Disclaimer: It's Toei's sandbox. I just play here because it's fun.
Author's Note: I've had this completed for a while, but have hesitated with posting it. I don't know why that is. With that, enjoy! Not the happiest fic in the world… That said, two other things. One, to all the kids also writing Magi stories, my apologies that I haven't reviewed. The past few weeks have been like one giant spaz attack. Two, I'm working on another Deka fic (slash, for those of you interested in that thing) and another Magi story. I have a completed Boukenger story, but I don't know if I'll post that or not. End author's note.
By Etcetera Kit
The crowds roar, the days soar,
The babies cry, without you.
The moon glows, the river flows,
But I die, without you.
He sat up quickly, gasping for air like a drowning man. For a moment, he floundered, trying to figure out where he was and, more importantly, why he was in a strange place. The pieces fell into place and he managed to put a phrase with his location—the guest room. Patches of silver moonlight glowed on the floor, illuminating a handcrafted rug. The paintings on the wall were creations by members of the family.
The family… Urara!
He tried to get out of bed, but his legs tangled with the sheets and he fell to the floor with a dull thud. She was in the hospital—what if she came out of surgery and woke up and he wasn't there? She'd be afraid and would never forgive him. Someone must have brought him here, to the Ozu family home. The last thing he remembered was dozing off in one of the plastic chairs in the waiting room. He'd managed—somehow—to contact Blagel, but none of them had arrived when he'd finally closed his eyes. They must have arrived while he had been sleeping. If Miyuki or Makito were with her… that'd be all right. They'd explain where he was.
The door to the guest room opened.
The overhead lights switched on.
He was too busy having a ferocious battle with the sheet to notice who had entered. He had to get free and get dressed and go to her.
"Sungel," Blagel's deep voice came. "I heard a noise. What are you doing?"
"I have to get back to the hospital."
There—finally! He left the sheet in a wad on the floor and got up. He padded to the dresser and pulled open the drawers. Someone had thought enough to pick up clean clothes from their house—good. He didn't want to be rumpled when Urara woke up, although he doubted she'd care. He found a clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt, tossing them on the bed.
"Sungel." Blagel walked across the room to him, putting a hand on his, forcing him to stop collecting his watch and billfold. "You don't remember, do you?"
Irritated, he snapped, "Of course I remember. Urara's in surgery."
"No," Blagel said sadly and softly. "Urara died."
He froze, staring at his former mentor. Urara had died? That wasn't possible. Someone would have told him. He'd remember… Abruptly, the memories came crashing back to him. He had dozed off in the hospital, sick with worry. A nurse woke him and said… No. Saints, no. He sank to his knees, tears falling and sobs bubbling up. She was gone. He raised a hand to his face, then buried his face in his hands. This wasn't happening.
With a gasp, he looked up, remembering. The Flower Garden of Souls.
"I have to go to Magitopia."
Scrambling to his feet, he grabbed his GripPhone and dug into his billfold, producing the ticket for Travelion. "Sungel, I know what you're thinking," Blagel said, "And don't do it. You know the legends and the laws. Only Magiel—"
"Don't try to stop me," he snapped, wiping his eyes on the back of his hand. "Miyuki isn't dead! You don't know what Magiel will say!"
Blagel stared at him for a moment. It wasn't the look of his former teacher or even the look of his father-in-law, but the look of one Heavenly Saint scrutinizing another. He stood straight, ticket in one hand and GripPhone in the other. Blagel nodded slowly, his features softening. "I'll go with you."
The single word echoed throughout the great chamber. He was on his knees in front of Magiel, forehead pressed to the floor, begging. He didn't dare look up at the Heavenly Arch Saint, hardly dared to breathe.
"I cannot allow that, Sungel."
Her voice was ringing and magnificent. He didn't want to believe that. In the history of the Heavenly Saints, none had witnessed the death of their human partner before it was that time for the human to go. He thought to the ceremony, how Urara and her siblings had almost become Heavenly Saints themselves, how he had been given a spell to prevent that transformation…
"Magiel," he said softly, raising his head some. "She came so close to becoming a Heavenly Saint and the deceased Heavenly Saints are allowed to travel to other parts of Magitopia with permission from you and interact—"
"No!" Magiel said sharply, cutting him off. "She was not a Heavenly Saint. There is no gray area on that issue. Beings either are or are not Heavenly Saints. There is no 'almost'."
"Then allow me to travel to the Flower Garden of Souls."
He sat back on his haunches, staring up at the Saint that he had come to respect. She had vast knowledge of the forces of good and evil, the only other Saint that could rival her knowledge was Snowgel and she was not interested in ruling Magitopia. He was a Heavenly Saint, but had also walked with the humans on the surface, like Blagel. In a sense, he had felt himself become more human in the time he'd spent with the Ozu siblings, in the time he'd been married to Urara. He'd learned how to feel, how to empathize… how to truly become the man named Hikaru Ozu.
Taking a deep breath, he willed in vain to not break down in front of Magiel. His breaths became harsher and closer together. Tears burned his eyes and back of his throat. Didn't she understand that he loved Urara, that he would have died in her place?
"She was carrying our child," he whispered.
Magiel truly looked pained at that admission. "I am sorry, Sungel, so sorry."
"Then why?" he cried, all resolve breaking. "Why won't you let me see her?" He fell back forward on the chamber floor, sobbing. "Why?" His whole body shook and his cries became less sorrowful and more like howls of outrage. "I'll go there myself," he sobbed. "With or without your permission."
"Only the Heavenly Arch Saint can travel freely into the Flower Garden of Souls," Magiel said sadly. "You know that, Sungel. This display is not going to change that."
"Then take me there!"
His heart felt like it was breaking. She was gone—gone never to return.
Somewhere, someone was screaming.
Hands hauled him to his feet. Vaguely, he recognized Blagel supporting most of his weight, while Lunagel put an arm around his waist, trying to get him to keep his balance. She looked concerned, but he didn't care.
Later, it occurred to him that he had been the one screaming.
Or still. He didn't know. He lay on the bed, staring at the ceiling. Blagel was in a chair near the bed, watching him cautiously. Urara was dead. The phrase turned over and over in his mind, a never ending cycle. Gone, gone, gone…
The sickening sound of metal crunching metal. Screams and cries… Begging, pleading, promising… It'll be all right. It's not so bad. Blood… too much blood, all that blood… staining his hands and the car and… Why don't I know the Healing Craft? Why didn't I listen to Blagel when he told me to learn the Healing Craft? Surface hospital… human hospital… humans can't help. She needed Lunagel's healing… couldn't create the portal, not enough magic left… drained…
Hikaru, I love you. Shine.
Waiting, wondering, worrying… sick with worry, a pinch, sleep…
Dead, dead, dead. All that blood… where had it come from?
Why couldn't I have taken her place? Her and our baby would be alive.
I love you, Urara. I didn't say it often enough, but I do.
"Sungel, don't." Blagel had risen from his chair, looking worriedly at him. "I know what you're thinking and please don't do it."
"I don't want to live without her." His voice, so sane, so calm… it was the obvious conclusion. If Magiel wouldn't let him go to the Flower Garden of Souls while he walked amongst the living, he'd have to walk amongst the dead. So simple, so logical… could he do it, do what had to be done?
"You don't know the whole story yet. Wait until morning. Miyuki and Tsubasa will bring up a brew that will let you sleep without dreams—"
With a feral howl, he cut off Blagel. The older Heavenly Saint looked startled and instinctively backed away from the bed.
Blood… too much… Blood is the life river, the living memory. Remember that. The doctors had lied—they'd said she died a peaceful, painless death. He knew otherwise. He'd been there, stayed with her while they cut her out of the car. Drunk driver… dark bruises blooming on the weedy man's neck and police officers pulling him off… Ozu-san, please, we'll handle this.
Pain and blood, pain and blood…
Red blossoming over caramel skin, a satisfied cry…
"Hold him down!"
Suddenly, he couldn't move. Snapping back to the present, he struggled against Tsubasa and Blagel, him no match for the two men's sheer strength. His power—his magic—was depleted and he had to rest to restore his energies. But what had happened? Tsubasa was almost sitting on his chest and Miyuki was holding his arm, wrapping something around his wrist. He couldn't see, but there was blood on the sheets, blood on his clothes, on Tsubasa and Blagel… when had that happened? Too much blood… he began howling again.
Sunlight poured through the window and the birds chirped. He groaned. His throat felt raw and ached, his eyes felt like he'd slept facedown in sand. Someone was knocking on the door. He ignored them. How could a morning this mild be so raw? The horrible truth danced through his mind. Urara was gone and he was alone.
The door opened. He turned to his side, watching idly as Blagel came in carrying a tray with breakfast and tea. Tsubasa followed him, holding fresh bandages and a magical salve, the container neatly labeled in his handwriting. He couldn't summon the energy to do anything other than stare at them. He shifted, noticing, for the first time, the bandages on his wrists.
Blagel placed the tray on the nightstand and sat on the edge of his bed.
"Sungel," he said softly. "I know that you're dying inside, but Urara wouldn't want you to do this to yourself." His old teacher laid a hand on his back. "She wouldn't want you to hurt yourself."
He thought he'd cried himself out, that he had no tears left, but sobs bubbled up once more. Blagel sighed sadly and gathered him into his arms, like he was a child. He allowed himself to be held, just for the physical nearness of another being. She had been Blagel's daughter, Tsubasa's sister… and neither of them was mourning, because he kept getting hysterical. They were taking care of him and he couldn't summon the conscientiousness to feel guilty about being so selfish.
Blagel was crying with him now and Tsubasa had moved to his other side, one hand on his shoulder.
"Tou-san," Tsubasa said to Blagel, his voice thick with emotion. "We have to tell him."
"No. He needs to sleep first." Blagel reached to the nightstand and picked up the cup of tea. He pushed it into Hikaru's hands. "Drink it. It will help you sleep."
"I don't want—" He didn't want the drugged sleep, but he also didn't want to think or remember. He stared at the liquid depths of the cup, before bringing it to his mouth and swallowing the entire contents.
Immediately, his eyelids felt heavy. Blagel lowered him back onto the bed. He closed his eyes, feeling the sleep wash over him in waves. Distantly, he felt Tsubasa take of the bandages and rub the salve into his skin. Clean bandages were wrapped around the fresh wounds. He thought he felt lips brush his palms, but decided he must have been dreaming.
He awoke again, disoriented and trying to shake of the remainder of the magical sleep. He threw off the blankets. A distant crying filtered into his consciousness. It didn't sound like cries he should have heard—adults mourning. He swung his legs over the side of the bed, getting up. Not bothering to look in a mirror or put on something other than pajamas, he padded into the hallway and downstairs.
Miyuki was sitting in the rocking chair in the living room, cradling a small bundle. She looked up as he entered and smiled.
"Hikaru," she said softly.
He walked forward, as if in a trance. Was this what Tsubasa had wanted Blagel to tell him? This wasn't possible. Impossible… She had died, she'd been trapped in that car, barely alive when they finally pulled her out. She had been so mangled, so bloody… "It's not possible," he whispered.
"Impossible things are happening every day," Miyuki replied softly. "The doctors said they lost Urara, but you were too upset to hear the rest."
His breathing became ragged and uneven. "I should have taken her to Lunagel."
"They saved your daughter."
The small bundle began to cry. Miyuki rearranged the blankets, revealing the baby's delicate features and feathery black hair. How could a being two—three?—days old look so much like Urara? He reached out, gently stroking the downy-soft hair. The white bandages glared at him, accusing him of something. "Why didn't you tell me earlier?" he whispered.
Miyuki didn't answer, just transferred the small girl to his arms. Her cries quieted as he settled her against the crook of his arm. His thoughts briefly went to the nursery at their house, all the shopping for clothes and supplies… how Urara had insisted that the doctors not tell her the baby's gender and, not aware of that, he'd told her it was a girl, puzzled because all Heavenly Saints could tell the gender of their child in the womb. She had smiled as he said, if one listened correctly, the baby would tell the parents its name.
"She knows you," Miyuki said.
Of course she knew him. He'd had conversations with her—one-sided, albeit.
"What are you going to name her?"
Urara had wanted to go the traditional route of baby name books and possible relatives for namesakes. He'd wanted to wait and listen, and see if the baby would reveal her name.
"Amaya," he said softly. Night rain… he'd heard her whisper it before, but it hadn't made sense. Healing rain, born at night. Now, her name made all the sense in the world.
Miyuki nodded, murmuring about preparing a bottle and having Kai move the cradle into his room. He didn't respond, just stared at the child in his arms.
He sat cross-legged on the bed. It wasn't his bed—it was the guest room bed. He had a bed and a house where he belonged. But… could he face that house without Urara, could he face the memories? The wooden cradle had been placed close to the bed and he recognized the blankets and sheets as things he and Urara had purchased. Was the cradle also something they had gotten? He couldn't remember.
Kai sat next to him on the bed. Amaya was asleep, looking peaceful and content.
"Who brought all that stuff from the house?" he asked softly.
"Onii-chan," Kai replied. Of course, Makito, Kai's elder brother. "Kaa-san asked him and Eriko-san to look after your house. She thinks it will be better if you and Amaya stay here for a few weeks, just so you can re-center."
They were silent for a moment. He hadn't thought this was possible, and now that he had wrapped his mind around the ineffable, he realized that he was alone and left with an infant daughter. Saints, Amaya deserved to have her mother. Could he do this without Urara? He didn't know and the mere question frightened him. What did he know about babies?
"Hikaru-sensei?" Kai asked, looking concerned.
He looked at his former student. None of them had seen him this vulnerable before. He'd always plunged forward, willingly sacrificing himself and trying to salvage his dignity. He'd been… not a peer, but a teacher, another authority figure. Did that make him invulnerable? Urara had seen the man and the emotions, but no one else had. To them he was still Hikaru-sensei and they were baffled by the easy banter he and Urara shared, her exasperated expressions and sarcasm with him.
"It wasn't your fault," Kai said softly.
He shook his head, blinking back the tears that threatened to fall. "I would have died in her place," he said, voice choked.
"And Amaya…" He pressed his fingers to his eyes, trying to stop the tears. He took a deep breath, dropping his hand to his lap once more. "I don't know anything. Urara tried to tell me, but said that it would all make sense once the baby came."
"I'm not the one you should be asking, then," Kai said suddenly, a slight smile curving over his lips. Kai was the youngest of the siblings, naturally he wouldn't know. "You should ask Onii-chan. He helped take care of all of us when we were babies."
"Makito was seven when you were born."
Kai shrugged. "Still, it'd be better than asking Kaa-san or Tou-san."
He tried to smile, but failed. Kai scooted closer to him, wrapping his arms around him. A part of him wanted to fight the embrace. As much as Kai was his younger brother, he still viewed him as a student, with so much to learn. Had it been three years? Was Kai really twenty now? There was an ineffable something that bound them together. It wasn't the magic and it wasn't their battle against Infershia.
It was tragedy.
Hikaru relaxed, allowing the embrace fully. After a moment, he returned it.
He bolted awake, disoriented. Fractions of the situation came to him. Amaya and her cradle were no longer in the room. Sunlight poured through the sheer curtains of the guest room. A warm body was pressed against his back.
For a moment, a part of him dared to hope. It had all been a nightmare. Urara was safe and they were in their room at their house. She would still be pregnant and rolling her eyes at his insistence that the baby would reveal her own name. He'd brave the kitchen because Urara couldn't stand for long periods of time anymore. The eggs and toast would be burnt and terrible, but she'd eat them anyways, just to spare his feelings. He'd roll over and she'd open her eyes, smile at him and whisper, 'I love you.'
But there was something wrong with the scenario. His heart fell into his stomach when he realized that the guest room at the Ozu house was not the master bedroom at their house. Kai wouldn't be asleep in the armchair of their bedroom. The Magician of the Red was half in the armchair and half on the bed. So who was in bed with him?
Ah, Tsubasa. That answered that question.
Kai groaned and stretched, snapping to awareness quickly. "Are you all right?" he asked earnestly, voice scratchy from the morning. "The bandages didn't bleed through, right?"
Hikaru glanced at his wrist and nearly screamed. Not again. A week had passed since he found out about Amaya and he'd spent much of that week learning to care for her. His entire day seemed to revolve around the tiny being that depended on him for everything. But last night… he must have lost the calm that he'd kept all week. He loved Amaya, but couldn't help to think she'd be better off without him. Blagel and Miyuki would care for her, or even Makito and Eriko. Her childhood would be whole and not scarred by a broken father.
Where was she now?
"Kaa-san and Houka are looking after Amaya," Tsubasa said, as if reading his mind. The Magician of the Yellow pushed himself into a sitting position. There wasn't much room in the twin bed with both of them there. Hikaru sat up as well, just to make more room. Tsubasa gently grasped one of his wrists and inspected it. "It should heal," he pronounced.
"Don't ever do that again," Kai said seriously.
"Do what?" Hikaru asked, half-serious. He didn't remember what happened, not the details, just the strong desire to do the one thing he thought he could do to help his daughter. No thoughts of carrying out the plan came to him. But he'd obviously done something.
Tsubasa looked at him curiously. "You don't remember, do you?"
He shook his head. "Not the specifics, no."
His brother-in-law sighed. "Tou-san heard you moaning in your sleep. He came to see what the problem was, if you were all right."
"You were semi-conscious," Kai picked up, "Like you'd been crying or something. But you had a fever, and Tou-san had Kaa-san and Houka move Amaya for the night and we took care of you."
Tsubasa nodded to the bandages. He hadn't noticed how extensive they were. Had he not stopped with his wrists this time? The bandages were on his wrists, his shoulders, his chest, even one on his cheek. "We tried to stop you, but we couldn't stop all of it."
"Will you listen to something?" Kai asked.
He nodded, numbly, not sure what to feel anymore. Kai got up and sat down on his other side in the bed. "Urara-chan came to see us right after she found out she was pregnant," Tsubasa said. "She'd told you, but wanted to tell us in person."
"Everyone except us was out for the day," Kai said. "Onii-chan was visiting Eriko's family, and Houka and Kaa-san had gone to look at wedding dresses. Tou-san was in Magitopia. So she told us."
"She was so excited," Tsubasa said, looking wistful. "But then she said that you'd make a better parent that she ever would."
"She was afraid she'd be too overprotective, not allowing the baby to live. But she knew that you'd override that and let the child explore and grow. She was so glad that you were the baby's father."
"If anything, she'd want it this way. She'd have wanted you to survive her."
"She loved you. And she knew you'd be a great father."
Three weeks and everyone was pressing forward with Houka's wedding plans. Miyuki thought that Urara would have wanted to see happiness after so much sorrow. Hikaru agreed that Urara would have wanted that, but he wanted to wallow in misery, not pretend to be looking forward to the wedding. But he gritted his teeth and spent time with Amaya, surprisingly accompanied by Tsubasa and Kai, neither of whom overmuch liked Houka's fiancée, Tetsuya.
He sat on the back porch, gently rocking Amaya. The steps looked out over Makito's former gardens, now mostly decorative flowers. Aniki Farms had moved to a larger location and since Makito and Eriko-san had their own house, there was no one to keep up the gardens. Flowers seemed to be what Miyuki and Blagel were willing to take care of.
"Can I just skip this dinner?" he asked himself softly.
The answer was 'no.' Tetsuya was coming over for dinner and it would be rude to disappear. Oh, everyone would understand if he chose not to show up, but his own sense of personal dignity and pride wouldn't let him retreat. He felt a ghost of his former self coming back. Besides, Urara wouldn't be pleased if he decided to hide. Or at least he thought so… Saints, he hated putting words into her mouth and thoughts into her head.
Would he ever be able to let go?
"We can still leave." Hikaru turned to see Tsubasa coming onto the porch. He sat in a lawn chair next to the rocking chair. "There's time until Tetsuya gets here."
"You don't have to do this. Come on, we'll get Kai to watch Amaya. I know the owner of a bar in Tokyo—he won't throw us out until he has to close."
He shook his head. "No. It's important to Houka."
Tsubasa looked disgusted. "Since when have you cared about what's important to Hou-nee? She used to drive you nuts, if I remember correctly."
When he was right, he was right. Hikaru sighed, thinking back to the times when Houka threw herself at him. Each of those incidents he endured by gritting his teeth and thinking about Urara, the one who had saved him, the one he wanted to be with, but wouldn't give him the time of day. Tsubasa was right, he was making excuses. He didn't want to go to this dinner, but was putting himself through the mental anguish anyways.
"It's time to stop hiding," he whispered.
"It's only been three weeks," Tsubasa countered. "I don't remember much about when Tou-san left us the first time, but Aniki does. Kaa-san was devastated. It took her months to begin functioning again and even then you could tell she never really got over it."
"I know, you and your weird sense of pride." Tsubasa stood up. "Just remember that my offer still stands, even if you want to bail out in the middle of dinner." The Magician of the Yellow went back into the house.
"Thank you," he whispered to the evening breeze.
A few moments later, he went inside to put Amaya down for the first part of the night. Tetsuya arrived and dinner proceeded without incident. Houka's fiancée was annoying. There was no other word for the man. Miyuki and Blagel seemed to take the antics in stride. Hikaru had never been prone to violence against others unless it was necessary, but the longer the meal went on, the more he wanted to hear Tetsuya's bones snapping.
Thankfully enough, dinner passed and he managed not to kill Tetsuya. Miyuki went into the kitchen to get desert.
"It's Kaa-san's specialty," Houka said to Tetsuya.
With a sinking feeling in his stomach, Hikaru tried to smile, knowing what the desert most probably was and he wasn't sure that he could face it. A roaring engulfed his ears and he couldn't hear what the others were saying. Tsubasa and Kai exchanged worried glances, and Kai stood up… too late to stop Miyuki from bringing in the desert.
No. Not the apple pie. It had been Miyuki's recipe, but Urara made it all the time and had seemed to improve on it. He could almost taste the sunlight on that pie… No… He didn't want this reminder, that others could make what she'd always considered special.
Abruptly, he pushed his chair back from the table and left the dining room. His throat and eyes burned with unshed tears. Urara…
He found himself on the back porch and sat on the steps, unsure of what to think. Tsubasa had been right—he was never going to get over this. Miyuki might have been devastated when she thought Blagel was dead, but he wasn't dead. She got him back. Urara was never going to come back to him, to Amaya, to any of them…
"Thank goodness! For a minute we thought you were going to get on Travelion and go to some obscure Marudeyouna world and we'd never find you!"
Kai's voice came across the small porch and he found himself between the brothers.
"Do you even have a Marudeyouna world?" Tsubasa asked.
He blinked, unsure of what to think anymore. "Yes," he replied tightly, willing himself not to break down. "I just haven't been there in a long time."
"What's it like?" Tsubasa continued questioning.
"A tropical island."
"Is there a bar?" Kai asked eagerly. Tsubasa smacked him on the head. Through the pain, Hikaru had to smile. Kai had just turned twenty and was eager to buy and consume alcohol whenever and wherever he could.
"No…" he trailed off, trying to find his voice again. "I took Urara there once—for a picnic."
"What did she think?" Tsubasa asked softly.
"She said it was perfect—the ocean and the sunlight."
They fell into silence. Saints, he should have taken her to his Marudeyouna world more often, but hadn't thought about it… thought they had all the time in world. The door opened and a babble of voices broke through the memories of that island—of swimming in the ocean, making love in the ocean, watching the sunset, the love making by their fire that night… had Amaya been conceived that day? He didn't know.
"I'm so sorry," Houka was saying. "We just didn't think."
He barely heard her. Standing up, he glanced to Tsubasa and Kai. "Look after Amaya for me. I need to go to my Marudeyouna world." The brothers looked worried. He smiled sadly. "I just need to say goodbye."
Time passed, weeks melting into months. The seasons changed and years went by before he could blink. Amaya would be five in a few days. Her fifth birthday would mark the fifth anniversary of Urara's death. He'd always tried to keep Amaya's birthday separate from the terrible memorials on the same day, and he succeeded during her party, but once Amaya went to bed…
He remembered the days right after Urara's death. Kai had played club soccer. Tsubasa had been on a boxing circuit. Houka had been engaged and planning her wedding. Makito and Eriko were newlyweds, running the cafe and the small farm, with Makito teaching English at cram school. He'd spent almost all of Houka's wedding outside the church, trying to calm a fussy Amaya.
Kai had soon followed Makito and Houka, marrying Yuka Yamazaki, his old high school girlfriend. Amaya had been three at the time and their flower girl. She hadn't wanted to walk down the aisle unless he accompanied her.
They could have gone to Magitopia. He could have raised his daughter amongst the Heavenly Saints, in a world that rarely saw pain and suffering, but Blagel had said he raised his children on the surface for that same reason. They were human, not Heavenly Saints, and needed to be with their own. Besides, there were rarely other children in Magitopia. Amaya needed to interact with her peers. So he stayed on Earth, remaining in the house that he and Urara had purchased a year and a half after their wedding.
He and Amaya weren't alone. Tsubasa and Kai had moved back with him those five years ago and never left. Kai and Yuka had the bedroom downstairs—the room that had once belonged to he and Urara. He didn't want to see the room and had been almost grateful when they redecorated the room to their own tastes. He and Amaya had two of the adjoining bedrooms upstairs, while Tsubasa slept in the room across the hall.
And, despite it all, they'd become a family.
The sun broke over the horizon and his alarm clock went off. He thought about the day of the week—Yuka's day to cook. The four adults switched off cooking responsibilities and the meals ranged from simple to elaborate depending on the cook.
The house bustled with life as people got ready for the work day.
A part of him felt detached as he watched the scene unfold, like he was just going through the motions, walking through the part. There were days when he felt like zombie, something unable of feeling. He'd smile at Amaya and listen to her preschool tales, but a part of him ached for the life they could have had if Urara hadn't been killed.
Slowly, he showered, shaved and dressed for work, and got Amaya up.
"Onii-chan!" Kai called, coming upstairs.
"Yes?" he called back, keeping one eye on Amaya as she picked out an outfit for preschool. Tsubasa and Kai had started calling him Onii-chan shortly after they moved in. Big brother… for the first time, they were acknowledging that the relationship had changed and stopped calling him Hikaru-sensei. In a sense, they all were brothers now, going through the same things.
"You okay?" Kai asked as he stood in the doorway of Hikaru's room. "You look a little—"
"I'm fine," he replied, aside from having a sleepless night.
Kai didn't look convinced, probably because he'd become an expert at hiding his grief and pain. But he continued anyways. He sighed inwardly. This wouldn't be the first time that Kai and Tsubasa decided he'd be safer if they all slept in one bed.
"Look, Amaya's birthday is coming up," he said, lowering his voice conspiratorially. "And Yuka thought it would be fun to throw her a surprise party. You know, invite some of her friends from preschool, that sort of stuff."
Hikaru nodded. "That would be good."
"Are you sure you're all right?"
He sighed. "I'm not all right, but I'm also not going to do anything stupid."
"We all miss her, Onii-chan," Kai said softly.
An hour, he dropped Amaya off at preschool and glanced at the sky as his walked along to work. The sky was blue with white, puffy clouds… the perfect day, like the skies in his Marudeyouna world that Urara had loved so much. He hadn't been to his Marudeyouna world since that day nearly five years ago. Maybe he'd take Amaya there…
Urara… when am I going to stop feeling like my heart was torn apart? When am I going to be able to enjoy life, our daughter, our family without feeling guilty?
The voice in his head wasn't his own. He blinked and, in that single instant, saw Snowgel's portal open and transport him. When he opened his eyes, he wasn't in Snowgel's Marudeyouna world. He was in Magiel's main chamber. Magiel had shrunk herself to human-size and Lunagel, Snowgel and Blagel flanked her. Magiel stepped forward, her hand outstretched.
"Your wife wanted you to have this."
He accepted what Magiel handed him and his breath caught in his throat. "Her pendant?"
"Yes," Magiel said gently. "She knows of your suffering." Magiel smiled. "But she also knows that your daughter needs you. You might tell yourself that the Magician of the Red and his wife would care for her if you were gone, but you are her father and nothing can replace that."
Lunagel stepped forward and handed him another necklace—this one was made of silver, Lunagel's color, with a small snowflake pendant, the symbol of Snowgel. "Snowgel and I made this for Amaya," she said softly. "It's a protection amulet. The magic will work until her eighteenth birthday."
"Then, her life will be her own," Snowgel said.
"Heal yourself, Sungel," Magiel added. "Allow yourself to have your sunlight again."
Snowgel raised a hand and he was sent back to the exact moment he left the street. The two necklaces were in his hand. He raised his face to the warm sunlight. Magiel was right. He was Sungel, the Heavenly Saint of the Sun… he drew strength and power from the sunlight. The sunlight was his element, his henshin… MagiShine… and he had denied himself the sunlight and the power to shine brightly for the past five years.
Hikaru, I love you. Shine.
Is that what she meant?
Almost in a trance, he walked to a park bench and sat down. His eyes went to his wedding ring—Urara's oath ring. His hands went behind his neck and he unfastened his own pendant, the amber colored crystal slipping into his pocket. He put on Urara's pendant, the cool rush of water a strange sensation against his skin. Her pendant spoke to her element—water. It would be different, but it would be a reminder.
He glanced back down the street to the preschool, making up his mind quickly.
One call to his workplace and a few excuses for the preschool teachers, and he and Amaya were walking towards the park. "Why don't I have to go to school today?" she asked, looking up at him as they walked.
"I thought we'd play today."
Hikaru looked down at his daughter, holding her hand. "What?"
"Do you have a tummy ache? Uncle Kai said you didn't feel well this morning, so I had to be extra good."
"No," he replied with a smile. "I'm better now."
Amaya grinned, skipping ahead and dragging him with her. They found a grassy spot in the park, right in the sunlight. He showed her the snowflake pendant and fastened it around her neck. "It's lucky?" Amaya asked, looking at the shining charm.
"Yes—it's very lucky."
"You changed your necklace." Amaya touched Urara's pendant, the one now around his neck.
"This was Kaa-san's."
"Did she give it to you?"
Amaya looked at him searchingly, standing up so they were eyelevel. "Tou-san, you shouldn't be sad. Kaa-san is in heaven. It's pretty with lots of flowers."
His breath caught and he placed a hand on her head. "Who told you that?"
Hikaru gathered his daughter into an embrace. She believed so much with an innocence that only children had—he wished there was a way for her to never lose that quality. He had to look forward from now on, allow himself to have sunlight. Nothing could change the past and Amaya needed him.
First run: 29 – 30 October 2006
Second run: 8 – 29 November 2006