Chapter 16:

A Monster

A Tour of the World Between Worlds

The monster was just as slow as before. I could catch up quickly, even though it had a headstart. From inside my kimono sleeve, I pulled out a hidden knife. It was smaller than my two daggers and didn’t feel as comfortable in my hand, but I brandished it at the creature all the same.

Unfortunately, the fleshy form was prepared. As I came in to strike, it suddenly twisted its torso around its waist. Both my daggers were swung at my neck, and I had to duck. My knees felt a shock as I fell on them, and I slid under the swinging arms.

The monster quickly turned and ran in a different direction before I broke from my slide.

I gritted my teeth and pushed myself up from the ground. There was no time to waste, and my pursuit quickly continued.

The thing was getting on my nerves, but I wasn’t sure how to kill it. The move which had lost my daggers to it should have slain any normal person, and it seemed every other way that I felt my body wishing to move was much of the same. I suppose that made me useless in this whole ordeal.

It would be a simple matter to catch up to the monster again as we rushed through the grey scenery, but I didn’t know what to do after. It would be reckless to keep repeating what I tried earlier. This thing was intelligent in some way, and I wasn’t sure I had any more clever tricks to try on it. Even if I did, the monster would only learn new things to make it more dangerous.

As we ran, a world lake came into view through the treeline. We broke through the trees and around the lake. The creature seemed to take special care not to get too close to the faux-water. Did it know somehow that it would lead to a world, or was it avoiding something unknown?

If I were to get close, I might be able to retrieve my blades and throw the creature into the water. What would doing so mean? Would I unleash this creature on an unknowing populace? I couldn’t be sure this world was my own either. Still, it would get rid of the monster.

I shook my head. Some part of me felt it a nonissue to potentially doom a world to get rid of the monster, and another resisted. The conflicting ideas seemed to argue back and forth in a debate that would surely lead to a vote on what to do. If I could not come up with an alternative, that might be the best way to get rid of the creature.

Suddenly, another thought entered my mind. I recalled a second odd thing in this world. The fiery creature, Cherry, should still be standing on the mountain stairs.

I thought about the odd properties that Lerato had explained. If I wanted to go to the mountain, I would have to think about it. Would that work with me chasing after the monster? I focused my thoughts as we broke away from the world lake and back into the grey woods.

Sure enough, we quickly burst through another clearing. The mountain was in clear view. I made a sigh of relief at how well that worked. The monster promptly began to ascend the stairs as I chased after.

We didn’t get but a few steps up when the creature froze. I did the same in response and pulled out another hidden dagger.

Cherry’s fiery form stood on the steps. The head was turned in our direction, and his flaming hands moved slowly to grab around the hilt.

The monster stared at Cherry for a moment. It was as if it wasn’t sure it wanted to take on the fiery form that stood above it. The fleshy thing turned back to me and made a sound that resembled a hiss. I held up my blades. I may have misjudged; this thing was more cautious than I realized.

A clang took both of our attention. I and the monster turned to Cherry, who had banged the sword's tip into the stone stair below. Was he trying to provoke the fleshy creature?

Whatever the case, the creature hissed at Cherry and charged up the stairs. The fiery form didn’t move from his spot. He held up the metal sword, and flames began to dance off the blade at once.

What happened next, I can only imagine. I saw the creature charging in one second while Cherry held the sword back. In the next second, the fiery blade had cleanly sliced through the waist of the fleshy form.

The monster froze as Cherry leaned the sword against the wall of the stone staircase. Time seemed still for a moment before the fleshy creature burst into flame from where the sword had cut through. It howled and dropped my daggers on the steps.

I think the creature tried to take a step back, but before it finished the action, its form had wholly burned up. Nothing was left behind.

My body trembled as I eyed the daggers just below Cherry’s feet. If I climbed up, would I suffer the same fate? I had used the fiery creature, but I wasn’t sure I could trust him.

Cherry leaned down and picked up each of my blades. My heart skipped a beat as he seemed to blow on them. Embers seemed to flutter from the head, and the blades became red hot. I saw something black burn off, possibly residue from the clay-like flesh. They suddenly flew from his hands—as if Cherry had blown on leaves.

The daggers fluttered down like petals falling from a Sakura tree. I held out my hands, and they landed softly as the red color faded. Instead of grey, the blades had turned to a golden hue. They felt warm as I wrapped my hands around the hilts. I squinted and looked up at the fiery creature. He had picked the sword back up and rested it on the step below just as before.

I slid my blades into their sheaths. I felt asking ‘what did you do’ to the silent creature would be pointless.

“Kiko!” Orrin shouted from behind. He ran up with Lerato and Casey hot on his heels.

“Cherry… killed it,” I explained what I saw as best I could.

“Ah, that’s a tried and true method! Quick thinking!” Orrin said.

“That was a peculiar one; it is good to know it was bested,” Lerato added. Casey nodded in agreement.

“Most things from the myst are easier to kill,” she added.

I didn’t argue with what they said and simply nodded.

We quickly helped clean up the pieces from Pythagoras’ weapon and ended the night with a simple dinner. I excused myself after and went straight to sleep.