Mimizuku to Yoru no Ou: Chapter 1
Chapter 1 - The Suicidal Mimizuku and the Human-Hating King of Night
Mimizuku awoke to the sound of birds chirping off in the distance. The light unexpectedly entered her eyes, and she blinked several times.
"Are you awake? Are you awake? Human child. Human girl."
Little by little, a voice filled her ears. Its speech was broken, and it was very hard to understand.
Like a reflex, Mimizuku relaxed the muscles around her mouth and let a laugh slip out.
"I'm not a human. I'm Mimizuku," she answered hazily, as if responding to the voice of a dream.
She then heard a rustling noise, like the wings of a bat.
"Are you not going to scream? Astounding. I know the mannerisms of humans well."
"Scream?" Pushing the palms of her hands against her eyes, she repeated the word, like a parrot.
"For not shrieking just from seeing me: I commend you," the voice said as Mimizuku lifted her head and grasped the shape of its origin.
However, the distance between the voice's origin and her sanpaku eyes was so small that the creature's body looked larger than any of the huge surrounding tree trunks. She took in the blackish-blue hue of its body, which obstructed her entire field of vision. It had two straight wings like a bat, and its body looked somehow human, however its torso was extremely muscular, and from each side of its body sprang two thin, prominent arms. Two milky white horns stuck out from its forehead, and its mouth was split straight across like a nutcracker. In its mouth were a set of yellowed teeth, between which protruded a red tongue. The sheer redness of its mouth stood out quite flamboyantly. It had a mane of hair like maize leaves, and its eyes were such that the direction in which they were pointing was impossible to determine from looking at them.
It was certainly a frightening, fantastic figure. However, Mimizuku did not think it was so scary. She had never been scared of anything before.
"... Are you a monster?" Mimizuku asked, slightly tilting her neck to the side. "I am," the strange figure nodded, its voice shaking the air.
Mimizuku, with no change in attitude, asked, "Will you eat me?"
"I will not eat you." An instant reply.
"Awww... how disappointing..." she tapered off.
The beautiful creature she saw last night wouldn't eat her, and now this monster, which looked like it would be more willing to eat her, refused to do so as well.
"Human girl. Do you wish to be eaten?"
"Yes! Yes, I do! But hey! I'm no human girl, I'm Mimizuku, MI-MI-ZU-KU." She threw her arms and legs into the air like a child having a tantrum, causing the shackles on them to shake and jangle. "Why? Why? Why won't you eat me?" Mimizuku punched the monster's tough skin several times in protest. However, Mimizuku was weak, and the monster didn't budge in the slightest. Then, he arched his back, and suddenly flapped away.
Mimizuku watched as the monster's form became more or less the size of a chicken, and his true, modest height became clear to her. The monster shook his body and, flapping his wings, flew up into the sky. He looked down at Mimizuku so that their eyes met. Their conversation continued.
"The Ieri in this forest never eat humans. Even now, as you ask me to eat you, I refuse." Mimizuku suddenly went still. Ieri. She had heard that somewhere before. Somewhere deep in her memory were humans who also called the monsters Ieri. With his broken way of speaking, the monster could not make Mimizuku understand his explanation. Though she understood the words, his accent made them seem to her like words from the language of some far-off country.
Like words she had never heard before.
It was because the monster was much smaller than Mimizuku, of course. She would probably be far too much for him to eat. But Mimizuku remembered the much larger monster she had seen, who was just the right size to devour someone like her. She asked this monster about him.
"Because, because because. You met the King of Night," the monster responded. "I cannot associate with any person which the King of Night has let go of."
"King of Night?"
"Yes, the King of Night. He who possesses the moon-eyes, he is the absolute governor of this forest."
His manner of speech betrayed deep reverence for the one whom he was speaking of. Mimizuku raised her head upon hearing his words.
"Oh, him, the one with the pretty moon eyes!" She grinned as she spoke. Eyes like the moon. There was no mistaking it. They had twinkled just like the real things. Mimizuku could still remember.
"What's with that guy?"
"He did not eat you?"
No matter how many times she had told him, he wouldn't eat her, so she eventually fell asleep at the roots of a nearby tree. She was able to sleep well among the scents of dirt and water wafting from the ground.
"If the case is that, then in this forest, this forest of night, there is no monster who will let you be eaten by them," the monster declared.
"I see..." Mimizuku nodded. She didn't really understand why though. In any case, if that big guy wouldn't eat her, then it didn't seem like any of the other monsters would be willing to, either. But that was bad. She had gone through so much trouble coming all the way here.
"Well then, I'm just gonna have to get eaten by him somehow." Still unsteady from just waking, Mimizuku tottered back and forth as she stood up. But it seemed like she had shared her sleeping area with a number of others, as the blood in her legs was congested, and they were blue and numb. She tumbled back onto the roots like a fruit falling from a branch.
"What are you doing?"
"Eh, I think I'll sleep a little longer. You don't mind, do you?"
"It is your choice, but..."
The monster fluttered down and stopped right before Mimizuku's eyes.
"Young lady, you are strange."
"Strange? Maybe I am, but don't call me 'young lady.' My name's Mimizuku..."
"Mimizuku. That is the name of a nocturnal bird."
"Yeah, that's right."
"It is a good name."
Mimizuku, clearly flattered, let out a little giggle. Have I ever felt this happy? she thought to herself.
"Mr. Monster, what's your name?"
"Huh? Sorry, can you say that again?"
"It is no use. Human ears cannot grasp the name of an Ieri."
"Well then... what should I call you?"
"Call me whatever it is you like. Do all humans name themselves after animals that they like?" The monster crossed his arms.
He's not a human, though, Mimizuku thought. She pondered for a bit, but not too deeply, before she gave a cheeky grin and said,
"Okay, I got it. How about 'Kuro'?"
"'Kuro'? The color of night..." Kuro nodded. His acceptance of the name made Mimizuku happy. Smiling, she raised the upper half of her body.
"Mimizuku. The grass is cutting you and causing your blood to flow out." Kuro reached out with his bottom-left arm and felt Mimizuku's cheek. Mimizuku, covered in mud and cuts, simply responded with an "Oh, is that so?" If she touched her wounds, bacteria would enter and definitely cause an infection. She knew that much. But it was all right.
Grabbing onto a nearby branch, Kuro swung onto Mimizuku's head. It was strange; she couldn't feel his weight on her head at all.
"These numbers on your forehead, are they a magic spell?"
"Oh, those?" Mimizuku gave her forehead a couple of cheerful pats. Peeking out from behind the bangs of her tawny hair were three numbers.
"I'm number three hundred thirty two," Mimizuku truthfully responded.
"What does that mean?"
"It's my number."
"Okay. But I do not understand." Kuro's response was also truthful.
"Are you angry?"
"I am not really angry, no," Kuro answered quietly. As ever, Mimizuku's heart began to beat faster.
Am I dreaming? she thought for a moment. It felt strange from the very beginning. Kuro's words were words she had never heard before.
Just a little strange.
"Hey, Kuro, it's strange somehow."
"What is strange?"
"Why, are you being so nice to me?" Mimizuku asked as she stepped barefoot through the grass and the foliage. The skin on the bottoms of her feet was becoming tougher, even a pointed stone wouldn't have been able to cut them.
"I am nice?" Kuro replied contrarily.
"Yes! You're very nice," Mimizuku said, cracking a hearty smile. The chains around her ankles became tangled in the roots of a tree, and her footing became unsteady.
However, her face didn't hit the ground. Just before impact, a strange sound rang. Mimizuku, who was facing forward, rebounded like a spring, and tipped backward so much that it seemed like she would fall over the other way.
She regained her posture in a hurry.
Somehow, she had been saved. She didn't really understand what had happened, but there was a sound like grumbling in her ears.
"I believe such an action could be considered 'kind.'" Kuro was laughing.
"Just now, was that you, Kuro?"
"Aye. It was indeed!"
"Why?" Stopping her feet, eyes upturned, she looked at Kuro. She could only see a bit of Kuro's wings in her field of vision.
"Do I need a reason? I see, humans are those sorts of creatures." To those words, Mimizuku slowly shook her head, being careful not to jeopardize Kuro's balance.
"I suppose Mimizuku does not understand the matters of people. I would like to know why as well. If there is a certain way in which one must be kind, I would like to hear it." Mimizuku heard the grumbling sound again. It seemed like that was Kuro's laughter. It hurt her ears.
Suddenly fluttering down from Mimizuku's head, Kuro appeared before her eyes and spoke.
"I want knowledge."
"I like to know things. No matter how many books I read, I simply cannot demystify humans. You are a human. Thus, it would please me to observe you." Mimizuku blinked emotionlessly a few times and thought about Kuro's words.
How does he read with eyes like that?
Kuro wants to know about humans. Mimizuku is a human. It's because I'm a human that Kuro is being nice to me.
Mimizuku groaned as she pondered.
I think I'll stop saying to Kuro that I'm not a human.
"Kuro! I get it! I understand! That's surprising..."
"Hoho. What has Mimizuku understood?" Kuro asked with interest, returning to Mimizuku's head.
"Even if I'm a human, there are still people who will accept me. It's kind of strange." She walked forward. She lifted her feet with each step so as to not get the shackles above her feet caught in anything. From above her head came the sound of feathers flapping.
"I am not a human, but... you are truly a strange one." Kuro spoke with a brooding, ponderous tone.
"Ehehe..." Mimizuku laughed.
She felt very happy.
The forest called "The Forest of Night" was awash with foliage, and the drifts of leaves blowing in the wind made it seem as if the forest was sobbing convulsively. Occasionally, a sound like a bird flapping its wings could be heard, but when Mimizuku looked up, no animal presence could be seen. From afar, Mimizuku thought she could hear the sound of someone breathing, but she could never see any other monsters anywhere.
It was Kuro who volunteered to guide Mimizuku, who would have otherwise walked alone. Mimizuku felt a great surprise at this, but she had no way of expressing her feelings in words.
With Kuro on her head, she proceeded through the forest. The shackles at her feet made a loud jingling noise as she walked.
"There aren't many other monsters here, huh..."
For a forest that was supposed to be full of monsters, it was very different from what she had imagined it to be. She let out a sigh.
"It is because of the path you are taking," Kuro said from atop her head. "During the day, Ieri do not usually come to the riverbank."
As she walked along the side of the river, she swayed left and right. Suddenly, she kneeled down and put her hands into the water. Feeling the coldness of the running water, she rubbed her hands in it several times to wash them. The forest waterway flowed melancholically, and the water was incredibly transparent.
Then, without moving her face forward, Mimizuku splashed the river's water across her head.
Kuro fluttered backward in a panic.
Mimizuku raised her soaked face and bangs.
"Oh, sorry Kuro," Mimizuku said in monotone while wiping her mouth with rough, sweeping gestures. "Uugh, my face hurts!" Mimizuku scowled.
"What? But did you not drink water?"
"Yeah, I did."
"If the water is seeping into your wounds, maybe it would be best to scoop it out."
Mimizuku then stared fixedly at her own hand. The hand was dangling because of weakened muscles, and it was still sparkling wet from being washed.
She squeezed it and let go several times.
Tilting her neck slightly to the side, Mimizuku suddenly stood up.
"Alright Kuro! Let's go!"
Kuro mumbled an affirmation and flew back on top of Mimizuku's head. Seemingly forgetting about what they were just talking about, Mimizuku began to speak about something else.
"So, where is the 'King of Night?'"
"Straight along this way..."
Kuro rustled his wings and looked at Mimizuku.
"Do you really want to go to him, Mimizuku?"
"Do I really what?" Mimizuku responded, not understanding Kuro at all.
"You said that he told you to leave. If you expose yourself to his sight again, you can no longer consider yourself alive. When you incite his outrage, you might be turned to ash in an instant, or dissolved into water."
"Could I get eaten?"
Light filling her murky sanpaku eyes, Mimizuku truly wished that she would be eaten.
Kuro stared at her motionlessly for a moment, and then raised his upper right arm.
"It is your choice. If that is what you want, then you may go, Mimizuku. If the opportunity arises. If fate allows it, if the world allows it. It may also be that we meet again."
"Aren't you going too, Kuro?"
Kuro laughed at Mimizuku's question.
"I have not been called for."
Is that how it works? Mimizuku thought. Maybe so.
So he can't go if he isn't called upon. I think I know what he means. Mimizuku smiled.
"Well then, I'm gonna go."
The forest opened up its gaping green mouth. However, Mimizuku didn't think it was scary. Alone, she stepped forward into the forest.
Leaving Kuro behind, Mimizuku proceeded into the forest unhesitatingly, her shackles ringing as she went. She didn't find it disheartening that Kuro could not accompany her anymore. After all, she had traveled the long road to the forest all by herself. All that time, Mimizuku wished to be alone.
She walked forward, jangling her shackles. When she arrived at a wall of vines entwined around some trees, she forced her way through them and suddenly arrived in a large, open area.
"Waah..." Mimizuku let out involuntarily.
In the middle of the forest, there was a huge, run down mansion. However, that was a not what stole Mimizuku's eye. In front of its door was a pitch-black wing, smoother and more beautiful than a crow's. With a relaxed motion, it swayed upward.
There, Mimizuku came face to face with the King of Night for the first time.
The strains of sunlight breaking through the crevices of greenery revealed the form of the monster called the "King."
Mimizuku let out an involuntary yelp. Her teeth chattered meagerly, and her body shivered as if paralyzed. It wasn't fear. It wasn't trepidation. She didn't know of those things. The pathways of nerves in her brain had long since been rewired against those feelings.
"Ah..." Opening her mouth halfway, unable to utter a word, she simply let out a small sound.
What do I say? What should I say?
That's right. I have to tell him to eat me.
She had to say it.
"Why have you come?"
The King of Night's thin lips barely moved as he spun his cold words. His voice was frank and sharp, like an unsheathed blade.
Being stared at by those eyes, with that glare that would have frozen any normal person solid with terror, Mimizuku only received a slight jolt of surprise.
The eyes sparkled.
Just like the moons from the night before, the King of Night's eyes now glittered in that silvery white color.
The color of the moon, Mimizuku thought. The color of the moon, in broad daylight.
It was different from how she remembered it, but not so much that she could mistake it for something else. Before her were surely the two small moons, shining the same light as they had before.
She let out a little gasp. Hearing it, the King of Night made an unpleasant scowl. Complicated tattoo-like patterns extended from his eyes to his cheeks.
It's beautiful, Mimizuku thought.
"Leave. Go back to your own place. Human girl." His words betrayed murderous intent.
Even so, Mimizuku did not hesitate in her response.
"I don't have any place to go back to," she said loudly. No one had raised his or her voice in opposition to the King of Night before.
"I don't have any place to go back to. From the very beginning, I've never had a place I could call home...!"
Because they would hit her. Because they would do nothing to her but cause her pain. Mimizuku wanted so much not to think of that place as home.
Mimizuku wanted to think that it would be better to return to any place but that one.
"Hey! Don't call me a human! I'm Mimizuku! My name's Mimizuku!" She yelled it out to the point that she became dizzy. She was used to it by now, but she felt unsteady.
Her knees gave way, and she fell kneeling onto the ground.
"Hey, eat me."
Her vision gradually began to go gray. Do I have to sleep? she thought. She wanted to continue entreating the King to eat her, but her body wouldn't do as she told it to. I have to sleep.
Your body has suffered much, and you must sleep. Someone was speaking to her.
Ooooh... This is strange... I wish I could drink some water...
"Please... eat me... King of... Night..."
Mimizuku toppled over on the grass supinely, arms extended out. The two midday moons looked toward her.
"I beg you... please eat me..."
The shackles on her arms grew heavy, and her arms fell to the ground.
Oh, those white moons, the King of Night's eyes are so beautiful, was all Mimizuku could think of as a drowsiness that made her feel like she was sinking into a swamp assailed her. She closed her eyelids.
No... I want to open my eyes again, Mimizuku thought, her consciousness fading. It was strange. Whenever she went to sleep, she would usually hope that she never woke up again.
If I could just see those two moons once more, I don't care if I ever open my eyes again.
Feeling as though someone was calling her name, Mimizuku gently lifted her eyelids.
The sky was red with the sunset. The moment she comprehended the thought, something came fluttering down from above.
She unthinkingly croaked like a frog.
Propping her upper body forward, she looked at the thing that had come from the sky. Upon seeing it, her eyes almost literally popped out.
There were chocolate-vines and crimson morning glory vines among other fresh fruits she had never seen before. They all plopped down like a mountain falling from the sky in front of Mimizuku.
She gaped and looked upward. Flapping before her against the light red sky was Kuro. He was at a distance where he seemed large enough that Mimizuku could easily hug him.
"Kuro!" Mimizuku yelled. She then tried to move her arms, but was overcome by a confusing feeling.
"Eh, ah, what's this?" Mimizuku asked Kuro, pointing at the fruits burying her.
"Why, it is just what it looks like."
Kuro tossed a live fish into the air with both of his upper arms, cut its tail so that it was the same size as him, and placed it down his pomegranate-like mouth. He swallowed it whole, and then he spoke.
"Might you be hungry? Mimizuku."
"Eh, eh, eh?"
Mimizuku was incredibly confused.
"Hm? Are these... mine?" She pointed to the fruits.
"Yes. I wonder if humans could do with fish?" Kuro flew down beside Mimizuku, grabbed a tree branch, and used it to spear a fish.
He drew several circles in the air with it in a splendid fashion, and the fish was suddenly engulfed in flame. Mimizuku was surprised and taken aback, but the fire just as soon grew calmer, and a savory aroma began to hang in the air. Strangely, the tree branch didn't seem the slightest bit singed. Seeing the results, Kuro nodded, satisfied.
"Here." He held the fish out to Mimizuku.
She received it gratefully. However, Mimizuku did not entirely grasp what was happening, and she seemed to still be in a dreamlike state. Despite not understanding, she put the fish into her mouth. Her instincts taking over, she greedily devoured it. The inside was somewhat rare, but the flavor didn't matter to Mimizuku. Whatever she could eat was good enough for her.
Have I eaten something like this before? The thought seemed to sweep over the back of her head.
"Tell me one thing Mimizuku. Does a dead fish not try to run away?" Kuro asked, rustling his wings. Mimizuku listened as she ate the whole fish, all the way to the eyes, grinding the meat to shreds in her mouth.
"Hey, Kuro. Why are you here?" Mimizuku looked around the vicinity. She was still in front of the King of Night's mansion. The King himself, however, had gone off somewhere, as she couldn't see him anywhere.
"Hmph," Kuro responded. He crossed his upper arms. "It is hard for me to say as well."
He then flew back up into the air and tapped on Mimizuku's head.
"Fate has given you leave. Was it nocturnal luminescence that allowed you to make it? Indeed, it is hard to say. That is why I must ask you, Mimizuku."
Mimizuku blinked a few times.
"Not discounting death, do you wish to remain here? Mimizuku."
"Eh, is it really alright if I stay?" Mimizuku spoke in a loud, joyful voice. "Hey, Kuro! Is it really alright for me to stay?"
"I will not promise any good to come of it. You might be killed tomorrow. Is that okay with you?"
Mimizuku smiled at Kuro's words and flopped onto the ground once again.
Having eaten so much food so quickly, her stomach was starting to ache.
"You know, Kuro..." Mimizuku smiled and held out her arms. Her shackles rang as if singing.
"My only happiness would come from being eaten by the King of Night," said Mimizuku, chuckling happily.
And then, the suicidal horned owl sighed gently.
"Ah, I could die happily like that."
"Hmph." Kuro gave a slight nod. "You are quite miserable," he sighed.
Mimizuku didn't understand his words, so she just laughed cursorily.
"The King of Night is beautiful, isn't he?" Mimizuku said happily.
Kuro was unsure of how to respond.
"Of course. He is a king, after all."
Mimizuku let out a chuckle at his words again.
The curtain of night spread across the forest of monsters.
Oh, the King of Night's eyes have changed to gold, Mimizuku thought absentmindedly, straining her eyes at the heavens.
So this is what happiness is like.
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