~ Chapter 92: The collection of skins (Part 2) ~
Inside the carriage were several women of various ages stuffed in various positions varying from normal to sexual ones. They were clearly the result of hours of work and a twisted mind that enjoyed tormenting humans in such a disturbing way.
“Which one is Sofia?” I asked Kalderan.
“She is... the one with blonde hair and green eyes.” he replied with barely any energy left in the tone of his voice.
How painful it must have been for him to look upon his former lover who had been reduced to such an inhuman state. I placed my hand on his shoulder, but I didn't say anything. I looked at these women for a moment and then left Kalderan to mourn his beloved.
This place had become a battlefield and the only survivors left beside the two of us were Tamara and Risha. The horses were all curious as well about what we were going to do, but they had remained surprisingly docile throughout the entire battle. I decided that it would be best to let them go, so I cut off their reins and gave them a slap to send them running towards empty plains. Only the saddled horses of the adventurers remained.
Looking back at the bodies of the three adventurers, I asked Risha “What do you want to do with them?”
“C-Can I please bury them?” she looked down and clenched her fists.
“Won't they turn into zombies?” I asked.
“Yes, but... I have nothing to use to burn them.” she replied.
“Strip them of their gear and put them in one place. I'll burn them.” I told her.
She made a small nod and went to take care of her friends.
While this happened, I walked up to the third carriage, where the two women had been skinned alive, and I set it on fire. The scent coming from it was repulsive. Then I walked up to the second carriage, and I noticed that among all sort of spices, this one also contained the stuffed bodies of human women. I decided that it would be for the best to set it on fire as well. The only thing I salvaged was a chest filled with coins and jewels. That went straight into my [Black Hole].
With nothing else to do, I waited for Risha to finish and then I set the bodies of the three ablaze. She salvaged their gear and emptied their coin purses into her own. The look in her eyes, however, was one of fear and loss because she didn't know what was going to happen to her from now on. With those three gone, she had no one to rely on.
“Kalderan?” I asked when I saw the man getting up and wiping his tears.
“Let's burn them.” he said.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“I understand. Stand back.” I told him.
Kalderan did as I told him and then I cast a low power fireball at the carriage. The fire spread quickly and engulfed it entirely. The scent of burning flesh filled the air. It was revolting, but we kept ourselves from barfing.
As he watched the flames engulf what remained of his beloved, Kalderan began to tell me how the two of them ended up together.
“I met Sofia while I was heading to work using the Zamoskvoretskaya metro line. She always boarded the metro at 10:00 AM in the morning on the Novokuznetskaya station. It was a hit and miss situation. Sometimes I saw her, sometimes I didn't. One day, I managed to muster enough courage to approach her. We clicked immediately and exchanged phone numbers. On our first date, we went to a cafe near her collage and spent there about four, maybe six hours straight. I remember it like it was yesterday, how beautiful her smile was, how charming her eyes were.”
“Was that her real name?” I asked.
“No... That God-like stole my ability to remember my own name and hers as well... No one can remember their real names or those whom they meet here and have known on Earth too. ” he shook his head.
“How did it came to this?” I asked.
“My ability... it's nothing, it was trash, but she didn't think so. For some reason, she always thought that somehow, someway I will make it big. Sofia said that it was her ability. She could see the possible future or something like that, I don't know, she wasn't able to fully describe what she saw.”
“You think she foresaw the two of us meeting?”
“Probably.” he shrugged “At this point, I'm inclined to believe it to be so, but... the only reason I was able to do so was because of her sacrifice. This rotten country burdened us with taxes and wrongful accusations. We ended up being forced to take petty jobs as adventurers just so that we could have a chance at survival. Unfortunately, the taxes eventually became too much. That was when the Black Company took interest in us.” he clenched his fists.
“Took interest?” I raised an eyebrow.
“They came to me and offered a hefty sum to Sofia if I were to be enslaved. We both refused and chased them away, but they kept coming.” he looked down and tears rolled down his cheeks. “One night, Sofia got up and went to that rotten merchant. She sold herself in order for me to survive. That was the condition of their contract. She became their slave, and I was paid a hefty sum, double of what they offered for me.”
“Was that the last time you saw her?” I asked.
“Yes... I promised her that everything was going to be alright. That I would find a way to free her... That...” he clenched his fists and looked at the burning carriage as its smoke rose up in the air “I'm sorry, Sofia... I'm so sorry!” he cried.
I placed my hand on his shoulder and let him cry his heart out. The only thing I could do was stand there as his friend and offer him my support.
[In the slums of Mathias City]
[A certain black-haired youth's point of view]
Today, once more I failed to find work and wandered back to the little house I called a home. My little sister was waiting for me there with a gentle smile on her face. She was only 12 years old now, and I was 16. At my age, I could register as an adventurer, but to do that, one needed to offer two silver coins as payment. With that much money, we could live for an entire week.
With a heavy sigh escaping my lips, I entered our house and greeted my little sister with a smile. I couldn't let her see me down.
“Welcome back, brother! How was job hunting today?” she asked.
“It was... promising.” I lied.
“That's wonderful! Maybe you'll get a good job soon. It's been a while since I ate something good.” she said.
“Yeah, it really doesn't compare to our sumptuous meals at the palace.” I let out a small sigh.
“Brother, I miss that life as well, but in a way it's better now. At least we don't need to worry about one of our relatives trying to murder us in our sleep.” she said.
Although she was only twelve, after what we went through, there was no way for her to keep her innocent view on life. That was why, sometimes, the words she spoke were far more mature than those spoken by other children of her age.
“Yeah... Mother was the Fourth Princess of the Akutan Empire and yet...” I closed my eyes and the memory from that time flashed before my eyes.
Mother, no matter how much she tried to stay strong was a coward. She trembled like a kitten soaked in the autumn rain.
With a soft smile on her lips, she gave me a black box and told me: “Take your sister and leave the palace through this passage way. I instructed one of my most trusted guards to take you as far away from the Akutan Empire as possible. Once you are outside... live strong my child. Live for me as well and... be happy. Your mother loves both of you very much!”
She was crying that day, and I could hear the guards fighting outside. Mother had lost in her political battle and was now facing death at the hands of her family. She was a gentle woman, but also a bit of a coward and not that strong when it came political games. Mother picked Bishop Marconium Bassar as her trusted representative, or more like he was pushed onto her by her more crafty siblings.
In the end, the Bishop proved to be a failure and ended up causing a big loss for the empire in terms of trust and economic strength. He managed somehow to anger the Sarakus Kingdom and have them cut ties with us in the favor of the dragons. It was such a heavy blow that even the neighboring kingdoms were thinking of whether or not Akutan could still be considered a mighty empire.
I had no idea what happened on the Relliar Continent, but I knew that the Bishop was responsible for this mess and my mother's death. The only solace I had was in knowing that he had been killed already by the Sarakus forces.
After almost two years of running for our lives, we finally managed to settle down here, in a town far away from the empire, where no one knew us. Unfortunately, because we had been thrust into the life of a commoner, we didn't understand how to manage our money or how to sense someone's greed. We got tricked one too many times, and our only assets now were this shabby little house in the slums and the box mother left us.
After I made sure the doors and windows were closed, I walked up to the table and lifted a loose plank. From under it, I picked up the dirty black box and carefully opened it.
“Are you feeling homesick, brother?” sister asked me.
“Yes...” I said as I gazed down at the fruit of the Emperors, the Orange.
Note from the author: Thank you for reading this chapter, I hope you enjoyed it! Oh, and be sure to check out my other stories too!
That last POV practically summarised Seryanna's entire flashback, didn't it? But if I wrote it like that, you would have missed out on the fluffiness and an important piece in her character development. 😉 Among many other things. :))
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