Firstly, no amount of wishing can make the characters mine. They'll always belong to Toei. How depressing.
Secondly, thank you to everyone for your reviews. You have no idea how much I love reading them, especially as they've all been so kind and so helpful. I hope this concluding chapter meets your (high) expectations, although I suspect people might not be happy with one aspect of it. I have left some issues deliberately inconclusive, because . . . well, life is never neat. There is no point at which everything is neatly concluded and all the characters live happily ever after.
Thirdly, Star of Love is from the Fushigi Yuugi OVA 2. It's a really beautiful song in its own right. The translation of it is mine, and differs in a few places from others that I've seen. Oh well.
Fourthly, I have a vague idea for a sequel, but one that will be very different. It'll probably be about Takeru's trip to America and tackle racism. I don't promise I'll write it at all soon, because I'm focussing on other projects, but would people be interested in it?
EPILOGUE: STAR OF LOVE
You are me - do not forget that.
I am you - our love is one.
"I love this song," Hikari exclaimed, as the eerie, lonely sound of the opening bars of Star of Love rose to fill the hall. She was sitting on a bench with Takeru beneath a painted cherry-tree, a glass of punch in her hand, her shoes kicked off in front of her. The hall had been decorated to look like a springtime park, and paper blossoms and butterflies floated around her. Tiny fairy lights twinkled overhead, "We're dancing to it."
Setting her punch to one side, wriggling back into her sandals, she jumped to her feet and held out a hand to her husband, "Come on!"
Groaning, Takeru took it and let himself be pulled out into the centre of the room. They had been dancing for almost three hours without a break. It was just his luck that Hikari's favourite song would come on when he had finally convinced his wife to break for some punch.
Nonetheless, most of his reluctance disappeared when Hikari slipped her arms around his neck and pressed her body tightly against his. She had a mischievous smile on her lips, and her eyes sparkled. He felt his breath catch in his throat. He had known her for twelve years and been in love with her for nine of those, but it still stunned him how beautiful she was. The graceful way she carried her head, the curve of her neck and shoulder, the softness of her eyes, the determination of her jaw, the three freckles on her nose that she hated and he loved - there was something about her that made him feel happy and blessed and a little amazed. He bent his head to kiss her, but stopped short with a sharp shock, remembering they were in public. Warmth spread across his cheeks, "Sorry." (1)
Hikari laughed, "For what? Wanting to kiss me? I'd be mad if you didn't."
"In public . . . ."
"Oh, I've already ruined my reputation tonight by coming in these clothes," she said cheerfully, "You might as well kiss me."
Genuinely shocked, "Hikari!"
"I'm kidding," she stuck out her tongue at him, "I love how gullible you are. But then I love everything about you, so that's no surprise."
"Back at you, angel."
With a happy sigh, she snuggled her head beneath his chin and he wrapped his arms around her. Takeru could feel her heart beating against his chest, her breath warm on his neck. For the second time that day, he allowed himself to relax completely and to believe that maybe there was a chance for them. Maybe he would still be dancing with this woman in fifty years time. If history was a piece of music, maybe it was one that allowed for variations. Maybe it would allow him to write his own song with her.
They swayed in silence for a few moments, before he realised something: "Uh, Hikari, you do realise this is a fast song and we're slow dancing to it. . . ."
"I know," she replied, "But I don't care."
"Good, because nor do I."
The north wind is blowing lies, and the cooling night brings pain to your heart.
But the dazzling, awesome cosmos won't surrender. Star.
It is so sweet and painful that I am about to cry.
I love this moment.
Now, I want to live for your sake as well. My heart becomes strong.
The stars are shining. They have already awoken.
Get past your tears.
If I can bring happiness to only one person . . .
Sparkling to take
care of everything,
Star of Love.
Daisuke danced with a supple grace that surprised Miyako; his legs and arms moved in perfect time to the beat; his body swayed with the rhythm of the music. When he had asked her to the dance, she had anticipated a long night of him treading on her feet in all of the slow dances and being out of step in all of the fast. Instead, he had been the perfect partner, leading her easily around the floor, matching his movements to hers. She had said so to Hikari, who had laughed and said dancing was one of Daisuke's underappreciated talents.
Half-ashamed, she thought she might not have appreciated Daisuke half as much as he deserved. He had not only been the perfect partner on the dance floor, but he had been the perfect date as well. He had brought her roses and a corsage to wear. He had not complained about going to see Takeru and Hikari, when she knew how hard it was for him to be around them. He had fetched her punch and carried her shawl. He had even made the hardest, most painful part of her evening bearable: her meeting with Ken and his new girlfriend.
For weeks, whenever she had closed her eyes, she had still been able to feel the heavy warmth of Ken's body against hers. She had still felt his hands on her skin, the brush of his hair against her cheeks, the softness of his lips on her own. And he had suddenly been standing a few feet away from her, an awkward smile on his face, an arm around another woman's waist.
Takeru, perpetual peacemaker, had been the first to greet him, and Hikari had followed her husband's lead with a smile and a compliment for Ken's date. Daisuke had just nodded a curt greeting at his former best friend. She still didn't know what had happened between the two of them, but had the horrible suspicion it had something to do with their break-up. All he had said to her had been that he thought Ken had changed and not for the better. She hadn't trusted herself to speak; she had just stood there and stared at them and tried to force down the terrible feeling of loneliness. Then, Daisuke had put his hand on her back and led her out onto the dance floor. There, under the pretence of dancing, she had buried her head in his jacket and let herself cry.
He had been a good friend to her during her break-up, she thought, and she was beginning to wonder if he couldn't be more to her. It had been months since she had broken up with Ken, and, although she knew she had not yet gotten over him completely, maybe it was time to take another step in that direction . . . .
She looked up at him, her mind framing an invitation to dinner, and her heart gave a little skip in her chest. She had never thought of Daisuke as particularly handsome before, but she suddenly knew that was because she had never seen him properly. She had never noticed that his skin was the same colour as copper, that his aubergine hair was soft and sleek, that his mouth had a determined set to it. Or that he was watching her with a soft, uncertain expression in his eyes that could only be love.
"Yes?" his eyes focussed, as he grinned at her.
And she realised with a sea-sharp wash of pain that he had been looking past her and that the expression in his eyes had not been for her. She turned her head slightly to glance behind her, already knowing what she would see: Hikari and Takeru. They were slow dancing to some beat of their own, her head resting on his shoulder, his arms wrapped tightly around her. His eyes were closed and he had a half-smile on his face, like someone who knew he was loved. How could Daisuke see that and still hope that there was a chance for him with Hikari? Or maybe he had stopped hoping, but could not stop loving her? Either way, she knew there was no place for her in his heart at that moment.
Swallowing whatever she had been about to say, she gave him a weak smile, "It's nothing."
The greatest happiness and sorrow come as a result of seeking your beloved.
But, because I have to love you, my back tenses.
This irritating, sweet treasure cannot break: Love.
I am also crushed by heart-breaking difficulties, but I won't run now.
I feel proud that you appear to stand firm behind me for my sake as well.
As the song launched into the last verse, Hikari looked up at her husband and a smile came to her lips. She had forgotten how happy Takeru could look. Unlike so many people his age, he had not lost the trick of being purely, simply happy; of having the sort of happiness children had before they realised the world was essentially unkind. With all that had happened in his life, she was surprised he could manage it so easily. It gave her hope that she could do the same. She could hardly believe she had thought of leaving him over a few bills and a miserable job she intended to quit the instant she had made enough to pay them.
She had no illusions: she knew there would be difficult days ahead of them. She would have to get another job, and it would probably be as good as her current one. There would be rent to make and groceries to buy. There would be assignments they had to stay up all night to complete. There would be his trip to America, which would be hard on both of them. There would be fights between them. Fairytales only lasted a night. But, if she were very lucky, her relationship with this man could last a lifetime. If she worked at it, it would.
"Takeru-chan, there was something I meant to say to you earlier," she began.
He opened his eyes to look at her, "Love, you don't need to say anything. You don't need to apologise again. Whatever happened between us . . . It's fine. We're fine."
"It's not that," she shook her head, "It's . . . Thank you for buying me that dress. It was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me, and . . . and I should have thanked you for it much earlier."
Takeru gave her a sweet, lopsided grin, "You're not the only one, angel. I should have said thank you for taking it back."
The stars are wishing, and are already set free.
Get past the storms.
As long as there is only one person for me to love,
tomorrow will be better than today.
Star of Love.
The music played on.
The dance continued.
1) Traditionally, you do not kiss in public in Japan. It's considered indecent. However, I should comment this is changing with the younger generation's exposure to Western values and culture.