Chapter 3:

Phone Calls and Figurines

White Wings Café

"Listen up, you two!" Aya had two hands on her hips in the middle of my room. It was rare that she actually got to act like she was the older one, so I figured I'd just let her share her wisdom. "According to the search engine on my phone, even the most basic cafés need an espresso machine, coffee machine, and a water filtration system. Sounds expensive if you ask me though."

This was a mistake, of course. I could have searched that up myself and not invited her over at all. "Is Google really the best thing to turn to right now?"

"What do you think, Yuu?"

"Hey. Don't ignore me."

Yuu laid upside down on my futon and happily kicked her feet as she read one of my books that I forgot to put away. Now that it was the weekend, she had changed back into her white gown. If she kept wearing our school uniform everywhere, people might start to turn their heads. That being said, the gown itself didn't leave much to the imagination either. It wouldn't be a good thing if she left the house wearing it, she may catch a cold or something. Wait, could angels even catch colds?

She looked human. Felt human. The only thing that could tip anyone off was the excessively large wings, and even then she kept them hidden for most of the day. Cats and birds, although not to the same degree, can get sick believe it or not. Maybe an angel's version of the common cold is kind of like that? On second thought, I shouldn't be comparing a mythical being to a household pet. If Yuu were to find out she might get depressed or something.

It'd be better to keep my mouth shut.

"The people down here sure make weird stories," Yuu said, stretching outward and letting out a soft groan. "Maybe we could have a little shelf and each week we put five books from your little collection, Shiro. The characters all look so cute! While everyone is busy having a good read, we offer them some coffee and snacks."

"Oh, are you talking about Shi's mang—"

"Books. They are books. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Let's...just focus on the coffee and snacks for now." The covers, although cute and colorful, definitely weren't for everyone. People might get the wrong idea about what type of café we were trying to be. That, and the more people who had their grubby little hands on my books, the more likely they would get damaged. I didn't want that.

Aya nodded and put her hands out as if to say alright, alright, no need to be embarrassed about your hobbies.

I wasn't. They were just books to me. Only books.

"Hey, Yuu, you said something about 'down here'? You looked so surprised when you saw all the clubs back at school, shame that you didn't get into any of them."

"Ha...y-yes, really shameful."

"I never got to ask you this before but where are you from anyway?"

Yuu's book dropped onto her face. Her expression wasn't visible but I could tell that her eyes were locked onto me. She hadn't come up with something to say if asked a question like that. Must have completely slipped her mind.

It's not that I didn't trust Aya or anything. She was a friend. It's just that compared to me, she was quite popular in her grade. The chance of her blurting something out while idly talking with one of her friends would be way too high. More than anything I needed time to see if she could hold onto this huge secret without saying something. If Yuu were to get in trouble because of my stupid actions, I wouldn't be able to forgive myself.

Thankfully, there's a reason why I didn't say 'we.' While Yuu was doing her own thing, I painstakingly slaved over the search results on my phone, looking for the perfect location that would fit her.

"Swede-Heaven Washington. She's an exchange student."

"Oh, a foreigner! That explains the hair and stuff. She speaks the language really well."

"Thanks? I try my best." Picking the book off of her face by the spine and blankly staring at me, Yuu lowered her voice into a whisper. "How long did it take you to come up with that, little one?"

"Three days."

"But Shiro, sweetie, it still has heaven in it."

"Yeah. It fits you doesn't it? Yuu. Heaven. Angel." I gave her a thumbs up. My reasoning was as sound as it got. "They just kinda go together, you know? Swede-Heaven Washington."

"I'll go with just Washington next time...thank you though."

Alright, alright, let's put jokes aside for just a moment. Obviously, we all met up at the café for a reason. I had told Aya about wanting to open up the place and the idea of her working alongside me and Yuu. She had no problem whatsoever with helping out from time to time in between her clubs, and even would ask some of her friends to come and visit once we were up and running. Getting to that point was the hard part though.

A quick search up said that an expresso machine good enough for commercial use could cost upwards of $10,000 and if you wanted something more high-end, you were looking at $30,000 coming out of your pocket. Not including repairs for the place or any extra equipment we may need, that would put a huge hole in the budget.

Deciding to focus on something else, the three of us headed downstairs and got situated in the area where the customers would sit. Aya slammed down a piece of paper on the table with everything we mentioned so far excluding the horrible, horrible book idea, which was scribbled out by me. She tossed colored pencils to us and crossed her arms.

"That's some of the physical stuff we need and that's important and all, but what about branding?" she asked. Yuu and I looked at each other blankly. "You know, like the general theme of the place. A name, maybe a slogan, any gimmicks. I hear that maid cafés are really popular with students and adults alike."

"What is this, a school festival arc? I'd look awful in one of those outfits," I replied.

Yuu's expression sank as if she heard terrible news. Plopping her chin on the table, she made circles with her finger. "That's not true at all, don't say things like that about yourself. I'd say you would look quite adorable. Kinda like a doll or maybe a plush toy."

"Come really think so? Thanks but even then, I think it would bring the wrong crowd. It's not like I'm trying to bring a serious type of vibe to the place, but I still don't want it to devolve into one of those persona cafes where everyone plays an archetype."

"A Tamagotchi that you could actually hug..."

"You have those up there?" Sure, technology is constantly moving forward no matter what plane of existence you're on but I was still expecting them to be way more behind than that. Keep up the great work, angel engineers! "Wait no better question, was that supposed to be a compliment or an insult?"

"A compliment, silly. Why would I make fun of you?"

"Well, I'm not that small for one. And two, you kinda have a knack for doing that. You just don't notice it yourself."

Aya began to write something down. "Maid...dresses...alright, those shouldn't be too expensive."

"We're not doing a maid cafe!"

"Boo, you're no fun," they both said. This duo of Aya and Yuu was harder to handle than expected, but it was clear in the end that they were joking around. They wouldn't have started laughing under their breath otherwise.

I wanted to say something back. Maybe to retort or just to go along with the joke. Unfortunately, I never got the chance. My phone buzzed in my pocket and although others probably couldn't tell from just glancing at me, my heart sank. Whether it was right before I headed off for school or late at night, they called every day of the week. What would make weekends any different?

Putting the phone to my ear, I took a deep breath and answered. "Hoshino residence. Shiro speaking."

Let's play a game, shall we? It's still very much in the works because it's been a week since I came up with it, but I still believe that it should be fun. The rules are simple. Figure out who's on the other end, what their little problem is, and what they want in return to help out. I'll give you a hint on that last one: it's always the same thing and something that I gained recently.

"Shiro! Good to hear from you. I was so worried when I heard the news about what happened to your mom and dad! I'm just so glad that you made it out ok," a woman's voice said from the other end. "Do you remember me? It's been so long since I've heard your voice."

She sounded older. It wouldn't be a bad guess to assume she was my aunt or grandmother. Maybe an older cousin.

"Ah, well it's been a while you know? Can't say that I do. Thanks for checking up on me though. I'm doing just fine."

"That's great..very great to hear." Her voice trailed off for a second before she picked up where she left off. "Over here things have been pretty bad too, you know? My car just broke down. One of the tires is popped and something's wrong with the engine."

There's the problem. "Oh? That's terrible."

"I hope you wouldn't mind doing me a favor. Seeing as you've inherited so much, maybe you could lend me a little bit to help out with the costs? If those two were still here, I'm sure they would help out right away. Family helps family and all that."

And there's what she wants. So far, that's what they all wanted.

Repeating myself is a pain but I feel like it's warranted here. The actions of the child reflected directly back on to the parents and as a result the family as a whole. Just like an actor on a stage who performs in front of thousands, putting on an act that entertained and brought joy, I didn't want to break character and ruin things for everyone else.

"Of course I'll help you out. Just name the price and I'll send it to you tonight."

"I knew could count on you! I'll remind you if you forget so try to keep it in mind. A couple hundred should cover it."

Click. Just like that, the conversation was over. I apologize for lying. Maybe it's because it was only made recently and I still need to work out all the bugs but this game wasn't fun. Not at all.

I placed my phone face down on the table and leaned back in my seat, slouching a bit lower than I did before. Both Yuu and Aya stared at me, but this time worry stained their faces.

"Who was it?" Yuu asked, tilting her head to the side.

Waving my hand dismissively, I replied, "no one important. Just one of those 'it's me' scammers."

"Things seemed a bit tense so I just thought—"

"Nope. It was nothing."


Aya glared at me as if I had done something wrong. She furrowed her brow as a frown found its way onto her lips.

"Shi," Aya said in a stern tone. I flinched and shrank into my seat some more, avoiding her gaze. Geez. She may have been all peppy and nice on the outside but in the end, she knew when to get serious. Can't say that I was used to it though. "Your stubbornness is showing again."

"Aya-senpai, Yuu." I pulled upward on the corners of my mouth, forcing myself—whose lips were usually set into a straight line— to smile. "Thanks but I'm alright, really. Just a bit exhausted, you know? A few extra phone calls are nothing that I can't handle. I'm used to it."

Aya rolled her eyes and pulled out her phone. She aggressively tapped against the screen before exhaling loud enough for me to hear. A few seconds later, Yuu jolted up as her phone vibrated on the table beside her. Fumbling for a bit aside, it didn't take her too long to pick it up and look at the message she was sent.

Come to think of it, even though we've been living together for a little while, Yuu and I hadn't exchanged numbers yet...

It didn't make me jealous or anything.

Oh god. If I continued to make cliched lines like that, this place would become an archetype café in no time at all. The truth was that I had all the time in the world to ask her for that sort of thing, so I had no reason to complain. I still wanted to be the first one though.

Yuu nodded a few times as the sound of her chair scraping against the tiled floor grabbed my attention. A small bell rang as she opened the door to leave and as it did, she turned her head to look at the two of us sitting.

"Shall we go?" she said.

"Go? But where?"

"To the mall." Aya placed a hand on my head and grinned. "We've got some stuff to buy if we want the café to open anytime soon. There's no problem, right?"

"Well, I guess not." A breeze came through the door and the bottom of Yuu's gown softly blew to the side. I sighed. "But before leaving, I want Yuu to come upstairs with me. I have some stuff I want her to try on."

She slammed the door shut, causing Aya to jump in surprise. With a flushed face and stars in her eyes, she ran up and grabbed hold of both my hands, shaking them up and down as she spoke. "R-really? I'd love to see what kind of clothes you have. I'm sure anything you choose will look absolutely gorgeous."

"I'll, uh, try my best."

Let's just say that it would be better to be safe than sorry. At least, that's the way I'm going to justify how dumb it was to worry about a mythical being.



With Aya leading the way, we all made our way through the packed mall. At least a month or two had passed since I had last visited and yet as I walked behind her with my hands stuffed into my pockets, it was like nothing had changed.

When we were little, Aya and I often visited the place along with some of our friends— or rather, her friends. Not mine. We didn't have any money so most of our trips were walking and talking, but I usually lagged behind. As the clear window ceiling showed the blue sky above, they would talk and talk about whatever that came to mind, not worrying about the unemotive, snot-nosed brat that jogged behind them to keep up. We all might have been young but I was younger. That's just how some kids are.

It was weird though. Whenever I started to feel even a little left out, Aya would stop the group and ask me what I thought with a finger poking at her cheek. Since she was the de facto leader of the group, the others would also chime in as well. I never had to say anything. She just knew. It was as if she could tell something was wrong, as if she had some sort of sixth sense; Aya always made sure that I was included.

Nowadays as she continued to walk a few steps ahead— I was just glad that someone else could lag behind with me.

Yuu giggled as she strode forward, hands hidden within her long sleeves. I ended up finding something in my closet that she could wear. An old dark blue hoodie with some random mascot plastered in the middle and a set of cat ears on the hood that she proudly had up; it pushed down on the stray tuft of hair that stuck out from the side of her head. Personally, I had worn it during the winter due to it hanging well below my knees and giving me lots of warmth during those months but on Yuu, it clung to her waist and looked pretty comfortable.

"I told you that you had a great eye for fashion. This is quite cozy," she said, aggressively flapping her sleeves all over the place. Before she could notice, Yuu ended up hitting a few people who were walking by and turned bright red. "S-sorry...didn't mean to, you know."


"It's not what you think. I just picked the first thing that would fit you, just be grateful that it has some sort of color. Variety isn't something I'm too good with."

"Oh, I see. You and I are the same in that regard, but there is a bright side to that."

"There is now? Enlighten me."

"Prepare to be enlightened then." She rubbed the middle of her chest with a closed fist as if the polyester would shine if done hard enough. "If you lack variety with something, that only means that there's so much more to try out and enjoy! Take me for example. Wearing white got boring after a while so I couldn't be any more pumped up to have this on. Plus it's yours! That makes it ten times as special."

"Special...huh. Variety is the spice of life. Some old guy said that. I think." A mother with a stroller sped past us in the opposite direction, bumping into my shoulder before disappearing into the crowd. "But what if you're a picky eater and that spice looks gross on whatever you're eating? There's no telling that it might be the most disgusting thing you've ever tasted—or in this case, you might end up looking weird. Just because there's more options doesn't mean that all of them are good."

"If you were talking to anyone other than myself, I'm sure they'd be against you being like that. After all, if you don't eat and sleep as much as possible you won't grow. But...this is me so there's no problem there."

"You're doing it again."

"Nope, on purpose this time. A small quip if you will."

"I haven't hit my growth spurt yet. When I do, I'll get both you and Aya back tenfold for the, quips. Whatever. Be prepared though."

"What, me too?" she said, audibly gasping and covering her mouth. "Even though I've been here for such a short amount of time? I'm flattered, really. On that day I'll be waiting with open arms and wings."

"And I'll run face-first into them—ah, wait no."

Slip of the tongue. Now I wouldn't be taken seriously at all.

Resting a hand on the back of my neck, I averted my gaze away from her for a second. I could only assume that the look on my face was hilarious because Yuu was nothing but smiles and laughter.

"Seriously though, silly. There's only one way to tell if something is worth it." Yuu stopped dead in her tracks and pressed her face against one of the shop's windows, awarding her some extra looks from the people inside. Tapping her finger against the glass, she pointed at this frilly pink dress that was on display. "You gotta at least give it a try! Rush headfirst into the fun and give that a wear."

"Nope. Not happening. I'll suffocate."

"Y-you'll die?!" Yuu said, snapping her head back to me. She grabbed onto my shoulders and stared right into me. To be honest, it looked like she was about to bawl her eyes out. "Why is it so dangerous down here?"

Looking back, it was a poor choice of words. Especially since she was still inexperienced with most things that happened down here. Waving one of my hands in front of her face so that she would calm down, I hooked a finger in the collar of my baggy t-shirt and pulled. "Oh no, they're stuffy. Clothes like that are stuffy and uncomfortable for me, Yuu. I won't die but my sense of comfort will."

"You should be extra careful then. I won't let you out of my sight, not for one second," she said, squeezing my hand with all she had.

I closed my eyes and huffed. Yuu was giving me mixed signals. Rushing into things headfirst and watching someone's every move were on opposite sides of the spectrum. Which one was it?

Noticing that we weren't following her for quite a while now, Aya turned back and made her way back over to us. Before my first question had the chance to be answered—not that I was expecting anything in the first place—she came up with a brand new one.

"Why are you guys looking at that kid's clothing shop they put up a few weeks ago?"

My sense of comfort may have lived on but my sense of pride took its place on the chopping block. There were probably a few things that were said after that. Unfortunately, due to reasons that had nothing to do with what Aya said, I couldn't remember them. What a shame.

After walking for a bit longer, those two decided it was a good idea to grab my hand and pull me the rest of the way. Instead of heading towards some sort of hardware store or any of the various coffee shops that were in the mall, Aya and Yuu forced me to stumble over my feet until we stopped in front of a book store.

A book store. A store that sold books and books alone. Posters and trinkets with the cutesy main characters from said books aside, what I was looking at was one hundred percent pure literature. Some little kids poured out of the shop and came to a standstill as one of them proudly held up what they bought. The fact that they were starting so young was enough to bring a tear to my eye.

In all seriousness though, why here of all places?

Standing beside the open door was a small chalkboard with a fancy-looking gold rim. Due to it being written on and erased countless times, the words looked faded but I could make out what was on there clear as day.

It read: "Cardcollector Blossom volume 10! Buy a copy and get a limited edition figure of Blossom herself!"

I gasped before covering my mouth. Steel yourself, Shiro. No matter how stylish Blossom's outfits were or how much the relationship she had with her friend touched me, I'd be wasting everyone else's time if I just went in. Yes, that's it. We came here for a reason after all.

"Let's get going," I said. "Maybe if we ask around, we might get some information on where to get our supplies."

Aya crossed her arms and began to look uncomfortable. As you would expect from someone so full of hot air, her cheeks puffed out more and more until she couldn't hold back anymore. She started to laugh in my face.

"What is it?"

"You're still dense as ever," she said, gasping for air. Aya nudged Yuu a few times before lowering her voice to a stage whisper. "Hey, I'm not sure if Shi told you or not but out of all the manga she reads, this one is her absolute favorite—"

"Don't tell her that. Besides, I read it because it's literature. Rich, thought-provoking literature."

"Yeah, yeah."

She waved off any protests I had, but only because we've been through this song and dance many times before. Bully. Bully. That girl had always been nothing more than a bully, the reason why some schools ran those campaigns that never work.

"Is this true?" Yuu asked, folding one hand over the other.

"I can say that I enjoy it." I grabbed the edges of my shirt and stared at the ground. "It's just a weird hobby. Nothing more."

"Great! If this is something you truly like, I want to try my best to like it too."

Aya tapped my cheek with the back of her hand. As she bent her knees in front of me, I couldn't bring myself to look back at her. "Hey, dummy. About earlier, if you're not gonna tell me what happened that's fine. To push and prod when it's not needed may be my job but I get it," she said, placing a hand on my back, "we all have things we rather keep hidden. That's not gonna stop me from at least trying to cheer you up. Head in, Shi. This is what we came here for."

I never had to say anything, not even a peep.

She just knew.

Absolutely nothing had changed. Not me. Not Aya. I was sure of it now. Whether or not that was something good—I couldn't exactly put my finger on it.

"What about the café stuff?"

"No way someone would be selling something like that at the mall. Well, more like I don't trust myself enough to not break it on the way back, but that's not the point. We're better off trying to look for that online." Her nose scrunched up as she started to scratch at her face. "That doesn't make it any less expensive. For now though, let's not focus on anything café related. Not today."

Noticing that I hadn't moved an inch, Yuu closed her eyes and smiled. One second passed. Two seconds passed. Four then ten. With a sharp inhale, she stormed in my direction. Yuu grabbed hold of my arm and I almost fell straight on my face as she yanked me forward.

"Yuu," I said, stumbling on my own feet once again, "has anyone told you that you're strong before?"


"You're strong."

With Aya following in tow behind us, she lead me into the book store and placed an arm around my shoulder as we stood in front of the tired cashier. Mischievous grins on both of their faces, they pumped their fists into the air.

"Three copies of Cardcollector Blossom please!" they said in unison.



I stared at the figure as I laid on my futon, sounds of running pipes and water suddenly coming to a full stop. The painting had a nice glossy finish on it and I almost felt bad taking her out of her box. It wasn't like I was a collector but those thoughts always came to mind. Blossom was posed with one hand on her hip while the other held a special scepter that helped her change into a completely different person.

"Must be nice," I whispered, holding it to my chest.

"I see—yes, no I'm fine at the moment. It's a pleasure and a blessing to be down here, I mean it. Tell Ako to keep up with her studies, alright? Love you too. Hope to see you soon!"

Yuu came into the room with a towel on her head and tossed her phone aside. She crept around the boxes, taking a short glimpse inside each of them as she did, and sat down beside me on the bed.

"I'm surprised at how many things you still have packed away," she said, aggressively drying her hair. Seeing as she had so much, it was understandable that she would want to get it all dry. If only she wasn't slowly ripping through the cloth with just a simple rubbing action.

"Oh no, this stuff has always been in boxes. I take them out to read or stare at now and again, but ever since I started buying this stuff, I put them away. I was told it's weird." Yuu stopped for a second and frowned, which made me feel guilty enough to change the subject. "Who were you talking to by the way?"

"Oh that was Mama—"

She forced a cough, putting a fist to her mouth. Mama, huh? Any eye contact that she once had with me stopped as she started to blush.

"M-my mother," she continued, "she called to see how I was doing and if I'm adjusting well. At the beginning of each school year, she would take me and my little sister out flying around the neighborhood, so you can imagine how sad she must have been when she realized I couldn't come this time around. A pity for sure but it's alright, honestly."

With how casually Yuu said this, it was safe to assume that this was a normal occurrence up in heaven.

I opened a nearby window. The full moon may have peeked out from behind thick clouds, although just barely enough to be visible, the night sky and its many stars were completely covered. If we—that is to say mostly her—were to fly high enough, no one would be able to see us.

"Um, we can still do that. If you want of course. I can't fly or anything like that but...if you like it, it would suck if you had to miss out on anything just because of me."

"You'd come flying with me?!" The towel ripped in half and her hair came flopping down, covering her eyes which I could already assume were wide as can be. "I'll show you everything I've learned these past few years, I promise. Oh, you'll just be so impressed. Watch me, Shiro!"

I nodded. On the outside? Nothing. I was a rock. These words coming from anyone else would be reassuring and even garner some excitement on my behalf.

But with Yuu...

I wasn't gonna die, was I?



I—Hoshino Shiro, age 16—was seconds away from dying. It felt like that at the very least. My stomach churned. Heights didn't agree with me and frankly, I didn't agree all that much with them either. However, a little nausea was a small price to pay if it meant she was happy. And she was.

Far above the ground, where every building and person looked no bigger than a single pixel on a screen, was where I felt Tsubasa Yuu was most free. Zipping through the sky while holding me by the torso—breaking through clouds only to dip down and go low enough for the ocean to soak my shoes, her hearty laughter resonated throughout the air.

"What was it, what was it?" she murmured to herself, almost too cheerily. "What was the maximum speed I could go without those test dummies breaking?"

"Don't say that out loud! Didn't you graduate at the top of your class!? At least pretend that you know what you're doing."

"Hehe sorry! That's the loudest you've been all week." Yuu sneezed before shaking her head and letting out a groan. "Ugh, should have completely dried my hair. I may catch a cold now."

"Oh, you can get sick. Thought you were like a cat or something."

"W-what is that supposed to mean? I'm an angel, an angel, Shiro! Don't be mean."

"I didn't mean it like—nevermind, it doesn't matter. I'm sorry."

I put that in my mental note for later.

Whisking us back up into the clouds above and coming to an abrupt halt, Yuu's wings disappeared. For a second we were weightless. For a second nothing occupied my head. In a moment I was gonna die. Full stop. Aya would probably report me as a missing person, right? I could trust her enough to do that.

Yuu hugged me tighter than ever, sitting her chin on the top of my head. Her wings bloomed back out and started flapping to keep us in place.

"The moon," she said with a swirling gesture in between her clasped hands.

"What are you talking about..." If my stomach had problems before, that scare definitely didn't help. "What about it? What about the moon?"

"The moon is beautiful, isn't it?"

"Yeah, I think so too. It's lovely. What you did was scary though."

Yuu sighed in frustration. "Now that we're here like this, I wish to ask you something. About today. It's a selfish thing but I hope you can bear with me."

"What is it?"

"Something happened and it went right under my nose until Aya clued me in. I'm not great at the things I do, I mess up alot. I know that." Her grip tightened. "But even then, I'm still trying my best. She may have been alright with you keeping things in, but I'm not. Don't hide things from me that hurt you, please. Your problems are my problems. Rely on me, Shiro."

Leaning back into her, the wind blowing my hair every which way, I simply nodded. "Next time, I'll let you know. Promise."

The least I could do was give it a try.