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Leaving the Crimson City

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“Thank you, Naruse.”

Kanon, as the older sibling, picks up the pieces of her sister's fumbled words of gratitude. She is in no position to express them any better and it is not enough — it cannot be anywhere near enough — but Naruse responds with a smile, which means it is definitely worth something. 

Shion shuffles along the seats towards her; Kanon moves to meet her halfway. Her sister links their arms together, tugs her close and presses her head to Kanon's shoulder. As her eyes close, her shoulders relax and her breathing steadies, Kanon almost smiles too.

 

Naruse stands above them, tall and still and silent. Aoi and the others are at the other end of the carriage, talking in low whispers. Their words fade out, just like she hopes the residual ringing in her ears will. For a while, Kanon focuses only on the rattling sounds of the train and her sister's breathing.

At the sound of movement she raises her head; looks up at the girl who saved them, her silhouette striking against the red sky softly burning through the train compartment's battered windows.

As Naruse turns to watch the crimson city disappearing into the distance, Kanon feels her sister's head slump on her shoulder and catches her before she slips. 

In, out. In, out. 

She tries to count her own breaths too, because she, like Shion, is alive. For better or for worse, the two of them will continue to live. The parts of her that should hurt are as numb as they have always been, but this, this is something she can feel. It is a feeling that she wants to hold onto for a while longer.

 

Time passes.

At some point, Naruse sinks into the seat beside her and leans back, yawning and stretching her arms out above her. Shion, still sleeping soundly, stirs slightly.

Shrapnel still litters the floors; Kanon absently prods a particularly large piece with her foot and watches it skid under the opposite seats.

The train trundles on. The compartment floor continues to shudder beneath her feet. They hurtle past the red skyline, towards some kind of future.