A/N: Please forgive my ignorance in regards to some aspects of this story; I have no idea how they actually work.
parallax - (n): the apparent change in position of an object, created when the person looking at it changes position.
Parallax by Kiyuzanova
- I -
Yuuma awoke to white.
He couldn't see anything but a blur, so he blinked his eyes. The fuzziness soon focused into white walls and white bedsheets a few shades too light. Yuuma couldn't help but think that they were bleached several times over. Beside the blinds, some dust motes drifted within the parallel shafts of light creeping through the gaps.
Once he pulled himself into a seated position, he became aware of several cricks in his neck. They were probably caused by the unfamiliarity of the mattress; he'd been sleeping in a hammock for so many years after all.
He watched the dust motes dance as the air was disturbed, then moved to stretch his spine. That done, he sighed.
"Where am I?"
A dreadfully familiar voice at his side answered him. "I believe they called it a hospital."
Turning around, Yuuma's heart sunk. The annoying blue spirit floated there, not noticing the irritated glare sent his way.
Yuuma's jaw tensed. "Why the heck are you still here?"
"I think...'watch your language'," the spirit replied, the remark sounding very much like a quote. He (she? it?) glanced at Yuuma's irritated twitching. "A person said it this morning. Is it correct?"
"Gah—just go away!"
Frustrated, he never noticed that someone had been knocking on his door until they swung it open.
Yuuma gave one last glare in the spirit's direction before turning his attention to the newcomer. The woman was in her late thirties, blonde hair tied into a simple low ponytail. The hairstyle didn't flatter her too-round features and ended up emphasizing her imperfect nose. A small name tag sat on her chest, hung loosely at an angle that managed to obstruct anything written on it. Around her, anyone could sense her genuine air of compassion and concern.
"That's me," Yuuma replied.
She entered the room and walked to the bed.
"Are you alright?" she asked.
At the same time, the spirit said, "Tsukumo Yuuma? You said your name was Tonma."
Yuuma wondered whether it was possible to smile and glare at the same time. He opted for a pained grimace. "Yeah, I'm okay."
"'O-K'?" the spirit remarked. "What is 'O-K'?"
Neither of their words seemed to reach her. "Are you sure? Your teachers and classmates were very concerned."
"Yup! I'll be able to kattobing in no time!"
She made a quick note on her clipboard, and the spirit hmmed something about Yuuma's catchphrase. But just like everyone he had met, none of them could see or hear the spirit at all. It confused him — and irritated him — to no end.
"We've contacted your guardians," she told him. "Your sister couldn't make it before you woke up, and your grandmother is still on her way. Some of your friends are outside. Do you feel ready to see them now?"
Something about the way she phrased the question made Yuuma feel curious, but he just attributed it to one of her weird quirks. Honestly, he wasn't surprised about the news on his sister — she had been working relentlessly to pursue her current story, then she had to sit down and type all of it up before the publishers called her in.
But hearing that Kotori and Tetsuo were outside brought a smile to his face. "Can I see them?"
She nodded with a smile at his enthusiasm and got up. "Of course. I'll just go get them."
She left the room for a minute, and Yuuma spent that time trying not to pay attention to the mumbling spirit around him. Finally, though, the door opened once more, and footsteps alerted him to his two friends' appearance.
They seemed far grimmer than usual, wary, and Yuuma soon saw why.
"Yuuma-kun," Todoroki said from his position beside Kotori, once the three approached him.
"Who are these people, Tonma?" The spirit added.
Yuuma's eyebrow twitched again, and he spun around to face him. "They're my friends."
"Yuuma—" Kotori began, but Todoroki stepped across to hold her back; stop her moving forward.
"That was disrespectful, Yuuma-kun."
Yuuma blinked. "What?"
"To sensei. I never thought you were that kind of person."
"What are you talking about?"
"Ukyo-sensei only wanted to help Mizuki-chan," said Todoroki. "You shouted for him to shut up."
Yuuma couldn't remember anything of the sort. "I never said anything like that to Ukyo-sensei."
"You did. During third period."
During third period...
"Ah! No, no!" Yuuma exclaimed. "I said 'shut up', but it wasn't to Ukyo-sensei!"
"Ukyo-sensei was the only person around your table, excluding yourself and Mizuki-chan. Correct?"
Kotori nodded, though the action was hesitant. Clearly she and Tetsuo both did not know what to do with Todoroki so aggressive.
"In summation, and the report of several other witnesses," Todoroki added, "Yuuma-kun, you need to show more respect."
"But I'm telling you, I wasn't saying it to Ukyo-sensei—"
"There wasn't anyone else there."
"Yes, there was."
Todoroki's eyes darkened. "Don't make excuses."
"I'm not making excuses! He—" his eyes flickered to the spirit's direction.
"Astral," he offered.
"—I was telling Astral!"
Instantaneously, all three of the others stiffened. Yuuma couldn't help the third-wheel sensation; he felt ridiculously out of the loop.
"Astral's that spirit you mentioned, right?" Tetsuo asked.
"That's stupid," said Todoroki, before anyone could respond. "Spirits don't exist."
"I don't know about you, but Astral exists," Yuuma said. "Don't you see him?"
The three glanced around. Judging by how their eyes would trail over Astral's form, none of them were able to register anything Astral-shaped at all.
"He's there," Yuuma added, and gestured to the spirit's direction.
Astral inclined his head. "Hello."
"Yuuma," said Kotori, "you're wrong. What you're talking about doesn't exist."
He didn't know why, but her words hurt. Somehow he registered that if it were Todoroki who continued his questioning, or if it were Tetsuo who accused him, then he'd be able to take it objectively and brush it off. But since it was Kotori...
"I saw you doing it too, Yuuma," Tetsuo said.
"Don't keep denying it."
Todoroki tapped the bridge of his nose with a finger. "Yuuma-kun. Please. Just forget your pride for once and—"
"This isn't about pride!" Yuuma cried. He flung an arm toward Astral—why didn't they believe him? "It—during third period, I never saw Ukyo-sensei at our table! Astral was there, behind Kotori—"
A sudden thought stopped him. Then he scowled, and glared in the spirit's direction. "Were you in the way?"
"Possibly. It was rather difficult to find a location where I did not obstruct your work, but I recall there may have been a person behind me."
"See, guys? Astral says he was blocking Ukyo-sensei, so I didn't mean it to him—"
Yuuma turned around, but this time his interruption was due to the expressions on his friends' faces. Their concern hung heavy in the air, the sombre nature suiting the hospital too well. Of the three, only Todoroki continued to look at him directly. Tetsuo faced the side, brow furrowed. Kotori watched her feet, biting her bottom lip.
"Yuuma-kun," said Todoroki, and Yuuma looked in the class representative's direction. "Do you know why you're here?"
"I... fainted, right?"
Todoroki nodded. "But also, you see... this is the psychiatric ward of Heartland General Hospital."
"Yuuma..." Kotori began.
She trailed off pitifully, and something in Yuuma's chest broke and shattered. He didn't want to see those lines of worry around her. It was the kind of countenance that appeared in childish nightmares; nightmares in which his parents left because they no longer thought of him as their son. Her stare made him feel like an alien.
It couldn't have been real—not on Kotori.
But it was, and as she took a deep breath to continue did Yuuma finally notice the elephant in the room.
The nurse, Shimoda Gina, looked up from the open file. The three teenagers visiting Tsukumo Yuuma's room had returned together, though the blue-haired one that spoke had appeared slightly later than the other two.
"Is Yuuma-kun alright?"
They didn't need to answer. Judging by their expressions, she already knew it was bad news.
"He isn't joking," the blue-haired one said. Todoroki Takashi, her sign-in sheet told her. "He really believes this 'Astral' is real."
Mizuki Kotori glanced away. "He... he went all quiet after I told him."
We left, went unsaid.
"Is he going to be okay?"
"At this stage, we can only guess," Gina admitted. "Does he seem ready for more visitors?"
They shook their heads.
"He looked surprised," added Tetsuo Takeda. "It's like he's convinced it's real."
"Do you know when this started?"
"Yesterday, after school," Mizuki said, voice far more confident than she seemed. "In the middle of his duel with Shark."
Gina jotted it down. "Was he showing signs of being able to see this 'Astral' before then?"
"No. It happened all suddenly."
"Would you have contact details for this 'Shark'?" Gina asked.
"He didn't show up to school today," said Tetsuo, and his expression changed slightly. "But he seemed off after the duel, so I bet he's just sour from losing."
"So it's true?" Todoroki cut in, before Gina had a chance to speak. "Did Yuuma-kun actually win?"
"Of course!" Mizuki said. "Don't you believe us?"
"No, it's just—well, Yuuma-kun always loses. And Shark is the best duellist in the school."
Gina noted this down as well. But before anyone could speak again, a voice interrupted as a young woman approached. "Kotori-chan? Tetsuo-kun?"
"Akari-san!" Mizuki exclaimed. "You're here because..."
The young woman nodded, then turned to Gina. "I'm Tsukumo Akari, Yuuma's sister."
"Shimoda Gina," she replied. "I'm the psychiatrist in charge of Yuuma-kun. Do you know all the details?"
"No; I just heard he collapsed. Is he okay?"
Akari breathed a sigh of relief. "Great." She turned to the three teenagers. "What's this about duelling?"
"Yuuma-kun was duelling Shark yesterday, and won," Todoroki said.
"That idiot. Dad didn't want him to duel..." she paused. "Um, sorry; I don't think we've been introduced."
"Todoroki Takashi. I'm the representative of our class."
Akari nodded again. "Shimoda-san, could I please see him?"
For a moment, Gina paused. Then she shook her head.
"I'm sorry. These three just told me that he doesn't seem ready for visitors."
Akari frowned. Gina knew that expression; she'd seen it many times before.
"But," she added, trying to console her, "you four know Yuuma-kun better than I do. Since you're his sister, you might—"
"No, it's okay," said Akari, shaking her head. Then she turned her attention to the three teenagers. "Do you want to leave now? I don't think you need to stay any more."
"Very well," Todoroki said. "In summation, I'll take my leave."
He bowed, and then left.
Mizuki and Tetsuo took a while longer to decide. But Tetsuo spoke first.
"I'll stay. I want to know what's going on."
Mizuki nodded. "I do too. We can't leave Yuuma alone."
Gina glanced in Akari's direction for permission, and received a nod. Inwardly, she sighed. It made her a little uncomfortable to be giving away details about a patient to those who weren't close relatives, but if Akari said so...
She looked across the visitor's room to another psychiatrist on duty, and received a nod. Then she closed the file and picked it up. Once she stood, she indicated to a private room nearby.
"Come," she said. "I'll tell you what I know."
A/N: I'm aware it's unlikely that his friends will be allowed to see him, but... can you go on reading a fic on no one but Yuuma? XD
This, if you've read my profile, is one of my character study fics. It's an old idea (before ep 4 aired), one that's been sitting on my hard drive for months, but it's still something that's workable even now. But like my other fic, I'm not actively interested in writing it for myself, so any updates will probably be rare and sporadic.