A few hours earlier, underground tunnels at the edge of the village
Haru ran for his life.
Sweat was chilling beneath his heavy fur-lined coat. The fireplaces, carefully stocked to keep out the chill of Yukigakure, had been left to burn down. What had been torch-lit, warm and familiar underground corridors, sparing the small village's inhabitants from having to dare the cold in winter-season, were now dark and dangerous, every shadow a threat. Haru had grown up in them, and even as an apprentice for the local guard he walked them every day, but now panic made him stumble and lose his way time and time again. Left, left, right, then up the stair..
The sound of his boots against the stones echoed and merged with the sound of his heartbeat, thundering in his ears, but never quite managing to deafen out the ragged screams behind him. They were coming.
His fingers tightened around his precious burden, making the bird squirm in protest. If only he could find an opening, the hawk would carry the message of this strange disease to Yukigakure, and they would send someone to help, and everything would return to norma-
Fingers grabbed at the hem of his trousers, sending him half-tumbling through a doorway. The floor came rushing against his face. He twisted, protecting the bird in his arms. A crack, a quick stab. Something was broken? Shock and endorphins kept the pain at bay, but his right arm felt odd, limp at his side.
Haru lifted his head, looking back into the darkness beyond the door. Eyes, he could feel eyes watching. The light of a distant torch flickered across a twisted face.”.. Captain.. ”
Pitiful hope, but he couldn't stop his shaking voice from trying, again, to find some part of a former friend in that face full of lust and rage. So twisted, like horrible masks- No. As if their mask, what made them human, had been taken off. All beast beneath.
And didn't he feel it himself, that urge? All alone, against them all, when he could so easily rise above them. He never had a kind word for me. Look at him now, like a sick dog. Wouldn't it be a mercy to put him out of his misery? Wouldn't that show who's the best, the best, who cares about the rest, take what I want and show them all..”No!”
He struggled awkwardly to stand, and threw himself at the door, closing the hatch just as weight hit the wood from the other side. Stepping back, thud after thud made the door creak. How long would it hold? He had to make it, had to send the hawk or it was all lost-"Poor, little rabbit."
Ice crept across his chin, no, fingers, yet how could any living thing be so cold? But the voice... Such a rich voice, seductive.. Had he ever heard a voice like that? As a child, had his mothers voice been so smooth, so feminine? Singing him to sleep, yes, this was the voice of a mother - but it was a hollow voice. Empty inside. Like a black hole behind him, reaching for him, turning him around with that icy grip.."He almost has you. I can feel it."
Beautiful (destroy it
Haru barely heard the words, couldn't focus through the red haze that was claiming his thoughts. The cold fingers gently pried his burden from him, released the small container, unrolled the tiny scroll that.. what was it again? What had he wanted to do? It was all lost in the haze now. ”This won't do, not at all. Silly rabbit, what were you trying to do? Feed him more mindless wretches?”
The shadows were moving. Were they? He couldn't see in the darkness. Shadows sinking into the scroll. Were the kanji moving, shifting..?
Can't focus (Give in
Pale skin. (bite it
), jet-black hair (rip it
), a slender figure (take her
), eyes (pluck them out
), eyes, red and gold, so cold.
His nails slid across her wrist without breaking the skin. Too cold. Not something living, and what he wanted was to sink his teeth into flesh, hear the scream, take everything. You couldn't hurt gods, but there was someone else nearby..
A final crack and the door sagged on its hinges. Haru felt them coming, like a wave of rage, and lust, and hatred, and hunger, but this time he wouldn't be running. Bite it, rip it, taste it, devour it
He burned, and only the cold chains held him back. If only they would release him, so he could sink his teeth into those warm and fragile things that moved towards him, he could gorge himself again and again..
Chiyoko watched the young man, as his mind cracked under the burden of insanity. To her, the feeling was almost enjoyable, even after such a long period of separation - though it did make her slightly more unpredictable than she cared for. Unlike the boy, however, she was no longer lost in the sensation.
Was it a slight sigh that left her lips? ”Enjoy it while it lasts.”
She released the boy to his urges
Shadowy tendrils shot towards the ceiling, breaking through stone, earth and snow to open the tunnel to the sky above. Debris came crashing down, filling the area below, locking off the frenzied villagers. Slender fingers released the blinding hood, eyes following the hawk as it took flight with its altered message. ”Now, let's see what this game will lead to, shall we?”
She called it an experiment, but in truth it was nothing more than a game, one she had loved to plan out and prepare for. He had been the one to start it, but only one of them could win. Wasn't that what a game was all about?
A small smile stretched her lips as she turned and disappeared down the corridors.
The hooded figure moved silently and untouched through the chaos. Though several of the villagers stepped forward in their frenzy, the slim blade made quick work of them. The heavy, fur-lined coat, typical for the region, concealed the figure completely, though the dull colour and worn exterior told of wear and tear.
Halting at the centre of a square, the hood turned from side to side, as if in search. Though too far away for a whisper to be heard, the feminine voice sounded clearly in Ryuuchi's head.“Round about here
Sat a little hare
The bow-wos came and chased him..”
The hood tilted back, revealing a young woman's
face. Yellow eyes locked on Ryuuchi, teeth flashing in a feral smile.”Right up there!”
, the voice again, but this time from her own lips, the shout reaching across the noise. ”Hey, old guy! Tell me.."
Snow crunched as she buried the tip of the sword in the ground, dangling the blade idly in her grip. From a nearby alley, a figure broke free from the shadows - an elderly man - and staggered towards her, eyes filled with lust. There was a vague resemblance between the two, the same pale shade of hair, the same refined features - although the mans had clearly been worn down by age, harsh weather and abuse, most likely alcohol. "What have you done to my sweet, little village, eh? I really hate it when people beat me to the punch!”
Few inches before the mans fingertips reached her, the blade flashed quicker than the eye. The mans fingers lay in the snow, the surprise on his face swiftly shifting to horror and pain. Falling to his knees, the man clutched the bleeding stubs to his chest and began moaning and weeping. The young woman's eyes didn't stray from Ryuuchi, continuing the conversation casually, as if the man had never attempted to interrupt. ”Especially when they do it in such a sloppy way.”
, she continued, her tone turning taunting, her teeth flashing in the wolf-like grin again.