Our eyes met each other as a smile spread on my lips and my heart raced with excitement. At the same time, I pulled the whip out from my wrist.
“Crescent Moon’s Shadow!”
“Cēn! Fire dwelling on the tips of branches, become a torch in my hand!”
As he shouted, he drew the cen rune—a character that resembled a less-than sign—in the air.
My black whip cut through the wind and swept the ground as the rune turned into a fireball the size of a human head and scorched the air.
They crashed into each other, causing a large explosion that spread flames everywhere and blinded me.
I turned my hand to swing the whip in another direction, tangling it around one of the trees in the forest further back. Tugging myself to it, I landed on the ground.
The forest was now parallel to me and the burning stand around five meters away from me.
From across the blazing flames, the glitter of his sunglasses shone through.
I lowered my body and, holding the whip by my side with my right hand, I started running.
But the sorcerer didn’t move.
I could easily win now———
But I let that victory slip away.
Why are they here? Why did they have to come here?
From inside the forest, two children peeked out.
I twisted my whole body and slid on the ground in my attempt to stop, causing my planted feet to scrape a trail behind me.
Once I was still, I turned around again to the children.
Yuuka and Kou’s faces were petrified, clearly being unable to understand what was going on.
The sorcerer moved towards them faster than I could since he hadn’t lost his balance nearly as much as I had.
Still, if it was an attack, I could still make it on time.
So I swung the whip I was still holding behind me.
It flew and cut through the flames consuming the stand, arriving at the sorcerer that had started to reach for the children, and cutting his arm off.
There were flames all around me.
Yet why was I feeling these chills…?
Was the sorcerer smiling?
Had this all been predicted by him already?
Did he sacrifice his arm just so he could kill me?
I saw him holding a card with his remaining arm.
“Cēn, fire in men’s hand, Sigel, fire in god’s hand. Rain from the sky like punishment that assists gods and humans alike!”
The card started shining red and the Cen and Sigel rune seemed to float away from it, shattering in mid-air.
Then countless fireballs started falling from the sky.
Heading straight to me, who still hadn’t regained her balance and had an outstretched arm.
But darkness engulfed the entire place.
It was like a localized night, a shield of shadows eating away at the magic fire that burned bright as the sun.
I kicked the ground under me without caring for my posture, and leaning forward, I swung my arm back and then forward once again.
Cutting straight through the sorcerer’s throat.
Blood started gushing out like a fountain, splashing onto the children. They finally broke out of their petrified state.
Yuuka started screaming and Kou was frightened.
And it wasn’t because of the dying sorcerer beside them.
But because of me and my whip.
I slowly stood back up and started walking towards the sorcerer, and the children.
“Big sis…big sis…”
Yuuka started muttering through clattering teeth, Kou then grabbed her hand.
And together with a long, senseless scream and frightened eyes, he ran back into the forest while pulling her behind him.
I briefly closed my eyes and dusted off the dirt on my skirt. Then walked over to the sorcerer.
I looked down at his body, his pale head and destroyed throat, brightly lit by the flames coming from the burning stand that were spreading towards the forest.
He had a vacant stare, his bandana charred and his sunglasses broken.
I was surprised, seeing his eyes for the first time. They were unexpectedly clear and blue.
“I still can’t tell…whether you’re cold or kind. You chose to protect instead of killing, yet you didn’t hesitate to let those children fear you.”
“Are those really your last words?”
My own voice sounded like steel. My heart felt like it was burning, but the rest of my body felt like a frozen lake.
The shadow of death was creeping up into the sorcerer’s smile.
“Whenever you’re in front of me, I feel like there’s something off, something like a curse. I should have run away, but I chose to fight. I really made the wrong choice.”
Blood kept spewing out from his sliced throat as he spoke, but his voice still rang out clearly.
“It’s like you’re a curse given form. And my disciple is being burned away by the same curse.”
After saying that, his whole body started to shake violently.
“I’ll wait for you in the manor where the dead drenched in rain dwell.”
He briefly raised his arm, closed his eyes, and then stopped moving.
I returned Crescent Moon’s Shadow to my wrist and turned away from the spreading fire.
The people living close to the forest appeared to have noticed the fire since I could hear noises coming from there, and it probably wouldn’t take long for firemen to come.
I walked away for some time, then stopped at an empty crossroad.
“Shiro, I know you’re here.”
Without a sound, he walked out and stood before me.
“Were you with those children?”
“…Yeah, I was walking through the forest with them.”
“Did you find anything?”
“Nothing at all. But I wasn’t expecting to find anything anyway. It should have been obvious, I’m a wolf with no connection whatsoever to this forest…it should have been obvious.”
“All that is left is regret.”
He smiled bitterly and slowly nodded, seemingly tired.
I bent my knees and looked straight into his eyes.
Here, there was only he with his silver fur and black eyes, and me, a girl as cold as winter.
“Welcome back, Shiro.”
“I’ve returned, Saki.”
In the distance, fire truck sirens and shouting could be heard as I kissed the wolf.
Maybe because the sun had already set, the school rooftop felt strangely chilly.
There wasn’t even any wind, yet I could feel a coldness brushing against my hand constantly.
Looking up at the moon in the sky, the silver wolf asked a question.
“Is something happening here tonight?”
“Just a meeting.”
There was no specific reason why the rooftop was chosen as the place for the date.
If anything, it was just the easiest place to do it, that was it.
There was a two meter tall fence and a water tank, with many benches placed around and a steel door guarding the entrance . In the warm seasons, this was a rather lively place during breaks, filled with students. However when it was night and cold, no one would come up here.
Only silence surrounded me, to the point where even the sound of the air slowly moving around me felt loud.
“Soon, the end for all of this will come.”
And with the end, a new beginning would arrive.
I left Shiro near the entrance, then walked up to the fence.
Looking down, I could see the lifeless sand of the sports field. Where I held the fence, the wires twisted and broke off like loose threads, opening up a hole the size of my hand..
Then I threw the pieces in my hand to the floor and brushed my hair back.
A cold breeze brushed against my back, pushing my hair closer to my back, and after a brief rustling noise it was gone.
At that moment, I spotted a small shadow near the main gates, flitting across the sports field to the building, then jumping up to the second floor window with an inhuman strength. From there, it kicked the second floor ledge to reach the third floor, repeating the process with the third and fourth floors before leaping once again over the fence.
As it crossed over my head, I saw a thin summer uniform dancing in the wind and a moment later, the soft sound of feet meeting the ground resounded behind me as she landed unscathed.
I turned around and said:
“Good evening, don’t you think it’s a beautiful night?”
As I spoke, pain laced through the already healed wound on my hand.
“I don’t think so.”
Budworm was in front of me, her short hair dancing in the wind and the ends of her bandage trailing behind her.
Her getup was still light, wearing the summer uniform with knee socks as if she couldn’t feel the seasons changing, and since she had lost her scarf, her neck and part of her chest was exposed. Her legs shone with a light blue tint from the moonshine, looking somewhat seductive, but at the same time bloodthirsty.
Her right eye reflected the light too, looking at me with uncontained hatred.
“I killed the sorcerer,” I said.
“I don’t mind. I don’t care about that—there’s almost nothing important left for me anymore.”
She grabbed my wrist and placed my hand upon her chest.
“You are the only thing filling this,” she said, as her gaze wavered slightly. “I’ve been thinking of you all this time, and before I realized it, you took up more and more space in my heart.”
“Please don’t tell me you’ve fallen for me now.”
This time our roles were switched, so I used the same comeback she had used before to poke fun at her. Her lips twisted slightly after hearing my words.
Together with that superficial smile, she pulled at the end of her bandage and undid it.
The cloth fell softly to the ground, revealing a black scar—
“If love and hatred are similar, then yeah, that might be the case.”
—and a carved hollow, like nothingness given form.
“Even though I have no reason to kill you.”
Still, her pained voice continued as she covered her face with both her hands.
“If I don’t kill you, I feel like I won’t be able to go anywhere at all.”
Living like that must probably feel like hell.
A miserable life.
And if she did kill me, nothing would change. That single fact made her situation all the more pitiful.
“What a pitiful person.”