Disclaimer: I do NOT own Hakuouki or anything related to it.
"I miss you."
She spoke in a nostalgic tone of voice from where she lay in her bedroll, gazing at the stars. With the sad smile on her face and western uniform she had donned since the beginning of her journey, she looked every bit the woman he had fallen in love with. He lay beside her, balancing his weight on his elbow as he looked down at her with love and admiration in his eyes. Though she couldn't see or feel it, he was stroking her hair and would kiss her forehead right before she fell asleep every night.
Ever after death he had not left her. No longer could he wipe away her tears, hold her, or kiss her, but he refused to leave her. A part of him wanted to believe that she knew he was there, and that the occasional glance in his direction was because she sensed his presence.
That first night after his death had been the hardest. She had not slept, had rejected the comfort Heisuke offered. It tore his soul apart to see her so broken. That beautiful, kind, strong, stubborn woman who'd stolen his heart and made him believe his dream of a future for the Furies, a future with her, could be achieved, was broken because of him. He truly believed that were he still alive, they could have made that dream a reality.
Heisuke relented after she begged him to just give her some time alone to grieve, though he knew the younger man hadn't rested that night either, both due to worry for her and his own grief. Sanan sat next to her as she clutched his sword and glasses to her chest, arms wrapped around her and lips pressed against her forehead while he whispered words of love she could not hear. Exhaustion likely won in the end and caused her to finally sleep after hours of crying for him.
At least she didn't starve herself, though she hadn't eaten much those first few days despite Heisuke's pleas. She had snapped at him, said that she blamed him for what happened and that she would never forgive him or Sanan for lying to her, and that she hated the latter even more for abandoning her again. Again he stayed with her while she cried herself to sleep, and he cursed himself for hurting her.
Sanan could not recall the last time he'd wept during his lifetime, but during those nights alongside her as a ghost, he wept alongside her. She was in pain, and there was nothing he could do to help her. Yet he couldn't bring himself to leave her again, though the knowledge that his presence was useless pained him more and more each night.
Eventually, she calmed down. She still cried, she just wasn't loud about it anymore. She would curl up in her bedroll, tears running down her face while she looked at the night sky. She whispered about what ifs, what if she had done this differently, what if she said this differently, what if, what if, what if...
He stroked her hair during those nights. She settled into a peaceful slumber after awhile of this. It was around that time that he started to wonder if she realized he was there, or at least imagined him there.
Then, she stopped talking entirely, and stayed there, crying in silence. He didn't speak either, just stroked her hair.
After a few weeks of this, she and Heisuke began talking, actually talking. They had agreed to work on finishing Sanan's work in finding a cure for the Water of Life, but grief had driven them apart even though they were traveling together. They looked through the notes left behind by Sanan and Kodo, discussed going where Kodo claimed the Furies had originated, and as more time passed, they seemed to be making progress in starting their journey.
Recently, nights like this one began to occur. She admired the stars in the sky, she smiled, and she whispered about the happy memories she'd made with the man she loved.
Chizuru rolled onto her side so she was facing him. Not for the first time, he wondered if she was really aware of his presence.
"I don't know if you're actually here with me, but..." She closed her eyes as a single tear rolled down her cheek. She took a deep breath before continuing,"...I know it's not probably just my imagination, but I like to think that you've been with me this whole time." She lowered her eyes."I dream of the future we could have had sometimes. You'd probably laugh at me or scold me for this, but I think we can still make that dream a reality. Maybe we'll meet again one day, in the afterlife or in another life."
Sanan smiled."Yes, we will." No sooner had he said that, than her eyes darted to his face.
She chuckled."Some people might think I'm losing my mind due to grief." She hummed thoughtfully."Perhaps I am, or perhaps you are here with me. I prefer the latter. Someone else might demand proof, but...I did promise not to let my faith in you waver ever again, so...I'll trust that you are here with me."
"Thank you," he murmured, kissing her forehead.
"Isn't that how you've always been?" she spoke teasingly."Watching over me, protecting me from a distance? And whenever I'm scared, or in danger, you come to my rescue." A giggle escaped her lips."You were so strange, and you frightened more than once, but I could never completely hate you nor could I bring myself to doubt you forever. I wanted to believe in you, to believe that kind and gentle and clever man I met all those years was still in there even after your arm was injured and you drank the Water of Life."
She took another deep breath."I love you." He wrapped an arm around her waist and rested his forehead against hers."You're the first man I've ever loved, and I know you'll be the only one. Heisuke...he...I don't know how I didn't notice it before, but I know now that he cares for me the same way you did, Sanan-san. I can't return his feelings. However, I'm grateful to have a friend like him. He isn't obligated to protect me anymore, and he was never obligated to become my friend, so I...I don't think I can ever thank him properly for everything he's done for me. Was that how you felt about me, Sanan-san?"
She settled into a comfortable silence afterwards, and he returned to the task of stroking her hair. Suddenly, her hand came up to touch his. His eyes widened, and he smiled as leaned in to kiss her lips. The tears that now stained her face were not of sorrow, but joy and hope.
She looked to the sky."Wait for me. Be it in the afterlife or another life in the future, I know I'll see you again. That is my dream, and no matter how long it takes, I have no doubt that it will one day come true."
Her eyes fell shut then, and after several minutes, her breathing indicated that she had fallen asleep.
Sanan smiled."I look forward to seeing your dream cometrue, Chizuru."