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Honestly, for all the stories told about "the demon," not one of the villagers had ever seen him up close. Nor had their parents, or their parents' parents. They'd only ever seen him from a distance, and even then they'd only been able to make out a dark shape (his hood and cloak, apparently) and on occasion, that awful glow. They never thought he'd look like...this.
In any other situation, it would have been funny. It was taking the form of a snowman, how silly, something like that. But not now. Not like this. The general concept may have seemed "un-frightening," but when one took into account the dark shadows on his face, teeth bared in an almost-feral snarl he'd just let out, the wind whipping his cloak around, that horrid glow...it made him look like the stuff of nightmares.
Most of the crowd quickly turned and fled. About seven others stood their ground, but made no move to attack, voices stuck in their throats.
The only one to speak was Hanana. "Yuki..." she whisper
Hanana was true to her word. Every day at sunset, when it was growing dark but there was still enough light to travel by, she'd show up on the doorstep, letting herself in and announcing herself. Sometimes Yukiki was awake to see her, sometimes he found himself being shaken awake and have to see her concerned expression. Either way it went, they still managed to get by this way. And Hanana discovered she quite liked how the garden looked after dark--the light would spill from the windows of the house and hit the roses in such a way that it looked even more magical than it surely already was, and some of the roses's colors were nicer in the dark, odd as that sounded.
But of course she wasn't still coming over just for the roses. She was here to see her friend; no matter how much she liked the garden or the book, she couldn't truly enjoy either if Yukiki wasn't with her. So on those nights, she'd end up tugging him by the wrist out to the garden, voicing more concerns over him when he dr
Something's not right...
Hanana's hand strayed again to the rose in her hair as she bit at her lip. Alright, fine, so the villagers wouldn't normally see a flower at this time of year. But why would the sight of a simple rose make that woman so nervous? Surprised, she understood. But that definitely wasn't mere surprise...
"You shouldn't go the forest anymore."
"What?" Hanana lifted her head, meeting both her sisters'gazes.
"We could see which direction you'd come from just a little while ago," Aruru told her. She frowned, folding her arms. "I didn't want to think of it, but..."
Hanana waved a hand in front of her chest, shaking her head slightly. "Oh, no, don't worry!" she said, knowing immediately what they were thinking of. A somewhat-tired smile crossed her face as she kept toying with the rose. "It's not as you think it is, honest. There's no demon in there, and--"
Eruru cut her off. "If you're telling the truth," she started, tilting her head a bit as she mul
"I think there's something strange about those girls after all."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well..." one woman glanced around to make sure no one could hear her, an action purely for theatrics, as it was still very-early morning, and not many were even awake yet. Seemingly-satisfied, she leaned forward to whisper to her friend, a hand cupped over her mouth. "I heard it from the baker's son...he saw the pink one, the one asking about flowers all the time? She was carrying something into the forest."
The other woman raised her eyebrows, covering her mouth. "Are...are you certain?" she asked. "But maybe she was only paying a tribute--"
Her friend shook her head, her expression grave. "No. Whatever she was carrying was too small to be any living creature, it wasn't moving...and the boy said that he thought she looked happy. And she didn't stop at the edge of the forest, either--she just went in and kept going."
"You suppose...you suppose our hunch was right after all?" the other whispe
It was nearly time.
Far away, a young, still somewhat-inexperienced enchantress was poring over her own books and notes, trying to find something that would answer her questions. A century ago, her master had cast a powerful spell solely out of bitter spite and anger. A century ago, she herself had been unable to lift it, only soften it.
But she'd gotten a bit stronger, more experienced since then. Still not enough to do as many wonders as her master had been, but still enough to realize that something was wrong with that old spell. Her sensitivity to magic had only heightened since then, and when she focused on that day, focused on both of the spells cast around that time, she felt an odd sensation. A prickling on the back of her neck, a chill of dread in her heart.
Something wasn't right with the spell. She hadn't been able to see or sense all of the original spell's conditions. Now that her own spell was drawing to a close, she couldn't help but think...
...that maybe she'd i
The sight of that rose was bothering Hanana all that night.
When the petal had fallen, she'd swiftly pulled her hand back, looking behind her as if expecting Yukiki to be right behind her. Ready to say that she hadn't touched it, she didn't make the petal fall. A moment later she'd realized how irrational that was. Why would the sight of a petal falling unnerve her so much?
It was a simple thing, she'd seen it happen to her own flowers enough times back home, but somehow, seeing this rose lose a petal sent a wave of dread through her.
Unable to sleep, she rolled onto her side, hugging the pillow to her chest. What am I supposed to do? Am I just being silly?
After another hour or so of tossing and turning, trying to dispel that accursed rose from her mind, she fell asleep. She wouldn't be able to remember her dreams the next morning, but later she would distinctly remember an image of a wilted, dead rose.
The next few days weren't easy on Yukiki's mind, even
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