Dark clouds covered the sky and the vast grassland under it was painted red with blood. Dead bodies, broken weapons and machineries were scattered about. It was no better than a massacre.
Amongst this land of cold bodies, stood a man donning a bloody armor. This last man standing stared aimlessly; his eyes locked to the clouds, his silver hair slightly obscuring the view. He remained still and quiet as if the mountain of flesh around him was merely a distraction.
For him, it was Tuesday. After all, he was responsible for this bloodbath. The smirk on his face spoke the satisfaction the slaughter brought him, growing into a psychotic grin as a drop of blood trickled down his forehead.
Just how many more lives shall his blade claim till he is satisfied?
Suddenly, the thunderous roar of a thousand gallops was fast approaching. The smile on his face contorted into a scowl, his red eyes shifted to the direction of the sound. From there, he saw flags raised towards the dark sky, five hundred men on horseback rallying below and they didn't look friendly to him.
Those flags were the same as the one he was stepping on. Looking from afar, he readied himself. Nary a flinch, he tilted his head, an arrow whizzing straight by his jaw. Glancing upwards, he realized that a hundred burning arrows were raining down towards him. Gripping tightly on the hilt of his long sword, his body shook not from fear, but from extreme excitement.
It was time for another bloodbath.
Not giving a second to reconsider, he charged forth towards his enemies. He swung his blade wildly, batting the arrows aside before they could touch him. The fires they bore instead ignited the battlefield around, setting it ablaze.
The winds swept through those fiery fields, aggravating their wrath. Two armies were set to collide, an army of five hundred, and an army of one. Their war would begin in this ruined and bloodied battlefield, till only one shall rise above the other.
And so it began.
Clangs of weapons clashing echoed between the cries of battle. He was but one man, yet the army seemed to be fighting a hundred barbarians. His attacks reckless, heavy and quick; his movements too fast and random, he was impossible to follow, impossible to predict. Running circles around the soldiers, hysterical laughter escaped his lips as one man fell with every swing of his sword. With horses toppling over, agonizing screams replaced the triumphant battle cries. It was nothing more than music to his ears.
To take on five hundred men after taking down God knows how many more; such was the strength he beheld. Even so, everyone had their limits, and he was no exception. He could feel himself slowing down. Sooner or later, he may just fall over and get himself killed. Thus, he couldn't relent. His rampage would rage on till everyone was dead.
The only thought that kept him going was, "Kill everyone until your last breath!"
And so the war continued, soldiers dying one after another.
He couldn't tell how much time had passed till only one soldier stood before him. That man, despite his allies falling before his very eyes, glared at his foe intensely, his weapon raised. He knew he never stood a chance against the monster before him, but after surviving this far, there was no way he could back out. Screaming with all his might, he ran straight ahead and...
That man bit the dust.
The man pulled his sword out from his final opponent, a grin plastered on his bloodied face. As the last man standing, he raised his sword toward the heavens. Not only was his armour and weapon stained a crimson red, his face, arms and legs were drenched in blood, yet not even a scratch was etched on him. It wasn't a battle, it was carnage.
And his name was Enzel Venera— that was the name of the warrior that shall be written on the pages of history.
This was the pinnacle of his time, the greatest fighter of his era; the most formidable warrior that ever existed. This battle would become the hallmark that proved his worthiness of the title of the strongest. His glory would shine for eons to come; his legacy shall be passed from generation to generation. He was second to none. He was famous throughout the lands. He was even hailed as a God. He was-
He was dying.
Enzel staggered along the streets of a certain town he couldn't remember visiting as his glory days ran through his mind. Located near a forest, the town's entrance had an arch with a sign that spelled "Renner". Having entered without a second thought, he hadn't a clue what kind of town it was; warding off starvation was his only concern.
Who would have thought within those three years after the end of a war, he would turn into this poor state? He walked aimlessly, thin arms hanging down like vines. Slouching like he held the weight of a planet on his back, his head was merely half a meter from touching the ground and his weakened, shaking legs threatened to give out with every step he took.
His parched lips could barely utter a word. To add to his misery, the scorching heat of the sun penetrated through his shriveled, dirty skin. Sweat trickling down his head; though he guzzled down litres of water from a river he happened upon, his throat dried out immediately.
As he went further in, the people he passed were looking at him with either fear or disgust. His tattered clothes certainly left an unpleasant impression. Despite the loathsome looks he received, Enzel couldn't care less. After all, those lifeless eyes couldn't see well anymore.
"Food... Hungry... Water..."
He kept muttering those words, but his wishes fell on deaf ears. To the denizens, he was but a pebble by the street. Footsteps faltering slower and slower; his emaciated body, seen through the collar of his shirt, was soon to collapse.
He was already knocking on heaven's door, but would heaven even let him in?
Eyes squinting, he hoped to find leftovers inside garbage cans by the alleys. However, with every step, his body kept weakening until he tripped over a small stone. The resulting thud was as quiet as a whistle. The silver-haired man was laying face first against the blazing grounds.
His sudden fall certainly did not go unnoticed. Some shrieked in terror, while others, for some reason, were hastily making their escape. None of them seemed ready to find help for the man standing between life and death.
This was it for him.
He couldn't lift his body anymore. He couldn't even feel his arms as he remained lying beneath the streaking glare of the afternoon sun. Even so, he paid no mind to the heat.
"Huh... So this is where Enzel Venera falls. I killed so many people back in my days as the strongest mercenary to live. I was an icon. Everyone admired me. Everyone was friends with me. Everyone respected me. I was second to none..."
Vision fading to black, he struggled to accept his fate.
"To think that I'd die of starvation. At least let my final moments be bathed in blood or in the heat of battle. Anything but this god-awful death."
He turned his head to the right so he could at least see the last place he would gaze upon before his final breath; all so he'd remember where he died. And it was nothing, but a small establishment with a single hinge door on its left and a large display window on its right. As he glanced at the said structure, his eyelids slowly shut themselves.
And everything went black.
As luck would have it, someone opened that door, possibly alerted by the screams around Enzel. Coming out from the door, he heard the voice of a young lady.
"What's with the commotion? Did someone-" She gasped. "Oh my god, a corpse! Hmm..."
Enzel felt soft and warm hands touched the back of his head.
"Performing appraisal. Item: human carcass. Condition: alive. Quality: low. Estimated price: twenty blueriels. Uhh... With this quality and price, I doubt this will sell. Guess I'll bring it to manager anyway. Maybe we could still make use of it."
The strange voice speaking like a machine would be the last sound he would take into the afterlife or so he thought.
+ + + + + + +
Chapter 1: Unexpected Company
"Hey!" A familiar feminine voice awakened Enzel's consciousness.
"Wake up!" is what it said, but ordering Enzel to do this was like telling a rock to speak. He was well aware that he departed to the afterlife which meant no more good mornings for him. The final moments he had on the street were enough evidence and he already reluctantly accepted this. Perhaps it was an angel who descended to pick him up.
The gates of heaven accepted him after all.
"Hey! Open your eyes!" It was really close as if whispering right to his ear. He searched for it, but no angel could be found.
"Wake up!" It uttered the same words, growing louder every time it spoke. Why does she insist on waking up Enzel? Was she really an angel taking him in or a necromancer trying to raise him from the dead?
"Who are you?" He asked. "Why do you keep telling me to wake up?!"
The angel simply ignored him and said the same thing. "Wake up!" No way he could just open his eyes and stand up like a normal, living human and yet she pestered him to do so.
"Show yourself!" He yelled, but he only got another "Wake up!" There was even a point when it shouted the words ten times. He was getting annoyed by the minute.
"Stop telling me to wake up! I'm already dead! Are you here to annoy me or is 'Wake up!' the only sentence you know!?" Enzel's patience was being tested.
"How about you open those rotten eyes of yours so you can tell who you're talking to instead of sleep talking like an idiot?! You're still alive for god's sake!" She finally answered albeit harsh and it surely conveyed the same feelings Enzel had all this time.
His shut eyes squinted. "You telling me I'm still alive? Don't screw with me! Why don't you send me to heaven already! Didn't you come here to take my soul?"
"Ah you want me to take your soul huh!" Seemed like this angel only knew swearing other than "Wake up!". "Fine! Since you really want to die that much, I'm gonna freaking send you to hell! Go rot there for all I care!"
"The fuck did you say!?" Enzel groaned by the sudden change of plans. He was losing his composure every time she talked back. Taking a deep breath, he shouted angry words at the obnoxious angel.
"Don't fuck with me, you shitty angel!"
"Enjoy your stay in hell, war freak!"
A mad scream echoed throughout the room as a fist dropped onto Enzel like a giant iron pillar-a sure-fire wake-up move that pulled him out of his eternal slumber. Tears squirted from his eyes, snot shot out of his nostrils and saliva flew out of his mouth. The pain kicked in and he was about to lose consciousness again, but managed to hold onto it. The heavy punch pressed onto his body like a meteor crashing, slowly trying to split his body into two.
Then there was silence, smoke coming out of the fist that was still connected to Enzel's body. The killer knuckle pulled back and Enzel coiled up in pain-He felt like throwing up. Even he could handle a lot of physical attack like that; even a flurry of it, but that one just now was way too powerful for a single punch. It didn't come off as done by a human, but more like by a god trying to obliterate his existence. Lucky for him, he survived it.
Then he paused. As much as how baffling it was, he noticed and knew it. He could see, feel, and move. He couldn't believe it first, but he was indeed alive just like the angel said. Not as an undead, but as a breathing human. Not only that, but his body also didn't feel weakened. All the pain and scorching heat faded away along with his thought of going to hell. Lady luck was smiling upon him today. Perhaps that move was a healing spell that just required a bit of pain.
He thought he'd jump in joy from avoiding death, but there was another thing coming for him which led to another question. "What in the world happened to me and where am I?"
As the deadly wake-up call ceased, Enzel lifted his body, dusted himself, and then looked around. He found himself sitting on a dented couch. A few meters away from him was a shelf filled with books. As for what kind of books they were, he couldn't tell-seemed like his eyes were still not at their full functionality.
He turned to his left and a woman stood before him. She had a young face, probably around her twenties and had an average stature. Her short white hair adorned with a headband with braids tied at the back fluttered along the wind coming from the window behind Enzel. With her folded slender arms, her blue eyes stared him down.
"Great... He lived... Yay... Thank god..." The woman celebrated, but her apathetic voice and expression didn't match her sentence.
Enzel examined her from head to toe. There was something about this woman that made him remember his past. He definitely saw her face before. He tried digging into his brain, but he couldn't get the right image, much less the name.
"You can now bow down and thank me for saving your sorry ass." She proclaimed with a smug, her voice resembling the one in Enzel's mind. So it was just an ordinary woman, but her face was angelic or so he thought.
"Y-You saved me? W-who are you?" Enzel asked like an amnesiac.
"Why yes I did." She placed her right hand on her chest. "My employee saw you dying and brought you here."
"You." Enzel pointed to the woman. "You looked like someone I know."
"Oh?" The woman smirked. "I wonder who that person could be." Placing her hands on her waist, she continued. "Could it be someone you know in a certain mercenary guild? Someone you bullied a lot and treated like trash? Someone who you see as a weakling and a burden? Are you perhaps recalling someone like that?"
The hints didn't even light up a bit of Enzel's dim memory. The woman delighted in looking at him racking his brain. Enzel's amusing struggle continued until finally coming to an answer. He stirred up in excitement and stood up before the woman.
"I remember you now!" Enzel shot a glance at the woman. "You're Hazel Brazzer!"
The woman swung a karate chop, aimed at Enzel's face. "It's Rachel Mariner, asshole!" Small cracking sounds were heard as it landed on his right cheek. It sent him flying towards the brick wall near the shelf hitting it headfirst, blood splattered around. It was merely a chop yet it had that same effect as the punch before.
Rachel looked down at the beaten up man in ire; Enzel's head down whilst his butt up.
"Do you remember now, you dumb piece of shit?!" She snarled. She wasn't an angel at all, but a demon from the darkest pits of hell.
Enzel slowly rose, holding on to the wound on his forehead, then turned around, darted his red eyes to Rachel and scanned her again, trying to picture the image of the woman he knew back then.
"So you're that Rachel? As in that Good-For-Nothing Mariner? The weakling mage?"
Rachel fists flew towards Enzel's chest, rendering him kneeling and coughing.
"Say something like that again and I'll break your neck next!" Rachel was dead serious that even Enzel could feel her bloodlust.
"I... Get... I... it... Urk! I'm... so...rry..."
Rachel clicked her tongue. "If it wasn't for my employee finding you, I would be having my afternoon tea and reading time right now."
Enzel slowly returned to the couch and rested his back as he does heavy breathing with mouth wide open. Rachel sat on the other couch across him and scorned the man. A glass table separated them.
"For starters, why don't you eat instead of running your pie hole?" Rachel gestured her hand to the table wherein Enzel's eyes followed. His face showed antipathy as he laid his eyes on a bowl.
"Uhm... Ms. Mariner?" Enzel called.
"What is it?" Rachel had a suspiciously bright smile on her face.
"You know I hate squid, right?"
"Oh my!" Rachel gasped, covering her mouth with her hands. "I didn't know that. I didn't even expect that the great Enzel Venera was afraid of squid or any creatures with tentacles in general."
"Stop screwing with me!" Enzel slammed his hands on the table. "You know damn well how much I despise squid or any living monster similar to it! You did this on purpose!"
"You mean scared, right?" Rachel sneered. "What a laughable phobia you have. Don't worry, it won't kill you. Eat it or I'll shove it in your stomach through your bottom."
"Thanks for the meal." Enzel quickly scoffed the bowl filled with squid swimming in warm soup. Rachel merrily watched the man gobbling his meal. It tasted good, but knowing it was the type of creature he abhorred, it wasn't a satisfying meal.
+ + + + + + +
Enzel's stomach voiced its satisfaction, but he looked like he was about to throw up. "I admit it was delicious, but I really hate squid. I think my stomach is turning."
"Well?" Rachel crossed her legs. "I believe I should be expecting something you must say?"
Enzel knew what Rachel was implying and what he had to say, but his pride prevented him to do so. However, the fact that she saved him and remembering his past with her just gave a regretful feeling.
He eventually gave in and bowed down. "I hate to admit it, but you saved my life. Thank you very much."
"And?" Seemed like gratitude wasn't the only thing Rachel was asking for.
Enzel sighed, still bowed down. "I'm sorry for all the bullying I did to you five years ago. I know it's pointless to ask for it now, but I hope you can find in your heart to forgive me."
"Still a dick, I see," Rachel's loathing slowly switched to euphoria. "But seeing you doing this puts me in a good mood! The great Enzel Venera is bowing down before me! Oh what bliss!"
"Are you happy now?!" His pride was completely shattered. Not like he had any left.
"Never been this happy." The smile on Rachel's lips almost reached her ears. She then proceeded to probing the dirty man. "Still what's with the filthy look? You're a walking smelly shit. I don't care what happened to you after our guild disbanded, but my guess is that you wasted all your fortune on pointless things without even taking a new job."
"It's not like I was fooling around." He scratched his silver hair. "It was just hard for me to get a new profession. That's all."
"As expected of a battle freak like you," Rachel snickered, "nothing, but fighting in his mind. But if you really love fighting that much, why didn't you apply as an adventurer? That fits you to a T and it's the in-demand profession nowadays."
Enzel rejected the idea. "I don't want to. I have my reasons."
"Ah still attached to the mercenary life, I see." Rachel scoffed. "What a prideful scum."
"Cut out the insults already, will you!?" Enzel's patience was being tested. "And what about you? You've completely changed in both personality and appearance."
He remembered the days he was with Rachel. Back then, she was shy, naive, and as he stated, weak. He briefly recalled her unable to cast even the most basic spell. But now, she was aggressive, violent and sharp-tongue-almost sadistic.
Not only her character, but Enzel also noticed the change in Rachel's appearance. The young girl with long white hair who used to don a robe and witch hat now wore sleeveless top that exposed her armpits, short skirts that only covered half of her thigh whereas a pair of stockings covered the rest of her legs. A pair of high-heeled boots completed Rachel's getup. The Rachel he was looking at now gave off a very different aura. She was astonishing even for Enzel.
"Compared to you, I changed for the better of myself." Rachel was filled with pride. "I made the best out of those five years and this is how I am now-a successful businesswoman!"
Enzel asked with a bored look. "And what kind of business?"
"You're curious eh? Can't help it then." Rachel puffed her chest. She then stood up, proceeding to the door. "Follow me and I'll rub on your face the fruits of my labor."
Shrugging, Enzel followed and stepped out of the door. The door, which was few meters to the left of the shelf, led to a larger room. Enzel found himself in a place filled with different sorts of items—weapons, armors, accessories, treasures, decorations, materials and many more. He looked around in awe.
"You own a shop?" He asked while looking around.
Rachel turned around to Enzel and spread her arms. "Welcome to Renner Emporium and Crafting Company. Oh it's not just a shop," She pointed her right thumb to another door to the left. "We also have our own workshop. I've been managing this place with my two workers ever since I left that bloody guild for good."
Looking at her right now, Enzel felt a surge of envy. He wondered if he could have been this successful too if he didn't fritter away. He continued touring his eyes around the store to hide the feeling in case Rachel started poking fun at him again. "Good for you, I guess. Not like I care."
Rachel raised an eyebrow whilst sniggering. "It feels so good being successful in life then seeing someone you resent so much turned into a sucker. Really, I'm tickled pink looking at your penurious state."
"Then why did you even save me?!" Enzel retorted. "Didn't you hate me?!"
"I do hate you and that will never change." Rachel folded her arms. "Did you think I'll forgive you that easily?! After all the bad treatment you bastards in the guild did to me in the past?! No way will I get over those!"
Talking it out or defending himself was futile now. Enzel was well aware that he was guilty for mistreating Rachel. Nothing he could do, but shut his mouth. "Just let her rant."
Then from a scowl, Rachel unexpectedly beamed. "To tell you the truth, I was thinking of throwing your body into the forest, but I feared you might damage the ecosystem of the poor creatures there. So I resorted to plan B and thought of throwing you to the sea, but the possibility of the fishes getting an upset stomach if they ever eat you concerned me so I decided to just heal your rotting body so you can go to some wasteland and die there instead."
"You!" Having enough of Rachel's jabs, Enzel snapped. "You know, that tongue of yours is way too sharp! Ever thought of cutting it?"
"You know, you are a waste of oxygen. Ever thought of offing yourself?" Rachel's cold glare pierced Enzel. He threw his hands in the air as a sign of surrender. "Fine, you win! I'm alive and kicking now so I'll scram for good! That would make you happy, right?"
"It's good to know we're on the same page." Rachel pointed to the door behind her. "Exit's over there."
"I really hate you." Enzel shot one last jeer before taking off. "I hate you more than squids."
"The feeling's mutual." Rachel crossed her arms. "I hate you more than my parents."
The two continued butting their heads, not noticing the door slowly opening until the chime jingled. The sound immediately diverted their attention to the entrance where five persons, who wore a variety of equipment, entered the store's vicinity.
"I'm sorry customers, but the store's currently on lunch break-" Rachel stopped upon realizing something, leading to a suspicious look. "How did you get in? That was locked."
"That doesn't matter" An enrobed guy spoke, pulling out a staff. "Anyway, open the register and give us the money."
"Hey, hey! You blokes are adventurers, right?" Enzel pitched in. "Don't tell me you don't get enough payment that you resorted to robbery?"
The guy wielding the staff turned to Enzel. He seemed to be the leader as the other four followed when he ordered them to spread out. "Who is this dirty lowlife?"
"You looking for a fight, mate?" A vein pulsated on Enzel's head.
Ignoring the dirty lowlife, the leader went back to the manager. "As I was saying, Missy, get on the counter and bring out the blueriels."
"And if I don't?" There were no signs of fear on Rachel.
Then, a sudden burst of energy flew towards the cabinet just centimetres away from Rachel, causing an explosion and destroying it. The unexpected attack froze Rachel, the impact blowing through her skirt and hair. When she turned back, her eyes widened in shock.
"That will happen." The leader warned; his staff produced smoke from its previous attack.
"You rats..." Rachel turned back, shaking and furious. "That's worth five thousand blueriels! You either pay for it or I'll throw you into the sea!"
"Ooh scary!" The leader let out a mocking laugh and the others followed. "What are you gonna do? Ask that hobo over there for help?"
Rachel's patience greatly dropped. Pissing her off didn't seem to be a good idea as an ominous aura slowly seeped out of her. She only uttered a single word.
Rachel raised her arms, preparing to cast a spell when Enzel suddenly blocked her way. "Hey! Move it, you vagrant!"
"Rachel," called the hobo, pulling out a sword from a container beside him. "It's been a while since I got myself in a fight and I always thirst for a good battle so as payback for saving me, I shall wipe out these clowns for you."
The leader whistled. "You gonna take us on alone? This guy here must be losing his mind!" And laughter dominated the store again.
"Well, try me." Enzel readied himself for battle. "See if you bunch of misfits can match against this all-time great fighter!"
"Look, I don't need your help so-" Rachel was cut off when the battle freak made his move—He already jumped in the fray before she could even prevent him from doing so. Rachel was caught off guard and the clash began.
"Wait! No! Stop! Don't!" She pleaded as one of the displays got hit. "Ah no! Not that one! That's rare equipment!"
Enzel went for the leader first, but was cut off by the other two underlings; one possessed a katana and one lifting a hammer. The blade swung at him followed by the blunt weapon, leaving him no chance to escape, but he didn't intend to do so. Going for the katana, he threw his head and bit the blade, shattering it with his teeth; a grin plastered on his face. He then easily dodged the hammer and sliced its head in two, rendering both enemies armless. With quick footstep, he ran past them, blood spilled from their body. The move was lightning speed that nobody saw him lacerated the two, leaving the other three dumbfounded.
"You jackasses still wanna go?" Enzel's eyes hungered for more.
The leader gritted his teeth. "D-Don't look down on us!" And the fight continued, wreaking havoc in Rachel's precious emporium whilst the latter falling to her knees; mixed feelings of fear, sadness and anger shown in her tearful face.
"Stop it already!"
All of Rachel's pleas fell to deaf ears as Enzel and his playmates continued their brawl. Blasts and clashing of weapons further ravaged the shop. Rachel could only watch in despair.
+ + + + + + +
Time quickly passed and Enzel stood above five bodies inside a ruined store—spilled blood, fragments and debris everywhere. Enzel huffed and puffed, basking in the pleasure of having a fight to death.
"Nobody can stand against me! The mighty Enzel Venera!" Raising his weary weapon, Enzel proudly declared his victory. And then he checked back on Rachel who looked pale, standing before him with her head down. "Alright, Rachel! I paid you back by saving your store so were quits. With that, I shall take my leave!"
He waved his hand, bid his farewell then faced the large hole where the door used to be. But then he stopped when two arms wrapped around his body-they were warm, like a mother's hug. He knew who it belonged to, leaving him confused. Perhaps she was so scared that she couldn't help, but hug someone to hide her fear.
"Hey now, Rachel. Were you that scared?"
"I'm not letting you go."
"Eh?!" Enzel stiffened. What did she mean by not letting him go? Minutes ago she was blabbering on how much she hated him and now she was speaking the opposite. Why the sudden change in attitude now? The questions ran through Enzel's mind.
And then he felt his body slowly leaving the ground, his line of sight towards the ceiling and finally...
He crashed headfirst on the marble floor, leaving a large dent on it. Rachel, who just delivered a head-crushing suplex, let go and stood before the twitching body.
Enzel's head was surprisingly tough as it didn't even burst a single drop of blood. Though he was about to pass out. "W-Why?"
"Why, you asked?!" Rachel's blood was boiling; the aura she emitted even menacing than before. Her voice was coarse from shouting. "After all the damage you imbeciles caused in my store, do you really think you'll simply get away with it?!"
Finally, Rachel announced with violent words. "You are going to pay for all of these by working here! Don't even think of running away!"
Those were the last words Enzel heard before fading to blackness. The damage he took from the surprise move was too much for his already weakened body. He could only faint with bitter feelings. "Fuck... no..."
Today marked the day wherein the strongest known warrior was completely defeated by the weakest mage he knew and knowing that he would be paying some collateral damage only added salt to his already searing wound.
+ + + + + + +
A/N: And that's the premise of REC Company done! Yey! It took me quite some time to get this done, but here it is~ I wanted to write something that is on the side of the NPCs in RPGs. Like you know, the shop owners and the like and so the idea of a story about a shop manager and her employee came. But it won't be just that. Eventually, we'll get outside the store and know the rest of the town. Please look after the relationship between Rachel & Enzel well as it slowly develops. I hope you enjoyed reading this!