Makoto attempted to walk home but couldn't find the energy in herself to do so. She stopped at the park where she and her friends were last afternoon to gather her thoughts. "What difference would it make?" she asked herself. "This isn't even my real home. My real home was long ago destroyed..."
It seems pretty contradictory at first, saying a person has both everything and nothing, but this was exactly what she felt at the moment. Sure she is a beloved pop idol in this world: this alien-planet to which she constantly had to hide her true identity. What was even the point of this? It meant nothing to her at this point, nothing; she was only for the entertainment of complete strangers. Meanwhile, in bed every day, she would pray for all the people she lost in her homeland hoping, then praying some more, that somehow, a miracle will happen. That somehow, she would wake up in her restored homeland surrounded by all her loved ones.
She was sick of it.
She was sick of constantly feeling like a foreigner in her supposed home. She was sick of being in a land full of strangers who don't seem to truly care for her at all. She was also sick of nobody truly understanding her: that feeling when one has lost her beloved and treasured home.
'It's a time for smiles.'
That sentence really disturbed her, more than it should. It disturbed her due to the fact that she knew herself that she should he happy but ended up being both angry and frustrated at herself that she felt exactly the opposite but particularly, as an idol, she was required- or how she puts it, forced- to smile at others. Nobody could see her whimper in pain. There was no true source of empathy for her. The isolated feeling crept up even further, seemingly trying to swallow her crying heart into a black abyss of nothingness. She had already wept for help and her friends shrugged it off like it was nothing.
She then noticed the flickering North Star right above her.
The glamorous Diamond of the North shining in a freezing dark night like this one.
To other people, the North Star was a beloved symbol of direction and destiny, to which some people even used as a guide if they were lost. Makoto only felt more lost by looking at it. To her, it reminded her of all the happy moments she had in the Trump Kingdom. Mostly the festival of the winter solstice; a magical day where the Sun does not shine, yet the people are still comforted by the ever so glamorous sparkles of the heavens, each meant to represent that darkness is never without hope; that there is beauty within the dark canvas in which goodness flourishes in such an amazing combination of twinkles which evokes the hidden colors of their observers below.
She tilted her head upwards, her eyes filled with sadness, while finally bringing up the courage to look at the last reminder of her birthplace. She stared both in awe and resentment at the flickering beacon; a symbol to look up to in a dark time like this yet a harsh reminder of her long-gone memories. All she wanted was to go home, especially when it's nearing the most magical time of the year. All she wanted was to see her old friends… one last time. She continued to stare sadly at the North Star, it was all she could do. But even that couldn't stop the tears which were welling up inside Makoto's purple orbs.
By then, Dabyi managed to catch up to her. She was hiding behind an old dead tree in the park near where Makoto was.
"Oh, Makoto-chan," she sadly whispered to herself as she saw her loved one in such a low state. To see the person she looked up to all these years, the person who has comforted her countless times in her life when she was scared or sad, so lost like that was immensely heartbreaking for her. She desperately wanted to comfort her, to at least ignite a tiny little spark in her black world, but she was too scared to do so. All she could do was stare helplessly at her dear friend's sadness.
But just then, Dabyi noticed a small glowing entity at the corner of her eye. She turned her gaze towards it and soon realized that it was heading towards Makoto. She also realized that she was in fact looking at a young boy.
He cautiously approached the sad girl from behind. His eyes were glowing a dazzling aquamarine, a beautiful contrast to his amiable shining face of golden yellow. However, Dabyi could see that he was extremely nervous; his hands were shaking at an abnormal rate, even for this freezing night. Once he reached her, he hesitated for a while before wrapping his tiny arms around Makoto's waist, which was currently trembling from her sniffles. He continued to hold his arms there into a long warm hug.
As his arms touched Makoto's body, she could instantly feel the coziness of a loved one nearby. The comforting feeling was enhanced even further when she turned around to look behind her. She was bedazzled as she saw him for the first time; the young child's dazzling body was so immensely beautiful it could not be expressed in words. His gleaming innocent eyes, his vibrant skin which is the purest of the pure and his small and soft hands, calmly transmitting his love towards her; she could feel the majestic and alluring aura of the child's body slowly entering her own. It was as if she was currently on a hot sunny beach while being showered by the alluring Sun's rays of pure life and energy, accompanied by such a marvelous contrast of sparkling ocean blue in front of her; a metaphor of her dearest friends' compassion and love soothing her heart as she was finally able to face her sorrows.
Her memories of home then slowly came back but this time, she didn't fight them. They only added to her feeling of bliss and belonging, that is she could now see them on that beach, waving at her happily with such heartwarming grins on their faces. It was the happiest moment of her life: everything she missed, everything she longed for and lost was right in front of her at this moment.
Slowly but surely, she finally came back to the present but soon after that, the young child released his grip and ran away.
"Wait, come back!" Makoto called out to him.
She attempted to chase him down but despite his small legs, Pavel was certainly no slowpoke as his speed was comparable to an Olympic athlete that is if he was a preschooler. Soon, she noticed that the boy didn't produce any footprints in the snow.
"Is he a human... or a fairy?" Makoto thought to herself as she saw him ran away.
She sprinted towards the direction where the boy went, trying to catch up with him. After a while nevertheless, she lost him. She stopped and tried to look around for his presence. By then, she was at the park's playground, to which she thought looked surprisingly eerie at the moment compared to its liveliness at day filled with energetic children. She continued to search the area, circling the playground many times and walking around the boundaries of the region before finally giving up. She sat down in defeat while leaning her back against one of the playground's tube slides.
But then suddenly, Makoto heard a soft sneeze inside the slide behind her.
She tried to reach the source of the sound by climbing in. As she did however, her lower half got stuck midways in the entrance with her rear pointed outwards. At that point, Dabyi was right behind her, while barely able to hold in her giggles of the absurd sight of her well-respected partner. Once she was done laughing, she grabbed Makoto's right leg and yanked on it to pull her out. After a few tugs, Makoto finally popped out of the slide.
"Dabyi, what are you doing here?!" Makoto exclaimed once she saw her mascot.
"Never mind that-byi. I'm sure the boy who hugged you is hiding inside this slide-byi."
"Wha- YOU SAW ME?!" Makoto yelled out in immense embarrassment.
"Makoto-chan, we all know what you are going through-byi…"
Makoto tried to answer back but was at a loss of words. Not knowing what to do, she backed away from the slide and curled her body into a fetal position with her arms covering her face and her hands gripping her frontal hair in extreme embarrassment.
"Makoto, there's nothing wrong with crying-byi. I cry all the time! We don't think anything of you when you do. It means that you have a heart, just like all of us-byi."
"It's not that… It's just… It's just…" she whimpered.
"Oh Makoto, I miss our home too-byi." She placed her paw on Makoto's left shoulder. "I was just as crushed as you when our home fell under the Selfish King's rule-byi."
She paused for a while, not knowing what to say after that. She noticed that Makoto wasn't even paying attention to her words; she was staring at the floor in pain, seemingly in another massive struggle against her memories of home. Dabyi knew that she wasn't getting to her this way so she changed the subject.
"But I noticed you seemed to feel better when that boy came up to you," she whispered in her ear.
There was a small pause before Makoto spoke again.
"Well, I won't lie… When he came to me, I had the most comforting and reassuring feeling that I've had in years. I don't know why… It's just… so wonderful…"
"Maybe since he's a foreigner, you can relate to him more-byi?" Dabyi asked. "It must also be scary for him to be all alone at night in what he sees as a strange place-byi."
"I… just wanted to thank him for what he did. But he ran away before I could."
"Maybe he's just shy-byi. It must be hard for him to approach and comfort a complete stranger like he just did, especially in such an unfamiliar land to him. What he needs is a little comforting of his own. I think he would really like it if we became his new friends-byi." Dabyi suggested.
Since Dabyi was obviously much smaller, she volunteered to go in the slide. She flew and entered from the top channel while Makoto waited at the bottom. Dabyi kept her eyes peeled for a little child while working out in her head what to say to him. But soon, she was met with a huge surprise; what she saw inside the slide wasn't a human boy but a dazzling yellow star-shaped being about her size that was trembling and huddling up towards the center of the slide in a tiny ball. She instantly noticed that its large eyes perfectly resembles the child's.
"I-Is that you-byi?" she called to him.
The plush-like star didn't answer. Instead, he stared cautiously at the tiny purple kitten. He started to shake in fear each time she got closer to him.
"Hey…" she started to whisper as she extended her paw out to him.
"Отойди от меня!" he tried to shout but resulted in nothing more than a gentle squeak. The pitch of his voice was higher and had a slight echo effect as he spoke, which definitely didn't help either. Dabyi then started to get worried. After all, how was she able to comfort such an eccentric being when they didn't even speak the same language? She pondered for a while when suddenly, she got an idea: She turned to face the tiny star again and used her paws to point at herself, then to him and finally placed her paws together as in to represent the word 'friends'. At first, Pavel was confused; he was unable to tell what Dabyi was trying to do. Due to this, she repeated her signs, then again and again, trying to make the scared being open up to her.
Still, he didn't budge.
"Уйди от меня!" he tried to yell again but it once again ended up as nothing more than a feeble peep.
But Dabyi didn't give up. She kept doing this but this time, she looked at him right into his starry eyes to let him know that she was in fact trustworthy and that she really wanted to be his friend.
"Уйди…" Pavel squeaked again but this time, he cut himself off. He stared right back at Dabyi's compassionate purple eyes; she was finally getting through to him.
With that, she did her gesture one more time, tilting her tiny head towards the plush-like star and moving her paws more slowly than before.
Finally, he anxiously repeated her gestures, at first a little unsteadily but after a few tries, he mimicked them perfectly. Then he did that again, and once more. Soon, he finally realized what she was trying to communicate.
Dabyi then reached her paw out and let out an adorable smile.
The star-like figure did the same but hesitated at the last second. But after some time, he was able to touch Dabyi's paws. With that, Pavel slowly let out a shy smile back at her.
"It's ok-byi…" she softly whispered to him. Pavel then moved closer to the tiny purple kitten and they both shared a hug. To Dabyi's surprise, a relaxing feeling started to spread into her tiny body. She was no longer shivering from the cold around her. By then, Dabyi too had memories of her home: the place which she never thought she really needed at this time. In her vision, she and her dear friends were hiking on a large rolling hill surrounded by the ever so liveliness of green followed by the bedazzling beacon of light, contrasting the fluffy clouds above.
"So this is what Makoto felt…" she thought to herself.
Even after they stopped hugging, traces of Pavel's warmth still lingered inside her: nostalgia. She couldn't help but tear up a bit because of how wonderful it was.
Pavel then stretched out his right arm and wiped a tear from Dabyi's left eye.
"Oh… thank you Pavel-byi," she whispered back to her new friend.
By then, Makoto was getting impatient as it seemed like they were in the slide for ages. She peaked at the bottom hole of the slide but she couldn't see them. Not learning from her mistake from earlier, she moved her body too much inside the slide and got stuck once again.
"Oh come on!" she exclaimed to herself as she struggled to get out again. "I knew I shouldn't have eaten that steak…"
But then, she saw her partner and a tiny star figure sliding down together while holding hands. They were sliding down so fast that they ended up bonking into Makoto's nose which caused the rest of her to be jerked backwards, thereby freeing her.
"I-Is that the boy?" Makoto asked when she saw the tiny star.
Dabyi nodded. "His name is Pavel-byi."
Makoto slowly extended her arm out to her new friend which he reluctantly shook via his own.
"Hi..." Makoto greeted him softly.
Pavel shyly curled his shoulders to the front and looked up towards her face.
"But… he can't speak Japanese-byi… so how can we really thank him… in a way that would make him happy-byi?"
Makoto pondered for a bit before suddenly coming up with an idea: she gestured for him to sit on her lap. The tiny being was immediately soothed by her compassionate presence as he sat on her and started to snuggle on her chest. She then opened her vapor-filled mouth and started to sing a soft melody to him. A melody which would both thank him and to comfort him from the unforgiving chills of night.
A gentle whisper in this silent night.
A warm breath hovering close to me.
Our resonating heartbeats in this strange place.
With this feeling to be belonged.
As I sat there, with no spark of hope.
A bright sparkle appeared in front of me.
A magical being, made up of kindness.
A sufferer, like me, in this cruel world.
Lost and confused, no one to relate.
Drifting among others, longing to find a home.
Soft and gentle, like the falling snow above.
Warm and lively, as the glistening sun.
A child like you, so vibrant and young.
An angel mimicking the starry cosmos.
A messenger of empathy.
A glowing wanderer in this vast land.
After her song, Makoto was surprised to see emotional drops of sparkling water dripping from the boy's glistening eyes, except those were tears of gratitude; Makoto's feelings somehow got to him. He buried his soft bright adorable face into his new friend's cozy chest, like a child who just fell off his bike and is now being comforted by his mother, while letting out mild sniffles to which she responded by wrapping him tightly in a loving cuddle.
"It's ok… It's ok… You're not alone anymore. I swear I will protect you from all harm from now on."
He raised his pure innocent eyes, now sparkling because of his tears. With that, he let out another shy smile.
"Your tears…" Makoto whispered as she wiped them away with her finger. "They are so beautiful…" Her voice broke slightly after that last word. To her, his tears symbolized his determination of not giving in to the icy cold around them as they did not show any signs of freezing. As she wiped them off, she could feel the preserved heat inside of him; a stubborn flame which will not go out no matter how many times the wind blows. She could sense that his glistening watery eyes of affection were reflecting off hers as if they were sharing the same emotion, as if they were the same being in different bodies.
Then, something finally gave in inside Makoto. She noticed that her lips were quivering much more than ever. After all these long, agonizing moments in her life, she finally found another foreigner who she could empathize with wholeheartedly. Finally, she burst into massive heaps of sobbing. Her cries were loud and echoed across this eerie night but she didn't care anymore. Every single urge in her body was telling her to stop but this time, they've lost. She turned her face away from Pavel and Dabyi, fearing that they would laugh at her in this state.
Makoto couldn't have been more wrong. Pavel gently embraced her again, this time with more passion and confidence than before. Dabyi meanwhile, jumped onto her shoulder and hugged her ear while also shedding some tears herself.
"Don't… *sniff* don't ever hide your feelings from me again-byi. Understand?"
Makoto nodded among her sniffles.
Dabyi then realized that Pavel was gripping onto her as well; his tiny arm managed to reach Dabyi's back. The soothing warm feeling was returning again but this time, it's as if their warm perceptions were now shared between Makoto and Dabyi; their memories were interlinked and so were their dream places. Both of them could see it at the same time, with Makoto and Dabyi sitting under a giant oak tree on a giant hill while overlooking the sparkling ocean in the distance.
"It's… *sniff* It's so beautiful Dabyi…"
"It really is-byi…" And they continued to dream… By then, they completely forgotten where they were at this point. They were just grateful at that moment to be alive and to have one another: two lost souls in this strange world. They continued to embrace as Makoto's sniffles were slowly going away and replaced by a smile: not her 'idol' smile but her genuine one of pure happiness.
After a while, Pavel let go of both of them. While the other two were still huddled up against each other, Pavel flew to a nearby swing which had a blue woollen sack leaned against one of the poles. Both Makoto and Dabyi noticed this and their vision slowly started to fade away. The tiny star then flew back and handed the sack to Makoto.
"Oh… are these your things?" Makoto asked him. "Say, don't you have a home? Or a family?"
The boy of course couldn't understand her.
"What should we do with him Makoto? We can't just leave him outside like this-byi," the tiny kitten asked her partner.
"I know." Makoto answered. "But I don't think my place is suitable for him. So many people visit my place all day and night… to ask for autographs…" she ended her statement with an annoyed tone.
"Let's take him back to the girls. We can discuss where he can stay-byi," Dabyi suggested.
"Okay then," she agreed. "By the way, I wonder how the meeting is going."
But then, Makoto and Dabyi noticed that Pavel was back to his human form. He was staring at the North Star. His emotion on his face was indecipherable at this point: an emotion of pure curiosity and amazement. He stared calmly at the dazzling beacon of the North, with the star itself reflecting of his huge eyes; its reflection perfectly centered on Pavel's star-shaped irises.
With that, he raised his arms again, in a similar gesture to what Aguri had witnessed. His expression then changed to one that is somewhat frustrated; like he was trying to figure out something. Wondering what Pavel is doing, the other two walked closer to him.
They continued to stare at him for a few minutes when suddenly… his own body started to twinkle as well, perfectly in sync with the North Star as if this whole time, he was trying to mimic it. He then turned around to face Makoto and Dabyi and let out another cute smile as his body continued to flicker. Makoto and Dabyi on the contrary, had both their jaws dropped in amazement.
"W-Wow…" That was all Makoto could say.
"I…I think we've seen enough mystery for one day-byi. Let's just take him back to the mansion. I'll help him carry his sack while you keep him close-byi."
"Ok," Makoto replied. "Pavel-kun!" she then called to him.
The little boy turned back to her once he heard his name. Dabyi then gestured her paws for him to follow them to which he nodded. Makoto then took Pavel's hand and started to walk him back towards Alice's mansion.
Along the way, they passed by other houses which most had Christmas lights hung around them . Some even had Christmas trees at the front. Pavel was really interested in them as one could tell by him looking at each passing one in an extended period of time.
"Say, maybe you can help us decorate our houses-byi. You can change to your star form and become the star on top of our Christmas tree!" Dabyi joked.
But what they didn't notice is that as they were walking past these colorful lights, they became temporary brighter. Some people even noticed this and looked outside their windows at this strange occurance but no one thought twice about it. Most assumed it's just a temporary uneven flow of electrons in the wires. They moved away from their windows as fast as they came.
Soon, they could see Alice's front gate. Upon seeing that, Pavel's body started to tremble again.
"It's ok Pavel," Makoto reassured to him. "My friends won't hurt you; they are really nice! I just wished that they would be more understanding though…"
Dabyi meanwhile, was struggling to carry Pavel's small grey sack as it turned out to be surprisingly quite heavy.
"What's in this sack-byi? Rocks?" she grunted. But as if on cue, the contents in the sack spilled out right after Dabyi finished her sentence.
"Wha…" Dabyi stuttered as she saw the fallen contents. "These ARE rocks-byi!" she exclaimed annoyingly.
"Oh hehe, he must be a rock collector, aren't you?" Makoto turned to look at the boy.
Right when they were about to pick up the rocks on the floor, they saw a shadowy figure heading towards them. It was the silhouette of a middle-aged man walking with a cane.
Makoto and Dabyi didn't recognize him at first but Pavel certainly did. As he approached them, the young child immediately hugged Makoto's leg tight in fear.
But the man himself wasn't attempting some crazy revenge on losing his job or being hated by the people he's known for so long. Instead of anger, pain and suffering engulfed him all over his body, particularly his chest.
"What did you say?" Makoto tried to ask him.
To her shock, she noticed that Akuma's eyes are black as coal with absolutely no light whatsoever reflected off them. Thick black cracks branched out from his chilling dark orbs onto his then abnormally pale skin. These were too thick and jagged to be his blood vessels.
They then heard a crunch. Right after the sound, Akuma harshly gripped his chest in pain. Soon, the pain was too much for him to bear that he collapsed on the ground.
"Oh gosh it hurts! Help me!"
Pavel immediately ran to the man, seemingly trying to help him despite what he did to him earlier but before he could make it, Akuma's heart finally turned pitch-black, bursting out of his chest and started hovering into the air.
As it did, his body started to succumb to darkness; blackening him until he is no more than a silhouette. A giant shadow emerged from where Akuma's heart was, consuming his body until it disappeared inside.
"I-Is it the Selfish Trio?!" Makoto exclaimed.
But she could not see them anywhere.
The shadow hovered for a while before noticing the 3 observers. It then started to grow and form itself into a horrendous figure: spikes emerged on its back while big jagged claws grew where its arms should be. Two white piercing dots then appeared at the front of its head to represent its eyes. Finally, it stopped growing, with its final height being about 2 stories high.
"T-That's no Jikochu-byi…"