If I knew it was going to be like this, I wouldn't have met you again, Kiyomaro.
"Aren't you going to eat anything, Kiyomaro…?"
I sat next to him on the bed. Tio said I ruptured the cells lining his inner muscles, so it will take a while before he stopped bleeding completely. Kiyomaro had struggled, and forgetting that I was so much stronger than a human like him, I had forcefully held him. I hurt the person who was most precious to me with my own two hands. It was too late to piece the broken parts together again.
I held the porridge against his lips, but he let the warm rice slid off his lips. He stared at his hands without looking at me. I tried to touch his arm, but he startled so violently that the soup bowl was upset and it landed on the floor. With a horrible sound, it broke into tiny pieces. I felt tears stinging my eyes. Kiyomaro lowered his head so that I couldn't see his face.
"Kiyomaro, I brought Zeon."
Kiyomaro didn't respond. I forced myself to smile.
"He's going to erase all of your memories, Kiyomaro. And I'll send you back to the human world right after that. Okay? I'll never… come to see you again, so… So…"
Ah. Tears were spilling down my cheeks. Zeon gently nudged me aside. I looked up at him and Zeon, with the kindest expression I ever saw on his face, brushed his hand against my head, then pushed me away. I got up from the bed and wordlessly watched Zeon place his hand on top of Kiyomaro's forehead.
"Don't touch me!" Kiyomaro suddenly screamed, pushing Zeon away. Zeon looked as startled as I felt. Kiyomaro gathered the blankets more tight around his body, violently trembling. "Dis…gusting… Gasshu, how could… How…"
"Kiyomaro. Kiyomarooo—" I started to cry aloud, like a child. Instead of yelling at me like he normally would, Zeon only wrapped his arm around my shoulder and led me out of the room.
"KIYOMARO! Uwaaaaa Kiyomarooo!"
I had been screaming so much that I started to taste metal at the back of my throat, but I continued to hold his body and scream anyway. Why? Why! As soon as Kiyomaro fell asleep, Zeon and I planned to erase his memories and send him back to the human world. But while we left him alone for few minutes, he got out of the room and headed to the room that held the door that connected the human world and ours. Only the king was allowed to open the entryway between the two worlds; horrible consequences would befall those who messed around with the door. When we finally found Kiyomaro, he had been lying in front of the entryway. No matter how much I shook him or screamed, Kiyomaro didn't wake up. He looked like he was just sleeping. …But he wasn't breathing.
"Kiyomaro! Kiyomaro! KIYOMARO!"
"Gash… Stop it, he's already…" Tio trailed off, choking on her tears. Zeon turned his head away without saying anything, and Koruru, Paati, and Kanchome stood a little distance back, just watching me. Even tears didn't come out. My head felt like it was completely being wiped blank; I couldn't even think anymore.
It was then that Kiyomaro slowly opened his eyes. He softly moaned, bringing his hands up to his eyes to rub them.
Thank goodness. Thank goodness. I'm so glad you're alive, Kiyomaro. I won't ask for anything else anymore. I'll do whatever you want me to do, so—
Kiyomaro smiled awkwardly, looking up at me.
"I'm sorry, but you are you…?"
Time had stopped for Kiyomaro. Every single day, his memories from the previous day would be completely wiped, and he would only have memories up until the moment he met me again. Everyday he would ask me who I am, and I would tell him that I am Gash Bell. He would then cry with happiness, holding me tightly, and we would talk about many things. Over a week I learned that he was now a professor like his father, and that he taught ancient history. Suzume-dono had recently gotten married but she was as clumsy as ever, so Kiyomaro was worried about her having her first baby. He told me about his school life, his students, and his fellow workers. I told him the same story about myself over and over again, knowing he won't remember anything the next day. Sometimes I cried because Kiyomaro would never recognize me first, but when Kiyomaro worriedly asked me what was wrong, I had to smile tearfully at him instead of answering. It was so painful. Kiyomaro was so close to me, yet he had never felt this distant before. In fear of breaking him, I never forcefully touched him again.
Perhaps he won't lose his memories if he doesn't fall asleep, I thought. So I talked to him until late at night, holding his hand. He cheerfully talked back to me, but when the clock struck 12 o'clock at night, Kiyomaro blankly looked at me. He had forgotten about me again. It was so painful being forgotten by the one I loved the most. Even if he hated me and was afraid of me, I wanted him to remember me. If I send him back to the human world now… He'd never remember me, would he? He would only remember the little child named Gash Bell that promised to come for him, but never came…
"Remember me, Kiyomaro. Please remember me…" I said, crying. Kiyomaro looked at me with sad eyes, not understanding what I was saying. That day, I cried for the entire day, tightly holding onto Kiyomaro. Kiyomaro patted my back and softly talked to me, but when it was midnight he forgot about me again.
Kiyomaro, how could I make the clock's wheels turn for you again?
It was raining today. I knocked on the door to Kiyomaro's room at six. This was the time that he would be up by himself. When there was a confused and hesitant 'come in', I entered. Kiyomaro looked up at me, looking even more confused.
"I'm sorry, but…"
"Kiyomaro, don't you remember me?"
I was so tired of this. Tears rushed out of my eyes and I couldn't even choke out another word.
"It's Gash Bell, Kiyomaro. I summoned you to the Demon World because I wanted to see you so much…"
"Ga… Gasshu?" Kiyomaro carefully studied my face before slowly breaking into a smile, tears gathering at the corner of his eyes. Stop looking so genuinely happy, Kiyomaro. You won't even remember this by tomorrow.
"Gasshu! Is that really you?"
Laughing, Kiyomaro ran up to me, but I gently pushed him towards the bed and sat down on the bed with him. Kiyomaro looked up at me questioningly.
"Kiyomaro, I love the past that we've shared together, and this present that we're sharing together is so precious to me, too…"
"But Kiyomaro, at this rate we can't continue to walk down the same future together if you won't let tomorrow come for you… Please remember me, Kiyomaro. Even if the past memories are painful and hateful, please remember them so that you'll have a future. Even if your future doesn't include me in it, please remember!"
"Gasshu… What are you talking about?"
Crying, I told him everything that happened up until now—the time when I came to meet him again at the human world, the rejected proposal, the forced coupling, the tomorrow that would never come. While I talked Kiyomaro patiently listened, holding my hands in his hands and patting my hand soothingly when I got too choked up to talk. When I was finished, Kiyomaro smiled. The smile looked bitter.
"…I'll believe you, Gasshu."
"I can't remember any of those things, but I'll believe you, Gasshu. And I'll do my best to not forget. Don't blame yourself for this, Gasshu… Because I really am happy that I'm with Gasshu right now. Don't cry. It isn't like you wanted to hurt me. I know all too well how much you love me, Gasshu… So don't cry."
Kiyomaro gently wrapped his arms around me and held me like the time when I was a child, patting my back. "It's okay. I forgive you, so don't cry. I'm sure we'll be able to face the same 'tomorrow' again."
"I'm sorry Kiyomaro… I'm so sorry… U…uu…"
Kiyomaro just smiled.
The next morning, my eyes opened before the sun rose. I quickly started to get out of the bed. Kiyomaro was quite violent the last time I stayed the night with him and the first thing that he saw in the morning was a strange man in bed with him.
I turned around and my eyes met with Kiyomaro's eyes.
"Uwaaa sorry! I'm not anyone strange! I'm Gash Bell, and—"
"I know, so shut up, you idiot…" Kiyomaro yawned and rubbed his eyes. He gave me a tired smile. "How many days has it been? I think I really should go back so mother won't be too worried…"
"I know you're sorry, but I still haven't completely forgiven you yet, so don't get near me, you rapist." Kiyomaro stretched, then crawled out of the bed and started for the door. When I just stood there, blocking his way, Kiyomaro frowned. "Move out of the way so I can go to the bathroom, Gasshu."
"U…uwaaaa! Kiyomaro! Kiyomaro!" I screamed, holding him tightly. I picked him up and started to swing him around, and Kiyomaro laughed and protested 'it's dizzy, Gasshu!', but he didn't flinch nor push me away this time. Laughing, I held him tightly in my arms and decided that I would never try to forcefully merge my time with Kiyomaro's time again.
Kiyomaro smiled back at me. It was as pretty a smile as the one he gave me when I had become the winner of the tournament for the next king, when I was still a child. But I noticed something that I missed as a child. In my own misery at being separated from Kiyomaro I didn't notice, but it was there—the pain in his eyes. Parting was as painful to him as it was to me. It was just that Kiyomaro had been too mature to let his tears escape him like I did. The fact that Kiyomaro would miss me and think about me just like me was enough for me to let him go. After all, as he said, he didn't belong here.
"Bye, Gasshu. Don't eat only yellowtail; be sure to eat other food, too."
I sniffled as Kiyomaro gave me a quick hug. Tears kept coming out of my eyes. Kiyomaro gave me a troubled smile.
"Gasshu… If you continue to look at me like that, I can't leave…"
"Unu… I'm sorry, Kiyomaro… I'm sorry…"
"There's nothing for you to be sorry about, silly…"
Kiyomaro softly laughed and backed away as I opened the door that separated the human world from ours. He lightly touched my hand, then turned away. The blinding golden light swallowed his form as he slowly started to walk towards the human world. This was good. This was right. Now, even if we can no longer share our future, at least Kiyomaro would have a future. This was okay then, right, Gash Bell?
I tightly closed my eyes and lowered my head as tears spilled uncontrollably down my cheeks. The dull thud of the door being closed told me that Kiyomaro was permanently gone.
"U…ueeeen… Kiyomaro… Kiyo… Uu…"
Something warm touched my cheek.
"You cry too much, Gasshu…"
Black eyes that contained troubled smile within filled my vision. His scent was overpowering; I couldn't feel my legs anymore.
"How can I leave a crybaby like you all by yourself?"
I felt more tears running down my cheeks, but they were tears of happiness.
"Kiro Bell, don't touch that!"
"Chichiue, Chichiue, Hahaue is hitting me again!" Kiro squeaked as he hid behind my leg. I laughed as my wife lunged for him and he ran off to hide behind his grandmother. Hahaue-dono looked amused as Kiro clung to him.
"Kiro, I told you you can't touch the cake until Granpa is here!"
"Unu… B, but I was hungry!"
"You're an idiot," my daughter calmly told him, looking up from the book she was reading. Even though my daughter looked more like me than my son, her personality was completely like Kiyomaro. Kiro stuck his tongue out at Kiyoko.
"Bee—I hate aneue!"
"Wonderful. We finally share the same opinion."
"Guys…! It isn't even often that we come down to the human world; can't you behave for just one day?" Kiyomaro barked. "Gasshu, you say something, too!"
I stood up and pulled Kiyomaro into my arms, then loudly kissed his forehead. Kiro made a disgusted noise and Kiyoko genuinely looked sick, while Hahaue-dono only smiled.
"Now mom is quiet, so you guys be quiet, too."
Do you know, Kiyomaro? Just how grateful I am that fate chose you as my bookkeeper. That we were able to meet again. That you allowed me to be part of your future; that it was your own will that we were able to exist in the same world together.
The wheels of our time have merged and are turning together. Surely, at the end of this road that we're walking together, we would have to let our hand go again. But this time it's a definite end in which we can both reach someday when we run out of time, so we would able to meet again. We would always share our future together.
So for now… Please don't let go of the hand that you've stretched out towards me and allowed our frozen clock to start moving again.
- The End-