This is the revised version of the final chapter, chapter 10.
Chapter 1 - A Childish Hope
Chapter 2 - Just A Mere Curiosity
Chapter 3 - Thoughtful Memories
Chapter 4 - Nature Pattern
Chapter 5 - Memories of Somebody
Chapter 6 - Autumn Days
Chapter 7 - Maze in Your Heart
Chapter 8 - Ray of Clear Vision
Chapter 9 - Reality, Honesty, and Imagination, then Truth
A few more days passed. Each night, I would see the same dream as before.
I would appear in what feels like a fleeting vision. Someone would always talk to me in these dreams, but I could never figure out who it was.
Before I knew it, though, I was having normal, everyday conversations with that strange person in my dreams.
Once again, they seemed far too familiar to be written off as a mere stranger, but I couldn't recognize them enough to place a name and face on it.
It was still winter outside. Though the frequent days of non-stop snow have stopped, it's still awfully chilly out there.
Kuroto and I had decided that today, we would finally go to see my mother in that strange place that Tsukyuu called 'the Afterlife'.
It was still early, though, so we waited until noon to leave. Until then, we sat outside drinking hot chocolate.
Noon eventually came. Kuroto had such a serious look on his face, it was like nothing I'd ever seen before.
We ran back to that strange stone in the forest. The entire clearing was covered by those butterflies. It looked like a sign, in a way.
Such a beautiful sight . . .
Although they all flew away from us once we approached the stone, the way they departed seemed . . . mystical.
Such an otherworldly sight . . .
As they flew away, we could finally see the door that led to the Afterlife. It glowed with an almost sorrowful brightness.
Just being here made me feel a little sad. Death really is a tragic thing, no matter how peaceful and kind it may be . . .
After all, it was many years ago that Mother had experienced such a time where death was a far more cruel existence.
With all of my courage and hope, I closed my eyes and touched the door.
When my eyes opened again, we were in a large, seemingly infinite field of snow. Only a small shrine and a large door far off in the distance could be seen.
Kuroto seemed to be taken by the sight. I, too, was shocked at the sheer size of this world. The sun was barely peeking over the horizon, like it had only just woken up from a deep slumber.
As we slowly made our way to the horizon, Kuroto and I talked about the past, and our thoughts on what may happen today.
As always, he always made me feel much better, and erased any doubts I had about what would come.
Soon enough, we reached the shrine, to my surprise. It had only seemed like a mere hour since we arrived, but looking back, the door we came from was gone from sight.
Approaching the shrine, a young lady stepped out, a solemn expression on her face.
She had been expecting us, as she called both of our names with a voice of ice.
She introduced herself to us as Sanako, the one who takes care of the Afterlife. She had been told by my mother, apparently, to wait for us here.
I wad rather skeptical, of course, since I had never known this woman, nor did my mother talk to her when she had lived in the manor.
However, this wasn't the time to question such things. All I had on my mind was to meet my mother again.
Kuroto, however, had many questions for Sanako, including if she could tell him anything about himself.
She promised him that she would be able to tell him something, important, at that. I grew a little excited at the idea of learning more about Kuroto, and so I listened intently.
Sanako merely closed her eyes, and told him that he was delicately connected to me. She said that the connection lies in both of our past lives.
I didn't entirely understand her, but I could tell she meant that Kuroto had some sort of connection to my mother.
Kuroto, however, looked like he had just realized something grand. I wanted to ask him about it, but thinking it over, I felt like it would be a bad idea.
We'd decided to stay and rest here with Sanako for a while before heading off to the door. Kuroto decided to take a short nap, curling up outside in the hall.
While I was siting outside, staring at the door, Sanako came up, wanting to speak to me. By her tone, it sounded important.
She told me more about Kuroto, and what she meant when she said we were delicately connected.
Kuroto has apparently been alive for a long time, she told me. She confused me, though, when she said that he has been alive 5 times. It made more sense, though, when she said that
he had reincarnated 5 times. I didn't understand why she told me this, though, until she told me that Kuroto had been reincarnated from a certain someone terribly important to one of my great-great grandmothers.
Thinking as hard as I could, I remembered the book lying around in my mother's room. There was a story about a boy who had died to bring this world sunlight, and, in turn, life.
Now I realized that Kuroto was the one mentioned in that story. However, I was puzzled by the fact that the story said he had died. Kuroto was alive and well in front of me the entire time, so how does he fit to the role of that boy of the story?
Sanako explained that he wasn't that person himself, but rather an indirect descendant. They all share traits of the boy who had died, but are not directly related to him by blood or genes.
It made more sense the more she told me, and in due time, I had more or less learned Kuroto's entire life.
The last thing she told me was that the reason he had no memories when I first met him was because he had simply just been born.
After our conversation, I laid down next to Kuroto, staring at his slumbering face. With everything I now knew about him, I couldn't help but feel much more strongly about him.
To have been born right away, and immediately use your life to selflessly help others, even though you don't know anything about yourself, it touched my frail heart even more.
I'd decided then that when he woke up, I would tell him more about myself. After all, it was only fair to him that he know all about me, when I know all about him.
Just then, his eyes fluttered open, his scarlet eyes staring straight into the deep green of my own.
He had slept peacefully, he told me after he gained his sense.
He dreamed that a person that looked like me was talking to him about me. I had to question it for a moment, but I remembered that I had the same dreams not too long ago.
Casually, I asked him what he learned, and to my surprise, it was as if he had been in a similar conversation to the one I was in!
He said he was a bit surprised, but he felt that he could trust it.
He then looked at me, and asked me if Sanako told me about the 'true' Kuroto. Nodding, he smiled weakly, saying that he was glad that I didn't change because of it.
I let out a slight giggle, tapping him on the forehead. Of course, I told him I would never change merely because of learning the truth. You've always been there for me, even when I was lost in a cloud of doubt. Now it was my turn to be there for you in yours.
He seemed greatly surprised. He grabbed my hand. When we returned home, he said, he wanted to marry me.
Naturally, my first response was to become majorly flustered. For a moment, I felt like the child I was only a few years ago. We laughed for a good while.
I quickly overcame the initial embarrassment, though, and gave Kuroto a kiss that, I hope, neither of us would forget.
A few hours later, Sanako asked us if we were ready to go.
We merely had to take a glance at each other to tell we were prepared. Sanako seemed to notice our new found determination, and gave us a cheerful smile, asking us to follow her.
After another hour of walking, we had reached the colossal door that led into the heart of the Afterlife, the Edge of Eternity, or so Sanako called it.
She told us it was a place reserved only for those who had lived in the Pasche Manor, and a very select few others.
The door itself was partially frozen over, and just being near it chilled our bodies to the very depths of our souls.
We stood back, letting Sanako open the door before us. As we stood in awe, the towering gate before us slowly but surely opened, releasing from within a blizzard of cold.
Sanako told us that it was easy to get lost inside, so we should keep close to each other.
Without any other words, she wished us luck, and let us pass. Before going inside, I wanted top thank her for many things, but by the time I looked back to do so, she was already gone.
On the other side of the door, the cold was unbearable, biting away at us. To keep me warm in here, Kuroto let me wear his scarf, the one thing that he had with him since the day I met him . . . The raging blizzard inside blinded our sight, and we had no way of knowing where we were going.
However, we continued forward. Even if we don't know where we're going, we could keep looking.
Eventually, the blizzard began to weaken, and the cold became warm.
In the distance, we could see a large monument. In our excitement, we ran up to it with the last of our energy. As we approached it, I could see someone in front of it, facing in our direction.
It was Mother.
At last, I could no longer hold back my emotions, and I ran up as fast as I could ahead of Kuroto, and leaped for my mother, who took me into her arms, wiping my tears away from my cheeks.
It was at this time that I felt truly, wholesomely happy.
Mother comforted me, hushing me and telling me not to cry, but I wanted to get it all out of me.
She looked to Kuroto, and, as if they recognized each other, did not say anything. When I had calmed myself down, I asked my Mother why she had left the manor.
She gave me a rather impressed smile. She said that she left the manor to 'visit' father, but then decided to stay here.
When I asked her why she didn't tell me, she said that it was so I would grow up faster. I was confused by what she meant, but Kuroto pointed out that when we had first met, I was timid and fearful, but now I had become more certain of myself.
She continued to explain more about everything that had led up to this day, almost to the point where it seemed like she was lecturing me!
Even now, I still felt like a mere child. But, it didn't make any difference, other than when Mother scolded me because I cried a lot while she was away . . .
She thanked Kuroto for taking care of me while she was away,and for making me happier.
Mother said he reminded her of father, but . . . Do they really look alike? I could never see the resemblance, but perhaps that may just be Mother's eyes.
As the hours flew by, I felt at ease, finally. I was finally home.
Eventually, Mother agreed to come home with me and Kuroto. She didn't want to leave today, though, so she told us to go on ahead. Reluctantly, we agreed.
Tomorrow, we would announce our engagement to friends and family. For now, though, we simply wanted to rest, what with everything that's happened today.
It became night. The sky was full of stars, and the moon was bright, full and generous.
Kuroto and I sat outside one last time today. We didn't really talk much, instead, we gazed at the sky until we could no longer stay awake.
That night, for the first time in the longest, I slept peacefully.