Living and the dead

Chapter 33

SHE WAS FALLING

She was slowly falling

The darkness clings on her whole body, dragging her deep down in a never ending abyss. Everything was covered in an earsplitting silence, one might think that the heavens took away all the sound; hushing the vast wide, profound space.

Opening her eyes a bit, the girl was greeted by pure nothingness. There was nothing up there and same down where she's going, it was completely empty, void, yet she can see her body as it floats down with her white dress swaying along with the soft current.

Where was she going?

She wanted to find some answers but her mind was too tired to process even a thought. And even if she does so, she guessed that it might be something she didn't want to think about. She felt really tired and weak and cold and alone and empty. Right now all she wanted to do is to fall in a long peaceful slumber.

She needed rest.

A soft sigh escapes her pinkish lips when she felt her eyes slowly droop. She can even felt her consciousness slowly drifting away in a deep needed sleep.

Mai…

Mai….

That causes her eyelids to open and close a tiny little bit. She listened to the small voice that mysteriously tinkles out from somewhere of that never ending oblivion. It was faint but since the place was lacking in sound, she can hear it clearly, completely, as though it was whispering in her ear.

I won't forgive you if you die because of me! And I won't forgive myself for failing to protect you…

A sad smile formed in her lips when she heard the last two words.

'Protect you' he says.

Although she's the one who willingly sacrifice herself for him to live, why is he not happy? This is what she hoped for, her life and sacrifices, neither of them matter as long as she can see them happy and alive. For her that was the right thing to do.

But why?

Why is she not happy with the outcome? Why does she feel so empty and dead?

Mai … come back … …

The urge of wanting to go back there and tell him that it will be alright rouse along with a tightening feeling inside her chest. She wanted to stay by his side. She wanted to tell him so many things and be with her friends for as long as she lives. She wanted to do more

More

More

More

More things with them. She wanted to remember all the things they did together; their happy and sad memories together. What can she possibly give to make all of those wishes come true?

Her mind became depleted when reality trampled her thoughts.

None. There's nothing left for her to do. Even if it was a little while, she knew that if she gives them false hope it will hurt more later on. She's bound to die at this point and nothing would change that.

She felt a small prick of pain in her head, and she knew that the remaining memories inside of her are gradually fading away. It became harder and harder for her to remember what her friends looks like or what does their voices sounded like. A part of her wants to hold on and keep on struggling but her body can't go on any further.

Silence drowns what was left in her fading thoughts.

She closed her eyes again as she let herself tumbled onward, down through the denser darkness. A silent tear that she is unable to hold back made a tiny trail between her eyes. It fell down and made a gentle water like drop.

Drip

All of a sudden that tiny tear drop created turmoil from where it landed forming a glowing blue light under. It eventually shook the entire oblivion. From void nothingness, colors burst out from that small blue light and started chasing away the darkness, slowly and enchantingly pouring the whole place with beautiful vibrant colors of white and blue.

Bits by bits different shapes appeared here and there, it was like someone was painting beautiful scenery using the black void as their canvass. It was so magical that she just gaped at everything whilst the place was gradually transforming until it completely changed.

The first thing that reached her ears was the relaxing mild sound of the wind, followed by the soft squeal from the birds that balancing their stretch out wings while gliding through the air. Left floating in the middle of sky and water, while brown hair dance along with the tender breeze, Mai constantly turned her head as she looked at her new surroundings with pure astonishment.

Everything became completely different. The void was now gone without a trace, white clouds gathered nearby the bright blue sky as the clear water replicates everything as though envying the beautiful scenery above. White birds flying everywhere, some flew pass her and some flew around her.

It was breathtaking!

Amazing, this is the first time she saw something like this, or so she thought because the feeling of familiarity never leave her, the feeling that she had been here before. When was it?

"Mai!"

Mai stiffened upon hearing someone's voice. She looked around and her eyes almost popped out when she saw another Mai smiling widely and waving at her from below. She can see the look of relief in her wide brown eyes.

She floated down and the other Mai extended her hands toward her. She reached it and held it in a strong tight grasp. A vast force pulled her closer to her other self and she landed right in front of her. The tranquility of the water that is soaking her feet made her at east, she sighed and let out a soft giggle.

"Don't be scared…" The other Mai told her.

She gently shook her head and smiled at her. "I am not."

"It's time to go back."

Mai stared at her with a frown. "Go back where?"

"Home."


Do you remember the first time we met?

You are smiling but your eyes were void of any emotions. Instantly I thought that you were a suspicious person.

How about when we first talk to a child?

I remember you scared the poor child and realized you're not very good with kids.

Do you also remember when we fell into the sewer? You performed a trick using a coin ... You asked me if I'm feeling better then you told me 'You would first be depressed then get angry but after that you would start to calm down and become optimistic. You're very predictable.' I remember you telling me.

I wonder if you knew all that because you were watching me...

I remember the first time we kept a secret? Oh I'm not sorry that I spill it to everyone. But I'm very happy we shared one.

You may not be the one who carry me when I lose my consciousness but you remained by my side until I wake up. When was that? I got locked up inside the science room and collapsed because of the smell coming from the formalin.

And then you help me again when the floor collapses. You protected me using your own body. I remember how my heart beat like crazy back there.

Then you brought me tea when I had a terrifying nightmare of being killed. The smell of tea calmed me but it made me feel safe knowing you're there.

But you know? There are these two memories that I will treasure forever and no matter what happens, I will never ever forget it.

That's when I saw your different side. You showed me your true smile and your genuine tears.

I remember now… The question I asked you before this part of me disappears. I was curious back there but you answer my question in all honesty.

You told me that if even I lost all of my memories you will stay beside me so we can always be together. And you did what you said. I don't know for how much you remained by my side at times. For the second time I received my name from the person I loved. And that person didn't give up in believing me. You remained despite the fact that you might lose your life and you cried for me when you saw me dying.

I remember all of it now, I am very sorry I remember too late. I am sorry that it made you suffer. But still, for being there … for staying with me all the time … thank you very much …

Naru.

"Gene? Are you going back now?" Naru asked his reflection in front of him. He was holding the same mirror he used at the mansion.

"I already fulfilled my promise. From now on I'll leave Mai in your capable hands brother. Protect her and give everything you have to make her happy. I won't forgive you if something bad happens to her again" Gene sighed. "And please, stop calling for me whenever you're in a pinch, you're too old to cling on your big brother."

"Idiot."

"It's true though … I'm serious Noll. Make Mai happy."

It's now his turn to sigh. "I will Aniki." Bidding goodbye for the third time made it a little easy since Gene made it like he was always there even though they can't see him and with that Naru felt at ease.

Gene's reflection smiled at him before vanishing. After putting the mirror inside his pocket Naru turned to his side, a small smile formed in his lips. The wind blows gently, kissing his cheeks and blowing a few strands of hair of the person sleeping beside him.

Somehow today is peaceful.

"Mai … it's time to wake up."


A warm voice calling her name woke her up from that long melancholic dream. She slowly opens her eyes as her senses returns to her slowly. She breathed in and tilts her head a little while she recalls the things that started in complete nothingness and ended with a sudden rushed of memories.

One by one, memories she had forgotten came back and even every little things that she thought she had completely forgotten became clear as the blue sky she saw in that vivid dream. It was like the bits of puzzle she was looking for came back in their own accord and Mai was more than happy to have them all. She felt complete, satisfied.

But before she could ponder deeper about her previous dream, her attention landed on the trees and green grass spread in front of her. There was a bricked pathway on the side leading to a fourth story building.

Where am I?

With a hazy mind and aching body Mai moved a little, instantly she felt the stiffness around her neck. It seems that she was leaning her head on something uncomfortable. A pain shot through her nape because of that small radical movement, Mai couldn't help but cringe. She moved again, her hand fell on her side she then realized that she was sitting on a wooden bench.

A small rustle of paper made her head turn to her right side.

Oh… She gasped when she saw the person sitting next to her. I'm not dreaming right?

There he was.

Naru was sitting next to her. His black hair and black sweater made him more vibrant under the sunbeams streaming through the leaves. He looked up from the book on his lap and stared at her.

She blinked twice when his eyes met hers. Naru's eyes were sprightly than she was used to and glow the brightest blue as they gazed at her, or was it because it felt long since she had last looked in his beautiful eyes?

"You're not a dream right?" She asked, a little afraid. And to her amazement the Naru in front of her unexpectedly smiled.

"You were dreaming of me?" He asked back and leaned a little closer.

This made Mai stiffened. Rather than a happy dream, it was more like a scary dream for her. The thought that maybe this is another dream inside a dream made her uneasy. What if she wakes up and he's gone?

Looks like Naru sense her uneasiness. He took her hand and held it gently as if assuring her that it's all right. "I'm not a dream."

Then it all came rushing back to Mai:

They defeated the demon but she got stabbed by the Shiki. She forgot what happened next but she woke up in the hospital and later on learned that Naru transferred a small amount of his energy to her enough until they reach the hospital.

The method of transferring was still a mystery to her though.

And since Kurogane Kagiri died, it became easier for Lin to lift up the curse bestowed on her with Bou-san and Ayako's help. Also, now that the suspect has been declared dead, the Zero group will most likely close the case.

It's now her tenth day in the hospital and she's about to get discharge today. Every one decided to let her stay in Naru's place while recovering—of all places they picked Naru's place—she was against it but when she learned that her apartment had been locked up because of her long absence, she's left with no other choice.

She didn't die. She's alive. And Naru is in front of her.

"I remember now." She told him. "Thank you very much for your help."

Everything is over between her and that demon now.

Her eyes became glossy, damp and without holding back she hugged Naru who was surprised by her sudden gesture. "I'm glad … I'm glad that I woke up from that dream, I'm glad you're here, I'm glad that I can be with you again.. I'm glad … I'm really glad…"

Her sobs were stifled at first but when Naru hugged her back she was overcome by the wave of her own emotions. Her tears made tracks down her face wetting Naru's black sweater. He didn't move for a while but then his hand landed on her back and gently caressed her. Mai didn't really like hugs but in Naru's arms, she felt safe, and her worries melt like snow in a summer time.

"If you're that glad to be alive then don't put yourself in danger ever again." Naru said in a whispering voice. "You're not the only one who's hurting whenever you get hurt."

Even though he can't see her, Mai nodded while trying her best to stop herself from crying even more. She still doesn't want to break free from his arms but the thought of Naru being embarrassed resurface and she decided to end this beautiful moment. She pulled back from him and stared at his face, few tears still visible in her damp eyes.

"Are you okay now?" He asked her and pulled a handkerchief from his pocket. "Here."

Mai took it, awkwardly wiped her tears and covered her mouth. "Thank you."

Naru closed his book and remained silent for a while, his eyes trailing off at the wide green lawn in front of them. She carefully glanced at him and saw him deep in thought.

"Mai…"

"Hm?" She hummed, still sniffing as she wipes the remnants of tears from her face. Her eyes will probably swell after this.

Naru turned to her, eyes slowly becoming sad as if what he will say next is something he didn't really want to. "Do you still want to work as my assistant?"

Mai froze in her seat, her hand stopped from dabbing the handkerchief on her eyes.

She breathed in and sighed. Of course she understands where he's coming from. She nearly died after all and he might not show it but he probably blames himself for what happened, but to stop from being his assistant?

"When I became week, the one who was pushing me from behind, giving me courage it was you … I don't want to be apart from everyone especially now that I found where I truly belong. It may become dangerous but I want to keep fighting with my friends." She smiled at nothing. "And I won't stop from being your assistant."

"You don't understand. This work almost took your life." He said.

"I'm sorry, but no matter how painful it might be and even if I get hurt I won't give up. Don't worry, if I can't prevent it then I will do everything I can to minimize the damage." She smiled at him but a sigh was his only response.

"Idiot, that's not something you can say so easily. I thought somehow your past experiences would reduce your idiocy but I think it's too early for me to get my hopes up." Naru eyes squinted a little bit. He doesn't look annoyed or anything. "Being in danger was one thing but being killed is entirely different matter. You should also think of yourself."

"I admit it's hard to forget what happened back there, the memories of those souls will forever remain inside of me but aren't you taking me too lightly Naru? I am not that weak as you might think—"

"I was scared back there." He said.

Mai was completely taken aback by his words. For a long while she didn't know what to say or if there's a need to respond.

Did she hear it correctly? He said 'Scared'? Scared of what? What could possibly trigger this emotion from the great Oliver Davis?

"For the first time in my life, I felt like rain drops were scary, I thought the rain was going to take you far away, somewhere where I can't see you. It's becoming hard to stop these emotions; I knew from the start that there will come a time that I might felt something beyond my understanding. Although I tried to handle my emotions with stoicity, that didn't prevent it from getting unruly. When I saw your dying body, not moving … that was the first time that I was frightened of someone else's death more than mine."

A moment of long silence.

Sound of rustling leaves became louder in her ears and she started to become aware of the sounds and movement around them.

Naru fears her death more than his? For a while Mai became lost in her own thoughts. She tried to search for a plausible explanation behind Naru's words but none came up except for deep concern yet at the back of her mind something tells that it was more. She remember something from the past, it was Naru saying something about crying when she's talking to him right before they found Gene's body.

'It isn't something to cry about. Everyone dies. In 100 years nobody that we know will be alive' but then, she caught a glimpse of him crying while holding her lifeless body.

"Ne, Naru do you … possibly felt the same way?" She said followed by a nervous laugh. What was she thinking, asking that question? There's no way that could be possible.

"I read your letter." He said, pertaining to her letter he received for Valentine's Day.

"Y-You did?" Oh man, she thought the letter didn't reach him and just vanished somewhere without a trace. If it hadn't for him reminding her, she would probably forget about it.

"Yeah."

"I-I see…" Her face was slowly becoming red, and she has hunch she looks like a tomato now.

"I'm sorry."

Oh

Is he being sorry because he can't accept her feelings? As his words sip, Mai slowly finds it hard to breath. It's painful to know that the person you like doesn't like you back and it's painful to get rejected twice. Though the first one was actually a misunderstanding it still hurts.

After this day will Naru act the same toward her? Or will they become awkward around each other once again?

There's so many things she wanted to tell Naru but she couldn't convey it all in words still, she wanted to tell him how she really felt even if it means confessing over again and get rejected once again.

"Naru—"

"I apologize for what I've said to you that day. I judge your feelings without knowing how you really felt back then."

This made Mai confused.

"What?"

"You are an accident prone kind of person. You sometimes act before you think. You are very compassionate toward others and you believe the best in people. I always call you an idiot but I know you are not dumb; you are brave despite how you look."

"W-Wait Naru what are you saying?" She doesn't know if Naru was praising or insulting her.

But he just went on, ignoring her. "It's interesting how you worry about others as you pleased, you get angry as you pleased, and you apologize as you please. You didn't fawn on me or flatter me either. You stay with me regardless of how I treated you … Because you are like that … I have come to like you."

Aaah like…

Like?

Like!?

Wait wait wait wait wait wait here! Did she hear it right? Naru … That Naru said he likes her? No way! She's starting to doubt that she was still inside a dream and that Naru is not Naru but someone pretending as Naru!

The beating of her heart became louder and louder she can already hear it. Is it possible for her heart to beat like crazy without giving her a heart attack? Oh god holy geez…

"But …"

Oh there's a but. But what? He was turned off and he finds her annoying more than he used to? But what? That feeling was only shallow that it passes like a fleeting moment? Or but what? She's not worthy of the mighty narcissist me? But what? So many thoughts in her mind, her brain cannot process it all at once! This Naru will most likely give her brain damage!

"But I decided … liking you isn't enough."

Whaaaaaaaatttt!?

Oh what and what indeed!

Confession! This is definitely a confession! But why, what and why again? She wanted to ask if he's sure about his feelings and he's not just uuh … what's the right word again? Something between possessed and dreaming with eyes wide open but then something crossed her mind.

She should be the one confessing to him now, right? So why did it became the other way around? She was ready to tell him her feelings but then ... … Mai's gaze dropped on her lap, her hands rolled into fist, crumpling the poor handkerchief under her grasp. The uncontrollable heat decided to touch her cheeks and she can feel the rising of butterflies in her stomach.

"Unfair." She mumbled. Naru just stared at her, observing her reactions. And because she's looking down she didn't see how his eyes sparkled while looking at her. "Unfair! You're unfair Naru! Why are you always doing this to me? The last time I want to apologize, you suddenly go out of your way and apologize! And now …" Her hands trembled as she clutches on the poor piece of cloth tighter. "I, I should be the one confessing here but you stole the moment again!"

She wanted to ignore him but after she heard a small chuckle coming from him she decided she couldn't. When she looked up to him she was greeted by his warm genuine smile that melts her heart even more, unexpected warm rushed through her.

Mai remained staring at Naru's beautiful face as the butterflies inside her become one with the beating of her heart. Is it possible to fall in love twice?

Naru offered his hand to her, his smile not fading away. It was like he was letting himself be drag by whatever emotions he was feeling right now, it even showed a small tint of red on his pale white cheeks.

"Come."

At this she couldn't help but throw him a questioning look.

"Let's go home."

'The feeling of love remains until we forget about the other.

At that time I thought I can fall in love alone ...

But when you smile like that I told myself ...

I don't want to fall in love alone'.

~End~


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