Little Red Riding Witch
“You can talk?” Baffled by the sudden revelation, Lucy couldn’t help but gasp in astonishment. The recipient of her claim, however, had the same reaction.
“You can understand me?”
“How can I not understand you?” Asked Lucy in surprise. “You’re speaking perfectly right now!”
“I’ve tried to talk to people for years now, but no one would stop and listen to me,” the wolf answered. “They always heard my speaking as barking and howling, so I thought I really couldn’t speak anymore.”
“Hold on,” the beast’s words piqued an interest within Lucy. “What do you mean you ‘couldn’t speak’? Were you able to speak before?”
A brief nod from the wolf was enough of an answer to all of Lucy’s questions. However, it still hesitated to speak further, with a pondering expression as if it half wanted this new benefactor to know its secrets, but half of it didn’t want to jump to conclusions just yet.
The wolf took a deep breath. In the end, it decided to take the risk.
Letting out a light shrug as if to rid itself of any remaining doubt, it spoke once more.
“You might not believe me, kind girl… but I’m not a wolf.”
That kind of claim, coming from a creature that could only look like a wolf, was nothing short of ridiculous to Lucy. Had she not held back to stay polite, she would have been rolling on the grassy ground laughing like a madman.
“… You’re kidding, right? You have big eyes like a wolf, your ears are pointy like a wolf, and your snout is big like a wolf too. If you’re not a wolf, then what are you?”
“Of course, I look like a wolf,” the beast answered, disheartened by the claim. “I was turned into one, after all.”
“Turned into one?” It was one surprise after another for Lucy. “How? What could have done that?”
“A terrible witch… and my own mother.”
The wolf’s words struck Lucy deep in her core. As if any barrier remaining between the two had been broken down by that simple sentence, at that moment, Lucy, for the first time in her life, felt a kinship with someone else.
“Is that so…” the young girl commented. It wasn’t an exclamation of pity, nor it was a condescendingly bitter laugh. It was something… mundane, scarily so.
“You don’t seem surprised,” the beast, meanwhile, could feel chills in its spine when such nonchalant words were uttered, even if the things he said were his best attempt at hiding such feelings.
“Let’s just say I’m… used to such experience.”
Lucy took off her red hood to reveal the still-visible marks on her cheeks and rolled up her sleeves to reveal more bruises and scars than a normal person could even take. “My father’s ‘trophies’ from the years he raised me. Painful, right?”
“I… I don’t know what to say…”
“But that’s not all, oh no,” it was the first time that Lucy had found someone that she could share her agony, and so there was nothing to hold her back anymore. “You know what’s the worst part is? All of this, pretty much everyone knows. But none of them even bothered to help, even if I would scream my lungs out at day and at night all the same.”
“But… why? What did you do to deserve such things?”
“… Who knows?” A bitter laugh sounded again, the kind of laugh that should never be heard from a fourteen-year-old girl. “No one ever tells me either. What about you? Why would your own mother turn you into a wolf?”
“I discovered that she was a witch. The details of which had escaped my mind, but I can never forget the horrified look my mother gave me that day… it was as if she had seen a monster, while the monster was her all along…”
“Guess we both ended up with horrible parents, huh?” Lucy exclaimed. Meeting someone like her, cruel and twisted as it might sound, had soothed her soul just for a bit.
“Tell me about it,” answered the wolf. “By the way, I haven’t the chance to thank you properly, kind but unfortunate girl. What’s your name?”
“Lucy. Lucy Starling.”
“Starling…” the wolf squinted its eyes as if trying to remember something. “That name again. I’ve heard it a few times when I was stealing food from the hunters, but I couldn’t wrap my fingers… err, paws, around it.”
“Oh, that’s probably my father,” Lucy answered. “He’s the best in the village, after all.”
“The best hunter and he doesn’t even have a lick of sincerity to escort his daughter in a forest.”
“Oh, please. I’m sure he’d rather I die here in this ditch… no offense. That gets rid of two people he doesn’t like, too.”
“Yeah, my Nana… err, grandma. She’s sick, so I’m delivering food to her further in this forest.”
An old lady living alone in this forest? The wolf pondered for a while. The details were too aligned for it to not notice, but it was still not enough evidence to jump to conclusions.
However, before it could inquire further, Lucy had already explained. “She’s senile, so my father pushed her away from the village. Everyone else was on the same boat, so there was no one to stop him.”
Even with the explanation, things still didn’t add up for the wolf. If he wanted to get rid of her, why did Lucy’s father still send her away to deliver food? Shouldn’t letting her starve be better? It doesn’t seem like he would be the type to care about what others say about him…
“Did your grandma express some kind of… weird behavior in the past?” Asked the wolf.
“Weird? She’s senile. What’s not weird about her behavior?”
“… You have a point,” the wolf sighed after not finding any more proof to support his thoughts. “Shall I escort you for the rest of the trip then?”
“No, thanks,” answered the young girl with confidence and a hint of joy hidden within. “I’m used to this area anyway. You’re the only strange thing I’ve encountered in all of my trips so far.”
“Well… if you say so. Be careful now, Lucy; I wish you luck on the rest of your journey.”
“Thanks…” Lucy hesitated. Only now did she realize that she had never known the beast’s name.
“I almost forgot, what’s your name, kind wolf? It’s a bit weird not to call you anything.” The girl awkwardly scratched her head.
Replying to her was an unfortunate shake of the head from the animal. “Sorry, but I haven’t a clue. My mother had erased most of my childhood memories, save for the fact that it was her that turned me into this form.”
“Well… would you mind if I give you a name?”
“A name? … Sure, I wouldn’t mind.”
“Then… how about Jack?”
“Why Jack?” The wolf couldn’t help but let out a smile. The name had no relation to him from what little he had left about himself, but for some reason, it oddly reminded him of a comfortable feeling, as if he was at home.
“I… I don’t know, actually. I just thought the name would fit you.”
“I do like it, so I guess you’re right on that front. Jack it is, then.”
The permission caused Lucy’s face to beam with joy for the first time in forever, as she cheerfully raised her voice and waved goodbye to her new friend. “Jack it is! Goodbye, Jack! I wish you luck too!”
Yeah… that looks more like the face of a young girl, the thought flashed through Jack’s mind for a second. “Farewell, Lucy. I hope that our next meeting would be more joyous.”
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