It was nearly time.
Far away, a young, still somewhat-inexperienced enchantress was poring over her own books and notes, trying to find something that would answer her questions. A century ago, her master had cast a powerful spell solely out of bitter spite and anger. A century ago, she herself had been unable to lift it, only soften it.
But she'd gotten a bit stronger, more experienced since then. Still not enough to do as many wonders as her master had been, but still enough to realize that something was wrong with that old spell. Her sensitivity to magic had only heightened since then, and when she focused on that day, focused on both of the spells cast around that time, she felt an odd sensation. A prickling on the back of her neck, a chill of dread in her heart.
Something wasn't right with the spell. She hadn't been able to see or sense all of the original spell's conditions. Now that her own spell was drawing to a close, she couldn't help but think...
...that maybe she'd inadvertently done a terrible, terrible thing.
Growling under her breath, running a hand through her red locks, she flipped through the books at a faster pace now. She couldn't go to warn him until she knew exactly what had happened.
"Have you ever wanted to use the mirror for anything else?"
"What?" Yukiki opened his eyes, looked up at Hanana.
They were in the garden today. It'd been about two days now since Hanana had come back to see him, and by now she was visiting him in the morning and returning him by late afternoon...Yukiki quickly decided that those were definitely his favorite times of day now. her first day back, they read a little more, but today they hadn't gotten to the book at all. The reason for that was that when she'd arrived that day, cheerfully waving at him and announcing she brought something "really nice," she'd thought he looked tired, haggard. At that point she'd insisted that they sit outside today, said that maybe being in the fresh air would help him and was he sure he was sleeping well?
He was indeed (though he still felt a little tired) but hadn't the heart to argue with her. So now here they were, sitting/lying by one of the larger rosebushes, Hanana holding the hand-mirror at arm's length while Yukiki tried not to fall asleep.
"It had a lot of dust on it when you brought it out the first time," she explained. "And you said it showed you anything..." She lowered the mirror, her smile starting to look more mischievous now. "You said you didn't use it, but now I wonder..."
"You aren't thinking of spying on people, are you?" Yukiki asked, raising an eyebrow and smiling faintly.
"N-Not spy on people, never!" Hanana sounded indignant. But then her gaze shifted, and a faint pink colored her cheeks. "Buuut...well, sometimes it might be interesting to know what people think of you."
Something about the way she said it told him this wasn't a random, carefree thought. "People talk about you?" he asked. He found that a bit hard to believe; she was too nice a person, so open and friendly. What could people possibly have to say about her behind her back.
"That's the thing." Hanana lay down so their heads were at the same level now, resting the mirror on her chest. "I don't know. My sisters and I..." The smile faded completely now, her tone more serious, rueful. "We came here because we wanted to get out of our old village, have some greater opportunities. And we liked it here at first, it looked nice but...I don't know what the problem was. We just moved in, but when we tried to greet our neighbors and told them where we lived, they just avoided us." She remembered how the three of them had gone into the main part of the village to look around, learn where all the important shops were, learn how to find their way around the place. She'd approached someone to ask for directions.
She'd never seen a smile that looked so forced before.
"They weren't cruel to us or anything," she was quick to say. "But they weren't particularly kind either. It felt like ages before they'd even make an effort to speak to us like neighbors or friends do."
The snowman felt a twinge of guilt at that. They must have arrived before winter, then... It made sense...the villagers were afraid of him, called him a demon and thought he'd kill people for no reason, and then with three girls moving in suddenly right before the season everyone associated him with...well. Even though it wasn't his fault, it was the villagers' and their stupid superstitions, he couldn't help the twisting of guilt.
He reached his hand out, a bit nervously, resting it on top of hers. "Don't bother wasting the mirror's power on them," he said, trying to keep his voice level, trying not to let the "butterflies" overcome him. "They're not worth it, really." What's more, they'd probably say that she's a wicked witch... That was one of the last things he wanted. For her to hear such an awful, untrue thing and be hurt by it.
"You should use it on better things."
At least he made her smile. She turned her head to look at him again, mouth twitching slightly as if she were trying not to cry, nodding faintly. "Y-yeah...you're right." She twisted her hand around so their palms could touch, linking their fingers together.
Oh God, the butterflies brought reinforcements.
They hadn't been able to read anything the day before. So today, he wanted them to get one story out before Hanana had to go home.
That was another thing he had to admit, privately of course, that he liked. When they got to read together, it was quiet, peaceful. Even if he did read faster than she did, he got to go back and reread a few parts he liked best, or just focus on how it felt, sitting like this with her.
The butterflies in his chest and stomach still appeared though, but he could try to ignore them. At least they only sat shoulder-to-shoulder during this; he didn't know what he'd do if they sat any closer or made more physical contact. Probably have a heart attack or melt from the odd warmth in his face.
Unfortunately, the next story, one that did honestly sound interesting, was a long one. The heroine had barely even begun her journey when the sky outside was starting to show bright tints of red and orange, not that either of them noticed. Then they finally started to get to the middle of the tale--the wicked and jealous queen was sending the girl off on an impossible and deadly quest--and the sky was dark save for the stars and a tiny sliver of moonlight. Even if they'd bothered to look up, it would have been too late for Hanana to return home.
As it turned out, the only thing that even alerted either of them to the passage of time was when Hanana slowly started to lean over, eyelids heavy. And then, right as they reached the part where the slightly nicer, but still a bit wicked, servant had poisoned the queen's wine, the poor girl suddenly fell against Yukiki's chest.
And then the butterflies' reinforcements brought reinforcements.
"Han--Hanana?" he choked out. Ugh, when did he start stuttering?
She didn't answer him, just made a soft sound in her sleep and shifted a bit, hand under her cheek.
"Hanana, I really don't think I'm the best pillow."
Still no answer.
Hmm...would it be too cruel to wake her up? The butterflies were waging war on his insides, but the girl looked so comfortable and peaceful...and if she'd fallen asleep right here, out of nowhere, she must have been so tired...
And he felt tired too, come to think of it. He should move them both, take her to the room she'd stayed in before and sleep down here as usual. Or he could leave her here and go upstairs himself. ...or maybe not move at all. Yes, that was alright, wasn't it?
Maybe one more try. "Hanana, are you going to wake up again?" he asked, keeping his voice low.
She didn't respond this time either.
..maybe it was okay to sleep here after all. They could finish the story later. Yukiki put the bookmark between the pages--a page behind where they'd officially stopped, in case either of them forgot a little when they woke up, and set the book aside. Tilting his head back, eyes not closed just yet, his mind started to wander.
He hoped her sisters wouldn't worry. He hoped she wouldn't be frightened or disgusted when she woke up and realized what she was sleeping against. No, no, she wouldn't react like that, they were friends, dear friends, she'd said. He hoped those butterflies went away soon, with the ache in his chest and the slowly-darkening shadows around his eyes. His gaze shifted back down to her one more time, and he lifted a trembling, nervous hand to gently stroke her hair, brushing her bangs from her face.
He didn't dare finish the thought. Instead, he forced himself to move his hand away from her hair, letting it fall on her shoulder almost protectively, and he fell asleep just as quickly as she had.
Hanana opened her eyes tiredly, rubbing at one as she tried to remember what had just happened. She could have sworn she'd only shut her eyes for a second...Then she suddenly tensed up, waking up a bit more. Where was the book? What time was it? What'd happened?
For just a split-second, she panicked, started to get up...and then she noticed the book, closed and marked, resting on the arm of the small couch. She felt a slight weight on her shoulder, realized she'd been leaning against something.
or rather, someone.
"Oh my gosh!" she gasped, hands covering her mouth as she sat up, Yukiki's hand dropping from her shoulder. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to sleep on you--" She suddenly stopped. oh. Oh, he was asleep too.
And he hadn't woken her up?
Hanana hugged herself, more out of embarrassment than chill--actually, despite sleeping against a very snowy person, she didn't feel cold at all--glancing out the window. It was still dark outside, looked to be after midnight.
She carefully got off the couch, trying to fight back the rising blush in her face as she shuffled off...and rather than go out the front door, went upstairs and disappeared into the room she'd used before. A few moments later, she returned, dragging the blanket off the bed and taking it downstairs.
Another minute later, she was on the couch against, leaning against the sleeping snowman's chest again, covering them both. "Thanks," she whispered, smiling faintly, not entirely sure why she was saying so. For some reason, she got a fluttery feeling in her chest, seeing him like this. Before she lost her nerve, she quickly stretched upwards a little, quickly pecking his cheek before hiding her face in the blanket again. At least he was asleep and couldn't tease her about this...
The next morning, he would feel an odd tingling on his face, and he wouldn't be sure why.