Eh…? Who is this..?
“Nee, Jurina, come here!”
“What is it?”
“Cover your eyes.”
What is this..? All of this feels so familiar…
“Alright, you can look.”
I uncovered my eyes and saw a girl, behind her was a beautiful garden.
“Uwaa~ beautiful! How did you find this place?”
“That’s my little secret. It’s as beautiful as you are.”
She kissed my cheek.
“I really do believe when you get older, you’ll bloom beautifully like these flowers.”
What is that meant to mean…?
“I care about you, Jurina.”
“I care about you, too, Rena.”
“..rina..! Jurina, wake up.”
I woke up and saw Airin hovered over me. She had just woken up and it was morning, that’s when I realized what I saw was a dream.
“Morning...” I slowly got up, yawning. “That was a strange dream...”
“Was it about.. Rena?”
“Eh? H-how did you..?”
“I heard you say her name in your sleep.”
“Oh…” I felt the heat creep up my face.
“Come on, Rina’s making breakfast.”
We both walked to the kitchen and saw Rina was already sat down at the table.
I looked at Rena, who was just finishing up the curry. When I met her gaze, I felt this sudden rush over me.
A wave of memories crashed over me. I suddenly remembered a time from when I was younger, when Rena was beside me. She spent her youth with both me and Airin, the three of us together…
How could I have forgotten..?
“Jurina…!” I looked and saw tears forming in her eyes.
I immediately ran up and hugged her. She did the same and hugged me back.
“Rena… Rena, I’m sorry… Why did I forget..?”
“Jurina..! I’m sorry too… I didn’t recognize you when I first saw you… How could I be so cruel?!”
“Rena, don’t cry..!” I wiped her tears. “We both forgot… but it’s okay. We remember now, right?”
“Then, it’s fine. We’re together again, just like before.”
“Yeah… just like before.”
“Rena...” Airi spoke up. “Do you remember me?”
“Of course I do, Airi. I remember both of you.” She walked over to Airi and hugged her, the sight warmed my heart.
Then, my eyes widened when I saw her lean forward and kissed her lips.
“R-Rena..!” Airi blushed as Rena giggled.
“It’s strange. It feels like I haven’t seen you in forever...”
“It seemed like it, doesn’t it.”
Wait, then what about…?
Just then, there was a knock at the door.
“I’ll get it,” I volunteered. I walked to the front door and opened it, revealing Akane.
“There you guys are!” She almost yelled, “How did you find this place?”
“We just ran and found this place.”
“I was looking literally EVERYWHERE, ALL NIGHT for you! To think the one place you’d be was the last place I think, an isolated hut on the other side of the forest.”
“It wasn’t my fault, blame Airin.”
“A-Akane, I can explain..!”
“I searched for you… and couldn’t find you anywhere...” Akane’s voice cracked.
I saw Airin rushing to give Akane a hug, and she yelled in Airi’s arms, “YOU HAD ME WORRIED SICK, BAKA!!!!”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
When they parted, Akane looked at Airin with serious eyes.
“This is what you get for making me worry, baka!”
She pulled Airin forward and kissed her lips.
“Don’t you dare do that to me again! If you do, I’ll kill you!”
“O-Okay but… What happened to Tsugumi? Where is she?”
“She’s just finding her way back to Nakanishi to fix her wound. She’s fine.”
“Airin…?” Rena spoke up. “Who is this..?”
When Akane looked at her, I saw fear form in her eyes.
“Airin, who is this girl? Why did she kiss you?”
“Calm down, Rena, she’s just a friend of mine.”
“Then why did she KISS you?!”
Akane backed away. “Airin… why are you with her?”
Airi pulled her forward and whispered in her ear, “Because she’s a friend, we have been for years, Rina just gave her back her memories of me and Jurina.”
“I know. Please, don’t do anything.”
“Alright, as long as she doesn’t do anything to me.”
“I promise you, she won’t.”
“I can’t trust her.” She said defiantly, “Aside from you and Jurina, I’m not able to trust any human.”
“Please, Akane… For me.”
“Fine, but if she does anything sketchy… I’m not taking any more chances.”
She then turned and looked at her.
“Rena, was it? The reason I kissed Airi is because...”
“Because… well, I just care about her. Don’t you do stuff like that to show just how much you care about someone?”
Rena blushed. “W-well, that is true, I guess, but...”
“So, it’s no problem, right?” Akane then grabbed Airi’s wrist. “Come on, we’re going home.”
“Wait! I want Rena to come home with us!”
“Yes, I want her to come home with us, Akane. Is that a problem?”
“Uh, yeah, a little!”
“Rina,” she looked over at the short haired girl. “It’s alright for me to take Rena back, right?”
“Well…. I don’t know. I’d have to ask the others.”
“Akane, why are you acting like this?”
“Th-that doesn’t matter! Let’s just go home! NOW!” She grabbed Airi and picked her up over her shoulders, carrying her out. “You too, Jurina!”
“Do you want me to carry you on my back, too?”
I froze at that. “Nope.”
“Then let’s go!”
I started walking out with her, taking one last glance at Rena before I left.
“I’ll come back for you,” I mouthed. She nodded.
“AKANE, PUT ME DOWN!!!”
“Says the baka.”
“OI!!! What WAS that back there?! Why were you freaking out so much?!”
“You tell me! Why were you two with that PSYCHOPATHIC DEMON?!?!?!”
“Because we were friends when we were younger.”
“So? That doesn’t mean that you HAD to be with her.”
“Well, I didn’t expect to just RANDOMLY find Rena in some isolated hut out here!”
“And ANOTHER thing, who was that other chick?”
“You mean Rina? She’s a mage.”
“She’s the one who’s been looking after her. She placed the seal on her that subdues Gekikara.”
“How does she even remember you?!”
“I asked Rina to let her remember me. Same for Jurina.”
“Why’d you have to do that?”
“Because I wanted to. You don’t have freedom to do this to me!”
“Uh, hello! We’re bound together by blood and all that sh*t!”
“You think I had a choice?! You’re the one who..!”
I suddenly stopped as Akane froze in her tracks.
“W-wait… I didn’t mean that, Akane..!”
“....” She put me down and looked away from me, avoiding my gaze.
“Akane, I’m sorry. Rina just told me that--”
“No need for your excuses.”
“Just leave me alone!” she said before flying away.
Airin… you baka!
I tried to navigate the skies to get back home. Where I really belong.
I arrived back at Hell’s gates and ran inside. I saw Nakanishi not too far and ran into her, embracing her.
“Oi, Takayanagi! What’s--?!”
I looked up at her, my vision blurred from my tears.
Why… Why is this so painful…?
“... She…” I couldn’t muster the words as my emotions were flooding out, “She… I...”
I could only continue crying into her robes as the sadness had swept over me.
“I don’t understand… why am I hurting?”
“Because, Takayanagi, love is painful, no matter how carefully you try to approach it.”
“W-What do I do to stop it..?”
“Have you done anything to… Well.. Anger her?”
“I… I did say some mean things to her… But, she probably hates me….”
“Well, you never know, she might accept you if you apologise.”
“Takayanagi… Just think it through before you do anything reckless.”
She wiped away my tears with her thumbs.
“Just get some rest and think it through.”
“How is Tsugumi?”
“She’s still with the healers, I think she’ll be just fine.”
Third Person POV
As Tsugumi was being treated by one of the healers, Sumire, couldn’t help but look over at the unconscious girl laid in one of the beds.
“It’s sad, isn’t it?” Sumire sounded. “We’ve tried everything we can to help her, but the poor girl is still having those hallucinations...”
“What the hell could’ve happened for her to become like that?”
“I know about as much as anyone...”
Tsugumi thought back to how Marika was before her disappearance. In a word, Marika was… Unique. She was definitely spontaneous in her actions, and above all, loud.
Almost annoying, to most, especially Tsugumi.
But, her smile was a part of Marika that made her… Marika. It was like the girl never had a bad day.
However, when she had disappeared, things seemed to be darker. They lost something, and Marika had that. And what made the situation even more difficult was her state when she had been found…
Flashback, 1 year ago…
Her hands had curled into fists, madness in her eyes, she was ready to strike at any moment.
She growled as she walked closer, eyeing her target like prey.
“Oi, Tani… what’s gotten into you? Stop..! I said STOP!!!”
Her eyes widened as she saw her moment to strike.
“DIE!!!” She pinned the girl below her and started strangling her neck. “DIE!!! DIE DIE DIE!!!!”
Nakanishi and her forces finally arrived at the scene, to stop Tani from doing anything else that was dangerous.
“Tani, stop this immediately!”
When the girl saw Nakanishi, all she saw were images of twisted faces and nightmarish monsters. It drove her deeper into insanity and she got up, charging towards Nakanishi and tackling her.
“What are you doing?!”
She didn’t heed to Nakanishi’s words and continued to assault her.
“I demand you stop this madness!”
“Die, you monster!”
“S-Someone get her off me!”
Two of the guards grabbed her, but then Marika screamed and started freaking out more.
“NO!!! Don’t take me back there! I can’t go back!!!”
“NO! NO!!! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!!! I WON’T!!!!”
Something in her finally snapped and she was losing it. In one swift motion, Marika had freed herself from the guards and grabbed Nakanishi’s sword.
“Let it end…. DIE!!!!”
Before Marika could stab herself, someone came from behind and chopped her neck, knocking her unconscious. It was Matsumura. She had been friends with Marika for a few years now and when she had seen her in this state, she wanted to do whatever she could to help her.
When Marika woke up, she became the way she was now. Unable to express emotion, or do anything. It was as if the person Tani Marika had left and her body became nothing more than an empty shell.
“Marika, look~ It’s your favorite, tonkotsu ramen!”
“....” Marika just stared at the food lifelessly.
“Here, I’ll feed it to you. Hai, ah~” Akari tried to feed the girl, but she turned her head away and rejected it.
“Mou~ Marika, you need to eat!”
“Don’t make such a dark face. Smile, smile~ Look~” Akari puffed out her cheeks and crossed her eyes.
“Akarin, that weird face isn’t good enough!”
“Eh~? But Akari’s cute, so it doesn’t matter.”
Marika looked at her two closest friends with empty eyes.
Akari tried to force a smile. “Come on..! Marika, don’t look at us with those eyes! It’s...it’s not like you...”
“Please Marika, everyone’s worried about you, me, Akari. Everyone is.”
“Please, just say something!
Her lifeless eyes just looked at two of them, without saying anything.
“Do it for us!”
The girl had looked down, her bangs covering her eyes. The two thought they saw move, but no sound came out.
“...I feel… empty… there’s nothing...”
“T-That can’t be!”
“Everything… is just …. empty…..”
“..There’s just…. Darkness...”
Her eyes suddenly became filled with fear and she screamed, holding her head.
“No…! Anything but this!”
“Get away from me! I’m not going back!!!!” she tried to push away the figures she saw in her mind, only to be hitting thin air.
“Get away!! Stay back!”
“Someone, come in here! We need help!”
As the two shouted their pleas for help, a flood of healers and guards came by. They held her down as one of the healers put her to sleep.
End of Flashback
After that, the thoughts of Marika returning to normal crossed Tsugumi’s mind.
“It’s been done. You may go now.”
“E-Eh? Thank you.” Tsugumi bowed in front of the healer and left. She took one last look back at Marika.
“Whatever happened to her, I hope she recovers...”