Actions

Work Header

Fixing It (With Your Love and Support)

Chapter Text

If you had the chance, would you do it over again?

(The effect of soulmate marks when infections are involved, especially in a vegetative state, as are of right now, unobserved.

But it should be assumed that if the soulmate is considered 'dead' by their soul partner, then the soulmark would fade.)

-Professor Samuel Jackson, M.D.


"This isn't... this isn't fair..."

Yuki Takeya sits in the center of a group of corpses, bodies bloody and frantic pleas scribbled on the walls.

Yuuri stares at her with cloudy green eyes, bleeding from a small hole in her forehead.

"Please, Yuki."

Next to her, Miki lies dead, tears still rolling down her face and mingling with the blood dripping from her chest.

"Yuki-senpai, please. I want you to live."

And Kurumi...

Shovel-kun is bloody and broken, a testament to Kurumi's determination.

Even when it comes to her own death, she never gives up.

"Why... why did this have to happen?"

Yuki's hands ball into fists on the cold concrete ground, her eyes briefly falling on the bite mark on Miki's leg, the bite mark on Yuuri's hand, the bite mark on Kurumi's arm...

"It's not fair!" she shrieks, slamming her fists on the ground. "It's not fair it's not fair it's not fair!"

Blood flies through the air as she drives her hands harder and harder, hard floor tearing at fragile flesh.

And with her hands torn and bloody, she sits back on her heels and stares into the sky.

"Please... please let me fix this.

"Let me just try one more time... please."

She waits a moment, as if waiting for some god to grant her prayers.

When it appears no response is forthcoming, she picks up the gun, pressing the cold barrel to her forehead.

"I'm sorry... Takae... Kurumi... Mii-kun... Yuuri...

"Megu-nee."

With only a second of hesitation, she pulls the trigger.

The gunshot is the last sound she will ever hear.


 

Yuki awakes with a start on a floor, sunlight streaming in through the windows. Against one wall, a cabinet filled with papers looms ominously, and a small kitchenette sits in the other.

"This isn't..."

And it isn't the School Living Club's room. At least not exactly.

For one, the mugs they love are gone. The blackboard is erased, and there are papers on the desk instead of food.

In fact, it looks almost as it did when it was the Student Council clubroom.

But that means...

Yuki wheels, staring around the room. There's Kurumi, sleeping on the floor next to the cabinet, Yuuri sleeping in a chair, and Miki lying on her side next to her.

Kurumi dead, Yuuri dead, Miki dead, Takae dead, Megu-nee dead, all your fault, you weakling.

She lifts her shirt hurriedly, checking her stomach. 

Her eyes are met with swirling lines of ink, like darkness, surrounding a pair of wings.

"It's still here," Yuki breathes. 

Her soulmark isn't gone. It's not like it was when it disappeared. 

Was that just a dream?

But...

She hurriedly checks her other soulmark, the platonic one, on her forearm.

That one is still there too, what appears to be a choker snaking around her arm.

"Takae and Megu-nee... are they still..."

"Yuki!"

She turns, only to see...

"Takae?"


"Are you feeling okay, Yuki?" Takae worries, an arm around Yuki's waist. "Do I need to take you to the nurse's office?"

How is she supposed to feel? Takae is supposed to be dead! She's not supposed to be here, not supposed to be alive...

But, then...

"Hey, Ta-chan?" Yuki frowns, hand instinctively falling to her stomach. "Can I see your soulmark?"

Takae stares at her for a moment, silver eyes widened with worry.

"Yuki..."

And Yuki does know that their soulmarks match. It's odd, and she would have no way of knowing at this point in time.

But she does want to confirm it, just in case...

Just in case it wasn't a dream. Just in case everything is going to go to hell in a few hours.

"I... guess..." Takae frowns, extending her arm.

And there it is, the choker around her forearm.

"Ta-chan... can I ask you something?"

"Yeah?" Takae frowns, brushing a bit of hair out of her eyes. "Yuki, what's going on?"

"After school today, I need you to come to the roof with me and Megu-nee!" Yuki exclaims. "Please!"

It might just be nothing, but Yuki can't afford to take that chance.

"Yuki, what's going on?" Takae frowns.

"I'll tell you later! I promise!" Yuki shouts, racing at breakneck speed down the hall.

Megu-nee... I have to find Megu-nee...


Yuki throws open the door of the staff room with a loud 'thwack'.

"Gomen nasai! Is Sakura-sensei here?" Yuki exclaims. "I have something I need to tell her!"

"Oh, Takeya-san," Akiko frowns. "I can show you where she is."

"Arigatou gozaimasu, Sensei!" Yuki exclaims, bowing.

Akiko stands, absentmindedly straightening her brown hair before leading the way outside the room.

"Why do you need to see Sakura-san?" Akiko asks, leading the way through the crowded hallways.

"I just need to confirm something!" Yuki exclaims, hands clenching into determined fists.

"If you're sure you're okay, Takeya-san," Akiko sighs, massaging her temples.

They turn the corner, and Yuki smacks into a person who appears to have been running through the halls.

"A-Ah! My papers!" the person squeaks, and Yuki catches a glimpse of bright pink hair.

"Megu-nee!" Yuki squeals, launching herself into a hug.

And this feels perfect and right and just totally and incredibly happy. Yuki's never hugged Megu-nee before, but this just feels perfect.

"I suppose you found her," Akiko laughs. "I'll be taking my leave now."

"Ah! Sensei! Please come to the roof today!" Yuki exclaims, quickly straightening herself and bowing deeply. "It might just be nothing, but I still hope to see you there!"

Yuki is not dumb. She knows that the mark on Megu-nee's wrist matches that on her teacher's. Plus, the first time, it was her teacher that warned everyone and saved their lives.

It'd just be mean not to return the favor. 

If everything is going to hell, that is.

"Yuki-chan..." Megu-nee stammers. 

"Megu-nee," Yuki frowns. "I need to talk to you."


"So... you had a dream about a zombie apocalypse?" Megu-nee frowns. 

"Yes! But I really think it wasn't just a dream!" Yuki exclaims. "I mean, Mii-kun, Yuuri, Kurumi, and I all woke up in the same room! The School Living Club room! There's no way that was a coincidence!"

"I believe you."

It's been so long since Yuki heard those words coming from Megu-nee. So damn long it hurts. 

"I just... you died... and you told me... about your soulmark..."


"Yuki."

She's screaming and thrashing, but Yuuri and Kurumi just won't let her go, and Megu-nee's dying out there! How can she be dying out there and they won't let her save her!

"Megu-nee!" Yuki screams. "Please! Come back!"

"I'm sorry, Yuki.

"Please just remember that I love you... my soulmate..."

And time fractures.


Yuki climbs the stairs, panting heavily. 

Surely, this is one thing she doesn't miss about being confined to a school; the excess amount of stairs are quite tiring.

"Yuki?"

Yuuri stares at her blankly, a small girl clutching her hand. "You... you had that dream too?"

"I brought Megu-nee!" Yuki smiles, clinging onto Megu-nee's side. "And Sensei and Takae!"

"Senpai?"

Miki stares at the two of them, a girl's hand clutched firmly in hers. Even from here, Yuki can see the way Miki stares at her... almost like she's a precious treasure that needs protecting.

A pang of regret hits her in the gut so hard it hurts. How Megu-nee never looked at her that way.

Well, now she will.

"Mii-kun!" Yuki squeals, shifting her death grip from Megu-nee to Miki. "I'm so glad!"

"Oh, you all are here."

Kurumi pushes open the door, followed by a boy and girl holding hands.

"This is my senpai, Souta Koji, and his girlfriend, Haruka Azumi."

"It's very nice to meet you!" Haruka exclaims, bowing deeply.

"I... don't really know why Kurumi asked us up here, but it must be something good," Souta smiles, linking his arm with Haruka's.

"Yes, why did you ask us up here?" Akiko frowns.

"I was wondering that too... you promised you'd tell me," Takae mutters, eyes wide with worry.

"Well... about that..."

Screams echo from the courtyard below, and the group wheels, only to see the track and field club seemingly turning on each other for no reason.

"What... what is this?" Souta whispers.

"No... no no no no no..."

Kurumi falls to her knees, fingernails digging into her skin. "This can't be... not again... I can't do this again..."

On closer inspection, she's gripping the part of her arm that Megu-nee... (bit) touched. 

The aforementioned teacher takes a step forwards, but Yuuri blocks her path with a slow shake of the head.

It's truly disturbing, seeing such a strong person break like this.

"Help me bar the door!" Miki shouts, and Yuki rushes over to help cover the rooftop door.

"What the hell is going on here?" Akiko exclaims. 

"Aha... you really don't know...?" Kurumi laughs.

"This is the end of the world."

Chapter Text

Kurumi is cold.

Kurumi is cold and scared and sick.

There's the obvious thing of how she bashed her own head in with a shovel, but that's not it.

(You bashed other people's heads in with a shovel, didn't you? Your senpai and his girlfriend? You sick, sick, fucked-up zombie person.)

But, the strangest thing, is that when she wakes up in the clubroom, she's not cold anymore.

Of course, Yuki isn't there. The ditz probably left to go home.

Why is she here? Why isn't she dead?

Why isn't she rotting in a grave, like all the people whose brains she murdered and all the people she flat-out decimated?

Either karma decided to skip over her or there's some sort of 'hey even if you went out of your way to kill people if it's during a zombie apocalypse it still counts as self-defense'?

She straightens, brushing hair out of her face and instinctually reaching for shovel-kun-

He's not there.

Her shovel, the thing that has saved her life on multiple occasions, is gone.

And thus leads to the first panic attack of the day.


"Kurumi! Kurumi-senpai!" 

She's coaxed back into sanity by Miki's voice, as well as the voice of someone unfamiliar.

"Yeah?" Kurumi whispers, voice hoarse from screaming.

She blinks once, twice, three times, banishing the fuzziness from her gaze.

"Are you okay?" Miki asks, eyes full of worry.

"Y-Yeah... I don't know..."

"You're Kurumi-senpai?" the other girl asks. "I'm Kei Shidou, but you can just call me Kei!"

"Kei left today. I couldn't stop her."

Oh god, oh god, oh god.

Oh no no no no no. This is not real. This must be her personal hell.

"No, no, no, no..." Kurumi whispers, clutching at her head. "This isn't real, this can't be real, it's just a dream..."

"Kurumi-senpai!" Miki exclaims. "Kei, grab some water!"

"Sure thing!" Kei exclaims, and soon the top of a water bottle is pressed to her lips. She gulps it down greedily, before remembering that this might have to last for a while.

"What's going on here?" Kurumi asks, brushing a bit of hair out of her face.

"I don't know either," Kei sighs. "Miki just grabbed me and told me to come up here!"

"Kurumi-senpai, you were having a panic attack," Miki frowns.

"I.. what?"

No. Kurumi isn't allowed to be weak. She has to protect them. She has to protect all of them.

"I'm fine now," Kurumi states, forcing herself to her feet. Her vision grows spotty for a few seconds, before clearing, though it still leaves her shaky on her feet.

"No, Kurumi-senpai, you shouldn't move yet-"

"I have to save them, Miki!" Kurumi shouts, slamming her fist onto the wall. "I have to save my senpai!"

Miki stares at her for a moment before dipping her head. "As you wish."

The argument apparently settled, Kurumi staggers out of the room, one hand pressed firmly to her forehead.

"I have to save them," she gasps, making her way down the halls. "I have to save my senpai this time."


She finds him on the first floor, with his girlfriend. They're apparently making plans of some sort, but she couldn't care less. 

"Senpai... can I ask you something?" Kurumi asks, bowing deeply.

"Kurumi? Yeah, sure thing," her senpai (Souta) replies, running a hand through light-brown hair. 

"Can you and Haruka-senpai come to the rooftop today after school? There's something I need to see," Kurumi manages to choke out, hoping she doesn't sound too broken.

"Huh? I guess so..." Souta trails off. 

"Arigatou!" Kurumi exclaims, before rushing out the door.

"That was... weird..." Souta mutters.

"Agreed," Haruka sighs.


Kurumi stuffs a number of belongings into her bag, hurriedly checking her alarm clock before stuffing it in as well.

"The outbreak happened at five-o'clock, right? So I have one more hour to get back to the school and be on the roof," she reasons, stuffing in her portable gaming system.

She runs down the stairs, leaving a small note scribbled on the kitchen counter. 

Konichiwa, Okaasan, Otousan,

I'm staying at the school for the time being. Please stay safe.

If you're already turned, you'll never get this note. But please be safe.

I love you.

Your daughter,

Kurumi


She climbs the stairs to the roof, backpack hoisted on her back and stuffed to the brim with personal belongings. Once she reaches the the top of the staircase, she collapses to her knees, filled with the overwhelming sensation of safety.

"Oh, Kurumi," Souta frowns, offering her a hand. "Are you okay? You look like death warmed over."

"Yeah, I'm fine," Kurumi gasps.

Apparently whatever stamina they had is now gone. Absolutely wonderful.

"Kurumi!"

Yuuri rushes over, wrapping her arms around Kurumi's waist and hauling her over onto the staircase landing. "Are you okay?"

"You... go out first..." Kurumi pants, forcing herself to her feet. "I'll be right there."

Yuuri gives her a sidelong look before complying, and Kurumi manages to gather her wits enough to push open the rooftop door.

"Oh, you all are here."

A quick scan of the roof reveals the entirety of the School Living Club, plus some others. 

"This is my senpai, Souta Koji, and his girlfriend, Haruka Azumi," Kurumi introduces.

"It's very nice to meet you!" Haruka exclaims, bowing deeply.

It is so damn hard to hate Haruka. She's just a giant marshmallow.

"I... don't really know why Kurumi asked us up here, but it must be something good," Souta smiles, linking his arm with Haruka's.

Jealousy hits her like a punch to the gut, before she has to ask herself why she's even jealous.

She and Yuuri match, don't they? So she doesn't have to be jealous any more.

"Why did you ask us up here?" the girl trying way too hard to be edgy asks.

"Well, about that-"

Yuki appears about to explain, until Kurumi hears the all-too-familiar sound of the track and field club massacring each other.

This should not be a familiar sound.

"No... no no no no no..."

Kurumi barely registers that it's her making the noise. She feels numb. Completely numb.

Aside from the cold now spreading from her arm.

"This can't be... not again... I can't do this again..."

She wants to claw out the infected flesh. She wants it to stop so she can at least save them from herself. 

Kurumi is cold and scared and sick but this time she can hurt the people she tried to save.

Nice fucking job, zombie.

"What the hell is going on here?" Akiko exclaims. And isn't it just like a teacher, to demand answers when only four people on the roof have the answer to give.

Can you give me the answer to this?

If a fucking idiot gets herself bitten by zombies, what is the correct response?

A. Hide it and hope you're the one fucking idiot resistant to this virus that nobody is resistant to.

B. Stab yourself in the head over and over with a shovel until you die.

C. Tell everyone and hope they kill you except you're in pain and it hurts but you still want to live.

B is in fact the correct answer, but nobody ever does that.

"Aha... you really don't know...?" Kurumi laughs. At least, Kurumi's kind of certain she's doing it. She can't really register herself doing anything.

"This is the end of the world."

Chapter Text

If someone were to ask Yuuri Wakasa what her last regret was, she would probably say letting a zombie bite her.

If someone were to ask Yuuri Wakasa what her other last regret was, she would respond with a name and fall contemplatively silent.

"Ruu..."


For the longest time, Yuuri cared for Ruu more than anything.

The little girl with the ash-blond hair was always there to welcome her when she came home to an otherwise-deserted apartment. Ruu would always help her pick up the discarded beer bottles despite how they cut her palms, and would always chirp for Yuuri to help her with her homework.

It was a small ray of light in her otherwise dark world.

Ruu loved to garden, just like Yuuri did. She would always say that 'when I get older, I'm going to join your gardening club, Rii-nee-san!' and that she would be strong enough to protect both of them.

She never did become old enough, did she?

Ruu would always help her put on the makeup to cover the black eyes and cuts on her face. In return, Yuuri would cook for them, coaxing some food into her mother's mouth as she lay on the couch.

She would shield Ruu from the shouts and the screams when her mother started to drink too hard. Shouts of 'it's all your fault, you little twerps!' haunted her dreams unless Ruu climbed in next to her, like her small teddy bear.

And it was all Yuuri's fault. She was the one who drove her father out of the house, with her demands and activities. Her family couldn't afford cooking school, and she knew it. So why did she ask?

Yuuri couldn't even keep ahold of the most precious thing in her life, couldn't even keep hold of Ruu, her tiny, tiny, younger sister.

She left her like the coward she is, only saving herself.

You pathetic waste of space, Yuuri Wakasa. You are pathetic.

Well, at least she can cook.


Yuuri opens her eyes to a world of hurt and screams.

This is the norm, mind you. The darkness just changes forms. One day it's her mother, and the next it's zombies.

Her luck sounds so much worse when she says it out loud.

Kurumi's curled on her side on the floor, nails digging into her violet hair. Miki tries to coax her out of the fetal position, where her nails are in deep enough to draw blood.

Blood.

Pain.

Ruu.

She struggles to her feet, slinging her backpack on her back and racing out the door. 

"Wait, Rii-san!" Miki calls as Yuuri sprints faster.

"I have to... save Ruu..." Yuuri gasps.

She really does have to. Her brain, the fragile organ that controls her existence, won't take anything less.


 

Somehow, she manages to escape out the front door and down the street. Somehow, she manages to find a bike and take it.

Add 'thief' to the list of Yuuri's problems. And it really is thievery, because she knows she can never give it back.

A brief detour to their house gives her two bags, filled with clothes, toothpaste, sleeping bags, and other knick-knacks, like stuffed animals and toys.

She bursts through the door of Ruu's school dripping with sweat and tears, backpack hanging off the handlebars.

"I need to see Ruu Wakasa!" Yuuri exclaims, slamming her hands on the front desk.

"Mhm. And who are you to her?" the receptionist asks, the picture of cool and calm.

"I'm her older sister!" Yuuri shouts. "I'm here to sign her out!"

The receptionist eyes her momentarily, most likely judging whether or not she's absolutely bonkers.

"Alright," she eventually relents, picking up a phone. "Can I see Ruu Wakasa? Her older sister is here to pick her up."

After the most tense five minutes of her life, she sees her.

Ruu obviously just came from lunch, based on the crumbs on her chin. Her hair is slightly messy and a backpack is on her back, eyes shining with... something? Either fear or excitement, maybe a mix of the two.

"Rii-nee-san?" Ruu frowns, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. "What's going on?"

"There's no time to explain," Yuuri replies, clutching Ruu's wrist. "Come on."

She leads Ruu out the door and gently seats her in the basket on the front of the bike.

"Rii-nee? What's going on?" Ruu repeats. "You're scaring me..."

You are going to be so much more scared later, Yuuri thinks.

She doesn't say that, though.

"I'll tell you once we're on our way," Yuuri instead replies.

She hands Ruu her bag, hopping on the bike seat and pushing off.

"You gotta be really still, okay?" Yuuri soothes, pushing at the petals as she makes her way across town. "Otherwise we won't get there fast enough."


Yuuri has never been so happy to see Megurigaoka Private High School in her life

She leaves the bike sprawled on the ground near the bike rack, carrying Ruu and their bags in her arms. 

"Rii-nee-san!" Ruu exclaims. 

"Just a second, Ruu," Yuuri mutters, sprinting as fast as she can through the halls of the school.

She knows there's not a second to spare. The sound of far-off screams already fills the air.

Once she's almost at the top, she catches sight of a familiar person sprawled in a heap on the landing, two others standing above her.

"Kurumi!" Yuuri exclaims, shifting her bags to wrap an arm around her waist. "Are you okay?"

"You... go out first..." Kurumi pants, forcing herself to her feet. "I'll be right there."

Kurumi is very not okay, and Yuuri hopes the look she shoots the violet-haired girl conveys it.

All the same, she pushes open the door, dropping the bags in a heap near the railing.

"Rii-nee-san, what's going on?" Ruu whispers, burying her face in Yuuri's shirt. 

"It doesn't matter, Ruu," Yuuri whispers. "All that matters is that I will protect you."


The worst possible feeling is watching the two people you care about most shattering into pieces and only being able to help one of them.

As the screams of the apocalypse fill the air, Yuuri has to make this choice.

On the one hand, there's Ruu. Her little sister, yanked into a situation she has no control over and barely comprehends what's going on.

And on the other, Kurumi, who comprehends all too well what's going on. 

This is an impossible choice.

But seeing Kurumi curled up inside herself like that... like she's reliving every single traumatizing event... it makes her heart shatter.

"The most important thing you can do for me is to keep yourself safe."


Yuuri sobs into a pillow, clutching her chest as if she'll break into a million pieces.

To be fair, that's not far from the truth.

"Hey, Rii-san," Kurumi soothes, gently stroking her back. "It's okay, Rii-san. It's okay."

"N-No it's not!" Yuuri wails. "I can't d-do anything! And now you're hurt because of me!"

"Hey, Rii-san."

Yuuri turns to see an uncharacteristic darkness in Kurumi's magenta eyes. Damn. She's mad.

"You are not useless, okay? Don't ever say that about yourself." Kurumi brushes a lock of hair out of Yuuri's face and smiles. "You're one of the strongest people I know."

"B-But... I can't do anything..."

"The most important thing you can do for me is to keep yourself safe, okay?" Kurumi sighs, a blush coating her cheeks. "I-I'm not very good at this stuff, so I don't know what to say..."

"B-But... I can't..."

"Rii-san."

Kurumi lifts Yuuri's shirt just slightly, running a hand over the soulmark on her abdomen. "Just remember that I'll always love you. Nothing could stop me from loving you. So the best thing you could do for me is to stay safe. Okay?"

"O-Okay..." Yuuri whispers.

The smile she's rewarded with makes her heart do a little flip in her chest, and it occurs to her that maybe this is all she needs.


"Kurumi..."

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Megu-nee going to help her.

"No," she mutters, shaking her head just slightly.

Megu-nee would just make things worse. 

But if I could just...

"Rii-nee-san?"

Ruu stares at her with wide, wide chocolate eyes, gleaming with fear.

"Ruu-chan, I have someone I'd like you to meet."

Yuuri places a gentle hand on Kurumi's back, wrapping her into a hug. 

"Kurumi, it's okay. I'm here."

Kurumi shifts her gaze just slightly, still blurry with unseeing fear, but under that, a sense of unconditional trust.

"Ruu-chan, this is Kurumi, my soulmate. Kurumi, Ruu-chan."

Kurumi's hand reaches out blindly, and Yuuri grasps it.

"I'm here, Kurumi," Yuuri whispers, pressing Kurumi's thin hand to her cheek. "It's okay. They can't hurt you."

"...but they can hurt you..."

Kurumi shifts enough to look at her, magenta eyes wide with fear and glistening with tears. "...they can hurt you, Rii-san..."

Tears streaming down her face, Yuuri pulls Kurumi and Ruu into a tight hug.

"I promise to protect you two. Forever and ever, okay?"

"Forever!" Ruu chirps.

"...forever..." Kurumi whispers.

This, this feeling, this happiness, is all she needs.

Chapter Text

Miki has never had a particularly easy life.

She's never been good at making friends, thanks to her (highly) introverted nature. Her soulmark is an incredibly specific book with what appears to be a fraying ribbon surrounding it.

And of course, there's the whole zombie apocalypse thing.

She and Kei were best friends, then something more, then nothing.

It's awkwardly poetic, like a slingshot, flying between everything and nothing.

Miki never liked slingshots. 


It would be easiest to blame Kei for her own death.

That would make things a great deal easier, but no.

It was Miki's fault, really. She should have been able to convince Kei not to leave. She should have been able to do something instead of gawping like an idiot at her best friend (soulmate) while she walked out and left for certain death.

The blame game is a vicious cycle, one that Miki is all too keen to volunteer for.


She wakes up to the wonderful sounds of Kurumi screaming.

This isn't exactly an abnormal sound, but it's not exactly normal either. Most of the time it's a war cry, a declaration of war against the people things that ruined their lives.

This time, it's a mournful wail full of pain and despair.

She bolts to an upright position, and ends up sliding off the chair, collapsing in an undignified heap on the floor.

Nice job, Miki. Five minutes and you've already managed to bruise your head.

Pushing herself to her feet, she notices light streaming in through unbroken windows. Everything in the room looks normal, no bloodstains on the wall or the oppressive feeling of darkness that is apt to haunt the remains of the world.

It's weird.

To the normal person, time travel is something so out of left field that they'd never consider it. 

And yet, Miki has seen all those normal people turn into rotting, human-eating zombies, so who's really the normal one now?

Still not her, but eh.

Tucking a strand of platinum-blond hair behind her ear, she pushes herself to a seated position. Kurumi's wails have lessened to pathetic-sounding sobs, and Miki finds herself wanting to help.

"Miki!" a familiar voice calls. "Miki, where are you?"

Miki's heart all but stops.

Kei.

"Kei?" Miki asks, slowly, warily.

Her best friend leans in the door, brown hair falling in its normal waves that just brush her shoulder. "Miki, where were you? I've been looking everywhere!"

"I've been here," Miki replies, slightly hesitant, because she doesn't even know where she's been.

"Oh- who is that?" Kei asks, stepping warily inside the door.

"This is Kurumi-senpai. She's a third-year here."

"How do you know her?" Kei frowns, moving to sit by Miki's side.

Good question, Kei. At this point in time, she really shouldn't.

"We met a while back on the school rooftop. She's really cool and strong, and saved my life."

Technically true. It just wasn't a while back. More like seven hours in the future.

"Oh. Okay then. So, what's wrong with her?"

Of course Kei just blindly accepts her half-lie.

"I don't know," Miki replies.

"She looks like she's having a panic attack. Hey! Kurumi-senpai!"

"Kurumi!" Miki adds.

Kurumi's eyes blink open slowly, magenta clouded by fear.

This is scary. Kurumi is supposed to be the strong one.

"Are you okay?" Miki asks, hoping that her eyes convey a decent sense of worry.

"Y-Yeah... I don't know..."

Kurumi runs a hand through her hair, pressing at her temple just slightly.

"You're Kurumi-senpai?" Kei asks, eyes gleaming with excitement. "I'm Kei Shidou, but you can just call me Kei!"

Kurumi's eyes widen, and her hand tightens around her hair.

"No, no, no, no..." she whispers, hair balled up in her hands as if to tear it from her scalp. "This isn't real, this can't be real, it's just a dream..."

Oh god.

Kurumi broke.

"Kurumi-senpai!" Miki exclaims. "Kei, grab some water!"

"Sure thing!" Kei chirps, and Miki is relegated to stroking Kurumi's hair in an effort to calm her down.

It doesn't exactly help much.

Thankfully, Kei returns soon, and Miki presses the water bottle to Kurumi's lips.

She gulps it down like a man eating his last meal, and from the way she's acting, she might very well consider it as such.

Eventually, she manages to calm herself down enough to start talking, and Miki's relief is overwhelming.

"What's going on here?" Kurumi demands, idly brushing hair out of her hair and messing up Miki's hard work on her hairdo.

"I don't know either," Kei sighs. "Miki just grabbed me and told me to come up here!"

Miki frowns at her. That's not how it happened.

Then again, Kei has always had a flair for the dramatic.

"Kurumi-senpai, you were having a panic attack," Miki explains.

"I.. what?"

Kurumi looks incredibly unnerved, almost afraid. It's not a normal look for her.

Nice job, Miki. You broke Kurumi twice in one day.

"I'm fine now," Kurumi insists, forcing herself to her feet. She sways dangerously, planting a hand on the wall to stabilize herself.

"No, Kurumi-senpai, you shouldn't move yet-"

"I have to save them, Miki!" Kurumi shouts, slamming her fist onto the wall. "I have to save my senpai!"

The blind rage in her voice is what forces Miki to remember how to move. Sidestepping woodenly, she dips her head just slightly. "As you wish."

She watches Kurumi stagger out of the room, and tries to determine whether or not she's just made a terrible mistake.


Barricade-building is hard.

Barricade-building makes approximately zero sense at three in the afternoon, but at least school has been dismissed. The only people that give them weird looks are teachers, and they let the teachers pass.

They probably shouldn't, but they do anyways.

Shooing people out of the area is easy enough. Miki just claims to be setting up a club activity on the second floor "and if everyone could please head outside or to the first floor that would be wonderful".

Guilt hits like a sledgehammer with every word, but it can't break through the cocktail of adrenaline, fear, and worry.

One thing you learn in the zombie apocalypse is how to be selfish as hell.


Setting up a room or two to sleep in is also easy enough.

Borrowing Stealing some stuff from the school store makes the room homey, with around ten beds (she's not sure how many people will be joining them, but if worst comes to worst, she and Kei can share a bed) and some alarm clocks.

After she finishes stringing up fairy lights, she locks the door from the outside, pocketing the key. Completing the process with the rest of the classrooms and rooms is just child's play.

Windows are nice things that will not be broken, goddamn it.

Kei watches with a sense of curiosity, especially when Miki buys ten nummy sticks.

"What are those?" Kei frowns.

"Open wide," Miki commands.

Kei stares at her but complies, allowing Miki to stuff the snack into her mouth with ease.

"Mph! Mi-hi!" Kei mumbles around a mouthful of food. "Whaf are you doing?"

"Feeding you," Miki states, almost bluntly.

"This isn't like you," Kei states after swallowing the nummy stick. "Why are you being so weird?"

"..."

And Kei does have every right to ask. She'd ask too, if it was Kei acting like she is.

"...Yuki-senpai..." Miki states.

"Yuki-who?"


They're the first ones to the roof, which is hardly surprising.

"So, are you going to tell me who Yuki-senpai is, or do I have to guess?" Kei teases.

"Um..."

"Is she your lover?"

"K-Kei!" Miki stammers. "O-Of course not!"

"Are you sure?" Kei asks, mouth curled into a smirk. "You can tell me, Miki~"

"N-No way!" Miki exclaims. "Y-You're the only one for me!"

Kei's face says everything.

Shit.

"You're funny, Miki-chan," Kei smiles after a long silence. It's strained and weak, telling Miki that Kei doesn't believe her.

That stings.

"Is that Yuki-senpai?" Kei asks, and Miki grabs her hand for assurance.

"Senpai?" Miki ventures.

Yuki catches her eyes, and they're (so bright pink, giving a better meaning to the word 'red') fixed on a woman to her side.

It's Megu-nee, right? She's only seen her in one photo, but there's the same aura of happiness surrounding this woman, the same bright-pink hair.

"Mii-kun!" Yuki squeals, and suddenly Miki is wrapped in a deadly hug. Hopefully Yuki hasn't cracked a rib. "I'm so glad!"

This should feel good, right? 

It's not like Miki never had a crush on Yuki, but... yeah, she totally did.

Her ability to always be happy... just like Kei...

That's probably why she and Yuki grew so close. Both of them were looking for replacements.

That doesn't matter, stop thinking. You have Kei now.

But a part of her still wants Yuki to stroke her hair, to hold her close and shut out the rest of the world.

"Are you okay?" Kei whispers, clutching her hand.

Right. Kei.

"I'm fine," Miki whispers, burying her face in Kei's chest to shut out the screams from down below. "But... can I just stay this way... just for a little bit..."

Kei lets her, gently stroking her hair as she sobs.

She's not just sobbing from the apocalypse, but from the weight of the sins, crawling on her back.

Chapter Text

Nighttime is normally a peaceful time. A happy time.

Except today, nighttime involves hysterical sobbing, comforting, and pretty much everyone being confused.

Miki is confused, though not about the zombies. That's old news. It takes a backseat on her list of problems.

Her problems all start with a name. Four letters. Rhymes with 'kooky'. 

Yep, Yuki.

Okay, it doesn't rhyme perfectly, but the point is made.

More accurately, Yuki and Kei. 

On the one hand, Kei is her soulmate. Her other half. The person she cares about more than anything.

But is that honestly true, anymore? Kei ripped out her heart and left it bleeding on the ground when she left, offering paltry condolences and platitudes for why.

Love means never having to say that you're sorry, right?

Well, she wants Kei to apologize.

She needs Kei to apologize.

Because Kei left her numb and void of feeling until Yuki came.

And come Yuki did. She arrived in a whirlwind of movement and excitement and life that felt all but gone when Kei left.

Of course, Miki worried about her delusions. Any sane person would. For someone as happy and as whole-seeming as Yuki, it would worry them.

Until Yuuri broke the news to her in a hushed voice, hands clasped around her mouth to muffle it.


 

"Yuki-chan watched her soulmate die in front of her."

"What?" Miki asks. That could not be real. No way.

"Her name was Megumi Sakura or Megu-nee... she was our teacher..."

Tears glisten in Yuuri's eyes as she continues, threatening to spill over.

"She was so nice... she cared about everyone... and we couldn't even save her..."

"Hey, Yuuri."

Kurumi wraps her arms around Yuuri's midsection, resting her chin on Yuuri's shoulder. "It'll be okay."

"Are we having a group hug?" Yuki squeals, launching herself at Miki. "Let me join!"

Miki closes her eyes, the darkness gone, just for a moment. 

"Thank you... Yuki-senpai..."


"What's wrong, Mii-kun?"

Yuki sits down next to her, brushing a tear off her cheek. "Don't cry..."

"B-But... I wasn't... and Kei..."

"Hey, hey, it's okay," Yuki soothes, rubbing Miki in the small of her back. "You're okay, Mii-kun. Just breathe."

Miki sucks in a few deep breaths with her mouth, and her heart begins to slow. Thankfully.

"Y-Yuki-chan... I'm so sorry..."

"Hey, don't apologize! If anything, I'm just as guilty as you are!" Yuki assures her.

That does not make her feel better.

"Just let it all out," Yuki soothes, wrapping Miki in a hug.

"Y-Yuki-senpai..."

"Aw, see! You're feeling better already!"

Yuki's hands card Miki's platinum-blonde hair, coaxing out tangles and soothing her. It's repetitious, and neither of them have the heart to break it off.

"Yuki-chan... can we talk in the morning?" Miki eventually mumbles.

"Sure thing, Mii-kun," Yuki smiles.

Soon, Miki's breaths even out as she slumps into Yuki's shoulder, tears drying on her face. 

Yuki is suddenly struck by just how young Miki is. Just sixteen. Too young for all this.

And while Yuki's barely older, she's gotta do a good job of keeping it together. For Miki's sake.


"You can't take this pressure."

Yuuri leans into Kurumi's shoulder, toying with the ends of her twin-tails. Beside her, Kurumi absentmindedly polishes shovel-kun, the morning's events purposefully ignored.

"I can too," Kurumi insists, lip curling into a childish pout. "I am the stress master."

"When will you listen to me, Kurumi?" Yuuri mumbles. "When you're dead?"

"I was dead and I still didn't listen to you," Kurumi laughs.

"You should have," Yuuri mutters. "You shouldn't have gone into that basement alone..."

"Probably not," Kurumi laughs, a harsh barking sound. "But hey, what're you gonna do?"

"Stop you."

Kurumi turns to see a determined look in Yuuri's chocolate-brown eyes as she latches onto Kurumi's arm - the bitten one - for dear life. "I'm going to stop you, Kurumi Ebisuzawa."

"You're going to protect me now, huh?" Kurumi playfully tousles Yuuri's hair, a smile crossing her face. "Well, then I'll just protect you and Ruu."

"Then I'll protect you, Ruu, Yuki, Miki, Kei, Megu-nee, Akiko-sensei, Takae, Souta, and Haruka!" Yuuri exclaims.

"Are we playing this game?"

"Yep."

"No fair! You got a head start!"

Kurumi's face morphs into a pout, and Yuuri realizes just how young they are. Eighteen. Not nearly old enough to watch people murdering each other, too old to have people care that they've seen it.

Subconsciously she finds it funny, and starts to laugh. 

And it is funny, in a fucked-up way. All the people who said they'd never amount to anything are dead. They have the last laugh.

"I'm not that funny, am I?" Kurumi pouts.

She knows that's not why Yuuri's laughing. Playing pretend is a good skill.

Yuuri's bright, bright olive green eyes meet Kurumi's magenta, and they hold the stare for just a second. Yuuri tries to convey panic, fear, and Kurumi conveys comfort.

The eyes are the true windows to the soul.

"Aha..."

"H-Hey! I am funny!"

"Pfft..."

"Yuuri!"


Kei is scared.

Not the normal kind, where you see a spider and want to run. This is a type of fear that strangles her, leaving her unable to move.

Miki isn't here.

Yuki isn't here.

They're talking.

And suddenly, Kei finds herself struck with the irrational fear that Miki is going to leave her.

It's petty.

So petty.

But all the same, she's scared.

Kei knows she can take whatever life throws at her. She just needs people by her side.

And though Yuki doesn't seem the type, she still feels like the pink-haired teen will push her off a roof if need-be.

She screws her eyes shut, trying to shut out the world. She tells herself that zombie growls can't hurt her. She tells herself that she helped Miki build the barricades. They won't fall.

...says everyone right before they die.

Not helping, Kei. 

They are first-time barricade builders, after all.

...wait...

How did Miki know how to build the barricades? Did she know? Did the others know?

Did they do this? Is it their fault?

No way. Miki would have told her. Miki wouldn't lie to her like that.

Right?

She rubs her soulmark for comfort - a book surrounded by a fraying ribbon. The mark that says Miki will always love her. Will always care for her. Will never leave her.

(Unless she already has)

Chapter Text

Kurumi is not a teacher.

This is a fact she has learned multiple times over the years. What she does with shovel-kun does not equate into teaching people what to do with shovel-kun. You're either capable of smashing zombies' heads in with a shovel or you're not.

There is no middle ground.

So the nerve of this girl, this Kei to ask her to teach her how to kill zombies... is actually flattering.

They do have two teachers already, and Kurumi is not one to be flattered easily. But the fact that Kei came to her at all is what convinces Kurumi to try and teach her.

Hefting shovel-kun over her shoulder, she turns, striking what she hopes to be a dramatic pose. "So, you want to learn how to kill zombies?"

"Yes!" Kei exclaims, fists clenched in anticipation.

Or maybe she plans to punch zombies to death.

Honestly, you can never be quite sure with people. Give them a shovel and they dig themselves a grave.

"So, what do you like to fight with?" Kurumi asks, absentmindedly polishing the shovel. "Guns? Shovels? Axe? Sword? Machine gun? I don't know where we're going to find a machine gun, but you'd be surprised at all the junk we have lying around-"

"Do you have a handgun?"

"Whoa, hold on," Kurumi frowns, scratching at the back of her neck. "Do you know how to use them?"

"Yes."

Kurumi stares at her skeptically.

"...and how do you know how to use them?"

"Video games," Kei replies, as though it's the solution to all of life's problems.

Granted, sometimes it is, but video game guns do not equate to real-life guns.

"They're not the same thing..." Kurumi sighs, massaging the space between her temples.

"Really? Isn't it just a point-and-shoot thing?"

"No! There's kickback, it's loud as hell, you can blast a hole in your leg if you aren't careful, you have to reload, and if you screw up and miss, you'll shoot someone else!"

Kei stares at her owlishly, blinking slowly.

"And how is that different from video games?"

Kurumi's expression falls in defeat, before twisting into a scowl of indignation.

"It just is, okay?!"

"But how-"

"It is!" Kurumi insists.

Silence hangs in the air for a moment.

"...can you teach me then?"

"Huh?" Kurumi stares at her dumbly.

"Yeah... if I don't know how, then can you teach me?"

Okay, time for a choice. Either bullshit your way through teaching someone how to use a gun (bad idea) or refuse her and make her angry at you (also a bad idea).

At least she'll be able to defend herself...

"...fine."

"Really?" Kei clasps her hands in front of her chest, and Kurumi swears she can see sparkles in her eyes.

"Yeah, sure. What's the worst that could happen?"


The sunset is a deep, rich red as the last streaks grasp at the sky. White clouds turn pink in the new lighting, and all Megumi Sakura can think of is blood blood blood.

"Sakura-san."

Akiko sits down next to her, noting with concern Megumi's feet dangling through the gaps in the fence, only flimsy wooden bars separating her from the three-story drop and zombie hoard below.

"Oh, Kamiyama-sensei..." Megumi trails off, resting her face against the bars.

"What's wrong?" Akiko asks, placing a hand on Megumi's shoulder.

"I just... I just can't stop thinking about them... and last night I had this horrible dream..." Megumi begins, wiping her eyes with the sleeve of her dress. "I was outside the P.A. room, and it must have been Yuki-chan that was screaming, but I couldn't breathe... they had me... biting and tearing... I was so scared... because I knew I was dying..."

"Sakura-san-"

"Megumi. Please," Megumi smiles, a tear spilling out of her now-closed eyes and carving a path down her cheek. "I want to be friends with you, Kamiyama-sensei."

"...Akiko."

Megumi clasps her hands around Akiko's hand, holding tightly, as if she fears Akiko will break if she doesn't hold her. "I'm scared, Akiko..."

Akiko can almost see the deliberation in her mind. To use -san or to not use -san? That is the question.

"Just Akiko is fine."

Megumi's eyes instantly illuminate, and she wraps her arms around Akiko's torso.

"Arigatou, Akiko!"

"Really, it's fine."

Akiko gently tousles her hair, patting her sympathetically on the back. 

"If it makes you feel better, I had a similar dream."

"Really?"

"I was... in the staff room, I believe. I was talking to you on the phone when I heard them come in. I tried to run, but I knocked over my vase and they saw me, and..."

She doesn't realize she's crying until Megumi wipes a tear off her cheek, smiling sadly.

"We're okay now, though."

"...right. We're okay."

Neither of them wants to acknowledge that they're lying.


Ruu is scared.

Everyone else seems to know what's going on, but she has no idea.

All she knows is that they can't leave the school because of... zombies?

She's thirteen, not nine. She's not an idiot. The world is obviously over.

But she doesn't know what's going on here. She doesn't know what's going on inside the school. Why Rii-nee-san is acting so weird.

It probably has something to do with Kurumi. The purple-haired girl is... not quite right. Not at all.

Add that to the dreams she's been having, the ones about being cornered in her school by zombies, and it's just too much.

"Ruu?"

Yuuri's eyes are wide-open as she stares at the smaller girl, green a washed-out gray in the moonlight.

Ruu's ash-blonde hair appears pure white in the moonlight, spilling in through an open window. Her pale skin appears almost porcelain, a fragile china doll. 

And Ruu is fragile. So easily breakable, so easy to shatter with one wrong movement.

"Rii-nee-san..." Ruu trails off. She can't quite meet her eyes.

She's afraid that she won't see that same spark that's in her eyes when she talks to Kurumi. She's afraid she won't see the spark of love.

"Ruu..."

A rustling of blankets and sheets, and suddenly Ruu is in Yuuri's arms, her older sister gently stroking her hair, whispering low words into her ear.

It's all white noise.

"I'm scared too," Yuuri whispers.

And that's what stings the most, is that Yuuri is lying.

She's not scared. Her hands aren't shaking, her eyes aren't clouded with fear, there's no quaver to her voice.

Ruu knows what Yuuri looks like when she's scared. Knows it all too well.

This isn't Yuuri. This isn't the older sister she knows. This person is sharp and hard, not an inkling of kindness in the depths of her eyes. Just paltry platitudes and no real emotion.

And suddenly Ruu finds that her fears have come true.

She left me.

Tossed her out like a teddy bear in a muddy puddle. Now, Yuuri's content to walk away as Ruu drowns in that dirty puddle, because she has Kurumi Ebizusawa.

There's no place for her anymore.

She doesn't realize she's crying until Yuuri gently wipes a tear off her cheek, something resembling concern in her eyes.

It's not real concern, though. This is fake. Yuuri says it because she has to, not because she wants to.

And suddenly, the disgust of Yuuri's hands on hers is unbearable, and she squirms out of Yuuri's hands, who stares at her still with that look resembling concern.

Not real concern.

"I have to go," Ruu chokes out, and throwing open the door, she rushes through the hall.

The liquid burns like fire coming out of her mouth, but it's proof that she's alive, and she welcomes it.

Chapter Text

There were are many people in the world without a soulmark.

Of course, everyone would have a platonic soulmark. Those were always located on the right forearm, in plain sight. The universe wasn't cruel enough to make people suffer forever alone.

After the zombie apocalypse, however, the meager survivors would more often than not wake up to see their romantic soulmark gone, replaced by smudged ink.

It's a feeling that Yuki Takeya knows all too well.


"Your soulmate... died?"

It's a nicer way to say it than turned. That way, you don't have to think about maybe having them kill you. 

About having to kill them.

"Yeah..."

There's an unusual melancholy in Miki's eyes, sapphire-blue eyes clouded in despair.

"Oh... what was her name?" Yuki asks, smiling in a way she hopes is reassuring.

"Her name?" Miki parrots. "Kei Shidou."

"She sounds nice," Yuki smiles, placing a consoling hand on Miki's shoulder. 

"She was... and so brave..."

Miki rubs in vain at the tears spilling down her cheeks. The wound is still so fresh, still so painful and weeping bright crimson blood, to the point where she's certain she'll die before it scabs over.

"Hey! Think positive!"

Yuki raises her shirt, revealing smudged ink that curls from her sternum, around her sides, and down to her tailbone.

"Mine is still okay~! So I'm sure that means love isn't gone completely!"

Does that mean there's still hope? Any at all?

Or is Yuki just insane?

"Yuki-chan... is Megu-nee in here?"

"No..." Yuki trails off, absentmindedly tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. "Why?"

Miki leans forwards, hand reaching behind Yuki to cup her head. Her hand threads through Yuki's bright pink hair, the other clutching her at the waist.

"May I?" Miki breathes, faces just an inch apart.

"Sure!" Yuki smiles. 

Despite the nagging feeling of guilt, Miki decides that just for this moment, it's okay to be selfish.


"Touko?"

"Remember?" Kurumi asks, leaning back in her chair. "The lilac-haired girl from Saint Isidore?"

"Ah... that's where we went after leaving the school, right?" Yuuri clarifies.

"Yep. Anyways, I was wondering if there was some way to contact her!"

"Hm..." Yuuri trails off, staring out at the city. "I don't know if that would exactly be wise."

"Why not?" Kurumi protests. "If she came back with us, we could let her know!"

"But what if she didn't?" Yuuri emphasizes. "We're basically sending out a 'hey come kill us and steal our stuff' notice."

"But if she did, then they could come join us here! This school can support more people!"

"We're pushing it at ten, Kurumi. We can't take four more."

"But it would just be Touko, Aki, Hikako, and Rise... and we could retake the rest of the school that way!"

Kurumi folds her arms over her chest and gives Yuuri her best scowl. 

"Besides, wouldn't it be nice to have some people who know what they're doing?"

Yuuri massages the space between her temples.

"Okay. To recap, what you want us to do is to send a letter to a place filled with people that want to kill us just on the off chance that Touko might remember us," Yuuri glares harshly at Kurumi, eyes narrowed to slits. "And did you give any kind of thought to the message this might send to the others? What if they think this is okay and try to send out letters and die?"

"Things aren't going well with Ruu, huh?"

One of Kurumi's best skills is being able to cut straight through the bullshit, and it's one of the things Yuuri most values about her.

But then again, it can often be incredibly irritating when Yuuri just wants to wallow and Kurumi won't let her.

"No... it's going fine..."

That's not what she meant by 'no' and they both know it.

"So, can I send the letter to the Fallen Crew or not?"

"That depends."

"On?"

"Sino."

Oof. That's a big one.

"...I don't think we can."

Kurumi's nostrils flare angrily, and her hand clenches into a fist. "And why the hell not?"

"We can't trust her-"

"She's a damn good zombie killer and we need her-"

"She's still part of the Melee Fight Club right now-"

"And who's fault is that? If we take in her and Kougami-"

"Kougami is dead!"

Yuuri realizes that she's screaming and massages the space between her eyebrows, letting out a low sigh.

"Kougami is dead," she continues, albeit quieter. "And if he's not dead now, then he will be soon. It's too risky. Besides, Saint Isidore still needs a zombie killer."

Kurumi shoots her a withering glare, turning on her heel and striding out of the room.

"I'm going to mail that letter, Yuuri," she shouts over her shoulder. "No matter what you say."


"Kurumi-san!"

The violet-haired girl spins, only to bump into a running Haruka. They fall to the floor in a tangle of limbs, Haruka on top of Kurumi.

"S-Sorry!" Haruka exclaims, crawling off Kurumi and offering her a hand. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," Kurumi growls. 

"What's wrong?"

Haruka stares at her, owlish teal eyes blinking slowly. "I hope everything is okay, Kurumi-san."

Giant. Pure. Marshmallow.

"I'm fine," Kurumi repeats. "You didn't do anything wrong."

"Ah..." Haruka stares at her dumbly, before noticing something. "Oh no! You're bleeding!"

Kurumi looks down and notices that there is, in fact, a large scratch on her right arm. How did she miss that?

"Let me clean that up," Haruka insists, pulling a dish towel out of her schoolbag and wrapping it around Kurumi's arm. Pulling out a roll of gauze, she wraps it around the scratch twice, fastening it in the end with medical tape.

"How did you know how to do that?" Kurumi inquires.

"I want to be a doctor when this is all over!" Haruka exclaims, eyes bright with excitement. "I love to help people!"

She nervously twists a strand of caramel hair around her fingertip as she stares into the ground. "I-I'm sorry, I shouldn't have assumed you wanted your wound wrapped-"

"That's amazing, Haruka-san!" Kurumi exclaims. "You're awesome at this!"

Haruka's cheeks flush a pale pink, and she offers Kurumi a bright smile. "You think so?"

"I know so," Kurumi assures her. "I can't wait to see you open your own doctor's office!"

"Thank you!" Haruka exclaims.

Somewhere in the depths of Kurumi's heart, she feels as if she's made a new friend.

 

Chapter Text

Miki is fully aware that Kei is angry at her.

Granted, she has every right to be. It's not often you find out your soulmate is kissing another girl.

...that sounds much worse out loud.

In any case, Miki doesn't like to think it's her fault.

(Even though it totally is)

It's just hard to look at Kei now... just so hard not to think back to that day.

The only hard thing to remember is that it's not the same Kei. This isn't the same Kei that left her behind to live out the rest of a lonely existence alone.

Small wonder she wants an apology, then.

It's just sad that she has to take it out on this Kei. This Kei is not the same Kei. They just act almost the same, and look exactly the same.

This Kei doesn't know about her, though. This Kei doesn't know about their matching tattoos, or about the fraying strands of thread holding Miki together.

Because one of these days, she's just going to snap.

Throw herself to the zombies, break her neck, drink bleach, anything to make the nightmares stop.

Because she's so tired... so very tired...

This sick, karmic justice is even worse this time, because she doesn't want to have to see them die again. She doesn't want to be alone again.

And now that Yuki has Megu-nee back, she's not even there to chase this darkness away.


Miki likes to hide out in a darkened classroom on the third floor.

It's the classroom where she and Kei first met. It's the classroom where Kei introduced herself, offered a hand, and asked her to be friends.

Maybe she just wants to stay as close as possible to those halycon days. Those innocent times where nothing was wrong. The days when her greatest problems were whether or not a book would be sold out before she could buy it.

How strange that naïveté seems now. 

The classroom itself is a decrepit room. Desks are arranged in such a way as to create a maze, with Miki in the center of it all. She's managed to bring in a lamp for reading, but that's the only light in the otherwise-dark room. 

At least the windows are still intact. That, at least, gives the room some semblance of warmth.

She's partway through the fifth reading of The Stand, (painfully apt, given the situation) when she hazards a glance out the window.

Raindrops pitter-patter at the glass, sliding down the clear material and distorting the view outside. 

To tell the truth, Miki will gladly welcome all the distortion she can have.

"It's a nice view, isn't it?"

Kei's voice floats through the air, and Miki wheels to see her soulmate sitting on a desk, offering her a sad smile.

"You know, this desk is mine."

She moves just slightly, pointing at a scribble on the top of the desk.

"Property of Kei Shidou- don't steal," Miki reads. 

"I mean, you don't think you have to write 'don't steal', but in this day and age, you never quite know."

The faint light emanating from the lamp throws most of the room in shadow, but it illuminates Kei's face, showing sharper angles all around.

This experience isn't just changing them mentally - some of their bodies can even show the strain.

"Yeah..." Miki trails off, resting her forehead on the cool glass.

It's been a long time since she's been able to do this. Practically eons, in fact.

"Miki?"

She turns, meeting Kei's worried eyes with her own.

"Are you okay?"

It's a damn good question, really. Is Miki okay? 

Probably not, but who knows for sure?

Miki sinks her teeth into her lower lip, purposely avoiding Kei's eyes. 

She's pretty sure that if she looks at her soulmate, she's going to spill the entirety of all these events. How she knows what's happening. The truth about all this. The zombie serum. Saint Isidore and the rest of the world.

Based on the last timeline, that's the last thing Kei needs right now.

She's not aware that she's crying until Kei moves closer, wiping a bead of crystalline water off her cheek.

"...you're crying?"

The other girl looks noticeably disturbed, the worry in her eyes amplifying to even greater heights. "Miki, please tell me what's wrong."

"...I can't, Kei..."

Kei frowns, tears of her own threatening to spill over. "Miki, please! I don't like seeing you hurt this way! I want to help, but I can't help if you don't tell me what's wrong!"

Tears now eclipsing her vision, Miki manages a slow shake of her head.

"Miki..."

Kei leans forwards, and in a slow, almost hesitant motion, presses her lips to Miki's.

Time seems to stop for just a moment as Miki's brain short-circuts. 

How did... does Kei know?

"Miki," Kei whispers, pulling away just slightly. "Miki, I do love you. I thought you knew, and that's why you were acting so weird. But after I saw you with Yuki, I wasn't sure. I guess I just wanted to see if you felt the same...?"

The hope in Kei's eyes is almost blinding. 

"Kei..."

She doesn't even know the half of it. She has no idea just how broken Miki is, hanging together with fragile threads. 

But... Miki wants her to know. She wants to be able to open up, to not have to hide the truth from everyone.

"I love you too."


Mailing a letter is a pain in the zombie apocalypse. 

Of course, there's the obvious thing about there being no post offices, but that's not the real issue.

No, the real problem is properly training a courier pigeon.

There are two possibilities. Either: a. you train a courier pigeon, feed it, water it, and let it deliver letters in the off chance that you need one delivered, or b. steal someone else's courier pigeon.

Kurumi has decided to steal a courier pigeon.

"Oh, Kurumi-san."

Souta stares at her as she opens the rooftop door, azure eyes scanning her for signs of injury. "Are you alright?"

"Yeah..."

She clutches tightly to the letter in her hand, teeth digging into the flesh of her bottom lip.

"You were trying to find a courier bird, right?"

Souta leans against the railing, smiling, albeit a bit wistfully. "I was too."

"What were you going to mail?"

"A letter. Don't really think the birds can carry much more."

Well, touche.

"Who to?" Kurumi asks, tying a ribbon around the crisp white paper. 

"My older sister."

Souta stares out into the distance, a far-away expression on his face. "She was working in Tokyo when this all started, so she's probably... gone, but I still want to hope she's safe."

The guilt smashes into Kurumi like a wave. Who is she to play god? Haruka and Souta have families too, families that she didn't even think about. Maybe it was better that they were dead. At the very least, she should have given them that choice. Whether to die or to live.

"Kurumi!"

Souta rushes to her side as she collapses against the railing, tears overwhelming her vision. You selfish, selfish person

And it's true. She only thought about her own happiness. Hell, if they tried, they probably could have saved the entire school.

"Kurumi, look at me."

Rubbing away tears with her arm, she looks to see Souta staring at her, a smile dancing across his face.

"You saved my life, and I never got to thank you for that. Haruka and I were going to give this to you later, but I guess now is as good a time as any."

He presses an object into her hands, giving her his best reassuring smile. "Thank you, Kurumi."

She looks down at the shape. It's not exactly huge, but not quite small either, and crudely wrapped with tissues and tape. 

A present... a bona fide present... it seems like eons ago that she last saw one.

"You can open it, you know," Souta smiles. "It doesn't bite."

The joke is in poor taste and they both know it. 

"...well, it doesn't."

Kurumi tears open the wrapping tissue, excited to see what it contains.

"...how did you...?"

It's a DS. 

One of those old gaming systems that haven't been around for... hell, for years, and yet Souta still managed to find one.

"I donated the DS, and Haruka tracked down the games," Souta explains. "It wasn't easy... I think she had to steal like half of them."

And games there are. Legends of Zelda, Pokemon, Animal Crossing, Chronotrigger, and even more games. An entire bagful of small DS cartridges is what Souta next ladles into her hands, and she cradles it as if it's mana from heaven.

"I hoped you would like it," Souta smiles.

She loves it. Liking it would be a gross and unfortunate understatement.

Something wet lands on her head, and she looks up at the sky. Dark clouds appear to be rolling in, and Souta lets out a sigh.

"I was really hoping to mail this... oh!"

A pigeon flaps its wings on the railing, tilting its head and regarding them with a small 'coo'. 

That's awfully convenient timing.

"You should mail yours first," Souta smiles, teasing the envelope out of her hand. Deft fingers secure the letter to the bird, before he turns back to her with an inquisitive look.

"Where to?"

"Saint Isidore," Kurumi mumbles, hurriedly stowing the DS in the plastic bag.

"Okay, Arnault!" Souta exclaims, finishing the bow with a flourish. "To Saint Isidore!"

The bird takes off just as the rain falls harder, and soon Souta and Kurumi are drenched. The latter refuses to leave until Arnault is no longer in sight, while the former wants to make sure she finds shelter.

"Hey..." Kurumi trails off, wet hair plastered to her head. "Why did you name him Arnault?"

"I don't know," Souta offers, a droplet of water sliding down his face. "It just felt right."

"Hm-"

Without warning, Souta pulls her into a hug, pressing her face into his chest. It's a spot of warmth amidst the cold day, and he cups her head, keeping it dry from the storm.

"You're not alone in this, Kurumi," he whispers. "You have friends here."

"W-We're friends?" Kurumi asks, a tear sliding down her face.

"I hope so," Souta smiles, wiping the tear off her cheek. "I want to be friends."

"...yeah... I'd like that... very much..."

He holds her, just for another moment, and they're content to stay under the weeping sky as long as they can because they're friends, dammit.

Friends.

Chapter Text

"Where are you going."

Aki turns, brushing hair behind her ear to glare at the other teen.

"We're leaving, Tougo."

"I want to go see Kurumi~" Touko smiles. "So we're going to see Kurumi."

The other teen - Tougo - tightens his grip on the spiked baseball bat, before relaxing.

"Good luck out there," he mutters, pulling on a motorbike helmet. "Don't come back."

"That's mean," Touko complains. "You shouldn't be so harsh to people that are part of your own crew~"

"Yeah..." Hikako trails off.

Another girl - goth lolita - stands behind Tougo, a parisol clutched in her hands.

"Please don't leave," she begs, violet eyes watering with tears. "You'll die..."

"You can still come with us, Sumiko..." Hikako whispers, to which Sumiko replies with a small shake of the head. 

"I have to stay here... but please be careful..."

"Are you going to leave or not."

Tougo glares harshly at them, scrutinizing them as if they're bugs under his control. 

Which, granted, they sort of are.

"Ah, we should get going, then~" Touko smiles. "Bye~! Good luck!"

"Please, Sumiko..." Hikako whispers.

"Come on, Hikako," Aki commands, sliding into the front seat of the car. "Sumiko isn't coming."

"Hikako, it'll be okay," Rise smiles, pink hair falling into her emerald eyes. "I have books, and I'm sure Miki and the others have books too."

"B-Books can't solve all my problems..." Hikako sniffs. 

"Of course they can," Rise replies, backpack stuffed with books resting on her thighs. "Come on. Sumiko knows where we're going, so she can come find us, right?"

"Y-Yeah..." Hikako frowns, trepidatiously pulling open the door. "Okay, Sumiko. We're going to Megurigaoka, so please come find us!"

She bows, handing Sumiko a letter, before sliding into the car and pulling the door shut.

"And you're sure they invited us?" Aki clarifies.

"Yep~" Touko smiles, opening a folded piece of paper. "Kurumi sent it, so I know we're going to be fine."

Aki guns the engine, and soon they're flying through the streets of the town, running over zombies as they do.

"Kurumi... we're coming," Touko smiles.


"You invited them, but how are they going to get in here?" Miki deadpans.

The four original members of the School Living Club (now formed anew, with eight members and two faculty advisors) sit around their old table, sipping contemplatively on mugs. 

And Miki has just brought up the crux of Kurumi's problem.

"Rope!" Kurumi exclaims, as if it's the solution to all the world's problems.

"...rope."

Yuuri glares at her cooly, regarding her with a level of irritation. "You're going to haul four girls up two stories with a rope?"

"Come on, it's not a bad idea!"

"Yes, it is." 

Yuuri folds her arms over her chest, letting out a small huff. "Four people. Zombies. How are you going to get them up the rope without letting them get bitten?"

"..."

It's pretty obvious that she didn't think that far ahead.

"Hey, I think I see something."

Yuki stands by the window, peering out through the glass. "It looks like a car!"

"It looks like a zombie," Miki adds, moving next to Yuki.

"No..."

Yuuri's face is stone-cold as she strides towards the window, eyes narrowed in concern. "It's the Fallen Crew."


A tense ten minutes later, the School Living Club is ready to put Operation Rope and Switch into effect.

The plan is simple. Miki lures the zombies away a la Kougami, and Kurumi and Kei help them climb up to the second floor.

Truly infallible.

Unless, of course, someone falls off, gets pulled down, or otherwise affected by zombies.

"Hey, Kei."

Miki places a hand on Kei's shoulder, smiling just barely.

"There's something I gotta tell you, okay?"

Kei can just barely detect excitement under Miki's cool facade, and nods in response.

"But later," Kei insists. "After this."

"Okay, but first-"

Miki pulls Kei in for a kiss, a quick one, but on the lips nonetheless.

"Just in case this goes south," Miki whispers, smiling without a care in the world. 

Miki runs off, probably to ready the CD player, leaving Kei to press a hand to her lips and flush a deep pink.

"Miki..." Kei trails off, the events of yesterday still whirring in her mind. "What...?"

Her hand tightens around the handgun, sitting in its holster around her waist.

Hopefully she won't have to use it.

But if she does...

Could she?


The Fallen Crew drives into Megurigaoka High with some trepidation. It looks abandoned. It really does.

"Kurumi!" Touko calls. "Kurumi, where are you?"

"Touko!" 

Kurumi's voice floats down from the second story, rope dangling weakly in the wind.

"Oh, Kurumi!"

"Can you all climb a rope?"

Shit.

"I can, and Aki can, but I don't know about Hikako and Rise," Touko calls back, grimacing at the sight of zombies clawing at the windows. They are going to smudge the glass, goddamn it.

"What's the plan?" Aki shouts. 

"You guys climb the rope while Miki distracts them," Kurumi replies, throwing the rope down the window. "She's got the CD player."

"Kougami?"

"Kougami," Kurumi affirms. "Let us know when to start."

Touko hikes her backpack on her shoulder, and Rise hurriedly stuffs the last book into hers. 

"Can you take our stuff first?" Aki asks. "That way we can climb without it."

"Got it," Kurumi replies. "Miki, now!"

The sounds of pop music fill the air, and it distracts the zombies enough to have them shuffling over. It's grotesque, the way they move, but also slow enough to escape.

Aki is the first one out. Throwing open the door, she pushes it back with a small click, climbing onto the roof of the car. 

The next part is hard. Taking hold of her backpack, she throws it in through the window. It hits the wall and is about to fall, but an unfamiliar girl with brown hair grasps it, yanking it back through the gap.

"Coming up!" Aki grunts, jumping off the car roof. 

Touko watches with baited breath as Aki grasps hold of the rope, slides just a bit, but manages to grab on. What follows is a series of small squirms until she has a hold on the windowsill, and Kurumi plus the other girl haul her in. 

"Send up Rise next!" Aki shouts.

Well, more so shout-whispers, so as to avoid attention.

Touko climbs out of the car, taking Rise's bag. Throwing it as hard as she can (it's not very hard, the thing must weigh at least twenty pounds) she still only manages to make it halfway up the wall before Aki grabs it. 

"Okay, Rise," Touko smiles, placing her hands around the pink-haired girl's waist. "Take a jump, and Aki will catch you."

"Okay," Rise replies.

And it's that sense of trust in her voice that almost causes Touko to tear up. The amount that Rise and the others trust her is something she would never trade.

After a tense few minutes, Rise is safe inside the school, and it's Hikako's turn.

Her bag is thankfully much lighter, so Touko can actually throw it into the window. The only problem is actually pulling her up the rope.

"Hmm..." 

Touko stares at the rope, scrutinizing it. 

What if...

What if she were to carry Hikako?

"Take my bag," she grunts, throwing it through the window. Thankfully, it actually goes through. "Hikako, climb on my back."

And this is just ridiculous. Touko can carry people, but not on a rope

Still, it's their best shot.


Kei watches as Touko takes a running start off the roof of the car, leaping through the air until she grabs hold of the rope. It's evident that it's a strain for her, as she's making almost no progress.

It would be at just that moment that the CD player would cut out.

Miki and Kei lock eyes, and Miki's sapphire orbs are filled with pure, unadulterated terror for just a split second before one of the creatures grabs hold of the rope.

Her soulmate falls to the ground with a thud, encircled by a hoarde of zombies.

"Miki!" Kurumi screams, but all Kei can think is no no no no no.

It's not fair.

It's not fair it's not fair it's not fair.

"Shoot me!"

Miki's voice breaks through the haze as the zombies close in, tears streaming down her face and eyes wide with pleading. Kurumi's shouting something about saving her, but what Kei and Miki both know is that there's no coming back now.

"Shoot me!" Miki wails. "Please, Kei! Please!"

Hands shaking, Kei loads a bullet into the barrel and turns off the safety.

They found it in the school basement, so it must work. It has to work.

Miki needs her.

Can she do it, though?

It's come down to it. Can she shoot Miki? Can she shoot the person she loves?

"Please!"

And Miki is begging her, but she can't. Everything is just a dull roar. Nothing matters but Miki.

Miki... please no...

"Kei!"

She and Miki lock eyes (one more time, the last time) and Miki gives her a small smile.

"I love you."

Oddly enough, that's what gives Kei the power to do it.

She levels the gun at Miki's head and pulls the trigger, tears streaming freely down her face.

Miki...

I'm so sorry.

I love you.

Chapter Text

They bury Miki the next day.

Kei is the one to wrap her in a sheet after all the zombies are gone.

Kei is the one to handle the last bits of Miki's face, the one to put in a marble in place of the decimated eye.

She should be a mortician.

They don't cremate her - Kei's wishes. Miki would probably want to remain whole.

Besides, she was never all too big on the whole 'fire' idea.

The eulogy is its own form of torture. How is one supposed to put a lifetime of love into just a few short minutes? How can she properly describe Miki, the girl she loves ever since she met her?

It's just so damn hard.

Megumi Sakura gives a short speech - one that has Yuki, Kurumi, and Yuuri tearing up. 

All whilst Kei looks on, stone-faced.

How dare they pretend to know her? It's barely been what, a month since this all happened? Nobody knows who anyone is in a month. Nobody finds out how to untangle those strings surrounding Miki's mind and heart - those strings Kei still couldn't untie. 

She shot through them instead.

She shot through Miki's eye

That's not what she wanted to do. She just wanted to hit one of the zombies. Just wanted to save her.

Not destroy those precious sapphire eyes so thoroughly that only one was still remotely intact.

All too soon, she's up, standing before the cross that marks Miki's grave.

It shouldn't be a cross. Miki didn't believe in that. Miki believed in choosing her own fate.

She stands before the cross, paper clutched in her trembling hands. The sky is clear, a bright blue without a drop of rain for miles.

She hates it.

Miki's body is covered with a white sheet, red splotches discoloring the fabric a sadistic crimson. 

It could be called considerate.

But Kei would still love Miki, no matter what she looks like. No matter if her face is just a lump of flesh, blood seeping into the dirt in place of water.

She loves her.

And she would love her no matter what the tattoo on her stomach said. She would love her if this never happened, and she would love her if they were both dead. She would love Miki to the edge of the world and back if she could just have one more second, just one more to tell Miki so.

She doesn't realize she's crying until a tear lands on the paper, discoloring it a dark, deathly gray. 

(Gray like the pallor of Miki)


Yuuri hates this.

It's not just because of Miki's death, which still hasn't fully sunk in. Almost as if Miki is going to sit up, blink tiredly, and ask for curry.

No, this hurts because it's the first funeral on this rooftop.

They never had the chance to bury Megu-nee. Never had the chance to deliver heartfelt eulogies. Never had the chance to let go.

Is it sick to care about Megu-nee more than Miki?

Probably.

After all, Miki's death wasn't her fault. It was Kei's. 

But Megu-nee... no, that was all her.

She wouldn't let Yuki pull her back into the announcing room. She couldn't come up with a better way to construct the barricades. She couldn't stop it.

When they find her later, crying in the bathroom, Kurumi knows who it's really about.


Mii-kun isn't dead.

That's Yuki's first thought once they arrive on the rooftop.

That can't be Miki in that earthen bed. Miki can't be dead.

(In for one soul, out for another)

But it's the utter destruction on Kei's face that hammers it in. That look of having the world yanked out from under you. That look of losing everything in just an instant. 

She knows that look.

Yuki isn't a narcissist. She just has to spend a lot of time around mirrors. 

She's seen that look on her face before. She's seen that look on her face even when she didn't know why it was there. And again, on that day.

Who is she to blame Kei? She's done the same thing.

Pressed the barrel of that gun to Miki's forehead and pulled the trigger.

And for the same reason, too. That stings. 

She knows that Yuuri blames Kei, and that's okay.

Because that means Yuki is free to blame herself.

Shoveling heaping pile upon heaping pile of blame on her shoulders seems only fitting. She's why they had to do this again. 

Takae, Akiko and Megu-nee don't understand. Yuuri can't understand either. She can try, blaming herself for Ruu until the world ends... a third time, but she won't know this feeling.

Kei is the only one who can know this feeling. The only one who can know the pain of having to live with yourself after you send your love's brains spilling out on the floor.

She didn't shoot Miki in the eye, though she should have. Her job was much less precise. A shot to the chest, one to the gut, and finally to the forehead.

She didn't look quite like she was sleeping.

Miki never looked like she was sleeping. Not even when she was asleep.

When Yuki goes down, she wants it to be in a feat of blazing glory. Not a slow, dragged-out event full of pain.

Not like Kurumi did.

Hazarding a glance at Yuuri, she realizes exactly what the other girl is mad about.

She's mad at Yuki.

This is the funeral they never had for Megu-nee.

And suddenly, all of her walls come crashing down.


Megumi Sakura isn't sure what to think.

She should have done something to save Miki. She was her student. If not yet, then someday. 

But still.

She is one of the School Living Club's faculty heads. She should have done something.

Her eulogy is full of paltry platitudes, empty words about someone she barely knew. Empty words devoid of feeling. 

Kei should have been giving this eulogy. Yuki, or Yuuri, or Kurumi. Someone who can stop blaming themselves to care.

Doesn't she care?

She wants to. She really does.

But does she?

The paradox makes her head hurt, so she just stands in front of them, giving meaningless words for someone who deserved better.


Miki is scared.

She puts pen to paper, writing out her last words.

She's not a fool. She knows that everyone dies sometime. Why she feels as though it's going to be today is anyone's guess.

Her last words aren't enough. She covers two sheets of paper, and there's still so much left unsaid. 

Words can't substitute for her presence, and Miki knows it.

Still, she tries to pack all the emotions of a shortened lifetime into just a few words. They aren't enough, but nothing will ever be.

She writes to Yuki, telling her that she forgives her. It's never been Yuki's fault. None of it. She closes with a signature of 'your love, Miki Naoki' before scribbling out 'your love' and writing 'your best friend'. 

She writes to Kurumi, begging her to stay strong. It's hard, and she hates to put all the pressure on her, especially considering everything they've seen, but she needs someone she can trust. Yuuri will too. 

She writes to Yuuri, despite knowing that Yuuri probably no longer trusts her. All bond has since entropied. Still, she writes to Yuuri anyways.

She writes to Megu-nee, apologizing. She didn't have a chance to know her very well, but she writes all the same. She writes down the stories the others told her, closing with a sad farewell.

She writes to Kei.

...

Her letter to Kei won't be enough to say everything. There's so much that can only be conveyed by the tilt of a head, the reassuring smile of a friend, the warmth of a hand. 

She writes anyways. 

She writes an apology, a love confession, sentence after sentence of their friendship. Writes over and over so that the letter won't have to end and she won't have to say goodbye.

But once she reaches the bottom, she realizes that she can't keep going.

"I love you, Kei. I'm sorry.

Your love, Miki Naoki.

Goodbye."

Chapter Text

Kei traces the gun with her fingertips, pads finding every crevice and rise in its smooth metal. 

It's not large. Not at all. 

How is it possible that such a small weapon carries so much power? That something this small extinguished such a bright light as Miki?

Miki was too bright for this world.

Opening the window, she loads a clip of bullets into the butt of the gun. It seems like just yesterday that she and Miki were in this room... that Miki was in this room.

It feels too empty now.

Taking aim at a zombie, she squeezes the trigger with all the vehemence of someone with nothing to lose.

It's time for target practice.


"You have a DS?"

Touko stares at the portable console with something close to worship, and Kurumi doesn't doubt for a second that she would if given the chance. 

Unfortunately, cults are strictly forbidden by school rules.

No, it really says that in the list of rules. It begs the question as to why that rule is needed in the first place, but that's not really important.

"Yep!" Kurumi exclaims. "Are you jealous?"

Touko scoffs for a moment, as if rejecting the very notion. "Me! Jealous! Of course!"

That's... not what she expected.

"Who found this?" Touko demands. "I need to find them!"

"No," Aki frowns, slapping Touko on the back of the head. "We're setting up a second bedroom today. And you are helping."

"But Aki..." Touko whines, clinging onto the hem of Aki's shirt. "Please?"

"No," Aki frowns, tugging her shirt out of Touko's grasp. "Helping. Now."

"..."

Hikako hovers around the doorway, nerves evident on her face. 

"Oh, Hika," Aki frowns, turning to the smaller girl. "What's up?"

"...Rise managed to find a bookshelf, so now she wants to move the library to this room..." Hikako whispers. "...I told her it was behind the barricade, but she told me that we'd just have to move the barricade..."

"Barricade?"

Yuki leans into the room, eyes sparkling. "I want nummy sticks! We should go on a test of courage!"

"Now Yuki, we can't just go on a test of courage," Yuuri scolds, following close behind. "Besides, you haven't finished your studies for the day."

"Studies?"

Aki's curiosity seems piqued, and she leans in closer to confirm. "You guys still learn things?"

"Yep!" Yuki smiles. "It's part of the club charter!"

"...do you guys have an English class?..." Hikako whispers.

"Yep!" Yuki smiles. "I go there with... Mii-kun..."

For just an instant, the light in her eyes seems to dim, replaced by something resembling despair. Or is it... guilt?

"I'm the teacher," Akiko adds, walking in at just the right time to save the conversation. "I admit, I've never taught college students before, but I would be happy to try."

"Are you fluent?" Aki frowns. "Hikako is really good at English!"

"I am nearly fluent," Akiko replies, switching to English. "I would be happy to teach you, if you wish to explore the language further."

"Ah, of course! Is it upstares?"

"...upstairs?"

"...isn't that what I said?"

"Homophones are difficult," Akiko laughs, returning to Japanese. "Don't worry, I'd be happy to help."

"Thank you," Hikako flushes a deep pink, staring at the floor. "I'm sorry..."

"For what?" Akiko asks, offering her a smile. "I love teaching students, especially someone as enthusiastic about English as you seem to be."

"Oh, Touko!" 

Kurumi leans in the door, violet pigtails falling over her shoulders. "Can I talk to you?"


"So, I need your help."

Kurumi plants her hands on her hips, gesturing to the barricade. It's much better constructed than the last time (made with Miki's love) although a few decaying hands reach through gaps, groping at air in search of food.

"What's up?" Touko asks, casting a worried glance at the barricade. "Is that going to hold?"

"Yep," Kurumi assures her. "I want to push the barricade through the second floor. Does that make sense?"

"...you want to retake the entire second floor?"

Touko frowns, bending down to the ground. Pulling a crumpled piece of paper and pen out of her pocket, she proceeds to sketch a rough drawing of the second floor. It's not proportionately correct, but neither of them really cares.

"Okay, so we're assuming the barricades are here," she draws an X over the stairwell, "and here," she adds, drawing an X on the far side of the art room. "This stairwell doesn't go to the first floor, right?" 

She indicates the stairwell on the far right side, and Kurumi nods her assent.

"So what we need to do is just move the barricade, right?"

Kurumi stares at her owlishly, as if the very notion is alien to her.

"...move the... barricade?"

"Yeah-"

"Why didn't I think of that!" 

Kurumi slams her fist into the mortar wall repeatedly, letting out a primal scream with each swing. 

"Kurumi, you goddamn idiot! Why the hell can't you do anything right? Why can't you fucking do anything right!"

As Touko stares, she comes to the realization that this has almost nothing to do with the barricade and everything to do with Miki.

"Kurumi."

Touko places a calming hand on Kurumi's shoulder, but the other girl jerks back as if it was made of fire. 

The amount of fear in Kurumi's eyes is almost contagious. It's almost as if she expects Touko to attack her, lunging with rotting flesh hanging off her jaw.

"Kurumi?" Touko ventures, backing away just slightly. "Kurumi, breathe."

The violet-haired girl sucks in a breath, letting it out in a slow exhale. Repeating this process a few more times, the haze in her eyes seems to clear, replaced with the sobering reality of this world.

"I'm sorry," Kurumi mutters, hair eclipsing her eyes. "I'm so sorry..."

A single tear rolls down her cheek and hits the floor, leaving the faintest dark imprint on the tile. 


Ruu is digging on the rooftop garden when Takae approaches her.

She's thoroughly engrossed in the potatoes, planting new spuds and pulling out the old, when a pair of hands cover hers. 

"You gotta stab the fork into the soil around it first," Takae assures her, grey eyes glinting with mirth. She's long since abandoned the school uniform, citing 'utterly hideous' as her excuse. Now, a baggy black sweater hanging to her feet and off her wrists sits atop a magenta tank top and cutoff shorts. 

Somehow she still manages to be fashionable, even amidst the apocalypse.

"...how do you know...?" Ruu whispers, eyes wide with curiosity.

"Yuuri taught me," Takae admits with a laugh. "I wanted to draw, but I figured I should work. And now, armed with the knowledge of how to plant potatoes, I shall defeat the zombies!"

She raises her gardening fork in triumph, a smirk crossing her face.

Ruu stares at her, new respect gleaming in her eyes.

"...Takae-senpai, can you teach me to draw?"

Takae appears genuinely taken aback, eyes widening before brightening with excitement. 

"Of course!" Takae exclaims. "I could even show you my studio!" Her voice drops just slightly as she whispers, "but it's a secret, so you can't tell anybody, okay?"

Ruu rapidly nods assent, and Takae's smile grows.

"Okay! Come on, then!"

Ruu hurriedly follows Takae down the stairs, potatoes forever forgotten.

From afar, Yuuri watches the scene, a serene smile playing on her face.

"I'm so glad Ruu found a friend," she whispers, hands clutching a brown teddy bear. "I'm so happy for her..."

Unconsciously, a tear slides down her cheek, darkening the earth where it lands.

Chapter Text

Megumi Sakura keeps a journal.

It's not professional-tier writing, but it will suffice. It's not meant to be a story of fiction in any case.

She started it after Miki died. A way to record her without letting her fade. 

Takae drew a drawing, a charcoal recreation of Miki Naoki to live in the pages for eternity. Someone will find her, and they will know that Miki Naoki was alive.

Adding everyone else was just child's play.

Now, it's a day-by-day log of interaction, actions, school life and people.

She's surprised when Yuki asks to see it, and even more so when she asks to write an entry. 

She can't exactly say no, so Yuki takes it for a short while and returns, a strangely melancholy expression on her face.


"This is the end of the world.

It sounds sad, but it is.

I tend to look on the happy side of things, looking at the positives, and I'm certainly not going to change now. We're all safe, and together.

...most of us are, anyways...

The school is quiet, you know that? It's not quiet quiet, not quiet as in nobody talks. It's never quiet that way.

It's just... whenever someone says a wrong word, or mentions a person who isn't here anymore, it's just like this... faint outer shell cracking, revealing the cesspool that is our world. 

Wow~! That was deep! 

At least, you know, everything is still really good! The school is dirty and broken, but that's okay! We have plenty of manga and nummy sticks, so we're fine!

Touko and the other new arrivals are really nice, too! They're super fun, and they don't try to kill anybody! 

It could be way worse! At least we don't have to go to class!

Aki and Hikako go anyways, though. I think Akiko-sensei is teaching them English!

English is hard... Megu-nee tried to teach me, but I just forgot it all.

...hey, person reading this?

Are we all going to die?

Don't tell me. I don't want to know how the story ends. How lame would that be?

But I just can't stop thinking about it. How Miki died...

Is that what's going to happen to all of us?

I'm scared. I'm so scared that even though we started over, I won't be able to change a thing.

Even though we started over, I still couldn't save everyone. I still couldn't save Mii-kun, I still can't protect anyone...

I hate being so useless. I wish I could help like Kurumi or Yuuri, how they manage to do something despite being younger than me.

Mii-kun did that too, you know. She was so strong.

I know Megu-nee doesn't tell me anything, and I'm sort of okay with that. She loves me, and she just wants to protect me.

I love her, though. 

I love her so much. I don't want her to die. Please, book, keep her safe. 

Is it sad to pray to a book? I don't care. Please, with any of the magic in your pages, book, keep Megu-nee safe.

I couldn't handle it if she died. Please. 

Save my soulmate.

Save Megumi Sakura for me.

-Yuki Takeya, Megurigaoka Private Academy Class 3-B, School Living Club Member"


"Kurumi Ebisuzawa."

The violet-haired girl wheels, coming face to face with a dead-eyed Kei. 

It's truly unnerving, seeing chocolate eyes so devoid of emotion and feeling. Almost as if she's left all feeling behind.

"Oh, Kei-san," Kurumi laughs nervously, taking a cautious step back. "What's going on?"

"...why didn't you tell me?"

"Tell you what?" Kurumi laughs, a beat of sweat rolling down her temple.

In a matter of seconds, Kei races towards her, pinning her to the wall with a gun at her temple.

"Why the hell didn't you tell me?" Kei screams, a primal shout full of rage. "Why did you let me shoot her if you knew there was some way to save her? Why the hell would you let me do that?"

"Would you have believed me?" Kurumi shouts. "Hell, if somebody told me that, I'd laugh and call them a liar!"

The gun at her temple shakes dangerously, and it occurs to Kurumi that now might not be the best time to be brutally honest.

"You liar," Kei spits. "You didn't want to save her, did you?"

"I did, but-"

"There should be no but!" Kei screams. "What the hell is there to 'but' about? Miki died because of you! I shot Miki in the eye because of you!"

"What is going on here?"

Yuuri places her hand over Kei's, just barely keeping her from pulling the trigger. It's an obvious struggle, what with the fury twisting Kei's features and clouding her gaze.

"I'm going to shoot her," Kei states, utterly nonchalant.

Goddamn it, Kurumi knew it was a mistake to give her a gun.

"Why?" Yuuri asks, putting gentle pressure on Kei's arm to guide it away. 

"It's her fault Miki died," Kei hisses. "I wouldn't have done it if she told me there was a way to save her."

"I told her not to tell you," Yuuri sighs.

Kei freezes, just for a second.

"What."

"I'm sorry, Kei," Yuuri whispers. "I couldn't let you know-"

A gunshot rings out through the empty hall, shattering the eerie calm with a scream.

Yuuri hits the floor, blood seeping from a hole in her eye and the back of her head. Her mouth is open in an 'o' of shock, a tear mingling with blood as it carves a path down her cheek.

"You fucking psychopath!" Kurumi screams, swiping Kei's legs out from under her. She hits the ground, malice twisting her features.

"Why the fuck would you do that?" Kurumi shouts, bringing her foot down to kick Kei in the chest. She rolls out of the way, springing to her feet.

She manages to fire a shot, though it brushes past Kurumi's ear and embeds itself in the wall. 

"Why!" Kurumi wails, lunging at her with shovel raised. 

A quick shot to the calf causes her to crumple, tears mingling with blood.

"F...Fuck you..." Kurumi gasps.

Kei ignores her, instead walking over to the window. A single drop of rain hits it, and she vaguely registers that it's raining.

"I'm coming to join you, Miki," Kei whispers, raising the gun to her temple. "I've almost avenged you... there's only one thing left to do."

For the second time that day, a gunshot rings through the air, and blood splatters throughout the hall.

"K-Kei?" Yuki whispers, eyes wide with terror. She must have been there the whole time, watched as Kei... died. "Rii-san? W-What... why?"

She falls to her knees, shirt turning a dark crimson as Kei's blood seeps into it. 

It's a grotesque picture. Kei shot herself through the skull, and now pink pieces of brain matter spill through the hole. Her eyes are closed just slightly, serenity mingling with fear.

"N-No," Yuki whispers, trying to stand. She slips on Kei's hot, wet blood and falls to her knees, tears spilling freely down her cheeks. 

"No, no, no," Yuki repeats, a deadly mantra as she clutches her head. "Yuuri... Kei..."

And she screams, a primal shout full of terror and anger and despair.

For the second time, Yuki Takeya's time stops.

Chapter Text

"Aha, Rii-san! That's mean..."

Yuki carries on a conversation with thin air, practically beaming as she talks to empty space. 

Empty space isn't what she sees. In her mind, she's talking to Yuuri Wakasa. 

In another room, Ruu Wakasa curls into a small ball, tears streaming freely down her face.

She never made up with Yuuri.

Yuuri died thinking that Ruu hated her.

That stings. The only thing worse than not having someone know how you really feel is never being able to tell them so.

She lifts her face at the sound of a sliding door opening - Kurumi, leaning heavily on a makeshift crutch for support.

The look on her face says everything, and she dives into Kurumi's outstretched arms, tears flying in the air behind her.

She does hate Kurumi, truly and completely.

But sometimes it's enough just to have someone hurting in the same way you are.

They're content to stay like that for a second, just holding each other, as if compensating for Yuuri's absence.

Eventually, Kurumi moves her over to the wall so they can sit, and Ruu leans her head on Kurumi's shoulder.

"I'm sorry," Kurumi rasps, voice audibly scratchy from crying. "You have every right to hate me, and I know I should have died instead of her."

It's not Kurumi's fault, though. Sure, it is, in a sort of twisted way, but she wasn't the one who pulled the trigger.

"It's not your fault," Ruu whispers. 

"..."

"Kurumi? Do you think she hated me? When she died... did she hate me?"

"No," Kurumi states. "Yuuri loved you, Ruu. Don't forget that."


Megumi can't help but feel responsible.

Not only did she fail to protect Yuki, but two more of her students died because of her negligence.

How horrible can one teacher be...?

Kei... would she have done this if not for her failing Miki?

Yuuri... it wasn't her fault at all...

There's really nothing left to say, other than remorse.

"Ohaiyou," a voice calls, floating through the air and breaking her out of her reverie.

"Oh, Touko," Megumi smiles, spinning around in her chair. "What's going on?"

"I want your help on a new operation," Touko smiles. "I want to retake the second floor. So that way, Yuuri and Kei died for something."

It's not going to give their deaths meaning and they both know it.

Still, if it could somehow cheer everyone up, she's all for it.

"How are you going to do this?" Megumi asks.

After all, they burned the gun with Kei, so it's just a useless lump of metal now.

"I know how to use a bat," Touko muses. "Can you use a shovel?"


Kurumi stands on the roof, wind tugging at her hair as the bright sky illuminates their makeshift graveyard.

There's Miki's grave, and Yuuri's. They cremated Kei. Miki used to say that she always wanted to be free, and now she could.

"Yuuri, Miki, please help me," Kurumi whispers. "I have no idea what to do now. Ruu... I don't know what to do with her... fuck, every time I look at her, I see you, Yuuri. Miki, if you were still here, none of you would be dead."

A tear rolls down her cheek and lands on Yuuri's grave, darkening the earth where it lay.

"I'm so sorry... so so sorry..."

Kurumi swipes at tears flowing down her cheeks, only for more to replace them. 

"Fuck... why am I still here? Why... you should be alive, Yuuri. If I could just... if I could just change time, just spin time backwards again, I would save you. You and Miki. I want... I'm so sorry..."

She falls to her knees, wounded leg screaming in protest. 

"If I could... if I could trade my life for yours, I would. Yuuri... if I could die so you could live... please... take this useless life of mine... and give it to Yuuri. Please..."

She slams her fists into the pavement over and over, blood flying from torn flesh.

"Please! Please, just take my life! Yuuri! Yuuri! Please come back!"

She falls to her side, tears mingling with hot red blood as she sobs.

"Yuuri... please don't leave me... don't leave me alone..."

She waits, as if some deity might hear her prayers. As if they might grant her this wish. 

Nothing happens.

"Don't give up, Kurumi."

"Yuuri?!"

Kurumi wheels, searching for the source of the voice. It has to be Yuuri. She heard her voice! Where is she!

"You're so strong, Kurumi-senpai. I know you can defeat this."

And there's Miki. But... how?

"I'm sorry, Kurumi-sama. Please, live on for us."

Kei too...? How...?

Yuuri appears before her, clothed in ethereal white and glowing with a heavenly radiance. Beside her, Miki and Kei appear the same, though not nearly as bright.

"Kurumi, you have to let go," Yuuri warns.

She doesn't want to, though. 

"Letting go doesn't mean forgetting," Yuuri smiles, thumb reaching up to caress Kurumi's cheek. "It just means living for yourself instead of us."

She's lying.

If she lets go, then Yuuri is going to fly off into the stars, somewhere Kurumi can no longer reach her. 

That thought scares her far more than anything else ever has.

"Don't go, Yuuri..." Kurumi whispers, tears spilling over magenta eyes. "Please... don't leave me... I can't do this alone..."

"You are so strong, Kurumi," Yuuri whispers, thumb ghosting over her cheek. "So very strong... I know this won't defeat you."

Glowing particles float into the air, and Kurumi realizes with horror that Yuuri is disappearing.

"Take care of Ruu for me," Yuuri begs her as Kurumi throws her arms around her ghost, trying with all her might to tether the spirit to the ground.

"No! I won't! You're going to take care of Ruu! She's going to grow up and know her sister! She's going to grow up with you still there, and she'll know how lucky she is every day..."

"Tell Ruu I love her," Yuuri smiles, and Kurumi feels a phantom sensation of fingers carding through her hair. 

"N-No..." Kurumi sobs, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I c-can't leave you..."

"Kurumi... I love you..."

Yuuri smiles, just for a moment, and she's gone.

Kurumi falls to her knees, hands clenching into fists. 

The world is unfair. The world is cruel and unfair and wrong.

And yet... also so beautiful.

Yuuri taught her that.

Yuuri taught her how to find pictures in the stars, how to trace patterns in the clouds and appreciate the colors of a sunset. 

Yuuri gave the blue sky color and the night sky its shine. 

Everything seems so grey now, without Yuuri to make it bright. The color sapped from trees, once the bright emerald of Yuuri's eyes, now dead and grey (just like Yuuri, just like her love).

She loves her so much it hurts.

It's actually painful, the hollow Yuuri leaves in her heart aching with each breath. Every word, every time air whispers past her lips, it always whispers "Yuuri". 

Yuuri is everywhere in her being, the two souls intertwined into one. 

She can't move on.

...dwelling on the past isn't what Yuuri would want.

Yuuri wouldn't want her to lose herself. She has to be the person Yuuri loves. She has to keep being that Kurumi.

That way, when she meets Yuuri again, she'll be able to hold her head high. She'll be able to smile and hold out a hand, inviting Yuuri on another adventure.

She stares up into the clouds, a sliver of sunlight breaking through the thick cloud blanket.

Somehow, she knows Yuuri is watching over her.

And she always will be.

Chapter Text

Some people consider 'I love you' to be the hardest words to say.

Yuuri would definitely agree. She's never been big on physical contact, public displays of affection... all around love things. 

To her, 'I love you' is a paltry apology, a justification for cruelty. 

Kurumi, on the other hand, is very physical.

Whether it's an arm around her waist, a hand intertwined with hers, a surprise hug from behind, it still makes her just a bit uncomfortable.

Still, if it's Kurumi, it's not as bad. Her touches are gentle and soothing, a hand intertwined with her hair, a massage in the small of her back.

But there are still times that she has to remind herself that Kurumi is the one touching her. Times where she just can't do it, because if Kurumi touches her then those scars will bleed and Kurumi will recoil in disgust, staring at those white lines snaking their way across her forehead and around her arms. 

She's always been broken. The scars just make it physical.

"Yuuri..."

Kurumi stares at her, thumb gently caressing one of the white lines. "What happened here?"

"It's nothing," Yuuri smiles, trying to seem reassuring.

She's never been good at that.

"This isn't nothing," Kurumi frowns. "What happened here?"

"I... cut myself. On a tree."

"You're lying."

There she goes, cutting straight through Yuuri's bullshit. Then again, it was a pretty shitty excuse.

"What really happened?" Kurumi whispers, dropping her voice until it's just barely audible.

Hopefully, the rain outside will hide their conversation from Yuki, who's asleep in the room down the hall. 

Still... rain...

"It was raining that day too," Yuuri whispers. "It's always raining. Almost as if the sky is crying for us.

"That day, my mom was drinking more than usual. She'd been drinking for a while, but she never drank that much before. And after three bottles, she started acting recklessly.

"She threw a bottle at my head and I ducked, but the glass still fell all over the floor. I had to pick it up with my fingers, and that's where the scars on my hands come from."

Yuuri extends her hands, revealing a cobweb of white lines covering her palms. 

"After that, I didn't see her for a while. I thought she had maybe gone to sleep, but of course, she didn't. And when I heard Ruu screaming...

"She was about to hit Ruu with a bottle. I didn't even think. All I can remember is the feeling of the bottle breaking against my arms and head, Ruu's wails, and my mom's eyes.

"I didn't see the mom I knew in those eyes.

"She wasn't always like that. When our dad was around, she was so kind... she always made us breakfast, made Ruu little animal-shaped pancakes each morning... but after Dad died in that car accident, she was never the same.

"She turned to alcohol to numb the pain. Whenever she sobered up - less and less as time went on - she was always sorry for what she did. And I believe she was. My mom was never someone to hurt a person for no reason. 

"I should have known. I shouldn't have asked to go to cooking school, because my family definitely couldn't afford it. If I wanted Ruu to go to college, to have that chance I never would, I would have had to work.

"I love her, Kurumi. I really do. She's my mom, and I care about her deeply. She's not a bad person! She's just made some mistakes, that's all..."

She feels warm arms around her midsection as Kurumi presses her head into her shoulder. "You don't deserve that, Yuuri. Nobody does." 


"You never did tell me what Megu-nee is like."

Miki leans into Yuki's shoulder, staring out at the soft raindrops. Yuki always seems so melancholy during the rain, and she won't tell her why.

"What, Miki!" Yuki swats playfully at her arm, grimacing almost cheerfully. "You know she's just outside!"

Miki sighs, allowing a small smile to creep onto her face. "I know, Yuki-chan."

"It's mean to talk about someone who's listening," Yuki pouts, folding her arms across her chest. "What if she hears us?"

Miki bites back her instinctual retort - she doesn't hear anything anymore - and instead plants a brief kiss on Yuki's cheek. 

"Mm, you're right," Miki hums, pushing Yuki's head into her lap. "Then when can I talk about her?"

"Well, why don't you tell me about your friend who transferred?"

Yuki lets her head loll over the back of the desk, blinking at her slowly. "Ke-kun, right?"

She swallows back a wave of tears threatening to overwhelm her, instead staring out the window. "Kei... she's just gone for a while. You'll be able to meet her soon."

"Really?"

Yuki stares at her, stars in her eyes, as she clutches onto her arm. "Do you promise?"

Miki grits her teeth, forcing a smile. "Of course, senpai."

"And will she call me senpai too?" Yuki pleads.

"Of course," Miki laughs, gently ruffling Yuki's hair.

Sometimes delusion is nicer than reality, she decides. 

If Kei is in that delusion, it must be nice. 

"You miss her," Yuki states.

Miki smiles wistfully, carding her fingers through Yuki's hair. "Yeah... I do..."

She pauses, tracing a finger over the lines of ink on her stomach. "I miss her more than anything."

"I miss her too," Yuki whines.

"Wha- you never met her!"

Miki smacks the other girl playfully on the head as Yuki collapses into a heap, letting out a small puff of exhaustion.

"Mii-kun, that hurt..."

"Well, you deserved it," Miki huffs, staring pointedly out the window. 

"Mii-kun..."

Yuki rolls over, staring into Miki's eyes with her own. "You're warm..."

"What does that mean?" Miki asks, a small blush covering her cheeks.

"Like a kotatsu..." Yuki trails off, curling into a small ball as she wraps her arms around Miki's midsection. "So warm..."

Miki isn't entirely sure whether or not Yuki clinging onto her and calling her a kotatsu is good, but it's not as if it's horrible.

"Hey, Miki?"

Yuki rolls over, staring at her with deep deep pink eyes, a tear threatening to spill. "You won't leave me, will you?"

Miki gently places a finger on Yuki's platonic soulmark, the very same red string around her pinky that each of the School Living Club members has. 

"You see this?"

She raises Yuki's hand to her lips and places a kiss on her pinky, smiling softly.

"As long as this string is red, I'll never leave you."


Now.

Yuki leans against the classroom, memories of fleeting warmth threatening to escape. 

"As long as this string is red, I'll never leave you."

Who said that?

She raises the string on her pinky to meet her eyes - it's still as red as it ever was, she assures herself. It hasn't changed.

Her delusion comforts her again, wrapping her in the soft fabric of imagination. Cradling her fragile mind, keeping it away from the cold truth of reality. 

Concern assuaged, she picks herself up off the ground, skipping away to find a friend to play with. 

Across the building, Kurumi cries over a red string gone grey, bright red washed out as easily as their friends' lives.

As if the red in the string was their blood, now spilled all over the floor.

And still, that last memory, that memory of when they found it rings true in her head, steadfastly refusing to disappear.

"We must be true friends!" Yuki had exclaimed, pulling all three of them into a group hug.

Now, there would be only two. A straight line, two hearts no longer beating, and a red string gone charcoal-grey.

Chapter Text

It's been a long time since Yuki has felt in control.

Sure, there was that time at the start of everything, but even then she couldn't do much. Even then, she was pulled along the chain of fate. 

The chain of fate, dragging her friends, her family down into the depths of death. 

Ever since then, she's just been going through the motions. The motions she's made for herself, the motions created by her weak, useless brain. 

She's seen them die more times than she cares to remember. Seen them die in dream after dream, bloody death after bloody death.

But this is... this is too real.

She has no way of knowing if it's another dream, another twisted narrative spun up by her dark mind. 

But the blood on the floor smells so real, that coppery combination of dark and sweet that threatens to make her gag. A ways away, there's Kurumi, bleeding out on the floor. Shovel-kun drips with blood, a steady 'plick' forcing her to take everything in.

The gunshot through Yuuri's heart.

Plick.

The gunshot through Miki's forehead.

Plick.

The gunshot through Kei's chest.

Plick.

The gun falls out of her hand, mingling with tears that spill over the thin barrier she's constructed.

"It's just a dream..."

Plick.

"Just a dream... it's not real..."

Plick.

She looks down at her bloodstained hands and screams, a bloodcurdling scream full of terror and regret.

Megu-nee's empty pink eyes stare back at her.

Plick.


"Yuki!"

She's jostled awake by someone shaking her shoulders, and only then does she realize that she's crying.

"What were you dreaming of?" Megu-nee asks, bright eyes widened with worry. "You were screaming..."

She wants to remember (doesn't, really) but she can't. Her dream slips through her fingers like water, details and events running down the drain. 

"I don't remember," Yuki smiles, wrapping Megu-nee in a hug. "I'm glad you're here, Megu-nee."

The teacher laughs, placing a kiss on the top of her head. "I'm glad you're here too, Yuki. And it's Sakura-sensei, remember?"

Yuki laughs (slightly too relieved) and lifts her head to stare into Megu-nee's deep copper eyes. 

Megu-nee's empty pink eyes...

Where did that come from? Megu-nee has copper eyes, the color of pennies and sunsets. Not pink, the color of washed out blood dresses, her hair, and Kurumi's eyes. 

"Ah, Yuki!"

Megu-nee wipes a fresh tear off her cheek as Yuki buries herself into her dress, sobbing all over the purple fabric.

The worst part is that she doesn't even know why.

Plick.


Kurumi keeps a journal as well.

There's a list of names, a page of dreams, and a list of timelines.

There's the 'alpha' timeline, the one with Saint Isadore. And then there's the 'beta' timeline, the one with Taroumaru.

There's no timeline where they make it to the end.

She draws a circle around this timeline - timeline 'delta' and crosses out some names.

Yuuri. Miki. Taroumaru. Kei. 

A tear drips onto the page, and she hurriedly rubs it away. It smudges the ink that makes up Yuuri's name, as if to wipe her from existence.

I won't forget, Kurumi promises herself. I won't forget a single thing Yuuri did for me, a single thing she said. I won't forget her skill at water-gun fights, how she was able to calm Yuki down and how brave she was in Saint Isadore. I won't forget a thing.

"Rough day?"

She jumps, head whipping so fast she nearly gives herself whiplash. Akiko sits down next to her, a far-away look in her gaze.

"I may not have had you as a student, but you can still come to me," she offers, smiling a strange half-smile.

"How did you-"

"I know that look. I've seen it in Yuki before," she explains. "Like I said, I'm always open to talk."

"..."

It's been a long time since she's felt this sort of warmth. This sort of warm fuzziness without Yuuri-

She breaks down into a fresh round of tears, and Akiko wraps a comforting arm around her waist. 

"You're not alone, Kurumi," Akiko whispers, and Kurumi leans on her shoulder.

It's been so long since someone was protecting her. It's been far too long since someone was willing to care for her, so long since she wasn't just thrown to the wolves and expected to fend for herself. 

So she cries. She cries for Yuuri, for Miki and Kei, for Taroumaru and everyone else who died. She cries for the teacher who died twice, and who now strokes her hair like a mother would a child. She cries for herself, for her lost childhood and innocence, and for the world. 

She sobs herself hoarse until she falls asleep, and Akiko gently strokes her hair as she does. 

"It's okay," the teacher repeats, a comforting mantra as Kurumi dozes away. "It's okay now. You're safe here."


Kurumi places a red rose on Yuuri's breast, then folds her hands so it appears she's clutching it.

The bite mark on her arm is easily covered with makeup, the unnatural angle at which her neck bends is fixed to the best of Kurumi's ability.

She looks as though she's sleeping.

It would be best if she was sleeping.

She's not sleeping.

Kurumi presses her forehead to Yuuri's, feeling the cold pallor of her skin. A silent tear rolls down her cheek as she intertwines her fingers with Yuuri's hair, pulling her in for one last hug.

One last touch.

And then she's gone, disappearing to a place Kurumi can't reach her. A dark place where Kurumi can't follow, because she's not dead yet. 

She's not dead... yet.

That bite mark on her upper arm, the one from Megu-nee, that's going to finish her off.

She'd be doing herself a favor if she died now.

Ignoring Yuki's question and tug at her skirt, she walks towards the window.

Slowly, painfully, she slides her shoes off. It's the last meaningful action of her life, so she wants to give it purpose.

Yuki must know, based on the panic in her eyes. She lunges, just as Kurumi leans out the window.

Air. Falling. Yuki's scream, shattering the peace.

It's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop.

She stares at the ground for a moment, just the last instant before she dies.

Before she's gone.

Yuuri... I'm coming.


Yuki screams as she watches Kurumi fall.

She had her, she really did. A small brush on the skirt, Kurumi's deep magenta eyes staring at her with the dull emptiness of loss, and then she's gone.

Gone again.

Why does everyone leave her?

"Why... why did you all leave me?" Yuki sobs, falling to her knees. Strands of hair fall in her face as she slams her fist into the ground, over and over.

She'll fight the world.

She'll change the world, if it means she can have them back.

The Fallen Crew is off to parts unknown. They won't be with her. All of Saint Isadore is gone, her family is gone, her school is gone, her best friends are dead - hell, one of them just threw herself out a window, and now she's alone.

Everyone protected her, this fragile, weak body of hers, and for what?

Nothing.

Now she's alone, and they're all dead. They're all dead because of her weakness, her naivete, her inability to do a damn thing.

She's so alone now. So damn alone.

This must be how Miki felt. Alone in that mall, waiting for rescue even if rescue never came. How she felt, standing atop that piano.

How Megu-nee felt, dying outside that door. Dying alone in the basement, without her family there to hold her hand and smile as she passed away.

Everyone in this world ends up alone.

It's just her turn. 

She reaches into the first-aid kit, digging around for a moment before she finds what she's looking for.

Sleeping pills.

She unscrews the top, tipping the entirety of the bottle into her hand.

She's going to die.

And she's at peace with it, too. Her friends, family, everyone she cares about is dead. What is there left to live for?

Before she can second-guess herself, she tips the bottle down her throat and swallows.

"Dear God..." she thinks, as her heart slows to a stop.

"Let me please... have a happy dream."

Chapter Text

The sound of metal hitting metal rings through the cool morning air as Touko holds her morning training club. 

They're all careful to avoid the graveyard, but other than that, they have everywhere to work. Everywhere to plan, to hide, and to prepare.

Takae tightens her grip on the pipe in her hands, allowing herself to smirk dangerously. She can win, she knows. The weight of the pipe is all but second nature to her now, a comforting presence that will keep her alive. She doubts her opponent has that luxury.

She underestimates the skill of her teacher.

You wouldn't expect a twenty-something teacher to be a dangerous force with a pocketknife, of all things, but Akiko definitely proves her wrong. She's discarded the normal school garb, as has Takae, both wearing gym shorts, and a loose-fitting shirt.

She has the reflexes, to be sure. She also has experience. All that Takae has over her is pure athleticism, and it makes it a fairly even fight.

They never aim to kill, simply to disarm. Not that accidents haven't happened, but they always have Haruka to patch them up.

In fact, most of the members of the Morning Exercise Club wear their scars proudly. Ruu already has a thin line over her forehead from Akiko's blade, and the latter has a smattering of bruises from Ruu's shovel.

(Why she uses a shovel is confusing to everyone, but it could be thanks to Kurumi. And the fact that they definitely burned that gun with Kei)

The bell chimes and the fight begins.

Of course, Takae makes the first move. Pushing off from the ground, she sprints towards Akiko, who turns just slightly to take the hit with her shoulder instead of her chest.

Clang!

The pipe hits her pocketknife and comes to a stop, Takae's eyes widening. 

But... how?

Akiko smiles serenely, grasping the pipe with her other hand and delivering a harsh kick to Takae's chest. The girl is forced to drop the weapon, which Akiko spins once or twice, as if judging its weight.

Seeming to come to a consensus, she throws the pipe behind her, where it skitters across the tile. She turns back to Takae, ready to end the fight.

She's not there.

A primal cry erupts from behind her as Takae charges again, pipe now back in her hand. She swipes once, twice, each time missing the teacher by inches. 

Thwap!

The pipe hits Akiko in the leg, and she crumples. Takae stands just out of arm's reach (good, she learned) so she can't hit her with the pocketknife. She's striking at an angle where Akiko can't grab the pipe, and her stance is ready to run if Akiko makes a lunge.

She's learned enough to survive.

"I concede," Akiko proclaims, and Souta rings the bell again to signal the end of the fight.

"They're good, huh?"

Kurumi nearly jumps out of her skin at Touko's words, spinning to face the grey-haired woman. Touko stares at her with a challenging smirk, cocking her head and widening her stance just slightly. "I thought you wouldn't notice me."

"I did," Kurumi pouts slightly, folding her arms over her chest. "I just... was busy."

Touko raises a challenging eyebrow, but says nothing, reaching into her bag and retrieving a small package.

"...! Is that..."

It's a DS. 

"I thought we could link up," Touko offers. "It might not work perfectly, but I figured you might want some of my Pokemon...?

Kurumi retrieves her own gaming console, smiling brighter than the stars. "Of course I wanna try!"

Who knows? It could even work.

Stranger things have, anyway.


"Do you like it here?"

Aki runs her fingers through Hikako's long black hair as the younger leans on her shoulder, staring out the window at the bright blue sky.

"Mhm," Hikako hums, a faint smile crossing her face. "Everyone here is so nice..."

They stay like that for a moment, just appreciating each other's company.

"Hey, Hikako?"

Aki turns to stare at her, light pink eyes burning with conviction. "You know we'll protect you no matter what?"

"...yeah..."

Hikako leans into her side, letting out a small puff of air. "I know. We're a family, aren't we?"

Aki stares at her for a moment, surprise registering on her face. "Of course."

Hikako grabs her hand, linking their pinkies with a smile. "Promise we'll make it out together?"

Aki offers her a reassuring smile, clenching their pinkies tighter. "I promise."

Hikako smiles, leaning back into her side. Her eyes droop slowly, eventually sliding closed, and her breathing evens out as she slumps into Aki's lap, using the other girl's thigh as a pillow.

She's really warm, Aki muses, leaning against the wall. Warm and nice.

The door slides slowly open, revealing Touko. She approaches wordlessly, sitting down on Aki's left.

"We're a family, huh?" she whispers, leaning on Aki's other shoulder. "I feel hurt that I wasn't in this conversation."

Aki swats at her - weakly, but still enough to let her know that it wasn't on purpose - and places a hand on Hikako's head. 

"Don't feel bad," Aki assures her. "It's not as though I planned to have that talk."

Touko grips her hand in a death grip, staring into Aki's eyes with determination. "We're going to be together for a long time, okay?"

Aki hums assent, and Touko relaxes her grip just slightly.

"You'd better not be lying to me," she warns, eyes narrowed in irritation. "You're not allowed to lie about something like this."

As they stare into each other's eyes, Aki becomes increasingly aware of why Touko told her not to lie.

"...we're not like Miki and Yuuri..."

"I didn't say we were," Touko replies, though the tone of her voice heavily implies otherwise. 

"We're going to make it out alive, Touko," Aki whispers. "I promise you we'll make it out."

"...how much is that promise worth?"

"My life." Aki stares deeply into Touko's eyes, a world of strength in her eyes. "I swear on my life that we'll make it out alive."

Touko smiles, eyes sliding shut. "Thank you."

They stay like that for another moment, relishing in the comfort and warmth of family.

Chapter Text

"Are you ready?"

Those words that would once have accompanied cheering crowds at a concert, those words that once stood for celebration and excitement and anticipation, those words now carry a darker meaning. 

It's clear in the tone of Kurumi's voice that she doesn't expect all of them to make it back. Clear in the way she clutches her shovel like a lifeline, clear in the way her eyes betray her true terror at the idea of dying.

Akiko offers her former student a reassuring smile, hand clutched tightly around her blade. Next to her, Takae shakes with anticipation and nerves, pipe held to her chest in a death grip.

Haruka and Souta stand uneasily next to each other, and Kurumi is so close to ordering them to stay back, but she wouldn't dare. They know what they've entered into.

Touko smiles cheerfully as if this couldn't mean the end for half of the people here. Too cheerfully. Then again, she has always been good at detaching herself from reality.

"Ready," the group replies. 

They're not all going to make it back.


"Are you worried?" Megumi whispers, running her fingers through Ruu's hair. 

"No," Ruu pouts. "I'm just... annoyed. Why didn't they bring me?"

"Yeah," Yuki whines. "I wanna go on a test of courage too!"

There's that too-bright look in her eyes, that too-wide smile on her face, and Ruu's positive that Yuki's delusional.

"It's not a-"

"They're older than us," Megumi sighs. "We need to trust them."

There's a warning in her voice, a statement of truth. Don't tell her.

Ruu clutches tighter at her shovel - a garden trowel, sharpened to a point. 

Yuuri.

"But Yuki-"

A groan pierces the air, and Yuki laughs, a carefree sound like the tolling of bells. "Aww, does someone need help?"

Ruu's heart thuds to a stop in her chest as the crushing weight of what must have happened dawns on her. 

They failed.

"Yuki!" Megumi screams, lunging for the pink-haired girl.

Three things happen at the same time.

Yuki opens the door, smiling wide as the dawn.

Megumi rushes for the door, arms stretched out wide as if to pull Yuki back from certain death. She's not fast enough.

Ruu sits frozen on the ground, hand white-knuckled around the garden trowel.

No no no no no no.

She can tell the exact moment that Yuki realizes just what's happened. Her eyes widen, and her mouth opens in a scream as she stares, slack-jawed at the creature lurching towards her.

"Yuki!"

Megumi grabs onto Yuki's wrist and yanks her backwards, but it's not enough. The creature lunges, and Ruu's legs move before she's conscious of it.

"Die!" she screams, thrusting the trowel at the creature. 

It sinks into its eye and it crumples, falling to the ground like a broken accordion. 

It's not enough.

So Ruu crouches over it, stabbing again and again and again until the body is but a lump of mush and Ruu's sobbing, pouring days and weeks of pent-up emotion into her garden trowel as she screams.


It wasn't supposed to go this way.

The Fallen Crew - locked in a classroom to succumb to the bites ravening their bodies. Touko, the uninfected one, stared at Kurumi through the classroom door as she slid the lock shut, a tear rolling down her face. 

I promised we'd never be apart, Kurumi-chan.

Takae - bleeding from a deep (too deep) wound in her throat, and Haruka - forced to take her back to safety so that she might stop the bleeding.

(It won't work, and they all know it)

Souta - bitten on the side, but Kurumi couldn't bring herself to hurt him. So, like a coward, she chained him to a post while they continued on, unable to look him in the eye.

(She'll never see that clarity again, and they both know it)

Takae - sent chasing after that zombie that lurched past, in hopes of saving her best friend. 

Yuki.

Now, it's just her and Akiko.

"I'll be by your side, Kurumi," Akiko whispers, and it's so painful that Kurumi wants to sob. 

They're not coming back.

But if there's any hope of medicine to save Souta, they have to take it. Have to.

After pushing the barricade the rest of the way, they vault down the stairs, blood splattered over their faces and hands.

"I'm right behind you," Akiko whispers every so-often, reminding Kurumi of just why she has to fight.

She's not alone anymore.

They climb down the stairs, and Kurumi has to fight off horrible flashbacks pounding at her periphery. 

Taroumaru, racing at her, teeth latching onto her shovel.

Megu-nee, biting her twice, and she can't do a damn thing-

"Kurumi."

Akiko smiles, offering her a hand, which Kurumi gladly accepts. "I'm right here."

She's right there.

She's still here.

(Don't leave me)


Kurumi never told anyone about her third mark.

Of course there's always been the mark that she shares with Yuuri, (the mark that now appears to just be scribbles of black ink dammit dammit you weak useless idiot) and the mark she shares with the rest of the School Living Club. But on her thigh, mostly hidden by her skirt and stockings, there's one more.

A light red leaf, the color of autumn, swirling around a walnut.

She's not dumb. It's definitely a platonic soulmark, based on how most of it is in grey-scale. But the bright vibrancy in the leaf tells her another story.

This person is someone who can protect her. Someone who can protect her when the other soulmarks fade into black scribbles and messy ink. 

Like... a friend. Older sister.

Someone who can protect her, when she's too tired to protect everyone else. 

Someone who can carry her when she's bloody and bruised and far too tired to move.

Not someone who'll support her unconditionally, like Yuuri. Nobody can be like Yuuri. 

But this person... even if it's only for a moment... will protect her. Keep her safe.


"I'll keep you safe."

Kurumi's jolted out of her reverie by Akiko's smile, a weak but bright grin that illuminates the small room.

"Hey... Akiko-san... do you write your name using the character for 'autumn'?"

Akiko stares at her for a moment, before she nods slowly. "Yeah..."

Kurumi extends her pinky, smiling in what she hopes is bright enough to illuminate her eyes. "We're gonna escape together, right?"

"Right," Akiko replies. "I promise."

Kurumi hates that word - promise. So many promises have been broken these days that the word to her is just... just a death flag. Just a big death flag that's just there to tear her heart to pieces.

And damn it all, she wants so badly to trust in her. Wants to believe that this isn't another promise that'll be broken with blood and tears, just like every other promise she's ever heard.

"You need this, don't you?"

Akiko's soft voice pierces through her melancholy haze, and she whips her head around to stare at the other teacher.

"I know how you feel," Akiko whispers. "But I'm going to do my best to stay by your side. If nothing else, so I can teach you once this is all over."

She links her pinky with Kurumi's and smiles, repeating the words she uttered just moments earlier. "I promise."

And once again, Kurumi believes her.

Chapter Text

Why did she believe her?

(In an ideal world that would be punctuated with a period, but it's not and she's not sure why she's even surprised anymore)

It wasn't supposed to end this way, wasn't supposed to end with her third (last) pillar shattered and leaking bright hot red blood onto the floor (a floor she once liked, a floor she once treasured in her naïveté back when school was safe and not a place of death, not a place where any and all emotional depth was crudely ripped away from her by teeth and rotting hands) and dying in front of her yet again thanks to Kurumi's own weakness. The same weakness that comes from everyone protecting her useless body again and again despite her crumbling internalized courage (or rather lack thereof which is even worse) which could even be considered recklessness at this point, because honestly, who's this idiotic?

Kurumi, apparently.

Of course Akiko couldn't keep her promise, couldn't keep that sworn oath she gave her as a last way to stay on her feet, but now the floor's ripped out from under her and she's falling, surrounded by the bright, razor-sharp pieces of a shattered promise (really her own shattered sanity) that shine so damn bright underneath the dark grey sky. 

Because Akiko did shine. Akiko and Yuuri and Souta and Miki all shone like stars in the sky, back when the sky wasn't either the hot crimson of blood or the pitch-black that only comes from a lack of humanity (or rather a lack of lights) to brighten it to a rich navy. She never expected to miss that bright navy, back when Yuuri was still by her side and she wasn't just string slowly unraveling with each drop of blood spilling out of her (former) teacher's stomach. 

But now she would give anything back for that tainted blue sky, so long as it meant Yuuri and the others were still here, not slowly dying alongside her, breathing in the tainted air that so clearly gave her a deadline on life (just as it had the last two times, just as it would this time eventually, leaving her to suffocate just like the DJ from the first time) that was so clearly non-negotiable.

Still.

Still still still. She has to fix this timeline, right? Has to fix it.

Because in the end, she's just a supporting character playing second fiddle to Yuki without any real say in the matter whatsoever. She can be bleeding from the heart, spilling all of her feelings and raw emotions all over the pure tile but Yuki, in her delusions, would just hand her a bandage for the cut and ignore the bitter pain filling Kurumi's eyes, because Yuki's always been so damn emotionally dense.

Stop it.

Stop it stop it stop it. She's still here. Akiko is still here. Still savable. Not yet shattering Kurumi's heart into those tainted blood-red pieces that litter the floor and that pierce into her mind again and again with her cursed existence.

She'll never be able to look at Akiko without seeing her as one of them. Never see Megu-nee again without seeing that rotting jaw lunging for her, sentencing her to a lifetime of agony (but shortening it at the same time in her teacher's trademark move of mercy, and isn't that so fucking sweet) cut off by Yuuri having to make that difficult choice to stab her with the butcher's knife.

There could be more timelines that ended that way for her, but she'll never know. Never matters, anyways.

(Of fucking course it does, Kurumi. It's the difference between the Yuuri you know knew and the Yuuri who knew you)

Then again, is knew even right? The timeline will reset again and again until they're able to save everyone, and isn't that a fucking paradox, saving everyone in this world filled to the brim with bullshit. This world rotting from the inside out with corruption and murder and rotting flesh, bodies piled high one moment and out hunting the next.

The world ended because one idiot forgot to wash his hands.

She remembers how that hurt the first time, placing yet another crack into her diseased, weakened heart (that same useless heart that still yearns for love in a world gone blind to her needs) that was so close to shattering in that instant, but she managed to tape it together thanks to the rest of her friends (the same friends that left her alone again) before the last push forced Yuki to reset the clock again.

Reset the clock.

Couldn't she try... at least? Push it again... push back the hour hands back to that moment where everything went wrong, back to the moment where they grabbed the music player out of Miki's hand and corrupted the timeline so easily, just one hand managing to doom them to this.

Turn back the clock.

Please.

Let her try again. Try again to save them all, save them and Yuuri, fuck, she could save Yuuri, feel the warmth of those hands she so desperately misses with every bit of her being, those hands that were always able to push away the horrors of this looping time for even just a moment, and she craves them so deeply she can feel it.

Let it reset.

Please.

Her hands hot and sticky with Akiko's blood but at the same time cold and punctured with broken promises, broken timelines, so many littering her hands like splinters. 

Splinters used to be one of her main concerns. Funny to think about now.

"Set it back!" she screams, throwing her head back to yowl her plea to the heavens. "Just once! Please! Let me try again!"

Somewhere, far away, a clock ticks forwards. 

Then backwards.


 

Kurumi closes her eyes in one moment and opens her eyes in another.

It's a better moment. A moment so perfect it seems like a dream. They're all here, and the rest of the Fallen Crew is climbing into the school and they're all alive, so much so that Kurumi wants to scream. 

But - there.

A change.

"Miki! Drop the rope!"

The light-haired girl is stunned enough so that when the zombie grabs it, the rope merely slithers out of her hands like a snake, and Miki's eyes widen as she tries to process it. 

(Process how if she hadn't, she'd be lying down there, dying a slow and painful death she's seen so many times, too many times)

This has to be different. Has to change. Has changed, and for the better.

So what if the number four has never been a lucky anything? All that matters is all of them are here and alive and that's honestly enough to sustain her.

Yuuri's hand clenches around her own, and it's just as warm and soft as she remembers, back before the gun came and blew her brains out. Kurumi spares her a glance, and Yuuri's wide olive eyes meet hers, pools of understanding and love.

It's going to be better this time.

Enter Timeline Four. 

Chapter Text

Yuki closes her eyes in one instant and opens them in another.

She's confused. Who wouldn't be? She's always been the one to initiate the loops, a last-ditch effort to fix what's been broken. A way to reset into a world worth living.

But staring at the haunted look in Kurumi's eyes, she realizes that it's not in her control at all.

"Yuu...ri?"

Ruu's mouth forms the unfamiliar word as she stares at her sister, tears streaming down her face. "Yuuri...? Is it... is it really you?"

The other girl seems confused, and Yuki knows she wasn't sent back. Wasn't forced to remember the bullet entering her body, massacring all logical thought in a wave of blood.

Thank the stars for small mercies.

"Rii-nee-san!" Ruu sobs, throwing herself into the brunette's arms. "You're okay..."

Yuuri gently strokes her hair, staring at Yuki and Megu-nee with confusion in her gaze. "...yeah... I am..."

Yuki twirls her finger in a circle and Yuuri's eyes widen, but she doesn't say a word. 

It's long-since been their symbol for loops. Ever since the fourth. God, how long ago was that?

For some reason, she and Yuuri seem to survive the most. And with too many times of only them making it to the end... they've become close.

(Staring at Kurumi and Miki, still wide-eyed with hope and untainted by despair, they swore to protect them)

"Yuuri-onee-sama," Yuki whispers, thousands of hours of meaning packed into each syllable. Yuu. Ri. Oh. Nee. Sah. Mah.

It's a word she's tasted on her tongue too many times for comfort.

"Yuki-chan," Yuuri replies, the fake smile plastered on her face.

Yu. Ki. Chan.

Yuki wants to throw up.

Yuuri's always been a better liar than she is. Always better at fixing what's broken. Always better at handling the one day where the world isn't a screwed-up shell of memory, not a horrifying mockery of the happiness she once lived for. 

Ha. Pi. Ness.

It's a weird word. The kind of word she'd dissect if there were still teachers and classes and people that cared about dissecting. The kind of word that drives people to write poems without knowing why.

It's a feeling.

It was a feeling.

On the other side of the school, Miki collapses into a volley of sobs, tears streaming down her cheeks.

Oh.

Miki didn't die.

Must be Kurumi.

(Kurumi almost never makes it to the end. Whether it's pushing Yuuri out of the way of a falling boulder, bitten by Megu-nee, dying to airborne infection, torn apart in an explosion, Kurumi never makes it to the end)

What is the end, by this point?

It's an abstract concept to her. Always has been. An unattainable goal with the world's biggest boss in the way - sickness.

So many timelines where they never made it out of the school, dying with flower petals around their bodies and hope flickering out in their gazes, still believing there could be a better tomorrow. Believing that the outside world would be worth it.

Hope is a virus.

She's seen so many times where hope led to an explosion of blood, crimson painting pale skin and straw-gold hair a hot crimson. Seen so many times where a feather-light kiss has been pressed into her hair before the spark of light leaves and is extinguished. Seen so many times where pink and purple and white fought against the black and lost.

Seen her marks fade into intelligible scribbles.

By some point, she stops feeling.

Numbness is comfortable. Numb is good because she can stop feeling and when she stops feeling, she can stop dying.

They won't stop dying.

Yuki's lived through every single timeline. Yuuri would have told her otherwise.

She's seen everything. Found solace in delusions over and over when her fragile mind can't cope with the body count, with the corpses stacking higher than the school.

All her friends. Family. Girlfriend wife soulmate.

Megu-nee told her she'd never leave.

Kurumi told her she'd always protect her.

Yuuri promised to never leave her side.

Miki swore to help her up when she fell.

Takae pushed her on when the world grew dark.

But it's over now. It's over because she can't keep fighting.

She must collapse into Yuuri's arms, because she's aware of a warmth around her, concerned emerald eyes, and a mouth opening in a silent shout. 

She's so tired.

She just wants to sleep. Rest. Stop fighting so hard.

She wants to put down the shovel and curl up on the gravestones. Curl up around the cold and rotting bodies of the first time and take her place as a whole and not-broken Yuki. Return to a time where happiness wasn't eked out in meager moments, and she never had to watch her back when turning around. Back to a time when the sky was blue and the sunset didn't just seem to stain the sky with blood.

Back to a time when she was okay. A time when she wasn't a shattered girl made of glass, trying to rearrange fragments into a picture even as they slice holes in her hands. Even when the hot red blood spills out, she won't stop trying.

For the memories.

She's seen so much. Seen an impromptu wedding for Kurumi and Yuuri. Watched Kurumi, two days later, stand on the railing and smile at Yuuri sadly as she fell. 

Seen Miki and Kei curled together under one blanket.

Seen Miki and Kei fall to their deaths after one of them destroyed the helicopter.

Stared into Megu-nee's eyes and sworn an oath to always stand by her, to love and protect her for all time.

Stared into those same dead eyes surrounded by a pool of hot crimson, blood streaming from the knife buried in her chest and tears streaming from wide eyes.

She's so tired.

But now, there are warm arms to catch her when she falls. She can rest, and let other people carry on the banner. Can stop fighting alone, because she's not alone anymore.

And so Yuki Takeya sleeps, a warm and calm sleep full of lost memories and a field of golden flowers, surrounded by nothing but happiness.

Chapter Text

Kurumi traces the lines of Yuuri's jaw.

Caresses her ears gently, thumb probing at each and every swirl in the delicate organs.

Traces her scalp, reveling in the wholeness of it. How it's not fractured in numerous different places by a crudely-placed bullet.

And as she does, she comes to the conclusion that she can't help but reach.

"...you're alive."

Yuuri stares at her, olive eyes clouding over with tears and just a hint of relief. "You don't know how many times I've told you that."

Somehow, that breaks something deep down inside - maybe it's just the last remnants of seeing Yuuri's corpse (god, and still so beautiful, but even more so now that she's here, and fuck, this hurts to think about) or maybe it's something more. Pent-up emotions from the first loop, when they thought things would be okay.

Kurumi starts to cry - a familiar state by this point - and wraps her arms around Yuuri tight, as though if she doesn't hold on with all her might, the other girl will just disappear. Evaporate away, along with the shattered fragments of Kurumi's heart. "Yuuri..."

"I'm here," Yuuri whispers, tracing circles on Kurumi's forearm. Almost as though she's grounding herself in reality as well, though Kurumi isn't quite sure why. "I'm here."

There's a strange amount of emphasis placed on 'here' - one that Kurumi isn't entirely sure is for her sake - but she'll accept it nonetheless. Another one of Yuuri's idiosyncrasies, another part of the massive puzzle that makes up her soulmate.

It's a puzzle she's still trying to understand, and Yuuri being so... not evasive, per se, but so resistant is not helping.

"...you fucking martyr..." Yuuri mumbles, tears streaming down her cheeks. "You damn martyr... let me help you..."

Kurumi is definitely befuddled by this turn of events - words that seem not meant for her, but perhaps for someone else - but decides to rub soothing circles into Yuuri's back regardless. It's always helped in the past, so why should anything change that?

After about five seconds of this, Yuuri places her hands over Kurumi's chest, apparently trying to feel her heartbeat. It can be soothing, sometimes, knowing that each beat of her heart is another second they've lived.

Kurumi expects her to move closer.

Yuuri pushes her away.

"I just..." 

Yuuri flails for words, staring at Kurumi, who seems to regard her empty hands as though they carry a deadly weapon.

Something that could hurt Yuuri.

"It's not you," Yuuri finally replies, and Kurumi can feel her heart splinter all the more.

Damn, how pathetic is this? She finally sees her soulmate again, only for her to be rejected.

"...who is it?" Kurumi finally whispers, not entirely certain why she cares, nor how she cares (what with this broken, bruised, bloody heart, stomped mercilessly to pieces by a cruel and unfair world) but seeks to know regardless.

Yuuri avoids her gaze, biting her lower lip - a nervous tic that started... sometime ago - and seems to be on the verge of tears. "You look... just like her... but you're not..."

Oh. 

Oh


"What would you do if you lost me?"

Miki poses the question to Kei while they're curled together in Miki's hideaway, the only light the faint, bloodstained crimson filtering in through the windows. It's too reminiscent of something just out of Kei's grasp, something dark. Something bad.

Something that tore her heart and mind into small shatters.

But then again, that's more of a feeling than anything else. All she can say for certain is that the blood-colored light makes her want to scream.

But why, she's not quite sure.

"I don't know," Kei hums, winding a lock of Miki's white-blonde hair around her finger. Wind, unwind, wind, unwind. A comforting mantra, and one that propels her back to the days of normalcy. "It depends."

"On who killed me?" Miki asks, sliding forwards to press into Kei's chest. It's close enough that they can each feel the other's heartbeats - a comforting tick-tock, akin to that of a clock.

A clock running out of time.

"Of course," Kei replies. "It always does."

"Well..."

Miki pauses, presumably deep in thought. "What if you killed me?"

The mere suggestion sends waves of fear reverberating through Kei's mind (a ridiculously irrational amount, since it's far more than the logical amount of disgust at the thought, she's not sure why) and she clings onto Miki's hands for dear life. "I wouldn't."

"But if you did-"

"I'd shoot myself."

It's uttered with such ferocity that Miki flinches. Yes, flinches. Kei's conviction, the overwhelming force of guilt reverberating from her voice speaks of dangerous truth in the simple phrase, and Miki is scared.

"Please..." Miki pleads, burying her face into Kei's school uniform. It's familiar, reminiscent of back when they would go to buy books and gossip over boys - but now it's just a forgotten relic of the past. "Kei, I wouldn't want that. You know I wouldn't want that."

"I know..." Kei trails off, a question hanging in her voice.

What if I do ?

"We have friends," Miki tries, sliding in closer. "We have Yuki, and Kurumi, and Yuuri-"

"They're your friends."

The three simple words are uttered with such anger that Miki can't help but gasp, immediately regretting it. "What do you mean? They're your friends too-"

"No, they're not."

It's denial, plain and simple. It's denial and distancing and a refusal to see that people give a fuck but it's not as if Miki can judge.

"They aren't my friends," Kei repeats, more force behind the words. "They are not-"

Miki shushes her with a kiss, long, slow, and full of lost longing and passion. "Love you, Kei."

"Miki..." Kei trails off, hurt shining in her gaze. "Miki, you know I love you-"

"Please, Kei," Miki whispers. "Please. Live for me. Live for them. Live for you."

Miki winds her fingers through Kei's hair, soothing the brunette's muffled apologies with soft kisses pressed to her forehead. "Love you, Kei."

"Love you," Kei whispers. 

Chapter Text

"How many times could you do it?"

Kurumi leans against the railing, wind tugging at her twin-tails. Next to her, Touko rests her head on her folded arms, apparently lost in thought.

"Mmm, I dunno," Touko hums. "I mean, it depends on the timeframe, I guess. If it was just living this same time over and over... I'd probably go crazy."

Kurumi thinks back to the deadened look in Yuuri's eyes, to the way Yuki will cry at the drop of a hat. It wasn't always like this.

"That sounds about right."

"Why d'ya ask?" Touko smiles, turning enough to stare into Kurumi's eyes. "You know you don't have to do this alone. All four of you are in this together."

"...nice in theory," Kurumi laughs, a melancholy sound. "But we can't really win. This is... I think the first time you all have come with us, and Takae and Megu-nee have survived this long, though."

"You think?" Touko frowns, apparently confused. "But don't you-"

"I haven't looped as many times as they have."

It's a strange word, 'looped'. A strange word that has no business being used in casual conversation not involving string. 

Funny, the way the apocalypse works.

"Oh."

Touko lapses into silence, and neither of them breathe a word. 

"Maybe we should send some people to the mall?"

Kurumi turns, just enough to see her friend's (are they friends? it's a comforting thought) gaze trained squarely on a shadow in the distance, determination sharpening her gaze. It's a strange look for Touko, to be sure, but also one that strangely suits her.

"The mall?" Kurumi parrots.

"Yeah!" Touko smiles. "If we send some people to the mall, then we can find more things we really need! Like clothes, books, flares, walkie-talkies, food..."

"Who would go?" Kurumi wonders, already enthusiastic about the prospect.

"Mmm... maybe Miki? And you and I, definitely... not Megu-nee or Kei, that'd set off Yuki and Miki... us three should work. I mean, the first time 'round, you three went alone, right?"

"Yeah!" Kurumi grins, straightening and slinging Shovel-kun over her shoulder. "I'll go talk to Megu-nee and Yuuri! Hopefully this goes well!"

"I'm coming too," Touko smiles, completely carefree. "I can help you out!"

Kurumi's shoes click on the tile as she yanks open the door, wincing slightly at the musty air that emerges. It's a familiar smell, but one that carries far too many negative connotations for her liking. "Let's go, then!"


Miki's taken a liking to drawing, actually.

Kei poses for her, allowing the weakened sun to shine on the contours of her face. It's a casual pose, her head leaning against the window and one arm slightly bent. She sits at a desk, schoolbag hanging off the wood holder at its side.

It looks like something from Before, not from now.

All the same, Miki does her damndest to capture the lines of her girlfriend's face with what charcoal she can scrounge up. It's not much (since a lot of heartache was spared this time around) but it does the job well enough.

"You almost done?" Kei whines, eyes sparkling with humor. "My arm's falling asleep!"

"Mmm..." Miki trails off, adding a small shadow for Kei's cheekbones. "No."

"Miki!" Kei wails, both of them fully aware that Kei would gladly pose for days on end to see Miki smile at the end of it. 

Miki hums cheerfully as she sketches, rendering each and every strand of hair in detail. She shades in the shadows behind her eyes, the shadows on her neck, and the shadows hovering on her lips.

"Naoki Miki."

She turns, imperceptibly, smile drooping into a familiar grimace. "Ebisuzawa Kurumi. What do you need?"

The girl in question leans easily against the doorframe, a smile perched on her lips. There's a sort of anticipation in her stance, a sort of flightiness in her feet that Miki hasn't seen in a while.

Kurumi is ready to run.

But why, Miki can't quite fathom. How could a girl - one who's presumably seen a number of things - be ready to run, to fight on despite everything?

It doesn't make sense.

"Oh, Kurumi-chan!" Kei chirps, still holding her statue-like stance. "Hi! Miki was just sketching me! She's a great artist, you know~!"

"Ooh!" Kurumi grins, bounding forwards to peer over Miki's shoulder. "Can I see?"

Granted, she's going to see regardless, but Miki nods anyways.

Kurumi stares at the charcoal for a moment, before nodding, something apparently decided. "That does it! You're coming with us!"

"Coming... with you?" Miki parrots.

"Yeah!" Touko adds, something that looks eerily similar to a handgun clutched in her grasp. "We're going to the mall!"

The mall...

Kei, smiling, as she swings the door shut. "I'll bring help, Miki!"

The same fear pulsing in her ears as she stands atop a piano, some of Them scratching at the pure-black face. A hand grabs her ankle and she screams-

"Hey, Miki?"

She shakes her head, forcing herself out of her memories. This cannot happen.

"I'm alright," she mumbles, still trying to snuff out the fear pulsing in her ears. "But.. can we bring Yuki?"

Touko and Kurumi exchange a look weighted with apprehension, and Miki fixes them with an intense glare. "With her around... it might be easier. Easier to... I dunno... ground myself?"

Kurumi's expression falls, her hand coming up to massage the bridge of her nose. "I forgot... you don't have to come, Miki."

"I want to come," Miki states, voice full of conviction. "How do you think I'd feel if I knew you guys were going out there without me?"

Kei doesn't say anything, but the look of concern in her eyes clearly says 'we're talking about this later'. Fine by her.

"Is this... safe?" Touko mutters, apparently afraid of something. Though exactly what she's afraid of evades her, she knows the look in Touko's eyes cannot be good. "I mean..."

She doesn't say it. Nor does she have to, since what she's thinking is evident.

What if she flips out? What if this all goes horribly wrong?

What if someone dies?

"I won't let anyone die," Kurumi hisses, and Miki's surprised to see a hint of fear in her friend's crimson eyes. "Not again. I can't watch that again."

Touko, for reasons unknown, moves the gun out of Kurumi's sight, clicking the safety on.

"I don't... know what's going on," Kei laughs, a bright sound tinged with nerves. "But I trust you guys to keep Miki safe!"

"We will!" Kurumi assures her. "But we're not leaving yet! We still need permission from Megu-nee and Yuki!"

She raises one hand in farewell, a bright smile on her face. "See you guys later!"

Touko shoots them a concerned look but follows regardless, sliding the door shut behind her.

"So..." 

Kei breaks the silence with a word, confusion evident in her voice. "What was that about?"

"...it doesn't matter."

Chapter Text

"I'm coming with you."

Yuki stares owlishly at her teacher, clinging onto her arm like a koala does (did) to a branch. "Megu-nee! But- you can't- you didn't-"

"I'm not letting you go without a licensed driver," Megumi repeats, slowly, methodically, as though she's not sure of her own words. "Akiko is staying here and watching the building. So that means I'm free to come with you."

"But- Megu-nee..." Yuki trails off, lost in her own world. 

"I'm your faculty advisor."

Megumi smiles, bending down to ruffle Yuki's hair playfully. Her hat, something she normally wears everywhere she goes, seems to be missing, but none of them pay it any heed. "And what kind of faculty advisor would I be if I couldn't keep my students safe?"

Touko smiles at her, silver hair gleaming in the morning light. "I hear they have nummy sticks!"

"Nummy sticks?" Yuki asks, apparently enthused by the prospect. "We'll just have to grab a lot of nummy sticks! Enough for Mii-kun and Ke-kun and Yuuri-san and Hikako-senpai and-"

"Oh!" Touko grins, apparently remembering something. "Gimme a sec! I'll be right back!"

She jobs out of the classroom, yanking the sliding door shut behind her.

"That was... strange..." Kurumi trails off, and Yuki nods vehemently in reply.

"Aha!"

Touko throws open the door, something similar to a walkie-talkie clutched in her hand. "I found it!"

"Whoah!" Kurumi grins, crossing the room to examine the device. "What is that?"

"It's a walkie-talkie," Touko grins. "It does this thing where it hijacks radio waves to broadcast on the radio!"

"Oh... kay..." Megumi trails off, not particularly liking the direction this is headed. "And you're... bringing this... with us?"

"Of course!" Touko states as though it's the simplest thing in the world. "Why would I not?"

"I don't- I mean- does it even work?"

Speaking has become very difficult for Kurumi in this moment, apparently.

"Of course it does!" Touko chirps. "Hikako made it!"

She leans forwards, a teasing smile on her face. "Trust us, Kurumi-chan!"

Kurumi sighs, unable to stop the smile creeping onto her lips. "I do, Touko..."

"So, how about tomorrow morning?" Megumi proposes. "We can run the operation then."

"Sounds good!" Touko smiles, rubbing the back of her neck instinctually. "I'll go tell the Fallen Crew!"

She jogs out of the room, a bright smile still on her face.

"...I should go tell Miki," Kurumi mumbles.

A hand lands on her shoulder and she flinches, raising her eyes slowly to meet Megumi's.

"I'll tell her," Megumi whispers. "There's someone you need to see, isn't there?"

"...there's something I want to find at the mall, too," Kurumi grins.


Kurumi slides open the door to their room, apprehension evident in the motion.

Everyone else has long-since fallen asleep, and the soft sounds of breathing fill the air. Yuki and Megu-nee curl together, limbs tangled hopelessly. Kei and Miki are presumably asleep in the room next door, and the Fallen Crew likely has someone on watch. Souta's asleep in the infirmary, and Haruka takes inventory while he does (she's become their doctor, inexplicably). Takae and Ruu seem to have developed some sort of kinship, and Akiko works late into the night anyways. 

"Yuuri?" she whispers.

The girl in question turns from the window, empty eyes staring but unseeing. "Kurumi?"

She crosses the room, grabbing Yuuri's wrist with one hand and pulling her into a hug. "I'm sorry, Yuuri..."

Yuuri seems confused - rightly so - and Kurumi decides to clarify. "We're going back to the mall."

The other girl stiffens, and Kurumi feels cold hands grip her shirt, as if tethering herself to reality. "You... you can't..."

"No, no, it'll be fine!" Kurumi exclaims, running her fingers through Yuuri's hair. "It'll be fine, really! I promise! We're just going to grab some supplies and then we'll come back! We'll be okay-"

"No, you won't!"

Yuuri's eyes - normally dead and emotionless (Kurumi hates how that's the norm) are now filled with blazing fury and conviction. "You can't! You're going to die!"

Kurumi flinches, unsure of how to react to this outpouring of emotion. "Yuuri-"

"No!" Yuuri screams, covering her ears with her hands. Nearby, Kurumi can see Yuki and Megu-nee stirring, and she winces. Yuuri wouldn't want them to know. "I'm not listening!"

"Yuuri, please-"

"You say this every time!" Yuuri wails. "Every damn time I think it's different, and every damn time it's the same! No!"

"Yuuri-senpai?" Yuki mumbles, apparently confused. "What's...?"

Megu-nee, every bit the perfect teacher, stands, and crosses the room to bend before Yuuri. "What's wrong?"

Yuuri stares at her and lets out a high-pitched scream, fear evident in her eyes. Kurumi can't blame her - it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between rotting flesh and porcelain skin - but she grasps Yuuri's hand in her own regardless. "You're here, Yuuri. You're here. We're all okay."

"No... no... no..." Yuuri repeats, a terrifying mantra. "We're not okay... never okay... because we're all going to die every damn time, Kurumi!"

She raises her eyes to meet Kurumi's, normally calm olive eyes now a maelstrom of terror. "We're going to die here," she continues, voice disturbingly even. "We're going to die, just like they are. We're all going to die in this damn school, whether it's by our own hand, or by the others'. Because we never make it to the end."

Kurumi wonders, in that moment, whether she's just a prince who couldn't beat the dragon. Whether she failed to save the princess from herself, failed to save her from the dragon feasting on Yuuri's mind - one she would gladly slay if she could, but words and shovels alone aren't, and have never been enough - and won't even end up in the storybooks. Whether she's just going to end up dead, like Yuuri swears.

She doesn't care, she realizes. As long as Yuuri survives, she doesn't care.

"Stop... stop thinking that!" Yuuri screams, clutching at her head as if to tear her skull apart. "You damn martyr! You... you die... every goddamn time... and I'm fucking sick of it! Stop sacrificing yourself, you damn selfish ass!"

"Oh, Yuuri..."

Kurumi reaches for her, only for Yuuri to slap her hand away, tears streaming down her cheeks. "I'm so damn sick of hoping," she sobs, hugging herself as if to shelter herself from the world. "I'm so tired..."

"Yuuri-san, breathe."

Yuuri's olive eyes meet Yuki's, steely determination in their magenta depths. Yuki raises one hand and intertwines her fingers with Yuuri's, smiling reassuringly as she does. "Hey, Yuuri-san! We're okay right now, aren't we?"

"But it's not going to be okay-"

"We're fine right now, aren't we?" Yuki interjects, and Yuuri nods woodenly. "We're going to be fine for the next five seconds, aren't we?"

Again, a weak nod.

"So let's just take it five seconds at a time!" Yuki smiles. "Breathe with me, okay? One, two, three, four, five."

Yuuri complies, squeezing her eyes shut as she does.

"Now, was that so hard?"

Yuuri exhales, half-lidded eyes staring into the ground. "No..."

"So let's just try to keep doing that!" Yuki grins. "Take it five seconds at a time!"

"But what if it's not going to be okay?"

"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it!" Yuki smiles. "Now, let's try and sleep!"

Yuuri nods again, sliding down the wall to her knees. "Yeah... yeah... sleep. Sleep."

"How did you do that?" Kurumi whispers.

Yuki turns to her, and for an instant, Kurumi sees a much older person in the shadow of the moonlight. Someone who's seen all the world has to throw at them, endured it, but is fractured beyond repair. "When two people are broken the same way," Yuki begins, a faint smile crossing her lips, "they know how to talk each other down from the rooftop."

And with that, she turns and returns to her bed, unsaid words left hanging in the air between them.

Chapter Text

Yuuri allows herself to dream.

Not hope, never hope, since she's seen this play out far too many ways to actually feel the stirrings of a brighter future. Seen it end with Kurumi dead time after time and she's damn sick of it.

So she swings her feet through the ash-filled air and dreams.

She dreams of a world where she and Kurumi could be happy. A world where they'd actually have the chance to go to college, and not just to good ol' fucked-up Saint Isadore. Dreams of a world where the sky would be blue everyday, and rain didn't mean more of Them coming through the school doors.

A world where she could sit on the side of a building and not have the intense urge to jump off.

She doesn't actually do it, mind you. She's toyed with the idea in a few loops, sure. Almost done it once, actually.

Hence the rule that she is no longer allowed on the roof alone.

Said... dark thoughts are also the reason why Takae and Ruu have officially joined the gardening club. The latter shows an impressive aptitude for planting, and Takae's carefree nature has Yuuri taking an immediate liking to her.

Ruu stays close by her side. Yuuri isn't sure why.

When she said she planned to go sit on the side of the roof, Takae's eyes narrowed (a strange sort of conviction, there) and for a second she swore she could see a hint of Yuki's fire in her eyes. 

Likely the reason the two of them are platonic soulmates - fire matched, not contained.

Damn, it's been eons since she thought about the swirls of ink. With the number of times she's done it... well, happiness has fallen to the wayside in favor of simply surviving.

Actually, a lot of things have fallen to the wayside, she muses, tracing simple patterns in the tile. Happiness. Love. Hope. All the positive emotions that normally make people happy.

Takae eyes her with a hint of something (curiousity? concern? fear?) and slides slightly closer, enough that she can restrain her when if she falls. 

It's not yet gotten to the point where she'll say 'when', believe it or not. It was at that point, once upon a time, but not anymore. 

"I'm not going to jump off the roof, if that's what you're worried about."

Yuuri surprises herself with her own cool callousness, and apparently Takae is surprised too. "I wasn't- you're not-"

"Besides, if I really did want to off myself, I wouldn't jump off a roof. Been there, done that."

She's not joking.

The realization is like someone shooting ice through her veins - terrifying, sobering, and all-around bad. She's thought about it in snippets, sure, but never actually thought about it

Not this loop, anyways.

Pink eyes, widened in desperation. "Please, Rii-san! Just... just come back! You don't have to do this!"

A wistful smile, heels hanging in thin air. "Yes, Yuki-chan. I do."

She shakes her head, forcing away the bad memories. Not as if it's a perfect modus operandi, but it works fine enough. 

Most of the time, anyways.

"Oh, look!"

Ruu extends an arm, pointing to the car in the parking lot. Five figures streak towards it - the quintet heading for the mall - and Yuuri feels a pang of irrational jealousy. 

Not for her own sake, but for the fact that, back in an era where she wasn't as strong as a porcelain doll, she would have been with them.

She sucks in a slow, pained breath, old thoughts coming back in full. If only she could forget.

What she wouldn't give to forget.

Her calloused hands on the shovel, a carefree smile tossed her way. "I'll be right back!"

Her own hands lifting the same shovel, bloodstained and broken just like its master. "You bastards!"

The both of them, hands intertwined, smiling despite the gnawing pain in their gut. "We'll... be together forever... right?"

Kurumi never remembers.

She never fucking remembers and it kills her each and every time. 

Except this time.

The barrel of Kei's gun leveled at her, a completely broken expression on her face.

Yuuri knows it well. It's one she's seen in the mirror.

"I couldn't let you know-"

An explosion of pain, then black.

Ruu stares at her with wide, innocent eyes (Yuuri remembers a far-off time when her eyes were as innocent) her fear apparent. "Rii-nee-san..."

She keeps her gaze pinned on Kurumi's swinging twin-tails, just as she always has. Following behind, just like she always does.

Living would be nice, someday, she muses. Actually living and not just surviving. Because if there isn't a difference between them, there's not a difference between anything.

What happens to the princess that lets her prince fall to the dragon?


"Are you worried about her?"

Megumi's hands on the wheel tighten imperceptibly as she stares at Kurumi, eyes flashing with worry. The purple-haired girl in the passenger seat does naught but stare through the windshield, lost in thought.

"When am I not?" Kurumi bitterly laughs. "It's not like my worrying does jack shit, though..."

"Worrying means you care," Miki adds from the backseat. She's in the middle, a sleeping Yuki to her left, and a wide-eyed Touko to the right. Ah, yes - she forgets that Touko hasn't seen this part of the city. 

Nobody who's seen this part of the city cares to re-see it.

Then again, they're not here to sight-see, are they?

"Ah, Miki-chan!" Touko teases, eyes sparkling behind her glasses. "Lighten up!"

She playfully nudges the platinum-blonde, who replies with a soft "ow". Clearly out of pity, but none particularly care.

"Ah, Megu-nee!" Yuki grins, wrapping her arms around her soulmate's waist. "Are we there yet?"

"No, Yuki-chan," Megumi replies, a soft smile on her face.

Not for the first time, Kurumi wonders how she does it.

"But don't you wish Yuuri-chan could be here?" Touko asks, resting her chin on her hand. "I wish Aki-chan and Hikako-chan and Rise-chan could be here!"

"...no..." Kurumi mumbles, staring blankly out the window. One of Them shambles by, formalwear torn and blood splattered over its rotting face.

She can't avoid seeing Megu-nee in its face.

In the end, all corpses look the same.

"No, I don't."

Chapter Text

"Are you afraid, Mii-kun?"

Yuki's slim fingers encircle her wrist, whisper-soft touches stroking pale skin. It's grounding, it's forcing her to stay here.

But still... as she stares into the yawing windows, like broken teeth - she doesn't feel afraid.

No.

She simply feels... numb. Unfeeling.

The last time she came here, everyone died. They all died, and she kept reading.

The Stand, eh? Strangely fitting - almost prophetic. 

"Everyone dies at the end," is how she replies.

It's not true, but it might as well be.

Yuki's eyes flash with concern, before adopting a look of childlike innocence. "What do you mean?" she chirps, all sugar-coated sweetness.

It's so out of place in this fucked-up world that Miki instinctively shuts her eyes. Denial, bargaining, anger, grief... fuck the fifth step, anyways. She never has the time for it.

"Are you guys coming?" Touko asks, peering at them through wide-rimmed glasses. "We're here."

Miki inhales, exhales, forcing herself to breathe in the air filled with the stench of death.

She stops and smiles.

 "I'm coming," Miki sighs, trotting after the grey-haired woman. "I am."

Yuki watches her, eyes flashing with bitter, bitter concern that she's seen far too many times to honestly believe it means something. It never has, never does, and above all, never will.

Oh, the far-gone days when they loved each other.


Kurumi never cared for malls, anyways.

Why bother spending days shopping, participating in inane chatter when you could just as easily be outside? Running with the wind in your hair, the bright sun illuminating the world in shades of gold...

How long has it been since she's seen grass not stained with blood?

There are some of Them in here, some of the fucking zombies clearly lurking around - she remembers that well. So, naturally, she proposes they split up.

Miki's eyes widen at that suggestion, and she's about to protest before Megumi seconds it. Touko and Yuki agree as well, so she stays silent.

In a different time, Kurumi would have regretted asking.

But this is here, this is now, and fury bubbles behind her eyes at this upstart upperclass-man who, whether she meant it or not, killed Yuuri.

"I'll take Kurumi!" Touko interjects, apparently sensing the tension. She's been good at that for years, timelines, actually, and this is no different. 

"Then the three of us will go together," Megumi smiles, hands clasped in her lap. Only the pallor of her knuckles indicates her fear, her general uncertainty of what happens next.

Kurumi gives them a jaunty wave, skipping off to the escalator. "We'll grab food and clothes! Can you guys grab some stuff to have fun with?"

"Sure!" Yuki grins, waving as they leave. "Have fun!"

Her voice is swallowed by the sheer mass of stagnant air that occupies the burnt-out building, and Kurumi bitterly muses that maybe, just maybe, it's a metaphor for this whole fucking apocalypse. 

Life will do that.

All the same, as Kurumi and Touko walk into the supermarket, she immediately grabs a few boxes of Nummy Sticks.

Yuki likes them, after all.


"Let's go to the movies."

Miki suggests it, eyes dark and shadow darker still. 

"Let's go to the movies."

Miki tacks it on to the end of their conversation as they walk out of the bookstore, a new copy of The Stand in a bag.

"Let's go to the movies."

The way Miki says it - dead, resigned - is what really hits Yuki. 

She knows what's in the theatre. 

They all know what's in that theatre. 

And still, she suggests the movies in such a cavalier manner, almost as if all they've been through doesn't matter a bit. 

"Nothing is there," Megumi tries. "There's no movies playing-"

"I want to go to the movies."

The way it's said, the hammer on movies... Yuki sees it for what it really is. A harsh, poorly-veiled euphemism for death.

"Nope!" she chirps, grasping Miki's wrist. "You're not dying today, Mii-kun!"

A slight flinch, a widening of the eyes - Miki has the same tells in every timeline. She's been caught dead-handed (not really a funny joke, now that she thinks about it).

"Now, how about we grab some casual clothes?" Yuki grins, pushing through the awkwardness as bluntly as possible. She's always been good at that.

Miki stares at her for a moment - they're treading lightly on eggshells of their sanity - and slowly, woodenly, dips her head.

"Yay!" Yuki squeals, darting forwards to grasp her hands as tightly as she can. They're cold - she can't stop herself from flinching - but as she waits, they warm.

Kurumi's hands didn't warm.  

Kurumi's hands never warmed, as the sickness coursed through her veins and turned her body cold, her mind fuzzy, the desire for human flesh growing from the single seed Megumi's reanimated corpse wrought. 

She loved loves Megumi. She loves loved Miki. 

Either way, it's never meant to be.

So she grasps Megumi's hand, tighter than she thought possible, and pulls her along, forcing a smile that might be able to banish some of the dark clouds filling her mind. "Come on! We have to grab some things for Takae and Haruka!"

Miki's eyes flash at that, the thought of Kei momentarily entering her mind.

Same tells in every timeline indeed.

Still. Still still still. Potayto, potahto. Whether it's Miki or Megumi by her side, she'll still be able to smile. Still be able to force a giant grin as she swings her legs through open air, contemplating the pros and cons of jumping off and forgetting, even if just for a brief, blissful moment.

Smile as the world burns. 

She and Yuuri excel at that - a finely honed art, hewn from cumulative months of misery and pure despair. They hurt with broken hearts, the shards of their sanity and happiness gone, along with their youth.

Once upon a time, they watched flowers grow and dreamt of the day they would go off into the world.

Now?

Now they watch dead flowers grow bloodstained, and shudder to think of how the story ends.

Chapter Text

"They disowned me when they found out."

Kurumi flinches, halfway through stuffing a pack of beef jerky into her backpack. "You... about what?"

Touko gives her a sad, sad smile, laden with years of pent-up emotions. "She. She and I."

Kurumi pauses, processing her words. "Her?"

Touko leans back just slightly, wide eyes behind glasses staring into the ceiling. "I loved her so damn much. I did. It didn't matter what my parents said, not to us. We were going to escape this fucking town... maybe go to the States. Get married. But then... this shit happened. And she... and I..."

There's a long pause as Touko curls in on herself, sliding down the wall to hug her knees to her chest. Her lithe body shakes with sobs, grey hair eclipsing her face.

"I left her behind."

There's a pregnant pause, broken only by Touko's rasping sobs. Kurumi isn't sure how to respond.

"I j-just left her," Touko sobs, raising her head enough to stare into Kurumi's eyes. "I l-left her in that... that hellhole... a-and they found out s-she got bitten... a-and I had to wa-watch Tougo... wa-watch him shoot her... in the head..."

"Oh, Touko..."

Kurumi places her bag on the ground, reaching out to place a comforting hand on Touko's shoulder. She's not sure what to say, doesn't know how to face something she can't hit with a shovel. "What was her name?"

"...Misaki. Her name was Misaki."

Kurumi hums, placing her hand atop Touko's. "What did she look like?"

"The most brilliant green eyes I've ever seen," Touko whispers. "They looked like the sun reflecting off the grass in the morning. Shone like the dew glistening on each individual blade of grass. God, I loved her."

She indicates a small black spot on the back of her hand - a destroyed soulmark. "I loved her so fucking much. The way she would laugh at the smallest things, the way her nose would crinkle up whenever she smelled something bad, the way she could make words move like music, and I'm just working in fucking Information Sciences. I never deserved her. Fuck, I never deserved her."

"Yes, you did."

Touko flinches, apparently not expecting Kurumi to disagree. "You don't understand. She was... the way her hair would shine like an ember in the fire, black waves arcing through the air. The way she'd smile at any joke... because she honestly found it funny. I loved her... I loved her more than words can say."

"And she loved you too," Kurumi whispers, rubbing circles into the other girl's palm. "If I asked her about you, what would she tell me?"

"She'd tell you... she loved how positive I am..." Touko begins. "She... she always said my hair glistened like silver... and the way my eyes would gleam when I saw a game... and the way I told her I loved her."

She curls in on herself yet again, letting out a keening cry akin to that of a wounded animal. "I love her. I still love her. So damn much."

"You're not alone."

Touko nods, tears streaming freely down her face. "I... I know that. But... but my parents... when I told them... my mom... she told me... I'd always be alone... because nobody could love someone as disgusting as me..."

The ghost of a smile crawls onto her face, as if remembering a painful but funny memory. "Misaki punched her in the face."

Kurumi has to fight the urge to burst out laughing, managing to reign herself back just in time. Instead, she offers an amused smile, though still with the same tender sympathy she's grown to excel at. "Really?"

"She said... she said the only one who was disgusting was her... for not loving me. Her own daughter! And... and my mom tried to fight back... but I stepped in between them. And my mom... and my mom slapped me."

She wraps her arms around her torso, as if compensating for a woman she'll never see again. "Misaki... I've never seen her so angry. My dad... he tried to hit her... and Misaki looked so furious with them... but eventually, she just took hold of my hand... and we left. We just... left. And... when we walked out the door... she looked at me... and told me that she would be my family now."

Touko stares into the floor, lost in her memories. "She was the bravest person I've ever met."

"I think you're pretty brave too," Kurumi admits.

Touko's gaze snaps to meet her's, watery eyes swimming in tears. "No. I'm not. I'm just- I'm just a coward. I can't keep my friends... my family safe..."

She starts to laugh, a terrifying sound devoid of sanity. "You don't think I remember? I remember watching Hikako bite Aki. I remember having to fend off my best friends with a fucking desk because they've gone crazy. I remember having to throw a chair at my soulmate's head in hopes of killing her. I wanted to kill my friends. I wanted to kill my soulmate. You don't understand."

"I do."

Touko pauses for a moment, eyes wide with a mixture of surprise and terror. "You... really?"

"Of course I do," Kurumi smiles, placing a comforting hand on Touko's shoulder. "You're not going crazy. And I promise I'll help you keep your friends safe so you'll never have to see them hurt again."

Touko stares at her for a moment before the ghost of a smile creeps onto her face. "I... I believe you."

Kurumi bites back a scathing retort and rolls to her knees, crawling to her feet. "Let's go and find some new DS games! I'm sure we can get it working!"

Touko blinks once, twice, then stands, slinging her bag over her shoulders. "That sounds great!"

They leave happier than they entered, which for an apocalypse, seems like a win.

Neither of them notice the radio sitting on the ground, sputtering static and sparking, before it finally combusts in an explosion of sparks. 


 

 

H̴͈͌̊͛͋̊̈́e̴̡̢̲̖̜̻͆̆̅̍̂̑̑̒̽͐͐̈́̏̍̎̕͝͝ļ̸͈̘̉̓̏͒̋́̋̈́̔̂̏̊̿̚͝͠l̵̩̰̞͉͙͒̿̑͒̊͜͝ơ̵̡̢̺̳̖͉̝͖̦̩̰̺̫̦͔̟̫͉̣͓̓͗̏̅͑̽̏͆̃͋̅̚?̸̳͚͈̲̪̫͈̰͔̻̞̦̾̂̈́̊͠ͅ ̶̢̡̼̹͍̜͕̥̘͎̣̱͕̩̩͆͑̑́̄͆͑̀͒̿̋͌͛̓̏̑͘͝͝ͅḨ̶͓̹̘̜̥͎̮͕̘̫̺̣̳̗̥̟̿̒͗̄̌͝ͅe̷̢̧̯̗̭͉̖̳͉̎̿͋̄͐͆̽̚͜ͅl̵̫͗̐͌l̵̢̨̨̧̛̜̣̦̥͖̯̹̬̖̣̜̖̹̟̩͉̂̊̋̏̉̾̐͛͜o̶͙̺͓͚̲̼͇̭̒͋́̽̑̈̂͊͑̉̈́̀̉̏̐͆̌?̷̧̛̮̩̤͈͔̄͌̀͛̒̌͗̒̾̀̈́͒̐̉̅̂͆͘ ̶̡̗͙̙̗̘̣̮͉̙̻̇ͅI̷̦̐̐́̒̍̆̏̓̋͆͝s̸̡̧̛͖̭̫̯͓̝͖̣̙̗̞͓̬͕͚̩̘͕̋͆͒́̓̾͒̒̂̍̉͋͘͜ ̶̧̰͔͖̬͉͔͙̘̪͈̠̖͓͐̐̄̉͛͋̒̈́́̆̌̈́̅̐̊̆̕͝͝ä̵̙̻̘̋̎̅̏͛̌͊̈̂ͅn̶̨̧̡̘͚̱̻͉̝̣͕͇̯̪̱͈̠̥̄̒̚͜͝ÿ̴̧̢̨̫̖̪͙̻͙͔̫̺̯̳̫̪͚́̊̅̃b̷̡̧̨͓̙̺̩̫̺͈̮͉̺̺̈̍̏̄̃͋̋̋̚̕͝ͅͅờ̵̧̨̻̰̖̪̼͉̥͙̻̮̩̭̩̹̙̺̝̓͛̇̍͘̕d̵̖̮͔̻̤͍̳͙̪̤͍̼͔̏͗͋̂̐̑͒̄̔͒̈̒̅̓͋̕̕̕͝͝͝y̶̧͉͇̻̌͗̂̄͂̿ ̵̢̢̗͔̥̫̬̱̝̮͇͖͎̜͔͕͙͉̺̝̲̓̄͐̒̔̎̔́͐̈́̈́̎̓̄́̔̃͐̕t̷̨̢̨̬̪̹͚̗̤̟̹͓̖͈̬̝̩̼̤͙̓̋̀̓̽̾̐̎̃̄̐̎̀̕̕͠͠ͅh̸̖̳̮͌̏̄͛͛̿̀̔̈́̉̓̈́͘ȩ̷̩͉̺̜̫̞̘̤̰͙͙͆̓͝r̶̬̯̋̅̂̒͂͠͝͝e̴͈̠̦͚̫̟̯̣̠̠̒̈́̾͌͊?̵̡̙͉̘̩̬͒͐͂͐

̵̛̛̫̭̪͖̼͕̩̣͍͚̻̭͙̯̣̪̅̀̏̈̐̃͐̆̓̓̓̓̿̕͝
̷̨̤̫̫̙̪̝̮̞͛̇̈́͆͊̅͒̃̒̎͋̉͘͜͠͝
̷̡̤̻̯̞̮̩͕͔̫̍͐̑̚̕
̵̡̛̛̮͗̂̆͌̉̋͌̇̍̌͠P̸̛͖̗͉͚͎̻̲̬̟̈́͗̊̀̊̏̎̓̋̊̈́͂̽͘͝͝ļ̸͕̘͓̳̪̥͈̩̹̺͙̫̪̌̍͛̿̒̽̔̒̈̕͜e̸̛̝͍͎̜͆̐͛͒̓͊͌̂̈́̔̆͐͝a̵̡̧̪̰͕̗̥̜̬͂ͅş̷̛̝̘͓̪͙͉̳̫̜͍̺̈́̿͑̌̈́̽͒̅́̈́̈̕̕͠͝͠ȩ̸̡̙̏̐̓̓,̸̡̘̱̤̪̖̗̞̗̫̣͓͓̙̰͇̘̫͎͐̈́̿̈́̅̎͒͐̆̂̓̎̿̓̌̈́̓̕͜͝ ̶̡̟̮͓̦͇̥̓̈̚͝͝w̴͇͕̏̊͂̄̈́͗̄̋͘͠͝ę̵̛̞͔͚̪̬̘̞̞̪̰͈̼̝̘̝͍͔̯̮̼͗̉̂͆̿͊̈́͌̏͊̄̈͌̆̂̚͝͠͝͝ ̴̨̢̟͉̙̪̝͖̤̗̱̗͇̀͒̀̒̀̇̈̾̆̒̊̑̀̈́̄̈̔͐̉̄͜ͅn̸̮̔̏ę̷͎͕͓͈̫̳́̂͛̎͌̆̃̋̑͊̄͘͜͜͝e̵̛̫̭̩̐̾̍͊͊͛̓̑̓̾̈́̈́̽̑̑̈́̅̄͝d̵̢̢̻͎̙̩̠̦͈̙͖̪͔̰̺̭͈̥͖̈́͒̈́̊͜ ̶͉͎̠͎̩̠̼͙̥̰̫͖͐̎̒̀̍̓̎̊͌̚͠ḧ̵̡̛̛͓̭̟̫́̀̏͐̿̏͊̅̿̒̆̏̌̆̉̚e̶͓̣̤̹̪̠̪̳͙̦͗͊ḻ̴͚̭̯̹̰̗̦͕̲̂̆̑̈̋̅͂̽͛͗̾̽̈̿͛̓̌̑p̴̢͉̞̬̹͇̹͙͓̹͎̜̘̦̺̯̪̲̻̗̊̿̐́̾͌̂̒̅̆͜!̵̨̛̯͎͇̯͖̉̆̕͜͜ͅ ̵̛͖̑̉̒͂̄̔͠͝P̵̧̨̛̳̲̣̣͚͔͈̦͍̬̥̼̼͎̯̞͕̘̂́̅͗̓̂̂̾̇̓̉̌̆̌͊̕ͅl̵̘͉̫͖̗͖͕͇̪̣̼͇̟̺̹̮̭̘͚͋̿̄̈́̿̽̌͐͋̂̊̈́̊̽͘̚ę̶̯̺̹͍̺̪̱̣͇͍͚͐̽̈̚a̸̢̡̲̺̯̻̘̬͉̟̯͈̬͚̗̗͒̔͌̐̎s̴̠͎͕̲̟̰͈̓̄̂̈́͊͊e̴̛͉̳̻͙̯̊͑̈́̓͂̂͛̈́͒͛̇̐̋̍!̵̰̙̗͇̮͉̗̤͚̫̘͔̘̣̠̋̏̈̈́͑̿̌̀̿̏̾̋̄̀͂̈́̂̚ ̸̨͉̺̤̰̳͔͇̬̮̦̩̘͉͔̺̈̈́̏͌͆͂͌͗̑̇̓͊͆̆͜͜H̴̛̛̳̼͈͈̣̯̭̬͙̤͕͍͓̱̮͕̩̣̑͑̀̂̍̽͊̌̕̚͝͝ĕ̵̫́͒͑̈́̈͋͆l̵̨̢̢͍͍͙̙̩̯̬͍̟̳̞̙̳̜̆̚͝ṗ̸̢̨̛̳͉̲̘̻͙͓̋̌͌͒̐̂̈́͗̉͌͊̂̎̇̕ ̸̤̟̟̟͇̲̃̐͊̉͒̀̚͝ư̸̛̿̅̔̊̆̄̍̅͜͠͝s̸̛̟͖͇͉̗̿̊͗͛̊̑͐̉͂̈́̊́̿̀̚͝!̷̢̣̲͉̱̮̟͖̥̋̔̅͐̋̽̓͆̋̂͘̚͝
̴̢̠͖͕̳̲̜̻̬̺̍͂̇̿̊̈͘͝͝ͅ
̵̢̳͇̯͒͋͌̒̉̑̊̆̈́̂̈́͊̕͝
̸̨̛̬̻̟̠͕̣̫̭̩̮͒̐̈́̈́͑̂̅͛̉̑̈̃͘͝
̸̭̠̳̹̪̱̤̞̮̟͓̙̫͛̋̅̔͆̿̏͗̊̎̋̊̂͘͠ͅP̴̧̡̢̥͕̹͎̩̲͔͓͚̮̃ļ̸̻̳̣̺̓͋̅̀̉̐̚e̶̛̛̫͚̙̥̰̝͋̉͌̆͆̓̂̀͆͌̑̓̐̋̀̂̂a̵̧̨̧̛̛̼̮̗̣̩͚͎̻͓̰͇̘̗̜͕͎̝̤͊̿͌̄̚͘͝s̶̨̡̤̗̫̹͙̜̠͉͍̤̹͎̑̏̈́̾͋ę̸̧̢̛͈̺͓̪͖̳̩̙̪̫̭̣̜̭̟̔͊̿̀̈͌̋̊͝.̷̢̡̨̡̧̛̮̗̞̼̙̟̗̝̻͉̙͔̙̂̍͂͊̔͐̍͌̐͊̐̋̏͆ͅ.̷͎̿.̷̢̡̖̲̹̟̙͍̎̀̎͆͐̿͋̐͑͂͌̊P̵͕͓͋̂̓̾̈́͘̕ļ̶̯̠͇̬̻̘̮̳͈̜̹́͛̆̃̏́̉̂̿͒̇̈́̈́͑͘͠ͅͅȩ̷̝̼̮̜̮̱̮͚̺̻͓̬̉̎̈́͆̋̑͜a̵̢̰̻̮̪͍͔͚͓̙̰͇̟̳̝̻͖͓̱͑̓̊̉̐̉̕͜͠ͅs̶̨̗̱̖̩̼̺̬̭̟̥̱̲̳͊͊̆͐̂̆͛̀̎̔e̶̬̠̞̮̜͍͓͐̊̑̎̄̊̓̍͑̐͝͠ ̷̧̛̭̠̖̜̘̩̮̰̳̯͓̣̼̆͋̐̾͛͆̍̐̽̆̚͜͜͜͜͝b̸̛̲͗̅͂̾ė̷̡̛͇̹͔̥̏̽̉̈́̈͌͗̑͛̾̕͝ ̸̻̩̬͔̰͖̞̰̻̙͎͇͇̜̱͈͚͖̒̓̔̂́̏́̈́̕͝ͅą̴̭͈̘̠̗͚̦͉̤͍̱̈̆͆͜͜͜͝l̷̬̪̦͍̝̱͓͖̳̯͖̳̰̪̔͋̿̎̃̄͊̎̎̉̈̔͜͝ͅi̵̡̻̻͖̰͉̳͎̪̪͈̩͕͚͍̺̺̖͛̏v̶̜̪̜̘͍̿͌̑̿̔̅͜e̵̢̢̜̼̺̯͉̝͕̰̯̭̥͎̲̘̣͈̼̳̋.̷̨̛̬͎͎̜̠̭̱̾̽͗̓̉̔͒͊̆̄̏͒̓̈́̏̾ ̵̛͈̩̰̮̗͙͖̬̱͎̖̈́̊͋̿̑̍̍͜Y̵̢̘͎͇͔͇̳͍̿̓̃̆̽̾͐̋̏̾͑̋̚͝ǫ̶̡͚̫̦͉̣̠͖͍̫̫̙̲̦̪̟̈͂̿͝ṵ̴̣͎̮̣̣̍̋̑̈͛̋̃̈̽̔͊͛͐͆̅̈́ͅ ̷̢̨̝̔͂̈̀̇̈̇̿͜ͅȟ̷̜̲͚͔̈̔̇͛̓͐̓̌͠͝͝ͅa̶̢̡̨̟̰͖̘̳̪̟̩͙͓̤̯̩͉̱̓̄̄͑͐̊̅̈́̃̿̿͛̂̈́͝v̸̡̛͓̲͙̞̠̝̣̭̖͑̈͗̀̅̽̉́͆ę̶͓̹̣͕̻̗̝̝̱̘́̽̏͌̉͛͋̚͘ ̸̢͕̤͂̎̅̂̀̈̓̎͋̅̔̄̕̚͝t̸̛̲͓̭͇̤͙̤̺̓̓̑̈́̃͛̉͑̆́̉͘͜ơ̷̙̖̳͈͍̥̭̞͉̱̮̗̆͋͛̿̅͊̔̎̎̽̂̂́̈́̈͒̃̍̕͠ ̷̧̢̤̗̬̠̞͎̝͙̦͖͒͒͆͌̈́̄͋̍̋̊̓̓̅̚͝͝b̴͓̺̩̈́̑͋͊͑̇͂́̈̃̐̾̿͋̋̚̕͜͠ę̵͇̪͚̲͎̈́̓̈̓̓̄̾̊̾̕ ̷̞̹͈̜̏̍̉̐̌̊̎͘͝a̵͓̯̪̫͑l̸͕̇̔̈́̾͑̂̇̋̔̇̀̽̚ȋ̵̢̘̤̺̗̮̦͈̟̠͉̺͓̞̲̞͉̯̦̒̓̅̔̈́̒́̄̀̿̅̕̕̕ͅv̵̨̧̧̙͚̫̫͎̻̦̥͖̯̠̞͓̬̻̞̪͗̑͘ë̶̯̺̼̦̯̙͉͍̜͍̳̫͎̌̊̂̈́́̽̾͂͜͝.̸̛̬͕̩̼̝͚̬͍͈͓̱̄͋̔̇̏́̎͐̋͂́̔̒̂̌͐̂͘̕̚
̸̡̻̗͎̤̼̻͙̮̩͖̻̫̠͓̮͛̈̑̉̍̐̆̊͑̈́̆̂͝
̷̱̺͓͇̘͉̜̻̗̫̯̱̹̤̰͓͕͍̻̣͛̔̐̽̏͑̌̒͊̀̓̐̊̎͊̒͝͠
̵̨̡̢͓̙̲̠̳̟̙̻̺̤͙̰̻̟̩̱̭̆͑̋͌̉͐͗͑͗̏͌̌͜
̵̢̣̻̺̤͍̘̇͋̆̾͊̓̇̄͑̕̚ͅW̴̧̤̝̗̜̪͍̍̓̐͛̈́̽͛͊̓̕͝h̵̢͉̜̣̯͇̫͍͕̫̤̭̑̆̀̽̕ą̶̨͓̱̟̮̫̦̹̦̯̖̙͓̠͍̪̫̦͚͛͋̆̑͋̊̿̍͗̔͊̒̈́̐͐̌̚͝ẗ̴̠͎̳̯̜͎͙̪́̽̐͛̉͑̈̚͝e̵͔͚̣̣̤̲̲̟̮̓̓̏̉̈́̑̆̈́͗͗̚̕ͅv̷̛̛͓͙̫̫͔̘̭̔̓̎̐̐̆͂̌͗͜͝ͅe̸͈̼̦̝͉̱̮͂͋̾͛r̴̡̦̯̬͈̤̫̤͖͆̈̈́̐͑̂̑͋͌͊͝͠ ̶̼̳̼̻̜̠͍̒̋y̴̛̗̮̰̤͕̮̮̝̩̜̦͚̻̫̭̤͉̻̾̎̍̈̑̿̊̒̈́͆̈̓͂̕͘͜͠ȏ̷̠͙̪̬͉̚̚͜͠u̸̬͇͚̜̹̺̼͐͊͆̔͜ ̷̧̛̱̥̹͎̘͎͎̞̞̰̼̹̀̍̉͐͋̆̄̄̉̎́͆͆̽̇̕̚͘͘d̶̨̫̤̫̖̯̪̙̫͚̱̦̮̿̉͌͗̓͗͘͜o̶̢̠̰̩̫̟͓̤̱͓̅̉͛̌̍̔̇̽́͠,̵̛̛̩̦̼̜̫̦͈͖̬̀̉̈́̇̽͊̐̈́̉̑͌̈́̂͂̚͝͝͠ ̶͓̯͝d̵̨̡͕͖̻̗͓̘͈̦͆͗̋̈̓̿̏̅͝ơ̷̢͖̼̹̦̱̙͖͎̱̺̣̙͇̙̪̻̂̉̅̃͛̔̍̈́̓̄̇̂͊́̉͋̆ņ̸̛͙͑̋̃̀͐̒̍̌̚͘̕̕'̵̠͙̻̝̼̭̗̯̥̟̻͖͚̙̑͛͒̑̊͌̆͆͆͐͑̍̈́̈́̌̓̿̚͝͝͝t̷̢̛̪͑̒̆̊̓̂̐͌̑̓̔͛̍͑͆̕̕͠͝ ̶̢̡̧̡̞͎̟̖̭̲̠̣͈͎̻͎͔̾̿̓͊͆̐͗̐̉̚͜ç̶̧̥̖͖̫̥̭̰̬͔̰̄̄̄̅̂̽̿̚͜͝ọ̴͔͎̩͈̭̙͚̪͖̰̙̼̼̳̍͑̾̔̀̈͗̆̽̿ͅm̶̢̢̛̠̭͙̠͕͈̝̰̭͙͉̤͑͌͋̏͜ȇ̷͇͓̹͒͐̓͂̎̽͌̇̊͐̔̃̾̾̑̐͛̿̚͜͝ ̵͇̲̩͈̰̹̤̪̪̥̱̹̟̩̰͋b̶̺̠̥̍̂̆̉̒͗̍̚͝ä̵̡̧̩̙̞̣̥͔͓̹̮̤̪̗̭͉̫́̌̎̅̒̇͂͒͑̅̃̂̆̋͌̕̕͝c̶̢̥̳̬̳̘̪̮͍̯̥̫̪̈́͐͌͗̐͐́͋͗̍̄̒̇̂͝k̸̻̥̞̒̃̈͐̒̏̒͒͛̕̚͜ ̴̡̧̛͖̞͚͚̮̹̺͎̟̬͙̯͓̮̼̱͖́͊̉͆͗͋̑̒̋̊̿̿t̴̡̝̙͇͋͆̏̍̎̽̃͋̃̽̇͊̏̈́̎̕͝͝ͅờ̴̡̢͕̱̺̻͔͕̫̬̞͔̗̣̺͈̪̹͕́̊̆͋͘͘ ̴̢̘̟͕͍͈̜̤̰̿͌̌͋̅̊̃͌͘̚͝ţ̵̧̨̛̛̰͍̜͇̤̮͔̤̬̰̱͐̓̑̎̏̽ͅh̶̡̧̡̢̹͎͔͍̠̩͓̙͍̫̟̗͉̫̜̗͖̆̆e̶̡̜̞͈̻̦̟͕̞̲̰͚̗̻̥̪̙̿̑́̂ ̸̖̜̟̪̠̺̘̫̠̼͕̳̮͍͚̬̥̞͛̃̆̓̈s̷̨̡̡̟̻̱̼̬̼̹̎̎͋̈̾̓̏̇̏͑̕͝͠č̷̛̤̻̪̫͖̝͉͙͖͓̈́̂͑̔͐̑̏̑̃̊͑̄h̸̤̯͕̮̖̘̄͗̉͑ͅő̶̧̻͇̯̣̲̥̦̖̝̯̣͚̈́̒͑̇͊̎͂͐̋̾͊̍̓͘ơ̸̢̢̹͖̲͚̝̺͍̲͆̌͗̿͛͛̈͆͛̇͝͠l̷̼̰̞͎̯̥̺̞̝̘̝͔͈̩̘̼̰͍̩̀̑͐̐͛̈͆͂̓̾́̅̑̃̾͛̇̑̿̽͜.̷̡̢̙̦͚̼͖̼̣͔̻̯͈̈̎͐̍̽̈́́̓̈́͋͗̐̂͋̄̿͐̕̕͝͝ ̵̱̓͐͌̾̃̇͆̓͐̔̔D̷̨̧̢̛͚̤̭͓̜͔͗̆͂̇̂͌ǫ̶̢̹̠̝̝̳̞̭̻̠͉͚̗͈͍̠̱̯͎͍͑̊̆̾̂̿͌̎̀͐̊͝n̶̢͈̪͓̮̩͇̥̥͈̫͓̘̩͔̲͕͒̓̎͊̈́̕͜͠'̶̢̗̘̪̫̋̄͛̋̓̕͘ͅͅt̷̟̯̪̜͈̠̲̣̟̜̯͖̤̏̈́̆̂́̿͛̕ ̶̡̡̢̢̛͙͚̩̳̙̱̝͆̈́̈c̶̨̛̠̪͚̩̩͖̍͛͆̊̊̅̉̓̉͛̒̚͘̕̚͝ǫ̴̨̛͖̞̗͈̖̲͈̭̇̅́̓́̊̄͋̐̆̾̒͠͝m̸̡̖̝̮̗̙̺͔̪͉̥̞̹̜̮̱̠̜̳̤̈́͝e̴͓̦̙͖̽̍̃͂̽̓̿͂̋̋̾͠ ̶̨̢̗̖̤̺͚̳͍̞͚̮̘͉͙̮̫͈͌̀͝b̷̢̪̭̦͕͔̹͚̯̩̖͆̾͜ą̵͈̩̰̤͖̯̭̩̈́c̷̢̛̟̲̙̭̒̈́͋͒̈́̔̈̈́͛͂̈́̀̾̃̈́̇̊͝k̶͚̝̤͈͔̙͇̰̘̳̃̓̈́̓͊͑̇̔̑̇̉͐̐̑͑̕͘͘ ̴̢̨̡̖͔̫̬̞̭̓̒̄̒̀͊́̒̀̐̈̽̅͑͝t̷͎̠̗͖͙̼̱͓͈͇̼̙̦͔̀̅̊́̇͂̒̕͝͠͝͝ͅô̷̙̖̣̳͕͎̭̦̑̒͆͂̄͜ͅ ̸̢̧̧̨̻͙̗͚̹̥͖̳̪̖͓͔̣̬͇̰̮̽̽̋ṫ̴̨͍̰͒h̴̯͇͎͇̾͑̓̊̋̕ȇ̵̢̢̯̬̻̗̩̦̜͚̹̤͐̓͋̀̍̕͜͝ ̶̢̨͔̤̣̥̪͚̣̮̟͉̭̯̖̝̹̍͑̇̾͒̂̈́͂͘͘͠͝s̴̳͉̱̬̫͈̤̠͖̫̥̥̣͉̥̠͉̽̉͒̓͌̓̈̃̿̈́͑̈́͐̋͝c̶̠̳̰̞̥̯̻̜̮̻̱̳̳͇͎̻̥̃͌ͅh̶̬̤̟̠̄̐̊ỏ̴̢̬͍͚͓̦̪̖̻̮̰͈̲͇̳̾̋͊̈́̎͆̂̈́͆̓͊̓͋́͆̉̂͘͜͝o̶̡̨̨̧̤̘̥͈̺͖͎̙̼̖͍̼̟̦̱̣͋͊̾͋̄͌̌̈́̐͌̇͊̚͜ļ̸̛͖̗̫͎̬̹͔͔̝̬̣̓̉̏͌̈́͑͐̇̋͒̄͛͘̚͝͝ͅ.̴̩͇̺̤̝̬̦̮̟̯͍̇͗͋̓̏̋͑̌̽͆̈́͗̔͆̕̚̕͝ ̵̟̩̬̯̣̦͈̩͇̯͐͛̉̿͌̿̽̃̋͊̊̍̈́͘͝S̶̡̙̹̜̒̌̍̑̋͌͗̃̾̓͒͝ț̸̨̼͉̍̎̓͒̍͂̑͊̈́̽ấ̸̛̻̻̖̙̪̺̻̙͕̖͙̠̭̆͂̑͛̂̍̓̆͛͂͑͝y̸̨͈͓̭̟̜̠̙͙̆̊̔̂̍̐̆̎̈́͂͝ ̴̨̧͙̺̬̲̗̞̈̃̎̈̃̓͒̎̉̐ţ̶̨̢̧̢̘̹̘͖̯̼̠̫̗̦͓͜ͅh̵̳̩͈̘̽̉̋̋͒̐͐̋̾̈́́͒̀̊̾́̽͘̕̕ę̸̧̢̼̦̩͍̱͈̫͎̳̩̬̭͇̗̙̝͈̈́̉́̏ͅr̶͓̣̽̈́̓̂̽̏̂͑̐̾̅̒̀͘̕ȩ̷͍̳̜̞̪͔͓̅̅͊̀͐̈̍̇̃̓̏̂̌͑͘͝.̴̨̛̭̭̭͎̱̝̖̘̠̄͐̐̇̽̈́̎̄̊̂̅͘ ̷̡̢̧̥̤͕͖̖̝̤̰͎͚̙͈̞̭̻̪͒͑͛͗̽̂̾͋ͅY̸̪̟͊̌̿̽̐̔̾ơ̸̪͓̼̟͇̟̪̘̜̮̳͓̙̱̼̼ͅú̵̡̙̣̣̲̙̳̲̣̙̔̑͌̀͝'̶̘̈́͌͂͌̐̋̔̔̈́̎̕̚l̶̡̼̣̹̰̜̍̓l̶͕̜̹͉̘͔̱̞͈̘͔̱͍̹͓̮̒̅͆̎͝ͅ ̸̯̭̘̅̇͑b̶̺̰̟̦͉̞̣̩̬̋̓̇̽̆͐̋̏́̾̐̀̿̋̋̅̋̓͠ẹ̴̲̀̍̓ ̵̧̳͙̹̲̘̲̩͖̹̈s̵̛̳̼͎̟̠̲͍̃̅̎̉̃͑̀̈́̍̊͂̎̈̿͘͝a̵̡̞̪̻͉̯̥̐̍̋͊̇͐̑̾̅̿͗̏̐̒͛̆͘f̵̧̨̥͕͖̯̤̤̗̫͔̻̠̭͓͓̩͔̲͋͜ȩ̸̛͍̬̘̙̭̟̪̳̞̰͇̤̫̈́̒͑̃̒̎̇̌̓̓̔̏͗̇̈́̔̐͘͜͠ͅ.̵̠͖̗̙̩̤̮͉̒̑̐̃̌͋̾̍̌̃̐̒̉̓̊̕
̸̠̲̻̩͎͒͆̐̊͜
̵̢̨̤͎̹͍̬̪̱̥̜̝̮̯͎̜̲͚̖͂̽̏͆͒̇͊̽͠ͅ
̴̺̰̪̗̤̰̮̫͙̂̆̐̓̎̑̌͜͜
̸̧̡̧̘͖͇̻̯̫̗̫̻͈͋̓̄̐̌͜͠
̵̨̨̨̤̳̳̫̥̹̝͙̙̱̱̗̪̭̆̋͗̿̄̉̊̓͐̈͋͛̈́̏̀̃̍̕
̶̡̢̰̖̼͓̣̹̠̥̻̬͍̋̋͌̈̉̄̃̇͂̇̎͜͠͝ͅK̸̢̨̛̞̻̺̲̖̻͕͖̺̹̠͍͌̔̎̅̌̅̒̿͗̔̄̈͆͑̄͛̚͘͝ͅu̴̡̡̢͖̞̗̣̼͓͙̹̻͙̰̝̟̞̔̑̓̄̐͌͂̈̔̀̑͌͗̚̕r̵̨̛̲̫͂́̎́̏̑̅̀u̸̧͓̘͎̣͔͈̪̤̯̥͙̟̬͕͒̓̇͂̿͛́͜͝m̷̧̘̹̞̯̻̲͇̯̹̫̠̈́̈́̑̊̅̄̉̓̈́ì̸̢̛̩̞͍̥̠̱͗̇̑͌̍̎̂̏̌ͅ.̸̧̛̼̜͇̲͔̞͎̼͍͕̰̟͙̘͌̄͂̈́̂͋͝.̷͍̯̝͖͔̦̖̜̮̓̀͛̃̃.̸̡̨̠̦̞͉͚̗̘͇̈̒̏͜ ̷̧̺̣̘̘̬̤̩͚̠͖̖̖̲̩̼͚̭̇̾͋̒͐͌͌̆̂ͅĮ̸̹̦͔͇̦̪̻̳͓͇̏̒̂̇̃̐͝ ̷̛̛̬͚̬͈͔̟͖͙̭̤̦̯̙͙͈͔͉͆̎̏̑̽̆l̵̡̦͚̮̜͇͚͓̬͚͙̠͈̠͓͉̮̃̇̿̎̈́͜ơ̸̢̨̗̘̲̤̭̦̬̟̤͙̺̝̫̣̞̜̑̄̒̈͒͋̃̄͜͜͝v̴̢̡̡̛̥̙͔̝̺̝̤̫͉͓͕̻̦̩͚̓̉͒͒̃͆̈́͋̎̆̔̓̚̕͠͠ͅḙ̶͉̞̖̳̺̤̺̬̠̻͕̮̭̲̥͉͎̾͗̎̏̕ ̴̧̧̬̖̙͓͔̰̞̘̙͇̣̣͙̝̌̄̇͊̓͛̓͑̊̏̆̌͐̓̐͘͝͠y̴̯͉̻͚̞̥͎͑̉ȯ̶̢͔̻͇̩̳̰̫̥̙͕̂̎̆̈́̿ů̴̓̈͑̂̃͜͠.̵̡̨͙̤̣̙̦͉̮̱͍͍͙͎̗̈́͑̂̿͌̈́͐̑̀͊̓͛̉͛̇͑̐̚̚͝͠

 

 

Chapter Text

"How did it... how did it come to this?"

Ruu stands, blood trickling down her face from a deep cut on her forehead. There's dried blood coating her dress and stuffed bear, but she couldn't care less.

Next to her, Hikako sits on the ground, tears staining her cheeks. Her arms are wrapped around her legs, trying her best to shut out the outside world.

She fails. Always has, and always will.

Haruka - eyes widened in terror - flits from person to person, attempting to bandage whatever wounds her limited nursing skills can fix. It'd be easier were there not only five others in the room (a number that's too small and too large all at once, and they won't talk about the subtraction that changed the sum).

Kei stands, a statue as Haruka wraps gauze around her arm. Her gun is trained on the doorway, finger on the trigger to shoot any creatures that decide to meander in for a snack.

"Where's... Yuuri?"

The question comes from Takae - black hair eclipsing her eyes but for a thin sliver of terror. None can blame her - it's merely a conduit for the malestrom of emotions that fill the room.

"It doesn't matter," Akiko states. "We need to find a way out."

"Like what?" Kei scoffs. "We already lost Rise, Aki, and Souta! Not to mention Yuuri! Where the fuck can we go?"

"Language," Akiko chastizes, and Kei rolls her eyes.

"Yuuri... had the radio..." Hikako mumbles.

Something about the sentence seems to irritate Ruu, who stomps her foot on the ground like a petulant child. "Yuuri-onee-chan is alive! I know she is! She's not... she is alive! I know it!"

Hikako flinches, squeezing her legs tighter. "I'm... I'm sorry..."

"Don't be," Akiko sighs. "What if we try to climb out the window?"

"With what?" Kei queries. "Can you materialize a bedsheet? A rope? A teleporter? Because, if you can't-"

"Enough!" 

It's Haruka that eventually interjects, fury blazing in her gaze. "We don't know where Souta and the others are. We don't know if they're alive. Let's just try to escape. Let's just try and live."

Silence reigns for a few moments.

"...I want to see Miki again."

Kei breaks the silence, tears streaming down her face as the gun shakes. "I want to see... Miki again."

"We all want to see them again," Akiko soothes. "Let's escape first."

Her eyes rove the classroom, searching for something, anything that could save them.

They land on an air vent.

"...how do you guys feel about climbing?"


Safety turns out to be a broom closet.

Aki has her hand pressed over Yuuri's mouth, fear evident in her eyes. Yuuri, mercifully, seems calm for the moment, a radio clutched in her grasp.

"Are you okay?" Aki whispers, voice all too loud in the tiny space. 

Yuuri nods woodenly, hands shaking furiously. Aki coaxes the radio out of her grip and tries to turn it on, but it's useless - broken beyond repair.

Similar to Yuuri, actually.

"You wanna... talk or something?" Aki tries, and Yuuri shoots her a what-the-fuck-are-you-saying look, but doesn't directly refute it. "Cool. So I'm talking. Great."

Aki shifts just slightly, hugging her knees to her chest as she leans on the closet door. "Um, okay. Where to start. Well... what do you want me to say?"

"You love Touko."

It's stated flatly, blandly, a statement of fact rather than an earth-shattering revelation. Aki sputters for a moment before clasping hands over her mouth, forcing herself to stay quiet. There are still zombies about, after all.

"What?" she questions, still reeling. "I... no! I don't... we don't... it's not..."

"Tattoos aren't everything," Yuuri tells her, infused with a strange amount of sage wisdom from someone so young. "Ink on skin. That's all."

Aki stares at her quizzically, confused. "But... everybody follows the tattoos."

"Miki and Yuki dated for a while."

Yuuri traces strange symbols into the door, a loop here, a line there, and Aki feels almost sure it's gibberish. "They were happy. Really happy. It was actually cute to see - they even called the black scribbles their soulmarks."

"Black scribbles?"

"Nothing."

There's another period of silence as Aki debates her course of action, eventually deciding on fuck it. "Yeah, I love Touko."

God, that word is a beast. Love. As though she really knows what it means.

"Just, the way she smiles, the way she waves her hands around when she's excited, the way she's so willing to let herself be negative at times, because fuck it, that's just how she is. I love the way her eyes widen when she's watching the sunset, the way her hair waves in the wind. Have I ever told you how crazy her hairstyle is? I mean, who just wakes up one morning and decides 'boom, I'm going to have short hair except for a long strand I'm going to braid'. She's so unique and amazing, but at the same time so raw. God, I just, I can't think of anyone I care about more than her."

She flinches, crossing her arms over her chest. "Ugh, forget I said anything. It doesn't matter."

"Doesn't it, though?"

Yuuri slides closer, until their legs are on top of each other. She cups Aki's face in her hands, and for one strange instant, Aki feels as though she's the younger one here. "Your emotions are real, Aki-chan. They are real, and so incredibly powerful. You don't give yourself enough credit."

Aki laughs quietly, bitter melancholy tinging her voice a dark blue. "Wow. Um. Okay. Let's escape, then. I want to see Touko again."

"You two will make a good couple," Yuuri muses. "I can see it now. Your wedding day. Touko and Aki, swearing their vows. Do you, Aki, take Touko to be your lawfully wedded wife?"

She laughs, a thought occurring to her. "Maybe cut that line out. I doubt there are any laws left to follow."

Aki bites her lip, but doesn't say anything.

"Hey, what's wrong?" Yuuri asks, clasping Aki's hands in her own. "You're okay, right?"

Aki stares into her lap, tears welling up at the corner of her eyes. "They... one of Them got me. I'm... they... I'm sorry..."

She rolls up her sleeve, and Yuuri's greeted with a wound - so similar to Kurumi's - and she forgets how to breathe.

No. Not again. No no no no no-

The closet door swings open.

Chapter Text

-ii.

She first saw Touko under the sakura trees.

It's strange - it was a city many hours away, both of them having travelled there on a whim. Aki herself merely sought a brief respite from the planning of the future - university was difficult to think about - and as such, she opted to go and view the trees.

She had her books hugged to her chest, watching in wonder as the blossoms swirled through the air. Pink, white, flash-flash-flash, a whirlwind of dying flowers. 

That's where she saw Touko.

She was staring at the sky, peering into the wide expanse of blue through her wide-framed glasses. They reflected the clouds, small tufts of white traveling through her indigo eyes.

"Oh, are you here to see the flowers?" she asked, not taking her eyes off the racing clouds.

Aki flushed, gaze shifting to her feet. "Yes. And you?"

"I came to watch the clouds!" Touko chirps, extending her arms to her sides. The wind tugs at her braid, causing her hair to fly around her face. "Honestly... aren't they just so beautiful?"

As if on cue, a sakura petal arced through the sky and landed gently on her head, a spot of pink amidst the grey.

Touko plucked it out of her hair and smiled, proffering it to Aki. "It's a lucky sakura petal now! You should take it!"

Aki would later cite that as the day she first fell in love with Touko Deguchi.

 

-i.

"This is my girlfriend!"

Touko's eyes shone with anticipation, excitement evident in her gaze. The girl whose hand she held had a soft smile and softer eyes, blackish-red hair flowing down her back. She was demure, like a shrinking flower, and so completely the opposite of Aki that it hurt.

Her gaze fell to their hands - matching sakura - and she had to fight the urge to vomit. Fight the urge to think about her complete and utter lack of romantic soulmarks - not because she didn't love people, but because nobody ever actually gave a shit enough to love her back

"I'm happy for you," she managed to choke, proffering her hand just like Touko proffered that sakura blossom all those months ago. "I really am. You two are so cute together."

She spat out the words through venom-coated lips, jealousy swamping her. It is the green-eyed monster, after all.

In that vein, Touko is Juliet, and Misaki is Romeo, and Aki is just Paris, just fucking Paris, someone who deserved better than being brutally murdered outside the tomb of a woman who never gave him the time of day when she was alive by said woman's secret beau failed her so badly that she died.

But this is not Shakespeare, and this is not some sappy love story like the world makes it out to be. 

And people say liberal arts is a useless major.

 

i.

The first time she confesses, they're standing on a rooftop.

Touko's eyes shine with tears, and it hurts to see her wounded this way, hurts to see a woman too good for this world broken along so many different fault lines that she resembles a stained glass window. The sakura blossom on her hand is nothing but scribbles, nothing but a dim reminder of Juliet's Romeo. 

"I love you for ever and a day," Aki tells her, cupping her face in her hands. "I always have. I always will."

Touko shakes her head furiously, stumbling backwards. "No, no, no, that's not, I can't, it's not-"

Aki will later say that in that moment, surprise etched on her face and hair flowing around her like some sort of broken Ophelia, she has never looked more beautiful.

 

iii.

The third time, she doesn't.

She waits, bides her time, with the sickening knowledge of her omnipresent lie burning deep in her throat. Lie atop lie atop lie - and oh, if she sees the way Touko looks at the other girls, eyes sparkling and horribly in love with the pink-haired librarian, then t'would be better to have never loved at all than this living torture, akin to thousands of knives embedding themselves in her heart with each breath.

Touko and Rise announce that they plan to marry, and she feigns joy, ecstasy even, pretending to be so damn happy for the girl she could never have.

(She hangs herself on their wedding night, for what all good comedies need is the death of the fool)

 

iv.

Neither of them even survive the first day.

Touko's dragged out of her hiding place, kicking and screaming, and oh, were Aki just the slightest bit faster, then she would have been able to do something, but as it is, there's no excuse for her weakness.

They both die to undead hands, and Aki's last thought is of regrets.

 

vii.

Lucky? Hah.

She's lucky in the sense that she never has to experience rejection. She's lucky insofar that she doesn't have to risk hurting Touko with her own cowardice.

The pills are a calm way to die, and as her Juliet will later say, she looks as though she's sleeping.

 

viii.

She confesses, this time.

It ends the same as it always does.

 

ix.

Shakespeare was never cruel enough to write flat-out rejection. 

"I don't love you."

Those words pierce through her heart, deep down to her core, and it feels as though she's breaking from the inside out.

Is this what hurt feels like? 

Is this what death feels like?

She extends her arms, every bit the mad Ophelia the world has assigned her.

And with a smile, she throws herself to the hoarde.

 

xiii.

"Why do I love you? I don't know myself. It's your smile, your laugh, the joy in your eyes whenever you see a sakura blossom, because then you think the world isn't really dead, and just... I love you. Do you feel the same?"

"...no."

 

xxx.

Aki and the other liberal art students put on a play. It's Romeo and Juliet.

Touko is Juliet and Misaki is Romeo, and poor, hapless Aki is Paris, and somewhere, she feels as though she's heard this before.

The zombies attack the play during the final act, and Aki believes there has never been a story this cruel.

 

lv.

"Could you ever love me?"

"No."

 

lxix.

Love is blind, and Aki knows that well.

But still, in considering Touko's looks, Aki believes none can do better than those indigo eyes.

(She finds love, but it's hollow and empty without Touko)

 

c.

She prays this time, begs the stars for a world where she can feel joy, but either her prayers go unanswered or the stars are full of shit, because a zombified Kougami enters and sinks his teeth into her arm.

 

cxi.

The School Living Club members break the monotony, and she's grateful for them in some way, but when Yuki proffers an innocuous hat of all things, she snaps.

(There's blood on the ground and a broken body out the window and she screams and screams but the hurt won't go away)

 

ccc

She's huddled in a broom closet with Yuuri, hiding from the rabid hordes outside. Already she can feel it - the infection coursing through her veins - and all she can think of is how she'll fight for her Juliet. 

(But was there ever a story for Juliet without Romeo?)

Chapter Text

Yuuri screams.

This is the norm for her lately - screaming means she feels. Isn't just the empty, emotionless shell that was once called Yuuri Wakasa.

But no, this is pure terror.

Adrenaline courses through her veins as she flings the door open, sprinting down the hall and away from the infected. Some of Them turn to look at her - rotting skulls atop rotting bodies - and she shouts for Kurumi as loud as she can.

Her prince will save her.

She runs into a fresh wave of zombies and sobs, a pure, raw sound as her feet skid on the tile. "Kurumi! Kurumi!"

It's a mantra, a hope, a prayer.

It's all she has left.

"Kurumi, please-"

She catches sight of the sky, and it's on fire.

The sunset sends streaks of crimson across the sky, red red red spilling across the blue like blood in water. Like sickness through planet earth, corpses drowning as they attempt to swim.

Yuuri is drowning.

She climbs onto the windowsill, tears reflecting the sunset. "Kurumi!" she cries, yowling her pleas into the fading light.

Nobody comes.

She leans backwards just a bit, testing the air. She'll die from this height.

But better dead than one of them, right?

Whispering a quiet prayer, she lets go.


To say Kurumi never dreamt of making a grand entrance would be a lie. 

She's always had a sort of flair for the grandiose. Shounen manga occupied her bookshelves (well, what used to be her bookshelves before this whole thing happened) and she could lose herself in stories of dramatic heroes, grand powers, and incredible magic.

So to be given the opportunity to scoop her girlfriend out of the air, bridal-style... well, she only wishes cameras were still a thing, so as to preserve her dramatic moment. 

"Kurumi?" Yuuri gasps, face flushed and blood smeared across her face. "Is that..."

Kurumi fixes her with a winning grin, relief evident in her gaze. "Damn, am I glad to see you."

A scream pierces the air, and Yuuri pales, burying her face into Kurumi's shirt. "The others... they're still in there..."

"No."

Miki throws the car door open and grabs a handgun - it must be Kei's, though Kurumi could have sworn they confiscated that - and races towards the building, panic evident. Yuki stumbles after her - she's never been a combatant, not really, so her reflexes aren't great - and Touko follows. 

"Yuuri, can you stay here with Megu-nee?" Kurumi whispers. 

"I need someone to keep me safe," Megumi smiles, though the slight quivering of her hands betrays her fear. "I don't like this idea, though... I should be protecting you, shouldn't I? I'm the faculty advisor, after all..."

"Please, Megu-nee," Kurumi pleads, pulling her shovel out of the car. "You're the only one I trust to take care of Yuuri."

There's a painful silence for a few moments, before Megumi dips her head in assent. "Alright," she finally murmurs. "But if you all don't return within two hours, I'm coming to find you."

Kurumi frowns, but cedes the point. Trying to negotiate further will only result in her losing ground.

She presses a chaste kiss to Yuuri's forehead and turns, shovel slung over one shoulder. "Kurumi, reporting for duty!" she crows, taking off at a sprint towards the zombie-infested school.

It's no surprise that she doesn't encounter anyone once she arrives in the darkened entrance hall. Still, the tip-tip-tip her shoes make on the tiled floor is painfully audible, and she has to fight the familiar urge to change her shoes. 

It feels as though it's been years since she'd seen this building bustling with life, students throwing pleasantries back and forth in easy camaraderie. Of course, she doesn't doubt that they turned on each other as soon as the apocalypse broke out - she and the others had, she muses. Left everyone else for dead in an attempt to save themselves.

No matter how much she scrubs her hands, the blood will never wash off. 

A scream rips through the silence, brutally breaking off the memory and forcing her back to the present. Kurumi swears - that's Haruka's voice - and tightens her grip on her shovel. 

Sure enough, Haruka stumbles towards her, blood smeared over her face and eyes wide in terror. "Help!" she calls, voice rapidly swallowed by the sheer emptiness of the halls. "Please, someone help me!"

Her eyes finally land on Kurumi, and she falls to her knees, tears streaming down her face and mingling with the (fresh) blood. "Oh, thank godKurumi, thank god," she repeats, a desperate mantra. "It's Souta... please, it's Souta, I can't find him, you have to find him, I can't lose him..."

"I'll find him," Kurumi swears, though both of them know they're hollow words. "I will. Dead or alive."

That was the wrong thing to say, apparently. Haruka buries her face in her hands and lets out a keening wail, lithe form shaking as she sobs. "I should have... and then Aki... and they're all gone, Kurumi, they're all gone..."

"Breathe with me, okay?" Kurumi whispers, placing a soothing hand on Haruka's back. "Can you feel my heartbeat?"

Haruka lets out a shaky nod, a few muffled sobs still escaping her lips.

"Feel how stable it is?" Kurumi repeats. "Just make sure to breathe with me, okay? In... and out. In... and out. Can you do that for me?"

"You have to find him," Haruka commands, conviction evident in her gaze. 

"I will," Kurumi replies, grasping her shovel and climbing to her feet. "Head outside, okay? Megu-nee and Yuuri are in the car." She turns to leave, shoes still echoing on the tiled floor.

"Wha... what about you?" Haruka asks, fear shining in her gaze. Fear for her own life, yes, but also for Kurumi's. 

Despite all this, she still cares. 

"I'll be fine!" Kurumi grins, throwing a bright grin (or rather, as bright a grin as she can muster) over one shoulder. "Trust me! I'm the heroine, after all!"

She leaves quickly, but not quickly enough that she doesn't miss Haruka's final comment, thrown at her retreating form. 

"In these stories... the hero always dies at the end..."

Chapter Text

Thump, thump, thump.

Aki leans against a wall, tears streaming down her face. She presses a hand to her heart, focusing on the beat-beat-beat despite the fire-like pain coursing through her body from the bite. 

"It hurts," she sobs, tears streaming down her cheeks. "To... Touko... I'm sorry. I'm so... I'm so sorry..."

In that moment, she realizes that it's not just the bite that makes her chest ache. Not just the bite that's sending waves of red-hot agony coursing through her system like lava. Rejection hurts like this, too.

"Aki?"

It's a distant call, but enough to make her tremble nonetheless. She moves to run, but finds herself trapped; the handcuff around her ankle seemed like a far better idea in the moment than it does now. 

"Go... go away," she pleads, weariness evident in her voice. "Please, Touko..."

Touko rounds the corner, and she squeezes her eyes shut, trying her best to ignore the gaping and rotting wound on her leg. She tries to ignore Touko's gasp of shock, tries to ignore the feeling of warm hands on her arm, but she's so damn tired that she wants to have this.

"Aki..."

Touko's crying. Why? Why would Touko cry for her, if not to give this struggling heart a last bit of hope?

"Don't cry for me..." Aki whispers, and a part of her wonders if Juliet ever cried for Paris, or if she simply spurned the corpse. "Please. It hurts too much."

"Like hell!" Touko protests, and Aki can see the self-righteous indignation evident on her face even with her eyes shut. "There has to be something we can do!"

"Just leave me!" Aki shrieks, pulling as far away from Touko as her bindings will allow. "I'm already dead! Just... just let me die!"

"...you were never Paris, Aki," Touko soothes, and Aki's pain-addled brain can't process much more than "oh, nice Shakespeare". "You weren't ever second-best, okay? You were... I guess you were Tybalt. You always wanted to protect me, always took care of me... and now you're dying..."

"I'm Paris," Aki snaps, leaning back so her head rests against the wooden walls of the building. "And you don't know why, because I can't tell you, because you'd never say yes."

"Try me," Touko challenges, and Aki lets out a sound halfway between a laugh and a sob. 

"You wanna know?" Aki challenges. "Fine. I love you, okay? I fucking love you! I've loved you ever since we first bet, ever since that day under the sakura trees, and I'm so fucking stupid for thinking I ever had a goddamn chance with you! You don't feel that way about me, and I know that! I'm just... I'm just so sick of lying to you... I'm so tired, Touko... but it doesn't matter, does it? 'Cause I'm just Paris, the interloper in this goddamn story, someone who begs for scraps of affection and is spurned again and again. Just let me die, Touko!"

Touko stares at her, tears welling up in her eyes. "Aki... I had no idea you were hurting this way..."

"Like it matters," Aki scoffs, fully aware of her heartbeat growing fainter. "It doesn't matter now, does it? I'm just gonna die anyways."

"No!" Touko shouts, gripping onto Aki's clothes as though it'll force her to stay. "You're not! You're not going to leave me, Aki!"

"It's not... it's not like I have a choice," Aki scoffs. "If I did... you'd love me."

"Who says I don't love you?" Touko challenges, tears welling up in her eyes. "Who says that just because I don't want you to kiss me... who says that means I don't love you? Who says there's not more than one kind of love?"

"Everyone!" Aki shrieks. "There's no other way!"

A few tears run down Touko's cheeks as she withdraws a box from her pocket, and Aki's eyes widen at the sight of it.

"Is that-"

"It's a serum," Touko whispers, voice wavering due to her sadness. "It'll save you, Aki. Please, let me just-"

"No!" Aki shouts. As if on cue, a fresh wave of pain rolls over her and she screams, every nerve on fire. "Just... kill mePlease!"

"Aki, will you let me save you?" Touko whispers. "Please, let me help you."

"Don't," Aki hisses, voice cold as ice. "Don't you dare waste it on me."

Touko glares at her, eyes holding no more compassion or give than flecks of iron. "You don't get a choice here, Aki."

Aki shakes her head, fear mounting. "No. No. Don't you dare, Touko-"

She's cut off by the needle sinking into the pale flesh of her arm, and she lets out a guttural scream. The combination of fire, scorching from her leg and ice, freezing every cell in its path... it hurts, hurts in a way nothing can compare to. 

"I'm sorry, Aki," Touko whispers, and there's the feeling of a handcuff slipping from her ankle. There's the feeling of warm arms around her body, lifting her, carrying her, the feeling of cool skin on her forehead. There's a soft whisper, "you'll be okay, Aki, I promise," and what feels like a cool washcloth on her forehead. 

Aki can't find the coherence or peace of mind to respond. All she can do is sob, a harsh, jagged sound with no end and no joy to be found. 

Somewhere in the mess that is her pain, she manages to scream "please, please, just kill me," but there's no response. There's no salvation in this labyrinth of pain and fire and ice at every turn... death would be a welcome escape from this pain.

Truly, she is the mad Ophelia, the hapless Paris, the one felled by their own minds, by their own emotions, by the inescapable webs of tragedies that underscore every word they say. Of course, though, their endings were happier.

Their endings were death. 

There's the feeling of hands running through her hair as the pain begins to subside, and a gentle caress of her palm. There's the feeling of hair tickling her face, lips on her forehead (what? what? go back to that!) and finally, a blanket covering her body.

"Sleep now, Aki," a voice whispers, entirely unfamiliar and yet strangely comforting nonetheless. "...you know, I love you? I really do. I wish... I only wish I could tell you. I only wish... I only wish you'd love me back. Hah... what a delusion, huh? Sleep now, Aki. We'll be here when you wake."

And somehow, impossibly, she does.

Chapter Text

Ever since Aki first entered the school, Takae was never able to look away. 

She shone like the sun - which is an unfair comparison, honestly. Not even the sun could match the warmth radiating from her gaze. Not even the sun could match her fiery determination, her conviction and desire to do the right thing. To call her the sun would be a fallacy - the sun only knows how to hurt, and Aki could never hurt her.

Takae drapes the blanket over her shoulders, seized with a sudden childish desire to kiss her. A simple brush of lips on the forehead, a soft whisper... it couldn't hurt, right?

She runs her hands through the elder's copper curls, a wistful smile on her face. God, how she wishes she could kiss her. Were it not wrong, were Aki not in love with someone else, she would in a heartbeat. Her heart beats for Aki, but Aki's heart beats only for Touko.

Still, she presses her lips to Aki's sweat-coated forehead, rubbing circles into her palm. "Sleep now, Aki," she whispers, tears pricking at the corners of her eyes.

Aki turns in her sleep, a pained groan escaping her lips. Takae's heart twinges; she's too good to hurt this way, and continues to stroke her hair, providing whatever modicum of comfort she can.

"You know, I love you?" she confesses, fully aware Aki can't hear her. "I really do. I wish... I only wish I could tell you. I only wish... I only wish you'd love me back."

She swipes at the tears running down her cheeks, forcing a weak smile. "Hah... what a delusion, huh?" she laughs, unable to keep the pain out of her voice. "Sleep now, Aki. We'll be here when you wake."

Takae climbs out of the car and closes the door behind her, tight enough that none of Them can open it. Touko leans against the passenger's door, gaze flashing with worry.

"Is she-"

"She'll be fine," Takae states, having literally no idea whether or not it's true. "You know she loves you, right?"

Touko bites her lip and stares into the ground, gaze dark. "...I know."

"And you don't feel the same."

It's not a question, but Touko nods regardless. 

"It's not that I don't want to," she adds, and Takae folds her arms over her chest, choker heavy on her throat. It's strangling, keeping in all the words she wants to say but can't, lest they be disgusted by her. It wouldn't be the first time. "I do. But if I don't feel it... it's not right to lead her on."

"I don't like seeing her hurt," Takae retorts, and Touko swipes at her cheeks, catching a slow-rolling tear. 

"You love her," Touko assumes, and Takae feels her heart pause in her chest. No. No, no, no no no no.

"Yes."

What? How could she say that? One job! All she had to do was not admit to it, and things would be fine! But no, she just had to go and tell the truth. Nice job, Takae. 

"Hey, hey, it's okay!" Touko exclaims, seemingly wishing to comfort her, but unsure if it's a good idea. "A lot of us like girls. It's okay."

"It's okay?" Takae scoffs, pitch rising in her panic. "No, it's not okay! You think this is good? It's disgusting! I'm not... it's not supposed to happen like this! If they find out... if my parents find out..."

"They won't," Touko assures her. "They can't."

"How are you okay with this?" Takae whispers, rubbing at the small mark just behind her right ear. It appeared the day everything started, oddly enough - she hasn't heard of that happening before. A part of her foolishly wishes Aki would have the same mark, but she knows that's a fantasy.

She's seen it in a mirror - it's small and innocuous. A copper ribbon with a buckle in the center, like her choker, but the color of Aki's hair. 

How long will it take to think of Aki without being able to throw up?

"You're alright with me liking girls?" Touko asks, and Takae nods.

"It's just... I'm not allowed to," she mutters. "Produce an heir, that's what they said. Have kids, continue the Yuzumura line. Girls? Simply friends, no matter how much you want to kiss them. They told me it was disgusting, and I either had to choose between love or family, and I chose them, and I'm just..."

She dissolves into tears, and Touko rubs her back soothingly. "It's alright," she soothes, a soft smile on her face. "Aki would be lucky to have you."

"She doesn't even know I exist," Takae scoffs. "I don't even think she cares about me at all."

"Well, you have my permission to go for it!" Touko chirps, flashing her a thumbs-up. "And just know - nobody here thinks you're disgusting. We all care about you, Takae."

"You don't even know me," Takae protests, but Touko shushes her with a finger to the lips.

"I don't need to," she replies, soothing smile still firmly in place. "I know Yuki, and all of her friends are absolutely incredible. I don't see why you'd be any different."

She waves in the general direction of the car, smile quirking into a mischievous smirk. "You gonna keep talking to Aki, or do I need to lock you in?"

Takae blinks once, twice, completely confused. "Lock me... in?" she parrots, and soon realizes that was, in fact, the wrong thing to say.

Touko yanks open the door and pushes her in, slamming it shut behind her. Takae lets out a yowl of protest, falling to the warm upholstery with a soft thud.

Oh.

That's not upholstery, is it?

Aki's face has relaxed in the surrender of sleep, a soft smile on her face. She looks happy, calm, at peace, and it's been ages since Takae's seen that expression.

It hurts.

While she's busy pondering Aki, a hand snakes around her wrist and yanks her down, pressing her head into Aki's collarbone. Even asleep, Aki seems to want human comfort. 

Takae lets her eyes slide shut, relishing in the soft rise and fall of the other girl's chest. The screamed "disgusting" in the back of her mind seems to have quieted for now, though it's still there. 

"Love you," she whispers, and for a moment, it occurs to her how wrong this is. She's taking advantage of a sleeping girl!

"Love you too," Aki mumbles, and Takae's heart skips a beat.

As she drifts off, she thinks she can hear a name interspersed with the mumbling, but she doesn't contemplate it.

("Love you too, Touko.")