Today’s the day where Eva’s plan is put into action. I wonder what Nadiah is going to do, nothing violent, I hope.
I decided to spend my time before the start of the operation at the orphanage. Sakaki didn’t follow because he thought he’d spend his time somewhere else. I learned that Mrs Beet, the caretaker of the orphanage is a widow who inherited her husband’s fortune. She decided to do something good with the inheritance by opening an orphanage in this town and she love kids but wasn’t able to have her own.
Of course, Iris was there as well, wanting to talk about what being a Karma is about, and what demons signify. My mind still couldn’t wrap around how a four-year-old is taking all this in.
“Why do you have bandages on your left leg?” Iris asked.
“Hmm, well I got an ugly scar when I was about your age. Actually, I think I was a little older than you.” I replied, “I got burned very badly.”
She tilts her head. I can physically feel her curiosity creeping up to me, so I looked out the window to avoid an inevitable question. Aha, it is evening, the sun is setting with bright orange light seeping through windows.
“Oh, look at the time. I think I should be heading out now.” I continued.
“Mmm”, Iris pouts. Adorable.
It pains me that I couldn’t tell Mrs. Beet what was going on, but I did tell Iris to spread the message with the kids to stay indoors for the night.
When I arrive at the granary, Sakaki is already there sitting on the roof.
“Is it cool up there?” I questioned him.
“Hell yeah, in the sense that I get to pose up here with the wind blowing. I’m as majestic as a lion aren’t I?”
The sun had just set and the area is now dark. The granary is surrounded by a dense forest and the only traceable route back to civilisation is the dirt path leading to the orphanage. Cool winds rustle the nearby trees, giving me chills as the sudden change in temperature is not what I am used to.
It sounds… Almost uniform.
No, something is moving in between the trees.
“It’s close?” asked Sakaki.
“Sounds like it.”
We draw our weapon. Sakaki with his katana that has the texture of red-tinted glass and me with my two twenty-four-fold fans.
We couldn’t hear any stomps, so all we can infer from are the uniform rustling of the leaves. The moonlight is dim, but shadows were still cast from the leaves on the trees.
“It’s a good thing we are trained to pick up these minute details in our surroundings.” He said.
After a few moments, the rustling grew ever closer and we can finally see the cause of it revealing itself from the shadows - a skeletal figure about the height of the granary. It has six legs and two hands, with a human skull as its head. The demon’s entire body is made up of the bones of humans who died of hunger from the famine. The demon oozes the smell of rot as it has decaying human flesh on the bones it picked up. Only chunks of it though, my guess is most of it has fallen off or feasted on by scavenging animals.
A demon made entirely of human remains.
A chilling sight.
That is the Gashadokuro.
“Damn, that smell!” Sakaki commented.
He’s right, the smell is revolting. We haven’t had the pleasure of it since we arrived in Temp Pines. But how? How could we not pick up its scent?
I questioned that thought when it clicked.
“The Gashadokuro was coming towards us up-wind… That is why we didn’t know it was coming until he was this close!” I voiced my thoughts out loud.
“Seriously?” Sakaki returned the thought.
A Gashadokuro is very stealthy, written records have shown it. I have finally realised that in order to be that stealthy, the demon must know to travel against the wind to hide its rotting stench.
‘I’m rarely wrong.’ Was what Eva said. She must’ve known about the demon’s habits. She must’ve also known about the weather condition tonight. I’m not sure how, but I’m certain she had this planned from the beginning. However, if she knew that the Gashadokuro will appear at this spot, why station Sakaki and I here? We are very green compared to her, who undoubtedly has a decade of experience. Did she determine that quantity over quality is enough to trump this demon? Then why wasn’t she stationed here with us?
These are questions that I must ask her if I make it out alive.
The demon paid no attention to us as it continues its march towards one place, the town hall. A place where plenty of food is ready to be eaten, and not forgetting, the wealthy elites and government figures who caused the famine. Hunger and revenge drives the demon.
“Karen? We have to stop it.” Sakaki said.
“Halt, apparition!” I shouted as I use my fans to create a wind barrier surrounding the Gashadokuro.
It is now trapped. Attempting to escape, the demon used its arms to break through the barrier. Sakaki jumps into the air, ready to deliver his blade into the skull of the demon. The Gashadokuro howled, furious that we got in its way, and with enough force through its rage, it breaks my barrier and smacks Sakaki out of the air and into the forest. The apparition then leaps towards me with both of its hands out, ready to grab me by the torso.
I naturally lift both my arms up to meet them, in a position where the demon and I were at a standstill, with both our arms locked. The demon’s next move stunned me, leaving me not knowing how to react.
Its head jerks violently, like a human who is being possessed by an angry ghost for a few seconds, then it stopped, with its head looking towards me.
“Ahh, finally, the spell worked.” A voice that came out of creature that I am currently on a standstill with.
A voice that sounds more like souls screaming in hell than human.
“Oh yes, this is surprising, of course. A demon speaking. Though this is not my voice, I’m just using the decaying vocal organs in the demon.” It continued.
“How…?” like a dear in the headlights, I was struck with an indescribable feeling of shock and awe.
“That is not important. The effects are just temporary, a simple spell that I formularised. What is important, is you. You are the only survivor of the chimera attack over a decade ago. How?”
A question that I know the answer to, but I couldn’t answer as my mouth stayed shut.
“Rhetorical question. I know how you survived. Your mother, she gave you her Will - she protected you. My final piece of the puzzle is found, my quest is complete, the final chisel to complete the marble masterpiece.”
The final piece of the puzzle? What is
it, no, what is the individual possessing the demon talking about?
“One final thing,
Awaken when your other half is present, have you heard of this phrase?”
“Pity. We shall meet again somewhere that is… Warmer.”
Our conversation ended.
It mentioned about the chimera attack on the village, an attack that killed my parents. The one where I met my mentor. It knows my parents, and how my mother gave me her Haori, her Will, the one I am wearing right now.
If it knows about me and especially my past, then this is what I’ve been looking for, a clue to my past. A clue to the mages who created those chimeras, the people who killed my parents and burned the town to the ground. The Delphic individual who forever changed my once warm and peaceful life.
As I was lost in thought, Sakaki ran out from the forest and sliced the demon’s hands, freeing me from the standstill we were still in.
The Gashadokuro roars in pain as it restores its hands by using the stockpile of bones in its body.
“Go and evacuate the orphanage!” Sakaki shouted. “It’s in the path of the demon! I’ll do my best to slow it down!”
Now that we have inadvertently made the Gashadokuro mad, who knows if it will ignore the orphanage. Sakaki is correct. I must evacuate everyone.
I nodded to Sakaki, “If you don’t come back alive, I’ll bury you next to our mentor, so she can laugh at you.”
“Hah, what do you think I have been doing for two years. I’ve been training!”
I start running towards the direction of the orphanage praying that he would at least be safe.