Rosakai’s pale hands came away with what looked like ink as he touched the side of his face. Hot explosions burst in loud pops and bangs behind him as bombs fell upon the city from high above. The air was heavy and metallic tasting, a sent of rust and sour milk. He hurried through the desolate street, his black boots splashing in thick pools of dark red. The city of Gallery was alight in a great roar of flames, human corpses piled up along the side of the roads.
It had been a long time since Rose had seen this kind of death…this kind of war.
“Rosakai!” A strong hand clapped him on the shoulder, a man with dark skin and black hair suddenly beside him.
Rose gritted his teeth, hand automatically clenching the hilt of his sword. He loosened his grip, sighing angrily. “Damn you, Blade.” He shrugged the man off him as he looked around them quickly. While Rose remained unflinching at the nearing explosions, the prospect of being ambushed weighed on him. “You’re a fool to startle me,” he hissed, his nerves high on alert.
“I’m sorry, but we’re running out of time. Still no sign of soldiers, but soon there will be no city left to burn.” Blade’s orange eyes seemed to glow in the firelight as he loaded his gun, staying close to Rose’s side. “We need to find him; fast.”
Rose nodded, “C’mon then.” The stone ground was cracked, moss and dead weeds sprouting from the fractures. Almost every building they passed was broken and deserted, black and red with sparking fire. There were no stars here, only a thick smoky red sky, mirroring the massacre they stepped through.
Rose could see Blade eyeing him cautiously as they checked each building, looking for any signs of life. “Is there a problem?” Rose asked. His gloved hands sent charcoal crumbling to their feet as he leaned against a door frame, shaking his head with frustration and disappointment.
“Nothing.” Blade sounded unconvincing, causing Rose to turn and stare at him coldly. Blade’s muscular shoulders shrugged as he broke eye contact, submitting. “It’s just…you stick out. I don’t want to be spotted by the enemy.”
Rose glanced sideways at a broken window, looking at his reflection, cold and dead like winter. Everything about him was white against his lengthy black coat. His silver eyes were piercing, even compared to his pale skin. The wind whipped his long white hair into a frenzied mane around him as he gritted his teeth, eyes flashing.
His fingers gripped tightly around the hilt of his sword, gaze flicking to where Blade held his gun. “We get spotted, I’ll deal with it,” he muttered under his breath.
Blade swore, swatting Rose’s arm and making him look up.
“What do you—” Rose stopped, his stomach sinking as he breathed the name he loathed, “Crimson…”
Even in the distance he could see the man striding, unphased, through the mounds of corpses towards them. Crimson’s muscular build was commanding, his short white hair tousled in thin strands over his face. His eyes were the same red that stained his white military uniform.
He stopped, keeping a few feet distance away as he called, “I thought I’d find you here, Rosy.” He grinned, his hands up by his shoulders. “I just want to talk.”
Rosakai stayed perfectly still, his heart racing. “Get the others,” Rose whispered to Blade, not breaking eye contact from the man with red eyes.
As Blade turned and left Rosakai’s side, the man in front of him laughed, putting himself disturbingly out of place from all the gore. “Calling for backup, are we?”
Rose took a step forward, readying his sword. “I know you don’t want to talk.”
Crimson glanced at the sword in Rosakai’s hand as he sneered, “Won’t be enough to kill me.”
Rose felt his thin brows furrow, his upper lip curling into a snarl. Distance suddenly felt like the last thing he wanted. He took his time walking towards the other man, stopping so close their foreheads nearly touched. Fire formed in the palm of Rosakai’s right hand and disappeared as he closed his fingers into a fist. “Your master sent you to do his dirty work, did he?” Rose asked, his eyes falling to where Crimson kept an equally impressive sword strapped to his belt. “Should have known.”
Crimson laughed, biting his lower lip. He licked it slowly, cocking his head to the side. “He’s your master, too, Rosy.”
Rosakai snarled, steadying the sword in his left hand. “I hold no loyalties to him… or you.”
He grinned. “I came to convince you.” Stepping away from Rose, he drew his sword with a heavy scrape of metal.
“You want to fight me? Really? I thought you said you just wanted to talk?”
Crimson paused calmly, his red eyes glowing with the inferno around them. “And you said you knew that I didn’t.” Crimson took one step back before he brought down his blade hard.
Rose raised his quickly and blocked it with a heavy twang. Hatred drove through him, burning in his veins and replacing his blood with acid. There was an immediate desire to shove his sword through Crimson’s chest and wipe that smug grin off his face. “You’ll never have my allegiance,” Rose snapped.
Crimson threw his head back, laughing wildly. He held his sword loosely, theatrically unconcerned. The tips of his fingers tapped the hilt impatiently, waiting for Rose to make his move. “You sure? I bet there’s one thing I could bribe you with…” Crimson’s brow twitched, his smile knowing.
Rose swung at him, though the blow was blocked. Still, the force sent Crimson skidding backwards and creating a tidal wave of blood. Rose charged him, raising his sword and bringing it down in an arc.
Throwing his hand up, Crimson caught the blade with his bare palm, blood splattering the ground and onto Rosakai’s clothes and face. Rose drew the sword back, smoke causing the air to ripple with heat, blood blurring his vision black.
Rosakai froze, feeling the tip of Crimson’s sword on his neck.
He couldn’t move.
“Look how far you’ve fallen. So emotional, as always… Pathetic.” The tip of Crimson’s sword was at his neck, pleasure evident in his voice. “You’re so predictable, Rose.”
Rose scoffed, barring his teeth. “Bombing an entire city just to draw me out? That’s predictable. What’s next? Are you planning to destroy the world for your master’s game; all of Sanctus?”
“If that’s what it takes,” Crimson growled, his sword biting harder into Rosakai’s throat as it kissed his neck. Blood slowly trickled down his throat like a black snake. “But, not for you,” he clicked his tongue. “Tell me, where is Zephren Kyne?”