I never realized how pretty blood looked until you'd died.

It spread out from the center wound in little tiny veins and rivulets, winding its sultry way over your skin in delicate patterns, like a language I couldn't decipher. I wished I could read the spidery red letters it made on your face, your hands, everywhere. I wished it could tell me how to keep you alive. And if it couldn't, I wished for it to tell me where you'd gone.

I would find a way to get there, too, somehow.

Where does the King of Hell go when he dies? Hell itself? Beyond Hell? Or maybe nowhere at all – can there even be an afterlife when you've already been living in it for hundreds of years?

Could the unreadable letters on your skin tell me where an angel would go, if she killed herself? I'd never known Heaven, and I was never really sure if I believed in one to begin with, but Hell…I was sure that Hell existed. The question was, if I committed suicide, would Hell take me like it had you, if it had taken you at all? Would I find you there? Or would you be someplace else altogether?

Your brothers laughed at the tears on my face as I held your cold hand so tight my fingers went numb. I wanted to throw things, to hurt them for laughing at my pain, for laughing at you, for not caring enough and not being there for you when you died. But I couldn't. I didn't have the strength to do much at all. So I just pulled you closer and held you like I never had while you were still with me, alive.

Most of all, I wanted to hurt you for breaking your promise. You said you'd never leave me, and now, there you were, still with me in body, and yet… not really. You…you'd flown somewhere else. Even your blood wouldn't stay, rolling off my hands as it ran out and away from you, dyeing the ground rusty. I wanted to make it come back. I wanted it to flow back to you, maybe feed your body enough to make you return to it.

Your blood was beautiful, staining my shirt with your color, etching its strange foreign language onto the white fabric, spreading farther out the closer I held your body to mine. I wanted more than anything to read the words you'd left there, in those darkening red splotches and spider web lines.

Why didn't you take me with you? Would you have, if you could've? Or if you had the choice, would you have left me here anyway, to live alone and miserable for God knows how – ?

No. God knew nothing. God couldn't tell me you would die or how much it would hurt both of us. All he said was that we should never have met. A lot of good that did me. God was no better than your brother Oscar, forsaking his own kind, his own blood.

Did you know I would try to follow you, Ororon?

Did you know I would do it wrong the first time, and have to try again? It hurt so much, making the blood flow from my wrists, but it hurt even more when it stopped flowing altogether. Who knew that you'd have to cut vertically to slit your wrists? All I knew was that it hurt, and it would hurt for that much longer while I had to fix the mistake, that much longer while I waited for you to come find me, wherever you were. Or would I have to search for you instead?

I cried as I picked up the discarded knife a second time, cried so hard it made me convulse and almost screw up all over again. Lika came up behind me and put a hand on my shoulder. Shiro was next to her, his face pale and his ears flattened a little. She was holding his hand. Chiaki, no! You…you can't just…please, don't give up now. Don't throw your life away now, she stammered. There were tears in her eyes. It was really strange. Lika never cried.

Throw what away? I answered flatly. I have nothing left to lose. He promised me, Lika. He promised…

She stared at me, and I could see her knuckles go white the tighter she squeezed Shiro's hand. But what about… She looked at Shiro. He didn't say anything, and his ears drooped a bit more.

Lika? I said. I couldn't look at her anymore. It was easier not to look at anything, not Lika, not Shiro, and especially not your body lying there in front of me. But I could feel her eyes on my back, so I went on. Take care of Kuro and Shiro for me? Especially Kuro. He's still so young…

She nodded, biting her lip. Yeah. I will. Miss Lucy, too. Where is Kuro, anyway?

I shrugged. I hadn't seen him. For a while, no one said anything. Not even Othello, who'd been quiet since his cold laughter at me died. They were all watching me. I could practically feel them holding their breath, waiting…

I stared at the knife in my hand, watching it shake in my trembling fingers, and wondered if I'd have the courage to try again. Then I looked back down at your bloodied face, your closed eyes, and I knew. I had to do it.

Chiaki? Lika called again as my hand tightened around the little knife. Are you sure? I looked back at her. The tears were streaking down her face now in thin silvery bands. She was pretty when she cried, I realized vaguely.

I blinked once, twice. There were no more tears on my face. I had none left to cry.

Yeah.

Lika's face crumpled. I…I don't want you to do this! But, I don't think…that I can blame you, either, she choked past the knot in her throat. As soon as Shiro had slid his arm around her shoulders a sob ripped through her. She clutched his shirt in her hands and buried her face against the cat demon. It was almost scary, watching Lika cry. She was always the strong one, not me. I should've been the one dissolving into a messy puddle of my tears and your blood.

I was holding the knife so tightly my hand had begun to hurt. Now or never.

Chiaki!

My head whipped around. Shiro wouldn't meet my eyes. He kept his face turned away, his arms still tight around Lika. If you're gonna do it, you…you have to cut vertically.

It hurt him to say so. I could tell by the way he held himself so stiffly, and how he was letting Lika-chan lean on him. Shiro would never do that sort of thing under normal circumstances. It was weird not seeing him his usual laid-back self. But all the same, I was glad he'd told me, if you could call it that.

Thanks. And Shiro?

Yeah?

Tell Kuro…tell him I love him.

He nodded, taking a long look at your body lying lifeless across my lap. I will. We're gonna miss you, you know.

I know. My throat constricted, but the tears refused to come.

See you on the other side? he asked, finally bringing himself to look me in the eyes.

I paused. My throat closed even more.

Yeah. It came out more of a dry sob than an actual word. Still I couldn't cry.

You loved him…that much? His voice was quiet, eyes intense as they bored through mine.

I answered, so quietly I could barely even hear myself. I…I did. I do.

I smoothed your sandy hair back from your pale forehead, away from your face. Would I be able to find you, after all this? I looked at the little knife, glittering silver, stained with rust colored bands of blood. I'd made up my mind. So why was I hesitating?

If the tables had turned, and I'd been the one Oscar killed, what would you have done, Ororon? Would you have tried to come after me, too? Or would you have feared that Heaven would've taken me before you could get there?

Would you have tried to save me?

And…what if, once my knife had done its job, what if I managed to find you? What would you do then? What would I do if you turned me away?

I'd just have to take my chances.