I'm sort of taking my time with Chapter Seventeen of VoA right now, because it's rather important and I don't want to do a crappy job on it. So in order to keep all of you occupied while I gather my thoughts for that, here's another chapter for this story. It's much easier to write, for some reason.
(Though, I think I may have changed from present to past tense. Oh well. The prologue is allowed to be different.
Enjoy.[Chapter One -- Magic Tricks]
I had forgotten just how polluted cities were. As soon as I stepped off of the train, a gust of foul-smelling, smoke-choked air hit me in the face that made my eyes water and caused me to break out into a coughing fit.
It was horrible.
I was used to breathing in fresh, clean air, not the stale stuff that floated all around me. Unfortunately, I had to get used to it. For the next two weeks, I was stuck. I dreaded the thought, because I wasn’t sure if this was going to go well or not. I was uneasy and apprehensive, and I couldn’t decide whether or not to move, which was all well and good, because I realized at that point that I didn’t know where to go.
I had just assumed that Risako would meet me at the station. After all, if she didn’t, how on earth would I find my way around?
But the train had arrived at the station early, and so if she WAS going to meet me there, I was early. I stopped dragging my bag along behind me for a moment in order to gaze about at my surroundings.
People swarmed through the streets like a sea of insects, everybody rushing about with his or her own agenda, completely unconcerned about what was going on around them. Cars occasionally weaved in and out of this mass, their horns blaring whenever an aimless pedestrian strayed into their paths. Exhaust billowed out of the vehicles like wispy, flying snakes, and I made the connection as to why the air was so contaminated.
Normally, all of the hustle and bustle would have startled me, but there was a sort of rhythm to the noises that the city was making that it was almost sort of energizing to hear.
My eyes wandered farther, until I spotted a mass of people standing still, circled around a small, makeshift wooden platform, on top of which stood a boyish-looking girl with short messy hair and very tanned skin. I couldn’t tell what it was she was doing that had her audience so captivated, so out of curiousity, I decided to go over and get a better look.
I should inform you that I’m not very tall, and so it wasn’t until after I managed to squeeze my way near the front of the crowd that I actually saw anything.
The girl had this wild, crazed look in her eyes, like a rabid dog—only she wasn’t foaming at the mouth—and she and her clothing both appeared to be rather worn and dirty. Her hands were moving swiftly, fluidly, manipulating what appeared to be a single silver coin. She never said a word, but somehow the audience was completely transfixed by what she was doing, and I couldn’t help but stand there and watch as well.
In a matter of minutes, I saw the one coin multiply into three, and these she began to juggle in a rather comedic fashion. I don’t really know how she managed to do it, really, but by some form of slight of hand, more coins were being tossed into the air until she was juggling at least ten or twenty of them all at once.
The people around me began to let out appreciative ooh’s and aah’s at this display, and the girl only responded by letting a crooked sort of grin etch its way onto her face. Finally, she caught all of the money in one hand, clapping it together between her two palms.
When she opened her hands again, there was but the single coin that remained.
I clapped along with the other onlookers, and watched as the magician bent down to give the coin to a small child that had been viewing the entire performance with eyes as wide as saucers.
“She’s very good, don’t you think?” Startled, I turned to see a girl about my height and age standing beside me, and she was watching me with a very amused sort of grin on her lips. Like the magician, she had short black hair, but the way hers was cut it framed her face in a pleasant sort of way, and she kept it out of her eyes. She was wearing a pair of worn jeans and a dark jacket that looked to be much too big for her small frame. Though we were about the same size, she seemed to exude a sort of confidence and calmness from the very center of her being, which was something that I did not possess in the slightest.
“Ah, yes. I’ve never seen live magic before… It’s much better than anything I’ve seen on TV… Do you know her?”
It occurred to me that my sentences were coming out a little bit clipped, and I sounded as though I was annoyed that the other girl was even bothering to talk to me. Risako was always scolding me for that. I’ve never really been comfortable talking to other people, so I guess I just always sound uptight, even when I don’t mean to.
The girl didn’t seem to notice or care, however, and she merely continued to smile, nodding her head.
“Yeah, that’s my friend Tokunaga Chinami. I’ve known her for a very long time…” She trailed off at the last sentence somewhat mysteriously, and though I was curious, I decided not to pry. I didn’t even know this girl, after all. “Oh, but I’m being rude. My name is Shimizu Saki.”
She extended one of her hands towards me, and I hesitated for a moment before shaking it timidly.
“You’re not from around here, are you? I mean, I’ve never seen you before, at least…”
“No, I’m not… I’m actually just visiting my cousin…”
Saki seemed to find my reply somewhat strange, and she tilted her head as though she was confused. “Visiting… a place like this? We don’t really get outsiders like you… What does your cousin do?”
“She’s a performer… sings, dances… things like that.”
“Ah… is she a part of that MS troupe, then? They’re very famous here within the city. What’s her name?”
“Yes… I think that’s what it’s called. Her name is Sugaya Risako, anyway.”
The other girl blinked at me. I wondered for a moment if my cousin was perhaps not the people’s favorite…
“You’re… related to Sugaya-san?”
At this point, I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing. “…Yes? Is something wrong?”
“Ah, no, of course not. She’s very talented. I was just thinking about something… It’s not really important.” Saki waved her hand about in a noncommittal way, brushing away the subject as if it hadn’t existed. I might have been inclined to question her further, had the girl not begun to panic at that point.
“What is it?”
She was looking towards the makeshift stage, and I realized that the magician was gone. Saki didn’t seem happy about this, and before I could even say anything, she began to walk away. I felt the tiniest bit deflated at being abandoned, and let out a sigh as I bent down to pick up my bag again. I turned and was about to make my way back to the station to look for Risako, when the other girl started calling after me and I looked back over my shoulder to see her waving at me cheerfully.
“See you around, Tsugunaga-san!”
Despite the fact that I generally didn’t indulge in such childishness, I managed a tiny smile in reply, and I think I actually even waved back a bit.
As I waited for Risako, I felt as though my world had been made just a little bit brighter.