Think about the various roles you play in your life. If you had to give up all but one, which one would you keep?
Rin’s heart pounded against her chest as she lay on her back at the edge of a small forest pool after a hard run. Sweat rolled off her forehead and onto the cool grass below her. The pool looked refreshing, but one could never be too careful with the Makai landscape. The blood-red sky above the trees reminded her not to let her guard down.
With a sigh, she sat up and folded her knees under her, leaning over the still water to get a better look. The pool was dark and reflected her face as smooth as glass. Golden eyes frowned back at her through silver locks streaked with black. Her face could still pass for human, but the monstrous wolf ears poking through the hair on the top of her head would shock most humans. The moment she smiled, baring her sharp teeth, they would run in fear.
Her tail drooped. She had once had such a friendly smile, one that didn’t send people running or children crying. That smile had also been a lie. It was Ali’s smile, not Rin’s. She had been an actual wolf in sheep’s clothing. In her case the sheep were human, but it amounted to the same thing. She had hidden among them for years, hidden even from herself. And for what?
A snarl escaped her lips and she sat back on her heels so she could observe the water without seeing herself as she was. In her natural state. The ancient demon of legend. No more the carefree young woman with a normal life.
Across the pool, a pale shape emerged from the trees. She had scented him earlier so his appearance didn’t startle her. The massive white wolf bent his head to the water and began to drink. Rin could feel her back go up. She hadn’t discovered if it was safe for consumption.
His laughter echoed in her mind. Are you such a pup you can no longer tell a safe water source from a dangerous one? Or do you perhaps think me senile enough not to know the difference myself?
She sniffed and looked away from him, embarrassed but not willing to show it on her face. “You can never be too careful at strange watering holes.”
He chuckled again as he finished quenching his thirst. I do appreciate you not washing in it before I could have my fill.
Rin nodded thoughtfully and dipped her hands into the water to satisfy her parched throat before she jumped in. Besides, if Takai said the water was fine, it probably was. Listen to your elders. The liquid trickled down her throat and cooled her insides. She plunged her face into the water and gulped it, uncaring of how silly she must have looked in front of the old wolf.
He had made his way around the edge towards her, laying down several feet away and watching her with keen eyes, paled with age. Until a few years ago, she believed she was the only wolf demon to survive the genocide. Since then she had learned that a handful had managed to escape. She had been surprised to meet one as old as Takai, though.
Her thirst sated, she dove into the water. The pool was far deeper than it was wide. The water pulled the sweat from her skin and cooled her outside as much as it had inside. She surfaced and treaded near the center, keeping her eyes on the ancient wolf.
Rin wasn’t sure what to make of him. When Hitokiri had introduced them, he said Takai was a highly trusted councilor. As his second, Rin wasn’t sure where Takai ranked with regard to herself. He never strayed far from Hitokiri, unless he was tailing her. Did he do so on their master’s orders or was he playing a different game? One who had survived as long as he had surely had contingencies for his contingencies. She wondered if he knew, truly knew, what she was.
He noticed her watching him and opened his jaw in a wide grin. You have the look of one with questions.
She scowled as she swam to the edge and pulled herself out of the water’s welcoming embrace. She removed her wet clothes and hung them over a low branch of a nearby tree. Why hadn’t she taken them off before diving in? She really was no better than a foolish pup.
She sprawled on the grass on her belly, mirroring his casual position as though she were also four-legged and furred. “I am trying to figure out your role in his war,” she said bluntly.
Takai’s ears twitched and he tipped his large head to the sky. I am certain he is not even sure of that himself.
“But then why are you still alive?” she persisted. “Forgive me for being so imprudent, but you are not fit for battle. He keeps his own council, so what use does he have for a relic of a bygone age?”
The white head turned back to her, hackles raised in a warning snarl. She flattened herself to the ground and rolled onto her back in supplication. She could have easily killed him had he attacked her, but she wasn’t trying to start a fight. She just wanted answers.
He sneezed and lowered his head to his paws. I will forgive your ignorant behavior towards your elder, considering your circumstances. She sniffed and flipped back to her stomach, regarding him once more. Whether he takes my council or not, our master does at least listen to what I have to say. He, at least, values the wisdom that comes with age.
Rin ignore the jibe and rested her chin on her hands. “But why keep the old knowledge alive when he seeks to destroy it all?”
The old wolf shrugged. Insurance. I am the last of the Elders. I have knowledge of the prophecies relating to our kind. You slipped away once. He wants to be sure it won’t happen again. His pale eyes glistened with mischief that startled her.
“He isn’t going to loosen his hold over me so easily this time.”
“I can’t fight him. He will kill my child if I try.”
The child will be his undoing.
Rin’s ears pinned back at that. What did he know? She reached out to his mind before she could stop herself and her mind was flooded with his thoughts and memories.
Prophecy filled her senses and with it time seemed to stop. Visions of past, present, and future revealed to her the players and the parts they would all play in ending Hitokiri’s war. She saw her ancestors, her family, her friends, each and their destiny. She became aware of a great power within herself and an even greater power within her daughter.
She witnessed her own death. The death of her enemy. The ripples those deaths would cause. A man split in two. An orphan growing into a young adult hating the mother she never knew. Another idolizing the same woman. The wolf serving his master after her death, doing his best to keep the Hunter blood from rising again. A battle that would result in tragedy, awakening the old gods. Pain that would lead to salvation. Redemption. Revival.
Rin gasped for breath as the visions released her. Takai was on his feet and at her side. She was on her hands and knees, drenched in sweat as though she had run for miles once again. She panted until her heart slowed and she could process all that she had seen.
She nodded without looking at him. Once revealed to her, it had been so obvious. Hitokiri’s hold over her had been slipping, but she was so conditioned to follow his commands she hadn’t realized it. How poetic he thought he could use the child to control her, when it was the child who broke his power. “You are one devious old-timer,” she smirked, finally turning her head towards him.
Takai panted laughter and sat down, having assured himself she was in no danger of collapsing. I simply bided my time until my true master reappeared.
Rin sighed and dropped back to the ground, her arms at her sides and her face in the grass. “That’s all well and good,” she said, “but what am I supposed to do now? How do I set the right course of events in motion, knowing all that I know now?”
He licked her arm playfully. That all depends on what role you want to play.
“Which role, huh?” She frowned, her tail swishing as she thought about her options. What was she, really? Mother, lover, sister, friend. Sacrificing herself for the greater good ruled out the first two for sure. She couldn’t raise a child from the afterlife, and she was pretty sure long distance relationships weren’t a thing there either. Especially considering she was also a traitor. She groaned. That was definitely going to complicate matters when it came time to plan for the future of the realms.
Who are you? Takai asked, interrupting her train of thought. Are you Rin of the fabled wolf demons of Makai? Are you Ali of the human realm? Were you raised to be a demon or a human?
Her tail stopped moving, her ears perked up straight atop her head, and she leapt to her feet. She was the daughter of both worlds. She had been raised by both, had fought for both. Her lips curled in a fang-baring grin as she turned back to Takai, full of resolve. “I’m a fighter. And I will fight for the brightest future I envisioned.”
The great white wolf leapt to his feet as she redressed in her still slightly-damp clothes. She tied her sword at her waist and placed a hand on his head. “Come. There is much planning to be done before the final battle.”
Notes: Mmmm, nothing quite like a good short story about who you truly are at your core. This is a scene in my fanfiction sequel that I have worked and reworked several times with little satisfaction. This prompt gave me a different angle to work from and I thought it well suited to Ali’s challenges at this point in her story.
It was interesting to try and break down my life into different roles. How specific do you make those roles? It’s easier to give up roles when the remaining role is a fairly broad one. Some roles encompass others, making a loophole! Yay loopholes! For myself, I think I’d just continue being a writer and all that it entails. I can’t really envision my life without writing of some sort.
What roles do you play in your life? What would you give up? What could you absolutely not give up? Make a list and go from there! I’ll see you tomorrow, I think with another two-fer. We’ll see what happens when I finally sit my butt down to write! Good night!