A nightmare of crimson and flame stood before me. Like a rabbit all I can do is stand still, ready to bolt away at the first sign of aggression, all the while aware that it probably won’t do any good. I have no confidence in my stamina on the best of days, and the heat has been striking hard all Summer.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Wasn’t it only half an hour ago that I was quietly at the mansion, before Akiha asked me to go buy some groceries? It’s true that the city’s had a lot of problems recently, but it shouldn’t have become a place where I can’t live a peaceful life. Yet now, the simple of task of going to the store has begun a battle between life and death.
As if he’d just stepped out of a nightmare, the broad-shouldered man stands with his back to me. I don’t think he’s noticed me yet, but the thought of fighting never enters my mind. I’ll die if I go up against him, that guy is a nightmare that even Akiha when she goes berserk can’t compare to. The moment I reach for my knife, I’ll definitely die.
In the depth of my mind, a scarlet deeper than red spreads as an old memory seizes my heart. We’ve met before, definitely. I’ll die if I meet him, definitely.
The person at the register that he’s standing in front of speaks words that I can’t hear with a smile, completely oblivious to how close they are to death. Any second now their heart will pop like a grape, and I can’t bring myself to even scream a warning.
A large hand extends toward them from an arm built so strongly it might as well be rock. This is it, it’s over. The creature called Crimson Red Vermillion reaches out and-
-Calmly takes hold of the extended bills, folding them into a pocket and picking up the basket that was lying on the register. In the same movement, so graceful that I can only compare it with a dance, he turns toward the door that leads outside the grocery store. Toward me.
A single visible eye through unkempt hair meets my gaze, and I curse my instincts that wouldn’t let me leave as soon as I spotted him. No, on the other hand it couldn’t be helped, there’s no way I could have possibly imagined meeting a man named Kishima Kouma at the grocery store.
His serene gaze that belies the bloodlust within pierces through me in an instant, a flicker of recognition sparked inside the iris. That’s right, to me this man is an unforgettable existence, and to him I must be a remnant. ...For an exterminator, there’s nothing worse than meeting something that you left behind in the past. It’s too late now; I can’t escape even if I ran for my life. The only thing left is toWithout a rush of wind, his large frame appears next to me. When did he move? There was no motion, no bloodlust, I hadn’t even realized that the battle had started yet, but it’s already my loss.
A voice as deep as the ground flows through my rattled brain as I resign myself to my fate.
“This is a quiet place, it shouldn’t be disturbed by private matters.”
Without another word, the man who should definitely have taken my life continues along his way with unerring calm. Under his arm is the basket that he brought out of the store, a loaf of bread sticking out. Disappearing among the people who go about their business, there isn’t anything that would make him stand out, and no sign that he saw me as an enemy to begin with.
The choking feeling vanishes now that I’m not in his presence anymore; the fated deathmatch ended lamely without even a single punch thrown, and the feeling of dropping adrenaline makes my head feel excessively light. I’d be sure that he would kill me, or that I would miraculously kill him, and yet… Fighting had never been on his mind. After all, he’d only come here to pick up groceries, just like me. Something as brutal, as exhilarating as fighting to the death would have been the same as a defeat when you take that goal into consideration. And the words that he left me, weren’t they just another way of saying “I don’t want to fight you, let’s just go on our way.”?
In other words, the monster that haunted the dark corners of my mind had never once intended to come after me. What can I call that, except complete and utter defeat?
“What the hell, he’s just a normal guy?”
A monster that should naturally have sought to destroy, an existence responsible for an unforgivable sin, and a man who wished for a quiet life. That was the man I’d just crossed path with.
Even if I forgot everything about it, that bloody night would never leave my mind. Even if I gathered all my will, I probably wouldn’t be able to forgive what happened then - anything else, but not that. But that doesn’t mean that night needs to continue now.
Shaking my head bemusedly, I enter the grocery store. First the vegetables that Akiha asked for, then a few things we’ll need over the next few days. Well, that’s about everything I needed to grab.
I decide to take a loaf of bread on a whim.