Chapter 18

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Author: lipzoldyck

 

M2.

 

That day, she had no luck since the morning.

 

Her brother suddenly slipped while carrying food and dirtied her clothes, she fell in the hallway while she was going to change, and she bruised her knee.

 

She even faced the person she hated inside!

 

Seeing Ei standing in front of the village bulletin board, Masha hesitated involuntarily and opened the distance. It wasn’t because she didn’t like the other person, but because her conscience was pricked as she hated Ei from the bottom of her heart.

 

“…”

 

Of course, Ei didn’t seem to care that much whether Masha moved or not.

 

To be precise, she looked at the village bulletin board and didn’t even seem to notice that Masha was next to her.

 

Seeing Ei’s indifferent attitude towards her, Masha was distraught. She even thought for a while about whether or not to leave this spot, but the cause of her discomfort was that Ei didn’t even notice her existence.

 

Yeah, I don’t even have to mind! Masha repeated that as she walked over to Ei’s side.

 

The bulletin board where villagers used to write simple requests or notices was always cluttered. There was no grandiose business, and most of them were overflowing with small things suitable for a small village.

 

[Looking for someone to help with next week’s harvest! Hourly wages negotiable!]

[Sharing vegetables, they’re about to rot.]

 

…Such like those.

 

These requests used to earn Masha a lot of pocket money. She diligently looked around to see if there was anything good today, yet a piece of paper with a different content than she usually sees caught her eye.

 

“Beware of this man… Special note: always drunk, often seen carrying a bottle of alcohol.”

 

It was a piece of paper with a man’s face drawn on it, and a warning sign to avoid this man was written in small letters.

 

Masha followed the warning and read it, belatedly checking the man’s face. Seeing that it was an unknown face, he didn’t seem to be a resident of this village.

 

Is he from another village? That being said, there aren’t many places that can even be called neighboring villages in the first place. Masha was lost in her thoughts on the spot.

 

Couldn’t he be in the neighboring village where she was supposed to go to play today? The moment she thought about it.

 

“What are you looking at?”

 

“Mommm!”

 

Ei, who was standing next to her, suddenly spoke up.

 

Even though Masha jumped up in surprise, it was her calm face that really surprised her.

 

“I… I’m surprised! What is it, suddenly?”

 

It was only after she had already started screaming that she realized she had spat out rude words without her knowledge.

 

She didn’t know Ei’s exact age, but judging by the atmosphere, it was clear that she was older than her. She’s never been forced to use honorifics, but she’s never been allowed to speak informally, either.

 

Oops, Masha quickly looked at Ei’s eyes.

 

“Did I startle you?”

 

However, her expression didn’t change one bit. Far from pointing out the honorifics, she didn’t even make the slightest fuss, even though she suddenly heard a loud noise.

 

“I’m sorry if I startled you.”

 

She only looked at Masha and offered her apologies.

 

The sight made Masha feel awkward, and she coughed several times.

 

“No, no. I was thinking about something else for a while. I’m not surprised because of… you.”

 

It’s good that she thought she should keep talking informally after spitting it out once, but why do the words that come out every phrase feel so stupid?

 

Before Masha’s face heated up, Ei shrugged her shoulders and turned her head away.

 

“That would be a relief.”

 

Then she looked at the paper, which Masha had been looking at just before. With her impassive eyes, she studied all the way to the picture of his face, and then she addressed Masha again.

 

“I heard you decided to go to the next village to play today. right?”

 

“Uh, huh? Yeah.”

 

Masha involuntarily nodded her head and quietly asked.

 

“How did you know that?”

 

“Your friend asked me if I would like to come with you. I declined because I was bored… no, I had something to do.”

 

She must have heard something annoying. Masha narrowed her eyes, yet Ei casually went on.

 

Flicking the paper with her fingers.

 

“I think I saw this guy once in the woods before.”

 

“What? Really?”

 

“Yes. And if I remember it right, maybe… he was passing the road leading to the next village.”

 

I remembered it because the man was screaming loudly. Hearing the murmur, Masha looked back at the drawing of the man’s face.

 

Even though it wasn’t a very detailed picture, when their eyes met, she felt goosebumps somewhere.

 

“You guys are going together, so be careful. Don’t wander around too late at night.”

 

Ei gently said as she rubbed her arm to shake off the goosebumps.

 

Her tone was so calm that she didn’t notice it right away, but it was advice that the grown-ups of the village would give.

 

“If possible, pass through crowded streets. If you think you’re in danger, you have to shout and ask for help. Understand?”

 

As she heard it as if she were a ten-year-old, she felt strange.

 

Words that hadn’t even gone through her thoughts slid out of her lips.

 

“Why do you say that? We’re not even close.”

 

“…”

 

As Ei shut her mouth, Masha wanted to faint for a moment. You used to talk informally before, but now you draw the line that you’re not close? I’m really crazy, am I not?

 

Masha decided to punish her mouth the moment she left this place. She opened her mouth thinking of apologizing, saying the words came out wrong, yet Ei answered faster than that.

 

“Because I’m worried.”

 

Her voice was still calm, and her face was still unreadable. However, unlike before, the person in front of her didn’t look cold.

 

“You can worry even if you’re not close.”

 

“…”

 

“Then, play carefully.”

 

Leaving those kind words behind, Ei turned around and left the place.

 

***

 

Masha went to play in the next village that evening, as promised with her friends.

 

The warning message on the village bulletin board kept flashing in front of her eyes, but she thought that in such a crowd, she wouldn’t be able to face that one person.

 

If she were unlucky enough to run into him, he wouldn’t be able to mess with her because she had a lot of friends who came with her. Besides, it’s not a wanted bounty, it’s just a warning sign, so it’s okay… although he was still a dangerous person, she had to be okay anyway.

 

As she thought about this and played with her friends, time passed quickly and the time came to return to the village.

 

She was late as she wanted to play more, much later than the time she was supposed to go home.

 

Masha felt a little uneasy looking at the dark sky, but she didn’t try to express it. She was in good spirits, she didn’t want to disturb her friends chatting, and she didn’t want to ruin the mood when she was having a good time.

 

The girls, including Masha, believed in one shortcut to the village and walked on chatting.

 

The forest road at such a late hour made her feel frightened, but it was okay because two of her friends ahead of her were each holding a lantern. On the contrary, there were a few friends who felt thrilled by the fact that they were together until this time.

 

However, even that exhilarating atmosphere was broken by the smell of alcohol wafting from somewhere.

 

They stopped walking one by one at the unpleasant and shady aura they felt from behind. The girls exchanged anxious glances with each other, and then slowly turned around.

 

For a while, she heard something dragging as she looked into the distance where a friend with a lantern had passed.

 

“…What, hey. where are you going?”

 

A gruff voice rang out from nearby. As soon as they turned their heads to find the whereabouts of that voice, the girls’ faces all turned pale.

 

The first thing that caught her eye was the man’s face, which was flushed red. A disgusting smile hung on his mouth as he spewed giggling laughter, and he continued to stumble, unable to properly control his body, probably because of the alcohol.

 

While her friends were confused by the stranger’s appearance, Masha alone recognized the man and bit her lip. It was the same person she saw on the village bulletin board today that she thought she would never run into.

 

As if the warning that he always carries a bottle wasn’t false, the man had a broken bottle in one hand.

 

“Didn’t you come to play with me? Why, just go.”

 

“W-What…”

 

It was only then that Masha noticed that this crazy bastard had been following them all along. In the meantime, she was so focused on chatting that she didn’t even know someone was chasing them.

 

Stupid Masha! Masha cursed herself inwardly, pulling her friends by the hand.

 

“Quick, let’s go.”

 

“…Where are you going?”

 

Mumble, mumble. The man muttered incessantly in a muffled voice. It wasn’t a good sign. The broken bottle shook several times in the man’s hand, and at the same time a cold sweat broke out on Masha’s back.

 

And again.

 

“Where are you going!”

 

“Kyaaak!”

 

As the man rushed at them with a loud noise, the girls started screaming and running away in unison. At that moment, they didn’t even think that they shouldn’t scatter, so each of them ran in the direction their feet touched.

 

When she came to her senses, Masha was running alone without a single friend of hers. It would have been nice to see a little light, but why is this damn forest so dark?

 

She fell and rolled a few times. Yet she had no choice but to get up and run. The sound of laughter coming from behind Masha choked her throat. The man pursued her relentlessly.

 

The forest was getting darker, the man was chasing from behind, and the road leading to the village was nowhere to be seen. How much time has passed? The sky was endlessly dark, she couldn’t even fathom the passage of time.

 

Hiding behind a tree, barely avoiding the man’s eyes, Masha sat down and put her hand over her mouth.

 

She felt like crying. How is this? What should I do? Everyone is being chased. I will be caught soon. That person is faster than us, if caught, if caught…

 

In the meantime, what came to her mind was, ironically, the advice she heard from someone this morning.

 

You guys are going together, so be careful. Don’t wander around too late at night. If possible, pass through crowded streets. If you think you’re in danger, you have to shout and ask for help.

 

Masha failed to keep a single one of her advice. Is that why she’s in this situation?

 

When her mind, soaked in her confusion, couldn’t function properly, and her body trembled even feeling cold.

 

Suddenly, someone reached out from behind a tree.

 

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Comments (1)

  1. So one second he’s so drunk he can barely move, the next he’s capable of outrunning fit young girls?