He is Yuu, but he is no longer Yuu. The whole of his body shimmers, an iridescent light.
"Welcome, Karasu," the leader says. He steps forward and smiles.
"Why?" Haruka says. Karasu watches her with darkened eyes, then turns, his cloak catching the wind. "Yuu, what have you done?"
"This body is no longer my own," Karasu says. "Haruka. You of all people should know how important this is. You are our torque-"
"Stop it!" Haruka says. "I do it because I have to. I have no choice! But Yuu-"
"Karasu," Karasu says.
"You have no idea what it's like," Haruka says. "Getting lost through timespace. You can't know how awful it is."
I'm doing it for you, Karasu thinks, but Haruka balls her hands into fists and sobs.
They called her the Torque. The only one in La'cryma who could manipulate timespace like so much sand.
Karasu sees first hand what it does to her; he sees the bruises under her eyes, the way she curls up into herself. Her lips are thin and bloodless, and when the elders flank around her, Karasu knows he has to be with her. Knows this like his body knows to breathe.
It helps that Isami is there. "That was a really stupid reason to join the Knights," Isami says, and beneath his scar he smiles the same smile, then claps Karasu on the shoulder. "When are you gonna tell her?"
Karasu grits his teeth. "There is nothing to tell."
"You know why they call me 'owl'?" Isami says. His one eye is shining. Karasu glares. "They call me 'owl' because owls know everything," Isami says.
"Tch," Karasu says. Isami smiles.
"Listen to your friend," Isami says. "There aren't many among us out there."
He fights. He leaps, his body shaping and reshaping, quantum waves of light.
They call them birds, and he is the crow. Karasu veers left then charges, the enemy falling to the side. He wakes two days later in a field tent, the wounds in his body spilling quanta like blood.
"How could you be so stupid?" Haruka says.
She is at his bedside, berating him. Karasu endures this like he endures all other assaults; silently, his gaze fixed on the ceiling above him. "You could have been killed!" Haruka says, and Karasu realizes he hasn't seen her smile in years.
"You do it every day," Karasu says quietly, and Haruka pulls back, stunned. Karasu turns, hair falling over his eyes. "Every day you risk yourself. How can you expect me not to do the same?"
"You're an idiot," Haruka says. She starts to leave, her hand reaching the door.
"I joined so I could protect you," Karasu says. Haruka stops and turns.
"I love you," Karasu says. "I've always loved you. Ever since we were children I've loved you." He stares at his hands, which are calloused and covered with dirt. "You probably do not want to hear this now, but you deserve to know the truth."
Haruka stares. Slowly, she steps beside him, kneeling beside the bed so that they're facing each other. The tips of her fingers graze the side of his face, and Karasu closes his eyes.
"You're so stupid," Haruka says, and she lays her head on the pillow beside his, and he watches her try not to smile.
She is the only one who calls him by his real name. In the mornings, when he wakes before daybreak to join the others, and in the evenings when he sees her again at night. She sighs his name when he pushes up inside her, with each hard thrust and her face buried against his neck. When he is inside her, there is no war, no doubt that plagues his thoughts. Her hot mouth finds his and her hands clutch into the muscles of his back, and he feels her clench around him, at the precipice, about to spiral and spin. Her orgasm peaks and falls, and he hears her say his name like a prayer, panting softly and pressing her face against his.
"Yuu," she says, and she kisses his eyes. "Yuu."
She is asleep, but it is a fitful one. Darkly, Karasu watches her clench and unclench the sheets, caught in a fever dream of another timespace, another world. Wordlessly, Karasu soothes her with his presence, pressing against her and quietly brushing the hair from her face. He feels her muscles loosen; she breathes slower now, relaxing against him. He shifts her weight against his chest and closes his eyes, breathing in the scent of her hair.
"Yuu? Are you awake?"
Karasu nods against her neck, "what's wrong?" and he grips her tighter.
"Shangri'La is approaching," Haraku says. She turns, the bedsheets rustling, slightly. "Yuu I'm scared."
"Don't be," Karasu says. He holds her tight, then kisses her hair. "I'll be with you, Haruka. I won't let anything happen to you."
"I know." Haruka burrows against his chest, her face pressed up against the space between his neck and shoulder. "But what if something happens to you?"
Karasu says nothing. Quietly, he strokes her hair, then lets his palm rest against the crown of her head.
"A thousand worlds with a thousand suns, and in each one I'll be there for you. I promise," Karasu says, and Haruka climbs on top of him, straddling his hips and kissing him, her hair falling over his face. His hands settle around her waist as she slowly lowers herself over him, shaking slightly as she does. "Don't leave me," Haruka says, and she rocks slowly, her head falling against his shoulder.
There is something about Haruka that inspires a fierce tenderness in him, that makes him want to ball her against his chest and protect her from the world. He watches, stone-faced and silent, as she works with the physicists at the lab, the glow from the machines pulsing softly. She is so small standing next to them, her body almost swallowed by the pale light.
He fights. He leaps out across oblivion, lightning arcing through the sky.
He loves her because he was born to love her. He understands this, now.
"Why?" Karasu says. Haruka's face is pale. She shakes her head, pushing past him. "Haruka, why?"
"Because I must," Haruka says, and the scientists flank her sides, dark and menacing and backlit against their machines. "I have no choice," Haruka says, softly. Her eyes flick upward, meeting his. "I'm the only one who can do this," Haruka says. "If I do not, our world will be destroyed."
"No," Karasu says. "No, I won't let you do this-"
"This isn't your choice to make," Haruka says. The soldiers grip their weapons but Haruka steps forward, then lets the tips of her fingers touch his chest. "If you love me, you'll let me go," Haruka says.
Karasu feels the warmth behind his eyes. It burns him. His hands clench into fists.
"I will be watching," Haruka says. She touches his hand and smiles.
Isami is there when they take Haruka to the lab and lock her into the column of glass. He's there when the thin liquid starts to fill, when the fear of death and drowning is purposefully pushed down beneath the surface. He's there to hold Karasu back, gripping him behind the arms and forcing his head down, forcing him not to look.
"It's okay," Isami says. Karasu sobs and buckles under his weight, falling to his knees. "Yuu, believe me. Everything will be okay."
Shangri'La still approaches. Silently, Karasu kneels in front of the glass chamber, watching Haruka's body float in the center. Her eyes are closed and her face is peaceful, serene.
"For nothing," Karasu says. His hands leave steam marks against the glass. "You died for nothing. Haruka."
Fifteen years after the fall of Shangri'La, Yuu fixes his hair, nervously. Though he is still young, his hair is streaked with white, so much so that the other girls in his prefecture make the well-intentioned suggestion that "maybe you should dye it, Gotou-kun," while giggling and whispering among themselves. Yuu is nervous and would normally listen, except Karasu had white hair too, and Haraku didn't seem to mind.
Then again, Haraku was only twelve. Yuu hits his head against the mirror, defeated.
The door knocks. Yuu turns and calls out, "Coming!" then makes one last attempt at making his hair look presentable, before rushing to open the door. "Haruka?"
"Yuu!" Haruka jumps and throws her arms around him. Yuu staggers back, shocked by her weight. "O-oi!" Yuu says.
"Sorry," Haruka says. "It's just been so long..."
The last time they saw each other, he was only seventeen. But she entered the university and so did he, and their lives had ceased to intersect. "Yuu?" Haruka says, and she's as beautiful as he remembered her, taller now but still the same. "Your hair..."
"Oh? This?" Yuu touches his head, self-consciously. "They told me I should dye it," Yuu says.
"No," Haruka says. "I was just going to say, you look like Karasu. If Karasu were a computer engineer," Haruka says. She smiles again as Yuu closes the door.
A/N: Even though future!Haruka/Karasu didn't work out, I really think present-day Haruka/Yuu get a happy ending. Also, I like to think that since the Magic Circle thing never happened, Yuu grows up not to be a badass Dragon Knight, but a dorky software engineer. XDD