Chapter 11: Deal or No Deal?
This had to be some kind of sick joke! Why was he back here again?
Mirumo to pinch his arm an additional time just to check that he wasn't somehow dreaming in broad daylight. Sure, he might have suffered a major headache earlier on which technically might count as pain, but Mirumo needed absolute certainty that it wasn't his imagination.
The sharp pain that Mirumo received from his own pinch told him the answer. He sighed in frustration.
No, this was not a dream.
Besides, Mirumo thought to himself, if this really was a dream, then his so-called 'heaven' would have been filled with piles and piles of chocolate and Kumoccho. Just where were the mountains of chocolate just waiting to be fed into his watering mouth? He'd been lied to!
"Hello! Is anyone here?" he finally called out, hoping despite an increasing feeling amount of despair welling up within him to find someone that would be able to explain this unusual situation to him in a way which he would find desirable. He cupped his hands around his mouth to amplify his voice, repeating his call. "Hello?! Can anyone hear me? Anyone at all?"
Although he continued to holler for quite some time, he had yet to hear a single reply — finding himself hearing nothing in response except for the reverberation of his own voice.
Before long, Mirumo felt butterflies gathering in his stomach, the fairy growing restless and uneasy. He had to fight his inner demons and ignore the dark possibilities that had entered and germinated in his mind.
Come on, Mirumo, don't scare yourself. You're probably at Pikumu's place again. That's why there are so many clouds...
A sudden intrusion interrupted Mirumo's thoughts before his worried mind could conjure up darker and darker scenarios. "Yes, hello there? Can you hear me? I'm standing over here!"
Mirumo turned his head at the elderly voice, spinning around as he ended up coming face-to-face with the speaker. Standing directly behind him was a senior fairy with flowing white hair. He was very tall for a fairy, standing at least a full head over Mirumo.
Another thing that Mirumo noticed right away was that the cheek marks on the side of the tall fairy's face were pink ribbons. Upon noticing that Mirumo was looking at him, he glanced down upon the shorter Mirumo with wise, yet softened eyes. "I see that you have arrived safely, young one."
"Arrived safely? Why do you care?" Mirumo scowled with a hint of irritation on his expression. "Who do you think you are, my caretaker?"
He placed a hand to his forehead out of exasperation at Mirumo's angered tone. "I suppose that you could say that…"
"Oi! Have you been stalking me?!" Mirumo asked, a growl growing on his face. "How did you know that I would be here?"
"Because it is your time," he answered cryptically, "Your time has come, Mirumo-sama."
"My… time?" Mirumo repeated, tilting his head in confusion.
"Yes, it is indeed your time. My dear Mirumo-sama," the elderly fairy gave a small sigh as he hobbled forward, "I'm afraid to inform you that as of now, you're already dead…"
There was silence for a moment.
"Wh-what?" Mirumo yelled in shock, breaking the silence and thrusting his arms out as he rounded onto the fairy in front of him. "Say that again, you old coot!"
"You wish for me to repeat what I said?" He quirked his head at Mirumo's unusual request. "Alright then, as you wish. Well, you're already dead, Mirumo—"
Mirumo raged, flailing his arms about and cutting him off before he could continue. "Oi… I was joking! That was rhetorical!"
"What does 'rhetorical' mean?" he scratched his beard, asking out of curiosity.
"It means that you don't answer my question because the answer to my question is supposed to be so obvious that everyone can tell the answer at one glance! There's no point in answering it! Got that!?" Mirumo shouted back. His abrupt response back to the fairy elder might have been caused by his usual stubborn behavior, but this time Mirumo was trying to—rather futilely—hide the fact that deep down within him, he already knew that what the other fairy had said was true.
This had to be the fabled Fairy Heaven.
It was so obvious in retrospect. After all, he knew it wasn't an old wives' tale and that Fairy Ghosts really did exist after his uncanny meeting with one. And yet, in spite of all of the mounting evidence—the white clouds, the carefree fairies that he'd only just spotted in the distance, the old man dressed in robes—some part of Mirumo still refused to believe the reality that he'd been thrust into until he had been explicitly told so.
"I can't be dead!" Mirumo started with a flustered voice, the fairy in full-on denial mode. "There's still so much that I have to do with my life! I was supposed to sample every chocolate brand that there is in the entire world! Make fun of Yashichi and the Warumo Gang! Review the latest Kumoccho flavor! Rise up to take the throne! There's no way that I can possibly be dead! Not me… not now!" he howled, before a sudden occurrence hit him. "Wait a minute… why am I even dead anyway…?"
Mirumo only trailed off when the final question he'd asked left his lips, a faint voice from his father echoing within his head.
"If you do not return, you will suffer a grave punishment."
A grave punishment…
Mirumo's eyebrow twitched.
If he wasn't so angry, Mirumo would have cringed at the pun. As it stood right now, he could only feel a sense of utter fury welling up from within him. So this was actually the Gaia Tribe's punishment? They couldn't be serious!
Really? This was it? All because he had run out of time unintentionally?
In a fit of rage, Mirumo unfastened his watch, dangling it by the handle using his free arm. "This is all your fault, you stupid lousy device! You had one job, one single job!" he howled in anger while glaring at the broken watch, "All you had to do was give me an accurate reading, and you couldn't even do just that!" With as much strength and anger as he could muster, Mirumo threw the blasted piece of plastic off the cloud canopy with a single motion of his hand.
Good riddance! Mirumo thought when he saw the watch disappear beneath the clouds. He hoped that the impact would completely obliterate the falling watch when it eventually landed after freefalling for thousands of feet. He smirked, allowing himself a small chuckle as his mind conjured up an image of the likely wreck that would be all that was left of said watch after it hit the ground from the height which he had thrown it off of.
His smirk however, was quickly replaced by a lingering sense of sorrow. He really was dead. Now, he had literally turned into his very own worst fear… a fairy ghost, just like what Panta was.
So what was he to do now? All his dreams, his hopes and aspirations, his goals… all of it was shattered, just like that. It would never become reality, not now, not ever. Mirumo could only look down and stare vacantly at the clouds below, his face a melancholic blank as he reminiscenced about his former life back down beneath.
"You must not have liked that watch very much," the old fairy cut in without warning upon seeing Mirumo freeze up. "But what can you do? This is fate—"
"No, it isn't!" Mirumo shouted in fury, "I was sent here unjustly! Let me out of here! I don't belong in this place!"
"Listen to me, Mirumo-sama," the old fairy looked at Mirumo. "Most new arrivals to the afterlife often think the same thing. But do not worry, I have seen it all before. What you are currently experiencing right now are the five stages of grief. First of all, there is denial…"
"No!" Mirumo yelled out, backing away from the elderly fairy as he shook his head vigorously. "Get away from me! I'm not dead! I can't possibly be dead, you crazy old coot! Shoo!"
The old man continued to ramble, acting as though Mirumo wasn't even there. "And after denial, there is anger."
"Oi! I'm getting real mad here! Are you even listening to me, you idiot? Don't ignore me!" Mirumo stormed up to him, looking up to glare at him in the eye.
"After anger comes bargaining…" he mumbled in a tired voice, causing Mirumo to snap out of his rage.
Seeing his plan failing, Mirumo resorted to begging. "Old coot, please!" he fell onto his knees and began to plead with him, realizing that the stubborn fairy was his only minuscule hope to get back home. "Please let me out of here! I don't belong here… I belong back home! Down there in the Fairy World!"
The elderly fairy could only sigh at Mirumo's antics, ignoring the young fairy's pleas as he continued to speak. "And then thereafter comes the stage of depression."
Crap! This old coot is right, Mirumo thought, I really must be dead. He tried pinching his cheeks one more time. The sharp stinging pain that hit him in the head emphasized to him that his current predicament was not a dream or a figment of his imagination.
I can't be dead... I can't be dead...
But deep down in his heart, Mirumo already knew the truth and was unable to lie to himself any longer. Sighing, he calmed down and looked straight at the elderly fairy in the eye. "I really am dead… and there's nothing I can do about it… right?"
"And finally, acceptance," he finished with a somber smile. The old fairy's eyes were filled with compassion and understanding. "Do you see, Mirumo-sama? These are the five stages of grief. Do not worry, young one. Once you accept your situation, I will welcome you with open arms, like every other fairy. As the Fairy Heaven Overlord, every fairy that is sent here is my child." The old man reached into his robe and extended his arm.
In his palm was a golden halo, about six inches in diameter.
It's the same halo around Panta's head after he returned, Mirumo thought grimly. So that's where the rascal had gotten it from…
"Only once you have accepted your situation will you be able to let go and pass on. So then, will you accept, Mirumo-sama?"
Mirumo looked up at the halo held in the elderly fairy's hand, a final apprehensive look on his face.
Did he even really have a choice to begin with…?
"Don't doze off! Pay attention, Mirumo-sama!"
Mirumo jerked his head back in shock upon getting scolded by his mentor, a random fairy that had been assigned to tutor him about the rules and regulations of the Fairy Heaven.
But Mirumo didn't even bother to remember his new mentor's name — he was that unremarkable. It had been approximately a week since he had accepted the offer. And to be perfectly honest, he still wasn't really used to the halo that was now attached to the top of his head.
Are you sure I deserve that thing? I've been a mischievous rascal from the very moment I was born! I probably should have gotten the devil horns instead!
"Your orientation program to the Fairy Heaven isn't complete yet, so please try and keep awake, Mirumo-sama!" he reprimanded gently as he cleared his throat. "Anyway, as I previously was saying, we ghost spirits have a special form of magic as well."
Mirumo perked up. "Wh-what? Excuse me?" Now, this was something new to him. Unlike the usual droning he'd been hearing for the past week, this was genuinely new and interesting information to Mirumo.
"We are born fairies, and even after our mortal lives, our fairy heritage does not die out. We spirits can continue to cast magic even in the afterlife, albeit in a somewhat different form compared to what living fairies are used to casting. For living fairies, their magic is powered by the feelings of humans. However, our magic's power does not come from such earthly forces."
Hmph! Speak for yourself! Mirumo thought angrily to himself. This guy knew nothing about the Human World at all!
"Ghost magic, on the other hand, is powered by your own will. It namely involves the power of possession. As a fairy ghost, you will now be able to possess and reanimate any inanimate objects that are around you."
Possession of objects? Mirumo jolted up when he realized that he remembered seeing just that. If he recalled correctly, Panta's ukulele instrument allowed him to possess and control inanimate objects in the vicinity!
Seeing Mirumo's face light up, his mentor continued with a chirp, "Now then, Mirumo-sama. Look at your maracas! See how they are glowing white?"
At his prompting, Mirumo glanced down at his maracas. Sure enough, they had a faint white aura around them, which caused the fairy to sigh forlornly. Normally, unless he was using a combination dance via Session magic, his color of magic had always been yellow. It had projected a princely royal aura, and he distinctly liked the color because it matched the glossy color of his maracas.
Now all of that was nothing but a pale shade of white.
His happy demeanor promptly turned to one of sadness. Just great, he thought, another thing to remind me about my stupid situation. Much like what he was already doing now, he continued moping about.
How long had he been like this? A few days? Was he cursed to be in this state of depression for all eternity?
His mentor fairy didn't notice the introspective thinking that Mirumo was doing. "Here you go!" his mentor huffed, grunting as he placed an electrical fan down on the ground.
"How did you get this?" Mirumo asked the fairy, surprised to see an actual household appliance up here, of all places.
"Never mind about that!" he coughed in an attempt to change the topic. "Try possessing this fan." Realizing that Mirumo was reluctant, he beckoned with a hand. "Go on! Trust me! It's a lot of fun."
"Fine! Okay, okay! I'll do it!" Mirumo gave in to the other fairy's beckoning as he began to shake his maracas. "Mirumo de Pon!" he shouted as he thrust his maracas outwards, with white colored magic surrounding him instead of the usual yellow.
The first thing Mirumo realized was that he felt lighter than air. No, not exactly that in that way, but to his shock he realized that his physical body had completely vanished. Before he knew it, he was whizzing in the air and headed right towards-no, into the fan. Horrified by the unearthly experience, Mirumo shut his eyes in terror. His one conscious thought was simple and concise.
Wh-what the heck is going on!?
"Hey! Don't shut your eyes, Mirumo-sama," he heard the other fairy lecture. "You're missing out on all the fun! Open them!"
When he acknowledged and opened his eyes, Mirumo almost freaked at what he saw.
He was the fan.
Quite literally, his eyes were in the middle of the fan, and his limbs had become the fan blades. Trying to move his arms, he found himself spinning the blades and letting out a gust of wind instead. Yeah, this is really awkward, he thought. Having enough of this, he jumped out of the fan and materialized back into his fairy form.
"Very good! Excellent work!" Mirumo's mentor praised, clapping his hands. He was clearly impressed by what he saw. "You got the hang of it on your first try, Mirumo-sama! I can see you are very skilled, as expected for a fairy of your caliber."
"Thanks…" Mirumo muttered, feeling a sense of pride at the praise that he'd received. It was the first time he'd felt anything positive in, well, quite some time.
Perhaps this won't be so bad after all, he pondered as he looked down, taking a good look at his maracas.
He was so wrong.
Stuck in the afterlife, Mirumo felt completely miserable. Years came and went, and yet he found that he'd never gotten any happier. Even after learning everything that there was in being a ghost fairy and adapting to the new rules and regulations, he couldn't enjoy it one bit. Everything new that he learnt would somehow inevitably remind him of something he'd seen or learnt back in the Human or Muglox Worlds…
…and then the painful memories would resurface.
"You no longer need fans to fly. Flying may be a pastime for fairies, but as fairy ghosts, you don't have to bother! We can float infinitely!"
When he had heard that so long ago, it was welcome news to Mirumo. He had always been a lazy fairy, and not needing energy to flap his arms about to take off to the sky and maneuver aerially seemed like such a sweet deal. But afterwards, he realized that in this land of clouds, there was simply no real advantage to floating about.
Back in the Human or Muglox World, flying was used by the fairies often simply because it was the fastest way to travel. But here, there were no destinations, goals, or achievements for being the best floater, as compared to being the best flyer…
"You can turn yourself invisible at will! This is sure to get your friends! Isn't it totally cool?"
Another lesson he'd learnt years ago. Sure… it could be, was Mirumo's first thought. He had thought about all sorts of uses for such an awesome ability. He could take chocolate without ever having to pay for it, he could jump-scare Yashichi and even prank his pesky little brother Murumo…
Then he immediately realized that all of that was Human World stuff, and that as a ghost fairy living his afterlife in Fairy Heaven, he couldn't do any of that. After that sobering realization, Mirumo's mood soured and changed to one of utter indifference, to the point where he simply nodded his head to his mentor for the rest of that lesson.
Bringing his mind back to the present, Mirumo sighed again. He had never felt at ease in the Fairy Heaven, the biggest and most significant problem that he faced was the fact that he wasn't allowed to visit the Human World.
How was his family? Was Kaede and Yuuki's relationship still okay? Was Yashichi still the imbecile fairy who he used to know? How was everyone else?
So many questions that he would never know the answer to!
To hell with it, Mirumo made up his mind as he got to his feet. He had decided that he was going to get out of here, no matter what the cost. He missed all his friends terribly, and if Panta was somehow able to escape from this place, then so could he!
He couldn't just wind up rotting here for… well, forever! He needed at least some semblance of closure.
Mirumo whizzed up into the air and zoomed towards someone he needed to see — the old fairy who he had met on the first day. That fairy was the one in charge of the Fairy Heaven, basically the Overlord of the entire place, but Mirumo had always called him "the old fairy", even after he had introduced himself as the Fairy Heaven Overlord.
"Hello there, Mirumo-sama," the overlord said, looking at Mirumo gently upon seeing the fairy fly towards him. "Now this is a surprise… what brings you here today?"
Landing in front of the old fairy, Mirumo finally let loose what he had wanted to say for twenty whole years. "Alright, I've had it! I was in this place for over twenty years because of something I had absolutely no control over!" he yelled with a snarl. "No control whatsoever!"
"N-now then—" the old fairy stuttered, before Mirumo cut him off.
"Look, old man! Do I look like I'm actually happy here in this place of supposed eternal happiness?!" Mirumo lashed out, frowning as harshly as he could. "Do I?!"
Seeing Mirumo's cynicism, he sighed and placed a hand to his forehead, making it seem as though he was suffering from a headache. "Ah… I was afraid this day would come…"
"Excuse me?" Mirumo retorted. "What do you mean?"
"Well, you were sent here because of the Gaia Tribe, am I correct?"
Mirumo said nothing. The sharp glare in his eyes was answer enough to that question.
"I'll take that as a yes." The elderly overlord heaved out a tired breath, appearing to age tenfold as he turned towards Mirumo.
"Well then, how would you like to go back to the Human World?"
"Really?" Mirumo jolted, not believing his ears. He hadn't expected for his outburst to work. Because if he did, well… he would have yelled at him sooner. Now, for the first time in years, he felt a glimmer of hope spark within him.
"I'm technically going against the Gaia Tribe by doing this. But, then again…" the old fairy had a wily look in his eyes as he continued on, "They never did say that I couldn't take matters into my own hands. Our rules in the Fairy Heaven are different from theirs. They might be the Fairy Gods, but their influence only reigns upon the world of mortals."
The old fairy's tone turned low to get the ecstatic Mirumo's attention. "That said, I have some conditions. The Gaia Tribe know of everything that happens in the Muglox World, so before I allow you back down to the Human World, you must make me two promises."
"Anything!" Mirumo cried out, desperate. "Just name your demand!" If he was still in his youth, he would have almost certainly questioned for a catch to any agreement. But after twenty years of being stuck in this limbo, the former Muglox Prince was desperate for any chance to get out.
"You sure are enthusiastic… and hasty," the fairy overlord commented. "Well, the first condition is that no one who you used to know can realize that you've returned."
Mirumo flinched at the proposal, realizing what the bargainer was implying, "What! But that forgoes the point of me going back there in the first place! Why can nobody know I returned!? It makes no sense!"
"Because once the Gaia Tribe discover that you're back, they won't hesitate to put you back here and bar me from ever letting you come down there again. It is a loophole, after all."
Mirumo opened his mouth to counter with an argument, before keeping quiet when he realized the old fairy had a point. "But… it's been twenty years. Surely they would forget by now?" he asked hopefully.
"That's what you think. Rumors spread fast. Anyone who you knew personally in your past life cannot see or recognize you as Mirumo. The moment anyone finds out… I will personally pull you out myself. No compromises," the old fairy said with a firm tone that showed that he would not give in on this topic.
He then coughed before continuing, "Anyway, the second condition is the same one that I gave Panta. You must find a new human partner within twenty-four hours."
"What? Only twenty-four hours?" Mirumo tried to bargain with him, finding the condition ludicrous, "Come on, cut me some slack! How am I possibly going to find a human partner in a mere twenty-four hours?"
"Ah, but didn't Panta manage to do it?" the old fairy recounted with a wry grin on his face.
"How exactly do you know that Panta accomplished it in the first place?" Mirumo asked with a hint of suspicion in his tone.
"Why, that's simple." The old fairy stroked his beard as he smiled mischievously. "It's because I was the one who let Panta back to begin with. He begged and pleaded with me as well, y'know? I know more than you think, Mirumo. Fact is, if Panta had failed with his own twenty-four-hour deadline, I would have known immediately."
Mirumo winced at being called out. Panta had found Morishita-san as his human partner… but only just barely. Merely a few more seconds and Panta would have run out of time, and that was after he and Kaede had intervened to help.
But unlike Panta, Mirumo had no one to back him up. He was literally on his own this time.
Mirumo folded his arms, annoyed. "Well, it's not like I can say no…" he eventually muttered. "I mean, you are the one calling the shots. Can I even argue?"
"Yes, you're right there." The elder chuckled. "So, it's settled then. Also, before I forget, your new human partner must follow my first condition… in other words, he or she cannot have any knowledge of who you were in your past life. Personally, I would recommend for you to just pick someone at random."
Mirumo nodded along, feeling a smile creeping along his face as the fairy elder continued on, "Once you have found yourself a new human partner, I will let you live again in the mortal realm for the rest of what would have been your natural lifespan. Just consider it a second chance to live your life out, since I too believe that it was unjust for the Gaians to take twenty years of your life away."
Reaching out his arm, the Fairy Heaven Overlord finalized his offer. "So do we have a deal, Mirumo-sama?" he asked with a smile.
Mirumo immediately shook his hand, gripping firmly on the elder's palm as though it was his lifeline. And in a sense, it was. "You've got yourself a deal!" he declared, agreeing with a boisterous voice.
Edited & Rewritten on 27/11/2018.
Personally for me, it's pretty hilarious re-reading this chapter and seeing that I had used the analogy of the Kübler-Ross model with regards to how Mirumo is coping with the drastic situation, considering that I'd recently done up another story which does the Five Stages of Grief concept much better than I had originally done here.
So here we have it — the fateful deal made by Mirumo with the Fairy Heaven Overlord to come back to the Human World as a ghost. As of now, I've managed to rewrite all of Hickory Dickory Dock! Hopefully, should time permit, I'll actually be able to work on continuing new chapters of this story now!
So what will happen next? Will Mirumo succeed in finding a new human partner? Find out next time!