Tears clouded her sight as she tried to struggle herself free.
He was too strong, far stronger than herself.
her whole body shook underneath the iron grip Ozaki had on her.
Her bright voice was shivering between sobs, her eyes widened as he reached for one of the wooden stakes.
“N-No! Not that! Anything but that! Please!”
For a moment he seem to hesitate, but it did not seem to be because of her pity pleads.
Her body was of a child, and a grown man would easily be able to pierce her chest so the stake would go though her heart and out of her back.
This terrified her more than anything.
Her small, cold hands tried to remove Ozaki’s grip.
“Dr Ozaki sir, please…you have won, I wont…
Please let me go, Muroi-san did not wish for this!
I…I did not wish for this, I just want to live.
“Don’t you dare speak of what he would want!” sounded a yell, as the doctor’s grip tightened considerably.
So did the grip on the hammer in his other hand tighten, as Ozaki knocked a wooden stake out of his belt with the help of it, fixing his eyes into the depth of hers, his breaths coming out in spurts through his teeth. The stake rolled down onto the grass, and so he placed the hammer down for a second to position it properly. It would seem he’d have to keep it over the girl’s chest with the same hand used to hold her down - in his urgency, there was some relief over Ozaki being substantially stronger than Sunako.
Despite his attempts at remaining calm, keeping the same air about him as he did in front of the villagers, tears started welling up in the doctor’s eyes. All of his failures as a doctor, a leader, a man and a husband came crashing down on him and all he could do was smash this wooden stake through the ribcage of a tiny girl.
Of course he understood. But he had no choice. While these things weren’t monsters by their own free will… they were monsters all the same.
“It’s too late to live if you’re already dead”, Ozaki breathed, barely audibly.
At the feeling of something - someone, grabbing her leg and violently trying to pull her out from her hiding spot, she could not stop herself from screaming in fear.
No! NO! Please no!
Small pale hands grasping after something to hold onto in the hollow tree, at the same time she tried to make him let go, scratching him with her nails.
Tears streamed down her doll-like face as he finally pulled her whimpering out of the hole in the tree.
“Tatsumi-san! Muroi-san! Anyone! Please Help!
I-I do not want this!”
Her bright voice cracked a bit from fear.
She did not want to die!
The names shouted in shrill panic from the girl, skin cold as death upon the ill-mannered touch, only served to aggravate the doctor further. One name in particular, one belonging to a man he had counted among his best friends, the best friend, in fact. To hear that name uttered from the lips of a manslaying corpse sent another spark of frigid hatred into the depths of Ozaki’s being. Seishin had made his choice, of this, he was painfully aware. If someone were to find him, he woud likely be killed in the same manner as the vampires.
Melancholy came over him for a moment, short enough for his grip to loosen, just as an explosion of fire sent a nearby tree onto the ground, followed by the girl, as Ozaki instinctively needed both of his hands to shield himself. He got back swiftly, however, not intending to let her go, as he threw himself forward and grabbed one of her arms before she would get the chance to recover and escape. His other hand was at the ready, wooden stakes placed at his belt for when the need would arise.
But it didn’t move.
Knees deeply rooted into the dry soil, Ozaki bit down hard, cursing all that he was. The image of one of the village leaders, leaned over a tiny girl to pierce her ribcage in a brutal display. Of course, he had already done worse, so much worse. But why this came over him now, the broken doctor couldn’t say. He had kept a calm demeanor, a resolute position, a mask knowing full well that the people they were dragging out to burn in the sun looked like people they had once loved. Even still, he knew firsthand that this couldn’t stop them.
Once and for all, this village would burn.
“It really is a very remote place. However, it has its charm. I’ll admit I was looking for a place a bit… Bigger.”
Natalia smiled softly at the doctor. He seemed kind enough, though perhaps a bit of an odd bird. It’s too bad he was smoking that awful cigarette. She couldn’t stand the smell, but he was a stranger and not one of her subjects— it wouldn’t be proper for her to demand that he put it out.
“Would you mind if I rested here for just a bit? I don’t want to use up any of your medical supplies, so I’ll just rest until I can use my healing artes again, then I’ll be on my way.”
Big city terms, he assumed. There was no use inquiring further about it, so Ozaki simply shrugged, placing one hand gingerly into his coat pocket as he used the other to put out the cigarette at the counter. There were no patients in at the time, and so he had in his exhausted bewilderment forgotten about his rule of no smoking in the clinic. The lady’s look of disapproval had reminded him though, a slight apology coming out in a distant mumble.
He cleared his throat then, the other hand covering his mouth as he did and later diving into the remaining pocket.
“Go ahead. Just don’t be out when night falls.”
Again she ran, dark eyes flickering from side to side to try to find another hiding spot.
Away from the road she ran, deeper and deeper into the thick forest.
Branches scratched her legs, roots and rocks threatened to make her fall again.
she stopped for a short moment, looking around with desperate eyes.
Please! There has to be somewhere I can hide! Anywhere!
Her eyes stopped at a old tree that seemed to be partly hollow, it was a hole close to the ground - just big enough for her to fit trough.
Without further hesitation she ran to it and crawled into the tree, it was damped and she seemed to be able to crawl far enough to not being visible, but not much more.
Hopefully the darkness would be in her favor and the doctor would not see it.
She gritted her teeth as she held her hands as to pray.
She could hear steps getting closer.
She closed her eyes.
Please, Please! God or anyone, please don’t let this happen!!
Frustration started to tear at him, as the sound of fire again reached the doctor’s ears. It was spreading, and by God would it spread fast in these conditions. As one of the village leaders, he would need to return as quickly as possible - there was no other choice but to leave this place after this abominable infestation. But there was also no choice but to purge the root before he’d do anything else. Should Ozaki return now and leave, the girl would escape and rewrite this story all over again, as was her nature.
And so the chase began anew, somewhat more aggressive this time. There was precious little time to spare, but at the same time, Ozaki managed to keep his cool enough to survey his surroundings before tearing into the foliage. What manner of place would she hide in, and where could she fit? Mostly anywhere, he’d assume. But likely not in the bushes, seeing as he’d make it a habit to run the hammer through them a few times.
Ozaki took another inhale of smoke before letting his arm rest at his side, dropping the cigarette onto the ground and stomping at it. There was only one place left to check.
Swift action required, he got down on his knees by the tree and reached his arm into the hollow space, a triumphant exhale parting his lips as the feeling of cold skin grazed his fingertips. He grabbed now, finding a leg, and made to pull it out.
She was completely worn out. Being alone on this little journey of hers was interesting, to say the least, but after a night of walking and far too much battling for her taste, she was drained. Not even her healing artes would cast anymore, and she was running out of arrows relatively quickly. She had needed a place to go for shelter, and when she’d spotted the clinic, the blonde had all but bolted to the front door.
Natalia stood near the entrance of the clinic, peering in, doing her best not to lean against the doorframe out of exhaustion despite how much she wanted to. How odd— it was so small compared to the hospitals in Baticul. The princess was unsure when it came to whoever was running this place, but it seemed to be in good order.
Upon hearing a voice, she jumped in surprise, hand immediately reaching for an arrow, before she realized it was simply a doctor speaking to her. She hadn’t seen him— when did he get there? Natalia supposed that this was one of the people who worked here, perhaps even the man who owned the little place. A bit embarrassed, she slid the arrow back into her quiver and gave a small bow to the stranger.
“Ah, I’m sorry to disturb you. I’m looking for a place to rest for a short while.”
“I’ve exhausted all of my healing artes and gels, and traveling alone like that is dangerous. Do you know of any inns nearby or anywhere I might be able to recuperate for a bit?”
There were few nurses in at the moment, leaving only the young doctor and this young lady. Even so, the air appeared tense, as if it had been busy only a moment ago. An eerie silence layered itself over the building, coupled with the exhaustion present in Ozaki’s expression, one he couldn’t quite be rid of.
While the bow certainly raised some questions, Ozaki had honestly met stranger people with habits so unusual, it only added to the reasons why the village was so isolated. Not to mention the foreign terms on her tongue, which only served to contribute to the strangeness factor she carried with her. Even still, she appeared clear enough in the head if Ozaki was any judge.
“We don’t have anything like that here, I’m afraid. If you don’t mind me saying, you’ve picked a weird place to travel. This village is surrounded by mountains and momi fir trees, making passage tricky unless you take the main road into town.”
Through the obvious exasperation, the doctor was at the very least of some manners, even should he not portray them particularly as a gentleman. But as an adult speaking with a stranger, it was only natural.
“Though if you’re feeling under the weather”, he exhaled together with the smoke from the cigarette between his lips. “Then this is the place to be.”
A small squeak escaped her lips before she could stop it, her pale hands quickly covered her mouth but it was too late, if he had heard her she would most likely to be found.
she hoped the rustling of leafs and twigs as the doctor moved had over-sounded it.
She was shaking, like a small animal. she bit her lip again to keep quiet.
As he searched closer and closer her panic grew.
Sooner or later he would find her, and then…
The thought of the wooden stake came to her mind and she shivered.
I don’t want to die.
It rustled again, too close!
He is too close!
She had no choice, she had to run!
With a fast movement she crawled up from the ditch, the mud digged underneath her nails and it was a bit slippery for her feet to take hold.
As fast as she could she climbed up as far away from him as possible, then she started to run.
As if deliberately slow, consumed by the lethargy of his soul, Ozaki neared. Closer and closer, each rustling and tearing at the surrounding foliage ending up masking the tiny yelp escaping the frail little girl as she hid. Fresh blood from still veins dripped onto the leaves and dirt, the doctor’s forced hands soiled and tainted, dried crimson caked on a once white coat. This had gone on for quite long indeed.
And there were few left now.
The fire spread, releasing its poison across the momi fir trees, the very symbol of death surrounding this village long before life itself had been sucked out of it. The heat was almost apparent from their position. But Ozaki carried on.
Then there it was - movement. The clawing and scratching of a clever creature attempting to escape his grasp. A little girl, fleeing the coldness which had already taken her, after so many murders by her feet.
Consume my village and think you can get away with it? I think not.
The darkness served to make everything a liability, quite the advantage for the demon, but Ozaki had caught that glimpse of her as she ran, flowing hair vanishing into the woods as he made the chase.
She twitched as she heard his voice.
Cold, a voice of a merciless killer.
It sank in her chest as she saw him from were she sat.
She had seen this man once before, the doctor.
If anyone, he was the one she wanted to meet the least.
Her dark eyes wandered to his hands and she almost let out a little whine at the sight of the pole.
No! She swallowed, her throat was dry.
her eyes filled with tears as she crawled as silent as she could further down in the ditch. She wanted to hide, she wanted him to leave.
Please leave, please go away!
But he was right, as the sun would go up she would burn.
It terrified her.
If only… if she only could find somewhere to hide.
somewhere were the sun would not reach.
But no such place could be found were she was now.
She had an advantage that she could see in the pitch-black darkness, but that was only that.
She snapped out of her thoughts when she heard the figure starting to move.
Terrified she realized it was in her direction.
Calculating eyes roamed in pursuit, adapting to the stratum of darkness enveloping the woods, the distant screams diminishing and leaving the adversaries with only their breaths to accompany them in the night.
Involuntarily, an onslaught of thoughts forced their way into the doctor’s mind. A friend a neighbour a co-worker a friend of a friend a child a mother a spouse—
This village was tainted. Burning on the corpses of everyone he had grown up knowing, everyone he had assisted in their scrapes and colds and final hours slipping away from his fingers, and back to their taint-spit graves the corpses would go.
Heading towards the general direction from which he had heard the sound, Ozaki salvaged another look around, confident in the fact that the Kanemasa girl was hiding nearby. Certain she wouldn’t come out on her own accord, however, he would need to frighten her out.
An image of a childhood friend came to mind. His face as they laughed. His frame as he disappeared. Ozaki trembled. Bit his cigarette too hard.
“Alright. So you’re not coming out.”
Then I’ll have to find you on my own.
Hide and seek.
Ozaki silently pushed a hand through the foliage, into a nearby bush, not quite the one where the little girl was hiding, but close. In any case, this was an intimidation factor. He’d have to search each little place until he found her.
The air was crisp and warm that morning, almost a futile attempt to make the chain-smoking doctor grab a breath of it where he was seated in his gazebo. Eyes closed and hands shoved into the pockets of his white coat, he simply listened to the relaxing sounds of nature around him. The man appeared at peace and content, but his trained mind was working madly, causing a somewhat strained expression to form through the furrowed eyebrows.
Then Ozaki opened his eyes. The ashes from the very tip of the cigarette in his mouth crumbled onto his lap and he twitched, removing the thing from his mouth to dip it at an ashtray before letting out a breath of exasperation, the smoke heading out with it.
Enough thinking. Enough rest. If only to keep himself remotely sane.
He headed back to the clinic, which he as the young doctor of 32 years old had taken over after the death of his father and resignation from a university hospital. Upon returning, Ozaki looked up, noticing a figure by the entrance but not quite discerning who it was from there.
“Do you need something? You can go inside, you know.”
She could not do anything else but continuing to run.
Green branches of trees and bushes dragged in her dress like deformed hands trying to stop her in her flight.
She could no longer hear the voices of the ones attacking, but she could smell the fire and smoke, it stinged in her eyes and nose yet.
It was burning,
Kanemasa mansion was on fire, somehow - she did not know how - some people had found their way inside the mansion.
Oh god, now they all know!
Luckily she had been woken up by some loud noises and been able to sneak out, It was still dark outside, all she knew that it was at least closing to midnight.
The vision of her new home burning, the screams from those she had called her family still rang in her ears. She felt her chest tightened.
It was too early, how could they have found out?!
She had to get away! She had to hide!
She felt tears welling up in her eyes, as she stumbled on a root and fell into a deep ditch close to a small muddy road.
A small sob escaped her as she suddenly froze.
A silhouette of a person stood not too far from her.
Her tears and the trees made it hard to identify who it was.
Hopefully whoever it was, hadn’t noticed her yet were she was crouching in the ditch, her dress soaked now by mud and dirt.
She bit her lip as she tried to be as quiet as possible.
Phlegmatic breaths caressed the air, every insufflation riddled with blood, should it have been a possibility. One lone assailaint separated itself from the hoarde, intent in leaden steps and a calm on his face so deadly, he appeared the grim reaper itself come to deliver. Tonight was delivery night.
Ozaki’s steps came to a halt as he picked up the distant sound of a figure further away, his senses sharpening as death resided in his eyes, a silent and serene expression so contradicting in regards to the dark crimson stains on his white coat that it was almost turbulent.
Eyes wandered. Searched. Lethargy consumed the doctor’s soul where he stood, so relaxed in his stance, too sensible to be insane. In his left hand, a sharpened pole carved from wood. In his right hand, a hammer. In his resolve, steel. Hatred. Anger. Death.
“Come out”, he breathed, his tone firm and resolute. “The woods won’t protect you when the sun comes out. I can stand here all day.”
You started this game.
You were the one who set the ball rolling.
Let’s see how you actually play it.
“I do.” The little girl smiled.
“There are a lot of interesting people here too, the one’s I met so far that is.”
“Though people doesn’t seem to enjoy strangers too much, so it seems.
Why is that, Ozaki sir?”
Because they’re being killed.
Because the entire village is dying.
Because you’re spreading your condition through the thickest of walls.
Ozaki removed the cigarette from his lips, watching the smoke dance in the nightly breeze as he exhaled. One moment of devastating silence, then he turned, a bright smile on his face.
“You’ll have to forgive them. These people are used to their ways and we don’t get a lot of strangers here. A village filled with old folks is bound to conjure up some rumours, don’t you think?”