I dumped my brother onto the riverbank, before hauling myself up out of the water as well. My injured arm hit the ground with a thump when I collapsed onto it, and I held back a hiss of pain.
Fucking wolf-armadillo… If I had been armed, you’d be mincemeat by now!
“Mitsuko?” My brother scrambled over to me. He looked like he was about to start crying. “Your arm, is it- is it alright?”
It just got mauled by the ungodly offspring of an armadillo and a wolf, of course~ it’s alright.
Not that I was going to say that out loud though. Mitsuo already looked like he was anxious enough without me having to confirm those worries.
“Eh.” I waved my uninjured arm dismissively. “I’ve had worse.”
Evidently, that was the wrong thing to say. My brother’s eyes widened further and he began fretting over my non-existent past ‘worse injuries’. I did my best to calm him down.
“Ah, no, I just meant that this injury really isn’t all that bad, compared to-”
“Compared to what? Your past injuries?!” Mitsuo fussed, hands hovering over the mangled bloody flesh of my arm like he wanted to help, but had no idea how to. At least the beast’s acidic spit seemed to have been washed away in the water, along with the blood it had contaminated.
I plopped my head back down onto the ground with a sigh. I was going to say ‘compared to what it could have been’, but on second thought, that would only freak him out more. I let him fret for a few more minutes before bracing myself and sitting up. The movement hurt my arm like a motherfucker, but I wasn’t about to let him know that.
I put my hand on his shoulder and squeezed. “Bro, calm down. I’m fine. It looks worse than it really is.”
“Really?” My brother looked at me with rightfully doubtful eyes.
“Really.” I gave him a warm smile, eyes softening. He really was cute, especially when he looked at me with such big round eyes. I could understand why so many people were lusting after him. Didn’t mean I was going to stop beating them up though.
I turned around and carefully yanked my hoodie off, then pulled off my shirt and wrapped my injured arm up with it. Even as I did, I could see blood already starting to seep through the wet cloth and pulled my hoodie back on as quickly as I could. When I turned back to Mitsuo, his brows were creased and his concerned eyes kept falling back on my arm as we spoke.
“Can you move it?” he asked. I pretended to try and shook my head.
“Looks like there was a paralytic or something in that thing’s drool,” I said. A breeze blew from somewhere and Mitsuo shivered, feeling it acutely through his soaked clothing. I noticed and realised I was feeling rather cold as well. I wrinkled my nose. Wet clothes were the worst to walk around in. “Come on, let’s go find shelter and start a fire or something before we get hypothermia.”
He still looked worried, but let me get up. Summoning the best poker face I could, I got to my feet, being careful not to jostle my injured arm too much while trying not to draw attention to it as well. I smoothed my wet and messy hair down.
“You alright?” I asked, after successfully getting up without showing how much pain I was in.
“I’m alright,” Mitsuo replied
Huh. He didn’t look very happy for someone who was ‘alright’. I squinted at him.
“You sure? You look sorta upset,” I noted. “Something’s bothering you.”
“Bothering me? No, no, there’s nothing,” he said, avoiding my eyes. I continued staring at him suspiciously. He turned his head away.
“Alright, alright! I’ll tell you!”
Victory. A peace sign flashed into my mind.
I waited expectantly. He sighed.
“I…” he started, paused, sighed, then tried again. “I’m just a bit worried. What was that thing? Are there others like it? What if something like that comes after us again?”
My face relaxed.
“Is that all? Don’t worry,” I told him. “If something like that tries to attack us again, I’ll fend it off again, alright? So don’t look so glum, and smile for me, ‘kay?”
I gave him the brightest smile I could muster through the sympathetic throbbing of my arm, which had flared up at the thought of fighting something like the wolf-armadillo again. Mitsuo smiled hesitantly back. He still looked a bit troubled, but anyone would be after being attacked by something they had no way defending themselves against.
“There.” I patted his cheek. He pouted at my actions. “Much better. Now, let’s go!”
Knowing that he would be right behind me, I set off into the forest.
Hm? Why do I feel like I’ve just missed a very big point?
“Do you think…?”
“There’s a very high chance that we have,” I agreed. There's a very high chance that we've been taken and dumped in another world.
The two of us were currently hiding in the bushes to the side of an unpaved road. In front of us was a sentry station, the type that you’d see posted outside a town in medieval Europe – or an anime set in your typical swords and magic world.
A stern-looking guard was currently leafing through the papers the man driving a horse-drawn carriage had just given him. Seeing everything in order, he handed them back to the – merchant, maybe? – and waved him into the town. On the other side of the road, his colleague was doing the same with foot traffic, either looking at the dog tags some wore or flipping through the papers others gave him.
None of these people had black or brown hair. In the entire time we’d been hiding and trying to assess our situation, only one blonde had shown up and even received curious glances for his hair colour. There was plenty of blue, orange, green, and purple, with red being the most common colour, but no black or brown. The closest there had been was a woman with particularly dark red hair and a child with midnight blue curls.
“We’re definitely not in Japan anymore,” Mitsuo said.
“No, we’re not.”
“Mum and dad will miss us.”
“Yes, they will.”
“I’ll miss them as well.”
Eventually there was a lull in the steady trickle of people wanting to gain access into the town. I assumed people wanting to go out had to do so through another gate.
I looked at my brother. He nodded. We stood up, brushing the dirt and leaves off our clothes in an effort to make ourselves look even a bit more presentable. The walk through the forest had dried our clothes a little, but they were still quite damp.
“What’s our story?” Mitsuo asked. “Do we tell them the truth, that we come from another world, or do we make something up?”
“I think it’s best if we make something up,” I responded. “Any ideas?”
He tilted his head to the side in thought and hummed. “How about we tell them that our family was attacked by bandits on our way to another town, and we were the only ones who escaped. And then from there we can just tell the truth.”
“Sounds good. How would we explain our lack of common knowledge?”
“Like currency, what country we’re in, famous myths and legends, stuff like that. Oh, also our clothing. How do we explain that?”
“Oh! Um, maybe we can say that we lived in a really, really isolated mountain village who have only just made contact with the outside world recently?”
“Will they believe that?”
“Why would they not? It’s not like there’s any other good explanation.”
“Good point. Put your hoodie back on.”
“Your shirt’s white. It’s still sorta transparent.”
I could see his perky nipples poking through the fabric, two rosebuds peeking out from a sea of white. What, incestuous? Nah, it’s just that his pheromones are so strong that even I, his twin sister, am sometimes affected. You get used to it.
My brother looked down and flushed a pretty red, before hurrying to put the grey hoodie, which was identical to mine, back on.
“You couldn’t have told me before?” he sulked.
“It was just me before, so it didn’t matter,” I answered, shrugging and plucking a twig out of his hair.
We walked out of the bushes.