The Nexus of Yuki Osaki
“Yukin! Why are you hanging from the roof of the school upside down?”
I blink, and swing my gaze down to see Reiko looking at me expectantly. I blink again and realize my precarious position before promptly sliding off and landing hard on my head. Immediately, tears begin to gather, and I clutch my throbbing head.
“Ow, ow, ow!” I whimper. “Reiko, my head!”
“Your head is as hard as the concrete we walk on, dummy,” Reiko deadpans, offering me a handkerchief. Wiping my tears away, I huff. She smirks. “I’m pretty sure I see a crack on the sidewalk.”
I pout. “That was mean, Reiko.” Shouldering my bag, I glare at the shadowy pair of wiggling branches in the tree, as if the tree itself were laughing at me. Stupid tree. “It was the tree’s fault for getting in the way.”
Reiko sighs. “I can’t believe I was ever scared of you, Yukin. You’re as harmless as they come.”
Harmless? Ahh! “Bad things keep happening to me, Reiko. Either that, or they happen around me. I can’t escape!”
Giggling at my antics, she pats my head consolingly. “You’ve pulled me into enough schemes for me to know that you do it to yourself sometimes, Yukin.” She looks at me thoughtfully and taps her chin. “Maybe if you just prayed to the gods like I’ve told you to do a million times, they would listen!”
“Mou, Reiko,” I grumble. “The shrines around here are all well kept and have guardians to protect them. I can’t bring my bad luck to a holy place like that; They’ll kick me out for sure!”
“You never know, Yukin,” Reiko says teasingly. “The gods might see your efforts…” She turns around and brings her arms up as if calling something down, “…and strike you down before you even get close!”
I shiver when a sudden chill runs through my body. “Don’t joke like that, Reiko! It might actually come true!”
“I don’t know, Yuki,” another voice says. I turn to see Eri Arakaki, the third member of our trio, come in close and inspect me. “Some lightning might be good for your complexion.”
A vision of my hair frizzing into a ball and my body arcing with electricity comes to mind. “No!” I cry, grabbing myself and hunching into ball. I can almost feel a dark gloom wash over me. “I’ll end up glowing like a bad B-list movie villain!”
Eri giggles into her hand and pushes me forward, making me stumble. “Whoops, my hand slipped! We need to get to class!”
I yelp, dropping my bag and sprawling to the ground. I lay there, defeated, as my two best friends walk past me without a care in the world. “I wish you cared more about me.” I sniffle, little tear tracks finding their way down my face. Closing my eyes, I prepare for a slow and painful death by embarrassment.
I feel two pairs of hands lift me up and begin to drag me toward the school entrance. “We do care about you, Yukin,” Reiko says. “You just need a little boost sometimes.” Opening my eyes, I see them on either side of me, already having dragged me to the shoe lockers.
“And sometimes that boost means getting a reality check!” Eri chimes in, brushing off my clothes and righting my hear. “We both know you can handle it.”
“I hate you,” I grumble, folding my arms and turning away as they continue to straighten me. “It doesn’t feel sincere.”
“Well, that can’t be helped.” Eri finishes by adjusting my collar and pulling up my tie. “You just need to acknowledge our existence, oh mighty trouble-magnet.”
“Yes,” Reiko agrees. “The center of our world’s bad luck just needs to remember that she does have friends!”
Center of bad luck?!
Nodding sagely, Eri adds, “And those friends are just as much in danger as Yuki is.” She hugs me. “So you better watch out for us too, you hear?”
Reiko comes in to close us both off, crushing us. “Don’t forget about me, Yukin! I’ve known you the longest, so I just know you’ll protect us!”
Even though I’m struggling to breathe, I can’t help but feel my vision begin to blur for real, and I hug them both back. “Take care of me, and I’ll take care of you, okay?”
“Okay!” They both say in unison. After a second, we all release and smile softly at each other.
“Let’s get going, then, Class Rep!” I say, nudging Eri. “We can’t have you being late!”
“Okay, okay,” Eri laughs as she finishes changing her shoes. “You’re the reason we were going to be late anyway. You’re the real Class Rep here, I just do everything you’re supposed to be doing.”
I pout once more, poking Eri. “Wow, Eri, you really hurt my feelings.”
Eri has to steel her face as she stares at me. “You hurt yourself.”
Reiko nods merrily beside her. “I can confirm this to be true!”
I look at her, betrayed. “I thought you were on my side!”
Reiko looks at me curiously before smiling. “I am, silly!” She begins walking, and Eri and I move to follow. I sigh before smiling to myself, a warm feeling filling me at the knowledge that I have such amazing friends.
“By the way, Yuki…” Eri wonders as we walk.
“How did you get stuck in that tree anyway?”
The day passes after that without anything really happening. It’s just regular old school
I stare out the window as our last class finishes up. The quiet squeaks and excited mutters about what will happen after school filter through the air, and I watch as students begin to trickle out the front doors of the school. I sigh loudly and stretch myself over my desk. “Another day over already,” I say aloud. “I hope nothing happens on the way home.”
“You know, that’s just asking for something to happen, right?” Eri’s voice calls from the hallway. I groan and rest my face into the desk.
“Eriiii,” I whine. “Why do you have to say things like that?”
“If I don’t, who will?” Eri says. Her voice is closer than it was before. “I mean, something might happen either way.” She leans in closer, and I glance at her through a gap in my hair and the crook of my elbow. “Who knows? A cute boy might get the jump on you~!”
I blink for a second trying to comprehend her words before my face flushes red, and I shriek. I bury my face into my bag and swing my legs. “Don’t say that!” I cry, my voice muffled heavily. “I’ll just mess it up like everything else!”
“That’s not true, Yukin.” Reiko’s voice echoes into the emptying classroom. “You’re much prettier than I am—You’ll get someone’s attention for sure!”
Ack! Double teamed by my best friends! Abort! Abort!
“I’m sorry!” I cry, jolting out of my seat and throwing everything into my bag. “I’ll see you both later!” Without any more words, I rush into the hall, my face steaming.
“Yukin!” I hear Reiko call after me, but I’m too embarrassed to look back. The last few words I hear before I bolt down the stairs come from Eri, whose voice echoes into the hall.
“One of these days, she’ll realize what happens around her…”
Why would they say that?! I shout in my head. I can almost feel the steam shooting out of my ears. I rush out of the school and take the first empty street I see. I shake my head in my hands as I continue to run. “Mmm! I don’t want to think about it!” I yell. I keep running, losing track of time and space, and I eventually run out of steam. Huffing and gulping for air, I growl and yell into the sky.
“When will I have a normal life?!” I cry, and I collapse to my knees, exhausted. My vision blurs, and this time, there are no warm feelings to accompany it. All I can do is grit my teeth and let the tears fall. This isn’t fair. How come it’s always me? Why am I the one who gets in trouble?
Sniffling and using Reiko’s handkerchief to clean myself up, I look around to get my bearings and widen my eyes.
All around me are empty-looking buildings and a cobblestone street that has seen better days. The lamp posts are rusting, glass marks the entrances of a few businesses, and at the centre of the street square is a simple shrine. Around the shrine stands four statues, their details faded in age, but still beautiful in their make. Tying these statues together is a simple rope, and a surprisingly pristine tag lashed to it.
I glance around me, biting my lip. Is it really safe for me to be here? I’m not so much scared of anyone sneaking up on me, but the fact that this is the closest I’ve ever really been to a shrine… I glance at the little monument to the gods and made my decision. Steeling myself, I take one step forward. Then another. Then, another. Finally, I find myself at the edge of the bound statues, peering at a curiously made stone fitted into a pedestal at the centre of the shrine.
I hum as I see the tag on the rope, and I crouch to get a better look.
“Where worlds meet,” I read aloud. Huh. I glance back at the stone and look around me. There’s no one. It’s as remote as it gets. Had this part of town always been here? Where am I?
Those questions quickly lose their hold in my mind as I sense a strange pull from within my own self and stumble back in amazement as the stone pulses, and light fills the square. Down the corner of the pedestal, wrapping around the statues, and filling every nook and cranny in the stones of the square, a brilliant blue light shines. If I were anyone else, I might have been captivated by the sheer beauty of the sight around me, but my attention fixed back onto the stone.
It almost feels like it’s calling to me.
Just as I step over the rope, a harsh wind picks up, and it seems like I can almost hear a voice calling out to me from somewhere. Stepping closer to the stone, it pulses again, and the light increases. I see waves of energy flowing around the shrine, dancing in beautiful arcs and humming in delight. Watching in amazement, I turn once more to the stone, which now seems more like a glass ball than a coloured gemstone, and I reach out towards it—
My attention snaps to the side as I see a boy running at me with a sword. He seems to be reaching out to me, but my hand is already resting on the orb, and with that one second of contact, I’m thrown back, and the world shatters.
The soul-piercing sound of air cracking and splitting bounces throughout the square. The wrending orchestra of reality echoes, and I can almost hear a tune within the equally awful and beautiful sound. Something that sounds like thunder strikes the shrine, and I watch in amazement and horror as a rift between worlds opens. In a bright flash of light, I avert my eyes, and I end up regretting it, because the next moment, a blur hits me, and I fall back to the ground. Shielding my eyes this time, I watch as the light slowly recedes back to the shrine until, finally, it all spins into one brightly shining orb, and the world goes quiet.
I blink, staring open-mouthed as I try to comprehend what just happened. There was no way that was any ordinary light show. It couldn’t have been LEDs or some sort of array of lasers. This was real. Thinking of it like that, makes me clutch my head in pain and shake it.
“No, no, no!” I cry. “This is too much! Wah!”
I hear a groan beside me. Freezing in place, I nervously smile, and turn my head toward the source of the noise. My gaze swivels and locks into place. There, on the ground beside me, is a strangely dressed girl with indigo hair and what seems to be a dark red crown resting on her head. She seems to be wearing some sort of armour, and if I look closely enough, I can almost see a pair of fluffy, pointy ears hiding in her hair—
Wait, a pair of fluffy ears?!
“What’s happening?” the girl mutters, rubbing her head. “One moment I was just lounging around, the next—“
Our eyes lock. Whoops. Looks like I’m dead.
“H-Hi there!” I manage to stutter. “Y-you wouldn’t happen t-to be a normal human b-being who’s cosplaying, w-would you?”
Her green eyes flit over my own figure and I unconsciously move to cover myself. Apparently liking what she sees, she beams at me with shocking fervour. “I-it’s you!” She says breathlessly. “I never thought the day would come when I would finally meet you!”
There really is only one smart response I can give. “Huh?”
She grabs my hand and begins to shake it rapidly. I can almost feel my body vibrating off the ground from the force of the handshake. “Of course, Mistress Yuki!“ MISTRESS?! “The tales of your escapades are well known throughout the demon world. You truly are an agent of darkness!
Just as her words start to register, however, I hear the quite pitter-patter of shoes on the ground and turn my head in time to see a boy—the same boy I thought I had seen earlier—come at me… with his katana?!
And in that instant, Eri’s words come back to haunt me. “Who knows? A cute boy might get the jump on you~!” Her phantom self giggles before being banished in a puff of smoke. I return my attention to the blade nearing my neck, and I sigh as I watch it in slow-motion.
I don’t think this is what Eri meant when she said that!