Chapter 4:

Going Back

Densetsu: A Beautiful Day

He wasn’t aware how much time was consumed, yet he managed to arrive in time. The adventure was messy. Of all the girls whom he met, this one was probably the most stubborn.

She took incorrect paths, refusing to listen, and she wandered elsewhere if he didn’t keep an eye on her. It certainly felt like a marathon finding the class. Even when she sought him for the assistance of her next class.

The school rang proudly and loudly. Four single desks arranged into one, two desks facing each other while the other two desks sat next to each other set in the same position.

“Well, we’re in class! That’s all that matters,” he walked to his assigned desk, and the new student followed to the desk next to him. However, the two were stopped by the teacher.

“Oh, I see you found yourself a girlfriend, Koty!”

Presented in front of Kotaro was a tall man, formally dressed in his favorite pink necktie, along with his square-shaped glasses as usual. Although he dressed nicely, there was room for improvement on his hair department—brown and messy, he cared less on combing it.

“N-no, this is not what it looks like! I swear!” Kotaro protested.

Mr. Praum chuckled, “I’m only kidding! Here I thought you decided to give up on M—”

“Shh! The whole class is here. They can hear you.”

“Oh sorry, forgot about that!” and he laughed some more. “But anyway, I believe you’re the new student. Noel Nat-su-ki (he thinks the “T” in her last name is silent)?”

“Na-tsuki,” she corrected.

“What school did you go to before coming here?”

She pondered on the thought. Kotaro did too. Aside from the forest, he grew curious about their civilization. He also wondered where Noel lived in Densetsu. His many wonders kept him questioning what that other world offered.

“I don’t remember the name, but it was a school which consisted of ranks—starting from bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and diamond. It was a fun school, and I would love to come back sometime.”

Kotaro stared at her with widened eyes. That’s not a school at all. It’s more like a military program. The teacher had a similar reaction too.

There was a brief silence between the two until Mr. Praum broke it. He announced the entire class about Noel. He wanted her to feel welcome. Complete isolation was not an option for the teacher.

She proudly introduced herself to the class as they remained respectful. Unlike before, she sounded more brave and brief on her introductions.

“May I ask to be seated next to him?” The other classmates beamed their eyes on Kotaro.

“Koty, I think she likes you,” said Rocky, who returned from the bathroom.

Gossips emerged amongst his peers. This humiliation flustered him. He felt like running, escaping from the voices that talked about him.

Rocky rose from his desk as he reached his hand over to Noel. “Hi there, I’m Koty’s friend, Rocky! I see that you and Koty are getting along really well!”

Noel shook his hand, and she smiled. “It’s a pleasure meeting you. It was just a coincidence for the both of us to have the same class, so knowing that we have the same class makes me feel a little more confident in myself!”

Awed by her story, Rocky gave his friend a proud tap on his shoulders. He faked manly tears. “I’m proud of you. You’re such a gentleman!”

This was probably one of Rocky’s tricks again. One time, Rocky told the girls about his secret—that he always cried himself to bed whenever he had a bad day.

Kotaro fell right into his trap, asking the girls about it, but it turned out none of them heard of it. For a whole week, everyone called him “crybaby”.

Ging, another friend of Kotaro, sat next to Rocky. Among the three, Ging spoke little words. When he did, it only foretold upcoming danger. Most of them were fairly accurate. This was the only class where the three were together.

The new student shot a deadly stare at Ging, quietly groaning to herself, but Ging hardly showed a reaction to her.

“A-Are you two alright?” Kotaro asked, worried. None of them reacted. “Rocky, have any idea what’s going on?”

He shrugged, unsure of it either. There seemed to be some sort of link between the two. Rocky gasped after putting some thought into it, leading down to one conclusion. “Noel must be your ex-girlfriend! Isn’t she, Ging?”

“What?” Kotaro gasped.

Both Ging and Noel glared at the fools. Their intimidation scared off Kotaro, but Rocky brushed it off. Then, they returned to their staring contest again. It looked to be true, but that raised some questions.

Mostly Ging, whom he befriended around the same time he met Rocky. Ging’s origins were mysterious. Neither Rocky or Kotaro could read him, and he was quiet about his stories. His background. None. His favorite food, color, and hobbies? There was nothing.

Time flew quickly during school. It was ironic. Noel had the same hours as him—other students managed to mistake them as couples.

Kotaro had never been so overwhelmed with loads of questions thrown at him about Noel. Her presence enticed the other boys’ interest.

Snowflakes showered the sky, the wind blew by, and Kotaro imprinted his footsteps on the snowy path. There, Noel stood all alone, lying her back against the orange brick walls. Alone on school grounds, Kotaro didn’t mind killing some time before walking home as usual.

“I like this world! The people here are very nice. If only I was born here, I wonder how my story would be?”

He briefly paused, and he approached her.

“What was your life over at Densetsu?”

She frowned while hugging herself. “Very harsh training. I was not…liked…”

The new student glared at Kotaro before punching him in the arm. “If you tell anyone about this, I’ll kill you!”

He rubbed the pain, quietly groaning. “I-I won’t. You didn’t need to punch me that hard.”

“I’m going home now, and I promise I won’t tell anyone about that world.”

There was danger in that world, but something inside him made him curious about the beauty within that mysterious land. Perhaps it was an excuse to learn of his past.

Turning around, he took one more look at the new student. She didn’t pursue him. The further he walked, her figure shrank before disappearing.

“Yeah, she is cute…” Her azure eyes were the most enticing that he couldn’t stop staring at them. Maybe that’s why she always kept her eyes away from him, heavily disturbed.

“Who’s cute? Have you found another girl better looking than Mimi?” replied a voice.

He turned around, not expecting someone to overhear him. It was Rocky. He inspected Kotaro, giving the young a suspicious look.

“Hmm, it’s Noel, isn’t it?” He slowly grinned. “I think you and Noel make a great couple. Better than you and Mimi…I approve!”

Kotaro looked away, flustered. Rocky, on the other hand, took advantage of the situation and teased him more. “You’re too easy, Kotaro! You should totally ask her out!”

Kotaro ignored him.

“Are you still into Mimi? Seriously dude? You have no chance of going out with her! She’s way outta your league.”

His friend continued to tease him while heading home. This was their everyday life, rinse and repeat lifestyle. Discovering Densetsu completely broke that loop. Kotaro never talked to anyone about it. Noel and this person she mentioned would know. Though, maybe returning to the world would change his way of life.

He couldn’t afford the risks. Anxiety ran through his blood and veins, thinking of the worst possibilities of his friends. Kotaro didn’t want to think too much about it.

A change of direction had parted them as they reached the next avenue. The Wilsons were already home, waiting for him to arrive.

“I’m home…” he announced.

He saw his dad reading a newspaper, and his mom who seemed to be knitting something.

“How’s school, honey?” Amanda asked while knitting.

“It was great, mom!” The first thing that came to mind were those azure eyes.

“Really? Tell us what happened,”

“There was a new student,” he reported. “It was a girl.”

The married couple canceled their performance and stared at their son. Like lightbulbs.

“Tell us more!” Amanda requested. “What’s her name?”

He anticipated this would happen. But what’s there to tell? Should he tell them that Noel was after him—no, that was unethical and foolish; she promised she would help him with his memories, and he would do the same for her. That was a promise he wouldn’t break.

“Uh, her name is Noel. She’s a…uh, kind person!”

It was difficult to analyze her. On paper, she appeared nice. But, she had this aggressive aura within her too. During the passage of a few minutes, Kotaro’s parents asked him number questions in a continuous fashion.

Soon, they declared they would meet her in person. Regret filled Kotaro. Hours had passed until the conversation died down.

Kyle checked the refrigerator. “Hey, Kotaro? Can you buy us some more eggs?”

“Will do, dad!” Kotaro obeyed, carrying his wallet before leaving the house.

He came across the school on his way to the grocery store. When he did, he found Noel still standing in the same spot. All alone.

Shivering in the sheer coldness, trying to keep herself warm by wrapping her with her arms, Kotaro immediately rushed to her aid.

“What are you doing, you dummy?!” he yelled.

Why did I say that? An inner instinct ran through the course of his veins as he moved on his own with the urge to help Noel. An action he never thought of doing. Why am I trying so hard to help her?

Noel drew a deep, foggy breath into the air. “H-Hi, Kotaro! How’s it g-g-going?”

Kotaro expressed an angry concern for her. Why am I so angry right now? “You idiot! You’re going to freeze here if you stay like this! Where are your parents?”

She chuckled a little. At a time like this, this was no laughing manner. Her skin was pale. Wearing clothes like that and exposing too much skin in the winter, she was already on the verge of hypothermia.

“What’s so funny?!”

“Everything I said about my parents was a lie,” she confessed.

The young man raised a brow. You should’ve said that in the first place, Kotaro thought.

“W-what are you doing here? And why do you care about me?”

He sighed heavily, “I don’t know. I was on my way to buy some eggs. Then I see you here freezing.”

Noel smiled. “Good enough…”

Truthfully, he couldn’t find the answers to his actions—but he knew he couldn’t stand doing nothing. “Well, it’s not much, but you can have this.”

He wrapped his crimson scarf around her neck. “Let’s go, Noel!” He grabbed her by the wrist as they started moving somewhere warm. She was a living refrigerator.

The new student stared at Kotaro from behind. Her face flushed red as it felt unusual to be holding his big, warm hand. “I’m sorry…”

Kotaro stopped, turning to Noel. “Hm? You said something?”

Noel gripped onto his hand tightly. “I can finally take you to Densetsu now!”

A portal materialized behind Noel. Kotaro’s eyes shrunk upon seeing the same portal from Riku’s shrine.

She forcibly pulled him to the portal, coming closer to the undefined rift. Black hands swarmed from the open portal and gripped onto Kotaro. Horrified, he tried freeing himself from both Noel’s grip and the black hands. It was too late.

Many phantasmagorias flashed through his eyes. Kotaro screamed in fear as he entered the portal.

Visions of himself as a young boy appeared before his eyes. Next to him was another kid, who looked nearly identical to him. The two boys seemed happy, smiling and laughing together. What am I seeing? What are these visions trying to tell me? Surely, Densetsu had answers to his childhood memories.

Coming across the small fork, he must pay the price. Time must repeat itself, and it could never change. His life would never be the same.