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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

“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. Bookmark here

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

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. Bookmark here

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

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

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

“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)?”Bookmark here

“Na-tsuki,” she corrected.Bookmark here

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

“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.”Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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!”Bookmark here

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!”Bookmark here

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!”Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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”. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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

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

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?”Bookmark here

“What?” Kotaro gasped. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

He briefly paused, and he approached her. Bookmark here

“What was your life over at Densetsu?”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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. Bookmark here

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.Bookmark here

“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. Bookmark here

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

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

“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!”Bookmark here

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!”Bookmark here

Kotaro ignored him. Bookmark here

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

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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

“I’m home…” he announced. Bookmark here

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

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

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

“Really? Tell us what happened,”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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.Bookmark here

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

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. Bookmark here

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

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

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

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. Bookmark here

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

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

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? Bookmark here

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

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?” Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

“What’s so funny?!” Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

Noel smiled. “Good enough…”Bookmark here

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.”Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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…”Bookmark here

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

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

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

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. Bookmark here

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

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

You can resume reading from this paragraph.