Disclaimer: I do not own Scryed. Moving on.
The charcoal colored cat she had adopted weeks ago was curled up in one corner of her kitchen, probably dreaming of a nice plump treat while he purred in his sleep. "Here, Cat," Mimori murmured softly, bending to fill his bowl with milk. She had refrained from giving him a name. Names implied permanence, something she had long learned was absent in the Lost Ground. Names made her want to cling on to forgotten smiles on unforgotten faces, made her wish for things so far from home. So the cat was just Cat. It was good to know where things stood.
A shadow entered the room when Mimori straightened up.
"There's water in the jug," she said, as if continuing a conversation broken only two minutes earlier, as if seeing him in her kitchen was nothing out of the ordinary.
"I hope you're well." He was always straight to the point. "How's Tachibana?"
Mimori busied herself with dinner. "He and Kami live just down the road. I can take you to see them later. Why do you ask?" she inquired, looking up at him in time to see him turn away.
"For a while, I had thought… that you and him…"
"Our hearts belong to different people," she told him. The thought had occurred to her once, a long, long time ago, before Kami had waltzed back into Asuka's life. Mimori had wondered briefly how safe it was if she were in love with Asuka, but she knew better.
He was silent for so long. "Does yours still?"
For a moment, Mimori forgot what they were talking about. He stood up and walked to her, and very gently, took the shard she wore in his hand. Here was the ghost who haunted her dreams, come back to haunt her still.
It was then that she realized she was crying.
Suddenly, a memory.
She and Kanami once sat side by side to watch the sun set. Mimori recalled how in the silent afternoon, she marveled at the way the younger girl's hair had caught the anger of the sun's last rays, glowing in muted golds and fires against the stark land.
"You think about him often," Kanami said.
Mimori was no longer surprised at the girl's astuteness. "I try not to."
"And you think about her."
"I miss her," Mimori said truthfully. She and Shirece had not been especially close, but they understood each other, in that way that only two women who loved the same man could.
"But your pain is different."
Mimori weighed her words before she let them fall from her lips. When she did, her voice sounded distant even to her ears. "Shirece died for him, Kanami-chan. I doubt if I can ever give him as much." She let out a self-deprecating laugh, uncharacteristic of her once, but now, steadily finding its way into her routine.
She felt Kanami's hand on hers and a strange peace flowed between them. "Shirece-san died for him. But Mimori-san lives for him. I don't think anyone can ask for more."
But did she really? she wondered now.
Ryuhou stayed a night, and another, and still another, and before Mimori knew it, a month had passed and she had begun entertaining the thought that maybe he had come home to stay. She shivered at this epiphany, but when Cat rubbed his body against her leg, she was reminded that hope often exacted a painful price from those who dared claim it.
"I fixed the light in the bathroom," he reported to her without much preamble. "Tomorrow I can start working on the irrigation on that dismal patch you call a garden."
Mimori closed her eyes. If she pretended very hard, she could almost imagine that this was a mirror of the life she wanted to share with him as a child. She carried something of that childish dream when she joined him at HOLY, but to claim that this -- these nights of barely-sleepings, the mornings of subdued exchanges that they passed off as conversations -- was reality was a cruel way to punish her hopeful heart. When Cat drifted away, tired of the absence of her affection, she found her voice.
"Why have you returned? " she asked, afraid that his reply would shatter her into pieces that could be worn around someone's neck like a talisman.
"I was tired," was his only reply. He paused, as if weighing her words. "Do you want me to go?"
She turned to leave. It was a good thing fear had dulled her emotions, giving her the chance to temper her voice before replying. "When you're done with the garden, Ryuhou-san, we'll need to patch the roof. It leaks when it rains."
The night he came to her, she told herself that she didn't want anything else.
His touch was probing yet hesitant, exactly the way she expected a man who once shunned any human contact to touch. Mimori knew she was no expert herself, but at least she had had Asuka. She wondered how much longer they could play around at this before she snapped, before she turned to him in that quiet way of hers and demanded back the world he once stole.
She reached across his smooth chest and traced a small cross over his heart. Here in this space, in the growing shadows that stretched across their bodies, she made her foolish, foolish claim.
Like most of their conversations since his return, this one began in the middle of her own thoughts, spoken only because the words grated too hard against her throat. "Where did you say Kazuma was?" she guessed, her voice sounding far away. She fixed her eyes on the garden he had worked so hard on, the tired greens blurring into the dry, hard earth. She said she would not cry.
When she turned to him, the door was already swinging close.
Almost an hour later, he entered the house and told her. She had almost forgotten what the question was.
That was how Mimori learned to measure distances.
She packed enough food for three days. Then she stood outside and waved him goodbye. It was what she was meant to do.
There was a keen throbbing in her chest, an ache that berated her for being stupid enough to let him go when it seemed that he had wanted to stay. But Mimori knew better. Mimori knew him better. The code of unrequited love dictated that she stay by the roadside until he was a speck on her horizon, but there was no doubt in her mind that he would be back. This was her permanence.
There was a familiar scratching at her feet. She smiled sadly as she picked Cat up and buried her face in its neck. "I think I shall call you Talisman."