The outside city looks almost the same.
The grounds were the same rich color of brown and the grass that grew on the sides reminded her of the times she used to play in them when she was little and opinionless. The buildings around her are all the same granite color, only some of them are repainted and repaired. When she’s standing in the outside world out of her house; she doesn’t believe that six years have passed. Everything’s so different yet the same as she left them and a burning bubble of emotions began to wrap around her. It feels as she had been going through a time loop; everything’s so far from reach as if a century has passed, not six years.
She walks from one place to another; the soles of her shoes warm under the hot road of her city. The place is so big on someone of her status yet so small at the same time. She isn’t blind to the eyes that follows her as she wanders around trying to relocate some of her scattered memories. An old couple gape at her with agape jaws as she passed them by. A young girl of twelve years old who shouldn’t even know her seems to pause in her strides to watch her. A group of young men playing soccer in the park she’s wandering in pause in their teak strategy to point at her and whisper about her.
It seems that everyone in her tiny town seems to remember her. That young girl with the deadly frost powers that her parents have sent away. She couldn’t believe that they recognize her. Has she not grown up and lost her baby fat? Has she not became taller? Has her face not grown sterner? Has her rapid lips not closed shut? Has her anger not vapored? How come they recognized her, still?
While she walks around the barren street she had committed to memories; she wonders what would have happened if she lived the past six years in the walls of this small town. Would she receive the same fear and hate she received her whole life among them? Would newcomers soon learn about her and understand to loathe her too? Was the accident she was a part of her once she was young will always befall her even as she grew up? Would people — and her family — always look at her like she’s something to fear?
She hears a feminine voice call out to her as she’s strolling aimlessly throughout the cold walls of her town, and she pauses, her eyes that are staring at a family turns backwards to catch the person that had called her. She’s met with three faces instead of one, all unfamiliar, and she frowns, wondering if she had been so famous when little that random people knew of her name.
“Yes?” She asks softly, trying not to sound rude. Her eyes flickers over the three surprised faces with aloofness. “Do you... know me?”
“Mindee!” The same sound that called her before now exclaims, belonging to the tall girl in the middle. Said girl points at herself. “It’s me, Mani. This is Sooyoung and Jimin. I can’t believe you couldn’t recognize us.” She points at the other two girls respectively.
Mindee’s eyes slowly begin to widen. These three tall women were the young girls she used to consider her friends? She understands why she hadn’t recognized them. Mani herself has became much taller than her fourteen years old self, which came as a surprise because she was small and petite back then. No one would have expected her to gain this sudden growth. Her baby plump cheeks are gone and her usually compassionate eyes are now littered with sharp intelligence. Her short hair is falling down her back in waves and she looks like a dignified young woman, completely different than the small girl that liked to flop around in muddy lakes.
The other two girls have had their own bean sprouts of growth. They’ve pretty much passed her own body in length, and their bodies are soft; delicate, unlike Mindee’s rippled body from the harsh training she had to go through in the academy. Sooyoung’s short hair is dyed soft honey and it reflects the same shade in her round, wide eyes. Her lips are pursed into a thin line and suddenly Mindee sees a flashback of an image of her young friend when she was small, always harboring the same facial expression despite her soft personality. Jimin, on the other hand, is looking at her from up and down, noticing the jean skirt Mindee’s wearing and her long-sleeved dark blue cotton shirt, worn to hide the many scars that littered her body. Jimin got a pixie cut that matched her very feminine facial structure and if it weren’t by the massive frown on her face, someone would think she doesn’t know how to defend herself against bigger enemies.
Jimin gives her a very long look after she finishes staring at her from up and down, the zip tight of her lips growing slightly loose. “You look almost exactly the same, Mindee. I can’t believe it.”
Sooyoung, who’s known for her very gentle attributes, smiles softly and brushes her own cheeks to emphasize. “You lost all of your baby fat.”
Mindee feels a very strong emotion growing like a tornado inside of her, but she’s so used to the lessons of suppressing supernatural powers that she couldn’t help but automatically try to suppress this wave of emotions as well, mistaken it for something extraordinary due to its massive weight. However, remnants of the said feelings still prevailed in escaping past her iron sculpture and her eyes poured with deep, deep affection for her friends which she hadn’t seen in a very long time.
“You’re... I mean, Sooyoung?” Mindee stutters, eyes wide and still in disbelief at the appearance of her friends who all look stark different than how they were. Her hands come together and she starts to fiddle with her calloused fingers, foreign nerves attacking her like wildfire.
“What now, remember only her?” Jimin fake pouts. “I can almost swear we were all best friends back then.”
Jimin’s words kinda put a pause to the emotions that are reverberating around the whole group and making the four women explode with tension. Mindee swallows thickly and reels her chains back on.
“You guys look healthy,” she says softly, her eyes gentle despite the harsh edges of her entire being sculpted into one giant rock. “I thought about you a lot back then.”
It seems like that was the wrong thing to say, because it quickly makes the three girls’ faces turn into a shallow painting of despair. Mani’s eyes brim with unshed tears and she quickly goes forward to wrap Mindee in a hug.
Mindee freezes with tension. When was the last time she was enveloped and encased so warmly in someone’s arms? She’s so casually unused to affection that she’s not all that taken aback by her lack of response. Her hands remain icily intense and frozen at her besides. Her eyes remain wide and unresponsive as they stare ahead. As she expected, a hug is warm. She’d know that considering she’s created from coldness. Of course an envelop of arms would ignite her icy body in heat. The heat’s so unfamiliar that she doesn’t know how to work around it. So she just turns to the usual block of ice that she is and stays absolutely still.
When Mani breaks apart, she gives her hair a good ruffle. Mindee silently regrets opening her hair and letting it loose for this particular reason, but she doesn’t say anything to Mani. She’s the youngest of her friends and always had a soft spot in her heart for her.
“Can’t believe you’re back. What happened to you?” Mani asks curiously.
“I, well, as you know,” Mindee awkwardly begins to recite the same sentence she has been telling to strangers over and over again. “I’ve been sent to the academy.”
“We know,” Sooyoung murmurs with a frown. “We didn’t think you’d come back.”
This response provokes a small, amused smile from Mindee’s lips. “Gave everyone a , didn’t I?”
“Don’t joke like that,” Chides Sooyoung gently. “We honestly thought you’d stay there forever, considering rarely anyone leaves.”
Mindee doesn’t think that she was really joking. The smile on her face gets a little bigger, and her heart thuds in a soft rhythm following the tender emotions that she got for her friends. “I got out alive. That’s all that matters.”
It’s Jimin’s time to hug her, and once again Mindee freezes at the gesture, her heart a solid icicle unaware of how to melt in the softness of her friends’ embrace. “Don’t speak like this, Mindee, you’re breaking my heart.”
Mindee frowns, clutching on her friend’s flannel shirt and wondering what she said wrong to elicit such morose tone from her friend’s mouth. “I don’t understand. What are you talking about?”
“Like you’re making the whole matter seems easy,” Jimin mutters, her sound nothing louder than a broken whisper. Her grip tightens around Mindee, and something in Mindee’s soul hums in appreciation. “People actually die out there in the academy. Getting out unscathed doesn’t normalize your tragedy. There must be something that had happened. Your eyes aren’t the same anymore.”
Mindee’s eyes widens. She wouldn’t say that she was surprised that her friend had noticed how snuffed the light in her eyes is. She knows that she has changed from the last time she seen her friends six years ago. Something in her old fire has went cold like the sapphire dullness of her own powers. Her edges are softer now, more in tune with the ruckus that her powers used to go through. Everything about her being has gone to war and came back much more glued back together than she used to be. She’s different. She knows that. But she hadn’t thought her friend would blatantly point it out. It hurt her to be told that she no longer resembled the same scorch that burned brightly six years ago. It hurts her that somewhere in her journey, she let the academy slice her up and steal her thunder away.
Jimin pats her head gently, threading her fingers through her locks and making the smaller girl glower with discomfort. She’s not used to being held so delicately and touched so softly. “I’m s