Nagi was inside the market when the first great rush of werewolves charged down the street, heading towards one of Foregone’s three main entrances. Their surprise appearance nearly made her soil herself, and had she gone that far Nagi wouldn’t have faulted herself.
The market of Foregone, unlike most places, was not an outdoor collection of stores. It was, instead, a large, centralized outlet opened by a single extremely wealthy merchant who more or less governed the comings and goings of foodstuffs in the city. Since he was one of the few humans to be outright killed by the werewolves - apparently the morbidly obese miser looked more appetizing than the werewolves could handle - there was really no one to accuse Nagi of theft.
Not that she had much to choose from. Though largely meat eaters, the werewolves would invariably eat just about anything to survive, and they’d spent the first two days of their outbreak utterly ransacking the enormous market. Cured hams, roasted chickens, spliced dodos, fetid greens, stewed carrots, frittered wedgewaffles, honeyed breads, divided apricots, chronomagnetized roundillos, and a great deal more food besides disappeared down the pitiless throats of the canines, and by the time Nagi visited the market, two weeks after the beginning of the outbreak, it was almost bereft of food.
‘Almost’ is a comparative term. ‘Almost’ can mean a lot of things. If you’ve eaten ‘almost’ an entire cake, then only a sliver of that cake is left, a fraction suitable only to sickly grandmothers who insist that anything over a lima bean is entirely too much food for a single meal, thank you very much. If, however, a pack of werewolves has eaten ‘almost’ all of the food in an enormous market, then the remainder of the food is insubstantial only to the mass of werewolves.
For Nagi’s purposes, the store of dry goods in a rear office served to sate her need for food for a good long time. The werewolves apparently regarded biscuits as unworthy of notice, especially when locked into a secure safe, and Nagi routinely sneaked nine or ten packages of the stuff back to the inn. Her stores were running low, true, but she still could have survived another month on crackers alone, had events not abruptly spiralled into a dangerous new phase.
Nagi was tucking a bag of crisps into her cloak when the howl of the werewolves floated into the office with all the grace of bad news at a birthday party. She immediately tensed, crouching behind a dusty desk and peering through the door at the deserted stalls and overturned shelves in the market’s cavernous main area. From here she had a clear enough view of the wide front door -
- and through the doors, propped open by snow and debris, she spotted a werewolf as it darted past. And then another followed, and another, and another, and another. They quickly became a voracious, rushing stream of fur and claws, guided to some destination - or prey - Nagi couldn’t hope to know, given the circumstances.
Oh fuck me, Nagi thought, flattening herself against the floor so thoroughly that she thought she might simply become one with the floorboards. Calm down, bitch, calm down. They aren’t comin’ in here. They’re… I dunno… they’re gonna have an orgy, or somethin’. Or some dumbass showed ‘emselves, and you get to profit from it. Somehow. Someways. Somewheres. Just don’t freak out, ‘cause they’ll… they’ll…
But they wouldn’t see her. The wolves were moving far too rapidly to peer into the market, their attention invested in something outside, and despite her fear of being caught - no amount of stinky cologne in the world would save Nagi if a werewolf spotted her - Nagi found her curiosity pricked as the last of the hundred-plus wolves rushing past the market disappeared. The thunderous clamour of their feet disappeared in the distance, but their howls echoed through the lonely streets with the persistence of hunters on the prowl.
Go home, Nagi told herself. Get back to the fuckin’ inn. Don’t be a moron.
She rose onto her tail, looking towards the rear of the market. The storerooms back there, though barren of edible products by now, would provide a less conspicuous way out, as well as plenty of cover.
You didn’t get this far by bein’ stupid, Nagi reminded herself. No girl. You wanna live? You just forget that shit.
The tip of Nagi’s tail absently pushed the door to the wall safe shut. It clicked loudly, as it always did, safely locked. She would open it again when she desired more biscuits.
Back to the inn. I can barely smell that shit on me anymore. Don’t risk anything.
Nagi’s eyes sauntered away from the market to the stairwell in the office. It led to a second floor of offices, and from there to the parapets atop the market. She hummed thoughtfully.
I can’t believe you’re even thinkin’ it. You’re wiser than that, girl.
Yep. I am.
The werewolves were still within sight by the time Nagi reached the roof. Hunched low to mask her silhouette, Nagi watched as the pack milled about the city’s western exit, apparently not so fearful of the fires still burning idly in that part of Foregone to give up on whatever quarry had them so damned invested. They appeared unusually organized, lined up in two rough ranks on both sides of the gate. Nagi frowned, eyes narrowed -
- and she drew back as something small burst through the werewolves and entered the city. The wolves howled and leaped, attempting to catch whatever - whomever, judging by the gait and clothing - had just suicidally chosen to enter Foregone, but their were, to Nagi’s astonishment, too slow to catch the interloper. The figure, rather slight and carrying a bulky backpack, sped into Foregone with remarkable speed and disappeared behind a building.
And then reappeared two blocks later.
And then again, three blocks later, heading towards the fires.
And then yet again, a little closer this time. The figure’s hood had flown back, revealing long, blonde hair that tickled Nagi’s memory, but drew no concrete connections beyond that little nudge. She was, after all, more concerned with the torch the figure now appeared to be holding aloft, a streaking comet in the streets.
The werewolves chased the comet. Their numbers swelled so abruptly and so violently that Nagi feared she might be swallowed in their mange and ferocity.