Disclaimer: I do NOT own Hakuouki or anything related to it.
The word, more of a gasp than an utterance, had barely left Chizuru's mouth before she began running at full speed toward the two men. No one heard her over the flames and adrenaline of battle. At least, not entirely, in the case of one man.
Hijikata had barely moved his head in response to the sound of her voice and rapid footsteps when she appeared in front of him. Her urgent eyes locked onto his shocked ones a second before Kazama's sword impaled her. A strangled gasp escaped her right before Kazama gave a surprised exclamation at her intervention. He hadn't been able to move his sword in time to avoid stabbing her.
Chizuru fell to her knees, her face now inches from his own. Her eyes appeared heavy and her expression was resigned, void of any regret.
"You idiot!" He yelled, not caring about the pain it caused to his own wounds."What the hell were you thinking?!"
Her lips formed a weak smile, as if trying to console him, almost like Kondou. She lost the strength to hold her head up, but he could still see her smile. She hadn't hesitated and he knew that if given the chance, she would do so again.
"The Shinsengumi needs you," she whispered."Kondou-san...told me to...take care of you."
She fell forward, the sword leaving her body. Kazama did not attack. Hijikata didn't even know if he was still there, as Chizuru was all that he was aware of in that moment. Time seemed to have stopped the second she was impaled. He caught her, tightly gripping her arms and giving her the same desperate, furious look he'd given Kondou.
"Damn it!" He spoke through gritted teeth. Tears pricked his eyelids, and he fought to suppress them. Her smile never faltered. The tears won the battle and now freely cascaded down his cheeks. She reached for his face, gently wiping away his tears. She opened her mouth and his ears perked up, both wanting to and feeling terrified to hear what she would say, but her mouth fell shut and she blinked several times before her eyes shut completely and she fell further forward, her head landing on his shoulder. She did not move.
He stayed there, holding her lifeless body, his eyes wide and tearful. He thought he felt her shake, but he quickly realized that he was the one trembling. She had already gone cold despite the flames surrounding them, and he noticed that he felt no heat on his own body. Had time truly stopped?
"Chizuru..." How often had he uttered her name in the years that he'd known her? This brave, kind girl who had more of a heart than him, than any of the men she'd met combined, was dead because of him. He had promised to protect her and now she was dead, having protected him.
This was his fault. If he couldn't protect a young woman, how could he protect anyone? He should be dead instead of her. He deserved to die.
"Chizuru..." His voice was louder now and when he again repeated her name, his voice was even louder. He kept saying her name, the volume increasing each time until at last he looked at the ceiling and screamed at the top of his lungs.
Were it not for the pain and heaviness of his body, Hijikata would have bolted upright.
Instead, his eyes slowly opened and a quiet groan left his lips. There was weight on his abdomen, but not the unpleasant kind. It was actually warm and...comforting, somehow. He tried to move, but the pain and heaviness remained, keeping him still for several moments. Eventually, he was able to move his head just enough to look down and see the source of warmth.
Chizuru lay curled up, her head resting on his stomach. She appeared to be in a deep sleep, though it was not possible to tell how long she'd been asleep. She was obviously exhausted, though, and more importantly, uninjured. She was alive and well.
Had that all truly been a dream? It'd felt so real, yet so strange at the same time. He glanced at the ceiling as memories of his last conscious moment surfaced within his mind. He remembered how Kazama had fled, promising to finish their battle later. He remembered how Amagiri had told him that Kazama was now his problem and that the Demons were done with the blonde, how he had responded to Amagiri, how Chizuru yelled his name as he finally passed out. She had not been hurt, at least not physically. She had tried to stop him and had do doubt been tending to him for awhile now.
His gaze returned to Chizuru. She remained asleep. Even in slumber her expression showed worry for him. He wanted to touch her, to say something to comfort her and express his gratitude, but decided that the best way to do so would be to let her rest. It was the least she deserved after everything that she'd endured because of him.
Chizuru stirred a bit, but did not wake up. He gave a small, sad smile. She deserved so much more, so much better than them, than him.
His thoughts were interrupted by the tiredness returning, and his eyes demanded to be closed, his brain screaming at him to rest. He made no effort to resist and soon fell back asleep, this time with no nightmares.