Red Riding Hood

 

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The little girl was so beautiful that those who had laid eyes on her all came to a uniformed conclusion: that she was a goddess-incarnated, and it was not just any goddess but the one and only Solaria, who had placed Abyss under her heels with only a smile. Every inch was drenched in perfection as if she herself was an idol sculpted by superb craftsmanship rather than a human of flesh and blood and flaws, of which her radiant beauty had none. Her only flaw lied not in her person, as many had pitied, but rather in the fact that she was born into a peasant house so poor they did not own a crop and had to make their living by hunting small animals or collecting kindling wood. But that was all perceived by an outsider’s view; the little girl did not feel the least upset by her current state of destitution. She was pampered with her parents’ love and though they had not seen a silver coin for years, the girl had never suffered any true hardship. Although a life of extravagance she did not lead, the girl was thoroughly provided and cared for. Her pure mind was untainted by the gnawing knowledge as to why her needy parents could raise her instead of selling her to slavery—a diamond like her would bring about an unimaginable fortune to upgrade their status from peasant to noble—or leaving her in the woods as many other parents had already done. Thus she grew up happily, healthily and became even more ravishing.

On her twelfth birthday her mother gave her a bright red cloak made of velvet so fine her family could never hope to get their hands on. Such smooth fabric only queens and princesses in castles could wear; for a peasant girl, rough fur was luxurious at best. Warmed by her mother’s affection and already content with her present, the good little girl remained unsuspecting as ever.

She wore the hood over her head, hiding for the most part her silky hair save a tip of her braid peaking out of the hem, tied a cute little bow under her chin and went into the woods. Crossing the thick woods and you’ll come to a huge castle, her gentle mother told her. Men you will see, men in iron suits. You don’t have to give them words for a look at this red cloak is sufficient for your entrance. You’ll stay there one night and when you come back, you won’t come back alone: the empty basket that I give you will be full of what they can fill.

Though she was a woodcutter’s daughter, she had a mild fright of the woods since she had never quite left her cozy home to venture into the mass of tall trees and thick bushes. Her parents never made her work and she never quite questioned or lamented her lack of labor. Still, she was a good little girl and a good little girl obeyed her parents. If her mother told her to cross the woods, she would cross. If her mother told her to stay at the castle, she would stay. If her mother told her to fill the empty basket with whatever they could fill, she would do the same, all the while never wondering what sort of things she would get.

Under the sunlight, the leaves were thousands pieces of emerald hanging in the air. The girl had seen emerald so she knew its exquisite beauty was beyond the limited vocabulary of a twelve-year-old peasant child who could not even write her name. Her mother possessed a moon-shaped piece of emerald that she sometimes took out of her wooden box to see how brilliant the light it created when placed over the dusty lamp. My treasure, she whispered, and her eyes shone brighter than the stone itself. The girl, of course, never asked where she had gotten it; she merely enjoyed watching her mother admiring its beauty.

Sweet, sweet child, you will bring your mother more of it, won’t you? asked her mother.

The little girl nodded and beamed. As you wish, Mother.

Winds wheezed through the endless green canopy, seemingly speaking to her in an ancient tongue long forgotten. She could not decipher a word but in her heart, she held onto a firm belief that they held no malice for her. To communicate with a human was all they asked, and so she replied not with words but with a song her tongue had learnt so well, a melody so sweet and soothing it melted down any barricade the heart might hold and nestled at the depth of the soul.

She had sung before she could utter a word, a tale her father recited to every passing traveler who stayed the night at their cottage with a proud note in his voice worn by age. Then he would ask his precious daughter to raise her voice for the stranger, which she would shyly, but gladly, do—she did have a love for singing after all. When the guest was thoroughly enthralled by her siren voice, her little heart became swelled with affection from her parents’ gaze.

She dreamed of becoming the songstress one day. Smooth like the glittering emerald her mother adored, her voice would soar to heaven.

So lost in her music that she noticed neither the faint rustle of leaves nor the huge black shape that gradually revealed itself in front of her.

Her song died an untimely death and the basket in her hand dropped to the ground with a small thud. Before her was the largest creature she had ever known. Bigger than the oxen and horses she sometimes saw on her scarce visits to town, he was a wolf with eyes of icy blue flame and coat of midnight. His ragged, furry tail whipped the ground in silent impatience and his long fangs gleamed with an ominous sign. As if the world stood still in his sheer presence, the winds halted and the constant whispers of leaves around her turned to mute.

The beast did not make any sound, merely regarding her with his beastly eyes.

Her sweats froze on her skin as terror claimed her reason. Just in this moment the little girl wished so desperately that her bright red cloak was not on her shoulders to make her distinctively stand out amongst the mass of green and brown.

She fell on her bottom and cowered away on all four as the wolf approached. She wanted to stand up and ran home but her legs were shaking so vehemently that even crawling was a trial. A huge, dead trunk blocked her escape and the little girl found herself trapped between an obstacle she could not overcome and a monster hungry for her soft, sumptuous flesh. Her hands clawed at a bunch of dry leaves and she threw them at him in a hopeless and futile attempt to scare the vicious predator away. Fear pricked hotly around the rims of her eyes, blurring her vision and she could not fight back the tears staining her cheeks and then the collar of her cloak. The knot under her chin was loosened in her struggle, the hood feel off and her hair spilled on her shoulders in milky waves. Dry leaves and bits of dirt clung to carefully combed stresses, which normally would upset her, but now she had no heart to care about her appearance; on the contrary her childish mind hoped the beast would bypass a dirty-looking prey and leave in disgust. When she could no longer fling leaves at him, the little girl closed her painful eyes and covered her head in her arms.

Her world went dark and still and only the thought of death raised its chilling macabre voice in her head. Please don’t kill me, she tried to counter the voice with her feeble one, mentally at first and then verbally, until her voice became a hoarse cry. A wet touch on her elbow beckoned her back to reality. With much hesitance she opened her eyes and the cold, vibrant flame was the first thing to greet her as she found herself face-to-face with the beast.

Its tongue was licking her elbow, where, she finally realized, was inflicted with a bleeding scrape. In her despair she had not felt a sliver of pain.

Her basket laid at her feet, its handle slightly marked with teeth. Not only did he tend to her wound, the wolf in front of her also brought her the basket she had dropped.

“You aren’t going to eat me?” she asked, as if the beast could understand human tongue, as if the beast could speak to her in human language. The beast that at the moment might hunger for her flesh.

The wolf was silent as he had always been since his arrival. Not a growl, not a purr. His huge head nuzzled against her arms while his tongue darted out and licked her tear-smeared cheeks. It was wet and tickling and the little girl, despite her earlier fear, soon gave out a hearty laugh.

She was still a child and a child forgets its fear as quick as a pup a scold.

He was no ordinary wolf. His eyes, now that they were closer, sparked a brilliance none animals could possess. In spite of his size, he was surprisingly gentle. He let her on his back and carried her through the woods as she told him the way. She imagined a wolf’s fur to be ragged and unpleasant to her sense. His wasn’t. His was warm and soft to the touch. Her nose picked up a musky scent of ancient woods and leaves when she dug her fingers into his fur. The wolf gave a slight shiver in respond.

His stride fell to a steady rhythm and the little girl was cooed into a deep slumber. Her dream was scented with woods and leaves.

She parted farewell to her lupine friend as soon as the castle was insight. She hugged his robust neck with all the strength a twelve-year-old girl could muster and kissed his muzzle, her nose tickled by his whiskers. He replied with wet licks on her hands and cheeks. When she let go of him, her friend tugged the hem of her skirt between his fangs. As if afraid of losing her to the castle beyond the woods, he pulled with enough strength to rip the fragile fabric.

“I’ll be back, I promise you,” she said. “I’ll stay for one night only and then I’ll be right here. I’ll sing my song and you’ll come to take me back, right?”

She held his paw in her much smaller hand and shook lightly. A caress on the head, a scratch behind the ears and a kiss on his pink wet nose and the wolf finally freed her, albeit with much reluctance.

The black wolf quickly melted into the depth of the night.

Men in iron suits allowed her entrance as soon as her fluttering cloak was seen. “Mother told me to come and have this empty basket filled,” she raised her voice and her basket, innocently. They glanced at the basket and curtly nodded.

Strangers surrounded her, strangers with cold faces and sewn mouths. Strangers did not ask where she came from or how she had arrived here. Strangers seemed to have better clues than the little girl did, for they knew precisely what they had to do. They bathed her in scalding water and dressed her in the same fancy clothes as theirs. Her blouse and rough wool skirt were discarded but her bright red cloak was kept. Finally, they sat her at a feast full of delicacies. Butterflies fluttered in her stomach as flavors did on her tongue.

Dark corridor illuminated by weak candle lights she walked, strangers before and after her wake. Silence held its reign firmly and the little girl dared not open her mouth for an unspoken, indescribable fear resided in her heart. She wasn’t standing in front of a giant wolf, was she? She was amongst humans, humans like her and yet somehow she wished her lupine friend was here to give her a lick.

The heavy red oaken door closed behind her back and she was left alone in a dimly lit ornate chamber. There was a sweet scent floating in the air, the source of which being the thin, sinuous tendrils of smoke from a large box in the corner. At the first breath, it was soothing and pleasant to her sense. At the second, it became a sick, tempting sweetness akin to the smell of rotten fruits, at which she almost gagged. At the third, she felt her eyelids heavy and her limbs stoned.

The little girl collapsed on the Persian carpet.

Like her lupine friend, he appeared without a warning. With eyes pale as ice and dark as abyss he glanced at her, a twisted curve too sinister to be a smile playing on his lips. His countenance she could hardly recall later for her head was clouded with the bizarre scented fume. Yet she knew it was not the grotesque appearance that frightened her; his was not deformed or ugly. It was the vivid presence of evil that had terrorized her young heart. Her lips trembled and still, no audible sound came out. Tears swelled in her pretty eyes as she silently called for her friend.

The giant wolf did not come to her rescue, nor would anyone. That night, the evil man devoured her on the bed of silk and velvet.

When the sun was high in the sky, her senses began to return to her, along with pain and shame she had never been introduced. Blood ran along the porcelain skin of her thighs in tortuous trails, blood mixed with the evil seed. She may have wanted to cry but her sockets were painfully dry. She may have wanted to throw up and the back of her throat was burnt with an acidic taste, but nothing came out, not even her shame.

So torn and soiled her silk gown was that it no longer qualified for a proper item of clothing. Quickly she was stripped, bathed in the same scalding water and given her old worn attire. Her basket was filled with something heavy that made her arms numb from carrying. She did not bother to look under the covering to see what it was as she was ushered out of the heavy gate. Once it was closed, the castle seemed to retreat to its everlasting hibernation.

Her bright red cloak was also torn and painted a darker shade.

She was not singing any songs when he came out—her first friend. He bared his fangs at the sight of blood dotting her skirt; pale cold orbs became blazing flame. Could he know what had happened last night? Could he understand?

The wolf lowered his body, a gesture to urge her to climb on his back. Through the bushes and trucks he raced till they reached deep into the heart of the woods. Had her throat not been choked with mute sobbing, she might have told him he wasn’t going the right path out of the woods.

A lake clear as mirror and still as the silent wolf’s heart resided amongst trees as old as time. In his language of tucking and pointing he urged her to dive into the water. She was dirtied, yes, and she needed to clean herself. The little girl strutted her clothes, no embarrassment, no hesitation. The lake, too, was beckoning her to its embrace. She could hear it. She could feel it.

The water was cool and pleasant to her feverish skin once she got over the sudden change of temperature. She was not a swimmer but somehow, she held onto an instinctive assurance that the lake would not try to swallow her. But she wanted to be swallowed. If she could become the scum at the lake’s bottom, she would no longer be haunted by the atrocious nightmare of silk sheet and candle lights, of the blood flowing out from her as red and bright as her cloak.

The little girl dived to the bottom.

The lake was perfectly still until she came in. Everything was perfectly silent until she came in. It seemed as if the whole landscape was compelled to be in a long, deep slumber until she arrived. Had it been waiting for her for a long time?

The sound of water lapping at her ears made a strange lullaby. Whispering, comforting, the tender waves washed away her blood, her pain and her morbid thoughts. Her parents were still there for her, weren’t they? When she returned to the water cradle, she could imagine everything had been a terrible, terrible nightmare.

She emerged from the bottom of the lake, clean of blood and free of tears.

She allowed the wolf to lick at her stomach, her back and her thighs. A warm, lingering sensation made her shudder where the wolf touched. Once he was done, the wolf soundlessly brought her soiled clothes and cloak.

Unbearable fatigue claimed her as the wolf laid her on his back. She didn’t say anything anymore; she trusted him to always find the way.

A soft scent of trees and leaves was all she remembered before drifting to a dreamless sleep.

When she opened her eyes, what greeted her was the familiar sight of her house. The moss-covered brisk walls, the muddy yard, the small apple tree never appeared half-lovely to her at this moment.

She bid her farewell to her inhuman friend with a kiss between his eyes and for the first time, she realized how strikingly similar the color of his irises was to the lake.

“I’ll sing my song again. Then you’ll come to see me again, right?”

He was unresponsive as ever but she had faith in her heart that once she began her sweet melody, if last night’s incident hadn’t erased her songs as it had her innocence; the black wolf would appear from beyond the thick bushes and trees.

His fangs tugged the hem of her cloak and his eyes bored into hers. Winds winded through the canopy of leaves and thanks to some mystic force, she could hear a voice echoing: I can take you away, to wherever you want. Just say it.

She smiled sadly at her friend, whom she believed to be the source of the voice. “I can’t leave my parents behind.”

His eyes were still as the lake as the lupine watched her back drifting further and further to the place he did not belong. Had the little girl looked back, she might have noticed the longing that was visible in his blue orbs. Had she looked back, she might have realized it was not the beast watching her.

She hadn’t though.

Twinkling under the candle lights, what were inside her basket indeed made her parents happy beyond imagination. They embraced, they caressed and kissed them as if they were their babies. She had never seen them expressing such kind of emotions before; she didn’t know they were capable too. So mad with their joys that they seemed to forget their daughter’s horror of the dark castle. The little girl couldn’t share their joys, for all the gold and jewels in the basket brought her nothing but the nightmarish phantom which reeked of the sweet scent of rotten fruits. In this moment, seeing her parents’ faces which brightened with delight, she felt a terrible gap beginning to wedge its way into her young heart.

She told them all, the castle, the strangers, the demon behind oaken door whose claws had torn apart her innocence, all but her black lupine and the crystal-lake. There was a string that pulled at her conscience, commanding her to keep their encounter a secret.

She had an intuition that her parents, despite years of living by the woods, never knew of her friend’s existence. Her only friend, now that she recalled. Her life before meeting him had been secluded by her parents’ careful shelter. They hadn’t allowed her to come to town alone, where, as they always told her, was crowded with greedy, devious people all waiting for a chance to hook their vulture’s talons into her flesh. Other children would not come here either. They would never know her; she would never know them and so, she had never had a friend. Showered in her parents’ affection, she had thought it was enough for her. But that was before the demon ravaged her. She wasn’t the same girl she had been; she had known fear, pain, disgust and hatred.

A dream came to her often these days. In her dream, she was running along an endless dark corridor, her small feet bare, her petite form nude, covered only by the bright red cloak. Behind her back echoed approaching footsteps mixed with heavy animalistic growls. The sweet scent of rotten fruits floated in the air, making her nauseous. The girl covered her mouth and quickened her feet.

Running. She was running with her bare feet bleeding. Pain did not register to her for she was certain great agony would await her should her steps faltered.

Dead end. The seemingly endless corridor finally reached an end and she could run no more. When she was still able to run, her heart still harbored a faint hope. Now that there was no way to escape, despair was the only thing left for her to hold. Trapped between the wall and the pair of ice which lusted after her form, the girl could only hug herself tight.

Pale blue flame burnt into darkness. The mass of fur that stood in between the girl and her terror was of darkness itself. To her, no other sight could be half-pleasing as that of her wolf-friend. Her fear vaporized in his presence for she believed no matter what was threatening her, his fangs would tear it apart and his claws would shield her.

She did not realize their eyes, her friend’s and the ghost’s, were of the same color. She refused to. Though sporting the pale blue shade, her friend’s were fierce as fire while his were chilling as ice from a faraway mountain top.

She awoke before the showdown between fire and ice began; a lingering sense of longing scattered in her mind. Her eyes traveled to the woods outside her window, clinging onto a small hope that he would show up. It was not yet days and still, she yearned to see those eyes which seemed to reach the bottom of her soul, yearned to kiss his muzzle and stroke his thick fur.

There were two blacks she knew: one was the embodiment of her nightmare and the other the symbol of what she held dear. The black that she longed for was the latter.

She went to her knees, despair in her tone and river in her eyes as she begged her beloved parents. But none of her pleading words could waver the unshakable determination that had been established with gold and silver. Her father was icy-cold and her pleas when deaf in his ears but her gentle mother, her oh-so gentle mother was always sympathetic. She took her trembling form into her embrace and whispered sweetly. Her tone was smooth and soothing. Slowly, slowly, her persuasion melted the girl’s anxiety, her doubts and her fear. Soon, even her sense and reason were numbed.

He was already there when she came out to find him, barely outside her yard. She had not called for him; she had hardly sung a note. But he had come for her anyway as if heeding the silent yearning of her heart. Her soulmate, her heart proclaimed and exulted in sweet-bitterness.

This night she would bid farewell to her soulmate. Once into that castle, there would be no way out. For her body. For her spirit.

She let her tears run freely, down her cheeks, down her budding bosom and damping his thick fur. Her arms wrapped his neck, clinging on tightly, never letting go. She found his paw clumsily on her back as her friend tried to reciprocate the embrace in his awkward way. She felt his wet tongue on her cheeks as he licked her tears, as he had done so in their first and second encounter.

A voice echoed within her, a voice unknown yet also familiar.

Softly, firmly, it resurrected the doubt sleeping in her. I can take you away, to wherever you want.

Wherever you want, wherever you want. The words were resonating in between the walls that kept her soul, the walls her parents had created since the emergence of her awareness. She was sheltered, she was protected but she was also restrained from the world outside her home. Yet she never quite realized, until now that she heard the words. Each time they hit the walls, her doubt grew stronger, steadier, more fearful. She was an obedient daughter and she was eager to please but this time, she did not want to. She did not want to be in that castle, to be in that devil’s claws, to be ravaged with his hands, his mouth while the scent of rotten fruits, of sweats and blood prevailed in the air.

Nonetheless, outside her home, where could she go if she were to disobey her parents? She simply did not own the freedom her lupine friend possessed.

The question arose and it single-handedly pushed back other wandering thoughts. Yes, she had nowhere to go except for her house and the castle beyond the woods. Now that her parents sent her to the castle, her alternatives were reduced to one.

She shook her head sadly. “I can’t,” she whispered. Her sentence was left ambiguous. What she couldn’t, choose, run or stay with him, the girl herself was unsure.

His pale flame pierced into her soul; the wolf could see clearly what she couldn’t. Silently, he accepted her answer with a forlorn expression.

Were wolves capable of facial expressions?

She tightened her red cloak around his neck, a farewell gift she could give him before parting. The color had been stained with her blood, the hem tattered and still, it was her treasure. What would she give her soulmate if not her most precious gift?

In a flash he dived into the darkness of the deep woods and in a flash he reappeared, the cloak fluttering behind his back. He nudged her palm and let go off something held gently between his fangs.

The color shone with an identical brilliance to his eyes as she held it under the moonlight. It was a pretty thing in a shape of a tear and had the same lukewarm sensation as it laid against her skin. It looked delicate enough to shatter in her hand should she closed her palm; nevertheless, when she did, she discovered its unseen toughness. Hard as rock, warm as tears, it was pulsating in sync with her heartbeats.

She found a strange attachment to the teardrop.

“Thank you,” she murmured. She silently promised herself that she would treasure it with the rest of her life, however long or short.

She kissed him one last time on his nose and said her farewell. This time, as she turned her back, he made no attempt to grab her skirt.

Her parents played her escorts as they took her to the castle. As she expected, the lupine did not show his presence when she was having company.

Men in iron suits with grey iron faces received her at the gate in exchange of a heavy chest. She did not need to glimpse at the inside, she already knew. The exuberant expression on her parents’ profiles was enough to tell. She choked back her tears with ease for the first time for a different, raging emotion rose from the bottom of her heart. The crystal teardrop in her palm gave off a wave of heat.

Servants with faces of baked clay bathed her in a simmering tub and dressed her in a velvet robe of crimson similar to the red cloak she once owned—crimson to match the fire in her eyes and mockingly, the blood that would soon dye her skin.

She thought she might hear a distant howling from her small window. It was eerily quiet and the sound stood out like an ominous sign. She wasn’t scare; rather, she was struck with profound sadness.

Her heart was filled with regret.

Her fingers closed around the teardrop, squeezing it with such fervor it seemed to mold into her flesh. She wondered what its material was, hard and warm and pulsating.

Third night from her arrival, the servants led her out of her confinement. She prepared herself for the dark room, for the sweetly scented smoke and for the devil’s claws. If she closed her eyes and drifted her consciousness elsewhere, if she was able to, she could seal herself from the reality.

There were candles behind the oaken door which painted a shade of crimson all over the chamber. As soon as she entered, she realized this wasn’t the same chamber in which she had met her first nightmare. It was much larger and free of the sweet scent. A sense of stagnancy hang in the air. The little girl took a moment to admire the furniture before her sight traveled to the wall, where she was greeted with terror. There were neither paintings with hellish depiction nor grotesque statues but she was appalled with what was instead. Carved into the wall were coffins with transparent lids, inside each placed a body that appeared to be deep in slumber. Through the clear crystal she could make out the distinguishing features of each countenance.

Gold of hair or coal, almond or honey, the color of their mane was different. What they shared was the beauty on their angelic faces, faces which were theirs and hers.

Her fingertips touched one of the coffins, wishing in her heart that her hands could pierce through the barrier and caressed the lifeless skin of her doppelganger. Her chest throbbed painfully as forgotten phantoms of an imprisoned past were released, freely worrying her inside with their ragged teeth. A drop of tear rolled down her cheeks because she felt the anguish of her doppelgangers who were locked inside the crystal cage, cursed with an eternal sleep and nightmares of pale blue eyes.

She suddenly turned around and met their shared terror.

Like a ghost creeping through the darkness of the night, he had been there for what seemed like an eternity. Waiting, preying. For them, for her.

The little teardrop in her palm pulsated, giving her silent courage to glare into her fear. Fire met ice; her crimson irises conveyed the agony and despair of her other selves. But most of all, they spoke of her own fury.

Fire could not touch the core of ice and so he stood, unwavering. His hand caressed the cool surface of the coffin lid as if caressing the hair of the corpse behind. His other hand seized her chin with a brutal force to make her yield.

“Perfect… perfect…”

His voice came out like a growl, his tone laced with bestial lust as he repeated in excitement.

She clawed at his grip with her feeble strength but to no avail. Lost in his ecstasy, he didn’t even notice her attempt.

She gasped for air once he let go of her; on her pale throat were five distinct marks of his fingers. He gestured her to look at the far end corner. She did know what was more horrifying: the empty coffin carved at the end or the sudden tightness on her windpipe. The girl struggled vainly as black clotted her vision.

She felt death by her side. It was fine, she thought, since death was a lesser horror than the fate he had prepared for her.

Death came knocking at her door and did not went through. Not yet.

She woke up bare and chained. Her wrists, her ankles, her neck were bound to a cold iron board with heavy silver chains. Above her hovered the pair of ice chips which were now tainted with madness.

A curved blade shone in his hand.

“Beautiful… oh so beautiful… and full of anguish… But not so long my child… soon you’ll be in peace.”

Her fear surfaced as she strained her neck to glance at the tranquil, expressionless countenances on the wall. They all seemed to be in a peaceful eternal slumber but who knew what torments they were suffering? She knew. She felt them. She understood them. And she was dreaded by them.

The candles cast a wicked red light on her captor’s pale countenance, giving him a look even sinister than demon.

The blue teardrop was in her palm, hard as ever.

She felt no pain, only a terribly cold sharpness entering her bosom. As if fighting against the closing grip of her fate sealed, her heart pounded against her ribcage, her body squirmed against its bondage, and her fists clenched.

The moment her heart was penetrated, the will to live rose strongly, together with a deep regret. Twice he had proposed to take her away and twice she had turned down his offer. She had been given two chances and she herself had wasted them. Now there was none left for her.

Before her last breath escape, she squeezed the blue teardrop, wishing desperately that no matter what, she wanted to live.

This time, it shattered.

The moment one life extinguished, another was set ablaze. What sprung forth from the human skin was a mass of snow-white fur in contrast with eyes of blazing flame.

Silver chains rattled, struggling to restrain her but to no avail. With a violent shake, she broke free from them and leapt from the iron board. Her front legs pushed down her captor, her fangs protruded, long and sharp and hungry with rage.

Pale blue eyes stared at hers. The peculiar expression in them she could not decipher. Was it fear? Was it anger? Was it astonishment? Was it even… content?

For a second she thought she might know those eyes in another existence.

Such thought paled in comparison with all the hatred, pain and fury she had for this devil of a man. With no further hesitation, her fangs tore off his throat.

She was alone in the silent chamber, accompanied by corpses old and new, whole and mauled, clean and smeared with blood.

They looked like beautiful dolls kept in pretty glass boxes. However, as soon as the crystal was crushed, they withered away like flowers flung into the frying pan of hell. Fire engulfed them, consumed their porcelain skin, their rosy cheeks, turning all colors into ash.

Agony, despair, horror… were all washed away in the sea of flame.

She took a glance at her human shell lying bare and dead on the iron board. Pain struck her as she bid a silent farewell to her former life. In order to live, she had to move on. In order to move on, she had to left it behind.

Outside the chamber she saw motionless figures of the servants who had received her. They stood where they were, frozen in time. Although the flame had already extended its hand toward them, they made no attempt to escape or even to scream. When the flame peeled off their human mask, what remained inside were only pieces of iron and clay.

She paid them no mind as she raced through the blazing corridor.

A distant howl echoed in her heart. The silver wolf heeded the call and leapt out the window. Glass shattered and never before had she felt so sweet a freedom.

Red met blue as her friend was waiting from outside. A moment of hesitation as the devil’s eyes flashed her mind.

The wolf’s tongue licked the blood on her muzzle, the blood of the first life she had taken. Meekly she returned the act, feeling a peculiar sensation while doing such a thing. But then she remembered she was human no more.

What had happened in her past existence she would leave all behind. From now on, she started her life anew.

No restrain, no restrict, only freedom.

Toward the full moon he howled and not before long, she joined him in their symphony.

Behind them the gloomy castle ablaze, in front of them the familiar darkness awaited.

End

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