Chapter 43:

shine on you crazy diamond

technicolor spiral

There were wires all around. I hadn't been born like this, though. When had they begun showing up? How did I stop them? How could I possibly hope to see the world without black scribbles everywhere? 

Mr. Clarence had arrived by the time Touma and I emerged. He raised his eyebrows at me, and I bowed, and I begged for my life. There was nobody else at the shop, aside from us and the evil... fine, Youji's friends. They swarmed us. 

Miyo bowed. She shoved Jun-chan's head down so he'd follow. "We're sorry! We're so sorry! We didn't mean to scare your employee like that. Jun."

"I'm sorry," Jun-chan mumbled, not just to Mr. Clarence, but to me, too. 

Was he?

I wish I knew. I chose to believe him, though. 

Touma, too, bowed, for he was also nice nice. They all were. I chose to see that through the fog. "I startled your employee earlier," he said. "He, um, dropped our orders because of that. I know the cups are expensive, so I'll—"

"No need," replied Mr. Clarence. 


"No need... though if you want to pay them off that much, you can always recommend this place to your friends."

I wanted friends.


I wanted lots of friends. People to talk to. People to recommend coffee shops to, to go to karaokes with, to talk about test results, to... live?

Youji slammed the door open, breaths heavy. "Where the fuck is—oh."

"Oh?" Said Mr. Clarence.

"Oh," breathed Touma. Miyo and Jun glanced at him, while he failed to even try to smile. With how pale he got, he really looked like the moon now. 

Since I couldn't speak up, I tapped Mr. Clarence's shoulder. "C-could we... could we give them some, um. The. It's still open, right? The..." The more Youji approached us, the harder it got to exist. "...s-shop..."

Touma stammered, "You—Natsume-san, let me—"

Youji took my hand. 

Youji dragged me back out.

And the rest?

And the shop?

His job?


As we embraced, I finally remembered how to breathe. Did he hold me, or did I hold him? 

Me. I held him. 



"No, it's okay. Continue."

"Um. I. I forgot."

"You forgot?"

"I-I mean I'm. Um. Your. Inside. There's."

"I saw him, yeah."

"Why don't you..."

Youji shook his head. I knew this because I felt it, since he hid his face against my neck. Gingerly, I patted his hair. He smiled. I didn't have to see or feel it to know. In that sense, he held me, too. "Later," he said. "Just... thirty seconds. Forty-five seconds. Do you hate me? Am I punishment to you? Oh. Okay."

"Funny," I mumbled. 

He didn't laugh. For a moment, a while—didn't matter—he were silent. Due to the night being moonless, all we had were the dim lights from the shop, red and green, a mild yellow from the streetlights above, then dark blue from the rest of the world.

"I'm sorry, Isao."

"For...?" Oh, fuck it. "For cowardly running away? For leaving me alone with your crazy friends? For letting your stabby friend kidnap m—"

"Did he actually—"


Youji sighed, relieved. I hadn't known Touma for that long, yet I could see where that reaction came from. "I'm sorry," was all he could say.

"That's... that's fine. I'm also a coward."

"You're not."

"Fuck you. I know what I am and what I'm..." He kissed me to shut me up. I knew it, but I went with it anyway. Besides, it was short. "...not."

"Sometimes," he said.

"No, I do. It might not seem like, but I do. I'm sorry I'm like tff..." Again. "...stop it."

He grinned. 

"...okay, you can continue. Wait—no. No, you can't. We have to go back."



And there it was, again, that sad, sweet smile that I wanted to protect. He could be something wrong, too, but I couldn't care less. 

"Let's go," he said. 

"Yeah. Let's..." Go back to that disaster. 

And we did. 

And it'd be okay.

Not now, but it'd be someday. 

That was the one good thing about despair—the other side. 

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