33. “Please don’t do this.”
9. “Don’t you ever do that again!”
“Please, give Suzuhara back!”
“You cannot force me to leave against my will. I am already under the influence of that self-defense spell you taught me. … How could you be dissatisfied with spending your time here, with me?”
“On kirikyara harahara futaran basostu sowaka! … Izumiko! Come back to me, Izumiko! I know you! You won’t make the wrong choice!”
“Please, Suzuhara! Don’t do this!” he cried, gripping her tighter.
If she stayed the hime-gami, the world was doomed. Again.
Miyuki found himself trembling a little at the very thought, willing Izumiko to return to her body with all his might.
He uttered another mantra, hoping it would help break the self-defense spell Izumiko had apparently placed on herself before taking the stage earlier.
The hime-gami’s body went slack against his then, and Miyuki stilled, not daring to move.
What if it was some sort of trick?
“Sagara-kun?” Izumiko’s quiet voice floated through the night as she shifted next to him.
Miyuki breathed a sigh of relief as he held Izumiko at arm’s length, making sure she was actually Izumiko before replying.
“Don’t you ever do that again!”
It came out harsher than he’d intended, and Izumiko flinched backward, her eyes wide even in their guardedness.
He ran a hand through his hair, taking a breath.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to yell. I just…”
Izumiko blinked at him as he searched for an explanation, trying to form the right words.
“The hime-gami appeared again, didn’t she?” Izumiko asked warily, looking at the ground.
“Yeah,” he sighed, looking toward the moon for a moment to gather his thoughts further.
“She possessed you again, and I thought you were gone.”
Izumiko sighed next to him, fiddling with her braids.
“It wasn’t your fault.”
“I used the self-defense you taught me, and she swapped with me anyway,” Izumiko retorted, disappointed.
“She mentioned that. But she was using it for herself.”
He knew that would make Izumiko feel even worse about the whole thing, but he had to mention it.
She needed to know in case she tried something like that again.
Izumiko didn’t say anything in reply, but he felt her trembling and came back to his senses.
“It’s getting late. We should go back.”
“Mm,” Izumiko agreed quietly, standing and brushing off her skirt.
When she toppled, Miyuki sighed and caught her, ignoring her protest that she was okay.
“Having the hime-gami take over your body must take about as much of a toll as that stupid field trip did,” he suggested, frowning.
Izumiko was tense next to him again, and Miyuki sighed through his nose, frowning.
“Here,” he said quietly, more calmly, keeping his arm around her as he started forward.
Izumiko trailed along with him, gingerly clutching his side, like she was afraid of holding him too tightly.
Sighing, Miyuki reached over and pressed his hand over hers, hoping the pressure would remind her that he was here to help.
Slowly, they made the trek back down the path they had taken to get here, pausing every once in a while when Izumiko seemed to need a break.
Eventually, they reached her dorm, and Miyuki didn’t even bother arguing with her over the “no boys allowed” rule. He simply walked her straight up to her room and let go of her, making sure she was steady.
Izumiko stared at her hands for a moment, fidgeting, before glancing at him carefully and quietly stuttering, “Th-thank you, Miyuki-kun.”
“That’s what I’m here for, right?” he asked, trying to keep the bitterness out of his tone.
Izumiko must have heard it, or was still feeling guilty, because she didn’t meet his eyes as she turned to let herself into her room.
“Get some rest,” Miyuki called quietly after her, hoping that she would go straight to bed.
Izumiko made a non-committal sort of noise as she closed the door behind her, glancing warily at him as it clicked into place.
Miyuki sighed as he turned from the door and headed back toward his own dorm, wondering how long it would take her to remember what she’d done as the hime-gami this time.