Rose is running in the rain.
Not knowing where she’s headed, simply plunging heedlessly onwards.
Before she knew it, the rain had stopped, and she is in the middle of a forest.
Shafts of sunlight shine through the gaps of the rain-slicked leaves above.
Rose leans against a tree, trying to calm her breathing.
Various thoughts are racing throughout her mind. About her father, about her country, and about her own prospects……
Everything is getting jumbled together, throwing her heart into disarray.
Regardless of the reason, she is the criminal who murdered the king of Oriana Kingdom. She has no intention of denying it, and also no longer feels like running from the responsibility into death.
She had wanted to shoulder both the responsibility of killing her father and the responsibility of a princess.
But the burden is just too heavy.
The more she thinks, the more Rose shivers with anxiety.
Resolve, conviction, responsibility, pressure. All of these weigh so heavily on her.
She can still fight. She must continue to fight. However, what can a 17-year-old teenage girl do……
Rose buries her head between her knees.
She makes herself small, but cannot stop the trembling.
It is only when the sunlight has turn madder red that she can gather herself to some degree.
“I have to move……”
So says Rose, as if to make herself listen, while standing up.
She has no specific destination.
However, she has no other choice but to advance.
She begins walking while looking straight ahead. But at that moment.
“There are two options available to you.”
A beautiful voice suddenly calls out to her from behind.
Rose whirls around and sees an elf wearing a jet black dress.
Blond hair, blue eyes, an exquisite face that seems sculpted.
Alpha crosses her arms and smiles bewitchingly.
“You can either fight by yourself, or fight alongside us. Now choose.”
Rose’s enemy and Shadow Garden’s enemy is the same.
But just because their enemy is the same, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can fight together.
But it is true that her options are limited.
Her pursuers would probably be here soon. If she intends to fight alone, she would have to find a place to lay low for a while, maybe in the depths of some mountain…… no, maybe Lawless City is also worthy of consideration.
But right now, Rose is charged with the crime of regicide. Even if she enters Lawlse City, she could be chased by bounty hunters.
“Can you save Oriana Kingdom?”
“That depends on you. We currently have no reason to move for your sake. If you want us to save your country, prove your worth.”
“How much you are worth…… and how much Oriana Kingdom is worth……”
“If I prove it, you can save it……?”
“We have enough power to do so.”
Alpha’s replies are concise. She is merely laying out the choices available.
She does not sway Rose towards either, and neither does she offer a helping hand.
The choice is entirely up to Rose.
“…… Slayer-san…… I mean, Shadow, is he the head of your organization?”
The figure of when he saved the young Rose and fought against evil replays in Rose’s mind.
Then Rose chooses the path of believing in him.
“…… I swear to fight together.”
“Glad to hear it. We welcome you. Follow me.”
So says Alpha in an emotionless voice, turning to proceed deeper into the forest.
“Can I ask one thing?”
So asks Rose while following along behind.
“Who exactly is Shadow……”
He who possesses a strong heart of justice, having been fighting against evil even when young. He who possesses the overwhelming strength to defeat evil. The secret to his strength, his convictions, his upbringing; everything is a mystery. He is an existence entirely cloaked in mystery.
“If you wish to know, earn our trust.”
“If you prove yourself worthy of our trust, then someday it shall be revealed to you……”
Then the two wordlessly head deeper into the forest.
They are walking within a fog so thick that even sunlight cannot shine through.
“This place, could it be……?”
“Forest of the Abyss.”
It is a legendary forest, one which no one knows the location of. But all the stories say that the moment you walk in, you would never be able to come back out.
The fog is so thick that Rose is constantly in danger of losing sight of Alpha, even though she should be right ahead.
The thick, violet-colored fog charged with magic is throwing Rose’s senses off.
“This fog is dragon breath……”
Though there is the rare eyewitness report of these legendary creatures, there has been no recorded subjugation within the last hundred years or so.
“In the past, when He came upon this land, He had fought with the Dragon of Fog.”
“In His youth, though He was able to defeat the dragon, He was unable to kill it. So the dragon came to acknowledge Him, and exhaled a long breath for Him.”
So this fantastical violet-colored fog is a dragon’s breath……
“This fog is deadly poison.”
Rose’s body shivers.
“So don’t stray far from me. The moment you do, you will die.”
The two continue to proceed through the mist, until the world suddenly explodes with colors.
“This place is……”
Sunlight shines down upon a white, ancient-looking city.
“This is Alexandria, an ancient city once destroyed by the Dragon of Fog. This is our base.”
The ancient city Alexandria. Rose has seen the name come up on several ancient documents before.
But this city’s beauty is one that cannot be fully painted by words alone.
Expansive fields sprawl all around the city, growing a crop that Rose has never seen before. And there are numerous young girls vigorously harvesting those crops.
“They’re harvesting cacao. It’s what chocolate is made of. Eventually we’ll have you do that too.”
“That is chocolate’s…… wait, so Mitsugoshi Co. belongs to Shadow Garden?!”
Alpha merely smiles.
The market of chocolate is still monopolized by Mitsugoshi Co. No one knows what it’s made of, much less its production process.
The two pass through the city gates and into the castle.
In response to Alpha’s call, a single woman appears and kneels on one knee.
“Newcomer. Train her.”
“Yes, ma’am. As you command.”
“Firstly show us your strength. If it’s you, the path should open soon……”
After giving Rose these final words, Alpha walks off somewhere.
Only Rose and the woman named Lambda are left.
She is a dark-skinned elf with gray hair and golden eyes. Her tall stature and supple muscles can be seen even above her black bodysuit.
Her eyes are sharp, and her lips are plump.
“I am Instructor Lambda. Follow me.”
Rose follows Lambda, until they reach the back of the castle.
At this place, a great number of young girls are zealously training.
Rose can tell with a single glance. Everyone here is incredibly strong.
“Numbers 664, 665!”
Lambda’s shout causes two girls to dash over from the group.
One is an elf, the other is a therianthrope.
“Did you call for us, Instructor!”
The elven girl asks in a shout. The therianthrope girl is standing at attention beside her.
“This is a newcomer. She’ll be joining your squad.”
“Number 666, undress.”
Rose cannot understand what was just asked of her.
“Number 666 is you. Here, your name is a number.”
“I, am Number 666……”
“Don’t make me repeat myself!”
The next instant, Rose’s clothes are sliced to tatters.
It took only a split second.
Rose’s naked body is exposed.
“Wh-, what did?! Eh?!”
Rose crouches down while covering herself with body hands.
“From today onwards, you are a maggot. You are no longer anyone. Discard your name! Discard your clothes! Discard everything, and become a single soldier!”
Then a black mass is thrown at Rose’s feet.
It is a black slime that bounces with a poyoyon.
“Number 664! Teach this maggot how to use it.”
“Nn? What’s this?”
From the remains of Rose’s clothes falls out a small piece of paper.
Instructor Lambda picks it up, and thrusts it before Rose’s eyes.
That is the present that Rose had received from Sid. The wrapping paper from MagRonald.
That instant, the feelings for him that she had been suppressing in her heart overflows.
He was her very first love.
They fought in a match, he saved her live during the terrorist incident, and they went on a trip together.
Her irreplaceable, precious memories.
Just a mere week ago, Rose had been dreaming of being married to him for the rest of her life.
But Rose can no longer return.
Their paths have diverged, and will never cross again.
“What’s with that face? I told you to discard everything!”
The wrapping paper is further sliced into shreds before her eyes.
The scraps are carried by the wind, flying high into the sky.
Just like ashes of a dream forevermore lost to her……
A large tear falls from Rose’s eye.