Chapter 0:

Prologue Part 1 - Emergence

SIN EATER - Worst S class hero's ascent to Plaguelord from a Common Herbalist Job !

Leaving her parents to the mercy of the Seakin, she quickly made her way out of the familiar, yet bloodied, inner sanctum of the massive Sakura Palace. She felt a nostalgic feeling as her legs struggled to take another step; the burning in her lungs reminded her of the life she had led before coming to the mansion. Her legs pounded the tiled floor even harder as she recognized her mother's scream, fading behind her as a distant echo with each stride. Despite being revered as more than a human, the Thorn Empress's chilling scream strangely soothed Kaoru, before another less human screech filled the bed chamber in a victorious cry.

Her demise sounded very human. Her puppet king's voice was barely present. Perhaps the king died silent and helpless, or was used as a shield by the Empress. Maybe both of them might have survived if they hadn't been stingy with their mana lanterns. But despite her profound dislike for the Empress, the fact that she consented to be sacrificed in order to facilitate the younger princess's retreat caused Kaoru a certain amount of sorrow. Now, all she had to do was trust her herbalist friend, and hope that he upheld his part of the bargain.

Kaoru's wind attribute helped her traverse the massive halls of the mansion with ease. Her satchel clinked lighter with each mana potion she ingested, swatting away the deadly concern of potion toxicity. Partly because she had a good resistance to mana poisoning, and mainly because the mana flasks left by her herbalist friend were the best in class. Upon emptying another flask, the distinctive aroma of cinnamon filled her with pleasantness, and cool mana energized her body — a hallmark of the herbalist's brand. A small frown crept upon her face as she threw away the intricately crafted flask.

She would have run even faster if it were not for the younger princess bound to her. The Empress's final command to protect the little one echoed in her mind, as clear as her agony-filled screams through the bedchamber. Although the Empress despised Kaoru, her sister was treated every bit as royalty, as she was trash. As memories of her treatment came back to her, she absentmindedly threw another half-filled mana flask. Some part of Kaoru did it just to spite the Empress. Seeing her litter the halls, the Empress would have subjected Kaoru to a good number of lashes before ordering her to painstakingly keep them pristine and white. Now, they are black, bloodied, and caked by the remains of the brave palace guard and the Seakin's perverse attack. The gore of human and tentacle, barely recognizable. Her run slowed a little, as she recognized the bits of some faces that showed her mercy in her youth—dead and cold.

The true scale of the village's destruction brought about by the Seakin dawned on her as she emerged from the mansion. After this, she had only one goal in mind: to seek the Adventurer guild's airship. The herbalist had promised her, in exchange for a night spent with her, a way out of the village. His affiliations with the guild were never clear, but his ability to sell his wares without any guild hindrances said a lot. The stories of how the merchant's guild would go out of their way to not anger him were loudly told in grimy, drunken taverns. A meager herbalist, making the mighty guilds bend to him, riled up hope in the people like no other.

On any other day, a departure from the palace would be her greatest pleasure. Any bard worth his salt would not leave the royal palace before describing the view overlooking the village as a piece of heaven on Earth. However, Kaoru's life in the grandest part of the village was hell. Some part of her truly wanted to see if those sweet words held true. Although she came from outside the palace, she wanted to believe the scum she came from was as grandiose, as described.

Now it was truly hell.

As she emerged from the palace, a ghastly fog enveloped the village, and any semblance of life beyond the palace was heard through inhuman screeching. A painful lump formed in her throat, and she unconsciously held her sister closer, tighter, gently feeding the little soul another dose of Nightshade. The potion made the little one invisible, though Kaoru could still feel her supple skin, and the steady rise and fall of her breath. Such a potion would undoubtedly cost a lot, and it made Kaoru blush a little at the thought that someone important like the herbalist would be willing to help just for her company. Maybe he was just interested because he could boast about a fling with a princess in whatever town he went to while selling his wares. She knew she was not as sought after as her elder sister, or the Empress herself. As these thoughts raced through her mind, she found herself clutching the medallion given to her by the herbalist. It smelled distinctly like him, like sweet cinnamon, and the warmth from it soothed her throat.

As the fog cleared, the streets that she would run through while the occasional merchant would scream “Thief!” after her, were now nowhere to be seen. The Sakura village described by the bards was nowhere to be seen. Instead, an unyielding, vast, and unconquerable sea blanketed the now magnificent village. The splendor of the Seakin might was on full display, as waves upon waves of tentacled masses emerged from the coast, eager to defile the village before the arrival of their lord. Amidst the unending void, a light glimmer from a mana lantern illuminated the unfortunate demise of its holder.

The only indication of the place before her being the village was the onslaught of the Great Sakuradamon, the silent guardian of the village. When Kaoru was a child, she wanted to be like the great being, or at least hope she would be competent enough to be its warden. Its shadow is always a reassuring presence in the village. Strong and indomitable, enough that its mere presence would drive away harm. Through the centuries, many claiming to be descendants of the Thorn Princess called on their heritage to awaken the great titan. Yet no competent warden had emerged since the disappearance of the great Sakura herself. The lonely Titan had been in a slumber since the disappearance of its beloved warden, the original Thorn Princess. Now slumped in defeat and corrupted by the Seakin's barrage, the great Titan slowly sank beneath the waves. Neither its unreal strength nor its ancient wisdom could save it. After all, a titan without a warden was as harmless as a fly. A mass of obsidian tentacles slowly emerged, wrapping it around in a loving embrace, dragging it to the void beneath. The great Titan had finally fallen, never to be seen again, never drawing its sword again. It was a sad sight as Kaoru dropped to her knees, seeing her childhood dream crumple and disappear beneath the waves.

However, in the distance and through the thinning fog, the radiant light of the Emperor's crest stood out arrogantly. Kaoru had finally found her silver lining. And though battered and old, the mechanical wings of the adventurer's guild airship beat the wind in proud defiance.

But, as she got up to her feet, she dropped to her knees again in a daze. With a sad sigh, she realized that her flight to the airship would be her last action before mana toxicity would claim her life. She hoped she would be cognisant enough to plead for her little sister's life. If she could get to the Adventurer Guild's hall, she might just be able to persuade the captain or any adventurer there, by throwing around the herbalist's name. Her medallion was proof of their affiliation. However, most adventurers value the satisfying clink of bronze and silver.

Although adventurers are unwelcome in most places due to their love for coin, she was pretty sure that there would be at least one fresh-faced adventurer, uncorrupted by the love for coin. Sakura village was not a hotspot for adventurers, in part due to the Empress's dislike for them, but mainly because the village could not afford their services. In fact, the airship provided to them could hardly be called one; it was a mix of the oldest wings and the cheapest steel the Empress could offer. But it was enough to get a few favors from the guild.

With weak hands and a light head, Kaoru reached into her satchel one last time and felt the cool lip of the mana flask. Her lips slowly wrapped around the open flask in a final kiss of death.