~ Arashi ~

Chapter 4 - Forever

The red glow vanished from her eyes. Drained of all her energy, Fuuko fell to her knees to catch her breath for a moment. Then it hit her. Hard. Raiha. She looked around desperately. A slight moan behind her caused her to spin around and gasp in terror. A gaping, open wound made its gory mark at his chest area, blood pooling around him. She let out a startled cry as she began to tremble uncontrollably. She shivered, not just from the cold. "No..." she whispered, bringing a shaking hand to his that lay still on the floor. "Raiha..." hastily, she hoisted him to lean up against her; her hands wrapped around him. The blood that stained his clothes the deep shade of crimson gave her hands the same colour. She worriedly shook him as a couple of tears were shed.

"Fuuko..." Raiha mustered as his eyelids slowly lifted. Their eyes met, and Raiha tried to raise a weak hand to her face. She held his palm to her cheek, as more tears slowly descended from their spring. Raiha managed a weak smile as his thumb wiped away only a few. "Don't cry...I love you..." his voice was soft and weak, no longer the usual deep and rich voice that Fuuko loved to listen to.

"Please don't talk...I'll go get Yanagi...kay?" Fuuko tried to put on her best reassuring facial expression. She knew what was coming and denied it.

"No... Fuuko, we were born to die; I just want to be here... with you."

"I...love you too..." Pearly drops rolled down Fuuko's cheeks, as she gently pulled Raiha in for a kiss. It was exactly the same as the other day's, but something was different. The feeling was different. There was an element of fear. And she wished so hard for time to stop right then and there. A sense of foreboding came over Fuuko, as she broke the kiss and watched Raiha's head tilt back, lifeless. Fuuko shook him gently. Then harder. Again. And again. "Raiha. Raiha wake up." Fuuko cried. "It's not funny, yarou, I'm getting annoyed. Wake up!" She trembled more than ever, as the cold boy in her arms refused to budge. "No..." she shook her head, and her tears fell onto his pale skin. "Goddamn you Raiha, I love you so get up!!" Fuuko hugged Raiha tightly and buried her face into the crook of his neck, letting her tears come forth freely, not caring anymore. Fuuko sobbed loudly into Raiha's shoulder. It was long before she calmed down and lay Raiha on the ground. Her watery eyes caught sight of the chain that hung around his neck. Fuuko timidly reached behind his neck and unfastened it. She clutched its pendant in her hand - his ring. Removing her own, she slid it onto the chain, which she let hang around her neck. Her hands gently caressed his pale face.

"Liar," she whispered as she wiped at the tears that threatened to fall again. "You said you'd protect me forever...you said you'd take me to see shooting stars...you big liar." She leaned down and left a light kiss on his cold lips before she got up and walked away, not turning back.

The figure jumped from the tree and landed like a cat beside his comrade's still form. "Che, Kurei-han is gonna be so disappointed with you." He carried Raiha up and looked in Fuuko's direction. He sighed. "I pity Fuuko-han. Her boyfriend was a sucker."

***

A hand reached out into the heavy fog and swirling mist. It felt nothing. Just cold. Her arm felt cold. So were her legs. She felt cold. She waved her hand in front of her face. Oh. There it was. She could see then. And yet she could see nothing. The silence was deafening, and the heavy thuds of her footsteps were just as loud as the scraping of her heels against the solid floor. She walked slowly, listening to her footsteps, trying to hear more than just that. The ground beneath her gave way. How it did, she did not know. All she was waiting for was to hit bottom. It didn't come. Something wrapped around her throat - menacing, sinister. It didn't feel like any human-like touch. But it definitely wasn't a hand. It tightened its grip, tighter, tighter. Forcing the air out of her windpipe and away from her lungs. She couldn't breathe, and trashed about, trying to hold firm to her attacker. But it couldn't be held. She noticed. Water. She was drowning. She gasped, but the liquid entered her body. She stretched out an arm for help - there was no one to pull her out. She needed air. Fast. But it wouldn't be available. Not where she was. Not anytime soon. She couldn't take it anymore; her eyelids were heavy, forcing them close. Her hair tangled, and the water pushed it into her face, as well as her eyes. Her wet clothes stuck to her frame. Moments passed. She didn't know how long she'd been unconscious; but now she felt rather dry, at the same time rather soaked. She wondered how come. Funny, now it's warm. Light shone into her eyes. Almost blinding. A steady rhythm beat into her ear. Heartbeats? She lay against a broad chest; gentle, yet strong arms held her close. Her eyes winced as they opened, slowly adapting to the sunlight. A warm smile greeted her. She smiled back. He slowly let go of her, and turned to go. She quickly followed, holding his hand. "Don't go..." she mouthed - she had no voice to speak. Startled, she held her own throat, trying to tell him again. Again. But he just smiled and shook his head. She tried to hug him, but she just passed right through. He looked at her with soft smiling eyes and shook his head again. "Sayonara..." no sound. Just mouthed. She wanted to hear him...feel him... but she couldn't. Wanted him to stay... but he couldn't. He began to grow pale. He was fading away. She leapt forward to prevent him from going...

***

The plum-haired girl subconsciously sat up from her lying position. She wiped the beads of perspiration from her forehead with the back of her hand. The link between both dream and reality came clear, and dealt a blow, as vivid images of the day before dragged through her mind. They didn't go fast, but slow. Agonizingly slow. As if they wanted her to be more than clear of what evil she was responsible for. They wanted her to relive the instant when her Fuujin changed it all. As if they wanted her to live on with her guilt - a heavy boulder upon her back, one that she was forced to carry for as long, for as far as possible. Yes, she killed Raiha. She lost control. She got possessed. She blasted him square in the chest. She spilt his blood. She stole his last breath. She took his life. She, she, she, she, she. She did everything. Everything she did was of harm to him. She. Her fault. Her doing. She did it. She was to blame.

"No..." she hid her face away with her hands. "It wasn't..." she tried to deny. But no, it was her fault. "No..." she just couldn't find anyone to blame anymore. "That's not true..." no matter how she denied it, it would still come back. Raiha was dead. Dead and gone. And she caused it all. The fabric of the pillowcase faithfully absorbed Fuuko's sorrow - her tears, her cries, her screams. It bore merciless blows; her violent reactions. Her fists tightened and held fistfuls of pillow as she questioned again and again. Why, why, why. "Why?!" she shouted at the top of her lungs, hardly thankful her voice was muffled. She didn't really care. All she wanted was to overcome the voice in her head, the pulsating rhythm of her heart and the tightly pulled knot in her gut.

Fuuko looked up when the relentless sound of the phone ringing blasted through the relatively quiet morning. Her crying had made her eyes even more red and puffy than they'd been the previous night, when she cried herself to sleep. Her bloodshot eyes landed on the picture frame that stood out proudly on the table beside her bed. She reached out, as if with much difficulty, and her shaking fingers clasped around the heart-shaped frame. Supporting herself with her elbows, she gazed at the pretty thing that now lay where her cries were thrown. Her fingers traced the shells that rimmed the picture. The little sea-things were of a deep cream, touched here and there with a fading pink. Captured within the heart of shells was she, as well as Raiha - the persistent phone refused to cease, and yet it went ignored - his arms tightly wrapped around her slim waist, hers around his neck, both were engaged in yet another kiss. Their eyes were closed. And they showed pure bliss. The time stood still then, and always would, unlike every other day. Raiha's hair hung loose, and the wind playfully wisped it toward Fuuko, almost as if it were claiming her as its own. She was. Almost as if it joined his arms around her. She gingerly ran her finger along Raiha's peaceful image.

"Raiha..." Fuuko whimpered, as she wiped off her tears with her forearm. The phone had started ringing again. Fuuko gently placed the picture frame face down in the drawer, and got out of bed to silence the phone. She leaned against the wall for support as she made her way down the corridor - her weak legs felt as though they would give way any minute. She picked up the phone and murmured into the mouthpiece.

"This is Kirisawa..."

"Ah! Fuuko-han!" Fuuko's eyes widened upon hearing that all too familiar accent.

"How did you get my number?"

Joker shrugged. "I guess anything's possible when you're Raiha's roommate."

Oh yeah. Fuuko forgot.

"Anyway," Joker continued, "I'll have to take you somewhere. Meet me in front of Ganko's school in a hour. Don't be late! Jaa ne!"

An hour? Fuuko couldn't get ready and get there in an hour! Sighing, Fuuko proceeded to the bathroom, rubbing her eyes. What would he possibly want with her so early in the morning?

"You're late," Joker tapped his foot impatiently on the ground. He had on a pair of baggy jeans, a large orange shirt with the words "I Rule" printed across the front in white, and an orange cap that sheltered his eyes away from the rest of the world. His madougu rested on his shoulder, wrapped in a simple white cloth.

Fuuko shrugged it off. "Period."

Joker made a face. "I didn't have to know. Jaa, shall we?"

Fuuko shoved her hands into her jeans pockets and jerked her head. They'd walked a short distance, Joker having his hands held behind his head the whole time.

"So where are you taking me?" Fuuko asked nonchalantly as she followed Joker. The street was rather familiar. She'd been here before. What hadn't she seen?

"You'll see." Joker swatted at a fly that almost landed on his nose.

Fuuko snorted and looked to the side. The flower shop that Momiji tended was closed. Of course. It was a Sunday. They walked further down and turned a left. Joker brought her to the front gate of a cemetery.

"Is this your idea of a sick joke?" Fuuko scowled.

"No way. It's my job." He activated the kaiten and pushed the once-heavy gates open with a finger.

"Your job?"

"More like my duty. I made a promise."

"A promise?" Joker nodded. "What promise? With who?"

"Argh, why do females ask so many questions?" Joker exasperatedly commented as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Can't you just wait? Hen ya..."

"Fine."

They passed neat rows of marble headstones, some with pictures, some without. One didn't even have any inscriptions. Most flowers were fresh, some withered. She thought she saw Yanagi's face on one of them, but brushed it away. They stopped in front of the grey one with fresh hydrangeas. Looking at the headstone, Fuuko felt a jolt of pain travel through her body. She fell to her knees, then reached to touch the small square photo.

"Who..."

"Kurei-han. He's the only one with enough money."

Fuuko shuddered. "Gomen ne..." she stared at the inanimate Raiha. She peered deep into the familiar green eyes that sparkled, even though they weren't alive. Yes... they weren't alive. Raiha wasn't alive. He was six feet underground.

Joker leaned down and reached for the bouquet that lay there. "Anou..."

"What is it?" Fuuko's eyes stung again. It was hard to put everything behind her.

"Raiha said that... should anything ...like that happen... I was to get you these." He laid them beside her again. "It's got a letter for you. I really ought to be going... Kurei-han - "

"Then... I think you'd better go." Fuuko weakly smiled to herself.

Joker shrugged. "See ya round," and did the infamous 'Uruha disappearing trick'.

Fuuko wiped away a stray tear that escaped her control. Deep down she still chided herself for being weak. She uttered a soft farewell, gathered up her hydrangeas and rose to her feet. Bits of wet grass still clung to her jeans, but she didn't bother brushing them off. She trudged along the quiet aisles, taking her time to absorb the calming stillness. She found a shady spot under a willow tree, and tiredly slumped down, leaning upon its scraggy trunk. Breathing an unheard sigh, her shoulders heaved as she snatched up Raiha's "will" with her third and index finger. The clean white envelope was sealed with a stick-on photo. "We are Forever". Fuuko snorted resentfully. Inside, was the off-white piece of recycled paper they'd made during the recent vacation. Neatly stenciled in ink was his elegant handwriting. The corners of her mouth tilted up slightly, slowly, mockingly, as her dim eyes quickly scanned over its contents (which I won't bother mutating into some cliché dead man's love letter). "Liar," she uttered, as she manipulated the wind currents, lifting it off her palm and ripping the blasted thing into ash-like fragments. The hydrangeas joined the letter soon after, and the drafts picked up the petals and left them strewn all over the graveyard. She watched several petals drift further. One floated an extra distance, Fuuko noted, and it gently landed upon a slender shoulder. A lithe hand picked the blue-white fragment from the black linen it had stained for a while. Frowning, she silently prayed Tokiya wouldn't look her way. She knew it was he from his silvery hair that hung down his back, albeit she was surprised to see him there, in the same cemetery.

Unfortunately, he turned, obviously curious. His knitted brows relaxed, and he resumed his casual know-it-all poker face. Looking back at the headstone before him a final time, he put his hands together and said a silent prayer to Mifuyu. He took a slow walk to the willow, his hands crammed in his pockets. The young man leaned against the small trunk as well, and ran a hand through his bangs, keeping the erratic strands away from his eyes. He let out a long breath.

"What are you doing here?"

"Just to confirm my doubts if the poor flower was indeed slaughtered at your merciless hands." He kept his azure gaze on the grave many metres away, squinting slightly.

"You know what I mean." She swirled a few blades of grass before her, creating a mini tornado that her palm supported.

"You of all people shouldn't be asking stupid questions. I have, apparently, overestimated you once again." He argued, eyeing her out of the corner of his eye.

"Sorry," she shrugged.

They paused. He wanted to ask her purpose in coming, but her puffy eyes and deranged state gave him some kind of clue. She wished to fill him in on the details, but figured he'd be sharp enough to understand. But she really needed someone to talk to, and Tokiya happened to be the only sensible, reliable one to rely on. Plus, he was a master at keeping secrets.

"Up for coffee?"

The lanky youth hoisted himself off the tree in reply, and nodded towards the gate. Offering a hand, he pulled Fuuko up.

They must have looked like a very odd freak show couple from behind - the taller female donned a sophisticated black suit that emphasized her masculine figure - broad shoulders, slim waist, slender long legs and with hair that wisped around her waist. The shorter male, with a crop of violet hair, had on a light blue tank and black fitting jeans. He had a good figure; for a girl. His well-toned body could bloody well get him a job as a successful hooker. From the front however, they looked good as hell together.

"We'll have to go to Starbucks today," Tokiya started, "I refuse to tolerate the tar mixture they make us drink at your joint."

Fuuko wanted to protest that it was a cosy place, but wasn't in the mood for argue. Instead, she replied, "I'm broke."

"My treat."

They walked the rest of the way in silence, until they came to a large coffee joint, and the rich aroma of coffee wafted through the doors everytime they opened. Heaving the heavy, full glass doors, Fuuko eyed a table for two in the back corner and proceeded to occupy the inviting vacancy. She sat, twiddling her thumbs. What would she say? How would she tell him? Tokiya came back, a take away cup of black expresso and a mocha frappe. Leaning back in his chair, he rested his right ankle on his left knee (in short, he crossed his legs like most guys do).

"I'm listening," he told her.

Fuuko seemed deep in thought, and was pursing her lips. Obviously she was having a hard time.

Deciding to lighten her load, he asked the obvious, "How did it go?" and was near shooting himself for asking something that betrayed his true intelligence. But the girl was depressed, and he had to do something about it. After all, he hated to admit, but she was the one he felt the most comfortable with. He actually enjoyed their training sessions and talking with her. Fuuko's bubbly personality was what made her a great companion. Furthermore, she seemed to be the only one with enough wits to know when he was in a bad mood, not like the usual crowd of screaming dykes... perhaps asking stupid questions today (just today) would be worth it.

"He's gone." She sighed, concentrating on her mocha.

"I know. I asked, 'how did it go'?"

"I uh... lost control."

"We worked on that."

"I know that, damn it." Fuuko felt a bit of frustration building up, and hoped that Tokiya wouldn't say anything to make her blow.

Tokiya nodded. "Was wondering why you two didn't show up today."

"Yeah well now you know."

"Figured. How are you taking it?"

She shrugged. "Can't complain. I was weak."

"Yes you were. But it's no use crying about it. He had it coming."

Fuuko glared. That was SO un-called for

"I'm not kidding" he said as-a-matter-of-factly, "shit happens. People die. Not a big deal." The sky clouded over and turned a nasty shade of grey.

"Look, Mikagami. I asked you out 'cause I thought you'd be smart enough to talk to. And the first opportunity you get your trap open you start with me. And Raiha 'had it coming'!"

Tokiya was stunned. For once he was. And he kicked himself mentally for doing something he told himself not to do.

Fuuko pressed on. "You think you're the only one whose loved one is gone? Well I'm sorry but 'shit' happened to all of us. So what if Mifuyu's gone? Recca's dad is gone, Kaoru and Ganko are orphans, and Domon's father is gone as well - " she stammered, her voice raising as she went on. There was thunder, and the rain started falling. Somehow Tokiya had an inkling the Fuujin gave its master the power to control weather according to mood swings.

He looked away. How embarrassing. Scolded by Fuuko in public, and for not thinking faster than his mouth. But what really hurt was the mention of Mifuyu. Fuuko may be a good friend, she may be able to have her way with him sometimes, but there was a limit. And she was crossing it. "Stop it, Kirisawa. Don't go there."

"Yes, I will go there!" the raving girl insisted, "Would you say they had it coming? Can I say Mifuyu had it coming?"

"Fuuko, I said stop!" Tokiya flared, surprising Fuuko as well as himself. People began to stare. Suddenly conscious of themselves, he added softly, "I don't appreciate that."

"Oh, so I'm supposed to appreciate that?" Fuuko got up and took her leave.

Great, Mikagami Tokiya has done it again, he thought.

- author's rambling -

ok, I'm reallyreally sorry this is taking so long - but I'm running low on inspiration here. ^^;; gomen!! Demo, I know where this is going, so Dark Phoenix-san. don't break my kneecaps. T.T;; I swear, I won't abandon this fic. And don't look at me funny. I'm not lying.