A/N: Just a little something I did for a class.
Searing pain awoke Tsubaki; a line of fire snaked up her thigh and dragged a gasp out of her choked throat. The crackle of flames and the fiery scent that lingered in the air gave her ample warning of what would greet her. Blue eyes cracked open onto devastation, an entire village lit by holocaust, dwarfed by the mountain of smoke that rose over it.
Tsubaki scanned the burning husks for any signs of life. She spotted no bodies, living or dead. Despite the fire that cut along her leg, she rose to her feet. She had to help with whatever calamity had befallen this peaceful town; so her duty as an officer of the Novus Orbis Librarium dictated—no, her own sense of justice, the pull to help those in need regardless of circumstances, demanded it. According to the latest reports, Ragna the Bloodedge was in this area, perhaps in this very place. And for a man who routinely slaughtered entire NOL military branches, what was a small village such as this other than hunting grounds for his murderous deeds? She could not leave this place to such a monster.
A few minutes of pained steps brought her to the center of the village. Not a single living soul greeted her. As she dropped to her knees from the burning agony, she swore under her breath. This devastation, this absolute lack of life...it had to be the work of Ragna. No other explanation came to her, although she could not recall much of what had occurred. She remembered a whine, a sound like thunder, pain searing her leg, an impact to the skull, darkness. Obviously, there had been an explosion, powerful enough to decimate the village. And according to all reports, Ragna was more than capable of creating such a blast through the wonders of Ars Magus.
The thought that such a man lurked nearby sent a shock of adrenaline through Tsubaki. She reached into the ivory robes of her uniform, blackened by soot, and produced a blade. Izayoi's foot-long blade glimmered. She forced herself onto her feet, even as her blistered and cut skin screamed agony, and eyed the village again, determined to find something, anything. A figure in an already burnt out hut caught her eye.
At ten feet away, Tsubaki recognized it as a corpse, unmarred by flames. She knelt beside the deceased man and flipped him over to inspect him. A narrow wound in his chest pierced straight through to his back, the work of a sword or spear. Tsubaki chewed her bottom lip as she thought—did Ragna carry a weapon? Sure, he had magic powerful enough to render most weaponry unnecessary, but...no. He must have a sword or something. Else, how would this man have died?
Another minute of looking around told Tsubaki that either he had been unarmed at death, or his killer had taken his weapon. Probably the former, all things considered. Fury welled up inside her, an inferno that would have dwarfed the blaze that surrounded her had she a way to unleash it. So Ragna had not been content to simply raze the village. No, he saw fit to slaughter the helpless inhabitants who survived the flames. Of all the-
"Hey. The hell do you think you're doing?" Tsubaki gasped at the voice and whipped around. A survivor...no. She blanched as a tall man approached her. Spiky white hair, mismatched green and red eyes, and a blood-red jacket over a black shirt left no doubt as to who it was. However, the wanted posters had given no indication that he carried a foot-wide great-sword on his back. Tsubaki had to wonder how it was even possible to wield such a weapon. She braced herself as he reached into a black bag slung over his shoulder. He produced a small charred box and tossed it to her. Its contents rattled as it bounced to a rest at her knees. "Here. Eat."
Instead, Tsubaki ignored the box of candy lying in the blackened grass and brandished her weapon. Its blade lengthened by almost double, a threat to halt the man. "Ragna the Bloodedge!"
"You're under arrest!"
"And who the hell's gonna do that? You're injured, dumbass." With no fear of Izayoi, Ragna crouched beside Tsubaki and studied her cut. "...Not too badly, though. I mean, you can still walk and shit. And point that thing somewhere else, goddammit!"
He swatted her hand and the sword clattered away. Tsubaki hissed and clasped her hand, but said nothing. With a roll of his eyes, Ragna moved past her and examined the corpse. "Shit. Was hoping for another survivor."
"Huh? Why would you..." Tsubaki's eyes flashed. "So, you're not satisfied with your bloodbath yet?"
"The hell are you talking about?" Ragna quirked an eyebrow her way. "You think I did this shit?"
"It's the only rational explanation."
"Huh. Funny. Look at this guy, will ya?" After spreading open the cut in the man's shirt, Ragna traced a finger along the fatal wound. "Now look at my sword. Blood-Scythe doesn't make neat little cuts, it tears people in half."
Mind racing, Tsubaki stared down at the corpse, unable to find rationale for her belief that Ragna had killed this man but unwilling to let go of the idea. "Very well then. Do you have an alternate explanation?"
"Library soldier. Took out a bunch of 'em earlier."
With a growl, Tsubaki slid away from him. "Why should I believe that? The Librarium is peace, security. You...are an unrepentant murderer who seems to desire nothing more than to create as much chaos as you can."
"And you..." Ragna turned a glare her way. "...Shit, I dunno the first thing about you, other than that you're giving me a damn headache right now. What's your name?"
As her hand trailed through short grass toward her sword, Tsubaki snarled and met his glare in defiance. Yet, she found herself answering all the same. "I'm Tsubaki, of the Yayoi family."
"Yayoi? Dammit..." Any hope of getting through to her vanished at the name. With a sigh, Ragna rose to his feet. A noble. He was stuck with some chick who not only came off as a zealot for the Library, but was a noblewoman. Damn it all. "Anyways, what the hell were you doing? Most people run away from the burning village, not into it."
"I was trying to find survivors and render aid."
"Tch. While wounded? Well, whatever." He bent down beside her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Let's-"
"Don't touch me!" Panic and rage overcame Tsubaki and she writhed out of his grip. The flames burning around them held not the fury that flickered in her eyes. If he took hold of her, she would be carried off, never to be seen again...she was sure of it. On the verge of hyperventilation from that simple touch, she turned and scurried on hands and knees to collect her sword. A flare of pain in her thigh killed the attempt and she halted with an anguished grunt. A moment later, a gentle hand rested on her shoulder. She turned to face Ragna. "What...what do you want?"
Ragna's fingers twitched, but he forced himself to show no signs of his building ire beyond that. This girl was scared enough as it was; no sense making it worse. "For one, to get you outta this place. And then fix you up the best I can, although I ain't an expert on healing Ars. Oh, and I got a bunch of survivors on the outskirts who are kinda waiting for food here."
He grabbed the box he had tossed her way earlier and handed it to her. "And I ain't gonna let you walk on that leg, either. Dunno exactly how bad it is, so...yeah."
Tsubaki took the box and resigned herself to being carried away by the NOL's greatest enemy. His arms came around her back and under her knee to lift her without effort. Trembling in his grip, Tsubaki burned a glare off the side of his face. That is, until she remembered her sword lying in the grass, a light-year away, or so it felt. With every step, Ragna took her further from the only defense she had against him. If she could just get to Izayoi... She growled to herself, arms crossed beneath her chest, red locks concealing her eyes from him. The first chance she got, she would take the weapon, drive it through his heart, snuff out his rebellion in one stroke...
"Something wrong?" Ragna did not look away from his destination, a copse just outside of the village. Two dozen figures waited beneath the trees, scarcely moving. "Or are you just pissy?"
"Stop talking to me."
"Kay. Pissy it is."
Defiant, Tsubaki looked away as they passed another corpse, a man in a blue uniform. A Librarium officer, cleaved almost in two. Blood crusted on his sword; it nauseated her to think that it was the kind that would create the wound she saw in that first corpse and she decided to look anywhere but him. She focused on the group of survivors up ahead. Light murmurs emanated from the group, but as Ragna brought her closer, they all but ceased. Fear-stricken eyes watched as Ragna placed her down to sit back against a tree. Tsubaki gave him no acknowledgment of thanks, just another heated look. Get away, you bastard. As he stood back up, Ragna said, "Alright, wait there a moment. Gonna go distribute the food here."
"For someone supposedly helping these people, you sure inspire terror in them."
Ragna rolled his eyes and trudged off. "Shut up and eat."
Grumbling to herself, Tsubaki looked down at the box in her hand. Smoldering rage and nettling nausea made her set the box aside; she could eat later. Preferably something healthier, at that. She glanced over at the people nearest to her; a couple of children watching Ragna as he distributed the fruits of his scavenge to others. She crawled over towards them and offered her box of candy to them. "Here you go..."
At once, it seemed that the entire group of survivors had their eyes on her, fearful and damning. The children, who had turned at the sound of her voice, were pallid, frozen. A moment later, a man swept by and guided them back away from her. She just stared for a few moments and then sat back, a tempest of thoughts swirling her mind. Why were they afraid of her? And in fact, several conversed with Ragna now that the kids were no longer in danger. She sighed and turned away from the scene. She couldn't understand it. She served an organization that protected people; he had no issues skewering them. Why would they trust the Grim Reaper more than her?
"Hey." Ragna's voice sounded from above and Tsubaki jumped. She had not realized how lost in thought she had been. He took a seat beside her and indicated her thigh. "Alright. Let's try and take care of this, 'kay?"
"...Sure." She wanted to reject him, but there came a point where defiance and logic just ceased to mesh. "What are doing with us?"
"Why are you helping people here?" Her fire rekindled, Tsubaki glared, her nose just inches from his. "Hostages? To kill later? Why would someone like you-?"
"I ain't gonna kill anyone here! God damn it, you're annoying…" Ragna broke off for a moment and ran a hand over her cut as silent, gibbered words streamed from his lips. The gash and burn mended slightly and the pain faded to a light burning ache. "That better?"
"Yes. Thank you." It scorched her throat to spout appreciation for him. She glanced back at the crowd. Mirthful chatter sounded from them as they consumed the scraps of food Ragna had procured. Why were they so...? "...What happened here?"
"The village. The people here clearly trust you. Despite everything that you've done, at that. That tells me that they at least don't believe you were the cause of this calamity. So if it wasn't you..."
"You wanna know what happened? You ain't gonna like it."
"I realize that."
"Library airship flew overhead about two hours ago. Firebombed the place, and then passed back over for a second go. Oh, and then to get rid of witnesses, two units of Library dogs swarmed into the town to kill everyone. I dealt with that bit of bullshit."
She hardly heard what he said. It was too surreal to accept, too blasphemous to be true. The Librarium, the pillar of order that served as society's skeleton...had done this? If this was true, she would bring whoever ordered such an attack to justice. "But...why would they...?"
Ragna shrugged. "To get me. They knew I was in the area, so they figured why not bomb the shit out of me. Might work, you know."
"But the people here..."
"Library doesn't give a rat's ass about these independent villages. Not their people, so why should they care if they live or die? That's always been Library policy and you damn well know that." Ragna produced a bottle of water from his jacket and all but forced it into her hands. "If you're not gonna eat, then at least hydrate yourself, idiot. And why the hell were you out in this ass-backwards dump anyways?"
Tsubaki took a sip of the warm water to soothe her parched throat. "Orders. They sent me here to kill you if possible."
"Huh. So they send you on your lonesome to kill me, and then burn the place down while you're here." Ragna gave her a humorless smirk. "Wonder what they think of you, Yayoi."
Tsubaki froze. No. No, that was impossible. She had dedicated her entire life to service in the Librarium. She, the prime daughter of the Yayoi family. They wouldn't repay her by sending her to her death. Yet, even as the inferno of zeal that bound her to the Librarium tried to burn away her doubts, everything sunk in for her. All evidence led back to this being the Librarium's doing, and if it was, then surely they would have known she was there. When she managed to speak, her words her flat, bereft of their eternal fire, meaningless. "...I don't believe you."
"Bullshit." Ragna smirked at her as he rose. He didn't know this woman at all, yet he could already see that this revelation had reduced her passion for the Library to mere embers. "Well, I'm gonna go see if anyone else needs anything. Back in a few."
"Wait!" Tsubaki grabbed the sleeve of his jacket to stall him. "Um...what are you planning to do from here? I mean, we can't just leave these people here..."
"There's a town about a day's walk away. I was gonna take them there." Ragna fought down another smirk. "What about you? Got any idea what you're gonna do?"
"For now, I intend to help you get these people to safety. After that, I don't know." No, she knew alright. A flare of rage erupted inside her. The Librarium had tried to have her killed, with Ragna left to be blamed in all likelihood.
She would not stand for that.
Tsubaki stood up, not even feeling the pain in her leg anymore. "Well then. When do we leave?"
"Damn soon. Library's probably gonna send a squad for clean-up. I'd rather not have to deal with that. Want me to get your sword?"