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With but a Handkerchief and Myself

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Light’s eyes flutter open, but it’s not like it does him any good—he is blind after all. The world is still black, no matter how hard he wills it not to be.

He reaches his hands out to get a bearing on his surroundings. They meet barriers much quicker than he expected. Frowning, he runs his hands upwards, and finds them running along a wooden ceiling above his body.

As he raises his hands, he feels the sleeves of his robes slip down his arms, and his frown grows deeper. He touches a hand to his clothes. They’re real robes with large sleeves and completely connected as one piece, but what confounds Light is why. Why have his own clothes been taken off? Why is he even wearing these robes?

Well, no matter. He’s blind, so he can’t say he cares much for what he wears. He raises his hand again to the wooden ceiling.

He knocks experimentally against it. When there is no response, he knocks again.

Still no response. He continues knocking. It’s a mindless action but it’s all he can do as his mind slowly awakens from the state of unconsciousness it had been in.

It slowly dawns on him as his hand begins to throb with pain and his knocks grow sparser that he’s been trapped inside something. It’s not a box, no, it’s too luxurious to be called a box. After all, he is lying in cushioned velvet.

A coffin. He’s lying in a coffin. He’s locked in a coffin.

His long-suppressed claustrophobia begins to claw at the back of his throat, and he digs his fingers into the velvet cushions to keep himself from letting out a hoarse scream. He can feel his breaths quickening as he begins to panic.

His anxiety climbs higher, and he’s beginning to pant now. The air in the coffin was already thin to begin with, but added onto the current circumstances, Light can’t even say with confidence that he’ll make it out alive anymore.

Perhaps he’ll die here, in this coffin. Perhaps he’ll die and leave Clover alone. Perhaps he’ll never get to see that boy from nine years ago, Kurashiki Aoi, ever again. Perhaps he’ll just die as a blind man trapped in a coffin all by himself, a blind man, all alone, with a fear of enclosed spaces.

That's right. No one will ever know he's died until it's too late, until they've pried the cover off the coffin and see a limp body of a man who died all alone because that's what he is. A man trapped in a coffin, all alone.

His breath is fluttering precariously out of his lips now. He can't inhale, he can't exhale, god he's going to die he's going to die he's going to die—

“Th—ne?”

His hazy mind can’t even process what he’s hearing until the coffin beeps and the lid is lifted off. Fresh air washes over Light, and he takes deep breaths, gasping.

He’s alive? He’s… alive. Alive.

Someone grabs him by the arm and pulls him out of the coffin. Light stumbles over his robes, almost falling to the floor. The person catches him.

“Who—What—”

“Look, you have to leave. I—Hey, Nodoga! Help me get him into the car!”

“Is he alright?” Another man—Nodoga—asks, his voice drawing close as he approaches Light.

“He’s fine. Just disoriented. Where’s everyone else?”

“Moving the other bodies.”

“Other bodies?” Light questions, his voice cracking. The men guide him as they speak, completely ignoring his words.

“Isn’t this what the boss called the submarine timeline?”

“She did say that, yes.” There’s a pause, and then two metal doors groan open. A numbered door, perhaps? The men guide him through before he can ask.

The notion carries even as they spend the next half an hour trekking through rooms that Light is sure he’s been through before. He’ll ask them questions, and all he’ll get in return is silence. A seed of worry, planted when he’d first run into the men, begins to sprout.

“He won’t make it up all these stairs! He’s blind!” The first man is objecting to something the second man said.

“I assure you, I can climb stairs just fine,” Light butts in.

Nodoga hums in agreement. “Besides, he has climbed these stairs before. I highly doubt the greatest issue will be his impaired vision.”

The other man makes a noise, as if sounding like he plans to disagree, but clearly thinks better and instead shuts his mouth. Light takes that opportunity to speak up.

“If I may, why do you say that I have climbed these stairs before?”

“They are the exact same stairs that you climbed at the end of the first Nonary Game,” Nodoga answers before guiding him forward. “The stairs start here and go in a spiral.”

And as they all ascend the stairs, Light of all people leading, the sound of feet against metal and the spiral of the stairs feels so familiar that there’s no doubt they were the stairs he himself climbed nine years ago.

One of the men pulls in front of him as Light begins to gasp for breath, and his footsteps grow distant until they stop. Light blinks.

“Is something the matter?” he calls out breathlessly. The sound of a squeal and a metal door creaking open gives him his answer.

A blast of heat greets him as he steps outside, and he frowns, but there’s not enough time to ponder it because the men grab him and guide him down another set of stairs.

When his feet hit the bottom and subsequently hit the hard floor beneath him, he finally understands.

“Building Q,” he whispers, and then the men haul him and push him bodily into a car. They shut the car door behind him before they open the trunk. A breeze of hot air wafts through the car before he hears the thud of a few things being tossed into the trunk.

One, two, three, four, five, six. Six things covered in cloth from what he can hear. The trunk slams shut, and then the car is speeding away.

As Light listens to the wheels of the car grinding through the sand and the clothed items in the trunk bouncing with every lurch they make, he realizes with a sickness that he may very well be the only player alive.

He may very well be alone.

~ / . / . / ~

“The Nonary Game was meant to save someone. Specifically, the player you knew as June.”

It's been a day or so since he escaped Building Q in the Nevada desert. Since then, he's been put on plane after plane—first from Reno to San Francisco, and then a long flight from San Francisco back to Tokyo. After that, they had driven him off to an unfamiliar building; Crash Keys’s headquarters, they'd said, but it's obviously impossible for Light to confirm that.

The man who had helped Light into the car when escaping Building Q, Nodoga, is speaking to Light, his voice bouncing off of the walls of the building. Light can’t pay attention.

“I… I see,” Light murmurs. “Could you… tell me more?”

“My apologies. I am under orders not to say anything.”

“Why not?” Light can’t help but ask.

“I have made a promise to the man who saved your life.”

“The man… who saved my life…?”

“Mr. Aoi said if he or Ms. Akane did not give us a call or a text message in two hours after the Nonary Game was slated to end, we were to rush into the building and free you. He had wished for you to live in the event that they failed, and he was left dead.”

“Mr. Aoi?” Light asks, shock running through his veins. “Ms. Akane?”

“The man you knew as Santa was Kurashiki Aoi. The woman you knew as June was Kurashiki Akane.”

Light falls silent. He had had his suspicions, when he had been drugged in the room while searching for the RED parts and had fallen into a pair of arms and a chest that were startlingly familiar, but he had not wanted them to be true, even if he had been desperately hoping for a chance to see Aoi again.

“Would you like to see the bodies?”

“Yes.” He speaks without a second thought. “Please.”

“Of course,”

Nodoga begins to walk away, his steps echoing against the tiles on the floor. Light hurries after the sound, taking care to stay one step behind the man.

Nodoga stops at the end of the hallway, and then unlocks a door before stepping inside. Light follows.

“The bodies have been lain out here,” Nodoga murmurs. Light takes his first steps in front of the man and throws out his hands to familiarize himself with his bearings. They meet cool cushion, like the tables at a doctor’s office.

His fingers bump against a metal stand when he moves to take his hand away, and he frowns. He reaches his fingers out again, feeling cool metal and raised dots beneath his fingers—Braille. It reads, “Tenmyouji Junpei”.

His hands brush over the other plaques of Braille, most certainly set up for him, as he passes between the rows of bodies laid out over tables. Seven, Kashiwabara Hazuki (Lotus, Nodoga had told him), Kurashiki Akane, Clover Field—

He freezes and then scrambles to touch her, his composure lost. His fingers drift over her face and thread through her hair, as if trying to decide errantly if it was really her when he knows that Crash Keys wouldn’t dare lie to him. Before he even realizes it, he cries out.

“No, Clover, please—”

His hands find the dried blood smeared across her ribs, and the hope he had had is extinguished. He lays his palm over the wound—a knife wound, Nodoga had said—and feels his fingers tighten. He turns away before he loses control of himself and reaches for the last plaque.

It’s Kurashiki Aoi’s body, and Light takes slow steps towards it until he’s standing over the body, his own body centimeters from the table.

Light reaches a hand forward, stopping as his fingertips brush against a soft cloth. His hands scramble for the edge, pulling the cloth away from the body.

Preemptively, he stretches out his fingers. The soft feel of damp skin meets his fingertips, and Light moves his hand down. His hands trace down the nose of the person. Light’s breath hitches in his throat as he feels his finger trace the deep dip at the bridge before jutting out into a small, soft nose. Their lips are slim, and there is a small scar along the left side of their bottom lip.

He’d touched a face like this nine years ago, when he’d told the other eight children he was blind and requested to touch their faces to get a sense of what they looked like. Their features at the time had been dulled and in the middle of growth, but they were reminiscent of him—Kurashiki Aoi.

“Kurashiki… Aoi…” he murmurs, his voice low.

Light slips his fingers over Aoi’s palms. Aoi had held his hand a few times in that game—Light had lost the information he needed due to Clover entering a different door, and fumbled with determining where he ought to scan his hand on the REDs and DEADs. Aoi had guided his hand to every one of them after that, and Light could remember the lines on his palms easily.

His hands had grown bigger; Aoi had been going through puberty in the middle of that first Nonary Game, after all. Still, the lines on his palms were the same. The upper horizontal line and the curved line that extended from the base of his palm were deep, and the others were shallow, soft, and smelled like metal, something so very Kurashiki Aoi that Light cannot believe he never realized.

His heart sinks as his fingers touch Aoi’s midriff and feels the first splatter of dried blood on the soft cotton shirt. A stab to the gut was the cause of death, the employee had said.

The soft texture of cotton becomes lost to the roughness of dried blood. Light’s hand tightens, gripping Aoi’s shirt tightly in his fingers. The knife wound couldn’t be clearer, but he still doesn’t want to believe it. He turns away, whispering denial and deceit to himself about Clover and Aoi, how they can't be dead, how they can't leave him alone.

“...Allow me to drive you home,” Nodoga speaks up, and Light is too drained to object.

~ / . / . / ~

“Mr. Field?” one of the funeral arrangers prompts. Light turns at the call of his name.

“Did you need something?”

“Just wanted to let you know that we’ve finished setting up Ms. Field and Mr… um, Seven’s coffins.”

“Thank you,” Light replies, offering the man a smile. “I believe that is all for now.”

There’s a moment of silence, and then the man stutters, “Oh, um, yeah. Sorry. I—I nodded, but y’know, you can’t—”

“See,” Light finishes. “No worries. Thank you though.”

“Yeah.” Light listens to the footsteps of the man, gradually going further and further until Light can’t hear them at all.

He doesn’t like to tell people he is blind. He’d put on a farce during both Nonary Games when he had had to explain he was blind, but it was simply a farce, a truth told through gritted teeth and reluctant feelings.

Yet, when he’d gone to meet the funeral arrangers, he had had no choice but to tell them he was blind. After all, how else was he to explain why he couldn’t select coffins for the two people he wished to hold a funeral for?

Slowly, Light approaches the front of the shrine’s garden, where two coffins await him. One of them is Clover’s. The other’s is Seven’s.

Seven, as Nodoga had told him, was the detective that had saved Light, Aoi, Akane, and Nona from the Gigantic. Funnily enough, his detective alias was Seven, but his real name was Ishihara Malcolm. Yet Seven had always held his pride in his detective work, and not his identity, and so Light had decided to bury him as Seven, the detective he held himself as.

It had come as a shock to Light that the man actually lived and worked in Yokohama, Light’s own home. They lived in different parts of the city, yes, but to think the man who had saved Light’s life had been so close to him was startling.

Seven’s colleagues had been startled by his sudden disappearance and even more sudden death. All Light could say was “It was an unfortunate turn of events” and offer them an invitation to Seven’s funeral.

Light turns and feels blindly for the seats lined up in front of the coffins. Once his hand meets a chair, he takes a cautious seat. His hand goes to his pocket, where it finds a navy blue handkerchief—a memento of the boy he met nine years ago.

He’d received it from Kurashiki Aoi during their time on the Gigantic together, when Light of all people could not stop the tears from falling down his face as they paddled away, all of them alive, from the sinking boat that had held them at death’s door for nine long hours. Aoi had scoffed something about him being a “giant softie”, and then pressed a handkerchief into his hands. Only when he reunited with Clover did he discover it was navy blue, for Clover transmitted an image to him of Light himself clutching onto the handkerchief as they flew across the ocean and back to their home.

Light often laments that the very existence of the handkerchief also continually reminds him of the first Nonary Game, but he can’t say he’s unhappy because that Nonary Game was exactly how he met Kurashiki Aoi. But now… well, he’ll never see Kurashiki Aoi alive and breathing ever again.

Mostly because he cannot see at all.

Light chuckles to himself. There’s no doubt that Clover would have groaned at his terrible joke if she had been alive to hear it.

Once that thought re-enters his mind, though, he cannot forget it. Clover is gone. Clover is dead. The coffin placed at the front of the shrine’s garden is proof of that. His fingernails dig into the handkerchief.

He’s booked plane and train rides all across the country to attend the funerals of his companions—today is the first of the funerals, Clover’s and Seven’s, being held at a shrine near his home in Yokohama. Tomorrow, he will be taking a plane to Sapporo, where Junpei’s funeral will be held. The day after that, another plane ride to Nagoya, Aoi and Akane’s hometown. Finally, two days after that, he’ll take a train to Tokyo, where Kashiwabara’s funeral, the last of the bunch, is slated to take place.

For now, he must focus on the matter at hand. And when one of Clover’s classmates enters the shrine’s garden and begins to sob, Light tucks the handkerchief away, sits beside her, and shares her woes.

~ / . / . / ~

Light’s not quite sure what he was expecting when he checked his mailbox, but a CD was most certainly not it.

Although technology has advanced at an incredible rate, Light finds himself attached to mechanisms of the past. Besides, they’re simply more convenient for someone visibly impaired such as himself. After all, he couldn’t see a mobile phone screen even he tried.

That’s why he prefers the mail, and still keeps a DVD and CD player in his apartment. It surprises him that the person who sent him the newest arrivals in his mailbox would actually bother to use CDs and the mail—that is, until he touches errantly for the address on the envelope attached and finds it engraved in Braille.

It reads Crash Keys.

On hastened feet, Light hurries to his apartment, opening the letter with ease. It had not been sealed very well—perhaps simply for his sake? He can’t help but feel a pang of annoyance, but it all fades away when he reaches inside the envelope and pulls out a letter, engraved in Braille.

To Light Field:

When we went through Mr. Aoi’s desk, we found this CD hidden in his desk drawer. We thought it best to share it with you, so it has been attached.

Sincerely, Nodoga Hayden

Nodoga Hayden… the man who had allowed him to hold Aoi’s body close in those moments of grief and then escorted Light home. All thoughts of sending the man something as thanks vanish as the realization strikes Light: this CD came from Aoi’s desk. It was something Aoi had been keeping, and they thought it best to send it to him.

Light makes a beeline for the CD player atop a drawer in his living room. It’s attached a small television—not because he can see it, but because the sound of television calms him at times. It gives him memories of Clover curling up into him on the couch on nights when she finds it hard to sleep, memories of Clover giggling at a stupid joke or squealing about her favorite celebrities.

He pushes the CD into the CD player and hastily pushes play.

“Um. Hey, Light. It’s Kurashiki Aoi.”

Simply the mention of Aoi’s own name from Aoi’s own lips sends Light’s pulse racing. He forces himself to hold back a shudder.

“If you’re seeing this… well, either I’m dead or you have no clue where I am and you just got a random CD in your mailbox.”

The word dead lingers in Light’s head, as if the reality of the situation hadn’t sunken in months ago.

“Either way, main idea is that you have this CD, and that you’ve played the second Nonary Game. I think you can see—wait, shit, you’re blind, what the fuck am I saying.” Light hears a soft giggle—a girl’s?—before Aoi continues. “Uh, well, I’m recording this before the second Nonary Game and just…”

There’s a moment of silence, and then Aoi whispers, “Fuck it all,” before the truth comes tumbling out.

The truth about Akane, the connection between the two Nonary Games, the morphogenetic field, and the purpose of the second Nonary Game.

Light can barely process anything during the prolonged pause of silence after Aoi stops talking. When Aoi starts again, his mind goes blank.

“Look—shit, maybe I shouldn’t say that, you’re fucking blind—I don’t know why it had to be this way. But you know I would give up anything in the world to save my sister, and you would too.

“So, I’m fucking sorry for everything. I’m sorry that I’ll have to put you and Clover through another Nonary Game. I’m sorry that the outcome of this game’s so uncertain. I’m sorry if I don’t make it out alive. I just…”

The Aoi in the video message takes a deep breath, and then Light hears the sound of a chair being pushed back and footsteps walking away from the video camera as his voice grows ever distant. “Fuck, I can’t say it. Christ, Akane, why’d you make me do this, I can’t fucking tell him that I love him. What the fuck are you, why the fuck are you—”

From the sound of Aoi’s footsteps, Light knows he’s pacing back and from between the video camera and other parts of the room. Light can’t help but feel a prick of guilt, knowing that he’s the cause of Aoi’s distress; not a Nonary Game, or the prospect of dying, but the idea of telling someone that you love them.

“Shit, I just did, didn’t I.” There’s a moment of silence, and then Aoi’s sigh, sounding as close to the video camera as he had originally been, breaks it. “Shit.”

“Oh, Aoi,” Light laughs breathlessly.

“Fuck, I’m just a fucking mess right now, the Nonary Game is supposed to happen soon, and everyone’s been really stressed, but—” Aoi cuts himself off, swearing under his breath before continuing, “but all I can think about is seeing you again, you and your stupidly pretty face, you and your fucking way with words that always makes me die a little on the inside, and just—” Aoi’s voice grows softer as he seems to move away from the video camera. “Jesus, Akane, do I really have to fucking say it?”

“Yes!” The culprit behind the scenes, Akane, cries out, her voice holding the intonation of someone pouting. “Come on, Aoi!”

“He’s smart, he’ll know what the fuck I’m talking about!”

“Say it or I swear to god—”

“Put that shit down, Akane! I’ll do it, okay!”

There’s something so docile about the way they banter that Light almost forgets that the younger Kurashiki sibling is attempting to make her brother confess his feelings—at least he would have, until the silence settles back into the video message and all Light can hear is Aoi taking deep breaths and muttering curse words over and over.

“Listen, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I don’t even know how oblivious you can possibly be, but… I love you. God, I love you so fucking much, you have no idea. We’ve literally only actually known each other for nine hours, but I would go to hell and back if it meant being with you. I’m going to fucking—”

A click signals the end of the video message. All Light can think about is the choked sob Aoi had held back just after his final words in the message. It had been cut off, but Light knows a sob when he hears one.

“Aoi…” he whispers, his finger hovering over the play button. He hadn’t moved an inch during the whole message, too overcome with emotions to do so. His eyes feel hot with tears that threaten to spring forth, but he wills himself not to cry.

His fingers move as if they have a mind of their own, hitting the replay button. Light only realizes what he’s done when he hears Aoi say “I love you so fucking much” for the third time, and then it becomes too much.

Light sinks to his knees, holding his face in his hands as tears begin to flow freely.

“Aoi,” he whispers raggedly through the tears, “Aoi…”

They won’t stop. He knows his eyes will hurt because of the tears later, but right now he doesn’t care. All that matters is Aoi. All he can think about is Aoi.

For the first time since he lost his vision and an idea of what the world looks like, he imagines. He imagines Aoi—a built young man with dyed hair that’s been gelled and held back by a black headband, with strong biceps and a defined sternum.

Light’s fingers tremble as they feel blindly for the replay button. When he hears Aoi’s voice again, all he can think about are the emotions that erupt within him.

God, Light loves Aoi. He loves Aoi even more than Aoi will ever know. He loves him. He loves him.

But he’s gone.

He’s gone and nothing will bring him back. Not a wish for rebirth, not a hope for a third chance, not even the burning love fueling Light’s heart.

All he wants to do is grab Aoi by the cheeks and kiss him in a manner unbefitting of the way Light holds himself. All he wants is a life where he and Aoi can be happy, where they can sleep in late and kiss each other awake in the morning. A life where Aoi will mumble in an embarrassed tone, “Watch it, fucker,” when Light brushes his fingers over his chest because he knows Aoi’s sensitive there, a life where they can whisper promises into each others’ ears and comfort them in the dead of night when they wake with the screams of nightmares on their lips.

But that will never happen because Aoi’s dead.

Because Light is all alone.

Light weeps for the rest of the day, holding the navy blue handkerchief Aoi had given him during the first Nonary Game close to his heart. That night, he falls asleep to the smell of Aoi and the sound of Aoi’s voice still ringing in his ears.

The truth is just as brutal the next day, and as much as Light cries and cries and heaves and sobs and gasps, nothing will bring the deceased back.

Aoi’s dead, dead, dead; nothing will ever bring him back, and Light has been left alone in this world, with nothing but a handful of dreams of a happy life.

~ / . / . / ~

The next time he has to take an elevator will be far too soon, he thinks to himself as he feels along the edge of the wall for the elevator’s calling button. There’s a gentle sound, indicating that the elevator is on the way.

Soon the elevator door lets out a gentle ding, and the metal doors rumble open. Light makes his way towards the sound, keeping an errant hand in front of him as he walks into the elevator. Letting out a sigh of relief, he reaches toward the panel of buttons beside the door. His fingers glide along the dots of Braille until he finds the button indicating the fifth floor.

Hurried footsteps approach the elevator, and Light blinks before pressing a finger to the open button, holding the door open. Footsteps echo along the marble tile of the elevator floor as the person lets out a sigh.

“Thank you.” Their voice is strikingly deep and hauntingly familiar. Light lifts his finger from the button, startled, and the elevator doors grind shut before the elevator lurches upwards. The gentle click of a button indicates to Light that the person has hit a destination on the elevator’s button list.

“You’re welcome,” Light responds, and feels the air between them grow tense.

“You—” Ace—Hongou Gentarou—seems to sputter out, and then falls silent.

“Indeed.”

“How did you—How are you alive? I—I—”

“Ah, yes… I was in a coffin for most of the game, was I not? Did you all believe me to be dead?”

“No… no!” Hongou’s voice is climbing in pitch, and there’s a bang against the wall opposite of Light. “I killed you! How are you alive!?”

“Oh? You killed me, did you? Allow me to guess. Your prosopagnosia was used to deceive you, was it not?”

“How do you—”

“Come now, there is no need to act so surprised. I’m sure you know why. After all, you yourself screened me, did you not? For the first Nonary Game.”

The elevator jerks to a stop suddenly, and a mechanical voice calls out, “Floor five.”

Light touches a hand to the wall and walks out of the elevator. The sound of footsteps against the elevator registers in his mind, but before he can do anything, Hongou has him by the collar of his shirt and slams him into the wall opposite of the elevator door.

“Why!?” Hongou screams. “Why!? Every time I try to hide what I’ve done, it comes back to haunt me! I killed all of them! Why are you left!?”

“Why?” Light manages to say. “Why would you…kill them all?”

“I had to! I had to win that game!” Hongou shakes him by his collar. “You wouldn't understand!”

Light coughs, and it's as if that action jolts Hongou out of his trance because his grip on Light’s collar suddenly slacks. Light falls limply to the floor, and Hongou’s footsteps grow distant, as if he's backing away from Light.

Hongou takes a deep breath, and then hits a button, eliciting a bell that indicates to Light that he has called for the elevator.

Light scrambles to his feet. “Hongou—”

“No!”

An aura of anger explodes from Hongou, and Light almost flinches, only managing to catch himself when he takes cautionary steps away from the man and. A ding tells Light that the elevator has arrived.

“Very well,” Light responds, his voice wavering. “I cannot say it has been nice to know you, Hongou Gentarou. All I can say is that I hope I never have to hear your voice ever again.”

Hongou simply sneers before walking into the elevator. The metal doors grind shut behind him.

The image of a knife haunts Light that night, prodding and stabbing him in the darkness. As he holds his hands over his wounds and feels the blood slip down his fingers, he hears Hongou’s cackling laughter and realizes that he has died all alone.

~ / . / . / ~

The graveyard in Yokohama garners few visitors, if any. The only who do visit from time to time are an eccentric few—a pair of rather apathetic parents who leave a few flowers every few months, a pair of twins who try their hardest not to cry but do so anyways, a detective in the area who talks with his deceased friend, and a young blind man, who oft holds bundles and bouquets of flowers in his arms.

Light had studied the flower language as a child even before the accident had occurred, but he'd never truly believed in it until the first Nonary Game, when he had given the frightened children on the Gigantic the clovers he had collected and told them soothingly of the leaf words.

For Junpei, Light brings a bouquet of honesty and walnut flowers. Honesty flowers meant… well, honesty, and walnut flowers meant intellect. Light can’t help but think they are a perfect symbol of Junpei.

Light had been surprised with how truthful Junpei had been with him when they went through Door Five together. Perhaps he had come to see a Nonary Game as a place where lies and deception thrived, given his past experiences, but Junpei had been a refreshing breeze of air through the air of deceit around a Nonary Game.

For Akane, Light hangs a wreath of woven scarlet geraniums and orange roses. Comfort and passion… that is how he would describe her. She gave off a feeling of comfort and the warmth of a friend who simply wanted everyone to get along. To Light, it was comforting to see someone so passionate about living and making it out alive.

For Seven, he brings stems of black poplar and flowers of cedar. Courageous and strong, he hadn’t been afraid to take the first step, especially when the second Nonary Game had first begun and they had all been frightened and terrified of what had happened behind the fifth door. Seven had volunteered, and Snake had found himself unwittingly volunteering alongside him. Perhaps the man’s courage was contagious.

For Kashiwabara Hazuki, he brings lilies and lilac primroses. Beautiful—at least from what he'd heard, because of course could not see her—and confident, Light is sure she had come off much more harsh than she most certainly was. During the second Nonary Game, he’d been unable to shake the feeling that he’d met her somewhere, and when he’d gone to her funeral and discovered her daughters to be a pair of twins he himself knew, he could not help but smile.

For Clover, he lays out pansies and then strings a garland of clovers around her gravestone. A memory of the departed and the leaf words that she had been named after were the main sentiments behind the flowers he had chosen.

Clover always said she would like people to leave pansies on her grave when she died. “Pansies are pretty,” she’d say, and then send Light a picture of the pansies in their backyard that she so lovingly cared for.

“What about clovers?” Light would ask with a smug smile, and she'd just laugh because the answer was obvious to both of them.

He touches a gentle hand to her gravestone, pursing his lips. His sister… He truly does miss her. He misses her cheerfulness and guidance, he misses the random snapshots of normal life she’ll transmit to him and the stories of school she’ll share as they eat dinner together.

And finally, for Aoi, he lays out a bouquet of syringas, white clovers, blue violets, and ground laurel flowers. Memory, “think of me”, love, and perseverance… yes, those words almost perfectly described Aoi.

Aoi had been preserved in Light’s memories ever since their time together on the Gigantic. From his gentle touch to his distinct speaking style to his perseverance in saving his sister to the handkerchief he had lent Light, Aoi was not someone he could have easily forgotten. He had known he thought on those memories too much for it to be a simple friendship, but he had been completely ignorant of his feelings as a growing adolescent.

Light’s hand touches the navy blue handkerchief in his pocket, feeling a familiar sensation burning his heart. Love, true love, for Aoi. The emotion he had not known himself capable of until it was too late.

He takes in a deep breath as he traces a hand along the gravestone that reads back “Kurashiki Aoi”. That breath comes back filled with smells of the different flowers that decorate the graveyard.

He’s trying to live. Not just for Aoi’s sake or Clover’s sake, but for all of their sakes. All of their lives were lost to the same blade of a single small pocket knife. He will not lose his so easily.

~ / . / . / ~

Light feels for the edge of the pot before emptying the water in the jar onto the soft soil inside the pot.

Watering implements, he had discovered, were most helpful when one was able to see their desired target. He preferred a simple mason jar. Besides, the only plants he had to water were the two plants he kept in his house—a hollyhock and a small patch of clovers.

Light had discovered that having plants to keep him company was much less extensive than taking a trip to the graveyard every day. It was exhausting, having to walk ten minutes up a hill with bundles of flowers in his arms every day. Now, he goes once every two weeks, simply content with the hollyhock and the patch of clovers that served to remind him of his lost ones.

Well, perhaps content is not the best way to describe how Light is feeling.

He sighs, running a hand through his ruffled hair. He's come to terms with his life as it is, but there's always been a well of dissatisfaction under his heart.

Dissatisfaction with his loneliness, his sadness, his lost companions, his destroyed life, his life in general.

Light lets out another sigh, his muscles tightening as the thoughts continue to flood his mind. They've been constant for the past month or so, weaving about his mind and whispering in his ears that there is nothing he can live for anymore. Everytime he turns a corner or reaches for a glass of water, there's something that's always there, something that continues to nag at him and then finally settles at the bottom of his stomach in an uncomfortable feeling that he can't shake.

He runs his fingers along the blooming petals of the hollyhock to distract himself, but to no avail. The normally soothing feeling of the plant Aoi had been named after was not helping.

The dark feeling behind his heart continues to grow, enrapturing and entangling everything it touches. His lonely soul wilts, almost like a dying plant. There's no going back. There's no saving it.

Light stumbles away from the potted plants, gripping his head with his hands.

“Stop it. Stop it, stop it, stop it—”

The tortured feeling, choking and gripping him, won't stop. It crawls and scrambles and whispers and claws until Light can't take it anymore. He sucks in a deep breath and stands unsteadily.

All he's looking for is the top right shelf in the drawer in his room. His hands feel blindly and desperately for his desired item—

There it is. Light had requested it be sent to him a month ago, when it was clear to him that the thoughts were going to around for a time. If he ever succumbed, he had thought he'd want to do it in a manner like his companions.

The knife clicks as the blade juts forward from the handle. Light’s fingers tremble as he holds it tight.

Maybe this way, it’ll be right. It’s his punishment for letting his sister and the love of his life die, after all.

He feels along his neck and holds the knife to the tender skin.

Soon… he’ll meet them.

Pain forces a small gasp out of him, but as blood slides down his throat and along his fingers, all is lost to his hazy mind. He falls to his knees, dropping the knife. It lands with a hollow clatter on the floor.

Light’s head feels dizzy. He's fluttering in and out of consciousness as blood oozes from his neck, spilling over his fingers. He falls on his side, limp and weak, and reaches blindly for the navy blue handkerchief in his pocket.

He doesn't care if he stains it with his blood. All he wants is to hold it close, hold it tight.

His blank, unseeing eyes blink open one last time before fluttering closed. He grips the navy blue handkerchief closer to his heart, his bleeding heart, and feels the ones he let down heal his broken and lonely soul.