Part 21

“I’m not mad.” I was just a little lonely.

“Showwee.”

“I don’t want you to apologize. I won’t tell you to not die, and I won’t tell you to not fight. I think all of that is redundant. I would forgive anything you do, it’s just that my feelings won’t.”

I pulled his cheeks to all sides, and then swiftly released them at the same time.

He painfully bellowed loudly and frantically rubbed his cheeks against the counter.

“I’ll go with you.”

At the same time as I said that, I pulled out Crescent Moon’s Shadow from beneath the cuff of my uniform.

Either because his fighting instinct kicked in, his experience in a battlefield, or simply his reflexes, he leaped away from the incoming whip.

It cut through the air, scraping away at his fur and sending many silver hairs into the air, shining under the light of the red sunset.

I pulled my wrist back, changing the path of the whip. It flew straight at him from his blindspot and entangled his front legs.

Our fight started and finished in less than two seconds –––ba-dump––– It had served more than enough as a conversation.

He wriggled around, trying to free himself, but the whip wouldn’t budge.

“…What is this?”

He started scratching his ears with his free hind legs. With the way he was acting, it looked like he had given up and was sulking.

“A manifestation of violence, a weapon used by the gods, or Crescent Moon’s Shadow—choose whichever name you prefer.”

Bewilderment filled his face. He seemed confused, afraid, and glad. It was as if his instincts, rationality and experience all lead to different conclusions…

It was an expression that didn’t really suit the silver wolf.

I was about to say something else when the sunset dimmed, and my surroundings felt ever so slightly more silent.

Tension was filling the gap between us both, and–––

“Uwah, I felt like I was about to die just then.”

The guy with the bandana beautifully trampled everything underfoot, being unable to sense the mood.

“I’m leaving.”

I put the whip away and pulled my hair back as I waited for Shiro to stand up.

“Huh, wait, why? What did I ever do to you, isn’t that just being mean?” As he asked in confusion, he tried to dust off all the dirt on his apron with his bare hands, but it was to no avail and his face contorted pitifully behind his sunglasses.

“It might be mean, but that doesn’t matter to me.” I curtly replied, my voice turning so cold, it was like peak of winter for just that instant.

This man always ticked me off.

“Ah, wait, I still have something to tell you. A message from those kids.”

“What is it?”

“Let’s play together again, they said.”

“Were they still getting along as nicely as before?”

“Yeah. I swear on the reputation of my special blend of tea that that was the case.”

“That doesn’t sound too reassuring but whatever, I’ll take your word for it.” I quickly glanced at Shiro and he nodded. “Tell them we’d gladly play with them again.”

He shrugged and picked up the tea cup that had fallen to the ground.

“Hey, sweetie. I don’t know if it’s my place to say this, but just to throw in my own two cents, I think you should tell them that by yourself. They think of you as an older sister, so you should be more gentle with those kids.”

“I guess that’s true.”

I had already turned around when something came to mind, and I looked back over my shoulder at him to ask.

“This isn’t really important, but do you happen to know a person around my age with only one eye?”

“Nope, I don’t. Did something happen between you and a girl like that?”

“Not really, just wanted to make sure.”

I urged Shiro to move forward and we left that place.

I firmly clenched my left hand. The wound had almost completely recovered.

Only a slight cramp remained.

–––Let us meet again when you have liberated yourself of all the shackles that bind you now and, in the literal sense, ceased being human.–––

I wonder if those children also count as shackles that I need to rid myself of.

If this is indeed the case, how should I act?

ba-dump, I heard a heart beat again.

~~~

Part 22

It was midnight when I woke up from a short nap.

The full moon was shining and the night wind was refreshing, it was a good time.

We were planning on challenging the Forest King now.

I didn’t think it was necessary to hide until my wounds healed entirely.

There was no important reason either, not even a trivial one, as to why it had to be now.

I crossed the living room, which reeked of alcohol, mounted on Shiro’s back and we ran to the forest together.

At this time, the forest was dark like an abyss, not even illuminated by the faint starlight.

Deep inside, the stench of death was strong. Howls of wolves which ought to have long ceased, resounded like sorrowful sobs.

I pressed my ear against the back of Shiro’s neck and closed my eyes, focusing on the sound of his blood circulating.

My own heartbeat matched his.

“Saki, what do you think of leaving the city?” he asked while he ran.

“To where?”

“Far away, to a place where no one knows who we are.”

It didn’t sound like a bad idea.

Doing that would be so calming, peaceful, quiet and–––

“It sounds like it would definitely bring us happiness.”

Hearing myself, my voice was really cold.

Never been loved in the past, seen with enmity now and attacked in the future.

Was there even happiness to be found in the midst of this carnage? How many times would we have to keep causing disturbances for the sake of our wish for tranquility?

But we could dream as much as we wanted.

That was all we could do, and all we did.

And I was fine with that.

Maybe in the end, our destination had always laid deep in the darkness.

Walking through paths of blood, piling corpse after corpse behind us, never achieving anything.

The forest and the city called out in their craving for war, just as hearts, too, cried the same call.

The dense trees came to an end, opening up to a defined clearing illuminated by the moon, as though an entrance to a battlefield.

A large and strong ashen wolf was already waiting for us.

Forest King stood alone amidst the quietness there, bathing in the moonlight with closed eyes.

“So they’ve arrived, the one who slaughters his brethren and his companion.”

He opened his eyes wide and they shone brightly like a candle, moments before burning out.

I climbed down from Shiro’s back and saw our two figures reflected in those eyes.

There was no need to say much now.

“We’ve come to kill you,” I muttered as I withdrew Crescent Moon’s Shadow with my right hand.

I swung it around me in a circle and it cut through the air with a high pitched noise.

After a slight delay, the countless blades of grass I had mowed down sprung into the air and fluttered back down.

That became my signal for Shiro.

As the air became disordered and the rustling in the forest increased, Shiro ran towards Forest King.

Barely an instant later, shadows twisted into a duet of spears and claws.

Heavy and light sounds rang out, claws clashing against each other and shadows countering wind.

The fight was starting to skewer against Shiro, the wind that managed to slip past the shadows lacerating his body and shaving his silver fur.

I would swing Crescent Moon’s Shadow between Shiro’s attacks too.

I pulled it up diagonally, then swung it back down from the left.

Forest’s King stepped back in his pursuit against Shiro to evade my attack, letting the whip hit the ground raising a puff of dust.

His eyes were blinded for an instant because of this, but his wind blew it all away immediately.

But that had been enough for Shiro to disappear from his view.

Shiro had leapt upwards in an attempt to ram him into the ground.

“Forest’s King calls out to the spirits. All the winds blowing through the forest whose voices clamour for glory, turn into a vortex and become my seat!”

The wind bellowed strongly.

A small tornado formed around Forest’s King, blowing strongly like a gale against us.

The silver wolf was thrown away drawing an arc high in the air as he fell to the ground while I was swept like a black petal getting slammed against the trees behind me.

I felt the hit throughout my entire body, the taste of blood spreading inside my mouth, and my heart beats became louder.

I wiped my lips with my left hand but the taste wouldn’t go away and blood started to drip from the corner of my mouth, dripping onto my red scarf. At the same time my body started to slide down the tree.

“You should have reconsidered your chances of winning against me inside the forest.”

A silent yet arrogant remark.

I looked up and saw him there, like a ruler watching over everything. Looking down at us scrambling on the ground as he floated in the air with nothing in his way.