this incident was roughly fifteen wagons ahead.
One of its axles was snapped, and the wagon lay sprawled across the road. She could see scattered luggage, a fallen man, as well as a mother with her child. The horse was collapsed on the road, its mouth dripping with foam. It flailed its limbs as it struggled to get up, so the villagers who wanted to help it stand up were unable to approach.
“You, very dangerous, faster get back.”
It was one of the men in green.
His words were unclear, but judging by his gestures, he must have wanted her to keep back.
However, Lelei realized the fallen mother and child were injured. She brushed aside the man and continued on, ignoring the flailing horse beside her.
The boy was a little younger than Lelei, about ten years old. After giving her a quick once-over, she found that he had struck his head, and his face and limbs were gradually turning pale. His sweat was flowing like a squeezed rag, and his body was rapidly cooling.
The mother was unconscious, but her condition was stable. The child was the one in danger.
“Lelei! What are you doing? What happened?”
She turned back and saw that the village chief was shouting at her. Beside him was a man in green. He must have gone to inform the chief about this.
“Chief, I think the cause was overloading of the wagon and rot in the axle. The child is in great danger but his parents should be fine. The horse is beyond help.”
“Is Kato-sensei nearby?”
“He’s worrying his head off in the wagons behind. He let me come here to take a look.”
As she spoke, the woman in green began her triage of the child Lelei had looked at. Her technique suggested that she had been medically trained. The man in green beside the chief, roughly thirty years old, began signalling to his team.
Suddenly a cry rang out.
The sound of an explosion followed shortly, and when Lelei looked back, the thrashing horse lay motionless on the ground. It had missed her by a hair’s breadth, but if it had come any closer, the full weight of the horse — ten times that of a man — would have fallen on top of Lelei.
All Lelei knew was that the men in green had done something to the frenzied horse, and that it had saved her.
The allied armies, gathered under the Empire’s banner, vanished in the span of one night.
If this were in Japan, it would have been the headline of every single newspaper or scrolling across electronic signs in the shopping districts. But in this world, to the residents of the Special District, the movements of the army were unknown to them. Even if they lost the war, they would simply exchange one set of rulers for another, and it would not affect their daily lives much.
The reason why this was the case was because this country was contested territory. Sometimes one party would take it, and sometimes another party would conquer it. Since their rulers changed so often, it was impossible for the people to feel any loyalty towards them.
In this world, as long as one’s home was not a battlefield, and one’s families were not conscripted to fight on the battlefield, the common folk would care nothing about their country.
Even so, the people's lives had been affected.
The recent rampancy of bandits was the cause.
This world was ruled by soldiers and knights, but none of them acted to suppress banditry. This was because the obligations of nobles and their knights did not extended to maintaining order.
All they cared about was “control”. In truth, the nobles were no different from the bandits. The former robbed the peasants and called it “taxes”, while the latter used no such pretense. Both sides refused to accept any form of remonstration and responded to any refusals to pay with brute force.
Even when the nobles or knights rode out to hunt down bandits, they were like shepherds driving off wolves, which meant that they would stop once the bandits vanished from their sight. Frankly speaking, any good they did was merely a side effect..
Since desperate bandits fought harder than normal and might even manage to kill them by luck, nobles and their troops were not too fired up about cornering and finishing off bandits. That opinion was hardly rare. Even in Japan, there was a movie about seven samurai hired by the villagers to defend them from the rampant bandits, while the lord of the land did nothing to help.
That being said, the bandits preferred it when there were fewer nobles and knights around.
Until recently, they had to skulk around in the shadows, but now they could move around freely.
An intelligent hunter would consider that killing all the prey would leave none for the future. Fortunately, or unfortunately, an intelligent person would not have become a bandit, and so most bandits were cruel and ruthless in the extreme.
For instance, there was a family who fled their village as they received news that a dragon had been spotted in the vicinity.
The father drove his wagon with his plowhorse, and on that wagon were all the family’s possessions, his 32 year-old wife and his 15 year-old daughter.
The villagers all fled as if they were grazing animals. However, unlike wild herbivores such as buffalos or zebras, this family did not move in a group. There was no time for that, not when a dragon could attack at any moment.
So they ignored their villagers’ cries for them to stop, and left the village on their own.
On their second night, they ran into a group of bandits.
The man desperately spurred his horse, but there was no way for the overburdened wagon and horse to move quickly. With no way to resist, the family was captured by the mounted bandits.
The man was slain instantly, and his wife and daughter were taken away.
In the darkness, over a dozen bandits gathered around a campfire and gleefully rummaged through their spoils.
Their prey had not just been carrying coins and currency, but provisions as well. They filled their bellies with the food they had captured. They took turns raping the mother and daughter, but the more important bandits had already satiated their bestial lusts and were relaxing with wine.
“Boss! Coda Village is about to make a move!”
Ever since the Flame Dragon appeared, scores of villagers had fled. Laden down with luggage, they could not move fast, nor could they fight back. Why not attack them? There was no reason not to do so. They would slaughter and pillage them.
After hearing his minion speak, the boss laughed in satisfaction. It was a good idea, so they should go ahead and do it. But as he thought about it...
“We don’t have enough people.”
It would be asking too much of his band of twenty-odd men to take on an entire village at once.
“About that, why don’t we get guys from around the area? That way, we can work together to bring in the biggest haul ever.”
This was also a good chance to recruit more hands.
With enough people, they could successfully attack entire villages, and even towns. If he played his cards right, he — cast out by his lord — might even aspire to become a lord himself.
From a bandit to a lord. The sweet dream of going from a wretched little thief to the ruler of his own domain filled his mind.
This nameless bandit chief’s final moments were spent imagining a time when he would be happiest. Was that a good thing, or a bad thing?
Either way, his head fell from his neck, with a curiously comical “goro” sound.
It rolled across the ground and into the campfire.
The stench of burning hair and scorched flesh instantly filled the campsite.
Biologically speaking, a severed head could retain consciousness for several seconds. That being the case, the chief would have experienced his head falling to the ground. His field of view would have rolled with him, and before he realised what was going on, he would have seen what used to be his body spurting blood .
After that, in his rapidly blackening field of view, he would have seen the black-haired goddess of death bathing in his fresh blood.
The first thing anyone would think when they saw the girl was “black”.
Her skin was so pale it was nearly transparent, her hair and clothes were black, and her eyes were bottomless pools of obsidian.
The bandit chief’s severed head flew with a “pyun”.
She held a heavy halberd in her hands.
It was a weapon that looked like someone had attached a heavy, slablike axe blade to a long shaft. It wasn’t something a fragile little girl could swing like a matchstick. Nor was it something a girl in black lace should be wielding. That she could use such a weapon with her delicate, slender arms and her thin little fingers, as pale as white jade, was far beyond anyone’s ability to imagine.
She rested the halberd over her shoulders, and exhaled loudly.
The girl was surrounded by the scattered corpses of the bandits.
“Well, that was fun. Ojii-san-tachi, thank you for tonight.”
She grasped the hem of her skirt and curtseyed elegantly.
At a glance, she looked to be around 13, and judging by her beauty and refined movements, she seemed to be a very well-bred girl. She had a brilliant smile on her face, but that smile did not reach her eyes. Her black pupils were filled with a hungry darkness, like a fathomless abyss.
“Thank you for offering your lives to me. I thank you on behalf of my god. My god is very pleased with your gift, and he says that I should enjoy myselves with you.”
“...What! What the hell are you!”
Among the surviving bandits, one of them managed to shout with far more courage than he felt, although his bowels were frozen with fear. He deserved praise for still being able to speak despite the present circumstances.
She smiled adorably.
“I am Rory Mercury. Apostle of Emroy, God of Darkness.”
“I-is that the formal wear of the priestesses of the Temple of Emroy? One, one of the Twelve Apostles, Rory the Reaper?!”
“Ara~ you knew? Mhmh~ correct.”
In the face of the laughing girl, the bandits scattered like leaves.
They left everything behind and fled with all their might, driven by their fear of death.
“What, what the hell, how can we fight an Apostle!”
“Oh, no. No no no no no. You can’t run away.”
Rory jumped, carrying the heavy slab of metal that seemed to weigh several times more than her. She pursued the fleeing bandits like a ferocious carnivore hunting down its prey.
The halberd cleaved through the bandits’ heads like she was splitting watermelons at the beach, and the surrounding area was strewn with chunks of flesh.
“Ueh, abbah… aiiiieeeee!”
Rory towered over of the fallen man. She swung her halberd lightly, sweeping it behind her legs before she raised it high above her head.
Her snow-white skin was dyed red by sprays of blood.
“Ufufu… God-sama said so, you know. The goal of all life is death. No Human can escape it.”
A pitiful scream rang out just as the halberd swung down.
“Haa… haa… haa… why, what is an Apostle of Emroy doing here?!”
The man cursed his misfortune as he ran with all his strength.
A pitiful scream rang out from the distance. Rory the Reaper had claimed another soul.
“Damn, damn it!”
There were no paths in the wilderness at night. The countryside was littered with swamps, rock formations, thorny thickets and trees. The man stumbled occasionally, his body was covered in mud and sweat, and his clothes were torn.
Once more, a howl rang out from in front of him.
He slipped on a patch of mud.
His body slid across the floor, and he bashed his head against the ground.
“Dammit, dammit, dammiiiiiiit, why is my luck so damn bad!”
“Ara~ weren’t you having fun?”
There was the sound of footsteps.
Upon hearing the clear, bell-like voice, he desperately looked up. The black-clad girl towered over him, backlit by the silver disc of the moon.
“Weren’t you having fun just now? Didn’t you kill people?”
She planted the pointed tip of her axe between the man’s spread legs, a hair away from his groin.
“Aiiieeee! I, I, I’ve never killed anyone!”
“Ara, really now?”
“It’s true! This was the first job I did since I joined! The women too, they said I had to wait till the end since I was the new guy! I didn’t even lay a finger on them!”
Rory thought briefly about this before speaking to the man again.
“The other jii-sans have all been called to be with Emroy. Don’t you feel lonely by yourself?”
The man shook his head desperately. He was not lonely, not lonely at all.
“However, won’t it be sad if you’re the only one left out?”
“No, please, I would really like to be left out!” the man begged.
Rory looked at him with a cold gaze that was as sharp as a knife.
“What should I do with you, then~”
As she said that, Rory clapped her hands together.
“I’ve got it, this should be a good idea. Since you haven’t done anything yet, why not start now?”
With that, the black-clad girl grabbed one of the man’s legs.
He could feel an unimaginable strength that belied her delicate appearance.
“Ru run ra~” she hummed to herself, as she dragged the man like a mop.
“It hurts! Please stop! Gwaahhhh!”
The wilderness here was filled with rocks and sand. They tore the man’s clothes to shreds as he was dragged across them, and then rubbed his sweaty skin raw. Soon his body was covered in his own blood.
“Who did you like more between the mother and the daughter?”
“Noooo! Please stop! Gueeehhh…”
“Don’t stand on ceremony, this is the end for you, anyway. I’ll ask nicely so you can do them.”
Rory grabbed the man’s leg and tossed him.
He landed in a ragged heap beside the mother and daughter.
“Well, go ahead then. It’s your turn.”
The man frantically shook his head.
The legs of the naked women remained spread, a hollow testimony to their violation. Their arms were raised, as though hailing the Emperor.
Neither of them were moving. By the looks of things, they had stopped breathing.
“Ara~ what a bother. The two of them have passed on.”
It would seem they had been raped to death.
“So sorry, we didn’t make it in time.”
Rory closed their unblinking eyes and lowered her head. Then she smiled to the man.
“Still, since they’re like this, why not do them anyway?”
Dampness spread through the man’s crotch, and a puddle of liquid formed below him.
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