It seemed I was the only one awake. I smiled wryly as I moved quietly past them. I looked out the one window left in my house, the one facing the street and through it, I could see the moon, a crescent moon that almost looked like it was smiling. Was it a mocking smile? Or was it something else?
I heard the soft sigh behind me as Lucifer stood behind me. When did he get up? I turned around quickly and opened my mouth to speak, but he had already placed his hand on my mouth with his other hand signalling me to be silent. In a whisper, he began to speak even as he removed his hand from my lips.
“Couldn’t sleep either?”
“I was thinking... Just thinking.”
“For better or for worse, this is how things are now. But, you aren’t the only one who thinks here.”
“Are you trying to piss me off?”
His eyes seemed to twinkle even as he spoke, a slight grin could be seen in the moonlight.
“Maybe I am. Even so, the only thing we can do now is think about what we will do. Even if we were to gather all of our food, how long would that last? We could search for...”
Lucifer glanced at me with an apologetic look even as he continued.
“Our families... But regardless, we need to think and plan.”
Families... I almost laughed at that thought. I still could remember that day just two years ago. It had been an ordinary day but for that it was my birthday. That day, if I hadn’t asked my parents to take me there... To that amusement park...
Most of the day had been without event, we simply celebrated my birthday, but then, as we left the amusement park, it happened. I could not even remember where that man had come from, but he had grabbed my mother and before anyone could react, he had stabbed her. I could still remember the blood that seemed to pour out from my mother as she laid there, those blank, unseeing eyes that seemed to look through me. I hadn’t even noticed when that man had turned towards me and lunged.
My father had then moved, and it became a struggle. I could barely remember the struggle as all I could look at... was those eyes... I could remember hearing the struggle, but I did not see anything. By the time the shock had worn off, I could hear the sirens and those uniformed men had grabbed me, pulling me away.
It was later that my father had been charged with murder. Even though it should have been clearly self defense, money ruled the world. The man my father had ‘murdered’ was the son of a wealthy and influential man... And of course, my father had also been charged with the murder of my mother. Even the witnesses testified that. And soon after, I gained the label as the daughter of a murderer. It was then that those cruel acts began.
Was my father even still alive? I did not know. After the trial, he had mysteriously disappeared, likely murdered to ensure silence. Why was I still alive? I did not know the answer to that, perhaps they didn’t think of me as a threat. But regardless, it was from Lucifer’s kindness that I had been able to continue to go to school as he paid for my fees. It was why I had forced myself to go. He never said it directly, but I could tell. After all, who else would have called himself ‘The Great Mysterious Benefactor of Awesome’?
I smiled at Lucifer, he had done so much for all of us. But no longer could he protect us in that way. All his stored money, his family wealth... They were nothing now.
“Perhaps... I should not have made that wish...”
“I think this is fine.”
“As I said, this is how things are. You would have died. Could you really say that it is better? After all, what would we do without you, leader?”
I stayed silent as I thought about it. Was it truly better either way?
Lucifer pressed his body against mine, his hand over my lips once more while his other hand reached around, pulling me even closer against my body as he stared outside past me. I felt my face flush and could hear his heart beating. Yet the moment didn’t last as he quickly jumped back with me still with him.
“Wake up, now.”
Rook was the first to wake and then Lilith quickly woke after. As Lucifer released me, he turned to Alisa and shook her, repeating the same words. Lilith seemed to understand as she began to shake Shadow. With everyone now awake, we all looked at Lucifer to explain.
“A lot of the monsters... Are in the town.”
With a gasp, all of us rushed to the window to look, to see it for ourselves and we could see it. Giant figures walking around the town. I could see faint glows of red and orange in the distance flickering... Fire...
* * *
We all ran towards Rook’s house, the closest from my room. As we neared, we could still hear the screams and panic in the distance and just as hurriedly, we could see Rook pulling out his own key. It was with great speed that he had rammed his door, shoving the key in even as he collided, and turned, the door flying open even as he rolled into his house. The rest of us followed in a hurry.
“Mother, Father, Sister!”
We could hear his shouting even as we entered. While not large, it was significantly larger than mine, even having a second floor still. I could hear the doors slamming open before finally I heard the voice, “Brother? What are you doing here so late?”
“Sister!? You are... Huh!?”
As the rest of us came around the stairs, we saw the sight and stopped, dead in our tracks. There was no way... In front of us, we could see Rook standing there. Or perhaps we could say, we could see the original Rook standing there, staring at Rook oddly as if he was staring at a stranger and Rook was staring at what must have been his sister with a shocked look.
I’m sure all of us were now remembering those words...
“First of all, it seems not everyone was given their ideal form. It seemed some people were instead changed into the form of that which they desired...”
Which meant... This girl... Wanted her brother? Wasn’t that...
“You know Rook, you should’ve told your sister that incest is illegal.”
At that, Rook shot a murderous glare at Lucifer before turning back to his ‘sister’ and spoke.
“How is mother and father?”
“They should be in their rooms now. They were shouting about something earlier but I just ignored them.”
“Don’t be shocked if they look different now, but I need you to go and wake them up. You need to find someplace to hide, there are some bad things walking around.”
“Bad things? Are you a bad person?”
“Sis, it is me, Sasha.”
“You aren’t Sasha!”
Rook turned to us and smiled wryly at us.
“You guys go on ahead, I’ll catch up, I gotta explain things here.”
Nodding, I grabbed two of the group and pulled them with me.
“I think the next closest would be... Shadow’s home?”
* * *
The visit to Shadow’s place had been a quick one with Shadow making quick explanations, his parents seemed to understand the situation as they had probably experienced similar effects themselves. Lilith’s visit was a bit slower but they had also accepted it. By this time, Rook had caught up and though Lucifer’s house was closer, he had declined, saying that we should visit Alisa’s house first.
Thus far, our travels had been uneventful but as we neared her home...
A massive figure appeared in front of us, so large that the houses around it seemed small in comparison as it took up the space of the entire street, perhaps even more than that. I recognized it with a cold sweat now covering my back. That giant scorpion... Poisontail Luroidea... The one that had wiped us out completely even when we had weapons... Even when we had skills and magic... And there was no continue here. If we died, we would stay that way.
If we could only ignore it, but it stood there, between us and Alisa’s home. Gritting my teeth, I looked at my side. I had brought a small kitchen knife with me for protection. Perhaps for something smaller, it would have helped, but against this?
What should we do? Wait it out? No, it was turning and would see us in moments. Run away? Could we run fast enough? Fight? With what weapons? What should we do? What could we do?
I looked around and saw the pale figures dyed red. And those eyes... Starring at me. Blaming me. I caused this. They died because I made that wish. And they stared.
Those eyes... The flowing red. Everything was red. Those eyes...
That scream, where did it come from? Wait, was I the one screaming? I could feel them around me, trying to calm me. But everything was covered in red. Tears fell from my eyes, but even those seemed red. I closed my eyes, pushing everyone away as I drew my knife. Wildly, I ran towards the scorpion, swinging the knife without care. But those gentle arms wrapped around me, stopping me.
“It is enough. ilydia, it is enough, we are here, we are here with you. You can share your burdens with us.”
Rook... I understood, I had to stay calm. It was not just my own life I was throwing away but everyone’s lives. Even now, I was their leader, but though I had an urge to run away, I had to stand my ground and think calmly.
“We’ll fight. Don’t attack the tail, I’m sure we can do it. We might not be well armed, but we are unbeatable. For Glory? For Honor? No! This is simply...”
I paused, waiting so that they could shout it with me.
“Just because we can!”
I could see everyone around me ready to fight. Even if we wanted to run now, there was no way we would all escape and so the only thing we could do was go forward. I smiled even as I stared at my blood-stained hands. No, I shook my head. That was just my mind. I stared at the scorpion even as I pointed my knife at it. With that, our charge began.
We fought fiercely, attacking it such that even with our makeshift weapons, we managed to make obvious progress against that shell around it. Yet after what must have been several minutes of fighting, we did not seem to do any real damage. We stood there before the monster, exhausted, our heavy breathing clearly heard.
And I saw it. The tail as it snapped forward towards me. I felt my eyes widen in surprise, but my body would not move. I heard the scream beside me as Rook ran at me. I could see Rook running forward as if preparing to punch and it seemed he was aiming at the tail. Oddly, perhaps the scorpion had planned it, his punch would arrive too early. I could see it clearly. The tail would strike Rook’s unprotected side. And in that moment as Rook swung, I saw it, Rook’s shield seemed to appear upon his arm even as the tail neared. And the audible sound of the tail bouncing from the shield could be heard.
All of us, even Rook stared at the shield for a moment as realization came upon us. If this was the case, then likely our weapons were still with us, merely hidden and waiting for us to bring them out. But how? Rook had brought out his shield in swinging his arm trying to protect me. Shield... Protect...
“It is our intent! Combined with our actions, our intent calls our weapons.”
I released the knife in my hand and brought my hands to my side as if holding my scythe and I focused clearly on the enemy. Rook, sensing my intentions, dropped to the ground as I took that step forward and swung, my intent clearly to attack the enemy before us. And as I swung, it came with a feeling as if I was pulling it out from a pool of molasses, but it came.
The others followed suit, quickly pulling their weapons out from where they hid and we quickly worked together. After several minutes, we the one-sided battle had turned around and the scorpion now was on the defense. The scorpion ‘bled’ a strange black ooze all over as it seemed to collapse. And the tail broke as the scorpion dropped, clearly falling over and we watched as it crushed a house. In moments, we could hear screams of pain-someone, perhaps several people, had still been in the house. Yet, we could do nothing about it now as it would soon appear... The Lord of Stone. That monster with the gaze of Medusa. Shadow looked at Lilith for a moment before he spoke.
“Lilith, don’t look at it when it comes out.”
“Is it bad?”
Lilith seemed to nod with understanding and closed her eyes. Of all of us, Lilith now was most likely to carry us through as only she could accurately hit the monster without looking at it. And with that, we quickly placed ourselves between her and the Medusa that now was crawling towards us.
We fought fiercely, striking at the snakes and the lord with great fervor, all of us slightly spread out so that we wouldn’t need to look at what we were attacking with Lilith shouting out to us when and how to dodge. Finally, the snakes had stopped hissing and we relaxed. Lilith quickly moved to close the eyes of the Medusa and we finally were able to look around though we still cautiously avoided looking at the corpse.
“Too bad the monsters don’t drop loot, eh Rook? Could you imagine the loot we’d get from killing that?”
“Lucifer, not everyone is greedy enough that they want more than just their lives.”
We all laughed at that, but we now had other worries. Quickly, I ran to the house where the screams of pain had died down. Maybe if I hurried... Yet, even as I leaped up to see, I could tell... We were too late. In the rubble, I could see it, I could see the pinned bodies, a child pinned through the abdomen, a mother who had died with her hands outstretched as if to hold her child just once more. I could see the legs of a body that had likely died from being crushed.
But that child, facing towards me, those eyes stared at me as if accusing me, as if cursing me. Those sightless, sad eyes... It became even more vivid, the blood pooling. The blood staining my hands, my clothes, everything dyed in a red color as I screamed once more.
And once more, I could feel someone holding me tightly as if to protect me.
“It is enough. It is enough, ilydia. We are here with you. You don’t have to be afraid anymore. It is in the past. It is the past.”
Even as my screams turned to sobs, I could feel Rook’s hands stroking my hair, whispering to me to calm me down. Finally, I pushed at him to let him know he could let me go. Wiping my tears, I finally collected myself and smiled at my party.
“I’m sorry about that, we should really hurry to Alisa’s place. I’m sure her family will be anxious to see her.”
* * *
As we entered Alisa’s house, we heard surprised gasps and after an initial, “Who are you!?” from her parents, they seemed to recognize her even without an explanation.
“So, it seems that you’ve had a hard time.”
“Yes mother, but we made it through together. I wouldn’t have made it without my friends.”
“So you are now going to Ivan’s home?”
“Yes mother, we should hurry and make sure that they are safe. You two should find somewhere safe. It is dangerous to be where all these monsters are.”
With only a few more words, we were ready to leave. Alisa’s parents walked out with us to the gate and waved goodbye to us. Now we just had one last destination. Happily, we began to talk even as-
We heard a crashing noise before us and saw a group of monsters before us. Towering black shadows that appeared to have no legs and unblinking red eyes with arms that hung to the ground. Though they were nowhere near as large as the scorpion we had fought only hours before, there had to be at least a dozen of them and they were advancing upon us.
Quickly, I grabbed the scythe from my back even as we all prepared to fight. I did quick calculations and found that we would each have to fight at least two enemies at the same time. It would be tough, but with any luck, we could manage.
We fought for what felt like hours and as the sun began to peer over the horizon, we finally finished the last one.
“Sarah, are you ok!?”
We turned to see Alisa’s parents running towards us, and they ran to hug Alisa. I could see tears in their eyes and it was easy to tell that they had seen our fight and though worried, they had held themselves back in fear that they would hinder us.
“Sarah, stay with us. It is dangerous out there.”
“Mother, I can’t, I must go with them. They need me.”
“Sarah, your mother is worried about you. If more of those monsters appear...”
“I’ll be fine, we’ve been through far worse. They’ll protect me and I’ll protect them. That is why we are a team.”
Suddenly, I could hear Lilith screaming, “Watch out!” and I turned, my scythe ready, but it was too late. A black streak came flying past us towards Alisa. In that moment, her mother shoved Alisa aside and took the blow meant for Alisa. As the black arm retracted, we could see the shocked eyes, the gaping hole in her chest as she collapsed. We turned in anger to attack the monster but even as we attacked, we could hear a gasp behind us. I saw her father then, his apologetic eyes looking at us as the oversized knife protruded from his belly. And then he fell.
I heard a scream, but it seemed so distant as I moved towards that monster with the appearance of a humanoid with a boar’s head. Though the battle ended quickly, we had no time to celebrate our victory as we quickly rushed to the two that had fallen.
I could see Alisa’s tears as she had ripped several pieces of cloth to try to bind the wounds but to no avail as the blood kept flowing. Her mother’s mouth opened several times, but no words came out.
“Why? The bleeding. It won’t stop. Mother. Father! Hang on. I’ll stop it right away. You’ll be better in no time.”
We all just watched helplessly as their breathing slowed and finally stopped. There was nothing we could do and we all knew it. Even as we saw Alisa struggling as those bodies turned cold. And finally, Alisa looked at me with her teary eyes.
“These wounds... Why won’t they close?”