Lol, delayed reaction much? I expected at least someone to complain about me killing Koichi. That was what happened last time. But I guess you people aren't quite that predictable...at least I'm not in a tissue debt after it.
Explanations are at the end, for those of you who got lost somewhere in between (if there was anyone). Not that I can honestly blame anyone, a rereading tells me I made it rather confusing to get a clear picture. Lucky, that was what I had intended, but towards the middle I was wondering how well that actually worked.
A big thank you to everyone who's stuck by this story so far, and I hope you all enjoy this last chapter.
Chapters remaining after this: 0
It took a while getting there, namely between chapters 1 and 2.
'Sleep free of guilt. It shall burden you no longer. Allow my already tainted heart to carry its weight.'-'Why?'-'Reprieve.'-'Till it drags you down to the fiery depths of hell...or do you think your Light will save you?'
Kouichi K & Kouji M
It was a bitter day, wind chilling even through the warm clothes he wore. But it didn't really matter. Sometimes, he could move on, but at times like this, when there was no distractions around, he would always return and wonder if it had been his fault.
Even though he knew better than to drown in that blame.
He owed that at least to his brother. The promise that had been so important to him.
So he wondered, on occasion. But he allowed himself to move on.
And in doing so, he was able to remember without pain.
After all, he could not hurt his freedom. He had known, despite others' words of his foolishness. He knew what he had done. And the consequences.
And he knew what he had left behind. And that is why he promised.
So those memories weren't tainted further.
'Hey,' someone said quietly, placing a hand on his shoulder.
Koji turned, smiling slightly at Takuya's wind-ridden appearance. 'Hey.'
'Don't forget us.'
'Of course not Tommy.'
'What about us?'
'Do I need to mention you all?'
'Honestly, how long will it take?'
'Fine. Zoe and JP.'
'Why am I last?'
They fell into silence after that. 'You were thinking again,' Tommy said softly. He may be the youngest, but he sometimes saw things the others didn't. The youth helped.
'Of course,' Koji rolled his eyes, although he knew what the other meant. 'Civilisation would come to a stop otherwise.'
'That's not what I meant,' he rebuked, in the same quiet tone.
'I know. But he's happy now, I hope.'
'I'm sure he is buddy,' Takuya reassured, squeezing his shoulder. 'And I'm also sure he wouldn't want you freezing out here on your birthdays. Or any other day for that matter.'
'That's true,' he said softly. 'He wouldn't want that.'
It was hard to move on, but it was doable. The wounds weren't as fresh as they had once been, though they were still raw, and undeniably, the sadness came and went with the reminders.
That didn't, of course, mean that he was forgotten. It was simply the way he was remembered, and honoured.
'I suppose we had better go home.'
No-one moved, despite the words. They were all caught up in their memories, paying their tribute to the icy wind.
Till Koji turned suddenly as something knocked into the back of his head, snatching the blue baseball cap out of their before it flew past.
They all stared at it, the familiar gold Kanji shining in the afternoon sun. For a moment, they all remembered how it had looked, fallen on the staircase above the prone body, then comfortably sitting amidst the dark locks once they returned it to its rightful owner. But it couldn't e the same...there was no way –
– then someone ran up to the five, and made them rethink that notion.
'I'm sorry,' the boy panted, bowing before straightening up. 'The wind snatched it right off my head.'
The five just stared, taking in the all too familiar blue eyes, bluish black cropped hair and the coloured attire: the green, short-sleeved vest under a red turtleneck and grey jeans to top it all off.
'Koichi?' Koji whispered. It can't be...
Confused, the boy shook his head. 'My name's Kioku,' he introduced.
'Oh,' Zoe said, seeing as though the others were silent. 'You just look like a friend of ours is all. Are you on your own?'
'Yeah,' the other replied. 'Grandma and Grandpa are too old to come play with me.'
'Where are your parents then?' Takuya asked, curious.
He shrugged. 'I don't know,' he said sadly, smile fading. 'Grandma says they're on a journey, and they'll be home some day. But I haven't seen them in so long that I can barely remember them, and my brother too...'
'You have a brother?'
He nodded. 'A twin. Our birthdays are today too.'
That's a coincidence, Kouji thought. Today's Koichi's birthday. And mine as well.
'That's a coincidence,' JP said at the same time. 'So is Koji's and that friend we were talking about.'
'Really?' The blue eyes widened as the smile returned. 'Happy birthday then. How old are you? And your friend? My brother and I are twelve. Hey, you haven't even mentioned your names yet! That's not quite fair, I told you all mine.'
Koji had to laugh at the chatter. Koichi never talked that much. Maybe it was just a coincidence...after all, he was a year too young.
But then again, Kioku didn't look a day older than Koichi when he had died.
'I'm thirteen,' he said at last, to the expectant gaze. 'Our friend, my brother, is thirteen too.'
'Oh, you're twins too. You're not spending the day with him?'
'No...' For a moment, he wondered how to explain it. 'He's...on a journey too.'
'Like Mum and Dad and my brother.' He looked at the sky. 'But they'll come back someday. Or we'll go to them. Hey, why don't you all come to my house?' He asked suddenly, grinning at the others. 'Grandma's made cake, and she's a great cook.'
'We're expected somewhere else,' Zoe smiled at the boy. 'But did you help?'
A cute pout worked its way onto his lips. 'Normally I do, but Grandpa wouldn't let me into the kitchen today.'
They all laughed at that. 'Well, enjoy your birthday then.'
'Thanks. And you all enjoy your day too.'
It was only after he had run off did they remember the cap in Koji's hands.
He turned the cap over in his hands, before considering his options. It would be hopeless to run after the strange boy; he was long gone, and it didn't look as though he was even in the park at all anymore.
The wind changed directions, with the sun peeking out from some clouds and warming it.
Smiling slightly, he let go of the cap and let the wind spirit it away.
I hope you're happy brother...
'I'm home,' Kioku called, closing the door behind him and toeing off his sneakers. 'Grandma? Grandpa?'
'In the living room honey,' his grandmother's voice followed.
He peeked around the door, finding the old woman where she had said. 'Your grandfather's gone to get some candles,' she smiled, beckoning him over. 'We were one short. Well, two short actually. The one to grow on too. We can't have you twelve forever.'
Kioku climbed into his grandmother's lap. 'I met some people today,' he said.
'Oh did you?' she smiled, gesturing him to continue.
'They seemed familiar,' he mused out loud. 'But I'm sure I've never seen them before in my life.' The cute pout returned. 'One of them called me Koichi.'
'Yeah...turned out they mixed me up with a friend. But they were nice people.'
'No...It's just a feeling.'
Kameyo Kimura laughed. Honestly, she wasn't all that surprised, even if her grandson couldn't remember. None ever could at that stage, but she was glad he was with them now; he was far happier, far more free.
Though with the past, no one can ever be free of it.
Right little one? There was a reason we renamed you Kioku after all...
'Oh no,' he exclaimed suddenly. 'I forgot my cap with that boy.'
She chucked at that. 'Check the mantelpiece sweetie.'
He did, finding the cap sitting calmly next to the open window.
'How did it get there?'
'I suppose it likes you too much.'
'Just like a boomerang, right Grandma?'
And not just the hat, but the memories and ties too. After all Koichi, it was no coincidence that you met those five out of everyone.
'Grandma? What are you thinking about?'
'Oh, just memories...'
About this story, there's more than one way you can interpret it, and whichever one you pick is up to you. The two I intended were these:
Death (the shadow) was playing a game with Koichi, seeing as he had (technically speaking) overstepped his time in that world when Koji/Ophanimon/the D-tectors woke him. He should have died that day. So from there, death haunted him, giving him the power to take other souls and set them free, and it eventually drove him to the brink of insanity which led to his suicide and Death taking his soul. So Death got quite a few souls out of that deal. And the ending...well, Death didn't exactly win his game in the end. Sure, Koichi died, but he set his own soul free, not someone else setting it free. And the others let him go, so they remembered him, unlike the other deaths. Ever left for dead and pushed there, only to have it weigh on consciousness, or to wallow in futile pity. That's why Koji's promise was so important to Koichi.
The other one is this: the entire deal, from his dream and the first death to that little voice taunting him about Koji and his near miss with Takuya, was his own insanity. Actually experiencing death would, I imagine, have a negative impact on people (I can't say for sure, do I look like I've ever died?), and in this case, it severely affected his psyche and led eventually to a sense of paranoia, and he resorted to suicide to escape that. In this one, the deaths themselves never happened, except his own, and that is why no-one remembers them; the bits where people realise it from before is him imagining those people that die really existed.
Now, about the ending, there is a few ways that can be taken too. First, I suppose, would be reincarnation, that Koichi was reincarnated as Kioku, and Kouichi's grandparents (just assume they were both dead) are reincarnated too, but I don't really like that one, but I would imagine that depends on your opinion of death.
The other one, the one I personally prefer, is this: death is life on a different plane. So when Koichi/Kioku says his parents and brother are on a journey, he means they haven't died yet (though he doesn't remember, so doesn't actually know that). When Koji says his brother's on a journey, he means that his brother is dead. In that sense, life and death are journeys. And as for why his grandmother (and grandfather) can remember while he can't, they've been dead for far longer. In the eyes of this new world, he's still too young.
BTW, Kioku means 'memory'. Kameyo means 'tortoise', a symbol for long life.