[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.
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.
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.
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.
Time heals everything.
Time consumes everything.
Devouring Core consumes everything.
„Get up, dumbo!“ Ume yelled from the other side.
„I..I..“ Shiki tried to catch his breath, but panic filled the pores of his common sense.
„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.
„I'm sorry, I..“ Shiki slowly moved away from the statues.
„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.
Shiki looked at her.
Her appearance has changed completely into a girl he was mesmerized with in a train.
She wore a tiny smile and teary eyes that reminded him of people he used to be friends with back in his hometown.
He ran away from them, leaving everything behind.
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.
„I guess Ren was right. I really am a turtle,“ Shiki sighed.
„No worries hottie, I'm something of a plum myself,“ Ume's appearance reversed back to normal in a split second.
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.
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.
It screamed and trembled until it collapsed into a chunk of clay. He did the same to the other one.
After the job was completed the entire greenhouse started crackling down.
He ran towards Ume that barely held it together and protected her by placing his shield above their heads.
Ume smiled gently while looking at him as the space around them was twisting and falling apart.
„See? I knew you could do it,“ she said silently and gave him a gentle kiss on a cheek.
Thoughts within Shiki's mind were still in utter chaos, but at least he had done this time what he couldn't last time.
He kept moving.
They lumped together into a ball of unspoken feelings and unreciprocated affections and waited for [Crimson Core] to come undone.
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.
Two girls who were sitting on the opposite side glanced toward them in silence.
„How are you feeling?“ Shiki decided to shatter the heavy atmosphere that fell upon them.
„Lighter, actually,“ said one girl.
„Me too...“ the other continued, “although I feel like I've lost something,“ girl broke down in tears.
„You've lost the burden that poisoned your mind,“ Ren entered the room, with Alp following her right behind.
Girl didn't react to Ren's words, she just cried while the other comforted her.
Alp watched them with pained expression on his face. He felt responsible for everything that happened.
„I'm truly sorry,“ the mountain of muscle bowed down gracefully.
„Don't be,“ added Ren with serious look.
„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.
Shiki felt bad for the girls and tried to open his mouth but Ume stopped him by kicking him lightly in a leg.
She looked into his eyes with tired expression that signaled him to let it go.
The other girl stood up from a chair and approached Alp.
„We were taking advantage of you, I'm so sorry.“
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.
„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.
„Chill out Ren, t'was a good training for me and my boy,“ said Ume while standing up.
She noticed that Omi was standing at the entrance in silence, but she rejected his existence for the moment.
„Come on, Kap. Let's grab something to eat,“ she pulled Shiki out of his chair.
„Wait,“ Ren stopped them at the exit.
„Hm?“ Ume turned around.
„You have seen them, correct?“ Ren asked expressionlessly.
„Whom? Shades? Sure,“ Ume gave a small nervous laugh which is Shiki's trademark.
Omi left the room without saying a word.
„The [Voidpools],“ Ren corrected her.
„Oh those little buggers, yeah we did but they didn't give us trouble, right Kap?“
Ume made an expression Shiki had never seen before.
„Y..she's right,“ Shiki muttered.
„I'm glad. That was on me, I apologize yet again.“
Ume grabbed Shiki's hand and they left the room.
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.
He walked through the school hallways with Ume holding his hand and guiding him like a lost boy at summer festival.
They reached the back entrance of the school, which lead to the school gardens.
They exited the school and walked slowly towards one of the benches that was neatly positioned beneath the old-looking street lamp.
„Aaagh, we're finally out, that was rough,“ Ume sat on a bench and exhaled deeply.
„So, can you tell me what is going on?“ Shiki asked.
„Eh, ignore Ren. She turns into a formal queen when [World Within] is in question,“ Ume yawned.
Shiki had something different on his mind.
„I mean, about those [Voidpools], why is that her fault?“
Ume thought about the question for few minutes, weighing what she would tell him.
„Your powers inside the World are created by your own emotions. Well sometimes the other stuff gets created too,“ she moved her hands around.
„So she created them? For what?“
„Not exactly, more like they emerged as an extra product of her emotions,“ Ume touched her chin and simplifed, “like when you cook ramen.“
„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.“
Shiki was amused by Ume's example but figured out what she meant by that.
„So there is a chance that you and I create [Voidpools] too?“ he asked.
„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.
„Oh, wow,“ Shiki took a seat on the bench next to her.
„Whatever it is, it has something to do with all those lotus symbols we found in there. It's Ren's symbol after all.“
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.
„You don't want to return to clubroom?“ Shiki asked.
„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.
They strolled slowly through the park while breathing the fresh autumn air.
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.
Ume noticed his juvenile reaction and decided to start the conversation.
„So, why did you decide to stay in our wacky club?“
Shiki was surprised by her sudden question cause she never showed any form of curiosity towards him.
„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.“
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.
Maybe he just had way too many questions that hanged in dry air.
„I know! That Ren. She can be bossy and cold at times, but she really has best intentions for all of us,“ Ume giggled.
Shiki noticed how Ume talked normally for a while now, but he was too uncomfortable to bring that up.
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.
He had to think about the another subject right away.
„The napkin!“ he yelled.
„What?“ she laughed.
„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.
„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.
Shiki ignored the insult and was still deep in thought about the napkin.
Ume pouted a bit cause she didn't receive a reaction she hoped for, so she decided to cheer him up.
„Tell ya what, why don't we all go to Alp's confectionery? Sweets will calm your nerves,“ Ume smiled from ear to ear.
„The only thing better that tomatoes are your cakes,“ Ren said with her mouth jam-packed with rainbow-colored biscuits.
„Wow, so unsightly,“ Ume laughed at Ren's cartoon-looking mouth.
Ren ignored her remark and kept clearing the plate in front of her.
„My queen deserves to be fed royally,“ Alp said while fixing the table cloth underneath Ren.
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.
He expected a long detailed discussion about the World, but to his surprise everyone pretended as if nothing had happened.
Whenever he would build courage to ask about it, Ume would interrupt him with unimportant chitchat as if she was reading his cluttered mind.
Omi has been playing alone on a hand-held game console at the other table so Shiki decided to approach him about it.
„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?“
„It was a dense forest at first..“ Shiki started talking but Omi interrupted him really fast, „oh a [Labyrinth Entrance], those are tricky.“
Shiki nodded and continued talking.
„Then we met a snake lady, which sang a song, although Ume only heard hissing...“
„Ooh snake lady? Was she hawt?“
Shiki shook his head while making a disgusted face.
„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?“
Shiki made a horrifed expression.
„Noo! Ume shot her with a bow right away,“ he waved frantically with his hands.
„Nice! Good cawl,“ said Omi while bashing the buttons.
He was still being completely focused on a game while following the conversation with Shiki and that was commendable. Rude, but commendable.
„And then there was this temple that had strange commands for us..“
„Ooh the famous [Temple of Desires]! So, did you put tongue in her mauth?“
Shiki was hoping he misunderstood Omi's words so he blinked couple of times and moved closer to him.
„Just kidden! Ume would never kiss yuu,“ he glanced at the sweat that moved slowly down Shiki's face.
Shiki let out a nervous laugh that was his trademark at this point.
He decided to move on with talking and mentioned [Crimson Core].
„That's our stop, Kappy,“ Omi dropped the console onto the table.
„Hm?“ Shiki gave him a confused look.
„You never talk about the [Crimson Core], kay? It's the only, well one of the only rules we have hier.“
Shiki nodded and dropped down his look.
„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.
„Bye guys, I have places to bee,“ Omi waved.
„See you tomorrow,“ said Alp with a big smile on his face.
„Take care on your way home,“ said Ren.
Ume didn't bother saying him goodbyes, she just watched him open the door.
Shiki joined others at the table and even grabbed couple of cookies from a plate.
They enjoyed each other's company till the nightfall.Omi won't show up at the clubroom from this day onward.