1. Sight Seeing
~*The View from Above*~
He marveled at the fact it only took neon lights and ocean waves to charm her.
Karasu supposed he should have seen this coming.
He had known since he had first entered this world that he would be unable to let the rest of the Dragon Knights seize Haruka and return with her to La'cryma so she could…die.
No. Just no. Not after the first time, not after the crippling lost of her all those years ago. It would have been better, he thought, if she had screamed and fought. It would have been better if she had struggled against them when she was first told that she alone could save La'cryma, protect them from the eroding touch of Shangri'La.
That way, he could have jumped to her defense. That way, he could have died too, defending her until his very last breath. All of the spin weaponry in the world, however, was useless if she didn't resist and went peacefully with a smile and kind words just for him.
The emotions tied to that moment were unexplainable. An interesting combination of betrayal, love, despair, anger…He wished she had refused to save the world, had run away with him until it all came crashing down like he had so desperately suggested.
"Haruka. Please. We'll go away, we'll leave. You don't have to do this…!"
"Running away won't solve anything, Karasu…Yuu."
But if she had done anything else, she wouldn't have been his Haruka anymore.
And yet here he was, standing on a rooftop—her house—in Hakodate. It was warm and sunny, the ocean a glittering blue field of dancing light. The sky was littered with the kind of fluffy white clouds that La'cryma had all but forgotten about, the sun's rays glinting off of every object it could possibly reach.
The dimension was stable, there was nothing unusual in the air, and that meant Haruka was safe.
(And even with the deep cold sensation in his chest that meant his pipeline was disconnected, he was content.)
His hearing was sharper than any human's thanks to the tampering his molecules had been through at a quantum level, and beneath him he heard Tobi conversing in a cheerily casual voice with Miho as the pink-haired eccentric questioned her urgently about the workings of her various computers. Isami was discussing something with Yuu and Ai, exclaiming over the impossibility of everything that had happened to them so far.
Karasu mused that it should be odd that he thought of Yuu has someone different from himself, but lately things stopped being even mildly surprising to him.
Atori and Kosagi were away. He didn't know where, but all he cared about was that Kosagi wasn't there right now. She seemed intent on stalking him until "he faded from this world". It wouldn't be anytime soon, and until then, she could find something else to do.
That's when he realized he had lost track of Haruka. He froze, black cloak flapping in the wind like crow wings, relaxing as he heard her moving downstairs, probably getting something for her workaholic mother.
Haruka, Karasu thought to his Haruka, his gaze roving over the nearby city in a disinterested manner. I'll be with you and Fukuro again soon, but only after I know that you're safe…in this dimension. We still don't know where Kuina is, and who knows what Shangri'La's forces are planning next. Noein is no fool, he's doubtlessly waiting for the right chance to strike.
The mountain, with its railway cars heading up and down its sides, reminded him of past battles fought for the only thing that mattered.
It's been a long time since I saw you last. You would love the view.
He blinked—the only indication of his shock—as a voice called from the house's front yard, "Karasu!"
Peering down, his eyes and face instinctively softened as he beheld Haruka looking back. She grinned radiantly at him, unbothered as always by his intense appearance, using one hand to shield her bubblegum eyes.
Saying nothing, he acknowledged her presence with a slight nod. But she knew him unlike any other, and this was more than enough for her.
"Are you okay? You're always going off by yourself, and I…"
She was constantly worrying about him. He let one corner of his mouth turn up. "I'm fine."
"Hmm," she hummed, clasping her hands behind her back and rocking on her heels. Haruka studied him for a few moments before asking, "Can I come up too?"
He almost asked what for, but decided that it didn't matter, because she was her and he was missing her company anyway. Both of their companies, really, though they were the same person.
(Even he didn't fully comprehend all of the multiverse jargon, despite what he told anyone else.)
"Hang on." Karasu pulled at the layze particles, warping down in a mere second to her level. She beamed again, obviously pleased, clinging to his side as he teleported back up, all in a space of about three heartbeats.
Yuu, in Tobi's and Atori's room underneath, muttered to himself about where Haruka could have gone.
Haruka had to lean against him until she found her footing on the blue tiles, but even when she did, she still left one hand against his chest and tilted forward, clearly awed by the sight offered from her rooftop.
(And of course she would be, she was her.)
He was always very cautious when it came to her touching him in any way. It wasn't dangerous—she was never in danger from him—but it sometimes blurred the line between reality and fantasy, made it to the point that he felt as if he really belonged in this dimension with his past self.
Everything from her mannerisms to her embraces was too similar to his Haruka for him to ever feel truly relaxed. After all…he loved her future self. That extended to this Haruka of course, but not in quite the same way. It made him feel uncomfortable if he ever allowed himself to forget that.
(She was just like his Haruka. His to look at, to love more than anything in the universe, but never to touch.)
"Is that why you always stand here? Because you like the view?" She inquired, the imprint of the Dragon Torque visible on her pastel skin, even through her dark hair.
So powerful. And yet so pure.
At her inquisitive glance, he continued. "We have nothing like this in La'cryma, so of course I like looking at it. Mostly, it offers me a good angle to observe everything."
"Oh." Haruka's fingers spread out across his black suit beneath his robe, and he grimaced as he felt the innocent brush of each digit on her hand. "Karasu?"
It was always so easy to open up more when it was just him and her and no one else. He could make believe it was that way during moments like these, with the sea breeze flowing in and the ocean glowing like a moving sheet of azure and tangerine stained glass.
She turned her shadowy pink eyes on him and stepped back a bit from the edge. "Aren't you hot? That cloak of yours must be burning! Since you usually sit up here, I thought you'd finally get a tan." She flashed him a teasing grin. "You're so pale!"
Karasu raised his eyebrows at her. "I'm not hot. And I don't think I can get one."
"Are you ever bothered by stuff like that?"
"No." Her questions were rather amusing.
Haruka tapped her fingernails against his chest, and again, he knew she wasn't doing it to intentionally spite him. "Okay," she said in her chipper way. "Can I ask you another question?"
He simply looked at her.
Taking his mild stare as an invitation, she went on. "You are happy here, right? I mean, I don't think it's very fair of me to ask you to protect me without giving you anything in return."
Karasu thought that she truly was unbelievable. She hadn't asked—he had sworn to guard her with his life all by himself. Despite this, here she was, fretting about his welfare. Pretty much anywhere with her was better than anywhere in La'cryma.
He smiled down at her. "Haruka, as I've said before, I'm fine."
"Yeah, but I don't think 'fine' and 'happy' are the same thing."
Happy was a word he had long forgotten back in his dimension. But he thought he was beginning to remember it again, the longer he met her gaze. "I'm better than I was in La'cryma."
She shuddered, a tremble that ran down the length of her body. "I think any place is better than there. Except, maybe, Shangri'La." She was probably remembering the "fish tank" that they had put her in, when he had almost been too late to rescue her…
Shangri'La. Noein. Their previous encounters with the floating golden mask with its one scarlet eye made his blood boil, so to speak. What was with every dimension and their idiotic attempts to ruin the life of a perfectly friendly little girl? They didn't even dignify Haruka by giving her a name or gender; she was merely the Dragon Torque.
"Karasu? Can I ask you a favor?"
Snapping out of his morbid thoughts, he replied, "Anything."
"Can we come back up here tonight? I want to see what it looks like."
"Haruka!" A familiar voice shouted from the lawn again.
She stepped away from his side to peek over the ledge of the roof, and her face lit up the same way it did when she saw her guardian.
"What're you doing up there?" Yuu complained, his suspicious gaze flicking from hers to Karasu's. "Everyone's waiting for you!"
"Oh, we're playing that board game! I forgot." She turned guiltily back to her protector, smiling apologetically. "I gotta go. Are you coming in?"
"Not just yet." He focused the full intensity of his glare on Yuu down below, but the boy didn't flinch away like he used to, didn't break into a sweat. Though a glimmer of fear shot through his dark brown eyes, he stared back.
Good. He's becoming stronger. Maybe he can protect Haruka on his own.
Haruka took his hand, pressing against his side as he manipulated the layze to get her to the front of her home. She gave him another vivid grin of thanks before letting go and running after Yuu. The aforementioned male shot Karasu a look before following her into the house.
If he ever became bothered by angry teenagers, he'd be a rather bad Dragon Knight indeed. Not that he really was one anymore.
Karasu went back to his former sentry position and didn't move from there until the sun set below the horizon.
"You're still up here? You were in this exact spot when I left hours ago!"
Resisting the urge to roll his eyes, Karasu glimpsed brooding eyes and pink hair from the corners of his vision, which was more than enough to prove who was currently intruding on his peace and quiet. He didn't even dignify that with a response.
"Fine, give me the silent treatment," Kosagi sniffed, her cloak wrapping around her as she warped inside. Doubtlessly she was just checking that he was still alive.
Does she think something like a pipeline will get me to abandon Haruka?
Haruka's friends had gone home about fifteen minutes ago, with Yuu the most reluctant out of all of them. As a safety precaution, Atori had come back to make sure they all arrived at their respective houses safely.
Amnesia appears to be a good thing, with him.
Tobi was using her warm, placating voice to coax Kosagi into eating something, since it evidently helped them to survive in the dimension a little longer. Haruka was eating dinner with her mother.
Another slight shift announced the arrival of Tobi as she flashed up to his level after succeeding in her efforts with the stubborn Kosagi. "Karasu. You should eat something too. We all need to keep our strength up."
"How long?" He asked without looking at her.
The purple-haired technician didn't sound surprised. "We have a few more days. At best. But this is only an unsure calculation, I could be off. It's impossible to properly predict some things."
"What are the main factors?" He didn't feel especially weak…but who knew? However, he couldn't fade until he knew, absolutely knew, that Haruka was safe from Shangri'La and Noein.
"Willpower, stamina, like I said…"
"You don't know."
"Exactly. Now come inside, I do know for a fact that food helps."
It was some time later, two or three hours perhaps, until Karasu was back on the rooftop. He wondered if Haruka still intended to come up, and he pulled his robe around him. Every star in the black velvet sky made him think of the many different futures, and he wondered if there were more futures than there were pinpricks of icy light in the heavens.
Haruka sighed and closed her eyes.
"Nothing. It's just…"
"What?" He asked anxiously.
"La'cryma doesn't have any stars, even though it's always night down here."
There it went again, the line between his Haruka and this Haruka becoming so smudged and blended that he wasn't even entirely sure which of them had said that to him. He thought it was his Haruka before she ended up—
Shaking his head, he was grateful for the distraction of someone's voice from the front lawn again.
Oh, she hadn't forgotten.
Without further delay, he teleported to get her, holding her close as he flashed back to the top of the blue roof. The cold in his chest strengthened momentarily before fading back to its usual absentminded frost.
"Wow! It's incredible!" She gripped one of his hands for balance as she turned this way and that to see every angle she could. "The city looks like someone drew it with neon lights!"
There it went again, that helpless smile that he usually got when she was around.
"And the ocean—it's so pretty! Everything looks farther away, but the sky seems closer, don't you think?" She rested her head against his arm and just surveyed the world from where they were.
There was a silence then, but not the bad kind. More of a slow and tranquil type, with the warm scent of summer all around them. Karasu shut his eyes and almost let himself imagine that he had always belonged in this dimension with Haruka.
"All right, promise not to take this the wrong way…" She began carefully.
"I promise." His response was slightly wry.
"Okay, then. It's only been fifteen years, right?"
He had to be very careful when it came to talking of the future. He nodded.
"…So, why's your hair so white?" She blurted out. "Was it the quantum stuff, the layze stuff, or something like premature graying? Stress?"
He thought she was joking until he saw the glimmer in her eyes. Karasu, for the first time in a long while, had to resist the urge to laugh. "It is a combination of all of those."
"Wow…really? Even premature graying?"
"Well. Maybe not that one. I suspect it mostly had to do with the altering of my body."
"Did it hurt?" She asked quietly. "I'll do everything I can to prevent that from happening to Yuu if—"
He stiffened as Haruka suddenly hugged him, her arms wrapped tightly around his torso. "I bet it did hurt, you're just so strong that it seemed like it didn't. If I haven't said it before, thanks for always being there."
He almost returned the hug. Almost. This wasn't the first time she had embraced him, but this Haruka was different from his, and he had to always remember one thing. No matter how much he loved her, she belonged with this dimension's Yuu.
She didn't seem to mind though, and pulling away, she said, "Am I much different in the future?"
"No," he replied quietly and honestly.
Brushing her hair behind her ears, she murmured, "That's good. Everyone seems so strange in La'cryma, except for maybe you."
"You don't think I'm different from Yuu?"
"Not really. You're both really reclusive, but you scowl way more than he does. You're the same on the inside, I think." Haruka grinned at him again, and Karasu returned the gesture. "But I probably need to get to bed now, so…how about I come up here every night? That is, only if you want the company."
"I would like that." And he really would.
He took her to her room and bid her good night, slipping back out to the rooftop without checking in on Tobi and Atori. Tomorrow they'd end up searching for more signs of Shangri'La, but right now he had little else to do but rest.
(And even with the deep cold sensation in his chest that meant his pipeline was disconnected, he was content.)
Looking out over Hakodate, black cloak flowing in the wind, Karasu allowed himself a small smile. All was well, even if only for a moment.
I watched the entirety of Noein on Netflix recently, so naturally I just had to write something. In the English version, Tobi is a girl and some of the vocabulary got changed a bit from Japanese, so keep that in mind, please.
Reviews are greatly appreciated!