“Maki-chan, you’re a real treasure hunter, y’know? This is some find you have. Quite an amazing gemstone. I’m afraid half of your luck allotment for the year has been used up on this, though, yeah, that’s for sure.”
“Stop it, Senpai! At least let some of my leftover luck be with men! Oh, please pretend you didn’t hear that. Anyway, about this gemstone, this is gonna sound weird, but I don’t think this is the same stone as when I bought it. Please take a look at this.”
Maki-chan put her phone’s screen to my face.
“This is a photo I took the day I bought it.”
I took the phone off Maki-chan’s hand to look closer and make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. Certainly, the stone looked the same size and shape, a crystal cluster just like what I was holding in my hand. But…
“Hey, what’s going on here?”
Zooming in the picture on the cellphone and bringing it next to the gemstone, I compared them side by side.
“…Is this a trick?”
A chill ran down my spine.
“Are you sure you didn’t bring another stone by accident?”
“No, it’s the same one as in the photo. I am certain, Senpai.”
Both the stone and its photo agreed in size, shape, and type of stone, but the color was completely different. Compared to the stone in my hand, the one in the photo was dim-colored, filled with inclusions to the point of obscuring its core, and large cracks spread across its surface as well.
Now I get it, even so, that stone still looks interesting and has a certain charm to it, but it’s something you’d sell for a cheap one thousand yen indeed. But if that’s what Maki-chan bought, then what’s this magnificent gemstone she is showing me now? They couldn’t possibly be the same stone.
Maki-chan burrowed her frow and said.
“It happened a week after I bought it, the first time I noticed it was different. I love gemstones, but I’m not into spiritual or occult stuff. So this is really giving me the creeps. Senpai, do you know if there is any physical explanation for a gemstone changing like this on its own?”
“I don’t think there are any. To begin, cracks don’t just disappear overnight. If anything, temperature changes or physical impacts would increase them, not decrease them, let alone vanish them, all you did with this stone was just hold on to it, right?”
“Yes, I just displayed it in my collection in my room, that’s all. I didn’t do anything to it.”
Maki-chan recovered her stone with both hands and raised it towards the window next to us so that the light would fall on it.
“I just left it lying there in my room a week ago and forgot about it until this morning, when I noticed it was different. So now I’m also wondering if it was changing gradually over the course of the days or if it just changed all of a sudden today. Look! When the light strikes it just right, it sparkles. Ah, it’s really beautiful, don’t you think? I noticed the change precisely because the morning sun’s light hit it by coincidence and its crazy-pretty sparkles caught the corner of my eye. I was really surprised, so I took a closer look, and that’s how I found out.”
“Wow, you’re right, it’s amazing how beautiful it sparkles! So when exposed to direct sunlight, it shines in this blue hue, right?”
I was captivated by the sight of the shining stone in Maki-chan’s hands.
“…Actually, it’s almost like the gemstone itself is its own light source; it’s not just reflecting the sun’s. It’s shining so brightly, it’s too beautiful, almost like something out of a dream.”
We continued to stare in awe at the gemstone, barely moving a muscle, when its light started to reflect off Maki-chan in a strange way. And then it started to move across Maki-chan’s body in impossible angles, almost as if it was dancing.
We doubted our ears, but we could make out a distant voice.
“My dear child, come back.”
“Come back to my loving embrace.”
The projections of the large crystals within the crystal cluster shone in blue tones on Maki-chan, as if covering her in a shower of light, and their light only grew in intensity.
I was listening raptly to the faint, mysterious voice from beyond, but I suddenly snapped out back into reality and opened my mouth wide.
“Maki-chan wait, something’s wrong!”
“Maiden of Light, come back.”
The unknown voice started to get closer.
Maki-chan’s body was now enveloped in light from head to toe.
“Maki-chan, put that stone on the table, let go of it! Now!”
She turned to me and froze when she saw the terrified expression on my face.
This is insane. This just can’t be happening.
“Just let go of the stone! Drop it, I don’t care, just put it away!”
“W-what’s happening, Senpai? Oh!!! It won’t come off; I can’t take it off my hands, Senpai! It’s pulling on me like it’s glued to my hands!!!”
Maki-chan, now in full panic, started to go up into the air as if pulled by invisible ropes wrapped around her arms.
“Help me, Senpai! I’m scared! Please!”
“Maki, hold on! I’m coming!”
I climbed onto the table, shoes and all, and managed to meet Maki-chan’s hands with mine, even though I had to stretch up as much as I could since Maki-chan was now floating high in the air. But no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t pry the gemstone off Maki-chan’s hands.
“Maki! Just throw the damn thing away somehow! Get it off even if it hurts!”
“What’s happening, Senpai?! This isn’t right, I’m scared!! Michiru-senpai, help me!!”
And then, an intense flash emanated from the stone and swallowed both Maki-chan and me into a swirling torrent of blue light.
“Dammit, Maki! T-throw away the stone, now!!”
Maki-chan stared at me with a face frozen in terror. As I struggled to remove the gemstone from her hand, the scenery around us transfigured.
We were inside a veritable vortex of swirling light.
“Where did the floor go!?”
“Welcome back… Our dear daughter… Well met… Welcome back.”
“Oh no, are we falling!? No, are we flying!?”
Where was up and where was down was anyone’s guess.
And we just continued to glide helplessly through this tunnel of mesmerizing light, how far, I could not describe.