It took me a few days to get used to the information I was given, and I finally had to admit to myself that I felt weird. I, the son of some dude who is the personification of one of the forces that rule this world. It sounded so ridiculous. I also looked at my mother differently and was even glad that she kicked my father's ass, he deserved it. Sometimes I wished I had met him, but now those feelings had completely vanished from me, I didn't want anything to do with this asshole.
Alice sometimes tried to sneak in a little bit about our father in conversation, but I only listened to her out of politeness. Just then, Saturday, she was at lunch with us and my mother was listening intently. I asked why he had given her such special attention. She looked at me sadly then, and I immediately regretted mentioning the subject.
"Maybe he felt sorry for me, because it all started quite early when I was seven years old, and on average it happens around the age of twelve," she replied with a sigh. "And I am a pretty stereotypical child of Eros."
"How did you deal with it?" I asked worried.
"Well, I was still a child, I did not understand what was happening to me, even more, so my mother. She didn't know how to help me, how to relieve my suffering. I didn't understand that the drink I found next to my bed every morning was supposed to help me, it was disgusting, so I didn't drink it." She winced at the memory. "Anyway, you know. Our father showed up after everything to tell me about my duties. That's why I envy your mom Kiyoshi, you're a lucky man."
My mother suddenly came over to her and hugged her tightly, letting her cry. She herself began to shed a sea of tears. Alice probably needed an adult who would simply show her understanding and care with full awareness, which she had to go through. I left them alone for a while and that's when Daisuke called, so I went to my room to answer and not let him listen to the sobs that filled the living room. This one had timing.
"Nice weather today, I want to go with Maiko to the shopping mall. How about joining us?" he asked cheerfully, but I had the impression that he was up to something else.
"Actually, I'd love to," I replied. “But in about half an hour, because we were just about to eat dinner."
"Do you think Alice would agree to come with us too?"
So that was it, I laughed to myself and looked into the kitchen, instead of crying, I heard the clinking of dishes and cutlery. I covered the speaker with my hand and walked over to my sister.
"Do you want to go downtown with Daisuke and his younger sister?"
Alice looked at me uncertainly, I could see her wanting to agree at first but instead thinking deeply about something. She gestured for me to take off my glasses and have a closer look.
"I don't know if it's a good idea for you to be in such a crowd of people," she whispered worriedly.
I understood what she meant, usually seeing those damn lines intensified with the number of people around me. But I knew my friend wouldn't want Alice to come with us for no reason. I suspected he wanted to show her off to his younger sister, who loved to tease both of us about our poor romantic lives.
"Herbs will help me, won't they?"
"I'm not sure if they will be effective enough at this stage," she mused, and after a moment she smiled in a rather malicious manner for her. "But we can try to speed up the process a bit, but I warn you, it's going to hurt."
I looked at her surprised and asked again what should I say to Daisuke who was still waiting on the other side for our declaration. Alice said it was up to me to decide, so I agreed. Having a nice afternoon with friends, what could possibly go wrong?
Fifteen minutes after the dinner, we met outside the block. Maiko was a two-year younger version of her brother. They both had the same sincere smile on their faces and black eyes, they didn't even differ in the dark brown shade of their hair. Everyone was surprised that they weren't twins, but they couldn't convince anyone that they weren't related.
The only distinct difference in their looks was the height and length of their hair, Maiko wore it in two braids as always, and Daisuke didn't even bother combing it. He claimed that short hairstyles are self-arranging, thanks to which he can surprise his appearance every day. I didn't share his opinion, but I wasn't going to tell him he should think otherwise.
Maiko was immediately interested in Alice and stared at her with adoration, she did not expect to see a beautiful girl from abroad with me. And of course, one of the first questions she had to ask her was if she was my girlfriend. We looked at each other and quickly sold her the same lie we had sold to her brother a few weeks earlier.
"We're related," I explained. "Alice is my distant cousin, but because of problems with Japanese in the beginning, she stubbornly called me brother and it stayed that way."
"Great," said Maiko and took the surprised Alice by the arm.
All in all, I'd be happy if the girls found common ground, after all, my sister had a hard time making friends in our class and mostly spent time with me and Daisuke. It couldn't be good for her. The longer we walked towards the gallery, the more Alice relaxed. Apparently, she and Maiko had found something in common, as their conversation became more and more lively.
The youngest of our group turned suddenly to us. We stayed a few steps behind the girls, discussing the manga we both read. Maiko pointed the finger at her brother with a fierce expression.
"You are to marry her," she said, referring to my sister.
The potentially matched ones blushed and neither of them could utter a word. Daisuke didn't even have the strength to scold his sister, he just stared at the pavement as if he saw the most thing in the world there. I gestured for Maiko to come over to me and leaned in toward her.
"Why should he do that?" I asked, trying to keep my tone serious.
"Then I'll have access to earlier chapters, books for free once she starts publishing them. Maybe she'll ask me for opinions and discuss her ideas," Daisuke's sister whispered.
I quickly analysed her words, indeed Alice said that she writes a lot and publishes her work on the Web. Although she was ashamed to talk about it at first, I pressed her when she came to school with dark circles under her eyes; she finally admitted that sometimes sticking to schedules and constantly revising chapters wore her out, let alone writing new ones. Additionally, she was going to send something to the publisher soon. She also showed me her reach, I was impressed, on some portals she was one of the most popular authors.
"Alice must be very happy to have such a loyal fan like you," I admonished the teenager. "Remember, however, that this can be a bit overwhelming for her, so try not to impose."
I gave her a meaningful look, and she ran back to Alice and started apologizing to her. My friend just thanked me in a whisper, but the atmosphere became a bit awkward, so I rushed everyone to the final destination of our trip.
But after a while, I started to regret it. It was the weekend, after all, nice weather, so the mall was crowded. I felt my sister's attentive gaze on me, who did not want to leave my side even though Maiko urged her to come with her to her favourite clothes shop.
It suddenly dawned on me why Alice was worried, the pain came unexpectedly with insane violence. I was knocked off my feet, Daisuke grabbed me and had to drag me to the nearest bench. I closed my eyes and searched for the infusion bottle, but it wasn't in my bag, and I was sure I had packed it there. I was surprised that Alice was holding it and shaking her head.
"He'll be fine, I'll take care of him," she told the frightened siblings. "Leave us alone for a while, I'll call you when Kiyoshi feels better."
Maiko didn't want to go, but Daisuke forced her, the pain was growing every second, and I couldn't understand why Alice had taken away the herbs that helped soothe it.
"Look at the people," she asked, drawing circles on my back with her hand. "I promise it's the last time, you just have to stick with it."
I wanted to believe her, so I did as she asked. I moved my eyes to the next group of people, the lines overlapped, and there were too many of them. They became clear, and although they flickered, the excess of their number and colours overwhelmed me. My head was throbbing with pain, my ears were buzzing, and my heart was beating so fast it felt like it was about to jump out of my chest. I felt like I was burning from the inside out, about to fall apart. I begged for it to end, I didn't want to suffer any more.
"Just a little longer," Alice said reassuringly. "Just a little more."
She was right, I suffered for a few more minutes and suddenly the pain was gone. I could breathe easily and felt a strange inner peace.
"What you see?" Alice asked, staring straight ahead. “I was interested in it from the beginning."
"I see coloured lines connecting people," I replied, to which my sister just nodded, encouraging me to keep talking. "Above them are numbers, percentages to be exact. Now, if I focus on one person, I have the impression that the ones coming from that person are especially visible. What does that mean Alice?"
"Compatibility," she replied, and I looked over at her. "You see how people fit together. As for the colours, I'm not sure myself, you just have to understand yourself."
"Why can't I see your lines?"
"Our abilities don't work on ourselves and each other," she explained, but she smiled sadly. "Anticipating your next question. Every child of Eros is born with something like that, there really are a lot of variations. I can see when you meet your other half and the arrow that points in the direction where it is." She rummaged in her bag for a moment and handed me a lapis lazuli keychain with a display that had a blank strap on it. She also showed me her pink one. “I've been carrying this with me for a long time, but I didn't know when to give it to you. Do you remember I told you that our father is identified with positive emotions, we have to help gather them so that he is at full strength. Filling this bar is our daily minimum. It is our duty, preferably, if we help people find their other halves."
"How did you know it was my favourite colour?" I asked, grabbing the object and examining it carefully.
"I didn't know, but Father has his methods, he gave it to you through me. Oh, and one more thing, close your eyes and think you don't want to use your skill any more, he should stop seeing the lines."
It took me a few tries, meanwhile, Alice arranged with Daisuke where we would meet again. My sister looked depressed, however, I thought she'd be glad I was okay. I still needed time to sort it all out, but for now, I was happy to know I didn't have to suffer any more.
"I'm sorry, I'm just sad that this curse fell on you too."