When Satone Shichimiya awoke that morning, she felt an overwhelming sense of disappointment. A disappointment in herself - a disappointment in her life - really, she felt a disappointment with the world in general.
She just woke up from a dream she had been having for a long time now. She was having a date with a faceless person. She didn't know who it was, or what they did, but she remembered the vague feeling that they both enjoyed themselves. This person would always escort her home and, right as Satone entered her apartment, would ask for a goodbye kiss. She would smile and laugh gently.
"You require proof of our contract?" She would ask. "Say no more. Close thine eyes."
When they complied, she'd lean forward and do the same. She's lock lips with them for a moment, letting the sensation make its mark on her mind. And when she pulled away and opened her eyes, she'd see the face of someone she held dear to her heart.
Usually, it'd be Yuuta Togashi, the boy she'd been in love with for years now. She had come to terms with the fact that she and he would never be together, but the idea of it still crossed her mind occasionally. She was only human. It was no surprise that she'd see him in her dreams
But then, more recently, she'd also see other people she cared for, Rikka Takanashi, who was Yuuta's lover, and Shinka Nibutani whom she was friends with since middle school. This greatly confused Satone upon later reflection but she would not question it in the moment.
After the kiss, the person would try walk away but Satone would always grab their arm and whisper in the softest of voices. "Wait," she would say. "Stay with me tonight..."
The person would always agree and they'd indulge in the pleasures of the flesh. Desire would well up inside of them and overshadow their very souls. They'd lose themselves...
And then she'd wake up...
She pressed her palms against her face, releasing a deep sigh. "What unholy force dares taint the sanctuary of my dreams?" she grumbled angrily. "Why me...? And why them...?"
School that day blurred past with nothing of interest occurring.
She supposed there was a math test - those were sometimes fun. But then, she'd usually ace them with minimal effort so the thrill of high grades had long been lost on her.
There was also volley ball match for P.E. that day. Her class had mopped the floor with the other class they shared the period with. But then again, three of her classmates were part of the volley ball club - rejects from the varsity volley ball team apparently. They had an unfair advantage. Winning just left a bitter taste in her mouth.
Lunch in the cafeteria was crowded as always. Her favorite kind of sandwich was the first to be sold out. It was a disappointing but unsurprising turn of events.
Every school day was like this. It did not engage her. It was so boring...
So painfully boring...
There was a clashing of plastic as Satone locked weapons with Rikka Takanashi. Her magical girl scepter bent dangerously against Rikka's significantly sturdier folding umbrella. If a weapon was going to give, it wouldn't be Rikka's.
Sensing this imminent breakage, she twisted the wand to the side and let Rikka's umbrella slide down its length before dancing away.
Rikka gave chase, attacking with a sweeping strike. Satone kicked at a nearby wall and jumped cleanly over her swing.
Satone landed gracefully before exaggeratedly pointing at Rikka. "Nyahaha! You cannot hope to best me physically, Eye of the Wicked Lord! Magic is your only chance and you know we are equal in that regard!"
With a notable pout, Rikka pointed her umbrella at Satone and began chanting an incantation. Satone could only grin as she dashed forward.
To Rikka's eyes, Satone was a blur of pink who blinked out of existence for a moment before appearing within arm's reach and bashed her face in with overwhelming force. In reality, Satone merely made use some well executed footwork to get in close and tapped her on the nose.
Rikka stumbled back in surprise before clutching her golden right eye in shame. "Bested once again!" she cursed dramatically.
With a small smile, Satone offered a hand to Rikka who took it gratefully. Once back on her feet, Rikka immediately began jumping at her excitedly. "How did you do that wall flip? That was so cool!"
"I trained in a hyperbolic time chamber for twenty years with gravity that was twenty times strong than that of earth!" Satone exclaimed proudly before adding in a mutter. "Seriously, though? It was just a lot of practice."
"Show me how!"
Satone scratched her head. "That might not be a good idea." She gestured at Rikka's heelies. "Shoes with wheels on them aren't ideal for this kind of thing."
Rikka frowned. "Curses! My want of mobility has only hindered me!" Satone could only laugh.
Play fights such as this one were one of Satone's pastimes - Imaginary battles with an imaginary angel for the fate of an imaginary world. It wasn't really real but it could be as real as she wanted it to be.
With shallow, uneven breathing, Satone relaxed into her bed, the numbness in her mind slowly giving way for conscious thought once more. With a notable frown, she wiped off the stickiness on her hand with a tissue and pulled her shorts back up.
She felt terrible. She felt terrible is so many different ways.
She wanted intimacy so badly. But then, she only wanted it with specific people. And it was those people she had imagined earlier. The mere thought of it brought her mind into a spiraling crash of emotions.
It's completely normal to feel this way, she thought to herself. Everyone gets urges like this. This is normal. This isn't a bad thing...
She rolled over and buried her face into a pillow.
Then why does it feel so wrong...?
Satone stopped at stairwell on her way to her apartment. She had heard a familiar voice. She turned back to face that voice, smiling. "Yes? What is it, Hero?"
Yuuta stood by his doorway, sighing in what seemed like relief. "I just wanted to say hi, I guess. We've barely seen you in the last two days. We were starting to get worried"
"I..." Part of Satone wanted to create some grand story about how she spent the last two days facing off against angels from all over the city but he voice died before she could even utter her first word. She shifted her weight and lowered her face into her scarf, averting her eyes. "I wanted some alone time... Needed to think about some things..."
Yuuta didn't seem convinced by her vague answer but didn't pry. "Well, I hope you get better soon. Take care of yourself, okay?"
Satone shot him a half-hearted smile and salute. "That, I shall, Hero."
She quickly turned away and clambered up the stairs before Yuuta could reply. She retreated into her apartment, locking the door immediately upon closing the door.
She clutched her head with one hand and her heart with another. "Why," she asked, falling to her knees. "Why is this happening again...?"
Satone awoke again from that very same dream. It was getting to a point where she'd dream it every single night. Part of her wanted to forgo sleep entirely. She'd feel terrible either way. She'd rather feel bad physically than feel it mentally.
At least that's what she told herself...
Satone swung her plastic magical girl scepter in a quick and controlled manner as she slowly and methodically transition into different fighting stances. With every movement, she could feel where her muscles stretched and contracted. It was in interesting feeling.
Satone Shichimiya was no martial artist. She was not performing these moves due to some discipline she was studying. Rather, she was performing them because she was a fan of choreography, be it that of a dance, gymnastics, or combat. The subtle movements of the human body seemed to fascinate her. It gave her a sense of calm she couldn't quite explain why.
And yet, no amount of calmness seemed to distract her from whatever thoughts churned within her storming mind.
It was a frustrating thing to realize...
Shinka Nibutani's room was as tidy as ever. Even when she had Chuunibyou, there was a certain obsession with neatness that pervaded every square inch of the place. It was familiar and comforting for Satone.
Shinka was currently answering homework - much like Satone, she seemed to be breezing past most of the questions. Why did she even bother answering at home, to be honest? She could have answered them immediately after the teacher had assigned it and still finish before the next class started.
"Mori Summer," Satone said from her place behind Shinka.
"Don't call me Mori Sum-" Shinka's words were cut off when Satone wrapped her arms around Shinka's waist and buried her face between her shoulder blades. She gingerly put a hand on Satone's forearm. "What's wrong...?" Shinka asked quietly.
"I... I don't know," Satone answered, her voice muffled through Shinka's shirt. "I don't know what's wrong... but..." She tightened her embrace. "I know I need this..."
School was hell.
School was a seemingly endless slog through everything she hated in life - a regimented schedule, an oppressive expectation for excellence, and the overwhelming wellspring of self-importance that everyone, even herself, seemed to have.
Nothing made it better and everything could make it worse. It was the epitome of a bad time. She hated every moment of it.
Satone collapsed on her bed and screamed into a pillow. She wanted to break something - anything. She wanted to feel something shatter in her hands. She was so angry. It didn't make sense.
Why the hell did she feel that way? What the hell was she even doing!?
She screamed even louder, to the point where her throat started to get sore.
Satone sat huddled into the corner of her balcony, numbed of all senses. She felt terrible. She felt more terrible than she'd felt before. Not even all the heartache from her unrequited love with Yuuta could match.
What was wrong with her? What was she falling apart to? And what could she do to finally end it?
Satone took a sharp breath when she heard Yuuta's voice. She relaxed slightly when she realized it was below her. He must have stepped out of his apartment.
"Hey," Rikka's voice replied.
"Something on your mind?"
There was a pause before Rikka answered. "The Magical Devil Girl... Sophia, she's... I'm worried about her..."
Yuuta sighed loud enough that Satone could hear him even a floor above. "I'm worried too. Some nights I wake up to her crying. I don't know what's wrong but I really wish I could help..."
Satone hugged herself tighter. If only you could, Hero...
Satone awoke that morning feeling surprisingly rested - more than she did for the past few days at the very least. She didn't dream that night. That might have been the reason. But that didn't really make much of a difference. Feeling slightly less terrible still meant she felt terrible.
She put a hand on her cheek, taking note that the stare sticker on her face had fallen off. She checked the drawer next to her bed and found that her heart stickers were starting to run out. She'd need to buy more soon.
With a frown, she closed the drawer and got out of bed. She could reapply her sticker after she took a shower. She had other things to do.
Satone once again collapsed into her bed. She did not scream this time. She wasn't angry. She just felt... tired...
She felt so tired that the warm blankets seemed to beckon her into their embrace. Every second she spent on the bed, the farther she drifted from the shoreline of consciousness. Eventually she drifted too far and started to sink. She closed her eyes and let herself descend.
Her only thought in that moment was how she should have eaten dinner before heading to bed. Oh well. She'd do that when she woke up...
Satone dreamed again that night. But it didn't start with a date this time. I immediately began with the sex. It was a blur of sensations - pain and pleasure, touch and sound. It was an agonizingly vivid experience. When it finished, she was left panting on her bed, completely exhausted.
And yet, the dream did not end there.
Instead, she lay there, naked, wrapped in the arms of the person she made love to. Yuuta, Rikka, or Shinka, she could not remember who. All she knew was it was one of those three people. She had stared into their eyes and whispered shakily. "Why?"
She wasn't sure what voice they replied with nor was she sure what they said. All things considered, the words and voice probably didn't matter. What did matter is that they answered her and their answer seemed to satisfy her.
"You need not worry, Hero and Eye of the Wicked Lord. I have been busy silencing the many nuisances I have happened to encounter during my travels."
"You say that but I have it on good authority that you've been skipping lunch and barely eating dinner recently. Seriously, Shichimiya, what's wrong. Let us help."
Satone smiled wryly. Yuuta's heart was that of a true hero. The same could be said of Rikka's. When there's a friend in need, they'd drop everything to help them. So predictable...
There's definitely something I want from the two of you, Satone thought darkly. But I sincerely doubt it would help. If anything, it'd make it worse...
It was obvious they wouldn't back down under normal circumstances. Satone kept a hard face and replied firm and stoically. "I can deal with this on my own, Yuuta Togashi. I implore you to Stay Out of My Business."
Yuuta stared in alarm but begrudgingly looked away. "Fine. Be that way..." With that he stormed off.
Rikka stayed behind and glared at Satone in frustration. "Why do you do this!? Can you not see how your pain is causing us pain as well? Let us help!"
Satone twitched as guilt stabbed her in the heart. It hurt so much that it was hard to breath. "I don't care," she lied through her teeth, desperately trying not to break down on the spot.
She tore her gaze from Rikka and stalked away, not trusting herself to continue speaking. She knew Rikka understood her in a lot of ways. She could not risk more needling lest she let it slip. It would surely be the end of her if it did...
Yuuta and Rikka have not spoken to her for a few days now. Even Shinka had ceased contact. Her few friends had cut her off. Or rather, she made them cut her off.
Part of her wondered what had scared her so much. Telling them what was bothering her was just something friends did, right? Another part of her rebutted that, if they found out, they might not be friends anymore after. She didn't want to take that chance.
But now, with them all gone, she was regretting that decision gravely.
Do I just not trust my friends...? she wondered bitterly. Some friend I was...
Those were the words Shinka Nibutani said to her when they bumped into each other on their way home from the train station.
Satone was walking dejectedly back home as always when she bumped into someone with a familiar looking uniform skirt. She nearly smiled when she looked up and saw Shinka's but that smile was immediately pushed back when she saw that Shinka could not meet her eyes.
They parted ways with no other words exchanged.
Satone continued walking home alone.
It had been a few days now since they stopped talking to her. Every single moment, she wanted to cry. But she was already at the point where she was getting used to it. As depressing as it may have sounded, she realized that, sooner or later, she wouldn't even care anymore.
That wasn't what she wanted to happen, though...
Normally, the roof of the apartment complex would be full of hanged laundry on wires and clothes pins but those had long been removed. It was raining hard that afternoon - raining since morning, actually. It didn't look like it was going to let up any time soon.
Satone knew it was stupid. She was cold, alone, and soaking wet. And yet, she felt like she was exactly where she needed to be - in the gentle embrace of a thousand rain drops per second.
The door to the roof opened behind her. "There you are! Shichimiya, what the hell do you think you're doing!? Get back inside!"
Satone slowly turned towards the voice and saw Yuuta at the door, Rikka standing right behind him. They both look wild eyed with worry.
"Rikka, get a towel," Satone heard him say, barely audible over the sound of torrential water falling from above. She could see Rikka hand him her umbrella before dashing off out of view.
Satone blinked. She barely even realized it but Yuuta had already reached her with an umbrella in tow. She looked up at him, somewhat dazed, noting how particularly furrowed his brows were.
"Come on," he said, grabbing her shoulder and quickly herding her back into the shade.
Satone sniffled numbly. She felt tired. She felt unbelievably tired. She wanted nothing more than to curl up and let sleep take her in that instant.
But the girl in front of her who was toweling off her hair would not let her do that. Rikka looked rather displeased with Satone. She was downright fuming. And yet, as angry as she looked, she still seemed to handle Satone with the utmost of care as she continued rubbing the towel over Satone's head.
"Lift your arms. We must remove your clothes."
Satone wordlessly obeyed and let Rikka strip off her wet clothes, all of which were discarded into the nearby laundry basket. From there, Rikka began toweling off the rest of Satone.
"Why?" Rikka asked. "What caused this despair, Sophia?"
Satone shivered as the towel glided over her skin, reminding her of just how cold she really felt. "I can't tell you," she whispered. "It will ruin me. It will ruin me to your eyes... and to mine..."
Rikka nodded thoughtfully. "Something you cannot admit to anyone... not even yourself." She pursed her lips. "I see..."
When Satone was fully toweled off, Rikka helped her change into some dry clothes. By that point, the numb drowsiness had almost completely taken over.
Before Rikka moved to leave, she touched foreheads, checking Satone's temperature. The frown on Rikka's face deepened. "You're burning up..."
Satone blinked, vaguely aware of how close Rikka's face was. Acting on instinct, she brought up her arms to Rikka's cheeks and leaned forward.
In a frenzied panic, Rikka pushed Satone off and backed half way across the room. "Why did you kiss me!?"
Satone swayed dangerously from side to side as she tried to steady herself on her bed. "I'm sorry." She whispered, gritting her teeth in preparation for the tears she knew were coming. "I'm so sorry," she whispered again, her voice cracking.
"H-hey, don't cry. No, no. It's okay. It's fine, Sophia! I'm not mad! I-"
Her words had no effect. The flood gates flew open and Satone bawled.
The first thing Satone noticed when she came back to her senses was soft breathing that was not her own and the feeling of warmth wrapping around her.
"I'm sorry," Satone said. "That was your first kiss, wasn't it...?"
There was a pause before Rikka answered. "Yes... I would have liked to give it to Yuuta..."
Satone shrunk back. "I'm sorry."
Rikka seemed to pull her into an even tighter embrace. "I'm not mad, Satone... I... I didn't hate it... and I don't hate you... That's what you were afraid of, right...?"
Satone couldn't find her voice to answer. All she could do was nod.
"Can... can you tell me how this all started? Why you feel so scared? And... well... why you kissed me...?"
Satone went wide eyed. The last time she had this opportunity was nearly two weeks ago and she blew it. This was her last chance. She had to tell her. She had to.
Satone swallowed. "I... I've been having these dreams..."
Satone heard the door opening.
"How is she?" the voice of Yuuta asked.
"Her fever hasn't gone down yet," the voice of Rikka replied.
"Her parents say they'll be here in an hour."
Satone opened her eyes and looked to Yuuta and Rikka who were sitting quietly next to her bed. They noticed her stir and immediately sat up. "Shichimiya. How do you feel?" Yuuta asked.
Satone averted her eyes. "I'm... I'm definitely sick... headache, heaviness of limbs... the works..."
Yuuta snorted. "Only you could joke about something like this," he muttered wryly.
Satone blinked once before pursing her lips. "Did the Eye of the Wicked Lord tell you of my... predicament...?"
There was a pause. "Yeah..."
"I see..." Satone rolled to the side, now facing away from Yuuta and Rikka. "I'm sorry I caused you two trouble. I wanted to deal with this on my own..."
There was a dry chuckle as the door opened. "You did a nice and fine job of that, didn't you?" It was the voice of Shinka Nibutani. "Sorry I'm late. I came as soon as I can."
"It's fine. This was really short notice so the fact that you're here at all is a miracle in and of itself."
"You say that as if I'm not reliable," Shinka grumbled. "Ah, whatever." There was a notable dip in Satone's mattress when Shinka took a seat at the side of her bed.
"Why are you all here...?" Satone asked.
"Well, you have a problem with the three of us, don't you?" Shinka said bluntly. "The four of us are going to talk about it - whether you like it or not."
Satone closed her eyes and let out a sigh of resignation. After which, she sat up and turned to the other three. "Time to face the music," she muttered.
Nothing they told her were things she did not already know. However, many things she knew, she did not truly believe. And it was only until it was spelt out to her did she finally start believing.
"So... you don't hate me for this...?"
"Of course not!"
She didn't quite know what she was thinking. She remembered reading somewhere that people could be conditioned out of doing certain actions by associating them with negative effects - like how people knew not to stick forks into electrical outlets because it would shock you. Perhaps some part of her subconscious mind decided she could do that very same kind of conditioning? Perhaps it decided that whatever she was feeling was something she should be miserable about so she'd stop feeling it?
She didn't really know. If she were being honest, she was actually just making excuses at that point. It was actually amazing how quickly she thought up that relatively logical excuse... and disappointing as well...
The point was, whatever she was thinking was not working. Her friends did not hate her. And she was not a bad person for wanting a little intimacy. She was only human. That sort of thing was bound to happen. And that she ended up fancying her only three friends? That was bound to happen as well.
Shinka palmed her face in frustration. "Why should we hate you for your feelings about us? You feel the way you feel. We feel the way we feel. There's no helping it. What's so hard to understand about that?"
"I don't know, okay!? It feels wrong! I don't like wanting Hero and the Eye of the Wicked Lord because they're supposed to be for each other! I don't like wanting you because you're supposed to be for the Mjolnir Hammer!"
Shinka seemed to buffer for a moment. "H-hold on. That midget and I are not dating."
"It doesn't matter! I can't do it!" Satone held her head in her hands. "I can't love someone who has someone else... Not again..."
Satone's parents eventually arrived and the conversation had to be put on hold. The moment the three of them left her room, she went limp and fell back onto her bed. Sleep took her immediately.
"I've... I've been doing some thinking... Maybe it's not so bad, feeling the way I do. I... I still hate how it feels, being in love with you three... but like what happened with Hero... I think I can learn to live with it... and the fact that you three know about it is already making me feel a lot better..."
Satone sighed. "I don't know... Maybe this will just end in more heart break... or maybe it'll end up completely fine... I honestly don't know..."
She lowered her head, unsure as to what to say next. In the end, she said nothing. There was silence for a long time.
Much to Satone's surprise, she felt two lips touch her cheeks, sending her heart aflutter. She looked up in panic. "H-Hero, Mori-Sum-"
"Don't call me Mori-Summer!"
"It's absolutely fine, Shichimiya. Next time, just don't bottle it in. You'll hurt a lot more people than just yourself by doing that."
Satone looked helplessly between Shinka and Yuuta unsure of what to make of the situation. She short Rikka a pleading stare. Rikka replied with a knowing smile and a touch to her lips. More heat rose to Satone's cheeks.
Satone bowed low. "Thank you very much!"
For a long time, Satone Shichimiya did not know how she felt about her current relationship with Yuuta Togashi, Rikka Takanashi, and Shinka Nibutani. Even until now, she still wasn't quite sure.
All she did know was that she was not unhappy with her lot in life. All things considered, feeling not-unhappy was much better than feeling terrible.