Chapter 1:

Wishing Upon A Grave

Warground Kaleidoscope

"Mom…" The one word of the black-haired girl held intimacy, but also sounded melancholic to the ear.Bookmark here

Her red highlights was like the blood of what was supposed have bled from the monsters recently slain behind her. Fortunately, their stench only lasted for a time as short as her current haircut.Bookmark here

A fringe hung near her listless right eye…Bookmark here

The little red riding hood was cold this snow-filled winter night, but she didn't seem to wear much.Bookmark here

It almost seemed like she was a ghost…Bookmark here

The only thing that made her seem 'real' was the resulting slaughter and her smoky cold breath.Bookmark here

A red hood and cape draped around her dress-like hunter outfit. Liking one particular colour indeed.Bookmark here

It had been years since she had finally become a young adult. One with a good amount of savings.Bookmark here

She could retire from service. There wasn't a need for her to go 'hunting' anymore for these creatures.Bookmark here

However, even if she stopped here, they would continue to exist, and continue to haunt her.Bookmark here

No… They would continue to 'haunt' humanity.Bookmark here

These residents of the dead… Even if they killed millions, the numbers would only grow with time.Bookmark here

Someone like her was needed to protect Earthland.Bookmark here

Or else, wouldn't they eventually be overrun?Bookmark here

The girl glanced behind her. Those undead 'wolves' that had appeared also nearly ruined this grave.Bookmark here

If it wasn't for her getting here in time, then the final resting place of {Anya Orchid} would've broke.Bookmark here

She wouldn't have been able to ignore such a tragedy. It was to the point her mother seem to have a certain… 'attraction' to bad luck. The way she died also seemed to strange in many aspects.Bookmark here

After going AWOL and being missing from the grid for years, her body was found in the streets of the Slum City. That place with broken houses and barely any relief coming from the upper regions.Bookmark here

Since it was closer to the epicentre of 'Anima Break', there were rumours she had been fighting.Bookmark here

That the former prodigy of Hope Academy hadn't ran away. That she had been hunting all this time.Bookmark here

But this red hooded girl knew better…Bookmark here

Her mother would never lose to an Anima. Bookmark here

No matter how strong or ferocious they were, her mother was someone who made creatures cower.Bookmark here

Running when hearing of the 'Rosemary Reaper'.Bookmark here

Amy's white scythe became known as the symbol of 'Executioners'. The highest rank in the army…Bookmark here

'I wish the others were with me…' She thought while putting a heavy canister down in front of her.Bookmark here

There were a lot of people she missed…Bookmark here

…but the most prominent was her 'team'.Bookmark here

As a member of Hope Academy, which was once the most prominent school in the entire world, it wasn't strange they made 'teams' to teach cooperation. Hers was… a bit odd in retrospect.Bookmark here

A former heiress to a company, someone who was ostracised for being different, her sister, and her.Bookmark here

They were a team that couldn't be beat.Bookmark here

However, everyone had to grow up one day. It wasn't like they could stay students forever.Bookmark here

Especially when 'Hope' fell…Bookmark here

They were forced to take up arms, becoming stronger for the sake of protecting what was left.Bookmark here

It was in her travels around the world that her team had met 'that man'. The one who trained them.Bookmark here

If it weren't for him, their mentor, all of life would have been destroyed, with no hope of resurrection.Bookmark here

She remembered him as an almost omnipotent man. Remembering how he'd slain even myths.Bookmark here

He was thus codenamed: The 'Calamity Crusher'.Bookmark here

The one who'd slain catastrophes with his fist.Bookmark here

While reminiscing, she made a small but sincere wish this New Years. One coming from within:Bookmark here

'Please… Please… Let me see them again.' She joined hands in prayer in the middle of nowhere.Bookmark here

Suddenly, her phone started to ring…Bookmark here

Putting on the hood to cover her face, she quickly answered it in case there was an emergency.Bookmark here

This line wasn't supposed to be used casually…Bookmark here

"What's up?" Unlike her previous tone, her voice took on a subtle playfulness she was familiar with.Bookmark here

The man on the other end didn't mind though:Bookmark here

"It's been a long time, Anya."Bookmark here

"Call me Crescent Crimson"Bookmark here

"What's the need for codenames between us~?"Bookmark here

"I don't remember us being that 'close'."Bookmark here

"Wasn't I your Headmaster at Hope Academy?"Bookmark here

"That place was burned down by Anima. Now it's surroundings is called a 'city without any hope'."Bookmark here

"You're at Slum City now…?"Bookmark here

"Don't call it that!”Bookmark here

"You're right. My bad. Don't get angry at me for this. The place has way too many Anima to handle."Bookmark here

"Isn't that why Executioners like me are constantly culling them? Why don't you talk to the General-?"Bookmark here

"You know he wouldn't do anything help. He isn't willing to sacrifice so many without a plan to conquer the area. We left that place for a good reason. Now put it down." He interrupted her with a voice deeper than anything he had spoken before.Bookmark here

"…Mom wouldn't leave the people here to die."Bookmark here

"That's funny…" He snickered, causing her to start trembling. The snow beneath her feet was melting.Bookmark here

"What do you mean…?" But she played it cool.Bookmark here

"The 'Rosemary Reaper', a proud prodigy of the Rosemary Expanse of the Middle Region, was found in an alleyway of that… 'place'. She died from a simple stab wound and bled out. The location of the injury… was on her back." He spoke with intent.Bookmark here

It was a theory she had heard about a lot.Bookmark here

"There's nothing proving it was the people of Faustus City. They wouldn't do things like this."Bookmark here

"You have a lot of faith in them, but don't get the name wrong. Faustus City moved to the Higher Regions; away from all the fighting. The Lower Region doesn't even deserve to be a 'city' now."Bookmark here

"It's not… a slum."Bookmark here

"You can deny reality, but that changes nothing." Bookmark here

"Fine… I'm hanging up now."Bookmark here

"Wait, I have something to talk-!"Bookmark here

"There's some materials here in the 'Slum City' if you're desperate for them. I've left an extracted canister of 'Nether Points' here, so give more relief for this place. Make it into a proper 'City'." This time, it was HER chance to interrupt the man.Bookmark here

"…How much?"Bookmark here

"10,034 Points."Bookmark here

"Phew…" The sound of him taking a deep breath could be heard from the other end of the line.Bookmark here

The amount she saved up was ridiculous…Bookmark here

"Now, is there anything else?"Bookmark here

"I'm willing to accept the investment you're making here. I have one condition." He recovered from it.Bookmark here

"You mean… The reason why you called?"Bookmark here

"Ding ding ding~ Right answer!"Bookmark here

"And if I disagree?"Bookmark here

"I'll throw out another bait. Which is… I'm making a new training Academy in the Rosemary Expanse."Bookmark here

"That's not good bait…"Bookmark here

"You're not feeling interested? The condition I'm giving is that you act as a guardian of sorts. All you have to do is deal with any 'incidents' where Anima appear. For you, that should be a simple job."Bookmark here

"I can protect them better if I'm here." She spoke while glancing at the now disintegrating corpses.Bookmark here

After a certain amount of time. the Anima would vanish. She was glad clean-up was so easy.Bookmark here

Since the 'Nether Qi' within them had already been extracted, there wasn't any way in letting them go.Bookmark here

Most importantly, operating in a danger zone was better for someone of her calibre. It didn't make sense to pull her from here when the Superior Magic Investigation Unit (SMIU) worked there.Bookmark here

They had enough Executioners to keep the Rosemary Expanse protected. So why 'bait' her?Bookmark here

"Anyway, I think I heard my mom calling me."Bookmark here

"Wait!"Bookmark here

"What now…?"Bookmark here

"That wasn't the bait. I know you're certified Combat Engineer. You even developed the strongest Mystic Tool used for slaying Anima by yourself. That's why… you HAVE TO come here."Bookmark here

"Come on~ What's there that I can't get here?"Bookmark here

"New.Magic.Technological.Advancement!"Bookmark here

"I'm listening…"Bookmark here

"That's the bait I'm throwing."Bookmark here

"Huh? W-what about the technology!?"Bookmark here

"Come here and find out."Bookmark here

"W-wait, what's this Academy called?"Bookmark here

"You'll find it easily… Unlike the now fallen Hope Academy, this 'Anti-Martial Academy' won't fall."Bookmark here

"How are you so sure…?" She wasn't able to ignore the confidence in her former Headmaster’s voice.Bookmark here

The one who’d seen the picture of despair ‘that day’. He wouldn’t naively rely on false hopes.Bookmark here

"The next generation are destined to surpass the old as 'Magi'. A new curriculum has been made solely to train new 'Dragoons'. All of them will be of the D Rank." Her eyes widened at this response.Bookmark here

What was D Rank?Bookmark here

In terms of sheer 'Qi Capacity', she was only at the E Rank. Still far away from being at the very top.Bookmark here

Once you reached the D Rank Qi Capacity, a whole new world would be opened up in terms of combat.Bookmark here

It's something Hope Academy students strived for while nurturing their talents. Which made it insane!Bookmark here

Was he saying the average soldier would be stronger than her? Were there THAT many talents?Bookmark here

"…How?" The moment Anya asked, the call was cut off from his side. She felt like he got one over her.Bookmark here

It made her curious…Bookmark here

The 'Hero of the People' was as legendary as her mentor, the now legendary 'Calamity Crusher'. Bookmark here

If she knew anything about that old fox, Celest Vagabond, then he was probably the Headmaster of this new Academy, and he was probably making himself seem amazing despite being an 'antique'.Bookmark here

Unlike her respected mentor, who was constantly growing stronger, Celest just stayed at the back.Bookmark here

He stopped participating in subjugations and hunts after forming the Mage Association by himself.Bookmark here

This was despite still having a young face even now. The appearance he had was unexplainable.Bookmark here

'Does it have to do with his Innate Gift?' Was what she speculated, but the government hadn't confirmed anything. Regardless, since she worked as an Executioner for the Mage Association, then it's probably not her business to judge a superior.Bookmark here

Nothing good would come out of defying him…Bookmark here

…so should she accept the 'bait' he threw?Bookmark here

What he said was interesting, but she knew better than to be swayed by a few words like that.Bookmark here

Her mission was saving people, not being a tech geek like she had been back in the old days.Bookmark here

It was better to ignore what he said.Bookmark here

If there really were D Rank Superior Dragoons being nurtured there, then good for them.Bookmark here

She had a thousand different ways of finding out what he was talking about from where she was.Bookmark here

And that wasn't the most important point.Bookmark here

Objectively speaking, she could protect far more people if she hunted down the Anima living here.Bookmark here

It was because Anima tended to gather together when hunting their prey. They didn't 'eat' Humans.Bookmark here

Their only motive was to extinguish life…Bookmark here

Since Anima didn't know hunger or tiredness, it wasn't like there hadn't been 'stampedes' before.Bookmark here

To put things simply: His bait was useless.Bookmark here

There was no way someone as independent as her would return to being just a soldier in the rear.Bookmark here

The kaleidoscope of battlefields were right here.Bookmark here

Here, she was truly a 'Hero' saving the innocent and weak. Everything was much simpler…Bookmark here

Only… it looked like he'd guessed her reaction.Bookmark here

Anya’s phone started ringing again.Bookmark here

She wondered whether or not she should pick it for a moment. After all, Celest was an annoying guy.Bookmark here

There was too little she knew about him as well.Bookmark here

If it was General Ironheart of the Steelware Military instead, then she might have been convinced…Bookmark here

Still, it wasn't like she could ignore this line…Bookmark here

Emergencies had to be dealt with immediately. It wasn't up for debate. She HAD TO pick up.Bookmark here

Anya accepted the call again…Bookmark here

"What's up?" She said in the same tone as before.Bookmark here

It was an accident. Just a force of habit. Even feeling embarrassed that she'd reacted like this.Bookmark here

"There's one more bait I'll throw in for you."Bookmark here

"Which is?"Bookmark here

"If you do well, I'll tell you where your mentor is. I'm already getting in touch with your former teammates as well. Don't try getting his location out of me. He's a protected citizen. Well… Bye~!"Bookmark here

The phone was hung up once again.Bookmark here

This time, she silently turned to walk away. Since her wish came true, it was fine to pay a price.Bookmark here

She touched the rectangular folded weapon on her waist, then started to head towards 'the expanse'.Bookmark here

It was gonna be a long walk…Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.