Chapter 32:

Haru’s Promise

Grace Dances Upon the Clouds

“I have something to show you,” Haru said, leading Grace by the hand. “I want the world to experience the Grace that I know.”

That was the start of a night that Haru would never forget. It was the culmination of all his hard work, giving back to Grace for how she had changed his life. He couldn’t think of any better way to show how much she meant to him.

Grace had told him that she couldn’t remember the meaning of her songs. That they simply existed within her. To take that existence and transform it into something special between them – that was Haru’s promise. He wouldn’t let something so beautiful be meaningless.

Leading Grace toward the venue for the night, his hand parted with hers as he leapt onto a giant stage, many times greater than the live house he performed at. For a stage this big, an equivalently large imagination was needed to fill it.

Haru moved to the center, his guitar materializing in his hands. He strummed a few notes, calling out to the void. And as he turned around to face Grace, silhouettes of the members of BUST came into existence.

Performing the song live stirred up his subconscious. It gave form to the efforts of the whole band. It wouldn’t do to leave them out of it. And with Haru as the lead in this venture, he started up once again, his crew behind him following.

Grace perked up as the telltale melody that she always played exploded in the air, fuller and richer than ever before. Notes spewed out from their instruments, a fireworks of music streaming across the stage. They fell all around Grace, and where they landed, crowds of people sprouted.

A cheering audience formed before Grace’s eyes, adding to the celebratory vibe. They hopped and hollered with the rhythm, spurring the dream fairy to do the same. Haru grabbed his mic and cleansed himself with the look of complete awe on Grace’s face.

I sleep,

Wonderin’ when my problems end.

To you,

It’s not something to comprehend.

But if I never wake up, I’ll still be okay.

The dreams I have is more than I could say~~

His time with Grace. It meant everything to Haru. His lyrics flowed into Grace’s ears, a heartfelt appreciation for her ability to drive his problems away. Even if she didn’t know it, even if it wasn’t her intention, her existence had saved him from the dullness of life, making him find the beauty in it.

In this endless sky,

On that lonely cloud,

Our hearts way up high.

I hear you clear and loud~~

Fly~~~ with me!

Let it ne~~ver end!

It’s the road~~ we see,

Our true pretend~~~

The freedom that he felt with Grace by his side was incomparable. He couldn’t help but notice her. An undying wish to continue soaring the skies with her had consumed his thoughts. So much that he wanted it to be his reality.

The sky around the venue changed as the music played. It changed from night to day. The weather shifted, clouds flying past like the entire stage was coasting through the air.

Flashes of school life, cakes rolling by, disco lights, jellyfish in the sky…

His memories with Grace whizzed by like screenshots thrown on a timeline. And in every picture, Grace was smiling. Haru would never forget how much joy she infected him with. Even when he didn’t want it, he realized that he needed it.

The music slowed to a crawl, calling the dream world’s attention on Haru. He looked up and leapt off the stage, landing right before Grace. Gently, he grasped her hand. His eyes landed on hers, startled but brimming with tears.

I don’t wanna fly alone.

Not with everything that’s been shown.

As long as you can guide the way.

I’ll never need to begin the day~~~~

Even though Haru had gained so much after meeting Grace – spending time with his friends, finding the determination to stand up to his parents, and getting a real girlfriend – he didn’t want to let go of their special connection.

It didn’t matter that Grace wasn’t real. He wouldn’t ‘grow’ out of her, no matter how much society would tell him to. He would make others accept her existence, even if they couldn’t see her. That was the promise he put into lyrics.

That was the ‘love’ that Haru felt for Grace. He would make her a part of reality.

Haru guided Grace up a flight of clouds, mimicking their first encounter. He was now the one to pull her along, up into the sky, his eyes fixated on his next goal. The band continued their serenade as Haru and Grace flew higher and higher up. And now, Grace added her voice to the melody.

In this endless sky,

On that lonely cloud,

Our hearts way up high.

I hear you clear and loud~~

Fly~~~ with me!

Let it ne~~ver end!

It’s the road~~ we see,

Our true pretend~~~

Haru and Grace stared into each other’s eyes, and for a moment, it seemed like they were inseparable. The crowd below cheered, as if wishing them off on their new journey.

Playing pretend until it could be nothing but true.

But then…

A look of pain crossed Grace’s face. She clutched her head and pushed Haru back.

The sudden change shocked Haru, who reached for her, but a loud crack caused him to flinch and stop. Instantly, the atmosphere changed. And with it, a strange voice in his head.

“The darkness comes…”

Haru looked up to find darkness bleeding into his dream world, like creepy tendrils stretching across the cracked sky. They all targeted Grace, snatching her by the arms and legs, wrapping around her until her body was a haze.

Haru looked on, horrified. Why had this suddenly happened, just when he promised to stay with her? He gritted his teeth, looked at his guitar, and forced his imagination to comply.

His guitar shifted into a large sword, one from his video games. He brought it up to slice the tendrils ensnaring Grace. But the blade hit nothing but air. It phased right through the darkness, making not a bit of difference.

Haru tried again and again, to no effect.

“It’s too late, Haru. The time has come,” Grace spoke to him. Her body was drowning in the darkness, until only her face was left.

“What do you mean, the time has come?! I can fix it! Please tell me it’s my fault somehow, so I can get rid of all this! So I can bring you back!”

Grace just shook her head. There was a look of reservation on her face. She had known all along that their time together wouldn’t last forever. No matter how much Haru wished for it. No matter what he did.

“Dreams eventually end.”

With a final smile, Grace’s fell fully into the darkness, which began to recede where it came from.

Haru launched himself upward, chasing after it. He summoned clouds in his path, making stepping stones toward the crack in the sky. But as he seemingly got close, a tendril flicked down at him. He was swatted away like a fly. He tumbled in the chaos, heart aching and pride wounded.

How could he let his own dream tell him what to do?

But somehow, he lost all energy. A faint buzzing shook the world around him.

“Shut up! Don’t wake up now! Don’t you dare-”

Haru shot up from his bed, took one look around, and cursed at his alarm. He grabbed the clock and smashed it against the wall, curled back up in his sheets, and pleaded for his body to sleep.

He skipped school, the first day after summer vacation.

But no dreams came back to him at all. Only restless static.
Taylor J
Mario Nakano 64
Dhamas Tri (dmz)
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