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Shift - Chapter 49 - Never Forgotten

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“…mother…” Had been all that Yuki said, but it sent shocked and confused expressions through everyone. It was Saki that had still not completely recovered from when she realized that it was Yuki’s parents. All of their friends, apart from Ayumi, did not understand why it such an important moment for them, but it was slowly starting to settle in for them. Words were not needed.

Yuki could hardly manage a word trying to stop his tears. Jun got down from their mother’s arms allowing her to hold Yuki. It had felt like eternity since Yuki had been able to feel her warmth. The soothing tone of her voice and calming eyes were not something he could ever forget. “How…is this possible?” In spite of it, he wanted the moment to last forever.

Chapter 49 – Never Forgotten

Jun walked back with Yuki and their mother to where Ken was with their father. From the view of their friends, they were able to watch and in that moment it felt different from any that they had seen before. They all knew Yuki to be a happy and excitable person, but there was always an intangible feeling of something underneath. It remained buried under layers until it could no longer be seen. However, that was completely different from the feeling that they were seeing. There was a genuine, near innocence, in his expression that was unlike anything they had seen before.

“…Yuki…” Yumi said slowly holding on to her friends hands.

Hiroshi stood next to Saki pulling his eyes away and caught a look that surprised him. ‘She’s crying…’ It was strange for him to see Saki acting emotional. She acted tough and rough so often that he did not know what to think. He turned back allowing her moment alone that she wanted.

“One minute remaining… One minute remaining…” the room’s voice announced to everyone. On the solemn note, the room filled with an uncomfortable sense of urgency. Tension suddenly grew from everyone knowing. Hiroshi pulled back with Kazuhiro and Tatsuya walking down the street a short distance. Katsumi followed soon taking Yumi and Kaede with her. The last to follow was Ayumi leaving Saki behind.

“…Yuki…” said Saki having trouble with her voice. Her heart was pounding fiercely making it difficult for her to keep everything in control. Even for Saki it felt like she had gone back in time. She felt as though she was a child once more looking towards Yuki for strength. The weakness that she had shed and never let her touch again began to weigh her once more.

Yuki was having difficulties finding a good-bye as the clock ticked away on his time. The dream was going to end and all he could think of was keep it going. “Father…mother…” Jun and Ken had given their words and stepped back instinctively knowing how important it was for their big brother. The distant beeping that alerted the remaining time pounded on Yuki’s shoulders as he looked back between them. All he could do was wrap his arms around the both of them as the world slowly faded away. ‘…mother…I’m sorry…’ The last particles to hold on to disappeared leaving Yuki’s arms collapsing in against him.

They were all returned back to the room left with a long silence that no one was willing to break. It was not until the door to the room slid open. Ha stood in the entry glaring at everyone with the look from before. “Time to leave…” she said starting out strong, but fell short as she picked up the atmosphere. “What the hell did you guys do?!”

Jun looked over at Ken with the same look in their eyes and marched over to Ha. “Let’s step outside,” Ken said as he picked up Ha’s left side while Jun carried her right. They walked her out under protest as the rest of their friends followed along with them.

“What do you think you’re doing you, brats?!” yelled Ha carrying her voice through the rooms.

Saki and Ayumi stayed behind with Yuki who still looked out of it. Saki rested her hand on Yuki’s shoulder searching for the words that would help him, but finding none. Tension between the three grew tight as the two girls were uncertain of Yuki. His head was turned down heavily cast in a dark shadow over his face. “…Yuki I…” began Saki cutting herself off disappointed with her words.

Hovering anxiety loomed until suddenly Yuki lifted his head up. “Well that was fun! Where’d everyone go?” The bright cheerful expression that Saki was so used to on Yuki’s face had resurfaced. He looked around the room quickly trying to figure out where all of his friends had disappeared. When he saw the door he darted for it leaving behind Saki and Ayumi.

A flat calculating look made a momentary reveal under Ayumi’s innocent persona as she watched Yuki leave the room. ‘Going back that quickly… He’s definitely more complicated than appearances would lead to believe… But how much does it affect him subconsciously?’ Ayumi stepped forward ignoring Saki.

Saki’s strained eyes turned to helpless pain. She had seen the look from Yuki so often that she was used to seen it. It should have been a happy reunion; a comforting moment that had eased her struggle. Contrary, she only felt worse than before in her heart. “…Yuki…why can’t you just…”

“Saki?! Everyone’s starting to leave!” Yuki said poking his head into the room.

The look and his voice only deepened the sadness tying against her. She reluctantly stepped forward knowing that he was just going to keep staring at her and she could not take it for much longer. “Alright…I’m coming…” When Saki stepped out of the room she caught Ayumi out of the corner of her eye standing next to the wall. The rest were down by the counter waiting.

Ayumi stepped forward looking at the two of them with the façade dropped while she only faced them. “I think one of the sisters is a Meso Presecho user,” she declared to them with all of the seriousness she could muster.

Yuki smiled and nodded patting her shoulder. “Yeah, I figured that it was a Kasou-ryoko a while ago.” Saki nodded silently to Ayumi.

As the only one to get under Ayumi’s skin, her frustration was quickly appearing as she glared at Yuki. “Would you stop insulting our tradition!”

“But I can’t understand your Greek words! It sounds better this way!”

The bickering between the two alerted Saki returning her to herself sharply to interrupt them. “Hey you two! Now’s not the time to fight!” She had her hands on the two of them gripping them tightly to keep them separated. Tensions eased back quickly for Ayumi as she regained her composure. “So which of the sisters do you think it is?”

Yuki did not look like he wanted to let go of it, but Saki was already addressing Ayumi. “The eldest sister. She’s the only one that was not present while we were in the simulations.” Ayumi turned her head just enough to glance back at the counter as the three sisters were entertaining their friends. Her mind was quickly going through tactics until a voice interrupted them.

“It’s actually none of them, Young Miss,” a woman’s voice said from above and front of them. Across from where they stood against one of the rooms was a stairwell with a landing. Drawn out steps on the wood boards signaled the approach of the woman. The woman that appeared on the landing looked to be in her thirties and an ordinary businesswoman wearing formal pants and blouse with an open vest over. It was carried out in a calm scheme of tan brown, white and light blue. She would have passed for Japanese if not for the distinct European features of her face and natural blonde hair.

Ayumi and Saki quickly turned to give her their full attention as well as stepping forward in front of Yuki. “My, such determined expressions. You’re pretty lucky boy,” she said keeping with her relaxed attitude.

“I won’t let you near him!” declared Saki as she moved out in front more keeping her between them. She did not know what to expect from an assassin since they were all so different, but she kept slowly pushing herself forward.

Taking them back some, the woman sat down on the landing with her legs resting on the lower steps. “I think you misunderstood me, dear. I’m not interested in the young man there.” She smiled pleasantly to them still holding her aura of calm.

“Then what do you want?”

“Simply to introduce myself. Welcome you to my shop! I’m Phoibe.” Her hands drew out to her sides as she talked taking ownership of the building. “How did you enjoy my entertainment?”

“Entertainment?” Ayumi cautiously said still waiting for the woman to change her attitude. “What’s the point of this?”

Phoibe frowned upon hearing Ayumi’s suspicious tone. “I thought that was pretty obvious. I need money.”

“Huh?” Saki said confused by the reactions that they were getting from the woman. “But don’t you get support from your people?”

“Exiles have to live on their own,” said the woman flatly becoming serious. She pulled up her blouse exposing her stomach revealing a cross shaped scar on her right side. Ayumi immediately reacted to it as her eyes widened for a moment. “Seems the Young Miss understands.” Phoibe lowered her blouse readjusting it.

Ayumi relaxed her guard as Saki and Yuki looked to her for an answer. “How long?”

“Nearly twenty years…”

“Ayumi?” said Saki starting to pull herself back from the front.

There was a lengthened pause with Ayumi before she looked at the two of them. “Depending on the crime and person it happens that we’ll exile someone rather than kill or imprison them. When someone is exiled they are marked with a brand so that they are forever marked. It’s rare, but it has happened with Meso Presecho users. Though they are normally executed…” Ayumi looked over at the woman with a demanding look in her eyes.

“Why would they allow someone with such powers to leave?” asked Saki expecting Ayumi to give her an answer even though it was clear she would not know.

The woman stood up and began down the rest of the stairs. “Well I can explain that. In my youth I was considered a…deviant. I had one too many run ins with the royal guard and so they had enough of me. However, they weren’t strong enough to hold me for long and so I left.”

“You just left?” Saki said incredulously. The explanation felt too simple to be truthful.

“Always having to hide and look around your back gets exhausting. So it was easier to just leave. I let them brand me to save face and departed.”

“That’s rather generous of you.”

“I kind of regret it now. Makes wearing a bikini impossible.”

The flat delivery in a vain serious tone made them all fall over off balance. The time that it took them all to recover Phoibe was walking into the hall towards their friends. Yuki stepped out in the front of them, but stayed behind Phoibe to keep his distance from his friends ahead. “So you aren’t after me?”

Phoibe turned around looking across at him with grin that was bordering on a smirk. “My dear boy, I prefer men that are more experienced.” She looked him up and down quickly leaving Saki and Ayumi a little unsettled as she looked back at them. Afterwards, Phoibe turned letting her shoulder length blonde hair wisp around lightly in the air as she stepped out to greet the rest of their friends.

Saki caught up with Yuki as Ayumi brought up the other side. She looked over at Yuki and Ayumi continuing on in her gaze. “She’s a little strange, but you think we can trust what she says?”

“Don’t trust anyone, but for the moment she doesn’t seem aggressive. I’d suggest leaving.” Ayumi stepped forward returning back to her usual personality as she rejoined everyone in the lobby. Phoibe did not miss a beat with her leaving Saki and Yuki behind.

‘I don’t know, but I’d like to think that there’s not just assassins out there. There have to be good people too.’ The whole conversation left him with an off balanced feeling that seemed very intentional, but it was simply a feeling. He wanted to trust her seeing that she had such a power and only using it to run a business, even if it was a business that was impossible without the power. There was little that he could do at the moment. So he went with the flow of the time. “Let’s go, Saki!” he said smiling back to her.

Yuki grabbed her hand dragging her along with him taking them back to their friends. She was not in on their conversation and stood at the side waiting.

It was currently Kazuhiro speaking to shop owner. He had been mentioning what they had heard about the hostess’s ‘purpose’. “Given that, what type is the eldest sister?” Katsumi could not believe how straightforward he was speaking and grabbed him to keep him silence to not further insult them.

Phoibe waved her hand dismissing Katsumi’s response. She was smiling hardly offended by his question, possibly even pleased. “You’re quite correct in what you’ve been told. Though I’ll have to get after Ha for spoiling the trade secret. But to answer your question the more refined palette desires someone more mature both in age and intellect. That is Hanabira. I do serve many different types of clientele.”

“You’ve thought this out a lot I see.”

“I am a businesswoman. I have to keep my customers happy.” The woman raised her hand up to her mouth starting to laugh amusing herself.

While the laugh was not deafening it did make them retreat and ready to leave. Several of them were already going for the door as Hiroshi was politely trying to excuse himself. “Well it’s getting late and it’s a long walk through the alley.” The others were nodding to him stepping back with him.

Hana stepped forward still with her hands quietly held in front. “If you turn left around our shop you’ll be returned to the main street. It’s much faster!” She smiled warmly to them.

Everyone looked over at Hiroshi suddenly becoming angry at him. He tried to back out of the building even faster as he was trapped. Kaede was the first to speak up for everyone’s anger. “You mean all that walking through the alley we did and we could have just gotten here from the street!” She pressed in taking Hiroshi outside as the others followed leaving the owner and her hostesses behind still smiling.

Hana closed the door and turned politely towards Phoibe. “They were very pleasant customers, Miss Phoibe.”

“Yes…yes, they were Hana. However, I’m feeling a little tired. So we’re closing early.”

“Yes, Miss Phoibe,” the three sister said softly.

Phoibe stepped forward locking up the door before turning around. All three of the sister were gone leaving her alone. She ran her fingers through her hair fluffing it up a little as she walked back. “To think there’d be another one. I wonder…”

Their friends had left at the station leaving Yuki to walk home with his brothers and Ayumi and Saki. Saki left at her street and his brothers had run up ahead to their house. Yuki continued his even pace with Ayumi. However, before he could finish his walk Ayumi stepped out in front of him staring at him with serious eyes. “I hope that you enjoyed today, Yuki.”

“Huh? Ayumi? Why you look so serious when you say that?” Yuki started to pull away getting an unsettled aura coming off of her.

“I’m telling that because I’m going to be working you harder in your training.”

“What’s with this all of sudden? I still can’t even control my power!”

“Exactly. You need to be able to control,” Ayumi said with urgency in her voice that made Yuki recoil further.

“You make it sound like I need to do now!”

“You only have one month left, Yuki.”

Yuki was even more confused now than when she started. “Month? For what? What happens in a month?”

“The time for the heir to appear and claim the throne. After that it is turned over to the public for anyone to take.” Ayumi stared at him closely starting to slow in her words. There even appeared some tears in her eyes as she seemed to be pleading to him. “You’re the only one that can save them from the tyranny that they will bring down upon our people!”

To be continued…

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