Please forgive me!! I just realized that I have posted the incomplete file for this chapter…sorry again!! (so for those who have read the chapter already, I suggest you re-read it!!)
And I really haven't thought that this kind of 'tactic' would work out, but thank you so much for the reviews—at least, this strengthened my goal to really finish this story knowing that a lot has actually read this one!! Thank you GALS readers, reviewers and non-reviewers alike!!
Just a warning, though. There seems to be some OOC parts here, but I hope they're not that OOC. Your comments and reviews though will help a lot, so, thanks in advance!!
Hope you'll enjoy this one!! Thank you once again!!
DEATH IN BEAUTIFUL BLACK STRANDS
He whispered it once. Only once.
And he'd finally whispered it to her, along with a lot more.
His wishes. His sadness. His regrets. His memories.
If only he could also give his memories.
His fingers were curiously gentle and caring, yet they desperately clung to her, fearing that she would leave and take off lest they loosen their hold even in one iota. His heart stopped, and his breathing became a bit ragged at this sudden closeness with her—a closeness he had not expected yet had craved for so long—but he did not let go. He'd rather die and be in heaven with memories of this blissful encounter than do something as injudicious as letting go.
His tightening hold on her stopped any nuances of speech. His nose was filled with her sweet scent…a scent that was so uniquely hers and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't get enough of it—no, not now. He found that his fingers were now softly grazing her hair.
Finally he really knew how soft it really felt. Finally he knew how black it really looked, and how the stars clung to it, filling it with their awe and adoration. With his eyes flashing in pure anguish and his hand trembling with controlled longing, he placed his chin on top of her head protectively for fear she might go away like she did the last time. Holding her this close…he knew he couldn't bear that pain of being denied with her presence once again.
He knew he'd blame himself later on for this, for being so weak…for finally giving in—but he didn't care. All of that could wait for later. Right now, all he could think of is the painful fact of him taking advantage of Aya's memory loss and the wonderful, bittersweet feeling of being able to finally do what he could never do before—while Aya will still be as clueless as the first dew on the first melting of snow.
How well he had deceived her.
And how well he had deceived himself.
He hated the deception that comes with this supposedly harmless embrace…and he hated to be this close all the while pretending to be outwardly indifferent…but he will take anything he could get.
Especially when she's due to leave in three weeks.
As he felt the breeze settling on their skin, draping them together—only the two of them together—he remembered, while drawing in his breath and painfully shutting his eyes, how he had always loved their isolation. He had always loved the silence around them, especially that time when he just waited for her while he sat on a bench, just knowing without explanation that she will soon appear and see him, even if it was only for that simple moment. For him, what they had felt—and for him, still feel—was so overwhelmingly pure, exquisitely serene and blessedly only theirs that only the somberness of the whisper-soft silence could complete it. Silence was their sole companion, the only one that could understand him, the only one that could relay all that he could offer to her…and the only one worthy enough to understand them and be with them.
But now, how he needed the sanction of stillness with a passion and a desperation it sought liquid fire in him, bursting like glass exploding to shards. He so much begged for this silence for he knew he couldn't bear whatever words Aya might say more at this simple slide to complete oblivion…
He only wanted one thing right now. To say it. To say it before he could change his thoughts. His grip on her tightened more. With this nearness he could feel her shiver as she gently struggled to let go.
He whispered it once. And only once. He had whispered it so slowly, so softly and so silently he was not so sure she really heard it at all.
"You always are…and you always will."
… … … … … …
Earthen fingers brush fallen memories
Bronzed with age that never dies and retreats
Soft crippled land now weeps to the forgotten lost
A heap of dreams, now left like waning ghosts.
… … … … … …
The sun slides behind a thicket of sakura trees as it signals the advent of afternoon, deepening the sky colors from gold to a translucent pink. In the grass clearing overlooking the Shibuya District Hospital, cars were sprawled like colored stars on a green-layered sky. Everything looks placid on the outside, which may serve as a disguise considering the pressures the residents had always undergone inside this four-walled arena called a hospital with its endless struggles of life and death.
The particular wing he was in was dim, and the only light which had managed to seep into its hallways came from the slanted glass windows. It was pleasantly ventilated, and it accompanied the chatter of the residents and the consistent tic-tic-tic of their heels against the polished marble floor. The hallways were not as spacious as what he had been used to, considering that it was one of the busier days of the hospital.
Amidst the prattle in the busy hospital, he silently made his way towards the hallway effortlessly, evading a certain group of residents who haven't thought of any other pastime than to ogle at him. Ignoring them completely, he sharply turned to the corner at the left and proceeded determinedly towards a room at the farthest end of the lobby.
He was not here for just nothing after all.
Nobody knew that he had taken anesthesiology seriously to a point that he had more than considered it as his future profession. He never liked being a model really, and he'd need more than being a DJ to attain self-sufficiency. His father was a doctor and he had been taught with the course in a school in Tokyo the moment he entered junior high school. And because his father is the great Doctor Otohata of Tokyo, and because he had more than proven his worth for more than a couple of times, the residents knew he was more than capable of being an intern in this hospital after five years of continuous education.
The muffled sounds of the intercom somewhat reminded him to continue his obligation for the day. This sudden lapse had worried him slightly, noting that he was never this absent-minded before. Lately he seemed to always shift from one thought to the next, losing focus on a lot of occasions. He had also been noticing changes—unsatisfactory changes—within himself lately, that all these changes prompted all the reasons he needed to finally decide he had to have a busier internship schedule than the usual.
He never explained why he suddenly decided to change his shift. He never believed it mattered. He had never explained his actions and decisions to any of his friends before. None had been asking for his explanation when he'd miss out on a lot of get-togethers and trips, and he never planned to change what he believed could never be undone.
After all, how would it even matter if none of them even knew this particular aspect of his life?
He was always known for his freedom and independence, and that had granted him to easily change his shifts every now and then without second thoughts. And because of this, he had always loved his freedom and independence. No hassle, no problems, no worries, no interruptions, no added tension.
Yet it was his freedom and independence which had cost him what was all most valuable to him. They were not able to save him from attempting to forget a certain black-haired, blue-eyed maiden whose aura and very presence haunted him, even in his dreams. Nothing—not even his busier schedule—allowed him to completely evade memories mainly composed of black strands which could glow like any midnight and a smile which could easily melt his heart—or turn it to lifeless shreds. Nothing could erase his memory of that most beautiful picture on the wall. Nothing could nullify the presence of the most beautiful maiden who had returned to them after a year. And nothing could wipe away the fact that even if she did return, it was because she was only there for his exhibit and to see them. Nothing could make him forget that he could never have her in the way he needed to have her any more.
And he wouldn't even try, now that she's truly the happiest person on earth with her new—and only—love.
Painful and hard to admit may it be, he also knew he could never bear seeing her so frequently when she'd just leave him after all in three weeks' time. Katase's exhibit has long had its last full show, and the only reason why he decided to extend their tour in Shibuya is for Aya to have more time with her friends. So she could have more memories to get her by, especially that she doesn't have much to reminisce.
But he could never forget her. Not even in his occupied state. He painfully shut his eyes at a recent memory. Just minutes ago, he had come out of the room from another operation when he thought he saw her form hovering over a pile of papers at the registration center. He tried ignoring it as he proceeded to walk, thinking that he didn't care, didn't care at all, until he just found his heels sharply turning back on their way to check up on that form again, hoping against hope that it was her. But she was already gone.
A resident came after him to add more medicines to the pile on his tray, urgently informing him that the doctors wanted everything prepared in the room in fifteen minutes. They said a series of tests are coming towards that room's way. And that he was assigned to be the anesthesiologist. He never bothered to read more than what he needed. It was easier not to know what pain he had to take away so it was always his point to get the only information needed that would get him through the whole ordeal.
With his new-found focus in check, he finally reached the room and knocked on the door before he twisted the knob. It was unlocked. He leaned against the door with his shoulder and pushed. The door opened.
Inside it was dark, and only the light at the windows illuminated it with a pinkish hue. The sudden blast of the wind from the opened windows made him realize how spacious it was inside. At the corner of his eye, he saw the patient in the lighter part of the room silently sitting up in bed, facing the view outside the windows. With his usual routine, he busied himself with pushing the trolley in one corner of the room before preparing the equipments. After five minutes, he would then request whoever patient he was with to kindly extend his arm, trying to comfort him from whatever demons he might have faced with his clinical words. Then he would go out of the room after his mission and be out of it in no time at all. He never bothered to stay longer than needed.
Sometimes he offered them a smile, although it was completely unnecessary. Most of the times, the patients were just happy to see him.
A contented sigh brought him out from his unspeaking state. He stopped, straining his ears to hear more of it. He didn't know why he badly wanted to hear more of that sigh, or why his heart had suddenly started hammering. All he knew is that he had to know who made it.
For that sigh was oh-so familiar. For it reminded him of moonlight glows and sunbeam smiles. It reminded him of pictures on the walls and blue sundresses.
It reminded him of her. Completely her. Totally her. Only her.
Fearfully, cautiously, he turned his way towards it.
Otohata Rei was never a believer of a term called fate. Or fortune. Granted, their assurances are all flimsy he never gave a damn on what they have to promise him. And this hospital has had him acquainted with how thin the line is between life and death to believe so.
His friends, on the other hand, believed in them. They thought he was fated to be heartless. They thought he was fated to be untouchable, unchangeable and untamable. They thought he was fatedto never take things seriously. They thought he was fatedto break hearts every now and then. They thought he was fated to never realize that he had taken things and people for granted for so long. And they thought he was fated with a curse—the curse which caused people like him to destroy anything beautiful that comes to his hands.
Yet fate could never explain why he is suddenly feeling this certain defiance to be touched, be changed and be tamed. It could never explain how serious he has become with her, even from the very beginning he saw her. It could never explain how his heart—his, and not anyone else's—has become far from breaking at this moment. And it could never explain why he had been slowly dying in regret because he knew he had been taking things for granted. Therefore, he should not believe in fate.
Uncanny how he now thought that it is exactly fate which had been playing tricks on him this very instant.
He tried to stare more intensely, desperately…but it all ended up in vain.
For in this small room at a fairly silent hospital located in the more rural part of Shibuya, Hoshino Aya rests, sitting timidly on her bed, baring shyly the slightest of a smile on her lips as she took in her view contentedly.
In the light, she looked so stunningly angelic. In the light, she more than personified Mystery. In the light, she more than resembled a case of dark still waters running deep.
He was more than stunned. He was more than afraid to move or make a sound. He was more than afraid to breathe.
And he more than wanted to go away. From this fate. And what it has done to him.
But the tinkling of the glass vials and trays made her turn her face away from the view outside the window and settle on him.
She smiled up at him in polite apology, thinking perhaps that she had disturbed him in any way…and turned back to her view again outside the window, giving him the uninterrupted time he needed once again.
Still unable to move, he heard his heart count the seconds when he saw her swerve her face hastily back up at him again, a look of full recognition—and incredulity—now gracing her face.
He only saw her mouth move. He never heard her words.
Her aura radiated with so much pleasant surprise when she smiled up at him in recognition that it took his breath away.
He hated fate.
He will stay.
It may not be his usual routine and it may not be what he was used to, but he will stay. He probably will be hurt by his decision and he probably won't be able to take the pain seeing her like this, but he will still stay with her.
For his sake. And for hers.
So in this way, he could silently show her he is not taking her for granted anymore. So he could help take her pain, and he could blessedly help her heal easily. Even if only in this way, especially in times like this—times when she needed someone close to her the most—though she may never admit that fact in front of him now—and he's the only one who could be there for her.
He will stay and do this one favor, because this is the only time he could show it. Because he could no longer show it all in the words he speaks.
The silence wrapped them in the room which seemed so small for them now. The space and the turbulence of unkempt and uncontrollable emotions were all dulled by the hum of the wind and the clutter of the equipments he readied himself.
He couldn't bear not to glance her way after such a long time.
She looked calm, even solemn. She looked like she didn't need whatever offer of protection he might have planned giving her now—when he couldn't even offer one before. She knew what were coming to her. She had been doing this for almost a year to know what were to come to her.
He had thought she was weak. Breakable. Fickle. With a spirit that is so easy to frighten, so easy to trample and so easy to destroy. But looking at her now so calm and happy even after all she had experienced with all the hospitals she had encountered and with all the pain she had undergone, he knew he had never met anyone who has such courage as hers.
Hers is so boundless, that she fought for her love to the last minute. Even despite her illness, despite his harshness, and despite all those which fate has given her.
Nobody is brave enough to let go of him when she knew she can't have him any more. Nobody was fearless enough to be that selfless, seeing yourself breaking, dying, but still smiling because you believed you have done the right thing with the noblest of intentions. Like what she did for Ran and him. A sacrifice that was all unnecessary and unwanted—not that she knew it.
At the corner of his eye, he noticed her unfaltering gaze on him, as if studying his every move. He slowly walked over to her, dextrose in hand.
"…Otohata-san, I may not be able to say it so vividly in words…but I wanted to tell you how grateful I am."
('If you only knew what I did, you wouldn't even think that way, Aya.')
He simply shrugged before he couldn't stop himself. He efficiently placed the dextrose in the stand. "I am an intern here."
She smiled once again, and it was all he could do to walk away and escape, escape, escape…
Just like before. Like the times he kept pushing her away then, because he feared he may love her too much he might not be able to let her go and he'd be hurt himself. Because he's unworthy of her then, and he's unworthy of her now. He didn't have much of her courage then. And he never knew why he's suddenly fighting to have more of her courage now.
"…too many times already that it would seem routinary, but I always fear every other time like it's always my first."
He prepared the syringe and the other equipments that arrived in silence, trying not to think how many times she had to undergo this kind of horror. Because nobody deserved to experience it. Especially someone who's so kind and loving and precious like her. She deserved something better. Something more than a fairy tale. Something which doesn't include being examined with brain scans and tests that assured nothing but limitless pain. He had been an intern in this hospital for far too long already to know what she would have to handle.
But the calm was comfortable, welcome even for it kept them from facing demons they couldn't fight. It bathed them like it were frankincense and myrrh. In silence, they continued to be like this: she contented with just looking at the views around her and he busying himself with the chores he had to complete.
A resident came in after a few knocks, bringing another trolley in one hand and a clipboard in another. "Otohata, here are the three new tests she had to take."
"Arigatou, Hino-san," he answered without turning back. The resident nodded with a smile before she went to the wall beside him to place her load. She then walked towards Aya's direction, checking her pulse and smiling at her cautiously. "Hoshino Aya?"
"I'm Hino Mayumi, your nurse for this afternoon, and I'm here to orient you for your tests today. The first five would be a series of brain stimulation tests. Next we'll have your memory check exam and the brain scans on the temporal area for follow-up. We'll have to stimulate it with 1000 watts in ten-minute intervals for two hours so we could see how your brain responds. According to your latest results, you already screamed, a good sign of brain activity. Because of this improvement our team decided that we ought to start with your heart and give it its first three tests, too. We've already contacted your doctors in England and they gave us their go signal."
"Hai, Hino-san. And thank you."
One thousand watts. On the brain. Ten-minute intervals. For two hours. Blood-curdling screams.
He unconsciously shut his eyes tersely. He didn't want to hear anymore.
Mayumi was still cautious when she continued. "I know you've heard this a lot of times already, but we still wanted to promise you that we will do our best not to make the tests so much painful."
"You're wrong," she gently answered. Mayumi blinked a few times with the unexpected answer, while Rei slightly glanced at her way worriedly with difficulty.
But she just gave them a sweet, soft smile, her eyes lighting with unspoken kindness and gratitude. "You said them in Japanese, so it's so much different than the others. It's much more comforting than the foreign language I usually hear."
How can she be so kind?
Mayumi couldn't help but touch the girl's hand. "Before we could proceed, are you sure that you wouldn't like anyone to be with you here during the tests so we could work with the permission slips?"
Aya's silent smile was still sweet, kind and understanding as she shook her head. "I never brought anyone with me during my tests."
Her eyes shot up in surprise at her response. "You surely do not mean that!!"
But Aya smiled once again, still gently shaking her head. "Thank you for your kindness, Hino-san, but I…they have already given me so much for my happiness that I don't wish to burden them anymore…"
He didn't wish to hear anymore. How could she be so selfless, so foolish?
"But don't worry, Otohata will administer the anesthesia for you so you wouldn't feel the pain any more than what we couldn't control."
He slowly counted to ten before he proceeded with his work on the medicines.
"Hai, it indeed is…a pleasant surprise…"
And he used all of his willpower just not to look at her and her smile.
"Do not be afraid," Mayumi tried comforting her with her fond pat. But she was afraid.
Everyone in the room was afraid. Of the tests, of the screams, of the pains and of failure. Deliberately Rei searched for Aya's eyes once again. Their eyes met.
It was only her eyes which didn't seem to have a shred of fear there, as she looked at him gently and sincerely smiled, reassuring him, telling him that everything will be alright. That she will be alright. He quickly looked away, pretending to busy himself again with his medicines, trying to be as impersonal as he'd usually be, but he was unable to bear it.
It was a few moments more until Nurse Hino left them alone.
The silence was their companion once again. It bathed them with its whisper softness, protecting them from the deceptiveness of the world without fear or hesitation.
Yet he couldn't control his hands when they slightly shook at the thought of the things—horrible, pain-filled tests—they would soon give her.
It was getting harder and harder to be professional after every passing minute.
He bitterly smiled to himself. Fate was right after all: all he'd given her is pain. Even if it were indirectly given by him, he still is a part of it. If not a broken heart, then this…and all they inflict were nothing but pain.
"…I guess I have to wait for five years."
Her voice comforted him. Even her voice told him she will be alright.
Rei glanced away again. A few moments more was all he needed before he covered his face with the mask and walked towards her again, syringe now in his gloved hand.
She softy sighed, smiled and extended her arm for Rei. "The doctors told me it would take me five more years to fully recover and have my life back. Though they did add that's the worst case, that it would really depend on me and my brain."
He held her arm carefully, his practiced hand already poised on a vein, his eyes glinting with cold professionalism. "This will relieve you with the pain, Hoshino."
But before the needle could delve deeper into her skin, she turned and tilted her head so it would be closer to him. His breath hitched in his throat. She smiled at him with so much gratitude she glowed.
"Thank you, Otohata-san."
Their eyes met for the second time. For the second, and for the longest, time.
"Otohata-san?" she asked, her brows creased worriedly, fearful she might have said something that had offended him.
He took her hand once again, and this time, the intrusion of the needle into her system was so sudden that she flinched and gave a soft gasp. Yes, she may be used to this kind of effect, the gradual numbness she felt, the sense of feeling and touching and consciousness going away like a fleeting leaf falling from a tree during the days of autumn…but it still seemed different…
He could see it clearly in her eyes when they suddenly widen with raw uncertainty which had been carefully hidden all this time. And he knew more than anything else that everything, for her, is still like her first time. The fear in her eyes was still raw. The wooziness he saw she felt still looked intolerable and he was more than scared that the pain she felt might be twice more than less…but he saw that courage in her eyes, her control not to cry out as she tried to endure what would come to her…
"Otohata, is the patient ready?"
He managed to be calm during the whole ordeal when the doctors finally came. He managed to stay and fully observe the tests with calm professionalism, trying not to outwardly tremble. He managed stop his urge to beat the nearest wall he was at when he heard her unconscious cries of pain and her tears, though the doctors assured them interns that the patient was not even aware she cried out those screams, that it was just a result from the tests, just pure reaction from the stimuli. He managed not to cry out his own fears and frustrations for the remainder of the tests when he saw her eyes die out gradually until they became lifeless orbs.
She was frightened and hurting that he wanted more than to be the strength that she could lean on, if that is the only thing he could offer her on that briefest and most infinite of moments.
Yet his face was paler than hers.
While in the silence that wrapped her, all Aya could hear was a voice. A voice which was surprisingly gentle compared to its usual indifferent tone. It comforted her and she clung to it for as long as possible, until she could no longer touch anything, falling deeper and deeper, gliding and floating and diving into the darkened world where nothing exists anymore.
"This will relieve the pain a bit, Hoshino…"
And because of the words, and because of the voice, she knew that this will completely be different…that this time she will not feel pain, that she will float happily with no intrusion, that this will be the best among the 'first times' she'd ever experience…
Because now, she knew she was not alone.
The silence is their companion, their only comforter, their only healer and their only defender. It bathed them with its whisper softness, protecting them from the deceptiveness of the world and allowing them to relish this experience together. It had eluded them from directly facing the full facts that shook them to the core. The experience tarnished with fear. The experience tainted with hesitation.
They were walking together, alone, with only the silence accompanying them. The sun had set already, and the sky was now emitting a dull orange glow to the spaces underneath. The breeze was a little chilly, swaying Aya's gentle curls and ruffling Rei's wild locks. They didn't mind it, though, but they welcomed it without complaint.
In the deeper recesses of their beings, though, silence was not able to penetrate them.
It was still not completely different. She still felt the pains. She still didn't float happily for her flights had been filled with so many intrusions. At the back of her mind she heard faint screams and saw jerky images and flashes of light. Her sleep was not a restful one.
But she still smiled, because it was still the best 'first times' she'd ever experience.
Because it was the first time she genuinely smiled afterwards. Because it was the first time she really believed she could endure it all. Because it was the first time there had been a giant improvement to her test results. Because it was the first time there was someone with her, someone she believed she knew.
She continued to walk along with him peacefully as she waited for her fiancée's arrival, her smile contentedly placed in her lips.
He was still afraid. He, who is supposed to be fated to be heartless, was still disturbed after enduring all that he saw she had to endure. He, who is doomed to be untouchable, unchangeable and untamable, suddenly wanted to destroy anything he could see with his eyes, scream his lungs out and just explode, not able to control his deep-seated mix of turbulent emotions for the pain she always had to endure. He had felt a lot on those four hours that he couldn't breathe, couldn't talk, couldn't look at it straight, couldn't bear hearing her and almost couldn't stay, but he tried to remain calm for her sake—and for his own.
But now, they were together. Only the two of them together. That's all that mattered to him now, knowing that this might be the only time he could have her for himself. For he knew that he had never been this close with Hoshino Aya before.
"…I guess you knew it's the first time I'm taking them with a friend with me."
He slightly stopped in his tracks, glancing her way, knowing exactly what she meant by that.
"And it's the first time a friend administered the anesthesia for me, so I know they really won't hurt much."
He slightly tensed, not able to stop himself from looking at her.
He didn't want to hope. He wanted to breathe normally, he wanted to just shout at her, embrace her, tell her it was all alright, that she will not have to wait for five years for he will always be here for her…
"So that is why…I really just wanted to tell you how grateful I am to have you there with me."
He looked at her anxiously, begging her to just stop it with his eyes. "I am an intern, Hoshino-san. It just happened we were on the same hospital."
How easily he could break and destroy anything beautiful that comes in his hands with his harsh words. He was fated to have this curse after all. He saw it in how she shook, affected with his words.
"I…really did not mean to intrude on you, Otohata-san. Forgive me for that…if I knew you were there…"
A silent sigh, a plea to the heavens he needed to ask assurance for. He stopped in his tracks once again and looked at her.
She was still glowing. The growing moonlight bathed her delicately, making her look as ethereal as ever. Her dress only made her look like she floated with the wind, a fairy that she was, and her eyes were so full of waiting, hoping…
"…that is why I can never be grateful enough for what you did…"
('Why must your smile be so sweet?')
He found out that it was getting harder and harder to breathe and to speak. It was harder to be impassive, but he made it.
"Why are you so selfless?"
She looked at him, her eyes looking a bit confused.
"Why are you so kind?"
She only closed her eyes, as she allowed the moonlight to continually bathe her and her solemn, contented smile. The wind played with her hair once again, as if taunting his memories, beautiful memories of those strands being caught in the wind that way through a photograph. But seeing it really flowing and blending together with the star-dappled night was more than overpowering him as it showed its beauty to him, only to him. And suddenly, he was afraid of what was coming. That smile, that glow on her, those strands clouding his senses as its beauty and scent reached him and his face and his fingertips, that peace in her face…
He was afraid of what was coming.
She looked at him with the kindest, happiest and most innocent face she had ever given him. Her smile was more than the enchantment he could take in this state of his failing logic.
"I am not, kind, Rei…"
It was the first time she had called him by his first name without any honorific. And he couldn't help but give in to the thought that his name was sounding so sweet when she said it in her lips. Her voice like that—so pure, so kind, so naïve…his name spoken with her voice sounded like a chant to the heavens, a psalm to the winds, a song to the gods. He drew in a ragged breath and blinked his eyes, forcing them not to shut. Her smile was getting sweeter that it was getting harder and harder to control his urge to have her in his arms and…
…and kiss her with all his hidden fire and passion. If only to know if her smile is as sweet as it looks.
But she gracefully turned away from him, facing the view of the wide expanse of grass that was laid before them like she was turning away from him, erasing him from her new existence, denying him and his presence, disposing him from her now fairy tale life.
He saw her inhale the fresh scent brought by the sakura blossoms, blossoms swirling around them with their radiating a glow which was as translucent-looking as the figure close to him.
"…all I did was love."
Yes, the moon may have looked beautiful tonight, but it was not as beautiful as the bewitching woman standing before him, staying with the blossoms, floating with the breeze.
She smiled sweetly again as her eyes gazed heavenwards, taking on that wistful look.
Now he was afraid of that wistful look in her eyes…like a siren looking for the soul of her lost love.
Or was the siren waiting for her new one?
"…and blessedly, I was loved as well."
His heart suddenly stopped to beat, suddenly deciding it needed to die. For it was obvious to whom that wistful look was for. For he knew more than anything and anyone else whose love this siren was waiting for, was seeking, was welcoming.
And he suddenly wanted to know why he is so heartless, why he had taken her so much for granted. Why he never went out to her when he knew she needed him. When he knew he needed her more. And will forever need her more.
Because now he was not feeling heartless. It was not heartless when your heart is being torn to pieces with your misery. Because now it was her who was unintentionally taking him for granted.
He was the one who was there. He was the one who was standing before her now, tortured to hell as he kept looking at her in that way. He was the one who helped her bear the pain. He was the one who supported her. He was the one who stayed for her. Yet all she could still think of is her fiancée who is in God-knows-where doing God-knows-what, waiting for him with that sweet smile of hers, pining eyes and soothing voice.
God help him…what is happening to him?
"And I hope you would be able to experience the same kindness with Kotobuki Ran, Rei."
He was so surprised that he had sharply turned to her and had easily closed the gap between them that he saw the hesitation and the second thoughts lingering in her eyes. He knew his eyes were intense, as she took on that awestruck look in her eyes.
Yes. He was foolish enough to let her let him go. But now he won't allow it, not if he couldn't help it.
But suddenly her recent words about her fiancée and his memories of a very happy maiden in a photograph plastered on a wall stopped him before he could take action.
She delicately gulped. The action, though quite unladylike, was so naïve, so childish and so Aya that he took more pleasure than intended at looking at her delicate throat. He couldn't help but smile, but it was more of his memories of her than of the present. His smile was very pained, showing traces of surrender.
"You are the kindest person I met…"
She saw her smile again, as she gently took his hand and pat it kindly with both of hers. Her smile was reassuring, encouraging him to go on, with no bars held.
Then her hands have tightened her hold on his as she stared at him again, studying him with a look that seemed reflective. She closed her eyes for a while, as if a memory had snuck its way onto her brain and she was trying to nurture it with as much haste as possible. Then, she smiled up at him.
Only for him.
"An eclipse of the moon."
His hands were gently pulling away from her, now angling towards her face, the temptation and the rightness and his defiance to whatever fate has planned on him now coaxing him to go on and not stop. Not even her words and his memories had stopped him.
She was looking back at the moon again.
"I remember…it is something I have read from such a long time ago…about the eclipse of the moon…" she managed to chuckle lightly, her stance and her look on the moon more wistful.
His nails bit into his flesh as he forced himself to remember that all she's still thinking of now is her fiancée who is in God-knows-where doing God-knows-what, waiting for him with that sweet smile of hers, pining eyes and soothing voice.
"It's such a long time ago that they seem not to belong to me anymore."
He slightly swallowed, the temptation already rendering him weak-kneed.
Minutes ago, he wanted to just touch her so badly. Now, he needed to touch her, just as badly.
Please…just once…only for this time…only for this time…let him do it.
The memories began to cloud on him.
"…the eclipse…the blackness…it slowly devours your mind until it leaves you with none to cherish anymore."
He could see her startled gasp when his finger softly brushed her cheek that she had instantly looked back at him. And smiled once more.
Only for him.
How could she continue to torture him like this with that smile of hers? How could she smile so innocently like that when all she's thinking of is just her fiancée and an eclipse on the moon? How could she talk with that kind of voice to him when all the thoughts that might have flooded her is her fiancée who gave her the most beguiling picture on earth?
Why could she never smile like that when she's with him all those times? Why couldn't she give that tone of voice when she talked to him? Why haven't he noticed how sweet and beautiful her smiles were then, as he easily took her for granted? Why couldn't she bare her whole soul before him whenever they were alone? Was he that cold? Was he that insulting?
"But there is so much beauty in an eclipse, knowing that just like any phase in life, it will be gone."
But if she continued to look at him like that, God help him…
Her fingers found their way towards him again, pulling them back into place, right there in the distance between them.
He tried to clear out his memory, thinking that this is not the Aya who loved him anymore, that this is the Aya who had a fiancée and who had no idea what hell he had done to her life, that her smile is only friendly while her more endearing ones are only reserved for her Katase.
Her fiancée who could easily invade their isolation even without his presence.
God, it hurt. A lot.
"And I believe there will be the day when my eclipse will be gone completely and I would be going back to my memories again…with my eyes and heart as crystal clear as ever. And I will never let them go."
God help him…
She continued looking at him that way. So full of innocence. So full of hope.
His fingers tightened around her. He unconsciously inched closer…
They delved into each others' orbs for far longer than what he wanted. But her eyes are just so filled with awe as they bore deeper into his very own. The breeze made her strands dance more with the night, seeking territorial claim. One of her hands gently pulled away from his as she tried constraining every runaway strand, tucking it gently behind her ear. He gazed at her every move, not willing for this memory to be taken from him.
Then her irises were so full of life—like they just had a new discovery—that his hand slightly trembled, and it took all of his willpower before he could completely placate his violent shudders. Her lips have unconsciously parted as they gave out a very sweet smile.
"I have only just noticed this, Otohata-san…you have very expressive eyes…"
She had startled him so badly that he jerked his hand away from her. His eyes had gone big, suddenly glazing, and he swore she saw the changes in his eyes, too. That inner scream was again ringing in his ears, trying to cry out for her to hold him, to touch him tenderly, to sing to him, to kiss him…
And he once again tried to clear out his memory, that this is not the Aya who loved him anymore, that this is the Aya who had a fiancée and who had no idea what hell he had done to her life, that her smile is only friendly while her more endearing ones are only reserved for her Katase.
"Rei, I think I already know…"
His heart stopped. Time stilled. His throat had gone dry he couldn't speak.
All she did was smile—though it was a bit knowingly.
"This connection between us..."
Breathe, Otohata, breathe.
"This grattiutde I can not erase from my system…"
Breathe, Otohata. Breathe.
Her hands tightened again.
"The way you seemed to know me more…"
"The way I seem to understand you better these days…"
"The way you couldn't seem to say it…"
And all she did was smile again—though now it was wider and more knowing.
The eclipse of the moon.
God help him…
"You're my best friend, aren't you?"
And he stopped. And his heart stopped. Time stilled.
And a dagger had rammed right through his heart he wasn't able to breathe with the pain.
You're my best friend, aren't you?
And because he couldn't take it, because he is so good at pretending and regretting it later on, he made his decision.
Because he hated the fact that he had to keep his lips sealed. Because she had said that she had loved him this much but how easy she had just erased him in her memory. Because he hated it that he knew it's not her fault, for it is something they couldn't control. Because he hated her for keeping her illness under wraps, not even fighting back when he insulted her for her weaknesses. Because it's only now he could blame her for all the pain she had caused him, now when her memories are so far away. Because all he could remember now is how brave she really had been then that he wanted to be the one brave for the two of them now.
Because he only wanted to fight for the only best thing that had happened in his life. Because he's desperate to have her back.
But he made his decision, because after all is said and done, he knew it's his fault, and no matter how much he felt now, he could never have her back.
Because he once again remembered her recent words about her fiancée who she loved so fiercely. Because he was all she could think of even when she's with him now. Because memories of a very happy maiden with moonlight hair, captivating eyes and sunbeam smile stopped him from thinking he could still have her back.
This is not the Aya who loved him anymore. This Aya is the one who only have memories of a fiancée who loved her as fiercely as she did. Because this Aya had no idea what hell she had undergone in her life by his hands. Because this siren has her more endearing smiles reserved for her new love, Hikari Katase.
Before he knew it, he already had encased her in his arms. Gently, carefully, softly.
And all he could think of is the painful fact of him taking advantage of Aya's memory loss and the wonderful, bittersweet feeling of being able to finally do what he could never do before—while Aya will still be as clueless as the first dew on the first melting of snow…with this last embrace of surrender and goodbye.
… … … … … …
And so they slept, these dear children of tire and cold,
Yearning until forever takes time to hear their ode,
One morning, one night, eternity will surely end,
Where these fallen memories will finally find their soothing bed.
… … … … … …
"Yes, I was your best friend."
He whispered it once. And only once. He had whispered it so slowly, so softly and so silently he was not so sure she really heard it at all.
('…but you are always more than that to me.')
('Don't forget that…Aya.')
His desperate tightening hold on her stopped any nuances of speech when she had switched back to that honorific again. His nose was filled with her sweet scent…a scent that was so uniquely hers and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't get enough of it—no, not now. He found that his fingers were now softly grazing her hair.
He forced his eyes shut at the pain and longing he had to quench for being with her this close. He tried to smile for her, only for her, but his smile was pained, sad, showing traces of surrender.
He knew this will only be the first—and the last—time he could do it. He knew now more than ever whom fate has chosen for her to love this time.
And because he wanted to give her the chance to happiness he knew he never will have now, and because she also was so selfless then when she gave up on him so he could be free for his chance at love, he'd finally let the lie go. He'll let her go.
He may have taken her pain now, but it will never be enough for all those he had given her. He may be the one in pain now, but it will never be enough for how much she had suffered and sacrificed for him. She may be happy with him then, but it will never be enough for how much bliss and happiness she had felt with Hikari Katase now.
She may be grateful for his presence, but that is because she valued him as her friend. She would've worshipped and sacrificed a thousand lambs—not just a simple show of gratitude—if it were Katase who was here with her.
No one—not even him—could replace her Hikari Katase. No one had, and even if she had already seen him, no one will.
He would forget everything that happened today, everything of those hours they spent together. Yes, they were more than beautiful, sensual and enchanting and it was more than what his dreams offered him but they pained him so much, reminded him so much of promises so fleeting he knew they'd soon wither and die. He knew who she wants. She knew who she needs. And they both knew who has held her heart captive now, who she loves.
He only wanted one thing right now. To say it. To say it before he could change his thoughts. His grip on her tightened more. With this nearness he could feel her shiver as she gently struggled to let go.
And before he could regret his decision, he let his lie go.
"You always are…and you always will."
('Goodbye, Hoshino Aya.')
And as the breeze caressed them with its gentle blessing, and as the moon glowed on them with its gentle light, erasing any traces of darkness and eclipses away, neither knew that she had given him a sadder smile as a remorseful tear rolled down her cheek.
But the sadder part of this reality is that she didn't know why her heart is hurting so for his silent, unspoken goodbye.
… … … … … …
Sun and moon dance and sing, 'time will heal', 'time will heal'.
Heart tells another thing, 'Love once a friend, as a foe will sting'.
And never be the truth known
How beautiful a love, pure and rare,
From two souls conceived and grown,
Burned in flames of despair.
… … … … … …
A/N: …I know this is way longer than the first…but I had so much fun writing this one!! Once again, your comments, flames, reviews and suggestions are more than welcome to me!!
…oh, and by the way, another update from my life…I've just managed to take the interviews and the exams (i.e. for my employment). But then again, I want to continue studying—not for a master's degree, but I plan to have a double-major degree first before I work and proceed with my master's. Am I making my life complicated or what? Just really wanted to know your thoughts, really, though I already have my plans laid out.
…oh, and another thing. I've been thinking that this will really be the end of my story…what do you think?