Mikajima Saki refused to cross over to the other side. She had only one request that she wanted before she left.
“I want to see Masaomi-kun one more time,” she insisted to the tennin staying around her in limbo. For weeks, they went at it like tug-of-war. Neither side wanted to cave in.
“For pete sake, he doesn’t remember you!” Rei, the head tennin shouted once again. “That woman took all of his memories of you in exchange for Tandeki making him restart the loop again! Why can’t you accept that and move on?!”
“I don’t care!” Saki shouted back. “I have to see him again!” The tennin listening in the doorway of their boss’ office looked at each other.
“The poor girl,” one of them whispered to her sisters. “She just wants to see her boyfriend before she crosses over.”
“Yeah,” another one said.
“She and aneki can’t keep this up,” the third and final one said. “You know what happens to souls that don’t move on.” Her younger sisters shuddered as they remembered such a fate.
“But what can we do?” the baby of the trio asked. The eldest rose to her feet.
“We need to help her move on,” she said. “And to do that, we will let her see this Masaomi boy.” Her sisters looked at her wide-eyed.
“But what about aneki?” the middle sister asked. “If Saki can’t convince her, what makes you think that we can?” The eldest sister put her hands on her hips.
“We’ll just have to get her to listen to us!” she said. Her sister nervously tittered at the overconfidence in her tone.
It took the tennin hours to accomplish what Saki tried to do for weeks. At first, their boss wouldn’t hear it.
“I said no,” she told them.
“But why?” the oldest sister asked. “Isn’t our job to help the departed move on? Part of that is final requests. So why can’t we grant Mikajima-chan her final wish?” Their boss rubbed her forehead.
“It’s not that easy,” Rei explained.
“Why is that?”
Her boss sat back in her chair and sighed. “You remember how she died, right?”
Rei glanced around before she leaned in closer. “Well… orders from the top have marked Mikajima-chan’s case with a red star.”
The oldest sister covered her mouth. “No…”
“I am so sorry. I really do want to grant that child her final request, but I don’t want to risk sending her onto hell as a result.”
“Did they explain why her case is red-starred?”
Rei shook her head. “I asked, but no one wanted to give me a straight answer.” The oldest sister leaned against the wall, thinking. Her eyes widened when she remembered something.
“What if we purified her soul afterwards?” the oldest sister asked. Rei lifted her head.
“What?” she asked. The oldest sister stood up straight and stepped forward.
“Surely there must be some ritual to cleanse a soul before they cross over,” she said. “Isn’t there?”
“Well… yes, but that’s only in special cases,” Rei said.
“Isn’t this a special case?”
Her boss sat back, frowning. “I’ll see what I can do.” Hours later, Rei found Saki sitting in the hallway near the door.
“How long have you been listening in?” she asked.
“Not long,” Saki said. Rei shook her head.
“Never mind,” she said. “We will grant your request.” Saki moved her mouth as if trying to say something. Rei was quick to put up her hand.
“But only for one night!” she said. “My girls will have everything arranged.” Saki closed her mouth and bowed her head.
“Thank you, Rei-san,” she said.
“Yeah, yeah,” the head tennin muttered as she rolled her eyes. She didn’t want to have to explain this whole plan to the higher-ups.
Back in the living world, Masaomi awoke to two fingers poking him in the shoulder. He lifted his head, mumbling to see three young ladies dressed in lacy white robes. They had their black hair in tight buns. The blonde-haired boy sat up, blinking.
“To what do I owe this pleasure of seeing three cute girls in front of me tonight?” he asked in a cheeky tone.
“We don’t have much time,” the oldest sister said. The younger women grabbed onto Masaomi and pulled him to his feet.
“Hey, what the-?!” he asked before the oldest of the trio covered his mouth.
“Shhh,” she whispered. “Somebody wants to see you. Don’t ask us who, there isn’t much time to explain.” The ladies in white rushed him out of the apartment before Masaomi had another chance to speak. Once outside, the youngest of the three wrapped a black blindfold around the boy’s eyes.
“What is this?” he asked.
“We apologize,” the middle sister said. “You aren’t allowed to see where we’re taking you as part of this arrangement.”
“Arrangement?” Masaomi asked. He tried to lift the blindfold, but the youngest lady smacked his hand.
“No peeking!” she said.
“Can we get going?” the middle sister asked. “We can’t waste all night!”
“Got it,” the oldest said. Her sisters dragged the boy down the street.
“Please don’t ask any more questions,” the oldest tennin pleaded. “You have to see to understand.” Masaomi gave up as they walked further into the night. To his surprise, the sounds of the city disappeared. In their place were soft crickets and the stomping of grass. When did we get in the countryside? Masaomi tried to lift the blindfold for a peek, but the youngest tennin smacked his hand again.
“No peeking!” she repeated.
“Okay, okay,” he said. “Geez.” After what felt like miles of walking on grass and dirt, the party of four came to a stop. Masaomi heard a door sliding open before being walked into what sounded like an old-time house. Five matches were struck. Two pairs of footsteps walked back out. The third pair walked away, but stopped.
“Do not take off the blindfold until you hear the door close,” the oldest sister said. Masaomi stood motionless until he heard the door sliding closed. He reached up and took the blindfold off. The boy found himself in a room that resembled one of those rooms in an old-time inn. Seven lit candles surrounded a two-person-sized futon. Masaomi’s eyes shifted left and right as he tried to process the whole trip here. What am I doing here? Those women didn’t tell him much. They just took him out of the apartment, blindfolded him, and took him to god knows where. They wouldn’t even let him ask any questions. Those ladies dropped him off here and left. Now what?
However, Masaomi realized that he wasn’t alone tonight.
Saki sat on the futon, staring at him.
“That yellow scarf looks good on you,” she said. “You’re much cooler than the rumors make you out to be, Kida Masaomi.” The boy broke into a little smile.
“Well now, how did you know what my name is?” he asked. “What are you, some kind of clairvoyant? If you can really read people’s minds, then I’m gonna out you in a bag and take you home with me.” The boy couldn’t help but have a strange sense of déjà vu when he said that. Saki laughed it off.
“You’re so funny,” she said. Masaomi’s tone changed when he heard her laughing.
“Say, where exactly are we?” he asked.
“Oh, we’re in the Bamboo House,” Saki said.
“Yes, those ladies are renting it out to us for the night.” It hurt in her heart to try and lie to her boyfriend about this situation. As part of her agreement to see Masaomi tonight was that she couldn’t try to make him remember her.
“That boy is a stranger to you,” Rei reminded her hours before. “That woman took his memories of you. Under no circumstances must you try to make him remember.”
Despite agreeing to the terms, seeing her boyfriend again triggered the urge to pull him back into the private world they once shared. From the moment he took off his blindfold and saw her, this wasn’t going to be an easy night.
“So… why am I here?” Masaomi asked.
“Because, I wanted to see you,” Saki said.
“You wanted to see me?”
“That’s right.” She patted a spot next to her on the futon. Masaomi shrugged to himself. He might as well since he was here. The boy took off his shoes and sat next to the ghost girl. Saki herself felt her heart flutter being so close to her lover again. She had so much that she wanted to tell him, but had to resist.
“Why did you want to see me?” Masaomi asked.
“Well… you remind me of someone I used to know,” Saki lied. “An old boyfriend, really.”
“What was he like?”
“Really goofy, sweet, pretty hot, but seemed so damaged.” Just describing Masaomi to her boyfriend sitting beside her made her heart ache. Judging by the look on his face, her words didn’t ring any bells in his hand. She shook away her sadness. “Do you have a girlfriend?”
“Ah, no,” Masaomi said. “I’ve been out with many girls though.” His words sounded so hollow.
“You seem so lonely,” Saki said. Masaomi gave her a confused look.
“I’m not lonely,” he said.
“Do any of those girls that you have been out with mean anything to you?”
The light in Masaomi’s face dimmed. “Well…” Now that he thought about it, even when he slept with any random girl that he picked, he felt nothing. He would just lie there and take it. Masaomi wouldn’t even look at the girl on top of him. Instead, his eyes wandered to the darkened ceiling above. In the morning, his “dates” would get dressed and leave. He’d still be asleep or neither one would exchange a single word. His friends began to show concern about his habits. Masaomi would brush them off with a smile.
“I’ll be fine,” he insisted. Now, the boy wasn’t so sure if he believed his own lie anymore. He wasn’t sure why he kept sleeping around with so many girls. He didn’t used to be like this, but he couldn’t remember why he changed. Saki put her hand on his back in present day.
“I’m sure you will find the right one soon,” she said. Masaomi tried not to laugh.
“Do you really believe that?” he asked.
“You are a great guy. I’m sure that a nice girl will find you someday.”
Masaomi felt himself smiling. “This boyfriend of yours must have been a lucky bastard to have you.”
“Yeah…” The couple spent most of the night talking. Saki’s heart did little flips in her chest while Masaomi felt so relaxed for the first time in a long while. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt this happy. Most the “dates” that he was on had no real connection. They wouldn’t even really talk to each other. It was meet up, back to his place, up to his room, make out, take their clothes off, have sex, and sleep. The first few times were only a temporary fix to numb the void in his heart. After a while, that trick started to lose its effects. Still, Masaomi kept sleeping around because he didn’t know what else to do.
However, this night with this girl sitting beside him in a small room made of bamboo in the middle of seemingly nowhere actually felt like a real date. Masaomi could feel a real connection between him and her. Maybe they could actually have a relationship once they left this place. Still, he couldn’t shake this strange feeling he had developed. The more they talked, the more Masaomi felt like he had known this girl from somewhere before.
“Do you want to hear something weird?” he asked.
“Sure,” Saki said.
“This is going to sound crazy, but I feel like I have met you from somewhere before.”
“I don’t think so…”
“We might have!” Masaomi quickly grabbed her hands. “I’m of sure it. We must have met before.”
Saki shook her head, feeling herself beginning to panic. “No.”
“I’m certain of it now! Maybe we might have been together bef-!” Masaomi’s words were cut off with a violent headache. He grabbed his head as he gagged with pain.
“Masaomi!” Saki cried. The boy panted as he tried to find something to grab onto.
“Are you alright?” she asked. The ghost girl rubbed on his back as she held onto him. Within seconds, the pain stopped. Masaomi lowered his hands and turned to his dead girlfriend.
“I’m sorry… what were we talking about?” he asked. Saki sat back with a sad look in her arms.
“Nothing,” she said in a small voice. She rested her hands in her lap. “It doesn’t matter anyway.”
“Why is that?”
Saki clenched her fists in her lap. “I won’t be here tomorrow.”
Masaomi frowned. “Why not?”
“Because I am dead.”
Saki lifted her head with tears in her eyes. “I was murdered last month and have been trapped in limbo. I refused to move on until I saw you one last time.”
“But why me? I don’t even know you.”
“And I am fine with that.” The desperation in her eyes made his own heart. He couldn’t be certain of why some dead girl would have him from the living world here to limbo just to spend one night with her. Still, she must have cared deeply about him just to see him one more time before she crossed over to wherever.
“Well… at least tell me your name,” Masaomi said. His dead girlfriend pressed her lips together.
“Saki,” she said. “It’s Saki.”
“That’s a pretty name,” he said. Without warning, Saki threw her arms around him with tears in her eyes.
“What’s the matter?” Masaomi asked. She lifted her head and looked him in the eye.
“Please! Let me love you for this one night, Masaomi!” she pleaded. The boy put his arm around her waist.
“Okay,” he said. Saki leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. Masaomi let her in as he fell back onto the futon. They couldn’t stop kissing as they began to undress. The boy could already predict what was coming next. However, this felt different. Where he felt so cold and empty with those other girls, Saki’s affection filled him with warmth. Masaomi seemed to melt with each kiss. His eyes could only stay focused on her.
Love me! Love me!
Maybe it was because she was a ghost or maybe she could tell what her lover was thinking like in their days together, but either way Saki seemed to have heard his thoughts.
“I will,” she whispered. Her lips gently met with his again. Masaomi’s arms ached to hold her. His hand rested on her lower back as her legs came on either side of him.
“I love you, Masaomi-kun,” Saki murmured. She leaned and kissed him on the lips. Masaomi let himself fall into a pleasure that he thought he had lost before. At first, it nearly frightened him. He had been dead inside for so long that intimate emotions were almost stranger to him. When Saki pushed her tongue into his mouth, somehow Masaomi knew this was what real intimacy was. He wrapped his arms around his dead girlfriend. Despite being a ghost, her body felt so warm.
Even at the climax, Masaomi felt at one with Saki. They shared one more kiss. She rested her head on his chest as they went to sleep.
Around three in the morning, Saki awoke and turned to a sleeping Masaomi. He looked so peaceful in his dreaming. She moved her hand to her chest.
“I love you so much, Masaomi-kun,” she said in a low voice. “Even though you don’t remember me, you have no idea how happy you made me.” Her fist clenched her sheets.
“I wish that I could stay with you forever. I even dreamt of growing old with you.” Tears started to form in her eyes. “I won’t be here when you wake up, but you have to promise me one thing. You have to put an end to Tandeki’s game and break cycle. After that… After that…” Her lips trembled.
“You have to move on and find yourself a great girl,” she said. Saki was about to turn away when something caught her attention. Masaomi was crying in his sleep.
“Saki-chan… I love you…” he murmured. His words were like a knife to her chest. Still, she refused to break her end of the bargain. Their tears mingled as she gave him one last kiss.
“Mikajima-chan, it’s time,” the oldest sister of the tennin trio said from the doorway. Saki wiped away her tears as she rose to her feet. After she got dressed, the ghost girl followed the tennin to cross over.
By sunrise, Masaomi woke up alone. His hand felt along the empty side of the futon. Last night made him feel more whole than he had ever had. He began to wonder if it was all a dream. The boy looked up when he heard the door sliding open. The youngest of the three tennin sisters stood, watching him.
“Kida-kun,” she said. “It’s time to go.” The boy didn’t say a word as he got up and got dressed. The youngest sister blindfolded him and led him out of the house.
“Please do not remove your blindfold until you hear the sounds of the city,” she whispered in his ear. Masaomi didn’t say a word as he was led back through the sounds of trampling grass and birds singing. It wasn’t long before he heard the sounds of Ikebukuro. Masaomi reached up and took off his blindfold. He found himself alone and standing in front of Mikado’s apartment. The boy felt so cold and numb as he walked up the stairs. Mikado and the girls, Anri, Chiharu, and Noriko were all probably still sound asleep right now. Maybe he could get back in bed and they wouldn’t be the wiser…
“Where did you go last night, Masaomi?” the blonde-haired boy from in the dimmed room. He turned around to see Mikado sitting up in his own futon, staring at him. The other boy gave him a strange look.
“Are you… crying?” he asked. Masaomi closed the door behind him as the tears streamed down his face.
“Yes,” he admitted. “But I don’t know why…” The boy could barely hear his friend’s questions as his mind went back to that bamboo house back in limbo.
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