Chapter 10:

Snakes and Sweets

Crimson Core

Devouring Core.Bookmark here

[Devouring Core], also known as The Sleeper is a core that waits. It's a type of cor+e that is often recognized as „the unrequited love“ but that term doesn't really do it justice.Bookmark here

Human emotions are far too complex to be labeled and put in categories but more often than not, that primal, pristine feeling that devours you from the inside indeed falls under a simple category. The unscratchable itch.Bookmark here

Beauty of Love in itself is a building block of The Bridge that connects two Sleepers into a happy Dreamer. But a lone Sleeper is truly a grumpy Sleeper. Bookmark here

Sure, it will wait for some time. But if you let it wait too long it will start the devourment. And then, there is nothing you can do about it.Bookmark here

Time heals everything.Bookmark here

Time consumes everything.Bookmark here

Devouring Core consumes everything.Bookmark here

„...“Bookmark here

„Get up, dumbo!“ Ume yelled from the other side.Bookmark here

„I..I..“ Shiki tried to catch his breath, but panic filled the pores of his common sense.Bookmark here

„The snake thing is almost finished, we just need to shove  more of that slimy crap into her mouth,“ Ume was barely standing on her shaky legs.Bookmark here

„I'm sorry, I..“ Shiki slowly moved away from the statues.Bookmark here

„Look, I have no idea what's going on inside your head, but I can assure whatever it is, you fit perfectly within this wacky club. That's why everyone accepted you with open hands, everyone is hurting, just like you. We help random people with their crap and pray that in return we might find the answers to our own problems,“ Ume finished the speech while holding onto some big flower pots on the side.Bookmark here

Shiki looked at her.Bookmark here

Her appearance has changed completely into a girl he was mesmerized with in a train.Bookmark here

She wore a tiny smile and teary eyes that reminded him of people he used to be friends with back in his hometown.Bookmark here

He ran away from them, leaving everything behind.Bookmark here

But the familiar feeling caught up to him in a form of an ugly hissing statue that splashed with it's big pearly-white tail around as if it was enjoying the company of two troubled shard carriers.
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„I guess Ren was right. I really am a turtle,“ Shiki sighed.Bookmark here

„No worries hottie, I'm something of a plum myself,“ Ume's appearance reversed back to normal in a split second.
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He took a deep breath and collected his posture. He rose from a ground like a super hero and ran towards the statues. As he was running, his left hand started glowing and pieces of shell slowly emerged beneath his skin, covering his entire arm.Bookmark here

He grabbed the entire bag and put it on the head of one of the statues while shielding himself with a big turtle shell shield from the tail of the other one.Bookmark here

It screamed and trembled until it collapsed into a chunk of clay. He did the same to the other one.Bookmark here

After the job was completed the entire greenhouse started crackling down.Bookmark here

He ran towards Ume that barely held it together and protected her by placing his shield above their heads.Bookmark here

Ume smiled gently while looking at him as the space around them was twisting and falling apart.Bookmark here

„See? I knew you could do it,“ she said silently and gave him a gentle kiss on a cheek.Bookmark here

Thoughts within Shiki's mind were still in utter chaos, but at least he had done this time what he couldn't last time. Bookmark here

He kept moving.
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They lumped together into a ball of unspoken feelings and unreciprocated affections and waited for [Crimson Core] to come undone.Bookmark here

„...“Bookmark here

„Hey“Bookmark here

„Hey hottie“Bookmark here

Before they knew it, Shiki and Ume found themselves back in a classroom next to their club room, sitting embarrassingly close to one another. Shiki moved his hand from her back rapidly, even though Ume didn't say a thing about it.Bookmark here

Two girls who were sitting on the opposite side glanced toward them in silence.Bookmark here

„How are you feeling?“ Shiki decided to shatter the heavy atmosphere that fell upon them.Bookmark here

„Lighter, actually,“ said one girl.Bookmark here

„Me too...“ the other continued, “although I feel like I've lost something,“ girl broke down in tears.Bookmark here

„You've lost the burden that poisoned your mind,“ Ren entered the room, with Alp following her right behind.Bookmark here

Girl didn't react to Ren's words, she just cried while the other comforted her.Bookmark here

Alp watched them with pained expression on his face. He felt responsible for everything that  happened.Bookmark here

„I'm truly sorry,“ the mountain of muscle bowed down gracefully.Bookmark here

„Don't be,“ added Ren with serious look.Bookmark here

„You treated both girls like a true gentleman, but they failed to acknowledge your true intentions. They were selfish,“ Ren's stern composure and abrasive words made the girl cry even louder. Bookmark here

Shiki felt bad for the girls and tried to open his mouth but Ume stopped him by kicking him lightly in a leg.Bookmark here

She looked into his eyes with tired expression that signaled him to let it go.Bookmark here

The other girl stood up from a chair and approached Alp.Bookmark here

„We were taking advantage of you, I'm so sorry.“ Bookmark here

The afternoon sun shined through the blinds on the school windows onto her as she bowed down before the boy she once had feelings for.Bookmark here

„I apologize to you, Kap and Ume. It was my job to see this through but I couldn't because I let my own issues grab a hold of me,“ Ren completely ignored the girl bowing before Alp.Bookmark here

„Chill out Ren, t'was a good training for me and my boy,“ said Ume while standing up. Bookmark here

She noticed that Omi was standing at the entrance in silence, but she rejected his existence for the moment.
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„Come on, Kap. Let's grab something to eat,“ she pulled Shiki out of his chair.Bookmark here

„Wait,“ Ren stopped them at the exit.Bookmark here

„Hm?“ Ume turned around.Bookmark here

„You have seen them, correct?“ Ren asked expressionlessly.Bookmark here

„Whom? Shades? Sure,“ Ume gave a small nervous laugh which is Shiki's trademark.Bookmark here

Omi left the room without saying a word.
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„The [Voidpools],“ Ren corrected her.Bookmark here

„Oh those little buggers, yeah we did but they didn't give us trouble, right Kap?“Bookmark here

Ume made an expression Shiki had never seen before.Bookmark here

„Y..she's right,“ Shiki muttered.Bookmark here

„I'm glad. That was on me, I apologize yet again.“Bookmark here

Ume grabbed Shiki's hand and they left the room.Bookmark here

Shiki was flabbergasted from the peer pressure that emanated from his clubmates. One could barely tell they were all friends from that interaction. More than anything, it confused him greatly.Bookmark here

He walked through the school hallways with Ume holding his hand and guiding him like a lost boy at summer festival.Bookmark here

They reached the back entrance of the school, which lead to the school gardens.Bookmark here

They exited the school and walked slowly towards one of the benches that was neatly positioned beneath the old-looking street lamp.Bookmark here

„Aaagh, we're finally out, that was rough,“ Ume sat on a bench and exhaled deeply.Bookmark here

„So, can you tell me what is going on?“ Shiki asked.Bookmark here

„Eh, ignore Ren. She turns into a formal queen when [World Within] is in question,“ Ume yawned.Bookmark here

Shiki had something different on his mind.Bookmark here

„I mean, about those [Voidpools], why is that her fault?“Bookmark here

Ume thought about the question for few minutes, weighing what she would tell him.Bookmark here

„Your powers inside the World are created by your own emotions. Well sometimes the other stuff gets created too,“ she moved her hands around.Bookmark here

„So she created them? For what?“Bookmark here

„Not exactly, more like they emerged as an extra product of her emotions,“ Ume touched her chin and simplifed, “like when you cook ramen.“Bookmark here

„Ramen?“Bookmark here

„Yeah or whatever else, the point is that you want to create the cooked ramen but you also create steam, sometimes smoke and dirty dishes too.“Bookmark here

Shiki was amused by Ume's example but figured out what she meant by that.Bookmark here

„So there is a chance that you and I create [Voidpools] too?“ he asked.Bookmark here

„There is, but to create those, you really need to feel specific emotion of emptiness, nothingness and bad things like that,“ Ume lowered her voiced significantly by the end of the sentence.Bookmark here

„Oh, wow,“ Shiki took a seat on the bench next to her.Bookmark here

„Whatever it is, it has something to do with all those lotus symbols we found in there. It's Ren's symbol after all.“Bookmark here

Ume looked towards the school and noticed Cyn on the window of the infirmary, taking a cigarette break. She quickly turned her head around and suggested they go deeper into gardens.Bookmark here

„You don't want to return to clubroom?“ Shiki asked.Bookmark here

„After all that? Not a chance. I'm too tired to analyze everything with our boss Ren right now,“ Ume got up from the bench and took couple of steps from Shiki.Bookmark here

They strolled slowly through the park while breathing the fresh autumn air.Bookmark here

They passed by some couples which reminded Shiki of  the big words and a gentle kiss he had received before they left [World Within]. He averted his gaze out of embarrassment.Bookmark here

Ume noticed his juvenile reaction and decided to start the conversation.Bookmark here

„So, why did you decide to stay in our wacky club?“Bookmark here

Shiki was surprised by her sudden question cause she never showed any form of curiosity towards him.Bookmark here

„I don't know. At first I wanted to run away but Ren quickly lumped us together on our first mission and the rest is history.“Bookmark here

Shiki answered as truthfully as he could but for some reason he felt an odd tingle, a repulsion of sorts, that gave him a reason to doubt his own words. Bookmark here

Maybe he just had way too many questions that hanged in dry air.
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„I know! That Ren. She can be bossy and cold at times, but she really has best intentions for all of us,“ Ume giggled.Bookmark here

Shiki noticed how Ume talked normally for a while now, but he was too uncomfortable to bring that up.Bookmark here

He remembered yet again about their mutual „I love you“ at the temple but there was no chance in million years that he would voluntarily dig himself in that hole.Bookmark here

He had to think about the another subject right away.Bookmark here

„The napkin!“ he yelled.Bookmark here

„What?“ she laughed. Bookmark here

„There's this strange light purple napkin with a palm tree that I found in the pocket and then you gave it to me two times already and it all happened when we were inside the World,“ Shiki blurted out line after line while taking deep breaths.Bookmark here

„Ya really think too much 'bout them napkins, why don't ya get a girlfriend instead?“ She laughed loudly and slapped him slightly in the back.Bookmark here

Shiki ignored the insult and was still deep in thought about the napkin.Bookmark here

Ume pouted a bit cause she didn't receive a reaction she hoped for, so she decided to cheer him up.Bookmark here

„Tell ya what, why don't we all go to Alp's confectionery? Sweets will calm your nerves,“ Ume smiled from ear to ear.Bookmark here

„...“Bookmark here

„The only thing better that tomatoes are your cakes,“ Ren said with her mouth jam-packed with rainbow-colored biscuits.Bookmark here

„Wow, so unsightly,“ Ume laughed at Ren's cartoon-looking mouth.Bookmark here

Ren ignored her remark and kept clearing the plate in front of her.Bookmark here

„My queen deserves to be fed royally,“ Alp said while fixing the table cloth underneath Ren.Bookmark here

Ume was reminded of snake feeding from few hours ago which ruined the taste of sweets in front of her. She stole a quick glance at Shiki who seemed puzzled, but then again, that boy always looked puzzled.Bookmark here

He expected a long detailed discussion about the World, but to his surprise everyone pretended as if nothing had happened.Bookmark here

Whenever he would build courage to ask about it, Ume would interrupt him with unimportant chitchat as if she was reading his cluttered mind.Bookmark here

Omi has been playing alone on a hand-held game console at the other table so Shiki decided to approach him about it.Bookmark here

„Don't feel weird about the atmosfiere,“ Omi didn't give Shiki an opportunity to ask him anything and continued, „it's normal that Ren doesn't want to talk about it, so how it whent?“Bookmark here

„It was a dense forest at first..“ Shiki started talking but Omi interrupted him really fast, „oh a [Labyrinth Entrance], those are tricky.“Bookmark here

Shiki nodded and continued talking.Bookmark here

„Then we met a snake lady, which sang a song, although Ume only heard hissing...“Bookmark here

„Ooh snake lady? Was she hawt?“Bookmark here

Shiki shook his head while making a disgusted face.Bookmark here

„She was, kind of at first but...“ yet again Omi jumped into Shiki's sentence, „but she attacked you by wrapping her giant tail around your waist and plunging her nasty teeth in yuu?“Bookmark here

Shiki made a horrifed expression.Bookmark here

„Noo! Ume shot her with a bow right away,“ he waved frantically with his hands.Bookmark here

„Nice! Good cawl,“ said Omi while bashing the buttons.Bookmark here

He was still being completely focused on a game while following the conversation with Shiki and that was commendable. Rude, but commendable.Bookmark here

„And then there was this temple that had strange commands for us..“Bookmark here

„Ooh the famous [Temple of Desires]! So, did you put tongue in her mauth?“ Bookmark here

Shiki was hoping he misunderstood Omi's words so he blinked couple of times and moved closer to him.Bookmark here

„Just kidden! Ume would never kiss yuu,“ he glanced at the sweat that moved slowly down Shiki's face.Bookmark here

Shiki let out a nervous laugh that was his trademark at this point.Bookmark here

He decided to move on with talking and mentioned [Crimson Core].Bookmark here

„That's our stop, Kappy,“ Omi dropped the console onto the table.Bookmark here

„Hm?“ Shiki gave him a confused look.Bookmark here

„You never talk about the [Crimson Core], kay? It's the only, well one of the only rules we have hier.“Bookmark here

Shiki nodded and dropped down his look.Bookmark here

„Hey, don't get so moody, you've seen what happened to Ren, reight? We don't talk about it for reasons like theth,“ Omi finished the sentence and walked towards the exit.Bookmark here

„Bye guys, I have places to bee,“ Omi waved.Bookmark here

„See you tomorrow,“ said Alp with a big smile on his face.Bookmark here

„Take care on your way home,“ said Ren.Bookmark here

Ume didn't bother saying him goodbyes, she just watched him open the door.Bookmark here

Shiki joined others at the table and even grabbed couple of cookies from a plate.Bookmark here

They enjoyed each other's company till the nightfall.Bookmark here

Omi won't show up at the clubroom from this day onward.
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