Chapter 2:

Chapter 2: Shell-Shocked!

Madman's Forgiveness

Chapter 2: Shell-Shocked

Numb and weightless were the only ways to describe the condition his body now found itself in. It would appear as if he had been transported to a seemingly endless watery abyss. The only way he knew for sure that he was in a body of water came from a tight feeling in his chest. His lungs were filling with water at a fast rate. Bubbles rapidly escaping from his mouth.
Sinking deeper as the time passed. He found himself unable to move any of his limbs

― “Am I dead?” Hiro began to ask himself
“No, that can’t be it..”
“Yet for some reason.”
“I can’t move any of my limbs.”

Knowing that this could very well be his final moment alive, Hiro begins to think back to simpler times. Hallucinating a memory of Camp Gehenna. The summer camp he and his friend group had frequented years prior. Opting to only stop their yearly visits the year Suzume moved away.

The further he sank, the faster the oxygen flow to his brain began to deplete.
He was losing consciousness. In this moment however, he saw a figure dive into the water.
Barely able to see their true form, his mind began to fill in the gaps.

Remembering the time when Suzume had done the same thing for him back at camp. How despite not knowing how to swim back then, Hiro dove into the lake after being peer pressured by Kazuma. This being an attempt to prove he had moved far beyond his cowardice. Yet, it was all in vain. Like now, Hiro found himself drowning. Suzume was the only person with the right training, having spent the following year working as a life-guard. She was furious at Kazuma but had no time to lecture him. Opting instead to dive in and rescue Hiro.

Hallucinating that the figure who dove into the water just now was her. Hiro didn’t object when they wrapped their arms around him.
“It’s a shame this is probably a dream.”
“I would have loved for a chance to see you again...”
He thought to himself as the world around him faded to black.
After what felt like hours, he slowly began to regain consciousness after hearing a voice. The voice was unlike any he’d heard before. It sounded like a mixture of an elderly man and a parakeet mimicking its owner.
“It looks like tonight's yet another successful hunt!”
It squawked triumphantly as it dragged his body along the trail. “Perhaps this feast will be enough to hold us off for the winter.” “HA!”
“Who am I kidding?”
“With my luck, It’ll all be gone by the morning!”

“Gramps..?” Hiro asked weakly, as his eyes tried to locate the origin of the voice..
Only able to make out a faint silhouette through his glasses that have formed a layer of fog over the lenses.
He believed that he could have possibly passed out in front of the TV and that his foster father was dragging him to the guest room. However he quickly realized that there were fallacies in this explanation. His foster father was all the way in Akihabara and his clothes were drenched.

“This isn’t right..”
“Gramps is on the other side of the country. There’s absolutely no way he’d be back in time.”
“Even if this was the old man, the only words coming out of his mouth would be to scold me for messing with his stuff.”
“So that just leaves me with one question.”

“Just who the hell are you-”
He asked, as the fog cleared. Re-adjusting his vision, the words caught in his throat making him wish he hadn’t said anything.
He was in what appeared to be a forest.
There standing before him stood what he could only describe as a humanoid turtle. It’s size was comparable to that of a small child.
The creature had a strange protrusion mimicking that of a bird's beak where its mouth should have been, jagged round claws sticking out of it’s fingertips, and a small glowing orb filled with water sloshing atop its head with every movement. The way it held itself was reminiscent to that of an elderly human. Though it’s movements were slow, It had a death grip on his coat.

“What the hell is that thing!”
He thought to himself trying to shake himself free from it’s grasp.
This however only alerts the creature to its prey's awakening.
“Ah I see you’re finally awake human” “It’s a shame really.” “Your death would have been painless otherwise.”
“It may even be better this way.”
“The young shall have their fun watching the life leave your eyes-”

It was as if the mere mention of death triggered something inside of him. Hiro didn’t want to die. Sure he would joke about wanting to put an end to all of it among his friends, but what young adult in this generation doesn’t?

Using the creature's grip on him to his advantage. Hiro freed one of his arms from the sleeve of his jacket and quickly wrapped it around the creature's own.
It looked to him surprised. It hadn’t expected the possibility of it’s prey fighting back.
Now that Hiro had enough mobility and leverage against it, he quickly lifted himself up.
“Shut up and die already!!!” He screamed as he suplexed it back into the ground.

Upon impact, the sphere atop of its head managed to crack open. Though it was immobilized, it had appeared as though the water spilling out served as a catalyst of sorts. It was in pain and it proved that through it’s cries. It was as if the whole forest was beginning to fill with a high pitched ringing. Blood began to trickle from Hiro’s ears, causing him to cover them as he winced in pain. Attempting to get away from the creature, he backed away into a tree. He was unaware of it, but it was alerting it’s comrades of its injury using its final breath.
In the distance, a cloaked figure standing atop a tree branch turns their head to face the direction of the noise.

“Would you just stop already!?”
“What did I even do to deserve getting in this situation anyways!”
Hiro desperately begs, still attempting to stifle out the noise.
“I don’t even know what the hell you are or where I am for that matter!”
“Like what the hell even are you anyways?!”
“Some kind of stupid squirtle rip-off?!”

As he says this though, the cries cease.
“Finally, it’s about time you listened!”
“Any longer and I would have offed myself to save you the trouble-”
He turns to look at the creature, only to freeze up. Petrified by the horror that lies before him. There surrounding the creature's corpse was a horde of creatures just like it. They began to converse among each other, deciding what the best possible way of handling the situation would be.
“He killed the village elder!”
“How unbecoming..”
“I’m going to rip out his intestines!”
“That’s a bit dark don't you think..?”
“Well someone had to say it!”

“This can’t be happening!” Hiro thinks to himself as he attempts to process what was happening. The only thing he was certain of was the fact that he had to escape. Attempting to make a run for it, he is stopped dead in his tracks once he sees that he’s blocked off. His only escape route led to a massive cliff.

“This isn’t fair..” He spoke softly, collapsing to his knees. Tears began to well up in his eyes as he turned his attention away from the group.
“I just wanted to watch a movie.”
“There’s absolutely no way I’m going to die here, right..?”
He asked himself, clutching at the terrain.
“Eviscerated by a group of mutated turtles..”
“It’s not fair!!”
“I was supposed to get my life on a better track.”
“I still have things I want to do damnit!!”
“I’d give anything just to be yelled at by the old man one more time!”
“Kazuma is a dumb-ass but the fun kind! He’d always be the type to make sure you’d laugh even in the worst of situations!”
“Kentaro too, I honestly always looked up to how strong you were.”
“And suzume..”
“I have so much that I’ve yet to tell you! I can’t die before I get a chance to see you again!”

“But, maybe there’s a way out..”
He thought to himself, looking into the water below him. Considering diving in. A fall from this high though would have surely killed him.

It was truly a pitiful sight. His snot meshed with his tears as he pounded his fists into the floor. It was enough to crack his knuckles, turning them red.
One of the creatures couldn’t help but laugh as it raised Hiro’s head with it’s clawed hand to get a better look at his face. Lapping up his tears with its snake-like tongue. It was as if seeing him in pain brought the creature pleasure.
“You humans are all the same y’know?”
“We offer you the chance of feeding our young and you always fight to stay alive.
“As if our lives aren’t as important if not more!”
“You’re nothing more than meat, you have no right to even breathe the same air we do!”

Other than it speaking, there was nothing but silence. Its peers looked on in awe, waiting to see what their leader would do next.

“Somebody help me!!” Hiro screams. Noticing the creature about to slash at his face. He quickly braces himself, covering himself with his arms.
As the creature is going in for the kill however, it’s halted by the sound of movement. It was the cloaked figure. They managed to locate the cause of the noise just in time. Jumping down from one of the trees. They quickly drew their bow mid-air and fired an arrow directly through the sphere atop the creature's head.

The moment the arrow made impact, it’s body quickly began to fizzle out. Grey tv static covered it as it began to realize it’s own demise.

Upon landing, the archer’s hood falls. Revealing them to be a young woman no taller than 5’5 with long bright red hair that had been styled into a double half-up, half-down braid. She drew her bow once more, sizing up the crowd. She was ready for whatever they were going to throw her way. Realizing that the attack had ceased, Hiro uncovers his face. “I’m alive..?” He questions, looking at the floor in front of him to see all that remained was a stray arrow in the place where the creature should have been. “I don’t remember it carrying this..” He thought to himself. 

What looked to be brown boots appeared just barely out of his field of vision.“ Is that another human?” He questioned, turning his attention upward. Finally seeing his savior, he looked up at her with awe. It was as if she could feel his eyes were burrowing into her.
She turned to face him and that awe filled expression shifted into one of pure fear as Hiro recognized her.
 It was Suzume.
"That sure was a close call, huh?”
She asked, offering him that same dopey smile that Suzume always gave him.
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