Chapter 8:

Cafè of Comfort: White Wings Cafè

White Wings Café

Ever since Tsubasa Yuu came down from Heaven on April 5th and the evening sun would drop beyond the horizon, the same dream played out as if on cue.

A dying forest consumed by flames. The leaves were the first to go. Trees, enormous or otherwise, were left barren and charred. Suffocating fumes rose into the air, producing smoke that dyed the once blue sky darker than ink. Burnt branches and seared bark plummeted to the ground, breaking apart only to spread the fire further.

And in the center of it all, a young girl with her hand out as if inviting me further into the chaos. Her features were more or less nonexistent. She was human in shape but anything that made us unique—our eyes, our noses, any clothes or skin color— simply wasn't present. Or rather, they were heavily obscured.

Truly, she was faceless.

When push came to shove, and shoving turned to strain, only a blur within a blur stared back at me. If you could even call it a stare.

The fire worsened. Everything was engulfed whole, leaving only ashes behind.

And I woke up in a cold sweat.

"F-fire..." I choked under my breath.

Let's start things off by saying I was not scared or panicked. Not in the slightest.

Not even after nudging Yuu off of me, her wings disappeared as she flopped over on her stomach. Not even after rushing out of the room and down the stairs, my heartbeat imitating the sounds of footsteps on a wooden floorboard.

Thump. Thump. Thump.

But I was calm. That much I'm sure of.

Once in the kitchen, the microwave and toaster were unplugged first. After all, there was no way of knowing if the wiring was faulty. Fires can happen so easily so this was the most reasonable thing to do. Trailing a fingertip across the metal of the plug, I made sure that they weren't bent before dropping them.

Next was the oven. Leaving it on for longer than needed was a perfect way of setting the place ablaze. The off button became so covered in fingerprints that you couldn't make out the text on it. Better safe than sorry. Half a dozen presses followed.

Instant coffee in a mug. Boiled water from the kettle. A tiny bit of milk. Stir and serve.

Before I knew it I was sitting at one of the tables in the cafè and staring out the window, out of breath but calm. I leaned back in my chair and took a sip.

"Too much water this time around," I said with my tongue out and nose scrunched up.

The houses across the street shaded in the night's peaceful hue had always comforted me. While cleaning the place up, I had gotten distracted way too many times simply because I let my mind wander about as I gazed outside.

A faint tinge of purple and blue blended with the almost overwhelming dark of night— just like the first time I stepped foot in a cafè. The place immediately sucked me in and that first step turned into about twenty more.

They were a vintage place with a slight horror theme. Dracula, Werewolves, Hippogriffs, and Mermen. If you could think of a mythical creature from anywhere around the world, chances are either one of the staff's outfits or something on the menu was based on it. As if getting a small glimpse into their second home, all the baristas looked like they were having the time of their lives.

"This stuff is gross!" I fanned my burnt tongue as some of the baristas covered their mouths and laughed. "Why's it so bitter?"

Of course, my apparent aversion to coffee wasn't all that strong because I practically begged Aya to go there as much as possible after that. It wasn't hard to see why either.

That atmosphere, that calming and fun atmosphere which just oozed out of every coffee stain or scratch on the table, where everyone was laughing and having a great time together...

I took another sip and my eyes narrowed. On that day, I knew that I wanted to run a cafè. It's just that when it came to what type I wanted, my mind would always draw blanks.

Could someone like me ever become a barista? The kind that could make other people feel the same way I did back then?

There's a knock at the window. I flinched back and raised my head; Aya jogged in place as her eyes met mine. The bright green tracksuit she wore underneath her dark coat made her stand out against anything else. A few seconds of uncomfortable unbroken eye contact later, she hit the back of her palm on the glass again.

"I...can see you, you know that right?" A tiny bell chimed as I walked out of the cafè. "Can definitely hear you too."

"Really?" she asked, tilting her head. "It sure didn't look that way when I passed by before. Or the time after that. I'm surprised that coffee of yours hasn't gone cold."

"I'm fine. I just had a nightmare but there's nothing to worry about, really." I crossed my arms and stared at Aya as she continued to jog in place. "Besides, you still have quite the nerve showing your face around here after the stunt you pulled a few days ago. What are you even doing up at a time like this?"

A shiver ran through my body as I realized just how cold it was. Even in May, going out in just a tank top and pajamas probably wasn't the best idea. Aya must have noticed this because after a sharp exhale, she slipped off her coat and gave it to me.

"Oh, I had no idea this was unnamed cafè territory. I'm so sorry, really." She smirked before clasping her hands together. "For your information, I can't sleep either. There's nothing wrong with a nightly jog, is there?"

"Guess not. Just make sure your head hits the pillow at some point."

"You know, if you were a stranger I would probably listen to you." With a short overdramatic skip, Aya came to a full stop and gestured to the table I was sitting at. "Don't act like you were going to sleep anytime soon anyways. We're in the same boat here."

She caught me. I wouldn't necessarily take the advice I gave out either anyway.

"Come Monday, yours truly is going to be guiding some bright-eyed first years in the art of Track and Field. Before I graciously step down as leader, your undeniably kind upperclassmen has to build up as much stamina as possible so that she can keep up with everyone else, even if it's for a little bit."

Aya put one foot in front of the other before placing a hand on her puffed-out chest.

"I know what you're thinking, “But Aya! Two days isn't much time to prepare your body to stand tall against people doing this sort of thing their entire life!” And to that, I'd say you're completely right."

"I wasn't thinking that at all actually."

"It turns out Track and Field is...pretty popular. So when I said I was making a club, the sign up sheet was full before the school day even ended yesterday. Prez told me that I had no choice but to hold tryouts." Her voice lost any emotion it once had. "All by myself. Crazy, huh? I think so too."

"Serves you right for never giving her a break. You just got finished with rock climbing." I paused. "Wait, weren't you in the sewing club too?"

"Oh, Shi!" Aya put a hand on her forehead and took a deep breath. "It's ok! Don't cry for me, don't weep! I'll stick it out to the very end."

Was she even listening to me?

I didn't say a word back. Only stared. The only thing that was undeniable was the fact that she rushed into starting a new club without thinking it through first. Again.

Actually, I sensed a bit of a pattern forming. How odd.

She raised a hand in the air and bowed as the curtains for her storytime dropped down, signifying its end. Taking another short breath, she put an arm around me and beamed.

"But," she said, "because I'm so kind, I'll gladly spend some time with you. Your tearful plea has gotten through to me."

"...You really don't wanna run, do you?"

"Not even if I was being paid. Let me slack, alright? It's not like seeing you up now didn't surprise me either," Aya said. "Don't think I can't see the instant coffee over there. Blegh, think I could taste the tears last time you made some. Caffeine doesn't calm the nerves in case you forgot."

"I had a feeling," I laughed under my breath. "If you wanted to check up on me, you could have just told me. Like I said before though, I'm fine. No tears."

She frowned and shook her head as if my answer wasn't good enough. It didn't make any sense, not to me at least. My heart wasn't beating out of my chest anymore, there was no fire, and no one was in danger. I was fine. I was calm after all.

Unfortunately as Aya's eyebrows furrowed and her lips pressed together, it was clear I wasn't getting through to her.

"Shi," she said, pulling out her mom voice.

"Alright, alright, I get it already. Where to this time around?" I rubbed my eyes before zipping up the coat she gave to me. Lowering my voice and putting a finger to my mouth, I said, "I suggest the park. Yuu shouldn't be getting up until daylight breaks, but it would suck if we woke her up. She deserves all the sleep she can get."

Aya crouched in front of me with a huff. She took a second to glance back before putting her arms behind her and gesturing for me to come closer.

For some reason or another, she wanted to give me a piggyback ride.

"Just like old times?" she asked.

And while she did carry me a lot in the past, I couldn't help but wonder what someone else would think if they saw us. Just saying it's embarrassing would be putting it lightly. I was older, more mature. Apparently. Things like that didn't interest me anymore. Probably. When faced with an unwinnable situation like this one, however, I found that I had only one answer.

Count me in.

So I hopped on her back and put my arms around her. Aya stood up and chuckled as we finally began to walk.

The streets at night were barren and empty, so aside from the odd house, tree, or trash can, it was only the two of us. Whether or not that made everything just a tiny bit more creepy, I wasn't really sure. Hell, it's not like I wasn't awake later than I probably should have, it's just that there was some sort of comfort in being in a place that you could call home. Even if home wasn't always the best.

It didn't take too long before we hit a steep hill and Aya started to slow down.

"How's Yuu been treating you?" she asked.

"She's been.."

My ears felt hot. What a weird question to ask. Before I knew it, I had already buried my face in her shoulder. What I said next was more muffled than anything.

"She's been more than kind." I paused. "For no reason at all too. It's weird, you know?"

"What do you mean? I can't say I see anything wrong with that."

"There isn't," I said, "it's just not what I expected. Only a month has passed but I already feel comfortable. I thought it would take me a while to get used to living with someone else, especially someone as outwardly affectionate as she is, but everything's been fine so far."

Part of me was certain this was only because Aya was just as overbearing, if not more. She didn't have to know that though.

"At night when she tries to sleep, Yuu always has to be holding onto something. Most of the time, an extra pillow or blanket would be good enough but she moves around so much that I always end up—"

Aya put up a hand. "No need for the details. As long as you're safe, I'm happy. People can be real shallow sometimes. I don't think I can count the number of losers that thought it would be a good idea to get close to me through you."

She shifted the weight on her back up before continuing.

"From what I've seen so far though," Aya said, "She seems so happy just being here, like she's experiencing everything for the very first time. It's kinda cute."

"Uh, yeah. That's one way to put it I guess."

"Speaking of Yuu though, do me a small favor, won't you?"

"A favor? What did you want me to do?"

"Well, it's just that I was meaning to tell her this ever since I visited a few days ago—"

"When you broke in."

"When she let me in actually. Anyways."

She stopped walking.

“Tell her that she has bad taste.”

The words spilled from her mouth and she gave me that stupid smug grin of hers. You know, like a weirdo.

What was with people asking me to tell others about things lately? First Yuu, now Aya. Granted, this one seemed a lot more personal than what Yuu asked.

Inside jokes, phone numbers. When did they get so close to each other?

Nonetheless, I said, "I'll let her know? I don't know why you couldn't just tell her yourself."

"Great! We're here."

Aya put me down as we finally arrived at the former park. She immediately rushed in and started gawking at all the equipment.

"Whoa, this thing is still here?" she asked, shaking a rusted metal slide back and forth. Flakes fell from it and I winced. "It's just as dangerous as I remembered."

"Sorry, I don't think that's something to be excited about."

The reason I called it the "former" park is because when we were about to go into middle school, the playground that we would always visit as kids went under construction. They worked on it for at least a year and a half before giving up on it completely. To say it was left in a less than desirable state would be an understatement—now it was just a series of halves.

Half of the ground was filled with sand, the other woodchips. Some attractions were as pristine as the day they were bought, some had muddy handprints permanently etched onto them. The side with woodchips didn't have a faint glow from screws and nails carelessly thrown about, while the side with sand...well, I'm sure you get the point.

It wasn't quite the park we grew up with yet the new didn't overwrite the old. What used to be remained, sullied and unchanging, with what came after only adding to it.

Simply put, you're an apparition.

A sort of mix between what I thought was there, and what was added. Or maybe in the end, it was always meant to be there to begin with.

I put a hand on the bright blue slide. At this point in time, we were far too big for any of the equipment except for the swings. With better looking parks to go to, and parents not letting their children anywhere near the place in fear of leftover construction materials buried in the ground, the park was pretty much abandoned.


"Ah, Aya-senpai," I said. "I ended up visiting our old hideout with Yuu a few days ago."

She poked her head out from behind an elephant so full of grime and dirt, its color had changed from an orange to a dark, splotchy brown.

"And you didn't invite me?" She sounded offended. "I was meaning to pop by with Prez at least one more time before high school hit. Is the place still up and running?"

I shook my head and plopped down on the nearby swings. "Not at all. I guess the forest still has our stuff in it but other than that, it's pretty much wrecked."

Her shoulders slumped as she sat beside me. "That's a shame. Two years will do that to you though."

"Don't worry, your plans to cosplay on the first day of high school were there." I smirked as her body stiffened. "You wanted to make a Blossom fan club, I think? I can't see why you didn't go through with that."

"S-stop that!" Aya sputtered. "How much confidence do you think I have?"

"Not to mention all of the writing about you and Blossom that was stuffed away inside one of the trees—"

Aya covered my mouth as she spoke through her teeth.

"Enough. About. That." She chuckled a little bit before continuing. "It seems like someone is feeling better, aren't they?"

I tilted my head to the side. Aya sighed and looked down at the woodchips with a smile.

"You just seemed really freaked out before, ok?" she said. "This way of cheering you up is fine and all, but it's mostly just to keep your mind off of things. You can talk to me about anything, Shiro. Even something as small as a nightmare."

"I know. Just like always."

Aya ruffled my hair but this time I didn't swat her away.

"I was going to tell you this later but since we're already here, I might as well get it over with." She squinted and looked away. "My stupid older sister told me that Grandma would be coming back home to visit for a little while. I've been talking with her and she said that she may have the equipment we need for the café."

Aya's parents were marine biologists and her sister was studying overseas to become a doctor, so it was rare to ever see them at home. This meant that the person who raised her was none other than her grandmother. As Aya got older and more responsible (apparently), she felt more comfortable with leaving her alone for short periods of time.

"Since tomorrow is the weekend," Aya said, "I was thinking all three of us could try again. You know, to come up with a name and gimmick! That way we can impress her."

"A gimmick, huh? I guess I wouldn't mind giving that another try."

Yuu and I. The night after we went to the mall together. In the air with nothing but the thoughts of how free she looked. For some reason or another, that came to mind.

That day wasn't too long ago but it felt as if I would remember it forever. In that moment, I truly felt…

My eyes widened.

"Hey, Aya-senpai," I said, a lump quickly forming in my throat. I swallowed. My hair covered my eyes so I had trouble seeing, but it felt like I didn't have to see her reaction. Maybe I was too embarrassed to look her in the eye. "Do you remember the first time you took me to a cafè?"

"The date? Not at all." She paused. "I could never forget the look on your face though. Were you surprised, afraid since it was a new place, or overwhelmed because of all the new smells? If you had to ask me, I couldn't give you a solid answer."

Two hands pushed my bangs out of my face and there she was. Crouching down in front of my swing and smiling with that goofy grin of hers.

"There was one thing I can say for certain though. It didn't matter in the slightest. You were happy, Shi." She shook her head. "Afterwards you even dragged me to the library to research the history of coffee beans or something. Why are you asking?"


There wasn't a cloud in sight as I rose to my feet. Only the stars and the waning moon, their faint glow brightening the tinges of purple and blue that I loved so much.

"Isn't it obvious? After all of these years, I finally know what type of cafè I want."



Aya dropped me off back at home and was on her way, saying that she would be back later in the day for our meeting.

All that was left was to tell Yuu. She was pretty embarrassed after the Math Incident, so much so that when she finally came to her senses, she pretty much begged me to forget about her sleep-talking after she passed out at the tree. I wouldn't.

Tugging at a tuft of my hair, I smiled as I reached for the key to the cafè.

There was a chance that I get to teach her about the different types of coffee. In the same way she was helping me out with Maeda's class.

I shook my head.

This was only a joke, of course. No way Yuu would be interested in that.

I opened the door and stepped in before locking it behind me. Next was the three latches.




What awaited me when I settled in wasn't the deafening quiet I had left behind. The faint sound of crying and objects crashing to the ground took its place.

"It...hurts. I'm sorry, I'm so, so sorry."

Yuu's voice made my stomach churn. I scrambled up the stairs as fast as I could, running down the narrow hallway and bursting through my bedroom door.

Glowing pure white feathers were scattered everywhere, illuminating the dark room. Yuu sat on her stomach with arched shoulders and gritted teeth as she gripped the bedsheets with everything she had. Her wings slammed against the nearby wall. The right wing contorted and twisted over the other, forcing them both to disappear before reaching a breaking point. A distinct red cloth was wrapped around the upper wing. It swung about in the chaos.

Each time they disappeared and reappeared, a new influx of feathers blew across the room—they stabbed into whatever was nearby and flickered before beginning to glow. Some had fallen to the ground and turned pitch black, breaking into pieces as if they were as fragile as glass.

I rushed toward her and began moving the futon back and forth.

"Yuu, Yuu," I said, voice wobbling. "Please wake up. What's going on? What is this?"

Her right wing smacked me. I slid backward and held my face. Despite the distinct stinging on my cheek telling me otherwise, I pushed back toward her.

Flipping her over, I grabbed the back of her head and forced it against mine.

"Yuu!" I screamed, lulling my voice shortly after. "Please. You're safe, I promise."

She opened her eyes and stared at me, blinking a few times as she came to. Tears fell from her face and her wings disappeared, this time for good.


I was out of breath. She was out of breath. We sat in silence as each of the feathers turned black and shattered apart, fading away before any of us could even blink.

Yuu broke away and sat upright on the bed.

"It...happened again." She frowned as she wiped her face. "You're not hurt, are you dear?"

She reached out to touch but instead found herself pulling it back.

I shook my head. "I-I'm alright. Even if I wasn't though, that wouldn't be important right now." Gesturing at what used to be of my room, I said, "What was all of that?"

She grabbed the ends of her white dress. "My, here I was hoping I would have to tell you later down the line."

Yuu took a deep breath and whipped her right arm to the side. Only the clothed wing appeared.

"When I was but a child, no older than 7…I suffered a grave injury at the hands of my own stupidity. Despite many warnings against it, I went flying at night and quickly lost control of myself," she said, caressing her wing. "Plummeting from the heaven's above, a tree had pierced my wing clean through, along with a myriad of other injuries. By all means, I shouldn't have survived. Thankfully, an angel came down to me and I managed to get the help I needed, but now I have pretty intense nightmares about the day. That is...unless I am holding onto something. It calms me."

"I had no idea. So, is that why your wings will sometimes disappear when flying?"

"Unfortunately. I have gotten better at anticipating it."

Yuu's grip tightened as she winced.

"It's quite odd. Whenever I think about what happened, confusion doesn't even begin to describe what I'm feeling," she said, leaning back and looking out the window. "Everyday has been fun here down on Earth and I look forward to doing more with you too. But surely there must be more I could be doing."

"More? You do plenty already."

She shook her head. "There are very few guardian angels that are born every year. Even fewer are able to descend from above. I am at the very top of all that, the summit that everyone looks up to. A second chance was given to me, was it not?"

"Yes but—"

"In order to give back to the people who have brought me this far, I have to keep going. More and more. Otherwise, what was the point of even saving me all those years ago."

"You're wrong!" I squinted and looked down. Yuu hunched her shoulders, staring at me with wide eyes. "You have nothing to prove. Not to me. Not to Aya. No one. Continuing to live, trying to be happy, and having fun with me—no, us. That's good enough, Yuu."

A brand new light in her eyes, a bright red hue began to make it's way from the neck up. I don't think I had seen her blush that much before. Yuu smiled for a second and looked away.

"An idiot," she said. "A big idiot. That's what you are, dear."

Before I knew it, I was on the ground, sniped by a pillow aimed directly at my head. I coughed before tossing it aside against the wall.

"You trying to kill me or something?! What was that for?"

She crossed her arms. "If that is your idea of tenfold, you are strongly mistaken I'm afraid. No wonder you need help with Ms. Maeda's class."

Yuu stormed across the room and grabbed a plush that was sitting on the shelf, going back to bed in a huff shortly after. She covered herself in blankets and turned away from me.

"Goodnight, dear."

"Huh? But I still don't understand. Why did you—"

"Goodnight. Dear."


"Can't hear you, sleeping soundly."

Deciding that I was arguing against a blushing brick wall, I shrugged before heading back downstairs. It wasn't like I was planning on going back to sleep after my nightmare anyway. More than anything, I hoped she wasn't upset.

Sitting back down at my table and taking a sip of coffee, I stuck my tongue out as the lukewarm taste made me shiver.


Who knew leaving it out for a couple hours would make it taste so bad?

My phone rang beside me. It was my aunt. She had been calling alot more lately, more than anyone else.

With a sigh, I forced a smile and picked up the phone.



The next morning all of us sat downstairs and discussed information needed for the Guiding Star Festival.

"Alright everyone, so is that a no on the maid cafè?" Aya asked with the same piece of paper from a few days ago in hand.

Yuu tilted her head from side to side and said, "Well, I mean, not necessarily—"

"Oh, Shi, do you see? It's not 100% unanimous."

This is where I stepped in. Plucking the list out of her hands and putting it aside, “I said no maid stuff!"

"There's no winning..." they said together, spreading their arms out on the table.

I rolled my eyes. "But, there is something fun I'd like to discuss with you guys."

"What is it, what is it?" Aya asked, popping back up almost immediately.

"Well, I was just thinking about roles lately. Do any of you guys have baking experience?" I said, the question bitter on my tongue "Along with drinks, I was hoping to have some sweets as well. If you'll let me be a bit childish for a second though, I'm going to have to opt out of that. I don't bake anymore."

Aya put a hand on my shoulder and nodded. "You won't have to, promise. I've started many baking clubs over the years, remember? This'll be no problem for me. For our little debut, let's copy the theme of the festival and go with star shaped sweets!"

"I've seen my mother make some basic recipes like cookies and cupcakes so I can help where it's needed." Yuu added with a smile.

"Speaking of roles though," Aya went under the table and pulled out a small whiteboard. How she even got it in here without me or Yuu noticing was beyond me.

Yuu blinked a few times. "Why, how did you—"

"Not important." Aya slid it across the table and tossed me a marker. "You told me that you know what type of cafè, didn't you? Let's hear it."

"You have an idea, Shiro?"

The marker fell into the palm of my hands. Both Yuu and Aya waited patiently for me to answer. Gripping it tighter than ever, I closed my eyes.

There was still an opportunity to back out.

I didn't have to say anything.

As I was now, I couldn't run a damn thing. The situation with Ako proved that.

In the end, I would always be nothing but an ungrateful brat who couldn't change anything.


My eyes shot open. Yuu reached over and put a hand over mine. "Are you alright?"


I steeled myself and began to write.

On April 5th, an angel came down to me dressed in pure white. She was Heaven's greatest angel who wasn't great at much—strong yet weak, unafraid of failure but well aware of her own.

If she hadn't come, any and all talk of a cafè would remain just that. All bark, no bite. Part of me understood that deep down.

Apparations. Born from humanity's insecurities and negative emotions. If this was the undeniable truth, then wouldn't trying to relieve those emotions be the best way to nip them in the bud?

"I'm only human, so I can't expect to do much for everyone. But I won't know a damn thing if I don't rush headfirst into this. Just this one time," I muttered as ink dyed the whiteboard. "A place for people to blow off steam after school or work. Pleasant and calming, with every sip of coffee being like a bit of heaven melting in your mouth."

I slammed the whiteboard down in front of them and hid my face behind it. "The White Wings Cafè. White from Shiro. Wings from Tsubasa, Yuu's last name," I said, my chair squeaking against the tiles below as I stood up. It wobbled back and forth.

I hung the whiteboard in the window and turned to them, my gaze dropping, my voice so quiet I might as well have been whispering.

"A cafè of comfort is what I want. If...that's ok with you guys."

My ears felt like they were on fire, but I did it. I said what I wanted. Though, I may have went a bit overboard.

Yuu smiled and slowly clapped. "My, my, I'm honored to have my name in the cafè title."

"Mine is nowhere to be seen.” Aya huffed. “Can't say I'm not surprised though."

She looked at Yuu. "The White Wings Cafè, huh? I can't say I hate it."

They both stood up and took my hand. It wasn't said out loud. But, it was decided on that day—one month after Yuu came down from heaven— that the three of us were going to try and make this work.

To not let what I've inherited go to waste.

To transform it into something new that benefited everyone.