Henshin Final: A life/Alive
It was obvious Ren was getting weaker, and for all Yui tried, she couldn't get him to respond to her shouts. He was lost again, somewhere within the power burning him away and giving all that he was to her. Yet somehow, he managed to get his hand to hers, and she grasped it as tightly as she could, hoping that somehow, she could keep him from dying. But he was disintegrating, and as it got harder to hold onto him, Yui noticed the edges of a card digging into her fingers, and she held onto his gift as desperately as she'd tried to hold onto him.
He seemed to recognize that she had taken it, and a faint look of peace appeared on his face as he whispered into the distance, to someone Yui couldn't perceive.
And then he was gone, dissolved into particles that were unwillingly absorbed into Yui. For a moment, she could only kneel there in shock, helplessly looking at the card he'd given to her.
Her brother's voice was full of hope, sounding far more like the man who left for college promising to always be there for her. But he'd just killed her friends, and she looked up at him in horror.
"I've finally done it," he tried to explain as she stood. "The new life is yours. There's nothing to worry about anymore." But as he tried to approach her, she took a step back. "Yui?"
"Brother, why?" she asked.
He didn't understand, and the confusion and pain on his face was so innocent and childlike that she couldn't help but wonder if he'd never grown up from back then. If he were still that thirteen-year-old who couldn't understand why their parents hurt them and now couldn't understand why Yui was hurt by what he was doing.
"It was for you," he insisted. "I wanted to save you."
She shook her head, with tears in her eyes. It was even worse that he didn't understand, that he couldn't. It would have been so easy to hate him, the way Ren had; pitying him like Shinji had was harder to cope with.
And they were both with her now—not gone, but part of her, part of the power that had given life back to her.
"No, Brother," she replied. "It was for you all along. It was your wish. You never asked what mine was."
He still looked lost and helpless. It was something he'd never thought of before, and he asked, "What is your wish?"
That broke her entirely, and she couldn't stop the tears from running down her face. Of course he didn't know; he'd blinded himself completely in his quest to gain this power.
"You're not the brother I used to know," she admitted, taking him aback. "I don't know you anymore, and you don't know me." She held up the card Ren had given her and displayed it to her brother.
He stared in horror and tried to take a step toward her. "Yui! Don't do anything foolish!"
But his words couldn't reach her. Every Rider, every Alternative, and every victim of the Monsters was now part of Yui, and she a part of them. She was Nakamura and Tojo, Asakura and Kitaoka, Shinji and Ren and Eri. And all of them had a wish, and she was the only one who could grant it.
"I'm sorry, Brother," she cried. "I just hope that next time, you'll figure it out."
"Yui!" he shouted.
But he was too late. Yui slashed the card through her Visor, and the voice called out, [Time Vent.]
Kanzaki took her by the shoulders, torn between fury and horror, but Yui wrapped her arms around him, crying. Helpless, all he could do was hug her back as time turned backwards and the world shattered around them.
"You win, Yui," Kanzaki said to the void as the world was reborn. "I won't try it this way again. I'll try to understand what you wished for."
Time put itself back together, the shattered fragments of lives mended the way they'd been before, the cracks in the glass less jagged.
"I promise. For you."
It was unusually quiet in Atori, and Shinji, Yui, and Ren blinked in surprise, as if they weren't sure they were supposed to be there.
"Did you…" Shinji started before he noticed something in Ren's hand. "What are you doing with my phone?"
Ren was just as confused as Shinji was, but he hid it as he tossed the phone over and said, "Obviously, you gave it to me. Why else would I have it?"
Shinji was about to respond when he saw tears running down Yui's cheeks. "Eh, Yui-chan? Are you okay?"
Ren turned to her in concern. "Yui?"
Yui hadn't noticed she was crying until they pointed it out to her. Now, she wiped her tears as Shinji hurriedly gave her a handkerchief. "Thanks."
With the same careful worry he only let her see, Ren asked, "What happened?"
"I don't know," she answered honestly, giving Shinji back his handkerchief, now slightly damp with tears. "I'm okay, though."
Neither of them looked particularly convinced, but still, Shinji answered, "If you're sure…"
Smiling, Yui nodded. "I'm fine."
The door opened suddenly, and they all looked over as Kitaoka walked inside. For a moment, the three could only look at him in shock, as if they hadn't expected to see him again, and he gave them a look of confusion.
"What are all of you looking at me like that for?" he asked.
Ren was the first to recover again, and he said, "We're not open yet. Get out."
Deciding that all must be well, Kitaoka taunted, "Oh, is that how you treat a valued customer? I'm amazed you have any business with waiters as rude as this."
Before Ren could escalate the fight, Yui took his arm and softly said, "Why don't you go visit Eri-san? Shinji-kun and I can handle this while you're gone."
Ren gave her a puzzled look at the suggestion, and when he glanced over at Shinji, he saw the same confusion. But somehow, it felt right, so he answered, "All right. I'll be back in an hour."
"Call us if anything happens," Shinji warned. Ren stared at him, partly in confusion and partly in annoyance. Shinji couldn't understand just why he'd said that, so he just mumbled, "Asakura's still out there, after all. And we've got Tiger and those Alternative guys to worry about."
"They won't be a problem," Ren insisted with a sigh. But at the expressions of concern on his friends' faces, he admitted, "But all right. Make sure you pick up your phone."
"Eh?" Shinji asked. "What do you mean I need to pick up?" His indignant cries went ignored, though, because Ren was already walking out the door. "Oi, Ren!"
"Shinji-kun," Yui said gently, smiling in amusement. "Don't worry about Ren right now."
Shinji pointed in Ren's direction. "Yeah, but he…"
"Am I supposed to wait here all morning for my order?" Kitaoka interrupted. "What terrible service."
As Shinji began to lose his temper from yet another Rider, Yui promised, "I'll take this one. You get the sign."
"Okay," he sighed. "Thanks, Yui-chan."
"Are you ready for my order?" Kitaoka drawled.
"Just a moment!" Yui said, walking to his table as Shinji went to turn over the sign at the door. "I'm sorry about that. What would you like?"
"Darjeeling, second flush," he replied. With a taunting look at Shinji, he added, "Try not to steep it too long. Just two minutes is perfect."
Somehow, Kitaoka was far more aggravating than Ren. Here he was telling Shinji how to do his job! "Why you…" Shinji growled.
"All right," Yui answered diplomatically, signaling to Shinji to head to the counter. "Is there anything else?"
"Not right now," Kitaoka replied politely, the picture of professionalism. "Thank you. I'm glad that there's someone here who takes pride in their service."
"Thank you very much," Yui replied as she went to the counter.
Shinji was still irritated at Kitaoka as he brought the kettle to a boil. "I can't believe that guy…"
"We'll have more customers soon," Yui reminded him. "Are you going to be okay?"
"Yeah," he sighed. "But what about you, Yui-chan? Are you sure you're okay?"
She nodded again. "It was probably just the light making my eyes water."
She smiled. "I've never felt better."
That reassured Shinji more than anything, and he nodded. "Okay."
The door opened again, but this time, there was a group of customers entering. As they began to find tables, Yui took her notepad. "I'll get these orders. Just keep an eye on Kitaoka-san's until then, okay?"
"Two minutes, remember!"
Shinji scowled, but Yui was unbothered as she went to take the other orders. Still, though, Shinji actually felt kind of glad to see Kitaoka. Getting annoyed by him took away some of the apprehension he didn't know he'd had, much less understood why he had. For some reason, he just felt grateful that the man was alive.
Ren wasn't sure what had spurred Yui to tell him to visit Eri as they were opening, but it was only one part of what he'd accepted was going to be a very weird day. And if it meant he didn't have to deal with Kitaoka, all the better.
He put on his helmet; then, compelled by the same inexplicable sense he and the others were dealing with all morning, he pulled out his necklace. He fingered the familiar linked ring that belonged to Eri, what had reminded him all this time of what he had to fight for and kept him from giving up. Now, as he touched it, he felt an odd sense of peace.
He let the ring drop back to his chest and rode off. It had been a while since he'd last brought her flowers. Maybe saltspray roses or something that would remind her of the beach—at least until he saved her and they could go there together again.
No one would see the peaceful smile he had, but Eri could hear it in her dreams as he spoke to her. For the first time in a long time, Ren felt like hope wasn't so distant, and he didn't feel cynical about the realization at all.
For the first time, he, Shinji, and Yui had the same thought, one that they'd never thought before: it was good to be alive.
Obviously, the title here comes from the opening theme, "Alife A life." As I said in the previous chapter, this chapter is a big divergence from the SIC story, which ends without with wish being granted and with Yui and her brother unable to touch, breaking his heart. Obviously time had to be restarted, but given that one of the biggest twists in the story was Yui becoming the new Alternative Zero, I really wanted to take advantage of this chance to give her a more proactive role, to give her the chance to fight back against Kanzaki and stop having all the others save her. Let her try to save herself this time, and in a way, save everybody else.
If this is a little too disjointed for you, there will be a reversioned cut on my Livejournal (akino-ame[dot]livejournal[dot]com) that edits all of the chapters together into a long oneshot. It winds up with a little more focus on Yui, since my twist was her becoming the hero at the end, and a couple of new scenes are added. There's a little less focus on Asakura's point of view, unfortunately for his fans, since a lot of his chapter had been a more threatening take on Shinji's and Ren's.