“No, no, no, no! Polya!”
Still experiencing vertigo, I try my best to rush back to the closing portal I’ve just been spit out of. Before I could reach it, something grabbed hold of me and pulled me onto the ground, causing the portal to dissipate in front of my eyes.
I snap around to Momioka, who’s dragging onto my waist cape.
“Why… Why did you do that? That was my only chance… Polya needed me… My sister needed me!”
“You can’t just hop back to Hel like it was nothing! You don’t stand a chance against them!”
“That’s none of your concern. It’s my choice to make!”
Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain on my face from where Momioka had slapped me.
“It’s mine too now! Remember?”
I step back at the realisation that I had forgotten I have her life on my hands.
After a couple of steps backwards, I turn around to where the portal once was and drop onto my knees.
“… When the Realms align, we’ll get her.”
I don’t even know if she’s still alive…”
“She was taken for a reason. For what we do not know, but they needed her for something as I think Mynnerva said it’s a good thing she didn’t kill her.”
“I… I… I failed at protecting the one thing that matters to me most… I broke my mother’s final wish… I’m worthless… a disgrace to the family…”
I lean to my right, sliding into a sitting position with my right hand propping myself up.
It was silent for some time until Momioka put her hand on my shoulder.
“I wouldn’t say I completely know how you feel, but I understand parts of the pain.”
I look up at Momioka while she gradually walks to my front.
“In my entire life, I had been, well… Living as someone entirely different than who I really am. Like as these fictional characters because I think it’s cool and amazing to have all these amazing powers you can use to change or improve your life, and well, how I was brought up. But within these few hours, it proved to me that everything I thought I knew wasn’t true. I died almost twice today. My past, my family had been a lie, and even the very world I’m in now has so much more to it. Just today, I think I’ve broke character more than I’ve ever done in my life. And even with the thing I dreamt for the most, finally with these powers, I can’t do anything but to run away. I’m a failure too, aren’t I?”
“But now isn’t the time to squander. We know that your sister is needed for something, that means she won’t be killed yet or even at all. So, let’s try again when we’re ready for them, aye?”
Momioka reaches her hand at me. I sighed heavily while looking at her.
“You aren’t so bad yourself, really. You did manage to get me out of Royalands with that shield of yours.”
I grab hold of Momioka’s hand as she yanks me back onto my feet.
“It was just beginner’s luck.”
“I’ll teach you.”
“Aye, didn’t you say we have to get ready for them?”
I nod at Momioka, who seems that she’s about to explode with joy. I then stare at where the portal was before.
― Polya… Stay strong for me like you said. I know you can.
“Let’s retrieve our things. My katana should be somewhere in the park, and I’m sure you left something there as well.”
“Umm… Oh yeah, I’m actually missing my jacket and a couple of my props like my eyepatch, my tiny hat and Gjallarhorn.”
“Right, let’s go then.”
When we arrived at the entrance of the park, we found something that wasn’t there before.
― Caution tapes? I’m sure that wasn’t there before.
“Momioka, the police sure work fast in this town.”
“This is actually the first time I saw any of those. Nothing usually happens in this town; It’s always too quiet.”
“Isn’t that good then?”
“Hmmm… It’s too dull when nothing interesting ever happens. But again, today was a lot to process.”
“… Well, let’s see if our things are still in the park.”
We remove the barricade tapes and proceed into the park to scour for our items. We first went to the area where we resurrected Momioka, then the stairs where I was pinned down, and finally the dome where my scabbard is supposed to be, but our items are nowhere to be found. We then checked every corner around the park, looking under the plants and debris. After seeing nothing in my area, I walk over to Momioka.
“No… It’s just been caution tapes and rubbles from the fights you had.”
“That means the police must have it… How can I lose my katana like that?”
“Something doesn’t make sense… We’ve only been gone for a short while. How have they already set up all these barricades, collected all the evidence, and left with them? How long were we been gone?”
“I couldn’t check the time since I don’t have a phone or a watch.”
“I couldn’t check mine as it was destroyed in the battle.”
“It be fine. Don’t worry about it.”
“Do you think they are in the evidence room of the police station?”
“They might be… Wait, are we breaking in?”
“It would be our last resort. But if it leads to that, we’ll be sneaking into it. I think I can make the both of us invisible by making the light go through us.”
Momioka looks at me with a grin on her face.
“Like I said, only as a last resort. Should we go now or wait till tomorrow.”
“It might be past midnight by now. I don’t think this is the best time to greet them.”
“What now then?”
“I did invite you to my house before we went to Hel, didn’t I. We should rest for the night before heading out again. Since it’s Sunday tomorrow, I should be free.”
“Thank you, Momioka. But before we go, could we head to those vending machines?”
We started to walk toward the vending machines at the corner of the park.
“Question, where do you keep your wallet?”
“That’s a good question. I don’t.”
“Then how do you usually pay for things?”
When we arrive at the vending machine, I snap my fingers and create a 500-yen coin out of light.
“I can create light illusions that look, feels and weighs like the real thing.”
With a smug smile, I insert the light-coin into the machine.
Before Momioka can finish speaking, the coin I made drops back out. I pretend that didn’t happen and speedily create another coin and slip it into the machine, only for it to eject it out again.
I repeat my actions for some time before giving up and looking away from Momioka.”
“An illusion will always be an illusion. As much as you can mimic the look, feel and the weight exactly, you can’t create metal, can you?”
I look at Momioka with a guilty smile.
“You might be able to trick humans, but vending machines like this usually have something like magnetic sensors to detect the metal.”
Momioka lets out a chuckle before turning towards the vending machine.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got you.”
Momioka reaches for her wallet from the small leather pouch which is tightly tied to the left side of her belt.
“That’s an interesting pouch.”
“Yeah! I made this myself. It took a couple of tries to get it right, but it turned out great!”
“Yeah, it looks great.”
“I’m really glad that I didn’t lose it. So, Anya, what would you like?
“Can I have the coffee, please? Black. Thank you, Momioka.”
“Black coffee, you say… Ummm… Gotcha.”
Momioka then takes some cash out of her wallet and gets us two cans of coffee.
“Thank you. So, you also like coffee too?”
We clink our cans before I lean back against the wall next to the machines and begin drinking my extra dose of caffeine.
“Eugh, this is so bitter.”
I chuckle at Momioka, who’s struggling to finish her drink.
“Are you alright there?”
“How do you manage to drink this so casually?”
I look up to the sky and let out a sigh.
“I usually stay up late doing guard duty so that my sister could sleep. So, I had been drinking many of these to just stay awake.”
“I shouldn’t be drinking any more of these now, should I… Heh.”
I look back at Momioka, thinking about the past. Until I realise her eyes are luminescing in the dark.
“Momioka, your eyes.”
Suddenly, Momioka’s arms begin to phosphoresce, shining through the bandages she has on.
“Anya? What’s happening to me?”
Shocked by this, she drops her can of coffee and accidentally trips backwards, but before she falls onto the floor, she floats up into the air while the rest of her body begins to glow. Once witnessing this, I throw my drink onto the ground and dash toward Momioka.
I grab onto her left hand, trying to pull her down. But instead, I accidentally remove her gloves as she floats further away.
I quick form light strings from my hand and wrap them against Momioka’s hands, anchoring her to myself.
“Hold on tight. I’m pulling you back.”
I begin to drag Momioka down until she’s within reach. I then grasp onto her forearm as she does the same.
― What is happening to her… Polya… I need you…
“Anya. Please don’t let go.”
Momioka stares into my eyes, fearing that she’ll vanish into the sky.
I try my hardest to think about what I can do until I feel something familiar.
“I’m not sure this would work, but bear with me, Momioka.”
With our hands maintaining a firm connection, I carefully begin to siphon the light from her. I have recharged myself, but it seems that nothing has changed with Momioka.
― I was able to restore myself from her… What does that mean…
Suddenly, I remember something that Odyeus said before.
― A Living Light… That’s it.
“Momioka. Listen to me. I think I know what you need to do.”
“What do you mean-”
“Trust me, please. I think this is part of your powers… And I’m going to teach you how to control it.”
“Okay… I trust you…”
“Take a deep breath, clear your mind and think of the same way how you construct the shield. But this time, you’re not constructing anything; you’re reforming yourself back into your human form.”
“Think of yourself and what you looked like. And don’t change anything. I don’t know if it’ll work if you do.”
Momioka closes her eyes in these false tranquil moments under the beautiful night sky and takes a deep breath. Slowly but surely, she begins to return to her humanlike form and lands on the floor.
“What… just happened…”
“I’m not exactly sure, but what I think I know about what’s happening to you, it’s… Ummm-”
“Go ahead, just tell me. I would rather just have the knowledge.”
I look over at Momioka who is trying to hide her pain with a deep breath.
“From what I’ve gathered from Polya and Odyeus, you’re not a human anymore but a being of pure energy. A Living Light, as Odyeus said.”
“But I think once we find my sister again, she may be able to restore your body back.”
“Well, I was expecting much worse.”
I stare at her questionably.
“Come on, I was told that I died and was not fully resurrected. So…”
“Besides, we have a common goal now, don’t we? Both you and your sister said that she could restore my body.”
Momioka turns away from me. As much as she’s trying to hide it, I could tell what she was doing. Unable to think of what I could do, I stand there in silence until Momioka turns around, hastily wiping her teary eyes.
“Let’s go? Shall we?”
I look at the strong-willed Momioka in front of me. With her glowing left eye and her still silverish-white hair glinting in the dark, I return a peaceful smile under the newly created tranquil moments.
* * *
On the way back to Momioka’s house, we chatted about a series of light-hearted things, including how her uniform came to be when I returned her gloves.
Momioka’s outfit is just her school uniform with added details to make it stand out, and her accessories were something about Týr’s lost hand with her gloves and black bandages or Odin’s lost eye with her eyepatch. But since her scar is on the left side, she decided to do a mirrored version instead.
It was also amusing that we found out that we both usually wear shorts underneath our skirts since it’s more practical during battles and the list of things she usually does at school. It was quite a pleasant conversation, listening to her choices in fashion, her daily struggles at school or how she aced her exams in July. It had been a while since I heard about any school-related problems, and I enjoyed every second of it.
“I still can’t believe that you were once the world’s best Kendoka and probably still are.”
“It was dedication and a lot of training. And a bit of inherited potential. But hey, you’ve got into two of the best universities in the world.”
“Oh, I am so excited…”
There was a sad silence between us since the events unravelled today may have completely changed Momioka’s plans for the future.
We arrived at the front gate of her house. It looks similar to the residential area close to the park but with fewer metal fences. We open the gate quietly and slowly make our way through the garden. Once we are at the house, we climb up the drainpipes to Momioka’s balcony. We tried to open the balcony doors and the windows to the room, but they wouldn’t budge.
“Ugh. My father must have found out that I sneaked out and locked everything. Well, looks like we’re going in from the front door. Anya, can you do your invisibility trick now?”
I quickly create the illusion that grants me invisibly so that I should sneak into the front door.
“Are you sure? I can still see you clearly.”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure. Polya could also see me when I’m invisible, so it might be the same. Wait, should I not make you invisible too?”
“I’m sure that my father is waiting in the living room, so if the door just magically opens. Don’t think he’ll appreciate it since he… Since he… always... talks about the shadows and wraiths… I... I finally get it now… Hah... The man’s not that crazy after all…”
“Shadows and wraiths…? I know the Wraiths are one of the races of Paranormia, but I haven’t heard much about them. I only know that they are the hardest to kill and are usually used in the frontline. I also know nothing about that one wraith who was supposedly involved with the Stygians.”
“I’ve heard from my father that most of his crew was killed by a Wraith, and it also injured my Uncle Kyousuke. We never believed him because there were never reports of anyone’s death or going missing, and also since Uncle Kyousuke doesn’t recall the event. I finally understand that what he has been saying all these years was possibly true all along.
“It’s not your fault.”
“Well, this is a conversation for another time. Let’s get into the house first.”
We slowly climb down the pipes. Once we reach the main door, Momioka takes out her keys from her wallet and quietly opens the front door. The house is quiet, none of the lights are turned on. And there isn’t anyone in the living room as Momioka had thought.
I decide to exit my invisible state and ask if Momioka can see. Once I know that she can also see perfectly in the dark, we quietly circle around the house, from the living room to the kitchen to the bedrooms, but Momioka’s father is nowhere to be found.
“This isn’t right… My father would never leave at such time.”
Momioka looks at the clock in the living room which tells it’s a bit past midnight.
“Wait, it’s only been about an hour since I left? That makes less sense with what happened to the park.”
A phone abruptly buzzes on the dinner table in the kitchen. When we get there, Momioka picks it up and examines it.
“Oh, this is my fathers.”
Before asking what’s on the phone, a pile of messy paper catches my attention in the corner of my eyes.
I point toward the missing person posters printed and piled up on the table.
“Do you think your father is out putting these up?”
“I was only gone for an hour; I don’t think my father is ridiculous enough to… Wait…”
Momioka instantly snaps at the phone, trying to check something.
“Anya… We weren’t gone for only an hour…”
“We had been gone for almost a week…”