Madoka did not know what in the little village had compelled so much attention. Despite Madoka’s intention to spend no more than a matter of weeks, Madoka had been in the village for several years. It had been long enough for Madoka to watch little Hoshiko grow from a babbling toddler to a shy near-adult.
The quiet period ended when Hoshiko’s uncle decided that rape was an appropriate method of proposing marriage. Madoka abandoned the human disguise that had concealed Madoka’s true form to teach him and Hoshiko’s parents their mistake. Doing so sparked a change in Hoshiko that revealed exactly what had kept Madoka in the village for so long.
Jade Claws is a tale of dragons in ancient Japan and discovering that the mistakes of the past do not have to be transmitted to the future.
By Meyari McFarland
“Thank you very much for the mushrooms,” Hoshiko said to Madoka.
She smiled shyly up at Madoka as she took the basket full of mushrooms that Madoka had harvested up on the mountain. The occupation gave Madoka reasons to be away from the village. That was always welcome. A single woman living on her own brought many strange looks and harsh comments in this culture. Madoka truly didn’t care but cultivating an air of oddness and unapproachability always mad life among humans easier.
Madoka smiled and patted Hoshiko’s head even though Madoka could smell Hoshiko’s uncle around the corner of the farmhouse. The child certainly wasn’t responsible for her family. She was just another victim like her mother. It was sad that all the brightness and joy Hoshiko displayed would be beaten out of her in only a couple of years. Human lives were so very short.
Paying attention to them was foolish. Madoka’s departure had already been put off long enough that she’d watched Hoshiko grow from a babbling toddler that clung to Madoka’s kimono into a coltish young girl who’d already learned not to speak any more than she had to. It was sad but it was the natural order of a human female’s life in this part of the world. Truly, Madoka wasn’t sure what had bound Madoka to this place for so long. Madoka rarely stayed among humans for more than a few weeks at a time.
Hoshiko hurried off with the basket of mushrooms, carrying them to the tiny root cellar the family had carved into the mountain. As soon as Hoshiko left, Kenta, Hoshiko’s uncle, slid around the corner of the farmhouse. He slouched and stared at Madoka, piggy eyes dull, lips twisted in a leer.
“You,” Kenta slurred. “Come here.”
It was a blatant order that Madoka raised one eyebrow at. The scruffy bearded man had eyed Madoka every time they encountered each other. No action had been taken thus Madoka had not found it necessary to rip the man’s head off.
“Come here!” Kenta snapped.
He strode over and grabbed Madoka’s arm, twisting it in a move that was clearly intended to be intensely painful. It didn’t hurt. Madoka’s human form was considerably weaker than the true form, the scales hidden under the skin and tail but a narrow hidden whip under the drape of Madoka’s kimono. Still, Madoka was too tough to be harmed by a man like Kenta.
“Mine,” Kenta growled. He stank of cheap sake.
“No,” Madoka said, chuckling at the sheer thought of it. “I am not yours.”
“You need a husband,” Kenta snapped. “Impertinent woman!”
He shoved Madoka towards the wall of the farmhouse. His brother Daiki appeared, one hand wrapped around Aiko’s, Hoshiko’s mother, neck as if he intended to snap her spine if Madoka didn’t accept Kenta’s ‘proposal’. Aiko bit her lip and looked away, shaking in her sandals.
Madoka went with the shove, looking towards the horizon. A smile stretched Madoka’s lips a bit too far for humanity but nowhere near as far as her mouth would stretch soon. The sun was setting over the mountains. In minutes the entire farmhouse would be sheathed in darkness. Kenta slammed his hands into Madoka’s shoulders, pinning Madoka to the wall.
“Mine now,” Kenta said. He licked his lips and then leaned in for a kiss.
“No,” Madoka hissed, hands set in the center of his chest. Madoka’s claws waited under the fake human nails for the moment when Madoka could change. “I am not yours. Let me go or I will kill you, Kenta.”
Kenta laughed at that, drunken bravado making him look at his brother. The sun slid behind the mountain peak. Color left the grass beneath Madoka’s feet. The sky went gold then bloody red. Appropriate, Madoka thought, as Daiki snorted and shook his head at Madoka’s supposed foolishness.
“Submit,” Daiki told Madoka. “Or die.”
“Death,” Madoka purred. “A suitable option but not for me. You were a fool to allow him to attempt this, Daiki.”
Find the rest of this Story:
If you can’t afford to buy the story, please consider leaving a donation. All money received goes toward keeping me writing and posting these stories. Thank you very much!