The Wicked Queen and the Huntsmen
She watches her daughter swallow the pills and drink the glass of water. Now she can be relieved that she won't get the illness.
Her eldest son comes into the room and lifts his sister up.
"Where are you going, Sora?"
Carrying her daughter on his back, he gives her a cold expression. "Out. She needs fresh air. Without being polluted by alcohol."
She feels indignant and wants to slap him for being so ungrateful, but she restrains herself.
When they leave, her stomach gnaws and complains. She remembers the stash of food her customers have spared her and starts for the kitchen. Once in the hallway, she notices the bony, mute little girl holding an empty glass bottle. The girl seems to look in one direction for reassurance, although there is no one there. Then she tips the bottle to her lips, as if drinking something. Afterwards, she opens her mouth—as expected, the result is silence. However, the girl tilts her head in perplexed expression.
What a strange child
"Say, you." She leans at the doorway of the kitchen.
Startled, the girl turns and clutches the bottle with both hands as if it is something precious.
Making sure to smile, she asks with her hands on her waist:
"Want to go somewhere fun?"
The potion didn't work. It didn't work and I don't understand why but now I am outside among the gray buildings stepping in the dirty gray snow with the witch holding my hand. I don't really like her hand; they aren't like Mama'. Her nails are bright red and long so that they dig in my skin because she is holding me too tight. Maybe she is just scared of the Oni getting me.
I think that she feels sorry for how mean she has been to me and is making it up to me. It is just like that one time Mama yelled at me and the day after, she told me she was sorry and we went to get tang hu lu, candied fruits, from this nice old street vendor. I wonder if the street vendor is still there. I wonder if the witch knows him too.
Toushiro is walking next to me and his face is kind of scrunched in a frown. He told me that I have to listen to the witch, but to be careful. I think Toushiro thinks that the witch is going to do something bad. But I disagree. All people make mistakes sometimes—that doesn't make them bad.
Suddenly we stop.
I am confused. This is a dark alley. With the sun setting, soon it will be completely dark and scary in here. I don't understand why this place would be fun.
"I have her right here."
I think this is what the witch says. Then a shadow appears from the blackness of the alley. He is huge, even when hunched over. And I can hear his heavy breathing that stinks of something I can't recognize.
It is an Oni.
"Shit, I knew it. Xiao Tao, we have to go!" Bai yells and his hand goes to his sword.
But he can't help me because the witch's grip is too strong. She has set a curse on me—there are chains shackling me to her body. All I can do is squirm as the Oni's red eyes hungrily scan me up and down and up and down. Even if I have a worn dress on, I feel as if I am standing bare-skinned in the cold.
A sharp clang rings in the air and the witch howls, grabbing her arm in pain. The chain is split apart. Toushiro sheaths his sword and holds onto my wrist.
"Shiro!" Surprised and scared, the name escapes me.
He seems caught off guard for a second before he regains his serious face and says: "Come on! Let's go!"
There are growls and shouts behind us. Everything is a blur of gray. Yet too soon, my legs feel numb and there is a sharp pang in my stomach. I slip on the ground. With my bruises and my broken ankle that Bai only bandaged yesterday, it is hard to get up. My arms are too tired to lift the rest of my up. And I keep slipping even if I am screaming inside.
Stomp stomp stomp. The Oni is closer now. I can feel them and it makes me nauseous.
When I lift my head, I see Orihime-chan slowly approaching down the road with her brother, hand-in-hand. They are close enough for me to call out, but the potion didn't work so there is only emptiness when I part my lips. Instead, I have to get their attention another way. My arm shakes as I lift it and reach to brush Orihime-chan's leg.
We meet eyes.
But it is too late, the Oni is here. No, two Oni. They yank me up and one of them throws me over its shoulder.
The Oni seem to howl in laughter at me. They notice Orihime-chan and her brother, growling something at them. Her brother doesn't look at me. Instead, he looks at the ground and replies in Japanese:
"No. We don't know her. Right, Orihime?"
Maybe I don't know enough Japanese yet. Something inside me is hitting my head and I am just not thinking right. He probably said something else. I look to Orihime-chan for reassurance for how I am just silly and wrong—of course they will help.
I can't see those brown eyes anymore. Instead, I am nothing but part of the gray snow when she says in clear Japanese:
"Nope. I don't."
I watch them shrink as the distance between us grows. Their backs are turned towards me, as if I am a stranger. A stranger.
My chest hurts more than my stomach. It hurts more than my ankle. I try one more time to reach my friend. I want to hold hands too. I want Orihime-chan to smile at me again. Squeezing my eyes shut, I let the feelings of want grow. I open my mouth.
The small voice is mine. It is mine.
Now it is stronger.
I think I see her stop for a second. It is a second enough to know that she has heard my voice.
But I never see her brown eyes again.
Something big and ugly is twisting and crushing my heart. It hurts so much that I want to cry as the Oni carry me with their slimy arms. I think the wetness on my face are globs of drool that dribble from the monster's large mouths.
They throw me to the stinging cold snow. We are back in the same alley again, but this time, I can't even see the sky because there are too many shadows around me. The black shapes dance around me and then up my body. One...two...three...my head spins. It is too dark and they are too close, with their big hands hovering over me. Their fat lips are curved upward and I can see sharp teeth from their excited snarls.
"I've done my job. So I'll just leave." The witch says quietly.
One of the shadows turns and howls in laughter. The monster is quick and slams the witch into the wall. A green, wet tongue comes out of his mouth and he licks her neck as if he is tasting candy.
"I held up my deal! Stop! I held up my deal!" The witch screams.
The Oni are eating her power away. All of them have walked away from me to suck her power. They grab her by the wrists and legs. They tear away her dress. They eat at her magic like starving dogs.
I don't like it. I don't like how they look so evil when they are hungry.
I take a step back and the snow crunches.
"What are you doing?! Call for help! Call for help!" The witch notices me while the Oni are too busy with her to care. Her eyes are wide and wild. She makes small, weird noises at the same time as the Oni slurp all the magic from all over her body.
I don't like it. I don't like it.
I can hear the familiarity of Chinese in the distance. The potion has cured me now; I can speak my own Chinese to find help; I can even maybe tell the monsters to stop in Japanese.
Instead, I hear my own small voice say:
And I dash off into the maze of alleyways, leaving the screams behind me.
A/N: Sorry I haven't been updating lately! It's been so difficult with school going on...anyways, please review! :)