“Anya… We weren’t gone for only an hour… We had been gone for almost a week…”
I look at Anya with a sense of fear and unknown clouding my mind.
“Are you sure? What is the date today?”
“27th? My birthday was just last week… Have we really been in Paranormia for a whole week?
― We were just there for a short duration… How…
“Does time work differently in the other realm? Does time move faster in there compared to here?”
“I don’t know… My aunt had never mentioned that time works differently in Paranormia, but from what we had experienced, then maybe…
“But if Earth’s time is slower than to Paranormia, that means when we rescue Polya, it wouldn’t be as long for her.”
“That also means that the longer we stay in that realm, the more time we will be losing here…”
“This is rather annoying and confusing… But if we have more time to prepare, I’ll take it. We’ll be needing it.”
“So, what now?”
“It’s just Saturday midnight now. We still have the whole of tomorrow and Sunday to rest up and sort out what we need. But I have a request. I know you’re tired, but can we look for my father tonight?”
“Yeah, of course.”
We leave the house quickly and circle around town, searching for my father. The more we walk through the streets, the more missing poster person of myself is scattered around the walls and lamppost.
“How did we not notice these before? It’s everywhere.”
“We weren’t paying attention since there wasn’t a reason to. Let’s check the town centre next…”
It is quiet when we arrive at the town centre, and there are only a few residents walking around the remaining open shops and restaurants. But as we walk down the street trying to look for my father, the people passing by are keeping a constant stare at us.
“I’m not enjoying the attention the people are giving us.”
“I think they are staring at me. This is a small town, and my father may have caused a huge scene when I disappeared.”
We continue walking down the streets, still unsettled by the eyes gazing from all directions. It was not long ‘till we went through the town, but my father was nowhere to be seen.
“He’s not here either…”
I let out a deep sigh as I turn around and look up at Anya.
“Let’s call it here and return home for now. Sorry for dragging you around, Anya.”
“Oh, don’t worry about me. It’s a nice change of scenery. But yeah, let’s head back.”
When we start making our way back home, my stomach starts grumbling since I haven’t had any food since the performance this evening. I ignore it the first time, but it starts to growl again.
“Hahaa. We can stop by to get some food if you want, Momioka.”
I look back at Anya with an embarrassed smile.
“You didn’t hear anything. But there is a good ramen place close by that isn’t close yet.”
Anya nods at me, and we begin heading towards the restaurant.
Once we enter the ramen shop, I turn towards the ticket vending machine and start ordering.
“Do you want anything? My treat.”
“No, thank you. I’m not that hungry.”
I tilt my head towards Anya.
“When was the last time you had a proper meal, Anya?”
“So, what would you like?”
“I’ll have what you’re having then. Thank you.”
“Two soy sauce pork bone ramen it is.”
I give our tickets to the staff once we get them, and we pick our sits by the corner of the shop.
“We’ll be having a good night’s rest after this.”
“Thank you for everything, Momioka.”
I return a smile at Anya, and we await our food. Soon, the food arrives at our table, but instead of the waiter who’s giving us our food, it is the owner of the shop.
“Your father had been trying to find you for the past couple of days, Momioka. You’re not in trouble, are you?”
“Mr Suzuki. It’s good to see you. I’m fine. I was away for a… school project. I thought I told him. He must have… forgotten.”
“You shouldn’t run away like that. Even if it’s your father.”
“Have you seen him recently?”
“He was here yesterday, and the day before, drunk. It’s a good thing your uncle was here to take him home. I think you should return home soon before he does something stupid… So, who’s your friend?”
“She is a classmate of mine. To finish the school project of mine.”
Anya then smiles at Mr Suzuki, nodding her head in the process.
“I think I’ve seen you before. Don’t remember where, but I definitely have seen you somewhere before. Hmmm…”
He looks back at me and lets out a heavy sigh.
“Do return home after this, Momioka. I’ll leave you to it then.”
He shortly disappears to the back of his shop behind the curtains.
“You come here often?”
“Yeah… I’ve been here a lot with my father. But I enjoy it here. It’s quite relaxing.”
We enjoy our late dinner, thinking about our next course of action.
“Anya, I know I said we are going home after this, but can we head to my uncle on the way back? It’s not that far from here.”
“I promise this would be the last place we’ll be heading to.”
“It’s okay. I can’t really complain. But let’s not stay out for too long, it’s getting really late.”
We quickly finish our food and begin to head straight for Uncle Kyousuke’s house, hoping to find my father there. Once we arrive there, I ring the doorbell.
“Do you want me to hide?”
“No, it’s fine. Can I say I’ve been staying at your place if he asks?”
“Huh? Oh… Ummm… I guess?”
Soon the door opens, and my uncle steps out of the door.
“Yes? Who is-”
Once Uncle Kyousuke catches sight of me, the door flings open as he throws himself at me, embracing me tightly.
I hug Uncle Kyousuke back. We stand there embracing each other for a while until he releases me and holds onto my shoulder.
“Where have you been? I was worried sick. Your father and I had been searching everywhere for you!”
“I left town. I’m sorry I didn’t say anything. I stayed over at my friend’s place so I’m alright.”
“You’re alive, and that’s all it matters. But your dad is going to kill you.”
“I know. It won’t be the first time.”
We share a laugh together before he turns his head towards Anya, who’s holding the crutch he dropped.
“Could you help me, please?”
I help Uncle Kyousuke move towards Anya. Once we are facing her, Anya returns his crutch to him.
“Thank you. You must be the friend she mentioned. Thank you for looking after her for the past week. I’m Kyousuke Uchida. Nice to meet you.”
“My name’s Anya… Anya Hiraga. Nice to meet you too.”
Uncle Kyousuke reaches his hands out and has a brief handshake with Anya.
“You look familiar, I think. But thanks to my injuries, I don’t really remember.”
“I’m sorry to hear.”
“Oh, it’s only a little troublesome.”
Uncle Kyousuke then fixes himself up and leads back onto the crutch on his right hand.
“Is father with you, uncle?”
“No, I think he should be at home right now.”
“We were just at home. He wasn’t there. Nor was he in that ramen shop… Oh, and here’s his phone.”
I pass my father’s phone to my uncle.
“Oh… Damn it, Touya, where did you go this time.”
Uncle Kyousuke examines the phone and pockets it.
“Momioka, go home now. I’ll look for your father.”
He runs back into his house and soon returns with his car keys.
“Go home, Momioka. Please. Anya, look after her for me.”
He then hops into his car and drives off.
“Let’s go, Momioka.”
“I’m kind of worried… I want to follow him… But… yeah… Let’s go home…”
We trudge the path we came and return home not so long later. The house was the same as we left it – sad and quiet.
“Let’s clean ourselves first. We… We literally went to Hel and back.”
“Yeah, I do think we should.”
“You can borrow some of my clothes if it fits. I have some oversize hoodies that should fit you. Let’s wash your clothes in the meantime.”
“I’ll take that offer, thank you.”
* * *
The dripping of water echoes around the quiet bathroom while I lay in the bathtub, almost fully submerged in the water. The occasional sound of the washing machine from the next room could be heard as it completes a cycle. The shift of the current event compared to what had happened today is too much for my physical and mental state to process.
I let out a sigh with my mouth underwater, creating bubbles at the top. I then slowly slide into the water, dunking my head underneath as I curl up into a ball. For a second, it feels like I’m floating in the open seas, wrapped in the infinite void of nothingness. Until I resurface my head and lean back against the tub.
“Anya… I’m… almost done… Sorry to keep you waiting.”
“… Are you… How are you feeling, Momioka?”
― Hah… How do I answer that question…? I’m… I’m fine?
“I’m… I’m… I… I don’t know…”
“I know that we just met… But if you ever want to talk about what happened today, I’m here to listen… I’ve… gone through the same… At that time, I still have Polya with me… So, it wasn’t as bad as it would have…”
― You… gone through the same…?
While deep in thoughts, I suddenly remember something about Anya mentioning of her mother’s final wish.
“Can I ask… How did you lose your mother?”
“Sorry if I had asked something I shouldn’t…”
“Do you know who Styx is?”
“I think I’ve heard of the name.”
“He’s the Stygian King.”
“My mother sacrificed herself so that me and my sister could escape him.”
“After winning the World Kendo Championships two years ago, I went home with my sister. And umm… Styx beat us to it. He killed my father first, then when he was about to do the same to me, my mother stepped in.”
“I used to wonder a lot about how my mother died. But after receiving the recap of my life, I now know that my father is indirectly responsible for my mother’s death… I don’t know what to feel anymore.”
“My aunt, who’s not actually my aunt, tried so hard to hide it from me. ‘Sacrifice’, she said… I wonder whether she actually knows that it was my father… You talked about your aunt too. Is she… still alive?”
“I… It’s been almost a year since I heard from her… She said she needed to talk to someone to sort things out. Then, Styx raided the house a month or so later, and we set off to this town…”
“… We could write a book about this. Our past, present and future. Mash into one and there birth a new main character.”
“Hah… And you’re going to dress like the character?”
“I don’t have to dress like her… I am her!”
We share a short laugh together, but soon it ends and what remains is the heavy atmosphere from our previous conversation.
“Can you pass me my clothes?”
I drain away the water from the tub and refill it again for Anya. I then dry myself up with my towel and put on my magical girl theme pyjamas consisting of a frilled maroon blouse with short, puffy sleeves with frilly ends. There is a white segment on the front part of my blouse which is surrounded by even more white frills and two black plackets going down the sides. I am also wearing a pair of black puffy shorts with frilly ends.
Once I’m done, I walk out to the changing room where Anya is. When I exit the bathroom, I see Anya glancing at my pyjamas while I am drying my hair with my towel.
“I… I… I… These are my old pyjamas; I just haven’t grown in a while. That’s why it still fits!”
I feel my face turning red, and I quickly run back into the bathroom, hiding behind the frosted glass door.
“I didn’t say anything, Momioka.”
“You didn’t have to.”
“Sorry… I was just not expecting the number of frills you have on your outfit. You look great in it.”
I poke my head out from behind the door.
I slowly open the door and return to the changing room.
“I think you are the only one besides my father or Aunt Sawada who has seen this outfit. So, I guess… Thank you…”
“Oh, my wardrobe is nothing compared to yours, so don’t worry. It’s only ever sportswear, really.”
“Haha… Oh, I drained the water, and the tub is refilling as we speak.”
“Oh. Thank you. And thank you for the hoodie.
Anya soon walks into the bathroom and passes me the black Nordic hoodie I lent her once she got undressed behind the door. I then check the laundry while I hear the shower starting to run.
“The clothes are almost done, but we need to hang them on my balcony later.”
Once finishing the laundry, I return to the door and lean against it thinking about the weekend. It is not long till Anya finishes washing herself as the shower stops, after which she dips herself into the bath.
“So, what’s next then, Anya?”
“I think first we got to get our lie straight. The two people we met just now, we told them two different stories. I think we need to settle on who I am.”
“Ummm… I don’t think meeting my father is the best idea right now, so… if you do see him can you… Hide?”
“And for the others, let’s say you are a distant relative of Uncle Kyousuke.”
“What else then? We need to go to the police station to check for our items, right?”
“Yeah, let’s try to do that tomorrow if we can. I don’t feel too safe without my katana.”
“Yeah. I would like to have my things back too.”
“Then the reason why I’m in this town… Do you know of any dojo in this town?”
“A dojo? I don’t think I’ve seen any dojo in this town… But father did always mention a dojo… I don’t think he’ll give me the location since that’s where my father said he met the Wraith.”
“May I ask, why a dojo?”
“It’s my father’s. He built a dojo here before leaving for Russia to live with my mother, and I was thinking that I could call home there with my sister.”
“We’ll find your sister. I’m sure of it.”
The atmosphere turns heavy and silent again, but shortly later, the sound of water splashing starts to fill the room.
“Do you know if there is any way we could find the dojo?”
“There isn’t a computer at home I can use, and my phone is still broken… Maybe we can ask the police tomorrow when we’re there. If not, I think we can ask Aunt Sawada. She knows the area very well.”
“Better than the police?”
“I think so. The police here are pretty inactive.”
“Let’s visit her house on Sunday. If she’s not there, she is the principal of my school, I’m sure… Wait…school… how am I supposed to go to school now?”
“Yeah! I need to be at school; my midterm tests are coming soon!”
“Momioka, I think-”
“Anya, we still need to train and try to find the next portal to where your sister is, right?”
“During this time… Can you join my class as a transfer student?”
“What? Even if I want to I-”
“My aunt owns the school; it’s a private school under the shrine she works at. I’m sure she can get you into my class easily. We can ask our classmates too about the dojo.”
“I don’t think this-”
“Please, Anya… I’m set to graduate soon… I know this is a lot to ask for… But please, Anya...
“Momioka… I need to-”
“This is my only request… Let me at least finish the Midterm or the final before Christmas. I promise to also train as hard so that we can recuse your sister with our strongest.”
It is a long silence before I hear Anya letting out a deep sigh on the other side of the wall.
“Yay! Thank you, Anya!”
“But once we found a way to my sister, we’re going. We’ll be training ‘till then as well.”
“Understood! Thank you, Anya! I’ll train as hard as I can too!”
“I’ll be counting on you then. So, how are we going to do this?”
“Since my aunt basically controls the school, she can easily enrol you. Let’s visit her after we collect our stuff from the police station. I’m sure she can get you a set of uniform as well!”
“Uniforms and classmates, huh? I wish Polya could be here with us.”
There was yet another soundless moment between us. The situation we’re currently in has been unthinkable until today.
“Do you find it weird that it’s easier to talk when you can’t see their faces?”
― Ehh… what could we…. Oh!
“By the way, you mentioned before about your birthday being around two weeks ago, right? Happy a-little-bit-late birthday!”
“Oh, yeah… My birthday is on the 12th, and I just turned 18.”
“So, you’re just about a month older than me then.”
“Yeah! Did you think I was much younger because of my height?”
“Ouch… I’ll let you know I’m above average height, being 153 centimetres and all. You’re just tall.”
“I know. I know… My fault… So, when is your birthday then?”
“My birthday is October-”
Suddenly I hear keys jingling while the door rattles loudly as if someone is trying their hardest to break in. I quickly get up and hang Anya’s hoodie on the railing towards the bathroom.
“Anya! Quickly! My father’s back!”
I hear the splashing of water and the hasty footsteps running around the bathroom as the front door fling open harshly, causing a loud bang.
“MOMIOKA! MOMIOKA! WHERE ARE YOU? ARE YOU IN THE BATHROOM?”
“Are you dressed, Anya?”
“Yeah, should I be invisible too?”
“Please do. I’ll be opening the bathroom door now.”
I open the frosted glass door of the bathroom while the locked changing room door clank and clatters in front of me.
“MOMIOKA, OPEN THIS DOOR NOW!”
The door’s banging frightens me, causing me to take shallow breaths. Anya puts her hand on my shoulder, saying that she’ll do it in my place. However, I look back at her and nod that I’m okay.
Before I can finish my sentence, the bathroom’s changing room door breaks and slides open.
“MOMIOKA UCHIDA, WHERE THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN?”
My father storms into the bathroom with his right hand up in the air, ready to slap me. During this time, Anya tries to stop him, but I raise my right hand back to stop her. I prepare myself when my father is within close proximity, but instead of hitting me, he freezes in place and falls to his knees. He then proceeds to clasp me at my waist and starts tearing up.
“Momioka… I’m sorry… I’m sorry… Please don’t do this to me ever again…”
It becomes my turn to freeze up, as I didn’t know “please” and “sorry” are within my father’s dictionary.
“Where have you been, Momioka… I thought I lost you… Like I lost your mother…”
― This person is my father, right…?
I look back at Anya, shrugging at me, both not knowing what to do next.
“I’m here, father… I’m here…”
“Where were you…? Why did you leave…? Why…?”
“I just went to my friend’s house in the next town… To clear my mind… I’m sorry if I didn’t tell you and just disappeared. I broke my phone on the way. That’s why I haven’t returned any calls.”
“You still should have called.”
“I know… I should have…”
“But you’re with me now… That’s all it matters…”
I then share a moment with my father that I never thought I would have in my life, but all good things must come to an end as he stands back up.
“From today onwards… You’re not allowed to leave the house.”
“I’ll be taking you to and back from school every day starting Monday. And you will go to the university I selected for you.”
“No. I told you to listen to me, and you didn’t.”
― Well… There is the father I know…
“Your friend you were with, where is she?”
“She left before I decided to take a bath.”
My father stands in the bathroom doorway and looks around. He then leaves towards the changing room’s sliding door.
“Now go continue bathing or whatever, then go straight back up to your room. I’ll leave a new phone on your table when I do get one for you…”
My father then leaves the bathroom and closes the sliding door. After the door slides shut for a while, Anya exits her invisible form and looks at me with horror.
“Better than I thought… It could have been way worse.”
I turn around towards Anya before her worried look turns into a more alarming look.
“Your eye is glowing again.”
I turn towards the changing room mirror on top of the sink and notice that my left eye with the scar alongside my left hand and half my forearm are glowing again. I then try my hardest to redo what I did at the park, but nothing happens. For some time, I just stared into my reflection until I thought of what I could do instead.
I rummage through the shelves and cabinets of the changing rooms and search for my backup eyepatch, bandages, and gloves I have left in the bathroom. Once I gather all the accessories, I put them on and look in the mirror.
“The golden eyepatch is very golden.”
“That’s why it’s a backup. Gungnir’s pattern doesn’t look too great, nor is Huginn and Muninn’s.
I look at my now needed accessories around my magically coloured silver hair.
“To think I now actually need these accessories compare to when I have these as a more playful reason is quite amusing, won’t you say?”
“Well, it suits you.”
“Of course it does. Now, how goes our plan?”
“I have something in mind, but let’s wait for tomorrow.”