Chapter 13:

Demon?! Monster?! My Father?! Or All Three?!

Ranch Royale!


Rio stands onstage unafraid of the consequences of what she has just done. She shakes droplets of rain out of the bangs of her bob. Her posture shouts untouchable, and for a moment, it appears she is. None of the swine, neither the Tamsworths nor the Boars dare to touch her and every human is frozen in place. She takes a couple of minutes after slaying the Kunekune to catch her breath when finally, she speaks.Bookmark here

“Now, as far I know, this is the first time in the history of the Mammalian rule that a human has slain one of you. It is not so fun getting the wrong end of the stick, or should I say, the dagger. And I want every human to keep their eyes on the Kunekune and see how he bleeds the same way that we do! They aren’t better than us, stronger than us, and they sure aren’t smarter than us! I will have you all know that me and that martyr you see on the ground bleeding bled for a resistance. We formed a rebellion, months ago, and we have also formed alliances with the rebellions currently undertaking neighboring ranches for acres upon acres! There are more of us than them. You have to believe me! You have to believe that we can take back our dignity as the human race, not only as equals but as the dominant species; the title that is rightfully ours! Who’s with me!?”Bookmark here

“Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” The herd of the humans roar in unison.Bookmark here

“The other rebellions and ours have organized a game for the Generals and their ranchers; so they can show us how superior to us they truly are! We snare and capture every swine, canine, rodent, ungulate, that thinks they are better than us and corral them into an abandoned ranch we’ve located on an old-world map. They then compete to see who is the last ranch standing, while at the same time, ridding the world of their filthy ways and broken system. Whichever is the last ranch to not go extinct will be rewarded with being the laborers of the new world – our new world. I’d say that’s pretty merciful! And to give you some confidence, I got word that General Pol’s ranchers have fallen ill and has already been overtaken by our human allies there.”Bookmark here

“Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” They roar again.Bookmark here

The rebels lined up behind the stage that was meant to be bled, rush out with hedge clippers and cut every piece of rope and zip tie limiting the humans from fighting back. This is when everything gets out of hand. The herd starts grabbing any sharp objects or stun bolt guns or prods that were dropped on the ground and using them against the swine that was apprehending them moments ago. It’s a frenzy of yelling and squealing, of mud and blood splattering everywhere. Rio looks at all the chaos with pride that she is the one who caused it.Bookmark here

“And to give you even more confidence, our very own General Romano’s son is-“Bookmark here

“Rio!” I yell to her trying to stop her from exposing Aiguo, but she is so far away, I yell again, “Rio!”Bookmark here

She makes eye contact with me and her expression of pride quickly turns to hate. She hops off the stage, grabbing the ‘Superior’ dagger, and charges straight towards me with a war cry. I take off looking back every so often to see if she has decided to take pity on me, but she never does.Bookmark here

“Who is this helping, Rio?!”Bookmark here

“ 'Who is this helping?!’ LIKE YOU SHOULD TALK! YOUR JOB IS TO SAVE PEOPLE FROM DEATH AND IT SEEMS LIKE EVERYWHERE YOU GO IT FOLLOWS! KOSHI, THAT CARETAKER AT THE MANOR, YOUR MOTHER! I HEARD THAT RICCI AND TOMO WENT MISSING TOO, I’M CERTAIN YOU’RE SOMEHOW CONNECTED TO THAT AS WELL!”Bookmark here

“MY MOTHER WAS NOT MY FAULT! I did what I did with the caretaker to survive, so I could help you! You were who I needed to escape for – to rendezvous! And Ricci died cause of Tomo! You’re not being fair right now! If you give me the chance to explain, I can and I will!”Bookmark here

“EXPLAIN THIS! I ENTRUSTED YOU WITH KOSHI’S LIFE AND NOW HE’S LYING BLED OUT IN ACID RAIN WITH NO PRIDE, NO ABILITY TO SEE THE FUTURE – THE HISTORY THAT THE RESISTANCE IS MAKING RIGHT NOW!”Bookmark here

“Is this what the future you want looks like, huh Rio?!”Bookmark here

“IT HAS TO GET WORSE BEFORE IT GETS BETTER, CHINATSU! LET ME SHOW YOU!”Bookmark here

She begins to catch up with me and starts slashing in the air. My reflexes allow me to avoid each strike, but I’m already worn out and unarmed on top of that. Her slashes are so powerful that I can hear her cut through the wind. I’m winded and she isn’t getting tired; there is nothing but rage in her eyes.Bookmark here

“Koshi knew he was going to die, Rio, even if the Kunekune didn’t bleed him! He forced me into the panic room and left me with a prod so I can defend myself and so that I could live! He wanted me to live! Doesn’t that mean anything to you?!”Bookmark here

“IT MEANS HE WAS AN IDIOT! IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN YOU CHINATSU!”Bookmark here

“I know he meant a lot to you, but we’ve known each other forever, doesn’t that mean something?!”Bookmark here

“YOU DON’T KNOW ME AT ALL, CHINATSU! YOU NEVER DID AND YOU NEVER WILL!”Bookmark here

“Rio, Koshi’s blood is everywhere and contaminated dozens in the herd, maybe even swine too – not that you care. Think about the rebels! Do you want your people to die?!”Bookmark here

It’s no use, she doesn’t listen to me. She jabs in the air a few more times towards my abdomen when I step back into a deceiving pile of mud and slip onto my back. Rio hovers over me with the rain washing off all the swine blood on her onto me. She grasps the dagger’s handle with both hands and raises it above her head, ready to strike me down – I close my eyes.Bookmark here

Moments pass, a minute passes, and I do not feel a thing but the rain beating down hard on my skin. Bookmark here

Hesitantly, I open my eyes. Rainwater fills my eyelids causing my vision to blur. I try to find one piece of fabric on my uniform that is not completely soaked, with no success. Only a patch on the inner part of my left sleeve is still damp, but drier than the water filling up my eyes. I pat it against both multiple times until I can make out the scene in front of me. The herd and swine are still slaughtering each other, but Rio is no longer in sight. I sit up and search left and right and scan all the faces I see on the field – none of them I recognize as Rio. I shakily stand up and look around in disbelief, until I hear an all too familiar noise behind me.Bookmark here

Oink! Oink!Bookmark here

It can’t be… Aiguo?Bookmark here

I slowly turn around and see the little shoat chewing on pieces of flesh and bone. In the mix of all the human remains, I see something glint between the blades of grass. It is the sharp, silver Superior dagger Rio waved at me only minutes before. This means… what Aiguo was consuming – or rather, who – was Rio.Bookmark here

I start sobbing uncontrollably and clenching my stomach. My intestines feel twisted inside out and my legs begin to judder. My tears mix with the rain and I cannot tell which is which. I never thought I would see Rio in this state. She was the strongest person I knew, maybe too strong for her own good, but I thought she would surely outlive me through all this chaos. And she would have if it wasn’t for this demonic, human hybrid shoat. I hated it for taking her away before she could come to her senses, but I was grateful at the same time for saving my life in case she hadn’t.Bookmark here

“Why did you do that? I don’t understand! Why do you keep saving me?! I’m just a human!”Bookmark here

Oink!Bookmark here

All of a sudden, the dark grey, thunderous clouds overhead disperse. The rain ceases to fall. The small, muddy, blood-filled streams come to a stop. The humans and swine take a break from combat as the sun starts to shine on their blood-stained skin drying them off. There’s no more screaming or clinking of weapons until the sound of hoofsteps and a cane dragging through the wet grass approach me and the shoat.Bookmark here

General Romano steadily walks up to me and his son then pauses without a word, forcing me to speak first.Bookmark here

“Did you see what happened? While I was – while I was on the ground?”Bookmark here

“Yes, it never ceases to amaze me what my gifted son is capable of.”Bookmark here

“Ha, ‘gifted’, you continue using the word that just doesn’t fit what I see.”Bookmark here

“Well, maybe you’re shortsighted, Chinatsu.”Bookmark here

“Maybe.”Bookmark here

“You know, Chinatsu, after hours of digging through old records unavailable in the medical facility – these are my personal records kept private through generations of swine – I found something. I found out who your father is.”Bookmark here

“Was.”Bookmark here

“Is.”Bookmark here

“You mean… he’s – he’s still alive? Was he sold to another ranch? What was his name?”Bookmark here

“Not quite, and no. His name was Riku. He was surviving on unclaimed acres for quite some time. It’s actually commendable how long he was able to go unnoticed by any mammalians. He was a skilled fighter, he knew how to live off of the land’s vegetation and insects, and knew how to build shelter. However, some of my scouts discovered his body along a river and it looks like his body had been decaying for about two years, right around the season my son was born.”Bookmark here

“How are those two events even connected?”Bookmark here

“You see that birthmark on Aiguo’s neck? It’s small, but it’s there.”Bookmark here

I pick Aiguo up and use my sleeve to wipe off the dirt and blood clumped in the hair around his neck, and there it is; a small splotch.Bookmark here

“I see the birthmark… And?”Bookmark here

“My scouts determined your father passed due to a poisonous insect bite on his neck in the exact same location. Well, as identical of a location as you can determine on a swine versus a human. Remember the beliefs of reincarnation that the ancient humans used to have? We spoke of this before.”Bookmark here

“Yes, I remember.”Bookmark here

“They also had a theory that birthmarks on a being determined how they passed in their previous life.”Bookmark here

“With all due respect General, can you please get to the point?”Bookmark here

“Your now deceased friend thought your species was oh so smart, I thought you would have caught on by now.”Bookmark here

“Sir, I apologize if my mind is a bit unclear right now, but I have seen things I still can’t explain, had too many near-death experiences for my taste, and have lost every single one of my friends in a matter of days. I have nobody… I’m alone.”Bookmark here

“No, Chinatsu, far from it. My theory is that you are holding your father reincarnated as my son in your arms at this very moment. These near-death experiences you speak of, Aiguo has saved you from multiple hasn’t he?”Bookmark here

I nod in confusion.Bookmark here

“Given all the evidence I’ve just given you and the undeniable, unexplainable bond you share with my shoat. I truly believe your father’s soul lives within him.”Bookmark here

“But – but he consumed Ricci’s parents and those two breeding technicians. They weren’t any danger to me, so what was the excusable reason then?”Bookmark here

“I know you may not want to hear this, but don’t forget, your father was a brownred. Not only that, he was one of my best. He was vicious, ruthless, precise, and never failed a mission. He also never lost a fight against another brownred on our ranch or against any enemy ranches either. He was a prized soldier which meant he took the lives of many people. It could just be in his blood – in his nature.”Bookmark here

“If my father was such a prized soldier as you say, what happened? Why was he living by himself in unclaimed land? Was he an escapee? Or were you planning to euthanize him as you did to my mother?”Bookmark here

“… Yes. His skills were so sharp and he had so much experience I felt my wife and me, and of course the rest of the ranchers would be safer if he exclusively worked for the manor. He and your mother had a similar spirit. He refused my offer multiple times so I made the order. I assume he had relations with someone inside the manor at the time because he was gone the next morning; while your mother was pregnant with you.”Bookmark here

“So it was your life’s goal to make me an orphan?”Bookmark here

“Of course not, Chinatsu. Believe it or not, I’m actually fond of you. I’m fond of any human I request to work directly with me.”Bookmark here

“So why do you euthanize them then? You can’t take no for an answer?”Bookmark here

“Humans are supposed to be submissive, Chinatsu. Your species doesn’t know how to dominate the world without destroying it. It’s been that way throughout history and for the first time in history under the mammalian rule, the world is thriving on the system we have built!”Bookmark here

“And what is the definition of a mammalian, sir?”Bookmark here

“What do you mean?”Bookmark here

“The definition of a mammalian: The presence of hair, sweat glands, glands to produce milk for its offspring, a four-chambered heart, a neocortex region of the brain that specializes in seeing and hearing. Isn’t that correct?”Bookmark here

“Yes, it sounds as so.”Bookmark here

“Aren’t all those characteristics shared by humans too?”Bookmark here

“With all due respect, Chinatsu, get to the point.”Bookmark here

“How are we meant to be under you if we’re the same as you?”Bookmark here

“You’ve seen the outcome of your rebel friends and you are starting to sound identical to them and their crazy notions! Do you want to end up like them? Cause we can arrange that. Or, you can help me and my ranchers repair the damages this resistance had done to what my family spent generations building. You can be a part of it! You can live comfortably and lavishly back at the manor and care for Aiguo.”Bookmark here

“How do I know you aren’t lying about my father’s soul living inside of him just to get back to come back to the manor? You could be making it all up!”Bookmark here

“I could have had my Boars drag you back by force and lock you up; it would have been much easier.”Bookmark here

“Well, why should I care?! He was never planning to raise me anyway. As you said, he left while my mother was pregnant. He might have been a strong soldier, but he was a weak human being. At least my mother stood with me until the end. So, who cares if his soul is in this shoat, right? He didn’t protect me or my mother.”Bookmark here

I pick up the Superior blade from the now dry grass and hold it up to the shoat’s throat. Aiguo squeals in fear and starts to struggle his way out of my arms until I hold him tighter and closer to my chest.Bookmark here

“Careful, Chinatsu. Don’t do something you’re bound to regret.”Bookmark here

“Why should I?”Bookmark here

“He obviously has been protecting you now, even if it is in this form in the best way he can. You should be grateful that you have had this opportunity to reconnect with him. Even now as you threaten him, he still hasn’t used his abilities to consume you when he has for others who have threatened him with far less or even not at all. Look into his eyes.”Bookmark here

“That’s not going to help. I’ve never even seen my father’s eyes to be able to recognize them in some swine offspring.”Bookmark here

“Maybe not, but you have seen your own eyes. I see your eyes in Aiguo’s eyes.”Bookmark here

I stop to contemplate for a second; scared to look, but I do anyway.Bookmark here

And I see it, myself.Bookmark here

“Ergh! Enough of these mind games General Romano. You’ve put me through enough of those!”Bookmark here

“Don’t you see if you continue to side with the resistance you are siding with their vision of the future; all us mammalians extinct! And you and I may know the truth, but when they see Aiguo they aren’t going to be open-minded like you. All the rebels see is rage and revenge, and they won’t be able to see through that for a second that a human soul resides inside of him. They will think you’ve been brainwashed like they think the rest of the humans who believed in the mammalian rule are.”Bookmark here

“Maybe they’re right about it all.”Bookmark here

“Chinatsu, listen to me. You’re cradling your father in your arms right now; think about it for a second. You aren’t an orphan anymore.”Bookmark here

I pull the knife away from Aiguo and lightly set him on the ground.Bookmark here

“You’re absolutely right General, I’m no longer an orphan if what you say is true.”Bookmark here

“Well, I can guarantee you it is. I’m glad you have finally come to your senses-“Bookmark here

“But Aiguo soon will be.”Bookmark here

In a swift movement, I slash General Romano with the Superior dagger where his vital arteries are so he will bleed the same way Koshi did. I watch his dark, beady eyes widen in disbelief for the first time. He is stunned in place until gradually, he tips overs flat on his back.Bookmark here

I tower over him and use my foot to push him onto his side.Bookmark here

“And from now on, his name will be Riku.” Bookmark here

I toss the blade back onto the grass and back away from the General, processing what I’ve just done.Bookmark here

I turn around and see that the herd and the swine have been our audience for that entire conversation. They stare at me, unsure of what to do next.Bookmark here

I pick up Riku in one arm and carry him to my side as I walk towards the wooden stage while trying to avoid the areas of grass with dried blood. I pass by Koshi’s body once more and try not to linger too long to look at him. I walk up the steps and stand center stage. Before speaking, I kick the Kunekune’s body off the ledge. That’s for the painful scar that’s never going away Kunekune. I clear my throat and speak.Bookmark here

“My fellow humans! In the midst of all the chaos, you may not have noticed that the leader of the Romano ranch rebellion has fallen during battle.”Bookmark here

The herd gasps.Bookmark here

“I understand how without Rio as your foundation, you may feel lost, or worse, a loss of hope. Rio was a friend of mine long before she hatched this plan for a resistance. And now that she is gone, I feel a loss of direction as well. She was who I was fighting for more than any reform or regime. But I’m here to tell you, that this loss doesn’t mean the fight is over. We need to fight now more than ever. The two most powerful mammalians, The Kunekune and General Romano, have fallen; one of them, by my hand. As Rio told you earlier, they are just as vulnerable as we are. So, the mammalian rule won’t come to an end and you know why?! Because we are just as much mammalian as they are.”Bookmark here

“Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” The humans roar again.Bookmark here

“This means that Rio’s plan is still in action. When we have received word from our allies at the neighboring ranches have overthrown the ranchers, we will corral them to their participation to see the last ranch standing. They will be the ones who provide us material for our clothing and protection from unknown creatures and be our subjects to test on! They will be the laborers as it was in ancient times.”Bookmark here

“Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!” Bookmark here

“The only non-human who is off-limits, is this shoat I carry in my arms right now in front of you. His name is Riku. No one will touch a hair on his head or even treat him as if he is not human. Because if they do, they will end up like our fallen General lying in the grass just by that haystack. Are we clear?”Bookmark here

“But why him?! What makes him any different?!” “Yeah, he is going to grow to be just a horrific as the adult swine!”Bookmark here

Two humans yell from the herd. Bookmark here

“Would you have questioned Rio had she said this?!”Bookmark here

“No, but she probably wouldn’t have. She despised the swine.”Bookmark here

“Well, as he successor as leader of the resistance, I declare this particular swine is off-limits. Again, are we clear?”Bookmark here

“Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”Bookmark here

“Good. Now, let the ranch royale commence!”Bookmark here

The combat between swine and the humans continues, except the humans are fighting now with renewed vigor and are winning now. Tamsworths and the Boars are falling left and right. Humans are cheering each other on in victory.Bookmark here

I walk down the steps with Riku still in tow towards Koshi. I will need to dispose of him somewhere safe where he won’t contaminate anything else. As I look around I realize how normally I would feel guilty knowing that all these rebels and average human laborers are fighting for a future they might not live to see, being that they were contaminated during the battle. Maybe when the other rebels arrive we will have enough antibiotics to go around, because we certainly don’t at this time. I sigh and see how much I’ve changed over the course of a week. Bookmark here

-Bookmark here

Three Months LaterBookmark here

“It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for; I know I certainly have been. It’s been a long journey even locating each other, gathering enough resources to care for the ill, and gathering all of the mammalians into confinement until the game has begun. Some may call it radical, but it will greatly take the task off of our hands. I want to thank everybody for all their hard work and dedication to the resistance, and for accepting me as your leader.”Bookmark here

A crowd of hundreds of humans stands before me listening to every word I say on the same wooden stage I kicked the Kunekune off three months ago. For once, I feel powerful. I feel in control of my destiny.Bookmark here

“… I don’t know, don’t you think it is a little inhumane?” A voice whispers in the herd.Bookmark here

“Who said that?”Bookmark here

Nobody replies.Bookmark here

“Come on now, who said that? It’s perfectly fine to voice your opinion. I would just like to know who it belongs to.”Bookmark here

A girl with disheveled, auburn hair and uneven bangs makes her way to the front of the crowd.Bookmark here

“I said it.”Bookmark here

“Fujita. I know you’ve struggled to come to terms with your newfound freedom these past three months, but do you hear yourself? The word ‘inhumane’ means to not act in a human-like way.”Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

“And people use it whenever someone is acting cruel and imposing misery onto others, correct?”Bookmark here

“Yes.”Bookmark here

“But that’s implying that humans are inherently not cruel, but compassionate and caring.”Bookmark here

“Yes.”

Bookmark here

“But I think we’ve found out since we are just like the mammalians that might not be the case.”Bookmark here

“… You sound just like him.”Bookmark here

“Who?”Bookmark here

“The General.”Bookmark here

“Ex-General. And I thought you were one of the few humans who believed in the way Romano was running things.”Bookmark here

“What you are doing is worse. The mammalians had us laboring to make them warm clothes so they could survive the cold season or test new medicine so they could lessen the chances of one of them dying by their own concoctions. They used us to survive. You’re making them off each other not only so we don’t have to, but for entertainment. It’s not entertaining!”Bookmark here

“How would you know, dear Fujita? The game hasn't even started.”Bookmark here

“You know, I didn't want to admit it, but when we first met I secretly liked how kind and naïve you were. That’s why Koshi liked you too.”Bookmark here

She has struck a nerve in me.Bookmark here

“I thought I was cold-hearted,” she continues, “but you’ve definitely beat me out in just three months. You’ve really outdone yourself.”Bookmark here

I clench my teeth and try to maintain diplomacy.Bookmark here

“I’m terribly sorry if that’s how you feel, but freedom has a price, Fujita. Everything does.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I guess the question is if it’s worth it.”Bookmark here

“I think it always is if the reward is freedom.”Bookmark here

“Was it worth losing Panacea too?”Bookmark here

I’m left speechless. That same day I lost Koshi and Rio, I lost Panacea too. The Boars discovered that she had been covering for me and the fact that I had stolen the IV machine and antibiotics for Koshi, so they ordered her to be euthanized. It makes me rethink over and over was Rio said about how everyone that I’m connected to ends up losing their life. I thought it was harsh at first, but maybe she was right.Bookmark here

Before I can respond to Fujita, the leaders of the other rebellions ride in along with dozens and dozens of trailer trucks following closely behind them. Inside the trailers, you can hear howling, growling, mooing, and whimpering. Sanji, the head of the rodent ranch resistance rides in alone. By the time we organized the rules for the ranch royale, General Pol’s ranch had already been wiped out of rodents and most humans. Sanji was one of the last survivors who avoided the plague. The humans at our ranch did far better at not contracting it than I thought we would. It was one less weight off my shoulders.Bookmark here

I bow to the audience without a proper outro and run down the steps to meet with him.Bookmark here

Sanji hops out of the robust, green truck in jeans and camo, and greets me with a kiss.Bookmark here

“How are they readying themselves for the event?”Bookmark here

“Tough crowd – some of them anyway – I can’t believe they’re still so brainwashed.”Bookmark here

“Don’t mind them, they will never understand what it’s like to lead and make decisions based on what’s in the best interest of the collective, you know? I think what you’re doing – carrying on your friend’s dream – is right and the humane thing to do. It isn’t like we’re the ones exterminating those vermin.”Bookmark here

“Your support means the world to me, Sanji.”Bookmark here

“There is one problem though.”Bookmark here

“Ugh, you were being so perfect why are you going to stop now?”Bookmark here

“I’m just saying, I don’t think it helps your image as their leader that you’re harboring swine offspring at the manor. You still haven’t told me or the others why you’re protecting that thing. It’s still young, to getting rid of it now would be a lot less painful than waiting until the thing grows older and gets big and-“Bookmark here

“Sanji, I already told you that isn’t an option. That is never going to happen.”Bookmark here

“But why?!”Bookmark here

“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me!”Bookmark here

“Try me.”Bookmark here

I take a deep breath and exhale slowly.Bookmark here

“There’s an ancient human belief that when we pass our souls transfer into new bodies, and sometimes we can transfer into mammalian bodies as well. It was called reincarnation.”Bookmark here

“So you think there is a literal human soul inside that shoat?”Bookmark here

“Not just any human soul; my father who passed. His name was Riku.”Bookmark here

“Whew-wee. Talk about daddy issues.”Bookmark here

I hit him on his shoulder for that remark.Bookmark here

“See?! I knew you would think I’m crazy!”Bookmark here

“Chinatsu, I already thought you were crazy. I just… hope you’re right. And I hope it’s worth it.”Bookmark here

I hope so too.Bookmark here

“And doesn’t that mean the same thing can happen vice versa?”Bookmark here

“What do you mean?”Bookmark here

“That a mammalian soul can reincarnate or whatever you said into a human body and we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference? So aren’t we all just souls; neither human nor mammalian?”Bookmark here

I hadn’t thought of that but was given no time to ponder his theory.Bookmark here

The rebels pull down the truck doors and slide out the metal ramps. Mammalians from all over begin to pile out chained together; from pit bulls to deer to foxes to rabbits. The crowd of humans begins to boo as they are guided past them into the abandoned ranch’s grounds. Humans throw bottles and rocks at them as they walk causing some of them to bark and growl threateningly. Bookmark here

“Do not provoke them!” I yell, “You’ll get your revenge when they take on each other in the royale!”Bookmark here

The rebels swing out their prods as they start to untie the mammalians one by one. Most of them are docile and have accepted the fate to come; others antagonize the rebels and try to maneuver around them to escape the abandoned ranch. However, this ranch is equipped with tall, electrical fences surrounding every inch of the perimeter. None of them would ever be able to escape unless it was through winning.Bookmark here

After a short struggle, the rebels manage to release all of the mammalians onto the battleground and make their way back to my ranch safely.Bookmark here

I walk to our side of the electrical fence and face all of the mammalians as they stare at me either in fear or in anger.Bookmark here

“Thanks for showing up, although none of you had a choice. I’m sure my friends have explained the rules to you but, just in case, I’m going to explain them again. We can’t have all of you going extinct; we will be in need of our own laborers as we rebuild the ranches in our vision. So, you are all grouped within your own species. Whichever species in the last one standing will get to live and serve us in return for our mercy. Understood?”Bookmark here

Most of them nod or make no sign of acknowledgment at all, except for General Aries, a ram.Bookmark here

“You little human hypocrite. I’ll play your game if throw that shoat of yours in here with us. He’s a mammalian, it’s only right if you really want to be rid of us peasant.”Bookmark here

“You don’t make the rules anymore Aries; I do. He’s different from the rest of you. And all the swine are extinct, so he wouldn’t have any group to protect him anyway.”Bookmark here

“Good thing he has you. Maybe you should jump in here and join the fun. You’re his family now, or at least you act like it. You’re swine now; a mammalian just like us. Isn’t that what your little resistance’s goal was in the first place?”Bookmark here

“Less talking, Aries. More preparing for battle.”Bookmark here

“He’s right though!” A male human voice yells from the crowd.Bookmark here

“I’m getting sick and tired of these interjections and interruptions. Who is taking the ram’s side?”Bookmark here

I turn around to face the crowd of humans and try to match the face with the voice I just heard.Bookmark here

A ginger-haired, seven-foot-tall, middle aged harvester pushes through the crowd and towers over me. His big chests and arms are so intimidating even the mammalians on the other side of the fences distance themselves.Bookmark here

“It seems you’re not satisfied with me as leader.”Bookmark here

“Everything is what it seems. Rio was meant to lead us, not you. We didn’t even know who you were until a week before Rio fell during battle. Don’t you think that’s not the least bit suspicious? How do we know if we should even believe your story? How do we not know you didn’t get rid of Rio so you could take her place? Huh?”Bookmark here

The man pushes me. Sanji flinches to come to my rescue, but I hold my hand out telling him to ‘wait’. Bookmark here

“Rio was my best friend for years; I would never do such a thing. I agree with you, Rio would have done a way better job leading you than I could ever do. So could have Koshi. But neither of them is here, and as their friend, I took the responsibility upon myself to carry out their legacies as best as I possibly could.”Bookmark here

“Well, your best ain’t good enough girlie!”Bookmark here

The man pushes me again, and this time, my back hits the electrical fence. I feel shockwaves throughout my entire body and fall to the ground. This has happened one too many times, and I’m afraid I will not survive this one. Black spots fill my vision and the darkness all at once.Bookmark here

-Bookmark here

When I open my eyes, the giant, intimidating man is no longer towering over me. Sanji’s voice beings to grow louder and louder when I realize he is shouting into my ear right next to me as he shakes my shoulders.Bookmark here

“CHINATSU! CHINATSU! ARE YOU OKAY?! SAY SOMETHING! ANYTHING!”Bookmark here

“I’m fine Sanji, I’m fine. This isn’t the first time this has happened. You can stop shaking me now.”Bookmark here

He stops, and then embraces me. It doesn’t comfort me; it only makes it harder for me to snap out of my daze. I push him off even though he has the best of intentions. I look around for the burly assaulter, but he’s nowhere in sight.Bookmark here

I see a separate crowd of humans huddling over something or someone ahead of me, but I’m too far to get a clear shot of what’s happening, so I stand up.Bookmark here

“Woah, woah, woah. Slow down there. You do not want to go over there Chinatsu, I’m begging you.”Bookmark here

“If it’s a fallen human, I’ve seen plenty. You do not need to worry about me.”Bookmark here

“I mean it, Chinatsu, you do not want to go over there. Listen to me, for once.”Bookmark here

I limp while holding my arm in pain in the direction of the huddled crowd.Bookmark here

As I walk, I accidentally step into something squishy. I look down to see bones, chunks of flesh, and blood full of… ginger hair. It is the man who was harassing me.Bookmark here

I look back up to the crowd yelling whille waving objects in the air and begin to walk faster and faster.Bookmark here

“Move aside! Move! Get out of my way now!”Bookmark here

I push the humans huddled aside and I’m met with the most horrifying sight and devastating loss I have experienced yet.Bookmark here

Riku lies in the center of the human circle on burning stones. I fall to my knees as tears come down my eyes like a waterfall.Bookmark here

The crowd insists are yelling obscene and degrading comments about Riku like “Demon!” and “Monster!”Bookmark here

Those are things I called him once before I knew what and who he really was. All they saw is what he did to that man who attacked me, but they did not see the why. I knew deep down he was not a demon or a monster. Even if he was not my father’s soul reincarnated, he protected me and needed to be cared for in return, and I failed him. I realize I had become the monster; and that all my actions led up to this out of the obsession and desire for being strong and in control. I became just like the mammalians, because maybe, we were already the same.Bookmark here

YeonRai
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