Sayaka had stopped paying attention to her teacher roughly an hour ago, give or take a few minutes. It wasn't that the material that was being gone over was too hard for her - for once, the girl probably would have been able to understand what was being said just fine (and if not, she could always ask Madoka for her notes later). Sure, she wasn't always the best or brightest student, but it wasn't like her to just up and stop paying attention.
Her mind was simply elsewhere.
Just one day ago, that afternoon at lunch, her close friend Hitomi had confronted her. Sayaka hadn't initially thought anything of it - they were friends and had been for years. Maybe Hitomi had just wanted to chastise Sayaka about always borrowing Madoka or Hitomi's notes? With a smile on her face, Sayaka had waved goodbye to Madoka and the rest of her classmates and followed Hitomi out of the classroom. She was surprised to find that Hitomi was leading her to a secluded part of the school, but Sayaka still paid it no mind. Why would she? This was Hitomi after all, sweet, caring, Hitomi.
"Unless you have any objections, I am going to visit Kamijou-kun tomorrow evening. I am going to confess to him."
It felt like time had stopped. Sayaka's blood ran cold in her veins, and her breath caught in her chest. Hitomi was serious about this. Sayaka's mind was reeling - what could she say? What could she do?
"All you have to do is say the word, and I won't say a thing. If you want to go rushing to him after school, then I won't stop you - in fact, I encourage it. But if you haven't visited him by tomorrow night, then I will."
Silence had hung over the two girls for a few minutes. Hitomi hadn't wanted to do this, truly she hadn't, but was it fair for her to sacrifice her own happiness when Sayaka was making no attempts to reach out for hers either? If Sayaka wouldn't make a move, then she would - but she knew that Sayaka had known him, cared for him, so much longer than she had. It was only fair that Sayaka had that chance for happiness first.
"H... Hahaha, what're you saying?" Sayaka's words stumbled out of her like a drunk out of a bar in the middle of the night. Ignoring her friend's frown, the blue haired girl forced a smile and looked away, running a hand through her short hair. "Why would I want to confess to Kyousuke? W-We're just friends, that's all! Hahaha, boy, Hitomi, you sure can kid around-"
"Sayaka-san..." Hitomi reached for her friend. She didn't want it to be like this, she could already feel the distance growing between them - but it was too late. Sayaka visibly flinched away from Hitomi's hand.
"Go ahead, confess to him! I bet you two will be happy together!" Turning, Sayaka raised a hand as if to say "farewell!" and began jogging back to the classroom alone, her eyes stinging with tears already.
... and that was that.
Why had she done that?
She should have slapped Hitomi, Sayaka thought. She should have yelled at her, maybe.
Sayaka was scared. She was scared of rejection. She was scared that she would lose Kyousuke for good. She wasn't blind - she knew that he was growing frustrated with her constant attempts to make him feel better. She knew that there were even times when she foolishly made things worse in her attempts. But what could she do? Stand by and let him feel miserable?
The bell rang. This signified the beginning of summer vacation.
Without waiting for Madoka, despite the fact that the two girls had had prior plans to walk home together, Sayaka quickly raised from her seat and darted out of the classroom.
She needed to get out of here. She had actually originally planned on going right to Kyousuke after walking Madoka home, but seeing the boy was the last thing she wanted to do right now.
Stepping onto the sidewalk outside of her school, Sayaka decided the arcade would be a good place to go. She had enough money for a few rounds of Dog Drug Reinforcement. Maybe that would make her feel better.
She brushed past a group of high school students that seemed to be heading in the opposite direction, hoping if she moved quickly she could get out of there before Madoka caught up to her. She couldn't face her best friend right now. Sayaka's face was trained downwards - perhaps if she had been looking even a little more skyward, she might have noticed the flash of red that emerged from the shadows.
The trek was made in silence. It was nothing out of the ordinary. It was hot, but that was to be expected. Some people were complaining to street vendors that their prices were too much, others were gossiping to their friends on the street, and others still were yelling into their phones about this or that. Sayaka found she could pick up a lot when she was by herself, and it was because of that that she began to realize something was off.
At first, Sayaka didn't feel anything, but as she continued down her usual route to the arcade, she felt more and more like she was being watched. Panic began to rise in her chest, so without warning, she darted down an alley - it was a detour she had discovered in her younger years when playing with Madoka and Kyousuke. Surely she could lose whoever was following her this way - if someone was following her at all.
But the feeling persisted. Sayaka darted back into the street and broke into a jog, but the feeling grew heavier and heavier.
The street was mostly empty, so Sayaka could quickly scan the area to see if anyone suspicious was there. Some businessmen, discussing some kind of work-related matters in loud voices. A red haired girl who looked about Sayaka's age, chewing on some kind of snack. A mother and her two children, one hand holding onto each of them protectively. A few high school students, one with raven hair talking loudly on his phone, oblivious to the world.
No one out of the ordinary. Letting out a sigh of relief, Sayaka turned back around and continued on her way to the arcade. Though she didn't peek behind her again, she still couldn't shake the feeling that she was being tailed - the arcade was close, and since summer break had just started, Sayaka figured if she was being followed for some reason, it would be crowded enough there that she could lose whoever was following her easily.
"I'm probably just being paranoid..." the blue haired girl murmured to herself. Shrugging, Sayaka decided that this whole Hitomi thing had just gotten her much too worked up and proceeded to the arcade, this time ignoring any nagging feelings that she was being watched or followed or tailed or anything like that. She had more important things to attend to - she had steam to blow off.
Unfortunately for Sayaka, the arcade had been even more crowded than she had anticipated. Students from all over Mitakihara had come to the place - which was to be expected, really. This was the biggest, most popular arcade in the city, and this was the first day of summer vacation. Of course it was going to be packed. Sayaka didn't want to get her hopes up that the DDR machine might be vacant, but despite herself, she was crossing her fingers as she made her way to the back of the building.
"Look at her go!"
"Me next, me next!"
Much to Sayaka's dismay, the DDR machine was being used - but not only that, it was being used by some red haired girl who seemed to be on a tremendous winning streak. On most days, Sayaka would have been eager for the challenge and jumped right up as soon as the redhead tossed aside her next victim, but today, Sayaka didn't want something that could frustrate her.
She stuffed her hands in her pockets and left the arcade, her disappointment so overwhelming that she nearly knocked over someone. As her luck would have it, instead of knocking him down, Sayaka practically ran into him, then bounced off of him and onto the floor.
"I'm sorry, I wasn't..." Sayaka's words caught in her throat as she looked into the boy's eyes. For a moment, Sayaka forgot how to breathe. She could only stare into his eyes, lost in them, and opened her mouth to say something... anything, but she couldn't find the words. All she could do was stare into those magnificent eyes...
The moment passed as quickly as it had come, though for Sayaka, it had felt like it had been an eternity. The boy smiled widely at her, reaching for her hand. Shyly, Sayaka took it, and he pulled her up. It was like something out of a shoujo manga! Was this... fate?!
"Don't mention it," Something in the back of Sayaka's mind bothered her about the boy. He was clearly a few years older than her, definitely in high school. She was sure she didn't know him, but at the same time, something seemed weirdly familiar about him.
Paying it no mind, Sayaka kicked her foot on the floor, wondering why he hadn't let go of her hand yet. Was this awkward, or was it something... more...?
"I hope this isn't going to sound too forward of me, but..."
Sayaka's eyes widened. No way! No way no way no way!
"Would you mind coming with me for a little bit?"
Gulping, Sayaka nodded quietly. The boy's smile seemed like it could melt anything, and for a brief moment, Sayaka thought "Kyousuke who?" as she let the boy take her away from the arcade, her cheeks stained bright pink. She was so distracted by this surprising turn of events that it didn't even register that a loud chorus of "awwwww maaaaan!"s had just erupted from the direction of the DDR machine.
They walked in silence, the black haired boy occasionally glancing back at Sayaka as he led her along, Sayaka in turn looking away shyly. What was she doing? Walking off to who knows where with some stranger?
It took her a moment to realize they had stopped. They were in an alleyway, and it was fairly quiet. Sayaka couldn't hear anything coming from the street, but for some strange, inexplicable reason, she felt so... so calm, being with this boy.
"I've been watching you, you know."
Sayaka's first reaction was to blush. Sure, she couldn't possibly accept this boy's feelings, but this was the exact kind of distraction she had needed - not to mention the perfect ego boost.
She looked at him in the eyes again.
Well... Maybe this was fate...
"I've been watching you for a long, long time, Miki Sayaka..."
"Y-You have...?" This was it! Sayaka's face was positively burning, and the expression must have been so ridiculously dopey that under any other circumstances she would have turned tail and fled so that no one would see it - but no matter what thoughts flitted through her mind, all she could do was bask in the mysterious boy's gaze.
He took a step forward. Sayaka found herself being pressed against a brick wall, and in the back of her mind, a small voice started screaming out in panic. This was bad! Run! Escape! Call the police! Call anyone, just get out of here!
But under his gaze, that smoldering gaze... Those thoughts were pushed aside. He raised a hand to cup her chin and Sayaka closed her eyes, leaning forward, for all the world ready to give herself to this boy she had just met.
Without a moment's warning, Sayaka found herself being abruptly shoved to the ground by the boy she had been mere seconds from kissing, the sound of metal hitting the ground snapping Sayaka out of whatever trance she had been in. The spell broken, her face paled. Just what had she been doing?! What was wrong with her?!
"Tch...!" The boy's attitude seemed to have changed drastically. His kind, handsome face had twisted into a snarl, and Sayaka was at a loss for what had happened - though she was incredibly thankful that they had been interrupted, that was for sure. "You should know your place, wizard!"
Looking before her, her mind rapidly trying to catch up with the events happening around her, Sayaka realized that there was now a strange saber embedded deep in the pavement where she and the boy had been standing only moments previously.
"That's witch to you, Phantom!" Leaping down from the fire escape above Sayaka, a girl with a long, flowing mane of red hair landed in-between the blue haired girl and the boy, who was looking angrier and angrier. The girl ripped the saber out of the ground with ease, despite the fact that it had been clearly embedded in cement just a moment ago. Turning to Sayaka, the redhead nodded to herself, her expression unreadable. "Good. You're not dead yet."
"S-Stalker!" Sayaka proclaimed, suddenly recognizing the red hair from the street and the arcade - piecing her earlier declaration together with the fact that the girl had been everywhere Sayaka had been today. The redhead scowled, a single fang peeking out of lips, before she jabbed a thumb towards the cute guy (who coincidentally wasn't really looking cute anymore) that had totally just been about to confess to Sayaka before they had been so rudely interrupted.
"You dimwit. I wasn't talking about you..."
Then it clicked. Why it hadn't clicked sooner, Sayaka had no idea.
The boy who had taken her from the arcade had been outside her school. He'd been on that street, talking on his phone. And then he'd dragged her off into an abandoned alleyway...!?
What had she been thinking!?
The redhead grinned toothily upon seeing realization dawn on Sayaka's face, as if she had been waiting for it.
"Don't sweat it. That punk's name is Incubus. He's been giving cute Gates like you hell for weeks. But as you can see, I've finally caught up to him, and now..." The redhead turned back to the boy, who had been darting his eyes back and forth from the girl to the way he'd brought Sayaka. It was clear he was panicked. "So, are you gonna make me chase you across the country some more, or are we gonna finally settle this today?"
Pressing herself against the wall, Sayaka frantically looked from the girl who had - she began to realize - just saved her, to the high school student, who was seemingly having some kind of internal struggle with himself.
"You can always try for the Gate though. Maybe I won't stop you," Sayaka's blood chilled at these words. She didn't understand what a Gate was, except that she apparently was one, but from the way the girl was talking... She quickly began to realize her "savior" could be just as much a threat to her as the boy was. "That just makes two Phantoms for me instead of one. I was getting hungry anyway."
What happened next really was like something out of a manga - but this time, the genre was horror. The boy's body began to glow a sickening purple color, and then his face began to change - no, his whole body did. It grew and shrunk and changed and before Sayaka knew it, the boy had been replaced with a devlish looking monster.
"Aaa~aaah... And this one was so cute too..." The boy-turned-monster grumbled mournfully, casting a glance in Sayaka's direction. No longer was his gaze something that drew Sayaka in, instead, the blue haired girl cowered at the sight of the beast, realizing that something was horribly off and this might be the end of the road for her.
The redhead stepped in-between the monster's line of sight and Sayaka, causing Sayaka to look up at her. She clearly wasn't scared - in fact, if anything, the strange girl was looking more eager than anything. Just who was this girl?
"Unfortunately, I've got no plans of ending up like the last ones of my comrades who danced with you, sweetie, so I'm afraid I'll have to be leaving," the monster's voice was cool and confident, his words dripping with something... raw, something that Sayaka was too young to be able to quite place. "Maybe we can tango next time."
Erupting in sick laughter, the monster turned and jumped towards the wall above Sayaka and the redhead.
"You son of a-" The redhead swung her saber towards the monster, but it was too late. Her blade slashed nothing but air, and above her, the monster's feet hit the wall, and he kicked off - propelling himself towards the roof of the building across from him. The redhead, who seemed to have already forgotten Sayaka, waved her weapon angrily and ran towards the fire escape from which she had made her entrance to give chase. "Get back here!"
It took Sayaka a few minutes to finally stand, but eventually she did so, albeit somewhat shakily. Her earlier worries were completely forgotten, and all she could think about were the events that had just transpired before her. She had been followed, not only by some creep of a boy who had done... something to get her to in turn follow him, but by a crazy vigilante with a sword.
It was clear that the boy- no, the monster, had wanted something from her. If not for the girl who had come out of nowhere, Sayaka might be dead right now... But what did that mean for the girl? Could she seriously hold her own against... whatever that was? Or was she just running around playing superhero, in over her head?
Heading back to the street, Sayaka glanced back into the alleyway.
She really, really hoped that crazy redhead would be okay.