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Private Stay Close - Other Side

Ryotaro Dojima

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[box=#ff99cc, none, none][box=#f0ead6, #b35900, #333443 1px solid]
September 15th

Nanako was having trouble sleeping. Dad had said he was going to be home late tonight, which was fine, but Yu looked really worried when she told him that. He didn't tell her why, but it sounded like there was something bad going on outside and her dad was still out. She knew he was a really tough cop, but Yu had never gotten like that when he stayed out late before, so Nanako was feeling restless. She kept rolling around in bed for who knows how long, until she finally gave up. She was going to grab herself a cup of water, Dad often said that it helped if she was feeing nervous.

When she left her room, she noticed that the lights in the living room were on, so maybe Yu was still up too. It wasn't good to stay up so late, but maybe it was fine for him since he was older. Still, it was pretty late, so she walked over to the living room, wearing only her pajamas.

"Big bro...?" She called out to him, her voice tired.
[/box][/box]

@Yu Narukami
 

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There was some weird stuff going on.

Yu didn't know exactly what. In fact, it didn't seem that anyone really knew exactly what was happening. Naoto and Yosuke had explained having strange things happen to them. Ren and Makoto had said similar. Whatever was happening was certainly not an isolated incident, and it seemed to occur every night at around midnight. It reminded him vaguely of the Midnight Channel, to be completely honest -- which meant nothing good. It could only mean that bad things were going on. How bad, he wasn't sure. All that he knew was that apparently, if you were asleep at midnight, nothing would happen to you. If you slept through it, you slept through it, and everything would be fine.

Nanako had told him earlier that Ryotaro wouldn't be back until late tonight, and that had set off more alarm bells in Yu's head than he would have ever liked. 'Pandopolis is different from Inaba' was something that he had to keep telling himself. It wasn't like his uncle having to stay out for work was super unusual to either of them, though it was definitely less frequent than it had been some time ago. Yu wouldn't have been worried at all (he knew full damn well that his uncle could take care of himself) if it weren't for the strange goings-on. He could just sleep through them, but... he had to be awake.

He had to make sure that Ryotaro would arrive home safe.
That Nanako would be safe.

Which was why he was sat on the couch at nearly midnight, lazily stroking Kabocha, who was tucked into a ball beside him. Oddly enough, he wasn't feeling a bit sleepy. It was likely the nerves. He was sure that everything would be fine, but... there was always that possibility that it wouldn't. He didn't like to think about it, but here he was. As he was zoned out, hearing a tiny voice from behind him nearly made him jump out of his skin. Nanako was awake...? Yu peeled himself up off of the couch, turning to look at his little sister. He frowned. She certainly looked tired, and rightfully so, given the hour.

"Hey," He greeted her, motioning her over to the couch against his better judgement. "What're you doing up? Are you feeling okay?"
 
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For some reason, Yu got really startled when he heard her. Was he distracted? He wasn't watching TV or anything, though it looked like he was spending some time with Kabochan. She walked over to him, though she didn't quite sit down since she still needed to go grab herself a cup of water.

"I'm okay, I just can't sleep..." Nanako yawned. She was tired and really wanted to sleep, but she couldn't stop thinking about Dad. "I just wanted to drink some water," she explained herself as she rubbed one of her eyes. "What are you doing? Are you waiting for Dad?" She tilted his head slightly, a little curious since this wasn't something Yu usually did.

As if on cue, there was a sudden knocking at the door. Nanako immediately perked up upon hearing it, almost like her exhaustion got completely washed away by it. It was really late, so nobody would be visiting at this time, so it had to have been her dad, right?

"That must be Dad!" Nanako spoke with renewed cheer. "I think he forgot the keys again." She giggled.

Just like that, Nanako began hurrying over to grab the spare keys and open the door. Her dad could be a bit forgetful sometimes, so he'd forget things like his keys or some important papers from when he was working at home. It was always made him really embarrassed when it happened and that always made her laugh too.

As she went to grab the keys, the knocking didn't seem to slow down. "Coming!" she announced as she grabbed the spare keys on the holder.
[/box][/box]
 

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Poor thing, she looked absolutely exhausted. Truly, Yu couldn't blame her. This was way past the time that Nanako'd usually be awake. Hell, it was way past the time that he'd be awake most days. But it was only normal for her to be worried about her dad. He didn't usually come home super late anymore, or, at least, he hadn't in Yu's experience in Pandora. It was a concerning enough happening by itself, and that was without knowing that anything else was going on.

"Oh, okay." Her explanation made sense. Meant to be getting a drink and then trying to go back to bed, except he was in the living room with all of the lights on, being a massive distraction. Really, he should have known better, but his mind was off on somewhere in the atmosphere. "Yeah, I was. Did y-"

His question was cut off by a sharp knocking.
A quick glance at his phone told him that it was a minute from midnight.
Yu did not want Nanako to open that door.

Could it have been Ryotaro? Sure, but... there was also the possibility of it being anything that wasn't him. In Inaba, it was fairly safe for Nanako to open doors on her own, but in Pandora... who knows what could have been waiting for her? He didn't want to think about it. Maybe he was a little bit overly anxious, but it was far better to be safe than sorry. Especially in a situation like this.

"Hold on one second. We'll welcome him home together, okay?" Saying that it might be something dangerous would only serve to freak his little sister out, and Yu wanted to do anything that wasn't that. He met Nanako at the door, waiting for her to stick the keys in the lock. Once she had, he made an attempt to open it up. 'Made an attempt' being literal.

It... didn't open. Didn't even budge. The handle was clearly unlocked, but the door itself seemed to be almost glued into the frame. There wasn't any way that it was moving. At least, not without some kind of force that the two of them combined clearly didn't possess. So they were stuck in here? That wasn't the worst thing that could possibly happen. In fact, maybe it was safer. If they couldn't get out, did that mean nothing else could get in? There was a whole host of questions swirling around in his head, some of which Yu wasn't entirely sure he wanted the answers to. The knocking was still persistent, growing almost angry, and it wasn't doing anything to remedy any situations.

Yu leaned in awkwardly, taking one of Nanako's tiny hands in his. "I don't think that it's Dad, Nanako." He told her softly, keeping his voice as even and calm as he could. Not a difficult task, but one he still had to consciously strive for. "It might be someone else who thinks this home is theirs. Dad wouldn't knock that hard, I don't think." Didn't want to outright say it could be a drunk neighbor to a seven year old, after all.

Speaking up now, he called uselessly at the door. "Wrong house! Have a nice night!"
If Ryotaro's voice came in response, he'd... probably ask him what the hell he was doing. If it didn't, that would confirm Yu's suspicion in that whatever was behind that locked-shut door was definitely not his uncle.

"Maybe we should go wait for him in your room. If we hear another knock, we can come check, alright?" Getting her away from this door was the best option, Yu decided. He knew that she likely wouldn't want to leave, but... he was allowed to exercise his rights as a big brother at least once if she tried to stubbornly stay behind. It was best to have her in a safe, controlled enviro-

Another noise burst Yu's thought bubble.
A little voice. Not Nanako's.
One that was saying "Help me."

A quick look out the window greeted Yu with one of the weirdest sights he'd ever seen. Large, too-bright expanses of grass, a wall of shrubbery, and large cut-outs of flowers that looked like they'd been drawn and colored in by someone Nanako's age. In the corner of the window he could see the tiniest tuft of white... what appeared to be hair.

Without thinking, Yu tugged Nanako along down the hallway.
Whatever was starting to happen, he didn't want her to have to see it.
 
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Yu wanted to welcome Dad back home along with her and Nanako was all too happy to wait for him. With him by her side, she unlocked the door using the keys but... for some reason, when he tried to pull the handle, it just wouldn't open. Was the door broken? It was fine before and it wasn't like anything else happened...

When the knocking got louder, Nanako started to get a little nervous. Her big bro telling her exactly what was going on in his mind: that maybe the person that was knocking wasn't her dad at all. Who was it? And why were they so angry? Maybe they just had a bad day and went to the wrong place, but the way they didn't say anything and just kept knocking was kinda scary.

"Y-Yeah, he wouldn't..." Nanako looked at the door, holding Yu's hand for comfort.

Yu tried to tell them that they came to the wrong house and they still didn't say anything back. It definitely wasn't Dad, he would've said something for sure. The suggestion of waiting for him in her room was weird though, why couldn't they just stay in the living room? Whoever was knocking, they were going to leave and go back home, right?

"My room? Why?" She asked him, puzzled.

He then went to look at who was at the door through the window, but right after that, he just began pulling her away, heading back to her room. She had never seen him like this before. He looked really nervous, like whoever was outside really scared him, and if they were scaring even her big bro...

"Big bro, what's happening?" She asked him, growing more and more anxious.
[/box][/box]
 

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Oh, how he wished he had the answer to her question.

But he didn't know. Truly and honestly, Yu had no idea what the hell was happening. He knew that the 13th hour was unpredictable. You'd see and hear things that weren't real. Things would get warped and distorted and generally make no sense. The most he'd imagined while indoors was that rooms would lead to nowhere, or maybe you'd get stuck in your bathroom for an hour. He had not at all been imagining this. The loud knocking that still hadn't stopped, the white haired little girl's incessant cries for help, and the weird carnivalesque music somehow playing from outside.

It could have been worse. All things considered, it could have been a lot worse. There could have been a monster trapped in here with them. It could be a lot more malicious than it was creepy. The thought made his stomach sour, and he internally counted his blessings that Pandora decided to go... easy? on him and Nanako tonight. That line of thinking, though, bloomed into a new flower of thought about his uncle. If they were dealing with this in here.... what the hell was he dealing with out there? Yu knew his uncle was strong, but would he be able to handle supernatural things on his own? Was he even going to come back tonight?

No. No, he wasn't allowed to think that way. There wasn't any sense in making himself nervous. He knew his uncle'd pull through this. The hour'd be over, and they could all just pretend it'd never happened. For now, he was going to be strong as ever for the scared little girl in front of him. She deserved that sense of comfort more than anyone in the world. Nanako's room would at least be safe for the two of them. Yu would've chosen his own were it not for the iguana he'd been gifted also taking up residence in there. He'd heard that pets could appear distorted during the 13th hour, for whatever reason, from his friends, and... well, Beef wasn't winning any beauty contests even when he didn't have the odds stacked against him.

As he led his little sister in and closed the door behind the two of them, he could almost feel a weight being physically lifted off of his shoulders. The white haired girl's cries were muffled now, and Yu could only hope that either Nanako wasn't paying attention to them or that the specter (if that's even what it was) had gotten lost somewhere else around the house. Some part of him vaguely recalled a conversation in their group chat, one in which other 'victims' of the 13th hour had discovered that using Personas was possible during it. If using Izanagi was what it took to keep Nanako safe, he'd do it in a heartbeat.

He gently squeezed her tiny hand to comfort her.

"I don't know what's going on for sure," Yu told Nanako at last, and he wished he could give her better news. It'd do no good to lie to her in this situation. "But I know that if we stay together, it won't hurt us. We just have to wait for Dad to come home in here. Sound okay?"
 
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Nanako was back in her room with Yu now and he didn't know what was going on either. There was something bad outside and she couldn't even begin to figure out what it was. Dad was still outside too, so if he came back now, he could get in trouble...

"But if daddy comes back, he could get hurt..." Nanako voiced her worries, her eyes filled with worry and fear. "We need to call him! Do you have your phone with you...?"

If they called Dad, he would come back with the police and deal with the creepy person without getting hurt. They'd just have to wait for him to come back. Or maybe that person would go away on their own, but it didn't sound like it. Big bro was looking really worried about it.

"A-Are they gone...?" she asked, not being able to hear anything coming from outside the room anymore
[/box][/box]
 

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Yu could only hope that the creatures of the night would dissipate. He truly couldn't care less if they left him alone or not; he was strong enough on his own to get through this. Seeing the horror and concern in Nanako's eyes, though... that was what was destroying him. Her little face twisted up in fear was enough to make his heart squeeze, and he wanted more than anything to be able to make it to stop. He just... wished he knew how. Yu knew better than to think that they had been targeted; the thirteen hour was just something that Pandora was rolling with for now, and he knew that. Still, he couldn't help but want to scream.

Want to scream at the box to leave him and his little sister alone.
She had been through enough. Her life was hard enough for a seven year old girl.
She didn't deserve this. She didn't deserve any of this.
And neither did his uncle.

With a soft "Yeah, hold on," to Nanako's question, Yu pulled his phone from his pocket. The display at the top showed clear as day just what he had feared: no service. It'd be futile to try and contact Ryotaro now -- his calls and texts wouldn't go through. Of course they wouldn't, he thought. That would've been way too easy. That would've easily solved the laundry list of the problems that they were having right now, and of course Pandora wouldn't let them get off that easily. The Box loved to twist and torture. If there was anything Yu had learned in his few short months here, it was that. Regardless, he lifted his phone to his ear after dialing his uncle's number, hoping that the screen's data was erroneous.

No dice. The call didn't go through. It didn't even get past a busy signal.
Fuck.

"It isn't letting me call him," He told Nanako softly, doing his best to sound calm. "but I know that wherever Dad is, he's safe. He'll be home really soon, and he'll take care of what's going on outside. I promise." He only wished that he could believe his own promises. As the minutes ticked by, Yu could only feel himself grow more and more nervous. He sure as hell wasn't going to let Nanako see that, though. "Then, we can all go back to sleep. Everything'll be alright. Just have to stay put, okay?"

He could only hope it was that easy. He could hear the little girl's voice again, coming closer.... help me, help me, and it made his stomach turn. He'd ignore it for now. For Nanako's sake.
 
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Yu tried to call Dad, but it didn't work, for some reason. What was going on? Why was everything so weird? Was Dad okay? Nanako was only becoming more and more anxious now that she knew that there was no way for them to reach him. Were things crazy outside too...?

Big bro tried to reassure her that Dad was going to be fine, that he was going to come back and deal with the creepy person for them as long as they stayed put for now. Nanako knew that her dad was really tough, he was a part of the police after all, but she knew that things in this city were really different. Toby was a fairy and she could do magic and there were other people that could do it too. Dad didn't know how to use magic, he was just a normal person, could he really beat people like that?

"O-Okay..." She nodded, not convinced, but there wasn't anything else she could do but hope her big bro was right.

Clinging to Yu for comfort, Nanako listened as the voice of the creepy person got closer and closer, asking them for... help? Was she in trouble? She sounded like a kid, not an adult, so maybe...

"She's asking for help..." Nanako pointed out as she loosened her grip on her big bro. "Maybe if we just help her, she'll leave?"
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The calls grew louder. More desperate.

My name is Hikari, the voice shouted. I'm lost. Please help me.

Yu couldn't place why that name sounded vaguely familiar. It certainly shouldn't have. He didn't recall ever meeting anyone by that name, unless it was a classmate from when he was younger. Or maybe in a dream. Regardless, he didn't really want to recall someone by that name. The only thing he wanted to do was forget any of this was happening to begin with. But the little voice was relentless, and seemingly revolving around the house. It was almost as if it'd been walking in circles for the entire duration it'd be calling. Circling. Trying to find any form of life.

Yu had to admit that he was curious. It was the voice of a little girl, as far as he could tell, or at least one younger than himself. Little girls usually weren't all that aggressive. ... Usually. However, he knew better. There was a large possibility that Pandora's funky night tricks were using the voice of a little girl to draw them closer. Once they were close enough, it'd then send out something to actually hurt them. Or, at least, that's what usually happened in movies. This entire damn scenario felt like a movie anyway.

Bringing Nanako closer, nearly hugging her protectively, Yu nodded. There was a possibility that she was right. It was... a small one, but he couldn't count it out. Maybe if they did help the little girl, she'd leave them alone, and the entire charade would be over. (The glance at his phone told him that this was far from over, but a man could dream.)

"Maybe," He agreed with his baby sister softly, before leaning his head back to call out to the voice. "Hey. We're in here. You're lost?"

A beat of silence followed before the voice answered with a yes.

Well fuck. Maybe Nanako was on to something here.

"How did you get here?" He asked... it? ...Her? ... He asked the voice.

I don't know, it answered back, sounding close to tears. Please help me... I j-just want to go home.

Yu wondered, vaguely, if Pandora could pop people in and out of houses during this hour. If this poor girl had just been awake and been transplanted. That had to be horrifying, especially if she was as young as she sounded. Still, he wasn't exactly willing to put Nanako in any sort of danger just to save a little girl that he didn't know. Family came first. Family came above everything. Hesitantly, he relinquished his hold on Nanako to pull open the door handle.

And was promptly greeted by a set of red eyes, a tuft of white hair, and a black dress.

"Thank you," The voice -- now physical, and now apparently called Hikari -- bowed in thanks, quietly ushering herself in. She was visibly shaking, clearly frightened, and the look of tension on her face certainly didn't ease up as soon as she took sight of Nanako. Maybe she hadn't heard her? Yu hadn't any idea. She idled about, staying close to the wall, fiddling with the bright orange bow tied around her neck. He kept a close eye on her, making sure to be ready to intercept if she even got close to touching his little sister.

Now there were three of them stuck in here.
How lovely.
 
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Nanako was nervous, but maybe this girl that was in their home wasn't a bad person at all. She listened to Yu try to talk to her and all Nanako heard back was that this girl was scared and wanted to go home. She still didn't know how things worked in this city, but she knew that a lot of people around there missed their old homes, she did too. Hearing that, she couldn't help but feel bad for the other girl.

Yu decided to open the door and in the other side they saw another girl, but she looked oldeer than Nanako expected. Still, she didn't look scary at all. Seeing that, Nanako began relaxing, though she still stayed as close to her big bro as she could.

"Um... I'm Nanako. What's your name?" she asked, trying to get the other girl to talk a little.
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As small and unimposing as she was, Yu still couldn't bring himself to trust this little girl. Sure, she looked like she couldn't hurt a fly even if that fly had murdered her entire clan, but he had dealt with unimposing villains before. People didn't have to look evil to be evil. He was well aware of that. He didn't want to open up any opportunity for her to get an attack in. That was, if she were going to. Certainly didn't appear like it. The poor thing could hardly stand, she was shaking so intensely. She had every right to be scared, especially if she was just a random girl that was thrown in here for the sake of Pandora's amusement.

But the red eyes, and the white hair... the mostly-monochromatic clothing...
Everything about her, to Yu, screamed 'ghost'.
It was certainly a hypocritical thought coming from him -- gray hair, gray eyes, drab as a ratty dish towel -- but he couldn't shake the feeling. Something about her was just... off. It was more than that she wasn't supposed to be with them. It felt like she wasn't really supposed to be here. Period.

He snapped back to attention when she'd finally gotten up the courage to speak. Her voice was tiny and stuttering. For sure, it was the one that had been calling to them from the hallway. At least there were no discrepancies there.

"Hikari," She answered Nanako's question softly, speaking almost directly into the bow around her neck, like she could dissolve and hide into it if she tried hard enough. Yu had to give her points for trying. Looked like she was really going for it. "Wh... What's yours?" Her red eyes flickered between the two others in the room, not seeming to care much who answered first.

'Hikari'. 'Light'. Interesting, he thought. An interesting name to choose, if Pandora were the one putting together this whole charade. If not, it was a fairly ordinary name. Maybe he needed to stop being so paranoid.

Keeping true to his own name's meaning of 'quiet', he kept himself hushed after introducing himself to the girl simply as "Yu." He kept an eye on Nanako then, making sure from afar that she didn't get too too close.

Yeah, so much for stopping being paranoid.
 
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Hikari. That was a cute name, a pretty normal one too. Nanako had met another girl named Hikari before, but she was very different from this one. This one was really shy, Nanako could barely hear her voice with the way she spoke, it was like she was trying to speak to the floor. It was sad to see, she must've been really afraid, just like them.

"I'm Nanako! Nice to meet you!" Nanako spoke with energy, trying to encourage the other girl to speak out too.

Yu wasn't being very nice, looking at her every now and then. Nanako was glad to have a big bro that took care of her like that, but... Hikari really didn't look like she was a monster or anything like that. She just looked like a scared girl. So maybe he should loosen up a little...? Though, actually, there was one thing that was kinda bothering her too...

"Hey, Hikari... how did you get inside?" she asked, tilting her head. "We didn't unlock the door earlier..."
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A very good question. One that Yu was glad that Nanako had asked, before he got the chance to. Something told him that the girl would be much more open to responding to his little sister rather than himself. Maybe it was a tiny girl solidarity sort of thing. He understood how he could sort of look imposing, what with how tall he was in comparison, not to mention the fact that he was older. Yu could only hope that Hikari didn't think that he was Nanako's father or anything. Because not only would she be incorrect, but he might be a little bit insulted.

"I d-don't know," The girl stammered into her bow again, fidgeting with whatever she could get her hands on in order to calm herself down. It sort of made Yu feel bad for her, in a weird way. "I woke up, and all of a sudden, I was here. I heard your voices, but..."

Well. That was... unfortunate. Pandora really was dropping people off into unknown places during this godforsaken hour. That was both rude and incredibly unnecessary, he thought. Which... forced another thought. Had his uncle been whisked away elsewhere? Had he been transplanted into someone else's house? If it was a possibility with Hikari, it was a possibility with anyone, wasn't it?

He couldn't stop his worry from growing, but he could tamp it down for now. He was sure everything was fine. Weird, but fine. They'd get through this. ... Somehow. They were already doing fairly well. Nothing bad had happened yet. There was just an unknown little albino girl in their house. Things truly could be a lot worse. There was still that weird... carnival-esque music playing somewhere, and Yu swore that he could still hear that incessant knocking at the front door, but things could be a whole lot worse. They weren't actively being chased by any monsters, as far as he could tell. Things were just... weird.

Yu glanced at his phone.
Thirty seven minutes past the hour.
They could do this. They could do this.

"We'll keep you safe," He assured Hikari, getting a frightened nod back in response. "We're just going to hang out here until everything calms down. Nothing should hurt us in here." Hell if he knew that. He was pulling things out of his ass at this point, but if it made the girls feel better, it was working. He leaned up against the wall once more, letting the two of them mingle while he surveyed Nanako's room.

... Had she always had that teddy bear in the corner? Was it new?
..... Why was it so ragged looking, if so?
 
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So Hikari had been taken away from home too and she woke up during this really scary time. Nanako couldn't help but feel really sorry for her. It would've been like if she waked up one day and Dad and Big Bro were gone and she was all alone. The only reason she was even keeping herself calm was because Yu was still there with her. She was still worried about her dad, but trying to help out Hikari was going to be a good way to keep her mind out of it.

"Yeah! You're going to be safe here with us until it's safe to go outside again!" Nanako tried to reassure Hikari, wearing a cheerful smile despite the situation.

There wasn't much they could do other than wait though. Even though Nanako was trying to be positive about everything, she wasn't really in the mood to play a game or anything. She doubted Hikari and Big Bro were feeling like it too. Still, she had to come up with something. Her eyes drifted from one corner of the room to another, hoping to find something that could lighten the mood a little. She ended up looking at Yu, who was looking at something else, that being a weird teddy bear that was in a corner.

"Hm?" She tilted her head. "Hey, that teddy bear isn't mine. Did Gilly forget it here?" she asked to no one in particular, trying to remember if she had ever seen her friend with a teddy bear like that before.
[/box][/box]
 

Yu Narukami

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Forty three minutes past the hour.
They could do this. They could absolutely do this.

Yu absolutely did not want Nanako to touch that teddy bear.

Sure, it was just a bear. And sure, it definitely might have been Gilly's. Given how often the other little girl was around here, that was a definite possibility. It certainly didn't look like something Nanako owned.The thing was totally foreign to him, and it seemed to be just as foreign to her. If it was something else that'd materialized into their house, who was to say it wasn't dangerous? Just because they'd been granted the gift of another little girl who didn't seem to want to cause harm didn't mean they'd get away that easily twice.

Hikari herself seemed wary of the bear as well, from what Yu could tell.
There was a look in her eyes like she'd... seen it before.
Was it hers?

"Does he... belong to you?" Yu asked the girl softly, almost feeling bad when she practically startled out of her skin at the question. She shook her head practically aggressively, only serving to make him feel worse before she spoke up.

"N-No, but I've-"

The bear moved.

Maybe it was Yu's imagination. Maybe it wasn't. He couldn't tell. He didn't care.

"Nanako, get behind me."

It definitely moved. A limb twitched, like the thing was being granted life right before their eyes.

Fifty minutes past the hour.
They could do this. They could-
 

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