White Wings Café
When I opened my eyes once more, I found myself within a room on the verge of collapse—a world of broken glass laid before me. Foreign yet ever so familiar.
Within the giant shards floating above, various parts of a doll's body were trapped inside. Their plastic and fake limbs twitched as they banged against their enclosure. The joints, noticeable and sticking out like a sore thumb, were a vibrant red while the rest of the limb was a normal skin colour.
Sitting up slowly, there were three things that I noticed immediately.
One. The room was endless. It seemed that no matter how long one walked, you would never reach a wall let alone an exit.
Two. My hair had gotten longer, now reaching below my lower back. Some of it even covered my left eye. Disgusting. Gross. The feeling of it being at this length again made me sick to my stomach. I just needed to tough it out. It didn't help that I was also the size of a kid again either.
And finally three. A young blonde haired kid with a braid and thick square glasses stood not too far away, hands folded and eyes focused on me.
"Good morning to you, human," she said dryly. "Quite the interesting study session if I do say so myself. Honestly, how you people even function is beyond me. Are you unable to pick up even the most basic of clues? Absurd."
Insults out the gate. This was going to be fun.
"If there's another world, I don't want to go to it." I shook my head. "Not interested in the whole "hero" thing, sorry."
She tilted her head. "I beg your pardon?"
"Not as a human, a slime, or a washing machine. All of that is so painfully boring, I don't wanna."
"Even if I did die, I'd prefer to just go to Heaven or Hell or something."
"Honestly, aren't you guys a bit oversaturated with this sort of thing? I'm sure another person with black hair should be coming here any s—"
"Human!" The girl shouted. Regaining her composure, she cleared her throat. "You haven't died just yet. Goodness."
She pinched her nose together. "For Empathy's sake, be even a tiny bit more surprised. You're blissfully asleep at this very moment. What I've done is brought you inside your mind."
I looked around. An eye twitched and stared right back at me. Alright, no more of that.
I covered one side of my face and said, "Why's it so...weird? I mean, I think about a lot of things but freaky stuff like this," I made a point by gesturing around, "is just nightmare fuel."
"Simply put, you're an apparition. Or rather—humans are the perfect vessels that can hold apparitions."
I took a step back and looked at my hands. Does that mean I'm a monster?
"No. No it does not," she said, yawning before gesturing around. "We are currently inside your head, did you forget? Thoughts like those echo much easier than the usual snide comment, much to my disappointment of course."
"Why should I even believe you? I don't want to trouble Yuu, especially since we just started our break, but if I'm In danger I won't hesitate—"
She pointed to a grey cross hair clip and then to the heart-shaped tuft of hair beside it.
"Tsubasa Ako, Yuu's little sister. One year younger. It's a pleasure. I bear no ill will. Be not afraid."
"Shiro." I scratched at my face as my voice lowered in embarrassment. "Pleasures all mine. Sorry."
She said the phrase...
She rolled her eyes and sat down, crossing her legs. I kneeled. Pulling out a thermos and two cups, she poured us some tea.
"Have some. It'll calm the nerves. The human mind—," Ako winced and looked down at her cup. "The mind is fragile. More so than anything that resides here. Everyone has insecurities. It's just that when they fester within humans and go unchecked for a long period of time, the way they look at reality is warped. Taking advantage of this fragile state of mind and distorting it outward, an apparition is born."
I dug my nails into my legs and took a deep breath. She took a sip, keeping full eye contact. "For you, human, this room is your warp. Not everyone is as lucky as you are unfortunately. In the worst of cases, at least a few casualties are reported."
"If Yuu and Aya are in danger, I'd prefer not to wake up."
"Hey now, stop that." She huffed. "As you are now? Don't be ridiculous, you pose no threat whatsoever. This place hasn't leaked out into the real world after all."
A place that exists only for me. A not so safe haven.
"Guardian angels come down and monitor potential apparitions, making sure that nothing goes awry. I simply must restate this." Ako inched closer, knocking both cups over and getting in my face. She stared at me with wide eyes. I couldn't look back at her. "You are one of the lucky ones. It's ridiculous. How did you do it? Tsubasa Yuu, top graduate of Heartview Junior Academy? Her? Out of anyone else? I must know."
"Yuu was assigned to me. That's what she's said. You're an angel too, aren't you?"
"Goodness. She hasn't told you?" She sat back down on the cold ground and put a hand to her head. "The top ten students of that school get to choose their assignment. That's why I can't help but wonder: what makes you her special 'Chosen Human', huh?"
I raised my head as one of the limbs struck a shard, cracking it down the middle. "That's not something you should be calling someone,” I said coldly.
"What's so wrong about being chosen? In this instance, I'd say that it worked out in your favour. Yuu's taken quite a liking to you." She drawled. "Unless...You have a problem with her?"
"No." I shook my head. "I'm grateful for everything she's done so far. I don't know why I was chosen by her but if I'm being honest, it's none of my business. If she's happy, then I am.” I looked downwards. “Being chosen—or, someone choosing something for you is not always a good thing though. It doesn't guarantee greatness either."
"You know not what you speak of, human. Surely you understand there's a difference between the two."
There was a faint crackling to the side. The ground contorted, squashed and stretched, as some of the shards started to move out the way, showing only a monochrome white beneath. Ako's ears perked up before she smirked.
She cleared her throat. "However...I can safely say that you are wrong in that regard too. Sometimes others just know what is best for you."
"That's stupid." I said this calmly. This time I even managed to be firm at the same time. Lucky me. "So, so, stupid. A future that someone else chooses for you isn't a future you can call yours."
"Sure you can. That is if you can handle it—"
"Does one person holding the weight of the world on their shoulders— everyone's wishes, everyone's responsibilities— sound like a good idea to you or something? In the end that causes nothing but problems!"
Ako paused, her smile fading as she squinted and put her knees to her chest. She took one last look at me before finally dropping eye contact all together. Opening her mouth to say something, Ako was interrupted by the crackling from earlier, now louder than ever. She clicked her tongue and pushed her glasses up.
"For some beings, whether or not it was chosen for them, this is a part of life. Eternity or otherwise. Whether they choose to shoulder anything is only their business," she said before repeating herself in a lower tone, "Y-yeah. Their business."
"It wasn't my fault."
"It wasn't my fault," I slammed my hands against the ground and glared at the kid in front of me, "the goddamn bakery failed! I had nothing to do with it. I didn't ask to become an heir— to have expectations set so ridiculously high for me that even the smallest failure meant I was less than dirt. So why do I have to pick up the pieces after everything's turned to ashes? Why was I chosen for any of this?"
Upon finishing, a loud, high-pitched gasp echoed throughout the room. Covering my mouth, my body slumped forward and my forehead was against the ground.
Those words came out of my mouth? Words like that? There's no way I was thinking about something so vile.
I'm still the same as I always was.
A lone flower sprouted out from the ground, the only organic thing in this dreamlike world, and the crackling ceased.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. That was rude of me. I shouldn't have gotten angry. Not at all."
"Interesting," Ako said, glancing to the side before closing her eyes. A sigh of relief left her mouth and she looked up at the sky. "I am unsure why you made the choice that you did, however, I do feel as if you've made the right one. You idiot."
"No, I should be the one apologising. It was an experiment of sorts. I will be holding you to your 'weight of the world' comment however."
She stood up and dusted herself off. Leaning over and pointing her finger in my face, Ako continued.
"Listen up, human. The road to number one in all of heaven is a road full of broken dreams and bad habits. Habits that are hard to break. When Yuu knows what she wants, she will push herself to get it. Even if she strains herself." She frowned and bit her lip. "Ever since we were kids, she's been this way. I hate it more than anything. Do you have any idea how long she's gone without sleep for those stupid human tests of yours?"
"I should have noticed. Maybe said something." I wiped my face. "But I always thought that she was able to handle herself. I'm sorry."
"She's a guardian angel, not void of emotion or unable to become stressed. When she's happy, she'll laugh, when she's upset, she'll scream, and when she's hurt, she'll cry her eyes out. I suggest that you should let yourself do the same, human."
Ah. I understand now.
Yuu wasn't strong after all. Not in the way that I thought she was. She was no better than me or Aya. In the end, she didn't have everything figured out. Unafraid of failure or not.
I rose to my feet. As if entirely liquid, the room rippled around us, leaving only the square piece of land and the lone red flower beneath us. The shards above and below disappeared, and any hint of limbs had gone without a trace.
"It seems as if we're running out of time," Ako said. "As much as I'd love to pick your brain about whatever...that was about, I'm afraid that will have to come another time. You'll be waking up shortly."
"I guess so. It was nice to meet you, Ako."
I turned on my heel and put my hands in my pocket. Before I could walk away, something pulled on my sleeve hard. Stumbling backward, I peered behind me. It was Ako. She rested her head on me and held on tight as something wet stained the back of my vest.
"Please," she cried. "Take care of my sister. You must promise me that, human."
She hesitated for a moment but didn't bother waiting for an answer. Perhaps it's because she already knew. I sure did at the very least.
Besides, it was too late anyway. As my vision blurred and body became weightless against the tide, only a lone voice resonated within my mind.
"Oh, and back then? Your mask slipped."
The full moon greeted me as I awoke. Stretching an arm out, I tried to cover its light shining down on my face. We must have slept through the entire afternoon.
"My mask," I mumbled as I wiped my eyes. "That's pretentious."
It wouldn't happen again.
Yuu mindlessly carded through my hair as she snored. As nice as it was, I couldn't allow it to continue.
I got up and put her arm around my shoulder. She whined as we staggered back where we came from. It didn't make much of a difference since she was half asleep anyways.
"N-no. I haven't done anything yet," she murmured. "There's still so much to be done. Shiro still isn't—"
"That's alright. Some days will be like that." As we made it out of the forest, the night sky and its many stars caught my eye. I smiled at her underneath the moonlight. "Shiro is fine, just like she always has been. Let's get you to bed."
"Mmmmh, that sounds nice right about now."
"By the way, Yuu?"
"Leave the whole lack of sleep thing to me, ok? Eyebags are more my thing."
"Why yes, yes absolutely. I'll pick some up tomorrow."
The walk home that night was filled with nothing but my bellowing laughter.