Sakura Wars Fan Fiction ❯ Aftermath ❯ Laments ( Chapter 3 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Author's Notes:
SPOILER WARNING!!! If you haven't seen the Sakura Taisen Kayou Show Final (Shin Ai Yueni) and have intentions of watching it, plus is allergic to spoilers, then please back out now. This story is highly inspired by that show, particularly the events in Act 2, and I don't really want to ruin such powerful scenes for you.
I have to admit, I got so used to writing ST comedy pieces for "The Odd and the Weird" that it had been difficult for me to convey more serious feelings for the entirety of this fic. I may come back to this entire piece someday for further editing, but for the moment, I'd like to at least refocus my attention and submit a couple more chapters for the aforementioned fic... and possibly submit a new one? Hmm...
Ah! For those familiar with the game, you may notice that I seemed vague at one possibly story branch. That one is intentional. When making in-game references, I tried to limit them to dialogues/events that actually take place regardless of the choices the player makes.
Disclaimer: Sakura Taisen is owned by Sega and Red Entertainment. I am not making a profit out of this fanfic, but still, this particular story is mine, so please don't take it.
He didn't know how long he sat at the audience seating, but by the time Oogami left, the Teigeki was silent. Just as he began to wonder if he was the only person still awake within the theatre, Shiro came bounding up to him near the hall, whining softly as he approached.
“Hey, big fella,” he said, bending down and fondly grasping the dog at the sides of his neck. “I thought you were already going to sleep when we left you.”
Shiro wrestled against his hold, causing Oogami to let go. The dog then bit his sleeve and began to tug impatiently, still whimpering all the while.
His behaviour caused Oogami to become apprehensive. Despite having walked around with Maria earlier, he didn't really do a good job performing his nightly rounds - had danger suddenly entered the theatre while he was slacking off?
Damn, I thought Sakura-kun already got rid of the monster... he thought, gently prying his shirt away from Shiro's persistent jerks as he cautiously straightened himself. The dog let out a small bark, the noise making Oogami cringe as he placed a finger on his lips to warn Shiro to keep quiet. “We don't want to alert our presence to them,” he whispered warily.
Shiro tilted his head - Oogami could almost swear he was trying to say “What the heck are you talking about?” - before the dog bolted off down the hallway. “Ah! Wait for me!” Oogami yelled hoarsely in an attempt to keep his voice low. However, Shiro kept going, only pausing near the salon as he waited for his master to catch up, before running away again once more towards the direction of the girls' rooms.
No, not there...! Everybody's unprepared!
His worries increased when he heard Shiro whine again. He soon skidded around the corner, and though there were no enemies that could be found, the sight that stood before him did nothing to calm his shot nerves.
Sakura was on the floor a little ways beyond the door to Iris' bedroom, her body curled in a fetal position with her arms encircled tightly around the two areas where she had been stabbed earlier that day. Shiro was licking Sakura's face as he whimpered, trying to console her, but not having much success.
“Sakura-kun!” Oogami cried, rushing towards her.
Sakura looked up, her expression pained, though she tried to smile for his sake. “Oogami-san...” she managed to say, before wincing and groaning as pain consumed her.
He knelt beside her and laid her head on his lap. Worry and concern was etched across his face. “What happened? Your wounds... they're not bleeding, are they?!”
He grabbed her hands and lifted them away from her waist, murmuring an apology when Sakura flinched in discomfort. He found no blood stains, but still... “I need to take you to the infirmary,” the Hanagumi captain anxiously declared. “We need to have you checked... damn, Kaede-san isn't going to be of any help right now... why didn't you call Maria?!” he admonished as he carefully lifted her from the floor and made a move towards the aforementioned woman's room.
Sakura shook her head. “Please don't...” she begged, breathless. “It's nothing, really...”
Oogami frowned as she continued to shiver in his arms. He could feel her muscles contract with every agonizing sting; could see the beads of sweat that had formed on her forehead; her jaw clenching in an effort not to cry out loud. “This isn't `nothing'!” he insisted.
But Sakura silently pleaded with him through brown eyes clouded with pain. Oogami eventually gave in. “Let me at least take you to your room.”
Sakura sighed at his words, leaning her head against the crook of his shoulder as he carried her across the hallway to her bedroom. Shiro followed them inside and settled himself beside the bed, where Oogami laid his precious bundle.
“Thank you,” Sakura whispered as Oogami placed a blanket over her. She wasn't dressed for bed, but she was in too much pain to care. “I didn't want to worry the others... I've already done enough as it is.”
“I don't think they'd mind. They care about you too much for that,” Oogami said, sitting on the edge of the bed alongside her. He then watched as Sakura gasped, her body suddenly jerking before she curled over once more. “Isn't there anything I can do?!” he asked desperately, seizing her hand as it trembled on her pillow.
She squeezed his fingers and gave him a weak smile.
So he did.
Still, it was difficult for him to just sit there and watch her suffer. The best he could do was to hold on to her hand as she clenched his own with varying strengths, depending on how much pain was coursing through her nerves. At one point, even Oogami had winced, as her grip had been a little too tight.
He began to wonder why Sakura's wounds began hurting all of a sudden, as she had seemed just fine during the party. He wished he could perform a more thorough check on her condition, but... well... though he had already seen her naked at the medi-pod before (1), she had been in a trance state back then, and he wasn't at all comfortable to look at her bare midriff while she's conscious. Besides, he wasn't a doctor - what could he do?
If only Kohran was awake, she could have given Sakura-kun one of her wonder drugs, like that time...(2)
Suddenly, Oogami recalled something important.
After their first battle against Setsuna, it took three days before the badly injured was well enough to be safely removed from the medi-pod, and another few days before complete recovery was obtained. But this time, in an effort to help her friends, Sakura got out of the pod in less than an hour after being revived. That had hardly been enough time for her wounds to heal properly, especially considering how grave they were.
All this time she had probably been enduring it without telling anybody, as she didn't want us to worry... Oogami thought, bitter that he had agreed to hold a celebration that night without thinking about Sakura's well-being first.
The hand he held gave another squeeze, but it was gentler, so much so that it startled him. Looking down, he was touched to see that Sakura was gazing at him concernedly. Here she was, completely agonized, and yet she still found it in her to worry about him. He smiled at her and squeezed back, letting her know that he was all right.
Eventually the pain ceased, and Sakura was given a respite. Oogami felt her grip weaken and allowed normal circulation back into his fingers. “Are you okay?” he asked, not letting on that his hand stung as blood came rushing back to its veins. After all, what he felt was nothing compared to what she had to endure.
Sakura nodded, before giving Oogami an apologetic look. “I'm sorry. I didn't want any of you to see me like this,” she said.
“If there's anything you should be sorry about, it's that you didn't tell us that you're still hurting,” he reprimanded gently. “I know you don't wish to worry us, but we would only be more anxious if you made yourself worse.”
“...Sumire-san would probably be livid if she found out about this.”
Oogami grinned, remembering his conversation with Sumire earlier that evening. “You'll never hear the end of it.”
Sakura smiled. “That would be horrible,” she said. It was very easy for her to imagine Sumire yelling at her ear for an entire day, and the thought of it amuses her somehow.
“It won't stop there,” Oogami added. “Maria would confine you to bed for weeks, with Reni standing on guard outside your room, letting no one in or out. Kohran would probably invent something to make sure you stay in bed and get your rest - something relatively dangerous, of course.”
“Oh, no...” Sakura laughed.
Oogami continued, encouraged by Sakura's soft giggles. “Kanna would be allowed in so that she could feed you, but Kaede-san would probably make sure she wouldn't stay and keep you up from your bed longer than they deem you have to. Iris would be ba-”
He paused when he saw Sakura's smile suddenly disappear, her eyes becoming distant. Concerned that perhaps she was in pain again, he tightened his hold on her hand, which he had not yet released. “Sakura-kun...?”
She blinked at his actions and looked up. “I'm fine... I'm sorry - I didn't mean to lose focus.”
“That's all right, but... what's wrong?”
Sakura sighed. “I worry for Iris,” she admitted.
She never could keep her concerns from Oogami. Years of him providing support to the Hanagumi had made her used to informing him of her troubles. But then again, she always did trust him implicitly...
Unbeknownst to her, however, Oogami grew anxious with her words. Was he that blind that he wasn't able to tell that Iris was hurt, too?! “Why? Is she okay?”
“For now, she is, thanks to the others,” she answered. “When they... brought me back... they shared the burden and each gave me a part of themselves. But before they were able to convince her, Iris had been willing to shoulder everything - to give up her life in exchange for mine. When I tried to make her promise that she would never do it again, she refused to listen.” Sakura bit her lip. “I can't have that.”
“Then we should all be careful next time so that she wouldn't have to do it, right?” Oogami quipped.
But his companion was serious. Oogami stared at her until she avoided his gaze in discomfort. His face hardened, and he could feel anger building up inside him as he thought of the one thing he was sure was also in Sakura's mind. “You're still not thinking about that, are you?” he asked, though he knew there was no need for him to do so.
“I bear the blood of the destroyers of evil,” Sakura said solemnly. “With or without the majinki, it is my fate to die in battle against demons.”
“That's a load of bull!” Oogami said, his voice rising. “I thought we had long discussed that?!”
Sakura closed her eyes. “I thought so, too, but after today... well. It seems that everyone's actions only delayed the inevitable. I should have known better,” she murmured.
“Stop it!” Oogami grabbed her shoulder with his free hand. “Quit acting like a martyr! What happened to the girl who told me that she wanted to have a normal life? To the one who wanted to cherish the life given to her by her mother and father?!”
Sakura shook her head vehemently before she exclaimed:
“She DIED!!!”
Oogami was stunned with Sakura's outburst. He was not expecting that at all. True, Sakura has always been haunted by her family's “curse” - he refused to call it as anything else but such. Yet even if she wasn't an eternal optimist like Kohran, she still loved life, and embraced it with all her being. To hear her claim that this part of her had died... it was like she was saying she wasn't herself anymore.
He looked at her closely. And knew the truth.
“That's a lie,” Oogami proclaimed. “For if that girl was truly dead, then the one who replaced her in front of me wouldn't be crying.”
Sakura's eyes widened. Words... they were not difficult to control. But tears usually came at their own accord, and people were more often than not powerless to stop them. They came from the heart; it was how she truly felt, and no amount of persuasion could dissuade it.
She buried her face in her pillow, part of her ashamed that Oogami had seen right through her, the other half relieved that he did.
“I was so scared,” Sakura whispered as she wept. “And I am still scared. I once told Maria-san that we controlled our own destiny(3). But after Kyougoku, I was no longer sure. My dear father... he died once more before I had the chance to savour the fact that he was alive - as if fate deemed his rebirth a mistake and corrected it(4). If this is how it should be - that once we offer up our lives in exchange for the gift that was given to us, then that sacrifice should be final and complete - then how long do I have before fate recognizes my deception and comes to claim me a second time, as it had with my father?
“That's why I couldn't let Iris do this again. Death would just repeat itself, and her sacrifice would only be in vain. This... abnormality...” Sakura clenched a part of her kimono that was close to her heart. “...does not have long to live, and can never expect to live a normal life again.”
Oogami's heart sank, not able to bear with listening to her speak such troubling words. His rage subsiding, he lifted her from her reclining position and propped her upright beside him. He felt disappointed when Sakura faced the wall instead of looking at him, but he felt compelled to speak anyway.
Anything to bring Sakura back to who she was.
“This life you hold is no longer the one given to you by a cruel fate through your father's blood,” he told her softly. “It is a life given to you by your friends, by their own will, in defiance of that said fate. You're not an abnormality at all. If anything, you deserve to be given a normal life, as you have met and - with what had happened today - fulfilled your obligations to the fullest extent, and still even continue to do so.
“Don't look as if the others have wasted their lives in bringing you back. Instead, focus on what they had given you. The life granted to you by your father and mother... protected from death by Shinguuji-taisa from evil(5)... and now fully composed of your friends' love... your life has been literally touched by so many people! Cherish it, as you have always done! Protect it! Live, if not for yourself, then for them, who had sacrificed so much!”
Come back to us, Sakura-kun!
Sakura's shoulders wracked with silent sobs. Oogami reached out and cupped her chin in his hand, guiding her so that they were facing one another. “Sakura-kun.”
She leaned against him, and he held her close in an embrace.
“You always did know what to say...” Sakura said in a tiny voice, muffled by his shirt where her face was pressed against.
And it was true. She was still fraught with insecurities, but for a moment... even just for a moment... she was at peace.
Oogami just held on to her, finally lost for words.
They remained that way for a while, until Oogami broke through the comforting silence.
“When morning comes, shall I take you to the infirmary?”
“Are you sure?”
“The pain... is a good reminder that I'm still alive.”
Oogami squeezed her shoulder. That may be true, but he still wished she didn't have to suffer.
“What about you, Oogami-san?” Sakura asked quietly. “While the Hanagumi is fussing over me... where would you be?”
“I would be there to protect you,” Oogami answered immediately and without hesitation.
His words filled her once more with warmth and ease, and Sakura smiled. She moved slightly, placing an ear over his chest, and listened to his heartbeat.
It was a truly wonderful rhythm to hear.
And it comforted her greatly that she could feel the same rhythm within her as well.
Oogami laid his cheek on Sakura's soft hair, unperturbed by the ribbon that still held it in place. “I'm sorry... I'm so sorry...” he whispered, his voice full of regret, finally able to articulate what he had wanted to say all night. “I promised to you before that I would protect you, and I even promised that I would never let you die alone(6), but I was not able to fulfil any of that.” He closed his eyes. She was here now, alive and in his arms, as opposed to her lifeless form when Kanna carried her to the Teigeki much to everyone's shock, but it was difficult to force that image away from his mind. “I had no time to check up on you when the enemy suddenly arrived... I never even had the time to grieve...”
Sakura felt him shiver at an imagined cold. It was, perhaps, her turn to reciprocate the warmth he constantly gave her.
“Then let us mourn together.”
He raised his head and looked at her with confusion. “At what?”
Sakura clenched the hand that Oogami had never released that evening. “At the passing of a life that had once been expected of me.”
It was her final confirmation that she now believed her life was truly her own.
So they grieved for her “death”, and it was only when Oogami silently wept with Sakura when he felt that, finally, the long night was over.
A new day has dawned in the aftermath, carrying with it renewed hopes... and a life that was completely reborn.
Story Notes:
(1) - Reference: Sakura Taisen 1 Episode 7 (Episode 8 in the PS2 version)
(2) - Reference: Sakura Taisen 1 Episode 3
(3) - Reference: Sakura Taisen "Gouka Kenran" Episode 1
(4) - Reference: Sakura Taisen 2 Episode 12
(5) - "Shinguuji-taisa" - Colonel Shinguuji. Also note another reference to (4)
(6) - Reference: Sakura Taisen 2 Episode 8