❀ Past - January 24th - Midday ❀
It's daylight, bright, like a day for the beach even if it's winter but he's coming.
He's coming and I can't stop him, I can't. Now my heart beats like it means to explode and my mind is a scattered mess. I'm not cool under pressure.
I'll run until there's no skin left on my feet.
Miss Hazawa is so scared.
My feet slip outwards on the wet concrete as I round the corner, the cold evening air shocking my throat and lungs as I inhale deeper, faster. With each footfall, a jarring pain shoots ankle to knee, ankle to knee. Perhaps jumping that wall onto stairs wasn't so smart. My heart beats frantically, all or nothing. Fail and my whole body will pay the price, run and the damage is limited mostly to my shins and knees.
Heart pounding, my panicked breath like thunder in my ears, thighs burning, lungs on fire, praying not to trip. Adrenaline almost bursting through my skin, eyes wide with fear, screams locked in my throat. He's coming. I can hear his heavy steps pounding the asphalt. His groans of infuriation. He's right behind us both.
I wiped the sweat from my forehead, exhausted. I could still smell him. I had to stop before my lungs gave out on me. I looked like a leaking pipe but I had to keep running since Miss Hazawa wasn't letting go of me nor was going to answer any of my questions and the mysterious Kuro was alongside us pushing us forward.
Until in between the pathways of a single hallway we came with our only obstacle.
The ledge was as wide as a single foot and with all the grip of black ice. It went right around the building, some sort of architect's decoration, smooth dark granite against the dyed beige concrete walls. Most certainly it was never designed to be walked on, never to take even the weight of a child, and we were no child. We took a look down. The people on the sidewalk were as big as the little soldiers. We glanced around the place we seemed to have lost him, yet Miss Hazawa's eyes were searching for somewhere, anywhere that might hide us. No such luck. We looked down again. One wrong move and we weren't going to get the chance to "play again".
No second lives.
The worst part was how we lost track to don't realize how we got up to a higher terrain with all the running.
“Why is Mr Yamada after us…?” I managed to ask, catching my breath seeing he wasn’t around anymore.
“Haven’t… you heard the rumours?” Miss Hazawa trembled, hugging herself.
«Some students have sent anonymous letters about Mr Yamada not being… well, I’ll leave that to your imagination!»
Suddenly, Koharu's words echoed in my mind.
"All I heard was that some students sent letters about him to the council and Koharun was doing some spying on him to catch him redhanded," I said. "Or so I recall."
"Redhanded my..." she shrugged, "I was the one who was sent to establish some sort of close contact with him due to my personality so those poor girls could be left alone! Koharu wanted to gather data. Well, let's say it was teamwork. He was the analytics parts or counselling, gathering the evidence to present while I was the distraction to avoid more incidents which worked for a period of time... however..."
So that's why everyone was calling her Mr Yamada's lapdog! Her cutesy act with him as well! She acted as being head over heels for him as if receiving special treatment so the other girls wouldn't approach him! Miss Hazawa is so brave...
I gulped, joining both hands on my chest while I heard Kuro whine.
"Each time it got just worse to the point that last time something totally mature almost happened and I ran away as fast as I could! I was so traumatized all I did was reach the room and disconnect from the world? So your friend was very wrong about it being a hickey. As soon as I saw that... mad look in his eyes... all that... dormant lust within him I just had to escape the room. He almost looked like another person at that time."
Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step.
Eyes widened, breaths ragged and harsh. Miss Hazawa's hands trembled at her sides and she jammed her fist into her mouth to stifle the scream. She'd heard it coming; the soft susurration of his footsteps, like a threatening whisper. It didn't seem to come from any direction, just a sound that encapsulated her inside her cocoon of despair and hopelessness. Her legs were frozen into place, so she crouched into a crawl and dragged herself towards the edge of the alley, gasping and choking. She clawed at the walls.
I can feel the sweat drench my skin, the throbbing of my own eyes, the ringing screams vibrating in my ears, and the thumping of my heart against my chest. My fingers are curled into a fist, nails digging into my palm. I can't hear my rapid breathing, but I can feel the oxygen flooding in and out of my lungs. Hesitantly, my eyes look at Mr Yamada, the person who was traumatizing my friend.
Fear tortures my guts, churning my stomach intense cramps. Fear engulfs my conscience, knocking all other thoughts aside. Fear overwhelms my body, making it drastically exhausted. However, most of all, the fear is making me calm and that is what scares me the most, in contrast, to other situations.
«Fear is part of being human, Yui, it's the precursor to bravery. We need it, it wakes us up to what needs to be done. So feel it, own it, let it ignite your thoughts.»
That voice again! I’m sure it comes from the rose!
Kuro started to bark at Mr Yamada, just to be pushed mercilessly against the wall.
The wail of agony they made, caused my mind to spin.
Everything went by so fast, that the most cliché and used question in all history of movies and books came to my mind: "Why, Mr Yamada?"
"Why?" he said, pondering. Until a disturbing smile hit him. "There is no why or reason at all. I just do it and that's just it!"
"Abusing with no reason? Just because you feel like it? I am so scared of you right now Mr Yamada, yet, right now, that fear is making me so angry!" I yelled. "Miss Hazawa has been suffering, countless girls have been suffering in silence, so many other students have been in silence and you dare say it was to satisfy some desire of yours?"
"Oh my dear student, you have it all wrong! It isn't some desire, this is how I really am and I just came to acknowledge it recently, I'm just feeling free and liberated." He said matter of factly. "However, I had never been so close as to do something intimate with anyone before."
He was approaching. I feared, feared so much. Yet, he let me go and went towards that girl that grew onto me in such a short time.
"Let's continue where we left last night, shall we?"
"I... I won't let you do as you please with upperclassman Hazawa!" I placed myself between them, extending both arms. "I... I will protect her! T-That is my duty!"
"You? Such a puny pathetic and homeless girl? A girl that can't even get up every morning? A girl that arrives late to school and her grades are less than average? A girl that isn't as good as her lookalike?" Mr Yamada licked his lips. "She looks like a nice target as well..."
"Leave Yuiko alone!" I screamed from the bottom of my lungs.
"You don't raise your voice to your professors, stupid girl!"
The slap was as loud as a clap and stung my face. It had been an open-handed smack and it had left a red welt behind. I staggered backwards, clutching my face, eyes watering.
Yet, I did not waver. That's why he went at it again.
His hand cracks across my face, snapping it back with the force of his blow and causing my head to reel sickeningly as it slams into the wall behind me. When black dots quit covering my vision I am standing in the middle of the room with Mr Yamada holding my arms tightly behind my back, the pain of his hold causing me to let out a startled little gasp of pain.
"Feeling braver now?" he spits to the floor, Miss Hazawa wanting to do something by the look of her eyes, but her legs were frozen solid.
Until Kuro came and bit his back making him liberate me.
"Kuro!" surprised, I left my consciousness fade away.
❀ ? ? ? ❀
Somnia, that is your name.
You will protect people's dreams
I bestow upon you the powers to save what you cherish the most and stop the disaster that approaches towards this world and ours.
Please, accept this power.
The Rosa Crystallium has chosen you.
Find the answer that you seek and perhaps you'll be able to resolve those longing questions.
Until we meet again, Somnia.
Now, repeat after me: —
❀ Past - January 24th - Midday ❀
“Be the same as dreams themselves. Just because they did not arrive into your soul, delve into the deep consciousness of your heart. With the music of the night, this sweet dream is the leader of your desires. Because the magician of illusions has arrived!"
"What is... this...?"
I grow strong against this wind; muscles working all the more. It is the freshness over my skin, which makes a fine flag of my tousled hair. In the trees it is a gusting chorus, a song so confidently sung. There are times I feel it within, that push and swirl, that stirring to show what is solidly there. I'm okay with it; I am. For the calmness of sweet days ahead will be such plain sailing, as easy as summer daydreams.
All of the noise disappeared in an instant. It was like being stuck between two realities: one that was imperfect, but doable. The other the vision where I pictured myself in, the one I longed myself to be a part of. Was is a possibility to make that world into reality? The only thing that separated me from achieving the dream was myself.
That's why it was astounding to see the first picture that popped my mind: Yuiko.
Everything happened in an instant.
My hair; my clothes; my eyes; even my body.
I looked like Yuiko in someway. My chest had grown; my hair was long and wavy, tied in a ponytail which was wavy in the end with a large light blue ribbon and was of a very light lavender colour. My eyes were orange as well like hers and pastel too. My dress was black and the rose was outside, being crystal pink with crystal leaves.
Seems like the magical girl talk wasn't a huge lie after all! Wait... I have witnesses! Aren't I supposed not have a single one!? Do I have wiping memory abilities!?
"I don't even know how to fight!" I protested. Still, Kuro barked by my side, inspiring me with confidence. "Aw, thanks, you'll help me?"
"Yui, look out!" Miss Hazawa warned me when Mr Yamada jumped in an incredible height, crashing right into the floor and leaving a huge crater right where I was with superhuman power.
She called me Yui!! Wait, this is no time to celebrate!!
"Ah, if only Nobu was here!!" I cried while trying to run away.
"Indeed, what a predicament for an amateur Magical Girl!" said an unknown girlish voice. "Now stop running a focus on your inner mana, fight this vicious monster!"
"Inner mana? Vicious monster? This is my junior high professor, Miss!" I went on, not knowing what to do. "But you are right! I need to fight, to protect... my friend!"
Miss Hazawa's eyes widened, me not knowing how to interpret that.
"I swear, this is supposed to be my prefecture and yet when I knew that there was another magical girl I thought it was a threat and it turned to be this... let's see how it turns out..." the mysterious girl said, me unable to locate her presence at all.
Without me unable to concentrate enough on Mr Yamada, he had already changed his appearance into a monster which seemed to resemble a beast. Something inhuman, its physique hardly discernible in the shadowy twilight of the alley. With each slow movement that belied the speed, it was capable of, slime dripped, oozing great globs of phlegm and depositing them on the pot-holed tarmac for forensics to find. It was sticky mucus, rancid and toxic to touch.
Thrusting the ground, it pounded the floor, me jumping into an incredible height barely escaping unscratched and it followed me as well.
Flying through the air, I didn't know what to do until my eyes met with Kuro who was with me as well. I didn't know any spell yet, however, what I could do, was follow my inner voice. That's why, without casting anything with my lips, I let my feelings flow.
For that sole reason, I flew within the alleyways, trying to lose what used to be Mr Yamada. Until I got into a clearing and stopped for a second which was a mistake.
Some rays of dark matter came out from a distance and came out to me like bullets, escaping by instinct and I skyrocketed right back into the sky, throwing pieces of what seemed to be shards towards him.
Running wasn't an option anymore. I had to confront him.
That's why when the bullet rain began from his side with dark matter, I prepared some shard with my hands, ready to shoot them at him.
Multicoloured sparks illuminated the wintery sky while I kept advancing and launching all I could while floating into his direction avoid every dark matter knowing it was toxic for my body. I wondered that if someone looked from far away, they would think this was a firework spectacle.
That's why, when I reached him, I saw my shards had done plenty of damage, his body merely a human once again-half beast, falling straight to the concrete.
Once back to the floor, I could hear the mysterious girl's voice once again: "Now, will you seal it? Or will you settle it?"
But in that second of distraction, Mr Yamada gathered an insane amount of energy directed towards me that the girl manifested herself chanting something I couldn't quite comprehend, making him human once again and his eyes were closed.
Everything went by so quickly, I couldn't even quite understand it.
All I could know was that Kuro was extremely upset since he bit her skirt.
"Control your mutt!" she spoke.
I was mesmerized by her sudden appearance and short stature. Her mint hair was long and curly in the end, with what seemed to be brown diamonds resembling chocolate chips.
"Codename?" She said again.
"He is no mutt and it's Kuro!" I replied.
"I meant yours, not his!"
"Yui, I guess? But why codename and not name?" I scratched my head.
"Lord please give me patience..." she sighed. "We Magical Girls can't be giving our real names to people you'd be an easy target! And that's another proof you are an amateur! My codename is Sweetch by the way. I am in charge of this prefecture and I am genuinely surprised that—"
"Upperclassman Hazawa are you alright?" When I tried to help her get up, her body felt week and my transformation suddenly went off. "What happened?"
"T-That's what I w-w-want to ask you..." she said. "B-B-But enough of that, Thank you for saving me, underclassman."
"Don't ignore me! I'm about to explain those things!!" Sweetch said. "Are you two in a hurry?"
"Oh my Lord the CAFÉ!!" we both said at the same time, our faces pale.
❀ Past - January 24th - Evening ❀
Café “Sabou Kuramo”
“Your friends already left.”
“I knew it…” I sighed. “And it’s already the end of our shifts. They might be at the hotel already…”
We both sighed as we left the place with the words the clerk said to us. Walking through the streets alongside Miss Hazawa, I could only remember the last words Miss Sweetch said to us before we ran away in a panic due to our mess-up.
«If you want to learn more about this “Magical Girl” World, you can come to this direction and I can talk you through some basic stuff and teach you something to actually defend yourself because this world is cruel and you don’t know who’s ally or foe. When you get there, ask for Ameka Hayami. PS. That’s not my name!!!»
It totally is, isn’t it?
“Underclassman Samidare, are you planning to go there?” Miss Hazawa stopped midway, looking at me sternly. “After what happened, I know you will be alright. However, I can’t overlook this. I am your chaperone… I feel responsible for you.”
“Please, you had a rough day Upperclassman Hazawa. Just rest and go back to the hotel. If anyone asks for me, tell them I found a goodie store with Shiiko’s goods! They shall believe you! And I’m with Kuro, everything should be okay!”
“Please take care, Yui. Afterwards, It’d be lovely to talk about this… you know… And you can... call me by my name if you... wish...”
“O-Of course… Miss Seraphine!”
I smiled, running without turning back, hearing Kuro’s paws behind me.
As I walk between the walls that are too high for me to bother seeking the almost black sky, I kick the garbage with each stride. As I leave the street, the lampposts cast my shadow like black over deepest charcoal; by midway, it has bled out. From the apartments come noises, not so much as in the daytime but all the louder for the absence of light and the quieter traffic. Soon I noticed the yellow beams of the lampposts ahead, without conscious thought the grip on my chest loosens a little, as does my stride.
"This is the right address, right, Kuro?" I gulped. The dog kept going.
I wandered along the rough cobbled streets that caused my feet to ache. The buildings were tight together and loomed over me, like a forest of stone. When I looked up the roofs were so close together that I could only make out a sliver of the dark sky that was mirrored by the tiny stream of light that trickled along the cold stone ground. The alleyway twisted and turned back on itself, first going to the right, then to the left. From where I stood, whether I looked in front or behind, I saw nothing but stone.
It's indeed the underworld of any town: gloomy and unpleasant. The vines that crawl up window sills and the crumbling plaster that envelopes the old stone bricks appear romantic at first but become daunting as the sun sets behind the skyline of chimneys. Darkness is lurking in every corner inside the labyrinth of narrow passages and dead ends. Litter is dumped on the street and birds nest amongst the sprawling rot. The street lights flicker off and you're left with nothing but the orchestra of the urban night playing its song...
Wait, a song?
I rushed towards it, coming face to face into a hidden night bar, confirming this was the correct location.
"We made it!" and Kuro barked, affirming my point.
I rest my hand on the rough paintwork that coats the door and push. Rough wooden splinters cut into my palm; shards of black paint crumble to the floor. The hinges squeak as though they are a warning, but their plea is silenced by a wall of noise. Laughter overpowers the jukebox. Conversations swirl in a dirty cloud of smoke, the stagnant stench of cigarettes hides within the collaboration of mephitic odours. A sharp smell of drink wafts towards me, like black plumes billowing from the windows of a burning house. There’s even a hint of sick tainting the fragrance of the room.
What is this place?
The bar is hundreds of conversations told in loud voices, all of them competing with the rock music that dominates the atmosphere. The crowd is young, students from the university for the most part. I wind my way through the warm bodies to find a seat while Kuro follows me obediently.
Suddenly, the lights dim out, and everyone applauds.
"What is going on?"
Some old curtains opened, revealing a man-made band and a woman I recognized from early morning.
It’s the woman from the postal office!
Her bright orange hair swirl with her hips with the guitar riff and piano, her voice coming out from her lips. It was jazzy and classic, yet it couldn’t be compared to that heart-pounding sensation Shiiko made me feel. However, her voice was still beautiful.
“♫ When I fly, I’m shot right back down. I crawl along the ground and am covered in mud. Then, something else appears. I bully the weak, calling it a game! As you can see, This is the state I’m in. I’m suffering through such wonderful things…. I went to the trouble of doing my hair and now it’s all a mess! Well then, anymore?! Game over! I shouldn’t be so stubborn. Even so, even so… I just can’t stop for some reason. But, it’s like this— After all, everybody’s— In that case— …aren’t things fine like this? ♫”
The applause the band received filled the bar, with a small yet vigorous thank you emanating from her lips.
“Excuse me…” a waitress approached me, dressing in a simple white blouse and black skirt. “Pet’s aren’t allowed inside here, and minor either.”
“Oh! I am so sorry! I actually came looking for someone!” I said rather quickly, stumbling with my words. “And the dog… they just followed me inside.”
Kuro waved their tail innocently.
“Who might you be looking for, young miss? It’s unusual for a bar to be a meeting place for…” I handed her over the card and her eyes just went blank. “Just a moment.”
She went straight towards the Miss from the Postal Office murmuring something until she approached me. With a sweet voice, I felt completely defenceless.
“You must be looking for Ameka, right?” the postal office lady who just sang said to me.
“Just give me one second, she must be inside her room.”
And so she left.
Inside her room? So this place is like a family business bar or something?
While waiting, I admired the atmosphere once again to kill some time. It was unusual seeing this kind of scenery on a school trip of some sort.
Everything happened really fast. That’s why I never noticed when a girl sat in my table, clearly a bit annoyed.
“Guess you made it here safely.” She said while eating some candy out of a bag. “Sheesh, I thought you would get lost.”
Her hair glowed like dark honey. It ran down in rivers of reds and browns as each rivulet shone deeply. Each individual strand was a soft feather falling. The hair was radiant with passion trying to bring eyes to look at the depths of the auburn like hair reminding all those of fall and better times, even if they were tied in two ponytails that went up and down to her shoulders in ribbons similar to candy wrappers. Yet, her eyes shone like a mixture of rivers who had blended in the same colour as an aquamarine ocean.
She munched the candy and waited until every customer left. We just sat there in silence, staring at each other, Kuro clearly anxious and me fidgeting with my hands. Once everyone left and the only remaining was the waitress who attended me, plus the all-boys band that sang with her, she grabbed me by my school blouse and I could see she was in her long-sleeved pyjamas.
“You lack common sense!” she yelled.
“You revealed your secret to a friend, plus you didn’t obliterate the HeartBit, I had to do it! And then your mutt here came and bit my magical skirt!” she kept ranting about what happened during the afternoon. “How old are you?”
“Um… thirteen but I’m turning fourteen in…”
“Well, I’m seventeen so that means you clearly lack common sense, gosh. I can assure that was the best option. HeartBits are our worst enemy!”
“Enemy?” I was clearly confused. “So Mr Yamada was possed by something?”
“You are a magical girl that knows NOTHING! I’ll go nuts in here.” Miss Hayami sighed lying on the table. “If only you had a teacher or someone who told you stuff.”
“I am her teacher and what you did was clearly upsetting and not morally correct!!” The dog suddenly spoke, which caught us both off guard but it seemed the other one present’s just ignored him.
Perhaps they do know Miss Hayami's secret and just take it as a given… Wait… Teacher!? Don’t tell me…
The black german shepherd transformed in a quick second, leaving a cloud of dust into Nobuyuki, who pulled a chair and sat with us like if it was something matter of factly which it wasn’t.
“And you are…?” Miss Hayami was speechless.
Meanwhile, I remembered the anxiety I felt at the bus while worrying about the dog and wanted to slap him. I got worried over someone who I told to stay home but followed me anyways!
“Nice to meet you, I am Nobuyuki Mochizuki, this young lady’s…. Familiar, or so to say.” He said with a bright smile. His clothes weren’t tattered at all, just the yellow scarf like always. “I protected and helped her during the battle. I have many questions for you, Ameka Hayami. For example, where is your familiar? Your partner?”
“I… didn’t know magical girls had one. I thought that was just a marketing strategy from TV shows.” She slumped now in the chair. “However now I know they exist… weird.”
“What was your purpose appearing on the battlefield like that? I am her teacher and would like to know!”
“So you are the one who hasn’t told her about the HeartBits yet!” Miss Hayami scolded him.
“Y-Yeah but I never thought we’d find one so quickly? I mean she just became an um… Magical Girl as you say a few days ago. This was even her first fight and transformation. I still have lots to teach her but this stupid trip cancelled all my plans.”
“I feel out of place here… Can we please go step by step?” I said calmly. “Before I punch Nobuyuki.”
“Okay so let me explain things first. HeartBits are creatures who feed on human desires. In this case, your professor had a huge amount of lust accumulated inside which made him act that way. If HeartBits take control over the main body, they won’t be able to hold themselves anymore and commit evil acts.” Miss Hayami explained carefully. “I am surprised you agreed to be a Magical Girl without knowing this.”
“I was going to tell her!!” he protested.
“Please Miss Hayami, continue.” I pressured on, ignoring Nobuyuki.
“There are two options, sealing them or the elimination method.” she sighed. “I opted for the second one, which clearly upset your dog over there. All he does is bark and doesn’t bite in real life.”
“Is there a difference between methods?” I asked curiously.
“Yeah, but I won’t delve too deep. I am not your teacher anyways.” Miss Hayami stared at Nobuyuki, and vice-versa that I could feel sparks collied into their eyes like some sort of mini-war.
“A sealed HeartBit might pop-up again since you sealed it for a time. Eliminating them just makes everything go away.” she coughed. “Anywho, now that I know there is another magical girl here, it also explains why your fighting method was… raw.”
“Didn’t you feel anything while fighting him? Any thoughts? Feelings? Anger?”
“I just wanted to escape alive, it was so scary and transforming and…!” I didn’t know what to say.
“This was her first battle, as I said.” Nobuyuki supported me. “What I am curious about, Miss Hayami is your lack of familiar and not feeling what I should be feeling. But whatever, it has been a long day and my senses might be tired.”
What did he mean by…?
“In any case, care to tell us your speciality” he added.
“I am the Magical Girl of Sweets, hence Sweetch!” she said proudly. “What about you, newbie?”
“Dreams… I suppose?” I doubted. “I’ve never used it.”
“Then let’s do this! Let’s combine our magic to make a chocolate bar. IF it makes any of us sleepy then you used your magic. Simple, isn’t it?”
“I completely…” yet Nobuyuki was interrupted.
“Agree!” enthusiastic, I held my hands with Miss Hayami and with some magical words, she made a mint chocolate bar appear. “Woah, we made something!”
“Try it!” she smiled. “I am confident when it comes to confectionary!”
Nevertheless, when I took a bite, the world went black.