This story is by Christian Tanuyan and was part of our 2018 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The sound of branches swaying in the soft wind entered the ears of an ursine creature. His ears flicked as he roused himself awake. He opened his eyes and was greeted with scenery that he was not accustomed to. The glade was an outdoor sanctuary. Beams of sunlight escaped through the trees illuminating the glade he rested in. The moss-covered rock the creature leaned on looked like a shrine that had been left alone for ages.
“So, I’m this kind of creature now. Another cycle of life and death,” he thought to himself as he raised his right paw to his face.
Demon. Devil. Catastrophe. These were names he was often associated with. Groups of adventurers would gather with the intent to kill him. He would die at their hands and evaporate into mana. The dispersed mana would then travel and coalesce elsewhere resulting in a landscape filled with death and destruction. This cycle would repeat.
Unlike the other monsters with similar phenomena, he retained his memories from past lives. He grew to loathe the disaster he would awaken to. In his last incarnation, he ran away to prevent the disaster from repeating. Many would hunt him without rest, but he does not blame them.
Thinking back, the monster dwells on his latest death…
“Ah, I’m dying again…” he thought to himself closing his eyes in surrender.
His body was littered with wounds and steel rods connected to chains impaled his arms and shoulders. The men holding the chains began to panic, but their attention was elsewhere. He opened his eyes to see a young girl beneath a building just as the roof began to fall. He used the last of his strength to run towards the child dragging the men restraining him. He managed to reach the girl with roof falling on his body instead. Mind shattering pain nearly overwhelmed him as he covered her from the debris. His arms buckling from the immense weight, he roared at the surrounding men to call them to action.
Those nearby realized that the monster was shielding the child. They found her clinging strongly to the fur of the monster. A few men helped the monster shoulder the weight to buy time for others to rescue the girl. As they pulled the her away, the monster felt small, warm hands grasp his arm. He looked up to see tears streaming from the child’s face and hearing soft words of what seemed like gratitude from her. The debris that he carried slowly fell as he dispersed into mana.
Since his recent awakening, he expected to see a scene of carnage and devastation. Instead, he was surrounded with simple serenity. The sound of leaves swayed in the wind and birds chirped in the distance like a tranquil melody. White butterflies danced in the sunlight flooding in. He leaned back onto the builder tilting his head back in bliss from the calm atmosphere. The monster feared that this moment was only an ephemeral dream. He breathed deeply hoping that he will never forget this place. As his body expanded from the breath, he felt something beside him move.
A small voice broke the silence as a small hand clung onto the monster’s side, “Mnnn… Fluffy…”
He looked down to see a small human girl with a white dress sound asleep leaning on his arm. She had flowing golden hair and a blissful smile plastered on her sleeping face. Her slippers looked like they were kicked away in irritation as they disturbed her sleep.
“What is this thing doing?” he thought. “Such a careless creature. Doesn’t it know I’m a mons-. It’s drooling on me. Disgusting.”
The monster lifted his arm that the girl was leaning on, but the child yanked it back down. This greatly shocked him. “Have I lost my strength?!”
Testing himself, he began to channel the mana in his body. He noticed that he lost the majority of his mana with his last death, but it was not at the point that a child no larger than his forearm could overpower him.
“Mnnnn! NO!” As if the child had sensed the monster’s test of strength, she erupted in a slumbering tantrum throwing the massive body of fur face down.
The child shifted her sleeping position to lay her head on the monster’s arm. He experienced a new feeling of helplessness. He had just awoken to his new life and truly feared that it would end so quickly, and by the hands of a child no less! He chose to lay completely still, afraid that he would rouse her sleep induced fury once more.
After what seemed like an eternity, the child released her grasp on his arm and stretched her body with a yawn. She looked around and a soft glow caught her attention. Her eyes met the face of a massive white bear with a horn that pulsed with light. Unlike his previous form that was the embodiment of ferocity, his new eyes looked much gentler and his face resembled that of a child’s toy. He was never able to articulate human speech and failed at every attempt to communicate with those hunting him. He tried to voice out a growl of complaint, but what came out was a deep sounding whimper. The young girl looked at the sorry state of the monster and realized what she had done.
“I’m so sorry!” she cried out. He understood that this creature, just a fraction of his size, was apologizing. Before the monster could move the girl had crawled to his face and started stroking the top of his head. His interactions with humans were that of violence and hatred. Only one other time had he felt kindness from a human, and that was from the child he saved in his previous life. While it was unfortunate that the experience was brief, he had never felt such warmth. Now he felt the same affection from the child next to him. The monster’s body slackened further into the ground as he subconsciously released a low rumbling breath. The child giggled as the monster closed his eyes in bliss.
The monster leaned back on the boulder reminiscing the odd sense of pleasure he received from the paw-sized whirlwind of a human. Afterwards, day after day he would wake up with the child either sleeping next to him or playfully stroking his fur. Sometimes she would bring treats for him. And even though the monster receives his nourishment from gathering mana, he delighted in these sweet pastries and never grew tired of them.
“So, this is human food,” he thought while licking the jam smeared on the side of his mouth. The monster grew to enjoy the company of the child and looked forward to the everyday encounter.
One day, the monster noticed that the child was walking towards him with a crestfallen expression. She looked up at him and quickly wiped her face and replaced the frown with a smile. She sat next to his arm and leaned into the soft pillar of fur. The monster softly grunted at her trying to express his worry.
The girl giggled, “Oh you! It’s nothing. I.. I just don’t have any friends. The other kids make fun of me and call me a monster. I know I’m way stronger than even the knights at the castle. I know I’m clumsy. Even so, they don’t have to be so mean!” She puffed her cheeks as she continued to rant.
“It’s ok now though, because you’re my friend.” Her quickly changing facial expressions amused the monster.
At the end of her rant, the monster patted her head to get her attention. He grunted twice, pointed his heart and gave her a nod. The child was quick on the uptake and understood that he meant it was the heart that counts. The child smiled at him again as she continued with her story.
“You know? Mommy told me that I’m strong because she got a blessing from a monster that saved her. Even though that monster looked really bad and mean, he was hurt all over and he still saved her from a falling roof. She told me that when he turned into lots of glowing balls, she suddenly felt much stronger. She even became the general! Mommy felt bad for the monster and named it Mir. She said she named it that to wish him peace in the afterlife. OH! I never told you my name, huh? My name is Grace! Hmmm… can I call you Mir also?”
Hearing this, the monster was overwhelmed with emotion. Tears ran down his eyes as he looked at the girl. He bowed down to nudge his head against hers, acknowledging the name he was given.
The girl would later grow inherit her mother’s position. Whenever she felt the need to rest, she would always return to that sunlit glade where Mir would wait while sleeping in peace.