Buried Between the Pages: Final Chapter
Disclaimer: I DO NOT own Ansatsu Kyoushitsu.
Her eyes watered.
It was beautiful.
"Reality is merciless, and time is especially tricky..."
That haunting melody.
"We laughed and fretted, over silly and nonsensical things. Once the final bell rings out, the fun times will be over again..."
And it hurt. So much.
With trembling hands, the door creaked a little as she gently pushed it open, her heart held tenuously in her ribcage. Black robes rustled as she stepped cautiously forward, her gold trimmed hat clasped tightly in one hand while the other held the handsome crimson scroll she had just received early that day.
"Bye bye yesterday, three hundred sixty-five days' worth of lessons shoved into bags. Like always, like it's 'see you tomorrow'..."
It looked just like how she last seen it; shelves of books standing straight-backed in their little neat rows, the tables and chairs sitting primly amongst themselves, and the fluorescent light hanging from their steel corded threads swaying a slightly to a non-existent wind.
The only thing missing was the students with their books propped up on the tables, the computers humming as her peers ran through the websites for their last minute research papers, and the sketchy looking, hawk-like librarian.
The library was deserted.
"Bye bye yesterday, three hundred sixty-five days' worth of memories. Even if I grow up some more, they still won't fade a bit..."
Okuda Manami was in Kunigigaoka Junior High School.
I shouldn't be here. This place was declared off-limits.
Manami smiled a bit to herself. It was a watery smile but a smile nonetheless.
Having said that, I don't think he should be in here either. We both shouldn't be here. Manami glanced around, her heart beating steadily as she wiped away her tears and fixed her robes. There's too many memories.
She didn't need to think about where to go; her feet was already walking towards that familiar table at that small secluded area of the library that she could say confidently that she knew it at the back of her hand by now.
It was the only place she knew he would be.
And sure enough, the back of a crimson redhead was the first thing she met when she reached there.
He didn't need to turn around for her to see the smirk on his face. "Ah, you finally came. What took you so long, Manami-chan? I was starting to get worried."
Manami made an impulsive decision and sat on the table right beside him, joining him in staring into an empty space that only heaven knows what's there that is so interesting to see. The scroll in her hand was clutched so tightly her knuckles were white.
Karma glanced at her, quirking a small smile. "What, no book?" he teased, gently unclenching her fingers from their death hold. It made her relax a bit, though she still felt tense. There was an atmosphere surrounding them that she did not fully understand. It was heavy.
She felt eager anticipation flowing through her veins. For what, she did not know.
Karma had called her here. And she will find out why, one way or another.
"Karma-kun...could you tell me, why are we both here?" Straight to the point and mercilessly blunt, Karma had once described her. It was a second blade that she had for a long time considered unhelpful most of them time. But right now, Manami wasted no time using it to the fullest. "What we're doing now is risky. Karasuma-sensei had already said that the government declared this place off-limits, and isn't it dangerous to be in here right now with all the patrol guards outside monitoring the place-"
"Say, Manami-chan," Karma suddenly interjected. He had turned around, a hand on the table surface supporting his body which was angled towards her, and those imperious gold eyes of his boring into her own. "Tell me exactly how many guards tried to stop you before you reached here?"
She didn't understand why he still had that infuriating (she can admit to herself that sometimes it was endearing; this was not one of those times) smirk, as if he knew something she didn't.
Manami didn't hesitate in her answer. "Three," she said. "But that's beside the point! What if they find us-"
A slim finger was placed on her lips, effectively silencing her.
"Hush. If we managed to outsmart a few musclemen to get in here then I doubt they'll ever find us," he said, his eyes laughing. "But enough of that. Come on, tell me how you dealt with those three goons unfortunate enough to find you?"
Ah well, that's an interesting story. Manami willed herself not to blush.
In all actuality, it was a total accident that that she had incapacitated the first two patrol guards, and the third one fell easily with one whiff of her homemade chloroform, which she had modified from an original recipe to be more potent than usual – not enough to kill but enough to dosage to put a full-grown man out of commission for a full twenty-four hours.
"T-That's not important!" Damn it, she stuttered. Manami swore that he was laughing at her right now, but she was too embarrassed to look at him. "Besides, it doesn't matter how I got passed them, Karma-kun, and I know you're trying to distract me right now," she said to her lap. "You haven't even answered my question yet. What are we doing here back at the library?"
"Just a little fun, for old time's sake." Karma leaned farther, both elbows propped on the table. Manami glanced down on him, waiting for him to continue. "It's been one year since we've met each. Spending one last day with me in here couldn't hurt, right?"
Maybe she just imagined it, that wistful longing in his voice. Though, she couldn't try hard enough to convince herself that the painful clenching of her heart was a figment of her imagination. Truly, she was going to miss him.
The fun times. The annoying times. The endearing memories of his smile and friendship.
Taking his hand, she gave it a small squeeze and smiled. "I'm right here now with Karma-kun, aren't I?"
Karma let out a breathy laugh. "For now," he said a little morosely. "After all, after this day ends we're all going off in our own separate ways – you to your national high school and I'm still staying here at Kunigigaoaka. I might not see you for a long time, Manami-chan. We're all going to be busy chasing after our own dreams."
She looked up at the ceiling and she realised how high it was. She never noticed it before. Like how I never noticed a lot of things I haven't before until now. "There's still technology and smartphones, Karma-kun. We'd be apart physically but we can still talk to each other," she said. "It's not like this is really a goodbye, Karma-kun. Just a-" she struggled to find the right words for it.
"Just like a 'see you tomorrow'?" Karma said wryly.
"Yes! We're still going to talk to each other and be friends right, Karma-kun? That's not going change even if we leave school and move on in our lives," Manami said, prodding him with a finger. He halfheartedly swatted her fingers away and she giggled. "We won't know where the future will take us. But I promise that I'll be there beside you if ever need it," she said, her voice soft. For all your help this whole year, I can promise you at least that much.
Karma did not say anything as he slowly sat up.
Manami pulled her fingers away only to have them stopped by his hands.
"If you've made me an adult, don't be showing me tears," Karma sang, every bit emotional and melancholic as the words of his song indicated. "That's...That's funny, I swear the room wasn't this blurry a second ago..." He sniffed.
She looked at him and was shocked to see him in tears. "K-Karma-kun," she said, touching his face. Karma held her hand against his cheek, and Manami couldn't help but feel herself tearing up too. "It's...It's okay to cry, K-Karma-kun...I'm r-right here..." she stuttered, letting herself be pulled into his embrace. And somehow, the weight of what they had done in the last twenty-four hours and the crushing realisation of what will happen in the next twenty-four hours finally settled onto her, and she cried harder. Karma shook against her, and she held onto him because she was now suddenly afraid to let go.
"I don't want you to leave me," Karma murmured in her ear, and she just nodded against his tear-soaked shirt, trying to convey without words that she felt the same. "Manami, I don't want you to leave me."
She didn't want him to leave either.
"This isn't goodbye, Karma-kun," she hiccuped; the tears didn't seem to want to stop. But that's okay. To hold Karma on last time like this was worth the few salty tears that she had to shed. "This isn't goodbye."
Because their story does not end here.
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A/N: This is the last chapter for Buried Between the Pages. I hope you all enjoyed the story until the end, and thank you all for sticking with me on this journey of pure fluffiness that is only known as Karmanami.
-The Last Deathly Guardian
Song 'Bye Bye Yesterday' by 3-nen E-guni Utatan.