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Excerpt

Excerpt

Scrapped Princess: A Tale of Destiny

Prologue

Five simultaneous screams ripped through the cathedral. They echoed through the halls for a moment, resounding the stone walls, before finally tapering into an oppressive silence.

The crowd, frozen in place, cast its collective gaze on the five white doors that sealed off five identical rooms. Since it was impossible to know what had taken place behind those doors, or why it had happened in all five rooms at the same time, the crowd could only stand in fear and wait.

After a moment, a dark red liquid began to ooze from the cracks at the bottom of the doorways. There was so much of it that the crowd didn't realize what it was at first --- blood, thick and glistening, dark and bountiful.

The doors opened in silent unison. On the floor of each narrow chamber lay a man soaked in red. Thick blood flowed from the men's mouths, ears, eyes, and pores; deep crimson plumes bloomed against the pure white of their robes.

The men should have been dead, and yet they still breathed. Their limbs began to twitch, barely at first, before slowly dragging their bodies across the floor. They writhed like slugs, leaving long, red trails in their wake.

The five stopped simultaneously and opened their mouths. They coughed, dripping scarlet down their lips, as the lids over their blood-blinded eyes quivered.

"Listen well!" they called. "All of you . . . we have heard the prophecy!"

The onlookers stirred in anxious panic.

"In the name of the all-powerful god Mauser, we have heard the 5111th Oracle of Saint Grendel and we convey it to you!"

A prophecy --- the infallible word of the divine, a celestial insight into the future no mortal could ever duplicate. It was precisely what those gathered in the cathedral had waited so long to hear.

NEWEST

"The infant girl must be . . ."

The five martyrs' eyes rolled back as they chanted their message, their words filling the crowd with shock, then confusion, then, as the full weight of the message became clear, fear.

It was the year 5111 of the Continental Calendar, six months after the royal family of the Kingdom of Linevan had officially sealed the Mauser Church, and the 5111th Oracle of Saint Grendel had at last concluded.

A young girl silently picked her way through the darkened woods, the moonlight that spilled through the foliage barely lighting her way. She kept a steady pace, holding her breath, her face anxious. The fear of accidentally tripping in the dark was all that kept her from breaking into a run.

The girl carried a bundle --- something wrapped in a soft cloth. She held it with great care, but her hands gripped the fabric so tightly that her fingers turned white.

A clearing finally loomed ahead.

The girl stepped out of the brush and hurried over to the edge of a small spring, the moon reflecting on its surface dimly illuminating her surroundings.

"Mistress Carol," she breathed as if in prayer, her amber eyes darting back and forth. Upon finding the clearing empty save for her, the anxiety on her young face grew even more intense.

"Mistress Carol!" she chanted, almost as if to calm herself. "Mistress Carol, Mistress Car --- "

A hand clapped over her mouth from behind.

Just as she was about to erupt into a panic, a low, assuring voice murmured, "Easy."

The air in front of the girl rippled. The distortion faded in and out before widening --- like a painting sliced open with a knife --- to reveal a petite young woman. She had braided silver hair; a long navy outfit draped over her slight curves.

The woman appeared to be in her mid-twenties, and had the kind of dignified, intelligent poise that disconcerted others. She focused her ruby-red eyes on the girl.

The hand over the girl's mouth retracted. "Mistress Carol," the girl sighed in relief. She turned and looked over her shoulder.

A large man stood behind her, wrapped in hardened leather armor. He wore a single-edged sword known as a tachi on his waist. He looked about thirty-five years old, with black hair, black eyes, and a face somehow foreign. A hint of savageness lurked in his features, though his eyes gleamed with pleasant mischief. He smiled disarmingly.

The girl's grip on her bundle relaxed. "Master Yuma," she mumbled.

"I'm sorry, Claire," Carol said calmly as she stepped over to the girl. "Did we frighten you?"

"A b-bit," Claire replied, her heart pounding in her chest.

Carol stroked Claire's hair before carefully taking the bundle from the girl's arms. Peering inside the folds, Carol smiled. "Aw."

Yuma crouched down for a look. "Wow," he agreed. "It is cute. What's its name?"

Claire swallowed and answered solemnly, "She doesn't have one."

Yuma sighed and looked back toward the forest. The moon peeked out from beyond the treetops, revealing the outline of a massive structure that loomed imposingly over the landscape. The forest itself was but a small section of the structure's sprawling grounds.

"Let us handle this," Carol told the girl before she and Yuma took their leave. Claire called out to them hesitantly. Only Yuma turned around; Carol looked steadfastly ahead, as if to shield herself against anything the girl could say.

"I-I have a message for you b-both," Claire explained. She swallowed, then recited, " 'We're counting on you.' "

Yuma nodded. The girl bowed deeply before spinning on her heels. Yuma shifted his gaze from her retreating form to look at Carol, then sighed again.

"Give her a break, will you?"

"No," Carol said through a clenched jaw. "I never would've guessed she could be so cold-hearted." Her voice held the bitterness of one betrayed.

"Think of her position --- don't judge her like she's one of the others. After all, she risked her life to get the baby here. Isn't that proof she loves it?"

"If I . . ." Carol bit her tongue, swallowed, then tried again. "If I learned that Shannon and Raquel were to be killed, I'd throw away the world to protect them."

"Not everyone's as strong as you," Yuma said quietly.

"No one's truly strong, Yuma. I'm not, you're not --- people are weak. But that's exactly why we have to . . . to . . ." She trailed off, sobbing softly.

Yuma put his arm around her as they began to walk again. She sniffed, pressed her cheek against his shoulder, and allowed herself to be led along.

"We should give her a name," she said at last.

"I guess." As he voiced his agreement, Yuma furrowed his brow.

"Something everyone will like."

"Sure. I'm just . . . not sure which names are normal, and which ones will make your children hate you." His voice, tinged with a hint of a foreign accent, emphasized his point.

Carol shot him a look. "Come to think of it, you laughed when you first heard my name, my dear."

"I already told you that was instinctual," he protested. "I didn't mean anything by it. Besides --- you said my name was weird when you first heard it."

"I was just a kid."

"Right," Yuma muttered, turning away. "And I'm just some dirty, old scoundrel who teases girls ten years his junior."

She chuckled at his pout. "I think we're both scoundrels this time. We're kidnappers, maybe even . . ." She smiled bitterly and shrugged. Even she wasn't sure how many laws they were breaking.

"Anyway, there's no hurry on the name. Her life's just beginning." Carol smiled at the sleeping infant.

Yuma waved a hand dismissively. "As long as you don't leave it up to me," he said, "take as long as you want."

The couple walked onward, their sure steps conveying their resolve to disregard the obstacles in their way --- status, honor, their past, common sense --- and their desire to ignore everyone who might remind them of that.

















































































































Scrapped Princess: A Tale of Destiny
by Ichiro Sakaki, Illustrated by Yukinobu Azumi

  • Genres: Manga
  • paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: TokyoPop
  • ISBN-10: 1595329846
  • ISBN-13: 9781595329844