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Dream Come True

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re·al·i·ty

noun

/riˈæl.ə.ti/

the state of things as they are, rather than as they are imagined to be


A low murmur of voices nearby reached your ears. It slowly roused you from your blissful slumber. With a hearty yawn you didn’t bother to smother with your hand, you stretched yourself beneath the covers. You cracked open one eye first, then the other. Afterwards, you rubbed the sleep out of them. Blinking a couple of times, your eyes gradually adjusted to the light filtering in through the cracks of the curtains.

Upon seeing something move in your peripheral vision, you turned your head in that direction. Two boys were standing at the side of your queen-size bed. They appeared to be about the same age as each other and as you, and – given their similar looks, what with the coal-black hair and blue eyes – related to one another. As soon as they had noticed you had woken up, they had stopped talking to each other, observing you closely instead.

You returned their looks, gazing at them from beneath half-closed lids. Your eyes did take in the sight of and recognize the two teenagers. But they didn’t send this (very important, mind you) piece of information to your brain just yet. Or maybe they had, and your brain just took its sweet time digesting that information because you were, as already mentioned, still half-asleep.

Either way, you knew that the brothers Rin and Yukio Okumura from Blue Exorcist were currently in your room (for whatever reasons anyway). But you had yet to become fully aware of that fact. Your sleep-addled mind simply wasn’t able to comprehend what was going on right now, though that would change soon. Very soon. To be exact, it would take you about a minute to even begin grasping the absurdity of this situation.

Another yawn left your mouth. Again, you didn’t take the trouble to cover your mouth with your hand; you just yawned right at the two brothers and blinked your teary eyes. Then, you rolled over onto your side, turning your back to the boys. “Let me sleep,” you muttered. “Just five more minutes …”

Your thoughts drifted back to yesterday. Your best friend had come over to binge-watch various anime with you, from morning to night. Anime like Detective Conan, Soul Eater, Ouran High School Host Club, a few others … and Blue Exorcist.

Wait a Goddamn second.

Two boys were standing at your bedside. And they were not just some ordinary boys, but Rin and Yukio Okumura. Satan’s son and his brother, of all people! How long had they already been standing there? And, more importantly, how in the world was that even possible in the first place?! Were you still dreaming?

Instantly, you turned back around and opened your eyes again. But the moment you did so, your heart almost stopped beating for a second. Rin’s face was hovering right in front of yours, barely a few millimeters away from the tip of your nose, and filling up your whole field of view.

Now, you definitely were awake and alert – and very much aware of the fact that, no, you were not seeing things, but that two fictional characters actually were in your room … somehow.

You were completely and utterly caught off guard by this most unexpected sight (and sudden invasion of your personal space). Reflexively, you leapt backwards, away from Rin and out of your bed. Seizing the blanket you had been lying beneath up until now, you hastily wrapped it around you. After all, you were wearing nothing but a white tank top and panties of the same colour.

“Ah, you’re awake,” Yukio said as he pushed his black-rimmed glasses higher up the bridge of his nose, “finally, if I may add.”

“Is that really her?” Rin asked his brother without taking his azure eyes off you. He was eyeing you curiously, taking in your features twisted with bewilderment. A faint blush dusted his cheeks due to your lack of proper clothes.

“Yes, of course,” came the immediate answer. “This is, without doubt, the girl she told us about.”

You looked back and forth between the two brothers, your head jerking from side to side and your dishevelled hair swinging to and fro. Your mind was reeling, desperately trying to make sense of this all – to no avail, since this whole situation made no sense at all. “W-What the heck …?!”

Rin nodded in response to Yukio’s strange words. Taking step after step, he slowly walked around the bed towards where you were standing and wondering if you had lost your mind.

Unable to figure out whatever was going on and feeling rather threatened by the two brothers, your mind was compelled to press the panic button. Adrenaline flooded your system and took over. Without thinking, you dropped the blanket right then and there. It would only be a hindrance to you; for what you were about to do, you needed unrestricted freedom of movement. (You letting go of the blanket also had the convenient side effect of distracting the boys.)

Snatching two pillows from your bed, you flung them, one after the other, in the faces of Rin and Yukio (in that order). Then, you hopped onto your bed and made for the door opposite to the bed. The mattress cushioned your steps, making it harder for you to move forward quickly, but it would also provide you with momentum when you would jump off it right towards the door.

That was your plan. Alas, two hands grabbed each of your shoulders just as you reached the foot of the bed. You were yanked backward and thrown onto the bed. Your back had hardly hit the mattress when the brothers already held you down, Rin on your left side and Yukio on your right. They pressed your arms and legs down into the mattress as though you were some kind of criminal.

You tossed and turned, desperately trying to break free of their grasp. Even one or two snarls and growls slipped past your pulled-back lips as you thrashed about. You wouldn’t go down without a fight, oh no. Like a cornered animal, you were wild and willing to do anything to escape.

“Calm down, [Name],” Yukio said. He had his face turned away from you, looking at you only from the corner of his eye. At least he had a little decency, unlike his older brother Rin who was outright ogling you despite blushing to the tips of his pointy ears. “There is no need to panic.”

“Says the one holding me down!”

“We just want to stop you from running away from us again.”

“How else am I supposed to react when I wake up to find someone in my room, watching me as I sleep, and I’m basically just in my underwear?!” you bit back.

The bespectacled boy awkwardly cleared his throat. He shot Rin a piercing glare that made him wince and avert his gaze as well, shame-faced. “If you promise you won’t try to run away again, we will let go of you, alright? And then we’ll sit down and talk.”

You could barely suppress a disdainful snort. Yeah, right! These two had broken into your house and entered your room without your permission and – as if that wasn’t already bad enough – while you had been still asleep. That was something only ill-intentioned people would do. Who knew what they would have done if you hadn’t woken up in time! Whatever they were planning to do with you, you didn’t want to find out.

Your resistance was absolutely pointless. It had no effect whatsoever on the two brothers. All it did was exhaust you and use up the energy you badly needed for another attempt to escape. Hence, you gave up and relaxed your whole body. You felt their grip slacken just a moment later. They probably thought you had surrendered – far from it!

One … two … three …

Summoning all your strength, you jerked into an upright position. This made the black-haired teens stagger, and they let go of you. Without wasting any of these precious seconds, you jumped out of bed, ran over to the door, and flung it open. Before leaving your room, you grabbed the [favourite colour] hoodie hanging from a hook next to the door and pulled it over your head.

You rushed into the hallway, pulling the door shut behind you to impede Rin and Yukio even if for just some seconds, and – promptly bumped into someone. Gingerly, you lifted your head. You froze right away. There, right in front of you, stood Gin from Detective Conan. Another fictional character? What in the world was going on here?!

Were you experiencing one of these lucid dreams you had read about? You had to be, right? There was no other logical explanation for all this – well, none you could come up with in your state of dismay, anyway. Fictional characters were fictional. It was impossible for them to be here. Period.

But, dreaming or not, it still freaked you out – quite a lot!

“I was dying to see you, [Name].” The way Gin talked, said your name, and looked down at you sent a shiver down your spine. “You managed to get away from them, but you won’t be able to escape me.”

Welp, that didn’t really help soothe your already frayed nerves. If anything, it only fanned the embers of agitation smouldering in the pit of your stomach.

You evaded his hands reaching for you only by a hair’s breadth. In a trice, you had dashed past him and down the stairs, only to nearly suffer from another heart attack. The twins Hikaru and Kaoru from Ouran High School Host Club were sitting on the couch by the fireplace in the open eat-in kitchen to your right, smiling at you. It seemed like they had been waiting for you to come downstairs.

They looked completely identical to one another. The same shock of messy, auburn hair, the same amber-coloured eyes twinkling with mischievousness, the same light blue school uniform with gold rims and buttons. You wouldn’t be able to tell them apart even if your life depended on it.

“There she is!” the two of them exclaimed in perfect unison.

One of them patted the free space on the couch between him and his brother. You couldn’t tell whether it was Hikaru or Kaoru. They just looked too alike, and you were too worked up to care. “Come over here and have a seat, [Name]!”

“We’ve already prepared a cup of tea for you!” the other twin warbled and raised his hand holding a steaming porcelain cup. “You should hurry before it gets cold!”

You shook your head to break away from this sight. “What the heck is going on here?” you mumbled to yourself as you continued running. You had been so surprised to see the twins, you had stopped short.

“Hey, where are you going? What about your tea? It’s getting cold!” Although you weren’t looking at him, you could tell that Hikaru/Kaoru was pouting. Considering his childish reaction, you assumed he was Hikaru because he was the more immature one of the twins. “Don’t you wanna have tea with us?”

Kaoru sighed. “Looks like they didn’t get around to explaining everything to her yet … No wonder she’s running away, that poor girl!”

Meanwhile, you charged toward the flight of stairs leading into the basement. But you stopped dead in your tracks once again as soon as you caught sight of the two boys standing on the landing of the half-turn stairs. Death the Kid and Soul from Soul Eater.

“Can’t get past us, [Name],” Soul said, stating the obvious you had long noticed. He had a big smirk on his lips whereas Kid was smiling faintly.

Since this was clearly a dead end, you whirled back around. You shrunk back. Gin was standing in the short corridor a couple of meters away from you, blocking your way. His green eyes were as cold as ice. The corners of his mouth were twisted into a frosty smile that gave you the shudders.

You looked over your shoulder to see that Soul and Kid hadn’t moved an inch. Your [colour] eyes wandered upwards, focusing on something there. Maybe you could make it … It was possible. And since you couldn’t think of another way to get out of this deadlock (you had, to tell the truth, brought yourself into), you were more than willing to give it a try.

Without more ado, you broke into a mad run, sprinting towards Gin who didn’t even flinch. In fact, he made no move to sidestep you at all. But you saw him tense up ever so slightly in anticipation. Merely half a meter in front of him, you made a sharp U-turn, only just evading him trying to grab you, and raced towards the basement stairs.

At the topmost step, you took a flying leap. Reaching for the naked bulb hanging above the staircase, you got hold of the cable. With a disquieting crunch, flakes of plaster crumbled off the ceiling around the lamp’s fixture. But as luck would have it, it carried your weight and didn’t come crashing down, taking you with it. You would have fallen right into Soul’s or Kid’s arms …

Using the energy of the jump, you did a full 360°. To gain even more momentum, you pushed yourself off the back wall with your bare feet and then let go of the cable in the last moment possible. Your plan was to land behind Gin who had come a little closer in the meantime. Somehow, you managed to do just that.

“Wow!” you heard Soul exclaim, audibly awestruck. “Man, that was cool!”

Scarcely had your feet hit firm ground when you dashed off, past the eat-in kitchen, heading straight for the front door. You left all the guys stunned in your wake and unable to follow you (for the moment).

Well, all but one.

Gin made a grab for you. He would have almost caught hold of you – if it weren’t for him being a tiny little bit impressed by your extraordinary display of agility that could wow a circus crowd. This resulted in him reacting just a split-second too late and grasping nothing but air.

Who would have thought that being an enthusiastic parkour runner would pay off like this and even save your own skin someday? Not you, that was for sure. You would have neither thought that a bunch of fictional characters would appear from nowhere to harass you, that was for sure too.

In your mind, you were already at your best friend’s place where you would seek shelter from these freaks and call the police. I mean, these people (whoever they were anyway) had broken into your house and would have done God knew what to you if you hadn’t been able to escape. Telling the policemen that several weirdos dressed as fictional characters had broken in and tried to take you captive would be so awkward …

But you had to find that you had got your hopes up too high too soon. This nightmare was far from over. A mere second after you had yanked open the front door, you slammed it shut again – right in the faces of Kaitou Kid and his two archenemies Shinichi Kudo and Heiji Hattori.

The Phantom Thief, in his full gear – complete with that white top hat and monocle of his –, was standing on the single step in front of the door, flanked by the two high schoolers. Kaitou Kid had one of his gloved hands raised in greeting, lips curled into a charming smile. It didn’t stand a chance against the wave of desperation deluging you.

“Hello there, [Name]. It’s a pleasure –” That and a graceful bow was all Kaitou Kid managed to say and do. The thunderous bang of the door being thrown shut by you cut him short.

Your last chance was the backyard. Between you and the doorway nearest to you – the patio door in the eat-in kitchen – stood Hikaru and Kaoru, so you had to take the other. Spinning on your heels, you ran towards the narrow corridor wedged between the staircase leading up to the first floor and the bedroom of your parents, dodging Gin on the way. At the end of the corridor, there was a glass door. It led into the left part of the garden where a patio with a small swimming pool in the middle was located.

Rin and Yukio, who had come downstairs, barred you from reaching the hallway. You didn’t hesitate for a single second. Feinting to the right, you made a move to dart to the left and finally squeezed past the – now confused – brothers. Unfortunately, Rin shook off his stupefaction sooner than expected (and hoped for) and grabbed your wrist.

The older Okumura brother revealed his prominent canines in a big grin. Those were his real teeth, not some fake Halloween vampire fangs. Holy shit, he really was Rin! The Rin Okumura, son of Satan, exorcist in training! What?! “Gotcha.”

After you had (somehow) overcome the shock of the realization that these apparently (somehow) were the real fictional characters (however that was possible), you resumed tugging at his hand, trying to get it off – without success. “Let go!” you growled. Your features were warped into an angry scowl, eyes narrowed and teeth bared much like a hissing cat.

“[Name], now if you would please listen to me –”

“No, you will listen to me now!” you snapped, cutting Yukio off in the middle of his sentence. “Leave me alone, damnit! This is my house! You have no business here! Get lost already and never come back!”

Your little outburst left the half-demon exorcist speechless, staring at you with a bewildered expression.

With a snort, Rin pressed a hand over his mouth as he tried hard not to burst out laughing. He gave you a wink his dumbstruck brother didn’t notice, and you felt his grip on your wrist slacken at the same time.

You flashed him a small, grateful smile. At least someone who helped you out in this mind-boggling situation. You freed yourself with ease and then continued on your way out of the house – well, you wanted to. But you had seemingly used up all of today’s luck.

While you had been busy dealing with the brothers, Gin had come nearer, unnoticed by you. When you finally did take notice of him, it was already too late. He roughly grabbed hold of your upper arm and pulled you towards him, pressing your back against his chest. Arms wrapped around your torso, he lifted you a few centimeters off the floor.

With your legs flailing in the air, you squirmed and writhed in his grasp. This was just a means to an end. Due to your thrashing about, you were slowly, but surely slipping from his iron embrace. Once your arms had enough freedom of movement, you elbowed the tall man in the stomach, which resulted in him loosening his hold on you and you being able to get out of this clasp.

Out of nothing but spite, you firmly grasped his upper arm with both hands. In a laboured effort and with a grunt, you hurled him over your shoulder onto the laminate floor in front of you – right where Rin and Yukio happened to stand. Oops.

The brothers tumbled to the floor, buried beneath Gin. To look on the bright side, you had just pulled off a move straight out of those action movies you loved to watch. You were proud of yourself. Also, you had momentarily floored the three of them and could flee without problems. Or so you thought.

You had barely taken a step when, out of nowhere, a shackle snapped shut around your ankle, causing you to trip and almost fall. But you could support yourself on a nearby dresser. Looking behind you, an exasperated groan built up in your throat, but it got stuck there. Tenacious as he was, Gin had got hold of you again. The murderous look in his eyes and the threatening smile on his lips boded ill for you …

Gripped by panic, every one of your attempts at getting rid of him failed. He just wouldn’t let go of your foot, no matter how hard you tried. He was playing on time. That much you realized the second you noticed the four remaining boys, namely Hikaru, Kaoru, Soul, and Kid, closing in on you.

With a lazy roll of his garnet red eyes, Soul shoved his hands into the pockets of his yellow and black jacket. “Sheesh, keep your shirt on,” he huffed, sauntering alongside Death the Kid. “You’re overreacting. That’s not cool.”

“You know what’s not cool?” Your voice was full of venom. “You being here.”

The male Demon Weapon grimaced as though your words had inflicted physical pain upon him.

“Please, [Name], calm down,” Kid said as he calmly helped Rin and Yukio up, who had pulled themselves out from beneath Gin. But this only urged you to intensify your struggle. “We’re here for a very good reason.”

The closer the four boys got, the more frantic you grew in your efforts to escape, seeing as Gin was still lying on the floor and clinging to your ankle like a man-size ball and chain. Even so, you couldn’t help but sass the boys. “Yeah, to harass me, obviously.”

Kaoru shook his head. “No, you got it all wrong.”

You quirked an eyebrow at him. “Yeah? Really? I’m not so sure about that. This,” you nodded to the man in black, “looks a lot like harassment, don’t you think?”

“That’s just because you keep running away!” Hikaru argued indignantly. “If you could just calm down for a second and stop to listen to us, we wouldn’t have to run after you! And then we could explain everything to you!”

At that moment, after what felt like an eternity, you were finally able to wrench your foot from Gin’s clutch. “No thank you!” In a flash, you were down the corridor, out the door, and in the backyard. You rounded the corner to get to the fishpond behind the house, in the middle part of the garden.

From there, you would just have to advance to the right part with another patio, a butterfly bush, a tool shed – and a gate connecting the backyard and the driveway. This gate was, apart from the two patio doors, the only other way to leave the garden; the rest of the backyard was enclosed by a tall hedge you couldn’t climb without using an aid, like a ladder. This gate was your way into freedom.

But, again, you didn’t get very far. In fact, you didn’t even get anywhere near the garden gate.

Shinichi, Heiji, and Kaitou Kid (whom you had totally forgotten about) intercepted you at the small pond. They had been lying in wait for you there. Shinichi was sitting on one of the rocks beneath the small willow, and his companions were standing nearby, with Kaitou Kid standing furthest away from the pond and its scaled inhabitants due to his fear of fish.

They were engrossed in a conversation and didn’t seem to take note of you. Just as a plan on how to make use of this started to form in your head, Heiji caught sight of you. The moment he did, he stopped talking mid-sentence and turned to face you, causing the other two to notice you as well. There went your hopes of catching them unawares and being able to sprint past them without being caught …

Chapter Text

re·al·i·ty

noun

/riˈæl.ə.ti/

the state of things as they are, rather than as they are imagined to be


“Look, we don’t mean any harm to ya, really,” the high schooler from Osaka assured you, raising his hands as a sign of his peaceful intentions.

“Doesn’t look like it to me!” you retorted. You threw a quick look over your shoulder to make sure that the others weren’t sneaking up on you while you were distracted, which was – thankfully – not the case.

Giving you a charismatic smile, Kaitou Kid winked at you. “We would never harm a beautiful lady like you, [Name].” You couldn’t tell whether he deliberately ignored the black looks the two high schoolers gave him, or whether he just failed to notice them because he was too focused on mollifying you. “I swear by my honour as a master thief. We just want to talk.”

The three friendly rivals exchanged eloquent looks. Shinichi stopped playing with a golden idle swimming in the pond and stood up. Then, they all began moving towards you with slow, careful steps, as though they were approaching a wounded and agitated animal that could lash out at any given moment.

Each step they took, you took one backward. “Oh, really? You chasing me around and trying to catch me doesn’t exactly make me want to talk to you, though.”

“If you keep running away, we don’t have much of another choice, do we?” Shinichi countered with a smile that held a touch of annoyance.

Shinichi, Heiji, and Kaitou Kid proceeded to back you into the direction you had come from, into the part of the garden where the pool was – and where the rest of the guys were waiting for you. A moment’s distraction, caused by your panic-stricken state of mind, proved to be fatal. Before you knew it, you were surrounded.

What did they want from you? They insisted that they just wanted to talk to you, but you doubted that. It was more than a little strange that they went so far as to force entry to your house and ambush you in your own room just to “talk.” There was something fishy about them – apart from the fact that they were, to all appearances, fictional characters who had turned into real persons in some mysterious way. In short, you didn’t trust them.

The circle around you grew smaller as they drew closer, making it next to impossible for you to run away from them. That wouldn’t stop you from trying, though. Your eyes flickered about, frantically searching for a way out, for a gap, or anything really you could use to escape. You found nothing. When they were all just one meter away, you had long broken into a cold sweat.

Just then, a moving shadow caught your eye – and not only yours, but each of the guys, too. It flitted across the marble tiles of the patio and merged with the shadow of the deck chair standing near the pool. The guys’ attention was diverted, hopefully long enough for you to slip past them. This was your chance!

If you had given in to your curiosity and looked up, you would have seen a figure swooping down from the clear blue sky like a bird of prey would on its prey. Of course, that prey was none other than you. But you didn’t know that. You were too focused on seizing this opportunity to run off. That was why the living daylights were scared out of you when a booming thud shook the very ground beneath your feet.

Before you realized what was happening, slender yet strong arms were wrapped snugly around you. The next thing you knew, you were flying. Air rushed past you in a howl that blotted out other sounds. Your heart fluttered in your chest and your pulse in your throat as the stranger pulled you up with them, high into the air, and – most importantly – away from the guys. They could do nothing but stand there on the patio and watch you being taken away.

Mere seconds later, you were standing on firm ground again. With your heart still beating fast and blood pounding in your ears, you looked over to your alleged saviour. To your own surprise, you neither froze nor suffered from yet another almost heart attack. It seemed like you had somehow got used to fictional characters showing up – for whatever inexplicable reason you hoped to find out sooner or later.

Crouching on the roof ridge was Amaimon from Blue Exorcist, Rin’s and Yukio’s half-brother of full demonic descent. With a somewhat pensive expression on his face, he stared back at you, gnawing on the nail of his right thumb which created a continuous scrunching noise that made you cringe. (Well, you couldn’t call those needle-like, black claws “nails,” but that wasn’t of importance right now.)

“Um … thank you, I guess.” Because you were (admittedly more than just) slightly unsettled by his unblinking gaze, it sounded more like a question. Also, you weren’t sure if you should thank him yet because, who knew, perhaps he had just whisked you away to have you all to himself and not to actually save you like a knight in shining armour.

He blinked, once, and stopped biting his nail. “No problem.” Having said that, he resumed his two new favourite pastimes: chewing on his claw-like nail and staring at you. You didn’t like either, since both made you uncomfortable – very much so.

Unable to hold Amaimon’s gold-eyed gaze, you averted your eyes. You cautiously leaned over the roof’s edge and peered down. Surprisingly, the guys hadn’t left to give chase yet. They were still on the patio. Everyone but Gin, Yukio, and Death the Kid (though the latter two did listen with half an ear) was invested in an animated conversation. You could see the grins splitting their faces even from up here.

“Why are they smirking like that?” you asked yourself, mumbling. One moment, they were hellbent on catching you, and the next, they were wasting their time standing around and talking. Not that you minded, not at all, but you did wonder why.

As if he had sensed you looking at him and heard your question, Rin leaned his head back. Your eyes met. Pointing at the shirt he was wearing beneath his black jacket, he gave you a broad smirk and a thumbs-up.

The penny dropped near-instantly. His shirt was white. Your tank top was too – but that wasn’t what he had meant. What was white as well were the panties you were wearing. Heat exploded in your face, the blush scorching your cheeks. With a heavy sigh, you plopped yourself down on the black roof tiles.

“What’s wrong?” Amaimon asked, a sliver of curiosity (and another emotion you couldn’t quite identify because it was almost non-existent) tinging his usually uninterested voice. He sounded like he was eating something. His face appeared in your field of view, hovering above your shoulder; you could see that he had a lollipop in his mouth.

“When you pulled me up, the guys down there …” You trailed off, pulling the hem of your hoodie down. “Well,” you continued when the King of Earth kept staring at you, and cleared your throat, “they saw something they shouldn’t have."

He cocked his head to one side and blinked at you. “What do you mean? What did they see?”

“Oh, dear brother,” a male voice sighed theatrically – right behind you.

Startled, you jumped and knocked against Amaimon’s chin with your shoulder, sending him falling over backwards and disappearing from your field of view as a result. Slowly, you turned around, standing up in the process.

Behind Amaimon stood Mephisto Pheles. He was from Blue Exorcist, another demonic half-brother of Rin and Yukio, and Amaimon’s older brother. With his lips curled into a mischievous smile and his forest green eyes riveted on you, he whispered something into Amaimon’s pointy ear – probably the meaning of your words.

When Mephisto finished his explanation and straightened up, his brother didn’t bat an eyelash. Without a word, but with a completely blank face, he got to his feet, his hands buried in the pockets of his dark maroon shorts. He slipped closer to you, and you suppressed the urge to shy away. Bending down to be at your eye level, he whispered, “Maybe you can help me kill my boredom.” He was so close, you could smell a trace of cherry in his breath fanning your face.

The corners of your mouth twitched. Repeatedly. With your imagination running wild, you wanted to screw up your mouth and smirk at the same time, both because of his remark. You forced yourself to do neither, but you still felt warmth gathering in your face. Nonetheless, you stared him dead in the eye, wearing the best poker face you could muster despite of your blush.

The ghost of a smile crossed his face, so quickly you nearly didn’t see it. Then, he took a step forward, prompting you to take one backwards. And you had already thought – hoped – that he, as the first and only person so far, would leave you alone. But it seemed like you had been dead wrong.

A horrible crack made you wince. The white stick of the lollipop in Amaimon’s mouth wandered from one corner to the other, followed by him nonchalantly spitting it out. Afterwards, he licked his lips. His tongue was abnormally long and pointy. Popping another lollipop into his mouth, he continued approaching you.

Once again, you backed away from him, glancing behind you after every step to make sure you didn’t take a step too far and fall over the edge. This carried on until you arrived at the roof’s edge. You couldn’t move backwards any further to evade him, and now had to move to the side. After another glance, you looked back to Amaimon – and almost launched yourself off the edge. His face was mere millimeters away from yours.

Acting instinctively, you grabbed him by the collar of his rust-coloured coat. You turned the tables on him by whirling around and swapping places this way. Now, he was the one standing with his back to the abyss and you were the one standing safely on the roof. The Demon King didn’t seem to care in the least about that, though.

Suddenly, you heard Rin’s cheerful voice call, “Look, guys! I found her phone!” As if on cue, you also heard a phone – your smartphone – go off. “She’s A Rebel” by Green Day. That was the ringtone you had chosen for your best friend.

It just now occurred to you that you had already worn the hoodie you were currently wearing yesterday throughout the anime marathon, put your smartphone into the kangaroo pocket, and apparently forgotten about it. It must have fallen out of the pocket when Amaimon had taken you to the roof with him. Thank God it wasn’t broken.

You were about to just let go of the King of Earth, but then changed your mind. Yanking him towards you, you swiftly sidestepped him and released him after all, which caused him to stumble past you. After that, you jumped down onto the roof of the oriel window belonging to your room. You made your way down the wall hand over hand along the window frame and soon after dropped down onto the lush grass.

Without further ado, you bolted into the left part of the backyard where the guys still were, now crowding around Rin who was holding your (still ringing) smartphone. As you raced past them, you snatched it from his hands and immediately took the call. “Myra! You’re calling just at the right time. I need your help.”

“I knew it!” Myra exclaimed. “I knew something was wrong! I got this really bad feeling all of a sudden and just had to call to check up on you. I’ll get going right away.” You heard a door being thrown shut and hasty footfalls on her end, then the loud clatter of metal. You guessed she had run into the garage of her house, dragged her bike out, and mounted it.

Your inattentiveness was, once again, your undoing. You hadn’t noticed that one of the guys was missing. Gin was standing off to the side and leaning against the wall of the house. His dark clothes merged with the shadow of the house, making it hard to see him – with the exception of the cigarette in his mouth whose smouldering end flared up each time he took a drag. But even that you failed to notice.

The nine boys went after you once they had got over the initial surprise. Whilst running away from them, you rushed past where the man in black stood, hidden in the shadows. Now that you came into his reach, he lunged at you like a jack-in-the-box who had just been waiting to pop out of his box and scare you witless – and that he did.

A frightened squeak escaped your lips. That was all you got out as a hand came down over your mouth and a strong arm encircled your stomach, rendering you virtually immobile. During your (futile) struggle against the Black Organization’s executive agent, your smartphone slipped from your grasp. Upon being hauled against the man’s chest, the unpleasant smell of cigarette smoke enveloped you, permeating your nostrils, and you scrunched up your nose.

“[Nickname]? What’s wrong? Are you alright?” came Myra’s barely audible voice from the smartphone’s speaker. Even though you had difficulties understanding her, you clearly heard the mixture of worry and alarm in her voice. “[Nickname]!”

“You’re not running off again, [Name].” Gin’s breath stank of cigarette smoke too, and you turned your head away as much as you could to avoid this terrible stench. But wherever you moved your head, the reek followed. “You’ll listen to what we have to say. Hold still!” he growled when you continued resisting him.

Ha! Like hell you were going to do that! Recalling the self-defence classes you had taken once, you stomped your foot down on his with all your might. A tiny part of you – the sadistic one – wished you were wearing high heels. But even barefoot, it was enough to somewhat hurt him, enough to cause him to flinch (just slightly, but that was something at least). Then, you shot your heel up and back, aiming for his shin.

The sole result of your kick was a quiet “Oomph” that slipped past the man’s lips. Nothing else. Realization hit you like a thunderbolt. You had missed and caught him in the thigh instead. Neither enough to incapacitate him nor to loosen his hold on you. In fact, it had brought about the very opposite: He tightened his arm around your waist.

“Let her go!” Shinichi demanded, squaring up to his nemesis. “You’re scaring her, damnit! That’s not why she sent us here! That’s the exact opposite of what we were supposed to do!”

Not even deigning to look at him, Gin coolly replied, “Our plan failed right at the start, and each of your attempts to get her to listen failed too. Your kid-glove treatment obviously didn’t work, so I’ll have to put the screws on her. Isn’t that right, kitten?” He grasped your chin and tilted your head backwards, forcing you to look up at him. “Since you don’t want to listen to us, we have to force you to.”

To show him what you thought of that, you bit down on the finger closest to your mouth – not so hard it drew blood, but hard enough to hurt him a good deal. However, you recoiled immediately. Your face contorted into a mask of sheer disgust as you gagged on the nauseatingly bitter taste of nicotine that stuck to the skin of his index finger.

With a pained hiss, he yanked his hand away from you and shook it. After he had examined the bite marks you had left on his finger, he chuckled darkly, a sinister sound that disconcerted you. “Would you look at that, the kitten has claws …”

Grimly desperate to escape Gin (and the miasma around him), you were left with no other choice but to hit him where it was going to hurt beyond the shadow of a doubt. You twisted to the side and thrust your knee up as hard as you could. That got a reaction not only out of him, but out of everyone else too. While he gave a grunt of both pain and surprise, the other boys simultaneously took a sharp intake of breath.

At once, you freed yourself from the man’s embrace. Scooping your smartphone up from the ground, you began taking the same route you had taken to get down from the roof to get back onto it. Your hands were still shaking a little, your heart still racing from the adrenaline rush. “Myra, I’m back. Sorry for the interruption.”

Myra heaved a big sigh of relief, as if she had been holding her breath this whole time. “[Nickname]! Oh God, you’re still alive! I thought you’d been attacked! Jesus Christ, what the hell happened back there?!”

“Don’t worry, I’m alright. I’m alive and well. Everything’s fine,” you answered evasively, using your shoulder to hold your [favourite colour] phone against your ear as you climbed.

“Don’t give me that ‘Everything is fine’ bullshit!” she snapped, making you flinch and pull a face. “Nothing is fine, and you can’t tell me otherwise! I heard you scream and fight with someone, and then people talk about how they’d force you to do something! You call that fine?! That’s far from fine!”

“I’m sorry …” you meekly said. This wasn’t the first time she had raised her voice, but she had never done so when speaking to you before. It was scary, to say the least.

She inhaled deeply, then exhaled. “No, I’m sorry for yelling at you,” she continued in a much quieter tone. “I’m just … For a second there, I assumed the worst.” She took another breath to calm down. “Tell me what happened and who these people were.”

“That’s difficult to explain … Let’s just say that some guys we both know suddenly showed up at my place, and I got no clue as to how or why. And I don’t know how to handle them, much less this whole situation.”

“‘Guys we both know’? Hm, now that you mention it, their voices did sound pretty familiar …” She trailed off and hummed, absorbed in thought.

Upon reaching the roof, you sat down at the edge to catch your breath. You let your legs dangle as you listened to your best friend’s thoughtful humming. You wondered if she would recognize the voices of two fictional characters whose anime you had watched only yesterday.

“Spit it out already!” she cried out in exasperation after some seconds. “Our classmates are the only guys you’re friends with – well, sorta, at least. But they wouldn’t drop in on you on a Saturday morning, much less assault you!”

“In his defence, he didn’t really attack me, just grabbed hold of me …” you mumbled, more to yourself than to Myra.

Of course, she heard it nonetheless, which you had already expected. Truly nothing escaped her notice. “I don’t care! I’ll kick all their asses and send them flying straight to the police station! So, tell me, who are they?!”

“Well, they’re –” You hesitated, nibbling on your lower lip. “You should come see for yourself. If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me, trust me. You have to see it with your own two eyes.”

“Alright,” she said, drawing out the word and making it sound like a question, “if you say so. I can already see your house. I’ll be there in a minute. Come meet me at the door. Whoever these guys are, I will not let them harm you, [Nickname]. I promise.”

Hearing these words took a big load off your mind and brought a smile to your lips. With your best friend around (and ready to protect you from Gin), you would feel much, much safer. “Thank you, Myra. See you in a bit.” You ended the call and put your smartphone into the front pocket of your hoodie.

Afterward, you stood up and scrambled to the other side of the roof, past the two Demon Kings. Amaimon hadn’t budged an inch from his perch atop the roof ridge. Mephisto, however, was sitting in his infamous armchair he had summoned in the meantime, floating a few centimeters above the roof. A stylish étagère crammed with various items of confectionery hovered between them.

Both of them were watching you intensely without lifting a finger; they had been ever since you left the roof to get your smartphone back. Truth be told, it was kind of creepy. But you let them. Their incessant staring was, in comparison to what the other guys did, the lesser evil you would gladly put up with, and much more bearable.

It bothered you a little that they hadn’t made the slightest effort to help you out. But you had expected as much. Mephisto enjoyed both creating and watching chaos and mayhem. For him, there was nothing like sitting back in his comfortable armchair and enjoying the show from afar – and a mighty fine show you were giving him. What could be more entertaining than watching a girl hectically run about her house, all the while fleeing from fictional characters and performing sick parkour tricks to do so?

Opening the roof hatch hidden among the tiles next to the chimney, you swung yourself into the inside of the house. A small cloud of dust rose up around your bare feet when they hit the old wooden floorboards of the attic. (Your family and you rarely went up here.) You rushed to the trapdoor in the middle of the room and opened it. Without taking the time to set up the foldaway ladder, you jumped into the hallway beneath.

After a quick stop in your room to get something to wear over your panties, you ran downstairs. Somehow, you managed to put on the denim shorts – the article of clothing you had blindly grabbed from your closet – while rushing down the stairs, hopping from one foot to the other without tripping which would have most likely ended in you hitting your head on one of the steps.

No sooner did someone ring the doorbell than you set foot on the laminate floor of the open room that took up about two thirds of the entire ground floor and was split in half by the basement staircase. One half contained the kitchen with an adjoining dining room, and the other the large living room.

“[Nickname], it’s me, open up!” Myra called, voice muffled by the door. She rang the doorbell again and then started banging on the door. “[Nickname]! Open –” She was cut short by you flinging the front door open and throwing yourself into her arms.

You squeezed her. “Oh God, Myra, I’m so glad you’re here.” As tacky as it might sound, but the very instant she returned your hug, all your worries just disappeared. You would definitely be able to face the guys with her close by. Withdrawing again, you held her at arm’s length, with your hands on her shoulders. “You will not believe what happened.”

That was when her azure eyes left your face and looked beyond you, first widening and then narrowing to slits. At the same time, her grip on you hardened. “Were you talking about these guys?” she asked quietly as she moved to stand diagonally in front of you, her body shielding you from the house’s interior – or rather, the group of people standing in the living room. Everyone but the two Demon Kings was present.

You nodded. “I know this sounds totally crazy – and I don’t deny that it is,” you gazed at her imploringly, “but they are the real deal. I saw it myself. I know, it shouldn’t be possible,” you hurried to add when she opened her mouth. “But it is, I swear! I swear by my entire manga collection!”

Chapter Text

re·al·i·ty

noun

/riˈæl.ə.ti/

the state of things as they are, rather than as they are imagined to be


With an arched eyebrow, your best friend glanced over to the ten boys and (young) men and then back at you. “So,” she began, “what you’re telling me is that these guys are not some extremely talented cosplayers, but in fact the real fictional characters?”

The look she gave you wasn’t one of skepticism, but of contemplation. She didn’t fully believe you yet, but she didn’t question your mental health either – that was something at least! You couldn’t really blame her. To be honest, if your best friend just up and told you that several fictional characters had suddenly become real against all laws of nature, you would have a hard time believing her too.

Again, you nodded, this time more energetically. “Yes, exactly! I don’t know how that’s possible, and that really freaks me out! When I woke up, they were already here! They insisted they just want to talk to me, but, I don’t know …” You shrugged. “I didn’t let them anywhere near me, just to be on the safe side.”

“Understandably.” She fell quiet for a moment or two spent gazing at you, lost in thought. Afterwards, her blue-eyed gaze wandered over to the guys, scrutinizing them. They hadn’t moved and were just watching you two, as though they were waiting for you to make the first move. “I’m gonna grill them. Leave it to me.” She rolled up the sleeves of her plaid shirt and pulled her chestnut brown hair back into a ponytail.

You followed her as she bore down on the ten guys, her boots pounding onto the laminate floor. But you stopped a short distance away. Your panic had dissolved, the adrenaline rush was over. You were no longer as bold, daring, and brash as you had been in the heat of the moment. In fact, that was the complete opposite of your personality – but not Myra’s. She was all that and more. She also was really skilled in obtaining information, usually by using force and threats. Hence, you would let her do the talking, and listen to what the guys had to say for themselves.

With her arms crossed, Myra planted herself directly in front of Yukio who happened to stand slightly in front of the others. “Alright, I’m gonna get straight to the point. Who are you, what are you doing in [Nickname]’s house without her permission, and why the fuck did you chase her?”

“You know who we are, young lady,” a voice spoke, and everyone turned in the direction it had come from. Mephisto sauntered down the stairs with Amaimon hot on his heels, nimbly twirling his bubblegum-coloured umbrella in his hand.

“Don’t bullshit me,” Myra spat as she shifted to a position where she could keep an eye on both the two Demon Kings and the rest of the guys at the same time and still stand protectively in front of you. “Fictional characters are exactly what the term says. Fictional. You, on the other hand, are very much real. You see the problem? That’s an obvious contradiction right there, isn’t it?”

Mephisto bowed his head in an affirmative manner. “I admit this might seem beyond the bounds of possibility at first glance, but I assure you, there is a plausible explanation for all this.”

“Oh yeah? Is there really? Personally, I doubt that, but go right ahead.” Your best friend waved her hand at him. “Explain to me how a bunch of fictional characters suddenly went and became real in spite of literally all laws of nature. I’m all ears.”

“What are ya, her spokesperson?” Heiji butted in. “Can’t she speak for herself? It’s not like she isn’t here. She’s standin’ right there!” He pointed at you almost accusatorily. “Has the cat got your tongue or what?”

She levelled a withering glare at him. “Yeah, I indeed am her spokesperson. She’s had her fill of dealing with you, and now it’s my turn. Got a problem with that? I don’t care, so shut up.” She made a move to face the Honorary Knight again, but turned back toward the high schooler just to add, “Also, it’s rude to point your finger at someone.”

“We’ve been sent here,” Mephisto answered. He had strolled up to Myra in the meantime, closely followed by his brother. After a pause, most likely for dramatic effect, he went on, “By a higher power, you could say.”

“A higher power, huh? Yeah, right.” In the blink of an eye, the brunette girl closed the distance between them and pulled on his pink tie until they were on eye level. “Don’t fucking lie to me and don’t try to fool me. I don’t suffer either liars or deceivers gladly.”

Unaffected by the ferocious gleam in her eyes, he held up his hands in mock defence. “I am telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

“First, you’re claiming that you’re not a bunch of cosplaying freaks, but the actual characters in the flesh, and now you’re trying to convince me that some ‘higher power’ turned you into real persons and sent you here.” She gave his tie a hard tug. “What do you take me for? Do I look like I’d believe such outrageously absurd stories?” she hissed. “This is the real world, not some shitty fanfic where a load of logic-defying stuff happens just for plot convenience!”

A knowing, mischievous smile crept over the demon’s face. “Oh, believe it or not, but that’s precisely what this is,” he responded with a sly look in your direction. “Though it is not quote, unquote, ‘shitty.’”

“What the fuck are you talking about? Are you totally nuts now? Stop pulling my leg! You’re trying my non-patience!” With one hand, Myra pulled the white-spotted tie tighter around his neck; with the other, she seized the yellow-striped tie of his brother who had tried to sidle up to you – unnoticed by you, who was mulling over Mephisto’s words, but not by your sharp-eyed friend. “And you stay away from [Nickname]!”

In defiance of her demand, Amaimon leaned as close to you as possible. Pulling a [favourite flavour]-flavoured lollipop out of thin air, he thrust it into your hands before he was yanked away from you like a dog on a leash.

“What did I just tell you? Were you even listening? I’ll say it one more time. Stay. Away,” your best friend growled. She then shoved the green-haired boy with a hefty push to the chest, but he stumbled hardly any steps backwards. “I won’t let you – any of you – near her until I know what the hell is going on here!”

You briefly wondered how he knew what your favourite flavour was, but decided against asking this question out loud. You didn’t want to interrupt Myra’s interrogation. Thus, you accepted the lollipop wordlessly with a grateful nod. Sticking the candy into your mouth, you resumed listening to the brunette’s conversation with the boys.

Turning back to Mephisto, Myra leaned in until their noses were touching. “You better stop spewing absolute nonsense and come out with the truth already or else …!”

“I’ve been telling nothing but the truth in the past few minutes, young lady,” the Demon King replied in the same calm and collected tone of voice and with the same pseudo-polite smile on his lips as before despite being virtually strangled.

“Don’t make me laugh! You call that the truth? Utter bullshit, that’s what that is!” your friend roared. Upon catching your eye, though, and exchanging looks with you, she moved her head in a hardly noticeable nod. “Fine,” she released Mephisto with a deep, resigned sigh, “I’ll play along.”

Immediately, he straightened up. With a few deft movements, he fixed his tie and afterwards smoothed down his white dress shirt. “Much obliged.” He cleared his throat discreetly when his voice cracked. “Why this sudden change of heart?”

“If you insist on this load of bullshit, I got no other choice, now do I?” She kneaded the bridge of her nose, brows furled. “Well then,” she sighed again, as if she was carrying all the weight of the world, “let’s assume for just a minute that what you’re saying is not a ridiculous lie, but the incredible truth. Why did that ‘higher power’ send you here? Did it tell you to scare the hell out of [Nickname]?”

“Not at all,” the man replied with a shake of his head. “That wasn’t our intention. We came here to talk, but unfortunately,” he exhaled a melodramatically regretful sigh, “we haven’t had a chance to do that yet.” He cast you a reproachful look which you returned with a sour one.

Myra glowered at him. “From what [Nickname] told me, that’s not much of a surprise. Who wouldn’t panic when a bunch of creeps, freaks, and weirdos dressed like fictional characters show up in your home out of the blue?”

“Ouch.” Kaitou Kid made a pained face, but there still was that smile of his playing about his lips. It probably hadn’t left his face once. “Is that really what you think of us? I’m very sorry to hear you say so,” he said as he walked up to the girl in two long strides. Bowing slightly, he reached for her hand whilst looking up at her from beneath the brim of his white top hat. “Is there anything I can do to make you –”

“No.” She jerked her hand out of his grasp before his lips came anywhere near the back of her hand to plant a feathery kiss there. “That’s a lie. There actually is something you could do for me. Leave me the fuck alone. I’m not done interrogating you yet.”

“I hereby apologize on behalf of everyone,” Mephisto loudly declared and bowed to your best friend and you in an exaggerated fashion, even taking off his top hat. “I’m deeply ashamed to admit that our plan concerning our first encounter with [Name] was not as well thought-out as it should have been.”

“No shit. Why didn’t you ring the doorbell like normal people would? Oh wait, I forgot. You’re not normal. You’re fictional characters,” Myra deadpanned.

“That was what we wanted to do at first, but –” Death the Kid broke off as a look of horrified realization crossed his face and proceeded to spread to the faces of the other boys, one after the other. “But …”

Puzzled by the blanket of tense silence that had suddenly fallen on the room, the brown-haired girl lifted an eyebrow. “But what?” Upon receiving no answer, she followed the boys’ gazes to Mephisto who was grinning like a Cheshire cat. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion. “What did you do?”

Yukio shook his head and sighed, pushing his glasses up. “I can’t believe he played us like a fiddle and we’ve all just now noticed,” he mumbled, and that seemed to be the cue for everyone else to jolt out of their daze at once.

The uproar that followed was both unexpected and tremendous, causing you (and even Myra) to flinch. Rin, the Hitachiin twins, Soul, Kid, the two sleuths, and Kaitou Kid all started talking heatedly at the same time. Although it was impossible to understand a word they said, it was as plain as the nose on your face who had incurred their wrath: Mephisto. Four voices rose to a shout of outrage and indignation.

“You!” Trembling with rage, Rin pointed an accusatory finger at the demon. “You did all of that on purpose, didn’t you?!” His tail had escaped from its prison beneath his shirt and was now twitching from side to side while being held high and completely stiff. The tuft of fur at its tip stood on end.

Yukio had to hold him back, grabbing both his arms, to stop him from launching himself at their half-brother. “Calm down, Rin,” he said, but his words were drowned out by Soul’s howl of frustration.

“You manipulated us! You ruined our first meeting! You made everything get out of hand!” the Death Scythe cried out, sinking to his knees dramatically and tearing at his white hair. “Why’d you do that?! I thought you were cool!”

“Because of you,” Hikaru, too, pointed the finger at Mephisto, in both the figurative and literal sense, “she got the wrong impression of us! First impressions are the most important! What is she supposed to think of us now?! She’ll never like us after this whole fiasco!” he lamented.

Mimicking his twin brother, Kaoru added, “Everything is entirely your fault! If we hadn’t listened to you, everything would have turned out perfectly fine and she wouldn’t be afraid of us!”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” the perpetrator himself said, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. “I merely offered a small, well-meant suggestion here and there without any ulterior motive. I refuse to tolerate these accusations of trickery.” He sounded genuinely affronted, but you saw the faint grin tugging at his lips.

Myra gave a snort of derision. “Oh please,” she scoffed, rolling her eyes. “Don’t act so innocent. You never do anything out of kindness. There’s always at least one ulterior motive behind every single one of your actions.”

“Suggestions, my ass. That was a blatant act of sabotage and manipulation,” Heiji gnarled. With his arms tightly folded over his chest, he looked daggers at Mephisto. “Ya engineered this whole thing. Once ya had everything arranged, ya slipped away with your brother and left us to suffer the consequences while ya looked on from a safe distance and watched as all hell broke loose. That’s why ya were gone all of a sudden.”

“And that wasn’t all,” his fellow detective continued, mouth twisted into a hard smile. “You also intervened to prevent us from explaining everything to [Name] when we finally had her cornered. You told your brother to snatch her away, which resulted in her continuing to run away from us because she still didn’t know what was going on.”

Having listened to the two high schoolers’ remarks, with her face gradually darkening into a deep scowl, your friend now directed her baleful gaze at the King of Time. “So, in essence, he’s the one responsible for [Nickname]’s distress, right?”

“When you come right down to it … Yes, I guess you could say that,” Death the Kid replied, unaware of the fact that his words sealed Mephisto’s fate.

“I see.” Without warning, her hand shot forward in an incredibly fast gesture like a striking snake, grabbing the purple-haired man by the tie once again. “You know what I hate even more than liars?” she snarled as she yanked him down to be face to face with him. “People who do any kind of harm to [Nickname].”

“I did no such thing. I wouldn’t dream of inflicting suffering on my dear [Name],” he protested. However, the devious grin lingering on his lips and the glint of mischief in his eyes when he glanced at you both clearly belied his words.

“First off, she is not and never will be,” she tugged at his tie to give her words more emphasis, “‘your dear [Name].’ You are in no position to call her that after what you did to her. Second of all, I will wipe that smirk off your face if you don’t stop this instant.”

At first, his smirk broadened at her threat, flashed his remarkably pointed canine teeth, and pissed the brunette off even more. This, in turn, caused her to tighten her grip on his tie. But then he obeyed, the corners of his mouth twitching as he restrained himself from grinning.

“And last but not least, don’t you dare deny that you harmed her. Indirectly, that’s true, but nevertheless deliberately. All your accomplices accused you of having caused this whole situation to escalate just for kicks. And exactly that – the fact that you derived pleasure from watching her panic – makes it even worse,” she growled.

“My thoughts exactly!” Kaoru exclaimed, nodding vigorously. “I can’t believe you did all that for the fun of it! How dare you laugh at her distress?!”

Ignoring that interjection, Myra added with a sneer, “Though I expected nothing more from you. You are a mischief-maker, after all. You delight in chaos and other people’s misfortune.” The contemptuous smile vanished. “I loathe the likes of you.”

“Precisely. A leopard cannot change his spots,” Mephisto replied, casually passing over her jibe and her last remark. He was smiling that enigmatic smile again. “It was just too good an opportunity to pass up. Besides, everything turned out fine in the end.”

“That doesn’t change, much less justify the fact that you had your fun at [Nickname]’s expense,” she countered, “and I’ll never forgive you for that.” After glaring at him with narrowed eyes for a couple of seconds, she craned her neck to look at the others. “Would someone care to tell me what he did?”

“We’ve been used as pawns in his twisted, little game,” Gin spoke up for the first time since this conversation had started, which appeared to surprise everyone, including you yourself, but excluding Mephisto and Amaimon, “placed around the house like chess pieces on the board where [Name] was bound to run into us.”

Much like everyone else, you looked over to him. He was reclining on the couch in the corner of the open living room with his legs crossed, holding a lit cigarette in his left hand, and looking bored stiff. You had nearly forgotten he was here. He hadn’t said a single word and stayed in the background the entire time; you couldn’t even remember when he had retired to the couch.

You took the lollipop out of your mouth. “Would you please stop smoking?” you asked, smiling politely at him, and the sound of your voice quite literally turned heads.

“Didn’t think I’d hear your voice again,” Soul muttered. “I’d almost forgotten how it sounded.” His taunt earned him a fierce glower from your best friend while you simply chose to overhear it.

Gin fixed you with a look. Although you couldn’t help but wince, you stood your ground and returned his unwavering stare until a lopsided smile flitted over his face. Without so much as batting an eye, he squashed the cigarette between his bare fingers. Then, he dropped it into a pocket of his black trench coat.

Myra brusquely cut you off just as you were about to express your thanks to the man in black. “Save your metaphors and similes,” she barked. “I asked for details and not for a poetic description of what happened. Be more specific already, I don’t have all day.”

Cue a brief, stunned silence. Afterwards, an awed murmur ran through the group of boys. All eyes gathered on the intrepid girl who had the guts to not only boss around a callous hitman, but also to stare him dead in the eye after that. She had let go of Mephisto’s tie and turned to fully face Gin.

“Myra,” you said in a both warning and pleading tone of voice. Her locking horns with Gin of all people was bad. Really bad. Things could rapidly go awry.

“Watch your tongue,” Gin warned gruffly whilst rising from his seat on the couch. He approached your friend, walking past the boys who backed away from him. “It seems you forgot who you’re talking to, brat.” Standing squarely in front of her, he drew himself up to his full height.

The rising level of tension between them put you on high alert. You were highly aware of the fact that this situation could escalate at any given moment. Mentally, you prepared yourself for the worst; physically, you prepared yourself to break up a fight.

Myra remained unfazed, even though Gin towered over her. “I didn’t. I know who you are – the one who talked about ‘putting the screws on her.’ I recognize your voice. I heard you talking over the phone. You attacked her, didn’t you?” A crooked grin spread across her face, outrivalling his in malice. “I still have a bone to pick with you.”

You knew what she was going to do even before she darted off like an arrow that left a tautly drawn bow. The two of you had been friends since childhood, after all. This was by far not the first time she flew at someone, and this certainly wouldn’t be the last time you would try to stop her, being the peace-loving person that you were – except for when you had your back to the wall, obviously.

Like countless times before, you reached out to grasp the girl’s arm as she swung a vicious blow at Gin. At this point in your friendship, it was an automatic reaction. Alas, you failed to catch hold of her because she was moving faster than expected. This was nothing new either. Not all your attempts to thwart her were successful, unfortunately.

You weren’t the only one who had misjudged her speed, Gin had too. Having seen the strike coming, he brought his arm up to block it. But he was too slow. With a sickening crunch and an “Ooh” from the boys, the punch caught him hard across the jaw. The force of the hit split his lip, sent his head snapping sharply to the side, and knocked the black fedora off his head. He didn’t reel back, he didn’t even stagger. If anything, the smirk on his bloody lips only widened.

Myra grabbed him by the collar immediately afterwards. She clenched her fists around the fabric of the trench coat, dug her nails into it until her knuckles turned white. “That’s what you get for attacking her.” Her voice came as a low, threatening hiss of rage – the same rage her azure eyes were ablaze with. “If you ever do that again, I’ll snap you in half like a twig. Nobody lays a finger on her and gets away with it. Nobody.”

“For heaven’s sake, Myra!” you cried out in vexation, your speech slurred because of the lollipop in your mouth. Without thinking about it, you handed said sweet over to Amaimon who was suddenly standing right next to you and had his hand held out open to you. Then, you started trying to pry Myra’s fingers open – in vain. It was like trying to force open a shackle. “I already told you he didn’t attack me! He just snatched me while I was running away, and that scared me, so I screamed, is all! Stop laying into him like this!” But your words fell on deaf ears.

Gin moved his lower jaw side to side, checking whether it had been dislocated. It wasn’t. “I warned you, brat,” he wiped the back of his hand across his mouth to clear the blood away, leaving a shiny red stain on his pale skin, “but you didn’t listen. I’ll tell you what, though. If you beg me on your knees for forgiveness, I’ll let this insolence slide – just this one time, and only because of [Name].”

Your best friend let out a harsh bark of laughter. “You’d like that, wouldn’t you? You can kiss goodbye to that. But I’ll tell you what, alright? If you beg me on your knees for forgiveness, then I’ll refrain from beating the crap out of you.”

“Don’t give me lip. You’re not the one with a gun,” he said as he pushed back his trench coat to reveal a holster strapped to his belt. A very empty holster, mind you. “Do what I say, and we’ll settle this peacefully. If not, then …” He trailed off. His eyes became dark and ominous, just like the smile his bloodstained mouth had twisted into.

Chapter Text

re·al·i·ty

noun

/riˈæl.ə.ti/

the state of things as they are, rather than as they are imagined to be


With another sneer curling her lip, Myra mocked, “If not, then what, huh? Are you gonna pull that non-existent weapon of yours on me? Ooh, I’m so scared.”

“What?” Abruptly, Gin looked down at himself. A deep frown etched itself onto his face, realizing that his gun was indeed missing. “Damnit!” he spat through gritted teeth and wiped the blood dripping from his lips. “She must’ve taken it without me noticing!”

“With great foresight …” Yukio remarked.

“Only the lowest of the low bring a gun to a fistfight, anyways. And that’s precisely what you are. Turning to firearms because you – a grown-ass man, mind you – are losing to a teenage girl … Pathetic. You’re pathetic,” Myra taunted. “I should beat the shit out of you solely because you intended to threaten me with a gun.”

You let out a gasp. Needless to say, you knew she was brutally honest and rather pugnacious. That was everything but a good combination and the very reason she got into arguments or even fights on a regular basis. But you would have thought that she at least had enough common sense to avoid provoking, much less picking a fight with someone as dangerous as Gin.

Instantly, you increased your efforts to break her away from the man in black. But she didn’t move an inch, as if she was rooted to the spot. “Myra, are you out of your damn mind?!” you hissed. “Stop this madness! Are you trying to get yourself killed?!”

Gin’s frown deepened to one of true anger. “You really got a lot of gall, brat. I was holding myself back for her sake. But you asked for it. Now you’re going to learn the hard way who you’re up against.”

“You took the words right out of my mouth. No one messes with [Nickname] – or with me, for that matter! Anyone who has the nerve to comes to regret it bitterly sooner or later, I make sure of that. And you’ll live to regret it too, asshole! You wanna fight? Then come at me! I’m gonna beat you to a pulp!”

Just when the tension in the room reached its peak and a full-blown fistfight was about to break out between Myra and Gin, a bang erupted from behind you. It sounded as though something blunt hit the laminate floor. The loud noise startled everyone and momentarily broke the tension; your friend and the man in black froze mid-movement, both with their clenched fist raised to swing at the other.

Shinichi, Heiji, and you jumped into action at the very same time, using this moment of distraction to finally separate the two brawlers. While you wrestled Myra away from Gin, the teenagers restrained the man. The three of you then stood between them to prevent them from going for each other’s throat again.

“Now, now!” Mephisto thumped the tip of his umbrella on the floor for the second time. The seemingly ever-present smile had faded from his lips at long last, replaced by a stern expression. “There is no need to resort to violence. Everyone, calm down. Let’s keep things civilized, shall we?”

“Damnit, Myra, how many times do I have to tell you not to get physical because of every little thing that rubs you the wrong way?” you chastised her. “Especially not with people who clearly outmuscle you! Your recklessness will cost you dearly someday!”

“He hurt you. He deserved it,” your best friend retorted, indignant, while massaging her bruised knuckles with the fingers of her other hand.

“He did not! Neither did he hurt me nor did he deserve it!” you objected and then lowered your voice to a sharp whisper only she could hear, “I already kicked him in the nuts, you didn’t have to punch him square in the jaw!”

“Firstly, how was I supposed to know that? Secondly, wow, a rare instance of you harming someone. All the more reason to clout him, in my opinion. Because of him, you felt compelled to use violence, and that’s something you’d never do unless you really had no other choice,” she dryly said, eliciting a groan of irritation from you because you knew she was right, and had nothing with which to counter this … although you wished you had.

“What the hell’s wrong with ya?! Gettin’ into a fight with her best friend! I can’t believe it! And if that wasn’t already bad enough, ya almost pulled a freakin’ gun on her, too! Are ya crazy?!” Heiji berated Gin who turned a deaf ear to his rants. “We’re here to make friends with her, not to traumatize her by threatenin’ her friend with a weapon!”

With an annoyed sigh, Shinichi closed his blue eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I knew it was a terrible idea to bring you along. We would’ve been better off without you,” he muttered, and the other boys nodded energetically.

“Yeah! Here I was, thinking this entire situation couldn’t get any worse, what with him,” Soul pointed a finger at Mephisto, the accusing gesture matching his tone of voice, “sabotaging us and botching our plan, but then you come along and pull this crap! What the hell?! That’s so uncool!”

“You just ruined everything! If she hates us now because of you, you’re totally in for it!” Rin threatened, shaking his fist at Gin.

“Tch.” Wresting his arms free from Shinichi and Heiji, Gin glared at the two first and then at the remaining seven boys. They either shuddered, blenched, or even shrunk back. Afterwards, he trained his cold eyes on Myra who returned his look, impassive.

For some long moments, they stared at each other in silence, neither blinking nor allowing their eyes to wander anywhere else. Gin had taken to pressing a handkerchief he had produced from one of his trench coat’s pockets to his still bleeding lip. Tension built between him and Myra once again.

Unconsciously, you gripped the girl’s arm tighter. She was one to finish what she started no matter what, and her dispute with the man in black wasn’t settled yet. Your eyes flashed a firm warning at her.

Though to your surprise, it seemed they weren’t staring each other down. In fact, they were apparently having a silent conversation, because after a good ten seconds full of suspense, the two of them shared a nod. And with that, the tension went up in smoke, which caused the boys and you to breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Without saying anything, Gin turned around and went to retrieve his fedora, picking it up from the floor. He dusted it off before he slipped it back on his head. Then, he straightened his trench coat and fixed its collar and that of his turtlenecked shirt, both of which Myra had brought into disarray.

Amaimon gave the half-eaten [favourite flavour] lollipop back to you without being asked, along with a handful of candies of the same flavour he just dumped into your open palm. When you gave him a grateful smile in return, he only blinked. He proceeded to chew at his claw-like fingernail again as he stood there, staring at you and making you feel uncomfortable and a little self-conscious too.

While stowing the neatly wrapped candies in the kangaroo pocket of your hoodie, you noticed Mephisto smirking from the corner of your eye. You looked at him with an inquiring gaze. But you received no answer, only a mischievous wink before he snickered behind his gloved hand.

Meanwhile, your best friend resumed her cross-examination as though nothing had happened. “Alright then,” she cleared her throat to gain everyone’s attention, “where were we?” At that moment, her eyes landed on Mephisto, and her face instantly darkened. “Oh yeah, right.” She looked back over to the boys. “So, what did he do?”

“It started when we were standing outside the house,” Kaoru began to speak. “As already said, we wanted to ring the doorbell and wait for [Name] to answer the door, but he suddenly had a key in his hand and said it would be better if we went inside.”

“Y’know, what are the neighbours s’posed to think when a dozen guys wearin’– in some cases – bizarre outfits are besiegin’ this house?” Heiji added.

Soul shrugged his shoulders. “Couldn’t beat that logic, so we all went inside.”

Myra narrowed her eyes at the Demon King, frowning. Just like you, she was wondering where he had got a key to your house; you could tell that by the look on her face. You could also tell that she wanted to beat the answer to that question out of him, but decided against it – for now. “Go on.”

“At his suggestion, we began preparing a cup of [favourite flavour] tea for [Name] for when she’d come downstairs,” Hikaru went on. It was obvious that he meant his twin brother and himself with “we.”

“He mentioned the media room in passing, so we,” Death the Kid nodded to Soul next to him, “went into the basement to check it out.”

“We were sent outside to watch guard,” Shinichi said, pointing to Heiji and Kaitou Kid with a motion of his hand, “just in case something unexpected occurred, like a friend of [Name]’s showing up or her family coming home sooner than expected.”

Oh yeah, now that he mentioned it, you remembered that your parents and your sisters were currently out buying groceries like every Saturday. You usually got up early to have breakfast with them before they left. But it seemed like you had slept through the alarm, or your alarm clock had given up the ghost during the night. Why did neither your parents nor your two older sisters wake you, though?

And come to think of it … You glanced over your shoulder and at the clock on the wall in the kitchen. Yeah, they should have been back by now. It was way past noon, the usual time they came home from their grocery shopping. It could be that something got in their way. But you had the feeling that something else was behind their lateness.

Yukio’s voice snapped you out of your ruminations. “He then told my brother and me to go check up on her because ‘she should have been awake by now.’”

“And he sent me after them in case she ran away,” Gin threw you a look, “which she did. I assume at that point he retreated to watch things unfold with his brother.”

“It all went downhill from there,” Rin wailed and scowled at Mephisto, “and he’s the one to blame! She panicked when she saw us in her room, and immediately made a run for it! But she kept bumping into the others and running away from us …”

“Ah, so that’s what you were talking about earlier. ‘Placed around the house like chess pieces,’ or whatever,” Myra said to Gin. “I get it now. He got you to spread over the whole house, positioned in such a manner that [Nickname] was guaranteed to run into you one after another, which caused her panic to go sky-high.”

Kaitou Kid nodded. “Exactly. But it is partly our fault too,” he admitted. “We were so desperate to get her to listen to us, we didn’t once stop to think about how she felt, how disturbing that whole situation must’ve been to her. We kept chasing her, and that made everything worse.”

Realizing their mistake, the eyes of the other eight boys went wide. Hanging their heads in shame, they murmured what could be agreement or embarrassment (or both), shuffled their feet, shifted glances around the room, and rubbed their necks.

The Phantom Thief turned to you with a suave smile. “That’s why I would like to ask for your forgiveness on behalf of everyone – again, and genuinely this time.” He sent a meaningful glance Mephisto’s way, a frown of disapproval clouding his features for a second. But it was gone when he looked back at you. His white cape fluttered around his heels as he stepped up to you and got down on one knee.

Beside you, Myra shifted. She had been keeping a watchful eye on the high schooler since the very moment he had addressed you – and so had the other boys. Neither of them liked what was going on and what he was doing. But no one did something to stop him either. They all just kept on observing him closely, annoyed and malcontent.

You were so fixated on Kaitou Kid that you hardly noticed that, though. Your eyes were glued to him, your attention was captivated by him, exacerbating the irritation of your friend and the boys you were blissfully unaware of. You had a hunch where this was going, and if you were right, then something delightful would happen …

Kaitou Kid lowered his head, the blue triangular charm attached to his monocle swaying. “We are deeply ashamed of our behaviour and we are very sorry for our actions and inconsiderateness.” Without lifting his gaze, he gently took your hand in his gloved one. Only when he brought it to his lips did he look up, watching you over the delicate kiss he pressed to your fingers.

Jackpot. This was exactly what you had guessed (and hoped) would happen. Still, you felt your cheeks heat up the moment he caught and held your gaze, his cobalt eyes nearly piercing in their intensity. The blush worsened when his lips touched your skin.

The corner of his mouth irked up into a smile, knowing he had enchanted you – and that he was making his companions green with envy. Ignoring the grumbling boys, he kissed your hand again. “I beg you, please forgive us, [Name],” he whispered, his lips brushing over the back of your hand and his eyes never leaving yours.

Inwardly, you were fangirling. You had always been wondering how it would feel if the Magician Under the Moonlight turned on the charm for you. Now you knew. You had come to enjoy it first-hand. It was an outright heavenly experience – so heavenly, a squeal almost left your lips. You struggled to get a grip on yourself and not to let it show that you were swooning over him, but you were unable to bite down a contented smile, much to the chagrin of the others.

“Okay, that’s enough,” Myra broke in. Her patience had snapped at last. Without more ado, she wedged herself between the two of you and prised Kaitou Kid’s hand away from yours. “Forgive them or not, the choice is yours,” she said, looking at you from the corner of her eye. “But make it quick, I’m still not through with them.”

You pouted. You were a little piqued by her butting in like that and ruining this blissful moment between the Phantom Thief and you. If it were up to you, it would have never ever ended …

As if she had read your mind (or maybe just your facial expression which probably was a dreamy one right now), she rolled her eyes. “If you don’t come to a decision in the next ten seconds, I will clobber him for hitting on you.”

That threat had the desired effect: You pulled yourself together at once. After all, your friend’s threats were never empty ones. To protect Kaitou Kid against harm (and to deny Myra the gratification she derived from the pain of others, especially when she had inflicted it herself), you hurriedly crunched the remnants of the lollipop and swallowed them. But that was as far as you got.

“I wasn’t –”

“You were,” Myra interrupted Kaitou Kid who had got to his feet in the meantime. “You absolutely were, and don’t tell me otherwise. You wooed her with honeyed words and smooth talk. You even kissed her hand. If that’s not hitting on her, then I don’t know what it is.”

The white-clad teenager broke into a smirk. “Alright, maybe I was,” he admitted. “But who wouldn’t try their luck with such a beautiful lady like her?” He winked at you.

The other boys muttered their agreement, albeit very reluctantly. They were still boiling with jealousy because Kaitou Kid had the audacity to make a move on you – and if that wasn’t already bad enough, he did it right in front of their eyes, too.

Myra glanced at the silently fuming teens. “By the looks of it, I don’t even have to get my hands dirty.” Her mouth screwed up into a grin of malicious glee. “I’ll just leave it to your accomplices. They’ll do it for me. [Nickname],” she added, causing you to perk up, “you better make your decision before he gets torn to shreds.”

You didn’t need to think twice. “It’s alright,” you answered with a dismissive wave of the hand. Everyone looked relieved – including the eight boys whose anger instantaneously dispersed (thank God). “I’m at fault too, and I should apologize as well. I refused to give an ear to you. If I hadn’t been so stubborn, everything would’ve been cleared up much sooner. I’m sorry.”

The Phantom Thief gracefully bowed to you. “You’re truly too kind. I am – I mean, we are touched by your thoughtfulness and compassion.”

“Great, that’s settled then. Next question.” In a twinkling, your friend was at Mephisto’s throat again, seizing him by the tie for the … third time today. And for the third time, her victim retained his calmness and composure.

“Yes?”

She pulled him closer. “Where the fuck did you get a key to [Nickname]’s house? Answer quickly and, most importantly, honestly.”

“The higher power gave it to me.”

“Oh yeah. That mysterious ‘higher power.’ Right. I forgot about that. What have I got myself into?” She heaved a loud, exasperated sigh. “Who would that be?” she asked after a pause and another sigh.

“The author of this story.”

Stumped by his weird answer, she blinked. But she quickly regained her composure, shaking her head with knitted brows. “What the fuck are you talking about now? I already said I don’t need that poetic shit. I want something concrete. I want names,” she hissed and tugged at his tie. “Give me a name. Now.”

“She likes to be called Author-san.”

One second, she was laughing, but it was a loud, unnatural, and harsh sound; the next, she got right up in his face. “Don’t you know that bullshitting me is detrimental to your health? That’s not a fucking name.”

“I didn’t say that was her name.”

You sensed that she was about to fly off the handle since getting information from him was like pulling teeth, so you pre-empted her. Your hand shot out. Grabbing hold of her other, free hand, you coiled your fingers around her wrist. You firmly shook your head at her.

“Sassing me is just as detrimental. But I’ll give you another chance – for [Nickname]’s sake. What. Is. Her. Name?” she said slowly, word for word, as if talking to a child.

“You have to ask her that yourself.”

A low growl rumbled deep in her throat. It was a growl worthy of a large dog. She pulled at his tie, drawing the (metaphorical and literal) noose around his neck tighter. Her patience was wearing dangerously thin. “How do I do that?”

“I’m afraid you cannot speak to her directly.”

Her eyelid twitched in barely suppressed infuriation as she waited for him to continue, pinning him with a smouldering glare. If looks could kill …

The only thing keeping her from lashing out at him was you. The only reason why she checked her rage was because you were holding onto her hand with a vice-like grip. Even though she knew he was merely trying to get a rise out of her, she would have taken the bait like a ravenous shark – if it weren’t for you. But you knew you wouldn’t be able to keep her under control for much longer.

“But you can talk to her representative if you like.”

You noted that he answered in the nick of time, almost too late, about a millisecond before she would have snapped after all. Though that answer wasn’t any better than the previous ones. It was just as provokingly terse.

Her anger reached a critical point. “And how do I do that?” With flaring nostrils like a raging bull, she gnashed her teeth in an effort to keep her temper – yet. If he didn’t give her a decent answer now, she would flip her lid for real this time, and there would be no stopping her.

“You rang?” a female voice said. Its owner appeared in your field of view as though out of nowhere: A girl around your age with shoulder-length, brown hair and teal eyes. Where had she come from all of a sudden? You hadn’t heard the front door being opened or closed, or any other door in the house for that matter, let alone footsteps.

Myra was as surprised as you by the girl’s sudden and oddly noiseless appearance. But she didn’t let it show. Instead, she let go of Mephisto and faced the newcomer with deliberate slowness. “And who’re you?” she asked curtly after giving her a once-over.

“I’m Kat. Nice to meet you.” Smiling, the girl stuck out her hand for Myra to take. Your friend, however, wasn’t in the least interested in shaking hands with her; ignoring the offered hand, she just continued scrutinizing her. Kat didn’t appear to be offended by this rebuff. She even seemed to have expected it because she turned to you without missing a beat.

Out of mechanical instinct, you took her hand and shook it, returning her smile. “Nice to meet you too, Kat,” you said, but your mind was elsewhere. She looked familiar for some reason, as if you had seen her before, though you couldn’t quite put a finger on this vague feeling. “I’m [Name], and that’s Myra.”

Her smile became knowing and eerily reminiscent of Mephisto’s. “I know.” Before you had the chance to ask her one of the many questions whirling around in your head – like, “What do you mean?”, “Have we met before?” or “How did you even get in here?” –, she already continued, “You wanted to talk to me, didn’t you? Well, I’m here now, so fire away. I’ll try to answer your questions as best as I can.”

“Wait,” you chimed in, regarding her with eyes narrowed in thought whilst gnawing at the lollipop stick, “hold on a second. Weren’t you hanging out with my sisters the other day? I think I saw you leaving Becci’s room just as I entered mine.”

“So you did see me. I was hoping you hadn’t,” she mumbled, more to herself than to you really. Then, she shrugged. “Whatever. There’s nothing I can do about it now.”

“And what were you doing in my sister’s room?”

“Oh, we were discussing our plan, putting the finishing touches to it, y’know? But we lost track of time. As usual, I wanted to leave before you came back home, but this time, I nearly bumped right into you.” She laughed lightly.

“‘Your plan’?” Myra echoed. “What plan are you talking about? Do you mean this plan?” She gestured around the room and towards the twelve guys (who were following your conversation) in particular.

“Indeed.” Kat paused. “Well, not really this plan. What happened here wasn’t part of our original plan. But you already know that. Someone,” she looked over at Mephisto with a raised eyebrow, prompting him to ease up one shoulder in a slightly contrite half-shrug, though he couldn’t bite down a smirk, “went and upset the applecart on a whim.”

Your best friend snorted, her arms crossed over her chest. “That’s not much of a surprise, is it? Honestly, what did you expect? That he’d strictly follow your instructions? That he’d have no ulterior motives, no plots or secret schemes?”

“Not really. That’s why we’ve kept an eye on him the entire time to make sure he didn’t take things too far. And I assure you, he would’ve done so.”

Chapter Text

re·al·i·ty

noun

/riˈæl.ə.ti/

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.”

“Myra!”

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.

Chapter Text

re·al·i·ty

noun

/riˈæl.ə.ti/

the state of things as they are, rather than as they are imagined to be


“I told you to stay away from her two – no, three times already, but you just won’t listen, will you?!” Myra hissed. “You don’t want to listen, is that it? I can’t allow such an insolence to go unpunished. You’re in need of some discipline. I’ll teach you to behave!”

“Myra, no!”

“Myra, yes! And this time, you won’t be able to stop me!” Your best friend laughed wickedly.

She was right; you couldn’t do anything, damnit! If you pulled your hands away ... So many candies you would have to pick up by hand, one by one … But on the other hand, if you didn’t stop her, she would do God knew what to get Amaimon away from you. What to do, what to do?

Thankfully, it looked like there was no need for you to intervene. No matter how much effort your best friend put into pushing and pulling at Amaimon, he did not move a single inch at all. It was as if he was a heavy statue. In fact, he didn’t even seem to notice that Myra desperately attempted to get rid of him. He was completely unfazed. Meanwhile, your best friend was pretty much digging her heels into the floor.

“He’s interested in you,” Mephisto suddenly whispered into your ear.

You started and almost spilled the star-shaped sweets – again. Eyes narrowed into a glare, you turned your head in the Demon King’s direction. “What do you mean?”

“I mean what I said.” Prompted by your questioning (and irritated) look, he elaborated, “You see, he never shares his sweets with anyone. Furthermore, he chews at his fingernails when something – or someone – has piqued his interest, which I assume you already know. And the object of his interest seems to be you.”

You didn’t really know what to make of that piece of information. Did he mean “interested in you” as in his brother wanted to be friends, or as in he wanted to become romantically involved with you? I mean, you wouldn’t mind either, but still …

It appeared that Mephisto sensed your confusion since his trademark sphinx-like smile morphed into a somewhat smug grin. He seemed to be expecting you to voice the question you had just asked yourself. But you didn’t want to give him the satisfaction. Hence, you merely quirked an eyebrow at him, shook your head, and turned away.

Facing Amaimon, you noticed that your hands were full to overflowing with these colourful star bits. That was most likely why he had ceased pouring them into your hands and was now rummaging about in the pockets of his clothes. “Thanks a bunch for these. They’re called konpeitō, right? They’re so pretty! I’ve never – Uh …” You broke off the moment he drew his hands out of the pockets of his pants. They were full of candy, with the plastic wrapping sticking out from between his slender fingers.

After jamming the round sweets into your hoodie’s front pocket, the King of Earth reached back into the pockets of his pants. And with that, he began producing fistfuls of wrapped candy from his own pockets (somehow) and stuffing them into the kangaroo pocket of your hoodie, over and over again. You could do nothing but watch, speechless, since your hands were full.

“Geez, what’s wrong with you? Do you want her to die from a sugar shock?” Myra shook her head in a disapproving manner. Stubborn as she was, she hadn’t yet given up trying to remove Amaimon, and was still pushing and pulling at him with all her might. “Just looking at those masses of candy makes me sick.”

When you made a tentative attempt to move away, Amaimon immediately interrupted what he was doing. He grasped your wrist, keeping you in place. He glanced up at you, then let go and resumed putting more candy into your kangaroo pocket.

“Myra, please do something … So much candy …”

“I’m trying!” Frantically, she increased her efforts to get Amaimon away from you, to make him stop, but to no avail. Whipping her head towards Mephisto, she snapped, “You! Tell him to leave her alone! You’re his brother, he’ll listen to you! Right?!”

As was expected, the King of Time was not about to help her in any way. Although he was hiding his mouth behind his gloved hand, you could still see that he was grinning and trying not to laugh. He was much too amused by this situation to even think about putting an end to it.

“Goddamnit, this is no laughing matter, you dick! This is serious!” Myra shouted, but that caused him to crack up, holding his sides as he dissolved into laughter. With an upwards roll of her eyes, she groaned. “I should’ve known you wouldn’t lift a finger!” She turned to Kat. “Help me!” She added, to a certain degree begging, “Please!”

The brunette girl had one hand clamped over her mouth – obviously to stop herself from laughing too. But a few giggles escaped. “I’m –” Another giggle. “I’m sorry.”

“Fine! Don’t help me, then!” Myra huffed. “I can’t believe I turned to you guys for help. Well,” she rolled up her sleeves, “as one of my favourite characters would say, ‘If violence doesn’t solve your problems, you aren’t using enough of it.’”

Just as your best friend got ready to sock Amaimon in the face, clenching her fist, a muffled chime sounded. Myra paused. Everyone turned in the direction the sound had come from, all eyes gathering on Kat who whipped out her red smartphone. There was silence for a couple of seconds.

“I just got word from Nikki and Becci that they’ll be here in about ten minutes,” Kat said while putting away her smartphone. “We really should get a move on.”

“Nothing I’d rather do!” Using all her strength, Myra shoved – no, that wasn’t the accurate term. She downright tackled Amaimon. She upped and charged, slamming into him with her whole body. Sheesh.

At the exact same moment, the Demon King stopped filling your hoodie’s kangaroo pocket with neatly wrapped sweets, solely because it was bursting at the seams. The powerful shove sent him staggering backwards, right through the open door into Mephisto’s office.

“Myra used Tackle. It was very effective!” was all that came to your mind.

“It was a pleasure to meet you, [Name],” Mephisto said as he was being pushed by Myra towards the door, “and I look forward to seeing you again soon.”

You smiled at him. “Me too.”

“I sure as hell do not.” With these words, Myra slammed the door in their faces with such force that the entire room seemed to shudder. The floorboards beneath your bare feet reverberated, the glass of the nearby windows rattled … and a picture frame fell off the wall. Before it could hit the floor and shatter, your friend leapt to catch it.

“Yikes.” You grimaced. “You really don’t like them, do you?”

With a shrug, Myra carefully hung the picture frame, showing an old photograph of your sisters and you, back on the wall. “They scared you to death,” she replied. “You’re already over it, but they gotta make it up to me first.”

Kat grinned. “Rest assured, they’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so.”

Myra shot her a dirty look. “Great, really.” She rolled her eyes. “I’m so not looking forward to that.”

“I, uh … I have a question,” you piped up. You would be wringing your hands and scratching your neck if your hands weren’t full, so you shuffled your feet and darted glances at Kat.

“Actually, I have one too, but go ahead,” the brunette girl said.

“Can I, um, like … request guys?” God, you couldn’t believe you were actually asking this question. But it wasn’t every day you got to meet whichever fictional character you wanted because some higher power chose you of all people to grant your most secret wishes. “Would that be possible? Perhaps? Like, I tell you which guys I’m into lately and … Author-san sends them to me?”

“Well, that answers my question, which would have been whether you’re alright with the guys meeting up with you in the future.”

“I don’t get a say in this, do I?” Myra shut the door to your parents’ bedroom after she had peeked inside to make sure that the “portal” was gone and everything was back to normal (which it was).

“I’m afraid not, sorry,” Kat responded, neither looking nor sounding sorry. She turned back to you. “And to answer your question: Don’t worry, we’ll know exactly which guys you’ll like, and of course we’re gonna have them meet you as soon as possible.”

You broke into a smirk. “Awesome.”

Just then, you heard a car slowly pulling up the driveway to your house, the gravel crunching beneath the tires. Kat, Myra, and you looked at each other. Then, you looked at the heap of konpeitō in your hands and at the wrapped candies poking out from your hoodie’s pocket.

You looked like you just got back from robbing a candy store. Your parents were going to ask questions for sure. Questions you had no answers to without telling them of what had happened while they had been gone. You couldn’t go and say, “You see, twelve guys were here just a minute ago, and one of them showered me with candy, is all.”

While you were still debating on what to do, Myra took action. Fetching a plastic bag from the kitchen, she scooped the sweets into it and smoothed down your hoodie afterwards – just in time.

With the jingle of keys, the front door was opened. In came your parents, followed by your two sisters, filing into the short, open hallway between the kitchen and the bathroom. They were all carrying heavy shopping bags. Your parents appeared to be rather exhausted, whereas Nikki and Becci were both grinning like a Cheshire cat.

You gave your best friend a grateful nod which she returned with a small nod of her own, smirking slightly. Thanks to her, you neither had to dump the candy into the nearest drawer and hope your parents wouldn’t find it, nor take the bullet and claim that you had raided the pantry. Those were the only options you had been able to come up with in your growing panic.

“Oh, hey, sweetie,” your mom greeted you, and you greeted back. “And Myra and Katherine are there too. Good to see you.” Flashing you a weary smile, she trudged into the kitchen where she heaved her shopping bag onto the kitchen island with a relieved sigh. “I didn’t know you were friends too. How nice.”

“That’s because we aren’t,” Myra muttered under her breath. But she quickly put on a smile and waved at your parents. “Hi, [Mother’s name], hi, [Father’s name].”

“Hello, Mr and Mrs [Last name],” Kat said and, too, waved.

Walking over to you, your mom hugged you and gave you an affectionate kiss on the forehead. “I’m sorry it took us so long. Your sisters were a real pain in the neck.” She briefly glared at Nikki and Becci. “Have you slept well? Are you feeling better again?”

“Yes, to both,” you replied, returning her smile, but threw your sisters a sidelong look. “I just needed to rest a bit.”

“How was your day, baby sister?” Becci warbled.

“Pretty uneventful.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

Nikki and Becci exchanged looks. “What a shame,” they said simultaneously, reminding you all too much of the Hitachiin twins.

“You look kind of,” your mom looked you up and down, concern twisting her face into a frown, “rattled. Your hair is all windswept, too,” she said as she touched your hair.

Your eyes darted to the ornate mirror hanging above the corner sofa next to the door to your parents’ bedroom. What you saw wasn’t as bad as you had feared it would be, luckily. Your hair was rather messy (which was no surprise, considering all that running you had done today), but not the major case of bedhead you had expected – dreaded – to see. You still fixed your hair a little, though.

“Are you sure you’re alright? Did something happen while we were gone?”

You glanced at your sisters. They winked at you playfully, still grinning from ear to ear. “Nothing happened,” you smiled at your mom, “well, apart from Myra and Kat dropping by. I didn’t get around to combing my hair yet, is all, don’t worry.”

“Come to think of it, why are you two here?” your dad asked while unpacking the shopping bags – alone. He and your older sisters had followed your mom’s example and set down their shopping bags on the kitchen island, but only he had stayed to take out the groceries and put them away.

“Well, [Nickname] wrote me she wasn’t feeling well, and I had excess candy from when I bought too much at the supermarket the other day,” the plastic bag rustled when Myra lifted it up, “so I thought, why not go see her to look after her and share the candy with her? I killed two birds with one stone that way.”

“How sweet of you. You’re always looking out for her, aren’t you? I’m glad she has someone like you as her best friend.” Your mom gestured toward the bag in your friend’s hand. “May I take a look?”

“Sure.”

Taking the plastic bag, your mom opened it and looked inside. “Oh my, that sure is a lot of candy!” She glanced up at Myra, eyebrows lifted. “And that’s only the excess of what you bought?”

“The supermarket had candy on sales a few days ago, and I couldn’t help myself but splurge on it,” Myra said, lying through her teeth.

“Oh, what’s that?” Your mom reached inside the bag and pulled out a handful of konpeitō, gazing at them in delight. “These look lovely! I’ve never seen this before.”

“Isn’t it? It’s called konpeitō. That’s Japanese sugar candy,” you spoke up – and instantly regretted saying that. You could have dismissed it as some kind of new or special candy, but now you had to find a feasible explanation for why your local supermarket sold Japanese candy.

Myra threw you a look that spoke volumes, “Are you serious?”

You lifted your shoulders apologetically, mouthing “Sorry,” with a sheepish smile.

In the meantime, your mom knitted her brow in thought. “Japanese sugar candy, huh? I didn’t know our supermarket sold that …”

“It was a limited offer,” Myra explained without missing a beat. “I was extremely lucky I managed to get two bags since it sold like hot cakes. It was completely sold out, like, the next day.”

“I see.”

“And I’m here because I wanted to introduce myself to my new neighbours,” Kat piped up, smiling ever so innocently.

That caught you off guard. In fact, you were so surprised that you choked on your own spit, discreetly pressing the sleeve of your hoodie to your mouth to stifle the coughs. Was she joking? Come to think of it, though, the house next to yours had been vacant for the past couple of months … until about a week ago, when moving vans had shown up and a group of movers had lugged loads of furniture into the house.

Both of Myra’s eyebrows shot up and her mouth fell open as she stared at the girl, stunned by this revelation as much as you. But she quickly gathered herself. Crossing her arms over her chest, she looked over to you, though you could do nothing but shrug.

“So, everything went without a hitch? It’s all done?” Nikki asked, and Kat nodded. “Sweet!” Your sister beamed. “You living next to us is gonna be so great!”

Your mom smiled at Kat. “You’re welcome to come over anytime you want.” Then, she clapped her hands. “Well then, how about you girls go upstairs into [Nickname]’s room? Assuming you, Katherine, want to stay a little longer, that is.”

“She does,” Myra answered in Kat’s stead, in a tone that allowed no contradiction. Her eyes were fixed on said girl. The smile that twisted her lips was warm and friendly – only at first glance, though. In actuality, it was menacing through and through. “Isn’t that right?”

Kat cast a glance at her wristwatch. “Actually, I have to go home now.”

Immediately, Myra wound her arm around Kat’s to prevent her from leaving. “I’m sure you’ve got a few minutes to spare. I just want to have a quick chat with you, and then you can go home,” she insisted.

“Alright.”

Your mom chuckled to herself, smile widening. “I’m glad to see you girls are getting along so well already. Have fun.” She waved you.

“We will.” Myra marched towards the flight of stairs, pulling Kat along, followed by you.

“Now, now, young ladies,” your mom suddenly said, making the three of you turn back around in wonder, “and where are you going?” She didn’t only sound like she stood with her arms akimbo, she actually was. But her reprimanding gaze was not directed at you. She was looking at your sisters who had tried to sneak upstairs, using you as a shield so as to not be seen. Though that had – obviously – not worked. “You stay right here and help us. That’s the least you can do after giving us such a hard time.”

“Damnit,” Nikki cussed.

Becci sighed in a theatrical manner. “The things we do for our baby sister.”

You stuck out your tongue. “You decided to help Kat with her plan,” you retorted, whispering. “You knew what you were getting yourselves into, so you can’t blame me. Nobody asked you to set me up with a bunch of guys.”

Winking at you, you sisters said at the same time, “You know you loved it.”

“Wait a second.” Letting go of Kat, Myra grabbed Nikki’s and Becci’s arms instead. “I’d like to have a word with them first, if you don’t mind. It won’t take long.”

“Sure, sure. We’ll be in the kitchen.” That said, your mom joined your dad in the kitchen, helping him unpack the shopping bags and put away the groceries. But they did so really slowly, so there still would be some work left for your sisters to do.

Myra dragged Nikki and Becci back down the stairs and into the corridor between the staircase and your parents’ bedroom, out of your parents’ field of sight – and out of yours, too. Strangely enough, you didn’t hear her giving your sisters a piece of her mind like she had said she would. You heard nothing.

With your curiosity piqued, you peered around the corner. Your best friend stood in front of your sisters, arms folded over her chest and face contorted into a scowl, glowering at them. That was all she was doing. She didn’t say a single word at all, she wasn’t even moving, and yet, Nikki and Becci ducked their heads as if they were being scolded.

“Sorry,” they both muttered.

Myra nodded. “I’ll refrain from punishing you because [Nickname] enjoyed it despite literally everything. You’re off the hook this time.”

While your two sisters scampered into the kitchen, eager to get away from Myra before she changed her mind, your best friend returned to Kat and you. The three of you went upstairs and into your room. There, you took a seat on your untidy bed, whereas Myra and Kat kept standing.

“Alright, I have two questions,” Myra said, cutting right to the chase as she pushed the door shut behind her. “First question,” she set the plastic bag full of candy down on your desk, “you’re living alone? Did I get that right?”

“Yep,” Kat answered.

“And how old are you exactly?”

“Twenty.”

“How in the world do you have so much money that you’re able to afford buying and living in a single-family house? Alone? With twenty years?”

A grin spread over Kat’s lips. “Author-san’s paying for it all.”

Myra closed her eyes and rubbed her temples as though she suddenly had a headache. “Alright, well, sure. Why not? Your friend’s able to do everything. Okay. Fine,” she sighed, “I’ll accept that.” She opened her eyes again. “Second question, why did you move into the house next to [Nickname]’s?”

“First of all, it’s easier for me to keep an eye on her this way,” Kat began, counting on her fingers. “Secondly, it’ll definitely be more fun if I’m living right next to her. And last but not least, it was vacant. The opportunity was pretty much offering itself to me.”

With a heavy sigh, your best friend plopped down in the swivel chair at your desk. “At least I’ll know exactly where to find you if another one of your plans fails and I have to bring you to book. That’s the only advantage there is to this.”

Kat laughed. “You’re right. And for me, that’s the only disadvantage.” She turned to you. “Could I have your phone, please? Just for a second.”

“What for?”

“You’ll see.” She winked at you. “Oh, I won’t go through your phone or anything, if that’s what you’re afraid of. I promise I’ll be done in the blink of an eye, cross my heart and hope to die,” she assured you.

“If you say so.” You pulled your smartphone out of your hoodie’s kangaroo pocket and handed it over to Kat, albeit a little hesitantly. “Here you go. Oh, wait, I gotta unlock it first –”

“There’s no need to. I’m already done,” she said and proceeded to give your phone back to you.

“Uh, what? But you didn’t do anything, just stared at it …”

Your confusion elicited a snicker from Kat. “I said I only needed a second, didn’t I? That’s all the time I needed to add the guys’ numbers to your phone.”

Sure enough, when you unlocked your phone and checked your contacts, there were a couple of new ones that hadn’t been there before. “But how –” You broke off and shook your head. “Never mind. Thanks, I guess.”

“You’re welcome. Well, I’ll take my leave then. See you around!” Smiling and waving to you, Kat left your room.

“See you!” you called after her before she shut the door, waving back.

For some moments, if not a minute or two, Myra and you sat in silence. You were each lost in your own thoughts, with you excitedly looking forward to all the fictional characters you would get to meet, and Myra – you glanced over at her – not so much. Quite the opposite, actually. By the looks of her, she seemed to be thinking about all the guys she would have to put up with and the trouble that awaited her. She had her elbows propped up on your desk, head buried in her hands.

A loud growl suddenly broke the silence. It made you acutely aware of the hollow pit in your stomach. Pressing a hand to your empty stomach, you just now realized that you hadn’t eaten anything yet – neither breakfast nor lunch – and that you were starving. You had to go eat something. Now.

“You haven’t eaten anything yet, have you?” Myra asked.

You shook your head. Your stomach growled again, harder this time, demanding food. “I totally forgot … not that I would’ve got around to have breakfast or lunch, anyways.”

Myra stood up, motioning you to follow her as she walked out of the room. “Then let’s catch up on that right now. I haven’t had lunch either because of this whole ordeal. Do you think your mom will cook us something?”

“If we ask nicely, sure. I don’t think they found the time to eat something either because of Nikki and Becci.” You breathed a sigh. “I’m sorry I dragged you into this.”

She waved your apology aside. “What’re you sorry for? It’s not your fault. It’s not like you consciously decided for this to happen. Whatever exactly happened anyway … Besides, I’m your best friend, so of course I’ll be by your side no matter what.”

This put a tender smile on your face. “You’re right.”

Suddenly, your best friend stopped short, causing you to bump into her back. She turned around, grabbed you by the shoulders, and stared at you with an intent look in her eyes. “Whatever happens, just give me a call and I’ll be there in a flash, alright? And, if need be, I’ll protect you from these guys.”

Taken aback by her urgency, all you could say was, “I will, thank you.”

She smirked. “No need to thank me. That’s what best friends do,” she said, patting you on the head. Afterwards, she turned back and continued on her way. “C’mon. The sooner we’re downstairs, the sooner we’ll get something to eat.”