It was done. She had finally, finally told Haruto exactly how she feels. It takes everything she has to not break down before him, but she stands resolute. Light engulfing her being as her livelier persona dissolves into tiny flakes around the two. Haruto looks devastated, and she honestly can’t blame him. Leaving him will be the hardest thing she’s ever had to do.
She can feel her weight leaving her, it’s almost time. She smiles apologetically at Haruto, wondering if he’ll miss her when she’s gone. Or if someone will ever save him. If she had the chance, there is no way she’d leave him to waste away in this realm. She would save him like he saved her and take him to a real festival. A real aquarium. She would ask him to walk her home and gather the courage to kiss him outside of her door. They would be in love and out in the real world, living.
More pressure emerges behind her eyes, and it gets increasingly hard to not cry. Haruto looks about ready to burst too. But, instead, he takes a step forward. Her breath catches in her throat, and she watches as he builds his courage and takes another step. Then another. Then a few more. All of a sudden, he was in front of her, hands resting on each side of her face.
She looked at him with wide eyes, heat slowly rising on her cheeks. He seemed to be debating something as he gazed at her, lips twitching ever so softly. As the glow around her shone a little bit brighter, he leaned down and pressed his lips to hers.
It felt like time stopped, the flakes of her false self halting in their ascent. As the sensation of the kiss processed properly, her eyelids slid closed and she pressed slightly into it, reciprocating his feelings entirely. She felt something wet land on her cheek and smiled into the kiss. Knowing Haruto had cracked brought her own tears forth, and they ran down her cheek to join Haruto’s.
Without warning, Kayo erupted into glowing particles. Her essence flowing into the dark abyss above like a swarm of fireflies. Haruto stood there a moment, eyes closed as he recounted his time with the ravenette. The world around him lit up to reveal a sunset overlooking a beach. Kayo’s letter by his feet. Shakily, he picked it up and read the contents. Maybe it was a bad decision at the time, because the rest of the day consisted of Haruto crying as the waves nipped at his shoes.
There was a gasp, loud as the sound reverberated around the silent room. A small breeze rolled in and sent a chill down her spine. Quick steps moved around her, but she didn’t know who it was. She took a breath and coughed, the air feeling harsh to her raw lungs.
With every bit of effort she had, she opened her eyes. The light above her bed was turned off, but against the white tiles of the ceiling still made it hard to look at. Feeling the breeze from her left, she chose to turn her head to the right in an attempt to block some of the light flooding inside the room.
When her vision focused, she saw a small bedside table topped with withering flowers. A little to the left of the table, and further away, stood a wooden door that was slightly ajar. Loud voices were heard through the crack, and she knew immediately they were headed for her.
As soon as the thought flitted through her mind, the door opened fully to a crying woman and a startled doctor. With a little effort, she managed to pull a smile, but it fell shortly after in her exhaustion. Instantly, the doctor crossed the room, a nurse behind him, and he began checking her vital signs. The woman by the door, who she now realises is her mother, has teardrops falling from her chin as words of joy leave her mouth. The sobbing breaking apart her words to make them incoherent. Still, she understands very well what she’s saying.
The doctor was astounded when he finished. Not only was she alive, but her illness was gone. Vanished as if it never existed in the first place. She can’t remember how long ago it was when she was told she had it, but hearing those words brought her emotions back full force. She hugged her mother and cried in happiness. Her father joining not too much later.
Too soon for her liking, the doctor told her to rest and forced her parents to leave the room. The door was slid shut and the room left to burn a warm shade of orange as the sun set. Finally being able to stand the light, her gaze shifted to the still open window. Sunlight brightened the world outside, and illuminated her bed, bringing a tan shade to her arms temporarily.
Thoughts and memories flashed in her mind’s eye, bringing a fond smile to her face. Her brown eyes softening into a gentle cinnamon colour. There was no way she’d forget Haruto, or her wish. A fire started inside of her chest, heart set on her course of action. With a little help, she’s sure she’ll find Haruto. The problem was, how does she save him? No! She can’t think like that! He saved her, so it’s her turn to save him.
With that in mind, she fell asleep planning her next move. When she woke up the next day to her mother knitting and her father reading the newspaper, she told them everything. Of being in a dream world she controlled. Of meeting a boy who was stuck like she was. Of how he showed her a life she could only dream of. And how she fell in love with Tsukishiro Haruto.
At first, they didn’t believe her. She understood why of course. It did sound crazy. But, not having been in their daughter’s position, they couldn’t exactly say she was wrong. So, they offered to help. While she recovered and got back on her feet, they would look for the ‘Doctor Kanzaki’ Haruto had spoken to. If they could, they would also look for a Haruto in the news too. See if anyone had reported a boy contracting ‘Sleeping Beauty Syndrome’.
Every day, she thanked her parents for the effort and did her best to recover quickly. She had to get better as fast as she could. Haruto was waiting for her after all.
After two months of looking, her parents had burst into her room cheering their success. She was still bedridden, but at least it was in her own bed now. As she sat up under her covers, her father thrust the house phone into her hands, a huge grin on his face. Hope filled her heart and mind as she gazed at their happy faces. With a gulp to stave off anxiety, she spoke into the receiver.
“Ah! Kayo-San! It’s lovely to hear your voice, I hear you are looking for me.”
A brilliant dazzle shone in her eyes as they snapped to her parents, the two looking as excited as she felt. Her lips quirked up into a beaming smile and she couldn’t help but almost cheer into the man’s ear.
“Are you Kanzaki-Sensei?"
“Why yes, yes I am. I assume you are the girl Haruto has been crying over for two months?”
At that, her entire frame froze. Her happiness sank like a rock in the ocean, and her parents noticed instantly. They shared a look of uncertainty but stayed quiet. Kayo exhaled sharply then inhaled slowly to calm herself down.
“H-He cried, for two months?”
There was silence on the line for a moment, her parent’s faces morphing into understanding expressions.
“Yes, he was quite torn up about it. I think you were, or rather are, his first love. He has still been helping witches move past their problems and awaken from Sleeping Beauty Syndrome, but has always gone straight back to his room to be alone. The news of you being alive might reinvigorate him, in my opinion anyway.”
“Please help him any way you can.”
Her voice was resolute and her face like that of steel. Her parents looked startled for a moment, then shone with an aura of pride. With a shared nod, the two adults left the room and closed Kayo’s door, giving her privacy. She silently decided to thank them later, then got on with what she wanted Dr Kanzaki’s help for.
“Of course I will, you have my word young miss.”
There was a hum on the other end, signalling that he was listening. Again, she took a deep breath.
“Would you mind helping me find Haruto?”
There was silence again over the line, probably as a startled Kanzaki processed the request. Then, she heard mumbling, like the man had never even considered looking for his dreamscape partner for justice. A sharp click had her flinching away from the phone, and when she pressed her ear to the speaker again, she heard the tell-tale clicking of a mechanical keyboard.
“I had never even considered the possibility, but that would make sense. How he can stay in that world constantly and can help out the witches, it’s perfect! If we can find him, maybe we can bring him out and get answers. Or maybe a sound way of jumping into the dream world!”
The genius continued to ramble, getting quieter the more he thought about all of the possibilities. Kayo was going to continue listening, but she had walking therapy in twenty minutes, and needed to hang up so she could get ready.
“K-Kanzaki-Sensei? I-Is that a yes?”
“Of course I will! This would be ground breaking in my research! And… after all he’s done, I believe he deserves a break.”
She was ecstatic! Not only would she be able to have another chance at life, but Haruto as well! Something wet glided down her cheeks and she barely registered that they were tears before she was practically yelling thank you’s through the phone. Kanzaki said it was fine, and said he’d phone if he found anything. She returned the gesture, then excused herself and hung up the phone.
With this, they would be one step closer to finding Haruto.
They looked everywhere. In newspapers for the past five months. News feeds around Japan. They even googled Haruto’s name. But, nothing came up. Another two months flew by and she was losing hope. Kanzaki had asked if Haruto remembered anything outside of the dream world, but he had no memories prior of waking up in that room. Kayo was losing hope, and her parents could tell.
They started taking her out on trips, tried enrolling her into her final year of school, anything to take her away from the computer. But she refused. Without Haruto, she was falling back into depression. If she couldn’t find him, then how would they live together in the real world? How would she be able to continue when he wasn’t there to make her smile? All she wanted was to see him again, be able to touch him again. She wants goofy photo booth pictures hung on her wall, and matching key chains from the nearby aquarium. But, for real. Was that too much to ask?
One day she sat on her bed, knees pulled up to her chest as she used her arms to squeeze them. This is the fourth time this week she’s cried over the strain looking for Haruto was causing. She wouldn’t give up, but damn it hurt. She doesn’t want to be crying into her knees. She wants to hug Haruto and spend every day by his side, like how they had when they dreamed.
There was a gentle knock on her door and she had to sniffle to retract the snot clinging to her nose. She knows she isn’t subtle when she cries, but she still did her best to erase the evidence before calling whoever it was inside.
As softly as the knock came through, the door was pushed open to reveal her mother. The woman looked worried but still wore a smile as she greeted her daughter. Kayo didn’t bother uncurling herself, instead choosing to simply raise her head to look at her mother.
“Kayo, I know you love Haruto and want to find him, but getting this worked up isn’t healthy. Your father and I are worried about you. Please, just take a week off, ok?”
Anger surged inside of Kayo for possibly the first time in her life. She understood what this search was doing. That she was becoming increasingly exhausted with each passing day. But, where did her mum get off saying that?! If it was her dad her mum would be doing the exact same thing! In her newfound rage, she snapped.
“What?! No way! Haruto is waiting for me to save him like he saved me! If this was Tou-San we were talking about you would be doing the same thing right?! So why are you telling me to give up?! I love him and I won’t give up!”
During her rant, she slowly risen to her feet, towering over her mother as she stood on the bed. Fists clenched so tightly that her knuckles faded into a paper white shade. Her mother was taken back by her tone, but visibly flinched when she brought up her father. It was obvious she was right, but that didn’t stop them from worrying about her. Surely this Haruto wouldn’t want her being back in hospital because she was so focused on finding him that she exhausted herself.
Before either could continue the argument, Kayo’s father burst into the room with the house phone in hand. He was panting, as if he had just ran down the street to reach them. Without another word, he passed the phone to Kayo and gestured for her to speak into it.
She sounded as confused as her expression showed. She was just in a fit of rage, only to be thrown out of it and straight into bewilderment. Her mum didn’t look too much better.
“Ah! Kayo-San! I have good news! I located Haruto’s body! He is in a hospital in the next town over from yourself. I am on my way right now to investigate if you-“
“I’ll be there!”
She interjected, excitement and relief flooding her voice. Her parents sighed in relief, both of them happy that they’re little girl will finally get what she wanted. As Kanzaki told her the address over the phone, the three prepared to leave the house. Kayo only thinking about one thing. “It’s time I saved you Haruto.”
When they reached the hospital, Kayo wasted no time and ran straight for the reception desk. The man behind the desk jumped at the sudden appearance of the girl, but quickly composed himself. With a precise, kind and professional voice, the man addressed Kayo.
“Hello miss, how can I help you?”
His professionalism threw Kayo off, and instantly her nerves kicked in, causing her to stutter.
“E-Erm… I’m looking f-for um… T-Tsukishiro Haruto…”
The man nodded then began typing on his keyboard. A moment later, something flashed on his screen and he frowned. Kayo’s breath caught in her throat, tears threatening to spill. Did they get the wrong hospital? Were they too late?! What was happening?!
“He’s on the second floor in room 2-48. But, I must warn you, it’s not pretty.”
Kayo furrowed her brow in question, waiting for him to elaborate. However, the man deemed his job to be done and got back to sorting files on the computer. Gesturing to her parents, she took her mother’s hand and walked calmly to the stairs leading up. Well, as calmly as she could. Her heart was hammering against her chest and her palms were sweaty. Luckily, her mother didn’t mention it.
They made it to the door, and Kayo’s worry became overshadowed by a thrill tingling in her bones. She was about to meet her first love in person. The boy she had been searching for for almost five months. The boy she was sure she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.
With a deep breath, and comforting squeeze of the hand from her mother, she nodded and pushed the door open. On the other side, she was met with a clean room and the familiar beeps of a life support machine. A man clad in a lab coat with shaggy black hair stood by the bed. His fists were clenched and his shoulders were hitched up in a tense line.
She called out, startling the man. He span around to look at the new faces, glasses glinting momentarily in the light of the room. After realising who it was, the man released a sigh of relief before a pinched expression took over his face.
Kayo blinked. She knew that voice.
“Kanzaki-Sensei? It’s nice to finally meet you.”
She bowed, followed by her parents. Kanzaki nodded slightly, gaze flicking to the bed with a conflicted emotion dancing in his eyes. Kayo tried to peer past him to catch a glimpse of Haruto, but Kanzaki moved in the way. Confusion swam in her mind, worry climbing up her spine as she watched the doctor continue to hide Haruto from her.
The raven sighed, rubbing his head with his left hand.
“You need to hear what happened first, and the conclusion I came up with.”
She nodded warily, her parents looking troubled behind her.
“Haruto was in an accident. Seven months ago, he was visiting his parents at work. They worked in a large office building in the centre of town, earning decent wage. He was a… caring person by nature. So, when the office went up in flames and killed everyone but him, his mind all but shut down. During the surgery that saved his life, Haruto became the first person to contract Sleeping Beauty Syndrome. The dreamscape the witches are born in, is of Haruto’s creation. In his guilt and self-blame for being unable to save the people that day, he’s created a world in which he helps others. As you can probably guess, this is only doing negative things to his psyche.”
Behind Kayo, she faintly heard her mother gasp and a hand slap against skin, most likely her mother covering her mouth in horror. But none of that registered in her mind. She was too busy focusing on what Kanzaki was saying. Was it true? The dreamscape, the place she had met Haruto, was his own personal Hell? Was he really saving people to make up for not being able to help in that fire?
Shakily, she took a step forward. A flash of Haruto taking a similar step towards her appeared in the forefront of her mind, but she pushed it aside. Another step, and Kanzaki looked ready to stop her.
“So… he’s punishing himself, without knowing it?”
“It would appear so, yes.”
A soft plop resounded around the silence, a single wet patch emerged on the floor. Slowly followed by another droplet, then another. A choked sob left her throat, but she continued forward. Haruto need her, she wouldn’t stop here.
“I don’t believe we should wake him Kayo-San.”
She froze, watery gaze snapping to Kanzaki’s face. He looked like he didn’t like the idea as much as her, but he also looked like he would take some convincing to change his mind.
“You see Kayo-San, Haruto… he’s missing limbs. In the fire, his left forearm was scorched beyond salvage, the same with his right hand. When they found him, he was buried in rubble, which resulted in the loss of his right leg. Making him live life like this seems… inhumane.”
A war waged in Kayo’s mind. Was it too cruel to wake him from a world where he has everything to a life like this? But… isn’t it lonely over there? Besides, there’s prosthetics that could help him. And there was no way she’d let disability come between her and the boy she loved. The boy who saved her from sickness. That’s right, he wasn’t alone here. Surely that kind of life is better than one of solitude.
“I don’t care.”
She spun around, glaring at her mother with a fierce conviction. She would save Haruto. And she would do it with or without help.
“How can a life of solitude be better than a life where he could have friends and a family?! No one deserves to be lonely!”
Tears free flowed down her face as her emotions burst open. With a harsh step, she turned back and walked over to Haruto’s bed. Her gaze softened looking at his face. He looked almost peaceful, if it wasn’t for the mask. Or the obvious dips where his limbs were severed.
Ignoring the ache in her heart, she leaned down and ran a finger over the rim of his breathing apparatus. Kanzaki flinched in mild worry, her parents gasping in shock. Hooking a finger under the rim, she lifted the mask from his face and placed a kiss on his lips. She put his mask back in place before gently resting her hand on his cheek.
“Haruto, no matter what, I will be with you. I promise.”
The three adults said nothing as Kayo took a seat by Haruto’s bedside. Her free hand resting on his wrist stump. She may not be able to hold his hand anymore, but that doesn’t matter. What matters, is that he’s alive, and she’s willing to do everything in her power to bring him back to her.
Weeks melded together as Kayo waited. Every day she spoke to Haruto and told him stories. He had yet to move, but Kayo could be patient. They would make up for lost time when he was with them again.
Over the weeks, her hair had grown past her shoulders. It still wasn’t as long as Haruto’s though. The brunette having had to have a ponytail tied and laid beside his shoulder so her wouldn’t over heat. His fringe seeming out of place with how much care Kayo put into keeping it out of his face.
Her parents came in every so often, mostly to keep her company since Haruto couldn’t. A few times they came in to switch places with her so she could sleep, but she refused. Said she could sleep just fine by Haruto’s side. This time, they didn’t argue with her. Instead, they did what they could to make sure she was comfortable.
Seven weeks had passed since they arrived, and Kanzaki had gone back to helping Haruto save witches. Every story he told her when he visited almost had her shouting about the absurdity. Haruto was the one creating witches, and yet, he was also the one saving them! It was preposterous! But then again, Haruto wasn’t exactly going to just sit there and let the witches morph into evil or lost people. He was a caring person after all.
She had fallen asleep by his bed again, head resting by the hand holding his stump. The sound of the door opening stirred her awake, and the breeze of the now open window lulled her out of her sleep state. She looked up and caught sight of Kanzaki. He smiled at her, nodding once, before taking the seat on the opposite side of the bed.
“He saved another one yesterday. She was a little bit like you, but, well… she definitely wasn’t interested in Haruto the same way.”
He chuckled lightly. Kayo had literally just woken up, so her slow mind couldn’t grasp what he was saying.
“She was more interested in the same sex, so Haruto became more of a… brother figure to her.”
He elaborated, smiling at her drowsy state. Another one, she noted. Another person in the real world that would love to know Haruto outside of the dreamscape. Another person waiting for him to just wake up.
It happened without warning and all too fast for Kanzaki to react. Kayo sprang to her feet and slapped Haruto, hard. Anger clearly written on her face as sadness gleamed in her eyes.
“How long are you going to keep everyone waiting Haruto?! We’re waiting for you to come home!”
Haruto woke from his nap with a start. Feeling a sting in his cheek, he raised his hand to rub lightly at the reddening spot. Lily stood not too far away, a fond smile on her face.
“What the heck?”
He moved to stand from the makeshift bed, but fell down instead. His eyes widened as he looked to his right leg. Except, there was no right leg. As he began to panic, Lily stepped closer and placed both hands on his face. She turned his head so he was looking right into her eyes, and smiled wider.
“It’s time to remember big brother.”
“What? What do you mean?”
He went to touch her arm, but he couldn’t grab anything. He tried flexing his fingers, but nothing. Moving his eyes to look, he was met with a stump at his wrist instead of a hand. He was about to scream when his cheek stung again, this time worse than the last. Lily sighed, catching Haruto’s attention again.
Gently, Lily rested her forehead against his, smiling softly as she locked eyes with Haruto.
“I’ll show you.”
And she did. All of his memories came back in a flash of colourful lights. Then, some came into more focus than others. Of going to see his parents at work. Of greeting their co-workers and having a laugh with the janitor. Of smoke billowing out of the second floor and presenting a very real threat to the whole building. Of finding a way down to the bottom with everyone still inside. And of the building collapsing as he stepped one foot past the threshold.
Then he saw the hospital. Waking up to find out he was the only survivor and had lost his limbs in surgery. He didn’t mind not having limbs, it was the fact he couldn’t save so many people that bothered him. So one night, when he fell asleep, he created where he is now. A place where time didn’t matter and where he could bring people who needed his help.
When the memories slowed to a manageable pace, he looked Lily in the eyes.
“I’m… the one who made witches?”
“Yes, you wanted to help, so you created the power to help.”
She nodded with her words, slowly pulling away and raising to her feet. Her already pale complexion decreasing a few shades and gaining some transparency. With a nod, he accepted the truth.
“Thank you, Lily.”
She simply smiled as her body faded into nothingness. Then, the world rumbled. The wall caved in on itself and the many clocks outside of his room began spinning wildly. The world began to shine too bright for his eyes, so he closed his eyes. The last thing he heard being a familiar voice.
Kanzaki did his best to pull Kayo away after the second slap, but she was wriggling too much. Snot and tears streaming down her face as she begged Haruto to wake up. Her heart clearly breaking the more she called out to him.
Then, there was a cough. The two stopped moving all together as the brunette coughed into his breathing apparatus. His right arm raised to take it off, but he stopped when his stump met the plastic with a pathetic thud. With half-lidded eyes, he silently asked someone to take the mask off for him.
The reaction was instant. Kanzaki released Kayo and ran for more doctors while Kayo ran to Haruto and took the mask from his face. The brunette took a large gulp of air, before evening his breathing out. The ravenette watching with wide eyes, tears sat on the edge of her lids, waiting to be allowed freefall again.
His raspy voice called, and she couldn’t help it. She buried her face into his chest and wailed. He didn’t mind. He knows the trouble he’s caused her, and he couldn’t apologise enough. He tried though. Even though his voice was almost none existent, he said sorry. Repeated the word until his own sobs made the word muddled and unrecognisable.
When the doctors finally arrived to examine him, he had explained everything to Kayo, and she had begun telling him of her time beside him. There was something bothering him though.
“Why did you wait for me? Doesn’t… Doesn’t my, condition, scare you?”
Kayo gently shook her head, a warm smile on her face. The same smile she had before she had woken up. The one he saw before he kissed her goodbye.
“Even without your limbs, you’re still the Haruto I fell in love with. And don’t forget, there are lots of people who will always have your back. Especially with everything you’ve done for them.”
Her smile widened and Haruto felt his heart swell. Something inside of him told him crying wouldn’t be too bad right now, so he let a few tears spring free. With all of the strength he could muster, he sat himself up in the bed and leaned forward. This time, Kayo knew what he was doing, and met him half way.