I walked up to my house, pulling out my keys. Manami opened the door, surprising me.
“Did you come by to visit?” I asked.
“Yeah, I’ve been bored. Auntie left an hour ago to buy groceries. Yuka said she’ll come by later,” Manami answered.
Manami turned on the television in the living room, watching a comedy. It had been awhile since my friends came over to hang out. Excluding Ichizen, Yuka was the only one who visited frequently. This was a good distraction from the entire hero’s mess. She arrived fifteen minutes later and we all headed upstairs to my room.
“Your room still looks the same,” Manami observed.
“Yuki’s never been one to decorate her room with things,” Yuka remarked.
“Yuka, what’s the number?” Manami questioned.
“What do you mean?” Yuka responded.
“How many books have you read this week?” Manami clarified.
“Six. This is the last book in a series I’ve been following. Would you like to borrow it when I’m done?” Yuka answered, her voice rising in excitement.
“Sure, is it interesting?” Manami inquired, peering at the book cover.
A woman, chains wrapped around her arms, was depicted on the front. Blood dripped off from her restraints, creating a red puddle around the woman’s right foot. I assumed it was fantasy, one of her favorite genres.
“The series is about a woman who becomes a hero, traveling to different universes. She uses chains as her primary weapons,” Yuka explained.
“I could get into something like that. Is there a lot of action?” Manami asked.
“Yeah. I can lend you the first one,” Yuka offered.
“Thanks, Yuka. It’s amazing how you’ve kept this up,” Manami remarked.
“What do you want to do?” I asked them.
“I kind of just want to sit here,” Manami answered, taking a seat on my bed.
“I agree, let’s stay here,” Yuka agreed.
I pulled up my blinds, noticing light rain drops strike the window. Manami glanced at my bookshelf and Yuka joined her.
“What’s so interesting?” I asked.
“There’s a lot of study material here. When did you become such a model student?” Manami pointed at Tess’ notebooks.
“Oh, Tess lent them to me for my math final. I should return them to her,” I said.
“Tess is amazing. I heard the stories from Felicity, but it’s amazing to see the evidence first hand,” Yuka complimented, flipping through a notebook.
She stopped at a page, staring for a minute. Yuka then closed her eyes, a look of amazement appearing on her face. She placed the notebook back onto the shelf, turning towards me.
“Tess is a god. She seems better than any tutor I could pay for,” Yuka concluded.
“Tess knows everything, but her explanations are a bit indifferent. When Zhuyu explained the math, there was excitement in his voice. Regardless, she’s dependable,” I analyzed.
“Speaking of which, how are you getting along with them?” Manami grinned at me.
“I still don’t know everyone too well so I can’t really say,” I replied.
“Did you find out anything about that woman?” Manami brought up.
“They knew her but wouldn’t tell me anything,” I revealed.
“That’s too bad. I was hoping we could find her,” Manami uttered.
“And do what?” I asked.
“Just for a little talk,” Manami answered with an ominous tone.
“You know, Yuki, there are some pretty interesting boys at the party,” Yuka brought up.
“What are you talking about?” I responded, thrown off by her sudden comment.
“Any pictures? Show them to me,” Manami requested.
Yuka nodded, taking out her phone. How did the conversation end up here? Manami scrolled through the photos, nodding. What excuses could I come up with to divert their attention?
“He isn’t too bad. Yuki, what’s his name?” Manami asked, calling me over.
I saw a picture of Kisai speaking to a girl. When did Yuka have time to take pictures? I swore she was in the bar room the majority of the time.
“That’s Kisai Jin,” I answered.
“He talked with a lot of people at the party, making them smile and laugh too. Pretty sociable. It takes a special kind of skill to pull that off,” Yuka explained.
“Why do you have all these pictures?” I asked.
“Felicity asked me to so I walked around, getting an idea of what they were like,” Yuka replied.
“What about these two?” Manami showed me another picture.
“Shan Shigetzu’s the tall one and Ichaival Darryl’s next to him,” I replied.
“Yuka, tell me more. Yuki is a total failure at profiling people,” Manami directed.
“From what I can tell, Ichaival takes a lot of crap from Shan. Shan’s pretty good at talking his way out of things too. Ichaival seems like a nice guy, pretty down to earth,” Yuka said.
Most of Yuka’s analysis were the same conclusions I arrived at. Manami swiped to a picture depicting Zhuyu and Shui. Zhuyu pried a shot glass out of Shui’s hand. Shan was in the background, most likely telling Shui to let go.
“Yuka, what do you have to say?” I let her handle it.
“Hmm, Zhuyu is rather serious, but I think there’s a more to him. He probably is much nicer than he seems. Shui seems like a good friend to hang out with,” Yuka assessed.
Yuka didn’t have much to say about them. Probably because Kisai was more active, making his way to different places. Zhuyu tended to stay in one area for longer periods of time. After going through a few more pictures, Manami appeared satisfied.
“Yuki, which one do you like the most?” Manami asked, returning Yuka’s phone back to her.
“Huh?” I exclaimed.
“Out of everyone, which one appeals to you?” Manami clarified.
“I can’t say. Why am I having this conversation again? I’ve already gone over this,” I replied.
“It’s understandable since you still don’t know them too well. Sorry for putting you on the spot like that,” Manami said.
“No, it’s okay,” I said, glad she understood.
“What about you, Manami?” Yuka asked her back.
“Probably Kisai, seems like a fun guy to go on a date with,” Manami responded.
“That would be the popular choice,” Yuka remarked, nodding her head.
“What about you, Yuka?” I asked.
“I already have a boyfriend, but I agree with Manami. Kisai is a solid choice,” Yuka replied.
“Oh, I see…. wait, what did you say?” I stared at her.
“I wanted to tell you at the party, but it slipped my mind. Now you know and so does Manami,” Yuka responded.
I felt a little betrayed. Yuka usually told me important things like that right away. Maybe it was because I was indifferent to such matters.
“What’s he like? Give us the details,” Manami said, an excited look on her face.
“I have a picture. Here you go, “ Yuka said, pulling her phone out again.
Manami and I peered at the screen. I saw a young man with plain hair. He wore a pair of thick rimmed glasses but something felt off about his eyes. I tilted my head to the left and realized what irked me. There was a small scar underneath his left eye.
“What’s his name?” Manami questioned.
“Champ Shinji. I met him during one of my classes. He was interested in one of my books and we hit it off after that,” Yuka answered.
“What a storybook set up, very appropriate for you,” I remarked.
“Anyways, let’s talk about something else. I’m sure you don’t want hear more,” Yuka said, trying to shift the topic.
“No, no, you can’t get out of this. I’m really interested. You’ve always been a bookworm so I want to hear more,” Manami said, shaking her head.
“If you insist. I only met him this quarter so I can’t tell you too much. I’m still learning about him,” Yuka agreed.
For the next hour, Manami grilled Yuka about her boyfriend. I occasionally joined in too.
“Have you had enough?” Yuka said, looking at Manami.
“Yeah, I’m done now. Maybe I should go find one now too. Yuka, I’ll head over to your house and pick up the book you were talking about,” Manami decided, stretching.
For the next three hours, we talked about various things. It was a nice deviation from the stiff, straightforward talks with Tess. When Manami and Yuka finally left, I sat down in my room and stared at the ceiling. How would my friendships with everyone change as I involved myself deeper with the heroes?
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.