High Smashers

Red Will Be Red!

My name is Red. I'm a girl who lives in this village.
My village is a small rural village. Nothing interesting ever happens here, the adults are always busy, and I have no kids my age to play with. Every single day is boring. But that's okay! I’m a good girl, and I do as the adults tell me to. Things are okay.
Then one day, something happened.
“Little Red Riding Hood, come over here.”
My mother called over to me, and I ran over to her since I was a good girl. Red Riding Hood is my nickname. It goes well with my name, Red, and I always wore this red hood my grandmother made me since I liked it so much. Mother spoke to me as she gave me the basket.
“Take this basket and visit your grandmother in the forest. Once you’re in the forest, follow only the road and don’t stray from it. There’s a scary wolf in the forest that might swallow you whole.”
“I’ll do as you say, Mother.”
Since I’m a good girl who listens to her mother, I nodded at her words. I took the basket and left for my grandmother's house.
Unlike the boring village I saw every day, there were a lot of interesting sights in the forest. I could see flowers I'd never seen before, and birds were chirping. There were rabbit-like animals as well. The scenery was completely different from what I was used to seeing every day in the village.
I was excited and felt like following them about, but I couldn't do that. I was a good girl who listened to adults. Besides, my mother had told me that I needed to keep my eyes on the road and not stray from it once I was in the forest.
I'd been following the road for a while when I noticed something odd.
It was a young lady whom I'd never seen before.
She was standing in the middle of the road like she was waiting for someone.
She wore a huge black hat and a black dress, and had black hair. She had pale skin, and all of that together made her look somewhat scary. I wondered if I should leave the road and go around her, but then I recalled what my mother had told me about staying on the road. I was a good girl, so I had to do as my mother said.
In the end, I studied the lady carefully as I softly approached her. She looked at me and laughed as if she found that funny.
Then I remembered that my mother had said there were wolves in the forest. Maybe this person was a wolf in disguise. So I asked her.
“Uh, I'm sorry, are you a wolf?”
She snickered again at my question.
“No, I’m no wolf, little girl.”
“Then are you... a witch?”
“That’s correct, little girl.”
It was as I'd thought. She really was a witch. I'd heard scary stories about witches from my mother and grandmother, but the witch in front of me was a little different from the ones in the stories. She didn’t have a hooked nose or an evil look; she was a young and pretty lady.
But even so, a witch was a witch. I trembled with fear.
“D-do you want something from me? Will you turn me into a frog or lay a curse me?”
“No, I don’t do things like that. If I had to say, I’m closer today to a wizard than a witch. Like those helpful wizards you read in the stories.”
I was a little confused at the witch's words. I heard of nice wizards who helped others out before, but they only appeared to special people. People like a prince going after a princess or a handsome knight. Or maybe a princess who was to meet a prince. Such wizards wouldn’t visit ordinary girls who lived in a rural village as I did.
“That's not true, Red,” she said with a laugh. “Look, I’ve come, haven’t I?”
I was shocked by her words. It was as though she'd read my thoughts. I never told her my name either, but she said it like she already knew. The witch looked at me as I stood there, surprised.
“Red, have you never wanted to change your fate?”
“My... fate?”
I couldn’t understand what she was getting at. I knew what fate meant, but a quiet village girl like me had nothing to do with any fate. Only special people had anything to do with fate.
“Hmm... I see. You don't know what kind of person you are yet. I suppose that's to be expected.”
“Did you read my mind again?” I asked her, since she was talking like she did.
She smiled. The smile felt kindly, and she no longer looked as frightening as before.
“No, it's nothing like that. But you still probably think that you’re an ordinary village girl, and I expected that you’d be surprised when I mentioned such grand a word as fate.”
I was surprised. She seemed to be saying that she knew something I didn't, like she’d been watching me without me knowing. I'd never seen her before myself, so I was curious.
“Who are you, exactly? And how do you know who I am?”
“Oh, it seems I've forgotten to introduce myself,” she said as if it had slipped her mind.
“I am the Witch Queen. I am a person who, dissatisfied with my fate, will overcome it one day and rule every story.”
“Every... story?”
The Witch Queen nodded.
“Yes, that's right. And Red, you asked how I knew about you. That’s because you’re a more significant person than you think. You're the main character of a story, a story that’s beloved by many.”
“Me, a main character? That can’t be possible!”
I laughed at the suggestion. I was a simple girl who led a boring life in a rural village. There was no way that could be true. But the Witch Queen gave me a mysterious smile and looked at me.
“It’s no lie, Red.”
I couldn’t figure out the meaning of that smile. I could tell there were a lot of emotions mixed into it, though. The Witch Queen came closer.
“This world, Red, is a story in which you are the protagonist. It is an old story that has repeated itself so many times you wouldn’t be able to count. You may be an ordinary girl in this story, but every child outside this world is told your story as they grow up.”
Something weird made believe the Witch Queen even though she sounded strange. Something that made it impossible to not believe her. When I stood there in shock, the Witch Queen patted me on the head.
“However your story isn't anything special. You're going to see your grandmother today, right? You’ll find a bad wolf waiting for you instead, who has swallowed down your grandmother. You’ll be swallowed whole by the wolf, and then rescued by a passing hunter. That ends your story. There’s nothing more to it.”
“I’ll be eaten?”
The Witch Queen said it so easily that her words took a while to sink in. To think that was all there was to my story... the excitement I'd just felt at learning that I was a protagonist quickly cooled.
“Now, Little Red Riding Hood. What will you do next?”
The Witch Queen stroked my cheek. I was unsure of what I could do after she’d just told me I’d be eaten by a wolf.
“I... I want to go home.”
“Oh dear, are you running away? Then what about your grandmother? Your beloved grandmother, who loves you so much, will be eaten by the wolf.”
The Witch Queen sounded sad. An idea suddenly seized me.
“Then you can help me, Witch Queen! You can get rid of the big bad wolf, right?”
“Now, now... are you asking me for help?”
I suddenly grew scared at her words. She sounded disappointed, like I said something terribly wrong. The Witch Queen’s warm smile was gone, and she was looking down at me with cold eyes instead.
“I can’t do that. I'm not part of this story, and I can't affect it directly. Besides, you don't really need my help. Even if you're eaten, the hunter will rescue you in no time. But Red, will you always be looking to others for help? Will you always wait for rescue without trying anything yourself?”
I was at a loss for words. I wanted to make an excuse so that she would not be disappointed.
“But there is no way that an ordinary girl like me would be able to fight a wolf. And you even said it yourself, that this is my story. If that's the 'fate’ that you mentioned, there’s no way a girl like me could change it.”
I sounded like a child about to be scolded. The Witch Queen gave a quiet sigh. It couldn’t be helped, though. I was just a nice girl who listened to adults. I didn’t have any special powers or anything.
The daily routine in the village was ordinary. Nothing was special or interesting. I had been told there all this time that I had to be a good girl, that I had to listen to the adults. I never got into a fight even once, and I always did all the boring stuff the grown-ups told me to do.
Besides, I was a girl. I couldn’t work in the fields or dream of leaving the village to do something cool. Setting out on adventures and trying to make big things happen was something boys and princes did. Princesses were left with no choice but to wait for their princes to arrive.
“That’s not true,” the Witch Queen said firmly after hearing my words.
“Look at me, Red. You’re seeing me for the first time, and you probably see me as nothing more than a witch from the stories. That’s not true, however.”
The Witch Queen brought her face close to mine, making eye contact.
“I was not even the protagonist of a story. I wanted to be one and achieve my dreams, but my fate didn’t allow that. But I’m not giving up. I’m going to change my story and fate one day and realize my dreams.”
There was something very strong behind her eyes as she said this that I felt my heart beat faster.
The Witch Queen was completely different from the people I was used to seeing.
The people I met so far, including my mother, father, and the villagers, were not people who talked about dreams and goals with sparkling eyes. They simply lived their day-to-day lives, and simply accepted reality as fixed as I did.
But the Witch Queen was beautiful, mature, and most importantly had some kind of power nobody else had. She was strong enough to defy fate, something that everyone else accepted as unchangeable.
I was drawn in by that.
“What can I do, then?”
The Witch Queen showed a soft smile again at my question.
“That's not for me to decide. You’re the one who gets to decide, Red. I simply am providing you with the opportunity.”
“The opportunity?”
“Yes. The opportunity to fight your fate.”
The Witch Queen pulled out a mirror. It was a strange-looking mirror. It floated in the air by itself, and I could tell that it was a magic mirror. When she reached out towards it, her hand went inside the mirror. While I stood there in shock, she pulled something out of it. It was a huge pair of scissors.
“What's that?”
“This is a gift from me.”
The Witch Queen smiled at my question. The scissors looked to be half as tall as I was, and red, just like my name.
“It’s about time you decided, Red. If you wish to remain a powerless girl who simply accepts her fate, does nothing, gets eaten by the wolf, and waits for the hunter to rescue you, just keep following this path. But if you want to change your fate...” she said, handing me the scissors.
“The only way is to fight.”
I looked at my face reflected by the red scissors’ blades. I was a quiet, nice, ordinary girl. That was what I knew myself to be and had seen every day.
But if I were to be asked if I liked it, I would have had to say no.
There was nothing interesting in the village, and it was boring to be a good girl. There was nothing fun, nothing exciting. Every day was the same. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow were all the same.
If the Witch Queen was correct, and I'd be rescued by the hunter after being swallowed up, what would come next? The same old boring life, of course. Boring life all over again.
I always wondered if there was anything interesting. And to be honest, I was tired of this boring life.
And more than anything else...
The scissors she showed me were so beautiful...
I reached out and grabbed the scissors.
Then I understood. The Witch Queen hadn’t lied.
The moment I touched the blades, I remembered everything. I remembered walking this forest path over and over, being eaten by the wolf many times, being rescued by a hair and returning to the Library World after the story was done. After that, I would come back to my story again.
It kept happening over and over. There was nothing interesting or new. If I hadn’t touched these scissors, if I hadn’t believed her—or, if she hadn’t come to meet me—I would have been trapped in my life forever!
But I was sick of that now!
The Witch Queen smiled joyfully at me as I thought these things.
“So do you like my present, Red?”
“Yes, Witch Queen! It's the best!”
I meant it. I felt a mysterious power fill me as soon as I touched those blades and remembered everything. It was a power I couldn’t have imagined having in my boring old life. The Witch Queen looked even more pleased with my reply.
“I'd glad to hear that. Those scissors are called ‘Peek-a-boo.’ Treat them with care.”
“Of course, Witch Queen!”
I beamed and nodded at her.
“So what will you do next?”
“Well, it's obvious! I’m going to rip open that wolf's belly!”
I made snipping motions with the scissors as I said this.
That wolf had always swallowed me up till now, but things were to be different from now on. With these magical scissors, I didn’t need the help of some stupid hunter! I would defeat it myself! And I would also rescue my grandmother, who would have been swallowed by the wolf!
The Witch Queen gave a mysterious smile.
“Now then, go. It's time you took your fate by the neck.”
“Yes, Witch Queen!”
She saw me off, and I began to run towards my grandmother's house. I threw aside the basket my mother had given me, and instead holding Peek-a-boo in both hands.
That wolf had swallowed me so many times! But this time it wouldn't be as easy. I was no longer a good girl who would be swallowed unless someone comes to help me!
That's right, I was no longer the nice, quiet girl I used to be!
With these scissors and my newfound strength, I would have no time to spare for such boring things!
Once I defeated the wolf, the story would end and I'd go to the Library World. I didn’t want to return to my boring life and this boring story and get swallowed again.
The Witch Queen told me that people knew about my story. That meant they knew me as a nice, boring girl, a girl who could do nothing on her own.
That wasn’t me anymore! People didn't know about the new me. So I would make more people learn about me!
I was going to start by defeating the wolf.
I kicked my grandmother's door open. The old wooden door crumbled. And of course, the wolf was waiting for me inside. It had been trying to fool me with its hateful guise, pretending to be my grandmother by wearing her red-rimmed glasses.
The big wolf seemed shocked at my appearance. Of course he was! He was expecting me to quietly enter with a basket of wine and cake, only to find me with such huge scissors! The wolf looked like it was about to say something, but I had no time to listen.
“I’m going to slice you in half!”
With that, I jumped at the wolf.
I can't really remember what happened after that.
I tried to slice the wolf's belly, but maybe because I never fought someone before, I think I cut the wolf's foreleg instead. When I came to my senses, I was no longer at my grandmother's.
Instead, I was at the Library World. And the Witch Queen was waiting for me.
“You did it, Red.”
The Witch Queen patted me on the head, sounding proud.
I realized that her visit and my fight with the wolf had been a test she'd prepared for me. A test to see if I was good enough to serve her.
The Witch Queen had already gotten everything ready at the Library World. She sat down with me and told me the things she hadn't been able to tell me.
She was gathering together people like me, who'd been trapped inside their stories, and was trying to transform the Library World from its boring, dull state!
She was trying to make an exciting world where we could do whatever we wanted instead of repeating the stories we were born into!
I felt renewed respect for her. I wanted to be like her.
She was strong, beautiful, and more than anything, she had goals she wanted to accomplish! She was different from the other grown-ups who lived on with their dull lives without any ambition at all!
I wanted to become like her. I decided to make that my goal. I would become a great villain one day, a powerful and beautiful adult like her. Everyone would know me and fear me.
So I became her servant and joined Umbra. I don't like the fact that the wolf survived and joined Umbra, too, or that he was placed in a higher position than me... But when I pull all sorts of pranks to make people recognize me, become a better villain, and one day defeat that wolf, I’m sure the Witch Queen will have no choice but to look at me differently!
I’ll see you around, then! Although I’ll probably pop out and scare you. Ehehehe!