Inspired by the music video: "Fight Song" by Eve
I was a hunter before I met her.
Not a protector.
She was a dragon—still is a dragon—in the body of a little girl, with hair like a blanket of snow, sweeping just above the muck of the ground, billowing far behind puny, bare feet. Pale as can be. With canary yellow eyes only fit for staring into souls, and the kind of powers only meant for devouring them.
I was nothing special—even now, nothing special. Just human, nesting eyes the colour of rust, and a sight that missed whatever was so important about life up until she slithered into it. But I thought: if my eyes could still view someone so valuable as worth more than her bounty of a few too many zeroes, then maybe, I was less blind than I surmised.
We found each other on a day steeped in dusk. Half the sky was raining; half the rain was painted. All around me—on some abandoned street—were puddles with smoky mixtures of red seeping through.
I was kneeling on the floor, my knuckles numb and covered in blood. I couldn't feel them but saw them shaking. There was more blood than I remember causing.
Plipping and plopping.
I watched my fists trying to recall what I'd been fighting.
A soft pitter-patter and two tiny feet appeared in front of me. Lazily, I peered up, and was pierced by her stare, the outline of her horns woven through her hair. The cratering rib cage of a recently deceased beast silhouetting her frame like a ring of ghostly wings. Its bones wisping into golden dust that melted the must from the haze.
Slunked half-ways off my shoulder, my weapon reacted to her. It hung off me like a gym bag made of shadows, but was really a weapon for shredding souls, the type my fists couldn't handle. Where a zipper should've been, its mouth hung hungry, often wide open, with a spiky grin and a large tongue always thirsting... for puddles.
Except here, it quivered. The corners of its mouth angled down. It bit its lip—if you could call it a lip—and swiveled behind me. Afraid. Of this little girl whose rib cage cratered behind her.
I watched her watch me.
We were a duo fit for a fantasy, instead we are the outcasts of the city. Always on the run. From slum to slum. Dodging skyscrapers and their hired hunters. Fighting the world simply by trying to survive it.
"Tch," I let out a bitter puff of smoke. Crushed the cigar with a clench.
She giggled beside me, oblivious to my troubles, as she spray-painted a bathroom stall with a stench.
Graffiti; robbery; illegal activity; she seemed to like these things. The types of joys that got people's attention really, and Attention wanted us dead. And even without hired hands reaching for her neck, she was a lot to manage. Since I met her, I'd gained the rank of an older brother, though I don't remember having nor wanting a sibling, especially not one so needy.
I shut my eyes and forced a sigh.
She tugged my sleeve with her inhuman speed, jolting me from what little respite a sigh could provide, and pointed at a vendor's cart serving oily fries.
Her eyes spoke for her drooling mouth: 'I want this.' they said.
I drew in a smoke and gave her a scornful side eye. Dream on.
It didn't take long for her to throw a can of paint at my head.
Our brawl caused a scene so we ended up fleeing south. A vexing sprig of fries sprouted from her oily mouth, as she waddled along beside me without care.
Sometimes it was hard to justify my time with her over the price value of her wanted poster. I'd gathered a few in my hand, both then and now. I watched her innocent eyes painted in a way that made me scowl.
My soul-shredder, (that shadowy satchel), ate the temptation in the form 'Wanted' papers, leaving my hand with its cold saliva and a much warmer hand holding hers.
An unfamiliar poke struck the side of my shoulder. I looked over to find a cloaker—the worst kind of commercial stalker. A red cloak draping over its tall figure. There was a silence—a long stare—assuming whatever it was under its hood had the eyes to peer, and in my peripheral, she bowed forward for a playful peek. Her hand sprung out in a wave like the creature was an old buddy. My hairs stood on their ends as all its hands spread out like a fan and waved back.
Fast forward a few scenes and she was stolen from me.
Without reason nor rhyme; within a snap of time; I couldn't process what had happened for life to turn this wrong. A single song knocking against my skull like a distorted bell; playing over and over and over and over:
Fight until the world is made right and her warmth is back in my grasp.
I could not think with her not there.
She, to me, was my final limb. The one I'd been missing all along. In a meaningless life surrounded by zeros, she became my +1.
Protector turned hunter; I tracked them down until a base was found: some elusive blacklisted den. A place where fighters and brawlers had a pit to share and an ugly chance at glory from deceptive madmen. It was an arena I had no taste for, but a winner received a reward from a wealthy cloaker who didn't deserve anything he had to offer—much, much, less: my needy little sister.
Attempt one, attempt three, attempt five, six, and thirteen, and all I kept seeing was her petite frame getting dragged from me. Many hands pushing my head into the ground; five, ten, fifteen, maybe twenty? maybe twelve?
The pit turned my vision into a filter of red. So many enemies and forgotten fights with the dead. A shadowy gym bag thriving off of people's souls. Betters and buyers cheering to the sounds of my bloodshed. 'Didn't seem to matter whose blood sprayed, creating puddles out of painted rain in a place where there was no dusk or day or sky. All while too high above, caressed by a crooked finger in a creepy glove, she sat perched on a throne too large, watching me watch her; watching me get hurt; watching her with a look so tortured. From a girl so pale, so frail, so small.
It seemed I'd grown too used to every slash I could not evade being accompanied by the sound of her smacking me with a lopsided band aid.
The sight of her—and that fry-less frown—made me weak. And I could not breathe with the bulk of a Gozu brute strangling me.
With my soul-shredder tossed to the side. I could not fight.
But how could I not fight for the +1-and-only meaning of my life?
The Gozu’s restless hands tightened around my neck. A choke. A gasp. A figment of their soul seeped through my chest. Weighing a ton. Crushing a lung and—
(There was something above)
(a rib-caging a dove)
She was still a dragon.
There was a curdling cry. A roar that tore the sky. A zap of lightning. Spits and violent hisses. The ox head choking me was gone in an instant. I was swept up as the entire den was blasted to pieces.
The bulk of a white beast and its serpentine twist, swimming across the air—up and up and up. Shimmering and magnificent and... fighting for me?
I never knew that was something that could be.
I did not think there was anyone out there who still wanted me to breathe.