Chapter 1: Humble Beginnings
Sounds of war ravaged the peaceful town of Varich.
It was a town that had prided itself in its excellent wine and alcohol, boasting one of the most scrumptious and delicious rum across the entire empire. It was a jubilant place where the populace was always in a constant state of happiness, though many are unsure of whether it was due to the influence of alcohol or if it was genuine happiness that stemmed from the residents.
However, in stark contrast to the typically joyous mood of the people, screams and cries of despair now reverberated through the dark, gloomy sky in the wee hours of the morning, reflecting the current situation of the ground below.
A great inferno tore through the village, as it proliferated, devouring everything in its wake, it left nothing behind but ashes and waste. Surrounding it were frenzied fires smaller in stature, but also burnt with undying vigour. Large stacks of smoke billowed, enveloping the skies above, dying it with a tinge of grey.
Flames crackled, horses neighed and soldiers marched. The discordant sounds of chaos and entropy worked together in a harmonious symphony of destruction. It was a massacre. A completely one-sided slaughter, where the unarmed and untrained villagers stood no chance in retaliation.
Amidst the ensuing mayhem, in a tiny house that laid on the outskirts of town, laid a man with his knees bent and hands gripping something tightly.
Behind him, long strands of jet-black hair unfurled placidly, like the surface of a tranquil lake. The hair that once grew without restraint, now remained still, drained of its vivacious life force. His smooth, round face that never held a single wrinkle, creased and folded into the pained countenance that plastered over his face. Streaks of tears flowed uncontrollably, leaving behind stains in the shape of rough lines and curves, ruining his wonderful complexion. One could easily tell that he led a relatively carefree life from his outer appearance.
But in contrast, his hands were coarse from the days, months and years spent on the fields. Countless hours poured into plowing and tilling the land in preparation for the annual harvest had resulted in the thick, rough calluses that encrusted the underside of his hand.
It was with these coarse hands did he hold the thin, frail girl within his grasp, not wanting her fading life force to leave her feeble body. Despite her thin and frail looking body, she had the face of an angel. Her long silver locks that intertwined in a spectacular and complicated manor gave her the impression of a foreign princess. She had a beautiful face and a pale complexion that lightened even further as her consciousness slowly slipped away. To a stranger, she’d probably look no different from a fairy.
“Why? Andromeda, why? Don’t go… Please don’t go… Don’t leave me alone… Please…”
The man, Aegeus cried out in grief. His muscular hands that wouldn’t have trembled under any weight now shivered and shook. With his slightly trembling hand, he gently swept the long bangs that covered Andromeda’s face to the side, before pulling her face closer to his body.
“Why! Why did this have to happen? Tell me, who’s did this?! Who did this?!”
He lost his home, his wealth and his livelihood. But it all paled in comparison to the loss of his beloved sister.
Memories of the time spent with his little sister pooled up in his mind. Gleeful times of when they chased each other by the riverside, splashing and spraying water at each other when they were supposed to be washing their clothes. To times when they played hide-and-seek amongst the tall, dense barberry bushes or challenging each other to who was able to eat the greater number of the red, bitter-tasting berries. It was blissful times when their uncle took care of them and showered them both with love and affection, be it through toiling in the fields in place of them or making ends meets, shielding them from the harsh realities of the world they lived in. However, since their uncle’s passing due to old age, they had to start picking up the various chores in the house. Before long, Aegeus was the one managing the fields and being the sole breadwinner of their house, while Andromeda managed the various household chores and maintenance of the house.
From then on, they lived frugally, being content with whatever they had at hand.
He knew inside that all material wealth lost could be regained. It was just a matter of time. But the times and memories made with his sister would forever be what they were. Forever unchanging, only to be forgotten.
And yet, “Promise me you won’t stay out too late, okay?” was the very last words he had heard from her.
Just hours before, Aegeus had left home with a jar in his hand under the guise of collecting some honey from his amicable neighbours. In actuality, he had instead gone out to the nearby meadow to catch fireflies as a special birthday gift for his sister. She had just turned 14 that night and yet she would never have the chance to lay eyes on those mystical creatures of the night that she had so yearned for.
However, on his way back from the meadow, huge grey clouds of smoke drifting in the indigo sky above caught his attention. It looked like it was coming from the village of Varich, sparking feelings of anxiety and worry in him.
He had no time to lose.
He charged forth through the thick undergrowth and into the pitch-black darkness before him. The next few minutes felt like an eternity to him as he sprinted back to the village. Even so, the sight the greeted him sent chills down his spine. A great fire roared as it swept through the town. It flickered and waved as it disintegrated whatever it got its fiery hold on.
What happened here? Is Andromeda safe?
Thoughts such is these flashed in his mind as it came up with possible explanations on what had transpired, each one worse than the last.
Badum! Badum! Badum!
His heart thumped, his mind raced. Without any further hesitation, he ran straight towards his home at the edge of town, anxiously hoping that Andromeda was unscathed.
But alas, that was not to be. When he arrived at the scene, the sight of the wooden roof and walls that he once called home charred and blackened raised the tension within him. Thick black smoke was also leaking from the various windows and doors of the house, insinuating that there were still remnants of the cinders burning inside.
Unable to withstand the swelling emotions inside him, he sped up once more and charged through the front door. He needed to confirm her safety.
“Cough. Cough. Andromeda, are you there? Are you alright?”
Aegeus asked frantically, whilst waving away the heavy smoke that permeated through the house. He turned his head left and right, searching for anything that resembled a human body, hoping that she was miraculously unscathed. As Aegeus desperately searched for Andromeda, he suddenly caught sight of a small opening in the smoke as it cleared, revealing a part of Andromeda laying on the floor, unmoving.
Aegeus immediately rushed over to her body, dropping the jar of fireflies that he had so painstakingly caught and gripped her shoulders tightly. He then gently shook her, before pulling her close to check her breathing. However, her exuberant spirit had already long left her feeble body. He was too late.
Knowing that the worst had occurred, he slowly relaxed his grip on her and started shivering. He was at a loss for words. He didn’t know what to say, nor did he know what he should do.
With the cacophony of shrieking and sputtering faintly occurring in the background, Aegeus could only pull her closer and wallow in anger and despair amidst the smoke and tar that plagued the surrounding air.
As he closed his eyes, praying for the better life that awaited his sister, footsteps gradually grew louder as they approached outside his home.
“I thought I saw someone running here. Looks like we found ourselves a loving couple! Or is it a pair of siblings?”
“Doesn’t matter as they’d both perish here anyway.”
Two soldiers, one lanky and the other stubby, intruded into Aegeus’ home. They were wearing long studded white pants and blood red shirts with a white ‘X’ across the chest. Alongside their white and red garments were the silver polished shoulder guards and fancy berets to complete the uniform. Looking at the defenseless state of Aegeus and his sister, the two of them drew their standard issue swords, with their facial expressions twisting into a condescending look.
The empire standards, that answers the question of who attacked us… I will absolutely make them pay for what they’ve done.
Written by: Emelia-Tan
Edited by: Schwarz13, Rogueclon946 and Mega14343
Proofread by: Yakult