Chapter 2:

Left Behind, Cold but not Scattered.

A Reverie for Another Eternity

"Destined to carry on, a million shadows walk beside me under the final light."

- The Savior

“So… Where are we going again?”

Mikuta sat in the back of the dimly lit wagon, as its shabby frame wobbled over the various bumps and stones on the dirt road.

In the front lies a girl, about the same age, on top of the heaps of cornflour and other grainy shipments cluttered around the wagon.

Dropping a book, she sighed. She curled forward and fell onto her side, with her right elbow propping up her head and neck, as she irritatingly started to tap on the wooden floor with her heel.

Not that it was unexpected; Mikuta had already asked many questions prior to this one, and decided to ask the very first question she had again.

“Like. I. Said. We are going to the kingdom of Pidrophilie, where Gramps is going to sell his stuff. You and I are just conveniently tagging along the ride, though I still don’t know your purpose for coming.”

Though such a purpose was to be stated from an uninvited vagabond, even Mikuta herself didn’t know her exact reasons or situation for being. Thereby, it was hard for her to say anything that would be satisfactory for this girl.

She squinted suspiciously, as if to say Mikuta’s presence in the wagon was now unwelcome, but refrains from saying anything further.

With a solid hmph, she turned back around and started flipping through the pages between the tattered, brown covers of the book.

The sun steadily dipped below the horizon in the front of the wagon; the red and yellow hues of the once comforting light fading into an obscured purple and blue night sky.

However, there was one question that went unanswered. A question born out of simple curiosity that stood prominently in her thoughts, a thought on the tip of her tongue. 

It was also something that shouldn’t be asked; at least, that was the feeling she got.

However, the deeper Mikuta thought about it, the more obscure the existence of the girl in front became. It was like being a room full of fragmented mirrors, each representing a possible reality that could complete the puzzle, only for the pictures to fracture and miserably shatter into even tinier pieces whenever she got close to that something.

Miyori. Mi yo ri. Miyori. Ku, Ta, mi? Mikuta? Takumi?

Mikuta blankly stared into the empty beige cover above, supported by the various oak bows sprouting from the sides of the wagon. Half-expectantly waiting for an answer to tear right through, the cover didn’t oblige; the already fading sunlight only got dimmer as the wagon trekked on.

At least I know I was a guy, once. A decent-looking one at that too. I think.

Yawning, she glanced at the front of the wagon, with Miyori soundly sleeping against the stacks of cornflour in the right corner. A heavy thud of the wagon caused her to roll off the sacks and bump into the other side, her curls entangling one another in the process.

In the waning twilight, the old man’s figure was just barely illuminated. His attire, consisting of what seemed to be a worn-out straw hat, blue denim jumpers, and a dirty long-sleeved woolen shirt, was dependable to look at; a hard worker. Despite the journey they’ve been on for a while now, he never seemed to tire out from his endless driving on top of the jockey box. Neither were the two horses, who surprisingly persevered without a hint of stress or a neigh of complaint.

The old man's very demeanor and presence somehow brought ease to the wagon. Maybe that's why Miyori was able to sleep so easily, rolling about in her rest all the while.

His unflinching back was a comforting sight amidst the growing, tangible shadows of the wagon’s sides and onlooking trees. 

Eventually, Mikuta drifted off to sleep.

In the distance, the clopping of hooves comes to a sudden stop.

Groggily waking up from a night of uncomfortable sleeping postures and back pains on the hard wooden floor, Mikuta rubbed her aching behind and neck.

Wondering how much distance they had covered overnight, she looked behind the wagon and saw the long winding road surrounded by tall grass and sparsely spread trees that went further beyond the limits of her scope.

The sun timidly rose above the summit of the small mountains they had far left behind.

Turning back around, she looked at where the driver was, only to be faced with Miyori's petite back.

Her upper torso hung outside of the front of the wagon, her palms facing towards the driver's seat, steadying her brace on the wooden frame that served as the bottom of the hole. Her elegant legs dangled precariously, untouched by the ground. It was complemented by her somewhat bent elbows, which balanced her peering of the ongoing discussion outside, and her delicate forelegs which softly fluttered up and down.

At that moment, Miyori noticed Mikuta's gaze and jumped down on her feet, approaching her.

With the same pose of her hands behind her back the day prior, she swung her chest forward without hesitation.

“Hey hey. You don’t have a passport, do you?”

“Oh uh, I don’t think so?”

“Oh boy...”

She exaggerated a woeful visage and lightly shook her head, her auburn curls bouncing up and down.

The old man poked his head inside the wagon, his sudden exposure of a scarred face and blinded left eye scaring Mikuta. She almost jumped back a bit at this never seen before face.

“Hm. Methinks this is where we’re gonna part ways ‘cause we can’t bring a stranger into the city without a passport of your own.”

Miyori’s face was apologetic. Though, the perverse sparkle in her eyes said something else.

“Sooo yeah, our entry into the city is going to be voided if you were to tag along without a passport. Sorry!”

Mikuta, however, was understanding. No matter how gilded that guise might’ve been over the various layers of irony or otherwise, the one thing she knew for certain was that she was going to be alone from this moment on.

It is what it is I guess.

“No worries. On the contrary, thanks for bringing me here.”

She took a pause, before finding the words to properly express a convenient solution for both parties.

“I think I can handle it from here.”

She started to climb down from behind the wagon in hopelessness.

“Wait, before you go, take this.”

Miyori struggled to drag a heavy box from the front, straining with the groans of someone unbecoming of her; a combination of a goat's yelp and a cat's cry. In all of her unladylikeness, she persevered until she soon panted out of breath.

Mikuta was amazed. She thought that Miyori's conduct at the moment was hilarious and very unbecoming, to say the least.

Wheezing and flushed, Miyori was on her knees, her exhausted body low on the wagon floor.

“Do… You… Think… You can help me… Unload this?”

Obliging, the two girls easily lifted the somewhat heavy wooden case with beautiful engravings of a broken sun, promptly plopping it onto the cold, morning ground.

“Even a girls gotta protect herself somehow in the city.”

She winked with a grin plastered on her face. Maybe it was at their achievement of unloading the case, or perhaps it was from her passing up the possession of the case and whatever object lay in there.

“It’s yours now to keep.”

Yet, in the passing moments of a strange heartache, Mikuta could've sworn she saw a familiar sight.

As the wagon departed, Mikuta waved her arm in the air without much expectation. It was nothing more than an empty obligation for her decent treatment during the journey, wishing farewell to a being most likely never to meet again.

Maybe she looked like an idiot, stranded in some unknown place that seemed to disregard her very existence; where cruise boats simply pass by to gawk at her insignificance in the world. The sun probably only shines for the people around her; they probably wouldn't shine for her had they been given the chance to. Who knew, really, except herself?

This uncalled pessimism ired her greatly, however. She wondered what her face looked like at the moment.

Looking up at her tired arm, she saw how small her hands looked in comparison to the peerless, smoky sky.

If only it was in reach.

In the distance, she saw a puny Miyori poke her head out from behind the wagon, her hand also flapping frantically in response.

“Don’t forget to take care of yourself and whatever's in that case!”

Her voice became more distant as the wagon took off at full speed, past the great stone bridge and into the iron maws that served as a gate beyond.

Those empty and definitely ulterior words, however, gave Mikuta a sense of happiness.

Under the grey, unquestioning sky, Mikuta wondered if they would ever meet each other again.

Perhaps it would be in the intersections between the alluring yellow sun and its red beach crabs.

Or maybe, beneath the depths of the abyssal blue.