3rd June, 2015
Dear YOU. Before you continue reading this story, I want to point out a few important things. This work is fairly old, and I'm not a native English speaker. Over the years however, I have improved a lot. I think other writers will agree with the feeling of wanting to hide when it comes to their old works, but at the same time, I do take pride in my improvement. I also don't want to take my works down, because I know some people enjoyed them regardless back in the day.

So please just be aware that what you're about to read does not at all portray my writing abilities today. Thank you, and enjoy!


DISCLAIMER

Higurashi no Naku Koro ni and its original characters belongs entirely to Ryukishi07. Also, any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is merely a coincidence. This fictional work is written by C. 'Cherrylin' L. G.. Any resemblance to the plot, story and concept is not intended, and should not be accused as copied or traced work. All content is fictitious, and should not be confused with real events.


SIXTY SECONDS

Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back.
- Harvey MacKay

Time goes by so fast, people go in and out of your life. You must never miss the opportunity to tell these people how much they mean to you.
- Unknown

'''

"Careful you don't fall,"

Shion's gentle voice sounded in his ear as Keiichi grabbed the ladder. The boy looked sadly up at her, still not accepting to go down with the others when she, though so eagerly, had decided to stay. He didn't find it fair if this innocent girl died in the hands of the Yamainu.

"Rumor has it, this is the bottomless well that the Sonozaki family would use in the old days to dispose of the bodies of those who opposed them," she was cheerful despite the terrific subject as she smiled to him, holding the rifle in her hands professionally.

It seemed odd and wrong that this usually-soft girl was able to handle such a dangerous and deadly weapon, but also terribly sad. Keiichi was well aware that there was a reason for everything, and that Shion had learned to use something like this sent his mind off spinning.

What had happened since she needed to learn to defend herself so lethally? Had she perhaps once been a part of the Yakuza?

Yet, he couldn't allow her to get herself killed; the others, especially Mion, would never forgive him if they lost her. Desperately, he raised his voice.

"Shion! I really think I should be the one doing that job. You go down next!" The boy was ready to get up, not caring about the danger he could put himself in; if Shion survived at the cost of his own life, then so be it.

"I appreciate the pride you have as a man," Shion replied, still smiling, "but instead of me taking the time to explain to you how to operate a Kalashnikov, it'd be quicker if you'd just hurry on down there for us."

Keiichi felt at loss for words. He couldn't understand how she could remain so enthusiastic at the subject of death and sacrifice. A thought that she possibly was suicidal rushed through his mind, but he mentally shook that thought away; not Shion, she would never take her own life. "But..."

"Don't worry. Good women never die." She winked, the cheerful smile still curving her lips. Then she unexpectedly and quickly bend down to him, whispering in his ear, "and you know... If I let you take my place and wind up being the only one who survives, then Onee would hate me the rest of her life. The person I love isn't here anymore, but the one Onee loves still is."

Surprise and confusion welled up in Keiichi at her words, sending a shiver down his spine as more questions pushed on a headache.

Why did she share something like that to him?

What did she mean?

Who did she love?

Was she talking about Mion and him?

A loud explosion sent the cave to shake.

"They've reached the torture chamber!" Kasai's voice broke in, forcing Keiichi completely out of his thoughts.

"Hurry!" Shion yelled as she got up, a more serious and determined expression appearing in her face.

"Shion," Keiichi helplessly watched her, not wanting to believe if she really didn't care about life because of her 'lost love'. Surely, she would be able to go on.

"Tell Onee," Shion smiled cheerfully and happily at him once more, "in the next world, I hope we're twins again." The girl then turned and ran off without further words, no explanation given, no goodbyes or even a 'see you later'. She merely requested him to bring a message to her twin.

Exploding light reached Keiichi's eyes, forcing him to hide his face with his hands as he went down the ladder till the wall shaded his gaze. With his mind full of confused thoughts and unanswered questions, he jumped off to the ledge to join the rest. The teenage boy turned around and looked back up the hole, watching the light flicker and listening to the gunshots echoing off the walls.

"Shion, you idiot!" Mion called behind him desperately, panic and apprehension edging her voice. "Hurry up and get down here!"

Keiichi swallowed, his throat dry. Shion had wanted him to give her message to Mion, but he couldn't force a word from his lips. Then again, perhaps this wasn't the best time. Trembling, he watched Mion out of the corner of his eye; never had he seen this dominating strong tomboy seem so little, weak, scared.

"I don't want this... No matter who's life is on the line, I hate it!" Rika whimpered behind them, her sweet voice filled with despair.

"Rika.." Hanyū called in worry, her tone soft and gentle. Keiichi listened to their quiet conversation, focusing on the battle above. He kept Mion in the corner of his eye, knowing instinctively they both were feeling the same pain at the danger Shion was facing - even if Mion was suffering more than him.

"This is the last world! I don't want it! I don't want a future where Shion or Kasai or anyone dies! No! I don't want it! Not ever!" Rika yelled with tears in her eyes, frustrated, terrified. "Hurry up and come down! !"

Silence... A flashlight lit up the walls of the upper floor. "Clear," a man in a mint-green uniform said as he looked down the hole. "Nightingale 1 to Big Bird 1. Defenses have been pacified."

Everyone gasped. Panic sent Keiichi's heart racing. Pacified?

Is Shion and Kasai.. he didn't want to finish the question, not even within his own mind; the fear was enough of a pain to feel.

"Roger. We'll give it a try."

"Can you hear me!" The man yelled as the flashlight lit the little group up at the ledge. "You don't have to respond. Listen up! Hand over the Queen Carrier, Furude Rika, along with the Chief of the Medical Clinic, Irie Kyōsuke!"

"Murderers! How dare you kill Shion!" Mion yelled, fiercely, darting forward a step, panicked, outraged and uncertain.

"Relax! Both the girl and the man are alive. They're just unconscious," an edge of sadistic laughter covered the man's tone.

"They're alive..?" Keiichi breathed, not sure he could quite believe it, but felt relief wash over him. The same relief clearly washed over everyone else.

The men took Shion by the neck of her white shirt, holding her over the edge. Her arms dangled beneath her, her hair soon following.

"Shion!" New panic emitted from Mion, her breathing becoming more unsteady, uneasy.

"He's bluffing! There's no way he'd let her fall!" Keiichi tried to believe his own words as much as he tried to convince everyone. Though, his comfort was clearly in vain, no one listening to him.

"If you need time, then we'll give it to you. However, if you take longer than sixty seconds, we'll throw the first hostage over!"

Mion bit her nail in frustration. "W-what should we do? What should we do!" She took her hand to her head in pain. Her voice was becoming tearful. Waves of terror emitted from everyone, although Keiichi was too pissed to feel his own fear. Nobody, absolutely nobody laid their hostile hands on his friends without suffering the consequences. His mind raced as he tried to come up with a plan. Fighting them just like this would be too dangerous, and the risk they would throw Shion before they got up as 'punishment' was too big.

"It's me they're after." Kyōsuke started lowly. "We'll just pretend that Rika's already escaped, and I'll go alone." He was determined. It wasn't the worst idea, but Keiichi kind of felt it was like swapping one life for another.

"No!" Rena disagreed quickly, anger covering her usually 'cute' voice. "Shii-chan bought us time to run away! If you go, then all their effort will be for nothing!"

"What, then? !" Mion was torn between anger and panic; she was on the very edge of crying now. "ARE YOU TELLING SHION TO DIE! ? !"

"Please cease this, Mion-san!" Satoko quickly broke in and stepped forth beside Keiichi. "Even I feel like my heart is about to be torn apart.. after all, Shion-san.. is my nee-nee!"

It took a second or two, precious, wasted seconds, before the words seemed to reach the tomboy. Then Mion finally broke into a violent cry, embracing Satoko tightly. The tears raced down her cheeks when she pressed the blonde girl closer. "SHION! !"

Keiichi felt as if a little piece of his heart broke off; he had never experienced something as agonizing as the strong leader's panicked crying. Rika started talking to Hanyū, but Keiichi wasn't listening anymore.

"You're wasting your time! !" The harsh voice came from above, silencing the two girls. Everyone quickly shot their attention to the top of the hole, their hearts beating faster as the man continued to speak; "As a result, the first hostage-"

"DON'T YOU DARE! !" Mion screamed at the top of her lungs, darting forward to stand on the edge. The girl was breathing heavily in her distress.

The man holding Shion sent them all a smile of sadism. Then he released his grab, letting the girl fall. What happened, was not in slow motion like in the movies. What was to happen wasn't some epic, sad ending in a book. It wasn't elegant, touching nor heroic. It was quick, kind of awkward, and downright completely and utterly sorrowful, unfair and evil. There was no scream, either, no time for the falling girl to react. Nobody seemed to realize what had happened before their eyes, until a loud but distant thump echoed through the tunnel, signaling Shion's body had collided with the bottom. Silent, surreal seconds passed by before a scream, with one word, one name, barely recognizable, echoed off the walls.

"SHIOOOON! !"

Thanks to his quick reflexes, Keiichi quickly got up, darted to her, and managed to stop Mion before it was too late. With a strong embrace from behind her, he kept her from following her sister into the darkness.

"KEI-CHAN, LET GO OF ME! !" The girl fought wildly, wriggling, wrestling to get free, making it difficult for Keiichi to hold her; though, he refused to release her the slightest. With one arm across her stomach, the other arm above her breasts, he kept the writhing girl in his hold.

"SHION! ! SHION, ANSWER ME! ! Please... please answer me..!" Keiichi felt Mion giving up in his grasp, going limp, panting heavily from her efforts and screaming. She took her hands to her face, her body trembling heavily against his front. "We.. we've got to save her..! Let me go, Kei-chan, I have to get down there!" The girl's voice was low and shaking, uncertain and scared. Keiichi softened his powerful clasp into a soft hug, moving the upper hand to her stomach, trying to calm her down - despite his own uneasiness, fear, anxiety.

"N..nee-nee..." Satoko finally gasped behind them. Keiichi turned his glistening eyes toward them, seeing his own horror and sorrow reflected in theirs';

Irie was looking away, his shoulders tense. Rena was struggling to not cry, biting her bottom lip hard, hard enough for a few, small red drops of blood to form. There was pure disbelief in Hanyū's distant eyes. Rika seemed expressionless, the shading from her hair hiding any visible emotion. Satoko's head was turned down, but her tears, the crystal-like liquid, was being shed on the ground in front of the sobbing blonde.

In movies, the main character had already attacked the murderers in outraged revenge, granted strength from the sorrow. Though, reality was nowhere near this. They were all stuck with a painful confusion, not knowing what to do, how, or even why. Their heavy sadness was not granting them the slightest power; rather, it had drained them for all there was before.

"Do you need to be convinced further? !" Shion's murderer called, laughter following from his comrades. Keiichi looked up at them, Mion still weak, in front of him, in his arms, pressed against his front. Her hand had sought his', their fingers intertwined in front of them, in the boy's grab. Rage was flowing in every single one of his veins, pulsing in his blood, roaring in his ears - though, ending in the soundless tears that fell from his eyes, rolled across his cheeks. Even if he had wanted to answer, he couldn't; a thick, painful clump had gathered in his throat, almost throbbing.

"We can still save Kasai.." Irie barely managed to say, lowly, with a trembling voice.

"What does it matter..." Rika sulked, followed by the sound of a hand colliding across a cheek; Hanyū slapped her, but before any more words were spoken, hell broke loose above them; gunshots were fired rapidly, flashing above them. Everyone of them, with the exception of Mion, looked up at the chaotic fight that had begun; Keiichi briefly recognized Kasai among them, attacking the Yamainu alongside what the boy presumed to be comrades.

The question, 'where did they come from?' didn't even strike the teenager's head, wasn't even hinted in his thoughts. His mind had only one goal now; make sure everyone was safe - including Shion. He couldn't believe the fall was enough to kill off that girl; it wasn't possible. She was a good woman; and Shion herself said good women never died.. didn't she..? Wasn't that what she said? Keiichi's memories seemed blurry, and he threw them aside, wanting to act in the present, rather than think the past through twice.

His voice was surprisingly strong, determined, and despite heavy with grief and panic, his tone was clear. "Irie!" No formalities, prefixes; just a name. Nothing else mattered. He turned his head to look into the doctor's forest green eyes, behind the glasses. "Irie! Get the rest somewhere safe! Mion and I'll go down there and save Shion!" Keiichi felt Mion move, her body tense with anticipation.

The doctor opened his mouth, closed it, narrowed his eyes, shook his head. Opened his mouth again, a hopeless expression dimming his eyes. "Keiichi-kun... She could never survive that fall..."

No more words were spoken; Rena grabbed Satoko's hand and followed Irie as soon as he left. Rika hesitated, but turned to join them with tearful eyes. Hanyū looked sorrowfully at Keiichi, her eyes apologizing, before she too left the last two club members. The gunshots and yelling had died down, moved on to elsewhere in the chamber.

When Keiichi let go of the silenced Mion, he once more felt how different reality was from fiction. Picturing the situation in a story, there had been no hesitation with approaching Shion; the main characters had seemed to know what to do as if it was practised. Yet, the real life seemed... unreal. His feet were heavy when he dragged himself to the 'ladder', of which Mion had yet not approached. He kept convincing himself that Shion needed help immediately, but a part of him told him it was a waste of time, that it was too late; that these sixty seconds truthfully had changed everyone's lives. Grabbing the metal that worked as handgrip, he let himself climb down, watching Mion going through the same hesitation, despite the tension, the high hopes he had felt from her.

They reached the silent bottom. With no proper light source, save from the faint light from the chamber far above them, their eyes were forced to adjust to the darkness. Keiichi reached the bottom first, but he was second to approach Shion; Mion had already rushed to the lying body on the cold earth, screaming her name. The boy tried to swallow the clump in his throat, but it only seemed to grow; the sight before him was truthfully dreadful. Blood was spattered across the floor, barely highlighted. Shion had presumably landed head-first, although Mion had turned her onto her back before Keiichi had had a chance to react. Not that it helped; blood was plastered to the front of the girl, her face was barely recognizable with the broken nose, missing teeth, crimson liquid. Her eyes were still open, but there was no expression, no emotion. The whole body of the girl was limp, numb, arms and legs splayed into unnatural positions. She wasn't beautiful anymore.

The clump in his throat changed, got taste. The burning pain was taken over by vomit, gathering, trying to get out, but Keiichi swallowed it. Twice, as it returned. His blurry vision then turned clear when he was as thrown into reality. Mion was yelling. Yelling to the identical - biologically, but not conditionally anymore - body that laid beneath her. Sitting on her knees beside her, leaned over her sister, Mion's yelling slowly turned to words in Keiichi's ears, panicked words.

"Come back to me! Wake up! Stop this madness, Shion! ! It's not fun anymore, just fucking answer me! For me, for Satoko, for Satoshi! ! D-don't die! ! Breathe! Live! Shion, you can't leave me here!" Mion's rambling was continuing in one, endless and wasted effort, an effort to wake her twin sister.

Keiichi watched, speechlessly, once more dragged into the difference between movies and reality; in any movie, there would be hard goodbyes now; a touching dialog, the dying confessing a secret, saying 'see you in Heaven', before closing his or her eyes forever. Though, there was nothing of this. Nothing. The reality was hard, cold, and unforgiving. Shion was dead; there was nothing more to it. The boy was waiting for Shion to react, to miraculously come back to life because of Mion's desperate need for her, but there was nothing. There was no second chance. She was dead. Period. End of story.

It was too much to bear for the boy; the reality, so harsh and unreal, brought rapid tears to his eyes. He hid his face in his palms, despite a pointless act, and cried out. He let Mion attempt to wake her, still hoping her voice could wake Shion. And if not Shion even was to survive, then the simplest goodbye could lit his spirit now; a last promise. His mind slowly imagined that soon, Shion's spirit would stand by him, say something like 'take good care of my sister and the rest of the club'. The thoughts comforted him slightly, until he had to realize he was a fool; this would not happen. This was not a movie, not a story; it was the cold, harsh, unfair, unforgiving, unrealistic reality.

"M..Mion..." Approaching the twins, pain in his throat, he put a hand on the living girl's shoulder. His voice was nothing but a whisper, but he had to be the hero now; everything was already so unrealistic. "It's too late..."

"No! It's not! Help me wake her, it's not too late!" Mion turned her head over her shoulder, looking at him with a desperate plea, a disbelieving and devastated stare. Her gaze turned into despair upon meeting his eyes. "What.. are you serious..?" A mild laughter escaped her lips, a twisted giggling. "Are you telling me my sister is dead? Why are you lying to me?"

"I'm not lying!" A yell that wasn't intended to be so ferocious, echoed off the walls. The girl flinched, her laughing stopped. "M-Mion! It's too late! As much as I wanted her to live, she... Shion's.." he shook his head violently in pain. "It's too late! We have to get away."

"Not without her! She's alive! I know it! Shion can't die! She... she promised me she'd... never leave me.." Defeated, turning around and crying violently, she went down to hug the dead body of her sister, lying over her, burying her face in the twin's neck. "She promised..." A whimper, so uncommon for Mion.

Swallowing, the boy approached them finally, sorrow weighing down his heavy heart. He squatted down by the opposite side of Shion, petting her devastated, breathing sister gently. The more he looked at the face of the dead twin, the stronger became the intent to kill those responsible, the heavier became his sadness. With his other hand, he closed her eyes. "Rest in peace..." His whisper was followed by more tears, and he took his hand to his face, wanting to stop his crying, but the tears stubbornly continued to race, rolling down his cheeks. Not even his sobbing could he hide, his voice occasionally letting out a broken, low sound. "Mion.." Another, broken whisper. "We.. we have to go.. The others are waiting.."

"You're sick if you think I'm leaving her." Stubborn, but trembling and weak, the girl hugged her sister tighter, as if intending to never let go.

"Mion.. now. We have to." His voice was low, broken with tears, sorrow. Keiichi didn't want to leave Shion either, but they had to help the others overcome whatever fate was in store for them; otherwise, Shion's death could be for nothing, even more grief could take over their future.

"She's not going to rot here!" Mion turned her head to him, growling ferociously. Anger, rage rimmed her eyes.

"She won't.. We'll get help to carry her out soon enough, I promise.. but please.. we.. have to go... Think of the others... think of Satoko... she'll need us... Without her brother, and the one who was like a sister for her... she'll need us now, Mion..." It hurt in his chest, stabbed his heart, but Keiichi knew he had to be the strong one now. "Shion would want us to go on..." The boy got to his feet heavily, looking at Mion with a sympathetic gaze.

The girl's eyes glistened with more tears, the weak light from the top of the chamber ever so faintly highlighting the liquid as it rolled down her cheeks. She turned back to her sister, nuzzling her neck. "Shion... I want you to know... that you're the best sister one could ever wish for... I hope... I hope that.. next time... we're twins again."

The exact same wish, the same message Keiichi had been asked to carry over to Mion... He watched, even more heartbroken, as he realized just how close the twins were, how much they had always meant for each other. The tomboy put her lips affectionately on her sister's cheek, before taking Keiichi's hand, getting up, her body plastered in Shion's blood. He didn't let go of the hand, despite stickied with crimson liquid, guiding the trembling, stumbling girl back to the ladder, letting her go up first. He grabbed the ladder himself, but before climbing up, he looked over his shoulder one last time.

Goodbye, Shion... You were always loved, as sister as well as friend. You will forever be an irreplaceable part of our club. Watch over us and guide us till we join you. You will never be forgotten.

'''''

Rain was pattering onto them all, the ground soaked. The large grave in front of them stood beautifully against the dull weather, the black surface almost shining in the effect of the water. Large, precise gold-letters formed the name of the girl that had died one year ago, along with the date of her birth, and the date she had left this world, the day of Watanagashi. Around the grave lay several flowers, all fresh and given with love, love to the now long-dead girl... their beloved Shion; a compassionate sister, a wonderful friend, and a painfully missed part of them all, the club.

Tears rolled down everyone's cheek as they stood, curved in half a circle around the grave, their Shion's resting place. Never again would a Watanagashi be fun for anyone anymore; for them, Watanagashi was but the day they lost someone undescribably precious, someone who was not only pretty on the outside, but absolutely beautiful on the inside, a soul that would always shine through any darkness, a girl whose smile alone could cheer anyone up.

Rika, at one end of the group, turned her head, burying her face in Hanyū's shoulder, seeking a comfort she knew the goddess could never give. Beside them, Rena was struggling with letting go of the flowers in her arms, hugging them tightly to herself, for to her, they resembled the friend she had lost. Keiichi and Mion were locked in a tight embrace, the boy petting his girlfriend's hair as she pressed her head to his chest, her nails digging into his skin in desperation and pain. Satoko wasn't even looking at the grave, trying to distract herself with the pouring rain, still refusing the truth. She tried to be tough, tried to not cry, but her sobbing had already long ago turned into a steady crying.

..And beside her, with a single, beautiful, red rose in his hands, stood Satoshi.