Chapter 1: The Festival of the Sun
Winds blew across the barren land of the desert of Sograt. Sands gathered in the gust and they swirled in the zephyr, forming a crude humanoid shape, before being deposited near one of the hundreds of dunes that dotted the scorching desert. The pile of sand then opens its mouth and stretches its stubby arms, while blinking its almost hollow eyes sleepily. The Sandman then shambles off to go on with its business in the heaty afternoon.
A tired Chonchon lands upon a cactus to rest its exhausted wings for awhile, but is immediately swatted away by the latter who turns out to be a Muka, a cactus-like creature native to the Sograt Desert, who had often cause unwary travelers to get a swell or two by shooting poisonous needles at them when they tried to cut it in hope of obtaining water in the enervating and moisture-free surrounding.
A legion of Andres marches back to their nest, carrying above their heads what they had scavenged for that day. A Desert Wolf gives them a passing look before continuing to feast upon the carcass of a PecoPeco. Life goes on as usual in the Sograt Desert as what it had been since its establishment five hundred years ago, when, according to the legend, the ferocious battle between the Mage Knight Thanatos and the greater demon, Satan Morroc destroyed the south- eastern part of Rune-Midgard Kingdom, creating a barren stretch of land void of any life from the eastern edge of the Payon Forest to the western border of the Papuchica Forest. Over the years, new species of flora and fauna slowly adapted to the harsh climate, and Sograt is once again full of life, albeit far from what it had been five centuries ago.
This particular day, while is of no difference to the various inhabitants of the desert, holds significant importance to the human race of Sograt. It is the fifteenth day of the tenth month, which is the day for the much-awaited celebration of the Festival of the Sun. The city of Morroc, located in the heart of Sograt, is bustling with people from the whole Rune-Midgard. The sun is right above the heads of the crowd, and the heat and glare is irrefutably intense. Still, the folks of Morroc are dancing wildly under the Sun, circling an altar while holding baskets of various items of offering atop their heads; there are meat, fruits and hides of various creatures. A fire is then lighted upon the altar, and the dancers become even wilder in their movement. Some of them seem to be deep in trance, all the while chanting words of praise to Amon Ra, the God of Sun. The fire blazes a bright blue to the rising voice of the crowd, as if showing its approval.
The dancers then start moving towards the West Gate, in a neat line. The highlight of the Festival is going to be held at the Sphinx, where the tombs of the ancient rulers of Sograt are located. However, traditionally only the people of Morroc, those who worship the God of Sun and the Pharaoh, are allowed entry to the Holy Sphinx on this day. Other participants remained in the city, and dance to the music played by a group of Bards. The song "A Poem of Bragi" drifted through the air from the mandolins of the bards, accompanied by their melodic singing. Amid the crowd, a young High Wizard with flowing, dark spring green hair is twirling around, laughing as she claps and dances to the beat of the music beautifully. Soon she is surrounded by a group of Clowns, and the group grows bigger as more people join in the fun.
The official administrative building of Morroc is located in the middle of the city, although some people may mistake it for a fortress, what with all the majestic-looking towers looming above the ground. At the uppermost floor, a tall, cloaked man is watching the ecstatic crowd below him. There is a slight frown on his face as his eyes follow the green, bobbing head of the young girl. It is a well-known fact among the six main aristocrat families that the particular hair colour is exclusive to the Kou family of Merchants. So what is a girl from the Merchant nobles doing in the City of Thieves, when the two noble families have been sworn enemies for the past seven generations?
Yukari feels a sudden sense of apprehension as she slows down on her dancing. Until a moment ago, everything was fine; now she could not get rid of the nagging feeling of danger, of menace. The unmistakable sense of hostility is coming from somewhere around her; Yukari looks around but could see nothing out of the ordinary. It is past noon now, and getting unbearably hot. Yukari tries to convince herself that she must be tired, and that she should start on her way back to Alberta already. After all, it is not safe for someone like her to be overstaying in Morroc, a city notorious for its thieves, pickpockets, thugs, cutpurses and vagabonds, who lie in wait for unwary victims in every corner of alleys and backstreets. While they won't kill without the permission from their lord, they may very well leave you with a lump at the back of your head for a day or two and zennyless. Yukari glances at the grand building in front of her one last time, at its impressive towers.
A pair of golden eyes stares back at her. They are so intense, so hauntingly beautiful that Yukari feels as if she is being absorbed into the depths of an abyss. Legend says that the eyes of an assassin can spellbind anyone who is caught unaware; it seems that there may be some truth in it, after all. Yukari feels her knees weaken; she turns around and walks away, afraid of looking back.
It was the first encounter between them, an occasion that would forever change their lives and that of people around them, for many years to come.