AN: Technically this is the prologue of the story I'm going to be working on after the completion of Taken Day by Day, but since it can be read as a one shot and I don't want it to look like I'm completely neglecting my writing I figured posting it would be okay. Also, it should be noted that I didn't write this with specific ages in mind for Setsuna and Tsukuyomi, but I'd say they're both around 7. Enjoy.
Do You Want to Die?
Tsukuyomi doesn't have any formal training. She barely knows—and certainly doesn't care—how to properly hold a sword. She can't fight back against any true opponent, and though she's too young to know the name of the frustration that makes her feel, she finds ways to compensate for her weakness. She doesn't go looking for people she wants to fight. She forces herself not to stare at the people in the community she lives in who radiate power. She picks off weak ones.
And most importantly, she follows the screams.
Screams, according to her very minimal life experiences, are good things. They tell her where to find powerful people weak enough to play with. It is not the same as it could be, and eventually will be, but for the moment, it's fun, and the best she can get.
So she lies in bed at night, waiting and ready to leap out her window at the first sign of a shriek piercing the silence shrouding the world. Some nights she falls asleep before hearing anything, but on certain others—
On certain others, there is something that calls to her. She doesn't understand it, and will never care to, but she feels it. An extra spark in the air finds her and she's soon leaving her unbearably safe home and wandering out in the woods—and always, always finds something she wants. Carnage. Death. Blood.
Tonight, the spark is not alone. Less than a second after feeling it, a symphony of screams reaches her ears, jumpstarting her heart badly enough that she almost trips getting to her window. In the next room over, she hears her father waking, and she quickly makes her way out of the house before he comes and stops her. Despite her best efforts, he has caught her before. She can't let him catch her this time. The air is too full of life and death and screams and she imagines she can taste the irony tang of blood on the wind. She wants to add what she can to it.
She won't be stopped.
She reaches the first screamer sooner than she thinks she will, passing very few trees and patches of snow and ice. Or maybe it's only her imagination—she barely notices the scenery at all. Perhaps she's very far away from home now. All she knows is that she's found the beginning of the screaming that is still ringing between the trees. She approaches the bleeding, gasping figure on the ground, and she delights in hearing his weak cries.
She stays with him a moment or two, watching his pain, before she silences him. She doesn't usually act so quickly, but there are more screamers, and she can tell from the noise that they are dying faster all the time. She needs to hurry her side of things if she wants to have fun.
It is a simple task. His heart is very, very weak, and would expire without her help. She helps anyways. Helping, she hears, is a very good thing to do, and she does so dearly enjoy it. She takes her borrowed sword and thrusts it through his skull. That's when she notices the body's odd appearance—he is covered in bloodied feathers and has a beak. Demon.
That always makes things more fun for her, and she bounds off to find the other screamers happily, licking her sword clean as she hops over the demon's corpse. She hurries to find the others like she always does in these situations. She follows the blood; she follows the screams. The ground is surprisingly blank and unmarked after the first screamer, but that doesn't matter much. Even with them being cut off so abruptly, the shrieks are endless.
They're very easy to follow thanks to that consideration.
New noises start reaching her, and she's happy to discover that there's still a fight going on behind the slaughter. Satisfying as death is, she likes the carnage that goes with it better. She can't wait to be strong enough to participate. For now, though—
The thought goes unfinished. She reaches a clearing where she thinks everything started and—
Her feet are wet.
There's blood everywhere. There's no white left in the snow.
She's never seen so much. It sends shivers of excitement through her tiny body. This place feels rapturously right to her, and she can't imagine wanting to be anywhere else. She's happy here. So very, very happy.
It takes a few moments, but then she remembers that she does have something of a time limit. She doesn't want to remember that, but it's unavoidable with the sounds of battle quieting and the screams vanishing. She shakes her head and looks around at the feathery, bleeding masses on the ground, noticing them for the first time. Most are dead, but enough are clinging to life that she has no shortage of playmates.
A smile touches her lips, and she quickly unleashes her blade upon those still breathing. It's over fast, much faster than she expects. She's not sure her sword even touches some of the demons. Whoever hurt them before her did an amazing job.
She needs to find more demons if they're strong enough to survive wounds like these. She has never disliked depending on others for her victims more. She makes up for the lack of progress in that direction of thought now.
She doesn't realize that she's distracted herself from more important things until a squelching noise reaches her ears and the clang of steel vanishes. A moaned gurgle tells her that she's missed her chance to join in.
Pouting, she stays in the clearing full of the dead and dying longer than she planned. With the main event gone, she can take her time again. Which she does, and with great delight, but she can't forget that she didn't get to see the person who caused this fun fighting. She wants to know how something so wonderful happens.
She's not used to thinking about how things go wrong.
She doesn't like it much.
She does, however, appreciate the labored crawling of the final demon. He's seen her make her way through his companions, and though it's very clear his wounds will be the end of him, he still wants to live. She likes that.
She likes that a lot.
Instead of merely slashing through his throat or something simple like that, she pounces on his back and slices at his wings. She's not strong enough to break them, but her sword is sharp and he's not strong enough to fight back. He cries out, sobbing into the mud and snow beneath him as the blood seeps through his feathers and starts dribbling down his dark neck.
Tsukuyomi can't help laughing. She tumbles off the demon's back and giggles to herself as his cries die with him. His eyelids don't fall all the way shut, and she admires them for a minute, savoring his final expression, before a strange sound cracks through the forest, taking her moment away from her.
She looks up, prepared to be very displeased.
She isn't when she sees what's happening.
She missed one of the demons, and now that final, straggling body was up and attacking—
A tree? No, she doesn't entertain the thought very long. Trees don't bleed, making thrusting swords into them very useless. She doesn't think any of the demons are that mad.
Her body practically jumps for joy when she realizes that a blade, one very different from the one in her hand, is now sticking out of the final bird demon's back. His wings flap desperately, and she sees him lean forward and move his bleeding mouth, and—
He collapses. His body slides further down the blade, a streak of blood marking the steel. Drops of red fall from his black feathers.
Quite sure that he's dead and harmless, Tsukuyomi bounds forward, beyond eager to see who felled the final demon. She's sure it's the person who started all of her fun—the one she thought she missed— and she's even more sure that that person is tired now, and she can't wait to kill them.
She goes to the tree and pushes the body away with all her might. He barely moves at first, but it's enough to make him complete his collapse in death, and he falls to the side. The blade stuck in him stays completely still, tearing an unintentional gash through his still chest.
She doesn't let herself admire that as long as she wants. She has someone who she might be able to fight waiting for her. She pushes the demon away a little more and keenly looks over at the person wielding the sword stuck in the demon.
The hands gripping the hilt might normally be pale—she doesn't know and won't think to notice until later—but they are so drenched in blood that it's impossible to tell anything about the person's coloring. They stay so still (besides the occasional fluttering of a pulse) that Tsukuyomi thinks she might be looking at a statue come to life.
But no. No, that's not what this is at all.
She looks up at the person-statue's face.
She is looking, she realizes, at a breathing corpse. That can be the only description for it. It is shaped like a person—like a smaller one of the big black-feathered demons—and its tiny chest and veins seem to throb, but…
Its red eyes are dead.
She hasn't seen a person with red eyes before, but she doesn't think very much of that. All of the breathing corpse is red. Even Its wings. It fits in so well down in the no longer white snow that she has to retrain her eyes on the strange figure again and again.
This thing is new, and It deeply confuses her.
That normally doesn't stop her. Normally, that makes her more enthusiastic about plunging a sword into the source of confusion. This time though, she's not sure what to do. She doesn't know how to kill a dead person. She thinks she might like to know, but…
She stares at the living corpse for a long time, often forgetting to breathe. The corpse—creature—person—stares back, never seeming to blink its dead eyes. Staring but not seeing. Tsukuyomi is invisible to the thing. She thinks for a few moments longer before deciding she would very much like to kill a dead person. The conclusion does nothing to banish her confusion, but at least she knows what she wants now.
But the confusion seems to have a mind of its own, because never, not once, not in any of the people's eyes she's stared into—
"Do you want to die?"
Tsukuyomi is very surprised to hear her voice break the silence that's fallen in the clearing. It echoes oddly around the trees. It's the first time she's spoken to someone she wants to kill, and she doesn't know what answer she expects. What answer she wants.
The person-creature-corpse's eyelids lower themselves ever so slightly.
There's wanting there—a quiet, desperate yearning haunts the creature's soft voice—but Its eyes are still blank. Unrelentingly dead. Tsukuyomi's hand lets her sword drop to the ground. The creature—of course—doesn't react. It just continues staring with those blank eyes.
She wants to stomp her feet in frustration.
It's not good enough. There's still no spark. It's a living dead person in the worst way possible. The heart of people that she so loves to take away is absent and only a body is left. Bodies by themselves are very tempting, but this thing—
She looks over her shoulder at the bodies in the clearing.
She looks back at the breathing corpse.
It doesn't take long to figure out how to get what she wants.
She grabs the person's still hands and helps It yank Its sword out of the demon. That accomplished, she smiles brightly at the creature-corpse and drags It to Its feet while picking her own sword back up.
"You're coming home with me."
It doesn't ask why, which Tsukuyomi appreciates, but It also doesn't make any move to resist, which disappoints her. She knows that her new quest will take time, but she's bad at being patient. Some sign that things will work would be nice. The creature doesn't understand that. It just trails along behind her with its sword in hand, stumbling over rocks It doesn't care enough to avoid.
Tsukuyomi sighs. It will definitely take a long time before this thing wants to live enough to be worth killing. She'll wait though. Any person her size who can kill so many demons—so many of Its own kin—so quickly is worth any amount of effort. She wants to see what this thing will do when It's fully alive again.
The anticipation, not the cold night air, has her shivering all the way home. It seems like a much longer journey than earlier. She almost wants to start running, but she doesn't think the thing will follow if she does that. It isn't bothering to speed up even when Its slow pace makes It trip. Tsukuyomi has to pull It off the ground twice because It doesn't care to pick Itself up.
Finally they reach the house. Tsukuyomi frowns when she sees light through the windows. That means her father is waiting for her. She's not very happy about that. Explaining the creature with her will cause trouble. They walk up to the door and stop.
"You shouldn't talk," Tsukuyomi advises the corpse. As expected, It doesn't react. It simply stares at her. She wonders if It needs to blink or if that's another part of living It's missing. She doesn't mind either way—she likes being invisible, even if it's just to one dead thing—but knowing more about the creature can't hurt. That will help with bringing It to life and killing It.
She hopes the creature's not too much stronger than her. It would be disappointing to go to all the trouble of making the corpse not be a corpse and then have the person kill her. She'll have to kill more people to make sure she survives their encounter. She doesn't want to lose this victim.
She's not sure how she'll convince her father to let her keep the corpse. Bringing It to life will take time. He doesn't like people. He won't like having another one in the house, even if it is mostly dead. She'll make it work though. Any way she can.
She pushes the door open and pulls the creature inside behind her. Her father is sitting by the table, but immediately leaps up when he hears the door. He doesn't seem to be very happy, which won't make it easy to convince him to keep the creature. She thinks she know what to do about that. She pulls the corpse closer—further from the door. She doesn't think It will run after everything else It's done tonight, but It might.
Her father's face changes a little when he sees the creature. "You brought a demon back with you?"
Tsukuyomi nods happily and lets go of her guest to wander over to the chair next to her father. "It's mine now."
The man looks at the demon in shock and horror. Tsukuyomi doesn't see this, occupied with climbing up the chair she's selected. However, she does hear her father's carefully regulated breathing after her assertion, confirming her earlier suspicions. She also hears something dripping on the floor near the creature. Her father's breathing speeds up a little.
"Tsukuyomi… I know you—enjoy going out and watching fights, but you can't bring people back with you. Especially not demons. I have enough trouble keeping track of you—I can't worry about some strange person living with us. Make it go back home!"
He's shouting at the end. Tsukuyomi forgot, but as much as he dislikes humans, he hates demon-people. He sometimes makes swords especially designed to kill them. Yes, she definitely knows what to do about this. He won't let her keep the corpse long enough for her to be able to kill It properly, so he has to go.
She steps on top of the chair and swings her sword through the man's throat.
It's fun to see the emotions flicker through his eyes before he lowers his head. She thinks she preferred the way the feathered demons died. Maybe because the corpse had already hurt them so badly, and she got to see how much pain they were in before ending it, but this is much more boring even if it's her first kill of the night without assistance.
She cleans her sword on his shirt and smiles back at the still creature. Fresh blood is spattered on Its face, dripping more steadily than the blood on Its sword. It's still not blinking. Tsukuyomi hops off the chair and goes over to It. The steady splashes of blood on the floor echo around the room, making her think of something new.
"Are you bleeding?"
Silence still. No recognition anywhere in the thing's body.
"If you are, I need to fix it. You can't die now."
Tsukuyomi beams happily at the response. Its face is as blank as ever, but she's getting used to that. She'll deal with that later, working until life blazes into the breathing corpse's eyes. It will be the most fun thing she's ever done.
For now, she'll keep the creature alive.
She pushes It into the bathroom and starts the water. She should take the sword out of the thing's hands soon—it will rust if gets wet. She thinks. Her father knew more about swords than she does. She does think that putting a sword in a bath isn't a good thing though.
It's so quiet under the running water that Tsukuyomi almost doesn't hear the repeated question. Seeing the dull imitation of want in Its eyes, she's more than happy to answer.
"If you die now, I can't kill you."
The creature doesn't say anything after that. It stays silent and still. Tsukuyomi has a lot of trouble making It move into the water. Its grip on Its sword is unrelenting and the blood covering Its hands makes everything slippery. Tsukuyomi wishes she could push It in, but if the creature is hurt, that might make things worse.
Slowly, long after the water loses its warmth, the corpse falls into the water. She quickly figures out that she needs to keep Its head above water, since It won't do it Itself. Cleaning off the blood is awkward without two hands. The corpse isn't interested in helping either. Everything—no, almost everything— about the cleaning is hard and dissatisfying.
Tsukuyomi doesn't like making blood go away. Even if she can still see it in the water, it's not the same when it's lacking a host.
She's so busy lamenting the loss of her favorite thing in the world that she almost forgets about the body she's handling. She doesn't notice the way Its red feathers disappear into Its back. She only keeps in mind that every second in the water makes the thing cleaner. Its clothes are going to stay stained with blood, but Its skin is clear again.
It has abnormally pale skin. Against the deep red of the water, anything would look pale, but the demon's skin almost looks white. Comparing it to the dark masses in the woods, it's no longer believable that the corpse is related to them.
When Tsukuyomi finally remembers that she's supposed to be looking for injuries, she's surprised to look up and see how different the demon looks without a thick layer of blood covering it. Its staring red eyes are much more obvious than before. Even with Its hair still being the same color, Its dead eyes stand out.
Tsukuyomi watches It for a while. It really does look nothing like the demons in the woods. Without most of the blood, Its coloring makes it hard to imagine It could ever look similar to the other demons. Especially now that Its wings are hidden. It looks human now. Maybe it's a different kind of demon. She hasn't met winged ones before tonight, but there's probably more than one kind.
Hurt heads bleed a lot.
She drops her hands from the demon's head. It falls completely into the water. Tsukuyomi presses It deeper still, running her hands roughly through the creature's tangled hair. She drags the thing up for air every once in a while so It won't drown. That would be a poor end to this new adventure.
After the third time she lets It breathe, she stops and stares.
It has white hair.
She knows demons aren't like normal people, but she's still surprised. It is so very strange to see that underneath all the red, there's white. It fit in better in the bloody snow than Tsukuyomi thought. She wishes they could go back to see how the thing would look in the snow again, but with no more blood there isn't much point.
She pulls the creature out of the water with some difficulty. Dull red drops splash across the floor. The creature stands still in its puddle. Its arms are shivering violently, but It makes no move to warm itself. It stares limply at the floor, letting Its hair cover Its left eye.
Its hair is too short to cover the other one. Tsukuyomi wonders why before taking a towel to Its skin and making the water disappear. There aren't any cuts that she can see yet, which is a little disheartening. Or maybe not. If It's strong enough to survive all of those other demons, killing It will be tremendous fun.
Only that's not the case.
She looks behind It, expecting to find feathers. She doesn't, but that missing detail escapes her when she sees the odd slashes across Its back where the feathers should be. A few look like they're in places the wings could start in. The rest aren't. Tsukuyomi's confused; elated, but confused. Attacking the front of a person is the best way to kill them. Is it different for demons? She pokes one of her fingers into the deepest gash, sliding her finger down its length.
That's when the creature finally does something.
It jumps away from Tsukuyomi's hand, shivering worse than ever before, and slides across the soaked floor to Its sword. The steel is in Its hand before Tsukuyomi can even blink, its bloody edge hissing through the air and stopping only millimeters away from her throat. Drops of blood trickle down her neck, but the sword doesn't come any closer.
After several seconds of utter stillness from both of them, Tsukuyomi decides that her victim isn't going to kill her. She looks into the demon's eyes, expecting to find some burning sign of life—expecting not to see a corpse in front of her. Attacking someone who attacks you is an instinct living things have, so It has to be fully alive now, doesn't—
Its red eyes are gold. The rings around them are black.
There's not a trace of anything close to life in them. They're even more dead now.
Then the new colors suddenly vanish. Just as suddenly, the sword is dropped and clatters loudly against the floor. The corpse backs against the wall, shaking. There's still no real emotion in Its eyes, but with the way It's shuddering, Tsukuyomi thinks that It's afraid.
She watches It while she sucks the blood off her finger before drying it on her dress. It won't stop shaking. It's leaving smears all across the wall. She ducks into Its line of sight and looks up at It. It continues to stare into nothing. She's still invisible.
"Where did your wings go?"
"They aren't supposed to be seen," It whispers. "I'm not supposed to be seen."
Tsukuyomi brushes Its hair out of Its eye to get a better look at its face. It keeps repeating those sentences over and over. Tsukuyomi wishes It would go back to talking one word at a time. She doesn't like dealing with talkative people. She plays with Its hair for a few more moments, letting It have Its insanity and watching Its face just in case it changes.
It's not long before she gets sick of waiting for something to change by itself. She interrupts the creature's mumbling. "Are they white too?"
The corpse stops talking at once. It seems to curl in on Itself while keeping Its back solidly against the wall. Tsukuyomi pushes against Its forehead so It can't hide completely. The creature's eyes bounce around in their sockets, blank and dead but so very alive.
It really is scared.
Tsukuyomi drops a towel on Its head and sits next to It. "I don't care if they are. I only care about blood. If they are white, that's easier. It's hard to see blood on black feathers."
With It hidden under the towel, it's hard to tell, but Tsukuyomi thinks the corpse is staring at her. She shrugs and pulls It up with her. "We need to find the bandages now so you don't die on accident. Then maybe we'll sleep. Tomorrow I'll start bringing you back to life."
The next morning, Tsukuyomi decides that they should probably get rid of her father's body. She recruits the corpse to help her cut his limbs off and open the door. It takes a while to get It to move by Itself, but once It starts, It's very helpful. They make several trips, dropping the body parts by one of the larger trees near the house. While they work, Tsukuyomi tries to draw the creature into a conversation. She's happy to find that It's not quite as unresponsive as yesterday.
She still feels invisible though.
"Do you have a name?"
"What is it?"
"Are you a boy or a girl?"
The corpse—Setsuna now—places the leg It's carrying down on the ground carefully. It steps back into Its footprints just as carefully before glancing at Tsukuyomi. "Girl."
Tsukuyomi nods thoughtfully, trying to see the creature in that light. It—she—doesn't look much like a girl. Its—her—hair is long, but that's it except for…
She walks over to Setsuna and covers Its forehead and mouth with her hands, focusing on Its—her eyes. She didn't notice earlier, and it's still hard to notice because they are so odd in so many ways, and this is normal, but they do sort of look like a girl's eyes. Maybe. The village Tsukuyomi lives in is mostly a place for criminals to hide and hasn't met many people as small as she is. Setsuna's the first.
Tsukuyomi takes her hands away from Setsuna's face, willing to believe the demon. She doesn't think It's alive enough to lie. It can protect Itself like a living person with violence, but words are different.
She. The creature is a she now.
They walk back to the house quietly while Tsukuyomi thinks of her next question. When it finally hits her, she's surprised that she's neglected such important information for so many hours.
"Why did you kill all those other demons?"
Setsuna comes to a complete, sudden halt next to her. Out of the corner of her eye, Tsukuyomi can see her hands clenching and unclenching—wanting a sword to hold maybe—and Setsuna's breath is coming in ragged gasps now.
Curious beyond words, Tsukuyomi peers at the demon girl, watching the stressed lines in her face that don't reveal nearly as much emotion as they should. Setsuna is such a very odd thing. Tsukuyomi flips the white hair out of the other girl's face to get a better look.
More oddness. The previously covered eye has turned gold, but the right one is still red.
After a couple minutes of watching the demon's strange behavior, Tsukuyomi drops her hand and grabs Setsuna's wrist. It was interesting at first, just like the mumbling was last night, but now it's just silly, and they have things to do still.
"We need a shovel. There's one in the shed next to the house. You should dig; I think you're stronger than me."
"Half," Setsuna mutters behind her.
"What?" She hopes they'll finish digging quickly. She has a lot to do today. Without her father around, she needs to find where he keeps his money so that she can pay for food for both of them.
"I'm part human."
Tsukuyomi stops and turns back to Setsuna. "You are?"
The ever-surprising corpse nods.
"So that's why you don't look like them."
More gold sparks in Setsuna's eyes and Tsukuyomi feels the beginning of a very real want to slice her to pieces. There's nothing more than a flash of it, but for only an instant, there was something reminiscent of a drawn blade in Setsuna's gaze. The person who slaughtered so many demons, creating quite the supply of entertainment for Tsukuyomi.
She thought it would be harder to catch a glimpse of that person.
They walk to the shed without another word being spoken. Tsukuyomi's too focused on reminding herself that the Setsuna with gold eyes has the instincts of a completely living person, but is still mostly dead (still wants to be all-dead), and Setsuna's just not very talkative.
Tsukuyomi opens the door to the shed and pulls in Setsuna with her. Inside, there are dozens of swords. Some Tsukuyomi knows for sure her father made, but there are a lot (mostly the ones with blood staining the hilts) that aren't his. There are also a few tools hidden in odd spots. She was told that, but she doesn't know for sure.
"Do you know what a shovel looks like?"
"Help me find one. Then the body will go away."
She doesn't know what makes her say it like that—won't really understand the impulse that her young mind is responding to for several years—but it works very well. Setsuna starts looking for the tool without Tsukuyomi having to instruct her again.
They find it quickly and without further delay go back to the body. Tsukuyomi hands the shovel to Setsuna, who is very good about digging quickly. She does it without any complaint while Tsukuyomi watches and starts wondering what the best way to bring a corpse back to life is.
Setsuna found some string while she was looking for the shovel. She attaches some of it to her sword, wrapping it around her wrist. Tsukuyomi hasn't gotten around to making her clean the weapon yet, and probably won't.
The half-demon-corpse takes the rest of the string and ties it around her hair to make a ponytail on the side of her head. The style makes it look a little like a wing's sticking out of her skull. She arranges it so mechanically that Tsukuyomi wonders if it's really okay, but in the end she decides not to bother Setsuna about it.
The more free will she shows, the better.
A week and a few more days later, hours after the sky's gone dark and they're supposed to be sleeping, Setsuna speaks on her own—with no prompting whatsoever—for the first time. It's so surprising that Tsukuyomi's distracted entirely from listening to screams.
"What's your name?"
Tsukuyomi sits up eagerly in the bed. "Tsukuyomi."
Setsuna stares up at the ceiling without acknowledging the response for several minutes. Tsukuyomi waits impatiently. Over the past week, she's gotten good at holding herself back (the properly dead demons in the woods have quickly become a tabooed topic), but she still doesn't like it much. It makes it hard to know if they're having a conversation or not.
"Why won't you kill me, Tsukuyomi?"
Tsukuyomi smiles. She likes this topic. "You're too dead for it to be fun right now. It's not the same if you don't want to live. I promise to kill you as soon as you're more alive. It will be fun. I don't get to fight with many healthy people, and you're really strong, and—"
She goes on rambling about why killing Setsuna will be more fun than anything in the world for a while. Setsuna stops hearing her after hearing Tsukuyomi's conditions for ending her life. To her, that's the important part. This person will not end her life soon enough.
"I shouldn't be alive."
Tsukuyomi blinks at the interruption before grinning wildly. "I'll make you want to be."
A month after their meeting, Tsukuyomi takes Setsuna into the village to shop for some food. Neither of them eats much, but they're out of things that won't spoil. Also, she wants to know if being around other people might bring Setsuna back to life faster, and she doesn't know where else to find people.
Setsuna carries their money (discovered in Tsukuyomi's father's closet) in a bag while they walk to the shop. It's the only one Tsukuyomi's ever been in, and she thinks most of the other buildings are people's homes. There aren't many. People come and go from the village so often that there's no point having a house to stay in. There's also a bar that Tsukuyomi's not allowed to be in. If this trip goes well, she'll explore it with Setsuna next week.
It's a little depressing to think that she's still able to make plans with Setsuna for the future, but she knew starting this game that it would take a lot of time to get to the main event. She won't worry about it yet. It… hasn't been… too long…
Yes, yes it hasn't. And she's getting better at being patient. Just weeks ago she was having trouble making herself cut up her father's clothes for Setsuna to wear because it meant the half-demon would be around for long enough to need them. Now the thought of maybe needing to do that again only bothers her a little.
Tsukuyomi nods resolutely and starts walking a little faster, just barely remembering to grab Setsuna's hand so the girl will walk at the same pace. They're almost at the shop. Tsukuyomi can see the buildings close to it already. People, too. She doesn't recognize any of them, but there are a few walking around.
Setsuna suddenly stops walking. Tsukuyomi nearly trips trying to walk forward with their hands connected. A little irritated, she scowls back at the half-demon. She's about to lecture Setsuna about how impolite it is to stop walking with no warning, but the words die in her throat when she sees the look on Setsuna's face.
There's emotion in Setsuna's eyes.
It's not much, and Tsukuyomi doesn't know what the emotion even is, but it's there. Setsuna's hand tightens around hers. The sword she keeps tied around her wrist shakes, bending the morning light in the few spots that have escaped the bloodstains Tsukuyomi never got around to washing away.
"Yes?" Tsukuyomi asks curiously.
"Those… they're humans? Like you?"
Tsukuyomi looks back at the wandering figures. "Maybe. I don't know. Demons sometimes come here too. So do other things like you. Why?"
Setsuna doesn't answer. She stays quiet for more minutes than Tsukuyomi can be patient for, so the girl starts walking again, dragging Setsuna along with her.
For the rest of the trip, Setsuna keeps her eyes glued to the ground. Several people walk by them, coming close to bumping them, but she doesn't look up once. The only sign that she even notices is the way her hand keeps curling around her sword when they get too near. She keeps one hand on her weapon at all times—even on the way back when she's having trouble carrying the bags holding their money and groceries.
They don't explore the bar a week later. Tsukuyomi doesn't mind.
She doesn't like people much either.
Three months later, Tsukuyomi wakes up to find Setsuna missing.
It's the first day in all of their time together where she doesn't wake up next to Setsuna, and it makes her panic. The strangeness of waking up alone after having Setsuna constantly by her side, every second of every day, feels wrong and it bothers her. She jumps out of bed, flinging the sheets off. There's a glaring empty spot where Setsuna should be. Tsukuyomi tears apart half the house looking for the half-demon before she finally thinks to search the shed.
She runs out to it and throws the door open.
Setsuna's sitting on the floor staring up at the swords. She's surprised when Tsukuyomi bursts in. So is Tsukuyomi. Seeing Setsuna just—sitting there after causing so much trouble makes her panic come to a screeching, uncomfortable stop.
For seconds they simply stare at each other, not saying a word. It's not at all unusual for Setsuna, but Tsukuyomi likes to talk. Staring is always accompanied with words on her side. Eventually, she manages to make her mouth form the words for the first not-upset thought that enters her head. Setsuna does not respond well to intense emotions.
Tsukuyomi sits down next to her. "You like swords, Setsuna?"
"Where'd you get yours?"
"I took it."
Tsukuyomi thinks about for something to say, not wanting to dwell on the uncomfortable things she's feeling. She looks at Setsuna and all she can think of is screams and blood and how badly she wants to see the Setsuna who slaughtered all those demons.
That thought actually turns helpful when she remembers that Setsuna knows how to fight.
"Can you teach me how to use one?"
Setsuna doesn't tell Tsukuyomi that she's never had someone train her. She doesn't know how, or even if she should. She knows how to keep herself alive with a sword in her hands. She knows that when she first met Tsukuyomi she—
So many bodies.
She is a curse, just like they said. That's the only reason she's alive, and why she really shouldn't be. She felt something snap that night, and by the time she came out of it, every demon in the woods except her was dead. All her fault.
Tsukuyomi smiles at her when she asks for lessons.
There's only one answer to that.
Setsuna's seeming more and more like a person by the day, but the essential spark of life is still missing. Right now, Setsuna is just a corpse with occasional flashes of emotion.
And she definitely still wants to die. The more emotional she gets, the more time she spends staring out into the woods. Tsukuyomi doesn't need to ask to know that she's remembering her victims. Setsuna has some weird attachment to them, and that's keeping her from wanting to live.
So annoying that Tsukuyomi decides to leave Setsuna at the house while she wanders into the village. She thinks her father used to complain about people getting into fights at the edge of it, and before Setsuna showed up she found a lot of people to play with there.
She needs blood. It's a little dangerous to go looking for some instead of waiting for it to spill naturally, but Setsuna is making her very, very frustrated. She doesn't think she can be patient much longer, and she needs to be. She can't kill Setsuna yet—she won't let herself—so she'll find someone she can kill.
This turns out to be a mistake.
She's not sure what goes wrong. She found some people with weapons wobbling out of the bar. She waited for them to get far enough away from other people before attacking. They didn't look very strong, and they did look very vulnerable.
So she attacked.
And now the biggest one has his foot pinning her head to the ground. Her sword is in a similar position, so she doesn't even have the option of swinging wildly into the air until she hits something. That and their laughing are putting her in such a bad mood that she thinks she should have stayed with Setsuna. Being with Setsuna is at least comfortable. And interesting.
She should have stayed.
Frustration was better than dying. Especially since Setsuna needs to die first. She promised.
Just as the consequences of her lack of patience are starting to catch up with her, the pressure on the back of her head is lifted, and the large man is stumbling forward off her sword. Tsukuyomi immediately stands up and jumps back a little; surprised but more than willing to make the best of it.
She takes her eyes off the people she should be escaping from for a moment to glance back at whatever caused the man so much trouble.
Surprise doesn't quite sum up the feeling in her chest when she sees Setsuna.
For a second, she catches a glimpse of what Setsuna looks like alive, with eyes blazing and jaw set, and Tsukuyomi realizes that for once she's not invisible in Setsuna's eyes.
Before her mind catches up with the implications of that, the half-demon's in front of her, sword brandished and muscles tensed. The men look shocked, and it only gets worse when Setsuna charges forward and slashes at their legs. They cry out as the blood starts to show, but Tsukuyomi only gets a small look before Setsuna is back by her side and dragging her away.
Tsukuyomi doesn't even have the chance to ask what Setsuna's doing before a mass of white blocks her vision and suddenly she's looking at her intended victims from above with the wind rushing through her hair.
Setsuna's arm, wrapped tightly around her waist, is shaking.
When they land in front of the house, Setsuna immediately lets go and takes several quick steps away from Tsukuyomi. Her wings shrink, but they don't quite disappear. They shudder along with the rest of Setsuna, and the half-demon refuses to meet Tsukuyomi's eyes.
Tsukuyomi walks forward and reaches out to stroke one of the feathers.
Setsuna's response is immediate, and the wings vanish into her back.
"Why did you do that?"
Setsuna looks up briefly. Too briefly for Tsukuyomi to catch whatever emotion is in her eyes.
"You don't want to die," she says simply. "So I won't let you."
That's not what Tsukuyomi meant by her question, but it makes her smile. She grins at Setsuna before stepping behind her and prodding her back gently.
"You know, they're pretty."
Tsukuyomi's out in the village by herself (for food this time, not anything more fun) when she sees the older boy. He walks quietly around the buildings. They happen to see each other at the same time, and the way he looks at her makes her feel like he was watching before she noticed.
He reminds her of Setsuna. He has white hair and blank eyes.
Blank, but not actually dead. She watches him curiously. She is very, very interested; she doesn't think he's human. Tsukuyomi can see something odd in his blank eyes that's somewhere between life and death and doesn't really belong in either.
He walks over and asks if she knows how to use her sword. If she would like, he says, he can send her somewhere where she can learn proper swordsmanship. She doesn't understand why he's making an offer like that to some stranger.
She turns him down, but tells him to come back in a month or two.
When she gets back to the house, she decides not to tell Setsuna about the boy.
She really wants him to come back after she's done with Setsuna, and she doesn't want the half-demon feeling replaced.
Weeks after the other humans try to hurt Tsukuyomi, Setsuna's sitting in the shed again. She stares at the swords on the wall.
She was honest when Tsukuyomi asked if she liked swords. Despite being tools of death, Setsuna's never managed to resist admiring them. Even when it got her in trouble. Even when it called attention to her. They were beautiful, and they still are.
But right now she isn't staring at them because she's admiring them. She's staring at them because the shed's a good place to be when she wants to think, and the shed is basically covered in swords. It's impossible to not be staring at them.
She's thinking that she needs to talk to Tsukuyomi.
Things started changing after she showed her wings to Tsukuyomi. Now they're done changing.
This life with Tsukuyomi… it's worth something.
She wants to be alive.
That means it's time for Tsukuyomi to kill her. She made a promise.
Tsukuyomi doesn't hate her, Setsuna reminds herself. She's not like the demons Setsuna murdered. Even though she'll kill her, Tsukuyomi doesn't hate her. She might even be fond of the despicable, murderous half-breed she's taken in to kill. She appreciates Setsuna more than anyone ever has.
…She thinks Setsuna's cursed wings are pretty.
There's a person in this world who doesn't despise her for living.
So Setsuna will give Tsukuyomi anything.
And that means…
She stands up and starts walking to the house.
Time to die.
Tsukuyomi wakes up to find Setsuna standing next to their bed. She rubs her eyes and sits up, yawning. Setsuna is shifting her feet restlessly, looking not at all like herself. Her eyes keep darting around the room nervously.
"I want to live."
Tsukuyomi's eyes widen. Her heart starts racing and she imagines that Setsuna can hear every single beat. After so many months—after so long, Setsuna is finally something that can want life badly enough to be worth killing.
She looks carefully up at the half-demon, watching every nervous twitch her body makes. She pushes herself off the bed and steps into Setsuna's personal space, peering closely into her unique red eyes. Tsukuyomi watches them for several heartbeats.
It takes a while for Setsuna to relax enough to look straight at Tsukuyomi. When she finally does—
There's a spark in her gaze that wasn't there before.
Giddy excitement fills Tsukuyomi and a rush that she's never felt before flashes through her very soul. This is finally it. The end of the game. The grand finale. Setsuna's finally a complete living being that she can take and destroy.
Setsuna looks away. "This is the best time to kill me, right? You said… you promised you would."
Tsukuyomi never thought Setsuna would be the one to recognize the right time. She picks her sword up from its spot next to the wall absently. "Yes, I did."
She notices at that moment that Setsuna's sword is missing from her hand. She's about to ask where it went, since Setsuna does everything she can to never go anywhere without her weapon, but then she takes a better look at Setsuna's hands. They are pinned stiffly to her sides, trembling.
Now that's very unexpected.
"You won't fight me, Setsuna?"
"I won't hurt you."
Tsukuyomi lifts her sword up to Setsuna's neck, keeping one eye on the half-demon's hands. However willing Setsuna is to submit to her, living bodies want to fight. And she really is alive now. It's an incredible change. The possibility of Setsuna resisting her never occurred to her before. The half-demon's falling short of actually doing anything, but Tsukuyomi thinks she might want to. It's exciting.
The point of Tsukuyomi's sword digs into the side of Setsuna's neck. Blood trickles down the blade. She looks into Setsuna's eyes, wanting to see the last sign of life the half-demon will ever show.
The joy that comes from knowing that her project is coming to an end dies and even the scent of blood reaching her through the air can't bring it back.
Setsuna is looking at her with eyes full of fear and determination and fire and Tsukuyomi is astounded at the depth of loyalty in them. The color is even a little darker than the red she's used to. The color of the blood on her sword. It suits Setsuna.
In a few seconds, Setsuna's eyes are going to be a corpse's again. That new fire and color will disappear. Those eyes will be dead just like they were in the beginning, only this time there won't be any game bringing them back. They and Setsuna will be gone forever. Tsukuyomi will be invisible in Setsuna's eyes forever.
And what's more—
She thinks on it for a second, and comes to the expected conclusion: Waking up alone every morning isn't something she wants.
This finale is turning out very different than she thought it would.
Sighing, she pulls her sword away and flicks the blood at the wall. There's an instant—closely followed by Setsuna's eyes widening in surprise—where she comes close to putting it back because no matter how nice it is to have Setsuna around, there's no doubt in Tsukuyomi's mind that killing her would be fun.
But no, she doesn't really want to. Well, yes she wants to kill Setsuna, and she really, really wants her game to end the way she planned it, but living without her would be weird. After so many months, it just wouldn't feel right. Especially if Setsuna's just going to hand her life over instead of dueling for it. That is a little bit of a letdown now that Tsukuyomi thinks about it.
"Yes, Tsukuyomi?" Setsuna's voice is hoarse.
"Let's share a life."