Chapter 1

© 2008 by Aurea Freniere

This page was last modified: 2009/01/04

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"A Man's dying is more the survivors' affair than his own."
Thomas Mann


There was a hand sticking out of one of the ditches near the coliseum.

Had it not been for the rat gnawing at it, Kanon would've just walked away passing his finding for a drunken soldier. It was a common thing, coming across trainees or lower rank members of the Sanctuary making fools of themselves on a Friday night.

The presence of the rat, however, indicated that the hand that was now sticking out of the ground like a lonely daisy, belonged to a dead person.

"Great," he uttered, exhaling heavily and feeling tired all of a sudden.

Just that very morning three trainees had been reported missing. Although it wasn't Kanon's problem, it placed him in a difficult situation, because deserting the Sanctuary was not a very welcome thing to do among the ranks. Most of the times the runaways ended up being killed by their peers, who rapidly justified the murder afterwards as a punishment for high treason.

So far two had been found already unharmed, but the third had been impossible to locate. Maybe this was Kanon's lucky day after all.

He sighed heavily, walking towards the ditch and scaring off the rat, that instantly sprinted away to seek shelter in the nearby bushes. Kanon simply smiled and shook his head amused, crouching near the gap where the hand was, to have a better look at what lay past it. Just so he could positively identify the body first before reporting it to the Kyoko.

It was going to be a long night for sure.

However he couldn't get closer. As soon he stepped near the ditch, a horrible stench hit him making him fall backwards to the ground.

Whatever lay inside it smelled like stored garbage and rotten meat, all combined into one pile and then left out in the sun together to stew. It was an incredibly potent and poignant odor that made Kanon of all people, retreat completely to a far away tree.

This can't be the missing trainee, he thought while trying his best to collect himself.

But it was hard. Even at three meters, the stench was still pretty potent and all that he could do was covering his nose with his hand in a futile attempt to diminish the scent which to this point was causing his stomach to turn to a knot.
He knew he was going to vomit any minute now, he could almost feel a sour taste at the back of his throat.

" I can't fucking believe this," Kanon said feeling ashamed of himself.

He had seen countless dead bodies during war time. Some of which he had dealt the final blow. Of course he had never stayed to see them decomposing, and it was a horrible thing to smell. But it was pretty shameful that a man of his rank would be a coward upon finding something like this and five minutes later Kanon was again near the ditch ready to deal with things.

He was hoping he could tell at first glance who the victim was and get on with the rest of the procedure, but the body that was in front of him was very badly decomposed. There were flies and maggots crawling all over it. At least, in the areas that were not covered with water as part of it was half submerged in sewage such as empty cans, half eaten food, and some other waste that Kanon didn't want to identify.

Next to it there was an animal. Or at least what it seemed to be an animal, Kanon wasn't very sure about this, because the trees next to the ditch cast heavy shadows on top of the corpse. He looked at the face, trying to focus on the identity of the dead person instead of the whole picture, but it was covered with a pile of tree branches.

Instinctively Kanon looked to his left, to where the ocean was. Maybe the body had been carried to the Sanctuary by the sea currents. It was a possibility, because all sorts of dead things appeared once in a while on Sanctuary's coast. Including bodies. This finding could not be an exception to the rule.

Nevertheless, this body looked too damaged to have been dragged up here just by the water. In fact on a closer look it seemed to have been jammed into the ditch, animal and all, because it barely fitted the small space. Someone had to have put it in there along with whatever lay on its side.

One thing was certain. This was not the missing trainee. The smell alone was enough to know that the person had died days ago.

Kanon scratched his head and then crouched to start inspecting the body.

The body was naked, so Kanon could see that it was male and that it had a series of dark spots on the surface of the skin, especially in the toes, calves and the thighs. There were also areas colored white and red, as if the blood had clogged to one side. Most of the exposed body showed teeth marks, which probably belonged to the rats and other animals that were known to feast on corpses.

There was also something moving under the skin.

"Oh gross!" He said out loud making a face, when he saw one maggot coming out of one gap, realizing that the lumps moving underneath were, in fact, flesh eating worms.

For a split second he almost decided he'd had enough of this; He only needed to return to the Twelve Temples and order some of the lower rank soldiers to deal with the corpse, but once again something that he saw, made him stop dead on his tracks.

The maggot was crawling over a purple mark. A bruise.

And next to it, there was another one. And another one.

He tilted his head and leaned closer, holding his breath to avoid hurling over the body.

The dead man was covered with bruises that formed a perfect pattern upwards from the legs to his solar plexus, crowning its trail with a big mark right over his heart.

Kanon frowned, now feeling very confused and, anxious. He was not sure who had killed this man and, more importantly, how the body had ended on Sanctuary grounds. But one thing was certain: This person had died in a fight. A very cruel fight for the looks of it.

Kanon started then looking for evidence that supported his theory and soon he found it in the shape of scratches and peeled off skin in the victim's thighs. It looked as if someone had held him down and ripped it off with his own hands... but most of the skin was loose, maybe because of the long time it spent on the water or because something that had been done to the body postmortem.

For instance the hand that Kanon first noticed had its skin coming off altogether. As if it was a glove.

Kanon frowned as he recognized a mild interest in watching a corpse rotting. He reckoned this could have been a party for Death Mask, who was more than acquainted with the decomposition of the human body, but now he had to give it to the man, if anything, the process was interesting. Had the other hand gone through the same process?
Still, recent found passion for forensics or not, he needed to be sure which things were naturally caused by the natural process of decomposing and which by the fight.

Kanon tilted his head, feeling nauseated again.

The right hand was missing.

And it didn't seem as if the attacker had cut it off the body, because Kanon could notice some of the bones that were sticking out the rotten flesh, splintered. As if the hand had been broken first and then torn off.

It must have been painful.

Definitely all the damage inflicted to this man was done by someone who knew where to punch. Every single mark indicated so.

Kanon gave a step back feeling annoyed. This was not going to be good for anyone here, because all the evidence led him to think that the murderer had to be a trained warrior and if this was the case then...

He could almost picture everyone in the Sanctuary going berserk after finding out that security had been breached even when the other pantheons swore Athena to mantain peace at all costs after the Hades War.

He sighed then and reached out his hand to uncover the face of the victim while praying under his breath that the man in front of him was a stray farmer killed by rogue trainees.

He could now see the animal clearly. It was a pig, but unlike his death mate, its body was almost untouched, only its head had been severed and now rested on top of the man's shoulders.

The body of the pig was crowned with the man's head and neck, even with the maggots and the flies and the blood plastered all over it still showed a little tattoo.

A tattoo of a scorpion.

Kanon couldn't help but smile.

The End of Chapter 1 -- Continued in Chapter 2

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