"Attention everyone!" Alice announced on the furthest side of the banquet table. "I would like to thank all of you for coming here today. We are honored to be able to serve all of you in this special night at the Yotsuba Estate." The opening speech was followed by a round of applause from all of the participants.
The meeting itself wasn't your typical formal gathering; influenced by Mana, the student council president known for setting up very creative and fun activities at school, the entire hallway where the meeting took place was given a completely new process of refurbishment. The ceiling was decorated with hanging ornaments shaped like the planets in the Solar System and the walls were accessorized with star-shaped glow-in-the-dark stickers. Not only that, the food was also specialized into certain different cosmic shapes. For example, the steaks were cut into star shapes and all the soup menus were specially seasoned so that the spices resemble miniature galaxies.
Rikka, as you can probably tell, was the most excited for this meeting. Immediately after she saw the first guest, she ran at about a million miles per hour to him and started babbling about how much she admired and truly appreciated their contributions to modern science. He however, was a foreigner which meant that he was unable to decipher Rikka's compliments. Despite this, he gave her a friendly smile, causing her to fangirl so hard that even Mana was embarrassed for her.
"Who's overexcited now?" Mana thought to herself in an amusing way.
After a few squeals, which nearly resulted with some broken windows, Rikka whipped up her thick notebook in order to begin her interview. To save him the agony of Rikka's supposed gibberish, Alice pulled her back into her seat and told her that it would be best to ask them questions after the meeting to which she sulkily agreed.
On the main U-shaped table, Alice sat right on the vertex, sandwiched between all of her friends with Aguri and Rikka on her left, and Mana and Makoto on her right. The mascots meanwhile, had changed into their human forms and were assisting Sebastian in serving their guests while dressed as tiny astronauts (also Mana's idea). Ai-chan wanted to help as well, but as you might have guessed, the sight of a flying magical baby would definitely cause quite a bit of attention so the group sent the grumpy infant upstairs in Alice's room for her to sleep. Dabyi did not join the others however; she was given the sole duty to greet and assist the guests as they arrived at the front door. Nevertheless, she did not miss out on the fun as her friends also persuaded her to wear a lavender shaded spacesuit to which she reluctantly agreed and well… let's just say it was quite amusing for the highly respected space scientists to be greeted by a grown woman, who normally possesses a sincere demeanor, while dressed in such a childish outfit.
There were a total of 13 executives from the Yotsuba Corporation, to which all of them were in charge of different aspects of their space division. There were also 7 visitors from NASA and 2 from SpaceX. Each organization had two interpreters each as all of the visitors were foreigners and could speak little to no Japanese at all.
After a while, the mascots finally served the girls' meals, according to their respective partners. Mana ordered some mashed potatoes, cratered and circular shaped like the moon, followed by some salad. Rikka's dish mostly consisted of veggies- as you would expect from a future doctor- dressed with salt and pepper which kind of mimicked twinkling stars. Alice ordered a small bowl of cream of Milky Way mushroom soup and a cup of chamomile tea. Makoto's main course was steak with gravy poured on in a crescent shape and Aguri got, well a mixture of... what appears to be broccoli and mashed potatoes dipped in chocolate sauce and white, star-shaped sprinkles. She didn't order that of course but as she didn't have an actual mascot partner, the three miniature waiters didn't want her to feel left out. Being the thoughtful friends that they are, they improvised a 'very' special dish made particularly for their special someone in hoping to show off their appreciation to which the recipient unenthusiastically accepted. The bizarre menu nevertheless, ended up being unexpectedly scrumptious; the wild combinations of flavor in her mouth just so happened to perfectly satisfy her eccentric taste buds.
"Are you sure the boy was glowing?" Rikka asked Aguri as they were eating.
"Yes! I could swear it!" Aguri cried out between bites. "He definitely had some kind of magical powers. I mean, didn't you girls notice the sky getting darker when I was gone?"
"Oh ehehe, we were distracted by this bucket stuck on my head," Mana shamefully admitted while pointing upwards to her new metal friend before letting out a mild giggle.
Aguri obviously wasn't amused. "You're THIS close from getting your Lovead confiscated again!" she snapped.
"Aguri-chan, you meanie…" Mana whined.
Before she could get a reply however, a middle-aged man with a walking-cane stood up to speak. His name was Sato Akuma. He was sitting right next to Mana, who took an interest in him as he had spotted her with her metal bucket stuck on her head when she first entered the hallway, to which he reacted by laughing seemingly in a friendly manner and jokingly called her a 'tin-girl' –referencing The Wizard Of Oz.
"He's the head of the astronomy branch," Alice explained, "He is also the main person responsible for the partnerships of both NASA and SpaceX with the Yotsuba Corporation. My father met him while studying at The University of Tokyo. They've become very good friends back then, although they've lost touch nowadays.
"He seems nice," Mana replied. Alice flashed a friendly smile back.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen," Akuma began, "I believe we ought to begin the discussion of our research about this eccentric phenomenon."
"I believe we should!" David Rogers, an astrophysicist from NASA, agreed, with his interpreter translating his words.
Alice then spoke up, "Our satellite has been recording these results for about 2 weeks now. I'm assuming you've gathered additional research about this peculiar incident. Would any of you like to share them with us?"
"Well, the Hubble Space Telescope has also recorded these findings, albeit a few hours later than yours due to its orbit being slower than your satellite," Alan Welles, an astronomer also from NASA, added. "We've observe little to no change of Polaris' magnetic field so we've eliminated the possibility of it caused by its flare activity. It is also very unlikely that Polaris is close to its fading point due to its age and size. The thing is, as you've mentioned, the star flickers in an indecipherable pattern. From what we've observed so far, I predict that it must be due to some kind of light disruption between the star and our region somehow in deep space."
"That's a very interesting assumption!" Alice responded. "Is there any new evidence or at least any new assumptions of the star's flickering cycle?"
"All we could figure out is that in one cycle, it would twinkle at 3 short intervals, then 3 long ones and then 3 short ones again. There's an approximate 2 second delay before the cycle continues again."
"Any predictions Mr. Welles?"
"Well… at first I thought that it might be due to the star's shrinking core since Polaris is currently a red supergiant but it certainly does not explain its orderly twinkling phases."
"Wait just a minute Alan," David cut in, "Miss Yotsuba, I apologize for going off topic but we've also noticed something else about Polaris. Would you mind if we discuss this for now?"
"Not at all Mr. Rogers, go right ahead!"
David then continued, "Several days ago, our scientists have also reported radio activity from Polaris."
"Oh yes, you're right!"
"But all stars emit radio waves Mr. Rogers," Akuma explained.
"Yes, but they are relatively weak compared to other astronomical entities. But here's the thing: as I've mentioned before, Polaris' magnetic fields have little to no difference at all. Which means that its emitted said waves should be close to unnoticeable. I think you will be surprised once you've seen our data."
"Would you like us to show everyone your research?" Alice asked them.
David nodded. Alice then picked up a remote control which was kept in a drawer under the table where she was sitting. She pressed a button and all of a sudden, a glass platform, shaped like an elongated semi-circle spanning right across the inside of the U-shaped table, started to rise. It then stopped when it reached the same level as the table. She then pressed another button. To the other girls' astonishment, a 3-D hologram of a twinkling star emerged.
"This is Polaris. As you can see, it is flickering in that same pattern. Now watch carefully."
After a short time, they noticed slivers of waves emerging from the star in all directions. The waves all have constant amplitudes but different wavelengths. After a while, these emitted waves almost completely obscured the star itself from view.
"These waves are normally invisible to the human eye. This is a projection of how these electromagnetic waves would be emitted. Notice how uniform they are."
"Check out the size of these!" Alan added. These amplitudes are approximate to the size of the star itself! And keep in mind, these are just radio waves! You can tell by their exceptionally long wavelengths."
"Alice…" Rikka began. "Since when did you get a hologramic table?"
"Oh our corporation is also partnered with the 'HOlo' company, an organization known for producing and evolving 3-D graphics. They've sent this to us as a gift," Alice answered cheerfully.
"We've received your report a while ago," Walter Mills, a cosmologist from SpaceX, informed. "Due to this, we've also did some investigating of our own. They were emitting these waves as you said, but here's the strange bit: we've studied the technical structure of these waves and to our surprise, we've discovered that they seem to be transmitting… sound."
"Sound?" Alice asked.
"Yes Miss Yotsuba, these waves perfectly mimic certain tone pitches. The frequencies are vivid as well. We've recorded these different pitches and so far, from the frequencies transmitted, we've measured… how many levels again Ed?"
"32 sir," Ed Bailey, Walter's assistant, answered.
"Yes, 32 different levels. And only 32. Polaris doesn't release any other pitches."
"Are you serious?!" Akuma exclaimed.
"Yes, Mr. Sato. To our amazement, the waves are very reminiscent to FM radio waves, as the amplitudes do not change at all. We have it all recorded on a graph."
"Do you have any explanations of this?" Akuma asked.
"No sir. Nothing like this has ever happened before."
"Is there any correlation between the star's flickering and the pitches you've recorded?" Alice asked.
"We've recognized close to null Miss Yotsuba."
Then, unexpectedly, Mana spoke up.
"Alice-chan, is it ok if I say something?" the eagerly girl asked her friend.
"Of course, Mana-san!"
"Well…" she began, "One of my friends told me that she noticed something just this afternoon…"
"Young lady, why do you have that bucket on your head?"
"Uhh… never mind that… ehehe," she giggled in embarrassment. "A-Aguri-chan, would you like to tell them what you saw?"
Aguri then stood up to speak. She was reluctant however to tell them about the boy as there is a chance that his life could be negatively affected if anyone else found out about his powers.
"At almost noon, I noticed that the sky got darker for about a few minutes. Because of that, I could see the North Star flickering. Didn't any of you notice the dim sky this afternoon?"
"Oh… I thought I noticed that it was darker than usual," Walter replied. "I was writing my thesis of what we've found out and…
"What I'm trying to say is," she interrupted, "I don't think this is simply a natural phenomenon. I believe that somehow, something is actually controlling the star. Could it be …" -she thought of the boy- "that some particular being is trying to send… well something to us?"
"What, like a message?" Rikka asked.
"Young lady," Akuma called out, "I appreciate your willingness to participate in our discussion but…"
"Oh but this could very well be true Mr. Sato!" Alan chimed in. "I mean, our data is too flawless to be able to conclude that it is simply a result of the universe playing dice. Normally, there would a few outliers in our recordings that is a few results don't directly follow their general trends but there are none in this case; so there is a high possibility that it is deliberately caused by some kind of… outside factor."
"And why else could there be such clear radio pitches," Rikka added.
"Wait, are you saying that these blinking and radio frequency patterns… are meant to resemble words?" Mana asked.
"I'm not sure," She thought of the boy again and his probable desire for the North Star's attention. "But it is very likely. The code might not even be for us; we might just so happen to accidently receive it. But I've noticed it due to the sky dimming so maybe the transmitter desires our attention."
"Has a darker sky like this ever happened before?" Mana asked the scientists.
"It's hard to measure during this time since the nights are usually longer but so far, since we've noticed Polaris flickering, we haven't recorded any such events." Alan replied.
"But it happened for only about 5 minutes, this isn't a normal occurrence. This sort of thing should stand out."
"Yes you're right but even if it has happened before, we don't know if it is even linked to Polaris, let alone the pitches and flickering cycles," another NASA scientist, Jacob Stevens, replied. "It could all just be a big coincidence."
"You're right," Akuma agreed. "And even if it is true, why would this 'creature' use this star of all other reliable wave sources? Besides, Polaris' twinkling pattern and its transmitted waves are completely out of sync. It's close to impossible that there would be any connection."
"Now, now…" David called out to everyone. "Let's not make any rash decisions. Albeit a fascinating suggestion, Miss Aguri's statement is just a theory for now. Although highly probable, we are required to undergo further research in order to prove this."
Then unexpectedly, Makoto, who was silent this whole meeting, asked the girls if she could leave early.
"I just remembered, there's a song that I'm writing and this talk about stars has given me a wonderful idea that I wanted to add to it," she explained.
Alice smiled warmly at her friend, "Sure Makoto-san! See you tomorrow!"
"Bye bye!" the other girls waved at her.
As she walked out through the main entrance, Dabyi spotted her. Makoto however, told her to stay where she was for now.
I just need some personal time to focus," she said.
Dabyi, being Makoto's lifelong companion, noticed in Makoto's eyes that something was troubling her; there was a sense of sadness in her as well as a feeling of overwhelming confusion. Without Makoto noticing, she changed back into her mascot form and silently followed her outside.
After serving all the meals, the mascots decided to take a little break. They were resting right at the adjacent room at the back of the dining area, close to where the girls were sitting while deliberately leaving the door open. Seeming trying to outdo the 'adult' discussions in the dining room, they improvised by pretending to be real space kids on a distant planet in an attempt to make these high-regarded scientists jealous.
"Raquel to Sharuru, Raquel to Sharuru, do you read me, over-quel?" Raquel spoke while pretending to use his hand as a small radio near his mouth.
"Sharuru to Raquel, I read you-sharu," she replied while doing the same thing.
"No, no! You've got to say 'over' when you've finished your message-quel!"
"Oh sorry! I read you 'over'-sharu." Her comment was met with a round of the giggles from all three of them.
Their conversation however didn't as much as evoke a single sliver of envy to their audience. Walter Mills actually noticed them but ended up smiling and laughing comically at the ridiculous and adorable role play in front of him.
"I wish I was that young again..." Walter thought to himself.
Instead of feeling discouraged, the mascots smiled back at him and continued their game of make believe to satisfy him. After a while though, he was required to speak and soon lost focus of the three miniature astronauts.
There was a huge window in their room, right next to the back door. Due to this, they were able to see the night sky from where they were.
"Lance to Raquel, it's a beautiful night don't you think, over-lance?"
"Raquel to Lance, I agree, over-quel."
Just then, they noticed the North Star outside.
"Lance to Sharuru, strange activity is going on outside, over-lance."
"Sharuru to Lance, indeed, over-sharu."
"Raquel to Sharuru, permission to investigate, over-quel."
"Sharuru to Raquel, granted, over-sharu.
The group then walked towards the window and stared outside at the freezing darkness of night.
"Raquel to Sharuru, flickering confirmed, over-quel."
But Sharuru didn't respond; her head was tilted up and her eyes were locked onto the star. The star's light was reflected of her eyeballs, making her pupils appear to glimmer in perfect sync with it, seemingly as if the star itself was trying to speak with her.
"It is beautiful isn't it-sharu…"
"Oh, we're not doing the space-talky anymore-lance?"
Pretty soon, the three friends were huddling up towards each other, with Sharuru in the center and the two boys on both sides as they stared at the dazzling cosmos together. It's a funny trait of individuals that one would feel comforted if one is in a soothing environment of positive contrast. For instance: one would feel relaxed laying on a sunny beach drinking a cool glass of coconut juice. It is the same with these mascots: they are currently sitting side-to-side of one another in a cozy heated room while at the same time, staring outside at the cold but magical sky outside. The warm feeling was enhanced even further by knowing that they are enjoying their time together with their closest friends.
"I'm so glad I've met you guys-sharu…"
"Same here!" her friends agreed in unison.
"I don't know what I would do without you two and the girls-lance."
"Hey, remember that time in the Trump kingdom when we covered ourselves in snow-sharu?"
"Yeah, it was in the evening of Christmas Eve when we were playing hide-and-seek and Dabyi couldn't find us. We looked like little snowmen-quel hehe." He remembered his snow sculpture from earlier today. "I looked just like that snow figure you made of me-quel."
"And then Dabyi saw me and put a carrot on my nose-sharu. I couldn't help myself so I wriggled it into my mouth and ate it."
"She heard you chewing and then turned to look at you, only to find that the carrot was missing-lance."
"She thought that you were a ghost-quel!" exclaimed Raquel as he started laughing.
"Ehehehe, she actually screamed-sharu! We tried to tell her that it was just us but then she thought that the 'ghost' had taken us-sharu."
"She ran away and we tried to follow her but we then realized that we were stuck-lance!"
"We couldn't break free from the snow-quel. And we were stuck there the entire night! Surprisingly though, the snow around our bodies is a good heat trapper, so I still felt quite comfy-quel!"
The three friends then finally broke into a massive heap of laughter. After they stopped, Sharuru finally spoke again but with a calming tone.
"But… it was such a wonderful night-sharu…Do you remember Santa?"
"I was sure I saw him-lance!"
"We did-quel! I could swear I could see Santa's silhouette while he was riding on his sleigh with his reindeer in the starry sky, similar to tonight-quel."
"He actually dropped 3 presents down right in front of each of us-lance! And he wrapped mine with wrapping paper dotted with little teddy bears-lance!"
"How does he do it-quel?"
Sharuru smiled. "I guess some people here are capable of magic after all-sharu."
"But then the next morning, we were surrounded by the royal guards, with Dabyi by their sides-quel."
"Some of the snow on our bodies melted in the morning and… you should see the look on Dabyi's face-lance!"
"And we got told off by the princess while holding our new presents-quel!" Raquel concluded before the group was taken over by another round of the giggles.
"Hahaha, but to think, because of our mini accident, we got to see the real life Santa-sharu. It's so relieving seeing that Santa doesn't only visit the human world. I actually cried of joy that night-sharu."
"And it's all because of your carrot addiction-quel." Raquel said while looking at the pink bunny girl.
"Hey-sharu!" she exclaimed.
This resulted with some playful shoving, to show both affection and mild annoyance between the three towards each other.
"Despite your flaws, we still love you-quel."
"And you're the one talking-sharu! What about that time you've dropped a dictionary on my head, or when Lance doodled all over your notebooks-sharu?"
"Lance, you naughty boy-quel!" Raquel joked while shoving Lance again.
"Hey, stop it-lance!" he replied amusingly while doing the same.
"Hehe, I love you guys too-sharu!" Sharuru said while joining her friends in their mini-wrestling. This went on for a while before it was interrupted by Sebastian calling out for Lance.
"Oh excuse me Lance-san could you please take this order to Sato-san?"
"Try to make haste. This order was supposed to arrive about a half hour ago. I assume that Sato-san will not be pleased."
"Don't worry-lance!" he called out as Sebastian returned to the kitchen.
As he was about to leave with the tray however, Raquel called out to them.
"Hey guys, there's something outside-quel!" he was looking right outside the back window again and noticed a very strange glowing figure gripping the back gate of the mansion. His friends all rushed over to look at the mysterious entity.
"What is it-sharu?"
"I don't know-quel."
"We should warn the girls! It looks scary-lance!"
"Wait just a minute, I want to know exactly what it is first-sharu." The little pink maiden then walked towards the back door and opened it.
"What are you doing Sharuru-quel?!" Raquel anxiously called out to her.
"It's ok, I just want to take a closer look-sharu."
She then made a few reluctant steps outside, fearing for her life but unable to break free from her curiosity each time she did so. Sweat was dripping down her neck, despite it being under -10 degrees outside, both her hands and her voice were quivering in fear. Her heart was beating at such a fast pace at this point. In spite of this, time appeared to move much slower for her; the adrenaline in her body was too much. To her, her heart seemed to beat perfectly in sync with each of her footsteps, a heavy burden to her excited state. Her eyes were locked to her feet as she could not bear to look up at the frightening entity. After what seemed like forever, she finally stopped at the lowermost stair of the back doorstep. From there, Sharuru finally raised her head up, creating a shared gaze between the pink-haired girl and the mysterious figure; a shared gaze of confusion and fear but also of excitement and fascination.
"It…it's a boy-sharu…"
"Is he an alien-lance?"
"I don't know-sharu."
"What is he doing-quel?"
The young lad's sparkling aquamarine eyes at this point, seemed to reflect perfectly off Sharuru's bright magenta orbs and vice versa. It's as if he desired to share his bright warm ambience of his body to her and that she wanted to use her bubbly personality to evoke a happy feeling to cleanse him of his constant nervousness. By then, all of Sharuru's and her friends' fears vanished and was replaced with a desire to befriend this strange but dazzling entity.
Just then, Akuma called out to them.
"Is my order ready yet?!"
But the mascots were too absorbed by their new buddy to pay any attention to the impatient man. Soon, they simultaneously made their way to him. As they reached him, Sharuru spoke first.
"Hi! I'm Sharuru! What's your name-sharu?"
The glowing child did not answer.
"My name is Lance! It's very nice to meet you-lance!"
Still, not a sound.
"Uh… my name is Raquel. Oh, sorry about the helmets, hehe. We were pretending to be astronauts-quel."
Again, no response.
"Maybe he can't speak Japanese-sharu."
"Ok, I'll try to speak to him in English. Uh… G-Gud maningu! Umm... Gudbi! Tanku-quel!"
"That was horrible-sharu…"
But then unexpectedly, the boy began to smile. This followed with an exceptionally long round of gentle giggling both out of amusement and of appreciation of his hosts' efforts to greet an befriend him. The mascots couldn't help but smile as well.
"Ты забавный," he spoke in the midst of his quiet laughter.
"What… what did he say-lance?"
He then slowly reached his left hand out. "P-Pavel," he whispered.
"Oh… is that his name-sharu?" Sharuru then reached her arm out and wholeheartedly shook his hand. "It's really nice to meet you-sharu!"
"What are you-quel?" Raquel wondered.
Pavel, unable to answer Raquel, turned his gaze to the tray of food that Lance was currently holding.
"Are you hungry?" Lance tried asking him.
He looked up shyly, seemingly as to say yes.
Lance handed the tray of food to him to which he anxiously accepted. He nodded his head to give his thanks. From there, Lance noticed that their new friend's glowing eyes each had a bright, marigold colored star shape inscribed in his now sparkling irises. His pupils were also shining; they perfectly mimicked the twinkling stars above him. Lance flashed a friendly smile back at his new friend in response to his gratitude.
Akuma, after seeing Lance giving away his order, immediately made his way outside towards the boy, shoving the mascots away in the process.
"What do you want?" He snapped at him in a stingy tone.
Pavel, unable to answer, put his head down and shook his head.
"You do know that's my food right?"
Pavel tilted his head up to look at the man. Akuma failed to see the exceptional gift to which the boy possesses. Instead, his vision is limited to his dirty face and his sorry-looking wardrobe. A smile then slowly crept up onto Akuma's face although it was a really nasty one. It was one that spelt out humiliation for the subject he was seeing. "Hey, kiddie, have you looked into a mirror before? You literally look like an animal from the sewers. You might as well get your dirty bag of bones outta here. This is a place for humans only."
"Hey, that's not nice-sharu!" the pink bunny girl exclaimed.
"You shut your pie hole!" Akuma snapped back, thereby hurting Sharuru's feelings. She backed away, unwillingly.
The young lad however, was unfazed by the insults. He then suddenly reached his arm out and grabbed the man's left hand.
"Wha- what are you doing?!" Akuma yelled.
The man attempted to free his hand but the boy kept grabbing on. The boy then closed his eyes and exhaled some air from his mouth. At this point, the mascots could notice their surroundings getting warmer, like a cozy new bonfire had just been created nearby. But just like that, the warm feeling vanished and the magic ended with the child jumping back in fear. It's as if he had noticed something horrible inside Akuma and it was too much for him to even comprehend.
"т-ты…" he whispered in terror.
"Are you stupid or something?!" the selfish man screamed before slapping the boy in the face to which he winced in pain. The mascots were in disbelief upon observing the unthinkable.
"Stop it! Leave him alone-quel!" Raquel cried out, to which Akuma ignored.
By then, something unexpected happened. The outdoor Christmas lights and the lights in Alice's mansion started to flicker, slowly at first then at a much more rapid pace. The people inside also noticed this and that the heat around them was becoming uneven, that is they felt both warm and cool streaks of air simultaneously, causing them to feel very anxious. Some of them were even panicking.
"What's happening-sharu?!" Sharuru screamed while gripping on Raquel's arm in fear.
"Everyone please calm down!" Mana called out to everyone in the room.
"What's going on Alice?!" Rikka asked unnervingly.
"I-I don't know…"
"Gosh, you make me sick just looking at you!" Akuma shouted. Then, out of pure hatred and disgust, he kicked the boy in the face. The boy dropped the platter and most of the food on it splattered on his ragged clothes and face. Physically and mentally hurt, he started to weep softly. His body also stopped glowing. Akuma continued to violently shove his foot right on his head. Then he did that again, and again. It was then that some of the room lights started to give in. The unsteady concentration of heat in the light bulbs caused a few of them to explode, with sparks of electricity actually raining down in the room although no one was harmed. The remaining lights meanwhile, were flickering so rapidly that it was certainly enough to give an epileptic a seizure. At that point, the room's temperature was decreasing considerably; frost was actually accumulating on the windows and the guests' wine glasses. People started to shiver in the cold as vapor accumulated from their mouths as a result of their unsteady breathing.
Finally, all the lights went out, resulting with a combination of agitated noises, forming one big terrifying scream. Most of them immediately made their way out the front doorway, practically trampling each other along the way as they made their way through the front exit in a desperate attempt to flee from this horrifying scene. The girls were scared out of their minds, especially Alice as all of this was happening inside her own mansion.
Akuma, being the ignorant jerk he is, didn't as much as wince at the terrifying scene behind him. Suddenly, he picked up his walking-cane and struck Pavel in the chest. The poor boy fell onto his back. As his spine hit the icy snow, the window in one of Alice's guest bedrooms gave way; the cold was too much for the glass to handle, thereby shattering it. Pieces of glass fell and landed very close to where Akuma was standing but at this point, the only thing he was aware of was his wrenched desire to rid himself of what he considered a filthy abomination that was currently in front of him.
From the sound of the shattered window, the girls in the dining room finally noticed the commotion going on behind them.
"Hey! That's the magical boy I saw earlier!" Aguri exclaimed.
"Is he the cause of this?!" Mana cried.
Aguri didn't respond. She was too disturbed upon realizing that the innocent child was getting harshly beaten by a supposedly highly-respected individual.
"Извините," the trembling child uttered out. Alice instantly recognized the language he spoke to be Russian as she had learnt the language when she went on a business trip to Moscow a few years ago with her family, to which she took some basic lessons of the language.
Akuma then hit him with his cane again. "So now you're talking, NOW you're talking! Then what do you not understand when I told you to go away huh?!" he shouted. "You're a disgrace to everyone around you!" He yelled while whipping his cane once more and attempted a fatal beating by striking him continuously in the stomach; Hit after hit, Pavel endured the searing pain in his mid-abdomen. He was now bracing himself in a fatal position while lying onto the snow below him.
By then, the mascots finally managed to recover from their fears. Raquel jumped onto the man's back, trying to hold him back in an attempt to stop him. Lance grabbed the man's cane and Sharuru ran to the front of the boy, spreading her arms to use herself as a body-shield for him. Not long after, the girls rushed to the scene. By then, any type of admiration that Mana initially had to that man instantly vanished. She roughly pushed the sadistic devil away from his victim while Alice was trying to comfort the young child. Seeing him getting struck in the gut, she gently opened a bit of Pavel's shirt and was horrified to see bruise marks scattered all over but atb the same time, thankful that he wasn't bleeding. She gently placed one of her hands on his head and held him tight with the other. "There, there, it's ok," Alice softly reassured, in Russian.
As she touched him, she felt a comforting feeling seemingly coming from the child's body and into her own. The feeling only lasted for a few seconds in reality but to her, it felt like minutes. Normally, a comforting feeling would always seem to linger for a shorter time period than it really does. This was an exception: it was a feeling so powerful and strong that it could last for a lifetime, similar to remembering a happy distant memory with a loved one from long ago.
It was then that the group noticed that the lights around them were gradually coming back on. Slowly but surely, Pavel's bruised and trembling body started to shine again but at a dimmer rate than before. The Christmas lights on the house behind them were starting to illuminate again as well, seeming to perfectly encircle Alice and Pavel like a beautiful cradle as they embraced. Finally, Pavel's eyes opened up to be exceptionally wide; the warmth was coming back to him and one could tell by the light returning to his irises and sparks which were reignited in his pupils. Their embrace however, didn't last long. Ashamed of the trouble he thought he had caused, the young child finally ran away into the pitch-black of night.
"Wait, come back!" Alice called out to him, "Please come back!"
"Yeah, get out of her you ragged pauper!" Akuma yelled in a shrilling tone. "Wait until your mother sees you now! Even she would throw you into a gutter!" And if that wasn't enough to satisfy this crazy man, he quickly made a snowball and threw it at the petrified child, but he missed.
Alice tried to chase after him but he was running so fast that she could not catch up. The fact that she wasn't wearing her winter clothes also didn't help with the case. Finally giving up on her pursuit, she stopped running and stared helplessly at the poor boy slowly disappearing in the distance. The girls could see her shoulders were shaking, as if she was about to cry but then, she came storming back to the gate, with her face full of rage. This frightened the girls as they had never seen her this angry before, not even during when she fought against Mana and Rikka's bullies when they were younger. She was insanely mad, so much so that her rosy cheeks were flashing hot-red and her eyes were getting really moist.
There was a long pause, she slowly made her way towards Akuma, clenching her fists while doing so. After an unnerving period of time, which seemed to be forever, she finally snapped.
"W-WHY DID YOU DO THAT?!" she yelled, her voice was harsh but shaky at the same time.
"Alice-san, with all due respect, we can't have trash like him spoiling the reputation of our whole co…"
Before he could finish, the hot-headed girl grabbed him by the front of the shirt. "HOW COULD YOU?! HOW COULD YOU?!..." she screamed over and over again.
The mascots were getting really scared at this point. Never in their entire lives have they ever seen someone so angry, let alone shout at such a deafening tone. Out of fear, they quickly braced themselves together into a nervous group hug.
Akuma then yelled back, "What?! I've rid this estate of that dirty piece of trash for you. You should be grateful!"
"Grateful?! YOU'VE BEATEN UP A CHILD!" her voice broke as she yelled out that last word.
"So what? What are you going to do? Call child support? He's probably an orphan, no one will care!"
That comment shocked her. It shocked her knowing that she was currently speaking to a man who couldn't care less about if an innocent boy was brutally harmed or even killed. To him, it was just one less mouth for the world to feed.
"Are you really that naive, thinking of 'helping' him?! He's as good as dead anyway! Were you really that spoiled and wasted in luxury to even think that piece of garbage is worth anything?!"
"What's going on over here?!" David Rogers, one of the few who remained after the unnerving incident alongside Alan Welles and Walter Mills, exclaimed as he and the other two walked up to them.
Alice then spoke in a quieter but still harsh tone "Everyone is worthy of kindness and life. No matter who we are or what we have, we are still humans and as humans, we each have the duty to help each other, particularly the ones like the boy who aren't half as lucky as we are."
Akuma didn't respond to her. It's as if he knew that she was right but didn't have the guts to admit it.
Alice then continued, "If you were him: a young, growing child who probably hasn't eaten in days and appeared to be all alone during, of all times, near the most magical time of the year, and you were brave enough to ask for help, only to be yelled at and chased away, HOW WOULD YOU FEEL?!" the firmness in her voice was starting to vanish. The girls could see that her lips were quivering.
As there isn't enough reasons to hate this horrible man, he started to chuckle.
"What fangled nonsense have you babbled into my ears?" he spoke while holding back his giggles. "A silly girl like you, who left her own family for what? These people?" he pointed at her friends, "I have heard so many dumb things in my life but this..." and he burst into huge piles of sadistic laughing.
Alice on the contrary, was crushed by this statement. No other combination of words has ever stabbed her heart as deeply as those. Her feelings of shame and guilt from last afternoon returned to her. Her hands started to shake and she started to whimper in pain.
"Mr. Sato!" David exclaimed upon realizing that Alice was hurt.
"At least that kid lost his parents! You just straight up abandoned them! After all they did to raise such an unworthy little girl who couldn't even run for a few meters. Congratulations! You've ruined your own life! You might as well jump off a building. No one will ever bother for you after what you've done!"
She could bear to hear no more. Tears were starting to well up in her glossy golden eyes and she couldn't even look up straight anymore as she faced the floor and noticed teardrops falling on the snow-covered pavement.
"Oh you're weeping now?! Gosh look at you! You just seemed like such a high-class person a few minutes ago. I can't believe I used to respect you!"
Then, Mana stood up for her friend.
"We are her family! We love her and we will do anything for her!"
"That's right-quel!" Raquel added. "As Alice-san said, blood does not make a family-quel!"
"You can hurt her over our dead bodies-lance!" Lance shouted, although he immediately winced upon realizing how harsh his comment was.
Despite her friends support, Alice stayed silent. Her feelings were so damaged at this point that she couldn't bring herself to speak. After a few unsteady minutes however, Alice was able to bring herself to utter out one sentence.
"Th-the Yotsuba Corporation no longer requires your services," she said coldly.
This was her way to say that a person was fired, which is shocking since she is known to be very forgiving to her employees.
"Wha- you can't do that!"
"I just did. Please leave at once."
"All right fine! You've just diminished your precious company's reputation. Don't come begging on my doorstep when you idiots get brok…"
"All right, that's it Mr. Sato, get out of here!" Walter yelled. "You've made Miss Yotsuba upset! Get out!"
Alan grabbed the fired man by the arms and roughly dragged him out the back entrance, slamming the gate behind him after he finished.
"All of you pathetic people are finished without me, FINISHED!" Akuma yelled to the scientists as he was dragged out, although since they didn't understand Japanese, his words did little to no damage at all.
The group however, didn't have the time to hold any grudges to that horrible demon as their dear friend looked to be on the verge of crying.
"Alice…" Lance tried to comfort her, "Its ok-lance…."
"No… no…" Alice attempted to speak but couldn't get her words out. She was now covering her face with both of her hands in an attempt to hide her sadness but they were unable to conceal the sounds of her sniffles and her tears which were dripping right between her fingers.
"Miss Yotsuba… it's all right," David ensured as he handed her a tissue. "We've kicked him out; he's gone now. And you needn't worry, our partnership will not be affected."
Alice didn't respond. She didn't even accept the piece of tissue.
"Alice, you don't need him," Mana gently reassured while patting her on the back, "We'll show him that this corporation will keep moving forward together! And you have Rikka-chan, who…"
"I-it's not that…*sniff* I-I… just need… Mana, please look after the remaining guests for me. I-I *sniff* really need *sniff* to call it a day..."
She shook her head no. Still facepalming, she quickly made her way upstairs to her room.
"M'lady…" Sebastian called out while attempting to follow her.
Alice didn't respond. She entered her room and locked the door before her beloved butler could reach her. From there, Sebastian could hear her breathing heavily in pain as well as her heavy and painful sobbing.
"Oh M'lady…" Sebastian whispered as he stared helplessly at Alice's door.