"Merry Christmas, obasan," Yukio said and left the shophouse, a parcel in hand.
"You have a Merry Christmas too, Sato-kun," an elderly voice called kindly from behind the shutters.
Yukio played with the bells dangling from the storefront, listening to their jingle that heralded the arrival of the festive season. He exhaled plumes of fogged air.
"Time to set off."
His sneakers crunched on the frosty road as he made his way through the street filled with shoppers, couples and drunken people. His eyes took in the colorful Christmas decorations: the bobbing baubles on the Christmas tree, the jolly figure of Santa Claus riding his sleigh on top of shopping malls, and the advertising billboards draped with festive lights.
Instead of heading towards the city centre where the crowds gathered, Yukio went straight back to his quiet neighborhood district. There, families celebrated behind closed doors without all the huge fuss. There, families enjoyed a simple heartwarming gathering, where daddies would play Santa and create make-belief footprints near the fireplace when their children fell asleep, where mummies would sneak candy sticks into mistletoes and arrange presents at the base of the Christmas tree. There, families were probably watching the snowflakes drift lazily past their windows, as Yukio did at the moment.
"What am I doing?" Yukio smiled wanly. He turned right into an alley, which branched off almost unseen from the main road.
The lifts at his apartment remained useless, so he took the stairs. He hummed a Christmas Carol, thinking about the highlights of the day: an outing with his godson Kenji Shinichiro, which had ended up with him getting a black eye after Yukio tried to stop him from stealing a toy car from a shop. It still hurt like hell after hours.
"Like father like son, eh?" Yukio commented to no one in particular. He had acquired the habit of soliloquies ever since picking up ventriloquism and doing some odd gigs here and there at elementary schools. Judging by the boisterous laughter from the children, he was off to a great start.
But there's still a long way to go.
Yukio stopped short at the landing in front of his apartment, dropping his parcel.
The door yawned open to his living room.
Don't tell me that I forgot to lock my door again!
Yukio rushed in, checking all the rooms. Nothing seemed amiss. In fact, everything was as spick-and-span as he liked them to be.
Like the magical lamp on the dining table.
Wasn't it supposed to be in the glass casing?
His eyes widened as he spotted the note underneath.
It read: Go to the roof.
Yukio shoved the note into his pockets and hurried up the stairs.
Yukio frantically pushed open the door to the roof and rushed out, looking for the person who had written him the note.
There was no one. Only the lazy drifting of snowflakes in the air.
He sighed and leaned on the ledge, gazing out at the distant city. That distant colorful city.
Maybe I wrote myself that note and placed it on the table. That's a possibility. I can be such a paranoid nutcase sometimes.
"I need to check myself into the mental hospital soon," Yukio said to the black night sky.
Just then, the door to the roof slammed shut. Yukio jumped up in surprise and wheeled around.
Yukio yelped and instinctively covered his chest. Hot streams of tears began to roll down his face.
"Eh? Why am I crying?"
"I'll like to ask you that, you mumbling crying idiot."
Yukio looked at the girl standing at the doorway. She was no longer dressed in the magical girl outfit as depicted in the RPG game, wearing instead a light pink sweater and jeans. She looked so normal.
And so beautiful.
"Aki, is that you?"
"No, it's your favourite DJ on radio 64," Aki said, her eyes growing teary. "What are you waiting for, we are supposed to be running towards each other screaming each other's names and reenacting cheesy romantic scene number XXX right now!"
With that Yukio started running. Aki started running as well.
Aki had tripped him with an outstretched foot. Yukio skidded on the ground and ended up kissing the wall.
"What the hell was that for?" Yukio stood up and yelled.
"That's for not catching me when I blocked Daisuke's punch for you, you idiot!"
"How the hell was I supposed to catch you when you disappeared before I could catch you?"
"You said catch twice."
"The hell that's relevant!"
The duo glared at each other, and then started bursting out in laughter.
"Some kind of romantic reunion eh?" Yukio rubbed his nose sheepishly. "Seems more like a comedy scene to me."
"Every scene that you are in is always pure comedy gold."
Yukio smiled. It had been a long time since he smiled from the heart.
"Yeah, I suppose so. I have a knack for making kids laugh with my ventriloquist acts."
"You are a ventriloquist now? Wow, that's awesome."
"I'll let you in as part of the audience next time."
"I'm looking forward to it."
A sustained period of silence.
"What happened to you after you di… disappeared during that battle?"
"I teleported back to the mountain in the heavens. Genies don't die, didn't they tell you that?"
"It wasn't part of the brochure description."
"You didn't ask."
"Why didn't you come visit during the last six years then? I was… I was lonely without you."
"That sounds pretty cheesy, Yukio."
"Answer me damn it!"
"Lord Zeus rescinded me of my genie duties as a reward for my troubles and allowed me to stay in my girl form. I've been staying in this city ever since as a school teacher. And I always noticed you Yukio. I just wanted to wait until you fully got yourself together."
"How am I now?"
Aki placed a finger on her jaw.
"Only a credit?"
"You still look a bit on the round side."
"Come on, let the man have his food alright?" Yukio was enjoying every moment of this banter. He wished that the Christmas Eve never ended.
"Merry Christmas, Yukio."
Yukio suddenly swept Aki into his arms. The latter squirmed a little under his embrace, before succumbing to its comfort and warmth.
"I have one more thing to say to you," Yukio gazed into Aki's moist eyes. "Something that I should have said six years ago."
In the distance, the church bells began to ring.
"I love you Akinythimunthosliawerthu."
1/10/12 - 18/10/12
Hope you had enjoyed the ride! Please feel free to leave your overall comments and impressions. I'll see you again next time :)