Chapter 0:

The Monster and The Mountain Witch

The Titan and The Witch

Lilly trudged along the dirt path, wanting to pass out in the dust. The big sack slung over her shoulder made her back scream like she was dying. The walk back was more difficult than she had thought it would be! 

She had to admit that hailing from the modern era made her softer and more spoiled than people who had lived in the past. Even many of the elderly and more…overweight…people in this time were healthier overall, at least to her eyes and their observations. Food could be hard to get, but it was much healthier and fresher, at least compared to the diet of 21st century city dwellers like her. She, shamefully, had been too much of a fan of fried foods, heavy sauces, and sweets back home in her own time. Actually... she had been obese back home. Literally obese, as defined and diagnosed by her doctor. Despite being very physically active, she'd always had issues with her weight. It was genetics; lots of health problems and various disorders ran on both sides of her family. Despite that, she’d finally lost a lot of weight after traveling back to the past because of...unfortunate circumstances. It was now to the point that it would be impossible for her to ever regain it all. She was pretty grateful for the fact that she now looked less ugly and wasn't as weighed down by her body fat. But this was still different, even compared to the martial arts she used to do! That was fun....this was work! Trekking across the country by foot, with some help from a boat, was the normal mode of travel around here! Well, and a bit of train travel, but not where she was, because it was a small, rural island. She was still exhausted every time that she had to walk into the village and back; back uphill was the worst! She was ordinary very lazy outside of studying martial arts, but now even mundane tasks involved lots of physical labor, walking, muscle strength, and endurance. Just taking care of herself involved work.

Lilly wasn’t quite sure what era she was in or what year it was. Things seemed to be opening up and industrializing ever so slightly but, as far as she could tell, things were still isolationist. Technology was...yeah, not really a thing, at least as far as her personal, more modern concept of technology was concerned. But there were trains and, in her mind at least, trains used to be considered an epic invention that would change the world. So maybe it was a more modern time? She had no clue about the government, but it seemed to be beyond just an emperor and shogun. She was part Japanese herself, but she had lived in America for her whole life and had just recently moved to 21st century Japan with her parents when…well…stuff happened in their family.

She definitely wasn’t in the feudal or medieval area. She loved history but was so awful at remembering when and where in time things happened! She also had had to study Japanese history on her own time, with no aid, because…darn American education! She just wanted to learn about her birth father and stepfather’s homeland, the place where she had technically been born, but she was bad at time and spatial reasoning skills. She couldn’t really put all the information together in her head well. With the contrast between old and new...maybe this time was before the Meiji era, but extremely close to it? Like the 1850’s or 60’s? Actually, that was wrong! As far as she knew, there were no massive wars happening right now, so that didn't seem right. Maybe it was more like the 1870's or 80's? Or, heck, maybe this was old Japan in an alternate reality or parallel universe? Well... she wasn’t quite sure about that one! She just felt that the time travel option was correct. It seemed more reasonable and, so far, there wasn't anything fantastical or supernatural about this place. She didn’t really care much which one it was, actually. All she knew was that this was a “less modern” “older” Japanese period. She didn’t bother much about the particulars. What would she do if she did, anyway? It wouldn’t change her situation. She had slipped through time and ended up here; she didn't know how it had happened and had no say in the matter.

It was too awful and hard to try to think about what she could or should do because of what she vaguely knew had happened in the past. The idea of trying to not mess up time,space, and history was overwhelming and pretty traumatic for Lilly. Like the age-old ethical debate about "would you go back in time and kill Hitler/Stalin/Mao/Christopher Columbus, ect., to save the innocent people they killed?" She'd had to leave her classes during debates like that because they gave her panic attacks. She didn't have the capacity or strength to "live in the light of history". All she could do was live a peaceful life here and make the best of it. Living a moral life and not hurting other people and doing good things was the point of being alive, right? Well, technically, God was the point of being alive….Lilly corrected her own ever-bouncing thoughts. While she was busy not paying attention to reality, her big toe caught a rock, knocking all her thoughts from her head, and she just barely managed to not fall over

“Woah!” She panicked, her neck shooting in pain as the bag wrenched free from her hand and fell.. She just caught it before it hit the ground, and everything spilled out. “Whooo! That was…! This is harder than I thought!” She sighed, throwing it over her shoulder again and continuing on before she just decided to give up.

Things that required extreme coordinate had never been her strong suit. The martial arts she practiced were very...inventive. She was able to practice them because they were her martial arts; she invented them specifically to allow for her own abilities and desires. Her thoughts came full circle, back to her first round of thinking: living in "olden times" required stamina, strength, and courage. Cooking, cleaning, and laundry were all an adjustment, for sure! Lilly had actually been a big fan of housework growing up and she would always help her mother around the house. But in the ages before electricity, running water, supermarkets, and technology…you hard to be stronger to do stuff! It was actually kind of funny, in a way. In the past, women were always looked down on as physically, mentally, and spiritually inferior, but they actually were very physically strong, sometimes even a bit muscular, because of their housework! It was super ironic! The hypocrisy of man and reality was frequently astounding and awful to Lilly, you know, when she felt like getting a little deep and philosophical.

“Hmmm…so what do I need to do when I get home?” She asked herself, mumbling aloud and quickly redirecting her thoughts toward actual reality. She was always having conversations with herself inside of her head. Sometimes, she’d scare people by smiling or bursting out laughing for, in their eyes, no reason. Many times, she’d end up sad, moody, and crying after an epic thinking session/debate on morality, good and evil, and justice. That was the worst because she struggled to communicate what was really going on to people. She didn’t know how to put her feelings, her desire for a good world, and the despair that overthinking on those two things caused. That’s why she would talk and mumble to herself aloud sometimes; people usually already found her odd, so it wasn’t like her talking to herself was much weirder. Heck, it was probably to be expected. It was what she had done ever since she was little, and she wasn’t going to change it now! Though even well-meaning people in this new time period seemed concerned that she was sick in the mind or possessed by an evil spirit. Eh, whatever. It wasn’t like she could change how her brain was wired and what her ‘normal’ was.

“I need to get the rest of the garden planted. It took longer than I thought to get the ground turned up and ready, and I need to have the seeds in the ground if I want to get enough food to feed myself. People are going to keep thinking that it’s weird that I’m growing some of everything instead of just having a vegetable garden and/or using the surrounding land to grow grain or rice to sell. But that doesn’t matter. I need to make sure that I can be as self-sufficient as possible, so I don’t have to get a real job or go into town much for food and stuff. I just want to be fed and comfortable and be able to take care of myself and be left all alone.” She adjusted her grip on the bag.

“Okay, so I got the last of the seeds that I wanted. I have the tools that I absolutely need. I have two buckets and I was finally able to convince someone to dig a well for me. It stinks that there isn’t running water or hoses in this place, but I can make it work. I’m in pain already, just thinking about it, but I’ll get used to it. So I’ll need to plant those for sure today, then I need to plant…and those ones get saved for closer to fall…I’m honestly not sure how to grow that, but I can try and maybe ask for help next year if it doesn’t work out…” Lilly absently looked up at the clear, blue sky as she thought aloud about what she needed to do to make sure that she was fed.

She smiled and allowed the tiniest bit of warm joy to creep into her heart. “It’s…so beautiful out today. This country…is lovely. It’s a nice place to live. Maybe…at least the scenery, air, and the ascetic will be good for me here.”

Lilly was so lost in her own thoughts and plans, that she hadn’t noticed the commotion up ahead.

In a small clearing, off to the right side of the road, Lilly could hear loud shouts. As she drew closer, she could see that a group of men were standing together. She pushed her wire glasses closer to her eyes. ‘Curse how awful glasses and eyecare used to be!’ She complained to herself. ‘I wish I hadn’t broken the glasses I had on from home! These suck!’

Looking closely, she was just able to recognize some of the men. Their ages ran the spectrum from their early teens, all the way to the very elderly teahouse owner who had to walk with two canes because of his bad legs. Lilly wondered what they were doing. Why were they gathering out in the middle of nowhere? And why did they sound so angry? Had something bad happened? Lilly carefully edged her way down the incline at the side of the path. There was brush and then a thin line of trees that made a line between the small ditch and the clearing. The clearing was at the edge of the woods. Lilly crept down into the brush and tried to see what they were doing. They were gathered around…a-a-a…thing. She couldn’t make it out. She listened closely, still struggling to make out what they were gathered around or understand what they were doing. They seemed furious. Whipped into a frenzy, almost.

“-It was around my property! It was trying to place a curse on my land!” “Really? I bet it was actually planning on trying to loot your farm and you just caught it first!” “This thing could be what was responsible for the livestock that went missing or was found mutilated last fall!” “But it wasn’t here until mid-fall, and the livestock attacks only happened around the end of the Summer, and for a short time.” “Yes. What got our cow was a predator from the woods.” “Like it really matters. It’s unnatural! It’s a monster! We need to kill it before it starts terrorizing the village!” “It went down easier than I thought. It’s so…so big! And those muscles! Why didn’t it fight back?” “It doesn’t matter!” “It’s going to eat children!” “Why would a creature like this be allowed to live at all?” “Why should we let it live? It’s a freak of nature that shouldn’t have existed in the first place!

Lilly was confused. It? Eating children? Curses? What in the world were they talking about? Suddenly, she realized what the large thing on the ground was and stumbled backwards in shock. Breathing heavily, her bag slipped from her hands and fell to the ground. She clapped her hands over her mouth to keep from screaming bloody murder.

The thing they were talking about was a person! But not any normal person that she had ever seen! He was…massive…to put it lightly. He was the size of a…bear? Lion? Some large animal, for sure! She could tell that he was taller than even the tallest men in the group put together. And, even apart from his size, he was just massive! He had large muscles and looked like he could demolish whole buildings with his bare hands! It was scary and intimidating, how big he was…but why would they call him an ‘it’?

He was clearly a man. An abnormally massive man, but still a human being. What in the world was going on here? What were they doing to him? Why were they acting like he wasn’t a human? ‘it’, ‘monster’, ‘creature’, ‘freak of nature’. Those weren’t things that were ever okay to call a human person!

Lilly got her answer quickly. “Come on, let’s get this over with! We need to get it before it gets us! This demon has no right to live!” The oldest man in the group yelled. As the frightened girl watched, the group began attacking the large man lying on the ground!

He was already bruised and bloody and lying curled up, face-down on the ground. While Lilly panicked in confusion and fear, the group began attacking the motionless man on the ground. They threw rocks at him, while some of the men whipped out knifes and other farm tools that they had brought with them and hit and stabbed him. Some of the men just sat and screamed in agreement and anger.

‘Oh, my God!’ Lilly shook with horror as she realized what was happening. ‘They’re going to kill that man!’ Without even thinking, her body hurtled forward. She stumbled through the brush as it tore at her legs, stumbling as she tried to plow through it. ‘Why?’ She thought. ‘WHY? How? How can they just kill him?’.

She quickly wove through the openings between the men and threw herself in front of the man with a loud scream. “NOOOOOO!”

She stood with her arms and legs stretched out, trying to shield him. It was like a mouse trying to cover the eyes of a lion, but it was all she could do. She hoped that the men would at least hesitate at the risk of hitting her. Although, given how she had been treated in the village…she might just end up dying by his side instead.

“You…the mountain-witch girl.” A man said, his voice heavy with blatant disgust. “What are you doing, fool? Move.”

“N-n-no. NO!” Lilly reiterated fearfully, her body tensing. “W-why? Why…why are you doing this? Why are you killing someone? What did he do to you?” She questioned.

“You…you would protect this…this thing? This monster?” Another man asked, his voice dripping with hate.

“Thing? Monster?” Lilly asked in a soft, hesitant tone, still confused and unsure of the situation. Why were they using inhumane language to describe a man? Didn’t he have a name? Why? Why would anyone dehumanize someone who was clearly human? From what she had heard, it sounded like they were terrified, but she couldn’t figure out why; she couldn’t pick up on why they were scared. Was he a criminal or something? Lilly truly couldn’t comprehend or even speculate at the men’s motivation, but she stubbornly refused to give up or let her fear consume her.

“Surely even you can see that this isn’t a person, that it’s a threat to us. We are simply defending our village.” The old man coldly reasoned, wobbling on his canes.

“All I see is a big human being.” Lilly insisted. Scared of them, and unable to meet their eyes, she stared at the ground instead “Why…why do you need to be so cruel? Why do people want to kill each other? I…really can’t understand! It’s black and white to me! It’s wrong and pure evil to take a life! It’s wrong to purposely hurt another person! WHY? There’s no reason for this and this it’s wrong! Your reasons…they can’t be real! They make no sense! Why are you saying such weird things about what he did to deserve this?”

Lilly pleaded, pouring out her heart. She was so, so scared. All her life, she had had a very black-and-white, good-vs-evil view of the world and the things she encountered. She had a desire for all the bad stuff to stop and never could understand it when people willingly chose to keep doing what, to her, was so clearly evil. Even if he was a criminal or murder himself, he didn’t deserve to be murdered by a mob and left to rot in the middle of nowhere. This…if they were so set on killing this man, then she wanted them to kill her first! She didn’t want to see a human die in front of her. She never, ever wanted to be the witness to a murder! No… not even a murder. This was a flat-out lynching!

“Please!” She begged. “Don’t! Don’t hurt this man! You’ll…you’ll have to kill me first because I don’t want to see him suffer and die! I’m not scared of you!” She demanded with far more bravery than she felt.

The men all stared at her with such expressions of malice for so long, that she thought that they were actually going to take her up on her challenge.

‘God…help me.’ Her scared heart whispered.

After what seemed like forever, the men slowly lowered their weapons, though they didn’t lose their enraged looks. Before she knew what was going on, they were calling down curses on her; calling her a witch and a whore. Saying that they should just kill her too and purge the village of its ‘diseases’. Her heart shrunk in her chest, but she didn’t flinch. Each word was like a razor-sharp needle to her soul, but she knew that every insult and all the cruelty wasn’t true. She wasn’t a witch and she was obviously still a virgin…she was only 21, after all! She wasn’t even that fond of males in general! She was simply herself. Just Lilly Hoshima. She was just in the wrong time period. She didn’t fit in, so of course she would look like an evil, blasphemous monster in their eyes. Though she still couldn’t really understand the fear and confusion that she inspired.

Finally, after what seemed like an endless stream of cruel words, the men slowly began to drift away, realizing that she was serious about stopping them. They didn’t seem to actually care about having to go through her but, rather, the extra effort that it would take to do so. Maybe having to pause in the midst of their frenzy calmed them a bit and made them think that their craziness was too much work to go through with? Either way, she was glad that her desperate, spontaneous intervention had actually worked!

“Watch yourself, mountain witch. We might not feel as generous next time.”

Finally, the last man left her line of sight and she sunk down to her knees, breathing heavily. Tears of utter fear and relief gushed down her face. “Thank God. Thank God.” She muttered over and over again, trying to calm herself. “That…that was so scary!” After a few moments had passed, she remembered the man and quickly scrambled to his side.

“Is he still alive?” She asked herself aloud. “I mean…I assumed he was still breathing when I got here. But I don’t think I saw him moving at all before or after. Did they immobilize him? Or knock him out? He can’t be dead! Oh…NO! Those stab wounds!” She gasped with horror. It could have been much worse, but she had never seen stab wounds or any sort of violent injuries like this in person before. She hadn’t been exposed to this level of violence

“He’s… too big for them to really be life-threatening to him…right?His muscles…they’re big, so I think his internal organs and vital points should have been protected. But…still…” She stared down at him, trying to figure out what she should do.

“I…I…I…this is…all I know is first aid.” She muttered. “I have a fragile stomach and don’t really know anything about what to do if you’re attacked like this. I don’t know…I don’t know what to do! Okay, Lilly! You have Sake in your bag. You can use that as disinfectant because people used to use straight-up alcohol as disinfectant and as a painkiller. It’s not the best idea ever, but I bought some today for that reason. I knew that I’d probably beat myself up trying to farm and I know nothing about what medical techniques they have during this time period and what actually is safe to trust doctors with. I carried some water with me in a jar and I can just rip up the cloth I wrapped the seed packs in and use that for bandages. Oh, God! I just thought…if he got clocked over the head with a rock, could he have gotten a head injury? O-okay, Lilly…” She tried to calm herself. “You need to get yourself together and check to see if he’s alive first. You freaking out and bawling isn’t going to help him at all or keep him alive.”

This was so far out of her element and, while she hadn’t had much time to really think about it…the guy was massive and very ripped and it was scary! He had some pretty noticeable, nasty scars across his body, too. She hadn’t been able to get a look at his face because he was curled up on his side, with most of his face pressed into the ground. She still couldn’t see his face because his long hair was covering it. He had long, shaggy hair that basically reached down to his butt. It was pure white, too; as if his hulking frame, strong body, and scars weren’t weird enough!

“Okay…lets just do this.” She scooted closer to him and gently brushed the back of her hand against his broad chest. She could feel it rising and falling, so she knew that he was breathing and not dead. Was he awake?

“Hey…are you okay?” She asked worriedly, gently squeezing part of his shoulder. She internally shuddered at the feeling of his blood under her fingers.

“I-I…those men…they left…it’s okay now. You’re…you’re hurt and bleeding. Let me…I-I-I can help you. Are…are you okay? Are you alive?” Lilly asked. The man’s legs and arms stirred slightly.

“Y-yes…I am alright.” Lilly was startled by the incredibly quiet voice. For a moment, it didn’t even register with her that he had spoken. He stretched his arms out across the grass and slowly began pushing himself upright. Lilly jumped; even after raising himself just two inches off the ground, he towered over her like a behemoth! He was so big, it scared her! But…in spite of the fact that she’d just witnessed half of the local population attempting to stone and stab him, she didn’t have any solid reason to suspect that he was dangerous or would try to hurt her. Lilly hesitated. Should she help him? What did he need? What should she say to him? The man’s strength suddenly faltered and just managed to catch himself before he crashed to the ground.

Lilly yelped and lunged forward without thinking, shoving her tiny shoulder under his chest as a support. “Careful!” She worried. “Don’t hurt yourself! You were stabbed. A lot! Here, grab onto me and see if you can sit up. Just use me to support yourself. Take your time. Don’t try to get up too fast and hurt yourself more!” She instructed as he wrapped his left arm around her shoulders and upper back. Lilly pressed his hand tightly against her upper arm with her own and looped her right arm under his armpit, trying to support him as he pulled himself upright inch-by-inch.

‘Oh, Lord!’ She panicked silently. ‘His arm…this feels like being squeezed by a giant anaconda! Bad Lilly! Be nice, don’t let him know you’re scared! He can’t help his size and he’s hurt! It’s mean to be thinking such bad things about someone who’s been attacked!’

“Good! Slowly…careful! There’s a knife wound in your side! Don’t tear it and make it worse!” She encouraged as the massive man finally pulled himself into a sort of kneeling/sitting position. Needless to say, he overshadowed her a hundred times over! It was frightening; his body was heavy and supporting him strained her muscles, and she could tell that he was nowhere near putting his full weight on her! She could feel his unnatural strength just by touching his arm and side. She knew that, should he fall unconscious, she’d be squished. And, should he turn out to be a bad person, she didn’t have a prayer; there was no way on earth anyone would be able to fight back against someone with such pure brute-strength!

Despite her fear, she looked up out of concern; the man was breathing heavily and panting. He rested his large head on top of hers for a moment, trying to catch his breath and recover his bearings. Lilly just sat there silently, letting him do what he needed to do to try and gain his bearings. She felt awkward, embarrassed, scared…she just wanted to bolt up and run until she reached her tiny home. But…that would be wrong. The poor man looked awful and he’d been stabbed. What sort of monster would she be if she just left him to bleed out, or possibly be attacked again if the men decided to come back? If he was a murder or something and he decided to kill her, so be it. She didn’t belong in this time. This wasn’t her home. She was sure that her family already thought her dead, and she had no one here in this time to miss her. Getting to go to Heaven, where she wouldn’t have to overthink or worry anymore, seemed like a pretty sweet deal. If she had to choose, being killed while trying to help someone else; even if it turned out to be a trap; was a good way to go.

She felt his head slowly lift off of hers, so she looked up to talk to him. She had to take stock of his injuries and figure out what to do. In return, she was met with the most horrifying face she had ever seen.

Just the way that he looked at the world, his face itself…well, she couldn’t exactly describe it, but his face just looked like something out of a nightmare! Like…like he was constantly enraged and wanted to kill someone. He…he looked like a monster! He didn’t look like a human! Even though she tried to stop her mind from going down that path, she found herself understanding why the men had been so scared.

Lilly couldn’t stop looking at him, even though she knew that it would be rude and embarrassing if he caught her. Possibly even dangerous, with how angry he looked. Not to mention how it just made her fear and anxiety grow with each passing second as she took more and more of his face in. But she was unable to unglue her eyes from his evil face. Her heart pounded violently in her chest, her fear growing with each second that passed by. He had a nasty-looking scar over his right eye, too. She was scared, really scared, and had no clue how to react. Her stomach churned; she felt physically ill and though she might throw up!

While Lilly was internally stuck in her nauseating fear, the man suddenly looked down at her and she froze. Unable to do anything else, she found herself staring right at him as she continued to serve as a prop for him to sit upright.

Involuntarily, she found herself making eye contact with him. “Hey…are you okay?” She asked, in a calm, kind voice that didn’t match her feelings.

No! No! Don’t…eye contact…that’s what you should do in most social situations, but not here! He…he might get mad! And I don’t want to do something so…so normal with someone like him! It’s too scary!’

Suddenly, a shiver went up her spine and she was unable to tear her eyes away from his. What she saw gave her a massive shock! It had taken a minute for her to actually focus on him, and not her panicked thoughts, but his eyes…

The man’s eyes were unlike the rest of his downright evil appearance. They were a light, clear blue; like the sky she had been looking at earlier. They were big, even aside from the obvious fact that all of him was so large; they were just that expressive. And…they were so gentle and soft-looking! It…it didn’t match!

Lilly felt like she could look into them for ever and ever; like she was hypnotized. She began to calm down. While nervous, she could tell that the giant of a man wasn’t innately evil. His eyes told her enough about that. She couldn’t see any darkness in them. He wasn’t a monster.

“I…I’m fine.” The voice came again. It didn’t fit with his appearance either; it was too soft.

Lilly smiled up at him. “Oh, good! I was so scared that you’d died! What’s your name?” She asked. The man was silent for a moment. “My name is Lilly,” she encouraged.

“I’m…Shinjiro.” The man said, looking down at her in confusion and gratitude.

Lilly smiled wider. “Shinjiro…Okay, Shinjiro. I’m going to look at your wounds and see if I can help you, okay?”