The Dreams: Chapter Sixteen

the dreams cover

Cover by A. R. Shellnut

This chapter came due at the worst possible time for me. As you can see from the word count above, it’s huge! It used to be a couple thousand words longer before I hacked away at it. A lot of unexpected stuff dropped on me just in time for this unusually long chapter to need my attention.

I’d like to give a huge thank you to my supporters for continuing to encourage me through the last few weeks. You’ve been great!


“I already told him he could come over today, Mother!” Rina shouted after her mother as she stormed out of the room.

“You aren’t well enough to be entertaining visitors,” her mother shot back.

“He just wants to see me and talk to me. I can talk just fine. He’s not going to expect me to be running laps around the block or anything. He knows I’ve been sick, after all.”

“I still don’t like it.”

“Are you actually worried about me still being too sick to have him come by and chat or are you more worried about the fact that you can’t be home when he’s supposed to stop by? Never mind. It doesn’t matter because you have nothing to worry about either way.”

“I just better not come home and find you exhausted and starting to relapse tonight.”

“What do you even think we’re going to be doing? I’m not going to relapse from talking. If that was the case it would’ve happened already. Besides, the doctors don’t even know if a relapse is possible.”

“Exactly. I don’t like the idea of you acting like you can do whatever you want when we still don’t even know what caused this in the first place.”

“Well, we know it wasn’t from talking to boys so I think I’ll be fine with Hibiki today. Just relax.”

“Just don’t be afraid to ask him to leave if you start to feel tired. You’re not well. It isn’t rude to ask someone to leave suddenly when they know you aren’t feeling well.”

“I got it, Mother. I’m not afraid of being rude. I’m afraid of getting a headache from this conversation. Just go to work already.”

“Try to take a nap this morning so you’re more refreshed for you guest,” her mother shouted as she headed out the door.

Rina rolled her eyes. She felt fine now. She felt better than she had in weeks and her mother still treated her like an invalid. Somehow her mother’s perception of her had been obscured so she was incapable of actually taking note of any of her recovery. She did not even equate her daughter’s increased snappishness with her to be an indication of any sort of improvement in her spirits and general energy.

Fortunately, her mother had gone back to work after the first week so for about nine and a half hours each day she had the run of the place. She could watch movies, go online, read books, and sometimes she even went out to the backyard. Even though she flouted her mother’s restrictions she did not quite dare defy them in front of the whole neighborhood at this point. She thought someone might tattle on her, and there was no telling who it might be around here. At least with the backyard she was only running the risk of one of the next door neighbors being home for some reason in the middle of the day, which was not likely as they both worked day jobs. No. She knew it was the retired neighbors with all the time in the world to watch over the neighborhood she had to watch out for, but they could not see her in the backyard.

She plopped herself on the couch and turned on the television. There was nothing on yet besides the awful morning talk shows, but she felt a bit desperate at this point to hear normal human conversations. She spoke to her mother every day, but more often than not they argued or she shouted, at least, because her mother refused to listen to what she had to say. At least the morning talk shows had the benefit of giving her some back and forth dialog to engage her brain even just a little bit.

She wished she found more chances to call Hibiki, but his classes were peppered throughout the day, and evenings and weekends she was still stuck under her mother’s overzealous supervision so she hardly saw an opportunity to call him.Only through amazing good luck had they managed to arrange for him to come by today without too many problems arising.

At this point the shouting match with her mother over the issue did not even count as a problem. Since she came home from the hospital shouting became their standard mode of communication. Before this she never dreamed of having such a protracted, antagonistic situation with her mother. They had not seen eye to eye before this of course, but it never went on and on like this. At times she did not know where she got this attitude, which then made her worry that she was not really herself.

That made it even more important that she speak to Hibiki today. She had so many questions, and from what she remembered from the hospital room he should at least be able to point her in the direction of someone with answers even if he might not be able to answer her questions himself.

She needed some answers. Things had been really, really bad for a while there. Then Hibiki brought Penny to see her and suddenly she got better after a lot of pain and discomfort that was worth it in the end.

If Hibiki could not help her maybe at least he could get her in touch with Penny again so she could answer some questions. The whole thing made her pretty nervous, but not getting any answers at all after all of this time made her pretty nervous too.

She knew she felt fine now, but with no answers at all coming from the medical professionals that poked and prodded her. She left her appointment feeling like some sort of lab subject rather than a patient with some rather serious health concerns she really needed to find somewhere else to get some answers.

So she waited to see her boyfriend. She wished she could just be excited to see him because she missed him and wanted to spend time with him, but she also needed answers from him to potentially see a light at the end of the tunnel of mystery illness.

Finally he arrived. Rina felt like her brain was running out of her ears from all of the asinine television she had been watching to keep her mind from focusing on all of the cyclical half-mad thoughts trying to take over her mind.

She leapt up from the couch at the sound of the door bell and practically tripped over her own feet on her way from the living room to the front door. She somehow managed to make it to the front door without crashing to the ground and busting open her chin.

She opened the door and ushered Hibiki inside before they even had a chance to say hello. She was worried about the nosier neighbors seeing him and somehow distorting their observations in a report to her mother to make it sound like something illicit happened.

Once they were both inside and the door was closed behind them she hugged him tightly. Seeing him made her heart feel ready to burst with happiness. She thought at least half of her eagerness had been about finding answers to her questions, but now she knew that she just really missed him. They were used to seeing each other a few times a week and this was the first time she had seen him while actually conscious in several weeks. She refused to consider the time in the hospital room as actually seeing him as she was barely even capable of hearing at that time and could not do anything in the way of interacting with him. That meant it had been weeks since she had last seen him.

“I missed you,” she confessed.

“I missed you too,” he said while holding her close.

“I’m sorry you had to drive all the way out here just to see me.”

“It’s worth it, I promise you. Now do you want to sit down so I can actually look at you while we talk?”

She laughed. “I guess we can do that.”
She led him into the living room where she had to hastily turn off the awful television program she had been watching just moments before. The last thing she wanted was to have him noticing that she was killing time watching trash television.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“I’m fine. I feel like normal, I guess. It’s been a while since I felt normal, but I’m pretty sure I’ve been feeling normal ever since I woke up. I was a little weak for the first day or so but I’m fine now no matter what my mother might say.”

She looked down at her lap as she felt her cheeks grow warm. She had been babbling, and she just barely managed to stop herself before she completely lost control. She needed to breathe, and she needed to give Hibiki a chance to talk.

He was smiling at her when she looked up again. He took her hand and gave it a slight squeeze. “You look good.”

“I think I am good,” she agreed.

“Are you going to be returning to college this semester?”

“I really don’t know,” she said with a sigh. “I feel fine. I think I could handle going back, but I’ve missed so much already. The doctors want to keep doing tests too so I’d be strapped for time to get caught up with all of these appointments. I also don’t know if my mother would even let me go back. I know I’m an adult and I can do what I want, but at the same time I don’t want to complete disregard Mother and her concerns.”

He nodded. There was not much else to say on this topic, and they fell into a comfortable silence. She leaned against him and rested her head on his shoulder.

Having him here was the best thing to happen to her since she woke up. Just having him here made her feel at peace. All of the urgency she had felt so recently felt melted away. She still wanted answers, but she felt confident she would get them and for now she just wanted to be happy.

Finally she knew that she needed to get her answers before it was too late. His visit could only last so long. To a degree there was a certain amount of joy to be derived from denying that he would eventually leave, but facing facts would be a lot more beneficial to her in the long run. Short term happiness had its time and place, but having answers and knowing for sure she would not be ill again would give her the peace of mind to be happier for much, much longer.

“Hibiki, what do you know about what actually got me out of the hospital?” she asked cautiously. She could not be sure right now how much she was supposed to know and how much of her knowledge of that time would surprise him.

She knew that he understood at least something because he had been the one who  brought Penny to see her, and apparently he knew enough to get it right by bringing her because nothing had worked until Penny had done her spiritual alignment thing. Rina did not even understand enough to fake her way through it, but she still knew she needed to keep looking for answers. She steeled herself to have to press harder because he had not volunteered to share the information with her.

He might be holding back because he did not know if she would accept his explanation. Or perhaps he just did not know how much she had heard of the conversation when he brought Penny to her room. Maybe he wanted to avoid bombarding her with too much information. The possibilities were endless, much like her curiosity, but her patience had already reached its limit. Her mind ran at about a mile a minute while she waited. She only made herself feel worse in the long run by thinking this way, but she lacked the power to stop. Her under-stimulated mind took to blowing the situation out of proportion as a means of entertainment these days.

Lately her questions were normally only satisfied by her own extensive musing. Now she had to remind herself to quiet her mind so she could actually hear another person speak. Fortunately she loved hearing Hibiki talking so her mind did not rebel against the idea of shutting up and actually listening as much as it might otherwise.

“I guess that means you know enough to realize the doctors didn’t just accidentally land on the cure without knowing the problem,” he guessed while only looking slightly uncomfortable with the current topic of discussion.

She nodded. She dared not speak again for fear that she would start drilling him with a million questions before he had a chance to answer the one she had already asked.

“When you got to the point that you just wouldn’t wake up and your mother said the doctors hadn’t found out why it had happened I went to a friend of mine that has some experience with alternative measures to get her opinion.”

“Penny,” Rina could not hold herself back from submitting the name for Hibiki to confirm.

“Yeah, Penny. She’s pretty knowledgeable about metaphysical things and when I explained what had been happening with you she asked to come see you. I brought her with me to visit you at the hospital, and apparently she spoke with you while you were on some spirit plane and she got permission from you to realign your body with your soul. She did it and later that day you woke up and you’ve been back to normal ever since.”

“Maybe not back to normal just yet,” she grumbled.

“No, but on the mend.”

“Yeah, but that’s part of what I have questions about. I’m not feeling entirely like myself. I’m not sure if it is just because I’m recovering from some sort of crazy illness and my time in the hospital or if it is some sort of side effect from the whole soul realignment thing that we did. I don’t know what to think anymore.”

“Rina, I barely knew enough to think of going to Penny for advice. We’d have to ask her if we wanted to know if anything might be going wrong again.”

“Let’s do that. I’ve gotta know. Not knowing if this is normal or a sign of things going wrong all over again is making me climb the walls here. Not to mention that my mother won’t let me do anything. By the way, as far as she knows you visited for only a few minutes and I certainly haven’t been walking around downstairs and exerting myself for no reason.”

He laughed a bit. “Okay. Gotcha. I left already and you’re safely tucked in bed all day long.”

“Yeah. I have no idea when she is going to decide to let me start acting like a normal human being again. I would be okay with it, I guess, if I still felt tired or weak, but I’m feeling fine. I have more energy than I’ve had in weeks and I want to be out there doing things. I’ve resigned myself to taking incompletes for my classes this semester because of missing so many days, but just because I’m not in the classroom doesn’t mean I have to be in my bed. There’s plenty I could do to pass the time until next semester starts. I could volunteer somewhere, or even get a job. I could even, you know, just go out and kill time and waste my mom’s money. But no, I’m stuck here pretending that I haven’t gotten up and wandered around the house for hours and even gone out to the backyard because my mother is convinced I’m still in some fragile state where the slightest disturbance or exertion on my part will result in a near instantaneous relapse and another trip to the hospital.”

Hibiki looked understandably flummoxed by her rant. He sat in silence for a moment and allowed her words to settle in his mind.

She sat in silence because she could not believe she said so much in so little time. She was a little out of breath and more than a little embarrassed by her outburst.

Eventually they were able to fall into a more comfortable mode of conversing and Rina almost managed to feel normal for the first time since she left the hospital. She still could not say she was entirely herself. Something just did not feel right within her and it was beyond her abilities to even put the problem into words.

Their time together quickly disappeared. Hours passed by faster today than in recent memory. Hibiki promised to email her with information regarding going to see Penny. He also promised to email if he could not call during her mother’s work hours because Mother tended to nag her if she spent too much time talking or texting on her phone.

He made her promise not to be afraid to get in touch with him. He assured her his class load was not so heavy to prevent him from making time for her. She agreed to send him a message every time she had a stray thought enter her mind and at least partially meant it.

They lingered just behind the front door for longer than strictly reasonable. Rina wanted to keep him close for as long as possible, and he appeared just as reluctant to leave. They did not say much during the time they lingered in the entranceway, but the time was still precious.

Finally Hibiki decided he could not risk staying any longer for fear of getting caught and Rina getting into trouble. He kissed her goodbye quickly before hurrying back to his car and leaving her alone again.

She could not help but smile though. That kiss was enough to get her through at least a few days more of this nonsense.


Yuzuki was over the moon when Souma declared he would stay home with her a few more days until he felt satisfied with their new security measures. Her bruises and scrapes healed, and before she felt even remotely ready to see him go again he announced he would leave in the morning.

Yuzuki immediately started thinking up ways to get him to stay a while longer. Her apprehension over being left alone was greater than ever before. Her sense of worth in their partnership was at an all time low as well. She imagined one of two things happening if she found herself alone again at this point. One: she would throw herself into a panicked frenzy until her body gave out and she slept away the entirety of the next day only to wake up and start the process of building up her level of panic all over again, repeating the cycle until she felt numb all the time. Or two: she would seethe and allow her feelings to simmer for the entirety of Souma’s absence only to become an emotional wreck upon his return, which would ruin any time they might spend together otherwise, and might push him to leave all that much sooner next time. Neither option seemed particularly desirable to her so she scrambled to find some way to keep it from happening.

She still had a few hours to think before he would leave. Planning to convince him to stay meant sacrificing the last few hours she had to spend with him before he left. She hoped her efforts would not be in vain. The thought of being alone again left her light headed and a bit queasy, which made her try even harder to come up with a fool proof plan to make him stay.

While she cooked their supper she remained silent and absorbed in her plotting her argument for later. She needed to pinpoint the most opportune time to put her argument into place. Typically she asked him to stay on the morning of his departure, but those times her pleas were mostly in jest. This time she needed him to know she was serious, and that required a change to more drastic measures. If she made her case with enough time for him to sleep on it before he actually departed in the morning he might have a change of heart.

She served the food in complete silence. Her words were being carefully rationed for maximum effectiveness once they were seated and eating. Her heart fluttered in her chest. She all her concentration went to keeping her hand steady as she handed Souma his food.

With her food placed across from Souma at the table sat down with a heavy sigh. She needed to keep her composure and continue dinner as usual until she dropped her game changing argument on his lap. Now she just needed to decide what would qualify as a game changing argument out of her pool of potential arguments. The choices were not as varied as she might have liked and reusing old tactics would not work. She had a feeling he intended to leave no matter what she said.

Yuzuki decided on her game changing plan. Now she needed to set the plan in action. As long as her nerves held up she knew she manage it, but the silence between them left her with frayed nerves. She did not know how long she would hold up before she was left weeping and pleading with him not to leave her alone like her instincts urged her to do. As of this moment that part of her was still babyish and such tactics and strategies would get her nowhere with Souma.

Gathering her courage meant getting a good portion of the meal in her stomach before she started talking. She regretted eating almost immediately as her food did not sit well with the butterflies in her stomach.

“Souma,” she spoke up with a quavery voice that lacked the confidence she needed to express. She did not know if she could recover her lost confidence, but she forced herself to persevere.

“Yes?” Souma ventured when Yuzuki did not immediately continue.

“I-” she paused again to swallow hard. She pushed her nerves deep down inside of her and willed herself to go on as though nothing about this bothered her at all. “I don’t want to be here all alone again.”

He sighed. “Yuzu, we’ve been over this already. I’ve added more sentry plants, and we’ve worked on making your barrier stronger. You shouldn’t have anything to worry about at all. You’ll be fine here.”

“I won’t be fine,” she insisted. “Being alone so much is eating away at me. I’m always anxious and there’s no one here to calm me down or distract me from my worries. I’m unraveling faster than I can pull myself together at this point. I can’t be alone here. Not right now.”

“I don’t know what you want me to do though. There are others counting on me to do my work. I can’t just quit on them now. That wouldn’t be fair to them or to me. I’m trying to build a better life and to do that I need to make a name for myself. I can’t do that by staying here and hiding from the world. Please understand.”

“No. I want you to understand. I’m not asking you to stay here,” she announced. Her heart was racing now that she was finally reaching the point she had been trying to make all along. “I want to go with you. I’m sure I could be of some use and that way I won’t be alone. I won’t be any trouble, I promise.”

“Yuzu…” he trailed off.

“Please, I promise I’ll be useful. I’ll do whatever you need me to do.”

“If we’re both gone too often the plants are going to suffer for it and we won’t have any food put away for the winter.”

“I won’t need to go with you every single time you go away. Just sometimes. Being alone a little less is good enough for me. Please? Please, at least think about it tonight, okay?”

He shifted awkwardly. She could see him almost leaning towards saying no all over again. She did not take her eyes off of him for one second though. She hoped maintaining eye contact would force him to remember how much of a mess she had been lately and how much she relied on him. She hoped that this reminder made him understand just how important it was to her to not be alone right now. She just needed some more time, and she finally thought of a way to get that time without keeping him from his work.

“I’ll sleep on it.” He agreed to her suggestion after a long period of silence between the two of them.

Yuzuki slumped down in relief upon hearing his words. She feared his long pause meant he planned to refuse her idea after all without really giving it enough time to gain perspective. Hopefully a good night’s sleep would make him realize that she would be better off with him at least for now, and he might even benefit from having her company as well.

She knew he could cook, but he only made the simplest foods. She could also carry some things for him. She noticed he always traveled light so she would have to do the same when she went with him, but she knew she could handle it and he would help her learn how to cope with any difficulties she might have from going without something she was accustomed to having at hand. She tried to think of as many ways she might be useful as possible as though she could telegraph her uses directly to Souma’s mind.

Relief restored her appetite and she finished the meal with great relish. Souma, on the other hand, seemed contemplative. She tried to engage him in conversation and received little more than monosyllabic replies.

She had not intended to anger him with her idea. He had agreed to sleep on the idea before passing judgment, but now she worried he was waiting to tell her no to soften the blow. Nothing Yuzuki did or said for the rest of the evening lifted his gloomy disposition.

She went to bed, but she could not sleep. She tossed and turned, and her ears twitched every time she heard Souma move. Every sound made her wonder what was happening, but she resisted to urge to get up and investigate.

While she failed to fall asleep her imagination started to run wild. He might leave in the night to avoid giving her an answer in the morning. He might pack up so he could leave first thing without giving her time to beg or plead with him. He might even pack a bag for her so she could go with him. All of these seemed possible to her. She felt a bit guilty for hiding in bed rather than helping him, but she dared not leave her bed now.

If she intended to go with him she needed a good night’s sleep to survive whatever tomorrow might hold in terms of travel and generally staying on guard. Then again, if she was going to be damned to stay in this home all on her own again she would need all of her energy to stay strong and stay calm through the day. Her higher mind had an easier time staying in control when she had a proper night’s rest. She was still on the mend from her recent traumatic experience as well so she needed sleep to continue healing. She wanted to heal up. No matter what the verdict might be in the morning light she would need to continue to allow her body to heal.

Some things would be more difficult to handle than others. Going with Souma required more from her physically, but staying home all alone again would push her to her limit mentally. She could become stronger in body through hardship, but she was not sure she could find the benefit in constant stress and anxiety.

As she waited for sleep to find her, she looked out at the moon. A tremor of panic rushed through her as she considered how open and exposed they were in this tree. She tried to reassure herself by thinking of the improved security measures they put in place.

The moon slowly made its way to the point that it was no longer visible from Yuzuki’s place in bed, and Souma finally came to bed. Even then she could not fall asleep. Too many thoughts still raced through her head.

As she waited and waited she heard Souma fall asleep. She listened to the rhythmic sound of his breathing and eventually began to relax. It was hard to worry too much when the only other diversion left outside of her own mind were the sounds of slow, steady breathing. Eventually she fell asleep, but she could not say for sure how long she had laid awake thinking and then trying not to think anymore to be all the more inviting for sleep. The wait felt like an eternity.

Yuzuki was almost shocked to open her eyes to a bright, sunlit room. Once she fell asleep the night passed almost instantaneously and now the time she had been waiting for all this time had finally come. Apprehension urged her to stay in bed and delay the inevitable, but she absolutely needed to get her answer. She waited long enough to get to this point and fear of hearing something she might not want to hear could not stop her from getting an answer all together. Avoiding the answer now made her sleep lost to worry worthless.

Somehow Souma woke up before her without disturbing her slumber. His ability to effortlessly wake up after only a few hours of sleep astounded Yuzuki. She only woke up as soon as she did because the sunlight hit her face.

Still bleary eyed and groggy, she was almost completely unprepared to hear anything at this point, but of course an answer waited for her in the next room.

“Yuzu,” Souma spoke up abruptly.

She stopped dead in her tracks. All of her notions of eating some leftovers for breakfast flew straight out of her brain. The time to get her answer had finally arrived and a hungry belly stood no chance against such a thing. She put herself through so much stress to get to this point and nothing could be allowed to stand in the way of her answer. For the sake of her peace of mind she needed to make sure she heard and understood his answer with perfect clarity just in case she needed to remind herself of it later.

“You’re coming with me,” he told her. “We leave after breakfast.”

As much as she wanted to accept this news with dignity and grace she could not stop herself from bouncing up and down a bit before rushing forward and hugging Souma. The relief of knowing she would not be alone again any time soon got the better of her and she could not hold back her elation.

“I promise I won’t get in the way. Just tell me what to do and I swear I will be a huge help to you. Don’t worry about anything. You can count on me.”

He pushed her back a bit with his hands on her shoulders. “Slow down,” he ordered. “We’ve got some things to go over before yo u get yourself too wound up. This isn’t going to be a fun little vacation. I really do have work to do and we can’t be goofing around the whole time or nothing will get accomplished.”

“I understand.”

He sighed and sat down on the floor while rubbing his temples. “I really don’t think you understand at all, Yuzu.”

Now her curiosity got the better of her. She tilted her head to the side and crouched down nearby with her knees pulled up to her chest. “You’re going to explain it to me though, right?”

“Right. I can’t afford to have you going out there unprepared.”

“Are we going to be doing something dangerous?”

“I’m going to be doing something that might end up being dangerous. You’re just going to be somewhere safe nearby in case anything happens to go wrong. Even if I get caught I want to be sure that you can still get away.”

“What are you going to be doing?”

“I’m going to be doing my job. It’s the same thing that’s going to help us stop living on the fringes of society.”

“I gathered that, but what exactly is your job. You’ve never exactly told me what it is you do, you know.”

“I know. There’s a reason for that.”

“I don’t understand.”

“That’s okay,” he agreed. “I never explained it to you for good reason.”

She waited. It had to be bad if he never told her before now. She never gave it much thought before now, but it did suddenly seem very strange that he never spoke of his work to her. He always brought home so many nice things and that always drew her attention. Now she wondered if those little things he gave to her were there to distract her from asking questions. She felt foolish for accepting everything without asking

“I never told you because I didn’t want you to argue with me about my work or try to keep me from it.”

She nodded, although she had her doubts about whether she could keep Souma from doing something he wanted to do. “I promise you I’m not going to fight with you about it now. I want to go with you no matter what you do. I just can’t be by myself right now.”

“I don’t want to hear you making those sorts of promises without having all the information.”

“Well, if you are worried about that then you can be assured that I have withdrawn my previous promise until you tell me what it is you think you need to tell me before we get going this morning.”

Yuzuki felt as though some sort of role reversal just occurred. She discovered a new found respect for him and his seemingly limitless patience for her constant nervous babbling peppered with uncomfortable pauses.

She could not fathom why her approval matter so much to him right now. He saved her so many times that nearly anything he might be doing now could be justified in her mind.

The way he spoke belied his nerves. Her irritation with his behavior was tempered by a part of her that found his nervous, awkward side adorable. She wanted to reassure him, to comfort him and tell him that everything would be okay no matter what, but she knew that would only prolong this ordeal. The only cure for this worry was to let him get the words out and feel relieved once everything was out there in the open and she made it clear it did not matter.

“Souma,” she said gently. “It’s okay to tell me. I’m listening, but I’m not going to judge you. We’ve been through too much for it to matter at this point.”

His ears were flattened with worry and he refused to meet her gaze. She could not wrap her head around the idea of him being so ashamed of this. She waited a bit more, trying her best to imitate his usual patience with her.

“Yuzu, I smuggle magical artifacts across the border between our world and the human world. It’s not the safest sort of work out there, but it is something I’m good at and I can make a lot more money this way than any other way.”

After knowing him just for himself for so long she could not imagine any employment related revelation to alter her opinion of him. She took a moment to collect her thoughts. She needed to find a way to express her thoughts without risking the words coming out wrong.

“Souma,” she said carefully.

After having him avoid looking her in the eyes for so long Yuzuki felt a great deal of relief to notice that he was looking at her again. His nerves still sapped his eyes of much of their usual warmth, but she still found joy in seeing things on their way back to normal. He watched her the entire time she paused to gather her thoughts. She looked right back at him for fear of how he might react or what he might think if she avoided his gaze.

Finally she found the best words for what she wanted to say. “As long as you stay safe I can’t say that I care what you do. If you think this is the best way for you to get money then I have no right to judge. It’s not as though I would know any better way to do it myself.”

He smiled at her. The expression already regained its full intensity and ability to mesmerize her. Yuzuki marveled at his resilience. She would be weak and wobbly at best for an hour or two past an upsetting incident. She envied him a bit. His strength was more than she could comprehend more often than not.

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