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The Golden Eyed Girl

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                “I always liked the nice, fresh air. Sometimes, I would often close my eyes and take in the ambience of the forest.” The elderly man did just that, closing his eyes and inhaling the air, whilst listenng to the birds chirping and the leaves rustling. “It is a shame; I cannot smell anything now.” his tone grew wistful, as he opened his eyes, looking over towards the little boy, who sat next to him.

                “…” the little boy raised his yellow, cat like irises to stare back at the man.

                “Don’t talk much, do you?” the man gave a gentle smile. “I suppose at your age, if I saw a ghost, I would be pretty scared myself. But do not worry, I won’t hurt you.”

Six-year-old Xiao Chen was not scared, nor worried. For him, this was not the first time seeing a spirit, or speaking with one. However, this was the first-time a spirit didn’t outright try to possess him.

                “All I want to do, is to be able to smell the fresh air, one last time.” His gaze moved to look back at the forest that surrounded them, as they sat upon the porch of the small cottage.

                “… And then, you will rest?”

                The old man chuckled, nodding his head, “I think it is about time I rest. I had a heart attack right over there,” he pointed towards a small, shaded area, where a jumble of bushes sat. “, some seventy odd years ago. Ever since then, I’ve been surrounded by the very thing I love, but can never partake of. I said my ‘good-byes’, I think I’m ready to rest, but-“

                Xiao raised his hand, placing it upon the old man’s arm, before he could finish his sentence.

                “O, oh!” the old man’s eyes widened in awe, mouth falling open, in shock.

                Xiao Chen had a special gift, not only could he see and speak to spirits, but he also had the ability to either exorcise or lay them to rest. With just one touch, Xiao was able to reanimate a spirit’s senses, for as long as he held onto them. It was a gift that many dark, vengeful specters wanted to possess. So much in fact, that Xiao had been plucked right from the city, away from his parents and home, to be sequestered and left in solitude, by his uncle.

                But it would seem that even in the desolate forest, away from any and all human life, spirits still managed to find him.

                “… I can smell the air…” the old man whispered, letting his eyes squeeze shut, as he inhaled with all his might. “Just like I remember.” He breathed. “Am I crying?” he began to laugh softly. “I am. Oh, to cry again and feel it.”

                Xiao watched as the elderly man patted at his eyes with his sleeve, before turning to look at him.

                “You are doing this?”

                Nodding, Xiao lifted his hand, letting the man see for himself, that he was no longer able to smell, or touch anything.

                “My, my, what a strange little fellow you are.” Chuckling, the man let out a peaceful sigh. “Thank you,” he bowed his head deeply. “, I believe I can rest now.”

                “Rest in peace.” Xiao placed his hand once again on the man’s arm, a gentle, warm glow emanating from where his palm touched.

                “You take care, little fellow.” With a wave of his hand, the spirit of the elderly man began to fade away in a succession of soft, orbs of light, that swirled in a funnel, before gliding away, up into the air, to eventually fade away without a trace.

                “…” Xiao placed his hands back into his lap somberly, as he now sat in silence, alone.

It wasn’t until much later, that his uncle returned to the small cottage and retrieved him from that very spot.

 

=+ + + +=

 

                Turning another page in his textbook, seventeen-year-old Xiao, knew he wasn’t really paying attention to the words in front of him. At this point, he was just pretending to study. The public library was a good place to be, in order to find some peace and quiet, away from the hustle of the city outside.

                He would have studied in the sanctuary of his apartment, but the air conditioner was broken, and he didn’t want to be around when the repairman came to fix it. If there was any way to avoid conversation, Xiao would take it.

His hand came up to fiddle with the tiny, sapphire blue gem that hung around his neck, off a thin, silver chain. Because of this little trinket, Xiao Chen was no longer able to see spirits, specters, or anything undead. However, it had taken eight long years for his uncle to create such a thing.

Because of this, Xiao had grown accustomed to being secluded and left to himself. His parents, the moment they found out Xiao was no longer plagued by ghosts, had dragged him back into the city. But the damage had already been done and Xiao had quickly found that he just couldn’t become the socialite his mother and father wanted him to be.

                As soon as he turned seventeen Xiao had moved out of his parent’s house and into an apartment. They were sad of course, but as long as he kept his grades up, he was allowed to have his own privacy and freedom, under their dime.

Closing his textbook, Xiao leant back in his chair, stretching out his arms above his head. It was Saturday, so he didn’t have to worry about finishing his assignments until tomorrow. Right now, he was just hungry and a bit lethargic. Standing, he grabbed up his light green book bag, placing his textbook inside. He’d grab some takeout, before heading home. Hopefully by then, the maintenance guy would be finished.

= + =

                Sirens. Both from ambulances and firetrucks. Xiao frowned, as he was being bumped into by nosey teenagers and even adults, trying to get a good look at whatever was happening a block away.

                “What happened?”

                “Traffic accident.”

                “Did anyone get hurt?”

                “Don’t know, can’t see anyone.”

Even the nearby shop owners and food stand employees were busy trying to get a look at the spectacle. Xiao decided he’d try a restaurant closer to his apartment, there were a couple that served take out. Clutching the strap of his bookbag tighter, he hunched forward a bit, trying his best to swerve around the large, rowdy crowd that was forming quickly.

                “Someone got hurt!”

                “Are they dead?”

                “I don’t know, maybe! People won’t move their damn heads!”

                “…” Xiao moved a little faster, wanting to be far away from the scene. He only spared one glance up, only one and it was then that he saw a girl, standing by herself off to the side, near the corner of the crosswalk. She looked to be also spectating the accident, but Xiao could tell that she looked confused more then anything.

Why had this one girl, out of all the other people in the crowd, grabbed his attention?

It wasn’t just the fact that she was beautiful, or that her yellow, blonde hair shined in the sunlight, or that her ivory skin was flawless and perfect, or even the fact that her lips were a pert, soft shade of pink. No, what draw Xiao’s attention was the girl’s golden hued eyes. He had never seen such a vibrant shade before. She was wearing casual clothes for the weekend, but Xiao could tell she was a girl who knew about fashion. Everything on her person was designer brand, from her shoes to the flower accessory upon her head. It was surprising that she was all alone, with no one paying her any attention, or even at her side. Maybe she was waiting for someone and the accident had caused her date to be late. 

The moment the girl turned to look towards him, did Xiao quickly avert his gaze, realizing he had been staring, like a creeper. He put some speed into his steps now, as he moved faster to get away. 

As the shrill of the crowd became but a dull thrum in the distance, was when Xiao finally decided to slow his pace, relaxing his shoulders, and exhaling loudly. “…” he had to hand it to himself. The one girl he had ever found attractive in his lifetime, was probably the most popular girl in her class, more than likely had a boyfriend on the football team and loved to shop.

He was a terrible match.

                For the rest of the trek to the restaurant and back to his apartment with food, did Xiao have the golden eyed girl on his mind. He wasn’t good around people, not even his professors at school, who would constantly try to sign him up for special events to ‘get him out of his shell’. Not even around his own parents could he find himself opening up.

 

 

It wasn’t as if he didn’t try because he had. But what the sapphire gem around his neck could never do, was make it so that Xiao could fully control his aura reading. Yet another one of his ‘gifts’ that he found he was cursed with.

As a child, being around people with malice and hate in their hearts had been suffocating, even worse than being almost possessed. His uncle, for those eight long years, had taught him little by little how to control this gift of his and though he could pretty much block out all the thick, obtrusive auras most days, there were just times when he couldn’t, and it was exhausting. 

So, being alone, was the best thing for his mental health.

                Opening the door to his apartment, he kicked the door closed behind him. It was a modest, one bedroom, one kitchen, one bath setup. The living room was mainly where he did all his homework, ate and watched television. He had a large bookcase that almost took up half his wall space, filled with books on end. He owned every gaming system known to man, with dozens of games to go along with them.

Basically, Xiao was always prepared to stay in doors for long periods of time. If it weren’t for school and eventually having to find a job when he turned eighteen, he’d more than likely be a shut in. His uncle would call every once awhile, trying his best to motivate him into going out more, or meeting new people. He didn’t need to be reminded on a daily basis to try to ‘fit in’.

                “I’m trying…” Xiao mumbled, placing his bag at the doorway, before removing his shoes and walking into the living room. The last headache he got from a person, had been two days ago at school. The girl had been in tears, wailing loudly to her group of friends that her boyfriend had cheated on her and she wanted revenge. Xiao had just been passing by, minding his own business, until he suddenly felt sick to his stomach. The girl had turned malevolent so quickly and because of this, everyone that had surrounded her, had fed off of her hate, their auras as well becoming tainted.

After that, he had to sit in the nurse’s office for a couple of hours, before eventually finding the strength to head home. He blamed himself for being too relaxed at the time and made a vow that he’d be better prepared, especially at school.

                Reaching for the remote, Xiao turned on the television, before removing his food from the takeout bag. He figured he’d eat and watch television for a while, before trying to get some homework done. The less he spent on homework, the more time he had tomorrow for video games. That was his end goal.

= + =

                “Alright. I will. Good night, mother.” Bringing the phone away from his ear, Xiao pressed the ‘end’ button. His eyes shifted towards the window, his mother was right, it did look as if it were about to rain. She typically always called him when the weather got like this, making sure he had his groceries topped off, so he didn’t have to go out for fast food, as he usually did.

Xiao had maybe one or two microwave dinners and water from the sink. It was clear that he was not prepared in the slightest. With a frustrated sigh, he stood, grabbing up his keys and cell. By now, given it was getting dark outside and not only because of the rainclouds, Xiao was sure the crowd had long since dissipated. He’d grab a few things at the one of the stores in the area, hoping he’d be back in time before the rain fell.

Just in case, he grabbed up an umbrella.

                The streetlights were flicking on one after another, the grey clouds above becoming darker and more unpleasant. Sure enough, the sound of thunder boomed in the sky, signaling that rain would soon be on its way. Coming up to the block where the accident this afternoon had taken place, he found himself coming to a slow stop.

                “…” the same corner, the same crosswalk, the same, golden eyed girl. There she still stood, eyes staring blankly out at the street in front of her, where pieces of debris still laid around, from the accident. Did her date stand her up? Or was she still waiting for him, having made a promise to never give up hope? All sorts of theories went through Xiao’s head, as he started to walk again.

It was only when the first few drops of rain started to come down, did he end up pausing again, looking back at the girl, who hadn’t even moved a muscle, completely unfazed by the weather. This time, she wasn’t looking up at him, she was lost in her own little world.

                Opening his umbrella, Xiao looked both ways, before jogging across the street, coming up to the sidewalk. As the rain began to pour down harder, he could see why the girl had not moved from her spot.

It all made sense now.

He wasn’t trying to be quiet when approaching her, but even though he now stood just a few inches behind the girl, she still didn’t pay him any mind. Xiao watched as she brought her arms up to hug herself, the rain a constant downpour around her.

And not a single drop touched her.

                “…” despite that fact, Xiao still found himself bringing the umbrella to cover her, uncaring if he got wet in the process.

Eventually, the girl finally recognized that he was behind her and he was patient, unflinching in the rains current, as she turned her head to look over her shoulder. Up close like this, he had been right, she was beautiful.

                “Y, you can really see me?”

                Xiao nodded, use to most of his conversations starting off like this. Had she been involved in the accident? How was he able to see her, even though he still wore his gem?

                “… Am I dead?”

                “I do not know.” Xiao was unsure of what had happened this afternoon, typically he wasn’t one to watch the news and now he regretted that decision.

                “One moment, I was just walking and then the next thing-“ the girl looked back at the street, flinching as the horrible memories came back to her. The sound of tires screeching, the intense, excruciating pain, before absolute darkness.  “I was suddenly here,” her arms came out, motioning to the crosswalk area where she stood. “, and no one, not a single person noticed me. M, my hand even went through someone!” she exclaimed. “And then, I saw my own body being carted off in an ambulance. MY body. S, so, I think I’m dead.”

                “Sometimes after a traumatic experience, souls can leave their bodies temporarily. You may still be alive.”

                “R, really?” the girl now fully turned to face him, eyes widening in surprise, tone growing hopeful. “Then I can go back to my body?”

                “It is possible.” In truth, Xiao had never met a spirit before going through this situation. His experience with the afterlife usually dealt with ghosts that had been dead for quite some time. It all seemed like bad luck honestly, since many of these ghosts had grown dark and malevolent, as most spirits did when being unable to rest in peace. However, this girl had just recently entered the spectral realm and despite the gem his uncle had crafted for him, Xiao was able to see her.

                “What do I have to do? D, do I just wait then?” she looked up now at the umbrella Xiao still held over her. “By the way, I don’t think I need that. You look like you need it a lot more.” she gave him a gentle smile, seeing how he was drenched from head to foot. Her hand came up to touch the umbrella, to try to push it back in his direction, but all she accomplished was having her fingers go straight through the material. “…” disappointment was evident on her face.

                Xiao was unsure of what would happen next, but naturally spirits would just have to wait for the doctors to revive them if they were in a touch in go state. It was even plausible she was in a coma, surrounded by loved ones as they spoke. For some reason, even though he was usually pessimistic, he didn’t want to believe she was dead, that was the last thing he wanted to assume. “You can come with me.”

                “I can?” the girl looked around frantically, before looking back at Xiao. “B, but, I tried to leave this area and I wasn’t able too. I think I’m stuck here.”

                Xiao nodded, “Souls are usually are unable to travel very far from their original point of origin, but I can help you.” Before he realized it, he was extending his hand out to the girl.

                “Do you see ghosts often?”

                “No, not anymore. You’re the first spirit I’ve seen in quite a while.”

                “Heh,” the girl smiled brightly, oblivious to the fact that it made the boy look away shyly. “, I’m glad then. My names Lumine!”

                “Xiao.”

                “Nice to meet you, Xiao!” Lumine held out her hand, taking hold of Xiao’s. “!” she gasped, looking around in shock. “I, I can feel things! I can feel the wind, and… I can smell the rain!” she bounced happily. “Is it because of you?”

                “Yes.” Maybe this had been his intention from the start, maybe this was why he still held the umbrella over her. Xiao had never thought of taking a spirit away from its origin point, it was unnatural. But he just couldn’t find himself leaving her there, to wait out whatever her fate would be.

                “Wow.” Lumine breathed, bringing her other hand up to try the umbrella again. Sure enough, her fingers were able to touch the edge and she stepped closer to Xiao, moving the umbrella so that they were both now right under it. “There, much better! So, what happens next? Do we teleport?”

                Xiao wanted to laugh but managed to control himself. He found the way she looked at him with such curiosity, cute. “No. We just walk.”

                “?” Lumine, still holding Xiao’s hand, followed right beside him. The point in where she had been barricaded from leaving was coming up and she held her breathe, wondering if Xiao could really take her away from this place. Sure enough, they had passed right through and she whipped her head back to look towards the crosswalk in awe, before looking at the boy. “Where are we going?”

 

= + =

                Not until he had closed the door to his apartment and placed a thin, red talisman upon the wall, did Xiao let go of Lumine’s hand.

                “What is that?” she was of course curious of the talisman. “Does that keep me in place?”

                “Yes, it does. As long as this talisman stays in place, you are free to roam around this entire apartment.”

                “Really!? I can still touch things!?” Lumine had now found the light switch, flipping the tiny lever up and down with her finger.

                “You can.”

                “Thanks to the talisman?”

                Xiao nodded, watching as the girl rushed into his living room, eagerly touching all the light sources, flipping on switches, patting the couch, touching anything and everything she could get her hands on. She even kicked the side of the coffee table, just to see it move.

                “Oh,” Lumine had been a little snoop with the boy’s belongings, as she found a school magazine on the coffee table, under his textbooks. She lifted the magazine up, staring at the cover. “, you go to Springvale High?”

                “Yes.”

                “I go to Windrise Academy!” she made a funny face. “I always wanted to go to public school, but my parents stuck me in that all girls prison. My brother’s fate was the same, he’s stuck in an all-boys academy. We hate it.”

Xiao had heard of Windrise, it was a prestigious school, where only the affluential attended. It made sense, given her tennis shoes alone cost more then his rent.

                “Do you live alone?”

                “Yes.”

                “Woah!” Lumine exclaimed. “You look my age! That’s so cool! Your parents must be super cool!”

                He decided not to answer that one, his reasons for living away from home, weren’t exactly ‘cool’. But he didn’t want to bog her down with his sad story. He watched as she moved to crouch in front of his television stand, bringing out all the video games from the cabinet. Usually, Xiao didn’t like people clamoring around his place, in fact, he hated it. But, when he watched Lumine, he found he didn’t mind at all. Watching her light up with everything she saw, actually got him to crack a smile. Something he rarely did.

                “Woah, my brother would LOVE to meet you. He’s an uber game fanatic, oh man, he’s been wanting to play this one!” Lumine held up a game box. “Did you finish it?”

                “No.” he settled on the couch now, hearing Lumine continue to shuffle around. Bringing out his phone, Xiao began to search up the afternoon’s accident trying to find any recent article with information on where they had wheeled off Lumine’s body. Every so often, he would hear the girl exclaim in awe, after pulling out something new.

                “Are you finding out about my accident?”

                Xiao lifted his head, finding Lumine was now sitting on the coffee table in front of him, leaning over to peer at his cellphone, “Yes.”

                “…” Lumine lowered her gaze. “I’m kind of scared to know.” She admitted.

                “It says that the man who was driving, accidently fell asleep at the wheel and passed a red light, hitting you. He’s extremely regretful.”

                “…”

                “You were also taken to Qinqce Hospital, your status is unknown.”

                “S, so, if we go there, we might find my body!?” Lumine perked.

                “Yes, but,” Xiao looked at the time on his phone. “, visiting hours are over, at least for non-relatives.”

                “Oh, oh yeah,” Lumine let her shoulders sag, but she still tried to maintain a cheery mood. “, then can we go first thing in the morning!?”

                “Of course.” That had been the plan, he was just as eager to find out her condition. If she suddenly disappeared into the night, then ever better, it meant she was back in her body and alive!  

                “Alright! Sleep over!” Lumine laughed, throwing her arms in the air cheerfully. “You know this will be the first time I’m alone with a guy in his apartment! My brother would throw a fit.” Giggling, Lumine stood.

                “…” so, she didn’t have a boyfriend? Xiao realized now wasn’t really the time to think of such things, but he couldn’t stop himself. He felt a little honored to be her first.

                “You know what,” Lumine moved towards the kitchen. “, I should be hungry, I haven’t eaten all day!” she picked up a random plate on the counter. “I guess, since I’m just a spirit, I don’t need to eat?”

                “You don’t.”

                “The food would go right through me, literally, wouldn’t it?”

                “Yes.”

                “… That’s…” Lumine chuckled now, setting down the plate. “That’s actually pretty funny. I kind of wanna try it, but I know it’d just make me sort of sad.” She turned to face Xiao again. “Can I even sleep?”

                “…” Xiao shook his head. “The most you can do is mimic sleep.”

                “Oh… No wonder I don’t feel tired.” She sighed outwardly, bringing her hands on her hips, as she shook her head. “Being a spirit sucks.”

                “I’m sorry.” That’s all he could really say, there was nothing he could do but try to make her as comfortable as possible.

                “It’s okay, it’s not your fault! Besides,” she pointed at him accusingly. “, shouldn’t you get out of your clothes? You’re still soaked, you’re gonna turn into a ghost yourself, if you don’t put on something dry.” She began to smirk. “Oh man, now I can make so many ghost puns and it’s even funnier, since, you know, I’m a ghost!” she patted herself on the chest proudly.

                Xiao couldn’t help but let out a small laugh, finding her smile contagious. It wasn’t just her affectious smile either, even though she was a spirit, he was still able to sense her aura. It was strong, warm, and bright, just like her persona. There she stood, looking a lot happier and positive then she had been at the crosswalk. She was taking her predicament well and he was relieved to find she was.

Standing, he decided to take her advice, he was actually feeling a chill come over him. It was then, that his stomach began to gurgle.

                “!” Lumine blinked a couple of times, staring at Xiao’s stomach.

                “…” Xiao refused to meet her eyes, remembering just why he had gone out in the first place. Groceries.

                “Pfft, ahaha!” Lumine brought a hand to cover her mouth. “While you change, I can cook you something!” she finally said.

                “I don’t have food.”

                “Whaaa?” Lumine had to see this for herself. She quickly turned and went towards the fridge, opening both doors to find that Xiao was indeed, not lying. “… Wow, not even a jar of peanut butter,” she mumbled, moving around to open all his cupboards. “, Xiao…” she looked over her shoulder at him. “You need to buy some groceries!”

                “…” he decided wasn’t going to tell her that was what he was trying to do, before finding her. “Tomorrow.” Was the only answer he gave, before disappearing into his room.

                “I can microwave you this frozen dinner!” he heard her shout. “Ooo, it’s frozen mac and cheese Xiao~! Yummy. It even says on here, ‘BEST CHEDDAR IN THE WORLD!’ mmmm, delicious~!” She was clearly enjoying herself, as he now heard her pressing buttons on the microwave.

And in a way, Xiao was too. Other then his parents and uncle, there was no one else he had spent time with alone. It was a nice if he were being honest. Finished changing, he walked back out of his room, hearing Lumine humming to herself, as she washed his dishes.

                “What are you doing?”

                “Washing up!” she smiled.

                “You don’t have too.”

                “But I want to.” She gave him a grumpy expression. “I have all night, Xiao. I’ll dust, mop and categorize your bookshelf, if it keeps me from going stir crazy.” She paused in her task. “By the way, your mac and cheese is on the coffee table.”

                Xiao looked towards the living room, where sure enough, his dinner laid, with a fresh glass of ice-cold water. “Thank you.”

                “You know, it’s the first time I served anyone!” Lumine said matter of fact. “This is also the first time I’m washing dishes! It’s fun!” she lifted up the clean plate. “Look, I did this! Look, not a speck! I DID THIS XIAO!”

                Xiao arched an eyebrow, watching as Lumine pointed to the plate, then to the sink, before back at the plate and then to herself. “Do you come from a wealthy family?” he walked towards the living room, settling in front of his dinner. This felt nice. Having dinner waiting for him.

                “Pretty obvious, huh?” turning off the sink and setting the plate aside, Lumine grabbed up a dishcloth and dried her hands. “I do. My mother and father are CEO’s of Teyvat Shipping Inc., so my brother and I are pretty much get taken care of by the maids and butlers. I know I shouldn’t be complaining and should appreciate what I have, but it gets kind of tiring having others do stuff for you.”

She came to sit across from Xiao, on the other side of the coffee table.

                “What about you? How long have you been able to see ghosts? When can you seem them? Do they show up when your showering? Do you get any peace and quiet? What about when you’re using the restroom!? Can you poop in peace!? Do they watch you sleep!?” after every question, Lumine just leant more and more forward, eager to know all the answers.

                “… I started seeing ghosts when I was four,” Xiao let his fork shovel around in the macaroni. “, a ghost tried to possess me. “

                “Oh no.” Lumine frowned.

                “But I was able to repel them and exorcise them. I didn’t even know that’s what I did, until my uncle explained it to me. My ‘gift’ is apparently passed down in my family and skipped a couple of generations, before coming to me. I was the unlucky one.”

                “Unlucky?”

                “My uncle made me this gem,” he held up the sapphire stone that hung around his neck. “, so that I would be unable to see ghosts. So yes, I can poop in peace.”

                “Heh,” Lumine giggled, before a thought struck her. “, if that gem doesn’t let you see spirits, then how come you can see me?”

                “I, I don’t know. That’s why I thought you were a regular girl.”

                “… Oh. Weird, but also, I’m glad it doesn’t work as good as it should. I mean, after all, I’m happy you’re able to see me.”

                Me too. Xiao lowered the gem back down.

                “Eat up now! By the way, where’s your mop?”

                “…”

= + =

                Xiao felt himself wanting to stay up with Lumine, hesitating in getting up to head to bed. The time was already well past midnight and though it was the weekend, his sleep schedule had him passed out by at least eleven.

                “Just go to bed, already.” Lumine chided, hearing for the third time in such a short time, the boy yawn. He tried to muffle it, but it was obvious, when she saw how his eyes were drooping. “I’ll be okay! I think I’ll start with your bookshelf next, so if there’s anything you don’t want me seeeee~.” She covered her eyes. “Now is the time to haul it away. Don’t worry, I’m not peeking.” As she said this, she was indeed peeking through he cracks of her fingers.

                Xiao shook his head, “I can stay up longer.”

                “No, no,” Lumine brought her hands down. “, please, just sleep. I’ll be okay. Just nine hours until the hospital lets visitors in!” she gave him a determined look “Even if I weren’t a spirit, I’d be too anxious to sleep. So, go on, I promise I won’t watch you while you sleep.” She gave him a mischievous grin, before watching as he walked into his room. “…” she hung her head, feeling lonely now. Just nine hours, Lumine. “!?” suddenly, she heard Xiao reappear from his room and she stared at him with a surprised expression.

                “I can sleep in the living room.” Is all he said, as he carried a pillow and blanket towards the couch.

                “B, but, are you sure?”

                Nodding, Xiao plopped onto the couch, looking over to Lumine, who still stood next to the bookcase.

                “Oh, but the lights!” she panicked.

                “I can sleep with them on.”

                “… But-“

                “It’s okay.” Xiao fell onto his back, covering his eyes with his arm.

                “…”

                “…”

There was a moment of awkward silence, before Xiao heard the soft ‘click’ sound and just knew that the lights had turned off. Removing his arm, he sat up, watching as Lumine settled herself upon the floor, leaning her back against the sofa at his side.

                “To be honest, I’m really scared, Xiao,” she whispered, gaze lowered to stare at her hands. “, what if… What if I’m in the morgue, on some cold slab… I, I don’t know what I would do! What if I’m really dead?” tears began to trace down her cheeks, as she started to sob, covering her face. “I, I’ll never get to speak to my brother again, or, or hug my parents. I… I don’t want to be dead! I’m scared!”

                “…” Xiao’s chest constricted at the sound of Lumine’s cries, his heart breaking at the sight of tears. “Lumine.” he spoke now, gaining her attention, as she lifted her head to meet his gaze, cheeks streaked with wetness. He patted the space right next to him and without question, Lumine crawled into the empty spot, instantly clinging to his side.

Xiao let his arms go around the girl, as he laid back down with her tucked to his side, her head rested against his shoulder. He patted her head soothingly, as he brought the blanket to cover both of them. In the darkness and silence of the living room, all that could be heard was Lumine’s gentle cries.

                Please don’t cry.

                Sniffling, Lumine snuggled deeper into Xiao’s warmth. “Thank you.”

                “…” Xiao let his cheek rest against the top of her head. This was all he could do for her; this was all he could really think of and he was relieved to find it was working. He himself had never cried before, not even when he was younger, so to be around someone who was, was difficult. Especially since, it was Lumine. After a little while had passed, he now heard her even breathing and he grew surprised to find, that Lumine had gone to sleep. That’s one way to put a spirit to rest. He couldn’t help but want to wake Lumine up and tell her that he had made a ghost pun himself. He was sure she’d laugh and say ‘Nice job!’.

Just eight more hours. He closed his eyes and fell asleep.

= + =

                In the morning, Lumine was not at his side.

Xiao had hurled himself off the couch, stumbling to his room, to dress.

                He had managed to grab his keys, but as for his cell, he had just left it.

The boy scrambled down his apartment stairs, flinging himself into walls at the erratic running pace he took, scaring the neighbors who were unused to seeing him so animated.

                “Huff, huff.” Xiao raced down the city sidewalks, garnering all sorts of looks, as he rushed by.  

                “Woah!” people hurriedly moved out of the way; the boy focused only on getting to his location.

                “Slow down!”

                “Watch it!”

His lungs hurt from the exertion he put onto them, but he kept going despite the pain, forcing himself to move faster. He eventually stopped in front of the hospital, panting loudly, as he quickly made his way inside. The staff eyed him with concern, as he ran up to the counter.

                “Do you have a patient here by the name of Lumine?” he cursed himself for not getting her last name. “She got into an accident yesterday and-“

                “Sir, we aren’t allowed to give out information like that.”

                “But-“

                “You know Lumine?”

                Xiao whirled around, staring into a pair of very similar golden eyes, “Y, yes,” he nodded. “, I do.”

                “I’m Lumine’s brother, Aether. Do you want to see her?” the boy smiled. “They just called me, I rushed down here myself.” Aether saw how the boy looked like a complete mess, clothes and hair all disheveled. “Come on.” Motioning his head, Aether lead Xiao towards the elevators, the pair riding up to the top floor together.

                That was the longest elevator ride Xiao had ever taken in his life and with every minute that passed, his heart continued to beat wilding in his chest, the closer they approached Lumine’s room.

                “Here we are,” Aether opened the door for him, frowning, as he looked back at the boy who remained in the same spot “, what’s wrong?”

                “…” Xiao said nothing now, as he finally worked up the courage to enter the room, where brilliant rays of sunlight shown through the windows. Voices could be heard as he continued further inside, and his eyes finally caught sight of the one person he had desperately wanted to see. “... Lumine…” a tear slipped down his cheek in happiness. Lumine…

                “Xiao!” Lumine smiled brightly, face glowing in the bright light of the sun.

                Xiao exhaled a soft breath of relief. I am so glad… You are alive…

 

               

 

 

 

 

= END? =