Chapter 4: The Girl Wakes Up
Ignoring the two wolves, silver and crimson, I looked at Otoa’s eyebrows. They pulsated like a heart or something of that sort. I understood that in this place, detached from reality, this was the only chance I had to kill this.
A while later, I noticed the silver wolf looked to me. I had been so entranced by her that once I regained my bearings, I quickly stiffened my expression. I brushed my finger against the bandages that covered my left eye and glared at the silver world. This was the wolf that had taken my eye.
Did I resent him?
No, nothing of the sort. The one I resented was the girl at his side.
“How’s the wound on your left eye?”
“The worse it can be.” I touched it again as I smiled with disdain.
“I guess it was my fault, but I won’t apologize. That would be insulting.”
Stange enough, as bad-mannered the words were, I felt the sincerity in them.
“Insulting to who?”
“To you, and to Saki, and to me.”
Once I heard his reply, I was convinced that this wolf was straightforward and honest. He even knew what the wound meant to me. It was a special kind of straightforwardness, not really human, but more wolf-like–––maybe more sorcerer-like. Much more than even Tsukagi Saki.
“…So hey, what was your name again?”
“I’m Moon Eater.” He replied, a hint of melancholy in his voice.
“Moon Eater, huh…”
“Though, Saki prefers to call me Shiro.”
“Wait, no way. That’s obviously a dog’s name.”
The wolf’s–––or rather, Moon eater’s ears lowered along with his tail as he sat beside the cocoon.
“I also thought that way, but it was Saki’s wish.”
Exhaustion and resignation, but there wasn’t a hint of sorrow in his voice. It seemed even slightly humorous… or rather, fondness? Although, if it was, it was faint.
“You might not know it, but Saki can be rather scary when she gets mad.”
“I know. Though I’d say even if you don’t get her mad she’s plenty scary.”
Six-tenths of her human feelings were broken, three-tenths were completely insane, and the remaining never existed in the first place. Even if she knew, partly or entirely, what common sense and morals were, she didn’t care. It was a kind of pride that was close to an absolute monarch. Though, luckily she wasn’t a monarch.
She was more like a whimsical storm.
“That is one point I will have to disagree on, Butterfly.”
The silver wolf nodded and continued.
“Saki is a maiden. Beautiful, frightening, and fragile; nothing, but a maiden.”
“That’s bullshit!” I screamed. “No way in hell that’s true! She’s a demon! Violence given a mind! A curse that digs her claws into anything around her, leaving everything scarred!”
I stomped the ground with force and raised my voice.
She’s beautiful, yes. I’ll admit only to that, but that’s the beauty of a venomous flower! Like a pile of tumbling corpses on a battlefield! Like a sea of maggots feeding on them! A nightmare that doesn’t believe in any and every wonderful thing in this world! She doesn’t believe, in anything! Not even herself! She’s fragile you say? Its obvious she’s going to be fragile! She’s obviously alone too! What else would someone be, if they acted like she stood alone above everyone and looked down on everyone! And worst of all is that she’s perfectly aware of all of this!”
My shouting continued, one after another as if it were a bottomless well.
“That’s what Tsukagi Saki is!” ‘
Moon eater only stared into my eye the entire time, his black eyes gave the impression as if he were looking into the deepest depths of my heart.
“Well now. It seems you know her pretty well then. You know her even better than I do!”
He laughed and it echoed throughout the dead forest.
“You should be glad that you’re similar to Saki. But because you’re similar, you certainly won’t turn into her. I think you were a magician… No, you’re human! If I were to say, if there’s anyone who’d pierce her heart, it’ll be me or you!”
Though I might be dead long before that happens. I thought.
He spoke without attempting to hide his cynicism, but I was calm, probably because I had screamed earlier. Still, it seemed that having a foul mouth was genetic to wolves, just like the red wolf before, and this one now. It was slightly unpleasant to be confronted, depending on the situation. I felt that parts of me best-left untouched were now being touched.
“I’ll char you two mongrels.”
My wounded left eye throbbed as the sign in my chest flared up and my body burned from the inside out. An unnatural force filled my body, at the same time, I knew my lifespan was decreasing.
“There are a couple of fatal flaws in my kind.”
He casually continued to speak, without a speck of fear.
“Being too cynical, falling in love easily, and having an affinity for blood.”
“So you’re telling me to excuse you because of that?”
“You don’t have to excuse anything. I just want you to be aware of it. Whether you threaten or hate me as a result, or maybe even love, nothing will change my nature. And nothing will change your intentions. Do you understand, human? We are like this to a fault.”
He paused for a short moment before he broke the silence slowly.
“Freedom is the humans’ privilege.”
His words were self-deprecating, but to me, it sounded like sarcasm.
“Are you saying I’m worthless?!”
“Try asking Saki.”
If I lose my cool now, it’ll spell defeat for me.
With that thought as my only support in my mind, I tied my heart up and clenched my fists tightly. My nails dug into my hands, leaving marks. The corner of Moon Eater’s lip lifted, his fangs showed as he laughed and his tail swang once more.
“I’m glad I tried this hard to talk with you. I’m really glad knowing that my beloved person has a friend, it’s quite a delight.”
“Brother, I think you should leave it at that. I understand you might be bored, but you’re talking too much. Any kind of worth doesn’t equal to much more than dust. It’s not something that should be attached to a person.”
Having remained silent for so long, the red wolf finally cut into the conversation; without bothering to hide his annoyance.
“Brother, huh.” Moon Eater snorted. “My brother is only one, and that isn’t you.”
“Hmph.” This time it was the red wolf who snorted.
They didn’t seem to get along well and that was fine.
…Who cares anyway. It’s not like I have anything to do with them.
I only had Otoa to think about for now. I promised I’d take her to Yuunagi, so for now, I had to find a way to get her out of the cocoon; or I’d go nowhere.
“Urghh, this is getting so annoying.”
In reality, I wasn’t as annoyed as my tone suggested, but I seemed to have a slight inclination for bothering others. Still, it was something that was often taken the wrong way. It was so stupid after all.
The two wolves looked dangerous as I crossed between them and moved closer to the cocoon. Once I saw it up close, what I thought was a cocoon looked more… Like some sort of light wrapped around her? It didn’t seem like it would have a physical feel to it.
I took a deep breath to prepare myself, then, stuck my hand inside the light.
I felt no resistance as my hand passed through, and without losing a beat, my hand reached for Otoa’s hand–––
Once I saw it from close range, what I had thought of as a cocoon looked more…like some sort of light? wrapped around her. It didn’t seem like it had a material feel to it.
I took a deep breath to prepare myself, then stuck my hand inside the light cocoon.
I felt no resistance as my hand passed through it. And without losing a beat, my hand reached for Otoa’s hand that was–––
The red wolf yelled, and my view turned red.
A hand sprouted from my stomach, piercing through. I moved my hands over it, trying to push it back out. Blood began to flood my esophagus before it welled in my mouth, a taste reminiscing of rust invaded my tastebuds like I had swallowed one of the iron trees.
The hand then pulled away and my body gradually fell back. My eyesight blurred; my legs staggered. Finally, I fell back onto the ground and the damp soil received me.
The build-up of blood caused me to cough. The sudden constriction of muscles increased the pain from my wound. I looked up from the ground and all I saw was her, Otoa, looking over me. Silver hair, green eyes, and white skin bathed in my blood. Her young body naked, as she stood expressionless; like a doll. There was an Otoa inside the cocoon, and outside of it as well.
“Hmm…” I heard the silver wolf. “I see, guess that side has already started moving.”
On one side, Otoa was still asleep within the cocoon. On the other, Otoa slowly lifted her hand as it dripped with my blood, carrying it to her lips. Then, without seeming to like or hate it, her red tongue slid out and licked it.
“Pff…Ahahah–––” The face of the Otoa bathed in blood contorted. “AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHA–––”
In contrast to the sleeping Otoa, the other laughed manically. Like a broken record as it echoed through the Iron Forest, and as if called by it, the iron leaves began to rustle.
I didn’t understand what was going on. I couldn’t sense a track of reason within this Otoa. She was like a completely different person from the Otoa I had known… Or maybe she was a different person.
Once again, she lifted her bloodied hand.
Her laughter cut off.
“Don’t screw with us!” The red wolf lunged from the side.
His body collided with her, sending her blood-splattered body flying away. Angered, all his fur stood on end.
“How could this happen?!” He yelled.
She hit a tree and stopped moving, and he growled to mask his self-reproach and discomfort. She was… Not quite dead but she didn’t look like she’d be able to move anytime soon. Her body stiffened up as if being hugged by the tree.
“Are you alright, Butterfly?”
He had saved me… A bit too late. Even though I was sure I was about to die then, I was still grateful.
“If I look alright to you then your eyes must be just empty holes.” Yet, those were the words that came out of my mouth.
I tried to shrug, but the movement pulled on my stomach wound, accentuating the pain. Then I tried to close the wound with my hand, to stop the bleeding, but it was useless. The wound was too deep.
The scar on my chest shone red. I tried to gather my scattering consciousness, to focus it on the wound. It was possible to accelerate the recovery process of normal wounds with magic. However, if I tried with this wound, the blood loss would be too great and I would die.
Should I burn the opening then?
I gulped down the amassing blood in my mouth. If I failed at this the shock would kill me. In the end, I couldn’t think of any suitable magic to use on myself, so I didn’t use any. Even after calling the name of Sigel. My consciousness began to fade again, I couldn’t move and my eye began to cloud. I caught sight of the sleeping Otoa in the corner of my eye…
“Hang in there.”
The red wolf came to my side, his mouth adorned with fangs, touching my wound. I thought he wanted to eat me, but I was wrong. He began to lick my wound.
Your intentions make me happy, but seriously, there’s a limit to being clueless.
At least call an ambulance.
Even a three-year-old could tell this was fatal. I hated how fragile my body was. After all, I’m nothing but a human. Though maybe, if I was Tsukagi Saki… Something would have happened.
“There’s no way licking will help a wound like this in any way.
I forced my lips into something that slightly resembled a smile as I turned to him. His ears were down, spiritless, as his tongue retracted.
“Explain to me, please…you know what really is happening…right?”
He closed his eyes and drooped his head.
“Brother, give her an explanation at least.”
The silver wolf said in turn, completely still, his voice hinted with blunt sarcasm.
“You should know everything surrounding this case, being this woman’s companion. Or rather, you knew there was a chance things would turn this way. How does it feel, hm? To have the girl that caught your fancy in her deathbed right off the bat?”
Turned to him as I glared. His shoulders shook slightly as he sneered.
“I guess there’s nothing you can say, considering the current situation. Excuse his rudeness, please.”
“You only say that out of hatred.”
Seriously, these two wolves couldn’t get along any worse.
“I didn’t know it would go as far as this!” The red wolf yelled. “I was told it would only shake her a little!”
“Hoh! To think you’d paint ignorance as the culprit, that’s quite a human behavior you’ve got there.”
They started to argue more and I was still stepping closer to death.
“Just stop already you useless dogs! You are about to crush me if you fight.”
Blood I hadn’t swallowed trickled from the corner of my lips. It dripped down my cheek and onto the ashen ground before being absorbed. Maybe it was my imagination, but the stench of death grew stronger.
“If you want to fight so badly at least wait until I’ve kicked the bucket entirely.”
Each of my wounds felt like they were on fire as if to burn away the death that was coming. Yet, no matter how much pain I felt or how strong my will, my eyelid kept slowly closing.
As if they were waiting for this moment, another laugh pierced my ears. Together with it, the tension rose in the air.
“Show yourself!” The red wolf screamed with anger. “Verdandi! Show yourself! Everything has been going the way you planned it to!”
As soon as it began, it died away.
Just how it began, the laughter was cut off.
“You don’t have to yell like that.”
A voice I recognized reached me.
“It’s obvious it’s going the way I had planned. Rather, if it wasn’t that way, then it’d be weird. You should be aware of that, no?”
I forced my eye to open wider as I searched for her and she stood in front of me.
Without my notice, her name escaped my lips. Like the other times I’ve seen her, she stood there as if she shined bright. Her body was covered with a thin cloth, her hair waved behind her, and something floated in her blue eyes.
I saw her, the red wolf and the other Otoa with her mouth covered by Verdandi as she hugged her from behind.
“Good day, good day, good day.” Her sweet voice rang.
Her slender fingers moved as if she caressed a cat, along with Otoas as they entertwined.
“What do you think, Butterfly? That was barely half the abilities of this lovely toy I found.”
There was a hint of pride in her voice, Otoa still looked like she was laughing behind the hand that covered her mouth.
“You’ve got weird tastes.” I scoffed at her.
The wolves probably thought the same way.
“Well, I guess that might be true. But you see, that doesn’t make me like her any less.”
A dazzling smile came with that sentence as if she was ecstatic. Her face looked like venom to me that way. Half her words were probably lies and the rest ill-meant.
“…Verdandi you bi-…” The red wolf began.
And “What an evil mind.” came from the silver wolf.
Both of them muttered, but for someone like her; both insults meant nothing. Someone who would call another person a toy, calmly, could only be insane.
Heh…it’s almost funny. I guess I had just been playing around on this goddess’ whims from the start on.
As if she read my thoughts…
“There were many components I amassed in this miniature garden to obtain my merry toy capable of crushing the entire world. Like telling a certain wolf about a butterfly, or a silver wolf about–––”
“Shut up. I don’t want to hear you talk so full of yourself. It’s making me nauseous.”
“You’re so cold, even though I accompanied your travels for so long.”
“They were nothing but worthless travels.”
She lifted her golden hair, pulling it back with the hand she had been fiddling Otoa’s with.
“Should I heal that wound of yours?”
“What are you plotting now?”
“Saki will be much happier if you remain alive.”
Heh, I see. So Tsukagi Saki is the name of your favorite toy.
No matter what, her tastes are so twisted!
“Guess you’re just trying to make sure she won’t slaughter you instead.”
“There is a certain beauty in that too, but well, that’s thinking a bit too ahead of ourselves.” Her voice was brimming with sarcasm.
“Anyway, do you want me to heal you?”
“…boring. I thought you’d resist at least a bit.”
“Look here, I’m almost dead from the blood loss alone.”
That was the truth of the situation. I couldn’t move a single finger. Lying on the ground with my limbs outstretched, bleeding out, and having to swallow blood; talking was the only thing I could do. Verdandi’s beautiful shape took on a more annoying expression.
“I’ve thought it over again and I don’t feel like it anymore, you can die like that.”
Her voice rang colder this time as she removed her hands from Otoa.
Otoa laughed with no logical reason; she sprang towards me like a beast freed from a cage. The red wolf retaliated and jumped in front of her with a groan. They exchanged blows, fangs against fists. She held nothing back in terms of strength. His fangs quickened with his movements.
Otoa never tried to move away as his fangs closed on one of her fists. Her other fist circled around, hit him and sent him flying away. A groan left him along with all the air in his lungs. His fangs still held the flesh he had carved from her arms as an arc of blood flew in the air, connecting him to her.
Almost as if that was all she could do, she continued to laugh.
On the other hand, the red wolf twisted midair, struggling to fix his posture for a landing… but his landing so happened to be where I was. I had no way to move, hurt as I was, I had resigned myself to the impact. As the kinetic energy from the hit transferred through my body, I felt my entire body, from my skin to my bones, jolt from it.
A large amount of blood squirted from my mouth and I was surprised by how much I had left. The blood that left me, red mixed with black, looked impure. To make matters worse, I couldn’t feel the pain anymore. All I felt was a cold numbness as if my body was covered in a tight, thin cloth.
“Are you…trying to finish…me off are you?”
He didn’t reply. He couldn’t answer, after all, he was completely exhausted from the earlier attack to his nape; then landed on me. Luckily, he was breathing. Though it didn’t matter much considering how close to death I was myself.
This didn’t feel like a situation dying together was appropriate, considering we just met.
“That was splendid.”
Verdandi clapped with delight as she spoke.
“Even if half of it came from a surprise attack, she was able to outdo a wolf. She’s really a lovely toy.”
Otoa laughed again as if responding to the praise. She turned her body around and started to attack Verdandi. The instant her fist was about to hit, her body blurred and reappeared a few paces away; her eyes fixed on the cocoon now.
Inside the semi-transparent cocoon, Otoa slept in a fetal position… As tears trickled down her cheeks.
Blood bated Otoa began to cry at the same time.
“Ahhhahahah-don’t- ahAHahahAHaha-the person I love-HAHAHAhahaAH-don’t kiLL-AAAAAHAHAHAHAHAH-DoN’TDON’tDon’TdoN’T.”
As if being possessed by two different souls, her body convulsed – unsightly.
She lifted one hand up as if to reach for the stars. The other hand lowered as if to scoop up sand. Her body twisted, her knees folded, and half her face laughed, and the other cried. Her face became a sticky mess, and it was hard to look at. Her incredibly cute face was now ruined.
“Seriously? I thought you had already given up…”
Said the cruel Goddess of Fate as a smile crossed her lips as if dumbfounded, or to mock her.
Stop. Don’t make faces like that,
“Was living as a human so much fun, Giant of Iron Forest?”
That’s more than enough.
“But it was useless.”
A hint of sadism.
“All that’s left now is to wait. Your mere will as a mere human can only crumble facing a giant’s strength.”
That’s why it’s your turn now.
Come out already.
“This is quite-“
A voice appeared, calm and cold.
“-the interesting show you’ve got going on here.”
I could tell it was about time for her to appear.
A wrong to end another wrong…
A legend to end another legend…
Destruction to end destruction…
That’s what she embodied.
She, Tsukagi Saki, appeared from within the Iron Forest. Her raven hair fluttering behind her.
Shit, I’m passing away.
My view blackened. My eye was still open, but I could only see darkness. At the same time, my conscience started to scatter.
“I won’t let you die.”
I heard the wolf whisper, but I didn’t care anymore. I felt like nothing mattered anymore…
I had seen Tsukagi Saki.