Rated: T Description: A KonoSetsu fanfic set after the events of the manga. The girls of 3-A are now in their last year of high school and Setsuna must come to terms with her own demons to continue living as her Ojou-sama's guardian.
With my back leaned against the brick wall, I crossed my arms as I patiently waited outside the large wooden doors. Passing students eyed me curiously, but my head hung low. Though I was curious what words were exchanged on the other side of the door, it was not my place to know. Besides, I was confident I knew what the topic of conversation was.
At last, the door edged open and a slender figure slipped out with ease. Upon first glance, her expression appeared grim and I thought I saw something glimmer in the corner of her eye. However, I did not have another chance to look as the girl sprung on me. Her long arms wrapped around my lower back and she pressed her face right above my chest. Like a fool, I just stood there awkwardly, unsure what to do.
"Secchan!" the girl giggled, craning her neck to look up at me. "You're so weird!"
When I inspected her this time, her eyes were dry and she wore a grin. Had I only been imagining it?
"I-I'm sorry, Ojou-sama," I apologized.
She sighed and rolled her eyes; she did not have to verbally tell me what she was thinking and she knew it.
The girl pulled away suddenly, taking a rather large step back. She lowered her head to the floor, her long bangs hanging over her face. Though I am not entirely sure, I could have sworn she whispered, "Sorry," but her head sprung back up within seconds, hailing me with her usual gleeful smile. My eyes glanced down to my shirt, where she had just rested her head. There was a small damp spot. I was conflicted, but I played casual, acting like I did not notice. In retrospect, that was one of my biggest mistakes.
The girl's name was Konoka Konoe, granddaughter of the dean at Mahora Academy, a school that held classes for students ranging from grade-school to college. We were both in our last year of high school. The end of the semester was fast upon us.
"Secchan, let's go back to my room!"
I nodded in agreement and we started down the hall.
The school day had ended a half hour before, but she was called in by her grandfather to discuss matters unbeknownst to me. Their meeting took longer than they usually did, but as she said nothing of it, I assumed she would rather forget it. I had no right to pry. We started walking side-by-side down the hall, but my pace fell out of step with Konoka's. I did not realize I started trailing behind, but she probably did. There was an odd distance forming between us recently, one I cannot entirely explain. Despite my best efforts, I could not see the reasoning for it. However, neither of us said a single word about it, but I knew we both came to this realization.
Only three years before we traveled together on a journey to the Magical World with our former teacher, Negi Springfield, and many of our classmates. We fought together in the name of peace and for the first time in my life, I felt like I truly belonged. My swordsmanship was an asset to the team and people I could consider my friends relied on me. Now, everything had changed. Our final battle resulted in a resolution and we were free to live in peace due to everyone's sacrifices. Though there were a number of our comrades who still worked to ensure this peace, my sword and I no longer were needed. I possessed no other skills, so I had no help to lend. In this time of peace, even my protection of Konoka Ojou-sama was no longer essential. As someone who was raised as a blade, my purpose was no longer clear.
We finally reached the room, but our trip there was silent. I took a seat at the table as Konoka shut the door and stretched.
"I'm going to go make some tea," she chirped, heading to the kitchen.
Once again, I nodded.
Why did I not offer to help? There were many things I wished I had done, but failed to do at the time. It seemed like I regretted near everything I was doing, but I made no move to resolve these problems. What was wrong with me? I had been tasked to protect and watch over Konoka long ago. This was not a job for me, but an honor I was glad to do. Konoka had always been very dear to me and held a place in my heart that only she could fill. There was no doubt she was the most important person to me, but the distance between us only grew. In the past few years, a pain would weigh on my heart whenever I was too close to her and it worsened over time. That pain spread to my stomach and it was sheer agony. I could not come up with an explanation for this, so I tried my best to endure it.
"Here's your cup."
I jumped back a bit, breaking from a trance as she startled me.
"Oh, thank you very much," I said, humbly accepting the beverage.
She took a seat on the opposite side of the table, smiling warmly as she sipped her tea.
"Did you hear Asuna was coming back tomorrow?" Konoka asked, but it took me by surprise.
"No," I replied, placing the cup on the table. "I hadn't."
"Yep, apparently Negi-kun has some business in the area, so Asuna will have a bit of free time," she explained.
Asuna-san was Konoka's roommate, though she was rarely present. She had traveled with us to the Magical World and was someone I regarded as a close friend. She was one of the individuals who was still hard at work to ensure the peace we had all strived to maintain. It was not often we saw her or Negi-sensei.
Everything was changing around us, but at the same time, nothing changed. While our friends moved ahead in life, we were sitting still, playing typical high school students. Our lives did not change as we did the same basic things, day after day. It felt as though we were left behind when everyone else moved forward. I wanted the bond we had once shared, but I knew better. We were growing up, like it or not.
I glanced at Ojou-sama who had her cup raised to her lips as she gazed dreamily into the distance. She had definitely grown since our adventure back then. While she still held onto her youth, her childish features had near faded completely and she had a mature vibe. She was taller, her figure was slender, but her chest had grown with age. Her movements were elegant and refined. We were 18 now, so it was to be expected she would grow into a mature woman. My body grew, too. I was now slightly taller than Konoka, but there had not been much growth chest-wise. I had a muscular, but thin build. I grew my hair out longer, but I continued to wear it up on the side. When it came to the face, I knew I definitely looked older than I was. There was no remnant left of a baby face, instead, it was replaced by a solid-jaw line, thin cheeks, and fierce eyes. On several occasions, I would receive mystified looks from other students, some of which who looked upon me with fear. I had mixed feelings about that matter.
"What is it, Ojou-sama?" I asked, focusing my attention to her. Her eyes shifted to her cup to me, but her expression was unreadable.
She opened her mouth as though she was going to say something, then closed it. Her hands grasped her cup tightly. Hesitantly, she kept her head low, but glanced up to me.
"You still want to be my partner, don't you?"
Her question took me off guard. I could hear the uncertainty in her voice and it horrified me. Then, it happened; the pain struck my heart with a vicious blow.
"Of course I do," I replied calmly, lowering my gaze to my beverage. Though the response was sincere, the passion behind it was not. I did not need to see her face to know how much it hurt her, I could not bear it. I wanted to stand and shout how much I longed to spend my future at her side, but I remained rooted to the floor. The pain intensified and started to make my stomach queasy.
The happiness I once worked so hard for, I did not deserve. Konoka deserved a better partner than what I could ever hope to be. In this time of peace, she no longer needed me. She needed a partner she could truly spend her future with, one that could make her happy. I chose not to say my thoughts aloud, but my actions spoke for themselves. Of course, I wanted nothing more than to remain her partner, but I was not worthy of such happiness.
"Thank you, Secchan. That makes me happy to hear."
Her words were hollow and just like that, the distance between us grew.
The next morning, I was in an isolated part of Mahora's vast campus, as I was every day. It was Saturday, but I still woke at five A.M. to start training. I still practiced my kendo, but not to get stronger. I came to the realization that physical activities really helped to calm me and it felt oddly refreshing.
Turning around, I saw a familiar redhead jogging to me and I could not help but smile.
"Asuna-san," I greeted, beginning to bow, but was surprised when her arms wrapped around me and pulled me in to her chest. The blade dropped from my hand and I mimicked the action, though my hold was quite loose in comparison.
She released me and stepped back, grinning as she looked me over. When it came to physically intimate responses, I was a novice.
No, I guess intimacy in general was something foreign to me.
"Why are you here so early?" I asked, bending down to retrieve Yuunagi, my sword.
"Because I knew you'd be here right now," she said matter-of-factly.
"I see." It made sense, but I was a bit surprised she remembered this secluded area. "How have you been, Asuna-san?"
"Oh, I can't complain," she beamed. "Things are a bit hectic lately, but I think we're finally getting somewhere."
Somewhere deep within me, I felt a surge of jealousy. I was appalled by the feelings, so I ignored it.
"What exactly are you working on now?" I asked, genuinely interested.
"Believe it or not, trying to convince people on the other side of my identity. It's difficult to be a Peace Maker if no one knows who I am."
"I'm sure it is."
"But things have really been going much more smoothly thanks to Negi and Ayaka," she assured. She then turned her attention to me. "So, how have things with you and Konoka been?"
"Fine," I stated a bit too quickly, only realizing I put no emotion behind my words, but I supposed there was not much to give. Asuna noticed and eyed me suspiciously, so I continued. "There has been nothing to trouble us and Ojou-sama is safe."
I could not quite make out the expression of my friend's face, but I suspected it was one of a negative reaction. I wondered if my words sounded bitter.
"Setsuna-san," she started, her voice carrying an oddly serious tone. She immediately had my full attention. "Are you still planning on being Konoka's partner?"
At first, I did not know how to respond. Why did this question keep coming up?
"Of course I do," I stated. "I'm happy to just be at Ojou-sama's side." Regardless of how much I tried, my tone was still flat and unconvincing. Was I losing my emotions?
Asuna sighed, shifting her gaze to the spring sky. I remained silent, certain it would be best not to speak when I did not have to.
"Hey, do you want to spar with me for a bit?" Asuna-san asked, shifting her eyes to mine. Her offer was out-of-the-blue, but the words came out before I even heard them.
"I would love to." A strange sensation tingled throughout my body as I readied my sword. "I have not fought a live opponent in some time, so please go easy on me," I requested.
"Sure, no problem," she promised, then summoning her weapon. "Adeat!"
Her artifact, Hamanotsurugi, a giant sword of exorcism, appeared in her hand, one with a blade that nearly reached her height. The grip I had on my own weapon tightened more than necessary.
My eyes buried deep into hers and the world fell silent. She made the first move, lunging forward with inhuman speed. I recognized it as an act of instant movement right away. Though it had been years since I faced an opponent, my instincts did not falter. Immediately, my feet circled around to her backside, my blade swiftly striking her spine. She blocked at the last second, and with a surge of strength, she knocked me back, making distance between us.
The tingling sensation became stronger. I made the first move this time, but she continued to successfully counter my moves. She was overwhelmed and did not have the opening to attack. Without realizing, my mind began to go blank, fully relying on my instincts. Though I had been through strict training and was taught never to fully lose myself in a fight, it happened before I realized. A discerning heat boiled through my veins, making my strikes sharper, fiercer. Every fiber of my being desired this fight and longed to unleash a full assault.
She attempted an airborne dive, but I quickly fell to my back, kicking my feet against her weapon with full force, sending her flying. With each movement, the air seemed more tranquil. My mind became hazy, allowing my blade to take over this fight. As soon as she landed, I sprinted to my opponent, seizing her arm and flipping her to the ground. The weapon fell from her hand and landed several feet away.
"Wow, Setsuna-san, that was amazing!"
The words fell short of my ears and I readied my sword for a finishing strike. Her eyes widened in fear as she realized her fate. I forced my blade down, but she managed to roll away at the last second and made a dive for her own weapon. My enemy was successful and managed to block my next swing, only narrowly.
"Setsuna! Hey, Setsuna-san!"
A voice chewed at my ears, but I could not decide to whom it belonged. The only thing before me was my foe and defeating her was all that mattered.
Once again, I was on the offense and she on the defense. My movements were quick and deadly. The blade moved with ease, as though it were part of the air itself. Though she managed to dodge, she had no opening and I knew it was only a matter of time before fatigue gnawed at her.
"Stop, Setsuna-san! Please stop!" Asuna cried, raising her blade to protect her face from my next attack. Her words sounded distant, but my mind snapped to and the heat of the battle died away. I lowered the blade and gave her a curious gaze.
"What's wrong, Asuna-san?" I asked. Hesitantly, she lowered her sword, but the fear in her eyes concerned me instantly. "W-what happened? Are you alright?" I dropped Yuunagi and jogged over to her.
"I should be asking you the same thing," she muttered, slowly allowing her hand to drop to its side. "What the hell was that?" "I'm sorry, but did I do something wrong?"
Why was Asuna-san upset with me? What did I do to anger her?
"You seriously don't know?"
I said nothing, but my expression was twisted in confusion. She studied me over for a minute before banishing her weapon. With a sigh, her eyes slowly began to relax, but the apprehension toward me did not.
"I have to give it to you, Setsuna-san, that was excellent swordsmanship," she praised, dropping her previous concerns. Like usual, I assumed it would be best to follow her lead, regardless of my curiosity.
"Thank you, but you flatter me," I thanked, retrieving my blade.
"But I thought you said you hadn't been sparring with anyone for some time," she disputed.
I shook my head, "I haven't, though," I promised, sheathing the weapon. "You're my first opponent in over a year, Asuna-san."
Her brow raised.
"Really…" her voice trailed off and she seemed to become lost in thought.
"What is it?" I questioned, snapping her back to reality.
"Oh, nothing, don't worry about it," she assured, waving her hand. "Why don't we go back to the dorms? I'm sure Konoka is waiting for you."
"Yes, most likely," I agreed, but my tone hung low. The heavy feeling returned to my heart and I detested it.
Slinging Yuunagi over my shoulder, we trekked back together. We did not say much, only a bit of meaningless small talk before reaching the dormitory, where I made my leave. She left for the room she shared with Konoka as I returned to my own to change attire. I planned to join the two as soon as I finished.
I changed into something more casual; two years previous, Konoka insisted I at least wear something besides my school uniform, especially on the weekends. I accepted her request, but unless she picked out my outfit, she knew better than to expect something to be considered "cute". I simply slipped into a slim black t-shirt and faded denim shorts. It was basic, but it would be enough to fulfill her expectations. The halls were relatively empty, and it was one of the things I enjoy about being awake early in the mornings. This way, I was able to avoid passing stares and could walk in peace.
When I reached their room, I was about to knock on the door, but the sound of their faint whispers stopped me dead in my tracks. Their voices were hushed and sounded a bit panicked. I never condoned the act of eavesdropping, but a creeping feeling in my chest bade me to listen. Curiosity overwhelmed me and I gave in to the temptation. Quietly, I lowered my head to the door and listened carefully.
"-right, Konoka. Something was definitely up with her today. I have never seen her lose control like that before."
"I don't know what's the matter. Secchan never told me something was wrong."
"Well, I can definitely see there's something up, but it was so weird."
"Setsuna-san obviously has been acting strange lately, I don't know how to explain this, but it felt like she was more of her usual self when we were sparring. She didn't-"
"Have a dead look in her eyes," Konoka continued. "Lately, there's no life in her eyes and it frightens me."
"But despite how serious her combat was and how unlike her it was, it really did feel more like Setsuna-san than I've seen in years."
"What she almost did, though…"
"I plan on discussing it with Negi next chance I get, so don't worry about it."
My heart felt conflicted. Not everything in their conversation made sense, but they definitely felt put off by me. Part of me right then wanted to flee, but something held me back. I honestly did not know how to react or how to feel. With great remorse, I swallowed those feelings and buried them deep in my heart. I knocked on the door, my eyes sinking as those emotions settled. I only made one observation I thought to be true from their talk: Konoka was afraid of me.
"Come in!" Konoka chirped. She hid her feelings away, too, putting on a brave front. It made me sick.
I entered and closed the door gently behind me. Asuna sat backwards in the desk chair and nodded in acknowledgement. Konoka sat at the table, wearing her usual grin, but I chose to remain standing.
"Hi, Secchan," she greeted.
It was a lie.
"Good morning, Ojou-sama," I said, taking my usual seat at the side opposite to her.
"Would you like some tea?" Konoka offered, but I shook my head.
"I appreciate it, but no thank you," I humbly declined. She pouted a bit, but flashed me a warm smile. I smiled, too.
It was a lie. These gestures were not sincere and were nothing but well rehearsed. When did we fall apart? When was it our smiles stopped being genuine?
"We were just talking about Konoka's magic training," Asuna piped, grinning at our brunette friend.
Lies, all of it, lies. When was it, Ojou-sama, that you came to fear me?
"She has progressed far this past year," I said, pitching into the conversation. "I have no doubt that she will pass the test to become a Magister Magi within a few years."
"Two more years if I remember correctly," Asuna muttered quietly to herself.
"Oh, nothing," she laughed, waving me off. "Anya-chan says you already mastered everything she taught you," Asuna commented, turning her attention to Konoka. "And Colonel-san even said you have made a lot of progress."
"That's nice of them, but I know I still have a long way to go," she insisted.
"Don't be so modest. You have made great strides and are already an accomplished magician," I assured.
Both of my friends turned to me, surprised by my sudden outburst, but I was just as startled. The words just slipped out. Feeling their eyes burn into me, my face went pink and my head hung low.
Konoka giggled, "Thank you, Secchan! That really does make me happy to hear you say."
From my peripheral, I saw her and Asuna exchange looks and smile.
Are your words sincere, Ojou-sama? Is that smile real?
The more I focused on Konoka, the stronger the pain in my heart became.
Several days later, I accompanied Ojou-sama on our way home from class. We did not discuss the events from before nor was it even mentioned. Only one difference was to be seen: Milady was far more clingy than usual, linking her arms around mine whenever she got the chance. The act was flattering, but more than anything, it hurt me. I struggled to realize if her actions were a façade or not. Pure agony burned within me, but I did not have the heart to force her away.
What is this pain I feel when I am with you, Ojou-sama? Why am I overcome with so many emotions whenever you cross my thoughts?
"Secchan, do you want to make a detour on our way home and go have some coffee?" Konoka offered, adding, "My treat." "I will, on the condition you let me pay," I negotiated. She countered with a large pout, but I was prepared for the full assault, so with a sigh of defeat, she caved.
"Fine," she agreed, locking her arms around me tighter.
We shifted directions and headed for Mahora's Shopping District. With her dangling from my arm, we were given many peculiar looks, different from the ones I usually received. It proved difficult to walk in pace with each other. I constantly shifted my gaze to the girl beside me, but she only smiled. Why did this hurt so much?
"Do you have a particular shop you want to go to?" I asked as we neared a popular section of the district. "I'm not familiar with the stores here."
"There's a small place that has cakes a few streets down," Konoka suggested.
"Do you like that place?"
"Yeah, it's super cute, too!" she answered with a giggle.
"Then we'll go there," I decided. I could not help but smile as she leaned her head against my arm.
Can this tranquility possibly be a lie?
"Hey, you there! School girls!"
I turned around before she did, though I felt rather guilty as I practically swung her around as she clung to me. A boy grinned at us, casually hunching with his hands stuffed in his pockets. He wore no uniform, so I speculated he was a bit older than us. My stomach lurched at his presence.
"What is it?" I asked coldly, pulling Konoka closer to my side without realizing. There was a look of disgust in my eyes, so he immediately turned his attention to the girl next to me.
"I was just wondering if your friend here wanted to hang out with me and get some tea or something," he explained coolly, taking a step forward as he ogled Konoka like candy. I hated him instantly.
"I'm sorry, but I can't right now," Konoka apologized. "I'm getting coffee with Secchan."
The guy took another glance at me, but he did not stop pursing.
"We can all go together and then hang out together alone later," he suggested, but she declined.
"But I promised to hang out with Secchan today," she explained with an innocent smile.
Why must you be so naïve, Konoka Ojou-sama?
He did not try to hide his look of disgust when he shifted his gaze back to me, but he was persistent.
"Then can I have your email or something so we can do something later?" he asked, approaching Konoka.
"She's not interested, so why don't you just back off?" I growled, snapping my arm away from Konoka's grip.
"Hey, what business is it of yours, girly?" he retaliated. "I think the Miss over there can decide what she wants on her own. This has nothing to do with you."
"I will not allow a low life like you near her," I snarled, taking a step forward.
"Secchan, please," Konoka whimpered, but the man accepted the challenge.
"What are you, her mom? Why don't you just back off?" he argued, making the fatal mistake of reaching out and shoving the top of my shoulder.
"Back off," I hissed, lowering my head. The pain struck me like lightening, my blood boiled. I pushed him back, nearly throwing off his balance.
"What the hell is your problem?" he cried. "I just want to show your friend a good time, you know," he grinned, looking her over again, his eyes full of lust.
Right then, something inside of me snapped. My mind went blank and my limbs moved without my consent. In an instant, my wrist hit his stomach and a large quantity of compressed Ki released on him upon impact. He was sent flying down the street, but he did not catch his balance. He was too weak.
I lunged at him again, unwavered by his lack of skill. The side of my foot met with his cheek, the impact rolling him several feet away. Many pedestrians cried out and fled from the scene. The male groaned, his arms trembling as he attempted to stand. He was already down, but I was not satisfied. No, he had not had his fill.
I approached him slowly and he looked up pleadingly, silently begging for me to discontinue. What a fool. Instead, I raised my foot and smashed it with great force on the center of his face. He shrieked in pain, cradling his nose, which was no doubt broken, as blood seeped from it. Something deep inside of me longed to put this boy through sheer misery. It felt like every fiber in me wanted to continue thrashing him, over and over. What was this adrenaline, this tingling sensation? I wanted to see him bleed, to see him suffer.
I raised my hand for another Ki-charged attack, but my consciousness snapped back to when I realized something heavy clung to my chest. Konoka had wrapped her arms around me and was pleading for me to stop. Tears streamed down her face as her eyes begged.
"Please, stop, Secchan," she whimpered.
What was I doing? Why is she crying?
I slumped to my knees at the sight of Milady's tears, but my thoughts were muddled. The sensation in my body did not fade and the desire of blood-lust still pounded my mind. It felt like my skin was ablaze and the weight of the world crushed me.
What was happening to me? What have I done?
The influence spread to my eyes, burning them and turning my vision hazy. I dropped to my hands, trying to bear the weight and agony I felt. Blistering pain erupted from my back and my hands pounded in anguish.
This desire I feel, what is it?
I clutched my arms with my hands, digging my nails into the flesh and I screamed. A sickening ripping sounded from my back and it caused numerous gasps from the gathering crowd. My teeth ached and burned, my jaw trembled.
What the hell was wrong with me?
Despite this torment, I managed to look at Konoka, but I instantly wished I had not. Even through blurred sight, I saw her eyes were wide and fearful, her body shaking.
Regardless of how disarrayed my mind was, only one thing was clear: run.
A roar-like sound escaped my lips as I bolted down the street. Even through the pain, my legs moved faster than they ever had before. My instincts took over immediately. My vision was still impaired, but I still saw everything perfectly, no, more like I felt my surroundings. Everything passed by in a blur. I was moving so quickly, I doubt a single person witnessed me.
She hates me. She hates me. She hates me.
The thought repeated over and over in my head, like a broken record. The emotions I felt could not be appeased. Pure rage coursed through my blood and I yearned to sink my teeth into my prey. Each of my fingers ached to tear something to shreds. My problems faded with my sanity, but relying on impulses was so easy. The memories of my being, of my life, it all started to vanish. All of my actions mimicked that of a ferocious beast, but I was so far out of my mind, I did not even realize.
What was I even doing? Where was I going?
No answer turned up. My legs continued to move, now tearing through a cluster of trees. I was light on my feet, it almost felt as though I were floating. This animal-like sensation was an addictive pleasure.
I nearly entered a grassy clearing, but the sound of someone's footsteps behind me forced me to skid to a stop. My hearing had improved greatly and I knew the person was close.
I forced my body to lunge in their direction, and almost instantly, I found my foe. I could not make out the face, but a male managed to evade my surprise attack. His mouth moved, but his words sounded mangled and misconstrued. I leapt back a great distance, locking my eyes on the target. The craving to rip into him coursed throughout every muscle and tendon. Again, I pushed off, intending to rip into his chest. He raised his arm to block, but the force of my attack was greater than he expected. He launched back, but maintained his balance. He hesitated, but swiftly sprinted away.
He cannot escape.
A growl echoed from my throat as I took off, hot on his trail. He maneuvered through the trees with ease, his speed inhuman. However, I was faster and he could not outrun me for long. He sped through the terrain, but suddenly made a sharp turn. I was taken by surprise and scrambled to follow. I launched myself again, but I failed to notice the trap he led me to. A large tree appeared before me, but I had no time to evade or stop. With a roar of fury, I charged it directly, colliding with its trunk. A tremendous crash echoed throughout the air as it fell. My foe stared at this scene from a short distance, his jaw gaped open.
My hands burned, but when I glanced at them, they were unrecognizable. What I saw were talon-like claws instead.
Are, are these mine?
My wings had been out, twitching with excitement. My foe decided to take the initiative and charged forward, his arm absorbed in darkness. This thrilled me. I tore forward, my hand raised, ready to sink and tear into his flesh. To his surprise, I avoided his attack, but mine made impact. My claw dug deep into his shoulder, then released a large amount of Ki directly inside of him. Instantaneously, he launched out of the forest terrain and into the clearing. My legs moved quickly, but by the time I reached him, he managed to recover. I remained several feet away, eyeing him carefully, awaiting his next move. He was indeed a formidable opponent and was definitely worth savoring.
His mouth began to move again and his eyes pled.
This disappointed me. How dare he beg to be spared?
"Setsuna-san, can you hear me?" he cried.
What was he saying? His words sounded foreign, but they were unimportant. All that mattered was finishing the fight.
Using instant-movement, I lurched my leg to his side, but he grabbed it at the last second and tossed me back. I landed on my feet easily, but I remained at a distance. What was his next attack going to be? Where was his weak point?
Suddenly, he pushed off, his arm aimed for my chest. I brought my own arm back and as he approached, I forced it into a stab. He lowered his attack before he could hit, but mine pierced directly into his stomach. He had made no attempt to evade.
"Asuna-san, now!" he directed, but I heard the footsteps before he said a word. I tried to turn to the source, but he held desperately onto my arm that was still lunged in his gut. My eyes widened in realization; it was another trap.
Frantically, I tried to pull away, but his grasp was too strong. He coughed and sputtered blood, but his determination held him together. I raised my arm to swipe him away, but was caught off guard as it was seized. I craned my neck to find the other individual, a conspiring female. She hung desperately to my arm and regardless of how much it flailed, she kept her grip. Again, I tried to remove my other arm from the boy and he released his hold. Before I could jab the female, he mimicked her action and apprehended my loose arm. I bellowed a cry of anger, flailing hysterically.
"Setsuna-san, stop!" the girl cried.
My body started to tremble with raw rage. My wings started to flap wildly, attempting to slip the two from my arms.
"Hang in there, Asuna-san!" the male cried, pulling my arm forcibly to ground me. "Don't let go!"
"We can't keep this up forever, Negi!"
It was only a matter of time before she broke. Using an immense amount of energy, I shot my body from the ground with great force. As I expected, her hold released and before he had the chance to realize, I hit his cheek with a direct jab, freeing his hold. I landed several yards away, fully displaying my wings as I made a victory cry. My instincts shifted again; there was another newcomer.
The other two immediately turned their attention to the girl who crossed into the clearing.
"Konoka, stay back! It's not safe!"
"Please, run, Konoka-san!"
She continued forward, slowly approaching me. I sensed no danger from this individual, but it only concerned me. She showed no fear. The closer she got, the more uncertain I became.
Why was she not retreating? What gave her this confidence?
I hissed, baring my teeth, but to no avail. She reached her arms out, but not maliciously. I took a step back, continuing to growl.
"Konoka-san, stop!" The male started to move, but his companion cried out.
"Wait, Negi! Don't move!"
"Secchan," repeated the third party, only a mere few feet away. When I looked into her eyes, there was fear, but it did not stop her.
Stop! Leave me alone!
In fright, I fell back, making a swipe at the girl, slicing through her arm. She uttered a cry of pain, but took one more step forward, seizing her arms around my lower back.
This, this was different than before. She was not attempting to restrain or constrict me. Her hold was firm, but not binding. I snarled at her, but she did not pull away. Instead, she shifted one of her arms to my head and began stroking me tenderly.
What was this feeling? Why is she so calm?
She rested her head in the nape of my neck. Her breath was warm on my skin.
Why am I here? Why is she here, holding me like this?
So many questions started processing through my mind, but slowly, my body began to relax. All the energy seemed to sap from my body and I fell to my knees accordingly. She dropped as well, still embracing me.
Indeed, she was truly a formidable opponent.
She moved her hand to cradle my head while her other pulled me closer. With what little strength I possessed, I wrapped my hands around to her back side and clung to her white shirt. This sensation was different than before, but it had a soothing essence. I craned my neck and buried it into hers. I could feel her artery pulse, but I no longer had blood-lust. It was a gentle rhythm, lulling me into a peaceful slumber.
Why did I feel so defenseless when it came to this girl and why can I not seem to care? Without realizing, my wings draped around our still bodies and almost as if they attempted to copy my arms, they hugged her frame snugly.
"Secchan," she whispered softly in my ear.
At that moment, I was convinced we were the only two people left in the world, and I was okay with it. I never wanted to leave from this embrace.
The adrenaline faded as did my remaining strength. My hands slipped from her shirt and my body went limp in her arms. The wings loosely fell to the side.
"Konoka, are you okay?"
I blinked slowly.
Those voices belonged to Asuna and Negi, but what were they doing here?
"Is Setsuna-san, is she alright?" Negi sounded like he was in a panic. I wanted to tell him there was nothing to worry about, but my body was far too tired for even that.
It became difficult to stay awake. My eyelids felt rather heavy and I could feel myself slipping in and out of consciousness. I do not know when I finally passed out, but I could remember the soft hand that so tenderly held on to my own. When I awoke, I felt rather nauseated and attempted to move from bed, but that nearly resulted on me falling to the ground. My legs felt about as steady as gelatin and my strength seemed to fail me. The only thing I could do was slump back in the bed, trying to focus my vision.
After taking a quick glance at my surroundings, I was surprised to find I was not in my own room, but Ojou-sama's, lying in her bed. This was not something I would ever allow, so why was I here? I moaned softly, laying my cheek against the soft pillow. My head pounded, and somehow corresponding, my body throbbed in pain.
What happened to put me in this state?
My eyes shifted when I heard voices echoing from the hall. The door creaked open, revealing Asuna and Negi discussing something amongst themselves. She was the first to notice I was conscious.
"Setsuna-san," she cried, immediately running to my side. "How are you feeling?"
"Tired," I answered softly, closing my eyes. "And a bit queasy."
"Do you need me to get you anything?" Negi-sensei asked, appearing quite alarmed.
"No, I am quite alright."
"What happened to you, Setsuna-san? What was that yesterday? Are you okay?" Negi started firing off questions, but I did not understand what he was talking about. It only made my head hurt worse.
"Stop pestering her, boy. Give her some space," a young girl scolded. My direction shifted back to the door and I was near shocked to see a certain blonde-haired individual.
"Evangeline-san," I said meekly. Even more surprising, behind the young vampire stood Konoka, both focused on me. I definitely did not understand what was going on anymore.
Evangeline approached me, bending uncomfortably close as her eyes drilled into my own. Her lips then curled into a twisted grin.
"Oh, Setsuna, you have not yet failed to amuse me!" she laughed, taking a step back. "This is the side of you I so enjoy!"
"Master, what do you mean?" Negi asked, leaning forward.
"Yeah, don't leave us in the dark, Eva-chan," Asuna agreed.
"You people need to calm down and sit," Evangeline ordered. She took a seat at the desk and crossed her legs. Her attention turned to me. "Say, Setsuna, do you know what color your eyes are right now?" the vampire smirked, brushing her hair over her shoulder.
I blinked, unsure what to make of her question.
"They're b-" I started, but I cut my own sentence off. Why would she be asking me such a thing?
"Your eyes are red," Evangeline informed, crossing her arms. "They reverted back to their original color. I wonder what happened to those contacts you're always wearing." Her tone was sarcastic; she was only toying with me.
"What are you saying Eva-chan?" Asuna asked, her voice low.
Evangeline ignored her and kept her attention focused to me.
"Can you remember anything?" she asked softly. I was about to shake my head, but she continued. "Can you remember letting go of your humanity and indulging on your animalistic desires? What about the ecstasy and the thrill of the chase?"
I tried to respond, but her words unlocked the concealed memories. The scenes flashed through my eyes and for a second, I relived the sensation once more. My body quivered as I remembered the freedom I felt then, but I finally was able to realize the reality of the situation. I had hunted down my own friends, who were unrecognizable to me at the time.
The heat spread through my blood again and I could feel myself start to lose control.
"Setsuna-san!" Asuna cried, starting toward me.
"Don't go near her," Evangeline warned. "She is not stable. Smothering her will only make matters worse."
I held my stomach and coiled into the fetal position. It took an immense amount of self-control, but I managed to suppress the craving. I glanced over sad eyes to Konoka, but to my dismay, her gaze was glued to the floor. I returned my attention to Evangeline.
"W-what is happening to me?" I asked weakly, my body continuing to shake.
"It's as I thought, you truly are the soldier-type, after all." Her smile grew. "You're the type that feels useless when your skills aren't being honed. I thought you would be able to overcome it, but it appears I was mistaken.
"You were raised as a sword and lived as such for the vast majority of your life. When you were no longer challenged, you were forced to sheath that part of you. I was under the assumption you would live on as a human, but that is not where your true nature lies, girl."
"What do you mean, Master?" Negi asked.
"Her one purpose in life was to rely on her sword to protect her precious Ojou-sama," she started, shifting her eyes to Konoka, then back to me. "She made no attempts to cling to human affection and had become a weapon herself. It was only when they reconciled and started hanging with you lot that she became soft. Slowly, she started to become more human than she had ever allowed herself before."
"And what's so wrong with that?" Asuna argued. "Being human is nothing to be ashamed of."
"It's a bore," Evangeline said flatly. "Humans are content with the mediocre. They speak of larger-than-life ambitions, then settle with ordinary." She paused, continuing with a grin. "But Setsuna is only half human. She has neglecting her other side for far too long."
"You mean…" I uttered.
"Yes, Setsuna, you may have had a human parent, but your other was a Crow Demon. As much as you may dislike it, it's still the truth and you have been neglecting that half for far too long. You cannot simply force away that part of you. You've tapped into a small portion of that demon half, but only when it was convenient for you. Those impulses and urges that you're experiencing are due to that part. You can't run away from it anymore," she informed.
"But why is this happening so rapidly?" Negi questioned, his voice raising.
"As I've said, it's because she was forced to put away her sword. She simply cannot live a mundane human life. A part of her will always remain as a weapon and by tossing it aside, she no longer had a way to ventilate and appease her demon."
"Is there no way to slow the process or at the very least, make it easier to cope?" Negi asked again.
"Well, I suppose it would be unwise for her to run around campus in this state," Evangeline chuckled, glancing to me. "But until she learns to fully accept these parts of herself, there is nothing that can be done."
"We can't just let her suffer like this!" he cried, but she put her hand up to stop him.
"This is only something that she can overcome," she maintained. "Putting your nose in her business will not solve anything. So, wrapping up, I think it would be in your best interest to leave her in peace," Evangeline advised, shooing everyone away.
Negi and Asuna both said their farewells and promised to check back later to see how I was. Konoka only took a glance at me before she filed out of the room; she did not look back. The tiny vampire was the only one who remained behind. She turned the chair in my direction and shook her head.
"Setsuna, are you not the one who vowed to live in happiness while remaining as a sword?" She snuffed. "You actually had me believing you might achieve such a feat, but where is this ambition now?" she questioned.
"But how can I live as a sword when there is no one to which I can hone my skills?" I argued, but her face twisted in disgust.
"What a fool you are. Do you honestly think you're living in happiness right now? You chose the sword, not humanity."
"Can you truly say you're happy right now? That silly pristine smile you wore back then has been missing from your face for some time."
"But how could I not be happy?" I cried, struggling to pull myself up. "I have everything I could ever possibly want! There is no reason that I wouldn't be happy!"
"Who are you trying to convince, Setsuna?" she piqued. "Me, or yourself?"
My eyes widened, but I could not answer.
"Where do you think that excess anger is coming from? What's it fueled by?"
"I don't know, and because of that, it makes me angrier," I answered, feelings traces of it snipping away at me.
"Idiot, it's because you do know, but you won't acknowledge it."
"Please, Evangeline-san, just explain to me what you mean!" I begged desperately.
"You really are blind. There is a source of endless bliss, completely matching your description of perfection. What really pisses me off, is that that happiness is awaiting you with open arms, but you refuse to see it. Within seconds, it could all be yours, but you're too wrapped around stupid fixations to realize it."
Evangeline sighed, her voice calm as she continued.
"You were dealt a bad hand at birth and considering everything that happened in your life, you never should have been able to be content. You were forsaken, but you still were able to smile, even your eyes brimmed with happiness. Along with everyone else, I was rooting for you as well."
She turned to me, her expression serious.
"Listen, Setsuna. You still have the chance to achieve what creatures like us never could. Your happiness is within your grasp. Until you can confront it, that anger will continue to burn, until it becomes pure hatred for the things you love the most. It will be impossible to control the monster inside of you alone. When you can finally be honest with yourself, only then can you find the happiness you deserve."
She stood from her seat and started toward the door.
"Wait," I called out. "Can you at least give me some sort of clue as to what you are referring to?"
Evangeline turned around and confronted the request with a grin.
"That was your hint," she laughed, exiting the room.
At that, I sat there, feeling much too dumbfounded to move. Her words made sense, to an extent, and certainly hit a chord, but how was I to react? My brain still fumbled around the events and combined with the additional information, I thought it was going to burst. Did I really choose the sword over happiness? Was my purpose as a blade not to protect Ojou-sama, so now that it had been achieved, why would I still choose that option? My heart began to ache and I could feel my skin burning. I knew the demon was fighting for dominance, but I could not allow it to win without putting up a fight.
But why? Why fight it? Why not just give in?
The question seeped into my head like a foreign entity.
Why was I fighting it?
Immediately, I turned to the doorway, the source of the voice. Konoka stood there alone, holding her hands to her front. Her head was tilted slightly, but her expression was heavy.
"Can we talk?" she requested quietly.
"O-of course," I stammered, alerted by her gloomy tone. "I didn't know you were still here. I thought you left with Asuna-san and Negi-sensei."
"I just waited outside until Eva-chan left."
"Oh, I see."
She shut the door softly and I edged over to near the wall so she could take a seat on the end of the bed. We sat in silence for a moment, aside from the pounding in my heart. I stared at her arm, completely overcome by guilt for causing her injury. I desperately wanted to apologize, but how could I ever compensate for such a thing? Nothing I could possibly say would ever erase what happened, regardless of how badly I wish I could, but I had to try.
"Konoka Ojou-sama," I started, but she interrupted me.
"Say, Secchan," she began, looking toward the ceiling. "We're not children anymore. In just a few short months, we'll be done with school and start our lives, fulfilling our dreams and ambitions. I know Eva-chan doesn't have much faith in humans, but I plan on achieving my goal to become a Magister Magi one day, but I don't want to do it alone."
She paused, taking a chance to look down and face me.
"Are you happy, Secchan?" she asked, her eyes hard and serious.
So, she did hear our conversation.
I glanced away, remaining silent.
"I did hear you and Eva-chan. I'm sorry for eavesdropping, but I sincerely want your answer. I'm not entirely happy, myself."
"Why?" I asked immediately, unknowingly shifting toward her.
"There are a number of things I want, but can't have," she answered, sighing. "One of the things I want most is for you to rely on me, to depend on me. I may not know how to fight, but I am certain they're things I can do to help you."
My mouth gaped open. I had no idea this was an issue that had been troubling her so.
"I-I'm sorry, Ojou-sama," I apologized. "I didn't know."
"There are many other things I want, too. There's something in particular I wish I had more than life itself, but can't have." She paused, curling her small hands into tight fists, but allowing them to loosen a few seconds later. "It's okay, though," she insisted. "It's alright to be a little selfish sometimes, you know. There's nothing wrong with allowing yourself to want something, even if you want it so badly, it hurts. It's all part of living."
Again, I said nothing. What did she really want? How could I not be aware of her unhappiness? Was it not my job to ensure and protect such happiness?
"Secchan, I ask again, do you want to remain as my partner in the future?" Konoka questioned, her voice dropping. Her eyes had no warmth inside and her face seemed bleak.
How could I not notice her sadness, her desires? How could I possibly make her smile real? How could I protect her now when I was nothing but a danger to her? No, I was incompetent as her guard, let alone a friend. Yes, she deserved a partner who could provide her with everything she needed and one who would never cause her any grief.
"No," I answered hard. My heart erupted in sheer agony. It was a mere word, but I never felt a greater pain in life. More than anything, I wanted to take it back, but I would not allow myself. This was for her own good.
"I see," she said calmly, turning her head away to look at the floor. "I suppose it's for the best, then." She paused, placing her hands in her lap. "Will you please come out with me to dinner tonight, then? I mean, if that's okay and if you're up for it." Her voice cracked. "You never treated me to tea yesterday, after all."
"It's fine, I can do that," I promised, holding back my own feelings. "I do still owe you, after all."
"Yes, after all," she repeated, breathing deeply. "We'll meet in the shopping district, in front of the arcade, okay? Seven, sharp."
"Okay, no problem."
"Alright, then I will see you later tonight." She stood slowly from the bed, her head glued to the floor. Her hands were restless, twitching around, unsure where to settle. Konoka did not move toward the door. "Um, there is one other thing I should tell you," she murmured, swallowing hard.
"What is it?" I asked, attempting to be supportive, despite my heartache.
"I-I am, I am," she stammered, unable to speak. She gulped and took a deep breath before continuing. "As of a week ago, I am officially engaged. My grandfather plans to have the wedding before the month's end."
It took a moment before her words processed through my head. Almost instantly, I was in shock. All I could think was one thing: what?
"He's an aspiring mage from the other world. Grandfather says he's an elite military officer. He's in his late thirties, but has his life in order, says Grandfather. He says you're welcomed to the wedding, but you should receive an official invitation soon."
"Well, I am going now. Just stay and rest, okay? No one will come and bother you, so try to get a bit more sleep. I'll see you at seven." She walked to the door, pausing, but not looking back. "Bye, Secchan," she whispered, her voice trembling. She slipped out of the door and closed it gently behind her.
My eyes continued to stare at the door. I was staggered. Konoka was engaged. She was to be married within less than two weeks. Konoka was engaged. She was getting married. She had a, a fiancé.
There had never been so much pain in my heart like I was feeling then. Surely, dying was easier than what I felt. If she were to marry, how would I continue to be her partner? Did her family plan to have a house made to include me as well? It hit me: of course not. There was no spot for me in her home, in her family, as anything. They were dismissing me as her guard and as her partner. That is precisely why she asked about our contract in the future. I felt like an idiot. I was losing both my happiness and my sword. Everything I had ever had was slipping through my fingers.
Somehow, the pain intensified, to the point where I yelped in agony. My legs bent into the fetal position, my arms wrapping around my knees and pulling my body close together.
This was it. My page in Konoka's life was at its end. The future outside the academy was in view, but destiny forbade my involvement in hers. She was aspiring to continue her dream, and the world was an open door for her. So, why did I feel so hollow? I should have been overjoyed she was able to marry someone so worthwhile, someone who had their life in order. If that was the case, why did I feel like I was dying?
I laid there, curled into a tight ball, pulling at my hair and scratching at my arms as I tried to contain the pure aguish pulsating in my heart. No matter what harm I caused to myself physically, the internal suffering was far worse. I did not feel anger, no, it was sheer sorrow, something far worse.
Time passed quickly, but at the same time, it felt like the suffering was eternal. It was only twenty till seven. I knew I needed to get ready, to go meet her. Somehow, I mustered the strength to get out of bed, but my body shook. I managed to leave the room and walk down the hall to my own. As challenging as it was, I was even capable to change into a pair of fresh jeans, white t-shirt, and a dark navy jacket. Yes, despite the suffering I felt, I succeeded to swallow it. I told Konoka Ojou-sama I would be there, after all. I, I could not disappoint her. Sure, my legs staggered a bit, but I was still going to meet her.
That was the plan, until I started walking down the path to the shopping district. I had managed to make it this far without thinking too much about it, but this was not something I could just conceal. My body just froze. I could not possibly stand to see her. No matter how much I wanted to, I would not be able to withstand it.
I slumped to the ground, and dug my hands deep in my hair, hardly noticing I completely forgot to put it up or even pin it. I rocked back and forth, attempting to calm myself, but to no avail.
Konoka is getting married. She is going to marry someone. I will no longer have a place at her side in two weeks.
I squeezed my eyes shut, my lips began to quiver. I knew it was already past seven.
I am so sorry, Konoka, but it does not look like I will be able to make it.
My eyes shifted up, but I did not move. Eternally young Evangeline stood before me, arms crossed.
"I thought it was you, looking like a pitiful mess."
Her insult went unanswered and unacknowledged. She was right, after all.
"Oi, what is this about? Why are you even outside?" she asked, finally dropping her attitude. Attempting to talk when I tried so desperately to breathe proved to be challenging.
"S-s-she…" I stammered, trying to make a sentence.
"What? She what?"
"S-she's getting married…in two weeks," I choked. "She's going to leave me." I dug my nails into my scalp, holding back the absolute misery.
"So, the old man's at his limit, huh?" Evangeline huffed, then bent down to my level. She seized my cheeks in her small cold hand, pulling my face to directly look at hers. "Get this through your head, Sakurazaki Setsuna. I don't need to spell it out for you. This is your last chance to gain that happiness," she stated sternly. "Nothing but despair will follow you if you don't act now. If you don't go, you will surely lose all humanity."
"But she doesn't need me," I breathed, trying to pull away. "This is for the best."
Evangeline jerked my face and snorted.
"Do you honestly believe that? You know her better than anyone, Setsuna, so do you really think this is what she wants? Do you think anyone else would care for her as much as you?"
Then I remembered, waiting for her outside the headmaster's office a week prior. Though she had suddenly sprung on me, I knew her smile was bitter. I knew she had only been trying to hide her tears, so why did I refuse to see it until now?
"Honestly, this is not the end of the game, Setsuna. Go, move on past this. Don't you realize everyone has been awaiting this, stupid girl," she grinned, releasing my face. "Now, don't keep her waiting."
She was right. This was not the time to be sulking. Konoka was waiting for me.
"Yes," I agreed, rising to my feet. I glanced down and smiled. "Thank you, Evangeline-san, for helping me. You are a true friend."
"Oh, shut up," she muttered, turning her head. "I can do whatever I want, but there's no reason to thank me just yet. You need to go."
"Yes," I said again, turning away and jogging down the street.
"About time," she muttered just before I went out of range.
My body felt extremely tired, but I pushed through the exhaustion and sprinted down the path. I regretted keeping her waiting for so long. I rushed into the shopping district, taking a peek at the time on a clock on a distant building. It was nearly a half hour past seven by the time I reached the prearranged destination. Despite how skilled my eyes were at finding her in a crowd, I could not spot her. I stood there for a minute, searching with a blank expression.
Did she already depart for home? I could not blame her, but the thought left a sinking feeling.
Suddenly, a nagging feeling rang through my heart, begging me to listen. My instincts awoke, but I allowed them to take over. I knew this feeling: Konoka was in danger.
The alert woke my senses and I was able to detect Konoka's presence. She was not far, but I still bolted down the street in a flash. I made a sharp turn into an alley, knowing I was close. When I turned the corner, I froze on sight.
A man leaned against the side of a building, forcibly holding a thin girl in arms. His hand was tucked down her top, groping her breasts as she squirmed to break free. His other was planted firmly on her mouth, muffling her screams.
"Ojou-sama," I muttered, slowly walking forward in shock. His head cocked toward me and he wore a sinister grin.
I took another step forward, staring into the tear-filled brown eyes of his victim.
"Lookie here," the man taunted. "A new play thing. You'll just have to wait your turn," he laughed, removing his hand from her top and instead sliding it down her thigh. "I'm almost done with your friend here," he said, licking his lips.
At this, I broke.
All my humanity seemed to fade and I gave into my emotions, into my desires, into the monster. Not even a second later was his throat in my hand, his body pinned against the wall as his feet dangled in the air. His hands desperately scratched at mine, his face quickly turning an array of colors from the lack of oxygen. He would surely die within a minute's time if I continued, but he did not deserve it. No, he had far worse coming to him.
My arm threw him to the ground, this head making a sickening "crack" as it bashed into the cement. With my left hand, I picked him up by his greasy hair, socking him in the face with my other, continuously. In the distance, I heard someone yelling, but the words did not seem to reach my ears. My knee made contact with his chin, followed by a foot. Once again, someone called out, was it sobs I heard?
I threw him down the alley a bit of the way and his limp body rolled to a stop. Staggering to him, I stomped hard on him, wherever my foot ended up. The action thrilled, but frightened me. A low growl echoed in my ear and my body seemed to vibrate. Was that me?
The words finally drove into my mind, but I just could not understand what they meant. My body ached, my back arched, and my hands trembled. Nothing was working properly, but I only knew one thing for certain: I wanted to kill him. I arched my arm back for the finishing blow, my eyes wide and hungry, but before I could swing, something heavy clung desperately to my wrist.
"No, don't do it!"
An abrupt roar escaped my throat as my arm swung with great force, throwing the weight off of me. I readied my attack again, but the same figure jumped in front of me again. My vision was fuzzy and I could not make out the white blur.
Who was that and what were they saying?
My hand exploded in pain and the constant screaming made my ears hurt.
Why, why will you not stop screaming nonsense?
I brought the attack down on the boisterous intruder. I could both feel and hear the skin tear. I rose my hand to my face, but instead, I saw a claw, coated in a fresh layer of red.
Was this my hand?
My mind did not process this, but only irritated me more. A masculine moan came from the unmoving body on the ground in front of me and the only thought in my mind was to finish the prey. I could feel my lips twitch with excitement and it became harder to breathe. This sensation!
"Stop this!" a female's voice cried. The blur returned, clinging to my waist. I could make out crying, but I just could not figure out why. The noise made my heart scream in agony, but this hunger… I had to fill it.
I stepped forward and the figure let go.
Finally, I can end this.
There was a forceful hit from the side, catching me off guard, and I fell to the ground. Instantly, the girl sprawled herself on top of my body, wrapping her arms under me. Growling, I dug my claw deep into her shoulder, causing her to utter out a cry. However, she remained persistent and maintained her hold.
Just leave me alone! Let me feed this hunger!
I jumped to my feet, despite her weight, and it must have surprised her, because her grip loosened. My teeth snapped as I bared them, desiring to rip his skin from his bones. I lunged at the man on the floor, my intent to kill, but again, the girl threw herself on me.
"No, this isn't you!"
Why does that voice sound so familiar?
My arm extended, furiously trying to swipe at him, but her hand grabbed and pulled at my wrist.
"You mustn't kill him! This isn't you!"
Why are you stopping me? I must kill him! He dies by my hand!
With one more burst of strength, I lunged once more, claws extended to his throat.
Finally, the words reached me. My hand ceased in mid-action, the feelings inside slowly fading into nothing. The voice that sounded so familiar started to take shape.
My lips quivered as I stammered, "K-Kono-chan…"
All the energy, all the pent up aggression, all of it, just disappeared. I collapsed on the ground. Only enough strength remained to breathe. My eyes closed shut, but they felt far too heavy to even open. I remained conscious, but only to an extent. My human-side struggled to return and my mind was wrapped in a ball of confusion. I could hear the quick footsteps approaching me and was able to feel my body being forced from the ground. Someone touched my forehead gently, their skin nice and cool.
"Hang in there," a female whispered, petting my head tenderly. There was a long moan in the distance, followed by a series of brutal coughs. The hand moved suddenly, perhaps alarmed, but it did not leave me.
"You little," a male voice huffed, coughing again before he could finish his thought.
"Just go!" the girl shouted loudly, her hand tensing. "Leave now. I mean it! Leave us be, or I will make certain you will never walk again!"
There was another huff, but then a dragging and sputtering sound carried into the distance until it was silent. Only then, did the hand calm.
I knew this gentle touch could only belong to Konoka.
She carefully lifted my head and placed it onto a soft surface, then slowly caressed my cheek with the back of her fingers. Her other hand continued to pet my hair.
"Please, be okay, Secchan," she begged at an almost inaudible volume. "Please don't leave me."
The scene before this was all a blur and my mind refused to process the event. No, the only thoughts were focused on the girl who tenderly held me now. My heart ached, but even so, just being with her now made it tolerable.
Something began to tickle my nose.
I managed to focus enough energy to open my eyes. Her long chocolate hair hung low and brushed against my face as she bowed her head over me. Her eyelids were squeezed closed and her lips moved as though she were praying silently. Fat tears had gathered in her eyes and streamed down her cheeks. I winced as a droplet fell on my eyebrow.
I did not know why she was crying, but I knew I never wanted to see such a sad expression of her face.
"Kono…" I breathed, reaching up and placing my thumb next to her misty eye. Her eyes sprang open instantly and the smile she wore was unlike any other I have ever seen, completely indescribable. Her arms immediately seized my own and hugged it. I caught a tear and wiped it away.
"Secchan," she said slowly, emphasizing each syllable. She brushed her cheek against my hand and I cupped it in return. "Kono-chan," I mouthed, stroking her supple face. Even under the woe, she was still utterly beautiful. "I caused you grief again, didn't I?" I asked with a bitter smile. She shook her head.
"No, you were my brave hero," she insisted. "As you always are."
"Oh, I'm glad," I said, closing my eyes briefly. "I definitely don't ever want to make you sad again."
"It's certainly mutual. Just focus on recovering, okay?"
"Well, I have to. I still owe you a tea date," I said meekly.
She chortled somewhat, "Silly girl."
I opened my eyes and gazed upon the magnificent being who cradled me so dearly. I began to trace the features of her face lightly with my index finger, slowly outlining her jaw.
Could I ever possibly wish for more than this? Could I want more?
The excruciating pain in my heart answered for me.
I edged myself closer, leaning my head on her stomach instead. My other hand cupped her knee.
Evangeline's speech and Konoka's words repeated in my mind. "When you can finally be honest with yourself, only then can you find the happiness you deserve." "There's nothing wrong with allowing yourself to want something, even if you want it so badly, it hurts."
"So, I'm allowed, right?" I asked softly. "It's okay to be selfish sometimes, right?"
"Huh?" She looked deep into my eyes, but her loving gaze only further put me into a trance. I moved my thumb and stroked her pink lips gently; they were smooth and quite soft.
This is what I want, right? Because my heart is pounding out of my chest for this girl and I cannot seem to withhold these feelings, nor do I have any further desire to.
I shifted my head again, now to her chest, only inches away from her face. She released hold of my arm and intertwined her fingers with mine that touched her face. Her other hand brushed my bangs back and wrapped around my ear.
I swallowed hard, completely losing myself.
Yes, she is the only thing I live for. Without her, my life is meaningless. All I want is to be at her side and make her smile. My heart pulsed as I leaned forward, the tip of my nose lightly touching hers. My breaths were deep and the ecstasy was audacious. I traced my hand on her face and wrapped it around the back of her neck. Yes, I have no regrets.
Finally, I closed my eyes and moved the last of the distance, locking my lips against hers. As I suspected, they were soft. Her lips seemed to shape to fit mine perfectly. Her arms wrapped around my shoulders and her hands lost themselves in my hair. I parted, gasping for air for a moment, opening an eye to peek at the brunette. She too looked at me, her eyes filled with desire. She instigated, springing on me with much passion.
This was not at all like our pactio – this was filled with pent up emotions and yearning we both had been carrying for years. She slid her tongue across my bottom lip. I nibbled hers. She lightly tugged at my hair as she pulled me closer. I lightly ran my nails down her neck. This intensity was overwhelming.
I shifted and trailed my lips down to the side of her neck. There, I rested my head for a moment, overtaken by comfort. She moved and brushed her lips against my ear.
"You don't have to hold it in anymore," she whispered softly. I tried to turn my head, but she relocated her hand to hold it still. "Secchan, I know you suffer, even if you don't show it. I know you choose to bury your emotions, but it's okay. You don't have to hold it in anymore."
"But…" My voice trailed off. I blinked slowly, but the tears were already flowing.
When had I last cried?
I nuzzled my face deeper into her neck. Every barrier I had ever built dissolved. It did not take long for a few simple tears to turn into long moans and violent sobs. I wrapped my arms around her back and grasped her shirt frantically. As I wept, she pet my head and held me tenderly.
"It's okay," she assured. "Let it out."
All of the feelings I had hidden just seemed to pour out amongst my tears. Though it was excruciating, I was at total ease. There was no certainty in how long I clung to her and cried; for us, time had stopped. It was only when my face was flushed red and my skin burned from the constant salty liquid did I pull away. I cocked my head back, locking my eyes with hers. With pure adoration, I sniffled, narrowing my eyes, feeling as though I might burst into tears again.
"Kono, Kono-chan," I started, trying to push through. "I-I…"
"Tell me." She pressed her forehead against mine.
From a young age, the only one to ever make me happy was her.
"I-I don't want you to get married!" I blurted, tugging on her shirt. "Because I…" I paused, forming the rest of the sentence in my mind.
Why did it take me so long to realize why I still continued to smile even when the world had been cruel?
Why was it so hard to say?
"You don't need to say anything, Secchan," Konoka insisted, her smile warm. "I already know." She intertwined her fingers with mine, snuggling her head against my own. "I ask you once more." She set her sights directly to my eyes. "Do you want to continue to be my partner?"
I was such a fool. This was what she truly wanted.
"I want nothing more than that honor," I answered proudly, my words sincere.
"Secchan," she sighed in relief. I squeezed her hands slightly.
"Ojou-, no, Kono-chan," I started again.
Konoka was my first friend and one I could never bear losing. She was the light in the dark abyss I had lived in through my entire life. "I cannot envision a future without you by my side."
She was the one who gave me a purpose, even without orders.
"It's only with you that I'm happy."
She was the only reason I could ever smile.
"You've given me a life filled with warm memories and a meaning to live."
"I-I love you," I confessed, loosening then re-tightening my grip on her hands. I squeezed my eyes shut and breathed deeply.
As I opened my eyes, she lunged at me, granting me with another kiss. Though it was short, it was incredible.
"You don't know how long I have wanted to hear you say that," she whispered as we both pulled back slightly. "A future with you is the only one I could ever want." She smiled broadly. "I love you, Secchan. I always have and always will."
Our eyes locked and we were wholly enchanted by each other. It may be true that I know not how love is between anyone else, but I was confident no one felt the way I did for her. I was completely mesmerized, but I had no qualms. As long as my heart continued to pulsate, I was forever hers.
"We'll have to tell, Grandfather," Konoka murmured, bowing her head into mine. "He'll have to cancel the wedding."
"I know," I grinned, closing my eyes. "He probably won't be too ecstatic, though."
"True, but it doesn't matter. It's my life, so it's my decision alone to make."
"And you're sure this is what you want?" I asked, peering at her. "This is what will make you happy?"
"Yes, I am positive," she assured, beaming in delight. "Being with you is what I truly want."
"I feel the same," I agreed, adding with a faint blush. "Kono-chan."
Konoka brimmed in pure and utter delight.
Yes, this is definitely all I ever wanted.
A new chapter in our lives began to unfold, opening a limitless amount of doors. No matter where we ventured, I was glad just to walk with her, side-by-side, forever. This was truly what it meant to be happy.
"No matter how small the light, I didn't overlook it, just so I could be a little closer to you." "This life, even if I lose it… I will still protect you!"