Just As You Are

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Chapter Two

MIKA

Ahh . . .

Somewhere in my chest there is a hollow space, either because my heart decided to take a tour around this supposedly sparkling universe, or because it just exploded into bloody smithereens.

“Ahh! I don’t think I can take it anymore!”

It’s a huge shock for me.

At a certain time and somewhere deep inside of me, I sensed a wild presence. It was like a little surge of power to my brain; that was always the first sign that something was about to happen. Then I sensed someone watching me, eyes grazing my skin. I can look away and ignore the buzzing in my brain, but that doesn’t work. I kept coming across overwhelming vibes for a long time that it left my brain in a huge chaos. At first, I thought I was being paranoid, I would look behind me and find nothing, but then things became as clear as looking through the glass.

I was in the school garden watering my little lilies; these charming white flowers with the sweet smell and delicate elegance; when I thought I heard his name. I shook my head. “He’s not here, Mika. It’s someone else,” I chided myself.

But then came his voice. Like an arrow piercing the air and striking right into my heart. Low, clear, and husky. Like the sound of the wind as it passes through rime ice on trees. It was a different voice. A voice of a guy, and I knew it was his. I couldn’t help it. I stretched on my toes and grabbed a hold at the window seal, catching a glimpse of him, and my heart skipped a beat.

Zel!

Perfect. My entire rhythm has been successfully ruined.

My eyes roamed over his face longer than expected. His hair fell over his eyes; those that looked brown from afar were a pure color of honey as I neared him. They’re bright and warm, sprinkled with light brown specks, framed by beautiful thick lashes. Across his right eye I knew it was there, and my chest tightened even without seeing it. He pressed his lips together—his quirk for when he’s uncomfortable—then shook his hair and passed a hand through his bangs.

He never allowed anyone to see that scar. Never.

I stood there, fighting the urge to reach for his face, brush his bangs away and kiss that scar without wavering. That scar that brought me closer to him than anyone in the world is. I wanted to tell him I missed him and that I was always worried about him. But I couldn’t. I thought if he wanted me to be in his life, he would have approached me and told me he’s here. Yet at the same time, I couldn’t leave things the way they were, I had to do something so I won’t lose him again.

The white lilies were staring at me, and I was staring back. Then I plucked one of them gingerly, and sent him a message hoping he’ll reach out.

Now, I'm sitting on the grass, two windows away from the library, my knees hugged to my chest.

“Ahh, what a drag.” I glance at the window; the flower is still there. He might’ve not seen it yet. He was always hard to reach anyway.

“Young Mistress?”

I glance up, and a pair of pale-yellow eyes greets me. Her face is my only escape from the cruelty of what’s happening to me now. She sits to my side, weaves her wavy raven hair over one shoulder, and gives me a small smile. I instantly melt.

“Akuni!” I hug my maid and my dearest friend like a six-year-old, and she lets me do without hesitation.

“Don’t frown, Young Mistress, you’ll get creases.”

“Hmph.”

“I see you’re troubled,” she whispers, smoothing my hair. I don’t respond. I just hang onto her for a few minutes as we listen to the sound of the breeze and birds’ chirping.

A bird on a branch moves its head from side to side like it’s clockwork, like there is a switch in its brain that flicks to choose the direction to look but not the speed of the motion. Every turn is rapid, almost too fast to see. But in the moments it stills, I could see the glossy black eyes set in the plumage of an impossibly bright blue, the kind that would belong on an artist’s palate. The bird is small, with a wide breast, but the tail feathers and wings elongate the body, giving it an elegance. After singing a few notes, it spreads its wings and in a flurry of blue, ascends to the tree tops and out of view.

I sigh. “To be a bird, how nice that would be.”

“Young Mistress?”

“Look at them; they are small, and fluffy. They don’t have worries. They have nothing to long for. They’re free,” I mumble. A blot of pain begins to spread and swirl in my chest, making breathing even harder.

“Excuse my rudeness, but you’re wrong,” Akuni says over my ear.

My eyes widen in shock. It’s the first time Akuni dared to say that to me. I give her a beat to provide an explanation.

“You might think birds are free and have no worries, but that is not entirely true.” She drapes her arm around my shoulder and pulls me closer. “You see, birds learn how to earn a living. They build their homes from scratch and search for food on their own to feed their babies. They even have to learn to fly otherwise their lives would be a waste. They’re like us humans; they have their little birdie worries.”

I stifle a laugh.

“They make families and they protect their beloved ones.”

I stop for a minute, acknowledging her words and turning them around in my mind.

“What is it, Young Mistress? You seem out of it today,” Akuni asks when I don’t react.

Sigh. “I don’t know.”

“You can tell me,” she suggests.

I blink. That might be a good idea. “Umm . . . Have you ever had a nagging feeling but decided to ignore it anyway?”

Akuni’s soft breathing replies instead of her words. Inhale-Exhale. Inhale-Exhale. “I use logic most of the time, you know,” she murmurs, “but yes, I think I have this feeling. It goes away after a while. Don’t worry.” I can hear the smile in her voice, and it’s not making things any better.

Tears hang in the backs of my eyes, threatening to fall. “It didn’t go away, Akuni.” I pause and gulp. “It came true.”

Her hand stills on the top of my head, and she sits up to look me in the eye. “Hold it, are we talking about your wave system?” she asks.

Seriously, does she even have to ask? Seriously, do I have to get everything on spot?

I mean one day, I could be having this terrible feeling, and then the next day it could kill someone. I hate the fact that I can understand people very well. I can dwell into their minds and know what’s wrong with them just by looking. I can sense their presence around me and know who they are without looking. I can even complete people’s thoughts and believe me, this drives them lunatic.

Basically, I’m perceptive to a horrifying point. I’m extra perceptive. They used to call me Wave Girl because I get things right on spot. And . . . because I intercept brain waves from people around me. Rumors are that I caused brain damage to someone in my freshmen year, but I have no recollection of this memory.

So basically, I’m psychic, and I know that. And that feeling I had, the way it turned out, makes me scared of myself.

“Yes,” I mumble. I sit on my knees and look her straight in the eyes, my anxiety crawling out. “I sensed that someone is following me, a familiar existence. I turned around and there was no one.” I thread a lock behind my ear. “But then this person appeared, and I knew it was them all along.”

“And this person is . . .?” Akuni asks.

Blush sears through my cheeks, and I stretch the sleeves of my sweater over my hands. “A special person.”

She nods for me to continue.

“They think they can be fine on their own, but I bet they are hardly living past the things they passed through.” Not acknowledging their feelings. Not facing their fears and properly conquering them.

“And what do you wanna do for them?” she asks with an encouraging look.

I look away. “I want to help them. I want to set them free. But I don’t think they want me to.”

Akuni lifts my chin upward. “Don’t look down. Don’t shy away. Don’t be discouraged. Chin up, Young Mistress.”

“Akuni.” I like Akuni. She amazes me with her choice of words, and how she can always be composed no matter the situation. “But they don’t want me around them . . .” If he did, he would have said something.

“So, what, you do what you wanna do. You do your part and protect them.”

“Protect them?” I tilt my head in confusion.

“Yes, isn’t that what you want; to free them from what they’ve passed through, to hide them from their fears? This means you wanna protect them.”

“That’s right.” My chest is a little lighter as if that little blot has been wiped away. “I want to protect him.”

“You are really like a bird.” She gives me a small smile that soon fades away. “M-My mistress! W-What’s wrong? Oh please, don’t cry.”

Tears fall on my cheeks as I realize the thing I wanted to do the most. I try wiping them with my sleeves but they keep pouring.

Then Akuni comes closer and hugs me. “I didn’t mean to, it was a joke! How stupid of me! Please, forgive me.”

I let out a low laugh. “What are you talking about, stupid?” I wipe my tears and take a breath, stand, then pull her up.

“Y-You were crying a moment ago.”

I smile. “Those were tears of happiness.”

She stares at me, dumbstruck. “Please don’t do that again. I beg you. Young Master will get mad at me.”

“He won’t.” I start walking ahead of her. “He will get mad at me. Actually, he’s cursing me right now.”

“Wait up! Young Mistress!”

Now I know. I’ll protect you.

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