He was destroying himself, and there was nothing she could do about it. He was giving up on life, and there was nothing she could say to convince him to hold on. He was crumbling to pieces before her very eyes, and all she wanted to do was pick up the pieces and put them back together. But she knew that she couldn’t. She knew that there was nothing she could do for him, nothing she could do to fix him. Despite this unyielding truth, she resolved not to leave his side. Even if her only action was to stand by and watch as he lost himself to the voracious void of grief, she would put aside her own pain and stay with him. Besides, she was convinced that she deserved the pain. After all, this was her fault.
She had been careless. She had been too lenient, too distracted by the inconsequential details when the only thing that should have been on her mind was Ayumi’s protection. Even now she remembered the young girl’s bright smile, a smile that sparkled with joyous starlight, the kind of smile that infected everyone who saw it. The memory brought tears to her eyes. She wiped them from her cheeks as she held on to the rail in the train car, her gaze volleying between the broken boy on the seat before her and the beautiful sunset that framed him with a golden halo.
The world surrounding him was bright, vibrant, and hopeful; the world that he saw was finite, dark, and dismal. Yu Otosaka’s world had already ended, the possibility of his future already vanished as all possibilities that had been set before him slipped through his fingers into a bottomless abyss. He hadn’t even gotten a chance to say goodbye. He wasn’t thinking about his opportunities, and he didn’t really want to fix himself. He was convinced that there was nothing he could do to ever remedy the gaping hole in his heart as it continued to eat away at his psyche. For now the pain he was marinating in was a perfect facilitator.
The world that Nao Tomori saw and the boy that she couldn’t tear her eyes away from were both beautiful and limitless. Her heart ached and her fingers trembled as she fought the urge to reach out and comfort him. She had been at his side for days now, a silent witness as he slowly resigned himself to the encompassing claws of madness. Every time she had thought about revealing herself one thought stopped her: you deserve this. Seeing him suffer was suffering for herself. She knew she wasn’t being selfish; she had figured that out after that outburst he had had in response to that pretty girl that had tried to appeal to him a few days ago.
That was when Nao has seen the real depravity within him. She was able to observe a minor glimpse of the deeply seeded pain and hate that was seething in him now. There was no way that he would listen to reason at this point. Hell, he was risking arrest running away like this, avoiding school and all of his other responsibilities. The light in Yu’s eyes had vanished, the person he had once been shriveled up, beaten, and probably barely breathing within the shell of the person that existed now. His aura resonated anger and revulsion, and she was content to soak it in at his side. She hoped that even if he couldn’t see her just her presence might be enough to deter any outside interference attempting to cause him trouble. She would be his guardian, his partner in suffering, and his last resort should things go too far. Whether he knew it or not, she had already vowed to watch over him as a guardian angel, and she would fulfill that role to the utmost.
Despite all that she had suffered in her own life, Nao was still able to see the world as teeming with life and limitless possibilities. Anyone could seize them, and in her eyes Yu was a special case. Weeks later, as her leg sliced through the air, she suspended her invisible veil and sent the crystalline death sentence Yu had just been about to throw his life away to scattering into the street and air before her. Her eyes trained on him, Nao examined the form of the boy that he had the highest hopes and respect for. Would she ever admit it? Probably not. She wasn’t sure what either of them would gain by such a confession…but her actions spoke louder than her words.
As she explained to him that she had been by his side, a new twinkle of light entered into his life. He felt warmth pooling in his chest as she cradled his sobbing form in her arms. His eyes were raw, his heart was sore, and his fingers throbbed as he clenched the fabric of her uniform with a visceral tightness. He could almost swear he caught the sight of radiant, ethereal wings extending from her back and folding over him like a protective shield. He was sure that it was just a trick of the light, an illusion resulting from his starved and strung out mind. But regardless, Yu couldn’t deny that Nao had saved his life.
She had saved his life and he still couldn’t wrap his mind around why. She had fought to preserve the life that he had completely and utterly given up on, the life that he was ready to incinerate and leave to be devoured by the decomposing masses that occupied the darkest shadows of the universe, and yet she had refused to give up on him. She saw something in him that he never could, and as she helped him to his feet and guided his arm around her shoulders, he remembered just how much she had suffered.
When the brother she had known and loved had been ripped from her, along with the rest of her familiar life as she had once known it, she hadn’t given up. She hadn’t given up on him even when he had. Nao was a fighter. She was resilient, she was strong, and she was passionate. Once she decided that you were a friend, established that you were worth something to her, she never let you go. Yu was no exception. As they trekked their way to the nearest train station Yu pondered just how much Nao meant to him, too.
Her face, the first familiar face he had the pleasure to see after his prolonged period of mental schism, triggered a pang of joy and confusion in his weak heart. As she shouldered his weight and he shuffled along beside her, her face and façade-like wings flickered incessantly in his head. He had never seen a more beautiful sight, a sight that had so quickly managed to set him at ease. She was his guardian and his healer. She was his friend and his companion. Maybe one day she could even be his love.