'Ow…' When Yuzuru Otonashi finally awoke, the first thing he noticed was how uncomfortable he felt. His body ached and burned all over, and he felt as if he had just been thrown off a cliff and landed hard on a rocky, fiery landscape below.
He slowly sat up, a hand rising to his forehead to fight a sudden wave of nausea.
'Good. You're finally awake,' a voice caught his attention. Yuzuru slowly turned to find a familiar, magenta-haired girl sitting next to the bed he was currently inhabiting. She was holding a half-peeled apple in one hand and a small fruit knife in another.
'About time, man!' Another voice called out as a blue-haired boy materialized beside him. 'We were starting to get worried.'
'Where… where am I?'
'The hospital,' Yuri said.
The crease on Yuzuru's brows spoke volumes.
'Train wreck, remember? Takeyama told us all about it.'
'Oh…' Yuzuru collapsed heavily back on his pillow as faint memories started to surface. He had been in an accident.
But something else was nagging his mind. Yuzuru couldn't help but feel something else had happened. Something much bigger. And that something had left a gaping hole in his mind.
'Apple?' Yuri asked as she thrust the small fruit in front of Yuzuru. The unevenly peeled fruit dotted with botches of red skin made him wonder for a moment if Yuri was better suited to be a battlefront leader than a housewife. The thought made him shudder.
'Uh… no thanks.'
'Your loss,' Yuri said as she unceremoniously took a big bite out of the apple.
Shinda Sekai Sensen…
A hand shot to Yuzuru's forehead again as he groaned from the throbbing pain.
'Hey… you all right, man?' Hinata asked.
'Whoa… calm down. It's just an apple. I'll peel one more for you if you want,' Yuri said, sounding a little bit alarmed.
Yuzuru continued to grunt in pain as faces started to surface, only to disappear again.
'Hey,' Hinata said with a hint of uncertainty. 'Do you think he's remembering?'
Yuri shook her head adamantly. 'That's impossible.'
'Why is that?'
Yuri only sighed and shook her head.
Yuzuru lifted his head slowly, eyeing Yuri quizzically.
'Don't worry. It has nothing to do with you,' Yuri said as she plopped down on the hospital bed. 'So… fancy another apple?'
Yuzuru buried his head in his hands. As more images floated in and out of his head, the pain became more and more unbearable. Abruptly, he flung the bed sheet away and stood up. 'I'm going to get some air.'
'Wait… you're not allowed to leave yet,' Hinata said.
'It's only for a moment. Don't worry,' Yuzuru said as he headed out the door.
To wander off to the streets while wearing a patient gown was not really a smart idea, so Yuzuru opted for the balcony instead. It must have been off limits, but what the hell?
After slipping past medical personnel unnoticed, Yuzuru was surprised to see a crimson-haired girl, casually leaning on the fence on the balcony.
She turned and grinned at the sight of the welcome trespasser. 'Finally decided to wake up, huh?'
'Yeah, but my mind still feels like mush…' Yuzuru said as he leaned next to the girl.
Iwasawa laughed. 'It's supposed to. You have been through a lot, after all.'
Something in her eyes told Yuzuru she knew more than she was letting on.
'Okay, what's the deal with everybody being so secretive around me?'
Iwasawa fell silent, and Yuzuru let out a deep sigh.
It didn't make any sense.
Yuzuru was still too confused to enjoy the light spring breeze that blew by, and he finally decided he'd better get back to the hospital room before someone noticed him missing.
Yuzuru slipped back quietly, but before he made contact with the doorknob, a small voice reached his ears from the other side which he instantly recognized to be Hinata's.
'… why were you so sure he wouldn't remember?'
Yuri sighed. 'Takamatsu has made his point very clear. An ikiryō and its physical counterpart have no connection whatsoever. And since Otonashi has been lying here the whole time and only his ghost was with us, that means there is no way he's going to remember anything at all. And trust me, it would be better for him this way.' There was a brief pause before she went on, '… well at least the school is safe. Shadows have all but vanished completely. The program is destroyed and not going to bother us anymore.'
'I still feel bad for Otonashi. He's been through so much. Did you see his face? He clearly was remembering something…' Hinata said.
There was another pause before Yuri said, 'He's the most strong-willed person I know. Anyone would have broken to have everything dear to him taken away again and again. The fact that memory fragments made their way into this Yuzuru in real life is testament to that.' Pause. 'Well, I have to go. Take care of him when he comes back, okay? And don't mention a word to him.'
'Do you even need to ask?'
The doorknob turned and the door creaked open. Yuri's eyes widened in a moment of utter shock as she stared into Yuzuru's eyes.
She didn't know what to expect, but seeing him standing stiffly with terror-struck eyes was certainly very painful to watch.
'Otonashi…' her uncertain voice drifted unheard.
The images came flooding in. The conversation with Kanade at the grave. Meeting her all over again in the Afterlife. The final battle with Angel Player. The way Kanade had lunged to destroy the software was burned deep into Yuzuru's mind.
Yuzuru grabbed Yuri's shoulder in a desperate plea, the latter tensing up at the boy's sudden lunge. 'She… she can't have vanished forever, right?'
'I…' Yuri was at a sudden loss for words.
'No one dies in the Afterlife, right? She has just been reincarnated, right? Right?!'
Yuri couldn't bear looking into Yuzuru's desperately hopeful eyes. She bit her lip and carefully placed her hand above his.
Very slowly, he released his grip and backed away, staggering as he made his way out.
'H-hey! Where are you going?' Yuri called out.
Yuzuru didn't know. His mind was blank as he made his exit. Stumbling, he collapsed onto the dry stone that encircled the planted vegetation just outside the hospital.
A set of approaching footsteps came to a stop in front of him, an extended hand waiting to help him up.
Yuzuru looked up. The sun shining brightly in the sky silhouetted the bending figure before him, but even through Yuzuru's tear-stained eyes, he could still make out a pair of innocent, golden orbs.
Those striking eyes…
His eyes widened as his gaze moved to her perfectly silky white hair…
She was smiling.
An outstretched hand reached for hers...
AND FINISHED! YEAH! My debut work! Thank you sooo much to everyone for sticking with me on this story. Without your support, this story would probably end up undone in some remote corner. I know there may be some OOC's, and the ending may not be what some of you expected, as it left quite a lot of room for imagination, but I'm really just so proud to have finished and ended it on (quite) a good note XD
So, truly, honest-to-burgers, I thank all the readers and reviewers from the bottom of my heart. You guys are AWESOME! :)