Sharp sounds, pain caused by pointy needles, confused feelings, and senses… Mine slowly opened his eyes and instantly felt his body ache and weigh. Still, he managed to lift his slender arms and noticed that they had regained the reddish hue of his skin, which meant that his blood was finally flowing as it should.
His arms were bandaged with a silky fabric, not too heavy nor too light, and the medication was administered by a scalp that insisted on staying there despite the bandages hindering its perfect position.
His surroundings were foreign.
It was dark, but not that dark.
He was alone in a cold, foggy room where he only identified the beeping machine beside the bed. That room's smell was complex, from medicines, fresh blankets, and chemical scents to emotions and anxiety. A mosaic of components that Mine didn't know how to describe precisely.
A mumble and a groan filled that unsettling room. Then, a warm something touched Mine's cheek, which terribly startled him, making the machine beep faster, following his heartbeat.
“Slept well?” the person gently asked, stroking Mine’s hair. “It’s me. We are in a safe place.”
He knew that man very well.
The thin, orange eyes, that short dark, ashy-green hair with white strands, the tenderness in his voice and warmth in his hands, the smell of Ylang-Ylang all over his always exquisite clothing, and the sound his adornments made…
“U-Uncle Rito?” Mine stuttered, his throat aching.
The man warmly smiled and touched the machine, which stopped beeping. Then, headed to the table with papers scrambled on it.
“Hm… your death certificate was almost ready…” his uncle voiced. “What made you come back that early?”
“I-I don’t know…” he voiced and coughed.
“Here, drink it,” his uncle handed him a cup of water.
It wasn’t actually water, once it was purple colored. Still, Mine chugged it down, ignoring how much it ached as the liquid fell down the throat and reached the stomach.
“Your body is sensitive due to the Chronos’ intromission,” his uncle reached his nephew’s chest, and a small light formed on his hand. "There, it may hold your body and soul together,” he beamed.
“Where are we, uncle?” Mine asked, feeling his body shiver as if it was feverish.
“We are in the middle of two dimensions, and that's why you can't see anything but me,” his uncle happily answered. “I’m now treating your soul, but your body is asleep in the hospital, and… there's someone with you."
Mine felt his heart drop as if he was on a fast rollercoaster.
“I personally think that you should explain a few things to him. I possessed the doctor’s body to examine you, and that boy was… terrified.”
More and more memories filled Mine's mind: from the concerned expression on Addai's face to his bitter words he couldn't tell what they meant. He recalled how much Addai was shaking the moment Mine's human shell started cracking, replacing the once peach skin with an ethereal glowing one. He recalled the moment he stopped glowing, holding the instability's core in his hands. He recalled that wherever he was, it was beautiful, and he really saw the seashore, but it was closer than expected. He recalled something taking his body from the wet, cold floor, telling many things at once and dripping wet, warm droplets on his cheek.
A sudden chill ran through Mine's body, causing his hands to grow cold and clammy.
"You need to be considerate with humans, dummy," Rito flicked Mine's forehead.
He didn't want to worry anyone, especially the person he swore to not let be hurt, yet he did hurt him.
He failed his promise.
How selfish he was.
“Uncle…” Mine sniffled. “I… I’ll explain when I’m ready,” he wiped the first warm golden tears that rolled down his cheeks. "I… don't t-trust him enough. Maybe Chronos is right…" he bitterly voiced.
His uncle sighed and sat beside Mine. “My dear flower, you need to stop doubting everybody you meet…” he caressed his nephew's cheeks, wiping the other golden tears that insisted on falling.
“… It’s hard, uncle…” Mine sniffled again. “Trusting people is so hard…” he muttered, his eyes turning ashier.
“I know, but if you lock yourself this way… you’ll be completely gray one day,” Rito held one of Mine's hand.
“Now go, he’s waiting for you," he blew his nephew's face and Mine slowly felt his body turn tired, falling asleep afterward.
A single golden drop fell from the corner of his eye, staining the cold pillow under his head as the once foggy room turned crystal clear for his available senses, mostly his hand, which rested on something warm, holding it slightly and lightly, as if he was the most fragile thing in the world.
The time passed.
Seconds. Minutes. Hours. Mine knew his body was safe, but he didn't want to go away from the dream realm. It was cozy, comfortable, and safe.
He didn't want to wake up, to face the world, the people, himself…
He just… wanted to be asleep a little more.
Just… a little more.
A gentle touch reached his cheek, right under his eyes, as if it was wiping something.
Mine couldn't help but let more warm waters stain his cold face, even if he was trying to go back to the dream realm. The trip back was impossible, and the silent tears started giving him headaches...
… but the touch didn't stop.
It kept wiping, gently caressing his cheeks and forehead, measuring his temperature and state of alert.
He knew who it was, but he was afraid to face him.
He was afraid to face the world, afraid to see his face, afraid to wake up, afraid to talk, afraid to survive, afraid to live…
So, he cried. No shame in that, right?
… at least in that.
“What’s going on?” the person asked, with bits of worry and concern in their voice.
Mine coughed a little bit, choking on his own saliva due to crying, and Addai helped him sit on the bed. He wanted to disappear, vanish like the gust of wind the air conditioner blew that instant, which made him shudder at how cold it was.
“You cold? Lemme take this,” Addai quickly took some more spare sheets and covered Mine’s shoulders. “Ah…” he deeply sighed, collapsing on the nearest chair.
Noticing how much golden liquid stained Addai's previously brown clothes, Mine’s eyes widened. Addai was visibly utterly exhausted, wearily running his hand over his face every once in a while to shake off the fatigue and distress.
“I thought you were dead…” Addai started. "I was… so worried… Do you know how much I was worried?" he weakly looked at Mine, holding one of his hands while his own started trembling, and so did his chin.
Mine was speechless for around five seconds – even the tears dried –, observing the emotions flickering across Addai's face: pain, fear, and deep concern.
“I’m sorry…” Mine fidgeted.
"Don't you dare apologize," Addai tensed, and Mine saw his eyes flicker. "I just… I thought you were gone forever," he confessed, his grip on Mine's hand finally loosening.
Before he could continue, the room’s door opened, and a short figure appeared with a clipboard in their hands. The rosy-cheeked nurse gasped when Mine gazed at her, his eyes glitching twice from the diamond-shaped pupil to the usual rounded one.
"Is everything alright, darling?” she asked softly.
“Y-yes,” Mine stammered.
His hands were shaking, perhaps only now that his body had become aware of the shock. Using that transformation was risky, but there were certain times when it was impossible to interrupt it, and the best choice would be to trigger it instead of suppressing it to control the mana flow with greater precision...
... and don't let that sadistic creature take over.
“I’ll check your vitals and… we’ll soon discharge you, ok?” she approached, and Mine’s gaze was still locked on her. “Darling, may you excuse us?” she touched Addai’s hand, and he nodded.
The nurse calmly examined Mine's body condition and noticed his back had gruesome marks of something that seemed to rip his skin earlier, which resulted in a large bruise that covered the middle of the back and the shoulder blades. She touched his hand and gazed at him.
"I know your uncle," she smiled, and Mine looked at her confused. "He told me about your special case and… I’m afraid our hospital won’t be of much help, but I’ll do my best to heal your human body, ok?”
“Thank you…” Mine weakly smiled.
“Ah! And who is that boy with you? He was so desperate we needed to sedate him,” she chuckled, giving Mine a shot on his arm.
Mine was dumbfounded.
Addai had to be sedated?!
“But don’t worry, he then began to grumble before taking a nap," the nurse added with a chuckle. “Is he your-”
“No, no…” Mine quickly answered before she completed. “He is… it’s complicated.”
“Youngsters and their complicated way of thinking…” the nurse patted Mine's head. "Well, you're fine! Come back in a month for a checkup. Your uncle will be here, don't worry," she smiled.
"How do you know Uncle Rito?" Mine asked, tiding his patient’s shirt.
“He’s an old friend of mine,” she beamed. “Ah, your previous clothing was… well… destroyed. If it wasn’t for your ‘friend’... you'd be... ahem... Here's his coat. He used it to cover your body,” the nurse handed Mine the bag with Addai’s dirty coat.
“It’s classified as biohazard…” Mine chuckled, taking it. “Thank you, Mrs…?”
"Ping! Mrs. Ping," she bowed, and Mine chuckled again. "Your ‘friend’ must be waiting for you at the reception. He signed a paper telling us he is your guardian, so he’ll take you home, right?”
Mine tensed, feeling his cheeks slowly burning.
“Guardian?” he asked, remembering the time his mother signed to be his guardian, and the receptionist asked about her relationship with him and said that only blood relatives or legal guardians could sign it.
"Yeah, he signed as your… I'll not answer~ once your relationship is complicated, hehe~" she winked, and Mine was left curious… and flushed.