Author's Note: I got hit with the infamous document manager bug about a month ago (it's where the manager is stuck in html mode and won't switch over to let you edit your text files normally), so it took me a while to use my brain in order to work around it. Anyway, I'm back now. Let's get this show on the road.
Act 26 – Attached
"Yes! FINALLY! Now I can stop feeling ashamed of my Kurimu/Samantha yuri fanart!" Aiyuko cried, a huge smile plastered across her lips. "Actually, I was never ashamed. But now I can be PROUD of it!"
"Excuse me? You've been making what?" shouted Samantha in disbelief. Aiyuko just laughed in response.
"So... What're you gonna do about it?" Imari wanted to know.
"About loving Kurimu. Are you just going to let it be? Or will you act upon it? If you plan on telling her... you should do it soon."
"Of course I want to tell her... But I'm scared and really nervous. What if she turns me down?" asked Samantha, frowning at the floor.
Raymiel smirked. "You won't know until you try. Besides, you two get along so well... Do you really think she dislikes you, Samantha?"
"No, I don't... We're the best of friends, but I don't know if she sees me as a lover. Eve was her true love. I'm not Eve. Well, I am... But I'm just a reincarnation, not Eve herself... You get what I mean!"
Imari took Samantha's hand in hers. "Don't worry. The time will come when it's appropriate for you to express your feelings. You'll know; your heart will tell you."
Samantha's expression warmed up a bit and she thanked Imari.
"We'll be rooting for you, Sammy-chan. Make me proud," Aiyuko said reassuringly.
"I'll try... Also, Imari-chan, why did you say I should do it soon? Because of Valentine's Day?" asked Samantha.
"No. It's because... You mean, Kurimu hasn't told you yet?" said Imari, looking puzzled.
"Told me what?"
"You'll have to ask her about it. Yazu came back from his assessment right before I headed over here. He passed," Imari told them, with a blank look on her face.
Raymiel's eyes lit up. "Really? That's wonderful. I bet he's extremely happy."
"Yeah, he is..." Imari said quietly.
"Um, I'm lost. What are we talking about?" Aiyuko questioned. Samantha also failed to follow.
Raymiel turned to Aiyuko. "Yazu and Kurimu went to their official judgement trials. When a genie feels they've done good enough to retire, a court of gods and goddesses looks at everything they've done and decides whether to grant them permission to reincarnate or not. They're all-knowing, so they have records of our entire lives. I know genies sound like they're fantastical creatures with a fantastical world, and it's somewhat true, but in the end our lives aren't too much different from normal human life. We have a system of government, too."
"Dang..." commented Samantha. "Hey, wait a minute. Why didn't Kurimu tell me about all this? She didn't even let me know where she was going!"
"Maybe she didn't want to get any of our hopes up? Kurimu's got a LOT of negative points under her belt. This is also the very first time she's requested a trial. Most genies fail on the first try. Kurimu's fifty times more likely to be told no than the average genie."
"Hmm... I understand that."
"It's either that," Raymiel said, frowning. "or maybe she doesn't want to admit that she's not ready."
"Not ready for...?"
Aiyuko was surprised to hear this. "But isn't that the ultimate dream of every genie? To escape from their punishment?"
"It is and always will be. But there are obvious sacrifices that have to be made. Why do you think Imari's looked so sad this entire time? Did neither of you notice?" Raymiel wondered.
Aiyuko and Samantha both stared at Imari. She rubbed her arm uncomfortably.
"Yes, love is all good and fine. But Yazu won't remember her. They'll have to start from scratch. Not to mention that there is no set time nor destination for reincarnation. He could ask to be set free tomorrow, but not reincarnate until twenty years from now. And let's say they do meet. Who's to say they'll definitely fall in love again? I don't mean say things that aren't positive, but it is a possibility," Raymiel explained, looking to Imari.
She nodded. "We know very well. Trust me."
Samantha looked up at Raymiel. "So, you think that Kurimu...?"
Raymiel squeezed Samantha tight. "Regardless of the outcome of her trial, Kurimu's not ready to say goodbye to you yet, Samantha. She's too attached to you... Plus, Yazu is actually Japanese, so he and Imari will at least be in same country. When genies reincarnate, they tend to be reborn in cities close to where they lived and/or died in their first life. Kurimu was a native of Ebla, which is close to present-day Mardikh in Syria. I don't know how much you know of Syrian geography, but she will most likely reappear in Ariha, Jisr ash-Shugur, or Maarat al-Numaan. Damascus is also a possible relocation. And even if you two did somehow meet, the official Syrian language is Arabic, so you wouldn't even be able to understand her."
Samantha frowned. "Great. Kurimu is the first friend I've ever had and the one my heart aches for, and now I'm going to lose her..."
"I wouldn't say that. I'm confident that she will return to you," Raymiel said encouragingly. "You two are bound by fate more than any of us. Kurimu will find you again. Trust me."
"If you say so..."
Suddenly, the door to Samantha's room violently swung open and slammed against the wall. All eyes were fixed on Kurimu, who was standing in the doorway. She angrily threw her bag on the floor and sat on Samantha's bed, folding her arms and scowling deeply.
"... They said no, didn't they?" Raymiel guessed.
Kurimu was silent for a few moments... before exploding with fury.
"They told me that I still have 'pieces that need to be picked up' because I have not yet 'sorted out all of my emotional baggage'. I don't even know what half of that shit MEANS!" screamed Kurimu, punching the wall.
"Calm down. The wall is just an innocent bystander," Samantha told Kurimu.
"Sorry..." Kurimu huffed.
"Although, it's kind of sexy when you're mad..." Samantha mumbled, blushing.
Kurimu blinked for a few moments. She blushed a bit herself. "I heard that... Sorry I didn't let you know where I went before heading out, Samantha-sama. I felt it would be wrong to get anyone's hopes up."
Samantha crawled up onto the bed next to Kurimu and snuggled up to her arm. "It's fine. I'm just happy you're back now."
Kurimu's entire face went red.
"Yazu was granted his reincarnation rights," Imari let her know.
"Yay, I knew he would! Go, Yazu!" sang Kurimu, pumping her fist in the air.
"I was thinking," Raymiel mused, "that maybe solving this whole thing with Jiyuri and Kutsuya may finally put you in the clear, Kurimu."
"I certainly hope so," Kurimu sighed. "I want to reincarnate as soon as possible."
"Y-You do?" asked Samantha, shocked.
Her friends' faces displayed similar expressions of surprise.
"Of course I do! The faster I can reincarnate, then the more likely it will be for us to meet again - and quickly. I'm tired of living this crazy genie lifestyle. There's a lot I want to do that I have and haven't already done... But I want to do it with you and everyone else if possible, Samantha," Kurimu said, smiling somewhat sadly.
"That is... if we do meet again. Which I very much hope will happen."
"Do you have to reincarnate the moment that the court grants you passage?" Samantha wanted to know. "Can't you... hang around for a while?"
"Erm, yes and no. We don't have to reincarnate then and there, but we do have a maximum of about two weeks from the time of verdict to act upon it. If we don't, that's considered a grave offense to the court, and our punishment time is extended. Which means more of being a genie, having to do another trial, and waiting even longer to reincarnate... And that is NOT cool beans."
"Kurimu, I'm scared..." Samantha said quietly. "I don't want you to leave me."
"It's not happening right now, so don't worry. Try to not think about it, alright? Just... enjoy the time we have together right in this moment. Okay?" Kurimu asked Samantha gently, squeezing her hands.
Samantha mumbled something along the lines of "alright, I guess". But she knew very well that it would not be alright. She would not be alright.
"When genies reincarnate... Are they literally reborn? I mean, do you come into the world as a baby?" Aiyuko wondered.
"No," Raymiel answered. "I think we've mentioned this before, but genies will come back into the world as humans around the same age they were when they died. Often times they are a little older, sometimes a bit younger. There are extreme cases at times where there is a large age shift, but that's very rare. Whoever their family members are will have their memories altered, as well as the genie in question. So as far as they're all concerned, that genie was born into the world and grew up like any other regular human being."
"Who makes those decisions?"
"The gods and goddesses of the court. Literally everything is handled by the court."
"Are there ever any exceptions for genies keeping their memories post-reincarnation?" questioned Imari.
"It's so rare that it's ridiculous, but yes," Kurimu told her. "The genie has to have done something considered extraordinary by the court to receive that kind of miracle. That or it might happen by accident, if the genie has very strong ties with an ex-master who they meet again in their new life."
"I see..." murmured Aiyuko.
"Why, Aiyuko-sama? You don't have to worry about me, as I am under special circumstances, if you catch my drift," Raymiel said.
"Oh, no reason. I was only curious," Aiyuko replied, seeming to be deep in thought.
Raymiel raised an eyebrow at her, but decided to let things be as they were for now.
"Are we still going to meet up on the weekend?" Imari asked, gathering her things and getting up. "I promised to help my parents out at work today, so I'm leaving a little early."
Aiyuko confirmed that everyone was still going to meet. "What do your parents do, Imari?"
"Have you ever been to Asaba Bakery near our school?"
"I think so. Is that the one that sells all the yummy flower treats during this time of the year? I remember things like mint lavender cupcakes and strawberry rose cake."
"That's the one. We own it!"
"Awesome! We should all go visit you one day!" Samantha chirped.
"Why? You'll just clean out the entire store Kirby-style, and then we'll have to roll you all the way back home like a giant katamari ball," Kurimu snorted.
Samantha yelled at Kurimu in protest and began to wrestle with her playfully. Kurimu laughed at her hysterically. Imari and Aiyuko giggled at them.
Soon after, Imari took her leave. Aiyuko and Raymiel exchanged mischievous glances. They made up some sort of excuse as to why they suddenly needed to go as well. At first, Samantha was a little saddened by the sudden break up of her get-together, but Aiyuko kindly suggested that Samantha take a look at what she had left on her desk. Picking up the unfamiliar sheet of paper, Samantha read its contents. A botanical garden in the area was having an early spring show. The flyer was encouraging people to get out and enjoy the beginning of spring by taking in the sights of their beautiful grounds. Entry was free until the end of the current week.
Raymiel and Kurimu were chatting idly as Samantha did this. She looked up at Aiyuko curiously. Aiyuko subtly nodded her head in Kurimu's direction, smiling. Samantha connected the dots and smiled at Aiyuko happily as a thank you. Aiyuko signaled to Raymiel, and the two of them politely ducked out.
A bead of sweat rolled down Samantha's face.
'Those two... had been planning this all along, hadn't they?' she thought.
"What now?" asked Kurimu.
"Um...Kurimu-chan? I was wondering if you wanted to go to this garden on Friday," Samantha asked, showing her the flyer. "It's free for the rest of this week. I thought that it could be interesting... but if you think that'd be boring... then we don't have to... It's silly, isn't it?"
Samantha looked at the ground, feeling stupid. Why did she even ask? It was a bad idea.
"I'd love to! That sounds like it'd be a treat," said Kurimu, smiling.
"R-Really? Yay!" Samantha cried, her spirits lifted.
"Could I ask you one thing, though?"
"No offense, but... Can it just be the two of us? I want us to be alone. I didn't know if you were planning on inviting the others or not," mumbled Kurimu, scratching the back of her head.
"Of course. That's what I had in mind all along. I only want Kurimu... no one else..." Samantha told her, trailing off at the end. Her cheeks turned bright pink.
That statement had come out sounding a little more personal than she had intended it, but it was how she truly felt... in more ways than just one.
Kurimu blushed as well.
"I'm glad," said Kurimu. "It should be fun. I can't wait."
Samantha nodded and quickly excused herself to go to the bathroom. Kurimu felt her heart pounding. Perhaps...
Friday was her chance. This would be her chance to...
"I only want Samantha, too," Kurimu whispered. "No one else."