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heart like a lifeline, souls linked for a lifetime

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Of all the crazy shenanigans she’d ever found herself pulled into (including/not limited to: everything to do with Hanako-kun the freaking wish-granting, malspeaking, lecherous, surprisingly sweet bathroom ghost), Yashiro Nene thought that this maybe didn’t take the cake, but it easily made top five. 

If the rolling black fog covering the school grounds in a blanket of darkness wasn’t bad enough, it was also darn near impossible to see through! Nene’s vision was limited to about a three meter radius surrounding her, if she was lucky. However, she would have been as doomed as the rest of her peers had it not been for Hanako’s hakujoudai, which had come whispering through the sloshing, panicked crowds to perch over Nene’s mouth and nose moments before the fog settled. Hakujoudai still hadn’t moved, even as Nene wrestled her way out of the classroom, and she took this to mean that it was protecting her from whatever had afflicted everyone else. 

Students, frozen mid-motion, were plagued with clouds swirling lazily around their forms. The hallway was a kaleidoscope of colors. Clouds clung to individuals, murmuring different things in weary voices with invisible mouths. 

Embarrassed, said an angry maroon cloud swishing around the head of a girl, who was crouched on the floor retrieving scattered school utensils. 

Pleased, hummed a sunset-orange cloud surrounding the head of a smirking boy. Nene only stopped for a short moment to admire his pretty face before moving on. 

Everywhere she turned, students stood like statues: gray-washed and unmoving. Nene would think that School Wonder Number 1, Akane, would be responsible if she hadn’t seen him frozen back in their classroom. It was almost overwhelming, hearing all the different flowery words permeating the still, multi-colored air. They mixed with the charred fog, creating a veil that had Nene barely inching through the quiet chaos. 

Where was Hanako?

As if hearing her silent question, hakujoudai pulsed against her face. 

“Where?” Nene murmured, keeping her voice low; it was scary to be drowning in so much silence, and she didn’t want to risk her voice carrying. “Where is he?” 

It had no answer for her, and with no way to detach itself without endangering her, Nene slumped and continued picking through the cluster of frozen students. She vaguely wondered if the School Wonders on campus right then would be immune to whatever this stuff was, or if they would be caught in a sliver of unmoving time as well. Akane was only half-supernatural, so maybe that was why he’d been affected. But as for everyone else...

More than anything, she hoped that Hanako was okay. 

Nene rounded the corner to climb the stairs for higher ground when she ran straight into a stiff form. The air rushed out of her, and she tripped and stumbled backwards. She’d been certain no one was standing there before!

“Senpai?” It was Kou, hunched over and offering her a hand up. There was an odd mask on his face, like a clear bubble-tube that filtered his voice funnily but still showed the movement of his mouth. “Glad to see you’re okay!”

Smiling in relief, Nene accepted his hand. “Same to you. I was worried I was the only one left.” 

He pulled her up and checked her for injuries before taking a step back, cheeks pinking slightly. “Ah, no. I’m glad I was with Teru-nii when the akashita attacked. He had a spare mask!” He motioned to the contraption on his face. 

Upon hearing mention of Minamoto-senpai, Nene’s head swivelled. “Is he with you?”

Kou rubbed the back of his neck, his gaze drifting away from her. “Nah, we split up.” His eyes darted around their surroundings before settling back on her again. “Hey, where is Hanako?”

“I was hoping you knew,” Nene sighed, chest tightening. “I haven’t seen him at all. I have one of his hakujoudai, though.” She pointed at the orb floating over her mouth and nose. “ I really am glad you’re okay, though.” Another smile, just to convey how genuinely happy she was to see him. 

The air around Kou’s head stirred, and tiny clouds swiveled into view. They were peach-pink with tinges of red, and they whispered, adoration, infatuation

Seeming not to notice these clouds, Kou scratched his reddened cheek, his gaze trained elsewhere once more. “Uh, yeah, thank you, Senpai. I’m glad you’re okay, too.” Nene blinked, the pink and red of Kou’s clouds gradually shifting to a gentle lavender. Worry. “I know he’s probably fine, but this apparition seems powerful. I’m not sure how he’ll measure up.”

Stooping forward, Nene grabbed the hand that was unoccupied by Kou’s staff. “He’ll be okay! Hanako-kun is way strong—this apparition will be no problem for him! We just have to let him know that we’re fine and back him up.”

The clouds drifting around Kou’s head changed colors again, but she ignored them in favor of staring resolutely into Kou’s eyes. 

Finally, Kou nodded, a grin stretching his face. “You’re right. Let’s try to track down Hanako and figure out what’s going on,” he said, nodding determinedly. 

Nene’s hands balled into fists. “Right! I’ve already looked through most of this floor.” 

“And I’ve already checked the roof and third floor.” Their gazes clashed, his electric-blue eyes sparking with excitement. “That leaves us with the first floor and outside.” 

Nene nodded at him. They would find Hanako and beat this apparition in no time! “Okay! Let’s get going, then.” 

Enamored, suggested Kou’s scarlet clouds, helpfully.