Your uncle, Yuuhei, had been my best friend since first grade, and sometimes Mum would let me take a day off from studying and hang out with him. She often did it after big fights with Dad, when she’d stay overtime at work and he’d visit his side of the family. Today was no different.
January 16. Ten years old. Japan.
My arm was held hostage by Yuuhei, who towed it and sprinted into his mansion of a home. My shoulders popped in protest, and I stumbled behind him.
‘Yuuhei, Yuuhei! Slow down,' I screamed.
‘Aw, wait till we go to my room.’
I sighed and shook my head. I'd need a new arm with this boy as my friend. While his antics made me grin, something else did too.
Today was Wednesday.
And not just any Wednesday. Today there'd be a new story arc. I hoped something exciting happened.
We rushed through the wide hallways and skidded to a halt before his room. A thick spicy smell wafted from the kitchen. My stomach growled. I wondered what Yuuhei’s mum had cooked. He let my poor hand go and stared at the ceiling, eyes moist.
‘Oh, my room. I am back. Did you miss me?’
I laughed and swatted his arm. ‘So dramatic.’
He shoved my hand, a toothy grin decorating his face. ‘It's time to read,' he rolled onto his gigantic bed and circled his arms under his head. Despite the size, it was a wonder he had any space to do that. Dirty clothes from who knows when, pencils and papers of a budding artist and bags of chips he'd finished days ago took up most of it. A room twice as big as mine and this is what he did with it.
Kicking away an odd pair of socks on the way to his laptop, I let loose a huge smile. The balls of my feet danced to an imaginary chorus, and exhilaration perfumed the air. Finally! I'd been waiting all week.
‘I've always wondered how cool it'd be if all these manga were real,' said Yuuhei.
My eyes shifted to him. He broke contact with them and glazed over the hoards of books on his shelves and floor. ‘You know, I read an article once. It was about some people thinking they could go to other dimensions, and how they had superpowers and stuff. Dunno if it's true, but wouldn't it be so cool if that happened to us?’
Time froze. My heart beat like it was trying to break my ribs, and my palms prickled with sweat. Was that what I was feeling all this while? Am I really… Should I tell him I might be…?
‘Yup, it'd be really cool.’
The loading finished, and a screen of bright Pocky Stickmon struck my vision. I opened the browser with shivering fingers and typed in the manga site. Was Blade Fables real? Could it be real? It took me a few minutes to realize Blade Fables was under Newest Releases.
Even if it existed, could I really go there?
‘It's up, Yuuhei.’
‘Yay. Ugh, Tahro, help me. I can't get up.’
Turning my head, I found Yuuhei flat on his back, one hand stretched limply at the roof. I scrambled over and pulled it.
‘Tahro, at this rate, I don't think I'll ever get out of bed. Tell my parents this is it. And my sister that I love her. I can't go to school anymore or do any homework,' he sniffed. ‘When I die, bury me with my action figures.’
Could count on him to change the topic, even unknowingly. I chuckled and crossed my arms. ‘Get up, you lazy, morbid kid.’
‘Ugh, ugh,’ he said and flopped to his side. Then, like a zombie, he pushed himself up with one trembling hand and laughed. ‘Okay, I'm up. Open the chapter.’
I grinned, double-clicked the thumbnail and waited for the chapter to load. The first page was…
Notice to all readers.
Due to extremely low ratings and other unforeseen circumstances, the Author has to temporarily withdraw from continuing the manga. We assure you that it will return full swing with a new exciting arc, but for now, we apologize for the hiatus. Thank you for your support and patience!
A high-pitched whistle blew in my ear. The temperature plummeted, and whatever breath I had was squeezed out of me. My ears rang as if someone had boxed them. Why would they do this? What about everyone who liked it? And how will I… Will I ever…Know more?
I saw my future laid out before me. What was I going to do when cooped up in my room if I couldn't be a part of new exploits? What was I going to do when they fought? Those days when my parents’ voices raised too high for me to shut out. How could I mute them if I had no new villains to play-fight with?
Something precious within me, like a soul, a spirit, rushed out. I saw not through two eyes, but four. Two hearts raced together. Like looking into a mirror for the first time, there was another me.
‘Hey, Tahro, are you alright?’ said a voice which had travelled many many miles.
I shut my eyes and clenched my fists. My heart banged on my ribcage, and one thought, one hope, clung to my mind.
‘Yuuhei, Blade Fables is real.’
January 15. Ten years old. Saishuu Riku.
Everything was a haze.
A fog tainted my vision, like I’d worn my grandma’s glasses, and my ears were muffled, tinnitus the only sound I could hear. What’s going on? Spots of orange, blue and brown light broke through the smog. The noises around me became clearer, growing into birdsong and footsteps. As the view before me grew more and more distinct, my heart raced. Is it what I think it is?
Gone were the four walls of Yuuhei’s room, and in its place stood sprawling apartments. But not the glassy twenty-storey kinds I knew. These were five floors at most, with quaint wooden outdoor elevators. Billowy red clouds ran across a sunrise sky over their gabled roofs. A cobblestone street replaced the marble that was under my feet only a few seconds ago. Unlike my neighbourhood lanes, there wasn’t a suit, school uniform or suitcase in sight. Instead, the few early risers I saw wore light cotton layers and various kinds of satchels. At the end of the road stood a tall mushroom-shaped building.
I’m in Heikisato!
Simultaneously, my thoughts screamed this is a dream and this is really happening! I didn’t want to pinch myself, lest it was an illusion and I made it disappear. For even if it was a dream, it was a darn good one. Joy, of a kind I’d never felt before, burst within my very soul. I wanted to scream and cry.
Far away, I could feel another body moving, flexing fingers that weren't my own, taking in air for another pair of lungs and having thoughts I wasn't thinking. Like a tug in my gut, I knew that some part of me was in Yuuhei's house. But I was in Heikisato. Do I have two bodies?
My joints trembled with every move as I walked forward. My muscles felt like a thousand years, worn out and like jelly. I was so tired, as though I hadn’t slept for days. My eyes begged to close shut. Yet I pushed on, past the vendors setting up their shops for the day, past the yawning children squabbling with their parents. Here and there I tripped on uneven stone but kept going. There was something I had to do.
My determination grew with every step, and before I knew it, I broke into a run. Soon, the oaken doors of the HQ loomed before me. They beckoned me.
With shaking fingers, I opened it. It actually exists. What little doubt I’d had exited my system. The doorknob was cold and smooth to touch, as real as anything could ever be.
The hall inside was more vast than the manga could show. Several doors and corridors opened out in the place, as though I was in the centre of a hive. Sleepy eyed workers flitted about, carrying paperwork or arranging their desks. Maybe it was too early, or just an off day, but in stark contrast to the chapters that I’d read, the reception desk didn’t have a queue. The man behind it sighed as I approached him.
‘What can I do for you, kid?’ He took a sip from his drink.
I clenched my fists. This is really happening. This was what I wanted beyond all else. My heart drummed into my ears.
‘I want to become a swordsman.’