A guttural laugh started bubbling up in my throat as my body bent backwards and my voice echoed.
“How much crazier are you going to get before you’re satisfied? There’s no meaning to this—and no reason either—you are just burning yourself out, doing stuff for the sake of it.”
I heard the sound of her teeth gritting together.
A crooked smile spread across my lips, shrouded in a ghastly coldness.
Excitement was almost overflowing within me.
———ba-dump, a heartbeat rang.
“Shiro,” I called. “Please don’t intervene from now on.”
“Sure,” he replied, seemingly understanding what I was feeling.
It was almost like—
“Play as much as you want.”
—the kind of affection an older brother would show to his sister, or a father to his child.
Budworm wrapped the bandages around her head again while looking at us in confusion, then held her knives in her hands.
Her own, and the one that belonged to Natsume Aya. Two very sharp knives.
Another breeze blew, causing my black hair and her white bandages to flutter in the wind.
“Anyways, let us start.” I grabbed the ends of my skirt and bowed respectfully, after which I pulled the darker than black whip from my wrist.
“Die…just for me!”
As she spoke, she turned the knife in her right hand to herself and cut open the neck of her uniform, and in the now exposed skin———
———A red scar was carved in.
Shaped like an N, with both ends stretched out.
Sigel, the rune of the sun.
A symbol of a force that life can’t oppose, a flame that won’t lose to man’s hand.
Fire that had been engraved into her body.
Her knife glided over the scar, making a small cut and smearing some blood.
“Sigel, scorch!” she exclaimed with a powerful voice.
A bright blaze blinded me for an instant, making me close my eyes instinctively and jump to the side in attempt to evade the sound of an incoming knife.
It shone as if the sun had been lowered right before my eyes and it burned my vision away, even through my eyelids.
Once the light was gone, I painfully opened my eyes.
A straight red wound had opened up just below my neck, blood dripping from it.
Budworm started to laugh pleasantly, the edge of her right knife was outlined in red blood and her eye kept shining more, filled with joy.
“Yeah,” she said in excitement. “This is so fun, it’s giving me chills.”
Her fingertip began caressing the backside of the knife, then she made it spin in her hand and while swaying a bit, pointed the tip towards me.
My entire body was filled with enough excitement to burn through the night.
With each loud heartbeat, I would feel more strength pumping into my body while a voice screamed at me from the bottom of my heart to fight.
The surroundings faded away, everything turned silent, only the two of us filling my heart.
The madness in her eye slowly transforming into a faint killing intent.
Soon it got more refined, more pure, wanting to do nothing but kill me.
She had such a beautiful gaze.
Then, like the wind that crosses the desert, she ran towards me with her bandages trailing behind.
I swung my whip, wrapping it’s length around one of the benches that sat on the rooftop and throwing it at her.
She stopped running to avoid the incoming bench and bent her body. The bench flew past her, crashing into the fence behind her and opening a large hole in it before falling to the ground.
The entire fence shook as a result, sounding as though hundreds of bells were ringing at the same time all around the rooftop.
“Don’t think you can stop me with such a foolish attack.”
She thundered before running again.
“Sigel! Bring forth the cursed sword from the lands of fire and become a thunderous and scorching heat.”
As she shouted, the rune on her chest started glowing and flames enveloped the knives in her hands, spreading out like swords.
Flames came forth when she made an upwards swing, then more came from a horizontal slice. The cross shaped flames quickly crossing the space between us.
I too started running then, intervening between the cross.
Small cracks appearing on the floor as I sprint towards her. I quickly reduced the distance between us with the speed of a bullet and as soon as I was close enough to land a hit on her, I swept besides her aiming at her pivot foot.
As she started to tumble down, I dug my fist into her torso feeling a thick sound from it.
In retaliation, she forcefully pushed my arm away with her elbow.
A vibration and momentum spread from my fingers into my wrist, then into my entire arm. After a short delay, pain followed.
She rolled sideways to avoid falling and used the remaining momentum to lift her leg into the air.
Then she kicked downwards as her leg made a thunderous noise cutting through the air, once it hit the floor countless fragments of it sprung into the air.
I leapt backwards to avoid the falling debris and at the same time, the distance between us grew again.
My heartbeat kept accelerating to the point that it was starting to hurt.
Still, I was smiling. I hadn’t smiled one bit with Shiina Tsukasa’s affection. But now, a smile so wide it reached my eyes was plastered on my face while faced with Budworm’s enmity.
Facing me, she was also smiling without much thought.
Our short exchange had seemed so much like a game that even the pain had felt enjoyable.
“You know, I think I’m starting to like you quite a bit.”
She stared straight into my eyes after I said that.
“Well, I just loathe you!”
I’m glad you’re here.
Her piercing eye didn’t leave mine.
“You’re the best as my enemy.”
She smiled even more now.
It was such a weird feeling.
I could understand how she felt, and she could understand me.
“Could you tell me your name?”
“I forgot it.” She spat out. “Everyone who called me by my name is gone…And I wouldn’t want to hear you calling me by it.”
That was a good answer. I brushed my lips with a finger.
“Well then, I’ll call you Butterfly then.”
Budworm———Butterfly snorted, scratching the area around her vacant eye.
“So you’re implying I emerged nicely? Sounds like something you’d come up with.”
“It’s just my gratitude for calling me a bitch.”
“So you always hold grudges then, what an unpleasant person.”
“Same goes for you.”
I told her calmly as I reaffirmed my grip on Crescent Moon’s Shadow.
In response she traced the mark in her chest again, increasing the fire on her knives.
The flames swayed, shining bright red that were in contrast to her white bandages.
Once again, the knives turned into swords and swinging them, she made a cross that sped towards me.
I lowered my body, getting close to lying flat on the floor to go under it and swung my whip.
Loosely it flew forward, just like a snake, towards her. Giving up her left knife, she deflected the attack and immediately after swung flames forth with her right one.
I pressed against the floor with my left hand and jumped diagonally to parry the flames.
My feet making a slight noise when landing, I looked at her and struck my left hand out, as if inviting her to continue.
She glanced at my hand briefly before changing her stance.
Bathed under the moonlight, her posture looked so imposing it made my chest hurt a bit.
Was this, hidden under all that madness real? Or was it just another lie?
Feeling even more motivated, I brushed my hair back and traced my lips, imagining the taste of blood and crimson lips.
After a warm breath I caressed my own cheek in ecstasy.
My heart was beating louder, pumping even more strength into my blood, a strength that wasn’t human.
I was a fragment of a god, had the blood of a wolf, and was still part human.
“Should we end this now?”
She lowered her body as I faced a pure hatred coming from under her short hair.
Then like a compressed spring that was released, she sprang forward as her legs sped up under her short skirt.
As she ran, she spread her hands grasping the steel mixed with fire, looking like a butterfly flying straight at me.
In response, I readied my whip as my hair swayed behind me.
Soon after, we were exchanging blows while moving around. It was almost as if we were dancing.
The floor resonated with our steps, the noise of our weapons cutting through the air so loud that it could be heard far into the distance, and a bright red flicker constantly disturbing the darkness.
Her flaming knives and my Crescent Moon’s Shadow just kept drawing countless arcs.
We both let our bodies move instinctively as our dance accelerated, and then———ba-dump.
I sprang into the air as I dodged her constant attack, landing on the water tank.
Then I swung down my whip which created a crack in the tank and shot a torrent of water gushing out. Butterfly’s knives began to hiss.
All that water and it still wasn’t enough to burn out her knives, leaving only a thick curtain of steam around the rooftop, obscuring both our visions.
I kicked off what remained of the tank under me and flew forward.
Using the hissing as a guide, I moved closer to her and at the same time swung my whip to a different location.
As soon as it hit the floor, she brandished her knives to that direction.
Using that opening, I quickly moved behind her and lightly tapped on her left shoulder with my right hand.
Her throat couldn’t even manage to muster a scream.
I whispered in her ear———ba-dump.
She turned counter-clockwise to face me, while my grip on her shoulder strengthened and I dug my other fist into her unguarded stomach.
She let out a pained groan as I heard the noise of bones cracking and she spat out blood while arching forward.
I then quickly raised one leg, kicking up as strongly as I could towards her chin.
Since she was still pinned down by her shoulder she couldn’t even completely collapse on the floor and she remained with her entire body bent backwards like a bow, her mouth screaming but no sound coming forward.
Then I lowered my leg shifting my weight and the floor cracked, then I raised my other knee and drove it into her side.
I release her shoulder, sliding my hand along her arm, grabbing her left hand as her body flew away from the hit.
When I pulled at her hand, she came back spinning like a top.
After a while she started falling down again and I kicked her side.
Her entire body lifted off the ground and I was about to kick her again when———
In response to her scream, the scar in her chest started shining again.
I let go of her hand and quickly jumped back.
I tried covering my face with my hands but at the same time, she exploded.
Scorching flames spread out in an instant obstructing my view past my arms.
A pillar of fire rose up, steam dispersed everywhere with the explosion, and a burnt smell could be felt.
The wind caused by all of this pushed me further back and I landed just in front of the fence.
Slowly I regained my vision there as the water tank finally calmed down. Butterfly was still standing just where the explosion had happened.
It was like a miracle.
Her skin was lacerated with countless wounds, her breath ragged, water mixed with blood dripped down from her hair to her neck, and her uniform was charred everywhere.
As soon as she spoke, she threw up blood and dropped the knives.
After that she didn’t even seem to be willing to pick them back up.
Watching that, my right hand slowly reached out in front of me while a slight smile spread on my lips.
“Crescent Moon’s Shadow…”
As soon as I called its name, my obedient weapon returned to my hand without showing any resistance.
The way the handle shook as I gripped it felt as though the whip enjoyed being my weapon.
I held it firmly.
“Your entire body is in tatters.”
I brushed my hair backwards as I tried to fight off the discomfort coming from my wet clothes clinging to my skin.
Her right eye strongly glaring at me.
Her voice was cracking, but her will to fight was still intact.
The enmity she emitted burned the deepest parts of my body, accelerating my heart.
“We have barely started haven’t we?”
She smiled daringly as she kicked her fallen knives up and caught them with her hands.
Then she pointed one of them at me and yelled:
“There’s no way all of this could have been enough, not for either of us! There isn’t enough pain, not even nearly enough. I need more, way more than just this!”
Her face was as pale as a corpse.
It was easy to notice she was pushing her body recklessly and for no discernible reason.
But everything else about her screamed “So what?”
As if trying to burn all of herself, she lit a soft flame on her body.
Her short hair, thin summer uniform, short skirt, the bandages fluttering behind her, and more than anything, her knives, were on fire.
Like a butterfly, like a crimson butterfly, she covered her body in flames.
Strongly, yet like a dream, she was burning herself.
“Come here and join me for a little longer, Tsukagi Saki.”
The flames all around her body burst out and swayed like a heat haze.
Her smile twisted, reminding me of a heavily starved beast and the shine from her right eye burned even stronger.
“I’ll drag you down to the deepest parts of hell with me!”
Like an overflowing vortex of emotions, she screamed letting all her feelings out.
Ecstasy, sorrow, rage, hatred, exhaustion, despair, irritation, anguish, and even love.
It all burned like a flame, together with her…
Just before it all ended.
As if I was watching it in slow motion, she slowly, very slowly crumbled.
Falling to the floor, her hands still firmly gripping her knives, her eye fixated on me and her teeth gritted together.
Her body made a loud thud as it hit the damp floor, and soon after she let go of the knives.
Her flames were wavering and she squirmed around as her blood covered body burned away.
“Move! Move move move! This isn’t enough, this isn’t enough yet! This pain and suffering aren’t enough! Against you…I’ll…you…I’ll…”
Blood dripped out the edge of her mouth as she screamed. She continuously writhed like a caged animal.
Feeling her piercing gaze on me, I walked closer.
“I’m leaving town tomorrow.”
Her eye was quickly engulfed in shock, and a hint of supplication.
“I just wanted to play with you without restraint before that.”
“What did you just…are you…joking…”
Shock, then anger covered all of that.
I smiled politely and reached out to her, grabbing the scruff of her uniform and lifting her up.
Once she was standing up, we just stared at each other.
“And so, I’ll have to hold off from going to hell with you for another occasion.”
For a split second she looked astounded. Then as her blood covered shoulder started shaking she slowly raised her right fist.
“You’re such an idiot. You don’t realize where you are, it’s like you don’t even care, and wrongly assume you’re in a high place. In reality you’re just here, in a place that is more like———”
Her bandages were drenched in blood as they clung to her face that contorted a bit, probably trying to express a laugh.
“This place is hell.”
I said as I pointed my thumb towards my feet.
Her shoulders slackened, as though she were to giving a shrug, before her strength left her body and she fell unconscious.
For around ten seconds I just stood there, staring at her.
She looked too worried for it to be considered a sleeping face. It showed an expression of both satisfaction and thirst mixed together.
As if she were having a nightmare, but was relieved inside that nightmare.
“Let’s meet again sometime.”
I whispered in a low voice and let her go. As her body fell, I sat as if racing her to the floor.
Then placing her head on my knees I caressed her cheek.
Her uniform felt cold, heavy and drenched while clinging to her skin, but her actual body was warm. The fatigue from earlier was probably finally catching up with her entire body.
Then Shiro, who kept his promise of not intervening with the fight came and stood beside me.
“Did you enjoy yourself?”
“Yes, a lot.”
As I said that I was probably smiling without realizing it.
“Hmm.” His eyes seemed to be lost in my face. “So even you can smile like that.”
“I really wonder.”
I leaned my tired body on Shiro, and started laughing without really knowing why.
It had been really fun.
This had been the first time in my life that I had played together with someone else like this.
In this moment, my feelings were just like that of a small child’s.