Book 1 Chapter 45

The sunshine was perfect.

The twittering birds were perfect.

The way the grass played in the wind was perfect.

The sparkling blue spray of water streaming down into the pond was perfect.

The sound of the leaves sighing in harmony was…

You guessed it. Perfect.

And TsuYa couldn’t stand it.

Give me something — anything — that is just remotely flawed! If I have to see one more perfect, happy smiling face, I think I’m going to go crazy!

Happiness was all good and well. But there was such a thing as being too cheerful. Too nice. Too pleasant.

And about as dead-boring as the end of time.

Or maybe, it was just that TsuYa was too sour. People often accused him of being cold. And though he tried not to be stand-offish from others, mostly for SoYa’s sake, he found that it was just the easiest way for him to deal with people.

Even the winged people were hard for him to stomach.

…they just weird me out…

Though they did try hard to make him feel comfortable.

…they try a little too hard…

And the bottom line was a single, reverberating fact in his mind.

…I’m stuck here…

He couldn’t leave the floating city without Lord Zemi’s permission.

…Father and SoYa are off somewhere probably having the time of their life…

Though he should probably be grateful to simply be alive. Everyone said he had come so close.

…and I’m left here with absolutely nothing to do in the middle of all this mess!

TsuYa puckered his lips in disdain, rubbing the polishing stone carefully along the edge of DuLlafn. His hands gently clutched the long black haft, weighing the feel of the weapon between them. As much as it made the people of the city uncomfortable to see the wicked scythe slanted across his knees, the Apprentice couldn’t stand the thought of the blade going dull due to lack of care.

The black-haired girl peered up at him from behind the folds of the white cloth. She imitated his prune-faced expression.


That was her name. TsuYa discovered this while talking to Aunt SaRa. Nothing else was known about the girl’s origins or family, and though he was quite certain the winged girl could probably talk, she still had yet to make the effort.

If this crazy city isn’t bad enough, I get stuck with the creepy little girl from the black void.

Despite being a bit eerie, Suzume was quiet. TsuYa liked quiet. Quiet was good. However, he liked being left alone just as much as silence. If not more.

I wonder what she’s thinking about. It’s the quiet ones you have to watch out for. Like SoYa. I bet she’s figuring up all sorts of nasty things to do to me when I fall asleep, or something.

“I was never so badly behaved when I was a kid.” TsuYa gave a grunt, muttering his thoughts out loud, “I couldn’t have been.”

Suzume imitated him with a little mock grunt.

The Apprentice peered over at her, “Right?”

She grunted again in reply, obviously finding great interest in the sound.

He returned his attention to the blade in his hands. Carefully, TsuYa flipped it over, observing the way the light reflected off the smooth surface.

The girl was silent again. Even though he couldn’t see her eyes, he could feel her watching him intently.

Maybe I can have a little fun, break this boredom, and get her out of my hair all at the same time. Just a little scare, that’s all.

“You know what this is for?” TsuYa chided her softly.

Suzume shook her head.

“Looks pretty dangerous, doesn’t it?”

She nodded.

“It once belonged to my father,” he informed the girl with a sly smirk. A hint of dark humor colored his voice. “He used to use it to cut people up. Especially annoying little kids.”

The girl stiffened.

“See this?” TsuYa indicated the jagged point on the blade by bringing it close to Suzume’s chest. “If you stick it in like this, and pull it out real fast, it yanks the heart riiiiight out!”

She squeaked, jerking away from him.

A wicked grin twisted the Apprentice’s face at her reaction. So far nothing he did was enough to make her go away. Day after day she sat there watching, just watching him. Though she never did anything to bother him, it was just the fact that she would never let him be alone.

And alone was something that he wanted to be.

So, how come I feel so rotten about doing this to her?

Suzume sat absolutely frozen. Except for her hands. They were shaking.

TsuYa’s eyebrows shot up in surprise, “Hey…”

The girl did not move.

“Hey, Suzume,” the Apprentice sat DuLlafn to one side. A guilty expression fell over his face. “I was just joking.”

The girl still did not move.

“Suzume? It wasn’t for real. My father never sliced up kids, not even annoying ones. You believe me, right?”

She let out a frightened little breath.

“Listen, I’m sorry already,” TsuYa huffed. “Just stop looking at me like that, okay?”

Suzume remained staring at him.

“Hey, stoppit,” he pleaded softly. “I just said I didn’t mean to scare you!”

Her lower lip curled.

“Aww, man… nooo! Don’t start with that!”

She whimpered.

“Don’t cry!”

At the sternness of his protest, the girl burst straight into tears. Even her wails were very quiet. But they were little-girl-wails none-the-less.

“Shhhhhhhhh! Shhhhhhhhh! Suzume!” he hissed, flailing his hands around in absolute horror.

She cried all the more.

Great, now what!? Aunt SaRa’s going to have my head for this!

Then he remembered.

The wafes! I have a few that I brought along from this morning. Those things usually shut her up…

“Here, Suzume,” TsuYa crooned, pulling out the package of cookies. He waved one in front of her face.

The girl fell silent, watching.

“That’s right,” he coaxed softly. “If you stop crying, I’ll give you a cooki–”

Suzume slapped the wafe out of his hand. Her voice rang in his ears, low and chilling, “Llofrudiaeth!

As the crumbs of the wafe scattered across the ground, the black-haired girl spun on her heel and ran away. A cold, heavy weight sunk within the pit of TsuYa’s stomach as he watched her disappear into the line of trees.

He couldn’t tell if it was the tone of her voice, or if it was simply the fact that she spoke to him for the first time. Maybe it was because she was obviously very upset with him, and guilt was chewing him inside out for it. No matter what the reason was, TsuYa found that being alone was far less appealing than he thought it would be.