A/N: I really hope I explained this enough so that no one is confused. It might take some referencing to earlier chapters but I tried my best to come full circle. Enjoy and review please. I would love any comments on whether or not this story is even remotely successful. Thanks a bunch.
One week had passed since Taiga and Ryuuji had been separated from the group. Taiga's wound on her lower abdomen had begun to heal quite well and she was surprised how well it was closing up. She still woke in the morning with an incredible soreness that seemed to linger like her shadow but the soft decline of its intensity only brought her more solace as time continued. They stayed in the cavern for two more days before leaving it and making a small makeshift shelter under nearby trees. Ryuuji knew Taiga was in no condition to travel so there was no chance they would leave the safety (or supposed safety) of the valley in which they resided in.
Taiga sat at the base of a tree, her once bright t-shirt was now tattered and dingy, her shorts slightly ripped at the hem. Her stomach groaned in complaint from the lack of food. She sat there, watching the clear sky and the rouge clouds that floated carelessly through it. It was funny; despite the fact that she was stranded in the mountains she thought she'd be miserable. On the contrary, she was quite calm and serene. Looking to her right she saw the boy she loved. He sat, shirtless, poking aimlessly at the small fire they had helped to create. Butterflies filled her stomach and an odd sensation filled her.
"Ryuuji," she said.
The boy looked up.
"I know, I know, you're hungry," he replied. She smiled. He knew her well.
"No, that's not it,"
"Do you need me to look at your injury?" he asked.
She could only smile, using her upper body strength she forced herself to her feet and with a mighty grunt she plopped herself beside him.
"You trouble yourself too much,"
Her stomach roared.
"I knew you were hungry," he said. She covered her stomach and elbowed him hard.
He stood, his skin surprisingly clean despite being surrounded with rocks and dirt, and scanned the environment. They had lasted on nothing but edible greens Ryuuji managed to find in a thicket several meters away but it was only a small patch and there was no use continuing onward with that diet. He knew Taiga would ultimately become irritable and beat him to a pulp if he even mentioned eating from the ground again.
Looking down at the girl he asked, "Do you think you can make a hike now?"
Taiga thought for a moment, gesturing for his hand she pulled herself up, her legs were slightly off center and her torso felt immensely sore but she could manage she thought.
"How far do you think we are away from town?" she asked.
"Considering we fell straight down we shouldn't be far. The only problem is that we fell in a ravine and it will take us some time to climb or walk around it. We have to walk slowly because of your injury," he said.
Taiga thought of the search party that might have been sent out to find them. Then a sudden dread hit her stomach sending a sickly feeling throughout her body. What if they couldn't be found? The fear of death wasn't even relevant for the past week because she had been caught up in her own emotions. Letting her guard down and letting Ryuuji see her in her weakened state was enough to make her forget about her surroundings.
She looked at him again, his eyes were droopy and slightly bloodshot, he hadn't slept a good night's rest because of her, she thought. He made it his obligation to make sure she was taken care of. Even though he managed to find a nest of edible plants in a thicket nearby she noticed he had given her the most. He had hardly eaten anything for himself. Maybe that's why she hadn't complained about hunger so much. She suddenly felt bad.
"No, we have to get to town by sunset. I'm fine, I can move, run, jump, and the works. Come on, I can go for some of your fried rice," she said trying to ignore the sudden nausea feeling she was getting.
He nodded but kept his eyes on her.
Then a thunderous sound roared over the hills of the mountain. Both teens looked up, the once blue sky was now giving way to monstrous size clouds, all deeming it necessary to drop their payload.
Minori stood, the roar of thunder echoed like a mystic beast through the trees. Rain began to pour like buckets as her memories of what happened a week prior stirred within. She felt rain water begin to trickle into her sneakers but her mind did not falter. Her eyes stared over the cliff; she stood at that same spot for nearly a week. Hoping, just hoping she would spot Taiga and Ryuuji. Guilt was never an emotion she could stomach; however, it was something she could live with. What she couldn't live with was a missed opportunity. She missed chance to say what she wanted before he disappeared from her life and to confess her heart's song. Hearing only the rain she dug into her soaked pocket and withdrew a handful of handwritten letters.
She hated herself.
"I… I could've tried harder," she whispered.
She could replay the situation over and over again. Right where she stood it felt like that entire day was playing in her head as if reliving it. Right before being swept away by a sudden flood she tried to yell at him. She tried to tell him something. If he heard it she wasn't sure.
He could see her distressed eyes, she was telling him something but he could only see her moving lips.
She tried to tell him…
"I love you,"
Why she waited so long to tell him she didn't know. She was scared. The fear of rejection, the fear of confronting Taiga and competing with her for his affection. In truth, she knew she couldn't compete with her. How could she? He and Taiga were always together. There wasn't a time she saw either of them alone.
She peered down at the now soaked letters that begun to turn into wads of paper in her palms.
"That's why I wrote you letters," she said to herself.
The rain disguised her tears.
Now he was gone and could never hear her words, he could never hear the suppressed song her heart held. She blamed herself. She could have saved him; she could have saved them both. If she was stronger, not an airhead or complete idiot, and if she was tough like Taiga she could have saved him. It was her fault they were gone.
It was her fault.
She collapsed on her knees slamming her fists into the mud.
"Idiot!" she bellowed.
The rich dark mud was now peppered with wads of paper.
She was going to tell him, she was going to tell him everything on the trip. There was only one reason that stopped her…
"Pick yourself up," said a voice.
Minori sat on her hind legs, her head focused downward and her eyes staring at the fragments of her letter being carried away by small veins of water.
"What do you want?" hissed Minori.
Ami stood several feet away, her eyes barely visible from underneath an umbrella.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Leave me alone," Minori replied.
"Who are you to judge me? I lost a friend."
"You don't even hear your own words, do you? You sound as if you lost one friend when in fact you pay no mind to Taiga. Is it because you secretly despised her like she did you?" asked Ami.
Minori's head jerked suddenly towards the model that stood with an expressionless face.
"What did you say?"
"You heard me,"
They stared at one another, thunder roared overhead.
"I did not despise her," said Minori.
Ami stared clearly unmoved, "You did not seem that way when I told you Taiga wanted him,"
Minori's heart sunk.
"I was just caught off guard," she said, "I never hated Taiga-chan. We were best friends,"
Ami inched closer, her high designer boots moving mud away along with the faded letters that were almost completely gone from the scene.
"Is that why you grew so distant from her? Is it that why you always asked him where she was because you were afraid of telling him anything when she was around? You are pathetic, pick yourself up, be a woman and move on," she said.
Minori eased, she was completely right. That day when they arrived at the camping ground and everyone was asleep besides Taiga and Ryuuji she continued to fake her slumber. She was afraid to be around the both of them. She didn't want the awkwardness that would come from two girls subtly trying to win over the affection of a boy.
"Why?" she asked.
Ami blinked and said, "Why what?"
"Why did you tell me about Taiga and Ryuuji? Why did you tell me not to confess?"
Thunder clapped pouring more rain onto the scene as if acting on the spirits of both teens.
"I have my reasons," she pointed out.
Minori got to her feet much faster than Ami could react, with a sudden lunge Minori pinned the model against the rock wall, her umbrella falling into the mud.
"Tell me," whispered Minori in a tense voice, "Please, tell me."
Ami could only stare as her fist had instinctively balled itself into a fist; she contemplated throwing a punch but the hurt she knew she caused was clearly evident in the young athlete's eyes.
"I did it as a favor to Taiga," she said.
"Do you hate me that much?"
"Why did you do this as a favor to her and hurt my chances? If it weren't for you I could've told Ryuuji everything before the accident," said Minori as her grip loosened and her strength faded, "I could've told him everything!"
With a surge of her own strength Ami tore Minori's hands from her causing the crimson haired girl to fall to the ground.
"Don't you think this hurt me too?" she exclaimed, her voice sounding shaken, "You think this hasn't eaten me up inside too?"
"Oh yeah, I'm positive you thought this was just about you three! What about me, huh? What about me!?" she bellowed, her sapphire hair now clinging to her face, "No one gave a shit about me until I met him! He actually could tolerate the way I was and accept me. Do you think it was fricken easy to try and let a person like that be fought over by two skanks who was not even on par with me?"
Minori could only stare in disbelief.
Ami continued, "The only way I could come to terms with all this crap was to make sure he was happy. He's the only one I've ever felt this way towards. All I wanted was for him to be happy! It was hard coming to terms that he wouldn't be happy with me. Do you know how much he wanted to be with you? YOU of all people!"
Ami's hands shot out to conceal her face which was red from nearly screaming everything she said.
"Yes… you," she whispered.
"Then why were you helping Taiga if he was interested in me?"
"Because he showed his feelings to Taiga," she said, "Something he never did with either of us. I knew if he was able to do that then there was much more he could share with her. I realized they would be better off together and he would be happy. Truly happy, it was also a favor to her because… because…"
"I don't want your help," spat Taiga.
"Oh? Like I said don't see it as I'm helping you,"
She turned to leave.
"Then what should I see it as?"
Ami stopped, turning her head slightly she said, "See it as me helping myself."
"It made me feel better about myself knowing I helped him be happy," said Ami.
The teen girls allowed the rain to resume the conversation as their voices faded. The sudden revelations were enough to make anyone want to take a breather to just recite all the information again. How the two of them were on even ground despite seeking two different goals. How close in nature they were.
Ami smiled and said, "You were the one who sent the second note that day right?"
Minori stared and nodded; then she said, "You sent him one too didn't you?"
"Yeah," Ami replied.
"Like an idiot, I messed up," said Minori.
A small folded piece of paper hit his cheek and the girl in front of him pointed behind her indicating that it was for him. Opening the folded note he began to read:
"Who do you like more? Aisaka Taiga or Kushieda Minori?"
Complete with two unmarked boxes by their names.
"What did it say?" asked Ami.
Then out of nowhere another note appeared on his desk.
"Reconsider your plans…"
He couldn't recognize the handwriting but who else would know about his plan besides Taiga?
"Reconsider your plans," said Minori.
"Why did you give that to Ryuuji?" asked Ami.
"Did you send me the note asking me if I liked you or Minori?"
"No," said Taiga.
"What about the second note?"
"You were getting notes?"
"Yeah, I thought they were from you… are they?" he asked.
She didn't say anything.
"It wasn't meant for him," Minori said.
Ami looked up.
"What do you mean?"
"What are you talking about?"
"You're much dumber than you are vicious; I was trying to help you. I sent the note asking whether he liked you or Minori," said Ami.
"What about the second note?" asked Taiga.
"He said he got a second note,"
"I only sent one," said Ami,
"That note was meant for Taiga, I wanted her to reconsider her plans for the weekend. I asked her earlier if she was going on the trip because I wanted to talk to her that weekend alone. I wanted the both of us to skip the trip so that we could compromise. Basically I wanted to know if I could ask Ryuuji to be with me or if she wanted him for herself," said Minori.
"Minori…" said Ami.
"You're an idiot,"