"Salun to Nulas. Hello and Welcome to Lilium's Manor." Taishou said with respect and clarity. He bowed low to show his gratitude to the newcomers.
"Thank-you." The guests said in unison, bowing as well.
Hideo finally made it downstairs and stood next to Taishou. "Welcome!" He said out of breath. Before he could fully catch it, he was overcome with shock. Three guests stood….two of them were frozen as well.
"H-Hideo?" Nozomi's voice was soft. Her words fluttered softly to him as he blinked several times, trying to make sure she was real.
"Hideo!" Nozomi cried with joy. She ran into his arms, his embracement closing the gap in her heart.
"Y-you!" Taishou, who had a completely different reaction, said this in sheer terror. He only stared at the man before him, who stared back with an opposite expression.
"Hi." Daisuke said.
"Don't say hi like nothing happened! You gotta get out of here!" Taishou said in Runa with urgency.
"What's he saying Daisuke? What's going on?" Sarah demanded.
"Taishou, who is it?" Nanoru made her way slowly down the stairs.
"Come on!" Taishou pushed Daisuke out of the lobby and stuffed him in a broom closet.
"It seems Nozomi's friend and a young American girl are our guest." Taishou said quickly and convincingly.
"Oh, how sweet!" Nanoru said looking at Sarah. Then she turned her eyes to the hugging couple.
"I thought I would never see you again!" Nozomi was in tears.
"We were only separated for about a day…maybe even less."
"Still! In a world so unlike our own...it seems like forever!"
Hideo laughed, "You worry too much!" They didn't even seem to notice the events going on around them. Nanoru's smile melted instantly.
"Ahem." Nanoru said coldly.
"Oh!" Hideo and Nozomi separated, embarrassed.
"Um…This is Nozomi….Nozomi Kagurazaki…she's the friend I was talking about earlier." He paused to stop his voice from shaking. Then he continued, "Nozomi…this is Nanoru." Hideo finished, his voice stammering, but from what he wasn't sure.
Nozomi bowed, "Nice to meet you, Nanoru."
"Likewise." Nanoru said with absolutely no feeling. Then she turned to Sarah and sweetly smiled, "Hello there! How'd you end up finding this place?"
"I was here with my dad but..."
She looked to see Taishou giving odd hand signals...
She stuttered, "B-but….he decided to go back to Blue….because we left stuff…with my sister, who is 16 and is constantly leaving the house because she's a rebel and stuff." Sarah began to lie easier as she settled on a story.
As she planned, Nanoru became bored from Sarah's long tale of her imaginary sister, "That's nice, dear. Come, I'll prepare a room for you."
As soon as the two left, Nozomi started asking the obvious questions, "Where's Daisuke?"
Taishou looked towards the broom closet. Nozomi got the hint, "Why?"
"Because he was the one Nanoru stabbed about a year ago…" Hideo finished.
"What?" Nozomi was shocked.
Taishou nodded, "He's right. And if she sees him again….who knows what she'll do…"
"Even though we've only been separated for possibly a day…It felt like forever…" Nozomi's eyes were teary as she and Hideo sat in Taishou's room.
Hideo let her rest her head on his lap, "The same here…" His attention was split between Nozomi and the current situation.
"How are we going to get Daisuke out of here?" He asked.
"Well…eventually, we will have toget him out…" Taishou began, "But first we have to find a way to take Sarah out with him without Nanoru getting suspici-!"
"Here's your dinner, Hideo!" Nanoru busted in before he could finish.
She was smiling brightly with black lipstick on…in fact, she was dressed really nicely. She had sparkling silver earrings on, with a seductive short black dress. Her toes were done as well and a large diamond hung from the chain around her neck. Her silvery hair was in an up do, which made her look more mature.
"Oh…uh, thanks… but you know it's around 3 in the morning, right?" Hideo mentioned, taking the tray of warm food from her. Then, much to his surprise, Nanoru took a seat on the other side of him.
"Yes, I know, but you haven't really eaten anything since you got here." She was all smiles. It was a bit creepy.
"Oh…well then, thank you again…I didn't know it was necessary for souls to eat…"
"It isn't. It's mainly out for fun here. It doesn't matter what you eat, it won't affect you in anyway." She said, batting her long eyelashes, "I hope you like it!", "It took forever to make!"
Hideo lifted the silver cover, and gazed in awe at the Japanese food before him.
Every piece was carefully placed. The shrimp tempura sushi laid neatly on the right, the Salmon onigiri sat in a circle on the left. Takoyaki cooled off on the top as shrimp dumplings steamed on the bottom. And right in the center was a dip that was unfamiliar to him.
Hideo stopped staring long enough to take a ball of Takoyaki and dip it in the sauce. The instant it passed his lips, he felt his whole body melt.
"This…this is fantastic!" Hideo said truthfully.
Nanoru was ecstatic, "Really?!"
"Really! And this sauce…what is it?"
"Oh it's a bunch of things: Soy sauce, a bit of teriyaki, but not too much! Salt…"
Nozomi sat on the other side of Hideo, listening to Nanoru break down her special sauce by ingredient. She wondered if Hideo would ever ask her to taste…
"Wow, I would've never guessed!" Hideo stuffed some onigiri in his mouth, "And it all taste so authentic! Like it's straight from the land of the rising sun!"
"I'm so glad!" Nanoru laughed, "I've been studying your culture for years but never had a person willing to try my cooking."
Hideo swallowed, "They don't know what they're missing!"
Nozomi felt her anger rise. The way Hideo was shoveling that food; she'd be surprised to get a nibble. It wasn't that she was hungry, but rather that he didn't notice her at all. And the way he was smiling…it just didn't bode well with her. Not one bit.
"WELL I HOPE IT'S GOOD!" She yelled suddenly, causing Hideo to choke on his food.
"Hideo! Are you okay?!?!" Nanoru helped him swallow. Nozomi didn't stick around to see the aftermath.
"The nerve of him!" She said as soon as she closed the door.
"The nerve of her…" She turned to see Taishou standing next to her.
"When did you leave the room?!" She asked. No one had even noticed.
"Well, when my sister came in looking the way she did, I just felt that it was better if I left." He shrugged.
Nozomi chose not answer as she tapped her foot in frustration.
"You know what, where's the bathroom?" She suddenly asked. She just wanted to get away from that room.
"It's down the hall, the first door on the right."
Taishou shrugged again, "No problem." He walked the opposite way.
Nozomi started off towards the bathroom, when suddenly she heard a loud yelping noise. She turned around to see that Taishou had disappeared.
"That's strange…" she thought to herself, "But then again, he's a kid from the moon."
"Why did you put Dad into the janitor's closet?!" Sarah looked menacingly at Taishou, whom she had tied to her bed in the guest room.
"I told you already!" Taishou said, speaking clear English, "I can't let my older sister see him!"
"Wrong answer." Sarah loosened her grip on the rope she held. It lowered the heavy dresser that hovered above Taishou.
"AHH! BUT IT'S THE TRUTH!!" Taishou struggled to get off the bed, "If she sees him, she might kill him!!"
That satisfied Sarah, "Oh. Okay."
Taishou was about to speak, when he saw her completely let go of the rope. "AHHHH!" he shut his eyes to await the after-after life.
Taishou trembled as the sound of impact resounded. But, realizing that he felt no pain, he opened one eye. In amazement, he opened them both to see the dresser was knocked into the opposing wall. A harsh foot print was embedded in the wood.
"You still didn't explain why she might kill him, though." Sarah said, taking some splinters out of her sneaker.
Taishou was too busy trying to digest what just happened, "Did you just knock that huge dresser…."
"It was nothing. But now back to business…"
"Who are you?" Taishou interrupted.
Sarah looked at him with anger. She HATED being cut short, "DOES THAT REALLY MATTER?!"
Taishou shrunk back in fear as he thought, "If she does to me what she did to that dresser…I'm history!"
"You know what?" Sarah continued, still angry, "I should just…just…" Her words became softer and kinder the more she spoke. The gears were turning in her mind.
She turned to Taishou, her brown eyes menacing, "If I tell you, will you keep it a secret?"
"Tell me what?"
She sighed, "If I tell you who I am, will you keep it a secret?"
"Oh!" Taishou nodded obediently. Sarah smiled. She could definitely use this kid.
"Okay…" Sarah lowered her voice to a whisper, "In truth…I'm a goddess."
A moment of silence passed as the words lingered in the air.
"A GODDESS!?" Taishou was astounded.
Sarah put her hand over his mouth, "SHHH! Yes! The Goddess of might: Rosaria.
"Rolled sara?" Taishou tried to pronounce it.
"NO! ROW-SER-RIA! Rosaria. It's a name in the language of the gods. It means strength."
"Wait a minute!" Taishou thought, "You're too young to be a goddess."
"No I'm not! I'm old enough to be your grandmother's GREAT grandmother's mother!"
Taishou looked skeptical, "Um…ok? But why do I have to keep this a secret?"
Sarah leaned in close, "Because I'm on a mission. I have to protect my mother."
"Yes, my mother Nova. She's the goddess of Blue. She's the one who sent Daisuke to me."
Sarah sighed, "Because, he's the key…man, you don't know anything!" She pouted.
Taishou began to pout as well, "How was I supposed to know? I thought it was a secret!"
Sarah thought, "Oh yeah….you're right. Okay, I guess I'll continue."
Taishou leaned in closer for the rest of the tale…
"Nozomi!" Hideo ran up and down the stairs looking for her.
"Nozomi!" He called again. Still no answer.
"Just leave her." Nanoru said, a bit upset. She checked a mirror to make sure she was still pretty. Of course, she was.
"No way! How could you even say that?" Hideo said, shocked at her response, "I would never leave Nozomi!"
"Really?" Nozomi peeked out of a door not too far from Hideo.
Hideo ran up to her and embraced her, "Really! What made you ever think I would?!"
Nozomi just shook her head and smiled, "Never you mind. I have something important to tell you, anyway."
"Let's go back to Taishou's room." Hideo suggested.
Nozomi nodded and proceeded to follow him.
"See you later then…Hideo…." Nanoru said quietly.
But it seemed that Hideo didn't hear as he talked with Nozomi the entire way.
Nanoru felt a pang go through her body as she heard the door shut.
"Hideo…" she whispered, "Why can't you see what I feel?"
Taishou thought he got it, "So what you're saying is that Daisuke is what the Godchild is after…because with the thing inside him-!"
"Not thing! The jewel!"
"Okay, because with the jewel inside he can become a true god? And with that power he can diminish the other gods and be one almighty ruler?"
"Right. Mom never really explained what the jewel was or its name, but I know it's important." Sarah said, nodding.
Taishou thought, "Then this isn't good."
Sarah felt his urgency, "Why? What do you mean?"
"My sister stabbed him a few years back…and she made an incision on his chest…"
Sarah nodded, "Okay…so?"
"If what you say is true, wouldn't the power of the jewel eventually kill him into nothing? There is nothing after 2 deaths….you just cease to exist."
Sarah froze. She thought of the jewel beating in his swollen chest. How easily it can break through the marred flesh…
"We have to get him to a safe place!" She thought, "So that if that becomes the case, no one can get the jewel!"
The two children nodded. They had a mission which by all cost must be carried out.
"What?!" Hideo was dumfounded, "The Godchild was the one who got rid of Celeste?"
Nozomi nodded, "That's what the Blue goddess, Nova said….I can't help but feel that she knew more, but held back…."
Hideo stood, "Then we must find her! Celeste must be brought back to power!"
"Because…" Hideo thought. He didn't really know. "I guess…because it's the right thing to do…."
Nozomi smiled, "That works for me. But we need to start tomorrow. We can't stay here forever."
"But what about Daisuke?"
"Oh no!" Nozomi's eyes widened, "I forgot about him!"
Hideo laughed, "Forget that I said anything. He'll be fine."
"No! We can't just assume that! He was stabbed!"
Hideo laughed even harder. It was difficult to decipher what he said, "Isn't that strange…you know, how this world works?"
Nozomi looked at him with wonder, "What do you mean?"
He stopped laughing and cleared his throat, "Well...isn't it obvious what I mean? I mean look at us! We're in a mansion…in a winter wonderland with gods and goddesses as our government. It doesn't feel like we've died at all. If anything, we were just transported to a different world…maybe to make room for more humans to be born on earth."
Silence reigned over the room. Hideo absentmindedly avoided looking at Nozomi as his mind wandered. Then, as though he was tapped, he looked up to see her staring at him in awe.
He immediately became flustered, "What?"
Nozomi smiled and shook her head, "You just never cease to amaze me."
"You never cease to amaze me, Hideo Ningenshii…even your name leaves me in awe. I've known you for 8 years, and yet I have no idea who you are. One minute you're being brash and unreasonable, then the next you're intelligent and insightful. I think that's why I can't…" She shifted her eyes to the floor as he face flushed, "I-I suppose that's why I can't help but lo-"
"HIDEO!" Nanoru busted through the door. She was breathing heavily and rage was evident in her face.
Hideo jumped back, nearly falling of the bed, "AH! N-Nanoru, what is it?!" She ignored him, staring only at Nozomi. The hatred in her stared grew with each passing second.
"May I help you?" Nozomi asked innocently, "Do you need something?"
"No." Nanoru's voice was frosty. You could practically see the icicles hanging from each word.
"Well…I guess it's a good thing you're here, Nanoru." Hideo began once his heart stopped racing, "Nozomi and I will be leaving tomorrow. We have a mission to fulfill."
"Oh, really?" She stiffly grinned, "We're will you be sleeping?"
Something about how she asked made Hideo feel uneasy, "I guess in Taishou's room?"
"Why not in mine?" She responded immediately. Now Nozomi was beginning to get irritated, "Why would he stay in your room?"
"Well, we were sleeping in this bed until you showed up…"
"What?!" Nozomi turned to Hideo with hurt in her eyes, "Is she lying?"
"Well, no, but it wasn't at all like she made it seem!"
Nanoru glared at him, "You were the one who asked me to sleep with you!"
"WHAT?!" Nozomi was outraged
"Wait a minute! Nanoru is taking this completely out of context!!"
"So she's not lying?" Nozomi shook her head and stood up, "Hideo!"
He winced under her painful expression, "Nozomi, really it…"
"Never mind. Good night!" She stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her.
"Nozomi!" He called after her. Of course she didn't answer.
"Damn!" He ran his hand through his hair, "What the hell was that for, Nanoru?!"
"What do you mean?" Nanoru's voice was suddenly kind and gentle, "I was only speaking the truth."
"Whatever! Forget it! Damn…" He got up and headed towards the door.
"Where are you going?" Nanoru grabbed the sleeve of his nightshirt, "She's not even your girlfriend!"
That was the straw that broke the camel's back. Hideo turned to her with such fury in his eyes, she didn't know how to react.
"I don't know what your deal is…I don't know why you feel the need to fuck me over, but I know one thing" He came closer to her, "No one means more to me than Nozomi. You hurt her again and I'll hurt you."
He turned and left, his words lingering in the air. Nanoru stood still, her arms wrapping herself in a tight hug, "But I…I didn't mean to…" She whispered to herself. She saw nothing wrong with what she did.
"Hideo!" She cried out suddenly. She heard his footsteps stop in the hallway. "Hideo! I'm sorry!" She put her hand to her mouth. Her own words shocked her, but she couldn't stop herself, "I'll go apologize to Nozomi!"
She walked out into the long hallway where Hideo was already at the far end. He was facing away from her, but his relaxed shoulders showed that he was relenting.
"I'm sorry…" Nanoru moved her hands in a nervous, wringing motion. Finally, Hideo turned to her, "Whatever. Just make it quick."
Even though his words were blunt, it made Nanoru feel 100 times better. She beamed, "I'll be right back!"
A light creaking noise could be heard as two children made their way down the stairs. Constant surveillance of the area was maintained. It was crucial not to get caught.
"Ok, there's the closet" Taishou pointed out.
"Good. You get him out and meet me in room 556."
"All the way on the 5th floor?!" Taishou whined, "I'm not allowed to use the elevator, you know!"
Sarah rolled her eyes, "Who's gonna see you? Just go on it anyway!"
Now it was Taishou's turn to speak matter-of-factly, "Most elevators have CAMERAS, Sarah."
Sarah thought about it. Then she shrugged her shoulders, "What's the worse that can happen?"
"I don't want to know…I hardly break any rules that aren't my sister's."
"Fine! Ok, whatever! Just drag him up the stairs!! The jewel is the most important thing!"
"Oh man…" Taishou opened the closet door. Sarah jumped when she heard him yell.
"What?!? What is it?!" She ran over to the door. It was empty.
"Where did he go!" Taishou instantly panicked. He still didn't fully understand Sarah's story, but he knew that it was a REALLY bad thing that Daisuke was missing.
But Sarah was strangely calm, "Don't worry about it."
"What?" Taishou stopped fretting over the empty closet, "Why?"
Sarah thought quickly, "I had forgotten that we were going to the Maple Forest section...my mother said that that's the only place he would be safe."
Taishou noticed her twitch when she said 'mother', but thought nothing of it. Instead he asked if she thought he had already left for their destination.
"It sounds like something he'd do." Sarah nodded in agreement, but to what Taishou wasn't fully aware of.
"Come on let's go." She commanded, "If the wrong person gets a hold of him, we may have a evil god or goddess on our hands."
"Right!" They made their way to the front door, looking around for no witnesses, and quietly exited the building.
No one noticed the young Lunestian girl hidden in the shadows.
"Who is it?" Nozomi answered the knock on her door. When Nanoru's voice responded, she immediately became sour, "Oh…you can leave."
"Hold on, Nozomi," Nanoru opened the door anyway. Nozomi was under the red covers on the king sized mattress. The last person using the room must've just left because the room still had that 'lived-in' feel. There were socks that clearly belonged to a male strewn across the floor as well as some papers filled with handwritten Runa from top to bottom. Even a rusty pair of glasses were found decaying on the bedside table. Either he left in a hurry or he just didn't want to clean.
"What do you want?" Nozomi's voice was muffled.
"I came to apologize."
"What for? I'm not married to him."
Nanoru swallowed back what she wanted to say, which were words of spite, "No, but you mean a lot to him."
Nozomi peeked over the covers, "Did he say that?"
"Oh...uh…" Nanoru was tongue tied. A part of her wanted to say yes, but the other wanted to speak scathingly, "N-no…he didn't, but it's quite obvious." She looked away as she said it as she thought, "Why did I say that?"
"Oh…I should've known he wouldn't say anything like that." Nozomi got out of bed, "It's just like him to…you know what? It's ok never mind." She shook her head as she tried to knock the thoughts out of her head. "It doesn't matter what I do…it doesn't matter who I try to be or what I try to convey to him. He just shoves me aside." She laughed bitterly, "I used to blame it on his being dense…you know? Like some sort of excuse. But 8 years is a very long time." She closed her eyes, shaking her head again, "Thank you, Nanoru. I accept your apology."
She walked over to the door and held it open, "Goodnight. Hideo and I have to leave early tomorrow."
Nanoru gradually made her way over to the door. She tried to look Nozomi in the eyes, but Nozomi wouldn't allow it.
"Oh, and Nanoru…I looked around. This place is pretty packed. I guess it's ok if you guys were to share a room…" She cast her eyes down even further, "I really don't feel like seeing him right now."
Nanoru didn't know whether to feel terrible or elated. This is, after all, what she wanted.
Hideo watched as the door opened slowly, a pale hand gripping the door knob for what seemed to be dear life.
"Nanoru?" He asked, the person not fully visible to him yet.
"Yes?" Her reply was weak.
"What happened? What did she say?"
Nanoru entered the room, "S-she said that she forgives me and that she forgives you…"
Hideo nodded, "Go on! What else?"
Nanoru began to blush, her face turning a light pink, "She said that she already found a room to stay in, so we can share…share mine."
All the eagerness that was radiating from Hideo left, "You said something wrong, didn't you?"
"Huh?! No! I-I…"
"I knew I should've talked to her myself. Watch out, Nano-"
"WAIT!" She screamed. Hideo stopped in his tracks.
"Look, you'll see Nozomi for pretty much the rest of your after life." She whined. It was a bit out of character for her, but judging by the way this evening was going, it was probably the most normal thing she has done, "This may be the last time I see you! Can't you just give me one night, Hideo?"
Hideo was caught between compassion and urgency. He wasn't quite clear why he had become so important to her all of a sudden, and yet it made him feel bad for saying those cruel things to her. And besides, she was right. He will have Nozomi for the rest of his life…rather after life.
"Fine." He exhaled heavily. He didn't realize how tired he was, "Fine."
Nanoru smiled, "Thank you!" She almost jumped for joy.
Hideo watched as she backed up into the halls. She just couldn't stop thanking him.
"It's ok, Nanoru…really." He responded, fatigue plaguing his voice.
Nanoru bowed once. Twice. Three times, then closed the door, "I'll be right back!" She said, still delighted.
Hideo smirked. He wasn't sure whether to be confused, scared, or an unpleasant mixture of the two. All he knew was that he was tired and had to leave early in the morning.
"Setsukki nake sadunssikku…"
Lunestian voices murmured in the hallways. The sound of shock heard upon the spoken Runa words were from Nanoru's mouth. She spoke to a Lunestian much younger than she.
"They think he left." She said, switching to English. There were too many other Lunestians around and this was secret information.
"Are you saying that he didn't?" Nanoru looked around. She recognized the other workers from the moon. None of them spoke any English.
"No. He's actually on the 3rd floor. I gave him a room not too long ago after I found him in the broom closet. He was in luck too, because that room just became vacant…"
"That's not important!" Nanoru sighed, "Which room?"
"I'll show you…" The girl began to lead the way as Nanoru smiled, her laughter loud on the inside, "Finally, I'll get what I deserve!"