Blinking, Ren slowly came to.
Huh? I’m… not dead? What is this? Why do I feel warm?
Someone’s arms were wrapped around the crook of her legs and armpits, carrying her like bride or a princess. She felt a comforting strength radiating from those arms, like they could carry her for a million miles and never drop her. Ren smiled.
Ahh… I see. This is Kichirō’s warmth. He’s the one carrying me. Which means this must be the afterlife. Oh Kichirō, why did you have to follow me here?
She looked up at him.
Still… I’m glad I get to walk into heaven with you… Wait.
Her vision gradually focused, losing the bright and blurry bloom until she could recognize a face that wasn’t Kichirō’s. It was sharp, spartan, slightly angular, and it did not look kind. Hair the color of thistles covered in dirt fell down its scalp like a waterfall.
Ren’s eyes widened. She knew that face. That meant… that this wasn’t the afterlife. And this… wasn’t Kichirō!
Finally she could see clearly again. The face of the demigod Nayeli Knossos loomed down at her.
“Yo. Finally awake, huh?”
Ren stared up at her, mouth agape. For a minute she did nothing.
Ren panicked, flailing. What the hell?!
The demigod sneered, annoyed as her flailing limbs smacked her. “Would you cut that shit out? I’ll drop you.”
“God-girl?!” Ren squealed. “What the hell is this!? What are you doing, and why are we naked?!” she realized to her mortification.
“Our clothes burned up in the fight, remember? Or are you too stupid to remember how heat works?” Nayeli intoned mockingly. “And what does it look like I’m doing? I’m carrying you, you idiot. Now stop squirming and shut up, before you break something again.”
Ren’s red face became even redder, darkening with embarrassment.
“Stop acting like you care about me! Let me go! This feels so wrong! This isn’t what I-“
Ren felt something crack.
“My back…” she whimpered, going limp in Nayeli’s arms. The demigod sighed.
“I fuckin’ told ya, but noooooo…”
Ren looked at Nayeli through teary eyes. “What did you do? Why I still alive?”
“Because I gave you my blood,” Nayeli answered. “Why do you think? It healed you, and you weren’t gonna survive in that state without some of it. So stop squirming and breaking things. You’ll heal soon if you just let me finish carrying you, you fucking ingrate.”
The two of them walked in silence for a while. The ash was thick, enough to choke, and neither of them took many breaths. They saved their energy for walking. Climbing piles of debris, and new mountains. Eventually, Ren spoke.
“… Why did you save me?”
“A ‘thank you’ would be nice.”
“I being serious. Why? I your enemy. I try to kill you. You were going to kill me. But you save me anyway. Why?”
“Well it’s not because of your stellar personality, I’ll tell you that much,” Nayeli remarked, mumbling to herself. “Seriously, show some fucking gratitude…”
Ren looked around at the devastation. Fires coated the horizon and the morning sky had gone dark with ash. It looked like a volcanic pit, only it was miles wide. This… is what they’d done?
“… We kill a lot of people just by accident today. You know that, right?”
“And we gonna have a lot to answer for when we make it back.”
“So what difference does one more life make? Just another number at this point, right?”
“Jesus, are you still fucking on about that? Maybe I saved because I didn’t want anyone else to die! Did you ever think about that?”
The oni went quiet, the two of them walking in solemn silence.
“That the real reason then, isn’t it? You feel guilty.”
“I told you, I just don’t like killing other demihumans,” Nayeli said. “That’s all there is to it. Don’t go thinking you’re special or anything.”
“…” Ren stared at the growing fires on the horizon. “It hard for me to imagine what it must be like for you. To live knowing that you can do this. That it inevitable that someone will die because of you no matter how hard you try to control it.”
“Jesus, you make it sound like we’re trying to kill people. We’re not. It just… happens.”
“Earthquakes do not try to kill people. Volcanoes do not try to kill people. They just do. They no can help it. It just how they are. As long as they exist people will die, but they can’t help that. It very sad. Living like that.”
“Yeah well get used to it. You’re living that life now too.”
Ren shook her head. “No. Zenkai no last long. I can already feel the power fading. I keep some of it, but not all of it. Not enough to be as powerful as you are. Besides, you demigods always attract bad luck. It in your blood to cause trouble. Get in fights. Kill people. You in mortal danger every week, so you have no choice but to fight. I can go back to the forest, and hunt by myself. Alone.”
“Is that what you’re gonna do then?”
Ren thought about this. “No. I have someone I look after too. Someone I need to protect. I think that familiar to you, right? He do the thinking, you do the fighting.”
Nayeli chuckled. “Yeah… that sounds about right.”
“Well, things work out somehow for you. They always do. I thought I die today. Turns out I wrong. God-girl much more forgiving than I thought she’d be,” she said with a smirk.
“Feh. Don’t make me let go of you, shrimp.”
“Not unless you want me to swing from those giant udders, you dairy cow.”
The two of them laughed uproariously, straight from their bellies. It was happy laughter. Guilty laughter. Sad laughter. Shocked laughter. Glad-to-be-alive laughter. Every kind of laughter there was in one giant melting pot of complicated emotions, summed up by just about the only thing either of them could do about it at that point.
“This is a fucked up world, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, it definitely is.”