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Deep red irises widened as the plane made impact with the tallest building in the post-apocalyptic looking city. Kuina knew his childhood friend always dreamt of building a plane, but he never knew its purpose.
Muddy booted feet bolted on impulse, deserting a patrol post. No time to think, just time to run. If the soldier took all the back roads and avoided the traffic of the main street, he might just make it in ti-
No. The wreckage was catastrophic. There was no way Kawasemi could have lived through that. Even if he did, the plane was stuck on the twelfth through sixteenth floors of the building. Getting himself out would have ended in a death plummet to a concrete fatality.
Kuina’s sprint slowed to a jog, and then to a labored walk. Blood red eyes welled up with tears, threatening to spill over in grief of his closest and only friend. He pointed his nose upwards. No. There could still be a possibility Kawasemi was alive.
The young soldier’s boots carried him haphazardly through the city, dodging people left and right, tripping over breaks in the concrete. Past an alleyway with a blind homeless boy using only cardboard boxes to find his comfort, past a dumpster where a kid in a patchwork hoodie was searching for his next meal, past a hospital where an inhumane concoction of a person struggled to take his next breath, past a train station where a teacher not seeing his own worth contemplated simply jumping, past the remains of a school blown up by two hair-dyed fugitives, past his childhood friend’s old workshop where he’d worked for years on end to get his prototype to finally lift off the platform and take flight.
Finally, finally, Kuina made it to the damaged military capital building, tears streaming down his face, sobs escaping his chest in the form of choked gasps as he searched for breath to relieve his aching lungs.
A crumpled figure lay, tossed aside, on the sidewalk in front of the crumbling building, orange, flame-like hair messier than usual and covered in ash. The boy’s bright teal eyes were closed, his face contorted in pain. With a quick glance-over, the boy much too young to be a pilot suffered from a broken leg(bones did not naturally bend that way), multiple deep cuts and gashes, and a multitude of bruises darkening his once-pale skin.
Kuina collapsed onto his knees next to the damaged boy, gently placing two fingers on his neck, feeling for a pulse. Kawasemi was still alive, just barely. With his own sporadic breathing calming, Kuina could hear the quiet, shallow breaths of his childhood friend. Kawasemi was strong; he was still hanging on to life.
With tears still streaming down his cheeks, the young soldier gently lifted the pilot boy’s head to cradle in his lap. He whispered out an apology as he stroked Kawasemi’s hair. Kuina quietly confessed each and every one of his transgressions to the dying boy on his lap, unaware of bright teal eyes struggling to open, to find recognition, to connect this broken and pained version of a voice he had heard time and time again.
Kuina’s speech was cut short when Kawasemi’s shaking and bloody fingers came in contact with the soldier’s cheek, shallow dying breaths becoming even shallower and more like gasps as the smaller boy’s teal eyes filled with tears.
“K-Kui…na..”
Hearing his own name, the soldier bit his lip to swallow back a sob, the tears steamed faster, a river after a rainstorm. Kuina gently grasped the weak hand touching his face.
“Kuina… S.. sorry…”
Shortly after choking out his last two words, the broken pilot’s bright teal eyes dulled as his eyelids shut, huffing out his last dying breath. His hand went limp inside the grasp of his red-eyed friend’s.
The dam holding back a flood of emotion finally broke. With a choking sound, Kuina let his walls crash down, sobs shaking through him like an earthquake as he pulled the slowly cooling body of his friend to his chest, hugging him as he wish he had before losing the only friend the soldier had. Rocking slowly, Kuina buried his face against the corpse’s neck, staining the already-ruined jacket with his tears of agony.
He watched the one person he vowed to protect get ripped from his grasp and fade out of the world of the living. Kuina could no longer justify himself, his reason for joining the tyrannical military regime, his reason for existing. He had lost everything.