“Momioka, you can do this!”
I reassure myself as I wrap my white bandage from the palm to the elbow of my right arm.
“This is your last one, your final one.”
Pulling on the end of my black bandage, I tighten it halfway up onto my left forearm.
“Time to make the gods proud!”
I slip my left glove onto my hand and pull it down onto my bandage with my teeth. I then curl up my hand into a fist pump above my head.
“For the Alföðr.”
After smiling to myself, I reach into my bag, pulling out my black metallic eyepatch with the Gungnir symbol I made in the school’s metal shop and put it over my left eye where the scar is.
* * *
“Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the final show of the 2019 Mikoto Academy’s Gym and Dance Display! Today, we’ll be having a very special opening act featuring two of our graduating students who have been on our displays for many years! Welcome, Momioka Uchida and Ryo Kurosaki!”
The spotlights turn on and shine at me and Ryo, who’s at the opposite corner of the gymnasium. Before the music starts, I put my right hand out towards the audience and my left in front of my eyepatch.
When the music finally starts, I swing my right hand to the right and begin to move towards the giant trampoline, performing a wide variety of floor stunts while matching Ryo’s speed. When we’re close to the centre, I finish off with a ‘double-twisting-double-back’ while Ryo finishes off with a ‘double-double’.
We then boost ourselves up onto our corresponding corners of the competition trampoline sets. With the crew spotting us, we begin our bounces. At first, our performances are different, but soon, our moves become synchronised as we jump across the trampolines, doing all sorts of stunts. We land on the trampoline when the music ends, slowly depleting our momentum. As we finally stop, I pose in my stance and bow to the audience.
After we get off the trampoline and the stage, the other trampolinists get on the scene and perform their stunts. The crew quickly fold up the trampoline when they finish, readying up for the subsequent acts.
The following performances are followed up by dancers taking the stage. After many dancing displays, the interval arrives. Some of the audience leaves for a break while the crew quickly sets up the floor for act two of the production.
― Time for us gymnasts to shine again!
The first performances after the interval are floor exercises. This means I’m in it, as I’m in most of the performances in act two. One after another, we take the stage and do our stunts, flipping and dancing along with the music. After many other gymnastic displays, we end the day with vaulting.
When it’s time for the applause, we are called out to the stage by the acts we’re in. After we bow, we sit on the vaulting equipment behind us, waiting for every dancer, gymnast, crew and staff to come on stage for a final bow and a group picture.
“Special thanks to all the staff and guests who made this display possible. And once again, please have another round of applauses to the graduating students who also made this display as wonderful as it is.”
The other graduating students and I stand up, link our hands and take a bow before we return to sit on the equipment behind us.
“And that’s the end, ladies and gentlemen. This is your hostess and Principal Azumi Sawada. Thank you for coming to our 2019 display; I hope you had a great time!”
Whilst the audience exits, the performers follow suit and leave to get dressed out of the school sportswear. As I enter the changing room, I change into my modified school uniform, consisting of the summer short-sleeved white shirt but with a reddish-bronze cuff, tied with a red tie and a black pleated skirt with two white stripes added to the hem.
When I walk out of the changing room holding my school blazer and bags, I see Ryo waiting for someone outside of the unisex toilet cubicles.
“Hell of a show we gave them, Momioka.”
I brush back my hair in front of my eyepatch in the most exaggerated way possible.
“I know, right? I can’t believe- Ahh! I mean… Aye, we sure did. Did you hear the echoing? We showed the audience what we are capable of!”
“Hah! I did, and it was amazing! Though, I feel like you did most of the work then. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you did the ‘double-twisting-double-back’ during the opening act, didn’t you?”
“Aye. It is but a simple trick.”
“That’s for you to say! I almost messed up my landing for my ‘double-double’. If I did, it would have been bad for the both of us.”
“Nay, Ryo. You did what the gods will look upon. Your moves were most excellent. So, don’t look down onto the floor thinking that you fail at something, Friend.”
“Thanks, Momioka… Can’t believe this is our final show… After all these years... I’m going to miss this a lot.”
“I can say the same alongside you. These moments of grace will be remembered for eternity as they will be framed in the halls of Asgard.”
“I’m sure it will, Odinsdottir. Ummm… When you return to Asgard, say hi to your ‘father’ and ‘brothers’ for me.”
“I will indeed! Why don’t you-”
Suddenly, the door to the unisex toilet opens, and Ryo’s girlfriend walks out of it.
“Oh? Hey, Momioka, nice meeting you here! What are you two talking about?”
“Hey, nothing really. We’re just talking about our last Gym and Dance display.”
“Oh. This is kinda sad, isn’t it? Not just this, but also that we will be graduating very soon as well. Oh yeah, that reminds me; what’s your plan after graduating, Momioka?”
“My presence is needed in the league of Ivy, Yui, For I am the best in the art of the cosmos.”
“You got accepted by one of the Ivy leagues for Astrophysics?
“I got a place, yeah… I also applied for Aerospace engineering and others, but… but I doubt my father will let me study abroad. It’s only thanks to Aunt Sawada I could apply to it.”
“I’m sure she will be able to find a way. I’m sorry that your father won custody of you instead of Principle Sawada.”
“I am as well; my childhood was really just TV and arguments, but it was okay. We were kids back then, Ryo. What can we do?”
“Well… So, what are your plans for the rest of school?”
“I’m unsure about my father’s approach, but I’ll still give my best in the finals! So, what about the plans for Yui and yourself?”
“We’re going to the university in the next city. He got a scholarship there.”
“Still can’t believe I got into a good university from gymnastics. To think that I only joined because we were needed to pick a sport and that you forced me into it as well.”
“What can I say? We practice physical agility and coordination; We practice fighting and dodging!”
“By the way, Momioka, Ryo and I are celebrating today’s successful show. Do you want to join us?”
“I am extremely grateful for your invitation, but the chains of Fenrir I am bind to had called for me as he requires me to re-enter Niflheim.”
“Your dad needs you straight home right after the show, doesn’t he?”
“You can sneak out again, like last time.”
“Oh! That’s a fine plan. Aye, when all align, I will.”
“We’ll be waiting for you at my house then! Ryo, will you invite anyone else?”
“I’m keeping this between us, but I might invite Lukkas.”
“The traveller with the mysterious past, he who hides himself in the back of class? You’re close to him?”
“Yeah, he’s actually great if you get to know him!”
“Actually, how do you know him? He’s not even in your class but Momioka’s.”
“We just bonded over, let’s say… Ghost stories. He knows a lot about the paranormal, especially Wraiths.”
“Somehow, my thoughts are with him saying ‘Shadows and Wraiths’ like my father does.”
“Don’t worry, he’s nothing like your father.”
“Though, sometimes he is quite… fatherly.”
“Very well. I may accept his entreaty if he wishes to speak with me. Now, as much as I adore this moment, the sun is set. I must depart.”
“Yeah, of course. I’ll see you later?”
“May the realms align.”
“Aye, see you soon, Odinsdottir.”
“Farewell, I shall see you two soon.”
I wave my goodbye and depart for home. When I walk up the concrete ramp, I notice Aunt Sawada standing at the top.
“Momioka, great performance today! Do you mind if I walk you back home?”
“It would be great if you could.”
Aunt Sawada and I follow the direction toward home.
“So, even at the end, still not wearing the proper school uniform, I see.”
“It’s only... small... changes…”
“Maybe. Maybe I shouldn’t have excused you from the uniform policy.”
“Hahah. So, I’ve heard the news about your acceptance letter! Well done!”
“Thank you. But what about, Father?”
“If you get the grades again, I’ll find a way to convince your father, so don’t worry about it.”
“Are you sure you can?”
“I’m confident I could do it.”
“I hope so. I will try my best nevertheless!”
“Good to hear, Ak… Momioka.”
“I haven’t spoken to you like this in such a long time now, Aunt Sawada.”
“Yeah… We’ve both been busy.”
“Can I… ask you something?”
“What’s Mom like?”
“Father never talks about her, nor is there any photo of her. All I found out about her is that her first name is Sayo.”
― Sayo Sawada… What a beautiful name…
“Umm… She was a kind and caring person. All she would do is think about you.”
“Do you miss her? How do you think she’s doing now?”
“Of course I miss her. There isn’t a day where I don’t think of her. If you ask me, I think she is doing very well, finally having control over her life.”
“I hope she does too.”
“I still wonder what she looks like.”
“I don’t have any newer pictures, but-”
She takes out a photo from her pocket. In the photo, two women are standing next to each other in miko outfits.”
“This was taken when we were much younger.”
“Did grandmother want you two to be shrine maidens?”
“No, I joined because I was interested in helping children, like running an orphanage or a school. I think your mother just wanted to help too.”
“I really wish I remember my time with her. I tried so hard, but I got nothing but… emptiness… How did she… get chosen by the Valkyries?”
“How did she…travel to Valhalla?”
“Are you certain you want to know?”
“Sacrifice was given on ends... She was chosen because she demonstrated great sacrifice during her mission to save yours...”
“And I love her too much to lose her like that.”
“It’s nothing... But remember this, your mother loves you a lot, and that’s all you need to know.”
Not long after, Aunt Sawada and I arrive at my house. My father rushes out with a death stare when I ring the doorbell, ready to shout at us, asking why I am late or where I have been; but instead, after Aunt Sawada clears her throat, he seems to have lost his reason to be mad at me.
“Sorry about being late. The show ran on a little longer than expected.”
― Huh? Did I hear this right? My father, not mad at me?
“Your daughter tonight gave an amazing performance.”
“Well, I’ll be off then, Momioka. Remember what we talked about? Go study hard for your upcoming exams.”
“I will. Thank you, Aunt Sawada.”
When she leaves, Father seems to have woken up from something.
“What’s the meaning of this?”
“Sure. I know your reason that you’re late, and I’m unsatisfied with it but fine. Still, what was that all about?”
“It wasn’t much. She just asked me to study hard so I could get into the university of my choice.”
“You don’t have to worry about that. I’ve already helped you to enrol into a university.”
I freeze for a second until I find the courage to speak to him.
“But Father, I’ve already applied and was accepted into some of them.”
“So? You’re going to this one because I could keep an eye on you.”
“No, Father, I was accepted into-”
“Would you stop? I’ve just told you. You’re not going to any of the other universities but the one I said.”
― I need Aunt Sawada’s help, don’t I.
“Okay, Father. I’ll go to shower now, then bed. I’m quite tired.”
“Sure. Check-in with me after shower.”
I walk up to my room to grab some clothes and then return to the first-floor bathroom. After showering as fast as possible, I get dressed and scurry out.
“Dad, I’m going to bed now. Goodnight.”
I leave for my room on the second floor and lock the door quietly. I quickly slip into my modified school uniform, tying my darkened red school blazer around my waist as a cape. I then wrap myself in the rolls of bandages, putting on my left eyepatch and glove.
“Oh, this is the perfect time to wear them.”
On top of the outfit I’m already using, I also wear a tiny Winged Helm-hat and a small-scale replica of Gjallarhorn strapped on the right side of my Viking-styled black leather belt under the sleeves of the school blazer.
“Now I’m ready.”
I climb out of the balcony and softly climb down the drainpipes. When I reach the garden, I sneak my way to the streets. Once reaching a safe area, I happily walk down the streets towards Yui’s house, excited about the celebration. While walking down the streets, something mesmerising flashes and grows in front of my eyes.
I examine the two-dimensional glowing circle, fascinated and enchanted by the mysterious light that floats in the air. After studying the light, I take a few steps back as I straighten my right hand forward and raise my left hand behind my head, pointing my palm towards the light.
“By the order of Odinsdottir, reveal thyself.”
“Is this a gift from the Gods as they witness my skills and prove me worthy?”
I pick up a rock from the floor and throw it at the circle. When they collide, the rock disappears.
“Is this… the Bifrost? Would it be connected to Asgard?”
As I’m thinking about the possibility of it connecting to the nine realms, the circle grows unexpectedly and starts absorbing its surrounding. Overtaken by the force and without anything to hold onto, I find myself engulfed in the light.
* * *
For a moment, everything is white. Until I am spat out from the circle I was sucked into.
“Nay, it is not the Bifrost… but a portal of some sort. Am I… in a dream? Or is reality… is not as it seems?”
I pick myself up from the floor, patting the dirt from my skirt and checking if my costume is undamaged. When I find myself more at the ready, I look around and survey the area.
“I recognised this place. This leads to the… park… But why are all the streetlights… deactivated?”
A loud thud abruptly suspends my thoughts as it echoes from the park. I slowly approach where the sound originates from.
“By Father’s Beard… What on Midgard is going on…”
I first see a smaller girl with purple hair dressed in a white-based, red and gold dress flying in the air towards an older woman in a one-piece dress. Until she is dropped onto another girl on the stairs, who tries to attack the older woman with her sword.
While looking around, thinking of what to do next, I spot a glowing sword pierced next to the entrance outside the park. Without much thinking, I pick it up and stealthily walk over towards them when the older woman appears to be delivering the ‘villainous monologue’ as she plays with her dagger.
When the older woman leaves the handrail and raises her dagger to kill the girls, I launch my surprise attack, swinging the glowing blade at her.
“Know the curse and legacy of Dáinn and Högni as you quench the bloodthirst of Dáinsleif.”
As I envisioned, Dáinsleif lands on the older woman. She screeches in pain and disappears into thin air. Shocked by the turn of events, I bounce back, dropping the blade.
― What... Where... Is my knowledge of the world... all but a lie?
I stand in front of the girls, recovering my breath while trying to grasp the situation. After a couple of silent moments, the older girl turns around slowly, staring at me with confused and teary eyes. Soon, she realises that I’m not a threat as she sighs heavily, relaxing her grip and lays down on the stairs.
When I notice her torn up black, purple, and red gothic-styled dress with a waist cape and boots of the same colour, I unwrap my school blazer and toss it at her.“Welcome to my domain. May I be of assistance?”