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A soft humming gradually fills my ears and the room evaporates around me. Another blinding light.
Still on my knees, I'm now... uh, outside? I seem to still be at Eientei, but I'm now on what looks to be a deck. Night has arrived, and the air has a nice, warm feel to it. There's a dim lighting around me, enough to see where I'm going if I were to walk up and down, but apart from that everything outside is pitch dark.
Seems everything is back to normal now.
Then I look up. And my breath is sucked away.
...'Wow' would not do it justice. In fact, I can think of no words to express just how marvelous the sight before me is.
What I'm looking at is clearly the night sky. I know I'm looking at stars. That's definitely the moon. I know what these things are, and yet... I don't think I've ever seen them before. At least... At least not like this. Not this bright. Not this vivid. This feels so… I don’t know how to describe it. Real. This is unbelievable. It's so... so...
"Wonderful, is it not?" A female voice as soft as silk finishes my train of thought.
I can muster no more. I can't bear to take my eyes off the sky. I've been hearing too many disembodied voices to care much about this new one. Still... what a pretty voice.
“I’m quite fond of the view. Many pleasant memories have been sown here.” This voice almost seems… melancholy.
I continue staring at the spectacle before me and remain silent.
“As of late, though, the sky seems to hold more… life. Indeed, a beautiful twinkling of eternity.”
The voice’s last word snaps my attention back. I turn my head towards the direction it came from.
Standing a short distance away is a figure standing on the deck splashed in moonlight. A figure that, in fact, could be considered even more beautiful than the stars themselves. She’s wearing a traditional kimono, the kind that must be incredibly costly. Her long, majestic hair glistens in the moonlight; the features on her face couldn’t be more feminine. She’s calmly looking up at the night sky with her arms comfortably nestled in the opposite’s sleeves. In short, she’s the very picture of elegance. There was just one question, though.
“Who are you?”
She looks at me with a shocked expression on her face. “How rude of you! A gentleman should always introduce himself first in the presence of an unfamiliar lady!”
Surprised and a little confused, I give a quick, apologetic bow. “Er, my apolo – er… sorry. I was a guest… uh, I recovered from… er, well… my name is–”
A hand darts up, cutting me off. She speaks, calmly. “I know who you are.”
…Eh? Wh… why did…
“Why have you returned?” A heavier tone in her voice, but still as calm as ever.
I stare at her dumbly before replying. “Um, uh, well… I’m, ah, here to find someo–”
“Who?” She cuts me off abruptly. Barely any time has passed, and she’s making a complete fool of me! That really irks me.
Blink. Swallow. “Small… uh… well, Mio’s her name.”
The woman gracefully tilts her head slightly. “It seems you’ve already been found.” And with those simple words, she looks back up towards the sky.
Something grazes my leg… well, I guess I shouldn’t say something. It’s pretty obvious what by now. “Mio?” I call out aimlessly. Sure enough, the small girl creeps into my vision below me. Apparently she was hiding behind me this whole time.
Her head turns upward, facing me. “Hello, mister.” She’s quite plain about her greeting, showing very little sign of fear now. Well that’s a good sign.
“Hey, Mio.” The beginnings of a smile begin to creep on her face, but otherwise she continues to stare at me.
“You’re not very well-liked.” The woman speaks again, but she doesn’t move. “Most don’t trust you now.”
“What? What did I do?” Mulling her words over in my head, I look back at Mio. “Am I…?”
“Ev’rybody says you’re a bad man. Ev’rybody says you’re a monster.”
“What? Why? Do you believe them?”
An adorable, toothy grin tells me all I need to know before she wraps herself around my leg, apparently making an attempt at showing affection. “Thanks, Mio,” I mumble.
“You should leave,” the woman says, cutting the tender moment. “Your friends await you.”
Huh? Oh, right. “Well, I uh… you’re right. I don’t want to keep them waiting.” I recall my journey here and breathe a sigh of relief. Things seem normal now… well, better, at least.
Mio releases my leg and grabs a hold of my good hand, all the while still beaming. “Right, well, I’ll be off then,” I say. “Thanks for, uh… oh, I never got your name, miss…?”
The woman looks away from the sky and meets my gaze.
“You’ll not be needing my name. Good day.”
More blinding light fills my senses, and I feel nauseous.
I'll finish the rest in the morning. There's no way I'm gonna be able to do much else without some sleep.