In The Fox-Witch's Wake, Part 2

Chapter 7: She was right

It was a dark and moon-shrouded night, some three months back… Or was it four? Three and a half it is. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was making my way home from the grocery store, dinner in hand. It's a typical routine as befitting one who lives a lonesome life separated from parents; I sometimes prepare my meals, I mostly buy them. But I digress: There was a noise and I chose to investigate.

That's when I saw her for the first time, by the side of the kimono shop. She had thrown several garbage bags aside, plying her claws through discarded wares. Cloths, clothes, possibly a discarded sewing kit or two? The goal, it seemed, was to harvest materials for her supernatural works, rather than foodstuffs for basic living needs.

She became stiller than a statue in my presence as she fixed her gaze upon me, pale amber eyes gleaming in the moonlight. Strange, as she appears the sort who would disregard the gawking of a bystander and carry on with her business. No, she was giving me the strangest of looks. She was scrutinizing me, as if she saw something within me. She then opened her mouth, asking me one simple question:

"Who are you?"

How odd! Rumour and hearsay normally conjure her as an unsociable spirit, choosing to be silent or telling others to go away. And yet here she was, taking the time to take such curiosity upon my being. Therefore, I replied in the only way that I could: I gave her my name, as requested.

"Miyata Togai."

Why else would I tell anything other than the truth? What was there to be gained by tricking a trickster? But get this: She remained still for what seemed like an eternity, thoughts clearly churning in her head. Memories of a past conversation, perhaps? All the while giving me the strangest of looks she finally spoke once more, uttering a particular set of words.

Would you like me to tell you what those words are? Oh say, I say I will tell it, and I will tell it as I say. And it was said, as such:

"I was right about you."

Then she left! Such a strange and specific choice of dialogue! The wording, the context, it all but implicitly suggests-no, declares that she must have talked about me beforehand to somebody else! That she must have acquired prior knowledge of me before this first interaction!

Wouldn't you know a thing or two about it… Sarada-san? Matsuoka-san?

"Snrrrk… Hrrngk…" Mizuka snores in a most unladylike manner as she slumps into her seat, glazed eyes slowly rolling up to disappear beneath heavy lids. Her drink had fallen from her grasp, tainted liquid confectionary slowly dribbling out from its straw across dusty concrete.

"What a pity Matsuoka-san fell asleep to my story! Am I really that much of a bore? Or, perhaps…" Togai lips slowly stretched wide, teeth glinting in the window's light as shaded eyes gleamed in the dark, "…was it the tranquilizer I spiked your drinks with? What do you think, Sarada-san?"

BAM! Honoka's foot launches into the rusted door, the impact rippling the shed briefly.

"Oh, Sarada-san!" Togai slowly raises his hand, dangling a flattened tube of superglue in the air. "Had you chanced to turn around right after entering, you would have caught me in the act of gluing the doorknob shut!"

BAM! She grunts in panic and kicks once more, pausing to desperately jostle a door handle that had suddenly frozen in place.

"That's not going to work, Sarada-san." Togai calmly strolls to the cooler, slowly pulling a sledgehammer out from behind. "You'll need something with a little more force. Like this-"

BAM! One final kick, and the handle buckles against tearing rusted sheets, throwing the door open.

"Oh~" Togai tilts his head in wonder.

Honoka falls to the leaf-strewn ground, the crisp forest air cooling her sweat-reddened cheeks. She pants and gasps, throwing herself forwards and sprinting into the forest, blind panic overriding all sense of caution.

"Oh Sarada-san! You've learned to flee well, but could you really afford to abandon your friend to the likes of me?"

Honoka's brain freezes, animal instinct giving way to the realization that she could not, as he said, abandon her friend to the very same boy Mishio warned them about months ago. Trembling wildly, she looks left to the forest clearing back into Takachiho roads, and right back to the shed, Mizuka, and Togai.

Her brain furiously sending synapses left and right, she looks to a bare hand - she needs a tool! A weapon! Something to defend against Togai and his sledgehammer-

"NO!" Honoka shrieks and collapses, her mental trauma overriding any thoughts of holding an object as a weapon, as a sword, as a kendo stick…

Remembering Mishio is important! Being alive also very important! Honoka thought, pushing herself back up to run out of the forest. The secret agents, they'll have training and maybe guns! They could-they could stop Togai-

Honoka flops down. Each of her limbs suddenly weigh a ton. The fires in her head were slowly snuffing out beneath the weight of somnia. She was drugged? Impossible! How?! The only thing she drank from…

No! Impossible! My own drink, when did he-

"We ALL have been drugged, Sarada-san, even I. However, as you saw by the coffee cans… I dosed myself with more than enough of a simple, yet effective antidote. I admire your alertness, Sarada-san. You were so close to deducing the truth…"

Togai approaches a limp Honoka at a relaxed pace. He crouches down to face Honoka.

"Every single one of your actions wasn't wrong or unwise; Clearly, your tormentors have trained you to be wary and alert at all times! But, as you must realize by now, I am a class above…"

Togai spits, thinking of the louts he has had the displeasure of mingling with.

"Saeko, Chiaki, Ase and the rest of them: Violent and thuggish boors of low aspirations, through and through! Yet all these who you have suffered through are but mere ants, to my spider…"

He turns back to see Honoka managing to concentrate strength in her legs, shoving herself one foot closer to the forest outskirts in the manner of a paralyzed toad.

A loud sigh can be heard, followed by the uncorking of a bottle. "This is the problem with past victims: Experienced enough to remain wary, naive enough to keep falling for it… It is these little things that add up and ultimately make it all the harder for me to do… that, which has to be done…"

A soaked cloth is brought against Honoka's face, smearing her lips and nose in a fuming, acrid scent.

Honoka tries screaming for help, but her already-whimpering breath grows weaker; limbs heavier, eyelids slowly sliding shut…

"Sleep tight… My darling Honoka."

The last thing she felt was the sensation of being lifted gently within Togai's arms, as if she were a cherished princess.

The last thing she saw was the same unmarked white van from earlier meandering about the road, blissfully ignorant to her plight.

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