Breathing in and out deeply, Yuzu took her first step into her new classroom, doing her best not to appear nervous. For most of her life, she had been homeschooled by her father along with a few other kids in her neighborhood, so this was her first time stepping into a real school.
When they moved to Heartland City, her father had asked her if she had wanted to continue homeschooling, but Yuzu decided it wouldn't be the same without Yuya and Gogenzaka around as well. It would be too boring by herself, she had thought, and she needed a way to make new friends other than we live next door. It may have worked at their last home, but at the apartment complex they had moved to? Very unlikely.
"Please introduce yourself," her teacher droned, and Yuzu fought down a gulp.
She wasn't normally a shy girl, but she was intimidated. All the students looked up at her, bored mostly, clearly wanting her to hurry up. "My name is Yuzu Hiragi," she tried, her voice a little quiet. "I just moved here from Maiami. It's nice to meet you." She ended with a big smile, feeling a little better after getting this out of the way. She had always been the kind of girl who wanted to make friends, who wanted to make people smile, after all. This was just another chance to do that.
The teacher shooed her off to her seat the exact moment she had finished speaking, waving towards an open seat in the back behind a boy with purple hair. Yuzu almost wanted to keep her eyes down as she walked, but forced herself to hold them level. Just because she was intimidated didn't mean she had to be known instantly as the ridiculously shy girl when it wasn't even true.
The boy who she sat behind looked up at her for a moment, and in that moment their eyes met, while she was on her way to her seat. Instantly, a burning sensation spread through her veins like wildfire, and she clutched her wrist in pain.
The boy with purple hair's eyes widened as he made a similar reach for his own wrist, blinking away painful tears.
The whole class stopped and stared, but Yuzu didn't notice any of them. All she could see was the boy, staring right back at her with wide, mismatched purple and blue eyes. Eyes which perfectly mirrored her own.
There are many different kinds of soulmates, Yuzu distinctly remembers her father explaining to her one day over dinner. Different versions, he'd explained, meant different things had happened in past lives.
As she sat in the nurse's office, next to a boy whose name she still didn't know, she recounted her father's lecture in her head.
Matching heterochromia, her father had said sadly, looking into her eyes, means that in the past, the two of you couldn't connect and your souls couldn't rest properly.
Yuzu had been sad, then, but hopeful - it meant that hopefully in this life, her soul and the soul of whoever she loved would be able to meet again, on better terms. Looking at the boy now, though, who pointedly stared at the wall and fidgeted on the chair next to her, she wasn't so sure.
On the walk over, she had tried hard to talk to him, to ask him questions or even just get his name, but the entire time he remained silent, almost like he didn't even register she was speaking. He was wordless as they walked into the nurse's office, and wordless still as they were sat down hurriedly as the nurse went off to call their parents.
Her soulmark still burned, the thin purple line wrapping around her wrist in a pretty spiral. At least, she thought to herself, now I know my natural eye color is blue.
It wasn't until Yuzu's father had arrived to speak to the nurse in the front of the room that Yuzu finally heard the boy speak.
"This cannot be happening," he muttered to himself, and Yuzu wasn't quite sure she had heard him correctly.
"Ruri," he said, holding Yuzu's gaze, "where have you been? What happened to you? And how did this - how did we -" He cut himself off, looking pained and distraught. "I have so many questions. And how did you - your eyes-"
"Ruri?" She cut him off this time, not understanding a thing. Her soulmate may have said that he had a lot of questions, but they kept piling up more and more for Yuzu, as well. "Who is-?"
The boy's pained look got worse, and he ripped his eyes away from her, pushing himself off the chair in one swift motion. "I'll call Shun," he said, making his way over to the nurse, who nodded at him. "He'll come get me. Sorry for the inconvenience." He bowed quickly, not bothering to introduce himself or even spare a glance at Yuzu's father, heading into the second office of the nurse's room, phone in hand.
Just like that, her soulmate was gone, and she still didn't even know his name.
Yuzu's ride home from the nurse's office was silent, her father not wanting to push her and Yuzu not wanting to speak about it. Since she was a little girl, she had always imagined meeting her soulmate would be a happy thing. She didn't want to go as far as some people and throw a party or anything like that, but she expected it to be something sweet. Getting to know the person that was destined to love you in some manner was a good thing, she had always thought.
The boy's pained expressions stuck out in her mind, and she shook her head trying to rid herself of the thought. She had so many questions for him - who was Ruri? Did he completely miss when she called herself Yuzu? - but she wasn't even sure where to begin.
This was so much more of a mess than Yuzu had ever thought it would be.
The next day at school, Yuzu was determined. Whether or not the boy wanted to talk to her, she didn't care. He had told her yesterday that he had a lot of questions; Yuzu had decided was willing to answer them to the best of her ability, so long as he answered hers, as well.
Of course, as soon as she got to school, everyone was whispering and pointing to her. There goes my chances at making friends, she thought to herself sourly, huffing as she sat down in the seat she didn't even get to reach yesterday. The seat in front of her remained empty, and she wondered if he would even show up at all today. He had seemed so distraught yesterday morning, but for what?
Yuzu sighed, slumping down into her chair a little further, wishing she could be home in Maiami City. Nothing was quite so complicated, there.
The boy - her soulmate - had never shown up in class, putting Yuzu in an even worse mood. All of her determination had somehow fizzled out, and now all she was left with was sadness.
Yesterday had gone worse than she could've ever imagined it. She still didn't even know her soulmate's name, despite now having his mark on his wrist, vibrant and purple for all the world to see. She had never expected that she'd find her soulmate in Heartland City, had never expected he'd be sitting in the seat right in front of her in her first class - had never expected him to ghost her so thoroughly.
With a sigh, Yuzu packed up her belongings from her desk, hoping she'd be able to complete the homework despite not paying much attention that day. Getting used to such a large class setting was hard, but the idea of fitting in wasn't even on Yuzu's mind.
She was so lost in thought that she completely missed her soulmate, in the flesh, standing at the front gate.
"Ruri," he called, and Yuzu jumped at the voice.
"We need to talk," he cut her off, voice pleading. "Please."
Scowling at him, she shook her head. She couldn't even believe this - he had avoided coming to school, avoided talking to her at all yesterday, and now… and now…!
"Absolutely not," she told him, point blank. Turning away from him, she made to continue her aggravated walk home, but he snatched her wrist, stopping her in her place.
"Please. Just… come have a coffee with me. I won't keep you long." He sounded so strained, so desperate, all her anger left her in an instant. Snatching her hand back in an attempt to look put together, Yuzu nodded.
"Fine," she agreed, trying very hard not to touch the spot his hands had been on. "Only if you tell me your name."
"It's Yuto," he said quickly, though his eyes were still sad. "Let's go."
Yuto, she thought to herself as she followed her soulmate down the street. The name seemed right, somewhere deep in her heart. Yuto.
The hot chocolate felt like ice in her hands, despite the fact that it was fresh and warm. Yuzu's eyes were darting around the small cafe he had brought her too, looking anywhere but at the person who sat across from her. She was positive she wasn't the only one feeling like this - instantly upon stepping in here, Yuto seemed out of place in the comfortable, soft lighting.
She had studied him closely on the walk over, taking in his dark clothes and punk look with eager eyes. Her eyes slid to his wrist, where he now sported a blue band much like her own - the mark of having connected with a soulmate. His face, however, is what shocked her the most - she hadn't put much thought into it yesterday, too much in shock to really think, but he looked just like Yuya did. Different hair, different eyes, of course, but the face was the same. It was unnerving, honestly, but Yuzu decided not to dwell on it right now. There was enough identity crisis happening, anyway.
Finally, after what felt like an hour, Yuzu couldn't take the silence anymore. She had questions too, she reminded herself before taking a deep breath.
"My name isn't Ruri," she said, voice firm. If she startled Yuto by speaking first, he didn't show it. "I'm Yuzu Hiragi, and I grew up in Maiami City with my father."
Pausing, Yuzu let him take in her words one at a time. He had been so upset that he hadn't even come to school - he deserved at least some of her time and patience, even if he had left her high and dry yesterday.
"I'm sorry," Yuto finally responded, bowing his head slightly. "I really thought- you look just like her. I'm sorry."
His words shocked her, having not expected an apology whatsoever. She coughed a little into her hand, taking a sip of the burning hot chocolate. "It's fine," she stammered out. "Just… who is Ruri? Can we start there?"
"Yeah," Yuto exhaled. "Ruri is Shun - my guardian's - little sister. Three years ago, she was kidnapped on her way to dance practice," he told her, and Yuzu held her breath as he spoke. He shuffled, pulling an old flip phone out of his pocket. Quickly, he found what he was looking for, and pushed it towards Yuzu. "You look just like her."
At the photo, Yuzu nearly gasped - the girl in question really was exactly like her. The hair color and style and her eye color may have been different, but… "Wow," she breathed out. "We could be twins."
Yuto nodded. "Exactly," he said, taking his phone back and shoving it into his pocket unceremoniously. "It's been three years, and we never heard anything. It's considered a cold case, and so when you showed up, you'll have to excuse where my mind went."
"Were you close?" Yuzu almost felt bad asking him such a personal question, but the words slipped out before she had a chance to take them back. She would admit she was extremely curious, but it almost felt like it was a little too soon. He had only just accepted that she wasn't this long lost girl.
A beat, and then: "Yeah." Another exhale from Yuto. "We grew up together, which is why Shun is now my guardian. She was devastated when he explained that I wasn't her soulmate when we were kids," he cracked a smile as he spoke. "As you saw, her eyes were both a light pink."
"A satisfied life behind her; her soul was happy at the end," Yuzu concluded. She knew all the myths - heterochromia, like she and Yuto shared, meant they couldn't find peace in their past life. Matching eyes meant that your soul was satisfied, and would stay that way no matter the outcome of your current life. Some people with matching eyes didn't have soulmates, in that life, even.
Neither of them said anything for a moment, taking everything in. This was a lot for both of them, Yuzu realized. She had just ruined all his hopes that she was his missing close friend. That couldn't have been easy for anyone.
"Honestly," Yuzu spoke up again, "you look just like Yuya, my best friend in Maiami." Pulling out her own phone, a much newer model than Yuto's, she flipped through her camera roll, trying to find a good picture of Yuya.
She slid it across the table once she did, taking another long swig of her hot chocolate as she watched Yuto's eyebrows raise in surprise.
"That's uncanny," he agreed, voice soft.
Yuzu quickly forced her eyes away, realizing she had been staring. Swallowing, she reached down for her phone again, pocketing it. Her hands went immediately back to her warm drink, wishing she could find something to say without sounding like a fool.
"I'm sorry I'm not who you wanted me to be," Yuzu breathed, eyes firmly on her hot chocolate.
She was annoyed, at first, but after hearing him out… She couldn't help but feel bad for him. His childhood friend was kidnapped, and here she was, his soulmate, looking exactly like her but not. How could she blame him for his reaction? She couldn't, wouldn't. It hurt - it hurt like hell, knowing her soulmate would always look for someone else in her, but…
She wondered if that was their previous life's problem, too. Clearly, they had been unfulfilled romantically, otherwise they wouldn't have each other's eyes.
"It's okay," Yuto surprised her after a moment. "I've known Ruri wasn't my soulmate since the day I met her."
Yuzu didn't say anything to that. It was true that he's had a lot of time to come to terms with that, but-
"Thank you for hearing me out," she told him. "I'm glad you know my name, now. Sorry for asking so many questions." She forced herself out of the cafe chair, almost robotically.
When she had come here, she had been hoping to reach an understanding with him, and she supposed she had. Part of her just wished she liked the understanding she had reached.
"Where are you going?" Yuto stumbled over his words, the chair underneath him screeching as he stood.
They stared at each other for a long moment, and then Yuto deflated, settling himself back in his chair. "I'm sorry," he finally said, stiffly. "I don't know what came over me."
Yuzu didn't say anything to that, just stared at him at his odd reaction. She wasn't sure how to feel about that - should she be glad? Sad? Her mind and heart alike were a mess, confusion swirling everything around.
"I'm not good at this," Yuto told her, eyes not moving from the café table. "I don't… I don't know how to talk to people, really."
Now it was Yuzu's turn to deflate, though she wasn't sure why. "It's fine," she said, despite feeling exactly the opposite. Nothing about this was really fine. Her eyes flickered to the mark on her wrist, bright and purple and permanent. "I appreciate you talking to me today. I'll talk to you later, though."
She turned, heading towards the entrance of the cafe yet again. This time, Yuto made no move to stop her.
She wasn't sure whether she was happy or sad about that.
Yuzu sighed, flinging herself into bed the moment she got to their new apartment. Her new room didn't bring her the comfort her old one in Maiami did, boxes still littered on the floor from the move, but she hoped a familiar bed would all the same.
Yuto hadn't been what she had expected at all. He had been kind, polite, and understanding of the situation once she finally got the chance to explain herself. On top of all that, after hearing about Ruri, Yuzu couldn't bring herself to hold it against him. Part of her was frustrated, part of her was just depressed.
She was starting to understand why they hadn't reached happiness in their past lives. Clearly, there was some cosmic roadblock or something making it impossible for them to find a way to be happy. Yuzu knew that for the rest of their lives, he would likely compare her to Ruri.
And she hated herself for not being mad about that.
Shaking her head into the pillow, Yuzu almost wished her bed would swallow her whole. Never in her life had she expected this to be so difficult. When her father had spoken of soulmates, it was always a wonderful, happy thing - two people, destined for each other, finding each other in this life and the next. It had never been so… hard.
Yuzu's eyes were scrunched shut, and when finally sleep came to claim her, she didn't even bother fighting in; despite not having gotten ready for bed, or even eaten at all. Every part of her was just too tired.
"I don't want you to get hurt anymore," the mysterious masked boy said, holding her duel disk down.
Yuzu sucked in a breath, and her heart pounded for reasons she couldn't place. Who was he? Why was he here? And why did he want to duel Sawatari in place of her? None of this made sense - she had just came here to get him to leave Yuya alone; to make herself feel a little less useless after her pathetic display the other day. But he had beaten up Sawatari's friends like it was normal, had stormed in here and made sure she didn't have to duel.
His duel disk was weird, too; even Sawatari had commented on it.
Yuzu watched him duel with interest - he had really easily fooled all of them, including herself, into thinking he was going to lose. His XYZ summon was unexpected - and impressive. However, there was something very off.
Even with no Real Solid Vision, debris still kicked up; wind spiraling out of control from his final assault on Sawatari. Instantly, the mysterious boy came to shield her from the blow, debris piercing his goggles.
Yuzu and Sawatari looked in shock as he tore off his mask, staring impassively at his defeated opponent.
There was no way it could be anyone else, despite the hair and the drastically different deck. Yuzu would know that face anywhere – it was the face of her best friend, after all.
But as she went to confront him, his dark eyes boring holes into hers, the bracelet on her wrist began to glow.
"Yuzu!" A distinctly familiar voice called, and she whipped herself around to face the door of the warehouse.
Yuya. But - eyes wide, Yuzu looked back next to her to see the boy had completely vanished. What was a situation that had already been out of her control quickly spiraled into something much more confusing.
"Who was that," she whispered to herself, staring at her wrist in shock. And what, she thought, was that light?
Waking up in a cold sweat, Yuzu blinked quickly to force the sleep from her eyes. "What was that?" She asked herself aloud, almost mimicking her question from the end of her dream.
There was no doubt that the boy she had seen with the… dragon? She wasn't sure what it was exactly, but it had been Yuto – her soulmate.
Whatever that had been, it was not a normal dream. Quietly, she pushed herself out of bed, grabbing her phone off her desk. It was three in the morning - she had been passed out for quite a while.
Looking back at her bed, she realized she was far too away to bother trying to go back to sleep at the moment. Besides, even if she was still tired, she had far too much on her mind. Yuzu thought back to everything she had seen in that dream - Sawatari, someone who lived in Maiami who she never really been friends with but saw on occasion, had been there. Yuya had come in at the last second, also wearing… duel disks, she thinks she called them? Whatever it was they were all wearing, on his wrist.
And that dragon… In the dream, Yuzu hadn't been shocked by whatever they were doing - only the fact that in that area, it had appeared to be real. It was a card game, she vaguely remembered. She had a set of them too, on her own wrist.
Moving away from her desk, Yuzu crept into the kitchen, grabbing herself a glass of water. There was so much to unpack in that dream, she thought to herself. There had been stories before of soulmates sharing dreams about their past lives, and Yuzu wondered if that was what that was.
Never had her dreams felt so real, she decided, sipping on the cold water as she padded softly back into her room.
But also, never had she even realized there had been a time in which people focused so heavily on card games, to the point where they could make them almost come to life. Everything else about the world had seemed fairly similar to the time Yuzu lived in now, but that was so drastically different.
She sighed, sitting back on her bed after grabbing her phone from her desk. Too tired, mentally, to do research on this, Yuzu decided on just browsing through social media until she felt she was ready to back to sleep.
Despite meeting her soulmate, she almost wished she never moved here.
Truth be told, Yuzu had been so oblivious towards her classmates the past day that she hadn't even realized just how often they were talking about her. She had heard whispers, but hadn't put much thought into it. Now, though, that Yuto was actually showing up to class, too, things just got worse and worse. Their classmates refused to leave them alone, asking incredibly inappropriate and prying questions, and the teachers didn't seem to even notice.
Sighing, Yuzu set her head on her desk, not even bothering leaving the classroom to go to lunch. Her appetite had completely disappeared throughout the day, anyways.
"I'm sorry about this." Yuzu looked up to see Yuto giving her an apologetic look, still seated at his own desk in front of her. "I didn't really think about the consequences," he paused, searching for the right word. "...it would have at school."
She blinked, taking a second before saying anything. "It's fine," she replied, looking back at her desk. "I'm just used to a different lifestyle, that's all."
Understatement of the century - back in Maiami, her homeschool life was fun and full of laughter. Yuya and Gogenzaka were always around, and the younger kids in the neighborhood treated them all like the older siblings they didn't have. Her father taught them all in a special way, always trying to be as hands on as possible. His goal as a teacher, he always said, was to make them laugh while they learned, so his lessons stuck better. It always worked.
So far, all Yuzu had going for her in Heartland was meeting her soulmate who, inadvertently, was too focused on the fact that she looked like his missing best friend to want to get to know her.
And then there was that odd dream she had last night, about the dragon card game and the different version of her and Yuto. Yuzu opened her mouth to ask him about it, ask if he had the same dream the night before, but he cut her off unintentionally.
"What was your life like, back in Maiami?"
Yuzu paused, taking in his question. He was turned around in his desk, slowly eating a rice ball, eyes focused entirely on her.
"It was fun," she told him, exhaling. "I was homeschooled by my father with a group of kids from the neighborhood. We were all different ages, besides me and Yuya, but we managed okay." Yuzu couldn't help the smile that was brought to her lips at the thought of her friends - she had known them all since she was a baby, practically, having grown up next door to Yuya; whose parents were best friends with her father.
"Is that the one that looks like me?" Yuto asked, and Yuzu did her best to hide her surprise. She had honestly thought, after yesterday, that he wasn't interested in getting to know her at all, and she hadn't blamed him for it - clearly, he was still recovering from the loss of his childhood best friend. It wasn't hard for her to understand. If Yuya had been the one kidnapped, she most definitely would've felt the same.
Slowly, though, she nodded her head. "Yeah." She fished out her phone, flipping to another picture of the two of them. "I've known him since I was born, basically."
"Did he find his soulmate yet?" Yuto pointed at Yuya's eyes - red and a light green, and Yuzu shook her head.
"No, not yet. I'm sure he will, though. He claims he's been dreaming about her since he was a kid." Yuzu had never believed him, but after last night, she wondered if he had been right all along.
Yuto took a moment, taking in everything she had said, finishing his rice ball slowly. "Thank you," he finally replied, giving her a small but genuine smile. It was beautiful - and Yuzu couldn't fight the blush that made its way onto her face.
They had gotten off on the wrong foot, and there was a lot of things they'd have to learn about the other, but Yuzu felt lighter than she had since she had moved here at this. If he was willing to try, she would be, too. She had always been willing, really, but having him genuinely interested in her, and asking questions about her life…
We can make this work, Yuzu thought to herself, giving him a bright smile back. And just like that, the doubt and fear began to clear from her head.
That night, Yuzu gave her father a grin when she got home, the positive energy she had been feeling went completely undeterred by how rude some of her other classmates had been. The fact that Yuto had been willing to ask her about her life; had been interested enough to ask follow up questions despite everything…
She wasn't sure if anything could break her good mood.
Her father, of course, was ecstatic to see her like this - and immediately declared they could order takeout. Yuzu cheered, and for the first time in what felt like a while, felt herself relax fully, weird dreams from yesterday completely put out of mind.
Things were normal for a few days, or at least, had started falling into a pattern for Yuzu. She would eat lunch in the classroom with Yuto, have a small but nice conversation with him about various things – hobbies, music, food, whatever came to mind – and she would go home, feeling better and better about who her soulmate ended up being.
That night, however, Yuzu again dreamt of Yuto - and the weird world where they all carried around what had to be different sets of playing cards, with the devices strapped to their wrists.
This time, she was in a warehouse again, with a boy she didn't recognize - but they appeared to be good friends. In the dream, she begged him to teach her something she called Fusion Summoning, explaining how she wanted to get stronger to be able to help her friends. At first, the younger boy seemed wary, but eventually caved and handed her over one of the playing cards. As he was explaining something to her, the masked boy from last time appeared out of nowhere; weird device on his wrist engaged and glowing, and attacked the boy Yuzu was with.
They jumped apart from each other, and Yuzu could feel her unease growing. Something told her that the masked boy - Yuto, her mind knew deep down - was not a bad person. She tried to defuse the situation, ask questions, but that only seemed to egg them on, somehow.
She was trying her best to stop them, when the door to the warehouse burst open to show another girl Yuzu didn't recognize, but her dream self did. She was beautiful, but her face was angry and eyes narrowed as soon as she came in.
In her dream, Yuzu tried hard to talk her down from joining in on the fight, trying to explain that she believed that masked boy was not a bad person, but the other girl just wouldn't listen; completely blinded by anger.
As Yuzu tried one more time unsuccessfully, her bracelet began to glow again, the bright pink light taking over the entire space. By the time the light had dimmed, Yuto was gone, and Yuya was at the door looking confused and sheepish.
The angry girl grabbed his collar, yelling something at him before stalking off. The dream was starting to fade, but Yuzu could tell her dream self was confused, thoughts still on the mysterious boy with the same face as her best friend.
When she woke up that morning, cold sweat dripping down her face despite the relatively low intensity of the dream, Yuzu once again had more questions than answers.
She wondered if Yuto was having these dreams, seeing these things, too - and if he had any more understanding of what had happened to them in their past lives.
The dream stayed on her mind all throughout the day, Yuto even noticing she seemed distracted in class and asking about it at lunch.
"It's nothing, really," she answered him, chewing slowly on her sandwich. "I just really didn't sleep well last night."
He nodded in understanding from his desk, once again turned around to face her. "Well, you did just move here," he reasoned. "It would make sense if you're not having the easiest time adjusting."
Something she had noticed was Yuto tended to be very practical, very to the point in his speech - it was something Yuzu found she actually quite liked about him. She smiled at him, nodding along. "Yeah, that's true," she agreed. "I hadn't thought of that."
The fact that she had moved had honestly been the last thing on her mind, despite the constant reminders in her everyday life. Yuzu had become totally consumed by the questions of her past life that day, and of thoughts on how to deal with Yuto. For now, at least on that front, things seemed to be going okay - but now that she was thinking about it, Yuzu realized how much she missed Maiami City.
She had spoken to Yuya and Gogenzaka, of course, through their group text message chats briefly. But before she had moved, they had agreed to give her space at first so she could find her footing on her own. Yuzu was beginning to regret that decision, though; wanting nothing more than to ask Yuya how he would go about making more friends in such an odd situation, or what he would do about her soulmate issue.
Which, of course, had her mind loop back into her dreams from the last night and the other week. It was clear to her that they weren't friends in their past lives - at least not from what she had seen. They almost seemed to be at opposing sides of something, something bigger than Yuzu could understand. And of course, there was the weirdness that was how similar they looked to other people.
It still nagged Yuzu that she looked exactly like Ruri, and that Yuto looked exactly like Yuya. Even in her past life, she had confused the two of them, thinking they were somehow the same despite the obvious differences in hair and eyes.
"Wow, you're really out of it." Yuzu snapped back into reality at Yuto's voice, looking to him almost sheepishly. "I asked you the same question twice now, Yuzu. Are you sure you're okay?"
She winced, feeling awful for spacing out so strongly. Part of her just wanted to ask if he had also been experiencing the dreams, if he knew more than she did somehow - but she wasn't sure how comfortable he would be with that, yet. She wasn't even sure how he really felt about the fact that they were soulmates, besides the fact that he was obviously comfortable at least getting to know her as a friend.
"I'm sorry," she apologized. "What did you ask?"
Yuto's gaze rested on her, and she wasn't sure of the look in his eyes. He had sounded concerned, almost, when he had finally gotten through to her a moment ago, but now his eyes were completely unreadable.
"Nothing," he settled on after a moment. "It wasn't important, anyways."
Yuzu wasn't sure how to feel, about that.
The rest of the week went by a bit smoother for Yuzu - her weird dreams seemed to have stopped, for the time being; or at least the memories of them were gone by the time she woke up. There were too many unanswered questions from the two dreams she'd had, so she supposed it was good that she had some time to stop and try and understand them before the next.
And things with Yuto… After his odd end to their small conversation that day, he had been far less talkative with her than before. It bothered her, but she wasn't sure she was ready to push him on it, despite wanting to ask him about his own dreams, among other things.
Yuzu sighed, pushing herself out of her desk. Yuto hadn't even come into school that day - apparently it was a fairly common occurrence. Another thing to ask him about added to the list, she supposed.
At least, she mused to herself as she put her books into her bag, things had school had quieted down. They apparently hadn't been the first pair of soulmates to happen at school, which meant the fanfare was quickly dying, as it had before. She still hadn't made any real friends, like she had back in Maiami, but it was a start. It was certainly better than having everyone still talking about her.
Thinking of Maiami was beginning to hurt a little less, too. She missed everyone dearly - missed Yuya's inexplicable ability to make her laugh no matter what, missed Gogenzaka's calming presence - but it had been about three weeks, now, since she had moved. Each day became a little easier, a little more adjusted.
The school gates were busy as always as she walked towards them, eager to get home and throw herself into something that could distract her; be it cooking dinner or video chatting with Yuya. Yuzu was stopped, however, by a familiar face leaning against the wall.
"Are you doing anything right now?" Yuto asked, eyes searching hers - for what, she didn't know.
"Not really," she told him, shifting her weight back and forth on her feet. "I was just gonna cook dinner, but nothing important."
"Shun wanted to meet you, if you wanted to come for dinner," he said, adding to her confusion. He wasn't at school all day, and now he was wondering if she wanted to meet his guardian? The older brother of the missing girl she looked exactly alike?
Yuzu bit her lip. "Does he know who I look like?" It already bothered her enough sometimes; Yuto's initial reaction of her, despite her understanding of the situation. This was his guardian, after all - she wanted him to know her, not think of her like a replacement for his sister. He would likely be in her life for a long time.
"Doesn't matter," Yuto countered easily, looking at his feet. "You don't have to if you don't want to."
"No, I'll go!" Yuzu hastily accepted. Even though he had been absent and things were… odd, between them, she did want to get to know him. There was a pull there - because of the fact that they were soulmates, and there was something else, too - and Yuzu wasn't ready to let him run off again because of it. "Let me just text my dad."
Yuto nodded in approval, and after she sent out a quick text, she looked at him with the best smile she could muster. "So, where to?" She asked, not letting her nerves get the better of her.
He pushed himself off the wall, turning away from her. "Follow me, it's not a far walk."
The walk was mostly silent. All of Yuzu's attempts at conversation were thwarted fairly quickly, leaving her to stew in her thoughts. She wasn't sure what to expect - Yuto hadn't told her much about Shun, only that he was Ruri's older brother and that he was Yuto's guardian, as well. He hadn't broached the topic on how that had come to be, and Yuzu hadn't asked. That was clearly extremely personal, and not something she wanted to push; especially after all the rude pushing she had done that day at the cafe.
Nervous as she was, Yuzu was mostly confused. This had come out of nowhere, and after a week of very stunted conversation at best. Yuto clearly still wasn't interested in talking to her much, if her attempts this time around were anything to go by, further adding to her confusion.
She opened her mouth to ask why he had chosen today to invite her over, but closed it again before saying anything. He likely wouldn't answer, and if he did, it would probably be one of those not-really-an-answer answers he seemed to be so fond of, lately.
The walk went on like this for what felt like hours to Yuzu, but upon arriving at the subpar-looking apartment building and checking her phone, it had only been about twenty minutes. She took in the apartment building slowly, noticing how run down and washed out the color looked on the outside. Acutely aware of Yuto's eyes on her as she did, she was sure he was searching for something again - likely, this time, how she would feel about him living in such a place.
"How long have you lived here?" She asked after a moment, not turning to face him.
"A while." He didn't sound upset by the fact, just giving her the facts. "It's not so bad inside."
Yuzu finally did look at him, then. She wasn't sure if he was embarrassed, or just uncomfortable - she was sure he had seen her newer phone and nice school bag and assumed she was well off. "It's fine, Yuto," she told him gently. "Your home is your home."
It wasn't a masterpiece of a motivational sentence, but the corners of Yuto's lips rose all the same. "Come on, then," he said, leading her into the front door. "We're having curry."
Despite Yuto having said that Shun's reaction didn't matter and brushing off Yuzu's worries of looking like his missing little sister, as soon as Yuzu stepped into the small apartment kitchen, Shun nearly dropped the pan he was holding.
"This is Yuzu Hiragi," Yuto introduced her pointedly, and she gave an awkward wave.
"It's nice to meet you," she greeted, trying her best not to look away from Shun's intense stare. All of her doubts from earlier flooded back in an instant - if Yuto's initial reaction to her was anything to go by, why would she have expected this to go well? Ruri may have been Yuto's friend, but she was Shun's family.
The older man's eyes flickered from Yuzu's to Yuto's, unsure of who to land on. "You look just like Ruri," he breathed out finally, turning back to cooking a moment later.
She waited a moment for him to keep speaking, to say anything else to her, but… Nothing came. Yuto sighed, and turned around, heading back into the small hallway. "Come on," he said. "I'll show you around."
Dinner was a horribly awkward affair. Yuto was not a talkative person by nature, and neither was Shun, Yuzu quickly realized. On top of the stunted conversation, Shun also kept staring at Yuzu intensely, looking away as soon as he felt someone else's eyes on him; be it Yuto or Yuzu's own. The curry was delicious, but she couldn't even fully enjoy it with how uncomfortable she felt. Badly, she craved for the fun, energetic dinners she used to have with Yuya and his mother.
She hated feeling this out of sorts. Back in Maiami, Yuzu had been much more headstrong, and clear-headed. She was used to making sure Yuya took care of himself and properly studied; used to smiling and laughing often at her friend's antics. But in Heartland, with everything going on, she felt she had almost lost that part of herself.
She wanted to speak up, to start a conversation or even just say anything, but she couldn't find the words to start with. Yuto looked not quite pained, but most certainly more out of place than she'd seen him since their first few meetings; bringing Yuzu some comfort to know she wasn't the only one feeling out of place.
There was a loud clang then, from Shun dropping his fork onto his plate. He sat up quickly from his chair, the force nearly toppling it over backwards. "I'm sorry," he said, his breath ragged, "I can't. I thought I could, but I can't."
He didn't specify what he meant, only took his half eaten plate and practically threw it into the sink, disappearing into the corridors of the small apartment. Yuzu was frozen, not blinking, and she only remembered how to move once Yuto sighed.
"I apologize," he told her gently. She waited patiently as he took a long sip of his water, not knowing exactly what to say or do. "We thought it would be alright, but I guess today was too hard."
"Is this about-"
"Yes," Yuto cut her off, eyes flicking to where Shun disappeared to before settling on her face again. "Even though it's been three years, the wound is still very fresh."
Yuzu nodded in understanding. It was difficult - she wanted to get to know him, wanted to learn about Yuto and his family, but how could she push it when she looked just like his missing sister? Putting herself in their shoes for a second, she realized again how hard it would be if it was Yuya that had gone missing, with Yuto as her soulmate. Subconsciously, she rubbed the purple band that sat on her wrist, almost to comfort herself.
"It's fine," she finally replied, even though it really wasn't. "I'm sorry to have caused this."
"Not your fault," Yuto said, getting up slowly to move his own dishes to the sink. "I should take you home."
Yuzu glanced at her own half eaten meal, feeling dejected. "Yeah," she agreed. "That's a good idea."
Again, the walk together was completely silent. Yuzu trudged behind Yuto slowly, careful to stay behind him rather than next to him. When they reached her own apartment complex, she waved at him, not even saying goodnight or thank you, and he just gave her a nod, turning around almost instantly.
She wasn't sure what she had been expecting, but Yuzu was disappointed all the same.
Once she got inside, her father looked at her with hopeful eyes. He hadn't pressed her much about the situation, and for that she was grateful, but tonight… Tonight, she didn't want to see that look on his face.
"It went horribly," she said, throwing her school bag on the floor with a thud. "I don't want to talk about it."
His eyes fell in an instant, and he reached out for her with a call of her name, but she ignored him dutifully, slamming the door upon entering her room.
Yuzu collapsed on her bed, burying her face in her pillow to muffle her scream of frustration. She wasn't - she wasn't cut out, for this. It was never supposed to be this hard. All the movies, they all said meeting your soulmate was magical, an instant connection of happiness. And even if it was a platonic soulmate, which did happen, there was an obvious spark, of, oh, my soul knows you.
She felt that spark, sure, but she was beginning to wonder if Yuto did at all.
Yuzu's eyes flew open, the fear and confusion she had felt in her dream so real despite the change in scenery. Shun - that's who that had been, Yuzu knew. That was Shun Kurosaki. She had only met him once in this life, just that day, but even in this life he had been uncomfortable with how much she looked like his lost younger sister. In her dreams, Yuto had said she's not Ruri, with so much force and anguish. In her dreams, he had told her to stop using that card that her friend - mentor? - had given her, the one titled Polymerization.
He had told Shun that Ruri would never use the enemy's summoning methods.
It was - it was too much. Fumbling, Yuzu reached for her phone, dialing without even thinking of the consequences or checking the time.
On the third ring, he picked up. "Yuzu?" Yuto asked, sleep in his voice. "Are you okay?"
"I'm not- I'm not Ruri," she stammered out, surprised by the tears she felt pricking her eyes. The feelings in her past life had begun to bubble up inside of her, and she couldn't tell what was her own and what was from back then, anymore. "I'm not! I'm me-"
"You're Yuzu," he cut her off, firm but… oddly, more gentle than Yuzu thought she'd heard him before. "I know that. What happened?"
"These dreams," she hiccupped, moving her phone to her other ear. "I see- I see you, and Shun, and you're always saying that I'm not her, and -" She stopped herself, giving herself time to breathe. She didn't understand why she was so upset - why she was so confused. Her past self had clearly had so many different emotions running through her in that moment, especially when Yuto and Shun disappeared into the bright pink light when Yuya walked up to her; bracelet on her wrist glowing.
"What happened to us before?" Yuzu asked. Her tears were finally slowing down, and she swiped at them with the sleeve of her shirt. "Who were we? What were we?"
Yuto was quiet on the other end, and if she didn't hear him breathing, she would've thought he had hung up. "I don't know." His response was spoken in that same gentle tone from before, but Yuzu could hear the frustration in his voice. "I see it, too," he continued, and Yuzu listened with baited breath. "We have cards, and I'm searching for Ruri. I keep - I keep an eye out on you, because you seem to get into a lot of trouble. I know," Yuto paused, taking a deep breath. "I know my home was destroyed. I know where we are isn't where I was from."
Yuzu didn't have anything to say to that. It sounded like he had a lot more information than she did, that he was either getting more out of his dreams or - she wasn't sure. She wanted to ask, but part of her truly didn't want to know.
Everything about her past life seemed complicated. Maybe it was better if she didn't know.
"Yuzu?" His voice was soft, and Yuzu couldn't help the almost shiver that went through her when he said her name like that. "We aren't in that life anymore. We can do things differently this time."
She took a deep breath, not quite believing him, but too tired to argue. "Okay," she said after a moment, laying herself back down on her pillow. Eyes closed, she shuddered out a sigh. "Okay."
School was getting easier and easier, and things between her and Yuto seemed… better, again. They had steadily been getting better, at least, after he had invited her to that disastrous dinner, and now they almost seemed like two normal teenagers.
It had been two weeks since the last dream, and the two of them had been spending more time together. She wasn't sure if it was because Yuto felt bad about whatever he was seeing in his own dreams, or if it was out of genuine want to spend time with her - but she was done caring, for the time being. Yuzu hadn't had another dream of the past since, and she was enjoying the reprieve.
They had gone to that cafe three times now, and had went back to their routine of spending lunch in the classroom chatting. Yuzu found she was getting better at balancing school work and keeping up with her friends back in Maiami, as well.
Today, however, was one of those days that Yuto was absent from school. He hadn't been in the past two weeks, which had honestly seemed more like a new record for Yuzu. She sighed as she sat herself down at her desk, realizing that, at this close to the homeroom bell, he was certainly not going to show up.
These instances always seemed to set them back, and Yuzu dreaded whatever consequence would become of this time. She had never before had the nerve to ask, but this time…
After class was finished, Yuzu considered her options. She still wasn't close with any of her classmates, the teachers likely wouldn't tell her - regardless of their soulmate status - and honestly, it seemed a little impersonal for a phone call. They hadn't spoken much on the phone or via text, after all; really just the few times she'd called him.
Yuzu stared at her phone, questioning herself. It shouldn't be hard like this, she thought, to call and ask Yuto why he wasn't at school. It shouldn't be, but it was. Part of Yuzu was concerned that it was something still too personal, too private - they may be soulmates, yes, but they weren't in love yet. She almost choked on the word, even just from thinking it.
No one would be surprised if she already felt that way. It was said that soulmates had a pull towards each other, for obvious reasons. In their past lives, their souls wanted to be together, and even living a new life they could feel that. But Yuzu wasn't sure if what she felt for him at the moment could be classified as that.
She knew, yes, that she wanted to be with him. But what did that entail, truly? He clearly wasn't the type for long, romantic walks on the beach, or amusement park dates. Yuto was closed off from the world, though he was slowly coming out of his shell. Thinking about it more, she barely even knew the surface of his interests. He had talked about music with her before, and of course basic things like simple hobbies, but everything was the outer layer. The only thing she really knew about him that others likely didn't was about Ruri.
Shaking her head, Yuzu pocketed her phone and sighed, opting to go home and leave it be. She wanted to push it, but somehow, something inside her told her it wouldn't work like that, this time.
Yuzu had been distracted all day - she was happy for Yuya, and she wanted to be awake enough to celebrate his entry into the tournament, but she couldn't let go of the questions she had about the masked duelist and LDS and… Everything.
So when she saw Masumi running into an alley, without a second thought, Yuzu was running after her. Besides all the questions she had, it was dangerous - the other, older boy she had met the other day was after Fusion users, for some reason she couldn't put together. Masumi was a rival, sure, but Yuzu cared about the other girl all the same. She didn't want her to get hurt.
"I have an errand to run!" She called to her friends when they shot her questioning glances, not wanting to waste any more time. "Sorry! Go home without me!"
By the time she got to the alley, she had lost sight of Masumi. Yuzu continued slowly, looking for any signs of the other girl, walking down hoping to reach her.
"I can't let you continue beyond this point."
Yuzu gasped, a familiar voice reaching her ears. The masked duelist stepped out in front of her, blocking her way through the alley. "I don't want you interfering with my friend," he continued, eyes locked.
"Friend?" She questioned, taking a second to realize who he meant. "You mean that man from before?" Oh, no, she thought, fully realizing what the masked duelist was talking about now. "Is he battling Masumi again?"
He didn't say anything, just stared impassively at her. "Please stop him!" She cried, raising her arms on instinct. "You stopped him last time! Why not now?"
The masked duelist's eyes narrowed at her. "You don't need to know." Yuzu dropped her arms at his tone - it sounded so guarded, almost hurt. "I don't want you involved."
Yuzu paused, at that, but glared right back at him. She didn't care if he didn't want her involved, she was involved from the get go, and now her friend was in danger. She wasn't going to just sit back and let someone hurt her when she could stop them. Making up her mind, she marched forward, moving right past the masked duelist.
Before she could get anywhere, however, he grabbed her wrist, stopping her in her tracks. Yuzu turned around to yell at him, but the look on his face made her own soften instantly.
"I don't want you to get hurt!" His voice was rawer than she had ever heard it, making Yuzu pause.
Quickly, though, her mind recognized how short sighted that was, and she pulled her arm back from him. "You don't want me to get hurt?" She questioned, glaring at him again. "How can you say that while you hurt others?" The masked duelist's eyes went wide, shocked by her words, but Yuzu didn't stop. "You're fine with Masumi getting hurt?" Her voice was raising by the second, anger in every word. He looked away, almost ashamed, but still Yuzu pressed him. "Who are you? Who are you two?"
He didn't say anything, just continued staring hard at the ground. Yuzu frustration kept building, however. She felt bad, but - this was important.
"Answer me! Who are you? What's your goal?" All of the questions she had been facing every night came pouring out of her in a desperate rush.
Slowly, slowly, the masked duelist looked back at her, eyes sad. "Our enemy took our dear friend, so we're trying to rescue her." He looked away from her again, up at the sky; clearly in pain at the thought.
"They took your friend?" Yuzu repeated, much softer this time, before it clicked in her head. "Oh!" She gasped. "You mean Ruri?" The masked duelist looked back at her in an instant. "When he saw me," she continued, speaking of his friend, "he called me Ruri. Your friend who was taken - was it Ruri? Do I look like her?" Again, questions spilled out of Yuzu, and there was little she could do to stop them.
At her last question, however, the boy in front of her removed his mask, revealing his face - the face that looked exactly like Yuya's own. "At first, I thought the same thing. Why is Ruri here?" His voice was hard again, anguished. "But you're not Ruri. Ruri would never try to learn the enemy's summoning method!"
"Enemy?" The word was out of Yuzu's mouth without thinking. "Fusion Summoning is the enemy?" That didn't make sense to her at all - it was a summoning method, the same as the others! Everyone had their own way of dueling, and besides… "I'm learning Fusion Summoning because I want to protect my friends!"
"We're battling to protect Ruri and our friends," the masked duelist said after a moment. "In order to end this conflict, and to create a world where no one has to be hurt! I don't want to involve you in this conflict," he confessed, words strained. "But if you have no choice but to fight, I want you to survive. Even if it means using Fusion Summoning."
They looked at each other for a moment, not saying anything. Yuzu was stunned - she could see how hard this was for him, how much he was trying, all over his face.
"The you who is trying to become stronger to protect your friends," he continued, stepping closer to her, "the you who is trying to change yourself isn't wrong."
He smiled for the first time that Yuzu had seen, and her eyes went wide at the sigh. It was - it was beautiful. She was reminded of Yuya's kind smile in that moment, it was almost the same. But there was something else there, something that made Yuzu's heart pound hard in her chest.
"I'll continue to fight," he told her, voice steady this time. "To save Ruri and our friends. To save our future!" He smiled even wider at her, eyes even lighting up in a way that made Yuzu's face flush. "You are a lot like Ruri."
He didn't give her a chance to speak, turning away from her quickly; however, she wasn't ready to let him go just yet. "Wait!" She called out. "Tell me! Who is Ruri?"
He turned back around to face her, wind coming out and whipping her hair up. "Ruri is my friend Shun's little sister," he explained.
"And you? What's your name?"
The masked duelist smiled at Yuzu again. "My name is Yuto."
"Yuto," she repeated, ducking as another strong gust of wind blew past her. When she looked up again, he was gone. It felt final - far too final for Yuzu's liking, but all traces of him had disappeared into the wind, leaving her to watch the space he had just been for minutes on end.
The cold, thin layer of sweat that covered her as she burst awake wasn't even a surprise, after her dream. It had been a solid two weeks without one, so she supposed she was… overdue. Vaguely, she wondered how many dreams Yuto had - if he had dreamed about this meeting that night, too. She reached for her phone like she had the other night, but pulled her hand back, thinking better of it.
He hadn't been at school after all, so why would he answer the phone tonight?
With a small sigh, Yuzu forced herself to lie back down on her bed, though her thoughts were still with her dream.
He had just disappeared - eerily reminiscent of how she felt that day, not being able to talk to him at all; but more than that, a lot of things were made clear about their positions in their past lives.
They weren't enemies, at least, not at that point in time. In their past lives, Ruri had been kidnapped, too - by the actual enemy, who apparently Yuzu was doing something the same as. But in her dreams, he had said…
I want you to survive, Yuto had told her, so genuinely. The you who is trying to become strong to protect your friends… The you who is trying to change isn't wrong.
Yuzu blinked tears out of her eyes. The words weren't applicable in this life, but the power they held over her - the softness, the sincerity of them - was still obviously there, resting inside her soul.
Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes, and tried to focus more on those words then the fact that he had up and left, and something in her knew that was the last time they truly saw each other, again.
He was at school the next morning, looking worse for wear with an apologetic look on his face. He never said sorry, but she didn't need him to. However, after her dream last night, she knew she needed to talk to him.
So that day after school, she asked him if they could go to that cafe again, to which he readily agreed.
The walk over was filled with a less-than-comfortable silence, but Yuzu wouldn't go as far as to say it was uncomfortable. There were many things she wanted to say, and it was clear he wanted to say something, too, but neither of them wanted to quite yet. However, she couldn't deny that over the past few weeks, they had become used to each other's presence, making the walk much better than the first time they had been here.
After ordering another hot chocolate, they sat down at a table in the corner, a bit more secluded then the front of the cafe had to offer. He looked at her expectantly, and Yuzu took a deep breath before starting.
"Why don't you come to school sometimes?" She asked, his words from her dream last night somehow giving her courage. The you who is trying to change isn't wrong.
Yuto, to his credit, didn't so much as blanch at her question. "I had a feeling you'd ask that," he said instead, his voice amicable despite the tension that had grown in his shoulders. "It's about Ruri, though - are you sure you want me to talk about it?"
That made Yuzu pause for a moment. The other night, she had called him in a panic over her past self's identity crisis concerning Ruri, and she supposed that must've left an impression on him - especially after that dinner with Shun.
"I want to know," Yuzu replied with finality. "It's been on my mind for a while." She didn't let herself sound sheepish. It was a reasonable question to ask, and though he was kind to give her an out, she still wanted to know.
And besides that, Ruri was going to be a part of her life. She was Yuto's friend, and she was his guardian's little sister. Even if she was dead - even if she never showed up again, in this life, she was always going to be someone that was mentioned, talked about in passing. And she needed to get over her past self's issues with looking like a different person.
He nodded easily, seemingly at least somewhat aware of her internal struggles. "Well," he started, shifting himself in the cafe chair, "sometimes Shun has… bad days. And I have to be there to make sure nothing happens."
That was much too vague, for Yuzu's liking. "What do you mean?" Her voice was softer though, more aware. She didn't want her curiosity to get in the way of what was clearly a difficult subject.
Yuto shrugged, the tension more obvious now. "Losing Ruri, his last real family member, was a hard shock to his system," he said, not breaking eye contact. "He panics, sometimes. Loses himself." A sigh escaped his lips, his lips twitched downwards as he continued. "If I'm not there to calm him, I'm not sure what he'd do," he confessed.
Yuzu nodded slowly, reminiscent of the first time they had been here, having a similar conversation. It made sense, of course - losing someone like that couldn't have been easy, and it also filled in the question of why her teachers were so patient with him about it.
"Am I like Ruri?" She asked, surprising herself. Last night, in the dream, she had asked a similar question to him, trying to understand who his kidnapped friend was.
This Yuto's eyes lit up in recognition at the question, confirming her thoughts that he really was having the same dreams as her - just from his own point of view. "Last night-" He started, before shaking his head and trying again. "Just like before, you two are similar, but I know the differences now," he told her honestly. "You're both strong individuals, but you're also different people. I think she'd like you."
Yuzu took in this information slowly, taking her time with it. "I'm sorry," she finally decided on after a moment. "I'm sure it's hard for you."
He shrugged again, though this time, some of the tension seemed to ease out of him, finally. "You've been having more dreams?" He asked, ignoring her apology entirely. She wasn't offended, though - it just meant he was done talking about her for now. She'd gotten to know him well enough to know that, at least.
"Mm," she hummed in agreement. "It'd been awhile since the last one, though."
Yuto nodded. "Same for me. Things sure were weird for our past selves," he mused, and Yuzu found herself nodding empathetically.
Besides all the weird things concerning their relationship in the past, there was also the world they had lived in, which Yuzu was still trying to figure out. There were card games that somehow became real, and seemingly dictated everything in that world. It was truly bizarre.
After that, conversation dissolved into unimportant things about their current selves - the normal, getting to know each other conversation Yuzu had found herself enjoying over the past few weeks. Still, though, her dream from the night before lingered in her mind, and from the faraway look in Yuto's, it was on his, too.
That night, when she got home, she tried her best to focus on other things: her father, dinner, talking to Yuya and Gogenzaka over video chat, but nothing could seem to get her mind away from her thoughts for long.
If that was the final time they saw each other, Yuzu wondered, how did they end up as soulmates in this life? Was their time together really so short that they couldn't even truly fall in love, couldn't even talk for more than what they got? She knew the feelings that stirred in her soul for him were real, and most certainly of the romantic kind, but…
She wondered a lot, about what things could've been like for them, in that other world that night; even if she didn't understand or remember most of it. She wondered throughout dinner, throughout talking on video chat, and all the way until her head hit the pillow and her eyes closed for the night.
There were so many things happening. Something was different with Sora, something was going on; he had ended up in the hospital, after all, and Yuzu knew there was only one person going around doing that. Gogenzaka had questioned her and Yuya about the masked duelist, Yuto, and she had explained that he wasn't a bad person, but -
But something was happening tonight, and they needed to get to the bottom of it. Somehow or another, no matter how hard Yuto had tried to keep her from it, Yuzu had ended up caught in the middle of this conflict.
But that was alright with her. She wanted to be strong for her friends, as she had told him that fateful day in the alleyway. She wanted to help, to the best of her abilities, and she was intrinsically connected to everything going on, anyways; if her bracelet had anything to say about it. It's not like she could push herself away from the conflict even if she had wanted to.
When news broke that Sora had escaped from the hospital despite his condition, the three of them set off separately to find him.
Yuzu was panicked, but part of her was worried for Yuto, as well. It was very possible he was in the middle of this, and with everything she knew… she didn't want him to get hurt. He was only trying to do what she was doing, after all - protect his friends. One of them had been forcibly taken from him, and she knew if she was in his place she would do anything to get them back.
All over Maiami she went, shouting for Sora as she did so. She checked the warehouses where they trained together, the alleyways that Shun had been known to pop up in, anywhere she could think of, she sprinted off to, ignoring the burning in her lungs.
Every time she stopped to check an area, she glanced at her phone, hoping desperately Gogenzaka or Yuya had found something. Every time yielded no text or missed call, however, so Yuzu kept going.
After what felt like hours, a bright flash of light shone from the central park, and instantly Yuzu rushed over. However, when she got there, all she saw was Yuya on the ground, almost looking dead.
That night, Yuzu awoke crying, tears dripping down her face. She hadn't seen it in her dream, but - but she knew. Yuto had been absorbed into Yuya, and he was gone. All of her memories came flooding back, after that, in the dream. The different dimensions, getting taken away against her will, though by accident, trying to stop the war from coming to New Domino City, and everything that followed afterwards.
The other two boys who looked just like Yuya and Yuto, and the other girls who looked like her. Never seeing them again as they all morphed into one being, with their souls finally able to rest. Except for Yuya and Yuzu, who's friends were now gone and-
The blue haired girl, who looked like her, Yuzu realized with a start, sitting up from bed. That was Yuya's soulmate, it had to be. The eyes were the same.
Slowly, she reached for her phone just like she had the other night, but stopped before calling Yuto. They had… they had never really had a chance. The two of them seemed to only have had fleeting moments, him always leaving in the end, until finally he died and became one with Yuya; his soul finally resting at the end of everything.
And Ruri - he had been in love with Ruri, or at least seemed to be. There were… moments, Yuzu recognized from her dreams and now full memory awoken, that she thought he could've felt the same about her, but…
She sobbed freely. Everything was so confusing. "How did we end up soulmates?" She asked herself, looking at the purple band around her wrist.
Yuzu was a zombie throughout the entire day. Barely awake, eyes glazed over, the only thing coherent in her mind was the dream she had last night. Finding Yuya, Yuto's soul inside of him, his body gone… There wasn't even any point to trying to shake herself awake from this one. Nothing she could do would take these thoughts away from her.
Her past self had been so brave, had gone into all these confusing situations without another thought, just wanting to understand; but Yuzu now couldn't understand. Her own emotions continuously mixed with her past, and all she was left with was this dead, empty feeling.
It had gotten so bad, that once everyone had left and she began to head home, Yuto grabbed her wrist, forcing her to stay at the gate and look at him.
"What is going on?" He asked, an edge to his voice she wasn't familiar with. "You've been acting so weird lately, and I know it's because of the dreams, but-"
"It's nothing," she told him, not even bothering to try and take her wrist back. She didn't have the energy.
"It's not nothing. Please, Yuzu, what-"
Something inside of her snapped at his tone, pleading and angry all at once. Tears pricked at her eyes, and inside of her, anger bubbled up. All the confusion, the frustration from the last month, all of it was coming to the surface in a wave.
"How are we even soulmates," Yuzu shot back at him, echoing her thoughts from last night as she glared through the tears she angrily swiped at. "In the past, you saw…! You saw what happened! You and Ruri, and me and Yuya-"
"You know from your dreams that's not entirely true," Yuto interrupted, eyes narrowing despite himself. "You saw-"
"I saw you leave!" She screams, her voice breaking. "I saw you die, and get put inside my best friend! How does that - what was even going on, in that world?" Yuzu shakes her head, pink twin tails swishing rapidly with the movement. "I saw you leave," she repeats, voice low this time. "And then I never saw you again. Not really."
None of these feelings mattered, Yuzu tried to tell herself to no avail. None of what happened in the past really mattered, because - because clearly, something was different about this time. All those nights her previous self had spent wishing to get to know the boy in front of her - she had that now. Yuto was right in front of her, mismatched eyes and blue band on his wrist to prove it.
But Yuzu couldn't let it go.
Those emotions she had felt in those dreams; the sadness and loss she felt when she found Yuya that night…
Swiping again at her tears, she glared at Yuto. "Say something."
"I don't know what to say." It took a moment for him to reply, and Yuzu could hear the sadness in his response. "What happened in the past - does it really matter? We're here now, aren't we?" He took a deep breath, but held her gaze firmly. "I, for one, am happier now in this time. No war, no alternate dimensions-"
"But what about Ruri?" Yuzu hated herself for asking.
"What about Ruri? She's gone, Yuzu." She hated herself more for her breath catching when he said her name, like that. "And she's not my soulmate, anyway."
Yuzu took his words in carefully. There of course had been… cases, of people not falling in love with their soulmates. Some soulmates were platonic, and sometimes things went wrong. The idea of two souls destined for each other was romantic, yes, but real life often worked out differently. Sometimes there was a reason two souls couldn't connect in the past life, aside from just circumstances. Yuzu wasn't sure which category they fell into, anymore.
"Does that matter?" She finally decided on. This was it, for her - make it or break it. As hard as it would be, Yuzu convinced herself this would be the last time she would try. The question was vague, but she knew Yuto well enough; both from this time and the last, to know that he would understand.
A deep breath from him, and then:
"I love you," Yuto whispered into her hair, crushing Yuzu against his chest. "I don't know how it happened, I don't know why it took so long for me to tell you - I'm sorry." Every quiet word was muffled even more against her head, but to Yuzu it was like he screamed every word. All her doubt and insecurity flowed out of her in an instant.
She didn't say anything in response, just tightly wrapped her arms around him, pulling them even closer together. Yuto leaned his head down onto her own, and she could feel him smile as he did.
"I'm sorry," he repeated, and she shook her head to the best of her ability.
"It's okay." Her own words were horribly muffled as she spoke into his chest, but Yuzu could feel him relax even further at what she said. It wasn't really okay - he was absolutely terrible at communicating, constantly thinking it was easier to be secretive if he wasn't sure about something instead of just telling her; but she knew he would learn.
Yuto had tried today, after all - that was proof enough that he would try.
All those dreams that they had shared, all the time they never had in their past lives… They could have it now. There was no dueling here, there was no mutli dimensional traveling and confusion; no split souls to fight over bodies. Finally, they had the chance to truly get to know each other, to spend time just existing together without the looming threat of war or body hopping.
"I love you," Yuzu said after a moment, and impossibly, Yuto's arms wrapped tighter around her in response.
Yes, Yuzu thought to herself, smiling into his chest. They had all the time in the world.