Bloods slowly drip off my hand and onto the floor beneath me. Behind me a hallway of gore and horror, and in front of me, an unknown man on his knee, beside him a small girl who I presume is his daughter. She looks at me with pleading eyes, as she stares at the silenced gun in my hand that is pointed at her father. I look at the bedroom window beside me, and quite surprising to see an unending river with Hades's castle in the distance.
I was expecting a city to be on the other side, but somehow it makes sense.
“I know that river... Lethe.”
I turn my gaze back at the man and stumble back a bit to found Daisie on her knees, looking at me with teary eyes. While the girl beside the man is replaced by Agnes. He grits his teeth together and glares at me with intent hatred while screaming.
“What?” I muttered to myself, confused by his request.
He yells out, “PULL THE TRIGGER!!!”
It as if someone else was controlling me, my finger slowly squeezes the trigger. I tried to stop it with all my strength, but it was only a vain attempt to change what was supposed to happen. Shaking, trembling, and quiver as I grit my teeth while trying to move my finger away from the trigger.
A trickle of red liquid splatter onto my face and lip.
Orange locks flutter in the wind.
Daisie slowly leans to the side, and the side of her head hits the floor first, a loud bump. Her body lay on its side, lifeless and cold.
With my weak and wobbly voice, I ask myself, “What have I done…?”
Her blood flows down to my shoe, soaking it.
I look up at the mirror that was behind her and saw a young man with an emotionless expression, looking back at me with no regrets, no sympathy, and no guilt, only… the feeling of satisfaction.
“What have you done?!” I yell at the young man in the mirror, but he turns and walks away.
“What have you done?!!”
He stops and says, “You’ll find out soon enough…”
A tear drip from my eyes and fall onto the puddle of blood surrounding my shoe.
I wake up, groaning and in pain especially around my head. An unfamiliar wooden ceiling greeted me, while the rays from the sun eagerly shone onto my face. The slightest noise can set my headache off, I rest my arm against my forehead.
Just like any nightmare, as soon as I wake up, my memories begin to disappear into nothingness. I couldn't remember what it was about, but it sure ain’t a sweet dream, that’s twice in a row now.
"A goat?" I lifted my torso up and saw the animal at the foot of my bed, chewing the blanket.
A quiet snore and moans grab my attention causing me to assess my surrounding, Wolf-women and Wolf-men litters on my bed, naked and sleeping. Looking down, and I find myself naked just like them, I pull up the blanket, covering my breast and crawl out off the bed quietly. After letting go of the blanket, I grab my clothes on the floor and quickly wears it.
Stumbling outside, I squint my eyes as I look up at the morning sun. I barely remember what happened last night, and why is there a goat in the bedroom, and why does my hip feel a bit sore?
"Miss Andre...?" Lulu looks at me with blushed cheeks.
"Lulu? Oh, I'm glad you're here, but first, morning. Can I ask, what happened last night?"
"Well....after you eat those, medicine. You woke up like a woman possessed, screaming then suddenly stop. We were terrified at first, but we went along with it, you started to try to dance with the belly dancers, and fight the men."
"With your energetic energy, you somehow intoxicated the people into partying with you, it was a fun night, until you started to...invite people to coitus with you."
"I did what?" I take a second look, unbelief at what she said, then my head the door and heard giggles as the half-naked wolf-women exited my treehouse, waving lustily at me.
"You invited me too, but...I politely declined." She bites her bottom lip.
"Wait, what?...I'm so sorry, I did that, Lulu."
"I don't mind it," Lulu said, as he cheeks brighten red even more.
"Wait...Where that goat comes from?"
Baaa! A goat nonchalantly exits the tree-house and stride away. Lulu and I both stared at the goat while it leaves the vicinity.
"You stole it from our loafing shed."
"I stole it, for what?"
"I don't know, I don't have much experience in that area." She covered her ears as if it's embarrassing to even think about.
"Did I cheated on Daisie? Oh god no... she's going to kill me."
"You were under the influence of our medicine, so I think you didn't do it on purpose."
"But the deed is done, so you did cheat on her."
"Oh god, you're right." I started to panic and breathe in quick and short succession.
"It's going to be okay, Miss Andre, she won't find out."
"Oh god, that even worse, I'm going to feel guilty for the rest of my life just because of this one secret. No! I'm going to confront it, I'm sure she will understand, right?"
Lulu shrugs her shoulders.
"I'm so dead..." I press my forehead against the railing.
Lulu stroke my back as a sign of comfort, "Would breakfast make you feel better?"
"Yes...it would, I'm so hungry right now."
"Let me show you the way, Miss Andre."
I raise my head and watch as Lulu start walking away, I lean back away from the railing and lazily follow her. Dragging the soles of my feet, I groan and whimper as I picture Daisie getting furious at me.
Click, clack, click clack as my boots press against the wooden walkway. Then a sudden gust of wind, brush against me and parting the curtains entrance beside me.
My eyebrows scrunched up together as I see something familiar inside. The curtains close on itself again, preventing me from seeing any further. I should have moved along, but my curiosity gets the better of me.
Like a moth to a light, I walk up to the entrance and wedge my hand between the curtains. Parting it, I enter the tree-house.
What I saw in there was one of the most horrifying views in my life. The room was filled with various bones, skulls and feathers from harpies, hung up on the wall like trophies, or decorations. It felt as if they were proud to have massacred so many of them.
I almost puke, but managed to withstand it. "What did they do?" I asked myself as if I know the answer.
"I told you that it isn't safe for me here."
I turn around and see Agnes leaning against the wall, "Agnes? You knew?"
He nods his head with saddened gaze, my finger digs into my palm, he is treating this horrible sight like a small thing, "Agnes, why didn't you tell me? I could have done something, anything."
He snaps at me, "Oh yeah? What can you do? You're going to punish them? force their view? Change their culture? Change their past? Bring back the dead?"
I grit my teeth, and look away, admitting defeat, admitting… my uselessness. There so much burn in those words, I hate this, I hate that I didn't know.
"I thought so, there's nothing you can do...or could do." Agnes walk passes by me and bends his knees in front of the skull, then he closes his eyes, and showing his respect to those who died.
All my power, my strength, my abilities, and yet, just like Kraus's story, I can't do anything, I can't even think of something to change anything, or to make things better.
Frustrated beyond belief, I rest my gaze on Agnes. What if Agnes were amongst the wall, hang up like trophies...I couldn't even imagine. I look back at the wall, so many deaths...
"You should have told me."
"And let you judge them by what their ancestors did? Lulu is a great girl, wolf, wolf-girl... and I kinda like her, but I can't be here, it's too painful to remember, to see..."
"Even right now?"
"Of course, I wish to forget all of this, but that would be disrespectful to them. Let the villagers think that these are trophies, but I will... remember it as a resting place for my people that lost their lives in this world."
I bend my knees beside Agnes and join him for a moment of silence.
The ceiling trembled a bit as the wind blew against it, nothing too loud, just calm and serene. I looked passed the glorification of the remains, and grateful toward the people that keep the remains clean and maintained. I need to let go of those frustrating feeling and moved on like...I glance at Agnes, I can see that he has already made his peace with this kind of thing a long time ago.
He is a lot more mature than I realize.
Maybe someday, I can be more like him.
Once again, the strong winds blew against my hair, pulling it back and drying up my skin. I left the village so abruptly that I didn't get to say my goodbyes properly, maybe I’m still holding something inside me, I should head back after this and said my goodbyes properly. I was so focused on the empty sky in front of me that I didn't realize Agnes was calling my name.
I turn my gaze at him, "Yes?"
"The line, it stops."
After taking a look myself, I pitch the bike down toward the straight trail that the Darkness left. Landed inside of the trail of destruction, I switch off the flight mode and follow the trail from thereon. Just as we about to reach a small opening at the end of the trail, I turn off my bike and park it near a tree.
We creep toward back into the forest and find a spot covered in bushes, but give us enough visibility to see. Agnes swallows his spit in fear as he looks upon a beast twice the size of Kraus the minotaur, a beast on four legs made out blackened tar and death. Its body is covered with sharp exoskeleton, and bony appendages. Its claws are the size of his leg, it looks like a tiger mashed together with a spider that drip blackens tar. However, that was not the reason why Agnes is afraid.
It’s because there are three of them together, starting each other, unmoving like mannequins.
“I don't think you can do this, Andre.” He whispered to me.
“Me to… but shit, I can't leave them here. That thing might hurt an innocent bystander.” I unsheathed my hatchet and grip it tightly.
“Agnes, keep an eye out in the sky and far away from here, I don't want you to get hurt.”
“How about you? You can’t defeat all three of them.”
“I’ll be fine, besides I'm gonna wing it,” I said with a confident smirk, then with a single step, I dash forward and leaving my fear behind.
The three horrors turn it sight on me and let out a shrieking growl. My eyes widen in doubt, but in the corner of my eyes, I see something. I wasn't alone as I am lead to believe, a man clad in Japanese samurai armor carrying a naginata is charging toward the same monster. However, he was not alone as an Asian woman with black straight hair is dashing toward the monsters from a different direction, wearing a black leather suit and green flowing cape while carrying only a wooden bow.
I think they are different candidates from different gods.
A full smile creeps up onto my face, while my fear and doubt disappear into thin air. Its spider appendage tries to puncture my head, but I dodged to the right, letting it stab into the ground. It raises its paw high ready to smack me into the ground. Yet I didn't have any shroud of fear as a glowing energy arrow implant itself into its right eyes, stunning it and causing it pain. I duck my head and run underneath it while slashing its heels.
The Darkness let out of a painful shriek as it falls onto its belly, but I manage to slide out of it before its body squashes me. However, when I arrive on the other side, I realize a monstrous maw was ready for me. Yet, what I failed to notice was the samurai man that is charging toward the monster with no intention of stopping. Before I even get into the mouth, the man donned in samurai armor crash into its head like a train, he shoulder bash that monster and push it until both of them reach the tree line.
I didn't get a clear look at what happens next between the samurai and the monster because I am preoccupied at the moment. After I gain my momentum, I climb the third monster back while it is busy with the archer woman, and start hacking away its armor. The archer woman was quite powerful as she can turn one of her energy arrows into three at once, and the way she shoots them is almost instantaneous.
The monster back is sticky with black tar and feel wrong to the touch and nauseating at the same time.
Her gaze glances at the downed beast beside this one, the other Darkness begins to rise again and with the beast that I’m on is occupied by the woman. I stand up and jump onto the other beast neck, then I plant my hatchet into its necks and pull on it as I make my way down to the ground. The blade leaves a deep scar when my feet touch the ground, I let go of the hatchet and wedge both hands into the scar. With all my strength, I pull apart the two masses of meat and tear its head from its neck.
The blackened tar squirt onto my face, but I managed to kill one of them as the head roll away from its body.
One of the spider-like appendages hit me and toss my body back toward the samurai man. The man easily avoids me and perfectly fine letting me crash into the tree. I let out a groan as my blood drip down my waist from the cut I just acquired underneath my rib. The samurai man didn't even dodge the attack from the monster, it as if he wanted to get hit, then I realize he does want to get hit. The more he gets hit, the more he’s glow red, literally, through the crack of his armor I can see it.
I can hear a faint laugh coming from him as he swirls his Naginata.
With a single downward swing, the man brings the head down to the ground and smash it into pieces like a watermelon being hit with a bat. A trickle of black tar splatter the ground near it and onto my face. Some of it even get into my mouth, I spit it out as soon as I taste the bitter liquid. I get up from the midst of the broken tree and wave at Agnes that is in the sky flying. The samurai looks at me and back to the last monster, he swings his naginata to get the black tar off it while making his way toward the archer.
I begin my run, ignoring the pain and signaling to Agnes. He transforms from his bird form into a harpy, then swoops down, grabbing my hands with his talons and lift me up into the air.
“I told you that I got it.”
Agnes rolls his eyes back while a half-smirk appears, he then let me go as we reach atop of the last monster, I drop down and mount the terrible monstrosity to keep it busy while the archer woman fires her arrows. The samurai charge and cut the spider appendages one by one. The archer pulls the strings on her bow, her eyes glow greens, so do her arrow. I think it is time for me to leave, I jump out of the monster back.
She let the arrow go and like a cannon, the arrow carries so much force that it pulls the air along with it. The arrow punctures through its skull and carries through until it reaches the end of its spine, leaving a hole so large that I can fit my hand through it. Like a sack of potatoes, it goes down because of its own weight with no support to handle it.
Lifeless and dead.
I press my hand against my wound and grit my teeth to withstand the pain. Turning on the corpses, the samurai and the archer look at me, “Hi, we never met before but my name is…”
“Andre of Adrestia.” The archer answered, uninterested by me.
“We know… Orphe, you tracking this thing too?” The samurai asked the archer.
Orphe nods her head, “Yes, what about you, Tadao?”
“I just got my order a few days ago. I didn't realize there were three of them. I thank you for helping me and giving us passage to your Goddess’s world.” He bows his head.
“I also want to say thanks.” They take a glance at me and look away. Wow...they both really are ignoring me, I don't think I have a good reputation with the candidates.
“So is Iris here?” She looked around Tadao for something.
The samurai let out a small laugh before saying, “Yes, she is in the tree line somewhere.”
Suddenly, they both stop chattering and turn their gaze at me with horror. My eyes widened in confusion, “What’s wrong?”
“Andre!” Agnes shouted from the sky.
I realize that they weren't looking at me, but behind me, I turn my body and witness as the corpses of the Darkness merge together and form a new monstrous body, bigger, horrifying and more spider legs with three tiger head. It swings its spider appendage to hit me along with the samurai and archer, but I manage to turn my body and push both of them out of the way before it arrives. The spider arm hits my side first, breaking my ribs and launching my whole body at the tree line with so much force that I crash into multiple trees before I lose my momentum.
I cough and spit out my blood onto my chest, I’m in so much pain. I can hear Agnes screaming my name and the sound of the battle continues.
“I-I s-screw up...” I tried to talk, but I am over consumed by my own cough that it made every single pronunciation a challenge.
I couldn't lift my body up, every single movement causes the broken ribs to stab my inside even further.
My vision begins to blur as my strength leave my body.
Then blackness resumes its hold over my sight, while the sound to fade into the distance.