He reminded me of my Yuuma. Innocent and honest. A strong feeling overcame me. I wanted to protect him. He told me that he was scared. Death was inevitable for everyone, but he was afraid of it. More precisely, having the same fate as an Inliner. He didn’t want to hurt the people around him. His confidence in himself had been broken. It was shattered and gotten muddled up with fear. He hadn’t activated his Paroxys since then. It had been over two years now. He told me that he felt like he’s been drowning. That his Paroxys would take over him the moment it gets released. It was true that you couldn’t control nor use your Paroxys while your mind was weak. There was always that looming risk hanging over us. It was a very fine line that we were walking on. It could happen any time. Even during a fight. You needed a strong heart and an even stronger mind.
“What about you, Ayumi? Do you have a Paroxys?”
“Yes, I do but it was never mine to begin with. It’s a long story but to summarise it, my Paroxys belonged to my father. My situation is a bit odder than a normal Outliner’s.”
I had let go of him. And he wasn’t hiding anymore either. I could see some colour returning to his face.
“I guess, everyone has their own burden that they have to carry. By the way, you can call me Takumi.”
A small smile appeared on his face.
“What about if I stay next to you while you activate your Paroxys? Will that ease your mind a little? I will stay by your side no matter what happens.”
His eyes widened and he grabbed my hand.
“Will you really stay by my side?”
He sounded surprised.
I smiled at him and it wasn’t forced this time around. It was genuine.
“Will you show me your Paroxys as well afterwards?”
We made some space by moving the tables and the chairs away from us.
“Ah, I’m sorry but I can’t. I’m in detention at the moment and not allowed to use it. It’s a really long story as well. And I don’t think I can actually physically bring him out at the moment.”
I let out a nervous laughter. The lump in my throat returned. It seemed a bit crooked that I was forcing him to show me his Paroxys but I didn’t. Even if I was able to, I wouldn’t want to.
I could tell that he had a selfless soul. He told me to sit down in front of him again. His instrument was called a kalimba and was the holder of his Paroxys. It was see-through but had some waves painted on it. Different coloured pearls were embedded in the middle. It reminded me of the ocean.
“Oaleni. Lendeth me thy pow'r and alloweth me to saveth those in needeth.”
He played a single, beautiful note on the kalimba and we were instantly swallowed up by a white light. The constant sounds of water droplets and water bubbles got louder. To the point, where I thought that they were coming from the inside of my body. The cluttered sounds of the storm had disappeared. We were surrounded by water, but I wasn’t scared. It was strangely peaceful. I wasn’t drowning. There was a gentle current surrounding us and several small fish were swimming around. They were made out of water too. Everything was illuminated by a turquoise light. It was beautiful. I had never seen anything like it in my entire life. It took my breath away. Takumi was hunched over and had closed his eyes. His hands were covering his ears. He was trembling.
“Takumi, it’s okay.”
I grabbed his hands and made him sit upright. His eyes slowly opened up.
“See. You’re fine. I don’t think anything bad will ever happen with a gentle Paroxys such as yours.”
He took off his bucket hat. I was taken aback to see that his white hair was long. He had kept it inside his hat all this time. It was floating around in the water. His eyes were glistening, and he had a bright smile on his face. The door to the classroom opened and Ogawa decided to make an entrance. His Paroxys vanished and the fierce sounds of the storm had returned. Takumi was startled and grabbed me by my jacket. I introduced Ogawa to him, but he would still not let go of me. But we did manage to convince him to come back to the DNPI with us. I sat down in the back of the car with him. Ogawa drove us back where someone else was waiting for us. Takumi was hostile towards others and hid behind me. He was slightly taller but definitely skinnier than me. The past two years, he had been living on his own. He had a family and a home but was too afraid to go near them. Under any circumstances, he didn’t want the past to repeat.
“Oh, Ayumi. It’s nice to see you again. How are you?”
Choko approached us. We were next to the reception inside the main building.
“I’m fine. And it’s nice to see you too.”
She tried to get a closer look at Takumi, but he made himself even smaller and held on to me firmly. Ogawa and she discussed some things and decided to do an exception. According to them, it would be best if Takumi would stay with me. I looked at them confused.
“How is he going to stay with me? Are you going to give him a room next to mine? And are you sure that I should be the one looking after him? I mean, I don’t mind but I don’t really have a good reputation.”
“He’ll stay with you in your room. I don’t think that should be a problem.”
Choko said and gave me a thumbs up.
“Yeah, that should be fine for the time being. I will discuss it further with Toshiko and we’ll decide what to do next. He’s here, so we have completed our mission. Please excuse me.”
Ogawa stated and left. I stood there baffled. My brain short-circuited. I had no comeback and Choko took that opportunity and left as well. Takumi slightly pulled at my arm.
It made me wake up to reality. I sighed out loud and petted his head.
“It’s not your fault. For some reason, the teachers at this school are very irresponsible when it comes to these things.”
I told him to follow me and successfully got to my room without meeting anyone that I knew on the way. At least, that was what I thought but I was wrong. The entire group was waiting for me in front of my room. I could see different facial expressions on their faces, ranging from being perplexed to having tears in their eyes.
Sayrui fell into my arms. She was sobbing. Even though our rooms are opposite of each other, we rarely saw each other in the past two to three weeks. And even if we did, they were not allowed to interact with me and vice versa. My detention had been strict.
“You shoudn’t be here.”
I warned them but they were not listening to me at all. One after the other, they came and hugged me. We formed a ball of people.
“Ayumi, who’s clinging on to your back?”
Ohta asked and looked over my shoulder. He had spotted Takumi. Nina got curious too and walked around me to see him. Haruto went over to my room’s door and leaned against it. He dozed off in seconds. I gave them a brief explanation of the situation I was in and in return received their explanation of why they were loitering in front of my room.
“So, it was Toshiko’s idea?”
“Yeah. She said that technically, your detention is ending tomorrow, but no one cares about the details. And that it would make you happy if we would surprise you.”
I shook my head but had a smile on my face. It did make me happy to see and talk to them again. It felt nostalgic in a way. Like everything was back to normal. I told them to go back to their rooms before anyone would catch us and get us in trouble. My detention had already felt like an eternity. I didn’t want it to last any longer.
“See you tomorrow. Good night, Ayumi.”
Sayuri said and closed her door. Takumi and I went into my room as well. I prepared a bath for him and gave him some loose clothes of mine that he could change into. He asked if he could keep the door slightly open.
“Of course. That’s fine with me. If you need anything, just give me a shout.”
He nodded his head and went into the bathroom. I took off my jacket and sat down on my bed. My phone vibrated. I received a message from someone. It was my mom. Asking how I was doing. I hesitated but decided to call her. My voice was thin while I was talking to her. I didn’t want her to worry about me. She asked me if we could leave the past behind us.
“I just wanted the best for my children. That’s why I decided to hide the past. I didn’t want you or Yuuma to be affected by it. I wanted you two to be free from those shackles. But I guess, I didn’t do it in the best way. I’m sorry.”
I apologised too. Her words had given me closure. After talking to Yuuma, I hung up the phone. Takumi was finished taking his bath as well. It was my turn to quickly take a shower. His hair was dripping. I told him to sit on my bed and grabbed his towel from his hand. I was glad to see that my clothes were fitting him perfectly. I dried his beautiful, long, white hair and told him that he could sleep in the bed.
“What about you? Where are you going to sleep?”
“Don’t worry. I’ll sleep on a futon on the floor.”
He didn’t like it, but I insisted. I went into the bathroom after tucking him in and took a quick shower. My thoughts were all over the place again. And I was still unable to feel Xykoss’ presence. I couldn’t sleep very well during the night. There was still an emptiness that I felt inside my chest.
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