So, let's get straight to it. Frankly, I'm sure some of you are going to think this chapter feels a little rushed, specifically towards the end. I'll try to explain at the end so as not to spoil anything, so read that I guess.
Two months or whatever isn't so bad for a chapter, right? Especially when so many things are happening. And... well, a lot happens in this chapter.
Honoka peered out the door of the Liberal Arts building, making sure that she saw neither the redhead nor a fallen angel lurking around. Clear. All good. She started to make her way out, looking every which way as if expecting either to jump out from some bush. This was only the first part of her pilgrimage to the math building. Why was she headed to the math building? Nico was apparently hanging out with a friend around it and told Honoka to meet her there so they could get some lunch together. Maki was a medical student so the chances of seeing her there were probably nil. But that Yohane girl? Honoka had no idea what she was in university for so there was always the chance of seeing her. But she had her doubts about seeing her in the math building. If anything, from her performance the other day, Honoka assumed she was probably in theatre like Nico or something. That was actually something she wanted to ask her friend about.
Taking her sweet time, she eventually made it to the math building, but she didn't see Nico outside. A quick check of her texts showed one from Nico telling her that she would be a couple minutes, but she could come to the lounge area inside. Honoka peeked in the doorway and observed a few students meandering about the hall so she quickly shuffled her way through. That was her first time in the math building so she had next to no idea where exactly she was headed to and she sure as hell wasn't about to ask some stranger for help.
As she contemplated just waiting outside while walking up the steps to the second floor, she felt a collision with somebody rushing from around the next set. "Ah!" Honoka instinctively pulled back from the collision but realized that she was the one still on the stairs. But before she could feel herself falling, a hand grabbed her wrist, holding her in place.
"I-I'm so sorry, are you alright!? Eh? You're…"
Honoka heard the voice but it was already starting to sound distant. She felt herself falling away, but not literally. Her power was taking her somewhere far away again. She felt a heavy fear building in her chest and strained to see who was holding her up. Whoever it was, that person was clearly yelling to her but the person's words faded with her mind. She caught a glimpse of glasses, hair pulled into a neat ponytail. And then nothing.
"Wha!?" Honoka's eyes snapped open in a panic before she realized that it was just her power again. "Not again… Where…?"
The room she found herself in looked relatively normal if a little messy. Was she in somebody's house? Clothes littered the floor in more than a few spots but other than that, it was a normal room. Her eyes roamed over it, confirming that she was the only one there. What was that about? If she… her thoughts were cut off when she heard a muffled yelling before the door burst open, a girl walking inside before slamming the door shut behind her. Unfortunately, Honoka recognized her in an instant.
Even without her fallen angel getup on, it was obviously her. Yohane shuffled across the room, tossing a bag aside and jumping on her bed. At first Honoka was confused on exactly what was happening, but she could tell when a girl was crying. Yohane's breathing hitched with every sob and Honoka felt a pain in her chest. She almost reached out, but she knew there was no point. This was the past, or maybe the future. There was nothing she could do besides watch.
Then everything changed again. The world around her spun, threatening to throw her to the floor as she flew to a new period of time. A bathroom this time. Yohane's, she assumed from the fact that the girl was once again in front of her. She was sobbing again, but what instantly stuck out to Honoka this time was the knife in her hands. This time, Honoka did reach out, shouting for her to stop, but her hands just passed through the girl.
But Yohane didn't bring the knife to her wrist or arm at all, but held it up high in the air, pointing it down at her face. "These stupid hic… these damn eyes! Bring me back! Don't…" Yohane let the knife fall with a clang, covering her face with her hands. "Don't take everything from me…"
Honoka thought she was prepared for it, but she was so thrown off by what she was seeing that when the information started flooding into her, it hit her like a truck.
Tsushima Yoshiko. 18. July 13. O. A host more of information flooded into her mind and Honoka's eyes widened at the revelation. It was like everything suddenly made sense. And just like that, she was dragged back to reality, a reality where Yoshiko held her arm still. Honoka slowly planted her feet and leaned up with Yoshiko's help until she could stand on her own.
It was definitely the fallen angel even if she looked a lot different. Her hair was pulled into a neat ponytail, a pair of round glasses adorned her face, and, most noticeably, instead of the fallen angel getup, she wore a skirt and a sweatshirt that provedmuch too large for her. Honoka observed the girl and almost giggled at how different she seemed, but that intense fear from before settled in her chest.
She knew. She knew everything. Why the girl was chasing after her, what that power of hers was, everything. Honoka swallowed a thick lump in her throat and tried to speak but failed to find her voice. What was she supposed to say? This wasn't like the time with Maki, this was someone she so desperately wanted to avoid before and yet… She ran over the newly acquired information in her mind once again and nodded slowly.
Come on, Honoka. Just this one time, be a little braver.
She cheered herself on, but it was Yoshiko who spoke first, not even bothering to deepen her voice. "You saw, didn't you?" Honoka's head snapped up to meet eyes with her, panic clear as day on her face. Yoshiko sighed. "Do not worry. I intended to allow you to gather information from me this way in the first place. It's a lot easier than trying to explain everything." Yoshiko paused and looked away, her cheeks flushing just a bit. This time she did lower her voice, but somehow managed to stumble over her words. "S-So, you see that I did not approach you with impure intentions. I would… I would not tell anybody of your plight."
Seeing her like that, Honoka felt that fear slowly fade. Yoshiko was scared. Scared and alone. Just like she had been for so many years. Even if their circumstances were radically different, she felt like she could relate on some level. It gave her an unfamiliar sense of comfort, one she had never felt in the past. Though it was comforting, it was scary. With it came a fear of 'what comes next.' With Nico, it felt a lot simpler to trust her. She was Eli's friend, so it was almost just by association that she felt at least the tiniest bit more comfortable speaking with her at first. That and Nico didn't know about her power from the get-go. But Yoshiko said she wanted Honoka to find about her circumstances and that made the ginger want to speak, but she couldn't bring herself to.
Yoshiko seemed to have noticed something at least because she sighed and grabbed the strap of her bag tightly. "Honoka! There you are!" Nico rounded the stairs from the same direction Yoshiko had come from but paused when she noticed the other girl. She looked between her and Honoka. "Um… a friend?" She asked tentatively.
"Hardly." Yoshiko quickly spoke up, her voice returning to its regular pitch. "Then, if you'll excuse me, Kousaka-san." She gave a small nod of acknowledgement towards Nico and moved around Honoka. As she moved by, Honoka heard a soft voice, just loud enough that only she could hear. "I would like to speak with you again in private some time…" Yoshiko paused on the step behind her. "Before my time is up." With that, she continued on her way.
Honoka turned around, fishing for something in the mess that was her mind, but found nothing, instead just watching as the girl exited the building. She turned back to Nico with a concerned look and Nico nodded as if already understanding. "Come on. We can talk about it over lunch." Honestly, Honoka wasn't sure she wanted to talk about it at all, but after learning what she did, she felt like there was no way she could avoid the topic any longer so she reluctantly nodded and followed Nico.
By the time they were sat in the small café that Nico had brought her to before, Honoka had gone over a hundred times in her head what she could and couldn't tell Nico. There was no way she could tell anybody, even her friend, anything that she had taken against Yoshiko's will. Well… whether Yoshiko had wanted it or not, it wasn't Honoka's place to give out that information.
Nico waited until their food was there before she finally poked at the topic. "So… do you want to talk about it?"
Honoka stared down at her food, still not 100% on what exactly she should say. "It's… not that I don't want to talk about it. I'm just… not sure what I can say."
"Oh." Nico perked up. "You…" She lowered her voice despite the fact that it was only them and the manager there. "You touched her?"
Honoka nodded. The least she could do was tell her about what had transpired before. She had avoided the topic in the hope that it wouldn't come up again until after the party, but here they were. "I just… it, well…" She scratched her head furiously, trying to think of something to say without actually revealing what she had just learned.
Nico flicked the straw in her glass, watching as it circled around. "Well, she said she has something similar to you, right? Is that true?"
That, at least, she could probably say. "Yeah. But… it's not the same. It's… probably a lot worse…" When she thought about exactly what power that girl possessed, it almost, almost, made her feel lucky to be stuck with that power. "I think… I'm going to try talking to her."
"Hmm, well that's probably a good idea." Nico's face softened into a smile and she reached across the table, covering Honoka's hand with hers. She noticed the telltale small shake from the ginger. "Nico didn't have a very interesting day, huh?" Honoka groaned and reached for her head, a headache slowly forming. "Sorry. Look, Nico knows everything is pretty hectic for you right now, but… she doesn't think you have to be nervous about this."
"Well, you should know this more than Nico does since you touched her but… Nico thinks this might be something good for you. At the very least, Nico doesn't think talking things out with this Yohane girl will be any trouble at all. If anything, she thinks it'll help you." Nico nodded to herself.
Honoka sighed but managed a smile. "I guess. After that I… I'm not sure I can leave her alone."
"That serious, huh?" Honoka nodded.
"It… Ahhh! I don't know what I'm supposed to do! There's only two days until the party and I'm already worrying about that but now…" She sighed. "It's kind of… maybe a time sensitive thing…"
"You know, you could have just gone after her instead of eating with Nico. Nico wouldn't have minded."
"Well… I just don't know what to say. After what I saw, I… think I know what she might be hoping for. And it's something I don't know. I think..." Honoka shook her head and shoved a large amount of food in her mouth, purposely taking her time chewing it before speaking again. "I guess I'll have to talk to her soon." Honoka leaned her head on her hand and sighed. "So… Yoshiko's not in theatre with you?"
Nico tilted her head. "Yoshiko?"
"The girl from before."
Nico waved off the previous question. "Nope. Nico definitely would have noticed a girl like that."
A long sigh escaped Honoka and she let her head rest on the table. Too much. Way too much was going on for her mind that wasn't used to this kind of thing. Maki's face came to her mind and she furiously scratched her head again. The Maki situation was important, undoubtedly so. If she could amend that and become closer to the redhead, she would be all the happier for it. But this… This Yoshiko problem was something that would have to be dealt with ASAP. If she chose to help her. Why did she want to help her anyway? Because she found out about it? Because she felt sorry for her? No. It was much simpler. A small smile broke out on her face. Eli had never abandoned her, no matter how much trouble she may have presented. Maybe, just maybe… she thought she could do that for someone here.
Honoka leaned back, staring up at the ceiling. If Nico knew nothing about her then… She was hoping her ability had just not picked up on her being in the drama club, but that was out now. There was no way for her to know anything else about or to help her without meeting up with her. If there even was a way she could help her. Honoka still wasn't sure on that end. But for now…
"Well," Nico smiled from across the table. "Just do your best. Eli and Nico will be here for you the whole way."
Honoka giggled and nodded. "Mm." First she would get through the party. It couldn't be that bad, right?
It was, in fact, that bad. She had spent all of Friday stressing about the party the next day and now that it was actually happening, Honoka had wrapped herself in her blanket as soon as the first people started to arrive. She had helped Eli to set everything up, but her anxiety spiked the second there was a knock on the door. And now the party was in full swing. It wasn't like there were too many people, but she could hear more voices than she was comfortable being around. Eli had told her it was perfectly fine to retreat to her room if she needed some time but she hadn't actually gone out to the party at all. If Honoka was being honest, she felt kind of bad. After telling Eli that she would spend some time out there, she ended up cooped up in her room. The voices were one thing but… the thought that Maki might be out there made her freeze up every time she attempted to approach the door.
What was she supposed to say to Maki? There was a lot she felt like she wanted to say but she wasn't sure how much of it she would actually be able to tell her. The most important thing was definitely apologizing for running away before. But after that… the other issue came to mind. Honoka typically avoided people so even if she learned everything about them, she figured she would never speak to them nor see them again most of the time. The exceptions being her family, Eli, and Nico, of course. Well… she could add Yoshiko and Maki to that list now. The issue here lied with Maki, of course. The idea of speaking to her and acting normal when she knew so much just… felt wrong. She would basically have to lie to her constantly, pretending like she knew nothing. But at the same time, the concept of explaining her ability terrified her. Not everybody would be as accepting as Eli and Nico about that. They couldn't be.
A soft knock sounded on her door and Honoka jumped, peeking out from her blanket as if expecting some complete stranger to walk in. But no. It opened just slightly to reveal Eli who slipped in before quickly closing it behind her. She smiled at Honoka and walked over to sit next to her. They sat in silence for a bit before Honoka finally shed the blanket and Eli gave her another smile.
"Maki asked about you."
Honoka's head snapped up but she bit back her initial response. "I… I want to see her. But…"
"You're still worried about that Yoshiko girl?" Eli ran a hand up and down Honoka's back. "Listen, Honoka. Even if you can't tell me what's wrong, it won't do you any good to just sit in here. I know you're worried about her and I know you want to help her with… whatever she needs help with. But for now, why don't you come on out? Maybe talking to Maki will help clear your head."
"Clear my head…" Honoka snorted at the thought. Talking to Maki would likely just cloud up her head with stupid thoughts anyways. And… "I… don't want to lie to Maki, Eli-chan."
"About anything. I…" Honoka cleared her throat, trying to hold in any tears that wanted to stray from her eyes. "I was only able to be friends with you and Nico-chan because I… I told you. If… If I had lied and lied, neither of you would want to be with me." Eli started to say something but Honoka silenced her with a look that quickly dissolved into a small smile. "I'm not saying that's a bad thing, Eli-chan. I don't think I would want to be friends with a liar either. I'm not saying it has anything to do with… this thing. Even if I was just a normal girl, you wouldn't want to be friends with me if I lied all the time, right? That's why… I'm afraid. If I don't tell Maki, I'll… have to lie a lot. And I don't want that. I don't think we can really talk if I'm lying all the time. But at the same time…" Honoka's body shook and Eli leaned in closer, wrapping an arm around her friend. "I-I… telling her is…" Tears streaked down her face and she closed her eyes, wishing with all her might that her ability would just vanish that night. "I can't… I can't tell her. I don't want her to think I'm a freak."
Eli took a deep breath and let it out slowly, pulling the ginger close against her. "I said it before, and I'll say it again. I won't tell you what to do, Honoka. If you don't want to talk to Maki, I'll tell her that you're not feeling well. But you know as well as I do that nothing will get solved that way. And Eli's always right, isn't she?" Honoka rolled her eyes and Eli laughed. Eli leaned forward and planted a quick kiss on Honoka's forehead before standing. "I have to go back out now. If you really don't want to come out, then text me."
"I'm not a kid, Eli-chan…"
"Ahaha. Well, you know, you just make people want to squeeze you and kiss you." Eli laughed at Honoka rolling her eyes for a second time and walked out the room.
Honoka sighed but she knew Eli was right. Her problems wouldn't go away if she just sat there. Staying cooped up in her room wouldn't solve her Maki issue nor would it help Yoshiko. She finally shed the sheet and stood. One step at a time. Right now, she had to at least… attempt to speak with Maki. If anything, just for Eli's sake. Honoka realized quickly that she didn't have anything particularly suited to parties, so she ended up with a short skirt and a t-shirt with some random English band name on it that Eli had gotten her. Good enough. With that, she snuck out of her room and into the bathroom to wash off her face, making sure that her eyes hadn't gone red from the bit of crying. Nope. All good.
"Alright. Calm down, Honoka. You can do it."
After some convincing of herself, she took a tentative step down the hallway. Part of the living room was visible from her angle and she could hear the music and see several people with cups in hand talking and laughing. Honoka readied herself before finally just moving in, bobbing and weaving around the few people she almost came into contact with before stopping in the kitchen. Eli was picking up two plates with various party treats on them and she smiled at the sight of her roommate.
"She's over there." Eli nodded towards the living room.
Honoka peered over and, sure enough, Maki's red hair stuck out among the other students there. Thank god it was a small enough party for her to maneuver through. Though a fear still gripped at her heart, she felt her feet take a step forward, around a group of three girls talking and move towards the living room. As she neared, Maki came fully into her vision and Honoka sucked in a breath. That fear once again clutched at her heart as her mind raced to think of exactly what she would say to the girl. But, as Honoka's luck would have it, Maki chose that exact moment to look her way. Maki's eyes widened for a second and a small smile settled on her face as she walked over. Honoka swallowed and stiffly walked to meet her halfway so they could at least have the least amount of possible eavesdroppers as possible.
"Honoka. It's been a while."
To be fair to Honoka, she felt ever so slightly less nervous than she expected. That being said, she still felt just short of fainting and her desire to flee back to her room felt very appealing. But she swallowed, tightened her hands into fists at her side and took a deep breath.
"M-Maki-chan." Honoka cursed her stumble but if Maki cared she didn't show it. "Yeah, um… long time no see." She felt even more awkward then their encounter at the café. Words weren't coming to her and she was afraid Maki grow tired of that pretty quickly.
When she didn't continue, Maki giggled. "Still not much of a talker I see. Well, that's not necessarily a bad thing though."
Honoka nodded slowly. Although her lack of words came in good part because of Maki, the people didn't help. Having so many people in her home, the one place she thought of as 'safe,' a place where she never had to feel the stress that came with social situations, threw her off just a bit. But as if reading her mind, Maki gestured toward the door.
"Want to step out for a bit?"
Honoka blinked once before nervously glancing around and then back at her. "Huh? Um… b-but, um, didn't you come… because of the party?"
"I just thought you might need to cool off a bit. I don't mind stepping out. It's easier to talk that way too, right?"
Honoka was wondering what she meant by that when she put a hand to her face. Ah… Likely due to her nerves, she was sweating. Her face flushed red and she wanted nothing more than to run to the shower and spend the rest of the party there, but she steeled herself.
"I, um… Mm…"She meekly nodded, her words failing her.
Maki nodded and reached out but quickly withdrew her hand, a sudden slightly nervous expression on her face. Honoka flinched, knowing she was likely the reason for that. A dark feeling began swirling in the put of her stomach. Even though she hadn't meant to, she had pulled away from Maki the last time they touched. She wanted to say something, but her voice caught in her throat so when Maki's smile returned, albeit a bit off this time, and she started walking towards the door, Honoka followed like a lost dog. The thoughts of the conversation to follow made her heartrate skyrocket. Maki was definitely going to question her about that time. And what exactly was she supposed to say without revealing the truth? These questions swirling around in her head were enough to make Honoka dizzy, but she stayed on path with Maki until the redhead grabbed the door handle.
"Did you hear about Tsushima-san?"
"Who? Oh, is that the weird girl that never talks?"
"Yeah, her. Kitagami said she left her last class the other day after saying something like 'I must face my demons.'" Both girls laughed at that. "And she didn't show up to any classes yesterday."
Maki opened the door but Honoka froze in place.
"Well she is weird. Isn't Akari her roommate? She was always talking about weird stuff Tsushima-san does."
"Akari said she never came home last night. Maybe 'facing her demons' means she decided to drop out."
Something didn't sit well with Honoka about the conversation. It wasn't the most unsual thing for a student to take a day off during college. Maybe she was sick, maybe she simply didn't feel like attending class yesterday. So… why did something feel so wrong?
"She might have just gone home, right?"
"I guess so. I talked to Akari earlier and Tsushima-san wasn't there today either so maybe she just took a day off. Did she have to do it like that though?"
Honoka's blood froze. No. No, she didn't go home. Because… Tsushima Yoshiko doesn't have a home to go to. Honoka felt her breathing pick up. Was she too late? Had it happened already? Even though this was about a girl she hardly knew, one she was terrified of speaking with until just the other day, Honoka felt her chest tighten. If Yoshiko was gone and she could have possibly prevented it…
"Honoka?" Maki asked with more than a bit of concern lacing her sweet voice.
But Honoka wasn't listening. The fear of whatever happened to Yoshiko trampled over her anthropophobia and she quickly stepped towards the two girls who both jumped at her sudden appearance. "W-Where…!? Um… Y-Yoshiko, I-I mean… W-What apartment… does Tsushima-san live in?" Her voice shook with every word and she was sure she looked on the verge of panic, and that's because she was.
The girls looked between each other. "Um… do you know her?"
"I…!" Honoka tried to speak but words failed her. The temporary bravado from her worry was already beginning to wear off but she needed to know. Even if their situations were drastically different, Yoshiko still felt in a similar position. Honoka closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Eli hadn't left her behind. No matter what happened, she was there for her. So… If she could save Yoshiko by just being there… Honoka reached out and grabbed the girl's hand.
But this time, she forced herself to hold on. With all her willpower, she held on, praying just this one time. She wouldn't let her consciousness fade. Even without that experience though, information hit her like a brick. So many memories, so many things about this girl, flooded her mind but she forced her way through it. There was only one thing she was after, everything else was useless. A headache set it much quicker than usual, she had never experienced one when her power was still active.
Something felt fundamentally wrong about what she was doing, as if her ability was screaming at her for daring to assert her will over it. An unnatural cold seeped into her body, into her head, into her mind. A freezing cold that almost made her release the girl, but she held on tight. It had to be there, it had to be! The pain and cold only grew until she was unsure how she even stood. But right when she felt her consciousness slipping, the battle lost, she grabbed it. A single memory of a visit to one Akizawa Akari's apartment.
With the memory in hand, Honoka released the girl, falling back, both hands immediately going to her head which felt ready to split open. She groaned in pain and suddenly everybody's eyes rested on her. Tears fell from her eyes, but not from some tragic memory, but from the sheer pain. At least that unnatural cold had faded with her grip.
"Honoka!" Maki ran up to her and grabbed her arm, helping her to stand. Maki's hand touched hers several times and she was never more grateful for her ability not activating. "What happened? Why…?"
Honoka wanted to talk but her time was quite possibly extremely limited. She gently pulled away from Maki, looking at her with tears flowing down her cheeks. She heard Eli say something and felt her next to her, but she never broke eye contact with the redhead. "I… I'm sorry…" She wanted to say more, to say so much more, but she broke away from both Maki and her best friend, running for the door, almost tripping and falling on the way from the pain but she grabbed the doorknob and yanked it open. She turned back one last time to see everybody staring at her but the pain was too great to let her fear take over in that moment. Her eyes once again locked onto Maki and she struggled to find something to say, and her mind ended up blurting the first thing she could think of in a 'girl has to run after somebody to save them' scenario. "W-Wait for me."
Before she could see or hear any response, she ran off into the night.
I wonder what happened to Yoshiko. Well, next time all will be revealed!
Also, as to why I said it might feel rushed, you can probably see now. The thing is, I wanted to focus almost entirely on Honoka. And due to Honoka's lack of social awareness and the like, there isn't much filler to actually put. She isn't exactly one for small talk in this AU, as I'm sure you're aware of by now. Anyways, sorry for any typos but, as always, I don't spell check or the like.
Hope you enjoyed.
Till next time. Be seeing you.