the state of things as they are, rather than as they are imagined to be
“That’s great and all, really,” you said as soon as you were able to finally get a word in edgewise, taking the lollipop stick out of your mouth so as to not spit all over yourself, “but what’s more important is that you said my sisters are involved in this too!”
Myra nodded. “Good point. I was just about to bring that up.” She faced the brunette. “What do you have to say for yourself?”
Kat whipped out a tissue and gave it to you, which drew a smile and a “Thanks” from you. As you wrapped the white, soggy stick in the tissue and put it away in a pocket of your denim shorts, she spoke, “Not much. We needed an insider to pull this whole thing off, is all. Your sisters were more than willing to help us. You already noticed it – that you didn’t wake up on time, and that your parents and your sisters are taking way longer than usual, I mean.” That wasn’t a question, that was a statement. But how could she know? “That’s all thanks to Nikki and Becci.”
“What, did they turn off my alarm during the night and convince my parents this morning to leave without waiting for me or checking on me? And now they’re slowing them down as much as possible or what?” You were just taking a stab in the dark and didn’t expect her to actually nod, confirming your guess.
“You hit the nail on the head. They told your parents you weren’t feeling well last night, that’s why they let you sleep.”
“Let me guess, they agreed to this the second you said you’d bring guys over?” At her nod, a sigh escaped your lips. “That figures. They love to tease me, after all. And what better way could there be than to arrange for me to be alone with a bunch of guys?”
The smirk on her lips broadened. Now it went from ear to ear.
“And,” you continued in a moment of epiphany, remembering her words, “if I got that right, you’ve been meeting up with them for some time now, haven’t you?”
Clearly entertained by your keen wit, she nodded again. “I contacted them for the first time about two weeks ago. Since then, I came here nearly every time you were out for a couple of hours.”
“That’s why they’ve been grinning so much lately … It was really starting to freak me out.”
“Looks like I gotta give them a piece of my mind,” Myra grumbled. She fixed her eyes on the girl. “So you’re the representative of that girl whom Mephisto keeps referring to as a higher power and calling ‘the author of this story’? Because that friend of yours is apparently unable to come and talk to us face to face.”
“That’s right,” was all Kat said to that. You weren’t sure whether she ignored the meaningful look your friend gave her, demanding an explanation, or whether she merely failed to notice it. Either way, she didn’t elaborate – of her own accord, at least.
The muscles in her still crossed arms contracted when Myra curled her fingers up into a fist, but she relaxed them again. “And why is that?”
“She’s fully content with observing from the sidelines and watching this story develop.”
“Again with that poetic –” She cut herself off with a strangled, frustrated groan. With closed eyes and a clenched jaw, she inhaled and exhaled, forcing herself to calm down. “You know what? I’ll make an exception. I’ll just leave it at that, let this one slide.” She cleared her throat. “You two are behind this, then, yes? The ones who’ve been pulling the strings?”
Kat replied in a surprisingly forthright manner, “Yep.” She fell silent for a second or two. “Well, to be completely precise, it was her who came up with this plan. I helped her put it into action.”
“It doesn’t make a difference whether you were the one who thought up that plan or helped carry it out,” your best friend hissed. “You’re involved one way or another.”
The brunette bowed her head in agreement. “True.”
“Will you tell me her real name?”
She gave a thoughtful hum and cast her teal eyes up to the ceiling as she took a moment to ponder her answer. “I’d rather not. I’m sorry,” she responded with an apologetic smile. “Let’s just keep calling her Author-san. She likes that nickname.”
“Then at least tell me where you got a key to [Nickname]’s house.” After a moment’s hesitation (and yet another resigned sigh), Myra reluctantly added, “Please.”
“I think I know where,” you piped up and turned towards Kat. “My sisters gave it to you, right? I bet it’s one of their keys.”
That broad grin of hers returned to her lips. “Your guess is dead on yet again.”
“You gave that key to your friend with that weird nickname I refuse to call her by, who then gave it to Mephisto, who used it to unlock the door.” Myra paused, narrowing her eyes at Kat. “Why did you give him a key in the first place? Surely you must’ve known he’d use it to his own advantage.”
“It was originally meant to be used as a last resort, in case of unplanned or unpredicted events preventing them from entering the house,” Kat explained, “such as [Name] not waking up from the sound of the doorbell.”
“And then you’d just force entry to her house?” Myra scoffed. “Good plan. Great plan, really. It’s not like that’s illegal or something.”
“Like I said, he was supposed to use the key only if all else had failed.” Kat glared at Mephisto in reproof. “That’s why she wants to have a word with you later, got it?”
“Yes, of course,” he said, dipping his head in mock deference.
“Besides, we were – and still are – working against the clock. There’s only so much time we have until [Name]’s parents return. Speaking of which,” she cast a glance at her bright red wristwatch, “it’s about time we leave.”
“Not so fast. I’m still not done with you. So, to sum up,” Myra began, “your friend just up and decided one day to – do what exactly? Bring a bunch of fictional characters into our reality?”
“You got it.”
She put on a sickly-sweet smile, but it was visibly forced and came out more like an annoyed grimace. “And how, pray, does one do that?”
Kat lifted her shoulders in a vague shrug. “She has her means, as well as ways to get what she wants.” Her answer was evasive and cryptic, and didn’t satisfy either Myra or you, which showed on both your faces. She smiled apologetically. “I’m sorry, but that’s all I can tell you.”
Myra pressed her lips together. You swore you could almost hear her blood pressure rising and her teeth grinding. “Well then. After somehow doing the impossible and making fictional characters real, she concocted a plan to have them meet [Nickname].”
“And, ideally, befriend her,” Kat threw in, affirmed by most of the boys’ energetic nodding.
“We’ll get to that in a second. So, you helped her by winning Nikki and Becci over. I assume as soon as they left with their parents this morning, your friend – or you – sent these guys here to make friends with [Nickname] … and then what?”
“Do the things friends do. Meet, hang out, go someplace together,” the brunette shrugged, “that kind of stuff. Just … have fun. Have a good time together.”
“I see. Well, we all know how well that plan of yours turned out. It misfired horribly because Mephisto didn’t do what he was told to do – which, if you ask me, he had been planning on doing from the start.”
Kat smirked. “Did our plan really misfire, though?”
Your best friend took a long, hard look at you. You stared back, sporting your best poker face, though that quickly crumbled under her intense gaze and gave way to a wide, devilish grin. “Despite everything, it didn’t.” Sighing, she turned back to the other girl. “But why [Nickname] of all people?”
“Because she’s the protagonist of this story,” Kat said as if it were obvious, causing Myra to let loose a snarl that reverberated in her chest.
Myra’s mouth tightened. She clenched and unclenched her fists at her sides multiple times, struggling not to go ballistic on Kat. “Why the fuck do y’all keep spewing this poetic shit?” she growled. “I want clear answers to my questions, and I want them now.”
“I’m not talking metaphorically.”
“Yeah, right, tell me another.” All of a sudden, she spun around. You couldn’t help but flinch as her hand whizzed right past your ear and gripped something – or someone – behind you. “That does it!” she bellowed, jerking Amaimon forward so that they were nose to nose. “I’m not gonna tell you again! I don’t want you anywhere near her, and if I have to punch you across the room to keep you away from her, I’ll gladly do it!”
All the King of Earth did was blink at her, unaffected by both her threat and his (extremely) close proximity to her, as well as the choking pressure on his throat caused by her clutching his tie.
A nasty smile bloomed on Myra’s lips. “Actually, you’re just what I need. A punchbag I can take my anger out on. Perfect.” Her smile warped into a vicious smirk, and she drew back her arm. “This is what you get for not listening.”
“Hey, now! Easy there, Myra. He didn’t do anything, you really don’t have to –”
“He did.” She shook off your hand you had placed firmly on her upper arm to stop her. “He opposed me yet again. I gotta teach him a lesson.”
Amaimon completely and utterly ignored her. In the meantime, he had turned to you as far as he could, what with your best friend still holding onto him, and conjured up another lollipop which he was currently offering to you. Without so much as looking, he caught Myra’s fist in his other hand.
Myra tsked. She slowly retracted her arm and turned away, rubbing her knuckles with the palm of her hand whilst muttering incoherently to herself. Then, suddenly, she whipped back around and threw a surprise punch at the Demon King.
This time, it was you who intercepted the blow, grabbing her arm and glaring at her. “No,” was all you said, but it was enough.
With a defeated sigh, she dropped her hand. “Fine.”
“Thank you.” You smiled at her. You then directed that smile at Amaimon, taking the [favourite flavour]-flavoured lollipop from him which you put into your hoodie’s kangaroo pocket. “Thank you, too.”
He just nodded in response.
“Alright then.” Almost casually, Myra pushed him away from you both, putting a lot more force into the shove because last time he had barely budged. “Do one last thing, and then you’re free to go,” she said to the twelve guys. “Prove it. Prove to me that you’re the real fictional characters and not some remarkably talented cosplayers. [Nickname]’s already convinced you’re the real deal, but I want to see it for myself.”
“I know just the perfect way to do that,” Kat piped up, smirking.
At the girl’s signal, Mephisto pulled out a single, small, golden key with an intricate design. He walked over to the nearest door – which happened to be the door to your parents’ bedroom –, inserted the key into the lock, and turned it.
If you hadn’t seen it with your own two eyes, you would have never ever believed what happened next. It dispelled any lingering doubts your friend (and even you) might have had about the credibility of their story. They were the real fictional characters. That now was an irrefutable fact.
With a click, the door swung open inward. But what lay beyond was not the bedroom of your parents with its king-sized bed between two floor-to-ceiling windows, but another very familiar sight: A huge, oval library. The walls were covered by bookshelves that reached all the way up to the ceiling and were chock-full of books which you knew were of the mystery genre without exception. A massive wooden desk with a chair stood at the far end of the room.
That was the library in Shinichi’s house. Where your parents’ bedroom was supposed to be was now that library, a whole other (and a lot bigger) room. There was magic at work here. Literally. Mephisto had used one of those magic keys enabling instantaneous transport between two points, a tool of the True Cross Order.
Both Myra’s and your jaws dropped, and for about a solid minute, neither of you spoke, gaping at the door that suddenly led to another room. It should be impossible, it certainly should. But it – obviously – wasn’t. Somehow. You didn’t understand how it was possible … Then again, most of what had happened today, in the short span of two hours, you didn’t exactly understand either.
Your best friend was the first to recover from this shock. Clearing her throat, she folded her arms across her chest and nodded. “That was pretty impressive, all right,” she said.
Kat snickered. “Isn’t it?” Your cheeks hurt just by looking at how wide the gleeful grin stretched across her face.
Myra glowered at her and huffed, tightening her crossed arms. “But it wasn’t convincing.” You knew that was a lie, and she was very much convinced. How could she not be? But she wouldn’t admit so quickly that she had seen reason, and would instead string them along for a bit, just to give them a hard time.
Kat’s grin widened even more, which you hadn’t deemed possible, and a twinkle appeared in her teal eyes. She had seen right through Myra. “Well, that’s a bummer. Go and see for yourself if you still don’t believe us.”
Myra approached the door, with you tagging along, moving as though in a daze. She peeked inside the room. At first, she did so without traversing the doorsill, but cautiously leaned over it shortly afterwards, clinging to the doorframe.
Standing behind her on your tiptoes, you peered over her shoulder. The slightly musty smell of books, leather bindings, and dust wafted out from the library.
“Don’t be shy, young ladies. Go on inside.” Mephisto smiled somewhat patronizingly at you. “Nothing can happen to you, don’t worry.”
“I’m not shy!” Myra snapped and jostled him away from the door. “I’m just being cautious!” She took a tentative step over the threshold. Then, she paused, one foot in the library – the other house, dimension even – and one still in the open room of your house’s ground floor. She was clearly feeling apprehensive, as if she expected this to be a trap.
Unable to contain yourself any longer, you squeezed past your friend and looked around, eyes wide open in amazement. You had entered the world of one of your favourite anime and manga. This was … This was so freaking cool! Downright mind-blowing! Like every other fangirl out there, this was everything you had ever wanted, everything you had ever dreamed of. Never in your wildest dreams, however, had you imagined that you would actually be able to do this one day. But here you were.
You whirled around to Myra who had (finally) entered the room. The second your eyes met, a big, goofy smile erupted on your face, and you reached out at the same time as her, gripping each other’s hands. You were so giddy with joy, you weren’t able to stay still and bounced up and down. “Myra!”
“Yes, I know. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that all this is real,” she mumbled. She gazed around the room and sighed. “It’s amazing, isn’t it?” A mischievous grin worked its way across her face and into her eyes. “All you ever dreamed of.”
“Was that enough proof for you?” Kat asked, sauntering up to you. She was watching you two with an amused, yet tender smile like most of the guys. “Do you believe us now?”
Before she turned to face the brunette, Myra gave your hands a gentle squeeze, let go of them, and put on her usual scowl. She shrugged in an exaggeratedly indifferent manner. “I guess.”
“Glad to hear that. Now, if you’d please …” Trailing off, Kat beckoned you to come back inside your house. “We don’t want your parents to walk in on us like this, do we?” She stepped aside to let you pass. Then, she nodded to Shinichi, Heiji, Kaitou Kid, and Gin and said, “Time to go, boys.”
Instantly, the Phantom Thief strode over to you. He bowed at the waist and kissed your hand, holding on to it a little longer than necessary before releasing it. “I’ll be counting the seconds until we meet again, [Name].”
Shinichi and Heiji stalked past you, both frowning deeply and oozing annoyance from every pore. Without speaking, they stood on either side of Kaitou Kid and grabbed him by the arms. Then, they marched him through the door. They reminded you of bodyguards removing a particularly importunate fan from a celebrity.
Gin followed them. He nodded to you as he passed you while fishing his cigarettes and lighter out of his trench coat’s pocket. Once he had stepped over the doorsill, he lit a cigarette. He drew on it almost fiercely and expelled the smoke like a long sigh.
“See you,” the two high schoolers, still holding Kaitou Kid, said simultaneously. They paused to glare at each other for a moment, then continued waving you, and you waved back, giggling.
Mephisto pulled the door shut behind them, turned the key, and opened the door again. In place of the library, there now was a salon of sorts, its colours kept in shades of white, grey, and black with some red accents. The most notable feature of the room was its absolute symmetry. This belonged to Death the Kid, without a doubt.
As if on cue, said boy stepped up to you with Soul at his side, smiling a perfectly symmetrical smile. “It was nice meeting you, [Name].”
“Same here,” you said and smiled back at him.
“It was pretty cool, all things considered. I hope we get to hang out again soon.” Soul glanced at Kat for confirmation. She just grinned. “Well,” he shrugged and turned away, “see ya.” Waving over his shoulder, he strolled into Kid’s house, the Gallows, followed by Kid himself.
Again, the King of Time closed the door and opened it back up after another turn of the key. A vast room stretched before you. It was full of opulent furnishings like marble panels on the walls, bas-relief scrollwork on the ceiling, ornate chandeliers, and luxurious furniture. You immediately recognized it as Music Room #3 – the room where the Ouran Host Club met on a daily basis.
The Hitachiin twins moved to stand in front of you, side by side. They effectively blocked your view of the wonderfully furnished room you were admiring, calling for all your attention. In perfect synchrony, they each took hold of one of your hands, brought it to their lips, and kissed the back of your hand. They did all that without breaking eye contact. “The next time we meet, we’ll properly entertain you, promise,” they said in unison.
If you hadn’t already been blushing because of their actions, those words coupled with that playful wink of theirs would have coloured your skin in no time. Nonetheless, there was a lopsided smirk tugging at your lips. “I’m looking forward to it.”
After Hikaru and Kaoru had entered the Host Club room and waved you goodbye, Mephisto repeated the process of closing the door, turning the key in the lock, and opening the door for the third time. As soon as he did, bright sunlight momentarily blinded you, and you shaded your eyes, squinting to see more clearly.
With your eyes growing accustomed to the strong light, you could make out more and more details of the room before you. A large, canted oriel window that took up most of the back wall. A bulky desk with a high-backed, upholstered chair. A dark red ceiling and walls of the same colour with equally dark panelling. You didn’t need to see more to know which room – whose room this was. Mephisto’s office.
You didn’t get to see more of this room anyways. Next thing you knew, you were being hugged, face squashed against someone’s shoulder. Albeit caught off guard at first, you returned the unexpected, but not unwelcome hug, burying your flushed face in Rin’s shirt. You secretly relished in his warmth.
Alas, your elation at hugging one of your favourite fictional characters was short-lived as you sensed eyes boring into your back. You quickly realized that this piercing stare was not aimed at you, but at Rin. He seemed to be oblivious to it, though.
Rin drew back, holding you at arm’s length. You took this opportunity to glance about and noticed that not only Myra was glaring at the half-demon, but his brother and – surprisingly – Amaimon too. “I know we didn’t exactly get off on the right foot, but I’m sure we’ll become great friends!” Rin beamed at you.
His cheery smile was infectious, and you felt it rapidly spreading to your own face. His adorableness had you melting. “Me too.”
The dark-haired boy went in for another big hug, squeezing you close. You took no notice of the mounting vexation of three particular persons and the similarly increasing amusement of the remaining two, either on purpose (you) or not (Rin). Well, until Amaimon came barging in and ruined your little moment with Rin, that was – much like Myra had earlier with Kaitou Kid.
Forcing his way between you two, the King of Earth plucked his half-brother from you as though he was a pesky burr clinging to you. After that, he pushed him away. He was looking as bored stiff as ever, but you could swear you saw the tiniest hint of annoyance flashing in his gold-coloured eyes.
“Oi, what the fuck do you think –” Rin’s angry protest was cut short when Yukio, who had appeared next to him, seized him. He was dragged off towards the open door. “Let me go, dammit! What’s wrong with y’all?! Stop!”
“We must go now, brother. There’s no time to flirt.” Yukio’s plain-spoken words reduced his older brother to a blushing mess in a matter of seconds and caused him to almost trip over his own feet.
“F-F-F-Flirt?!” Rin sputtered, his face as red as a tomato. He had stopped resisting being towed along by the elbow, stumbling after Yukio in a fluster. “I-I wasn’t …!”
Yukio ignored him. “Goodbye, [Name],” he merely said before pulling his brother Rin into the office and then into the right part of the room, disappearing from your field of view.
That was when Amaimon turned to you and took your hands. Gently, he put them together to form a bowl and motioned you to stay like this, which you did, a bit confused as to what he was doing and where this was going. Pulling his sleeve over his hand, he proceeded to … pour small, pastel-coloured stars into your cupped hands?
Fascinated, you watched as these colourful star bits piled up in your palms. You did wonder where all these candies were coming from, but only for a second, and then you dismissed that question. This was probably the least weird thing that had happened so far. Were you really going to question that of all things, wrack your brains over that? Definitely not. Everything was possible today, period.
“That’s the last straw!” Myra roared, startling you.
You nearly jerked your hands away from Amaimon and already heard the tinkle of the sugar candy hitting the laminate floor. But you didn’t, and all was good. That was what you thought, at least, because a mere second later, Myra launched herself at the Demon King, gripped his tie, and yanked at it.
Again, panic struck you like frigid air. You feared these lovely sweets would fly all over the place after all. It would take you ages to gather them up … Much to your relief (and surprise), however, Amaimon didn’t budge, and neither did the steady flow of stars from his sleeve into your palms. Both were undisturbed by Myra’s fierce tug at his tie.