Chapter 13:

No room for failure (Part 2).

A Reverie for Another Eternity

Helena and Miktua rushed in, slamming the doors open. A lone cat girl, visibly injured on the shoulder with a dried red spot, sat against a wall in a criss-cross. The yellow snarkiness in her eyes had yet to lose its luster once she caught the sight of Mikuta.Bookmark here

“It’s fine. The wound doesn’t hurt as much as it looks.”Bookmark here

Maya’s ears laid flat on her head, the corners of her mouth twitching in pain. She certainly was trying to act tough despite how painful it must’ve been. There was a bloodied cloak on the floor next to her, completely dry. It was almost as if the event had taken place much earlier in the day… Perhaps even at night.Bookmark here

Helena just nodded along, absentmindedly. She quickly turned to Mikuta with a convinced look in her eyes, albeit with a swirl of delirium. Bookmark here

“I-it’s just an everyday thing down here… Though I didn’t expect Maya to get caught up in its troubles…” She sputtered while looking ahead. “If it hurts too much, we can take you to the church's infirmary...”Bookmark here

From the corner of Mikuta’s eye, she saw Maya’s eyes widen momentarily in fear, soon returning to her usual cool facade. She decided to keep Helena from noticing Maya’s unease at the suggestion by swooping in front of her. Her reasons for doing so were unknown even to her at the time. Bookmark here

For now, she needed to keep Helena away from her. If that’s what Maya wanted, of course.Bookmark here

“Is that even allowed? Inviting things like her?”Bookmark here

Mikuta could hear a sharp inhale behind her, a low growl coming out after. Oh right, Helena wasn’t the type to discriminate. She had hoped that Maya at least understood the que. Bookmark here

“If they’re ill and such, then of course!”Bookmark here

With her cheeks puffed out, it seems as if Helena couldn’t grasp the situation. But for Mikuta, she knew Maya was in trouble. So much so that she couldn’t accept the help offered by her beloved sister. She couldn’t let Helena get to the bottom of the issue if Maya didn’t want it. At the very least, she wanted to know the reason why before passing it on.Bookmark here

“Well, let’s see if she’s really hurt or not first. Can you give us some time to ourselves though?”Bookmark here

“But-”Bookmark here

“Maya is fine. Really. Just as sister Mikuta has said, Maya wants to talk to her. Alone.”Bookmark here

Clutching Mikuta’s shoulder, she slowly rose up and let out a weak smile. Helena gave back a worried look, muttering “I’ll check on you myself later” as she walked towards the kids to hand them bread.Bookmark here

Once out of sight, Maya sank to the floor with a gasp. Mikuta quickly turns around and takes a knee, looking at her at eye level. She made sure to keep her tone hushed in order to not let Helena overhear their conversation from just a room over.Bookmark here

“What do you want with Maya?”Bookmark here

Her eyes were brimming with yellow, unbridled hatred. As expected of course.Bookmark here

“Listen, I only want to help you so you could help me, understand?”Bookmark here

She gave two light pats on her shoulder without thinking, causing her to jump back a bit.Bookmark here

“Oops. Sorry about that.”Bookmark here

Her tail was bristling, but she remained calm. Mikuta began to raise her fingers one by one, holding up three.Bookmark here

“Number one: For some reason, you don’t want Helena to drag you to the church's infirmary, yes?”

Maya nodded vehemently. It would’ve been cute if not for the death glare. Mikuta continued on without showing any signs of trouble. She bent her ring finger. Bookmark here

“Number two: you are hurt, but not so badly hurt that you have to go, right?”Bookmark here

“Yes. Maya supposes.”Bookmark here

But, ah, Helena probably doesn’t see it that way. Perhaps Maya herself doesn’t understand it that well either. She bent her middle finger, finally holding out her index.Bookmark here

“Are you sure you don’t need to go? If not-”Bookmark here

“Yes. Maya is fine. Even among the demihumans, Maya heals fast. Bullet wounds are nothing.”Bookmark here

Bullet wounds? Oh my. The slums are a scary place to be, that’s for sure. Now Mikuta understood why Helena was in a rush to get out that day, saying it was her curfew and whatnot as an excuse to not explain the situation.Bookmark here

“Number three: Explain to me why you don’t want Helena to take you.”Bookmark here

This wasn’t a question. This was a demand, and the both of them knew what would’ve entailed had she not complied, though it was at no cost for her. A win-win situation one might say for something juicy.Bookmark here

She looked back at Mikuta with furrowed brows, yet a tinge of sadness sat within the depths of her eyes. Bookmark here

“Maya… Maya was a sister like you once. Maya was taken under Helena when she was younger and was forced to study for the academy.Bookmark here

“As you are probably aware, they don’t take my type very kindly, despite the endless platitudes and praises they give for OUR hard work.” Her lips trembled, and her eyes softened at whatever mental anguish she must’ve been reliving. Mikuta felt a little bad at this ploy. “Maya made her own spells from spending countless hours training in the courtyard and reading old dusty books from the library. It was ALL Maya’s work, MAYA’s!Bookmark here

“Maya had to be at the top, she had to be… No shops would hire someone like me if I were to fail…” Her expression dulled, and her words became bitter. “Maya did the best, Maya was the fastest, and Maya was the strongest! But, Maya didn’t get in. Someone stole Maya’s spells at the last part of the exam, and showed them off in front of the instructors before Maya… Maya could-” She burst into tears, but remained vigilant about not making too much noise -” do anything… Maya was supposed to be next to sister Helena, NOT you.”Bookmark here

Ah. No wonder she was so distasteful of Mikuta. Bookmark here

Well, I guess this is my just dessert. Long time in the coming anyway. Bookmark here

“And how long ago was this?”Bookmark here

“A year ago. People who fail twice can never attempt to get in again.”Bookmark here

“Why didn’t you try again this year?”Bookmark here

Maya slid down from the wall and laid on the floor with a hopeless look.Bookmark here

“Maya doesn’t know. Maya forgets.”Bookmark here

So much for that.Bookmark here

A part of Mikuta wanted to drag the helpless girl back to the church just to torment her. But an even bigger part of her simply didn’t want to follow through with her emotions. She knew better than to recreate something of the past, something that would’ve been devastating regardless of whether she liked the person or not. After all, they could be of some use in the future if left alone for now.Bookmark here

“I’ll think of something so you can stay. No need to thank me.”Bookmark here

Mikuta got up, but her hand was seized with an unnaturally strong grip, the tips of Maya’s claws digging into her skin.Bookmark here

Ouch.Bookmark here

“Why are you doing this? Who set you up for this?” Maya hissed out her words at Mikuta, slowly getting up.Bookmark here

Mikuta brought down a light chop on her head, enough to make her wince and go toppling back down with an “owie.”Bookmark here

“Who knows. ‘Mikuta’ forgets.”Bookmark here

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Though it took a while to convince Helena to let Maya stay, the two had staged an act of perfect normalness with an eerie amount of friendliness. This seemingly worried Helena far more than anything, but she was content with leaving Maya behind after giving a few words of advice, such as “Come home when you feel like it” and “If it gets worse, be sure to go to a hospital.”Bookmark here

The incorrigible cat girl blankly nodded away these statements and sighed in relief as they left. Though she didn’t trust that Mikuta brat, she could at least tell that she was being truthful in her promise, something that she hadn’t expected at all.Bookmark here

However, she was deeply disappointed in herself for failing her mission. But for the first time, she seemed to be okay with this failure. Bookmark here

“So this is where you were, you damn brat.”Bookmark here

Once more, the door slams open, though a bit more angrily. A tall sister stomps her way towards the restful figure, dust airing the air with each step.Bookmark here

She pulls a gun to her head but Maya remains resilient and unfazed, too tired to even care at this point.Bookmark here

“Now, let us resume our ‘discussion’ from before, thief.”Bookmark here

“Maya swears she doesn’t know anything-” She yawned while rubbing her eye, the injury on her shoulder already well-healed -”Maya pinky promises.”Bookmark here

She held a pinky up towards Erika. She squinted her eyes down with disdain, not expecting the demi-human intruder to regress to an infantile state, but perhaps this was all a part of her healing process. She wasn’t buying any of that though as she cocks her gun.Bookmark here

“I swear, you mages are so scarily fake to a fault. I can’t trust anything that comes out of your mouth, can I?” She pulls out a brown ring with yellow lines streaking around and inside the band. She tosses it on the floor. “Does this look familiar to you?”Bookmark here

In a flash, Maya had lunged forward from her awkward position to snatch the ring, but Erika was quicker and had pulled up the ring with a hidden thread back into her hand. Maya took a step before Erika shot a bullet past her, grazing her cheek.Bookmark here

“Sit. Down. At the moment, you’re in no condition to fight me. You know this, and I’m pretty sure whoever hired you wouldn’t want you to be dead either.”Bookmark here

Growling, she complied. Bookmark here

“What do you want from me?!”Bookmark here

“Aht aht. Before that,” she pointed her gun behind her, “Would you mind getting these rascals out of here first?”Bookmark here

Behind Erika, the siblings of Maya had secretly crept up from behind, claws out. Bookmark here

“Stand down you idiots.” She shot another round, this time above her. Bits of debris came falling down as the smell of gunpowder hung heavily in the air. With a few yelps, they ran outside.Bookmark here

“What can you tell me about this ring, cat?”Bookmark here

“Nothing. I don’t even know what I’m looking at. All I know is that my employer wants it. Badly.”Bookmark here

“Oh, and who’s this said employer?”Bookmark here

“Maya doesn’t know.”Bookmark here

“mAyA dOeSn’t - SPEAK NORMALLY PLEASE.” She cocked her gun once more. “ENGLISH, DO YOU SPEAK IT?” Bookmark here

“Ma-I, yes. Yes, I do speak English.”Bookmark here

Erika sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. She kept one eye out in case that cat woman decided to pull something.Bookmark here

“Now, understand that if I feel like you’re lying, I will shoot your limbs one by one until you give me an answer that is satisfactory.” Erika gave an appropriately dramatic pause between each of her words, hoping that it’d scare Maya into talking. “One: Who is your employer? Two: What is this ring?”Bookmark here

Maya knew that the only reason why the lunatic’s bullets hadn’t hit any part of her body was because of how important the information she held was. She shuddered at the thought of being used up and killed like her late brethren. And so, she kept her mouth shut.Bookmark here

“I don’t know.”Bookmark here

*BANG*Bookmark here

The end of the barrel smoked as Maya slowly peered at her shoulder, feeling something ripping through. The pain hadn’t registered yet, but the bullet had cleanly exited through the same hole it had before with pinpoint accuracy, causing tons of blood to spurt forth.Bookmark here

And when the pain finally registered, she fell to the floor squirming, crying her heart out. Bookmark here

The nun crouched down, lighting a cigarette and smoking all the while watching her roll around. Gasping for air, she managed to drag herself up against a wall, and slumped down, leaving a trail of glistening red on the floor.Bookmark here

“Do you feel like talking now?”Bookmark here

Bleary-eyed with snot dribbling down, she shakily looked upward at a deadpan expression, at a woman who was willing to kill. Those icy blue eyes of hers forced her into a hopeless downward spiral into an abyss as for the first time in her life, she felt a primal sensation of heightened fear, blocking out her thoughts until only the bare truth remained in her mind.Bookmark here

“Now, answer my question.” She soon finished an entire cigarette with two long puffs and a huff. “You have one minute.”Bookmark here

As soon as the end fell onto the floor, Maya knew her life was on the line.Bookmark here

“A-All I know is that ring is for and from that brat named Mikuta. T-The pay was going to be an entire house somewhere far from here so my family could live comfortably.” No answer, Erika continued to stare at a deeply disturbed Maya, cocking her gun. Bookmark here

It was at the moment she knew, she screwed up.Bookmark here

“I-IswearIdon’tknowanythingelseabouttheringormyemployerpleasepleasepleasedon’tkill-”Bookmark here

Time itself seemed to compress itself with Maya desperately pleading for her life, knowing that her answers weren’t going to satisfy that accursed sister. And when the time had passed, she had curled up into a ball, covering her head with her arms facing downwards. Bookmark here

“Pleasepleasepleaseplease-”Bookmark here

“Alright, shaddup!” Erika ground her heel on the used-up cigarette on the floor, turning her back towards Maya. “Yeah yeah, alright. I won’t kill you, don't worry. I’ll buy that unsightly story of yours.”Bookmark here

With a heavy sigh, she scratched underneath her coif and started walking out the door. “Oh, but if you feel like saying something, I’ll be at the church. You know where.”Bookmark here

The door slammed shut again, its rickety hinges shaking. Maya sat with a dazed expression, tears still flowing.Bookmark here

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“You know, I never really understood why demi-humans are treated as badly as they are to be quite honest with you.” Mikuta returned the baskets to the front of the bakery with Helena.Bookmark here

The lamplight flickered for a moment, the moths buzzing around in fairly large numbers.Bookmark here

“It was from a war long before our time, though xenophobia has persisted throughout the decades… You’ll learn about it later when you attend class.” She sighed, shaking her head as she put down the last basket. She looked up at Mikuta. “Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to leave her alone… Maybe we should go back and drag her back…”Bookmark here

“That-that won’t be necessary. Maya is a strong and independent woman who don’t need no help.”Bookmark here

“Awww. Since when did you two get so close to each other?” She gave a friendly nudge to Mikuta. “You haven’t been seeing her without my company, right?”Bookmark here

“Of course not, duh.”Bookmark here

The pair chuckled as they made their way back to the dorms and to the cafeteria, restocking the huge stainless steel fridge with the foods they’ve bought at the square. Bookmark here

“Is that the last of the carrots?”

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“Yep. Thanks.”Bookmark here

“No problem.”Bookmark here

The two sat in the chairs, taking a breather when suddenly a hand clamped down on Mikuta’s shoulder.Bookmark here

“You free tomorrow?”Bookmark here

She’d recognize that voice anywhere.Bookmark here

“No Erika. I still want to eat, shower, then sleep.”Bookmark here

“But the day is still bright. Why would you want to do so dull?”Bookmark here

“Heheh. You wouldn’t understand, would you?”Bookmark here

Mikuta proudly displayed her first-year medal to Erika. Bookmark here

“After all, I need to study and prepare, don’t I? I have something important to attend to tomorrow.”Bookmark here

However, she was met with a snort of laughter.Bookmark here

“My bad my bad… But I mean… I got that when I was only thirteen (lol).” She took a seat next to Mikuta, wrapping her arm around her. Bookmark here

Helena hesitantly tapped Mikuta on the shoulder. “You do realize that first-years only attend three days out of the seven, right? So since today is Monday, which counts as your first day, you only need to attend it two days from now.” Mikuta pretended to not notice Erika’s trembling sides. Bookmark here

“Anyways, first-years have it pretty easy. So in the meantime,” Erika brought Mikuta closer to her, foreheads touching, “I’ll have you working in the booth.”Bookmark here

“Like… A confession booth?”Bookmark here

“Yep.”Bookmark here

And that was how Mikuta spent her morning the next day, sitting alone in a cramped, dark booth, completely isolated from the world. With her own room messed up beyond repair, Erika went to do who-knows-what, and Helena off to school, Mikuta looked back on today's events in the quiet and dusty booth, silently wishing for something to happen. She should’ve at least brought a book or something to quell her boredom. Or perhaps to step out and practice some cool magicks. Yeah, she’ll do just that.Bookmark here

As soon as she got up, someone entered through the other side.Bookmark here

Finally. About time something happened.Bookmark here

She didn’t know if there was a proper procedure for proceeding, but she quickly sat back down, eagerly waiting for their words of confession.Bookmark here

Suddenly, an envelope slid under the small slit of the wooden panel that sat between the two.Bookmark here

“This is your case from before. Keep it safe and do not let anyone get ahold of it.”Bookmark here

“Wha-”Bookmark here

The door to the other side of the booth opened again and Miktua rushed out of hers to catch a glimpse. By the time she had surveyed the area, they were long gone.Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.