Warnings: Spoilers for entire series, dead people, semi-original characters, and poking fun at Gekigangar 3

Some Author's Notes: Kenichi lied in the last part; it really is more full of darkness and angst than it is romance. Don't be too scared. And Kazama Itsuki (Seelie) fans, she's in this part. I hope you enjoy!

The All Around Guy 3:
The Righteous Man

When Tenkawa-kun returned with Ruri-san from Peaceland, I had, fortunately enough, been wandering around a bit. Izumi-chan, Ryoko, and Hikaru were off doing their own thing, leaving me with nothing better to do than to find something to do with Hoshio. Of course, Nagare-kun's room was locked, and Hoshio was in there as well, so I couldn't get to him and he couldn't get to me. Therefore, I was very, very bored.

Naturally, I was in the hangar.

I've come to hate Gai after a while. I mean, he only left just a week ago, but because of him, I was bored out of my mind. Before I met him, I was content at Izumi-chan and her friends' sides, enjoying their company although they didn't know that I was there. And then he came. And then I found more things to do besides watching over the three girls. And then my afterlife was made more interesting whenever I was with him. He may have been obnoxious, but I really enjoyed his friendship and his company.

I can't say that I missed him horribly. I thought his purpose had been fulfilled, and I was wondering what he was up to. Was he in Heaven? Or did he get reincarnated? Whichever it was, I hoped that he was enjoying himself.

I am still hoping that to this day. Reincarnation or afterlife? Which did he choose?

I hope he chose the afterlife. Perhaps then I can see him again, but knowing him, I probably never will ever come face-to-face with him any time within the next millennium. He, for sure, decided reincarnation.

Anyway, story. Back to the story.

So, my life was miserably boring. Hoshio only provided me intellectual conversations. It can get very tiring after a while. Fun doesn't. I wanted Gai back.

And as soon as I muttered those words, I indeed found Gai propped up against one of the hangar's walls, looking very drowsy.

I didn't know it was him at first. I thought he was somebody like you, Tsukumo. Nevertheless, it never hurt a dead person to check things out. If it was Gai, then he'd be able to see me, and if he wasn't, then anything I did probably wouldn't have any effect on him.

I cautiously approached him. As soon as I reached him, I placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Gai?" I asked softly.

He stared at me long and hard. His eyes drooped; he seemed to have had a hard time keeping them open.

"Ken...?" he answered. Before I could confirm that he was right, he slumped into my shoulder and fell unconscious.

I was utterly confused.

Had his purpose not been fulfilled... or were Hoshio and I completely wrong when we thought that forgiving Munetake was his purpose?

If you're wondering, yes, dead people can sleep and get exhausted. We still function normally. We need to breathe, sleep, stay healthy to some extent, and we can feel pain, but we don't need to eat, drink, or exercise. We can't gain weight or lose weight or get sick or bleed. That's the main difference between Shinigami bodies and spirit bodies. They can be seen by mortals, they can bleed (although all of their cuts heal almost instantaneously), they need a sufficient amount of food and drink every day, and they can get sick. They're just like mortals except that they're immortal.

Don't get on my case about oxymoron.

I couldn't find Hoshio anywhere on my way to the girls' room, so I hauled Gai there myself. I was going to have to talk to him later, since Hoshio was the brains. He always knew the answer no matter how long it took for him to come up with one. After all, it had been a puzzling time for me and Gai alike.

I overestimated Hoshio, of course, but he did come up with a conclusion much later.

I placed Gai on the closest bed to the door and let him rest. It was still early evening; none of the girls would have been returning for quite some time. I just sat and pondered by his side, wondering a few times whether or not I should seek out Hoshio and deciding not to for the mere prospect of Gai waking up before I returned. Who knows how he would be acting? Bewildered, scared, delusional? I didn't know, and I refused to take that chance. I needed to be at his side when he awoke.

I only had to wait for an hour. An hour isn't a long time when you're dead, so I hadn't had the chance to come up with any hypotheses. But I guess that was a good thing, too. Gai might have gotten upset if I "knew" that his purpose had been completely off.

"Ken?" Gai asked as he sat up, holding his head.

"You should lay down," I suggested. Gai shook his head.

"I'm fine," he said. "But I thought that ghosts weren't supposed to get drowsy like this?"

"We're not ghosts, Jiro, remember?"

"My name is Gai."

"And mine is Kenichi."

Gai glared at me, and I grinned as innocently as I could.

"Besides," I continued, looking away from him, "we're still like mortals in a way. We can grow fatigued. That's what happened to you, I'm sure. Though I don't know why."

"You don't know why I'm back?"

"If I knew, then I would know why you're so exhausted."

Gai sighed. "It's not easy having your spirit blown to smithereens," he said. "I think that explains some of it. I expected something to happen, like finding myself reborn or in a paradise. Not back on the Nadesico."

"I'm not sorry you're back," I told him, "but I do wonder why you're here as well. Perhaps your purpose wasn't to forgive Munetake?"

"You mean it probably had nothing to do with him?" Gai demanded, sounding upset.

"I'm not sure."

"Bastard."

"I thought you were only supposed to call Hoshio that?" Gai fell silent and muttered something under his breath that I couldn't catch, but I never asked him about it. He may have redeemed Hoshio at that moment, but I pressed on, so I wouldn't know. "Maybe you were right the first time."

I looked at him again, and he stared at me questioningly. "The... first time...?"

"Remember Christmas? When you left the ship with Tenkawa-kun? You said something about your purpose."

Understanding dawned in Gai's eyes. "Oh," he murmured. "I said that maybe my purpose was to keep him safe... you think that's it?"

I shrugged. "It could be. Don't take my word for it."

"It somehow doesn't seem right."

The door slid open then, and Izumi-chan walked into the room. Her face was not covered in depressed lunacy like it normally was, but instead, just solemn. She headed to the closet and grabbed some garments out of it, muttering something along the lines of "Need to take a shower."

I turned back to Gai, who had turned his head away with a slight blush on his cheeks. I had to laugh; most men from Earth would continue to stare. He really would have fit in well with the Jovians had he known the truth before he had died.

"What was your purpose?" Gai asked, staring at a book on the bed. "I know it's none of my business to know, but maybe it'll help me realize what mine is."

My previous amusement left immediately. I sighed and hesitated, not sure how I could put it.

"My purpose..." I started slowly. "My purpose... is something far more than to protect the woman I love. If that was the case, it wouldn't really be a purpose, and I wouldn't have to fear the Shinigami, for I would have been a guardian angel."

"Then why?"

The time was moving by quickly. It was now late evening, and Hikaru waltzed into the room (Izumi-chan was taking a shower by now) and sat on her bed... the closest bed to the door.

Gai had to scramble to get out of her way before she sat on him. Consequently, he fell to the floor.

I burst into a guffaw. "Yeah, you were too heavy, so I put you on Hikaru's bed..."

"Not Ryoko's?!"

"Hikaru's was closer," I answered as Gai hopped to his feet. "And how was I supposed to know that Hikaru would come back before Ryoko?"

"You're with the girls more than you are with anybody else on this ship!" Gai hissed.

"That doesn't mean I'm supposed to know every single detail about their lives," I replied. Gai glared at me, and I chuckled. "All right, all right. Let's go find Hoshio and figure this whole thing out."

It didn't take long to find Hoshio. He had, too, been wandering around the halls aimlessly since Nagare-kun had woken up to do his own thing. Convenience is quite a good thing when you're dead.

Hoshio had been very surprised at Gai's reappearance and looked to me for answers, but I could not provide him with any. I told him that we had been looking for him for some sort of explanation, since Hoshio was like the Fressange-san of the afterlife.

Hoshio laughed at that. "I'm not as good as her," he said. "And I don't have the answers to everything. Maybe Daigoji-san's purpose wasn't to do anything about Admiral Munetake?"

I shook my head. "We came up with that prospect already."

"If this is what keeps coming up, then it's probably right," Gai said. "It's enough, Ken. I have my answers."

"But," Hoshio continued, "it's been a week since then. It doesn't make any sense."

Gai blinked. "A week? It's been a week since Munetake died?"

Hoshio nodded, and Gai turned away with a frown.

"Then... maybe it had been a part of my purpose," Gai said.

"It could be that," Hoshio replied. "Or it could have been one of your purposes. If you were gone for a week before you returned, that's probably what happened. It was your purpose, but there is something holding you back from moving on."

"What could it be, though?" I asked. "It doesn't make any sense to me if it was a part of his purpose or one of his purposes. It has to be either it was or it wasn't, and from the looks of it, it wasn't."

"Life isn't an anime, Hamaguchi-sama, remember?" Hoshio said. "It's more complicated than just it is or it isn't."

"Something more..." Gai mused.

Before I could say anything more, a mechanic walked by and taped a poster onto the wall next to us. It caught my attention as well as Gai's and Hoshio's, so we stared at it as the mechanic walked away and posted the same thing only ten meters down. I raised an eyebrow at what the poster was advertising and didn't know what to think. Gai and Hoshio were the same way.

"A beauty contest?"

We... we really shouldn't have been distracted. We really shouldn't have. But we were. And it was horrible. Hoshio managed to come up with a reasonable excuse: we didn't know much about the reasoning behind everything, so until we found out more, we wouldn't think anything of it.

You know, if it wasn't for our distraction with the beauty contest (or the contest that would replace the Captain), Gai would never have found out my purpose.

Not that I regret telling him.

But still.

We had an interesting time watching the contestants showing off their talents and, er, bodies. It was the first time we laughed and enjoyed ourselves without a level of stress hanging down on us, for we were happy seeing the people we loved happy. Actually, Gai was only there because Hoshio and I were, but he kept disappearing on us only to return to us sometime later. He would, oftentimes, miss the best part of a girl's performance, since he was there at the beginning but not at the end.

He did manage to poke some fun at how differently Nagare-kun and Hoshio were, Nagare-kun being a playboy-type and Hoshio anything but.

"Oh, how do you know that? I'm dead and he isn't, so he can actually act on what he does."

Gai blinked. "Oi, oi. Please don't tell me you're some kind of pervert..."

"I don't play Peeping Tom. The Akatsuki family has more honor than that."

"So you would if you didn't have honor?"

Hoshio didn't answer, but a sly smile appeared on his face.

Gai fell over in exasperation. I laughed.

When Izumi-chan's performance came up, only for a second did my undivided attention go to her.

And then I saw the ukulele.

I moaned and slumped over the table. "Not this again...!!"

"Eh?" Gai asked as he turned to me. "What are you talking about, Ken?"

That's when Izumi-chan began to perform.

Gai cringed.

"Oh," he said painfully. After half a minute or so into her, um, 'singing', Gai sighed. "She may be beautiful, but she can't sing worth her life."

"W-we all have our flaws," I stammered.

Really, I didn't know what to think about Izumi-chan's performance, though I believe that nowadays she's purposely horrible to keep people from falling for her. After all, beauty plus beautiful singing often equals men falling heads over heels with that woman. But Izumi-chan has always been horrible playing the ukulele. I still haven't forgiven Takuya for teaching her how to play it.

"Still," Gai continued, "that doesn't stop her from having a wonderful personality."

Curiously, I turned to Gai, wondering what on Earth he could possibly mean by that. Yes, he was right. Just because that she was a horrible singer didn't mean that she was a horrible person, but like Hoshio said in response to that:

"A wonderful personality?" Hoshio asked, amused. "Sounds as if you're in love with her."

"That's not what I meant!"

"Yamada-san, I haven't seen anything more of her personality than her lunacy: punning, nonsense phrases, her cackling behavior."

Gai scowled. "There's more to her than that. I know there is. Her so-called 'lunacy' is just a barrier. I can tell. Through her eyes, I can see that she's suffering. It's there, and it's very obvious, and I can't believe that nobody else has noticed it before!"

Hoshio repeated, "Sounds like you're in love with her."

"It's crazy for a ghost to fall in love with a woman he never met," Gai snapped.

I narrowed my eyes and made a mental note to have a talk with Gai after the contest was over.

When the winner was announced some time later, Ruri-san winning but the Captain still holding her position, I told Gai to come over to the girls' room when he had the chance later that night. Well, by then, it was early morning, but that's really not the point. I didn't have to wait too long for him to arrive; he came before any of the three girls returned. He didn't know what was going on, so I decided to just bring it all before him before he formed any weird illusions.

"Tell me, Gai," I said slowly, "what are your true feelings for Izumi Maki?"

He blinked. "What?"

I glared at him. "Tell me. How do you feel about her?"

"I... er... where did this come from?"

"Just answer the question."

"Was it because of what Hoshio and I were talking about earlier?" I guess my scowl had affirmed it. Gai sighed. "Ken, just because I admit that a woman's beautiful and came to understand that woman doesn't mean I'm in love with her or anything like that. Don't jump to conclusions."

He turned to leave, but I called out to him, "You came to understand Izumi Maki?"

Gai looked at me over his shoulder. "Yes."

"How?"

My curiosity would not permit him to leave. He knew this, so he turned back around and took a seat at the table. He held his head over the table and sighed again.

"At first, I thought that she was just plain insane, but as I got to know her, she... she somehow reminded me of me. She and Hikaru... in a strange sort of way remind me of myself and Akito," he said quietly. I walked over and sat next to him so I could hear him better. "Nobody really understood me. Hoshio can confirm that much, especially after what had happened on the Hinagiku. But Akito was the only one who did, and he was the only one who would dare to befriend me.

"It seems to be the same way with Izumi and Hikaru. Nobody understands Izumi, nobody except for Hikaru. I can't say whether or not Ryoko does, but she is friends with Izumi, too, but..." Gai sighed. "I just know how Izumi feels, that's all."

I shook my head. "No, you don't." Gai lifted his head to meet my eyes. "You don't know. Izumi... Izumi-chan is suffering, more than I'm sure you ever had."

"What do you mean?"

"Did you know that she had two fiancées?"

Gai gaped. No, of course he didn't. He shook his head.

"One died to an unknown, ancient illness, the other was lost in the war... in an accident. Gai, I was her second fiancée and very good friends with her first."

"EH?!"

I smiled weakly. "Before her first fiancée, Takuya Nagasawa, died, he made me promise to keep Izumi-chan safe from harm from everybody and herself and to be there whenever she needed someone to hold her when she cried. He made me promise to continue loving her the way I had ever since we first met. He knew that I was in love with Izumi-chan, which was why he made me promise."

Gai's features turned grim. "Is that your purpose, then? You said that you were around for more than to just protect the woman you love. Is your purpose to uphold your promise to your friend?"

"There's more."

"More?"

I nodded. "My purpose isn't to keep my promise to Takuya, for I had already done so. I kept her safe, even after death, but that is not my purpose. I don't like breaking promises, but from time to time, I find that I have no choice.

"However, Izumi-chan was distraught when Takuya died. She got kicked out of school, which was why she ended up joining the military academy to become a pilot. She refused to eat, and it was only by my coaxing did she finally do so. Somehow, we always found ourselves in each other's arms, and one day, when that happened, something grew. Love.

"She was very happy and much more herself after that. She excelled well with her piloting skills, and she always had a smile on her face. A genuine smile, mind you, not the false, 'lunatic' one that everybody sees every passing hour of the day. We enjoyed each other's company all the time... until I got drafted. I made the mistake of proposing to her just before I left, otherwise, she would have only lost one fiancée and not two. And then I died. You already know how that happened.

"She gave up on love all together, and she's afraid of letting anyone get close to her heart. That is why she is the way she is. If she were to be her true self, she would surely fall in love again and get hurt because of it. But I have yet to lose hope," I concluded. "That is my purpose, Gai. To make sure that she does find another to love."

Gai turned away from me and remained speechless for a while. "I never knew..." he finally whispered.

"Nobody was, but you were right. Her puns are merely a shield, but through her eyes, you can tell that she's suffering."

"I didn't know she was suffering like this."

"Like I said, nobody knew. Nobody except for me."

"So... why did you tell me? I never asked to know, and even though I was wrong about me knowing how Izumi feels... losing two fiancées, I only lost my family... you didn't have to tell me."

"First of all," I snapped, "don't demote yourself like this. Losing an entire family is just as bad as losing two fiancées, maybe even more. How old were you when...?"

"Ten. I was about ten years old. Maybe younger. I was still in grade school, an older student, that's all I remember," said Gai. "But Ken, that's not the point. You came to understand me as well, just in death, and we've become close over the past, what? Two years?" I nodded. "I'm sure your friend was just as wonderful as you are. To lose someone like you... twice... would have been difficult. I say the same thing to you, Ken. Don't demote yourself. You were more important to Izumi than you are to me, and that's saying a lot."

"I feel flattered," I said with a coy smile. "You had an older brother, didn't you?"

Gai nodded. "Yeah. Tarou. My mother had a knack for giving Niichan and I such boring, common names. You remind me of Niichan, Ken."

"I figured that much."

"So... why did you tell me about you and Izumi and your friend?"

I ruffled his hair playfully. "Because like you see me as an older brother, I look at you as a younger one. And, in a way, you even remind me of Takuya. He was a huge Gekigangar fan like yourself. That's why I trust you enough to tell you, and that's why... I'm afraid of losing you."

Gai sighed. "Maybe my real purpose would mean sticking around until Akito dies or something."

"Perhaps," I said. "But Gai... I will admit something to you right now. You said that you understood Izumi-chan, and you do. You really do. And if you never died, I'm sure you still would have."

"What are you getting at?"

"If you never died, Gai... it may take me a while to trust you and like you as much as I do now, but if you never died... you would be the one person I would trust with Izumi-chan's life than with any other man on this ship."

Gai just stared at me. "Ken..."

I smiled. "You may have even fallen in love with her if you had the chance to interact with her more, Jiro."

"But I would have died in the end, anyway, and she would never have given me a chance," Gai replied. "She wouldn't have given me a chance because I would die on her... and it would have been my fault that she could never love again."

"Have you ever heard that 'third's a charm'?"

"Yes, but that only happens in fictional stories. This is real life, Ken."

I nodded. "I know. But for now... let's try to figure out your purpose. That is our main priority."

Gai stared at his knees and didn't answer.

He probably knew that I was right.

When the operation against the Kannazuki was over in which the Captain had a brilliant plan to outrun the ship, Hoshio had more than enough time to think over Gai's purpose, or lack thereof. It was a very long and painstaking operation, and I wished that somehow the three of us could get on the communication systems and talk. The Captain wouldn't allow for many communication systems to be open, so none of the pilots could converse unless the time came for them to do so. I was bored, Gai's excitement was building, and Hoshio had his Thinking Cap on.

The pilots all returned when the operation proved to be a success, and that was when Hoshio approached Gai and myself as we talked in the hangar about how brilliant the plan was.

"Hamaguchi-sama, Daigoji-san," Hoshio said quietly as he appeared next to us. "I think I may have a conclusion about Daigoji-san's reason for being around here still."

"You do?" asked Gai, looking somewhere between ecstatic and worried.

Hoshio nodded. "I don't think you have one."

With that came silence among the apparitions. The only noise that could be heard by us were the clanging of the mechanics inspecting the Aestivalis and securing them for future uses.

"What are you talking about?" I asked slowly.

"Think about it," Hoshio said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Most of the time, spirits stay on the mortal plane because of their personal reasons, and it isn't an unconscious thought. I'm sure we all know what our own reasons are, except for Daigoji-san. We all thought that redeeming the admiral would be it, but it wasn't because, obviously, Daigoji-san is back."

"But Ken told me that all spirits had a reason for being around on the mortal plane," Gai protested. "We all have our own 'purposes'. This doesn't make any sense."

"You have a reason, but it isn't YOUR reason," said Hoshio. "It's someone else's."

"Eh?" Gai and I asked.

"Think about it," Hoshio repeated. "Whose cockpit does Daigoji-san go into whenever the pilots go into battle?"

I blinked. "Tenkawa-kun's, but I always figured that--"

"That it was because Daigoji-san knew only him of all the pilots when he was alive? Hamaguchi-sama, I always thought you were smarter than that," Hoshio said. "You always go into Maki-san's Aestivalis, and I am not incorrect when I say that she is the one who were in love with, am I right?"

I bit my lip, shocked that he knew, but realizing all the same that it would do me no good if I lied. So I nodded.

"And I always follow my little brother around," Hoshio said.

"So what exactly are you saying here?" Gai asked, losing his impatience. "So I end up following Akito into battle like a lost little puppy sometimes. No big deal. I can't think of anything in connection with Akito that would have me being around for his sake."

I looked at Hoshio. "So, forgiving Munetake wasn't Gai's purpose, was it?"

"I never said that."

"But it doesn't make sense--"

"Daigoji-san," said Hoshio as he turned towards named spirit, "you can't think up any conclusion as to why you would still follow Tenkawa-san around because it isn't YOUR reasons for being around. You feel drawn to him. Have you ever noticed any changes to Tenkawa-san since your death?"

Gai fell silent in thought, and for a while he said nothing at all. After the mechanics completed work on the last Aestivalis and half of them left for a short break, Gai finally nodded.

"I think I understand," he said quietly.

Hoshio wanly smiled. "You see what I mean?"

Gai nodded again.

I blinked in utter confusion, but out of my respect for Gai, I didn't ask. I wouldn't find out what Hoshio and Gai were talking about until after what would be known around the Nadesico as the Ghost Incident and Other Abnormal Things.

There was a time just before your little sister came onboard the Nadesico when everything just seemed to go absolutely haywire. The Y-Unit would countermand the orders given by Ruri-san while we were busy fending off the Jovian attacks, so after a while, the pilots had to go and fix it.

But things were going crazy even before that.

When the pilots docked into the hangar, I sighed and let Izumi-chan exit first. Ever since I met Gai, I would be the first to get off because always, always something happened that made me have to approach him as soon as I could. It was either yelling at him or asking him what the hell was going on, but this time, I had no problems. Sure, Tenkawa-kun boson-jumped and successfully attacked one of the ships--Gen Ichiro again?--and with the hints both Hoshio and Gai dropped about Gai's purpose, or lack thereof, I knew that Gai was just fine.

Or so I thought.

As I finally hopped out of the Aestivalis, Izumi-chan ran back in for something, I looked behind me and frowned, wondering what she was up to but decided that I probably wouldn't want to know. That was when Gai approached me, and here's the irony: he really did look like he just saw a ghost even though he's already dead.

"K-ken..." Gai stuttered nervously. "I... I think Izumi saw me."

I arched a brow. "Eh?"

Izumi-chan jumped out of the Aestivalis and ran to the other side of the hangar.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"Just what I mean," said Gai. "She SAW me. I'm sure she did. She said 'ghost' just before you came out of the robot."

"I didn't hear her."

"Lost in your own thoughts again," Gai muttered as-a-matter-of-factly.

I narrowed my eyes. "Hey, hey."

I turned back towards Izumi-chan, and she was playing some sort of role as a Shinto priestess, I think. If Gai was right--and he was, as I would discover later--then she performing an exorcism ritual. A fake one, obviously. Exorcisms only work for REAL poltergeists and REAL ghosts. It doesn't work on spirits, so obviously, Gai and I didn't vanish out of existence.

I sighed. "Gai, it's not the seventh of July yet. Last I checked, you still had another month or so to go before the anniversary of your death. How could she see you?"

"I don't know!" Gai protested. "But she did! I'm certain of it! Maybe the person who taught you everything didn't teach you EVERYTHING. Or maybe he didn't know everything, either. Because I really am sure that Izumi saw me."

I nodded slowly. "Right." I looked around the hangar. "Nobody else seems to notice us."

"Yes, but... but..."

"Or maybe you really ARE in love with Izumi-chan?"

"I AM NOT!"

I chuckled. "Whatever you say, Jiro, but believe me. I'm sure Izumi-chan was hallucinating out of stress or something. There is absolutely no way that she could have seen you, especially if it isn't Tanabata or your anniversary yet."

"That's what you think," Gai muttered spitefully as he walked away.

About a couple of minutes later, I caught Ryoko staring straight at me. I blinked and looked behind me to make sure that she was staring at something of interest there, but there was nothing. That's when I first considered that maybe Gai was right. Maybe... maybe the living CAN notice us now.

But it didn't make any sense, so I frowned and decided to seek out Gai and Hoshio. As I left the hangar, Ryoko and Hikaru both screamed, "GHOST!"

I spun back around, and they were pointing straight at me. Not where I was before when Ryoko was first staring at me, but where I was when they yelled it. They could see my every movement, but Uribatake was also looking my way.

"I don't see anything," he said.

But Ryoko and Hikaru just kept gaping. Izumi-chan kept chanting.

I decided to keep walking.

Maybe, I thought, maybe, just maybe Gai was right. But why couldn't Uribatake see us when Ryoko, Hikaru, and Izumi-chan apparently could?

I needed to find Gai and Hoshio right away.

I found them only about five minutes later on the bridge, laughing and chatting amiably. Ruri-san saw them; I could tell by the look in her eyes. What the hell was going on? If Izumi-chan and Ryoko and Hikaru and Ruri-san could see Gai and myself and most likely Hoshio as well, why couldn't anyone else? What was going on?

It had something to do with those select people--and Fressange-san, the other pilots, and the Captain--having their memories interconnect. If you ever reunite with Fressange-san, let me be there when she gives the explanation, all right?

Hoshio was the first to notice me enter.

"Hamaguchi-sama--"

"It is true, then," I said, "that they can see us?"

Gai sighed in his 'I told you so' manner, and Hoshio nodded.

The only thing I thought up to say were the brilliant words of, "Oh, I see."

It didn't help that Gai and Hoshio, too, had nothing else to say. No theories or anything like that, and I had a growing--completely incorrect--suspicion that they were doing so just because they were hiding Gai's "purpose" from me. My anger grew, but before I could act on it, luckily enough, Hory-san stood from his position and announced that he was going to give the pilots their new mission.

The three of us instantaneously knew that we had to find the pilots and help them along with whatever they had to put up with, but just as we took off towards the bridge's exit, I couldn't feel my legs or my arms or my torso.

And my world blacked out.

The next thing I knew, I was face-to-face with Izumi-chan in the middle of some corridor.

"Why are you here?" she asked quietly. I couldn't move, but I knew that she could see me. Somehow, my heart started to ache. I could see her, she could see me, I wanted to touch her, but I couldn't... she could see me...

And that's when my memories returned.

"Ken, guess what? I got a girlfriend!"

"You, a girlfriend? The world really IS ending! Hey, world! Takuya Nagasawa has a girlfriend!"

"Hey! That's MY line, idiot!"

"Haha! So, who is this lucky girl?"

"Izumi Maki."

She stared at me in disbelief, but then her features sobered.

"Izumi-chan, I'd like you to meet my very best friend in the world, Kenichi Hamaguchi."

"You can call me Ken."

"Nice to meet you, Ken."

"I see," she said slowly. "You've come to take me away."

"Ken... I want you to promise me something..."

"You're talking like you're about to die."

"I am."

"But--"

"Promise me something. Promise me... well, first of all, I want you to promise me that you'll take Izumi-chan home. Get her some decent food, let her shower, and keep her away for a day or so."

"All right..."

"And when I die... promise me that you will take care of Izumi-chan."

"What? What do you--"

"You know exactly what I mean. I know that you're in love with Izumi-chan. I've always known that you were. If it weren't for me, the two of you would have been a match made in Heaven. I guess this is what this disease is all about."

"Don't talk like that! I'm nothing compared to you! Even Izumi-chan knows that!"

"Ken, you won't believe how wrong you are."

"It's all right. I'm so tired."

"How can I live, Ken? Takuya is gone... I can't live anymore. I can't stand it. I loved him so much."

"Izumi-chan..."

"But... you've known him longer. Your pain may be even greater."

"No. Izumi-chan, our pain... is the same... maybe yours more so."

"You're wrong, Ken. He's been your best friend ever since you can remember, and I've only known him for a short time. The least I can say is that you're right. Our pain is the same, but... I'm so sorry. I've been ignoring it, and you've been giving me so much attention since Takuya..."

"Izumi-chan..."

"I'm so sorry, Ken, for not realizing that you were going through the same thing. I'm so sorry for being so selfish..."

"I can't love anybody else anymore anyway."

"You've been drafted?"

"Yeah."

"I... see. I guess the military needs everybody they can get to Mars... but why not the people who are already in the military?"

"They're staying to defend Earth if the time ever comes."

"So they already know you're going to be defeated? Ken, don't go! Please!"

"I'm going to come back, Izumi-chan, whether the military likes it or not."

"Don't go making those sorts of promises."

"Everybody just dies on me."

"Before I leave, I have one question to ask you. W-will you marry me?"

"... yes! Yes, of course I will, Ken!"

She reached her arms out to embrace me, and I urged to hug her back. It had been so long... so long since I've held her. I yearned to but again, before I knew what I was doing, I fell unconscious once again.

"We've been hit!"

"Get the sick into the escape pods!"

"Izumi-chan... sayounara..."

I awoke to Hoshio and Gai calling to me.

"Oi, Ken, wake up."

"Snap out of it, Hamaguchi-sama."

"H-hey, I think he's waking up. Hey, Ken, are you all right?"

I clenched my teeth and reached out, grabbing a red shirt who I assumed to be Gai's. I was leaning against something hard, my pillow being a white shoulder--I guessed that it was Hoshio's. I pulled Gai in closer and hissed:

"Don't call me 'Ken'."

"Eh?" Gai asked.

"Please," I muttered, my anger suddenly flowing out of my system. "Please... don't call me Ken. I can't... I can't stand it anymore... too much... like... Takuya... Izumi-chan..."

I fell into his chest and sobbed.

"I can't..."

"Oi, Ken... Kenichi," Gai whispered deliberately. He was quite taken aback, I'm sure, but that didn't stop him from embracing me as I wept.

The memories that had returned to me hit me so deeply. I had remembered everything that Takuya lost when he died to that disease the doctors claimed they couldn't cure. I had remembered everything Izumi-chan lost the first time her loved one died, and everything I had gained by it, only to lose it again by my own death.

How could I have been so foolish?

I must have said it, for Gai told me, "I-it wasn't your fault, Ken... ichi..."

"It was!" I protested. "It was my fault! It was completely my fault! If I had just been a little stronger, if I hadn't been such a fool and proposed prematurely... I can't... it was my fault... completely my fault... I'm so sorry... Takuya... Izumi-chan..."

Hoshio and Gai let me cry for a few moments more before Hoshio finally murmured, "I knew it. Daigoji-san was the only one who had a successful reunion."

I turned my head up and wiped my eyes with the sleeve of my shirt.

"What?" I asked.

I really wasn't joking when I said that Hoshio is the Fressange-san of the afterlife. He just doesn't go into as much detail as her.

"The three of us finally saw the three people we loved the most when we were alive as they saw us," said Hoshio. "Nagare-kun couldn't stand the sight of me anymore. I guess he still resents me for dying on him and having all of the responsibility be put on him. You came face-to-face with Maki-san, your ex-fiancée, am I correct?"

I nodded.

"And she left you this hysterical..."

"I'm not hysterical!"

Hoshio's features softened. "Hamaguchi-sama, please listen. We failed. It was our chance to get our reasons fulfilled, but we failed. However..."

He turned to Gai, and I looked up at him. A small smile played on his lips, but his eyes were melancholy.

"Gai," I whispered, "is this true? Did you really... but what was it?"

"We never told you, did we?" Gai said, giving me a very soft, caring look that I was never used to seeing from him. "I was still around on the mortal plane not for any reason of my own, but because Akito always refused to accept my death. He kept hanging on to my spirit by doing a number of things. He watches Gekigangar 3 as religiously as I used to. He named my Gekigangar model after me. He keeps hanging on to all of these reminders of me, and since the attachment is so strong... I could never move on."

"So," I said, understanding, "with the reunion you two shared... you... finally..."

"Yes," said Gai, his grin growing wider, "I get to move on now. I don't know how much longer I have to stay on this ship, but I don't think it's much. He finally let go of me, Kenichi--"

I smiled. "No. Go ahead. Call me Ken."

Gai blinked. "Ken? But I thought--"

"It's fine. Really."

"All right... Ken..." Gai smiled again. "Akito finally let go of my spirit. He's living for himself now instead of both of us. And I get to move on."

Tears watered my eyes again, and I hugged him.

"I'm going to miss you."

"We'll see each other again, Ken. I hate making promises I can't keep, but I'll do everything within my power to make sure that this one is kept. Hoshio, too."

"Take care of yourself."

"I will. I promise that one as well. I will take care of myself for once."

I chuckled. "Forever, you moron."

"That's when he disappeared. Left. There were some more words exchanged, but I don't think you need to know about those.

"And that's... the end of that." I smile. "See? I can uphold most of my promises."

Tsukumo chuckles. "I didn't expect you to go in so much detail than you had--"

"Oh. But Kazama goes into greater detail with her tales, and I have a feeling that Hoshio does the same. Ask them for a story sometime, you'll see," I say, sighing. "Or just go ask Hoshio for HIS version on Gai, though it probably won't be as, er, 'pleasant' as mine..."

"I can't believe you told the story without me! You LIAR!" Kazama hisses as she approaches us. I cringe and smile as innocently as I possibly can.

"Well... you... weren't here..." I tell her. My grin falters a little. "And... Tsukumo really wanted to know... so... um... crap..."

"One to uphold your promises, eh?"

"I never promised you!" I snap. Kazama, never being one to stay falsely enraged for long, laughs.

"Oh, it's okay," she says. "I'll just ask Akatsuki-san for the story."

"Er..."

And speaking of the devil, that is when Hoshio decides to join our little party. If one could call it that. "Why is everyone so interested in Daigoji-san anyway?"

Kazama and I point to Tsukumo, and Tsukumo smiles coyly in response.

"He reminds me too much of him," I say but nothing more than that.

"Ken-chan says that Shiratori-kun and Daigoji-san are very similar, and Shiratori-kun is a rather interesting person, if I do say so myself," Kazama responds.

I hiss at her quietly, "KENICHI, Kazama. Not 'Ken-chan', but KENICHI!"

"Well, er, you see..." Tsukumo attempts to say but is caught off by Hoshio's sigh.

"Never mind," he mutters. Then he smiles wistfully. "Someday, Shiratori-san, Itsuki-san, you'll be able to hear the story from Daigoji-san himself. Someday, I'm sure, because anybody and everybody who had a close tie to the ship will be reunited, whether in fifty years or a million."

"You big sap," Kazama says with a laugh. Hoshio sighs again.

"And you wonder why Hamaguchi-sama doesn't want to tell you the story?"

Tsukumo turns to me and whispers, "I have another question about Daigoji-san..."

"Yeah?" I ask.

"How do you think the two of us would get along? Honest feelings."

I beam. "Like I said, he was a whole lot like you, except more obnoxious. It wouldn't be you, Tsukumo, who would have been annoyed by Gai, I think it would be more like Gai who would be more annoyed by you. But, of course, that's how it was for the both of us at first. I think you and Gai would have become the best of friends."

"I can't wait to meet him."

"Hopefully, you will end up waiting a long, long time."

End

Footnotes:

(1) - Kazama Itsuki is Seelie... when I watched episode 13 again and researched a little more, I found this out. I was going to use "Seelie" since that's what most fans refer to her as, but when it comes to the case of Hoshio, I needed a last name. ; (Thanks to Greg O'Sullivan for pointing out that her name is Kazama Itsuki, not Itsuki Kazamo!)

(2) - July 7th: Tanabata. See Part One footnotes.