Sakura and Snow

Chapter 4


By Natalie Baan



The space of his own mind surrounded him: wide, high, and luminous with a muted gold light. He was looking up into the "sky." A crack had opened in it, and the crack was spreading jaggedly, relentlessly. Inside, there was nothing in particular. There was no wind, but he could feel the force of that broken sky pulling at him. It made him ache, bone-deep, soul-deep, in a way he didn't really understand.

He braced himself and stared at it defiantly. He set the force of his will against it, but it would not obey. The crack continued to widen inexorably, and it threatened to swallow everything, to take into itself all those pieces that he was made of. He held onto them fiercely as he raised his hands to fight--

The magic did not come.

Looking up, he felt that damaged sky tearing at him, trying to rip things away, and he didn't know what he could hold onto in this place, if his own abilities weren't enough, didn't know how to defend himself against the danger.

He looked, and he was...afraid.


He clung to his sense of himself, and he glared into that sky.

He was Sakurazukamori.

He must not lose himself to this.

And then, all at once, there was a cool wind that reached him, and the scent of water, and a soft sound like the crying of birds. He felt a strange and sudden peace. The crack in the sky above him began to melt away.

Seishirou fell back into a dreamless sleep.


* * * * *


He woke slowly, drifting out of unconsciousness. It seemed as if he must have been dreaming, but the details were all vague. Still feeling a little muzzy-headed, he cracked his eyes open, letting the room swim into focus around him. The steady glow of the overhead light was reassuring after...wait.


He snapped alert immediately, lifted his head and started to get up, because it had been mid-afternoon when he'd fallen asleep, he remembered that clearly, and he definitely hadn't been the one to turn on the light. He looked around and--


--was curled up in the chair across from him.

Subaru's legs were drawn up beneath him, his arms were wrapped around his chest, and his eyes were closed. He appeared to be asleep.

Seishirou allowed himself to exhale. Swinging his legs off the couch, he sat up slowly and very carefully, wondering how much time had passed, what had happened while he was unconscious. Something fluttered down from the back of the couch and landed beside him.


He had caught a glimpse of thin, graceful calligraphy.

Snatching up the talisman, he turned it over and stared at it. It was....

A ward?

"You were dreaming," Subaru said.

Seishirou looked at his adversary. Subaru was awake after all, regarding him with a taut stillness that seemed to speak of hard-won inner control. At least the inclination to rip Seishirou's face off appeared to have left him. Seishirou glanced down once more at the piece of paper in his hand. It had been torn from the note pad by the phone, he noticed, the incantation written out in ball-point pen. He frowned at it very slightly before he caught himself and smoothed his expression into something more neutral. Crumpling the paper into a tiny ball, he shot it at the wastebasket across the room. It bounced off the wall and went in.

Three points, he thought, almost absently.

He stretched at length, then put his hand casually to his shirt pocket and found the new pack of cigarettes still there. Tapping one out, he reached for his lighter.

He wasn't about to let Subaru know how badly disconcerted he was.

Subaru seemed calm enough himself, but his eyes locked onto the cigarettes in Seishirou's hand with the intensity of an addict. Seishirou scrutinized him for a moment, then slid the pack and lighter across the coffee table. Subaru set his jaw. He refused to accept the offer, instead lowering his gaze and tracing one finger down the leather upholstery of the chair, as if it presented him with some deep meaning.

Seishirou leaned back, one arm along the top of the couch, and exhaled smoke in a leisurely way. He watched Subaru in silence, unsmiling. Although his mind wanted to race, to try to put together the events of the last however many hours, he didn't permit his attention to wander from the person before him--didn't choose to speak, either, refusing to get caught up in the temptingly easy dance of words, the verbal sparring that could so readily be a distraction. Let the burden of conversation rest on Subaru for a while.

As a result, there was a long silence. Seishirou's cigarette had almost burned down when Subaru finally spoke. "Seishirou-san," he said, then hesitated. When he went on again his voice was very small. "Where is my sister?"

The question seemed tangential. Seishirou had noted the slight pause, and he wondered whether that was what Subaru had truly meant to say. A feint, perhaps? No...that was his own inclination speaking. Subaru was more direct, more honest than that. And of course he would find this an urgent matter, yet also one that was difficult to express.

"What makes you think I know where she is?" Seishirou asked.

"I've looked for her a long time," Subaru replied. "Everywhere I go, I ask the ghosts and spirits that I meet if they've seen her. None of them ever has. So I tried, a couple of years ago, to call to her myself. I tried to summon her back from the other world, just to see her, just to speak with her one more time. I know that it was wrong, and that the dead should be left in peace, but still--" He shivered and flinched, abandoning that train of thought. "I couldn't find her," he murmured instead. "I called for days, but there was nothing. If she could have answered me, I know she would have. I know it, but--" That flinch again. Subaru was rubbing the back of one hand, and Seishirou wondered if he was conscious of the gesture. "I found the sakura again. I studied it, and I know that the souls of all the people that you've...that have died there are bound to the tree.

"That was the other thing I was trying to do that night. I was looking for Hokuto among the souls in the sakura. But she wasn't there, either.

"So I wondered if you had done something else. If you had done something different...with her." Lifting his head, he gazed at Seishirou, his eyes filled with a kind of hopeless prayer.

Seishirou frowned again.

"Why would I do something like that?"

The beseeching look vanished instantly as Subaru's face went cold, and he sat up straight, stiff with the dignity of those who feel themselves made fools of. "Yes," he said sharply, "why would you." Uncurling from the chair, he stood up and demanded, "Where are my clothes?

Seishirou did smile then, a very little. "The plastic hospital bag in the closet." Poor Subaru, too polite even to rifle through his unconscious enemy's belongings. Turning his back on Seishirou, Subaru stalked out of the room, and Seishirou let him get away with it, that potentially fatal error. He listened to the near-silent sounds of retreating bare footsteps, the noise of the closet door opening in the other room....

His eyes flicked to the kitchenette window, now that he had the chance. It was dark outside. Seishirou looked at his watch, and he almost couldn't believe it.

He had been asleep for hours.

How long had Subaru been roaming around the apartment?

Lucky, he thought. Lucky for me that you seem to have reverted to being a pacifist.

Far luckier than I deserve for being such a fool.

And as he smiled into the empty living room, he ruthlessly suppressed the desire that surged up in him: to walk through that doorway and plunge his hand into Subaru's heart right now, and in one eruption of magic and blood stop this whole ridiculous, stupid affair, which had already taken up so much--too much--of his time and energy. The source of that imperative was nothing more than embarrassment at how near he'd come to disaster, he was certain of it, and such a feeling had no right to motivate him.

Such a feeling did not serve him.

He crushed it in his mind.

He had no intention of being moved by anything other than his will and the necessities of being the creature that he was. And he would play the game out to its conclusion. He had decided the outcome long ago, and he saw no reason to change his mind.

I started this, and I'll see it to the end. I'll finish you when and how I choose. I won't be forced in anything, and especially not in this, Sumeragi Subaru.

I won't be made a fool of again.

Indeed, you should have killed me today, when you had the chance. Well, too bad for you.

I've learned from my mistakes now.

Will you be able to do the same?

He realized then that he was still more than a bit disturbed: probably the last vestiges of the healing spell's return. That wouldn't do at all. As he attended to the low, awkward sounds of Subaru moving about in the other room, taking clothes out of the plastic bag, he carefully put his mind into order, sorting through the bright pieces of its structure, letting them settle comfortably back into their usual configurations. After a while, it felt as if the effects of the backlash were fading. That had been very odd...he couldn't understand why a wholly positive spell, one that he'd performed for himself numerous times, would come back in that way--and if it had, why his protections hadn't stopped it. Maybe it was because he had called more power than usual and had sustained it for longer...or maybe it was because he'd used the spell to heal another person.

Well, he wouldn't do that again, anyway.

Seishirou stretched once more and ran a hand through his hair. He felt quite clear now in both mind and body. There was still one very small, lingering disquiet, though.

He didn't know what had happened to Hokuto.

It was true, as Subaru had said, that the souls of the Sakurazukamori's victims were bound to the ancient tree. What Subaru perhaps didn't realize was that those souls lost their identity in the binding; even if Hokuto had been among them, Subaru would not have been able to find the person he had known and loved.

But when Seishirou had reached out to bind that particular victim's soul, he had found...nothing. A hint of essence that had vanished even as he tried to grasp it, and that was all.

Hokuto had gone somewhere, in the moment of her death, and Seishirou had no idea where she might be.

He had wondered at the time if Subaru had had something to do with it, or if possibly it had been their grandmother's work. If Subaru knew nothing about it, though, then it seemed that neither was the case. Perhaps something else had already claimed her soul, or perhaps her uniquely carefree nature combined with that trace of magical ability had given her the ability to escape his spell.

In any case, a single mislaid soul shouldn't cause any problems. She hadn't been a full-fledged onmyouji herself, after all, and even if she happened to turn up again, he didn't imagine that she could do anything to interfere with him. But he didn't like leaving the matter even the least bit uncertain, and particularly not now, when he felt a new and urgent need to be alert in all things regarding Subaru. He would have to put some effort into tying up that loose end as well.

What a bothersome complication....

Seishirou scowled. The combination of cigarettes and the afternoon sleep had left a vile taste in his mouth. He swung off the couch and strode into the bedroom, ignoring Subaru's outraged yip at being caught half-dressed.

Too thin...seen better.

He didn't speak or offer Subaru more than that briefest glance as he passed through. Best if Subaru left quickly, Seishirou decided--best to give him the opportunity to do so, if he chose to take it.

Seishirou walked into the bathroom and shut the door.


* * * * *


He'd brushed his teeth.

He'd brushed his hair.

He'd gone out into the bedroom and closed the closet door and made the bed and stood gazing at his reflection in the window for more than a suitable amount of time and still Subaru was hanging about in the other room.

Subaru-kun, do I have to pick you up and put you out the door?

It was almost getting to that point, Seishirou thought. Shading his eye against the light in the bedroom, he regarded the cityscape outside. Dark, as far as Tokyo ever got dark, and enormous flakes of snow were falling steadily: several inches had come down already, and it showed no signs of stopping.

He could put Subaru to sleep again and leave him in another snowdrift. The idea had distinct possibilities.

Well, no matter what he decided to do in the end, for the moment he had better go out there. Probably Subaru simply felt that there was something else that needed to be said, and once that was taken care of, it was quite likely that he might just leave. He'd certainly had his chance to kill Seishirou, if that was what he wished to accomplish.

And if Subaru had changed his mind and did want to fight him now, Seishirou was entirely ready.

Of course....

He walked into the other room, moving softly despite his house shoes, so softly that Subaru didn't appear to hear him. The younger man was meandering back and forth in short, aimless steps, a movement not even resolute enough to be called pacing: a restless, directionless energy that could find no other outlet. He stopped by the stereo at last, his back to Seishirou, and drew a finger slowly along its sleek black edge.

As Seishirou came around the side of the chair, Subaru finally seemed to sense him and glanced back over one shoulder: still a suggestion of that broken and betrayed look, but with the pain now sealed behind a certain fatalism. He watched in silence as Seishirou sat easily in the chair, picked up the remote, and began toying with it. Then he turned away, staring down once more at the top of the stereo.

It definitely didn't look as though he was thinking of fighting.

Pacifist, Seishirou thought again. Well, even if your hatred for me no longer rules you, it doesn't matter.

There's always your "duty" to motivate you, the fact of your being one of the Seven Seals. There's your consideration for the well-being of other people. I can't believe it's true, as you've said, that you care nothing for the future of the earth.

But even if you don't care for that....

You'll meet me on the final day, one way or another...and you know it.

It's waiting for us both, Subaru-kun.

Seishirou watched Subaru teeter on the verge of saying something and then back away from it. He elected to be patient. Leaning back, he crossed his legs and merely observed the slender figure before him, letting the long moments pass until Subaru chose to speak.

"Seishirou-san," Subaru murmured eventually, "there's one more thing I want to know."

It was a question again, as Seishirou had rather suspected: Subaru was still looking for answers. Seishirou wondered what he'd found to ask about now. One would think that the important matters had already been made abundantly clear to him.

"What if you had lost?" Subaru asked.

"Eh?" Seishirou blinked.

"What if you had lost your bet with me? What then?"

Seishirou thought it over, amused. "I probably would have let you go," he said at length, "I suppose." He might have, in fact, if it had come to that--but it had not, and he had known that it would not, had known that he was not like other people and that the exercise had been largely futile, merely an excuse to play with his prey in a new and interesting way. The play itself was what mattered, and that had been exceptional--even at times like now, he admitted, when Subaru was being vexingly difficult to move, it offered a most unusual challenge. The game had been everything that he had ever anticipated it might be. That he had proven incapable of love after all was not really significant. "I probably would have let you live."

"No," Subaru said, with unexpected vehemence, "that isn't what I'm asking. What would you have done then? What would you have done, if you had found out that you could feel something--could you have gone on in the same way, and still been...this?"

Seishirou frowned. "What ifs" weren't something that interested him, and he rarely concerned himself with them. He had never even considered such a question. He was as he was; there were no other possibilities.

"What does it matter?" he asked. "It doesn't change anything. I won, Subaru-kun."

"But what if--" Subaru mastered his evident frustration as he turned to face Seishirou. "Why would you even bother?" he insisted. "Why take the chance that I might survive and become someone who could fight you? Why risk the possibility, however small, that the bet might change you, might make you into something that you don't even understand--why would someone like you make a bet like that!"

His breath caught, stilling the rush of words.

"Are you lonely?" he asked.

Seishirou smiled at the mortal seriousness in Subaru's face. "You sound like a phone-sex girl," he replied blandly. "Are you considering a new occupation?"

Subaru's mouth tightened. He glared at Seishirou briefly before turning away. Drawing himself up, he gathered the shreds of his pride around himself and coldly informed Seishirou, "I'm leaving."

Seishirou didn't bother to reply to the obvious. Neither did he trouble himself to follow Subaru with his eyes as the onmyouji left, relying instead on hearing and that "other" awareness of Subaru's presence to track him as he walked to the genkan and jammed his feet into his sneakers. Seishirou twirled the remote control lightly between his fingers, then tapped the end of it against his cheek as he listened to Subaru take his coat down off the rack and put it on, as he heard the door open. The sounds fell silent for a moment. Then there was a step, and a second one, and the door closed behind Subaru. His presence began receding down the hall.

It was quiet.

Seishirou sat in his chair for another minute or so, listening to that stillness. Finally, he bestirred himself and smiled. It was done with at last: Subaru was out of the way, and even if it hadn't all gone quite as intended, well, Subaru was alive, and he had plenty of things to think about in the interval before the final day.

He had reasons enough to live. Reasons enough to fight. That much was certain....

Seishirou started out of what threatened to become a reverie. He'd better pack, just in case Subaru decided to be uncivilized and not wait for the appointed time. And while he was doing that.... He lifted up the remote control. Aiming it at the stereo, he moved his finger over the power button, to bring the sound of voices into that silent room.

He stopped.

He stared at the stereo and the featureless wall behind it, unseeing.

The sound of....

The remote slipped out of his fingers. He let it fall to the rug. Standing up swiftly, he strode toward the door. He kicked off his slippers and stepped into a pair of shoes.

In the hallway, he glanced at the elevator. It had left the floor already, of course. Seishirou pulled open the door to the stairs and started down. Taking the first couple of flights at a walk, he calculated the speed of the elevator, the amount of time it had been traveling, and he picked up his pace, began to run then, vaulting the rail at each landing, his footsteps echoing faintly up the stairwell.

He reached the bottom. Stopping a moment, his hand on the fire door, he tried to sense Subaru. Subaru was...not very close.

All right.

He opened the door and looked out across the lobby. Through the glass doors at the other end of that long, narrow hall, he could see the empty, snow-covered street and sidewalk, more snow coming down hard and fast, and Subaru, standing irresolutely just outside the doors, looking first one way and then the other.

Subaru raised his hand suddenly and took a step forward. By some miracle, a taxi passed in front of the doors, the only traffic on the entire street. As it left Seishirou's angle of view it was starting to pull cautiously toward the curb. Wrapping his coat around himself, Subaru hurried in that direction and disappeared from sight as well. Seishirou stepped out of the stairwell and walked up to the front of the lobby. Looking out through the glass, he saw where the taxi had come to a slightly skidding stop. Subaru was talking to the driver through the man's open window.

Subaru nodded then and put his hand on the rear door's handle.

Seishirou opened the door of the building and stepped outside. Neither the streets nor the sidewalks had been cleaned yet; his feet sank into a blanket of whiteness that had only been disturbed by Subaru before him. He took another step, coming out from the lee of the building into the full dizzying falling of the snow.

Subaru turned his head. He looked back from where he was standing with the cab door open, ready to climb in. Seishirou could feel the snow settling onto himself as he returned that gaze, coming to rest on his hair and shoulders, cold wetness melting through the cloth of his shirt.

The two of them stared at each other.

Then Subaru murmured something to the driver. He closed the door and stepped away from the cab. The taxi pulled slowly from the curb, fishtailing a little before gaining purchase. Its red tail lights gleamed briefly through the darkness until distance and the snowfall hid them from view.

Subaru took a step toward Seishirou. He stopped then, hands clenched, as if he had run into an impassable wall. His face was a set mask: a different kind of barrier, giving nothing more away. Seishirou understood. He himself had made it this far, but he couldn't take that next step either. He simply was not capable of it. Though all that lay between them physically was that expanse of whiteness, there were other obstacles--wide gulfs of time, of words and deeds and two irrefutably different natures--and neither one could cross what separated them.

They stood facing each other in the snow.

"I know," Seishirou said then, slowly, softly, his breath a thin mist of frost among the tumbling flakes, "I know where Hokuto-chan is." Subaru went tense and wary and hopeful, all at once: a change in his stance, mostly, but also the least flicker in his face, like fire, like something warm and alive.

"She'" It was an effort to say the words. Seishirou struggled with them, who so seldom found himself at a loss, trying to get something across, even though he himself wasn't sure what. "Right here. Between--" He made a tiny, directionless gesture, a lift of his hand, palm upward, and wondered vaguely at the helplessness of it. "Subaru-kun, don't you feel it?"

And Subaru's eyes widened. He reacted as if struck by the force of a spell: gasped and hunched forward as his knees half buckled beneath him, his arms wrapping about himself, his hands clutching at his shoulders. He shuddered, and Seishirou watched the focus of his gaze shift, his awareness turning inward, looking into himself--and then the flash of recognition, of realization.

Subaru shut his eyes. Light condensed out of the air before him, a silver-white evocation that gradually assumed a shape: an indistinct human form lapped in shimmering layers of brightness, a figure that hung suspended, gleaming, above the snow. Its back was to Seishirou--he couldn't see its face.

Subaru raised his head, opening his eyes once more. Straightening, he held out one hand toward the figure, that glimmering light playing over his anguished, yearning expression. The figure reached out in turn and touched fingertips to his. Seishirou had seen pain and death and what people called love; he had seen the looks that accompanied each of those states, and what lived and moved in Subaru's eyes then was all of those things and far more: feelings so vivid, so alien to anything Seishirou knew that he had no references for them at all and could only watch them in silence.

"I'm sorry," Subaru breathed, his voice cracking on the words. "Hokuto, I'm sorry. Please--

"Forgive me."

Something intangible moved between them, brother and sister, living and dead--passed like a thought traveling between two halves of one mind. Then--

"Go," Subaru whispered. "Go."

The ghost escaped into the air like a cry--like the cry that broke from Subaru as it vanished, as the light began to fade, a single, fractured cry of utter loss--

But the ghost's flight was a cry of freedom.

The last of the light disappeared from the sidewalk. The snow that it had briefly illuminated into sparkling brilliance continued to fall.

Subaru's hands had dropped. He looked down at them, then up at Seishirou, across the distance that separated them, and he was trembling, his eyes strangely bright, as if they still held traces of that, it was tears, finally, tears from a soul that perhaps hadn't wept in nine years. Not since that day.... Subaru swayed, then stumbled forward, an unexpected, staggering rush that made Seishirou take a half-step backward in surprise. He barely had time to register the lack of threat and to suppress his instinctive reactions before Subaru's arms were flung around his chest, Subaru's face was buried in his shoulder, and Subaru was crying, tremendous sobs wracking his entire body, those tears falling free at last.

Seishirou caught his balance on the snow-covered sidewalk, and then he stood very still. He let Subaru spend that grief upon him in the midst of the falling snow, in the muffled silence of the storm-bound city. It was easy enough, after all.... Ignoring the snow melting on his hair and clothes and into his shoes, he concentrated on one thing only: the thirteenth head of the Sumeragi clan, who was holding onto the precarious support Seishirou offered as though it were the only anchor in his world.

How fiercely people clung to things, Seishirou mused, even when doing so hurt them terribly. How difficult they found it to let go. Subaru had loved Hokuto--his twin, his second self--and in the moment of feeling her death he had drawn her to himself, all the way across the city. He had drawn her soul inside his own heart and had bound her there for nine long years.

And he had never even realized that he had done it.

It was Hokuto-chan who touched me in your dream, wasn't it....

As the head of the Sumeragi clan, whose duty is to bind Japan's onmyouji against the "misuse" of their powers--Subaru-kun, you should have known better.

All those years, you were a prisoner of what you had done just as much as she was. Denying yourself every happiness, every hope, in a quest for revenge that she never would have asked for...trapping her inside those walls you put around your heart, walls of loneliness and pain....

And now that you've let her go at last, here you are. With your sister and your grandmother both dead and gone, you are turning back to me. Is it only because I'm here for you, because I'm convenient? Or is it because I'm truly all that you have left?

Subaru-kun, I think perhaps you still feel love for the person you once thought I was. I think that's why you spared my life.

You should know better in that regard, also.

He laid a hand gently on Subaru's back.

But it so different with me?

I too should have known better.

You were right.

You were right, and I didn't even realize it until you left me to the silence and your words came back to me--

"Are you lonely?"

Of course....

Of course.

Seishirou stared at the lacy stars settling to rest on Subaru's coat: flakes of snow forming patterns, touching each other, spreading into networks of white. How could one be other than lonely, when in the whole world there was only oneself--and "other people," who were nothing more than shadows?

Nothing more than things.

Ordinary people, who were no more than half present in their own existence, let alone in his, consumed by fleeting, futile wishes and continual distractions; whose bravery was at best the stupid, blind bravery of the ignorant and whose attention was a flimsy, uncomprehending thing; who knew nothing, understood nothing at all outside their small lives, felt nothing but fear in the face what he stood for...he could not really perceive them, any of them, as real. He could acknowledge whatever courage they showed when struck by great or little difficulties; he could ignore them, when it suited him, as being utterly insignificant; he could watch the endlessly repeated joys and tragedies and everyday, mundane occurrences of their lives, but he could not fit himself into their world, or them into his. Could not--not without destroying himself, and in the end he knew he wanted to continue more than he wanted that other thing.

But still that emptiness, that sense of lack, remained.

And then there was you, Subaru-kun: a child...and a practitioner. Mine completely, to do with as I wished. And so I made that choice.

When I made that bet with you, I was so young myself. I don't think I was really conscious of what drove me. There was only that sense of hunger, of wanting something that I couldn't identify.

You were like me, and yet entirely unlike. I thought that I might find that thing in you.

I didn't know what seeking it would mean.

Since that day you have always been with me. When nothing else could move me, I bent my life around you. Waiting for you to grow up, playing out the one promised year, and then, when the chance arose to hold onto you--for you to continue to exist until the moment when my purpose was fulfilled, and my own life began to approach its end--jumping at it despite every instinct, despite everything I know, foolishly....

Without intending it, I let myself grow to be affected by you.

I'm no longer able to imagine a world where you don't exist.

Almost seventeen years--almost half my life--you have been that constant presence.

My adversary.

My plaything.

My beautiful and pure reflection.

You are something that reacts to me, that acknowledges what I am...that I can talk to, even if it's only inside my own head, like this....

And you have become necessary to me, to who I am.

In the very act of making the bet, I lost.

Snowflakes spun down all around them. As he tilted his head back, looking up into the sky, they touched his face: gentle, feathery touches.

But still, Subaru-kun, after all of that....

I don't love you.

I think perhaps I really am not capable of it.

I don't feel anything for you. No regret, no remorse for all the pain I've caused...nothing that would stop me from hurting you again. I only feel that emptiness inside me, and the fact that you fill it, a little.

I don't really care for you. I don't feel love....

I don't even know how. doesn't matter, does it?

It doesn't really matter after all.

All that matters is that you continue to exist until it's time for you to die. That you give me something to struggle with, something to speak to... I know that I am not so absolutely alone.

The snowflakes were falling into Seishirou's face as he gazed up, catching on his eyelashes and threatening to blind him. He raised his hand to brush them all away. They left a tiny dampness on his skin.

He looked down at Subaru then, crumpled up against him, whose sobs were quieting at last, and whose trembling seemed nearly to have ceased. Seishirou smiled with unmerciful tenderness. He wiped the snow from Subaru's shoulders and from his dark hair, and as Subaru straightened, his eyes still dulled and glazed with pain, Seishirou slipped one arm about him and turned him around.

Seishirou began walking toward the door of the apartment building, and Subaru went with him silently, without the least hesitation.




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