Chapter 3: The Girl wants to turn into a Doll
When I regained my senses, the floor beneath me crumbled as I heard an explosion. If I had known this would happen, I may have had the chance to react better, but the suddenness of it rocked my composure and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Then again, the ground underneath me was crumbling, and I had nowhere to latch onto with Crescent Moon’s Shadow.
They had done so in such a perfect and calculated manner.
Below, the water reflected the sunset like flames dissolving into the river. White foam trailed after me as I sank, though, I didn’t hit the water with as much force as I thought I would. The whip retracted back into my skin and I folded my arms as I sank deeper.
“I really wondered why they demolished the bridge.” I thought. “Not only is it the only passage that connected the eastern side to the west, but they shouldn’t have had to blow it up in the first place. Why did they blow it up instead of just setting up an ambush?”
Because of my monologue, I inhaled water and I stopped there. It had only been incoherent bubbling anyways. As my body touched the riverbed, my hair fanned out as the current pulled at it, and bubbles leaked from between my lips. As I looked up, I could see the fractured sunlight through the water’s surface in the distance.
I pushed aside a stray strand of hair with my hand and took in the breathtaking scene before me for the moment.
There’s no point in staying here, I should hurry and get back to the surface…
I allowed the current to take me as I headed towards the opposite side of the river in a diagonal trajectory.
I trotted up the riverbank and threw myself into the dirt once I was clear of it.
After a sigh, I realized how cold my body was. Forced to swim through a river in December; Such a pitiful thing. It appeared that I had been in the river longer than I thought. Most of the sun had already set beyond the horizon. I didn’t know which part of the west bank I was on, a street laid in front of me, and buildings made of stone were lined on their side.
Still, I didn’t recognize the small street I saw. It would be stupidly unlucky if I lost my way.
“Hey there, can I ask you a question?”
Even though I was fresh out of the river and still laying on the floor; I called out to a young girl. She looked to be an elementary school student and carried a backpack. – And she was pointing a Kalashnikov right at me…
Compared to her small body, the gun seemed disproportionately large, yet she had a firm stance.
“No.” She replied mechanically.
If she had been human, I probably would’ve noticed some sort of emotion in her. After all, even with a gun, she didn’t have an advantage.
“Then there’s no other choice.” I said.
I slowly stood, droplets fell from my soaked clothes.
“Don’t move.” She said.
I ignored her. I wanted to pull my wet hair off my face, but the gun pointed at my head was too annoying.
“If you move again, I’ll shoot.” She warned again.
If I tried to move again, she’ll definitely pull the trigger; So I decided to pull my hair back, and she pulled the trigger.
I threw my head back, my attention focused fully on the space between the muzzle and my temple. Not a second had passed. The hammer struck the primer, the gunpowder ignited, and the bullet began its way down the barrel. I leaned my body back, letting my weight me pull down, and away from the muzzle. The bullet traveled through the barrel and gaining velocity, and spin, before it left the firearm.
At the same time, I heard the gunshot as the gasses burst from the barrel, at the same moment, I grabbed at the air in front of the muzzle. I turned to look at the small girl, opened my clenched fist, and a crushed bullet dropped to the ground.
“What a pity…”
I swept the gun away, stepped forward in its place, and formed a blade with my fingers. Then I struck her unguarded neck. There was no sound of bones shattering, nor the tearing of flesh, but oddly dry sound similar to the snap of a branch. Like that, she fell to the ground. Her neck bent unnaturally, sharper than ninety degrees. Maybe I had overdone it, but I didn’t have a choice. I had to get away before anyone else spotted me. I went forward and hid in an alley, leaving her body behind.
Soon, I heard three gunshots ring out. New troops? If that was the case, they were good at hiding since I hadn’t noticed them. I jumped back and turned towards the direction of the shots. Purple eyes and a bright red ribbon appeared in the dark.
It was Yuunagi in her uniform while she pointed a smoking gun towards me.
“It seems Tsukagi Saki is safe.” She said.
Together with her… Was the girl who I had I had killed, her neck twisted, and her head got blown away; she fell lifelessly to the ground again. Blood gushed from her head before it turned white – like bisque doll fragments – before they turned into sand and faded away. What remained was just a headless corpse. The remains of a doll.
The doll was here? I asked myself, pulling my wet hair back again.
“Looks like you saved me.” I said.
“Thanks are unneeded. Yuunagi still has use of Tsukagi Saki.” She said.
“And that is?” I asked.
“Its obvious, fighting power.” She answered.
“That’s just perfect.” I said.
I relaxed my shoulders and she lowered her gun.
“Yuunagi took care of the patrols in the area, but the time gained is not much.” She said.
“Well, let’s move on then.” I said.
She nodded. We crossed to the other side of the street and snuck into a small alleyway between the buildings there; hidden in the shadow of the setting sun.
The alleyway turned out to be a great place, with its complexity, it had plenty of hiding spots. We were lucky not to be under attack either. Thanks to that, I managed to organize my thoughts. The reason why they destroyed the bridge was obvious once I calmly thought about it. It was the only reason why they would have destroyed such a strategic point…
They wanted to contain me.
In other words, they didn’t want me to cross to the west side. Once I thought this far, my nose began to itch and…
Yunnagi stopped a few steps ahead of me and turned around. I tried to evade her eyes.
“Is Tsukagi Saki’s physical condition bad?” She asked
“Not at all, it’s just a bit cold.” I had fallen into a river and crawled out of it. I had been soaked like a drowned rat from head to toe.
“Yuunagi understands the situation…” She said. “In that case -”
We had just turned the corner of an apartment building, but we ran straight into the building’s residents. The oldest appeared to be middle-aged and the youngest was barely an elementary school student. A mixed group of six men and women.
“Esteemed protector” The businessman that stood before Yuunagi muttered. It didn’t take me too long to figure out their positions. Three offensive, two backups, and one in charge of communications that held a phone to their ear. My first target was that last one.
I sprang forward past Yuunagi, kicked off a wall, and leaped high into the air. My view turned upside down as I twisted my body, and flew over the heads of three of them. My hair, still drenched, trailed down, but as if it became weightless; puffed up and fanned out like wings.
The rear guard joined the front, and all together, trained their weapons on me.
So pointless… I thought
“Crescent Moon’s Shadow!” I called out.
The handle sprang from my wrist as they pulled their triggers. My whip curved through the air, their bullets’ trajectory straight. I did not think of attacking back, only to knock away the bullets. While I did that, Yuunagi knocked down their heads, and I landed. Six dolls now laid spread out on the ground.
Only one struggled, its body trembled, as it tried to move. Unable to stand, it could only lift its head to look up at Yuunagi. It saw the smoke that rose from the barrel of her firearm and immediately understood. It was her that had opened fire on them.
“W H Y. Y O U T R A I–––” Mechanically and without expression, it tried to speak. Yuunagi never let it finish as she crushed its head beneath her foot.
“That was wonderful.” I said.
She didn’t reply back. Only nodded with her eyes as she exchanged her rifle’s magazine with a fresh one.
“Now then, there’s a suggestion I’d like to make.” I said.
“A suggestion?” She asked, her head tilted as she finished reloading.
I pointed my thumb towards the building behind us.
“Let’s take a break.” I said.
“… Yuunagi can not comprehend the meaning of that suggestion…” She said.
“Well, then do as you wish.” I said.
Without waiting for her reply, I headed to the building’s entrance. She stood still for a few moments, then, decided to follow after. A sigh escaped her lips, something rare for her.
The apartment was another plain brick building that felt stifled and gloomy. I looked at the mailboxes and chose the closest occupied apartment. It was the first apartment on the second floor, so we headed there.
The hallways and staircase had no windows to allow light in so my stepping was unsure. Luckily, nothing caught me up. I came to a stop in front of a door that read “203” on the door. Yuunagi stood silently behind me. She almost gave the impression that she wanted to ask what I was up to.
I reached forward to try the doorknob, but it was locked. I took a deep breath and tried again. The metal whined then creaked as it twisted together with the lock before it tore off.
“That looks forceful.” Yuunagi commented.
“You should expect something like this by now.” I said.
I pushed open the heavy door, but it sounded like a heavy weight was dragged across the floor. Maybe it was because I forcefully opened it.
The interior of the room was just like I expected it to be. A simple living room with sights that someone lived there. There were two more rooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom. Apart from the usual furnishing, luckily included was a bed. There were no personal effects to be found though.
I first checked the water heater. It worked without a problem once I turned it on.
“Well, I’m going to take a shower now.” I said.
“So that was Tsukagi Saki’s goal.” Yuunagi said.
I shrugged at that.
“I’m not like you.” I said. “I can’t handle the cold too well.”
“Yuunagi does not have any sort of special resistance against the cold.” She retorted.
Her response was slightly beside the point, and I didn’t know how to respond. I could only shrug again as I took off my wet scarf.
“Does Tsukagi Saki want Yuunagi to accompany her into the shower then?” She said.
“I would’ve assumed you knew better than to joke like that by now.” I replied.
“That is true.” she said.
If it had been Shiro in her place, I might have received a slightly different, perhaps much cuter, response. I was too tired to bother with it though. I strangely felt fed up and empty. A feeling akin to going to the candy shop, only to find your favorite candy had sold out. Maybe that was what “loneliness” felt like…
I put both my hands against the shower wall, letting the torrent of water that gushed from the showerhead down my head. The water was hellishly hot, but it felt like it was bringing life back to me. Maybe it was that half my senses had been dulled by it already, or maybe that my skin felt as cold as ice.
If I had spent the night outdoors, I would’ve turned into an ice statue. It may have made an interesting exhibit, but thinking that far was just ridiculous. Through half-frozen lips, I chuckled.
It’s alright… I’m still sane. I thought to myself.
The scorching hot water flowed off my hair and down my body. It continued down, flowing between my curving muscles, before finally finding the non-slip shower tiles.
“They were dolls” I muttered.
At least seven of them, here on the west side.
“There’s probably more of them.”
Or perhaps… Everything in this city…
I cut the thought off.
I focused my focused on the sound the splashing rainfall of water on me.
“But then, if this was a city of dolls…”
What kind of ridiculous life was I living? Yuunagi; President; Otoa; Even my classmates and teachers!
“That’s too stupid.”
Calm down and think about it clearly.
By now, why should I be bothered by something like that? Haven’t I already thrown everything away already? My family. My old life. Humanity… I had no reason to be bothered how ridiculous that was.
“That would do nothing but betray my self I guess.”
I heaved a sigh.
“Lets lay down the current situation.”
Acting calm was the first step to actually becoming calm.
“For now, the clues I have are probably ‘Protector’ and the west side.”
Yuunagi’s role and whatever was on the west side were all I had to work with, for now.
Then the second question that had bothered me since I arrived in the city turned up again – Why was Yuunagi trying to kill Otoa? I felt like some of the surrounding pieces of the puzzle were already in place, but I didn’t have the centerpiece of it all. That is what bothered me the most.
I felt there was a good chance I wouldn’t find the answer I was looking for. Even if I knew more about the situation, I would never find the answer I wanted to know the most.
I didn’t care for the intricacies, structure, or the truth behind this city. The first question I had when I entered was the one I wanted the answer to the most.
“Where are you?”
I closed my eyes
“Tell me, Shiro…”
I called out his name, but there was no reply. His silver fur was gone and I couldn’t feel the warmth of his body. It didn’t matter. I would find him; this was what I didn’t want to lose. It didn’t matter what might get in my way, I would find him, and for that goal; I wouldn’t hesitate to do anything – even if it meant betraying Yuunagi.
I imagined his shape, flickering, looking somewhat aloof as always; with a smug smile.
“I’m still the same me as I was before.”
I opened my eyes and began to think about my next move. Considering the situation, the best bet was to continue toward Otoa’s home. Though, something was bound to happen there considering Butterfly was together with her. Butterfly had always been weak to people who had shown a lot of vulnerability like Otoa. So, it wasn’t hard to imagine them together.
I removed my hands from the wall as I tilted my head upwards. It was somewhat funny, probably because I probably also looked like I was crying like this.
The shower continued to warm my body and once that was done, I simply left it. I dried my body with a towel I found nearby before. I took another up, used it to dry my hair, and then combed it.
My clothes were left in the living room, wrapped in more dry towels. There didn’t seem to be a dryer here, so that had been the best I could do. It would dry after some time, probably.
Still wrapped in the bath towel, I went back to the living room where Yuunagi had waited for me. However, when I got there, she was gone. I looked into one of the rooms and saw her sitting on a bed. She looked like she was hugging the Kalashnikov, the buttstock rested on the bed while the rest supported her body. She didn’t move when I stepped into the room.
Maybe she’s asleep?
I moved closer and peeked into her face. Like I thought, her eyes were closed.
I guess she has a sleep feature.
I shrugged my shoulders and sat beside her. The bed creaked a bit and her body slowly tilted towards me before she fell on my lap. Her sleeping face made her look dead. Neither happy nor troubled to put it some way. She looked to be on stand-by. As if someone had pressed an imaginary power switch on her back. It was that kind of expression.
I touched her cheek. I felt her cold skin. I could feel the faint beat of a heart and the warmth it carried. If she was a corpse, it felt like she had barely died the instant before. As a doll, she was irrationally elaborate. I caressed her face as if I was petting a cat. When I moved my hand away, her face twitched slightly but fell unmoving afterward.
So I didn’t get cold, I wrapped the bedsheets around my shoulders. Then I looked at the window.
It was already night.
An hour must have passed like this before Yuunagi opened her eyes. She didn’t seem to have the usual grogginess that accompanied humans when they woke. She only needed a short moment to take in her surroundings. Her violet eyes showed a strong and determined will.
Somehow, it reminded me of a computer rebooting.
“Why could it be that Yuunagi was lying on Tsukagi Saki’s lap?” She said.
“Did you sleep comfortably?-” I smiled suggestively. “-on my lap?”
But Yuunagi didn’t react to it and only rose silently.
“It seems Yuunagi turned off her functions temporarily. The current situation would’ve called for Yuunagi to be more watchful so that was Yuunagi’s blunder.” She said.
Functions, huh… I thought
“I don’t really mind it, not like anything in particular happened.” I said
“Understood.” She replied. as she looked me over. “Still, Yuunagi thinks Tsukagi Saki should change her clothes.”
Of course. I ought to have done that by now, yet… I thought
“In my defense, I’d like to say I’m still like this because you were sleeping on my lap.” I retorted
“…that was Yuunagi’s blunder.” She said.
“I guess.” I said.
I sighed as I stood up before I headed to get my clothes.
“I’ll be changing now.” I turned and pointed at her. “After that, there’s something I’d like to ask you.”
“Yuunagi thinks that if Tsukagi Saki has a question, it would be faster to take care of it now.” She said
“It will take some time, probably.” I said.
“In that case, Yuunagi will go prepare tea in the meantime. Yuunagi confirmed the presence of a can of black tea in the kitchen earlier.” She said.
She stared at my finger as if it was a knife.
“You always have something to do, huh.” I said
“Sorry for the trouble.” She replied.
“I thought you’d say something like that. You know you don’t really have to talk so formally with me.” I said.
I probably seemed annoyed with her, but after I said that, I left the room. Behind me, I heard her stand. It was only the sound produced by the friction of her clothes and the sway of her hair.
I had already expected it, but my clothes hadn’t dried at all. My half-dried underwear felt gross, and the uniform was cold. If someone tried to illustrate the meaning of “pitiable”, I would have been the perfect example. I probably would have been able to find a few spare clothes if I searched, but out of stubbornness, I didn’t.
Yunnagi and I sat facing each other at the living room table. Between us was the hot tea she prepared. It seemed like it was made with cheap tea bags, but it also didn’t smell or taste inherently bad. More importantly, it was piping hot.
“This city isn’t normal in any way, is it? I don’t know when, but it seemed that this…” I thought for a moment. “Thing, whatever it is, was artificially created for some specific goal.”
“Yuunagi confirms this, and admires that conclusion.” She said, though, she didn’t look like she meant it.
“Thanks for the compliment.” I said.
I took another sip. The tea wasn’t bad, but it felt slightly weak. There was a lot that we could’ve done to improve the taste.
“But Yuunagi, it’s weird that no one else seems to notice that.” I said.
I placed the cup on the table and, for a second, my face reflected on the surface before the ripples scattered it. I crossed my arms and legs as I straightened my back.
“Just what is this ‘city’?” I asked.
A moment of silence passed as she looked like she was searching for the right words.
“It’s a seal.” She replied.
So far, she hadn’t taken a single sip from the tea.
“A magic installation created to seal away Otoa-sama. This is what this city is.” She continued.
That made sense, and it also explained the meaning behind “protector”; and the dolls. The pieces were starting to click inside my head.
“So in other words. this place is like a miniature garden. You, along with the others, are playing house.” I stated.
“Yuunagi confirms that, however, what Tsukagi Saki calls ‘playing house’ is something that happened because circumstances called for it.” She said.
And the only one who had no idea about all of this was Otoa. She kept living an endless mock life trapped in this city.
Loneliness beyond saving, and because she didn’t realize she was lonely, it made it all that much worse. Though, maybe she hadn’t been as lonely as I was imagining. I looked into the eyes of the doll before me. Her violet eyes showed no emotion. Yuunagi must have been by her side all this time.
“Why is Otoa being sealed?” I asked
“Because Otoa-sama is not human.” She answered.
“I could guess as much.” I nodded.
“Yes, and Yuunagi never intended to hide it.” She said honestly. “Otoa-sama’s original form is that of a giant that once lived in this region.”
A giant, huh… That was one of the creatures from the World of Legends. A monster just like Shiro, and a monster… Just like me.
“At some point, the giant descended on this land. ” She said. “In a short span of a few minutes, that giant eradicated the inhabitants of the human city that used to live here – eating them. That’s why a sect of magicians that lived in this region fought to seal away a dangerous giant like that…”
She lost her train of thought.
“So, they sealed it away and then pushed the work of dealing with the aftermath to their successors?” I asked.
“Yuunagi confirms that.” She answered.
“Alright then, now for the last point I wanted to ask about. What is it that you wish?” I asked.
She didn’t reply but stood up. In front of her, the tea cooling tea let out a last puff of steam – like a dying breath. It steamed no longer. Before I could say anything, she spoke up.
“Tsukagi Saki, let’s go up.” She said.
I drank the last of my tea and placed the cup down, flicking its rim with my finger. Then I straightened my legs and stood up from the chair.
We climbed the stairs and pushed open a rust-covered door before we stepped onto the rooftop. There was no fence and it was rather spacious. There were six clotheslines to dry clothes, but they appeared to haven’t been used for a long time. They were rotted.
The air slowly grew colder as the night went on. The city lights rose from below, brighter than the faded stars above. The scenery seemed perfectly matched for Yuunagi and me – standing in place – my heart started to beat faster.
“In a way, this city can be compared to a single living organism.” She said.
She spoke without looking at me and walked ahead until she reached the edge. Even when she stood on the cusp of the rooftop, she never turned around.
“Sealing Otoa-sama away and preserving the city are the two things that have to happen simultaneously. If one starts to take priority, the other gets ignored. More so right now.” She said.
“You’re speaking as if something unusual is happening in the city.” I said.
“There is nothing unusual. Just inevitabilities. As time passes, the inevitable deterioration of the barrier continues. Normally, that could be held back, but that is not possible now.” She replied.
“And you can’t just kill of the giant as it sleeps?” I asked.
“Technically, yes.” She answered.
“You can’t, or you don’t want to. Which one is it?” I asked.
“Can’t… At least, not at the present moment.” She replied.
The more I listened, the more I started to get annoyed. So I decided to stay silent for some time as I tried to organize my thoughts. There was something hidden behind her words, but Yuunagi didn’t wait for my thoughts to catch up. Her eyes still off in the distance. Either on the city below us or to the sky above – maybe into the void ahead.
“There’s a need to go to the center of the seal. However, that is protected by a second seal.” She said.
Only then I noticed, the bridge that ought to have been blown away was there again. As if nothing had ever happened. It guardrails illuminated by the street lamps that lined along the road like lone sentinels. Yuunagi had disappeared before, only now, I had a hunch of what she had been doing.
“So you’re thinking of destroying the city.” I said while I faced her back. “And that also explains why all the inhabitants started to target me. You used me as a decoy.”
“She slowly turned around, her skirt fluttered slightly, her purple hair and red ribbon blended together in the darkness of the night. Her inorganic eyes remained… Inorganic.
“Yuunagi confirms that.” She confimed.
At the same time, multiple explosions erupted everywhere around the city. It felt like the very foundations of the city trembled. The violent shockwaves slammed against me and almost blew me away. Explosions and flames, in an instant, had engulfed the city. The wind blew fiercely, pulling at both our hairs. Our skirts and even our sleeves fluttered in the torrent like the wings of bugs.
“Yuunagi,” I asked her once again. “What is it that you wish?”
“Yuunagi is in love with Otoa-sama.” She replied.
As time went on, the darkness deepened. At last, the doll expressed something that could be considered a feeling. Words of love – with a twisted contradiction -, similar insanity as the one I saw in Butterfly. Yet, her face remained stoic, so much so that a smile could have made her look sane.
“That is why Yuunagi will, as long as she’s still with Otoa-sama -”
I felt goosebumps begin to sprout all over my body…
” – Kill Otoa-sama.” She said.
Those had been her words, and from the way she said it, I knew she wasn’t lying. I felt disturbed, but if I were in her shoes… I would certainly, definitely, and without a doubt, think the same; or so I felt.
Faced with that, any philosophy or religion lost all meaning. Only hopeless despair was left. The city shook, burned, and crumbled down. As if proud of it, Yuunagi spread her arms out. This was the protector – Otoa’s protector.
“So, this was your purpose?” I asked.
“Yuunagi has, in contrast to the other dolls, a certain degree of free will.” She said.
“Then, you admit that you are a doll yourself?” I asked
“Yuunagi confirms that.” Her usual response followed.
“Are you sure?” I asked.
“Yes.” She replied.
I took one step closer to her. For some reason, even though she was barely a few paces away; the distance felt devastatingly far. The hot current of heat flowed from the flames around us, a wind that didn’t fit the current season. As if to warm us, it caressed our bodies. At the same time, a hot feeling welled up inside of me – the feeling of anger.
If I were to lose Shiro, and if she were to lose Otoa, I would only return to the place I was before; and Yuunagi would only move to an unknown place.
It was the same for both of us.
The only difference was I knew that, and she did not. And maybe, it would’ve been better if Yuunagi hadn’t been able to think the way she does. Because she only had half-cooked thoughts, she would only know suffering. Though pity for her would probably be like an insult to her.
“Hey, Yuunagi–––” As I called out, I ran.
With the burning city on her back, I kicked her off the rooftop. Only emptiness hung on her face from the attack. As she fell, she barely managed to catch the edge of the rooftop with her right hand and held herself from falling.
Her body dangled in the warm wind. The darkness that awaited her below was like a beast, it’s jaws wide open and its tongue of flames licking up. The ground looked like a portal to hell.
Though the fact it looked like it, didn’t imply that it wasn’t. But just like someone had said before, hell was everywhere.
“I really wanted to end this now, but there’s one last question I’d like answered.” I said.
With cold eyes, I looked down on her. A faint doubt seemed to linger in her violet eyes as she looked up to me.
“What will you do afterward?” I asked.
“Afterward?” She replied.
It was as if she had not thought about what would have come after. The doubt had started to change into bewilderment.
“After you kill Otoa, what are you going to do after that?” I asked.
“Yuunagi does not understand the meaning of that question.” She said.
“Passing a long time having only a memory to accompany you sounds really painful, doesn’t it?” I asked another question
I lifted my right foot and lightly stepped on her fingers. I didn’t press down, only just barely touching her.
“Yuunagi does not un–––” I cut her off.
“Living in a world without the person you loved sounds really painful, doesn’t it?” I fixed my question.
“I’ll kill you ahead. Then you can reunite with Otoa in the other world. Though I don’t know if you’ll end up in the same place Otoa will.” I said.
For some reason, I just hated how similar we were. There was a limit to how reckless someone could be, and it wasn’t like I had any obligation to her. Still, as self-conscious as I might have been, her determination annoyed me.
For some reason, I just hated how similar we were.
“…Yuunagi refuses that.” She said.
“Why?” I asked.
“Yuunagi has to clearly see Otoa-sama’s death.” She answered
“Why?” I asked.
“Because that is Yuunagi’s proof of love for Otoa.” She answered
“Why?” I asked.
“Because Yuunagi loves Otoa-sama–––” She answered again, but I cut her off.
I shook my head.
“That won’t do, Yuunagi. You’re just contradicting yourself, just going in circles.” I said.
I spoke soft and slow, just as I started to put pressure down with my right foot. There was a quiet cry, and she shut her lips tight.
“Why is it that loving her means you have to kill her?” I asked.
The repeating “Why” seemed to have shaken her. As confusion filled her thoughts in what seemed like a self-referencing paradox, she could only look deeper into herself.
As time went on, the darkness turned ever deeper.
I didn’t know if that was the truth or not, but I knew it was something most would never want to see.
Show me that, Yuunagi, your heart–––and mine.
“Because everything will disappear if Otoa-sama wakes up as a giant.” She said.
“Why is it sad if everything disappears?” I asked.
“Because Yuunagi won’t be able to meet Otoa-sama.” She said.
“Were you always by Otoa’s side?” I asked
“Yuunagi confirms–––” Her reply was cut short as her body stiffened.
As if ice melted, her expression changed. It went from unrest to shock; from shock to fear; and from fear, she started to exit the loop in her heart. A large tear left her eyes, from eyes that should have never had emotion.
“Yuunagi is sad, because she can’t be together with Otoa-sama.” She said.
“I see.” I said.
That’s what people call loneliness.
“Yuunagi wants…to be together…with Otoa-sama?” She asked.
“Who knows.” I replied
And I…what should I call it?
I pulled my foot away from her fingers, and in its place, my hand extended out to her.
“Come.” I said.
I urged her, and she grabbed my hand.
“…Thanks…a lot…Tsukagi Saki.” She said.
“I don’t know for what, but you’re welcome.” I said.
Her body was way lighter than I expected, and her hand was cold.
“Tsukagi Saki made Yuunagi act completely out of character.” She said.
You’re entirely right.
But it wasn’t bad.
The city was burning. It seemed like they didn’t have anything like firefighters, and they didn’t seem to know how to deal with it. The inhabitants – dolls – ran around everywhere. Engulfed in the flames. The flames rose to the sky, giving the appearance of a massive bonfire. As if it were an offering to a god.
Thinking of Otoa – a giant -it made that comparison stronger.
Shiro had to be with Otoa. He was also a beast from the same time period of legends. I had no time to waste looking at the scenery. I had a goal to accomplish, which was why I stopped in this city.
There seemed to be no explosions where Otoa’s home resided. Though if the fire were to spread, the situation would be different, but it didn’t seem to be the case for the near future.
I ran unarmed through the main street as flames engulfed the surroundings. Yuunagi ran holding her Kalashnikov as we started up a small hill. Otoa’s mansion stood towering over us in front. We crossed through the massive gates across the green lawn, and continued into the mansion.
This building reminded me of the school on the other side of the city, was dead silent. It felt almost as if everything outside didn’t matter within these walls. I narrowed my eyes and examined the building I had visited once before. It was the same one when I had been invited to dinner by Otoa before, or at least, it looked the same.
The scent in the air smelled old and ancient – the scent of a forest.
Standing in front of Yuunagi, I pointed in the direction it came from. We went deeper and climbed down a flight of stairs. It kept going down, and I followed them with closed eyes.
With each step, I could feel the air change on my skin. It was the air of forest; The air of an ancient world; The air of a world of legends.
When we reached the end, I opened my eyes. A dark space spread out in front of us. So dark that I couldn’t see ahead or even the stairs we had used to reach here. Almost as if the darkness trapped us. Only a white stone door stood out in the darkness, strangely.
“What a mess.” I said.
I touched its surface. It was smooth with no resistance as my fingers glided across it. A different feeling from metal or a living being though.
This was an entrance to a different world. This was were Otoa was.
“We did some rowdy stuff just to get to this door, huh.” I said.
The second seal.
The whole city was one and it concealed another within it – this door. It had been a perfect way to hide it. Even when I had been invited into the building before, I hadn’t found anything. I brushed my hair back and took a deep breath.
“Crescent Moon’s Shadow!” I yelled.
As I called, the legendary weapon trembled in my skin and its handle sprang forth from my wrist. As I pulled it out, I swung it at the door. Striking it, I felt the recoil in my hands as blue sparks shimmer through the darkness, spreading like fading ivies.
I twisted my wrist and pulled the whip back.
“What a cheeky door.” I hissed.
“…Yuunagi wonders if immediately resorting to destructive behavior is really the correct way to handle this.” She said.
“Well, you do have a point.” I said.
I gave up and pushed on the door like a normal person. It opened, no resistance offered. Light poured into the room and blinded me momentarily.
“Welcome, Tsukagi Saki. This is the city’s core, and Otoa-sama’s sleeping quarters.” She said.
In front of me, many iron colored trees spanned out into a forest.
“An iron forest.” I muttered.
My heart ached, the heart I received from a god, ached in pain.
I gritted my teeth and supported my body on the door.
“…I swear, how irrational is it for a forest to exist under the mansion.” I said.
I tried to mask off my bad condition with some banter.
“What is it after all what happened?” She said.
I picked up what seemed a hint of amazement in her bland voice.
It somehow felt strangely odd.