⚜️Re-write- Chapter 2⚜️

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"Are you sure this is your Mika?" Mom asks over the phone as my friends stand around me in front of a now closed store.

"Positive. The red eyes are new, but I can never forget him."

"Gay," Shinoa eloquently adds.

"You have such a way with words," Mitsuba sarcastically says with a fake smile. I ignore them.

"So are you going to talk to him? Maybe figure out why and how the hell he's still alive?"

"You know exactly what I'm going to do."

"Run in there like a dumbass and possibly get yourself killed?"

"And break the law doing exactly that. See, mom gets me. Why can't you guys be more like her?" I say, deadpanning to my friends.

"Because we're not your mom," Kimizuki bluntly responds for the group. I give them a wonderful comment of where they can shove those words, and finish up my phone call with my mom. She tells me to not get killed.

Or else.

I wait in front of the performance center until the last of the audience members filter out, slipping in through the closing door unnoticed and without my friends. They had left some time ago. So much for ride or die friends, I bitterly thought as I turn to the door still left ajar. Slipping past when the last person leaves, I find myself enveloped by darkness as the heavy doors shut behind me.

"...We're going to have to improve his act soon," the Ringleader was saying from the stage. Poupée's leg is stretched out in front of her. From far back I can't quite see her face, but a gut feeling tells me that her face is scrunched with pain. "It doesn't get the shock factor we need."

"Sure," Imitateur says dully, "But that's if Mika cooperates. The best reaction we've earned from tonight was from that kid, and both of us know why."

The Ringleader huffs. I crawl down the aisle, taking cover behind a row of seats. Stage hands are scattered throughout, some even dangling from safety harnesses and checking multiple aerial props.

"Well, then, I'll talk to him about it," relents Imitateur. Her folded arms drop to her sides. "You can just focus on your own issues, like making sure your workers aren't in pain." She gestures to Poupée.

"I'm fine, really," says the bright girl, "I just need—"

"Your painkillers," finishes Marionettiste. He lifts her from the ground like a rag doll. A sorrowful look is etched across his face, unreadable to me. "I've got them backstage."

And with that, the duo is gone, with Poupée leaning heavily on her counterpart.

"You were saying?"

"...forget it. Just go do something. You always do." Imitateur leaves the Ringleader, heading up the stairs. I shrink further into myself as she nears, only to find her engrossed with a hand mirror and her gaze milky.

She stops one row in front of me.

Her grey eyes clear up, if only a little.

"Nice weather we're having," she duly says, gaze trained on the window. She walks until she's in the row behind me, her hands gripping the back of the seat until her knuckles turn white. "Such a shame, really, that we have to spend it inside."

I lower my head some more. Imitateur continues her spiel, talking nonsense to herself in a whisper.

Then she goes quiet.

Then she speaks.

"May both of you forgive me." Her breath is hot on the back of my neck.

Then it's dark.

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