Why aren't you normal?
She tried. She squinted a lot. She did her best to ignore the lights and the headaches and the swoops and surges of emotion that were not quite her own. But it was hard. So when she was four, her parents decided to seek out a specialist.
They took her to one doctor, then another, and she sat outside under the glaring fluorescent lights while people stared and wondered what was wrong. Inside, her parents talked over and around her symptoms with a doctor that nodded over theories and suggested solutions that really weren't.
When she was five she started school. Her classmates made fun of her for talking about the lights that no one else could see, so she stopped talking. She would have stopped the occasional fainting spells as well, but she couldn't.
By the time she was seven, her condition got so bad that she lost consciousness whenever she was around too many people. When she tried to explain that it was because their emotions were just too bright, people looked at her oddly. What do you mean, 'bright?' they asked. When I look at you, your emotions glow too strongly, she replied. Like bright pulsing lights. And they make me feel...strange. You can't see people's emotions, they replied. And you certainly can't feel them as though they were your own, just like that.
You can't? she asked, surprised.
But I can...
When she was eight, the specialist came to them. Apparently, her parents had asked around so much that word had gotten out to a certain kind of people.
She was surprised by how luminous he was, sitting there on the couch. The clouds that surrounded him were not very emotional but somehow more [contained], and his aura had a presence that she had never seen before. He gave off far more focused little dots than most people, and far fewer of the broad colorful strokes that made her feel sick.
Who are you? her parents asked. Can you help our daughter?
I'm a magician, he answered. And yes, I think I can.
A magician? Her parents emitted concern. Is the cause of her illness magic? Did someone put a curse on our daughter?!
No, said the man. (She saw a light the color of surprise flit up and out of his aura before vanishing.) I believe her condition is magical. And moreover, I believe she was born with it. He squinted at her. After all, he continued, judging from the amount of psion light she's giving off she may even be a magician herself.
Psion light? she asked, confused. She had never heard of that before.
Yes, he said after a moment. The light that surrounds us...you can see it too, can't you?
-See it too... As in, he could see the lights as well?!
She was overjoyed. Finally, after years of the grownups telling her that what she was seeing and feeling wasn't real, someone believed in her. When she told him about the lights, he didn't say she was sick or stupid or lying or crazy - because he could see them too.
He described the little point-lights to her, exactly the way she saw them, and called them 'psions.' She was so excited that she leaped out of her chair, knocking over her tea and spilling it on the floor. It didn't matter if she was a magician or whatever. What mattered was that she had finally found someone like her.
Or, as it turned out, a whole bunch of people like her.
Except, not exactly.
When she asked him about the colors, the ones that made her feel dizzy and overwhelmed (How do you deal with them? How do you make it go away?) he had been surprised. I can't see anything like that, he said quietly.
Her spirits plummeted. Maybe she was crazy after all, maybe everything everyone had said up to this point was true -
but they sound like pushions to me.
She looked up.
He smiled at her and said, I think I know exactly what's going on here...
'Oversensitivity to Spirit Particle Emission - a somewhat rare but not unknown affliction amongst certain magical bloodlines.' At least, that's what he told her parents. She wasn't sure what it all meant, and it didn't seem like her parents knew either. But she did understand the answer to the most important question - Is there a cure?
No, he said.
...But there is a treatment.
They made fun of her at school for wearing the glasses. But she didn't care. For the first time, the world wasn't so blinding that she that couldn't look at it directly. She could be around other people and not feel like she was going to throw up. It was better this way.
At least that's what she told herself when the glasses that blocked out the lights failed to block out their taunts.
Perhaps they sensed her distress and feelings of alienation. Or perhaps they wanted another way to try and help her. In any case her parents had asked, hesitantly, whether or not she'd like to go to an after-school group for budding magicians. The kids there will be like you, they said. We just want you to be happy, they added.
Not knowing what else to do, and curious and hopeful in spite of herself, she said yes.
One day in the middle of class her teacher got a phone call. He went out into the hall after checking the caller ID, and saying it was important. Although she couldn't hear what was being said, she could feel her teacher's worry turn into shock, then fear. And all the while her classmates continued to chatter on and enjoy the unexpected free time they'd been given. When the teacher came back in, he called for quiet. When the students finally settled down, he told them there had been an attack on Okinawa.
Her classmates didn't really seem to understand the seriousness of this, and indeed seemed more excited that they were getting out of school early. But even if her teacher had remained calm outwardly, wiped the sweat from his brow and hid his shaking hands behind his desk, she knew. She could feel it coming off of him in nauseating waves; anxiety, almost to panic levels, and a terrible foreboding.
They never saw him again. The next day, a substitute teacher informed them that the invasion had been repelled by a huge explosion which had obliterated the enemy fleet, and a ceasefire had been declared. Their homeland was safe - for the moment.
They were also informed that their teacher's wife had been a soldier stationed at Okinawa.
The prospect of going to high school felt rather like the idea of traveling to a foreign country for the first time - it was exciting and strange and rather nerve-wracking. But where would she go? She really didn't want to go to the same place as her current classmates. After all, she didn't want to put up with their taunting and teasing anymore, and besides it wasn't like she'd be leaving any friends behind. So she examined her options - all the while nurturing a small idea in the back of her mind; if she couldn't be normal, then she might as well go to school with people who weren't really either.
And maybe, just maybe, if she learned to control these eyes, then she could become normal herself...
Her first day of school was overwhelming. There was so much more light than usual; the people around her were giving off so many psions that she could see a dim glow even through her glasses. She wondered nervously if she could even do this. Perhaps her acceptance to the school had been a fluke; perhaps she would faint halfway through the opening ceremony. She was halfway serious in her deliberations to turn around and go home, when -
Red. Heat. Mischief.
[Blue. Cold. Loneliness.]
'A flame that burns for no one.'
She turned to see the girl giving her these 'ideas' walking toward the auditorium. The girl, seeing her staring and catching her eye, cocked an eyebrow and walked over. Her bright red hair fluttering like flames in the wind, the girl brushed aside her frantic, stuttered apology offered for staring and said, Hiya. I'm Erika. Who're you?
He had a third eye on his forehead.
But when she blinked, it was gone.
Erika noticed her staring and said my, don't you know how to pick 'em. She stammered repeatedly that that wasn't it, but Erika was already dragging her over to say hello.
C'mon, he doesn't look like he'll bite; and if he does I'll beat him up, Erika said cheerfully. Besides, she added, the only empty seats around here are right next to him.
After finding out that the other two shared the same class as her, she felt hope blossom in her chest. Maybe she could finally have friends. And yet...
She should never have mentioned their similar auras.
As she stood frozen, convinced that her secret was out on the very first day, she cursed herself for saying anything to them. She should've just stayed quiet and watched like she always did. Erika didn't seem to get it, but this boy, the one with (maybe) an extra eye, seemed to see right through her.
Huh. Oversensitivity to Particle Emission? Is that why you wear glasses? Oh, well I guess that makes sense, Erika mused.
Her reaction had been surprisingly underwhelming, given the gravity of the revelation. But Tatsuay's... For a moment, as she looked into his eyes, she tasted something metallic on her tongue. It took her a moment to realize that it was fear.
But then -
A beautiful girl who shimmered like ice frosted with snow, the freshman representative herself arrived on the scene. As they introduced themselves (and assured her that they were not, in fact, dating her brother), she couldn't help but notice that, up close, their auras really were rather similar. They were both intimidating, but not overtly; and there was a sort-of 'dryness' about them as well, something that sucked the moisture out of the air and made it hard to breathe. It sounded a little odd, but that was what she felt. After all, winter is always dry, with the water trapped inside the ice that coated the ground and the snow that dusted her aura. It was even more apparent with him, as the moisture had clearly been burned out of the ashes that covered his clothes, his skin...
But she had blinked again, and it was all gone.
She was rather surprised at the course one students' attitude towards the course two students. She had never heard the terms 'bloom' and 'weed' before, and she'd certainly never considered that she would be mocked for not having a flower emblem on her blazer - in fact, she'd thought that the school had made a mistake with her uniform and had intended to bring it up with her teacher (before remembering that she didn't have one). But seeing all the other students without emblems had made her realize that there was no way it could be accidental if it had happened to so many people. The school would make a mistake of this magnitude and then fail to rectify it, right?
Still, she wasn't really upset by their taunts and jeers about her being a low-quality magician. Of course she wasn't very good; the only spells she'd ever learned were in the after-school program, and she considered it a miracle that she'd been accepted into First High at all, even as a course two student.
So when she snapped at the course one students who were trying to separate Tatsuya and Miyuki, it wasn't actually because they were looking down on course two students. And when she assured the breathless Miyuki and the confused Tatsuya that she would support their love all the way, she wasn't talking about the sibling variety. After all, Tatsuya may just be kidding, but she felt something else when Miyuki looked at him. And nothing should stand in the way of true love, right?
Maybe her friends thought she was blowing it out of proportion, but she hadn't felt so inspired in a long time. When Tatsuya said he wanted to use magic to fulfill his dreams (or something like that) she realized she should have a goal beyond fixing her eyes. She'd never been one to look too closely at the future (or anything, really; it hurt too much) but she was starting to realize that her becoming a magician should be about more than personal gain.
They were so pretty. The spirits or whatever they were floated around Mikihiko in every shade of blue she'd ever seen, and a few she hadn't. In fact they were so beautiful that she almost didn't notice when they started attacking her. Almost.
After falling gracelessly backwards onto her rear end, she could only stare in horror as the beautiful streaks of light came racing towards her, intent on doing bodily harm. But Tatsuya came to the rescue, sending out a wave of power that diffused the spirits like bombs. She scrambled to her feet as the two boys faced off, and Tatsuya tried to dissuade Mikihiko from fighting.
She supposed she really shouldn't have startled Mikihiko like that. But she hadn't meant to. So she really didn't understand why he stared at her with such intensity after her explanation of what she'd seen, as though he was memorizing her face so he could draw it later.
But the most unsettling thing of all, she thought as she walked away, was the way he had talked about her eyes. It was almost as though he thought they were something precious, amazing... She shook her head. There was no way anyone could think that about these eyes.
Why do you wear glasses? Are you poor?
She had been asked that a lot by her middle school classmates, usually in a taunting and condescending tone that had already presumed the answer to the question. But the tone the girl from art club had used was merely curious, if a little blunt.
Still, that question bothered her.
No, she said more defensively than she had intended. I just have a, uh, eye condition.
Really? What kind of eye condition? the other girl persisted.
I don't want to talk about it she said, as firmly as possible.
But the other girl simply would not let it drop. Does it have anything to do with the strange pictures you paint? she asked, and pointed to the painting she'd made depicting the spirits she'd seen surrounding Mikihiko. Did you 'see' that?
No! she fairly screeched, rising up from her stool. I can't see anything like that!
Okay, alright, jeez, no need to get so upset. The other girl raised her hands in surrender and backed away. I was only curious.
Lay off the freshman, another club member called. If she doesn't want to talk about her paintings, we can't force her.
But she barely heard it. She was already running, racing out of the clubroom and down the hall. She knew there wasn't the same intention behind it, and yet she couldn't stop the tears forming in her eyes. Why do you wear glasses? And she'd thought no one here would care, since they were all different. Are you poor? No! Stop asking! Stop the taunting, stop the teasing! Why couldn't they just leave her alone -
Her glasses fogged up, her vision blurred, and so she didn't see him until it was too late. She would have run right into him if he hadn't reached out and grabbed her shoulders, steadying her.
What's wrong? he asked, concern in his voice.
What's wrong? she replied, choking back a sob. She felt humiliated to be seen like this by one of her new friends, but her knees were shaking so badly she could no longer run, and she couldn't stop the words pouring out of her mouth. These eyes are what's wrong, she continued. These EYES! She wrenched her glasses from her face and threw them to the ground, and when the world still proved too bright even through her tears, she presses her palms into her eye sockets so that she would see nothing at all.
Why can't I be normal? she whispered, as tears ran down her face.
Suddenly, she felt fingers tugging at her hands, gently pulling her palms away from her face. He released them, and then reached out and gently took her shaking shoulders between his hands, steadying her.
No one who goes to a magic high school is normal. So by our standards...
He looked in her eyes.
"You are normal," he said simply.
Hello, all. This was a bit of an experimental write for me, so let me know if the style was confusing. I spent a lot of time on this, but I'm still not 100% satisfied with it, so let me know what you think.
And on a related note, if anyone's been wondering why I haven't been updating my other fics, see above.
The idea for this seized me when I realized that Mizuki is the main character that we know the least about. The above story is basically my head canon for why she acts the way she does concerning her 'affliction' even though she doesn't seem to understand its significance to the larger magical world (although I took a few liberties).
I also decided to write this because I realized that Mizuki and I have a lot in common - I used to be a socially awkward, glasses wearing girl once upon a time too. And I know how it feels to be called 'four-eyes' and other names by nasty classmates. But I figure it must be ten times worse for Mizuki if nobody else in her class (possibly even her entire school) was wearing them as well...
I hope she gets a happy ending.
Thanks for reading!