The skies were turning grey, there was wreckage everywhere, the yelling and screaming seemed to merge with the sound of gunfire to form a thick haze of mayhem and panic. A bomb fell in the distance and it seemed the entire earth shook. More dust kicked up inside the house Hans was breaking into. As he rushed passed the busted windows to the second floor he saw the carnage outside; soldiers left and right being gunned down, yelling orders and desperate advice to each other.
Hans made it to the second floor and began to set up his rifle just under the window. A rush of thoughts and images were going through his head. He thought of his friends who were fighting with him, his home for which he was fighting for. He thought of how much he wanted to go home, but how much he also needed to keep fighting to protect those he loved. Every single time Hans prepared to take another man’s life these thoughts flew through his head. Hans loaded his rifle and peered down his scope.
His building bordered what seemed to be a sort-of square or community clearing, as there were other similarly destroyed houses bordering a large open space. He scanned the houses across from him, knowing that his efforts may be the turning point for his brothers-in-arms. He saw hobbling out from one of the broken down houses were two Russian soldiers. One was supporting the other, who seemed to have been seriously injured. Hans hesitated to fire on them, but just then, he heard another bomb drop. The moment the earth stopped shaking he shot them both. A deafening *BANG!* echoed from the end of his gun each time. He had eight shots left.
Hans looked around for more enemy soldiers and saw what looked to be another sniper setting up his rifle on the third floor of an opposing house. With his scope he was able to see his helmet just from underneath the window sill. Hans hesitated, but not for the same reason as last time, if he were to fire it’d be likely to just skim the top of the soldier’s helmet. His waiting paid off and just as the enemy sniper stood up, *BANG!*, he fell back down again. He’d fired that thing at least a thousand times, but he’d yet to get used to that sound. Hans had seven shots left.
Hans’d killed three more soldiers, one had tried to get closer to his side of the houses. Another attempted to hide from German fire behind some wreckage, seemingly unknown as to how short his blockade was. The last one he shot upon was a pitiful fool, who lost his guts and thought that firing without aiming, merely holding his gun out in the general direction of his enemy from the safety of a building, that that would both injure his opposition and keep him safe. He was wrong, of course. Hans had four shots left.
Six shots and not a single wasted bullet, if someone was watching him, he might manage to earn another medal. But Hans wasn’t fighting for any medals, he was fighting for his home—Germany, for his family & friends, and for the Fuhrer who’d promised to save every German from the oppression the rest of the world put upon them. The visage was so clear it seemed to be on the verge of reality, he only needed to keep doing what he was doing. Keep on fighting, just like the rest of his brothers and comrades in the Wehrmacht.
Hans, gritting his teeth and began searching for more enemy soldiers. He gripped his rifle and saw peeking out from one of the windows a young Russian soldier. At that very moment Hans’ vigour drained from him. This soldier, this child, looked to be merely 16. From the view from his rifle Hans saw nothing but fear, he imagined the boy’s face as tearstained and terrified, that he wanted to go home into the arms of his mother, that this was not what the war looked like on the posters and the speeches given by handsome-looking officers in the town square. Still, Hans thought, this was what the boy signed up for, it was his duty, his job, to fight for his country and to keep those he loved safe. It was doubtless that the boy had killed, even if accidentally. It stopped being about him the moment he stepped onto the battlefield.
Was Hans really going to kill that frightened child, who’d found himself in a battle meant to be fought by men? Hans never got his answer, as just then, he saw a miniscule glint just in the corner of his scope’s view. It was an enemy sniper, Hans’d gotten too distracted.
The punishment was enormous, but not unexpected. Hans heard a bang from far away, and then he began to see stars in front of his eyes. As if the bullet fired from the enemy sniper had destroyed the entire earth and left nothing but space in its wake. Hans felt his sight go black.414Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡH31GOYBK7o
Hans thought he was still dead at first. He felt he was lying on something hard but there was a buzzing in his ears and his eyes refused to open. Desperately he tried to get up but he couldn’t feel his limbs, the buzzing seemed to only get louder the harder he tried and Hans eventually gave up. For what felt like an hour Hans lay there motionless on whatever surface he was on, he found the conviction to open his eyes again and this time he did so with ease.
Hans wasn’t in Stalingrad.
The first thing Hans noticed was the flowing water: Hans had been lying on what looked to be a small stone-brick pedestal which water flowed past. Hans, now sitting up, looked around. He was within the tall grey walls of what looked to be an ancient castle. Several meters above was an arched roof, partially broken in some places as to let beams of sunlight reach the surface of the flowing water around him. It seemed the castle was flooded. Hans, slowly, turned his head to see where the water was flowing from and he saw a large doorway. Water flowed smoothly down from the hall where the doorway led and across the stone floor. It was a few inches in depth and was as clear as glass.
Hans looked down at himself. He was still in his uniform. He looked to his right hand, in it was his rifle. Hans then looked straight ahead, he saw a smaller doorway in front of him, leading to some room or another.
“…Where am I?” He said to himself.
The question seemed to take a few seconds for Hans to even grasp, but he did. Hans rocketed to his feet but as he did so he saw a small bronze object fall down between his eyes. There was a light *ping* as it hit the floor, Hans bent down to look at it and saw a crumpled bullet.
His memories rushed back to him like a train. Immediately Hans removed his helmet and saw right on its front a clean bullet hole. He put his hand to his forehead, thinking there would still be a wound there, and that the moment Hans found it he’d drop dead again. But, there wasn’t a thing, Hans couldn’t even feel a scar.
And there he was, Hans, who’d just been killed by some other sniper, totally alive in some presumably far-off location. He was certainly not familiar with the areas around Stalingrad but he doubted anything like these flooded ruins could be nearby, it was certainly warmer than Stalingrad, too.
Hans tried to remember if there was anything his training as a soldier could do to help him in his situation, but he was drawing a blank. Figuring there was nothing else to be done, Hans slung his rifle onto his back, checked that all his gear was still in order--it was--and stepped down from his pedestal and into the water.
It reached to just below his ankles, so his thick boots were able to keep him dry. Hans walked down and into the smaller doorway in front of him. As he passed through the arch he saw an enormous hole in the castle’s wall. Thick bark-covered vines grew into the water from outside. There was greenery just at the edge of the gaping hole’s view and birds could be heard chirping outside.
It was idyllic. For a few moment Hans stood there in the center of the water-filled room, merely basking in the warm sunlight, he felt like he could stand in this very spot for the rest of his life and be fulfilled. But, then he heard a rumbling. A distant rumbling behind him.
Hans turned around and saw entering from the large doorway back in the pedestal room an enormous black many-toothed maw. Following the maw was a tall and fat creature utterly covered in pus-coloured eyes. Hans counted six thick black legs from the monster’s sides dragging the creature through the doorway and into the pedestal room. Its maw hung open in the air, exposing what may’ve been a thousand pointed teeth. The monster was enormous. Hans stood frozen in his feet, he could hardly take in what he was seeing. He looked to the woody vines at his side, the seemed strong enough to climb, and there was no way to get past that monster.
He took a single step towards the vines and instantly the monster reacted, it threw its body to the floor and immediately rushed towards the room where Hans was. Hans saw the monster’s enormous size slam into the door, with only it’s mouth fitting through the small passage. Hans saw the walls holding the creature back begin to shudder, he dashed to the vines and jumped onto them, scrambling to escape.
Just as he made it to the hole in the wall he heard the walls holding the monster back collapse. A mess of dust and debris surrounded the now destroyed doorway Hans had used to enter and he saw the enormous beast up close.
Leathery black skin made the monster look like some unholy combination between a slug and a salamander. Before Hans could reflect more on what a terrifying creature this monster looked to be it began thrashing around the room with a screech so loud and deafening Hans felt himself go lightheaded and dizzy. The broken brick wall he was standing on shook with the force of the creature’s thrashing about and Hans looked desperately for a way off. He found the origin of the thick vines, a tall dark-wooded tree with thick drooping leaves. Without hesitation he jumped off from the castle walls and into the tree’s branches, the screeching of the monster still ringing in his hears.
Hans had no intention of checking back on the monster. As his head cleared he looked out from atop the tree to get a proper view of his surroundings and found massive stone walls encircling both him and the ruined castle he had just escaped from. The walls looked smooth and plain in the distance, just tall enough for it to be impossible for Hans to see what was beyond them. The sun was high in the sky, meaning it was nearing noon.
It was beyond a doubt now, Hans was nowhere near Stalingrad, though, if his memories of dying were to be believed…
That beast proved this place to not be heaven.
Hans wondered if he was even right to think he’d be in heaven, he thought back to how he had seriously intended to kill a 15-year-old boy. If that enemy sniper had been a second later, that boy would be as dead as…
Well, if Hans was dead, and he wasn’t in Heaven, then he would be in Hell, right? Hans looked around from atop the tree, it certainly didn’t seem like a Hell. There would be demons in Hell, and that water-monster certainly qualified, but would there only be one?
Hans looked to the ground and saw the tree he was hiding in rested on dry ground, it seemed to him that monster was sensing Hans’ presence in the water. Hans dropped down from the tree and landed with a soft *thud*. The ground was soft and the grass seemed fertile, this was certainly no Hell.
Hans didn’t feel particularly tired, or thirsty or hungry. He felt like he had just woken up from a good night’s rest, which he hadn’t felt in a long while. Hans looked around from the ground and saw he was in what seemed to be the ruined castle’s courtyard. A stream came out from a wide stone archway and down a set of stairs, it flowed down past fallen statues and overgrown plants and out a pair of ornate rusted iron gates. The statues of two women dressed in flowing stone silks were carved into the pillars of the wall that encircled the courtyard, they looked as if they were holding the gates with their hands. Hans found himself thinking the word ‘idyllic’ again, despite the events that had just transpired, and the apparent threat that would come if he tried to step into the clear & flowing stream. He wouldn’t be able to drink from this stream, either.
Hans sat down to inspect the state of his equipment, he doubted firearms would be allowed into heaven, and his Gewehr 43 rifle was just as he recognized. He took out the clip of ammunition and counted how many bullets were left; four.
It was obvious now, whatever happened between the bullet shot from that sniper and Hans’ death, it both revived him and brought him to wherever he was now. Everything was as it was from seemingly minutes ago. He checked his canteen, it was half-full. He re-assessed the rest of his inventory. He had two full magazines left, meaning Hans had 24 shots. In terms of food, he had enough rations to last about a day, perhaps two days, but if he were to make it that long he’d need to find a safe source of water. If he could find a source of water and would have to last more than two days… His bayonet knife could easily serve as a hunting knife, and Hans doubted there’d be any Russians to fire at wherever he was. There’d be nobody, as far as he could tell.
How would Hans get home? Was getting home even possible from where he was? Where was he? Was there a body where he had been killed? Or had he been transported fully and then revived once he had gotten here? What was happing to his comrades, his family?
Hans felt a deep pit in his stomach form, he felt his strength sap and he sat down. Sweat was forming on his brow.
He lay back onto the trunk of the tree and put a hand to his forehead, he felt like he was shivering as his mind raced and panicked as to what he was to do now. There was no way for Hans to make it back, he didn’t even have an idea of how he got here in the first place. All he remembers from just before was getting killed. Hans looked at the end of his rifle, he had no intention of dying a second time. Hans began to feel sick.
“C-Calm down.” He said to himself.
It seemed to do the trick, Hans’ hands rested at his sides and he breathed in slowly. The bright blue sky was above him, with soft rounded clouds drifting by peacefully. He squinted into the sun and something about it reminded him of an equally sunny summer just about six years ago. Hans blinked the memory away, he had to at least figure out where he was before he could reminisce on where he had been. Hans stood up from underneath the tree and put his pack back together. Finally slinging his rifle around him he headed towards the gates leading out of the courtyard, careful as to keep on dry ground.
He reached the area before the gates without incident, the landscaping of the courtyard proved useful as most of the trees were planted on raised ground. Hans imagined how beautiful the garden may have looked before it became flooded, even now, with the clear water reflecting pieces of sunlight, the courtyard was beautiful. Hans was at least happy to have appeared here, and not anywhere near the war.
Hans wanted to both run away from the war and return to it, it was a common feeling, but it didn’t make him feel any less guilty.
Hans looked to the woods just outside the courtyard gates, he then looked to a small pond just outside. From the pond Hans saw now other stream, meaning the water would end there. It would be impossible to make get through the broken gate without touching the water. Hans looked around the walls that surrounded the courtyard, unlike the walls of the castle, these seemed mostly intact. There were no obvious footholds for him to climb over, most of the rest of the courtyard was out-of-bounds due to water anyway.
Hans thought of how it took the monster a little while for it to find him in the castle. If he managed to traverse the small pond quickly enough he should be able to escape before it caught up to him. Hans looked and the rusted gate that stuck out from the nearest stone woman. He tried to test its weight. If he tried to use the gate to climb around, and then jump off into the pond, he might just have enough time to make it to dry land. Hans reviewed his chances one more time before concluding there was nothing else to do.
He jumped up onto the rusted iron gate and it dropped an inch as it bared his weight. Hans stood totally still. Slowly, he edged across towards the end of the gate, not sure whether the creaking he heard was the gate or his paranoia. He turned the edge and began climbing back on the other side. About halfway he heard a distinct *clunk*. Hans panicked, he leaped off from the rusted iron fence and into the pond, planning to wade his way to dry land.
Immediately he sunk to his chest into the water, it was far deeper then it looked. Filled with immediate fear he turned around and saw the figure of the enormous black beast appear from around a corner inside the castle. Hans waded as fast as he could through the water but he couldn’t turn his head away from the monster. It screeched that deafening screech and began barreling towards Hans, half swimming half sprinting. Hans tried to swim the rest of the distance but he was weighed down by all his gear, he was only halfway when he began to feel the earth beneath him shake. In a mere moment he would be dead again, he should have realized the pond was as deep as it was. Where else was the water flowing if not into thi-
Hans’ thoughts of death were cut halfway when he saw something zip past above him and the monster behind him screeched in pain. Hans saw the hilt of a spear had pierced the monster’s front, halting it in its tracks. Hans took his chance and with a final burst of adrenaline made it to dry land safely. Crawling farther away from the pond he saw the creature regain itself and sit still in the water, with its bottom side placed under the stream. He watched the creature idle for at least a minute before it began to shriek and thrash around in the pond where Hans’d just been and almost died in. The sheer volume made him begin to feel dizzy again. The rusted gates and the stone women supporting them were destroyed.
Hans just sat there watching as the beast’s six legs stamped the ground and its maw twisted as it screeched in presumable anger, losing potential prey a second time. The massive amount of pus-coloured eyes shook with each movement of the beast’s sickly looking body, how the monster had so many eyes and still could not see Hans was a mystery to him. The shaft of the spear sticking out from just about the creature’s gaping mouth brought out a grey-ish goop-like blood that tarnished the crystal clear water around in. After what seemed like another minutes of screaming the monster seemed to calm down. Hans observed as the monster scrunched its body together and with a leathery black hand, that like a frog’s, it grasped the shaft of the spear and yanked it out. The weapon fell from the monster’s hand and sunk into the pond with another splash of grey blood. Finally, the monster turned around and paced out from the courtyard, back into the grey castle.
Hans stood up with shaking legs, from the chest down he was sopping wet. He emptied his boots and looked into the forest. Only then giving thought as to who his saviour was. Who could’ve possible thrown a spear with such force as to halt a beast like that? Hans got up, fixed the position of his rifle, and began his trek towards the enormous stone walls. Perhaps whoever saved him he would find there.
It’d been a few minutes now. Hans looked back to the pond in front of the courtyard entrance, he then looked at the rifle he had slung over him. If a single spear was able to stop the beast in its tracks, how much would a couple bullets be? He put his hand to his face.
Finished with feeling sorry for himself, Hans looked ahead, wondering how much closer he was to the wall’s perimeter. If he looked out from it, it might give him some idea of where he was, though he wondered how much value that’d be. Hans looked around him, the forest was not as thick as it appeared. It may be that, since this forest was also inside the enormous stone walls that enclosed the castle, that it was planted artificially. Perhaps the aesthetic appeal this entire area had was all deliberate? Hans looked at himself again, his drab soldier’s uniform, the rifle in his hands. Had he been sent back in time? A place where there were grand castles and a thrown spear would save his life…? Hans’ eyes widened, though he didn’t stop walking.
“D-Don’t jump to conclusions.” Hans stammered to himself. It wasn’t as if there were no castles in the 40s, and spears were probably still used in some places. Maybe he had just been teleported to some far-off country, and that monster he faced was just some undiscovered species. Maybe a way home was possible…
Hans hoped, but doubted.
Hans continued to walk on for what seemed like an hour before finally making it face to face with the massive stone walls. He looking into the sky and saw the sun was just out of sight. The walls themselves were as plain as they seemed; utterly enormous, totally solid and built out of simple stone bricks. It was a little surreal, seeing such a pattern stretch across such a large object uninterrupted by anything. There was no obvious exit
He looked to his right, searching for any apparent doorway. The brick pattern seemed to stretch for forever. Hans squinted and only then did he notice a small outcrop a distance away. He began trekking towards the small interruption in the small brick pattern that made up this giant wall. What a marvel it must’ve been to build something so tall with the primitive technology that seemed apparent to wherever he was.
Hans got closer and the outcrop became clearer, it seemed to be an archway. Hans might have just found the way in and out of the wall. Hans picked up the pace.
The archway out was enormous, at least twice as tall as Hans was. From the depth of the arch, it seemed the walls were five whole feet in thickness. Hans squinted upwards, the tall stone-brick walls towered over him, what was their purpose?
He looked through the archway, mountains in the distance.
Hans made his way through, he could see the sky was still a deep blue, not the desaturated grey-ish he saw in Stalingrad. His heart both rose and sank at the same time with each step: His way out was as close as ever, but his way home seemed to get farther and farther away. Hans stepped out from the confines of those enormous walls and looked to the view. He was standing on the edge of a sheer cliff, he saw waterfalls coming down from the land he was standing on and into a large reflective lake. He, the walls and that castle seemed to be on some sort of island mesa. Beyond the lake was another forest, but the trees looked huge, despite their distance. Deep brown and dark green, the depths of those woods looked to surround the entire lake. Beyond that, Hans could see nothing, there was fog rising up from within the thick forest. He stood up straight and took a deep breath. Something from behind grabbed his face.
He was thrown to the ground, he felt all the air in his lungs disappear as his back hit the hard earth. His sight went blurry and there was something cold pressed against his neck. It took a few seconds for his eyes to re-focus, and he didn’t dare move.
A woman was staring him in the eyes, a miniature lance in her hands –at his throat- and the largest bow Hans had ever seen around her torso. The thing looked to be taller than she was, taller than he was. Hans’ eyes lowered to the end of the lance at his neck, thick feathers made up a black and grey fletching. It was an arrow.
Hans was so shocked as to the size of the arrow that it wasn’t until when he actually locked eyes with the woman holding it to his throat.
She was brown-skinned and had totally black hair that fell to her shoulder in ruffles. Her eyes were almond-shaped and her eyes were almost black. Her eyelashes were unfittingly thick, as if she was wearing makeup. At her waist, taking the place of where a scabbard may be was a large quiver holding three more of those greatarrows. Hans couldn’t think of anything to say or do. From her expression and particularly thick eyebrows, she was cross. Though that was no new information.
“Gono gor!?” The woman shouted at him in a language he didn’t understand. Her voice was high-pitched but had such an immense authority to it. Like she was talking down from a mountain to him.
Hans wanted to raise his hands in surrender. “…I don’t know what you’re saying.” He said, wanting least of all to stutter.
The woman’s expression seemed to soften slightly, but it was still scrunched up in apparent disdain. Moments later her expression softened totally and the arrow at Hans’ throat left him. Hans took the chance to check his neck, there were no marks he could feel. He got up slightly and the woman in front of him simply stood there in silence.
Hans looked up to her, breathing heavily. “…German?” He asked, pointlessly.
“Propers.” The woman seemed to say in a much softer tone than before. If she and Hans were one the same page, ‘Propers’ was the name of her language.
Hans got up slowly, the woman took a step back. Hans couldn’t help but still be wary, considering moments prior she had attacked him.
“What…?” Hans thought of something that even could be said to her.
The woman stood up straight and pointed towards herself. “Hiriyama.” She said.
Hans hesitated, but pointed at himself as well. “Hans.” He said simply.
Hiriyama pointed to the forest behind Hans. “Gono veux var?” She seemed to say.
Was she asking him where he came from? Hans assumed and pointed towards where the castle had been.
“Ah!” Hiriyama clapped her hands together. “Gono Chronnum Kilm-es shinto var!” She spoke cheerily now, in stark contrast to how she yelled at him moments ago.
Was ‘chronnum kilm-es’ what a castle was called? Or was it the particular name of that castle? He couldn’t think of saying anything. He rubbed his throat again, for some reason it felt sore.
“Ah-, uh…” Hiriyama scratched the back of her neck and her composure seemed to break. She began to speak frantically. Hans just stood there looking at her. Hiriyama stopped talking and looked back into Hans’ awkward expression, she immediately bowed her head. “Veripa-sincerest!” She said.
It seemed she was apologizing. Hans raised his hand. “Don’t… worry about it.” He looked to the enormous bow and arrows Hiriyama had strapped to her. He pointed at the arrow in her hand “…Were you the one that saved me?” He tried to ask.
Hiriyama noticed where Hans was pointing. “Ah, ko-iyoma?” She said, motioning to the bow on her back, smiling feebly.
“A bow…” Hans muttered.
“Uh, gono job var?” She asked, pointing at the gun slung across Hans’ chest.
Hans slowly took at off and held it in his hands. “…Rifle.” He said.
“…gewvair?” She tried to repeat him.
Hans nodded. “Yeah.”
They both stood silent again. Looking into each other’s faces. Hans was still wondering what to think.
Hans re-slung his rifle. “I’m going to find a way out.” He said, simply, before walking past her towards the cliff.
“Hyor!” Hiriyama yelled at him with her hand raised in protest.
“Reef! I- werima.” She pointed to the lake below.
Hans had no clue what she was talking about. He pointed at the lake itself. “What?” He said.
Hiriyama shook her head and pointed at the waterfalls coming down from within the cliff they stood on. With her finger in the air she dragged a trail from those waterfalls back to the castle. Does that mean the water monster would be able to catch him from the lake?
“But… there’s a way without using water, right?” He asked, only realizing Hiriyama had no idea what he was saying either. Hans thought for a moment on how to describe it with his hands. He put his palm on the ground and had his other hand go over it.
Hiriyama shook her head and drew a circle in the air before stretching her arms far apart.
Hans sighed and pointed back to the temple, meaning to refer to the monster. “So, we have to kill that?”
Hiriyama made her hand to resemble a mouth and clamped it down with her other hand. “Kogono werima nihor.” They must have to kill that monster.
How would they kill something like that?
Hiriyama read his expression and walked partway back into the confines of the massive stone walls. She motioned for Hans to join her. Hans looked down the cliff again, it seemed she was his only hope of escaping this place, wherever this place was. Hans followed her and they both re-entered the forest.
Hiriyama walked to the left of the archway, away from the temple Hans had woken up in. Hans followed closely behind her, he couldn’t stop looking at the gargantuan greatbow Hiriyama had on her back. It was thickly built and looked to be reinforced with metal. The bowstring seemed like it was half a centimeter wide and Hans couldn’t even imagine the strain it’d put on his muscles to try and draw one of those lance-like arrows on it.
Hiriyama’s arms were covered by the clothing she wore, Hans wondered if underneath those layers she would appear more muscular than him. What a sight it’d be, she was short and had such a girlish face, for her to have a body grotesquely muscular below her neck. The corners of Hans’ mouth twitched at the thought, it’d be comical, to say the least.
“Ro,” Hiriyama said, after a while’s more of walking they had entered a clearing in the forest. She pointed towards what looked to be a large isolated pond. Next to the pond was an empty fire pit and a hollow log working as a make-shift bench. Leaning on the bench was a large backpack that bulged. The walls now surrounded Hans again and the sun was out of sight. But, he saw the sky start to turn a slight orange, had that much time passed already? He walked into the clearing.
“Kono reefer wo murram vir.” She said, walking towards the fire pit and setting her bow and arrows down. “Werima reefer nihano.” She looked at Hans.
Hans hadn’t the slightest clue what she was saying, but she seemed to be referencing the water monster. Hans walked towards Hiriyama and sat down next to the empty fire pit. He had so many questions, but hadn’t any idea as to how he would ask them.
“How will we take it down?” He asked, needlessly.
Hiriyama seemed to be thinking for a while before snapping her fingers and running over to the large pack she had leaning on the nearby log. She pulled out a small shining dagger and walked back in front of Hans. She grinned cockily and motioned to the dry grassless ground between them.
“Huh,” Hans said, it might work out in formulating a plan against the creature.
Hiriyama sat down beside Hans and began to draw in the dirt with her dagger. She began with two heads drawn in a noticeably cutesy style. Hiriyama pointed to the head with long hair and a small s,o;e. “Kono, Hiriyama.” She said. Hiriyama then began to draw the head for, presumably, Hans.
“Wait,” Hans said, pointing at his character’s eyes. “I don’t look like that.” The way his eyes were drawn made them look like they were totally overshadowed. As if he was wearing some kind of black thief’s mask.
Hiriyama didn’t do or say anything for a few seconds, it seemed like she was thinking of what Hans was trying to say. She pointed at her own eyes, silently.
“My eyes don’t look like that.” Hans repeated, pointing at his own.
Hiriyama looked thoughtful for a second time before pointing to Hans’ helmet.
Hans took off his bullet-holed helmet and looked at Hiriyama expectantly.
She bit her lip, and then pointed at her hair.
Hans pulled his hair back as far back as he could, his eyes couldn’t possibly appear that overshadowed.
Hiriyama kissed her teeth, she looked a little pensive. She shook her head. “Inos fenrir.” She said.
Hans put his hair down and looked into his helmet, as if he would be able to check by looking into the reflection it didn’t have. Was this what all his friends meant when they said Hans had a scary face? Hans tried to remember the times he looked into a mirror, he couldn’t remember seeing anything like what Hiriyama had drawn. Hans looked to the clear pond nearby and strode over. He peered into his reflection on the water, now orange-tinted by the sunsetted skies.
His visage twisted slightly as the light breeze rippled the waters. He just couldn’t see it. Hiriyama’s reflection soon joined his, she looked at him and shook her head. “Fenrir-fenrir.” She said.
Hans got up from the water. Hiriyama did, too. He saw she had a small grin on her face.
“It’s not funny.” He said, sternly.
Hiriyama laughed under her breath, she blushed.
Hans only scowled before returning to her unfinished drawing. He just couldn’t accept that was how he looked.
Hiriyama soon followed with her dagger.
“Wait,” Hans said again.
“Gono kob?” She said in a particularly bemused tone.
Hans took out his bayonet knife. He would be able to ask the most important question. Sketching quickly in the dirt he remade the scene where she had saved his life by firing an arrow at the monster back when he was escaping the courtyard. Hiriyama’s smile left her as she observed.
“If you did that,” Hans said, and then he pointed at his throat. “Then what was your threatening for?”
Hiriyama blushed again, though this time it seemed out of guilt. “Kono gono… uh, horir gar.” She said, shrugging her shoulder.
Hans squinted at her.
“Um…” She said, seemingly slightly distressed. With her dagger she crossed out Han’s deliberately less overshadowed face and drew what seemed to be the trajectory of her arrow. She pointed at the space between the arrow’s line of fire and Hans.
Was she trying to say she didn’t recognize it was Hans she saved? Or was it that she didn’t even realize she had saved someone and just took a shot at the monster when she thought it sensed something? Was that a reasonable enough explanation for her slamming him into the ground and almost piercing his throat?
“Veripas!” Hiriyama put her hands together. “Kono sincerest-veripas!” She said.
“Alright.” Hans said. It seemed she was actually unaware of who he was when she threatened him. And, if she would be the only to let him off this island, he’d consider the debt repaid. “…back to the plan…” He rubbed out his sketch and pointed at the unfinished drawings of him and Hiriyama. Hiriyama nodded.
Only now, as Hiriyama finished her drawing, did Hans realize it odd that nodding and shaking your head seemed to mean the same thing to both of them. If they spoke totally different languages, and were of completely different origins—if Hiriyama’s skin colour meant anything—then what made head movements the thing they had in common?
Hiriyama finished her drawing and called for Hans to look at them. She pointed at a large blob with a mouth and many dotted eyes on it. “Werimas, pu-“ She stopped for a moment. “No, Werimas cantro…” She paused again, and simply pointed at the drawing of the monster. “Werimas.” She said.
That was certainly the monster. Hans looked at Hiriyama, she had only drawn caricatures of themselves and the beast. “How do we kill it then?” He asked, motioning his hand thrusting into the ground for added effect.
Hiriyama nodded again. She began to draw a new scene.
She drew a more detailed version of the monster, or Werimas, as she put it, leaving Hans to wonder what the point was for drawing a smaller one earlier. Hiriyama darkened the monster’s underbelly and drew an arrow pointing to it.
“Anto var.” She said, drawing a bunch of smaller arrows and stabbing the air in front of her.
“…we attack the belly?” Hans pointed to his stomach.
“Ahn!” She smiled wide, seemingly pleased with the effectiveness of her presentation.
Hans thought as to how they would attack the monster’s stomach, the two times he had seen it, it always kept its belly against the ground. Hans tried to show Hiriyama his concern by flattening his palm against his other palm.
Hiriyama nodded and began to draw another scene of the monster, this time from the front, with the beast’s enormous jaws pointing towards them. “Uh… werima-es herous bis.” She pointed towards the monster’s belly again. “Yo, inos nihano…” She pointed towards the large eyeball shapes that dotted the monster’s sides. “Inos nihano the-“
Hans heard a conspicuous grumble beside him. He turned his head and looked over to Hiriyama, her expression that of horror, her cheeks flush.
“Hungry?” Hans ended up asking.
Hiriyama gave a fake giggle, she scratched the back of her neck, ruffling her hair further. “Kono-es gownar…” She said, feebly.
Hans looked to the sky, it still seemed a way from going dark. He looked to Hiriyama again. “…we can stop and eat.” He said, pointing towards her pack.
Hiriyama nodded and more-or-less sprinted to her large pack and pulled out a large basket. She walked around the fire-pit, to the opposite side of the drawing and motioned for Hans to join her.
Hans sat next to her without bringing out his own rations, he wasn’t hungry yet.
Hiriyama took the lid off her basket and Hans saw an assortment of bread and cheese and dried fruits inside. There were two jars inside as well, one filled with what looked like honey and the other with what looked like tea leaves. Hans heard Hiriyama groan in displeasure.
“What’s wrong?” He asked.
Hiriyama looked at his and then back into her basket. “No meate.” She said.
“No meate?” Hans repeated.
“Meate… ah, meate…” Hiriyama said. It looked like she was about to say something else so Hans waited. After a few more moments Hiriyama rolled up one of her sleeves and flexed her arm. Hans noticed at once that Hiriyama was far less muscular than Hans’d imagined, though since Hans had imagined that Hiriyama would have muscles larger than her head, it might’ve been inevitable. Despite her small frame, Hiriyama was still quite powerfully built; it seemed each muscle in her arm was distinguished from the other. “Meate.” Hiriyama took Hans out of his observation and pointed at her bicep.
“…you want meat?” Hans looked into Hiriyama’s basket, there was indeed no meat to be found inside. Hans thought back to his own rations, but he didn’t think he had anything of meat in there either.
“Meate.” Hiriyama said again before standing up and looking straight upwards. She smiled a little. “Kogono iyamamiya kro.” She said. “Gono ikos yi iyama kono.” She smiled wider this time and walked over to her pack again.
Hans, only assuming she believed there was still enough time to hunt for some meate, followed her.
Hiriyama rustled through her bag, Hans glimpsed from inside at least two dozen more of those javelin-like greatarrows. Hans watched as Hiriyama pulled out a large crossbow as well as a small satchel, presumably filled with bolts. At first it seemed kind of odd, but Hans could imagine a deer or something getting its body destroyed by Hiriyama firing one of those greatarrows at it.
“Uh, vera iyomaka,” She said, motioning towards the crossbow in her hands. She aimed down its sights towards the lake, trying to show off how its fired. Hans knew what a crossbow was, but couldn’t think of a way to just tell her, so he let Hiriyama continue. “Gono gewvair-es seismos?” Hiriyama seemed to ask.
Hans looked to his rifle that he had left on the ground near the drawings, he walked over and picked it up. Hans doubted Hiriyama could’ve ever seen a gun in action before, and it wasn’t like a couple bullets would go to waste finding his next meal. “We can hunt with this.” Hans said.
Hiriyama, doubtlessly having no idea whatsoever what Hans’d said likely took it as affirmation for whatever she had said, and nodded.
Hiriyama went back to the log and put on her bow and sheathe of arrows. It didn’t look like she planned on using it, but Hans could understand wanting to be prepared. She looked to the sky once more and seemed to purse her lips. “Primasho…” She muttered, before motioning towards the forest that surrounded them. “Agwey.” She said, drawing back her crossbow with considerable ease and heading off into the darkening depths. Hans followed, his rifle in hand, he remembered he had four shots still left.
They exited the clearing and entered the forest, crossbow and rifle in hand, Hans had no idea where they were going so he just followed Hiriyama. It seemed Hiriyama had been here for a short while and she seemed confident in there being animals other than birds and that monster, if it even qualified. The forest seemed to be getting darker and darker. Hans wondered if his eyes would be more used to seeing in the darkness. As opposed to Hiriyama’s eyes, who were more-or-less normal, if not a little large.
Time passed in relative silence, Hans deeply wished Hiriyama spoke German, not just for everything else, but because of how godforsakenly boring and nerve-wracking it can get whilst merely marching to somewhere. Hans heard the sound of a twig snapping to his right, Hiriyama somehow seemed to notice it faster as just before Hans turned around she had taken cover behind a nearby tree. She looked out from behind it and motioned for Hans to join her. Hans did so and saw far off in the distance, past the perfectly placed trees, a large stag-like creature was looking around a clearing. It seemed to be about 32 meters away.
It seemed the veritable silence of the forest, as well as the towering trees caused the sound of that twig to travel farther than normal. Hans looked over to Hiriyama, she was loading a bolt into her crossbow.
“Let me do it.” He whispered to her, even though it was doubtful the creature could hear them from their distance. Hiriyama looked at her and Hans motioned towards his rifle. Hiriyama’s eyes seemed to glint for a moment and she nodded.
Hans came out from behind the tree and rested his rifle on an outlying root, the last hour of sunlight breaking through the thick leaves around him. The breeze was behind him, though it was so light and the creature was close enough that he doubted it’d matter. Hans inhaled and looked through the scope of his rifle. He almost expected to find himself back in Stalingrad, that the moment he’d look through the glass he’d be firing upon Russian soldiers again. Instead, Hans saw the enlarged head of the stag-like creature, the thing was an uncomforting sight.
Its skin was wrinkled, as if it was wearing a coat just too big for it, short dirty looking hairs stuck out from its hide. The antlers that grew out of its head were twisted and gnarled, not unlike the tree root he was positioned on. The thing had six large orange eyes, positioned inside what looked like a bare skull with longed beaked mouth. It looked like some monster you would make up to scare a child, would such a thing be edible?
Hans decided to trust Hiriyama’s judgement, she seemed keen on hunting it down, and with a world inhabiting something like the monster in that castle, this must be mundane. Hans centered his aim directly into the center of the creature’s head, he pulled the trigger, an ear-splitting *BANG!* erupted from the end of his rifle. He hadn’t heard the thing fire in hours, and it had caught him by surprise. Hans heard a short scream from Hiriyama in reaction to the sound, he looked over to her but she seemed more exhilarated than afraid. She grinned from ear-to-ear and pointed to the where the stag-creature was.
Hans saw a mere lump upon the ground, the creature had fallen. Hans had three shots left.
They both ran over to where the creature was and Hans saw up close and personal exactly what Hiriyama planned on eating. The creature was a lot larger than it initially appeared: at least a foot taller than he was, and Hans was pretty tall. Something about its hide reminded Hans of a rat.
Hans looked up and immediately felt more secure as he observed Hiriyama look as disturbed to touch the creature as he did. Hiriyama poked the creature’s corpse with the end of her crossbow, like a child would, before confirming it was totally dead. Hans thought the blood pooling out from the hole in the animal’s head would’ve been confirmation enough.
Hiriyama walked over to the monster’s antlers and putting her still-loaded crossbow into her left hand, began to drag that creature back towards camp. It was bit of a strange sight; seeing this enormous mass be dragged by what looked to be a little girl in comparison, most of its lower body limply following her across the forest floor. Just as they had begun to leave, however, a shrill cry came from behind them. Hiriyama, again, leaped into action and loosed a bolt directly into whatever had made the noise before the corpse she’d been carrying had even fallen onto the ground. Hans turned around and saw what Hiriyama had struck.
It seemed to be the faun of whatever species the stag-like creature belong to. Hans heard staggered breathing and cries coming from the baby creature as it struggled to get up from the metal crossbow bolt embedded into its torso. Hans watched motionless as it bled out and finally rested limp on the forest floor. He looked over to Hiriyama who looked at him. She was breathing heavily, most likely from getting caught off guard.
“Uh… gono var warrieou?” She asked, motioning towards the dead faun-like creature. She had her hands full carrying the adult.
Hans walked over to the small creature and slung his rifle. The thing seemed like it would’ve reached up to his waist, as opposed to the adult that was taller than him. Hans refrained from poking it and pulled out crossbow bolt. He looked to Hiriyama and she motioned for him to throw it to her. After doing so, Hans lifted up the dead faun. It was uncannily familiar, the limpness of it. Hans felt guilty as he remembered how it felt when he was hauling the dead bodies of his brethren to be buried, conflating his comrades with this otherworldly creature made him feel sick. The creature itself did nothing to help.
Hans followed behind Hiriyama for the rest of the trip back to camp. Now he wished he could talk more than ever, his mind kept wandering back to the war and Stalingrad, he wanted to discuss what it may still be like back there. Here he was hunting ‘wildlife’, there they were fighting for their lives. It put a stone into Hans’ stomach.
After a grueling hour the sun had finished setting and they had made it back to camp. Hans laid the body of the faun next to the adult in front of the fire pit. Hiriyama looked at the empty fire pit in front of them and back towards the now almost-pitch-black forest, then her eyes went to the uncanny creatures they had just hunted. Hans watched as Hiriyama went to her pack, leaning on the large hollow log, and put back her crossbow and bolts. He then watched as she brought out what looked to be a large woodcutter’s axe, she began to chop off parts from the other end of the log. Hans almost wanted to laugh at the apparent laziness.
Chopping off about a dozen chunks of wood, Hiriyama put them down haphazardly into the ashes of the empty fire pit. She returned to her pack, put back her axe, and pulled out what Hans assumed was a firestarter. It was a little funny, seeing Hiriyama silently go back and from the fire pit to her pack. Hans continued to observe as Hiriyama, after about a dozen tries, finally manage to start the fire.
It was brighter than Hans had anticipated and loud crackles rung through the air. Hans opened his palms to the warmth of the flames and felt a soothing calm, he breathed in and out slowly. Hiriyama just looked at him.
Hiriyama walked over to their two corpses, Hans followed. “Which one do we eat?” He asked, half-sarcastically. He had come to terms with the fact that he was now starting to get hungry too, and it’d been a long while since Hans had been able to eat some real meat… if that’s what these animals would count as.
She looked pensive, but Hiriyama snapped her fingers and grinned. She pointed at the adult. “Meate-es werima bou!” She said.
Hans was confused.
Hiriyama motioned throwing the large stag-like thing into the pond nearby and Hans got it, they could use the thing as bait. Hiriyama walked over to the faun-like creature and dragged it closer to the fire. Hans noticed now how the creature’s flesh seemed to jiggle, it looked extremely soft. Hiriyama seemed to notice Hans’d noticed and hit the creature’s thigh with her fist. Bringing out her dagger, she began to skin the beast. Hans watched in a sort-of grotesque awe. The shear amount of blood and gore that came out was terrible, to say the least, but Hans couldn’t tear his eyes away. Especially at the apparent speed and skill Hiriyama was cutting, she didn’t even seem to hesitate. Hiriyama looked at Hans and pointed to her pack. “Gono kaban toor var?” She asked.
“What?” Hans said.
“Uh…” Hiriyama hesitated and made a bowl shape with her hand, she pointed to the fire.
Hans, perhaps against his better judgement, nodded and walked over to Hiriyama’s large pack. The thing was larger than his own backpack, and it was bulging. He opened to the top and peered inside. It was surprisingly well sorted. The large bundle of greatarrows took about a quarter of the space inside, but beyond that Hans saw a thick roll of paper or parchment, along with quills and ink bundled next to it. Below that was a small array of various weapons, including the crossbow and axe Hiriyama had used earlier. Hans saw and the very bottom of the pack what looked to be a small metal pot. Hans knew at once that was what she was looking for.
Managing to pull the pot out from Hiriyama’s pack and finding another assortment of items underneath it, Hans, at her request, filled it with water from the lake and placed it upon the fire. There were long metal legs underneath the pot, letting it rest comfortably above the flames. Hans realized this was also a chance to fill his canteen and did so. He took a long draft from it and Hans felt like he may never stop. The water was crisp and clean and cold, somehow it even seemed to taste good. Hiriyama called Hans over and he eventually had to stop.
Finally, he watched as Hiriyama dropped large chunks of deep red meat into the pot, as well as various vegetables from the basket and dashes of salt from a small leather pouch. It began to smell good, an experience Hans had lost familiarity with. He found himself smiling, only to stop when he looked over and saw Hiriyama smirking obnoxiously at him.
More time passed as the two spent time by the fire. The larger corpse had been dragged off out of sight and the aromatic smell that came from the stew Hiriyama was making was starting to make Hans’ mouth water. Hans watched as Hiriyama took a pair of wooden bowls from her bag. The set them aside and continued to stir the now cream-like stew. The smile was almost intoxicating.
She took one of the wooden bowls and dipped it into the pot, filling it. She handed the bowl over to Hans. “Herion,” Hiriyama said, grinning. She brought her sleeves over her hands and picked up the iron pot filled with stew. She tipped it slightly and filled her bowl before doing the same for Hans. By then the pot was totally empty, so Hiriyama rinsed the pot in the nearby pond before filling it up halfway and setting it onto the fire again. They sat near each other and Hiriyama motioned for Hans to eat first.
Hans dipped his metal spoon into the steaming stew, it still smelled amazing. Blowing on it slightly, he brought it to his lips. It seemed to taste as good as it smelled, Hans felt a warmth permeate him as he swallowed the broth. The pieces of meat seemed to expand in his mouth, soft as can be, and the taste mixed with the vegetables perfectly. That is to say: It was without a doubt the most delicious meal Hans had had since he first entered the war.
The look on his face was probably obvious, as Hiriyama beamed at Hans as she watched him eat. It was only then Hans realized how empty his stomach felt and how dry his mouth really was, even after drinking from the pond. He ate with gusto.
By the time Hans had finished, Hiriyama had finished as well. With a rather less conceited smirk she motioned for Hans to hand the bowl to her. “I’ll do it,” Hans said, instead reaching over and taking her bowl. He stood up and walked over to the now shimmering pond, the stars reflected clearly over its surface. He found himself reflecting, coincidentally. Hans’d already begun to push away his memories of the war, of Stalingrad, something he did nearly every time he was given leave to any nearby town. Wasn’t it supposed to be his duty to fight? Hans couldn’t believe there was any chance of him returning, but shouldn’t he perhaps, feel more broken up over it?
He cleaned the wooden bowls and placed them over the hollow log to dry. Just as he turned around he saw Hiriyama standing in front of him, holding two steaming cups. She handed one to Hans and he realized at once it was tea.
Tea! Hans hadn’t drunk a cup of tea in weeks. He smelled the steam and a sort-of spicy aroma buzzed around inside his nose. It seemed to be rather strong. Hans sipped from the wooden cup in his hands and felt the warm mint of the tea travel from his mouth to his stomach. It was nearly euphoric.
“…Thank you.” He said, sincerely, even though Hiriyama would have no way of telling.
She laughed. “Gono ireachy.”
Hiriyama squatted at the edge of the pond with her cup in her hands. Hans replied by simply sitting down and they stood there drinking tea and the edge of the water. Hans began to wonder whether or not he’d even survive without Hiriyama right now, he then remembered the incident back at the castle and came to the conclusion that he’d be long dead.
They finished their tea and Hans cleaned the two cups, Hiriyama put away her pot and they regrouped in front of the fire. Hiriyama yawned widely, Hans ended up doing so as well.
Hiriyama yawned, idly, swinging her arms side to side. Her eyes were half-closed now. “Kogono nihummus?” She asked, looking over to Hans.
Hans’ belly was full and the activities of the day had done more than enough to tire him out. If she was propositioning they rest for the night, he would comply. They would doubtlessly make a better plan whilst well-rested and in the daylight. He merely nodded.
Hans watched as Hiriyama sat down cross-legged and arms-crossed from the fire. Hans’d thought she was just lazing about before she brought out a bedroll or something, but he realized once her head drooped down that she had just fallen asleep. Hans’ drowsiness escaped him for a few moments out of shock. He put his head close and heard her soft snoring.
“Huh…” Hans said, looking at Hiriyama. She even had her bow and arrows still on. Was this how she normally slept?
Hans looked around. The forest surrounding them was still totally silent, save for the very occasional rustling of birds and perhaps whatever herd the thing they just ate belonged to... Hans wouldn’t be sleeping anywhere near the woods.
Finding no better place, Hans laid his backpack underneath his head like a pillow, a pang of bitter nostalgia hit him, he closed his eyes. The crackling of the fire and the thin whistle of the breeze going through the hole in his helmet seemed to only keep him awake. He kept his eyes closed but thoughts seemed to continue stirring within his mind. They were frustrating, just as he focused on an idea he seemed to forget it. He twisted and turned for what may’ve been an hour, without noticing he managed to fall asleep.
“Hey, Hans.” The familiar voice of Hans’ sister opened his eyes. He had been daydreaming again. “Look at this.”
Hans looked over to the now-fading visage of a soldier in one of the army posters. The man had very tough features, short blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a powerful gaze.
“It looks like you.” She said.
“It does.” Hans said, the man had looked a lot like him, even down to the chin.
“Though, the eyes don’t really fit. They’re a little too… visible.” She laughed out loud.
“The eyes are fine.” Hans had grumbled. In the distance, Hans could still hear a man announcing that Germany was looking for more recruits. That the Fuhrer’s plan was perfect, that every true German would get what they deserved.
Hans’ little sister had yawned. “You should join, too.”
“You’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Hans said then. “Then you’ll get your hands on my room.”
“It’s not about your room, it’s about our home! Daddy’ll get his job back; we’ll be able to see our cousins again!” She had waved her arms about to symbolize how important the issue was. “Besides, it couldn’t possibly last more than a year.”
“All wars last more than a year.” Hans said. “Uncle said tha- “
“If you join and help Germany we might be able to actually see uncle and ask him!”
The idea was striking Hans as attractive. He could join now, perhaps add his manpower to the war effort, make the war shorter. The alternative was for him to laze about, make the war longer, until he was conscripted... Hans would join, he had the looks for it, after all.
Hans felt elated now. He was marching arm and arm with men like him. With the same conviction as him. With the same drive as him. He marched down the wide streets as people cheered. He couldn’t’ve dissected her voice from the crowd’s, but he knew his sister was there cheering as well. He took another glance at the red band around his arm, that symbol represented everything now. It represented him, his family, his beliefs, his country, his duty, everything. It would be his force that’d save his world. Rifle in the air, his march powered by conviction, and the triumphant sounds of an orchestra ringing in his head, Hans was at the top of the world.
The emotions he felt back at that march were almost unrecallable. The sky was a dark grey, on the verge of raining. Hans was running behind an enormous tank with three other soldiers next to him. Gun and mortar fire could be heard from all sides, but he was still somehow able to hear the commander’s orders in his head. An explosion came from just in front of the tank with so much force Hans was almost knocked down. Hans gritted his teeth and furrowed his brow. He was utterly terrified, scared out of his wits, was this what he’d signed up for those years ago? Hans shook the thoughts from his head, he needed to keep his cool. Hans leaned out from the cover of the tank and aimed down his rifle to a soldier ahead of him. He fired and the man fell dead, he heard shouts come from his comrades behind him. Hans had eight shots left.
This was days after the battle, Hans was receiving an award for his actions. As Hans stood there to receive it from his commander, in the face of his comrades who’d seen him do it, Hans felt like he should feel like he did back during that march. But he didn’t. Hans didn’t feel anything at all, and that fact itself made him feel guilty. Was he not proud to be serving his country? Not proud to be protecting his family? Not proud to be serving the Fuhrer? Hans was certain he was, he had to.
“Hey, Hans.” A soldier two years Hans’ younger approached him in the canteen. He looked uneasy.
“Peter, you look like you got dumped by your sweetheart, what is it?” Hans gave what he knew was really a fake smile.
“C-congratulations on your award, Hans.” Peter sat down beside him, it seemed almost as if he was shivering.
“Is that all?” Hans asked. “All I’m doing is serving my home, I’d rather it not be made a show of.”
“Wow, Hans…” Peter paused, he looked down. “You’re the perfect German. Aryan, a superman amongst others, able to keep your composure.”
“…It’s my duty.” Hans said back, simply.
“That’s why I wanted to ask you; do you think we…” Peter audibly gulped, everything around them seemed to go white and silent. “…we deserve to win?”
And then, all the bustle and noise returned around them. “What we’re doing, what we in the Wehrmacht are fighting for.” Peter said. “The, the killing of the non-Aryans.”
“It’s a necessary measure,” Hans said, the words of a pamphlet he’d read before volunteering seemed to materialize in front of him. “Even though it seems brutal, the purity of Germany must be brought back, with that, will Germany’s rightful prosperity.”
“Of… course.” Peter said. He didn’t continue, but he didn’t get up to leave either. He seemed to be looking for something else to say. “They’re, uh… late with the mail again.”
“Considering our location, it can’t be helped.”
“It’s just, I’m worried, for my wife and daughter.”
“You have a wife and child, at your age?”
“W-When I got drafted, my wife and I got married as soon as we could. My daughter Christa was born the exact day before I left the city. I’m worried my money will not reach them.”
“It’s not as if the money is procured here and then sent outwards to our homes, Peter.” Hans said. “I understand your concern, I’m fighting for my sister and father, but I know that our efforts are being paid for.”
“…Will everything be solved once this war is over, Hans?” Peter asked.
“Once we win… since we’ll have to win… will everything be solved? Will our families be safe forever from them on? Will we, perhaps… Hans…” Peter seemed to speak with a new desperation.
“What is it?”
“I-I… don’t tell anybody, please…” Peter gulped again. “…I don’t want to fight anymore.” Peter’s head dropped down, he looked ashamed as to his own thoughts. The bustle disappeared a second time.
Hans wondered as to what he could say. “You’re not fighting because you want to, Peter. You’re fighting because it’s your job.” Hans said, with definitiveness. “It’s not about us, it’s about our home.”
“I just… just don’t want to kill anybody anymore. Must we really kill the Jews? Can’t we… I don’t know, put them somewhere else? Do they really deserve to die?”
Hans slammed his fist onto the table. “It is our duty to kill, Peter. It is our duty to protect our country from those that would destroy it, that is what the Jews wish, they do deserve to die.”
Peter didn’t seem to react, it looked like he was thinking over Hans’ words hard. He finally nodded. “You’re, you’re right, Hans. I should’ve been more thoughtful, it was just the battle itself, I saw men die in front of me, I was simply frightened.” The bustling around returned once more.
“It’s not unreasonable to have irrational thoughts directly after a battle, Peter. But, situations like these deserve a bit more introspection.”
“Thanks, Hans.” Peter looked up to him. “You look like you’re straight out of a poster, the perfect German. I knew I could ask you about this.” He got up.
“…It’s not my looks that make me the perfect German, it’s my conviction and love for Germany.” Hans said.
But it didn’t seem Peter heard him as he walked away. Hans felt uneasy after the conversation, though he dared not show it. He had the exact same concerns it seemed Peter had, but he knew that what he was doing must still be right. Even if it appeared so ugly in front of him, he must stick to his job.
Three weeks later Peter was accused of desertion, he was never found, but it was assumed he was captured and killed by the enemy. Hans secretly hoped he had escaped safely, though even he was ashamed to be thinking something so treacherous to his country. Hans wondered for days on end Peter’s final conversation with him. He wondered as to whether or not he was talking nonsense, would not killing so many people be a reasonable conclusion? Just look at the sentence, it must be more reasonable than massacring millions, right? If it wasn’t reasonable, then what had taken Hans so far? It was something reasonable that was defending his country, supporting his family, moved the entire peoples of Germany, right?
It was now the day where Hans’d died, or at least was transported to that castle. He was aiming down the scope of his rifle at the Russian boy, but he wasn’t aiming at any Russian, he was aiming at himself. That boy was literally him, he had the same qualms that Hans had. He wanted a better solution, he didn’t want to kill dozens for his country to kill millions, Hans wanted to go home. Hans had planned to kill himself right then and there, he would’ve pulled the trigger and shot that scared child. He absolutely would’ve, if not for the man that fired at him. Hans heard a gunshot in the distance and the entire scene seemed to play out in slow-motion for him. The sound of the war around him silenced, it seemed his surroundings turned white. He looked up from his scope and watched, totally still, as the bullet slowly travelled from across the destroyed town square. Hans could hear an indistinguishable voice and a loud whistling all around him as the bullet came closer. It was moving at walking pace, Hans blinked several times before it even reached an inch of his face. Hans watched as the bullet slowly moved closer and the bullet just touched his helmet. Hans looked into the window of the sniper that had shot him, it was Peter.
Peter beamed at him from across the town square, Hans’ mouth twitched, he almost wanted to smile back.
Hans’ sight went black.
“H-Hans!” Hans heard someone yelling and shaking him awake. He got up almost immediately and came face to face with Hiriyama, she had a terrified expression on her face. Hans saw in the distant moonlight, within the forest that surrounded them, large four-legged figures.
“Werimaso! Werimaso!” Hiriyama shouted, spinning around to face the figures and taking out her enormous greatbow. It looked even taller from Hans’ angle sitting down, there was a large metal spike coming out from the bow’s bottom.
“Hans, go-gewvair!” She shouted, pointing at the rifle in front of him.
Hans didn’t need to be told that. He picked up his rifle and stood back-to-back with her. His eyes adjusted to the darkness quickly and he began to see more clearly the things that began to surround them. There were four, four of those full-sized four-legged beasts that they had hunted during sunset. Their steps were so smooth it appeared as if their body was simply floating over the ground, the six eyes in their bird-like skulls kept totally still and focused onto him and Hiriyama, their enormous horns seemed to shine in the moonlight. Hans could piece together a guess as to what brought them here.
Hans heard something hit the ground behind him, he glanced back and saw Hiriyama drawing her enormous greatbow. The metal stake of the bow anchored into the ground, Hiriyama brought back her javelin-like, spear-like, lance-like greatarrow back enough for the bow’s rope of a bowstring to be heard stretching, she had a piercing gaze as she lined up her sights with one of the approaching creatures. Hans couldn’t turn away; Hans couldn’t even imagine how much strength was needed to pull back a bow of such size. Then, Hiriyama released her grip and with a veritable *boom* the greatarrow she had drawn flew out faster than the eye could see. In mere moments Hans saw the bodies of one of the imposing creatures suddenly fly backwards.
“Hans!” Hiriyama yelled at him in the powerful tone she had used when they first met. Hans regained his focus and turned around to face the two creatures on his side, they were still, seemingly in shock from the sudden destruction of the other brethren. Hans took his opening and without even aiming down his scope Hans shot the creature to his right. An ear-splitting *BANG!* and it fell down with a low bellowing noise, similar to that of the younger creature Hiriyama had shot that while back, two shots left. The remaining animal on its side seemed to recoil in shock to Hans’ rifle, but almost immediately after it charged directly towards Hans. In the mere second that creature took to close the gap between it and Hans, it looked like it was flying over the ground, Hans hadn’t the time to even lift his rifle. But, just before Hans bones could be crushed by the speeding antlers of the creature about to ram him, Hans saw Hiriyama thrust her greatarrow like a spear directly into the monster’s neck. Hans saw as blood seemed to burst out of the creature’s bony beaked mouth and its eyes all rolled back at once, but Hans knew there was still one more creature on Hiriyama’s side.
Swinging his rifle over Hiriyama’s back Hans saw the final creature charging towards them, he was prepared, however. And, with one more *BANG!* The creature fell dead. The volume itself wasn’t as bad as the way it seemed to go right through your head. one shot left.
Hans and Hiriyama were panting from the adrenaline, Hans heard behind him the fleshy sound of Hiriyama dragging out her greatarrow from the neck of the monster she had stabbed. The moon was high above them now, and brought down a dreary spotlight to the scene around them. The entire event took less than a minute. Hans, tentatively, walked over to the body of the creature he had just shot, it’s eyes were rolled back and Hans saw no breathing. For good measure he pressed his boot against the creature’s strangely bare stomach, there was no reaction. Hans turned around to face Hiriyama, who was wiping the hair out from her eyes.
“…veripas…” Hiriyama said in an embarrassed tone as Hans got closer. She was speaking again in her softer tone.
Hans wondered if Hiriyama was embarrassed as to them getting ambushed and her having to wake him up, or to needing to be saved by him. He scratched the back of his head and looked around upon the corpses a second time. The connection to the war was superficial, but Hans couldn’t remove it from his mind.
“Uh… go-inos.” Hiriyama began to speak, breaking Hans’ train of thought. He looked back to her and she drew a line from her eyes to her cheek. “Reveries?” She asked.
Had Hans been crying in his sleep? Hans brought his hand to his eyes and only now noticed how they felt to be burning. Hans could remember what he dreamed about clearly, were his innermost thoughts that of a traitor to his country? That like Peter, who deserted his comrades and his family? Hans re-slung his rifle and looked out onto the still waters that reflected the moonlight, he could feel himself shivering. “A traitor…” He said under his breath. Voluntary or not, he had managed to run away from the war. Where was his guilt? His anger? Where was the passion he had those many years ago, back when he first enrolled? Was he in reality, a sympathizer for the things that were actively destroying his home? The monsters who took his father’s job, threatened his sister’s safety? That he was fighting to destroy and kill in the millions?
Hans felt the strength in his legs empty, he just stood there, his mind rushed back and forth to where he was and the war effort. Would the Wehrmacht notice he was gone, how long until they notify his family? Where was he? Hans felt like he was shaking, he gritted his teeth and his breathing got faster,
Hans felt something grip his right arm. He looked up and saw Hiriyama holding him, a simple solidarity, but it seemed to bring him back, his breathing slowed down and something seemed to lighten to lead in his stomach. He gripped Hiriyama’s arm back and slowed his breathing. He remembered what he had decided previously, that he could go over all his memories once he was out of this place. Whatever conclusion he’ll reach on what Germany’s actions were, and the effectiveness of the Wehrmacht, and the Fuhrer’s plans, he would decide them after that water monster was slain.
“Reveries?” Hans heard Hiriyama repeat, perhaps she was talking about his dreams.
Hans just nodded.
“Mmm,” Hiriyama looked over Hans’ uniform again, he doubted she knew what half of the things he wore was, but she might’ve realized it was a uniform. Hiriyama then looked back into Hans’ eyes with a distinctly forlorn expression. “Veripas,” She said simply, letting go.
Hans wasn’t sure what she was saying sorry for, perhaps it was out of not being able to understand his concerns, not being able to be of any help beyond getting them off of this island, not even being someone Hans could properly speak to. Hans, perhaps against his better judgement, put his hand on Hiriyama’s shoulder. He just nodded at her before letting go himself.
The breeze picked up and the two just stood there in the moonlight for a while, they both looked around to the corpses strewn around their campsite, Hiriyama walked over to one and hoisted it up. Hans doubted he had the strength to lift such large creatures, so all he could do was watch as Hiriyama singlehandedly threw each body into the forest out of sight. He felt a little comically useless.
Quickly enough the task was done and Hiriyama walked backed smiling. She patted Hans on the back with a surprising amount of force. “Go-Iyoma koora!” She said, cheerily.
Hans just nodded. “Thanks.” He said, plainly. The breeze began to pick up and Hans’ adrenaline had totally cleared, he started to feel weights over his eyelids. Hans yawned.
Hiriyama, also yawning, put her bow back around her and sat back. She looked to fall asleep again almost instantaneously. Hans lied down nearby and closed his eyes. For some reason, the thoughts that had swirled and kept him awake the first time seemed to ease away as he began to drift off. Like some strange temporary peace came over him, Hans fell asleep quickly.
The sound of birds woke Hans up; it was the sunlight that stopped him from falling back asleep. Hans slowly got up and stretched, he couldn’t even remember the last time he was able to wake up at his own leisure. Hans breathed in the crisp air and for a small while forgot where he was. He rubbed at his eyes, looking around.
“Ah, yaron billow!” A voice from behind him called, Hans turned around and saw Hiriyama performing squats in the sunlight. “Reveries?”
Hans shook his head. “Good morning.” He said, simply. He waited for Hiriyama to finish before saying anything else. Within a few minutes, she was done, and she walked back. “Gaverou!” She said, pointing towards her bag and beginning to walk towards it.
“Wait.” Hans said, Hiriyama stopped in her tracks.
Hans still had his rations, and he didn’t want to keep carrying it around. It would make a reasonable breakfast between two people. Hans set down his backpack and took it out. At this point Hiriyama had walked back and was watching Hans intently.
Hans unpacked rye bread, which was coloured a dark brown and very tough to chew. Vegetables and fruit, which had very little taste. Potatoes and legumes, which actually had no taste, as well as some coffee and pudding powder. It would be filling, but not satisfying to eat. Hans just wanted to get rid of it, and a problem shared was a problem halved.
“Ah!” Hiriyama said, seemingly unfazed at how unappetizing Hans thought it was.
Their breakfast was quick and Hiriyama ate her half without even seeming disappointed, Hans was a little baffled. It only served to confuse him more when he remembered how good at cooking she seemed to be. After filling their stomachs Hiriyama brought out her small dagger, now was the time to finish their plan. To finally get off of this island.
Hiriyama began to draw the water monster in the dirt. She put emphasis on the eye-like growth around the monster’s body.
“Inos nihano…” She said, pointing at the eyes and crossing them out one at a time. After crossing out a few, she began to draw a long spire that came out the monster’s very top. “Fisah roto.” Hiriyama said, raising her arm slowly from the ground to further express her idea. It seemed that if you destroyed enough of the eye-like growths, for some reason, a tall spire would come out from the monster’s top.
Hans just nodded his head.
Hiriyama looked proud of herself. She drew herself to the left of the monster with her bow and drew a line from her to the spire. She then drew one of her greatarrows piercing the water monster’s spire-like growth. She pointed at it with her finger. Then, after waiting a moment for the image to settle in Hans’ mind she drew another version of the monster just to the right of the first one. This iteration was on its side, with the lance-like greatarrow still sticking out from the spire coming out of its back. Hiriyama then drew a bunch of arrows pointing towards the monster’s underbelly, which was now very exposed. “Uh… vorak!” She darted her finger from the first scene to the next very quickly. “Vorak.” She said once more, her finger going back and forth from the greatarrow hitting the spire-like growth in the first scene to the monster’s exposed underbelly in the second. From what Hans could guess, they’d have a short time limit. Meaning, Hans would have to shoot the monster’s underside as soon as the beast fell over.
But, would even Hiriyama’s greatbow have enough force to topple something as huge as that?
Hiriyama either read Hans’ mind or his face for she stood up from their seemingly finished plan. “Hans!” She called for him to watch her. Hans turned around and observed.
Hiriyama stuck the bottom of her bow into the ground, the ground was grassy and surely tough, but she anchored her bow as if it were weightless. Then, she drew a greatarrow from her quiver, it was longer than her arm, possibly longer than Han’s arm. The miniature javelin shined in the sunlight. Then, her expression tightened. Her eyes narrowed and even her pupils looked to constrict, she went totally still once she had nocked the arrow. Hans watched as Hiriyama slowly drew back the bowstring, this was clearly a different procedure than that of last night’s. Even though she was drawing back slowly, the enormous amount of strength she was using was obvious, even the muscles in her neck became and tense and more pronounced. The bowstring groaned under the pressure, but held fast. It took at least 10 seconds, Hiriyama had drawn the bow back as far as she possibly could. The image was a little terrifying, the bowstring looked like it was on the verge of snapping, the bow itself seemed like it would fly out of Hiriyama’s hand if not for the metal anchor. Hiriyama herself was perfectly still, as if petrified. Hans couldn’t even see her breathing.
Then, Hiriyama let go. An immediate and thick-sounding *BOOM!* rung through the air surrounding them as the arrow seemed to just disappear. The force of the greatarrow launching from Hiriyama’s bow was so powerful that a burst of wind came out and hit Hans in the face. Hiriyama’s hair flew back wildly behind her. Then, the sound of an enormous crash. Hans’ head darted to where Hiriyama had aimed her bow and his jaw dropped.
A tree had fallen.
Hans jumped up from his seat just as Hiriyama seemed to return to normal. “Haaaans~!” She said with an enormously cocky grin on her face. Hans could hardly believe what he just saw. Had Hiriyama’s… a single…
Hans ran up to the fallen tree and saw embedded in the thick trunk was the greatarrow. Though, Hans could only assume, the tree was so thick and the arrow was inside so far that all he could see was the absent end of it. Hans looked to the stump of the fallen tree, it had toppled towards the right. And Hans could see remnants of the left part of the tree’s trunk. As well as being of what looked to be a thick and sturdy wood, the trees making up the perfectly spaced forest were also thick. Very thick, as thick as old oak trees. And, not only was Hiriyama’s arrow launched with such force as to destroy it. Hans was amazed, he could imagine Hiriyama with her bow shooting down airplanes, destroying cars. Such power was held inside a single woman.
“Tadah…!” Hiriyama said, now panting. It seemed the massive amount of power she unloaded has tired her out somewhat. Somewhat. She put her greatbow back around her, it seemed no worse for wear. She crossed her arms and smiled. “Werimas… niholos!” She said.
Hans watched as Hiriyama seemed to shake out her arms, perhaps firing such a powerful shot took more out of her than it appeared. But, with such force, Hans could imagine the monster flipping in the air back onto its feet again. With how that creature destroyed the thick stone walls of the castle when Hans first appeared, however, Hans hazarded a guess that its skin would prove much tougher than the trees.
“Ah, Hans…” Hiriyama toppled forward and used her arms to latch onto him. Leaning on his shoulders for support, she looked exhausted. Perhaps the fatigue that’d come from what she just done seemed to be catching up to her. If Hiriyama was given enough time to prepare a shot and then topple the monster, she would likely be too tired out to deal the final bow. That’s what she’d need Hans for, it seemed.
“Hans… refa…” Hiriyama sounded like she was on the verge of collapsing. Hans, remembered that Hiriyama used the word ‘reefer’ in reference to a lake, did she need water? Hans took his water bottle from his belt, unscrewed it, and handed it to Hiriyama. She grabbed it out of his Hans’ hands and threw the rim to her lips. Hans watched as Hiriyama’s eyes squinted and her arms shook as she held up the bottle. Was the shot that strenuous? Hans believed it.
More than 30 seconds passed, Hiriyama drank the entire water bottle. Hans was impressed, not even he would be able to drink the entire thing in one go. Then, Hiriyama’s arms went limp and she fell to her knees. “Ha… ha…” She panted. “Werimas… nihanos.” She said before slumping her head. She fell silent.
Hans picked up his water bottle from the ground and attached it back to his belt. “Hiriyama?” Hans said, patting her lightly on the shoulder. Hiriyama stirred. “H-Hans…” She muttered. Hans picked Hiriyama up from the ground and supported her as she dragged her feet back to their camp. He sat her down onto the log where she put upon a stupidly grateful smile, as if he had dragged her out of certain death.
“G-Gorroravas.” She said, cupping her hands together and bowing, though that may’ve been her muscles giving out. Hans just nodded. He realized at once that if a shot as powerful as that was the only thing that could topple that monster, then Hiriyama would be unable to run away if anything went wrong. If something did go wrong, she may very well die. They may only have one chance.
It was still early morning and Hiriyama more-or-less passed out on top of that log, it looked like she could’ve gotten up if she wanted to but the moment she crossed her arms and drooped her head Hans knew she decided to go to sleep. Perhaps it was for the best, it’d make sense to be as rested as possible before heading out to battle.
Hans looked at his rifle, if she was taking a nap he might as well clean it. Taking it off and laying it down in front of him, Hans removed the cleaning rod from underneath the gun barrel, he took out his cleaning kit from his backpack.
After organizing everything Hans began the task of dismantling it. His Gewehr 43 was a little more finicky to take apart than the other rifles he had used, most particularly the carrier, which brought the bullet up from the magazine and into the chamber. It slid out easily, but had to be very precisely inserted back in. He’d done this more times than he could count, though, so Hans doubted he’d have that much trouble.
He finished taking it apart and began the task of cleaning it. Hans realized it may’ve been more than a week since he properly did this, he was surprised to be doing it again in such a different location. The act of cleaning a gun was strangely absorbing, perhaps it came from seeing all the complex parts that he handled so meticulously, only to put it back together again in such a way that all someone’d need to do was point and pull a switch for it fire. As if the simple idea of a gun was itself taken apart into all these different parts, only for that complex image to disappear once the thing was put back together. Hans slowly and meticulously cleaned each and every part of his rifle. A finger pointed down from just above his view. “Vir?” Hans heard above him.
Hans shouted in surprise and jumped back. Hiriyama was sitting in front of him wide-eyed, she had somehow woken up and sat down without Hans even noticing. She looked at him with a confused expression, only for it to segue into a knowing smirk. She raised her chin. “Kono fenrir, Hans?” She asked.
Hans regained his composure and said nothing. He finished cleaning the last component and managed to properly reassemble his rifle in the first attempt. Only after switching the safety back on did he look back up to Hiriyama. She seemed completely rested, perhaps her nap had actually been just for leisure.
Hans pointed vaguely towards the castle. “Werimas?” He asked.
“Werimas!” Hiriyama shouted, standing up at once and dusting herself off.
Hans got up at a more normal pace and took out his rifle’s magazine. It had only one bullet in it, and Hans doubted he’d have the time to reload during the execution of their plan. Hans loaded the almost-empty cartridge and brought the sole bullet into the chamber. Then, taking off the empty cartridge he inserted the full one. Effectively granting him 11 shots. The tactic was extremely unsafe, but Hans was certain he’d be alright just this once. He hoped to not use too many bullets, though, they were all he had left.
Hiriyama’s brow seemed to furrow as she saw the bullets inside the full magazine, did she recognize them? Or was she just surprised to see such small objects would have so much power?
Hans re-slung his rifle and put his empty magazine into his backpack, before putting that on too. He was ready. Hans looked to Hiriyama who had went to her own backpack. She brought out a small number of greatarrows and put them into the quiver at her waist. Posterity, Hans assumed, since the plan they had concocted only called for one arrow to be fired.
It seemed a couple hours ‘till noon, the sky was a bright blue and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. The time had come, that monster would be culled, and they would be getting off the island. Hans felt a weight form inside his stomach, though it was a different kind than the weights he felt when thinking about the war. “Hans!” Hiriyama called from the edge of their clearing. They entered the forest towards the castle.
Hans noticed again the perfect spacing between the trees that made up the forest, perhaps it was some sort of garden or orchard? If the forest was manmade, the castle and the walls were manmade, were the creatures they fought also manmade? Created through some kind of evil magic, the same kind of magic, perhaps, that brought him here in the first place?
Hans looked around again, the chirping of birds sounded omnipresent. There were no squirrels, however, which Hans could hazard a guess for. The soundscape around him seemed to devolve, it was only the chirping of birds and the sound of his and Hiriyama’s footsteps. The feeling was strangely familiar, but Hans was unable to remember from where.
A small time passed, smaller than Hans remembered when he first escaped the castle. He only realized that they weren’t returning to the garden where Hans almost died once he saw an outcrop of low grey walls in the distance. Once they left the canopy of the forest did Hans really see. Hiriyama had led him to a new location, this seemed to be the actual entrance to the castle itself.
This castle was huge; it may have been the tallest structure Hans had ever seen in his life. Everything about the castle was elongated and stretched, as if viewed through a faulty mirror or as if it was built men 20 feet tall. The very top of castle, what Hans saw as a tower rising from the castle’s center, rose so tall that Hans was unable to even see it. Hans looked to what was directly in front of him.
An utterly enormous stone archway lay a short distance before them, water rushed through and down a set of stone steps into a large stone-floored garden with short walls. The ground was made of smooth stone slabs from which raised slabs held various now-overgrown hedge plants. Hans could imagine the plants being sheared to resemble various figures. The water flowed in and made the garden to appear like an incredibly shallow pool with potted plants just floating above. It seemed the flooding had been intentional to the building, but there could be no way that creature was intentional as well.
“Hmph!” Hiriyama said in a confident tone. “Kogono ro yemen-es werimas.”
“Here?” Hans asked, was this where they would plant to attack? Hans surveyed the garden again, it was certainly huge enough, and the shallowness of the water itself wouldn’t do much in restricting movement. Its floor was also the most obviously solid, considering it was made out of smooth stone. Hans looked at the short wall bordering the garden itself, it seemed to also keep the water in. He rapped his hand against it, it didn’t slip at all. Perhaps this castle was built to be flooded.
“Ah!” Hiriyama screamed.
Hans’ head turned to Hiriyama who had her face in her hands. “What is it!?” He said.
“A-a…” Hiriyama staggered, she rung her hands through her hair. “Werimas-…” She motioned throwing something into the garden.
She had forgotten to bring the bait.
Hans’d totally forgotten they had even planned to bring bait. They had walked for nearly 30 minutes just to get here, were they really going to spend another hour walking back, finding one of those animal corpses, and then trudging again with that corpse back to this garden?
Hiriyama outright pulled off a branch from a nearby tree, Hans remembered how absurdly powerful Hiriyama’s muscles seemed to be. She threw it into the garden’s water and it landed with a large splash. They both waited with baited breath.
Hans expected the monster to come out after about a minute, only after 10 minutes had passed before he realized the monster wasn’t coming out. Did it have some way of telling whether or not prey entered the water?
In that case, would bait have even worked in the first place?
Hans turned towards Hiriyama who seemed to have been wondering the same thing.
“Hans!” Hans perked up in response. He looked at Hiriyama who walked to the very edge of the water. She motioned jumping into it and immediately jumping out, and then she pointed to him.
“No!” Hans said at once. There was no way he’d try jumping into the water after he’d escaped from that clutches of that monster two times.
Hiriyama, just shrugged and leaped in. Hans almost yelled out of terror but just as he lurched forward, more out of sheer reflex than any conscious thought, Hiriyama had jumped out and ran off towards a side of the garden. “Hans!” She shouted from across the garden. She took off her bow and stabbed it into the ground just before the short stone wall. Hans’ mind was racing, as fast as he could, he unslung his rifle and kneeled into a firing position. He stared through his scope down the enormous hallway the entrance to the castle lead into. The two minutes of silence that followed was maddening, Hans momentarily forgot what the plan was at least three times, some kind of primal fear was urging him to run away. Hans had dealt with this fear before, however, he stood his ground and only held to his rifle harder. Eventually, Hans saw in the distance, turning a corner, an enormous black many-toothed maw.
The monster seemed warier than the last time Hans had seen it. It was moving much more slowly, perhaps it was being cautious from that previous attack Hiriyama had struck upon it? Perhaps it was still injured and had to limp? Hans kept his scope trained on the eye-like growths that jiggled with each movement the monster made as it half-crawled half-slithered its way down towards the stone-floored garden. Hans took a couple steps back.
The plan they conceived, Hans only now realized, would only take minutes to complete. It was so simple; Hans would shoot the eyes to bring out that spire-like growth, whereupon Hiriyama would shoot it, knocking it over. After that she would be incapacitated, so Hans would run over as fast as he could to the monster and shoot at its underbelly. How long could that take? Five minutes? Maybe less?
The monster’s slow pace only fueled Hans’ growing anxiety. It finally took its steps down the stone stairs that lead into the enormous flooded garden. Hans readied his aim and focused onto a growth just behind the monster’s great mouth. The monster turned its head to the side, Hans fired.
That ear-splitting sound burst inside Hans’ ears. The pus-coloured growth didn’t explode, but seemed to deflate from the gunshot, leaving behind a disgusting goop that ran down the creature’s body and sullied the pristine water. The monster gave out a screech so loud Hans felt a buzzing inside his head afterwards. Hans did not falter, however, he shifted his sights to another growth in the center. The monster itself had so many of them he could probably shoot with his eyes closed and hit one. He fired again. *BANG!* Another eye leaked and the monster screeched louder. Hans heard, somehow, in the distance the sound of Hiriyama’s bow being drawn. Hans had nine shots left.
Hans readied his rifle for another, but the monster seemed to have realized where the attack was coming from. “Hans!” He heard his name being called from in the distance. The monster barreled its way through the water. Hans hadn’t even put his rifle down.
A greatarrow flew in and hit the monster square in the side with the veritable force of a cannon. It stopped in its tracks and screeched again with such power Hans had to squint. He looked to Hiriyama who seemed no worse for wear, she nocked another greatarrow into her bow. Just before Hans could’ve yelled his thanks he saw the monster begin to pull out the miniature lance from its face, copious amount of grey slime-like blood flowed out.
Hans took his chance and aimed down his sights at another eyeball-like growth, this one was nearer the end of it. *BANG!* He fired and the thing exploded, leaving behind more of that pus-coloured slime. The creature screamed again and seemed to try harder and harder to find the water of the garden it had left. Hans took the time to stand up and he saw the pink spire-like structure grow larger and larger like a ridge out from the creature’s back. Hans had eight shots left.
The sight was both terrifying and uplifting, Hans saw the creature being so helpless that he was able to take pot-shots at it, but it writhed around with such noise that it was simply scary on principle. Hans readied his rifle one more time and fired upon another eye-like growth. *BANG!* It leaked just like the rest. The flesh-coloured ridge was now raised at least a foot out from the monster’s back, there was a disgusting slime or mucus coating it that dripped down like molasses. Just as the spire appeared fully Hans heard what sounded like a muffled explosion in the distance. And then the monster had been thrown over, it’s body tipping in his direction. Hans had seven shots left.
The creature’s body nearly flew towards him and landed onto the ground with such force and weight that the trees around them shook. Hans watched as the creature’s various legs twitched manically, all the while screaming so loud Hans was feeling lightheaded. Even so, Hans knew immediately what to do.
Vaulting over the short wall into the garden and then vaulting back, now in front of the beast, Hans looked upon the soft-looking underbelly of the monster. The flesh there was exceedingly thin, Hans could see blood veins underneath pulsing rapidly. All the while Hans had to try and block out the incessant screaming. It was so loud, Hans felt like he would faint, as if he was in a panic, as if he was in Stalingrad again.
Hans gritted his teeth and pointed his rifle. He fired three times, Hans only realized how truly loud the beast was when he noticed how he could no longer hear the sound of his gun. Hans watched as more and more blood came out from the three bullet holes, it was like watching a fleshy balloon deflate. Hans’ sight began to go blurry, the monster continued to scream and screech. Hans couldn’t even see it’s body moving anymore, but its mouth was still open and it was still making noise. Hans saw images flashing before his eyes, but they were too momentary for him to recognize. Hans felt like he suddenly fell, and he realized his legs and arms were going numb. Hans tried to raise his hans to cover his ears, but to no avail, he couldn’t even lift his arms. The last thing he noticed before passing out was a wetness coming from the sides of his head.
“H-Hans!” A muffled voice from somewhere above him, Hans couldn’t even recognize it. It was like he was listening from behind a door. “Hans!” Hans’ body shook, slowly he remembered what had just happened. The monster’s screaming must’ve been loud enough to injure his ears, but would that be enough to kill him? Hans couldn’t remember, even during the war, a noise so loud that it made his body go numb. Would Hans open his eyes into a military hospital? Was one of his comrades calling out to him?
Hans, slowly, opened his eyes. It was the very middle of the day; the sun was probably directly over him. Eventually, Hans’ body began to feel again, he was being held in a really uncomfortable position. Hans looked to his chest and saw a pair of arms wrapped around him, supporting him from the underarms. “Hiriyama?” Hans said, simply.
“Ah! Hans! Gono yoro!”
“Let… let go of me.” Hans tried to pry her hands off of him, but it would’ve been like trying to pry off iron bars. Hiriyama let go and Hans managed to stand up. He still felt a little dazed, but it didn’t seem to be too serious. Hans looked to the ground and saw his rifle lying there. He looked ahead from his gun and saw the enormous corpse of the water monster, lying on its side, limp. They’d killed it.
“Werimas nihano, Hans!” Hiriyama said, grinning from ear to ear.
Hans found himself smiling too, he began to chuckle in the middle of the otherwise total silence. There was no breeze, and it seemed any birds nearby were scared off by the monster’s incessant noise. Hans scratched the back of his neck, bent down and picked up his gun, and only then seemed to comprehend just how big of a deal their accomplishment was. Hans looked to the now partially-wrecked wall into the large flooded garden, he looked to Hiriyama, and stepped into the water. He looked to the dead monster again, needlessly. Hans began to laugh. Hiriyama began to laugh too.
“It went by so quickly...” Hans said, finding himself talkative. “Hiriyama,” She looked at him. Hans pointed to the side of his head. “Thanks.”
She just smirked. “Ko-namu Iyama.” She said.
After the excitement of the monster’s slaughter had died down, they both looked down the enormous archway leading into the castle’s depths. Pristine water continued to flow down the steps from inside and gathered into the garden without it flooding, somehow.
“Hans,” Hiriyama walked up to him and drew a line in the air leading from the castle’s entrance to the walls. “Ero!” She stretched her back and headed back towards their initial camp, likely to get Hiriyama’s things.
Was the castle also the only way out? Hans was about to follow Hiriyama before remembering that his rifle was still loaded. “Hiriyama, wait.” Hans called out, Hiriyama twisted around and jogged back. “You don’t have to do….” Hans just took out the magazine from his rifle and put it into a pocket on his backpack. Then, he unloaded the chamber, the spare bullet launched out from his rifle and glinted in the air.
Hiriyama’s eyes seemed to flash and as the bullet fell she grabbed it out of the air. Hans watched as Hiriyama held the thing between her fingers, it looked like she was trying to remember something.
“Oh!” Hans was cut off when Hiriyama snapped her fingers and exclaimed. “Hans!” She called before jumping to the ground and then drawing something in the dirt, with Hans’ bullet.
Hans just crouched down beside her and watched.
She was drawing somebody’s face again in that bizarre round-faced cutie style, but this particular person had extremely fuzzy hair and scars all over his forehead. Hiriyama pointed the bullet directly at him. “Mallim.” She said.
“Yeah, Mallim.” Hans repeated, wondering just what her point was.
Then, delicately, Hiriyama redrew the bullet she held in her hand, the then drew an arrow going from the bullet to Mallim. Hiriyama looked up to Hans, perhaps checking if he was still paying attention. Hans just nodded, not knowing what to say.
Hiriyama then began to draw a number of bullets lined up in a row. She finally drew an arrow from Mallim to the several bullets. Hans thought he got the idea.
Hiriyama put the original bullet back into Hans’ hand and they both stood up. Hans looked into the bullet in his hand, then he looked into Hiriyama’s eyes. “You’re saying…” Hans took his partially-empty magazine out from his backpack. “That you know someone who can make more bullets for me?” He slotted the stray bullet into the magazine.
Hiriyama should her head and then widened her arms, like sizing up an enormous fish. “Mallim-es… uh,” It sounded like she was trying to remember a complicated word. “Magician.” She said. “Hyoa!” She said, widening her arm span.
A magician, was that the name of someone who made ammunitions?
“Ero, Hans.” Hiriyama said, walking back into the forest.
Hans slotted the magazine back into his backpack and reslung his rifle. “…Ahn.” He said, eventually. He followed her back to camp and watched firsthand as Hiriyama lifted the entire bulging backpack as if it was nothing. “Eroooo!” She called out again, this time with a triumphant shout. They both walked back from their clearing to the castle for the last time. They were finally getting off the island.
I am so sorry this took so long. I also can’t tell you why this took so long ‘cause it’d make you really mad. I wanted to do something cool or neat before going into my real story, which’ll be actual book-length, I think. The next story, genuinely, should come out in about two weeks. I’ve already rough-drafted the first two chapters, and the entire storyline itself is complete.
Yo, you ever wanted to kiss a ghost, dawg?ns 220.127.116.11da2