“It’s bad news, isn’t it?”
With a sad smile on her lips and the fading sunlight shining through her thin hair, Nozomi looked fey and fragile, as if she was only tenuously connected to the world.
“You really should work on that pessimism of yours, you know,” Nico said.
Nozomi chuckled quietly. “I think it’s a little late for that,” she said softly.
“...Didn’t you tell me once that it was never too late to do the things that really mattered to you?” Nico said, sitting next to the bed and gently taking Nozomi’s hand. It was so horribly frail and thin, these days. Even though that reminder of just how much Nozomi had deteriorated hurt, Nico still always held her hand when she sat next to her like this.
“I’m glad you remembered, Niccochi,” Nozomi said.
“Of course I did,” Nico scoffed. “It was important advice from my one and only wife, after all.”
“Mmm,” Nozomi said. “For now.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Nico said, frowning.
“Your “one and only” wife…” Nozomi said. “You still have time left, you know.”
“What? Are you saying-”
“Don’t get hung up on me, Niccochi.”
Nico’s heart clenched in her chest.
“I haven’t even told you what the doctor sai-”
“ Niccochi, I’m the one in this body. I can tell.”
Nico fell silent.
“You have to promise me, Niccochi.”
“Promise you what?”
“You can’t mourn me forever,” Nozomi said. “You’re a wonderful woman. Too good for someone like me, anyway. I’m just glad that you didn’t figure that out until it was too late.”
There was a twinkle in her eyes at that, a ghost of mischief in her self-deprecating but still selfish feelings.
“I am pretty great,” Nico said. “But if anything, you’re the one out of my league, Nozomi. There’s no way I’d ever find someone as good as you again who’d give me the time of day.”
“I’m serious, Nico,” Nozomi said. Her serious tone was only underlined but the oddly formal address. “You have to promise me. When I’m gone-”
“You’re not gone yet,” Nico said firmly.
“-when I’m gone,” Nozomi continued. “You can’t just give up on love. I want you to be happy, Niccochi. More than anything in the world, I want that for you.”
“...Then stay with me,” Nico said. It was a terrible selfish thing to say, but she couldn’t help herself, lowering her head to put her forehead on Nozomi’s hand as tears pricked at her eyes. “Don’t leave me, Nozomi, and I swear, I’ll be happier than anyone else.”
“...I’m sorry, Niccochi,” Nozomi said. “I wish I could.”
“...Okay,” Nico said, lifting her head and wiping the tears from her eyes. “I promise.I’ll be happy. You can just watch from heaven. I’ll be happy enough for us both.”
Nozomi smiled, and all the pain Nico had felt saying those words felt worth it.
“Thank you, Niccochi.”
The funeral was a quiet affair. The rest of μ’s was there, as well as some of Nico’s family, but very few others. They didn’t have any children, or anything. It was something they’d discussed, but they’d been so busy, and one thing had happened after another, and then when Nozomi had gotten sick all their plans had been blown away.
So now, it was just Nico. The others had left her at the grave to go to the wake, respectfully giving her some space to grieve alone.
But Nico had already cried herself empty before the funeral. Her eyes were still puffy and red from it all.
So instead, she just stared at the tombstone.
“I promise,” she said quietly.
Nozomi had been a magical presence in her life. Almost like an angel, or a fairy. But all fairy tales came to an end.
Nico would just have to make sure the epilogue had a happily ever after. Just like Nozomi had wanted.