A Reverie for Another Eternity
“And finally, this is the history classroom.” Opening the thick door with bulky hinges, the pair walked in. The little girl gestured to one of the many rooms that were identical to the rest she was shown, much to Mikuta’s boredom. The tasteless set of antiquated chairs and desks were laid out evenly. Coupled with the brown books filling the overhead shelves, there certainly wasn’t much to look at. Only the setting sun, the last of its rays filtering through the windows, provided her with a sense of relief as she knew the tour was ending soon. “At first, it may not look like much, but I can assure you, there is a rich history, no pun intended, behind this room as well-”
Mikuta didn’t care to listen to her explanations. If there was something for her to know, then she'd do it herself. She walked over and randomly grabbed a book from the high shelf, flipping through its pages. Though she tried to keep herself occupied from her senpai, her fingers gradually slowed their pace, taking in the information with interest instead of hasted escape.
As expected, the history residing in this world was full of things she possibly couldn’t fathom. Ancient Buddhist deities, at least the depictions of them, somehow raised the lands known as Protoign. It was a giant landmass that was then fractured into five different continents, each having a large kingdom of its own. She flipped through the pages more, not bothering to touch the accounts and politics of historical accounts.
In the middle of the book was a double spread, showing a map of the world. On a petal-shaped landmass, a red pin with a little “you are here” symbol indicated the continent that Mikuta was residing in was the land Ratnasambhava was said to have blessed. Out of the seven kingdoms on that land, the kingdom of pidrophillie had reigned supreme with its economical output, allowing it to curry favor with the empress, and yadda yadda yadda. But what truly caught her eye was the last remaining continent, seemingly in the center of the other four. She gingerly ran her finger over the ominous-looking skull mark, the letters below reading “The isle of the King.” The next few pages were dedicated to explaining the long, descriptive affairs of the king and his treachery, which straight-up sounded like propaganda.
I’m guessing this is the villain of our story, judging by how almost everyone hates this guy’s guts. Or maybe that’s just a state thing...
“Oho, I see that you’re already getting an early start on your education. That is so very studious of you.” Elaina tapped on her shoulder blade, not yet tall enough to reach her shoulders. “Unless you’re just trying to make yourself seem smart, in which case it won’t do you any good.”
Mikuta put the book back into the empty slot and turned around, eyeing downward on the little girl below. Her smug smile soured into a frown.
“W-what? Can’t handle a little joke? Eh?”
Softly, she brought down her hand onto Elaina’s head, ruffling her hair. “Nah I got the joke. But is there anything else you'd like to show me?”
In reality, all she wanted to do was go home, to bed. Being dragged around against her will without being able to get out a speck of complaint was mentally exhausting, even with the ring. She certainly wanted to take a shower, eat something delicious, and talk to Helena about today’s events. Oh, and to move onto tomorrow where she could attend classes for real; this time without a self-proclaimed guide.
The demi-girl blushed, quickly removing Mikuta’s hand from the top of her head. She lightly fidgeted, her uniform swaying, before looking back up at Mikuta. Her eyes brimmed with expectation - something that Mikuta couldn’t help but feel a little betrayed at.
“Will I see you tomorrow?”
Mikuta didn't know what to make of this question. Though, not saying anything would've been awkward to this supposed senpai. “Only if you catch sight of me…”
She burst out in laughter, slapping Mikuta on the back. Pausing, she then pushed her lightly, enough so that she had to take a few steps before coming to a stop.
“Go on. I know I’ve kept you here long enough.” A weak smile formed on her pained visage, the gentle light slowly fading away. “Thanks for keeping up with me; I hope you didn’t hate it.”
Mikuta decided that she didn’t dislike her at all, nor the overly-stretched out tour. It was all in her best interest, provided by someone who cared.
But she wasn’t the type of person to say those thoughts out loud. It wasn’t up to her to decide on whether Mikuta’s time was well spent, nor should she have the right to feel bad about what’s been done.
Giving a curt nod, Mikuta walked out of the room, closing the door behind her. Good and bad things are only meant to end, and she was no exception.
“You know, having responsibilities means you have to fulfill them, even if it seems pointless in the end.”
Mikuta was being chewed out by Helena ever since they ran into each other for dinner. They both had recently finished showering and brushing their teeth, ready to go to bed. As far as she was concerned, leaving the booth earlier in the day to search for Helena wasn’t a big deal, but it was not made out to be that way. She didn't even have the chance to speak for herself or today's ordeals!
“Well, I didn’t even get to eat and I was pretty bored at the time anyway.” Mikuta rolled over on the sheets, digging under the covers. “Cut me some slack please.”
“N.O.” She stood up from her chair, arms crossed. “If you don’t listen next time, I’m going to have to give you a strike.”
“Oh really. A strike?” Mikuta grew indignant, stemming from her want to sleep while warm. She snuggled even deeper under the covers. “Give me however much of that I can get before something happens…”
Something about this just flipped a switch. Helena gritted her teeth, walking to the edge of the bed, throwing off the covers with vigor.
"WHY DO YOU NOT LISTEN? WHAT IS IT WITH YOU!?" A frustrated face loomed over Mikuta. " HOW COME YOU ARE THE ONE ALLOWED IN WITHOUT TROUBLE, HUH? EVER THINK ABOUT THAT?"
Mikuta clearly bewildered, Helena's expression softened immediately after realizing her error. Twice, she held her breath, eventually casting her gaze to the side shyly.
“I think you should go back to your room.”
Mikuta could only look up, stunned. It wasn’t like her to get mad over something so trivial, she thought. If anything, Just then, a flash of a disheartened Elaina appeared in her mind, along with the feelings associated with the individual. Reminded of the cold dispassion and glum looks, she knew it wasn’t up to her to decide what the good or the bad times were. Perhaps she had even overstayed her welcome, relying on Helena the entire time in this world.
Perhaps it was time she became her own person.
Even so, there was a tight pain in her chest at the rejection. She certainly hadn’t expected it, but it was as if a little ribbon had suffered a light snip of the scissors. A ribbon is soon to be torn to shreds if continued to be strained.
Of course, this was only the first bump in their otherwise quality relationship, but to Mikuta, it easily was on the scale of the world ending. She soon resigned herself to the thought that their relationship would remain if it really mattered.
Rising up, she bumped into a hesitant Helena whilst making her way to the door. The girl behind her attempted to reach out wordlessly before the door was shut in her face.
Back in her room, cold and the floors layered with even more dust, Mikuta sighed. Sliding down against the bed frame, she let her mind and eyes meaninglessly wander around the room. Though there were a few scratch marks here and there, plus the broken pottery with old stains, she didn’t bother to do anything about it. Turning her head back, she could see footprints dug into the windowsill, the cold moonlight filtering through the moted atmosphere.
Jumping onto the hard, torn-up mattress, she did her best to position the old blankets so that the moldy parts wouldn’t be touching her. Still, without a mattress cover, it left much to be desired. She sighed, seeing her breath condense in the cold light. Curling up, careful not to touch the mold, she longed to return to Helena’s warm and well-kept room.
Strange anxiety fell upon her heart. The gratuitous thoughts of being alone, of being left alone by Helena tore into her petty heart. It was too late now. Too late to accompany her first day with Helena, too late to enjoy the years to come at the academy, and probably too late to even be friends at this point.
She clutched at her chest. Despite all the negativity, she knew her thoughts were overblown to the extremes. The situation was one that could easily be remedied with a “sorry” or “that was my bad.”
But why should she be the one to apologize?
Hiccups and slight issues always arose with the differences of people. If the relationship had truly mattered between the both of them, Helena would come through and mend the yellow ribbon of theirs. If only, that is. Otherwise, Mikuta would rather live elsewhere than near her.
Closing her eyes, she took in deep breaths, her lungs hurting from the sudden change in breathing. Her mind began to unravel as one thought stayed in the midst of her fading consciousness.
What would Miyori have said at the moment?
There it was. Another bell, this time ringing a little longer than others previous. Its chimes pleasantly reverberated throughout the air. Upon reaching the ears of the students, meaningless chatterings and low-toned murmurs erupted around her.
Shuffling her papers neatly against the table, Mikuta put it into the organized files in her school handbag. Effortlessly and perfectly executed, she got up and headed out the hallway, her schoolmates' voices buzzing in the background.
As expected, the halls were crowded with students desperate to leave. Glancing out the window, she could see the other corridors were just as filled. A slight frown formed, the sounds around her becoming even more boisterous with the delay. Weaving her way through the crowds, she quickly rounded a corner and headed toward a completely desolate hallway. Only the buzz led lighting and the unnatural cleanliness of the hall ahead remained. And even further was the student council office, the gold plating above the door labeling it as such.
Yet, this was the room she could call a second home. She entered the room at the end of the hallway, softly closing the door behind her.
“Took you a while.”
In front was a grand oak table, a red carpet underneath. Three banners stood at the sides of the room in a messy arrangement. The academy courtyard was visible through a window as big as a person behind the end seat, where Elaina sat, furiously scribbling away.
“We’re planning on getting some coffee at the cafe after we finish up a bit of work.” Miyori set aside a stack of papers with a grin, much to the chagrin of Elaina who let out a groan in return. “Do you want to come with?”
“I’d love to.” Halfheartedly giving a wink, she took a seat and began unpacking the papers in her bag.
It has already been a year since she enrolled in the academy. Thanks to Elaina’s guidance, which she halfheartedly followed, and the ring, she was able to smoothly care for herself without any issues. The arithmetics, language, and science classes were pretty simple to Mikuta, who had retained the knowledge from her schooling in her past life. Her education was miles ahead of everyone else’s, if not more. She had thought about using her otherworldly knowledge to win awards, but it wasn’t worth the effort. And with that came extra free time, which she used to help out the student council. Though it was the only council in name when it consisted of just Elaina.
Mikuta looked back fondly at the times when Elaina asked for help due to her peers forcing all the responsibilities onto her. As the only person she could turn to, no matter how shameful it must’ve been to ask of her junior, Mikuta had gladly accepted. Though gradually, it took both a mental and physical toll on her as well. It wasn’t until after the two of them collapsed from handling all the work and errands that Miyori decided to join in. And after the two of them applied for positions, the rest became history.
“Chop chop, it won’t be open for much longer if you take any longer to write.”
“Yes yes, just give me a second, secretary.” Elaina blew a mean raspberry at a smug-faced Miyori.
Chuckling, Mikuta continued to look through her files and textbooks, mainly on magic and history. Those two were the only subjects she was really focused on. And luckily for her, those were subjects she actually enjoyed learning about.
Meteor swarm, an evocation type spell used by the king of the isle. It was said to once ruin entire kingdoms if used properly…
Not much was said about the prerequisites for casting, unlike the rest of the eighth-level spells. Then again, this was a ninth-level spell that could spell calamity if used by the wrong people. Looking back at her end-of-the-year assignment, she wondered if making a new spell was one that took lots of time. She has been at it for almost two months now.
The thoughts of the deadline came into physical view, lowering her perfect standing in the class. This prompted her to soon immerse herself in reading. The three spent almost twenty minutes silent in the room before three sharp knocks could be heard coming from the door. It was the third time this month that someone had done this. And whenever Mikuta got to the door, they were gone.
No use getting up for this one either.
“Vice president Mikutaaaa, can you get the door for me please?” Without looking up, Elaina continued to scribble away.
Grumbling, Mikuta got up and walked to the door, swinging it open. Her eyes widened at the unexpected guest.
In front of her was Helena. A rather severe-looking tanned girl with no hint of happiness; with gaunt cheeks trying to form a friendly smile, her existence didn’t bode well with Mikuta’s cowardliness.
For the past year, the two have been avoiding each other. Though it started off as something accidental, it eventually evolved into a mutual pact that none of them backed down from. But their frustrations grew, so much so that Mikuta had moved out to live in the housing offered by the Academy.
No one had attempted to stop her. Not even Helena.
Ever since that day, that simple, inconsequential rebuke, she had been avoiding her to keep away the estranged feeling that gnawed away at her person. The feeling would always cause her to strangely tense up, making her feel a little queasy. Even now, slowly but surely, the same cold and clammy hands slowly clamped down on her neck, squeezing her voice, the word of apology stuck hanging in her throat.
She steeled herself, telling herself that today was the day after all.
The trepidation slowly came to a stop. Mikuta hesitantly brought her gaze forward, meeting her eyes. Helena looked eager with that stern yet somber look of hers. The dark circles under her eyes were somewhat unfitting for her character, which only made Mikuta feel bad on the inside.
A thunderous “LETSSSS GOOO” boomed throughout the room. Then, there was only silence, minus the frantic shuffling of papers shoved into bags. Suddenly, Elaina jolted upright, her bag packed. Mikuta looked around and saw Miyori getting up, softly pushing the chair back in.
“Good work Mrs. President~~.” Miyori finished putting away the last of her supplies, as well as Mikuta’s. She silently thanked her for this as Miyori handed her the bag. With a curt nod to Helena, who moved to the side, she left the door and into the spacious halls.
Bouncing up and down, Elaina came over and held Mikuta’s hand. She felt a soft squeeze on her hand but remained focused on Helena's expectant eyes. Elaina tilted her head quizzically when Mikuta wouldn’t budge despite her squeezing her hand. Looking back and forth between the two of them, she felt a delicate tension between them. With one wrong move, it'd cut through the air accordingly, and she didn't want to be the cause of that. She also couldn't bear to see the usually nonchalant Mikuta flustered in front of this stranger. And so, she decided that the best course of action would be to fulfill both of what they may have wanted.
Turning towards Mikuta, she let go of her hand and tugged on her sleeve instead. She also took a furtive glance back at the tanned tomboy.
“Do you... have anyone else you want to invite?”
She shook her head without sparing a second thought, still looking forward. At that moment, Helena's eyes swayed, her shoulders drooping a little.
Mikuta's mind fervently attempted to grasp what she had just done. From the little head shake to her inner machinations lying within her subconsciousness of choice, she knew that this was the moment, the breaking point, of their otherwise stagnant relationship. And for some reason, it pained her to see Helena like this. Her other fist clenched and unclenched; she didn't want to lose what little they had despite not doing anything with each other for the past year. That much, she knew for sure.
There must be something she could do now, something that would mend everything. Just one word, one simple profession of her overdue feelings that she so desperately held back to this day...
But, next to her was Elaina. A new friend, just as replaceable as Helena was. What mattered was the present and not her feelings. Her current situation far outweighed in importance than something as trivial as to what she wanted. Her first clenched tightly, forming little deep indents within the palm of her hand. Misunderstanding her feelings, she was brought to the wrongful conclusion that she truly didn't need anyone in the world to live a fruitful life. She continued on, muddling her true desires even more.
After all, the past is in the past. I have friends to be with and places to go.
On the outside, she had thought that the pain that accompanied Helena's unsightly visage was something she had wanted. Though deep down, she ignorantly grimaced at this cold and shallow statement she had made herself.
The desperate cries of her apologetic feelings were shunned with the pride of not wanting to abandon the self-righteous decision she made. And with that, she whispered a shallow “Let’s go,” shutting the door behind them and striding onward without looking back.
Elaina had a hard time keeping up, continually glancing back at the person supposedly in the same year as her according to her ribbon. Despite someone like her saying so, at the time, the girl left behind seemed too small to have something like that.
A single tear rolled down Mikuta's cheek. Had they spent another moment in front of the door, she would most likely have relented and broken down in front of Helena, apologizing and eventually rooming with her for the remainder of their days. Perhaps the future to be beheld would've been different. And yet, despite understanding this possible outcome that wasn't realized, Mikuta selfishly formed another regret that day. Her heartstrings were pulled to their limits and she decidedly relished in it, quickly turning a corner.
Back at the front door, a room devoid of any persons, a lone girl collapsed onto her knees, her frame seemingly smaller than ever.
Her downward expression was unreadable.