The night after she saved the world was the first time Ryuuko truly cried over Senketsu’s death.
She had dreamt of fire that night, of fire and falling, plunging towards earth and going much too fast. One moment, she was wearing Senketsu and could feel his power flowing through her; the next, she was all but naked, and Senketsu was there in front of her, taking the brunt of the heat, staring her in the face as though he wanted nothing more than for his very last memory to be of her. As she watched on in horror, he began to burn up before her very eyes, fiber by fiber, catching fire as they fell.
He had told her how wonderful it was to know her, to be her friend. He told her that all girls must outgrow their sailor uniforms eventually, and now she was free to wear whatever she wanted, clothes much cuter than he could ever hope to be.
And then he was gone, and there was nothing, nothing but the fire and the flames and the heat growing more and more intense. She spun around in midair to try and catch one last glimpse of her friend, but it was too late: there was nothing.
Nothing but fire.
Ryuuko had cried, then, after she woke up to find she was safe and sound in the Mankanshoku residence, exactly where she was supposed to be. She told herself it was stupid to cry over a damn sailor uniform, but somehow that didn’t make it any easier. It didn’t stop the tears from coming, it didn’t make it any easier to breathe, and it sure as hell didn’t do anything to vanquish the deep sense of loss she felt in her heart. She certainly didn’t feel as though she had lost a simple outfit; she felt like she had lost a dear friend, someone she had loved completely and without restraint. An outfit could be replaced, after all. But Senketsu…he couldn’t be replaced. Not now, not ever.
That first night had undoubtedly been the worst. As time went on, it gradually became easier for Ryuuko to live life without Senketsu at her side (or, rather, wrapped around her), but that didn’t mean she forgot about him. No matter where she was, no matter what she was doing, there were reminders, little things that made her think of her beloved Kamui.
She thought of Senketsu every time Mako forced her to go shopping for clothes, which proved to be rather frequently considering how prone she was to having outfits torn or ripped, particularly in fights. In fact, the first time they had gone shopping, Ryuuko had failed to find a single thing she liked, not for lack of trying, but because she found herself comparing every garment to Senketsu. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after he was gone that Ryuuko finally understood just how comfortable she had been when she wore Senketsu, how perfectly he fit her and complemented her and made her feel like she was truly being herself. Like so much else in life, it seemed, she had taken him for granted, and now that he was gone, no other outfit could ever compare.
She thought of Senketsu the first time she received her new uniform at her new school, and thought of him again every morning when she put it on. It was a nice outfit, all things considered, neither too conservative nor too showy, but somehow it never seemed to fit just right. Maybe it was the way it made Ryuuko look and feel like everyone else in her school, or the fact she and Mako frequently forgot which uniform was theirs, so similar were they in size and shape. Or maybe it was just the fact that, unlike Senketsu, it never talked back.
She thought of Senketsu every weekend when she did her laundry. Despite the fact that Senketsu was dead and gone, Ryuuko nonetheless found herself gently washing and scrubbing each of her outfits with great care, taking her time and being careful not to be too rough despite the fact that not a single one of them had yet to complain. She was just as thorough in ironing her outfits, diligently running the iron over every fold and crease until not a single wrinkle remained. It was difficult to do it properly, at first, without the outfit sighing in pleasure or reminding her she had missed a spot, like Senketsu used to do, but she managed.
She thought of Senketsu whenever she found herself bleeding, which was again relatively frequently considering the amount of fights she still managed to get herself into. Whether it was from a busted lip or a scraped knee or even something as simple as a paper cut, Ryuuko would always take a moment to stare at the fresh blood dripping from her injury and feel a pang of remembrance in her chest. She felt almost as if she was wasting it, as though the blood could have served a better purpose.
She thought of Senketsu during the nights when she couldn’t sleep, nights when the thoughts racing through her head refused to slow down for even a second. On nights like those, she used to take Senketsu down off his hanger and hold him in bed with her like a safety blanket, as though his mere presence would be enough to fight off the fears bouncing around in her mind. She had always been able to get to sleep when he was with her, and now that he wasn’t, she suffered more sleepless nights than she cared to admit.
She thought of Senketsu on the evenings when she chose to run herself a hot bath and relax rather than merely take a quick shower. Back when Senketsu was still alive, she would hang him up on the bathroom door next to the pajamas she planned on wearing, and the two would simply talk as Ryuuko soaked. The rest of the Mankanshoku family no doubt thought her mad, of course, hearing her speaking aloud and often laughing despite there supposedly being no one else in the bathroom with her, but she found she didn’t much care. The company made it all worth it.
Most of all, perhaps, Ryuuko thought of Senketsu whenever she looked into the night sky. Sometimes she would spent hours just lying on the roof of the Mankanshoku residence staring up at the stars in search of that telltale flicker of red light, that familiar gleam that told her Senketsu was still up there looking down upon her. The vast majority of nights were unsuccessful, and Ryuuko would fall asleep disappointed, having failed to find what she was looking for. Sometimes, however, she would find that one star, that one flickering red light, and that would make all the previous nights of searching worth it as she felt a single tear run down her cheek and a smile twitch at the edge of her lips.
As the weeks turned into months and the months turned in years, however, Ryuuko found she shed fewer tears. Not a day passed by when she didn’t think of Senketsu in one way or another, but no longer did it hurt as much. Gone were the sleepless nights. Gone were the bouts of sobbing. Gone were the dreams of fire and flame. It still hurt, of course, and Ryuuko knew it would always hurt. She had lost someone she loved, someone whose presence in her life, however brief, had made her life all the richer for it. But she refused to let Senketsu’s death destroy her. It wasn’t what he would have wanted.
Senketsu wanted Ryuuko to be happy. He wanted her to wear her own clothes and make her own choices and be who she wanted to be, rather than what other people wanted her to be. He wanted Ryuuko to live her life.
And so, in his memory, Ryuuko did just that, and she found she smiled more than she cried.