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Unending Night Festival

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魔獣コンプレイン!・Complaints of the Magical Beast.

Grim knew that he was going to become a Grand Magician one day.

In Twisted Wonderland, ambitions like his were common. This world was full of residents as distorted as the name. He could see that no matter how much people pretended, they were all the same. Obedient to their desires, self-serving, and cunning without regards to societal rules, everyone salivated at the thought of power and glory.

Grim was no exception, though he was a Monster, far from the humanoid creatures of land and sea. In fact, his longing for fame—for glory—for recognition had been the only burning thing in the pit of his stomach since he could remember.

He had been waiting. Waiting forever. Longing, yearning…patiently anticipating the moment…a moment…

Something that was still beyond his reach.

Grim wasn’t very good at thinking deeply. For a Monster, he considered himself one of the smarter kinds—most other Monsters couldn’t even speak in a human tongue. But even more than the usual Twisted Wonderland resident, his kind was controlled by impulse and desire. Grim knew one thing: that he was waiting for something, that he wanted something, that the thing had to do with the power in his body he could spit out in the form of blue fire.

For a Monster, Grim was small and agile. Since he had woken up alone in the forest with only the striped ribbon around his neck as a possession, he’d known he was looking, longing. So he searched diligently. Around towns, countries, across what seemed vast stretches of land…

It was a good thing that he could eat anything. Grim would have probably starved to death otherwise.

Food—or whatever he could swallow—only provided a brief respite. Whether it was the flavour or the texture, it all disappeared on his tongue too fast for true satiation. And then he was left searching again, longing again. Grim wanted something that tasted good.

His meandering travels informed Grim about the famous academy for magical development, Night Raven College. Apparently, there were several other good schools in the area, but the second the name Night reached his pricked ears, Grim knew.

He had to go to this school.

The bone-deep certainty settling in his mind made the decision long before he was aware of it. The imperative pulled him forwards.

He had to go to this school. Grim was going to be a great magician, become powerful and famous and revered.

He had to.

Grim had been sure he would be chosen by the black carriage that carried prospective students into campus. After all, he had never known a Monster who could talk, spit fireballs, and cast magic like he did. It was his destiny to become a Grand Magician.

Had to. Had to. Had to.

The school was perched high up and blocked off by a bridge that nearly never descended to grant visitors entrance to its territory. Claws of jutting rock cradled it like so many reaching fingers. Its forests were dark, the buildings shadowed.

Night Raven College was impressive and exciting and Grim was sure that he would be within its walls soon enough.

So he waited until September, hiding in the forest around the area, peeking up at the castle with anticipation bubbling in his gut. Grim chewed on leaves and grass and rocks and passing animals and waited.

Waited.

Waited for a carriage that never came.

The school year was starting—students were pouring in across the unusually lowered bridge, resting hidden within coffins like so many silent corpses. Yet still the carriage had not rolled up to his nest with its dark caskets and wild-eyed horses.

Finally, the date of the opening ceremony approached without Grim seeing hide nor hair of a horse. Instead he watched the bridge begin to draw upwards to spell the conclusion of student entrances.

Grim dropped a bundle of grass carried halfway to his mouth. The boiling in his gut cooled in an instant.

How could this be possible?

Still, by no means was Grim going to give up now. Not when he knew that he had to attend this school. There was something missing that he needed to find, and he would only obtain it here. Like the rest of the ‘villains’ here, he was not about to choose his methods carefully.

Sneaking into the school was easier than he’d expected once he made it across the rising bridge. No one noticed the flicker of a pronged tail, the flash of fire glowing at his ear. Night Raven College was empty and beautiful, a vast stretch of eerie castle that was only lit with magically glowing chandeliers and candles. Grim’s pricked ears caught no rustling of cloth, no click of shoes against the stone.

It was quiet here, like a moratorium.

Grim, who didn’t care for details, dove towards the area with the admitting Mirror in a single-minded ferocity. There was no time to wonder why the location came to his mind so easily. All that mattered was… He had to become a student here, or else—

A uniform. As long as Grim had a uniform he could be a student. That was the human way of doing things, so whatever idiot he ripped the uniform off of would be his ticket to a happy school life.

Night Raven College’s evening was the perfect cover for Grim’s familiar fire spell. Yet beyond all his expectations, it was here, within the empty Mirror Chamber glowing blue in the aftermath of his flame, that he met Yuu.

Grim started awake briefly. He’d been dreaming of the night of the opening ceremony again, of blowing open one of the floating coffins with a fireball, preparing to steal the ceremony uniform off the poor unlucky sap who was his victim.

The ceiling of Ramshackle Dorm’s biggest bedroom was illuminated brightly with late morning sunlight. Autumn did nothing to lessen its colour.

Still morning. It hadn’t been long since Yuu had left.

He leapt from the dresser, where he’d been snoring, over onto the pillow, towards where his henchman’s scent was strongest. Grim usually surrounded himself with Yuu’s scent on instinct, but he also found it strangely calming and pleasant. Yuu smelt like something completely out of this world. Old paper, laundry detergent, cheap shampoo, some strangely sweet scent he couldn’t identify, and power—this past month had allowed him to memorize the amalgamation that made up his partner and helper.

Now that the owner was absent, any remnant provided a substitute, however subpar.

Yuu was probably still heading for the stupid interview he had with the stupid shop that hired students to do whatever stupid things it was that they did. Which meant that he was alone.

Grim punched the pillow in irritation with a paw. They were partners, weren’t they? Together forever—weren’t they? From the day they’d met in the Mirror Chamber, from the time when they’d defeated the Ghosts together, from that harrowing race through the Mines where they’d held on to each other in exulting victory—

Yuu had told him with shining eyes that they were partners. Grim had admitted Yuu as his henchman.

And yet Yuu had told him so gently that he needed a job, needed money, needed something else. His eyes were staring in another direction.

Grim was not a good Monster. He had thought about chasing after Yuu. About sinking his teeth into his henchman’s arm and ripping and tearing until that small face screwed up in agony unable to be hidden by his hair. Yuu was his henchman. His. He could put up with that Ace and Deuce and now Riddle—barely—but Yuu’s first priority and partner should be Grim.

And yet he was seeking something else! Grim’s insides boiled again with fire.

His new henchman was a mystery. Instinctively Grim had known, had seen from their first calamitous meeting, that there was something too bright about this human, for Yuu was a foreign human—completely devoid of the vein of beastlike otherworldliness Grim had. No animal ears, no tail, so not a Therianthrope. No cold indifference in the eyes typical of a Merman. And none of the delicious, addictive, poisonous magic that this world overflowed with.

A mystery.

Grim was good with his senses—much better than the average magical human from this place, though perhaps not quite on the level of a Therianthrope. He could sniff out that there was nothing special about this small, unimpressive, boring kid.

And yet, the more he looked, the more Yuu stood out.

In the thrumming crowd of uniformed students full of dark eyes and snickers, his henchman was a silent figure standing upright. Yuu always looked at the world with that unceasingly persistent gaze not quite hidden by his hair. Grim didn’t understand many things, but he knew there was something about this human, something rare, something brilliant. A little too brilliant for this school steeped in darkness.

So Grim put his stake on him. His henchman. His partner. His. Yuu was something he’d been looking for.

Was it The Something?

Grim didn’t know.

Fortunately, Yuu was receptive—all the emotion he directed towards Grim was positive to an almost bewildering extent. In itself, this was impossible for many of the residents of Twisted Wonderland, let alone the students from NRC, because Grim had attacked him at first glance. Demanded his clothing and seat at this school. Used him like a true ‘villain’.

It would be logical for Yuu to hate him. He was a bad guy. Being used was not forgivable here by anyone, and even outside of the confines of Night Raven College, the world was unkind to those labelled ‘bad’.

Inside NRC, being used was the fault of the poor suffering fool. A disadvantaged person’s job was to strike back without mercy lest he should be swallowed up. The used were afforded no pity and did not seek any, because if they were taken advantage of, it was their own stupid fault. That was the unspoken rule Grim had lived by since he gained awareness, and it was the unspoken rule held constant within Night Raven College over any other stupid written rule they might lecture about.

Everyone for themselves. No one was going to help you here.

Grim had been taken advantage of before. He wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box; he couldn’t overcome the magic-using humans. Of course, Grim didn’t fault them or whine about the unfairness of the situation. Instead, he got sneakier. Meaner. Better at tricking others.

Otherwise, there was no way to thrive the way he wanted in this world.

Yet after being used, this strange kid, Yuu, did not show any signs of anger. He’d run when Grim chased, leapt back in fright at the heat of his flame. And still he invited him into Ramshackle Dorm that night without pause. Pleaded on behalf of Grim for the Headmaster to let him stay. Cheered and hugged him when he was admitted as a student.

“An idiot,” Grim grumbled, flopping off his henchman’s pillow with a sigh. Even his beloved sleep was escaping him because of this kid.

One of the Ghosts popped out of the wall halfway. “Who’re you calling an idiot?” he made an affronted glare.

Grim yelped and hopped upright, hackles rising briefly. “I told you guys to stop doing that!”

“Oh, but it’s so fun!” A second Ghost’s voice echoed into the room, though he did not show his presence.

“Are you talking about the Directing Student?” the first Ghost floated leisurely over to the dresser, seeming to perch on its side. “Again? You sure don’t get bored of it.”

Grim didn’t think as much as Yuu did, so he shrugged and said honestly, “Yeah. Yuu’s an idiot. I could complain about him for ages.”

“The furball’s just sulking because he got left behind by his owner,” sang the second Ghost in a disembodied voice.

“Yuu’s my henchman, not my owner,” Grim snapped.

Hee hee hee!” Ghost one’s laugh grated on his sensitive ears. “Maybe if you complain about him a bit to us, you’ll feel better! ‘S not like we got anything important to do around here other than scare the pants off any kid who tries to sneak in.”

“High school students these days lack guts,” sniffed Ghost two’s voice. “These days there have been fewer and fewer people trying to invade our Ramshackle. Bo~ring.”

“I have a lot to say about that guy, Yuu,” Grim puffed up obligingly. “At first I just thought that he had a flower field for a brain, which was why he was being so nice to someone who could’ve killed him…”

“Ahh,” Ghost one emitted sagely, “you’re not the only one. Us Ghosts attacked the two of you back during your first night here, remember? Good times.”

“Like hell!” Grim snapped, baring his fangs. “…Speaking of which, why didn’t Yuu kick you out? You’re always bugging us!”

“Who knows,” Ghost one shrugged. “It’s not like the Directing Student hates us. Or maybe he is a fool? Hee hee hee!

“Yeah! A big dummy!” Grim gained momentum. It felt good to talk smack about Yuu. The Ghosts seemed to listen attentively too, nodding and making noises of encouragement.

“The Directing Student isn’t really stupid, though,” Ghost two finally showed his rotund figure, falling through the ceiling. “You know that. Right?”

Grim clicked his tongue rudely, displeased at being cut off. “That makes it even worse.”

It was just as the second Ghost said. Yuu was intelligent. Not in an obvious manner—unlike other prideful NRC students, Yuu didn’t show off so ostentatiously in class or brag about how much he knew. In the same way that the third-year Glasses, Trey Clover, hid his real feelings from the world, Yuu was content to let himself fade into the background.

As if being in the background was all he knew.

Grim couldn’t fool himself completely. He was aware, deep down, that Yuu had understood that Grim had nearly killed him. That Grim was not a good Monster, nor was anyone else ‘good’ in this school. Even before those Heartslabyul guys had explained it to him straight while Yuu lay in the infirmary, Grim had an inkling that Yuu had grasped the nature of this school a long time ago.

Perhaps if someone else—a normal student—had been brought here by the carriage, their ‘disgusting kindness’ would have been chalked up to idiocy and ignorance. Truthfully, Yuu had such a startling lack of the common sense found in Twisted Wonderland that Grim still thought he was an idiot sometimes.

Still. Yuu looked at him with those quiet blue eyes that peeked out from behind the row of bangs covering his forehead, and Grim had the feeling that he knew.

Yuu’s intelligence was far too sharp to be hidden by kindness. It would be easy to mistake him as a ‘kind person’. But spending time with his henchman had shown the spark of wariness, of understanding, and of unsurprised amusement running through those blue eyes.

Yuu had an inkling, at least, of the true nature of the people in this school. That he ‘didn’t care’ showed a little bit about the strangeness that truly puzzled Grim—and irritated him. Yuu didn’t belong here, but he didn’t not belong here, either. It was hard to express.

“If he knows we’re all evil and if he knows he came from a place that isn’t evil,” Grim threw his paws into the air, “it’s even worse that he’s acting like it doesn’t matter!”

“Your, ah…henchman,” sniggered Ghost two, “is certainly unique. Not just his lack of magic. The way he looks at this world is quite refreshing.”

Grim glared sullenly at the two Ghosts dancing around and laughing in Yuu’s bedroom. A month ago these guys had been a threat, had really tried to attack them and drive them out. Even now he couldn’t quite get a read on just how malicious they were—or weren’t—but Yuu didn’t seem to fear them at all, so Grim reluctantly put up with their intrusive presence in his nest.

The Ghosts, for their part, seemed to thrive only on teasing others or laughing about something involving the misfortune of others. Yuu, who had gotten the short end of the stick several times, was an endless source of amusement for the both of them. They also loved to freak Grim out by popping out of walls and the ceiling. But all of the danger from their first encounter was gone.

Even these Ghosts had been almost…trained to be friendly.

And it was all Yuu’s fault.

“You guys sure like to observe that kid,” Grim grumbled, spikes in his words.

“He’s not suited for this world,” Ghost one commented with a twirl, “but oh, does that not make the situation more delicious?”

“I don’t have a habit of peeking in on people’s lives like you,” Grim groused back. “That kid’s going to get torn to pieces one day.”

“That’d be interesting too,” nodded Ghost two. “I’d have a story to tell the guys back home.”

“You have a home?” Grim squinted.

“Unlike this guy, I’m kind of fond of the kid,” Ghost one said thoughtfully, “so I don’t want to see him die quite yet.”

“Just because I don’t care if he dies doesn’t mean I’m not fond of him,” Ghost two sounded offended. “The kid’s not bad, you know. He’s got a really good temper.”

And there was the crux of the situation that infuriated Grim to no end.

It was fine that Yuu was intelligent. Fine that he didn’t care about the evil seeping from the walls. Fine that he let himself be used—even if it was a fool’s move, it was none of Grim’s business. Grim himself wasn’t ‘nice’ enough to caution his henchman about the way he lived.

What was not fine was what Crowley had called Yuu’s ‘talent as an animal tamer’.

Grim didn’t know what name he’d give it—certainly not an ‘animal tamer’—but he hated this talent of Yuu’s with every fibre of his being. Simultaneously, this ability had most likely kept his henchman alive until now, which was a miracle considering the kid’s utter lack of self-preservation or desire for safety.

Yuu the human didn’t care about much. He had settled into this world with startling adaptive power. Taken to magic study when he had none—though now that it was revealed that Yuu’s own magic existed, this point was rather moot. Grim had seen Yuu get shoved in hallways, tripped by jerks from other dorms, and have his books thrown in the school well.

Yuu didn’t care.

This would have been a flaw in his personality that would have cost him his life long ago, but fortunately—unfortunately, Yuu had a magnetic force around him that only just prevented a fall into destruction. Teeteringly, he was creating respect and intimacy in the people around him and Grim hated it.

“What d’you call someone who attracts other people like flies to frickin’ honey?” Grim asked the Ghosts, worming around on the bed to get into a more comfortable position.

“Charismatic?” Ghost one suggested.

“Self-destructive?” Ghost two shrugged. “In the Directing Student’s case, oblivious?”

“Obliviously charismatic,” Grim repeated. He wasn’t good with big words. “I like oblivious. That kid has no idea the effect he has on people.”

“True,” Ghost one sighed theatrically, “almost like a hero of a novel!”

“I personally hate those types,” Ghost two quipped, “since they tend to be self-righteous and all that drivel. NRC doesn’t need someone sickeningly heroic.”

“But Yuu isn’t really a good person, not like those guys,” Grim protested.

“Also true.” Ghost one giggled. “I would’ve liked to see if a ‘good person’ wandered into this campus. They’d be murdered—ahem, thrown out so fast they wouldn’t know what happened!”

“NRC hates people like that,” Ghost two nodded, “good thing your partner is a li’l messed up, huh, furball?”

“I’m not a furball!” Grim snapped. “Anyway, the biggest problem about Yuu is that stupid ability of his to always get into the centre of events! Someone help me stop him! I’ve had enough!”

“I think it’s interesting,” Ghost one pouted. “See how much of the school he can seduce. Maybe it’s part of his plan to take over the world.”

“If Yuu heard you, he’d be like, ‘what the heck would I do with a world?’” Grim deadpanned.

“But don’t a lot of people hate him for getting into this school without magic?” commented Ghost two disinterestedly. “Among other reasons. The Ghosts in the kitchens were talking about it the other day.”

“He’s already got the Headmaster, the professors, Ace and Deuce and now that bad-tempered Riddle under his thumb,” Grim grumbled, counting on his paws. “That’s way too many people who like him.”

“And nearly a thousand others in this school who hate him?” Ghost one rolled his eyes. “That’s kind of unbalanced, don’t you think?”

Ghost two gave him an unimpressed stare. “You’re just jealous, furball.”

“So what!?” Grim exploded, rolling around on the bed and tracking his scent on the sheets haphazardly. “Yeah I’m jealous! Yuu’s mine! I found him first, I called him my henchman first, he’s mine! The only one who needs to know how much he shines is me!”

“Oh my,” Ghost one laughed, “what a childish tantrum.”

“If you like him so much, why don’t you just lock him up?” Ghost two suggested, doing a flip. “Trap him in a room and seal all the doors with magic. That way, he’s yours forever.”

Grim thought about it. “But Yuu’s smarter than me. He’ll figure out a way to escape.”

“Can’t hurt to try. Plus, that kid probably won’t even get mad at you.”

“I hate that part of him,” Grim muttered. “Everyone here’s a bad guy. If they find someone like Yuu, they’re obviously going to like him.”

“Everyone, human, animal, Therianthrope, Fairy or Merman, has a few basal needs,” commented Ghost two, speaking in rhythm as if explaining concepts to a child. “The desire to belong, to feel appreciated, to be accepted is one of the strongest of those. And this school…”

“These Villains,” amended Ghost one, “have never had people who did not use them, who didn’t loathe them, who didn’t fear them or at least draw a line between them.”

“If they meet someone who doesn’t fear being bitten like your henchman—”

“—who gives out this acceptance freely after that—” Ghost one added.

“—who so easily stays by your side without boundaries,” Ghost two pointed at Grim.

“—then it’s obvious they’ll get attached,” Ghost one finished with a flourish.

“But you already know this, furball,” Ghost two quipped, his smile unearthly and a little reminiscent of the silver-white figure that had scared Grim that first night in this dorm.

“Ah, yes,” Ghost one shook his head, “since he was the first casualty.”

Grim spat a fireball at them moodily. “Shut up. Yuu doesn’t need anyone but me.”

“Then lock him up,” advised Ghost two, sending the burst of fire flying out the window. “Otherwise, someone else will.”

Grim supposed it made sense. After all, Yuu shouldn’t need someone other than him. Grim himself was the best partner someone could have, and the two of them understood each other and stayed together for most of the day anyway.

Yuu didn’t need a job. Shouldn’t focus too much on outside things. Grim was being patient and waiting for him, but the jealousy boiling in his stomach was unpleasant, and he really didn’t know what he would do if he lost his temper.

Because he was always so hungry.

“Hey, tanuki,” Ghost one squinted down at him. “…You okay?”

Grim squinted back at him. “What?”

“For a second…” Ghost one paused and shook his head. “Might’ve been a trick of the light.”

“What’s with you?” Grim rolled his eyes and then caught sight of the bedspread. Three long holes met his gaze. “Aaah! Dammit! I ripped a hole in the sheets again!”

“Watch those sharp claws of yours, sonny,” Ghost two commented leisurely. “Careful you don’t go and damage your ‘henchman’ one day in another fit or something.”

“Like that’d happen,” Grim snorted. “Leaders take care of their henchmen. They don’t hurt ‘em.”

“If you say so,” Ghost one didn’t sound completely reassured, but the next second his smile had returned. “How’re you gonna hide those holes from the Directing Student, by the way?”

“You gotta help me out!” Grim leapt from the bed towards one of the creaky dressers. “We need to cover it with somethin’. These old rags in the closet might work.”

“Those are pyjamas!” Ghost two sounded offended. “And they’re good ones! Back in my day…”

Grim ignored him and started pulling drawers open. Yuu never really got mad, but he had this way of staring that dug up all the guilt stored down in his belly. Before his henchman came back from that stupid job place, he had to hide all traces of the mess he’d made, so that Yuu was none the wiser. So that he didn’t give Yuu any more reasons to leave him behind.

Grim’s stomach rumbled.

“I’m hungry,” he mumbled to the abandoned room full of Ghosts and shadows. In the late morning quiet, Grim’s voice was small and thin and disappeared quickly into the air, as if it had never existed at all.