Mimizuku to Yoru no Ou: Chapter 4
Chapter 4 - Deliverance
I'll gather beautiful things, Mimizuku thought.
Beautiful flowers, leaves, and smooth, glassy stones. Elegantly twisting branches and balls of sap like precious stones.
While it was bright out, Mimizuku went into the forest to gather those kinds of things, and when the sun lowered, she returned to Fukurou's mansion.
She slowly opened the door of the mansion. The second time she had opened the door, she was holding a beautiful yellow flower in her hand. Fukurou made no effort to drive Mimizuku out, so as a sort of toll for entry, Mimizuku always brought something beautiful for Fukurou.
The forest was overflowing with beautiful things.
Light soaked out from behind the door to Fukurou's room. When Mimizuku opened it, she was met by Fukurou's back. She walked so as not to make too much noise, but her shackles still clanged loudly. She sat down next to Fukurou.
Holding a small, purple flower in her hand, Mimizuku gazed up at Fukurou.
Fukurou stood before a massive canvas. He painted with blues, greens, and the deep red of the Renka. Fukurou ladled out colors onto the canvas with his shining claws. It seemed as though he was layering on light membranes of color onto the canvas, but they eventually converged into a picture.
Mimizuku sighed at the fantastical scene.
She then suddenly realized that she did not fit in this place.
Fukurou is beautiful. His drawing is beautiful. The room is beautiful.
The room was decorated with the beautiful things that Mimizuku had gathered, and they had a certain liberated feeling to them, as they seemed to dance around the room.
Why am I here? Mimizuku lowered her head.
"Why won't you eat me?"
The words came out with no disconnect from her thoughts. Fukurou didn't look at her, however after a long silence, when Mimizuku had already forgotten what she said, he suddenly opened his mouth.
"Girl who names beasts."
"Yeah?" Mimizuku replied meekly.
Fukurou looked up, but not at Mimizuku.
He simply asked, "Why do you want to be eaten by me? Why do you wish to be eaten by a monster?"
Mimizuku blinked, puzzled.
She hadn't thought of the exact reason why. However, Mimizuku was able to answer. She had always known the answer deep within her subconscious.
"Because I don't want to die."
Fukurou didn't say anything. It was as if a hole had been stabbed into him. Since Fukurou wouldn't talk, Mimizuku, risking her life, began to connect her words together.
"You know. I hate using knives..."
"... Speak in a way that I can understand," Fukurou grumbled sullenly.
"Ok, so I'll tell you why. I used to do lots of different kinds of work, but the worst, dirtiest, most painful job, oh even now I don't like to think of it, what I hated most was judging people."
"Yeah." Mimizuku gave a curt laugh and nodded. Fukurou's beautiful eyes were turned in her direction, so it was natural that she smiled. She continued to laugh.
"The dead people, even though they were killed by the villagers, I had to cut up their stomach little by little, then put my hand in all their squishy insides and pull out their hearts. They said they sold for high prices. That was a job that only I did. I was told I'd be good for it by a woman in the "village," but I didn't think so at all. Still, I'd get hit if I said anything. When I hold a knife, I remember that work, so that's why I don't hold knives. Even if you wash them in a river, the smell of the blood and insides doesn't ever go away. The worst part was showing it to a live person, 'cause they knew they were gonna get stabbed. I'd always imagine how they felt. I'd remember whenever I got hit. I didn't want to die. I had to bury the dead people too, but since digging holes took a long time, the body would rot and get covered with bugs, and it made a horrible smell. I got used to that, though, but I never wanted to become like those people. If you get eaten, you'll always be beautiful, right?
"And then," Mimizuku continued, but Fukurou suddenly covered her mouth.
"Fgyah..." She made a strange yelp of surprise.
Fukurou violently held Mimizuku's mouth shut, and his face had an indescribable expression close to disgusted hatred.
"That's enough. Don't speak."
She laughed spasmodically, and then eventually fell into a fit of laughter. Fukurou let go of her, and turned back toward his canvas.
A long silence followed.
"Why?" Fukurou's question was sudden.
Mimizuku tilted her neck and looked at Fukurou from below.
Fukurou's eyes stared straight at Mimizuku.
"Why? Why didn't you run away from such treatment?"
Mimizuku blinked several times. Her eyelashes quivered dryly.
She opened her mouth to speak, but she remained still as if she had forgotten what she was supposed to say. What should she say? That she was hit, and smacked, and oppressed. Those were the reasons she could never leave the "village."
"I don't know. I don't know why. I hated all of it, and it was painful and difficult. Someone people offered to help me get out, even. Even so, I don't know."
If she thought about it, it was a truly strange thing. She tilted her neck.
"Why? There wasn't one time when I tried to escape..."
It was because that was life. That kind of everyday life was normal to her. If that was what was normal, she felt that there was no other way out of it.
Even though she accepted that kind of treatment, she never truly believed that those days would end.
"Then why are you here now?" Fukurou asked. He had already returned his attention to his painting, and was running his claw across it.
"Um, well, I guess..."
Mimizuku knew she could answer this one. She knew the reason why she had left the "village" behind.
"I figured I'd had enough," Mimizuku said, grinning widely.
She plopped down onto the cold floor, and lowered her eyelids as if to sleep, however, she began to speak as if singing.
"Mimizuku slept in the horse's stable. She was tucked away in the hay. And Mr. Horse was always busy, always making loud noises, because the people made him upset. All those people completely changed, I heard!"
The petty fights among the thieves were always territorial disputes.
The ditches grew deeper and deeper, until they were comparable to seas, and eventually the thieves assailed their own village.
Mimizuku didn't understand what had happened.
Screams and shouts stabbed at her ears, and the sound of flames crackling here and there could be heard.
And then came the deep scent of blood.
Before long, katana-wielding men barged into the stable. With a large hand, one of the men dragged Mimizuku, who had been curled up in the hay and covering her ears, outside.
"I got Mimizu. 'Ey you, with the red hair, there're no wounds on 'er cheek, take 'er."
For some reason, those were the only words she could remember.
In that moment, her thoughts had stopped, and she didn't feel any pain or distress.
The scenery seemed far off, as if it had been burned away.
"'Slave girl,' eh? That's what he said."
Then, the man smiled. His body hairs stood on end.
He displayed a kind of disgusted revulsion.
"'Interesting,' he said. I don't get what he means by that, but that's what he means by that, so whatever, he said it."
Mimizuku's head swayed downward.
The red-haired man smiled, and took Mimizuku with him.
Mimizuku's mind was perfectly still. It had really stopped, she hadn't thought of anything at all.
However, Mimizuku had brought a knife with her from the haystack.
It was the knife she always used to cut up the corpses.
She felt like she had screamed, like something had shaken in her throat. However, she couldn't remember anything. She couldn't remember her voice, or even if the things she yelled were actual words.
"I stabbed him. Yeah."
Just as she did with the corpses, she dug into the man's abdomen with all her might. Using the center as leverage, she cut across the entire body. A scream like cloth being ripped arose. It was the man's voice. The blood from his body was much more alive and fresh than the blood from the moldy old corpses. It splattered across her face, and entered her eyes.
Her vision became blurred.
"It was the first time I stabbed a living person. The man fell down after that. He definitely died, yep."
"He definitely died, Mimizuku killed him."
As she recounted the story, sweat began to drip down her forehead. It wasn't warm, but strange instead. She felt cold all over, and her fingers began to shiver.
She had always been ordered to do a similar thing. She had cut up corpses several times.
However, what she had done then was fundamentally different, and Mimizuku couldn't comprehend the meaning of her own actions.
"So that's when I thought, 'I've had enough.'" I had really had enough, I was really tired..." she recalled casually. She was tired. She had never been tired before that.
She gave up on everything.
And then, she remembered a story she heard long ago. Far in the east, there was a place called the Forest of Night, where lots of monsters lived.
It was said that not a trace was left of anyone eaten by the monsters.
"So I walked all the way here."
She felt as though she had received a shock to the head. She began to get dizzy.
Mimizuku slowly stood up, and moved closer to Fukurou, looking at his face.
When she looked at his moon eyes, she felt rested.
Fukurou didn't push her away, but simply scowled at her unpleasantly. He then opened his mouth slightly.
"Do you still want to be eaten by me? Girl who names beasts."
Mimizuku wondered why he was asking her something so obvious. She had said it several times, that she wanted to be eaten by Fukurou, and disappear without a trace. That's what she had always wished for.
Of course I do!
She opened her mouth to say it.
She didn't hesitate, and the words were ready to come out.
However, her thin, dry lips couldn't muster any more speech.
She flapped her mouth open and closed like one of the fish in the lake. Mimizuku didn't understand why she couldn't say it.
Mimizuku ran her finger across her lips in a strange way. She wanted to say, "Eat me." It seemed like Fukurou really would eat her right now if she asked.
If she truly wished for it, now was her opportunity.
Her wish. Her hope. That is to say, what she wanted.
"I, uh, Fukurou..."
She became lost in thought. If she couldn't say what she wanted to say, then it couldn't be helped.
Mimizuku continued to speak.
"Hey... is it alright for me to sleep here today?"
In this beautiful room. Surrounded by Fukurou's painting, Mimizuku thought that it would be wonderful if she could sleep there.
Fukurou seemed not to pay any attention to her request, and he simply turned back to his painting.
However, he didn't refuse, and Mimizuku became incredibly happy. It was as if he had told her to do as she liked.
Mimizuku curled up at Fukurou's feet, and she quietly fell asleep.
Fukurou glanced down at her for an infinitesimal moment, and then returned to running his claws along his canvas, painting.
The door to the king's office burst open, and a human shape walked in and sank into the sofa. The king looked up from his documents and raised an eyebrow.
"Where did the chivalry of the old knights go?"
"To the other side of that star, maybe," Ann Duke said indifferently, as if calling out from inside of the sofa.
"My goodness. That's a makeshift way of doing things."
"What do you mean?"
Not stirred in the slightest by the king's question, Ann Duke sprang up from the sofa and turned to face the king.
"So, are the preparations for the subjugation of the demon king going smoothly?"
The king responded with silence. Ann Duke began to speak with a fully serious expression.
"The populace is inclined towards annihilating the demon king. He hasn't done any real harm until now, and he's just used to scare misbehaving children. They're just sympathizing with that girl that he's locked up. And now they're saying that the kingdom's Magician Brigade has already set up its preparations as well?"
The Holy Knight hadn't known about any of it. He was in the Knight troupe, but he wasn't at the top of the group. He had no political authority, and his abilities were used only for the purpose of fighting. He was the one who had chosen this lifestyle, working slow to start and staying at home.
"That's right. You, the Holy Knight, are in charge of breaking through the advance guard," the king said to Ann Duke in a relaxed tone.
The king then raised his face.
"What will you do?"
Looking at his eyes straight on, Ann Duke remained silent for a period of time.
"... To the public, it seems as though we're going in to save the girl, but what's the real reason we're subjugating the demon king?" Ann Duke asked in a low voice.
"For the sake of the people of this country," the king answered, his gaze shifting slightly to the side.
Ann Duke knew what he really meant. The current king was an excellent king. His country had been invaded many times, and he had rebuilt it in one generation. Using the region's strong magical traditions, he formed the Magician Brigade, and they became his military. He made farming and trade prosperous, and gave the country power.
After a hundred years, the legendary Holy Sword passed down from long ago chose a master, and this "Holy Knight" became a symbol of the Red Ark Kingdom's independence.
However there was something missing. By making the demon king surrender, they gained several things.
Ann Duke had understood the king's prediction. It had been ten years since he was chosen to be Holy Knight. To Ann Duke, who had lost his father at an early age, the kingdom was like a father, a partner, and a friend to him. He had never drawn his sword for his own sake. Whether his enemies were humans or not, Ann Duke did not like unnecessary killing. He did not treat his sword as a decoration, as he understood that when he brought it out, a life would disappear.
"So it's come to this... I'll go."
Despite all of that, he lightly shrugged his shoulders and, with a troubled look on his face, gave a smile.
"My wife's not gonna be happy. She'll say something like, 'If you can't save one little girl, then shouldn't you quit being a Holy Knight?'"
He had understood that this was also a victory for the king, in a way. Even the domestic protector Holy Knight couldn't raise a finger against his wife. The king knew that very well.
"Perhaps Orietta should join the ranks as well."
The king's face shined at his idea.
"The Maiden of the Holy Sword would raise the morale of the Magician Brigade more than anything! With the magic reared in the temple..."
"Hey, Your Majesty." Ann Duke interrupted the king, smiling.
"I'm going to tell you something beforehand," he said as if it were no big deal.
Though he spoke as if it were no big deal, his voice was lower than usual.
The king took a deep breath for no reason in particular.
"However you use the Holy Knight is up to you. You can show me off like some charm, or you can send me to the battlefield, so long as the fighting is for a good reason."
From there, the smile in Ann Duke's blue eyes disappeared.
"However, if you do anything like sending Orietta onto a battlefield, I'll throw away the Holy Sword, take her with me, and leave this country."
He spoke clearly and had a grim look on his face.
The king was not unprepared to slash through obstacles to his country. He was able to keep a cool appearance, however he could not take rebellion from Ann Duke. He was a "symbol" of the country, after all.
"Are you threatening your king?"
To those words, Ann Duke smiled brightly.
"I'm just being honest."
Mimizuku awoke at dawn to the sound of small birds flapping their wings. Light entered through the giant window. The strength of the light forecasted sunny skies. Mimizuku gently closed her eyes again, and went back to sleep. The cold floor was comfortable, and she already seemed to be drifting back to sleep.
Hearing her name called, Mimizuku jolted awake.
As she raised her upper body, she looked around to see that the master of the room was missing, but then saw Kuro stopped on the lattice of the window.
Mimizuku's eyes sparkled upon seeing Kuro. Kuro entered the room quietly.
The morning sunlight sure is pretty, Mimizuku thought.
"What a condition. Mimizuku, there are woodgrains from the floor stuck in your cheek."
Kuro's words felt kind, so Mimizuku laughed as she scraped her hand across her cheek.
"How are you, Kuro? Isn't it rare for you to come to the mansion?"
"Indeed." Kuro gave a small nod.
"Mimizuku. I have come to tell you something."
"To tell me something? What is it?"
Mimizuku dragged herself to the windowsill. When she looked up, Kuro was looking right back at her, and after a short moment of hesitation, Kuro spoke.
"For several days, perhaps as long as a month, I will be absent from the forest."
Mimizuku tilted her head. Kuro nodded.
"By the orders of the King of Night, I am to leave the forest for a while, and take care of a few duties in the human world. For that time, even if you call my name, it will not reach my ears. That is why you must take care of yourself. Can you do that?"
Mimizuku raised her hand high and gave an energetic reply. However she immediately looked downward.
"What do you mean 'orders of the King of Night?'"
"That is..." Kuro began to speak, but then closed his mouth. "I cannot say."
"Alright then." Mimizuku smiled. She wasn't unhappy about it. In fact, she was happy that Kuro had come to tell her that he was leaving the forest.
Kuro watched Mimizuku laugh, and eventually opened his mouth to speak.
"At times, Mimizuku. Before I go from the forest, I will tell you one legend."
"That is correct. A story from long, long ago."
Mimizuku couldn't understand the intention of Kuro's sudden words, but she didn't have any reason not to listen to him.
Sitting back down on the wood grains, Mimizuku waited for Kuro to speak.
After a bit of hesitation, Kuro made a motion like scratching his cheek, and then began to speak.
"This is a story which has long since occurred. It is a story which lies quite a ways away from the heartlessness of the flow of time."
He spoke loudly and with haste in his broken voice. He could be likened to a troubadour recounting the epic of a hero.
"This is the story of a prince who lived in a kingdom that was destroyed ages ago."
Mimizuku tilted her head. It was like a story from another world.
Kuro did not halt his speech.
"It was far, very far away. If you crossed several mountains and went so far north that human skin would change color, you would find this tiny kingdom. They did not write, and they could not hunt. However, this country was never poor, because in a certain mountain in that country laid a dazzling mineral. The people mined that mineral, manufactured with it, and sold it, gaining much wealth in the process. The lifestyle of the king was as well marked by abundance. He was able to hire mercenaries, and thus increased his military power. Though the land was covered in deep snow during the winter, this only made the fleeting spring more beautiful."
Mimizuku couldn't imagine such a thing. She searched her thoughts and memories, and she thought of a pretty white powder.
"The people were wealthy. The royal family was wealthy. The foolish people mined every last bit of the mineral in the mountain..."
At that point, the tone of Kuro's voice fell.
"All things with shape at one point disappear. That is one of the logical truths of the world. However, with time, people forget this. The mineral ran out. The people began to fight amongst themselves, trying to amass as much of what little of the mineral was left. When the king thought of what he should do, he decided that the remaining amount of the mineral would be confiscated by force. With their industry potential dispersed, the king could do nothing to help the people overcome their reliance on the mineral."
The story was hard for Mimizuku to understand, and Mimizuku troubled herself thinking about it. However, she decided to go along with it anyway, and, remaining silent, she listened to Kuro's story.
"Now, the royal family had one prince. He was born when the last of the mineral was starting to disappear. Thus, he was swarmed by cold stares from the people. Though the disappearance of the mineral was natural, however, as is natural to human nature, they needed to blame someone else for their hardship. The prince was born with the hardship of persecution. He was treated as a prince. He was given things to wear and food to eat. However, the king and queen he was born to did not love him."
Mimizuku thought quietly.
What does it mean, to be loved?
"The birthright of the prince was solitude. However, he never thought to end his life. No one was kind to him, but he thought that the scenery of his country was too beautiful for words. He thought to give form to that beautiful scenery reflected in his eyes. In order to do that, the prince took a brush, and--he began to paint a picture."
Here, Mimizuku realized what, or rather who, Kuro's story was about.
Kuro didn't respond to her, and continued to recount the tale.
"Before long, a revolution occurred in the country. People at their limit from starvation due to the misgovernment of the king set the castle alight. The prince, who lived in a separate building, was also pulled out before the public. As an incarnation of their pastime, they set the painting that the prince had made on fire in the town square. It was crushing to the prince, who had nothing but painting left in his life."
Mimizuku looked at Kuro in blank amazement, as if she had seen the whole scene play out before her.
"The prince was sealed away in a tall tower until the day of his execution. In the room, with nothing but a window blocked by iron bars, the prince, bound in chains, little by little, continued to paint even until the day he was to be beheaded."
"What did he use to paint with?" she asked, thinking the situation strange.
"He used nothing. He had no brush. The prince bit his own finger and drew upon the wall with his own blood, as if possessed. He might have already gone insane before, that prince who only saw the ugly side of people."
Mimizuku gasped, as if out of breath or taken in by admiration for the prince. It was a sort of deep understanding.
"The painting was the reddest of red. Its beauty was sublime. The picture was made by shaving off his existence."
Before, Kuro had said, "Paintings which use red are the most beautiful." Mimizuku could see no inconsistency in his words. She had come to understand everything that had led up to this point.
"That picture could even summon monsters. I have visited it myself. And I have also seen the battered, injured prince. He was a human, yet that spirit, that magic power. I asked him if he still wanted to live. I asked him if he would not dislike stopping being a human. He answered righteously."
Is that right, Mimizuku thought. That was how it went.
"That is right when he came to this forest and took the position of King of Night. He is still alive today. When he disappears, all of his magic power will return to the earth, and create a new king. However, there is another way to replace him. If the current king chooses a successor, then through this way, anyone could become the king. They would receive the moon eyes. I am the one who told the prince to go to the forest. He went and met the king. He was not a human, but a king, and in this way, king met king, it is said. And thus it came to pass that the king was chosen."
After that, Kuro spoke once more.
"The king was chosen by the world."
Kuro often referred to the world. The selection of the king, allowances. Those were all choices of the world. This was how the world of the monsters revolved.
"My tale ends here."
Kuro brought the story gently to a close. Why? Mimizuku thought. Why would Kuro tell me a story like this...?
"Well, it is now time for me to leave the forest behind."
Kuro abruptly flew up.
"I hope we may meet again. Mimizuku."
"If fate allows it?" Mimizuku asked.
"Gyagyagyagya!" Kuro laughed. "Yes, if fate allows it. Let us meet again. Mimizuku!"
Kuro then disappeared like a puff of smoke. Mimizuku stood up and leaned out of the window. She followed Kuro with just her mind's eye.
Then suddenly, Mimizuku realized that her cheeks were wet.
As Mimizuku blinked, she saw transparent droplets of water fall.
"What's this? Does this mean I'm sick?"
Panicking, Mimizuku wiped the droplets away. It wasn't the first time it had happened, but she had no memory of any other times. Mimizuku thought that the droplets were a bit like sweat. Then, wiping the falling droplets from her eyes, she turned toward the forest over which the sun was rising and rushed out of the mansion to find more beautiful things so she could see Fukurou again.
The lamp made with magical power gave off an unnaturally red glow, like a ripe bitter orange. The magicians, suppressing the sound of their breath, were gathering at the entrance to the Forest of Night. They each wore a hood over their eyes and held an old oak cane.
"There's no moon out tonight," said Ann Duke as if the words leaked out of his lips. He was encased in armor. "That's a shame. It's said that the moon that rises over the Forest of Night is incredibly beautiful."
A voice sprang up from directly behind him.
"It cannot be helped, Sir Holy Knight."
The voice's owner had a hood on like the rest of the magicians, and also held an oak cane in his wrinkly hand. There were several rings on his fingers to aid with sorcery.
"We waited for the new moon. The King of Night's magical power drops quite a bit during the night of the new moon. If we intend to make him surrender, we cannot let him escape."
"Will you fasten together the joint effort of our country's pride, the Magician Brigade? Can you do it, Sir Riveil?" Ann Duke asked, smiling casually as usual.
There was a pause between Ann Duke's question and Riveil's answer, but it wasn't because he was troubled by it. What got in the way of his words was his petty pride and conceit.
"Most likely. So long as you, Sir Holy Knight, hold the Holy Sword, we cannot be matched, I think."
Ann Duke groaned emotionlessly at Riveil's words. He looked around at the Forest of Night that perpetrated an eerie calm. After a heavy silence, Riveil spoke up as if he were an unskilled backup soldier.
"However, if the Magician Brigade is here when the King of Night regains his power at dawn, then we will be.--"
"I don't want to hear it," Ann Duke said, cutting him off in his soft voice. "If you've got to boil him up and eat him, I don't care. I'm just here to save the little girl who he's captured. You're here to capture the demon king, right? Let's simply leave it at that for now."
He never spoke in a harsh tone. However, Riveil kept his complaints to himself and stopped talking.
"... The barrier preparations seem to be complete," Riveil reported in a stately tone.
"I see." Ann Duke nodded slightly. He closed his eyelids as if to doze off.
"Sir Holy Knight...!"
It happened as the darkness began to grow deeper.
A giant shadow appeared from within the darkness, and the magicians yelped, getting into a fighting stance with their canes. However, Ann Duke drew his sword faster and struck down the assailing monster in a single blow.
The large creature let out an otherworldly scream, and collapsed.
The magicians were breathless. From the always-kind Ann Duke, they couldn't have imagined such sharp, merciless swordsmanship.
In the darkness, a faint light emanated from the Holy Sword.
"How many of you can invoke magic?" the Holy Knight said, still facing back to the magicians. His low voice took form in the darkness and shook the air.
"Me... me and these two young men, sir..."
Just three magicians were able to directly invoke magic in capturing the King of Night. The rest were there to amplify and assist this magic power.
It felt to Ann Duke like the hilt of his sword was stuck to his palm. If he closed his eyes, he thought he could hear voices. They called out to the dormant sword, like they had done when he was a young boy.
The moment he pulled the sword from its scabbard, it sharpened his senses, and the world changed to a cold color. Somewhere in his heart, he felt happy that he was annihilating the demon king.
If only he could use this sword that had known nothing but taking lives to save someone. Ann Duke had thoughts like these, but only for a moment.
"I'll cut down all beasts who block our way. Don't step in the range of the sword. I don't need to say you'll get hurt."
He looked back for a split second. Even in the darkness, his eyes sparkled in a deep, brilliant blue.
"Because I won't guarantee your survival."
Riveil was the only one who could manage a nod.
The beginning of the fight had been declared. The Holy Knight drew his sword.
There was no going back now.
Mimizuku, sleeping at the roots of a giant tree, felt as though she could hear someone screaming desperately, and woke up in a panic.
"Huh? What's going on?"
Something was strange. Despite not knowing what was going on, she looked around restlessly.
The darkness cried out. The trees and the leaves all seemed to be screaming as if they had been shredded.
"What? What is it?"
She looked up at the sky. She couldn't see the moon anywhere. A cold shiver ran down her back.
I have to go!
Mimizuku kicked at the ground, jangling her shackles.
She ran to Fukurou's mansion. He had to be there. Mimizuku didn't have anything beautiful for him today, but even if she was turned away, she just knew that she had to go.
As Mimizuku drew closer to the mansion, she became cognizant of something horrifying.
She shrieked inhumanly.
The mansion was on fire. The blazing red flames seemed to engulf the mansion as if crowding around it.
Why? Mimizuku thought. Why?!
Running closer, she forced open the half-open door and rushed inside. The flames drew closer to the center of the mansion little by little. Mimizuku climbed the staircase, feeling as though she were being burned by hellfire.
She ran to Fukurou's room.
The King of Night stood there, in the center of the room.
"Fukurou... Fukurou! Fukurou!!" Mimizuku yelled. Fukurou slowly turned around. His eyes were an icy gold, and they seemed to quiver as they reflected the redness of the flames.
They betrayed no emotion.
"Fukurou! It's no use! Stop it!!" Mimizuku exclaimed. She slammed her fist against the wall several times, which was peeling because of the fire. Mimizuku forgot the fact that she could get burned.
"Stop it! Stop it!! It's gonna burn up! Your painting's gonna burn up!!"
Smoke entered her lungs and she began to cough violently. Even so, Mimizuku tried to peel the painting off the wall to protect it.
The painting of the red sunset, which would have been finished soon, dispersed into the flames.
Mimizuku howled like an animal. She moved to cast herself into the flames, but Fukurou grabbed her.
Fukurou's cold voice reaching her ears, Mimizuku turned around.
"It's no good! I can't save it!" Mimizuku shouted.
Even though it was so beautiful.
Even though it was a painting you made!
Her scream disappeared into an ominous noise coming from the mansion. It was a low sound like and explosion.
The floor crumbled beneath their feet.
The entire upper half of the mansion fell. The roof had been blown away, so Mimizuku and Fukurou weren't crushed to death. Mimizuku was confused, not knowing who or what caused the explosion.
Her shackles burned red hot.
She felt as thought the entire world was crumbling.
But in the middle of all of this, she thought she could hear something.
Somewhere, someone was saying something.
She heard a voice.
In her vision of the world burning down, the voice was powerful.
"Over here! Give me your hand!"
On the other side of the mansion's wreckage, someone was standing. It was a man with blond hair and blue eyes, and he was holding his hand out to Mimizuku. He had a sword in one hand, with the other extended out to Mimizuku.
Mimizuku made a strange sound.
It didn't fit the tenuous scene; it was a wild voice.
"Yes, you! I came to help you!!"
The voice that responded was limitlessly strong.
No one had ever held out their hand to Mimizuku like this before.
"Came to help...?"
She felt as though she had wished it before, long, long ago, when she was small.
She wished someone would take her away. Take her away to happiness.
Her words shivered. To the destiny suddenly held out to her, Mimizuku's body cowered in fear.
"Take my hand! Don't be afraid!"
Something like this. Strong. Even if it was a lie, for someone to tell her "It's alright!"...
No one had ever said anything like that to her before.
As if being drawn in, Mimizuku took several small steps toward the voice. But she turned around. She looked at Fukurou. It seemed like Fukurou's body was being pulled away by a thin, invisible string.
Fukurou stared sharply at Mimizuku with his eyes like moons. He spoke.
"Go. Girl who names beasts. There is no reason for you to be here anymore."
And then, Fukurou moved unnaturally, and seemingly involuntarily extending his arm, he traced his long finger across Mimizuku's forehead.
After a moment, Mimizuku's body began to move on its own. Alone, but without hesitation, Mimizuku willfully took the hand.
Not the king of monsters', but the Holy Knight's.
The hand that had reached out for her. Warm human skin. It engulfed her. She was lifted up.
She had been saved, as if she were loved.
Even so, for some reason, Mimizuku wanted to cry.
Somehow, and so much, she wanted to cry.
She had an intense headache. Her forehead felt hot. She wanted to scream.
Despite having never known of tears before, she wanted to cry.
... Just like that. I wish I could have been eaten by you, just like that.
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