As Anna's situation grows critical, she finds her soul in limbo. However, two familiar faces are able to coax her back home.
Chapter Twenty-Four: Dead Orchid:
The infirmary in Meifu had counted on a slow night tonight. That was until Tsuzuki burst through the door carrying out-cold Anna in his arms.
"Help!" he cried. "Somebody help!" The nurses rushed to attention.
"What happened?" the head nurse asked.
"She collapsed!" Tsuzuki wailed. Everyone crowded the couple. The head nurse felt for a pulse. By then, she knew what had happened.
"You didn't take it out, did you?" she asked.
"No," the shinigami whimpered.
"Why?" she asked in a sharp tone.
Tsuzuki lowered his head. "She wanted to keep it!"
"Didn't you talk her out of it?!"
The shinigami’s hands trembled as he held his out cold girlfriend. "Look! I don't care! Save my wife!"
The head nurse went quiet and nodded. "Alright, hand her here." Tsuzuki hesitated at first, but then complied. The head nurse gave him a calm smile.
"Don't worry," she whispered. "We'll do our best." Tsuzuki looked and felt drained.
"Do you want to contact someone?" she asked. The shinigami looked at her with desperate eyes.
"Alright," he said.
"She'll be fine," the head nurse assured him. Tsuzuki pressed his lips together. He pulled out his phone to make the call. Anna was taken to the OR.
Operation began at 10:17 p.m. The nurse surveyed the damage.
"Holy crap!" she said. "This is worse than we thought!" Anna's soul had been flooded with blood, almost to the point of pumping it out.
"Oh," a junior nurse murmured with a pale face. "What do we do?"
"Call Watari-sensei!" the head nurse called. "In the meantime, contain the bleeding!"
"Right!" the nurses replied. They started up with the containing with their powers.
Quiet lingered in the dimly lit skies. Anna slowly opened her eyes to empty skies above. Cherry and peach blossoms bloomed above her. She reached up as if to grab one.
Where am I? What is this place? Am I dead again?
"Not yet," a girl's voice answered. Anna lifted her head. Two girls stood among the trees. One girl looked fifteen-years-old and dressed in a dark blackish navy schoolgirl uniform with long wavy black hair and a full face. The younger girl looked thirteen with a white t-shirt and blue short shorts with a boyish haircut. Anna sat up from the dry, bluish grass.
"Auntie Yumiko? Auntie Kirika?" she asked.
Hisoka found worn-out Tsuzuki in the waiting room. His partner fought back his tears. The boy rushed over to the man.
"Hey, I got your call," Hisoka whispered. "Everything okay?"
"No!" Tsuzuki wailed. He choked back a sob. "It's all my fault. She wanted to keep in the stone. If I had just told her no…" Hisoka gently put his hand on his shoulder. The older man looked up. The boy leaned in close to his face.
"It's okay," he whispered as he wiped away Tsuzuki's tears. "She's a strong woman. She's been through worse."
"You think so?" the other shinigami asked.
Hisoka nodded. "I'll stay with you if you want."
"Please!" Tsuzuki pleaded. His partner took a seat next to him. The older shinigami shut his eyes. He could feel the pain twisting in his heart.
Yumiko and Kirika stared at their niece.
"Aren't you going to tell her?" the older sister asked the younger. Kirika whipped her head around.
"What? Me? Why me?" she asked. Yumiko shrugged.
"I don't know. You know this place better."
"Yeah, but you're older than me."
"Yeah, but your powers manifested before you died."
Kirika puffed up her cheeks. "You always make me do your dirty work!"
"Excuse me," a voice spoke up. The girls looked up and saw their niece staring at them. The girls became serious as Yumiko stepped forward.
"You aren't dead yet," she said. "But you don't have much time." Anna blinked at her.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"You're in between Chijou and Meifu," Kirika explained. "But you can't be here."
"Why not?" Anna asked.
Tatsumi came into the waiting room and found Tsuzuki with Hisoka. His heart ached for his former partner. He sat down with the boys. He rubbed Tsuzuki on the back.
"It's okay," he whispered. "Watari-san and the nurses will do anything to keep her alive." Tsuzuki glanced up at him.
"Are you sure?" he whispered. Tatsumi said nothing. Tears filled his former partner's eyes. The secretary turned his face to him.
"You don't get to break down," he whispered. "She needs you." Tsuzuki looked him in the eyes as he tried to blink back his tears.
"The bleeding hasn't stopped," the head nurse said.
"Find the source," Watari said.
"We're trying," the head nurse said. "The merger is too deep!" She turned to the shinigami.
"What do we do?" she asked. Watari looked dead serious.
"Force finish the merger," he replied. The nurses' jaws just dropped.
"Force finish?" the head nurse asked. "That'll destroy her soul!"
"We have no other choice!" Watari said. "If she does die, this'll be more merciful to her." The head nurse breathed out as she turned back to Anna on the table. The blood pumped faster in her chest.
"Okay," the nurse said. "Girls, prepare the circle!" The nurses all surrounded Anna and held out their hands. The head nurse began chanting to herself.
"You have to get back!" Yumiko said. "Tsuzuki needs you!"
"You have given him a reason to hope again. Tsuzuki is truly happy," Kirika said. "If you die, you will ruin him. You will change him into a cynical person. Don't do this to him! Don't die! Go back!"
"But what about you?" Anna asked.
"We are trapped here," Yumiko said. Anna tried to get up, but found her body too heavy to move.
"What's going on?" she cried. "Why can't I get up?"
"It's taking you in!" her aunts yelled. "You have to get back!"
"But how?" their niece cried.
"Use your kitsune!" they called.
"How?" Anna yelled. Everything around her faded into a misty white. Her body began to feel light, rising upwards even.
"Where am I going now?" she asked.
"Stop talking and let me take you back!" a woman's voice said.
"Take me back?" Anna asked.
"Taking me where?"
"Back to where you belong. That man and your family need you, right? So, you have to go back!"
Anna went quiet as an easy feeling filled her chest. "You're my kitsune, aren't you?"
"I'm here to guide you back, but yes I am she."
Anna shut her eyes as the peace inside of her took over her mind. "My kitsune, huh?"
"And you're taking me home?"
"Yes, whatever you like."
"Mmm, one more thing."
"Tell me your name, your real name." A faint breeze blew past her ear. Anna smiled to herself. "Ah. I see."
At the castle, Hakushu rose up from his desk and over to Anna's candle. It still looked long and fresh. Hakushu stood over the candle, blew out the flame, and… The flame sparked back to life stronger than ever. Hakushu tried to blow it out again and same result occurred. Hakushu couldn't understand it.
"It's a trick candle!" he shouted. Blowing it out many times didn't help.
By sunrise, Watari came into the waiting room. The shinigami all looked up. Tsuzuki rushed over to him.
"What happened? Is she okay?" he asked. His friend gave him a little smile.
"We had to force finish the merger. We had a few small complications, but we pulled it off successfully," he said. "All that's left is for the new core to stabilize. Overall, Anna will be okay. She's a tough one, I must say." Tsuzuki's face began to light up.
"You mean…" he started to say. Watari nodded.
"Yes," he said. "Anna survived the operation and is in recovery." Tsuzuki nearly fell to his knees with happy tears in his eyes.
"You can see her when she wakes up," his friend said.
"Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" Tsuzuki said over and over again. His angel had survived the merger.