Chapter 24: Final Blessings
"People fall so in love with their pain, they can't leave it behind."―Chuck Palahniuk, Haunted.
"Wake up, Lavi! You are going to be late!"
Lavi paused, staring at his hands reflected in the mirror which stayed at the collar of his working shirt, his maroon tie hanging loosely by his fingers. He then turned to the small television in the room which was switched on, revealing the global market shares as experts were explaining the current condition of the economy. Pulling out a drawer and grabbing his watch to wear on his wrist, the redhead stepped out of the room.
"A cup of espresso, as usual?"
"Two shots. I'm going to stay in the office at night to finish up the proposal."
"Okay! A cup of freshly brewed espresso, coming right up!"
Lavi stared at the coffee mug which he had just emptied minutes ago. The fresh and concentrated aroma which should be here was gone in an instant. He turned around, putting the mug down in the basin before stepping out of the kitchen. Picking up his carrier bag which was left on the dining chair and his coat on the couch, he went to the porch and started wearing his leather shoes, taking up the newspaper along the way.
He shivered slightly at the cold which was in contact with his skin, gripping his arms as he peered at the blank sky. The door gradually closed with a soft click, and after making sure that it was locked, he turned around, walking briskly along the stone pavement circling around the private estate towards the bus stop located outside. He greeted his neighbours on the way with a usual smile, wishing them a good day ahead. He passed the kennel belonging to a black Labrador which would always bark fiercely among his entrance, and he was startled as usual, increasing his pace and leaving the area hurriedly.
Lavi stood at the side of the street, taking note of the number of vehicles which passed by. His fingers were busily typed down the usual reasons he used for being late. The redhead paused for a moment, leaning against the red-bricked wall as he closed his eyes after a while. A smile gradually appeared on his face as a warm breeze glided across, bringing a nostalgic scent across his nose.
"Hurry up, Lavi. I am going to leave you behind if you still walk this slowly."
Emerald eyes opened at the sudden roar of engines. Lavi joined the long queue at the front as the doors opened with a loud slam, and he let himself be pushed and shoved by the hands and arms of many.
He stared outside. The shops along the street were opening. People were seen flagging the taxi, and some were running for the bus which was about to set off. A sudden gust of wind caused him to turn away, strands of flaming red filling his vision in glaring shades of gold and orange.
"I just want to try how it feels like to kiss in a bus."
He squinted his eyes, indistinctly seeing strands of blue flying before him. He tried reaching out, only to realise that it was gone.
Realising that he had to alight, Lavi excused himself, squeezing out of the thick crowd. He stepped out, standing in front of the grand and large office building which was owned by his corporation. Or at least, it was temporary. He was just handling that gramps' issues before he returned.
Lavi then pulled out a smile, walking inside as he greeted his colleagues along the way.
He flinched slightly at the low tone from his secretary who was at the door, her burning gaze onto him. The redhead let out a stuttered laugh, pretending to sort out the files which were lying on his working desk messily. She closed the door behind her and started walking to his desk.
"Pardon me, but may I ask, why are you late again?"
"And please give me a valid reason this time," she finished, propping her spectacles closer to her eyes as she glared at him in contemplation. He just blinked, considering her question for a long moment.
"Because...I overslept?" he replied, showing her a toothless grin.
"Again?" she muttered with an exasperated sigh. "Then you have to make sure to wake up early. Do you know that your tardiness could cause severe consequences, especially when you are meeting important clients who are crucial for the development of your grandfather's business―"
Her eyes widened slightly in surprise as she stopped talking, staring at him in astonishment. His eyes widened at the same time, perturbed by his own reaction towards her usual blunt statement. He almost laughed out at this absurdity, lifting his head and staring at her with a bright smile.
"I know, and I apologise for that. Tell the departments to prepare their annual reports and gather at the conference room at two in the afternoon. There are many things to be done. Isn't it right, Miss Secretary?"
She peered at him in slight doubt, as though she had something she wanted to say, but decided not to question further as she turned around. The footsteps became fainter, until he heard the soft sound of the door closing behind him. Lavi let his gaze wander, almost regretting immediately as it fell upon the numerous photo frames of Bookman with his clients whom he was very close with through the years.
"Can't you be ready before the meeting commences?"
"Just a moment, Gramps. A MOMENT."
A file slipped out of his hand, falling on the floor with the papers scattering all over. Lavi frowned in slight irritation, bending down as he began picking up the sheets.
"I'm leaving first, Lavi."
"Wait!" he blurted out, before realising what he had just said. Lavi looked up, staring at the entrance which was empty. He stared in a daze for a long moment, before he scampered to his feet, realising that he was late for the conference meeting. He grabbed the report that his secretary prepared for him prior to the meeting, rushing out of his room.
He did not know how long he had been standing and talking, and before he realised it, it had already ended. Lavi sank onto a chair, nodding absentmindedly at the acknowledgements his colleagues gave as they walked out of the conference room. He stared at the piles and piles of reports spreading out on the table, filled with messy red markings which were circled on almost every sentence in the numerous paragraphs. He began sorting them out, gathering the stationary which were scattered all over the table.
"You stupid. The report is wrong."
"But you do not need to hit me on the head, Gramps! It hurts!"
"I hit you because I have taught you this for so many times!"
He paused for a moment, wondering why he was thinking of something like this out of the blue. It did not make sense.
It just did not...
His eyes widened slightly, seeing Bookman in the faint background across the dimmed room, staring at him with a serious yet solemn expression. He was saying something, but something blocked the sounds out, and he could not catch the words he was saying.
Lavi turned, seeing his secretary standing at the entrance of the room, giving him a questioning look. He gave an apologetic smile as he gathered his stuff and walked out, throwing meaningless jokes into their conversation along the way. She shot him a glare for a few seconds, before deciding that it was futile making sense with this man as she shook her head dejectedly. They then parted ways, and he returned to his desk, putting the files down and sinking on the chair languidly.
He could not comprehend the reason behind these feelings. It wasn't as if he did not experienced them before. Was it exhaustion? He was fine sleeping every night. Was it due to the stress behind the work? But he had been handling it well for the past five years.
The office phone beeped loudly, before the speaker was switched on.
"President, Vice Chairman Tyki Mikk from NOAH Corporation would like to have a word with you. He is at line 2."
Lavi raised an eyebrow, pressing the button as he took up the receiver.
"It's me, Tyki. The Earl has a project which he wants to work with Bookman. It is supposed to commence at the beginning of this year, but he is hospitalised till now, and due to some circumstances, we cannot delay it much longer. So is it possible that you can come to my office this afternoon to discuss about it?"
He remained silent, pondering hard. It was true that he was taking all the duties that Bookman previously was doing, but he was only doing his work temporarily. It wasn't really as if he was the President. Lavi stared at his paperwork, his tip of the pen remaining at the end of the last stroke of his signature.
"Okay. I will be there at two o'clock," he said, ending the call as he took whatever he needed and stepped out of his room.
The train arrived within minutes when he reached the station, and he stood at the other end of the carriage, staring at his lone reflection on the glass pane.
"Hey! Have you listened to this new song by Kate Perry yet?"
The girl standing beside him was giggling softly as she peered over her friend's shoulder while her friend was listening to her music player. He peered at a corner, staring at his reflection from the glass pane. There was nothing for him to do to spend the time. There was no message in his phone, and he forgot to bring his ear pieces today.
"What song are you listening to right now, Yuu?"
He could somehow hear soft beats of the music playing by his ears, the lyrics of the song which was naturally sung out from that distant memory.
"It is from a band which you are not interested in."
"Hey! How would you know that I am not interested in them?"
Lavi walked to the door as the train arrived at the platform. Their laughter reduced to whispers, gradually drowned out by footsteps and voices which were insignificant.
He entered the office building, going up to Tyki's office located at the tenth floor. Lavi pushed the glass door and let himself in, informing the receptionist about his arrival as she nodded and got out of her seat, leading him to his room located at the far back of the office.
"Tyki-san, Lavi-san from the Blue Ink Corporation is here."
The door opened, revealing Tyki who was sitting on the couch leisurely, talking to someone on his phone. He noticed their presence immediately, gesturing the receptionist to serve drinks. He did not forget to give her an alluring smile, to which the receptionist responded with a light blush on her face as she stepped out of the room.
He just stood there, observing his moving lips which was about to curve into a smile as Tyki said his goodbye through his phone. The heavy beats of the slow jazz playing in the background were slowly registered in his mind.
The black phonograph record on the gramophone continued to spin in a slow, languid movement. His eyes widened as he looked up, realising that he had been blatantly staring at Tyki for a long while. Lavi cleared his throat, concealing whatever emotions with a smile as he apologised immediately.
"It's okay. Please sit, Lavi," Tyki said, showing the couch across him as he sat down. He placed his carrier bag beside the cushion as he sat down as well. The receptionist entered the room again, placing the cups of hot tea on the glass table before leaving again. Tyki stood up, going to the gramophone as he switched it off, before coming back to the couch again.
The documents were spread out on the table, and they started with the main purpose of the jointed project that they would be working on. Soft rustles from the papers which were flipped very quickly, and the footsteps from Tyki who walked to his desk at certain times echoed clearly in the still surrounding of the office room. His mind was constantly working, his eyes scanning through every word as he tried to come out with strategies which would put both of their corporations at an advantage.
Lavi winced at the slight throb on his forehead, hissing in irritation as he cut them all off from his mind. Why was he still thinking of them again?
"Do you want to rest for a bit? We've worked for two hours," Tyki asked, sinking back on the couch as he let his hand which was holding the papers fall on the thick cushions beside him, wringing his long sleeves up his arms.
"I'm okay," he said without looking up.
Lavi paused for a moment, before he finally looked up. That pair of golden eyes was strangely intimidating as Tyki was staring at him in apprehension, and he almost looked away.
"Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," he replied as he continued flipping through the pages of the report resting on his lap, wondering why he asked that all of a sudden. He was just working. Did he look out of place?
They discussed for the rest of the evening, and when they were done, it was already night. Lavi was packing up his belongings, while Tyki was putting the important documents into his safe, locking it. He peered outside from the glass panes, seeing the clouds and the faint hues of evening light shrouding the sky.
"Want to take a lift? I'm going to the hospital anyways," Tyki said with his usual smile, grabbing his keys as he headed to the door. He just nodded in silence, and the both of them stepped out of the office. They took a lift down to the underground parking lot, walking to the car which was only a few feet away. A faint flowery fragrance hit his nose as he opened the door, and he loosened himself on the seat momentarily.
The car moved out, and he stared across the street, seeing the bustling night activities as people were rushing home from work. He stared at the various shadows appearing and fading at the glass pane, wondering if he should be envious of them. Those feelings―which he felt was cumbersome and plainly repulsive―should already be numbed and left forgotten. He should not take what he currently had for granted. He still had him.
Bookman was still here.
The car shifted to the left as they entered the parking lot located at the basement of the hospital. He stopped at the front of the lift lobby, hearing footsteps as Tyki joined him.
"How is Bookman's condition?"
"It is the same, as always," he replied. Those words which he spoke countless of times felt vile as he was slowly accepting what he was saying. He was supposed to be adamant; to keep his stand and firmly believe that Bookman would wake up. Even if many months had passed and he was constantly faced with conditions which began to question the main purpose of everything that happened, he should not even waver.
Lavi stood at a corner, peering at the glass as the lift started to ascend. It came to a halt a few minutes later as the doors opened, and he was faced with the white corridor which was almost endless.
His eyes found Tyki who was staring at him. He stepped out, joining the other. The distance to the ward somehow felt shorter than usual, and he found himself reaching the second last room within minutes. Lavi saw Neah who was waving at him, and he smiled back politely.
"Well, I shall see you soon."
Lavi stared at Tyki who was just a few steps away. He stared at him blankly, before realising that it was time to part ways. And then, he suddenly wished that he would not leave; to leave him alone and face everything. Part of him knew that he was being ridiculous. What, and why exactly was he hesitating for? It was just a common routine he had been doing for months, and he had been doing fine till now.
"Yeah. I shall see you soon."
He walked to the last room. Lavi glanced at the darkened space through the small window frame, seeing the curtains concealing the bed. He then opened the door, hearing the faint monotone beeps of the machine as he slowly made his way towards the bed. His hand reached out, slowly pulling the curtain aside as he peered at the frail form of the old man beneath the thick covers. He then sat on the chair beside the bed, watching him in silence.
He did not know how long he had sat, watching him in silence. Suddenly, the sheets started to stir, the beeps getting louder and stronger.
Then, Bookman's eyes fluttered open.
His mouth fell open for a long moment, and Lavi simply stared, stupefied at what he was seeing.
"What are you staring at?"
"Are―Are you really awake?" he stammered, gripping his skinny hand tightly which earned a low groan from the other. Noticing this, Lavi let go quickly, mumbling an apology for his carelessness.
"Yes. Or else why am I talking to you like this?"
"I know. I know," he said, nodding his head as he blinked the tears which were stuck at his eyes. The elder sighed, his jet-black eyes scrutinising his entire being from top to bottom.
"Why do you look so pathetic?"
"I'm fine―" he answered, but was soon cut off by the other as Bookman stared at him sternly.
"Hah. Because I've been lying here for a long time?" Bookman questioned with an eyebrow raised. Lavi shot him a glare, clearly displeased by what he said given the situation he was in. The elder took no notice of it, shifting in the covers as he stared at the ceiling for a long moment. The beeps of the electrograph rang softly in the silence.
"Remember the time when you were still twelve, and you were learning how to ride a bicycle? You fell down countless times, yet you refused to give up."
"That is because you refused to help me up, no matter how many times I called for you!" Lavi retorted indignantly, wrinkling his nose as he made a face. The scenes and images of his memories were still clear in his mind, and he was purely fascinated as he went through them all over again, wondering how he had decided to make such choices in the past.
"I still remember the time when you succeeded in getting your first project with your very first client in the two years after you entered the company. I was very proud of you at that time," Bookman murmured with a faint smile. Lavi beamed at his statement, grinning widely.
"That's of course! I'm your grandson after all."
Bookman let out a few weak chuckles in response. And then, silence gradually fell, their laughter and smiles slowly disappeared as they simply stared at each other.
"Then you should know that you are already capable of taking care of yourself."
The beeps of the electrocardiography registered on the monitor screen became increasingly detached, slowing down till its last beat before a fine line was continuously drawn on the bright screen. Bookman's eyes were long closed, and he simply stared at him, feeling the skin of his wrist in the palm of his hand turning severely cold. The background darkened and gradually faded to nothing, and he just continued to scream as something was pushing him, further and further down.
And then, an invisible force suddenly pulled him up, compelling him to open his eyes as Lavi stared at the room and Bookman who was still sleeping on the bed.
Time seemed to halt for seconds as he tried to comprehend the whole situation, the overwhelming emotions crashing upon him within seconds. His breath was stuck at his throat, and his chest felt terribly constricted all of a sudden. He began to wheeze, clutching his shirt tightly as he collapsed to the floor. Lavi struggled to crawl up on his feet, ignoring the glass which fell with a loud shatter. He grabbed the bed pole which was within reach, pulling himself up. He then stumbled between steps, pushing the door open weakly as he made his way out.
He coughed hoarsely as he trudged to the washroom, turning the water tap as he splashed water onto himself furiously. He told himself many times that it was only a dream, yet those feelings wouldn't disappear. No matter how he tried to chase them away; no matter how hard he pleaded for the memories to stop, they still came back, refusing to leave him alone.
"Then you should know that you are already capable of taking care of yourself."
"But you are still here! You are still―"
Lavi stiffened. He then slowly turned, seeing Tyki standing at the door. His vision blurred as he began gasping heavily for air. The pain intensified, and his legs gave out as he collapsed to the ground.
"Take a deep breath! You are hyperventilating!"
He heard a faint voice beside him, feeling a warm hand rubbing soothingly on his back and coaxing him to relax. He choked out, prodding his throbbing head on his shoulder as he concentrated on his breathing. He could not stop the violent shaking of his body as that particular scene continued flashing in his mind. He could not stop the tears from falling as his hands gripped onto the broad shoulders of the other tightly, trying to drive every single one of them out of his head.
Tyki continued patting his back gently, whispering comforting words by his ears. He wondered why it had turned out like this.
"I'm alright now," he muttered softly, pushing him away and standing up. Lavi was about to leave when a hand grabbed his wrist. He pulled away, yet that hand grabbed it again and pulled him back, forcing him to step back and turn around until he met his gaze.
"What exactly are you denying, Lavi?" Tyki asked. That pair of captivating eyes narrowed wistfully in contemplation, and he suddenly wished that Tyki would not see this side of him. Lavi pulled himself away and headed for the door, yet Tyki reached for him again, grabbing both of his wrists tightly and forcing him to a wall, trapping him in place. He winced slightly, before letting out an exasperated sigh as he finally looked up to face him.
"What are you trying to do?"
"And what are you trying to do? Just how long are you going to keep pretending?" Tyki demanded fiercely. Lavi stared at him, absurdity and bewilderment flooding his senses. They were just business partners and mere acquaintances who might need comfort at certain times. He would tease him with provocative words, and he treated him the same way as he responded with the same playful banters which should not be taken seriously. But that was all. He shouldn't even be inclined to ask further.
Why should he bother showing concern for someone whom he disliked? Had he forgotten that he detested his presence? Lavi looked down, his lips curving into a mirthless smile as he suddenly found himself laughing.
"And who exactly are you to ask? You don't even know me," he spat, his emotionless eyes glaring at him. Tyki's expression remained pensive for a moment, and just as he thought he was finally backing away, the man leaned closer instead.
"You still like Kanda, even though you are pretending not to."
His eyes went wide, taken aback at this sudden proclamation. He paled at the sly grin appearing on his face, realising that Tyki did not intend on stopping here just yet.
"You are worried that Bookman might be gone."
Emerald eyes narrowed furiously.
"Take back those words," he warned with a snarl.
"You are afraid, you cannot forget, and you are almost at wit's end, because you know you still cannot let go―"
"I said, take back those words. Do not talk as if you knew everything!" Lavi seethed under gritted teeth, shoving his fist right at his face. Tyki grunted as he staggered back, touching his bruised face. He continued to glare at the other, knowing well that he deserved it. How dare he use such brazen words to lecture him? What right did he have to delve into his personal matters which he kept so well and force everything out?
Tyki removed his hand, and he faltered as he saw his cracked lips curving into a triumphant smirk.
"And you know that I am right. Isn't it, Lavi?"
He just stared at him, horrified and speechless. It was as though he splashed cold water right at his face. Lavi clamped his lips shut, his nails clawing deep in his skin as he clenched his hands tightly for a moment, before he loosened his grip and let them lay limp at the sides of his body.
"Yeah, you are right."
He started chuckling to himself, nodding his head again and again.
"I still cannot forget Kanda. No matter how hard I tried to forget, he will always be there. Every things that I come across, I will always think of him. The weather, the songs on the radio, the food, the cafes, the movies, and even the slightest emotion can stir my feelings. And up till now, even if I don't have the slightest idea what exactly had gone wrong between the both of us; even if I wish that he could at least turn back―look back, those times are already gone. Unfortunately."
His lips curved into a forceful smile.
"And yes, I am afraid. Afraid of being alone, afraid of ruining the business which he has been painstakingly taking care of for most of his life, afraid of staying in that large and spacious yet empty and cold house with no one around, and even if I do not have the right to think of this when he is still here, struggling against his will to fight against this stupid, fucking disease―!" he hissed out, almost choking. Lavi briefly turned away, clearing his throat and composing himself before looking up.
"I'm afraid, and I am a coward who refuses to face it. Does my confession here satisfy you now?"
Tyki reached out to take his hand, but he slapped it away harshly, shooting a hateful glare at the other before he walked out of the washroom.
He flinched at the sound of glass shattering as his arm accidentally knocked onto a shelf which he did not notice. He frowned, his hands stretching out as he slowly knelt down and tried feeling the glass pieces and the photo which fell out of the broken frame. He felt a sudden struck of pain, and he redrew his fingers immediately, touching the tips and something watery which seemed to be accumulating very quickly.
"Allen! Your fingers are bleeding!"
Something grabbed his hand as he slowly got onto his feet. He was led away, hearing the faint footsteps echoing along the narrow corridor before the sounds promptly disappeared, replaced by the rush of cold air coming in and the chimes of the bell jingling by. He was brought to a nearby couch as a pair of hands pressed his shoulders down, forcing him to sit.
"You should be more careful, even if you are now living with Kanda," Lenalee muttered as she opened the first-aid box, taking out the disinfectant and gauze. He said nothing as she began to tend to his wound.
All he was thinking of was the photo which had fallen out.
"I am alright, Lenalee. It is just a small wound."
She was silent for a moment, before she finally replied.
He sensed her hesitance in continuing the sentence. The plasters were wrapped around his palm, and she placed his hand onto his lap very carefully before taking the first-aid box and leaving. He shifted his other hand, brushing across the rough surface of the plasters covering his wounds. He turned towards the direction of the lulling wind, feeling the gentle breeze coursing the sides of his face. Many thoughts rushed into his mind, accompanied by the voice of the one which he wanted to hear.
Allen closed his eyes, shutting them all out. He stood up, reciting the number of steps by his lips as he walked back to the bedroom. His hand felt the soft cushion on the couch, and he slowly sat down, inhaling the light scent of jasmine shampoo that Kanda usually used. He reached out, his fingers brushing across sheets of sketches on the table very lightly. Kanda would always sit here every night, working through his projects for the night, and he would be on the bed, listening diligently to the everyday stories which he pestered him to tell.
"Why are you so interested anyway? You know what we usually do."
He would imagine the usual grouchy face Kanda would made, a tint of annoyance evident on his face. Allen stifled a laugh, shaking his head. But he did not mind. He wanted to hear his voice describing each and every single activity he did in the day. He wanted to hear his chuckles; the sounds of his concentrated breathing as he talked; the conceited tone he always used whenever he was pleased at something he had done as he imagined the smirk hanging loosely by his lips.
Allen opened his eyes, staring at the darkness ahead.
It was the only thing he could do. To hear voices, to piece them together, and to make them alive in his head all over again. It was what he had been doing the entire time, repeating the chapters over and over.
So what was this uncertainty he was feeling right now?
"Allen, it's time!"
Allen got up, his hand gradually leaving the table. He slowly paced forward, stopping in front of a wardrobe as he took his brown coat which would always be hung there for him to take. His feet shuffled as he turned himself slightly, his hand hovering near the dressing table. He narrowed his eyes as he felt all kinds of things, searching very carefully until he found what he wanted. Taking his walking stick which was just right beside the bed, he made his way out of the room and out of the house.
They boarded the bus, with Lenalee assisting him from behind. Allen slowly ascended the steps, feeling the touch of a foreign hand leading him to his seat. It had always been like this, and he no longer paid no heed to the number of people who would be looking at him in curiosity as he held the walking stick and continued to stare ahead with an impassive face. The journey went on quietly, with a few occasional bumps and jerks along the way.
He felt a light tap on his shoulder, realising that they had reached the destination stop. He followed the touch of another foreign hand which he did not bother remembering as he alighted, pacing along the road with the walking stick and feeling Lenalee's presence beside him. It was currently 12 noon, and his shoulders brushed against countless people who were rushing to get their lunch. He heard some apologies, and of course, some insults about a certain blind man blocking their way which were soon dismissed by Lenalee snapping at them straight at their faces. He ignored them nonetheless, continuing his way.
They entered the hospital, and within minutes, he was inside the room. The doctor began speaking to him in a friendly tone, and his mind automatically began forming the appearance of the man in white robes sitting at the front of the desk.
"Are there any discomforts you might have recently?"
Allen shook his head as the doctor continued to examine him further.
"If everything is fine after one or two examinations, I might consider not needing him to come back for another follow up," the doctor added, and he could clearly visualise the assuring smile etched on his face as he said those words. His heart sank slightly upon those words. It was supposed to be good news. He was supposed to be glad that everything was well.
Yet, why ―
He heard the door opening as they left the room. Suddenly, he felt something falling onto his feet. Allen shifted downwards, his hand reaching in an attempt to find out what had actually happened. Silver eyes widened slightly as another hand, small and childlike, gripped his palm tightly. He heard shuffles of feet moving against the floor, his hand being pulled lightly for mere seconds. After that, he heard a voice.
"Onii-san, can't you see?"
That small hand was soon taken as he heard another voice which belonged to his mother. She apologised, and he just nodded his head in silent acknowledgement. They soon left, their distant footsteps echoing softly in the corridor.
"Because the damage on your nerves close to the eyes is permanent, it is impossible for you to recover your sight. Not from the clinical skills that we currently have."
Allen collected his medicine, and the both of them walked to the lift lobby. He gradually stopped in his footsteps, staring at the darkness through his eyes.
He felt a slight nudge on his shoulder, signalling him to move forward. Allen moved his walking stick across the floor as he entered the lift. He turned around, and as the doors closed, he tugged the shirt belonging to Lenalee who was standing beside him.
"I would like to visit Neah."
She consented, and they were on their way to the fifth floor. The lift doors opened, and he stepped out. The sounds of the walking stick sweeping across the ground echoed loudly in the empty corridor, with only the two of them around. He then felt a hand on his shoulder, and he stopped just right in front of the opening.
He registered the voice of Neah and smiled, walking into the room alone. His walking stick hit onto something hard, and he reached out, his fingers brushing along the surface of the chair before pulling it to him slowly, taking a seat. The both of them did not say anything to each other for a moment.
"Why are you here?" Neah asked.
"I did my routine check-up just now. Tyki isn't around today?"
"Yeah. He has a meeting at the office in the afternoon. Well, it isn't as if he needs to accompany me every single day," Neah joked, chuckling slightly. Allen found himself unable to reply. He tried to ignore that particular impulse to understand what he really meant, because even if he tried, he could not do anything. Even if he wanted so badly to help, there was nothing he could do.
"You injured your hand?"
He felt another hand on his. Allen pulled it away, shaking his head.
"It's just a minor wound."
"What do you want to ask me?"
His hands unconsciously gripped the thick covers in front of him tightly, and just as he was about to turn away, a hand grabbed his arm. His eyes widened at the sudden grip which snapped himself out of it. He did not know what he was doing. Allen exhaled shakily, not knowing where―and how―he should exactly look at.
"Don't run away."
"Onii-san, can't you see?"
His lips quivered at his words as his eyes widened in realisation. It wasn't about those people complaining about him obstructing their way. It wasn't about the boy's unintentional curiosity either. It wasn't as if he desired something which he could not obtain. He knew it wasn't, and he did not want to comprehend it. He did not want to acknowledge that resentment towards this handicap which he had yet to overcome, and he refused to realise this particular urge of wanting to confess everything out―to admit what he had actually wanted all along.
He almost did it.
He almost said it.
"No. I just want to feel where you are," Allen said with a smile, his fingers brushing across the warm surface of the blanket, before they reached to his. He felt heavy silence between the both of them, and he almost flinched as he felt the hand of the other on his head, stroking his hair gently. He closed his eyes as he leaned towards it, relinquishing into his touch he had missed just for a little while.
"Thank you, Neah."
"Anything for you, Allen."
Allen smiled again, pulling away as he slowly stood up.
"I will come and see you again."
He left the room, shifting slightly at the familiar perfume fragrance as Lenalee stood beside him. He nodded his head, and the both of them made their way out of the hospital. Allen looked up, wincing slightly at the strong gust of wind which blew on his face.
The street was almost empty when they started walking back. It was too quiet, and he strained his ears, trying very hard to distinguish the sounds of the birds or the chitter-chatters of the people around which might be here. It felt weird and strangely uncomfortable. Allen frowned, unconsciously reaching out as he tugged Lenalee's shirt lightly. She stopped in response, her hand onto his.
"What is it, Allen?"
He realised what he was doing and released his grip immediately.
"It's nothing," he replied nonchalantly, moving on. They had reached the bus stop as Lenalee led him to an empty bench. Allen placed the walking stick between his legs and stared ahead, listening the noises of the vehicles drifting past. Then, silence caved in, and as he continued sitting there without moving a muscle, he heard something dripping on the ground.
It was getting faster and louder. And as it accumulated, silver eyes widened slightly at the sudden downpour which splashed onto his shoes. The roars of the engines returned as vehicles were travelling on the roads once again, and the pacing of the footsteps around him increased. Allen slowly stood up, stretching his arm outward as he felt the soft patters of the rain on his palm. The view of the darkened sky and the street decorated with umbrellas of different colours came into his mind, and he wondered if it was like that right now.
How it felt like to see this right now.
He had another dream.
He was on a large plain akin to paradise, surrounded by wild flowers and small trees. The sky was clear, with no clouds covering the sun. Blue butterflies were fluttering near the flowers. And as he stared ahead, Kanda was there, his lips forming a smile as he approached him who was lying on the wet ground.
The raven-haired man knelt beside him, his warm hands caressing his face. He took in that bright, vibrant blue in his eyes which resembled the colour on the butterflies surrounding them, and his pursed lips tinted in slight red. His raven locks of hair fell onto his shoulders as he leaned forward.
His ears filled with their laughter as they touched their faces across each other. He inhaled his cologne which smelt like ocean, letting out a deep sigh. Kanda brought himself closer, and his smile widened as their lips slowly met.
His hands moved across the soft fabric of the mattress he was sleeping on, pushing himself up as he came to a sitting position, wondering how long he had slept. He felt the other side of the bed which was always empty whenever he woke up. Silver eyes blinked lethargically as Allen just stared ahead for a while, before he got out of the bed.
He wore the new set of clothes left on the couch, tilting his face in the direction where the wind was blowing from. It was calm and almost inaudible, yet he could hear it very clearly. Allen turned, making his way to the windows. He stopped, and as he stared for a while, he reached out, slowly pulling the curtains aside.
He winced at the slight warmth leaking through the gaps of the curtains. His eyes stung a little, and Allen closed them for a while. He opened them soon after, widening them as he continued to stare.
Does the world in front of him look exactly like what he saw in the dream? Does Kanda look like what he should be? He did not know. The images of the country, the view of the city that he was currently living in, and the people who had been existing in his head had stopped ever since the last season passed. No matter how hard he tried to form pictures of them, they would always resemble to what he remembered in his head.
The phone rings snapped him out of his thoughts, and he hurried to the living room, picking it up.
Allen smiled slightly upon hearing his voice.
"What makes you call at this hour, Kanda?"
"I'm sorry, but can you ask Lenalee to go to my apartment and get my drafts which is on the table in the bedroom? I need them urgently."
"This is rather surprising."
"Yeah, when it comes to that fucking Lance Corporation. That fucking CEO seriously expects me to adhere to his schedules whenever he wants?"
He smiled inwardly at the series of muttering and curses coming from the other, nodding his head as he told him that he would get to him as soon as he got in contact with her. Allen ended the call, before dialling his best friend's number, listening to the continuous beeps as he fervently hoped that she would answer soon.
To his slight dismay, the call was referred to her voicemail. He tried Lavi's number, and then Tyki's number, and he started to suspect that this was more than just a coincidence when none of them picked up his calls. Allen cursed under his breath, walking back to the bedroom as he felt the sheets of paper which was on the table. Suddenly, he had a rather bold yet ridiculous idea in his head, and he wondered if he should do it. It was certainly dangerous, and he would certainly get it from Lenalee and Kanda later.
Allen grabbed his walking stick and coat which was left on the bed, before he walked out of the room. After reaching the living room, he moved six steps forward in the direction of the north, his knees hitting something hard as his hand swept across the surface of the counter, taking the keys which would always be there. Then, he moved another eight steps to the left, his fingers feeling the circular knob as he opened the door. Slipping his feet into his shoes which was already on the floor, he stepped out of the apartment.
His ears perked up among hearing the engines of the vehicles echoing faintly in the background. He continued sweeping the walking stick across the ground, his hands touching the prickling bushes alongside him. He then stopped, feeling the bitter cold of the wind and footsteps surrounding himself as he stood in the middle of the open street.
He turned, his hand now touching the wall as he started to walk. Allen tilted his head slightly upon hearing the halting noise of a large vehicle, which he had confirmed was a bus after distinguishing it from the rest. He moved towards the noise, noting that the warmth of the sun had lessened considerably. He held onto the pole of the bus stop shelter, turning to where the voices came from.
There was a few seconds of silence, before someone answered.
"Has the bus 6 arrived yet?"
"No, not yet. Should I tell you when it comes?"
The stranger might have guessed his current situation. He was not sure if he should trust him. Many had deceived him out of fun and curiosity, or they simply did not care. He had ended up in places he could not recognise, and Kanda had to call the police to ask them to look for him for many times. Because of this, he was refrained from going out alone.
He gripped the large envelope in his hands tightly.
Yet, he was not that weak.
He felt a shake on his shoulder, and Allen stood up as a hand took his arm and led him to the front as a bus stopped simultaneously. The hand which assisted him then took his hand and put it at the door for him to walk up the stairs with more ease. He ascended slowly, steadying himself as he brought out his card and tapped it at the card reader.
"Is this bus no 6?"
"Yes, young man. Be careful when you walk to the back," the gruff voice from the bus driver rang out. He turned, facing with the large space and the silence which was filling it up. He started walking, counting the number of steps to reach to the standing area at the same time. As he was about to reach, a hand grabbed his wrist.
His eyes shifted to the direction where the voice came from. He thanked the person as he sat down. The silence was still evident as the bus started to move. Then, people began to talk among themselves, and life gradually returned back to normal. He took note of the number of times the bus stopped. Allen clutched the envelope closely, shutting his eyes for a moment. He had forgotten to wear his shades, and his eyes started to hurt after being exposed to the sun for too long.
Time passed, and moments drifted past. A group of friends were discussing about their favourite idols eagerly. A mother was telling a story to her son. A businessman was engaging a conversation with his client on his phone. A couple was laughing openly among themselves, not fazed by the people around them.
He still remembered the dream.
That dream where he could see Kanda perfectly.
"Passengers, we will be reaching Shinjuku Station. Repeat, we..."
Allen stood up and pressed the bell, excusing himself as he stood at the door. The bus gradually came to a stop, and he felt someone helping him out. He thanked him properly, feeling the pillar of the bus stop as he wondered where he should go.
The vision of the buildings and the streets at Shinjuku slowly appeared in his mind as he took his walking stick and started walking. He bumped onto people occasionally, and he apologised even if he was not talking to anyone in particular. Allen stopped for a moment, listening to the voices of the crowd who would always gather at one particular cafe which was popular among office executives.
As he turned, his mind gradually cleared up to present a scene of himself running along the bustling street. Fou would be standing at the entrance of the office building in slight patience, and she would lecture him for his lateness while he apologised profusely, a foolish smile on his face. Tim would laugh at the side, asking her to calm down.
Suddenly, his phone rang. He stopped, taking out his phone to answer.
"Has Lenalee come to take the documents yet?" Kanda asked.
Allen frowned slightly, not getting his words clearly due to the moving crowd surrounding him. Someone brushed past his shoulder roughly, and he was forced to stop for a moment.
"She did not answer."
Realising that the afternoon crowds were getting thicker, he headed towards the sheltered area of the office building outside. He stretched his hand out as he slowly stepped back, relieved that he touched a glass pane.
"It's okay. I will explain to the client about the situation."
Allen placed the walking stick between his legs. He remained silent for a few minutes, listening to the muffled noises at the other line which had not been cut. He felt the rough surface of the paper envelope in his hands, wondering how he should bring this up. He leaned back, feeling the coldness radiating from the other side of the glass pane as he lifted his head up, as though he was staring at the ceiling of the old building.
"I've missed you," he suddenly murmured. His hand holding the phone clenched tightly in response to his own words. It had long become a routine, yet somehow, something was missing. He fondled with the warm jacket he was currently wearing as the breeze blew between the gaps of his fingers.
"What's with you lately?"
He did not know either.
"It is nothing," he chuckled in response. "I did not expect you to answer though."
He heard a faint snort at the other receiver. His lips widened to a small smile, and he could not help himself as he started laughing out of the blue. The noises in the background gradually receded as time passed, and he could no longer feel any presence beside him. He continued to chuckle, gradually stopping. His hand grasped his clothing close to his chest as he breathed heavily.
It continued to play. He was getting closer, his being within reach as he stretched his hands outwards, reaching to him.
"I had a dream. You were there, and I can see you."
Kanda did not answer. It hurt at the thought of it, and he suddenly wanted to cry. Allen swallowed, trying to break into a smile as he reminded himself that Kanda was still listening. He could not understand. Why was he still thinking about that? When had he become this desperate? It was not right. It was simply not right. He slowly slid down, huddling himself as he shut his eyes.
"I want to see you."
He opened his eyes, greeted by the vast sight of the sky above, with a few clouds here and there. He just continued to stare in awe, wondering where he was, and why he was here. His gaze caught a slight movement at the side, and as he turned and stared at the transparent tube which was connected to his hand, he realised that he was still at the hospital. No one was visiting him at the moment, and out of boredom, he wandered to the rooftop for a breather.
Neah slowly sat up, before he got onto his feet. He then walked towards the edge, peering at the view of the hospital grounds and the tiny buildings surrounding the neighbourhood. He then sat down, his legs dangling freely as he peered at the scenery, enjoying the tranquility that it brought.
Faint laughter rang out from the gardens below. Children were running around, and adults were chatting happily on the benches. A group of elderly surrounded a chess stone table, watching the two of them playing with each other. He watched them in silence, his lips curving into a smile at the sight.
He remembered that night when they were celebrating Rhode's twelfth birthday. Everyone was crowding outside, preparing the dinner and the barbecue at his place. The kids were trying out the new in-house pool, and David pushed her into it out of mischief. She pulled him inside a few minutes later, and after a few splashes and taunts and teases from one another, all of them somehow ended up in the pool. All that was left was their charred dinner, and they had to buy take-outs instead.
It was around the time when Allen just arrived at Japan right?
His insides clenched slightly upon remembering that day when a devastated face of the other appeared at their doorstop. It was raining during that time.
The times continued to flash past. Allen began to smile more, and it was as if everything was returning back to what it once was―everyone sitting together, laughing heartily at the jokes and topics they shared.
"You will survive this."
"We want to play with you again, Uncle!"
Neah chuckled, wondering why he was remembering so much now. His chuckles stopped as he stared at a balloon floating in front of him, slowly ascending towards the sky. He reached out, grasping onto the string before it flew away. He stared at the balloon for a long moment, before he smiled, his hand slowly letting go.
He walked back to his room. He opened the door, staring at his empty bed and the windows which was left open. He then turned and stared at the presents which were given to him every day. His gaze drifted to the chair against the wall, which he would imagine the faint image of Tyki leaning on it as he slept with him for the entire night. He slowly closed his eyes, and it was as though he could hear those lively voices filling the entire ward all over again.
He heard a knock at the door. Neah turned around, seeing the doctor standing at the entrance. There were still many questions left unanswered, but for now, he would leave it as that. He was content that he was able to remember this much.
Frankly, it did not hurt anymore.
"It will be alright. It will definitely be alright."
"Are you sure about your decision, Walker?"
He smiled, before turning to face the doctor.
He was not afraid anymore.
"I want to see you."
His eyes widened upon realisation of what he had done. Allen froze, hitching his breath as he wondered what he should say right now. He was supposed to keep it in, and yet he just let it slip out so easily. He berated himself inwardly for his damn emotions getting in his way.
"Where are you now?"
He raised his eyebrow in slight surprise upon Kanda's sudden question in a form of a demand. It was as though he already knew. Allen felt the envelope, wondering if he should tell now. Kanda did told him that he would explain to the client, so he did not really need to inform him of his sudden arrival. Or he might be busy at the moment, and he did not want to disturb him. He slowly stood on his feet, taking his walking stick in his hand.
"What exactly do you mean by 'it's okay'?"
He frowned slightly, wondering if Kanda's voice was getting somewhat louder. Allen moved his walking stick along the ground as he began to walk out, heading back to the bus stop. He tilted his head, catching a series of footsteps which had been echoing behind him for the past few minutes.
"I just thought of you. That is all."
He was not really lying. At that point of time, he did thought of him, along with the many questions as he wondered if he really looked like this. He pondered, and pondered, and as he strayed further, he realised he was crossing over the line. He was doing fine right now. He had already accepted the fact that he could no longer see.
"Is that so?"
His feet stepped onto the dry leaves on the ground. Allen stopped for a moment.
"Because the damage on your nerves close to the eyes is permanent, it is impossible for you to recover your sight. Not from the clinical skills that we currently have."
Why couldn't he get it? No matter how hard he tried, it could never be rectified. No matter how hard he tried to search for that particular light, he would never find it, because it was never there.
He convinced himself again and again. He denied himself again and again. And after many rounds of detour, he finally realised that he was back at the starting point. He thought he could forget, and he really did, but the remnant of what was classified as pain still remained.
He turned slightly and walked, stopping when he felt himself bumping into something hard―probably a tree or a lamp post. His grip on the walking stick loosened, and he did not care as it fell onto the ground. Allen winced, his hand touching his eyes which stung all of a sudden.
That series of footsteps stopped behind him. His eyes widened as a hand held to his wrist, slowly putting down his hand which was still clutching to the phone. As he turned around, that source of warmth came closer; so close that he could literally hear his breathing. Yet, he made no attempt to push the other away.
"So how do I look like in the dream?"
"You are beautiful."
He smelt the refreshing scent of mint as a pair of arms wrapped around him. It felt as though he was in that dream now, standing by the wide plains with only the two of them around. He hid inside, closing his eyes as he let out a soft sigh.
"Don't give up, Moyashi."
He stiffened as he felt a hand covering his eyes.
"I will lead the way for you. Until then, do not give up at the last moment."
Allen felt his hair strands brushing along his neck as he pulled away slightly, but still remained in his embrace. Then, he just smiled slightly in response, and the both of them just stayed like this for a moment.
The ice cubes in his glass of liquor clanked softly as he slowly put it down. Soft jazz music was played in the background as people came to relax and enjoy their night.
"Yeah, you are right."
Tyki took it up and started drinking again.
"I still cannot forget Kanda. No matter how hard I tried to forget, he will always be there."
"And up till now, even if I don't have the slightest idea what exactly had gone wrong between the both of us; even if I wish that he could at least turn back―look back, those times are already gone. Unfortunately."
He stared at the glass which was emptied, before he turned to the bartender and asked him for another refill. As he waited, he stared at his phone which lit up, peering at the wallpaper of his family beyond the message notification.
Up till now, he still did not like Lavi. He disliked his laid back attitude, and he detested his existence which only caused pain for Allen. He wondered why he returned to Japan even if the business was doing well in the States. At first, he thought he was so conceited to think that he could start over with Kanda. Just when things between Kanda and Allen were recovering, he just had to butt in and make it worse.
Tyki took the glass of liquor from the bartender, staring at the ice cubes floating on top. He could not stop himself from looking after this person. After all, who would be in the right mind to disregard it when the person in front of him, who he met almost every day, obviously needed help? It was mere out of pure sympathy, yet he wondered why he was feeling frustrated at that time. He could not stand that pair of indifferent eyes staring at him, as though everything was completely fine.
He downed the rest of the liquor, leaving the empty glass on the counter as he left the pub. He boarded the bus at the bus stop, sitting at the last row. Tyki loosened his tie, opening the window by the side as he peered outside listlessly.
"I am afraid. Afraid of being alone, afraid of ruining the business which he had been painstakingly taking care of for most of his life, afraid of staying in that large and spacious yet empty and cold house with no one around, and even if I do not have the right to think of this when he is still here, struggling against his will to fight against this stupid, fucking disease―!"
He wondered why he was thinking of him again and again. Yet, as he spent more time together with him, he began to notice this person who was completely different from his assumptions. That he was not as carefree as he was. That he was caught in between this mess. That he was also hurt by the unexpected outcome from the complicated relationship which could not be defined for the past five years.
That he was a victim as well.
The bus soon arrived at the front of the hospital, and he alighted. Tyki entered the premises, taking the empty lift which closed upon detecting that someone pressed the floor button. The doors soon opened, and he was walking along the corridor by himself. Footsteps echoed, slowly stopping as he reached Neah's ward. As he opened the door, he turned to the corridor as he saw a doctor and nurse rushing in his direction, passing him as they entered the room next to his.
He turned back, facing the room which was vacant. He stepped inside, peering at the small note which was left on the table.
The faint, constant sound of the electrocardiography echoed throughout the night.
Lavi opened the door, entering the cold and dark room. He walked towards the bed, pulling a chair over and sitting on it as he stared at the still figure, registering the beeps from the heart monitor on the small table. He then turned, switching on the dimmed light at the side.
He pulled the blanket to his neck, peering at his arms which had considerably shrunk. His face was very frail, and most of his hair strands had turned grey. The elder would burst into fits if he realised that the handsome look which he took pains to maintain it was gone. He could not help but grinned at the thought, sighing as he shook his head.
Then again, he wondered why he was here again. Lavi lifted his thin hand gently, clasping together with his. Perhaps he had his usual round of insomnia tonight. Perhaps there was nothing to do at home and at the office, and he just thought of coming over. At least, there was someone to accompany him.
"Another day has passed. How are you?"
He stared at his passive face while he slept on.
"Everything is fine."
The clock hanging by the wall continued to tick in this silence.
"Sometimes I wonder, what are you doing in that world which isn't connected to ours? Are you reminiscing things that we usually do here?"
Lavi smiled wistfully. The registered beeps started fluctuating slightly as he tightened his grip, wondering if perhaps...he had been listening all along.
"The projects are going well, and the construction for the traditional house that you care through the years is almost completed. It is estimated that it will be done around June next year, so you do not need to worry."
He stared at his chest which shifted upwards slightly upon each breath he took. He bit his lips, wondering why it was getting harder to maintain his composure. He wondered why he was talking so much tonight.
"I have been cleaning my room daily just as you know. I don't want to listen to your nagging the moment you step into the house. It's annoying at times. Your study is also kept tidy when you are not around, and I make sure to water your potted plants by the windows, even though I do not see any chance that they will sprout," he added on with a slight snort. "You see how nice I am? This is all for you, so you better wake up such that I do not need to continue this."
The sleeping figure hardly responded. Lavi brought his hand up, placing it against his forehead.
"You know, Gramps. I have been thinking a lot. Kanda is with Allen now, and I am slowly letting go. Although it is not easy, at least it is a start for me. Regarding the business, it is going on the right track, so you do not need to worry. I will make sure to expand your legacy all over the world, and bring the results back to you!"
His eyebrows pressed together as he let a stuttered breath.
"It is okay, Gramps. You don't need to worry anymore. I'm here."
He shut his eyes. He squeezed his hand tighter, afraid that if he let go, it would truly be over. But that was not his purpose for being here. Lavi took a deep breath, opening his eyes as he faced the elderly.
"I'm here. That's why..."
He felt a very slight tug on his hand as the beeps were getting slower. The feeling soon disappeared as a single beep rang out, a flat line registered on the monitor. Lavi slowly smiled, a tear slipping down his face as he peered at the expression of the other which had never looked this peaceful. He slowly put his hand down, before he finally let it go.
Author's Note: Apologies to everyone who has been waiting for this chapter! I am still writing in progress, though it will be slower because I have other things to do, and I am still having my examinations. It has been a long while since I touch on this story, and I really hope that all of you readers can review and tell me your opinions about it! No worries, I will definitely finish this story. It will probably end at around 5-6 chapters.
Until then, see you all soon!