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aster

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an aster, reach for the stars.

for the child that wept down tears of snow, reach to her. reach out your hand, you’re so close, nanase!

the world is spinning in front of them. is that a burning ball of gas, millions of miles away? what color is it? is that white, or blue, or red? is that even a star? maybe it’s a neon light. maybe it’s an LED, lighting up a city, far away from here. where is she? is she standing? sitting? what's going on?

misane can’t see anymore. the world is pastel, she feels like she's walking on clouds. she can hear nothing, perceive nothing. all she has is her memories, vague and distant and blurry and shaky. she remembers the flowers, swaying gently from left to right in a summer’s breeze. she remembers a man’s gentle voice, a voice she trusted. never did she remember her trust being so heavily betrayed before she met him.

before the man who surrounded himself in flowers introduced himself to her, she remembers things clearly. she remembers a serious life, with no time for play. she remembers braids in her wavy hair, because she wanted it to be curly. she remembers murder scenes, the blood spilling across the floor. she remembers being scared the first time, she remembers crying. but then she remembers how seeing dead bodies became normal. she remembers the questioning she did together with her father.

she remembers meeting nanashi somewhere in-between. nanashi was an interesting person. he seemed like a ball of sunshine, and he shone into her blood-stained life. after they met, after they began to speak with every sunrise and sunset, every day became both so much brighter and so much harder at the same time.

he smiled effortlessly. she remembers how he spoke so sweetly to her, how her heart began to pound. she remembers watching him make a friend or two, then watching them drift away.

she remembers that no matter how long she spent with him, even if he was a little weird, she never got tired of him. he was so different than everyone else she knew. all of the flustered witnesses, sniffling, unable to speak. all of the selfish people she'd met. people were a little hard to be around. but nanashi? he made things simpler somehow. was she “different?” she brushed off his strange comments, his harsh self-deprecation. and instead, she lifted him up to the best of her ability.

when it didn’t work, and she heard that he was going to the past, she followed him. she met the nanashi of the past, and decided to change everything.

it was sudden. misane could never quite understand nanashi. she didn’t talk much, in a hope that nanashi would speak more. she encouraged him in every and any way she could. those were warm memories.

something about nanashi made him a little difficult to spend time with. he was all smiles, the exact same as he was in the future. he hid his emotions, and favored trying to make others happy. so she became his miracle, his aster. a collection of dreams, reaching for the sky. she made his wish come true, and became his friend. she solved mysteries with him, she stayed by his side.

she remembers hearing him say that he would give up his life in a heartbeat. then the statement was revised to “i’ll do literally anything, so long as it isn’t life-risking.” and slowly, she watched him value himself more and more as he brought more and more people together. as everyone showed him that he was loved.

she remembers seeing him cry for the first time. she remembers hugging him, she remembers gently rubbing her thumb over his cheek and catching his stray tears. he sobbed and sobbed, all of the years of pent-up emotion released at once.

she remembers nanashi—no, nanase at her side from that day forth, she remembers his smile, somehow easier to look at. well, she can’t see it anymore, she can only imagine it. it’s a clear image, but she still wants to cry. she remembers getting tired. she feels an arm wrapping around her waist? she smells something. she makes herself small, fitting herself into the small space she was provided.

it’s nanase. nanase smells like a small space. it’s a scent that’s small, and makes her feel like cuddling. sometimes, it takes all she has just to hold herself back from being affectionate with the one she loves. she still remembers that kiss she landed on the back of his hand. it was one of the hardest things she’d ever done. but right now, she can’t see anything, she can’t feel anything.

there’s the lingering of murderous intent. sometimes, she dreams that she has a knife in her hand. when she wakes up, sometimes she can still feel the coldness of it. and she always finds herself clinging to her trusted partner. he’s never done anything to make her want to kill him… maybe he’s said a few stupid things, maybe he wasn’t there a few times when she felt scared. but when push came to shove, it was nanase that kept her grounded.

she thinks she feels herself crying. she can’t imagine a world without nanase in it.

nanase isn’t nearly as emotional as he used to be. he’s grown. he thinks every move through, though it doesn’t always show. he pushes himself a little too hard, his body straining with everything he does. so because of that, misane does her best to make him exert himself as little as possible.

misane-chan was his inspiration for years.

he doesn’t feel fuzzy at all. he feels the same as he always has. the only difference is the blue-haired girl in his arms, snuggling against his chest. she’s never clung to him so tightly. is she scared of losing something? he strokes her head, her little braid.

he’s used to seeing a similar set of patterns coming from little misane-chan. the same numbers appear most of the time, and they change with each emotion. there’s barely any variation in them. but now? he sees something completely unrecognizable. it makes him nervous. should he try deciphering the code his mind is creating? he considers it for only a moment, but then he remembers misane-chan mentioning how he shouldn't make himself go too far.

he doesn’t want to know what’s caused her this much anguish. so much so that even in her sleep, she cringes, and he rests his cold hand on her burning face. it makes him want to cry. he wants to help her, but he doesn't know how. he does what he can... when he strokes her hair, he sees her relax. but is that all?

the world moves fast, the world moves slow. every day feels like it lasts forever, but he looks back on past days like they weren’t enough regardless. he’s never seen misane-chan this dependent on him. she always seemed to be so stoic, even if the little numbers said otherwise. he misses when her expressions were vague on her face. when she hid her smiles, she laughed sometimes. he misses those times she looked so fondly at him. when her eyes would soften, and she would tease him, as if she was the older one!

gently, gently. he watches the furrow in her brow disappear, he watches the values recalculate. and she’s breathing evenly again. he holds her close.

they slept in separate rooms… until shinobu happened. it was hard to describe what exactly it was. mystery after mystery, come every sunrise. like a whirlwind, like a dizzy trance that only lasted a few days. rushing because of adrenaline, by each other’s side. since then, misane-chan had been acting strange. every time she began to act up, nanase could hold her hand, or kiss her head, or pull her close, and her heart rate fell without fail.

she was still… so far away. does she dream of flowers? maybe she dreams of stars. “don’t worry, aster…” healthy and young, she can run every which way when a mystery calls her name.

in the winter days, snow falls from her eyes. the water freezes, and the snowflakes fall. the stars twinkle, he hears them. sensitive hearing, “mister rabbit ears,” they catch everything. so gently, he makes a wish.

flowers are a lie, the phantasmic aster. she was pulled in, young and naïve, even if she was smarter than most. you can’t wish on a star-shaped aster. birthed from the tears of the one who feared the loss of the stars. asters are full of dreams, thoughts of longing, reaching for the sky, but nothing comes true.

the snowdrop, the snowflake, the wishing star of winter. the stars that fall from the heavens, that fall from her eyes, and land on his finger.

he prays, he dreams…

for her to get better. for his small actions to have an effect.

for her stoic face to come back. for her to stop crying, for her to stop shaking in her sleep.

for her to dream of sunshine, for her to be able to think clearly. for her to say his name again, with all that warmth she did in the past. for her eyes to soften like they used to, her gaze gentle.

once she recovers, they’ll go chasing. they’ll go running, across the world, across the seven seas, across mountains and valleys. they'll track that damned man down, no matter what it takes, nanase vows.

he loves this world. he would do literally anything for it. and to see the amount of crumbling this world has done at the hands of shinobu… makes him furious, more than he’d like to admit. (certainly more than he'll ever show.)

he’ll get her out of whatever hell she sees. he'll pull her out of whatever deathlike, poisonous dream has spilled over her mind; he’ll clear it away, and they’ll go on their adventures once more.

reach for the stars, reach for her. aster, of the heavens, so far away from the earth. he’ll fly someday. he’ll reach her.