Little Red Riding Witch
Jack was speechless before the old memories of his past. The horrible things his mother did to him, the father that failed to win him back… everything had returned to him, clear as day. But for him, the biggest surprise was in fact the flabbergasted girl next to him.
Within Jack was a swirl of emotions as he gazed towards the girl. His adoptive sister, in a sense, but also the root of all his misfortune. Had it not been for her, he would have lived a normal life with his family. Had it not been for her, he wouldn’t have been stuck in this filthy animal form.
And yet, no matter what, he couldn’t bear to hate her, for a very simple fact. It might have been because of her that he was turned into a beast, but she was also the only one who reached out to him and treated him like a regular human being. She was responsible for pushing him to the lowest, but when he was at his lowest, she was also the one who pulled him back up.
However, he was going to die nonetheless. Once again, by his own mother’s hand. And once again, there was no one to protect him, just like all those years ago.
Or at least, that’s what he thought.
In front of him, was a small, shivering back. It was unreliable. It was shaky. But it was filled with an unwavering belief.
“… Sith, what are you doing?” Aife, bewildered by the turn of events, could only ask.
In front of the witch stood Lucy, hands raised firmly to the side, trying her best to block the advance with her own body. The young girl mustered all of her strength to raise her voice as high as she could:
“S-Stop it, Nana! Enough is enough!”
“Sith, do you realize your situation right now?” Asked the witch once more. “Your existence in this realm itself is incredibly unstable. Without the Changeling ritual completed, you can’t even stay in this world, so why don’t you…”
“I… I know! That vision just now showed me everything! I know I’m a dangerous being, but I can’t let you hurt him! I was the one responsible for his current life, so now I’m repaying him with what I can!”
“… Why do you care for him so much? He’s not even our kind, let alone…”
“What ‘kind’?” Shouted Lucy. “He’s a human! You’re a human! I might not be a human, but I was raised as a human! Is that not enough reason for us to not go at each other’s throats?”
“And don’t call me Sith! I’m always gonna be Lucy! Lucy Starling, daughter of a shitty excuse for a dad Dario Starling! I have no mother, but I have a Nana! She’s old and senile, but she cares about me! And I have a friend, his name is Jack! ...”
The more she shouted, the quieter she became until finally, her words were filled with tears, and the only sound left echoing in the woods was her sobbing voice.
“So please… please, don’t hurt any of us, and let’s just return to normal…”
For the second time in her life, Aife hesitated. Even if she had steeled herself to show no mercy to her son, the fact that her own kin would turn against her was not something that she had expected to deal with. The result was a single moment of hesitation, as Aife unconsciously flinched at the girl’s resolve.
Had it been just one more second, she would have struck nonetheless. Lucy, in this current form of hers, was only a helpless teenage girl, and not the carnage she once was. Bypassing her, especially in this panicked state, was easier than taking candies from a baby. In any other situation, Aife would have gone for the kill without any issue.
However, fate had other plans. And in that one second of hesitation, fate toyed with everybody involved in the cruelest way possible.
Hidden deep within the brushes, a merciless bullet struck the unsuspecting witch straight through the heart. A triumphant shout of victory could be heard after, accompanied by the rustling sounds of bushes being stroked.
Emerging from their hiding place was a group of men, around ten to twenty people, all armed to the teeth with rifles and iron-plated gear. But the most noticeable feature on all of them was no doubt the insignia of a red three-headed lion right in the center of their armor’s breastplates.
“The… Red… Lions…” Aife could only utter those words before her body shut down entirely.
“We did it!” One of the armed people tightened his fist in joy – from his helmet, Lucy could vaguely see the features of one of the villagers that chased her away. “We’ve avenged Captain Dario!”
“Captain… I hope you rest in peace,” another took off his helmet – another villager.
“Shut up, old man,” another argued. “Weren’t you the one who would always steal Captain’s kills?”
“Guys! It’s for the Captain! Can’t we just do our work properly?” The first one tried to interrupt the bickering pair. However, he was soon stopped by another in the group, who grabbed him by the shoulder and forcefully pulled him back.
“Oh, please! You’re only trying to be remorseful because you were the Captain’s favorite! Did you think we really didn’t know about you stealing his glory behind his back like everyone else?”
“Shut up you imbeciles!” Another one, this time an old man looking well over his fifties, interrupted, hitting each of the ones involved on the head with the barrel of his gun. “And focus on your work! We’re still not done yet.”
“Aye-aye, Vice-Captain!” The rest of the men finally returned to their senses and all raised their guns, aiming at none other than Lucy herself.
“She’s the one, right?” One of the men asked.
“Aye,” the old man called vice-captain firmly nodded. “Directly under Captain’s supervision. The undying Mythic, and our key to the Witch of a Thousand Faces. She did her job in the end, but it looked like Captain also croaked under her… how ironic.”
The gunshot just a moment ago was already bad enough for Lucy’s mental state, and the old man’s words did not help her one bit. Shaken by everything, the young girl was on her knees, muttering repeatedly like a broken doll:
“That’s right, Mythic,” the old man, taking advantage of the situation, continued to let out his razor-like words. “The only reason Captain kept you alive was because you were the only way we could track down the witch. We had hoped to let you kill each other by constantly putting you on edge, but it seemed like that method backfired… I told him good-ol’ fashioned bullets were better.”
“Sir, what about that wolf next to her?” One of the men asked once more.
“Eh, probably a familiar or something. Best to kill it too, just in case.”
“Aye-aye, Sir!” A unified answer from the group, and soon enough, rifles were all pointed at Lucy, completely surrounding her, cutting off every route of her escape.
At that moment, Lucy’s eyes widened.
Just like Jack didn’t believe she would stand to protect him, never in Lucy’s life would she imagine him standing to protect her. By puffing his fur and baring his fangs, Jack tried his best to look as intimidating as possible as he pushed Lucy between his legs, making his own body the final line of defense.
“Jack… what are…” Lucy could only stutter, but Jack had already answered for her.
“You told Mother already, didn’t you? There is no Cu Sith. There is only Lucy Starling… my first friend that I ever made… and my one-and-only little sister. And I can’t let my little sister protect me all the time now, can I?”
As tears flowed down Lucy’s cheeks once more, Jack let out a smile – the first, truly genuine smile that he had ever had in his life.
“Hey, don’t cry now. We have a pack of hunters to get away from.”
“Don’t worry, they can’t understand what I’m saying, remember? Now, I’ll jump forward and attack the one in front of us. The ones in the back will surely react by pointing their guns at me, and at that moment, I want you to run at them and push them as hard as you can. Then… try your best to run away, I’ll take care of the rest.”
“But… that means…”
“Don’t worry. It’ll be alright. After all, I still managed to survive in this forest for fourteen long years, remember?”
“… Promise me you’ll be fine, alright?”
“Of course. We’re family, after all,” Jack nudged his jaw onto Lucy’s head to simulate a pat, then direct his attention to the hunters before them.
“On my mark…” Jack whispered. At the same time, the old man signaled his companions to ready their rifles as well.
“Now!” Before they could pull the trigger, Jack had already shouted, and, in a flash, launched himself forward directly at the old hunter, pinning him down in just one swift movement. Just as he had planned, the other hunters, in a moment of panic, all pointed their guns towards him. Utilizing the opportunity, Lucy mustered all of her remaining strength and pushed the hunters at the back out of her way, narrowly escaping their bullets just in the nick of time.
Without another moment of rest, Lucy ran as fast as her legs could carry her.
That’s right, Lucy, seeing his sister’s back going further and further away from him, Jack closed his eyes and let out a satisfied smile. Run away, far away from this place. Your place isn’t here with me or these hunters. You belong out there, in some town from afar, living out your life like a normal person… Leave this darkness for your brother to handle.
Jack bared his fangs and crunched on the old hunter’s neck, snapping it in half in an instant. With all he had within him, the beast then jumped towards the next hunter as fast as he could, hoping to take as many lives with him to hell as possible.
However, in the end, the trained hands of the hunters were still faster.
As soon as Jack managed to jump on the second person, all of the remaining rifles had already been fully locked and loaded. And before he could go for another bite, a unified sound of raining bullets echoed through the woods.
Jack did not feel any pain, for everything was over in a flash. As his consciousness slowly faded away, the unfortunate wolf could only utter a single word.
At the same time, Lucy couldn’t resist and turned back. And to Jack’s final frustration, she had seen everything.
In the end, both of them sunk into the abyss.
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