The coffin was lowered to the ground as tears and wails filled the air. Bloodshot eyes followed the relatives' every movements as they, one by one, grabbed a shovel and threw dirt on the wooden surface under which lay the person they used to know, the one that they loved, the one that went way far too soon for comfort. Sachiko watched as everyone passed and her turn came. She sighed as she grabbed the shovel. She held it tightly as a lone tear made its way down her worn face. Her mind still could not register what had happened. It all seemed so surreal, so unfair, and so sudden. Everything about this situation was bizarre and wrong yet there was nothing she could do change it. And despite the fact that she knew that, she just could not help but slightly blame herself for everything that had happened.

If only I had done something sooner,…if only I had come earlier, perhaps you would still be alive? No,…you would've been taken away from me anyway. I know that, but if I had found the courage inside myself to come and talk to you sooner, if I had confessed what I was feeling, if I had told you what I was going through, would things be different now? Would I be feeling differently looking at you like this, knowing that I had not underestimated your precious time?

Sachiko's face fell when she remembered that sad song. If only she had not underestimated the person's precious time, if only she had come earlier, before said person had died… Sachiko shook her head, trying to rid herself of all those thoughts. She knew that thinking about it over and over again would do nothing to change her current predicament. She was stuck in this abyss and she was going to crawl back into her life somehow, someday, but now she would do as everyone before her had and she would honour the memory of the dead as her family had, she would remember them and she would try to move on because after all, as dismal as it may sound, life did go on and it would continue with or without you. The choice of whether you were going to follow that chain of events or stay stuck in one of them was yours and yours alone to make. And Sachiko had already made hers – she would remember. She would smile because it happened and would not cry because it was over. She would get back on her feet and she would try to piece together what was left of her life.

With newly found strength and energy she did know she possessed, Sachiko gripped the handle of the shovel tightly as she put some dirt into it and sent it flying towards the coffin. As the pieces of soil found the chains of the underworld, Sachiko loosened her grip on the shovel, brought her other hand to her lips, kissed the tips of her fingers and waved to the person behind them. As tears fell from her eyes she whispered her final goodbye to the dead, turned around and went back to the living.

She went to see her mother and bid the woman goodbye, promising that she would come back in a few days. Sachiko decided not to stay for the reception because she knew that it would be pointless. She was never one to approve of some people's tendency to drink themselves to stupor or eat insatiably after a disaster or tragedy. She inwardly chuckled at the image of some of them. She knew that her behaviour was not commendable or worthy of being given as an example of goodness and considerateness, but she was well aware that neither was theirs. But after all, everyone had different ways of coping with the loss of someone they loved or cared for deeply. Hers was just quite unique in some ways.

I guess that even after all these years I still can't escape my demons.

Sachiko thought as she walked towards her car. She went inside the vehicle and looked into the shadow of the mirror. A dark chuckle escaped her lips. It seemed that she was no better than the others. She had been scarred by this event as well. With a deep sigh Sachiko wiped her eyes furiously and started the engine. She drove away from the cemetery. Her path then went to a road that helped one exit the busy city. Sachiko drove until she reached her destination. It was hill which overlooked the city. She parked near its edge, turned off the engine of the car, opened the door and exited the vehicle. Sachiko walked towards the edge and sat on the end of one of the cliffs. The rock was cold and not at all comfortable but it was alone in the middle of nowhere and offered a great view of the city from above.

A chilly wind made its way towards Sachiko's face. She sighed as she closed her eyes. She rubbed her temples as she ignored the urge to scream. Despite her excellent self-control, she knew that if someone were to come, even if said person were a complete stranger, she would yell or vent out on them, which probably would not be the best idea or the most reasonable one. Sachiko looked around once she had opened her eyes. She could not believe she had not been given enough time to even say goodbye properly. She had not even been able to tell that person everything or at least a part of what she had wanted. She had conversed only a few times completely openly with said person, but Sachiko had only shared a small fraction of her heart's fire and mind's darkness. Right now she really abhorred her pride and stubbornness. If it had not been for them, she would not have ignored her family for so long and she would have come sooner to make amends. Instead she had waited years and years until it was too late.

I cannot believe I waited this long to gather the courage to come and talk to my mother and father. What was I thinking? That they would be here forever?! That there is always time?! That it is okay to wait?! How ignorant and naïve can I be?

"How stupid and gullible am I really?" Sachiko whispered as she buried her face in her hands and allowed the tears to fall. She sobbed for her loss. Her body shook. It knelt forward and ended up sliding down from the rock to the cold ground. The fire within her lungs made it hard to breathe. The pain and guilt clouded her mind and repeated the same mantra over and over again. She was berating herself for waiting for so long, for allowing everything to happen, for not having the guts to face her father and talk to him. She could not believe it had taken her a decade to forgive him! And now, she could not even spend time with him because he was gone. She had only been given a few weeks with him and yet it was not enough.

Sachiko knew that it could have been worse. She could have arrived and he could have already passed on and then they would have never made up. She understood that she had still been slightly fortunate for she had been told by her father that he was sorry, that he hated himself for what he had done, that he was sorry for pushing her away because of something as stupid as her sexuality. Right now every disagreement they had had beforehand seemed trivial.

After he had accepted her, Sachiko was happy, elated even, but everything had come crashing down when she had found out that her father was sick. Her mother told her that he was dying. Later Sachiko found out that her father had been diagnosed with lung cancer three years ago and she was informed that his condition was serious, grave even. She was told that there was no hope. Her parents and doctors had even told her that it was a miracle that he had survived this long.

With a small smile Sachiko remembered what her father had told her before he died… "Do not cry, Sachiko, for I lived a long and happy life and was given an opportunity to make things right with my only daughter. I realize that I have made a lot of mistakes, concerning you. I know that my decision to disown you put you through hell, but know that after you disappeared not a day has passed that I do not regret hading done that to you. I understand that you had to make an enormous compromise to come here. I know that giving me a second chance was a great risk on your part, but I am grateful because thanks to that you are now standing before me. I could not be prouder or happier. I love you, Sachiko." He had then told her to be happy. He had also added that mourning was alright as long as it was not for too long. He had even asked her about Yumi and she had managed to introduce them to each other. He had accepted the girl Sachiko had chosen to marry and Sachiko could not be happier, but the sudden loss of her father, the sudden loss of what she had abruptly gained and had held onto for such a short period of time was devastating. And she could not help but shed tears for the blood that was spilled, for the chances that were missed and for the future opportunities that were lost.

Sudden footsteps jerked Sachiko out of her reverie. She looked around wide-eyed until her eyes fell on the only person that could make things slightly less unbearable. Sachiko rubbed her eyes to see if she were dreaming. Once she was certain that she was not she rose but her legs wobbled. She gripped the rock for support. The girl that had just arrived rushed to her aid and allowed Sachiko to grip onto her tightly for support.

"W-What are you doing here? I thought you were going to be in L.A. recording your second album." Sachiko said once she had regained her balance and was not using the girl for a lifeline.

The girl just smiled and said:

"I was, but then Rei called me and convinced me to come here. I protested at first, but…"

"But?" Sachiko urged her on as she raised her hand and gently caressed the one she loved.

The girl's eyes met Sachiko's as tears welled up in her eyes. Once she was certain that she could trust her voice she answered:

"But I just could not leave you alone to cope with the loss of a parent. It is inhuman to make someone bear such a burden on their shoulders alone."

"Oh, Yumi…" Sachiko whispered as she embraced the girl.

After a few days of endless sorrow, tears and goodbyes Sachiko was able to leave her mother and return to Los Angeles to work on her third album. Although the loss of her father was something quite painful, Sachiko was going to make sure it would not bring her down. She even used the pain for inspiration and created a beautiful song. It turned out to be quite successful and was loved by millions around the world.

Rei had been by her best friend's side during almost the whole ordeal, but had been forced to go back to London for urgent matters, involving the members of the band she was currently managing, a restriction order, a bottle of tequila and an unexpected wedding. Needless to say, the woman had had her hands full for the next few weeks. That was the reason why she had called Yumi to go to Tokyo and help consol Sachiko during her time of need.

Shimako and Yoshino were still together. They were currently on tour around Europe and although they had begged their manager and agents, they had been forbidden from going to Tokyo so suddenly and ending or postponing the remainder of the tour. They were currently engaged and were living their dream.

Sophia had been signed to a label a year after the Christmas concert and the accident, involving Yumi and an operation. It seemed that there had been a problem with her heart, but everything had been fine for she had been rushed immediately into surgery. The girl had been told to be quite careful and to see a doctor every six months in order to avoid a repeat of what had happened.

Sophia had been in the middle of her tour in South America and was not able to go to Tokyo and offer some sort of comfort to Sachiko, although the blond knew that the only person who would be able to consol Sachiko, was Yumi and the fact that she had been informed by Rei that such a thing occurred, helped her continue her tour without feeling too much guilty. The same went for Yoshino and Shimako .

Yumi and Sachiko had both been signed to record labels after the Christmas concert, however, Yumi had had to wait a few months before she was able to go to Los Angeles. With great effort she had managed to convince Sachiko to go and work on her first studio album. The woman had protested vehemently but after Yumi had threatened that she would get out of bed and personally make sure that Sachiko went to the airport did Sachiko agree.

They were now both successful artists with a world tour scheduled for the next six months and a new album soon to be released. They were currently engaged and had been together for almost ten years.

Neither of the two knew what the future held, but one thing was for certain – as long as they had each other, everything was going to be alright.

The End.

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

A/N: This is the long awaited epilogue/last chapter. It turned out longer than I expected. I apologize for the ending I gave in the previous chapter. It was supposed to be….. I don't know different, but when I thought about it and read and reared your comments, I realised that I could not just leave you like that so here it is. This is the final chapter of Tainted with Crimson. Thank you for sticking around for the ride. I hope you liked this chapter.

sassygirl – Thank you for the kind words. I am sorry but I don't play any instrument so there is no way I can send you the song with the accompaniment. I simply wrote the lyrics. I hope you are not too disappointed or sad over it. Sorry again.

Also thanks a lot to all of you who commented the final chapter and made me realise that it is unfair to leave it at that. I know the ending of this one is not the best, but it still kind of better than Yumi's death, right? Not? I should shut up now.