Final Notes from the Author Bitch, as Fuuma would call me: Thanks to everyone who read this and left feedback. Rarely does a fic suck up so much of my life, and this one topped 200 pages by the time it was done. So thanks for sticking with it. Please, please, *PLEASE* leave me feedback letting me know if you liked it or not. When a fic sucks up your life like this, you want to know if it was worth it.

Epilogue

//In their dreams, they will always remember another lifetime. It was a lifetime of pain and fear and regret, and it is better left forgotten. They cannot forget, but they can put it aside, they can move on.

They are now allowed to live.//

In a small town outside of Tokyo, sixteen people live.

//Rebirth is a difficult process. There is a reason why most of them don't remember; it would disrupt the delicate balance of who they were and who they are. Two very different things, yet completely the same at the heart of the matter.//

Aoki Seiichirou is in his first year of college; he is studying journalism and film. He works hard, as he always does, because he is set on supporting his family. Once he has one, of course. His girlfriend of two years, one Kasumi Karen, is part of a model agency run out of what used to be a Soapland. They've recently moved in together, and at night they listen to each other breathe. For some reason, it gives them comfort.

//To be reborn entails becoming a different person in the same body, or perhaps the same person in a different body, or perhaps some odd combination of both. You will never remember, but it will lie in your very heart. Some things will remain the same, some things will be different.

We can never change what was; we can only look at what is, and use that to change what will be.//

Yatouji Satsuki is still in high school, and she spends much of her time on the laptop computer she carries around with her everyone. She's nicknamed it Beast. She doesn't really know why she's done so; it just seemed to fit the computer. Her boyfriend, Kigai Yuuto, keeps asking when she'll get something cool on it, like Warcraft or Doom. Meanwhile, Satsuki smiles at him and cheerfully hacks her way into the government network.

//The things inherent to who we were will never change. They will continue to be a part of us, lying below the surface. Still waters run deep, the soul carries on. The soul is not a blueprint for the personality; it is merely a foundation. What can be built on top could be the exact same building, or it could be something entirely different.//

Nekoi Yuzuriha cheers as she gets yet another puppy. Her mother grumbles that there are altogether too many dogs around the house, and can never really figure out why her daughter loves them so much. Yuzuriha doesn't care; they all hold a place in her heart. Particularly the eldest, which she named Inuki. He faithfully follows her wherever she goes, even on her dates with Shiyu Kusanagi.

//How much does being reborn change us?

Is it a massive change of heart, such as happened with Seishirou? Or is it so small as to be unnoticeable, like Hokuto? Do we become who we could have been, had our lives been different, like Subaru?

And does anyone decide? Or is this all just random, numbers tossed into a hat to be pulled out in a certain order that will dictate how events go?

Does it matter?//

Kazuki Nataku is one of those people that you meet on the street and wander away wondering exactly what gender were they, anyway? But he is a boy, because that is what he is far more used to. Or perhaps he is a boy because Fate flipped a coin. If you listened to his father's friends talk about him, they would all agree he is one of the most devoted, caring sons they have ever met. Some of them doubt he could survive without his father, but most think he could; he's a strong young man underneath all his love.

//And do you have to die to be reborn? Or is it simply a state of mind? Do we associate rebirth with death because of reincarnation theories from religion?

Can we be reborn without dying?//

Segawa Keichii grades papers, methodically and carefully, putting each one in a careful pile when he's done. His eyes land on Kamui's name, and he smiles a little. It doesn't hurt as much anymore. And when he watches Kamui with Fuuma, it's starting to not hurt at all. It's hard to hurt when the one you love is so happy; even if they're happy with someone else.

He's beginning to think perhaps it's time he moved on.

//And where's the true meaning in all this anyway? Life has always been a search, a search for love, for truth, for joy, for peace, for forgiveness. If it's a search for meaning, where do we look? Is the true meaning, after all this, to be with who you belong with?//

Monou Kotori sits in her room and studies, writes in her diary, thinks about some of the nice young men that go to her school and how much she might like to date one. But secretly, deep in her heart, she's glad to be on her own. It seems rather new, to be strong and independent. She likes it. She likes who she is, even if she is alone. Somehow it seems better that way.

//Or is there meaning? Should we try to find it? If we do, will we just get lost in the sound and the fury that comprises life? Is life a stage? I could throw any number of metaphors at you, until your head spun around like Linda Blair in the Exorcist -- that's a simile, not a metaphor -- and you probably still wouldn't understand. But that's okay, because I don't either.//

And somewhere, not near any of this, Kishuu Sorata (who used to be Kishuu Arashi) wakes up in the middle of the night. For some reason unbeknownst to him (her?), he is thinking of that pesky young woman who seems to determined to follow him around all the time. For reasons even more unbeknownst, he (she?) is thinking she's not all that bad, not really, and perhaps he ought to give her a chance.

//What exactly is life anyway?//

The object of Sorata's thoughts, Arisugawa Arashi (who used to be Arisugawa Sorata) is trying to study, watch MTV, talk on the phone, and brush her hair all at the same time. Surprisingly; she is managing three out of the four. Not surprisingly; studying is the one she's neglecting. She (he?) has a small picture of Sorata (Arashi?) on her desk, and she is determined to win him (her?) over yet.

//Will we ever know? Does it matter?//

Perhaps they'll have a date on Saturday.

//Life is a million things in one, it is every choice you have ever made and every choice you will ever make wrapped up into one little ball. Everything we do affects everyone else, somehow, if you follow it far enough down the line to its consequences. A butterfly flaps its wings in Tokyo -- but that's another metaphor, isn't it? Is there any way to explain life without metaphors?

Sure.

Life just is.

But I suppose that's not really an explanation.//

Kuzuki Kakyou is spending more and more time at Hokuto's house these days; his parents are a little worried that he's showing so much interest in an older woman. Kakyou does nothing to allay their fears; there's not really anything he can say without lying, anyway. But Hokuto has been increasingly lonely since Subaru moved in with Seishirou at the end of the school year. Kakyou finds he is there almost every day.

//How much of what we do is destiny, and how much free will? There are some things we don't have a choice in, and some things where our choices can affect the entire fate and balance of the world, and some things where our choices really don't matter to anyone but ourselves.

If life is just chance, would that make it meaningless?//

He loves her. He loves her more than he thought he was capable of loving anyone. He didn't want to love, but once he started he couldn't stop. And everything just happened to him all at once. But he finds he's not afraid of being hurt anymore.

//If he had gotten a choice, he would not have come back.

Does that make it a good thing that his choice was taken away?//

He knows that she would never hurt him, because she loves him. So he stays with her, and loves her, and is safe in loving her.

She's teaching him how to kiss now. He likes it.

//Life is chance, but it isn't just chance. Life isn't just anything. Life is everything. Life is love, it is pain, it is despair and desire and regret and forgiveness and joy and obsession and betrayal and apathy and fear and shame and desperation and acceptance. It is every experience that has ever been experienced, every choice that has ever been contemplated, every second that has ever happened.//

Kamui and Fuuma gave up on hiding their relationship after about a week; it was too difficult to keep their parents from finding out. And after the parents, well, it doesn't really matter who else knows. They have discovered the simple joy in physical contact and spend a good deal of their time cuddling and hugging and getting teased by their friends.

//So what does it matter what life really is? It's just this thing that we live, and when it's over, it's over. Or maybe it really isn't; but we really have no way of knowing. Is there any point in worrying? Or should we live for the moment, carpe diem (that's a cliché, not a metaphor), never look back, live fast, die young, leave a cute corpse (another cliché), or should we just live and not worry about what "living" means?//

They never spend nights alone anymore; the dreams might return, and anyway, they've grown used to being together. They try to stay quiet at nights, but they're pretty bad at it, and usually have to forego on any fun unless it's the middle of the day and no one else is around.

//So are we free to live this thing called life (another cliché)? Or do we tangle ourselves too much in trying to cling to what was rather than focusing on what is and thinking about what will be? How much does the future matter compared to the present, the present to the past, the past to the future?

Is there really any difference between what could be and what will be, when we don't even know how much we affect it?//

And sometimes afterwards they'll think about the future, or about the past, and then Fuuma will say something about how next time he should tie Kamui's hands with his school tie. And Kamui just laughs, because he doesn't know whether or not Fuuma's joking, and he doesn't know whether or not he wants Fuuma to be joking. It doesn't really matter; he's safe with Fuuma. More than that, he feels safe with Fuuma, and that's what's really important.

//Perhaps to be trusted is a greater honor than to be loved, perhaps trust and love are the same thing when you get right down to it. Who decides what a word means? Why do the letters l, o, v, and e spell out such a powerful emotion? Change any one letter in that word and you can have something completely different. Less important, more important, it doesn't really matter. Live, lose, lone, move.

What do words really mean?//

In the end, Subaru and Seishirou decided that two weeks a night just wasn't enough, and after Subaru had stayed at Seishirou's for three weeks straight, he decided it was high time he simply moved in. Seishirou was certainly agreeable to this plan. He managed to finish school, and even got passably good grades, thanks to Subaru's help.

//It is amazing what some people manage to overcome in the name of love. Hatred, despair, regret, shame. All these things can be put behind them now. Is that because love is greater than all these things? Or is it something unique to the love between these two?//

Subaru always gets nervous when Seishirou leaves on jobs, but makes dinner as if nothing is wrong so it will be ready for Seishirou when he gets back. The Tree keeps him informed on how the job is going and when Seishirou will be home, and Subaru certainly knows the Tree would let him know if anything went wrong. But it's hard not to be nervous; he loves Seishirou altogether too much to lose him now.

//Perhaps it's just that they decided what matters and what doesn't. They decided that the present means more than the past, that love means more than hate, that joy means more than pain. Now they can be truly happy together, and perhaps they can truly rest.//

Subaru visited his grandmother (not really his grandmother anymore, but that's what he called her anyway) every day up until she died. That day he kissed her on the forehead and told her he remembered, and it was all right, and he forgave her for everything and loved her very much. Perhaps the balance is somewhat off kilter now, since Seishirou is more powerful than the current Sumeragi Head, but he never goes up directly against him, so it doesn't really matter. Subaru continues to let his magic gather dust in the corner of his mind; he doesn't use it, want it, or need it.

//Life is made of perhapses, of maybes, of choices. Perhaps there were easier ways to arrive at this point, perhaps not. Perhaps it is a good thing that Subaru and Seishirou remember, because now they have true peace rather than blind peace.//

They love each other so much that the world would cease to matter if they weren't careful. So they are careful, and they take care to never forget their friends. But still, their love permeates the air around them, and so people smile as they walk by.

It is very rare these days, to see two people truly in love.

//Perhaps this is just the universe's way of apologizing for everything they went through the first time. Perhaps this was the Wish of a young man, perhaps it was the Wish of two, or four, or sixteen.

Whoever's Wish it was, it has been granted.

In their dreams, they will always remember.

But then they wake up.

And what do dreams really matter, when you have someone who loves you?//

~~owari~~