Chapter 3:


Next to Me

Satoshi ran up to the soba shop on the hill and collapsed with his arms under his head at the counter. A man with greying hair and apron strode up to him, a pot in one hand and a ladle in the other.

"Where's Nova?" the man asked, pouring the contents of the pot into a bowl before sitting opposite the boy.

"Celesta took her, Uncle Tony..." he muttered, his face downturned just as the man presented him with the freshly-made soba, the warm smell of clear chicken broth appetising but undesired.

A few half-hearted slurps later, he was asleep next to his bowl.

Tony glanced over at a photo frame on a nearby windowsill - one of him and Satoshi's parents - before continuing to prepare more soba.
Nova appeared in the doorway of the soba shop the next day, sopping wet but otherwise her (seemingly?) human self.

Nobody spoke for a good, long while, and when they did...

"Explain yourself!" Satoshi blasted her, but Nova gestured at him to calm down. She then wiggled her finger at him, leaving him to scratch his head. The boy crossed his arms at this. "C'mon, talk already. You used to talk a lot more than this."

She shook her head, supernaturally blue eyes downturned.

A resounding 'clack clack clack' made the duo jump after another period of silence.

"If you're not going to help out here, you might as well make like Peter and head to the scrapyard. The morning customers aren't going to like your lovers' spat," Tony told them, leaning backwards so that he could speak to them while simultaneously chopping noodles.

"Peter?" the duo asked in unison.

"My nephew. He's about your age, but even though he only just came back from Hong Kong, he still knows Bungotakada like the back of his hand." The chopping halted suddenly due to being replaced by under-the-breath swearing and the man grasping his wrist in almost comical agony.

Just as Nova scurried to get the first aid kit (and discovered the man's only injury was a nick to his index finger), Satoshi slid out the door, still mildly confused as to what had happened the night before.

Maybe if he confronted Celesta, he would uncover the answers he wanted.

You can resume reading from this paragraph.