Chapter 8:

They Come in Threes

Emiko Alone


Yes, my Lady?” Atsui asked. She finished her chunk of meat and licked her chops. “Do you need more meat? I’m not stingy! I got this for you!

“N-no… that’s okay,” Emiko said, “I’m just a little… ah… It’s hard to take in…”

No need to worry, my Lady. It’s not everyday I get to talk to you, after all!

Emiko started to breathe a little faster and she tried to calm her racing heart. “It’s not… everyday that animals talk at all,” she said. She unconsciously began to inch away from Atsui, who followed her movements worriedly.

Are you alright, my Lady? Is there anything I can do for you?

“J-just… let me sit here and process this…” Emiko shook her head and squeezed her eyes shut. Why am I feeling so afraid? she thought. Why does my chest hurt? What’s causing this?

“Hey, are you alright?” Emiko heard Isla begin to ask. “Is something wrong?”

Emiko began to whine as their voices started collecting in her head. “My Lady? My Lady! You’re in pain! Did Isla offend you? Is the chimera poisoning you? I’m sorry—!

Isla tried to rest a hand on Emiko’s shoulder. “It’s alright, Emiko. You’re safe here. No one’s trying to—“

My Lady—


“Stop!” Emiko cried as she curled into herself. “Just… stop… please!” She shook and buried her face into her pants, trying to stuff her pained tears away. “I’m… fine! I’m fine!” She began to rock back and forth. “J-just… leave… me alone!” Her voice was muffled through her clothes, but the words still hit with the same force.

Isla withdrew from Emiko’s side and fidgeted nervously in the air, wringing her hands over and over. Atsui glowed and switched to her kitten form before walking over and brushing up against Emiko’s leg. With a sad meow, Atsui padded down and settled next to Emiko. After a few moments of shaking and heaving, Emiko eventually stilled and drooped out of her protective shell.

Emiko sighed, rubbing her eyes with her sleeves. Seeing Atsui back in kitten form, she giggled weakly and pulled the kit close. “A-Atsui… I’m… sorry for freaking out…” She sighed once more and hugged the kitten tight. Atsui snuggled closer in response, and she smiled sadly. “I just… couldn’t handle… knowing you could speak to me…”

Why is that?” Atsui asked softly. “I would never wish to harm you, my Lady—

“—Please…” Emiko hissed weakly. “Don’t… call me that. I’m not a lady. I’m not anything… I’m useless…” She rubbed her head against Atsui’s and sniffled. “Just call me Emiko. I’m not… your master…”

Are you sure, Emiko?” Atsui said, testing the waters. “I don’t want to hurt you anymore than you already are.

“You’re… you’re fine, Atsui,” Emiko whispered. “I’m… the one with a problem… I’m selfish, and I hate myself for it…”

“Do not be so hard on yourself, Emiko,” Isla said. Emiko turned her tired gaze towards the floating fairy. “You are a hardy soul, and one who continues onward despite all that has happened. Does that not warrant a more worthy appraisal?”

The silence that followed was filled with the soft crackling of a dying fire and the popping of burning embers. “I’m… not worthy of anything,” Emiko finally said. “Why… should I be? I’ve done nothing… and I still haven’t done anything…”

That’s not true!” Atsui cried. “You took me in when I was feeling lonely! I was all alone in the zoo, and even when I found a way to look small, the other animals were terrified. I’m an outcast too… but you took me in!

“And I was assigned to watch over you,” Isla added. “Fairies are not in the habit of playing guardian to other beings, but you are different. Terra, and the other fairies, saw something in you. Maybe the same thing your Dragon saw in you. Do not underestimate yourself.”

“Why… can’t I?” Emiko asked. “Even when… I had Daiki… he told me to ‘live up to myself’… and I can’t even do that!” She shook her head and drew in a shaky breath. “And I… Every time something good happens, something much worse comes to take it away!” She clenched her teeth and closed her eyes. “I’m… cursed!”

“Would a cursed being be able to befriend a fairy?” Isla descended slowly onto Emiko’s knees and sat down. “Would a cursed being continue to tread along a long and perilous path to right the wrongs she unwillingly committed?” She leaned forward and smiled softly. “Would a cursed being hold their familiar so closely and with such care?”

Emiko stared at Isla as the fairy continued on. “We are not the individual actions that build us up, Emiko. There is a saying in my old world which goes: ‘We are a book filled with pages.’ If we missed a single page, the book’s identity would be in shambles, and a vital piece, however small, can remove any sense of wholeness.”

It was another beat before Emiko responded. “W-we… have a saying like that too,” she said. “‘We are the sum of our parts.’ And I… I never thought of it that way…” She stroked Atsui gently, and the kitten began to purr once more.

You’re nice, Emiko,” Atsui said tiredly. “You kept me, fed me, and played with me. I lived behind glass… and I can’t really remember anything before the humans disappeared, but I knew I wanted to play.” The big kitten tucked her head in, and Emiko swore she could hear Atsui humming a tune she hadn’t thought about in ages. One she knew she had never played aloud before… not since Kodoku. “Thanks for choosing me… Emiko…

“I…” Emiko faltered. Atsui had gone limp in her hands and she felt her eyes water once more. “I haven’t… played that song since…”

“Since when?” Isla asked. The fairy had watched Atsui fall asleep against Emiko, and she smiled. “She is very fond of you, isn’t she.”

“I don’t understand… why,” Emiko whispered. She rubbed Atsui’s head a little more and felt her start to purr. “Why you think… I’m worthy of any of this…”

“I didn’t choose you, Emiko.” Isla leaned forward. “And often, that decision is out of our hands.”

“Then how do… I make it my own?” Emiko asked.

“You keep moving. You keep trusting. You keep believing.” Isla smiled softly and floated next to Atsui before settling in. “You find friends along the way.”

“Friends… huh?” Emiko let herself lie down and stare at the canopy above her while the fire died. Her eyes drooped as ash popped and she exhaled. “…Maybe… I’ll sing that for you…”


They continued to move down the road. The further they went, the worse the decay was, until it got to the point where it was more a gravel road than it was paved. Following the gravel path, Emiko continued to run the melody she had hear Atsui humming in her mind, wondering how she might have been able to know that tune. Had she hummed it before? Had Atsui been able to feel some of her memories? Was it a coincidence?

After another day of straight walking, and munching on snacks she still had, Emiko found herself walking slowly towards a decrepit town sign. It’s text had completely faded away, leaving faint, sun-bleached paint on decaying wood. The pavement leading into the town was still somewhat intact, but it was well on it’s way to becoming the same gravel road that had started to tread. Slowly stepping into the town, she walked down the main street and peered into the stores that were now in various states of disrepair.

Some still held some semblance of the shops they once were, but most had succumbed to whatever magic was accelerating the natural reclaim of the world. Emiko had started to really accept the fact that magic was real, and every time Isla cast another spell, her soul was filled with growing respect and anxiety. She could tell more and more that something was wrong with the world, and wrong with her, and she didn’t know what either were.

If anything, she knew both had a connection to Kodoku, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to find out anything from sitting still. As much as she hated it, she still set forth everyday. Emiko shivered with every cold bath she had to take, but took comfort in the warm spells Isla would then cast. When she got tired of walking, she would get to ride Atsui. When Emiko started to feel stressed, Atsui would know and swoop in, trying to defuse her terror.

Yet, her terror remained in full force. Seeing these shops, places Emiko knew had once been lively and full of life at any time of the day now so empty and desolate, grieved and terrified her. She was scared of the ghosts that might haunt her (and she wasn’t precluding the idea anymore that ghosts weren’t real). She couldn’t risk herself going anywhere near them.

Despite her misgivings, she still couldn’t stop herself from staring at her reflection in the broken glass that still littered the ground in front of some store fronts, and in some cases, still clung stubbornly to the window frames, vines trying to push them out of place. The more she looked, the more her heart fell, and she felt a pit of sadness grow from within her.

“I’m sorry,” Emiko whispered, bowing slightly to the shop before her. She then did the same by turning in place and facing the rest of the street ahead of her. Proceeding forward, Emiko shook her head and tried to ignore the crunch of a few shards of glass underfoot, and the debris that lay across the road. Power lines and poles that had rotted blocked some of her path, and she had to be smart with maneuvering her wagon around them. Other times, she shrieked in terror as a snake or a large spider made an appearance. Atsui would quickly dispose of them by chomping them up or stomping them, to which Emiko was quickly turn away. She did her best to try and ignore the crunches and the death throes that would follow, but she found it incredibly difficult.

As they passed through the last of the stores and started to reach the end of the town, Emiko stopped walking. She could feel something was approaching, something that had the same energy, the same aura, as the monster she had encountered before Atsui’s transformation. Realizing this must be one of the blights Terra had mentioned, she frowned.


“Yes, Emiko?”

“I feel… something.” Emiko closed her eyes and turned to face a random direction. She opened her eyes and stared softly at the tree line just beyond the last road of the city. “Other… blights of this city.”

“I sense them too.” Atsui began to growl. “They’re close.”

“You cannot face them yet,” Isla said worriedly. “You have yet to cast your first spell. It would be folly to—“

“They’re coming… to us, Isla,” Emiko scratched out. “I know I… can’t cast… but Atsui can fight for me. Can you support… her?”

Isla looked at Emiko for a moment before nodding. “I will do what I can,” she said simply.

If Emiko thinks I need your help, then I’ll gladly accept!

Emiko nodded gratefully, before reaching into her wagon and pulling out Daiki’s bat. She felt the familiar grooves of Daiki’s name and held it close before holding it in front of her tightly. Emiko knew she wouldn’t be able to do much in a fight, but Emiko also knew that she couldn’t let herself be beaten so easily this time. If her life was on the line, then she would do all she could. It may not have been much, but she hoped it would work.

Tensing, Emiko took a stance as the grove of trees at the fringe of the paved road rustled. Out of the shadows of the shrubbery and foliage, a four-legged gangly beast stepped out. Emiko reared back in disgust at the falling patches of fur and the red glow that pulsed from it’s open wounds. Its eyes glowed the same shade of green as the monster from before, and she shivered as it turned it’s eyes towards her.

Atsui tensed, ready to pounce as Emiko readied her bat and Isla began to chant. Then, just as Atsui was about to charge forward, two more figures appeared beside the first, and Emiko felt a chill run through her bones. Beside the blighted dog stood two more of the same kind. It looked like someone had patched the other two together with whatever was left of the original blight, and whatever refuse was lying around. In short, it was a mangled mess of terror.

“This is bad,” Isla said. “I do not think Atsui can handle all three of them alone.”

“I… I think so too,” Emiko whispered worriedly. “But I can’t… do anything yet…”

Isla nodded. “Then stay back, and we shall do our best. Jump in whenever you feel you are needed.” She turned back and started focusing her magic again. “Until then, stay safe.”

“O-on it…”

Atsui looked back in worry, and said, “Don’t worry, Emiko! I’ll protect you!

The blighted dogs pounced. Atsui roared and leapt back at them. She knocked the first dog to the ground and grabbed the other one in her jaws. She bit down hard and swung her head, throwing the dog to the side before a scratch from the third dog had her stumbling. The first dog took that moment to shake off its injury and it tried to bite Atsui. She swiped with her claws and scratched the dog, tearing skin off of its face. Then, she yowled as the third came from behind her and clamped down on her leg.

Isla cried in alarm. “Atsui!” She palmed outwards and cried, “Light above all, heed my words! Sharpen her claws: Rapture’s Edge!”

A beam of light split into four streams and encased Atsui’s paws. It quickly faded to reveal glowing white claws that stretched longer than her own. Atsui quickly used them her benefit. “Thanks, Lady Isla!” She bucked the third dog off and threw her hind lags backwards, jabbing them into the airborne blight and slamming it into the ground.

“Don’t call me that,” Isla said through gritted teeth.

Emiko remained frozen and watched in terror as the dogs chipped away at Atsui. She could feel phantom pains reach her through the connection they had, and Emiko choked back a sob as she heard each of Atsui’s pained and angry screams.

“Oh light, heed me! Quicken her feet lighten her steps: Agile Stride!”

Atsui’s stripes started to glow with an outline of gold, and she dodged a swipe from the second blight with ease. “Raging fire, I command! Breathe through me and light these fiends!

Emiko blinked as her stripes took the same shade of brilliant black-red as before. That, combined with the glowing outlines, made Atsui look like a regal animal with mana pouring off of her. She opened her mouth and inhaled, her stripes flowed white hot, and she blew. The first dog took the brunt of her breath and the sizzling sound of the dog made Emiko feel sick inside. She threw her head side to side, spreading the flames to the other two, who both howled in pain, but were able to avoid the brunt of the flame.

Atsui’s spell ended and she huffed with exertion. The the outline on her stripes and the glow of her claws faded as well, and Emiko could feel the onset of fatigue and pain that Atsui experienced.

Isla quickly realized the same and clasped her hands together. “Oh light, I beseech thee. Heal her wounds and restore her vitality: Minor Restoration!”

The wounds on Atsui’s body began to heal, but the magic dispelled before it could fully heal her. Some of her energy returned, and Emiko could hear Atsui sigh in some relief. “That’s better. Thank you!

“W-wait,” Emiko stuttered. “Something’s… happening!”

“What do you…” Isla’s voice died as they all watched the two dogs begin to devour the first that had perished. Upon doing so, they turned on one another and began to fight until one stood victorious. In a morbid display of careless abandon, the last blight feasted until it ate it’s fill, and it began to howl. It pierced their ears and filled them with a sense of dread. As Emiko squeezed her ears to try and block the sound, she stared at the twitching blight that had begun to mutate and grow.

It swung it’s body side to side, as if trying to shake something out, before it screeched and two growths appeared on either side of it’s head. Then, it quickly grew, the growths along with it, until she was staring at a three headed monstrosity twice the size of any of the blights before.

“By the dragons…” Isla muttered. “A blighted kerberos…”

Atsui tensed once more, growling with fear and hostility. Emiko could only shake as she gripped her bat with white knuckles. “Wh-what’s… a kerberos?”

“A three headed dog.” Isla grimaced. “Normally, they are guardians of places rich with magic, or commissioned as protectors by those with the power to subdue them. But this is…”

It feels really bad…” Atsui said, and Isla nodded in agreement.

“Simply put, this is bad.”

“W-what… are we going to do?”

“We fight,” Isla said grimly, “Or we die.”

Emiko froze at those words. Her voice shook, her knees trembled, and she held her bat up. “I… won’t let that happen!”

I won’t let Emiko die!” Atsui cried, and her stripes began to glow once more.

Isla sighed. “It seems we really have no choice. Let us do our best.” She closed her eyes and gathered more magic than I could recall then before, and Atsui did so in sync. “Atsui. When I give the call, we cast.”


“What’s going…on?” Emiko coughed. “What are… you doing?”

“You shall see.” Isla snapped her eyes open, and Emiko stepped back unconsciously at the sight of her eyes glowing the colour of a brilliant pastel red that promised of warm summer nights and fresh strawberries. A gentle breeze washed over Emiko, and she felt herself relaxing slightly as Isla began to chant alongside Atsui.

“Oh, light, that washes over the world. Hear my prayer, heed my call!”

The flame of life, which gives us warmth, answer my roar and listen!

“That which gives life to all, and shines over large and small, help me now and form a lance!”

That which gives warmth to all, which burns as the sun and warms the coldest nights; Make my enemies burn!

“Sundrop Break!”

Create a vortex of fire!

Beside Isla, a large needle of white light and glowing with a warm red begin to spin and spin until Isla looked like she was shaking with exertion. Atsui had grounded herself, clenching her powerful teeth as she began to spark with heat and her stripes began to lick with flames. Emiko stepped back as she could physically feel the magic in the air buffet against her, and she watched as they both threw themselves forward.

Now!” They both yelled, and both spells released. With a thrum of energy and the crack of thunder, the lance of sunlight shot forward and speared the blighted kerberos to the ground. Atsui roared and from her stripes flew a whirlwind of flames that began to spin faster and faster. The tornado of flame wrapped around the kerberos and slammed it further into the ground.

The kerberos screamed and howled, and with a large tearing sound, it fought through the flames and ripped itself from the spear of light. A large gushing wound remained in it’s chest, already sealed and charred from the heat of Atsui’s flame. All three heads roared at Isla and Atsui, and in a fit of rage, it cast it’s own spell. A flurry of murky, toxic swamp water flooded from the ground beneath its paws and when it reached Atsui, she hissed as her fur started to fall off.

Atsui leapt backward and growled. “Not good! This smells of death!

Isla nodded, her frown darkening her aura. “It’s stench is palpable, Atsui. Do not touch it!”

“You are both quite wise.”

Another voice rang through the clearing, and all three beings watched in confusion as a trio of arrows whistled through the air and pierced the blight. The same series of arrows began to ring rapidly, until the kerberos succumbed to its combined wounds and fell into the swamp of its own making.

“We commend you for stalling this blighted creature.”

“Yes, we thank you.”

Two more voices joined the first. Fairy, tiger, and human, all turned around to look at the three cloaked figures that stood behind them. All three wore a quiver and wielded a bow, and the central figure stood forward. The figure pulled their hood down, they all stared at the pointed ears and wispy features of the being that stood before them.

“In behalf of this forest and us elves who have chosen to live within, we thank you,” the figure said. Emiko gasped, and she hugged her bat as all three cloaked elves bowed. The leader rose from her position and stared calmly at them, before nocking her arrow.

“Now, surrender, or perish.”