Yukishiro, and the one that protects from the shadows. Chapter 5


Chapter 5

A revelation brought misery.

So…this is what I get for protecting our family huh?” Three years after Zeick’s attackers came to their home, Kyoka, Nikito, and Yukishiro/Kuronetsu were forced to leave their original home behind as their pursuers could come after them at any time. Now moving place to place, the trio weren’t welcomed in almost any villages and towns they tried to settle in. Living in constant fear and rejection from nearly all the places they tried to settle in, the trio only had each other to look after.

“I’m sorry Kuronetsu…but this is for your own good.” Currently, the family took refuge in an abandoned small house in the outskirts of a recently ravaged village. Inside, Kyoka had bounded Kuronetsu using advanced sealing magic. With dark red chains made of magic wrapped around Kuronetsu’s arms and body, not a single part of her aside from her head was left bare with her body laid flat on the ground.

Is this really necessary?” Spoken in an unfeeling tone. “If I hadn’t taken care of those Order stragglers, they would’ve reported us and we would’ve had to move again.” Standing behind Kyoka, Nikito hid under her mother’s hair. Though it was hard to see, her arms and waist were covered in cut and puncture wounds. Between Kyoka’s hair, Nikito watches on as her body trembles, as if in fear.

“They were here to check for any survivors. If we had stayed hidden, they would’ve eventually left. But then you…” Kyoka choked as she tried to finish her sentence. Images of Kuronetsu mauling and tearing the Order soldiers apart cross her mind. The bloodstains on her face act as undeniable evidence of her ferocity

Killed them? You’re naive mother if you think that those soldiers wouldn’t have noticed us. ‘Two Echidna’s and an Oomukade, last sighted heading towards a recently abandoned village. They would’ve turned every stone and house to find us.” Kyoka started to shiver herself, recalling what had transpired recently.

“Those men had no will to fight after you showed up! They were begging for their lives!” Kyoka raised her voice to make her point, but Kuronetsu stayed completely unaffected by her mother’s words. Instead, she shook her head and smiled at her.

And if I had spared them, you think they would just let us be? No, they’d call in additional forces. You saw how they looked at us mother! They saw us as nothing but monsters! All we did was defend ourselves, and now suddenly we have to run as if WE’RE the criminals?! It’s absolutely absurd!” Kuronetsu’s power leaks out from her body. A heavy, foreboding aura blankets Kyoka and the hiding Nikito with hatred and bloodlust.

“Mom!” Nikito cried out in fear as she hugged her mother tightly. The sight of her crying sister made Kuronetsu laugh in amusement.

Oh come on dear sister! You’re supposed to be the older one here. You can only blame yourself for getting in my way!” Her words fell on deaf ears as Nikito buried her face on Kyoka’s back.

“Kuronetsu!” Calling her out by her name, Kyoka moves both of her arms forward in front of Kuronetsu. With both palms open, a red magic sigil appears on her hands before the chains wrapped around Kuronetsu responded to them, glowing bright red.

GAAAAHHH!!” Crying out in discomfort, Kyoka turns her face away to avoid seeing Kuronetsu writhing in pain. “You’re underestimating me mother! If you think this will-” Before finishing her sentence, a thought comes to Kuronetsu’s mind. For all the strength her body was given by her father’s power, Kuronetsu knew that at her current state, it would only bring a greater strain on Yukishiro. With Yukishiro smiling at her father in her mind, Kuronetsu calmed down.

‘It’s…working?’ Kyoka thought to herself. The chains wrapped around Kuronetsu were a way to suppress both her magic and a means to seal away Kuronetsu’s hold onto Yukishiro. With hope in her eyes, Kyoka looked back at Kuronetsu. “For three years, we’ve endured your presence Kuronetsu. You are my daughter, and I love you just the same as Yukishiro, but your violent and murderous tendencies had led others to fear us! Wherever we go, you kill anyone you perceive as a threat, no matter how little threat they actually possessed.”

“…” Staying quiet, Kuronetsu just let the magic do its job. Kuronetsu knew that even if the seal had succeeded, she was confident that she’d be able to resurface at any time she wished. But like her mother and sister, Kuronetsu truly wished nothing more but the best for Yukishiro. As the spell took effect, Kuronetsu started to feel sleepy, but not before staring at her mother and sister one last time, flashing a smile before her eyes eventually closed from fatigue.

“Ah…ha…” Breathing heavily, Kyoka seemed exhausted as sweat built up around her forehead.

“Mom, are you okay?” Believing it to be safe, Nikito moves in front of her mother, hugging her waist from the front this time.

“I’m alright sweetie. It just took more out of me than I realized.” A bright red flash from the chains caused Nikito and Kyoka to turn their attention to Kuronetsu. With the chains disappearing, they could hear faint moaning before Kuronetsu opened her eyes. Unlike before, her eyes were not dark purple, but light purple instead. Staring at her, Yukishiro had finally awoken, taking a moment to scan her surroundings before noticing Kyoka and Nikito staring at her.

“Mother…sister?” Along with the light in her eyes, her tone of voice instantly filled Kyoka and Nikito with a sense of relief as they both rushed over to give her a hug.

“Yukishiro!” Both of them said simultaneously. Tears flowed in their eyes while rubbing their cheeks against Yukishiro.

“Mother, sister, why are you both crying so much? Did something happen?” Nikito and Kyoka’s eyes widened in surprise as they backed away to give Yukishiro room. “I can’t remember anything…I feel like I was sleeping…” Yukishiro closed her eyes and squinted them hard as she tried hard to remember what happened. But every time she tried, all she could see was a dark fog that hid the truth. “I can’t…I can’t remember anything.” Opening her eyes, she looks back at Kyoka and Nikito. Kyoka’s body is riddled with scratch and claw marks. Then looking at Nikito, Yukishiro spotted the wounds from her arms and waist.

“Oh no! Mother, sister, were you two injured?” Aside from her memory loss, her genuine concern for Kyoka’s and Niikito’s injuries confirmed to them that the Yukishiro they knew truly is back.

“It’s okay Yukishiro, we were recently hunted down by Order soldiers. We’re safe for now.” Calming herself down, Kyoka spoke to Yukishiro the calmest way she could.

“Oh okay.” Looking again, Yukishiro noticed something else different with Kyoka, or rather more immediately, her sister Nikito. She looked older than Yukishiro remembered. “Sister, why do you look older?” Being at the age of thirteen, Nikito thought nervously as she tried to figure out an excuse.

For the past three years, the one that took control of Yukishiro’s body was her alter ego Kuronetsu. To Yukishiro who had finally regained control over her body, it felt as if she had woken up from a very long deep sleep that she couldn’t understand.

Yukishiro looked around the house they were hiding in. Nothing but beat-up wooden walls and broken furnishings accompanied them. The smell of rotting wood and dried blood added to the musty atmosphere they were surrounded with. “Mother, sister. Where’s father?” Relief turned into despair as Kyoka and Nikito forgot that along with forgetting the deeds that Kuronetsu did, her memories of her father’s death would naturally come with it

“Um…Yukishiro, listen.” Kyoka placed her hands on Yukishiro’s shoulders. “Zeick…he died to an illness…” While lying to her daughter broke her heart, Kyoka chose to follow through with her lie, rather than telling her the truth. “You had the same illness which forced you into a state of unconsciousness for the past three years. We were able to save you, but not your father.”

“Illness? But…father was never sick before…” Kyoka stayed quiet, hoping that Yukishiro would trust her. “It’s not true, right, RIGHT?!” With no answer from her mother, Yukishiro turned to look at her sister. Nikito was on the verge of tears, clutching her fists in frustration before tears welled up in her eyes. While Yukishiro had assumed her older sister was crying because of their father’s death, the true reasons for it were so much more than that.

“I’m sorry Yukishiro.” Kyoka had nothing else to say before the room started to fill with loud sobbing and cries from Yukishiro and Nikito, hugging Kyoka as they sought relief. The two had cried for two different reasons with Yukishiro in particular being completely ignorant of the fact that she’s been lied to.

As the years went by, Yukishiro learned to get over her grief, realizing that she still had her older sister and mother with her. Keeping true to what her father Zeick taught her, she valued her family above everything else, happy and content as long as she had them.

Moving from place to place, Kyoka had eventually found somewhat permanent housing in the outskirts of the Zipangu region that would house even their family. Making a promise with the local guardian Inari, Kyoka would only be allowed to stay if she promised to take responsibility for any destructive behavior that Yukishiro had caused.

This was the case for a few years, but after seeing Yukishiro for the gentle soul she is, the Inari willingly retracted her conditions, seeing that there was no threat if Yukishiro had kept her unprecedented behavior. To the Inari and the other few that knew Yukishiro, she was an extreme oddity as her race was usually known for their solidarity and lack of socializing skills.

Through Zeick’s and Kyoka’s careful guidance, Yukishiro had been molded into an Oomukade that had exceeded the expectations of everyone who didn’t know her. While Yukishiro herself followed through with her parent’s wishes as to not be a burden to them, the other half of her known as Kuronetsu was truly never really sealed away.

Instead, she silently watched for the past seven years, carefully keeping an eye on Yukishiro, never having to make her appearance as their lives went on in peace.

To Kuronetsu, the only thing that mattered to her was Yukishiro’s happiness. As long as she was happy and safe, that’s all she cared about.

Only recently when Yukishiro met Takedo did Kuronetsu finally take action. Seeing an opportunity for Yukishiro to finally find someone to love like she loved her father, Kuronetsu made her presence known once more to protect Yukishiro’s one chance at attaining a lover.

Now with the risk of Takedo being killed by Marra, Kuronetsu is at a loss of what to do, knowing that if she simply went ballistic and murdered Marra, it would damage Yukishiro’s chance of being Takedo as the scenario could scare him away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Going through the portal, the first to arrive of the three was Kuronetsu. In front of her stands Marra with Takedo kneeling down next to her.

“So nice of you to show up…” With a smug grin, Marra placed her left hand on top of Takedo’s head with the dagger on her right hand. Her tail wrapped around his neck with the tip of her tail pointing at his face.

Let him go Marra. If you do and leave now, you may just leave this place alive…” At the back of her mind, Kuronetsu knew she could kill Marra if she wanted to. But with Takedo watching, she had to hold herself back.

Soon after, Kyoka and Nikito enter through the portal before it closes behind them. The first thing that hit the two lamia’s was the cold breeze that blew around them. Looking around, they were in the middle of a seemingly open plain surrounded by tall grass with a ring of seemingly endless mountains surrounding the area. The sky was nearly clear with clouds distanced fairly far from one another with a crescent-shaped moon standing above it all. A boulder where Marra and Takedo were standing stood above them and the seemingly endless field of grass. With all three present, Marra snapped her fingers before a group of other Mamono comprised two succubi, and five Orcs stood up from the tall grass.

“Mom…” Looking around their surroundings, Nikito took a fighting stance as they were clearly surrounded on all sides.

“Marra, we ask that you let that Takedo go! He has nothing to do with our quarrel!” Amused, Marra started laughing before the tail wrapped around Takedo’s neck tightened, causing him to cry out in pain.

“GRaah!!” Between his coughing and desperate attempts to pry her tail off, the reaction that seemed to catch Marra’s attention the most was Kuronetsu’s. Seeing her face stilted with concern amused Marra to the core.

“Ahahaha! Don’t forget that I’m in control of the situation here! You caught me off guard by your power from before Yukishiro! But now I’m ready!” Marra boasted as she leaned down and placed her right hand with the dagger on hand under Takedo’s chin.

“Based on your reaction from earlier, you seem to care a great deal for this young man. I mean, aside from his sickening ignorance, he does seem very palatable. A potential lover perhaps? I could always add him to my collection for my daughters to fight over.” Try as she might, the constant taunting from Marra coupled with the desperate situation Kuronetsu found herself in made her lose control of her composure.

You cunt…” Her aura started to leak out and spread amongst the grassy field. Though it was suppressed to an extent, the murderous intent clearly leaking from her body managed to flinch the other Mamono with Marra, making each of them subconsciously back away, knowing instinctively that if they made any sudden movement against her, they’d be killed.

“Hehe…you sure didn’t waste any time making your intentions clear.” An all too familiar sensation to Marra, the power she was feeling now dwarfed the sensation she felt when Kuronetsu was still a child. Coupled with the fact that Kuronetsu was willingly holding back, the difference in power was clearly understood. This caused Marra’s grip on Takedo to loosen just enough for him to talk.

“Yukishiro…what’s with your voice…and this feeling…” Though Takedo had no aptitude for magic, he could still feel the chill that he didn’t feel from Yukishiro before.

Takedo…I” Shaking her head, she steeled herself for whatever comes next and dashes towards Marra. “Hold on, I’ll save you!” Moving quickly, Kuronetsu used her centipede feet to quickly close the distance between her and Marra. Like a metal spring, Kuronetsu tucks her centipede body tightly, compressing her muscles as she created tension. With a flex of her muscle, she shoots up like a spring and lunges towards Marra.

“Stupid bug!” Aiming her left palm at Kuronetsu, a purple magic sigil appears on her palm, manifesting purple chains that shot out of her hand and wrapped around Kuronetsu’s entire body, immobilizing her.

What?!” Falling on her chest just below Marra, Takedo looked down at Kuronetsu, calling out her name in concern.

“Yukishiro!” Bound by the chains, Marra took the opportunity to step on Kuronetsu’s head, stomping on it hard with a clear, guttural sound. Blood leaks out from her forehead before looking up at Marra with a dirty look.

“Ehehehe…ahahahaha! Just like before, you came at me with the intent to kill! So obvious!” Takedo turned his attention to Marra. With a swing of his upper body, he headbutted Marra on her gut, knocking her down to the ground on her back. “Guuhaaah!” Marra’s tail loosened from the impact along with dropping the dagger on her hand, giving Takedo a chance to pry her tail off his neck before moving to Kuronetsu.

“Hey, are you alright Yukishiro?” Pulling her up, Takedo looked at her head injury. Marra’s stomp from earlier caused a gash wound on top of her head, covered by her hair. “She stomped on you pretty hard there. I’m surprised this is all you came out with.” Thinking that it’s still Yukishiro, Takedo looked at Kuronetsu, turning her gaze away from him as to avoid seeing her eyes.

Takedo…I’m not Yukishiro.” Seeing Marra knocked down, Kyoka and Nikito took their chance and tried to rescue Kuronetsu and Takedo.

“Come on Nikito, we got to save your sister!” Moving first, her path was quickly blocked off by two succubi. Poised for battle, the two succubi focused their attention on Kyoka.

“Mom!” In an attempt to help her mother, the five orcs surround Nikito. Each with a different weapon ranging from a club, a spear, a short sword, a staff, and an ax. “Get out of my way!” A bow and arrow made of fire manifest from Nikito’s hands, ready to fight back against the group surrounding her.

“Not so fast you two! Blue skin lady promise us a spot in her kingdom if we capture you two!” The orc using the club said.

“While it’s rather demeaning to fight alongside such a boorish race, I suppose they do have their uses in numbers and durability.” One of the succubi said looking at the group of Orcs surrounding Nikito.

“Forget about those pigs. We’ve got our orders from the boss. Focus on this Echidna. They’re not to be trifled with, so make sure you coordinate with me!” The other succubi said before the two of them focus their attention on Kyoka. With two magic sigils appearing on her palms, Kyoka prepared herself for battle as the two succubi take their own fighting stance.

Meanwhile, Takedo was at a loss for words as the girl that he knew as Yukishiro seemed to deny her identity.

“What do you mean you’re not Yukishiro?” Waiting for an answer, Kuronetsu reluctantly looks back at Takedo, giving him a closer look at her eyes. “Your eyes, dark purple…” With a slow affirming nod, Kuronetsu looks at Takedo with concern in her eyes.

I’m what you’d call a split persona…or I guess her true instincts manifesting as a separate being.” The slight shift of apprehension from Takedo broke Kuronetsu’s heart, seeing his distrust of her as he backed away slightly. “My name is Kuronetsu. I protect Yukishiro from behind the scenes, and I’ll do anything to make sure she’s safe.” From Marra’s own words to the chill he felt around Kuronetsu, Takedo felt a strong sense of fear as the warnings he got from his coworkers may have been true after all. Fear clouded his mind as he fell on his butt before backing away from her. “Takedo!” Reaching out for him, he flinched and closed his eyes as if she was going to hurt him.

“You go by Kuronetsu huh?” Hearing Marra’s voice, Takedo turns around, only to see her left foot before getting kicked right on his face.

NO TAKEDO!” Hitting him right in the middle of his face with the tip of her heels with a crack, the impact crushed the bridge of his nose before being knocked down on the ground.

“RRRRRMPPPHFFF!!!” Getting into a fetal position, Takedo cries out in agonizing pain, holding his face with both of his hands.

“I should’ve choked you to the point of unconsciousness you damn bastard! You’re better off serving as the Devil Bugs plaything than serving as one of my daughter’s lovers!” While Takedo was writhing in pain, Marra turned her attention to Kuronetsu.

“Kuronetsu…I found it interesting that ten years ago, you went from a cowering little bug that cried out for her father, to someone that mercilessly killed my men!” Aiming her left palm at Kuronetsu, a purple light emanates from her hands before the chains around Kuronetsu glowed brightly in response. A large sense of lethargy overcomes Kuronetsu, feeling that she felt this sensation before.

Wait…this feeling…no you can’t!” A sensation very familiar to her, this was similar to the sealing magic spell Kyoka used on her to try and seal her consciousness away. Panic set in as she realized that whatever the difference between Marra’s seal was to the one Kyoka used on her, she knew this one was powerful enough to actually force her into submission if she let her guard down.

“Your reaction just confirmed my suspicions! You’re like a manifestation of this Yukishiro girl’s true instincts! The drive to survive must’ve created you, giving you the ability to take over her body as a completely different person! I’ve heard multiple stories similar to yours of how seemingly tame Mamono suddenly turns violent. Though they usually direct this violence in a form of raping men.” Glowing brighter and brighter, Kuronetsu found it hard to stay focused as she felt her consciousness slip away.

“You seemed to have gotten even stronger since the last time I faced you. Fighting you head-on would be suicidal. But, if I seal away the personality in you that gives you that strength, then you’ll be nothing more but another bug beneath my heel!” Glowing as bright as they could, it caught Kyoka and Nikito’s attention while they were still fighting their adversaries.

“Mom, what’s going on up there?!” Nikito asked, doing her best to avoid the five Orcs attacking her. Outnumbered five to one, Nikito found it hard to focus on even two of the Orcs while still keeping track of the others around her.

“Where are you looking at missy?!” Seeing an opening, the Orc with the spear stabs Nikito right on the base of her tail, leaving the spear embedded in her flesh.

“GYAAAH!! Why you?!” Aiming her bow, Nikito attempted to shoot the Orc with a flame arrow, but another Orc with the short sword slices her right arm. “AAAHHH!!!” Cutting deep, the injury caused her to dispel her bow. “Damnit, you stupid pig!” With her right arm injured, she grasps the area where she was cut with her left hand. Her blood-soaked left palm left made her slightly sick from the image.

“What’re you looking at dumbass!” Taking her chance, another Orc with a club jumps up and hits Nikito at the back of her head with a club.

“GUAAAH!” With a loud thud, Nikito could only catch a glimpse of her attacker before her eyes felt heavy, falling unconscious from the blow, landing on her chest. A pool of blood leaks from behind her head.

“Whoops, I didn’t hit too hard did I?” Laughing it off, the Orc walks over to Nikito and picks her up by her hair. Seeing her chest and neck expanding slightly, she lets go with Nikito’s face hitting the ground. “Yeah, she’s still alive.” Hearing the Orcs laughing, Kyoka turned to see Nikito down on the ground.

“Nikito!” Kyoka had no time to be concerned for Nikito as the two Succubi continue their relentless assault, attacking her with dark magic that inflicted physical damage to her as well as magic that drains her of her own magical power.

“You don’t have time to worry about your precious daughters!” the first succubus said, using dark magic to keep Kyoka on the defensive. Inflicting cut and puncture wounds as well as deep bruises on her body.

“It’s been so long since I’ve fought using magic…” Talking to herself, Kyoka had very little time to practice her magic, but then why would she? Living in peace as she had always wanted, she had no need to practice her magic outside of practicality.

“She’s right! Don’t look away from the battle, though I’d hardly call this a fight since you’ve never even made one attempt to fight back!” The other succubi were also using dark magic, though this one was casting a weakening spell, surrounding Kyoka in a dark mist that drains her of her magical power.

“AAAAHH!!” As the dark mist covered her body, Nikito could feel the magic from her body draining, feeling weak. “What’s this?!” With her magic gone, the next feeling she was hit with was a strong, oppressive weight that forced her to the ground, barely keeping herself up with her hands on the ground. The succubus casting the weakening magic walks right in front of Kyoka, only seeing her feet from Kyoka’s point of view.

“Aren’t you Echidna’s supposed to be really strong with magic? Why are you so damn weak?!” With a wicked grin, the Succubus raises her right foot and stomps on Kyoka’s head, pushing her face to the ground while grinding the heel of her boot.

Watching from above, Marra checks up on her subordinates. With Kyoka and Nikito out of the way, Marra takes in a deep breath of air and smiles at her victorious moment.

“Oh, this is scenario turned out much better than I anticipated! Compared to you, your mother and sister seem like they’ve hardly gotten any stronger! Must be following that stupid bastard Zeick’s example. Look how far it got them now?!” Laughing in sheer ecstasy, Marra milks every moment of the family’s suffering.

While in the middle of her triumphant moment, a dark portal opens behind her as two of her Dulluhan personal guards joined her. One Dullahan carried a small shield on her left hand and a short sword on her right. The other Dullahan carried a large broad sword with her. The two were near-identical in appearance, with the only distinct difference between them being the length of their hair. The Dullahan with the sword and shield had shoulder-length hair while the one with the broadsword had her reach down to her back.

“It seems that our help isn’t necessary.” With an almost snarky tone, the Dullahan with the sword and shield looks over at Kyoka and Nikito, scoffing at them.

“No kidding. I thought with the two Echidnas, we’d need to overpower them with physical force and numbers. But man those two are just pathetic.” Carrying her head under her right arm, the broadsword wielding Dullahan only takes a quick glance at the Kyoka and Nikito before turning her attention to Marra. “Everything seems to be going well here…” Turning around, Marra smiles at her two guards

“I see you two decided to show up after all?” Turning her attention to Kyoka and Nikito for a moment, she laughs at her two Dullahan soldier’s remarks. “You can never be too prepared girls. I made the mistake of having disposable men with me last time. They were cheaper and expendable, but weak as they were all killed by this thing right here!” The two Dullahans look Kuronetsu. Try as she might, the stronger seal Marra was using against her was too powerful for her to overcome alone.

“An Oomukade? This is the one that inherited the ‘Berserk’ ability right? She doesn’t seem so fearsome to me.” Mocked by the short hair Dullahan in front of her, all Kuronetsu could do was give her a dirty look as the effects of the spell make it hard for her to keep her eyes open.

“She has grown stronger since the last time we met. But it seems she has a weakness for magic! I can’t wait to see what you do when you’re killer instincts are suppressed!” Walking right beside Barra, the other Dullahan with the long hair puts her head back on her neck, adjusting it before looking down at Kuronetsu.

“Her race is usually known for their unpredictable nature, so I wouldn’t dismiss her capabilities just yet.” Cautious, she stares down at Kuronetsu. Kuronetsu’s attention was directed at Marra though, ignoring her two guards.

You stupid bitch…you’re underestimating me! I can get out of this…if I really…” In her peripheral vision, she sees Takedo sitting up while holding his face, looking at her. While fear consumed him initially, he came to realize that Kuronetsu had done everything she could to rescue him, making his fear of her disappear.

“Ku…ronetsu?” Confusing his concern with fear, her last-ditch attempt at overpowering Marra’s spell was wasted as it took full effect as her consciousness started to slip.

“What about that human over there master? He’s bleeding rather profusely around his face.” Looking over at Takedo, Marra scowls at him before turning her attention back at Kuronetsu.

“He’s part of the reason why I was able to capture this bug so easily. He’s probably someone very important to her.” Hearing her words, Kuronetsu tried to reach over to Takedo, her vision blurring out.

“Lori, Reina, once we’re done here, I want you two to bring that man to the slave pit. I initially planned on having one of my daughters take him, but…” Holding her stomach, she winced in pain from the time Takedo headbutted her. “The fool tried to rescue the damn bug. Since he likes bugs so much, I want him thrown in the slave pit. The Devil Bugs there will have something to play with that way.” With an annoyed sigh, the short-haired Dullahan walks towards Takedo and grabs him by his right arm.

“Hehe…you must’ve really pissed master off for her to send you there. Those bugs are gonna rape you to death…” Squinting her eyes in delight, she forcibly drags Takedo by his arm. In an attempt to get away, he pulls his arm away from her grasp. “Really?!” Ticked off, the Dullahan raises her right fist and punches him on the right side of his face, being careful with the sword she had on hand. The other Dullahan with the long-haired walked next to her, sighing in annoyance.

“Hey be careful Reina. Why don’t you put your weapon away first huh? You could’ve cut him.” With her sword tucked away at its sheath on her back, the long-haired Dullahan walks next to the Dullahan she called Reina.

“Oh leave me alone Lori. At the most, he’ll only get away with a bruise with how hard I punched him on his face.” Reina’s laughter along with Lori’s unfeeling gaze at Takedo frustrated Kuronetsu, helpless to do anything as she watches him being dragged to his feet by both Dulluhans towards Marra. After being dragged to her, Marra steps on his head. Dragging his head with her foot to face Kuronetsu.

“Now watch carefully human. This bug that you had a fondness of moments ago will become nothing but a helpless insect beneath my heel.” Watching carefully, Takedo’s heart was torn from seeing Kuronetsu. Through all the murderous and ominous aura he felt from her, the genuine care she had for him should’ve won over his fear. Guilt washed over him, wondering if how he acted in front of her hurt her feelings.

…ta…” Snapping out of his thoughts, Takedo hears Kuronetsu weakly calling out his name. On the verge of passing out, Kuronetsu weakly moves her right hand in an attempt to reach for Takedo, barely conscious.

“No, Kuronetsu!” Hearing him cry out her name one last time, her consciousness finally slipped. As if she was being pulled away, her control over Yukishiro’s body was forcibly ripped from her. Now floating in a sealed space within her own mind, she could only watch helplessly with no control over her situation.

Damnit…I should’ve just gone full power from the start! Why did I hesitate?!” At that moment, Takedo’s voice rang in her mind. “…” Thinking to herself, she protected Takedo for Yukishiro’s sake. To Kuronetsu, Yukishiro’s happiness meant everything to her. When Yukishiro met Takedo, Kuronetsu could tell right away based on how excited Yukishiro was that he was now an important factor for her. To Kuronetsu, Takedo was just a means to keep Yukishiro happy. Her apprehension regarding murdering Marra in front of Takedo was only due to the fact that she didn’t want to scare him away from Yukishiro.

Even still, another feeling came to Kuronetsu that she thought she discarded. Through the three years that Kuronetsu was in control of, all she felt from others around her were disgust or fear. Stereotypes of her kind, as well as her body’s insect appearance, made others around her apprehensive, needlessly fearful as this only further molded Kuronetsu into a heartless girl. If she’s going to be treated like a monster, then she should act like one.

Despite that, Takedo, the person that Yukishiro fell for, reminded her so much of their own father. The fear in his eyes stung her heart more than she realized. It was rethinking that moment that Kuronetsu realized something important.

I love him too…but all I did was scare him and prove that I’m a monster to be feared…” It wasn’t often that Kuronetsu cared for her own feelings. She always prioritized Yukishiro’s feelings and livelihood above her own. But now, faced with her own realization, Kuronetsu hesitated to fight as her fear of Takedo hating her overwhelmed her.

With no desire to free herself, Kuronetsu sat down on her butt, folding her centipede body inward with her face buried in her own carapace.

After a few seconds, Kuronetsu opened her eyes, only it wasn’t Kuronetsu. Dazed and hazy, her light purple eyes turned to Takedo. The ominous and intimidating aura she once had completely disappeared.

“Takedo?” As her vision cleared up, she could see blood coming out under his chin and hand. “Takedo! What happened to you?” In an attempt to make her way to Takedo, she only notices just now that the purple chains around her kept her entire body bound. “What?! Why am I?” Confused at the situation she was in, her attention pulled away from her bindings as a familiar voice spoke out to her.

“My hunch was correct. You don’t have the same murderous aura that Kuronetsu had.” Turning her head to the source of the noise, Yukishiro meets Marra’s eyes. “Light purple…certainly a noticeable difference from your darker eyes from earlier.” Staring back at her bright red eyes, Yukishiro’s irises shrunk as her repressed memories come rushing in.

“WAAHAHHAAAH?!?!?!” Moving back as far as she could, she falls on her back while her body shook in fear. As her past came flooding in, flashes of her mother and father fighting seven years ago resurface. “YOU…O…OU?!” Barely able to speak, the memories of her family’s sudden intruders come to light. From the assailants attacking her family as well as her father’s demise, the memories which Kuronetsu kept suppressed from Yukishiro resurface.

“No…this isn’t right! It can’t be right! Mother said that father died of an illness. Does that mean…” Recalling the time her mother told her that she had an illness, Yukishiro could see the memories Kuronetsu had before she had been initially sealed away. Recalling their words, Yukishiro could hear the fear from Kyoka’s voice. She could also vividly see Nikito hiding right beside Kyoka. The fear in Nikito’s eyes shocked Yukishiro further as she questioned what she was seeing. “What’s this…I’m…a monster…and that I killed people?!” Looking at her own hands, flashes her blood-stained hands from Kuronetsu’s memories fill her head. She could recall the times Kuronetsu had killed those soldiers. From the sensations of tearing their flesh apart to the screams of terror, all of it was so terrifyingly vivid, as if they were memories that Kuronetsu had held close in her heart. Only this time, Yukishiro is confusing those memories for her own, causing her mental sanity to break down.

Huh?” Hearing Yukishiro’s screams in their body, Kuronetsu looks on from Yukishiro’s perspective. With her quivering voice and shaky vision, panic set in for Kuronetsu as she realized her control over their memories had been stripped away from her. “That’s right! Without having direct control over our body…I can’t suppress the memories that Yukishiro has!” Snapping out of her depressed state, Kuronetsu felt the urge to take back control to prevent Yukishiro from freaking out.

“WAAAAAHHHH!!! STAY AWAY FROM ME!!!” Squirming as she tried to inch further away from Marra, the utter shock of realizing the drastic difference between Kuronetsu and Yukishiro’s behavior amused Marra so much, that she started to laugh uncontrollably in delight.

“AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!! This is just too perfect!!!” Laughing so hard that she had to hold her gut, Marra was in utter bliss. Seeing the previously dauntless Kuronetsu turn into a babbling incoherent child that fears her. With a snap of her fingers, the chains disappeared from Yukishiro’s body, allowing her to move again.

“Master, is that a good idea?” Lori asked.

“Oh don’t worry. Look at the way she’s pathetically squirming!” Tilting her head in Yukishiro’s direction, the two Dullahans watch Yukishiro trying to crawl away from Marra, stopping shortly after reaching the edge of the boulder they were on.

“That voice…and her eyes…that’s Yukishiro…” Takedo spoke softly to himself. Though relieved that Kuronetsu was telling him the truth, the way he found out was heartbreaking, seeing Yukishiro absolutely frightened by Marra. He attempts to reach out to Yukishiro, extending his hand.

Don’t worry! I’m coming right no-” Seeing Takedo from Yukishiro’s perspective, Kuronetsu froze in place. “Takedo…” As her fear resurfaced, she reflexively hesitated in her attempts to free herself.

“Boss! We got’em!” Along with Yukishiro’s fearful reaction, Marra turns to her minions call as they successfully capture Kyoka and Nikito. To prevent them from moving, they were both hogtied by their arms together on their back with a rope that connected the binding on their arms to a serrated net that wrapped around the lower base of their snake body.

If they attempted to move even a little, the movement from their arms would tug on the rope connected to the serrated net, digging into their flesh painfully.

“Excellent work girls!” Turning her attention to the group below, Yukishiro sees her mother and sister with bruises, cuts, and puncture wounds covering their bodies.

Mother…sister…” As if all her past mistakes came flooding in, Kuronetsu remembers the times she’s fought back against her own mother and sister, often abusing them physically for the sake of the whole family’s ‘protection’.

Awoken by her sister’s screams, Nikito wakes up. “What the hell? I must’ve been bound while I was asleep!” Unaware of what her bindings were, she tried to pull on her bound arms, causing the barbs next on her tail to dig into her flesh “OW!” Looking down, Nikito saw the barbs. Blood leaked from her punctured flesh. “Damnit…” Nikito turns to look at her mother, tied up the same way as she was.

“I’m sorry Nikito. If only I was stronger…” Regret was written all over Kyoka’s face, showing an angered expression that she rarely shows. Nikito shook her head in denial, feeling that it was just as much her fault for not being strong enough.

“It’s okay mom…I had my chance to win but.” The cut wound on her right arm still stings, feeling the cold air stinging her exposed flesh. Yukishiro’s screams cut off her thoughts as she looked up.

“That voice…that’s Yukishiro’s voice!” Upon hearing her sister, Yukishiro looked behind her and saw Kyoka and Nikito from below the boulder. Seeing their bloodied bodies, the memories Kopuronetsu had of physically abusing them both flashed even more intensely in her mind.

“Nikito…” Staring at her older sister, she briefly sees a younger Nikito in her mind. Coiled on a corner of a wall, a younger Nikito begs and cries mercy. Staring at her own hands, Yukishiro could vividly recall every time she’s scratched, bit, and even punctured her own older sister’s body. “WHAT IS THIS?! WHY ARE THESE MEMORIES IN MY HEAD?! I WOULD NEVER HURT MY OWN SISTER! RIGHT?!” Questioning herself, the more she thought about it, the more vivid her memories becomes, except they weren’t hers, but rather Kuronetsu’s when she disciplined Nikito for getting in her way.

DAMNIT NO!!! That wasn’t you! It was me!” It never occurred to Kuronetsu that the memories she kept suppressed from Yukishiro would ever surface. Of all the times it could’ve happened, this was the worst-case scenario it could’ve occurred. She wanted so badly to take back control, but each time she thought to do it, thoughts of Takedo would come, stopping her in her tracks. Her desire to save Yukishiro and her fear of Takedo’s reaction contradicted one another, causing even Kuronetsu herself to lose her mind.

“Don’t tell me?! This is too fucking rich! Are you telling me that you’re seeing what Kuronetsu’s done as your own memories?!” Turning her attention back to Marra, her fear of her resurfaced. “Such a pathetic look in your eyes! To think that you murdered my men so easily with your own hands!” With Marra’s words acting as a trigger, memories that weren’t hers floods Yukishiro’s mind, seeing her own body used to murder and kill the men that attacked them.

“NO!!! THAT ISN’T ME!!!” More dreadful and terrifying memories of Kuronetsu’s flash in random intervals in Yukishiro’s mind. The smell of blood, the feeling of flesh on her hands, they all felt so real and recent in her mind. “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” Going insane, the abrupt flow of unpleasant memories coupled with fear from Marra, Yukishiro’s mind was on the brink of breaking.

WHAT DO I DO?!?! I can’t just sit here right?! RIGHT?!” Scratching her own head, Kuronetsu struggled to make up her own mind.

“Yukishiro, snap out of it!” Hearing his voice, Yukishiro turned to Takedo.

Takedo…” With their attention grabbed by Takedo, a memory that both girls shared passed their minds as they’re reminded of their father.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Father, are there people like you out there?” Remembering a brief exchange between her and her father, Yukishiro was laying down in a field of grass right next to her him, staring at the night sky.

“Like me? What do you mean by that Yukishiro?” Turning to her daughter, Yukishiro faced her dad.

“You know. Nice and gentle like you. I like Mother and Sister a lot too, but I like Father just a little more.” As if shy, Yukishiro brought her right and left pointing fingers together, pressing the tips of her fingers against each other. “But since you’re with mother, I’m worried that I won’t find anyone like you out there!” Taking her daughter’s words to heart, Zeick turns his head back to the star-filled sky and points straight up.

“Look up at the sky Yukishiro.” Her eyes widening slightly, Yukishiro turns to look at the sky like Zeick, trying to find what he was pointing at.

“So Yukishiro. Can you see where I’m pointing at?” Without even thinking about it, Yukishiro shakes her head in denial.

“I don’t know father. What are you pointing at?” A smile crept upon his face as he nods to her.

“Exactly Yukishiro.” Confused, Yukishiro sat up and tilted her head in front of Zeick.

“What?! I don’t get it!” Sitting up himself, Zeick places his left hand on top of her head and lightly ruffles her hair.

“There are lots of people in this world Yukishiro. Just as there are so many stars in the sky, there are many people out there just like us. I’m sure you’ll find someone like me out there! Heck, maybe you’ll have a family of your own someday!” Leaning forward, Zeick gently kisses Yukishiro’s forehead. “ And hopefully, you take what I taught you about family to heart. You know what it is right?”

“Of course I do! Cherish your family at all cost!” Warmed by her genuine words, Zeick gently pats her on her head.

“That’s right. And remember this too Yukishiro, just like how we cherish our family, other people also cherish their own families.” Looking up at the stars, Zeick smiles and lays back down on the cold grass.

“If everyone in the world thought that way, I believe this world would be a lot more peaceful…the need for violence and war would be a thing of the past…” Feeling something on his chest, Yukishiro placed her hands on his chest and laid down on him sideways, curling up to him with her centipede legs locking onto his legs.

“Is that why you don’t like to hurt people father?” Staring up at him, her light purple eyes shimmered with curiosity, compelling Zeick to pat her head and smile. Reacting to his gentle touch with her antennae wiggling in delight.

“That’s right. We should respect other people’s livelihood. You never know what they’ve been through. So caring and being nice to one another should always be the way to live.” Another lesson she took to heart, Yukishiro followed along with her father’s genuine wish for a world where everyone could get along. But more importantly than that, she valued and cared for her family immensely, willing to do anything to stay with them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Takedo?” Reaching out to him with her right hand, flashes Kuronetsu’s memories flood her sight once more as she sees blood on her hands and arms. “NO!” Recoiling her hand, she looks down at them, then at Takedo, then at her family. She’d repeat this about three times, with each repeated glance lasting shorter and shorter.

You’re wrong Yukishiro! You would never hurt Takedo! I don’t want to hurt him either, but then if I try to help, he’ll hate us both, and I…I…” Sputtering at her own words, Kuronets is once again contemplating on what to do next.

“Father’s promise…what I did…everything I did! How could I have done all of this?!” It was at that time that Yukishiro had taken notice of the dagger that Marra dropped from Takedo’s attack earlier. Seeing that she had broken a promise that she cherished with her father, the thought of having killed other people as well as harming her own family had overwhelmed her tattered mind.

I shouldn’t have done it…this…this was all wrong…everything I did! I only made things worse!” Blaming Yukishiro’s state of mind on herself, Kuronetsu started to cry, uncertain if she should even do anything.

Grabbing the dagger, she stares at it for a moment.

“Huh? Are you planning on trying to fight back?! Please! You can’t even hold the dagger straight!” Watching Yukishiro shudder and shake as she struggled to keep the dagger still, Marra laughs off what she perceives as Yukishiro’s attempt to fight back with laughter and dismissal.

“…is she…” Feeling something different from Yukishiro, Lori thinks to herself before her intuition proved itself to be right.

“Yukishiro, what are you doing?!” Screaming out her name, Takedo sees Yukishiro turning the tip of the dagger on her own chest. Kyoka and Nikito took notice of Takedo’s scream and looked up, vaguely seeing the tip of the knife pointed at her own neck.

“Sis?! No, don’t do it!” While Nikito indeed had felt fear from Kuronetsu, she took her father’s teachings just as seriously as Yukishiro did. Even if she was afraid of Kuronetsu, Nikito still had a deep love for her gentle sister Yukishiro.

“Yukishiro!” Pinned down, Kyoka helplessly watches in despair.

While crying out in disgust and disbelief, taking the lives of people whether it was really done by her hands or not, the cries of her family and Takedo put a smile on her face, making her feel blessed for having people still care for her.

Mother…sister. Because of me…your own beloved daughter got…” Feeling responsible for making Kyoka and Nikito cry out in pain for Yukishiro, Kuronetsu felt even more guilty as her motivation for living dwindled.

“Mother, Sister, and…” Turning her head to Takedo, the moon’s gentle light illuminates her light purple eyes in front of him. With tears moistening her eyes, the scene in front of him projected her beauty to him in a tragic sort of way. “I love all of you, but I can’t be with you! I betrayed fathers wishes and took the lives of people who had families of their own! I can’t bring myself to be with you all if there’s a risk that I’d hurt or even kill any of you!” Staring up at the moon, Yukishiro takes one final chance to take a glance at it, raising the dagger up in the sky.

“Hey, what’re you?!” Realizing what she was up to, Marra tried to rush over and stop Yukishiro, letting her foot off Takedo as she rushed to try and stop her.

“Wha?!” Before she could even take another step. However, a sharp pain bellowed in her gut, falling on her knees as Lori and Reina rushed over to aid their master.

“Hey, what’s wrong?!” Reina asked, seeing Marra hold her gut in pain. Marra turned her head to look at Takedo, who was too busy watching Yukishiro.

Even though this was her chance to try and escape, Kuronetsu had felt that her time had come. Planning on making amends in the afterlife, Kuronetsu closed her eyes.

Closing her eyes, Yukishiro smiles and utters these last words.

“I’m sorry…” With her final goodbye, Yukishiro thrusts the dagger inward, aiming straight for her chest.

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