❀ Present Time - June 27th ❀
“So, are you ready to order?”
Nobu’s words brought me back to reality.
Without me noticing, I had been on autopilot while he took me into this soba restaurant that was technically one block away from the cemetery. The atmosphere wasn’t heavy at all, making me glad it was almost empty. Restaurants of this style tend to be flooded with people, and noisy places are a must avoid for me.
“I think so,” I lied, taking a quick look over the white menu with black printed letters. “I’ll have a kake soba.”
“You sure?” observing how he lifted his left eyebrow while spying me over his menu, Nobu sighed. “It’s my treat so you can order something else if you want.”
I think 850 yen is enough for a treat. I don’t need to order anything expensive just to please him.
“It’s fine, Nobuyuki…” I changed my voice to a lower one, making him understand that he wouldn’t be able to change my mind.
“When you call me like that I know I’ve lost. Well then, be right back. I’ll just tell a waiter our orders. Anything to drink?”
“A melon soda, please.”
“Okay then, don’t leave.”
“As if I would...”
I sighed and looked at the ceiling of the small soba restaurant. I only heard the sound of the bowls hitting the chef's hands, the foam of the broth and watching how steamy it came out of the cauldron. I breathed in the aroma of freshly cut ginger because a waitress passed right next to me with some on her tray. I sneezed and got lost in the ceiling decoration. It was not spectacular, but it made me feel safe, safe from the world that tormented me.
Out of that world full of lies that I formed.
“What am I doing in here anyway…?”
Yes; killing time. I suppose… I would have been happier if we had grabbed a bus back to Shirakawa but I guess we’ll have to stay the night somewhere then.
Due to the hot climate, the air conditioner’s potency got a bit higher, and a chilly breeze could be sensed under my dress. I closed my orange eyes, trying to keep warm. Eating something should help, given I hadn’t eaten in around 48 hours. I couldn’t bring myself to move an inch when I got the news about Yuiko.
I felt as if my body had been enveloped in snow. In so, so much snow, I was numb enough to freeze to death.
The world was falling under my feet.
I recall joining the palms of my hands, forming a trail of steam after blowing them from the chilly breeze. My palms were numbed by the cold that surrounded me, covering me with its whiteness. The lights in my surroundings were like a small city illuminating the darkness with its bright flashes.
I extended one finger to a window that I was watching in the distance, my pink pashmina being stolen by the blizzard. It caused itching in my nose, even discomfort. The children's voices in the background were a chorus of screams of pain for me.
I let myself be overcome by the snow, my legs feeling the softness of that cold layer. It hurt; the temperature going straight to my knees, these being uncovered due to my velvety black dress.
Now, my hands went straight to my face drowning in an invisible cry that never left my throat. A white cry, empty. Stuck feelings that will never be expressed, their little happiness being reduced to a black space behind the sky. As much as the lights illuminated this world, they were not able to dictate my way forward.
I punched the snow hard, unable to contain myself any longer.
The current "me" was scattered inside the small palm of a hand that wanted to reach a distant figure. A feeling that I didn’t know, but I thought I knew, was locked in the tiny box of my heart.
Bells began to chime with a mellifluous and unstable melody, dimming the purple, red and orange lights. Only the red light remained, creating scarlet coloured snow against a world that fell in front of me. I wanted to deny it; although, it was impossible.
I nailed my hands in the snow, the invisible parents dragging their children who pointed out my strange action.
I dragged some snow in my mouth, freezing my tongue.
My teeth; cheeks numbed.
All those emotions came together at once, tangled in a net that couldn’t escape, and do something about it.
Before I could even scream, the real world came back to haunt me.
Nobu was moving my shoulders.
The world became once again the soba restaurant, and I held my forehead doing my best to avoid my head being shaken more than necessary.
This is getting worse…
“Are you okay?” he whispered before sitting down, leaving my melon soda right next to my glass of water. “You were about to scream. I had to rush back before it happened, I’m glad I could sense it on time.”
My head’s pounding was getting worse, thus I was unable to reply.
“Yui…” stretching his hand, he went towards my cheek in order to caress it like he always does, just to see how his expression changed once he took hold of me. “Is that… snow on your lips?”
“Huh…?” I murmured.
Dumbfounded, I stretched my index finger, just to feel how the snowflake melted in my tip.
“Could it be that…?” Nobu crossed his arms, deep in thought. He shook his head, trying not to overthink it. “Let’s talk about happy things. Remember how we met?”
“What’s with that all of a sudden?” I managed to say, doing my best to recompose myself.
“I still remember it as if it was yesterday…”
“I honestly, want to erase that horrifying memory off my mind.” I sighed, playing with my short pigtails.
“Hey, that’s cruel!” with puppy eyes mode on, Nobu was about to cry.
Yeah… There’s no way I would forget…
❀ Five Months Ago - January ❀
“Please, wake up! Please! Oh, no… Did I… Did I kill her? Please, wake up girly! Oh for Celestia’s sake… How am I supposed to… I could take it from her but that would leave a horrible taste in my mouth… being a burglar after killing someone is just the worse… Ah, I’ll be condemned to Gehenna at this rate... but the Rosa Crystallum already did a match so I can’t be so hot-headed as to just snatch it from her…”
I could hear someone rambling.
An eternal, non-stopping storm of words that made my head hurt even more than what it already did.
Could I have hit myself? But how? With what? All I remember is…
Slowly opening my eyes, I could make a silhouette.
“Huh? Is she…? Oh, you’re alive! That’s a relief! I really thought you had killed yourself after that fall when you passed out! Uh-huh, because it wasn’t my fault, nope.”
“Anyway, now that you’re waking up…”
That’s right… I was sleeping… Then I woke up and… And I saw…
A big wave of flashbacks came to my mind, just to reach a halt when I finally made out the face of the figure.
A dark blue hair as silky as a fragile textile, amber light eyes that turned into a deep affection when he saw me open my own. A pale skin that turned a light pink with a dazzling smile. Although the thing that most shun from his strange appearance was the rebellious bed hair he had, that seemed to have a life of its own moving like a wagging dog’s tail… Until I noticed that the most stunning detail of them all, was that his wardrobe consisted of just a long, yellow tattered scarf covering part of his naked body.
That’s right! When I woke up, he was sleeping right next to me!
I was about to scream once again but, the suspicious, and most probably pervert for being naked inside a girl’s room boy, leapt to cover my mouth and I could feel his chest on top of my pyjamas, making my world spin nonstop.
“I won’t let you scream again, I cannot let you pass out once more!” he shouted in a desperate measure.
“I’m too young for this!” I yelled back without thinking, barely managing to escape from his arms and give him a punch on his stomach.
Leaving him in a state where he needed to gasp for air, I did my best to avoid tumbling with my long dress pyjama and go straight to the phone. Haphazardly, I picked it up and started to dial 110, longing for the police to pick up… just to notice that my home network was dead.
I FORGOT TO PAY DECEMBER’S PHONE BILL.
“Ah… Ah…” I panicked, not knowing what else to do. Looking sideways, I noticed the suspicious boy was still doing his best to get some air back to his lungs. Using this opportunity for my benefit, I rushed towards my dresser where my flip phone rested on top of it next to a small mirror. “Anyone… I need help!”
The first contact in my email box was Shinji.
I felt how the small star's charm I had hit my hand while typing at an abnormal speed.
Sender: Yui Samidare
To: Shinjirō Hinaga
Without thinking, I pressed the send button without providing any extra information about my current events… and my battery died.
THIS. CAN’T. BE. HAPPENING.
“Ouch… that hurt, y’know,” the boy cough. “Why are you so violent towards me?”
“As if I didn’t have a reason!” I went as far away as I could to the door, pointing at him. “You were sleeping completely naked right next to me! What are you planning to do to me!? In fact… how did you get inside my house!?!
“Naked…?” the boy blinked, and I noticed how his eyes went further down, examining himself. “Oh, dear… did you undress me?”
“I’m too young for this!”
Since when did our situation go the other way around!?
“You’re wrong I didn’t…!” widely opening my eyes, my mind came to a sudden realization. “Wait for just a second, you’re doing this on purpose to distract me!”
“How do I know you’re not pretending?! You could’ve undressed me and just left my scarf because… because… because you have a thing for scarfed boys!”
“... I beg your pardon?”
The mysterious perverted boy trembled, noticing the change in my tone of voice.
“You break into my house, you dare to sleep right next to me like that… and accuse me of everything? I should just… leave you locked in here for now. My safety comes first before trying to understand what is going on. Logic can go to hell.”
Filling my body with bravery by using one of Shinji’s catchphrases, I turned the knob right behind me and heard how the boy knocked endlessly asking for freedom while I locked the room.
I’m so scared. My body can’t stop trembling… but I need to remain strong. I have to!
Breathing heavily, I clenched my hand onto my chest just to notice something hard was there. Something that felt fragile and solid at the same time. Gulping, I took a peek inside… to see the crystal rose I picked up at the shrine stuck in there.
“How…?” I mumbled. “When I got home I left it on top of my desk so I could leave it tomorrow to the priest… Since it looks so valuable it must be from some tourists…”
Ah, I need some water. I have to think this through… it could be a dream… a very… vivid dream, I’d say. First of all, my security is the most important thing right now. After I’ve settled down for a bit I could walk to Shinji’s place… after all, I just sent him an ambiguous message past 3 AM and my phone is dead. His mother wouldn’t mind, I think.
Walking down the stairs, my reality suddenly came like a tidal wave forgetting momentarily my current cause of distress when I entered the kitchen.
Thousands of garbage bags; instant ramen containers; everything was laying on the ground.
A delicate single noodle was hanging off one of the cups, struggling to reach the wooden floor. Drops of the broth fell like thin and delicate rain. The rest was inside, reminding me I skipped dinner tonight.
The cruel reality was much more painful than I imagined.
When walking with the curtains closed, I rarely decided to turn on the lights so that the bill wouldn’t be too high. Sure, I could choose to open them and use the delicate light of the moon, like the lanterns of the adjoining road, but for some unknown reason, I didn’t.
The plague was beginning to enter through my sense of smell, causing me to recoil and collide with a ledge. Bags of cookies descended slowly, the crumbs scattering like snowflakes. At the same time, more empty containers of ramen yielded down as domino pieces, or rather, as a house of cards to be in a similar position. Then, my orange eyes met the corner of perdition, that one where if something fell by chance, no matter how much you moved everything, it never appeared
My own little Bermuda triangle.
With disdain, I went towards the cupboard for a glass just to, when turning around, stumble with more trash bags and unwashed clothes that for an unknown reason were spread on the floor.
“This wouldn’t have happened if Shinji and Manabu hadn’t forgotten about helping me clean last month…” I say as I use my hands to get out of the mess. “I need to be tidier… I can’t be like this my whole life.”
Throwing imaginary fists in the air, I take a long breath as I fetched the fridge’s handle. Opening it, I took a glass of ice-cold water and served it on my glass. Taking a sip, it’s sudden crystal glimmer reminded me of the rose stuck in my chest.
Unbuttoning my one-piece pyjamas for a bit, I noticed how it was technically stuck to myself.
Actually, it even looks… embed?
Slowly, I left the glass of water by my side and reached for the rose, with the only sole intention of pulling it out.
However, I did not believe that the voice that would receive me would make me scream like never before.
“I would refrain from doing that if I were you. Do you want to experience how it feels like to have all of your arteries pulled out at once? Do you, now? Gosh, if I had stayed inside that room for any second longer you’d be bleeding out.”
I can’t afford to pass out again!
But my knees were giving in due to the unusual phenomenon I was experiencing.
The mysterious individual was floating in front of me, after somehow being able to get out of my locked room. His bed hair moved curiously, while he reached his index finger right to my lips.
“Now, let’s calm down and talk like the rational people we are. I can’t have you screaming nor passing out as a damsel in distress.”
“I’m in distress!”
“Good! We can hold a conversation like a normal person now without recurring to punches. Now, take a seat!”
Gesturing the adjourning living room, he insists.
“Wait, why are you even… This is my house!” I stayed put. “Besides, if you really want to explain this whole mess somehow, I honestly need you to get some clothes on! I can barely look at your face! … And… And…!”
I’m losing it. I’m definitely losing it.
“Wait, girly. Wait! I do need you to calm down, okay?” while he said that, I curled up into a little ball not knowing what else to do. “If you don’t the…”
The what!? Goodness gracious, I should make a run for it. But… seeing how he appeared out of nowhere plus escaping my improvised locked room then… what else can he do? What can he do to me… if I try to escape?
Drowning myself inside my own world of fears, my heartbeat or, rather, my pulse came to a halt. I needed air, my lungs claiming for any particle of oxygen they could find nearby. Nevertheless, it was futile. I could not even breathe. A new sting plunged into my neck, like thousands of needles doing their best to tear open my chest. My vision was turning dark, enveloping me in black.
“Oh no, don’t do this to me!” I heard him say. “See!? This is what I was referring to. I can’t lose you just after I finally found you!”
I couldn’t even see him. I couldn’t quite make his figure… However, when I felt his gentle touch against the crystal rose, all these anomalies dissipated. Went away as quickly as they came. I could breathe once again, and I felt just like a small fish that had returned to the water after suffering outside of it.
“Wha…” my voice cracked.
My whole body is numb.
«Are you feeling better now?»
A voice resounded inside my mind.
The mysterious boy pressed for the third time his fingertips on my lips, shaking his head.
«Do not force yourself to speak if you can’t.»
«Is this… telepathy…?» I stared at him dumbfounded.
«You could say so? To be honest, is more of… kinda like… transmitting… retransmitting… our mental soundwaves into each other's brains or something fancy like that.»
«It sounds way less magical when you put it in those terms.» He sighed. «So, will you answer my question?»
«Y-Y-Yeah, I feel better now and I can breathe but… what… happened?»
«The Rosa Crystallum was feeding itself from your negative energy. The fear you had was so big that your magical power couldn’t contain it taking all of your vital force in order to function properly. I could stop it since I’m your partner but any second wasted and you’d be...»
“Stop. Hold it. Right. There.” Glad I could speak again, I stood up holding myself from the fridge’s door, my knees still trembling since the numbness hasn't completely gone away. “Rosa Crystallum? Negative Energy? Taking all of my vital force? And… partner? What do I have in here, a ticking time bomb?”
“Well… I wouldn’t put it that way. Usually, when a magic-user…” without thinking, I interrupted him by grabbing him from his yellow scarf. “You...are… ahh… I can’t… breathe…”
“You are going to explain in full detail what is going on here! About… this crystal rose and whatever happened just a moment ago!” I let him go, incapable of believing that Shinji’s behaviour was rubbing onto me. “But before this, I really do need to get you some clothes first. I need to be focused.”
“That’s why I’m here for in the first place! To explain!” He yelled, his face slowly regaining its colour. “It’s crucial for you to know this, my dearest.”
“Yes, you’re my dearest. That’s why I’m here for you!” Excited, he stood up as well and looked directly into my eyes. “Now now, let’s do as you say and get me some clothes. It’s freezing in here now that I notice. I do wonder how I got naked if it wasn't your fault though.”
Just what I’ve gotten myself into…
Anxiety was taking over.
An overwhelming sensation of hopelessness.
Who, or what was the cause of it? It still sounds stupid if I say it out loud.
“Will you open the door? We’ve been standing here for about three straight minutes now and you haven’t moved an inch!” the dark blue-haired boy said, hugging himself. “Dramatic pauses usually last less than this!”
The only place where I can find some clothes for him is… right here but I… I can’t…
My hand began to shake.
“Girly, let me take over,” moving me aside, he stretched his hand towards the handle just to recoil and hold it tight. “What in the world…?”
“Did something happen? Was it static?” I asked.
“Static?” he blinked filled with confusion.
“Sometimes when the human body comes in contact with steel, you feel some sort of discharge.” I brushed a strand of hair behind my ear, embracing myself for the inevitable. “How can you not know that? You’re a strange guy.”
“Hm…” he mumbled, stroking his fingers. “Yes, strange indeed.”
“I need to get over this…” taking a deep breath, I held the handle just to notice how the boy glanced at me. “What…?”
“Nothing,” he replied. “So? What is this place?”
“My…” I gulped slowly, frantically looking for the right words until we locked eyes. A soothing heartbeat could be felt inside of me, so warm and nice enough to tranquillize the anxiety. “My parent's room.”
“Huh…” crossing his arms, the scarfed boy whistled. “Anyway, pick the best you’ve got in there for me!”
“You’re not coming in?”
I heard the door make a clicking sound.
Alright, it’s open… Now all I have to do is… go inside…
“A half-naked boy with a girl inside a room, alone? All I get from that are red flags and as I told you before…” he said bashfully, with the clear intention of teasing me while sticking his tongue out. “I’m too young for this, my dearest.”
I couldn’t let that comment slip by.
“Oh for goodness sake, I can’t believe the same person who was sleeping bare naked next to me is saying something like that,” for that single, brief moment, I forgot about everything and stepped inside, slamming the door behind me while my cheeks turned bright red. “Your common sense is all over the place, hmph!”
All I heard as a reply were childish giggles coming from the other side.
What I had in front of me was, once again, an unbelievable sight.
The boy was sitting beside me on the living room’s sofa. We sat motionless by the great window, staring up at the awestruck light that entered through the curtains.
A starlit sky with no moon in sight, you could say.
“Very well then, now that’s everything’s done and all… Let’s begin with some introductions shall we?” the boy extended both of his arms, my dad’s coat being ridiculously big for his arms and it flopped between his fingers. “Ahem, but first of all, I’d like to say I’m sorry for startling you like that. I had no clue that when I manifested, I’d appear… well… naked.”
“Yes…” I looked sideways. “Let’s start with that… I’m…”
“Yui Samidare. Thirteen years old, turning fourteen this upcoming 8th of February. Born in 1999, the year of the rabbit. Blood type is AB. You’re 1.54 meters tall, and your three sizes are 78/53/79. Oh, and you weigh 39 kg which means your eating habits are a mess. You need to start eating properly or else you’ll get sick all winter.”
This guy is scary, how does he know everything!?
«Because we are partners, after all!»
“Stop invading my thoughts, I need at least some privacy in my life!” I yelled, hugging myself feeling transparent against his eyes. “How do you even know my… Anyway! How come you know so much about me?!”
“As I’ve been telling you, we are partners. That’s why I know everything about you! Well, not technically everything but the profile tidbits… and things I can assume by myself. For example, you live alone which is highly dangerous in my opinion. Someone could break in and hurt you!”
“Look who’s talking.” I coughed.
“As I was saying…!”
“Stop steering this conversation. I need answers and every time you open your mouth to talk all I have are more questions…”
“Alright then. Have it your way, my dearest.”
It was hard to grasp the scale of the scene that was unfolding at this moment. Yet everything that was happening was undeniably true, and in a vast corner of my mind, I had to let go off reality and logic to make sense of this unnatural absurdity.
“First of all, what’s your name? Where did you come from? What is this… rose thingy and why it’s stuck on my chest? What happened to me down in the kitchen? Why were you naked in my bed? How did you get out of my room?” I blurted all that haunted my mind, non-stop without taking a single breath.
“Woah, so many questions… where to start…” I saw how he eyed the room as if looking for something. “Say… do you believe in magic?”
“Don’t derail this conversation again, I beg of you.”
“Just answer this one question and I promise I’ll resolve all of your doubts.”
The boy looked expectantly at me as if the tone of my answer could change the fate of everything itself. Glittering inside a living nightmare, his amber eyes emitted a calm light, tranquillizing my soul. I could listen to the cicadas crying in the dark alongside the crickets, a never-ending song that no one listens to while asleep. The bare trees roared, expecting a response.
“Magic is… something that makes people happy through a lie.”
“Huh?” his bed head moved alongside his head.
“See magicians? When they do their magic tricks they bring smiles to children’s faces but… in reality it’s all a huge lie. They make them believe a false reality. They twist… They bend reality to their advantage and blindfold their audience so that they can see something supposedly unreal. Magic is… a story of lies and tricks to make people happy and smile. It’s like playing house. A make-believe tale.”
“Putting it in your words… do you, then, believe in said lie?” even if he appeared to be vexed due to my answer, I nodded in agreement. “I see… This is unexpected. Then, magic for you is just like a fairy tale.”
“You could say so, but in real-time. Anyone can do magic, bending our reality with mind tricks and optical illusions. If real magic users existed, they could make me see the sky in another colour. Show me a warped illusion memory. They could fall and disappear like nothing. Just like how you did.” I sighed with sadness. “Magic… huh. That explains it, then. How you could float and transport yourself from my room to the kitchen.”
“Then you’ve answered yourself two of your questions” he smiled and, finally, winked with a laugh. “I’m a magic-user… sorta. But before we get into that… given I know so much about you, you at least deserve to know my basic profile information.”
“Surprise me,” I sighed, resting my head on a pillow.
“My name is…” he glanced sideways once more, his eyes diverting in all directions as if looking for something. “I’m Nobuyuki Mochizuki. I’m actually 1417 years old but in human age, it would be like thirteen, yup. Yeah, not fourteen. I could be considered fourteen if I had around 1450. As you already know I’m a magic-user and was born in another world parallel to yours in a realm from there called Celestia. I don’t actually have a human birthday but… given your calendar system, it would be around… May 21st I suppose. We don’t have blood types as well but again, going by your system I believe I’d be considered type O. And… about my sizes…”
“...Why are you blushing?” I found myself astonished. “For someone who clearly goes and says the 3 sizes of a girl you’ve just met without a single concern in the world, you clearly do get embarrassed over the silliest things.”
But that’s a lie for me as well. I don’t want to overthink but… his name reminds me of… No, Yui. Don’t look too much into the little details.
“So let me get this straight…” I sighed for the second time in a row, trying my best to assume my current circumstances. “You are a magic-user…”
“Sorta,” he corrected me.
“You are sorta like a magic-user…” I shrugged. “Came from another world where apparently there is, of course, magic and for some unknown reason have a Japanese name even if you’re not from here and you even age differently meaning you’re just… something with a human shape.”
“Well, since it is technically a parallel world we could say there are similarities. Don’t sweat the small details, my dearest Yui! Oh, and for the record, I am not a thing! I am a magus and we are pretty much human but, as I stated before, we have our differences such as being capable of handling the magical elements plus a different age span and… transforming.”
“Transforming…?” I recoiled. “Wait, does that mean you can become a beast?”
“NO!” he shouted, frantically moving his hands. “I’m not some half-beast freak!” He coughed, fixing his throat, just to continue. “Moving on! I can transform into… something. Not a beast. Answering one of your questions I believe I was naked because I broke into your house while being transformed and then I… suppose I forgot to appear with clothes.”
“You… WHAT?” I stood up, incapable of believing what he was saying. “How can you forget something so VITAL? And in any case, you just admitted breaking into my house!”
“What else was I supposed to do at 3 AM? Ring the doorbell?”
“I barely know you and I want to smack your face against a wall…” I froze with what I said. “... Shinji’s demeanour is sticking to me. You’re not like this, Yui.”
“Yes, that wasn’t nice at all!” he pouted.
“Just… continue before I regret giving you the benefit of the doubt…” I sat down again, resigned. “Now, could you please explain the most crucial thing of all of this?”
“What you have inside your chest is the Rosa Crystallum. It is one of the three relics from the land I come from. There are only three of them, and they’re currently missing. In fact, this was the last one that was robbed just a few days ago. But now given that it’s stuck to you I can’t just pull it out. The energy stored in there is already one with you,” Nobuyuki stretched his fingertip, gently caressing the rose. “If I may say, you and the Rosa are already one whole being.”
“One whole… being?” I whispered, my theory of a ticking time bomb becoming a reality with every word he spoke.
“Yes. To put it simply…” with a snap of his fingers, a sketchbook popped between his hands and started to tell me the explanation as a sort of picture book, passing images with each sentence he said. “This relic is a device that connects itself to just females once it makes a match. In my land, women are the ones who have more magical energy than us, males. Once it is connected, it allows you to channelize said energy into an infinity of possibilities, magically speaking.”
“But why would it…?”
“Make a match with you? Dunno…” he crossed his arms, lowering his gaze. “But what I’m sure is, that you, my dearest Yui, have a humongous amount of magical potential and that’s why it chose you.”
“I… just want to live a normal life…” I sighed. “Why is all of this happening?”
“All I can say is that it told me that you are like the number zero. You’re empty but, at the same time, infinite. Everything starts and ends with you, like dreams. Dreams are what fuel your whole existence. That’s what it told me.” Nobuyuki disappeared the picture book, closing his eyes. “Now it’s all up to you, Child of Dreams Yui Samidare. You are dreams themselves. What will you do?”
«That’s because you are Dreams themselves!»
That’s what my dream told me…
“You can talk with this thing?” I pointed at the rose, highly disturbed. “That’s… unusual.”
“Well, duh. I’m your partner. Of course, I can speak with it!” he crossed his arms, annoyed once again. “Oh, with partner I mean that I kinda reside inside that rose. That’s why I’m highly connected to you.”
“Explains the telepathy.” I nodded.
“It’s not… hah, whatever. Call it as you wish. In any case, as your partner, we are connected by a bond and your magical energy gets passed onto me and vice versa. That’s why I could calm your dark thoughts when the Rosa started to pollute.”
“... It started to what?”
“Pollute.” Nobuyuki raised his index finger, to accentuate his point. “You see, remember when I said that the Rosa Crystallum is heavily connected with you and that you’re practically the same being? If your heart and thoughts become negative, it obviously fills itself with despair, or so to say. That’s why we, the anima exist to cleanse that. We can’t make it disappear but…”
“It’s like covering the sun with your thumb,” I said.
“To put it simply, yes. Anyhow, what matters the most right now is that I need to know if you’re willing to accept this new destiny of yours.”
“Become a Veneficae! Destroy those HeartBits and retrieve the remaining Rosa Crystallum from The Observer!”
However, I was flying to a distant, faraway place.
“Veneficae, Veneficae Somnia. I told you!” He points at the now non-existent sketchbook on his hand “Veneficae are women that use their magical aptitudes to serve as protectors…! Of sorts. You have an affinity towards dreams so… Somnia! Veneficae Somnia.”
“Like… Magical girls from those ani—” Before I could finish he interrupted excitedly.
“Literal, but yes! Magical girls! That rolls off the tongue much easier!”
Now it was his time to do a dramatic pause.
“Yui! Become the Magical Girl of Dreams!”
Become a magical girl!?
“No way that’s happening! That means I have to… to fight?” stuttering, I stood up as well. “That’s impossible I’m… I'm good for nothing! I’m talentless! I’m useless! How am I supposed to… fight… unknown things if I… I…”
“You can also refuse, y’ know. I’m not forcing you.”
His words were ice-cold, even a small breeze entered the room taking my soul with it.
“I can… refuse?” I repeated, dumbfounded.
“Yes. However, that means I’d have to take the Rosa Crystallum from you by any means.”
That means I…
“Exactly. You would die.” Nobuyuki slowly walked towards me, me one step away with each one he took. “Extracting it from you shouldn’t be a big deal. I’d make sure your death is swift and not painful at all. Of course, all your magical energy would go berserk. As you said, it’s like covering the sun with your thumb or, more precisely, like taking a cork out of a near to explode bottle of champagne.”
“And? What do you choose?”
“I never had a choice from the start did I…?”
“Nope!” And returning to normal, Nobuyuki went straight to me and gave me a suffocating hug. “Hah, that was terrifying. It would’ve been so painful to end your life, my dearest Yui. Now, all we have to do is begin the preparations so you can be a full-fledged magical girl!”
“Please let go off me!” shoving him off, I was able to get some air. “Even if I don’t have a choice I do really need to think calmly about all of this… it’s…” I glanced at the clock on top of the oven. “Past 4 AM now. Not the ideal time to make logical choices here!”
“Didn’t you say logic can go to hell a while ago, though?” he said with a smug face.
“... Don’t I have to sign a contract or something? I need a guarantee of… of anything!”
“You think this needs a contract? You’re hilarious!” vividly laughing, he shed a tear on his left eye. “This is a magical girl’s duty back in my land, there is no contract for this. Few are the chosen ones and they are regarded as the highest of beings! You should be honoured.”
He kept on laughing like a small child, without a care in the world.
However, he came to a sudden stop.
"To all of this, my dearest... Where did you find the Rosa Crystallum?"
My heartbeats increased erratically.
"Now that I think about it, shouldn't it had been in your exposition priority list that question as number one?" I yawned, doing my best to ease the anxiety.
"As you can see, I tend to be very... disperse when it comes to these sort of things. My mind wonders and yonders all over." The boy scratched the nape of his neck, clearly taken aback by his failed sense of duty.
"Well, it was at the local temple... There is one almost right in front of my house. I... was out for a walk when I stumbled upon it." Unable to say the true circumstances that lead to me finding the ticking time-bomb on my chest, I replied to his initial question.
"And exactly where did you stumbled upon it, as you say it happened?" His index finger went straight to his chin, pondering.
"Does it really matter? It was lying on the grass." After I said those words, something clicked in my mind. "Now that I mention it, how come something so important as you claim it to be was without any supervision in a totally random place?"
"Recall I told you it was recently stolen?" Closing his eyes, the self-proclaimed magic-user counterargues.
"Yes... However, even if it was stolen, the thief would've thought of a better hiding place for it, unless they did a very sloppy job."
Surprisingly, Nobuyuki Mochizuki remained quiet.
"Did I say something strange?" Unable to hold another yawn, I stretched as I did so.
"It makes no sense at all, actually." He openly admitted after opening his amber eyes. "Still, those matters do not concern you one bit! Just let Nobu here take care of it! Just be glad you didn't die by extracting it by force from your chest!"
"Again, more questions without answers I guess..."
And, honestly, that was okay. I was incredibly exhausted to keep on arguing anymore.
"Sweet dreams, my dearest."
Closing my eyes, I could feel his hands slowly touching my body, carrying me in the air like a princess.
After more than seven years, feeling the warmth of another person never felt as bitter and lukewarm as now, which is why I did not protest, letting this unusual stranger's kindness lull me to sleep.
❀ Present Time - June 27th ❀
“Who ordered the kake soba?”
I blinked several times. My dark orange gaze to the ceiling had been interrupted by two pink eyes and a dazzling smile. The young waitress would be about a couple of years older than me, deducing that it was her part-time job or she simply decided to work after graduating junior high. Her uniform was slightly wrinkled and obviously impregnated with a strong ginger aroma.
Nobu’s nose reddened and he sneezed.
“It’s for her,” he pointed at me while cleaning his nose with a tissue.
“I'm sorry!” she said with withdrawal, moving a little. “It must be due to the spices. I should change my apron right away.”
She rested both hands on the tray she carried. The pink-eyed waitress fixed her hair, which reminded me of the colour of a cherry blossom that made her stand out from the depressing ambience. It was tied in two low pigtails and they danced when she lowered her face handling my order.
“And here’s the cold tempura soba,” the girl did the same for Nobu’s order and I was awestruck.
That’s a whole lot!
«Boy’s have a big appetite! And you know I can’t handle hot food.»
«Oh shut it!»
It consisted of a plate of soba noodles, alongside another one of assorted tempura, and a dipping pot of soup along with some garnishes. It smelled delicious.
“Are you two on a date? It’s unusual to see students so young around here…” the waitress spoke in a carefree tone.
“No, we’re…” but it was too late.
“Yup! A date with my dearest person in the world!” Nobu explained happily.
«What are you doing!?»
«Now, now, just go with the flow Yui!»
«Why do you embarrass me like that…?»
«It’s not like we’ll be here again anyway, so what gives? Let me have some fun.»
«You always do this, anywhere!»
“That’s adorable!” she clasped both hands. “I hope you have a lovely date then!”
“Thank you, Miss Sakura!” the way Nobu replied gave me the creeps on how cheerful it was. “By the way, do you know any places to stay the night?”
Wondering how he knew her name, I searched anything that might give her identity just to discover a nameplate with her surname on top of her apron.
"Yu, table five!" another worker's voice stopped their conversation, calling her.
"Be right there!" she says, preparing to leave, but not before turning around to observe us both. “Oh, your question…”
“You mean like, hotels and such? Hm… yeah there is one place but it’s around twenty minutes on a car and I doubt both of you are legal to drive.” she crossed both of her arms, suspicious. “And I can’t let two minors stay by their own at someplace… are you both perhaps runaways?”
“Nothing of the sort,” Nobu shook his hand just to keep on his cheery facade. “We came to a funeral!”
Way to drop a bomb, Nobu! Hah, this guy…
“Oh, um… I apologize then…” she mumbled, not knowing what else to say. “I’m… sorry for your loss.”
“No worries,” he kept on smiling, giving me the creeps. “Where is it? The hotel.”
“It’s in Nagarashidami. Although it is a bit expensive for students now that I think about it…” Miss Sakura pondered.
“Ahaha, I’ve got that covered.”
“Yu, table five… NOW!” the voice sounded angry this time.
The girl left hurriedly, Nobu still watching her while I tried a bit of my soba.
“Why do you watch her so much?” my thought came out loud.
“You jelly?” he raised both of his eyebrows in a picaresque way.
“... Don’t be an idiot,” I gave up and started to eat. “I can’t believe you’re the same guy that practically tried to kill me when we met.”
“Time does go by absurdly fast, doesn’t it?”
“I wish it could go backwards…”
Looking through the window, a ray of sun went straight into my eye: the rain had stopped, bringing a colourful rainbow for everyone to see.
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