Jess-chan, sowee natagalan ha? Nahirapan ako magbrainstorm.na-adik sa Ragnarok. ^^

I stood silently in the shadows as I watched my brother come out of the room, looking defeated. I gulped silently. I had seen him angry, happy, carefree, proud, teasing, and clueless. I thought I had known all the personalities my brother could ever have.

But this look of defeat was something new to me; it was the first time I ever saw him give up.

I clasped my chest. Within me was his heart too, and we felt exactly the same thing.

Sad hopelessness.

Because our biggest battle, protecting the ones we love, was lost. Cancer knew no shamanic power, only belief in its power to destroy and claim lives.

I entered the room where Kyouyama Anna was lying down, her body free from the hospital contraptions and machines that surrounded her some days ago. The doctors had diagnosed her cancer in her ovary malignant, and none can be done anymore to save her from its rapid generation. The itako then asked if she could spend her last days at home. Her request was granted.

For the past two days, I had stood witness to how Yoh exhausted all the means to save her, even turning to alternative medicines and charms. I knew because I could feel what his heart was feeling then.

Not only because we share a bond that went beyond between being twin brothers. It was simple, really.

We both cared for Kyouyama Anna deeply.

And like him, if only I could take all her pain from her right now, I would. She didn't deserve this. She had been so strong and powerful in her own special way. She was untouchable. Yet now, here she was, a victim to a traitorous disease. There were no signs that this was to happen. Nothing prepared us for this.

I arrived by her side. Hesitantly, I reached out my hand and smoothed her hair. A tender smile formed in my face. Even when asleep, pale, and fragilely thin, she still had that astounding aura of authority, one commanding respect.

And fear.

Yes, fear. The first and last woman that caused me to feel the one emotion I thought I had abandoned when I chose to stop recognizing my humanness.

For whether I admit it or not, this woman who had the guts to slap me, this woman who bravely faced me even when her fiancé died in my hands; this very special woman made me realize what love and compassion was. Ironic, when she herself found difficulty in showing those two things, especially to my own brother.

Her itako aura somewhat sensed me. Her eyes opened weakly, the dark orbs scrutinizing my figure the same way she always used to do. Critically and warily.

Ah, Kyouyama Anna. You are as constant as the endless cycle of life and death and cheeseburgers in between.

 "You're.looking good," I began, grinning.

"Always.the liar," she managed to say, refusing to smile back. "I'm.d.dying."

"You don't sound like it," I said, still in my cheery mode. "Not at all. So you have no excuse at all for not being your usual snappy self."

"Get.get lost."

"I had always been lost.ever since, in fact." I turned to the open window. "You know, Anna? Ever since you got bedridden, the house in Funbari had been unusually quiet. I should know. I've been visiting your place." I chuckled. "My little brother asked me to maintain the house so that when you two come back there to live again, it won't be such a mess."

"S.Stupid Yoh."I heard her mutter.

"Horo Horo and his sister were worried about you, although that should be the last thing someone like me would do." I shrugged carelessly. "I mean, you are Anna Kyouyama."

"Y.Yes.I am."

"And my little brother.I would have never imagined him as schizophrenic, but everytime I see him torn between pity for your situation and optimism at the same time, I find myself wishing that it won't be him who will be hospitalized next."

"S.So.y-you're saying.?"

"Your Creator is not yet properly equipped to deal with someone like you." I turned my gaze once more to her, smiling. "So if I were you, don't let go just yet. Not now, not tomorrow." I crossed my legs. "If you give up on life, then I won't be surprised if life gives up on you too."

"An.a-advice from someone.like you.?"

I shrugged and got up, trying to act casual. "I'm getting tired of acting like a house maid and caretaker without pay or any form of compensation. The least you can do is to not lose hope." I started towards the door. Yoh might come into the room now any second. He didn't know I was here.or at least I hope he didn't know. I wasn't supposed to be here at all. What I told Anna about the house was a lie - a piece of the other lies I threaded together to help her get motivated.

Why I went this far just to do this, I didn't want to think about. All I knew was after the final battle in Patch Village, I didn't refrain from being around my brother. I swore silently to protect and take care of him and the people he loved.

That included Anna.

But she had always been my priority.ever since, in fact. I watched her from afar in her loneliness, in her moments of wrath, and in her happiness. I watched her in rare moments of tears, and in excruciating moments of pain.

Ah, a piece of my brother lived in me still, perhaps. Or a part of me lingered in Yoh's heart. No matter, but whatever it was, it meant one thing - unconditional love for this special lady.

She was my humanness. She willed me to love.

I turned to her once more, smiling sadly. "Don't go to eternal sleep. You won't finish that soap opera you're watching. The heroine there is about to be discovered as the missing heiress of the mega business empire."

For a moment, she was speechless. Then her eyes softened. "Y-You.watched it? Y-Yoh never did."

I chuckled, then closed the door, feeling warmth rush into my heart. Somehow, I felt that Anna recognized me from my brother, even in a little detail. It felt good.

"Aniki?"

I turned around and found my little replica looking at me, puzzled.

"I know this was unexpected but." I began.

"Thanks for coming," he said, smiling. "It meant a lot to us." His smile told me he knew everything, and not just what he heard from the conversation awhile ago with the itako.

I shrugged. "Well, see you around, little brother. I better go back to brainstorming for world domination plans."

"Anna will kill you."

"I will wait with my breath held." With that, I disappeared once more into the shadows, and they welcomed me like a long-lost friend.

The shadows would keep me happy. The shadows would shield me from seeing another reason to destroy humanity.

That mankind was mortal, and that nothing was for forever.

end