Chapter 23 – The Other Monster
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Though it was smaller than the first time I had seen it, the monster still towered over my father. And that fact only became more clear as I scrambled upright and hurried back to a safer distance behind him. 

Would he really be able to take down the monster? Would anyone?

My father definitely had fighting experience, sure. He’d rarely participated in the village’s training sessions, but in the few times he did, it was clear that he far outshone everyone else in terms of skill and experience. And by this point, no one had the confidence left to challenge him to a sparring match.

…Aside from Alvin, that is.

But as he himself had told me, monsters were a completely different story. His sword didn’t seem to do much damage, despite its size and weight. And as he slammed it down on the pitch black beast’s neck, all it did was gouge out a chunk of the liquid that dripped all around its body, sending it splattering across him and the ground surrounding the battle.

What were you supposed to do to a creature that seemed impervious to sword strikes?

My father planted himself, widening his stance as the monster scraped its feet along the ground, its featureless face staring him down. It lifted its head, letting out a howl that shook me to my core. 

Chaos broke out amongst the rest of the village. People had been celebrating the arrival of the fog, but now… Doors slammed open and shut as people screamed, some of the more confident men grabbing their swords and running outside looking for the monster. Those without the strength to fight hid away, and eventually the crowd left, just a short distance away, was a group of hunters and elders, along with a rowdy gang of Alvin’s friends and some younger guys, all of them with swords held ready.

But none of them had ever seen a real monster before, had they? They had weapons, but I doubted they would use them.

No, it was just my father.

As the monster rushed forward, he braced himself, winding his sword back for a heavy swing. The beast’s feet pounded the ground, hard enough that I could feel the reverberations through my shoes and hear its thunderous charge echoing around the village. 

With a loud, frenzied scream, my father brought his sword across, striking at the monster’s shoulder. It lost balance, being thrown to the side from the attack and rolling along the ground, leaving a trail of black liquid that sparkled under the sunlight. The monster didn’t stay down for long, however, and the liquid pooled around its legs as it began to lift itself back up.

My father, on the other hand, didn’t stay still as the monster struggled. He ran towards the downed beast, raising his sword above his head for a powerful-looking strike. In the wake of his charge, small pinpricks of light were left behind, falling like autumn leaves off of his arms.

…Wait, was that magic?

As my father reached the monster, he brought his sword down upon the base of its neck with a ferocious crash, sending black liquid spraying all around. The monster wailed, thrashing its legs every which way as the liquid on its body pooled together to fill in the gouge that my father had carved with his sword.

This was nothing like my father’s fight with Alvin. This was a massacre. I had no idea how my father could manage to lose… He knew how to fight monsters — clearly, he’d done it before. He knew exactly the movements it took to take one on and he knew exactly how to deal the greatest damage. It was terrifying, seeing him use his full strength.

Unfortunately, even if he knew exactly what he was doing, and he was still extraordinarily strong… he wasn’t the young man that he used to be. I was proven wrong when, before he had a chance to retreat, one of the monster’s legs collided with his torso, a collision that I could feel. It must have completely knocked the wind out of him, and it sent him tumbling backwards through the air and landed him roughly on the ground just near me, sword bouncing off to the side. 

“Dad!” I screamed, rushing over and crouching down next to his still form. “A-Are you okay?” 

He was okay, just a bit battered. I hadn’t seen him in a state like this… ever. His breathing was laboured as he tried to lift himself upright, pushing down on the ground with shaking arms. “Ya’ need ta’… get outta here…”

The ground beneath us shook ever so slightly. I quickly looked upright… and found the monster picking itself up once more, and beginning to menacingly lumber its way towards us, still with a gash in the black liquid at the base of its neck. 

And my father still hadn’t managed to move.

Each step it took seemed to echo around the village. A hubbub broke out amongst the crowd that was watching on, each of the villagers glancing around as if they weren’t sure what to do. A few of them held out their swords, but… they still made no movement towards the approaching monster.

And approach it did, each thunderous step bringing it closer and closer towards us. What could I do? My father was in no shape to fight. He was struggling to even stand up again, let alone fight. And his sword was much too heavy for me to swing around like he did. How could I possibly fend off the monster?

Another step. 

I glanced back up at it, terrified. It needed to be stopped, no one here was willing to fight against it, so if it got my father, wouldn’t it then move on to everyone else? The children… the elderly… Colette… no one was safe. 

And another. 

Everything had gone so wrong. I had only been trying to stay safe from the fog… I had never meant to let this monster out. I had never meant to make the village so unsafe. And even if it was stopped… even if everyone survived, even if the monster was killed, or driven off… they’d seen me. They knew I was a Dissonant.

As the monster’s foot thudded once more against the ground, a gear in my head caught.


A spark lit inside my core. Maybe… maybe I could do something. I was responsible for the monster, wasn’t I? I created this problem, but maybe I could fix it.

One more step. The monster was close, now. Terrifyingly so. It towered over us, no less threatening than the very first time I’d seen it in the crypt. 

But this time I was going to do something about it.

The spark inside my core began to grow, turning into swirling heat that coursed through me, growing hotter and more violent. It continued to build as the monster kept getting closer, the fiery heat blazing throughout my body. 

There was something I could do.

The same thing I had done the first time the monster showed up. 

I could use that fire.

I stood upright, staring down the monster’s featureless face. Lifting its neck, it towered over me, letting out another screeching howl that felt like it pierced inside my ears. I had to drive this monster away from the village.

“Wh-what are you doing?” my father asked, trying to stand up one more time. “Get back!”


As the heat inside my body reached the point where it felt like it was burning, I pushed my hands out towards the monster. Closing my eyes for a moment, I tried to pull the heat through my body, towards my outstretched arms. It flowed as I desired, pooling together between my palms with swirls of orange flame.

As the monster lifted one of its legs, winding back as if to swipe at me, the heat in my hands reached a boiling point, and I let loose a ball of flame towards it.

The blaze inside my core dimmed for a moment as a dull pain resounded in my head. I needed a rest, badly. Launching the fireball felt like it had pulled at something inside me, in the same way that the fog had. Was it… using up my magic?

The fireball collided with the beast, sending black liquid spraying around us. The monster stumbled back a few steps from the impact, flame clinging to its neck. Liquid dripped from it, slowly melted by the heat and forming a puddle in its shadow.

This would work. It would drain me even more, but… it would work.

The monster let out another wailing howl, this time seeming slightly scared as it backed away from me. Good. This was my chance. I had to drive the monster out of the village.

The mountain pass that led out of the village was nearby — just a ways beyond the monster. If I could herd the monster into there, then maybe it would run off into the thick forest between us and the next town. And maybe, in its weakened state… someone would be able to kill it.

I took a step forward, internally stoking the fire that had lit inside me, making it flare up. How much of this could I do? Five fireballs? Six? A throbbing pain inside my head made me stumble, pulling my focus away from the blazing heat within me for a moment. 

However many it was, it would have to be enough. I had to focus. I couldn’t falter here.

Pushing the heat once more towards my palms, I threw a second fireball at the monster. And then another, and another, sending it further and further back with each impact. 

The monster howled again, staggering along with dripping legs that left a trail of bubbling liquid in their wake. Whatever I was doing with the fire, it was working. The black beast didn’t seem anywhere near as… massive, and scary, as before. I kept launching fireballs at it, herding it away towards the mountain pass.

As the monster launched into a gallop, my foot caught on a rock that jutted out from the ground, and I stumbled, falling on my hands and knees. My head throbbed, and a ringing noise filled my ears.

I didn’t have the energy for another fireball. I was completely drained. But I heard its footsteps receding… 

Had… had I done it? Did I drive the monster away?

Rolling onto my backside, I looked towards the mountain pass, and watched the black form disappear around the cliff faces, out of the village.

That was it. It was over. I breathed out, then in, then pushed myself shakily back on my feet, staggering back towards where my father sat. Inside of me, the fire slowly fizzled away into nothingness. What had I just done?

I’d… made fireballs. I had created fireballs out of nothing but… willpower, I supposed. Magic. And I’d thrown them at the monster. Was this… what I was truly capable of? I stared down at my hands, palms still warm from the fire. 

As I looked back up, however, I found the crowd standing between my father and I, full of wide open eyes and paling faces. I’d just… My breath caught in my throat as I stopped walking. What was I supposed to do? I’d spent so long trying to hide my transformation from everyone, and now… 

I’d been exposed. I had exposed myself. And… there wasn’t anything I could’ve done to avoid it.

One of the members of the crowd stepped forward, his sword still in his hands. I’d seen him before, his short, dusty blond hair and tanned arms — he was part of Alvin’s group of friends. He always seemed relaxed around him, always joking and jostling my brother. But now, without Alvin to stand up for me… he seemed so big, and so… intimidating. In a way… even scarier than the monster.

With a glare in his eyes that made me shrink back in fear, he strode towards me, the rest of the group following in his wake. He halted a short distance away, his hands trembling. “…Wh-Who are you?”

His voice felt harsh and grating on my ears.

What is she?” someone in the crowd murmured.

They were… scared of me, weren’t they? I looked between the faces in the rest of the crowd, but they all averted their eyes, flinching as they noticed my gaze. I didn’t know what to do, and was so tensed up and scared, and every second of silence increased the tension I felt even more.

“Answer me,” the man demanded, stepping closer and pointing his sword towards me.

I backpedalled, feeling my fox ears press flat against my head as I struggled to come up with an answer. What was I supposed to say?

“…How did she make that fire?” A soft whisper cut through the quiet that had come to cover the crowd. 

But that was only the beginning. Someone whispered a response, and then another, and soon the villagers were all whispering amongst themselves, whispers that grew louder and louder until they felt almost deafening. They sounded… scared of me, and they also sounded… angry.

“Look at her ears…” One of them pointed towards my head, and the boys surrounding him followed his gaze. My ears pressed even flatter at the attention, and in my terrified restlessness I grabbed my tail and squeezed it in my arms. “…And she has a tail, too,” one of the boys said.

“Is she a monster too?”

“She’s…” another of the men murmured. “She’s a Dissonant, isn’t she?”

Tears welled up in my eyes as I cowered under their angry and frightened glares. I wasn’t… like them, I wasn’t… human. I was… in their eyes, lost to the Dissonance. 

“Um–I…” I stammered, still backing away as the man approached. “I’m just… Triss.”

“Don’t play dumb,” the man standing in front of the group said, his voice shaking somewhat. “Wasn’t this your fault?”

It… it was my fault… I’d led the monster here from the crypt… if not for me the monster might’ve never left… I choked on my tears and buried my face in my tail.

“She did drive away the monster, though…” Another whisper rang out from the crowd as they chattered amongst themselves. “Triss… wasn’t she in the tournament?”

“It doesn’t matter if she drove away the monster,” the man said, voice hard. “We had multiple monster sightings in the past two weeks, and now you show up. As the saying goes, wherever Dissonants appear, monsters are bound to follow. You’ve probably been the source of them the whole time, haven’t you?”

“She’s practically a monster herself!” someone in the crowd shouted.

“And did you see that fire?” someone else added. “She could burn down the whole village if she wanted to!”

“I… I’m not…” I mumbled, my voice muffled by the fur of my tear-soaked tail. What was I supposed to do? Everyone in the village… hated me, and thought I was as bad as…

“You don’t know anythin’ about monsters,” a deep voice resounded from behind the crowd. “Or about Dissonants.”

Instantly, the murmurings of the villagers died down into silence, as my father strode between the crowd and I.

“She just saved your life, and you’re callin’ her a monster?” His gait still seemed a little unsteady, but he held his head high as he confronted the villagers. “How many of you would be able to take on a monster like that? Anyone? Any of ya’ think you’d even stand a chance?”

Maybe I would be okay… my father was… standing up for me. Maybe I would be safe after all.

I staggered backwards, clutching my head as my father continued his heated lecture. When… when was the last time I’d had something to drink? My head throbbed, and the world seemed to spin in front of me. I hadn’t been this bad before… Just how much… how much energy did those fireballs take? I struggled to keep myself upright, trying to push through the dizziness.

“I didn’t see any of you trying to help,” my father went on. “Some of ya’, I’ve seen you talkin’ big game of takin’ down a monster. But when you’re faced with the real thing, ya’ freeze up and do nothing.”

I shakily rubbed the tears from my eyes. I had been afraid of his reaction, but… my father was standing up for me. As I tried to step towards him, I stumbled, still just as dizzy as before. And when I lifted myself back upright… the tail I was clutching wasn’t there. I must’ve let go of it in my lightheadedness.

“And yet, this little girl stood up to the monster.” My father spun around, gesturing towards me. “She chased it out, and…”

Why did his voice seem so much duller? I couldn’t hear anything from the villagers, either. I reached around behind me, trying to grab my tail again to hold onto, but…

“…Matty?” came a hushed whisper from the crowd.

My stomach dropped. I’d… changed back. Right in front of half the village.

And right in front of my father.

“That’s why you’re defending him!” A voice shouted in the crowd. “He’s your kid!”

They knew. They all knew about me. They all knew I was a Dissonant. They all knew about what had happened to me. And they all… hated me. 

I turned around, pushing my exhausted legs to run as fast as I could away from them all.


Well, Triss managed to fend off the monster, but at what cost? Now the whole village knows she's a Dissonant.

What will she do now?

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