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The creature promptly named the “Molebear or Mole Bear” was a monstrosity created by the Hero’s side. It was known as a failed rite. A failed rite was an extreme reaction when the Hero or the villain failed to deliver their expectations. In this case, the Hero held hubris and tried to become God. Of course, the gods would not have this sort of blasphemy. So they turned the Hero’s favourite animal and their closest friend into a monster. 

 

This was set over a century ago, enough for the creature to grow in numbers, to grow cruel— to grow monstrous. It gave them time to hunt down those who held marks and evolve. It’s funny how history would remember things differently. 

 

They say the villains made the creature, born from the greed and the downfall of man. Nah. It was the heroes who cursed the world of this rite— for why else would it still exist if it was the villain? The other side, the Hero or villain, would cease to exist when the prophecy has ended. Either the Hero won, or the villain and neither could co-exist peacefully unless dead. To let both sides win risks the lives of millions.

 

So now you wonder, how on earth I, a mere broken catalyst, would know of such a tale. Not only that, but to verify its mere existence? It’s simple. We needed to know the risks of tempting fate and the consequences of failing. 

 

Memoir 44 Tempting fate and consequences. By Tsyuyuzaki Michiru 

 

~

 

Everything changed that day, after that talk, after learning the truth that has been hidden from Rui for years. In hindsight, it made sense. Back when she was younger, when things were easier, and things were different, Michiru would hold her close in a thunderstorm. The blinds would be shut, and they would hide— deep in a basement Michiru made of their house. 

 

That was not the only thing that Rui would remember. She remembered the ways Michiru would stop, pause in the moment of the day for no reason. She would remember the way she would flinch when a potion went wrong, and glass exploded. She remembered the days when she could not touch Rui, not when the decay was growing mushrooms around her. That the only thing they had between them for comfort was a stick. One half falling apart, and the other half nearly crushed underneath Rui’s tight grip. 

 

So many moments where Michiru crumbled, so many times Rui wondered when she would be trusted enough to know and handle the unspoken weight. Now that she knew, Rui could barely keep her head together. No wonder Michiru wouldn’t tell her, not including the way she clearly struggled to say anything at all. 

 

“Be kind,” Rui whispered to herself, psyching herself up as she stretched her arms. She was sitting on a tree, something she used to do with Ichie or Yachiyo to calm down or hang out. In her hands was a sewing needle and her broken pair of gloves once again. “I promised that I would be kind.”

 

“That should be simple right?” she asked no one in particular. “I mean all you had to do is smile and be considerate and yknow, be a decent person.” A beat passed. Rui hit the side of the tree so hard, the birds flew from the tree, not that Rui noticed with her head in her hands. 

 

“Oh come on who am I kidding—” she groaned. “I’ve been trying to kill her ever since I saw her.” She raised her head, flicking a stray leaf from her hair before she continued to sew her glove back together. “It doesn’t help the last time I tried to be kind and give her a health potion, the hero tried to kill me--Ahh!” 

 

Rui hissed, a little droplet forming on the skin of her thumb. She scowled at her own clumsiness as she brought it to her mouth and suckled the blood out. Her tongue lapped the metallic taste, brushing gently against her own fangs. It would be nice if her nails and fangs would stop sharpening and extending, but she knew it would never happen. 

 

This small little tidbit was a punishment for never being the villain the Gods wanted to see. That was what Michiru theorised anyways when they were growing in years ago. She was not dangerous enough, apparently. It made sense. For as long as she could remember, Rui suppressed her own power. A proper villain would’ve killed Shiori already— or at least toyed with the food. 

 

Rui couldn’t do either, not until the gods would force her. But even then… 

 

Rui took her thumb out of her mouth. Her eyes followed the puffs of smoke in the forest, far from the river’s edge. She recognised those clouds, the sight of a campfire and the way air had a hint of something unusual. Michiru was likely brewing something down there, maybe finishing the potion she made and discarded in the middle of their conversation. Ideally, she should be resting, but when does Michiru ever rest? 

 

Rui looked down at the shambles of a mess she called her gloves and tried hard to focus on fixing the constant wear and tear her claws would make. It did not work well, not when the memories of that fight remained clear in her mind. She could remember the way Michiru staggered when she stopped herself and Shiori from killing each other. The way the smell of blood clung desperately to her. 

 

Michiru even gave her jacket away. The jacket was laced with projective runes and potions dyed into the fabrics. A layer of protection peeled away for Rui’s sake to cover up the scars and the raw exposure of her mark. A single touch, even the ground, would send a deep sensation of agony, and yet Michiru did not hesitate. Even now, Rui could see the relief in Michiru’s red eyes, clouded and hidden away by the pale face and fatigue in her eyes. 

 

Rui swallowed down a heavy gulp; a weight crept up on her tongue and nestled there. Michiru had done and would continue to do so much for her, and yet she wouldn’t give herself the same courtesy and kindness. The side pocket in Rui’s jacket felt heavy. Michiru’s life was literally in her hands. 

 

A small vial of potent regeneration, it was so strong it could save a life, it could save Michiru’s life. But Michiru wanted to save Shiori with it— even now, the decision felt bitter on Rui’s tongue. Yet what else could she do? Michiru was stubborn. As she said it herself, she was a person made for others. 

 

Rui pressed her hand to her eyes to wipe the tears, careful not to scratch herself like before. She wouldn’t want to scare Michiru with another face scar. Subconsciously, her hand dropped down to her face, feeling the bump and rise over the scar that paralleled Yachiyo’s scar so perfectly. The faint chuckle left Rui’s lip. She forgot how much Michiru worried when she did that to herself. 

 

Another tired sigh left Rui’s lips. “I don’t want to worry Michiru again…” She had to be kind now, not for herself or for even the Hero’s sake. She had to be kind for Michiru’s sake, even when it would be the hardest thing. Who knows, maybe she’ll make this work out for all of them. Maybe Shiori could be saved without being killed.

 

Or maybe it was all for nought because Shiori was someone who was destined to kill her. She was someone who wanted nothing but pain and suffering. The stupid Hero didn’t even realise that someone was manipulating her, so really she deserves to die— 

 

Rui slammed her head against the tree, almost causing herself to fall off the branch. 

 

“No more,” she growled, cursing through grit teeth and a dull ache. “No more stupid voices.” Another slight thud against the tree. “No more stupid hero I need to kill. No more, no more, no more….” With every repeated word, Rui continued to hit her head against the tree, ignoring the way pain seared at her forehead or patches of blood decorated the exposed bark. 

 

Rui stopped moments later, hands gripping tight to her semi-broken gloves. “I’m tired.” 

 

She was so tired of being the villain she never wanted to be. 

 


 

Everything is so stupid. 

 

Shiori hated that everything was so fucking stupid. 

 

She found the death potion in Mahiru’s potion book she brought with her. Still, it was buried underneath layers and layers of stupid text. She remembered when Mahiru tried to make her copy her book and that story at the beginning of each recipe. She could barely get past the first few paragraphs without her hands aching, and now this story was over 2 pages long. 

 

The fact that she was supposed to copy all of this jargon was stupid. It was so fucking stupid. Maybe Shiori would have cared more in the past, but now that her life is at stake, she doesn’t care about this silly little story. Why would it matter anyway? It’s not like Mahiru would kill anyone. She was too kind to hurt anyone like that. No wonder her sisters would always walk over her, stupid Mahiru for never stopping them. 

 

Shiori growled under her breath as she used her knife to cut the ends of some leaves and tossed them into the pot. The fire was roaring underneath her, so she had to make this quick or else this second attempt would be a waste as well. 

 

“So that’s why the smoke was black,” a cold voice murmured behind her. Shiori turned her head, knife gripped in hand only to falter at Rui’s restrained expression. Shiori’s eyes widened, and tension in her shoulders fell apart in shock. Rui’s head was bruised, blood clots patching up on her forehead. Her blood fell down the sides of her head like it was sweat. 

 

How was she so unconcerned about the injury?

 

“A-are you alright?”

 

Rui ignored her, raising her hand instead and something flared behind Shiori. Shiori turned herself again, her mouth open in shock at the way her roaring fire quieted down into a small crown of flames.

 

“I’m fine,” Rui answered as she moved past Shiori to a bag where she fished out the familiar red colour of a healing potion. “I just need a drink.” Rui downed the health potion before getting her sleeve and wiping away the loose blood as her skin patched itself up. 

 

Shiori continued to watch her, questions forming and leaving unanswered in her head. Was this because Rui didn’t want to hurt her? Did Michiru hurt her because she didn’t want to listen? The thought made Shiori’s hand shake. She lowered her gaze, focusing instead on the potion in front of her, before blinking when Rui stirred it. 

 

Did she know what she was doing? If so, why is she helping her? Even then, why was she trying to help her at all? Was it kindness? A way to say sorry for trying to kill her before? Shiori had no idea how to react. But she did know the gesture was meaningless and stupid. A part of her knew better to trust her so blindly. 

 

“How did you get hurt like that?” Shiori asked when Rui stopped stirring and just observed the cauldron hanging in front of the fire. 

 

Rui gave her a glance as she sat down opposite Shiori. She continued to stare at the flames, the fire adjusting with just a look. “It’s none of your business.”

 

Shiori bit her lip in thought and hesitation. She shouldn’t make such a bold accusation… But if Rui was going to be the only person she could try to trust. Even though they both tried to kill each other, Shiori needed to be involved in her business. “Is it because of Michiru?”

 

The glare grew fierce, baring teeth and fangs. Between them, the fire roared, rising to a height that Shiori leaned back in instinctual fear before it died down just as fast. “I said it’s none of your business.”

 

“Sorry,” Shiori said, curious as to why Rui looked away in regret after the outburst. “How did you do that?”

 

“Do what?”

 

“Control the flame like that.”

 

Rui snorted. Shiori glared at her, almost defensively. “You didn’t notice?” Rui gave a short smirk that made Shiori’s lip twitch in annoyance. Before Shiori could say anything, Rui clicked her hand and a flame sprouted from the tip of her fingers. It then danced around her bones, shifting and mingling as it grew to the size of Rui’s palm. 

 

Shiori gasped. “You control fire.” The stark difference in their abilities inadvertently sent a chill down Shiori’s spine. She can’t even summon wind, she can only use the wind in the air around her, but even then, they didn’t listen to her. Meanwhile, Rui could already do small finessed things like this. 

 

What’s worse was that Rui already knew this before Shiori did this. With a grim look, Rui killed the flame in her hand. “There’s a reason why Michiru assigned me to train you, if you do anything stupid I can shut you down, Hero.”

 

There was something off with the way Rui spoke. The word Hero addressed from her lips… somehow it felt right. Which was odd because Rui wasn’t her villain; Michiru was. Rui was just someone trapped in the crossfire. No, maybe it was  because  Rui didn’t want to harm her; the word felt off. After all, the term ‘Hero’ had been nothing but a sore spot so far for Shiori. 

 

“There’s no other reason?”

 

Shiori spotted the sudden tenseness in Rui’s shoulder. The way her red eyes were alert with attention. “What?” She didn’t trust that response at all, a stupid idiot trying to hide it all when she needed help. 

 

“I mean—” Shiori started, her confidence losing faith when Rui continued to stare at her, confused yet daring. “Michiru, she’s not what you—” Shiori sighed, ignoring the way she’s on the verge of ruining another potion once again. She rose to her feet and walked away, heading to the riverbed to calm herself. “Forget it,” she called, “You’re not going to listen anyways.” 

 

Shiori scowled, trampling the undergrowth in grumpy stomps, hitting the flora with a massive stick like how she watched Michiru and Rui walk before. She didn’t even know where she was heading, only focusing on her thoughts as she followed the sound of the river. 

 

Stupid Rui for trying to protect Michiru. Stupid Michiru for being the villain and wanting Shiori dead. Stupid Shiori for even being the Hero. Gods dammit, why was everything so fucking stupid! Shiori hated it.

 

In her thoughts, Shiori didn’t even realise the shadow racing towards her in silent but hurried steps. The way red eyes peered in the shadows like the blood moon many nights ago as it continued to haunt and chase after Shiori. In the same way, Shiori didn’t realise how silent the forest was. Any birds had died out— all the noise made was the thrashing of leaves. 

 

She hated that she couldn’t even make a potion, that she had to be assisted by Rui of all people. Not that it was a bad thing, but she was trying to be Mahiru’s assistant! She should’ve learnt how to make a potion. Rui could figure out what she’s trying to make and then what? Her chance for killing Michiru would’ve blown up in flames! God, she was stupid. 

 

Stupid, stupid, STUPID!

 

Something grabbed Shiori by the shoulder and spun her around. Before Shiori could even blink, the stranger pushed against a tree and forced her palm against her lips. In the split second of chaos, before clarity sunk, Shiori felt a stray thread on her tongue. 

 

Her eyes widened at Rui’s sudden appearance. She trapped her against a random tree, a hand against her mouth. She was quietly panting, and each hot breath was a gentle breeze against Shiori’s cheek. Her fatigue shone through with the red cheeks and the sweat on her head. 

 

It was only now that Shiori forgot to breathe for a brief moment. Rui’s eyes… whilst it had a dark shade of crimson, they held so much light. 

 

Rui shut her eyes, and her body slowly straightened. She pulled back her hand from Shiori’s mouth, pressing a finger to her mouth in a sign to stay quiet before she glanced at the river in the distance. Shiori pressed her lips together, determined to keep it shut before she followed Rui’s gaze. 

 

She froze. Her mouth opened, and Rui pressed her hand to her mouth again, muffling her as she held from behind. In front of them in the far distance was a monster. On its back was the jagged shell of rocks. Its paws were full of sharp, angled claws shaped like diggers. The creature yawned, baring its maw full of rotten flesh and rows of sharp teeth.

 

Yet the thing that made Shiori freeze from fear was the way it held broken fangs and the way it was missing an eye. This was a monster that was already injured, and yet it could terrify Shiori so much. It could terrify Rui to the point that she was stopping Shiori now, even from such a long distance. 

 

Once more, Rui let go of her hand against Shiori’s mouth, and with a tight grip, she led Shiori back to camp. The monster of the river didn’t notice and just drank from the edge, unaware of any life behind it. 

 

 

“It’s a mole bear,” Rui explained the second they were back at the camp. Shiori was still shaking from the encounter. Her hands were wrapped around a hot drink as Rui poured herself her own cup. “It’s a monster designed to kill anyone marked.”

 

Shiori nodded, filing that creature away for another stupid thing that wanted to kill her. At least this time, the monster was extremely serious with its threat. She drank her cup, surprised at the soothing nature of her hot tea. “Is that why I froze?”

 

“You froze because a mole bear is terrifying,” Rui assured, taking a swig of her burning hot tea. Shiori blinked, surprised that she could even handle that without burning her own tongue off. “Even jumping off a cliff won’t save you. As long as there is earth, it can climb all over it.”

 

“You’re joking.”

 

“I’m not,” Rui laughed, a sad and dark sound. “The more dangerous versions can create pillars of earth to walk across if they really wanted to. So if you even managed to fly above us it would make a pillar underneath you just to grab you.”

 

Shiori laughed, a hand deep within her hair as the laugh became another manic cackle. “That’s great, so another thing wants to kill me.” Tears welled in her eyes, and Rui frowned, the coldness on her face morphing to one of pity. 

 

“Take it easy today, Hero,” Rui sighed as she finished her drink and placed her cup nearby. She grabbed her walking staff and started to head north. “I won’t do any training today since I need to tell Michiru about the Molebear. But if you can do some independent training, that would be better than doing nothing.”

 

“Why do you need to tell Michiru about this?”

 

“Because Molebears have a fifth sense called visual smell,” Rui explained, turning around to Shiori. “Essentially, if you talk within 20 meters of the creature, they would be able to tell where you are because they’ll smell and differentiate mouth odor.”

 

Shiori nodded before red coloured her cheeks. She looked back at Rui, the sudden memory of how close they were flashed in her head. “Is that why you…”

 

Rui’s eyes widened, and to Shiori’s surprise, Rui’s own cheeks heated up too. “Ah yeah…” she nodded, in an awkward way that Shiori saw before. “Sorry about that. I mean now you know why, but—” She froze, and Shiori giggled at the sudden side of Rui. “I need to get going.” With that, Rui all but ran away. She took her staff near her to vault over the bigger bushes and land on branches of trees. 

 

Alone in the camp, Shiori sighed. Then the smile on her face darkened as she rose to her feet. “It can kill anything marked huh?” She whispered to herself, grinning as she continued to walk down the path to the river. “How stupid of the gods to leave such a gift to me.” 

 

Alone in the camp, no one was there to witness the way Shiorir’s eyes shifted to colour, from a light and bright green to a deep shade of viridian green. No one noticed the way the clouds darkened above or the way, burning through her clothes— the mark of the Seer burned like a beacon on her shoulder.