A lone girl walked through a crowd of people, her steps frantic and quick. Her voice was thick with fear, as she continued to push and fight against the growing tide of humans. People walked against her, pushing her aside as if they didn't see her. Their faces were blank and emotionless, ignorant of the girl's pleas. They continued walking, continued their lives as everything was normal.
"Can anyone see me? Hello?"
The desperation in her voice grew, as she was ignored. She shoved, pulled, did everything to stand out… but it was all in vain. Not a single person paid heed to her cries of distress.
"Please! C-can anyone hear me… please…"
Her voice became smaller and smaller. The sound of the busy crowd drowned out her diminishing voice. The air became thick, choking her lungs. Gasping for oxygen, fear pooled within her, numbing her muscles, turning them limp and useless. The current grew stronger, almost as if they can sense her dread and despair. Tears filled with pain, anguish, and sorrow fell to the rough ground. Sobs wracked the girl's body, as the grief within her burst out, leaving her hollow and empty.
No one heard her…
She couldn't be seen…
Almost as no one knew she existed…
All alone and forgotten…
Mai woke up, her heart beating erratically as the images haunted her mind. Beads of sweat trickled down her face like a stream flowing down a mountain. Strands of hair clung to her face. Her hands clutched the blankets in a tight grip, her knuckles turning white. The room was under a blanket of darkness, as only the faint light of the night stars trickled through the cracks within the curtains. Using the faint illumination of the stars, her eyes slowly adjusted to the darkness, as the rough silhouettes of her wardrobe and mirror formed. She was breathing rapidly, and her muscles were tense. Her throat felt constricted, dry, and sore.
Water….she needed water.
Slowly pushing the heavy blanket off her, Mai slowly climbed out of her bed and headed towards the kitchen. The living room was dark, with small rays of moonlight illuminating her way as she headed towards the kitchen table. Pouring a glass of water, she drank heartily, as the cool liquid flowed down her throat, easing the tightness present there. A sigh left her lips, and Mai could finally feel herself relax, the tension evaporating from her muscles. Placing the glass gently back, she moved towards the couch and sat down. Gently, she massaged her forehead, soothing the dull ache.
"Mai-san, are you okay?"
"I'm fine Sakuta? Why do you ask?"
"You look like you haven't slept well."
"What makes you think that?"
"Your eyes look like mine"
"Oh, are you saying that I've become emotionless Sakuta~"
"Mai-san, you're stepping on my foot"
"Could you pinch me?"
A fond smile broke out on Mai's face, as she remembered how concerned Sakuta was about her. Even though he acts perverted, his compassion and kindness for people he holds dear knows no bounds. Mai felt conflicted. Hiding her nightmares from him, but she couldn't bear to see him hurt himself, all because she was unable to deal with her own problems. Sakuta had given her everything, and here she was, deceiving him.
The guilt of being untruthful to Sakuta swelled up within her, and ate her from the inside. Fear flooded her mind, sumberging her in self-doubt. She couldn't form thoughts, it's as if her brain was hijacked. She could only watch helplessly as a barrage of questions assaulted her, making her feel disgusted towards how pathetic she was.
Why am I weak?
Why am I fragile?
Why am I ...so useless?
Sakuta had to come and solve her problems. He had to come and support her. And when he needed help...she neglected him and here she was again...lying to Sakuta.
Would he be angry?
Would he leave her?
Would he...forget her?
The faint light faded, as Mai was entrenched in darkness. The soft pit-pat of tears broke the phantom silence. Soft, warm tears gushed out of Mai's face, staining her face. Timid sniffles emanated from her as she pulled her knees towards her and held them tight. She felt so...small and weak. She was a helpless little girl made out of glass. Fragile and easily broken.
Mai closed her weary and teary eyes, as she drifted off to a restless sleep.
The morning sun was shining brightly. Fluffy, white clouds dotted the blue sky, lazily drifting across the large cerulean expanse. Cheerful chirping of birds filled the air, as people busily walked down the streets, heading to work while students headed to the station, making their way to Minegahara High School.
Sakuta was waiting in front of Mai's apartment, a blank and sleepy look on his face but his eyes were filled with concern. Mai was always waiting in front of his apartment, with an impatient expression on her face and folded arms. It made him ecstatic that Mai-san would wait for him. That's why it was quite unusual for her not to be present and waiting for him. What bothered him even more was that Mai was being tardy… She was never tardy.
'Did she over-sleep? Mai-san did look tired and sleep deprived for the past few days. I hope she's okay'
Time passed by, but Mai was yet to appear. Sakuta's patience thinned as he grew more distressed about Mai's well being. This was not like her at all. It was already too late to head to school, and Sakuta was now sure that something was very wrong.
A cold realization struck him.
'What if she...the Puberty Syndrome...But I fixed it! I-I...N-no Mai-San!'
Everything stilled at that very moment as Sakuta's face morphed into a terrified expression. The air became tense and heavy, as Sakuta tuned everything out. His mind was flooded with fear and Mai's safety was the only thing he was thinking about at the moment. The lazy posture he had melted away as he exploded forwards, heading towards the entrance of the loud smack of Sakuta's school bag on the ground echoed and faded away as he surged forward. His steps were frantic, as he sprinted into the apartment complex, bypassing the lift, and climbed up the stairs. Tightly gripping the railing, he skipped steps, increasing his pace. A light sheen of sweat was visible on his forehead, as he gradually became out of breath. His leg muscles were aching and he was exhausted. Perspiration soaked his shirt, and the fabric clung tightly to him. It was getting harder to breathe and move.
'I-I can't stop...Not now...I need to keep going. I need to make sure that Mai-san is okay! She needs to be okay!'
With pure determination and will power, Sakuta ignored the growing pain in his legs and marched ahead. He had to make sure Mai was okay and safe. That was his only goal.
Finally, Sakuta was in front of Mai's door and without any hesitation, he started knocking loudly on the door.
"Mai-san! Are you in there? Mai-san! Please open the door!"
Only silence answered Sakuta.
'This isn't good. She can't…'
"Mai-san! Please answer me! If you don't, I'll kick the door open"
Nothing. No answer came from inside. Sakuta started fearing the worst.
Steeling himself, he took a few steps back. Crouching slightly, a glint of fierce determination in his eyes, Sakuta leaped forward and in one swift motion, swung his leg upwards and his foot slammed right below the door handle. The door rattled violently under impact but held steadfast. Moving back again, Sakuta rushed forward, striking the door in the same place. The door lurched inwards, groaning slightly. It was still holding steady, but it was threatening to cave in to the vicious assault.
'Third time's the charm'
Screaming in frustration, Sakuta slammed into the door with his shoulder, and a resounding crack reverberated through the entire corridor, as the door gave away to the sheer force. Sakuta stumbled into the house before regaining his footing. A blast of cold air hit him, making him shiver slightly.
'Why is it so cold?'
He could hardly make anything out in the thick veil of darkness. Only the faint glow of sunlight was illuminating the room, but most of it was blocked by the curtains. A stale and pungent smell was present in the room, making Sakuta crinkle his nose in disgust.
"Mai-san are you here?!'
Sakuta headed into Mai's room, wrenching the door open, he saw her empty bed. The blanket was sprawled across the entire bed, and the sheets were crumpled in places. Definitely signs that Mai had slept in her bed.
'Then where is she?'
Returning back to the living room, he kept searching for any hint of Mai. His heart was thundering against his rib-cage. With every passing moment, fear coiled within him. His eyes darted around frantically, desperately searching for some kind of hint that she was still here. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a silhouette on the couch. It was hard to notice in the darkness. It was rhythmically moving in place. Up and down. Almost as if it was breathing.
Moving towards the window, Sakuta slid open the curtains and sunlight rushed in, bathing the living room in light. The mysterious silhouette was no other than Mai, peacefully asleep on the couch. She was lying in a fetal position and soft snores were emanating from her. A peaceful expression on her face.
Relief flooded Sakuta as he sighed deeply. The tension he had in him melted away and all the fear and terror dissipated from his mind. He walked forward slowly and crouched onto his knees. Reaching out, he caressed Mai's cheek softly, her skin slightly cold to the touch. A fond smile broke out on his face as she unconsciously leaned into the touch.
"Let's take you to bed Mai-san"
Mai woke up to an aromatic fragrance coming from the direction of her kitchen. A yawn left her lips as she stretched her arms, regaining some feeling in her dormant and sleepy muscles. She noticed a warm, comfortable feeling wrapped around her. It was her blanket. Looking around, she realized she was back in her room. Before she could figure out how, the heavenly scent assaulted Mai's nostrils, as her stomach growled in hunger. A small hint of a drool was visible on the corner of her lips as she slowly got up from her bed and followed the scent. Distinct sounds of cooking came from the kitchen, piquing her interest. Entering the kitchen, her eyes widened and gaped open in surprise. Standing there, with a kitchen apron tied around, stood Sakuta. His eyebrows were furrowed in concentration as he carefully flipped the delicate sides of an omelette.
"Sakuta? What are you doing here?"
Hearing her voice, Sakuta immediately snapped to her while forgetting about the omelet in the pan. Setting it aside, Sakuta's face stretched into a cheeky smile and a mischievous glint appeared in his eyes.
"How was your beauty sleep Mai-san?"
"Sakuta, enough games. What are you doing in my house? Aren't we supposed to get ready and head for school?"
"You slept through the morning, it's 12 am right now"
"Maybe shower first Mai-san, and then you can have breakfast. We can talk while eating"
"Best finish showering before I finish cooking, or else I'll be standing outside the bathroom listening to you bathe"
"Sakuta! You idiot!"
The omelet melted as flavours exploded within Mai's mouth. A satisfied expression on her face, she continued to devour the food to satisfy her, seemingly, insatiable hunger. Sakuta watched her from the opposite side of the table, a languid smirk on his face as he patiently waited for her to finish eating her meal.
"Ahhh, that was delicious! Thank you Sakuta"
"Hmm...Do I get a reward for being a good boyfriend?"
"What? I cooked you breakfast and I cleaned your living room. Right now, I'm the embodiment of an ideal boyfriend Mai-san."
"A good or ideal boyfriend doesn't break down the front door of his girlfriend's house and enter without permission."
"Well, an ideal girlfriend wouldn't keep her boyfriend waiting"
"Oh? And an ideal boyfriend should keep his girlfriend waiting?"
"Yes, patience is a desirable quality. Especially in a girlfriend or...a wife"
Fast as lightning, Mai's hand shot and latched onto Sakuta's cheek. Grabbing the skin, she twisted it and held it in place while a sharp yelp came from him. Releasing her tight grip, she sat back while Sakuta rubbed the sore spot on his cheek, trying to soothe the ache. He looked hurt on the outside, but he was dancing with joy inside.
"Mai-san, you pinched me harder than usual"
"You said you wanted a reward for being a good boyfriend. I gave you one"
"Heh. Thank you for the reward Mai-san."
"So...Mai-san, Why weren't you ready for school this morning?"
Mai's slight pout disappeared completely as she avoided any eye contact with Sakuta. She clenched her knuckles tightly. Her entire body was rigid with tension. Biting her lip in frustration, she frantically thought of an excuse.
'I can't hide anything from him now...I'll tell him about my sleep problems, nothing more. I have to solve my own problems, relying on Sakuta always is not an option'
"I just had a rough night Sakuta. Nothing to worry about."
Her voice was curt and void of any emotion. Sakuta was unnerved by her tone, and how she was looking away.
'Something isn't right here'
"Mai-san, please...don't hide anything from me."
Sakuta's voice was tender and gentle. It was filled with concern as well as sympathy. Hearing him... all thoughts of hiding her pain and fear...was gone. She couldn't hide any more. She...needed him.
"Sakuta...remember what I told you when we were staying at that hotel."
"When we shared a bed while trying to cure you of your Puberty Syndrome?"
"Yes...What would you do now, if I started trembling, crying and saying that I was afraid of disappearing?"
Her voice was small, timid and barely audible. Mai finally looked into Sakuta's eyes. Fear and terror was clearly seen in her purple eyes and they were glistening slightly, tears threatening to fall out. Sakuta was surprised. He had never seen Mai look so...vulnerable.
'Mai-san…How could I not notice that you were hurting...that you needed me'
Getting up, he went around the dining table and sat next to Mai. Gently putting an arm behind her back, and soothingly rubbing it.
"It's okay Mai-san...I'm here. I will never forget you"
Tears trickled out of Mai's eyes upon hearing Sakuta reassuring her. She buried her face into his chest, the warmth comforting her as she cried out. Weeks of despair, pain and guilt burst out of her. Sakuta held her, comforting her as sobs wracked her entire body.
"S-Sakuta, I'm afraid of disappearing...it keeps me up at night. What if I wake up the next morning...and everybody forgets me. What if...you forget me?"
'She's afraid of me forgetting about her...about forgetting us'
"Mai-san...I will never, absolutely never, forget about you because I love you so much. The day I met you in the library, the moment I saw you dressed as a bunny girl, I knew I was connected to you. Only I could see you when no one else was able to, and that is something special only we have. After you agreed to become my girlfriend, I was so happy."
Grasping both of her shoulders, Sakuta brought Mai out of the embrace they shared and looked her straight in the eyes. Surprise was evident in her eyes.
"What we have, this relationship, is special. Your troubles are mine, my troubles are yours. Your love keeps me going and my love keeps you anchored. Mai-san, I love you and I will always be here for you, never forget that."
Mai hugged Sakuta, pouring all her feelings into it. Sakuta relaxed into the loving embrace and both of them remained like that. Everything was perfect.
"Thank you Sakuta, thank you for reminding me."
"Your welcome Mai-san. Now, I'm staying with you for the rest of the day and the night. You need to rest."
A laugh left Mai's lips as she snuggled deeper into Sakuta.
"You do that Sakuta, you do that"
Mai slept peacefully that night, Sakuta's arms entwined around her body.
The nightmares never came.