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In The Last Remaining

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"Itsuki!"

Itsuki turned around, trying to place the voice, Mutsuki pausing with him. The girl that appeared before him wasn't anyone he recognized, and in fact was not dressed like anybody he'd ever seen. Nor were the delicate, complex tattoos that covered half of her visible skin like anything he'd seen before. He had to wonder who she was, how she knew him, why she was looking at him in such a familiar way. There was another girl behind her, someone he couldn't clearly see.

"Who are you?" he asked.

There was pain in her eyes, and he wondered if he'd been too rough.

"That's right, you wouldn't know." She wiped her eyes. "You were already dead."

He looked at her, really looked, and realized that almost hidden by the tattoos was the mark of a Remaining. She was from one of the families, she had lost her twin to stave off everything.

"You thought I was Yae." She looked at him as if lost. "You helped me."

He had wanted to save Sae and Yae. Somehow, some part of him must have stayed around to keep trying. And in doing so, he had been there for another pair of twins faced with the ritual. He had tried to save them.

And he had failed, again. "I'm sorry," he said. "I failed." He wondered if he'd done that repeatedly, trying to save twins from the ritual. This girl, this Remaining, was probably not the only one.

Maybe there was a reason he didn't remember her, or anybody else after he'd died.

"No." She shook her head. "You helped. It wasn't your fault that Mayu died." There was a nod from the form behind her, her twin, Mayu.

"But I still failed." He shook his head. He'd lost Mutsuki that way; he'd hoped that no other twin would be forced to strangle their own. He remembered holding his hands around a warm throat, the pounding of the ritual as the light in Mutsuki's eyes died.

He'd been trembling as they pushed Mutsuki's body into the pit, tried not to throw up. Curled up in grief, and nobody had stopped him. Tried to comfort him, yes. But people who weren't twins couldn't understand what it was to end a life that was in some ways your own, to take what was closest and end it for the sake of that which wasn't close.

"No. You must never think that." There was a quiet firmness to her voice.

"You did what you could," came from her twin.

It still didn't feel like enough.

"I think you saved all of us," the girl said. Her hand tightened on her sister's. "I think we were able to end it."

His eyes opened wider. Was there a reason that part of him had remained there, to guide? To help someone else take the steps needed to stop the horror of one twin killing another?

If so, maybe he had redeemed himself. He couldn't stop them from doing what they had to those he loved, but he had stopped the misery, the pain. This girl, her twin, they were proof of that.

There was a small, but gentle smile on Mayu's face. "Come on, Mio," she said, and her twin looked at him one more time.

He and Mutsuki watched them go, and Itsuki found himself following with a lighter heart.