Chapter 5:

Volume 1 ❀ Chapter 3: Open The Door of Dreams - Target Acquired

Ideasthesia ❀ Volume 1


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Present Time - June 27th

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“I never thought you’d be terrified of planes, Nobu. Given you float and all while we fight together it never crossed my mind you’d be afraid of heights.”

After we made it to the hotel the waitress from the soba restaurant had recommended to us, we sat in the gorgeous lobby awaiting the receptionist to book us a room. That’s why, while waiting for that to happen, we began talking about trivial stuff. Nobu hadn’t stopped talking since we took a cab to our destination, making small talk and chit-chatting about anything that crossed his mind.

“I have no idea why, but yup my dear Yui. I’m afraid of heights!” he smiled, playing with his hands. “Anyway, this place is something else, isn’t it?”

Old, with columns of resistant wood, invited us to the central hall once we came inside. A crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling, illuminating with brilliant colours the rest of the place. An unusual blend of modern and antique, you could say.

"Yui, I'm sorry you're involved in this." Nobu apologized out of the blue, catching me off guard.

“... It’s okay.” I mumbled, toggling my dress. “I was the one who accepted the responsibility in the first place. These are just...”

“Perks of the trade, or so to say?” Nobu tilted his head.

“... That’s a such a grim way to approach the situation ironically…” I sighed. “Risks. That’s the word you’re looking for. Honestly, you’re not made to cheer people up.”

“I know~ As I’ve heard some of you humans say… Life has one bloody hell of a sense of irony.”

“You are quoting Shinji right now!” I pouted. “But, hey…”

“Let me finish,” he smiled, that characteristic bead head of his bobbing with every gesture he made. “I’m… sorry, it turned out like this. This is taking a toll on you… and before you say anything, I’ve noticed. Your daydreams are merging more and more with each passing day with reality. This afternoon’s snowflake on your cheek… made me take notice that I haven’t done anything to help you with this… I’m a failure of a partner…”

Please… don’t… blame yourself over this…

“What I want to say is that, from now on, I’ll do my best to avoid those stressing situations for you. I’d do anything for you because… I love you.” taking my hand into his, Nobu gently presses his lips between my fingers giving me a gentle kiss. “That’s why….”

Nobu… you shouldn’t...

“I apologize for the intromission but are you Mr and Ms Mochizuki?” a well-dressed woman approached, eyeing both of us with suspicion. “I have the keycards for your room and it should be ready. The number is 507. Do you need help with your luggage?”

MR AND MS MOCHIZUKI?

“That’s fine, we barely have any, ahaha.”

With a carefree laughter, Nobu stood up to receive the two cards while I kept still, unable to process what was happening. My body had turned into stone.

“Oh riiiight. Did my request…?” he whispered to the lady.

“Yes, the king size bed…” still with suspicion, the woman crossed her arms. “I hope you have a wonderful stay.”

A KING SIZE BED?

“Nobu…!”

However, before I could say a word, he entered my secret realm: my own mind.

“Continuing from before… that’s why I’m going to sleep with you from now on so I can shoo shoo all those bad dreams away!”

“We are minors! And how are you even supposed to…? Are you planning to poke my dreams or something? You’re unbelievable!”

“What are you waiting for, my lovely wife?” he said out loud, extending his hand. “Our honeymoon awaits!”

“You are a filthy liar…”

“What else was I supposed to say when they asked our age? That I’m a thousand years or more old? That you’re a minor? This works out perfectly!”

“If Shinji finds out about this…”

“He won’t, he won’t!”

While I heard more babbling in my head, I went towards the same lady, asking for a request with a lower voice so Nobu couldn’t hear it. At the same time, he made his way towards the elevator, calling it to our current floor.

“Can I ask for a sofa-bed?”

The woman nodded, giving me a slight pat on my shoulder.

“So young and married already…” I heard her sigh. “I see your husband is… unique.”

“Aren’t them all?” I replied kinda annoyed, pretending to smile while I took my leave since I could feel that Nobu was about to shout for me to get into the elevator. “Thank you for the trouble.”

“It’s our pleasure to make your stay the most lovely as possible.”

After entering the elevator doors, the woman’s image disappears when they close. Nobu fidgets with the buttons like a small child until he finally decides to press the fifth floor one. Waiting while some jazz music flowed through the speakers, he tapped his foot up and down, impatient.

“Something wrong?” I dared to ask.

“Why did you ask for a sofa-bed?” tears formed in the corner of his eyes.

“Huh…?” I blinked more than once to process what he said. “Wait, you’re actually upset about that? And stop eavesdropping!”

“Why wouldn’t I be upset!? And please, there is NOTHING I can’t hear given that my fera form is...” he grasped my shoulders, being extremely dramatic until I shot him a dead-eye look, making him stop for a second to, finally just resume his supposed argument. “ Anyway, being every day away from you, not being able to be by your side every night…. Now’s my chance to make things right!”

“That isn’t right in the first place!”

DING.

“Well, that was fast,” Nobu said with surprise. “Our room shouldn’t be too far.”

The doors now opened, revealing a beautifully decorated corridor with golden ornaments. As if it were a tradition, after demonstrating the slightest bit of insecurity, Nobu gave me a slight squeeze transmitting me a sense of security and protection. I nodded, trying to show that I was fine.

Another crystal chandelier similar to the one at the lobby, greeted us with its beauty, the brightness of each little bulb illuminating the place. I could feel its light entering my body, encouraging me to survive this perfect nightmare. The whole place furnished in the Rococo style, made it look like a princess’ castle. I swallowed, intimidated by how dazzling it was, and lost by having so many corridors to explore once we got out.

“This place must be expensive…” my tongue slipped. “How did you…?”

“Yup, it’s this way,” Nobu’s hand guided me around the place, while I admired the paintings painted in oil. “Oh, and about that… don’t sweat the small details! Just enjoy the moment!”

He’s still as suspicious as day one.

Aw, c’mon Yui! Haven’t I charmed my way into your heart yet?

“Once you stop invading my thoughts like that!” I fixed my throat. “ And you haven’t charmed your way into anything yet.”

Noticing his attempt to start a conversation, I tried to follow the mechanics ignoring the echo of my heels in the corridor.

“This place even feels like a castle if you ignore the room numbers on the walls,” I added.

“You are a princess, so you deserve the best!” he says immediately, blushing, like me, "I mean, you're like a princess today. The dress makes you look like a princess, I mean ... I better shut up.”

I laughed a little to lighten the tension.

“Even with that compliment, I’m still sleeping on the sofa-bed.”

“I thought Manabu’s smooth lines would work,” Nobu snapped his fingers.

I just smiled, remembering my two childhood friends back in Shirakawa. Shinji knew I left for the funeral with Nobu but, we didn’t tell Manabu the truth. Knowing him, he would somehow mess up and a huge rumour would start in regards to me and my relationship with magic guy here.

“It won’t open.” Nobu crossed his arms, sighing in frustration when the light turned red after swiping the keycard. “I tried with yours as well but…”

“Maybe they haven’t lifted the room yet? As in, make it available for us.” I wondered, placing a finger under my chin.

“I’ll try knocking… maybe someone is inside?”

“Why would…?” resigned, I turned my back. “Do it your way.”

It’s impossible it’s in use. Most likely they haven’t activated our keycards yet in the registry.

Very well then, miss know it all. I’ll fidget with the doorknob instead!

“Is your mouth too heavy for you to talk like a normal person?” I sighed again. “Try not to…”

But as soon as I turned around, Nobu was already casting a spell in order to break it.

“I’m going to go full Shinjirō mode on this door from the get-go to avoid any more problems!”

“BUT WITHOUT MAGIC!” I leapt into his arms, just in time before he actually activated something that would’ve probably destroyed the entire hotel. “Honestly… Full Shinji Mode as if he were an actual game character or…”

“Party Pooper…” he puffed both of his cheeks.

This guy…

“Anyone in here?!” he knocked this time, upset that he couldn’t do things his way.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

“Anyone?! Open up!”

Knock. Knock. Knock.

«Is anyone home!? Yui? Are you there!? Open up!»

A faraway memory made its way into my mind, while the voice of said person mixed with Nobu’s yelling for a nonexistent guest on the other side of the door.

Five Months Ago - January

“IS ANYONE HOME!?”

“SWHINJI!” I choked on a toast while I heard his voice coming from the outside.

“Swhinji?”

However, the new guy that had suddenly entered my life abruptly last night was clearly unconcerned about what was going on while pouring himself a glass of milk and munching a toast at the same time.

“Oh my Lord, the message I sent to him last night! I need to do something quick, I’m pretty sure he’s going to look for the extra key I hide under the entrance mat if I don’t...”

Click.

HURRY UP!!

“Hurry up for what?”

Without a single care in the world, the mysterious boy talked to me with magic.

“Stop invading my head like that, it’s disturbing! Now drop that toast and hide!” I yelled, freaking out.

If you talk with your mouth full, I can choke just like you did a few secs ago. I could DIE.”

Your priorities and common sense are all over the place!

When I stood up, my scenario froze. The last couple of hours of my life playing over and over again in my head as I approached the door. Just like in those TV programmes and movies, I felt as if my life was being broadcasted on a cassette tape, someone pressing the rewind button with each step I took into the door, going back in time, to just a few couples of hours ago.

Yes, just a few couples of hours ago.

To understand my current situation, the reasons as to why I’m having an amicable breakfast with the self-proclaimed magical being called Nobuyuki Mochizuki in despite to last night events… and how to explain all of this to my best friend, Shinjirō Hinaga… I had to look back to what happened earlier during the morning.

I woke up just as always.

When the alarm clock went off, I realized that I had slept a bare minimum of around four in total but, due to the stress of yesterday night, my brain longed for a few more hours of sleep.

Still… it was a pretty crazy dream. Me becoming a magical girl...

The alarm kept sounding, and I stretched my hand slowly under the sheets to turn it off, only to run into the surprise that in the attempt I threw the alarm clock under the bed.

With a grunt, I knew I was definitely going to have to get up.

“No worries. I got it,” said an unfamiliar but, yet familiar, voice. Stretching their hand, they held the clock and put it back into its original place. “There we go. Good morning, Yui!”

When I saw who it was, I opened my mouth and let out a scream.

LAST NIGHT WASN’T A DREAM AT ALL.

The dark blue haired boy with the yellow scarf stood next to my bed, staring at me with his wide, amber eyes. However, while I was yelling, he just crossed his arms, my dad’s pyjama dancing in his arms given it was a tad big for him.

“Will this be a thing every time you see me once you wake up? Hah, my dearest Yui… That’s so cliché,” he held a laugh, pointing at me. “Aren’t guys common in this world too?”

“So it actually happened…” I murmured, trying to grasp my current situation. “You really are here…”

“Well, what are we waiting for? You had an alarm for a reason, right?” Nobuyuki sat next to me on the bed, and I scooted to the opposite side as a reaction. “Are you avoiding me?”

“What else did you expect? You broke into my house during the night, explained lots of things that made zero sense and even threatened to kill me… did you really think I’d be all friendly?”

“I did think that!” he was clearly upset about my reaction to his over-friendliness. “I explained everything… in a very big nutshell… but I thought all that bad first meeting experience had been forgotten and we’d be all buddy-buddy now given we’re partners!”

“Are you kidding?” I stood up, crossing both of my arms. “There’s still so much I don’t understand and you’re pretending I followed your pace during your explanation?”

“Why of course!” he nodded.

“You’re unbelievable…” I sighed, holding my forehead.

He’s such a "my pace" type of boy… I can’t follow his rhythm at all.

“Thanks!”

“That wasn’t a compliment! And don’t enter my mind like that, it’s creepy!” hugging myself, feeling completely exposed, I reprimanded him.

“Everyone says that at the start. You’ll get used to it!” he shook his hand, unconcerned.

Suddenly, my alarm clock went on again.

“...This is the second time it rings. Are you sure you don’t have something important to do?” Nobuyuki asked.

“I have to get ready!” shocked, I grabbed my uniform from the hanger off the wall and ran outside to the hall.

“I guess it must be important,” I heard him say with a soft giggle while I locked myself in the bathroom on the opposite side. “I’ll be downstairs!”

Smiling to myself behind the door, the premonition I had during yesterday’s morning became true.

Something magical was about to start.

Something new.

“And I hope it’s for the best…” my voice got lost with the sound of the recently opened shower.

Quite a few minutes later, I was ready. I did everything as quickly as possible worried for Mr Magic Guy downstairs. I needed to have much more information than the one he told me last night, especially if I was going to live my daily life with a crystal rose stuck in my chest.

Once I made it down, there he was.

Apparently, Nobuyuki was already sitting in front of the chair I always used, smiling. A magnificent breakfast was placed on the table, wondering where it came from and if he had made it.

“How did you…?” words got stuck in my mouth.

“Didn’t I tell you last night? Don’t mind the small details! Also, I worry about your health! All I saw in the cabinets were cups of instant noodles and stuff like that, of course, it makes sense now why you’re underweight!” closing his eyes during his lecture, he opened them again to start eating.

He quietly ate the freshly made rice, the steam covering his face, while I sat down.

A grain was stuck under his left eye by some strange coincidence of fate, and I dared not tell him, believing that it would lead to more nonsensical topics instead of what really interested me: the magical girl talk.

I looked at my miso soup and took a sip. I didn’t wait long enough; thus, I burned my tongue and endured the pain.

Silence reigned on the table, only listening to the chopsticks from time to time with the plates, and the sound of our mouths savouring the food. I took a bite of some fish and I came across the surprise that there was a bone that I almost swallowed. I secretly dumped it in a napkin.

“So, um… Nobuyuki…” I knew it was time to start the inevitable.

“Just call me Nobu. That’s too long and we’re partners!” he said, munching on a toast.

“Yeah… right… Nobu… About that… partner thing…” my eyes went in all directions, not knowing where to look. “Does that mean you transform into some cute plush animal or something so people don’t discover your identity?”

“Please, there’s no need for something like that. Is that common in this world? To have some magical small looking plush toy talking to you and doing magical things?”

That’s what TV taught me.

“I’m glad our programmes back in my land aren’t as silly as yours,” he giggled.

“Stop with the telepathy or reading my mind or whatever that is, it really is disturbing!”

“It isn’t telepathy! I really do need to teach you the ABC’s of being a Veneficae…” he sighed, standing up and going straight to the fridge.

“What are you looking for?” I dared to ask, putting some jelly on a toast given I had to wait for my soup to cool down.

“Something to drink. I’ll have to talk a lot after all. It’ll be a veeeery long lesson,” he sighed, taking out a bottle of milk. “Ah yes, this will do. After all, I can’t stand hot food.”

“Can’t it be another in a nutshell lesson or explanation given I need to go to school in about…” I looked into the kitchen’s clock, just to end up feeling my world turning upside down. “FIVE MINUTES!”

“I knew that alarm was important. So there are school’s in here as well… It seems education is necessary in any World’s society…” Nobu said to himself, nodding. “It’ll have to be an after-school lesson then! Ah, but I need to go with you to class to ensure you’ll be okay!”

“...Huh?” I dropped the toast onto the plate, just to immediately grab it again. “You need to what?”

“Go to class with you!”

“But you just told me that you don’t transform into a plushie! How are you supposed to…?”

“Haven’t you ever heard the words transfer student ?” he winked at me.

“And you were saying I was the one being cliché!” I sighed in desperation. “That’s a terrible idea. You stay here, don’t burn my house down and then we’ll have a better talk of all of this, okay?”

“Have it your way,” he whistled.

And then, it happened.

My current state of affairs happened.

“IS ANYONE HOME!?”

A voice I knew perfectly well was coming from the outside. So, so well, it terrified me.

“SWHINJI!” I choked on the same toast when I heard it.

“Swhinji?”

However, the new guy that had suddenly entered my life abruptly last night was clearly unconcerned about what was going on while still pouring himself a glass of milk and munching his food.

“Oh my Lord, the message I sent to him last night! I need to do something quick, I’m pretty sure he’s going to look for the extra key I hide under the entrance mat if I don’t...”

Click.

HURRY UP!!

“Hurry up for what?”

Without a single care in the world, the mysterious boy talked to me with magic.

“Stop invading my head like that, it’s disturbing! Now drop that toast and hide!” I yelled, freaking out.

If you talk with your mouth full, I can choke just like you did a few secs ago. I could DIE.”

Your priorities and common sense are all over the place!

And now here I am, standing in the middle of the corridor with my school uniform on, looking at a very anxious Shinji who had just opened the door and changed his shoes for slippers. His reddened face gave me the slight hint he had been screaming for a long period of time while knocking on my door. 

Heavily breathing, he reached towards my shoulders and held them tight. I noticed he didn’t have his beanie hat on, his rebellious hair being all over the place.

That means that as soon as he saw my message in the morning he… rushed over here.

Looking even closer, I realized he was even with half of his school uniform on, the other part being his pyjamas.

“Would you… like something to drink?” was the only question that came out of my mouth after seeing his fatigue.

He quickly nodded, just to notice a few seconds later that that wasn’t the main issue on hand.

Having him so near made my heart skip thousands of beats. His tanned skin, bright nutmeg coloured eyes that combined perfectly with that unique tangled dusty brown hair. A small beauty mark he always had concealed right next to his left ear was visible for a second, making my heart pound even louder. Having his breath so close to me numbed my senses.

“That’s not it!” he exploded, giving a slight punch to my head. Instinctively, I reached both of my hands towards the injured zone while my dark orange eyes began to form some tears from the pain. “What happened last night? Are you okay? That message was ominous as hell!”

“I’m sorry… I…” not knowing what to do, my mind clouded, until I noticed that the pants that he was wearing were from the latest superheroes programme I watch on TV every night. Subconsciously, I started to laugh. “I thought you didn’t like it!”

“Huh?” he lowered his view, trying to locate what I found so hilarious until it hit him. “Bloody hell, I forgot to…”

“Ehehe…” my timid laugh lifted the general atmosphere. “I’m sorry about last night. I heard a strange loud noise during a nightmare and I guess I wrote to you without realizing it.”

“Hah, you frigging idiot…” slowly, he sketched a tiny smile that soothed me and patted my hair with utter delicacy. “Still, I tried calling you during the morning… I got sickly worried that something might have happened.”

“Yeah… about that…” I looked sideways. I’ve never liked being sly about topics but I had no other choice this time around. “My mobile died after I wrote the message and I charged it half-asleep. I haven’t turned it on yet… and… surprise! I forgot to pay December’s phone bill and my home network line is also resting in peace.”

“That’s another mystery solved… and for anything that’s sacred to you, please make some memo pads to know when you have to pay for basic necessities!” Shinji sighed. Suddenly, the food’s aroma from the kitchen made its way towards us, he sniffing it like a dog. “What is....”

“NOTHING!” I yelled, not knowing what to do. Mr Magic Guy could still be in the kitchen and the least I wanted to happen was a bigger misunderstanding. “IT’S NOTHING!”

“But it smells like… food? Yui… did you make breakfast for once?” my best friend blinked in astonishment.

“You… could say so…” I played with my hands, unable to meet his face again. “I’m trying to eat healthier.”

“Not buying it,” pushing me aside, Shinji entered deeper into my home without a single thought. “That’s rubbish coming from you.”

“Hey!” I pouted. “That’s pretty blunt!”

“It was?” he turned around, distracted for a moment. “Uh, sorry. You know I’m not good at expressing myself.”

“Yeah, but it still hurt a bit. I’m not saying rubbish, I did cook!”

“Actually, I’m the one who did all the cooking! Oh right, ignoring your lover’s quarrel with your boyfriend over there, he can enter the living room now. I’m not in there anymore.”

Nobuyuki’s words went straight into my brain, causing my actions to manifest before my actual reaction.

“He’s not my boyfriend!” I whispered in an angry tone, just to notice I had actually said it out loud rather than to use the not-Telepathic communication I recently learned last night. Shinji stared at me, believing I had said something. “As I was saying I did cook!”

“I hope the world doesn’t end today because of that,” he blinked with hidden amusement in his eyes and made his way to the living room, just to discover one half-eaten plate of food on the table, and Nobuyuki’s full course meal on the other side. “Yui…”

“That’s for my lunchbox!” I rushed towards the now cold food, doing my best to make an improvised lie. “I… made too much! Since I never cook and all that I… exaggerated a bit…”

I wonder where Nobuyuki is… But, leaving all of his stuff here! This is making things more complicated!

“Well… I’m glad nothing bad happened. Seeing that everything is… normal, I should get going. Less than five minutes for school to start and I already messed up with my uniform for rushing here.”

“I appreciate your concern, though,” I smiled, guiding him back to the entrance of my house. “Don’t forget to change your slippers.”

“I’m not that dumb!” he mumbled while doing what I said. “You should hurry up too. If you want I can wait for you after I change and we can go together. We can catch the nearest bus and make it on time.”

Going to school together like the old times! Although we still practically do so when he and Manabu wait for me at the intersection but… I mean! Going directly from our houses to school! We haven’t done this since Primary School!

“I’m happy for you, my beloved!” Nobuyuki invaded my mind for the second time.

“Stop it!!”

Screaming inside my mind might have had an effect in the real world since Shinji was staring strangely at me.

“Or maybe not,” he sighed. “I’ll let you finish your things and I’ll tell Ms Tanaka you will most likely be late due to some personal matters. Also, for further reference, you could’ve just left a voice message on the recorder. I know your old-fashioned flip-phone doesn’t have fancy apps but, just a small reminder that options exist. ”

I FORGOT ABOUT THAT. I could’ve just called him and left a message… But at the moment I thought Nobuyuki was someone dangerous and I just kicked him in the stomach to type a text message… AH, WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS YUI.

With that said, he closed the door after leaving the extra key on it’s hiding spot and made his way, me still in utter confusion about what just happened. As if nothing had transpired, Nobuyuki appeared by my side and started laughing.

“Well, with that face I would take that as no!” he twirled, just to go back to the kitchen. “You need to be more discreet when we do these things… Oh, and to lower suspicions since your friend seems to pick up any anomaly that surrounds your daily life, I’ll gladly use my share of the breakfast as your lunch. So now go and finish preparing yourself for school that a lunchbox made fully out of love awaits you!”

Unable to process what just happened, and clouding Nobuyuki’s words in my head, I took out a small pocket mirror to look at my face. What greeted me was true horror.

A crooked smile that reflected anger and clearly a stop bothering me, leave me alone aura.

I lowered to the floor, making myself a small ball of self-pity.

“I ruined my chance to walk together!!!”

※ ※ ※

“I can’t believe you actually made it on time for homeroom and aren’t missing the first period!”

I could see Manabu yawning in the distance, playing as usual with a pencil on his nose, trying to establish a slight balance with it. His voice reached my ears, even though we were three desks away.

“Me too, honestly…” I replied with a sigh just for myself.

What amazed me the most, though, was how he was able to keep the pen in his place while whispering to me from the other side of the classroom.

As expected from Manabu.

That made me notice that the teacher, who was explaining a complex problem of physics, could have managed to listen to his comment perfectly.

I blinked for a moment, then turned my eyes towards the far away window.

The reflection of the teacher in it showed that my hypothesis was true, but chose to ignore my friend since it was a routine of his to fool around, but unusually managed to get the highest grades in our year.

I got distracted by the passing of the birds that flew over the school, wishing to reach out and fly away with them. I don’t know from what moment I became some sort of frustrated dreamer girl.

Since that fateful day, everything changed. My life did a huge upside downturn when my parent’s just… No, it’s not worth remembering it at this time... And now… with all these strange things happening around me, especially Nobuyuki appearing out of nowhere saying I’m like a magical girl… This is too much for my poor heart.

It was time to change my scenery, now observing the head, or in fact, beanie hat, of the person that I consider my best friend in the whole world.

Observing his hidden profile in the physics book, ignoring the professor, was enough to make me smile a little.

I had never thought to see Shinji not pay attention in a class. Everyone thought of him as a delinquent, and he wanted that image to go away by being diligent, even if his scary look and sarcastic comments didn’t help most of the time.

He seemed to be writing something down fervently in a small notebook.

I closed my eyes, just to open them again in a couple of seconds and look under my blouse, quietly observing the crystal rose glimmering in my chest.

What am I going to do with this? Nobuyuki told me that it’s some sort of relic and that’s it’s stuck to me but… everything he said was so rushed up I could barely understand him. Especially after threatening me with ending my life...

I breathed a long sigh at no one in particular, finally deciding to look at the worksheet I should be resolving. In that same moment, I realized that I wasn’t in a better position than Manabu and Shinji, also rambling on in my own thoughts. Dozens of ideas exploded in my head, and I wanted an answer for all of them.

My eyelids closed again for a few seconds so that at the end a helping hand would pull me out of the trance.

“Just a couple of minutes and the class will be over, Miss Samidare. I don’t want to have to lend you my notes like I do for those two friends of yours once in a while, even if I’m from a different class.”

Pointing at them with just a little shake of the face, I could understand that the two boys sitting in front of me, at different ends of the classroom, had just fallen asleep while the teacher proceeded with his lesson.

I tilted my face and that’s when I met Koharu's eyes.

Short ash hair that was wildly combed. A small bed hair making slight “boings” while he moved his lips while speaking. Bangs that reached almost to his nose and a small ponytail was formed on his neck were something that fitted him perfectly well. His skin, almost as white as a porcelain doll; teal eyes that made him seem like a girl and stand out more.

I was speechless.

“Ah yes, I’m here at Ms Tanaka’s request and from the Student Council as well. It seems they want some of us to monitor some classes and see if the feedback students give about their teachers are true. Some students have sent anonymous letters about Mr Tamura not being… well, I’ll leave that to your imagination!”

“So… you’re basically spying?” I arched an eyebrow in suspicion.

A smile formed on his lips, to finally continue with his notes taking our conversation to an end.

Koharu is so diligent… no wonder he’s in the Student Council. He can even multitask with his studies and these requests.

I nodded to myself, diminishing those thoughts and to let Koharu know I understood his point, and I do my best to start doing something productive. To no one's surprise, I couldn’t understand a single thing from the worksheet and I didn’t pay attention to Mr Tamura’s indications at the very beginning.

Frustration built deep within me.

I’m… mediocre… Useless. I can’t get good grades, I’m not even in a club… But I have good friends… Good friends, I don’t deserve… Happiness took everything precious from me. I’m afraid… to lose everyone I care about again.

I saw my two closest friends, each doing their own thing. I found it entertaining to watch them both in their world of dreams.

Manabu snored without considering his surroundings.

Shinji rested on his arms, probably exhausted by the stress I caused to him this morning, forgetting to close the notebook he was using a while ago.

That was a world in which I wished to be at this precise moment as if there were no tomorrow. If only I could really close my mind for a moment, I would be accompanying them but, the sudden icy breeze that made me shiver, caused me to realize that Koharu was watching me with a cold look as if trying to send me a warning.

Ah, Koharu can be scary sometimes when it comes to classes! He really doesn’t want to end up sharing his notes with three people.

I did my best to write something but it was to no avail.

Now that I think about it, Nobuyuki told me that I was… a… Somnia? He said something about dreams. Could that be my power? Do I have any powers? Maybe… Maybe I could try something out? I’m pretty sure Manabu and Shinji wouldn’t mind if I intrude their dreams… But, how do I do it? What if I make the school explode or something since I have no clue how this magic thingy works… C’mon Yui, stop overthinking!

That’s why I decided to procrastinate and attempted to draw an outfit. If I’m a magical girl, then I need to have a cute dress, right?

As I raised my pencil to try my hand at some fashion designing, the bell indicating the end of classes rang.

The noise of the notebooks and papers hitting the desks, while the chairs were dragged instead of raised against the floor, formed the soundtrack called: end of period, time to fool around while the next teacher arrives.

I let myself collapse as all the tension in my shoulders vanished, my orange eyes looking at both heads that stood before me.

Manabu, with no concern for the rest of the world, yawned once more as he stretched his arms. Mr Tamura just coughed, pretending to fix his throat, while saying goodbye to us until next week, making us take note of today’s homework. However, before leaving, he stopped near the desk of two girls telling them something, to which they nodded. Afterwards, he left.

On the other hand, Shinji was still asleep on his arms, even the physics book that covered his head so that the teacher would not see him sleeping, had just fallen on his head.

I sighed.

“Well, I should go back to my class now,” Koharu stood up, fixing the papers he was carrying.

“This is taking a toll on you,” I commented after seeing some eyebags on his face.

“It is…” he started to walk, just to turn around before leaving from the other side of the classroom, on the opposite door. “During recess, I’ll share my notes with all three of you!”

“Thank you!” I waved goodbye after he closed the door. “Even if he wants us to pay attention, in the end he ends up doing the opposite. Such an odd guy… Anyways, I think it’s time to wake Shinji up.”

With delicacy, I approached towards his desk and I removed the book from his beanie hat, to observe how he slept peacefully. His sighs were soft, causing me to imagine that every time one escaped, small clouds formed around him being guided to the sky.

He frowned a bit, wrinkling his nose. Probably something bothered him.

I chose to tap him lightly on the head with the worksheet I held in my hand. Slowly he opened his nutmeg coloured eyes, which shone from the sudden entrance of light.

“Hmm?" Shinji mumbled, finally stretching his back on the seat. Calmly, he begins to rub his eyes. “Did the class...?”

"Yup, it ended a while ago" I answered, taking the physics book away.

“Oh, crap…” ashamed of his actions, he evaded my gaze. “Was Mr Student Council Vice President here?”

“He was, and it was a bit scary to have him looking at my back with a menacing look just so he wouldn’t end up sharing his notes with us… which he’ll do in the end anyway.” I let out a small laugh. “Did you sleep well last night or…?”

"Well, if you wake up abruptly with a text message full of typos in the subject section with no context at all, who would?" He puffed his cheeks with some annoyance. “Seriously, if it was a bad dream you could’ve had told me as soon as you woke up and cleared the misunderstanding.”

“I… kinda forgot.”

Because I woke up and Nobuyuki was once again next to me!

"Forget it, it doesn’t matter anymore. At least I know you’re okay."

“Guys!!! Guys!!!” we hear Manabu happily approaching to us, his blond hair waving with the small winter breeze. “You wouldn’t guess who I saw exit the classroom just now!”

“Koharu!”

“Mr Student Council Vice President.”

“... Are you two psychic?” he said in dismay.

“He was sitting right behind me,” I told Manabu. “He said he had to come to check this class out because there have been some complaints about Mr Tamura.”

“And since he works for the Council, he gets a free pass to skip class and do some spying…” Manabu pondered, placing a finger under his chin. “Well, that’s not why I was here anyway! That’s not important at all… What matters the most is, will Koharun lend us his notes?!”

“He said he would during recess…” I felt exhausted.

“Yippie!!!” Manabu gave some small twirls, basking in delight. “Even if he’s on a different class we should be covering the same topics!”

After some more random chit-chat and such, the day went by absurdly fast. I didn’t even notice or think about what happened last night. During recess, we even shared our notes and hung around Koharu who used to be our classmate last year and sometimes came to visit us while doing Student Council work.

In the end, it was a pretty ordinary day ignoring the fact that when I had to go back home, I’d have to return to a magical reality I’m still denying to believe despite my best efforts to make it meld with my reality.

Although, when I exited the school gate, something out of the ordinary was waiting for me.

Once we all received our paper for the job experience project during the afternoon’s homeroom, Shinji and Manabu took their own ways having some stuff to do at home. That’s why I was alone when it happened.

A black german shepherd was looking at me endearingly, waving their tail.

I looked around, believing that maybe one of the students was their owner. However, it was to no avail. No one seemed to recognize them, and no name tag was in sight. Feeling sorry for the little big guy, I approached to pat his head, just to find myself being tumbled to the ground while the unknown dog licked my face happily.

“S-Stop it, it tickles!” giving my best attempt to stand up, I calmed the friendly dog down and crouched to be at their eye level. “Are you lost? Is your owner around here?”

As if they would understand me…

But, surprisingly, the dog barked and did some small leaps in the air. I tilted my head in confusion.

“So… is that a yes or a no…?”

“Oh, Yui!”

A familiar voice. A voice I had only heard for one day but, for some reason, it brought up a huge sense of nostalgia forming a knot in my throat. I turned around just to see Yuiko Tsukiame, the “perfect” version of me.

Or at least, what I aspire to be. I barely know her but… why do I feel this way?

“Hey, um, Miss Tsukiame…” I replied dumbfounded, staring at her clothes. “Is that our school uniform?”

She was indeed wearing the light blue sweater and grey skirt, which made me realize my question was dumb.

Why can’t I hold conversations like a normal human being?

“You can just call me Yuiko!” she answered, bowing down her head to greet me politely. I blushed due to how uncomfortable it was, so I did it as well. Afterwards, she giggled and answered my obvious question. “It is indeed. I was asked to come today to check if the measurements were correct. Does it look good on me?”

“It looks wonderful,” I blurted. “I mean, yeah it suits you.”

“I appreciate the compliment,” she smiled back at me, to then take notice of the dog that was still wagging its tail obediently by my side. “Is that your pet?”

“Oh, not at all!” I waved both of my hands nervously. “I found them here as if they were waiting for someone but it looks like no one is their owner. The dog is super friendly too even if they look a bit scary for their size!”

“German shepherds can sometimes be feared for their colour and size. Nonetheless, they are just as loyal, alert, active and intelligent like any other dog. They can also be quite a bit aloof. However, with the proper care and love, they end up being the best companion in the whole world due to their protective instinct being strong. They will defend you no matter what, whatever the cost.”

“You seem very knowledgeable…” I looked at Yuiko to then stare at the nameless dog’s eyes.

“I have a black german shepherd, that’s why!” she replied with joy, clasping both of her hands. “His name is Kuro. A bit cliché of a name but, I was a mere child when I met him.”

“That’s isn’t cliché at all!” I tried to assure her. “When I went to a festival and caught a goldfish, I named it Kingyo because I couldn’t end up thinking of something clever and just called the goldfish, goldfish.”

I saw how she held her laughter, just to end up breaking in giggles instead. The homeless dog came near to me and licked my hand, making me smile and laugh too.

It seems this day wasn’t so bad at all.

※ ※ ※

“Well, we arrived…” I say to the dog when I got home, seeing they had followed me all the way. “I can’t keep you but, I hope you manage to find your owner soon!”

Whining, but in a fret, the dog ran away.

Sigh, I feel bad for them but I can’t afford to look after a pet if I can’t even look out for myself.

Slowly opening the entrance door, I take my shoes off and change into slippers. Throwing my school bag onto the sofa, I don’t even bother to turn on the lights after I close the door.

My everyday mini ritual was about to begin.

Me, curling up against the door and crying around the huge mess my personal life is.

Wait a second… Where is Nobuyuki to all of this?

With a bit of willpower, I turned on the light switch to have the surprise of my life: my house was clean.

Clean without a single speck of dust.

No ramen cups lying around.

No garbage bags filled with rubbish forming a small Bermuda triangle in the corner of the living room anymore.

Even the clothes that were spread on the floor were nowhere to be found.

That concerns me a little, but… I can overlook it after all of this!

“This is… amazing…” I whispered, placing both hands in my chest. “I… didn’t remember my living room being so spacious…”

Making my way around the breakfast table, sofas and lamps, I reached a cabinet that used to be filled with dust to no avail. On top of it, two picture frames were placed backwards. The silver frames were shining brightly, meaning he had cleaned them as well.

I’m… so sorry…

I crouched, small tears forming in my eyes.

I couldn’t even manage to clean the only pictures I have of my parents.

But a complete stranger was capable of doing so.

I….

“Hey-o! I’m back from doing some grocery shopping! … Yui? You here? The lights are on. Well, you might be taking a shower. For Celestia’s sake, everything in the fridge was either rotten or just…. Ew, I’d better not remember the battle I had against all of that. Now I can cook some proper meals for you, and you’re going to be all healthy while doing your Veneficae job, or so to say! Ah yes, I hope you ate the lunch I made from the breakfast I didn’t eat. Ah, my beloved Yui…”

He abruptly stopped talking to himself, dropping the paper bags from a store and rushing right next to me when I raised my head, a single tear falling from my eyes.

“Are you okay?! Did something bad happened at school!? Were you ambushed!? Attacked!? Bullied!?”

“Thank you.”

“Huh…?” he blinked, not understanding what was going on.

“Thank you… so much…” I sobbed my eyes, doing my best not to cry even if some tears had already escaped.

“Aw, you’re happy I cleaned everything for you!”

“Y-You c-could say that…” I lied, trying to breathe for a bit while I sat down on the sofa. “I… want to change, Nobuyuki. I want to stop being… this mess…”

“You are not a mess, young lady!” he scolded me. “And wanting change is perfectly normal, all species undergo a metamorphosis stage!”

“I suppose… but I’m not a bug to…”

He pressed his index finger towards my lips, shutting me down completely.

“Even the weakest and ugliest creature can strive to become a strong and beautiful butterfly.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better…? You’re a strange guy…”

“That all depends on how you take it, my dear Yui. You can become the most gorgeous of butterflies if you wish for it. You can become anyone you wish to be in this world. That’s why  you have to stand up, and keep on walking.”

I nodded, incapable of expressing my true feelings.

“And without further ado, it seems we won’t be needing this lesson anymore since you could communicate with me by your own will!” he laughed, taking his finger off me.

“You’re right,” I tried to go with the flow, doing my best to feel better.

“Now, let me cook you up a very nice supper. I bought ingredients to make something I saw on a TV cooking show after you left… hm, how was it called… sukiyaki!”

“You bought meat!?” I ran to the bags, astounded by all the things he had bought. “Oh my Lord is this, wagyū meat? AND ALL OF THEM ARE FROM THE SANDAI WAGYŪ?!”

“I couldn’t make up my mind so I ended up buying Kobe, Matsusaka and Yonezawa beef. They seemed delicious. As they say, when something is expensive it must be good!”

“Where did you get the money to…? And that logic is flawed!”

“As I told you, don’t sweat the small details, my beloved!”

I don’t consider myself a good cook, but I’m neither a disaster. Even if I tried to help, Nobuyuki just begged for me to sit down and wait patiently. As long as something decent came out, that was enough for me. I was deeply worried, however, that he coming from another world would have no idea how the appliances worked but somehow he managed to pull through.

Well, he did cook breakfast in the morning so why am I worrying about it now.

Trying to ignore those sounds coming from the kitchen, I left the job experience project paper on the table and opened my textbooks to start my homework. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that tough at all. Even if I don’t like to admit it, mathematical subjects are fun and easy for me. I had no idea why the physics class seemed so confusing during the morning. What was on the worksheet was fairly easy once I checked Koharu’s notes.

Out of mere curiosity, I looked sideways towards the dark blue haired boy.

He grouped the ingredients he bought and started pulling out a large pot. Combining a cup of sake (that I don’t know how he bought having the appearance of an underaged kid), a cup of mirin, a quarter cup of sugar and a cup of soy sauce inside the pot, it started to boil, and he stirred it occasionally until it boiled, carefully. Once that happened, he removed it from the fire.

Afterwards, he took out the udon and left it in a bowl. Taking a small sharp knife, he sliced the cabbage. Then followed the shungiku and the negi. He cleaned the shitake mushrooms and decorated them like small roses, and I looked at the one stuck on my chest.

I suppose that after we eat we’ll start the “ABC’s” of being a Veneficae.

He took the tofu out of the fridge and cut it into long, small pieces; the carrots in rounds. He took out a flower-shaped mould and they took on that charismatic form. Nobuyuki smiled. He rinsed the noodles and placed all the dry ingredients in a large saucer to take to the centre of the table in the room I was in. The yellow scarfed boy returned to the kitchen for a portable burner and a clay pot. He lit it and placed the meat and veggies on the table as well.

“Here you go!” Nobuyuki said, sitting down in front of me.

When the boy poured some of the oil in the pan, I took notice of what was happening.

"If you don't hurry, I’m going to eat all the meat," he said, bringing his face closer. “Oh, but I saw on TV that if you dip the cooked meat in egg white and then eat it, it tastes better! I wonder if it’s true…”

The minutes passed and the scene became more and more warm, the warmth of a cosy home wrapping us in a delicate veil of illusions and dreams.

Just like a family portrait without an actual family.

I grabbed a piece of meat after it cooked, savouring its taste.

“It’s delicious…” I whispered, amazed. “You’re an amazing cook, Nobuyuki.”

“Made especially for you!” Nobuyuki winked. “All I did was to follow the instructions and please, call me Nobu!”

“Alright…” I sighed, doing my best to get used to all this lukewarm insanity.

“So…” the blue haired boy said while he munched some carrots, “I was thinking about the lessons and…”

“Yeah, when do we start?”

“Wait, are you…?” Nobuyuki blinked, genuinely surprised.

“I’ve decided to assume my responsibilities… even if this isn’t mine in the first place and it was all fruit of a mistake of me picking up a strange object.” I objected. “But… yeah, in the end, I’m responsible for my own acts.”

“Then there’s no time to lose!” he stood up, almost tumbling the portable stove with all the meat on top of my job experience project paper. “Oopsie-daisy.”

“Be careful! This paper is important, it needs to be all clean and properly signed for tomorrow…”

But the paper wasn’t in my hands anymore.

“This is it! This is where we are going!” he pointed to the ceiling excitedly, his bed head wagging like a dog’s tail. “This is perfect! What does it say here… job experience project, huh? Well, you'll experience your job of being a Veneficae in the field, this is all going according to plan!”

“That’s not even a plan!” I panicked. “You can’t… decide things like this… that’s just... Selfish! And I’m going there to do some actual normal work!”

“Why is it selfish, though? I’m doing this for you!” he tilted his head to the right, clearly unable to understand my point.

“I worry about your lack of delicacy….”

“Anyways, it’s all settled! In two weeks we’re going to this place and train!” he laughed as if it were a secured victory. “Our target has been acquired!”

“That’s not even a real target!”

I’m in deep, deep trouble.

※ ※ ※

Present Time - June 27th

※ ※ ※

“Ah yes, the door’s finally open!” Nobu said excitedly in the hallway.

I had apparently lost myself, remembering the past.

However, when we opened the door, there was an unexpected guest.

A shadowy person basked in the moonlight.

I took a step back in fear but, to my surprise and what I considered a life-threatening act, Nobu stepped forward, scratching his head.

“Huh, so it makes sense the room was locked. How come you didn’t tell me you were here? I almost blasted it away if Yui hadn’t stopped me, ehehe.”

Does Nobu know this… person?

“Hey, why aren’t you saying anything? Are you still mad at me for doing what I did? You know, we could settle this like normal people if we sit down and…”

Nobu couldn’t finish talking.

Suddenly, coloured sparks flew towards him, heavily impacting his body mid-air and plunging him across the hallway. Crashing against the concrete wall, my partner was caught off guard, leaving me exposed.

What am I supposed to do…?

“YUI, TRANSFORM!”

Nobu’s desperate scream shook my very core, just to lead us to a devastating confession I was avoiding to reveal.

“I… can’t.”

The last thing I heard was windows crashing, Nobu’s pleas, and my own consciousness fading away while everything was enveloped in white.

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