Unspoken Words

Change of Heart

Sixteen months ago, Asami Sato’s memories…


Asami stared at the letter. She recognized her father’s handwriting easily, but he’d made sure she would know it was from him anyway by adding his name to the return address. For once, he was being upfront with her about something. It was far too late for that, though.

Why had he sent this letter, though? It was a question Asami could probably answer simply by opening and reading it, but curiosity wasn’t worth opening up a wound that was still healing. For all she knew, her father had decided it was time to try to convince her of his Equalist ideals once more, or perhaps he had something even worse to say.

No. It wasn’t worth it. Asami shook her head. She picked up the letter from her desk, and headed to her filing cabinet. She found an unused file near the back and tucked it in, not even bothering to label it. She put it away: out of sight, out of mind. Except, not entirely out of mind.

Asami placed the palm of her hand against the wall. She closed her eyes as she leaned over, letting out a sigh. If only Korra were here. She could really use someone to talk to right now. Without Korra around, there really wasn’t anyone she felt comfortable opening up to. At least, not as much. She was beginning to get a bit more comfortable with Opal, ever since she’d agreed to help Asami with testing her idea for a suit that airbenders could use for flight, but Asami still didn’t feel comfortable going to her for something like this.

Asami shook her head. She needed Korra. If Korra couldn’t be here in person, then she’d go with the next best thing.

Sometimes in her life, Asami didn’t know what was driving her until events had fully played out. The renovations of Republic City Park were such an occasion. When the contract had come up for bids, Cabbage Corp had bid for it at a rate that they must have thought Future Industries couldn’t hope to match. Indeed, they couldn’t. No matter how Asami worked the numbers, there was no way they could have turned a profit at that rate. And yet, she’d gone and underbid Cabbage Corp anyway, and they’d done the renovations at a loss.

She’d told her shareholders to trust her. She had a plan to use it for goodwill. As it turned out, she did. She just didn’t realize until she was laying out the plans for the park that the goodwill she’d had in mind wasn’t for Future Industries; it was for Korra. There was a space in the park allocated for a “monument,” without any specifics defined in the contract. It was only when Asami had gotten to this part of the planning that she’d realized what her subconscious had been helping her work towards.

It was beyond time for the people of the people of Republic City to appreciate all that Korra had done for them. And so Asami had laid out the plans for a monument to Korra, reminding the city of the Avatar who’d saved them three times over, being prepared to give up every part of herself to do so. Just in case anyone didn’t get the message, she’d made sure to have the base of the statue inscribed, paying tribute to Korra’s victories over Amon, Unalaq, and the Red Lotus, and thanking her for what she’d had to suffer through each time.

Asami had erected the statue for the Korra, and for the people of Republic City. At least, so she told herself. Perhaps she’d done it for herself, too. Right now, when she found herself with a Korra-shaped hole in her heart, she found herself gravitating to this statue. Simply seeing it helped put her mind at ease, just a little. Whatever Korra was doing right now, Asami knew she was working to get better, so she could eventually return to Republic City and look over them, just like this stone version of her did.

Some time here would do Asami good. She wandered around the park for a bit, never straying too far from the statue. Eventually, she ended up taking a seat on a stone bench not far from it. She leaned back, trying to clear her mind of the letter from earlier.

The park was rather busy today, although at least Asami was spared anyone recognizing her today. The statue of Korra even seemed to be attracting a fair bit of attention. It wasn’t often Asami got a chance to gauge just how much of an effect it might actually be having on people, so she decided to make the most of this opportunity. It would be a good distraction, if nothing else.

Asami looked around, taking note of people who passed by the statue. A group of people were lined up on a series of mats near the statue, practicing what could have been earthbending stances, though none of them were paying any attention to the statue itself. What looked like a mother and daughter came up to the statue and looked up, though it wasn’t long before the daughter ran off and the mother followed. A couple of young kids climbed on the base of the statue, though they didn’t seem to care much about the fact that it was of Korra. A man came by walking his ferret-dog, and the ferret-dog seemed to show a fair bit of interest in the statue. Something told Asami it wasn’t really appreciating it, though.

It took a while before Asami noticed anyone reading the inscriptions on the base of the statue. A man, probably just a couple years her senior, dressed in red and black clothing, had approached the statue, and was staring intently at one of the inscriptions on its base. Asami was pretty sure she’d seen him earlier, sitting on another bench nearby. The statue must have piqued his curiosity.

Asami smiled a bit as she watched the man. After a minute, he moved from one inscription to another. So people were indeed reading what she’d had written about Korra. Good. Maybe it would only affect a few people directly, but hopefully their improved opinion of her would trickle out to the rest of Republic City over time.

The man moved to the final inscription, and after a few more minutes, he walked back to the bench he’d been at earlier. Asami tried to keep her eyes focused in front of her so he wouldn’t notice he was watching her, though she still paid attention to him. He didn’t seem to sit down at that bench, though. Instead, he moved off. After a moment, Asami leaned back so that she could catch sight of him again.

Something was off about the way he was walking. He was heading away now, so Asami could be a bit more daring with looking over at him. Yes, something was definitely off. If she had to describe it, she’d go with… “shaken.” He was shaken. A moment of worry hit Asami. Had she made some mistake with the inscriptions? Had they been vandalised, perhaps?

Asami got up, dashing over to the statue of Korra. She circled the statue once, inspecting each inscription in turn. Nothing was amiss. Perhaps she hadn’t thought through how this might affect people, then. She’d have to talk to that man, figure out what it was that had shaken him about this.

Asami looked up, trying to catch sight of him again. Unfortunately, he’d gone out of sight while she was inspecting the statue. With a sigh, Asami ran back to the bench he’d been at before, taking a moment to look around. He’d been heading away from her, so that would have taken him toward the grove of trees nearby. That was probably it. That could have taken him out of her sight, so he could easily be there now.

Walking quickly, but not so quickly that it might appear suspicious to him, Asami headed toward the grove. She slowed down a bit as she reached the trees, and she was soon able to pick out some footprints that looked recent. Following them, she soon caught sight of a red sleeve, just beyond the base of a tree.

Stepping slowly, Asami moved until the man was in full view. Apparently he was even more shaken than he’d let on when he was in public. He was sitting on the ground at the base of the tree, his face buried in his hands. Asami couldn’t help but wince at the sight of this. She didn’t know what had caused this, but part of her felt responsible. And as awkward as the situation was, she couldn’t walk away.

He hadn’t noticed her yet, so Asami spent a moment trying to find the right words. In the end, she decided to keep it simple. “Excuse me,” she said, trying to keep her voice soft. “Is everything alright?”

The man was silent for a moment. He seemed to tense up just a bit. “I’m fine,” he said eventually, though he didn’t look up. His voice was stiff. It was an obvious lie. “Don’t worry about me.” He was probably hoping Asami would just move on, and leave him until he recovered. The alternative would probably mean opening himself up to a complete stranger.

But he’d come here alone. And he’d let himself get this broken up before heading off home, or to see anyone else. Perhaps he didn’t have anyone else he could open up to. Or maybe that was just Asami projecting her own situation onto him. Well, it was still possible. Korra certainly wouldn’t give up on someone who needed help like this, and neither would Asami.

Asami took a seat beside from the man. “And what if I decide to worry about you?” she said. “Can I do that?”

The man took a breath. “Fine,” he said. After a minute, he adjusted his position. He rested his forehead against his arms, still hiding his face from Asami. “Can’t really… explain very well right now…”

“It’s alright,” Asami said. “I can wait.” She’d taken the rest of the day off from work, in case she needed it to deal with her father’s letter. Well, at least this had pushed that out of her mind.

It took a few minutes, but eventually, the man looked up. He leaned his head back against the tree behind him, giving Asami her first clear view of his face. In a way, he reminded her of Bolin. He had a similar build, though he was a few years older, and his hair was a few inches longer and a fair bit less groomed.

His eyes were where he differed most from Bolin, though perhaps part of that was just situational. Even though he was looking away from Asami right now, she could see the pain in his eyes, and the evidence that he’d likely been crying recently. There was something a bit odd about his eyes, though Asami couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was. They seemed unusually sharp, his gaze and emotions almost too easy to read. But again, perhaps that was the situation, and how strong his

After a few more moments, the man spoke. “I can’t help but hate myself right now,” he said. “Maybe I can blame my father for some of it, but…” he shook his head. “I have to take responsibility at some point. Now’s as good a time as any. I blinded myself, and I could have ended up doing some horrible… well, no, not ‘doing’... aiding? Enabling? Enabling. I could have enabled some horrible things if things had played out just a bit differently. Or maybe not. I don’t know. But I deserve hate for it anyway. And the worst part is, if what those inscriptions say is true… if the Avatar knew me, she probably wouldn’t even hate me.”

Asami looked at the man, wondering what he might have been involved in. In Republic City over his lifetime, it could really have been anything. A lot of good people had gotten tangled up in bad things just to survive - Mako and Bolin came to mind. They’d been involved with the Triple Threats in order to survive on the streets, but they’d moved beyond it. Whatever this man had been involved in, perhaps it wasn’t too late for him either. That is, assuming he was genuine, and that he wasn’t leaving anything out right now.

Right now, Asami decided she’d give him the benefit of the doubt. “You’re right,” she said. “Hate isn’t her way. She might have come close to hating Amon, but that wasn’t what drove her to oppose him.” Asami paused for a moment. Going on along these lines probably wouldn’t help. He didn’t need to hear about how Korra would have no reason to wish him ill. She needed to get him out of his own past. “Hate doesn’t have to be your way, either. There’s always time to make a change moving forward. We can’t change the past. We simply have to accept it, and try to move on. If you feel you need to, then you can try to do better things in the future to make up for anything you think you’ve done wrong in the past… especially if there’s anyone you actually have harmed.”

“I can, but… The Avatar...” The man let out a deep sigh. “I have to do something. I will do something. Even if I never meet her, I will. But…” He shook his head. “It won’t be enough. It’s never enough.” He closed his eyes again. “But it’s something. At least it’s the right thing, this time.”

Asami narrowed her gaze, tensing up just a bit. Mentioning the Avatar in this context, after she’d mentioned the possibility that there might be someone he’d actually harmed… “‘Enough’... You sound like you want to atone for something. Did you… do something to hurt Korra?” That might be harder for her to forgive personally, if that was the case. She might be able to, but it was certainly going to be harder for him.

The man shook his head again. “No. Maybe I even helped her, in a way. But it wasn’t for her sake. I need to do something to atone because… I hated the Avatar. I hated the concept of her. That she could get so much power, while others had none…” He opened his eyes, turning slowly to face Asami. His gaze didn’t quite meet hers; it fell just below Asami’s eyes. “I hated her for something she had no control over… but she’s the last person to deserve such hate.

“I was wrong. Her powers don’t define her. Her choices do. She chose to sacrifice everything, time and time again. Maybe I didn’t harm her. But I’m still going to try to make up for it, somehow. You have my word on that.” The man’s eyes shifted up as he said this, finally meeting Asami’s gaze. His eyes seemed to lock firmly onto Asami’s. There was no way he wasn’t telling the truth.

“I’ll take your word,” Asami said. She smiled slightly at the man. She held her hand out to him. “Though I’ll be able to hold you to it better if I have your name.”

The man’s expression seemed to relax, just a little, as he reached out and took Asami’s hand. “Izin O-,” he said, though he cut himself off. He shook his head slightly before he continued, “Just Izin. No family name. Not anymore.” Asami raised an eyebrow at this, but she didn’t inquire further. His past was his own business. If he wanted to put it behind him, she wasn’t going to push him for details.

“Asami Sato,” she said in reply, widening her smile. “It’s nice to meet you, Izin.”

Izin’s expression shifted as she spoke her name, recognition spreading through his features. “‘Sato’... You’re…”

Asami was about to cut him off and tell him not to worry about that, but the hairs on the back of her neck had stood up for some reason. She was sensing danger. She glanced at Izin first, but there was nothing in his posture to indicate he was in any way a threat to her. And his eyes were almost apologetic right now. So, no, not him. Something else… she could hear something, but just barely. A yell. A man with a deep voice, perhaps calling out for help, perhaps trying to warn people.

“Later!” Asami said sharply, quickly pulling back from Izin and standing up. A scream came behind her, and she turned around. She strained her ears to hear more, but she was only able to make out one word: “airbender.” Whatever was going on, it was serious. “I’ll handle this. Sorry, Izin,” Asami said, glancing back at the man just before she dashed off in the direction of the scream.

The world slows down around me. Instead of the trees moving past me as I dash off toward the cry for help, they slowly spread into a blur. The brown from their trunks, the green of their leaves, and blue of the sky behind them all blend together. Patches of the scene mix together, like different colors of paint mixing on a canvas. Eventually, it all comes to a halt, and I take a step out of Asami’s body.

“Alright, I think I get it now,” I say, turning back toward Asami.

Asami is frozen in place mid-stride, though not blurred-out like the surroundings. I give her a moment to respond, but I see nothing obvious from her. I can feel something, though. We’re still connected. I’ve simply stepped outside for a moment, so I can express my own thoughts without being overwhelmed by her memories. Perhaps if there’s some way she can respond, she’ll do so. But for now, I’ll simply speak my own piece to her.

“This is… an entry point,” I say. “A way to let me in to your memories. I was expecting to see a memory I was in… perhaps when you were meditating back in the elevator underground and were trying to reach out to me. But maybe this makes more sense. My mind was brought back to how I felt reaching out to Kuvira, showing her compassion, and trying to help her move forward as a new person. And then you brought me over to a significant point in your life, when you did the same for someone else.”

I take a moment to look around the scene, considering it. Maybe the details are different in the two memories, and maybe Izin’s crimes were more in his head than anywhere else, but the core theme seems to be the same. Death of the old self, and birth of the new. Wait… was this why I saw that particular memory of Avatar Varina’s, even? Maybe the entity in the tree knew I was going to try this, and so it chose that memory to show me.

I turn back to Asami and nod slowly, then smile at her. Nothing changes in her body physically, but somehow I know she’s watching me, listening to me. “Um… one more thing, before I forget. I probably should thank you for what you’ve done here. I didn’t realize you’d been doing so much for me while I was away. And… I’m also sorry I couldn’t have been here for you when you needed me. I know! I know what you’d say: I don’t need to apologize for anything. But I feel like it, okay? I’m sorry, Asami. I won’t leave you for that long again. I promise.”

Warmth fills the air around me as I speak these words. I close my eyes, letting the warmth envelop me. It seems Asami can respond after all. Perfect.

“Alright, Asami,” I say, smiling in response to her ethereal embrace. “You know better than I do what might be relevant. Show me where - or when - we should go next.”

Around me, the blurred-out trees begin to sharpen once more. Asami’s body begins to move, resuming her run. This memory again? Was there something else here that was relevant? I don’t have much time to think about it, though. The world is about to snap back into focus, and I can’t risk losing contact with Asami. I reach out to Asami, wrapping my hand around her wrist, and I let go of myself. My body fades into a mist, and my consciousness seeps into Asami’s mind, taking a backseat. As always, I’ll trust her to drive me where I need to go.

Sixteen months ago, Future Industries R&D Facility, Republic City...

“What do you mean Miss Sato isn’t in?” Bumi said, gazing at the secretary in disbelief. “She said today was finally going to be the day I got to try out one of those wingsuits Opal’s been raving about!”

“Er… I’m sorry, Admir- I mean, Mr. Bumi, er, sir…” the secretary said, stammering. Bumi almost felt sorry for the poor man. Almost. “Miss Sato had a personal emergency come up, and she had to cancel all her engagements this afternoon. We tried to get in contact with you, but…”

“Cancel? Doesn’t she know how to delegate her duties?” Bumi said. He crossed his arms and tapped his foot as loudly as he could, looking around the foyer. This was turning into a waste of a day. Maybe it wasn’t a waste yet, though.

“Well, she does, sir, it’s just, this is one of her personal projects, and she insisted that she be there personally…”

Bumi’s head snapped back, his eyes focusing on the secretary. “Well, she was the one who decided not to be there! Her decision - not mine!” Bumi leaned forward, placing his palms on the desk and bringing his face to within inches of the secretary’s. “So here’s what we’re going to do: You’re going to show me where the suit is she was going to let me use, and I’m going to test it out. As you said, she decided not to be here, so she’s changed her mind about being here personally, right?”

“Er, well…” The secretary said, nervously trying to back away from Bumi.

“Hey,” Bumi said. He cocked a confident grin, then pulled back and crossed his arms. “Trust me on this. I’ll take full responsibility if something goes wrong.”

The secretary gulped. “Um, let me call up one of the engineers…” he said, his hand reaching out blindly for his phone. “Just to… make sure everything’s ready for your test.”

Sixteen months ago, Asami Sato’s memories…

The yelling became more clear as Asami cleared the trees. A woman was running through the park, warning about a falling airbender who was headed toward the area. Most people were packing up and running away as they heard this, out of a very legitimate concern of not being hit in a crash landing, though a few seemed to be trying to spot the airbender before they did so. At least they were getting away eventually, though. That was probably the smart move: get themselves out of danger if they couldn’t do anything to help.

When Asami had been a child, she’d had that same instinct in the face of danger, but it had been trained out of her. A lifetime of self-defense courses had taught her to face danger head-on, and so she found herself running toward the source of danger now, looking for a way to help. The job of warning people was already being handled by the woman running through the park - apparently she was the same sort as Asami, and she ran toward danger as well, either by natural instinct or through her own training.

So, spreading the warning was being taken care of. That left Asami with the task of finding a way to save the airbender. She didn’t have much time, so she had couldn’t waste a moment. If they were falling, then their flight stick must have been damaged, and there must not be any other airbenders around who could help support them. Depending on how bad the damage was, they might be able to slow their fall somewhat, but it might not be enough to save them.

There were two options: Slow their descent, or cushion their landing. If there was time, try to do both. For the landing, there was a pond nearby. It wasn’t very deep, but it might be something. “Waterbender!” Asami called out, almost before her mind had fully processed her idea. She looked at the people milling around and running past. “Is anyone around a waterbender?” Asami turned her head quickly, looking for any indication that someone might be. Nothing. If there were an airbender here, they would have been able to help already. A firebender was no good. “...Earthbender? What about an earthbender?”

“Um…” Asami’s head turned, and she caught sight of a girl running by, slowing in her step. “I… well…” she said, coming to a stop.

“You can do this,” Asami said, nodding at the girl. The girl seemed to be a couple years younger than Asami, so she might well be inexperienced or untrained. But it was an emergency, so Asami wasn’t going to express her worries. She had to pass on her confidence to the girl. “Here’s the plan. We need to figure out where the airbender is going to crash, and then you can earthbend a pile of soil, dirt, any soft earth you can find nearby, for them to crash into. Alright?”

The girl took a breath. “Okay. I can do that,” she said.

Asami smiled at her. She reached out and placed a hand on the girl’s shoulder, then looked up into the sky, trying to see if she could spot the airbender. That was one half of the plan, done as best as she could. Was there any way she could help slow the airbender’s descent? If she could get airborne herself, there were ways, but that wasn’t going to happen soon enough. If a trained metalbender were around, they might be able to help out when the airbender was close enough, grabbing onto them and pushing back during the end of their descent. But if there were any nearby, they would have responded when Asami asked for an earthbender. What did that leave?

A flash of light came from Asami’s left. She turned her head, catching sight of someone firebending, shooting blasts of fire at… blankets? She caught sight of the airbender in the sky, above the firebender, closer to the ground than she was comfortable with, and with that realization, figuring out what the firebender was up to took a backseat to getting to the airbender in time. “Come!” she said the the earthbending girl as she ran off toward the firebender.

As Asami ran toward him, she caught sight of the firebender shooting a series of blasts at one of the blankets, pushing it up into the air. It wasn't catching fire, thankfully; it might have been one of the mats being used earlier by the people practicing earthbending forms - Asami was pretty sure they always used nonflammable mats. Just as Asami reached the firebender, she caught sight of the airbender - now clearly a rather large one - grabbing hold of the airborne mat with one hand and pulling it toward himself.

“It’ll help,” came a man’s voice from Asami’s left side. “But not enough. Someone grab on to this, anchor yourself if you can!”

Asami’s body moved ahead of her conscious mind. She noticed a mat held out before, and she grabbed on to the end of it. “Earthbender, anchor my feet to the ground!” she said, hoping the girl had managed to keep up with her.

Time seemed to slow, giving Asami a chance to notice everything at once. To her right, a massive airbender was headed almost directly towards her. To her left, the firebender she’d noticed earlier was waving at the airbender, directing him toward the mat Asami was helping hold up as he got out of the way himself. Behind Asami, the girl she’d met earlier caught up with her, and she felt earth grow out, enveloping her feet. She held on to the mat as firmly as she could, refusing to let go. It might well be the airbender’s lifeline.

Asami’s eyes rose, finally catching sight of the man holding onto the other end of the mat: Izin. Apparently he’d also been cursed with the instinct to run toward danger. And he didn’t have the benefit of an earthbender to anchor him down right now. From his sentence earlier, it was possible he had something of his own to hold him down, but from the way he seemed to be lifting off the ground now…

Like a rubber band which had been stretched out, time seemed to suddenly snap back to full speed. The wind lifted Izin off the ground, pulling him and his end of the mat up just as the airbender crashed into the middle of it. Asami somehow managed to maintain her grip on the mat, though Izin wasn’t so lucky. At some point in the chaos, he got flung loose, hitting the ground just a moment after the airbender did and rolling a good ways away before he came to a stop.

Asami tried to move her feet, but they were still anchored down. She glanced to the firebender off to her left and spoke, “Try to find a healer. Tell people we need help here!” The firebender nodded, and he quickly ran off.

A moment later, Asami felt the earth around her feet open up. “Are they… are they alright?” the earthbending girl asked from behind her.

A groan came from the ground in front of Asami. A moment later, a gruff voice spoke. “...Would it be the wrong time to say that I think your wingsuit design still needs a little work?”

Asami grit her teeth. That answered one question. Well, more than one question. “Yes. Yes it would,” she said. She stepped over Bumi, deciding it was best to ignore him for now. She could deal with his idiocy later. After a couple steps, Asami turned back to the girl and said, “Watch over him. Try not to let him doing anything stupid. Anything else stupid, that is.”

The world begins to break apart. I feel a rift opening beneath my feet, and I instinctively hop over to the side, leaving Asami’s body once more in the process. As I look back, Asami’s body is wiped away by the shifting scene, only to appear up ahead, kneeling over Izin. The breaks in the world seem to be radiating out from her new position, though they soon fade away. A series of dark blue lines cutting through the ground are all that remains of this transition.

The lines focus on Asami, but I hardly need them to know that she’s what matters here. I step toward her, looking down at her and Izin. I kneel beside Asami, trying to see if the man is okay. Time is frozen again, though, which makes it hard to tell. If this were anything but a memory, I'd be using my waterbending right now to try and heal him. But there's not really anything I can do except watch and hope for the best.

The world begins to move around me again. Just as before, slices split apart, wiping away the scene and shifting us to the future. In a matter of moments, I find myself in a frozen scene in a medical facility, with Izin being tended to by a waterbender and Asami watching over him. I let out a sigh of relief. He’s alive, at least.

Though, as I see that he's alright, something begins to bother me. For the moment when I'd worried that he might have died here, I could understand why Asami was showing me the rest of this scene. But if he was alright, then it wasn’t quite as clear why this memory was relevant. There had to be something I was missing here.

“Asami?” I say, pushing myself up to my feet and looking over at her still form. “Mind cluing me in a bit? Why are you showing this to me? What does it have to do with you losing your voice?”

Asami’s body doesn’t move, though my eye catches sight of a screen appearing in mid-air across from me. I move around Asami to see the screen better, and I catch a series of images appearing on it. No sound comes out from it, but I get the idea from the scenes: Asami, Izin, Opal, and Bumi discussing something in a warehouse, with Asami looking quite angry with Bumi. Asami working on her electrified glove - the new model, the one I saw her use after I returned from my recovery. Opal testing out a wingsuit under Asami’s supervision, telling her something which seems to be making Asami a bit flustered. Izin waiting at a table in a fancy restaurant. Asami sits down across from him, and they begin to talk.

A date? They went on a date? I blink, my heart catching in my chest. But… maybe I’m just jumping to conclusions. Something in Izin’s expression doesn’t look right. He nods slowly, then Asami reaches out her hand to take his. She gives it a squeeze, then gets up. Without even eating dinner, she leaves him.

As soon as Asami turns her back on Izin, the scene freezes, and the screen shatters. The pieces of it fall to the floor one by one. The final piece suspended in the air shows only Asami’s lips. Unlike the other pieces, it doesn’t fall to the ground. It remains suspended for another moment, and then folds in on itself.

“So… Something that happened with Izin…” I say. I feel like perhaps I should smile at the revelation - a little “aha!” moment - but my expression seems to be fixed firmly in neutral. After a while, I close my eyes, drop my head, and let out a sigh. “Damn it, Asami,” I say, wishing she could simply explain. Something about the scene was pulling out my own emotions, but it isn’t worth fighting it. “I wish I could hear your voice again. Not just in a memory. Not just from within your own head.”

Part of me was hoping this might prompt a miracle to occur, but no sound was coming. After a moment, though, I do hear steps approaching me from behind. A smile slowly tugs at my lips, just before I feel Asami’s arms wrap around me. I find myself leaning back, pressing myself against Asami’s body. With a couple more deep breaths, I manage to center myself.

“Alright, Asami,” I say. “What’s next?”
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