Hehe, you didn't really think I was going to leave Kazu and Nnoi hangin' like that, didja? ...Well, I wouldn't. 'Cuz if I had, Halibel woulda killed me. ^.^'
As a side note, I'd like to thank Halibel Lecter for all she's done in helping me with this side story. After all, if she hadn't encouraged me, it wouldn't be here. So... all of you who are reading this, GO READ HER STORIES! And don't forget to review them! They're very good and entertaining. ^.^
So, Ladies and Lazy Gents, here's the Epilogue to "Open Eyes".
Bleach is owned by Tite Kubo, meaning it does not belong to me. I am in no way, shape, and/or form claiming to be the owner/creator of these concepts, though I do claim any characters not apart of the original Bleach storyline (such as Amalia) mine. As such, I would appreciate fellow authors and readers to give credit where credit is due and not steal any of my characters and/or concepts. Thank you, and have a pleasant day.
(Epilogue: This Time, For Good)
Nagata Jukodo hated his life.
He hated his parents, he hated his condescending older sister, Nao, he hated his name (Nagata didn't fit him at all, in his opinion), and he especially hated the move.
"I just know you'll love your new school, sweetie." His mother had cooed from the front seat of the car, "Karakura Middle has such a lovely campus, and the teachers and students are so friendly!"
Nagata hated friendly.
"Just try not to get kicked out of this one, eh, son?" His father had growled. "No more fighting."
Nagata hated his father.
Nagata loved fighting.
In the last three years, he had been kicked out of eight schools for fighting. He had also been to twelve different psychologists, seven counselors, two boot camps, and eighteen anger management classes. But they had all ended the same; with his whole family uprooting and moving to another town.
This town, the ninth, was Karakura Town; a fairly decent place by all accounts, with a close-knit community, several upstanding schools and a quick commute to the nearby Tokyo universities. The Jukodo family had taken up residence in a nice, comfortable apartment in a nice, respectable complex. And Nagata hated every bit of it.
"No fighting, Naga!" Nao called after him as he stepped out of the car, her dark green/black hair shimmering in its waves and her grey eyes narrowing at him.
Nagata gritted his teeth, glaring at his older sister. He especially hated her, in all of her 'perfection', how she was always jumping in to 'protect' him at the last minute because he was 'weaker' than her. One day… one day he'd show her.
"Whatever, Nao." He grumbled, turning towards the school.
"You sure you don't need us to go with you?"
"I got it." He rolled his dark eyes, "Not like we haven't been through this a thousand times."
"What your tone, young man." His father growled.
"Have a good day, sweetie!" His mother called as they drove off to Karakura High to drop off his sister, "We'll pick you up right after school! Love you!"
Nagata rolled his eyes again, then turned and trudged towards the school building. He was on his way to the roof, where he had planned on skipping the whole day, when something small darted around the corner in front of him and ran straight into his stomach, sending them both toppling.
"Owie, owie, owie…" The small form muttered into his chest, crawling off of him.
Twitching, Nagata sat up and turned to the form, glaring, "Watch where you're go—" He paused, staring at the brown-haired, green-eyed girl staring at him.
Both their eyes widened.
"Uh… Hehe." The girl rubbed the back of her head sheepishly, smiling, "Sorry, you have the wrong person."
"So do you." Nagata growled, standing and walking off, looking around for the access stairway to the roof.
"I'm Keiko!" She ran after him, coming to a stop in front of him and smiling. "Keiko Kawagaki." When he brushed passed her, she ran up alongside him and went on, "You're new, right? I know everyone here because we've all been together since grade school, but I don't know you."
"Yeah." Nagata muttered, turning sharply and heading up the stairs he had spotted, "I'm new."
"Uh… My class is the only one expecting a new student, and it's the other wa—" She stopped when a bell rang, "Gyah! I'm late!!"
Nagata was about to walk through the door when he heard a crash, followed by a thump. He turned and looked back down the stairs, blinking.
The girl, Kei-something-or-other, was lying down on the floor, passed out.
He made to turn away and go through the door, leaving her there, but something made him stop.
Glancing to the left, he saw a shadow hunkered down on the other side of the pedestal, knees drawn up to its chest and head tucked into the small nook created by its arms.
After pausing to consider just walking on, Nnoitra turned and walked towards the pedestal, staring down at the sleeping Kazuko with a blank expression.
Nagata shook his head, frowning, "The hell…" He tried, again, to walk away, but instead found himself standing over the girl and picking her up, walking up the stairs and onto the roof with her.
Leaning her against the shaded side of an air duct, he sat across from her and crossed his arms behind his head, closing his eyes and dozing.
Some time later, he looked up when she shifted and groaned, her hand rubbing a red spot on her forehead.
"…I think you ran into a wall."
Keiko jumped, turning to Nagata and smiling. "Oh! It's you… Umm…" She rubbed the back of her head, "Hehe, sorry. I don't remember your name…"
"I never gave it." Nagata closed his eyes again.
"…Is this the roof?" She gasped, "Oh, no! How long was I—"
"'Bout thirty minutes." Nagata muttered.
When she gasped loudly he opened his eyes, blinking at the distraught look on her face. "I'm gonna be in so much trouble!!"
"Neh, don't worry about it." He shrugged, "I skip class all the time and the worst they ever did was call my parents."
"Call… my parents?!" Keiko squeaked.
Nagata groaned, "If you're that upset, just wait until after first break and go back. Tell the teacher you were in the bathroom sick or somethin'."
"Yeah." She sighed, "I guess…" She was silent for a moment, then turned to him and smiled, "Ya know, it's weird…"
Holding back several insults and a growl, Nagata glared at her and hissed, "What?"
"I called you 'Nnoitra' earlier…" She tilted her head, still smiling, "But I've never met anyone named 'Nnoitra'!" When he didn't say anything, Keiko blinked, "What made you call me 'Kazuko'?"
"No clue." He answered shortly.
"Isn't that funny?" Keiko giggled, "We both reminded each other of people we never met! And at the same time!"
"Hi-fuckin'-larious." Nagata growled, glaring at her harder, "If yer just gonna keep talkin', go away."
Keiko's smile faded a bit, "That's not very nice…"
"Hey, young man! Are you Nagata Jukodo?"
They both turned, Nagata glaring at the man frowning at them from the service door, "Yeah?"
The adult growled, "Go figure the troublemaker would head for the roof. Skipping class already, huh? Let me tell you something, Jukodo, we don't tolera—"
"Principal Takeshi!" Keiko jumped to her feet, smiling innocently at the principal, "Nagata was just telling me he was lost! I was about to take him to your office when you came up, and…"
The principal blinked, surprised, "Kawagaki?"
"He's in my class, right?" She went on, still smiling, "I'll just take him, then! C'mon, Nagata!" Keiko took his hand and pulled him to the door, bowing quickly to the principal as she passed. Down the stairs and after they had run through several halls, Keiko stopped in front of a door and turned to Nagata, smiling, "I think we got off on the wrong foot, so let's try this again, alright?" She backed away, bowing and saying, "Hello, my name is Keiko Kawagaki."
Nagata stared at her, shocked. 'I guess I owe her that much…' "Nagata Jukodo." He nodded, "And thanks for… ya know…" He grimaced, pointing up, "With the principal on the roof."
"Oh, that was no problem." Keiko smiled widely at him, "After all, what are friends for?" She giggled, then turned and ran into the classroom, door swinging shut after her.
He stared after her, quirking a brow, "'Friends', huh? Weird girl…" Rolling his eyes, Nagata turned to walk off but was stopped when the door opened again and Keiko poked her head out.
"C'mon!" She grabbed his arm and pulled.
Before he could protest, Nagata found himself standing in front of thirty pairs of staring eyes. He twitched.
"Jukodo, Nagata." The teacher muttered, crossing his name off on the list, "You'll be by Keiko. I trust you know who she is?"
"Yeah." Nagata scowled, slumping over to the bright-eyed Keiko, who had a window seat in the back of the class. He sat beside her.
"Isn't this great, Naga?" She muttered, excited, "Two friends sitting next to each other!"
"'Naga'?" He scowled. Only his sister called him that… and he hated it. "Look, Kawagaki, I'm not—"
"Call me Keiko." She cut him off, smiling. "Now, shh. The teacher's talking."
Nagata twitched. This was going to be a looooong year.
Keiko winced, wiping blood out of the corner of her mouth and standing.
"Why don't you just stay down?!"
Nagata watched from the second story window as she took another hit, frowning when all she did was lean against the building and lower her head.
When the leader of the three boys who had cornered her drew back his fist, Nagata swung his legs over the windowsill and jumped, landing feet first on the boy. Regaining his balance, he kicked him in the mouth, glaring at the other two as the boy beneath him bled.
"Jukodo." One of them spat, helping the other as they picked up their leader, "We'll get you for this!"
As they left, Nagata turned to Keiko, frowning, "What the hell was that about?"
"Oh, they just don't like me because I can see ghosts." When he quirked a brow, she smiled widely and shrugged. "It happens every now and then. They usually stop before I bruise too badly…"
He scowled, "You shouldn't let them do shit like that to you. Why don't you tell someone?"
"Because I'd rather no one get killed on my behalf."
"What?" Nagata blinked.
"Uhhh…" Keiko tilted her head, "I said because I don't want anyone to get in trouble because of me."
"That's just stupid."
"I don't think it is."
"Well I do."
"Well, that's you." Keiko shrugged, "I'd rather take a hundred punches before I got someone expelled."
This made Nagata think, think about all the schools he had been expelled from for just threatening someone. But here was a girl who was taking beatings and telling no one.
"Idiot." He scowled, shaking his head and crossing his arms, "Well, I guess I'll just have to follow your sorry ass around and make sure you don't let yourself get hurt again, huh?"
Keiko just blinked, shocked.
"What?" He quirked a brow, smirking, "That's what friends are for, right?"
She blinked again, then smiled, "Yeah, something like that."
Several years came and went, and Nagata had surprised even himself when he found he was still in Karakura.
What surprised him even more, though, was that he and Keiko were still friends. From early junior high to now, their final year of high school.
Hell, he'd never thought he'd bother with upper secondary, but when Keiko had threatened to talk his parents into making him get a haircut, he hadn't had much of a choice. It'd taken him years to get it as it was, long and black…
"Well, Naga, here we are." Keiko turned in her seat during break, smiling and resting her chin on the top of her chair, "The final weeks. What're you planning on doing when you graduate?"
Nagata rolled his eyes, "Plan ain't changed since you asked two hours ago, Kei. Movin' out of my parent's house and getting' a job in Tokyo or somethin'."
"What?" She blinked, "No university?"
"No." He quirked a brow, "What about you? Last I heard you babbling, you were checking out quite a few colleges. You get in anywhere?"
Keiko looked away at this, tracing small circles on his desk, "…I …got in… somewhere…"
Nagata blinked, smirking, "That's great. Where?"
She didn't face him. "…Hokkaido."
Nagata's smirk was gone in an instant. "Whoa… Hokkaido… Good job."
Keiko winced, lowering her face, "I'll come back every Christmas, but…"
"I won't." Nagata shrugged, "Soon as I can, I'm out of Karakura. I hate this place."
"…Then why did you stay so long?"
He looked away and didn't answer. He'd never admit that he'd stayed for…
"…I'll find you, alright?" When he turned back to her, Keiko looked up and smiled, "This Christmas I'll come to Tokyo and find you. We'll spend out first Christmas's out of our parent's houses together, Naga! Besides, like you can cook a proper Christmas dinner."
"Kei…" He smirked, "That sounds great."
"Kei! Jukodo!" They both looked up as Keiko's twin sister, Akako, waved to them, "Let's go! We're eating outside today!"
Keiko nodded, then smiled widely and took his hand, "C'mon, Naga!"
For once, he let her drag him, discretely lacing his fingers with hers.
"Those two are so cute together." One of the girls who sat in front of Keiko whispered to her friend as the pair left the classroom.
"Are you kidding?! Jukodo would destroy her! Besides, they've been just friends since lower-secondary; he's obviously not interested."
"Nah." The first girl sighed, leaning against her palm and smiling dreamily, "They just don't know any better. Just you wait; as soon as they graduate, they'll be together."
"Ladies and Gentlemen, the graduating class of 2019."
Nagata smirked as the crowd clapped respectfully, glancing a few seats to his left to look for Keiko. His smirk faded when he saw her looking at the diploma in her hand, tears streaming down her face.
When everyone around him began to disperse, going to see their families, he turned and walked towards her, "Kei?" She didn't respond, "Keiko!"
Keiko jumped, looking at him with wide eyes.
"Kei, what's wro—" He stopped as she turned away, covering her face with her hands and running. "Kei, wait!"
But he lost her in the crowd.
That evening, his family celebrated, and he barely managed to escape them for five minutes to call her. All he got, though, was an answering machine. He tried again, but his father came and took the phone from him, dragging him back into the party and keeping him occupied all night.
Angry and confused, he went to her house the next day, knocking impatiently on her door for several minutes.
"Ugh, Jukodo?" Akako grumbled as she opened the door, pulling a robe around herself, "What're you doing here this early?"
Akako frowned, "She didn't tell you?"
Nagata ground his teeth, irate, "Tell me what?"
"She left early this morning. Had to catch a flight to Sa—"
He turned and stormed off before she could finish, face deadpanned.
Keiko had fled Karakura as quickly as she could, packing her things and taking the first flight out of Tokyo the morning after their graduation. After sending her things to her apartment ahead of time, she had then spent the next few days wandering around the Sapporo, acquainting herself with the layout and securing a job.
Then, two days after arriving in Sapporo, Keiko finally made her way to her apartment.
"Your key?" The landlady blinked, "But your roommate took both sets when he got here. Knew your name, age, birthday, old address… everything. He said you wouldn't mind."
"Ah." Keiko blinked back, "Thank you…" Turning away, she frowned and headed up to her room.
In her room, she found all of her things had been unpacked and arranged. Shocked, she walked further into her apartment and looked around, yelping when a pair of arms wrapped around her waist.
"Reaaal stupid of ya, Kei. Walkin' into a room when you know a stranger is waiting? Reaaaaaal stupid."
"Eep!" Keiko jumped, thrashing in the arms, "Nagata?!"
"What's that?" He spun her around, quirking a brow down at her, "You ain't called me 'Nagata' in that tone in years, Kei. What the hell?"
"Wh-what're you doing here?!" She placed her hands on his chest and pushed, "I though you were working in Tokyo!"
Nagata snorted, "Well, I was. Then one of my only friends didn't say so much as a 'goodbye' or a 'good luck' before she packed up and left for Hokkaido, and I decided that just wasn't gonna cut it." He tightened his grip, staring down at her, "So I came here to ask, 'what the fuck?'"
"I-I…" Keiko looked away, "I… I couldn't… say anything. It would have seemed… too final."
"'Final'? But I thought you would come to see me for Christmas?"
"It… wouldn't have been the same." Keiko started to shake, "Only once, twice, or even three times a year? Even if I could afford more, it wouldn't have been the same. You and I were always just a seat away in school, and just a block or two away at home, but now… almost six hundred miles, Naga. Six hundred…" She lowered her head, "If I have to say 'goodbye' to you two or three times a year, every year for the rest of my life… I'd sooner have one less 'goodbye' or 'good luck' to say…" Keiko bit her lip, choking back a sob.
"…So, like a fuckin' coward, you just ran."
Keiko looked up, eyes wide, "Nnoi—"
He cut her off, kissing her. "You were gonna call me 'Nnoitra' again…" He smirked against her lips, "I have half a mind to be jealous, Kazuko." He blinked, then chuckled, "Heh, how hypocritical of me…"
She just stared up at him, eyes wide and tearing.
"Don't you dare cry." He muttered, grabbing her wrist and raising her hand, wiping her eyes with her own sweater sleeve, "You cried on me once after I told you not to. Don't do it again."
"Once?" She breathed, her eyes flickering closed as he kissed her forehead, "…I …I think I remember that… but… it was so long ago… and I wasn't who I am now…"
"Forget that. Some fuckin' life that's already been lived doesn't matter." Nagata muttered, kissing her again, "I told you once, in this life, that I was going to have to follow your sorry ass around to make sure you didn't let yourself get hurt. I meant it, Keiko." He brushed her hair out of her face, "I'm here to stay."
"I got a job here, in Sapporo." He held her face in both of his hands, "I'm not leaving you."
"…Naga?" Keiko whispered as he walked forward, pushing her backwards until her legs hit her futon.
"I love you, Kei." Nagata muttered, kissing her again as he lowered her onto the bed, "Fuck, I love you so much."
Keiko smiled, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing back, "I love you, too, Nagata."
He straddled her, sighing and burying his head against her neck at the contentment of feeling her slim hips beneath him. It was… nostalgic. "Fuck, I've missed this so much."
This should have confused them both, because neither of them had ever been this intimate before…
…At least, not in this life.
"So have I." She replied, lacing her fingers through his hair and sobbing, "Nagata, I've missed you so much…"
"Shhh…" He pressed a finger to her lips, raising his head and replacing it with a gentle kiss, "It's alright, Keiko. We're together now.
"This time, for good."
And now, depending on whether you like this or not, I suppose, I give you all the end to "Days of our Afterlife".
^.^ Hope you liked it!