Mimizuku to Yoru no Ou: Chapter 3

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Chapter 3 - Purgatory Flowers[edit]

If one gave the door of the worn down mansion a small push, it would creak open and usher whoever was summoned inside.

It was an incredibly large mansion. The skylight was closed, leaving the rest of the area shrouded in darkness. The room smelled of old dried trees.

Mimizuku twirled around, taking in the surroundings, and then began to climb a flight of creaky stairs.

She ran her fingertips across the handrail in the darkness but didn't feel any of the slightly rough sensation of dust, despite the railing seeming old enough to have already fully rotted.

She arrived at the top. At the end of a long hallway was a door that stood open slightly ajar. Bright light was leaking out from the opening. As if being drawn in, Mimizuku approached the door and swung it open.

"Waaah..."

Mimizuku's breath was stolen from her by what she saw.

A huge window was sprawled out before her.

The light in the room was completely off-balance compared to the rest of the Forest of Night.

The light shone upon the wall, which displayed an enormous drawing. Based mostly in greens and blues, it was an image of the Forest of Night. It was completely unrealistic, however just one look at it would allow one to recognize it as a masterpiece. Somehow, somehow, this large image was beautiful.

This is it.

As if she had received a divine revelation, Mimizuku suddenly understood.

This was as far as Fukurou could see.

How beautiful. How solemn, what infinite stillness. No matter where one looked, the world that Fukurou could see was beautiful. It was not the first time that Mimizuku had seen such a masterpiece. Back when Mimizuku was still in the "village," there was a masterpiece among objects pillaged by the villagers. The "village" was a village of thieves.

However, this picture was different from any other, as it was infinitely more beautiful. Whatever materials were used to draw it, they had a strange luster about them. They made it seem as though the image was alive.

Mimizuku outstretched her hand absentmindedly.

Just before her fingers would have come into contact with the surface of the image,

"Don't touch it."

The words seemed to cut through Mimizuku's body like a blade. Her shoulders shivered, and she turned around. Fukurou stood before her.

"Ah..."

"What are you doing?"

He made no effort to conceal his anger.

Mimizuku's spine trembled against her will. It was instinctual fear, something she had known since before she was born.

However, Mimizuku considered it insignificant. She was no longer afraid of anything.

"The picture, it's beautiful," she simply said. Even if Fukurou was angry, it didn't matter.

After all, if he killed and ate her, that would be all right.

Fukurou took a step towards Mimizuku, not making a sound as he moved his feet. Then, he extended his arm out as if to grab Mimizuku by the head.

If I die, I hope there isn't a trace of me left.

Mimizuku closed her eyes. As if multiple revolving lanterns had suddenly stopped moving, Mimizuku fell into complete darkness, and her consciousness quietly slipped away.


Her body feeling heavy and uncomfortable, Mimizuku raised her eyelids. Did she awaken because she felt so heavy, or did she feel heavy because she had just awoken? When she opened her eyes, Kuro was staring back at her, his stature seeming large due to his proximity. She met eyes with Kuro, who seemed close to embracing her. Behind him was the same sprawling green of the forest. Fukurou's mansion was no longer there.

"Are you awake, Mimizuku?"

"Kuro?"

Mimizuku held out her arms, caressing the sides of Kuro's smooth skin.

"Mimizuku is... still alive?"

"That's right, isn't it?"

"He still would not eat you?"

"... Seems that way."

Mimizuku bit her lip. It was no use again. She was filled with thoughts of regret and hopelessness. However, that wasn't all that she felt.

She lifted up her body and sat.

"Kuro, I saw Fukurou's drawing."

"Is that so?"

"It was beautiful."

"Is that so?"

That's right, it was beautiful. It was unthinkably beautiful.

"About the king's picture... The most truly beautiful thing is when he paints with red," said Kuro, displaying a rare moment of hesitation.

"Red? But he didn't have any. There was no red on his picture."

Mimizuku could remember the drawing clearly. It was full of beautiful greens and blues. It was just like the ever-transforming forest. But what about the sunset? Mimizuku thought.

Kuro nodded.

"Yes... Red cannot be obtained in this forest. The paints used by the King of Night are a special kind, filled with magical power. That is why they are so beautiful, because of that power."

Kuro spoke as if he were singing.

"However, it is difficult for Ieri to obtain the ingredients for red."

"Difficult? Why?" Mimizuku asked, her interest piqued.

"Mimizuku. Do you know of the flowers called 'Renka?'"

"Renka?"

"They are called the flowers of the purgatory, a species that grows deep, deep in this forest. They are colored crimson like blood. Its roots are extraordinary, and can be made into red paint."

"If they're in the forest, why don't you just go get them?" Mimizuku asked, tilting her head to the side.

"Because to the Ieri, their pollen is a strong poison."

"Poison?"

"Yes, poison. Thus, the Ieri cannot approach their habitat. The humans from the town sell them to the Ieri. However, in a twist of irony, humans cannot enter the forest because of the Ieri."

Mimizuku thought over his words, and after a moment of consideration, she stood up and jumped to Kuro.

"Kuro! I'll go! I'll get them!"

It seemed as though Fukurou wanted the purgatory flowers, despite being unable to get them. But Mimizuku wasn't a monster, so she could pick the flowers.

She could do something. Knowing this, her heart leapt.

"I'm going to go pick the Renka!"

Hearing this, Kuro backed away slightly. It was one of those things that humans said that added another wrinkle between his eyebrows.

"But Mimizuku. The habitat of the Renka is a difficult place for humans to reach."

"Yeah, it's alright. Just tell me where they are."

Mimizuku was just about ready to run off. She gave Kuro a few punches with her small fists, as if to coax the information out of him.

She could do something, something for that beautiful King of Night.

She had never wanted to do something for anyone else before. Despite this, she felt ready to do anything for the sake of Fukurou.


Mimizuku wiped her sweat with the back of her hand.

"Ngh..."

Reaching out with her thin, shaking arms, Mimizuku grabbed a rock above her head. According to Kuro, just past this small cliff was where the Renka grew. Kuro had told her that her flimsy arms would be insufficient to climb the cliffs, but Mimizuku didn't listen. She had already run far from Kuro, and arrived alone at the cave where the Renka were located.

She put all her strength into her fingertips. Her nail came unstuck from her finger, and blood began to ooze out.

Even so, her thin, light body was happy. Seeing plant-like shapes just beyond the cliff, she grabbed the rock and heaved herself into the cave.

Mimizuku took a moment to catch her breath, and then continued onward into the cave.

At the end of the cave was a large, open area in which the purgatory flowers grew.

Light filtered downward from cracks in the cave's ceiling. However, even in complete darkness, their beauty was unmistakable.

Mimizuku face twinkled lightly. She kneeled down to the flowers' roots.

"Is it all right, Mimizuku?" Kuro asked reservedly, as if he were keeping some of his words in his mouth.

"Is it all right, Mimizuku? The purgatory flowers are the flowers of blood. They wither easily, and thus lose color easily. You must grab them by the roots first, or else they will immediately wither and rot..."

Mimizuku grabbed a nearby tree branch and began to dig into the ground.

"Just one stump of it should do," Kuro said. "Just that will make for a strong red color."

Digging into the dry earth, the roots of the Renka began to show. Mimizuku plucked the thin, hard leaf of a Renka that was already nearby.

"This is the most important part."

She grabbed the end of the leaf with one hand, the base of the leaf in the other.

"... Ngh!"

Taking a breath, Mimizuku extracted the leaf from her other hand in one pull.

She heard something slice through the skin of her hand. It was a light chaffing sound, but she was probably just imagining things.

The leaf had sliced straight through Mimizuku's hand. Red blood began to pour out and drip onto the ground. Mimizuku stuck her fingernail inside of it, expanding the wound. She began to sweat, and not out of fatigue. Her temples grew wrinkled.

She then removed the dirt from the Renka and grasped its white roots in her bloodstained hand.

"This is the most important part. In order to prevent the Renka from withering on the way, you need deep, red blood. Mimizuku, you must cut yourself and allow the Renka to absorb your blood. Can you do this?" Kuro asked.

"Of course!" Mimizuku responded.

"Ehehe!"

Sucking the blood from Mimizuku's hand, the flower seemed to grow redder and more full of life. Seeing this, Mimizuku became happy, and held onto the Renka preciously. Kuro had said that just the roots were okay, but the whole flower itself seemed much more beautiful.

"Will you not take a knife?" Kuro asked before Mimizuku departed. That would probably be the best way to go about the task. However, Mimizuku shook her head.

"I hate knives."

Giving a small, short sigh, Mimizuku stood up. She staggered a bit, but she figured that she was all right so long as she had the Renka. Her mind more at ease than it was when she had left.

She carefully scaled the cliff downward. It was a more difficult matter this time around, as only one of her hands was free.

Her attention was completely taken by the Renka, and as she went down, a rock underneath her foot gave way.

"Hyaah!"

She fell to the ground. Or so she thought she would, but instead, she heard a deep, dull thud.

"Gyah!"

Feeling a sharp pain in her shoulders and wrists, she let out a yell. She felt her feet levitating in the air. Rather than falling, she was lowered to a branch and left to dangle from it by the chain around her arms. The pain seemed too far away for her to notice it.

However, Mimizuku gritted her teeth and reaffirmed her grip on her important delivery. The blood from her hands trickled down her arm across her wound-covered skin.

Mimizuku continued to ignore the pain. She waved her legs around looking for a place to plant her feet and regain consciousness of her surroundings.

She found a place to land and loosened her chain from around the branch. When she looked at her wrists, they were completely red from the spreading of the blood.

"... Heheh."

She laughed lightheartedly. I suppose as long as I managed to get down from the cliff...

She began to backtrack along the path she had come from, but suddenly she was overcome by a mysterious sensation.

Strange...

She walked over the branches and the grass.

All for the sake of giving the flower to Fukurou.

It feels like... I want to live...

She passed through a thicket that the sun's rays could not penetrate, and came out near a small river. However, she suddenly stopped walking.

Huh...?

Hiding in the shade of the trees over the river, she saw a shadow. It didn't look like a or a monster to Mimizuku.

A human.

There was no mistaking it. Though there shouldn't have been any other humanlike figure in the forest aside from the King of Night, before Mimizuku was the unmistakable shape of a human.

Mimizuku drew closer. It was a short, chubby man with white hair. He had a bow slung around his back, and he was scanning a map with a fearful look on his face.

"Hey, what're you doing?" MImizuku called out. The man stopped short of springing right up beyond the trees.

"U-uwaaaah! I-I'm lost! I beg you, believe me! Please help me...!!" he said, squatting down in terror.

Mimizuku stared at him blankly. She called out to him again.

"Hey! Are you alright?" she said simply. The man timidly raised his head.

"A g-g... a girl...?"

The man blinked several times and looked at Mimizuku. Mimizuku revealed herself.

"You're lost, grandpa? If you go straight down this river, you won't meet up with any monsters at this time of day. But you want to get out, right? Hm... gimme a second, okay?"

She thought for a moment, and then pulled off the stamen of the Renka. She had to hold onto the flower until she brought it to Fukurou, but even if she brought him the flower, it would still spread its pollen. She didn't want to make Fukurou feel sick.

"Alright, take this!"

She grabbed the man's hand. There was a bit of blood on her free hand, but the man took it graciously, despite looking evidently confused at Mimizuku's bloody, disheveled appearance.

"This will keep monsters away, so as long as you're holding onto it, you'll be alright. Just make sure you get out before it dries up and changes color! Well then, do your best!" Mimizuku said.

"What about... you?" the old man asked, dumbfounded.

"Hm? I'm Mimizuku!" she replied, misunderstanding the man's question.

The man shook his head.

"T-that's not what I meant. Aren't you going to come with me? You can't be staying here by yourself, can you?" The man looked up and down Mimizuku, seeming to pity her. Mimizuku didn't understand what his gaze meant.

"Me?" she replied. She blinked a few times, and then laughed. "I can't go! I have to deliver this flower to Fukurou. Well then, see you later!"

Saying the words caused her to remember her aim. Mimizuku turned her body around, paying the old man not the slightest bit of attention.

Full of energy, Mimizuku returned to the forest.

She eventually shrank to a tiny dot in the distance. The old man looked down at the blood-drenched flower in his hand. He had the urge to follow Mimizuku, but he gave up and went along the path that Mimizuku had explained to him.

"I have to tell him... I have to tell the Holy Knight," he muttered.


As she was running toward the mansion, Mimizuku suddenly came to a halt. A shadowy figure with pitch-black wings was standing tall, facing the lake. Mimizuku shook her head several times, making sure she wasn't simply seeing things.

"Fukurou!" she called out loudly. The black-winged shadow slowly turned around.

She ran up to him. However, she couldn't come close enough to extend her hand out to touch him. The air around Fukurou prevented her from doing so.

"Fukurou! I'm giving you this!"

Mimizuku held out her bloody hands. She held the Renka out to Fukurou.

Fukurou looked down at he crimson flower with his moon eyes.

In Mimizuku's muddy, bloodstained hands was an unmistakable deep crimson.

He finally opened his mouth to speak.

"What do you want as collateral?" he asked in a low, yet deep whispering tone.

Mimizuku's sanpaku eyes became large and round, like dishes. She was surprised. She hadn't thought of what to ask for.

Collateral... something that I want...

What should I do?

She could ask to be eaten again. She had been told by Kuro that it was hopeless, but maybe she could try again.

What did I bring him the flower for? Mimizuku thought.

She was fine with spilling her own blood and enduring the pain. And she had thought that she didn't want to die, too. If she was to deliver the flower safely, she couldn't die.

She had never once thought to do anything for anyone but herself.

Oh!

Finally thinking of something that she could ask for, she smiled.

"Praise me."

Anything would be fine.

Well then, praise me, King of Night!

She had never thought to do something for anyone before. But she had thought to bring the flower to Fukurou on her own. In her whole life, she had never been praised for doing anything. Usually when she finished a job, she was hit or scolded.

She had never done the work for the sake of being praised, but she thought that it would have been wonderful if she were. No one in the "village" ever gave her any praise. She never considered wanting praise while in the "village," but now, Mimizuku wanted to be praised by Fukurou.

Fukurou didn't respond. He narrowed his eyes and took the Renka from her.

Without looking her in the eyes, he moved his lips.

As he did, a shaking could be felt in the air. In between Mimizuku and Fukurou, a small figure appeared. It was Kuro.

"My Lord."

Kuro fluttered on top of Mimizuku's head, and kneeled before Fukurou. Even atop Mimizuku's head, Kuro's and Fukurou's eyes did not meet.

"It's Kuro!" Mimizuku said, shattering the atmosphere.

Mimizuku felt Kuro stepping around on her head.

"It is good that you are back. Mimizuku," he said in a low voice that only Mimizuku could hear. At these words, Mimizuku became incredibly happy, and she began to laugh carelessly.

Fukurou turned to Kuro.

"Make the paint. Prepare the fire," he ordered.

Kuro was about to say something when Mimizuku puffed out her chest.

"Yes sir! I'll do it! I can prepare fires!" she said loudly, her eyes sparkling. She moved to take a step toward Fukurou, however she suddenly lost her strength and fell on her knees.

"Ah!"

Without a chance to take a breath, she fell onto the ground. She was unable to extend her arms in time, and fell backward on her shoulders, ending up flat on her back and facing upwards.

"Uuugh..."

Her head began to feel fuzzy, and her vision began to sway. Mimizuku's consciousness slipped away into darkness.

Kuro, who had been on Mimizku's head the whole time, flapped his wings and landed beside Mimizuku.

"The fool. It is only natural that she is suffering from the blood loss."

Kuro began to pull out Mimizuku's left hand from underneath her, but suddenly stopped and leered at his king.

"How would you like the fire, Your Highness?"

Fukurou glared at his subordinate and exhaled heavily.

"Forget about it," he spat. He began to walk off by himself. Kuro continued to argue.

"King! I plan on taking this child back to you once she wakes up. Or if you wish, I can cut off her breath and kill her immediately!" Kuro shouted in his broken voice. Fukurou threw him a glance.

"Do as you like." With one flap of his wings, he disappeared into the darkness.

Kuro turned back to Mimizuku, and ran his hand over her bloody left hand.

He conjured a bluish white flame.

"You should be more careful. Mimizuku," he sighed in his broken voice to Mimizuku, who did not hear him. "You have been let off once again."

The last few stripes of sunlight were finally wiped away, and night began to enshroud the forest again.


A large oak door that gave a feeling of agedness opened, the bell attached to the knob ringing as it did.

"Welcome!" the barista shouted, more in response to the sound of the bell than to the customer. However, when she saw whom it was that entered, she raised an eyebrow.

"Oh my, you've come again today Sir Knight!" the portly barista called out, causing everyone in the bar to turn toward the door.

"Yo." The young man in the doorway held out his left index finger and smiled, causing the bar to suddenly explode with excitement.

The sound of banter from the men hopped around the bar.

"It's been a while since you've visited, Sir Knight!"

"Hey Andy! How about that game of poker you promised me the other day?!"

"Leaving your wife again to play around at night, eh!"

"I'm burned out by civil life, you know."

"Hey, hey! Leave that kind of talk at home!"

In the blink of an eye, the bar was filled with the sound of laughter. The atmosphere had made a heel-face turn just with the entrance of the young man. He received earnest greetings one by one, and made his way to the counter as per usual and took a seat.

Spinning her rotund body around, the barista pulled out a jockey.

"The usual?"

The young man smiled.

"Yes please," he affirmed. A regular sat down beside him and started to talk.

"What's with you Sir Holy Knight? Herbal Tea again? This isn't a place where kids and young ladies come to play, you know!"

"Yeah, yeah, I know that."

The Holy Knight gave a troubled laugh as he engaged with the regular.

"The wife says I'm a bother while she's preparing food, so she lets me spend the money here!"

"Hahahaha! That sounds like that noisy wife of yours alright!"

The drunken man suddenly burst into a flurry of laughter.

"And by the way, it's not that I hate alcohol. It's just that things are more interesting when you're not drunk. That's why I prefer to go for the more moderate and cheap herbal tea."

"Oh, you know I'm fine with it," the barista slammed the jockey filled with herbal tea onto the counter in front of Ann Duke.

"We just have to call on the Holy Knight, and we'll always flourish! Here, these tea leaves are a special order that just arrived from Gardalsia."

This bar was a commoner's place, run by people of poor parentage. While Ann Duke was the only one in the country who had achieved the distinction of "Holy Knight," rather than visiting places more befitting of his lineage, he came to places where the people would call him "Sir Knight," which he much preferred over his official title of "Holy Knight." Back several years when he was simply "the youngest child of the MacValen family," he pulled the holy sword from its scabbard, and though he was chosen by the sword to be the Holy Knight, he hung around his old friends who called him "Andy."

Ann Duke would always come to this bar, order two herbal teas, and partake in conversation.

Here, he could listen to unadulterated dissatisfaction with the king, or yell out a eulogy. Or, he could hear about unrest and issues occurring outside of the castle. Since the bar doubled as an inn, many travelers passed through, and it served as a window to the outside world.

In a place like this, Ann Duke could engage in general conversation and get in touch with peoples' true feelings. He never judged anyone who was upset with the king. The words of the people outside of the castle were important. After all, a country is its people.

"By the way, have you heard the story, Sir Knight?"

For example, the barista would bring him stories and information like this.

"What story?"

"About the happenings in that dark Forest of Night to the south of here! It's about that single demon king who lives there."

Ann Duke raised an eyebrow, bidding the barista to continue.

"From what I've heard, it seems like an idiot hunter got lost in the Forest of Night from wandering too far from a nearby forest."

"You said he got lost? And he came back alive?" Ann Duke asked. There were countless monsters prowling the forest, and there was no way any single hunter could have come out alive.

"That's right! He was able to come back and all, but that hunter, they say he was helped by a little girl in the forest!"

"A girl?"

"Yeah! As it goes, she was practically skin and bones. She's probably been captured by the demon king too, 'cause it seems like she had chains around her wrists and ankles, and she was in disastrous condition."

Ann Duke's interest in the story was scrawled all over his face.

"So what happened to her?"

"She just helped the hunter, and then disappeared back into the forest! That's how the story goes!"

"And how trustworthy is this tale?" Ann Duke asked.

"Well," the man beside him interrupted, "that hunter, they say that the moment he got home, he ran straight to the temple to tell everyone."

Ann Duke frowned. He held his fingertip to his lips, indicating that he was deep in thought.

"It's a dangerous world, isn't it? That poor child must be so lonely. And to put shackles on her like that, they would tell children long ago that the demon king would eat them if they misbehaved, but that kind of thing is in a way even worse than being eaten. This kind of thing is just so wrong, right?"

He was easy to sympathize with, and the barista already had tears in her eyes.

"How strange..." Ann Duke muttered, looking at the barista.

If he really ran to the temple like they say he did, then the likelihood of this story being true is quite high. However, the man next to him had no relation to the temple. Amongst people like that, rumors spread easily.

He had a feeling there might just be people blowing the story out of proportion.

"... It can't be, that white tanuki..."

"Hm? What about a tanuki, Sir Knight?" the barista asked.

Ann Duke smiled.

"Don't worry about it. I was just thinking out loud to myself."

He then placed a clean, shiny coin on the counter and stood up.

"What's wrong? You haven't had your second cup yet."

"Yeah, I just remembered something urgent I need to do."

He turned around and faced the men in the bar.

"Any of you in here know the name of that hunter that got lost in the forest?"

The men all settled down for a moment and looked up at him. After a moment, a voice from a table near the entrance rose.

"He that old man Shiira who lives on the edge of town, right?"

Ann Duke gave a reactionary "thank you" to the man and sped toward the entrance.

"Thanks for the drink!" he called to the barista.

The barista had a look of discomfort on her face.

"Holy Knight, you're going to do whatever you can to save that kid, eh?"

Ann Duke didn't say anything; he simply smiled and nodded.

Then, he left the bar, rattling the door with the same sound it had made when he entered.


The moon was beautiful. Mimizuku sighed as she went to the lake. Fukurou's location was indistinct, but Mimizuku knew where he was.

Fukurou had been watching the lake from the same treetop he had been the previous night. He's probably looking at the moon's reflection again, Mimizuku thought.

Mimizuku at first casually watched Fukurou for a while, but then her eyes sparkled as if she had remembered something, and she began to climb the tree next to Fukurou's. The stump was thick and uneven, but the tree's shape was good, so Mimizuku climbed it without any issue.

Thanks to Kuro, she had lost almost all feeling in the palm of her left hand. The skin felt stiff, but it wasn't any serious handicap. Mimizuku felt proud of the scar on her hand.

She made her way to the top of a tree and climbed onto a branch next to Fukurou.

Her shackles jangled the whole way up, their sharp sound piercing the quiet stillness of the night.

"... Are you not bothered by those?"

The sudden voice caught Mimizuku off guard, causing her foot to slip. She let out a yelp.

Regaining her posture after a moment, she sat down on the branch. She wished she could be closer to Fukurou. Fukurou didn't make the slightest movement towards Mimizuku. He sat gazing at the water's surface the whole time.

However, now she had heard Fukurou's voice. There was no mistaking it. He had initiated conversation with her.

"Eh, I, uh..."

Mimizuku was flustered as she searched for the right words.

He was probably talking about her shackles. They were so noisy, after all.

"Well, I don't hate them, I guess."

Mimizuku held her chains up. They rang as usual.

"I think the jingly-jangly sound they make is pretty. I guess I deal with it, so I don't hate it."

Mimizuku had had her shackles for a very long time. They had been welded onto her when she was young, and they didn't have a keyhole. Ever since then, the bone around the areas locked with chains had grown thick, and she was lucky that her wrists and ankles never grew any larger. If they had, her hands and feet would have probably fallen off.

Fukurou didn't even give Mimizuku a glance.

"Eheheh..."

Even so, Mimizuku was happy, so she laughed. If she looked at his face from the side, she thought it quite resembled a human's. She had figured that all monsters looked similar to Kuro.

"Fukurou--" she said, her voice so low that it seemed to blend in with the silence of the night itself. "Why do you hate humans?"

A long silence followed. While running her hands along her chains, she waited for Fukurou's response.

"Because they're ugly."

His response was sudden, and laced with his usual vitriol. His deep voice shook Mimizuku's eardrums.

Mimizuku looked up. She opened her mouth halfway without saying anything, then began to speak.

"Ugly? If you go to a big town, surely you'll find some beautiful people."

She hadn't seen any herself though. She hadn't spoken like this about humans before either. She wondered if there really were any. It would be nice if there were, I guess. Beautiful people. Kind people. Somewhere in this wonderful world.

"I'm not talking about their appearance. Their souls are ugly."

"Souls? What's that?"

"It's something inside one's body."

"But isn't all that's in there just blood, your chewed up food, and a bunch of other squishy stuff?" Her comment earned her a look of disdain from Fukurou.

There was nothing she could do about it, so she thought for a while. Since it was rare for Fukurou to talk to her, she wanted to drag it out for as long as possible, as talking to him made her happy.

"Is it like your heart? Something like that?"

"Something like that."

"Oooh! You're saying their hearts are ugly? There's lots of stuff I hate too, you know. Eheheh. Like those people who would tell me they felt dirtier just from looking at me. They hit me lots of times! They said that the livestock weren't allowed to use human words. It was so strange! Even though I was livestock, I could speak like all the other humans."

Mimizuku laughed. Fukurou looked at her as if she were truly something dirty. However, Mimizuku didn't think that his gaze was hatred. Even though the people in the "village" were dirty themselves, they looked at her with eyes that said that she was even filthier. But Fukurou was much more beautiful than the humans, so Mimizuku thought it was natural that Fukurou look at her and find her dirty.

I'm dirty, but here I am sitting next to the gorgeous Fukurou.

"Eheheh. Hey, Fukurou."

She giggled.

"I'm really, really happy right now!"

Fukurou narrowed his eyes as though he couldn't understand what she meant.

"... You, girl who names beasts," he spoke.

"Yes?!" Mimizuku responded, puffing out her chest.

Fukurou ignored her response.

"What are those numbers on your forehead?"

That was something that Kuro had asked her before. She smiled and answered him.

"These were done by an iron!"

She couldn't remember what she had told Kuro about them, so her explanation this time was somewhat different.

"You know, like what they put on cows and sheep. I was together with them. It burned and made me confused. The iron was red hot. I don't remember anything after that, 'cause I fell over..." she recounted, laughing.

Fukurou didn't speak, but reached out for Mimizuku. His claws were a deep, dark blue that could have been mistaken for black.

Mimizuku's heart began to beat faster. He had held out his hand to her before, but this time felt different.

His finger touched her forehead.

Is Fukurou going to eat me?

Mimizuku closed her eyes.

If she was eaten, she hoped it wouldn't be painful. Not like the iron, that was unpleasantly hot.

Fukurou's finger was cold. However, she could feel remaining warmth after he removed his finger.

Before long, Fukurou pulled back his long claw.

He didn't eat Mimizuku.

Mimizuku opened her eyes. The moon sparkled, and Mimizuku began to feel strange, as if there was a bell ringing in her head. She began to feel thirsty. She felt a burning, prickling pain somewhere.

"Eheheh," she laughed. She wished that anything could be made better by laughing.

"Rather than those unsightly numbers, less might be better," Fukurou said, narrowing his eyes.

"Huh?"

His words gave Mimizuku an idea, and she started to slowly make her way down from the tree. She ran toward the lake. Her feet got tangled as she went, but she looked ahead at the lake so as not to lose her balance.

"Uwah!"

She fell into the lake. With a large splash, ripples began to radiate through the lake. The shallow lake only reached up to her back. She looked at her reflection in the rippling surface of the water.

"Nyeheheh."

The numbers on her forehead had turned into a mysterious pattern.

It's beautiful.

It looked similar to the tattoos on Fukurou's body, and it shone under the moonlight. For the first time since she was born, Mimizuku had thought herself to be beautiful.


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