He walked through a dark alley of his world and pulled the fur rimmed hood of his coat over his head, which obscured the view of his face. Master of all those dark shadows that flitted around him, he felt a desperateness to claim what had so far eluded him. A house of mirrors and entities stood in his path and so he stepped passed the curtained entrance to view the masterpiece within. The mirrors would connect him to the other side, where he then could meet the man of his dreams, his other self.
He had never imagined how impossible it would be for him, the prince, to get to the other side of the glass.
A cold autumn wind was shrieking against the windows of an old family home, large in a neighbourhood of small houses and apartments. The night was a frigid ten degrees and though the house was heated the cold, like a living being, seemed to creep in through unsuspecting mouse holes and spider trails. Hitching his coat closer, Shin shivered uncontrollably and complained to his father to turn up the heat in the room.
With a grunt the man adjusted the heat by a mere degree and went back to watching the television. "I don't want to see the power bill spike next week when your mother and I go on vacation."
"Yeah, yeah," Shin muttered. The cold months also brought this almost-permanent sadness to his features. "My friends aren't going to want to freeze." He glanced at Reno, his younger brother, to back him up.
Reno nodded and frowned. The two of them had opted to stay home from their parents' so-called vacation, because both knew it was more like a working holiday-their mother would get to do a lot of shopping while their father continued to meet business partners, though he claimed he was off for the week. Shin was starting to feel as though sunny Singapore was going to be a nicer November than northern Kyushu was turning out to be. However, their parents going away gave them time to see their friends-especially their boyfriends, which their parents did not know anything about-since the five of them went to different schools.
Reno, who was only two years younger, was still separated by a large gap of people from Ko-ki, who was Shin's most trusted friend. IV, who was Shin's boyfriend, went to a more rigorous school with Reno's boyfriend Ryouga, who again was separated by the year hierarchy of Japanese high schools. Unless they all met on a school holiday, sometimes the computer turned out to be their only way of communicating, and it just so happened that Ko-ki detested the internet.
"No drinking Shin," his mother reminded him, "you're not twenty yet."
"Yes, Mom," Shin sighed. He knew the rules and felt belittled that she felt the need to remind him all the time.
"I think it's going to snow soon," his mother continued, "you'd better be careful."
"Yes Mom," Shin responded in an almost whiny tone. She was definitely treating him like a child.
"I think we'll be fine, Mom," Reno came to Shin's defence. He was always the more outspoken of the two children. In their young-adult phase that position never really varied. "You guys have planned longer vacations. Go have fun, we'll mind the house, won't drink, and we won't let the snow attack us unexpectedly." The amusing thing was that Reno said that with a straight face and snow was not due until December.
Their mother exhaled slowly and nodded. "Yes, okay, you'll be fine. There's wrapped dinners for each night in the fridge-"
"If there's an emergency the car keys are in the drawer next to the fridge, there's a list of family members we can call posted on the fridge, don't stay up to late, and have fun," the boys chanted together and then grinned at each other.
With another nod, their mother excused herself and went off to bed. Their father stayed silently watching the television; having never taken a single part of the conversation after the heating bill topic. Shin was not even sure if his father knew that he had sons some of the time-it felt as though the man was simply there to provide them with funds.
Setting his study books aside, Shin stood and yawned. "Well, I am going to sleep."
"Night," Reno and his father chanted.
"Night," Shin replied before climbing the stairs to his room-the only one that was not on the ground level of the western style house, which possibly was two hundred years old and originally owned by some wealthy Dutch man.
He stepped inside the small bathroom, which stood next to the toilet room, and washed his face. School was really starting to get to him and he waited anxiously for the exams that would allow him into university and directly into having some fun. Shin knew of university students who had gotten into the top university of Kyushu, and none of them actually went to class eighty percent of the time. He could barely imagine not coming home, not skipping meals, and not studying, but having a part-tome job, skipping meals, and partying.
Turning to leave the bathroom, he stopped as something caught his eyes and he looked at the large mirror hanging above the sink. He frowned at himself in the mirror-from the corner of his dark green-blue eyes he had merely caught his reflection moving, but for a moment it had not seemed as though the reflection belong to him at all. There was no possible way for someone to have stood behind him, however, and so he left the bathroom, still feeling off.
Stepping out of the slippers protecting his feet before he stepped onto the woven rice straw mats overlapping on his floor, he quickly shrugged out of his school uniform and redressed in his pyjamas. Shivering he turned on the air conditioner and made sure it was on thirty Celsius before he climbed into bed and slipped under his heavy sheets. Why was winter always so cold?
That night he dreamed many variations of the same dream, with vampires, demons, and powerful sorcerers all trying to get one goal, one thing, that his mind never cared to explain to him, and yet he was always at the center of their intentions. Through it all, however, there was a light haired demon prince with black eyes and a pink haired man with fierce silver eyes who laughed at the demon who hated him so much.
Shin awoke with a heavy head, as though he had slept for too long.
While he was waiting for his friends to arrive, Shin found himself in front of the mirror again. Though he could not remember his dreams, he was having difficulty in forgetting them. They had left a feeling in his chest of fear and anxiety; telling him to run though there was no danger that he could perceive. His reflection was not markedly different than it usually was; there was still a stressed high school student staring back at him.
Why could his dreams not stop nagging at his consciousness? If he could, he would banish them without a second thought to the realm from which they had come.
Again, when he turned around, his breath caught in his throat as his eyes picked up some unexpected movement in the mirror. When he faced the mirror this time, the reflection was not his own. Barely able to breathe, he stared into the face of man who looked remarkably similar to him, but whose eyes were an angry black and whose sarcastic smile sent shivers down Shin's spine.
His feet urged him to run and so he did; down the stairs directly into the always-on-time pink-haired Ko-ki just as his best friend was saying "I'm back!" to the entire house.
"I'm b-oof," Ko-ki's standard greeting sounded as Shin bowled into him. "Shin-kun!" Ko-ki exclaimed, as if Shin was the most exciting thing in the world that could have happened to him. Shin then received an overly happy hug. "I missed you!"
"All that studying is going to your brains!" Reno shouted from the living room after having cranked the heat five degrees higher than his father would have allowed.
"I love you too Re-kun," Ko-ki yelled as he released a still stunned Shin. "What happened to you? Your face is pale. Do you have the flu?"
Shin shook his head. "I slept too much or something, I'm fine," with Ko-ki around it was not hard to abandon his winter frown for something that fit his face so much better. "It's been forever! I made Mom buy us your favourite snack."
"Corn nuts?" Ko-ki's mixed coloured eyes widened in pleasant expectation. Shin loved his crazy's friend's eyes: the right one was a chocolaty brown and his left one was a deep, rich blue.
"Corn nuts," Shin smiled in agreement. Ko-ki disappeared into the kitchen to look for them, which made him laugh. Shin could not help but wonder what was so amazing about corn nuts.
A knock came on the door and Shin realised that Ko-ki had let himself in without knocking. Opening the door, he was greeted by Ryouga and IV, both of whom were smiling. Ko-ki was loud enough they probably heard him from the beginning of the street. "It's good to see you two again," Shin declared as IV embraced him.
Ryouga disappeared quickly into the living room to see Reno while IV replied with a peck to Shin's lush lips, "Yeah, I've missed you," he laughed, "and those cute pink cheeks of yours."
Shin laughed nervously and stepped away. He hated it when people pointed out that he was blushing, and IV happened to do that a lot because he was always making Shin blush. "They aren't pink," Shin mumbled and closed the door after IV stepped in and took off his shoes.
"It's so warm in here!" IV exclaimed while taking Shin's hands and pulling him towards the living room, where they all knew it would be warmer.
Smiling a little, Shin nodded. IV was starting to make him feel more and more uncomfortable, but feeling stupid for feeling that way, he had no plans on telling his boyfriend that. He was startled when he walked into the living room and was greeted by the sight of Reno and Ryouga locking lips on the couch, while Ryouga, who was a year older-a millennium to Shin since they were in high school and a year made a big difference in sexual development-had his arm around Shin's younger brother's waist and was nearly grinding their bodies together.
Knowing his face was red; he coughed a little and walked out of the room. Reno was a first year student, Ryouga a second year student, while Shin, Ko-ki, and IV were third year students and happily looking forward to being in university the following year. Out of the five of them, Ryouga was the one who acted like he was already in university, and Shin was unsure of how he was supposed to react to a man-even if he was Shin's friend-groping his little brother like that.
Ko-ki, after having sensed Shin's discomfort, got up and shoved the corn nut bag in Ryouga and Reno's faces, significantly ending the kiss. "Corn nut?" he asked with an innocent smile plastered on his face.
Taking the hint, Ryouga relaxed his grip on Reno and took a small handful to chew on. Dejectedly, Reno muttered: "No, thanks," and moved so he was sitting next to his older boyfriend.
Having done his job, Ko-ki smiled and returned to his favourite armchair to munch on his favourite treat. He thought Shin would return soon.
Shin found himself compelled toward the mirror again, found himself staring at the man with the black eyes and twisted smile. "Who are you?" He asked, but found that his voice was subdued.
The voice that replied to him did not come from the mirror. "I am trapped behind the glass. I need you to set me free, Shin."
Whipping around to find the owner of the voice, Shin found himself alone in the bathroom. The next time the voice spoke, it was again from behind him-from anywhere he was not looking.
"I need you to free me. We have been trapped for so long, Shin-kun. We need you to free us. What are you waiting for? Free me." At the end the voice turned into a snarl and inexplicably Shin found himself reaching out toward the reflection in the mirror. Within the mirror, the reflection did as all reflections do and copied Shin's movements.
Their fingers brushed together as Shin touched the glass and the lights in the bathroom flickered once before going dark. Shin felt his knees go weak and his legs give out beneath him, and suddenly he was falling into darkness. Faces swirled about him in that darkness, illuminated as if by spotlights when they wanted to be seen, and he could hear Ko-ki screaming for him.
A groan snuck form his throat as Shin came to his senses. The only light coming in to the bathroom was from the small window sitting above the bathtub. He shifted and felt rocks fall from him, which surprised him enough that he sat up sharply. Blinking a few times to clear his vision, he found he was covered in the shards of glass from his mirror.
"What?" He whispered to himself as he got slowly to his feet.
"You did not release me," the voice he had heard before he fell into darkness whispered almost angrily. For a second, Shin's face was reflected in every bit of mirror scattered on the bathroom floor, him, and the counter. With fear pulsing through his veins, he bolted out of the bathroom.
How long had he lain on the bathroom floor? Why had his friends not come looking for him? Who was the mysterious man in the mirror? Was he going absolutely insane? He was talking to his own reflection! And then he had gotten so frightened of his reflection talking back that he had passed out. He was going insane.
When he walked into the living room he found his friends asleep with expressions of fear on their faces. "Ko-ki?" He murmured as he sat on the arm of the armchair. Even in his sleep, Ko-ki was holding his corn nuts close, as if he were protecting them. When his voice failed to wake his friend, he shook his shoulder a little. "Hey, wake up, you're scaring me. Ko-ki!"
It took a long moment before Ko-ki's eyes fluttered open and he stretched out and groaned. "Shin-kun? I had a dream you were eaten by demon corn nuts," the pink and black haired man murmured. "Did everyone fall asleep?"
"Yeah, everyone fell asleep," Shin mumbled, before he realised that he had to tell Ko-ki about his mirror. "I saw this thing in my mirror, and then it exploded. Then the lights flickered."
"That's why it's freezing in here," Ko-ki nodded and pulled Shin closer to him, for warmth assumedly. "Your power's out."
Shin hissed a little through his teeth. "Your fingers are like ice cubes!" He complained aloud.
Ko-ki smiled a little and rubbed Shin's sides; his touches were not like IV's, and so Shin did not feel as if his friend was doing anything that would make IV angry. "You get cold so easily," he murmured sympathetically. "Do you think IV would get angry at me?"
"For what?" Shin did not realise how close they were until Ko-ki started kissing him. He felt his face get hot, but he did not pull away; there was none of the uncomfortable feelings that there was when IV kissed him; it did not feel wrong. He kissed back a little, knowing the basics but never really having kissed someone before.
Ko-ki pulled away after a small moment and smiled. "At least now I know you wouldn't get mad at me," he whispered and Shin noted happily that Ko-ki's cheeks were possibly just as pink as his.
"But I think IV will get mad," Shin mumbled and he detangled himself from his friend and got out of the armchair. He did not look at Ko-ki to avoid seeing the disappointment on his features, and so went to Reno and started trying to rouse his brother.
His pink haired friend got up and did the same for Ryouga. "It's weird how we all fell asleep when the power went out."
"Too much studying," Shin replied with a forced smile.
After waking Ryouga, Ko-ki announced he was going to call the power company and checked the list of numbers on the fridge. Shin sighed and went over to IV. "IV-kun, it's time to wake up sleepy head."
"Five more minutes," IV pushed at him.
Shin laughed a little and got up. "You're awake."
"Shin-kun!" Ko-ki called from the kitchen. "Your phone isn't working!"
Shin rolled his eyes. "Use your cell phone, you cheap ass."
Ryouga laughed at the rare cuss word that escaped Shin's lips and Reno smiled.
"I don't have any minutes!" Ko-ki yelled back.
Shin sighed and walked to the kitchen. "Here, what's the number?" He asked while pulling out his cell phone. It was blinking strange colours. Opening it, he frowned: there was no service. "Never mind, I don't have any service."
"Maybe your battery is dead, 'cause this is the middle of the city and you have top service," Ko-ki told him while he plucked the phone from his hands. "Your cell is having a seizure." He looked around the kitchen for a moment. "As a matter of fact, so is your clock."
The solar powered digital clock was turning out the same fancy colours that his cell phone was.
"That's not right," Shin spoke softly. He was feeling afraid again. "It's solar powered, it has a battery so it works when there's no sun, which there is sun right now, and just because the power is out it shouldn't be affected. Let me see your cell."
Ko-ki held up his phone, which was also freaking out. "I bet the other's cells are doing this too."
"Of course they are, your gadgets do not understand this realm," Shin's reflection whispered from the metal handle of the fridge.
Shin looked at Ko-ki, who was staring at his phone unaware that Shin's refrigerator was talking to him. Biting his lip, not wanting his best friend to think he belonged in an asylum, he stayed quiet while his reflection continued to speak.
"The time has changed, has paused. You have been disconnected from your realm as I have been mine. You are ours now."
From the living room, his younger brother screamed.