We were just two distorted shadow-like figures walking in the sunset until we actually reached our destination.
“Come.” I said without showing a trace of shame while opening the heavy metal doors, desperately trying to keep my facade. “Everyone is waiting for us.”
"Aah, why are the lights off, Shin-tsu?" she whispered. "You didn't say this was supposed to be a surprise party."
Ayaka was not yet aware that there was not going to be a party and I was actually leading her into a trap that was much more dangerous for me than her. I might be mistaken about her and including an innocent person in this creepy setting, which might cause greater problems with the police and other less forgiving factions in a near future. However, I have already gone too far to simply walk back now. I have to do this or I won’t be able to live like a normal person.
So forgive me, Ayaka.
“What exactly do you have in mind, Shin-tsu?” Ayaka continued with syncopated pauses, and unfortunately I was able to detect more than a mere hint of flirtation in her words. Although I was flattered that she thought I had planned this just to be all alone with her in a dark place, it didn’t please me to know that her attitude in this situation didn’t match the patterns I had traced.
Some lights were turned on, illuminating only the center of the warehouse. The spotlights were rather strong and intimidating, just the kind of lights the police should use in interrogations. Ayaka would finally be able to see the chairs and tables that were hidden in darkness just a few moments ago. If she is smart as I truly believe she is, she probably already realized why the chairs are aligned like that and why we're here. Which finally brings us to the third act, known as ‘the Resolution.’
I guess it is show time.
"It was you, wasn't it Ayaka-chan?"
Ayaka looked genuinely surprised at the unspecific accusation, but it didn’t mean she was not the culprit, just that she wasn’t expecting a confrontation at that very moment. No mistakes on her part so far, and she actually gained a few points with that flirting that was certainly unlike the character I had in mind when I ‘solved’ the mystery…
…however, with the lights on it’s easier to see things that would otherwise be ignored such as the no longer concealed yet still closed pantographic knife she held in her right hand. That whole flirtation thing was most likely a bluff of hers, and despite the damage my self-esteem suffered, it did feel good to know that the target I picked wasn’t a saint after all. Even if she thought I intended to attack her, walking around with a German post-war knife is not something every Japanese high schooler does.
"W-what are you t-talking about?"
I guess she realized that she was looking too scared for someone who didn't know what I was talking about and quickly recomposed herself. Too quickly, exactly as I expected; that fit perfectly in the pattern I had in mind and showed me that I was going in the right direction.
"First you brought me to this... this abandoned warehouse without an apparent reason. Now you start talking nonsense." Ayaka was starting to show her true colors, and then suddenly started wearing her good girl mask again. "Aah, I don't know what you intend to do, but you can count me out of it. I'm leaving. Bye bye."
Rapidly, I snapped my fingers and the doors were closed and locked. Ayaka looked back when she heard the noise, and when she turned to me again her face was expressing much more than the fear of someone who is alone with a possible attacker. I was right, thankfully: without a trace of doubt, Morimoto Ayaka is guilty. And I know I'm not supposed to, but I certainly love this.
"You're not going anywhere until I finish talking."
I started to walk through the rows of chairs, apparently aimlessly. "If this was our class you would sit right there, am I right? And that place behind you used to belong to your best friend Minato.” A calculated pause “Please forgive me, I’ve made a dreadful mistake. It’s ‘former best friend,’ right? Not many people stay friends with the people dating the ones they love."
Her astonishment was much more than visible, being nearly as tangible as herself.
"H-how could you know that? You haven't even met Minato-chan!"
"My, my. We’re in a class full of girls, and girls talk.”
I consider myself a feminist, but even I have to agree with that.
“You really should not underestimate the power of gossip. Rumors, stories and ideas are just like sound; they will spread as long as there is air for them to travel. And girl, do they run fast as the winds."
I take a small break to breathe. This light is too hot and it's going to make me sweat buckets, but I must keep my act together. If I don't keep it cool now, I might never find out what I truly want to know.
"So, I heard you liked this guy from another school but couldn't bring yourself to confess to him. Now it’s time for some speculation of my own: you even went as far as stalking him for a while, always from a safe distance. Then your best friend started going out with the guy, and you found that out by seeing it yourself on one of your stalking trips. You got mad and decided to start a vendetta against her. Am I right so far?"
She didn't even need to reply; the answer was stamped on her face and it made me feel awfully great.
"So, you wanted her to feel the angst and sadness you felt but you didn't exactly know how," I continued. "You have been raised as a good girl and had never done something like that before, so instead of trying to beat her up you opted for psychological terror. Scaring the hell out of someone seemed much easier."
Morimoto Ayaka was probably unaware of the fact she was trembling with visible anger, as I could guess from her next speech; her body seemed to know she had been caught, but her mind did not.
“You speak like your assumptions are facts but I can see that, along with the fact that you have absolutely no way of proving what you just said, there is another big blind spot in your theory.”
Just the kind of line I was expecting.
“That is exactly why I brought you here instead of looking for the enormous amount of evidence an amateur such as you must have left, taking, for example, your fingerprints on the card Minato was supposed to get.”
A grin quickly formed on my face when I saw that she shivered when I mentioned the ‘fingerprints on the card’ bluff. Not only that, apparently only then did she realize that someone had touched the card instead of Minato and seen the hallucination trap Ayaka had prepared to her. It showed that I am indeed dealing with an amateur here, and I was hoping for that; if my opponent is still a first-timer, I have a better chance not only of being the battle’s winner, but also saving her from herself. “I want to know how you made that trap. At first I assumed it was some sort of ‘brown note,’ but after giving it a little bit of thought I noticed two things: one, a blank paper card was too vague for delivering an effect of that magnitude and two, there was nothing else different in the environment. believe me, I would know: I have a nearly photographic memory .”
I really shouldn’t be enjoying this, but I simply cannot help it. This is actually making me feel alive, although I know I won’t be proud of what I’m doing when it is over, nor want to do it again. I might even feel dirty for acting like this, but the future always seems to be a distant thing to those in the burning heat of the battle. Well, at least I know now that it’s not about some sort of messiah complex. Right now, all I want is to defeat my enemy. I might regret every action of mine later, but right now I am but a duelist and nothing else matters.
“Checkmate,” I finished. “You already lost the battle, Ayaka. I now have you at my mercy, but I don’t intend to harm you if you explain what method you used to cause that strong hallucination. You can trust me. Just tell me what exactly Shugoshin is.”
The kanji dictionary showed me how to read it and the girls confirmed it: that was the meaning of the symbols I saw inside the hallucination. Literally, it means ‘guardian spirit,’ and according to Kouma there is a protein with that name. I don’t honestly think there is any relation to the protein in this particular case and now I need to know what this is about: there might be others of this… whatever this is.
Ayaka’s body was shaking like an earthquake was happening inside of her, but that didn’t distract me from my focus; I heard the gentle click when she finally opened her pantographic knife.
Things were finally starting to get serious.
"So you have pretended to be my friend to get something you want, just like Minato-chan did before you.” She started panting furiously, and I considered the possibility of her anger resulting in a nervous breakdown. “I am indeed surrounded by liars; rats and vultures, all of you. You are all the same, playing your stupid games. Every single one of believe you are the good guys in your heads, and assume the rest of the world is composed only of allies and enemies. And you think that it justifies what you have done just because you really wanted to know what 'Shugoshin' means?"
She had a wicked smiled on her face, and the terrifying look in her eyes revealed the fact that she was currently far beyond madness. She raised the ancient German knife; its reflection of light blinded me for a moment. "I! WILL! SHOW! YOU!"
And this was the point where things started going not as planned.
What happened next lasted only for about a second, but I managed to grasp all the details once my full vision returned as a torrent, a giant wave of information coming together all at once.
As if by magic, a slightly humanoid form started to materialize around Ayaka's body. It started as a transparent, ethereal creature made of surrealistic light. Eventually it became a grotesque reptile being that enveloped Ayaka's body inside its own gem-like translucid flesh, tainted redder than blood but still apparently insubstantial enough for me to see the shape of the mad girl inside it. And for some reason, I knew a thing or two about that. Maybe it was just simple logic or an instinct my mind developed because of the strange things surrounding me, but I knew deep inside Ayaka completely lost control of that thing and was now being absorbed by it, in the same way as I knew I had to keep breathing in order to survive.
The creature enveloping my classmate started moving in my direction, fast as a bullet.
Honestly, I wasn't expecting it to come down to this. In the end, Mystery with a capital M had really found me once again. What should a common person do now? In such a situation, practically anyone would be too astonished to breathe and would let themselves be near-instantly killed by that translucent lizard from outer space or another dimension. Fighting or immediately running might seem like the obvious answer to someone observing them from a safe place, but no one has the right to judge them for that kind of reaction; suspension of disbelief is not something that comes easy to people and they don't enjoy admitting that there is an awkward situation happening right in front of them, something they always believed that could only happen a movie or anything. They are not supposed to be ready to fight back against something they cannot accept as real.
I'm just glad I'm not at all like them.
From the very beginning, I have faced many, many situations as weird as this and occasionally some even weirder. What terrifies me is that I'm not even afraid of that kind of thing anymore, which classifies me as a real freak even by my broken standards. It kind of sucks when you realize you are indeed a complete mess in your own eyes but I don’t think I can change that, no matter how hard I try.
What I can do is change myself. I meant it when I decided to fight back against Mystery if it came looking for me again, even if at that time I didn’t intend to do it, well, literally. I will stand my ground, once and for all. If that's what it takes for me to solve this case and to have a chance of leading a normal life (preferably by Ryo's side), I guess will do it. Not just because of her, but mostly because it's a small price to pay for the peace I have dreamed of for so long.
So, I am actually going to earn my right to live decently by beating up that sinister and menacing creature that came out of nowhere. Sounds like a decent plan to me.
Better than the last one, anyway.
"Kouma, run!" Reality struck me less a second before the creature delivered the first attack, when I finally realized that despite having gathered all the courage I needed, I was still but a common human fighting a supernatural entity. Hopelessly, I crossed my arms into an ‘X’ to defend against the amazingly strong blow of the creature's axe kick. "Take Ryo with you and run away, now!"
The kicks and punches seemed to come from everywhere, and I don’t think that was far from the truth. That creature was way too fast for me, and I didn't think I had a chance to beat it up with my bare hands. I could only wait for an opening and then hope for the best (and surely it’s not usual for me to hope for the best). Until then, I would have to serve as a sparring bag for this monster, trying my best to defend against its strikes.
Although I don’t want to believe that, it might be the only thing I’ll be able to do.
The moment it decided to give me an uppercut, I saw a small opening and decided to go for it, but at the very same time I coincidentally showed the monster an opening of my own: I almost tripped over a wrench on the floor and the creature decided to use that moment when my defenses were down to attack me with a direct hit.
Unfortunately, I wasn't able to attack it because my own lack of caution created that opening. In fact, I realized that I wouldn’t even have a chance to so much as defend myself from its next blow, and it seemed to be a decisive one. As that deformed fist quickly came towards my face, I had only time to clench my teeth and think a single sentence: this is going to hurt an awful lot.
"Like Hell I'm going to let you save the day on your own!"
The creature was completely distracted by Kouma's sudden attack and turned its attention to her. The opportunity I was looking for was right there and I didn't need to think twice. I grabbed the wrench and used it to hit the monster's chin by thrusting the tool upwards at full strength, and fell afterwards due to my loss of balance. The attack was effective and I must thank the monster for that; after all, I just copied and adapted its uppercut. After my hit, Kouma quickly sent the creature flying away with her signature butterfly kick.
"Are you okay?" Kouma said as she offered me a hand to help me stand up.
"I'm alright. Thank you for the help, but I really need you to protect Ryo right now."
"I’m pretty sure Ryo can watch over herself, and I'm not your sidekick! If anyone is going to play the 'knight in shining armor' role here, that's me!"
We ran towards our common enemy, who was starting to get up.
"Stop being so childish and leave!” We might all get killed if things keep like this. “This is not a competition, Kouma!"
"It is, but this round we're on the same side.” Her voice was raspy, and at that moment I could actually see her as a living person instead of a doll with occasional bursts of emotions. “Right now, we need to join our forces and finish that thing off. Are you ready to rock, partner?"
I could not stop myself from smiling.
"Partner, huh?" I stared at her for a moment while we ran, whispering the words with a smile on my face. I like how that sounds, I really do. "Let's do it!"
Together we rushed and attacked the creature in perfect synchrony, combined like I had never expected to be with anyone in my whole life. It would have been a beautiful moment if we weren’t teenagers fighting barehanded for our lives and now without the element of surprise that saved me a few seconds ago.
The battle went on, but despite the addition of an ally, we soon noticed that we were losing territory and willpower every second.
We had the strength we needed to defend ourselves and occasionally attack (depending on our foe’s moments of distraction), but there was a big chance of us getting tired before that thing did. It was a supernatural entity after all, and that meant it probably takes more than two young martial artists to bring that monster down. What we need right now is someone that can attack from a longer range than Kouma or I, even if it’s not too long; just enough for that person to attack uninterrupted from a safe distance while Kouma and I distract the creature without taking too much damage.
I suppose it would be too ambitious of me to hope for Ryo getting a crossbow right now along with perfect sight and the skills of a trained sniper. I know I am being picky, but just the crossbow really wouldn’t be enough, because Ryo’s current eyesight at long distance meant we had as much chance of becoming the target as the creature did…
“Hah!” A female voice said, and shortly afterward, a sound that could only come from a strong impact was heard.
Recognizing the sound of that voice, I turned around to confirm my suspicions, and there she was. No, it wasn’t Shiina Ryo with a crossbow. That would be too weird, even for this particular story. I couldn’t honestly be expecting that, and so neither should you. That would be completely unreasonable, like Reikoku-sensei coming out of nowhere with her telescopic pointer extended to a length that was at the very least ‘surprising,’ and attacking the monstrous creature by using it like a whip. Very unlikely, I know. Especially because the mechanism that would allow it to morph both into a long lance-like stick and a folding whip with just a movement would probably take a ridiculously long time to devise and it doesn’t sound very practical to anyone, except maybe for a teacher who is an oddity hunter in disguise. Not only that, the chances of such a character suddenly popping out to help us exactly when we need her are absurdly low. Less than one in a million, I’m afraid. That would be too unreasonable.
However, it was exactly what happened. How strangely convenient, indeed.
“What are you even doing here?” I asked when the creature fell.
“An old fat man dressed in red told me you would be here and that you would need help. It wouldn’t be logical to just believe anyone as easy as that, but since he was standing in front of your house and things are often weird around you, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try.” Did she just justify her appearance by quoting the first line of the story? That’s it, I’m calling my agent. “He asked me to tell you that the two of you are even now and...”
Then we three hit the floor.
At that moment, we learned a valuable lesson that they certainly don’t teach kids in school these days, especially in fictional villain schools: don’t stop attacking to start a dialogue because your enemy probably won’t be polite enough to wait for you.
Proving it was not just a stupid creature without the ability to evolve, the monster developed a brand new body part in order to mimic the whip Reikoku-sensei used: a prehensile tail made of plasma that reminded me of a scorpion’s, except for the surprisingly well-devised claw-like sting. The fact that thing created this deadly weapon after seeing how another worked in such a small amount of time makes me genuinely worried, yet relieved that Reikoku-sensei didn’t bring a sub-machinegun or a nuclear bomb to this fight. We already have enough trouble as it is right now.
I raised my face off the cold floor only to meet something that can only be defined as ‘bloody dreadful.’ No, that’s not right; there are probably several other fitting adjectives for what I saw, but I didn’t mind much since we were about to be obliterated and we who are about to die do not care much about sounding good. Also, spending last moments thinking on adjectives never helped anyone to go out with a smile as far as I’m concerned.
Did I just say a scorpion-like tail was bad enough? Oh, never mind, it’s never enough. Said prehensile part was dividing itself into several members right before our eyes and becoming one of my greatest fears, and I am not talking about trees but the exact thing those ancient forms of life have that scares me the most: tentacles. That’s it; we’re officially as good as dead.
A shattering sound filled the warehouse.
Just when I thought we were going to be defeated, hope came from above. One of the enormous spotlights suddenly fell on the monster's deformed head. Struck by both the surprise attack and the heavy equipment while it suffered a transformation, the creature kissed the definitely solid ground in the most audible, painful way I could ever imagine. Mrs. Gravity attacked again!
"I told you… not to ignore me."
I looked up and saw Ryo on the warehouse's roof metallic structure. She was controlling the lights from a cabin, according to the plan, while Kouma was the one who would manually operate the door in the darkness. I guessed it had been really hard to get up there, especially for her; she was not the most athletic girl I knew, but her effort might have saved our lives by buying us time to counter-attack.
"Ryo!" I screamed, surprised by the relief just saying that name gave me. "You saved us!"
Despite the darkness we were in, I could somehow see she was smiling at me.
"I might not be a fighting freak of nature such as Kouma and you, but I'm not a damsel in distress either, you know!” All the echoes of her voice died quickly, yet her deep heavy breath lingered and slowly spread through the warehouse. “On the other hand, that girl inside the monster is!"
And Ryo was right.
We all could just run and leave the mutant lizard monster behind, but that would mean leaving Ayaka behind as well. She might have done some bad and potentially awful things, but I don't think she deserves being possessed by this thing as a punishment.
Right now we're the only ones who can save her. We are her only hope.
Relying only on my companions and my instincts to save someone I met only a few days before, I put everything on the line. I looked around and saw something that could be used as a strong weapon, but might be much more effective if strategically used as a tool. It might be our key to victory.
"Kouma, the chain!"
After throwing it towards her direction, I raised my left arm and firmly wrapped the chain around it. Kouma immediately understood my plan and did the same. Once she was finished, we ran with all our might; not away from nor towards the monster, but around it. We encircled the creature several times with the metal chain. Once restrained, the Shugoshin went berserk and tried to get free by breaking the chain (as expected from a beast), but since its arms and tentacles were tightly bound, the monster could not use its full strength.
Reikoku-sensei took off her glasses, revealing the face of a true sadist. She extended the telescopic pointer that now glowed green in the dark to its maximum (and dear, was it long) and raised it like she was going to deliver punishment to a kid I certainly wouldn’t want to be.
"Have you been a naughty boy?"
Now, that was completely unnecessary and uncalled for. Why would anyone say such a thing, especially during a battle for survival and salvation of a not-so-innocent girl? I have no doubts right now, that line was just pure fan service and I apologize for that. Well, unless you liked it and decided to buy the book just because of that. In that case, I won’t apologize but I feel forced to warn you that you are a broken person who should really seek help, preferably not from women dressed as school teachers.
Contrasting to my teacher’s unbelievably loud battle cry which I could not make sense of, the creature moved its mouth as if screaming from the excruciating pain, but there were no words or sounds. That I understood a little bit too well.
Then it finally dawned on me: it was the countdown she showed at class that everyone was completely terrified of. Reikoku-sensei proceeded with the torture that was almost too painful to watch.
The creature fell and evanesced, leaving behind only the shivering body of the culprit that was my classmate. While she seemed to have a fever, it was good for me to see that she was still alive and reasonably safe. It was finally over.
Kouma seemed to be as tired as I was, but she still found the strength to raise her thumb to tell me we did a good job, along with a faint, creepy smile that was almost sweet at that particular occasion.
We did it. We solved the case, we saved the day and everyone survived. Despite what Ayaka-chan pointed about the modus operandi we adopted, that still makes us the heroes, right? We are still the good guys here, right?
"What a weakling,” said my teacher while putting her glasses back on, without any trace of mercy or compassion, just like one should expect from someone who did that sort of thing all the time, but not from an educator who dealt with young minds every day for a living. “You can barely call that an exorcism."
It was the last straw for me. How could she act cold like that after seeing the lives of three of her students in danger? I was just about to start an inflamed argument that would bring a little bit of storm to our calm moment, but then everything decided to change and definitely not for the best.
It was only reasonable that a sick girl with practically zero physical strength and stamina shouldn’t engage in activities that required much of said attributes she lacked. It was also reasonable that, after doing something that required both attributes in a desperately fast way, the girl would probably faint, as she almost had done many times before while doing things that clearly required much less of her abilities.
Why couldn’t we foresee that, then?
How could we not expect her to pass out and fall from such height? Why did we only notice that Shiina Ryo was pushing her limits when we saw her unconscious body diving like a missile to the ground, without a single chance to defend herself?
How is it possible?
Shiina Ryo was now falling, special thanks to Ms. Gravity acting like a major female dog like she always does. There was no stopping that, and unlike Kouma or even myself, there was absolutely no chance of her showing crazy fight movie moves and saving herself from the fall. No mysterious magical creature would envelop her body like in Ayaka’s case. She would not discover any psychic or anti-gravitational powers that would stop her from dying.
She was a common person and she was just going to free fall and hit the warehouse floor full of tools, chains and sorted mechanical parts with her back and head, most likely dying or becoming paraplegic with the trauma.
My own words resonated in my head.
A victory that requires some sacrifice is probably better than losing. I know I am the one that came up with that earlier this week, but I don’t want to believe it. If I do, then Ryo is going to count as the sacrifice for our victory and it would make everything fair.
I don’t want it to be fair, not this way.
The price should be the time and power we spent on this situation, and only that. Despite all the effort that was put into this battle and the trouble we had to create a situation where we could happily spend our days together, my best friend will probably die in front of me. Just like that.
There are many things in life we cannot control. Whether we are born into a good family or not, whether we’re extremely talented or below average, or even if we are of the right species, race or mindset for survival in a certain environment.
At which point does a parasol becomes an umbrella?
What we can control is our behaviour, thus making our families good by fixing the problems between members and bonding with each other in times of need, and work hard until a commoner surpasses a genius in his own game, and tricking a robot into making you mortal to be accepted as human. It’s now about how good your tools are for that service, but how you use and improvise with them as you go. If life gives you lemons, you’d better find a way to make an electrical battery out of them and to use the energy for something useful. Which is exactly what I am going to do.
When you need it to.
I am going to bend Time and Space, right here and right now.
(This is the part where a powered-up variation of the opening theme should start playing)
Probably, I didn’t actually do it the first time. In fact, there is a big chance that was just an impression caused by me over-reacting again like I usually do. Bizarre oddities and mysteries aside, I admit I am too much of a paranoid and prone to delusions, so that kind of thing could happen to me. And that doesn’t mean anything to me. Even if I was mistaken, even if that was a lie, I will have to make it become truth in order to reach Ryo in time to save her.
And you know what? There is a great chance I am going to fail miserably, but I am going to do it anyway because this is what heroes do. Against all odds, probabilities and even common sense I will attempt something way beyond my capabilities with only sheer will power on my side and honestly, I still expect to win.
Because I couldn’t care less about Science than I do right now.
Because I have faced so many unrealistic things in my past that it wouldn’t be completely unreasonable if I didn’t develop some sort of power at this point.
Because I have already changed inside and now it’s time to make the whole world change around me.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a good catchphrase in time: I was too worried about defying Physics and forgot to look unbelievably cool, which also seems to be an important part of being a hero. I should have said something that the fans would be able to repeat at conventions and post on the Internet, and that would be used (even if slightly altered) in every big battle or dramatic situation. People love that kind of stuff, right? It could be worse, though. I may have failed to look completely awesome, but I did manage to distort reality with the sole purpose of saving Shiina Ryo. Nothing is perfect, anyway.
That’s right. I made it.
Now, what a mystery I am becoming to myself. I never thought I had this ‘alpha male must save the girl’ thing inside me but that’s probably a built-in feature of my model, like the passion for soccer that burns in the souls of everyone in Brazil. Wait, I did meet a Brazilian guy who disliked it, but he was a novelist and they just aren’t like you and me and therefore don’t count as ‘people’ when it comes to statistics. Just sayin’.
In case you didn’t notice, I was just trying to get my mind to ignore the impact I was going to suffer when my friend landed on top of me. Now that it already happened, I see that it sure wasn’t great but not as ugly as I thought it would be. Just like a syringe injection at the doctor, or politics.
Her body felt unbelievably light when I held her in my arms, a fact Ms. Gravity desperately wanted to disagree with by still throwing me against the ground. It felt like I was holding a baby, and I didn't know that about Ryo. Once again I am starting to realize that there are a lot of things about her that I don't know.
I heard footsteps coming to my direction.
“Koukishin-kun, are you okay?” My teacher seemed to be honestly concerned, and that made me realize that I might have misjudged her. She is not a bad person, probably just a lawful neutral kind of character. “Answer me!”
“He took the impact to stop her fall, he is obviously not okay. Look at all those tools he fell on.” Kouma started checking on me with that small flashlight of hers again. I wonder if she carries it around all the time. Girl purses sure are amazing hammerspace devices, with the capability to carry an infinite number of things. I should get one of those, although it might get me the wrong kind of attention considering I’m not in France anymore. Oh well, you can’t have everything.
“Did you even consider Physics before doing that stupid action of yours?” She said, now directly to me.
No, I didn’t consider Physics: I was too busy defying it and trying to come up with a good catchphrase, and thankfully I only failed at the less important of those two. Wait, maybe that meaningless scream could become a catchphrase. It happens once in a while in fiction, so why not? The girls could be right. Maybe deep down, I am an ‘id’ hero in denial just waiting to bloom as a hot-blooded macho protagonist like those found in eighties’ manga.
My dearest friend and first person to actually believe in me was the legitimate owner of that sweet voice. She turned to face me, her eyes getting teary. I must be in a worse condition than I thought, and I’m pretty good at imagining awful things. However, I am better at pretending every single thing is alright when they’re not.
“Hello, sleepyhead.” Even I realized my voice was barely audible. “I’m glad you’re awake.”
Surprisingly, it wasn’t raining or snowing as one should expect and all we had as a background, other than the mixture of steel and concrete above our heads, was the dying dusk that slowly faded to a newborn dark, reaching us from the now open metal doors.
“Don’t worry, I’m tougher than most.” I reflexively smiled, not to reassure her of what I was saying but actually at my own awfully bad bluff. “I just don’t think I’ll be able to do what I promised we would.”
Coughing was slightly painful to me that time, and from the look on her face it’s safe to assume it showed. “I guess we’re not going to run together under the rain any time… soon.”Then it was my turn to lose consciousness.