Setsuna slowly stepped into the hallway and closed the door to her dorm. Since dismissing her shikigami, it had taken her nearly half an hour to fight the fear building up within her heart and finally make her way toward Konoka's room. Uncertainty and doubt flooded her thoughts as she anxiously walked down the hall and around the corner to where Konoka resided. How much of the truth should she reveal to Konoka? More importantly, how was she going to say it? Maybe instead of confessing, would it be better to just go through with the pactio kiss and hope that one day they would become a couple? But what if that didn't happen? And like chibi Setsuna had pointed out, a single kiss would never be enough for Setsuna when her feelings for Konoka were so strong.
"I'll just have to tell her everything," Setsuna thought uneasily as she stopped in front of Konoka's door. She lifted a quivering hand to knock on the door but paused as a heart wrenching thought crossed her mind. "What if confess to her and she doesn't love me back?" The strong desire to just turn around and return to her dorm room was growing stronger by the second as she thought about this terrible but possible scenario. It would be so easy to just ignore her feelings and pretend like none of this had ever happened, but Setsuna couldn't just run away when there was another scenario that could play out. "What if I confess to her and she loves me too?"
Without another thought, Setsuna rapped her knuckles against the door in a clear, decisive knock, and held her breath as the sounds of approaching footsteps echoed from within the dorm.
Part 3: True Feelings
To Setsuna's surprise, the person who opened the door turned out to be Asuna, rather than Konoka like she had expected. "A-Asuna-san, what are you doing here?" Setsuna stupidly asked the orange haired girl standing before her, realizing only after she had said it that, of course, Konoka was not that only one who resided in her dorm room.
"I live here," Asuna replied evenly without an inflection of emotion in her voice. She slipped through the small opening in the doorway and stepped into the hallway before shutting the door behind her. "What are you doing here?"
"I... I'm here to talk to ojou-sama," the swordsman answered truthfully. Her voice held an apologetic tone to it, though Setsuna wasn't quite sure why. "Is she here?"
"She's here," replied Asuna, crossing her arms against her chest. Setsuna nodded and waited, expecting an invitation into the dorm room to follow the other girl's response. However, Asuna merely continued to stand in front of to door with folded arms and no apparent intention to move out of the way. An uncomfortable silence followed, one where the swordsman was forced to endure the other girl's intense yet expressionless gaze, and Setsuna wondered exactly how much Asuna knew about the current situation between her and Konoka.
"Can I see her?" Setsuna tentatively asked, trying to fill the tense silence. "I wanted to talk to her."
"Why? So you can hurt her and run away again?" Asuna asked, keeping her tone relatively calm despite the frigid nature of her words. Setsuna flinched at her question, shocked that Asuna could be so harsh towards her, but also ashamed because she knew that Asuna was right.
"She told you what happened?" Setsuna asked with a wincing frown.
"Yeah, she did," Asuna answered, glaring sternly at the swordsman. Then, with a heavy sigh, she suddenly dropped her hardened expression and replaced it with a compassionate smile before speaking again. "But I know that there are two sides to every story and I wouldn't mind hearing your side, too."
Setsuna felt comforted by the other girl's abrupt change in demeanor, but the swordsman was forced to suppress a weary laugh at Asuna's offer. She was grateful that Asuna was willing to hear her out, but her experiences with chibi Setsuna had taught her that explaining the situation was rather difficult. "It's... complicated."
"More complicated than being in love with the person you're supposed to protect?" Asuna asked with an eyebrow raised questioningly. She smirked in amusement as the stunned swordsman gaped back at her in surprise. "Well it was kind of obvious," Asuna told her with a soft laugh.
"But how did you, h-how could you—" Setsuna paused mid-stutter and stared at Asuna with a look of panic in her eyes. "Does ojou-sama know?"
The orange haired girl shook her head and shrugged in response. "I'm not sure. But even if I did know, I'm not the one you should be asking," she reprimanded gently.
"I know, I know," Setsuna muttered, dropping her gaze and squeezing her eyes shut in frustration. "Lately it just feels like I'm doing everything wrong."
"No, you're not," Asuna said firmly, placing a consoling hand on Setsuna's shoulder. "What happened this afternoon sounded pretty bad from what Konoka told me, but I know you, Setsuna-san, and I know you didn't mean for things to turn out this way." A faint click of metal reached Setsuna's ears and she opened her eyes to find that the door to Asuna and Konoka's dorm was no longer closed. "You're here because you want to fix what happened earlier, right?" Asuna gave the other girl a gentle nudge toward the threshold of the dorm room. "So go fix your mistakes. But you better not hurt Konoka again, or else..." she threatened, resuming her previous glare.
"I won't," the swordsman promised solemnly, "not this time." She turned away from Asuna and started to step through the opened door, but paused as the other girl spoke again.
"And promise not to let yourself get hurt either," Asuna warned Setsuna with a grin before giving her shoulder a quick squeeze and walking away.
Setsuna smiled at her friend's retreating back, grateful for Asuna's kindness. "I'll have to thank her properly once this is all over," she thought to herself. Setsuna slowly pushed open the door to Asuna and Konoka's room, grimacing slightly as the door creaked in protest to her actions. She poked her head beyond the threshold gingerly and surveyed the room. Immediately, her eyes were drawn toward the depressing looking figure sitting on the lower of the two bunk beds that occupied the room.
As Setsuna's eyes fell upon the young mage slumped against a bedpost near the head of her bed with a pillow clutched to her body, the swordsman's heart began to beat painfully within her chest. Setsuna slowly took in the sight before her and tried to memorize the moment in detail. However, this wasn't a sight that Setsuna wanted to remember. Rather, it was a sight that she never wanted to forget. She never wanted to lose the image of a melancholy girl sitting alone in a darkened room staring gloomily out the window because of something that Setsuna had done. Or hadn't done, rather.
Setsuna jumped in surprise upon hearing her name. Konoka had made no sign that she noticed the swordsman's presence in the doorway of her room yet, without even turning to look, she had known that Setsuna was there. Awkwardly, like a child being caught in the act, Setsuna sheepishly opened the door the rest of the way and entered the room.
"H-hey," she greeted, raising her hand in a halfhearted wave that Konoka didn't even turn to see. She dropped her hand back down to her side with a deflated smile before crossing the room to where the mage sat, still looking out the window. "Ojou-sama?" Setsuna asked softly, sitting down beside the other girl. Nor response or acknowledgement came and Setsuna tried again. "Ojou-sama?" Still, the healer gave no response.
"She's never been so mad at me before," Setsuna though to herself. "Actually, she's never really been mad at me at all..." Setsuna thought, realizing that her confession had quickly become an apology to Konoka as well. For Setsuna, who had never confessed to anyone nor tried to make up with Konoka before, her tasks were growing more difficult by the second.
"Hey, look at me," Setsuna gently urged the mage, knowing that she needed Konoka's full attention before she could confess or apologize. "Please? ...Kono-chan?" At the sound of her cherished childhood nickname, Konoka finally tore her gaze away from the window and looked at the girl sitting on her bed. However, Setsuna was surprised to find a rather hurt expression on the healer's face.
"Don't use that name just to cheer me up," she mumbled softly, staring at Setsuna with the same pained look in her eyes. Her bottom lip trembled slightly as she spoke. "Don't use that name if you don't mean it."
"But I do mean it," Setsuna insisted, surprised to find how much she really did mean it. She had used "Kono-chan" as a sort of spur of the moment attempt to capture Konoka's attention but the name suddenly felt so warm and familiar upon her tongue, even more so than the other times she had used the nickname, that Setsuna knew she would never be able to address Konoka in another way ever again. "I'm not just calling you 'Kono-chan' because of what happened earlier. I promise, no more 'ojou-sama' ever again because—" Setsuna froze on the final words. Because I love you.
"You're doing it again," Konoka observed with a mild pout now taking over her hurt expression. "There's something you want to say but you're not saying it, just like before." She paused and waited for Setsuna's response, but the other girl merely frowned apologetically, forcing the mage bite back a scream of frustration. "Secchan, can't you tell me what's wrong? Why don't you want to be my partner?" Konoka asked, trying to keep her voice as steady as possible.
Setsuna turned away from Konoka and pushed herself off of the bed. What she wanted more than anything at that moment was to scream 'I love you' in her loudest voice, but she couldn't overcome the fear within her heart that was holding her back. "I feel like even if I told you, you wouldn't understand," she cried as her frustration got the better of her.
"Then make me understand," Konoka urged, standing up as well and reaching out to the other girl. She slipped her warm hand into Setsuna's and gazed pleadingly at her protector, silently hoping that Setsuna wouldn't run away from her again. All she wanted to hear was the truth, a reason as to why the swordsman had refused to make a pactio with her, because as much as the rejection had hurt her, the lack of explanation hurt even more.
Setsuna slowly looked down at the delicate hand nestled within her own. "But how do I make her understand?" the swordsman thought to herself as frustration continued to ravage her mind. Maybe she was just thinking too much about this. Maybe it would be better to not think at all. And with that logic in mind, Setsuna blocked out all of her thoughts and let her body take over.
Without allowing her inhibitions to hinder her, Setsuna swiftly wrapped her arm around Konoka's waist, her other hand still caught in Konoka's grasp. Forcefully, though not roughly, she backed Konoka against the wall, pinning her between it and the swordsman's own body. The mage gasped in surprise, her eyes now widening in response to Setsuna's actions.
However, Setsuna wasn't done yet. The hand around Konoka's waist found the mage's free hand, and Setsuna pinned it against the wall beside Konoka's waist. With her other hand, she pinned Konoka's other arm above her head, trapping the mage beneath her. Had she been thinking about her actions, Setsuna would have been horrified by what she had just done. This was practically an assault on the girl she was supposed to protect, but all those thoughts were blocked out now.
"Do you remember the first time you kissed me?" Setsuna softly asked, staring into Konoka's astonished eyes. The girl made no sound, so Setsuna continued talking. "We were only seven years old and you kissed me on the cheek. An innocent kiss, but..." the swordsman smiled fondly at the memory before returning her attention to the frozen girl before her. "This afternoon, you said 'we only have to do it once,' when you asked me to kiss you... but once isn't good enough for me," Setsuna said, trying her hardest to convey her feelings to the other girl.
Slowly, Setsuna leaned forward, pressing herself more fully against Konoka's motionless body and bringing their faces closer together. For what felt like an eternity, Setsuna paused her lips just centimeters away for Konoka's and simply waited. She could feel the mage's warm breath against her lower lip, causing her heart to beat insanely with desire. However, if this kiss were to happen, she wanted Konoka to be the one to initiate it, so she waited.
As the length of her wait grew longer and longer, it seemed less and less likely that Konoka would kiss her and, Setsuna finally pulled away and stepped back from the other girl. The feeling of rejection that washed over her felt tremendously oppressive, like an unseen force trying to squeeze the air out of her lungs and suffocate her. Setsuna kept her head down, unable to even look at Konoka any longer. Was this how the mage had felt earlier after Setsuna's rejection?
"S-secchan..." the mage stuttered uncharacteristically as Setsuna finally released her and turned and walked away. She raised a trembling hand towards the other girl. "W-wait..."
Setsuna didn't want to hear it. It didn't matter what Konoka said at this point because the rejection was already crystal clear to her. There was no more point in staying here any longer and she wasn't going to. "Kono-chan," Setsuna said as she paused in the middle of the doorway. She rested a hand gently on the doorframe, keeping her back turned to the other girl. "I'm sorry that I fell in love with you," Setsuna apologized, and then left the room before Konoka could stop her.
Her heart, it was on fire. That was the only way Setsuna could describe the way she was feeling at that moment. Nothing seemed real anymore, nothing made sense, but through all of the jumbled emotions and thoughts running through her head, one truth stood out against the rest. "I confessed to her but she didn't love me back."
By the time coherent thoughts began registering in her mind again, Setsuna found that she was now outside, no longer running, but still walking away from the girls' dorm that she had left behind. She was walking, but where was there to go? Setsuna forcefully swiped at the warm tears covering cheeks and stopped to think. Everything that she had, everything that was important to her was back in that dorm, so what was left for her in the rest of the world?
Setsuna stumbled as something knocked into her, wrapping itself tightly around her waist. Surprised, the swordsman looked down to find Konoka now clinging fiercely to her body. How had she not noticed Konoka chasing after her? Had she been that lost in thought? She tried to pull away but found Konoka's hold upon her to be surprisingly strong.
"Secchan," the healer mumbled, her words muffled by Setsuna's shirt which her face was now so deeply buried within. "Why did you run again?" However, the mage continued before the swordsman could even explain her actions or emotions. "This doesn't need to be complicated or painful or anything like that, Secchan," Konoka whispered, still pressing herself tightly against the other girl. She slowly pulled back, keeping her arms around Setsuna's body, and giggled tearily at the sight of Setsuna's confused face. "Everything can be simple because I love you too."
Setsuna scoffed at the mage's words, pulling away from the other girl. "I don't believe you," Setsuna declared flatly. The words suddenly tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop herself, but she found that she had said exactly what she wanted to say. After her own confession back in Konoka's dorm and after the rejection she had felt, Setsuna wasn't about to accept Konoka's words so easily. "You can't just say 'I love you' like that and expect me to believe you."
"What? How can you even say that?" Konoka asked in a rather hurt voice, causing Setsuna to feel guilty about her choice of words. Nevertheless, the swordsman's feelings remained unchanged, even as she gazed at the upset mage standing in front of her.
"What about you?" Setsuna retorted coldly. "How can you suddenly say you love me after everything that just happened in your room? You couldn't even bring yourself to kiss me!"
"Well call me old fashioned, but I've always thought that the ministra magi should be the one to initiate the kiss," Konoka said with a lighthearted smile.
"That's not funny," Setsuna mumbled, looking away again.
"Secchan," Konoka chided gently, "please don't be so mad at me. Do you want to know why I didn't kiss you upstairs?" she asked, slowly regaining Setsuna's gaze. "She looks so fragile," the mage thought, looking at the other girl. "Maybe she can understand my feelings about this too...".
Konoka took a deep breath in order to gather her thoughts before trying to explain her emotions to the swordsman. "The way I feel about you isn't something that I suddenly discovered this afternoon," Konoka said, looking meaningfully at the other girl to show that she understood how recently Setsuna had come across her own emotions. "I've loved you for as long as I can remember, Secchan, and it's been hard for me."
"Hard?" Setsuna looked quizzically at the other girl, slowly trying to let go of the frustration she felt.
"Yes, hard. It was hard because I had to hide my feelings from you all this time," Konoka admitted, smiling sadly. "I knew you didn't feel the same way about me, or that maybe you did but you just didn't know what you were feeling. And I knew that if I said anything to you, I'd just scare you away. I've been hiding my feelings this whole time, waiting for the moment when I could finally see that you loved me too."
"But upstairs just now, couldn't you see how I felt? The way I..." Setsuna sheepishly mimed the way she had pushed the mage up against the wall and blushed.
"Well you surprised me," Konoka admitted, remembering how uncharacteristically aggressive Setsuna had been with her. "I never expected you to do something like that, not that I minded," she added with a playful smile. "Really, I wanted to kiss you, but I wasn't exactly sure what you were doing or what you wanted to happen, so I waited to see what you would do."
"It probably would have helped if I had told you I loved you before I tried to kiss you," Setsuna admitted, mentally kicking herself and drawing a laugh from Konoka. The swordsman managed a smile as the mage lifted a hand to Setsuna's cheek to wipe away the warm, glistening tears that had stopped falling.
"I'll say it over and over again if I have to, Secchan. I love you, as in I love you, and I'll prove it in any way I need to," Konoka whispered, leaning in toward Setsuna. The mage hesitated briefly as she started to bring their bodies closer together, worrying whether or not she was forcing the swordsman into an uncomfortable situation. She needn't have worried. Taking the cue, Setsuna leaned in as well, smiling as she brought a guiding hand up to caress Konoka's cheek.
"At last," Setsuna thought blissfully, slowly closing the distance between them, waiting for the feel of Konoka's lips to finally grace her own. However, as the swordsman brought her lips down to meet Konoka's, the mage suddenly pulled away, leaving a dismayed Setsuna staring back at her. "K-kono-chan?"
"What?" Setsuna asked, staring stupidly back at the mage. With a mischievous smile, Konoka placed her hands within Setsuna's, gazed meaningfully at the other girl and waited for her to make the connection. "You... you remembered?" A look of childish delight crossed Setsuna's face as she tightened her grip on Konoka's hands.
"Who ever said I forgot?"
Smiling brightly, Setsuna easily lifted Konoka off of the ground, allowing the mage to feel the warm wind rush past her as her protector gracefully spun her in the air. Konoka shrieked with laughter, fully enjoying the experience that Setsuna was allowing her to have. However, she knew that the best part of this was yet to come as the swordsman finally lowered her to the ground again.
"How was that?" Setsuna asked as the mage came to a stumbling landing before her. She stepped forward to catch the unsteady girl and waited for Konoka to recover her balance. However, without regaining her footing, the mage launched herself upon the swordsman, pulling them both to the ground and finally capturing Setsuna's lips in a fiery kiss. Though unexpected, the kiss was definitely not unwanted, which was what Setsuna conveyed as she allowed herself to be pushed to the ground by the mage, ardently returning the kiss. Out of breath, Konoka pulled away first, beaming down at the swordsman trapped beneath her.
"It was good," she giggled, answering Setsuna's earlier question, "but I think we need to try it again to make sure." Konoka and Setsuna smiled at each other, bringing their lips together again, knowing that this kiss wouldn't be their last.
Epilogue: New Beginnings
"PACTIO!!" Chamo shouted, raising his hands energetically above his head. Konoka and Setsuna pulled away from each other slowly, blushing as applause broke out over their completed pactio ritual. As the wind died down and the magic circle beneath their feet disappeared, Konoka grinned and exaggeratedly bowed to the small audience gathered before them while Setsuna bent down to pick up her newly formed pactio card.
"Congratulations!" Haruna cried, whistling loudly. The shrill sound echoed noisily within Evangeline's cottage, earning the spectacled manga artist a reproving smack on the head from Evangeline.
"Knock it off!" the vampire shouted, silencing the rowdy girl. Nodoka and Yue joined in on congratulating Konoka and Setsuna for completing their pactio, though in a more dignified way. "Jeez, why did you guys have to do this at my place, anyway?" she grumbled as she watched all of the cheerful people around her.
"Because you're a nice little vampire who just loves having her friends over, aren't you?" Asuna taunted the shorter girl in a baby voice, causing Evangeline to strike a heavy fist at her head. The orange haired girl dodged the blow nimbly and placed a placating hand on Evangeline's head. "Come on, she loves having company over, doesn't she?" she asked, turning toward Negi and Chachamaru for confirmation.
"Oi, don't answer that, Chachamaru!" the vampire ordered, satisfied by Chachamaru's obedient response of "Yes, master."
"And that's that!" Chamo announced, referring to the completed ritual, briefly breaking up the squabble between Evangeline and Asuna. "Now if you all don't mind, I'm going to find Chachazero and celebrate my fifty thousand ermine dollar earnings," he excused himself as he scampered out of the room.
"Hey, Negi-sensei? Is it okay for Setsuna-san to have pactios with two different mages?" Yue asked as she looked at the new card in the swordsman's hands.
"Oh right," Setsuna remembered, pulling out her proof of contract with Negi and holding the cards side by side. She glanced at both images of herself and turned to Negi. "Do I need to get rid of my first card?" she asked.
"No, it's fine for you to have both. It would only be a problem if you were forming a permanent pactio," Negi explained. "You can hold onto both of them until you and Konoka decide you want to form a permanent one. Konoka-san can hold onto her card with me until that time, as well."
"Eh?" Konoka asked with eager interest. "Permanent pactio? What would we need to do to make one of those, Negi-kun?" Konoka, Setsuna, Asuna, Nodoka, Yue, and Haruna turned toward Negi for an explanation and watched as the ten year old mage slowly turned red under their scrutiny. To their enormous surprise, Evangeline began to blush as well.
"Uh..." Asuna nervously laughed. "What's going on Negi? Eva-chan? How do you make a permanent pactio?"
Instead of answering, however, Negi laughed nervously and looked away. "I don't think I should be the one to say it. Um, Evangeline-san...?"
All eyes turned expectantly upon Evangeline, who also looked away. "I'll tell you all when you're older," said the blushing vampire before walking out of the room with Chachamaru at her heels.
"But Negi-kun already knows and he's even younger than we are!" Konoka protested to her retreating magic teacher.
"And I bet at his age, he's traumatized by what he knows," Evangeline called over her shoulder.
"Traumatized...?" Konoka echoed. She turned back to the rest of the group to find that everyone except Asuna now had a tinge of pink coloring their cheeks. "Negi-kun, I don't get it," Konoka said, pouting slightly. She looked to Yue, Nodoka, and Haruna for help, but they simply looked at one another before averting their gazes, blushing ever redder than before.
"I don't get it either," Asuna said, bopping Negi lightly on the head with the back of her hand. "Hurry up and tell us," she ordered.
"When you get older..." Negi nervously replied as noticeable beads of sweat formed on his forehead.
"Older my foot," Asuna yelled at him. "I'm already 5 years older that you! Just tell me!"
"No, I don't want to!" Negi whimpered pathetically before scurrying out of the room.
"Negi-kun!" Konoka called, reaching out to grab him as he ran past her. However, Setsuna slipped her hand into Konoka's so that Negi passed by them unhampered with Asuna chasing after him.
"T-that's okay. We don't have to do that now," Setsuna told the mage, blushing. She had a feeling she knew what it took to make a permanent pactio and, if she was right, then she wasn't quite ready to take that step just yet. "This is okay for now, isn't it?" she asked Konoka, holding up her newly formed pactio card.
"It is," Konoka smiled, gently holding onto one side of the card as Setsuna held the other. "For now," she whispered seductively, lightly kissing Setsuna on the cheek and resting her head in the crook of Setsuna's neck.
Setsuna placed a hand on the place that Konoka had just kissed, the same place where Konoka had kissed her for the first time so many years ago, and smiled softly at the girl beside her. The swordsman felt an enormous amount of resolution was infused into this single moment. So much had happened, so much was to come and this, she felt, would be the start of a wonderful new beginning for her and Konoka.
Word Count (Part 3): 3639
Word Count (Epilogue): 912
Author's Notes: Do my eyes deceive me? Is this fic finally completed? Why yes, yes it is:D At long last, Shining Tears has come to a somewhat angsty but overall happy end. I hope you all enjoyed how this fic resolved itself. Things were pretty hard for Setsuna up to the very last second until she finally accepted Konoka's feelings. I felt kind of bad for making her hurt so much throughout this fic, but a character like Setsuna's can't go through such a life changing experience as this without being a little confused and angsty!
Some random stuff: This chapter was painfully hard for me to write. I won't go into details, but I'll just reveal that I wanted to stab my eyes out several times while writing this. XD The epilogue is something that sort of came to me as I was finishing this up and wasn't planned out beforehand. It's about a fourth of the length of the entire last chapter yet took a fraction of the time to write. Note to self, happiness and fluff is way easier for me to write than angst. XD
Now, so where do we go from here? Well this is the end of Shining Tears, but it might not be the end of this particular KonoSetsu world... Have you read about the fics I have in planning on my profile page? If I were to write it, the time travel fic I've been thinking about would work perfectly as a sequel to this one. We'll have to see what happens, but for now I hope you all enjoyed reading this story and please leave some reviews if you can. Thank you for reading Shining Tears and sticking around to the very end despite my slowness in updating. I greatly appreciated it, especially the wonderful reviews from everyone.
Anonymous C., Ari Matoya, asasin8444, Belgian Waffle, CrimsonWhisper, Darkfumae, EvySilverFox, Freedom Kira, Ganoran, kikyo4ever, RikkaXx, Shatin, and yashan-kun, I couldn't have done this without your kind words and support. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you all.