After shedding a few tears, Madotsuki eventually stood back up, faced the TV once again, which was now just the solitary eyeball, and switched it off. She wanted to wake up now, deciding that this dream wouldn't go anywhere worthwhile, but due to the nature of her sleep, she knew she would be stuck here for a while longer.

Sighing at the inevitability of her current predicament, she decided to first step onto the balcony, in hopes of some imagined fresh air. She stood outside, marveling at how her dreams could make the sky seem like dusk, while the sun was still high in the sky.

She sat down, and began to think about all the times she would sit out here, back in her room, when she was awake, and let her mind drift. She would think about how high up she was, how nobody could see her up here, and wonder at how others could continue going on with their lives, and why she bothered trying to continue living.

She knew that last question should have her worried, and she really should talk to someone about it, but who was there to talk to? Her parents were gone, her uncle was always away, and her only friend…

Sighing once again, Madotsuki stood up, left the strange sun to its business, and walked back inside.

Madotsuki wandered back over to her bed, thinking about just riding it out until she awoke by hiding in her dream bed, but she heard something coming from the door. A very deep, yet sad voice seemed to be calling out to her.

"Come now… child. Do not be sad. Please, join... us... over here."

Madotsuki peered at the door. The voice seemed…familiar.

"Come now, and wipe your…tears. Do not be afraid child, we merely wish to…"

The voice broke off for a moment. Tsuki could feel a tangible stillness.

"Help." and the moment was gone.

Standing up from her bed, she tentatively made her way to the door. Placing her hand on the doorknob, she whispered "W…will I…be okay?"

She heard a deep sigh, and then silence.

Not sure how to take the voice's departure, Madotsuki's hand left the doorknob. She briefly wondered what Poniko would do.

Madotsuki took a deep breath, grabbed the doorknob, and slowly turned it.

-o-

Madotsuki blinked. This wasn't her hallway back at home. She stood on the doorframe, and stared in at the sight outside. What looked like wooden structures were just sitting in a dark, almost void-like area.

Madotsuki took a step forward, her hand leaving the door frame, to try and get a better look. She noted that the wooden structures had the appearance of doors, and all seemed to have strange designs on them. She took a few more steps in, and jumped as the door she just stepped out of slammed shut behind her.

Panicking, she turned around, and scrabbled at the door knob, trying to get it open again. To her relief, she got it open, and her room was still where she left it.

Taking another deep breath, she stepped back, and let the door close again. Once again she tried to open it, and once again, it opened without resistance.

Madotsuki did this a few more times, until she was reassured that she wouldn't be stuck here, and continued into the room for further examination.

Walking up to the wooden structures, she did indeed confirm that they were doors, after looking on the other side of them, and seeing the doorknobs.

"How strange." she said aloud. "What could these be doing here?"

Madotsuki looked to the floor. She saw strange, looping, circular patterns etched into the floor, which itself seemed to be made from a cool, black, stone-like material. The patterns reminded her of Poniko's house, of the designs in her house…

-0-

"Hurry!" Poniko said, waving at Madotsuki. "My house is this way!"

Madotsuki was out of breath. Trying to keep up with the energetic little blond was tiring her out.

"W-wait! Can you…please slow down?"

Oblivious to Tsuki's plight, Poniko said "It's just a bit further! Come on!".

'Perhaps agreeing to go to Poniko's wasn't such a good idea' Tsuki thought to herself, unable to talk aloud due to her lungs burning in her attempt to keep up.

Madotsuki finally caught up to Poniko, who had stopped in front of a large structure.

"We're here! We're here! Let's go on inside!"

*huff huff* "Just…" *huff* "give me a moment, please." *huff*

Finally catching her breath, Tsuki followed her overactive new friend inside.

"Welcome to my house! We're glad to have you here!"

As soon as Madotsuki's eyes adjusted, she noticed that the walls were covered in unusual patterns and designs. She was trying to remember where she had seen them before…

"Ah, so you must be Poniko's friend, Madotsuki, was it?"

Caught off guard, Tsuki quickly located the source of the new voice, and was further put off guard when she spotted what appeared to be a much bigger version of Poniko.

"Hello there, and welcome. I am Poniko's mother. You can call me Karen."

Quickly composing herself, Tsuki replied "Um, it's an honor to be here."

"Poniko has told us so much about you Madotsuki. It's good that she has a friend to help look out for her."

"A-Ah of course." Madotsuki said in a quiet voice.

"Hm, you're a bit timid, aren't you? Well how about I make us all some tea, and relax a bit. Does that sound good?"

Madotsuki nodded. After her desperate run after Poniko, some tea would sound quite lovely right now.

"All right. I'll call you when the tea is ready. You and Poniko can go and play for now."

"Come on, Tsuki, let's go out back, and play. I just got a new football we can play with! Do you know how to play?" Poniko hefted the black and white spotted ball in her arm.

"Um, a little bit. T-the kids in my old neighborhood used to play it out on the streets."

Her eyes once again found themselves trained on the wallpaper designs. Noticing Madotsuki's line of sight, Poniko asked Madotsuki "Like the design? It's my mom's favorite! She even has our carpets in these designs!"

"Um, what are they?"

"Haven't you heard of the ancient Aztecs? They had such nifty designs, and the coolest games! Didja know they had one with a large rubber ball, and all they could use was their hips to bounce it?"

"Um, no, I haven't heard of them. Sorry."

"Ah, no need to be sorry. My mom says that it's good to learn new things, and so you have learned something new from me! I can tell you more about them while we play, okay?"

Madotsuki nodded, then felt the corners of her mouth lift up a bit.

"T-that sounds nice. Shall we go and play now?"

"That's more like it! Let's go!"

Madotsuki felt herself being dragged off again, but rather than that fear and anxiety she always felt around others, she instead felt…safe.

Madotsuki thought 'Friend…you are my friend, Poniko, I hope I can be as good of a friend to you, as you are for me.'

-0-

The memory passed just as quickly as it had arrived. Madotsuki felt the tears well up once again. She quickly made her way over to the closest door, twisted the knob, forced it open, and stepped in.

She didn't feel like crying anymore.

=0=

Author's Notes: Hello hello, it has been quite awhile, hasn't it? I do apologize for literally dropping off the Earth for the longest time, but I needed the time off in order to get myself fixed up once and for all. For those who don't know, I suffer from chronic pain, on top of lingering depression. I have recently gotten both of these problems taken care of. And now, besides enjoying being able to move around once again, I am now able to continue with my writings. Also, I'd like to say to Ashitanokioku who asked if I was going to continue. Quite obviously, the answer's yes, and I'm glad you like the fic. So for those who have been waiting for me to continue, I apologize, and I hope this chapter makes up for the wait. As always, I thank my good friend Yuber_Trice for acting as my editor, and thank the readers for taking the time to enjoy my readings.