Arc 1 Finished. Please remember, this is a teaser project. If anyone wants to pick it up, please do so.
Chapter 9: Surviving Reality
… It’s pitch black.
For some reason, it’s nostalgic… yeah, it’s that. The same as back when I died. The feeling of sinking into the depths of a deep, cold, and dark ocean. But compared to before, the falling feeling seems much slower… perhaps that means my wounds are less fatal this time around.
But there’s no doubt that I’ll die at this rate. I don’t want to die. I want to somehow return to the surface, but I can’t feel my body. Only my conscious is sinking, and even if I try to reach out my hands, I have none. Even if I try to kick with my legs, I have none. This is no good, I have no cards to play… so am I going to die…
I wonder what happened to Finia-chan. I made sure to protect the mask, so she probably didn’t die from the impact… but I doubt that monster would just let her leave. When I recall those red eyes… I still feel a little afraid.
I felt the sensation of my sinking body resurfacing. Something is enveloping me, and pulling me up. This is one of the barest of possibilities, but maybe I’m still… alive.
Within the darkness, I saw a single light. I didn’t have the feeling of my hands, but I give an intent to reach them out. Slowly, the light grows brighter, and when my entire surroundings were covered in a pure white light… I heard a voice.
Ah, this is that child’s voice. My best friend, Shiori-chan’s voice. She’s calling for me. I have to go, or else…
My consciousness was swallowed by the light, and resurfaced.
◇ ◇ ◇
Within the forest, a voice called out to the fallen boy.
The owner of that voice was a small fairy… Finia. With her hands pointed at him, she used healing magic again, and again. Even after running out of Mana, she continues pointing her hands, and trying to activate it, but of course, nothing happens.
Kitsune was submerged in a puddle of his own blood. The wounds had already been fully taken care of with the magic, but he had lost too much blood. Kitsune’s face was pale, and anyone could see he was in a state where he would die at a moment’s notice.
“Kitsune-san! Wake up! Open your eyes…!!”
Out of magic, and too exhausted to even fly. It wouldn’t be strange for her to have passed out from fatigue, but Finia desperately continues to call out to Kitsune.
Shen she had opened her eyes, the monster of miasma had already left. In its place, she found Kitsune collapsed in terminal condition. In the first place, Finia never saw the form of her enemy. Just what had attacked her, or what had happened to put the boy in such a state were completely unknown to her. She frantically continued to cast healing magic on him.
“Kitsune-sa… haa… haa…!”
Her calling voice grew faint, and her breathing became rough. She fell to her knees, and sat on the ground. Hugging the finger of Kitsune, who was losing strength before her eyes, she erased her ever-present smile as she wept. Thikc tears fell, and along with her sobbing, she raised a quiet cry.
“Uee… Kitsune… sa…! Ueeeeeeen! Kitsune-saaaaaaan!”
A childing cry rang out. Her tears ran down, and soaked Kitsune’s hand.
His wet hand twitched slightly.
“… Don’t cry… Finia-chan…”
“Keho… hah… hah… it seems I’ve survived somehow.”
“Yeah… that’s great…!”
Still with a pale expression, Kitsune lifted his body. Observing his surroundings, he saw that the monster was no longer there. For now, he breathed a sigh of relief.
And when he used his left hand to cover his face… he noticed.
“…? …Finia-chan… sorry, but my face… what’s wrong with the left side?”
On his question, Finia took a deep breath. She had probably noticed before, but it was hard to say. When Kitsune looked into her eyes, she averted them, and slowly opened her mouth.
“… Your l-left eye is… gone…”
Just as she had said, Kitsune had lost his left eye. In the space where it was, there was nothing but a dark red hole.
Having heard that, Kitsune gained a vague idea of just what had happened after he was on the brink of death, and before Finia awoke him. It’s likely the doing of that the miasma monster… the red eyed one. While Kitsune was unconscious, that monster had eaten his eye.
He didn’t know whether it was a Magical Beast, or some other lifeform entirely, but as long as it was out assaulting humans, there was more than enough of a chance that it ate people.
Kitsune tested the change from losing half of his eyesight, as he removed his hand from the hole where his left eye once was.
“… My eye, is it…”
Using his finger, Kitsune patted the head of Finia, who was looking at him with a worried expression, as he stood up. He restlessly looked around, and found the Kitsune Mask behind him. He took unsteady steps, and collected it.
And he placed the depressed Finia on his right shoulder.
“It’s alright… let’s keep going…”
As if it had become muddy, the vision from his right eye was dark. With a pale complexion, his visage was like a ghost’s, and a bit eerie. But even so, his clouded eye still had a will to live. Right now, his promise to Shinozaki Shiori was the only thing supporting Kitsune.
Unsteadily, Kitsune slowly proceeded forward. The town was only a little further. Kitsune put on the mask that was in his hand. This time, he didn’t hang it on one side, he firmly set it to cover his face. To cover the hole of his left eye, to hide his white complexion, Kitsune wore the face of a Kitsune.
“Just a little further…”
Little by little, but his feet were definitely moving forward.
◇ ◇ ◇
The time was night. When the sky had become quite gloomy, Kitsune and Finia took a rest under a large tree. Without removing the mask, Kitsune leaned against the base of the trunk, and fell asleep. Next to him, Finia kept watch of the area.
The girl, no, the fairy, while alive, didn’t require food or sleep to sustain function. To put it specifically, she was able to do both actions, but it wasn’t a necessity. All a fairy needed to live was the intermediary through which they were born, 『Nature』, or『Feelings』.
Even so, fairies possessed a body and soul similar to humans. As with humans, if they suffered a fatal injury, they would usually die.
With Natural Fairies, even if one died, another would be born, but for an Ideological Fairy, even if the intermediary item remained, they wouldn’t be revived. As long as that item was in a good condition, they wouldn’t have a life span, so they wouldn’t die from time. Of course, they would perish if that item were to be destroyed.
Leaving that aside, anyways, as she didn’t require sleep, Finia passed the night keeping watch. Her expression had taken a drastic dark turn from the usual, and she looked back at him time and again. Her face was filled with a sense of guilt.
She regretted. After she said she would protect him, Kitsune’s near-death state felt like her responsibility.
What’s more, he paid the irreplaceable price of his eye. It was an injury she wouldn’t be able to compensate for regardless of her power. Even after using healing magic, she couldn’t recover what was lost. Perhaps her magic level wasn’t high enough, or it wasn’t something any level of magic could take care of. Finia brooded over it.
“Kitsune-san… I’ll protect you…”
Finia whispered, as she clenched her small fist. Her magic had recovered, and she could move her body.
She couldn’t let Kitsune get hurt any further, and even if it cost her her life, she would protect him. Resolve rose in her flaxen eyes.
“From here on… I’ll become Kitsune-san’s left eye.”
She placed her hand on Kitsune’s face, concealed by the mask, as she let out her voice. Her small voice echoed through the gloomy forest, before going out.
◇ ◇ ◇
Night came to an end.
Kitsune opened his eye, and started walking alongside Finia in the early morning. The conversations they exchanged before encountering the monster had died out, and within an awkward silence, they proceeded forward.
The previos night, they had walked a while, and only 1km remained to the town. Their surroundings were undergoing a complete change, and the gaps between each tree gradually began to widen. The height of the vegetation also began to fall. They expected that they would soon be out of the forest.
What sort of face was he making underneath that mask? Finia still didn’t know. His gait had gotten much better than yesterday, so after a nights rest, he had probably recovered considerably. All he had eaten in the past three days were weeds and fruits that seemed safe. There hadn’t been any major changes to his body after eating them, so he had harvested quite a few, but that stock had already been run through.
After a few hours had passed, Kitsune opened his mouth.
“! W-what could it be!?”
“Sorry. I’m already fine… I’ve been able to put my thoughts in order quite a bit.”
Saying that, he took off his mask, and made a bitter smile. Under it was, without change, a blank hole where his left eye once was… but Kitsune appeared to have some determination in regards to that. As evidence, his expression was no longer sad.
“Y-yeah! I’m the one who should be sorry… I said I would protect you, and yet…”
“Ahaha, don’t worry about it. I don’t think even Finia-chan would be a match for that one… more importantly… I’m happy you’re safe.”
She dismounted his shoulder, and put her face to his. Their emotional wounds hadn’t healed completely, but both of their expressions had gotten a little softer.
“Ah… Finia-chan, look.”
In the direction Kitsune’s finger pointed… spread a vast grassland. They had gotten out of the forest. And looking over the field… they saw a town.
In these three days, thinking of how hard they had tried to come all the way here, Kitsune’s and Finia’s expressions turned bright.
“We did it…!”
“Let’s go! Kitsune-san!”
On Finia’s words, Kitsune ran out. There was only less than 800m to the town, a distance they could instantly span by running. With his elevated status, it was one Kitsune could span easily. They gradually approach civilization.
But there, a final obstruction appeared.
Distanced about 500m from the town, a Demon Beast stood before them. What came out were several wolf-shaped ones the size of a large breed of dog. From the hostility in their eyes, Kitsune knew it was looking on him as prey.
“… I see, but that’s no good… at you guys’ level, you’ll never even scratch that monster from before.”
Kitsune wasn’t scared. Having tasted the complete fear of death, and having experienced it a second time, he had gained mental strength as not to fear anything. After experiencing the greatest of threats, everything else seemed but a small trifle.
And for Kitsune, that was the most beneficial of powers.
Kitsune activated his 『Status Discernment』.
Name: Naginata Kitsune
Gender: Male Lv4
Skill: 『Pain Null Lv1(NEW!)』『Eerie Constitution』『World Language Translator』『Status Discernment』『Persistence』『Coercion』『Near Death Experience(NEW!)』
Innate Skill: ???
PT Member: Finia(Fairy)
“Hmm? For some reason, my 『Pain Resistance Lv8』 changed. Well, I guess that’s fine… when fighting against that monster, there’s something I started to understand.”
“It’s about how to activate this skill…!”
As he said that, for a brief instant, the wolves saw something. Something like a living creature, yet an existence unlike any…right, that was death itself.
… 『Eerie Constitution』
The wolves take a step back. It was because the atmosphere around Kitsune had changed.
Scary. Creepy. I don’t want to get any closer. Eerie pressure great enough for those thoughts to enter their minds. Though he was a weakling they would be able to handle if they all leapt at him, he was a dangerous presence they didn’t want to approach.
“Ah… this too.”
Saying that, a thin smile spread across Kitsune’s face. There, the next Skill activated.
The pressure emitted at the wolves became even heavier. They felt as if they were going to be crushed. No matter how much they wanted to run away, they couldn’t take a single step away. The great sense of intimidation had stiffened their body to that extent.
“Active Skills can be used just by thinking or performing the action, but… it looks like Passives have some conditions you have to meet to use them… that’s stuff like my 『Eerie Constitution』. In order to use it, I’ll be there’s a sort of psychological trigger. In my case, it’s deeply related to fear… My skill probably only activates when I have mental stability.”
The wolves had no choice but to quietly listen to Kitsune’s monologue. They couldn’t move.
“And my Skill is a sort of thing that intimidates an enemy’s mentality… do you think I’m scary?”
With a faint smile on his face, Kitsune approached the wolves. HE pat one of their immobile heads, and walked straight past them.
“Seeya. Now that you understand that you can’t underestimate weak humans… don’t go attacking them left and right.”
Saying that, he released the skill, and the wolves were released from their paralysis.
But without doing something as foolish as attacking him… they departed towards the forest in terror. Kitsune turned only his head to watch them off, before he started walking forward again with his faint smile on his face.
“Kitsune-san, was that fine? Not killing them?”
“It’s fine. Right now, as long as we’re alive… that’s enough.”
“… That’s right. Yeah! That’s exactly right!”
Finia gave a bright smile. Kitsune gave a thin one. As the two of them returned to their usual selves, Kitsune and Finia arrived at the village entrance.
“… Hah… hah… we’ve finally arrived…!”
But there, Kitsune lost consciousness. Even if he had recovered, his mind and body had been accumulating quite a bit of fatigue. From the sense of relief brought about from arriving at town, he collapsed, as if a switch had been flipped.
Finia calls out to him in worry. But seeing as he was breathing normall, she was relieved to find he was only sleeping.
However, she couldn’t just leave him there. A troubled expression surfaced on her face.
“Um… Are ‘ya… I mean, are you alright?”
A voice like that called out to them.