Lieutenant Michel Dubois lit another cigar and looked over the precipice of the mountain. There were some bloody casualties down below, which to his eyes only added to the spectacular view of the alpines. The particular cigar he was smoking was taken from the pouch of a German soldier, who was currently lying dead behind him, along with a dozen others who tried to initiate a surprise attack on his camp.
The Chasseurs Alpins were well known for being stolid and rugged – so much so that they were called the "Blue Devils". Lieutenant Dubois personified this in its most merciless form. He had taken down every single one of them using only his fists and the force of his boots.
Idiots. All of them.
Even though he wasn't tired of standing for the past day and a half, he crouched down and continued looking over the various mountain peaks. Once in a while he'd take a long drag from his cigar, but mostly he chewed on it.
"You killed all of them? Very impressive." He suddenly heard.
Dubois was on his feet, knuckles cracked, facing the voice before he even finished his sentence. But what was the point? It was just an old man, observing the dead bodies with his hands clasped behind his back. He was improperly dressed; he only wore a long Japanois robe and wooden sandals. His eyes were hidden behind a pair of sunglasses. He could easily freeze at this elevation.
The lieutenant let his shoulders lax and scoffed. "They killed themselves."
The old man nudged some snow off a body with his sandal, revealing a blue jacket and dark beret. "Some of your men died too."
Dubois was planning to kill them, at one point or another. He inhaled one last time from his cigar before dropping the cigar off the ledge. The low oxygen up here didn't keep it lit anyway.
"…Yet you didn't, Michel Dubois. How is that?"
The lieutenant's eyebrow rose. How did this old man know his name? Whatever. Either he must be a spy (even though his French was perfectly pronounced and accented), or a recluse that had been spending his time studying this particular campsite. He did not look remotely sharp enough to stalk or confront conditioned soldiers. The elderly man looked harmless with his pale skin and long silver ponytail blowing in the wind. He almost looked like a ghost, if Dubois believed in such nonsense.
"Get lost, old man." Dubois turned around. He lost interest quickly in things, and senile men in foreign savage robes on top of mountain ledges were one of them.
"You do not think it's curious that I know your name?"
"It's not as if it's important information. You're probably some hermit that lives here in the alpines."
"Ah," The old man continued. "But the Egyptians, the Greeks, and Shinto have said that if you know a person's name, you have the power to trap their souls for all eternity."
Silence for a moment.
"What if I told you who you were going to marry and how the rest of your life turned out?"
"I'm most likely going to die in the next year or so. Doesn't matter."
"What if I knew the exact day you died?"
"Then I would just continue to live until that date."
"What if I told you that I knew how the war turned out?'
"The world is on the verge of destroying itself either way. I don't need to know."
"You don't really care about anything, do you, Michel Dubois?"
Another moment of silence, then a low chuckle.
"…No hesitation at all. Perfect."
Perfect? Dubois waited for that annoying geezer to say something more, but he didn't. After a few minutes, Dubois couldn't help but turn on his feet. "What the hell do you mean by-"
Except he wasn't there anymore. The hermit. That crazy old man. There was just blood-stained snow and fallen men.
And a long, wooden box.
Michel Dubois did not know what to do with it.
He had stared at the box for hours now. It was nighttime now in the mountains. The temperature had dropped too many degrees below freezing, but he was trained to ignore that.
At first he steadily walked over to the box. There was nothing significant about it – it was a light wooden box that had a slim lid covering it. On the front, there was one word inscribed in thin, almost calligraphic letters – "Paresse".
Lazy? Was the old man telling him something? The lieutenant was far from lazy. Not to boost himself (pride was one of the many things he despised), but he had graduated top of his class, and he was chosen to fight in the middle of mountain warfare. He had just killed more than a handful of Germans and, yes, his own men. They were annoying him anyway. Half of them were complaining about frostbite, and the other half were planning to enter Belgium and surrender themselves to the Germans. Pathetic.
Dubois examined every corner of the box. At one point he kicked it with the edge of his boot, and a faint hollow sound was heard. If it was a bomb, it would have gone off. If it had weapons inside, the box would have been too heavy. If it contained a dead body – which would actually be a hilarious joke, he smirked to himself – it would stink.
He took another bite of a soggy sandwich he was eating (courtesy of the German soldier lying next to him) and looked up at the sky. The moon wasn't even visible. If something was in the box that would destroy him, no one would be able to see and help him. Not that anyone would.
It wasn't until next morning that he finally decided to open the box. He was tired – he hadn't slept in a week – but he adjusted his beret, kept one hand clenched in a fist, and loomed over the box. He took a deep breath and before exhaling he flipped off the lid.
Inside…was just a doll. A doll?
Dubois stepped back to let the early sunlight give him a better view. Yes, it was a doll…a very well-made, lifelike doll. Not in terms of proportion – the doll had gangly arms and legs, a skinny torso, and wide shoulders. It had long, vibrantly-colored hair that parted down the middle. Dubois couldn't see its face – it was covered by an angular, featureless mask.
He was vaguely reminded of a time when he was a child, and there were carnivals held on the Feast of Fools. Everyone dressed up in the silliest and ugliest ways possible to celebrate. They all looked like fools to him, but perhaps that was the point.
This doll sure looked like a clown. A very badly dressed clown; it was barely wearing a shirt.
Dubois felt like a joke – and not a good one - was being played on him. What was this? A political message? Where did the old man even make this?
He reached down and attempted to lift the mask off on whim, when one of its arms snapped up and attached itself to his wrist.
"Wha-" Dubois jerked back, but this only dragged the doll out of the box. He tried to shove the doll off him, but its elbow was clamped shut around his. He cursed and kicked the doll.
Whatever kind of joke this is, he thought. This is a very bad, tiring joke.
"You're tired?" A voice suddenly said. A very slimy, rasping voice. Dubois froze and looked down at the doll. It…spoke?
The mask suddenly clicked, and two holes where the eyes would be opened. The face snapped up to Dubois', their foreheads against each other.
They stared at each other.
"…Are you my master?"
"What?" Dubois got a hold of himself and finally swung the doll off him, and it sprung through the air and landed near the edge of the precipice. For a large thing, it was surprisingly light.
The doll laid motionless on the ground, but then, in short, snappy movements, it slowly sat up.
"Boring." The whispering voice mumbled.
"Boring? I would have kicked your fucking head off if you had hung onto me for one more second!" Dubois yelled. He was unnerved now. An old man blabbering that he supposedly knew everything about him had left a talking, moving doll. A very sleepy, 'bored' doll at that – it was slumping, and the holes in its mask were folding closed.
"Hé!" Dubois walked over and shook the doll's bony shoulders. "What are you? Are you a man or a doll?"
The mask clicked again. "I'm a dôji."
"A dôji…" Dubois let the unfamiliar word roll off his tongue. "What's that?"
"It's hard to explain." The dôji let out what sounded like a yawn. "There are…more of us…good and evil, and we….fight each other."
Good? Evil? What? Was the old man behind this? Dubois eyebrows furrowed. This was ridiculous, but somehow, it seemed…believable.
"And...What side are you on?"
"Evil. I embody sloth."
"Paresse." Dubois clarified.
"My name." Paresse's 'eyes' folded shut again.
Dubois scoffed. A fighting dôji, huh. There were many of them, on opposing sides. This was something that mad man would definitely come up with.
They're supposed to fight…
Paresse was suddenly propelled to the side, his body skidding into the snow. The lieutenant raised his eyebrows incredulously.
"You're supposed to fight?"
The dôji got up much quicker this time. "…What was that?"
"Crochet punch. How are you going to defeat the others if you can't even deflect that?"
Paresse's head tilted to the side, before he stood up, the circles in his mask clicking open. He understood, Dubois smiled. This was a challenge.
"Try again." The dôji rasped.
Dubois tried to do an uppercut, but this time the dôji blocked him by seizing both of his arms. The soldier grinned and instead did a fouetté kick, knocking Paresse's legs out from under him, propelling him back onto the ground.
Before Paresse could get back on his feet, Dubois took out his rifle, jumped over the dôji, and pinned his arms behind his back.
"What…was… that?" Paresse strained forward as Dubois twisted his arms inhumanely. His rifle would have broken both a human's arms by now, but from this doll he got no reaction. He felt no muscles straining or bones breaking.
"Savate la canne. It's supposed to be used only in sparring with swords, but I've been training long enough in the streets-"the dôji tried to untwist his arms, but Dubois only held onto them tighter with his rifle"-that I can hurt someone with virtually any object I see."
Paresse managed to turn his head around, his mask slanting to the side. Dubois was surprisingly not shocked at what he saw underneath it. "You can't hurt me." The dôji said, in that hissing voice.
Dubois only grinned a crooked smile. "Is that so?"
He swiftly let go of Paresse's arms, and kicked his back forward, sending him flying over the ledge.
Lieutenant Michel Dubois howled with laughter as he watched the dôji tumble down the mountain, his long limbs detaching and flying whichever way, until he could no longer see him among the pines and the snow. It was the first time, possibly in the man's life, that he had felt such a thrill like that.
"And here I thought you'd make a decent opponent!" He shouted down.
A/N: This will be a short series :I. It'll probably end after 3 or 4 chapters, unless I come up with more ideas. I just really want to show how Mizho's past life and Paresse met (if they did meet at all), and how ruthless and sociopathic Michel Dubois could be.
Please review !