Days of Sacrifice

Kotori was slowly waking up after a boatride down a long, winding river. She clumsily made her way out of the rowboat, dizzy from standing up so quickly until a stranger with short brown hair helped steady her.

Hokuto slung her arm around Kotori's shoulders, as though they were old friends instead of having just met. Kotori was a newcomer to this part of the afterlife, after all, and Hokuto loved playing hostess. Besides, there was something about this girl…a spirit similar to her own.

"Hey, welcome to the first step of the long, agonizing journey to eternal bliss and so on. This is heaven's midway house, and I'm afraid we'll be here for a while. My name's Sumeragi Hokuto, by the way. Who're you?"

"Oh…I'm Monou Kotori. Nice to meet you, but…what are we waiting for? Did you just die too?" Surprised at herself for being so direct, she fidgeted slightly, daunted by the new atmosphere and trying to take in information.

"Oh, I've been here for years. We're waiting for the others, of course. Once we meet up with our soulmate, we move on, you know." Hokuto let her arm slide off Kotori, then spun to face her.

"You've lost something important, and you're waiting to see the outcome, right?"

"How did you know…that I've lost someone?" Kotori stared at the cheerful brunette, a little shocked.

"Well, it's death, my dear, everyone loses something. But you seem different from the others I've met. We've got a fair amount of time to kill, let's chat for a bit." She grabbed Kotori's hand and led her away to a small, deserted park.

Kotori sat next to Hokuto on the warm bench, calmly watching ducks paddle on the surface of a pond. "I've lost my brother and my cousin, you see. My brother was the one who killed me, but I know he didn't mean it- he's always protected me. And my cousin- his name's Kamui, by the way…I don't know what's going to happen to him."

"I've lost a brother too, a twin, and Sei-chan. I'm not sure how to describe Sei-chan, actually. He's the one who killed me, but I was the one who took my brother's place. They had made a bet, right, and…well, that's a loooong story. I love them both dearly, and I've always thought they were soulmates. But it seems like they'll never be together. After all the effort I put in trying to make them realize how perfect they are for each other. Men." She scoffed.

Her eyes darkened. "I've made sure that Subaru –my twin- will be taken care of. All I wanted was for him to be happy, to think of himself for once…" Her eyes welled up suddenly, and she brushed the tears away roughly. "Sorry. You never know when the grief's going to bubble up. It gets easier after a while, promise."

Kotori smiled reassuringly. "I'm sorry to drudge up bad memories…I'm sure I'll be fine. It seems like we're birds of a feather, doesn't it? The casualty of a triangle."

Hokuto paused, taking it in. "I think you're exactly right. But that's life, isn't it?" She rolled her eyes. "We have to sacrifice to make time go on. It feels like such a waste. Some people will still lose everything, even though we die to preserve their happiness."

"Sumeragi-san?"

"Hokuto, call me Hokuto!"

"Right. Hokuto-san, what if you don't have a soulmate?" Kotori frowned, her eyes blankly moving down to stare at her folded hands. "I think Kamui-chan and my brother are soulmates, so…"

"Everyone has a soulmate, Kotori! Maybe you just haven't met them yet. I haven't met mine, as far as I know." Hokuto's mind struggled to drag up a watery image of a man with short blond hair, and the ocean, but it faded in a flash.

"Hokuto-san? Will you keep me company until one of us finds our soulmate?"

"I'll be glad to, Kotori! God knows we need entertainment up here. It's too peaceful, I say. Oh, and you can see things in that pond."

The abrupt change of topic startled Kotori. "What?"

"Sorry. It acts as a portal to view the Earth. Do you want to see?"

"Yes, if it's not any trouble..."

"No trouble at all!" Hokuto bounded over to the water, "It should know what you want to see. Look, it's already opening." The surface was swirling, darkening to show a shaded room.

"Kamui-chan!" Kotori gasped.

"Is that him? Hey, I think your Kamui and my brother know each other!" Hokuto examined the slender, short teenager closely. "He reminds me a lot of Subaru. It looks like they're in a bit of a rough patch. My, Subaru's so handsome now. It must be genetic. How long do you want to keep watching?"

"I-I have to find out if he'll be all right." Kotori said, collapsing at the portal's edge, the bottom of her dress flaring out around her. Hokuto sat heavily next to her. "It seems like we're in for a bit of a show, doesn't it?"

They stayed there, watching for the outcome of the battle, Kotori resting her head on Hokuto's shoulder. They chatted idly about their lives, silent only during important parts of the fights, crying during the intense moments.

Alone in a little piece of heaven, they shared in their grief and wished they were still on Earth, if only to take away the pain and tears that flowed from the Dragon's hearts.

Embracing, they rested by the water and waited for the end. The boats were surely carrying the poor souls of the war down to meet them, even now.

"Nee, I think it's coming to an end. I'm certain everything will be okay. It has to, right?"

"…Right."