Things never work out the way you hope for. Sometimes, all you can do is run away, however much it may hurt you and those around you.
The Circle of Sin
One who recognises their own sin, has no sin.
Now I ask you, are you a sinner?
Perhaps that is what it means to be bound by sin.
To keep going around in the same circle looking to find where the sin lies...
and at some point losing the sight of the way out.
Chapter One - On Gilded Wings
I watch, horror momentarily filling my gaze, as the bell falls down over you, but my worries are for naught. With a flick of my arms, I wrap the whip of my naginata around the bell, the blades tearing it to pieces, before closing around your body. I won't let you go anymore, you're all mine. I pull you towards me, your body falling against mine as I sink to my knees, holding you close. You move your head from my shoulder and as your lips touch mine, shock courses throughout my body. It's not supposed to be like this, you should hate me, hate me for all that I've done to you.
"Shizuru, you were the first one who came to me when I was unable to believe anyone. But, I can't have the feeling that you wish I did. Even then, I'm happy that you loved me."
I can barely hear you over the sounds of Duran and Kiyohime fighting outside, but every word resonates within my breast. You move away from me, kneeling straight upwards as I do the same. How can you look at me like that? I struggle to meet your gaze, shame enveloping me. How can your eyes be so compassionate with all the blood that stains my hands?
"I also love you, Shizuru."
I feel the blood rushing to my cheeks, wishing for this one instant to last forever. I know she doesn't mean it the way I wish to interpret it, but what does any of that matter anymore? It is all coming to an end and if even only in a moment of lunacy, I want your words to be true.
"Duran! Load silver cartridges!"
Your cry fills my ears, wrenching my thoughts to the battle outside. If... if you fire and destroy Kiyohime, what will happen to you? I'll lose you and I won't be able to stand that! No! I don't want to lose you, never again!
I see the cannons blast to the centre of Kiyohime, and an eruption of flame bursts from my Child, quickly enveloping your Duran. As the shockwaves whip around us, the wind tugging at our clothes and hair, I sink my head to your breast, realising what this portends. This moment truly will last forever for us; no more memories will be made whether happy or sad beyond this point. At least we will die together, forever wrapped in each other's arms. I can ask no more of this cursed life I have led, of the heart of the woman I love unrequitedly. "I'm fulfilled," I murmur, truly meaning it. I smile, happy to meet my end like this. I embrace your warmth as we fade away into nothingness, your hearts beat calling to me as we pass onto the next world.
I feel a tremendous pain tearing at me as I open my eyes. My head still rests upon your breast, and for a few moments, I am disorientated. Where are we? How did we get here? I realise that we're in the church once more... was it just my imagination that we died? And then I hear her words, Director Mashiro talks to us, and rage burns inside of me. How dare she? How dare she do this to me? I wanted to die, I wanted that perfect moment to be the end of my life! How can you take this away from me!?
Woodenly, I rise to my feet; swaying unsteadily, I place a hand upon your shoulder to gain my balance, and as I feel you flinch momentarily from my touch, it all comes slamming back down upon me, this terrible burden I must now bear. The things that I have done while lost within my madness, and how other people will look at me from now on, how you will look at me as long as we're together. Tears come unbidden to my eyes as my chest heaves; I bring my hands to my face to try and hide myself away from my shame as it rolls down my face.
"Forgive me. Forgive me, Natsuki." I can do nothing but this, but beg you to absolve my sins, for only you can forgive me. "I'm..."
"It's all right now, Shizuru. It's all right."
Your words are like a balm to my soul. If you can accept what I've done, what I've become and still say that, then I can maybe bring myself to look upon you once again.
With a nod of my head, I follow you as we leave the church, the HiME star bright above us.
We ride the night sky on bizarre creatures, soaring towards that baleful star as it glares down upon us. I can feel their eyes upon me, fear and recrimination oscillating around and around as we soar. I clap my hands together, offer a fake smile, and bow my head. "Forgive me," I say, sickeningly cheerful. They start in shock at my attitude, and I wonder if they see right through me, but I hear Midori yelling that it's not the time for jokes, and their attention is taken away from me. I struggle to stay calm on the surface whilst vitriol churns inside my throat, burning away at their foolishness. As if the flame of resurrection has incinerated the hate from my heart, the memories from my mind, and cast the ashes away on the wind. They may be able to forget and forgive, but I cannot, nay, must not. Never again can I afford to let myself loose like that. How could I ever bear to see you look at me with hatred or fear in your eyes? And so, I shall do as I always have, and hide myself behind this mask of flesh and bone, repressing all that I feel and letting you all see the faÃ§ade I wish you to.
It hurts. The venom bites away at me, tearing me apart inside. Natsuki, today I must bid you farewell. I wish I could stay with you here for the rest of my life, but I have graduated and you still have your education to continue. Even if that were not the case, I don't believe that I can stay here a moment longer. There are too many bitter memories of my lunacy, my accursed umbra casting a dark shadow over everywhere I survey on the academy grounds. Whilst it is true that I can never escape the cruel deeds I have committed here, I most certainly cannot allow myself to wallow in them, allowing them to devour me whole. How could I betray your belief in me like that? I must flee, my tail between my legs, and I will gladly do so if only to maintain my high regard in your eyes, to justify your faith in me.
And yet, I find myself wondering... is there a place for me in this world? Is there somewhere that I can be safe from myself? I wish that place were by your side but I now know that it could never be. I cannot, will not, bind you to me anymore, and nor will I bind myself to you. You'll always be within my heart, wherever I may go, but I cannot bear being so close and yet so far away from you at the same instant. All that I have done is for naught, all the lonely nights wishing that you were there lying beside me, that your scent would engulf me, that your body and soul would be mine alone, and mine would belong to you. And I can never have you.
I see you lurking by the flowerbeds being tended my Sakomizu-sensei. "Your attendance rate is not nearly high enough," he says, turning to face you. "Without extra classes, you'll have to repeat your freshman year onward."
"Well, but you see... something like that... something can be done, right?" you stammer out, and I can feel the sound of your voice wrenching at my guts.
"Nothing can be done," Sakomizu-sensei deadpans. "I don't think it's time for you to go on a jolly journey."
"W-wait a minute," you stammer once more, as I step out behind you.
"Why? Repeating isn't bad," I hear myself say, once more playing the fool. I can't let you know how much I'm hurting. I don't want your sympathy, your pity. It would just be the final insult.
You whirl around in surprise at my voice, my name on your lips.
"Maybe I shouldn't graduate?" I say as I drop my certificate and yearbook to the floor. You make that shocked/confused face of yours that's so adorable and it hurts so much I just want to fall to the floor and die. Tomorrow I'll be gone, back to Kyoto, and then off to University, far away from you and I'll never see you again. And that's probably for the best. I am dirty, tainted, and I almost pulled you down with me, something I can never allow myself to do again.
It is time for me to leave; my bags are packed and stored in the taxi waiting for me outside of the dormitory. It's still very early in the morning, but that's for the best. I intend to slip away quietly, unnoticed, and not have to say that final goodbye. I sling the final bag over my shoulder and close the door behind me as I leave. I hurry down the steps and escape from this place, quickly getting into the backseat of the cab. With a nod of his head, the driver starts the car and we make our way towards the front gate, where by the side of the road, I see you, sat upon your motorbike, helmet sat firmly in place upon your head. My hand presses against the window as I drive by, our eyes meeting for a brief moment before you're left behind and we reach open road.
I can feel my mask slipping as a slick wetness rolls down my cheek. My shoulders shake as I sob quietly, not willing to let out any noise. I assume the driver can see my state but he says nothing, of which I am thankful for. I don't want to talk about it; I don't even want to think about it. You're gone from my life, and I don't dare let you back in. This has to be the end of it. If you love something, let it go...