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Taken By Paradise

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It's been almost a week after Taki's burial. MC didn't go out of the house and spent her days crying on Taki's bed. She relished in the remains of his faint familiar scent that lingered on the sheets.

Sometimes she would accidentally call out Taki's name asking him what he would want to eat for dinner, until the echo of her own voice in the silent apartment would resonate as a reply to her own loneliness.

She suddenly felt like she was in the lonely apartment she and her ex-husband used to share, except this time, it was even worse—she was met with the reality of a man who'll never get to eat meals with her, who will never kiss her goodbye once he leaves for work, who will never hold her close at night and tell her that she's the only woman he'll ever love. Never will she be able to experience those moments with Taki ever again.

And the thought of it broke anything remaining of her will to live.

Sydney tried to comfort MC as much as she can, but even the sweet crocodile felt depressed without Taki around. She doesn't look as enthusiastic whenever MC feeds her and she's been more defensive lately. Like she was always guarding the entrance in case anyone other than Yosuke or the guys come over.

Yosuke checked on MC often. He would come over and see if she's doing alright, however, most of the time, he'd just find her fast asleep on Taki's bed crying and clutching the covers tight. He was still conflicted about his feelings for MC, especially after the short but memorable time they shared. A part of him felt like he was betraying Taki, until his last words to him were 'Yosuke, take care of MC and Sydney for me.'

As silly as it sounds, he attempted to joke around whenever he managed to see MC awake. But her lack of response and her heartbroken gaze eventually made him give up. He didn't blame her. In fact, he saw a part of himself in her. When his mother died, he knew how painful it was for him to rely on himself. Seeing the same pain MC was carrying, it was almost like he wanted to reach out and tell her everything was going to be alright.

One day, he came over to Taki's place as usual. MC was curled up on the sofa while she stared at the picture frames she laid out on the coffee table. There were pictures of her and Taki in high school, and there were some more recent photos like their trip to Spain and their aquarium date. Yosuke sat down next to her and asked, "Hey, have you eaten anything today? You might starve to death and follow him sooner than you think."

She glanced at Yosuke without sitting up and simply shrugged.

"Maybe that's what I want..." she mumbled. "It's not like I have anything else to do with my life. I'm pretty much just waiting until I die too."

Yosuke was a bit taken aback by the bluntness of her reply. He never thought he'd live to see that kind of look on MC's face. It was even worse than when she stayed over at his place.

He sighed and told her, "If Taki saw you right now—"

"He's dead, Yosuke," she snapped, finally sitting up. There, Yosuke saw her reddish, swollen eyes, her pale complexion, and her exhausted expression. She continued harshly, "if you hadn't stopped me that night, then maybe he wouldn't have died..!"

"Do you think any of us knew what would happen?" Yosuke shot back, trying to reign in his annoyance. "Do you think we wanted this? You're not the only one who cares about him, MC."

When he realized how he raised his voice, he sighed and said, "I can see when I'm not wanted."

He left MC in the empty room without any hesitation.

---

Yosuke headed back to his apartment feeling utterly confused and angry. MC had no right to blame him for Taki's death. Did she really love Taki that much to the point she would blame anyone but herself? He warned her about that very miscalculation and yet she had the nerve to blame him?

"You look pretty pissed," Shun, who happened to be walking around the hallway, told Yosuke.

The latter faked a smile and said, "What are you talking about? I'm fine."

"It's MC again, isn't it?"

Yosuke averted his gaze, not bothering to hold up his mask any longer.

"So what? No matter what she does, it won't bring Taki back," he spat.

"Yosuke," Shun began. "It's obvious that you love her."

Those last three words echoed in Yosuke's head that he shook them away.

"Taki would haunt me if I did," he muttered.

"You said it yourself, no matter what happens, Taki can't go back to protect her anymore," Shun said with a sad smile. "And he trusted you, didn't he?"

"What are you trying to say?"

"Give her time, Yosuke," he suggested, before turning his back on him. "Maybe you're the one who can protect her."

And with that, he left.

Yosuke felt a stinging pain in his heart. Even if he was in love with MC, there was no way she'd love him back. His world revolved around people who are nothing more than tools to him.

But there was something different about this woman. She changed Taki, Sydney, the other guys, and even himself. And the effect she had on him was irreversible.

"I need a break," he mumbled before retreating to his room.

---

It was already night by the time MC headed up to Pandora. The empty poolside reminded her of how she and Taki used to sip on their brandy teas while chatting away about their future together. Now that future was too far for her to reach.

The subtle golden lights seemed dimmer than usual, and the water looked like an endless dark ocean ready to drown her.

Taki's permanent absence was too much for her to handle. Her clenched fist was desperate to hold his warm hand again. She wanted to hear his voice, even if it's just for a few seconds.

Why did fate have to be so cruel to her? She was separated from Taki for ten years, and now that she got him back, they were forced to be apart again, but this time, for an eternity.

She slowly made her way towards the edge of the pool.

If she fell in, would Taki save her again?

At this point, she didn't care anymore if she drowned to death. All she wanted was to see Taki.

She slipped out of her shoes and stared down at the water below her.

"MC..."

Her head snapped to the faint voice whispering to her. No way...

She looked around but there was no one there. She turned her attention back to the pool. The closer she got, the clearer the familiar voice spoke.

"MC, don't do this because of me, please..."

"T-Taki..." she breathed.

She wanted to see him, she wanted to run to him, she wanted to be with him...

Laughing sadly at her own wishes, she murmured, "I'm sorry."

Then she jumped off the edge and landed into the deep waters of the pool. At the same time, she heard a different voice cry out her name.

"MC!!!"

There was another current pushing her further, as if someone else jumped in the pool. The last thing she felt was a pair of strong arms wrapped around her body and pulling her towards the surface before her vision went dark.

---

It was as if the story began differently. Yosuke held the unconscious woman in his arms after he saved her from drowning in the pool. What was she thinking?! Why would she try to put her life in more danger again?!

He grabbed a towel from one of the counters and wrapped it around MC.

"Hey, wake up," he told her, but her eyes were still shut. Was he too late?

"MC, wake up..!" he almost cried out. Out of panic, he pressed his lips to hers. There was a brief pause before MC sat up and started coughing out the water she swallowed.

A defeated look crossed Yosuke's face. He couldn't believe how MC was willing to take her own life because of Taki. How she would do anything for Taki...

When she finally stopped coughing, she asked him, "Why did you save me..?"

Keeping his composure, he replied, "If I hadn't, you would've drowned to death."

"That's what I want."

"But is that what Taki wants?"

When he mentioned the name of the man she loved, she scowled at him.

"If Taki wanted me to be happy so much then why did he leave me?!"

"That's his mistake because happiness doesn't exist!" Yosuke snapped as his gaze went cold. "Believing in true happiness would only cost you a life. It cost my mother's, it cost Taki's...

"...and it almost cost mine."