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 whispered.
The glow faded--not completely, but just enough so she could at least see his eyes better. He dropped to one knee, hands going to her shoulders. "Are you hurt?" he asked, sounding slightly breathless. When Hanana shook her head, he only looked slightly relieved.
Unfortunately, someone in the crowd picked up on the tone of his voice, and how he'd sounded winded, if only a little. "The demon must be weakening," that person whispered to his neighbor. Despite this, he didn't dare raise his voice too much.
"What makes you say that?"
"He was nearly out of breath, wasn't he?" someone else managed, their voice barely audible.
The villagers in front took a closer look at the scene before them--the demon still had his hands on his witch, the glow subsiding from his hands as he quickly patted her arms and shoulders, checking for any wounds. The girl was shaking her head, telling him no, she was fine, he shouldn't worry...
They noticed her reach out to brush a hand to his face.
The demon smiled faintly, as if he were trying not to. His body was tensed up, but not in anger...some, those who were well-versed in medicine, recognized it as the kind of seizing up one does when they want to ride out and ignore pain.
Then, it hit them. The demon was growing weaker. He was vulnerable, and right in front of them.
Back in the garden, the blue rose, limp with three bedraggled, withered petals hanging from its stem, drooped a little more. One petal fell, leaving only two.
Hanana saw him cringe, teeth gritting harder as he hissed. "Yukiki?" she gasped. "What's wrong?" She couldn't help think that for a moment, he looked much weaker.
"I'm fine," he hissed. "You've got to get--" He caught a sudden movement from out the corner of his eye. In an instant, the glow was back as he suddenly half-turned, swinging his arm out.
Two men, either brave or foolish or both, had attempted to surprise him, knives drawn and aimed for his side. Yukiki had noticed, however, and he suddenly moved, swinging his arm out. Both men were forced back; one of the knives nicked his arm, tearing his sleeve but doing no real damage otherwise, the other had managed to sink a little into his upper-arm and tear a little from his movement. It hurt, but he ignored it for the moment--or perhaps he didn't even notice it. "Get away from her!" Yukiki snarled again.
But they weren't aiming at me, Hanana realized, cold fear in the pit of her stomach. They were aiming at-- She caught the way Yukiki was holding himself now, tensed up, hissing between clenched teeth...as if he were in pain. More pain than the knife-wound should have caused him. And if the villagers had noticed that too... "Yukiki! Get out of here, you're not--!"
"Silence, witch!" another foolish villager shouted. Themselves being knife-less, they stooped down, grabbing a rock and flinging it at her. She cried out sharply, raising her arms to cover her head.
That did it.
The glow suddenly intensified, the demon letting out an inhuman roar as he charged forward. What few villagers had remained scattered, had to run for it. They'd gotten a little flare of bravery when it appeared that the demon was weak after all--seeing that he was still indeed very capable of fighting back quickly extinguished it.
One villager wasn't as lucky as his fellows; as it happened, he was the one who'd thrown the rock at Hanana in the first place. As he tried to run, he suddenly felt himself being pulled back, thrown to the ground. He landed on his side, but when he tried to get back up, he found he'd been pinned down. Eyes wide, he turned to see one hand gripping the back of his jacket, the other on his shoulder. And then he came face to face with the demon himself, face still twisted in that awful, animalistic rage. "Let go of me!" the man cried, trying to get away. He suddenly felt a chill, turned back again to see a thin layer of ice creeping from the demon's hands up his jacket. He shrieked, struggling harder.
"You tried to hurt her," the demon snarled. "She'd done nothing to you, and you still--"
"Yukiki, stop it!" Hanana cried, suddenly rushing up, wrapping her arms around one of his arms. "Stop it right now!" She didn't sound angry as she pleaded with him, hiding her face in his arm. "You're better than they are--you're better than this, don't hurt him!"
Yukiki paused, glow subsiding a little bit. He hesitated, willing the freezing to stop. But why though? They'd attacked Hanana--his dearest friend. They'd wanted to hurt her. He didn't care what any of them thought of him or did to him, but when they'd attacked her... Why shouldn't he punish them? Why should he stop?
"Don't do this...you're not a monster..." she was whispering. "We both know that--stop it, Yuki, please...."
...he wasn't, was he? He'd never been a monster. He stood there, the freezing halted but his grip still firm on his captive. They'd once called him a monster, without him even doing anything. He had once started to believe it, yes, but now, after Hanana had shown up...He'd never been a monster. Never. And he wouldn't start now. No matter how much he wanted to punish the ones who'd tried to hurt her--tried to kill her--he wouldn't sink to their level.
They weren't evil, they didn't deserve to die...they were just stupid.
...he wouldn't do it. Scaring them straight was enough.
He lowered his head, gritting his teeth again, and finally let go. The villager ran off, his jacket half-frozen. And then the two were alone.
"We have to get out of here," Yukiki whispered, voice rough and ragged. "Now...You're not safe here anymore."
Hanana couldn't help but wonder if she ever had been, truly. "I don't think any of us are," she confessed, voice trembling. She slowly released his arm, pulling back to look at his face. "Are you hurt? Did the knife--"
He shook his head quickly; but even then, he suddenly hissed again, hand tightening on his chest.
Hanana barely had time to react before his arm went around her shoulders--the already-strong and freezing wind became stronger, and even colder, and she had to shut her eyes against it. But just as quickly as it started, it ended, and when she opened her eyes again, they were in the middle of the forest. "Wh-what--?"
"Something...something else I can do..." Why did he sound so weak all of a sudden? "I don't do it often, but I thought...this was an emergency...."
"Yukiki?" Hanana put her hands on his arms, noticing in alarm that he looked worse than ever--shadows darker, face more haggard, he was breathing heavily..."Yuki, what's happened? You--You are hurt, aren't you--We have to get you inside and--"
He shook his head. "No...'m not...but..." But what? What's happening? The pain in his chest spread throughout his whole body just then, tiredness increasing tenfold. He couldn't help letting out a faint, weak cry as his legs buckled beneath him, and he was falling to the ground.
Hanana dropped to her knees to catch him, try to hold him upright. "Yukiki?" she cried, panic seizing her. "Yukiki, are you alright?"
"H-Hana..." His voice was weaker all of a sudden, vision swimming and darkening. The pain was fading away at last, but... "I c-can't..."
Hanana's breath caught in her throat. If anything, the man in her arms was feeling colder. That shouldn't be... "Yukiki?" she whispered, her own legs suddenly weak. She sank to her knees in the snow, taking him with her. He didn't respond. "Yuki?"
He turned his head, tried to look at her. Her heart started pounding when she saw his eyes--losing their light, only half-open, the color suddenly looking so much duller. His breathing had grown harsher, his expression weak. "This...shouldn't happening," he mumbled weakly, unable to think of anything else. It was hard to think now; his mind was starting to blank out.
And then he dimly realized what must be going on. Wondered why he hadn't thought of it earlier. If he had, then maybe...
"H-Hanana," he managed to get out. If he wasn't going to be around anymore, she still had to get out of here. Get away from that awful village, take her sisters and go... "Leave me."
"Run away...get out of here...can't go with you..."
"Yukiki, what are you talking about?" She had an idea, but she pushed it to the back of her mind, forced herself not to think about it. There was no way it was true, right? Not so suddenly...She tightened her grip on him as he threatened to slip down further and lie completely in the snow. "Yukiki! Stay awake, stay with me--"
"Yukiki, don't close your eyes--you're gonna be fine, just--!"
"Yukiki!" He suddenly grew heavier, leaning against her with his arms hanging uselessly at his sides, his face hidden in her shoulder. Fear choking her for the second time in mere minutes, she worked her arms around, trying to hold him up and turn his head to see his face at the same time. Her heart nearly stopped when she saw his eyes closed, mouth open slightly. "Yukiki!"
No. No, this wasn't happening. He was alright just a few minutes ago--he was up and about, he was trying to protect her--just yesterday, hadn't they read together? He'd been fine then, so why--?! "Yukiki, wake up! Open your eyes--please!" Her own chest was starting to hurt now, as she shook his shoulder, desperately trying to get a response. "Yuki, you can't--Wake up, please!"
Hanana looked up, blinking past the tears that had already formed. In front of her stood a red-haired woman, clad in reds and yellows, holding a familiar-looking blue rose in her hands. She held the rose in a protective bubble, her gaze on the two petals barely hanging on. One petal dropped; Hanana swore she felt what little strength remaining in Yukiki's body leave. "Who are you--what do you mean?" she demanded, hugging the cold, still body tighter.
The woman--the enchantress--shook her head. "I don't have time to explain," she said hastily. "But listen to me--I'm not as powerful as my teacher was--I'd need another century or so to completely fix this--"
"Fix what?" Hanana's voice was getting higher-pitched.
"Girl, listen to me," the enchantress repeated, finally locking eyes with Hanana. "Your friend--Yukiki--is dying. I can save him, but--"
Hanana didn't wait to hear the rest. "Please!" she begged. "Please do it!"
"You haven't heard the whole situation! Once I do this, you can't change you mind--"
"I end up cursed, I have to give my own life, I can't see him again, he forgets me--I don't care what happens to me!" she cried, the tears falling down her face now. It was a wonder that they didn't freeze--perhaps a side-effect of being so near a person versed in magic. "I don't want the one I love to die! Please--please save him!" she sobbed.
The enchantress, apparently having recognized she wouldn't be able to argue any further, shut her eyes, frowning.
The final petal dropped.