Chapter 23: Himari’s Sweet Date (?)
Himari smiled as she walked next to him. It was a dream. It must be. But could this also qualify as a…date?! She wrestled with that thought inside her mind while smiling naturally at him. She can’t lose her composure on such an important day!
“Do you like dessert shops, H-Himari-chan?” Tsukasa pointed towards a small comfy-looking shop. Posters of glistening pastries and sweets were slapped on the window. She wanted to go!
However, she stopped herself and answered coolly. “I’m fine with them. Do you like them, Tsukasa-kun?”
‘He can’t see me being a glutton!!’
“I’m fine with them as well.” He replied smoothly.
Her instinct told her that she had to stop him before she ended up being dragged to the shop for real. “H-how about we browse other shops first? What do you like, Tsukasa-kun?”
Himari cried inside. She was the one who took the initiative to ask him out and here she was with not a single event planned out! Will this day go by without a hitch? If she had known that it would end up this way she would’ve put more thought into putting together a schedule!
He turned slightly. “Me? I’m fine with wherever you want to go.”
It was this constant push of “Let’s do what you want” “No, let’s do what you want” that made it harder for them to actually do anything. So far they had spent an hour strolling around the streets with short conversations. Majority of the time they spent looking through the windows of shops with her holding herself back from purchasing clothing in front of Tsukasa. She was afraid that he would become bored.
In the end they decided to rest at an Italian restaurant. The thing was that she struggled to read the menu. What was a ‘Ragu Alla Bolognese’? What was a ‘Melazane Alla Parmigiana’?! Himari could feel her head spinning. Why could she suddenly see a white light descending?!
God, is that you???
On the outside, she maintained her most famous face. It was her ‘I-understand-everything’ face. Tsukasa, on the other hand, struggled with holding back his laughter at her face. He didn’t even need to look twice to know what she was thinking of. Seeing her stare at the menu methodically and even squinting her eyes as if it’ll somehow increase her understanding was just adorable and unprecedented from all the other expressions of hers.
He let out a little ‘pfftt’ and then cleared his throat subtly. “Have you decided what you want to order yet?”
She jolted. It was her turn to clear her throat. “I…have!”
They waved for a waiter to come and ordered with Himari not knowing exactly what she pointed to. When their food was served she blinked at the green pasta placed in front of her.
“T-this is…?” Himari looked at the waiter. He nodded back politely.
“Enjoy, milady.” Then he quietly took his leave.
The pasta wasn’t bad. But it looked like someone shredded grass with water together and created some sort of paste then stirred it into the pasta. It had a minty scent which made her stomach shrivel into the corner of her body. Slowly taking up her fork, she stabbed into her plate, regretfully praying.
The taste. Was. DISGUSTING.
Well–it wasn’t disgusting, it was just that she never liked basil. Especially since this dish had tons of grinded basil fused with the pasta, even if she scraped the sauce off, it would still heavily taste like basil. She gulped down and barely managed to smile. “Y-yummy!”
Tsukasa returned her smile. “I think mine tastes pretty good too.”
It was true. His dish certainly looked more appetizing than the green vomit in front of her–she couldn’t say that out loud, though. Actually, his order looked more normal compared to Himari’s. She continued to stare at his plate inadvertently until he spoke up.
“Would…would you like…to try some?”
She shook her head and subsequently, ended up nodding her head. He pushed his plate towards her with an encouraging look.
Feeling the need to make it balanced, she pushed her plate up front as well, so it would be an even trade. It wasn’t a very good one. “Feel free to try mine as well.”
‘Please don’t think that I have bad taste!’ She chanted while delivering the fork into her mouth. Her eyelashes flew up in delight accompanied with a hum of pleasure. Only one thought arose: ‘I want more!’
Following that lead, more turbulent thoughts floated up. Tsukasa was the one who ordered this so it wasn’t right for her to eat away at it! But…it was so good–compared to her nasty pasta, she favored his plate more.
Seeing her eyeing at his plate, he once again chuckled. His eyes filled with affection, he said: “Your pasta is delicious. Would you like to switch with me?”
Enraptured by his proposal, she schooled her expression and said back calmly, “Alright, if that’s what you want.”
He held back another urge to chuckle.
Completely blind to the fact that he was teasing her outright, she happily chewed away, glad that she no longer had to eat that disgusting pasta. Since Tsukasa said so himself that he liked her pasta, there was no need to feel guilty, right? Luck was truly on her side!
By the time they finished their lunch, some time had passed and a more comfortable atmosphere settled between them. Like before, they wandered around the streets stocked with shops and actually went inside to explore them. Seeing Tsukasa’s goading smile serving as a stimulus, Himari abandoned all restraining thoughts and shopped to her heart’s content. Even better, Tsukasa even complimented her and fully endorsed her preferences.
Her modus operandi consisted of searching for eye-catching and suitable clothing, then feeling out its material, and after approving it, she would then drag it–along with herself–to the fitting room. Tsukasa enjoyed this free fashion show and applauded lightly with a nod each time she walked out in a different outfit.
After a few showcases, her nervousness gave away to confidence as she strolled out of the curtains and posed. She would then wait for Tsukasa’s rating. It was fun! Sometimes he would put a hand on his hips, silently judging her before either giving her a nod or a thumbs-up. It was exhilarating to find that he wasn’t like the other boys she met; the ones who would always groan or go on their phone while their girlfriends were doing her own thing. The fact that he participated and offered suggestions made her like him even more!
Satisfied with how smoothly the day flowed, she walked out the store with her smile stretching all the way to her eyes and flowers blooming around her.
“Thank you for shopping with me today, Tsukasa-kun!” She said with a cute little ‘hehe!’ He smiled back.
“Before we part, there’s a place that I want to go to.” He pointed to a small shop. Himari froze on the spot. “As a thanks for inviting me out today, I want to treat you to some sweets.”
It would be rude to refuse him, and she didn’t have any excuses to use to escape either. Silently, she followed after him and over the threshold of the shop. They were shown in and seated. The moment she picked up the menu, she became helpless, a lost cause.
“I-I eat a lot!” She suddenly said, peeking out from the top of the menu. Tsukasa continued to smile.
“It’s alright. I have a lot of money.” He replied.
She frowned slightly. “But…you worked hard for it from your part-time job.”
“I-I’ll be alright…I only took it because I wanted to get experience.” He said, scratching his cheek. What, did she actually think he was poor?
Himari let out a soft ‘oh!’ of understanding then buried herself back into the menu. “Then…d-don’t regret it!”
The sky was streaked with red and pink clouds that drifted lackadaisically. Himari was so full and content with how her precious free day was spent. She turned to Tsukasa brightly.
“It’s been really fun today!” She said, “Let’s hang out like this again next time!”
“Sure,” he said. They walked to the station and got into the same train. Before she even knew it, they were on the way back to Natsumi’s house, side by side. The two were conversing happily when a sudden jolt of pain made her wince. “What’s wrong?”
“N-nothing,” she said. However, at that moment her hand instinctively reached for the back of her head. His eyes turned cold.
“Did you get hurt from that fight?” He took her hand gently. Himari couldn’t see his face dyed with black and just assured him that she was fine.
“I’m alright, really! But, I’m glad that I was correct. You were the one who threw the rock, weren’t you?”
His movements paused, then he let out a sigh of defeat. “How did you know?”
While she answered, he went behind her to check on the injury. “It was just a vague prediction.” She said promptly. “It doesn’t hurt, don’t worry.”
Tsukasa’s expression turned even darker. “How can it not hurt?”
After parting her hair, he came to a shocking discovery. His heart dropped. It was a bloody mess! In the middle there was a scab about half the size of a fist from when she was thrown onto the wall. How did he not notice this? He gritted his teeth then calmed himself.
“Why did you not tell me?”
Himari looked up slightly. “Did I have to tell you?”
Tsukasa froze. Right. It had only been recently since they started talking and been friends. How could she disclose such information when they weren’t even that close?
Himari, on the other hand, thought differently. How could she tell her crush that she was injured? Wouldn’t that just be asking for attention? What would she expect in return? A kiss on the boo boo?
He released her then conjured up a gentle smile. “...I’m sorry for acting so rashly. But you should get treatment.”
“Haha…I tried but I just couldn’t see the back of my head,” she said, feeling a bit embarrassed. “And if I told Sora, he’d ask what happened and make a fuss.”
“Does Izanami-san’s house have any first aid?” He asked, taking her hand in the most natural way possible while taking the other shopping bags from her. In his other hand, he carried an abnormal amount of bags.
Himari tried her best to recall the interior of the cupboards in the house. “I think…so….?”
He accepted that answer and the two fell silent. Never had she ever seen him be so serious. The vicissitude of his expressions was a shock that quietly hit her. Himari felt like she was a child being led home after being scolded lightly. When they arrived at the front door, she pulled out the keys and they both entered.
The first thing she noticed when she stepped in was the sound of voices. Sora wasn’t supposed to be home today, and Yuu was usually cooped up in his own room. It could only mean–
Her feet carried her to the living room before she even realized, leaving Tsukasa in the dust. She screeched to a stop at the doorway and summoned all of her voice.
Chapter 22: To Believe And To Not (Chronicles of Time)
Natsumi snapped out of her dreams, following that bright white line that showed itself in the darkness. She knew it was leading her to the exit. When she opened her eyes, the first thing she saw was someone beside her.
Snow-white hair and a red mark on his forehead. It wasn’t Yuu. She couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Mustering up her strength, she glanced around the room and her eyes finally landed on her desired target.
But then, some rando interrupted their conversation. It was yet another beautiful boy, but this time, he claimed to be a god. Just how many times has she seen this scene play out? First, she finds Yuu packed away in a safe who bursted out of the space he occupied for years and boldly says that he’s her fiancee and an almighty wizard. Then she finds out that Koru was actually an Okami (which she happily accepted) who’s in charge of her protection. Now there’s this short boy who claims to be her grandfather? And a god?
Outrageous! Just how many people in their lives can meet such a divine individual?! Who’s next? Satan?
As if things weren’t crazy enough the boy suddenly blurts out, “Don’t you want to get revenge on this man who killed your parents?!”
Shocked, but confused, she felt something slip out of her hands and crash onto the ground. “...What are you talking about?”
Yuu…killed her parents?
“What nonsense are you spewing?” Her voice rose higher and higher as she spoke in disbelief, firmly defending him. “Yuu wouldn’t do that! Besides, my parents were killed in an accident!”
“Ha!” the boy spat viciously. “Is that what they’ve told you? Humans and their wonderful concoction ability! They’ve weaved a miserable–but believable–story to pull wool over your eyes! If you don’t believe me, why don’t you ask him yourself?”
In a fit of fury, she turned to him. “Yuu–”
Deadpanned, he opened his mouth to speak. “Natsumi….Let me ask you, would you like to hear the truth or a beautifully embellished lie?”
Her hands scrunched up the bedsheets underneath her. “What? What are you saying? Of course I want to hear the truth!”
The truth behind her parents death? Wasn’t it obvious that they died in a car accident? It couldn’t be a lie. Everyone told her that was how their lives ended, so how could it be a lie? Yuu killing her parents? That was more like a lie! It couldn’t be! In her heart, she firmly believed that he would never do such a thing. He couldn’t do such a thing.
However, his emotionless expression forebode an answer that didn’t please her beliefs.
“That’s right.” He said calmly. “I killed them.”
There was no way that this was the same person she knew. Her whole body began to shake, her hands clenching onto the sheets, about to tear it off. “You’re…you’re joking…aren’t you? Ha…haha…ha….”
He stayed silent, his eyes locked onto hers. They were hollow, like those of a dead man’s. As if the situation couldn’t get any worse, he just had to repeat himself, “I killed them.”
Natsumi held her gaze on him, her breathing slow. “You…killed them?”
It was brief, but it seemed as though Yuu hesitated. He reiterated, “I killed them.”
Her breath shuddered, “So…why…why did you…ha..haha…why would you… What about all the times we shared…? Was it…was it just a joke to you? Why…why…?”
“What do you want me to say?” He said. “‘I’m sorry’?”
Unable to help herself, she scoffed in disbelief, “Are you…are you serious? You..? You really..?”
“I would never lie to you,” he said. If she heard this from him before this entire mess, she would’ve been elated. But now–
She felt something snap inside of her, and something else shattering. Before she even knew it, she was shouting at the top of her lungs. “You’re lying! You’re lying! LYING! LYING! YOU LIAR! I DON’T BELIEVE YOU! I WON’T BELIEVE YOU! I WON’T! WON’T! WON’T!”
She covered her ears as she continued to shout. She couldn’t believe it. She won’t believe it. Yuu whom she trusted; Yuu who messed around with her; Yuu who she thought of as her best friend! Just why did he approach her with bloodstained hands?! The same hands that had killed her parents, the same hands that had cooked for her, the same ones that she had held.
JUST WHAT WAS HIS PURPOSE?!
Why did he save her then?! Why did he save the child of the two people that he murdered?? Why did he stay with her? Why did he appear before her? And–and–just why?!!
Akira swallowed with difficulty. It should’ve been a happy time now that his master had woken up, but why did the situation do a complete one-eighty? Just a few words from his elder agitated the joyful mood from earlier. To bring such an old case into light and point out the real culprit who turned out to be next to the victim’s side all along–just what sort of sickly proposition was this?
But his elder was also stunned. Natsumi’s shouts of stubbornness from opening her eyes to the truth in front of her were out of nowhere. If he had known that bringing up the subject would result in this capricious reaction, he would’ve just chosen to quietly get rid of the magician later on.
He took a step back.
Just what did he start?
Yuu’s words had driven her to a spate of screams. “YOU’RE LYING! LYING!”
After a while of madness her throat finally gave away. The sudden burst of energy from before, died. She dragged herself up, her head leaned back slightly to face him. Her eyes were as dead as his. Dark and sullen, with a small flame growing in her iris.
He stared at her with that cold gaze. A gaze of a person who had already prepared for the worst.
“Why?” She struggled to say. Thick heat crawled up her throat, like a heavy block of hot metal melting in her throat and refusing to move down. It burned and hurted, just as much as her heart. “Why? Why?! …Can’t you tell me the reason…at least? Can’t you say…that you didn’t do it? Any—any excuse…any reason…just anything!”
From her childhood memories, her parents were kind people. They were well-liked, and she had never heard anyone complain about them. Not once. They were truly parents to be proud of and brag about. Showers of affection and words filled with warmth were given to her everyday. Natsumi was never mistreated in any way…so what did they do that made them deserve to be killed?
Yuu lowered his head so his eyes were no longer visible. His nails dug into his palms but she didn’t see it.
“...you can’t even tell me that?” She laughed a little in disbelief. “YOU CAN’T EVEN TELL ME THE REASON WHY MY PARENTS WERE KILLED BY YOU?! HA…HA HA…DID YOU JUST KILL THEM BECAUSE YOU WERE BORED OR SOMETHING, AND SO YOU MADE UP A BUNCH OF–A BUNCH OF LIES OUT OF GUILT A-AND APPROACHED ME KNOWING THAT YOU WERE THE CAUSE OF MY PARENT’S DEATH?!”
She could still remember the pain she suffered when the mental blow came. The way her grandma, the only living relative she had left, walked to her with her steps unsteady. The way she bent down and pushed her face into her shoulders, and told her in a bare whisper:
“Your parents…are gone.”
The moment that she refused to believe her words and smiled innocently like the child she was and replied simply, “What are you saying, grandma? Mom and dad promised me that they’ll cook curry tonight.” And the moment when she saw their caskets being carried up the platform covered in flowers. The sound of close acquaintances weeping and the looks of pity that bore into her skin. That bitter slap of reality that told her, “You’re alone now”.
She remembered them all!
“WHO ARE YOU TO BEFRIEND ME?!” She threw the nearest object to her at him. What aggravated her even more was that he didn’t dodge and accepted the blow. “WHY DID YOU SAVE ME?!! WHO WERE YOU…no…who are you…?”
She let out an indignant scoff.
“Alright… Don’t reply...I…I see how it is.” Natsumi nodded slowly, letting out an irritated huff. Then she poured all her anger into her last shout. “GET OUT! GET OUT!! I DON’T…I DON’T EVER WANT TO SEE YOU AGAIN!”
For a split moment there was a pained expression on his face. But it vanished quickly.
“..as you wish.”
Her eyes shook as she stared at the empty place where his figure once stood. Just as fast as he had left, she regretted telling him to leave.
‘He…really left.’ She wanted to cry. Like a piece of her heart was ripped out, her whole body was sobbing. Her lips trembled. “No…I didn’t mean it…come back…”
Would it have been better if she had just never woken up at all?
How long has it been since he had heard her yell? How long has it been since he last saw her in such a deranged state?
Then, little by little, his hands became increasingly unsteady. No matter how many times he experienced this he couldn’t get used to it. Inside, he laughed at himself. Why did he keep doing this to himself? Was he a masochist? Did he like getting stabbed in the heart repeatedly?
Instead of defending himself, he handed her the knife and provoked her to stab him. It was alright if he got lashed at if that meant she could vent her anger and anguish on him. Every. Single. Time. But that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. He was also human. Every time he saw her breakdown, every time he saw her cry–cry over his mistakes. But this time–
It was too painful. More heart-wrenching than he thought it’d be. All the weight from the times before collapsed onto him. It was too much. Too much. Too many emotions that were hard to control.
“What did I expect?” He mumbled. “Once again…I couldn’t protect her…and only brought harm.”
No matter how cold and distant he acted, his heart was gentle. He fell to his knees and laughed and laughed crazily. Midway, choking sobs started to mix with his laughs. “Just…how…useless am I? I couldn’t…even do…one thing...one thing…right…ha! Haha! Ha!”
No one could hear him. He was all alone, just as he wished. His hands dug through his scalp as he pulled and scratched as he cried. Cried about how powerless he was; how stupid he was; how utterly incapable he was. He had thought that as long as she was safe, all would be well. But now? Everything fell apart again. Were his methods wrong? Was he not supposed to save her? How could he not?
Then what was the mistake? Approaching her? Talking to her? Drinking in her smile?
Or maybe…was he…was he…the mistake?
The sky was darkened and filled with twinkling dots by the time he raised his head with a wisp of clarity. His voice had become hoarse from restraining his cries, and the rim of his eyes were worn out.
He swayed as he started to walk. With each step, his mind was drowned in the ocean of tears he held back. And then–
‘But I did it…to protect you.’
#novel #fantasy #fiction
Chapter 21: A Storm is Brewing (The Chronicles of Time)
The lines of spiritual power Akira released slowly wrapped itself around the soul, providing it no loophole to escape. It squirmed with resistance as he entered it. Controlling his powers, he lowered his fingers slowly. More spiritual power poured out of him like tentacles, dragging the soul towards its former body. It struggled, but his powers that were absorbed into it slowly merged with the soul’s power and gained control over it.
Once a soul has parted with the body, its defenses are weak. It couldn’t blast powers like it once could when it had a solid host; in other words, it was incorporeal. Malevolent creatures like demons or evil would then seize that opportunity to devour it. Fresh souls that had just detached themselves were the most appetizing.
At that moment, black wisps of smoke emerged through the walls and cracks in the room.
“Damn it!” Yuu cursed as the wisps of smoke started to transform and take shape. “Soul-eaters–they just have to appear now!”
Sharp jagged teeth, long slimy purple tongues with dark black saliva dripping down, and a large eye planted in the middle of their tiny bodies, rolling around madly. It fit every characteristic that defined the appearance of a soul-eater—no mistake. They shrieked in joy at the sight of a rare soul. Long sharp claws popped out of their round, plump bodies and swung in the air. Sensing the presence of powerful souls gathered together, they were attracted to the feast. At the moment they saw Natsumi’s soul glowing brightly, they lunged forward.
Yuu conjured up balls of fire in his palms and shot at the demons furiously. Although they were low-leveled demons, they were stubborn and came in a large number. If you spotted even just one, there was bound to be a whole pack resting nearby. “Damn. Demons!”
Takuma-san groaned, swinging a tall sword with ease, cutting down the numbers by four to five at a time. “Why do they have to appear in such a cramped space?!”
“Hey!” Yuu shouted. His usual annoyed face returned and replaced the sullen one he had before. “Careful with the sword! This is my room!”
He tsked then sheathed his sword. The sword returned to its rightful place as a beautiful chain around his neck. Resorting to using his spiritual power, he could only blast the creatures away. No matter how many they slaughtered, more would come and take the dead’s place. It was truly exasperating. But using any higher-leveled attack spells might affect Natsumi’s body–especially her soul which was now weakened.
He landed a punch that was coated with his power, “Eat this!”
After blowing up a couple more, they soon realized that the demons were proliferating. Rapidly so! It was to the point that almost every inch of the room–beside the area that they stepped on–were teeming with soul-eaters! Yuu quickly casted a barrier, pushing the soul-eaters back. Their gnarly, exceedingly sharp nails, scraped against the barrier. As they were pushed back, furniture were toppled over; the room was just too small to fit them all. Some tumbled into the corridor and rolled off their balance like small balls being tossed about.
Their eyes spiraled around as they knocked into each other, growling, and cackling in an oddly high pitch like they were singing a chorus. An awfully screechy one.
No matter if you were a god or even the celestial emperor, these creatures would come charging like mad, knocking on your door to eat your soul the moment they sense a soul filled with power. Soul-eaters were born when vicious and greedy humans die and refuse to leave the world. They then, were transformed into these annoying weak demons who run amok, causing trouble to all that have great power, hoping to consume that power to become stronger. The more souls they eat, the more powerful they get, and have a higher chance of increasing their rank.
“We can’t fight them here!” Takuma-san finally said, raising his voice so it would drown out the frantic shrieks of the demons. “If Natsumi’s soul re-enters her body and she wakes up to this, she’ll just be torn apart!”
“‘We’?” Yuu raised an eyebrow, frowning.
“Does how I address us matter at this point?!” Takuma-san choked out exasperatedly. It was a serious predicament, otherwise he wouldn’t even have said such a thing! Partnering up with a magician who is stuck to his precious Natsumi? He wouldn’t even acknowledge him! But…his powers were worthy to be praised. Even against the onslaught of soul-eaters whose numbers were overwhelming, the magician was composed and deft with his spells. He leaped back to Akira who’s eyes were closed as his hands moved about, closing the distance between Natsumi’s soul and her body. “Alright, magician! Can you kill off the soul-eaters if I throw them out one by one?”
“What?” Yuu’s gaze swept across the tide of soul-eaters while aiming at them. “How about I throw them out and you destroy them instead?”
“Huh?!” Since when did it become a time to bargain about positions?! “Fine! Throw them out! I’ll kill them one by one on the roof!”
But would such a maneuver work depended on if Yuu had the power to do so. Tossing the soul-eaters “one by one” would be too exhausting and time-consuming. Yuu walked out of the barrier. The moment he took a single step outside offhandedly, all attention was on him.
“Are you a fool?!” He barely got the words out of his mouth when he saw the boy drowned in the sea of soul-eaters. Takuma-san’s jaw dropped.
“What are you doing, standing there like a fool?” He heard a sound of a snap and the group of soul-eaters thinned. “Get on the roof.”
So he didn't die! He would’ve continued to stand there in awe if it wasn’t for that mocking smirk laying on the boy’s lips. He was a god! A mountain god, how could he sit still when his dignity as a god was being challenged?! Without another word, he vanished, left to his own devices as to how to deal with the disgusting creatures.
Yuu could hear the shrill screams of agony from the soul-eaters on the roof and loud explosions. Then after the last batch of soul-eaters were sent up, the house fell silent.
The tiles of the roof were painted with dark black blood and drool. Disgusted, he stabbed his sword into one of the carcasses of the creature and dragged it around, drawing a circle from the blood that leaked out of it.
“There, that should keep other evil creatures away; a warning.” He clicked his tongue and flicked his pure-white sword now dyed with filth. Splatters of blood fell off its blade and formed the shape of an arc around him.
The corpses that were piled up high to the point where it could challenge a mountain, began to rot and break off into chunks as it crumbled into the air. Even if a demon’s remains were to disappear, its splattered blood would not.
He hopped off the roof to rejoin the others, releasing the barrier that he casted to prevent the dying screams of the soul-eaters and his blinding powers from leaking out. Attracting human attention was the last thing he wanted to do. It would not only cause problems for him, but also Natsumi. It’d be the worst ideal reunion for the two if neighbors came knocking on their door while they were busy being lovey-dovey. “Pup, are you almost done with the soul-combining ritual?”
“Al…most!” Akira grunted, a few drops of sweat were visible on his white face.
“Won’t you get in trouble with the Heavens if they found out that a god participated in “black magic”?” Yuu hugged his arm, leaning against the drawer. He had not a mote of dust on his outfit, completely clean of dirt even after that messy battle.
Takuma-san turned to him then replied curtly, “It’s not “black magic”. Besides, we’re just linking a soul back to its body. Natsumi-chan isn’t fully dead. We’re just saving her, not reviving her.”
For some reason, it sounded funny to Yuu. He laughed spitefully. “A god like you, saving a human? Laughable! I thought that all gods were cruel and emotionless. It just shows how much has changed from before.”
His brow twitched. “What’s that supposed to mean? Don’t forget, I hold seniority here. Dare to be arrogant and you’ll be blown into smithereens. Such blaspheme!”
Now that the soul-eaters were out of their way, they no longer had to work as a team. Nothing stopped them from hosting their own battle. Yuu let out a scoff and continued on with a disingenuous tone, “So what if you hold seniority? A battle would suffice to determine who’s more powerful between you and me. Age has no power.”
“You-! Wait…have I…met you before?” The more he looked closely at the boy the more he felt that he had seen him before. But where? He didn’t notice it before since he was occupied with the battle and the sudden events blowing up in his face. He stayed silent, racking through his dusty memories. Just how many years has he spent underneath his mountain in solitude cultivation? While he was talking to himself inside his head, Natsumi’s condition improved.
“Ah!” Akira exclaimed. His hands trembled and his heart rose, brimming with joy. “I-it’s working!”
Natsumi’s eyelids fluttered, and her fingers twitched. Slowly, her body was regaining its senses. Warmth gathered around her fingertips and her face gradually became flushed with the colors it had before. Soft breathing could be heard.
Yuu, seeing this, breathed a sigh of relief. However, his heart never stopped shaking. He could sense the shackles around his heart falling apart with ‘clinks!’ and ‘clanks!’. That unsettling feeling that overpowered him before melted away from being respited. But if this was just the second time…then next time it would be worse.
Weak blue eyes peeked through her eyelids and stared in their direction. Akira stopped pouring his powers into her and smiled widely. “Master! You’re awake!”
Natsumi could feel numbness throughout her body. She was paralyzed and could only do small movements like twitching her fingers or shifting her head slightly.
“You don’t have to worry, master! Everything’s alright now!”
“You’ve been asleep for almost two weeks now.” Yuu spoke up. He leaned over her so she could see him properly.
Surprisingly, for someone who had slept like the dead for about two weeks, her body was well nourished and she didn’t feel hungry or thirsty at all. But that just made her even more guilty. “Yuu…I’m sorry.”
He raised an eyebrow and crossed his arm. His long hair tickled her nose. “For?”
“For…pushing you out…I’m not sure how that happened.” She smiled weakly.
“Don’t apologize to him!” With a loud ‘bang!’ Yuu was almost thrown back again, but this time, he dodged the blow. Takuma-san stood in between the two with a glower on his face, his hands shaking with spiritual energy.
“Who…who are you?” Natsumi asked. Akira met her aids and helped her sit up. Her smile dropped. “Why did you attack Yuu?”
Uh-oh! This was not the reaction he had expected. All the dreams that he had of her smiling happily and calling him “grandfather!” and chasing after him, cracked away… No matter! Saving her from this devil was more important! He could just resolve it later with her!
“I’m your ancestor, a god!” He answered.
She gave him a disgusted look, not expecting to hear something so ridiculous the second she woke up. “Don’t think I’m a fool. A god? I’m not a child who could be swayed when someone tells them they’re the tooth fairy. I already met a magician and an Okami, I don’t need to meet a god.”
Mental damage +500! Damage taken +2,000!
‘T-that was a rejection, right?!’ Takuma-san almost slipped. He was late! He was beaten by that evil magician and that silly demon pup! If he just showed up earlier…then he would set the standard, not them!!
Natsumi didn’t just stop there. For someone who had just woken up, she sure had a lot of words to say. “If you’re a god, what are you doing here? I never heard of a god being my ancestor. Besides, aren’t gods supposed to be divine beings? They wouldn’t have so much free time to visit a humble abode of a mere mortal like me. And aren’t gods supposed to be good? They shouldn’t be attacking people randomly.”
He almost spat out blood from the attacks that his heart endured. Yuu snickered behind him while Akira hesitated to jump in and back him up. He had come all this way, used his powers to destroy an army(?) of soul-eaters to save her, but in the end the outcome was an ambush of words that was tantamount to a fatal heart attack! And here he had hoped that he would be welcomed and regarded as her savior but instead his image became a ‘fake god’?
He already suffered enough mental blows, okay?!
But his cute Natsumi rambled on. “You also look like a kid, about Akira’s size. How could you be a god?”
So now it was a height problem?! Takuma-san began to wish that his beloved Natsumi had just continued to play as sleeping beauty forever and that he, the prince, had never come.
“T-that’s not the issue here!” He stammered. “Natsumi, trust me, trust this ancestor! This magician who had stuck to your side is nothing but a deceitful ingrate!”
“I know that.” She said, not fazed at all. “Yuu’s an idiot everyday. But calling him an “ingrate” is a bit harsh.”
He was absolutely confounded. The magician truly had her wrapped around his finger! Brainwashed! Realizing that it was too late for her, he turned to Yuu. “You! I had a feeling that I know you from somewhere! But who would think that I would meet you in person!”
Yuu tilted his head.
“You murderer! Bloodthirsty demon!” He roared, unsheathing his sword.
“Wait!” She raised her hand and his sword was knocked out of his hand, clattering away. Natsumi looked down at her hands in bewilderment. “Whoa…”
Takuma-san turned to her shouting in outrage, “What are you doing?! Don’t you want to get revenge on this man who killed your parents?!”
A loud ‘thud!’ echoed throughout the room. The stone that was placed in Natsumi’s hands before, fell.
“...What are you talking about?”
Chapter 20: Another Nuisance Delivered (The Chronicles of Time)
“How could such a kind person…die?”
He turned his head slightly in her direction. “What do you think?”
“...I don’t even want to imagine it.” Natsumi lowered her gaze. There were multiple answers to her question. One: the saintess’s attitude and words changed over time and she lost favor. Two: the saintess was killed because of asassination. Three: the saintess was killed by the people that she wanted to protect.
Natsumi closed her eyes at the last answer and then abandoned the question. There were too many answers, and none of them were positive. The thought of a person like the saintess dying in the end shook her worldview.
Natsumi finally brought herself to ask, her eyes on the three legends in front of her. “Yuu…are you ‘Cassius’?”
He nodded his head. “That was the past ‘me’.”
She looked at him whose eyes were also focused on the other three people. No–he was looking at the saintess specifically. Unexpectedly, Natsumi felt her heart tighten. His eyes were soft and his expression was filled with a mixture of sadness and–no doubt–it was…love. Natsumi couldn’t help but scold herself inwardly.
The saintess was beautiful, compassionate, and powerful. Yuu, who used to be Cassius, stayed beside her for who knows how long. How could he not develop feelings for her?
She suddenly didn’t want to look anymore. It felt like a stab to her heart, but…it couldn’t be that she liked Yuu. So then why did she feel so awful? She had no chance. No chance…
Natsumi clapped her hands lightly on her cheeks, mentally, calming herself down. As much as she wanted to stay and admire the saintess and her friends, her first priority should be to find a way to escape. She couldn’t stay trapped in this space forever. Her hands broke free from Yuu’s grasp and she gestured towards the door to go. His warmth slipped away.
Surprisingly, getting out of the room wasn’t as complicated as she thought it would be.
Yuu pushed the door open and they walked through it. It made her look like a fool for overthinking it before. She found herself standing in the middle of the same white hallway. She didn’t know where they were going and just blindly followed Yuu, trusting that she was in good hands. However, Yuu started to talk.
“You know, that saintess you just saw…”
He paused then said, “She…she was loved. She was loved by the people. If there was anything that was to be named priceless, it would be her.”
A subtle smile crawled onto his face. The more he talked about the saintess mindlessly, the more Natsumi’s heart ached. His pensive expression accompanied with a scoop of happiness didn’t help at all. It made her more discomposed, her thoughts more unruly. But he seemed to be so happy talking about her, even if all he really did was insult her mostly. Their relationship must’ve been incredibly close…
But…why did the stories he told sound so…familiar?
Her body glowed, but she kept staring at her hands as if it was about to pierce a hole through them. Beside her, Yuu felt her mana stirring, stopped his stories and instantly faced her only to be thrown back out of nowhere.
A trail of blood seeped from the corner of his lips as he crashed into the wall, destroying the mirage of the temple into thousands of pieces.
She was once again, surrounded in darkness.
Two vague shadows leaped through the lush verdant forest at a blinding speed. They effortlessly jumped around, using the branches as a launchpad to propel their speed even more. One golden, and one white blurr. Akira–who had long stripped away his mortal clothes–fought to catch up with the figure in front of him. Their robes flew behind them, making it seem like they had wings. The crisp sound of his bell rang as he moved.
“Right, what is it that I should address you, elder?” Akira asked, his pace not dropping.
The other stayed in silent contemplation until finally replying, “Just call me Takuma-san, for now. You may continue to call me ‘elder’ if you wish.”
It wasn’t long until they landed lightly on top of the mahogany eaves of the roof of Natsumi’s house. Takuma-san closed his eyes for a good minute then opened them.
“You’re right,” he said as he stooped down, his feet an inch away from falling. “This vermin is indeed powerful.”
“Are we going to break in?” Akira asked. He stood patiently behind him, waiting for an answer.
However, Takuma-san shot him a ‘are-you-serious?!’ look. “What? Like those grave robbers, entering and robbing as they please? No!”
After hearing that sharp response, Akira scrutinized over his words then said with an ‘oh’. It was his house. Why would he need to break into it? Not only that, the way he phrased it made them look like thieves targeting a house which stained the god’s image. After all, what kind of god breaks into a mortal's house? His dignity would crumble and scatter like dust! He waved those thoughts away.
“My apologies. Then how should we approach?”
“...It seems that he’s occupied with something…” he widened the range of his detection and then closed his fingers into his palm. “Currently, there’s two presences in the house. I think it's safe to use a power-canceling spell. As long as we’re careful and keep our powers tucked away, he won’t be able to sense us–especially when his hands are full.”
The two concealed their remaining powers and cautiously jumped through an open window. They arrived in an empty room. One look at the desk revealed the owner’s identity. Anime figurines stood on top of the desk surface, captured in glass displays. The poses were eccentric. Some of them held swords and their bodies were twisted into a backflip, others floated in mid-air in the form of a spin, etc. Other than that, there were books tucked away neatly into the bookshelves. Upon a closer inspection, they would find some mangas camouflaging amongst the textbooks and novels.
Sora had truly made the room his own.
The two walked to the door and crept into the hallway. Their footsteps were light, and they put a lot of attention in staying quiet. Akira’s heart pounded, looking at Takuma-san’s serious face.
‘So this is what working with a god is like!’
He had always wanted to see a god up close. Even just talking with them was fine, or even a single glance! He knew that it was for business, but he never expected that he would be sneaking into his own house with a god! It was so exciting!!
Takuma-san also shared his excitement, but he didn’t show it. He was going to meet the cutest member in his family yet! Who knows how long he was holed up underneath his mountain, his old bones rotting away. His only connection to the outside world was a cup of water that could conjure up reflections. Upon seeing Natsumi one day, he immediately fell in love. He was so lucky to have such a cute descendant! He remembered that time when he saw Natsumi chewing on a dango, peering into a koi pond. His heart never stopped throbbing at the sight of her afterwards. Such plump cheeks! Such round eyes!
He had truly become a devoted fan.
Something seized him and he paused. He could feel a sinister magic at the end of the hallway. Akira’s ears stood up as tall as spikes. They had never felt this kind of sensation before but they knew that it was nothing good.
“Prepare yourself,” he commanded somberly. He didn’t even need to say anything, Akira had already lit up two bluebell flames from his hands.
The house was cold, and the flames made the temperature around them drop even more. Hellfire flames were like icicles–but alive. It resembled real fire and danced around like it too.
Takuma-san gave a nod of approval.
‘Not bad! To be able to control such a deadly fire at a young age…impressive.’ He couldn’t help but applaud the pup in his head. The number of individuals that could deploy the hellfire to their use were a scarce amount; a pinchful.
Redirecting his focus back to the task at hand, he decided to think about the matter later on. It was not the right situation nor setting to think about such a thing. Whatever monster that laid behind that door, he had to get rid of it at all cost. For Natsumi’s sake!
“We’ll enter quietly, got it?” He transferred the message telepathically. “Wait until I give you the signal to attack.”
Suddenly, they froze. A muddled voice could be heard. They unrooted themselves from their spot and slowly approached. The more they moved, the clearer they could hear the words the voice was saying: “Natsumi!? Hey! Damn it! I can’t enter her soul!”
Before Takuma-san could even say anything, Akira ran past him and smashed the door open.
“What. Are. You. Doing. To. Master’s soul?!” He shouted in outrage.
Takuma-san facepalmed himself, dragging his face down. ‘Why can’t he listen to such simple directions?!’
Since their cover was already blown, he barged into the room as well.
But it wasn’t a monster he found. It was a handsome black haired boy.
Confused, he blurted inadvertently, “Where’s that ‘despicable monster magician’ you told me about? All I see is a pretty boy??”
The flames on Akira’s hands grew even bigger. “That’s him, elder!”
His eyes almost popped out from their sockets. He recalled all the harsh words the boy had used to describe the magician before while they were discussing how to get rid of the vermin. Convinced that he must’ve been a no-good man with, not only a horrible personality, but also a horrible face as well, he steeled his resolve to kill him. After all, even if you were evil, as long as you had beauty you were of some worth in his book. But now that he had seen the perpetrator with his very eyes…“ugly” should be on the blacklist of all the words that could be used to characterize him. “Him?! You said he was ugly! Horrendous! Unsightly to the point where it’ll make you vomit!”
Akira tilted his head offhandedly, and he raised an eyebrow. “Isn’t he?”
WHAT THE FUCK?! The pup must be fucking blind! He was so astonished and baffled that he almost let a few curses slip! Since he was also the god of luxury, how could he call such a beautiful jewel ugly?!
Yuu observed the intruders with a flippant attitude then turned back to Natsumi. He didn’t have time to deal with their pointless bickering. He had just woken up after he was blasted out of her soul’s consciousness. For what reason? His mind was jumbled up to the point where he couldn’t help but let out an irritated groan. It couldn’t be that something else invaded her soul.
He was about to re-enter her consciousness again when a hand grasped onto his wrist.
“Let go of me.”
“What do you think you’re doing?” Takuma-san growled. In the midst of his argument–one-sided scolding–with Akira, his eyes were drawn to that golden orb hovering on top of the body that should be Natsumi’s.
Yuu’s eyes lit up with an egregious glow, fraught with warning. “Release. My. Hand.”
He had never heard anyone dare to speak to him so improperly before. And with such malice! But…for some reason, why did he seem so familiar? “Watch your tone. I’m your elder, show some respect.”
“And I’m trying to save a person.” Yuu countered. “I don’t have time for such useless perfunctory.”
Yuu forcefully broke his hand free, leaving Takuma-san surprised. He couldn’t even get a minute to breathe before another distraction blocked him from even reaching Natsumi. Blue flames obstructed his view. He tried to swat it away but found a scorch mark blemishing the side of his hand.
“What is it that you’re trying to do?” His body radiated with explosive energy. The other two were suddenly put on their guard.
Before they could even exchange attacks, the whole room was painted white by a blinding light. Forced to shut their eyes, the three gritted their teeth. When they recovered their sight, their bellicose spirit was temporarily curbed. Natsumi’s soul’s light flickered faintly, looking aggrieved.
Seeing this, all three of them lowered their hands and rushed to her side, psyched out. Since they were all on the same side anyway, there was no point for them to fight at such a critical moment!
“What’s going on?” Takuma-san demanded. Grudgingly, Akira put away his flames, comprehending that it was not the right time to fight.
Yuu’s gaze scattered around her body. “I, I entered her soul’s consciousness to try and bring her back–to try and get her back into her body. I, somehow, was kicked out.”
“How did she–ah! Nevermind!” He dismissed his questions. Saving her was more important! “Demon pup!”
“Y-yes, elder!” Akira kneeled on one knee, his eyes blazing as he waited for instructions.
“Can you try to inject your spiritual power into her soul and lead it back to her cor–I mean, body?” He almost let the word “corpse” slip out of his tongue.
“Wait.” Yuu rummaged through his pocket then tossed something at Akira who caught it. “Here.”
Akira’s red eyes widened. “Why…why do you have this?”
“No time to explain,” Yuu said flatly, eyeing the declining frequency of the orb’s brightness. It was slowly losing its light; in other words–it’s will to remain in the world.
Biting down on his teeth, and swearing that he would elicit the answer out of him afterwards, Akira looked down in his hands and casted a spell. He then, very carefully, placed the stone in Natsumi’s lifeless hands, and closed them. Then he stretched out his fingers and white rivulets of spiritual power were produced from the tips and entered the soul. The soul flickered at once when it detected the outside force entering it.
“Good!” Takuma-san applauded. “Very good!”
#fiction #novel #fantasy
Chapter 19: One’s Duty and Role (The Chronicles of Time)
His mind was in turmoil and turned upside down–driven crazy to the utmost! In his palms carried her fragile soul. It could only mean one thing:
She was drifting away.
No matter how much power he’ll have to spend, he’ll bring her back. For sure! Otherwise…he couldn’t bear the pain anymore…
It wasn’t too late to guide her soul back to its body. Instead of crying and shouting at it to go back, he poured his mana into it. Streams of light shackled the small luminescent orb. It pried and poked, then they were slowly absorbed into it.
In the old times there was a practice that consisted of combining one’s magic with another’s soul. Using the mana that was absorbed, breaking into the soul’s consciousness was an easy feat. It was often used to wake up a hazy soul that had lost its way and required a small push to find its way back onto the path of the afterlife.
But he didn’t have that purpose. Such a spell used for guiding a soul back to its body? It’s forbidden!
Who could stop him anyways? The times he casted it in the past was countless! Besides, all others could do was talk crap, who would dare fight against him? Even an army of wizards from the magic tower couldn’t restrain him when his practice was exposed. Who would have the power to annihilate him?
Finally, he arrived at the core. The streams of mana contained his consciousness, so he controlled it as he pleased. He probed the core, then very carefully, entered the light.
A tall door stood in front of him when he opened his eyes. Black lines formed on his face and his already pale face grew even more pale–but not from exhaustion.
‘W-why is she here out of all places?!’
This wasn’t the friendship Himari had expected. She did consider the fact that the friendship could go awry and some knives would be exchanged, but who would’ve thought that every time they bumped into each other, not knives, but sharp swords would be thrown! And rocks! And pencils!!
Himari hoped that they would get along, and they did.
Aoko-san was just not as easy to befriend as she thought. Sure, they officially became friends now, but most of the time, it didn’t feel like they were. She would treat her coldly. Himari looked at this attitude positively, thinking that since Aoko-san was able to show such a behavior towards her, it meant that she trusted her.
It was all well until she found out about Himari’s ‘little crush’. And that was fast.
From other’s point of view, it was a conspicuous fact that Tsukasa-kun and Himari got along well. Maybe too well. The relationship the two shared seemed to be more than that of friends. It was only Himari who was blinded and couldn’t see where this was going. Tsukasa-kun was well-known throughout the first-years for his friendly disposition. Once he started to accompany Himari, his reputation rocketed through the roof. Rumors about them were scattered widely, good and bad. However, Himari wasn’t cognizant of such a thing.
But Aoko-san was.
She found it funny just how clueless her new friend was. Taking advantage of her slow mind, she would often make rude comments about just how brainless she was. And she was the so-called genius? Ha! It was just too amusing.
“Go bother that boyfriend of yours.” She would interrupt without hesitation. “I’m busy.”
“What? He doesn’t want you anymore?” She would then laugh and turn away briskly. Then, she would step to the side as a pencil flew her way.
“I thought we were friends!”
“Can’t friends discuss romance?”
“Yes, but you’re not discussing it with me. You’re just making fun of me.” Himari would retort.
Then they would encounter each other again and the same situation would play out again. Tsukasa-kun, aware of how keen Aoko-san was, soon realized that she wasn’t the person she made others think she was. Cold, harsh, and ruthless. Those are the true words that she was to be described as. She wasn’t a bad influence, nor was she a good one either. So he couldn’t do anything but just observe.
“Himari.” Himari said, not looking up from her book.
He closed his eyes. “Aik–”
“Himari.” She reiterated firmly.
He tightened his smile. “Aikawa.”
Himari turned away from him, continuing to flip through her book. Tsukasa-kun sighed. He had no choice but to give in. “Fine. H-Himari-chan.”
She grinned, turning her head back slightly. “That works fine as well.”
“...I have something to say.”
She cocked her head. “Go on.”
“Don’t you think that…Aoko-san is a bit odd?”
She paused, pursing her lips then perched her chin on her hand with a thoughtful look on her face. “Hmm…I did think that she was odd,” he leaned in closer to listen to her opinion, “but…I think that she’s a good person at heart.”
She was like a butterfly, circling on top of a spider’s web. Not even hesitating to dive into it. Now that she got herself tangled up in its webs…could she get out of it?
Tsukasa-kun couldn’t help but worry. He hoped that the spider wasn’t bloodthirsty.
Natsumi’s ears perked up. For some reason, she could feel a familiar presence outside of the room. Wait…. Since when was she able to feel other people’s presence?! She turned to see that the three paid no mind to it at all. But…how was she to get the door open without attracting their attention?
While Natsumi hacked through her brain for a solution, the other three were happily immersed in their subject of defeating the Demon King.
“That no-good emperor is planning on deploying soldiers to the western border to eradicate the demons that started to appear around there.” ‘Cassius’ said.
“Although they’re all low-leveled, demons showing up at the western border is unheard of.” Mikhael drank from his cup intently. “It could be that the Demon King has started to awaken, causing a commotion amongst the demons. This could just be the beginning. Who knows what sort of stronger demons would reveal themselves in the future?”
The saintess nodded her head in agreement. “Even if the emperor doesn’t command us to move, we’ll have to either way–for the people’s sake.”
The three huddled closer and their moods turned somber. They remained silent until the saintess took in a deep breath and opened her mouth, “In preparation for that time, I need to make sure that I gain control of the Holy Empire.”
Although it’s called an empire, it was just made out of numerous sects of different varieties, scattered across the Lucia ‘empire’. Despite it being formed by just sects, the Holy Empire wielded a large influence over the people, and its wealth amassed throughout time. Thus, earning its name. Every ten years, the sects would each choose their own saint. The chosen ones then were to ‘compete’ for fame and whichever contestant won would be named ‘saintess’. Of course, they won’t succeed that title completely until the previous saint relinquishes their title and hands it over.
There were exceptions, of course. For example, if the candidate had strong holy power, they would immediately be placed in the position of a saint and trained. Once selected, they would be the only saint, regardless if there was already someone sitting on that seat.
Mikhael sighed; aggrieved, “The whole matter is a death omen. An unfavorable premonition.”
‘Cassius’ opened his palms then closed them. Small flames danced then were quickly extinguished, then revived again, then snuffed out. “Why should we care about the people?”
The saintess began to answer, “Because–”
“Because we’re powerful?” ‘Cassius’ interrupted with a sneer, killing off the flame in his hands abruptly. His tone turned harshly mocking. “Because we’re born here? Because we have a duty? An obligation? Tell me,” he turned to the others and propped one of his arms up, leaning on his left leg, “were we born to be heroes? Were we born so that we should play the role of ‘protector’ in order to shield the people?”
“Cassius,” the saintess groaned. But he continued on, madly.
“I didn’t ask to be respected. Sure, having people bow to you, offer themselves up for you, and be at your service is nice. But there are other ways to make them submit to you–to make them fear you.”
“Cassius…I don’t want to rule people by using fear.”
He looked at her frown and his eyes turned cold. Deprived of all light. “Then have you seen the people? And I’m not talking about the people in the Holy Empire,” she clamped her mouth shut, “I’m talking about the common people. Not those cheerful ones that you’ve been exposed to, but the ones that are just so filthy inside and out that you feel revolted from one glance. The people who murdered. The people who destroyed another’s lives. The people who use hate as a reason to live. Countless! Open your eyes! Not everyone is a good person. Not everyone will bow down and accept morality and give into the light. Not everyone deserves to live.”
As he talked his hands waved around relentlessly as if it’ll express his frustration.
With much hesitation, Mikhael slowly nodded his head to agree. “Saintess…you know, I’ve been sent to observe the aftermath of a battle. War is not a pretty thing. Disputes over territory are not a pretty thing. And yet, the people that want us to protect them are the most vile and dirtiest of them all. They’re the ones that start all this suffering, and sit back and watch as their own people are devoured and dyed in black.”
‘Cassius’ took over, allowing the saintess no opportunities to speak. “They covet beauty, they covet riches. But they can’t have them. Humans are bound to fall! Only the strong and pure can stand on their feet. There is not a single person that hasn't done anything wrong in their life. You say that those people are ‘weak’ and that they need us, but what about yourself? Those people will trample on you when you’ve fallen. They’ll spit on you; like you’re dirt. Just because you’re sitting high up currently, they’ll eventually drag you down and defile you at their own pleasure and satisfaction.
“We can protect them from harm now, but when you need a hand, will they stretch theirs out for you? They can shower you with praises, with flowers, with money right now. But that’s because they want something from you. If you weren’t a saintess, would they even smile at you? If you were a beggar, would they toss you a coin? Think about it. These people that you want to protect, are they worth it?!”
The saintess fell silent and absorbed his words. He enunciated every word clearly and they rang through her mind, traveled down to her chest, then planted a seed in her heart. His words were true. Humans were born selfish. Born greedy. There will always be people praying for her downfall so they can snatch her luxury for themselves.
“...you’re right.” She said, raising her head. Her voice trembled then gradually became more firm. “You’re right! Every. Single. Word. You. Said… Is right! But I choose to believe in my people. I believe that no matter how much I’ve fallen, they will be there for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s a thousand, or a hundred, or even just one! I know–you two will always be there, and I hope that it stays that way. However, you don’t need my power. You two can defend yourselves just fine. At the very most, I want to be able to protect someone that needs me. That way…I know that I’m of use…”
Now it was the other’s turn to be speechless. Even Natsumi pulled herself into the deep conversation without herself being aware. The saintess didn’t just stop there. It was like she was a volcano, triggered by ’Cassius’s explosive display, she was also nudged to explode as well.
“So what if I was sheltered for years? Don’t forget, we all used to be children from the streets–abandoned. Do you think that I don’t know the word ‘suffering’?! Do you think that I’m so ignorant?! That I became spoiled and pampered and forgot about the difficulties of life due to being exposed to some luxury?!”
“No that’s not–!”
“I know that there are people out there that have noble hearts. I also know that there are people out there that are stained black! But in evil, there is good.” Her arms flung wildly as she spoke fervently. “So what if people won’t treat me nicely, pamper me, or toss me a coin when I’m no longer saintess? I’ll do what I can for them! As long as the intention was genuine, good will always conquer evil. Kindness will always be repaid. What’s wrong with hoping that people will change their ways? As long as I can help them, whether I’ll be kicked in the mud or not, is something that the future me has to worry about!
“The present is the present; I’ll do what I can at the moment to relieve their burden.” She held a fist to her chest and stood up, stoically. “To let them know that all they’ve spent on me wasn’t for naught. To let them know that I’m not just a gentle saintess who only knows to sit there like a porcelain doll! To let them know the reason why I’m saintess–to protect them!”
She was mesmerizing. Brilliant. Like the sun. She was out of reach, flying higher and higher, being swept away by the wind, swept off her feet. ‘Cassius’ looked down at his hands. Her ending was obvious. Such a bright person, filled with positivity and her optimistic nature…just how many others like her are out there? She shined so dazzlingly that he couldn’t bear to look.
If she had seen what he had seen with his very eyes…would she still think the same? But she was stubborn. Determined. Obstinate. He knew, and knew very clearly what would happen to her. People won’t change. They can’t change. And at that moment, he wished that she would never change.
A warm hand snapped her out of her concentration.
A faint smile rested on his lips. “That saintess… she was naive. Stupid. And a hopeless person.”
She saw Yuu standing next to her. His hair was long like the day she met him. It made him look exactly like ‘Cassius’, but his face was younger. She took his hand and grasped onto it. Consumed by curiosity she asked, “...that saintess…what happened to her afterwards?”
#romance #novel #fiction #fantasy
Chapter 18: Reconciliation (?) (The Chronicles of Time)
Himari reached her hand towards him, then she quickly shrank back when he turned around abruptly. “What’s wrong?”
“...don’t you think that Kaneko-kun and Izanami have been sick for too long?”
It was odd and he couldn’t put his finger on it. Just who would get sick for ten days? From what he knew of them, they seemed to be pretty strong people. Besides, it was too much of a coincidence for both of them to be sick for this long. It could be possible that since they were both ill, they took care of each other so germs were passed back and forth; but shouldn’t they be showing signs of improving despite that?
“T-they’re getting better!” Himari couldn’t remember how many times she’s said that line.
He raised an eyebrow then looked away. “Alright, I really hope they are.”
Like another weight adding onto her shoulders, she lowered her head. “...yeah.”
It couldn’t be helped. The one he liked was Natsumi after all. Of course he was going to worry–it made sense. However, she was also concerned. It has been ten days since Natsumi fell asleep. Yuu assured her that he had everything under control but…does he? It has been a while since he had a foot outside his room. Forget stepping out of his room, they haven’t even heard his voice! His presence just completely vanished!
Indeed, his skills were not to be questioned. It may, possibly, be a matter of time. If she opened the door, there was a high chance that she would see Yuu napping without a care in the world while she was busy chasing her crush and worrying endlessly!
“I’m sure they’ll be back in no time!” Himari said, her hands forming fists raised in front of her. “Yeah!”
He looked askance at her, but it quickly faded away with a smile in its place. For some reason their positions reversed and it was his turn to assure her. “Yes, I’m sure.”
The wind faced them, her hair danced wildly but beautifully behind her. The two walked side by side. Every morning he would arrive on time and wait for her to come out and glance behind her before the door closed to see nothing but an empty hallway. Despite noticing that, she would just greet him with joy and accompany him on the way to school. The dream would end when they parted at the end of the day.
“Tsukasa-kun…will...I mean, are you free this Saturday?”
“Hm?” He put a hand to his chin and seemed to be in thought. “Let’s see…” he saw her squirm with anticipation and chuckled inwardly, “I think I am free.”
“Really?” Himari looked up instantly with a gleam in her eyes. “T-then…”
“Actually, I think I do have an appointment that day…” Tsukasa-kun turned his head slightly away from her and focused his sight on her from the corner of his eyes, a smirk playing on his lips.
Himari’s gaze fell and, unconsciously, gripped onto the strap of her bag. “Oh…it’s fine if you can’t.”
“Oh wait! Nope, my schedule is clear!”
She kept falling for his words, believing that he was sincere, but the more he tricked her, the more she had doubts. Was he playing her? “Anyways, if you’re free then meet me at the station at eleven! If you can, o-of course.”
Tsukasa-kun couldn’t help but snicker while she shot him a look laced with suspicion.
They both groaned the moment they saw each other, not even bothering to hide their displeasure.
“It seems that you’re not going to play that ‘nice girl’ role as usual.” Himari crossed her arms. In front of her, Aoko-san put a hand to her hips while holding onto a pile of papers.
“I don’t have time to deal with your sarcasm.” She sighed heavily then took a step to leave. “What?”
Himari blocked her and said, “Um…I…”
Aoko-san tilted her head and tapped her hips impatiently. “What is it? If you don’t have anything good to say, move aside. I have to get these documents completed by the end of the day.”
Himari conceded and stepped to the side. Aoko-san walked past her, her hands underneath the tower of paper. But then…
Aoko-san halted then sighed. “What?”
“I…before I said that you’re not that bad.” Himari closed her eyes, her back facing her. “I…really mean that. If possible, we can be friends…?”
She blinked, as if she couldn’t understand what Himari was rambling on about. It was a stupid proposal. Why would she even be friends with her? With someone whom their friend is her friend is her rival in love? In fact, since she and Natsumi were best friends, why would she even ask to be friends with someone who hurt an important person to her?
“...I’m afraid I don’t understand your intentions.” She casted a suspicious glance at Himari's way.
“I…I really don’t want to regard you as an enemy,” Himari said truthfully, spinning around. “At any rate, I’d prefer to not treat anyone rudely. Let’s face it, we’ll be in the same school until we graduate. Shouldn’t we just live high school happily and blissfully? Is a boy really worth all the trouble?”
“...” Aoko-san took a deep, heavy breath then said, “You’re right. A boy is not worth all that trouble.”
“But that’s your view. Not mine. However…” she glanced at Himari’s downcasted expression. “I think that being friends…is fine. Don’t worry, I won’t try anything on Izanami-san. I don’t know what took over me before, but…I will say this: if I truly liked Kaneko-kun, I shouldn’t have hurt those around him.”
Her blazing eyes filled Himari with restless ardor in her heart. She continued on, “I’m sorry for spiking the chocolate with theobromine.”
“Oh, that’s forgiven–”
“Also for smothering glue over your seat. And adding tons of salt to your water. And for stealing your pens.”
Himari was speechless. Just how much did she do behind her back?! “Hold on, just me? It makes it seem as if you have a grudge on me instead of Natsumi!”
Aoko-san shrugged. “You were easier to target.”
Himari flared up. “What?”
Aoko-san left with no response.
“Hey!” Himari ran after her then stopped. The distance between them was just too big. “T-that means we’re friends now…right?”
She paused then continued to walk on. “...think whatever you want.”
Himari’s mouth curved and her eyes squinted into crescents. “Alright!”
Behind her, she could hear the girl’s cheery tone. There was a small tug on her lips but she pushed it down. “Really…she’s so stupid.”
Natsumi spun around. Where did Yuu’s voice come from? It couldn’t be from ‘Cassius’ because he was still happily chatting away with the others. Unless it’s telepathy?
“Yuu?” She called out. “Where are you?”
“Go back! Don’t leave on your own. Go back!”
“What?” She became puzzled. He continued to shout the same words to the point where his voice sounded a bit hoarse. But his voice sounded so pained and aggrieved that she couldn’t help but try and console him. “Yuu? Are you alright?”
“Please…don’t leave again.”
“Yuu? I’m not going anywhere though?”
But he couldn’t hear her no matter what she said.
“I won’t…I won’t tease you anymore. So please…!”
To think that she would see the day when Yuu would be begging. She felt so satisfied, but it wasn’t the right time to act smug. When she meets up with him later, she’ll be sure to brag it off in front of him, she thought.
‘But getting out of here is the first priority!’
His voice disappeared. Suddenly, she felt a chill sliding down her back.
“Yuu? Are you there?”
Something must’ve happened. Even though he couldn’t hear her, to Natsumi, just the sound of his voice was enough. It was enough to know that she wasn’t alone. Knowing Yuu, although he could be overly obnoxious, he still had a good heart. If he wanted to do something, he’d even pull down the heavens and use any means to achieve it. And now, he wanted to seek her out. Of course he would accomplish that.
Trusting him, she remained in place. ‘Yuu will find me! For sure!’
But the only thing she really trusted was his powers. How could anything go wrong with Yuu’s powers? He’s a powerful magician and he boasted of it everyday! It was about time his powers came in handy and proved its worth. The best option was to wait. There was a chance that she could mess things up even more.
With a head buried in her knees, she closed her eyes, drowning in the sound of the lively conversation.
#novel #fiction #romance
Chapter 17: Discovery and Exploration Pt.2 (The Chronicles of Time)
Natsumi stood there, jaw dropped and her eyes about to fall out of their sockets.
The resemblance was uncanny. It could be that there was another person who just had the same face, the same walking style, and the same hint of derision on his curved lips. But the longer her eyes remained on him, the harder it was to not be convinced—it was Yuu! No doubt! But what was he doing here?
Shouldn’t he be in class?!
Why was he not looking at her? How could he not recognize her? It was strange how none of the people she met so far didn’t acknowledge her presence. At first, that strangeness was helpful. Not only did people not see her there, she didn’t have to talk with anyone. An unknown land, unfamiliar language, foerign people; if forced to interact, how could she manage to talk without being arrested and treated like some shady character? However, now that she saw Yuu, why didn’t he even spare her a glance?
He walked past Natsumi and replied, “Well, it was quite boring just staying in the room. What did you want me to do? Search for you?”
“I’m pretty sure that you weren’t alone in the room,” the saintess addressed the first part of his comment, and patted him on the shoulder. “And if you did search for me, you would be perfectly fine. Sure, the temple hates you and even a strand of your hair is not accepted here, but you could still enter without them noticing. Those old fools won’t even know you’re strolling around the holy territory; they’re too busy grinding their teeth, sharpening their claws for the day they can tear you apart.”
“That’s very reassuring,” he laughed.
“Well, where is he?” Besides him, there was no one else there that was visible to her eye. She approached the table with the flimsy castle leaving him behind. With every step she took it was on the verge of collapsing, shaking, as if she was an earthquake heading its way. With a flick of a finger, its structure caved in. “If you’re here, no doubt he has come as well.”
“I’m right here.” At that moment, she could see a towering shadow cover her. Large hands wrapped themselves around her waist and her feet lifted off the ground. “Did you miss me, saintess?”
“Don’t call me that and put me down.” She said, paying no mind to his words filled with affection. “Aren’t you two getting too tall? What if you end up like a beanstalk?”
“‘End up as a beanstalk’ as in being chopped down?” Cassius replied.
“I’m sure that won’t ever happen to you two, but no, that’s not what I meant.” She slapped his hand and was released. “I meant as tall as one. It would be nice to see you get chopped down, though.”
“And I’m sure you’ll be the one holding the ax.” He said with a smirk. She returned the smirk and then turned back to face the other person behind her. If Cassius was the moon, then that person was the sun. Brilliant rich blonde hair, and pale blue-ish gray eyes. His physique was about the same as the other with a sword attached to his hip side. His short hair fell to his eyes as he leaned down. Looking at all three of them almost blinded Natsumi’s eyes. Compared to their looks, although she didn’t fall short, she still felt that she was rather lacking in some areas. Perhaps it was the divine glow that they all emit?
Judging by the lax manner they talked to each other in, it was easy to guess that they were close. The saintess’s gentle manner was thrown away, like a cloth covering a jewel. But in this case the word ‘jewel’ wasn’t appropriate. Instead of a jewel she was more of a rock.
Strong, and rough.
“Well, why did you both come anyways?”
“The knights were too annoying.”
“The old geezers were too annoying.”
Both the saintess and Natsumi almost toppled over at their almost identical response. “...hahh…really! Is the holy temple some sort of playground to you both? You can’t always come and go as you please!”
“I thought that you enjoyed our company?” Cassius said, tilting his head.
“Of course I do! Do you know how stiff I always am, trapped in this place?! It’s always ‘saintess this’ or, ‘saintess that’, and then I have to smile and be some sort of ethereal angel. Truly aggravating!” The three listened to her rant relentlessly with aversion. The life of a saintess, turns out, was more difficult than Natsumi imagined. Seeming unsightly, the saintess took a deep breath and coughed once, schooling her expression. “Anyways, just because I’m cooped up in here, doesn’t mean that you two can just barge in here at your own leisure!”
“Yes, ma’am.” They both said together. Cassius rolled his eyes and Mikhael nodded. Their attitudes contrasted greatly.
Natsumi continued to listen in as the saintess reprimanded the two with constant warnings while stuffing in complaints about how boring her life was at the temple. Looking at the three now, they looked like three teenagers chatting away. No matter how noble their status was, at the present they were just themselves with no formal atmosphere restricting them. Well, it wasn’t as if Cassius would face any restrictions. He was just like Yuu, saying whatever he wanted, doing whatever he wanted. If one were to displease him or restrain him, they would be blasted into pieces.
Their mindset is exactly the same!!
His bold hectic stories of his life at the magic tower made his two companions shake their heads at him and sigh. Even Natsumi (who they couldn’t see) did the same. The person called Mikhael, on the other hand, seemed to be more tame and obedient. He wasn’t as unruly or as unreasonable as Cassius. He was the captain of the knights of the first division—the strongest knight unit in the entire kingdom! To see such impressive figures lounging before her, Natsumi was truly stunned. Beneath the responsibilities they carried, they were just normal teens who wanted to laze around and live freely! Before, they had all seemed to be like huge unshakeable pillars built up with imposing titles and a majestic air, now they had none of that.
There were times where she would laugh at the jokes they made or try to poke them as they discussed serious subjects and made satires out of them. It was mostly just Cassius turning them into mockery. For example, one of them would bring up the emperor and nitpick everything that he’s done wrong and Cassius would say: “Emperor? More like a dumbass. The guy thought he was doing everyone a favor by conquering the Kingdom of Liona, but really he’s just a dumb old geezer waiting to die and have his name ingrained in history. He can’t even run his own ‘empire’ properly. Just wait till he fucks up not one—but two kingdoms. Ha!”
The other two couldn’t argue with him; every word he said hit right on point. It was too true to be called lies. The Trucia empire was once an empire filled with glory. But over the years, it couldn’t even be called an empire anymore! Almost all the countries it once ruled over revolted and separated from the empire, therefore its size diminished. The once mighty empire that made kingdoms tremble now crumbled down to the point when king’s mention the name they would be filled with laughs right after. Even the emperor was no longer called the emperor, but instead, debased to a king!
However, the saintess was changed, and legendary heroes and figures arose over a short period of time in the ‘empire’. Truly a change for the better.
‘The Legendary Knight who Rained Flowers’, ‘The Almighty Magician Covered in Flames But as Cold as Ice’, and last, but not least–‘The Breathtaking Saintess who Could Revive the Dead’.
Having three powerful people alive at the same time, the same age, and residing in that very same empire that was declining, it was a once in a millenia opportunity for the empire to rise again from its ashes! They were to be feared, revered, and admired. But such people with tremendous power weren’t easily manipulated. The emperor couldn’t even control their actions. To think that such young people had more influence than the emperor himself, he had no choice but to cower at the sight of them and bow his head in fear for the possibility that they might be offended and choose to destroy the empire themselves.
Fortunately, as long as the three were unbothered and no troubles came their way, they were content and carried out their duties. Because of this, the people thought that the emperor had power over them and they extolled him with great fervor. But of course, there are those who didn’t like the thought of a scummy emperor ‘controlling’ the three. Even with such tremendous power, they were still, nonetheless, children who hadn’t even come of age yet. In reality, they were only seventeen.
“Sometimes, I just wish we could blow up this kingdom.” Cassius leaned back.
The saintess smiled. “You mean ‘empire’?”
They erupted into laughter fraught with ridicule.
In the empire, when the three were mentioned, people would say, “the saintess is the most angelic out of the three”. Given her position as “saintess”, they were plausible words. Out of the three, she was the only female, and the only one who didn’t wield her powers as a weapon. But to think that her personality was so similar to the others!
Natsumi was going to listen in more but suddenly a clear voice rang in her head.
She stopped giggling.
#novel #fiction #romance
My hands tied up as the hand begins to move me
The audience that cheers just won’t leave me be
The clapping sounds, cheering, craving for more
All that’s ahead of me is a closed door
The string that I’m bound to, unable to escape
I’m the butterfly stuck in a spider’s tape
Don’t call for me, I won’t answer
But of course, I have no choice, I’m a dancer
Enduring humiliation my entire life
Constantly being perforated by a knife
My life hanging on a fragile rope,
as I gripped onto a ray of hope
When the curtain draws and cheers are heard,
another exquisite play began to be recurred
I hastily tuck away my life-like eyes
Look here, the dolls legs begins to rise
The puppet play that you enjoyed so much,
is its purpose to degrade me and such?
I abhor you, but yet my heart beats,
just because you’re in one of those seats
Your eyes observes me while my heart leap
The darkness around me starts to creep
I only want to gain your attention,
while ignoring others admiration
Even though I am just a empty doll,
I ask you, do you love me at all?
I’m confused why I end up loving my torturer
Are you, perhaps, a sorcerer?
Chapter 16: Discovery And Exploration Pt.1 (The Chronicles of Time)
Yuu’s hands flew across her frantically. His brows pushing down on his eyes and contorting his face into pain and washed with anxiety. He desperately prayed inside his head, chanting the same words over and over again.
‘Please wake up! Please work!’
It had been a long time since he had become so troubled. Normally, he would have a calm and sinuous demeanor, however, now his mind was balancing on the brink of insanity. He was on thin fucking ice!
“Hahhh…just why is this such a mess?” He threw his hands into the air. “Why does it have to be even worse in this life? Can’t it just give up already?!”
No reply was said. The room was once again empty, and the fairy was sent to bed to recharge her mana after depleting her supply. Only his crabbed roars could be heard in the cold house. It’s been days and he could already feel the house turn empty. Before it would be so lively, and now he was cooped in here, having to focus all his concentration on Natsumi! If he just took a single step away her body would suddenly be engulfed in large masses of mana!
“Why is it so annoying? Why isn’t she waking up already?!” He swiped and blasted with fury at her body, knowing full well that it wouldn’t harm her. With every attack, he put his anger and frustration into it. If anyone were to see this scene they would’ve thought that he went mad. He looked completely outrageous!
But then a flicker of light stopped him.
He carefully crouched down beside her and his eyes turned round. His pupils shrank and without knowing it, his hands started trembling as they reached towards that tiny speck of light. It wandered around him and paused. Despite its bright appearance, it was calm and drifted around in the air with no destination in mind.
He immediately darted towards that light and caged it inside his hands, shaking violently. It didn’t protest and just sat there in his palms when he slowly opened it up.
Dread immediately replaced his fury.
“Go back. Now!” He demanded loudly. “Go back! Don’t leave on your own choice! Go back!”
The light seemed to be tilting its body, confused at the words he was shouting at it.
“Return back, now!”
Akira was seated in front of the large and glamorous throne, once again, waiting patiently for its master to arrive. After a while, his ears perked up, hearing light footsteps heading towards the chamber. He instantly tidied himself.
“Hahh…you again?” An exasperated groan slipped out of his lips. “Haven’t I already tossed you out plenty of times? Why are you so determined?”
Akira had asked to leave the house with permission granted from Natsumi so he was absent for the past couple of days. He would barge into his domain everyday and attempt to persuade him relentlessly only to be kicked out in the end. The message was delivered loud and clear: “Don’t ever come back again!” Ignoring his threats and demands, he persistently returns every few hours to heckle him. Both of their minds remained impervious until one gave in.
It wasn’t that he hadn’t tried to berate him and increase his security, but that pup would always find a way to break that enchantment and still walk in! Truly aggravating! If it was anyone else, forget about even waltzing in so casually, they’d be blown into smithereens the second they’re within a five kilometer radius!
“I know that you love master!” Akira said boldly.
What was up with this kid?! The first thing he always says are the same words! With the same. Stupid. Proud face!!
He facepalmed himself, about to cry.
‘Please just go home!’
“Really, why do you keep on repeating the same sentence over and over again?” His voice filled with vexation. “Why bother?”
“Because…!” It was a good question. Why does he bother? It was very obvious that he wasn’t welcomed, and even just a single thread of his robe was a provocation. “...because….”
“See? You have nothing to say, right? So just scram already,” he waved his hand in a ‘shoo shoo’ gesture. But the boy did not budge and just sat there, his face scrunched up and a fist on his chin. “Hahh…really, I’m telling you that it’s pointless to even try to convince me. Just render it as a form of gratitude from this ancestor to let you leave this easily. Boy, I have not interfered with the human world for centuries now. What do you think the gods would say if I suddenly appeared and meddled with the family that I created? It would be outrageous! A scandal! A god relieving the curse that they brought upon their descendants? Ridiculous! It would be a violation of the rules!”
While he said those words, his feet carried him to the steps of the throne that transformed itself into a glorious golden divan with comfortable cushions. He sat himself upon it and laid down in a leisure manner, his hands reaching to grab the bowl of fruits next to him. Sharp fangs were exposed when he opened his mouth, dangling a vine of grapes in front of the entrance.
“So, just give up. It’s useless.” He chewed on the fruit, tapping his cheek with his fingers with a raised eyebrow.
“Because master needs you!” Akira shouted out of nowhere.
He almost toppled off the divan. Was this boy still stuck on that question?! “What? She doesn’t need me, she has you!”
“I-I…” he jammed his eyes shut and rolled his hands into fists by his side. He jumped to his feet. “L-like you said before, t-this guard is useless and worthless! I couldn’t even exterminate a single vermin that crawled up to master! So–”
That grasped his attention.
“Vermin?” He slowly rose, dropping the fruit into the bowl. Every word he said was articulated loudly. “Which vermin dares to approach her that you can’t get rid of?”
A violent undulation of spiritual energy was blasted throughout the room. His crystal blue eyes glowed frighteningly, and his smooth hands turned fierce with long sharpened claws. Akira stood still then bowed with his right hand over his chest.
“T-there’s this magician…he calls himself ‘Yuu’.” Akira began. The pressure of the spiritual power made his body feel heavy. “He latched himself onto master. This servant was not able to witness their exact meeting, but I felt a powerful presence in the house that day. Ever since then, master and that magician grew close and became fond of each other’s company.”
Hearing those words almost made him speechless. “...Just how powerful is this person?”
“...I can’t even begin to estimate his power level,” Akira spat, not wanting to admit it.
He exhaled and rubbed his temple, slowly seating himself back down. His legs were spread, and he leaned back so his head rested on the headboard. “...I must see this person for myself.”
He walked towards her silently, then carefully covered her eyes with his large hands. “Guess who it is?”
The tips of her ears turned red. “...Tsukasa-kun?”
His hands fell and he chuckled. “How did you know?”
“Because you’re the only person who could do something like this to me right now.” She replied back with a grin. With a swift hand, she used her hair to cover her ears, afraid that he might notice it. But it was too late.
“Was it cold outside?” He took a seat next to her. His words seemed to be more casual for some reason.
“Not really,” she replied. “Also…thank you, for yesterday.”
“For the food?” He smiled. Rays of light could be seen from his back. He looked like a delicate blossom blooming. The charm! It was hard to look at him without fawning!
“No,” she shook her head and returned the smile. “For throwing the rock yesterday.”
His face froze for a split second. Tsukasa-kun quickly tilted his head. “Hm? What rock?”
She turned away from him with a light laugh. “It’s alright if you don’t want to acknowledge it. I’ll thank you either way.”
“...then I’ll have to accept that ‘thank you’ even if I wasn’t the benefactor.” The side of his lips curved up even more.
“Oh, right!” Her sudden action startled him and his eyes grew round, his shoulders tense. Their hands met, hers on top of his. He could feel her warmth. But what made him tremble even more was that wholehearted glow in her honey-colored eyes that he could not turn away from. “I don’t have lunch today, do you have extra food?”
Ah. She was still stuck here. When her eyes fluttered open, she had hoped to see a different scenery.
It was the same pitch black darkness!!
One of her eyes drooped, and she collapsed back onto the ground. Why was she still stuck here? Wasn’t sleep always the answer to escaping somewhere unfamiliar? Like in the movies! Isn’t this a dream?!
At the very least, she could scout the area again to see if there were any new changes. Maybe a ray of hope will reveal itself!
And at that very moment, a ray of hope did show itself. Bright beams of light cracked the darkness, making it break apart like pieces of glass. Intrigued, she rose to her feet and headed in that direction. Once she stepped over to the other side, she found herself in a white glamorous hall. From the wall to the ground, everything seemed to be made out of white limestone. The surface was smooth and cold. Her fingers left the wall, and she continued to walk in the only direction provided.
Perhaps that space responded to her wish and did let her out.
But where was this?!
After a while, Natsumi could hear lively chattering and soft but calm music.
“Sister Adelaide, you truly are the best! I have been longing for the secret of obtaining clear skin.” A chirpy voice said. Natsumi paused. It was a language she wasn’t familiar with, but somehow she could understand it and soaked up their speech like it was natural.
Another person let out a loud sigh. Her voice gave away her exhausted mood. “Truly, the temple can’t be this poor? I’m sure the noble families donate millions of gold coins, but where have they all gone?”
Some of them chuckled while others also shared her sigh. A group of young women came to view. They wore long white robes, obscuring their young and dainty figure. J Judging by their faces, they couldn’t be more than fifteen! But the way they held themselves, the way they spoke, it was all so elegant. Just when they were about to reach her, they paused.
Automatically, they all lowered their heads concurrently and said: “We greet the saintess. May you bless the Trucia empire and continue to scatter your blessing.”
Natsumi froze. ‘Saintess? Are they talking to me?!’
But just then, another figure walked out from behind her and gestured for them to get up with a gentle wave of a hand. Her beauty was dazzling, and her steps were light as a feather. Long shiny locks of gold flowed behind her. Natsumi had to stop her hands from touching them with a slap. Round, but sharp blue eyes, as beautiful as a blue sapphire. Compared to all the other girls she saw before, this saintess’s countenance was unparalleled. Just a single glance at her, one would fall onto their knees and claim that they’ve encountered a goddess in person!
“How has your training been?” A pleasant and amiable voice made all their shoulders relax. Her words were as sweet as sugar, as warm as a mother addressing her daughter.
“I-it has been a pleasure to train at a temple that your holiness is residing in!” The others quickly nodded. Their eyes sparkled with excitement, their mood, simply elated! It was an honor to even encounter the saintess! Her brilliant silk robes with a white lily flower pinned on her chest indicated her identity clearly. Even without the robe and the flower, it would’ve been a conspicuous fact either way. But to think that the renowned saintess was to be around their age?!
Only the saintess would be so gorgeous and graceful that they couldn’t even hear her footsteps! The angelic smile, the refined posture, it was the ideal image of how a true saint should look like!
As if she could read their minds (and it wasn’t very hard to tell from their eager expressions) the saintess gave another smile and said: “I hope that you enjoy your time here.”
With that, she left as swift and as silent as she had come. The girls stared after her in awe. Natsumi, however, quickly followed after her, enchanted. Seeing how the whole scene played out, none of the characters even noticed that she was standing there. Like she was invisible.
Dashing after the saintess was not an easy feat. How was such a stunning girl who appeared to be delicate, so fast? Her steps were as agile as a butterfly, and she passed many other people who wore the same white robes. They weren’t even able to get a single glance at her before she disappeared. When they turned their head back, they saw nothing, so they could only blame that suspicious motion on the wind.
The temple was huge. There would be long hallways held up by large pillars–once again, made my limestone–exposed to the sunlight. ‘Small’ gardens and lawns could be seen, with ponds and fountains littered everywhere. It was quite a sight! The only word that could be used to describe it was “heavenly”.
She arrived in front of a tall and marvelous door made out of marble. It was a quiet area, no one could be heard or seen. The saintess pushed the door open with a low rumble and Natsumi hurriedly squeezed in before the door was shut behind her.
The room was about ten times bigger than her own! But most of it was just empty space. A large bed sat at the end of the room with two nightstands beside it and a gold candle stand. Although there were no windows, the room was bright with glitters of energy. Oddly, there was a large fountain in another room connected to this one, and a tiny ‘drip drip’ could be heard echoing throughout the room. In fact, it looked to be more of a pool. It seemed to be a bathing space. But this big?! At least a hundred men could practically fit in there!
As if she was already used to such luxury, she turned to face a lonely corner occupied by a tiny wooden table. On top of that table was a tiny castle built out of paper. The saintess sighed.
The second she finished talking, a tall black figure appeared behind them.
That same mischievous smirk, and the way he held his head loftily. His red eyes filled with amusement and his hands positioned at his waist lazily. The way his robes swayed with each step he took, all seemed too familiar! His long black satiny hair, and the casual way he walked!
She could never mistake it…!
“Really, you must’ve been bored out of your mind to play with paper, Cassius.”
No matter how many times Natsumi looked, she could only see Yuu!
#novel #fiction #romance
Chapter 15: Himari’s Battle
It was dark. Everywhere she turned around was black. She could call out any word and it’ll echo back at her and fade away over time. How long has it been since she’s been stuck in this place? It felt like eons passed by and all she had done was walk around and end up in a familiar setting. She could’ve been anywhere else, doing anything else, but she just had to somehow be trapped in this never ending abyss.
Forget the fact that the setting was confusing, it was creepy as well! Even if she didn’t make a single peep, she would still hear faint voices. And everytime they appeared, she would chase after the source frantically only to run in circles, returning empty-handed; her progress of escaping remained stagnant. Exactly how much time had passed? Without knowing when, she got used to everything, and sprawled out on the dark floor. Her white dress also fell and created the image of large flower petals surrounding her. Her bare feet felt the cold floor then shrank back, retreating back to her side.
Then after a while her eyes drew to a close. Surprisingly, it was comfortable. Compared to reality, she didn’t have to worry about completing work and making sure things were turned in on time, nor did she have to carry the burdens that suppressed her daily. Not having to care about anything…was actually a nice and unfamiliar feeling.
‘But…it’s too quiet.’
With a silent gasp, and large eyes, she knew she messed up somewhere. The answers on her sheet weren't right! Well, this was a surprise. It wasn’t everyday that she would see herself slip up and make a wrong turn to land herself with incorrect answers. However, it wasn’t the right time to start pondering about the last time she messed up.
She quickly propped her elbow on the side of the desk, then raised a hand to her head, pulling her hair as a curtain to cover her paper. After making sure that he wasn’t sparing any glances at her, she quickly erased everything and redid the problems. This time—after many corrections and confirmations—the results were all correct.
Thankfully, everyone else had their noses stuck in their textbooks and was still left behind in her dust. She berated herself for quite a while inside her head. How could she make such a major mistake? It was such a simple problem as well. Just what she was thinking about?
Well…romance certainly played a huge role in her life. It has driven her crazy and off track. Just knowing that Tsukasa was sitting next to her already got her on her toes. She had to stifle yawns, and nail her neck so that her head faced the direction of the board without falling in the slightest. It was difficult to accurately portray the perfect image of a top student, but she put more effort into it than any other day. Her posture was poised, perfect, elegant, and stunning to the point where the teachers would walk in and see a halo above her head and rub their eyes.
But that attitude ended shortly.
Within five minutes, her dignified stance broke down and she grumbled under the amount of work that was placed in front of her. How could she survive one more second without Natsumi?
‘I’m dying under a mountain of work!’ She cried. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. How could she slack off in front of her crush?! If Natsumi was here, she would cover for her instantly, without a second of contemplation. But now, what was left to cover? It’d be strange that he hadn’t realized her struggles by now, especially since there were times where she exhaled loudly with exasperation, attracting all eyes in the room.
Just how much of her dignity remained?
In fact, it would’ve been better if Natsumi was present. It would just be like any other day, and she could do whatever she wanted without fear of judgment. But now she was walking on thin ice with her romance life on the line! She was pretty confident that she failed and left a bad impression upon him.
The bell rang loudly, and she was wiped out. Under that much stress, how could anyone relax?
‘Maybe I overreacted too much,’ she thought. Since Yuu was occupied and was playing the role of a nurse, lunch was not prepared these last few days. Unexpectedly, the number of days that Yuu and Natsumi were absent was the amount of days that Tsukasa sat next to her. The teachers never noticed it either, nor did anyone dare snitch. It could be that he pitied her and felt sympathy, but he would offer her candy every morning and chat with her until class started. If this was a dream, she wished she would forever drown in those moments and never open her eyes.
“Aikawa?” He turned to her, unwrapping his bento. “Do you not have lunch again?”
“Haha…yeah,” she replied and flashed a smile. “But it’s fine! I’ll just go to the cafeteria again…huh?”
Her wallet was empty. Vacant. Nothing. Her eyes popped out of her skull, her hands dug through every inch of the wallet to find that there was truly no money! Not even a single cent!!
She jolted and snapped her wallet shut. “N-nothing! Don’t worry about it, Tsukasa-kun. I-I’ll be heading to the cafeteria now to…to get something!”
Before he could say anything more, she escaped hurriedly, with only one thought in mind. She had to reach Sora! Ducking behind a wall, she pulled out her cell phone and dialed his number. It didn’t even take a few buzzes for him to reject the call.
“This–!” She was offended beyond words. “What–? H-how could he?!”
He tapped her shoulder, leaning against the window railing. “Aikawa?”
Her life flashed before her eyes and her phone was thrown into the air. He caught it just in time as she jumped up in fright. “T-Tsukasa-kun? W-what are you doing here?”
“That’s what I should be asking you. I thought you went to the cafeteria, so why are you hiding here?”
Just a glance at her face, one could deduce what happened. He cleared his throat and handed her the phone. “Truthfully, I was looking for you.”
“Y-yeah…I packed too much for lunch today and I thought that I’d share some with you.” He smiled. “O-oh, but I only thought of it because I really only know you. If you don’t mind…?”
How could she say no when he asked her so gently? She nodded without even knowing, enchanted. “O-of course! Sure! My pleasure!”
“Then…let’s head back.” Tsukasa reached for her hand. She froze at the gesture but carefully clamped her hand on his and was pulled through the window and into the hallway. They walked back to the classroom, their hands still clasped together, having no signs of breaking apart until they sat down. Tsukasa, belatedly realizing this, quickly released her with an apology. “S-sorry, I didn’t realize that I was still holding onto you.”
“N-no it’s fine!” She said, bashfully. Both of their faces flushed then they regained their senses and corrected their composure. “Thank you for the food!”
It hasn’t been long since she was rejected so casually. The memory was a blur, but the meaning was simple and harsh. She had no chance; it was futile to pursue such a hopeless love. But she couldn’t restrain her heart from pounding for him. Perhaps the days that he was gone was a blessing—an opportunity to forget such a person. But she could still taste the bitterness and the embarrassment she endured that day! How humiliating! She suddenly became a laughingstock to them!
Fortunately, the matter was not circulated and she was saved from shame.
The more she focused on the subject, the more she thought that they were silently warning her. Just like plucking a poisoned seed before it could blossom into a toxic flower. It couldn’t possibly be that they somehow found out about her deed! She left no traces behind…unless they were tipped? But who could’ve seen her place such an object?
‘I was so sure that there was no one around!’ Contemplating on the matter was no use. Why did it matter anyway? It was best to just give up. ‘But I still can’t forgive them! Such a nasty method!’
As if inviting her and crushing her hopes wasn’t enough. They just had to blatantly point out that her efforts will never pay off and act innocent.
However at that moment, she bumped into someone that she least desired to see.
She raised her head and her brows twitched. But considering her reputation, she had no choice but to flash a polite smile. “Aikawa-san, it’s been a while.”
Those words were clearly said through gritted teeth but she ignored the reluctance behind them and grinned. “Really? We’ve always been in the same class though?”
“True, but we don’t talk much during school though?”
They exchanged smiles. “Well, what are you up to, Aoko-san? Is the student council busy lately?”
“Yes, the cultural festival is coming up after all,” she replied with a sigh. “It would be nice to have a more productive team, pity that you rejected our offer to join the council.”
“Oh, no!” Himari waved her hand dismissively. “I wouldn’t dare dream of it. After all, aren’t the student council members extraordinary people? They’re practically in the position of a saint! I don’t enjoy that type of particular work. I’m a very bad person after all.”
Her smile faltered and her curved lips twitched. “...not at all! Many people say Aikawa-san is like a delicate angel who descended from the sky, blessing everyone with luck and boosting their morale. So how could you be a bad person?”
After roughly translating her words into sharp knives that are carved into: “ Angel? What a laugh! They don’t know how evil you are!”, Himari chuckled lightly.
“Please, you’re flattering me! If anything, people just don’t know how kind you are!”
She didn’t even need to think twice to know she definitely knew what she had done. “...you—”
Her words were cut short. Boisterous calls rang throughout the street and loud stomps headed their way. From the sound of the steps, they could tell that the owners of those feet were rowdy and no good. But who would’ve thought that they had to be dragged into trouble?
“Hey! Isn’t that Aoko?”
“You’re right!” Another person said. A raucous party entered. They circled around the two girls like wolves cornering prey.
“Aoko, it’s been a while hasn’t it?” Snide chuckles spread through the group of boys. “How have you been faring? Did you miss us?”
It was obvious that such a vulgar person was the leader of the whole gang. The other boys only encouraged his words and boosted his ego as he continued to spit out words of familiarity.
Aoko-san remained silent while Himari scrutinized the newcomers with detest.
“Oh? And who is this beauty?” They began to walk around Himari, examining her to their own leisure like she was a statue. One of them reached out to touch her hair but before they could even feel the tips, a fast blur knocked his hand away. Only she heard the tiny ‘clack’s’ that followed after the attack, like a small object was thrown. “Feisty!”
“Aoko, are you that happy to see us that you’re stunned speechless?” Laughter bursted and they took turns touching her and even pushing her around. She remained silent and allowed herself to be tossed around like a lifeless toy.
No matter how much grudge Himari had against her, she knew clearly that bullying a girl in such a method was wrong. Bullying girls using any method was wrong! It did seem hypocritical to her to save an enemy, but she couldn’t help but feel sympathy. Especially since those boys were just absolutely disgusting.
“Aoko-san, didn’t we have to go to the library?” Himari spoke up, and grabbed the other’s wrist tightly.
“Hey, where are you trying to run away to?” The leader said fiercely, and slapped Himari’s hand away. “We aren’t done talking to her yet.”
“Why should she even bother talking to slugs like you?” She sneered. That pricked them and they directed their full attention to her instead. She continued to raise her head high and rolled her hands into fists. “Besides, why are you targeting her? If she did anything wrong to you all before I bet you deserved it. If anything, it would’ve been better if she tried to wipe you all off the Earth. Such ugly people like you—as if having terrible looks wasn’t bad enough, you just had to be born with nasty personalities as well. It really suits you.”
That was the last straw. They had listened to her insults with faces about to burst. She was seized by her neck and slammed against the brick wall with such force! Ringing echoed throughout her head but she gritted her teeth and bit back her yell.
“You’re just a girl! Who do you think you are, talking to us like that?”
“Yeah! Shouldn’t you stay silent and stay in the kitchen?”
“What? Did I say anything wrong?” She mustered out a laugh and the most despiteful look she had. “Oh wait! I didn’t! Instead I missed something. Not only are you all ugly inside and out, you can’t get any girls I bet! Ha! Truly—ack!”
The leader of the pack didn’t hesitate to throw her against the wall again. Such display of viciousness, and on a girl at that! Veins popped from his forehead and he snarled at her while the rest of the boys copied him. They cracked their knuckles and cocked their heads with glares. She could slowly feel her feet leaving the ground and the hand wrapped around her neck growing tighter and tighter. Her piercing stare never left her face as her feet dangled and kicked. Her hands wrapped themselves around his arm, pushing him to put more force in his attack.
“Come…on…why don’t you…kill me…huh?” She bared her teeth, provoking him even more. “You…wimp! Ha…! A fool…can’t even…beat…a girl…ack! Agh!”
“Oh. I’ll. Give. You. What. You. Wished. For!” The pressure around her neck increased and she couldn’t help but dig her nails into his arm. He winced, but such an insult from a girl made him rage.
“Stop it.” A cool voice said.
“Huh?” He jeered at the sight of her menacing glare. His grip around her neck never loosened. “Or what? What can you do? Don’t forget, if it wasn’t for us, you would be dead already! So just shut up and lick our shoes like you’ve always done!”
“I said, stop it.” Aoko-san repeated, asserting more dominance. With a loud crack! He fell onto the floor, howling in pain, hugging his arm. Cold sweat rolled down his face and his eyes bulged. A ugly patch of red started to form in the middle of his arm. Or what appeared to be his arm.
His friends surrounded him with panic and terror. It all happened in an instant. Himari didn’t know whether to be startled or relieved that her neck was released.
“We need to get you treated, quick!”
“You…bastard! You…pretended…agh!...to be weak!” He yelled, biting down hard on his teeth. Cold eyes met his murderous ones and he was silenced with just one sweep.
“Scram,” she commanded. They froze, then rage broke out on their faces.
“How dare you tell us to scram!”
“Who do you think you are?!”
But those protests were quickly drowned out after seeing the miserable state their leader was in. They had no choice but to leave after declaring that they wouldn’t let such an incident slide without a rematch.
After seeing their retreating backs disappear, she turned to face Himari who knelt on the ground, gasping for air and coughing. “You…nevermind.”
She coughed then patted her chest lightly. “...Aoko-san, just who were those people?”
“Do you have any right to dig into my personal life?”
She couldn’t help but laugh weakly. “Well…if that’s how it is I won’t ask anymore.”
“...Shouldn’t you thank me for saving you?”
Himari gave her a weird look. “Thank you? Shouldn’t you be thanking me for trying to get you out of the situation?”
They both fell silent and began a stubborn match of death stare. It was a while until they snapped out of it, a draw, and Himari stood up and dusted herself off.
Before she walked away, she looked over her shoulder slightly and said, “Well, just so you know, you aren’t that bad of a person, Aoko-san.”
She scoffed at the unexpected words. “Same could be said to you.”