Masou dashes through the rain and, after almost falling twice, slows down. He reaches the path that leads to the stream and in minutes has reached it. Kimi’s parents kneel in front of a grey mass on the grass. Masou stops, closes his eyes in a grimace, and steps forward. Kimi’s parents do not acknowledge his presence.
“No.” The denial is choked out as he sees the soaked clothes and mottled skin of Kimi’s body. Her hair lies around her in strings, eyes white and glossed over, and her skin tone is a pale, almost blueish hue. Where it is exposed, the skin is wrinkled and translucent, and torn at places. Masou’s shoulders shake as his eyes move from one place to the next, and then they stop as he looks at her fingers. The nails have fallen off and the joints that connect them to her palms look as though they have either rotted or been eaten away, the smooth, bright white bone exposed to the air. He can see rainwater sliding down the bones and in between the spaces. Masou spins around and places his arms against a tree, hanging his head, his breath coming out in quick gasps.
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A young man and woman walk at a brisk pace through a sunlit forest. The light filters through the leaves and passes over them as they move side by side. They are both young, and the man has shoulder length black hair, strands sticking out here and there. She is a half an inch shorter than his five feet eight inches, and her hair is in similar condition. It branches out in almost lightning-bolt shapes and curling up into sharp points at the bottom. Her face is similarly pointed with almond shaped green eyes and light pink lips. His jaw line is less defined and more angular, with prominent cheekbones and heavy brows. Neither looks as though they’ve washed in a few days, though her hair is a bit less greasy. Their tan leather clothes, a shirt and trousers for him and a long dress with a fringed bottom for her, are dirt-stained and stiff. They are holding hands but they are not smiling. He keeps an eye out to his left, and she looks ahead. He squeezes her hand after looking behind them and her lips open a fraction, and she looks to the right.
“Meda, you really need to be more alert. They’re still following us thanks to your games.” She lowers her face.
“It’s fun to pretend to have medicine, even though I don’t.”
“I just hope they’re more forgiving of your parents than they are of you.” Meda looks down again, frowning. He looks at her and puts his arm around her shoulder, drawing her closer to him. “I’m sure they’ll be fine, they didn’t even know about it until it happened.” She keeps walking as he pauses and then follows her.
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“I can die happy. I’ve annoyed many over the years but this is the first time in memory that I’ve pissed off a spirit.” As the neck untwists, blood is smeared in a streaked band around Cameahwait’s head. Coyote stands as it wobbles on the still twig-sized neck, the once smooth face a storm of angry creases and wrinkles. Cameahwait glowers at Coyote, its eyes burning white hot beneath its hat-like brow. Its breath becomes heavier and each one comes at longer intervals, and it begins to puff up again. Coyote backflips away from it, eyes from behind the mask pointing at its mouth. But no more viscous blood comes forth from its maw. Instead, Cameahwait grows in size, increasing outwards from its core, where a heart would be, and its lower half sinks into the ground, until only its chest and arms are visible. As it grows, it absorbs the doppelgängers that have been milling about while it fought Coyote. It towers over him, face in shadow, sword and staff extending up into the black sky, two eyes shining like distant suns. He holds the now immense sword out, the flat of the blade facing down. As it falls towards Coyote’s head he dashes away from the giant spirit, making a line towards where he threw his axe. The area around him gets darker as Cameahwait moves towards him and he does not look back as he runs. He reaches his axe and picks it up, spinning around to face the titan.
“You’re not the only one who can change sizes!” As he says this, the axe begins to grow, and continues to do so until the haft is as big as a tree trunk and the blade more like a piece off a cliff face rather than a shaped piece of stone. His fingers can no longer curl around it but splay out, clutching it on either side of the ridged wood. It rises up until it is level with Cameahwait’s chest, forty feet in the air. He lifts it back over his shoulder, muscles and tendons in his arms and hands standing out. Cameahwait’s eyes raise from looking down at him and follow its movement, which is faster than would be expected for something being lifted by a person a twentieth the size of the weapon. It raises its sword to block the swing while also bringing the staff around to the front and pointing it down at Coyote. But as it begins to glow just as the axe shatters the spectral blade. Its shards drag sheets of red through the air as they fall and fade away. The blood streams down but evaporates before it hits the ground.
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As Coyote runs, the ground begins to slope down and the trees grow thicker, forcing him to slow his pace down. There are no more patches of sun to follow, just shade and shadows. Still, Coyote smiles as he walks, peering around the trees and looking all around him, even walking backwards at times. He reaches the trough of the valley. The ground is spongy and lush with different clover and fungi. The trees here are more gnarly than straight and their bark is patchy, showing rotten wood rife with insects crawling from one blanket of bark to the next. The ground is moist beneath his bare feet and with each step he sinks into the muck.
“Lovely.” He narrows his eyes at the yielding terrain. “And still no sign of this spirit. Perhaps it only comes out at a certain time of day?” Shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head, he continues onwards. The ground gets more and more waterlogged as he goes along until he finally reaches a swamp at the very bottom, trees growing up out of the water. Mosquitoes buzz through the air but do not land on coyote, and a snake swimming through the water makes a beeline away from where he stands on the squishy shore.
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The longhouse is bustling with activity as everyone passes food around, baskets of vegetables, leathers filled with steaming meats. Smoke drifts around the ceiling. Even from outside the chatter of voices is clear, and one outside could hold conversation with the entire village if not for the walls in between. The chief sits in the very back, red, orange, and green lines criss-crossing the tan robe wrapped around him, laughing with one of the hunters.
“Nahiossi, if I have to hear one more tale of you almost shooting one of your men, I swear by the Great Mystery I’m going to take your bow away from you and snap it in half!”
“Good, I need a new one! This one must be warped, it shoots arrows sideways down, right at their asses!” He holds his arms up, drawing one back as if shooting an arrow.
“Almost shooting? He actually hit me! Look, the arrow’s still in there!” A man to the right of the chief stands up and bends over, hitting the chief in the face with the arrow sticking out his rear. The chief sputters as the feathers brush him. He and the hunter look over at the man with the stuck bottom, mouths open and foreheads wrinkled.
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“Ahhhh!” As she rolls she can see Kaga peering at her from atop the cliff. Her arms and legs are flailing as she falls but there is no sensation of hitting the stone, and with each pass she sees that there is someone else next to Kaga. As she skids to a stop at the bottom, she lays on her back for a few seconds and then pushes herself up, wavering in the growing light. Looking back up, forty feet above her, Kaga is pushing and shaking a figure lying on the ground next to him. Miakoda’s mouth opens as she watches him.
“I’ve left my body… but I’m still in the land of the living?” Go on →
Miakoda’s eyes flash open and she falls forward. The guards rush forward to catch her before she falls into Quidel. Her breathing is short and rapid and there are tears running down her face, and for a brief moment it looks as though her skin has chunks taken out of it, but when she lifts her head into the light her face is revealed to be unscathed.
“Miakoda! What did you see?” a hunter asks. She is even paler than usual, the contrast between her skin and her hair even more exaggerated.
“I spoke with Quidel, but he’s gone now.” She speaks in between huffs.
The guards that were supporting release her and back away, their eyes wide and mouths hanging open.
“You… you spoke with him?”
Miakoda looks at him, a frown on her face, shivering in the warm afternoon sun. She looks back down at the ground, and rises to her feet, wobbling a little. The guards do not move to steady her, and she continues to face downward.
“Let us return to the village. I need to speak with the chief.” And she begins to walk back towards the village, each step a slow swing of her legs. The guards move with her, but not too close. They look at each other, brows furrowed and frowning.
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