Chapter 1: The Ice Witch
Are half-priced bentos nothing more than just unsold stale bentos to you?
The Ice Witch
7:48 PM, “she” was standing outside of a supermarket.
Even though her skirt was fluttering in the air because of the spring’s night wind, “she” was fixated on the bright signboard.
“This year, how many new comers will shed their tears while gazing at this very signboard?” While having such thoughts, “she” ended up comparing her past self to them and felt a mysterious nostalgic feeling in her chest. One year ago, her weak past self was looking at the same sight while crying out of sorrow, anger, despair and hunger. That weak girl was not here right now.
And, that very same innocent girl from one year ago was also not there.
“She” bit hard on her slackened lips and stepped forward. The thick automatic glass doors parted to make way for her. A solemn air filled the store as “she” reached toward the mountain of shopping baskets. From the summit, a single basket had it handles elegantly pointed toward the ceiling as if it was waiting for her. Her hand grabbed it without making a single sound.
With her skin stiffened due to the blast of cold air from the Perishable and Frozen Foods sections, “she” went past the registers from the front. Her first target was the Vegetables section. “She” took her time with the scene of lush green cabbages from Chiba Prefecture as “she” made her way toward the Side Dish – Bento section by sticking close to the store’s interior wall as if licking it. Her actions were quiet and too natural; they were just like water permeating the earth from snow thawing.
Unsurprisingly, “she” frowned the moment “she” arrived at her objective. There were four youths chatting about random things while paying close attention to their wristwatches before the bentos with 100 Yen stickers. These people sometimes tried to pick up the bentos. They were already beyond saving.
“…You goddamn ‘pigs’”
While uttering those words in an almost inaudible low voice, in one single glance, “she” scanned through the top of the bentos lining up by each other. With this one second, no, with this blink of an eye, “she” was able to grasp the approximate locations, contents and prices of about 10 bentos lined up in disarray.
Without pause, “she” kept the same pace and walked past the Side Dish – Bento section to arrive at the Meat section. And then, “she” stopped her feet in front of the 199 Yen per 100g price tag handwritten in big red letters as if “she” was very interested.
Her eyes were closed. The air’s current, people’s smells, their presences, and their sound of footsteps… “she” took all of those hints together to determine that there were roughly 30 customers in the supermarket. Among them, there were 8 ordinary people happened to be shopping in this hour by chance. There were 12 “dogs” that didn’t know their place and came here because of the baits’ scent. And finally, “she” concluded that there were about 10 normal fighters. Even though there were other gazes around the store outside of these 10 that followed her each and every movement, “she” decided to believe in these cutaneous sensations.
A loud bang rang through the supermarket.
Without opening her eyes, she didn’t look toward the direction of the sound. She didn’t need to see.
The Staff Only door beside the Side Dish section was opened wide as a man who looked to be around 50 appeared. He was dressed in his so called “battle uniform” of pure white hat and apron. The smell of cooking oil filled the store as he made a single greeting and first made his way toward the Side Dish section. With his nimble hands, the man neatly lined up the disorderly side dish packs by their sell-by dates in the front row.
The faint sound of footsteps, the sound of clothes rustling, and the sound of packs’ plastic wrap rubbing against each other; from those sounds, “she” was able completely grasp the situation even without looking.
Next, the employee shifted his attention toward the Bento section. Just like before, the sound of plastic cover can be heard as he reorganized the bentos.
And then, that sound echoed through the store. The sound of the employee taking out a certain heavy bundle from his pocket.
The peacefulness that had been kept until now was suddenly replaced by an air of tension as this supermarket was sublimed into a hunting ground.
“She” felt a strong sense of urgency from her skin as the 10 fighters from before prepared for combat by removing their presences.
Skin stiffened from tension, hair stood up from bloodlust, the thirst for combat, the uncontrollable hunger.
A thin smile appeared on her normally unchanging lips as “she” walked forward contrary to her facial expression.
Toward that proving ground for ability and pride. Toward that place with a tiny fraction of connection with “him” left.
A few minutes after, “she” was one of the 11 people with a bento in their shopping basket lining up for the register.
And, at the Bento section, there were eight empty-handed people standing in shock. The four “she” called “pigs” earlier were lying unconscious on the floor. Finally, there was one newcomer who got knocked flying to the Meat section the moment the hunt began.
The people left standing were trembling, some of them even had tears in the corner of their eyes.
One would ask how many of these people would dare to show up at this hunting ground at this same time again. As for her, “she” would just forget about her anticipation and anxiety along with the face of those loser dogs in one hour’s time.
She was a wolf, the ruler of this hunting ground. A second year at Karasuda Private High School, Sen Yarizui.
Her other name was ―― The “Ice Witch”.