A/N: Here it is, the last chapter. It's taken me over three years, but it's finally done. I'd just like to take this last opportunity to thank everyone who's ever read this story and given me feedback. I never would have completed this fic without you guys and girls.
Chapter 37: Monochrome
Miharu's blasting out Ayumi Hamasaki as I lounge on a pile of cushions in her bedroom. She turns to me with a smile, offering me some chocolate.
"I'm so damned glad it's summer finally." she tells me, sitting on the bed. "I don't think I could have coped with the inside of any more classrooms or any more stupid homework."
"Me too. But I promised Hwoarang that I'd get a job with him."
Miharu's eyes widen, and she immediately throws the bar of chocolate to me.
"A summer job? I think you might need this."
I break off a bit, rolling my eyes at her and trying to focus on the music, the sunshine spilling through the windows, and being happy spending time with a friend rather than letting my mind wander to Jin. But I can't help thinking about him, worrying about him, wishing that I knew where he was right now. Miharu hasn't mentioned him since we met up at the train station after the journey home, because she seems to know without asking me that something happened. She asked me where he was and if he was coming back after the tournament, and I felt my throat tighten, my blood heat up, and for a moment I could hardly speak. Hwoarang gave me a sidelong glance, and I stared at the floor.
"Oh, he'll be back, I'm sure." he said.
But Heihachi Mishima returned with his Zaibatsu alone. Paul Phoenix was declared the winner of the tournament according to the results published on the website. Right now, I'm sorta trying to gather enough courage to contact Heihachi about Jin. If anyone in the world would know where he could have gone, it would be Heihachi. But I can't quite bring myself to ask him just yet. I think it's probably because I'm afraid of what the answer will be. It's funny how things are back how they used to be, but I'm so different now. But how could I ever be the same after the things that happened in the tournament?
Hopefully the summer job will help take my mind off this stuff. It'd be cool if Hwoarang and I could get jobs in the same place.
"Hey." Miharu's voice snaps me out of my thoughts. "Have you talked to Hwoarang lately?"
"No. I've tried calling him, but..."
"No answer." she nods knowingly. "It's not like him."
Hwoarang's different too. He seemed a little better when we got home, and when we met Miharu he was up to all his usual tricks, flirting with her, making comments about that night he'd lost his keys and had to stay in my room, smiling and acting as though nothing was bothering him. Miharu had seen the results online, and she asked him how he'd managed to get disqualified from his match. He turned to me, the spark fading from his eyes, his gaze softening, and then looked away.
"I was in the bar the night before. Overslept, didn't I?"
"Didn't you get a morning call?"
"I hate those things. Unplugged the phone."
Well, he can't use that as an excuse this time. I called his mobile, and it rang and rang. The next time, it went straight to voicemail, so I'm assuming he switched it off. I don't know why he would, though. Maybe the battery's flat and he lost his charger. The track on Miharu's CD changes, and she grins.
"I love this song." And she sings along as I listen from my place on the pillows.
Maybe it wasn't there to begin with, that fun, sad, and kind story.
Maybe it was a dream or illusion. Maybe I slept too long.
Later on, I go round to Hwoarang's place, just to make sure he's okay. There's no answer when I knock at the door, so I try the handle. It's not locked. Even so, I hesitate before I go inside, somehow feeling as though I'm doing something I shouldn't be. The place is a mess, but nothing I didn't expect from him. Hwoarang's not exactly the type to be concerned about tidiness.
"Hwoarang, you here?"
There's the sound of movement from the bedroom, and the door's ajar, but no one answers.
"Hey, is that you?" I hope he doesn't have a girl in there.
I approach the door, and before I can reach for it, it's pulled open and Hwoarang's standing in the doorway, his hair messy and his eyes dull.
He sounds pretty dejected, and I take a step towards him, worried.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, sure, everything's fine."
"No it isn't. You haven't been answering your phone, you haven't called me or Miharu. What's wrong?"
I glare at him, pushing my way past him into the bedroom as if it somehow holds all the answers. There's a bag on the bed stuffed with clothes and other essentials, and I turn to him questioningly.
"Are you going somewhere?"
He sighs, walking past me and into the kitchen. As I follow him, he grabs a crumpled letter from the table and throws it at me.
His mouth twists. "I get to go home. And shoot people."
"I'm leaving next week."
But what? What can I say to that?
"You can't...you can't go."
In that moment, everything shatters. I've already lost Jin, now Hwoarang's leaving too, going back to Korea, heading into a fight he might never come back from. Tears brim in my eyes, and Hwoarang pats my shoulder awkwardly.
"Don't start that. It'll be fine."
"How can it?" I swipe the tears from my face. "You're leaving."
"Xiao..." He closes his eyes, rubbing his forehead with one hand. "I can't do anything about it."
"But I... What about summer? We're supposed to be getting jobs together, remember?"
"Yeah, I remember. But it looks like I've already got a job, doesn't it?"
I lower my head, trying to stop the tears, trying to be strong.
I'm exactly the same way a week later, standing next to Miharu as Hwoarang makes sure his bag's secure on the back of his bike. I can hide the fact that I'm crying by bowing my head, but I can't stop the sniffles. I hear Hwoarang laugh, and then his hand is under my chin, making me look him in the eye. I try to smile and fail miserably.
"Anyone'd think I was going for good." he says. "Stop crying."
"I'm sc-scared I'll never see you again." I sniff, and he rolls his eyes, wiping my tears with his thumb.
"Yeah, like we're gonna get rid of him that easy." Miharu comments.
"Exactly. I'll see you soon, kid."
He pulls me into a hug, resting his chin on the top of my head, and I take a deep breath, closing my eyes and concentrating on his arms around me and how warm he feels. But it's over all too soon, and he's looking at Miharu with a smile.
"See ya." she waves casually, but her voice is trembling.
"Yeah. I'll call you both when I get chance."
Then, as my vision swims, he's started the engine and he's riding off. I wipe my eyes and watch the tail lights of his bike until they disappear into the night.
It's been more a year since that day. My world somehow feels black and white, like it lost all its colour when Jin walked away into the temple shadows that night, and when Hwoarang left for Korea. I never got that summer job.
I miss Hwoarang so much. I can picture him by my side, talking with Miharu and I, teasing us, smoking a cigarette and ignoring our protests, and when I make a comment that could be suggestive, I can almost see him smirk, hear his voice. And Jin... I managed to contact Heihachi to ask about his whereabouts, and he told me that he wished he could help, but that as far as he was aware, Jin disappeared the day of the finals. Apparently he hasn't heard from him since. I got a letter shortly after, letting me know that my family and myself were under the protection of the Mishima Zaibatsu. It made me wonder if Heihachi somehow knew what had happened that night before the finals.
I have dreams that I wish I wouldn't wake up from. I dream that we're all together again, and everything's okay. I dream of a summer afternoon with a cool breeze, of laying in the grass with Jin by my side, staring into blue skies and kissing, touching, talking until dusk. I dream of riding empty highways on the back of Hwoarang's bike with my arms around his chest.
Sometimes it makes me wonder if those last moments I had with Jin were just an illusion, an unconscious dream. But I can remember the warmth of his skin, the rhythm of his heartbeat as though they were a part of me. I remember the promise he made, the promise he'd come back to me. How he made me feel as though everything was okay, that there was no need to worry. That we could carry on living like we did before the tournament.
And I remember the song Miharu was singing. The tune echoes in my mind, and I remember the last few lyrics the most clearly. They give me comfort, somehow. Like Miharu playing that song that day was a sign, that it meant something.
It's ok, so I agreed. Because if it's fate like we said, then we can meet again somewhere.
All of us.