It was late at night when Chihaya set out from her little apartment. She had no idea why she had gone out; the weather was cold and dreary, and she feared it might rain (she didn't worry too much about that, though; she had brought along an umbrella just in case), but she was out nonetheless.
"I'm cold." Chihaya stated this as if stating this statement would make her feel less cold. Obviously, it didn't. "I'm cold, and lonely. How boring..."
Sighing heavily, Chihaya opened her mouth and began to sing. Singing was her favorite thing in the world to do, and everyone knew it. She sang when she was tired, and it gave her energy. She sang when she was stressed, and her stress was relieved. She sang when she was sad, and it made her happy. In fact, Chihaya sang so much that it was like she sang all the time.
But "like" was not enough for Chihaya. Deep down, the songstress wanted to be able to sing constantly. As it was, she was sometimes told, "Now isn't the time, Chihaya," or, "You really can't sing right now, Chihaya." Why, even as an idol she didn't get many singing jobs!
"Do you have a wish?"
Chihaya jumped, startled, and held out her umbrella as a sort of weapon. There didn't appear to be anyone around, but Chihaya was positive she'd heard a voice. She looked to her left, at the long and ominous alleyway she was walking past for some reason. A light, boyish laugh echoed from its shadowy deaths. Slowly, almost cautiously, a boy emerged from the alleyway. His thin lips were drawn into a smile, and his pale skin was slightly pink from embarrassment. He was only a bit taller than Chihaya herself, and was quite thin as well. Chihaya felt only slightly at-ease and stepped away from him.
"I'm sorry that I startled you," he said sincerely. "My name is Nakahara Ryuji. I couldn't help but overhear you saying that you wished you could sing more."
"Say?" Chihaya echoed. "I only thought that."
"You did?" Ryuji looked surprised. "...oh, my, my mistake. Sometimes, this telepathy makes thoughts sound just as loud as spoken words."
"Telepathy." Chihaya nodded slightly, now both confused and a bit frightened.
"Don't be scared," Ryuji urged softly. He brushed aside his long black cloak and stepped further into the light. Chihaya watched as he fished around in the pockets of his cloak and held out a small necklace. Hanging on the necklace was a large, circular charm, about the size of a quarter if not a bit bigger. It was made of light-colored wood, and engraved on the charm was a beautiful tree, a small lake, and a few bushes. Two-dimensional as it was, Chihaya found it surprisingly beautiful. "It's for you, Kisaragi Chihaya-sama."
"How do you know my name?" Chihaya demanded.
Ryuji tapped on his head and winked. "Telepathy," he reminded her. Now, the thin finger of his large hand pointed at an identical necklace hanging around his own neck. "I wished for it with this."
"That." Chihaya nodded at the necklace Ryuji held out to her.
"It will grant your wish," Ryuji murmured, stepping closer to her. Surprisingly, Chihaya found herself lowering her umbrella-sword as he approached. Slowly, he reached out and grabbed Chihaya's hand, placing the necklace on her palm. "I promise. Although..."
"Although?" Chihaya pressed. She found herself looking into his eyes and for the first time noticed how beautiful they were. What a bright blue color. I'm stunned...
Ryuji's brilliant eyes narrowed seriously. "This necklace is not all that it seems," he muttered, nearly in a whisper. "I cannot tell you everything, but at the least I can discourage you from listening to me. It may seem good at first, but..."
Chihaya fell silent. She could have the life she always wanted. She could sing her heart out as much as she wanted. But was it worth it?
Ryuji's eyes screamed "no". Chihaya's heart screamed "yes".
For Yuu, she'd do anything. He wanted to hear her sing? He would hear her sing.
"I will take the necklace. Thank you."
For a split second, Ryuji's eyes flashed; but not with relief, or gratefulness. The look on his face was one of regret. "...then, it is yours," the pale ginger breathed, closing Chihaya's fingers around her new gift. His gentle smile returned, and he slowly brought Chihaya's hand to his lips. "...may I?"
Is he thinking of kissing my hand? ...well, I suppose I shouldn't deprive him of feeling like a gentleman, Chihaya mused inwardly. "Please."
Ryuji's smile widened, now seeming slightly more real, and he pressed his lips to the songstress' fingers for just a second before pulling away. Chihaya felt her face flush and struggled not to show it. Ryuji leaned his head back and took in a deep breath through his nose, his eyes closed. For a second, Chihaya thought she saw a flash of light emanate from just behind him. But she didn't have time to think about it, because Ryuji was soon speaking to her again, in grave seriousness.
"Listen to me, and listen close, Chihaya-sama. That necklace will twist your wish. You may think you've gotten a good deal, but trust me when I say that your good fortune will not be permanent. If you ever wish to remove the necklace, you must do so before it is too late."
Chihaya blinked. Ryuji's words had come so quickly, as if he had only a limited amount of time to get them out. His face was a mix of horror and desperation, and his hand clutched tightly to Chihaya's. The bluenette stared.
"I don't really understand," she admitted. Ryuji looked like he would try to tell her more; but then, if Chihaya looked closely she spotted a flash of light again, and Ryuji's mouth closed, replaced with a look of even stronger desperation. Chihaya started to have doubts. "But I have a wish, and no matter what, I want it granted." Slowly, hesitantly, she pulled her hand away from Ryuji and fastened the necklace around her neck. "I want to sing."
The necklace glowed for just a split second, but this time Chihaya was positive she'd seen it. She smiled. Now, she would be able to sing.
Ryuji smiled slightly, though all-in-all his expression didn't change. "Then, I wish you good luck." He bowed graciously, then turned and headed back into the shadows from whence he had come. Chihaya watched him. When he had gone, she opened her mouth and began to sing, letting the words flow from her mouth, not bothering trying to keep her volume down. If Ryuji was right, from now on she would be able to sing as much as she wanted. No one would interrupt her. No one would stop her. She would be the most loved singer the world had ever seen.
"I want to sing," she sang out, letting the phrase join into the melody of "Aoi Tori", letting it take the place of another line, letting it become part of the song itself. "I want to sing. I want to sing."
She laughed where the instrumental break in the song would be, happy to sing anything she wanted. Yuu would be proud. Haruka would be proud. Everyone would be proud.
"I want to sing!"
"And sing you will," Ryuji's voice murmured from the shadows. "Sing you will, Chihaya-sama..."
"Chihaya!" Producer ran up to greet the idol who had just entered the agency. Chihaya cocked her head at him.
"I'm glad you're here. We've just gotten in contact with that new variety show, Tori no Uta no Koi. They want you to sing on TV," Producer exclaimed excitedly.
"W-what?" Chihaya gasped. Tori no Uta no Koi was a new variety show that had been recently started featuring the greatest performers around. Ever since she had first seen it on TV, Chihaya had wanted to be on it. "That's...I'm so happy..."
"That's not all," Kotori called out. "Fans have sent letters asking if you can have more solo performances at our next concert. We're working on it now."
"That's amazing!" Chihaya cheered. She looked over to Haruka, who was grinning at her. "I...I get to sing."
"You get to sing." Producer smiled.
Chihaya felt overwhelmed; not only with joy that her wish had really come true, but also with shock that Ryuji had told her the truth. She wondered briefly if he had also been right about the bad parts of it, but she didn't dwell too much on the thought. She glanced over at the others and went to sit beside them. "Haruka, I get to sing."
"Yeah, that's pretty great," Haruka agreed. "Oh...oh, wow! Chihaya-chan, where did you get that necklace? It's beautiful!"
"I got it from a boy in a dark alleyway," Chihaya answered without hesitation. "It's magical and grants wishes."
"...OK." Haruka grinned. "It sounds so nice. I want a wish granted."
"Me too," Makoto agreed, sighing wistfully. "Hey, was the boy cute?"
"What?" Chihaya blinked. "Um...?"
"It's not a hard question."
"I didn't think so," Chihaya admitted. "He was a decent-looking boy, but I'm not on the hunt for love."
Makoto giggled. "I wanna meet him."
Chihaya sighed. "...do you...mind if I sing?"
"Of course not!" Haruka laughed. "Sing to your heart's content, Chihaya-chan!"
Chihaya grinned. After a moment, she opened her mouth and sang. To her delight, no one stopped her.
I want to sing.
Chihaya was grateful. She was grateful for her necklace, and the power it had given her. She was grateful to be able to sing again, all the time, whenever she wanted. Her jobs including singing had exploded lately, and everyone loved to listen to her sing. It was exactly what Chihaya had always wanted.
"You seem to be in high spirits."
Chihaya jumped and whirled around. Somehow, some time, Ryuji had gotten into her apartment. She yelped in surprise.
"I'm sorry," the ginger said honestly. "I scared you again. See, part of my wish includes that I am able to teleport."
"Teleport." Ryuji smiled. "I came to check on you. How is the necklace treating you?"
"Wonderfully," Chihaya gushed. "It's wonderful. I'm singing far more than I ever have."
"Sounds like you're having the time of your life," Ryuji mused. He advanced towards the bluenette songstress. Chihaya let him. "May I?"
"You want to...kiss me again?" Chihaya tried, raising an eyebrow.
Ryuji laughed lightly and scratched the back of his neck. "You make it sound like I want a kiss on the lips. No, see...well..."
"It's a long story." Ryuji's face became serious. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Chihaya opened her mouth as if to argue further, then gave up and closed it, extending her hand to the ginger in front of her. Ryuji stared at it for a moment, then smiled and took her hand in his own.
"I'm not entirely comfortable with this," Chihaya admitted. "But I am curious. I saw a light back when you kissed this hand the first time. Tell me I'm wrong."
"I cannot." Ryuji gently pressed his lips to her hand. "For that would be a lie."
True to his word, Chihaya saw the light erupt from behind him again, and he quickly assumed his serious expression.
"You think it's fun and games now, but just a second longer and you'll be stuck like this. The necklace will become as much a part of you as your fingers or your nose. It will weld to your body, and you'll be stuck with this twisted wish until the day it kills you."
"You're always saying those strange things," Chihaya complained.
"Always?" Ryuji seemed amused. "We've only met twice, Chihaya-sama."
"Please call me Kisaragi," Chihaya said.
"I'm afraid I can't. Chihaya-sama just comes so much easier." The light appeared behind Ryuji again and he bowed to Chihaya. "I wish you good luck, Chihaya-sama. If you are smart, you'll listen to what I have to say."
Chihaya frowned. "You are the one who gave me this necklace in the first place. Now you want me to ditch it?"
"I'm only trying to help," Ryuji insisted, his voice sounding desperate. He flashed Chihaya a smile that looked fake, then vanished in a puff of purple smoke. Chihaya blinked.
"Teleportation," she muttered to herself. "A likely story, Nakahara-san. What are you, anyways...?" She sighed.
How strange...that he goes out of his way to tell me how wrong I am. It's infuriating.
Chihaya couldn't be happier. Three weeks with the necklace, and she had already been singing more and more often. She couldn't stop, it felt like. But she welcomed it. She welcomed the feeling that urged her to sing more and more, louder and louder. Her jobs almost all consisted of singing now, and when she went home, she sang in the shower, and sang herself to sleep, and sang herself a morning song when she woke up. It was the happiest three weeks of her life.
She had not seen or heard from Ryuji again since the second time he had gone to her. She wanted to. A piece of her strongly desired hearing from him again. She wanted to know what he was, and what he had meant when he had said, "You wouldn't believe me if I told you." She wanted to know.
One day, Chihaya's second wish was granted when she was singing to herself in the afternoon and Ryuji materialized beside her. She jumped, her voice faltering, but she continued to sing. She thought it strange; now would be a good time to stop singing. But the words seemed to flow past her lips on their own, and she found she could not stop. Still, she didn't think it a cause for concern. She had been completely voiceless once, and now she was making up for that time with this wish. Yuu was hearing her sing. He was hearing her voice. That was what mattered.
"I see you are still singing," Ryuji observed.
"I am," Chihaya sang. "It's a beautiful feeling."
Beautiful, yes. Beautiful, but strange. Those sentences she ordinarily would have spoken were tossed into her song, and once she had finished them, her song picked right back up. "I hoped you would come back. Tell me everything." This sentence again blended with lines of "Me Ga Au Toki", and Chihaya felt confusion take over her senses.
"Take off the necklace," Ryuji ordered gravely. "Now. Before it is too late."
Chihaya didn't want to argue. She agreed with Ryuji. She was scared. She wanted the necklace off. But when she tried to wrap her hand around the beautiful wooden charm, her fingers refused to go, and it felt like she was tearing at her own skin whenever she tried to pull it off. Choruses of "Me Ga Au Toki" turned to the mournful song "Tonari Ni..." and Chihaya felt tears pooling in her eyes.
"What's happened to me?!" she demanded in song. In song. She was still singing. She didn't want to keep singing.
"You have a beautiful voice," Ryuji stated nonchalantly. "You should consider yourself lucky that you get to share it with the world without consequence."
"What's happened to me?!" Chihaya repeated, stronger, but still in song. Still in song. No matter what, Chihaya couldn't stop singing. She couldn't stop...
"I am a demon." Ryuji's gorgeous blue eyes flashed red for just a moment. "No, I should re-phrase that. I'm half demon. My father is a demon."
"You did this!" Chihaya belted.
"I didn't mean to," Ryuji stated calmly. "I tried to warn you. I tried..."
"Tell me everything." Chihaya's normally beautiful voice felt strained and terrified.
"I am a demon in charge of carrying out my father's doing by awarding people these necklaces. We are working to bring about the apocalypse by effect of these twisted wishes. I am able to break free of my father's controlling watch for a certain amount of time when my lips touch a female's skin. A strange requirement, I know."
"That's why you kissed me. That's why you warned me. That's why..." Chihaya's sentences were taken over by the true words of her "Tonari Ni..." song. It would wrap up soon. Then she could stop, right?
"I'm sorry," Ryuji muttered, hanging his head. "I don't want any of this to happen. I'm just lonely, so what else can I do?"
Chihaya tried to respond, but she couldn't. She wanted to cry. She wanted to stop. But she couldn't. She couldn't.
Ryuji looked into her terrified eyes for a moment. "I must be off," he murmured. "I have more necklaces to deliver. ...Good luck, Chihaya-sama. Good luck..."
I'm sorry, Chihaya wanted to scream. I should have listened to you. Come back. Help me. Help me!
But her thoughts fell on deaf ears, deaf ears that she knew could hear her. She felt the song coming to an end and willed Ryuji to stay just a little bit longer. The demon ignored her, casting one last glance over his shoulder before vanishing. Chihaya reached after him.
Hang on...hang on...
The last words of her song ended. Chihaya broke into a wide grin and started to close her mouth.
But she couldn't.
The necklace was not done playing with her. Chihaya wanted to sing? She would sing. She would sing for the rest of her life. She would spend every second of every day singing. She would never stop.
And as "Tonari Ni..." ended with a choked sob, "Aoi Tori" took over, its mellow notes sounding out Chihaya's aching soul.
I should have listened...