5. Sayashi Riho
Riho was sulking. This was exactly the reason why she always tried to avoid humans whenever she could. She was warned about the complexity of humans by her peers but dealing with the real thing gave her a headache.
Ayumi felt like a good-hearted person but she was being difficult now! Not to mention that her stomach wouldn't shut up. In time, there would be food... in time ...
Which plants were edible again? Riho eyed some of the shrubbery they walked by. Some of her ancestors were only meant to eat meats but her mother drilled vegetables into her diet so as to 'help channel her magic better' or so she said.
To be honest, all the magic she casted back there took a LOT out of her. Eating just two fish for today certainly wasn't enough to sustain her either. Her hunger kept slapping her in the gut over and over!
Riho smelled the scent of game from the further reaches of the forest but she was too weak to pursue them and she was also worried for Ayumi. Despite their fight earlier, she knew Ayumi wasn't exactly in the state to be left alone either. They were going the same southern direction anyway, so as long as she found her friends, then Riho would finally leave her.
Is this what they call worry? The cat/dragon wondered to herself. She had limitless trust for everyone she knew. Lack of it and worrying for them would only upset them.
Slowly but surely, the scent of civilization settled in her nostrils.
"We're close," Riho said simply. She wasn't sure if the human was still mad at her, but it didn't hurt to test it out.
Ayumi feigned ignorance.
Riho pouted. Just how long was she going to be angry?! However, a familiar whiff caught Riho's attention and she walked faster towards it.
It was the smell of delicious homecooking... no, it was...
"Yasuda-san!" Ayumi cried out, running into the arms of the weary lady. They were right beneath a man-made arch made with thin branches, indicating an entryway into a village.
"Ayumi!" The orphanage owner caught the tiny girl in an embrace. "I was worried sick!"
"Are the kids alright?"
"They're fine! Did you happen to see Haruna and the others?"
Uh oh, this wasn't good. She lost their scents back at the path to the safehouse...
“You mean…They weren’t with you...?”
Ayumi was starting to have that daunting tone again.
“I feel we should talk about what actually happened first,” Riho interjected.
“What happened after we left you?” Ayumi asked.
The lady called Yasuda-san breathed in deep, and let it go. “We gathered everything into the cart and were about to reach the safe house when we were attacked by demons. They were the Cerulean Typhoon’s men.”
So there were more… Riho thought to herself.
“Haruna and the others told us to go, saying they could handle the bandits. The kids and I gathered what supplies we could and escaped. That was the last we saw of them.”
Ayumi became pale. Riho needed to do something quick.
“Do you by chance have anything that belongs to them?” Riho said suddenly. When the other two looked at her in confusion, she continued, “I could only go so far with memorization of their scents, but if you give us something that belonged to them, we can look for them.”
“You’d do that?” Ayumi’s eyes widened. “A demon?”
“What did I tell you? I’m a do-gooder demon,” Riho placed her hands on her hip, “I was taught to always help those in need.”
Suddenly, the both women went and hugged the cat tightly, much to her shock. She got goosebumps all over from being touched and was about to gently push the others off, but she heard the sound of tears.
“Thank you so much!” Ayumi sniffled. “You don’t know how much it means to me!”
“Your kindness will forever be engraved in our memories!” Yasuda-san said with the most sincere gratitude.
After what seemed like an eternity, the two finally let go of the cat. “I’ll go gather their things, you two can wait here.”
Ayumi nodded, but Riho started to follow her. However, just as she attempted to go through the gate, she felt a feeling like electricity shooting up and down her spine. It wasn’t exactly painful, but she knew she wasn’t supposed to go through. She stepped back and sighed.
“What’s up?” Ayumi asked, watching as the orphanage owner disappeared into the woods.
“This village has an anti-demon barrier,” Riho tilted her head as she poked at the entrance, fascinated with the static shock she continuously got from it.
“It’s not strong enough to outright kill whoever enters, but it’s enough to let me know I’m not wanted here.”
“That’s…unfortunate…” Ayumi said aloud, though it seemed she mostly said it to herself.
“Yeah… A shame barrier spells can’t discriminate between bad and good…” Riho yawned before squatting down on all fours again. This was the main reason why she’d avoid human villages in the first place. While some were friendly, others had this severe hatred toward her kind. She remembered some of her encounters with the latter and breathed out sharply, annoyed by the memories.
Her stomach growled again, and Riho pouted. She was really hungry, but didn’t say anything in fear of Ayumi somehow lashing out again like earlier. Since she made a commitment to help her, she would do her best to keep on her good side.
“Actually, hold on, I’ll see if I can get something to eat,” Ayumi said to the cat before running past the entrance.
She would have called out a thanks but Ayumi was already too far for her to hear. Why couldn’t humans have her strength of hearing? Oh well…
Riho looked up for any nearby perches. Finding one that should fit her weight, she sprang up into the air and landed in feline grace. She hoped they wouldn’t take too long, she settled onto the branch and rested on her belly, letting her limbs relax on the branch loosely. It must be the cat in her, but she always found high places comforting.
She reached for the back of her obi, tied into a gold and black flower-like design. One of the folds actually had something hidden inside. She pulled it out and looked at it. It was a dagger’s hilt wrapped in the same gold and black as her obi. There were no guards on it, however. Also, in place of where the dagger’s blade would be, there was none.
Instead, there was a small fang, protruding out of the hilt. In boredom, Riho waved one hand over the fang and immediately, it sprung into a blade. Although looking brittle and too ivory to be metal, the blade was very capable of slicing through the hardest of armor. She continued to wave her hand back and forth over the dagger, watching as the fang grew and shrink with each passing movement.
She smelt Ayumi coming, but paid no attention, for she didn’t smell any food accompanying her either.
“Sorry, the harvests in this village were really weak, they wouldn’t let me get anything,” Ayumi bent over and rested her hands on her knees, panting. Did the human actually run all over the place? “I tried getting to the supplies that we already had but the kids ate it all…” the indigo-clad girl scratched the back of her neck, apologetic.
“It’s fine, I’ll find something out here to eat,” Riho placed the dagger back in her obi and jumped down. She found that Ayumi now had a bag in her hand. “Are those your friends’ things?”
Ayumi opened the bag, revealing clothes and some objects resting on top. One was a wooden top, another, a brush, and the last, an uchiwa. She assumed those to be the belongings. She came over and picked up each one, feeling the weight, playing around with it, testing it, before picking it up to her nostrils.
Her sense of smell wasn’t as strong as a dog’s, but even so, a cat’s smell combined with the omnipresent sensing of a dragon still made for an equal contender.
“They went south.”
“Then let’s go south!” Ayumi pointed her naginata and began to march.
Riho couldn’t help but smirk. “Okay.” She went in the right direction, causing Ayumi to look back, fumble, and go chasing after her.
At least she wasn’t mad at her anymore, she was glad.
“Though… What are we going to do about food though?” Ayumi asked. “You’ve had so little today and you must be really weak, huh…”
Oh, now she realized the severity of the situation with Riho’s stomach? No matter. “If there’s game nearby, I’ll hunt it. I have enough strength for that much at least.”
“You do that, but we could probably take down the bigger things too, I’ve helped take down pretty big boars in the past.”
“Good, there’s plenty of those here.”
Somehow, she felt like she jinxed it. They spent all their time wandering, attempting to find trails, but to no avail. Just when they think they found a good lead on a nearby hoard, they found that the boars disappeared or were killed ages ago and wouldn’t be edible.
Before they knew it, the sun was getting pretty close to the horizon.
The cat was starving!
“At this point, we might as well go for squirrels or bunnies…” Riho slumped. She couldn’t even muster the effort to summon Mint-kun again. Her stomach growled loudly once more. Just then, she heard Ayumi’s growl as well. Hunger must be contagious.
"Great, now I'm starving..." Ayumi speared the bottom of the naginata in front of her, leaning very heavily upon it. That bag tied to her back must be weighing like a million horses by now.
"Please tell me you at least packed a gourd of water... right?" Riho looked over, mouth watering.
Riho facepalmed. Of all the necessities to forget! Then again, she wasn't one to talk. She actually had a full bag filled with supplies prepared for her journey but she forget it at the first camping site she slept at!
All of sudden, she caught whiff of something. Her instincts immediately took over and her eyes turned into narrow slits, focusing on the path in front of them.
There was a white bunny.
Sitting smack dab in the middle of the dirt path.
"FOOOOOD!!!" Riho immediately pounced. The bunny turned and immediately bolted for it.
"Sayashi-san, wait!" Ayumi called out, but the cat was in hunting mode. She was running after the bunny on all fours, leaving a rather large trail of dirt and dust in her wake.
Riho was closing in.
Bunny. Bunny. Bunny. Bunny.
It was just within reach.
Bunny. Bunny. Bunny. Bunny. Bunny. Bunny. Bunny.
Her mouth opened, fangs ready to go in for the kill...
BUNNY! BUNNY! BUNNY! BUNNY! BUNNY! BUNNY! BUNNY! BUNNY! BUNNY! BUN--
Suddenly, a naginata was flung in front of their path, and the bunny rammed into the flat side of the blade while Riho collided right into the pole.
B-Bunnies everywhere... Riho sat up, dazed and confused.
"Oh you poor baby!" she heard Ayumi's voice next to her. Once her vision cleared, she saw that Ayumi now had the bunny in her arms.
"You caught it!" Riho stood up suddenly, but instantly regretted it for now she became a lot dizzier.
"You're NOT eating it!" Ayumi shielded the bunny away, cuddling it close to her body. Was it her or the bunny seemed... relieved?
"What, you want to keep it?" Oh great... Don't tell me she won't let me eat cute furry creatures...
"It's too cute!"
Riho shook her head, "Are you serious... We're both starving and you're choosing to keep our dinner as a pet?"
"The bunny is too cute!" Ayumi cried out as she scratched at the bunny's cheeks, causing its nose to crinkle. Was it just her or did that bunny's black spot near the bottom of its mouth remind her of a beauty mark?
"We really should eat it though..." Riho couldn't stop her mouth from watering, "Let me eat yoooou..."
At that, the bunny jumped from Ayumi's hands and went on the run again.
"YOU ARE MIIIIIIIINE!!!" Riho came after the bunny once more. Only this time, the bunny went straight off the path and started zigzagging through the forresty terrain. "YOU THINK THAT WILL STOP ME FROM EATING YOU!?"
However, the bunny stopped, having sat down in front of a clearing. All the more convenient! But before Riho could sink her fangs in, she looked up.
There was a huge meaty boar in front of her, completely terrified at her sudden appearance.
Not long after, Riho and Ayumi now had a roast for dinner. The twilight settled in as Ayumi started to fan the fire for the roasting pork. Oddly enough, the clearing provided an ample place to sleep for the night.
"And you seem snug for something I was about to eat..." Riho raised an eyebrow as the bunny climbed onto her lap and settled there, rubbing up against her stomach.
"Maybe it's appeasing to you so that you don't eat it," Ayumi narrowed her eyes at the other. Out of the corner of Riho's eye, she thought she saw the bunny nodding?
"Pfft, whatever, you're lucky it led us to this boar."
"So we can keep the bunny, right?!"
Riho looked down at the white bunny again. It stared at her back with large brown eyes and that infernal beauty mark next to its mouth. Something wasn't quite right about this bunny... She searched its aura to see if it was a demon in disguise but to no avail. Either the bunny was that good at hiding its presence or she was just over-imagining things, who knew...
"Fine, we can keep it."
Ayumi and the bunny hopped for joy.
"But only as our emergency food ration. Its name will now be Meat."
Ayumi and Meat's mouth dropped in utter horror.
GEE I WONDER WHO THAT COULD BE xD