Chapter 4:

When the Peony Wilts, Asakura Realizes.

When My Ex-Girlfriend Came For a Visit, It Was Raining.

“Where are we going?”Bookmark here

Mima sounded very excited, even though her question came out as almost a whisper.Bookmark here

Her question made sense. After all, several stops had passed and my house was on the route, so she most certainly saw it.Bookmark here

The bus rocks us from side to side as we travel these familiar roads, at least for me. Out in the distance, we were leaving the thick forest that surrounded Hanazakari Village, the leaves of the trees already turning to an array of reds, oranges, yellows, greens, and browns. The evening was dying, as the sun made its way towards the other side of the Earth.Bookmark here

Occasionally I glance out the window to see fields of growing crops, getting ready for the upcoming harvest. It has started to rain again, and the windshield wipers of the bus are clearing the droplets. I can hear them colliding with the top of it and can almost smell it in the air. The fresh, earthy aroma washes over me and I inhale deeply. The rain drips down the window, and the metal is cold to the touch.Bookmark here

“Somewhere.” I finally replied.Bookmark here

“I see.” Mima smiles, her face reddening a little bit. “Is it a surprise date?”Bookmark here

“If you see it that way, then be my guest.”Bookmark here

“Teehee.”Bookmark here

“For an ex, you’re still head over heels for me, apparently.”Bookmark here

I could hear her fidgeting, shuffling her butt on the seat a bit further away from me.Bookmark here

She doesn’t find the bus weird. I thought that was the first thing she would ask. My Mima is from an Alternative Universe theory grows stronger… however…Bookmark here

It was hard to weave it together with what had just transpired a few hours ago.Bookmark here

Bookmark here

The scent of summer surrounded her warm body, freshly picked apples numbing my senses just like her heart-wrenching smile. The mysterious maiden had just saved me from probably—no, most likely—an almost fatal injury. Her veil of tranquilness made me dismiss this incident like the one that would kill me in less than a month, and soon I felt the grass under the palm of my hands. It was cold to the touch, surely the dew after the rain.Bookmark here

“Are you a magical girl or something?” I blurted out.Bookmark here

Come on Kanro, is it so hard just to say thank you?Bookmark here

Mima was standing up, after gracefully descending and touching the ground like a cat. She fixed her light green hair, and let out a sigh.Bookmark here

“I am your ex-girlfriend from the future from another world, nothing more, nothing less.” Kneeling herself to be at my level, since I was sitting down for some reason, she took a hold of my wet hand. “How are you feeling?”Bookmark here

“How am I feeling? What kind of question is—” Bookmark here

That was the moment I noticed.Bookmark here

Comparing my hand to hers, mine was trembling. Slightly, but trembling, nonetheless.Bookmark here

A surge of panic was overflowing in my body, and I could barely speak again. It was painful. It was scary. Even if I fooled myself that I was harmless thanks to Mima, if she hadn’t been here I could be seriously injured. My heart was now in my throat, and breathing was almost impossible. Bookmark here

Everything melted away once I felt her hug. It was tender, sweet, loving, caring.Bookmark here

And at these times one needs the reassuring presence of someone like that. The chance to co-regulate with another human brain, one who is relaxed and safe, that is help beyond measure at such times. Just being there, can make the most enormous difference.Bookmark here

“Thank you.”Bookmark here

She held my head, slowly caressing my hair. My small ponytail had gotten loose, and my long hair felt itchy. Nonetheless, I dismissed those unpleasant sensations to be enveloped by such a kind soul. Bookmark here

With our heartbeats at rest, time became still.Bookmark here

Until the school bell rang.Bookmark here

“You’re going back to class?” Mima broke her sign of affection by asking a simple question. I could see her eyes glimmering. Hard to tell if they were tears or the blazing sun up above hurting her retinas. “Maybe you should rest, Asakura-kun.”Bookmark here

“Nah,” I did my best to sound okay, and finally stood up after cleaning my uniform with a few pats. “Not showing up would be worse. Although showing up can make things confusing. We don’t know if there were any witnesses to the incident itself, and I still don’t know who that girl was. Thankfully when you showed up, the trees covered your timely entrance.”Bookmark here

She smiled, a little bit flustered.Bookmark here

“I do have a few scratches though, so even if I show up and someone asks something I can argue I was stupidly lucky.”Bookmark here

“If that’s what you intend to do then, okay.” Standing up as well, Mima started walking towards the exit of this small forest. “I’ll be waiting after school.”Bookmark here

But, before I could ask her what she meant with that, my mind told me to just completely dismiss it. I had no right to question her. She just saved my life to some extent—I’m totally convinced this isn’t the accident that would end up killing me—and I had to keep on with my life as if no anomalies were present.Bookmark here

Which was the reason why I started running, panting all the way toward my classroom. The school hallway was all bright paints and neatly trimmed pinboards and I ran inhaling the tell-tale scent of bleach and wood wax. Sun streamed through the glass windows, gleaming off the freshly buffed floors. The silly posters for after school activities were losing their color, ironically, but putting them where the sun hits is just a bad idea.Bookmark here

After sprinting six floors, I finally made it to my classroom. I opened it without thinking twice, and twenty eyes looked at me at the same time.Bookmark here

You are late, Mister Asakura.”Bookmark here

Just great, the pretentious English teacher.Bookmark here

S-Sorry…” It was hard to roll both “r”’s. After excusing myself I sat on my designated seat, just for her to don’t resume the lesson.Bookmark here

“Apologizing like that will get you nowhere. Outside, now!” She demanded, and I sprinted faster than a hedgehog.Bookmark here

After closing the door, I could hear the silly laughter. I just sighed and waited for the class to end.Bookmark here

The day went by at a leisurely pace, soon everyone forgetting what transpired and I was finally inside this stupid hell hole packing my notebooks after the other lessons were done with. Surprisingly, all of them were there, and I could feel a couple of gazes onto me. Dismissing them, I quickly made my way through the hallway, just to be stopped mid-way by a couple of random students. Surprisingly, it wasn’t me who wasn’t being halted in order to be harassed, but they were circling someone on the floor.Bookmark here

“I can’t believe you are really a whore!” Bookmark here

What?Bookmark here

“Aren’t you underage like us to be doing that sort of stuff? How disgusting!”Bookmark here

“And all those bandages, we thought they were from your emo self-harm but perhaps they are covering some kinky play!”Bookmark here

Girls were kicking another person, who was laying on the cold wood without even moving. I made my way through, ignoring the whole deal. It was a little bit sarcastic though that everything was happening under a poster about bullying not being cool. In any case, that had nothing to do with me.Bookmark here

I guess my theory of another person being harassed was true after all and that’s why the attention has drifted from me to them.Bookmark here

That was when it hit me.Bookmark here

What if…?Bookmark here

I turned around and grabbed one of the girls from her shoulder.Bookmark here

“What the hell do you want—?”Bookmark here

I shoved her to the side and kneeled to be face to face with the afflicted person. Apparently, they were a girl as well. They say that bullying between girls is harsher, psychologically speaking, and would make sense for this person to want to commit suicide. Bookmark here

However…Bookmark here

“You’re not her.”Bookmark here

I stood up and made my way out of the circle.Bookmark here

“What is his problem?” One of the bullies spoke.Bookmark here

“Dunno, man I’m not feeling it anymore. Let’s bounce.”Bookmark here

“Yeah, what a total waste of time thanks to this party pooper.”Bookmark here

Like the pack they were, they left the scene. Bookmark here

The bullied girl made no movements at all as if she was numb to her surroundings. I kept looking at her, making sure I was not mistaken. This student was certainly not the one I met on the rooftop. For starters, the betrayer girl had long hair and an azalea hair clip. The one in front of me had—even if they were the same color, light chestnut—short hair up to her neck, and bandages covering said part of her body. The white top of the sailor uniform had stains, which made me believe she was the same girl from earlier today in the entrance that had her locker filled with filthy water. Bookmark here

She moved a little, finally setting her back onto the wall. Her wrists and arms had bandages too, and she had a band-aid on the tip of her nose. Her charcoal eyes were devoid of light, and she finally stared at me, sideways. At her side was a tiny advertisement for Hanabira Memories and I grimaced. Finally, I noticed that her school ribbon was red, which meant she was in the same year as I. However, I was so focused on not minding my own harassment that I totally dismissed any other cases.Bookmark here

With a sigh, I turned around knowing it was pointless to get involved. I had way too many things on my plate, and I was making Mima wait for too long already, as well as already verifying she wasn’t the rooftop betrayer girl.Bookmark here

I took one step, just to feel how she grabbed my ankle with sheer force.Bookmark here

Turning my head, I came face to face with her dead-fish eyes, all compassion wilted from her broken spirit. I must be the same, reflected in her irises after shoving off her grip. Bookmark here

I have more pressing issues right now.Bookmark here

Dismissing her, I followed my common routine of changing my shoes on the first floor of my locker and surprisingly found it without any pranks. At least that was something that wouldn’t occupy my mind. Afterwards, I grabbed the umbrella I bought for my little sister and made my way outside. Many of the students had already left, and at the gate, Mima was nowhere in sight. Bookmark here

Maybe she forgot?Bookmark here

“Highly doubt it.”Bookmark here

I kept on making my daily walk and managed to find her where our fateful meeting took place almost 24 hours ago. She waved her hand quite happily, and a bus arrived just in time. I was genuinely surprised.Bookmark here

“How do you know I take the bus on my way back home instead of walking?” I asked.Bookmark here

The doors opened, leaving a trail of smoke behind.Bookmark here

“Why silly you, Asakura-kun. I know everything about you!” She stuck her tongue out, and with that bashfulness, made it inside. “Come on, what are you waiting for?”Bookmark here

Bookmark here

Now that I think about it, it should have surprised me that she wasn’t taken aback when the bus appeared, so why ponder about it now.Bookmark here

And so the bus goes on its way, feeling all the same turns and bumps.Bookmark here

Until it finally stopped, the doors opened and Mima followed in my footsteps. Once the bus left with a big mechanical noise, we were left in the brightest nights of all due to all the city lights.Bookmark here

“Is this…?”Bookmark here

“Sakigaoka.”Bookmark here

“So this is… a city.” She seemed pleased.Bookmark here

The streets of Sakigaoka City rested in silence as the starry black sky was painted over it. The water in the portholes shimmered by the glow of the bright, yellow street lamps. The small, green trees on the roadside swayed as the strong breeze hit them.Bookmark here

The kaleidoscope of shimmering lights flickers in the distance as the starry sky sweeps over a city that never sleeps, with endless shops, coffee shops, restaurants and a plethora of other services to cater for all ages.Bookmark here

Above a faded zebra crossing, a traffic light frantically changed colors to let pedestrians advance or halt their steps. Huge giant buildings stood beside the street, quiet as if taken over by the overwhelming chit-chatter of everyone. Some windows gave out white and yellow lights, but the others were pitch black.Bookmark here

It seemed like the clouds had gotten a sudden fascination with the moon and wrapped themselves around it. The moon's faint glow passed through them, coloring them white from grey.Bookmark here

The pattering of the rain, which was now deaf to ears, was interrupted time by time during the night until it came to a halt once we made it here. The streets of the city now rested again in lifeless silence except the gentle drip of the remaining raindrops.Bookmark here

“You don’t seem surprised, but instead rather fascinated.” I casually comment while trying to fit the umbrella in my school backpack. Bookmark here

“Quite much, yes. I never expected it to be this grandiose, with so many people walking as if it were a sea. Fishes that follow their school, entering one of the shops. It is so colorful, vibrant, full of life…” Bookmark here

And in her amethyst eyes, the reflection of the luster seemed quite pretty, enhancing this beautiful aura only Mima was capable of having. Something special and characteristic of her, even if I only know her for a full day by now. Out of this world, yet, she fits well in any single puzzle she might be in. As if she were a piece that fits anywhere you put her.Bookmark here

“Follow me,” I blurted out, taken aback by her presence. “But first, I need to make a call.”Bookmark here

“Alright!” Happily, she made small jumps alongside her steps, like a small child enjoying an outing.Bookmark here

Just a few blocks down there was a public telephone. I asked Mima to wait outside patiently, and I took out my wallet from my pocket. Searching through it, I found my telephone card. It had a very questionable design. In my defence, I find Birdy quite cute too and it’s my little sister’s favorite cartoon. It was impossible not to impulse buy it. Bookmark here

After dialing the number, the static noise of the phone finally gave room to the incessant beeping. Bookmark here

It kept like that for over a minute.Bookmark here

“That’s strange. Maybe she fell asleep.” I hung up and looked at a digital clock right at the other side of the street. “7 PM, huh.”Bookmark here

I stepped outside with a desolate sigh, Mima approaching me curiously.Bookmark here

“Is everything okay?” She asked, her eyes looking bigger through her glasses.Bookmark here

“Yeah, just calling home to tell Hakuro we’re going to be a little late,” I replied, making my way back to where we were previously.Bookmark here

“How is she? She was sneezing a lot last night.” Mima played with her fingers, quite worried.Bookmark here

“Summer allergies always get her. In any case, let me take you to this somewhere place.” Bookmark here

Nodding, we walked down the street into a commercial pavilion. It had no roof, and life was just bursting everywhere. After a couple of minutes of leisurely making our way, Mima didn’t seem unfazed by her surroundings, however, I could see that glint of fascination in her irises. All types of knick-knacks were sold given the huge quantity of stores and the green-haired girl was quite content to receive all sorts of tissues, as well as advertisements she was given on the streets by girls dressed up as maids.Bookmark here

Finally, we made it to, perhaps, my second favorite place in Sakigaoka.Bookmark here

“Is this…!?” Mima gasped.Bookmark here

“Welcome to Katori or KTO for short. The best place to eat fried chicken in the entire universe!!!” Placing both hands on my hip, I huffed and puffed my chest proudly. “Their Christmas menus are excellent and right now they are having a sweet special offer!”Bookmark here

After opening the door and making our way inside, the delicious smell of freshly heated oil invaded my body. Definitely, this was Nirvana.Bookmark here

Almost savagely, I snatched one of the millions of publicity papers that Mima had received, just to find one of KTO. This was indeed quite a lucky day and I would celebrate being not injured by eating that delicious new offer with an extra discount. I wouldn’t lose a chance like this.Bookmark here

Mima on the other hand, looked quite content while I was fanboying over, not a girl, not a gravure idol, not over the cute anime girl mascot Katori who was endearing I’ll give them that, but over fried chicken. That was why I fixed my throat and made my way to the cashier. Fortunately for us, the line was short and I just showed the ad. The lady smiled and took the order quickly, me paying with the exact amount of cash.Bookmark here

After waiting for a bit, the food was finally ready when my name was called.Bookmark here

“One bucket of golden crispy mint-scented chicken with two medium-sized sodas, a box of fries, three honey puddings and a Katori Kids Meal for Asakura-san!”Bookmark here

Going to the counter, I grabbed all the goodies and we found a seat. Placing the food on the table, Mima was sitting right in front of me and blinked.Bookmark here

“Isn’t that a lot of food?” She outright asked.Bookmark here

“Well, my plan is to take the rest of the bucket home so it lasts for a few days. The box of fries is for us to share and the kid meal is for Hakuro. In fact, let me see if it has the toy I specifically asked for.” Rummaging through the box that had apple slices, milk and nuggets. Hakuro was a huge fan of them since they were baked and not fried. Right by their side, I found the toy and took it out. “There we go, Birdy Witch Mode. Oh and the puddings we can eat them here too or take them home. One is for Hakuro too.”Bookmark here

Mima looked carefully at a small blob that was salmon colored. Surprisingly for its name, it had no bird characteristics but to make up for that it could transform into many things after eating them. Apparently, after eating a magical star it took the appearance of a cute little witch circular friend. It had a frilly dress and a lovely hat.Bookmark here

I took out a small cardboard plate they gave with every order and served Mima two chicken pieces and opened the box that contained the fries. She seemed to be taken aback.Bookmark here

“What, too much?”Bookmark here

“No, no. It’s just that… you always mentioned that beside Hakuro-chan’s food, you missed this particular thing.” Her slender hands took hold of a chicken leg, and she opened her mouth. “Thank you for the food.”Bookmark here

Her eyes became literal diamonds.Bookmark here

“This is so good!!!”Bookmark here

“I know right!?” I dug in as well and enjoyed my guilty pleasure. “You’d think that mint would taste disgusting but at KTO they really do know how to infuse it so well that it blends with the chicken’s juices and natural flavors, and the crispness is just a divine blessing from the gods. I hate that it’s only for a limited time once a year. Christmas meals? Nah, nah. They are yummy but this? This is the real deal!”Bookmark here

And suddenly, Mima laughed.Bookmark here

Her carefree giggles and voice were like diving into a huge lump of sugar. Sweet, melodic, angelic. Quite charming. Her laughing was like ripples in a still pond after a stone had been thrown in. It radiated outwards through the packed hall of the store who had up until that moment been quite silent. I began to titter and soon the ripples of laughter became like a mirror, me joining in.Bookmark here

“I think this is the first time we have both been together and relaxed since I appeared.” Mima cleaned her hand with a napkin and swiped away a tear from her right eye after taking off her glasses for a second. “I’m so happy right now.”Bookmark here

I took notice of her words. She was right. Since her arrival, I had been very cold to her, and now that I was in my happy place, to some extent, I was capable of opening up to her. Bookmark here

“I simply had to treat you to the best Sakigaoka has to offer, you saved me from quite a pickle, dear ex of mine,” I joked around.Bookmark here

“You’re quite welcome!” She followed it up, and soon we kept on eating.Bookmark here

Enjoying this food from the gods, we finally felt filled up to our bellies limit. No fries were left, a couple of chicken pieces that should last for a few days as I predicted, as well as having enjoyed our puddings. We were just relaxing while slowly sipping our sodas. Bookmark here

“So this is the famous soda,” she finally said after tasting it. “Fizzy! Bubbly!”Bookmark here

Alas, I wished for this time to continue, but all happy moments need to come to an end. This small thread of joyfulness had to be cut for the time being, and I planned to do it with a question. However, something caught my attention from the corner of my eye.Bookmark here

“This son of a…” I cursed under my breath and looked at the clock in the restaurant. Past 9 PM. “Tch.”Bookmark here

Mima looked through the window and remained silent after following where my gaze went for a few seconds.Bookmark here

“Eian-san.”Bookmark here

That old loser of an old man was exiting a nearby bar. After leaving the premises, linked arm in arm with a woman, he kept on walking a bit more downtown until he entered another building where another woman with revealing clothing was doing her daily routine of getting customers. He tipped his stupid fedora and went inside.Bookmark here

“Asakura-kun—”Bookmark here

“Don’t.”Bookmark here

I don’t want empty words of pity.Bookmark here

Suddenly, I remembered that one girl from school today. Hanabira Memories. A place I despise wholeheartedly.Bookmark here

“It’s not much of a secret. And being from the future and all I am sure I must have told you. You were not surprised by this, nor asked a question. You directly went to the let’s say some reassuring words route.” I spouted, doing my best to drown the bitterness of the moment. “Save your breath, I don’t need them. Quite an environment am I right?”Bookmark here

Mima bit her lip.Bookmark here

“An eight-year-old child that knows that her father goes to a gentlemen's club and might bring an unknown woman home after going back to the bar, and that’s why she always has a pair of extra slippers for her because she is so much of a damn nice kid!” Fury was taking over me. “A little girl that waits every single night for her father to come home, and barely sees her. A girl that spends most of her time alone. A child that… completely knows where all the savings of the house go. She’s very smart…”Bookmark here

I couldn’t help but let out an awkward chuckle at the end, truly pathetic.Bookmark here

Mima just looked at me, with those round eyes of hers, piercing my soul. Exposing me. Leaving me naked.Bookmark here

“Stop with that condescending—!”Bookmark here

“Asakura-kun.”Bookmark here

I was able to look at her. Not that gaze I was so fixated that was pitying me like everyone in the village does. But instead, those eyes were full of love, concern, purity. She was, quite indeed, a kind soul.Bookmark here

“There is no need to dwell in these sad things that hurt you. Instead, how about I…” She stood up and sat right next to me. I felt extremely vulnerable with her so close. “You see, I knew that accident was going to happen today. You told me about it.”Bookmark here

“I-In the future, I presume…” I scooted over, our small distance making me feel a bit safer from her prying and insightful knowledge about my pathetic self.Bookmark here

“Yes, that and many more things. Back to the rooftop incident, in the future, you actually got injured for a week. I remember you told me it was awfully painful, and that it was annoying to go to rehabilitation. Afterwards, you explained to me what that meant. In any case, you wouldn’t have died from it.”Bookmark here

“I guess my thoughts were right then.” I sighed.Bookmark here

“You know I’m from another world. What kind of world do you think it is, Asakura-kun?”Bookmark here

“A parallel world. This world but another timeline, probably. Doesn’t explain your power of magically floating to my rescue, though.”Bookmark here

“That’s because you are wrong.” Bookmark here

I leapt forward in my seat. Things weren’t making sense.Bookmark here

“Wait a second, then explain to me why you aren't unfazed with so many things here!? You take everything quite calmly, the TV, the bus! Our Japanese customs! The city! The—”Bookmark here

“That’s because you’ve told me all about it. I always asked about your world and told me all kinds of stories. I treasure each and every one of those moments we shared in my heart. They are precious to me.” Bookmark here

Those amethyst eyes were ocean-strong, swimming with warm sun-lit currents amidst the strongest storm. At a glance, I was told of a lifetime of struggle that had never been put into words.Bookmark here

“I am from another world. Not a parallel world. Not an alternative timeline. A world completely separated from yours. It’s called—”Bookmark here

“Wait, wait, wait a second there…!” I had completely lost my cool. My humor and temperament were all over the place. She blinked once again and gave me time to gather my thoughts. “Just out of curiosity, was it a truck?”Bookmark here

“No…?” Mima was now genuinely confused.Bookmark here

“Great, at least I now know the trope is pure bullshit.” I somehow felt relief.Bookmark here

“Um…” Mima fixed her throat, and by lowering my head, I gave her a signal that she could proceed. “In any case, in this world you, Asakura-kun, are the hero.”Bookmark here

“So it is an isekai trope after all!!!” I scream my lungs out, the whole restaurant’s gaze piercing through my skin. I blushed in embarrassment. “G-G-Go on, sorry.”Bookmark here

“We travelled together for five years in order to accomplish your mission… and then… I’m sorry… I…” Even if she was stating facts instead of giving me a huge backstory, she suddenly started trembling. “W-Where is the restroom?”Bookmark here

“Right there, just go straight and then do a left turn.”Bookmark here

“T-Thank you.”Bookmark here

And I was left alone when it suddenly hit me.Bookmark here

Five years!?Bookmark here

“Does that mean I… Hold on. If I take her claim of being 18 true… that means we met when she was 13 as well, like me and I die this month... Her argument has no holes whatsoever. I made a life in that other world. Five years is a heck ton of time… so falling in love is not out of the question either… Her knowing all of these things, I had nothing to lose by telling her everything I knew about my own world.”Bookmark here

Mima being from another world fits. She has some kind of power. Maybe time-travel? But if I’m the hero as she says, and I fully believe her at this point for saving my skin, why would she come back to the past, risk her own world’s wellbeing by avoiding my death here? Wouldn’t that make her world not have a hero? Unless…Bookmark here

“No that’s ridiculous, Mima wouldn’t be the endgame villain, right?” I shook my head. “She wouldn’t have spent five years with me just to do all this when she… No, actually that would be a very clever move. Avoiding my death so I don’t defeat her, we don’t suffer a tragic lover arc and everyone is content? Is this why she always looks so sad when…?”Bookmark here

Is this why she hasn't told me how I die yet?Bookmark here

"It might be to avoid a time paradox as she mentioned though... Heck, it sounds depressing to worry about my time of death when I know my time limit. It would make me be overly paranoid of absolutely everything."Bookmark here

It's stupid.Bookmark here

“Asakura-kun?”Bookmark here

Mima was back, and for some reason, I felt fear when I heard her voice. What the hell is wrong with me? I decided to believe in her and here I am making her some sort of villain. Her gaze was lost as well, and her sweet voice was low, dead almost. She now sat down in front of me and made an apologetic smile.Bookmark here

“I’m sorry for leaving all of a sudden after telling you all that… it wasn’t nice.” I was able to see her trembling fingertips. “It’s just…”Bookmark here

“You don’t need to excuse yourself. I mean, it must be something hard to talk about, right?” My neck was sweating. “You’ve been struggling all this time trying to find the right words. And you know, even if it’s a very crafted and elaborated lie with the help of special effects to make your mysterious powers look real, I believe it with all my heart.”Bookmark here

And somehow, I was unable to believe my own words yet, at the same time, I trusted Mima and her actions as well as intentions. She helped me. I am unable to be a scumbag after all.Bookmark here

“Thank you, Asakura-kun.”Bookmark here

Her smile was everything I needed to know I was in the wrong for thinking such nonsense.Bookmark here

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Once we made it back home, I turned on the lights and placed the food inside the fridge. It was almost 11 PM, and everything was eerie quiet. I couldn’t even hear the crickets nor the cicadas. I dropped my backpack on the floor after noticing that all the slippers were in place, albeit the ones Hakuro used.Bookmark here

So he isn’t back yet, huh?Bookmark here

“Hakuro?”Bookmark here

“Asakura-kun?” Mima held my hand.Bookmark here

“Hakuro???”Bookmark here

“Asakura-kun, is something wrong?”Bookmark here

It was an awful feeling. I should’ve known something was wrong when she didn’t pick up the phone. I let go of her warmth and burst open the door to our bedroom.Bookmark here

Empty.Bookmark here

The blood pounded in my ears. My heart thudded intensely in my chest. My fickle hands shook. My feet tingled. My vision became blurry as if I were looking through a fish-eye lens and the bile rose in my throat. My adrenaline levels rose up as a recently ignited fire.Bookmark here

“Asakura-kun!” Mima suddenly yelled.Bookmark here

I rushed, just to see she was looking through the opened window. Our back garden was pitch black, and Mima ran outside, me quickly following her.Bookmark here

And there I saw her, lying on a peony flower bed. A watering can had rolled several meters, and the heat was unbearable. My heart sunk while I slowly made my way toward her body. It was like holding a piece of lit charcoal in my hands.Bookmark here

The lights were turned on, illuminating the small garden she took care of. Morning glories and peonies were mother’s favorite flowers. This small body’s wish was to have a magnificent garden so she could watch it from the sky.Bookmark here

“Hakuro…”Bookmark here

Ragged, uneven breathing. Trembling hands. Bookmark here

Her whistle swayed with the light breeze.Bookmark here

How many hours have you been here? Since when did you lose consciousness like this? If only I… If only I! Bookmark here

“I promised her I would be back… and yet… I…”Bookmark here

I turned around, hoping that someone could help me. My panic rose to extraterrestrial levels.Bookmark here

My baby-blue eyes met with two purple irises that were not radiating the same life as when we were in the city. Instead, they were devoid of bashfulness and compassion.Bookmark here

“…?”Bookmark here

I looked a bit further down and took notice of something she was holding.Bookmark here

I was powerless.Bookmark here

At that moment, I realized that my reality was wilting apart after learning the bitter truth and that fate and destiny have ways to bring us happiness and misery at the same time. A wheel of karma that doesn’t stop spinning until its whims have been achieved.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.