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Will he bloom while he slumbers? Will his fingers each begin to blur and blur, inching further and further into the ground, where they take root and stretch, fighting for a view of the sun? If they get there, will they be so blinded, so parched, that they wither in the heat, and turn to the dust, giving way to the others, who are much more fitting, much more deserving, of that light?

How beautiful.

How can he match those whose impact is meaningful, lasting, brings tears to the eyes, the very souls, of those around them? Oh! The curiously thin tethers that shake and shatter, bind some and set others free, how they tease, please, ease the worries that release in the wind.

What can he do? What can he do? To pass over those lines? To ascend past the confines that the deathly haze this school provides, and color another’s world, just a tad? He, whose strokes are thick with grey, tragic even though he tends to them every day, finds nothing more than dissatisfaction at lay. More and less, he swirls, thinking it’s okay to disappear, to not leave a trace, but still clinging to the strand of thread that tries to flee, anyway.

How sorrowfully beautiful, this border he treads is.

Her tug, deep through the waters that are much less shallow than they appear, awaken him, again, to the unfortunate reality, of his lack of direction, of internal dictation. Even the breeze knows better where it wishes to settle, and her bright, pure bloom has already sprouted.

He’s interested, but he needn’t stand too near and taint her so.

Of withering, squiggling, seeping stalks, weighted by a sun lost, snapped back by a path undone.

“Shikishima-san, do you... exist?”

How peculiar a question, these sounds that resound, curve, swerve, unnerve, does he? Is there anything tangible, to sound to the consuming pits of uncertainty, of an invitation to simple float, free, and fade away?

Does she still think this a dream? Is that the reason behind the concern in her voice and the fog in her eyes?

“I believe so. However could I speak to you, or feel when you so inclined to tug at my scarf?”

“...I’m sorry,” gently she speaks, but something still itches her. “I just...  I’m not sure...”

How adorable, how pretty, each and every expression that develops and blooms across her features.

There is no way to assure her, that he is very much real, when they are not even of the same frame of living. There is no rearranging those tides, for that is simply how fate cycles them out. The knot in the root is tied tight, and he considers himself lost, a will deeply sowed below. An eternal sleep, where time has stood still.

Is he content?

Is there any way to thicken it up, to awaken and spread those thin, grey strokes to draw in opportune windows of many tones? How the beautifully, tragic red sky steals away the possibility, expressing itself as the destined end, calling for all these little buds to give up what makes them cute, special flowers of all sorts of paths.

Even if he does nothing but drift about oddly, he roots for their inevitable growth.

And of course, hers as well.

“Rinka, do not worry.”

“Um...”

“Whether or not I’ll exist when you open your eyes to freedom, is up to the fields to decide if I’ve been allowed to bloom once more under the sun.” Has he found his sun in her? What does that mean, if he still cannot elicit emotion from his paints? He, a track with no end and no beginning, stretching aimlessly without ever connecting, and her, a pure dot, awaiting a chance to discover who she can be, and grow.

Is her newly-learned knowledge causing her to reach out, in long, waving beams, and grab ahold of him, pulling him into her meadow, joining him with her, giving him a chance to once more, begin again, to perk up from the withering, which he was so okay with before..?

Is that why his heart is going topsy-turvy?

“Your flower, certain, respires well, unfurling its leaves and petals, ultimately inviting the sun to return to its position... Curious, how near a bloom you are, how bright you are, almost as if...” Almost as if she is the sun, and the moon that reflects it. “You are not yet done reaching.”

Puzzled, there’s no doubt that she is unsatisfied with his answer, or perhaps that she doesn’t quite understand it at all, but she’s clearly trying to. That circle of isolation, that separated him from others, and from hope, is becoming no longer so far off in despair that it cannot receive water, warmth.

Such a strange, twisted, bent, stalk he is, desperate right at the brink of the end, to live. But it’s thanks to the broadest, strongest, fittest one, now isn’t it?

Shikishima smiles at her, before opening his sketchbook, and beginning to once again put those rapid strokes on paper. One draw to memory, one bring to tears, just one person needs to be moved, so work, work, work, work to go out and disappear, work to stay here no more, so that they can all be free and have their souls go high, high away, past the crimson sky.

“I don’t... understand, Shikishima-san. I don’t want you to float away, like a loose petal... or like a balloon...”

“Oft times, we release those dancing fears to the sky of the sky, allowing them to be stained and burned, then frozen and shivered. They return to the earth, only to peak again when spring comes anew...” He pauses to wipe away a single tear that he’s shed, before he continues in full swing, “how beautiful, this all is.”

There’s still another road to get to the core of things, another one to cross.

“That so?” Her head tilts. She really is trying, isn’t she? Sweet, adorable, very much part of the amazing potential of her.

Who is he? Who will he be? Will he rejoin the living world, one last time, to give his all into something that will prove he existed? Or will he remain, in stasis, core untouched by the gorgeously rotten desire to remain in the everlasting circle of reaching for the brightest star in the sky?

He doesn’t know where his line will end, does he now?