On Even Footing

She really was an amazing little girl. With that tiny stature, delicate-looking frame and cheerful laughter, she could only have been around ten or eleven; maybe twelve, at a push.

However... she wasn't just an ordinary little girl.

She was a demon.

Her smile was that of a monster's. Her mocking laughter sent a tremor down his spine. The way she sat there on the tree stump so brazenly, bare legs folded, knees dirty and marked with cuts and streaks of mud, made her appear almost like a divine being, perched on a throne.

He was a Mountain Hound, trained in combat so he could take down any and all opponents without mercy. He had silenced grown men. He had ground the strongest into the dirt and made them beg for forgiveness. He was fearless, powerful and dangerous- and he didn't truly care if he lived or died, for he had always been careless with his own life. It didn't worth all that much. So as long as he got to have a little fun, going on adventures like this like some kind of action hero- and the pay wasn't all that bad either, hihi~- then who cared if he wound up dead in a ditch at some point, riddled with bullets and oozing blood?

He didn't care.

So long as he had fun and enjoyed himself to the fullest, he had no qualms about his own life at all. He was satisfied with his existence- and so he could die satisfied, too.

This didn't just make him strong.

It made him almost unstoppable.

He, Hibari 13, was only in his early twenties... and yet he really knew no fear. He couldn't remember the last time he had allowed himself to feel afraid.

But this girl was different.

Her eyes were narrowed, mocking; filled with the derision only a god-like being that had lived thousands of years could possess; come and try to challenge me, if you can! Do you think you can even lay a finger on me? I'll cut you down! Oh ho ho!~

She was smirking. Her thin arms, tanned from a lifetime of playing out in the open fields and forests of Hinamizawa with her friends, were crossed. Defiance radiated across her youthful face.

She had the posture of a person who was certain of their own victory.

Like a boulder, she was unshakable. Her will was absolute. If this was a game of rock paper scissors, all element chance in the final outcome would be eliminated. No matter what she selected, she was confident she would win. Her rock would beat his scissors no matter what he did- because, for the first time in his life, Hibari 13 had encountered somebody even more daring, reckless and resolute than himself.

He'd been a brat when he was a kid.

This girl was probably a huge brat, too.

They probably had a lot in common, hihi~

If she was a rock, she was surely a super rock... ... and his scissors definitely wouldn't work. Almost single-handedly, this girl had felled half of the Mountain Hounds- trained assassins- with her array of carefully placed traps.

She wasn't a normal little girl.

She was a demon.

Her certainty in her victory was her strength.

Hibari 13… was impressed.

He admired her.

"What an incredible kid." He whistled under his breath, smiling; running his hand through his silver hair.

It was a hot day, and perspiration was dripping down his forehead; making his bangs stick to his face.

Okonogi had told him once or twice to 'get a damned haircut'; his bangs were going to get in his way one day, and then he wouldn't look so pretty anymore with his head smashed in.

Of course, in response to those threats, Hibrai 13 had only laughed; "What, you think I'm pretty, sir?"

It wasn't in his nature to take things seriously.

"Hee. My heart's even pounding a little," said the young man now, as he surveyed the blonde girl on her tree stump throne. "Situations like this are a lot of fun~ Ehehe...~"

She replied eagerly. "Yeah. It's lots and lots of fun. The thought that you'll get a horrible punishment if you lose only heightens the tension, doesn't it?"

"Aaah, of course~ Don't all men love a little danger?"

"Tsk, tsk, tsk. Not just men~" she said; waving a finger at him. "I love this kind of thing, too~ Traps are more fun if you don't know if they will work with 100% certainty. There's some risk involved for me, too… If I knew I was going to win it wouldn't be very much fun at aaaall, ehehe~ But, you look like an idiot, and I'm pretty confident in my skills! Oh ho ho!~"

"A-an idiot…? Aaah, that stings, you little monster! Shouldn't you show your elders some respect?"

"Hm… But I don't feel like it! That's boring! This isn't a situation of being an adult and I child. I'm challenging you to a game! I thought you took me seriously?~"

"Heh. I do, I do~ I've seen what you did to the others. It was pretty intense, little madam, hihihi~"

"Yes. So let's play on an equal footing. Even if you are so slow and stupid, poor yooou~ I can spot idiots pretty keenly, you know; I know so many of them~" she replied, smiling; speaking enthusiastically, as though they were best friends involved in a game of chess- not a predator and its prey. "So, come on! Try to reach me without a triggering a trap. Just try! Do you think you caaan? Oh ho ho!~"

"Aah, yeah. I was right. You really are a brat." Hibari 13 smirked. "But I like it. A guy needs some excitement in his life to make it all worthwhile! And, if you win... Hihi~" A smile. "Then I'll even treat you like a princess. I'll get down on bended knee, kiss the palm of your hand, and call you 'Milady'. I'll be your bodyguard, and you can boast about how you defeated me. Hihihi~"

The girl's eyes lit up at this.

"Aaah… That sounds like fun! Even though you're also so stupid, I think you'll be better at following orders than Kei-chan!"

"Of course, of course. And, don't judge my intelligence based on my looks; not to boast, but I am something of a linguist, and I'm not too bad at cooking, either~"

The girl's eyes lit up. "You can cook?"

"Just a little."

"Instant food that goes in the microwave doesn't count!"

"I know, I know. Don't doubt me; my skills are a little more advanced than that," said Hibari 13, smiling his debonair smile that was most useful in making women swoon, as he scratched the back of his neck. "If you beat me, I could make you a real Japanese meal with fluffy white rice and steamed vegetables and all the side dishes, you know? Food is good for a growing girl like you."

"Of course! Well, if you're offering to feed me, then… … Alright!" The girl stabbed a finger dramatically in Hibari 13's direction, a cat-like smile on her face. "You're going down!"

"Heh~ I look forward to it. And now, I'm curious…" And so saying, Hibari 13 extended his hand to his opponent on the other side of the chess board. "Before we begin... what is the name of my worthy challenger?"

"You don't know? I'm insulted! Such a fool, not knowing such a simple thing..." As the girl spoke, an arrogant inflection of pride in her voice, she turned up her nose- almost as though she were a real little lady; a princess, even. "I'm Houjou Satoko, the Trap Master of the Hinamizawa Game Club, of course! Oh ho ho!"

Hibari 13 grinned; hands behind his back, smile illuminated by the sunlight falling across his face.

It really was a beautiful day…

A perfect day for a showdown such as this.

"It's nice to meet you, little lady. I'm Juuza. Amakusa Juuza. And I'm not going to back down!"

a/n: Takes place during the Matsuribayashi arc of Higurashi. Based on Hibari 13 and Satoko's epic fight, of course XD Muu, since Hibari 13 is drawn to look like Amakusa in the Higu manga, I thought, I could write something based on that premise… Even if the time-line would become very wonky if Amakusa was in Higurash in 1986 and then in Umineko in 1998. He would become an ageless beautiful person like Ikuko XD

This was written about a month ago, and cross-posted from my tumblr. But I rewrote bits of this so it sounds better.

~renahhchen xoxo