Ruler of the Outland
"Teruya, I swear to God I'm going to kill you." Aberu was furious as he held down the door to the guest room, where the angry, famished ghoul was confined. "She almost bit my arm off!"
"I briefed you my whole story! Surely I mentioned the ghoul!" I defended myself, refusing to back down.
Nohana helped me push a cupboard to block the door from getting opened, though with the ghoul's current rabid state of mind, she wouldn't be coherent enough to think of opening the door. Advisor Akamori had completely lost her mind over the extreme need to feed. The serious injuries she had only worsened her condition. Aberu and Nohana were fortunate to get out while keeping the ghoul trapped inside.
General Mizuhara was standing at one corner, keeping her distance from everyone. I supposed she felt awkward being around Aberu and Nohana when she had attempted to attack them earlier. I was sure they wouldn't take it to heart because she wasn't currently in her best condition. Still, she only watched from afar, holding my phone close to her chest as though she couldn't live without it.
"Who wants to commit crime with me and steal some corpses?" Nohana turned to General Mizuhara to make sure. "Dead man's flesh works, too, right?"
The siren confirmed her words by making a circle with her arms.
"Teruya and Erena here are wanted by the Outland's council, which leaves me as the only available personnel left. Damn it!" Aberu groaned aloud. "I hate morgues."
"Who doesn't?" I urged him as I heard Advisor Akamori begin growling, "You should go now before she breaks your safehouse."
"Have you seen your surroundings? There's no hope for this house." Aberu shook his head regretfully, his gaze lingering on the pens stuck on the wall, and then followed Nohana's steps.
I picked up my bow and quiver, guarding the guest room's door which was currently barricaded by a cupboard. It actually didn't guarantee anything. The ghoul was powerful enough to blast through the door like it was made of cardboard. We were just counting on the fact that her intelligence had dropped to the point where she couldn't figure it out herself.
I was so fixated on the door that I didn't realize General Mizuhara was standing next to me. She had been keeping her distance when my friends were around, but she was visibly comfortable with me and I wasn't quite sure how to react to that. I was undeniably thrilled.
"How are you feeling, General?" I asked casually to start a conversation.
Erena, she typed, blush creeping to her cheeks. As of now, I'm no longer their general.
"Sure. Erena." Saying her first name aloud felt strange in my tongue. I always addressed her by her proper rank. Now that she wanted to drop honorifics out of sudden, I couldn't help the heat rising to my face. "You can call me Teruya, too, if you want," I offered in return.
A comfortable silence fell upon us and we let it stretch as we basked in each other's presence. To be honest, I had a lot of questions for her, regarding the information she got her hands on, which caused the council to go out of their way to fetch her. But it wouldn't be fair if I inquired about it here alone. The others needed to hear about it, too. And also, there's another pressing matter right ahead of us. The inquiries should wait.
The pounding on the door gradually became louder. Both of us tensed at once, gaze focusing on the door. The ghoul could break through any moment merely by sheer force. I had to shoot her as soon as she stepped out of the guest room, so I started pulling my bowstring.
I glanced at Erena next to me. She was also bracing for the fight. Blood was still dripping down her neck. She would faint because of blood loss at this point. "You should stay back. You're in no condition to fight."
Erena rolled her eyes at me and didn't budge. Stubborn as always. I gave up trying to make her change her mind. It would only be a wasted effort.
A hand broke through the wood and widened the hole. I held my bow steady when Erena held up a hand to stop me from shooting. I was about to ask why, but she answered first. She moved her hand to her mouth.
I immediately understood what she's trying to tell me. The ghoul needed to feed to recover. Putting her to sleep would only worsen her condition. Putting down my bow, I picked up the two wooden swords on the ground, tossing one of them to Erena. We had to contain her until food arrived.
"The door won't hold," I stated the obvious, suddenly feeling anxious from not doing anything but watch the door slowly getting torn apart, waiting for the chaos to come.
My phone rang in Erena's hold, causing me to embarrassingly jump out of shock. Her lips curled upwards slightly as she returned my phone back to me, obviously finding me being jumpy amusing. Not funny.
I picked up the call. "What is it, Aberu? You better come here fast. The door won't hold."
"Uhm, actually. I need you to buy more time for us. We ran into some trouble." Aberu sounded distressed on the other end of the line.
"It's our third hospital visit but none of them have dead bodies lying around. That's weird."
That's quite odd, indeed. But there's no time to dwell on that. I needed to figure something out. "Try graveyards."
Aberu gasped incredulously. "You want us to dig up graves? Man, that's disgusting."
"Do you have any other suggestions?" I asked impatiently as another chunk of wood was ripped off the door. Time was running out.
Aberu must have heard the urgency in my tone. "No. I guess I should start digging."
I hung up the phone and gave it back to Erena, considering it was her means to communicate at the moment. She quickly shoved it into the pocket of her clothes—I was surprised her ruined clothes still had any pockets intact—and raised her wooden sword, gripping it with both hands. I followed her line of sight to see that the ghoul had begun climbing out of the hole she'd made on the door.
Gulping down my nervousness, I raised my sword. Although swordsmanship wasn't my expertise, I knew a few things about how to properly use it—basic combat knowledge I'd learned at the academy. I should be able to hold my own.
The ghoul who had jumped out through the hold in the wall looked nothing like Advisor Akamori that I knew. Flashing her fangs, she seemed unable to recognize us. Sure they had the same face, but that's it. Her skin was so pale, it didn't look human. Her all black eyes made her seem more like being possessed by Satan now that she behaved wildly. Just like Erena, none of her injuries had started healing.
Advisor Akamori lunged at me first, probably finding me more appetizing because I was half-human. That's actually better, since I could move around more freely with my wings than an injured siren. I quickly zoomed upwards until I was near the ceilings. The ghoul jumped but she couldn't reach me, thanks to Aberu's ridiculously huge safehouse.
I regretted leaving the cuffs lying on the ground back at the battlefield after using them on Erena, but I hadn't exactly had the leisure to pick them up during the fight. Binding her was another thing I could do if confining her in a room failed. Also, I couldn't keep running away like this. Fatigue would catch up with me in no time.
The problem was what I could use to restrain her movement—her mouth, the most important of all, so that she couldn't gnaw at our flesh. If I had some kind of muzzle around, it would be best. But it's not like Aberu would keep one in his safehouse. I needed to search for an alternative.
Thankfully, Erena seemed to think the same thing. She bolted into the armory while I kept the ghoul busy. Now I only needed to stay sharp and avoid all her attack attempts until Erena came back. Buying time was something I didn't know I strongly despised. Not until this moment.
Advisor Akamori found a way to reach me by climbing onto the nearest shelf and leaped towards me. I was taken aback by her unexpected intelligence—she was supposed to lose her self-control along with her intellect—and she seized the opportunity, clutching onto my leg, digging her sharp nails—they were pretty much claws—into my thigh. Yelping panickedly, I kicked her with my other leg and swung my sword at her in my attempt to shake her off, but she only held on tighter, digging her claws deeper. I saw her open her mouth widely, her fangs about to sink into my flesh.
Alarmed, I zipped towards the wall and crashed myself into it, swinging my leg as much as I could with an extra weight dangling from it. I managed to make her hit the wall hard, causing her to lose her grip, but I also took a blow in the process. I lost my balance and had to land on the ground to recover from the recoil, my head spinning and my shoulder aching.
The ghoul was relentless. Although her head had bumped into the wall that hard, she didn't waste a second before she came running back towards me. She must not feel pain in this state. That was downright terrifying.
"Erena, you done yet? A little help, please!" I shouted.
Responding to my call for help, Erena sprinted out from inside the armory and I stayed in my spot to act as a bait, so that she could sneak an attack from behind her. I swatted the ghoul's advances with my wooden sword, breaking the sword into two in the end.
Fortunately, Erena succeeded in bringing the ghoul to the ground and muzzled her with what looked like a bundle of gauze and sealed it with wrapping a bandage around her head. She also secured her limbs with the same bandage, then tied her to a pillar, the ghoul unable to do anything. It's amazing how she could do all that in such a short time, as if she was used to doing this.
Catching my breath, I dropped down to the floor, my legs giving up on supporting my weight. The pain from the claw marks on my thigh was searing. Nausea hit me hard since I hadn't fully adapted to the sensation of flying around so fast. What a long day.
"I'm beat. If anyone else is about to go crazy, count me out. I'm done," I whined to no one in particular, exhaustion setting in. It's getting to the point where it seemed absurd that Erena and Advisor Akamori decided to go berserk at the same time. The timing was ridiculous.
Erena walked over to me with a glass of cold water, as though it was her attempt to apologize for the trouble she'd caused me. I appreciated her effort as I took the glass and gulped the water down. I was wondering why she didn't get some drink for herself, then I guessed she probably wanted to wait until her throat got better.
The silence stretched on while we both were sitting down on the couch, side by side, resting after a long, hectic day. After the whole clash with the council and what we'd been through, I found myself relaxing and lowering my guard in her presence. And I could see that she was doing the same. Having the same enemy had turned us into allies. This was a nice change. If it were any other day, there would be palpable tension in the air and we would be at each other's throats.
Now that I was taking a break and not doing anything, I could feel my stomach rumbling. It was already way past dinner time, I noticed. But none of us had any meal since our breakfast at the cafe this morning.
I was pondering to call Aberu to check up on their situation when I saw the two of them walk through the front door. The awful smell of the rotten flesh hit my nose so strongly that I didn't feel like eating anymore. They looked extremely fatigued, covered in dirt.
"Come on, Teruya. Let's feed the ghoul," Aberu said tiredly, his nose scrunching because of the smell. He kicked the black bag on the floor towards where the ghoul was tied up.
Erena volunteered to be the one feeding her, since she's the only one who wasn't human. The sight wasn't pretty and the smell was awful. I couldn't imagine the hardship Aberu and Nohana had gone through to fetch the flesh from a graveyard. I had to turn away and relieve myself from having to witness the ghoul's feeding session since I might not be able to hold back the urge to vomit.
After the chunk of flesh was finished, we all took a step back and waited for the ghoul's reaction. Fifteen minutes passed and the injuries covering her body gradually began to heal themselves like magic. Her complexion was back to normal. It was difficult to believe how quickly she healed herself. And then, her mind recovered next.
"Uh, guys? What did I miss?" Advisor Akamori seemed confused to see herself tied up to a pillar inside an unfamiliar place. She didn't remember anything from her rampage that almost killed us all.
How convenient, I thought in sarcasm.
"You lost control," I said shortly, figuring she would understand what that meant.
"Right," Advisor Akamori said dejectedly, as though she'd already guessed why she was tied up. "Did I hurt anyone?"
"Aside from smelly and dirty, no. Are you seriously feeling okay now?" Aberu asked, unconvinced.
Advisor Akamori nodded. "I feel great. Full and energized."
Now that she was fully recovered and everyone else was present, I asked, "Are you up to explain what actually happened?"
"Can we do it while eating? I'm starving," Nohana requested exhaustedly, her spirit long gone.
Aberu groaned, "No way. Give me a break, guys. I just deboned a human body—dead and rotten one at that. I need a shower. No one talks before I return."
Nohana reluctantly followed suit. "I guess I should, too."
Advisor Akamori asked casually after they both retreated into spare rooms to wash up. "Do you mind untying me?"
"Stay there until they come back," I said irritatedly, the searing pain on my thigh reminding me of how she'd seen my leg as a fried chicken's drumstick a few minutes ago.
Erena wasn't against it either. If both of us had one thing in common, it's that we both hated losing too much, borderline petty. In my defense, it's just a fair thing to do. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. A little payback wouldn't hurt.