It took some twists and turns before the ordered parts finally reached Rosa. She decided to use the Courier Union for her order letters from then on. The reply from M&M was written by Minny, the store owner's daughter.
Dear Mr. Max and Minny,
I only received the parts from the caravan yesterday. I guess one should never expect a good courier service from a caravan. It's their job to wander around and trick ignorant first nations. So I'm using a proper courier this time. I only discovered recently that the Courier Union has a post not too far from our camp. Spending a couple of hours in the morning to drop my packet at their post is a better option for me. I heard the Courier Union also has a good reputation in Umbraton. You don't have to deal with the caravan from now on.
This time I need some special metals. It doesn't have to be raw materials. Parts that contain such metals would do the same. Please bill me for the parts. A list of the metals is provided on the back of this letter.
I have enclosed another 1,500 Nightium. Please keep the extra if there's any and kindly consider it a deposit for my future orders. I have too many things to fix and reassemble in Rediesel Desert. Even those I have already done will crash or break sooner or later.
By the way, the thing I'm trying to remodel is a hovercar. Some girl might be interested in this piece of information.
Written on a cold evening
Dear Lady Rosa,
It's Minny. You can tell by the handwriting that I didn't write the title. I would never use such an old-school opening. I'm so glad you didn't call me a miss this time. It feels much nicer. But your last lines couldn't be more obvious! Father looked at me suspiciously as soon as he read your letter and told me to "take care of this reply to Lady Rosa since you loved to write so much." This is why I'm writing to you by lamp right now.
Now let's get to business. Father would write many useless words here, like "The special metals you required have been packed by categories and sent to Rediesel Desert using the Courier Union" or something along the line. It's probably hard for him to accept that you will receive this letter and all the parts simultaneously.
The 1,500 Nightium you sent this time is not quite enough. You owe us 327 Nightium now. We have opened a book exclusively for Lady Rosa from Rediesel Desert to record your payments and expenses. Father thought it was his best-ever business plan.
I happen to notice that the special metals on your order are all essential materials for making prostheses. God bless it is not for you.
Minny and Max
Written shortly before New Year
To adapt to the special geographic environment and climate of Rediesel Desert, Rosa had to remodel her hovercar. She revealed her true identity in this letter as a member of an Expedition Team that had fled Illumina.
Dear Minny and Mr. Max,
The metal materials you sent me helped a lot. Unfortunately, I have to tell some little girl that it was indeed for me. Our camp was attacked by Eclipsites a few months ago. During that battle, my legs suffered minor injuries, which persisted and failed to heal. I had been limping, and driving could only happen in my dreams until I received your package. Now I can make some leg braces for myself.
Our condition in Rediesel Desert is not much better than our days in the Secret Territory. I forgot to mention. We used to be part of the Illumina Federation. We were sent as the advance party to explore the Secret Territory. It would have been an arduous but glorious mission if not for those mean and ungrateful senior officials. We are free in Rediesel Desert but it costs us food, sleep, and stability to keep our ticket to freedom.
The bad thing about Rediesel Desert is its climate. Unless you are in an oasis or by the edge of the desert, you would have to hide underground to save yourself from the deadly sun. After nightfall, you need to put on your warmest layers to prevent your blood and marrow from freezing. We didn't have much experience living in the desert. When we first got here, our hovercar was severely damaged, and I had to replace all the parts. Those wandering Eclipsites also drive me nuts. I need a few more energy components to upgrade our defense system. A list is provided on the back of this letter like before. Along with this letter is also my hovercar's modification drawing. It might provide Minny with some inspiration.
I'm very sorry, but our fund is running low. I'm unable to clear my debts this time. Could you please allow me a few more days? Have a lovely day.
Written on a cool morning
Store owner Max agreed to Rosa's purchase on credit request. Minny showed strong interest in the enclosed modification drawings for a hovercar. She even made an engine following Rosa's drawings.
Dear Lady Rosa:
We sympathize with your situation. You can catch up on the last payment when you send in your next order. Also, the modification schematic for the hovercar you sent was very valuable, and I believe it can offset a portion of your debt.
Good health and fortune to you.
In the flower season
Rosa, this is Minny again.
I wonder if your leg has healed at the time of this writing... Oh, how loathe such hollow greetings that failed to convey my sincerity and come off as mere lip service, but I do indeed hope you are recuperating.
You mentioned in the previous letter that you once worked for Illumina, which would be shocking news. My father and I tried to guess your identity before. I've met those from the Rediesel Desert, and while some of them were into modding, they were pure novices compared to your expertise. The mystery has finally been solved by your letter, and I can hardly contain or describe my excitement other than, "Of course!" We are honored to have earned your trust and we will not let you down or reveal your identity to anyone.
The modding schematic you sent is fantastic! I'm guessing your intention is to increase the car's stability when hovering and ensure no debris gets sucked into the interior. I also noticed the generator is a new iteration, so I decided to follow the blueprint, replicate it with my father, install it on our small pickup and see how it goes. You never know. Maybe we'll have a very speedy pickup soon!
Rosa's fleet got in a fierce fight with a gang of robbers. She made a fortune out of it and paid off her previous debts. Around the same time, she took in a young girl named Summer who led her to many objects created with ancient technology.
Dear Minny and Esteemed Mr. Max:
I have attached 3,000 Nightium. In addition to the 327 that I owed, I'd like to purchase additional instruments listed on the back of this sheet.
I'd very much like to let Minny know I appreciate his thoughts, and I believe he is sincere. Since our last correspondence, my legs have been healing, and the metal braces should come off soon. I don't think that is possible without your wishes. Anyway, it is my pleasure to have met you.
We've had much better days of late, thanks to a firefight. In the Rediesel Desert, we have to look out for wandering bandits and Eclipsites. The outlaws are rather astonishing in number here in the dunes, with more and more desperate people, whether simply out of despair or their homes destroyed by the Eclipsites, ready to side with them every day. Besides fighting Eclipsites, fighting bandits is also a part of regular daily life. Afterward, some of the newly rendered homeless victims would choose to join us.
And that was what happened with a young girl a few days ago. A band of outlaws raided her village. She was the only one to escape. I don't want to go into the details since describing unfortunate events is not my forte... Not that she would like me to recount her tragedy, anyway. She actually did not want to stay at first but tried to hire us to avenge her people. For that, she offered a gizmo as payment, one that practically produced distilled water out of thin air—a genuine piece of ancient technology. She wasn't even skittish about us possibly cheating her since she knew where to find more of such gizmos. We just have to trade for the location with dead bandit bodies. Oh, the girl's name is Summer, and she is one of us now.
After the firefight, we found one cache after another in the bandit hideout stuffed with Nightium, a whole cellar full of wine, a storehouse stocked with guns and explosives, and even five retrofitted trucks. But all this paled in comparison to what Summer led us to... I have an urgent need to disassemble Creations of ancient technology with the proper tools. Perhaps by the next time I write, I'll have put together a gadget capable of dispensing endless drinks.
In the searing afternoon heat
Rosa hoped the parts store could find her some tools for dismantling ancient technology, which was certainly not an easy task for the family-run store. Minny didn't seem to care about her father's problem at all. She attended Lumopolis's birthday celebration and sent Rosa many gifts.
Dear Lady Rosa:
I'm honored to receive your order once again. I'm also delighted to hear your leg is getting better. However, I'm sorry to inform you that we managed to find only a handful of the instruments you requested, as many of them were virtually unknown and challenging to locate on conventional markets or in junkyards. Please give us more time. If we're lucky, perhaps we'll see the items on your list showing up in an auction.
On a busy afternoon
Hello, Rosa! I believe by the time of this writing, you're fully recovered from the leg injury. Life is truly treacherous in the Rediesel Desert, and I hope you won't get hurt again.
I can't wait to share what happened recently. You know about the Lumopolis Founding Day celebration, right? A few days before this letter, my father gave me consent to go to Lumopolis by myself. On Founding Day, the shuttle hub was more relaxed, and tourists did not need to submit papers for approval by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I stayed three days in a Lower Lumopolis hotel and did not return home until the festivity was over yesterday. If you ever go to Lumopolis, make sure to get me as your guide. Over the days, I got to know the city like the back of my hand, from which bakery has the best cake, which store offers the freshest fruit, to where to see the Shrine in Lumopolis Garden, there's nothing I didn't find out. The actual celebration featured parades and fireworks, but most importantly, you could try all kinds of delicious food for free. Usually, I found the Aurorians in the city aloof and arrogant. Still, on Founding Day, they'd smile at everyone, elaborate the celebration to anybody, and even invite you into their homes to try their dishes. The hospitality was off the chart, without a sign of the usual unlikable vibe. I wish every day is Founding Day.
Oh, other than the instruments my father found for you, there's a local specialty I brought back from Lumopolis in the package. I specifically picked ones with long expiration dates, so no worries of them expiring on the way. Also enclosed is a monkey marionette with a red hat, a gift to me from the innkeeper's son, with whom I spent a better part of the celebration. I got two marionettes. I kept one for myself, and this one is for you. Please cherish it.
Rosa planned to modify a guitar for a music loving teammate. She thanked Minny for all the snacks she had been sending. The food in Rediesel Desert was giving her a hard time.
Dear Minny and Esteemed Mr. Max:
I received the instruments you sent, which expedited my research very much. I've seen some of the listed items only in Illumina, so it's not a surprise they are not available elsewhere, but I'm not dead set on them. If the auction price is prohibitive, just let it go.
I'm writing you this time to see if you could find some old guitars and speakers for me. Some team members caught a rock-n-roll fever in the Rediesel Desert, and her birthday is in a month. I'd like to mod a guitar for her so she wouldn't strip my cables for guitar strings anymore.
The desert's never had a scarcity of musicians, and our team, in particular, has more than our share. They are always improvised. Whenever I came in, I would hear all sorts of noise: drumming on liquor bottles or oil drums, flicking hubcaps with fingers, whistling, etc... Hardly a moment of peace. They would compose songs too, spray-painting lyrics and notes all over the walls. If you like rock too, I can record a few tunes for you.
I got your monkey marionette, Minny. It's sitting behind the windshield in the hovercar right now. I'm shocked that you spent the celebration with a stranger. That's not like you at all. Speaking of which, are you old enough to have a boyfriend? Just kidding. I almost forgot to tell you, Summer loved the scones and jam you sent. I myself preferred the raisins and cheese. It is tough trying to get used to the food in the desert. Who knows how many pickled sandworms I've thrown up. The snacks you sent revived my taste buds.
On afternoon break after a full meal
Her fleet robbed a transport corps of Illumina. Things went out of control, and many lives were lost on both sides. Rosa lost her legs, but what pained her more was firing at her old comrades.
Dear Minny and Esteemed Mr. Max:
I need a bulk shipment of materials for prosthetics this time. Pardon me, but the painkiller just wore off and I couldn't control my shaking hand. If you cannot decipher the writing on the back of this sheet, please refer to the list from three years ago.
I never thought they would do this, nor that I would ultimately join them. I cannot put my feelings for Illumina into words. I lived there for more than 20 years, with friends and peers in every bureau. I called Gannon my "Mother City." They kicked me out unceremoniously with guns and apathy, but I never imagined I would turn a gun on them. You might think loyalty is foolish. After all, how can children who fled point guns at their mothers?
I don't know if Illumina wanted posters would be on the walls in Umbraton, but if you heard the rumor, it's true: We robbed an Illumina transport. Six drivers, twenty guards, no survivor. We were scared, and I'm ashamed to use that word as if that justified the action. I can't describe the emotion I felt. Fear took over us like demons, compelling us to pull the trigger incessantly at the innocent faces. Empty shells rained down on the ground and burrowed into the sand. We just couldn't stop... How did it ever get to that?
I admit we provoked them first, but no one anticipated a massacre to follow. It started as a mere prank. I don't remember when the first shot was fired, but next thing I knew, blood was everywhere and seeping into the sand. Most of my right arm suffered burn, my left calf was charred by Luminatics, and the right kneecap shattered by bullets. I woke up after surgery with my right leg amputated from midway down and my left leg from below the knee. It's punishment for my betrayal, as well as the slaughter. I've paid a hefty price for my mistake, but I do not wish to be confined to a sickbed. Forgive me, and I understand if you view the prosthetics as a shady way to circumvent the punishment.
I must end this letter now. The pain is overwhelming. You won't be able to read the writing if I continue.
Minny sent Rosa an invitation to her forthcoming wedding. She didn't show any unrealistic fantasy about married life in the letter, but expressed her boredom on this long, uneventful journey of self-growth.
Are you recovering well? After all these years, I can finally tell you, when I got your letter, I cried under the blanket for a long while, even thought about convincing you to leave the desert and move to Umbraton to be our neighbor. But your following letters were not written with the same agony. Instead, they were about modding, music, and snack as before, so I believed you were getting better and even made the point to avoid questions like "How's your health?" I admit to having too much to drink today, so please don't mock me if I write something stupid.
I'm drunk because I'm engaged. I can tell you, anything speculation you had about the Lumopolis innkeeper's son and me, nothing happened. Although we exchanged addresses and mails ran smoothly between Umbraton and Lumopolis, we never wrote to each other. Anyway, stop teasing me about him. I have known my fiance since childhood. He studied abroad for a long time, returned with some odd skills, and now works in sales for a guild. My father sees him as pretty normal.
I've read a lot of romance novels and pictured myself getting married, but I can't help but feel nervous with the impending nuptials, like I'm stuck in between two walls, hard of breathing. In Umbraton, life usually takes unexpected turns. You could go from hiding from the rain in tattered clothes inside a tiny alley one day to sitting on a gold throne with diamonds on your fingers the next. But for some, like father and me, our lives are plain. Nothing tends to deviate from eating, sleeping, talking, working, getting married, having children, and dying. So this is another expected event I'm facing, another step on the path of my destiny.
All this probably sounds depressing, but engagement should be a happy event so I shouldn't be down on that. The wedding will take place in two months. I designed the invitation myself and couldn't wait to put your name on the very first one. Will you be at my wedding with that in hand?
In quiet sunset
Rosa couldn't make it to Minny's wedding herself for health reasons but she made a bouquet of steel roses for the bride, along with her best wishes.
The news of your wedding gave me mixed feelings. Please don't take it as me disapproving. I'm just slightly depressed since you compared it to "another step on the path of destiny." I felt the same way, too. Except I'm watching you take that step from afar. I attended friends' weddings when I was in Gannon, watching them coming out of the church amid flowers and ribbons as the door to a new life opened for them while I got left behind... That wasn't a good feeling, to say the least.
I would have shown up at the first opportunity before. Now, however... I'm sorry for not telling you this sooner, I fused my prosthetics to the driver's seat to facilitate driving, so it's very difficult for me to walk on the ground. As well, forgive my selfishness, but I don't want you to see me like this.
I did make a bouquet of metal roses for you. You can smell rediesel on it. Twist the stem, and the petals will open or close. Maybe I'm getting too old to be romantic anymore, but I don't think roses will ever go out of style. I hope you'll like the perennial flowers, and likewise your life will be worry-free, at least from rain or storm.
You designed a beautiful invitation. I love the pattern on the back very much. Tell me, did you put the schematic I sent you to good use?
On a peaceful evening
This letter was written by Summer. The little girl who once led Rosa to search for objects created by ancient technology had since become Rosa's personal assistant. Summer revealed a sad piece of news for Max and his daughter.
Dear Mr. Max and Miss Minny:
Please accept my sincerest greetings. I am Rosa's assistant, Summer, and I have unfortunate news: A few days ago, our convoy was ambushed by Eclipsites, and to cover the team, Rosa detonated the hovercar to stop the attackers, but it also meant she is no longer with us.
After her double amputation, I've been mailing and getting correspondences from the Courier Union for her. I believe I should pass the news on to you. I'm not clear whether Rosa spoke to you about it, but she did tell me should the worst happen to her, the balance of her Nightium deposit in M&M Parts shall be willed to Miss Minny. I will provide any legal documents you need as soon as possible.
Rosa often mentioned you to me. Your parts helped us a lot. The modification for the hovercar, the team's music instruments, Rosa's prosthetics... Your components are ubiquitous here. Everybody in the camp knows there is a second-hand part dealer in Umbraton who is honest, reliable and friends with Rosa.
Losing Rosa is a big blow to us. She would always help those in need and never forget her promises. She was a tech genius who could build anything she wanted with metal sheets, screws, and wrenches. I've apprenticed with Rosa since I was thirteen, learning how to disassemble and mod from her. She never married and had no kids, but still, she was a mother to me. Having corresponded with you throughout the years, I don't think she would want it to end on a hastily scribbled order, so I sent this on her behalf. Hope you do not mind my rudeness.
On a morning with an approaching sandstorm
Minny looked back at the correspondence between Rosa and her family. She considered Rosa the most incredible and unique person she ever knew and reached out to the fleet, seeking permission for a trip to Rediesel Desert to bid her final farewell to her friend.
Dear Miss Summer:
Thank you very much for informing us.
Rosa's passing saddens my father and me. He got to your letter first as it's been a long time since I was in the store. M&M Parts was once on the brink of closure but managed to survive thanks to those orders from Rosa. We don't sell used parts for a living anymore, but father still keeps the shop because we get occasional mail orders from old regulars.
It's been so long ago that I don't recall how we first started corresponding. I guess we got a rather interesting letter that prompted a reply, which was followed by a kind response. Because of that, I got to make a great friend. She would send me schematics, tell me tales of the Rediesel Desert, and confide everything that went on in her life. Before I got married, in the letter she sent alongside the metal roses, she wrote her married friends opened the door to a new life and left her behind. I thought she was complaining until I finally understood her feelings later on. She regretted standing still, yet I'm probably locked behind the door I went through.
Until now, she remains a "great friend." She witnessed death, welcomed a new life, always had the drive to help others, and was always able to make the most courageous, most unexpected choices as her sacrifice for you.
All this time, I've questioned more than once whether Rosa actually existed, and it was all in my imagination since we never met and she didn't even attend my wedding. Now, I'd rather it all be a fantasy, as I could at least resurrect her in my mind. But it's all for naught because I'm reminded by the metal roses she sent on my headboard and her schematics in my notebook.
Before I wrote this, I asked the caravan for a ride on their way out to the desert. I should see you fairly soon after you get this. I wish you all the best.
In quiet midnight