Minatsuki spits out the seawater in his mouth when he wakes up, coughing up the horrible salty taste on his tongue and around the insides of his mouth. The sun beats against his skin, his eyes tries adjusting to the scene around him but it's bright and alarming, it hurts.
He struggles finding his grip against the ground but he partially sinks, realizing the sand surrounding him. Lifting his head, he sees it stretching on for miles with nothing else in sight. Not a building or a shred of life anywhere. His mind awakens to the truth but it’s not fear he feels. Rather it’s wanting immediate answers to his sudden presence in this world.
There’s no recognition of this area, but a thought says he’s on one of islands besides Cremona. It doesn’t sound right to him though. This strange, unknown feeling runs down in his chest, he swallows the ball lodged in his throat from the confusion.
How he ended up here is a mystery, but he recalls the scene when he fought Koku in great details. Flashes of his fight flicker back and forth, the scent of blood was heavy around him until his body grew weak against the cold floor, his mind teetering on sanity and insanity, gripping at the discovery about who he really was but a blade cuts him through.
That’s right. He died.
His stomach plummets immediately as he thinks about Laica. The fake memories he was imprinted with. Minatsuki isn't Minatsuki, he was only a phantom to serve and discarded in the end. He has no trace of his true self or anything he considered valuable, he's without a name. He can't remember who he was.
His existence is a blank state now, and maybe he’s fine with it. It doesn’t matter anyways.
“I applaud you,” he says with bitterness. “You won, didn’t you? You got what you wanted.” A dry laughter leaves his lips but he doesn't cry.
The balls of his hands curl tight together, nails digging into his skin. The notion that he’s actually dead doesn’t send him into a fit of rage but rather a dissonance. He won’t meet Laica ever again. The answers he wishes for will never reach him.
Minatsuki begins dragging himself up slowly, trying to regain his footing. Legs are wobbly as his feet attempts to find balance against the small grains, his missing limb isn’t so missing anymore. He raises his arm up and checks, it’s all real flesh.
The white shirt clings to his skin like a second layer. Minatsuki then realizes he’s wearing only a top and loose pants. He sort of misses his suit actually, but for now he’ll accept what he has. The leather gloves are gone, and the skull tattoo gone from his palm.
He’s only human.
What should he do, he wonders. The meaning behind his living image is inconclusive. This world he stands on is more than a dream, a world where he’s meant to be alone. That’s what it is, isn’t it? Punishment.
Minatsuki tugs on his damp hair, feeling the sand mixed into it. He tries combing with his fingers the best he can, letting the sand fall.
The waves hug his feet and pull away, it comes again with a gentle touch but a distraction nonetheless. Minatsuki turns around, the ocean presents him with a gorgeous scenery of the crystal shimmers in the water. The waters are calm, not even a boat floating around. A small appreciation rises from his throat, the sea breeze dances along, and he takes a deep breath and exhales.
He spins around, his mouth sudden crestfallens when Izanami appears.
Koku killed her. He remembers hearing about the details.
But there’s the small comfort he prefers holding onto, knowing she is still the same as he remembers.
“Hey there!” Izanami jumps in front of him and tilts her head, wondering. “Huh… what’s with the long face?” She grins, “It doesn’t suit you at all. But I guess you were never the one to really put on a smile.”
“If you wish to know, then I’m trying to decide whether you’re an illusion or not.” He stops, his lips thinning. “You died after all.”
Everything about Izanami, her black blazer and dress with her mismatched socks, it’s definitely her. Her flawless makeup hasn’t smudged one bit. She isn’t a fake, at least that’s what he wants to believe.
Izanami dismisses him with a wave of her hand and twirls away, her dress whirling like a princess at a ball. Her arms spread out freely, she rears her head back with the clear blue sky above them. She stops and basks in the light, her face bathes in a soft afterglow.
“You think I’m joking,” Minatsuki says.
“Well… illusion or not, it doesn’t really matter. I am quite dead and you are, too. So for now, let’s enjoy this and talk a bit. We have some time I think. What you say?” Izanami looks at Minatsuki with unending patience, but he’s unable to give her an answer.
Perhaps he’s allowed to be indecisive now, rather than following an absolute command or some finite plan in store for him. He could be his own self, make his own decisions without that unsettling feeling tugging in the back of his head. No chains to hold him down any longer. He had goals of his own once, but now they’re all a hollow dream.
Izanami doesn’t rush him, instead she uses her time and takes her shoes and socks off before going into the water.
“You should join me, the water’s really nice.” She swishes a leg around and reels it back. There, she kicks and sends the water bursting into the air. A splash here and there, she does it again while the droplets fall like diamonds. She erupts in this merry laughter, the sweet joy like music in Minatsuki’s ears. He hasn’t heard it in a long time, it’s more new to him now than ever.
Then he thinks how strange it is. How his companions all fit into this odd concept of “family” when they barely function as one. They’re all bunch of fuck-ups with some backbone anyways. He never asks for more or less, but it’s the obedience he expects, and that alone takes him to a certain limit before someone breaks.
The word ‘family’ is weird on his tongue, but he guesses that was all he really had when they were around.
With Izanami here, he supposes he’ll have to find this acceptable. Her presence isn’t terrible, and with the amount of time he has, he would just have to make do.
A lot of this was me playing with dialogue. I want all the moments with the clown gang to have fun... I just want to bathe in it all.
Minatsuki stands next to Izanami; she looks back at him with a thoughtful look, branching with a smile on her face as she studies him. A twinkle in her eyes, something catches her attention and Minatsuki finds her a bit bewitching. A trait she excels at.
“What is it?”
“All the white looks good on you for once, there’s nothing holding you back this time,” Izanami compliments before dusting off the sand on his shoulders. Minatsuki doesn’t mind her touching him, he’s not particularly fond of the wet shirt he’s wearing, but he hopes the sun will do its job and dry him off.
“Why am I the only one wearing it?”
“Don’t know. This is how I appeared to be.” She gestures at her own clothes. "But I miss wearing my other outfits, they were really pretty. You can be any character you want and no one will ever know the real you. All the parties we went to, the attention and the thrill, how fun it was back then to have everyone’s eyes on you."
Izanami walks along the shore with Minatsuki following beside her. The sun shines bright above them, but time feels like a standstill, there's nothing moving them forward in this present as if Minatsuki is stuck in one time frame.
Her mouth continues to move but Minatsuki’s mind is somewhere else. Minatsuki looks down and picks one up, finding the delicate orange cream on the inner surface, the colors are alluring and the humble waves add a musing comfort for a while. He suddenly misses the beach.
“Hey,” Izanami breaks the silence. “You remember the time when we threw a surprise birthday for you?”
The sudden question has Minatsuki releasing the shell from his fingers. “You want to talk about that? The one time when it was three in the morning…?”
A memory like that, he almost forgotten it existed.
“Yes!” Izanami smiles widely. “Wasn’t it amazing?”
“Amazing? Whoever gave Kamui the accordion should’ve been kicked out of the ship.”
“It was Yuna actually.”
“Yuna? She wouldn’t.”
“Then, you didn’t know her well enough because it was her idea.”
“I suppose not.”
Izanami hums. “We made breakfast for you but Kukuri was in charge of it. The kitchen was a total mess in the end but the pancakes were salvageable. Edible. Kinda if you added a lot of butter.”
“They tasted like ash.”
“Oh,” Izanami frowns. “You sure? Takeru made sure we followed the recipe by the box. Word for word.”
“Ash, Izanami, it was ash.”
“But the bacon, they were good?”
“Kamui ate all of it. The only thing worth commending was Quinn’s scrambled eggs, it had a fluffy texture with every bite. Seasoned to perfection, he had talent.”
“No one expected it at all, it was kinda of funny. Well at least you liked something. Quinn was pretty happy with the results, too, and no one ever saw him ‘happy’.” She laughs some more. “If anyone wanted eggs, it’s best to ask him if he’s in the mood.”
Birthdays were such a riot then. They never had a set date, they didn’t know when they were born but it took a collective effort from everyone before they celebrated.
“Lunch was decent enough,” Minatsuki adds. He could have ended the conversation right now, but the mere idea of reminiscing feels right.
“I remembered taking out some Thai food. We almost ordered everything off the menu because no one knew what you liked. Yuna said you weren’t a peanut fan, so we made sure NOT to add it in. Did you tell her you didn’t like peanuts?”
“I don’t believe so? She must’ve hated peanuts then.”
Then, the horror of his room smelling of Thai for three days was terrible.
“We had many leftovers that day, you didn’t have to order that much.” Minatsuki hated it. He had to make sure his clothes didn’t smell like lunch, too.
“Sorry but it’s your birthday, we had to go all out somehow.” Izanami sounds disappointed as if she ruined a part of this somehow.
“It’s fine, the food was fine.” Minatsuki tries salvaging it with a pat on her shoulder. “Dinner and card games were a better part of the day.”
“Hey, that’s good, isn’t it? Uno is a big favorite of mine.”
“It’s because you kept winning almost every round.”
“Even though the twins cheated, and Laica had a few hidden cards up in that hat of his.”
“Impossible. You lie.”
Izanami gasps. “I would never. Surprisingly you never caught on. It must’ve been the alcohol, you were far too relaxed. It’s nice though, you unwinding for once.”
“I had a hangover after that, it was terrible. An overindulgence. In fact, we all had our fair share but the twins, not so much.” He recalls bending over in the toilet early in the morning, nausea racked his brain and vomiting the contents out of his stomach. He hated the feeling, almost regretting the night of consuming bottles, but Laica was there at his side, rubbing his back soothingly as he could and his hair tied back, so it wouldn’t be in the way. Laica gave him water and light food for his stomach before having him rest again. A kiss came after, he’s more confused now.
“I guess the party wasn’t that memorable,” Izanami comments, almost sad.
“We’re not perfect, but it’s passable enough for a birthday. More good than the bad overall.”
Izanami perks up. “It would be nice if we could do it again. One day. Whenever. We’ll make it better.”
“I doubt anyone would come. We’re the only ones here.”
“Wow.” She fakes a shock. “You really want to celebrate?”
Perhaps not. Minatsuki wouldn’t tell her that, but he wants to see Laica again. He won’t tell her that either.
“Izanami, have you seen the others?”
“I haven’t,” she answers thoughtfully, turning her head to the distance towards the sandy hills. Minatsuki looks at where her sights set on. What could possibly be over there?
“You’re the first I’ve seen, isn’t that a surprise?”
“I suppose so, but let’s say you could be someone my mind made up. From my memories. I could be dreaming right now.”
“Don’t think too hard on this, I’m still myself either way. Someday, I hope you meet the others, though there is some spite involved. The rest I’m quite unsure. Endless possibilities, you understand?”
Minatsuki looks at her as if a pin just dropped. “What do you mean?”
Izanami pokes at her own head. One tap and the next. “The twins, remember? I can’t give you all the answers except this one is for free.” She sighs, stretching her arms above her head and back, a yawn leaves her lips. The sun still beams on them, and Minatsuki’s shirt is slightly damp but not as annoying as before. Underneath his feet, the sand is warm and cool as the waves surround them.
“Kukuri accused me of killing her brother, killing everyone,” Minatsuki’s admittance comes out steadily, the memory of the anger directed at him. How he held her by the neck because she wouldn’t shut up, killing her was far too easy. He had no remorse as he choked her and discarded her body away like trash. The plans he had, everything ruined.
“It was Koku who killed us, that is all. I wouldn’t blame you for my death because to fight the king was a pleasure, it’s what I wanted after all.” Izanami pauses in a heartbeat. “We’re not meant to live long anyways. And now, we’re free from this suffering, free from the pain. There’s nothing tying us down.”
Minatsuki doesn’t deny her words. If that’s what she believes in then who in the right would judge her wrongly. “I will see them again, is that it?”
“I suppose so. Search and search, through the troubling sands and eternity you’ll spend here until you’ll reach your rightful ending. Uh, that expression says you’re not looking forward to it. Would you like a hug?” She prepares one, her arms apart, and Minatsuki steps back immediately.
“I tried. Oh well! No loss there.” Izanami is back with a smile until her lips press together, she scratches her cheek with a finger, the amount of time to be lost in thought keeps Minatsuki waiting. Something is going on with her.
“I’m sorry our time is very short, I’m not supposed to be here long anyways but... it’s good to see you despite the circumstances, the whole ‘dead’ thing going on. I’ll be rooting for you though, I hope you find him because I know he’s waiting for you, too. Somewhere.” Parts of her body starts glowing.
“Wait, how would you know?” Minatsuki’s sudden tension on his face flares, he grabs onto her arm. The grip snaps a part of her, now an empty space. “I forbid you to leave, you know something!” Aggravation rises in tone, but he doesn’t have control over her.
“Rules like that don’t apply here. Nothing is set in stone I’m afraid. Farewell, Minatsuki, I believe in you.”
Like glass, she shatters into thousands of pieces. Diamonds scatter into the wind with only but a smile left on her face before becoming dust.