Chapter 2:

The Shrine Maiden

Densetsu: A Beautiful Day

An uncomfortable silence filled the shrine. She remembered this feeling all too well. Wind's soft breath blew the leaves away, scraping against the stone entrance. 

The same questions as before, no matter how they met differently. His curiosity would be his demise. And she feared the seeds of fate had been planted. 

It was difficult to find his location. Those portals, despite the day would restart, they would seem to move elsewhere from its original spot. 

This time, she was going to fix it. 

"I-I won't!" He answered.

Good, this was progress. 

"Follow me,"

The shrine maiden led the young man into the shrine.

"What's this?" He stopped to look at the donation box. 

Riku picked up a piece of coin. Shaped circularly, golden with a square-shaped symbol cut through the middle, it was gleaming by sunlight. 

"People climb here and offer donations to the shrine," she extended her arm over to him, holding the tiny currency between her two fingers. 

"For me?"

She nodded. "Put it inside the box."

He held it and analyzed it. "I want to keep it!"

She expected that. Nonetheless, she allowed him to have it. At least it would be the last time he would remain here in this world. 

They continued until they entered one of the rooms behind the shrine. Tainted in darkness, a hollow rift awaited them ahead. Unlike the other rooms, this one contained a single monochrome. 

"Walk into that portal, and you will be home safely."

It had been so long since Riku visited this room. This was the ticket for outsiders to return to their homes. Though, it was uncommon for them to stay in Densetsu.

She sensed the tremble in his feet. An unknown realm was coming his way. Riku assured him by stepping forward, unharmed. He reluntactly followed.

Kotaro continued onward to the distorted gate. Turning around, his view of Riku faded into small particles. Soon, the world turned white. 

Tiny flakes fell upon his scarlet cheeks. Their ice, cold touch awakened him. 

"Am I home?"

He found himself in the same alley, lying on a pile of snow. Whether it was an illusion or reality, that dream felt real. However, the souvenir would contradict that concept as he lifted the piece of gold to match the sun. 

"It's not a dream after all..." The cold was slowly piercing its way to Kotaro's clothes, so he picked himself from the ground. 

Now that he returned, Kotaro quickly remembered about school. Hopefully, I'm not late. He sprinted his way to school. Drivers honked their cars furiously as Kotaro scurried the streets. 

"Hey, are you dumb?! Don't you see it's a green light?"

"Sorry, I'm in a rush!" was what Kotaro wished he could say. His brisk pace invited a bit of snow between his shoes. He endured it until he saw the silhouette of a tall building. 

Two rusty gates awaited him. Students were still coming inside. Running at a pace he never reached before. Kotaro managed to make it in time.

"Phew, I guess I'm not late after all," he met many of his peers. Amongst them, a particular friend patted his shoulders. 

"Man, Koty, you're never late this late," he was a student of dark skin. Rocky, a jolly and young teen as Kotaro who constantly teased him when he found the chances. 

"Oh, Rocky, I just happen to have a lot of problems around my house, you know?"

Rocky grinned mischievously. 

"I really do have a lot of problems at home!" Kotaro needed to end this before it became worse. 

"Sure, Koty, sure," replied Rocky. "You really have problems at home. I see how it is. Don't think I would notice you and Mimi talking to each other?"

His eyes strayed away. "I don't know what you're talking about..."

"You're too easy to read, you know? I'm just teasing you," he patted Kotaro's head, his grin becoming wider. 

The school bell rang loudly, and the crowd of students went to their classes. 

"Well, I'll see you in Mr. Praum's class."

Kotaro sighed, "Why do I have a bad feeling about this?"