“It’s about time we put an end to this.”
She carelessly raised her left hand up next to her short hair and grasped near the tip of the whip, stopping it in its path.
But her palm was torn open as a result and blood started gushing out from the cut.
Her breath was ragged and it was clear that she was exhausted, but it seemed that she still possessed the will to fight.
She slowly stood up, her thin summer uniform rustling as she did. Her right hand still held on to the knife while she grasped the tip of Crescent Moon’s Shadow with her free hand.
A raspy laugh came from her.
“A whip definitely seems like a good fit for someone like you.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.”
As I casually replied to her comment, I tried pulling the whip back, but her hold on it wouldn’t loosen even for a second. Instead, the more I pulled, the more I could feel that I was being reeled in towards her, causing the friction between my slippers and the tiled floor to produce an annoying noise.
I was starting to get irritated. If it continued any further like this, I would soon end up in her reach. I was in a really bad position right now.
Desperate, I accidentally called out, but it was to no avail.
“He’s not here, the wolf that protects you. What are you going to do now? You defenseless little red riding hood.”
“I don’t think that name fits this situation. I’d have to be the one who was getting eaten if I was to be called that,” I spat out, trying to conceal my irritation.
“It does fit then. Be it getting eaten or getting married, both mean becoming one in the end.”
The screeches from the floor underneath continued, she had the upper hand in this situation.
I had to do something, something that would distract her.
“You know, that wolf of yours is going to die.”
“What the heck do you mean by that?!”
A distraction was certainly created, but I was the one who fell for it. As soon as I shouted, she firmly pulled on the whip.
The force she pulled it with was so strong that I was lifted off the ground and suspended mid air like a flag. My hair was fluttering, my scarf swaying and even my skirt was flaring out slightly.
“You idiot, you should have let go of that whip.”
I observed the sharp point of her knife approach me as she prepared herself to pierce it through me.
My head cooled off when I saw its metallic glint and realized that she was in the exact same situation as I was.
I moved my left hand, throwing the knife towards her.
It stabbed into her right shoulder with a muffled sound, the handle poking out through the thin summer uniform.
After that, I simply continued flying through the air with my left hand stretched out front.
We crashed into each other, causing both of us to fall down and roll in an entangled mess.
I pulled the now free Crescent Moon’s Shadow and slammed its handle into the ground, pushing myself upright from the impact.
After a slight delay, Budworm also stood up, her head dangling and completely devoid of energy.
Her left hand was clutching the handle of the knife embedded in her shoulder.
“Looks like it’s a tie this time.”
I lifted my limp left hand while trying to suppress the pain.
Her knife had pierced right through my palm with the tip peeking out the back of my hand, its edges smeared with red.
We nonchalantly pulled them out at the same time, a red stain quickly flowering across her uniform while my palm was bathed in blood.
The blood formed a lump and trickled down from my hand onto the floor.
“I’ll never forgive you for what you did.”
I licked my palm, a strong iron taste spreading through my mouth, tinting it a deep crimson, redder than the sunset.
“I’ll—well, I might as well forgive you.” She held the knife that she had pulled out of her shoulder and flicked it with her fingers. “Since this is a wound caused by Aya’s knife, I might as well forgive you.”
She shrugged, the opening in her uniform flapping from her movement.
“I told you earlier, didn’t I? I’ve gone as crazy as you have.”
“You seem rather enthusiastic right now.”
Along with a rather courteous smile, I lightly swung my whip.
“Let’s give it another go, to see who’s the better one in the end.”
“No thanks, I’ll be going back.”
“Are you trying to run away?”
“I’m just tired. I’m not as sturdy as you are, and I also managed to get Aya’s knife back.”
As soon as she finished speaking, she lightly kissed the blade. The shiny steel reflected her pale lips as they made a slightly wet noise.
“Now that I possess the last remnant of my bond with Aya, I’ll become stronger—much much stronger. Even if I make enemies out of the entire world, even if the gods themselves stand in my way, even if you stand in front of me again.”
Her right eye stared coldly at me, shining with a dark tint and what looked like a lingering flame.
“This is all I have left now.”
She skillfully folded back the curved blade and leaped with considerable strength from the middle of the room straight to the window sill.
“I’ll say one last thing before I leave, I wasn’t bluffing when I said your wolf was in danger earlier.”
She kicked off the window rim and nimbly jumped out the back, her bandage trailing behind her.
Almost by instinct, I threw her knife at her but the pain on my palm made me miss my mark.
But she didn’t even seem to care about it and simply caught it with her bare hands, a slight smile spreading across her face as she did.
It was a relieved and clear smile. Still strong even though she was wounded.
For just an instant, it fascinated me.
Her skirt and her short hair fluttered in the wind. She landed on the sports field, then once again she kicked off the ground and leaped away.
And with the minimum movement, she had crossed halfway through the field.
Intrigued by her last words, I left the infirmary through the door instead of chasing after her.
As soon as I took one step into the hallway, I ran into a large crowd.
We had probably caused too much of a ruckus.
Yet not even a single person called out to me, and I couldn’t see Shiina Tsukasa anywhere among them.
I brushed my hair back, slightly lifted my skirt up and headed out the school gates.
I tried calling out to Shiro, but there was no reply.
So I set off towards the forest.
While the wound in my hand recovered at a shocking rate.
I found Shiro at the stand of the bandana guy.
He was sitting there motionless, leaning against one of the seats by the counter.
His white fur was stained with dark red spots and he looked badly wounded.
I couldn’t exactly say that he was safe, but at the very least he was still alive.
I walked till I was before him and brushed my hair aside.
The strong twilight wind blew in from the north, causing my hair to flutter towards the south.
Shiro groaned apologetically in response.
His ears were folded, clinging to his skull, and his tail was retracted between his legs, making his whole body seem smaller.
“What’s this? The girlie arrived?” The bandana guy, who was scrubbing off cups inside the stand as usual, butted in.
“Now I was quite surprised earlier, you see. I was just waiting for some customers here as usual when Wolf-kun suddenly appeared out of nowhere, all covered in blood. I already took care of him, so at least be grateful now.”
“Thank you,” I replied honestly. A second later, I heard the sound of a cup breaking on the floor—what a rude guy.
Behind his sunglasses, his eyes widened in shock, and with a trembling hand, he pointed at me.
“Did you hear that, Wolf-kun! This girl who is usually blunt, brusque and is always surrounded by an anti-social aura that hates standing out, just said ‘thank you’… This is such an important event for all of humanity that even news such as the end of the world being tomorrow would pale in compariso–––”
“Shut up, you’re annoying.”
I hit his blathering jaw from below.
He seemed to have been assaulted by immense pain from biting his own tongue and fell to the ground flat on his back, then started rolling left and right while his pink apron got stained with dirt.
I ignored him and instead walked up to Shiro, who was practically collapsed on the ground. I wrapped my hands below his ears and whispered to him:
“You beaten puppy.”
His body seemed to have shrunk to two third of his usual size.
“Were you fighting the King of the Forest?”
He opened his eyes to look up at me, raising one ear while his other flopped a little, being unable to spring up.
“What are you talking about?” he replied, but his facial expression seemed to be questioning how I knew.
“There’s no way you could have hidden that from me—I was beside you when Silent Steps died, remember?”
I had also heard Forest King’s decision and Shiro’s declaration of war.
On top of that, while it might only be my own petty self confidence, I firmly believed that Shiro wouldn’t lose to anyone. Even if he was against more than one opponent.
I poked his cheek with my index finger as his face turned more troubled.
“Be honest with me. You kept silent about it, thinking that I was going to be a hindrance, right?”
I poked him again.
I was going to continue poking him until he decided to answer.
He really didn’t seem to be reacting much.
By the time I considered pinching his cheeks instead, he looked away and murmured.
“I’m not mad at you whatsoever. Seriously.”
“I know that’s not true.”
I pinched his cheeks.