Suzuka Chiba was late making it home. She’d gone to town that morning to sell a few of their unwanted items for extra money. This had now become her job since her eldest sister, Yuki Chiba was married off last year.

Suzuka was eleven this year, which meant she was ready and willing to take on more responsibility. Even though she was currently late.

The sun was nearly set over the horizon only a sliver of red remained where it burning orb used to be. Suzuka picked up the pace, running down the enormous hill she’d just climbed up.

The ocean to the left of her roared and beat the cliffs, some of the spray shooting up into the air and raining down on her. The satchel of old items she held, the ones she couldn’t sell at the market, banged against her hip and rattled.

She was still too far from home.

After dark, the hills were nothing short of terrifying. Shadowy creatures came out and hunted the grounds for anything left outside in the dark. Suzuka had never seen any of them up close, but she didn’t need to. She’d seen the way they roamed the night and she was desperate to stay away from them.

However, she’d been foolish. Instead of returning to her home earlier, she’d been stuck in the market, desperate to sell everything she could. Yuki had been so much better at this and Suzuka didn’t want to disappoint her family by bringing back a nearly full satchel of things she couldn’t sell.

Now, though, her pride would be her undoing.

Her father had always warned her that no one was good at anything they’d just begun to do, but she was sure she would be better than this. She’d been so much better at all of her old chores. Now, she felt like a failure and, of course, her family wouldn’t say that outright, but when there was no way for them to buy extra food from their neighbors and they had to eat eggs and one of their own chickens, her failure would be there right in front of her.

She hung her head and pushed herself to run faster, lest the shadows gobble her up. Yuki never would have done something like this. She was always prompt, showing up to their home with an empty satchel and plenty of food or money for their family to survive.

Suzuka’s chest ached with shame. She would never be her sister.