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kaijoufic
marineko's fanfiction
Arashi: An Ever Expanding Sky (44) 
22nd-Jul-2014 03:33 pm
AUTHOR: marineko / mylittlecthulhu
FANDOM: Arashi
PAIRING: Sakuraiba, Juntoshi
RATING: PG
DATE: July 22nd, 2014
WORD COUNT: 3,560
NOTES/DISCLAIMERS: 1. This is a work of fiction, 2. beta-ed by arashic0804





Chapter Forty-Three | Chapter Forty-Five



Chapter Forty-Four


When he came to, he was lying on the ground. It took time for him to realise where he was, why he was there. He was looking for... someone? He couldn't remember.

Slowly, he got to his feet. He thought he could hear voices in the distance, but he wasn't sure if it wasn't all in his head. One of the voices sounded like... he frowned. That's odd, he thought. He could see a face in his mind, could hear the voice. But he couldn't remember the name of the person he was thinking of, despite the feeling that it was important to him.

He shook his head, and took a step forward. Real or not, he would walk towards the voice, he thought. He tried to remember other things as he walked, but kept coming to a blank. It was frustrating; he could almost taste it, all the things he had once known, like they're so close. Always one step ahead of him, though. He doubted he could even say his name, although he felt like he knew it.

He stopped, then, realizing that the voices were gone.
What now?

He heard something. A shuffling sound, like someone moving, very slowly. He concentrated on it, and determined that it came from behind one of the doors. Of the two closest doors, one was shut. He placed his hands on the knob, and turned.

He blinked for a moment, adjusting to the light inside, to the figure staring back at him.

He recognized that person.

"Ai... ba?"

It came out as a question, but he was sure. Aiba's response was too low for a human to hear, but he wasn't human.

"Sho."


Sho, he remembered. That was his name. Sakurai Sho.



})i({




There was so much blood, Aiba thought. He didn't think that people had that much blood. He stared at his arms, smeared in red. If he had turned his knife on himself, would he bleed as much?

He remembered telling Sho what he was made of, once. Blood and guts and life threads, like you. Now he wondered how similar they really were. After all, if they were the same, why was it that Sho had a choice, and he did not?

It wasn't fair.

An almost hysterical laughter bubbled up in him. Here he was, angry at Sho for being human, when all it meant was that Sho never had a chance. Not against him. Not when he was built especially for this.

He wondered when the grief would take him. All he could feel was a kind of hollowness that felt too terrible to acknowledge, that he tried to ignore by thinking stupid things, like who would keep his papers now, and if Nino would try to sell him off at Eero's windup auctions now that he was broken, or did they send windups that hurt humans back to the factory? Then he wondered why he didn't feel it, the compulsion to cut into and dismantle himself.

He thought of the Goddess, how she had said that it would be the first step to becoming human. But he had been there holding on to the body for a long time, and She hadn't appeared. She hadn't even spoken up in his head, like She had before.

Yamashita-sensei had called him broken, beyond repair. Maybe he was so broken that even the gods didn't want him anymore, he thought.

His fingers tightened on Sho's sleeve. His other hand still held his knife. He sat there, one hand on Sho and the other his knife, and closed his eyes, and waited for the compulsion to come.

Disposables had a very specific life cycle, after all – once they’ve completed the task they were created for, they die.



})i({




"She didn't kill him, though, did she?" Aiba's were round, looking at Nino in apprehension. Nino opened his mouth to answer, but Rin glared at him from her corner of the mattress.

"I think it's time for bed," she said lightly.

"Isuzu-sa-"

"Aiba," she interrupted. "Didn't I ask you to call me Rin?"

"Rin," he repeated, saying the name slowly, as if he was afraid something bad might happen if he addressed her so casually. "Sorry."

She reached out towards him, but drew her arms back. He was still skittish about being touched. "Go to sleep, okay?" She got up, to turn off the lights. "We'll tell stories again tomorrow."

He knew that she would probably start a new story instead of continuing the same one, but he obediently pulled up his blanket. He stared up into the dark. He doesn't really need to sleep as much, but when Rin and Nino did, he usually followed suit.

He'd been staring long enough that he began to see patterns in the dark, when Nino scooted closer. Aiba tensed.

"She's asleep," Nino whispered.

Aiba didn't know if it was a question or a statement, so he nodded.

"She didn't kill him," Nino continued. "She loved him too much. She wouldn't do that, even if the Goddess told her to."

"Wouldn't the Goddess be mad?"

"Yeah. In the end, the windup had to kill herself, so that he could live."

Aiba swallowed. He thought he knew then, why Rin wouldn't finish the story. It was so sad, he thought.

"It's so stupid," Nino muttered.

"What?"

"She sacrificed herself so that the guy could marry someone else and stuff. She should have just killed him; then she could become human like she wanted."

"But -"

"Wouldn't you do anything to become human?"


Become human. The words echoed in his head. He hadn't thought of it before. He had never considered that such a thing would be possible. The idea of being human, of being free, was an overwhelming one. It filled him with wonder, and fear. He held out a hand before him, looked at it. He wondered what was the difference between his hand and Nino's, why Nino's were human and his weren't.

"I -"

"Aiba. Nino. Shut up and go to sleep."

As Nino gave a long, drawn out "yes, mom", Aiba immediately pulled his hand back to his side, mouth clamping shut as he felt the compulsion work. It wasn't a bad one, since it was a mild order, but he could still feel it, and he would still get sick if he didn't obey.

That was the difference between him and Nino, he realised.



})i({




It felt like forever.

Jun had thought about forever at various points of his life. When he was growing up, it had seemed like it was going to be forever before he assumed control of his own life, and his servants - including Ohno. Time had stood still for him when he finally broke out of his room to find his home painted in red, littered with bodies - servants, guests, family. He thought that he would be wandering in a daze throughout the building all his life, vaguely know who he was searching for, but not really thinking about it. The public trials over his supposed crime, that felt like it went on forever. Ohno had never visited him, not once, not even when they announced he was to be executed. The prison, and torture chambers of Forlee - that had felt like forever, too. In a way, it might have even been right - he would relive all of those things, again and again, in his sleep.

This was a different kind of forever, he thought, gnawing at his lips and watching the faces surrounding him. Some looked furious, like Meisa had been, before she broke away. Others looked - different, somehow, like they've given up. And there were a couple that looked thoughtful, like they were planning a way out.

Jun wondered which of the three he resembled the most. He was waiting, but he wasn't giving up. Ohno had asked him to stay away.

Give me the freedom to do this one thing, Ohno had said. Please, Matsumoto-dono.

He couldn't even say, that wasn't him, that that was his father. There hadn't been time, and even if he didn't understand why it was so important for him to stay away, he understood that Ohno was desperate for him to do so.

So he waited, and all he could do was trust that Ohno would be back.



})i({




Chaos.

That was all Ohno could think of. The memories of the massacre kept flooding back, distracting him from the present. All those mornings when he had been sent out for training, he had never really thought that the lessons would come to be of use. Milna was a peaceful place, after all. Now the thought made him laugh - a dry, choked, bitter sound. Even the thought that he could still think of laughing in the midst of everything amused him. It was as if he was watching from far away; it was that automatic for him. Hack, and slash. Hack, and slash.

The practice grounds didn't train him to expect the blood, of course. And the stench. And the look on their faces as he cut into them. The way it felt to take a life. The way it felt to take Jun's.

That wasn't him, he reminded himself. Jun's alive. It was the only thing that kept him going since he first heard the rumours. Now he repeated the words in his head, over and over, the only thing keeping him from giving up.



})i({




"What's that?" Jun asked, looking over his shoulder. Ohno slammed his sketchbook shut, but Jun had already seen. "An incredible likeness," Jun said, "although I doubt my father would be happy with that hanging in our galleries." He sounded amused, rather than mad. Ohno let out the breath he wasn't aware he was holding, but kept his head down.

"I'm sorry, I -"

"Don't be," Jun interrupted. "It would be vain of me to say so, but I liked it." He took Ohno's hand, making him drop the pencil he was holding, and stared for a moment. He looked troubled. "You should be free," he said, "to be whatever it is you wanted to be. You make such beautiful things."

Ohno didn't realise that Jun noticed the handmade figures decorating their wing. He had been spending a lot of his free days with his childhood friend, who was training to work with clay.

"Let me go, then," he said, sounding more flippant than he felt. He wasn't suited for his work, he knew. He hated their morning practices and he slept through their afternoon lessons when he could get away with it. He felt stifled in the compound they lived in.

But the truth was he knew he couldn't leave, not if it meant leaving Jun behind.

Jun let go of his hand, and they looked at each other, and he knew that Jun knew what he was thinking.

"I'm too selfish to do that. I’m sorry."

He smiled. “Don’t be. I like it here, too.”

“Liar.”

He didn’t know what to say to that, but it didn’t matter. Jun changed the subject, asking him to sketch caricatures of their tutors.



})i({




"Should have known it'd be her," one of the men muttered, as her shadow fell on them. Toma straightened up, noting the way she was looking at them - like she was sizing them up, trying to decide if she could take them.

"Kuroki," he acknowledged, dropping the honorifics. "We heard you were coming."

"I suppose I should have destroyed their transmitters if I wanted to get past you," she said. "I'm not going to sit quietly and wait for this to end, you know."

He nodded. "Figured you would say so. But all of us have our parts to play, and you -"

"I can tell you that by now that Oguri is not the person you're looking for. He might have thought that he was calling the shots, but Yamashita was using him to further his own agenda."

Toma glanced at Shota, who gave him a quick nod. He turned back to Kuroki. "We can confirm that much. But -"

"The Guards are loyal to Oguri. We can use that. They'll follow Yamashita's orders for now, but it wouldn't be difficult to get them to turn against him."

"If you've fought your way here, you'd have noticed that they're scattered, and not as organized as they should be," Toma added. "I think we overestimated their numbers; at least some of the guards must have revolted or had previously been sent away. Yamashita is relying more on the windups."

"I thought they're shut down."

"According to Ninomiya, it won't last for much longer. Some of them are slowly awakening now, although most of them are too disoriented still. Unless we can do something about them, I'm not sure any of us are getting out of here alive."

"Right. Let's focus on Oguri first, because I think I know where he would be."

"You seem to know a lot of things," Shota commented. His eyes narrowed at her in suspicion.

She shrugged. "This compound used to belong to my family, once. We gave it up long before I was born, but I still spent a lot of time here as a child. And you'd be surprised the things people say in your presence when they think you're not listening."



})i({




Aiba didn't know how long he stayed in the dark cell with Sho's body. But after awhile he felt it, the prickling of something, a thing that won't let go. A compulsion. He let go of Sho, slowly, before standing up and leaving the cell.

One step after another. He focused on his feet as he trudged back towards the room where Sho and Nino were originally kept. He didn't know why, but he had to be there.

Was it Nino? Perhaps Nino had his papers last after all, and not Sho. If that was the case, the Goddess would definitely want him gone as well.

It doesn't matter, the voice in his head said. He supposed it was true. In the new world, there would be no place for humans, anyway. Not even if it was Nino. And besides, Nino had shot Sho first. Why would he do that, if not to hurt Aiba?

He stopped. It was so abrupt, he could feel a lurching inside him, the compulsion battling with his body. He shook his head. Nino is my best friend, he told himself. My brother. If he couldn't save Sho, he should at least try with Nino.

He relaxed his body, letting it move again, while trying to be aware of every movement. It was one of the things that scared him about the compulsion sometimes, when he didn't know what it was making him do.

His hand was steady as he placed it on the door, and pushed. He remembered its heaviness, the relief he felt when he saw Sho and Nino inside. The way the compulsion took him over and he went at Sho...

He shook his head, trying to shake off the memory, but then his hand remembered the weight of his knife, the resistance of Sho's skin and flesh when he pressed and twisted, the warm blood. He looked at his hand, at the knife he was still holding; he had not wiped them off.

The door opened, and he saw Sho.



})i({




Ohno wasn't expecting the disappointment he felt when Kuroki arrived. He wanted Jun to come after him about as much as he wanted Jun safe, he realised as he looked at Kuroki, who was deep in conversation with Toma about what they were going to do next.

Next to him, Shota was muttering, "I don't like this."

"What's there to like?"

"It's too messy, this situation, don't you think? It might possibly be Oguri's style, but if Yamashita is the one behind this, wouldn't you expect his plans to be executed a little more smoothly?"

"We don't know his plans," Ohno reminded him. "Not really."

"Of course we do," Shota replied, raising his chin to indicate the area they had left. "He wants us to kill each other off. It would leave less humans for him to deal with, later. I wouldn't be surprised if he planned for us to shut down the windups, so that his precious toys won't get destroyed as we did so. Where are the rest of the guards? Did they really revolt? You've worked with the Elites before you were dragged into all this, so tell me, is that likely to happen?"

"No...," Ohno said, dragging his words as he thought about it. "Oguri-dono had always demanded absolute loyalty. It's unlikely that his men would leave him, and in droves, at that."

"Precisely. So where are they?" Shota's question remained unanswered, though, as Toma wrapped up his own conversation with Kuroki, and called for them.

"She's taking us to Oguri," Toma told them, but Ohno wasn't really listening. He thought about what Shota said, and wondered.

Dead, his mind supplied, or alive.

The thing was, he couldn't say which he preferred, and which would provide them a better outcome. The only thing for sure was that Shota was right; he didn't like where this was going, either.



})i({




Nine men in all, after the windups went down. Now he and the few men he had were on the move, getting to the hall that they've secured - a better place to wait for everything to fall into place. Yamashita wasn't concerned about the windups - he knew about Oguri's brother, and expected the rebels to use him. He also knew that it would most likely fix whatever it was that was wrong with Aiba, so that the windup could fulfil his purpose.

The Goddess doesn't speak to him, and he doesn't really believe in Her. He had lived for years in Eero, far from the superstitions that shaped the older Milna. What he did believe in was Her vision of a new world, and Aiba's role in it.

He knew the windups were going to be taken out, and he knew that it couldn't last very long. Seconds before the windups accompanying him fell, the transmitter he had connected to the ones with Oguri beeped. Everything had gone as planned.

He was always one step ahead.



})i({




Sho's dead, he thought. I killed him.

But if that was true, then who was the man before him? It took him a moment to remember.

Sora, the windup meant to replace Sho.

But which was the real Sho, and which was the windup?

Aiba looked around him. He was definitely back in the room he had originally found Sho, and Nino. He had blacked out, and Nino had shot Sho...

There was blood on the torn sleeves of Sho's left arm, but it didn't look that bad. Nino had probably only grazed him. Aiba let out a sigh of relief, even as he tried not to think of Sora - Sora was probably just as confused as he was, after waking, and he had... he shook his head.

Sho was alive.

He knelt close to the unconscious man. "Sho."

Nothing happened. He waited before calling again, but still there was nothing. By the time he finally raised a hand to touch the other man, Sho stirred.

"Aiba?"

He sounded just like Sora had, before.

"I'm here," he replied, as evenly as he could.

Sho opened his eyes, and looked into Aiba's. Aiba held his gaze, puzzled. Sho looked like he was waiting for something.

"You know it's the only way, don't you?" Sho asked. His voice was gentle, like he was trying to calm Aiba down, and Aiba didn't know why. Then he remembered that he had never let go of his knife, and his grip on it was stronger than before.

The hand that he had raised - he wondered now if he was about to wake Sho, or stab him.

"I know it's hard," Sho said, but he shook his head.

"It isn't." He looked at Sho. "I think - I killed Sora."

He saw the strange look in Sho's eyes - was it fear, he wondered, or shock? He didn't know; it passed quickly, as Sho blinked and appeared as calm as he did before.

"It's okay," Sho said, in the same measured tone he used earlier.

"I thought he was you."

Sho took a moment, but he gave the same reply. "It's okay."

Aiba's grip on the knife tightened. "No. You don't understand."

"I do. You didn't have a choice. It's him - me - or you. Isn't it?" Aiba didn't reply, but Sho wasn't waiting for one. "I would rather it be me."

"It's not just about us anymore."

"Would a new world really be all that bad?"

Aiba gave Sho a look of disbelief, but then noticed the strain in the smile that went with Sho's question. "You're a terrible liar."

"Not as bad as you."

"You -"

Aiba's heard the knife fall as he let it go. He wasn't thinking as his fingers touched the corner of Sho's smile, as Sho's hands went up to take his.

“Maybe it should be me,” Aiba said.

“Aiba.” Only his name, and yet Aiba could hear the censure in Sho’s voice. "Can't this be enough?" Sho asked.

Aiba didn't answer for the longest time. As Sho began to wonder if he should be concerned about what Aiba was going to do, he heard the windup's quiet reply.

"I guess it'll have to be."

Sho squeezed Aiba's hand, before letting go. "Your transmitter?"

Aiba shook his head. "I don't have it."

"Your pockets."

Aiba checked, and sure enough, one of his transmitters was there. He thought he had lost it, gave it away to someone along the way. "Huh," he muttered, looking at it for awhile before passing it to Sho. "What'd you need it for?"

Sho gestured vaguely, not really knowing himself. These two buttons here, Nino had told him. He found the buttons, and pressed them.




~ to be continued ~




Chapter Forty-Three | Chapter Forty-Five



Notes:
It’s been a 1.5 years 9-ish months since the last chapter was posted! orz Actually I finished a different version of this chapter last year. Let’s just say that it ends very differently, and I finished it on Aiba’s birthday, and couldn’t bear to post it. So I decided to rewrite it, and change the whole ending (>__<). If you’re still reading this fic, thank you very much! The next chapter will be the last, although there is an epilogue after that.

Thank you so much to so_gracefull, ianne_xxyl, ariange, stripelock, cherry1989, neko_90, betzi_chan, all4cyanide, sesquerdo, and ohmiyaskdesu! I said in the last chapter’s update that I wouldn’t have been motivated enough to post if it wasn’t for your comments (especially since I'm not on LJ much these days), and it’s still true now.

Comments 
2nd-Aug-2014 03:04 pm (UTC)
There is still a lot about this series I'd like to fix! orz (Speaking of that - when you spot typos or other errors can you point them out? It's hard for me to spot my own mistakes >_<) Once I've posted everything I'm going back to the beginning and editing them again ^^
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