Sanetoshi considers his life to be a metaphor, so it's only fitting that they meet at a train station.

She's ten at the time, petite and vibrant with the faintest scent of wildflowers. Among the dreary backdrop of businessmen chattering into their cellphones and locomotives chugging out of the tunnel, she is radiant; her feet knock against the bench legs, her hands move animatedly as she speaks.

The surroundings all fit into their neat boxes (man and woman, human and animal), but she defies all categorization. She is alive, she is screaming, head reared back and caught in a fit of hysterical laughter.

That day, Sanetoshi makes a vow.

He approaches the girl, immaculate in white and black. Bowing elegantly to her, he fingers his lapel with gloved hands. "Good morning, miss."

She gazes at him with an odd sort of fondness, hands clasped together. Her eyes, a disconcerting shade of honeyed amber, seem to twinkle. "I've been expecting you."

"The world is ugly," he declares.

"The world is beautiful," she retorts, lips pursed.

"If you are the world, so be it," Sanetoshi teases, smirking when she pouts and flounces away.

They flit across the ballroom, just the two of them. It's a high room with a domed ceiling painted in imitation of a night sky, stars twinkling like diamonds as they spin and twirl and jump. "You're a wonderful dancer," Sanetoshi remarks, dipping her so that she is almost touching the floor.

The phantom music is playing; she can almost hear the mellow notes of a cello echoing through the room. Momoka closes her eyes, savors it until she can almost grasp it, but it vanishes. "I think I know you well enough to tell when you're flattering me."

"Flattery? Oh, no, my dear Momoka, not with you," Sanetoshi says. "You bring out the virtue in me."

"Really? Then will you at least consider sparing the world?" she asks, quirking a brow.

"I'm not quite that in love with you yet." He gives her a crooked grin. "We can change that, though."

The diary falls from the sky, nestles in the fingers of a dreaming girl.

She gazes up at the stormy clouds, eyes a mere reflection of their melancholy.


He stumbles out of the wreckage of a collapsed building, soot dusting his face. His heart is hammering, there is an ugly gash encircling his right leg, and he is on edge; he feels like an animal, ready to pounce, ready to hiss, ready to sink his fangs into whatever predator moves a bit too close for comfort.

Momoka is standing before him, and for a dazed moment, he believes that she is an angel.

"You planned this, didn't you?" he rasps.

"I do not wish to kill you, Sanetoshi," she says, not unkindly.

"Funny," he laughs humorlessly, "I feel the exact same way."

There is a tiny bandage wrapped around her pinky.

"Why do you insist on saving this world?"

"Because there are good people and good things," she says, almost reflexively. "Would you destroy the guilty even if there were ten innocent? Or perhaps five?"

"Don't play Abraham with me," Sanetoshi says, with a lazy smirk.

"So you're God, then?" Momoka retorts, earning a bitter chuckle from him. "I find that to be quite arrogant. Of course, it's just like you to fancy yourself some sort of champion of justice."

"Ah, well, justice is a touchy subject for most, my dear," he hums. "What is justice?"

She lets out a derisive snort, turning away. "You're the last person I want to play mind games with."

"Then don't get me riled up with your biblical reenactments," he counters, the familiar thrill of gazing into those amber eyes sending a thrum of sensation ricocheting up and down his spine. Hesitating, he adds, "Momoka-sama."

He wants nothing more to kiss her pink boots, take that dainty hand with his and bless each fingertip, imprint the reluctant quirk of her little red lips into his mind, so that the faint fragrance of Momoka, Momoka, Momoka will never fade.

It's maddening, being so irrevocably in love with an enigma, a dizzying spiral staircase into the surreal, where she will smile at him and respond to his kisses, her knees giving way and hands reaching for his face and-

And, as the bombs explode in a shower of sparks, a jack'o'lantern grin spreads across his face.

He's insane. Absolutely, positively batshit crazy.

But then again, hasn't he always know that?

There are meetings and suicide bombings and assassination attempts, but through it all, he can only truly concentrate on one thing. She whispers sinful things to him in his dreams, lips sweet like the honey of her eyes.

And so, he dreams on, lost in a reverie of sight and sound.

"You are forgetting your main objective," his superiors remind him, rigid in their gray suits and shined shoes, every bit the categorization they fight tirelessly against. "Obtain the diary, eliminate the girl, and complete the final stage of the mission. We simply cannot fathom why such simple instructions are beyond you, our most trusted agent."

"Gentlemen, have you ever been in love?" he asks them, on an impulse.

"Such questions are irrelevant," a bearded man chides him.

"Well, be as that may," Sanetoshi says airily. "If any of you actually have souls behind those trench coats of yours, you'd know that it is nowhere near as simple as you say."

Blacks and whites, with no shades of gray in between; dreary men who do not hold a candle to laughing eyes and bubblegum locks, little sparks of beauty he'll have to taint with his muddied hands and that eternal stench of blood.

They run into each other on that fated day, trapped inside of a train, and he kisses the raindrops off of her nose in greeting. "Hello, beautiful."

She shrinks away. "This has to stop."

"Whatever do you mean?" Sanetoshi smiles through gritted teeth, closing his palm over that time bomb in his hand. 2:03, it warns him, blinking in neon green. It's warm, pulsing with the promise of bloated flesh and shrapnel and that smoky stench that never seems to leave him.

Her flesh. The shrapnel of train tracks and blue plastic chairs.

The stench of blood and flames.

"We're only hurting one another, Sanetoshi," she says softly. "This will end as it began."

The diary flips open, and she begins to chant, lovely pink lips forming vowels and consonants words he cannot comprehend with that bomb ticking down the seconds until the world will implode into a million dizzy stars and moons, simply be a faded memory, an afterthought, a pile of rubble and china dolls and-

He falls, she falls, and for that one indefinable moment, there is only them.

Two rabbits, two penguin hats.

Their fate, their parallel.

The train crashes, the boy screams, and all is eerily still.

After all, time stops for no one.