Chapter 23: Epilog: The Flying Rainbow

62 years later

Himeko Yaegashi rolled herself into the living room. A warm blanket on her lap was topped by a sleeping cat, which she petted absently.

She picked up the photo of herself and her friends at their high school graduation. It was a holograph - simulated, of course - but it seemed to make them all come alive. As she held the holograph in front of her, on each of her cuffs could be seen a small silver cufflink in the shape of two intersecting arcs of half-ellipses.

Then her granddaughter entered the room.

Inaba asked, "Did you find it?"

Chika smiled. "Yes, I did. It was at the bottom of a dusty old chest in the attic." She was holding an old bottle that was wrapped in a towel.

She gave the champagne bottle to her grandmother along with a champagne glass.

Then she paused. "Do you wish to be alone?"

"Yes."

Chika left.

Inaba looked at the faded label. It was the bottle that Iori had purchased 52 years earlier, just after her liver began to fail due to her chronic hepatitis B infection. Iori said it was to be opened only by the last surviving member.

Iori had originally purchased the bottle because she thought that she would be the first to go. After all, she was completely ineligible to have a liver transplant in either the United States or in Japan due to her latent infection.

Inaba, of course, would have none of that. She swung into action and used her wealth and her influence to get Iori a liver transplant at a clinic in Mexico. The irony was that Iori, whom everyone had thought was destined to live the shortest life, had actually lived the second longest, 92 years, almost as long as Inaba herself.

Inaba raised her glass in a silent toast.

To absent friends.

She closed her rheumy eyes as she remembered the highs and lows of their lives. She recalled their battles against Heartseed, then against Numbers Two, Three, and Four. Then there was the battle to save Akio from her own self-destruction, not unlike what had happened to Iori herself. But eventually Akio and Kouki had reconciled, and Chika was the result.

Something was wrong. She felt her head seem to grow very large. It was because the Circle of Willis, the largest artery system within the brain, had hemorrhaged in the back of her head. She dropped the champagne glass on the floor.

And then she breathed in the light.

And that light, that final breath of life, that final breath, her very last on Earth, which was always light, that last breath of light that every mortal breathes in, just as they die, which many people misinterpret as a 'tunnel of light', is actually information.

It is Truth.

It cleansed her.

It perfected her.

It reconciled her soul with God.

Then she saw a marvelous vista.

It was a beautiful sunny day, all blue and bright. A brilliant rainbow-colored ribbon was shooting across the landscape. The tip was moving fast, bending this way and that, leaving behind a brilliant band of color. It rushed past Yamaboshi Academy, then zoomed past the Mosaic Center and its Ferris wheel. Then it suddenly angled upward and shot into the sky.

As we soar over the rainbow *

I can hear our new beginning

Let's find the truth together

Through the open door, we'll head out and never look back

If we connect our vision will clear

We'll be able to see beyond the universe

And there Inaba saw Taichi, Iori, Yui, and Aoki flying in the air. She smiled at them. And they were smiling back at her.

And she saw that they were all young again. And it was real. She knew that this was a real place. It was a place that was actually more real than the world that she was in moments earlier**.

The five of them were soaring and twisting in graceful arcs. They were all wearing their old school uniforms from Yamaboshi Academy. They soared far above the city, circling higher and higher as they shouted with joy. The quintet wheeled and turned like a flock of eagles in the bright sunlight.

And so, in their final High Flight, they flew up and up and up.

For you see, they had slipped the surly bonds of earth, and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings.

Laughing and shouting with glorious joy, they chased the wind along, and flung themselves through footless halls of air.

As they soared up, Inaba was having a little bit of trouble keeping up with the rest of the group. She faltered a bit. The others turned to watch her. Iori was holding her hand to keep her aloft.

But this time, this time it would be different. It would not end the same way as it did during Inaba's bad dream, the one that she had experienced those many years ago, where Iori had released her hand and allowed her to plummet to her doom.

For again Iori was holding her hand.

But this time, as they soared and wheeled

This time it was different.

This time..

.. she did not let go.

The End


A/N:

This epilog was inspired by the second ED of Kokoro Connect (episodes 6-10). You can watch ED 2 in a short Vimeo video entitled Kokoro Connect Ending 2 (1:28) by Faiz Skyzo. The song played in ED 2 is entitled Cry Out.

* The lyrics are excerpted from Paradigm, the song played in the first OP (episodes 1-5).

** For the technical explanation of why I think the afterlife is more 'real' than our own, see my one-shot fic for the film Interstellar (2014), called The Dying of the Light.