Hello, everyone! Here it is: the finale! I've busted my butt and consulted the magnificent Berlioz all in the hopes of giving this story a good ending. Enjoy the read and please don't forget to review! I would appreciate everyone's thoughts.


I hear the water drip from the faucet.
It's sweetly falling in tune.
I'm gently closing the closet.
I fall to the floor,
And crawl to my room.
The thought of ending it soon...
Just let me sleep in my room.

Hear me cry! Cry! Cry!
I hear a knock at the front door.
Don't come in!
I try to look at you,
But I can't stop shaking.
Leave me alone. Just go away.
Mother, I'm so scared.

Empty bed and all of the sheets are gone,
They're wrapped around me and you.
All is quiet but the drop of my gun.
I want to belong...to someone...
But maybe life's not for everyone..

- "Black Orchid" by Blue October


(Risa)

I was possessed by a ephemeral reverie.

What distinguished it from all the other dreams I had during my lifetime was that it brought me heart breaking solace. Such a solace I knew I never would never feel in real life. The nepenthe that reality did not grant me. The Balm of Gilead.

I did not know the gender of the being, but now that I reflect upon it, I feel it best to give him the default sex: male. There was nothing in his manner or countenance that I had ever found in a man or a woman, but I felt this was a love only a man could give me.

His hands were softer than silk, if it can even be compared to silk. His skin simply immersed itself into mine, and we had become one in that world, where ever we were. I didn't know nor give notice to anything but the touch and the voice...of something greater than the universe, something greater than emotion, something more intense than my misery.

But this is impossible to imagine. At least, to one who had never experienced it.

Yet it had happened to me, and I could swear upon my life that it was real. One who is enthralled in a dream rarely acknowledges it as being so, except when they are near the end. But if I had died right then and there, then my existence would have ended in that incessant cloud of euphoria.

If only it were as incessant as it seemed.

These impossible, white fingers that were wrapped around my painless body was something of divine exaltation. It cannot be described as being anything else. And I had shifted from the world to some other place, unfathomable in the highest sense. Nirvana? I would not call it so. Eden is even more unworthy. I feel that universe must be kept pure, nameless. It was far above a title, and so was that improbable man.

No, he was not a man. He was an angel without wings.

Without wings. But he didn't need them to bring me any higher. I was above the world. I was beyond that terror. Even the terror...the one that seized me effortlessly. I was above it.

He whispered in my tendrils a tongue I did not recognize, nor understand. But it conveyed a message I understood purely: He loved me.

"I'm sorry."

How had that euphony transcended time and space itself, so as to say those words? With regret? The angel...with no wings...felt regret.

My eyes slid open. I knew this world was ending, though it was still bright white all around me. I knew it was ending. But what was he sorry for? What had he done but give me the sweetest mercy and grant me an impossible release? What had an angel to atone for?

"Sorry for what?"

My voice seemed to break the atmosphere in two. The sky had darkened to a disturbing grey, and an emptiness that had became part of me returned. I had lost it. This thing. This world were Eden and Nirvana were only meaningless names. I had lost it. The sky darkened. It darkened. Now it was black.

Black.

Was he still holding me?

I didn't feel his lips part, nor did I feel his soft breath against the crown of my head.

A stinging sensation gripped my toes, advancing to the rest of me with hellish speed. Dread held me.

"Everything."

The sky lightened again. I didn't desire it. It wasn't the light of Eden, nor the luminescence of Nirvana, nor the white of that nameless place.

The haunt of tangibility stung me.

My eyes opened. I no longer knew that place.

With the tangible came that emptiness that abased my spirit time and time again. It was something I had no power to deny, and I hated that I could not fight it away from me. It was just so embedded into my consciousness. Like returning to your lonely home where the lights are never on. It thrives there.

I feel that dress around me, though it doesn't seem to help. It no longer has her smell. God, it's like killing her all over again. She's gone all over again.

Having lost something I had only begun to covet more than anything at the moment, I began to cry. Soundlessly, I cried. Before I had time to realize it, I felt the searing warmth of the liquid slide down my cheeks. I opened my mouth to speak something, but the words did not form. I suddenly felt sick. I had not the slightest idea of why this nausea would suddenly assail me, but at once I knew it was ominous.

I had been sick to my stomach before, when I heard the ringing. The ringing of the phone. And the clock.

I felt myself dipping into slumber again. And the clock...

The bed shifted. I was startled awake. I had a mind to turn around and see if Riku was alright; she usually didn't move like that in her sleep unless she was having a nightmare. But I didn't move. I just listened.

I felt her palm on the bed. It felt like she was getting off. Probably for a drink or the bathroom. I dismissed it.

But it soon came back to haunt my suspicions. She was walking silently about the room; I could hear her little footsteps going this way and that, as if she were unsure of herself.

Peering over at the clock, I can see that it's 11:30 pm. Why would she be up so late? She usually never wakes up at this time..

She shuffles around for clothes. I can hear the soft fabric sliding against the bureau, and the wood floor underneath us creaking slightly. She thinks I can't hear, but I can.

The door closes, almost noiselessly. When I hear her trotting down the steps instead of walking down the hallway, where the bathroom is located, I grow suddenly nervous. I prop myself up quickly and slide my shoes out from underneath the bed, slipping them on without so much as thinking about socks. Then I listen.

My nervousness shifts to shame, and I begin to doubt myself. I insert my finger in the crevice of my shoe to slip it off, should my worries be misplaced. I sat on the bed silently and waited to hear Riku's mouse-like footsteps enter the kitchen, but to my disappointment and concern, the front door closed. The sound was small, but the echo reiterated through my mind, setting me into a bout of confusion. Why would she be outside so late at night?

Flinging from the bed so fast as even to surprise myself, I snatched the jacket off of the surface of the bureau and tied up my hair in a messy bun. I threw the hood over my profile and slowly descended down the steps.

I treaded cautiously; my father is not a heavy sleeper—never has been. But I remember that when Mom died, he didn't even grace himself with the gift of sleep. He ignored the human necessity to rest and sat on that rocking chair, determined to fly by eternity in a soundless cloud of grief.

In his eyes, he was not allowed to sleep—every moment of every day should be spent thinking about her, brooding over her. It was his sole duty to lament forever. They had been brought together through marriage, and separated through death. He felt it honorable: allowing himself to disintegrate was doing her reverence, he told me.

But now he sleeps soundly. A brief thought of him dreaming of her flickers in my head, but the notion is quick to disappear from my train of thought. My sister is now the only cause for consideration. I need to find her. Again.

Next thing I know, I'm peeking out through the curtain, watching her fade into the night. My insides are starting to act up, my legs getting jittery. I need to follow her. She's disappearing..

When she is gone, I open the door and step outside. The moist air of the night graces me, introducing itself into my agitated system. It's soothing, and I wish I could stay. But I know I can't stand here on this porch and wait for her. God knows what she's up to.

Running now. No, more like jogging. Occasionally, I duck behind a car or slide behind a tree. I can see her now. She's walking steadily on, headed somewhere. I'm subtly grateful of the fact that she is ignorant of being followed.

Where does she get the confidence? Walking all alone on a night like this, where the mentally disturbed are sure to appreciate the atmosphere, knowing that somewhere, a lonely young woman waits for her fate under a glowing streetlight.

I can't stand these thoughts, which only help to propel me into action. So I carve out my own path, parallel—but close to hers. Hopefully, she won't know. I'm the predator..

Walking down the street grows tiring after a while, so my mind serves me entertainment, though still not completely separating me from reality.

We separated only when we were playing hide and go seek. She knew that if I tagged along, then she would be found. Riku was reclusive then, so she was always weary of losing a game where the sole purpose was to hide oneself. I couldn't be near her, so I wept in the closet. Just hoping that Mom would find me, and I wouldn't be alone anymore.

When we found Riku, it was in a dark, dark place..

Hiding in the basement. Waiting patiently. Waiting never to be discovered.

When we found her, she was disappointed. I was relieved. I thought she had been eaten. I thought she had been taken by a monster, never to come back. That monster thrived in the basement. Such nostalgic pleasure that memory is to me now..

My train of thought diverts from memories long past to her current occupation.

She walks on. The persistent fear of losing her drives me to carve an obscure path near her, avoiding streetlights, soundlessly ducking behind cars, and blending into trees. Occasionally, I'll even lay underneath a car. I only have to do that when she turns around, though.

A twitch. A clenching of the fingers. A sudden motion of the head. She's getting paranoid...

One.

I descend into the shadows.

Two.

I duck behind a trashcan.

Three.

I attempt to stand, but in the range of her eyesight, it cannot be done. I return to my crouched position on the other side of the trashcan. That's the third time she looked behind her. She really knows I'm here, doesn't she? I feel exposed regardless of where I am. A silent predator that has been detected.

Predator..

I know that if that word crossed her mind, she would shiver in fear and quicken her pace. Which is exactly what she did. Dammit, she's going far. Wait..where is she going?

Abandoning the trashcan, I follow, so weary its beginning to irritate me. If she could only let go of this suspicion..

Some fifteen minutes of silent stalking creep by, seeming like hours. I grow tired and agitated all over again. I could be in a warm bed right about now, but again—the second time—she forces me to lurk around the city at night, like some kind of lethargic Sherlock Holmes trying to solve the mystery of the wandering Riku. Where am I going? Where is she headed?

Ugh. Am I just so bored that I'm—

She suddenly stops in her tracks and, before she can whip around and catch me in the act, I lept into a bush, emitting only a rustle or two. Very, very subtle rustles. Could have been the wind and not me, for all she knew.

Sadly, this does not satisfy her. She knows I'm here, but without a validated conviction, it's only maddening speculation. Only a perilous game. Through the leaves, I see her face contort into anger and helplessness. She flees down the street.

And just like that, I lost her.

I could call myself every name in the book and berate myself ceaselessly until I find her again, but I know that's not going to help the present situation. I bite my lip and slam my palm on my forehead, muttering curses and self-loathing denouncements anyhow.

I must have shaken my head a dozen times before I mustered the resolve to stand up and walk around. My stealth and cautiousness now absent, I jog around the neighborhood, suddenly wanting to just find her. When I do, she's really going to hear it—from me and Dad.

I decide it would be better that, even if I no longer harbor the desire to hide, I could at least do my abandoned purpose a favor and avoid the streetlights. That way, if I feel like hiding again, my position was never threatened in the first place.

The darkness faintly scares me. I try not to let my imagination run wild. I tell myself that Azumano is generally a crime-free place, excluding the occasional purse-snatcher or a fist fight at a local tavern. I don't have anything of value, so...

Plip.

What was that? Oh, no. Damn it all, don't tell me—

Plip. Plip.

Man. Rain...now? This can't be happening. The last time I was searching for her, it rained. I was fortunate enough to actually find her and avoid a cold at the same time. What if I'm not as fortunate this time?

I seethed under the depressive tempest, looking up to the sky with scorn. But my discontented expression quickly fades when I see...a black angel. Soaring high, allowing black feathers to disengage from his wings and waft down to earth. I stand there gaping at him for a few moments. All I can label him with is "black angel". Then his name comes back to me, and my insides churn.

Dark.

He's heading to the bell tower, I realize. The bell tower that overlooks the city. And then I remember. He has not been active since my mother died, Daisuke's state having hindered his work. But during his thieving days, he would seek refuge at the bell tower. By the time the police reached the top, he was already gone. It's not hard to put two and two together.

Riku disappears, and Dark just happens to appear in the sky? They're meeting at the bell tower, I know. Now I have to find out exactly what they are meeting up for.

An immense swirl of emotions makes me tremble. I grasp my forearms and hug myself, not sure whether to feel relief or disgust.

"I'm sorry, Risa."

If I find Riku, and she's headed to the same place as him, then it's likely that I will have to confront him. And what do I say? No hard feelings here, buddy. It's alright, I understand. You ditched me for my sister and so did Daisuke. Smooth.

Running now. No, more like sprinting. What I'm feeling—it's not understandable. It isn't right to feel this way. I want Riku to be happy. I want her to be happy with Daisuke. Just because a man I once loved shares his body doesn't mean that I can hate them now. No, I'm past that stage. I'm done hating my sister. I was done when we held hands in the park, when we embraced. I can't be afraid. Jealousy? Why would I be feeling this? Because he's following Riku and not me? Is that it?

Or is it that...I'm still in love with him?

I shake my head. I damn myself to hell for the third time tonight.

Get your mind off of this. Okay, Risa, ask yourself questions. Distract yourself. No more anger, no more envy, nor more hate. Questions...

Alright, I've got one. According to my theory, Dark and Riku are meeting up. Why? I don't know. Here's another: It is commonplace for Dark to notify the police, who in turn notify the public—so why is no one at the bell tower? While it does make sense for a Phantom Thief to elude attention so he can seize his prize undetected, why would he start now?He loves the publicity... I mean, he is stealing something, isn't he? Or...is this just more proof that he's going to the bell tower for the purpose of meeting my sister only?

Too many of them. Too many questions are whirring in my head. But I don't know what irritates me more—the unanswered questions or the possible answers. I tremble. I don't want to see Dark again. No, I don't want to. I'm so scared. He...

God, I don't want him to look at me ever again. I don't hate him. I don't love him. At least I don't think I do. Do I? Don't look at me, Dark. Please.

"I'm sorry, Risa."

Just shut up. Please.

"I'm sorry, Risa."

"...I just love you so much..."

I love you too. I'm sorry too. Please, leave me alone.

Mom, make him go away. I try to see you without shaking. No, please go away. You make me feel worse. It's not that I don't love you! I love you, God, I just..

I stop. I kneel, and cover my forehead with my hands. Grief. Just go away. I don't want to see you, Dark. Mom, I want you to leave me..

Good God. I'm having a psychotic episode.

I feel like banging my head on the pavement to drone out the voices. It's weird, undesirable, unpredictable, unwanted..

I thought I was over this. I thought reuniting with Riku, Dad and Daisuke would kill the misery, but..

The feeling I felt...in that dream. It will never come back to me. Only these voices. Apologizing. Proclaiming. I don't want it...I don't...

Is it because I haven't mended my wounds with Dark? If we...see each other...will he...

If I see him, will it help me? Is it just temporary fear? And what about Sato—

I peer up at the sky with realization: Satoshi. I have to make amends with him, too, don't I?

The tower stands before me. I stand up, take a deep breath. I know that he's there. He has to be. Whether or not Dark is stealing something or having some secret love tryst with my sister—it doesn't matter. Satoshi would find out somehow. I know him. He would come to the bell tower...to protect the art work of his family—and capture him. So he's there, too.

I take another deep breath and jog up to my destination. Just trying not to throw up...

I don't want to see you either, Satoshi.

(Exeunt)


Author's POV


The fog embraces the city. There is no disorder here, no feeling of discontent. A peace pervades. The Phantom Thief appreciates this. It's a good feeling—loosing oneself in quiet beauty.

But there's a job to be done. All memory and everything evoking an improper sentiment is banished to the back of his mind. One thought is potent—never leaving. The will to see this through is immaculate, unmarred. The decision is made, and there's no going back.

No going back.

Daisuke, assaulted by nausea and ill at heart, weeps inside. It's not an easy thing to accept. Though Dark told him that no good comes without sacrifice, he wishes that weren't true.

The words spoken between them were few. Dark had tried reasoning, tried anger and belittling—until he knew that his tamer was not to be consoled. The very idea was revolting, enough to make someone like Daisuke heave. So Dark decided the best remedy was silence.

Though the damage between them was almost irrevocable, he knew he didn't want to end it with this bitterness, this enmity. It wasn't fair to either of them, but centuries of pain had taught Dark that happiness is not something everyone is promised. He was one of the pariahs. Nothing was promised to him but a life of stealing. The people he hurt, the tears he drew up—it wasn't relevant.

But his creator bestowed upon him a sympathetic heart. Knowing this, why was empathy so forbidden to him? Why was it so complicated and needlessly involved to feel this way for Daisuke—to hate himself, and to have to be faced with this decision?

And why did Daisuke have to be entitled to this hopelessness and pain because of it?

The door stands before him. He grabs the knob, squeezing tightly. Not wanting to let go and, instead, wanting to escape time. He wanted to escape his body. He wanted to leave Daisuke to himself. Maybe if that was plausible, he wouldn't hate him as much.

But there was someone waiting for him on the other side. Someone who hated him more than Daisuke did. Someone who wanted him dead. There was someone inside of him too—trapped. That was who this was for. There was no other way. If Risa can't...

I don't want to think about her, Daisuke thought. Please, just open the door..

Dark bit his lip. The words surprised him, made him flinch. Reluctantly, he obeyed.

Were those his last words to him? Was that his goodbye?

Krad stood leisurely by an elongated window, playing with his tresses. The Void Of Silence was displayed against the wall, hung up and dormant. Dark tried to repress the need to vomit.

Krad continued to gently sift his fingers through his gold hair. He sneered at Dark, glaring with eyes of abhorrence. So disgusting, the sight of him. Especially that face—why did he have to look so forlorn? Why not come in with that smug countenance so it would be easier to kill him? He almost felt sorry. It seemed his nemesis wasn't up to fighting tonight. Where would the victory be in that?

This should be a quick kill, he deducted, snickering.

Dark closed the door. His eyes grew into a cold stare. Completely focused, unwavering. There was nothing on Earth more important than this moment. The universe sat right here, right now, waiting to end. To end...

Daisuke's heart thudded in his chest. Dark internally smiled, albeit sadly. He apologized to his other half for the last time.

"Dark...you undesirable wretch. Before I end your life, I want to know why you look this way. Is it that...you know you are going to die by my hand?" He murmured, tilting his head while he feigned curiosity. Yes, he did know that was exactly what had his other half looking so solemn. But it was quite unexpected. Never before had he been exposed to that expression on his face. Why would he accept his fate so suddenly now?

"You'll know." Dark replied, clenching his fists.

Having been denied the desired answer, Krad formed a ball of fiery energy in his hand. He held it up to Dark's view, and lunged it at him as one would a baseball. Dark gasped and lept from his spot, hitting his back against the wall violently. The bust of a Greek general toppled over from its base and smashed into thousands of pieces.

Without a moment's thought, Dark snatched a portion of the general's head and threw it at Krad. Krad was momentarily confused by it, though fast enough to escape it in the nick of time. The rough stone grazed him, leaving only a mere scratch in it's wake. How impetuous of him, he thought, trying to hurt him with something so feeble as a chunk of stone.

Dark stood and sprinted to the far right of the room, pulling out a black feather from his coat and muttering some old Latin spell, causing it to light up. He released it and, like an arrow, it shot through the air and veered straight to Krad. The very second it touched a lock of his gold hair, it exploded and sent him flying back. He crashed into a window, but grasped the edges of the sill so as not to completely lose his balance. Krad growled and yanked the pieces of glass from his forearms and back, squinting only once or twice.

Aware that Dark was obviously hiding behind a column, Krad pulled out a feather and licked his lips, preparing for the fast paced utterance of a far more potent spell. This one would follow Dark until it touched anything connected to him—clothes included. It could not be repelled nor destroyed until it hit it's target.

Dark tried to regulate his breathing from behind the column, muttering words to three feathers clutched in his hand, while also hugging himself to keep from shaking. If only Daisuke would keep still! But the aggrieved young boy was in tears now, praying for deliverance from this battle. This isn't going to work, he reiterated, peeving his alter ego.

Be quiet, dammit! Dark yelled. Your stupid praying is going to knock off my concentration—we'll both be dead in a matter of minutes!

Daisuke quieted himself grudgingly.

The very moment Dark revealed himself from his hiding place, they were both muttering their respective spells, releasing their feathers and allowing them to seek out their targets. The three feathers whizzed through the air like bullets, though only one of them hit Krad. He screamed and fell to the floor, clutching his chest. While he held his wound and tried to alleviating the bleeding, Dark jumped into the air and allowed his wings to materialize, to which Daisuke screamed in pain. It was always so painful when With was not there to assist in flight.

Much to Dark's dismay, the feather only flew up and dove straight for his chest. He dodged, but alas, he knew what type of feather this was. He tried to expose a spot that, if struck, would not be life-threatening.

The feather finally grazed the bottom of his boot and reacted immediately, bursting into a frenzy of smoke and flame. He also hit the ground, resounding in a loud thud. The smoke did not dispensate after the feather's detonation however, and only spread out and enveloped the atmosphere.

Now blinded by an foreboding, reddish fog, Dark stood and tried to edge himself away from what felt like approaching footsteps. He backed into the wall and closed his eyes, feeling around for his feathers. Krad chuckled, not affected at all by the miasma that so effortlessly blinded his opponent. Dark grasped one and tried to keep his muttering as low as possible, so as not to reveal his vulnerable state.

Damn these things. They took so much longer than energy blasts to initiate. It was agonizing. But he knew he couldn't use energy blasts for this fight.

If Krad were to be hit, his nemesis would surely lose his life or at least be fatally injured...but then, so would Satoshi.

It's not fair, he childishly thought.

He decided it would be far wiser to keep the feather at bay until Krad found him. In his favor, the fog had begun to dissipate, leaving him with Krad standing just inches from him. The moment they realized each other, Dark released the feather and jumped back.

It was a direct hit—which only made Krad's agitated chest bleed more and open new wounds. He stumbled backward and clumsily threw another energy blast, though it's power was significantly less due to it's small size. The blast crashed into Dark's leg and threw him off balance. Daisuke and Dark cried out simultaneously.

The smallest splatter of blood hit the Void of Silence, sliding noiselessly down the smooth surface of the glass. Unseen by either combatant, the blood was absorbed and the face of the mirror turned black.

Suddenly, a harsh wind began to draw them in.

Their eyes trailed to the mirror, which had opened up a large black hole and was beginning to suck in everything within it's proximity. The columns gave out and collapsed. Krad struggled to stand, trying to hide from the wind.

The doors flung open. "No!" someone screamed.

Dark's eyes widened. It—it can't be.

No! He told Riku to wait outside! This wasn't happening!

Dark sprang up from his position on the ground and limped frantically toward the entrance, initially intending to push her out and close the door. But when he reached his destination, the girl standing at the entrance, holding onto the door for dear life...was not Riku.

"Risa?!" He cried, incredulous.

Her hair and night gown blew wildly about her, and her eyes were filled with urgency and perplexion. "Dark! What's happe—look out!" She pointed behind him and let out a scream.

Krad tackled him to the ground, grasping for his neck and intending to rip the flesh from his throat like a wild animal. Dark cried out and repelled him with an energy blast of his own—brought out from fear and senseless panic.

Krad flew back from the impact and slid down the floor, nearing the void with each passing second. He clawed at anything durable and within reach, while Dark did the same. Predictably, it proved futile, and they were both drawn in. Sensing blood and strengthened by the smell of it, the Void only grew larger and descended out of the confines of the mirror, tearing the walls to pieces.

In the midst of this insurgence of debris, a small portion of stone hit Risa squarely in the chest, knocking the wind right from her lungs. She fell back and landed so hard on the floor the impact caused her to black out.

Before Krad and Dark were completely devoured, however, the pendant around Krad's neck lit up and detached itself from the chain. The light burned with the intensity of fire. The sprinklers on the ceiling activated and water spurted everywhere.

Daisuke and Satoshi felt themselves being drawn out of their bodies, out of the world. They felt their skin tearing apart, detaching from some sticky, painful mold. Being blind and unable to move, they panicked and tried to scream—but they could not speak. Water, unbearable heat, a raging wind—that was all they knew. Everything else did not exist.

Dark and Krad were finally engulfed whole, with only their screams signaling their departure. The Void, now satisfied and freed of it's blood lust, destroyed itself and shattered into oblivion. The pendant had also obliterated itself seconds after, only leaving a puff of smoke to extinguish in the brutal onslaught of rain and wind.

Eventually, the tempestuous atmosphere died, and so did the endurance of the sprinklers.

Only Daisuke, Satoshi, Risa, and a sea of rubble and dust remained of the room. The real rain and gust of wind blew their hair about peacefully under a black sky. Sirens sounded. People yelled and shrieked. Search lights danced to and fro.

The bell of the tower tolled: the harbinger of midnight.


"..And then we'll..."

"Don't you think..."

"That's a good thing, trust me.."

"You're insane."

The sentence had ceased all communication for a period of time. He pushed his violet locks back, preparing himself for verbal complications. "Damn it, don't you know how important this is? Don't you realize by now that there is no other way?"

The boy's frown deepened. "No." He deadpanned. "I don't."

"I'm not trying to make this hard on you. You're acting like I want this to—well, yeah, I want it to. You know it can't be done any other way. Risa closed the door to a cure just as much as Krad did."

"I know! I just wish you wouldn't say it!" Daisuke screamed, throwing a pillow at the wall. "And I hate you because of it!"

Gazes completely focused on one another, they silently contemplated the stalemate. Nothing else to be done. Nothing else that could be done. It was just the way it was.

Daisuke fell on the bed, defeated and grieving. Nothing else that could be done..

After another moment of speculation, Dark decided he would override the crying with his own voice:

"Riku cannot know that you and I are the same person. If she knew and accepted, I would disappear. That would defeat our purpose, so...I'm going to tell her that I know who did it...and that the museum is his usual hideout."

Daisuke's eyes, red with anger and anguish, fixated on him. There was no use objecting. But the one war he could wage without losing was that silent, mental battle. A glare that would wear down on Dark's consciousness, and slowly eat at him. If no words need be spoken, Daisuke wanted to be subtle in his cruelty.

It seemed to be working, but Dark still wouldn't shut up until the bitterness was firmly embedded into him, and the fatal notion was permanently instilled in his tamer's mind.

"She'll stay outside the bell tower in case anything goes wrong. She'll go at 11: 30, and wait until midnight. If nothing happens at midnight, she can assume that I died without finishing him off."

Daisuke's resolve to hate finally withered, now being completely unmanned by the reality, the inescapable mechanism Dark had set up. This was necessary, he knew. No other way to be done. Nothing else that could be done..

He looked away from his alter ego, struggling to remain hostile. But he was growing more weary as the seconds ticked on. Just stop talking..

"Hiwatari...for this to work out, Hiwatari.."

The memory faded into the recesses of his mind, dormant. Waiting to be called upon by the fiend of misery—in the darker, later hours...when the soul is completely conquered by all black conviction.

Daisuke opened his eyes.

A white washed room he wished he never knew. It only seems to deepen the nostalgia, press further into the wound.

The hospital.

Satoshi and Risa lay upon their respective stretchers, both attached to heart monitors. Satoshi was having trouble breathing. He had undergone two seizures thus far. Risa seemed a lot better off, though she appeared frighteningly comatose. He was afraid she would never get out of it. He had inched nearer to her, to see if her eyeballs were rolling under her eyelids.

Please, just tell me you're dreaming, he thought.

Nothing. Limp and lifeless was she. It was terribly unnerving...

__

The sky was infected with white. Not the insufferable white, though. It was not unpleasant. To her bewilderment, nothing was. It was an atmosphere of perfection, an immaculate blanket of silence and...

That improbable man. The angel...without any wings.

This Nirvana was not to stay for long. He appeared pained, almost sick.

She inquired of his malady, though the words never seemed to leave her tongue. She repeated herself time and time again. She realized she had gone mute. She touched her face. It was void of a mouth.

"I'm sorry for everything." He sobbed. "Everything.."

Everything echoed.

"Risa?"

G...Ly dew

ck lee

mg

.

I don't.

Talk to you want t to.

Out

o of you're your you

mind.

Ugly. Sis

tee, ugly

hide

see k.

k.

Satoshi, me. Me. Me.

Rk. Ku Risa Ri..

"Risa.."

Some thin g, about Dark.

I don't. See you either. I don't.

"Risa, are—"

Are. Are. Away. In vain. In pain.

"—Awake? Hello?"

"Hello?"

Tangibility now. She was conscious, but not fully awake. She wanted more than anything to rest, to slip so deep she could call that angel back. Risa doubted he would come. He had been defiled by her, permanently. She must have killed him..

"Risa. I know you're in pain. But please stay awake. I have to t-tell...I have to tell you something."

It was Satoshi. He was not sitting by her bedside. Quite the contrary. He was laying on a bed of his own. His breathing was labored and heavy, and his voice was not so smooth and collected as it would be under normal circumstances. A pity he should be reduced to this, she thought.

She had trouble remembering anything. It was probably that man again..

She turned to him and said nothing, only waited. His reply was intercepted by Hiwatari.

"Now, now, son.." he said softly, rubbing his shoulders, "Everything's fine. Trust me."

"N-no.." he protested, reaching out for Risa. "I have to tell you something.."

"Calm down. I'll clear the confusion if you calm yourself."

Satoshi complied, though still reluctant. His eyes never left hers.

Hiwatari's attention turned to Risa. "I thought you should know that your sister notified your father that you were in the building at the time of the explosion. She is unharmed, and is currently at home with him. Since you two are so sleepy and weak, I had the doctor lie and say that you guys would be out for a few days."

Risa's eyes widened with the unbearable rush of ambivalent feelings and accumulating questions. "Then...where's Daisuke? Where is he? I saw him...with Dark, a-and there was a big black hole sucking up everything and destroying everything—" Her speech became rushed and sporadic. It wasn't long until she was confused and no longer comprehended herself. She grew silent, groggy and ashamed.

Hiwatari smiled warmly. "He's asleep. Right next to you both."

Risa and Satoshi turned their attention to Daisuke, who slept soberly in his own bed. Though his face, arms and legs were embellished with bluish bruises and cuts, his appearance suggested he was not enduring any pain.

"Woke a few times, though. Looked like he was thinking about something—very deep in thought. A few minutes into it, he fell asleep again. I wonder why he didn't want to talk to anyone.." Hiwatari trailed off, musing about the behavior of his son's acquaintance. Daisuke was usually quite social and very talkative, even if he wasn't feeling well. It wasn't like him to be so withdrawn. But after something this severe..

In grieving now, he understood.

"Riku was..." Satoshi began wearily, "She was...waiting outside for him."

"For who?" Risa inquired. "Dark?"

Satoshi nodded gravely. "She knew that Daisuke would be injured...after we separated.."

"Sep—you mean—that hole...drew them out? Dark and Krad?" she said breathlessly, astonished beyond belief.

"I don't know why.." he murmured, peering inquisitively into his father's eyes. "Do you know?"

"I thought this wouldn't end up confusing you," said Hiwatari, slightly amused. "You know more about that pendant than I do."

The interposing voice startled them all.

"No she didn't."

Daisuke tried to sit up, but upon finding he could not, slumped back onto the bed with an irritated countenance. "Riku didn't know. She didn't know the half of it."

They remained silent, waiting for his revelation. He obliged with a sad smile that confounded them both.

"Riku was lied to. Dark told her that he knew who tried to strangle Risa, and he cleared you from her suspicions when he said you argued with her because she wouldn't tell you who it was."

"Why..?" Satoshi propped himself on his elbow, staring intently at Daisuke.

"The pendant. It's not around your neck." He stated, lifting up a finger with mild difficulty to point that out. Satoshi felt around his neck, unsure of what to feel.

Risa had not the slightest idea of the significance the pendant bore, but remained silent. Hiwatari sat down and withdrew from the conversation for a short period of time.

"That pendant is meant...to protect human life. Not just the wearer, but anyone that is within it's power to protect. Though it was growing weaker, it still had enough energy...to save us both," Daisuke continued. "It was Dark's intention to sacrifice himself for you. It was for your mother..."

"My mother?" Satoshi tilted his head. "He...knew her?"

Daisuke let out a bitter, dry laugh. "Apparently."

It was so painful to even address him in a conversation. He remembered that last statement. So grossly inappropriate. His last words to Dark...his last words...were that he did not want to think about Risa. And here she was, laying between them, looking confused and heartbroken. And what was the last thing Dark said to him?

"I'm sorry."

How heart-wrenchingly ironic.

Before further words could be exchanged, Hiwatari stood and addressed them all. "I knew about Dark's plan the entire time." He glimpsed at Satoshi. "The notification was not mailed to the police department at all—it was given to me by Dark himself."

Daisuke nodded solemnly in agreement, averting his eyes to the floor.

"Needless to say, I was genuinely surprised. I would never have thought he would make such a selfless sacrifice to you both. And I was to ensure that no one else was involved, and you would unconsciously cooperate."

Satoshi blinked, stunned. "He was planning to get caught the entire time. We were going to use Krad to lure him into the Void, but...he intended for that." He glared at his father. "And you helped him."

"I had to. If I didn't, it would do no good to either of you. He freed you both from your curses at the cost of his own life."

Risa flew into a rage. "Why didn't you tell me, Daisuke? Why? I could have—I—" she began to weep bitterly, shrouding her face in her hands. She sunk into her pillow.

"We...couldn't." Daisuke swallowed hard, trying not to be overcome by tears himself. "He said...you'd..."

"We can't tell Risa. She'll blow it out of proportion and try to do something about it.."

"Worry too much. It would be so hard on you, Risa." He thought of ending it at that, but decided against it.

"You're not the only one, Risa. Mom and Grandpa didn't even know. They would...try to do the same thing."


The hours danced by like minutes. Satoshi fell into musing after a while, indulging himself in the ceiling. It was a curious thing on his part to count the tiles, even if the number was insignificant and he'd lose count eventually.

Risa and Daisuke were no longer in the mood for any form of human contact, and needed their space to speculate about a similar pool of thought. Risa pretended to sleep, while Daisuke turned his back to everyone and stared blankly at the mute TV screen playing an old re-run of Seinfeld. Hiwatari sat in a nearby chair, head down, deep in slumber. His breathing was faintly audible.

From outside, the sky grew gray and distressed. Soon it was raining. As the minutes drew on, the rain intensified, though still too soundless to notice. Before he knew it, it was already 4 in the morning. Still, sleep eluded him. He was grateful that he would not have to return to school for a few days, and his sole companion would be solitude...unless either Risa or Daisuke decided to forgive him for his unknown transgression. They all seemed angry with everyone, didn't they? But it was understandable...

After all, Dark and Krad are gone forever. What a deep word. Forever..

It echoed for a long time, but he didn't mind. It embedded the reality in him. Just how long forever was, it was beyond his blurred mindset to fathom. Did that complex, frightening word echo in Dark's mind too? Did he truly fathom the severity of that word? Did he know the implications of the sacrifice he was making?

And this was to free them both...

Satoshi laughed quietly to himself. What an unprecedented, selfless act. It was astounding.

He glimpsed at the clock: 4:09.

When her memory returned, she opened her mouth.

"Satoshi."

A whisper in the dark. Slightly startling, but welcome all the same. Did she forgive him?

He turned to her questioningly, wordless. Her back was still turned to him, as it had been for all those silent, fleeting hours. He knew she wasn't just talking in her sleep.

"I should have talked to you, at least." She murmured slowly, as though choosing each individual word carefully as she spoke. It was odd of her. "I mean, about that man. I think his name was.."

"Krad." said Satoshi, no longer feeling any malice at the mention of him. It no longer mattered anymore. He knew the day would never come that Krad would actually disappear and he'd end up feeling grateful for it. He didn't feel anything, really. The recurrence of his image no longer drew up any emotion. Such a peculiar feeling..

Risa felt some uneasiness, though it was not conveyed. "If only I would have talked to you about it...I was just so scared, Satoshi. I knew—you knew—that he could kill me. And I knew he could kill you too, if he wanted.."

"Probably not," Satoshi softly admonished, "Krad cherished his life. He hated me equally, but...he would never go so far as to kill me. We shared the same body. If I got hurt, so would he."

"I wish I would have talked to you still. If I had just stopped being a coward and confronted you, I would have known this. We could have worked something out.."

"I don't think so. Krad and...well, you. You wouldn't want to put up with him and me your whole life—"

Risa stiffened a little. "That's another thing I'm concerned about. I was thinking that...I would like a life...w-with you...but.."

No one witnessed Satoshi's smile, nor did he imply it in his tone. "In the meadow...I was going to tell you how much you mean to me. I would drive until the end with you, I know. But I also know...that this isn't what you need right now. You've been through a lot. This has been a long year of suffering."

She stifled a sob, biting her lip. Her fingers clawed soundlessly at the pillow, intending to tear at the fabric. Assailed with the reveries of her mother, of him, of Daisuke, and every one she dragged into her insufferable charade of depression. When she thought it too much to deal with, she found sense in what he said. Yes, it made perfect sense. It was a process that required time.

And he was willing to wait.

"I know." She managed.

"Time. It heals. I'll be here, Risa. With you, the entire time."

No one witnessed her smile either, though that didn't stop her. "Time, yeah.. And I need a little love to ease the pain."

Daisuke narrowed his eyes, averting his gaze from the TV screen. No longer ill at heart, he drifted into repose with Riku's face in his mind. Tomorrow, he decided, he would allow time to run its course...with her at his side.

God's in his Heaven; all's right with the world.


(Risa)

The sky is a pale blue that puts everything at peace. The sun is blinded by the clouds that are crying over the city.

I'm laying on my bed, hearing the rain conduct its symphony of ceaseless taps on the window pane. We lay in unison. His cerulean blue tresses rest on my bosom. I breathe in and out, and he smiles to himself, content. His hand reaches for mine.

I'm reluctant at first, though my shyness withers away with his playful touch. His fingers caress with gentle dexterity. I loosen and find that nameless place. I can see that wingless angel in my mind now, with a face...and no longer pained.

To be with you...

Our hands meet. Clutch tightly.

To be with you..

We fall asleep hand in hand. The boy and girl run down the street, sloshing the water about...chasing each other.

I love that combination.

Finis