Takina was sitting on a table in a bar, with Chisato talking to the bartender about her partner, herself. The sun was low in the sky, and the waves were soundly hitting the Okinawan shore. She had a strangely attentive and neutral expression on the outside, which stood in stark contrast with the turmoil that inside her had spent nearly 5 months settling.
She glanced to her left, where a garden spread into the sand of the beach. Short palm trees, bushes and other small plants framed a path leading directly westwards and into the open sea; a small depression on the soil at one point along the path obscured the beach and gave the appearance of a cliff.
“Beautiful, right?” Chisato opened friendly while handing her a drink.
“The color of the sea is…”
“Stunning, I agree.” Chisato offered Takina her drink one more time. “How did you find this place?”
“It was Kurumi.” Takina replied monotonically while promptly grabbing her drink.
“Even though there’s no internet or cameras in here?” Challenged, Takina pulled out his phone and tossed it across the table to land right in front of Chisato. In its screen, a photo was shown, one of Saori-san, the client Chisato and Takina escorted during last years’ cherry blossom bloom, with her boyfriend, both posing happily on one of the beaches of the islands.
“Oh, so Saori-san is still dating her boyfriend~!” She said cheerfully and reflectively. “What about this?” added in a puzzled tone while looking back at Takina. “Wait… no way!” as she realized the meaning of the photo, she zoomed into the high resolution image file, to reveal herself with a long white dress and a hay hat, spinning freely clearly in the background. “Saori-san! I swear, you’ll photograph an alien one of those days… so why aren’t you surprised?” she asked without taking her eyes off the phone.
“I might be a ghost, you know~?” she said teasingly.
“You mustn’t.” Takina replied with a tone ten degrees colder.
“Despite your best efforts, we did manage to save you.” the black haired one replied with a coldness that was freezing her drink.
“Takina…” Chisato looked surprised at the sudden heartlessness of her partner. “I feel like you know why am I still alive…?”
“First I will have to ask you: why did you run away.” Takina’s question, pronounced with a strong emphasis on the pronoun, came without a hint of anger, but with firmness nevertheless.
“I mean… When I woke up after hanging from Enkuuboku, I was alone in the hospital. I had undergone surgery, for some reason, and I thought I was going to die, so I decided to escape.” Takina’s face started to contort into an upset one as she sonorously laid her glass down onto the table, not strongly enough to have slammed it, but with enough force and auditory indication to startle Chisato.
“Why would that give you the idea to escape?!” Takina’s voice rose slightly. She noticed that, and trying to recompose herself, she took a sip of her drink.
Chisato took a second to process what Takina may have meant with that sudden tone shift. “I hate being sappy, I didn’t want you to have to grieve for me, so I decided to let you move on while I found a nice place to die while I could still move on my own.” Chisato playfully placed the phone back on the table and, resting her face on her hand and with her trademark smile, she asked back. “Your turn now. You don’t come to Okinawa just to catch up, ‘fess~.” That casual attitude annoyed Takina a little bit more, who gripped her glass a little bit tighter out of reflex.
“Manager entrusted me with this.” Takina pulled out a small red box and placed it on the table. “After everything was over, Manager brought Yoshimatsu’s briefcase. I was informed that this was inside it alongside the new heart.” Takina turned, as if avoiding eye contact. Chisato opened the box with her thumb and index resting on the front and back faces of the top half of the box. Inside that, there was a letter that read “Happy New Birthday” in a beautiful serif font, and a bunch of hay. She lifted the letter and looked at it, with a strangely melancholic face. Takina’s own face changed to one of slight worry, thinking she may be suspecting something. “Mr. Yoshi…” Chisato lamented. “You usually wouldn’t put it there.”
“Usually…” added Takina with slight contempt. Chisato opened the card, which was folded in two and appeared to have some glue inside of it from the resistance it offered to being opened. Inside was nothing. “Huh?” she asked herself.
Thinking it may have gone inside the pile of hay, she looked for it with her fingers, but what she found gave her a knee-jerk reaction alongside a scared sound. “Oh!” she exclaimed, as her old Alan child pendant, the symbol of a promise she left behind long ago, came out of it. The pendant jumped out and landed on the side of the box while emitting a tonking sound of metal hitting wood. The golden detailings on the pendant reflected the sunset back to both of the girls’ eyes, producing a small glare. “Back from the dead!” she whispered. “Why the hell did you make me bring that, Mika?” Takina thought.
“Wait, so the surgery was to give me a new heart?” Chisato exclaimed, as if she had just connected all of the dots. Takina gave her a murderous glare.
“…what could possibly have been any other reason to do emergency surgery on your chest?!” Takina exclaimed.
“How could I know?” Chisato admitted, vaguely playfully.
“Chisato what is wr–?!”
“Takina, wait! Look at that!” Takina was about to snap, but Chisato interrupted her with her usual energy and innocence, to highlight her something. Takina turned her head towards the horizon, and saw a sunset. The bright yellow rays were skimping across the sky, into every piece of flora, and then into their eyes, inking everything in a soft and calming lime hue. “This is my favorite part of the day.” Chisato said with the genuine happiness in her voice that Takina had grown to treasure.
“This is so unfair…” Takina said under her breath.
“Ah– did you say something?”
“Ah– uhm, no, nothing.”
“Anyway, let’s get moving.”
“Where are we going?”
“Well, to the beach, obviously! I gotta give myself a proper burial~” Chisato made a gesture of holding a pendant that was no longer there. Takina’s face distorted into pure horror as she heard that.
“No, metaphorically! I meant metaphorically!” her senior partner clarified. Takina closed her eyes and calmed down. A cold had run through her body down and back up twice in the time it took for Chisato to clarify. They got up and headed for the beach.
“And one, and two, aaand…!” Chisato threw her pendant with all of her might into the ocean. It flew seriously far, with even the sunlight it reflected fading out as it cleared the last few meters. Having landed on the water, Takina asks.
“Are you ok?”
“I hesitated a little bit…” She turned to Takina. “I was told it looked cute by someone very important, after all.”
“…by who?” Takina acted confused.
“Eh–” Chisato got confused for real. “Eh! You! It was you!” she said while pointing at Takina.
“Me? I wouldn’t say something that embarrassing…”
“You…” Chisato readied, her arms to both sides of her head, ready to grab. She jumped Takina, grabbed her and lifted her effortlessly, starting to spin around with her partner on her arms while both were screaming. Barely a single turn in however, she loses balance and both fall to the water.
“What are you doing?!” Takina exclaimed while sitting on the water, with her clothes completely soaked.
“What do I do now?” Chisato asked out of the blue, also on the water and with her white clothing becoming slightly transparent.
“…what?” Takina’s eyes reacted to that question, and they widened as they fixated back on Chisato.
“I lived up to this point thinking I could die at any moment… what do I do with this much time?”
“…how about starting with something on which you had given up?” Chisato thought about it for a second, turned towards Takina, and with an excited smile she said:
“I… really like that idea!” Chisato got up suddenly, splashing some water onto Takina as the volume of liquid she dragged upwards with her body fell back onto the sea. With Takina still sitting, Chisato went to her, and extended her hand, smiling as widely as the sun in summer, and said
“Then let’s start now, partner!” Takina’s eyes lit up, and she drew a smile for the first time since she got there. She got up on her own and, overflowing with excitement, she grabbed Chisato’s hand using her own both. “Yes! Let’s do it!” Without even time to react, Chisato bolted off dragging Takina with her, who was having trouble keeping up with her running pace.
“Where are we going?”
“To my cabin~. We gotta dry up before doing anything. Besides, it’s getting late, and you ain’t swimming back to Tokyo.”
After taking a shower and changing clothes, the girls were in the kitchen-dining room talking. Takina was sitting at the table against a window, and Chisato was in the kitchen from across the room, chopping some vegetables with her back to Takina.
“You should stay here for the night,” said Chisato, “it’s gonna be cheaper than staying at a hotel.”
“You have a cabin here? How long were you planning on staying?”
“However long I had left.”
“So you really didn’t plan on coming back.”
“Not really, no. I didn’t think it was worth it.” Takina flinched at that.
“You didn’t think it was worth it?”
“Yeah. Why would I have an emotional farewell with people, I hate that. I dedicated my life to help people be happy, having people be sad for me is not my style.”
“Your style?” Takina’s voice started to slightly raise again.
“I just decided to save you the grief.”
“Save us the… who…”
“I was going to die, I only wanted to make everyone smile and help them move on before I had to leave.”
“Chisato…” Takina’s voice started to gain a noticeable tone, but got interrupted almost immediately by a short squirm of pain from the ex-first Lycoris.
“Chisato?!” Takina got up hastily and started to walk towards Chisato, but without even turning, she responded “It’s ok, it’s ok, I’m ok, it was just a small cut. Please stay there…” while waving at Takina to tell her to get back to the table.
“Chisato… who do you think you are to decide how we grieve for you.” Chisato, who was still chopping vegetables while looking downwards, did a single strong slice and lifted her head up in surprise.
“No, that’s not what I meant…” Chisato took her left hand, still with a drop of blood, to her chest. “I said I didn’t want you to grieve for me.”
“Well yes, but that’s not something you get to decide!”
“Do you have the slightest idea how I felt when you disappeared?”
“When Yoshimatsu ran away, when you were hugging me, you know what I saw in front of me? A ghost, a dead woman.” Takina slammed the table with her open hands using enough force to make everything on top of it jump, Chisato stopped chopping and answering at the same time.
“I saw my world falling apart. I had to fight you to save you, how do you think that made me feel?! I saw your life running away in that briefcase m”
“I tried to protect you, I fought people I could not beat because nothing Majima could have ever done to me would have ever hurt as much as anything happening to you while I did nothing.”
“I spent literally every waking hour of every day dead-worried by your side at the hospital. I left for an hour to buy a snack, and when I came back you were gone! I’ve run through the city to find you before, did you think I wouldn’t have done it again?”
“And again the next day…”
“And the next one.”
“And the next one!”
“I tried… so desperately to save you, to not have to lose you, you know how could you have made me not grieve for you? By surviving!”
“But even then, after all that we’ve gone through together, still after all of that, you forced me to lose you.”
“…” Chisato was visibly shaking. She stopped chopping the vegetables a long time ago.
“And?!” Takina was growing more and more violent. “What do you have to say?!” Chisato whispered something Takina couldn’t even hear.
“I… can’t le…” Chisato barely perceptibly raised her voice, but her sentence could barely start before faint back.
“I… you can’t?”
“…” Chisato was unable to speak, deafening silence covered the entire cabin. She was shaking and struggling to utter a single sound, head hidden in her shoulders and– *BANG*
The sound of a gunshot echoed through the entire cabin, deafening as it was devastating. “LOOK AT ME WHILE I’M TALKING TO YOU” Takina stood there, breathing erratically and audibly. Her teeth, pressing so hard they could break at any moment. Her eyes, shining with anger, but laser focused and steady like her smoking gun was on Chisato, who barely heard a high pitched *pyoom* sound from the bullet passing right by her ear and impacting on the wall right in front of her to release a puff of smoke containing the normal irritants that composed Mika's bullets.
Chisato didn’t even flinch.
“Didn’t you hear what I said?! Look at–” Chisato stumbled backwards a single step. Her hands, before gently posed on the counter, fell downwards like those of a ragdoll and hung from her shoulders like a pair of chains. Her head fell to the side, as if her neck was powerless to hold its weight. Then she stumbled another step in, and then a third one, and having cleared enough distance from the counter, she fell with all of her weight on her knees.
“Chisato…?” Takina’s expression changed upon seeing her partner like that. She looked at her, and then at the puff of smoke still dissipating, and then at her arm, still fully extended and holding her pistol with a tight and deadly grip. She looked at it, with great horror she looked at the hot barrel, the hardest she’s ever looked at anything she looked at her index finger tense on the trigger, as if ready to fire again on its very own will.
“No!” In a single movement, Takina took off the magazine, unchambered the bullet, and tossed the gun away while screaming. She ran towards Chisato. “Chisato! Chisato, listen please! Chisa–”
“Leave!” that stopped Takina in her tracks. Chisato screamed at her in a way she was unfamiliar, never had Chisato’s voice produced so much brokenness.
“Chisato…” Takina’s lower lip was trembling.
“Please… stop this… I can’t let you…”
“Chisato, I’m begging you, please forgive me…!”
“Takina please don’t get closer, I can’t let you…” While she was saying this, Takina moved the final meter separating Chisato and her, she grabbed her by the shoulders and turned her, just to hear the rest of the sentence, “I can't let you… see my like this!” Chisato’s face was a complete disaster. Red dust from the round resting on her entire face, except for a massive area right below her eyes where a constant stream of tears cleaned her cheeks. Her lips were trembling and completely curves, and her eyes were red and swollen with large blood vessels being prominently visible.
“Ch…chisato” Takina’s eyes were opened wide as plates.
“Ta… ki… na… I’m sorry!” Chisato fell face to the floor, and crawled to Takina’s legs. “I’ve been so selfish, I’ve only been thinking of what I thought other people should be thinking for me. I only thought about my own peace.”
“I’m sorry for not noticing your advancements, I’m sorry for never taking you into account on my plans, I’m sorry for dragging you everywhere,” Chisato gripped Takina’s ankles even tighter and took a deep and sonorous breath. “I’m sorry for not taking your feelings into account, I didn’t want to die, I just thought I had no choice… I was at peace with that, I’m sorry for not wanting to see you weren’t.” Chisato lifted her head up, which was soaked in tears. “I’m sorry for trying to control your grief. I didn’t want you to suffer for me, but it was not my right to decide that… I was supposed to protect you, not make you go through that. I’m sorry for anything you went through during my disappearance, I shouldn’t have forced you to move on–” Takina pulled her leg away, breaking Chisato’s grip on her ankles. “Takina, please don’t go!” She tried to crawl back to where Takina’s legs were, but she moved further back, kneeled down and grabbed Chisato by the side of her arms to lift her up. “I’m here, I’m right here, Chisato, I’m not going anywhere.”
“How can you speak to me with this kindness! After all the pain I’ve caused you, after all the things I’ve made you go through, after everything I did to you, I’m not good for you!”
“You really don’t understand it, do you?” Takina’s expression, as well as her voice, changed from worry to heartbreak.
“Understand…?” Chisato asked, confused.
“You keep trying to decide what’s best for me! I can decide that! Don’t you remember what you told me at the fountain room in headquarters?”
“When the chance comes, you’ll choose what you want to do. I’ve been doing nothing but that.”
“What you… want to do…”
“Everything I’ve done, I didn’t do it out of pity, I did it because of you. I did those things because I chose to. You were not protecting me? We were both protecting each other, what would I be supposed to do if I was unable to keep you safe in return? What kind of partner would I be? I never left you behind, never will…”
“I’m not a kid anyway, I’m not the defenseless girl you met over a year ago… I’ve grown, thanks to you I’ve grown… I’ve grown into someone that makes her own choices… you know what I chose?”
“Wh–what…?” Prompted by her response, Takina went from gripping Chisato’s arms to wrapping her arms around her partner in a tight hug. Chisato was frozen in place, Takina had never shown this much affection, she had never felt her body this much, this warm, this intoxicating. Takina got off Chisato and, gripping the sides of her arms again, she responded:
“The one I want to spend the rest of my days with.”
“Takina… I hadn’t realized… the most important thing I had given up on…” after saying that, Chisato broke Takina’s grip, grabbed her by the head and plummeted her lips into her partner. Takina’s arm couldn’t even react for a few seconds, until they decided to grab Chisato’s waist. Chisato, instead, took her hands from Takina's head to hers, pulled them off her hips, and grabbed it, interlocking their fingers together. Separating, both were gasping for air. Between gasps, and without taking her hands and eyes off Takina’s, Chisato finished “what I had given up on… was you.”
“Let’s start with that… I helped you heal once, I’ll help you heal from this again, and all the times I have to, no matter how many. I promise to be a better partner from now on.”
“That… that’d be great.” Takina licked her lips expecting to taste Chisato. “Is this what your bullets taste like? They burn a little bit…”
“Yeah, they’re pepper, that’s the idea.” Takina suddenly remembered she splashed Chisato’s face with them.
“Oh my god, it must burn you so badly right now.”
“It’s ok, Takina, I’m fine.”
“Chisato… remember what I told you.” Takina got up, and extended her hand to Chisato. She got up again, with shaky legs. “What I wanna do.”
“What you wanna do…”
“What I wanna do now, is wash that face of yours myself… it must be sticky from all the tears and pepper.”
“Is that alright?” Takina gave a kind smile that brought Chisato to the verge of tears again. “Oh and… don’t say that again, don’t try to hide your feelings. You don’t decide how I see you… I wanna see every face you make, the good ones, the bad ones, the pretty ones, the ones you think are ugly… I don’t wanna miss a single second of your face. Is that alright?” Chisato let her tears flow naturally once again, but this time, with her signature bright smile, now brighter than ever, thanks to the one in front of her making it so.