The air here is biting cold; it nips at the nape of my neck, causing a shiver to run down my spine and spread through my body. I turn in a circle, kicking up sand with my movement. I try to take in everything around me.
The fence at the top of the hill still stands around the deserted village.
The black entrance to the cave on the far side of the beach is a stark contrast to the soft gray of the stone around it.
The ocean stretches out as far as the eye can see.
It's exactly the same as it was the last time I was here six years ago.
The Dark Area.
Why am I here? Why now after all this time?
There's movement coming from the cave. And down the slope from the village. And in the water.
It's them—those creatures. The ones that tricked me into thinking they were Hangyomon and needed my help.
I'm surrounded before I even have a chance to move. I try to scream but there is no voice within me. Their hazy yet solid bodies encircle me, drawing ever closer until I can't move without touching one of them. I can feel one's breath on my neck, making me shudder again.
I try to break away as one of them grabs onto my forearm, but it's useless. I'm powerless. I can't move or speak or defend myself. One of them lets out a grisly laugh as he clamps down on my throat.
They push me backwards, all of them moving as one, driving me into the water. The cold is so intense that I let out another soundless scream. I hear laughter again.
A few of them dive down under the water and begin to tug at my legs. I'm fighting now to keep my head above water while some of them pull me down and others push their weight onto me.
I bolt up in my bed as I awaken, barely catching the scream in my throat before I release it. My body is shaking and my breath comes out heavy. I quickly feel beside my pillow for my cell phone, opening it and shining a little light around the dark room, just to make sure I am alone. The light glides over my arm and I have to give it a second look. There's a red mark there, as if—as if someone had grabbed hold of me.
It must have been me, I reason. I grabbed my arm when I was dreaming about it. Yeah, it was me, I think as I lay back down, but I can still feel my body shaking.
I've been told on more than one occasion that I worry too much about Hikari. I'm over-protective, pushy, some say downright annoying, but I can't help but be concerned about her.
And now, now I'm forced to watch her suffer because something happened that I couldn't protect her from. Worse than that, she won't let me in to try and make things better.
As if anything could make it better.
Matt had stayed until four in the morning, patiently waiting for Hikari to wake up—but I ended up just kicking him out because I needed to go to bed. I carried her to her room, something I haven't done since we were children. Matt said he would come back the next day, which he did, and although I wouldn't admit anything of the sort, it was nice having a friend around to make things a little less awful.
So Matt and I spent the day talking about Daisuke, and when that got too painful we found something to distract us. Hikari was with my parents at the hospital for most of the day, until I called and convinced her to come home.
She went into her room and didn't come out again unless it was necessary. She wasn't answering her calls and I had to send anyone who came to see her away.
Now it's Tuesday and she finally comes out of her room. I hear her turn on the water to shower. I get dressed and make us each a couple of pieces of toast.
"You look nice," I say, seeing Hikari walk into the kitchen. She's wearing a simple black dress, fitting for a wake.
I cough, feeling stupid. "I made you some toast."
"I'm not hungry."
"Hmm, I don't remember asking if you were hungry." I sit at the table and she reluctantly follows suit.
She picks at the bread, instead of actually eating it. "Kari," I grumble, spraying crumbs across the table, "just eat it."
She glances up at me, glaring slightly, and takes a bite. I finish before she gets done chewing, though, and she gathers up both our plates. "We should get going," she explains.
It's a long, silent trip to the funeral home. Hikari takes hold of my hand and squeezes it every so often. She's trying to ready herself, trying to build up the strength to be everyone else's savior, to be a shoulder for whoever needs it without letting on to how desperate she needs a shoulder herself.
She's building walls.
I arrive at the funeral home a little after noon, but Hikari is not here yet. I haven't seen her since she left the hospital Saturday morning. She hasn't been returning my calls and Taichi won't let me see her. I didn't think that Daisuke's death would have affected her that much but I should have realized that being who she was, this would happen. Hindsight is always twenty-twenty.
There are a lot more people from school than I would have expected; the entire football team has shown up as well as a bunch of his girl fans. Daisuke could have had almost any girl in school; he should have left Hikari to me.
I see Matt enter behind Ken and Miyako. It's time for me to look like I care my best 'friend' is dead.
They walk up to me and we exchange hellos. I keep my eyes downcast so I can't accidently give myself away. Matt pats my shoulder. I stifle a snicker; he wants to act like a brother now? It's a little late for that."
I spend a long fifteen minutes with the three of them before Matt goes to speak with Sora, Koushiro, and Jyou. On his way over he is stopped by Hikari and Taichi walking in. I leave Ken and Miyako while one of them is midsentence .
"I, um, wanted to thank you for the other night," I hear Hikari say with an awkward, embarrassed expression on her face.
The other night?
Matt flashes a smile. "I do what I can."
Matt did something the other night?
Hikari sees me and practically jumps at me. I wrap my arms around her. It feels so right I never want to let go. "How are you?"
"Alright, I suppose," she whispers.
I glare at Matt from above Kari. He doesn't notice, however. Both he and Taichi are staring at the other end of the room, where Daisuke is. Taichi wraps his hand around Hikari's upper arm and pulls her away from me.
She leaves me standing there, arms slowly falling back to my sides. She looks back at me. Her eyes are asking me to follow. I do.
The four of us are standing in front of Daisuke's casket looking at him for the last time. Tears streak down Hikari's face. She wraps an arm around me; her other one is still in Taichi's possession.
Matt's face is unusually somber. Taichi is blinking tears from his eyes. I rub my eyes to make it look like I'm upset too.
"I can't believe I'm never going to see him again." Hikari hiccups quietly.
"Me either," I agree. Except I'm glad to be rid of him. Now Kari and I can be together. Finally, we can be together.
Hikari turns back. Ken is there. His eyes are bloodshot. His hands are shaking. "Do you mind if I borrow Hikari?"
Hikari looks confused, but she lets both Taichi and me go. She follows him silently, wiping the tears from her cheeks.
Ken leads Hikari out the back door and into the graveyard behind the building. I sneak out the door a moment later, taking a different path so they don't know I'm following. Hey, if I can kill a guy, a little bit of stalking doesn't seem so bad.
They walk along a row of gravestones a ways back into the graveyard. I quickly jump behind one of the larger stones as they slow to a halt. "Here," he says, pointing.
Hikari sinks down to the ground and Ken follows down onto one knee.
I can only assume it's Daisuke's headstone flat on the ground. Funny, considering he isn't being buried.
"I thought you would want to know where it was," he says.
Hikari nods and I hear a "thank you" that is carried off by the wind.
They sit in silence for a moment or two, Ken finding it necessary for some reason to rest his hand on Hikari's shoulder.
"What are we supposed to do without him?"
"I don't know, Kari."
"How can we just go back to our lives like nothing's changed?"
"I…don't know. It'll get easier, though, Hikari. I promise."
"But it's never going to be the same." She hugs him suddenly, startling him enough to almost knock him off balance. My hands grip the head stone I'm peering out from. It couldn't be Ken. She couldn't possibly like Ken…could she?
"I can't help but being angry with him. I can't help but blame him for leaving me."
Ken swallows thickly. "The last thing Daisuke would want is to leave you. You were everything to him. Don't be angry. He would have done anything to stay with you."
I'm burning with rage. Ken is not going to stand in my way. If he thinks he can just sweep in and take Kari away from me, he certainly has another thing coming. I didn't get rid of Daisuke so he could have her.
I don't notice them standing at first. It's only when I hear Hikari speaking again that I realize that they are heading back towards the building. "Is Koushiro here?"
"I just need to speak with him."
Ken holds the door open for Hikari. I sprint around the side and go back in through the front door. Hikari walks up to Koushiro and they step away from everyone else. She's whispering in his ear. I see his eyes widen, and then a thin smile forms on his lips. He nods and Hikari's face lights up.
Daisuke's parents walk up to the front of the room. They ask for everyone to sit. Hikari finds her way back to me and we sit down with the rest of our group. "What were you talking with Koushiro about?" I ask casually.
"Oh, it was nothing," Hikari says under her breath.
The Motomiya's begin an emotional speech that brings everyone around me to tears. I don't hear more than a dozen words. All I can think of is what Hikari could possibly say to Koushiro that she wants to keep from me.
Was I wrong in thinking that Ken is in my way? Is Koushiro the one I need to watch out for?
Is Koushiro the one Hikari likes?
I received a review asking me if I had died because I haven't updated this for so long. Truth is I forgot about it. So I put together a chapter to get it going again. Unfortunately, I've spent most of the summer without an internet connection so I haven't been able to post this.