Chapter 3:

Sympathy

Warground Kaleidoscope


Discrimination is heaven for revolutionists…

You couldn't radicalise 'fighting' without having a genuine and sincere motive first, which was why the thugs were robbing the Weapon Store. Since the first thing needed to start a war, was indeed…

"Don't touch my money!" The shop owner held his hand in pain after being disarmed with lethal force.

His droplets of red stained his sleeves…

"We're not here for your dirty money." When the old man saw the speaker, his jaw almost dropped.

It was an uncommon sight…

A man with two sets of ears. One human, and the other seemed to belong to a rat type species.

The animals ears were fully black, and didn't seem to have blood flowing through them like body parts.

And yet, it seemed too real to be a type of magic.

The shopkeeper had no explanation for this sight.

Only that he couldn't resist. The beast-like person before him nearly cut his tendons with his nails.

That speed also wasn't something human.

If he was worried about one thing, then that would be the distracted Investigator blasting her music.

Since he could hear the loud and heavy rock anthem from here. It was obvious they would too.

Though their focus was still on the robbery.

"Have over the Divine Points. You guys, take everything." Rather than the weapons themselves behind the glass, they aimed for the materials needed to create the Mystic Tools of this shop,

That, and anything else they could take.

The container with two Divine Points were quickly taken, as well as some 'Lesser Points' of other powers. To them, Divine Points were the most precious resource that they needed to take.

"Hey, you! Put your hands up!" Finally deciding to do something about the girl, one of the robbers called out to her. However, she seemed too be distracted by the music coming her the headset.

"Hey! I said put your hands in the air. You gotta death wish or something?" Seeing that they were going to provoke her rather than land a surprise attack, the shopkeeper could only sigh at himself.

At the very least, it wasn't the worse case scenario.

Some of these guys had Red Coloured Steel Blades on them, but they didn't look that strong to him.

The only one to worry about was the 'Rat Man'.

Those animal characteristics of the leader of this group seemed to give the man increased speed.

He was willing to bet he also had other physical enhancements on him, so he could only watch.

The shop owner hoped she would save him…

The thug with a red blade impatiently walked up to the red hooded girl and pulled it down rudely.

It revealed the girl leisurely listening to music.

"Hey…" The leader spoke to the thug, which caused him to stop: "Just do what's needed."

Tension started to form between the two.

"We were asked to rob this store. So-" Just as the man spoke up, another voice interrupted him:

"So you're planning on robbing me too?" The man's eyes widened when he saw Anya was asking.

The break-in was so loud, it would be weird if she didn't notice. If they had walked in and threatened the shopkeeper first, then perhaps she would've been unaware of what was happening around her.

'1, 2, 3, 4, 5…' She inwardly counted their numbers without even looking. Her eyes looked at the blade.

Now, there was only one question left.

Though it wasn't the one the thug answered:

"Yeah…" An honest look appeared on the man's face. Almost as if he wasn't suited for this job.

He seemed a little too… 'soft' on the inside.

Seeing this, Anya gave a polite smile in return:

"And you're a Fire Initiator? That blade perfectly suits you. It must have been a gift, right?" Seeing him blush and nod, she found that this guy didn't seem to be as bad as he looked on the surface.

It was just a pity…

"How did you know?"

"What's the hold up?!" Hearing his boss giving an angry roar, the man had no choice but to submit.

"Sorry… Anyway, if you already know what a Fire Initiator is, then you also know my what I do."

A flame of powerful Qi arose from his body before focusing into his hand. His hand had a ruby glow.

She knew this Basic Technique all too well…

[Combat Colour- Impact Red!]

"Wouldn't your girlfriend hate it if you started touching other girls? I'm telling~" She didn't fight back immediately. She may have had her back turned, but she noticed the Rat person's strength.

If she recklessly fought, there was a chance he'd take the old shopkeeper hostage in an instant.

She put her hands near her face 'fearfully'.

"She'd forgive me for this. I'm doing a respectable job, after all." The man put a hand on her shoulder.

Sweat dripped down her cheek…

Even an F Rank Fire Initiator was essentially a living bomb. With 'Impact Red', he could turn his hand into an explosive of a certain strength. It was enough to blow her shoulder apart if she resisted.

"Respectable? Aren't you robbing a store-?" Just when she went around the corner to have a good look at the 'Rat Man', she gasped. Complicated expressions appeared on her face all in an instant.

"Oh, him. You don't have to be scared. He isn't an Anima. That appearance is just because of his-"

"Stop talking!" The leader interrupted him.

"S-sorry…"

"You shouldn't talk when you're doing work."

"My bad."

"Hey… You all are from Old Faustus, right?" The moment Anya spoke, her cold tone took attention.

The leader seemed to realise something.

"You're from there too?" It was rare for people to call their home any place other than 'Slum City'.

"Just came here today."

"You can let her go. You… what's your name?"

The thug holding her shoulder stopped his technique, and professionally stood behind her.

If she tried anything, he would attack her.

"Anya. My name is Anya."

"Sounds familiar… Anyway, you already know why were robbing this joint. Do you want to help?"

"With what?"

"A revolution…! If they insist on trapping us there and making us fight to survive, then shouldn't we at least be armed? You know how much people are suffering there, right?" He tried to convince her.

The rat man had a sincere expression…

Maybe he truly believed he was making a difference. That he was starting a great revolution.

"You haven't thought things through." Her eyes were locked on his eyes while saying these words.

What she truly wanted to say was something else.

However, she couldn't control her mouth.

Hearing her blunt response, the other thugs seemed agitated and angry, but the rat man asked:

"What's wrong with what I just said?"

"Nothing..." Of course, it was the truth the Old Faustus became such a place after 'Hope' fell.

She didn't deny that they were in such a state that it would be right if they actively tried to rebel.

There was only one problem:

"…It's just that Old Faustus doesn't have the resources or people. When the 'Mage Association' realise citizens are looting, do you think they'd sit still and let a war happen?" She spoke with reason.

Anya hadn't experienced so much in vain…

"We… have our own faction that can finally protect us. Our families are suffering, we have to fight…!"

"With the remnants of the Steelware Military?" Her question caused them all to suddenly step away.

"How… do you know that?" The Rat Man looked at her with widened eyes. They now held animosity.

She couldn't be a 'normal' or powerless girl…!

Seeing that they were intimidated, Anya brazenly walked up to him. She had slow steps, but the leader almost seemed more fearful by her lack of fear. His instincts advised him not to fight…

After all, his enhanced hearing could hear a loud and heavy thud with each step she was taking.

This petite girl was lugging around something really heavy, but she was still walking just fine.

"Beast Within…" She spoke a name.

It made the thugs other than the leader confused.

"I-I don't know what gibberish you're saying." He turned away from her, but she shook her head.

"That's the name of the Combat Gift you're using right now. The ability to cage a 'Beast' within you."

"You know about his Anima?" The thug with a blade spoke, and the others just watched silently.

They couldn't speak due to her oppressive tone.

"Probably an E or F Rank at best. I'm guessing you went through a lot." She frowned with a sad look.

"You're right… To fight in Old Faustus, a lot of us chose to become freaks. You're a lucky one."

"Wouldn't call it 'lucky'…"

"I remember your name now… 'Anya Orchid', the Hero of the Slums… or of 'the Old', depending on who you ask. How noble of you. Are you going to tell us stealing is wrong? That we should do peaceful protests? Are we not doing that?"

"I know…"

"What DO you know?! I turned myself into a freak to protect my little sister, but when she saw me…"

"I know…"

"You don't know nothing?! Freaks like me are feared like we're living embodiment of disease and death. Who DOESN'T know the Extinction Virus came from Anima? And now… you're pitying me?"

He started to laugh. It was so ironic to him that she'd look at him like that. He had enough of it.

Just when he was about to lash out at her and attack, he suddenly felt a warmth on his hands.

A trickle of blood dripped onto her black clothes.

She held his hands.

Regardless of how grotesque and fearful others treated him before, one person held his hands.

Even injuring herself in the process of doing so.

What he felt from her, wasn't what he expected…

It was different from pity. There was no feeling of detachment in her eyes, nor did she hurt his pride.

It felt a bit more… 'warmer'.

How long had it been since someone held his hand? Since he hadn't been treated like a disease?

Even his biological sisters called him a 'Monster'…

His widened eyes looked at her injured hands in confusion, then started looking up to her face.

That look… was one that looked straight at him.

Still sad, but had the strength to push through anything with righteousness. It was a caring trait.

To worry about a robber and 'enemy' like him…

"I know…!" Anya held his hands firmer, looking as if she was scared he'd feel alone if she didn't.

His cold heart had been melted…

All the battle intent he'd racked up before he came here, all that built up hatred, was just washed out.

'How crazy…' The rat person thought. Wasn't she way too caring? If she stayed like this, then…

…maybe some heartless guy would con her?

"…Just put everything back. We're leaving." He wanted to leave. It was unlike him to shed tears.

"W-what? Wait-"

"Don't make me order twice!" His eyes turned animalistic in fury to beat down other emotions.

Acting angry was better than falling apart…

The thugs followed his orders.

"Now, can you let go of my hands?" Even when he said all that to her, she still had some business.

Even with scratched bleeding fingers, she held onto him. The most important thing to ask was:

"Who actually taught you the 'Beast Within' Combat Gift? General Ironheart had banned use of it. Don't you know what happens if you overuse your power? The Anima will kill or take control of-!"

"You think I don't know the dangers!"

"No, but…" Anya let go of his hands at once, then started to fidget while holding the cut on her hand.

She spoke with heartfelt determination:

"…I want to protect you."

It was an absurd thought. Someone as small as her protecting a large man… or big 'beast'… like him.

But he somehow felt convinced.

"Alright." Just as he was about to talk, the window broke apart. A grenade-like sphere headed at him.

Even with his enhanced reflexes, this ambush was too sudden. To him, there was no room to dodge!

Did the authorities catch onto him?

In that brief fraction of a second, he started to give up. For him, it was better to die than he taken in.

They couldn't let anyone know of this incident.

Dark energy started to converge around him.

However, he made a miscalculation. There was one really 'stupid' person who threw herself in front.

The purple sphere struck and attached to Anya's back, pushing her over in front of him as a result.

'This idiot…!' What was she planning?

"Run!" The sphere stuck on her beeped twice.

*Bzzzt!*

"Aaaargh!" Her body was electrocuted. The first shock was strong, then followed by a weak stream.

The latter was enough to keep her nerves numb.

On top of that, the purplish energy was stopping her from being able to muster any of her own Qi.

The former robbers didn't hesitate.

However, the exit was blocked off by the appearance of people who seemed like 'students'.

They each worked together like a proper team to push them into a corner, with a girl acting first.

A ponytailed girl with a lightsaber slashed at one of the thugs. Giving them no choice but to retreat.

The leader with a rat-like appearance immediately tried to rip the sticky taser off of Anya, but seemed to electrocute anyone who touched it. This gave him no choice but to drag her back by the hood.

He gathered his men to look at the exit. Only to see that the new people were entering through steadily.

It was a team of five.

The earlier one who entered first seemed like a swordsman, followed by a gunner holding a rifle, a scout and healer that accommodated the injured shopkeeper, and a guardian holding a shield.

That last one made a barrier in front of the shop owner, making his safety their top priority.

The female healer was working on his wound, and the scout looked like he would act if they attacked.

The only ones left was the swordsman and gunner.

However, they seemed kind of strong…

The rat person could distinctly 'sense' the E Rank energy signatures coming from their weapons.

Though somehow, their bodies lacked that Qi…

He recognised the cross-sword insignia on their chest. These kind of 'students' were making a name for themselves. In the large area of the Rosemary Expanse, they were the new enforcers.

Students of the Anti-Martial Academy…

"If you stand down. I promise to take you in without injuries, you… umm… are a person, right?"

The situation had just become a lot worse.

Momentie
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