Chapter 3:

A Fantasy of Reality


Stunned. Shocked? Flabbergasted! Searching for larger words did nothing to improve the mental state of Yuki. Even processing what he heard left him rewinding to confirm his own sanity, and her’s. Which staring at Ayumi’s face, didn’t even bat an eye. Given that she lied completely unflinchingly to him about other things, could he really trust her face?

He just needed a better explanation. “Uh, what? If you’re looking to pitch a manga concept I can point you to some offices.”

An unamused scowl redrew Ayumi’s face. She crossed her arms and stared back at him. “I’m being serious.”

“Think about what you’re saying! I could probably easily find half a dozen manga with a similar setup! If you’re going to just lie, try to be a little more grounded.”

“Are you denying what you said earlier?”

“I was expecting something that actually makes sense! We don’t live in a fantasy, as much as the two of you seem to think I believe we do. This is the real world, save the tall tales for someone more gullible.”

A dragged out sigh escaped her lips. “This is more troublesome. For someone with their head in the clouds all the time, you’re being very close minded.”

“Sorry for not believing super powers exist. What’s the real story here? Flying machines and 3D projectors?”

“You would believe science can explain what you saw?”

“Smoke and mirrors is a classic. Technology is the more rational explanation.”

Ayumi struggled to hold back the amount of frustration and disgust surfacing. “...smoke. and. mirrors.” Checking the corners and street, people walked everywhere. It was getting to evening as she reminded herself. She weighed the responses against the mission objective. Nothing would proceed, especially not the goal, if he remained unconvinced.

Committing to the course, she grabbed his wrist. “If you need proof to properly listen to me.” She marched firmly between the restaurant they just left and the next door bookstore. A darkened alley gave her the secrecy she needed. ‘Would it be any different if he still didn't see me as a childhood friend?’

He had a pretty clear sense of what she planned to do. Any effort he made to try to pull his arm free of her hold failed. Ayumi’s fingers had turned into a lock completely incapable of being broken or squeezed through. ‘I just wish she would make sense. As wonderful as something completely fictional as having super powers would be cool, that’s not how the world works. So I don’t know why she’s going about this chuuni dream. I never knew she was like this.’

“This isn’t the place for a full explanation, but this should hopefully convince you what is reality.” She released his hand and turned to face him with only a meter between them.

Crossing his arms, he continued to have skepticism painted over his face. “Show me your magic show.”

A slight twitch hit her eyebrow as she fought to keep her composure with him. “Just don’t move.” At her feet the ground distorted into a series of ripples. Expanding outward for only a few meters, not even reaching the backs of the buildings, the asphalt surface returned to its rigid state. “Jump.”


“Jump. Just humor me.”

Yuki shrugged, confused by her request. However, there was no harm in it. Strange as the act seemed, it left him a little curious. Bending his knees a little to commit to something that bordered a serious attempt, he leapt.

Nothing strange about the jump, at least in his mind.

“Now what?”

“You haven’t noticed? You’re not touching the ground.”

Immediately looking down, he saw the ground beneath him, but a good quarter of a meter distance separated his feet and asphalt. Across from him, he could see Ayumi no longer meet his eyes straight. She had to look up a little. Kneeling down, he touched the air where his feet stood, but his hands went straight through the air as it should. Defying any concept he had on how air worked, he tapped his foot meeting resistance as if it were ground.

A wrinkle carved through his brow trying to understand what happened. Under any number of stories he read, this made sense. Reality? He struggled to find a reasonable answer. ‘I can almost feel the smugness from her. I don’t know how this is possible. But I also didn’t know how that sand guy did what he did. I just expected an answer that fit with the laws of reality.’ Pensive stares at his feet only delayed his return to Ayumi.

Closing his eyes, he returned to stand facing towards his friend, maybe friend, person of unknown origin. He delayed. No doubt, she knew it too. Still he did it regardless.

Seconds into minutes.

It became awkward in silence. A creeping itch at the back of his neck just taunting him to turn as if in a horror movie. The jump scare waited for him. Nothing would happen until he gave into the inevitable. Resist however he might, the truth remained. Or the lack of a truth he could find.

Exhaling suddenly broke the awkwardness. “Fine! I don’t know how you’re doing it!”

‘Despite that he still is refusing to accept what I’m telling him.’ It didn’t take someone of her training to read that. He made no efforts to hide his continual denial. The stubbornness he displayed began to surprise her more than frustrate. This sort of reaction never came up in any of her forecasts. ‘I guess there’s still more I don’t know about him…’

With no ceremony, the force that kept Yuki in the air disappeared. While he recovered from the surprise she considered the next plan. Then she remembered something. “Where do you think that sakura pedal came from that Saki found in your hair?”

“Sakura?” Yuki had to think for a moment. It then flashed through his mind the moment from the morning. Both an out of season blossom and one that should have been impossible to find in his neighborhood. “You’re saying that’s the same thing?”

“It was a small hint of your power surfacing. Uncontrolled manifestations are common signs in those that have started to have it awaken. The subconscious has a strong influence on our power, which is why it must be controlled or it will become a threat to everyone around you.”

Chapter 3 - A Fantasy of Reality

Resting in bed, deep in thought, the distant playful sounds of Ken barely even reached his ears. All of his thoughts concentrated inward towards the echoing words. Ever since spoken they echoed within his heart, a pluck string that never ceased.

Still rejecting Ayumi’s claims, he returned home. Despite that, he found himself with a heavy oppressive weight surrounding him. A twisting and aching burning filled his stomach that made him lie down. Nothing improved the feeling.

‘She’s just getting in my head…’ Repeated words. Each time did nothing to improve his growing discomfort. It only bothered him that it even troubled him to start. A completely fictional tale with him at the center, he’d have to be completely disillusioned to believe it.

Why did he even give it a second thought? What about it made him hesitate?

Spinning like a top, it cycled around in his mind repeatedly. A turn asked the question only for the next turn to repeat it. Stuck in a loop, he laid in his bed inescapable and mute. An end would never be reached from where he sat. That much he knew even as such things were rhetorical.

More impressive, it forestalled his desire to read. It didn’t even come to him as a thought. Stray thoughts couldn’t escape the tumultuous waves which crashed around the bulwark of his mind. Any attempt would need the titanic will to weave the labyrinthine chambers that connected between where he mentally lived and the external world beyond.

Nothing could achieve such a feat.

Everything suddenly popped like a soap bubble. Reality whipped harshly back as Yuki gasped with surprise. For a split second, he didn’t even know where he was. The light in his room blinded him. An all too familiar bouncing in his bed eventually told him everything that he needed to know.

Right, ten year olds existed.

Ken stood on his bed frozen in position with Yuki staring up at his little brother. The expression he carried changed quickly from something closer to an animal caught in the act to one of happiness and excitement at a job well done. Even if that job did mean the rough waking of Yuki. Off to the side, safely and firmly rooted to the floor, Jun made his own personal effort to wake him up by shaking the mattress.

“I’m guessing Momo sent you?”

“Yupper! She wanted help with dinner, but wouldn’t let us!”

Yuki looked over to Jun, seeing him silently nodding in agreement with Ken’s conveyance of the situation. “Yeah, probably for the best.” He pulled himself up and lifted Ken up to let him back down to the floor. “She knows you only want to help, but you’ll have to wait until you’re a little older.”

“Aww, but I can reach the counter now!” he declared, bouncing up and stretching out his arms to demonstrate his reach.

Getting out of bed, Yuki patted the two on the head. “And Momo’s very proud that you can. But you don’t want to make your sister angry by not listening to her, right?” Both nodded quietly understanding the weight of the words. “Don’t worry, after we eat we can play! So be good until then.”


“Run along.” Watching the two scurry off to their room politely gave him a bit of relief. Back to reality, he stared at the stairs down into the living room and pondered for a moment his sister at the end. The length to reach her seemed to stretch out as he thought about Ayumi’s words. Shaking his head, he tried to carve out that part of his worry and compartmentalize that away locked in the vault of his mental bank.

Slapping his cheeks, he jump started everything to paint over his face the smile everyone knew from him. “Right. Back to reality.” The long stairs snapped back to their true length. Etched in with warm light, it provided some calm to him. Yuki walked down into the living room and turned the corner towards the kitchen.

With an L-shape couch acting as the divider in the room, he approached the back third of the main room of the ground floor. A more open layout, the kitchen separated itself with ceramic tile and an island with stools on the far side away from the stove. Off in the corner, the dining table stood mostly empty with a few notebooks and papers left by their younger siblings.

Sizzling and warm aromas of spices filled the air as he stepped into the territory of Momoko. Looking around at the current state, fish cooked on the stove top while a small array of greens laid out on the island still uncut. Momoko actively worked something in the deep pot slow cooking, likely for lunches tomorrow.

Stepping in around her, he immediately went to work chopping up the green onion. “I sent them off to their room to play.”

“Thanks, they were getting rowdy.”

Pausing on the cutting, he turned back over to the stove and grabbed the cooking chopsticks pushing around and turning the fish. Stretching out his hand, Momoko handed over a small prep dish that he poured in shifting around the cooking food. “All things considered, I think that’s better than the alternative.”

She stepped away from the pot and took over the chopping as they continued their cooking dance. “Yeah…they bounced back quickly. Though I worry if that’s a good or bad thing.”

“Not really sure we’re qualified for that. But we just have to do the best we can. That was our promise.”

A heavy sigh that carried an unspoken amount of weight came from Momoko. She continued to chop in silence as they worked together to finish the meal.

Outside a kilometer away, two shadowy figures stood from the edge of the cliffside road down over the residential neighborhood below. The taller of the two spoke with a deep rich effortless timbre, “The first attempt failed. Though you were expecting as much.”

The short and softer spoken, but with a voice from deep within, figure answered, “Yes, the plan remains unchanged. You better have more success. Time is not with us.”

“As you command. For our future!”