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our december sun is setting

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Even before all of this, he was always told that he seemed older than he was; and while he was not young by any means, the years wore heavily on his face and his body, visible to any passerby. He felt it especially on days like today- cold and dreary, snow covering the ground.

At a cemetery.

Coincidentally, his family’s grave was somewhat near the Kujou’s. He could almost have kid himself into believing that it was something like fate- a silly and juvenile concept, for sure, and not one Yashiki would readily admit to even have considered.

The stone was mostly clear of snow, given that his name had just recently been carved in. Yashiki did not like that he recognized the recently-added name; before, it could be almost as if everything was a dream. A terrible one, of course, but generally not real. But this was a reality, and it was one that Yashiki was all-too-familiar with.

He’d survived his mother, father, grandparents- even his younger sister. And he wasn’t even that old yet. Middle aged was too young to be entirely alone, but here he was, staring down at a stone where no life remained. In fact, he was the only life around at all; it was near sunset in the middle of December, so a crowd would be unusual.

Eyes burning, Yashiki forced himself to turn away from the name that made him Yashiki in the first place. Without him, the man called Yashiki Kazuo was no more than a phantom, a whisper from days when angry spirits freely wandered through H City, leaving fear and death in their wake.

He remembered the day he officially assumed the name socially; the same time some sort of confession had spilled from their mouths. They’d never really said it with words, but it was understood between them. Yashiki wasn’t sure if he could ever hope to replicate that feeling again- he wasn’t sure he ever wanted to.

Legally, he still bore that cursed name. It caused some issues regarding inheritance and ownership of property; it was more hassle than it was worth to get it fully changed. He was slightly thankful now as he made his way to stand in front of his own family’s grave marker- he did not have to try very hard to go back to before, to the name he swore to leave behind.

He traced the lines that made up Saya’s name, a shaky sigh escaping his lips. Yashiki- or was he Kujou now?- didn’t move, his fingertips still resting against the cold stone. From the corner of his eye, he could see a small figure of a man off of a polished bell or something of the like; when he turned to get a better look, he was startled to realize that it was his own eyes that stared back.

Admittedly, he did not look into a mirror very often; after the incident with Hanahiko, he found himself avoiding them. A residual fear, perhaps, or maybe just to avoid remembering. Maybe those were one and the same.

Still, he looked at himself for a long time. He was neither Yashiki, nor was he Kujou. He existed somewhere in between, a shadow of them both. Without his partner- both for work and intimately- he did not seem to exist as Yashiki; without his sister or any other family, he did not exist as Kujou. He had always been a sort of black sheep, but it came to a head now: he started alone, and he would end alone.

He raced back to the other grave, some desperate plea falling from his lips to wake up or please don’t be real . To his dismay, neither wish could come true: he was awake and in the present, which was as real as anything he could touch.

“Satoru,” he whispered, reaching out to the stone. His fingers did not reach the cold stone as he sank to his knees, melting snow seeping into the legs of his pants.

Instead of the normal brown coat he wore in all seasons, a worn olive one adorned his shoulders; if he concentrated, a lingering scent of Mashita could still be detected. It smelled faintly of teakwood and largely of cigarette smoke, though both faded as he wore it. Perhaps he’d regret that- or perhaps it was better that the scent disappear. Yashiki couldn’t tell.

And still he sat in the snow, fists clenched with white knuckles in an empty cemetery, cursing neither a god nor a circumstance, but himself. Perhaps Mashita’s death was unavoidable; or perhaps it was a side effect of being close to him. As white hot tears streamed down his face, he began to forget exactly who he was supposed to be mourning.

“I’m sorry,” he choked, gripping onto his knees. “Saya, Satoru. It’s all my fault. It’s all my fault.”

He knew that it wasn’t, realistically, but he sobbed his apology again and again. Both of them might still live had he just died the way he was meant to; by escaping his fate, he’d resigned it to others. What an unjust turn of events for those two that he cared for so much.

Yashiki didn’t know how long he sat in the cold, the frigid wind biting into his face and exposed skin. His sore eyes looked to the sky at a brilliantly orange sunset- too beautiful and too bright for the dark existence he currently was burdened with. His thoughts drifted back to his lost partner, whose ashes currently sat unceremoniously on the top of his dining room table. He said another apology that he had to miss such a sight- something the other man never cared for in the first place.

Limbs heavier from the cold and from his grief, Yashiki trudged home as the sun dipped under the horizon, somehow no better and no worse than when he’d arrived.