It had nearly been a year since the end of the civil war that had wrecked Teiko Kingdom's economy and the citizens' lives so badly that even after a year, there are still tons of work to do to repair the damage.
The civil war—the era of the Red King that had lasted for nearly four years found lots of people dead at the hands of the seemingly tyrant king that had almost destroyed the lives of his people and the kingdom. It is only a mere handful that knew the truth behind the Red King's actions—that he had done all that he could all so that the Teiko Kingdom could flourish without the King and the Royal Guard worrying about the corruption within.
Thus, it had been very difficult for Kuroko Tamaki to listen sometimes when she'd overheard some of the soldiers and citizens talking about the Red King. The few others who have known the truth have found it difficult to keep their mouths shut as well.
It however didn't change the fact that there is still a lot to do in the Teiko Kingdom despite the fact that the civil war had been over for a little more than a year. Tamaki's desk had been swarmed with paperwork since day one after the Prince's coronation as the King, and when she had retaken her position as the Commander of the Royal Guard and the Royal Army. And from what Tamaki had heard from Aida Riko who had became one of the Prince's—no, King now—advisors, he is up to his neck with work too, as the smaller villages and towns out in the remote countryside are having problems rebuilding their lives.
During the rare occasions when Tamaki and Seijuro could have some time to themselves to enjoy a small lunch, they couldn't help but curse Seiki for lauding them with this much work. Though they are thankful at least that they no longer have to bother with the corrupted politicians and such, as Seiki had already seen to it that they are no longer a problem.
Appointing Mayuzumi Chihiro as the King's personal bodyguard is probably the only decision that Tamaki had made thus far that her soldiers have objected, as the silver haired silent man had once served the Red King after all. It had taken Tamaki pulling rank to stop all questions, stating that she along with Shige-kun and Shogo-kun who are her deputies have all decided to give him a chance, and Mayuzumi hasn't done anything to break their trust in him yet.
The soldiers of the Teiko Kingdom have respected their commander, as even though she looks frail and all, she didn't become the commander for just her pretty face. That had stopped all questions, though it didn't change the fact that most of the soldiers don't trust Mayuzumi. Hell, even some of those that have signed up to become soldiers after the civil war don't really trust Mayuzumi either.
Kuroko Tamaki sighed, leaning back into her chair, rubbing at the back of her neck, having spent hours just doing nothing but poring over the mountains of documents that appeared each day on her desk. As she had the defenses of Teiko Kingdom to worry about as well as watch over the soldiers' training, the only time when she could finish her paperwork is during nighttime. Thankfully, Shige-kun and Shogo-kun have taken half of her load, sorting through the documents to determine which needs her immediate attention and which isn't important.
Riko is still looking for a trustworthy enough person to act as the palace's administrator, but so far, none of the people whom she'd screened had pleased her or Tamaki. Due to the disaster of the civil war, Tamaki had tightened palace security so much that even a mouse will have difficulty sneaking in.
Tamaki sighed, getting to her feet and stretching, getting the kinks and knots out of her body from sitting too long at her desk. "Let's call it a night," she murmured, about to turn off the oil lamp in her office when out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a sealed carton box sitting in the corner of her office, already covered with a thin layer of dust.
For a moment, Tamaki was confused as to what the carton box was before she remembered.
Takao looked at Tamaki solemnly, an empty carton box tucked beneath his arm. "I'll bring his stuff to you later—so that you can sort them out, and keep some of them if you wish to."
Tamaki's face fell, as by habit, her left hand fell to the long sword by the side of her desk. "Shin…" she murmured.
For several moments, she stared at the carton box. Midorima had been dead for more than a year now, and yet, she had never been able to truly let go. In several ways, it still feels like he's still alive and still around.
There are so many questions that she'd wanted to ask him. So many regrets that she had when it came to him.
Almost like on autopilot, Tamaki's feet took her towards the corner where the carton box is and picked it up. It was heavier than she'd expected, but not so much that Tamaki couldn't move the box. With a grunt, Tamaki placed the carton box atop her desk—onto the only part of the desk that isn't covered by papers.
Blowing the thin layer of dust off the box, she then proceeded to open it, revealing an array of items within it from books to pens and even the medals that Midorima had won during his time in the Academy and then later when he'd became a soldier, and…even a photo frame with a photo of them both during their graduation.
Tamaki pulled out the photo frame from within the box, cleaning off the layer of dust from the surface with her sleeve. She don't really remember who had taken this photo, but both Midorima and Tamaki were wearing their graduation robes in the photo, and were standing beneath the weeping sakura tree in the Academy grounds. Both were even giving slight smiles in the photo.
Tamaki managed a small smile before her fingers felt something off about the frame, and she frowned. She then turned the frame over, opening the back only to see a thick piece of paper hidden behind the photo in the frame.
With shaking fingers, Tamaki opened the paper carefully before realising that it's a letter, recognising Midorima's neat and calligraphy-like handwriting immediately.
By the time that you're reading this, I should be dead. But if I am alive, and you've somehow found this letter, then please destroy it.
Tamaki almost sweat dropped at the last sentence. More than once, Satsuki, Shige-kun and even Shogo-kun have asked her just what she saw in that tsundere who is never honest with his feelings. Hell, it had taken them until their graduation and a head clobbering from Shige-kun and Shogo-kun to make Midorima admit that he likes her.
Tamaki still remembered it like it was yesterday—the day when Midorima had confessed.
He'd gone chasing after her after the entire graduation ceremony is over, and when the headmaster had announced the results of the top graduate. As expected, Tamaki and Midorima have tied for top student once again, with Tamaki, Shige-kun and Shogo-kun being apprenticed under Captain Nijimura who had then been the Commander of the Royal Guard. Midorima, Aomine and Murasakibara have been apprenticed under the second-in-command of the Royal Guard.
Tamaki had been standing under the sakura tree at that time, staring up within the branches when Midorima had came running to her. He had basically confessed to her beneath that tree, and both have taken their first kiss there.
I've never regretted anything that I've ever done in my life—except for the actions that I've undertaken during the civil war. I know that I've hurt you badly with those actions, and I can only say that I'm sorry. I guess that I just wasn't enough or even capable enough to make you happy like I've swore to do so on the day when I've asked you to be my girlfriend.
Even if I were to die, I want to fulfil the promise that I made with you the day before you've left the palace and the Royal Guard. We've been soldiers for long enough. Both of us knew that all humans eventually die. When we became apprentice soldiers and then later soldiers of the Royal Guard, we made a promise to protect Teiko and the Prince with our last breath if necessary. Once you've resolved to protect someone or even to fulfil a promise—no matter how much blood you shed and even if you've shed tears until they've dried up, you go through with it. That's what a soldier is.
Nijimura-san once told us this, didn't he?
Tamaki, I've never regretted loving you. Even if I have to go back and make my decisions all over again, I'll still make the same decision every single time. Do you remember? About a year or so after the Red King ascended to the throne, you've asked me once why Aomine, Kise and Murasakibara have changed so much?
Honestly, I don't even recognise them anymore. But I got a theory as to why they've changed so much, and became so estranged ever since the Red King had ascended to the throne. Kise came to me yesterday evening after he'd been in the infirmary for a week due to that battle that he had with you when you've nearly broken his neck, and Aomine returned to the palace dragging his sorry carcass back with him.
He said some strange stuff to me. You and I both know Kise. That guy can't lie for his life. And he'd idolised you so much—even before he became your apprentice. He said some weird stuff—almost like hints. Like he's trying to tell me something, but couldn't tell me outright.
Tamaki, you're the head of Intelligence for a reason. Surely you must know and understand what I'm trying to tell you by now? The civil war that had wrecked Teiko Kingdom for nearly four years, and the actions that the other three have undertaken—gaining a reputation as tyrants and murderers in the kingdom when just a few short years ago, they were so loved… It was all planned by them.
I don't really get it myself. But the moment the Red King had ascended to the throne, you weren't the only one who had suspected his legitimacy. I had some doubts about his identity myself, but until you came to me about your suspicions six months after Teiko has descended into chaos, I've confirmed it. The others probably held the same suspicions too. How could they not suspect when we've served the Prince as his bodyguards since we were apprentices and knew him better than anyone else?
Aomine was the first to confront the Red King from what I could figure out from Kise's 'hints'. He had always been brash and hot headed, so I'm not surprised. After all, how many times have we hauled his ass out of the fire whenever he got into situations beyond his control?
I don't fully understand what happened after Aomine had confronted him, but from what I know, Kise, Aomine and even Murasakibara were all in this together.
Teiko Kingdom had been wrecked by corruption and even the corrupted politicians for a long time. All five of us knew that ever since we became the commanders. All of us could see the kingdom getting weaker and weaker by the year. Crimes were taking place everywhere in Teiko, with black markets and slave auctions practically taking place out in the open, and yet none of us could do anything about it because we neither have the clearance or the budget!
How many times have we confronted the late king and queen about it when we were the commanders? More than once. And each time, the answer that they gave us is the same. They might be the king and queen, but even their hands are tied. Their advisors—the Council that advises the king and controls the taxes and imports of the kingdom should never have gained enough power to control what the king could do.
But yet, they could do that. And then when we became the commanders, do you remember the house cleaning that we've done on the Royal Guard and the Royal Army for six long months? How many soldiers have we demoted and promoted during that time? How many people were executed in the dungeons of the interrogation cells after we've unveiled the number of crimes that they've committed? Shouldn't that be our first clue to something that is seriously wrong with the Teiko Kingdom, and the corruption that had already long taken place within the kingdom?
How long have we tried to clean up the corruption? Probably ever since we were named the commanders of the Royal Guard and Captain Nijimura had stepped down. And yet, we could never do much due to the number of laws that we were bound by. When the Red King ascended to the throne, there is a reason why he'd turned Teiko Kingdom upside down, and why Aomine, Kise and Murasakibara have agreed to help him.
Fight fire with fire. The Red King had to make himself out to be a tyrant, by terrorising the people of Teiko Kingdom in order to smoke out the corrupted politicians, nobles and even the soldiers. So that they'll know who they are. With the chaos that is the civil war, no one would blink an eye should those people wind up dead. Aomine, Murasakibara and even Kise knew what they're getting themselves into from the start when they decided to help the Red King to rid the corruption within Teiko Kingdom. They know that they'll end up dead after everything is over.
It almost destroyed them—Kise and Aomine especially that they have to do this to you, and hide everything. But someone has to pick up the pieces after everything is over, and the only one whom they'll trust to lead the militia of Teiko Kingdom is you. They never told me about the plan either because they know that I'll tell you.
With Kise telling me all these—or rather, giving me all these hints, probably, everything is going to be over soon. I won't blame you if you find it hard to believe. I couldn't believe it either when Kise had told me. But if you just stop and think about it, it all makes sense now. Why would they have changed their thinking and such in just a mere year? They are commanders of the Royal Guard too—just like us. If we suspected (or knew from the start in your case) that the Red King isn't the real prince, surely they would have suspected too? Particularly Murasakibara who had been fiercely loyal to the Prince from the start.
Tamaki, do not begrudge them of their last wish. They've done their duties to the Teiko Kingdom—just like we did. They just took it a step further and will go down in history as traitors and tyrants to the Teiko Kingdom—just like the Red King. If they have told you about this and what they have planned to do, what would you have done? You would have tried to stop them, wouldn't you? This is why they've made this decision.
If you're sitting in the commander seat, with the Prince sitting on the throne as the King of Teiko Kingdom as you read this, then I can rest in peace, knowing that we've fulfilled our duties and vows to Teiko Kingdom and to the royal family in our positions as soldiers. All those that have died during the civil war will have done their duties as well. You don't have to honour us—we don't need that. All that I ask is that you do not forget us and what we've done.
Tamaki, I love you. Nothing will ever change that. But if I'm dead, I want you to move on and find someone else to love and to spend the rest of your life with. Nothing and no one will ever take your place in my heart. But I want you to be happy. I put that look on your face with my actions even if it is for the good of the kingdom. And for that, I can never forgive myself.
If there is a next life, let's meet again, Tamaki. And this time, I will never put that look on your face. I swear that this time, I will make you happy.
I love you, Tamaki. Be happy.
Tears dropped onto the hand that is holding the thick piece of parchment that the letter was penned on. And yet, Tamaki didn't even realise it as she read and reread the letter over and over, trying to comprehend what she'd just read, and what Midorima had just told her.
Aomine, Kise and Murasakibara… They've never betrayed them? This is just their gift to them—along with Seiki—a Teiko Kingdom that is free of all corruption? Why have they never talked to her about it? She would have helped them—
If they have told you about this and what they have planned to do, what would you have done? You would have tried to stop them, wouldn't you?
"…I'm sorry…" Tamaki tried to wipe away the tears that have pooled around her eyes, but more tears kept flowing. "I'm…sorry…"
I'm sorry for thinking the worse of you. I'm sorry for not being able to be there for you. I'm sorry… Please forgive me.
Tamaki wiped away the tears with the back of her hand before pulling out the topmost drawer of her desk, reaching deep into it and pulling out a photo frame tucked at the back of the drawer. A photo frame containing a photo that Tamaki had been unable to look at for years now. A photo taken of the Generation of Miracles themselves the day when Kise had joined them as a fellow commander, and before everything had been shot to Hell.
Why had she ever believed the worst about them? Why couldn't she have trusted them? They're her friends—they've gone through the Academy together, and have fought and bled together on the battlefield. Shouldn't she know them better than anyone else?
Why didn't they trust her? Why didn't they say anything?
"…I'm sorry…" Tamaki murmured, tears falling onto the glass surface of the photo frame. "I'm sorry." She wiped away her tears, managing a small smile. "…Thank you for everything. Let's meet again in the next life."
~January 2008; Teiko Middle School~
Kuroko Tamaki was staring out of the window in her classroom, supporting her chin with her right hand when she gave a light start as something was placed down on the desk in front of her. Turning her head, she was slightly surprised to see Midorima-kun standing in front of her, a solemn look on his face.
Looking down at her desk, Tamaki then realised that it is a brochure and even pamphlets about Shutoku High School, one of the top schools in the Tokyo region, and also one of the reigning sports schools in tournaments.
"I'm going to Shutoku High School." Midorima told Tamaki solemnly. "Come with me." His tone almost sounded pleading. "I—" Midorima felt his voice get caught in his throat as he recalled the strange dreams that he'd been getting ever since enrolling into Teiko High School—about that 'other him from a different world and a different time'.
"Don't make the same mistake that I did. Don't put that look on her face. You only live once. So live it without regrets."
Midorima swallowed the lump in his throat, staring straight into Tamaki's curious eyes. "Come with me to Shutoku," he said again. "I know that they've approached you too—as a possible regular player and even the strategist." Hell, schools everywhere are fighting tooth and nail to get hold of one of the members of the Generation of Miracles. And any school would kill to have the vice-captain of the Generation of Miracles and also their top strategist. "Come with me to Shutoku, Tamaki. I probably can't replace…him." Midorima was careful not to use the name of their arrogant ace, "but I can promise you that I won't ever abandon you. I won't put that look on your face like how he did."
Tamaki gave a small smile—the first smile that Midorima had seen in months ever since half their team (Akashi, Midorima and Tamaki excluded from that list) had made a total fool out of Meiko Middle during the championship league match months ago.
"Yeah." Tamaki smiled, looking up at him. "I would like that."
Midorima Shintaro breathed heavily as he stared at the display window of a jewellery shop, burying his hands deeper into his coat pockets to protect them from the cold. The winter that year is just horrible, with it being so cold.
It had been years since he had graduated from middle school, and now, as a college student in his final year, Midorima Shintaro could proudly say that he is now Kuroko Tamaki's boyfriend.
Akashi had actually approached Midorima a mere week before he had to leave for Kyoto for high school, actually telling Midorima that he'd just learned about Tamaki's choice of a high school, and told the green head very seriously to take care of his precious cousin. If he sees so much as a frown on her face or even a tear, he had better start writing out his will. Hell, with what Aomine had put Tamaki through for nearly a year and a half back in Teiko, Midorima wouldn't blame Akashi for acting this way, especially with that incident back in second year with Hanamiya that had nearly crippled Tamaki.
With Midorima and Tamaki in the Shutoku team (though Tamaki is mainly there as a strategist, with the coach only putting her in the extremely important games like their matches against Seiho High and Yosen High during the Inter High), they have managed to clinch the championship trophy of the Winter Cup tournament, having gotten Rakuzan High as their final opponent. The first time that all of Shutoku had seen Tamaki's strategies at work, they were all stunned—and even Miyaji was speechless. After that, Shutoku knew better than to doubt her talent and ability, despite knowing what she could do from rumours in the middle school circuit.
It had actually taken a lot of encouragement (Kimura and Otsubo), some threats (Miyaji), and even endless teasing (Takao) from their teammates before Midorima had even worked on his courage to ask Tamaki out at the seniors' graduation party that the entire basketball club had put together for the graduating seniors.
The two former Teiko graduates have been getting closer together all year, and Tamaki is also Midorima's anchor—there to rein him in should he start getting too full of himself. The Shutoku team actually depended on her to keep Midorima in line for their seniors' sanity as well (namely Otsubo, Miyaji and Kimura) when Miyaji had actually screeched for a pineapple or even a durian more than one time during practice or matches.
Midorima had also been the one to help Tamaki with her strategy planning sessions and all that, and had sat with her for hours after he's done with his own training to assist her in her strategy planning sessions. Hell, he had also helped Tamaki with the training menu when they've held that summer camp back in July where they've somehow run into Seirin High School who is also staying at the same inn that they are.
Tamaki and Seirin's female coach, Aida Riko have gotten along like a house on fire—being the only two females present, though Riko was wary in the beginning as she'd recognised Tamaki as the vice captain of the Generation of Miracles, and also the genius strategist that even the professionals have their eye on.
The graduation party for the seniors was held at some lodge that their coach had booked for them at the end of the academic year when everyone was done with their exams and Takao had been named as the new captain, though Otsubo had made it clear that if Tamaki had been a starter regular player from the start, he would have named her as the new captain instead as she seems to be the only one that can keep the team in line.
The rest of the basketball club had gone crazy with Miyaji beginning the start to what was going to be a crazy night by proposing a game of strip poker. Tamaki had decided to remove herself from the craziness by excusing herself to the outside for some fresh air, and Midorima had followed her example.
He had confessed to her then, asking Tamaki out—asking her to be his girlfriend that night. Much to his relief, Tamaki had agreed, and the two had even shared a short and sweet kiss beneath the full winter moon. The moment however was ruined by the remaining members of the regular team who had apparently been spying on them, much to Midorima's annoyance.
Aomine had clearly not taken the news well when he'd heard, as he is always glaring at Midorima whenever Touou wind up facing Shutoku for tournament matches or even practice matches that their individual managers have scheduled with each other.
Now years later, both Midorima and Tamaki are now in their final year of college. Both have gotten high credits for their college entrance exams, and have attended Todai University where Akashi is attending as well—with all three having won scholarships for their area of study.
Kise and Aomine have attended different colleges—with Kise going to the pilot academy to study to be a pilot whilst modelling on the side whereas Aomine had earned enough credits to get him a place at one of the mid-level colleges, taking law as his major, hoping to be a detective. Momoi had followed Aomine to his school, only she had taken sports sciences as her major, wanting to be a sports therapist or even a sports trainer.
On the other hand, Midorima had taken medical sciences as his study, opting to be a doctor like his father. Tamaki had taken education, wanting to be a kindergarten teacher, whilst Akashi is rather a mystery, as he had taken social sciences as his main area of study with business management as his elective.
The Generation of Miracles have managed to repair their fractured friendship by the end of their first year in high school, though they would probably never regain that strong friendship that they've once had in middle school.
Midorima had even managed to secure enough money by the time that he is beginning his second year of college, and could move out of the college's dorms, renting a spacious apartment nearby in a building that mainly houses college students. He had actually asked Tamaki to move in with him that she had agreed to.
…Honestly, Midorima is relieved that Akashi didn't want to kill him for that, though he had a suspicion that Tamaki had probably spoken to him.
Now years ever since graduating from middle school, and soon fast approaching his graduation day for college, Midorima is now getting ready to propose to his girlfriend of nearly five years. He had already managed to secure an internship at his father's hospital, with Midorima working out with his father to start out like any other intern before becoming a fully fledged doctor, working in Paediatrics.
Tamaki had already gotten a job offer from a kindergarten not too far away from the Midorima Municipal Hospital. Takao who had still kept in contact with them and the rest of the team after graduation, but had gone to a different university instead had also become a teacher like Tamaki, securing a position as an assistant teacher at a nearby high school not too far away from Midorima and Tamaki's work places. Midorima honestly has no idea how Takao is going to be a high school teacher when he acts like a kid half the time.
"Can I help you?" The lady boss of the small jewellery shop that strangely reminds Midorima of Tamaki approached him with a smile. "Are you shopping for anything in particular?"
"Y-Yes." Midorima nodded his head. "I'm looking for an engagement ring. I want to ask my girlfriend to marry me next month."
The lady smiled. "Ah, a proposal then. I have just the thing for you. Wait one second." She disappeared towards the back of the shop before emerging once more moments later, carrying a box with her. "I had these rings for some time now. It just never seem appropriate to sell them to anyone until you walked into my shop."
Midorima blinked in confusion before his eyes widened as the lady opened the lid of the box to reveal a pair of elaborate simple silver rings. The ring for the female had three blue stones set in the middle—the very colour of Tamaki's eyes.
Midorima smiled to himself.
These are just what he is looking for. It is perfect for Tamaki.
"I'll take them," said Midorima, turning towards the lady. "I want to engrave words on them too." He told the lady the words he wanted engraved, and it was soon done within moments, with Midorima ready to take the rings with him. "How much?" He asked, already reaching for his wallet.
"No charge." The lady said, much to his surprise. She had a sad smile on her face. "Just promise me this: make your girl happy. Give her happiness. Never make her frown or even cry. Protect her with everything you have. That is all that I ask."
…Let's meet again in the next life.
"It's so beautiful." Kuroko Tamaki breathed even as she stared, mesmerised at the view of all of Tokyo from the top of the Tokyo Tower. "I've lived in Tokyo nearly all my life, and yet, I've never been to the Tokyo Tower before."
"You and me both." Midorima agreed, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose nervously, feeling the box in his coat pocket that contains the ring he is going to use to ask Tamaki to marry him. It had taken a hell of a time to get Akashi's approval months ago when he'd decided to ask Tamaki to be his wife. It had taken nearly ten shogi games and nearly a month of drinking with Akashi before the redhead had finally agreed to let Midorima marry his cousin.
Tamaki looked at him strangely, but made no comment. "Are you sure that you want to miss out on Takao's celebration party at the bar? Everyone's going."
"What makes you think that I would enjoy a wild night filled with nothing but drinking and dancing?" Midorima snorted. "I never did enjoy clubbing."
Tamaki laughed. "You and me both," she smiled.
Midorima gulped. This is it. The perfect moment.
"Tamaki." Tamaki turned to look at him. "We've been together for a long time now, and had gone through a lot together. I know that I want to continue walking this path together with you, and share all your joys and sorrows. I'll laugh with you and cry with you. And if you get mad, I'll be there to soothe your anger." He then got on one knee, taking the box out from his pocket and opening it, revealing the elegant silver ring resting on the black velvet cushion. Around Midorima, all the visitors to the top of the Tokyo Tower have stopped what they're doing to watch this scene. "What I'm asking is… Tamaki, will you marry me?"
There was silence for a long time as Midorima—and everyone else, even the tour guide currently leading a tour group around—held their breaths, waiting for Tamaki's answer.
Tamaki smiled. It is that smile—the smile that she had only shown to Midorima. Not even Aomine, her ex-boyfriend of a year back during middle school had been able to make her smile like this.
Tamaki nodded. "Yes."
There were whoops and cheers and even claps from the audience surrounding them as Midorima got to his feet once more, sliding the ring onto Tamaki's left ring finger. The ring fitted her like a glove before he enveloped the smaller girl in a hug, nearly lifting her off the ground.
"We should tell Sei." Tamaki said at last when he'd finally placed her back down onto the ground. "And my aunt and everyone."
"I've already asked Akashi for his permission." Midorima answered. He then grimaced. "We used to be good friends in Teiko—only now I realise that he is going to be my cousin-in-law."
"No way." Midorima smiled at her before capturing her lips in a kiss. "I've let you go once before. Never again."
Midorima dreamt again that night when he finally got home, having returned to his family home to tell his parents and younger sister of the good news.
From the moment when his head hit the pillow and he started dreaming again, he saw that he is in that place once more—the one with the giant weeping sakura tree, with the hundreds and thousands of pink petals raining down upon him like pink rain.
And beneath that tree, in that dark cloak that concealed his face and body from view is him.
"You again?" Midorima sighed. But he then smiled a small smile. "Thank you, for your advice. I wouldn't have acted upon it if it wasn't for you."
"That was all you, not me," said the mysterious figure. "I merely gave you a push into the right direction." He turned his back on Midorima, looking up at the weeping sakura tree. "You know, it's a strange thing. Love, that is. I've once loved a girl so deeply that I'm willing to give up everything—even my life for her. And when I did, I then realised that what I did hurts her more than anything that anyone else did. But I couldn't do anything to soothe her pain. My deepest regret is that I couldn't be by her side, or even ask her to be my wife." He turned his head slightly, looking at Midorima over his shoulder. "Don't make the same mistake that I did. It is never true love or even happiness if you leave the love of your life behind, thinking that you're protecting her. In sickness and in health. And till death do us part." Midorima's eyes widened slightly when he heard the words that he'd asked to be engraved on the engagement rings. "Those vows don't come easy—don't make them easily. Once you do, abide by it until the end of your life. Be by her side, Midorima-kun. Protect her with everything you have."
"I will. I swear it." Midorima promised.
The cloaked figure seemed almost as if he was smiling. He then turned away. "Well then… It is time for me to go then, and to join my thousands of comrades on the other side. This will be the last time that you'll see me, Midorima-kun. So this is goodbye for real."
"Wait!" Midorima called out to the cloaked figure before he could disappear. "Who are you? Answer me!"
"I've told you before." The cloaked figure told him, partially turning around and partially lifting part of his cloak only to reveal a familiar pair of bright green eyes. "I am you, from a different world and a different time. You've done what I couldn't. Thank you."
If there is a next life, let's meet again, Tamaki. And this time, I will never put that look on your face. I swear that this time, I will make you happy.