“You always come here, when you return to Earth.”
Kouta laughs at the familiar voice. Time and death and a hundred other things will always leave a relationship changed, and he knows he no longer has any worries about Kaito, even beyond him being a tree with a spirit only Mai and Kouta himself can see.
Turning around, smiling, he says “hi, Kaito.”
The silence rings out for a long moment, as unburdened as a silence between two people pulled together and pushed apart into a duel by fate can possibly be. Maybe Kouta should be more bothered still by the fact that it had occurred at all.
(Maybe it’s a good thing he needs no sleep, as well.)
But Kouta likes to think he’s the type who takes darkness and keeps going until it reaches the light. It’s worked so far, after all.
“So, how’s it been?” Kouta asks, eventually. Kaito remains silent. That’s okay. Kouta has some amount of patience and time, and Kaito always ends up talking. Usually it isn’t much. Maybe Baron’s survivors have visited again, since Kouta had leaked the truth of this tree and of Kaito’s spirit. Maybe something Kaito found passingly interesting occurred in his sight.
Kaito is a completely different form of nonhuman from Kouta himself. Likely because he is a spirit.
Kouta is lucky if he can visit three times in a year and one of them is not when the fate of the world is in the balance, and yet these conversations always happen simply, as though no time has passed. It’s always his last stop as well, however.
Not a last thought, simply some odd form of final goodbye, for a time.
“I am dead,” Kaito says, which is strange. A strange tone on the voice that mostly keeps Kouta from having to shake off the memory of that fated fight for the sake of the world’s future, years ago now. “My soul is tied here, but I am dead. Someone thought to use me again.”
“That is such a stupid idea,” he says.
“I’m not the type to be used,” Kaito replies. “This is my fate, for how our battle ended. I do not wish for life.”
Kouta quirks his lips.
“Sounds like an interesting story,” he says, and Kaito hmms, but he says no more.
“And you?” He asks, and that had been surprising, the first time, but Kouta supposes that even Kaito is, at his core, human. Humans need others.
…Well neither of them are human anymore , of course, but some instincts become habit in ways you could not imagine until you realize it really is just the habit.
“I’m good,” Kouta replies. “Came to help the newbies. They’re both older than us, can you believe it? The world’s a strange place. Or maybe the worlds are. I don’t really know, which is weird since I know my… uhhhh… whatever we’re calling other uses from another dimension now… was close to Tsukasa.”
“Was there an Ex-Aid there?” He asks. Kouta blinks. How…
Ah. Right. If Kaito had had his soul dragged off, the new Riders would usually be involved. Kouta kinda wants to know what the story there is, honestly, but the other Rider’s probably not talking for a reason.
“Yeah,” Kouta says out loud. “He has a whole team, actually. They used to fight a lot, but…”
But banded together.
(That seems to be a common story. A part of Kouta can admit that he’s jealous most ended less painfully than his, but then he remembers that not everyone knows if the fallen’s soul lives on, much less can speak to them.)
“He’s strong,” Kaito says, pulling Kouta from his thoughts. “Reminded me of you, some.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Kouta smiles. Kaito looks away.
“You’ll need go soon,” he says. Kouta feels his smile fall, just a bit, as he sighs.
“I know,” he says. “But not yet. Tell me more about the time since I last visited. You’re the only one I can’t speak to in dreams, after all.”
Kaito hmms, but… he does.
(“I do have to go back, now,” Kouta offers, verging on apologetic regardless of the inevitability.
“I’ll see you again,” Kaito says. It verges on an order crossed with a promise crossed with a trust.
“Of course,” Kouta says, and he returns to his now-physically-true form. “I’ll see you again.)
(It isn’t, exactly, a lie, but that’s a story for another day.)