Something's not right...
Hanana's hand strayed again to the rose in her hair as she bit at her lip. Alright, fine, so the villagers wouldn't normally see a flower at this time of year. But why would the sight of a simple rose make that woman so nervous? Surprised, she understood. But that definitely wasn't mere surprise...
"You shouldn't go the forest anymore."
"What?" Hanana lifted her head, meeting both her sisters'gazes.
"We could see which direction you'd come from just a little while ago," Aruru told her. She frowned, folding her arms. "I didn't want to think of it, but..."
Hanana waved a hand in front of her chest, shaking her head slightly. "Oh, no, don't worry!" she said, knowing immediately what they were thinking of. A somewhat-tired smile crossed her face as she kept toying with the rose. "It's not as you think it is, honest. There's no demon in there, and--"
Eruru cut her off. "If you're telling the truth," she started, tilting her head a bit as she mulled it over. "But it still wouldn't matter. The whole village thinks there is something awful in there, and...well, that woman was asking about you, so she might think that..." She trailed off, not entirely knowing how to break it to her.
"Don't worry about me, okay?" Hanana took the flower from her hair and set it on the table. "Everything'll be fine, trust me."
Though even as she said it, she couldn't help feel a strange twisting in her gut.
As it turned out, things may not have been fine after all.
Hanana stepped into the square that morning, and almost immediately the place quieted down, and the air felt heavy. She hesitated a moment, then continued on her way, smiling nervously at some as she passed, but they quickly looked away, saying nothing. It was only when she was a few feet away from them that they risked speaking again, talking to their companions in low, frantic whispers.
Ah, I see, she thought, that sick feeling from yesterday getting worse. They're talking about me now. And it was nothing like when she and her sisters first arrived--then she'd only had a suspicion that they were being talked about, and besides which the people still acted decently enough, she supposed. But now...
She had to grit her teeth as she passed a woman who tugged her child behind her, looking fearfully at her. It was alright...she just had to act normal and everything would go back to the way it was. They'd see there was nothing wrong with her...
"Excuse me," she called out as she stepped into the bakery. The bakers looked up, the beginnings of smiles on their faces, but those quickly vanished when they saw it was. Hanana steeled herself before stepping to the counter, forcing herself to smile kindly. "I'd like two of those, please," she said, pointing to the small cakes on display.
She couldn't help notice that the baker's hands were trembling as he took her money.
"She's going there again..."
"Should we follow her?"
"Not by ourselves, stupid! If she's going to see the demon everyday, he'd kill us the second he spotted us!"
"But I thought he only did that if we didn't bring tribute."
"I'm sure he makes exceptions for those who threaten his witch..."
Hanana couldn't bear to hear any more. She forced herself to look away from the mirror, placing back in her basket. The scene faded, voices quieting, and the surface was ink-black once again. At least they aren't talking about my sisters, she tried to console herself. But they had suggested following her...They probably weren't going to do it today, but another time, maybe...
And if they did that...
"Yukiki?" she called, opening the door and poking her head in. "Hello?"
For a moment, there was nothing. Then she heard shuffling, and he peered down from the railing on the second floor. To her dismay, he still looked a bit tired. "Oh, Hanana," he mumbled. "You're early."
"Early?" She almost laughed, shaking her head. "No, I'm not that early! It's only an hour or so before noon."
"It feels early..." Yukiki muttered, dropping his forehead to rest on the railing.
Hanana ignored that--he was probably still sick, was all. Instead she approached the table, lifting the kerchief on her basket. "I brought some cake with me."
She'd never seen someone perk up so quickly before, especially someone who claimed to not need to eat.
Things weren't right.
Yukiki couldn't not see it. His friend was barely touching the cake--the cake she brought with her, that she said was going to be fore both of them...She looked tired herself, and her gaze kept flickering towards the basket still on the table. He couldn't just sit back and ignore her. "Alright, what is it?" he asked suddenly, steepling his fingers.
Hanana lifted her gaze from the basket, blinking. "What's what?"
"You're unhappy. Sick. Tired. Something," he said, shrugging his shoulders slightly. "Tell me what's wrong."
Hanana just bit at her lip, looking away for a moment. Yukiki just waited silently. Finally, the pink-haired girl sighed sadly, reaching for the basket and withdrawing the mirror. Placing it face-down on the table, she pushed it towards him. "I should give this back," she whispered.
His brows rose. "But I gave it to you," he stated. "You came back, but it's still a gift to you."
She shook her head rapidly, lowering her head so he couldn't see her eyes. "No, you should take it back." She didn't want to think of what would happen if someone happened to see her with it. Even if they didn't know what it did, a mirror with a black surface would still draw some attention, wouldn't it? "And..." She paused, taking a deep breath. This was the hardest part. "I don't...I don't know if I can visit you anymore."
Yukiki started; his chest hurt again. "What?"
"It's not because of you, I promise!" Hanana cried hastily, lifting her head to meet his eyes. She wiped at her eyes, trying not to cry. Ugh, she didn't want to do this, she didn't want to not see him again. "But it's the best way--"
"Hanana." His voice was even, though she heard no anger in it. "Tell me what happened."
How did he--Oh. Oh, yes, he'd heard the stories himself. Of course he'd think something had happened. "The...the villagers," she began, shutting her eyes tight. "I...I overheard them...one of them saw me leaving the forest, and apparently word travels fast..."
She didn't need to say any more. Yukiki felt his insides twist, and he found his hands gripping the table tightly, so much he was surprised he didn't shatter it. I was right after all, he thought, gritting his teeth. Those stupid superstitious...
"They wanted to follow me," Hanana was saying; Yukiki forced himself to focus again. "I don't care what they say about me, I don't even have to see them if I don't want to, but if they want to follow me, they might find you and--"
"They would never."
"What?" Hanana looked up again, sniffing. Yukiki had stood up, his gaze at the window, looking out to the forest.
"If they followed you, then maybe. But it's a slim chance. No one's wanted to come near this forest in a century," he explained. "No one's knocked trees down, or made camp, or a path, or anything--only I have. No one knows their way around." He paused, trying to think of how to say it. It was horribly selfish, what he was leading up to, he knew, but...
But she was the best part of his days now. And his chest had hurt so much more back when he thought she was gone for good...He didn't think he could take that. He couldn't care less about being a human, but never seeing her again was a nightmare.
"Besides which, more trees and flora popped up with no one to knock it down, making it even more crowded. And you have the mirror, you've asked it to show you a way here...You could easily lose them."
Hanana seemed to be thinking it over. Finally, she nodded, and Yukiki barely concealed a sigh of relief. "You don't have to stay away..." he added, not wanting her to misunderstand his intentions. "Not because you're worried about me." He couldn't help smiling just then, briefly seeing a blue glow. "I could take care of myself."
Hanana laughed a little, nodding. At least her mood was better. "I'm sure you could!" she chuckled. She looked at him again, a real smile finally on her face. "Are you sure, though? I don't want you to get hurt--"
"Believe me, I would never let them hurt me." Or you.
Another smile, a nod. "Okay," she consented, forcing herself to laugh again. Her gaze returned to the mirror. She should probably leave the mirror, though. The last thing she needed was someone from the village to see it. "I'll have to come later in the day, though," she realized, putting a hand to her mouth. "So there's less a chance of someone seeing me...Oh! How does sunset sound?" she asked, clapping her hands together. When she saw Yukiki frowning, she hastily added "And if you're worried about me walking home in the dark, you can walk with me."
"Mmmm..." Yukiki frowned deeper at that, folding his arms over his chest. "I suppose that's alright...but you shouldn't stay too late." He paused, and couldn't help adding, even though he knew it made him sound childish, "And you'll be here promptly at sunset?"
Hanana laughed. "I promise," she said, leaning towards him with her pinkie finger extended. Her smile brightened when her friend hooked his own around it and they shook on it. "There! So we'll be okay after all!"
"We?" Oh, blast it all, the butterflies were back. "Yeah..." he said dumbly. Forcing himself to get ahold of himself, he raised his brows a bit. "Now, are you going to finish your cake, or is it mine now?"
"What--nooo!" Hanana laughed, returning to her place and encircling her arms around the plate.
At least the mood was lighter now. For just that short visit, Hanana could forget the villagers and what they were saying about her. Funny how Yukiki could do that simply by being with her...