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Tales From A Cruel World

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"Humans and Deviants alike."


A woman in a plain brown coat paces through a forest, the night sky gifting a mirror-like light to her figure. Her ashy hair sways solemnly as she pulls her bard's hat down to leer, her face showing a Cheshire grin of knowing. Fireflies circle her body, attracted by her alluring presence. They form an aura of pale yellow, as if guarding the mysterious trespasser with their illuminated abdomens.


"Allow me to recite a story, a tale if you will. A tale of the countless people who live in our cruel and unforgiving world of strife, treachery and instability. A tale of the countless people who found warmth and comfort through this cruel world."


Her voice was cadenced, every word followed a footstep as she trudged through the foliage. She twirled a weary quill in her right hand, and a worn leather book in the other. The book had clearly seen better days, as the ropes holding it together had frayed to the point that it looked like a patch of grass. The parchment it carried began to show signs of rot, likely damaged from the eons of wear and tear it suffered through. The cover of the book bore no title, not a name to this rotting relic.


Yet, the stories it contained were anything but a rotting relic. Rather, it chronicled the noble adventures of heroes, so brave yet so foolish. Poems and iliads of unimaginably courageous warriors facing unimaginably horrifying calamities. Yet at the end of the day, they were only some of the trillions of brave and foolish tales that roamed the world.


The cloaked woman continued her hike through the forest, eventually reaching an end. She saw a bright light in the distance, coming from a town in the middle of nowhere. The cloaked woman grinned victoriously as she approached the town, clutching her book in anticipation.


"Yes... Let us explore one of these many tales." She peeled open the book, flipping the rotting pages until she reached the proper one. 


"This is the tale of Tamao Tomoe, the Maiden of Thanatos. How did the girl with a golden heart transform into the bringer of ashes? Why did she sell her soul for Thanatos' blessings? The answer can be found in this town. A town that served no purpose, a town with no name. A town merely born out of the human yearning for a community, a place to call home. But this home imploded within itself due to the very same values and virtues it meant to nurture."

A crow cawed omens, circling a raging inferno. The inferno lashed and whipped around, as if it had its own personality. A personality of pure rage and desire for destruction. Within this inferno, A young Rui Akikaze wailed out in despair. Her eyes cried tears that instantly vaporized from the unforgiving heat of the flames. She cried out to her mother, who laid faced downwards in a pool of her own blood. 


"Mama! Why isn't anyone helping us!? Where's Papa!?" Rui exclaimed out in-between sniffles, her white dress now stained with black soot. Putting her palm over her mothers' as she continued to bawl out in distress. 


"Rui my dear... Papa isn't coming to save us anymore..." Rui's mother grazed her child's face with her hands, cupping it with her remaining strength.


"This is Mama's punishment by the gods for doing something very bad..." Her face bore a guilty smile, in anguish and shame of how she brought this upon her family. 


"Mama, you didn't do anything wrong! Please!!" This only caused the distressed Rui to bawl harder, now attempting to drag her mother out with her to the front door. But her actions were futile, as more and more of the burning house collapsed into itself. As if it could not get worse, a piece of burning wall smashed itself right into Rui's mother, pinning her onto the ground and sealing her fate. The flames began to crawl up her cloth dress, the inevitable coming sooner than thought.


"Go on without me Rui... You have to be a big girl now..." The flames drew closer and closer, engulfing the older Akikaze and eating her alive. She used the remnants of her faded strength to push Rui away from her, before being absorbed by the raging fires. Rui could only stand rooted to the ground, helpless as her own mother burned alive right in front of her eyes. Her face bore no emotion other than a blank stare, unable to comprehend what just occurred. Her nostrils could smell hints of charred flesh, sourcing its foul odour from the inflamed corpse. The young Rui had to come to terms with the shattering reality- her mother was dead, and father won't help. She was all alone in this world now. All alone in her sadness, wrecking havoc and eating at her mind. 


Papa... Mama...

Tamao Tomoe rushed into the burning house to the protest of quite literally everyone, determined to save her dear friend, her only friend. Bursting through the wooden door, she spotted a motionless Rui staring at the ground, mouth agape and eyes wide with tears and shock. 


"Rui-chan! What are you doing, get out!" Tamao ran to the shaken girls side, rocking her by the shoulders and snapping Rui out of her lonely trance. Rui jumped, startled by Tamao. She turned her head to face the blue-haired girl, before breaking down again into tears, knowing no more comfort in this world other than her friend. 


"Rui...-chan..." Tamao paused for a moment, gripping Rui's shoulders tightly to support the mourning girl. With a deep breath, she turned her attention to the exit, holding onto Rui as they darted out of the burning house, narrowly missing a falling piece of wood. Their bodies felt the heat of a raging inferno as they made their way out, embodying a seething anger that developed through years and years of fear and contempt. And this anger came from the villagers, as they surrounded the girls with pikes and pitchforks the moment they exited the collapsing building.


The girls were surrounded by bloodlust at every turn, in front of a furious mob and behind a wrathful blaze. Rui could not muster the courage to look at the villagers, but Tamao put up a brave front, staring defiantly at the pike-wielding mob. "Nobody touches her!"


"Kill her!"

"She's a beast as well!"


The mob erupted into murderous chanting, yelling curdling screams calling for Rui's murder. Their weapons pierced the sky in violent fervour as they encircled and enclosed the pair of frightful children. Tamao held Rui's head on her chest, averting her eyes away from the villagers. "Shhh... I'll get us out, Rui... Somehow..." Tamao whispered into Rui's ear, her calm voice doing its best to alleviate Rui of her fears. Though Tamao did a good job of hiding hers as well.


Rui-chan... You'll live... I promise...




 As the mob were inches away from impaling the pair, a bellowing voice called out from the sea of men. A bearded man with black tousled hair marched into and past the mob, stomping in step and frustration. He approached the girls, with Tamao giving him the same defiant glare that she gave the rest of the villagers. The man simply heaved a sigh, putting his hand behind the pair and bringing them into his protection.


"The Akikaze family gave their blood to ensure our village wasn't a victim of the Liones Empire." His voice held an indignant tone, scolding the mob for their brute actions towards mere children. "Anyone who dares touch these children shall be exiled from the village!" The crowd went from anger to disbelief, an exasperated gasp reverberating from their mouths.


"But Elder, they were BEASTS!! Surely their wretched child inherited their vile traits!" 

"She'll ransack and destroy this town!"

"You're being blinded by their foul sorcery!" 


The mob began to jeer and heckle the trio, throwing rocks which the Elder protected the younglings with the back of his body. The stones were numerous, resembling a sea. A sea of hate and contempt and paranoia from the villagers, who could not bear to think that their town may fall from blind sympathy.


The Elder shielded Tamao and Rui as he escorted them out of the crowd. Rui sobbed a silent cry, while Tamao could only wonder in confusion over her father's actions. After all, this put him in an unideal position as Village Elder, with the denizens now holding a hatred for the man who sheltered a supposed beast. The mob reached throughout the village, with every nook and cranny populated with distraught citizens, throwing rocks and screaming obscenities at Tamao's father. His face was unreadable, emotion unknowing to anyone except himself. Tamao continued to hug the shaken Rui throughout the walk, patting her head to sooth her sobbing friend.


When they reached the doorstep of the Tamao family's house, The elder Tamao finally let go of the pair, Rui facing backwards away from the Elder while Tamao stared directly at him, beginning to prod her father with questions. "Papa, why did you save us...?" Tamao's father paused, looking his child straight in the eye. Tamao gulped, expecting nothing short of a scolding and lecture on why she should leave herself out of public affairs. Bracing herself, she squinted shut her eyes. Instead, she was greeted with a pat to her head, her father sighing in defeat yet holding a slightly proud smile. "Huh? Why are you praising me?" 


"Tamao... You stood up for your friend and risked your life, how could I ever be anything other than impressed?" He embraced his daughter, commending her efforts. Tamao could feel the pride and proudness well up inside her heart, as she reciprocated the hug, thanking her father for the praise. "Tamao, despite what everyone else will say, Rui is not a monster, alright?"


"But Papa, why would the others think she's a monster?" Her father gulped in response, forced to reveal the truth to his daughter after years of shrugging it off. It was too late for apologies, but at least he could service it with this.


"You see, Rui's mother married a Deviant and had a child. That child was Rui. Of course, the townsfolk were outraged and feared for their lives. Rui sniffled behind the backs of Tamao, guilt welling up inside her gut for her parents' actions. She could only live in atonement for their misdeeds. 


"But I didn't banish them... I couldn't. Rui's father used his Deviant status to protect us from the Liones, we're indebted to them." He further explained, causing both Tamao and Rui to let out a tiny gasp. 


"That's why I was so furious at the villagers, they didn't understand-they didn't want to understand." There was a building grumble in his voice, displaying his inner emotions masked by his aura of calm. 


Tamao's world was rocked by this, how could such a truth be hidden for so long? Surely Rui would know of this, right? Tamao turned her attention to Rui, who by now had wiped her tears away, leaving her puffy eyes as remnants. Rui replied to Tamao with the same shocked expression, unknowing of the supposed atrocity her family committed. Tamao's father then held Rui by her shoulder, his voice lowering into an apologetic tone. "Rui, I cannot express how sorry I am." 


"Eh? Elder, why are you saying sorry?" Confused by his apology, Rui looked upwards to face Tamao's father. "I'm sorry I couldn't protect your parents, no matter how hard I tried..." His stoic mask began to lower, revealing a man wrought with grief from the loss of a dear friend.


"You don't have a home to return to now, don't you. Would you like to stay with us instead?" The Elder offered to Rui a place in their home, holding out his hand to her. Rui took the hand of her saviour, feeling gratitude towards the Elder for his offer. 


"Rui-chan's staying with us now?" Tamao gave a look of curiosity, with her father nodding in reply. Tamao looked on to her father in thankfulness, turning to Rui in excitement. "Rui-chan! We get to stay together now!" The pair gazed at each other in elation, while Tamao's father could only sigh, knowing the potential calamity that he might have brought upon his family.

The frigid air of midnight soon enveloped the village, the embers of the blazing inferno spiraled into the night sky and faded into dark. However, the trauma that it instilled into the hearts of the people remained ever present. The brown-haired youth slept soundly on a white linen bed, snoring her pains away, while Tamao was awoken by a subtle noise sourcing itself from outside her door. Curious, she got out of her bed, tip-toeing her way.


She peeked from a crack of the door, warm yellow candle light washing into her vision and illuminating her vision. 


"You'll bring our house down! Your kindness blinds you!" Tamao heard her mother yell across the room, sitting on a cushioned wooden chair while pointing at her father. Her face bore a vile scrunch, fists clenching till her veins were exposed in all of its oiled glory.


"I only repaid the Akikazes in kindness. The child is not, and WILL not become a Deviant." Elder Tomoe simply sat at the opposite side of the table, eyes closed and face downcast, not wanting to make eye contact with his furious wife.


"Repaid!? You bring death into our house and call it repaying!?" Further infuriated by his words, Tamao's mother slammed her hands onto the table, standing up and stomping her away to the Elder's side. Her father remained stone silent, interlocking his fingers in a thinking pose.


"I inherited the village twenty-six years ago from my father. From then till now, the Akikaze family dutifully protected us. Iroha, I know you may not understand but-" 


"I don't want to understand Ren! I want peace for our family... Oh please..." She was now on her knees, welling up into tears as she begged her husband to change his mind. The Elder simply responded with a heavy sigh, shaking his head in exhaustion.


"Iroha, I beg of you in return to take care of Rui as our own daughter. For both her sake and ours..." His tone was forgiving, yet firm in conviction. He stood up and ignored his weeping wife and retired to his bedroom. 


Tamao's mother continued to weep in place for a few seconds, before punching the wooden floorboard. She didn't break the plank but she did cause a reverberating knock, echoing throughout the living room. Her face returned to the vile scrunch from earlier.


"Mama..." Tamao fully understood the weight of what she witnessed. Her mother, who she thought as forgiving and tolerant, revealed her true colours as a selfish woman, dedicated to only herself. She inhaled sharply, thinking of Rui's safety within the house, living alongside someone who wished to get rid of her.


"Tamao...-chan?" Speaking of Rui, the brown-haired girl drowsily sat up on the bed, clutching the blanket while rubbing her eyes. "You're still awake?"


"Ah, Rui! I was just going to the loo." Tamao quickly replied to Rui in a soft whisper, holding up a finger to her lips to tell the girl to keep quiet. Rui understood what she meant, replying with her own finger to the lip. Tamao gave a lively grin to Rui as she hopped back into the bed, grabbing the blanket and laying it over both of them.


Tucking themselves in, the pair laid in silence, staring blankly at the wooden ceiling. Rui broke it by tossing in the bed, facing Tamao's side. Tamao followed suit, gazing into Rui's crimson orbs. They both stared at each other for a moment, before breaking into silent laughter. 


"Tamao-chan, I'm your sister now!" Rui exclaimed in pure euphoria, putting out her pinky finger to Tamao. In response, Tamao, smiled along, linking her own pinky finger to Rui, creating an everlasting promise. "Mhm! We'll be sisters, forever and ever !"

"Forever... and ever..." A sixteen-year old Tamao traced the scripture, reciting lines of poetry from her leather-bound book. She pondered the statement for a good minute, before wrinkling her forehead and heaving a defeated sigh. "Why am I even trying..."


She closed the book, returning it back to a shelf of countless similarly-written scriptures. "That's the eleventh one which mentioned the exact same thing..." Tamao lamented, digging deep into herself to tolerate the study of such texts. Inhaling deeply once again, she let out a sharp exhale, reinvigorating herself and put her finger on the next book.


"Have you found your answer yet?" A gruff voice sounded off from the door. Tamao tilted her head to face her father, who's age has caught up with him. His hair had shown the first signs of greying, his once upright and confident posture was now replaced with a slight hunch. He might not have a foot in the grave, but he certainly was in his twilight years.


Tamao meanwhile had her beauty multiply with age. Her navy-blue hair now reached her waist, flowing like a river with no ruffle visible. Her purple robes covered her slender figure, shaping herself as an avatar of beauty.


"No...They all say the same thing. It doesn't make sense at all." She admitted her loss, crossing her arms in frustration. Her father nodded, relating his common worries with his daughter. 


"Sometimes even the best of us need a break. Have you eaten breakfast yet? You've been at it since the break of dawn." Tamao's father queried his daughter, which she replied with a slight surprise. "N-No, I haven't. I was gonna wait for Rui to return from the woods." 


"Rui... She went to gather firewood again, didn't she? Ahh... Your mother won't be happy to hear this wouldn't she." Tamao's father spoke her thoughts, both bearing a painful expression. Speaking of the devil, the front door burst open, a crimson-eyed teen bearing an ax in one hand and a large basket of wood in another. "Rui-chan!" Switching her attention to the returning brunette, Tamao briskly exited the study, making her way to the living room to greet Rui.


"Rui-chan, welcome home! You must be feeling sweaty and sticky don't you." Tamao greeted Rui, taking the basket of wood from the tired girl. "IIt's so h-heavy-!! How many trees did you cut?"


"Hmmm, about a dozen or so...?" Rui scratched her chin, before laughing the thought off. Tamao playfully scolded Rui, lightly smacking her head to show her 'anger'. Rui simply continued to giggle away in response, assisting the poor Tamao in moving the basket. 


As this occurred, Tamao's mother scowled in the kitchen, grumbling at the pair.

"R-Rui-c-c-chan-!!!" Tamao's face flushed in bright pink, flustering as she covered her eyes. It all began with Tamao lazing around in her bedroom, bored out her mind from the piles upon piles of books she had been studying. As this was happening, Rui exited the showering quarters, wearing only short beige pants and bandages around her chest. 


Entering the room, Rui caught sight of Tamao, who she greeted as per usual. Initially unaware of the girl's clothing-or lack of clothing-, she sat up straight from the bed, bringing the view of Rui into Tamao.


Tamao could only helplessly stare at Rui's bare body. Her eyes crept upward from her feet, gazing upon her toned abs and muscles gained from her experience in woodcutting, the numerous scars that dotted her figure, which Tamao took responsibility to patch up every single time a new one appeared. Her eyes were glued to Rui, seconds lasting hours as she scanned up and down to admire the brunette's sculpted form.


Yet behind these muscles and scars maintained the beauty of Rui. Her face kept their porcelain-like texture while her body's small frame balanced her built outlook.


Rui took a few seconds herself before realising the entranced Tamao, making eye contact with the enchanted teen as their faces both gradually developed into deep blushes. 


"T-Tamao-neechan-!!!" Rui did not cover her face, but instead approached Tamao, which only caused the already flustered girl to back into the bed, hugging her knees to hide her pink face. 


"Rui-c-c-c-chan... Why aren't you wearing any..." Her blush only deepened by the word, as she forced herself to take peeks at Rui before retreating back into her knees. "Any b-bra-?"


Rui took a few more awkward seconds to process what Tamao asked, before understanding what she meant. "Oooohhh.... I just find it useless." She stated in a matter-of-factly manner. "After all, most of my clothes look weird if I wear one, and it just doesn't feel comfortable." Shrugging her shoulders, Rui went back to wearing her clothes while allowing Tamao to recover her bearings.


Tamao, on the other hand, sighed in relief, slowly lowering her hands and knees to face her 'sister'. Her face bore a grateful grin, as if thanking the gods for something. "I see. Thank heavens you weren't hurt by a wild animal or falling tree." Tamao teared up, wondering why she worried so much for someone who's clearly capable of defending herself. 


"Tamao-neechan, you alright? O-Oi, why are you crying-!?" The panicked Rui swiftly put on her shirt and rushed to Tamao's side, grabbing a hold onto Tamao's hands in apology. In reality, Tamao could not hold in her tears, yet also could not hold in her laughter towards Rui's frantic reaction, chuckling in her place. "Rui-chan, your reaction's so cute I can't take it!"


Tamao took the opportunity to hug Rui, hiding her teary face on the shoulders of Rui, her laughter shuddering Rui like a tiny earthquake. Rui patted Tamao, running her hands through her silky navy-blue hair, twirling it in-between her fingers.


Tamao took her time to bask herself in the warmth of Rui, sneakily snaking her hands up Rui's back, tracing her defined body with a childlike curiosity. Closing her eyes, she buried herself. "Rui-chan, please never change." Her voice was muffled, yet Tamao's sincere and heartfelt words honeyed Rui's ears, causing the lovestruck girl to tighten her hold around Tamao.


"Eh? Tamao-neechan, where's this coming from?" As much as she was lovestruck, Rui also found it odd. The normally reserved and collected Tamao opening herself up like this, was something amiss? "A-Are you sick? Do you have a fever-? Woah-!!" Tamao then dragged herself along with Rui onto the bed, landing on the soft feather mattress in embrace. 


"Tamao...-neechan..." Rui was left speechless from Tamao's bold actions, never before did anything of this sort occur. The pair locked eyes once again, this time sharing a loving gaze. They were unable to look anywhere else, focusing only on each other.


"Rui-chan, I want this to last forever." Tamao removed her hands from Rui's back, instead wrapping them around Rui's waist to pull her body downwards, aligning their faces with each other. Rui gulped in response, anticipating Tamao's next move. However, what Rui did not expect was Tamao suddenly blinking frantically, eyes darting left and right, but never at Rui. 


Rui panicked once again, sliding her hands away from Tamao. "I'm sorry, Rui-chan." Tamao bore guilt on her face, sadness not seen since long ago. "I let my emotions get the better of me, and I-" 


"Don't say that!" Rui retorted at Tamao, planting her hands next to Tamao's face, pinning her to the bed. "Who said that you can't... Who said that you can't show your emotions-?! Tamao-neechan, you're the best when you show your true self... It's why I love you, neechan." Rui's passionate confession moved Tamao's heart once again. Realising Rui's true feelings, Tamao pushed herself up from the bed, leaning herself on the wall behind her. 


"Rui-chan... thank you. Thank you for letting me be honest." Tamao let out the emotions she had let well up in her heart for years, pulse rapidly increasing as she brought Rui's face closer and closer till their lips touched. 


Euphoria overtook both girls as they kissed, locking each other with their hands slung around each other's necks. Seconds felt like minutes, till their kiss eventually broke apart, leaving the pair in a blushing mess, eyes gazing at each other.


"Tamao-neechan...- This- this is... "


"Shhhh... Just let me indulge just this once."


In the distance, the crow that cawed omens now carried a piece of parchment tied to it's clawed leg, flapping into the distance by the gaze of a spiteful woman.

Knock knock


The wooden door was bashed by a woman, ten heads in height with wavy ash-blonde hair that reached her waist. Her magenta eyes reflected an aura of authority, as her black hairband bore runic blessings written in gold. Her red collared coat reached till her neck, embroidered with golden highlights fit for a monarch. Her coattails had silver metal rings at the end, jingling a song of dominance.


Her leather belt held a sheath, its ends bedazzled with rubies and emeralds as it holstered a longsword with a shimmering guard, and a pommel that shone with a blood-red ruby. 


"Who's there?" Tamao queried behind the door, oblivious to the deadly woman metres away from her.


The woman spoke with a haughty voice, as if mocking Tamao for being unaware of her grand presence. "Saijo Claudine. Heiress of the almighty vampiric House Saijo, daughter of the demented Damian the Cannibal."


Saijo Claudine.


The name alone sent an uncanny shudder down Tamao's spine, as if the air turned ice cold and the ground rooted her. 


Saijo Claudine of the Les Deviants... One of their most vicious members, known for toying with her victims before devouring them. What could she want with us!?


Tamao's heart began to palpitate, beating just like the bashings at the door, which gradually got even more violent as a deafening silence filled the chilly air. "Huh? Cat got ya tongue, milady? Do you not recognise my name?" Her mocking tone only thickened in spite as she raised her boot...


...through the wooden door, breaking apart and revealing the furious vampire. Tamao froze, unable to muster the courage to move in the presence of the fiendish vampire. Claudine smirked, menacingly walking towards Tamao, who fell onto the floor in fear. "Now that we've got rid of the barrier between us, I have a few questions to ask."


Claudine drew her blade, positioning it under Tamao's chin. "Let's talk about the Mountain Oni Akikaze Rui."

Blood. The scent of raw blood filled the nostrils of Rui, as she frantically rushed out of the woods, axe in hand. She was gathering wood in the forest, already netting a sizable amount of well-aged wood to sell at the market. 


However, her plans were struck down when she smelt blood. Initially, she scouted her surroundings, wondering if she caught the scent of a freshly hunted deer or rabbit. Rui quickly realised that the foul odour was not coming from the forest, it came from the village. Specifically, it had the distinct scent of Tamao's blood.


Alarmed, Rui dropped everything she was occupied with, leaving everything behind besides her axe. Her feet made stomping noises, crushing fallen leaves and branches as she sprinted back to the house. Reaching in record times, she panted profusely as she approached the Tamao household, noticing the destroyed entrance.


Somebody must've broken in!


Furious but cautious, Rui slowed her footsteps to a crawl, attempting to use the cover of night to sneak back into the house through the window facing Tamao's room. Carefully stepping into the room, Rui nearly puked at the stinging scent of Tamao's blood, which had only gotten stronger. 


For the love of god, please don't tell me...


She made her way to the door, placing her hand on the doorknob, steadily opening the door. She primed her axe by her side, ready to attack any assailant. When she entered the living room, her eyes were met by a battered and bloodied Tamao, tied to a pillar with blood gushing out of her neck. 


"Tamao-neechan!!!" Rui dropped to her knees, rushing to the bound girl's side. "Ru...i?"


"What happened!?!? Who did this!?!" The panicked-stricken and livid Rui's eyes were bloodshot, red veins became visible on her skin, her oni heritage doing its devilish work. "Rui... The Les Deviants, they've come for... you..." 


Tamao's words grew ever distant, as her eyes struggled to keep themselves open from the loss of blood. Her head drooped, resting onto Rui's shoulder. "Tamao...? Please, wake up Tamao-neechan!!"


Rui shook the unconscious Tamao, but she was unable to wake her up. This was when Rui noticed that the wound on Tamao's neck had two distinct pierce marks, unmistakably the work of a vampire.


"This..." By this point, Rui's skin turned a pale crimson, fingernails growing to an inhuman length as her toenails followed suit, cutting through her leather boots. "Why... First the world takes my family, then it takes my love!" 


"Quite an emotional cry you made, Akikaze Rui." The perpetrator of the heinous attack revealed herself from the shadows, brandishing her jeweled sword towards the angered oni. 


Rui growled at the vampire, teeth sharpened like a bear, raising her axe. Claudine chuckled at the enraged Rui, tilting her head to size up her opponent. 


A mindless beast should be no match for me.


The fight began with Rui pouncing at Claudine, jumping high with her axe raised above her head and swiping down at her foe. Claudine stepped backwards, using her sword to parry Rui's attack, throwing the oni off balance. "Grrrrr!!"


Rui momentarily had her back faced towards Claudine, which was more than enough time for the vampire to slash, blood gushing out as a result. Rui grunted in pain, but the adrenaline surging through her veins allowed her to recover quickly, lurching her back in an unnatural way.


"You're persistent-!" Impressed by the raging oni's display of grit, Claudine decided to take the fight more seriously. 


Most of these glass canons can take only a hit or two before falling. 


Claudine side-stepped to the left, creating more space between the two. She cleaned her sword with her tongue, licking off the bloody residue.


Mmmmmm~ A splendid taste for such a rare creature. 


After Rui regained her bearings, she charged directly at the vampire, wildly swinging her axe. Claudine simply gave Rui a snigger, before using her left hand to stop Rui's charge right in its tracks, grabbing her face and burying her nails.


Rui let out a bloodcurdling scream before retorting, using her free hand to clutch her hole-filled face. 


And now the hit that will cripple them.


Claudine took her golden opportunity, stepping forward and gracefully swinging her sword at Rui's forearms. They fell cleanly off Rui's body, sliding in a sinisterly comedic manner. Rui immediately saw what became of her forearms, flesh and bone sliced off like a butcher's fine work. She heard the squelching of blood gushing out of her severed limbs.


Losing hope, Rui fell to her knees once again, unable to scream in pain nor anguish. Her skin no longer burned with a fiery crimson, reverting back to her regular skin tone. 


Claudine stared at the kneeling girl, feeling a new emotion, the emotion of disappointment. 


Talented Deviant my ass, this good for nothing weak mountain oni just wasted my time! Tendo Maya's gone crazy with her judgement.


"Hey." Claudine grabbed Rui's chin, violently lifting it up to force her to look at Claudine. "Get up. Get up and face me again! Don't you dare submit before we reach the climax!" She shook the broken oni in an attempt to rouse her up, to no avail.


"..." Rui stared at the aggressive vampire, spitting in her face in defiance. This caused Claudine to lash out even harder, kicking Rui in the head and making her onto her sides, body facing Tamao. 


Claudine wiped Rui's spit off her face, disgusted by how events transpired. "On second thought, your blood tastes like mud and cow manure."


Rui's mind slowly faded into darkness, as her breaths grew heavier and heavier, eyelids shutting as she allowed the sweet embrace of death to take her.


At least, I shall die by Tamao-neechan's side.

Tamao found herself swimming in an empty void, pitch black darkness with every turn. She felt as if she floated, though her movements led to nothing being achieved, aimlessly wandering.


Is this the afterlife? Or is this the afterlife for a failure such as I, who could not save someone dear?


"Tomoe Tamao."


A resounding voice called out, echoing through the void world as if it embodied the darkness. Tamao was obviously confused, trying to find the source of the voice but unable to pinpoint the source.


But this did not matter, as Tamao quickly found herself engulfed by a veil, cold to the touch yet calming the girl. The veil wrapped around her, covering her whole body while running and flowing like water, morphing her form into something else.


"A merciful death you shall give to the worthy."


With that, the veils unwrapped themselves, revealing Tamao's new form. She now wore a black and dark-blue dress, with armoured paddings on her shoulders, chest and waist. The bottom of the dress emitted a blackish discharge, sparkling with occasional starry emissions.


She held a scythe in her right hand, blade decorated with a purple oval-shaped gem, with an eye in the middle that could see all. Finally, her right eye was covered with a black and white mask, attached to her face as if it were a part of it.


"You shall act as my will, willingly or unwillingly. Serve to one day fulfill your wish you yearn for."


"Serve to fulfill my wish..." Tamao's voice now had a hollow tune, almost solemn in tone. "To deliver a merciful death..."


"You are reborn."


"I am... Reborn."

Tamao's battered body rose with the same black discharge that her dress emitted, shrouding her body and summoning the reborn Tamao. Claudine looked in shock and awe, witnessing the birth of a new death.


"I-..." She was speechless, moving away from Rui's body and towards the window. Claudine's voice was shaky, losing her noble composure. "I won't forget this!!" 


She uttered a curse before transforming into a bat, flying out of the window and into the night, never to be seen in the village again. Tamao approached, or rather floated to Rui's side, picking her up by the neck and hip.


"Tama-...o...?" Rui's hoarse dying voice could barely make a sound, her vision only clear enough to gaze at Tamao's face, which was still calm in the sea of bloody chaos. "Tamao... My only wish in life is to... die with you together... After living happily... With no regrets..."


Rui shed her last tears, coughing blood as she hung on to the last vestiges of life. "I... love you..."


With that, her body went limp and cold, eyes finally shutting for good as her heart died at peace, a smile on her face as she died in her lover's arms. "Rui..."


Tamao's monotone face shed a single tear from her right eye, shutting her lips and eyes in grief. She touched Rui's corpse with her right hand, disintegrating it into the blackish starry veil which entered Tamao's body.


I promise you Rui... I'll fulfill your wish of a happy life, no matter what it takes. Or else how could I repay the love you showered me in?